Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Ice Ring In My Freezer


I wrote this in January 2013. As another New Year begins, it's a good reminder to myself. Here's to a year of hanging up ice rings.

The sad, sad tale of the ice ring in my freezer. Told through a series of vignettes with my husband...

December 3, 2012
Husband: Honey what the hell is in the freezer?
Me: I went to Trader Joe's today and...
H: No. No. The pan with ice.
Me: Oh. That's our Winter Ice Ring.
H: Am I supposed to know what that is?
Me: I decided that's going to be a tradition. As a start to the winter Holiday season, M & I went on walk to gather winter swag to put in our ice ring. We made it and now we will hang it up out front as a start to the holidays. It's going to be our thing. I did most of it this year, but he can help more and more as he gets older.
H: Okay. That's sweet. When are you hanging it up?
Me: First day of Hanukkah

December 10, 2012
Husband: Babe, you know your ice ring is still in the freezer.
Me: I know. I know. I totally flaked. We are going to hang it up the LAST night of Hanukkah instead.

December 18, 2012
Husband: Honey, can I toss this ice ring?
Me: NO! NO!! Stop!! I am going to hang it up!!
H: Okay, but Hanukkah is over and it takes up a whole shelf in our fridge.
Me: I know! I know! But we're going to hang it up this week before your family gets in town for Christmas.

December 24, 2012
Husband: Hey, did the ice ring melt?
Me: No. UGH! I tried to hang it up today, but I couldn't reach the branch on the tree out front and then I tried in the bushes, but it broke and shattered. So I remade it. It will be frozen tomorrow.
H: Uh..okay...but why did you remake it?
Me: BECAUSE IT IS OUR "THING"!! Look this is important to me. We need traditions as a family. Maybe this happened for a reason. Maybe your nieces can help tomorrow and instead of a start to the holiday season it can be something the kids all do together? Isn't that cute?
H: (pause. pause.) Yes. Cute. Okay. So tomorrow?
Me: Yes. Tomorrow. I swear.

December 30, 2012
Husband: No no son. Don't touch Mommy's Ice Ring. It lives in the freezer now. Forever.
Me: Don't be a smart ass. I am hanging it up January 1. It's a beautiful way to start the New Year. Dontcha think?
H: (silence)

January 5, 2012
Husband: Oh look an Ice Ring in the freezer!
Me: (silence)
H: This is nuts. I am tossing this.
Me: NO! Don't you dare.

 My New Years Resolution is simple and not so simple.

I am awesome at embracing process. I thrive in process.I thrive in possibility. I struggle finding the end.  I shun the completion of anything because I fear realizing what I could have done better and being unable to change it. I fear what comes next.  I am the queen of "Yes, and...", but sometimes life calls for  "yes" or "no".
This year I am going to practice hanging up the f'ing Ice Ring.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Slip Sliding Away- My Relationship with Debt

I still remember in 4th grade doing a library assignment where we were put in groups according to our birthdays and asked to research our astrological sign. One of the first things I found about the supposed characteristics of a Sagittarius was "Money slips right through your fingers, but you always seem to have some"

I remember it so clearly because as life has gone on this one phrase often plays like a chorus refrain in my head when I find myself yet again miraculously bailed out of some financial jam or another through no actual financial planning or foresight of my own.

I grew up a lower middle class home that slowly became an upper middle class home through the hard work and smart choices of my parents. My undergrad was paid for by  a combination a fund set up by an elderly aunt with no children of her own, money my parents had carefully set aside for college, and an assortment of part-time jobs I had. I went to a state school which back in the 90's cost about a $1 to go to and that all combined with scholarships I received my last two years allowed me to graduate with zero college debt.

However I did get my first credit card in undergrad. I mean they offered me a T-shirt if I signed up. How could I resist? And thus began a VERY unhealthy relationship with debt.  

Debt promised me the moon and stars. For approximately $10-$50 a month (a minimum payment for me back in the 90's) I could eat what I wanted, drink what I wanted, wear what I wanted and travel where I wanted to travel. How would I pay the WHOLE thing off?? Who cares! I had the rest of my life to figure that out.

As an actress I had a bunch of weird day jobs that paid the pills.  My income fluctuated, but in the wild hey day of the dot-com boom, there were always weird day jobs to be found, often that paid quite well. And whenever the credit card balance would start getting up to a number that made me a little nervous, I would some how, often miraculously, get some kind of financial boon (booking a commercial, small inheritance, etc.) that would allow me to pay a large chunk down.  

Then came my decision to go back to grad school. Now let me state, and this sentiment may be wildly unpopular among the financially responsible set, but I will NEVER regret the substantial debt I have accrued for graduate school. The program I attended was the perfect program for me. It has made me into the artist, educator, and person I am today. I have a job I love, that I find both artistically fulfilling and financially comforting. And I would NEVER have this job, this life, if I hadn't gone back to school. That being said, I went into it with a less than realistic attitude of how I would handle the debt I was accruing. I remember cavalierly announcing to my parents "I'll be fine. So I'll have some loans! There's no such thing as debtors prison anymore! What's the worst that could happen?! I'll figure it out!"

 So I spent 3 glorious years in NYC in school- living off loans and credit cards. And then I graduated. And then I got a little older. And a future where I had a family, a house, a retirement account- which had seemed so far off, so unreal, so unnecessary, so silly- started to feel like maybe, just maybe, it might be nice, might be a good fit. But I had this monthly credit card statement, I had these loan payments. The money I was making barely covered my NYC rent. I was racking up more credit card debt to buy groceries, even pay bills. And I was deferring my loans. And suddenly it all started feel overwhelming and insurmountable.

So we got out of Dodge. And by Dodge, I mean New York. I took a university teaching position in a small city in Missouri.  Our cost of living PLUMMETED. It felt great! We not only had a house with a yard and health insurance, we were paying down debt like it was going out of style. I started to learn to be more responsible financially, but I didn't have to be TOO responsible because it was easy living in good ol' Missouri. We lived there 5 years- paid off all our credit card debt, saved up some money, and bought a house. We still had a mortgage and student loans, but we had great rates on both and were making steady progress paying them down.

But life is funny. My husband got a fantastic job offer back where we grew up and where our family still lived. With a new baby and a nagging feeling this was not where we were supposed to raise him, he took the job, we moved and I became a stay at home mom. Another baby came. And life in a suburb of a big city was significantly less easy financially. Our cost of living basically doubled while our income shrank about a 1/3. I may not be good at math, but even I know that spells doom. 
Living within our means began to feel impossible when we factored in our monthly student loan payments and medical bills from our 2nd sons birth and an extended hospital visit for our 1st son. Credit card debt returned. And life was no longer at a place where "Who cares!?! We'll figure it out someday!" let me sleep at night.
Disney's Dwarfs, tellin' it like it is.

Hi ho, hi ho, it was back to work I go. (A future post for sure) I was lucky enough, just as panic had really settled in, to get a dream job at a university in the area. So we are back to two incomes. But it's going to be a long slow slog. 

So my goal for 2015 is seemingly simple- pay off the credit card debt and medical bills. But there's more to it than that. Because I not only want to pay off that debt, but I want to learn how to make sure that kind of debt doesn't happen again, even when life has other plans for us. I want to learn how to budget like my parents did, how to live within our means, and how to be smart financially instead of just riding the waves and hoping for the best. I want to be in a place where my goal for 2016 can be to pay off our student loans and for that to feel attainable.  I want the money to stop slipping through my fingers. I want to grab hold.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Weight! Weight! Don't Tell Me!

Let me start by saying I have always had a pretty good body image and relationship with food. As a kid I had a fast metabolism and was a picky eater with food texture issues to boot (which I am now working off karmically with my oldest son, but that is a post for another day). So I was a skinny kid, but healthy. I could do what ever it was I needed to do physically. (Well, sort of. I was also uncoordinated, deeply challenged & troubled by spatial relationship, and asthmatic. But again, a post for another day.)

Annette Funicello, not me. But I believe we had a similar adolescent experience. Minus the  whole Mickey Mouse club thing.
Puberty came late and seemingly overnight- BOOM! Boobs!!! BOOM! Hips!!! This did not help with previously mentioned coordination issues, but my high school boyfriend was being high-fived in the hallway, like he was some kind of scout who had recognized potential in hereto unknown wunderkind.  Should I have felt trivialized and marginalized by this new found attention? Probably. But what the heck, I was 16 . I had been praying for boobs for years. It just felt like confirmation in a higher power.

20's were filled with gaining and  losing the same 10 pounds, but I wasn't overweight. As someone who was trying to make a career as an actor, I was hyper aware of "industry standard". And for all of my foibles as a twenty-something (Numerous posts for another day), I had a pretty good head on my shoulders about that whole thing. I had what I called a "fighting weight" that was at the low end of healthy for my height. And I would try to stay there. But I recognized it wasn't the weight my body wanted to be at. So I would do my best. I still had a rocking metabolism, but I joined an uber fancy gym I couldn't afford and went 4-5 times a week. (Eucalyptus steam room & whirlpool made utter hatred of all things exercise a little more bearable) I would watch what I ate (mostly) and go on every fad diet imaginable. And of course, I smoked. So much smoking.

A cigarette for breakfast never hurt anyone, right? (Sigh...) But I didn't obsess. And I didn't starve myself. And I didn't hate the way I looked.

30's came and I left NYC, stopped actively pursuing a career in acting and began a career in academia. And I moved to Missouri to teach. Oh, Midwest. How I love you. No pressure to eat chicken breast and steamed vegetables 24/7 or have a fancy gym membership, so I let myself gain that 10 lbs, keep it on and gained 5 more. IT WAS AWESOME. No seriously. GREAT.  I even quit smoking. Again, I was healthy, not overweight and while I jiggled a little more in some places, I still felt good.

And then I tried to get pregnant. And couldn't. And couldn't some more.  And really, really couldn't. And I really, really wanted to. So I went to a doctor and got some help. That help included various drugs and injections that caused me to gain weight. 

Again, not me. Lucille Ball, playing the role of Me.
Then I got pregnant. I was thrilled. Weight/schmeight, I was having a baby! But I was NOT one of those women who looks exactly the same as they always did, but with a cute little beach ball belly in front. Nope. I EXPLODED. Every part of my body got wide. My feet, my ankles, my thighs, all the way up to my hair.

Godzilla had NOTHING on preggo me
Baby came, baby weight came off. But the trying to get pregnant weight was still hanging on. And my rock star metabolism, like most rock stars, did not age gracefully. Still in Missouri, eating what I wanted, not working out. And now I was not so happy with how I felt and what I saw in the mirror.

Baby 2 came. We basically just thought about trying and I got pregnant. Crazy after the drama of Baby 1, but life is weird and wonderful, is it not? Got wide. Got wider. Got another beautiful baby boy. Baby weight came off for the most part, but carrying a person inside of you, for all the miraculous beauty, SERIOUSLY MESSES WITH YOUR BODY. (Wow will THAT be a post one day)

Please Don't Eat the Daisies TV show. Not me or my kids or my dog. But it feels about right.
Went back to work full-time with 2 little ones at home. Working out and eating right fall by the wayside. I am so tired, I eat what is easy. What makes me feel good. All sorts of food issues (food as reward, eating my feelings) I had NEVER worried about started to creep into my psyche. I hate it. I hate the way I feel physically. I hate that I hate what I see when I look in the mirror. I escaped that BS for over 30 years. And I have a pretty great life. I don't want that nonsense to get in my way.

So that's my 40 lbs. 
Tony Curtis is not starring in my dieting efforts

I won't be sad to see it go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Working Out my Working Out Issues

Exercise is good for you blah blah blah 30 minutes of cardio 3 times a week blah blah blah strength training blah blah blah UGH.

Here's the truth- I. HATE. WORKING. OUT.
Seriously hate it. Yes. Hate IS a strong word and it accurately defines my relationship with working out.
What is "working out"? In my world, it's moving your body for the express purpose of improving physical and mental health vs. accomplishing a tangible immediate task.
Running? Working out.  Running away from a mugger? Tangible immediate task.
Walking? Working out. Walking around the farmer's market? Tangible immediate task
Pilates? Working out. Reaching that mixing bowl I inexplicably put on the top shelf? Tangible immediate task.
Yoga? Working out. Standing in line and ultimately not punching anyone at the DMV? Tangible immediate task.

In my 20+ years of trying to come to terms with my hatred of working out, I have discovered that people seem to fall into 1 of 3 categories when it comes to exercise-

Vivian Zink/Bravo Photo

1. There are people who LOVE exercise and working out. It may be challenging to find the time and it may push their limits, but they are blessed with "the runner's high" the endorphins. Or maybe there is something about the action itself that gives them comfort or peace.  Whatever.  They genuinely find joy in working out. I hate these people. Okay, in this case hate is too strong a word. I am very, very jealous of these people.

2. There are people who dislike the actual "working out" of working out- they find it unpleasant or boring. There are a million other things they would rather be doing. However once they do it, they feel good. They feel better after they work out. It ends up burning off stress or making them feel proud of the accomplishment. There is some tangible immediate reward for doing it and the fact that it makes them healthier is an added bonus. They may moan or groan, they may fall off the wagon sometimes, but ultimately working out proves to be a positive experience. I have strived to be this person.

Puppy shuns exercise. She is also not supposed to be on the couch.

3. Finally there are the people who just hate it. It does NOT feel good in the moment. It does NOT feel good during or immediately following. There are no endorphins. There is no stress burn. In fact, stress is manifested. Body aches during and after no matter how many different personal trainers are consulted or different exercise/work out activities are attempted. It doesn't get better even if they commit to it for months. It's hard to breathe. It hurts. It's boring. It sucks. These are my people. I am one of them.

In my continuing exploration of who I think I should be vs. who I am, I keep hoping to discover I am #2. Part of my frustration with exercise is that I think I SHOULD like it. I want to be The Girl who does Pilates. Or the Girl who runs 5Ks. And while there is no part of the act, during or immediately following, that I enjoy, I do have to acknowledge that when I am working-out in some fashion on a regular basis I look healthier and I like the way my clothes fit. I am able to do more physically for work and play. I get sick less and I sleep better.

So recently I have been thinking I need to just embrace #3. There are a lot of things in life I don't like that I do anyway because it's just what needs to happen. I hate cleaning the floors. I hate paying taxes. I hate dealing with the DMV. But these things that must be done because I don't want to live in filth, I don't want to go to jail, and I don't want to get a ticket.

January 2015, I am going to start slow. 30 minutes of walking or some kind of organized cardio (chasing 3 year old around house doesn't count) 3 days a week. But this time, I am going to try just being cranky about it. I am going to hate it. And I am going to be okay with that. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Starting to Lose It

I just turned 40. And I have a lot to lose:
Weight, Debt, and a few Buckets of Crazy
But I also have a pretty great life- A Great Family, A Great Job, & Lots of Love.
I'm going to make some changes in 2015. Hopefully for the better. I'm going to make some mistakes. Because I always do. 
And I'm going to count my blessings. Because I should.
And I'm going to put it all on this here blog- 
to hold me accountable, to stretch my writing muscles, 
and most importantly,
 because if it's on the internet, then it must be true. 

Wish me luck!