Saturday, March 31, 2012

40 To 40 Day 12: On Boyfriends

You know what we're listening to? Air Supply! 
When I was 14 years old and a freshman in High School, I met the man one day I would marry. I was pretty flirty then, and we were on our way to Regionals in February of '87. Bret was in choir and I was in orchestra. Yep- it's a freakin' Glee episode. I sat next to him on the bus as we were leaving and leaned against him, asking if the seat was taken. He said no, and offered me a Certs (I just hope it wasn't because I needed one!). The rest of the weekend we were inseparable other than needing to rehearse and perform.

Within a week we were ditching classes to be together, mostly because with my home situation I wasn't really allowed to do much. I was allowed to go with him to his Jr. Prom. That summer Bret went to visit a friend of his in Hawaii, and we wrote back and forth to each other continuously. Written by HAND with a pen. Well, for a lot of it. That was also the year we got our first computer so I did write a few letters on the Apple IIC (see I owned an Apple computer once!).

Anyway, once school started again we still wanted to see each other, but my step-father didn't want that anymore. I tried to make it all work, and I think the only reason Bret and I worked concessions at our school football games was so we could have that walk home through the park together. But when your crazy parent starts showing up at school to make sure you aren't seeing each other between classes, and following you home to make sure no one is with you, well, it gets a little exhausting. I finally gave up, and ended it. It was easier, and I had a secret I couldn't let out.

Obviously, we got another shot, but not until I got my problems taken care of. Oh yeah, and we were both seeing other people. I have to say I'm pretty happy it worked out the way it did. Some would call it meant to be or soulmates. I look at it like we got a second chance at a first time.

So now here I am a parent of a nearly 15-year-old girl, who is totally gaga over her boyfriend. I don't blame her, he's a cutie. AND the sweetest guy. He's so kind and thoughtful and good to her. When Allison took that knee to the head at her game last week, the second the whistle blew signaling the end he was up and by her side. I like him. It takes some maneuvering so they can see each other since they are at different schools, but that's ok. I like being in control of when they see each other. ;)

He really reminds me of Bret at that age. Just a good, kind of quiet, decent guy. The crazy part is, it doesn't freak me out that my daughter has a boyfriend. I talk to my girls, and I'm so open with them they talk to me too. The last thing I want to be is the overprotective parent, but I do want to be involved. I all ready know I won't be the crazy parent like I had. I also knew I was doing just fine when I got a text from my daughter after her first kiss. That's how you know you're trusted.

Kids have to be kids, and kids have to be allowed to grow. They also have to be allowed to fall in love and most likely have their heart broken. I just keep on the sidelines, always watchful and there when I'm needed.

If she gets another knee to the head I'll be right there on the field to help her up.

Friday, March 30, 2012

40 To 40 Day 11: On Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin

We have a select few reality shows we watch. The Biggest Loser is one of them. Actually we only began watching a few seasons ago, but we like it. I like watching the transformations, and I always feel motivated as well. Seriously, if a 250-300lb person is running on a treadmill at an 8 or 9 with a 10% incline, I just need to shut the hell up right? The things I do not like about the show is when they have to add the reality show drama for ratings. Whatever, I skip through those parts when I can. I also really do not like their makeover show either. I do get it, you lose all that weight in such a short amount of time, and hell, you deserve to get a new hairdo and outfit to show off the new you. Reality shows might be staged to a large extent and fake, but you definitely can't fake that sort of weight loss. But what I don't like is the need to transform them into something they might not be comfortable being

This season there is a woman, Chris, who is 42 years old. She is also as grey as I am. She looks pretty good now as she's lost so much weight. The next episode of the show is the makeover episode, and my very first thought was "I hope they don't dye her hair." I will be very disappointed if they do.

I stopped coloring my hair about a year ago. I never really liked doing it anyway. For many years prior I had been donating my hair to Locks Of Love, so I never made hair appointments or went and "got my hair done." I just go to Fantastic Sams and boom it's done. I always used the box color that would wash out after a month. Pre-running, I felt a great need to keep up with it. It was because I wasn't happy with myself. I didn't like the way I looked or felt, and knowing how grey I was underneath just made me feel worse. Plus, I had more time to do it, because I wasn't out being active. As I became more grey over time, it became harder and harder to cover, but I never wanted to go permanent. I also would never pay all that money to have someone else do it every 6 weeks. It's such a waste for such a short amount of time. To cover something that EVERYONE KNOWS IS THERE ANYWAY. A 60-year-old woman coloring their hair doesn't look 10 years younger to me, she looks like a 60-year-old woman who colors her hair.

So I stopped. That was the easy part. The whole process took about a year, and well, there isn't exactly any way to hide what you're doing. It looked awful for awhile (yes I do actually care about my appearance), and I looked like a skunk for a lot of months. I definitely wanted to give up and just color again. Two things kept me from doing it: having to start the process all over again, and my daughters. I don't want them to feel they have to hide who they are and look a certain way. I don't want them to think they need to look younger to feel good about themselves. I want them to be happy with who they are as they are, no matter what age.

I also know it won't stop them from doing it anyway. Allison all ready wants to dye her hair this summer, and I'm cool with that. This is just fun messing around coloring. But when they start going grey (and thanks to my genes they will, sooner rather than later), I want them to know that those who love them will still love them regardless of their hair color. There is no one you need to impress. Be comfortable in you own skin and that will shine through.

Sure, my grey might make me look older, but so what? Am I older? No. I'm still 39 for 29 more days, and my age will always be my age no matter how I look. What's important is that I don't feel older than I am. Eventually my age will catch up with my grey, and hey, it still won't matter.

Actually, even with all the aches and pains that come with getting older, I feel better now than I did even in my 20's. And I was skinny and dark-haired then, but not a very active person. I love the woman I have been becoming over the past few years, and if I were big on regrets, one would be that I didn't always have this lifestyle. But life is too short to look back, you have to keep moving forward or you are just going to be stuck holding that box of hair color and wondering where your life went.

So take that, getting older. I win.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

40 To 40 Day 10: On Hit Music of 1972

I really don't feel like writing about one of the many topics on my list tonight, so I will cheat. This was the number one song this week the year I was born:

March 19 – April 8 1972
America - A Horse With No Name
3 weeks at number 1

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

40 To 40 Day 9: On Getting Rid Of The Clutter

As I write these daily installments leading up to the big 4-0, I'm noticing that I really tried to make up for what I was lacking in my childhood. Tangible things became very important, because although I wasn't lacking a lot of things as a young child, there were significant things that happened in my life in which I (and my family) suffered loss.

In Jr. High my step-father decided to give the restaurant business a go. So he took out loans, and bought a place on Priest and Southern in Tempe, in the REI center.

Well he had big dreams, and his business sense did not match it, and eventually it failed. Then we lost our house, and moved into an apartment. Lived there for a couple of years, and during my sophomore year of HS a fire broke out in one of the other apartments. The entire complex was destroyed, and all of our things were ruined, mostly by water damage. I lost my viola, which at the time was the most precious thing to me. I still have my old sheet music, and you can still smell smoke on the pages. Very faint but it's there.

Through the kindness of strangers we were donated clothing and toiletries, and were able to stay with family members until we found another place to live. At school, a fund was started towards getting a new viola. Finally we moved to another apartment, and were able to get ourselves back on our feet. Temporarily. Then of course when I left home and eventually became Arizona's child, I hardly had anything at all. A little more than the clothes on my back.

Once I was given things, even the basic of things like clothes to last me through an entire week, I was sort of like a person who skips a meal and then over eats at the next one because your body is in starvation mode. My foster-parents did their best to teach me about money and saving, but give a newly-freed teen a dollar and she'll spend twenty. When I went off to ASU, I got my first credit card...

A few years later I marry Mr. Frugal. As in any marriage, money was one of the top two things we would argue about, but I think we both taught each other things as well. Bret taught me about saving, and saving the money to spend on the big things. I taught him that sometimes splurging on the little things isn't a total waste, and buying for others is also good too. I still liked my things though. Every year I was out early shopping the day after Thanksgiving, and the day after Christmas too. To buy stuff I didn't need, that just took up space. Add on to that children and all the things that go with them. We were drowning in things!

So what turned me around, what made me realize that I needed to clear the clutter? Of all the things in the world, running. Through running I began to clear the clutter from my mind. It's just me, and it was good. I started feeling better, and looking better. In that I found I needed less tangible things to hang on to. The things were my security, I was always afraid to let them go. I slowly realized I didn't need them. So I started purging. Who wants to waste time with stuff? What value does it hold? I've taken photos of some items so I'll remember them. Especially things the kids have made. I keep some items for my daughters though, if they want them someday. But clothes, shoes, make-up, if I'm not using it regularly or wearing it regularly it's gone.

So now we're currently installing new flooring in the house. Getting rid of the 13-year-old carpet and who knows what crap has accumulated with it. As I look at our living room and garage which holds all the contents of our upstairs, I'm getting antsy. So much stuff. There is no WAY I am putting all of it back, and several bags/boxes of stuff have all ready been donated. I emptied an entire cabinet just so we could get rid of it and free up the space for.... nothing. I get excited thinking about the huge China cabinet in our living room, and can't wait to tackle all the things in there.

I still can't part with my books though. Especially my Stephen King hard cover collection. :)

Clear your mind of clutter. Clear your body of clutter. Clear your life of clutter. It took me nearly 40 years to work all of this out, to let go of the attachment. I'm hoping some of this will rub off on my children. They have certainly not been deprived in their lives, and I hope they won't take that for granted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

40 To 40 Day 8: On Feeling Grumpy

There is a well-kept secret about me that I'm going to reveal now.

Ok, seriously, if you believe that, then you really are reading the very first thing EVER that I've posted anywhere on the net.

I'm not a really private person. I'm just not. I've never been. I think a lot of it might have to do with keeping a really terrible secret for so long. It weighs you down, consumes you. So I choose to share, be open, at times overshare.

This includes the good, bad, and whiny. Why do I do it? Well, for one thing, I like connecting with others. The more the merrier for me. And what you see is what you get. The last thing I want is to not be the same in person as I am online. I actually might be a little quieter in person, but that is simply because I like to observe and listen. But I think it is safe to say that when someone who met me online finally meets me in person, they all ready know me.

That includes the grumpy side. You know those people who only post happy things? It's only about how great their life is, or OMG my husband is so amazing ALL THE TIME, or I have the best kids in the universe? Yeah, that annoys the crap out of me. Not that it's all not true, but because that only gives me one side of a person. How can I decide if you are a person I want to get to know better if I only see that? Or I only see the grumpy side? No way. If you're going to use social media, then USE social media. Show me who you are.

Back to the grumpy. I've been grumpier than usual lately. I usually realize this when my friend Scott comments on one (or all) of my grumpy updates with "#firstworldproblem." Yeah yeah, bite me. Things have been crazy upside down lately. We've been doing some home upgrades, and everywhere we turn we are tripping over something. It's seriously an episode of Horder's in the house. I'm definitely a believer now in how living in clutter can clutter your mind too, because I can hardly think straight.

Another reason for "The Grump" is my physical activity. This happened last year after I ran a half-marathon. My activity dropped, and because my eating levels remained the same well, weight was gained. This time my activity has dropped even more with all the other things happening. I just can't focus or leave the house very often while people are working in it.

It's not just the weight gain though- it's how I feel. It feels so good to exercise. Not just run, but lift weights and just be active. There is no better drug, and I feel so amazing when I'm out there moving. I feel strong. I just feel blah lately. Frumpy, sluggish, unmotivated. I remember this is how I felt prior to beginning this running thing over two years ago. And it sucks. I feel like crap.

Today while I was at the gym (once I motivated myself enough to get there) my head cleared a bit. Maybe it was a good thing I got a taste of how bad I used to feel. Not quite rock bottom, but enough of a reminder to perhaps kick me in the butt, reevaluate how I can organize my days until the work in the house is finished.

Time to quit being grumpy and get my ass moving.

Monday, March 26, 2012

40 To 40 Day 7: On Having A Theme Song

A little lighter note for tonight's installment. This song is just plain.... FUN.  This version is pretty cool too, although I love the original video.

And I don't care if it's about you whippersnappers out there without a care in the world, because I still feel that way. Even more now than I did 5 years ago. In some cases, 15.

I'm turning 40, and I am young.

Let's set the world on fire.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

40 To 40 Day 6: On Being A Foster Child

I just want to say up front that as I talk about this, my birth-mom and I have worked past all of this many MANY years ago, and we have a very close relationship. There is no resentment, no abandonment issues, no animosity on my end.

I'm not going to get too deep into how I become a foster child. That will be coming, because I'm more serious than I've ever been about turning my story into a book. I'll start with the afternoon I first went into a shelter. It was the day before I turned 17. April 27, 1989. Happy Birthday to me, right? I had been staying with my 25-year-old boyfriend for a few weeks prior (this was approved by CPS- go AZ!) while they waited for a space to open up for me.

Being a Ward of the State really sucks. No matter your age, you are following the same rules in-house that a 6 year old would follow. I did get some allowances due to my age. I was able to stay in my high school, and I took the bus to and from the shelter. My case worker picked me up for any doctor or therapy appointments I had. When school ended, we all had to go to the Boys and Girls club. Since I was the oldest, I didn't have to participate, but I did work as a volunteer. I really enjoyed that. I basically just stayed quiet, followed the rules and didn't rock the boat. After seeing a couple of kids run away from the shelter, I figured out really quick that it would work in my favor to be a team player, no matter how frustrating the situation was to me.

The uncertainty of my situation was always looming in the background.   I felt out of contact with any family, and information was given to me sparingly. So imagine my surprise when before school ended I was told that there was a family out there who was interested in taking me in. I was even more surprised when I found out it was a friend of mine who I was in orchestra class with- the always kind of quiet and reserved Katie Radin. We were never really close friends (it's so weird typing that now), but always part of the same group that hung out together. I didn't even really know her parents very well. But I was excited- and nervous. I knew I had family in New York that was more than willing to take me in, but with all the changes that were all ready happening, I liked the idea of staying where things were all ready familiar to me. I could finish up at my high school where my friends were. I could still see my brother and sister who were still with my Mom. Eventually, I was able to re-establish my relationship with her too.

After that, details are sketchy to be honest. I barely remember going out for dinner and meeting the people who will become more family to me than I ever could have imagined. I know we had Chinese food. Other accounts might tell you I had a "deer in the headlights" look to me. Soon we were approved to have weekend visits, which is how I spent the end of the school year and the first part of the summer. By mid-summer I moved in, as they were finishing up certification and getting the house ready to pass inspection.

Which was hilarious in itself. Remember the blanket rules that apply to everyone no matter your age? Well, same with home inspections and what's required. So this 17-year-old girl had to live in a home where all dangerous liquids were locked up tight- and I'm not just talking about liquor. Cleaning supplies, laundry soap, it all had to be under lock and key (the ongoing joke in the family was about my huge laundry soap habit). However, as soon as the home inspection was over, they were never locked up again.

It was also the beginning of re-meeting family on the east coast that I never saw much of growing up. I was reunited with my Dad and that side of my family, as well as my aunts and grandparents on my Mom's side. I spent two weeks in New York in the summer of '89, and it was overwhelming and awesome.

I came home with 2 new ear piercings and in contact with about a hundred more family members again. The piercings were just the beginning of going through pretty much ALL of my teen years during my senior year of high school... and the piercings were on the easier end of it all.

But THAT, my friends, is a story (or set of stories!) for another time. Overall, I was one of the lucky ones. So many kids slip through the cracks, are forgotten and just age out of the system and have nothing. Or they bounce from home to home until they age out. Or they age out and end up in jail, or in the same situation that put them in the system in the first place as a kid. I try and be grateful every day for how my life turned out, and most of you know I'm finally at a place where I can pay it forward when I became a CASA last fall.

It's all about the children. There's no future for anyone if we don't take care of them. I know this from first hand experience.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

40 To 40 Day 5: On Missing My Foster Dad

Every year on our wedding anniversary, we have always watched our video. For the past 5 years, it's become more and more bittersweet to watch. Of course it was a happy day, but so much has changed  it's become more of a memorial to those we've lost over the years. I understand it's natural, that's what happens over time. However, when you have friends you've lost touch with, a father who has passed away too soon, and a couple family members who won't even talk to you... well, it brings up an interesting mix of emotions. We haven't watched the video yet this year, and I honestly haven't pushed to watch it. I hope Bret isn't offended by this. It's just, difficult.

Tonight we went to a wedding reception for a couple of friends of mine, Tyler and Katie. Two amazing people that I am so glad I know. I was doing JUST FINE until Katie's dad made a little speech, and they both started crying. Not a dry eye in the place, honestly. Then as they danced together, I saw him singing the words of the song to her. Naturally being fresh off of our anniversary, Dad was all ready on my mind. But watching Katie and her father dance the ache was there.

Bah- I miss him. That's really all there is to it.

Maybe that's a reason to watch the video after all.

Friday, March 23, 2012

40 To 40 Day 4: On Making Memories

Last night's post from the movie theater was really just so I didn't get behind so soon in my "40 Day Series".  Now I can expand more.

I had a very sheltered childhood. I wasn't allowed to do much. I wasn't trusted, the people I had as friends were not trusted, which naturally caused me to act out in some pretty devious ways. I didn't experience a midnight movie until I was 17 or 18. That was back when they did them all the time at theaters, not just for big premieres.

My daughters all ready are out there doing so many things I that I wish I had been able to do at their age, I hope they understand just how lucky they are! That was one of my promises to them though when they first came into my life- I would do my best to give them all I didn't have, treat them with trust. I certainly don't mean spoiling them, though when I compare their childhood to my own, normal IS spoiled. And that's ok.

I want them to have these memories. I want them to remember when the big movie they have been anticipating seeing for months finally came out, they saw the very FIRST showing. I want them to look back on camping trips and vacations fondly. Hell I want them to look at the regular days fondly. When or if they have children, I would rather they use their memories as ideas because they loved it as a kid, rather than as making their children's lives better than their own.

It's your childhood that shapes who you are as an adult. I know from experience it's a lot harder to reshape yourself once your childhood is over. The memories we make together as a family are as important as anything else that will shape the women they are quickly becoming.

Try and make every day a memory to look back on and smile.

40 To 40 Day 1
40 To 40 Day 2
40 To 40 Day 3

Thursday, March 22, 2012

40 to 40 Day 3: On Midnight Movies

Well here I am, sitting here in line waiting for The Hunger Games to begin. It is Sam's first midnight movie, and she is on excitement overload.

 And this is why I am sitting here on the concrete floor in my pj's in a crowded theater.

Trying to type this on my cell phone because I really don't want to skip a day. Sometimes being the cool Mom is fun. ;)And she will always have the memory. Ask me how I feel tomorrow! I could be too old for this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

40 To 40 Day 2: On My Earliest Memories

I don't have many memories before moving to Arizona. I was born in Staten Island, NY. Lived in Brooklyn for awhile (I think). Then when my mom remarried we lived in Pennsylvania, but I don't think it was very long. I don't remember anything about living in NY other than from what was told to me and via photos. I remember my Dad coming for visits, and chewing gum that had the liquid inside, and how everyone would laugh at the face I made when I bit into it.

I remember the morning we began the trek from PA to AZ. I was around 4. The boy who lived next door was Danny. I guess we got along ok, because I remember being very upset saying goodbye to him, and watching out the back window as we drove away.

I remember camping on those nights during the trip, and sitting in front of the campfire, worried that an ember was going to set me on fire. Once we were settled in AZ, I remember having to wait in the car with my baby sister while my stepfather picked up Mom from the hospital after my brother was born. She cried and cried. That was April of 1977, so I was just about to turn 5.

Those are my earliest memories. What are yours?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

40 To 40 Day 1: On Being Married Half My Life

Here we are- the last 40 days of my 30's. Well, technically it's 39 days, but whatever. I wanted my last post in what I'm calling "The 40 To 40 Series" to be on my birthday. So it is what it is. Most people enjoy reflecting when they get to a milestone birthday. I have been reflecting on turning 40 for several months now, and thought it would be neat to count down, having each day being a different topic of all the things that shaped the woman who is sitting here now writing. Pretty much doing this for myself, but you are certainly invited to take the journey back and forth with me. There is no specific agenda, no order of topics. It's just what I feel like musing about for the day. Some might be short postings. More often they will be long. Even more often I'll probably forget to do this. Let's see what happens!

So, since today happens to be a special day in itself, I will start with our 19th wedding anniversary. Yep, on March 20, 1993 a very young, not even old enough to drink legally (I'll let you do the math, I gave enough clues!) girl walked down the aisle (in a Catholic Church no less!) to share her life with her High School sweetheart. I couldn't even tell you who that girl is now- she doesn't seem like me at all anymore. Other than the fact that she still loves her man!

Today, getting married so young is a strange concept. In the late 80's and early 90's, it seemed like the next reasonable step. I knew two others who I went to high school with who were married within a few years of graduation- one of them a few weeks after! I also wasn't in college at the time we married- the college thing didn't exactly work out for me. More on that another day. But we knew we wanted to be together, so we did it. Then I helped him finish college. ;)

It's pretty interesting, growing up while married. Discovering who you are while married. Making small and big mistakes while married (and actually staying married!). Learning independence while married. All of the things you usually figure out before marriage. I still had a lot of baggage and growing up to do, so learning that balance between taking care of me and taking care of us was not always the easiest lesson. 

And while I was doing all of this, Bret stayed the same. I mean, he hasn't changed at all. I'm not kidding. If you've known him 10 years or longer, tell me am I right? He has had to adjust his thinking a little, especially as I go through what seems to be my never-ending saga of  "what do I want to be when I grow up?" All I know is that when I look at him, I am in disbelief that he's put up with me for so long, and I feel a little undeserving.  Overall, I like having a stable place to be. I went through a lot of instability as a child, so I'm sure that plays into this too. Some would look at decisions I've made as backing down or giving up, but I look at it more like choices. It doesn't have to be 100% independent woman, all the time. As with anything, if something is important enough, I'll stand up for it. 

Now I've caught up to him, and we seem to be meshing pretty well into middle-age together. I'm not so hung up on things that when I look back are pretty superficial. I enjoy a cozy home-body life, just like him! I'm way more laid back than I used to be. However, when I need to go be social, I can go be social guilt-free. There are times I do wish he would join me, but it's cool if he doesn't. When we do go out, we still have a pretty good time together. Hehe- even when we stay in we still have a pretty good time *nudge nudge wink wink*! I could go on and on about all the rest.. best father in the world, blah blah blah... but it really goes without saying. Which I said anyway. Heh. 

Knowing that I will be someone has only spent 20 years of her life single isn't a daunting thought. It isn't a regretful thought. It makes me smile. I can't wait to find out what's in store for us as our kids continue to grow up and give us back our freedom. I know it won't be clear sailing for the rest of our lives, but there isn't another person I want to sail with!