Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Know...Somehow, I've Always Known


I am going to preface the following diatribe by admitting…I am a child of the 80s. (ok late 70s)  And as such, I grew up watching Star Wars.  Since things were different then (my kids would say, sad and shocking) you couldn’t turn on the TV at any old time and find something to watch.  There were no DVDs or DVRs but my family was well off enough to have one of the very first VCRs and my mother managed to record a few movies for us.  So if we wanted to watch something, we had our good old VHS tapes.  One was The Empire Strikes Back.  Yes, it was taped with commercial interruption and yes, there was a period of about 5 minutes when my little sister changed the channel to Dukes of Hazard and I wrestled to get control of the remote.  I also happen to know there was a thunderstorm in Binghamton that night because the warning went across the screen every few minutes.  Nevertheless, I spent many hours in front of the TV with a hairbrush and bobby pins, staring at my beloved Luke Skywalker and putting my long hair up into Princess Leia buns.

It was a happy time.  I was 7.  And as most children of the 80s, I look back at Star Wars with fondness and nostalgia.  If you don’t remember this feeling, you are not part of my generation.  (Or you were not taking those "Just Say No To Drugs" PSAs to heart.)

I have long suspected things were different for the boys though.  I feel that somehow, in the context of those movies, George Lucas subliminally programmed a strange obsession into the minds of a whole generation of boys.  This programming lay dormant for many years as the boys grew up and began lives of their own.

We used to be normal, somewhat.
Until the release of Episode 1.   Somehow, the release of the first Star Wars movie in 16 years activated this programming and propelled these once young Star Wars fans into full grown Superfans.  Suddenly, everyone was moaning about the amount of money they could have made if only they still had this or that action figure from their youth.  The facts and trivia that had burrowed its way back into their impressionable minds came spewing forth in place of once normal conversations.  If you’ve known one of these poor lost boys…you know the transformation that took place.  And if you don’t, let me explain how it happened to us.

By the time of Episode 1’s premiere, I had been married for four years.  I knew that as a kid, my husband liked Star Wars.  So did I.  What was the big deal?  So when he asked if I would be willing to stand in line for tickets to the very first midnight showing, I thought it sounded fun.  It was fun.  There were people lined up for a few hours ahead of time.  When the first scrolling part of the story came on, the entire audience exploded in applause.  The amount of energy in that theater was something I’d never experienced before.  You will find among Star Wars fans strong opinions about Episode 1 but I will not go into that.  We had no strong opinions.  It was a good movie.  I enjoyed it.  Back to life.  Or so I thought.

Can you see where we are here?

Not long after that, my husband found a new website called eBay.  One of his first purchases was a full sized Star Wars helmet.  I was a bit confused since we were basically broke and I didn’t even recognize the helmet he bought for $55. (Tie Fighter)  But he was ecstatic so that was fine.  Sadly for him, it did not stay with us long.  (I mentioned…broke.  Also…pregnant.)  So he actually put it back on eBay and sold it.


Then came the release of Episode 2.  I had a toddler by this time so I was not going to the premiere.  This would not deter my husband, who grabbed a buddy and together they headed off early to tailgate at the local theater.  Tailgate.  Did you know that is even allowed?  Well, evidently so.  He backed up his big dually truck front and center and hooked up our portable TV to play the original movies for all other nerds (fans) in line.  Decorating the truck were two toy lightsabers and the helmet of a new character in our lives, Boba Fett.

For those of you who don’t know, in the Star Wars universe Boba Fett is The Man.  He is bigger than Vader, Skywalker, even Harrison Ford.  There are fan sites totally devoted to this guy and they are totally serious.  Little did I know that I would come to know Boba Fett in such detail that I am a virtual, if not reluctant, encyclopedia of facts about this obscure character.
So now that we have a kid, we have to make the American migration to Disney World.  Our little one is three when we make a trip down there with another family. I did not realize that our visit coincided with what they call “Star Wars Weekends.”  Within minutes of entering MGM Studios, both of the Daddies asked if it would be ok to take off and check out what was going on in the Star Wars area.  We said that was fine, we could handle the Mommy thing.  Honestly, I was relieved that I didn’t have to haul the stroller and gear over there.  It was hot.  I was surprised after we parted that my husband ran back up to me to collect the camera.  Camera? What the?  Whatever. 

"Also, frame it and put it on my bedside table."
We spent the day pushing strollers through the park, watched the Ariel show, danced to Playhouse Disney, bought $7 ice cream that the kids dripped all over their outfits.  Finally after hours, our husbands showed back up, talking a mile a minute like excited little boys.  They described all kinds of amazing adventures that we half listened to as we threaded our way through the huge crowds.  Then my little excited boy-husband handed back the camera and, I kid you not, announced “I want one of these in 5x7!”

A few years pass.  Suddenly, the news is released that there is going to be Celebration 5…the first Star Wars convention in years, right in Orlando.  I am told that we must not miss this.  Fine.  I did the hotel pool thing while he and his cousin spent three days of bliss looking at every Star Wars vendor in the US.  They actually slept all night on the sidewalk in order to get in to see Jon Stewart interview George Lucas.  (Even now, he says, “Totally worth it”)  The most impressive thing to him seemed to be all the costumes.  Evidently, fans- not paid actors or people working the show- but fans dress in elaborate costumes and walk around being seen at these things.  He mentioned that next time; he’d like to dress up.

Next time?  Dress up?

He spent six months making a costume…and not just any costume but a ‘Concept Boba Fett.’  Allow me to translate. When the first toys were being made, this action figure was supposed to be in a white costume.  Soon that idea was scrapped but a few of the white Boba Fetts were already out there.  So for his very first costume, my husband made an obscure take on a character that has two lines in a movie released in 1980. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I found myself at Megacon Orlando, sweating it out as a handler/bodyguard/assistant.  I had no clue the kind of reaction this costume would get.  He could not take five steps without someone asking to take his photo.  Once he stopped, other people’s cameras came out of nowhere and suddenly there were flashes from all directions.  It was like I had entered another world and I was surrounded by Nerd Paparazzi trying to just get a glimpse of my famous charge.  It took us about 2 hours just to reach the front door.  I have to say, I was blown away.

Has your husband's Fantasy Football made $1800?
 I take pride in being fairly sane and even with this huge reaction I was starting to feel that this whole Star Wars obsession was getting out of hand.  The adoration he received at Megacon was like gas on a fire and I began to hear talk of “next time” and “next outfit.”  At this point, I’ll admit, I began to loose control of the situation.  I earnestly started backpedalling…not being very supportive…or all that interested.  I realized that I’d better not feed this beast.  It didn’t matter. Validation for him came from another source.  He put that costume up for sale and made $1800.  And nothing tells my husband that he is right like making money.  As he jumped around in front of the computer in triumph, I thought to myself, ‘There’ll be no living with him now.’


When you love someone, you learn to be happy when they are happy.  I cannot shake this programming that George Lucas somehow accomplished.  So I might as well look for the good in it.  It makes him pretty easy to shop for.  He takes all the obligatory teasing in good stride.  It actually has shown me an artistic side to my construction worker hubby that I never knew existed.   

You know that's sexy!

And so, my friends, that is how I ended up where I am today.  I wake up in the morning, stumble in to the kitchen to pour my coffee and then head to the office that I share with my dear, sweet, adorable, brainwashed husband and this guy:

Why yes, this would be a life sized action figure.  Don't you have one?

This is not what I had planned but underneath … somehow, I’ve always known.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

35 Weighs on My Mind

I just turned 35.  Somehow it is a much bigger deal than I ever anticipated.  I know, I know; 35 is not bad…but somehow…it is.  I have several friends who turned 35 this year as well and there seems to be a consensus.  Turning 35 stinks.  Turning 30 was not great but I still felt young, you know?  And every year after that I didn’t worry because, hey, at least I’m not 35.  I realize that 35 is not old.  Maybe it seems that way because of the next milestone.  Suddenly you realize that you will be 40.  In 5 years! 5 more years to be young!!!

  Something in my brain snapped the day I turned 35.  It finally hit me that I need to get in gear about getting in shape.  I’ve always wanted to get in shape…ever since I had kids it was always in the works.  Gonna get in shape.  Next month.

But I have to be honest.  I don’t like working out.  I’m busy.  And I definitely have a fear of working out in front of other people.  (I will not go into that because I can’t afford to pay you for therapy.)  So in all my not-so-sincere efforts to get in shape I used that excuse to keep from joining a gym.  I’ll just “work out at home” which we all know means…sweat to the oldies for two consecutive weeks with Richard Simmons and then stick the DVD on eBay for some other sucker.
You have to be 35 or older to ride this ride.

On the way home from my 35 year old checkup, where all sorts of geriatric words like “cholesterol” and “mammogram” were thrown around, I was feeling pretty freaked out . So freaked out that I pulled into a local gym. I presented myself to the receptionist and announced that I would like to sign up for a year’s membership.  The man looked me up and down, then very kindly suggested that instead perhaps I should sign up for December to see if I liked it.  If I did, we could go from there.  Ouch.  I told him to do whatever he had to do but I would be back the next day to work out.

I have to say, the next day I was seriously nervous.  This was not some old people’s gym or women’s only operation.  This was a real gym.  I envisioned being the only fat person in a room full of bodybuilders and supermodels.  That did not sound fun.  With my newfound 35-year-old maturity, I just sucked it up and went.  Suck it up, Buttercup, and do it.

   I did it.  I’ve done it almost every day since.  It’s been a process, for sure.  The first few days I think the staff was even concerned.  You see, I am not only overweight, I am also Irish.  This means that with the smallest hint of exertion, I turn as red as a tomato.  I noticed staff staying close by the first few days, finding things to do in my vicinity but eventually they backed off when they realized that I was okay, I just looked like I was having a heart attack. I have to say, it is not so bad.  It is in no way as intimidating as it once was.  It is actually kind of …fun.  (GASP!) 
That's me.

Along the way I’ve learned some things.  Having gone where few fatties dare to go, I feel the need to pass on some tips.  This way you can benefit from the gym without making the mistakes I have.  I know that some of you fit people may say these things go without saying.  Whatever.  This is necessary for some of us.

1. The people at the gym are normal people.  They are NOT all in shape and they are NOT looking at you.  Everyone has things on their body to work on.  No one looks pretty working out.  If you go about the same time every day, you actually tend to run into the same people.  I seem to average between 3 and 5 pm, much too late for the psycho early birds and too early for the pilates/piloxing/body boot camp crowd.  So after a while I started recognizing people who generally work out in that slot.  I secretly call us “The Rejects”.  I don’t think anyone (in their right mind) at the gym is looking for friends but we do tend to nod at each other as we go our respective ways.  I don’t know these people but I have made names for them all.  For example, there is Osteoporosis Grandma, Retired Cop, Latin Lesbian, Old Guy with Skinny Bike Pants.  There’s also Guy That Looks Like My Brother But Shorter, Cheerleader Who Works Out With Mom, and Slice Girl, who I do know from the local pizza joint.

And, of course I can only assume every gym has one, Creeper.  You know, Creeper, a slightly sweaty, slightly balding man who will look at 18 empty machines and get on the one right next to you.

All in all, not a bad crowd.  I do NOT want to know what name they call me.

2. Get good work out music but don’t sing along.  You have to have music to move to or you will find yourself staring at the counter on the machine wondering just how long 5 minutes really is and whether you truly are only burning 20 calories.  Because I am a mom to tweens, I listen to pop and I am not afraid to admit it.  Something important to remember, though, is that even though you can’t hear yourself singing because of the earphones, other people can.  And that might lead them to do the very thing you fight so hard against…they might LOOK at you.   I do okay with the not singing but truthfully, the thing I have to work on is keeping my facial expressions neutral.  People don’t hear what you hear!  Seriously, I will be zoned out on the elliptical and find myself getting very very serious because we are never ever ever getting back together! LIKE EVER.

Yes, I have seen a few odd looks thrown my way.

3. Don’t give in to peer pressure.  One of my good friends who works out regularly found out that I had joined the gym and offered to meet up so we could work out together.  That’s cool.  I told her to go easy on me because I was just starting out.  She started us off with a little move I like to call “Are You Kidding Me?”  where in we lie on our backs with weighted balls between our knees, then somehow magically put our feet on the floor over our heads.  Can you picture this?  Now picture me doing this. 

We lifted some weights and did 1000 lunges.  Okay not 1000 but seriously a ton.  I hate lunges.  It takes all the balance I have not to fall over and I know I’m supposed to tense some muscle up but I don’t know which one so I end up tensing everything in an effort to stay upright. 

At this point, of course I am sweating pretty hard.  But my friend is also 35 and she is fine (perhaps a tiny line of sweat above her lip) so I will not be outdone.  I want to show her some plie stretches my daughter taught me.  We did plies in every ballet position and inside I was happy because she was groaning as much as I was.  Then she said, “Those are good!  Let’s do 3 more reps of each one!”  This is my move that I do “all the time” so how can I say no?

I will not go into what we did following that because honestly it was a blur.  But I can say that I had to take Percocet for three days after that just to walk.  I learned that working out with someone else means that I will give in to peer pressure and that will hurt.  Also I learned…respect dancers!

4. Choose the machine by TV channel.  Our gym does not have machines with TVs attached so there are several TVs mounted along the walls with the closed captioning on.  Be careful choosing.  Even if you have headphones and music, we are Americans.  If there is a TV on somewhere, our eyes are trained to stare at it. There is nothing worse than getting into your workout on a machine and realizing that the TV you are staring at has been turned to the Food Network, or worse yet, Maury Povich.  As much as you try, as much as you shame yourself, you will not be able to look away.  You will have a sudden loss of control and you find yourself wondering how Shaniqua could not know who her baby’s daddy is and what made her four boyfriends agree to fly to wherever this show is taped to be screamed at.

CNN is my favorite.  I can deal with Fox News, which seems to be a favorite at my gym.  I find it a bit repetitive.  And I confess ESPN is not bad when you need to focus on something.  I am a known hater of sports but I have actually shocked my husband lately by offering my opinion on such subjects as someone claiming to be a better receiver than Jerry Rice and the likelihood of Manti Teo not knowing about his pretend girlfriend.

5. Workout bra ≠ any other kind of bra.   Guys, you can ignore this point.  (or maybe you need it, I am not judging)  But never having really done serious workout, I did not know just how necessary a workout bra was.  If you have DDs like I do, for your safety and the comfort of others, those babies need to be battened down like ship’s sails headed into a hurricane.  Otherwise, going over 1 mph on any machine is going to hurt and provide a show that really no one wants to see.

And while we’re on the subject of clothing…

6. Bring a change of underwear.  There is nothing like a hot shower after you’ve gotten all sweaty.  My gym has nice private showers and with the way I work out, I need one.   A lot of times, I don’t worry about it because I am headed straight home so I will use my own shower.  In life, as a woman, I am all about multitasking and so there are times that I have to go somewhere after.  Now, I know to pack pants and shirt because obviously I will not go out in workout clothes.  The underwear, though, is easy to forget.  And while there’s nothing like a hot shower after a workout, there is also nothing like trying to shimmy into sweaty panties or socks after you are clean.  (OK. Before you judge me, I want you to know that I am preemptively judging you.  If you are not so sweaty that your panties and socks need to be replaced after workouts then you are obviously not working out hard enough!)  Since this list is things I’ve learned, I will confess.  I have forgotten.  And if I were headed home, it would not be a big deal.  But if I were headed somewhere like grocery shopping or picking up my daughter from dance, I would have to go commando.   Now you’re wondering if the day we stopped and chatted in the store was that day.  I will never tell.

…On a side note, I will come out and say that women’s locker rooms are not what men imagine.  I have no idea what they picture happening but I can assure you that reality is much different.  Cute girls come already dressed to workout because they look so cute in their workout clothes that it doesn’t matter if they run into someone they know.  The only women you will see naked in a locker room are the ones that you don’t want to see.  Trust me.  Some things can’t be unseen.

All in all, I like working out.  It’s nice to take time for me.  I can forget about the myriad of things that need to be done by the end of the day and just zone out.  And while I don’t look like a model, I know I’m stronger and healthier than I was yesterday.  Most importantly, it makes me feel young!  So I do recommend it.  Just keep these hard learned tips in mind and if you see me there, feel free to nod but keep moving.

A Day In The Life

I wrote this two years ago and passed it around.  My husband finally talked me into posting it.

Last week, we went with Josh to DC.  Beforehand, I was looking around online and saw that the circus was there.  I found a discount code for $10 tickets and figured, hey, why not?  It's been years since I've taken the girls to the circus (Sasha, never) and who can beat 10 bucks?

So I bought the tickets and told the girls. 

First of all I have to say this.  For those of you not familiar with DC, "DC" can mean many things.  For instance, you may be going to a circus in Sterling VA (aka DC) and you may be staying at the National Harbor (aka DC) but these places are 34 miles apart.  Straight across downtown DC.  Fortunately, I punched it up on TomTom the night before and planned to allow us plenty of time to get there.

Finally the morning came.  I had spent most of the week fighting DC traffic so I was determined to outsmart it.  We left at 9:30, 1 ½ hours before the circus was to start.  The TomTom said it would take us a half hour to get there.  Yes, it was a bit psycho but I thought, what could it hurt?

First off, leaving the harbor, TomTom froze just when I had to decide between 295, 395 and 495.  Of course, there was a car behind me and the girls were saying from the backseat, "Mommy can you turn it up? We like this song".  So under pressure, I made a choice.  295.

Wrong.  I merged onto 295 and immediately realized my mistake.  For those who don't know (like me) 295 is the highway that dumps straight into downtown DC.  So at 9am on a weekday, the better part of Northern VA and Southern MD are all on 295 going bumper to bumper to get to their important government jobs.  TomTom had awoken from it's nap to confirm my suspicions and informed me that now I was 43 miles from the circus. (Thanks for the info)

Ok. I was not worried.  That's what I left early for, right?  I just be-bopped to the radio and jockeyed in and out of traffic, feeling like an old pro after 3 days of being a big, independent city mom.  The girls were happy and there was little fighting.  It was fine.

The minutes ticked by.  I was still thinking positively but had started to notice that our window was shrinking.  We were only going to be about 20 minutes early if this kept up.  But that was ok, plenty of time.

As I was merging onto another packed interstate, Sasha announced that her stomach hurt.  I asked if she had to go to the bathroom, she said yes, I promised I would look for one.

There was no need.  She threw up.  Not vomited, Threw up.  Her mouth was a fountain spewing curdled pink milk all over the place.  Autumn screamed, "GROSS. She's throwing up!!!  Disgusting!!"  I yelled, "Autumn give her something!" but all she could say was "Give her what?  Oh it's so gross! And it's ON ME!!!!  Waaaaa!!!!" So I am  merging into traffic while at the same time, frantically reaching for something to give Sasha to catch whatever was left.  I found a plastic bag, dumped its contents and handed it to her.  She told me she was feeling better.  By then, she had pretty much covered herself and most of the backseat.

Something Smells.  Bad.
Of course, now Sasha realizes that she is covered with vomit and starts to cry.  Autumn is babbling incoherently but when I ask her to clean Sasha up with my glove compartment napkins she stops long enough to shout. "I will not touch THAT!  It is so gross!!"  I turned the air on full blast and crack the windows in an effort to keep myself from passing out.

TomTom says that thanks to traffic we will now be 5 minutes late for the circus.  I sigh, debating how I am going to fix this mess while driving on a highway with no exits.  Finally, right before a drawbridge, I notice a pull off.  I jump out of the car and start using my bottle of water and glove compartment napkins to clean Sasha, all the while trying to ignore the fact that most of DC is now staring at my butt on their way to work.  In the meantime, Autumn has jumped out of the car, run around to the front of it and is balling with her face heavenward as if asking God why He let this awful tragedy occur.

I manage to get the car seat wiped off and clean Sasha's pants and shoes.  I happened to find an extra shirt in the car so I tell her I am going to carefully lift off the yucky one and get her all changed. 

She has just turned 5.  So the thought of changing her shirt in front of 4 lanes of parked traffic is more than she can handle.  I must open both doors and use my body to block any view of her as we change her shirt.  This is the only way she will agree.

I had just enough napkins.  I put Sasha back in her carseat and get ready to go.  Autumn refuses to get back into "Stinky Throw Up Car" and the only way I can get her back in is to threaten to leave her there on the side of the highway.  (yes, her therapist will make lots of money off of that later)

Some good samaritan lets me merge back into traffic.  I still have the windows down.  TomTom now says we are going to be 30 minutes late for the circus.  But I keep repeating like a crazy person, "It's Ok.  We're fine.  Everything's ok.  We're going to make it.  We're going to have a great day."  The girls are skeptical.

We did make it.  We were 40 minutes late and had to be ushered to our seats by a surprised staff member.  But once I got them seated, I ran out to the concession stand and came back with the go to band-aid of all mothers, M&Ms. (and cotton candy, because really, that's why we were there in the first place)
I'm hungry now, Mom.
Autumn made me switch seats with her and then I realized why.  I had an extra shirt in the car for Sasha but no pants.  She REEKED.  But as I watched her little face "ooh" and "ahh" at the jugglers and trapeze artists, my stress faded away.  I gave her a hug, squeezed Autumn's knee.  Everything else faded away hearing their giggles at the clowns. My kids were seeing a Real Circus, in a Real Circus Tent!  How awesome! It was wonderful. 

Now I realize that to you moms reading this situation is not unusual or unique.  We all know just what it is, A day in the life of a mom.