Sunday, July 29, 2012

Harry Potter Healthcare

Wanna know why you shouldn’t fast forward through all the boring countries during the opening ceremony of the Olympics?  Because someday you may need to flee the country and hide-out where the C.I.A. would never even think to look for you.  If that scenario is not a remote possibility in your wildest imagination, then I’m sorry your life is so boring.

Anyway, my list of remote locations to start a new life now includes the following:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Eritrea (I think one of my kids had that when they were little; it’s a stomach virus), Lesotho, Mauritania, Saint Kitts and Nevis (they might think to look for me on Kitts, but never Nevis), Sao Tome and Principe, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu (I hope they speak French there because I remember four words from high school).

I am certain that these countries would welcome me with open arms, because, assuming I bring my family with me, I would be doubling their population.  And I don’t think they get a lot of tourists to those places since none of us had even heard of them before they decided to send two people to the Olympics, one to compete in Judo – which seems to be a fairly easy sport to qualify for, and the other national representative is a mystery, competing in something that’s not televised on any of NBC’s forty channels.

If I flee to one of these countries, I could probably even become President or Queen or Prime Minister or Chief or whatever they have.  How much competition could there possibly be?  Definitely no one else that can make glitter posters like me.  But, I probably shouldn’t become a world leader while I’m laying low and letting the heat die down.  It’s pretty easy to slip by the C.I.A. in my experience, but having my face show up on the money of my new home country would be pushing my luck.

Speaking of glitter posters, I think the opening ceremony needed more of those and less creepy children’s hospital scenes.  Clearly, I had no idea what a big deal the National Health Service is across the pond.  Maybe that part of the show was to brag about their successful nationalized health care system, to snub their noses at us a bit even, but honestly, if nationalized health care means a bunch of hyperactive kids jumping up and down on their beds all night long and doctors and nurses with dance degrees rather than medical ones, I’ll pass.  I definitely don’t want Voldemort managing my prescriptions.

The rest of the opening ceremony was pretty good.  Except for those face dresses.  Did you see those?  I mean, I got a pretty good look at some of the volunteers during the opening theatrics and most of them did not have faces worth recreating and preserving in tunic form.

The British have definitely contributed musically over the last fifty years.  Which is more than I can say for the people of Timor-Leste.  Unfortunately, the British are still trying to pass Paul McCartney off as a rock icon.  I know I’m about to offend a couple of people who think criticizing a Beatle is akin to blasphemy, but I really don’t think McCartney is all that.  The Beatles were great and revolutionary in their time, but their time is over, and let’s be honest, the one that was the most qualified to break off as a solo artist got killed in 1980.  Why do they keep trotting out Paul McCartney like women and girls are still going to pass out at the sight of him?  Frankly, he looks a lot like a girl himself.  And if he’s written anything new since the 60s, it’s not good enough to be played on the radio, and apparently Justin Beiber IS good enough to be played on the radio, so….?

All I’m saying is that The Wanted are British and they’re awesome.  Why didn’t they end the music portion with “Glad You Came”?  Wouldn’t that have been better than “Hey Jude”?  Critiquing Sir Paul McCartney is probably what’s gonna lead to my extradition, so I should wrap us this blog and start Googling my new home country of Mauritania, so I can pack my bags accordingly. 

I gathered in my preliminary research that buckets and shovels will be handy because three-fourths of the country is desert, so I guess we’ll be building lots of sand castles.  I’ll probably take along a lot of bottled water for the same reason.  If there aren’t any frozen yogurt shops there, I may have to take my chances here in the states, rely on the underground network of Paul McCartney dissenters to hide me in their attics.  I’ll need a night light though because I’m still having bad dreams about the children’s hospital.Photobucket

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Madam Secretary

For the past three years, Brainy attended a really nice private Christian school.  The level of parent involvement there was off the charts, and I often found the mothers to be intimidating.  Kind, but intimidating.  Sometimes I’d be sitting in the carpool line at 7:45 in the morning and look over into the windows of the Cadillac Escalade next to me and be rather appalled at the smiling Stepford mommy inside of it.  A mommy who would have her hair done and make-up on and be wearing something like a freshly ironed pink sweater set and heirloom pearls. 

Meanwhile, it was all I could do to get Brainy to school before 8 o’clock, so I usually had on the t-shirt I’d slept in with whatever shorts I found on the floor of my room, be those mine or my husband’s, and at least half the time I didn’t even have shoes on.  And I could tell, by the look on her children’s faces, that she had squeezed fresh juice for them for breakfast and served it with warm muffins and scrambled egg whites.  “Brainy, don’t mention you had toaster waffles for the twenty-sixth day in a row.  It might make the other kids jealous.”

Not every mother there drove an Escalade, though the amount I saw on that campus would rival any Cadillac dealership in the nation, but it’s just that I was always in carpool line next to one with a smiling angel mom on board.  

And on orientation nights, there would be these sign-ups to help with things in the classroom, plan parties, or be a room mom.  Mommies would clamor up to scrawl their names on those lists, already discussing their great party ideas or fun activities and crafts they wanted to try with the class, sometimes I’d overhear things like, “I already bought the cutest little….”, and I thought to myself Seems like they got this under control; I should just go take a nap.  I didn’t have party ideas or classroom friendly recipes; I didn’t even have a pen on me to sign up for lunch duty.  I had to borrow one.

Between my lack of qualifications and the fact that there was a twelve month waiting list to even bring the teacher an apple, I didn’t get very involved at our old school.  My other excuse is that the twins were still home with me most of the time.

Well, we’re at public school now and a new day has dawned.  Not only am I not working outside of the home any more, but now all three kids are full-time students.  Don’t worry, Reckless is still a part-time daredevil.

On the second day of school, I got a call from the P.T.A. president.  She knew me because her son plays Upwards basketball at our church and she ran into me at the girls’ kindergarten orientation the previous week.  She called to ask if I’d be the P.T.A. secretary this year.  The elected one had just announced she needed to step down.  The president said that they’d have enough members present at the first meeting of the year, two days later, to formally elect me in on her recommendation.  The job was mine if I wanted it.  “Sure,” I said, wondering if I should mention that I had never been to a P.T.A. meeting in my life.  But, nah, might as well jump right in with a cabinet position.  My next thought was I’m gonna need some pearls.

You think it’s odd that I ended up in a magazine?  Well, it’s even a bigger shock that I’m P.T.A. secretary!  This time last year I was waiting tables and line dancing at Texas Roadhouse.  I couldn’t even remember school picture day.  Now I might have some say so as to when it is. 

In honor of my new membership into adulthood, I got my hair cut.  No more halfway down my back, auditioning for a music video hair; now I have neat layers that come to my shoulders.  And for my first P.T.A. meeting, I wore a ruffled sleeveless blouse and khaki pants that were NOT purchased in the junior’s section at Kohl’s.

And the best part, the unbelievable part, really, is that our new school starts at 9:15!  Now that’s a start time I can manage, with shoes and everything.  I’ve volunteered twice in Brainy’s class already and I’ll be helping in the girls’ rooms as well.  It’s like…..I’m responsible.  If you knew what I made them for breakfast before school yesterday, your head would really be spinning.  But making you dizzy wouldn’t be responsible.

Now, the question on a lot of people’s minds is this:  With all three kids in school, what will you do with your free time?  Easy.  I'm going to do what any other normal, responsible, suburban mother of three would do....train for the Olympics. Photobucket

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Like A Fish Out Of Water

Almost overnight, Stretch has learned to tie her shoes, ride her bike, jump rope, and swim.  Not just doggy paddle, either, but full-on under-the-surface darting through the water like a sea lion.  I’m pretty sure that page two of the Good Mommy Handbook states you should never compare your daughters to sea lions, but I wasn’t sure how else to describe her new skill.

The swimming, and all those other accomplishments, is a sign of something bigger.  A sign that my baby is growing up.  And, no, I don’t have two babies just because the girls are twins.  Reckless was born two minutes before Stretch and quickly took on the role of big sister.  Not only did Reckless roll over, sit up, and walk first, but she’s been riding her bike without training wheels and swimming for two years now.  She’s always been fairly self-sufficient.  I’m pretty sure I caught her ordering her own cell phone on line last week.

But Stretch….well, she’s always needed me.  It’s been exhausting at times, but now she’s figuring things out.  And, she’s starting kindergarten on Thursday!  Technically, they both are.  But my only concern about Reckless and school is that she’ll break out and hitch a ride to Vegas.  With Stretch, I worry that she’ll need something and we won’t be there to help her.  Or that worried me until recently.  In lieu of her swimming performance at the pool today, I’m starting to suspect she’ll be just fine.  I’m also starting to suspect I’m not her real mother.

Because I’m not a good swimmer.  I can swim, but I’m self-taught, so it’s sloppy.  And, I’m not the only member of my family that is aquatically challenged.  My brother just took lessons a few years ago and prior to that, he couldn’t so much as float.  He also struggled with snapping his fingers until he hit 30, but other than that, he has excelled at everything in his life.

My mom still can’t swim, which explains her fear of boats.  Her absence of fear about flying is intriguing in light of that.  I’m fairly certain my maternal grandparents couldn’t swim, but I doubt it came up since they likely never even saw a concrete pond.

I enjoy swimming though.  Sometimes I go up to the neighborhood pool early in the mornings and swim laps to give my joints a break from all the running I do.  It’s a good workout if you’re doing it right; it’s a GREAT workout if you’re doing it just a little bit wrong.  My swimming is always accompanied by a subconscious fear of drowning, which further elevates my heart rate.

That fear was instilled when I was learning to swim.  And, now that I think about it, self-taught is probably the wrong descriptor.  I figured out how to swim because my teenage babysitter’s younger brother repeatedly tried to drown me in the lake every time she turned her back.  Maybe self-preservation is more accurate.  And, maybe mankind would learn to fly if we were repeatedly pushed out of airplanes without parachutes?  The repeatedly part of that equation is tricky.  But maybe someone should check with my mom.  I suspect she already knows how to fly, or else she’d show some kind of reluctance about boarding planes.

But this blog isn’t about my mom being a superhero.  It’s about Stretch finally finding her own wings and learning to fly.  I assume she’ll still be coming back to the nest after school each day, so I won’t cry too hard on Thursday.  But I hope she’ll continue to let me tie her shoes from time to time.  And I hope that one day she’ll teach me how to swim like her.Photobucket

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Picture, But Not A Thousand Words....

*This won’t be my normal style of blogging, but lots of people wanted to know how I ended up in the August issue Good Housekeeping, so….

I was standing in a supermarket check-out line in early 2009.  Thanks to the recession, my husband had recently lost his job, when the company he worked for the last eight years went bankrupt.  I often flip through magazines when the line is long, and I noticed a little blurb in Good Housekeeping asking for readers to submit their weight loss stories.  Since I had lost nearly sixty pounds, I thought, Hey, I’m a pretty good writer, maybe I can get paid for my story!  I was just trying to help out financially.  I went out and got my first waitressing job that same week. 

A couple of months later, a Good Housekeeping editor contacted me.  They wanted to “do my story”, which is not the same as publishing the story I submitted, that, I must admit, was lengthy.  I think two and half pages.  But every word was important and inspirational.  Their idea was more along the lines of, “You’re beautiful!  Can we take your picture?”  Not what I had in mind, but flattered, so “Sure.”  They left me with a vague, “We’ll be in touch”.

I went about my life and then one day at the end of May (2009), they called me again out of the blue and said, “We’d like to fly you up to New York for a photo shoot in two weeks.  Can you do that?”  My husband was about to start a new job in Washington D.C., but my mom graciously agreed to keep the kids so I could enjoy the glamorous life for a couple of days.

For the next two weeks, leading up to my photo shoot, I did live like a model, eating like a bird, exercising at least an hour a day, moisturizing my skin and staying out of the sun, being careful to not get any bug bites or bruises.  (I avoided the sun because the article was originally supposed to run in the fall, which explains why I’m wearing jeans and fall colors in my picture.) 

Wanna know how models feel?  Well, if it’s like I felt those two weeks before I went to New York, they feel hungry, moody, and bored.  I couldn’t exactly go rollerblading, which I love, and risk a broken wrist or ugly bruise. 

I embarked on my new healthy lifestyle in January of 2007; the twins were four months old.  I lost weight gradually and steadily for over a year to reach my goal.  And that is definitely the way to do it because I’ve kept it off for five years now.  I started eating healthy, eating less, and exercising more.  Well, at that point, you could’ve left the “more” off….I started exercising.

It’s awesome to have my hard work validated and rewarded this way.  I really wish that every woman (and man) who loses/lost weight could get to experience what I did….

I was picked up at my house in a limousine and taken to the airport for my direct flight to New York City, where another man in a dark suit was waiting with a sign to escort me to another limo.  My bags were carried into a swanky five star hotel in Times Square and after a time to “refresh”, I went to the Hearst Tower, where pretty much all big magazines’ offices are housed.

After the initial security station/reception desk, I rode an impressive escalator that cut through an indoor waterfall.  On the next level, another security attendant assigned me an elevator.  There were no buttons on the elevator; he remotely sent it to the appropriate floor.  A high floor that was completely reserved for our photo shoot.  There were rooms FULL of clothes, shoes, and jewelry.  It was all loaned out by the designers, name brands I’d only heard of, but never worn.  And we had the most incredible view of the city from up there.  I felt like a princess!  I was happy for the little girl inside of me that had always dreamed of becoming one, because for two days, that dream came true.

I met three of those four women that are featured in the magazine with me, but the one that is on the cover is new.  I’m not sure, but I suspect she’s a recent addition so they could have appropriate colors and styles for an August cover.  Unfortunately, the original fifth member of our crew didn’t make it into the issue.

That first day was just a fitting and meeting with the stylists.  I mostly sat in a reception room, that had a buffet of fancy healthy foods and drinks, while these women came in and held pieces of clothes or jewelry up to my face.  Occasionally, they’d ask me to go into one of the dressing rooms and try something on for them.  Seeing the price tags on the clothes, I was extremely careful as I did so.  Ultimately, they liked the jeans I showed up in the best and just added the sweater, shirt, shoes, and accessories.  I guess I have good taste.  They still fit; I wear them a lot.

After my fitting, I went shopping, which is the only thing the magazine didn’t pay for while I was in New York.  (A wise financial decision on their part.)  And I ate a nice big dinner that night because the stylist said my size 8 jeans were a little too loose!  I wasn’t going to get into a size 6 by the next day, so I figured a steak and baked potato might help.  (I still need a size 10 in dresses though, so I made them put my size as 8/10, because I want real women to be able to identify with me.)

I had a ten a.m. “call time” the next day, and I was told to show up without make-up and not to do anything more than comb my hair after my shower.  Done.  That’s how I leave the house pretty much every morning; clean face, wet hair, and casual clothes.  Most mommies could get on board with that facet of model life.

When I arrived, I met the rest of the “team”; the make-up lady (on my right), the hair guy (blonde guy), the photographer (man on my left) and his minions.  The photographer, rather than the editor, was top dog there.  He had the final word on EVERYTHING during the shoot.

I’ve never had expertly applied make-up.  But if you look at the picture, you can see it was totally worth forty-five minutes in that chair!  Except for fake eyelashes though, that’s me.  No airbrushing.  Just lots of hair brushing.  My hair guy would step in every two minutes or so during the shoot and adjust one or two strands of hair.  He was OCD.

The photo shoot itself was incredible.  There was music playing the whole time, but the first song, the one playing as I walked into the room was “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison.  They took my picture a million different ways for the next two hours.  But with the music, fans blowing, and even a girl whose sole job was to offer me water through a straw, it was easy.  After I was done, they popped open a bottle of champagne for me.  I don’t like champagne though, so the stylists drank it.

I spent the night visiting my favorite New York sights and then went to the movies before bed.  The next morning I got the limo/star treatment again, back to JFK.  And when I arrived in Raleigh, a big, handsome, twentysomething Italian guy in a black suit met me as I exited the terminal, took my bag, and then drove me back to suburbia and reality in a tricked out black Escalade.  When he was helping me into the backseat at the airport, I heard a family nearby saying “Ohmygosh, who is that?” about me and I laughed thinking, I’m just the crazy lady that lives down the street from you probably.

The article got bumped that fall because they got Paula Deen for the cover and couldn’t put weight loss in her issue.  It didn’t run in the months after that either, so I figured it wasn’t ever going to.  Imagine my surprise when they called this spring to make sure I’d kept the weight off and said they still wanted to run it.  I had to submit current pictures to show I’m still the same size, but I didn’t get to do a new photo shoot.  That’s okay, because I want to have my words read, not my picture taken.Photobucket