January’s Journey

mountain-clip-art-4T9zr9R7c

I got fat.

Well not just fat, more like heart-attack-waiting-to-happen obese.

But let’s just back the food truck up for a minute here and start from the beginning.

Now, to truly start from the beginning, I need to take you back to August of 2014 when, on a snap decision made out of my husband’s mid-life crisis, I found myself in a mini van packed to the roof with my belongings heading back to my hometown in Michigan.

Lizzie did not survive the trip. I think she was just too old and hadn’t been feeling herself for some time. R.I.P my sweet, scaly girl.

10402861_745351082153820_5996370462389016219_n

Anyhow, about 2 and a half months later, my husband Paul would walk away from our condo in Jacksonville and his property management job of 16 years to join me at my parents’ house with our 13 years of accumulated crap in tow. I had started working for my father at his auto repair shop, Paul got a short-lived job in property management for the first few months until that turned sour, at which point he decided to join the blue-collar world once again working in a factory. We rented a cozy little apartment in a quiet neighborhood, and we adore everything about living in a small town.

As for the kids, two of the five stayed in Jacksonville. Big Red moved to North Carolina with her new boyfriend. The oldest, her husband, and our grand baby decided to join us here in Michigan and get their own apartment. So we just have the youngest with us yet, and he’s 14.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really thanked my husband for his mid-life crisis yet, but it was the best decision we’ve ever made.

So now that you’re caught up on 2 years of my life in a nutshell,  you’re probably asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with you getting fat?”

Well, the answer is 2 fold:

1 – Even though the move was a good one, I don’t adjust to change very well.

2 – Suddenly, without five mouths to feed we could afford food. Like…any food. All of the tasty, glorious, calorie-loaded food that we could get our lips on.

2 and a half-ish – having a sit-for-9-hours-a-day  desk job where customers are always bringing in donuts, pizza, and baked goods “just to say thanks” doesn’t help much, either.

Caloric intake doesn’t affect my husband much. As a matter of fact, he’s gotten skinny because his factory job keeps him in shape. He can shove anything into his gullet and not gain a pound. I hate him for this.

Me, on the other hand, I can just smell chocolate and gain 3 pounds. It’s like my metabolism got up and walked away when I hit 40.

So, I started gaining weight. Just a little at first, but then a little more. My dad would order himself and the other woman in the office some breakfast every morning. “Hey kid, you want anything?”… “Sure, dad, I’ll take ham, egg, and cheese on a muffin… and a chocolate milk.” Then I’d go get a greasy burger and fries and a big chocolate shake for lunch.

Oh, and not to mention the late night snacking just because I could. Doritos and Oreos? Sure, why not.

So the pants would get packed away to make room for larger sizes. Large and XL made way for 2XL and even some 3XL. It just kept getting worse.

The beginning of 2016 rolled around and I found myself in and out of the doctor’s office because of this pain or that pain. I’d look away when they’d have me step on the scale because I just didn’t want to know. I was depressed, partly because of what I’d let myself become but there were some other factors involved, too.

I started looking for a quick fix for what I had done to myself. I checked into bariatric surgery but insurance wouldn’t cover it. I started shopping around for miracle slimming pills…something that would shed the pounds quickly with no effort on my part. I checked out the Fit Body Boot Camp one morning, but decided it was just too intense for me. Nope. Not happening.

Around about the 6th of the year as I was driving home from somewhere that I can’t even remember, I recall thinking that maybe I should just drive into a tree at about 70 and be done with it. That’s a quick and easy fix. That’s about the time I realized how bad my depression had gotten and I ended up at church sobbing my heart out to my Pastor’s wife and getting some much needed encouragement. The following day, change started.

Change is hard.

Change is especially hard for people who fear change, and lets face it, are so lazy that they’d rather have a quick fix than put any real effort into getting back on track.

But, it happened, and as all change must, it had to start with a goal.

I gave myself the year to lose 107 pounds. That will put me right where I should be for my height and body type.

So where am I at today?

Well, I have lost 47 pounds, which leaves me with 60 to go.

xigKb9gKT

Here’s what else I’ve lost: Back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, ankle pain, night sweats, and low self esteem. The depression has gotten quite a bit better, too.

Here’s what I’ve quit to get here: Soda and other sugar-loaded drinks, candy, chips, sweets and junk-food, anything deep-fried, bread, potatoes, and some dairy. We don’t eat out much anymore, either, which has saved our bank account as well as my thighs.

I still have a long road to haul but I’m confident I can do it because some changes have already become habits. I really thought that giving up sugar would be hard, but that part hasn’t been too bad. Bread has been the hardest one to quit because so many things involve bread, but I’ve found some pretty creative ways to make breadless sandwiches.

I decided from the beginning that I’m not going to be one of those  people that has to keep annoying everyone with the constant updates of their weight loss journey, nor do I feel it’s my duty to become some outspoken advocate for health and wellness just because I’ve made it my personal goal to get on the right track. If you want a big old sloppy bacon cheeseburger,  fries, and a coke, well I’ll join you with my grilled chicken salad and water, and we’ll hopefully have some great conversation while we stuff our faces. I won’t judge. Nothing is more annoying than someone that jumps on a bandwagon and expects everyone else to join them, too. You live your life, I’ll live mine. Deal?

So consider this the first of maybe only two or 3 updates that you’re going to get on the subject of my weight loss journey.

I wouldn’t mind a few words of encouragement as I journey on, though.

Even though my body says, “You go, girl, eat that lean cuisine,” my taste buds want to bury themselves in a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and a bucket of fried chicken…

YUM! wear 309

Extra crispy…

With gravy…

No.

Bad taste buds.

 

 

 

 

10 Reasons Why I Could Never Be A Cougar

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I enjoy surfing long into the still of the night.

Channel surfing, that is.

Hours after the hubster is gently…okay loudly…very, very loudly snoring next to me, my insomnia has me flipping through 300-and-something channels in search of something suitable to watch until I’m sleepy enough to join him in dreamland.

Many times in my late night TV travels, I’ll come across a commercial for a website for called cougarlife.com.

Now, in case there’s some confusion, this particular site isn’t dedicated to informing the masses about the instincts and habits of some sleek and powerful mountain cats. No, this is a site dedicated to the human variety of cougar; middle aged women in search of men half their age or significantly younger in the interest of pursing a sexual relationship.

When I see these commercials I admittedly shake my head and roll my eyes.

I’m a happily married Christian woman, and for those reasons alone I could never bring myself to do what these ladies do,  but of course it still makes me think…what if I weren’t? Could I commit to becoming some cradle-robbing baby chaser under a different set of circumstances?

I decided that no matter what type of life I chose to lead, the answer would be still be no. I could never become a ‘cougar’, no matter how desperate for male companionship I became, and here are some reasons why:

1. Who’s Lynyrd Skynyrd and what’s an 8 track?

Come on…Freebird? Sweet Home Alabama? No? Okay kiddo, you just go back to listening to the ‘Flying Meatmonkeys’ or whatever drivel is streaming through those buds in your cute little ears.

Its called common ground…or in this case, lack thereof. To be able to connect with someone on even a physical level, there has to be some key element that we can both relate to, some sort of chemistry, a conversational spark. Coming from completely different eras, I don’t think that the Golden Gate could even bridge this generational gap.

2. Club hop? I couldn’t even club hobble anymore.

Generally speaking, the younger crowd tends to get their kicks indulging in whatever social scene that nightclubs have to offer, and it’s the best place to go if you’re on the hunt for young, available, easy men. I used to frequent the clubs when I was young, as did all of my friends.

I, however, grew sick of the partying scene and grew up somewhere in my late 20’s. Now I have maybe 2 or 3 drinks a year and only dance at weddings.

I can’t really say this fact bothers me much, either. When my husband and I go on our yearly cruise, there’s always several young drunk people making complete idiots of themselves, and it always makes me think, “Man, did I used to act that foolish, too?”

3. I was graduating high school when your mother was begging for an epidural.

I don’t know how these women can overlook a fact that to me just seems, well…twisted. If this is the case, I am literally old enough to be your um…hot older sister…and as such, I should be offering you some snippets of wisdom and life advice, not trying to get into your pants. Seriously though, as a mother figure, I should be looking out for you, rather than trying to pick you up in some shady bar or on some equally shady website.

I doubt I’d even be able to live with the guilt that came afterward if I were to pursue an encounter with someone that many years my junior.

4.That’s someone’s son for Heaven’s sake.

Maybe one has to have a male child to actually get this, but I’m capable of putting myself in a parent’s position here. Someone, somewhere, has tried to raise their darling baby boy with a hint of morality. While the fact that he’s out chasing women old enough to be his mother holds some indication that they’ve failed in their endeavor, I’d still have to ask myself if I’d want my son involved with a much older woman.

I’d be lobbing snowballs at Satan before I’d ever let that happen.

5. My parents would be so proud.

My parents are still both very much alive and very quick to offer advice when they deem that I’m screwing up my life. They did their best to raise me with certain ethics and moral standards that set me apart from oh…hyenas and vultures, and while I may not always adhere to the way they’d like to see me handling my life, I think I do a pretty good job at being the upstanding citizen that they raised me to be.

While they may not know exactly what unsavory activities I’d be involved in if I chased after men half my age, the guilt would still be there. I was raised better than that, and knowing that my behavior would be going against every value that my parents tried to instill in me would be a terrible testament to their legacy. I’m not sure I could forgive myself for that.

6. Age is just a number you say?

I get disgusted every time I hear this statement. Granted, I’ve mostly heard it from men in my lifetime, but there has to be some degree of this line of thinking to be able to pursue a man half one’s age.

You see, age does matter. The progression of time in a person’s life equates to a greater level of stability and wisdom brought about by years of experience; emotional, mental, social, etc. Well, at least in most cases it does anyway.

By the time a woman reaches 40, even 30, she should be smart enough to understand what are or aren’t healthy relationship habits, and she should have the ability to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable social behaviors…like chasing after men half her age.

7. That’s like, hashtag, hella cray cray G.

You, young sir, sound like a moron.

With the passage of time I’ve learned that speaking in full sentences with real words has it’s social advantages, like oh…people with some measure of intelligence can understand you.  I can’t get to know someone and carry on a stimulating conversation with street slang, and it’s a huge turn off to boot. Heck, I don’t even know what half of the words in the vocabulary of today’s youth mean. This blowout’s about to turn up, huh? You want to try that sentence again in a way that my old, lame self can understand?

On the flip side of the coin, young men that try to sound overly intelligent in an effort to impress an older woman appear equally as ridiculous. I don’t listen to indie-rock, don’t drink iced mocha-chinos, and have zero interest in progressive politics. While you blindly believe that you’re hipster ways will impress me, I’m just grateful that my hips are still my own.

8. We could go back to my place, but my parents might still be up.

For oh-so-many reasons, I don’t even need to expound upon that sentence. No woman wants to hear that, whether the guy is 21 or 40. I’d imagine there’s more of a chance of hearing it from the younger crowd, though. By 40, if a man doesn’t have some sort of financial stability and a place of his own, he should be far too embarrassed to even be out trying to pick up women.

9. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

There are so many more productive things that I could do with a Saturday night than go out and try to pick up a man- any man, let alone one that’s half my age. It’s called having a sense of responsibility. My laundry isn’t going to do itself, my kitchen won’t clean itself, my blog won’t write itself, my kids could probably feed themselves but I don’t think reddi-wip, nila wafers, and processed cheese slices qualify as a well balanced meal, and I’m sure there’s a new episode of something on TV that I won’t want to miss.

10. Oh my aching back.

While a man in his early 20’s may pride himself on his 2 hour stamina, I pride myself on being able to go 5 minutes without hearing anything crack. So sorry, tiger. I couldn’t keep up with you even if I were a cougar.

And there you have it.

I’ll leave the pursuit of younger men to those older women who just don’t seem to know better…or simply don’t care, in pursuit of other avenues in life…

Like having respect for myself as a seasoned woman.

 

Sagging Stupendous!

Daily Prompt: Game of Groans

Think about an object, an activity, or a cultural phenomenon you really don’t like. Now write a post (tongue in cheek or not — your call!) about why it’s the best thing ever.

I personally think every male on the planet should start “sagging”.

What is sagging, you ask?

Why its only the greatest cultural phenomenon ever!

According to Wikipedia, sagging is defined as: a manner of wearing trousers or jeans which sag so that the top is significantly below the waist, sometimes revealing much of the underwear. Sagging is predominantly a male fashion.

I, however, believe sagging is best defined here:

BaggyPantsXrayDrawing

You see, they just can’t help it. Their elongated torsos make it difficult to wear their pants in some normal, boring, mainstream manner.

Ooo la la…Am I right ladies? Nothing hotter than a scrawny butt sticking out from over the top of some seriously huge jeans. Add a belt around the knees, and the ensemble goes from daytime casual to evening wear in and instant. It’s a great look for frequent trips to the ATM, pawn shops, liquor stores, job interviews, first dates…

When I see this look I instantly think, “Wow. That young man right there has it all together. He has a bright future ahead of him for sure.”

Just think of all the perks that this phenomenon brings with it, too, girls. I mean, you know exactly what you’re getting because you can see it all gloriously displayed over the top of their sagging South Poles.

Oh! And If you ever decide you just need a little break from your doting sagger, a brisk walk in the opposite direction will provide sufficient alone time. Pretty hard to give chase with your pants around your ankles.

Also, imagine all of that extra storage space they have for wallets, afro picks, guns, knives, your jewelry, a refreshing 40 oz. malt beverage…there’s just so much room in those over-sized jeans! Saggers are like the SUV’s of the fashion world! And if you’re ever tired of walking, ladies, you can just hop right into those size 80 jeans and hitch a ride because there’s plenty of room.

And a note to saggers everywhere: Please, by all means, continue to approach my gorgeous daughters with your pants around your ankles, sideways hat, and an ample handful of that which you are over-compensating for with your oozing charm.

Image

It makes me all warm and fuzzy right down to my toes when you dashing gentlemen shout things at them from across a parking lot like, “Ooo gurlll…let me holla at you fo’ a minute” and then, to make absolute certain you have their full attention, follow it up with “What? Where you goin’ gurrlll. I just wanna axe’k you sumfin.”

That right there has ‘future son in law’ written all over it.

I’m sure my husband would agree, too.

Now waddle on over and give us a hug.

Welcome to the family, son.

Happenings in the Hood: Weave Got a Problem

1335371460_women_wrestling

If you’ve been following along at all with the insanity that is my life, you’ll have read about the antics of one very umm…”special” woman in this story:

Happenings in the Hood: Entitled Much?

In a nutshell; I was still painting after regular work hours to finish a job one night when this woman that I had never met before saw me through the open window, and decided to make a very rude and ridiculous request…no…demand of me. She expected me to drop what I was doing; a job that needed to be finished yesterday, and paint her bedroom door because it was a beautiful natural wood color and she wanted it white. After arguing with me for several minutes, (actually, she argued. I responded very politely) I didn’t meet her demand and she stomped off cursing at me and calling me things colorful enough to make a street thug blush.

She proceeded to cause such a big stink over such a silly little thing, that the next day found her hurling obscenities across the parking lot at the Assistant Manager. Over a door. She was in and out of the office after that, still yelling and carrying on. My husband, (the Manager) told her that it was not an emergency and we would get to it as soon as we could. That wasn’t good enough, though, and she was still being so obnoxious about the whole thing, outside screaming in the parking lot, trying to attract attention and get other residents involved, that I was finally told to just go paint her door to shut her up. I haven’t wanted to do a job less in my life.

All was quiet after that, though. Painting her door seemed to have appeased her.

For about 2 weeks.

Now, I had already known that after that whole door fiasco we hadn’t heard the last of her. Call it a gut feeling. She just seemed rather…no…extremely unhinged and if she could get that wound up over a door, I could only imagine what would happen the next time something ruffled her entitled feathers.

Believe me, she didn’t disappoint either.

This past Tuesday, as I was engrossed in a new painting assignment, I heard such loud yelling outside that I assumed the closed windows in the apartment had suddenly turned into paper.

So I, being nosier than the cat that curiosity killed, went outside to investigate. I dialed my husband in the office as I went to let him know that a fight was ensuing somewhere on property. He assured me that he already knew and was about to come handle the situation.

The source of the yelling was coming from 2 buildings away. Miss Entitled was yelling obscenities at another woman in the breezeway and repeatedly screaming, “I want my money, I want my money.” So, naturally, I had assumed that this whole argument started over borrowed cash that hadn’t been paid back yet.

Wrong.

Apparently her very loud demand was aimed at my husband, who had still not come out of the office, but she was screaming these words at her neighbor across the hall.

You see, her mother had paid her rent several months in advance and Miss Entitled now wanted a refund so that she could move out. She wanted to leave because her neighbor had ticked her off. Given her recent history of unreasonable anger though, I wasn’t surprised that she was on the outs with her neighbor.

To get the full impact of the ridiculousness of the situation, though, I’ll need to backtrack to the previous Sunday when the fight had originally started. The following information was given to me by my husband as he received it from witnesses in the building and the innocent party that was involved:

Her neighbor went to start her car that day only to find that her battery was dead. So, she knocked on Miss Entitled’s door and asked if she would be willing to give her a jump start. Miss Entitled proceeded to launch herself into a fit of rage over the request. Her neighbor slowly backed away and said, “Nevermind. It’s fine. I can ask someone else to do it.”

It didn’t end there, though. Miss Entitled was relentless and started waging a half-crazed war against her neighbor that resulted in her wielding a knife and threatening to kill her, her kids, and her boyfriend. Her neighbor naturally called the police and was holed up in her apartment out of fear until they arrived, which was just in time to find Miss Entitled out in the parking lot attempting to slash her neighbor’s car tires with the knife that she was brandishing.

Miss entitled was arrested, and spent the next 24 hours in county lock-up. I had heard that her mother had paid her bond, which must have been true because here she was again, right back at it.

I couldn’t make out every word that she was screaming at her neighbor because a lot of it just didn’t make sense, but I’m pretty sure more death threats were wedged in among the stream of continuous profanity.

All of the sudden, I saw her neighbor come flying across the hallway with catlike swiftness and arms flailing so wildly that it looked like she had stumbled into a swarm of bees.

huge.1.7906

For the next 3 minutes or so, all I saw was a blur of weave and 3 inch nails. I have to admit, I was highly entertained. If I were a betting woman, my money would have been on the neighbor.

I called my husband back and said, “You’d better get a move on. Things just turned physical.”

He came rushing out the door and yelled to his maintenance man across the parking lot to call the cops and come help him break it up.

His maintenance man was already one step ahead of him, though, and the cops were on their way.

When the 2 were finally separated, Miss Entitled came crawling out of the breezeway, most of her weave dangling off her head by the few strands that didn’t get pulled out, yowling like a cat in heat and screaming “Owwww! Ouch! Owwww!” at the top of her lungs to try and elicit sympathy from the parking lot full of onlookers that were now gathered to witness the event.

I have never seen such a pathetic display of drama in my life. It was clear that she was nowhere near injured except for maybe her pride, but she carried on as if every bone in her body had been broken.

It was about that time that it was made known that the police were on their way, which resulted in Miss Entitled switching gears and now walking around the parking lot yelling, “I ain’t goin’ back to jail. I just got out. I ain’t goin’ back!” I remained the innocent bystander, of course, but I wanted to yell back at her, “Then stop doing stupid stuff!”

I half expected her to take off knowing that the police were now en-route, but she stuck around and stood her ground on the false assumption that her neighbor would be the one being hauled away this time because she had thrown the first punch.

She spent the remainder of her time in my husband’s face screaming, “I want my money!” again until the cops came.

When the police finally showed up and got the story from the parties involved and several witnesses, they cuffed Miss Entitled and loaded her up in the cruiser again to the tune of her admonitions that it should be her adversary in the cuffs instead of her.

They booked her again on harassment charges though, and deemed that her neighbor was merely exhibiting self-defense because she, her children, and her family were once again being threatened by Miss Entitled.

She was released on bond paid yet again by her mother, (I’m seeing a pattern emerge with this entitled behavior here) and my husband received a call that night from the after-hours emergency service, informing him that she didn’t have her keys to get into her apartment. After asking the service to let her know that it was a $20 charge to go unlock her door, (as stated in the lease) he never heard back from her again that night.

The next day I showed up to work to find her back at it a third time. She was stomping back and forth between the office and her neighbor’s apartment, beating on her neighbor’s windows, screaming obscenities and calling her colorful names. I even shot some video on my phone of her carrying on. Fortunately, her neighbor wasn’t even home this time, though.

Come to find out, the night before, her apartment door had been kicked in and her TV was stolen.

This somehow became my husband’s fault, too, as she stood out on the sidewalk cursing his name at the top of her lungs, and screeching the accusation that he worked together with her neighbor to break in and steal her TV. Somehow the price of the TV went up with each accusation she hurled, too, until she decided that $2000 dollars was a reasonable price that my husband owed her for the 50 inch flat screen Wal-Mart special that everyone already knew her boyfriend broke in and took the night before.

We’re all fairly certain that she herself even orchestrated the theft. She was just trying to cause another scene now for whatever reason. Maybe somewhere in her delusional mind she actually though that she’d receive some sort of settlement cash from the office for her missing TV.

She was more or less told to take her complaints elsewhere by the Assistant Manager, though. She then busted out a window of a different neighboring apartment in her anger, and that’s when the police were called. Again.

They didn’t book her this time, though, probably because they were just as sick of listening to her as we all were, so they told my husband to just hand her walking papers right then and there.

The usual procedure is that he gives problem residents like this is a 7 day notice “without opportunity to cure”. This basically means they have 7 days to pack up their crap and be gone and there’s nothing that they can say or do about it, or else he starts eviction proceedings that will go on their permanent rental history. They’ll then be lucky to have anyone rent to them again if it goes to eviction.

However given the recent antics of this off-the-rails ghetto princess, the police told him to make an exception. He gave her written notice that she had until the end of the business day to get a U-haul and go.

So she did; relatively quietly, too, much to our shock. We all stood and waved goodbye with smiles on our faces as she and her U-haul drove off that afternoon. I did a little happy dance and went back to work.

My husband had 5 different residents come in and thank him for her removal that afternoon.

She hadn’t made any friends during her less than 2 month stay in the hood it seems.

I still wish her best of luck, though, and some much needed medication wherever she goes.

Tales From the Thrift Store: Chapter Closed

Image

A few weeks ago I made a tough decision, but it was one that needed to be made for the sake of my own sanity.

I asked a group of ladies at church if they would be willing to take over the thrift store for me.

They accepted the challenge, and I passed the torch off to them. This will now be the second week in a row that I am thrift store free.

The day I packed up my personal effects and took one last look around the place was a bittersweet day for me. I was relieved to get my weekends back and rid myself of some of the stress of taking on too much, but sad to see it go nonetheless. My daughter and I had set everything up and gotten it running ourselves. We built the clothing racks, moved in all the shelving systems, organized and priced it all, and maintained it for a little over a year and a half. I had a lot of hard work and time invested in it, and it was like a baby to me. I shed a few tears as I said goodbye.

You see, In addition to trying to keep my house in order (being a neat freak is hard when you’re already exhausted), and have a little extra time to write and, well…breathe, I was essentially working 3 jobs and it wasn’t working out well for me. I was painting apartments Monday through Thursday, teaching my art class on Tuesdays (which I needed time to pick up supplies and prepare a project for), and then running the store on Fridays and Saturdays. More often than not I was finding myself having to leave an apartment unfinished over the weekend to go off and run the store.

I was admittedly spreading myself too thin, so something had to change. I weighed my options and decided that the store would be the easiest job to let go of because it was the one that wasn’t bringing in any much needed income.

I had waived off any offers of a paycheck when I opened up shop for the church in February of 2012. I just couldn’t, in good conscience, take money from them when they were already struggling to make ends meet because we had to close our daycare in November the year prior. The daycare had been sustaining the church for many years, but with the economy being what it was, we had started losing money. So we closed the daycare doors and it was suggested that I start a thrift store, because I had already been doing bi-monthly rummage sales with a decent amount of success.

Running the store was basically volunteer work that I was doing for my church. I wasn’t being paid, but my kids were being kept in clothing that fit, so I considered it a fair trade.

I loved the work despite the lack of a paycheck. I loved to help the homeless with a fresh change of clothes and food during the busy summer months.

I had regular customers that I will miss a lot, too. Like deaf Dave, with his wild animations and loud noises. My daughter would lean over to me and whisper, “He scares me” every time Dave would come in. I’d say, “Who? Dave? I like him. He doesn’t know he’s being loud. He can’t hear himself. Why are you whispering, anyway?”

I’ll also miss that 85 year old guy that buzzes through the parking lot every single day with a shopping cart. He wears an Australian style hat with a feather in it. I like his hat. He moves pretty fast for 85, too. I knew he was that age because he stopped and talked to me once while I was sweeping out the entryway. “You want some wine?” he asked as he offered me a swig from his paper bag. “No thank you,” I replied. “Do you know Chico? He’s my son. He’s a chef. Do you know Chico?” he asked as he beamed with pride. “No, I’m afraid I don’t know Chico.” He then rambled on about his life, age, and of course, Chico for a few more minutes before making his departure. I would smile and wave from across the parking lot every time I saw him after that. I just love the elderly. They’re so entertaining.

I’ll also miss the crazy antics of those that inspired my “Tales from the Thrift Store” stories. They supplied me with some great writing material. I’ll miss writing the tales almost as much as I’ll miss the store.

As this chapter of my life and the tales that came with it close, though, another chapter is opening. There’s plenty of crazy stuff that goes on at the apartment complex that I paint for during the week to fill and entire book. Maybe I’ll write one someday. For now just stay tuned for the next dose of insanity inspired by a fresh batch of unhinged people:

Happenings in the Hood.

It’s a Man’s Job So Some Woman’s Gotta Do It

1175005_608687255820204_1173494709_nI always thought that gender stereotyping was a thing of the past. I mean come on; the women’s lib and feminist movement has been huge and only grows stronger with each passing decade since what…the late 70’s? Sure, we don’t burn our bras in protest anymore, but we’re living in a day and age where mothers raise their daughters to firmly believe that they can be and do anything in this wide, wild world if they just set their minds to it.

I wasn’t necessarily raised as one of those women; the ones that are encouraged to get out there and grab life by the short and curlies. I can’t recall a time when I was ever told, “Honey, you can do anything that a man can do. Go get ‘em, girl.” As a matter of fact, in my household, there was a distinct gender division in that there were mom chores and dad chores. I haven’t seen my dad wash a dish, touch a vacuum (unless it needed fixing), or do a load of laundry in all my 39 years on this planet. In turn, though, I’ve never seen my mom fix a fence, install an in-ground sprinkler system, fire up the grill, or hop on the riding mower. My parents have always had their gender specific roles firmly in place, and it works for them.

Yet no one ever told me it was entirely a man’s world, either. I grew up blissfully oblivious to any knowledge that there might actually be a distinct difference in the career paths that males and females are expected to follow. People were just that to me; people. I had never truly thought that having breasts made any woman less of a man.

Flashdance paved the way for this line of thinking. Jennifer Beals starred as Alex Owens, a welder in a steel mill by day and an exotic dancer by night. You can’t blur the line dividing what is or at least what was perceived to be two completely gender-based roles in the workplace much more than that, right? Women had come far enough by that time that they could wear a hard hat or a welding mask without anyone giving it a second thought. At least it made sense in my mind that things had become that way.

So at 18, fresh out of high school, I found myself working on an assembly line in a fire alarm factory. To me, it was a job, plain and simple. I helped build and create. I operated heavy machinery.  I learned to work a soldering iron until I became so adept at what I was doing that the job required little to no thought on my part. I was clearly doing what probably would have made every member of our once gender divided society elicit a collective gasp 50 years prior. Yes, we had definitely come a long way. Or had we?

After 10 years of factory work, I moved out of state. I eased into the role of what was once expected of a woman; being a stay at home mother and housewife while the man of the house shuffled off to his 9 to 5. These days, though, no one even bats an eyelash at those roles being reversed. A man sitting at home changing diapers and watching soap operas while the lady of the house heads out the door with briefcase in hand isn’t all that unheard of anymore. That line hasn’t just been blurred; it seems to have been erased altogether with the turn of the century.

In many households now, though, the male and female adults both have to work, and with the economy having taken a dump, this soon became the way it had to be in ours.

So, I found myself unable to continue sitting on my fat duff eating potato chips, drinking Mountain Dew, and watching Netflix all day while my husband went out and brought home the bacon. It was time for me to either rejoin the workforce or go hungry.

Fortunately, though, I didn’t have to look far for a job. My husband is a property manager with plenty of work opportunities around the 96 unit complex that he runs for a guy to make money. This guy started painting apartments for him a little over 3 years ago.

So, among the many titles that I already held, such as Mother, Wife, Lover, Homemaker, Bunny (my husband’s pet name for me, don’t judge) Superwoman, and God’s Gift to Mankind (too far you think?), I also now held a new title; Commercial Painter.

I quickly found that I was amazing at this new venture. Maybe it’s the artist and perfectionist in me, or maybe I’m just a natural, but either way, the apartments that I paint look far better than the rest and are rented out at a much quicker rate. Potential renters will even comment on the amazing paint job when they view a finished apartment, and my husband will beam with pride as he explains that it’s his wife’s handiwork that they are seeing.

I leave work every day a complete mess, though. There will be paint in my hair, on the backs of my arms and legs, and all over my clothes. Rather than ruin every t-shirt and pair of shorts or sweatpants that I own with paint splatter, I simply reuse the same 5 or so shirts and pairs of pants until they either get holes in them or are so caked with paint that they’re stiff enough to stand up on their own. Even then, whether or not they get retired to the trash can is debatable. It is, however, safe to say that I’m never a totally gorgeous sight after a long hard day of painting.

DSCN0280

Once in a while after work, I’ll need to make a quick run to the store or my husband and I will stop for a bite to eat at a fast food place or even an extremely casual sit down place like Denny’s. I’ll enter these public places amidst the stares, glares, and disgusted looks from other patrons and think to myself, “What? It’s just paint people.” Then I’ll hang my head in shame, and silently wonder if I should maybe think about retiring the work clothes that I’m currently wearing and opt to destroy something else in my closet.

Recently, though, when I was out and about running errands, I came across a couple of guys in paint spattered work clothes walking through one of the stores that I had stopped at. I smiled a knowing smile at them. These were my brothers in battle. My kindred. They, however, had something that I didn’t:

Man parts.

I realized the full impact of that fact when I looked around and saw that no one in the place gave these guys in all of their paint smeared glory a second thought. They were just a couple of men in their work clothes; the same work clothes that I often wear as people stare and glare in my direction everywhere that I go.

Why did it matter that they were men and I wasn’t? Did people automatically assume that these guys could accomplish a task better than I could because what we do for a living is somehow predetermined by society to be “man’s work”?

Then it hit me. Apparently we haven’t come as far in this equal rights day and age as I had assumed. Gender stereotyping is still alive and well. I get “the look” because many people’s one-track minds aren’t completely ready to give in to the idea of a woman doing a man’s job.

So in protest to this injustice, I’m not going to wear makeup. I’m not going to get my hair done. I’m not going get a manicure or a pedicure. I’ll walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. I might not even shave my legs for a while.

In other words, nothing’s going to change.

Still, though, I am WOman.

You won’t hear me roar, but you might see me steal your job.

You, Me, and My OCD

Image

Yes, I suffer from a mental disorder. Honestly, I bet 99.9 percent of the world’s population suffers from some sort of snafu up in their cranium in one form or another. Maybe some just aren’t as prominent as others.  Or, perhaps they simply remain undiagnosed.

Do you suffer from PMS or sometimes just get sad or irritable and really can’t pinpoint why? Well, there you go; you could be bi-polar.

Do you alphabetize your DVDs, make sure your socks are matched and folded before you put them away, or check again to make sure your door is locked before you go to bed at night? Then congratulations, I’ve just diagnosed your OCD.

Has something ever shot out of your mouth and immediately afterward you thought, “Did I just say that? That couldn’t have been me!” Bam. Multiple personality disorder.

So you see, whether you pay much attention to it or not, most of us suffer from a mental disorder in one way or another.

Mine just happens to have been diagnosed by a doctor. I guess that makes a difference in the grand scheme of things when it comes to how the world looks at you, right? Perhaps it shouldn’t, but believe me, it does.

I generally don’t talk about my mental illness to people that I’ve just met if I can help it. My husband, however, likes to throw it out there in casual conversation like it’s a truly interesting discussion piece. Who knows, maybe it is. That doesn’t change the fact that spreading the word to people I barely know gets under my skin nonetheless.

This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my disorder or the way I think. I know it’s “not normal”, sure, but I don’t think I’m some sort of terrible person because of it. I don’t want to go bury my head in the sand or hide out in a dark room because, Heaven forbid, people know.

No, I honestly don’t like to mention it much because people tend to get ridiculous about it.

No one should feel the need to talk to me like I’m a ticking time bomb. Don’t think I didn’t notice that your voice went up 2 octaves in my presence and that you’re addressing me like a child because you don’t want to rock the boat. I have a mental disorder. I’m not an idiot.

I don’t know if other people that have been diagnosed with OCD can relate, but I’ve been faced with all kinds of stupid remarks or reactions when my little (okay, big) mental issue is brought to the surface.

“What, you mean like that hand washing thing?” This is one of my personal favorites. Thank you for the ignorant stereotyping. Your lack of knowledge is duly noted.

People with “that hand washing thing” only make up a small percentage of those suffering from OCD, which is defined as:

An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

So yeah. It naturally must be “that hand washing thing”, even though OCD can present itself in pretty much any way that a mind with some sort of imagination can conceive.

Mine happens to lean more toward the compulsion side that the obsession side of the disorder. I have an immaculately spotless house because dust, dirt, loose hair, fingerprints, and a plethora of other things can give me anxiety attacks. I say the word can, because over the course of the past few years since I decided not to walk through my life in a drug induced stupor, I’ve had to work really hard at combatting this thing and I’ve experienced a great measure of success. There are things that used to send me into anxiety fueled fits of rage that I am now able to overlook.

It’s been a huge struggle, though, let me tell you.  I’m still not “cured” by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe never will be, but I have made some huge strides in several areas thanks to some family-inflicted cognitive behavior and exposure therapy. This basically boils down to my husband putting his foot down over certain things that I would do, even at the risk of my mental anguish, before I drove the rest of the family crazy. Yes, I resented this for a while, but I got over it.

Sometimes, when you don’t have a choice in the matter, all you can do is try not to totally flip out, cope, and move on. I have realized that anxiety levels can’t stay intensely elevated forever. It’s like a bad high. You have to come down sooner or later, and as soon as I realized that I would eventually come down, things started getting better.

As much as I’ve worked hard to overcome certain obstacles though, it just makes it worse when people, who know exactly what my OCD entails, throw this little gem at me:

“Wow. You should come clean my house!”

Umm…no.

You see, you’re assuming that I, in some way shape or form, enjoy this behavior. I don’t. Not at all. Doing what I do and feeling what I feel is like a ball and chain around my neck that I can’t ever take off. It’s a huge weight on me all the time. By suggesting that I branch out and take this behavior outside of my home, you’re essentially implying that I should give up the only small sense of freedom that I currently enjoy, because when I am able to step out of my home, I am also able to breathe and relax.

Which brings me to my next point:

Stop apologizing for the condition of your own home when I walk through the door. Okay, so your place is a little messy. So what? Are you honestly under some false assumption that this will cause me to freak out to the point that I’m hyper-ventilating into a paper bag while I stand in your living room?

To be honest, your mess is like a breath of fresh air to me. I’m living vicariously through your stacks of junk mail piled up on the kitchen table and the dust across the top of your entertainment center because I can’t be that way but wish I could.

You wouldn’t know it though, because you won’t come to my house.

For different reasons, people are terrified of visiting my home. This is either thanks again in part to my husband spreading the word about my anxiety disorder, or the fact that I will bend over backward to over-correct my nervousness when we have visitors so that maybe people won’t notice it. Then, my obsequiousness just scares people, so I can’t win either way.

My in laws won’t visit because I make them uncomfortable. My family won’t visit, either. I can honestly admit that it hurts worse knowing they won’t come, than it would working through my anxiety with a house full of people. It makes me feel somewhat unloved when those closest to me refuse to help me get better at the risk of their own discomfort, or mine. Isn’t family supposed to be there to help us work through our issues?

This is why I adore my best friend. She’s the only one that seems to get this. Maybe it’s because she herself suffers from Bi-polar disorder, so we’re kind of like 2 screwed up peas in a pod. She will make the 5 hour pilgrimage from her house to mine occasionally, and I love her for loving me enough to stay with me despite my issues. She knows all about my anxiety, and guess what? If she sees me get nervous, she’ll talk me through it. That’s a true friend. Other than her and my husband, I don’t seem to have many of those, but not for lack of wishing there were more. People that understand are hard to find.

So I say this to those who don’t know how to handle a person with a mental disorder:

You can get to know us. We don’t bite. We’re honestly not all that different from you, we just have heightened emotions at times, and tend do things that others might not consider to be normal. Then again, who’s to say what genuinely defines normal?

We are who we are. People, just like you. Your perception of us won’t change a thing.