The Doppleganger of My Dreams

To the woman I passed in the produce department at Walmart–I was instantly mesmerized by you. You looked to be about my age and the only difference between you and I was that you had a child in your shopping cart and I only had fresh vegetables. Your hair style was short, but not enough to be spiky. It was a white blonde with a blue tint swept up in a swirl on one side. I immediately noticed the tattoos all down your arms. I have tattoos. But they are not as expressive and confined to places on my body that can be easily hidden by clothing. Teaching in a private, religious school makes me timid about revealing too many of my tattoos at one time. The small sun on my ankle is about all I feel comfortable putting on display during warm weather. I was envious of your style. While I don’t think of myself as anything but beautiful the way I am, there is a part of me that wants to have a style that is uniquely my own.

I wish so badly that I had said something to you. After all, aren’t women supposed to build each other up? It made my day when the young girl at the McDonald’s drive thru said that the color I was wearing looked good on me, or when the pizza delivery lady said my hair was pretty. But you were on the phone and clearly in a hurry. And while I was fortunate to be able to take my time doing my shopping, I was not brave enough to even realistically consider complimenting you if you had not been on the phone. The same timidness that I feel about my appearance runs deeper into my heart, not allowing me to say what I truly want in the moment. Despite this, I want you to know, that had I been brave enough, I would have told you: “I love your style! I wish I had your look!” And I would have sincerely meant each and every word.

To the woman I passed in the produce department at Walmart–you inspired me.

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Christmas Nostalgia

Johnny Mathis is Christmas, to me anyway. Apparently he has albums that aren’t full of Christmas music, but I wouldn’t know anything about them. My parents had every single one of his Christmas albums on cassette tape and they played on repeat in the background of every Christmas throughout my childhood. It was the soundtrack of baking cookies in the kitchen, decorating the tree, and opening presents on Christmas morning.

It has been many years since I have spent any time with my family around Christmas, but it only takes the playing of any of his holiday songs for me to instantly feel the memories of family. The Christmases of my youth were truly something special. As it is now only two days from the big day, I couldn’t help but go back to what it was like for me as my husband and I were driving home from a day trip. After giving up on scanning the radio for a good station, I insisted he listen to some of the Johnny Mathis songs I have on my itunes Christmas playlist.

My mind focused clearly on the excitement of Christmas Eve. My two older (teenage at the time) sisters and I would be “sentenced” to one bedroom for the night. It was mostly to keep me from getting up and peeking in the middle of the night, as I had vowed each year to set an alarm and get up in time to see Santa. Of course, I never slept on Christmas Eve, and because of that, neither did my sisters. My grandpa, from what I understand, always had a similar sleepless night on Christmas Eve. His excitement rivaled mine, which easily explained his annual 5:00 am arrival at our house with my grandma so that he could put on his Santa hat and pass out gifts to all of us. And of course, when I would hear Grandpa and Grandma Jean arriving, I nearly burst as I waited for my parents to give us the o.k. to come out of the bedroom. When the all clear was given, I always led my sisters into a living room with all our lights and decorations plugged in and shining brightly, and Johnny Mathis singing in the background.

Despite the many years between my last Christmas at home and the Christmas I will have with my husband and his mother next week, I can remember everything so vividly. Some of the excitement still lingers too. I still have a difficult time sleeping on Christmas Eve. With the exception of last year when we slept until 7:00, I still insist on getting up extra early on Christmas morning so that my husband and I can exchange gifts. I’m thinking that perhaps this year, I’ll be sure to turn on the music when we get up. My husband and I don’t have children yet, and though I very much wish that we did already, I know that it will happen for us at some point. When it does, I will absolutely relish the opportunity to introduce my children to the significance of Johnny Mathis to Christmas. I’ll tell them, like I told my husband tonight on the drive home that “Hallelujah Chorus” was my grandpa’s favorite Christmas song. I’ll play it for them as we decorate cookies or as we drive to the mall to shop for gifts, and I will take comfort in knowing that the tradition is kept alive.

A Breezy Prelude

I drove home from my mother-in-law’s house with frustration in my heart. I had spent much of the day at her house doing laundry, since our small apartment doesn’t have a washer/dryer hook-up. We’ve been doing laundry at her house for the past 11 years…the exact duration of our life in this apartment. My frustration intensified as I thought of the day when I will not have to leave my home to do laundry. How much longer do I have to wait?So much of the future is not certain. So much is not decided yet. My impatient heart so badly desires a firm plan…a timeline of when our lives will change. Driving home I could feel the sting in my nose and throat that always arrive before the tears start to well in my eyes.

It wasn’t a long drive home, and before the tears could actually begin to pool, I had gotten home with the clean laundry. I initially thought about taking a walk. Today is a very mild winter solstice day. The temperature is in the mid 60s and there is such a strong breeze outside that I decided instead to open every window in the apartment. A quick look at the weather app on my phone showed that there is a line of rain headed towards my dot on the map. The skies have turned from intensely bright and sunny to heavily overcast. So rather than go walking and risk the rain, I have put on one of my favorite movies, “Julie & Julia”, and am preparing to put away the clean clothes.

Perfect weather for sitting in a window.

The frustration I felt on the drive home has dissolved. There’s something about being at home that truly calms my soul. This is only a temporary home. We pay rent, not a mortgage, and there’s only one bedroom, not room for another smaller person, but this is home…if only just for now. Christmas is in four days, and while there is still so much up in the air about the future, I am going to focus on the joy of the season and the time I will get to spend with my husband over the next several days. In the meantime, the impending rain has arrived, accompanied by thunder and lightning and there is still laundry to be put away. Although the weather is not, my heart is calm, and I am at peace once again.

The Blood Pressure Project

I have many hobbies. I knit and crochet, and have a massive quantity of scrapbook supplies that I haven’t used on a scrapbook in quite some time, but treasure nonetheless. My small apartment holds the makings of many projects. And yet, I look enviously at my students and the projects they engage in. Some are school related…such as my champion Battle of the Books team and their project of reading 15 specific novels in a few months in order to compete in a contest of their comprehension and knowledge of the books. Much to my boastful delight, they take it very seriously and bring home the trophy every year! There are other students too, that have told me about personal projects. One year, a young girl wanted to learn how to crochet so she could make and sell potholders. She wanted to send the money to the ASPCA because she saw the commercials featuring images of abused animals and sad music playing in the background.

With an intense focus on their goals, these students have been successful with their projects. While I don’t really have time for projects like these kids, I do wish I had something to focus on. I have run two road races in the past and that seems to have worked for me. They were projects that required training and a specific end goal, but that end goal ended with the finishing of the race. Each time I had the best intentions to keep running and sign up for other races, but I never did.

Yesterday I was presented with a new project that really isn’t optional. An appointment with my psychiatrist led to a same-day appointment with my primary care doctor. My blood pressure has been an issue for many months. I had dental work done last month and even my dentist was concerned about my blood pressure. The appointment with my psychiatrist was at 8:00 in the morning and my blood pressure was high right off the bat. 167/107 when I went in and 165/105 when they checked it again on my way out. Considering my psychiatrist spent most of the appointment discussing my physical health rather than my mental health, I felt that I should take his advice and get in to see my primary care doctor asap–which ended up being an hour and a half later.

When all was said and done yesterday, I spent this morning making plans for this new project. Both of my doctors want to see me back in a month–not the usual three months they give me–so I truly cannot procrastinate with starting this project. I have a month to get my blood pressure started on a downward path. Losing weight is ultimately what needs to happen here. This means that exercise needs to become a priority again, which leads me to believe that it was some sort of divine intervention that after repeated messages and inquiries on Let Go and Facebook Marketplace, nobody actually followed through to buy my elliptical. I was trying to sell it because I stopped using it and wanted more space in my living room. Silly reasons to get rid of something that had helped me so much in my past attempts at weight loss.

This will be the third time that I’ve started a weight loss journey. I hope it will be the charm. I’m going to mix the elliptical, weight training, and running in with a low-salt diet. I really do enjoy running and I am looking forward to getting back out there again, though I am going to stay away from races for a while. I’m afraid of running the race and not continuing with my running regime after it’s over. Running, for me this time, has to be a means to an end. I have to use it as a part of my project to lower my blood pressure, not just to run a race.

I watched a Facebook live video yesterday of a woman who lost 100 pounds in one year. She said that you have to consider your weight loss journey as who you are now. Not just as something you do part time or do some times but not others. You can’t quit because you make a mistake and gorge on junk food. You have to learn from your mistakes and keep going. I’ve made mistakes in the past in my attempts to lose weight and those mistakes were simply that I did not keep going.

I want to lose weight and lower my blood pressure in order to be healthy in a way that I never have been before. Granted, there’s no Battle of the Books trophy that I’ll get when I achieve my goal, but then again, this project doesn’t have an end. It will be something that I just keep doing and maintaining. A daunting task? Sure. But not a task that is unfamiliar and certainly not one that is impossible. Here I go.

So here’s the thing…

I haven’t been in a good mood for a while. I haven’t been upset or in a negative emotional place, at least not one that lasts for very long. But what I haven’t experienced is that feeling of optimism and excitement. Sometimes in the middle of the school day, I’ll find myself thinking about going home and putting my feet up and even that simple thought puts me in a really good mood. Or this weekend, knowing that tonight is Sunday night and I don’t have to work tomorrow because of Veterans Day. That should elevate my spirits, but it’s not. Those temporary moments of joy have been replaced by thoughts of work that has to be done for school, deadlines for extra things that I am responsible for, and guilt for weight gain and blood pressure that is dangerously high–guilt because I’m not currently doing anything to remedy my physical conditions. All of this, plus wondering why it’s been three weeks since I’ve heard from my mother. In an unusual way, I have not received any texts from her. I don’t expect phone calls anymore, that would mean something is wrong, but no communication whatsoever. My thought is that she is holding out on contacting me to see how long it will be before I reach out to her. I could be wrong, but not likely when it comes to her. I’ve been going back and forth with bitter thoughts about this non-existent mother/daughter relationship. Good thing I didn’t decide to abandon therapy. I have an appointment this Tuesday, perfect timing. I have an appointment every third Tuesday, but I tend to cancel every other appointment. I’m keeping this one, as I feel that I’m on the verge of crying a bit too frequently lately.

So much weighs on my mind all…the…time. None of these things seem to be harbingers of that feeling of happiness I miss. I recently finished writing an essay for the annual non-fiction contest I enter every year. I’m almost tempted to not enter this year. I don’t think my writing is what this particular magazine is looking for. I have found other publications that I’d like to submit my piece to, in the hopes that I can continue to get my story out there so I can potentially help break this damn stigma that exists. This stigma is real. To the point where I was sitting in the waiting room at my therapist’s office and I was nearly 100% certain that a parent of one of my students was also in the waiting room. We didn’t speak, we didn’t make eye contact, and inside I was cringing and praying that my name would be called as soon as possible so I could get out of there. Granted, she was there too, but I’m her son’s teacher. How does that make me look? These feelings of embarrassment for being there are absolutely not necessary, but they are also automatic. Automatic because society has made it that way. Recently Lady Gaga became an outspoken advocate for ending the mental health stigma after she openly talked about her own battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve always enjoyed her music, but her openness makes me respect her on a much different level.

I usually try to wrap up posts here on a positive note. An expression of hope for the future or a new found determination to go out and do something…but not now. I don’t feel hopeful and I don’t feel depressed. I’m just here, moving forward, doing my work, doing the best I can, and sometimes, that’s all there is. And that’s o.k. too.

Birthday Eve

Technically it’s my birthday. But it’s almost 3 am, so my birthday hasn’t really started. It’s sort of like Christmas when you’re a kid. You may be awake most of the night on Christmas Eve out of excitement, and even though it’s technically Christmas after midnight, it doesn’t officially start until your parents wake up and you’re allowed to come out of your room to see the magic under the tree. Except this time, I’m not awake out of excitement, in fact, quite the opposite. I randomly woke up and just can’t go back to sleep. I’m pretty good at falling asleep when first going to bed, thank you pharmaceutical companies for that. I can usually tame my random thoughts long enough for the handful of prescription medications to kick in. That’s probably not going to work this time since it’s been about 4 or 5 hours since I took them. Which means a whole flood of randomness has invaded my brain. As a teacher on summer break, who also has a mid-summer birthday, this is the 2nd year that I have sworn off anything school related until after my birthday. Since technically it is my birthday, thoughts of school have come to this impromptu thought party. Though I’m pretty sure it’s not necessary now to think about how I’m going to prepare my presentation at the professional development day in September. Also not necessary to wonder what it will be like having a new principal when my current one retires in a couple of years. Funnily enough, pushing those thoughts out of my head and focusing on what I want to do today while my husband is at work also did not help me go back to sleep. I planned out a crafty day for myself, starting with a trip to Joann’s Craft Store to use my birthday discount coupon. I even came up with a little shopping list. That only made me a bit too excited about what I am planning on making today. The store is not open this early, so that’s a moot thought process too.

I wonder if this is what insomniacs experience every night. It kind of sucks. But thankfully, this doesn’t happen often for me. So on this birthday eve, I think I’m going to find one of my cats to bring back to bed with me and be very grateful that there’s only a few hours left before the sun comes up and I won’t have to feel weird about being awake when I’m usually asleep.

Sharp Objects on HBO

I had seen previews of this show and read online that there would be triggers in it so caution should be taken when watching it. That got me curious, but I ultimately ended up watching it last night because I saw that Chris Messina is in it, along with Amy Adams, who I love. I am a fan of the two of them as husband and wife in the movie Julie & Julia, so naturally I had to watch this.

The show is very dark, and initially I thought the triggers would be brought on by the fact that the main character is an alcoholic. It doesn’t just show her drunk, but shows the act of drinking–rearranging bottles, buying liquor, pouring alcohol into a water bottle so she can drink while driving, etc. I don’t have a history of alcohol abuse, so this part of the show didn’t affect me. It wasn’t until the last scene that I realized that there was another aspect of the main character that was troubling. She is a cutter. With closeups of her bare skin while taking a bath, you see the pink scar lines on her shoulders and arms. It’s obvious that these are self-inflicted because the word ‘vanish’ is cut into her arm. The show ends after this is revealed.

Seeing this is not a trigger for me like it may have been at one time, and for that, I’m very thankful. If anything, it brought back memories. Throughout the episode, it is clear that it’s the summer in the south, as most of the characters are in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. There is even a large circle of sweat on the back of the lead detective’s shirt. And yet, Amy Adams’ character is always in long-sleeves and pants. I did that. When I was a cutter, I wore long-sleeved shirts out in public during the sweltering summer months. I had to hide the cuts somehow. But oddly, I never cringed when I looked at my cut-up arms. Even now, remembering the blood-red lines running parallel up and down my forearms, it doesn’t make me upset. Those cuts were a big relief to me then, and even beautiful in my mind.

The other thing that I got from the show is a reminder of why I will never again live in the town I grew up in. The main character on the show had a very disturbing childhood and is now having flashbacks of those times, now that she is an adult having to revisit the town to cover a story as a reporter. So many terrible things happened to me in the town I lived in from the age of 12. I can’t stand going back there. I really never have a reason to. In fact, they recently built a by-pass around the town so that when I have to travel north, I don’t even have to drive through the middle. The one time I had to actually go to a place in the town, I was quick to get out. I dropped off something that I had made for a friend and could not wait until my husband and I had driven out of the city limits. I am Facebook friends with a few people who still live there, and I just don’t get how they can stay. But then again, I didn’t live there my whole life. Maybe if I had, things would have been different.

In any case, the show only just premiered last night. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch the whole series. Like I said, the triggers that viewers were cautioned against don’t affect me. They are not making me want to cut myself again. Nothing will ever make me do that again. But I know that I will have to mentally prepare myself to watch each week. The show is seriously dark, definitely worth watching though.

Big City Living

The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, You’ve Got Mail, Coyote Ugly, Music & Lyrics, Will & Grace, Friends

These are all of my absolute, hands down, favorite movies and t.v. shows. I could watch them over and over and never get tired of watching, in fact, that’s pretty much what I do. Given the choice of new things to discover on t.v. or Netflix, I turn to these old favorites (granted I’m watching Friends for the first time on Netflix). Besides the chic-flick kind of story line these movies have that appeal to me, a chic, I think I love them the most because they’re all set in New York City.

New York is my ultimate bucket list trip. I would like to leave this country at some point and visit an overseas country, but NYC is the first place I want to go before anywhere else. My husband and I passed the exit for the city on our trip to upstate New York one summer. My heart practically leaped out of the car when I saw the exit sign. But more so than just a touristy kind of visit, where I’m sure I would be annoying to the locals because I would want to take a picture of everything, I think I want to live there. My husband’s niece just recently moved there and I am SO jealous! What I have heard about her experiences there reaffirm for me the reasons that I think I absolutely need to live there.

I’m certain that my desire is fueled by what I see in all these movies and shows, but they can’t be too far off from reality. In particular, I’m fascinated by the idea of my morning and afternoon commute being centered on the subway and walking to and from subway stations. Certainly I would miss the convenience of my car, but still… I’m also in love with the idea of corner markets and little hole in the wall dive restaurants that are just a walk around the corner from our apartment. Let’s not forget apartments that are up above a pizza parlor or a drug store or some other business.

Knowing me, I would probably get pretty tired of all the people and commotion after a while. Tourists would aggravate me and all the landmarks that I would so desperately want to be around, would become no big deal. I’d get used to seeing the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, or the Empire State building. I’d be frustrated by large crowds on the subway when I’m trying to carry home groceries. The romance of it all might wear off sooner than I’d like. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

I’m reminded of this now because my parents are currently on their way to New York City for several weeks to drive the bus for different groups of people touring the city. And while I’d love to trade places with them, I have to remember that my home is down here in the south. Though I’ll keep my camera charged and ready for the time that my husband and I take his niece up on her offer to come visit. Until then…it’s a You’ve Got Mail kind of movie afternoon.

I ran the race.

And it was tough. The first mile consisted of a really steep hill that I walked up, as did many other people who were in the rear of the pack. Once the route descended the hill, I was able to run. Not for the whole 4 miles, but as much as I could possibly run in intervals of varying lengths.

I had done a great job of getting out of bed every other morning at 6:30–of course it helps that 6:30 is when my husband leaves for work. I would get into my running gear and tackle the couch to 5k app, slowly building myself up to run in longer intervals. I was ecstatic when I got to week 5 day 3, which is running for 20 minutes straight. I had told myself that once I got to that point, I would stop using the app and just focus on distance. Time had run out by then and I was only able to do one run without the app before the race. For that run, I was able to go for about 2 miles without stopping to walk. Granted, my pace is that of a turtle, but my shuffle run is still faster than my walking pace. And really, just the fact that I was getting out there in the morning, like I had said I was going to, was enough for me. The temperature every morning was in the high 70s with pretty high humidity. But it never bothered me. I expected to come home sweaty each time, that’s what happens when you run during the summer months. Even on days when we were under a heat advisory, I still ran, because in the morning before the sun gets high, the temperature isn’t in heat advisory territory. So when several people talked of braving the heat and the humidity being the worst part on race day, I just kind of laughed because it really didn’t affect me. I had long since gotten used to it.

There were 1,016 people registered for the Firecracker 4 Miler this 4th of July, and according to the results website, there were 860 or so actual runners. I placed somewhere in the 740 range. I had no aspirations of doing anything spectacular for pace, I just didn’t want to come in last. I was very close to the bottom of my age group, but I wasn’t last and that’s o.k. with me.

What was spectacular about the race was the people. The event was hosted by the local running club that I’m a member of. I don’t go to their meetups out of self-consciousness, but I’m a paid member. It was many of the members that served as volunteers for the race. There were people at every turn in the route clapping and cheering for every person that rounded the corners. They didn’t know my name, but they could see my number and having someone call out “Come on 64, you’re doing great!” when I was huffing along was amazing. The people handing out water at every mile with big smiles as I approached were encouraging. Seeing my husband randomly on the side of the route taking pictures when I didn’t expect to see him and hearing him cheer me on, was a great motivation. Even the ladies running behind me commented on how sweet it was for him to do that.

But the moment I will carry with me came as I rounded the last turn that would lead me to the finish line. There was a lady waiting for me. Judy is the wife of the man I teach with. I teach English and he teaches math. He doesn’t have a Facebook page, but she does, and we have been friends on there for several months. She’s of retirement age, but is in great shape and running races like this are the norm for her. She had called out to me earlier in the race. She was about a mile ahead going in the opposite direction I was. We quickly passed by each other and I didn’t think much of it until I saw her on the corner of that last turn. Obviously she had already finished the race and gotten her medal, in fact, she placed 2nd in her age group. But there she was, back on the course, waiting for me. She hopped off the curb and started jogging beside me. Words of encouragement poured out and though I was very much out of breath, I thanked her as best as I could. She kept pace with me for that last quarter of a mile, continuously assuring me that I was very close to the finish line. When we reached the very last few feet, she stepped off the course and across I went. From extended arms I took hold of my finisher’s medal (which is all I really wanted), a banana, and a bottle of water. People were clapping and cheering and my name was being called over the loud speaker as I crossed, as though I was the first. It felt great. I didn’t see Judy after that, I had wanted to thank her again after regaining my ability to speak without my breathing getting in the way. I did get to thank her on Facebook later. It is very true what they say about runners being the best people.

the last leg
My fantastic hubby captured the moment. I’m the one in bright pink on the right, and Judy is on the left in the tank top and white hat.

This race was Judy’s last for a while. She told me this when we bumped into each other the day before at the packet pick-up location. Her knees have really been hurting her lately. I told her, this is just the beginning for me. And I meant it. I’m determined now to lose weight. My diet prior to the race wasn’t the best. But now I’d like to get rid of the weight so that I can be a better runner. So that in a future race, I can be an early finisher so that I can step in and jog with someone who needs an extra boost to the finish. It may take me a while to get to that point, but I’ll get there. I’m not going to give up, this truly is just the beginning.

Whatever, I did it.

I am absolutely serious that I’m going to run a 4 mile race on the 4th of July. The wife of my co-worker who is an avid runner and who is also running in this race, told me to prepare for the humidity. We’ve had a tropical storm bringing us a ton of rain and storms for the past few days and today was off and on rain while I was at work. I had worked out on the elliptical for the past two days, but today, I really wanted to get outside and run. I waited until the rain stopped and the radar showed that there wasn’t anything coming behind it. I originally planned to only walk a mile up the road just to start getting acclimated to being active in the heat and humidity. So I got out there and went up the hill and decided I was going to go ahead and complete another workout in the Couch to 5k app. I’ll admit that I skipped the last section of jogging because the hills I was going up and down really made me breathe hard and I didn’t want to overdo it.

Walking back down the road in the direction of home, I thought about all the cars flying past me. I always feel a little self conscious walking on the side of that road to get between where I live and the neighborhood that I like to run in. There is a lot of traffic on that road, but I’m only on it for a little more than a quarter mile. So what were they thinking of the overweight woman walking on the sidewalk in clothes that looked like she had been walking in the rain for how wet with sweat they were? I don’t know what they were thinking and I don’t care, because I did it. I went out in the humidity and ran. There was steam coming off the road, it was very sticky out there. I felt slimy and gross, but man did it feel good to know that I had accomplished my goal for the day. Doing that today proved to me that I don’t need to wimp out in the air conditioning and use the heat and humidity as an excuse to not go out and run. Whatever, I can do it.

IMG_2162

A screenshot of the weather from my exercise log that I took when I got back from running today.