Monday, May 27, 2013

If For Nothing Else, Look at my Pretty Peas!

Today is Memorial Day, so let me begin with a thank-you to all those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces, not just in the United States but anyone sacrificing to serve their country and their families.  Thank you especially to both my granddads.  My paternal grandfather was in the Navy, although since he died a long time ago I don't know much about his service.  My maternal grandfather was, to put it simply, a badass.  He probably wouldn't approve of the term, but really it's the best word.  I could go into detail but you never know, these days.  Just think Rambo meets James Bond meets 24 meets nice-guy-next-door.  No, I don't have an overly inflated view of my granddad.  Why do you ask?

What I really wanted to talk about today is how happy I am.  I know I've been saying this a lot, but this one is going to be a juicy one I've been hiding for a while.  BUT NO MORE SECRETS.  I can't decide if I just have no boundaries whatsoever in almost every part of my life or if I can't keep anything to myself.  Or a combination of the two.  Whichever, the blogosphere was probably designed for people like me.

So, I was a normal little kid.  Oh wait, no, I had a heart condition.  Oops.  Well, one major surgery later, I was a normal little kid.  A couple years pass, and my dislike of P.E. has coupled with a deep enjoyment of all things nutritionally unsound.  Enter awkward pubescent period and chubby Karen.  Ugh.  It's embarrassing, to be frank, to look back at some of those pictures.  However, I try not to dwell.  College came and with it a distinct awareness of the food I was eating mixed with the inability to eat excessively due to financial constraints and the most slight amount of knowledge mixed with 7,000 ft. of general movement throughout the day.  To put it plainly, I slimmed down.

And I stuck that way.  Until about a year ago.  Then, I got married, got depressed, and got busy.  Before you think too much into this, the depression and the marriage are two different things.  I was depressed because I was out of work, and then when I got back into work I was depressed because I wasn't seeing my husband much (hello, didn't I get married to remedy this problem?) and because of weight gain.

This is my deep dark secret.  I gained 15 pounds in the first six months of our marriage.  And it sent me round the bend of depression.  I never feel worse about myself than when I feel like I'm not where I want to be with my body.  To be honest, I've had a long, long struggle with this, probably like every single other girl my age.  I have a couple of things going for me.  First off, parents and now a life partner who value my personality and intellect.  I know that if I get really fat and ugly, my hubby will still love me.  Woooo.  Secondly, I have spent a long time coming to grips with myself and what I look like, and finding the little things I like about myself.  For example, I think I have nice feet.  As far as feet go, which I find vaguely repulsive.  Hahaha.  I have excellent teeth and devote a lot of time to keeping them healthy.  After so much flossing, mouthwashing, and brushing, I feel like I have a right to be proud of my teeth.  And I'll say it, I like my butt.  This post is all about being brutally honest, so there it is.  I like my butt.

These were not enough to keep me happy, though.  Everything else in my life was alright -- my job, my personal life, even my reading habits were okay -- but I was distinctly heavier than I wanted to be.  So in January, I got out my little pen and paper and made myself a list of New Year's resolutions.  They were as follows:

1.  Eat better.
2.  Exercise more.
3.  Read more than 50 books
4.  Write down one nice thing per day in my diary.

Let's work backwards.  First, write down one nice thing per day.  Has not happened.  Ah well.  Next: books.  So far, this year, including things I've re-read, I've read 9 books.  Oh my.  Now, granted, it's the beginning of summer and I'm planning on reading a bunch of kid books (which go by super fast).  Note to self. . .make list.  Hmm.  Third: exercise more.  Well, I ran in my first 5k, began doing yoga again, and can now run basically two miles straight.  Does that count?  And lastly, eat better.  Still working on it, but I'm trying much harder.

Here's where it gets nice for me.  After the 5k, I had two weeks of kind of sitting around, being fat and lazy, and eating whatever I wanted (stupid teacher appreciation week. . .so many bad foods that are so tasty and you eat them because you like being appreciated. . .).  After I went back to the gym, I weighed myself and I was back at my highest, where I was in January when I started trying to be healthier.  I had effectively taken several steps back and made no real progress.  I'll admit it.  I cried in the locker room.  It was my lowest point.  Fortunately, once you've hit rock bottom, there seem to be two major options: either have someone throw you a shovel, or make footholds and start climbing.  I decided to start climbing.

I got an app on my phone which laid out a weight-loss/exercise plan for myself.  I set a taret amount of calories and number of times I wanted to exercise per week.  I set myself a weight goal and I'm doing it by my birthday.  This has opened my eyes to a lot of things.  One: the reason I was overweight is glaringly obvious.  Too many calories, not enough exercise.  Secondly: burning calories at the gym is super fun!  And makes you feel super good about yourself when you burn, say, 400 calories in a sitting.  Or, should we say, in a running.  Thirdly: things have way more calories than you would think.  And I was eating a lot of the wrong things.  Just because the pasta is made partially of veggies doesn't actually make it any better for you.  Pasta is just the bane of my existence.  I don't really care that much about bread, I found a delicious and low-cal ice cream option, and I prefer lighter meats to dark meats anyhow.  But pasta.  Oh.  Low blow.

I have been doing the app for one week so far, but I feel too good to keep it to myself.  I lost seven pounds in a week.  I feel great.  I look better.  I am WAY happier.  I am jazzed and excited and ready to be healthy.  I wish everyone could feel this great working out and not eating slop.  Again, I realize it's only been a week.  BUT I FEEL SO GOOD.

Feeling so good made me think about last year around this time.  I was unemployed, we were burning through our savings, I was depressed, and I was slowly being fattened up.  Now, I am thinning down and muscling up, I am employed for next year and ready to tackle planning and organizing (no, I don't get excited over making grammar worksheets and organizing them into a notebook so I can pull them out whenever I want. . pshhh. . .), I am possibly even more in love with my husband than I was a year ago, and I am just generally satisfied with my life.

Plus, my peas are growing SPECTACULARLY.  And I'm stupidly excited about it.  You should be too.  They're adorable and I love them.  Sorry this was so long.  Carry on.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Springtime for Karen and Flaggystaff

Kudos if you get the reference.

Ah, spring.  The time of year when you get to relax a bit and everyone is still in a good mood because the weather is warmer but still not horribly hot.

Except in Phoenix.  HAHAHAHA.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, it's time to talk about books!  Hooray!  I have been getting more work done at work and been giving out less homework as it is, so I've gotten a chance to do some reading recently.  This weekend being excluded, but until pictures get posted to Facebook I don't think I'll write about that just yet.

I may have talked about this before on this blog and I'm sure I could go back and check, but the act of reading a book again can be a powerful one.  The way I see it is that people are fundamentally the same day to day.  We are who we are and the majority of things stay the same.  I have been a Beatles fan since I was two.  But the minutiae of who we are is different every day.  For example, which Beatles's song will appeal the most to me today when skipping through my iPod while driving to work?  I also think that every couple of years we recognize what major changes we have gone through.  We rediscover who we are and what makes us joyful.  Change is good.  Change brings new life.  I think people are always afraid of changing and drifting farther apart from one another.  I'm excited to share changes, whatever they may be, and drift closer to people.

(It always reminds me of the scene in Ed Wood where Johnny Depp's character finally tells the girl he's interested in that he likes to wear women's clothes.  She responds by taking off her sweater and offering it to him.  I wish more people were like that.  Just accept and support.  I think my only exceptions to this are substance abuse and most illegal activities.  Like murder.  Not cool to blame that one on personal growth.)

Anyway, as we change in small ways and in big ways throughout the years, we should give books another chance.  Or not, if your memory is wonderfully rosy-colored and you want to keep it that way. I recently showed one of my friends a scene from Fern Gully; she used to watch it as a kid but had forgotten that Robin Williams is a voice talent, so I showed her the Batty rap scene.  She got very disturbed and began to wonder what else from her childhood no longer had that hue of adorable.

Sometimes, though, if you're lucky, the book you reread changes in positive ways.  You notice things you didn't before, subtleties pop out at you, metaphors and emotions garner more meaning.  I recently reread The Giver and The Great Gatsby.

The Giver I originally read in middle school.  I'm not sure if I was simply having a horrible time in middle school or if I truly didn't enjoy the book, but for whatever elusive reason I hated The Giver.  A burning white hot passion, if ever there was one.  I was disgusted with it.  And now I can't even remember why.  The 6th graders at my school were reading it, and all the other teachers were commenting on how much they had enjoyed it and continued to do so, even as adults.  Since I was curious and I respect my colleagues (and was vaguely incredulous), I decided to reread it.  Wow.  I wouldn't say it was a stunning new approach to literature.  The plot was interesting in a sort of predictable, regular dystopian kind of way.  Content child growing up in what he thought was a normal environment suddenly discovers, through the help of a mentor, that it is much more sinister than originally thought.  Not exactly the freshest idea on the planet, but the execution was well done.  That was what I think I missed the first time.  The first time, I was so focused on the plot, which I found at the time to be slow and uninteresting.  Now, I knew the plot pretty well, so I could appreciate how well the story itself was woven together.  It's hard to convey that kind of emotion in a simple, quick novel.  Lois Lowry did it surprisingly well.  I still don't really care for Number the Stars, however.  I prefer just going whole hog and reading The Diary of Anne Frank.  Hmmm.  Been a while on that one, too.

The Great Gatsby I read in high school.  Junior year with Mrs. Miller.  Boy, I sure did like Mrs. Miller, but I didn't really like any of the books I read that year.  Except Brave New World (which I hate now), and The Grapes of Wrath, which no one else liked.  Our summer book was East of Eden, and everything about that book made me feel hollow and unloved.  It was like nothing in the world was nice.  Then, we read The Scarlett Letter.  Meh.  If I were to read it now, as an adult, things would probably be different.  But back then, naive and young, it was very overwrought.  The last, other thing we read was Gatsby.  If I remember correctly, we listened to it in class off of old tape cassettes.  Haha.  I think this was the case because I vaguely remember the narrator singing the excerpt from "The Sheikh of Araby".  Which now seems definitely racist.  I remember our teacher gushing about it but really feeling dissatisfied.  Kind of like, "okay, what's the big deal, again?"  And I sure couldn't identify with any of the characters.  They were all rich, spoiled children.  Big creepy brats.  It all seemed so wasteful and pointless.  No one really struggled and everything was in vain.  There was no real meaning to life.  Now, reading it, there's almost too much meaning.  Everybody feels deeply but either can't or won't give in to their feelings and expression.  They choose the easy and comfortable option while knowing that their lives will never have true happiness or meaning.  But what is true happiness?  It is the green light at the end of the dock.  We always want it, but when it comes our way it's lost its appeal and we no longer have it.  It's an illusion towards which we always strive and never arrive.  Plus, I hate to say it, but actually having been in love and having someone for whom you would literally sacrifice anything really changes your perspective about characters in love.  I now sympathize quite a bit with Gatsby, even if he was misguided, because I can understand that pain of separation and jealousy and forbidden love.  Even if my life has none of that.  Haha.  So thanks, Mrs. Miller.  I get it now.

Whew.  I have about four hours to kill before guests come over for dinner and an evening of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I should make the bed and pick up the bedroom, but I don't have any grading to do.  What should I read now?

East of Eden.

Just kidding, I think I'll pick up Reliquary, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Who doesn't like monsters loose in NYC?