Sunday, September 30, 2018

Challenge Day 1: Epic Fail!


Do not start the Whole Life Challenge on a day you are both hosting a party and going to a friend's house for dinner, and expect to succeed.

Yesterday I was up at 7 to start party prep. I can never eat before a party, but I start drinking early to calm my pre-event nerves; the party started at noon, and by 1:30 I realized that I'd had umpteen glasses of spiked punch but zero food and had been on my feet for six straight hours. But I was a good hostess, and I think people had fun. Everyone left by 4, giving me enough time to clean the kitchen, brush my teeth, and freshen my lipstick before our dinner date.

I'd told the hostess, "I will bring wine for sure, and a label maker to put my name on the wine, and a straw. Just so we’re clear," and she replied, "As if I do not own a label maker that you could use!" We are very good friends.

Dinner concluded around 8:30, and I went straight upstairs, washed my face, and collapsed into bed. No 10 minutes of exercise. No 10 minutes of stretches. No 10 minutes of journaling (this week's Well-Being Practice). And despite carrying around a rubber-banded glass all day, I came nowhere near drinking eight glasses of water. (I put eight rubber bands on my glass in the morning, and remove one each time I finish. It's a helpful practice though quite discouraging when I pass midday and still haven't drunk half my total.) And my nutrition score was, of course, zero. The only things I managed to do successfully were my daily log-in and seven hours of sleep. I can always succeed at sleep!

But it's not a complete wash, I guess, so there is that.

I'm not sure when I'll squeeze in my 10 minutes of exercise today —it's beautiful outside, maybe I'll take a quick walk. I already had some flour (two leftover gingerbread muffins from the party), but I am dutifully drinking my water and will do my stretching before bed. And look at me, journaling! For two more minutes!



After church I started putting up my Halloween decorations (I enjoy decorating for Halloween, autumn/Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and every once in a while I do Easter decorations) and then thought, Hmm. Maybe . . . ?

So I called up to Mimosa and asked if she'd like to help, and she said, "Sure!" To my astonishment!

My kids loved doing decorations when they were little, then they both seemed to outgrow it . . . but maybe they'll come back? I always loved decorating with my mom, and it was SO fun to do it today with my daughter. You just never know.

OK! I just journaled for 10 minutes, and my God you should see my well-being. I'm bursting with it, baby.

Tonight's dinner will use up some party leftovers: chicken teriyaki packets, Perfect Chicken (with the three thighs that didn't go into the packets), pasta salad (made for the party), roasted acorn squash and leeks, sauteed green beans and mushrooms, and composed fruit salads. Yum!! And I can eat everything but the pasta salad. Plus a cocktail! But just one, lest I lose a point.


I should probably take my walk before then; I have a hunch that when I finally declare myself DONE with the day's work and sit down, I won't want to get up again . . . If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, that's my motto. Feel free to quote me!

A Weary Lady

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Starting the Day with a Sense of Accomplishment

Sometimes, when I'm feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, I ask myself what I could do right this minute, or what task I could take off my plate, that would make me feel better. Today is one of those days.

I could go to a new zumba class at 9, but I don't really want to; I could get started on my next Old Testament lesson (David! 14 done, 4 to go), but I don't really want to; I have a small job to edit, but that won't take me long; I could go grocery shopping for the party I'm hosting this Saturday, and I will do that but I'm not even dressed yet . . .

So here is what I did: I called seven U.S. Senators — Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — and respectfully asked them to vote no on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.

Honestly, I would hate to be held accountable for crap I did back in high school — or even college. I was often young and stupid — who wasn't? That's kind of the definition of adolescence. But if someone from my past came forward to accuse me of something, I would take responsibility. I would apologize, sincerely. I would name what I had done, why I now know it was wrong, and what I have learned and done differently since then. I would endeavor to make amends.

Kavanaugh's behavior in response to these allegations could not look less like an adult taking responsibility. 

Will my calls make a difference? Probably not — I am not a constituent of any of these folks; they have no real reason to listen to me. And yet, and yet. All we can do is try.

I was especially happy to have an opportunity to "speak" to Senator Collins (I left a message); I'm horrified by the approach taken by the folks who are attempting to bully her into voting the "right" way by threatening to financially support her opponent in the next election. I know several good people who believe this is the right thing to do ("She needs to know the consequences!" says one of my dear friends), so I won't say anything more about that — just, I disagree, and I wanted to be sure the Senator, whom I've long admired as a smart, principled, and brave public servant, knew that.

What a country we live in! Toward the end of my calls, I actually got a little teary. Democracy, man. What an amazing concept.

I missed my usual zumba class on Tuesday because I was working onsite at the Creek, so I went to the gym yesterday to work out on my own (without Fit-Bit). I made myself get on the hated StairMaster and broke my "record" of 3 minutes by staying on . . . an additional 5 seconds!


But it all adds up. AND, it occurred to me later, the first minute was a piece of cake! Remember the first time I got on this thing and thought I'd die after a minute? Progress! I'll celebrate it, wherever it can be found.

I also lifted weights (Fit-Bit has been having me do slooooooow bicep curls, which, OMG, ow ow ow), walked on the treadmill, and did the rowing machine. I was a limp sweaty baby at the end.

And today I'm tired — I just don't feel up to braving a new zumba class. I think I will do my grocery shopping, do some food prep for the party, and then do some exercises that I've clipped out of magazines. They live in a basket in my living room with my free weights; every once in a while I do them and see if I like them. I know there's a new ab exercise in there I want to try.

The next round of the Whole Life Challenge starts on Saturday. Since I'm throwing a party (and then having dinner with a friend) on that day, I fear my nutrition score will be a bust (cheese! alcohol! flour!) — but I will do all the other things (to review: Exercise! Stretching! 9 million glasses of water! Sleep! Journal! and a Well-Being Practice of some sort!). It will be good to get back to this — I like the structure, as much as I desperately miss cheese.

Time to get moving. My first task is to wash all the dishes that piled up yesterday. A clean and tidy kitchen will also make me feel good. Winning!

Lady C, Pro-Active Citizen

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Agitation Update


I still feel it but definitely less so, and I think writing did help. Also, I had two helpful conversations with family members.

First, with Husband via text:
  • Me: I keep having this feeling of "I am SO READY for this to be over," yet I'm not at all clear what I mean by "this"
  • Husband: Yeah, I totally get that.
  • Me: What IS it? What is the Big Bad I feel hovering around us? Is it Trump???
  • Husband: Yes. Yes, it is.
  • Me: Well, fuck.
Then Mimosa and I were driving somewhere, and I told her I was in a state of agitated dread but I didn't know why, and she said, "I feel like that all the time."
  • Me: Oh, wow. Why, do you think?
  • Mimosa: Because things are going so well, I keep thinking that something bad must be about to happen soon.

That poor kid. She has had such a terrible run of luck. Two horrible bosses in a row, work situations that ended suddenly for mysteriously murky reasons that she still doesn't fully understand . . . it has been a bad stretch. But she really loves this new job, and because she's working for someone I've known for a long time, I feel 99% confident that they won't fire her without a lot of warning and perhaps even talking to me first.

And her college class is going surprisingly well! She's taking Creative Writing at one of our local junior colleges (Boston is fecund with junior college choices; she chose a downtown urban campus, which is a good vibe for her), and to her delight rediscovered a friend from elementary school days who is taking the same class. Their first assignment was to bring in an "object" from home, something that might inspire creative thought — and Mimosa chose her jar of baby teeth. I thought this was brilliant.

After driving Mimosa home from school this week, her friend came in to visit for a bit and to eat cinnamon rolls. I've always liked this girl and was happy to see her and catch up on her life. I asked the girls how class went.
  • Old Friend: Everyone wanted to write about the teeth. We did a blind draw, and I ended up with them!
  • Me: That is amazing. What was your object, Mimosa?
  • Mimosa: A condom.
  • Me: Someone brought a condom????
  • Old Friend: I'm pretty sure that a lot of people forgot about the assignment and just grabbed something from their backpack.
  • Me: Good lord.
  • Mimosa: I wanted to text you about it, but my hands were too sticky with lube.
  • Me: Good lord.
The girls read me the poems they wrote, inspired by their "chosen" objects, and once more I say: Good lord.

She's having fun, and honestly I was very encouraged to hear that she thinks things are going well for her. My girl lives under a perpetual cloud of depression; it's often a challenge to recognize when she's happy (or, at least, not miserable). But today? Today is a good day.

Lady C

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Not Myself, But Who Am I?


I have been in a state of agitation for weeks now. I'm drinking way more than usual and ripping my fingers to shreds and not sleeping well, and in general I have this feeling that I'm waiting for . . . I'm not sure what. Something big and possibly bad. Or I'm waiting for something big and bad to be over so my "real" life can start again. But I have no idea what either thing is.

Things that are not helping:
  • My new discovery, The Loop Sauvignon Blanc, grown by small-farm family farmers in the most sustainable way possible, which of course I love — I'm helping the planet by drinking! And it goes down smooooooth. I can easily polish off a bottle in one sitting. This feels . . . unhealthy.
  • The weirdo weather (it's dark and rainy, yet . . . hot? I still need a fan at night) and our house's amazing ability to feel the opposite of whatever it is outside — either too hot or too cold. 
  • President Trump
  • Not much work and plenty o' bills
  • The Netflix series Ozark, which is dark and addictive and possibly not the best thing to watch right before bed.  
  • A quote from Ozark, in which Laura Linney talks about how impatient she used to get with her manic-depressive brother. She found him weak. She was angry at him for impacting their family so much with his disease. And then . . . she lost a child and fell into a black hole.
Depression is not a passive, lethargic state. Far from it. It might seem that way to people on the outside. But to the person depressed, it is an active state of roiling pain from the tip of your hair to the bottom of your feet.
I can't stop thinking about this. Is this how my depressed daughter feels? I cannot even bear to ask her.

Things are "okay enough" in Daughter Land. She has a job that she likes (though it's very part-time and her somewhat overwhelmed, somewhat distracted bosses haven't given her a regular schedule yet, though they are kind women and they promise that a schedule is coming "someday"), is waiting to hear about another one, and is enjoying her creative writing class at the junior college. She goes to the gym with me and sees her therapist and takes part in Meet-Up events that catch her fancy. But on the whole, it seems a fairly dull and quite lonely existence to me, and my heart breaks for her.

Is that what I'm waiting for — something to "break good" for my daughter?

I dunno.

Yesterday I opened a bottle of chardonnay and thoroughly enjoyed the first glass; later I had a second glass and ended up pouring half of it back in the bottle. So, this is a good sign; it's really just the Loop wine that I guzzle. And soon I'll be doing another Whole Life Challenge and having only one drink a day, and that will be good too.

And Ozark is over for the season. Maybe I'll switch to soothing 1940s movies on TCM for my before-bed viewing; I certainly have enough of them in the queue.

And as for my daughter: ah, that's the tough one. It's not that I believe I have any real ability to "fix" her life — I'm very clear on what I can control and what I can't. It's just hard to observe someone I love so much being unhappy and in pain.

Today on the Betsy-Tacy e-list someone close to my age talked about losing a lot of weight by intermittently fasting — the only thing that has worked for her as she's gotten older. I truly hate the idea and think it's the exact wrong thing to do for your body, but I'll admit: she got my attention. Something new to think about, anyway.

I'm really ready to stop being anxious and move to a new stage. My poor hands! My poor liver! My hope is that naming the problem and writing about it will help me come to some kind of peace.

Thanks for listening.

Lady C

Wednesday, September 12, 2018



Remember when I asked the scary bike teacher lady at my gym about Zumba Gold (i.e., Old Lady Zumba), and she barked, "Are you asking for your MOTHER???"

(That is just how she talks. In reality she is a perfect peach.)

She recommended that I try the Tuesday morning class taught by Sweet Renee, but at the time of her recommendation we were in Deep Summer, every day 90+ degrees with a thousand percent humidity, and the idea of zumba did not appeal in any way. But now the temperature has dropped, and I'm also feeling like I'm ready for a new challenge.

(As much as I tell myself that I'm resigned to never losing weight again, it is nonetheless a daily decision. Each morning: Have I lost or gained weight, or stayed the same? How do I feel about this? Every. Single. Day.)

So, with great trepidation, I squeezed into my exercise clothes and headed out to a brand-new zumba class yesterday morning.


I'm a scarred zumba veteran now; so many things can make a bad class:
  • Too many people
  • Boring endless salsa-only music
  • Too much rap or hip-hop 
  • Movements that hurt my lower back
  • Too many high-impact movements
  • Barely challenging routine
  • Un-fun routine

I've experienced all of these.

But Sweet Renee's class was great! It was definitely lower impact - though once I learn the routines and increase my endurance, I can easily step it up. She had a nice mix of salsa and popular music, the class wasn't crowded at all so I secured a spot in my comfort area (toward the front on the far left), the people were very nice and mostly ignored me, and believe me I was challenged. At the end when we did our cool-down, I lifted my arms over my head and the sweat from my arms dripped into my face. Gross.

But a good sign, probably.

Sweet Renee recognized that I was new; she came over and introduced herself to me at the end of class, which was very nice. I will definitely do this class again.

Honestly, I was astonished at how hard it was to dance zumba-ically for a full hour. I've been working out with FitBit since December! Why do I not have more endurance?? But I don't. Clearly, this is a good thing for me to be doing.

(Can't remember if I noted that I keep going back to the StairMaster of Death and am now up to three full minutes — or maybe four, I honestly can't remember what I did last time! I believe the fact that it's so challenging and kicks my butt so ferociously means that it's doing something very very good for me. But oh man is it hard work!!!!)

Today I'm back to FitBit, so that's three straight days of workouts - yay, me! I've had very little editing work for going on two weeks now so am trying to use my time productively (chores around the house and other projects), but I was so wiped after zumba yesterday, I spent the afternoon lying on my bed reading library books. It was lovely, but I felt 100 years old.

I will shake the editing tree a bit today (e-mailing all my clients to see if they have anything now or in the pipeline), but I'm determined not to be anxious about this dry spell. There will be work again! But if I don't get anything next week, I'll sign up to sub in a few classes; that will be fun. And also challenging, it's been a while!!

Time to dress for the gym. Rah.

Lady C

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Betsy-Tacy Competition and Mean Girls – Or Maybe Just Me

Here are some thoughts that have been swirling around my head since the last Betsy-Tacy Convention, which I originally thought I'd pull together in a post for the BT e-mail list — but I'm rethinking that idea. Still, these thoughts will not leave my head and clearly I want to express them somewhere. So — hello, blog!

I have been to three Conventions. The Betsy-Tacy books celebrate a lifelong friendship; their message is kindness and inclusion. You would like to believe that the mega fans of these books — those folks so devoted they would travel to Minnesota — would likewise do their best to be kind friends, would you not? And probably most of them do.

But I have had experiences at all three Conventions that are so unkind and so unpleasant, each involving a competition of sorts, and I've been thinking about it a lot. Are my experiences a natural offshoot of competition by its very nature, and should competition maybe not be part of the Convention experience? Or is it something unique to me and my personality that invites these experiences?

(A few weeks back, Brunie said, "A woman at work reminds me a lot of you," and I promptly said, "Because she's awesome at everything she does?" "Because she's a big pain in the ass, yes!!" Brunie replied. Ha ha ha, we are very good friends.)

Let me go back in time a bit. When I first joined the local Betsy-Tacy group in 1994, I was quite desperate to become friends with these women, but it took a while. Our gatherings tended to be destination-focused, and I faithfully went to museums and movies and tea rooms, but big group events never work that well for me, I always feel awkward, and I was usually the first to leave. This went on for a couple of years. Then one year, one of our members introduced a game at a party — and it was so much fun! And I had found my in! I always do better in a group when there's a specific task. So I became Games Girl.

And quickly a few of us realized that we really loved playing games together, while the rest of the group could take them or leave them. So seven of us spun off and got together for years, celebrating our birthdays and playing lots and lots of games.

We still played games at the big group events too, and a lot of our games revolved around Betsy-Tacy trivia. We actually did paper quizzes — at parties! — and graded one another's papers!! And several of us (including me) found this very fun!

But lots of people didn't — and gradually they stopped coming to the big parties. And at the same time, at least one member of our small group of seven also stopped liking the games — but rather than be an adult, use her words, and say what was bothering her, she instead chose passive-aggression and started being mean and critical about every game I planned. (When I announced the score at the end of a Jeopardy game, she said, "Oh, trust Lady to keep score, of course" — though we had played this exact game and kept score at every one of our birthday parties.) The last straw was when she was mean and bitchy to me at my own house, at a party I was hosting for her. Yeah, enough. The group of seven was no more.

And slowly it began to dawn on me what was going on. While for me, the "competition" aspect of our games was lighthearted and relatively meaningless, for other folks it felt like an actual judgment on their intelligence. "Failing" at Betsy-Tacy trivia, in front of their peers, was a humiliation. Losing or doing badly at any kind of game was actively painful — and it also bred feelings of resentment toward the game-planner, as well as those who "won" a lot.

Which, I'll just say it, was often me. I'm very competitive, I play to win, I love to win, even at something as meaningless and inane as Betsy-Tacy trivia.

But I'm not a monster. Even though I don't get it at all, I would never want to be part of making someone feel bad, particularly at a party!! Once this dynamic became clear to me, I stopped making my games competitive and also stopped doing BT trivia altogether. The only exception is if I'm having a White Elephant party and am determined to get rid of crap; then there are "winners" for every game, and in fact there are usually five or six "winners"! But that's it. No more winners and losers at party games — we just play for fun.

Though one of our members — she who hosted that very first game, lo these many years ago — cannot let it go and insists on privately keeping score (and often declaring herself the winner) with every game we play. It's obnoxious, but what can you do.

And this "weirdness" around competition and Betsy-Tacy trivia is not specific to just our local group. I attended a Betsy-Tacy event in another town many years ago and met a bunch of sister fans for the first time. One of our activities was to read aloud the Halloween chapter in "Heaven to Betsy," in which the girls snap apples and say aloud a rhyme as they count the seeds. Don't ask me why, but I just happen to know this rhyme by heart:

One I love,
Two I love,
Three I love I say . . .

So, as the reader read aloud, I started reciting the rhyme along with her.

You tell me. Is this obnoxious? Is this charming? Is this something you actually have no opinion about?

I would have said the latter (WHO. FREAKING. CARES.) but clearly at least one other person thought the former, as she sniffed loudly, "SOME people clearly have too much time on their hands!"

It is just so odd to me. What is it about someone else's store of random, arcane knowledge that some people find so annoying?? So annoying that they simply must say something rude and hurtful about it??

OK. I said all of this to provide some context.

At the 2009 Convention, my first one, it was my huge and great honor to win the Essay Contest. I got to read my essay aloud, people were so kind about it, and I won a trophy!!!! It was a truly thrilling moment.

And one of the judges came up to me right afterward and said, in tones dripping with condescension, "You know, Lady, the winner was chosen by committee, and the choice of you was by no means unanimous!"

It was so important to her that I know this fact, she repeated it when she saw me again the next day.

At the 2012 Convention, there was a last-minute decision to have a trivia contest. I thought it was a bad idea (for all the reasons noted above), and I did in fact voice my concerns but was shouted down. "It'll be fine, it'll be fun, no one cares" was the consensus response. So I participated, making it to Round 2, the "oral" round — and when I raised my hand and said a correct answer, some people in the audience groaned. They groaned when I got a point! (They did not groan when anyone else got a point.)

If we answered a question correctly, we got a sticky note with the points for that question, and at the end of the game I was covered in sticky notes. When it was time to total our points and determine a winner, a woman near me snatched away my pile of notes and said, "I will add your points, I don't trust you!" She added them and then said, "You have 240." I had been mentally keeping track and I knew I had 270 — but I hadn't won, so I decided not to challenge her. (Though I did ask Brunie to add them later. Yep, 270.)

So now it's the 2018 Convention, and again I take part in the trivia contest, though — and you're just going to have to believe me here — I had decided to phone it in this time rather than play my hardest. I did a half-assed job with the written portion; my score was enough to get me to the next round, but I was number 8 of the Top 10 scorers. But then my natural competitiveness kicked in, I simply could not keep my hand down if I knew the answer, and I won — my very first trivia contest win.

It was a lovely, fun evening, and no one said anything mean to me. And then the next morning I got in the Starbucks line to get lattes for me and Rads — and a "friend" approached.
  • "Friend": So, are you insufferable now?
  • Me (smiling): Please bow before you speak to me.
  • "Friend": Want to know what I think of trivia contests?
  • Me (smiling): I think I'm about to . . .
  • "Friend": They're trivial. They don't mean anything.
  • Me: Well, of course. Hence the name.
  • "Friend": I just don't see the point.
  • Me: Honestly, I agree with you. If I were planning a Convention, I'm not sure I would include one.
  • "Friend": Then why not bow out and give someone else a chance?
I was momentarily startled by this. Why not bow out . . . of this meaningless event? Um . . . should I have?? While I was collecting a thought, my "friend" spoke again:
  • "Friend": Oh, right. That'll never happen.
Honestly, I would have walked away if I hadn't promised Rads to bring her a latte.

People are . . . I have no words.
And again I wonder: is it me? Is there something I do after I win that invites such casual cruelty?

(Did anyone say anything mean to this year's Essay Contest winner or the last trivia contest winner? I doubt it.)

Or is it something in the nature of competition that brings out the worst in some people — and I, a person who competes regularly and wins often, am simply a frequent target because I'm there?

Or is it both?

I dunno.

But in the world of Betsy-Tacy competitions, I am officially done. I didn't even enter the Essay Contest this time — one trophy is enough — and now I'm done with trivia contests too. Enough, enough.

Now that the weather is cooling down, I'm itching to have a party — with fun, non-competitive games and smart, good people who realize that a party game is just a party game. I think that's what I need to clear all this nastiness out of my system. Stay tuned!

And thanks for reading. Any insights you have to share, I'd love to hear them.

Lady C