Monday, June 28, 2010

The Jazzercise Experiment: Day Two

I took an exercise class I actually liked! The ballet bar class...bars class...behind-the-bar class, whatever it's officially called, it was great! Yes, that's right, I am describing a form of exercise as "great."

First of all, I found all of the youngish, in-shape people. They are all at bars class.

Second, I don't think I'll be able to walk tomorrow, but it's the good kind of pain where I can tell I was actually doing something good for me.

Third, I didn't completely suck at the class, which I think is important. Maybe some people out there like to do things they are terrible at as some sort of personal challenge, but I prefer to do things that don't make me feel like an idiot.

So hooray! The Jazzercise Experiment might not be the failure I was starting to worry it was going to be. But I have to find out if they'll let me switch any of my already scheduled programming over to bars before I lose my enthusiasm. Stupid enthusiasm, always getting lost.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Jazzercise Experiment: Day One

I attended my first free fitness class today as part of the 21-Day Study, which I am now officially (and so far affectionately) dubbing "The Jazzercise Experiment."

It was a Nia class, which is apparently a combination of dance and martial arts. It sounded pretty cool, but also pretty intense, so I was a little nervous about this being my first class. I was picturing a dozen muscular models performing something reminiscent of an opening number on "So You Think You Can Dance" while I stood among them, panting and confused.

Imagine my surprise when the mean age of the class turned out to be roughly 60 and the fitness level seemed to hover somewhere around "mildly out of shape." I mean, sure, I was relieved at first, but then I started wondering whether I had accidentally joined a subsidiary of the Red Hat Society or something...surely they had noticed my lack of red hat at registration, right?

Everyone was very nice, but it was clear that they were wondering how I had found myself there. I was wondering the same thing.

The class itself was was a very loose interpretation of both dance and martial arts, but I broke a mild sweat and didn't at any point feel like I would pass out. However, I did get dizzy from the number of times we were asked to spin in a circle. Does spinning in a circle actually count as exercise? It was like "step-step-step spin!" Over and over and over. I think I was supposed to feel joyful (youthful?) while spinning, but I was really just nervous about falling into the person next to me.

And then, at the end, after all the hopping and spinning around, we were asked to lie down on the floor. The floor on which our sweaty feet had been pounding for an hour. And I appeared to be the only one who found this to be remotely gross or uncomfortable. Ew.

So it doesn't look like Nia is going to be my path to fitness, but I've still got plenty more to try. Tomorrow is ballet bar class, which seems like it would attract a younger demographic...I could definitely be wrong, but I don't think red hat ladies do a lot of grand pliés.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Death is depressing. That is my deep thought for the day.

People are good, people are bad, and ultimately, they all die and people say nice things about them and then go home and eat a sandwich.

I attended the memorial service of the amazing person I mentioned in an earlier blog and I wanted it to provide some sort of happy closing note, like “Here we are, all together, celebrating what a great man he was and let’s all just be happy we knew him.” I left just feeling even sadder that he’s gone.

I’m not religious, but I did think it was nice that the clergyman who led the memorial managed to relate all of his biblical references to adoption (even Jesus was adopted!) – is there a reference book that has an alphabetical list of interests and their appropriate bible passages? Is there one for, like, stamp collecting? Racecar driving?

As cliché as it is, during the service my mind most definitely entertained thoughts of “Am I making the most of my life?” and “What would I regret if I died tomorrow?” It’s too bad that we need tragedy to remind us of these things, but I suppose that’s the silver lining...

I’m rambling. What I want to say is that when I die, I want people to have known me. I want people to have really enjoyed being around me. I want to have been surrounded by love. I want to have done something that matters.

Paul had all of that. May we all be so lucky.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Forcing Fitness

I have taken on a new challenge. The hope is that it will contribute to crossing numbers 18 and 19 off my 40 by 40 list, but we'll see.

A fitness studio near me is conducting a 21-Day Study, during which non-exercisers* attend three classes per week for three weeks for FREE. The goal is basically to find out whether forcing people to attend class regularly will help us eventually do it by choice. (And yes, obviously they hope you want to keep exercising and pay them for it after three weeks.)

It's smart on many levels because it gets us exercise-challenged folks there (which we've established has been a challenge), it gets us comfortable with exercise (which we are probably not) and then just when we'll probably be seeing results, asks us to start paying. Fortunately, I'm comfortable being manipulated when it comes with free stuff.

I have to say they're pretty hardcore. I went for orientation today and had to commit to a schedule right then and there. Thanks to the compatibility issues between my Mac, my work schedule in Outlook, and my Blackberry, that meant I arrived with a stack of paper calendars and proceeded to spend a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how to fit all of these classes in between work, kid activities and our upcoming family trip to D.C.

The end result is that I'll be attending four days of classes in a row before we leave for our trip...I'm a little nervous this might actually make me hate exercising more, but, as I was reminded several times today, if we miss a class, we're out and we have to pay $25, and I am determined to get my nine free classes!

Yep, so basically what I'm saying is that losing weight, getting in shape, and feeling better are all fine and good, but if you really want to get me off the couch, you better throw in a coupon.

*I fell off the treadmill wagon months ago

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm closing the door..feel free to jump out the window

I became a stepmother at age 20. Ok, technically we didn't get married until I was 24, but my (now) husband and stepson moved in with me when I was 20.

I've come to understand that pretty much every couple that's ever had a baby and then split up has a slightly different experience with the whole "co-parenting" thing. Some manage to be civil - even amicable. Others...not so much. (If you Google "non-custodial parent" you'll get more than half a million results and plenty of them are horror stories.)

My husband spent his senior year of high school in court fighting for custody of his son, which he won despite our family court system being skewed to protect the rights of the mother (I admit this is probably often a good thing, but not always). Without going into all the gory details, let's just say that some people shouldn't have children. And that - omitting the murderous types - his mother is, in my opinion, the worst kind of bad parent because rather than getting out of the picture completely, she shows up just often enough to hurt him, again and again.

As I think probably many stepmoms do, at some point over the last 13 years, I slipped into the role of mediator between my husband and his ex - and even sometimes between my stepson and his mother. I would convey the logistical messages needed to conduct visitation every other weekend, collect on medical bills, and generally keep her informed of her son's well-being when necessary.

I didn't do it because anyone asked me to, I did it in the interest of keeping the peace...and more importantly, because it was something I could do to make things just a little easier for my stepson, who would await her visits with a mix of trepidation and cautious optimism - like maybe this time, she would be the mom he deserved. At her best, she was misguided and neurotic. At her worst, she was negligent and abusive.

As he got older, the teenager evolved his own boundaries with his mother (ending visitation), but we've still been tethered to her by a court order. She's stopped speaking to my husband completely, asking for me even when he answers the phone. I've been more than patient with her, speaking to her for longer than required and even lending a semi-sympathetic ear when she has delusionally attempted to tell me about her drunk husband, deadbeat baby daddies, and financial woes.

I'll admit that I have always approached these conversations with a combination of dread and curiosity. How I would love to figure out what makes her understand how a mother (of five!) can be so decidedly non-maternal and utterly clueless. This is a woman who would tell you with complete sincerity that she could not possibly have had anything to do with her son's emotional issues because she wasn't really around that much.

The point of all of this is to say that amid all the bittersweetness that surrounds the teenager growing up and graduating from high school, there is a wholly sweet side to it: The end of the non-custodial parent drama.

Sure, her life will always be filled with homemade drama, but no longer does it have to be part of my life!

Yes, when it comes to the teenager's birth mother, I have officially stepped down from my role as mediator, shoulder-to-cry-on and carrier pigeon. This means I also have to resign as amateur psychologist, but with the teenager's budding interest in psychology (for real!), he may end up picking up where I left off one day...she could be the star of his thesis.

But I am not just announcing this fact to you, dear readers. I am proud to say that I took the emotionally healthy step of seeking closure with this woman who has been the source of so much anxiety over the years.

I'll stop short of a full transcript, but the day after graduation, I called her and hit the following key messages:

1. Everything I have ever done for you, was done only because I believed it was in his best interest
2. Now that he is an adult I am officially done playing mediator
3. I hope you two find a way to have a healthy relationship someday because until then, you will continue to hurt him
4. This concludes our business together. The end.

In case you're wondering, her response was mostly one of surprise, though she did say thank you before we hung up. I'm not kidding myself into thinking I will never hear from her again, but the heavy lifting is D-O-N-E.

It would be impossible to sum up the journey I've been on with her here (maybe one day I'll write a book). And I know that my experience is just a sliver of what the teenager has been through with her (maybe he'll write a book), but...

To finally be able to say it's over, case closed (literally), please let's never speak brings me relief beyond words. Relief and happiness and a lightness of being.

Closure is a very, very good thing.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Commencing

He graduated! The teenager is officially done with high school. So proud. So relieved. So excited for him to live life beyond high school. (By the way, that's how little he was when he came into my life.)

It’s funny how you can look back on several entire years and think, "Wow, that went fast," when the reality at the time was that each day seemed never-ending.

Retrospectively, high school feels like a bit of a a few rough years outta 18 isn't so terrible (even though sometimes it was). Like I could be one of those contented elders who turns to the parent just entering the dark, scary tunnel and sagely pronounces, "This, too, shall pass." (Someone once said that to me and I almost cried.)

How I wish there was a way to shrink each individual event down to its actual size rather than letting it consume our purview...a graph that could have shown us that the leveling off point wasn't as far away as we thought.

There was a time when I thought we would lose him. He seemed so intent to jump off the bridge.

Now it feels like there was a well-hidden bungee cord and he’s bouncing back toward us. Our arms are outstretched, ready.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

With Love

The world lost an amazing person on Friday. Not just amazing in my opinion, but factually amazing – it’s just the truth.

He was going to change the world. He was going to see to it that every single orphan on the planet found a loving home. He left us prematurely and there is nothing fair about that…the only way I can make any sense of it is to think that the person who is going to bring about world peace must have been born on Friday and the universe simply could not sustain so much goodness within it all at once.

Paul was a mentor to me. He showed me that being a corporate executive is not an excuse to be an asshole (and, as I liked to tell him, he ruined me for all other executives). He taught me that passion is contagious. He inspired me to find a purpose in my work. He was brilliant and generous and funny and kind. He knew what mattered. And unlike a lot of people, he did not need a brain tumor to put his life in perspective.

I am grateful that I knew him. I am heartbroken that he is gone. And I am confident that his light will live on in the thousands of lives that he touched while he was here. Thank you, Paul.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lucky Number Seven

My boys are seven. I have seven-year-olds. In four days, I will have second graders. Second grade is practically middle school, which is practically high school, which is practically moving away to college.

Ok, I'm being dramatic. Although I did cry...on Saturday night...after a looooong day of entertaining more than a dozen seven-year-olds and then a special dinner at Benihana (or, Beni-ha-ha, as they like to call it), we put the boys to bed and I realized that they really ARE big. Really, really big. And that pretty soon they won't want to crawl into our bed and snuggle anymore. And little Aidan won't ask, "Can you come cuddle me on the couch?" anymore. And some days, hopefully many years from now, they probably won't even want to speak to me anymore. And I cried.

When they were little it was so hard and so exhausting and I wished for just a sliver of self-sufficiency on their part. And now they are at that fabulous in-between point where they are still so sweet and cute and innocent and yet they can dress and feed themselves and even remind me when I forget to sign their permission slips...and well, even though I'm sure they will grow into amazing adults, I kind of just want them to stay small. For a little longer.

Anyway, somehow it's been seven entire years since they came into my life and I am grateful everyday that they did. And we all had fabulous birthdays and we're all a year older and some of us are more excited about that fact than others, but that's just the way it is. So here's to another year of adventure and experience and laughter and many snuggles as they'll give me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I've got a party dress

Look at me! I'm the big 3-3! (Did I miss my calling as a greeting card writer?)

Yes, here we are again at my birthday. I love my birthday. People are so nice. Things are (often) free*. And now I've got the added bonus of being able to reflect on my 40 by 40 list and see what I've accomplished and what I've got left to do.'s what I've done:

12. Learn to decorate a cake
Finish scrapbooking my boys’ childhoods (at least through age 5)
Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum
Join the bone marrow registry

That's not shabby, really. Two required travel and one required a four-week class. Joining the bone barrow registry is quite possibly the easiest item on the list. (So easy that perhaps you'd like to join, too?)

I guess I don't really need to go into detail about any of them here since I've so conveniently already blogged about them, but man, Hawaii was awesome. And there was so much laughter on that trip to Cleveland. And the cake decorating was pretty fun, too.

Thanks go to all who accompanied me on these journeys: my family, of course, and Greta and Rachel and Amy and Gerra. And Cecilia, whose battle with leukemia got me to follow through with my first list item (ironically #40), and who has come through the tunnel and is back in good (and getting better) health.

It's been a good year. Not without its ups and downs, mind you, but good.

So what's on the docket for this year? Do I dare commit to which list items I'm going to tackle in the next 12 months? The planner part of my brain would really like me to - especially knowing that 11 of the remaining list items require travel. We're not necessarily talking about 11 separate trips, though, I'm working on ways to creatively combine them...A two-week European cruise with a side trip to Paris during which I get a tattoo and send all of my friends postcards telling them what they mean to me?

Anyway, I want to try to achieve a good balance of ones that require a lot of effort and/or money with some that don't so I don't end up at age 39 with five international trips to take. (Gee, now that I've said it out loud that doesn't sound so terrible.)

In fact, if you've got any creative (in a realistic way) suggestions on how to get more bang for my life goal buck, please let me know.

Since it's my birthday, I'm reserving the right not to think too hard about this today, but I promise to update as I decide which list items I'm going after this year.

Cupcakes and fruity drinks for all.

*Unless you go to Starbucks, where they tell people they get a free drink on their birthday, only to disappoint them by requiring a coupon that they are apparently too backlogged to send in time for said birthdays.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Geminis are We

It's June! Birthday month at our house. Yes, everyone living in our house celebrates their birthday this month. The boys and I celebrate back-to-back, which I have to say, for one who loves to celebrate her birthday, is not ideal, but I still make sure my day gets a little love.

I'll save my reflections on how exactly it could be possible that my babies are turning SEVEN until that big day arrives. For now, I'll just tell you that in addition to having my own birthday to get excited about, I've got 16 children coming to my house on Saturday. 16. Plus my two. Why the hell would I invite 16 children to my house? I guess I really like those boys. And, well, I've never been very good at editing invite lists. Probably no one was more surprised than I when we managed to come up with more than 100 people to invite to our wedding.

For the record, I lobbied hard for the non-party, in which each kid invites one, nice, manageable friend to go play minigolf and go out to dinner. Apparently I'm about 10 years early with that idea...oh well. At least it's not a slumber party, right?

(Btw, let's all take a moment to praise antibiotics. If I ever tell you I've had a sinus infection for three weeks without medical attention, please remind me how much better life is when I am healthy. Thanks much.)