Archive | January, 2014

Why Snow in the South is No Joke.

You know how you can joke about your family, internally, but no one is allowed to make the SAME joke if they’re NOT part of the circle? Let me invite you into the circle for a moment.

Those of us in the south know what we’re seen as. There are parts of our history that are incredibly dirty – rotten to the core, no doubt – and we know that. We know that parts of that history still bubble up to the surface from time to time. We know that we’re a deeply religious region, one aptly named The Bible Belt. We know that you are surprised to hear that we have running water, indoor plumbing, and dental services.

We know that you laugh at how we “overreact” to snow and inclement winter weather.

It’s okay. We laugh a lot too, internally. Inside our circle, it’s not uncommon to hear “The schools are closing” announced across a room full of people and hear groans and moans, normally two or three days prior to any snow ever touches the ground. We smile and laugh at how predictions of ice prompt the grocery stores to empty their shelves of bread and milk. (Why bread and milk?)

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Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, one time I made Bryan go to the store before an inclement storm hit (I think this was tornado season, not cold weather), and he literally ONLY bought bread and milk. So we sat there and stared at each other, wondering how we would feed ourselves and our children should the unspeakable happen.

But here’s what you need to know about the south: we have had some terrible, terrible weather things happen. I’ve lived in the true south since I was nine years old, and I can’t tell you how many tornado warnings I’ve huddled through, how many blizzards we’ve suffered, and how many floods we’ve endured. We have gorgeous weather too, no doubt, but we have some terrible weather.

We are largely unprepared for cold weather. It’s true. You can laugh at how each town may have one salt truck, because we laugh at that too. We cancel schools in advance of potential ice storms or abnormally cold temperatures. We do that because the south is largely underprivileged. A large – startlingly large – percent of our population lies below the poverty line. Even children that are not considered poverty or below may not have proper cold weather gear. Our power lines run above ground. Our power grids are not meant to sustain our population at temperatures below freezing for any length of time.

Here’s the backstory you don’t know about that: our weather forecast for the last two days predicted cold temperatures and a light dusting of snow. That was it. There was no mention of ice, and even our most trustworthy and seasoned meteorologists admitted that no accumulation of snow was expected. The chance of precipitation was 0%.

As a result, we sent all of our salt trucks/utility trucks/help south of us, where the majority of the storm was supposed to it. The coast line was bracing for the brunt of the wintry mix, so we sent all of our resources down there.

To help them. That’s what we do in the south.

When a surprise blizzard hit, it wasn’t that we were ignorant in preparing. The storm was sudden and without warning. No one realized it was coming. When the severity of the storm became apparent, folks did what we normally do in weather situations – they headed out to pick up their kids. The storm’s intensity was so strong and so fast-moving that people were literally iced in their cars as they drove. The pictures you see out of Birmingham, AL or Atlanta, GA are not reasons to mock. They are your neighbors, stuck in their cars without food, water, or life-saving medications. They are your parents, landlocked in their vehicle with not enough gas to keep them warm. They are your children, terrified on school buses that had no chance of getting them home.

It is not a joke. It is my community.

Many – HUNDREDS – of drivers in the south slept in their cars last night, unable to make it to any meaningful shelter. Children slept on school buses while parents prayed that their child was safe, warm, and accounted for. Fervent pleas for help flew across my many social media circles – the circles I joined after we were left helpless from the tornadoes of 2011 – for supplies of insulin, bottled water, and blankets.

So before you consider cracking a joke about rednecks not being able to handle the winter weather, remember that the south sent a good amount of aid and supplies and resources north when Hurricane Sandy hit. See, we aren’t prepared for winter weather because we don’t get it all that often down here. But we know that not everyone is as tornado-ready as we are, so we’re happy to lend a hand. Our local Red Cross and utilities companies dispatch en masse whenever there’s a disaster that we’re too familiar with. We know how terrifying it is to find yourself helpless against the elements, so we are always quick to offer a warm blanket and a hug along with whatever else we have to share.

There are times that I’m not proud of how some of my Southern family may hold themselves, but they are still my family. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find your way into the circle too – you look like you could use some sweet tea, bless your heart.

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Resolution Update for My Non-Existent Resolutions

<<Well, here is where I was going to embed a video of SNL’s video “Resolution Revolution”, but Hulu is being troublesome and HEY, that’s why we won’t cancel DirecTV yet. GET IT TOGETHER, INTERNET TV.>>

ANYWAY, the gist of the song is that everyone makes these really crazy resolution – I’ll give up smoking! No more booze for me! I’m only gonna exercise and eat well FOREVER! – and then they get about two weeks into the new year and realize that yeah, no.

(This is why I form a To-Do list for the year. It seems more manageable and realistic.)

But! I have decided that while I’m completing said To-Do list, I’d also like to not be as fat. It’s this weird thing I have, where I’m tired of being FAT ALL OF THE TIME. Yes, I just had a baby, blah blah blah but JUST is seven months ago and you know? I’d like to be able to wear SOME of my spring clothes that I already have instead of having to buy MORE clothes because I’m too FAT.

So I’ve been INSANELY good. Look at what I’ve done!

I’m logging every single calorie that enters my gaping maw. Upon recommendation from the most trustworthy experts (i.e. my twitter friends), I downloaded the LoseIt app and I have to say – I love it. I had good success with SparkPeople back in the day, but that was before smartphones and widely available apps, and having to log in to a REAL LIVE DATABASE every time I ate was a hassle. But this app! This app is amazing. 1) It has a huge selection of already entered foods. 2) YOU CAN SCAN BARCODES. I literally pick up a pack of anything, scan the barcode, and the corresponding nutritional data is logged. You guys – this is straight up sorcery. It’s very Hogwarts up in my diet. I’ve been doing this religiously since Jan. 1, and I’ve gone over my daily calorie budget exactly three times. Three. (It’s worth mentioning that exercise gives you bonus calories to use, so days that I went over most likely mean I didn’t eat well and/or I didn’t move a lot.) Most days, I’m way, way under. It’s a free app, and I highly recommend it. There’s a paid, “premium” version that I’ll be signing up for when my replacement FitBit gets here – they integrate seamlessly. Speaking of FitBit..

I’m using our stairs. My job CAN be very sedentary, and the FitBit was a great motivator to remind me to get up and move. When I wore it. Which I tended NOT to do. I dunno – it was uncomfortable on my wrist? I type a LOT at work, so things on my wrist tend to bother me. (I can wear a watch without issue, which is odd. But the FitBit really, really bothered me.) My work has incentive points we get awarded through the year, and I used some of mine to order a FitBit One, which can be worn in a pocket or on my bra, so I have high hopes for that. BACK TO THE STAIRS THING. I sit on the 5th floor of my building, so the idea of only using the stairs can be daunting and easy to fail. So I’m sticking to the following:

  • If I’m going downstairs, I can only use the stairs. (If I’m carrying a lot of stuff, I may bend this rule. I’m a klutz on stairs.)
  • For two weeks, I use a lower floor for entry and exit. For example, I just finished my first week of using the 4th floor. I ride the elevator to the 4th floor and take the stairs up from there. One more week on the 4th floor, and then I use the 3rd floor for two weeks. By the time Lent rolls around, I should be using ONLY stairs.
  • I’m giving up the office elevator for Lent. (Again, barring safety hazards.)

I’m drinking entirely too much water for one human/non-camel. Part of my “reading more” to-do chore for 2014 is reading a book that outlines 52 little changes you can make to your life that will add up over time, and the first one was hydration. It had some fancy math calculation about how much water you should drink and mine added up to be 90-100 oz a day. THAT IS A LOT OF WATER, GUYS. However, since I spent New Year’s Day passing a kidney stone, I’ve gone whole hog on this one. I carry around a 30 oz bottle of water and refill it AT LEAST three times a day. (I also spend a lot of steps getting to and from the bathroom, because MAN. SO MUCH PEEING.)

I’m planning meals weekly and cooking every night. This is not a 100% thing – but we’ve gone from eating out 5 nights a week (I am ashamed, but this is entirely true) to cooking 5-6 nights a week. It’s a PAIN IN THE REAR, but I’ve SO missed us gathering around a table to something that I’ve made for them. (Except for the night that we made the two oldest boys eat ONE bite of potato and they both spontaneously vomited. I’M NOT EVEN EXAGGERATING. Bryan and I just silently sat there, then cleaned up and sat back down to eat.)

So here’s the big reveal – the part where someone has outlined their plans and their efforts and they tell you the big result where you can see the payoff.. DRUMROLL PLEASE….

…. NOTHING. NOT A FREAKING THING. I feel like crap, I’m exhausted in every way, and I’ve GAINED TWO POUNDS.

HAPPY FRICKIN’ NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

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Maybe You Can Go Home Again.

I had an amazing day on Sunday, and I wanted to write it down before I forgot how truly spectacular it was.

It didn’t really start well. Vinnie is STILL battling ear infections – he’s had them nonstop since the beginning of November! – and he’s got teeth coming in right smack in the middle of a developmental phase.. so basically, he’s a hot, unhappy mess.

Sidenote: an interesting thing happens when go from two kids to three. You suddenly can’t parent in a man-to-man defense kind of way, which is how we’ve operated for five years. No, suddenly, you’re thrust into a zone defense, and that means that there is never a break. Ever. Someone is always suffering, and someone always is in need of being tagged out. The bench never gets warm.

So the weekend itself was rough. Tony’s overtired, Jack is very clearly thirteen now, and Vinnie is the aforementioned hot mess. We’re all exhausted and edgy and 4/5 of us are not even fit to clean up after ourselves. (GUESS WHICH PART OF THE FRACTION I AM. GUESS.)

Anyway, we had a birthday party scheduled on Sunday afternoon.

I had hoped to get at least a shower prior to the party since, you know, other moms and whatnot, but that was not meant to be. So I reeked of Desitin and spit-up and burned orange rolls because it had been THAT kind of morning. And we were running a little late and I just knew that I had pulled the short straw when I volunteered to take Tony to this party.

Except – it was awesome.

The weather – for mid-January, even in Alabama – was AMAZING. Easily 60 degrees and sunny. And once we got into the van, I realized – there was no baby yelling in my ear. There was no noise outside of the occasional discussion about heaven and dying and how do you get bacon in heaven since there’s no killing in heaven and pigs OBVIOUSLY go to heaven so how, Momma?

We got to the party, and there were two of my high school friends, one of which I haven’t seen in YEARS. Here we are, back in the day:

Don’t we look awesome? A hippie from WAY-back.

On one of our MANY, MANY choir tour trips.

The most awesome thing is that she? LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THIS EVEN STILL. She’s so gorgeous! Intimidatingly gorgeous!

But the thing about Catherine is that she is so sweet. She’s always been this way. She’s so approachable and fun and she’s now a teacher and she married her high school sweetheart (who I kind of work with, so I see him a lot) and it’s so cool to see that we grew into the best parts of who we were when we were young.

Talking to her through the party, while our kids ran around together, MADE MY DAY. We laughed about old friends, we talked about our present lives, we commiserated over being a mom in this world.

Being a mom – especially a working mom – can be so very isolating. I don’t know about every working mom, but I feel like I personally try and put on a different facade at work: I don’t mind if you know I’m a mom (I mean, I love my kids and they’re all over my desk), but I want you to see me as a productive member of the team first. As such, you’re not a Mom at work. Which is fine .. I prefer this.

But at home, you’re ONLY Mom. You walk in the door after an eight nine ten hour day to start cooking dinner and get homework going and get the laundry started while you’re making the baby’s dinner and unloading the dishwasher and you know this routine. You know it. So you’re not an employee here. Which is fine .. I prefer this.

Having said all this, when do you get to be everything? Apparently at a kid’s birthday party, where you get to catch up with one of your high school BFFs.

Icing on the Sunday cake: I needed to run into the store for one thing (ONE THING – I had grabbed the wrong kind of soup earlier that day while grocery shopping) and with just one kid? You just run into the store and then you’re done. It’s the most mind-blowing thing. No cart-wrangling and diaper bag and baby carrier and timing. None of that. You just do what you need to do and leave.

Last night, when Tony and I were hanging out after dinner, he asked if he could color a picture. “For that boy,” he said. “From the party. He was older than me? But he was really nice? I want to color a picture for him.”

Catherine’s boy. The next generation must carry on our shenanigans.

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