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Archive for April, 2010

My husband and I will be celebrating eight years in our house this coming summer.  That’s coming up on the longest time I’ve lived at any one address, if memory serves.  Hard to keep track when you’ve spent so much time bundled from post to post as an Air Force brat.

It’s nice being a homeowner.  You can paint the living room whatever color you want, and put nails in the wall where ever you want.  Don’t need the landlord’s permission to rip out the carpet and put in tile, or change the locks on the door.  You also don’t need to scrounge the couch for just one more quarter to do laundry, because you have a washer and dryer under the stairs.  There’s also that nice little tax write off of all the interest you’ve paid to your mortgage holder.  Owning a home is probably the one single investment most American adults can manage that will likely make them some money, in the long run.

Of course, in the short run, we’re presently “under water,” as they say in the mortgage business, having re-fied our house a few years ago when the values were high and the rates were low (at least, lower than what our original loan was).  Now, well, like so many others out there, we’re stuck here until the values come back up (they will, eventually – real estate always does), or until we win the lottery, which ever comes first.  I’m hoping for the lottery because it could mean getting out of Southern California sooner, but that’s just me.  Fortunately, we’re not in any serious danger of losing the house at this point, so we’re a little better off than so many others I read about in the news every day.  Though I’m happy to clear the roads of traffic so those who’ve been screwed by the mortgage industry can have their protest march and burn the CEOs in effigy, since burning the real CEOs would create too much really stinky pollution.

So, since we’re going to be here for awhile, my husband and I have a list of improvement projects we’ve decided to start working on.  See, that’s another joy of home ownership – the do it yourself projects.  Like any good Harley owner, just like there’s always something to be done on your bike, so there is too always something to be done on your house.  Theoretically, we can do most of them ourselves, but, as I’ve learned this last weekend, theory and practice don’t always meet in the middle.

After handling some minor things (paint a wall, put up some shelves), and with summer roaring upon us, I decided it was time to service the sprinkler system.  The system came with the house, and we have since discovered it was likely put in by the former owner, who fancied himself a DIY maven.  We have also since discovered he was not so much.  The first couple years it seemed to work okay, though we always had this dead spot in the middle of the front yard by the middle of the summer.  Water got there, sort of, but it’s also one of those spots that’s in full sunlight most of the day, and when it’s 100 degrees out for weeks at a time, those poor little blades have no chance.

The last couple summers, we ended up with a striped lawn, green strips divided by brown strips because the water just wasn’t reaching as far as it needed to.  That really annoyed me, one: because it just looked tacky, and, two: it proved we weren’t managing our grounds as well as we could.  So this past weekend I cracked the whip on my husband and we went out to the back yard to try and figure the mess out.  What I thought would be just a couple hours of cleaning heads and adjusting sprays not only turned out to be a seven hour marathon of frustration, but a lesson in just how much we didn’t know about sprinklers.

We actually hadn’t had the system on in a couple months because we’ve had unusual amounts of rain for our area over the winter and it just seemed silly to run the sprinklers in the middle of that.  So when it came time to clean heads, well, we had to find them first.  Most of them had been buried by the over-zealous patch of meadow land known as our back yard, so off I went with a weed digger to root them out, while hubby followed behind weed-whacking.  Then he pulled each head and I cleaned them out with a blast of water.  Leaving the nozzles off, we ran each bank of sprinklers to blow any crap out of them, then we put the nozzles back on.  Then we tested each bank.  The first one actually looked okay.  The second two banks looked like a before picture for a landscape company ad.  I was crushed.

Of course, by that time, we were both so tired and grumpy, and it was all we could do to keep from setting some C4 and calling it good.  So we decided to do some research and tackle the front yard next weekend – less heads and more experience may equal a better result.  If not, I’ll just blast the whole damn thing to dirt and wait until we win the lottery so I can call that landscape company to give us their after picture.

Ah, the joys of home ownership.

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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I’ve recently learned my BMI, that dastardly number health care professionals and diet gurus fixate on, is 42.  In another setting, that would be the answer to life, the universe and everything, but in this particular case it just means I’m well into that category known as morbidly obese.  Not just hefty, overweight, chubby, or fat but that all-out, off-the-charts, holy crap category.  I should have know something was wrong when the scale yelled “One at a time!”

Coupled that with the joy of seeing some recent pictures of myself, it was all I could do to keep from blacking out all the windows and disconnecting the phone.  But the weird thing is, I don’t feel morbidly obese.  Being six feet tall and having some substantial muscle under all this flab, I’ve been able to get away with carrying more than I should for quite some time now.  Like, since birth, which saw a darling, curly dark haired little girl of 19 inches and 8lbs., 8ozs. enter the world.  Given that my mother smoked through the entire pregnancy (it was a much different time and attitude way back then), it’s kind of scary to think what size I might have been had Mom followed the modern-era regime.

I have always been a little skeptical of the medical community’s definitions of “healthy” weights.  Under the BMI system, they have found that many professional football players, bodybuilders and Olympic weight lifters are considered morbidly obese.  These are people who are generally solid muscle and perform at the extreme edge of human endurance, so I’m not finding the whole BMI thing a true measure.  There are so many more factors to take into consideration than just a height vs. weight ratio that should determine if someone is healthy or not.  Things that I believe should be included in an overview is the percentage body fat, base line vitals, blood sugar, and the heart’s aerobic response time.  Even at my gawd-awful size, my heart rate can go from 130 to 80 in less than a minute, which is supposed to be pretty damn good.

Being blessed with good genetics, I suppose, is my best defense.  My cholesterol is so totally within normal, my doctor read the test three times, and my blood sugar is exactly where it’s supposed to be.  I have no pressing medical problems of the ilk that someone of my size would normally be experiencing right about now.  Yet another reason why it’s a good thing I’m not normal.  Not that I’m trying to justify being nearly twice the size I should be.  I’m merely pointing out that there are a lot more factors to consider than what the professionals think they should.

But the truth is, I’m starting to feel the affects of carrying around this much flab.  My joints ache more, I get winded just walking up the stairs, and my blood pressure has been edging steadily up.  Still not to the danger zone, but definitely an indicator that the body is starting to protest.  It’s time to banish the fat while I’m still healthy enough to do something about it without having to take some of the more drastic measures out there.  It is a hard road to walk, because we humans are generally a lazy lot and want that magical quick fix.  But, despite the claims of the multi-billion dollar diet industry out there, there is no such thing.  The One True Way is to get off my fat ass and make some lifestyle changes.

We have a treadmill now in the house, and I’ve been trying to walk at least three times a week for 30 minutes at a time, at least here in the beginning.  Running has been officially banned by my orthopedist (artificial knees don’t like high-impact things), but my long legs are capable of a pretty fast walk, and the treadmill can go up to a 12% grade, so I should be able to do some good there.  Plus my husband and I have decided that, while we are not serious junk food eaters (anymore) and have successfully reduced most of our portion sizes, we can still do better with our diet so we’re going to plan a meal-by-meal menu that will focus on higher protein and less carbs.  Later I’ll add in some weight training and stretching and strengthening exercises.  It’s a long journey I embark upon – probably up to two years to get to the weight I want (which is still more than the doctors’ charts say, but me at a 153 lbs. would make Kate Bosworth look positively Rubanesque by comparison) – but it is a necessary one.  I’m done being fat, let alone morbidly obese.

And while the world would have us think it’s not our fault – sue McDonald’s because their food is too fattening, protest the school district because of soda machines in the cafeteria, blame the boss for working you too hard so you just don’t have any steam left for your kids at night – the truth is exactly that.  It IS our fault.  It is MY fault.  My decisions brought me to this point because I chose to be lazy and eat the wrong foods.  My actions are the only thing that can reverse it.

So you can allow yourself to be a victim and blame the fast food industry and your addiction to World of Warcraft for that big, fat ass you sit on.  Or you can accept your decisions and your mistakes and make the changes necessary for a healthier life.  It won’t be easy.  But in the long run, it will most certainly be worth it.

© 2010   Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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Each of us has moments during any given day that remind us of something else.  Sights, sounds, textures, tastes and – supposedly the strongest trigger of all – smells that send us on mini time trips to our past.  Usually only for a split second or two, but sometimes for a little longer, and on occasion for hours or even days.  We look back on the good and the bad and try to figure out why that particular memory was dragged out of long term storage.  Most of the time it’s easy to figure out, because we’ve flashed back to a time when our life was simpler or happier.  Every now and then, it takes a little more to figure out.

A flash of color reminds me of the flag corps from college marching band.  The flight of a large plane over the house brings back the sultry days of living next to Sheppard AFB in Texas.  The brush of wool across my arm sends flashes of thanks for the heavy band uniforms from my high school days when we played the half-time show of some college bowl game in what felt like near absolute zero temperatures.  The zing of alcohol sending me back to the Long Island ice teas at lunch in college with the one guy I would have dropped everything for.  A whiff of something as I drive that gives me visions of the mosquito fogging trucks that drove through the neighborhoods of my childhood.

Bits and pieces of a world from long ago, of moments that only have a connection to the here and now because they are part of me.  Some of them I remember fondly (marching band and that guy from college) and some of them I wish would have stayed in their dark cells (why the hell am I remembering the mosquito trucks?!?).  At a time in my life when my once-nearly-eidetic memory and my once-powerfully-focused ability to concentrate have both run willy-nilly out the door, I’m having flash backs to a child hood long lost.

And that, in and of itself, may actually be the answer.  Perhaps the subconscious is trying to make a connection to a time when the memory and the concentration hadn’t abandoned me, in the hopes that it can jump-start a revival.  See?  This is what you used to be able to do.  That means it’s still in you somewhere.  Just dig it out from under all that other crap. Of course, always easier said than done.

All that other crap is the product of years of existence, with more and more information filling up the hard drive and no defragging program in sight.  I’m a Commodore 64 in an iPad world.  Pardon me while I change out the tape and pick up the punch cards.

The funny thing about memory is that it never really leaves you.  The problem becomes quick access, not storage.  If I stop and think about a specific time, or talk about it with family or friends, more and more details will come out.  But the rapid retrieval system doesn’t work so well on its own anymore.  More pressing business holds the forefront, while the little details of life long ago wait patiently somewhere in the dungeons of my mind.  The whole problem is partly a function of age (the longer you live, the more that you try to stuff into your head), the side affects of medication, and the ever-increasing slide into that second Change of Life all women go through.

It’s nice to remember the simpler times.  Didn’t have to worry about bills, deadlines, grocery lists, laundry, job hunting, dysfunctional lawn sprinklers, and all those other wonderful things being an adult brings.  The world was so big and the future so bright.  Sometimes the temptation to stay in that warm, comforting past, when hope was everything and love the magic bullet, is almost too strong to resist.

But resist I must.

They are merely lessons, reminders of what I was, and still am, capable of doing.  I can’t hide there anymore than I can jump to the Moon, shouldn’t hide there because then I would lose those things I’ve gained since that are so much more precious to me.  Upstairs snores the most wonderful man in the world, my best friend, partner and cohort in crime.  Behind me purrs the grumpy old Siamese, warming that sore spot on my back, a constant companion who doesn’t care about anything but sitting with me.

And down the hall the dryer has just stopped and the laundry summons my presence.  Even that simple, mundane task is a multi-layered reminder:  the smoky haze of the past, the gentle comfort of the present, and the glimpse of a future entirely within my power to build.

It’s amazing how the simple act of folding a towel can make you feel so much better about the world.

© 2010   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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