Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Stars Have Aligned, Hopefully

     Boy, I hope the stars really do align in 2020-2021!     
I got my planner for next year yesterday.  Brand-new planners have always made me a little light-headed with excitement.  There's something about all those blank pages, those clean and open squares and grids.  So much potential!

I remember the optimism I felt last year, when my 2019-2020 planner arrived.  It was right around this time of year last summer.  I pulled out the 2019-2020 school calendar and set to color-coding notable dates in the school-year: early dismissals, appointments, days off, vacations.  Oh my goodness, I remember thinking 2020 was going to be SO MUCH BETTER!!! than 2019 was.

And we all know how that worked out, don't we, Friends?

The theme of my 2019-2020 Pipsticks Planner was "Stay Golden." If you know your Robert Frost and your S.E. Hinton, you know that nothing gold[en] can stay.  All good things must come to an end.  

Also things that must come to an end are shit-shows like 2019-2020, if you want me to be absolutely blunt about it, and I think you do, otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this particular blog.  

So I had forgotten which Pipsticks planner I chose for 2020-2021, so when I opened that envelope yesterday and saw a silver-spangled blue cover with shades and the words "THE STARS HAVE ALIGNED," I took a sharp inhale and uttered let's hope so, Jacko.

I'm almost afraid to dive in and start filling in my 2020-2021 planner.  I did a real bang-up job of it in 2019-2020 with color codes, stickers, delightfully colored-in days for special occasions.  It was really amazing from August 2019 until Mid-March 2020 to open that planner up to the appropriate week, and see my plans in full color and festive stickers.  And then it all went to shit, didn't it?  

I'm not sure, but I wonder if part of my despair during the shut-down didn't have to do with watching each beautiful color-coded plan after March 13th turn to ash and get carried off in the wind.  It sounds silly, but plans are part of routines for me.  I am very routine-driven.  And each day on the calendar that did NOT go the way it was supposed to was a crumb of my routine that was shutting down.  And of course, there were more questions than answers, no income.  Dump truck loads of uncertainty.  

I sit here looking at "The Stars Have Aligned," and I'm wondering if maybe I hadn't ought to wait a little bit before I go planner-happy, filling in the squares and coloring in days off from school.  Maybe if I go into this next little stretch of time tragically underprepared, everything will go off as planned for all of us.  After all, I've really been working on being okay with focusing on the tasks at hand, right ahead of me, instead of spooling out Far Into The Future, ever since this pandemic hit.  


On the other hand, it's either extremely hopeful or wildly insane to get out my stickers, markers, and colored pencils and set to recording.  To trust that maybe the stars really have aligned, and 2020-2021 is going to be Better. I think I'm gonna do it.  Get that planner all marked up.

After all, I feel like my personal brand is mostly "insanely hopeful."

So come on, Stars.  Don't let us down now!

Monday, July 13, 2020


If we have to school from home again in 2020-2021, I'm ready, Babies!   

The other day, we were over at a good friend's house, and he asked my daughter if she was looking forward to going back to school.  

"Not really," she said.

And I get it.  

She and I were in Target the other day.  Back-to-School was in the store.  Shiny new school unis, shiny new school supplies.  

This is the first year since 1983 that I have not felt pure, unadulterated joy at the sight of BTS.  In fact, I felt like I do every winter, when I've gone across the wool carpet in our family room and flipped the light switch.  I get zapped.  And two weeks into winter, every year, I get a little flinchy as I go through this process, walking across the carpet and flipping on the light.  So that feeling, with sorrow and dread stirred gently in.  That's how I felt the other day, seeing the Back-To-School displays at Target.  

Well, because I got attached to 2019-2020.  It started out with a lot of promise.  There was a lot to love about 2019-2020.  And then, four months ago to.day., and has it really only been 4 months?!, it all just went straight to hell.  Didn't even go on a ride in a hand-basket, either.  

You lived it, too, Friends.  I don't need to reminisce about how precious we were prior to 3:09 PM on March 13.  

I know things aren't going to be so precious come Back to School 2020.   

I think my daughter's a little bit afraid of getting attached to the ritual and routine, for fear it'll be ripped from us again come October, November.  I'm afraid myself of getting attached to the year, attached to my daughter's classroom, school events, friends, teachers... she's supposed to be in Third Grade this year.  It's the year she becomes an official Medium-Sized Kid.  That's something that should be magical.  I've looked forward to Third Grade (kind of- because who doesn't love a toothless little kindergartener?) since she went to school.  

I think we're both a little afraid of getting attached to Third Grade, wondering if there's a good chance it'll all get ripped away from us again.

I wonder if there'll ever be a time again when we can just take for granted the little thrill of excitement a display of new school supplies used to call up, and if we'll ever be able to take for granted again the routine and rhythm of a normal school-year.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Second Place Most Unique

I'm weirder than average, but not weird enough to be top-dog weird, apparently!

One time, I took my 1970 Big Bad Orange AMC Gremlin to a car show full of Mustangs, Camaros, Street Rods, Hot Rods, Rest-Mods, tractors, trucks...

I was the only Gremlin there.  And if you know anything at all about Gremlins, they're adorably weird little cars from the 70s.  Having one in Big Bad Orange REALLY sets a kid apart, I'll tell you.

I won a trophy, too, that day!  Second Place Most Unique.  My weird little orange car from the 70s won Second Place most unique.  Got beat by a motorcycle that looks like all the motorcycles you'll ever find on the road!

Not that I begrudge the motorcyclist who beat me for Most Unique at this show.  I don't.  I know that to a motorcycle owner, every motorcycle is a unique and beautiful chromed butterfly.  I like motorcycles! 

But Second Place Whatever is kind of the story of my whole damn life, if you want to know the God's-Honest Truth.  I feel sometimes like I might not be people's first choice for whatever, but I'll do all right enough.

I kind of thought I had being Unique down to an art, really.  Right down to my weird little orange car.  So yeah, I kind of took it personally when I got Second Place Most Unique, second to a motorcycle that seemed unique only in that it was one of few motorcycles at a show full of cars.  It was hard to keep it separate that the Second Place Most Unique was awarded to my car, not to me as a person.  It wasn't an indictment on my uniqueness as an individual on this planet.  For all I know, the owner of the motorcycle that beat my Gremlin could have been the most quotidian person on the planet.  A beige couch in a showroom of beige couches.  

And I am probably not that.  

I didn't used to want to be unique.  Unique meant a nice way of saying a someone or something was weird.  I didn't want to be weird.  I just wanted to fit in.  Of course I did.  I was a kid with big red hair, and a habit of getting lost in a dictionary or encyclopedia and spending hours alone in my room, pondering.  I always had an outsized vocabulary.  I always felt like I was mailed to the wrong address.

I just wanted to fit in.

The older I got, the more sharply I realized that fitting in was not an option for me, actually.  The red hair doesn't exactly make it easy for me to fit in, to blend in.  I see things from odd angle.  I still feel most of the time that I've been mailed to the wrong address.  

But the thing about fitting in, as we learned from Tetris, is that once you fit in, you disappear.  

So I learned to make peace with being Unique. But apparently I'm not too awfully unique.  I wouldn't win a unique contest.  I'm not unique for the sake of being unique, weird for the sake of being weird.  But I am me.  I'm unique enough.  

I don't need a trophy to prove that!  And neither does my weird little orange car!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Week's Second-Runner-Up!

  Tuesday is seriously the week's Second Runner-Up!   
As a kid, I remember watching the Miss America Pageant every year.  This was back in the '80s, and for a little girl, that pageant was a visual delight of big hair and even bigger evening gowns.  Like half a hundred life-size Barbie Dolls on parade.

It was always so exciting when they'd narrow the field down to the top ten, and then the top five.

And then they'd announce the runners up.  Third and Fourth Runners-up probably have their own disappointments to contend with, but on the merciful side of looking, their baited breath gets to be let out a lot sooner. But they at least get their applause for being Third and Fourth Runners-Up.  

It must really stink to be First Runner-Up, because that applause isn't for you; in a top-five situation, when they announce the other four runners-up, you    know that applause isn't because you got First Runner-Up. It's because that bitch in the enormous sequined dress with the Dynasty shoulder pads Freakin' Won.   Yeah, if she falls and hits her head or gets caught posing or Playboy durning her reign, you'd get to wear the crown, but otherwise, you're a footnote.  

At least there's a pretty good chance, and some precedents that First Runners Up have ascended to Queen status.  

The one that I think of often is Second Runner-Up.  Too high up in the rankings to be a loser, too low to be a winner.  I don't think there's ever been a time when a Second Runner-Up winds up having the crown and sash passed to her on a technicality.  

Tuesday is the work week's Second Runner-Up, I have always thought.  Not obnoxious enough to unseat Monday from Most Complained About Day of the Week.  But compared to Friday and all its fun, Tuesday is never going to hold the title of Favorite Day of the Week, probably.  Wednesday gets to be Miss Congeniality, I'm pretty sure.   

Tuesday is usually fairly productive, because workers have shaken off the weekend wiggles on Monday.  Gotten all that out of their systems.  It lacks the excitement and anticipation Of Thursday.  Thursday is First Runner-Up, because I'm not sure if we all like it because of itself, or because Friday is the very next day.  Most people won't make eye contact with Tuesday.

Maybe Tuesday would feel like less of a smack in the middle of the pack loser of the weekly contest of popularity if she put on some sequins.  Maybe WE should put on the sequins on Tuesdays.  It won' t make Tuesday into Friday, but it'll give that day a little run for its money, for sure!  

Friday, July 3, 2020


Listen, Journal- You're really asking some heavy questions lately!
I've never been one much for journaling, especially not the guided-journal variety.  Weird, I know.  But recently I got my hands on a Mindset journal from a Facebook Ad, and I look forward to working on my journal pages every day.

The other day, the Big Question of the Day was "How do you want to be remembered?  Why do you want this to be your legacy?"

The three things I chose were: 
My Sense of Humor
My Wisdom
My Heart

I want my Sense of humor to be part of my legacy because I think it's a great gift to be able to find the humor and laugh, and I think it is an even greater gift to lead the others to the laughter, especially in times of darkness and tense moments.  

I know the Wisdom is a weird bounce for me, given my propensity for negative self-talk.  But the thing of it is, I've learned a lot of lessons, and I've learned a lot of them the hard way.  I like to pass those lessons on, and if I can do that, at least those lessons could go on.  

And I want to be remembered for my Heart.  I love hard.  I laugh loud.  I worry about the people I love.  When I cry, it comes from my soul.  Sometimes, I love that I have a big heart on my sleeve, and others, I hate it.  But it's what I have.  Everything I do, whether it's perceived as good, bad, or indifferent, my heart was in the right place, and it was all in.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Getting Out of My Own Way

This is how it looks when I don't get in my own way!  
At the beginning of June, I filled out my workout rotation calendar for the month and decided that I was going to go to the gym every single day, all thirty days.  

I've made bold plans like this one before, many times.  Things always get in the way.  A late night will derail the next day's workout.  Or I'll sleep in too long and ditch the gym.  Sometimes I catch a cold and opt not to exercise, because, you know, "when you're sick, rest is best!"  And do I ever milk "rest is best" when I have even a slight head-cold.  

I had planned on working out all the days in April and May this year, too.  That was during the thick of Pandemic Purgatory, and I had nowhere to go during those two months.  I almost had April in the bag, and then got in a funk and fell to the bottom of the Bell Jar that last week, so I missed fourteen days- the whole last week of April and the entire first week of May.  Nothing holding me back but stinkin' thinkin', honestly. 

Killed two month's perfection birds with one trip to the bottom of the Bell Jar, I did.  In the moment in those two weeks, I told myself I was burnt out and just needed time to heal myself mentally.  I wasn't sick.  I just felt drained and sad and depressed.  It felt kind of good, getting up at 5AM and just getting around for the day.  It was still cold at the end of April, the beginning of May, and there's something about being wrapped up in a warm sweater, drinking coffee and watching the sky turn pink in those earliest hours of the day.

Except I am convinced that those two weeks of being sedentary undid all the progress I'd clawed out for myself since December.  And mentally, I felt foggy, sluggish, as though I was swimming around in murky water.  I did feel a zillion times better when I started back up in the gym in May, which made me all the more irked with myself for the two-week staycation.
Hitting this goal is about more than just the workouts!  

June needed to be different in that I needed desperately not to fall victim to excuses.  So I scheduled myself for a workout a day.  I've scheduled myself solid for every day in a month before, lots of times, like I said.  But this time, I was DETERMINED to stick to it.  I don't think I've ever actually followed through like that before, at least, not in recent memory.  And I did it.

It kind of surprised me, though.  Usually when I set a goal, I do it already knowing I'm going to let myself down. You've seen how negative my self-talk can be, even with people looking, here on the blog.  I expect to fall short and fail. There were mornings that I dilly-dallied once I got down to the gym.  But I always started the DVD and saw it through to the end. 

I don't think it made a lick of difference in my appearance, but it did make a huge impact on my confidence.  I set a goal.  I followed through, and I accomplished it.  I got out of my own way!

I finally really understand "You never know what you can do until you try."

I know I won't be able to get 100% in July.  But I am already planning to get 30 workouts in during this month.  I feel like the best way to follow up hitting a big goal is to set another one, after all!  Maybe eventually, I'll get good at this!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Stronger Than This!

Maybe the days of demolishing one of these in under a week are behind me.
So about a month ago, we went to Sams Club for the first time Since, and while the husband was dashing around, selecting items his dentist office needed to reopen, my daughter and I had the cart for buying items for home.

For whatever reason, I pointed our cart to the Candy Aisle.  Most of the time, I can walk past that area of Sams with merely a wistful glance.  I know those aisles are full of things that are the nutritional equivalent of the guy who's a good-lookin' asshole: fun to be with for a moment, but just really bad, bad, bad for a gal's mental health, sense of self-worth, and overall general well-being.  And usually, I can resist because I KNOW there's nothing good about heeding the sugary siren call of the Candy Aisle.  It's just that on this particular day, I felt as though I'd somehow earned a stroll down through those shelves.

"Mommy," Zoe said as we headed down this path to perdition.  "I think this is a bad idea!"

"Nah," I said.  "We'll be okay.  I'm not gonna go nuts or anything."

Right the, I tipped that bright yellow 24-bag box of Peanut M&Ms into the cart and scanned the barcode.

"Mommy!" Zoe said, her eyes as big as full-size Peppermint Patties.  "mmmmmWHAT are you doing?!"

"Mind your business," I said, and casually rolled us out of the Candy Aisle.

Zoe had a bag or two of those M&Ms.  Within a week, I had devoured the other 22 bags.  

On one level, it's funny, because for someone who can put away candy like I do, I don't show it too much.  I'm pretty much as average as it gets- slightly on the heavy side.  Chubby. 

However, what makes it Really Not Funny is that I work out every day.  Remember my post from yesterday?  I worked out 100% of the days in June.  I usually work out at least 80% of the days in any given month.  The thing of it is, I do NOT look like I work out at all.  I'm as average-looking as average-looking gets.  I am pre-obese, according to my smartass scales.  I have been called chubby.  

This isn't okay with me. 

And while I was in a Skills Lab with my Health Coach lab-partner last Saturday, we were laughing about my bad habit concerning Nutella, and these very damn M&Ms, when all of a sudden, she stopped laughing and said, in a very nurse-tone of voice (she's a nurse in her life outside coaching), "April-girl, you are stronger than that Nutella, you know.  You are stronger than whatever it is that makes you want to hide in the closet and eat a quart of Nutella and a retail box of Peanut M&Ms.  You are stronger than this."

Not many things stop me cold, but this did.  It stopped me in the moment, and it has given me reason to pause at many points throughout the days since Saturday.

I am stronger than this.

The M&Ms are long-gone from my house (but not my hips!).  The Nutella is still here.  And I've had moments where I really wanted a big spoon of it.  And I have thought, and said out loud to myself, 

I am stronger than this!

I am stronger than this.  

You know what?  I believe it this time, and I am going to live as though I'm stronger than whatever makes me want to eat all the sweets in sight.  I'm tired of being the "short, chubby girl."  With the work I put in at the gym, I think I've earned the right to look like the "short girl who could bench-press a Mercedes."  So that's who I'm going to start treating myself like.  And see where that takes me.  I think that girl would demand a little more respect from herself and others than I generally settle for.  

I.  Am.  Stronger.  Than.  THIS!