Monday, May 27, 2013

Living in a Material World

For the first time ever, I find myself in a steady, long-term state of financial stability. We have health insurance, ample living space and savings in the bank. We keep plenty of delicious, nourishing food in our kitchen, including at least one but usually three excellent cheeses. We're paying down debt and using credit cards infrequently. The best part of this life is that money worries rarely trouble me. I know plenty of other people raise multiple kids on way less, so as far as I'm concerned, we're loaded. 

But if we lived according to true middle-class standards, we'd be super broke. Fortunately, I don't care that my 2002 Pontiac Sunfire is the last car in the country with manual locks and windows, because it's paid off and it works. The rent on our century old house is way lower than the mortgage we'd pay on a more solid abode in a superior school district, plus we don't bother with the upkeep. I spend zero money on makeup or hair styling products and tend to wear clothes out before I buy more. If this sounds like a boast, it is, but only insofar that I feel blessed for my indifference. Do I think I'm better or cooler than people who are more concerned with looking good and owning high quality stuff? Not really. I actually envy their ability to blend into society. Maybe I worry less about money, but I bet they worry less about sticking out.

Case in point - the yard sale. I hosted my first one this past weekend and I am never doing that again. The sum of money I made did not justify the long, dull hours spent feeling self-conscious about my freaky-deaky image. Here are some choice social interactions from that affair:

- An elderly lady looked at our five tons of baby stuff for sale and said with apparent confusion, "Aren't you going to have more?" Ugh. 

(p.s. I plan to save a lot of money by having just one kid.)

- A nearby neighbor introduced herself then unleashed her two toddler sons upon the merchandise. My organized porch became a playground swept up in a whirlwind. As the older one grabbed at every brightly colored toy, giving me false hopes for a sale, the younger one tore into all the bagged items before turning my coffee cup upside down upon his shirt. His mom was really embarrassed, especially about the puddle on the porch floor. Perennial renter that I am, caring about that didn't even occur to me. I offered a free boy's shirt for him, but she was really fixated on cleaning the puddle, using his coffee-stained top as a mop. Once clean-up ended, she hastily selected a pair of one dollar maternity shorts, explaining, "They just look so comfortable." But then she didn't have a dollar. So I said, "Oh, just come back later," and there was this weird silence. "You can take the shorts with you," I added, but I think she really wanted me to say, "Oh, just take 'em for free." And I almost did, but a little voice in the back of my head said, "Hell no." As I watched her walk away in her neatly pressed Eddie Bauer ensemble, I had to wonder if this whole thing was one of those weird, elaborate, southern lady mind games I just don't get. 

(p.s. I don't host a yard sale so I can overlook one dollar purchases. Almost everything was priced one dollar.)

- While all that was happening, another neighbor showed up with her tot. We've met a couple times. From her, I get a definite "Why are you talking to me?" vibe, which may be  because I always note with great enthusiasm that our daughters were born one day apart at the same hospital (we all cohabited the maternity ward, it's so magical!!!). I thought, maybe this will be our first normal interaction. But no. After chatting with whirlwind mom for a few, she glanced at a couple maternity shirts and said to me, "Well, I'm gonna keep moving." A simple "goodbye" would have sufficed. 

(p.s. I later noticed that those same shirts - which I'd purchased used and wore throughout my pregnancy - both had armpit stains. AWESOME.) 

-  A first-time expectant grandma rifled through a one dollar bag full of baby socks. "Are all these grouped together? Because these are both boy and girl socks." I replied honestly, "Um, yeah, I never really saw the point in discerning between the two, especially when it comes to socks." 

(p.s. ...or pajamas, or shirts, or pants. The conventional girls' color palate is very limited and why shouldn't she get into football and trucks, too? I know this sounds like obnoxious liberal garbage, but really we're just sick of pink and I forget that cross-dressing my kid confuses other people because I'm tired all the time. Besides, I swear boys' socks are cheaper, you get a whole bunch at once!)

In the end, I was pleased with my profit if I only considered the time spent getting ready for the yard sale. My mistake was expecting the experience itself to be a relaxing, book-filled day in the shade instead of a relentless, six hour reminder that I don't understand how other people value material things. And then I remember that I probably look pretty weird, with my old clothes and my one boy-dressed baby girl and my coffee stained front porch. But I still don't care to change any of that, so I'm not going to think about it. Rather, I will return to a state of blissful, distracted indifference and never, EVER do this again.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"There ain't no such animal."

Upon sharing with me the legend of Kokomo, Indiana's "Old Ben", my mother-in-law dug up this vintage postcard. It is now my favorite fridge ornament. The inscription on the back reads:


At birth, Ben weighed 135 lbs.; 1,800 lbs. at 18 mos.; 4,000 lbs. at the age of 4; and scaled 4,720 lbs. at the time of his death in Feb., 1910. About 8 yrs. old at the time, his height was 6' 4" (at the forequarter), he was 16' 2" long (from tip of tail to end of nose) and his girth was 13' 8".

Ben was raised by Mike and John Murphy on their farm 3 1/2 miles west of Miami, Ind. His sire was a registered Hereford bull and the mother cow a long, rangy, grade shorthorn. Death came at the height of his fame when Ben slipped and fell on some ice, broke his leg and had to be destroyed. The mounted steer was presented to the city of Kokomo by the Murphy brothers in 1919 and placed on display in Highland Park, where it stands as proof to all those who might say, "there ain't no such animal."

Surely Leslie Knope wrote that, am I right?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Riding Rougher Waves

At the beginning of April, I rejoined the P90X class I'd attended in February. It being such a rejuvenating three-hour-a-week beat down, my plan is to keep going forever and ever, amen. I've never felt so fit and I'm definitely seeing results, especially when I look in the general direction of my feet. My biggest challenge is discipline. I've missed several classes, some due to illness and some because I just couldn't get it together that particular morning. Fortunately, the other students are an ongoing inspiration. Those who have stuck with it this whole time are looking extra strong, healthy and hot. I want to be like them.

I'm feeling especially positive about the class since this recent mental breakthrough - the P90X workout totally reminds me of childbirth. Most of the time it's pretty exhausting and painful and there are some moments of excruciating exertion. But then there are the duller, more manageable pains in between, the ones you get on top of and actually savor. Those are your breaks. They're not easy, just easier, and you've got to find them where you can. When we sprint back and forth across the gym, the pivot's the movement that takes the most out of me. Getting past it makes the actual running feel less bad, more do-able. And that's a freaking trip, because I never thought I'd prefer running to any other thing, I hate it so much. In fact, I used to think the only thing worse than running was puking, which I did three times during labor and it was nothing compared to all the other stuff my body was going through at the time... do you see what I'm getting at?

So now that I recognize this ebb-and-flow pain pattern for what is, I'm a little less fearful of going to class. It's funny, one of the main reasons I chose natural childbirth was needing to know I possessed the physical strength. I thought, "If I can do this, I won't ever be afraid of anything at the gym." Well, that hasn't proven true at all and it's just as well. As T the Trainer says, if you want results you should be 40% excited and 60% terrified of working out. When it comes to this gig I'm more 25/75, but I'm improving. Besides, it isn't really about overcoming the fear, it's about developing the tenacity to face it regardless. That's my goal, anyway.