All posts by stacywessels

I was the last girl picked for kickball

Americans have a lot of opinions about the pool of candidates for U.S. president. It’s easy to have a lot of opinions when there are so many people blathering on about how he or she is the right person for the  job. Hardly anyone is saying anything of substance.

I care too much about the process and about the actual election to get too involved in the silly season of early primary posturing. I’m aware of what’s going on because I consume news, and some news outlets really, really want me to know the latest from every campaign. Thank goodness for the mute button on my TV remote.

Through all of it, I can help but wonder if anyone is thinking about the end result. We are electing our PRESIDENT. The man or woman who will represent all of us, all of our interests, all of our priorities to the world. THE WORLD. At a bare minimum, the person we elect should be able to walk, talk and chew gum at the same time. Ideally, the person will be smart – possessing both knowledge and common sense – and personable. The person will understand the importance of tact. Am I the only person who thinks about these things?

The person leading the current media circus and GOP polls is the equivalent of a schoolyard bully. (If you don’t remember the schoolyard bully, chances are you WERE the bully.) The bully is always better than everyone else. The bully is faster, bigger, smarter. The bully has the best toys, the greatest athletic ability, the fastest car. The bully leads by intimidation. People follow the bully out of fear. When picking sides for kickball, that might work. But we’re not choosing a team captain. We’re electing a president.

To those people who think Donald Trump is the best choice for President of the United States, stop fooling yourselves. He is interested only in what is best for him. He is faster, bigger, smarter than the rest of us. He does not care about my life. He does not care about my home, my income or anything else. He is running for bully-in-chief. And as long as he stays in the forefront, the rest of us look like buffoons. We’re better than that.

New year. New look?

So I’m thinking it’s time to dust off my blog. I should probably update the theme and art and colors… It looks kind of boring. As soon as I do all of that, I’ll write something witty or pithy or inspiring.

That was three days ago. Since then, I’ve been flipping through other wordpress layout options. Only the free ones. I’m not gonna go crazy, after all. I’ve scrolled and looked and clicked. Just now realized that I have fallen into a very familiar trap: Spend all of my time preparing and no time actually doing. Hey, I’m 51 years old and this has pretty much been my routine since I was 6.

Screw it. This blog is for me. I’m sure the inspiration will come eventually. In the meantime, I’m going to write. I’m going to write about stuff I’m thinking about. I’m going to write my opinions. (Yes, I know opinions are like assholes.) I’m going to write about my numerous hopes and fears. I’m going to write about important things and about stupid things. It’s an election year, after all.

As for you… Read it. Don’t read it. Want to hear my thoughts on TV shows? Grammar? Travel? Politics? Pizza? They’ll be here. Updated theme and art and colors, or not.

Happy spring. Happy me!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” Nope. Not Christmas. In my world, spring is the most wonderful time of the year. Everything is new in the spring. The whole world is like a box of crayons, ready to be opened. The colors ready to share with everyone.

My frozen ground is still very wet. The palette is varying shades of brown and gray. If I look closely, I see short red sprouts where my peonies will bloom in May. Tender green stalks grow quicker every day – the ones where my husband planted tulip bulbs and where I planted garlic bulbs. My woody herbs are waking up and trying to remember their jobs – providing oregano, lavender, thyme and rosemary.

We filled the birdfeeders, and the finches, doves, woodpeckers and chickadees are queuing up on the storm gutter and the power line. (Sometimes 12 pegs on two feeders isn’t enough to go around.) And we can see the birds more clearly after scrubbing a few months of winter crud off the windows earlier this week.

The sky is gray today. My car is filthy. And the forecast is iffy. But the dirt is calling me. The dozens of packets of seeds I bought for my garden are calling me. But spring is here now. The calls are louder, and the promises of life are just around the corner.

Measuring up

I’m a competitive person. I like to win. I don’t like to fail, so I rarely do things I’m not good at. Cop out? Maybe. But it’s my reality.

I have never been a physically fit kind of person. Until Jan. 5, I could count on both hands the number of walks I’d taken for exercise – in my whole life. I like to walk, but I like to walk on fairly flat terrain and in a comfortable bug-free environment. I have no stamina for hills or steps. I get shin splints. I breathe hard. But I’m 50 now, so I decided to stop making excuses.

I bought a treadmill. Since Jan. 5, I’ve walked roughly 87 miles. I’m up to about 10 miles a week. I walk nearly every day. I try to walk a little faster, a little longer and with a bit more elevation each day. I like it. I mean, I really like it.

So why am I hesitant to talk about it? One is always more than zero, so every mile I walk is more than I walked last year or the year before. Folks ask me if I’m going to run. No. I’m not going to run. I hate running. I suck at running. I excel at walking very fast. Walking very fast makes me feel good. Running makes me feel like shit. But in the back of my mind, “everyone” is judging me for walking a measly 10 miles a week.

Does everyone feel like this? Consumerism is an easy way to measure success. Obviously, the person with the most stuff, wins the prize. Work is another way to measure. The person who works most, wins. The biggest pumpkin wins at the fair. We pick beauty queens and the best of dog breeds. But what I do on the treadmill is mine. It’s just for me. My opinion is the only one that counts.

Mr. Dennis DeYoung’s words echo in my head:
“But don’t be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They show you photographs of how your life should be
But they’re just someone else’s fantasy
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you never win the game
Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion
And deep inside we’re all the same.”

Fear is not respect

This morning I’m reading the latest news from the NFL. Sort of. I’m reading the latest news of controversy involving an NFL player.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted this weekend on charges of “reckless or negligent injury to a child and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.” (ESPN) Peterson called it “tough love” – same as he got when he was a kid. Tough love is sending your kid to bed without dessert because he or she didn’t finish their dinner. A 4-year-old with bruises and bloody abrasions caused by a switch (that’s a slim end of a tree branch for my non-hillbilly readers) isn’t tough love. It’s assault.

My dad was born and raised in Texas. He was the one to mete out corporal punishment in my childhood home. It only happened a few times, for very serious offenses. The actual offenses are vague, but for such a serious punishment, I’m sure I must have been very, very, very bad. I mean, I wonder what it would take for me to beat my child with a belt. Is that the proper punishment for wetting the bed? playing in the street? lying? Surely the crime has to be extremely severe for such a punishment – burning down the house, for example. FYI, I never burned down anything.

See, I remember lying across the bed, as instructed, my bedspread bunched in my hands, while my father took off his leather belt, doubled it, and struck my bottom with force several times. I remember wondering how he could do it. He was supposed to love me and help me – not beat me. My father became less of a man in my mind after these events.

And before I get a whole bunch of comments about how you were spanked and came out terrific, let me just call bullshit on that. When my granny sent my cousin out to get a switch, she wasn’t doing anything positive. She was mind-fucking the kid. “I’m going to hit you with a stick from a tree. You go get it and bring it to me. If you don’t get the right kind of switch, I’ll send you back out for another one and the punishhittingment will be worse.” I am NOT making this up.

Hitting another person is about power. Too often it’s about anger AND power. What could a 4-year-old child do that could warrant a “whippin'” from a 200-pound professional athlete?

The granny I mentioned before was my mom’s mother. Granny taught my mom well how to strike out of anger. At age 7 or 8, I saw my mom slap my older brother’s face so hard, his glasses flew across the room. I suppose he was lucky she didn’t have something in her hand. I mean, it takes a while for a red handprint to fade from skin, but it takes even longer for a shoeprint to fade. (Hey, the slipper was right there. She needed to hit me. The slipper was handy.) I hated it when she hit me in front of my friends.

So what’s the moral of the story? First of all, it’s not 1970 or even 1870. We’re supposed to be more civilized. We’re supposed to know right and wrong. We’re supposed to be enlightened. And just because your mother hit you doesn’t make it ok for you to hit your kid. It doesn’t. Corporal punishment, whipping, spanking, whatever you want to call it breeds fear, not respect. And if you want your child to fear you, you’re a sad, sad human being.

50: The big picture

The whole week I’ve been struggling with my birthday. I am really trying to focus on the reality of turning 50. It’s just a number. My 40s weren’t bad. In fact, they were pretty great. I think I’ve gotten bogged down in the stuff right in front of me. I’m referring to my post, Hiding from 50,  “I haven’t collected a check in nearly a year. I’m – bare minimum – 20 pounds overweight. I’m a terrible nonsmoker, and I think exercise is a wonderful thing other people do.” All true. But hardly the big picture.

The big picture: I started my own consulting firm in 1999. I did it so I could work for myself. My time is my own. I drove carpool. I manage our home. I taught college classes for three years. I volunteer. I serve on boards. So I haven’t collected a check in nearly a year. I’m not starving. I’m about to start a new venture mentoring a high school student who happens to also be in foster care. I love to have time to work in my garden, read books and play with my kitties. I like being available when someone needs a ride or a visit. And just because I don’t have any paid work today, that doesn’t mean I won’t have it tomorrow.

The big picture: I am at least 20 pounds overweight. But I’m not ginormous. I’m bigger than I want to be, and that’s my own fault. I need to eat less. I’ll never be one of those tiny, cute girls (or tiny, cute 50-year-old women) because I’m 5’10” tall. A size 10 is a dream. A size 12 is terrific. But I’m ok with size 14. Nothing bigger though. That’s my limit. And if my 14s aren’t fitting right, it’s on me.

The big picture: I hate quitters. Winners never quit. Quitters never win. When I “quit smoking” at the end of December, I hated the phrase, so I said, I “stopped smoking.” I did. For a bit. Then I allowed one or two a week. Then one or two days per week. Then I said, screw it, I’m not 50 yet. I said I would quit smoking when I turned 50. Stupid idea. But I’m in. So do I technically turn 50 on my actual birthday or the day after? Either way, I’m smokin’ tonight!

The big picture: “Exercise” is an eight-letter word… Twice as bad as a four-letter word. Or that’s what I’ve been saying for years. I hate exercise. I hate being winded. I hate muscle cramps. I hate sweating, and I can do that without moving a muscle. See, the thing is, I only do things I’m good at. I suck at exercise. I’m uncoordinated. I have NO stamina. I’m pretty sure I was born without the stamina gene because I have never had stamina. In freshmen P.E., when we had to run around the outdoor track, I couldn’t even make it a third of the way. And I was 13 then. The whole exercise thing is a conundrum. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. And I’m tired of feeling like I’m a failure because I don’t run or do pilates or yoga.

The big picture: Life ain’t all that bad. I would love to be a super-fit, five-foot-ten-inch, 150-pound, 40-year-old. But those ships have sailed. I can only be me. And tomorrow I’m 50. And I choose to be happy.

Fearing 50

My 50th birthday is looming like the mother of all New Year’s resolutions. See, my doctor tells me I have “cholesterol.” Whatever. I figure my blood is 30% cheese, 8% bacon, 7% tasty animal fat, 5% crispy fried flour drippings and 50% other. I eat many healthy foods. I just prefer many non-healthy foods. (Cheese IS a food group in my world)

I know I need to take better care of my bod. It’s the only one I have, etc. Yes, the cholesterol is probably something I should take seriously. I tried a couple of the pharmaceutical options several years ago. As it turns out, I have all of the side effects. Not just with the cholesterol meds either. I have a propensity for every side effect, for every drug. I regularly take three Rx meds. That’s enough. They aren’t currently causing any side effects, and I don’t want to take any more meds.

I told my doc I would start paying attention to the cholesterol after my 50th birthday. I already know the meds won’t do it. So in my head, there’s baby “New Life”… glaring at me… “You’ll be 50 on Saturday… No more cheese… No more bacon… Your life as you know it today is O-V-E-R.” And I honestly don’t know which is worse: Living an unhealthy life or the guilt of living an unhealthy life.

I have an appointment to see my doc next week. I don’t want to go. I don’t want her to give me that look… The one that says, “You told me you would get serious…” I don’t do guilt well. I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I want to do the right thing. But after five decades, I feel like an old dog. I don’t want to trade in my tasty Milk Bone for a carrot stick. I guess that’s where I always get stuck. Changing my diet doesn’t mean throwing everything out and starting over. No. It means being smart.

Ok. I’m gonna pull up my big-girl pants and stare 50 right in the eyes. I’ll eat less. I’ll consider exercise as something even I can, maybe, possibly, do. I will limit my cheese intake. I’ll drink less. But it’s not gonna happen overnight. It took me 50 years to get here. I guess it will take me a while to ease off my bad habits.

 

Hiding from 50

According to people who post statistics on the Internet, some 4 million Americans will be turning 50 this year. Notice I didn’t say, “FOUR MILLION AMERICANS WILL BE CELEBRATING THEIR 50TH BIRTHDAYS in 2014!” As someone who turns 50 in just four days, that seems a bit optimistic.

Don’t get me wrong – turning 50 is a lot better than the obvious alternative – but it’s making me feel all reflective-y. I’m almost 50. I have two college degrees and my own business, but I haven’t collected a check in nearly a year. I’m – bare minimum – 20 pounds overweight. (Realistically, who knows?) I’m a terrible nonsmoker, and I think exercise is a wonderful thing other people do. So lets break it down.

I do have two college degrees. I want a third: a Ph.D. I want to be Dr. Stacy. It’s a personal goal. I’m good at being a student. I like learning. I also need to pay off my grad school student loans. It’s only been five years since I finished that one. But wait… It took me 12 years to get my bachelor’s degree. (I graduated high school in May 1981 and college in December 1993.) Getting the master’s degree was a lot easier, starting in fall 2007 and finishing summer 2009. Told you I was good at being a student. Not as good at doing the math necessary to figure all of this out. In fact, I’m sure it’s wrong. Whatever. I’m a word person.

And it’s the word versus number thing that hangs me up. I would really like to study sociology. With a bachelor’s in public relations and a master’s in applied politics, I already study how targeted groups think and react to messages. Every time a Ferguson-type uprising occurs, I can’t help but think about why it happens. What compels people to think and act the way they do? How can we convince them to think or act differently? In other words, why do people riot, shop, vote, argue, whatever, they way they do, and how can we persuade them to do something else?

Another example… There’s a whole thing in low-income, urban communities, where new mothers refuse to use generic baby formula to feed their newborns. The brand identities of Enfamil and Similac are incredibly strong. In fact, a quick Google search on the topic pulls up a million results from mom blogs to the Mayo Clinic. Still, the need is nutrition for babies. The need is to show moms that (1) providing the best nutrition for your child is your first goal and (2) both name brand and generic-label baby formulas provide that nutrition.

I want to do something major. I want to be the driving force behind some huge group of people realizing they should do something differently. I NEED to do it. But I can’t go back to school because I can’t take the GRE. No. I can TAKE the GRE. I don’t believe I can PASS the GRE, or at least pass it in a way that gets me into a doctoral program. It’s the stupid math part of the exam. I can take – and ace – any word-related tests thrown my way. But when I start thinking of calculus or polynomials, my chest gets tight, my pits get damp and my stomach churns. I honestly have no idea what a polynomial is. I Googled “math on GRE” and saw it. At least I can spell it. And use Google.

Movies

“It was a drive-by fruiting.”

My husband and I quote movies – a lot. Old ones. New ones. Comedies. Thrillers. Movies – and movie lines – last forever. It’s too bad the beloved actors who play our favorite roles don’t do the same.

“Goooooooood morning, Vietnam!”

I’ve been tearing up off and on since learning last night that Robin Williams took his own life. He’s not the first actor to do it. But somehow his death is different to me. Maybe it was the extraordinary number of times my son and I watched Aladdin or Hook or Mrs. Doubtfire. Maybe it was the imScreen Shot 2014-08-12 at 2.38.38 PMpression left upon my psyche by movies like Good Will Hunting or Dead Poets Society or The World According to Garp. Maybe it’s because I watched the outtakes at the end of each of episode of The Crazy Ones.

“Let me take your order. Jot it down. You ain’t never had a friend like me.”

A lot of people on Facebook and media folks on TV are using Williams’ suicide as a chance to talk about depression. I get it. I have lived with chronic and sometimes debilitating depression for my entire life. But I don’t want the death of a comedic genius and the memories of his work to be watered down with a bunch of amateur psycho-babble.

“Gradual school is where you go to school and you gradually find out you don’t want to go to school anymore.”

So, I say to Robin Williams, I salute you. I appreciate your life and sincerely thank you for all the things you’ve given me and other fans. I am sorry for your pain.

“Carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

My dad was not a superhero

My dad died in February 2004. Today would have been his 81st birthday. I’ve thought a lot about my dad in the past 10 years. Good times. Bad times. The last times.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.04.46 PMIt’s bad form to speak ill of the dead. I guess we’re supposed to remember people only for the good things. To say that I had an awkward relationship with my parents is a gross understatement. Years of therapy have allowed me to see things more objectively, to admit my own mistakes and to appreciate the importance of forgiveness.

I loved my dad, and he loved me. He was not a patient man. He did not like being disappointed by his children, but he was of an era where parents didn’t consider if (or how) they disappointed their children. As an adult with a grown child, I am sure I disappointed my son, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Kids – being children, not grown, not fully formed, not completely educated adults – will do things wrong. They will make bad decisions. They will lie to get what they want or to avoid getting punished when they know they should be. Did my dad forgive me for disappointing him? I hope so.

I had a moment with my dad a couple of months before he died. I think he was proud of me. I think he liked the person I became. But I wonder if he would have ever admitted to his own faults?

Not speaking ill of the dead also means we must not lie about their lives. Nobody’s perfect. My dad did a lot of great things. He served in the U.S. Navy. He earned a college degree. He adopted his new wife’s children when they married. My dad worked hard, moving around the United States with Chicago Bridge & Iron. He was an engineer, but he wore khaki or green cotton duck work-clothes, steel-toed boots and a hard hat at work. He had a solid, middle-class work ethic. His one blind spot: His wife. My mother. It wasn’t until after his death that I really saw that.

It was a bit of an epiphany. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his children. Obviously, he did. But he always sided with mom. Except the one time he didn’t. I remember it like it was yesterday. He stood up for me, when my mother was once-again berating me for being whatever I was being at the time. Thanks, dad. That meant a lot – and I needed it.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.05.28 PMAfter he died, I learned that he was the glue that held me and mom together. Without him, I wasn’t willing to – no, not capable of – being manipulated in the way only a true narcissist can manipulate. So, we don’t have a relationship. I think my dad would be pissed at me, but he would also be pissed at her for not trying to fix it.

So today, on the anniversary of my dad’s birth, my mother thinks of her husband, and I think of my father. And we focus on whatever memories we choose. You can’t pick your family. But as screwed up as we are, I wouldn’t be who I am, right now, without all of that… stuff. So, thanks, dad. I love you.