Monday, March 30, 2009

Exciting times

Isn't coffee a wonderful thing? I can go from drowsy and unproductive to up and at 'em in just a few sips. Brilliant!

(I fear I have become way too dependent on caffeine. Oh, well. I won't be weaning myself off today!)

Exciting things are happening in Melz World.

First, I'm halfway through the second season of Lost! I took a couple days break, but now I'm back at it.

Also, I'm on week five of Couch to 5K! I know! I can't believe I've stuck with it this long either!

Also, Jason and I volunteered at (and got free tickets to) a concert on Friday night. And not just any concert - The Gaithers.

You know the ones - infomercials full of old-time Gospel singers, sitting around in various venues singing songs that are even older than they are.

Now, Jason and I aren't huge fans of this genre of music, but it was to help a friend, and have something to do on a Friday night, and, well, these folks are talented.

We were originally supposed to work one of the merchandise tables, but we actually got a better job - handing out keychain lights and postcard advertisements at the furthest (and last to fill up) door.

While the other workers had to leave the concert and work during intermission and after the show, once we ran out - about the time the show started - we were free to enjoy ourselves.

In the hallway before the show, we saw several artists, walking around like normal folks.

We saw this guy:

(That's Michael English.)

And we saw this guy, hanging out at his merchandise table as the volunteers were being doled out:

(That's Russ Taff.)

And then, right before the show started, I saw the woman who had taken the volunteers around. She was walking really quickly and talking on a radio, and there were about five big, burly guys behind her. And in the midst of the group was this guy:

(That would be Bill Gaither.)

I grabbed Jason and was all, "Jason! Bill Gaither travels with bodyguards!" And he was all "He's probably sued so many people [for copyright infringement] that he never knows who he's going to run into."

The first segment of the concert had each of the different groups singing a set of songs. It lasted about two hours, and after intermission, the last hour was more on the lines of their "Homecoming" series - everyone onstage, singing really old songs.

Like I said, we aren't huge Southern Gospel fans, but they put on a good show. I haven't heard Jason laugh so much in a long time. Plus, did I mention we got in free?

Free is (almost) always good.

Friday was also the day that a very exciting project was born, one that I can't tell you about now but one that I PROMISE I'll tell you all about soon.

Very soon.

(No, I'm not pregnant.)

Perhaps the MOST exciting news of all - it's finally time for us to have a yard sale, so that means I get my dining room back this weekend! My darling husband got the bug to clean out the closet WEEKS ago, and the stuff has just been piled there ever since. I've even heard a rumor that he's getting Anna Marie to clean out a load of toys, and that makes this mom's heart want to SING!

Exciting times at Melz World. You better believe it, folks.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fail to plan = plan to fail

Ok, so I've heard that little saying my WHOLE life, but it never really sank in.

But now I'm married to Jason, who plans EVERYTHING.

The people I'm from? Not so much.

One of the first things you learn in Weight Watchers is that you have to plan. You have to look ahead to see what situations you're walking in to, and you have to know what you're going to eat or do. If you do that the majority of the time, on those occasions when you can't prepare, it won't be such a disaster.

But several days this week, my life has been full of FAIL. And not just plain FAIL, but approaching EPIC FAIL territory.

I realized yesterday that my failure to plan was setting me up to fail.

The problem? Getting Anna Marie out of the door for schools. We've been doing this for two years now, but for some reason, it's become increasingly stressful lately. Part of the problem is that I've been letting her sleep five minutes later so I can get a bit more done, and the other part is that she's growing up and I'm expecting her to do more for herself.

For the past two days, we'd both ended up in tears by the time the school run was over.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I noticed that she would do what I told her to (get dressed, eat breakfast, etc.) but she wouldn't do anything else in the sequence unless I was standing over her, giving her instructions right then. She's seven years old - I shouldn't have to stand over her for every little thing!

Then, I remembered her room-cleaning checklist. I can tell her to clean her room, and she dissolves in a fit of overload. But, I can break it down into a series of tasks - make bed, clear clutter off floor, etc. - and she can manage just fine.

I applied the same principle to our morning routine. I planned!

Last night, I told her that there were things she HAD to do in the mornings to get ready, and things that were OPTIONAL (like reading part of a book). If she got the mandatory things done, and she still had time, then she could read or whatever.

We went over the steps to getting ready: go to the restroom, put on your clothes, eat breakfast, put on your socks and shoes, brush your teeth and hair. When she finished one task, I said, she needed to go ahead and move on to the next.

Guess what - it worked!

Instead of running so late that she got to school just as the bell was ringing, we left the house a full 20 minutes earlier today. She was ready not just in time to run out the door, but early enough to get some reading in as well!

And one of our biggest obstacles, her tying her shoes - once I wasn't standing over her, rushing her to get it done, she did it without a hitch. Rushing around, turns out, was making her make mistakes.

Who knew?

We got to school in plenty of time to beat the traffic, neither of us was in tears, and I had time to run and pick up a couple of things from the store. It was magical!

And now, I'm making a plan for my own life. And I know that the "best laid plan" fail, but I'm seeking some help from a Higher Authority on this one. And even failure with a plan isn't usually as bad as failure with no plan at all!

This thinking through what you're going to do before you do it could revolutionize life as we know it.

Viva la revalucion!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

And yet here I sit, typing away on the computer.

Don't worry, I've already been outside in the sunny, 74 degree weather - doing yardwork.

Now, I'm resting.

Yesterday didn't start out so beautiful, but it was great by the end. And I'm not just talking about the weather!

Since Anna Marie has made it into the 80 point Accelerated Reader club at school (a feat which I don't think many of her classmates have accomplished) and since most of the books which got her there were part of the Magic Treehouse series, I thought it only fitting to reward her with a trip to a book signing by their author, Mary Pope Osborne.

I've never been to a book signing before, so I didn't quite know what to expect.

It was really, really cold and dreary. We left the house a little early so I could take my time getting up there (and so we could each lunch, naturally) and I'm really glad I did. We were going to eat at Panera bread, but I never could find it, so we went across the road to the mall and ate at the food court.

(And also bought her a hoodie on clearance at Macy's, because I didn't realize the cold would hang around as long as it did and we left the house without proper outerwear for her.)

We got to the bookstore a bit after noon. The event was to start at 1:00 p.m.

The place was already getting crowded!

We picked up a copy of her latest book, bought it, and found a place to sit for the next half hour until she arrived.

Since the bookstore was in a swanky part of town, most of the families there were pretty swanky too. Many of them knew each other, because their kids attended the same (very expensive) private school.

Mrs. Osborne had fallen and broken her wrist - slipping and falling on the ice outside the hospital, when she was going in to have her broken knuckle repaired - so she couldn't sign the books. She had a stamp of her signature, and they used that to put in the autograph.

But - since she couldn't personalize the books, they made it up to the kids by posing for pictures! While the Osbornes posed, the bookstore staff stamped the books.

She was really great! She and her husband, Will, bounced ideas for stories off the kids. They've also written a musical based on one of their books, and I'm crossing my fingers and my toes that we win one of the sets of tickets for when it comes to Memphis next week.

When it was over with, we walked to Dinsthuls candy - made in Memphis, with a store in the same shopping center as the bookstore. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining - and Anna Mare was completely overwhelmed by her first encounter with so much chocolate!

It was such a great day. Not everything went as I'd planned - Subway for lunch instead of Panera - but that's OK. Anna Marie got to meet one of her favorite authors. I was so proud of her - she spoke when Mrs. Osborne spoke to her! And she even said Anna Marie was gorgeous!

Now, Anna Marie wants to know when Barbara Parks, author of the Junie B. Jones books, is coming. Guess I'd better keep my eyes peeled!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oh, the irony!

I am awake, on a Saturday, and it's not even 6 a.m.

That, in and of itself, should be a federal offense.

But, it proved to be the perfect time to write this post! Who knew?

In the past month that I've been going to the gym, I've had lots of people surprised and impressed that I get up at 5 a.m. to fit it in. Those who know me in real life know that I've always been more of a night owl than a morning person, and the others, well, I guess it's just the idea of rising that early that colors them impressed.

But, dear reader, I have discovered that if I don't get up that early and exercise, it won't get done at all. I've adopted the old Nike slogan about the whole situation: Just Do It!

I don't really enjoy getting up before dawn. I don't really enjoy leaving my house when it's still cold outside, so that I have to wear a coat over my gym clothes. I don't really enjoy the potential to lose another hour of sleep.

But - I do enjoy knowing that I'm doing something good for myself, and I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after I've completed another session of Couch to 5K training, and I do enjoy know that it's one less thing I have to get accomplished that day.

I get all Nike on the situation, then, and just do it.

And I've been thinking about addressing this for a while, and lo and behold, I get this email from Spark People about why it's beneficial to exercise in the morning!

So, go, peruse the article (and while you're there, see all the other neat stuff that Spark People has. Their food tracker has gotten me excited about journaling about).

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not going to the gym today, though. It's Saturday, and I'm going to bask in the glow of my television for a bit before I take Anna Marie to Memphis to meet one of her favorite authors, Mary Pope Osbourne. She's the writer of all those Magic Treehouse books that kid has been devouring, and it seems there's a bit of a book signing today.

Now, then - where's my coffee?

Friday, March 20, 2009

I did a bad, bad thing

Things have been quiet here lately in Melz World, and I'm a bit ashamed to admit why.


Well, not really. I don't know what has possessed me, but I've started watching Lost this week.

From the beginning.

Did y'all realize that this show is currently in its FIFTH season? That means I have FIVE seasons to catch up on. All my spare computer time this week has been taken up with watching past episodes online.

I'm more than halfway through the first season, y'all.

Now, Jason has mocked me. He's all, "You do realize they get off the island, and then they go back to the island, and …" (This is where I stick my fingers in my ear and I'm all "La la la I can't HEAR you!")

He's gleaned this bit of knowledge from an episode we caught the last few minutes of the other night. Yes, I know that they get off the island. Yes, I know they go back.

No, I don't need any more spoilers right now!

I know the plotlines are probably going to go from the ridiculous to the sublime. I don't care. It's good enough right now, and that's good enough for me.

It's just that sometimes, when I'm on a couple-hour marathon, I kind of wonder to myself, what have I gotten myself into?

I'm hooked, and I have to know what's going to happen to these characters next. It's hopeless. I'm a LOST cause.

Lost, I wish I could quit you!.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just the facts, m'am.

This blogging thing has gotten really difficult as of late, because so much of what is going on in Melz World I'm not at liberty to share.

Here's a hint on part of it - it starts with a "w" and rhymes with "jerk."

And after a meeting I had last Wednesday, I have a lot of decisions to make about, ahem, jerk. Let's just say some changes are being made, and they are no good/very bad/perfectly awful.

(I'd say more, but once I get started, I won't be able to stop, and I don't need to end up like dooce any time soon. Ya dig?)

So, I'm sorry I've not been present around here lately. I will tell you that I didn't weigh in on Thursday morning, because I got my bad news on Wednesday afternoon and I was still trying to process it - as much as anyone can process being told that, among other cutbacks, they were having a week of vacation that they'd already earned taken away -oops, did I just say that? - and I couldn't take the chance of a bad outcome.

Yes, I'm supposed to be honest with myself, and with you, but when you've had a week like I did - and I didn't eat poorly, and I did exercise, but sometimes even that isn't enough - well, I didn't need to add another thing to my (proverbial) plate.

The weather here has been just absolutely dreary, to the point that I think it's been affecting my mood as much as anything else. No offense to those who live in the Pacific Northwest, but several months a year of gray, chilly weather would really do me in.

Thankfully, I did spy a bit of blue sky this afternoon. I just wish the weather guys would have told me that it wouldn't get near today's expected high of 67 until nearly 5 p.m., so I would've been a bit more prepared for the chill.

We had a great couple of days over the weekend - choir practice on Saturday, and two fantabulous services yesterday - and I was feeling much encouraged today.

And then, Monday began in earnest!

I found out about more cutbacks in our operations at work, and then Jason called to say that he'd just gotten a speeding ticket!

He plans on contesting it, by the way, because he sees no way he could've gotten to the speed they clocked him in from a dead stop in the distance he'd traveled. He's sure to go all "Speeders Fight Back" on them in court. I can just see him now with his laptop and projector, showing how that it was scientifically impossible for him to have been going that fast.

Or, we could just pray that the cop doesn't show up - especially since the ticket comes close to one week of his pay!

Either way, it looks like I'm going to have to work a little harder to hold on to that ray of hope I'd found over the weekend - and pray a little harder that Monday sees itself right on out the door before it does any more damage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

On being blessed - and being a blessing

I have about eleventy-million blog posts rattling around in my head right now, but for the moment I'll just regale you with one.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do something that, when I signed up for it, seemed to be no big deal.

However, as I was doing it, and afterwards, I was struck with the enormity of it all.

I read to four kindergarteners.

Simple, I know. I signed up with the PTO, went to the school at my appointed time, picked four books out, and read to four little kids out in the hallway, one by one.

It was two hours out of my life that affected the rest of my day, and continues to do so.

It was pretty obvious that these kids were chosen to be read to because they need a little extra help in that department. Know how educators are always telling us to read to our kids, from the time they're babies? I don't know if these kids parents were doing that or not. So, that's where I came in. I pulled the kids out of class to give them a little one-on-one reading time, time which the teacher can't spare.

I had picked pretty rudimentary books, most of them at a preschool level. Some of these kids couldn't even read me the "sight words" - and because I had a kid in this school as a kindergartener last year, I know they should be able to read things like "my," "she," and "the" by now.

This isn't a judgment on the kids - it's just a fact. They aren't very fluent readers, but that's why I (and the other volunteers) are there - to give them a little extra help.

And those kids told me some things that revealed a lot about their situations at home, and maybe why they might not be getting that reading practice outside the classroom.

One of the books we read was about going to the beach. I asked the girl if she'd ever been to the beach, and she said she had, with her father - when he lived in Virginia. He now lives in Kentucky, she said.

We live in Mississippi - ergo, her parents aren't together.

Don't take this as a stereotype, but I'm going to guess that her mom is trying to put food on the table (an admirable quest) and may not have as much time as she'd like for reading with her daughter.

Like I said - not a judgment, just an observation.

Another book was about a girl who liked making messes. I asked this student (different from the beach girl) if she kept her room neat, and she said she didn't have a room - she sleeps with her mom.

As does her baby sister.

Y'all, in all Anna Marie's life, she's never had to share so much as a room - even when we had to live with my parents - never mind having to share a bed. My girl doesn't know how blessed she is.

The kindergartener told me later that her mom was going to school, but she didn't know what she was going to be when she finished.

Again, this is admirable - and I told the girl that her mom was doing a good thing by trying to get an education - but it doesn't leave much time for extra reading with your kid.

Most of the time, we focus on unfit parents as the ones whose kids aren't up to par in school - but these two families show that sometimes it's just life's circumstances that don't permit the one-on-one learning time.

As I was leaving yesterday, I stuck my head into the room of one of our town's aldermen, who happens to be a speech therapist at the school. She thanked me for volunteering with these kids.

And then it hit me - Anna Marie had come home the day before with a certificate (and a coupon for a Personal Pan Pizza) for joining the 80 point Accelerated Reader club. That is a HUGE accomplishment for a first grader - and probably due to the number of chapter books she reads, which are worth more points.

I realized I was so blessed that, for all the other struggles I've had with my strong-willed daughter, academics had not been one of them. I don't have to beg her to read - many nights I have to take the books away from her so she'll go to sleep. And many mornings, she gets up earlier than she needs to and I have to take them away from her again so she can get ready for school.

This isn't bragging on myself - I didn't do anything special to get her to this point. I read to her since she was a baby, yes, but her intelligence and love for learning is a gift from God.

So, as I was talking in the speech room, I realized why I needed to do this - I was blessed, so I needed to be a blessing to someone else.

In fact, here is what Genesis 12:2 says about what some folks call "paying it forward:"

2 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

Our pastor covered this text a few weeks ago, and he said that the original language commands us to be a blessing - to do good to others.

I thought I was volunteering because the PTO said they needed help - but I was really doing it in obedience to God's Word.

How can I not? How can I sit with my daughter, in her own room in her own bed surrounded by so many books that I passed over two dozen down to a coworker's daughter and mine hasn't even noticed they were gone - and not do what I can to help these other kids?

Maybe their parents aren't able to read to them, because of time or other obligations. Lord knows, if I had more than one kid I wouldn't have been able to spend the time that I do with Anna Marie. Maybe they are so burdened down with life's concerns that reading a bedtime story is the last thing on their to-do list.

Or maybe they are taking the time to help their kids with their homework, and they just need an extra set of hands.

Whatever the reason, I walked out of that school much different than when I'd walked in: excited about the opportunity to serve these kids and their parents.

The opportunity to be a blessing.

Monday, March 09, 2009


Yes, I just made you yawn just by typing that. You're welcome!

Why is it that the "spring forward" part of Daylight Savings Time seems to take a week to get over? Is losing an hour really that much of a shock to our systems?

I'm gonna go out on a limb, and, from my totally unscientific research (a.k.a. talking to people I know) I'm gonna say "yes."

I should have had no trouble at all sleeping Saturday night, too, because I'd spent the day helping Amanda move into her new SECOND FLOOR WALKUP apartment.

Did I mention that it was on the second floor? That it's part of an old house that was converted into apartments, and the only access we had was a three-foot-wide back staircase because the downstairs peeps weren't home?

I don't think it was the actual moving that did me in, though - it was the painting. Amanda found a can of sky blue paint in the attic, and decided that her room need not be bright lime green any longer. Anna Marie and I did a big bunch of the work - she had an itty bitty little edging roller - and my arms and back are still recovering.

But despite the intense manual labor, I still tossed and turned.

(Oh, did you wonder about my weigh-in on Thursday? Yes, I weighed in at the gym, but I think I'm going to invest in a scale all of my own because I don't know if that one is being calibrated on a regular basis. As you can tell from my distrust, it did not give me good news, but Jason and Amanda have both assured me that NO WAY did I gain five pounds in one week. They assure me that it's all the muscle I'm building.)

(Because they're experts, of course, and I trust them implicitly.)

I'm on my second week of Couch to 5K, and so far, so good. I almost skipped this morning because my muscles are still sore, but then I realized that 1. I won't get to go for the next two days because Jason will be at work, and 2. My legs weren't hurting, just my arms, and I don't need my arms to walk on a treadmill.

I realized this morning that, while I don't enjoy getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, I do enjoy going, and I enjoy getting it over with for the day, so I guess 5 a.m. it is - at least until summer, when I can sleep in until 6.

My iPod is loaded with all 10 weeks of the PodRunner Intervals, so I should be good to go. What am I going to do once that 10 weeks is up? I don't know, but I should be in MUCH better shape by then so we'll see what happens.

I really do need to take some measurements, because that scale completely freaked me out Thursday morning. I've got to have some other criteria to measure my progress by than those numbers.

I know for a fact that I wouldn't have been able to do the manual labor I did on Saturday back when I was 90 lbs. heavier. Good gracious, that back staircase was a better workout than I've probably ever had at the gym!

So here's to keepin' on keepin' on, and measuring our progress without being tied to the scale!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

You say "potato" I say "almost an athlete"

Remember a couple of years ago when I started the Couch to 5K program?

No, then you can click here. But hurry back!

Hahahaha. Ha ha.

That lasted about as long as Anna Marie's resolve to keep her room clean every day.

Now, though, I'm hoping it'll be a different story. Since I've joined a gym, I have access to a treadmill. That's indoors! When it's 25 degrees outside! And I said to myself, "Self, this would be a PERFECT time to start back up on your Couch to 5K aspirations!"

(Yes, I use big words like "aspirations" when talking to myself. Don't you?)

I have two podcasts that I've downloaded - the "official" C25K, and one called PodRunner Intervals. I like the second better, mainly because the first one features a guy talking over the music. That really messes up my groove, y'all! The PodRunner podcast just gives me an audio signal when it's time to change from running to walking and vice-versa.

Now, my gym is the super-high-tech kind, with motorized treadmills. How do I make this work? With the speed controls, of course! There are two sets on these machines, one of which is right by my hands, so I can change speeds pretty quickly - like, say, during the audio signal.

The only thing I knew I was going to miss was being able to zone out and watch TV while I ran, but then I hit upon another solution - I watch it anyway! I can't hear it, because my earbuds are in my iPod, so I pick something like QVC that I can just watch without sound. Brilliant!

I'll probably never run a 5K, of course, but I think that this will help step up my training on the three days a week I do it. Plus, it can't help but make me a better walker when the Five Star Races come around this June!

Now, if I could only convince Jason that I could use a new pair of shoes, all would be right with the world.