A Girl in My Spin Class

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Yesterday, during the cool down portion of spin class, right before we hopped off the bikes and stretched, our instructor Larry dimmed the lights, played Hillsong’s Forever Reign, and told us to count our blessings and say a prayer for Leanne, our friend and fellow spinner who was diagnosed with breast cancer a while back. Same way we’ve ended class for months. Some nights, it’s a silent prayer during cool down. Other times, we circle up, hold hands, and take a giant selfie that Larry posts on Facebook with a Team Leanne hashtag letting her know we’re standing in the gap on her behalf.

I’m scheduled for spin tonight but I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go because I don’t know how we’ll end class. No prayer circle. No giant selfie to post on Facebook. Leanne’s battle with breast cancer ended last night.

Leanne was more than just a girl in my spin class, although that would have been enough. Try coming into class with the intent of barely breaking a sweat because you aren’t really “feeling it” and ending up on a bike next to Leanne. There’s no halfway working out when you’re working out next to a woman who despite having undergone cancer treatments a few days earlier is sitting with a big “hello there” grin on her face ready to punish the pedals. There are no excuses not to give it your all and no reasons to wallow in self pity when you’re watching a woman engaged in the literal fight of her life workout with the fierceness of a warrior. I’ve burnt more calories than I ever intended and made my muscles sorer than I could’ve ever imagined all because there was this “no excuses, no quitting” girl seated on the spin bike next to mine.

Leanne was more than a girl in my spin class; she was my friend. She was a loving wife doting on her Darrel, an adoring mother to seventeen year old Sarah Beth her almost spitting image, and coach to over a dozen Cheatham cheerleaders teaching routines, giving advice and becoming more like a second mother than coach. She was a motivator gently pushing all that knew her to be better, kinder, stronger. She was an inspiration encouraging us to love more, laugh more and live more. She was an example of determination despite the odds, courage despite the circumstances and faith despite even the worst news. She was fun loving with infectious laughter, goofy picture poses and gorgeous smile. Her life impacted many and we are forever better for having known her.

I think I will go to spin tonight. When the lights are dimmed during the cool down song and we are instructed to count our blessings, I will count having known Leanne as one of my greatest. That’s how class will end from now on.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Time Changes Things?

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Recently,  I came across the Andy Warhol quote “They say time changes things but you actually have to change them yourself”. Boy, that Andy sure knew what he was talking about!

Don’t get me wrong.  I know time changes things and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Every morning in the bathroom mirror, that point is reiterated to me by fine lines developing around the corners of my eye, tiny creases popping up around my lips and little witches hairs growing from my chin. Shamefully,  I admit I’ve now lived long enough to grow chin hair and one day will be too blind to pluck it myself. If you don’t have chin hair yet, ladies, just wait. You will. Nature will take its course even on the best of us. No matter how much synthetic snake venom infused über expensive eye cream I use, and I cake that crap on, eventually, I will have full-blown crow’s-feet. Time and gravity at some point will cause things to shift so far south that no amount of money or help from the world’s best plastic surgeons will be able to pull that mess up  where it was pre-shift. Depressed yet? Don’t be. I started with the bad news, news you already knew unless you are completely delusional and think that your $150 a jar night cream will stop the effects of time indefinitely.

Good news is that while time changes a lot of things,  it doesn’t change all things. If we don’t put forth effort in certain areas, even time won’t change us but if we are willing to work on ourselves, we can change for the better. It may not be easy but it is doable. I know from experience. Sometimes, I forget this because it feels like I’m a jacked up truck mired down in a mud bog spinning my all terrain tires. To remind myself, I compared a picture from Halloween 2010 to Halloween just a few days ago. Goodness gracious, I couldn’t believe the change I saw. I had lost 75 pounds in that time period but more than that, I had changed the way I viewed food, diet and exercise. I had changed my mind, me.

That change didn’t come just because time passed. That change came because I did the work making gradual changes over the past five years that added up to a really big difference.  Little by little, the changes that seemed excruciatingly hard to make in the beginning became second nature. First thing, I cut out Cokes.  I’m from the South. Coke includes, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, really anything that fizzes when you pour it.  Next, I cut out fast food.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love McDonald’s fries and Sonic’s Onion Rings and will indulge in their deep-fried goodness on occasion just not every day. After removing several unhealthy habits, I began to add healthier stuff, exercise to my daily routine like spin and circuit training and hippie granola stuff to my diet like chia seeds and super greens. When I added chia seeds to my list of pantry staples and started making the occasional trip to Whole Foods, my mother was afraid I had turned into a flower child and would soon quit shaving my armpits. No fear of that, I don’t want to be mistaken for a Sasquatch even if it is No Shave November.

Moral of the story: I changed myself.  Time didn’t have a darn thing to do with it.

Ephesians 4:23-24 Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

I Deserve It, Right?

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Today is my anniversary. I should say “our” but after eleven years of marriage, I have convinced my husband that is not my ego-centricity that makes me say “my anniversary”, “my house” and “my money” but the fact that I took the whole “two become one” concept so much to heart that I have used only first person pronouns since our wedding day.

At lunch with a colleague today, when it came time to order, I ordered the fried clams and French fry basket and thought screw the grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables I had intended on getting.  It’s my anniversary. I deserve it since it’s a holiday even if my husband and me are the only ones celebrating. Since our joint celebration will conclude with a nice dinner I’m going to deserve a big fat slice of something sweet, you know, since it’s my anniversary. At which point, my husband will think he deserves a little dessert of his own, too, if you catch my drift. Come to think of it, I have found myself deserving of too many things lately.

I work hard to limit carbs and maintain a healthy eating style, not diet. Dieting is for the birds, birds like big buzzards picking a carcass. I don’t diet. I eat. I eat a cupcake every now and then, a slice of my Moma’s coconut pie once in a blue moon and a greasy natsy slice of Sir Pizza’s Farmer’s Almanac when I want to be a bad, bad, girl but I also eat swiss chard, kale or some dark leafy green, like every day, a lean organic protein, like with every meal, and colorful produce from our local farmer’s market like ALL. THE. TIME.

However, this week, I have been deserving of too many things outside the scope of my usual eating plan, a big fat burger with the bun (you low carbers will know how divine that was!!) from Old South Burgers since I’m an accountant and it was the day extended taxes were due, caramelized onion mashed potatoes from Stoney River because it was the end of the day extended tax returns were due, and an Oreo blast with extra Oreos and extra whip cream ( those sweet skinny car hops don’t know the proper amount to put in an Oreo blast unless you order extra) because people procrastinate and put off filing their taxes until the day extended returns are due just to name a few indulgences.

What I really deserve is to be healthy, have my clothes fit right and not feel like I drank a bottle of Florence Henderson’s finest.  For all of you who didn’t grow up in the ’80s watching her fry golden brown crunchy chicken during commercials on Primetime TV, I’m referring to Wesson Oil.  I deserved those fried clams and fries for lunch today about as much as I deserve this lead feeling I currently feel in my gut!  It’s time to tighten the belt back up on the eating plan before the belt tightens up on me, literally.

Seriously, though, I do deserve a pedicure and maybe those Louboutins, right? After all, it is my anniversary.

Phillipians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

5 Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years of Marriage

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Today is my tenth wedding anniversary. In thinking about how we’ve managed to avoid killing one another and ending up with our very own episode of Snapped, I put together a list of marital advice. It’s a short list. After ten years, we’re still working out the kinks.

1. It ain’t all sunshine and rose petals. You know those fairy tales where the prince sweeps the princess off her feet and they move into the castle and live happily ever after? Let me tell you about happily ever after. While there is sunshine and roses, there is also a fair share of pestilence and plague. It gets tough at times. Life isn’t some Technicolor movie Disney wrote accompanied by an annoying theme song. Yeah, I’m alluding to Frozen. I don’t know what chick is holding on to but for goodness sakes, let it go and shut the heck up! Marriage isn’t always a fairytale but it ain’t bad either.

2. So, he loads the dishwasher wrong, get over it. Even though I’m relatively sure my way is the right way, it doesn’t necessarily mean his way is completely wrong. I had to grit my teeth to say it but that’s the truth. He may not fold the towels the so-called “right way” either and shrinks some stuff in the dryer every now and then but at least he’s willing to help. Note to self: Remember these words the next time your brand new cashmere sweater comes out of the laundry looking like it was bought in the children’s department.

3. Practice selflessness not selfishness. You want Chinese for dinner and he’s got a hankering for chips and salsa. Skip the egg rolls and get a chimichanga. After you’ve had a stressful day at work filled with conference calls, meetings and mounds of paperwork, your man says, “Baby, how’s about rubbing my feet?” Instead of responding in a voice more akin to nails down a chalkboard, “Me rub your feet? I worked all day, drove home in bumper to bumper traffic, picked up YOUR dry cleaning, got YOUR prescription and brought home YOUR dinner and NOW, you have the audacity to ask me to rub YOUR feet?”, try responding in a more loving tone with a simple “Sure”. FYI: Selfless acts such as those outlined above can be used at a later date to manipulate your partner into getting your way. However, marital experts advise against it. I am not a marital expert. I said practice selflessness. I didn’t say you had to perfect it.

4. Pray for a good sense of humor if you don’t already have one. You got a mother-in-law that couldn’t get along with Jesus Christ himself. Laugh with your girlfriends over her antics instead of taking it out on your husband. Trust me. I learned this one the hard way. You burn a pan of brownies and right about the time your husband is waving the front door back and forth like a maniac in a frantic attempt to stop the smoke detectors from beeping like nuclear missiles being activated, your dinner guests show up. Learn to laugh. It comes in handy.

5. Do what Marvin Gaye sang about and GET IT ON. You know what I’m talking about, SEX. It’s great bonding for a couple (not to be confused with bondage, get your mind out of the gutter) and an exciting way to pass the time when CBS slips in a rerun of Hawaii 5-0 instead of the new episode you’d been waiting all week to air. In addition, it helps relieve stress, boosts your immune system, and is great cardio, definitely more exciting than the elliptical at the gym. Flu season is fastly approaching and now, this Ebola bacteria’s on the loose. Take the lid off the cookie jar and start boosting that immune system.

Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

End of Summer Shopping

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A few times a week, I get up early and hit the gym for a morning workout. On those mornings, I usually pack a bag the night before, shower at the gym after my workout and head off to tackle the day.

Wednesday was no different. A hint of fall was in the air the night before so I dug out my brown equestrian boots that hadn’t seen the light of day since the tulips started blooming last spring and tossed them in my workout bag along with a cream lace dress and Kelly green sweater.

After an intense workout, you know the kind that makes single-handedly taking off your sports bra seem like an impossible feat, I hopped in the shower and quickly dressed hoping to squeeze in a few errands before heading to the office. As I left the gym, the coolness of the morning calmed me after my world wind workout, sports bra wrangling session and what seemed like an Olympic time trial 50 yard dash of hair and makeup.

I headed to Whole Foods at the Hill Center to buy some glass bottled milk. My husband who used to eat gas station hotdogs and day old break room coffee is now apparently, too good to drink anything but antibiotic-free non-homogenized milk. Who knew the milk I’d been buying him all these years was part of some secret plot to kill him and collect his life insurance? So, there I was leaving Whole Foods, carrying glass bottled milk and a bag filled with organic heirloom tomatoes, a ball of mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic glaze for the last Caprese salad of the quickly diminishing summer.

Catching a quick glimpse of myself in the plate-glass window, I thought how chic I looked in my brown leather boots and tortoise-shell accessories sashaying, glass bottled milk in hand. All those squats and lunges at the gym lately must have been paying off because the cream-colored dress that was a little snug through my hips a few weeks earlier was fitting quite loosely on this glorious early fall morning. I had put on a few pounds over the summer but recently, recommitted to my healthier lifestyle hitting the gym a little harder than normal and watching my diet a little closer than I had in recent months.

With renewed self-confidence brought on by the looseness of my dress, I continued my errand running stopping a few more places, the paper supply store, gas station, a local smoothie shop and finally finishing at Kroger’s in Belle Meade smack dab in the middle of what appeared to be Senior Discount Day judging from all the little blue haired ladies and one lonesome half balding old man. It was uncanny. With every errand, my dress seemed to be loosening, almost as if my body was in some supersonic metabolic fat burning mode. All my hard work was paying off at warp speed. Hallelujah!

As I walked into my office, my coworker Elizabeth gasped, “Ohhhhhhh my Lord, your dress is split.”

Darn it, hastily packing my gym bag, I had forgotten about the half-inch tear in the split. “Oh, yeah, I need to get that split fixed. It tore a little the last time I wore it.”

“No, it’s no little tear. I think I see your whole butt.”

As I reached back, that’s when I felt it, nothing but skin all the way up to the middle of my spine. My entire backside, pale pink underwear and all, was on display for God and everyone to see. My dress had become some sort of make shift artist smock, the kind you just stick your arms through to cover your front. Oh, me!

To anyone that saw me, every last bit of me, Wednesday morning, I sincerely apologize for what you witnessed. To the hipsters at Whole Foods, no, I was not starting a new fashion trend. And finally, to the half bald old man at Kroger’s, YOU’RE WELCOMED. I think we’d both agree those squats are paying off quite nicely.

Proverbs 31:25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

Tribute to the D-Day Soldiers

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Yesterday was a scorching hot day for a baseball game but it was the second game of a best two out of three Super Regional Round of the NCAA baseball tournament play between my family’s beloved Vanderbilt Commodores, Nashville’s team, and the Stanford Cardinals, two of the nations best teams so I had to go even if I had already sweated through my clothes and the game hadn’t even started. As the teams warmed up and the stadium filled, I took my seat and began surveying the fine specimens that made up both starting lineups.

I love college sports. Always have. I remember when this love began. 1989, my parents had tickets to the first round of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, 16th seed East Tennessee State taking on the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. We were sitting near the spot where the Sooners were waiting to take the floor so Moma let me sneak down to get some autographs. These college boys were giants towering above my barely 5 foot junior high frame. They signed my program and patted me on the head as I wished them luck in my squeaky preteen Southern twang. I was in love with college sports……….and, college boys.

From that day on, my love of both continued. In high school, me and a few girlfriends would skip class and patrol Vanderbilt’s campus looking for Drew Maddux, the good-looking dark-haired boy from Goodpasture who ended up playing point for the ‘Dores. We just knew one of us was destined to be his soul mate. In college, we’d caravan down to Tuscaloosa and show up to the game hours early to watch the Crimson Tide roll in on Greyhound buses and take the Walk of Champions to the stadium, muscles bulging underneath their sport coats and ties. Didn’t they know one of us needed to be the girlfriend of a National Champion?

Yesterday, with the two college teams lined up as our National Anthem was being sung, I saw not the clean, fresh faces of young heart throbs about to take the field and battle it out to see who gets to go to Omaha for the College World Series but the dirty faces of men their age who lined boats waiting to storm the battlefield beaches of Omaha invading Normandy fighting like hell to see who made it through, living to get back to American soil. Young men who should have been back home playing baseball and taking out sweethearts on Saturday nights but instead were doing what had to be done, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unspeakable.

Before their mission, Dwight Eisenhower gave the soldiers this warning, “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.”

He went on to say, “I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

As I looked around the crowd at Vandy’s Hawkins field, I realized had it not been for those brave soldiers seventy years ago who were victorious fighting against insurmountable odds, I wouldn’t have be sitting there on a hot, muggy Saturday afternoon with my husband and parents along with this eclectic crowd of college baseball fans. Frat boys in their Vineyard Vines shirts, boat shoes and Vandy visors. Soccer moms in their khaki shorts and t-shirts with purses stocked with sunscreen, bug spray, eater snacks, bottled water, wet wipes, band aids and anything else anyone would ever need. Doctors and nurses in scrubs on break from the University’s medical center catching a few innings before scrubbing up for the next surgery. Die hard fans who know the players by first name decked out in head to toe black and gold team colors. Bellemeade ladies dressed to the nines dripping with pearls. Little kids wearing baseball gloves intent on catching a foul ball. Old men who ask the kids with gloves each time a foul is hit “You gonna catch that one for me, buddy?” Every ethnicity, lovers of baseball, melting together in the sweltering summer sun.

Americans.

Thank you to the brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight so bravely to preserve our great nation. The land that I love.

Deuteronomy 20:4 For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
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Summertime Woes

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Summertime has arrived bringing with it unnerving scantily clad twenty somethings. These Twiggy-esque Victoria Secret swimsuit wearing supermodel lookalikes wouldn’t agitate me quite so much strutting around with half their butt cheeks hanging out if they weren’t laying poolside obsessing over how their perfectly sculpted abs were horrendously fat. They want to see fat rolls? Give me about half an hour to wrangle my body out of this tummy minimizing Miracle-suit one piece that’s cutting off the oxygen supply to my brain and I’ll show these gals with six-pack abs what someone sporting a case looks like.

Holding up the latest issue of Cosmo, these sun kissed creatures sit guzzling full fat, full sugar Frappacinnos without repercussions griping about how their perky bosoms are saggy and disgusting because they fail the magazine’s standard perkiness test, the pencil test. Meanwhile, I sit drinking sugar-free, fat-free, plain old water pondering how low on the perkiness scale one is if she fails the Crayola Crayon Deluxe 64 Pack test and whether or not Blue Cross Blue Shield recognizes said test as medically relevant.

Pulling out mirrors, the delusional darlings are consumed by how old and wretched their skin looks with age spots? Are they smoking crack? Where I’m from those are called freckles! Let me tell you about old skin; I’ve got it. Skin that bruises every time the wind blows, forehead lines that I could plant row crops in, and hands that are starting to look eerily similar to my mother’s. Lean in sweetheart, I’ll show you age spots, right after I dot your eye!

Suck it up, you lucky young morons! Don’t spend your twenties obsessing over your body. Take it from me. As a woman rapidly approaching my 40’s, I wish I would have enjoyed the body of my teens and early twenties and not been so overly critical to the point I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.

Far removed from my twenties, I am a woman careening toward forty faster than I’d like and not happy with the whole aging process in general. Saturday morning, I threw on a tank top and headed to spin class. I don’t know why I wore that tank. I hate my arms and feel like a line backer for the 49ers in a sleeveless shirt but it’s summer and that spin room gets suffocatingly hot so I threw caution to the wind and donned a racer back tank.

There I sat in spin class pumping my legs so furiously on the bike causing the fat on my triceps to flap so hard against my sides I thought I might just airlift right off the bike. Why did I wear this darn tank? I felt ridiculous and got more of a workout trying to minimize the flapping of my jiggling triceps than anything else.

As we got off the bikes to stretch, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Where had the girl of my early twenties gone? Nothing about me remotely resembled the girl who used to lay poolside in a hot pink and purple zebra striped two piece.

“I wish I had arms like yours. Your skin is so tight and smooth.”

“Huh?” I heard Robert Dinero’s voice in my head as I clumsily replied, “You, you talking to me?”

A sixty something year old woman in class was complimenting my arms. Arms that to her were young, firm, and muscular not fat and flabby.

I looked down at my arms and for the first time, they didn’t look so bad.

Isaiah 46:4 And even to your old age I am he; and even to gray hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.image

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