Girls Night

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Last night was Girls’ Night Out. I’m not crazy about the term. Seems to have the connotation we escaped from our lives as respectable wives and mothers, tossed our panties out the window and danced on tabletops in crowded bars till the wee hours of the morning. What we did in actuality was have dinner making it home just in time to catch the 10 o’clock news. Wild party animals.

There we sat at a booth giggling like teenagers. The full-time mother of twins, part-time graphic designer who seemed to still be anatomically correct even though she had nursed two babies at the same time. The skinny real estate agent who lives off drive thru hamburgers and Mt. Dew, a cause for much jealousy on my part, headstrong, hardworking most days from sun up to sun down and then some. The girl I hadn’t seen in years, brunette mother of two blonde haired little dolls, tough as nails juggling babies and a blossoming career. The youngest of our group, a hairstylist who always looked like she stepped off some magazine cover turning heads everywhere she went. And me, the loud mouth accountant and chauffeur for the night.

We talked about old flames, the ones our Daddys warned us about but were oh, so fun. We talked about where certain body parts used to be and where they are now. We debated the pros and cons of Botox and swore to wait until our forties to start shooting our wrinkles full of it. All of us except for one. We talked about husbands, how they drove us crazy and melted our hearts all in the same 24 hour time span.

And we laughed. We laughed until we cried. We laughed until the group at the next table shot us annoyed glances. We laughed until the waitress politely asked if we needed anything else, the universal signal for “you’ve been here too long, it’s time to leave”. We didn’t like her anyway. Everything on her body was still in the right spots without the help of a wonder bra or Spanx.

At my office that afternoon, I had surveyed the menu ahead of time picking a few items that would be good choices for me. If I know where I’m dining, I like to have a game plan going into dinner. Split second ordering always leads me astray. I order a salad with homegrown tomatoes because the peak harvest season is quickly ending, fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette, ate a couple of the fried pickles and handful of chips the girls order for appetizers and dessert never crossed my mind.

I read a study that says laughing for 10-15 minutes burns 200 calories. If that’s true, our girls’ night out was some of the best cardio I’ve had in awhile.

Last night, I didn’t think about food. And, for a change, it was nice.

Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
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Football Time

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s football time in Tennessee. Here in the South, we take our college football serious. And why shouldn’t we? We belong to the greatest of all conferences, the SEC. While I was born, raised and will probably die in the great state of Tennessee, I am a Crimson Tide fan. I have to be. My husband is one of the biggest Alabama fans I know and it was just easier to convert than live in a house divided. Plus, I look much better in crimson and houndstooth than in that God awful pumpkin orange of my state’s beloved Volunteers. Brian talks of Coach Saban and the Bama boys like they’re cousins we should expect to show up at Christmas dinner. They are a part of our lives. Our fall weekends revolve around their schedule.

Football games are not just about football but tailgating and traditions. We don’t just show up in jeans and a t-shirt on game day. We dress for the occasion, frat boys in their coats and ties, wannabe debs in their game day dresses. This time last year, I searched high and low in stores and online for a game day dress, the kind you wear with black equestrian boots even though you’ve never ridden a horse a day in your life. Unfortunately, they didn’t make the dresses in my size and trying to zip boots over my apparently enormous calves was like trying to wrestle a greased hog. Virtually impossible.

Giving up on the perfect game day dress, I went to a local sporting goods store to at least buy a T-shirt to wear on Saturday to show my team pride as I grocery shopped, got my nails done, visited my Granny Grey, you know, the usual Saturday errands. I bought a 2X t-shirt without trying it on. Of course, it would fit. It looked like it’d be too big for one of the Tide’s linemen. After I mixed up my Rotel dip for the big game that night, I put on my new Bama shirt. For those who have apparently never watched a televised sporting event, Rotel dip is Velveeta cheese, the faker the better, and Rotel, highly processed canned salsa, microwaved together until it melts. It is illegal in most parts of the South to watch football without it and a bag of tortilla chips. Easiest appetizer to please a crowd and raise your cholesterol at the same time.

That gray cotton shirt sucked to my fat rolls. Not tight where you stretch it inside out with your arms to give a little extra room, tight like I needed the jaws of life to remove it. I cussed under my breath and threw the thing to the back of my closet.

Tonight as I began pulling out all our Crimson Tide paraphernalia decorating the house almost as gaudy as I would for Christmas, I found that t-shirt. My work over the last year had paid off and it fit. Laying off the Rotel dip last season and all the other changes I had made over the last year had proven worthwhile. That t-shirt fitting may not have been a Sugar Bowl win on some folks’ scoreboards but it might as well have been for me.

I am going into this football season victorious whether the Tide wins Saturday night or not. Who am I kidding? They play Virginia Tech, a team out of the ACC. Of course, they’ll win. Roll Tide and good luck to all the other SEC teams….except Florida. No self-respecting Tennessean could ever cheer for them.

Deuteronomy 20:4 For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.
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Spinning

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Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. While Dr. King may not have had spin class on his mind when he penned those words, nonetheless, there I sat on the anniversary of arguably the most historic event of the civil rights movement in a room full of women, all colors and creed. I’d say all sizes and shapes but with the exception of me and one or two others most had bodies the chicks from Bay Watch would envy.

About three months ago, I started taking a spin class once or twice a week just to shake things up with my workouts. Not familiar with spin? Basically, you are in a dark room on a stationary bike peddling your legs off to the beat of the latest hip hop tracks sweating like a Coke bottle at a Fourth of July picnic. After that first spin class, um, let me give you the Rated PG version, there were muscles in my body that no type of physical exercise had ever made sore. You can use your imagination as to which specific muscle group I am referring.

Anyway, during that first class, I literally thought I might die. I had sweat dripping from my eyelashes. In fact, when I caught my reflection in my car window as I tried to heave my exhausted body into my SUV, I noticed the sweat had caused my mascara to run down my face like I had been squalling. Maybe I had, it was an intense workout. I surveyed the parking lot as the other ladies hopped in their cars, ponytails and makeup still intact. Good grief. I hated those women with their perfectly toned abs and glutes. They could never understand what I was going through. I felt like the fat girl in middle school gym class all over again.

Not to be a quitter, I continued to go back and subject myself to what I can only imagine would be a helpful interrogation technique at Guantanamo Bay. What I came to realize is most of these ladies were just like me. The only difference between them and me were they were just further along on their journey. At one point or another, they too had thought their legs would give out, felt sweat roll off their eyelashes, and prayed for the class to end. Even though by outward appearance we seemed radically different, we were the same inside. We all came together to this class for motivation, encouragement and one heck of a calorie burn. Like Dr. King said in his speech, “We cannot walk alone….we cannot turn back.”

Maybe he had spin class on his mind, after all?

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
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If Tomorrow Never Comes

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While Scarlett may have said, “Afterall, tomorrow is another day”, I have to be careful that tomorrow does actually come. I can’t keep putting off making healthy changes until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll go for a walk instead of laying on the couch watching reruns of Swamp People. Tomorrow, I’ll forego sipping on Starbuck’s caloric equivalent of a hot fudge sundae. Tomorrow, I’ll rid the fridge of Yoohoo’s and Captain Crunch and restock with skim milk and turkey bacon. Tomorrow.

I have lost almost 60 pounds in the last year but most recently my weight loss has come to a screeching halt. I have begun falling back into my old habits. I used to avoid bread on the table at restaurants at all costs. Now, I might have a roll. (Translation of might: I’ll stab your wrist with the fork if you try to take mine.) I didn’t keep microwave popcorn in the house. Now, I’ll buy some bags under the pretense of “just in case the kids” want some and then eat it myself. I used to not skip a day without some type of physical activity. I’m not talking full on high intensity cardio, just moving. A swim, hitting some golf balls at the driving range, or a simple leisurely stroll with my sweetheart. Now, I’m full of excuses. I’m tired, I don’t have time, it’s the weekend.

I am living in the land of tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll go back to my eating habits that helped me shed those sixty pounds. Tomorrow, I’ll make a conscious effort to log all the food that enters my mouth on that fitness app I downloaded to my iPhone. Tomorrow, I’ll throw those Oreos out so I won’t be tempted by the crunchy, creamy chocolate disks. Tomorrow.

What I need is someone to straighten me up. When a Southern mother tells her children to straighten up, it means the behavior you are currently exhibiting needs to come to an immediate stop. Numerous times in my childhood, my Moma squeezed my knee under the table at some fancy restaurant and whispered sternly in my ear, “Straighten up.” One time, she told my little sister Joanna to “straighten up” and Joanna did just that, jumped up from the table, marched to the middle of the steakhouse, stood as tall as she possibly could at six years old and saluted my Moma right then and there in front of God and everyone. Melinda and I couldn’t quit laughing so Moma told us to “stifle yourselves” which is basically like saying straighten up and shut up simultaneously. Sometimes, Moma didn’t need words to say “straighten up” just arched eyebrows and a look that meant you had two seconds to get it together or else it would be on.

So if tomorrow never comes like Garth Brooks sang, then what? I don’t know. I’m not going to find out. I’m going to look at myself in the mirror, raise my eyebrows like Moma when she means business and nip this tomorrow business in the bud. TODAY.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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Annoying Diet Sayings

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Today, I’m annoyed. I am usually upbeat or at least fake it for my family’s sake but today, I am in a foul mood. I have been fixated on coconut pie for about a week now. Every time I pass a certain little BBQ joint on the highway, I begin dreaming about the light yellow custard, flakey crust and browned bits of coconut sprinkled on top of glistening stiff peaked meringue. Moma’s is better but if I asked her to make me one, she’d try to give me the whole pie. I’d explain I only wanted one piece but then she’d tell me to take the rest home to Brian. A piece for me and the rest for my man. Yeah, right, me eat only one piece. If I took the whole pie home, I’d end up on the couch in my pajamas, big glass of cold milk, fork in hand and whole pie pan in my lap watching late night reruns of Designing Women.

So today, against my better judgment, I headed to the BBQ joint for a slice. While theirs is not as good as my Moma’s, it was a heck of a lot safer. There’s no way in the world any self-respecting woman would plop down in a booth during the dinner rush wearing a business suit and pearls and commence to eating a whole darn pie. I ordered one slice of that coconut delight and guess what? NO PIE! You’ve got to be kidding me. I could almost see Jesus jumping from behind the dessert case yelling “Gotcha”. Well played, Lord.

As I headed home knowing full well grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower awaited me, every annoying diet catch phrase entered my head making me madder by the minute.

“Nothing taste as good as thin feels.” Whoever coined that phrase had never eaten my Moma’s coconut meringue pie or the cornbread dressing she cooked only on Thanksgiving. They had never strolled the streets of Savannah ending up at the Olde Pink House for some shortcake when Georgia’s peaches were at their peak. And without a doubt, they have never munched cracker jacks and nachos while Chipper Jones knocked one over the wall at Turner Field. I had done all these things and there was no way that particular mantra was going to keep me on track. I was a long way from thin so I had absolutely no way to judge how it felt.

“Out of sight out of mind.” Oh yeah, like that one worked. Just because I couldn’t see that container of Blue Belle ice cream in the freezer didn’t mean I hadn’t thought about those thick ribbons of chocolate running through the icy vanilla cream. Right, I couldn’t take you to the Cadburry eggs leftover from Easter, even though they were shoved to the back of the kitchen junk drawer. I never thought of those miniature bags of cool ranch Doritos my husband secretly kept hidden in his lunch box. Out of sight, out of mind was a lie from the devil.

Some days are hard. Some days I give in. Some days I am mean as a snake. But I’ll get over it and as promised by the quintessential Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, “….tomorrow is another day.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
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Tractor Pulls

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Tractor pulls, corn dogs, and carnival rides. It was fair time in Cheatham County so I took my nephews for a night of fun at the fair. Soon after we arrived, they met up with friends and left me to wander the midway alone. So much for being the cool aunt. I had been replaced by pretty little girls with blonde hair and short shorts. A crushing blow to my ego.

The main event of the night was the tractor pull. For all those living above the Mason-Dixon Line or in a city with a population greater than one thousand, a tractor pull is a competitive sport where souped up farm tractors see who can pull the most weight the farthest distance. As I sat on the bleachers by myself, the smell of freshly turned dirt, diesel fuel and funnel cakes filled the air, a combination that definitely helped curb my craving for the powdered sugar covered delight my mouth had been watering for since I saw the carnival pull into town a week ago. I watched as the drivers of these tractors equipped with chrome, mud tires and brightly colored paint jobs surveyed the track.

Some of the tractors flew across the mud track with ease and some barely made it halfway. As I watched, I thought about how some days I was the tractor that had the fancy orange and red flames on the side with chrome mud guards that made it down the track cheered on by the crowd with such ease barely muddying the tires like he wasn’t even attached to the trailer filled with weight. Other days, I was the wore out model that buckled under the load spinning and spewing mud into the grandstands hardly making it past the starting point giving up and going home mad. And some days, I was the modest John Deere model with the traditional green and yellow paint job, not fancy but familiar, starting slow, gaining speed making it down the track hook sliding into the finish line to the gasp of the onlookers, astonished he didn’t take someone out as he finished. This tractor had made it. Not the fastest run, not the easiest run and certainly not be prettiest but he had made it across the finish line hauling a heavy load.

Which tractor would I be today? Could I bear the weight of the load I was carrying?

Who would have thought I could get so philosophical at a tractor pull? Probably had something to do with all the pink cotton candy dust floating in the air. That or the diesel fumes.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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I Almost Gave Up

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“I almost gave up. I was right on the edge of a breakthrough but couldn’t see it.” As the soloist belted these words in Church this Sunday morning, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my father soon after this weight loss journey began. I had been cutting back and exercising for several weeks and nothing was happening, nothing but sore muscles and an increasingly bad attitude. I was complaining to my father about how no progress was being made and how I was ready to give up. Daddy said this, “you can stop right now but you might stop before something good happens”.

As much as I hated to hear it, he was probably right. Most of his little nuggets of wisdom over the years had been. Like the time he squared my shoulders, looked me dead in the eyes and told me, “I don’t care if I’m your friend, I’m your Daddy. Jesus didn’t put me here to be your friend. One day, you’ll thank me.” While the rebellious teen in me thought he was dumber than a door knob, his tough love was just what I needed. He was right the time he told me a certain boyfriend was no good. I eventually came to that conclusion myself and dodged one heck of a bullet. He has been right more times than I cared to admit so I reluctantly decided to try this getting healthy thing a little longer.

Nothing about this new healthier lifestyle was natural. I felt like I was having to relearn how to do everything, especially cook. No butter, no Crisco, no bacon grease. It seemed an abomination not to put two cups of Dixie Crystal sugar into a gallon of tea or a spoonful of bacon grease saved in that old Folger’s Coffee can to flavor just about any dish. It went against my Southern heritage not to have cornbread, biscuits or light bread with every meal. Light bread, as my great-grandmother called it, was your basic run of the mill grocery store quality bleached flour sandwich bread and it was off-limits.

I was having to make time for things that I didn’t really want to be doing in the first place. Preparing meals ahead of time instead of conveniently pulling up to a drive thru and ordering some biggie sized deep-fried goodness. Exercising which I loathed. Nothing about doing an activity that involves sweating was enjoyable to me. My legs hurt. My joints ached. My mascera ran. It was overwhelming at times, especially when I wasn’t seeing results like those silver-tongued devils on late night infomercials dropping twenty pounds in a week.

Nothing was happening. Nothing tangible, anyway. What I didn’t realize was that all the small changes I was making were about to amount to something. All the times I gritted my teeth and said “no thank you” passing up a slice of cake at a bridal shower was about to pay off. All the times, I squeezed lemon on steamed broccoli when I just wanted to pour melted cheese whiz over the top was about to have an effect. All the times, I squashed myself into a sports bra even though it felt like my circulation was being cut off while attempting to run was just about to make a difference.

Eventually, my breakthrough came. I fell into a routine, weight started to slowly fall off and decisions I agonized over early on began to become second nature.

Daddy was right. AGAIN.

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

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