6 out of 10

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Tonight, I saw a Dove Soap commercial that upset me. You may have seen it, little girls swimming, taking gymnastics, practicing ballet. Then, flashing on the screen were the words “6 out of 10 girls stop doing what they love because they feel bad about how they look.” That makes me sad. How could the darling little freckled-faced girl diving in the deep end of the pool let her baby fat stop her? How could the pigtailed brown-eyed cutie perfecting her back handspring let the space between her teeth crush her Olympic dreams? How could the pink leotard wearing ballerina let a slightly larger than average nose stop her from dancing the Nutcracker?

Maybe it’s the stacks of magazines at the grocery store checkout, covers filled with stories about the latest scheme to get perfectly sculpted abs in 2 weeks or how to drop 4 dress sizes in a month. Maybe it’s the Enquirer, Star or Globe tabloids with pictures of bathing suit clad plus size women in unflattering positions faces blacked out concealing their true identity while the image of a slim trim actress beside her shows sparkling eyes and a bright white smile, no need to conceal her identity. Or maybe it’s the rows of ridiculously proportioned Barbie dolls lining the toy aisle. Who knows?

I wasn’t one of those 6 girls who quit. Even though I was a good fifty pounds heavier than most girls in my class, it didn’t stop me from joining the middle school dance team. I didn’t let the fact that besides a turtle I am one of the slowest creatures to move across planet earth stop me from playing softball and leading my team in stolen bases my junior year. A big part of stealing bases is attitude. What I lacked in speed, I more than made up for in attitude. Ask my mother. At seventeen years old, I had more attitude than Michael Jackson had in his video for Beat It. I didn’t let my feelings of inadequacy stop me from doing anything. And believe me, most days, I felt like I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on my way down.

I had self-esteem issues just like every other teenage girl, maybe more so carrying around all that extra weight. Why didn’t I become a statistic? Why? Because I had a Moma and Daddy who told me not to listen to those mean insecure adolescent boys who called me Miss Piggy. I was beautiful with long silky dark auburn hair and green eyes that sparkled when I laughed. I had a Daddy that made me feel like Pete Rose on the ball field, Tiger Woods on the golf course and Martina Navratilova on the tennis court when I was barely coordinated enough to walk straight. I had a Moma who didn’t raise a quitter, even when it was hard, even when my team lost, even when I wanted to give up. Whether it was running for class treasurer, playing clarinet in the school band or trying out for cheerleading, they were my biggest fans. Moma and Daddy may have thought I was too short, too fat or just not coordinated enough but they never let me know it.

Funny thing is I did become a statistic. I became one of the 4 in 10 girls who say so what I could stand to lose some weight, so what my teeth are crooked, so what I’m no super model. I’m not quitting. No matter what you think.

Thanks Moma and Daddy.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.image

Cupcakes and Baseballs

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I’m working late tonight. Extended tax returns are due soon so we’ve got a mini tax season on our hands here at the office. Somewhere around 9 o’clock, it occurred to me that there were cupcakes in the kitchen. These cupcakes had been following me around for the past three days, first at Greyson’s Chuck E. Cheese blowout on Saturday, then my grandmother’s birthday soiree Sunday after the Titans’ game and now somehow ended up in the kitchen at my office. No place was safe. These little vanilla devils were tempting me at every corner. My mom had brought three cupcakes to the office this afternoon for me and the two ladies that work with me. How sweet of her! Sometimes, I pictured her as the Wicked Witch of the West looking into her crystal ball cackling as I bit into her tempting treats. She really didn’t mean any harm. She was just from a generation that didn’t like to waste food even if it meant adding inches to your waistline.

The hours passed and I couldn’t take it anymore. I gave in. Walking back to the kitchen, I knew I wasn’t hungry. My dinner of scallops and green beans was satisfying enough. I knew that cupcake wouldn’t do me any good but I didn’t care. I just wanted to feel the Crisco powdered sugar icing slide across my lips leaving that silky smooth feeling on my tongue. I wanted to taste the almondy goodness of its moist vanilla cake letting the sugar send signals to my weary brain giving me that extra boost I needed to burn the midnight oil.

I opened the container. Two cupcakes left. Someone besides me didn’t eat their afternoon snack. I stared at the two morsels decorated with red, yellow and blue icing balloons on top for a moment, the way you look longingly into the eyes of a person you don’t want to let go. Just when I thought I couldn’t take much more, I opened the back door, walked out onto the sidewalk and threw those cupcakes like Cy Young trying to strike out a batter at home plate. The first one I threw landed in the grassy spot behind the parking lot. The second bounced off the wood planked fence like a tennis ball. Under the hazy light of the security lamp, it was quite a scene, cupcakes whizzing by.

Somewhere around midnight, it occurred to me, only one of those cupcakes was for me….Ooops!

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.imagesCA7O6S04

Birthday Parties

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On Saturday, I entered the ninth circle of hell. My nephew’s sixth birthday party was being held at Chuck E. Cheese. Walking in the front door by myself, the college aged bouncer asked if I was coming in alone. “Yeah, I’m thirty-five years old and thought I’d drop in for lunch.” What did he think? The kid gave me some weird look like I was a pedophile scoping out prey so I thought it more prudent to explain what I was doing there. My nephew’s birthday. Finally, he let me in.

Upon entry, I heard the clanging of skee balls, dinging of pin ball machines and squeals of delight coming from snotty nosed kids. I passed adults eyes glazed over staring out in space shelling out handfuls of tokens to wild-eyed children. From the looks of it, these adults had had the forethought to take a handful of Valium before entering Chuck E. Cheese allowing them to zone out to their happy place. Something I was wishing I had done right about then.

Thankfully, I bumped into my sisters. I was starting to look like a weirdo wandering among the games and kids alone. Melinda and Joanna escorted me back to the party area. Our party had been given primo seating for the show. What a blessing! We were closest to the stuffed robotic version of Chuck E. Cheese who kept appearing from behind the purple velvet curtain every so often singing his greatest hits scaring the kids half to death.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse out came pizza and cake. “Crap, I should have eaten lunch before I came,” I whispered. There was no way I was wasting calories on funky kiddie cheese pizza. Overhearing me, Moma suggested I try Chuck E. Cheese’s apparently delicious salad bar. As I walked over to it, I saw a herd of eight year old boys grab a handful of cherry tomatoes straight from the salad bar and pelt each other with them. So much for salad. Filled with eight year old boy cooties, the salad bar had to be disease ridden.

Cake time. Greyson blew the candles out on his teenage mutant ninja turtle cake along with half his little friends. Spit flying as the flames disappeared. Well at least, I won’t be tempted by cake. In all likelihood, germs from every cold, flu and stomach virus circulating Pleasant View Elementary had just landed upon the chocolate cake with white icing. No cake for me.

Just when I thought I was safe, here came cupcakes. Afraid there wouldn’t be enough cake for everyone, Melinda had bought a dozen cupcakes just in case. Still in the box from the bakery, little vanilla cupcakes with just the slightest hint of almond flavoring topped with white icing made from the perfect mix of Crisco and powdered sugar. I couldn’t help myself. I was starving and on edge from the incessant sounds of kids screaming, bells ringing and buzzers buzzing. I had a cupcake to calm my nerves. As the vanillaoey goodness met my taste buds, I felt the same relief a smoker feels from the first drag off a cigarette, nicotine and smoke swirling in their lungs. Ahhhhhhh.

When the Chuck E. Cheese mascot and his helper pulled out the ninja turtle piƱata, I took it as my cue to leave. When the candy started flying out of the busted up ninja turtle, I didn’t know if I could stop myself from knocking the group of kindergartners out-of-the-way to score a Kit Kat. I bolted for the door.

After convincing the pimple faced doorman I was not deserting a kid leaving him to wander the basketball hoops and skee ball machines at Chuck E. Cheese for all of eternity, he let me leave.

Finally, I had endured enough.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
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Freezer Fest

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I’m not into Pinterest. I don’t need to get sucked into any more projects. I don’t have the time to craft my own Christmas cards, mix up a batch of homemade laundry detergent, or sew myself a skirt from my husband’s discarded neck ties. I have drawers full of unfinished projects like the ball of yarn and the two knitting needles with four rows of knit one pearl two the year I decided to make everyone gloves for Christmas, like the dozen half-finished scrapbooks when I was determined to chronicle my life in case the Smithsonian ever needed to know, and like the assorted sized Ball jars crammed underneath my couch leftover from the summer I attempted to can everything at the Farmer’s Market. I’m just not into Pinterest but my sister Joanna is the queen of it.

Joanna is a mother of two and a busy school teacher. Through Pinterest and all its ideas, she got into making meals ahead in large batches and freezing them. She thought it would be fun for the three sisters to get together and have a “Freezer Fest”. Essentially, she wanted us to each pick a kid friendly recipe, bring enough ingredients for 6 batches and cook them up one Saturday afternoon. I wasn’t thrilled. In this quest for a healthier me, I can’t remember the last time I made a casserole. Most of the time, they are full of processed canned foods, cheesy and full of carbs. What was I going to do with a bunch of frozen meals filled with stuff I didn’t really even care to eat?

Joanna asked if I’d like us to use whole wheat tortillas in her beef enchilada casserole. I didn’t see much point in opting for the whole wheat when it was already loaded with greasy ground beef and a couple cans of nacho cheese. What was a couple more carbs gonna hurt? I figured I’d just save the meals for one of those truly Southern occasions when the correct etiquette and most Christian course of action is to take food. You know like death, birth, or sickness.

We picked the most beautiful day we’d probably see before next summer rolled around to stay inside and cook up enough food to solve the hunger crisis of at least one-third world country. Mary Ella, my energetic blonde haired little doll of a niece, was begging to go swimming but since we had 6 pounds of ground beef browning and were in the middle of breading over 100 pieces of chicken hoping to make a healthier version of a Chicken McNugget, swimming would have to wait. In hopes of persuading us, Mary Ella put on her Carmen Miranda inspired swimsuit and came to help in the kitchen to speed up the process. Her half-naked in that bathing suit probably violated half a dozen health codes.

The three of us busted out those meals. I’m not sure what we did more of, work or gossip. Either way, in a little over two hours, we had made twelve meals, divided them up and stocked our freezers. We had so much fun talking, griping and laughing. Our first “Freezer Fest” was a success. Well, I guess. I haven’t thawed anything out yet.

Anybody hungry? I’ve got two pans of beef enchilada casserole, a pan of spinach ricotta roll ups smothered in spaghetti sauce, about 50 baked chicken nuggets coated in panko and forty more pounds to lose. I wonder which one’ll be gone first?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.image

Beauty Pageants and Blue Satin

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Tonight, sitting around a table with a group of girlfriends, we discussed those awkward teen years. You know the ones where you look back at pictures and wonder why your mother let you go in public looking like one of nerdy Steve Urkle’s cousins or the ones where your bangs were super fried by a spiral perm and sprayed 6 inches above your forehead with White Rain hairspray.

During the peak of my awkward stage, my childhood best friend Deanna decided she wanted to be in a beauty contest. Whatever she did, I did. If she wanted to go to the mall and make a music video to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, we did. Her, the rocker chick singing in the microphone slinging her highlighted hair to the beat. Me, the one playing the keyboard trying unsuccessfully to do the snake, a dance move I am anxiously waiting to show up on dance floors again. If she tried out for cheerleading, here we went. Me being cut in the first round and her ultimately making head cheerleader. So when she decided she wanted to enter the beauty contest at the county fair the summer between 7th and 8th grade, we filled out the entry forms printed in the local paper and went looking for dresses.

Keep in mind this was in the late 80’s when girls in our part of the country still wore hoop skirted ball gowns to pageants. After trying several of what looked like replicas from the closets of the characters on Gone With The Wind, Deanna ended up with a puffed sleeved sweetheart neckline pale pink hoop skirt dotted with white lace and dainty little pink ribboned bows. I ended up with the only thing they had in my size, a shiny royal blue satin hoop skirt.

The day of the pageant came and the lady at the beauty shop fixed the most valuable asset I had, my long flowing auburn mane in a sponge rolled frizzed curl side ponytail complete with a white lace and royal blue bow. My Moma did my makeup, some of her Clinique powder, peachy blusher, a dab of mascara and some pink shimmer lip gloss but no eyeliner even though I begged and pleaded for it. Apparently, I was nowhere near being old enough for eyeliner even at the mature age of 13.

All the contestants crowded in a tent behind the stage waiting our turn. The tent, a loaner the funeral home used for graveside services, trapped the August heat beneath the hunter green canvas. All us girls sweltered, mascara running and curls falling. Except for my side ponytail. It was teased up so much it would take two days before it fell flat.

First, they called Deanna. As she floated across the stage with grace and poise rarely exhibited by a 13-year-old girl, the announcer began, “Contest number 5 is Deanna Leach, daughter of Robert and Ellie Leach, her hobbies include cheer leading, swimming and talking on the phone.” She twirled in front of the judges making eye contact as she slung her cascade of curls over her shoulder. They were mesmerized.

Next was my turn. Outweighing all the other contestants by at least fifty pounds, the announcer, a weatherman from Channel 4, started in, “Contestant number 6 is Valerie Kemp, daughter of Donnie and Jackie Kemp…..wait, I wonder if this little lady is kin to the Kemp’s that own the grocery store.” Oh Lord, I prayed, please let him just announce my hobbies as boring as they might’ve been. Not the grocery store. He continued, “I stop there every time I’m in Ashland City, best fried pork chop and biscuit around. And that Mr. Kemp always makes sure they have chitlins’ when I want to buy some. You know stores in Nashville just don’t carry them anymore.” As he continued on about my parents grocery store like it was a paid advertisement, I made my way across the stage, missing half the turns and not even remembering to stop and make eye contact with the judges. I was too busy looking down trying to maneuver that giant blue hoop skirt and praying the announcer would quit talking about pork products.

I don’t remember if Deanna won that night or not. We didn’t care. If you were a contestant, you got to ride rides for free after the pageant at the fair that night. We changed out of those enormous hoop skirts and rode ride after ride hair sprayed so stiff with ozone depleting Paul Mitchell freeze spray, it didn’t move. Even when we rode the Scrambler. Now that’s some good hairspray.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
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As Dolly said in Steel Magnolias, the best Southern drama to ever hit the silver screen, “I’ve always been built for comfort, not for speed.” Me and her both. Even so, here I am getting ready for a charity 5K putting on my hot pink shirt from Athleta, bright blue cropped running capris and purple tennis shoes. The bright colors will make it easier for the paramedics to spot my crumpled body lying in a ditch along the route. Long gone are the days when charities sold Krispy Kreme donuts at the traffic light in front of the courthouse on Saturday mornings to raise money for their worthwhile causes. I miss those days. Now they all have these darn 5Ks.

I don’t have any luck with 5Ks. The first I ever signed up for was on May 1, 2010. I woke up to rain that morning that had the entire state of Tennessee flooded by supper time. I took it as a sign from God that I was not meant to run. It was a year before I attempted another one, one where I came in absolute dead last. The next was a breast cancer awareness run with my darling husband. Partly to motivate me and partly because he didn’t want to miss kickoff by his beloved Bama boys that afternoon, Brian hooped and hollered what he called encouragement the entire time. “Come, on!” “Do you want that girl you don’t like to beat us?” “Hurry up, it’s almost game time!” Get mad at it!” I wasn’t mad at the 5k but I was ready to shoot Brian. The only thing that kept me going was mentally dividing up our marital assets as I ran. Some people say a marriage is strong if it can survive building a house together. I say it is if you don’t divorce after running 3.1 miles. Needless to say, I am going it alone today.

I’m not even sure if you can even classify what I call running actual running. It’s more like a slow jog where onlookers have trouble distinguishing if you are actually in a forward motion accompanied by short bursts of running for just a second or two. I only bust out in this full-blown run when people are along the route or I’m coming up on a water station. You know it makes you feel like a real live Boston Marathon runner to be in full gate as you grab that paper water cup, take a swig and then sling it to the ground as you speed pass.

So, here I go, bound and determined to finish another 5K whether it kills me or not. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, you’ll know what happened. Don’t worry though, they’ll spot my body. With neon pink shirt, blue pants the color of the Caribbean Sea and brightly colored LSU inspired running shoes, you’d have to be blind not to see me.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
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Taking Aim

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Once a month, I weigh in and get a body fat analysis done by my trainer Brandi to see if all the squats, lunges, and crunches have paid off. If you’ve never had a body fat analysis done, you are missing a real treat. In the last year, I’ve had so many, they don’t phase me now but the first few were some of the more awkward moments of my life. In Brandi’s defense, she tried to make it all nonchalant. You know, as nonchalant as you can be with a 5’3″ 250 pound woman standing in front of you with nothing on but her sport’s bra and form-fitting knit capris. Once I was halfway undressed, Brandi got out her body fat measuring calipers which is essentially a vise grip for your fat roll. She took several measurements from various parts of my body, the spare tire around my middle, the flab on my bicep, that big hunk of back fat between my shoulders, and my muffin top that looked more like a three layer cake.* After all that, I stood on the scale to weigh in, all numbers integral to the body fat percentage calculation, numbers that had been slowly decreasing until last week.

I gained two pounds. I chalked it up to water weight, a little bloating and having soy sauce high in sodium the night before and it very well could have been any of those things but I knew it wasn’t. I knew I was playing loosey goosey with my eating plan, treating myself a little more frequently, and toning down the intensity of my workouts.

Instead of seeing this two-pound gain as a defeat, freaking out, throwing a pity party and unscrupulously blaming my husband and his secret stash of junk food, gaining those two pounds was a good thing. It made me assess where I was, where I was going and what was stopping me from getting where I wanted to be.

In my neck of the woods, this time of year, with deer season right around the corner, boys take to the fields spending countless hours sighting in their rifles to ensure they reach their target on opening day, poor Bambi, all grownup. I came home from work to find my darling husband doing just that in a tree stand affixed to a telephone pole in our front yard, shooting arrows at a cardboard cutout of a whitetail deer. We live in a condominium complex not a 50 acre farm. Heaven knows what the neighbors thought.

I needed to take a lesson from my husband halfway up a telephone pole taking aim at the flimsy cardboard buck. I needed to get a better vantage point and focus my sights to correct my aim. I redefined and set reasonable goals, decided what changes I needed to refocus my efforts and set my sights on the target. Hunters don’t just sight their gun in when they’re brand new, either. They continue to do so year after year whenever they feel their aim is a little off and I was going to have to do the same.

It’s open season at my house for fat that is. I’ve got my target in sight with my finger on the trigger. Y’all watch this. I just might hit where I’m aiming.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.image

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