Get Smart Get Strong

A Nevada Woman Speaks Her Mind

It’s Okay to Fail; It’s Not Okay to Give Up

Oh look! It’s Monday.

Get Smart Get Strong

I’m not sure I can count the number of times that I’ve started some weight loss effort. At least every January since I was 10. Later it was every May, too so that I could “be ready for summer”. In 2007 I felt like I was starting over or cranking up every month and then every week. After my RNY in 2009, it felt as if I started over every day. Each day a new opportunity to stick to the plan. Then I stopped doing that for a long time. I started over again in October. Every day a new chance to move my body. Every day an opportunity to try new foods that taste fabulous and make me feel good. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to my “goal weight”. I don’t think that’s as important anymore. What I think is crucial is that I’m not giving…

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Tough Mother


There were many years, decades really, when not only did I never think I’d be a mother, but I absolutely did not want to be one. From a distance of thirty years, I know that was because I’d spent too many years of my childhood doing the things that a mom has to do: cooking and cleaning and laundry and dishes and changing diapers and babysitting. My mom, with 5 children before she was 30 – needed all our help. I get that. But it soured me on wanting my own family, my own babies.

In college I got a few jobs as a nanny/babysitter and I was good at it, but still, not what I wanted. Years passed and I loved it when my sister had a son and I got to play doting aunt. I made every excuse to go visit them where ever they lived and to bring toys and books and spend time with that beautiful little boy. Nieces and nephews followed – eventually there would be 9 or 10, including steps.

I remember when I started wanting my own. It was when I met and fell in love with a man who I knew would be a great father. Someone who would be there with me, every step of the way to parent with me. I started to realize that it wasn’t revulsion that kept me from wanting to be a mom, but fear. Fear that I would be the kind of mother I’d had. What I didn’t admit to myself is that my mom had turned 16 the month before I was born. She had no age, wisdom or maturity or even good examples of parenting to guide her. By 18 she had three kids under 3 and it was survival mom at best. (And yes, she knew about birth control and yes, she was trying but she was the original Fertile Myrtle, apparently!)

My situation was so different. I’d lived a pretty amazing life already – I was in my mid-thirties when I met my husband. I was college educated and (seemingly) wiser and more mature. At the very least, a lot more patient than I would have been at 16.

After decades of trying really hard not to get pregnant, I learned that I couldn’t get pregnant. Seriously? That’s a lot of freaking money and anxiety to have wasted, darn it. Anyway, so we tried and tried and finally got pregnant. So much joy and excitement but so very short lived. At 13 weeks we found out the baby had died and I had to have a D&C. It’s been fourteen years and that still makes me tear up. I think I cried for a month without stopping. October 2000. Some years I’ll realize what day it is and stop and think about what it would have been like if that baby, a boy, had lived. My mother-in-law told me maybe it was for the best and we should consider it a blessing. That was such a terrible thing to say because he didn’t live, but in a way it was a blessing and now I can’t wish that he had, because it would have changed everything that makes my life what it is today.

In March of 2001 my best friend had twins. I went to stay with them for ten days. So hard. I remember hiding in the bathroom or going for walks and just wailing. It hurt so much to be there, to hold those babies and know mine had died and I would never get to hold him. But it was also a healing time. Holding one or two babies constantly for 10 days is apparently an amazing treatment for infertility because I realized I was pregnant a month after I went home.

It was terrifying this time, not joyful. We were so scared that the baby might die again. People cautioned me not to tell everyone this time. Not to buy stuff for the baby. instead, I went out and bought a little winter outfit (he was due in February) and started making a blanket. I wasn’t going to wait until he was born to love him. He deserved for me to take that risk every minute of the pregnancy. And so I got another baby. Another chance to be a mom.

I’m not the kind of mom that I hoped I’d be. I’m not calm and organized and all Martha-Stewartish. I yell and get mad and I’m way too critical. I forget to do dishes or make something for dinner and sometimes I say mean or stupid things that make my son cry. I’m always sorry, because what I really should be saying, all the time, is how much I love him. How much I love being a mom and how I wouldn’t change a single thing, even if I had a time machine and could go back and save that first baby. It sounds hard, but that was my “housecleaning” pregnancy that made it possible for my son to be born, strong and healthy and exactly who he is.

I love you. Thank you for choosing me to be your mommy.



I woke up early yesterday and had a big day. By 8 PM I was so tired that I went to bed. But couldn’t sleep. Finally fell asleep about midnight. At 3:00 AM the light in my ceiling fan flickered on and began flashing. I am extremely light sensitive, so it woke me up and then it was an hour or more before I fell asleep, only to be awakened by my own alarm clock at 6:00 AM. Slapped it around to teach it a lesson, then went back to sleep, completely forgetting about the new puppy.

Finally came downstairs at 7:00 AM to find that my wonderful husband had walked the puppy, fed the puppy and was walking the puppy again. Pretty amazing, that man. We hung outside with the puppy for a while, waiting for her to do her double trouble routine. (My husband finally figured out that she pees, then poops, pees again, then poops and pees one more time in about a 30 minute period. Couldn’t figure out why she kept having accidents. Now we know!)

I made breakfast and tried to reclaim the kitchen. I was in Reno all day yesterday and the dishes, they were piled high. Too tired when I came home to try and wrangle them then, but I’m on load two now and should catch up by lunchtime. Boy do we use a lot of dishes.

Wait, where was I?

Oh right, sleep. So my son and my husband stayed up late watching a movie. Then AFTER the movie finished, they played a little mine craft. So they are both having after breakfast naps. I’m having coffee, then I’m going to go out and fix my guest house fence that has been broken since the windstorm in February. I keep saying I am going to do that, but darn it, today we are going to do it. The dog got out of the fence yesterday and if he’d gotten hurt I would have been responsible – AGAIN – for not keeping an animal safe. Not going to happen, so I’m strapping on my tool belt and getting it done. TODAY.

Then I’m going to have a nap.

Dog Whisperer

Dog Whisperer IV, 100th Episiode Celebration Ep Code: 3270

I was off track the very first week. More focused on the yard sale than my primary job as homeschool mom and housekeeper. Yard sale did earn enough money to buy the puppy and take care of shots and food and an exercise yard and toys and all that stuff. We’ve never had an exercise yard before, but something about the pit bull seems to call for it. I want to give her as few distractions and opportunities for destruction as possible. (We won’t mention the sun room cushion because it is totally mend-able.)

She’s a smart little thing. Very food motivated so we do morning training and she gets one or two pieces of food for everything she does right. Seems a little mean but the trainer we are working with said it is the way to go, so that’s what we are doing. She can sit, come, walk, get into the crate and come out of the crate on command. She has only had one tiny accident and seems adjusted to having her poop and pee in the same place. Pretty impressive for the first four days. We are also working on the nipping, chewing and jumping. All totally normal for a puppy, but we have to start the training NOW because when she’s 80 pounds, it won’t be so cute.

We’ve been watching Cesar Milan on Netflix and really enjoying what he does with the dogs. Seems to focus mainly on training the owners which is funny but apparently so true. So we’re going to train ourselves. I demand chocolate for my treats, though.

The Wheels Go Round and Round

Borrowed from

Today I’m thinking about where the rubber meets the road, or in my case, where it is not meeting the road. I need new tires. Apparently I forgot to rotate them. Ever. So the front ones are worn but usable, and the rear ones are shot to hell. Scary considering the family just drove 6000 miles on them. The bad news is that you are not supposed to have a very wide diversity between the tread. It ruins the all wheel drive system. So that’s four new tires, not two.

That’s a pain in the wallet. The wallet that is empty. Literally. My husband’s new job starts on Wednesday, but we won’t see a paycheck for a couple of weeks. We are very lucky that we had some savings and will be able to pay our bills until that first check hits the bank. The tires will have to go onto a credit card. Hate that and totally would not do it if we didn’t know there would be green flowing again soon. I’d park the car and wait. I think the scariest thing in the world is spending money you don’t have with no income. That’s a lesson I learned when I graduated from college about a million years ago.

I had a plan, as I recall. I bought an answering machine, a briefcase and a suit and started job interviews. With my brand new Yale diploma, I thought it would be a snap, but surprisingly, there aren’t that many jobs out there for an International Studies major. Go figure.

I did get a lovely offer from the Paul Mellon Centre at Yale in New Haven. Sadly, it would not have paid my rent, food and the occasional ice cream cone, much less my student loans and other living expenses. I can see now that if I’d taken that job, I’d have been working two jobs. One for love and one for gas money. Or bike tires, as I didn’t even have a car back then.

Sometimes I wonder where that path would have led. The Ivy league graduate, working in the conservation lab at the museum. Attending trendy parties in vintage beaded evening wear from the Salvation Army. Slipping mini quiche’s into my handbag for breakfast and chatting with elderly art patrons willing to buy me wine. Spouting forth on Turner and Gainsborough and wishing I’d worn the flats instead of the pointy toe heels that made my legs look fabulous. Eventually I’d have moved in with someone completely unsuitable who would run up my credit cards and then leave me stuck with the rent and a broken heart.

Wait. Stop that.

Why couldn’t I have written a fabulous novel in my spare time and gotten a book deal that kept me in eggs and bacon of my own? Met a charming book editor who fell in love with my witty prose and cute dimples. That could have happened. I could be living in a brownstone in the Village and going up to our country house in Vermont on weekends. Sounds pretty fabulous, doesn’t it?

But you know what? I’m glad I took the job as a secretary so I could pay for the suit and the answering machine and the briefcase that I didn’t need. That I got my boss’ job when she left and started on the path to who I am today. That I moved back to Georgia and worked for IBM and met my friend Gail. That I went to Coca-Cola where I met Chris, Stafford and Karen, Rose, Theresa, Ross, Sandra, Rick and Michele and so many others who know  I suck at staying in touch. And by the way, Nigel and Diane, my friends from Australia, who introduced me to the love of my life. I’m glad that I worked at CARE and met my friends Dana and Kevin and Andy. That I worked at AT&T with my sister, who rocks. At Cox with my friend Chris again, and IHG with Crystal, Joe, Annelle and so many more. That I worked at T-Mobile with Brett and GE with Beth and Jennie and Corky and so many more.

If not, I’d never have met my husband. I’d never have had my son. I wouldn’t have my house with the view of the snowy mountains and eagles flying overhead.

Looking back, taking that crappy job was the best thing I could have done.

Rain, Sleet, Snow and a Puppy

BrynBrierI’ve decided to hire myself out to the state of Nevada for weather control. I will agree to host a yard sale one weekend a month. It is guaranteed to rain, sleet or snow. This weekend it did all three. I know it is April and spring and blah, blah, blah, but seriously. It rained off and on for two days. We needed it, so I just shuffled my stuff to my lovely big back porch and arranged everything in the garage. A lot of brave souls came out and picked through my junk. I made hot coffee and met some neighbors  which was deeply cool.

Sunday dawned clear and cool and warmed up to what I’ve come to expect from Nevada weather. By afternoon I was even a little sunburned. My son and I painted a huge sign to put up and my engineer husband built a stand for it. We hauled it down to the main road and put it up and the people, they began to come.

It was a steady stream all day until dark. I would say I sold about half of what I had out – mostly the big stuff which is nice. I think I’ll run it once more this weekend and arrange for the charity truck to come on Sunday afternoon if possible. Then they can take it all away. Far, far away.

I was surprised at how few pangs I felt about selling things. It was fun telling people that I bought that in Africa or India or Dubai or Singapore. They loved getting things for so cheap since I was focused on getting rid of things, not making a fortune. And I loved talking to everyone. Met a ton of neighbors. People I’ve lived close to for almost three years and never met. Shame on me.

Happily I met my goal and made enough to buy a puppy on Craigslist and pay for the vet to check her out and get all her shots. Her name is Bryn and she’s just amazing. A little brindle pit bull mix (we think) that is 10 weeks old. She’s already stolen our hearts so I hope she’s healthy. That’s the danger of buying a puppy on Craigslist. You have NO idea what has gone on in that baby’s life. She seemed awfully hungry the first day, gulping down her food and water. That’s slowed down as I think she’s figured out she’ll get fed three times a day, as well as treats for training.

She’s a little love. Right now she’s sitting on my foot, sleeping after a meal, a walk and a crazy hour of puppy play.  She’s very cuddly and we’re working on the mouthing/teething. Natural for a puppy – usually they learn not to do it from other dogs but apparently she was taken from her mother at 6 weeks. Too early for some of that natural socialization, so we’ll have to be her pack and teach her.

I think it is natural that there is some sadness mixed in with the fun. Just after dinner last night my son broke down. We’d been expecting it, but it was still painful. I think he was feeling guilty about being so happy with the puppy, that somehow it was disloyal to Sophie.

Not a chance. Sophie loved that boy with all her heart. She loved all of us and we loved her. We miss her, we probably always will. There will always be that tug of guilt that we didn’t do more to keep her safe. But we’ll channel that into Bryn and keep her safe and love her forever. She’s part of the family now.

Retail Therapy


There are certain clues that your life is out of whack. Avoiding your friends. Poor sleep. Weight gain. (Or for some people, weight loss – I’m not one of them!) Dropping things you love for mindless activities that keep you from thinking. Crying too easily or getting mad about nothing at all. The classics.

A big clue for me was shopping for things I didn’t need and then getting stressed about the clutter. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expected different results. Who said that?)

For the last four years I have shopped almost every week for stuff I didn’t really need. Frequently more than one day a week. Really bad weeks, it might be every day.

I made jokes about it. I called it my ‘retail therapy’. Have a stressful day at work? Buy a stack of books to read. Get sniped at by the boss? Oh look, an icecream maker. Floundering and confused because what you are told and what you hear later aren’t the same things? Don’t worry – go shopping. Besides, with all that stress eating, I need new clothes, right?

Because it really is my favorite place to shop and because we don’t have a lot of extra money, thrift shops, Goodwill, Salvation army and yard sales were my drug of choice. I love browsing and finding great designer clothes or some awesome kitchen gadget for next to nothing. It gives me a tiny little boost that lasts just long enough to get me home and with my family.

Then comes the guilt.

I could berate myself all night: we need that money to pay bills. The house is too cluttered already. What are you thinking? Which, now that I think about it, was another way to avoid thinking about the dream job that had become a nightmare. I didn’t have any luck finding a new job and as the sole breadwinner for my family, I couldn’t just quit.After all, I moved us out here, uprooted my very social husband and son from their lives for this job, this life.

But I could never seem to find my rhythm. No matter how hard I worked – and at times it was 12-14 hours a day, 5-6 days a week – I felt as if the ground was constantly shifting. I would joke about it being Monday and wondering what my job would be this week. I can honestly say that I gave it my all, but then a wonderful thing happened. I got laid off. Reduction in Force. For me it might as well have been called a Reduction in Stress. RIF or RIS, it was as if the weight of the world fell off my shoulders.

I miss my friends at work. I miss the cool work we did there, but I slept like a baby from the first night of the layoff. I’m doing things that I love again. I’ve lost weight. I’m seeing and talking to my friends. I don’t cry or get as mad about nothing. And my shopping habit? Down about 90%. Even better, I’m letting go of all those things I didn’t really need. Letting them go for a song to anyone who wants them.

Because I don’t need them anymore.

With a Little Help from my Friends

About 6pm yesterday, it did not look like a yard sale. Then my wonderful friend showed up with her two boys and a neighbor kid dropped by. By bribing the 4 boys and taking complete and total advantage of my amazing friend, we got everything out of the house.

I had no idea who good that would feel. It was enough stuff to fill a 2 car garage. And it was all in my house. And I don’t really need it. Wow. Crazy.

I got up early and with about an ocean of coffee, started unpacking, arranging and most important, Facebooking. Posting pictures with descriptions and prices on all the cool stuff, responding back to requests for info and basically, learning to host a social media yard sale. It’s Friday, I haven’t put up a sign and already I’ve had a dozen people stop by. Haven’t made much money, but a lot of stuff has gone that I never, ever have to wash, dust or otherwise tend again. And the people who took the stuff look pretty happy.  That makes me happy.

No I guess I need to go make a big sign to put up so I get passing traffic this weekend. It’s so windy. I’m going to need a major board with something heavy to weight it down.

Must go because my last cup of coffee is wearing off and I need to go nap one more time on my mid-century Art Linkletter, countour lounge chair before someone buys it. lounge

And now, ladies and gentlemen: Lynard Skynard

lynyrdskynyrdI couldn’t seem to get going this morning. For the last month my fingers have just been itching to write. Usually I can’t get my chores done fast enough in the morning. Then I race to the computer and the thoughts just come pouring out.

This morning? Nothing. Had no interest at all in writing. Finally came to me that my head was all messed up because I had a job interview this morning. Not a real job interview, an informational interview.

Have you heard of these? Apparently the whole goal of job searching these days is to line up as many informational interviews as possible in your target industry and then at your target companies. Okaaaaaaay.

So that’s what I’ve been working on and today I got an interview with an actual person who hires for the top company on my list. It was fun, she was great, but I can’t help thinking what does this actually accomplish? I know they don’t have any positions that I’m interested in right now. I guess it gets me on the radar and when I do apply for something down the road, they remember me. Of course, I hope it’s not as “That stalker woman who nagged us until we talked to her.”

That wouldn’t be good.

So my brain was all work focused and blocked from creative thinking and writing. Shaking that off took a lot of Facebooking, reading about elephants going to sanctuaries and Ethiopia reclaiming their farming history. Then I plugged in the Pandora and got a little Lynard Skynard going. Now James Brown is feeling good and so am I.

AC/DC has TNT and dynamite going and I need to get out to the garage and start setting up for the garage sale. Got the garage organized and all the stuff I want to sell pulled out. Now I need to sort and dust and display because tomorrow is the big day. It’s fun, in a crazy masochistic way. I’m mostly looking forward to not having this stuff in my garage anymore.

Do you know something? For the first time in my life, I could actually park in my garage. We could even set up our wood working shop we’ve talked about for the last 20 years. Yes. 20 years we’ve been pulling stuff out to work on the porch or the driveway. Now, we can do stuff in the actual garage. Pretty cool, huh? Probably you have a really neat organized garage where the is no possibility you could own 13 hammers. 15 if you count the rubber mallets.

If anyone is in the area, stop by the garage sale on Friday morning. I’ll be out there all weekend and then the truck is coming on Monday to pick up the leftovers.  so must get out. Have a great day everyone, I gotta get to work. Okay, maybe I’ll finish Ray Charles’  Hit the Road Jack and my coffee. THEN I’ll go.

Adventures in Homeschooling


This was my first week as the home school parent. Lucky for everyone concerned, my husband doesn’t start his new job for another week. I keep getting caught up in my writing. My son, being the opportunist teenager that he is, takes advantage of this and slips on his headphones and starts watching episodes of MASH. Now I love MASH (I watched it live, for Pete’s sake) but he’s gotta do the work.

It’s pretty amusing when I try to help him with his math. It’s definitely the blind leading the blind. I took an aptitude test to help with my job search and this is what it said about me and math:

“Math may be about the same as a foreign language for Karen. At least, it is foreign to Karen’s mental preferences in one-way or another. Mathematical problems seem to become bigger problems if Karen tries to solve them. Mental gears seem to get jammed in the middle of a math problem, and success in the form of a solution is without internal reward or satisfaction.”

Thank goodness, the answers are in the back of the book. Plus, my husband has done an amazing job, so mostly the boy gets them right. Biggest issue is reading the problem correctly. But those I can figure out. And this is good for me. I can’t stay math-phobic my whole life. Can I?

Literature is more my style. We’re reading Pilgrim’s Progress with the Home School group. I introduced the boy to one of my favorites “Gone Away Lake” which he loves. The dated language is introducing him to some interesting words that I take for granted. Apparently teenagers in this day and age don’t know the word bureau,  which is what I always called a dresser. He’s also reading the first Artemis Fowl book out loud to me. That’s painful but really great practice for him. He’s 100 times faster reading silently, which frustrates him. I get that. But he’s 1000 times faster and more accurate than he was in 2009, so the progress is definitely there. I would say that there are very few words he can’t sound out using the Barton method.

I was thinking of learning to be a Barton tutor. I might still do that. But my husband pointed out that I am already taking on a lot of new stuff, plus trying to write every day, so maybe I should hold off on that. Plus, gardening season is upon us and we all know how crazy I get. I mean, how devoted I am to my garden. Last year was the guest house lawn and the side yards. This year it’s time to remake the front yard and I cannot wait.

But meanwhile, back at the Brier Patch Academy, the boy bought a 1950’s Underwood typewriter at a thrift store yesterday. He cleaned it and it’s working great and he’s teaching himself to type. Considering the age of the machine and the condition of the ribbon (we’re looking for a replacement) he’s doing surprisingly well. And it’s fun to see him sitting at the fold out correspondents table built into the case, clicking away. It’s the kind of thing newspaper men used in the Vietnam war. Deeply cool.

What else? He’s got a novel he’s working on. (We call them stories.) He’s sharing it with his friends who are the main characters. They are all having fun with it. One friend shared her writing back and I think it was good for him to see that what other people his age are doing. I want him to be challenged but not flattened, if that makes sense.

We’re also introducing art history. I’m having him Google for an art work he likes, then research the artist and do a fill in the blanks paper about it. I want him to try imitating the artist’s style, too, but that’s for later.

He’s already a history nut and seems to take care of that on his own. He’s just finished Turn, the Revolutionary War series. It was quite good and not too adult, though there were a couple of scenes that made him squirm.

We’re adding in chores and exercise to our schedule so it is less hit and miss. I’m sure the chickens appreciate it. I know I like just having to clean up after meals instead of the big clean every weekend. All in all, despite my initial concerns, it went pretty well.

Gotta run – I have my own chores!

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