The Swim to My 50s – Darn it! We should have had more kids!

Photo by duettographics.com

photo by duettographics.com

Being married to an Environmental Planner, Conservationist, a Pro-Sustainability guy, AND someone who is in public service (not the most lucrative business and therefore disqualifying us from joining the 1% of Americans), we opted for having only two children.  

My health also played a role in that decision since I could barely physically handle the two we already had. It was no secret that we wanted more children but made a conscious decision to stick to our plan and are now proud and grateful for our loving (most of the time) son and daughter.

My husband, let’s call him Enviro-Guy, has not only been the best thing that ever happened to me for endless reasons, he has also taught me how to appreciate the environment, think beyond my little world and to always consider the greater picture.

Enviro-Guy photo by deadline.com

Enviro-Guy
photo by deadline.com

 

He knew he had his work cut out for him when he married me.  After all, I was a young feisty Puerto Rican girl who wore heels and red lipstick on the first hike he took me on. The one who thought open space meant wasted space and wondered why they hadn’t built a mall on that land yet.  

Also the girl, whose non environmentally friendly father had taught her that ALL insects must die.  Even, when outside in their natural environment – minding their own business.  Yes, I was a bug stomper/crusher and would consider Enviro-Guy to be insane for letting the spiders and insects that had the audacity to enter our home, live!

photo by download.lavadomefive.com

photo by download.lavadomefive.com

 

He taught me to appreciate wildlife.  Particularly birds and a most peculiar endangered toad.  The birdwatching I could handle, although I could never see the said bird all the other birders had spotted because I was binocular-challenged.  I looked through the $500 lenses and could not orient myself to look in the right direction no matter how hard I tried.   By the time I could figure it out and get the hang of the binoculars,  the rare bird had flown back south.  

The need to spot this peculiar small amphibian, the American Spadefoot Toad my husband was fascinated with, at precisely the right day, time, temperature and barometric pressure – made for some interesting romantic dates.  It would be a warm, humid (not good for my hair), rainy spring evening, after having seen a movie or having gone out to dinner when suddenly – all would change.  

Enviro-Guy would get quiet and lost in his thoughts while driving home.  I would notice that he would take a different route home.  Usually a dark secluded road.  I of course, thought he wanted to get romantic in the car and was trying to find the perfect spot to park the car.

SpadeFoot Toad

Spadefoot Toad

 

I would soon learn his real intentions.   This tiny endangered toad, famous for being an “explosive breeder”, would wait until the first warm rainy night, to come out to breed.  Tons of them!  Enviro-Guy, who was doing research on this explosive breeder, wanted to witness this phenomenon and to learn where their vernal pools and breeding grounds were so they could continue to protect them.

He also did not want the little lovers to get flattened on the road by other cars and would make a barrier with our car to protect them.  

The only explanation I can think of, for my ability and willingness to sit patiently in the car with the windows fogged up (not from any human explosive breeding going on…), listening to the rain, with the bright headlights pointing right at the toads, feeling the frizz in my hair increase, waiting for Enviro-Guy, is = LOVE  (for him, not the toads).

photo by clipartguide.com

photo by clipartguide.com

Getting back to the children issue, I grew up with 3 siblings.   Two boys and two girls, perfectly and evenly matched.  I watched my parents sacrifice a lot for us  and struggle to make ends meet.  We easily filled a station wagon and made a dent on our parent’s wallets with a trip to McDonald’s.

I am extremely close to all of my siblings.  All of us, without a single doubt, will go to the end of the earth and back for each other at a moment’s notice.  And, even after years of the typical “let’s blame our parents for all our failures” – therapy we underwent,  we adore our parents and have always been there for them.

This fact proved to be true upon the illness and death of my father, 15 years ago.  We rallied as a family, taking turns going home to help our mother and be by our father’s side. When one of us could not be there, we knew there were three others that could.

Enviro-Guy, came from a family of 6 kids – all boys.  His saint of a mother had given birth to four boys, was hoping for a girl and ended up (without prior knowledge) with twin boys (surprise!) A perfect ‘stepladder’ of adorable, crew-cut, rambunctious, peanut butter and jelly boys.

My children have benefited tremendously from this abundance of aunts and uncles.  Our family gatherings are filled with lot’s of chatter, laughter (oftentimes-disagreements) and fun.

photo by suzyzblogspot.com

photo by suzyzblogspot.com

 

This past weekend, I was forced to think about what it means to have a large family, as we celebrated my almost 90-year-old father-in-law’s special recognition by his town for his many accolades.

He ended up getting ill and almost did not make it to the 200-people ceremony.  We were all very worried about him and felt bad that this well-deserved special event was being interrupted by his health.  

It was truly an amazing sight to watch those six wonderful sons attend to their father.  While some sat with him, others re-assured their mother.  As they stabilized him, they would switch off making sure that no one brother took the bulk of the responsibility.  

The evening was a success and he was able to stay for the whole ceremony. His sons were not able to relax, eat or take their eyes off their father and were on guard to run to his aid if needed.

After observing this incredible act of love, I felt a sense of sadness.  Sadness that we only had two kids.  That, as they grow and live their lives, they will only have each other for support, encouragement and comradery.  And, will carry all the burden of our ailing health in the years to come.

It brings me peace however, to know that they have a close relationship with each other. They have grown up observing the amount of love and dedication their aunts, uncles and parents, have exhibited toward each other.  I am  thankful that they have this foundation, and can continue to develop into caring and devoted siblings and loving adult children.

As a bonus, they have also become quite the avid recyclers, are good at turning off the lights, are getting better at conserving water (my daughter has yet to master this) and are committed to doing all they can to help protect our planet!

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The Swim to My 50s – My Bizarre Electromagnetic Field Disability

photo by movie-info-collection.blogspot.com

Courtesy of  movieinfocollectionblgspot.com

I am not kidding when I tell you that there is something very bizarre going on with my body (besides the obvious).  There has to be.  There are too many unexplained occurrences to ignore this fact any further.

I can count at least ten watches that sit in my jewelry drawer that have failed me.  Some are new, some old, some cheap and one is a Gucci my parents gave me as a gift.

In spite of my history with watches, I continue to buy them hoping that they will not fall victim to my Bizarre Electromagnetic Field Disability.  This BEFD causes all of my watches to STOP working for no explicable reason. Yes, I have replaced the batteries on all of them – to no avail.

It usually occurs within the first month of wearing the watch.  Let me tell you, it freaks me out every time.

But, my BEFD does not stop there. I am partially handicapped when using public restrooms.  While this germa-phobic society is happily enjoying the new technological advanced features in public restrooms, I am deprived.

No matter how many times I swing my hands under the automatic sinks, water will not come out.  Believe me, I try.  I will go from sink to sink swinging away in hopes that I feel even a tiny drop of water.  

People often give me looks and wonder why I am not able to figure out this simple automatic contraption.  My daughter has now become my own personal swinger when we go powder our noses together.

By the time I am visiting the sinks, I have already failed twice with the other ‘user friendly’ gadgets.  The automatic toilet NEVER flushes for me, even after doing a little merengue dance. I end up having to press the tiny yucky wet button with my hand or foot myself – in order to flush.  It is quite traumatic.

Forget about using any soap on my hands before attempting to rinse.  The #%&@ soap will not dispense for me either.  What have I done to deserve such discrimination?

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Courtesy of uncgbls.wordpress.com

Finally, if I have been fortunate enough to have someone help me with the sink and my hands are actually wet…you guessed it.  The automatic paper towel dispenser will not dispense!  I swing those hands back and forth, I see a green light indicating that paper is near…but – NADA.  I just wipe my hands on my pants and leave the premises discouraged, once again.

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Courtesy of haleyscomic.com

I am considering wearing my handicap placard that I have for my car around my neck when going to public restrooms, so as to elicit pity and assistance.  After all, my daughter will not always be there to swing for me.

I am not sure this constitutes as another official example of my BEFD, but when wearing custom jewelry (ok, cheap jewelry), my skin turns black.  Not only my ring fingers but my wrists and neck.  I know that discoloration of the skin is normal with metals but, it happens right away.

I can only hope that my BEFD will work to my advantage someday. Like, being able to swing my hands in front of a cash register to stop it from working allowing me to take home my items for free.  Or, flashing my hands in front of a scale and making it stop at 100 pounds.

How about using my disability when purchasing a lottery ticket and causing it stop at my numbers?  You get my point.  Why, oh why must I continue to suffer like this?

Perhaps I will do what the skinny long-haired woman (minus the gray hair) on my first photo is doing.  I will go outside during the next torrential rain when the lightning is rabid, and get hit.  This will throw off my Bizarre Electromagnetic Field and make me a regular human being, allowing me to flush toilets, own working watches and wear as much cheap jewelry as I deserve to wear.     

  

The Swim to My 50s – This Girl Is On Fire…

After taking a close look at my gouda (a fun word to describe your gluteus maximus) during my April 8th post, Swimming to My 50s – “I like Big B— (Goudas) and I Cannot Lie”, I took a little break from body parts.

It was a nice break but I knew I had an obligation to continue swimming along checking for any necessary alignments and adjustments to this soon to be 50-year-old bod.

Well, right below my gouda, are my lovely thighs.  

I suddenly had a flash back to the Jane Fonda exercise days back in the 80’s.  I had just graduated from high school and at the suggestion of my cousin (whose thighs were a bit… large then), I went rushing to Kmart to buy my very own Jane Fonda’s Workout VHS tape!

Ok, so my thighs were a bit large as well, probably because while in high school, I spent my .35 cent daily lunch allowance on ice cream sandwiches instead of a ‘well balanced’ school lunch.  At times, I chose a Drake’s Coffee Cake instead of the ice cream sandwich in order to vary my diet. 

These are so good!

These are so good

Word had it that this workout did wonders for your legs.  Seeing that the ice cream and coffee cakes had all settled in my thighs, I could not wait to start the workouts.

Boy did Jane look good then!  She still does – damn her.  How old is she now, 80?  

1982 VHS

1982 VHS

In the video, she sported a pink and purple striped leotard, pink tights and purple leg warmers.  She looked so happy.  So did her accomplices who flawlessly followed her every step. Why weren’t they sweating?  And, why were they smiling so much?

The first time, I played the video all the way through without participating.  I wanted to know what I was getting into.  I figured if they could do it, so could I.

It was summer, I was in Puerto Rico with my family and away from my boyfriend (now husband).  I decided that I would transform my thighs before seeing him again the following month.  

I put on an old t-shirt, short shorts (so I could see why I was doing this), pressed the play button and began following along.  Jane was looking right at me through the tv screen.  She seemed to know my every move.  She kept telling me to breathe (could she see me panting?). Then, she would tell me to bounce, bounce and bounce some more.  As I bounced (which I believe is now known to be a bad thing to do when stretching – just saying), she told me to, make it burn.

I knew exactly what she meant by burn because my legs were on fire.  How did she believe it was humanly possible to do as many leg lifts as she made me do? And the pelvic tilts…ouch!

Well, my girl Jane was right!  Soon, I became obsessed with the workouts and did them twice a day every day.  I was determined to have Jane-looking thighs.

Mind you, this was in the early 80’s when I was young, healthy and physically able!  Unaware, that in the years to follow I would be diagnosed with RA and unable to move!

When fall rolled along and it was time to go to college, I was more than ready.  Not only did my thighs look amazing but so did the rest of my body!

Fast forward to 2013.  What can I say?  I’m sure Jane’s thighs still look good. But, I’m not bitter.  My almost 50-year-old thighs are strong and have been the pillars that have kept me grounded, steady and able to support all the heavy burdens that have come my way.  

As Alicia Keys suggests in her song, Girl On Fire,  this brickhousechick, is on fire!  

The Swim to My 50’s – Now, where was I?

I could not do it.  Since the Boston bombings, as I sat to write on my blog, no words would come to me.  Having lived, studied and worked in Boston for many years, I could not stop thinking about the horrible events.  Nothing I wanted to write seemed appropriate enough or worthy of a blog entry.  Everything felt so trivial in comparison to the mayhem in Boston.

How could I write about my silly experiences, stories or events?  It felt disrespectful and selfish discussing my insignificant little life, while so many were suffering.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis – AND?  At least I have all my limbs and extremities in tact.  Yes, I experience pain on a daily basis – SO?  It is nothing like the excruciating physical and emotional pain felt by the victims of the bombings.

I am going to turn 50 in September.  Really?  That’s my dilemma?

As the days passed and the suspects were still out there, I began to think about the want and longing we all felt  for some sort of normalcy.  We could not wait until the suspects were caught so that we could go back to our routines, as mundane as they may be, and to our little insignificant lives.

Psychologists were advising that parents continue their daily regular schedules with their children, in order to ease their anxiety. None of us could truly get the atrocity of the bombings out of our minds as we grieved for those affected, but we tried to resume our lives because – we had to.

Soon I realized that I had to move forward.  That, as trivial as my life is, it is nevertheless, my life.  Not unlike the lives of many out there.

You see, although major events in our lives can shape us into who we are, it is often the simple routines and experiences that bring us joy and that make us feel blessed.

We all have silly stories to tell and experiences to share.  We do not have to be famous, on a reality show or on the news to be relevant.  Our voices and opinions matter to us and to those who choose to listen.  We enjoy reading about other’s lives and opinions and learn to find the humor in the difficulties we face.

There are atrocities happening every day.  We cannot ignore them or avoid them, but we can show our strength by continuing to live our lives the best we can.

I look forward to sharing more of my silly insignificant stories (like how I got my thunder thighs) with you, on future posts! 🙂

The Swim to My 50s – My name is brickhousechick, and I am a blog-oholic

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Courtesy of clipartguide.com

How can this be?  Why me?

I cannot deny, that the warning signs indicating that I had somewhat of an addictive personality, were there.  I sort of suspected that it was not normal for me to order a case of Olde Cape Cod Poppyseed Dressing, after having night sweats and a panic attack at the thought of not having my next supply. 

Or, the fact that I hide chap stick (shh…) everywhere in my house and car so that when the uncontrollable shakes come over me, I have immediate access to my fix.

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I continued to ignore my loved ones’ warnings thinking that, contrary to what they believed, I did not have an addictive bone in me.

Consequently, against the advice of other blog-oholics, on that raw March evening (last month), I  took a bite of the -oh, so tempting – blogging apple.  I, brickhousechick,  waited until my family was out, locked myself in my room, closed the shades,  googled blogging sites, came across the WordPress world and, Wham-O!  I was hooked after my first post.

Nothing will ever top that first time.  The rush I felt writing my first post. Trying desperately to figure out what on earth a Widget was and how to add a picture to my Gravatar.  I get chills just thinking about it.

I soon discovered, sadly,  that one post was not enough.  I needed to experience a higher state of excitement.  I needed more.  I had to write more.  

I began sneaking around with my laptop any chance I could, reading other blogger’s posts, commenting on them and even pressing their Like buttons.  The thrill of almost getting caught, only increased my desire to do more.

I found myself staying home all day and night.  My husband was suspicious and expressed his concerns.  Why did I need to speak or socialize with real people when my virtual enabling blog-oholic friends, were always there for me?  They understood how I felt.  They got who I really was and they, did not judge me.

Well, the consequences of my new-found addiction began to show their ugly faces.  I had bags under my eyes from staying up all night coming up with ideas for my next post.  My neck was permanently curved in a severe osteoporosis – kind of way.  My fingers became stronger than an eagle’s talons, as I grasped my laptop for dear life unable to let go. It was time I got help.

Today, I am happy to announce, I was one hour and 35 seconds sober (blog-free) until I began writing this post, two hours ago. Please do not judge me.  Writing  is part of my recovery.  I am not perfect and just because it is 1:00 in the morning, does not mean I have fallen off the wagon.  It is  just a small set back.  I blame it on my husband actually, who had to travel this weekend and left me completely unsupervised in my bed, with my laptop.  

“Serenity Now”.  Tomorrow, is another day and everyday after that, is a gift.  A new beginning.  I pray for you, my fellow blog-oholics, that you may find peace and comfort in knowing that I am always here for you (especially in the middle of the night, when my husband is asleep).

I will sacrifice my recovery so that I may be available to help those who find themselves diving off the wagon and running for their laptops.  That, my friends, is the kind of blog-oholic I am.

 

The Swim to My 50s – No, means…Watch Me Try

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No.  Such a short and simple word.  Grammatically pleasing and a guaranteed spelling bee winner.  But boy, the power it possesses.  Too often,  it is a word that shatters our dreams, desires and passions and one that can limit our path into our future.  A word we love to hate and one that is a prerequisite to rebellion.

No, can also mean the difference between life and death.  We learn from a very young age to obey this word to keep us safe.  No, can be the welcoming news we anxiously want to hear after a medical scare and a word we rely upon to protect ourselves and our bodies.

For me, No means – watch me try.  I believe I was born rebellious and ready to question it all.  As a baby, I refused to eat my food (too bad that stage ended).  I would shut my mouth very tightly, making it impossible for my father to get the spoon of baby food into my mouth.

As a young girl,  I became unhealthily attached to a large metal hair barrette I owned.  By attached, I mean that I wore this barrette day and night – every day.  You see, I hated my wavy short hair and was convinced that this barrette, would hold down the curls and keep the top of my hair flat and straight – for ever.  No one could take it away from me and I refused to give it up.

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No comment…

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As a teen, I decided that my strict parents had this whole child-rearing thing, all wrong.  I made sure to tell them that children had rights too and that we mattered.  I quoted psychologists and studies that proved my theory, only to be shut down and told to go to my room.  Ok, so I was bratty about it and always had to have the last word, but I did not give in. To the detriment of my then obeying siblings, I made family dinners, an argumentative unpleasant experience.

Fast forward to today.  I still cannot hear the word, No.  It makes me cringe, sweat and causes smoke to come out of my ears.  I am however, wiser and understand that the word has to exist.  Especially, when having to use it on my own teenage kids.

Where my rebellion has helped me tremendously, is in how I approach life.  This stubbornness has made me the strong woman who I believe I am.  It has helped me fight my Rheumatoid Arthritis and opened up doors and opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I had just accepted No, for an answer.

I have tried to instill this in my children.  I often tell them to respectfully (this is critical) explore the reasoning behind the No, they have encountered.  Is it an absolute?  Did accepting the status quo come from their own insecurities and assumptions that what they want, is not possible?  Have they tried everything in their power to make it work?   What do they have to lose?  If they try and it still does not work, at least they know they took it to its furthest level and tried.

There have been numerous examples of how persevering and not giving up has paid off.  After managing a bank branch for many years and understanding the importance of customer service, courtesy and mutual respect, I learned how to approach a No, more effectively.

I remember when my credit card company threatened to raise my interest rate just because they could.  I searched for the name of the CEO of that company and wrote him a personal respectful note asking him to reconsider.  The interest rate was not raised and he even put a cap on my account so it would never go up. 

Or when I called Mr. Dell’s (yes, from Dell Computers) office after my brand new computer had a faulty mother board and customer service refused to replace it.  

A few years ago, my daughter applied to attend a summer theater camp that cost more than we could afford.  When she saw the cost, she immediately accepted the fact that she could not attend.  I then asked how badly she wanted to go and encouraged her to write a letter expressing her desire to attend.   It turned out that they had extra funds and offered her a scholarship. 

When my son was a senior in high school, he applied to the many scholarships available through the school and town for those students going on to college.  When it was time to attend the awards event in which the winners are announced, he did not get the mandatory letter from the school letting him know that he was a recipient of one of the awards and therefore, should attend the ceremony.  He immediately accepted the fact that he would not be awarded a scholarship.  I told him that we should call the school to verify.  Sure enough, it had been an error and his letter had been lost in the mail.  He ended up getting the highest monetary award presented by the principal of the school.  Had we not checked, he would have missed such an important ceremony.

I am by no means advocating breaking the rules, yelling, harassing or threatening in order to get your way.  After all, there are laws and rules we must accept.  I want my children to know that they should not give up at the first sign of a struggle. That even if it involves extra work or time, it is worth a shot. 

Often times, the possibility and probability that it will work out for you, are there.  But, you have to ask for it and you have to try.