Thursday, January 29, 2009

South Meets North, No. 678,932

Okay, so it was 14 degrees here this morning and the snow that was all melting yesterday had frozen and driving (and walking) was very treacherous.

I bundled Jane and myself up and I took her to school. I was actually running a little late because the streets were scaring me. But I dropped her off just fine and I'm driving down the street by the school and I see this woman slip in her driveway and fall down--hard. I swerve over and roll down my window.

"Oh, my gosh! Are you okay??"

"Oh, that hurts so bad. So. Bad," she says but she's getting up, nothing seems broken... and just about then I notice that she's only wearing her bra and some sweat pants.

My brain sort of freezes. I think, randomly, "Is she some homeless woman?" (As if it would make sense that some HOMELESS woman would be running around on her bra trying to mail a letter when it's 14 degrees out with the wind chill. Right.)

She puts the letter in her mailbox. She says, "I'm sorry I'm just in my bra but it's MY house..."

"Oh, right, of course! Sure! Uh huh!" I say, in my Southern there's-nothing-odd-about-that-at-all way.

And then I drove on, thinking, "Huh."

I always say that if I was thin and in shape, I'd just walk around naked all day but you know what? Maybe not when it's 14 degrees out, and maybe not on a busy street during the morning drop off time at the elementary school...

But you know, she wasn't even all that embarrassed. And she didn't have anything to be embarrassed ABOUT, really, because her bra was just like wearing a bikini top or whatever but...

It was just sort of a surreal moment.

So, then I e-mailed my friend Tiffany, who lives in Chicago, and her response was “So I'm thinking about this, and finding that I don't really know how to react, because the only part of this that surprises me is that it's 14 degrees. Other than that, it seems sort of a "Well, I wouldn't do it, but whatever" kind of thing. As I search my mind, I find that it's not that I see a lot of this kind of thing--certainly not enough that I'd consider it "normal"--so I can't pin down why I don't think it's odd. I think we just don't have any DECORUM in the north. There's definitely a whole "well, it covers everything a bathing suit would, so who cares?" kind of mentality among a lot of people.”

So, I'm wondering, is this another culture shock kind of thing that resulted when I moved from the South to the North?

If you, wherever you live, ran into a woman wearing nothing but her bra in 14 degree weather, would you think, "Dude, it's freaking cold out. Put some clothes on!"? Or would you think, "There is a woman in FOUNDATION WEAR out in public! Oh, my gosh, she's wearing a BRA. Out in PUBLIC. On a BUSY STREET. She must be drunk! Because who would do that? And, especially when it's so COLD?"?

Would you be more surprised that she was undressed in that kind of cold, or would you be more surprised that she was undressed and the cold just added another surreal layer to the situation?

I did one more check to see if the whole experience was weird because I'm from the south or if it was empirically weird: I asked my new friend Anna. "Well, my first thought really was about how cold she must have been," she said. "But that's fairly unusual up here, too. Unless you're in the Village where it's abnormal to see someone WITH a shirt." She thought for a moment.

"You don't ever just have normal days up here, do you?"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And Another Lesson

So, I was writing this post all about Edward the Cat and how he loves me and the more I wrote, the more I started to feel like one of those Crazy Cat Lovers who anthropomorphize their pets and start writing dialogue from the cat's point of view and pretty soon, I thought maybe I should take a break or some medication or something.

So I went over to Poppy Buxom's website because she's funny and only slightly snarky and she had this whole list of 52 things that annoy her or anger her or otherwise make her feel something disagreeable. I read through it and I agreed with a few things and cringed at a few others. Then I thought, "You know, I just had a good lunch and I can't even think of five things for a list like that (assuming we disregard the universal things that disgust us ALL like pedophilia and animal abuse and stupid shoes...)"

But a little bit later, I got in my car to go get Ana from school and the Cowboy Junkies were playing on the radio and I thought, "Well, all right, that's one thing. I hate the Cowboy Junkies. I mean, it's been 20 years or more --get an affect."

Well, boy howdy, I was off and running and apparently, there are quite a few things that offend me or displease or annoy me.

1. People who don't turn on their lights when driving in the rain. I don't get what sort of of moral high ground they think they're taking --like they're, light?

2. Static electricity. (My poor cats.)

3. People who use my towels. I have an acutely sensitive nose and I don't ever want to smell anyone else on my towels, ever. Ick.

4. The fact that no one in my house can push a chair back in, turn their clothes right-side-out before they throw them into the laundry, or seem to remember that whatever gross stuff they leave in the trash baskets, *I* have to empty.

Oh, y'all, I was getting all wound up... let's talk about heroin chic and people who do that lose/loose thing and High Fructose Corn Syrup...and...

Dudes. It was bad in that way that bad behavior is contagious. For me (and only me because Poppy did it without suddenly feeling like she needs anti-depressants), the more I thought about disagreeable things, the more disagreeable the world seemed.

And then, you know, I went to pick Jane up and realized that I was scowling the entire way... I almost missed spotting the two boys I see every day, who get off the bus and then stand on the curb talking for another little while because that's what best friends do.

I almost missed my Janie's sparkling little face as she bubbled over with tales from her day.

I almost missed that feeling I have of near-painful happiness when my little family is safe and warm inside our house, with a fire in the fireplace and supper on the stove.

When I was concentrating on the negative, even my foot hurt worse, and today, that is saying something. For me, and please don't go off on anyone who might not be quite so emotionally fragile, the Pollyanna outlook is more than just my perky little Southern self making itself known, bless my little heart. It's a defense mechanism --a coping mechanism --against the weight of the world. All those little disagreeable things that shroud our lives in distaste and displeasure and discord --those things are easily accessible. It's harder, but for me much more vital, to find the grace in the small things.

I'm sheepish but unapologetic --there is magic in the tail of one Edward the Cat that cannot be found in any Cowboy Junkie anywhere.

Just Checking, No. 2

(For those of you who receive the blog via e-mail, there is a video here of me checking out the snow this morning. You can click on the title to see the video on the blog.)

(But don't feel you HAVE to, just if you're curious and want to hear me sound like a Smurf.)

Okay, so my new friend Anna, who blames my unbridled enthusiasm for the snow for the tremendous amount of snow that has fallen this year on Long Island, called me this morning. "Were you by any chance wishing for just one more good snowfall this winter around 2:00 this morning?"

"No. I did get up at 1:00 and look outside and feel totally cheated that we didn't have any snow, though."

"Ah HAH!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Random Funny Things

While I was wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how to write about being in pain without actually admitting to it, a lot of funny/joyful things happened.

First things first, though. I have a decorating question. I finished my sea-scape-y kind of painting.

I'm worried that it looks like it has a mold problem. What do you think? Should I just admit that I have no training and not much talent and go buy some art at Home Goods? Be honest. (Gentle, but honest.)

My husband did some research on dogs and their feet in the snow and decided that Scout needed to wear shoes.

I must confess that my pictures are terrible because I was laughing so hard that I couldn't even aim the camera. Oh. My. Goodness --seriously, it was one of the top ten funniest moments ever. I'm cracking up just thinking about it.

Okay, so I notice that those pictures don't show the really funny part, which was Scout trying to walk without putting his feet down. You'll have to trust me--I was CRYING it was so funny.

Let's just move on from that, shall we? Because I'm sure I made you cry, too, only not in a GOOD way. I'm sorry --who knew that mere words and pictures were sometimes inadequate?

This morning, Jane said, "Mom? Mom?"

"Never try to take off your shirt and your pants at the same time."


Word UP.


Ana (10) has a really good friend named Nina. I luuurve her myself, frankly. I ache with happiness for my quiet elder child, who bubbles right over with silliness and actual GIGGLING when she's around Nina. I love that she has a friend who gets her sense of humor, and still plays imaginative games, and is smart and kind.

Also, I love Nina's MOTHER, whose name, confusingly for people who have HEARD me tell this story, is Anna.

Anna is one of those wordy, literate people who reads and reads and reads and when she speaks, she often sounds like my favorite kind of narrator. I might THINK like a narrator but I can never sound like one. So, Anna says things like, "My husband and I are both short and given to chubbiness. Sometimes I look at Nina [who is tall and thin and beautiful] and I wonder if there's a supermodel somewhere with a fat, hairy kid wondering what the hell happened."

I quite love her already, even though she's not a computer person and you know how I do 95% of my human interaction on the computer because that way no one can tell that I haven't showered and am painfully shy.

A few weeks ago, I made the supreme effort and showered and went with Ana and Nina and Anna into New York City to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center on the very last day it was lit. It was bitterly, bitingly cold and we didn't exactly loiter. We ended up going to dinner together at this restaurant that Ana spotted because we had taken my parents there before going to see some Broadway shows. (Doesn't this sound so...glamorous and cultural and cosmopolitan?)

When we came out after dinner and walked back to where we'd parked, Anna's car was gone. Impounded. The City of New York keeps a fleet of tow trucks trolling around looking for people who might have misinterpreted the ridiculously complicated parking signs.

The four of us ended up at the Impound Lot along with as diverse a crowd as I have ever seen, all united in our misery. After a few hours, we got the car (thank goodness) and headed back to Long Island.

Anna turned to me.

"I was thinking that maybe next weekend we could go to jail."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Notes From the Couch

I've been spending a lot of time on my couch these past few weeks, which is not as much fun as you might think.

And I haven't really written about it because I don't really want to talk about it.

Well, that and the fact that I'm afraid if I talk about it, I'll have to, you know, DO something about it.

But okay, here's the thing: I think maybe I have to DO something about it anyway.

Is that perfectly clear?


Okay, let me try this again. Remember how almost TWO YEARS AGO, I had to have my foot essentially rebuilt due to the fact that I was born with some really deformed bones that no one ever discovered until I'd done too much damage to be fixed? And how even the rebuilding of said foot wasn't really all that successful if you count success as me being able to walk without pain? And how I found a great doctor here in New York who discovered that I'd been producing scar tissue at a truly alarming rate and gave me a series of steroid shots that really calmed that old scar tissue right down but, oops, caused me to grow this weird, bloody membrane over the retina in my right eye? Remember all that?


But my foot?

Is bad.

Is really, really bad.


It's so incredibly painful that I cried twice in front of my children on Saturday.

Which led me to make a momentous decision: I'm going to have a second surgery to clear out the scar tissue.

My doctor mentioned that this is an alternative to the steroid shots when I saw him last but the idea of recovering from another surgery makes me want to go back to bed for, well, EVER.

So, I, ever brave and ever true, managed to put a call into my podiatrist at a time when I knew he wouldn't be in the office. Because I'm all brave like that.

And then, because I was really in denial and trying to prove that I'm fine, darn you, FINE, I removed the old wallpaper in our spare bedroom and painted it. (Painted the room, I mean, not the torn down wallpaper.) (I may be in denial but I'm not DUMB.) (Much.)

Only now, I'm too gimpy to walk upstairs and take a picture of it.

So, um, yeah, here I am on the couch, waiting for office hours at my podiatrist's office, which won't be until Tuesday.

And yeah, this makes me not only gimpy and a coward but also not very bright.

I'm leaving the comments open but in the words of the sign posted on one Jane Cooper's bedroom door: Remember, no scolding!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Love Tuesday

This morning, my husband took my breath away.

Today, my husband, who had an early flight out of town, got up at 4:00 AM so that he could shovel the driveway before he left.

We knew it was going to snow overnight and I offered to leave my car at the bottom of the driveway but he didn't want me to take any chances walking up and down the hill. (I'm going through a particularly bad pain week --more about that later this week.)

So, he, quietly and without fanfare, got up at 4:00 and shoveled the drive and THEN, to make sure I didn't take any chances, he not only left me HIS car, which has four-wheel-drive, but he also took the trash down.

This is my husband who hates the cold and loves, I mean LOVES, his sleep.

I am just humbled by how good he is to me --by what a genuinely good person he is. My husband has a very big job and many people are depending on him to do big things. Yet he manages to maintain his perfect record when it comes to me: for thirteen years he has thought of everything, large and small, that might make my life easier and better. He is such a good, good man. He inspires me to be a better person --to reach deeper, to stretch, the try to be a better person, too.

I spent all day today trying to pay his kindness forward in my interactions with everyone from my own children to strangers waiting in the pick-up line.

And it is with a wide-open and humbled heart that I watched Barack Obama sworn in as the new President of the United States of America.

You know that I am not a political writer.

And that this is not a political blog.

But I spent quite a few hours watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama today and I felt exactly the same sense of awe and motivation to go forward in a different, better, more steadfast way. To seek something better from myself. To embrace this "moment that defines a generation" and allow it to change me, for the better.

My favorite moment, other than the speech (and excuse me, if you don't think that was a great speech then STOP SMOKING CRACK and read it again) was a small one and there was beauty and power to be found in it. During one moment of the festivities today, before the swearing-in and that momentous (screw the pundits) speech, Mr. Obama was sitting apart from his family, gathering his thoughts. And his wife Michelle, who was occupied in entertaining their two daughters (a task I understand in a very real way,) reached over and rested her hand on his shoulder.

Just that.

Just rested her hand on his shoulder in solidarity and comfort and love. Just as I have done a million times, just as you have done a million times, just as people DO to support and sustain those they love.

There were volumes spoken in that simple gesture. Acknowledgment of the day, of the man, of the enormous job ahead.

Know what I think? I think sometimes the good guys DO win. I think the good guys never lose sight of their goals, their responsibilities, or the needs of the people they love. And I think the good guys can motivate us to change and grow and stretch simply by virtue of their own goodness.

I also think that sometimes the good guys need a few hands extended to them in solidarity and comfort and love. In acknowledgment of the enormous tasks in front of them and the idea that sometimes our belief in them will see them through.

Congratulations, my fellow citizens of the world. I look forward to working with you.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Just Checking

Everyone keeps telling me that it's going to happen but well, this whole snow thing? Still hasn't gotten old to me.

Also among things that haven't gotten old is Scout fetching the paper:

Although I will tell y'all that last night I almost put an end to Scout fetching anything for us ever again. I had closed up the downstairs and turned out all the lights. I walked upstairs and just happened to inquire casually of my husband, "Do you think Scout needs to go out one more time?"

Coop looked at me. "He WAS outside. Did you not let him back in?"


Well, um.


(And people wonder why we don't have more children.)

The thing about Scout is that he won't ever bark to be let back IN. So if I hadn't thought to inquire, we'd have come down this morning to a World Without Scout. Because he has the survival skills of, um, spaghetti.

And, well, as much as I complain about him, I do love that silly, helpless, spastic dog.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ah, Janie, How I Love You

My husband took my whining and irritable children on a walk through the woods this afternoon to get them out of the house, and to leave some of our past-prime fruit for the wild animals.

I took a nap (having a bad pain week) and when I came down, not only had they forgotten the fruit for the animals, but Jane had brought back a flattened dog poop patty and left it on the counter for me.

Where it thawed out.

"I thought it was a rock, " she said.

But Maybe I Have More New Yorker in Me Than First Suspected

I've thought long and hard about posting this story because it's not exactly a NICE story and it's hard to imagine Pollyanna ever doing this...

But, you know, I'm all about keepin' it real here.

So, okay, my latest New York Driver Tease is to just be EXCESSIVELY polite in traffic. It makes me giggle.

You can just picture me, right? I let people into traffic with elaborate flourishes. When someone lets ME in (as if) I practically get out of my car to say thank you. I signal. I stop all the way at stop signs. I let the school buses go ahead of me--nothing freaks out the people in my neighborhood more than that.

Dudes, I'm like a Stepford Driver.

And the people up here do NOT know what to do about me and my good manners.

Witness the other day in front of Jane's school where I played this elaborate game of, "After you." "Oh, no, after YOU." "Oh, I INSIST. After you." with this guy in a little sedan. He could NOT figure out how I was planning to screw him over by letting him go first and it apparently short-circuited his brain.

Finally, he turned in front of me and as he passed me, he lifted both arms in total exasperation.

"A**hole," I said, angrily.

Wow, maybe I really AM becoming a New Yorker.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Some months ago, a wonderful blogger named Stephanie Nielson was very badly injured, along with her husband, in an airplane crash. Sue, of Navel Gazing At Its Finest, took submissions from other bloggers in order to create a collection of funny blog posts for sale, with the entire proceeds going to the recovery fund for Stephanie and her family.

I submitted a post because I wanted to do something to help.

It took Sue a while to get through the BAJILLION e-mailed submissions and honestly, I sort of just assumed that I hadn't made the cut. I mean, it always shocks me that people think I'm a humor writer anyway when there are so many people out there who are a LOT funnier. (Also, better drivers and not so spastic on a daily basis. I know, I know. Y'all just hush.)

So, earlier today, I got an e-mail from Sue and you won't believe it:


It's called "Something Cleverish." I immediately bought several copies--shopping for a good cause is my favorite thing!! -- and started reading and it was just as I suspected: there are a lot of funnier writers out there. I'm so honored to be sharing their space. The book is hilarious.

Please go here to order a paperback or download a copy of the book. And if you want to turn right to page 58, there I am in all my spastic, bad driving glory. I, Barb Cooper, in the company of all of these fabulous bloggers!

Y'ALL, can you feel the rays from this smile? Oh my gosh! This whole being published thing -- Never. Gets. Old. And getting published for a good cause? Best feeling EVER.

In Which It Is Apparent That I Am Not Really a New Yorker

So, it's snowing out. Really, really snowing. And it's really, really cold. (16 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Look at all that snow!

Look at my driveway!

These pictures were taken hours ago. It has been snowing ever since. We probably have about three inches. Maybe four, now.

People here are unfazed. I got up at 6:00 and started watching the news, expecting to hear about school closings or at least DELAYS but nope, nothing.

People here sent their kids to school just as if it's not snowing at all.

My kids?


Not going in late.

Not, um, so much in school today.

Do you know what this makes me? (Aside from out of the running for that Mother of the Year Award, I mean.)

It makes me a big Texas chicken.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wallowing, Take 2

I promised I wouldn't wallow in self pity anymore, didn't I? Like a few short HOURS ago, didn't I write that on this very blog?

Only, Monday I had to have another shot in my eye and, Dudes?

I know of no other fitting response.

However, I am now done with the wallowing. Wallowing is SO yesterday (all day yesterday, as a matter of fact) and I am now so very much over myself.

(Except, hello--a NEEDLE IN MY EYE!)

Anyway, (stop me if you've heard me say this a thousand times) Happy New Year!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Okay, Here I Go

According to Oprah, when you write something down, you make a commitment to that thing. This has not, um, proven especially true for me in my life but I am willing to suspend my eye-rolling, cynical outlook (well, okay, my cynical outlook. The eye rolling seems to happen anyway.) in order to commit to my New year's Resolutions.

It's an odd thing, though. Normally, I'm all full of Pollyanna-esque optimism and motivation and self-help jargon when it comes to New year's resolutions. I do love a good start to things. But this year, I guess I am more realistic about what I want to achieve in 2009 and the amount of work it's going to take. What I feel is more like resignation.

Ah, well, we can't all be Pollyanna every second of the day. Not even me.

Drum roll, please. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Barb Cooper 2009 New Year Resolutions! Ta da!

1. Get fit and healthy Announcing the End to the Wallowing. I've been wallowing around in all the things I can't do and how awful I feel in my skin but I haven't been DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT! I haven't explored a lot of alternatives when it comes to the chronic pain of my rebuilt foot. I haven't tried a lot of different forms of exercise now that I can't run or walk. I haven't come up with a better eating plan. I've been just wallowing around in self-indulgence and wine. Now, my friends, the time has come to DO SOMETHING. I am serving notice --2009 will not be the Year of the Couch. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, done with it. So far, the first bricks of my new resolve are to get at least 30 minutes of cardio training six days a week, to do some strength training twice a week, to explore yoga and Tai Chi and standing on my head, if I have to, until I find the form of exercise that I feel passionate about enough to, well, you know, DO IT.

As far as food goes, it's kind of tricky with me. I think I do better with either a semi-conscious attempt to just cut down, or one of those plans that provides the food for you so you don't have to think about it. The more I think about food, the more I eat. I'm going to try just eating half of whatever it is. If that doesn't work, I figure something else out. Also? I'm going to break the nightly wine and cheese habit.

2. Write something besides the blog I've been given this enormous opportunity with this move to New York. I'm not that involved with the schools. I don't have a big social circle. My husband travels a fair amount. Life is pretty simple right now (famous last words) and I have the luxury of time for the first time in decades. I'm going to finish my book "Making Roux." And, after I finish it? I'm going to actually shop it around to some agents.

3. Become a REAL knitter. I want to take my knitting to a higher level so I can hang with the cool cats at Knit Night. So far, I've knitted socks and a couple of baby hats. I want to take on sweaters and cables and I want to learn to read knitting charts. I want to learn how to REALLY weave in the ends (instead of what I do, which is, um, without real technique and mostly resembles cutting the yarn short and hoping no one notices.

4. Hire someone or find some other way to get organized. You know, I have the genetic predisposition (German) to be able to keep an organizational structure going. But I seem to lack the ability to set one up! I am going to find someone to help me come up with a system for dealing with the six million pounds of paper clutter that comes home from my children's schools. I'm going to find a way to make it easier for my kids to organize and store their toys. (Ditto husband.) I'm going to get our closets organized and install new cabinets where we need more storage. I do so much better, feel so much better, think so much better and am HAPPIER when I am in clean, organized surroundings and I'm willing to work hard to keep them that way. But first, I need a system.

5. Finish our basement. This one could actually be part of number 4 but I've listed it separately because it's a big undertaking. My kids need a playroom and we need a guest suite and I'd like for our home gym to be a little nicer than some machines sitting on concrete in a cold and damp space. It's going to be costly because we have to have an egress window and we have to address the inadequate electricity and the propensity for flooding and also, I want a bathroom down there. It needs to happen, though, so I'm writing it down. Maybe this is the year I learn to install dry-wall!

6. Plant a huge freaking garden. Okay, so this isn't really a New Year's Resolution --more like a reward for all the other stuff. Oh, how I loved my garden last year! This year, it's going to be bigger and better!

and, um, are you ready?

7. Get a puppy in the spring or summer. I know what you're thinking: why set myself up again for certain heartbreak? But the thing is...there's just something missing in our family now that Sydney is gone. And oh, you guys, I miss her so much. So. Much. After the last snow melted, I was walking in the back yard and saw her grave and it seemed like my heart broke all over again. Don't get me wrong, I love Scout but he's just...not sufficient for me. We'll have to think hard about the timing of things since we're planning a few trips in the first half of 2009 and puppies need so much in the way of care and interaction and training. We're planning sort of a longer trip in July and maybe the puppy will have to wait until after that, I don't know.

So, that's it. I'm sure I'm forgetting something huge, but it's a start. I know you all will hold me accountable, just in case the fact that I wrote all this down isn't commitment enough.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 09, 2009

It Used to Be So Simple

Once upon a time, if anyone asked me how old I was, I could give them a reasonably accurate number. (I say 'reasonably accurate' because some years it seems harder to remember than other years.) There was a time this past year when I just told people that my BODY was 80 years old but my brain was still about fourteen so it sort of averaged out. But mostly, I told people who asked my real age: 43.

This week, I have been taking stock because (I'm serious this time) I am making my resolutions for the New Year and, um, the rest of my life. I am not normally an Oprah watcher but I've been watching her talk show this week because, y'all, Oprah is channeling my LIFE. She received a medical diagnosis two years ago (hypothyroidism) and it so threw her for a loop that she fell off of the fitness and nutrition wagon and she's all furious with herself now. But she's picking herself up, forty pounds heavier, and she's getting back on the wagon.

Doesn't that sound so familiar? I, too, received a medical diagnosis two years ago that totally turned my life upside down when it resulted in having my foot rebuilt. (Okay, so I've been dying to tell you all this but since this is a G-rated blog (mostly), I have refrained. When I first went to see my new podiatrist in Queens, after much examination of all that had been done during surgery and all the areas in which I still have pain, and an MRI, and multiple conversations with my doctor back in Austin, etc., etc., he gave me his Official Diagnosis. I have a FULF-- a "F**ked Up Left Foot. I dunno. Will insurance pay to treat that?) I, too, used my diagnosis as an excuse to get off the exercise/fitness wagon. I, too, am furious at myself and more than a little embarrassed.

Also, truly not that excited about the long road back.

So, I've been figuring out my plan for launching my recovery right along with Oprah, because we're likethis, don't ya know. The thing about Oprah is that she's very good at framing these things in a positive way. Where I have been sitting on the couch, mentally beating myself up over finding myself (at the ripe old age of 43) fatter and flabbier than ever before in my LIFE, Oprah's been ON it. First, she's THANKING her body for having given her the opportunity to see how she has been neglecting herself. Then she's putting herself on her To-Do list again. She says that once she stopped budgeting some time to take care of herself, all of the other demands on her simply ate up all of her time.

Um, yeah. I get that. But I am not to the part of THANKING my body for this opportunity, exactly. I'm more in the punishing my body stage.

Let's see, now. Which approach is healthier?

So, ANYWAY, I've been doing some assessing. Santa brought my children a Wii this year and they've been adorable in doing the Wii Fit fitness tests. One thing the Wii Fit program makes you do is a fitness test at the beginning of every work out in order to determine your Wii Age. As far as I can tell, this consists of you telling it your height, standing on the balance board so it can weigh you and then doing a little exercise where you stand as still as possible. Mostly, this is done by gripping the balance board with your toes.

I have very strong toes.

My Wii Fit age is 37.

JANE, who is eight in real years, has a Wii Fit Age of 34. Because apparently the only parts of her body NOT made of muscle are her toes.

My husband, who is a very disciplined exerciser and who has more muscle in his pinkie finger than I have in my entire body, had an initial Wii Fit age of something like 57.

Clearly, the Wii Fit is not really the most credible judge of health.

Then I took the test that everyone on Oprah had taken. Click here to take it yourself. I was really honest taking the test, but there is no place in it to explain any extenuating circumstances. Like, I HAD cancer but I've been in remission for almost twenty years. And also? Telling me I can WALK my way to health is not really that helpful, being as how I can barely walk to the mailbox. But whatever, my RealAge age is 46.9. Not too far off but not great. And I have to admit here (because, you know, I have no pride) that both the Wii Fit and RealAge told me I was overweight. (Which already I knew, thank you.)

Maybe, in the end, the old platitude about being only as old as you feel is still the best measure and right now, I feel a lot older than I am. So, whatever my age, I'm on the exercise/fitness/health wagon once again. I'm also working on a new strategy where I don't just beat the crap out of myself for finding myself in this situation. I own it, I accept responsibility but I am not going to look back anymore. I wish things were different but they aren't so it is time to take action. Today, I got on the exercise bike for more than 30 minutes and then I did sit-ups.

It's a start and at my age, I don't have any time to lose.

(I'm kind of excited because I think I found the key to making myself get on, and stay on, the exercise bike. I'm watching movies. Today I watched part of "When Harry Met Sally," which I haven't seen in years. I was enjoying it so much I didn't want to stop pedaling and then I did a gazillion crunches just to watch some more. It's probably not the most FOCUSED exercise I've ever done but I think the point is that I, uh, DID SOMETHING. And I guess if I get really engrossed in something, maybe I'll do two-a-days!)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Um, that would be Save Our SKIN, in this case.

My face is peeling off.

I've had trouble with my skin being dry since we moved from Austin to Long Island. I'm not sure why since it's probably equally humid in both places but whatever. Maybe it's something in the water--my hair doesn't want to curl as much either. Maybe it's the dry, heated air of winter--which begins a lot earlier and lasts a lot longer than the three days of winter that we have in Texas. But whatever the reason, my face is flaking right off.

I'm not the most vain woman. As you all know, I feel appropriately dressed if my shoes match and there are no (visible) stains on my shirt. So, y'all, the fact that I have even NOTICED how badly my skin is flaking tells you something.

And the fact that I noticed it's been getting worse should tell you something further.

And the fact that, today, I realized that I had to DO SOMETHING or my whole dang face was going be in pieces in the sink should tell you even more.

As should the fact that THIS is what I chose to put on it in my desperation. (Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Efficiency, Efficiency

I started the New Year off by having your typical nine-day cold in three days.

See, one of my New Year's resolutions is to be more efficient. Because it's really not fair that my husband is the lone defense of our family when it seems like everyone in the world is out to steal our money. For example, one YEAR ago, we sold my husband's car before we moved to New York. That car was equipped with Satellite radio (which, dudes, is so awesome) but the receiver went with the car so I canceled the service. So far, so good.

In November, for some reason, the satellite radio service started charging us again.

Which, um...what?

My husband noticed the charge on my credit card and asked if I would call to resolve it. (See, if I cared were more efficient, I would have noticed it first.) So, I, who hate these sort of calls worse than anything, made the call.

Naturally, I had this whole conversation with this woman from some other country where her job was outsourced and whose first language was not, I repeat NOT, English.

I explain laboriously.

"So, you wish to cancel your membership?" she asks.

"No, the membership is already canceled," I say patiently.

"Did you receive a three month credit?"

"Well, yes when I first subscribed to the service. But, see, I canceled the service when we sold the car."

"So, you have sold the car?"

"Yes. ONE YEAR AGO, we sold the car."

"Let me pull up your account."

"Yeah, good call."

"I see here that you canceled the service in March."

"Yes." (There was a little lag time due to me not having a resolution to be more efficient LAST year.) (Oh, just...hush. Hush UP, now.)

"Then I don't understand why you are being charged now."


"Let me put you on hold while I find a supervisor."

"Oh. Great."

So, I'm on interminable hold (and WHY, OH, WHY must there always be some Peter Cetera song when one is on hold?? WHY? Wait, I know why! Because I've been very bad and this is HELL!) until the woman comes back to tell me that I will hear from a dispute resolution person within 72 hours.

Note how I am not holding my breath.

ANYWAY, this is but one paltry example of the many ways in which we Coopers have to stay on top of things in order to have money for yarn our children's college funds. (Don't get me started on how much easier my life would be if people just DID THEIR JOBS so that we wouldn't have to do it for them because that is EXACTLY why people don't invite me to parties anymore.) So, I resolved to be of more help to my husband who HAS a really big job, thankyouverymuch, and doesn't really have time to fight with the AT&T people every single freaking month over our cell phone bill.

So you can see why, with all I have to do making phone calls I absolutely hate to make, why I didn't have time to get sick. I mean, our Austin house sold in October and we just discovered that the home insurance company there never processed the policy cancellation and they owe us money. I need to be able to breathe to call and fight with them, right? So, when the first signs of my impending cold appeared, I started POUNDING Zinc. Dudes, it's like a MIRACLE drug! I'm serious --remember how sick I was with my last cold? I was on the couch for a solid week. But this time, it's only three days later and I am well enough to start working on my New Year's resolutions--working out and being more efficient managing our money and running household errands, planning menus and keeping the laundry from taking over and... and... an...

Wait a minute. I'm feeling a little stuffed up and hack...hack... I may need some time on the couch... no, y'all, seriously.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy New Year--No Really, I Mean It This Time

January 4th, 2009

So, all-righty then, here we finally are on New Year's Eve in Barb's Parallel Universe, where pesky little details like the beginning of the New Year often happen about five days later than a more traditional calendar would allow. (Hey, it's my universe and I'll defy the laws of the normal space/time continuum if I want to.)

I spent yesterday and today reading through my blog from LAST January all the way through the year. It was a good exercise because I'd been beating myself up over being so useless and immobile last year and the REALITY is that, while I was more immobile than I'm USED to being, dudes, we did a LOT.
We packed up our house and put it on the market. We loaded all of our belongings and all of our pets up and we moved across the country from Texas to New York. We unpacked (mostly) and we lost our Edward for six weeks, only to find him again due to the miracle of a microchip, some good people, and our own determination to keep looking. The girls started school up here, we planted a garden, we went to the beach every chance we got and we did some serious exploring of our new land. I think we've seen more of Long Island than a lot people who were born and raised here!

We hosted a lot of house guests, even though I sort of feel like our house is only just now beginning to be more hospitable. Partly that's because we didn't have a lot of money to throw at some basic creature comforts until our house in Austin sold. (Now we're planning our basement renovation and I'm calling the electrician about installing some heat lamps in the bathrooms, etc. I'm beginning to dream of tiling the kitchen backsplash and installing some more storage always takes me a long time to dream things into fruition. But anyway, I digress.)

We returned to Texas for a whirlwind tour in the hottest part of the summer and our Texas friends turned out in number to say, "howdy." Which was, um, both heartbreaking and really reassuring that distance can't dim friendship. I knitted some stuff. I found a group of knitters up here who became my friends so I hit one of their cars, due I think, to this weird eye thing I've got going, for which I had to have a SHOT IN MY EYE.

We explored Manhattan as only the parents of two girls can do--by finding the American Girl Store and the M&M Store and going to see Shrek the Musical. And also, my husband took the girls to museums and to the Bronx Zoo. We visited friends in the Hamptons and out in Montauk. We picked pumpkins and cut down our Christmas tree and found the nearest apple orchard and we went ice skating. (Well, the kids and Coop did. I found that watching the girls skate allows for some good knitting time.) We had some parties.

We ate a LOT of New York pizza.

We experienced being snowed in, and sledding and the loss of our old dog Sydney. We've had two basement floods (neither one devastating) and a lot of trips to the pediatrician. Jane turned eight and became the most prolific writer in this household. Ana grew taller and taller, now wears the same size shoe I do and her own admirable style. We canned our own tomato sauce, made from tomatoes from our own garden. I ate roughly eighty tomato sandwiches. My husband ran and biked many miles.

I spent today in bed (I hab a code) with one orange kitty who is possibly the greatest miracle of last year, thinking about the blessings of 2008. Then I ushered it out of the door, glad to see it go. Tomorrow brings new resolutions to enact and a new/old me to discover in 2009.

I don't think I would have survived 2008 without you guys. Thanks for sticking around and for your unwavering support. I'll be drinking a little toast to you all tonight.

(I'm still figuring out how to do things on my new computer and so these pictures are all HUGE. But then again, they ARE of Edward so I figured y'all might not mind.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy (almost) New Year!

January 2, 2009

Things are off to a rip-roaring start here at the Cooper Clubhouse in this New Year, even though for me, the New Year won't start until Monday. Mainly because tomorrow is my anniversary and I have a sitter coming and that is no time to give up drinking and start a diet. It's kind of nice, actually, to have a little cushion of time to sort of EASE into the New Year and all the resolutions because frankly, after the holidays, I am usually very tired and it's hard to come up with the proper resolve and motivation.

(Of course, between you and me, I am also tired because one Edward the cat has been ready to get up and play at about 6:45 each morning. So he comes and bangs around on the blinds by my bed and knocks my glasses off of the nightstand and then. he. starts. with. the. catnip. mouse.

I find Edward playing with the catnip mouse very entertaining.

My spouse? Less entertained. More wanting the extra sleep of non-school days. More wanting a squirt bottle to teach the kitty to let us sleep in. ) (This seems the wrong time to remind him who BOUGHT the catnip mouse, ahem. I am nothing if not tactful at 6:00-ish in the morning.)

HOWEVER, I am filled with optimism for the new year and I am blissfully happy at this moment because my incredible house cleaners are here and they are buffing this house back into some semblance of neat and tidy. (Even they can't do much with the girls' rooms --their new Christmas stuff runneth over.)

In anticipation of the house cleaners coming, I worked all morning taking down the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree, tasks I truly loathe. But they're DONE--hurray for me! (Well, mostly done. The tree is still sitting on the front yard waiting for me to take the lights off. And the outside decorations are still up but I figure those can wait until the snow melts, or July or whenever I get around to it.)

(Cleverly denoting the passage of time.)

January 3, 2009

So, my husband got home last night and I was so excited about our clean house, I made him take a tour with me. I pointed out Courtesy Stripes and folded toilet paper points, these are the things that make me happy, happy, happy. Also: wine. Of which I'd had a fair amount or maybe I wouldn't have thought my spouse would be quite so interested in said stripes and toilet paper.

But anyway.

He humored me.

He always humors me. In fact, as of today, he's been humoring me for eleven straight years of marital bliss.

I find that I really like that in a husband.