Celebrating a 30% Milestone

iStock_000009426982SmallToday is my 38th birthday. I have not always been so forthcoming with  announcing my age –not to mention I have also not been so bold as to say it as an opening sentence!

If I am to be completely honest, I have actually been quite … what’s the word … dramatic … neurotic … irrationally crazed about my age from time to time. My milestone birthdays haven’t exactly brought out the best in me … and it all started with my 25th one.

25th birthday: This quarter-century mark (that I was so quick to “tease” my friends when they reached it) left me having a completely and utterly unexplainable meltdown – that to this day has me a bit baffled why I was so upset.

The best I can figure is that before I was 25, I saw 25 as being a grown up age. More importantly, I thought of people in their mid-20s as having their shit together. By this age, many of my friends were either married or dating the person they were going to marry; they were making headway in their professional lives, and even had adult-looking apartments (read: not college furniture and decorations). Not me. I was still floundering along trying to figure a lot of stuff out. I was convinced that because I hadn’t met the “right” guy yet that he simply didn’t exist. (As it turned out, my 25th year would turn out to be the year that led me down a twisted, horrendously jagged path; but because I followed it anyway – bumps, mud puddles, ditches and all – it turned out to be exactly the route I needed to go.)

30th birthday: If anyone witnessing the dramatics of my 25th birthday thought they’d seen the show, then my 30th birthday was the be-all-end-all encore! I was a total mess the weeks leading up to my birthday. I couldn’t explain it. To make matters worse, I actually knew, without a doubt, that I was being absurd about turning 30, but it didn’t stop me from fixating on the big 3-0.

On the eve of my 30th birthday, I remember sitting on the couch in a meltdown-like state saying to Jason, “Guys get distinguished with age; girls just get old, fat and wrinkly.”

I was so unbelievably warped about hitting 30 that I ripped down the “Happy 30th Birthday Tess” banner that my co-worker had made for me. She’d come into work early just to have it hanging when I walked in the door. Yes, I completely ripped it down in an undignified war-cry (clearly a finer moment in my life – ha!), but being the friend she was, she made me a new one that didn’t disclose my age and hung it the next day.

After those fine, lady-like dramatics of those two milestone birthdays, I was determined to reform my thinking about age. Jason was always telling me that you only as old as you feel (and it isn’t the age, it’s the mileage). With each challenge that I faced in my early 30s (loss of life-long friends, parents getting sick, death of grandparents, and long, unexpected military separations, to name just a few), I was also learning an extremely valuable lesson – how to appreciate the moments of today.

Still, as I moved towards the next milestone birthday, 35, I wondered how I’d handle this new milestone.

35th birthday: For my birthday, Jason organized a cookout with my family. Knowing how past milestone birthdays had brought out the head-spinning ogre side of me, my only request to Jason was that he didn’t put “Happy 35th Birthday” on my cake.

“Sure,” he says. “No problem!”DSCN1254

But Jason is a total prankster, and in his smart-ass fashion, he did indeed honor my request – his way. He presented me with a cake, lit with candles that read “Tess, Happy 420 Month Birthday!”

Just in case the number “35” made me feel old, then he was going to prove that “420” could really make me feel foolish about being fixated over my age! (and you better believe that I got the calculator out to check his math!)

So today is my 38th birthday, and Jason, the math-whiz, says to me, “You’ve been with me for about 30% of your life?” Wow! He’s right since we’ve been together for 12 years (married just shy of 9) – which according to my calculations, is totally worth celebrating. Happy 30% Day to Me!

And next year as I “creep towards 40,” the percentage will increase to 33% of my life. Way cool (and clutch!), and I am looking forward to it!

(…and for you math geeks out there, today technically marks 31.57894% of my life spent with Jas).

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Peaceful Vacation

Jason and I, with our “girls” in tow, spend last week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina; specifically, we stayed on the north-side of a town called Duck.

We chose the Outer Banks (OBX) because it was close (a 7 hour drive, according to Mapquest), we both enjoy being near water, and neither one of us had been there before. It would be a new adventure!

In true Wittler fashion, neither one of us did a lot of preparation for our trip before taking off (other than print out those Mapquest directions and pack the map – didn’t even bring along the GPS unit, which I believe is a sin in today’s technology age!).

To be completely truthful, our lives have been more than hectic and stressful lately, and we just ran out of time. Other than requesting a travel guide from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau and reserving a vacation home, we hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot in researching our destination, so we didn’t know what to expect from the area. We had been told by a few friends that there “isn’t much to do there” so I was a little concerned that we’d get there only to realize that we’d made a grave mistake. That the first “us only” vacation we’ve had in years was a complete flop because we didn’t take the time to do more research and pick the right location.

But I had absolutely nothing to worry about, because the vacation turned out to be exactly what we needed.

Once we got unpacked and did a food run to Harris Teeter (love that store!) – we managed quite nicely with absolutely no agenda for the week. We got up when we wanted, drank our morning coffee on our choice of three decks (or four, if you count the screened-in porch), took leisurely strolls on the beach with the “girls” and totally forgot about the world for a week.

Peaceful.

 

I will blog more about our trip in the coming days, but for now, here are some of photos from the home to share with you.

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Our vacation home was nothing spectacular (and we saw impressive homes – some of which were even bank owned – ha!), but our home away from home was comfortable for us. The kitchen was much nicer than the one in our house. This one actually had a several silverware drawers. (Our home was built with two narrow (pathetic) drawers in our kitchen, and neither is wide enough to hold a silverware tray. Seriously. What was the builder thinking when he came up with that ingenious design?).

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Although the cottage was small (only 1200 sq. ft), the floor plan was open, so it felt much more spacious than it actually was. Plus, with only Jason, me and the two “girls”, we had plenty of space to lounge around. The table below was Jason’s World of Warcraft command headquarters and our puzzle station (we completed three 1,000 piece puzzles in six days; I know! True vacation excitement!)

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The vegetation at the Outer Banks was interesting, and not what I was expecting. For starters, only the really nice homes (that weren’t bank owned) had grass growing in their yards. Most of the residential homes had sandy front yards with an attempt at beautification with landscaping, which usually consisted of a rock garden or red mulch around a tree. However, the vacation homes were easily distinguishable from the 12-month residential homes (by more than a just a mailbox, too).

Our vacation home’s yard was … umm … dreadful. It consisted of sand, brush, thorny-bushes, and a plant that looked quite like cannabis (I am positive it was ditch weed, folks!). In short, it was anything but attractive, and even our “girls” didn’t want to to their “business” there!

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t expecting to see a yard with cactuses next to blackberry bushes in North Carolina (and yes, those thorns HURT – even through the ‘tough plastic’ of poo-bags!)

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This unknown plant (below) was in bloom everywhere. Can anyone tell me what it is?

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Telling Too Much?

I read this blog post yesterday by Household 6 Diva, Blogging OPSEC and PERSEC is for Everyone, and it really got me thinking: Do I share too much of my personal information online?

As a military wife, I keep all of my husband’s military missions and maneuvers “tight.” I don’t share what he does or where he travels on Facebook, Twitter or in my blog. But, I do share our real names – first and last – and I am beginning to wonder: is this smart of me to do?

Here’s the thing: I am a freelance copywriter, and because of the business I am in, I am already in the “public eye.” Over the course of my career, I’ve been quoted in various newspapers and my work has been published in several media outlets. I understand that my business success will be, in part, built on being visible – so publishing, posting, tweeting and participating online is a key element of growing my visibility. So I use my real name.

And as a side note, my ultimate goal is to live the life of a best-selling author (one that is recognized by the masses but isn’t followed by the paparazzi; do you think that’s possible? Heck ya! The paparazzi don’t care about book authors! LOL).

While researching a writing project on the topic of social media marketing, I asked an industry expert this question: “What do you say to people who are fearful of putting themselves ‘out there’ for all to see?”

His response was “Get over it.”

He followed up his cut-throat response by saying that in the world of social media, if you want to be effective, you must be transparent. This means you must give a little more of yourself and be accessible; no ghost-blogging allowed. It must allow your own personality and opinions to shine through.

I believe in being authentic. This is my philosophy with friendships, family and business. Sure, I am selective in what I blog about, but my readers will see the real me – not anything fake.

But after reading Household 6 Diva’s blog, I am left questioning whether or not am I compromising my family’s safety by using my real name (BTW, both Jason and I can be found under directory assistance, although our last name is misspelled with some telephone companies)? Should I be using my first name only? Should this blog be separated entirely from my business life and blog? Please weigh in … let me know what you think!

Fall or Fly: Happy Anniversary to Me (Part II)

By now, you know which position I chose, right? I picked the one that, on paper, didn’t make any sense, but the one that gave me the opportunity to start my life – to fall or fly.

So on April 23, 1995 (a Sunday afternoon), I packed up my Ford Probe with a week’s worth of clothing and moved to Harrisburg. Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend (I’ll call her “A”) who was already living in Harrisburg (and happened to be working at the same association), she convinced her husband to let me temporarily move into their spare bedroom. They had a blow-up mattress with my name on it! This arrangement allowed me to take the job without first having to find a place to live.

“A” and I were actually very good friends already, and she took such good care of me. She made sure my lunch was packed, and when I was nervous about going somewhere new for work, she’d take me on “dry runs” around town so I wouldn’t get lost. “A” introduced me to friends, and when it came time to move into my own place five weeks later, she helped carry what little belongings I had.

To say I didn’t have much when I moved to Harrisburg was an understatement, and I certainly didn’t have a “safety net” when I moved (other than “A”). I actually had very little money and possessions. But what I did have was a strong will not to blow this opportunity by falling flat on my face.

The generosity I received when I moved to Harrisburg still touches me today. Spearheaded by “A”, the ladies at work threw me a “here’s-stuff-that-we-don’t-need-but-you-can-use” luncheon. I received gifts ranging from groceries to a soap dish to even a cute side table (that I still use today). One of the ladies was moving, so she invited me to her pre-yard sale. For me, each item was only $1. I got a cutting board, toaster oven, pasta strainer, and other household things … including a Lazyboy recliner all for the grand sum of $20. Seriously. I actually still get choked up when I think about her generosity. She knew I barely had two nickels to rub together; she probably would have given me anything I wanted for free, but she allowed me to keep my pride.

By June 1, I moved into my own place – a house in New Cumberland that had been turned into four small apartments. Another coworker lived on the bottom floor. It wasn’t much; it was kind of dingy, small, and the ceilings were sloped in places (okay, so it was a dive), but it was in a safe neighborhood and what I could afford. I didn’t have cable; I used “rabbit ears” and got three stations. I didn’t have a bed; I slept on an ugly pea-soup green 1950s steel-framed pull-out sofa that my dad gave me. My towels consisted of two sets that Mom had given me in high school (in preparation for college), and the parents of my boyfriend-at-the-time bought me a shower curtain and bed sheets, since I didn’t have either.

Those first few months on my own were rough – very rough actually. There were weeks (and I know my father will cringe when he reads this) where I only had enough money to buy a loaf of bread, a container of margarine and a jar of peanut butter. That’s it, and I’d eat peanut butter toast for dinner. (And surprisingly enough, this wasn’t the poorest I’ve been … those days were yet to come. A story for another day.)

Like I said, the generosity of others was amazing. Luckily, my boss (and other co-workers) sensed that I was struggling financially and took turns inviting me out for “business” lunches. Sure we talked business – and it was all legitimate – but looking back, I now believe that many of those times were prompted by them wanting to make sure I had a solid meal in my belly. Also, “A” would invite me over for dinner at least once a week, and she would pretend to have “extra” fixings and bring me a sandwich for lunch.

Gasoline was cheap back then (less than $1 a gallon – can you remember those days?), so on the weekends I would drive home and raid Dad’s pantry (and the couch for loose change). He knew I did this and was okay with it, but I never let on how tight money was those first few months – and he never asked.

Another thing – my wardrobe was hideous! I am no fashion-ista, but my God, to look back on what I wore! Wowza! In those early months, I had five outfits – one for each day of the week – and most of them were dry-clean only (I obviously hadn’t read the tags for care instructions before purchasing them). Of course, I didn’t have the money for dry cleaning, so I hand-washed them in my bathroom sink and line-dried them in my apartment.

I could rarely afford to go to the Laundromat to wash my other clothing, so on the weekends that I headed to Dad’s, I toted my dirty clothes along. On the weeks that I didn’t go home, “A” invited me over to her place so we could do laundry together.

Each pay period, I made a little progress financially, and eventually, money became less tight. I could afford groceries, the Laundromat and even some fun stuff, too.

Looking back, I am not sure where I got the strength to face challenge after challenge after challenge. I guess I was just THAT determined (or stubborn) not to fall.

The whole year of 1995 was an interesting journey for me. I made a lot of poor decisions, but I eventually got my head out of my ass and started making better choices. I think making blunders is only to be expected when you are trying to figure out who you are. You make a lot of mistakes, but hopefully you only make the mistake once and can learn from it, grow from it and become an enriched person because of those falters.

So today, Friday, April 23, I say Happy Anniversary to Me! Fifteen years ago today I chose to take a HUGE chance that changed the course of my life. I am proud that I had the gumption at such a young age to take such a significant step, and what an amazing ride it’s been!

Fall or Fly: Happy Anniversary to Me (Part I)

It was April 23, 1995. Less than a week before,  Timothy McVeigh and one of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, has set off a bomb in Oklahoma City that kills 168 people, including 8 Federal Marshals and 19 children, at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Howard Cosell dies at the age of 77, the number one hit is “This is how we do it” by Montell Jordon, and I pack up my Ford Probe and move to the “big city” of Harrisburg to start my life.

It’s been 15 years. Wow.

Why I moved to Harrisburg

I graduated from Lock Haven University in December 1994, and after spending my college years stuck in my hometown, I was more than ready to not be there anymore.

A flashback to 1989-1990 …

As an honor roll student in high school, I’d never imagined NOT going away for college – and my choice institution for higher learning was always Penn State – University Park campus. Hands down – that’s where I wanted, more than anywhere else, to attend college. I received my PSU acceptance letter the day of Senior Night for my girls’ soccer team, and there was nothing more satisfying, at the time, than getting into the university of my choice.

For a long list of reasons, that plan didn’t quite work out. Lack of money along with life throwing a few curve balls my family’s way prevented me from attending Penn State. Instead, I became a “townie” (aka commuter student) and attended LHU full time while working my way through school. I don’t resent that experience anymore (although at the time it was a real pisser); it actually turned out to be a vital thread of making me who I am today. The lack of a traditional-live-on-campus college experience actually gave me a fuller adventure that I would have missed had I gone away to school.

So back to why I moved to Harrisburg.

As you can imagine, after spending an additional four-and-a-half years in my hometown when I didn’t intend (or want) to, I was anxious to go. As soon as I graduated from college, I started looking for opportunities outside the area. I was 22 years old and ready to have the opportunity to experience life. Fall or fly, I wanted that chance.

Because I worked as many as three jobs at once through college, when I graduated, I actually already had a decent job that I could have turned into my career. I worked for a fire sprinkler contractor, and over the years I had worked side-by-side with the owner and done everything from answering the phones, estimating jobs, payroll and even being part of the construction crew that retrofitted an existing building. The job paid good money, and the boss saw my hard work ethic. In fact at one point, he offered to pay for me to attend graduate school. Of course, there was a catch. In exchange of him paying for school, I had to return and work for the company for five years. His vision was to open a satellite office in a new territory, using me as the manager.

However, giving up more years of my life just wasn’t something I was willing to do. I felt as though I’d already sacrificed a lot of myself by staying home, and more than anything else, I wanted the opportunity to figure out my life – who I was and what I was capable of – without owing anyone any more of me.

In early April 1995, I received two job offers. One position was as an executive assistant to the president of an international marketing company. The money and benefits were decent enough, considering I was a new college grad, but as an additional carrot, after a year of working with the president, he would set me up with a mentor in any division of the company I chose – with the promise that when a position opened up, I’d begin my career. The downside was this: the company was located at home.

The other position was as an administrative secretary for a governmental affairs division of a state trade association. The association was located in downtown Harrisburg, one-and-a-half blocks from the Capitol Building. My duties would be typical secretarial ones, but I was also required to go to the Capitol building a few times a week to pick up legislative schedules and other important information (pre-Internet days). The position paid less than the marketing company, and there were no promises of career advancement. But it was in Harrisburg and away from home.

Guess which position I chose?

The Good, The Bad and The Undies

My weekend highlights:

The Good: This weekend, by far, is my favorite weekend for hockey – the NCAA Men’s Hockey Regional action – the “Sweet 16” of college hockey. Jason and I usually head to New England to catch the Northeast Regional match-ups live (it rotates between Manchester, New Hampshire and Worchester, Massachusetts), but due to Jason’s military schedule, we were unable to get away this year.

Not to fret, though, because we had access to all 12 games thanks to ESPNU and ESPN360.com. Talk about heaven, I was in it! Jason hooked up my laptop to our 50” HDTV so I could watch the non-televised games on the big screen. Although our favorites – University of New Hampshire and University of Alaska-Fairbanks – did not make it to the NCAA Frozen Four (the mega-games of college hockey), I still was able to enjoy a full weekend schedule of hockey. Now as long as BC doesn’t win the national title … any other team but BC!

The Bad: Military-interuptis strikes again. To be completely honest, with the amount of missions that Jason is currently overseeing right now, the number of military-related phone calls that he gets during non-working hours have become a part of our life, and as a military wife, I’ve become almost immune to them. Don’t get me wrong; I am frustrated with how much our time is invaded with these calls. But I understand that this is the life we’ve chosen. how-to-train-your-dragon

So it was no surprise that as we are heading out the door yesterday morning to  go see the movie, How to Train Your Dragon, that Jason received another “oh shit” call. The details of the call aren’t important (they would make you roll your eyes and get frustrated, too). But the bottom line is that Jason had to head out to post and take care of the issue in person – and as a result, we didn’t get to go to the movie.

However living “The Clutch Life” means me being able to roll with the punches. Because the issue wouldn’t take long (just long enough to mess up our plans), I went along with Jason and spent that time with him anyway. Sure it wasn’t ideal, but we tried to make the best of the situation.

The Undies: This is the part of this blog post that you’ve been waiting for, right? Okay. So how many of you have been in the predicament where you realize that you simply wore the wrong underwear for what you are doing? (Keep it clean, guys … pun totally intended!)

I was running along on the treadmill last night – getting my jog on – and slowly my undies start slipping down, going lower and lower. So I reach back and hike them up. Slip, slip, slip they go again … and I hike them up again … and again … and this is how it goes for 25 minutes! Ya, definitely need to make a few adjustments to my running attire …

Conquering the jiggle

Today is the American Diabetes Association Alert Day. Nearly 6 million have diabetes and don’t know it. Less than three years ago, I was one of them. Please support the ADA … by giving, learning, acting, and joining. Thank you.

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If Jane Fonda’s statement “No pain, no gain” is truly accurate, than I must be advancing a heckofa lot!

In my quest to conquer the jiggle around my mid-section (aka the muffin top), I inherited a limp. My right quadriceps is k-i-l-l-i-n-g me this morning. I think I over did it yesterday (really? What gave it away?).

In fact, yesterday marked an important date in my 2010 calendar; it marked the two-month countdown until our beach vacation to the Outer Banks! Although I am excited to be heading to Duck, North Carolina in May, the reality is that my pasty-white body just isn’t ready for the beach, and particularly beach attire (thanks to the Christmas cookies from three months ago).

For the last few weeks I’ve been focused on getting my diet reigned in and getting back into a regular exercise schedule. And, I have to admit: getting back on track has been more difficult than I anticipated.

Perhaps the first thing you need to know is that less than three years ago I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. How I got so “lucky” to be “blessed” with this chronic disease is truly a mystery – ‘cause I am the only one in my family to have it this young. For the two family members that are diabetic, it was onset much later in their lives and caused by mobility issues.

(For me, I was 35, active and not overweight – all of which don’t come close to matching the typical onset of Type II diabetes. From time to time, the illogicalness of it all causes me to rant, stomp around and call life unfair, but I am sure you’ll hear more about that in future posts.).

I have chosen to control my diabetes as naturally as possible for as long as I can (i.e. limit the medication I take). So for two+ years after my diagnosis, I watched my diet and exercised religiously. I was a fanatic about it, actually. This regimen got me sore feet and a hip that ached and popped … but most importantly, it kept my diabetes under great control.

But somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I lost my course. I indulged in more “diabetic free” days than I should have (what do you mean every day can’t be a diabetic free day?) and allowed my treadmill to get dusty. Coupled with an extremely cold winter where I wasn’t taking my “girls” for the longer 2-3 mile walks we usually do, my body rebelled. Not only was my A1C  higher than normal when I got my blood results back in late February, but my midsection also got all wiggly.

So my first step was to get my diet under control, and to be quite honest, this wasn’t too difficult. I know how many carbohydrates I can eat and when, so it is just a matter of sticking to that plan.

However, getting back on a regular exercise schedule has been more difficult than I anticipated. I could give you many reasons why – no time, boredom, iPod tunes are stale, need new sneakers, nothing good on TV – but the bottom line is it has just been tough. And I know what comes with exercise: sore feet and a hip that constantly aches and pops – something that I was not looking forward to … at all!

But in my perpetual “positive attitude” (that drives many nuts), the positives of exercising, especially for someone with diabetes, completely outweigh the negatives. Not only does regular exercise keep my blood glucose level under excellent control, but it also brightens my mood and actually gives me more energy, not less. It gives me focus, as topics to write about often come to me during a good run. And of course, for vanity reasons, exercise should get rid of some of my jiggle … and hopefully also most of my muffin top!

The way I approach exercise is with baby steps. I get one aspect, cardio for instance, under control and then a few weeks later, I add weights. A few weeks from now, I may add yoga into the mix.

So after a few weeks of doing regular cardio, on Sunday night, I decided to dust off my weights and do some basic arm exercises. I threw in some lunges and squats into the mix for “kicks.” Yesterday morning when I woke, I felt a little twinge in my quadriceps, but it was a “good ache.” It let me know I worked my muscles a bit.

Last evening I went for a slow jog on the treadmill. I ran for two miles, and although it wasn’t earth-shattering to run that far, it marked a new milestone for me in my pursuit to get back in shape.

The verdict: perhaps pushing it when my muscles already hurt wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did. Today I am hobbling along with a noticeable limp. Yes, my friends, my run got the better of me!

But it isn’t something that a little Motrin can’t take care of, and hopefully by this evening, I am back to a normal gait again as my quest to conquer the muffin top continues. Tally-ho!!!!