December 2014

The Longest Night

by Priscilla on December 22, 2014

The quiet chapel sat coated in reds and greens and golds. Its congregants spread wide amongst the seats, leaving spaces between one another – spaces to allow The Grief to dwell among us. Three nights from now the chapel will sit dark and empty while the large auditorium down the hall will light up with candles, and music will swell from organs and bells, choirs and orchestras.

But this is tonight.

The Longest Night.

This is the night for those of us for whom the season is not so jolly. Oh, we love the season. We love our families. We love the music, the gathering and the laughter. We love the cards and the television specials. Okay, maybe not the television specials. I swear if Netflix suggests one more friggin Hallmark Christmas special to me, a certain large plasma screen TV is going to find itself riddled with bullets. So, minus the Hallmark Christmas specials, we love the season…we just don’t feel part of it.

Not this year anyway.

For me it’s the date on the calendar two days from today that should mark my 20th  wedding anniversary. It’s also the day that marks a miscarriage 12 years ago. Alone in the ER. December 23rd mocks me. Damn Army. Damn calendar.

My pastor emailed me a few weeks ago and asked me to read some Scripture for this service. I told her I was going to sob through it. She wrote back and said matter-of-factly- Just practice it at home and get all the sobbing out there. Damn pastor.

I read the verses over and over – verses about the hard stuff, verses that read, Where is the balm in Gilead? Verses by a guy named Jeremiah who wasn’t exactly the Joel Osteen of the Promised People. I was reminded that my faith has a history of people getting dealt a really crappy hand. Then I started to think about people I know personally in the here and now with stories similar to those in the Bible.

I started listing their names on notecards, and within minutes the cards filled up. So many names.

People who’ve lost entire families in a few seconds. People who birthed babies only to lose babies. People who lost spouses and people whose spouses lost themselves. People who just want a spouse, period. People torn apart by horrendous crime that no one can explain. Women battered by men who promised to love them, and men grieving the women who left them. A child left motherless. A parent left childless. People losing jobs. People losing health. People losing hope.

Damn cancer. Damn divorce. Damn violence. Damn death. Damn. Damn. Damn.


The Longest Night…

…..broken by a baby’s cry.

In my story it’s the cry of two crying babies born almost one year exactly after that miscarriage…that longest of nights.


In Mary’s story it’s the cry of a Savior come to bring light and life to a groaning world.


I don’t know where you are in your story. Maybe you are coming out of a longest night. Maybe you are heading in. Maybe you are sitting in the middle of it all trying to catch your next breath, begging for one small ray of light to break through the darkness that sits on your soul. Maybe you are walking in the light, but there are those whom you love dearly who can’t seem to shake the night.


The story of God’s people is a story of community. It’s the story of a ragtag group of The Chosen that grew into Whosoever Wills. It’s the story of not being left comfortless, but of The One Who Sent The Comforter. It’s the promise of a God who weeps with the weeping and who wipes away every tear, and the first line begins with a baby crying into the darkest of nights.

So, on this longest night, remember that baby – the baby who brings light and life…and brings it abundantly.

As I sit writing this, I look at my clock…only 3 hours until the longest night is over. Three hours until the cosmos shifts and earth leans towards light. Three hours until the light begins winning the battle.

 Hold. On.

Day is coming.


Years ago, the late Suki and Indy, my evil, but oh-so-cute dogs, whose personal mission it was to chew through any kind of creation made with popsicle sticks, glitter glue and pink beads, stole my my Crafty Mom of the Year sash, ran through the mud and left it lying in various and sundry bits in middle of our  subdivision in Lafayette, IN. The moving truck ran over them on our way out of town. Tonight, I threw my matching Best Baking Mom tiara down the sink disposal and flipped the switch.  Here’s how it all went down.

The Former Mr TIS recently celebrated a birthday. Twins A and B asked if they could buy a cake for him. Now, I’ve watched more than my fare share of Dateline episodes and know 101 ways to poison an ex spouse without getting caught, so I suggested we make their dad a cake.

Just kidding!

I did tell them that they should make him a cake simply because it’s cheap, and I’ll say this for the former Mr. TIS, he isn’t fussy about birthday cakes.

From scratch?! Twin A asked in horror. Heaven’s no. I answered. There’s a wonderful man named Duncan who’s made it oh so easy.  Off we went to the baking aisle of the store to stare at 498 different kinds of cake mixes. The girls narrowed the flavor down to chocolate which left us 490 choices. Then they fought over what kind of chocolate because it’s not a trip to the store with twins unless you squabble over which soda, which shampoo, which eggs or which engine cleaner.

Tonight as we got everything out to bake, (and by everything I mean Crisco, eggs, a cup of cold water and box of My Man Duncan), I instructed, Okay, one of you needs to spray these two pans, please. I continued getting out the Kitchen Aid mixer and measuring cups when Twin A said, Is this the stuff I use to spray the pans?   I looked up to see her holding this:




All the hours I’ve spent watching Dateline kicked in, and for a moment, but only for a moment, my dark side thought Easy Off Oven Cleaner was indeed the perfect thing with which to spray the cake pans that would hold the their father’s cake. Then my Jesus Loves Everyone Even Ex Spouses voice kicked in (Is it me, or is Jesus a touch pesky?), and I replied:

Um, no, that’s oven cleaner. You want the Pam spray that’s in the lazy susan, I explained, making a mental note to ask the school just what kind of test they did on my kid that marked her as gifted. (I’d like to point out here that I studied acting some in college. For all you parents out there wondering what your child is going to do with acting classes, I’ll tell you what she will do. She will raise children and not freak out when they ask things like, Can I coat the baking pan with oven cleaner. She will also act like she enjoys painfully boring military balls, obnoxious parents of naughty students and strategic planning meetings where words like engage, empower and drill down are thrown around like koosh balls…and in some cases the boss is actually throwing around a koosh ball  in an attempt to synergize the underlings. Don’t knock the acting classes.)

Duncan’s cake and frosting combination somehow turned out looking like an actual cake and frosting combination. Kids were happy. Their dad whom that pesky Jesus fella is demanding I still show love was happy.  But now, much to my chagrin, they’ve been bitten by the baking bug and are asking me to show them how to make Christmas cookies. For the life of me I don’t know why. There’s a perfectly lovely company called Nabisco that churns out package upon package of  little bits of heaven I call Oreos that go down deliciously well with the help of a lovely Swiss maiden.


If You Married One of the Good Ones, Part II

by Priscilla on December 10, 2014

So, yeah…this one isn’t for little eyes. It’s not graphic, but it is frank.

Yesterday,  I was all about the women folk. My sistas. The ones who’ve always had my back. I made some men very happy because I spoke truth and helped them out a bit. Pipe down, boys. Stella’s got her groove back, and at 43 she’s just hitting her stride.  I like you guys. I really do. I’m rooting for you. Think of me as the short, white female Hitch who comes to your rescue once you’ve sealed the deal with the wedding band and For Better or For Worse…as Long as You Both Shall Live is standing beside you in the bathroom, leaning forward into the mirror, face covered with cold cream plucking her eyebrows.

It’s really all so simple. Want a good woman? Be a good man. Notice I didn’t say Be a man. I don’t know know what that means anymore than I understand why you guys insist on using the phrase grow a pair as if testicles are the magic bullet to toughness. (You want tough, grow two babies at once inside you, have a doctor cut through layers upon layers of muscle, yank out said babies, and then start feeding the babies…with your own body…that was just cut wide open. You can grow all the pairs you want. I’ve still got you beat.)

When you are dating a woman – I’m starting before the marrying part – if she monopolizes all your time – run. If she’s always blowing off her friends to be with you and yours, run. It’s flattering at first. It’s chilling later. Think boiling rabbits. If you aren’t 40 yet, Google boiling rabbits. That movie scared the fidelity into an entire generation of men….for about two weeks. Once you’ve married a good woman please accept the fact that she needs her space and her friends as much as you do. Guys, get your own friends and go out and do stuff with them every once in a while. Women, you do the same. It is not the job of your significant other to fill every single emotional need. Can we not suck the life out of one another, please?

Gentleman, you can never tell a woman too many times that she’s beautiful. I don’t care how drop dead gorgeous you think she is – the media tells her otherwise 3,498 times a day. Our thighs aren’t supposed to touch. Our breasts should resemble headlights. Our hair should flow like Secretariat’s mane. Our nails should be delicate, our lips pouty, our cheeks flushed and our waists tiny. Want more? Let’s see, our bums firm, our biceps defined and our abs washboard. Our minds? What minds? The media tells us jack about our minds. It takes a lot to undo all these messages hurled at us nonstop. Do whatever it takes, men, to get the message through to your woman that she does it for you. 

Kids are game changers. No one gets this more than the woman. Her body has been stretched and beaten and bruised, and what she doesn’t need is a man who complains that he isn’t gettin’ any. Buddy, whining to your exhausted, hormonal, emotional woman isn’t going to get you any, any faster. Suck.It.Up. You men need to understand that kids drain our souls. They change the way we think.  They change our bodies which in turns change our minds and not always for the better. We feel overworked, overwhelmed and under appreciated, and we need the men in our lives to understand this, to help us, to love us, to support us and to hold us when we cry from sheer exhaustion. This is called adulthood. It means you put your needs and wants on the back burner because a kid has come into play. It won’t be this way forever, but it will be this way for a while.

Is parenthood terrifying? Heck, yeah! We’re all terrified. Be terrified together. This is the For Better or For Worse Part. After all the diapers, daycare, cleats, tap shoes, music lessons, sports teams and 9,489 boxes of Cheez Its, this is the For Poorer part, but it’s so much easier when it’s a team of two doing the parenting instead of a team of one. Be a team…of two.

When the beasts grow, they still demand the heck out us, so don’t stop supporting your significant other. Just because she has the mini van doesn’t mean you skip carpool duty. You also don’t get a pass come science fair time and field trips to the origami museum. Some of you are all in when it comes to coaching AAU ball, but when we ask you if you’ll babysit for three hours so we can run errands in peace, you’d think we’d  asked you for your right testicle on a plate. (Ladies, in this situation, it’s okay to say grow a pair…because really, they need to.) Tuck the kids in. Read to the kids. There’s nothing sexier to a woman than a man down on the floor, kids hanging all over him while he’s reading Dr. Seuss with all the different voices. When your little kids grow into big kids, it doesn’t stop. Be.Their.Dad.

There’s a little something called porn. It makes a lot of us women feel like crap. I’m not here to lecture, shame, or preach, but I’m going to share something that might change your perspective. When I was a little girl, my family lived on about 50 acres, and a lot of it was field and woods, and I roamed wild. There was a large cement bridge that crossed a creek, and, unbeknownst to me,  the neighborhood boys hid girlie magazines up under its metal beams. One day when I was down playing in the creek, I saw something sticking out from the bridge and climbed up to investigate. I didn’t know it then, but in a few short seconds, the book of my innocence was closing forever.  I’ll never forget the woman on the page I opened up to. I was 10…the age my daughters are now. I didn’t know what I was looking at had a name; all I knew is that it made me feel sick…and dirty. It made me hate what was happening to my body as everything about it started changing around that time  – because what I learned looking at that magazine was that the only thing men liked about women were their naked bodies…naked bodies that looked like that woman’s. In that moment, alone, with no one around to protect me, that magazine changed how I viewed myself as a girl and later on as a woman. That shit doesn’t go away. I’ve been battling body issues for years. How a woman views her body directly affects the kind of sex you will experience as a couple. Respect her body. Respect all women’s bodies. You may want to argue with me that yes, what happened to 10 Year Old TIS is too bad, but you don’t have issues and neither does your wife. Okay. I can accept that. Want your daughter or son to star in a porn? Want him or her to spread eagle in a centerfold? Why not? Want to support sex slavery and human trafficking? Do a little research as to where the people you look at and watch come from. They aren’t all actors paid to scale with generous benefit packages. There’s a little something called exploitation. Don’t be guilty of it.  Don’t think for a minute that your porn doesn’t hurt someone else. Someone else is always hurt. If none of these arguments make a difference to you, then think about this: there are three dimensional women out there. They are smart and funny, engaging, warm and kind, and you are missing out on them while you are holed up with your small, two dimensional screen. So.Not.Sexy.

I’ve saved the best for last. It’s really so easy…and it leads to the sex…that thing you are always thinking about. Do things with her and for her. Yes, she needs her space, but she also needs you…she likes you…she really does, so hang out in the kitchen drying dishes, leave a post it note on the microwave (And no, it shouldn’t read, Get more food.), carry in the groceries, help her with a presentation for work,  tag along on one of her runs – unless she’s running to clear her mind – then stay away. Far away. Surprise her with Colts tickets…or better yet, floor seats at Assembly Hall…okay that would work for me…maybe your wife wants tickets to something else. My point is whatever it is that she likes to do, do it with her every once in a while. Is that really so hard? Ladies, same goes for  you. I know you may not feel like doing the stuff he likes all the time, but once a month won’t kill you. (Just so we’re clear here, I’m not talking sex. You really should be doing that more than once a month. Really. A lot more….unless you have ankle biters running around…..anklebiters turn adults into sex camels. It’s just the way it is….but it doesn’t last forever. Promise.)

My work here is done. I’m going to take down my Hitch sign, and put my TIS one back up. I hope this helps someone, somewhere because even though mine ended, I still I believe in marriage. I believe in romance, fluttery stomachs and long, sultry stares across crowded rooms. I also believe in personal sacrifice, respect, kindness and affirmations. I believe in all of it because I believe in LOVE. More importantly, so does your amazing wife.

Now, go be good to her.


If You Married One of the Good Ones

by Priscilla on December 9, 2014

I’ll never forget my 30th birthday. My students surprised me with a party and presents, complete with balloons, cake and a photo album that I cherish to this day even though they are now all adults teaching their own students and birthing their own babies. I’ll also never forget it because at the same time I was turning the big 3-0, the school librarian was celebrating 40, and she gave me the best advice ever. When you turn 40, you just say whatever you think because you know longer care if people agree with you or not. You realize you don’t have to play nice with everyone or try to be everyone’s friend. 

Was she ever right. I recently had a male friend write me a note asking me for advice on turning 40 because he wasn’t digging it. I told him exactly what this woman told me. I think some men hit a wall at 40. We women hit our stride, and it’s in this stride that I’m going to share some observations with you that may very well tick some of you off.

Don’t care. I’m over 40. You might think I sound dated or old fashioned. Don’t care. I’m over 40. You may say, That’s fine, but what about when he… Stick it. I’ve hit the triumvirate of tough cookies. 1.) I’m over 40. 2.)  I was an Army wife. 3.) I’m surviving  divorce with kids…at freakin’ Christmas time when everyone is posting lovely family photos and cookie making celebrations all over creation.  My skin’s so thick it has scales.

So here we go –

Some of you ladies – the ones with the good men – complain. A lot. About your men. I’m not talking to my heathen friends. Honestly, most of them have good marriages and don’t snark on their husbands. I’m talking to my Go to church every week, Be busy for Jesus, Lead the women’s prayer circles and Save the children friends.

If you have one of the good ones….shut up, be thankful and be good back to him.

My inner Gloria Steinem has a hard time typing those words because they sounds so trite, but they are true. I am so sick and tired of hearing from women who have husbands who work hard, don’t run around, come home every night, help the kids with their homework, that they aren’t getting what they need from their man. I want to bitch slap some of you and say Suck it up. It’s only for a season. He’s a good guy. Instead of whining that you aren’t fulfilled in your marriage, why don’t you do something for him for a change instead of complaining that he works too many hours. God forbid you have a nice house, decent cars and a family vacation. I know you are tired. I’m tired too. Life is tiring. There’s work in the home. There’s work out of the home. There are children. There are board meetings. There are community fundraisers. There are church programs. There are. There are. There are.

And then there is….your man. Right in front of you.

And if you have one of the good ones, be good back. That’s all I’m sayin’.

My dad wasn’t the demonstrative sort, but I can’t remember a night when he came home from long, long hours that my mom didn’t get to him first before any of us eight banshees and greet him with smooches. It was always the same. One short peck. Then a long passionate kiss. Best gift parents could give a daughter because even now, even when I’m single, I know that what every person deserves, if he or she wants it, is a partner who is there with passionate kisses at the end of the day.

Make an effort with your appearances, ladies. Pajamas are for sleeping in, not running around Walmart. Men that goes for you too. I’m writing primarily to women because I am one, but just remember everything I say to the tougher sex, I’m saying to the male crowd as well. Some of you men expect the woman in your life to look like she’s stepped out of a porn ad while you look like you just showed up from filming Swamp People. For the love of Pete, pick up a barbell every once in a while instead of a beer.  I’m not going to write that stupid adage, If the barn needs paint, because it’s sexist, and some of my most beautiful friends haven’t worn makeup a day in their lives. (I hate them, of course.) What I am saying is take the time to do things that make you feel sexy and beautiful. It might be manis and pedis. It might be CrossFit (for my crazier friends.) It might be time alone with a good book. Whatever fills you up, do it, then do something for him.

A friend of mine often says I wish my husband would work as hard now to get into my pants as he did before we were married 20 years ago. Men, that’s true. We think that. But women, remember all the primping and preening you did while dancing through the bizarre ritual we call dating? Same goes for you.  If he’s a good one, he doesn’t care if your jeans are  a size 20 instead of a size 4, but he’d like to see you in jeans sometimes…not sweats…and maybe with the hair down every once in awhile instead of pulled back in the mom bun. I know. I know. Not every single man is like this, but a lot of them are. It’s in their hardwiring. They are visual creatures. Give them something to visual at.

I know I’m pissing some of you off. Don’t.Care. I’m over 40. You 20something girls shaking your head thinking I’m some kind of 50s throwback – Don’t. Care. I’m over 40. I’m mentally tough and physically gritty. I can haul mulch like nobody’s business. I’ve also learned a thing or two about people in the last 43 years. So just sit and learn, girls.

From where I sit, if you’ve got one of the good ones, and you don’t know it, it’s my job to shake some sense into you. I’m not trying to scare you with, Take care of him because if you don’t some other woman will warning. Although that is true. There are women out there on the prowl, and a wedding ring means nothing to them. For the life of me I don’t know where they get the time or energy because, good lord, sneaking around takes a lot of planning and effort. I don’t know about you all, but chances are with all the brain cells I have left after having kids, he’d say Meet me at Motel 6, and I’d get the numbers messed up and show up at the 7/11.

I’m just simply stating that just as we women wanted to be treated with dignity and respect and love and kindness…so, too, do our male counterparts. So, if you have one of the good ones, do me a favor and be good back to him.

…and if he isn’t one of the good ones. Honey, you deserve better. But that’s for another post.


Leaving It All On The Court

by Priscilla on December 5, 2014

Tonight I watched my girls’ last regular season basketball game. They finished 0-5 or 0-6. I stopped counting after a while. Tournament time starts next week, and as a girl born and raised in Indiana, I know anything can happen during tournament time; but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t need to. The team – all 25 of them, is holding theirs. They still believe anything can happen, and for this I am falling in love with them.

The season started out with Twins A and B jumping into their car with permission slips, talking over one another telling me that  50 girls signed up so there would be the dreaded cuts. They are 10, so cuts are a new thing to them. As a parent, I am glad that we’re finally getting to the age of cuts because I’m from the old school that thinks that kids actually learn a thing or two from failing, and I’m really tired of all the cheap, crappy trophies and ribbons littering their bedroom.

The Monday of the first practice came and went, and I learned upon pick-up that everyone made the team.

What happened to cutting kids? I asked, almost ticked.

A lot of girls just didn’t come because they were scared of getting cut, the girls replied.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, girls. Sometimes all you have to do is show up because no one else has the guts to. 

I don’t know what happened between my fabulous life lesson declaration on Monday and after practice on Tuesday, but the team had grown from about 18 to 25 girls because some had been sick or out of town.

Because of the number of players, games are played in in 5 quarters instead of four. The first four count, the last one is exhibition. Every quarter brings in five different girls, and there is a definite pecking order as to who plays when. Twin A started 3rd string and B was 4th.  After two practices A had worked her way onto first string because she’s that freak of nature kid who has this insatiable drive to perfect anything she puts her mind to. B moved up to 3rd string and is as happy as a clam to stay there. B is very much like her mother – sports are just another avenue to socialize after school and maybe get a free t-shirt in the process.

We live in a tired town. Once the band instrument capitol of the world and the birthplace of Alka Seltzer, the town has taken hit after hit. It’s king in the RV industry, but like so many other towns in the Rust Belt, the recessions didn’t just hit, it did a complete smack down, and unemployment hovered around 20%. People are working again, but instead of making $25 an hour, the skilled labor jobs only pay around $12-$13.  Our pastor recently announced that the working poor make up 25% of our county.

My town hurts.

But I’ve noticed something wonderful happening in elementary school gyms all over the city every Monday and Thursday. These tired parents living tired existences fill the bleachers, and I mean fill them full, to cheer on 10 and 11 year old girls, and these 10 and 11 year old girls are giving us something to cheer about. Oh, sometimes their uniforms are a bit mismatched with hot pink gym shorts and rainbow striped socks. Some of them play in sweat pants and Chuck Taylors while others sport Under Armor shorts and Nike high tops. We’ve got girls of all shapes and sizes – tall and athletic, short and squatty, small and quick, large and lumbering. Every single race and religion is represented as well as socioeconomic level. But let me tell you something about these girls…

they leave it all on the court.

With their coaches calling plays from the sidelines, they run full court presses and set up pics and screens. They play as units – I have yet to see a ball hog on any team. The refs call fouls and then stop to explain to the players what they did wrong and what they need to correct. Sometimes the girls get so excited they run right over the same ref in the very next play. They make ugly passes. I mean ugly, and they can’t shoot to save their lives because their upper body development is 10 years behind their heroes who play college ball. They wrestle for the ball. Lord, do these girls wrestle. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that tonight’s game probably had 34 jump balls because when in doubt,  just try to yank the ball out of the other players’ hands. These girls are smart and aggressive and gritty, but most of all they are happy. That’s right. These girls don’t stop smiling. They smile dribbling down the court. They smile if they steal the ball. They smile if their ball gets stolen. They smile helping each other off of the ground after they’ve wrestled the ball away for the 35th time. They smile when elbows are flying all over the place in an attempt to get the rebound.  The score doesn’t matter. The freedom they feel on that court does.

You watch 25 girls leave it all out on the court a few times a week, and you start to change. You begin to think that maybe this game is the game. After all, if the girls aren’t down, why should we parents be. If they are sitting the bench, they are cheering. Oh, sure they also might be braiding one another’s hair, but they are cheering. God bless their male coaches – they are cheering too. These men inherited the Bad News Bears of basketball, but they keep teaching and coaching and instructing and encouraging, and I love them from the bottom of my heart.

Every game I sit on the top bleacher with another mom, and every game we leave better women than when we walked in the door because every game, those 25 girls show us ladies how it’s done. Life’s a lot like that game. Sometimes we can’t get the shot to save our lives. There is a lot of wrestling. Not all the calls fall in our favor, and there are times we have to sit the bench for a while instead of playing our desired position. Sometimes there is a string of defeats…but we don’t have to stop smiling. We don’t have to stop listening to The Coach. We don’t have to forget we’re not in this alone. We don’t have to sport the best uniform. We just have to show up and be ready to play, and when we leave it all on the court, that’s when we have the most fun.




There’s a little secret out there in the world of divorcees. It’s called The Divorce Diet. Easy to understand. Simple to follow. No crazy gym fees. No meals plans because…well…there are no meals. Only coffee. Insert Only Coffee and Stress into your life for a month or two, and it’s quite easy to go from a size 10 to a size 6. There are drawbacks, however. People worry…especially your mother. She shows up at your back door with an enormous black kettle of turkey and dumplings trying to fatten you up. Friends notice that your belt is cinched to the last rivet. Your bra is suddenly big enough to hide bags of jellybeans in each cup. (I have no idea why any woman would want to hide jelly beans in her bra cups. I’m just thinking about my creative writing prof,  and I am wondering if he were ever to find this blog, how would he critique my visuals. Just what he would stuff bras with to get his point across in a clear, concise manner ? Maybe he’d choose bags of gravy to go with that turkey my mother just hauled in through the back door.)

While it’s great to be skinny again, unfortunately, my muscle mass was part of the departing package, and I need that mass to do all the jobs moms are left to do when dads leave…like hauling Christmas trees up from the basement and hauling 50 pound bags of salt down to the basement. Hauling bags of used kitty litter up from the basement. Hauling 25 pound boxes of clean kitty litter down the basement. (I’m starting to see a possibility here as to why the former Mr. TIS moved out.) For the past six months I’ve been faithfully swimming and running, but now, thanks to the dimples that have migrated from my smile down to the backs of my thighs, I’m hitting the weight room again as well as the cross training classes. The weight room I can handle – preening middle aged men and all –  because really all you have to do to fit in there is throw weights on the ground and groan like you’ve just thrown your back out trying to start the lawn mower. There’s also some walking back and forth in front of the mirror flexing. Lots of flexing. I’m not sure what flexing in the mirror does to build muscle mass, but the regulars seem to do it a lot so who am I to judge. (They also seem partial to wearing large chunks of gold jewelry in the forms of chains and pinky rings. This girl has to draw the line somewhere.)

What I’m trying to master is cross training. Twice a week I head to my Y class filled with mostly middle aged women and one 70 year old man and his bride. Every once in a one of those preening middle aged men from the weight room wanders in looking for the cardio machines, but it doesn’t take too many pelvic thrusts and butt clenches to realize he’s made a wrong turn somewhere.

My teacher subscribes to the school of Hey, there are a lot of torture devices out there, and we’re going to pack as many in, in the next hour as a we can! school of exercise.  We employ heavy bars to leap around with in order to get our heart rates up. We  hoist barbells and dumbbells working our arms, chest and buns. We  strain our abs and elbows with horrible discs from hell called gliders that are supposed to strengthen our cores. I jump over steps. Lunge like a skater. Crawl like an Army recruit and run drills like an football player trying to impress the scouts. Only there are no scouts or drill sergeants, and as of this evening, the Olympic committee hasn’t called me up to replace Apolo Ohno. It’s only me and 15 other self loathing women trying to better ourselves and lessen the jiggles when we giggle.

Today took the cake, though. Today, I looked at myself and the women surrounding me, sliding all over the slick wooden floor on our large exercise balls, and thought, So this is what my life has come to?  We were trying to do chest presses with dumbbells, but our feet kept splaying out from under us, and several of us found ourselves rolling off the balls and into one another. When it came time to lean back and twist our torsos with added weight, I found myself sliding down, whilst the ball obeyed whatever that equal and opposite reaction law is and ended up across the room opposite from me.

Finally, we stood vertical again. Thank God because all that horizontal time was making me dizzy.  Then the perky blonde instructor, whom I love…I really do…announced, Okay, now put the ball between your knees and squeeze.  No big deal.  Then she said, For the next minute we’re going to do a new exercise called “Beat the Ball!” I looked up and around, my middle school mind thinking, Did she just say what she thought I said?

She continued. You’re going to bend over, keep squeezing the ball between your legs and just beat it with your fists. Okay, yes, she said what I thought she said. The next image was one to which even Gitmo detainees should not be subjected.  I don’t think I told you that the exercise room is lined with mirrors…for extra humiliation. Also, I think in order for you to get the full effect, it is imperative that you  remember we’re middle aged women. Most of us sport lycra bottoms that hold all our dimples in place paired with wicking tank tops and sports bras that are working overtime thanks to the fact that the force of gravity doubles once you blow out those 40 cake candles. The teacher has now instructed us to bend over and beat the ball. I looked up into the reflective glass, and to my horror, faced 15 pairs of 40 something breasts waving around like trapped ferrets while their owners punched the snot out of big plastic balls they are straddling. Not going to lie. I took great pleasure in beating the ball. I also grinned a maniacal grin the entire time, and I was not alone. A lot of angst was being worked out in that room.  Don’t let the saggy boobs and dimpled bottoms fool you, folks. We 40 something moms can still kick ass…or beat the ball if you will. The beatings stopped, and we moved onto mimicking jump shots with 10 pound medicine balls..but not without some wicked grins and sidelong glances exchanged to one another. We all liked this new exercise.

Tomorrow is my swimming workout. My swim workouts are nice. Serene. Arm over arm, flip turn, streamline off the wall, bilateral breathes. Very rhythmic. Very spiritual. Very calming. I’ll feel relaxed once I’m finished which is probably a good thing since I’m going to ask our instructor on Thursday if we can be a the ball again.

I’m hooked.