Flat-out or just flat?

So, this morning I had that personal training session at the gym. When Vera, the personal trainer, got in touch with me earlier in the week, she asked me what my goals were, and I told her that I just wanted to start building fitness, toning and tightening up some soft areas. I mentioned that I have very weak arms and zero upper body strength and that my posture could do with some work.

Then I put it out of my head entirely until this morning.

When my alarm went off this morning, the only thing that forced me out of bed was knowing that it would be incredibly bad manners for me to cancel less than an hour before I was due to meet up with Vera. So I threw on my running clothes and started getting ready.

I’ve never been a fan of gyms, primarily because I haven’t the first clue how to use the various different machines, secondly because I am fully aware of just how weak my body is and finally because I’m afraid of ending up on Youtube or as an internet meme for making a complete ass of myself, like these poor folks:

Fortunately, I’m getting over being worried about what other people think, though, so I asked David to do the morning school run and Megan to pack the school lunches and off I went for my 7:00 appointment.

Now, normally, when I go for a run, I don’t really eat anything beforehand because I find that I start feeling nauseous during my run if I do, so I just smashed half a sandwich in my face as I left and figured it would tide me over. Turns out I figured wrong!

Vera started me off on an elliptical machine, on the very lowest setting, for a 10-minute warm-up. I’d never been on one before – I’ve only ever run outdoors or on a treadmill, which I hated!

This was still very different from running on the road but far less awkward than on a treadmill, and I think I may be able to get used to it. I kept a slow, steady pace but still found myself in the “talking with effort” zone by the end of the 10 minutes. At the same time, I wasn’t dead and felt sufficiently warmed -up. By now, though, I guessed that I was not going to manage a full hour of working out.

Vera thought it best (and I concur!) not to try getting onto any of the fancy equipment just yet – I suppose she also wanted to gauge what I could do – so we went into one of the group exercise studios, which are open for use by anyone when there are no scheduled classes running.

So here’s what we did –

    Vera handed me a weighted bar like this one:

And we then proceeded to do the following:

Front barbell squats – 2 sets of 15 reps

Standing front barbell raises – 2 sets of 15 reps

Bent over barbell row – 2 sets of 15 reps

Weighted extended crunches with a 2.5kg plate – 2 sets of 10 reps

This was supposed to have been 3 sets of each, but since I had skipped breakfast and only had that half a sandwich, I started feeling dizzy after the first set and we only did one more.

I was surprised at how unfit and weak I really am! But I’m looking forward to working my way up to actually finishing a workout, and getting fit and strong!

Jim at the Gym

I joined a gym the other day.

I wasn’t planning to, although I have seriously considered it on a number of occasions, because the running just isn’t happening and I see myself softening and rounding and sagging in places where I’d rather not.

Anyway, I did it – I signed up, paid for my access tag and even attended the “New Member Induction” the following day, with both of my teenagers in tow. Nothing special about that.

But I did want to have a small rant about the joining experience itself, which has more than a little to do with why I have not yet been back.

You see, as I mentioned, I was not planning to join the gym. I was, in fact, pushing a trolley full of groceries out of Pick n Pay and heading home to consume a whole bunch of tasty stuff. I happened to be in a good mood at that moment, anticipating all the tasty things to be enjoyed in my almost-immediate future, so when one of those gym guys who hang around in high-traffic areas punting their gym joining specials approached me, I was patient and friendly and didn’t stalk off in a huff at him for even suggesting that I looked like anything less than a fitness goddess.

Rookie mistake.

Anyway, so I smile politely and tell the guy my last gym membership expired before I ever set foot in the gym, and then – like a bloody fool – I ask him what the joining fee is right now.

I know, right?

Right. But then, my ears prick up when he says, “Today, it’s free.” HA! And that was me, sold. So I went in as arranged at 14:00 and proceeded to experience something I was totally not expecting:

I arrive at the gym at the appointed time and ask for the sales guy I’d spoken with earlier – we’ll call him Jim (see what I did there?). He arrives at reception moments later, and off we go to the sales office to complete my application. Of course, we start making conversation, as you do. I mention that I’m really not a fan of gyms but have lost my running buddy, and I jokingly mention my husband’s reluctance to run with me.

Now, I don’t know if mentioning one’s spouse’s disinterest in sports/fitness is some kind of code in the gym world that implies that one is somehow “available” or “looking for something on the side”, but it certainly seemed to be exactly that in the Jim world, if you take my meaning?

The guy suddenly became unbelievably familiar. It seemed innocent enough at first – he asked me what my husband does for a living. So I told him – he’s an engineer. This must have, unbeknown to me, been more code, because he smiled at me then, and made some crude comment about how my husband must be loaded, then. I didn’t quite know how to respond because, in 2018, I kind of assumed that we all know that asking questions or making assertions about a stranger’s personal financial situation is in poor taste?

Of course, I’m a little taken aback and unsure as to how to answer, so he starts telling me about his restaurant in Gordon’s Bay, and my bullshit meter slams into the red zone. I ask him what he’s doing, selling gym contracts, if he has a restaurant in Gordon’s Bay, and he spins me some story about how it’s his inheritance as the once-favourite grandson, on account of his once having played rugby for the Lions, or some such, but he’d rather work in an industry that lets him interact with people. He lets his sister and her husband run the restaurant, while he does what he’s passionate about. I leave it at that, because hey – who am I to say what someone is or isn’t passionate about, right?

Anyway, so Jim moves on and asks me what my goals are in terms of training, and I tell him that I’m just looking to regain some fitness after four kids and being fairly inactive for many years. I specifically mention the four kids because, in my experience, this is usually a pretty strong “I’m not even vaguely available” message. But Jim takes it as some kind of competition, and tells me he has six, and then takes my surprise – let’s face it, six is quite a bit less common than four! – as a sign that I’m mighty impressed by his unparallelled virility. But I miss this, because now we’ve crossed over into the “parent zone”, and as someone who pretty much lives there full time, I relax and begin to feel like I’m on familiar territory. So I ask him if they’re all his own or whether some are step-kids.

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Jim launches into a whole spiel about how he’s in the middle of an ugly divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him, and asks me if I’m happy in my marriage, and whether my husband works really long hours, etc. He’s kind of hinting that I’ve somehow implied something of the sort, and I sit there wondering how the hell he came to that conclusion?

Was it the fact that I stopped to talk to him outside Pick n Pay? Was it the fact that I showed up at 14:00, as arranged? Was I somehow saying things in a code I knew nothing about, that kept answering his own coded questions in the affirmative, and thus giving him the impression that I’m interested?

Anyway, I ask for information on class times and who the instructors are, trying to steer the conversation back to neutral territory, and we conclude the paperwork, and I sign on the dotted line, thinking that’s that. Jim promises to forward me the class schedule info via WhatsApp and tells me about the New Member Induction that takes place at specific times, and asks me what time I’ll be there that evening. I tell him that I’m not available in the evenings due to family commitments. (This is the truth, but I also figure it can’t hurt to make it clear that I have a family that matters to me, and I’m NOT AVAILABLE.)

Jim makes a comment to his (male) co-worker about how “passionate” I am about not being available in the evenings and suggests the following afternoon at 15:00 instead. I agree to attend the induction at that time.

I go on my merry way, relieved that this awkward encounter is over. I have not yet started my car to drive home when I get a WhatsApp notification from Jim’s personal number:

 

I send him a thumbs up in reply, because I’m still trying to keep it polite and not make a big deal out of anything that might just be a misunderstanding on my part.

He responds with:

 

I don’t respond to this because, really, what is there to say?

But then, about an hour later, he sends me another message.

And then another, an hour after that.

And then, at 21:03, while I’m sitting on the couch with my husband, watching Friends, he sends me another message:

Now, the first two, I figured he was just being nice and letting me know he hadn’t forgotten to send me the information I’d asked for.

But to send me a random text after 21:00 to find out whether I was going to keep the appointment I had made? (No mention or sign of those promised schedules, by the way!)

Had I not kept my first appointment, and arrived punctually?

Had I not made it clear that I’m NOT AVAILABLE in the evenings?

Had I not tried to steer the conversation toward the actual reason we were talking in the first place – i.e. the gym?

Had I not given him a totally neutral, non-verbal response to his initial invitation to chat, and then been silent in response to all his later messages?

So, when I lost my patience after this last text and showed it to my husband, he sent Jim a message telling him that 21:00 was not an appropriate time to be messaging me, and that I had an appointment for 15:00 the following day.

Jim responded with some bullshit about “just making sure our clients get the best service” and FINALLY stopped messaging me.

The next day, I brought my two older kids to the induction appointment with me, so that I could purchase each of them an access tag, too.  I made sure not to look dressy, either, and arrived on time. The appointment was not with Jim, which I was glad about, but he made himself visible as soon as we arrived, and then proceeded to make a big show of fobbing us off on every other staff member he could possibly rope in, not once, but on several occasions.

What had taken less than 10 minutes to do for me the previous day now took close to an hour, because Jim could not find enough other people to ask to “please handle this” for him, before returning to impose himself and his very cold demeanour on me again, before finding the next person to “quickly handle this” for him again.

I don’t know what Jim thought I was going to to do, but he was clearly pissed off with me. And, you know, I get it. He must have felt pretty uncomfortable when my husband sent him that message, telling him to back off.

But, seriously, was I wrong? Somehow, I don’t think I was misreading his intentions the previous day – he wouldn’t be so vindictive about it if I had been.

He’s obviously used to having the women he hits on be much more receptive, and he was clearly sore that I hadn’t fallen for his spiel about playing for the Lions or his fancy restaurant in the Cape.

I was actually relieved when he fobbed me off for the first time, because I figured I could then deal with a different sales executive going forward, but he was clearly out to make me as uncomfortable as possible.

But, you know, my skin’s gotten a little thicker over the years and the older I get, the less inclined I am to be gaslighted, undermined or otherwise intimidated out of a space I have every right to occupy, with the full expectation that my privacy and personal space will be respected.

So, this Friday, I’m cashing in my free session with a (female) personal trainer and I’ll be showing up at the gym. And I’ll be showing up again after that, and owning the service I’m paying for.

Because I came here to gym, Jim. Understand?

 

 

 

This Is 38

I celebrated my birthday last week – actually celebrated it, and had a blast doing it! I rounded up all the usual suspects and hosted a fondue at my house.

We were too busy catching up and chatting and drinking wine and beer to be fussed about eating as soon as the fondue was ready, so the cheese began to set in the pot and we had to “fix” it, so it wasn’t quite perfect. But it was delicious and I wasn’t the tiniest bit anxious about anything. I ate until I couldn’t anymore, and drank cherry cocktails out of pretty cocktail glasses, and danced to 80s music as if no-one was watching.

Much about this birthday has been significant for me, for various reasons – one of which is the fact that this is the age my father was when he died. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s not that I’m especially emotional about it, or anxious about my own mortality.

Another “big thing” about this birthday is, I suppose, its proximity to the next big number (round it off by two more short years and I’m there) – and there’s some serious planning to do for that one because it’s going to be epic!

But what has really stood out for me at the close of this last little jaunt around the sun is how changed I feel.

I’ve made many changes over the past few months, most of which I think are pretty much invisible to all but those who know me especially well. But I feel those changes and I feel how different I am from the woman, wife and mother I was just a year ago.

I didn’t do a “2017 Review” post at the end of last year; I had intended to but found myself rather busy living and being present in my own life and having no time to spare. 2017 Was also a particularly rough year for me, emotionally. I didn’t  catch the sads the way I have around September in most previous years, but I struggled with some big and deeply personal issues throughout the year. I questioned my identity, my quality of life, my personal values, my parenting capacity and just about everything else in between, and I’m still not sure how much of that I want to put out there.

However, it was also a year of tremendous change, as I have said. I quit my job, cut off my hair and started on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment that has taken me into and out of myself in ways I cannot describe with mere words.  It has changed my general outlook, a number of my tastes and preferences, my inner dialogue and my capacity for human empathy. It has changed my approach to work and its problems and to raising my family. It has given me a glimpse of what I have the potential to be and I could not be more excited about the future.

This is 38, and I will never be the same again.

 

 

 

On #FlyingSolo – And having awesome kids!

I drove to the airport this morning to pick up my husband, who had been in Lagos, Nigeria, on a business trip for the past week.

Before he left, I think we’d both been worried that it was going to be a tough week – for him because, Lagos, Nigeria; for me, because managing a household with four kids is busy enough for the two of us at the best of times.

As it turns out, he had a much worse week than I did, having to wrangle corrupt customs officials, poor planning and general incompetence at every turn on his trip, and coming home with a massive sinus infection to show for it.

Meanwhile, on the home front, I could not have asked for things to run more smoothly than they did. The kids – all four of them – were surprisingly cooperative and helpful all week, and we settled into a routine that allowed me to get things done while still ensuring that they were all adequately fed and ferried about as required.

I had imagined rushed mornings and general pandemonium, and instead, I had an easy-paced week in which I managed to check a bunch of items off my to-do list. All except one fairly big one, really.  And what makes this even more remarkable is the fact that I was able to manage everyone’s day-to-day, with dinner and bathtime done and dusted by 18:00 each evening. This meant that there were no late bedtimes, and, since we recently reinstated the rule that there is no television or screen time allowed during the week, it also meant that the kids were properly worn out and ready to go to bed at the proper time. Because they’d spent the afternoons playing outside, reading books, climbing our mountain and being kids.

Of course, it’s a huge help that they don’t get homework, and Michael’s exams are over. He’ll also be joining his younger brothers at their new school from next year, so we won’t have to worry about homework anymore anyway, apart from the occasional project.

I’ve also noticed a significant change since becoming stricter on their sugar consumption. The younger boys’ school does not allow ANY sugar in their lunches – no jams or syrups on sandwiches, no sweet treats in lunch boxes; that includes artificially-flavoured juices of any kind, cookies or even “energy bars”.  And I’ve started rationing the number of sweet treats the kids are allowed to have at home, too, and it is paying off in a big way.

It started with their Halloween loot, which I took from them and kept locked in my cupboard. Each child was allowed to pick two items out of his Halloween bag after school every day, and that was IT.  Their sweets lasted right up until this week, and they weren’t all sugar-hyped by the end of every day.

So, yeah. We seem to have hit a sweet spot with our current schedules and routines, and I’m definitely going to try to keep it going this way. Long may it last!

 

Doors

I started writing a post in November about the doors we bought for our house. Because when we first moved in, the whole place had been stripped of its interior doors.

There’s been a lot of drama around the doors. You’d be surprised at how important they actually are, on so many levels.

Aside from the way that a lack of doors can make an entire house feel completely bare, even when it’s full of your family and furniture and you’ve finished unpacking all your boxes, it takes away so much from ordinary, every day things you wouldn’t otherwise think about.

Without a bedroom door, for example there’s no escaping yelling kids and needy cats, no quiet time spent catching up with each other, sharing intimate moments or arguing differences of opinion out of earshot of the offspring. (There’s no stalking off and slamming anything when you’re not winning the argument, either.)

No bathroom door means never feeling comfortable enough to poop in your own toilet.

And no doors on the kids’ rooms means that even when you want to, you can’t turn a blind eye to the mess they insist on making of all their toys and clothes and books and school stuff… You can’t just close off their bedrooms when visitors stop by and see the state they’re in. And so you worry about more than whether your guest prefers Earl Grey or normal tea. No, your anxiety levels shoot right up because now you’re also painfully aware of how they’re judging you for your poor parenting skills…

Doors are important, people!

So, I had this whole post half drafted about how the seller we purchased our house from had promised us doors as part of the sale agreement but it all went horribly south. I went to great pains not to refer to the seller as anything else. More specifically, I made a conscious effort not to refer to the seller in terms that I would not use in the presence of a prospective employer or client. Which is more than said seller deserves, but okay…

Anyway, I was interrupted while writing the post and then just never found enough time to get back to it and do it justice, so you never got to read about the doors we got after the doors we got from the seller were a complete disaster.

Instead, you got the watered-down, PG version, because for all of my big talk about reclaiming my writing voice and bringing old-school back, I’m still afraid of the bogey man and the swear word police. And all of that just to let you know that we now have doors. Because, as was established earlier, they’re really, really important.

 

Lanced

I have this thing where I feel like I have to make each new post follow at least vaguely on the last one. It’s kind of annoying. So I’m just going to stop it, because I can, damnit.

For someone who’s a supposed writer, I have very little to write, I’ve realised. I’m not even going to try to figure it out or come up with reasons why.

I saw a post in a bloggers’ forum on Facebook today in which some guy tells us all how whiny and boring we are. I was instantly offended but couldn’t really counter what he was saying. At least, not as far as it concerns me personally. I only ever really blog when I need to vomit up my ugly stuff (and then I do it under strict censorship anyway), or when something big has happened. (And then I just give you the basic bones of it, afraid either to put too much out there or too lazy to go into any significant detail.)

I’m a bad blogger. And I don’t mean in the “I-don’t-post-as-often-as-I-should” way. I mean in the “my-blog-is-shit” way.

But you know what?

I don’t care.

There. I said it. Who gives a shit whether my blog is boring? Who even bothers reading it? I’m obviously not making a living off this thing, or I’d be starving. And the few people who stop by whenever I bother to share that I’ve posted something are people I’d tell this stuff to if I saw them in person anyway. Mostly.

HahAAAA! That dude is right! And I don’t give a fuck!

On another note, I’m feeling much better. Maybe still a bit raw after exposing myself somewhat more than usual. But certainly better for having let out some of the built-up stuff.

So that’s something.

More on that another time.

 

 

Voer Die Wit Hond

The following is a post I started writing in December last year:

I cried in the car on the way to work this morning.

You’d think I’d be singing and dancing instead, right? I should be. The folks at work have been nothing but kind and welcoming. And the prospect of a decent, regular income is nothing to cry about.

Yet, here I am, coming apart at the seams.

It’s been happening at random intervals over the past week or two and after giving it some thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m depressed.

Apart from half-whispered utterances to my husband in moments of exhaustion, I haven’t used those words to describe my mental state in many years.

But the fact of it is, they fit.

Of course, I know that these feelings don’t just come out of nowhere. They build up and escalate over a period of time, often unnoticed until it all crescendoes into an enormous, dramatic mess.

I’ve been lucky this time in that I picked up on a few clues recently.

On Friday, we had the end of year party at work (I know – how cool are these guys for including me, when I’ve only been working with them for a week, right?). We were thoroughly spoilt as the company treated us to a matinee at Madame Zingara – a big favourite for me! The food was amazing, as always, as was the Merlot I washed my meal down with.

And then I went home and slept all weekend.

And that’s as far as I got with that post.

I cried in the car on my way to work again a few days ago. Apparently, it’s a thing for me.

I don’t plan it. I’ll be driving along like a normal person and, suddenly, my eyes just fill up and spill over while Tony Blewitt talks through mouthfuls of biscuit on the radio and I can’t stop it. So I blink lots to clear away as much blur as I can while I drive and I try to avoid getting tears in my mouth.

Those of you who’ve read my blog since the early days will know I’ve had run-ins with the black dog many times. I always live to tell the tale.

I don’t know why I’ve been feeling this way, so I’m not sure how to fix it. For the moment, I’m just telling people. I tell them that I’m not feeling myself and I don’t know why. I tell them I’m sad about nothing in particular. I tell them that the voice in my head is saying mean things to me. (Okay, maybe I don’t say that bit out loud.)

I talk because putting it out there makes me accountable for how I deal with it. Or, at least, for dealing with it at all. And that’s how I’m getting myself out of bed every day; I remind myself that checking out would be such a pathetic cliche.

I’m not running. Or baking. Or washing my hair as often as I probably should. I’m not bothering with make-up or looking like much. But I’m getting through every day having done enough to pass for functional and, right now, that’s good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

We bought a house.

The building next door to the house we’ve lived in for just over 5 years now once belonged to the Mayor of Johannesburg. You could tell, looking at what remained of the original house when we first moved here, that this house had been a grande dame in her heyday.

But several decades, a nightclub and a fast-food joint (both of which failed) later, the house is no longer the grand old home it once was. And then, a little over a year ago, things started happening there. There was talk for a short while of the house being restored, which made me happy. But then we learned to our horror toward the end of last year that this beautiful old landmark is to become a KFC instead, complete with drive-through ramp and window overlooking our garden and living room.

And so, after 5 1/2 years (the longest stretch we’ve spent in any one house), the time had come to find a new home.

The decision to buy rather than rent was made quite quickly, although not lightly. And we told ourselves we’d take our time and not settle for something we could live with, but that we’d hold on for the perfect place; one that lies within a particular little pocket of the neighbourhood, has VERY little work to be done and came at the right price.

I felt oh, so very adulty, looking over the options, inspecting every tiny detail and debating the merits of each house we viewed with my husband. We came really, really close to putting in an offer on a particularly pretty place, until we went to see it for the third time and discovered some very nasty, VERY expensive issues. The seller (according to the agent, at least) refused to negotiate on the price, though, so that was a bust. There was just something off for us about that particular agent… And so I mentioned to D that there was a particular house I’d looked at a couple of years ago, that had recently come back on the market. We chatted with the agent, who put us in touch with a bond originator and we started looking at whether or not we’d be able to swing the bond on this place. But by the time we’d gotten a pre-approval figure back from the bond originator, the house had been sold.

Still, we met up with the agent, gave her our list of requirements, price range, etc. and she set up a few appointments for us. And then, after four or five houses, she suggested we take a look at a particular house that had been up for sale for a while. She said she knew it wasn’t what we’d said we wanted but I guess she must have just had a feeling about us and about this house.

Let me begin by saying that the house is pink. Not a subtle, pale kind of pink that could almost pass for a warm, creamy colour. No. It’s a deep (albeit sun-faded), bright, just-this-side-of-salmon kind of pink.

Of course, my first comment was that it would have to be painted immediately.

It is also enormous, filling the bulk of a steeply sloped, 1300m2 stand with its 4 levels (5, if you count the triple garage at the very bottom).

The garden is a ghost of its once glorious, terraced self, overgrown with weeds and home to all kinds of rubbish left behind by tenants who did a real number on the place.

We put in an OTP within an hour of having seen it once.

By 5pm, the seller had accepted.

That was on 15 April.

We are now approximately 2 weeks away from moving into our very own home for the first time. There is a huge amount of work to be done to make it the home we want, but it’s ours, which makes all the scrubbing, painting, fixing, weeding, sealing and other stuff worth doing.

I plan to document the transformation of the house as we go, so watch this space!