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Cheaper Than Therapy

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For me, going to the gym is therapeutic.  It doesn’t matter what kind of day I have; the gym is always there for me to vent and let it all out.  I work out about 5-6 times a week (I would go 7 days a week, but I must force myself, for my body’s sake, to take a rest day).  Some days I need to get out of my head and stop worrying about things. There are also days I am mad, angry, even hulk-like.  Then, there are days when I’m on an emotional roller coaster holding back tears or fighting the urge to scream and yell.  Then again, I also have days when I’m feeling like a certified bad ass *insert Wonder Woman* and feel there isn’t anything stopping me.  It doesn’t matter which kind of day I have, being in the gym is my happy place. 

I put my ear buds in, crank up my workout playlist on my iPhone, and let it all out.

I go at it hard (minus the grunting and clanging of weights – I don’t want Planet Fitness to sound the ‘Lunk’ alarm on me) and forget my troubles.  It works.  Every.  Damn.  Time.  The best part is, I don’t have to be social.  I go to the gym to workout; Not to make friends or socialize.  In fact, when people try and talk to me at the gym, it annoys me.  This is MY time.  I don’t get much of it, so leave me alone – Please and Thank You. 

The gym isn’t my only means of letting out stress.  Sitting in my backyard watching my backyard flock of chickens is my version of meditation.  It is nearly impossible to get mad or upset while watching 18 chickens with 18 different personalities cluck, peck, and scratch their way around.  I could sit there for hours. Sometimes, I sit there imagining what it would be like to be a chicken.  I mean, hell, mine are so darn spoiled. 

I might be better off as a chicken in my next life. (hee hee)

Meditation works for some people.  I have tried it many times: you know, the whole sitting in a quiet place with no distractions, focused on your breathing thing?  It does not work for me.  It doesn’t feel natural and I just can’t seem to relax my mind. Some people are able to meditate with great ease.  I envy them and their ability to recharge in such a peaceful way.  But that’s OK. I found what works for me.  When I sit and watch my backyard flock, I can relax my mind and enjoy my surroundings.  Even, if only for a little while. 

*NOTE:  I am NOT discouraging people from seeking help.  I fully support talking to a counselor or seeking help from a chaplain and/or medical or clinical professional.  In fact, I have talked to a professional on more than one occasion since the age of 17.  However, I fully support the notion: find what works best for YOU!  There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to taking care of you. 

5am on a Saturday

Team DARK
Emerald Isle Beach Saturday Morning Workout

This morning when my alarm went off at 5am I got up immediately without hitting snooze.  Which is impressive considering during the work week I hit snooze for every alarm I set (I set my alarm to go off at five different times if you were wondering).  This morning, on a Saturday of all days – when everyone else was still asleep, I jumped out of bed and made some coffee.  I threw on some clothes, packed a bag and headed out the door by 6:30am.  I was headed to Emerald Isle.

The 30-minute drive was very quiet.  Only a few cars were on the road.  At 7:05am I arrived at my destination.  I jumped out of the truck, changed my shoes and headed towards the beach.  It was time to work out. 

Yes.  You read that right.  I woke up at the ass-crack of dawn on a Saturday morning (earlier than I even wake up for work) and drove the almost 35 minutes to get a good Saturday morning workout in.  By the way, I wasn’t alone.  My crazy friends were also there. 

Daniel and Roxie brought their rower, jump box, kettlebells, and 45lb bar with additional weights.  Daniel set up a circuit for us with the beach as a backdrop.  He even included a beach run in the circuit.  We teamed up two by two:  Me and Daniel, and Roxie and Kim.  Each round was 20 minutes.  We did three rounds for a total of 60 minutes.  We did get some crazy looks from the scarce morning crowd.  But we didn’t care.  Covered in sweat, when we finished our workout we high-fived, took a group picture, loaded all the equipment into Daniel’s truck and then said our goodbyes as each of us headed home.  It was 8:45am.      

Just about everyday on Facebook, friends of mine are posting about how they want to lose weight, workout more or eat healthier.  And many are repeat posters because they aren’t doing anything to follow through with their goals.  If you want to eat healthier or lose weight, you MUST be willing to put in the work and leave the excuses at the door (or in your comfy bed).  But ultimately, you need a support system to hold you accountable.  Your 2,000 friends on Facebook are NOT holding you accountable.  And unfortunately, many of them want to see you fail.     

My personal health and fitness tip to reach your goals: get yourself a tribe like mine.  (Although, this might mean you don’t get to sleep in on Saturday).

Between the four of us, we all have varying degrees of fitness levels.  But that doesn’t stop us from being able to meet up and get a good workout in.  We encourage each other.  We push each other.  We challenge each other.  And we don’t allow each other to make excuses.

Now, please excuse me while I take a much needed Saturday afternoon nap.

Mean People Suck

animal animal world beak bird
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Last week something was said to me and it hurt my feelings. 

I pride myself for being hard and as tough as nails – or at least, I am pretty darn good at letting people think that I am. 

Remember the story about the ugly duckling?  As an adult, I can look back on my childhood and confidently say that I went from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan (although I would never actually use the word beautiful).  There was nothing special about me.  I was a tomboy, a gymnast for 9 years.  I liked being outside, barefoot, and looking for adventure in the words.  Getting chiggers was an every other week occurrence.  But, boy I loved having that pink calamine lotion dotted all over me.  Although I hated the itch!

As I grew up, I was oddly shaped.  Being a gymnast meant I was flat chested with broad shoulders and thick thighs.  This is not what every pre-teen wants as she embarks on her teenage and high school years.  My hair was curly and frizzy.  I didn’t know how to tame it so it was always slicked back in a pony tail.  I had humongous teeth that protruded from my mouth.  Yup, I was bugs bunny in the flesh.  This was the beginning of brace-face.  I had braces from 1st to 3rd grade,  6th to 8th grade and finally 9th to 11th grade.  Turns out the reason we couldn’t get perfect alignment of my teeth was because of my jaw.  Go figure.  Finally, to add sprinkles to this entire mess, that nose of mine… YIKES!  I won’t even go there. 

So, excuse me when I say that I am so thankful to emerge from my childhood alive.  Here I am, a swan.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy.  It took work and dedication.  I workout 5-6 days a week.  Sometimes 7 days – but I have to remind myself not to overdo it.  I eat healthy – for the most part – and take care of my skin and hair.  I even take daily vitamins.  I might have had some cosmetic surgeries, but I did it for me.  Not for anyone else.  I have learned to love myself.  I not only look better but I feel better than I did when I was in my 20s. 

And mentally, I am in a better place in my life. Or at least I was. 

People are mean. 

I hear from people on almost a weekly basis how “so-and-so said this about you” and “they couldn’t believe you showed up wearing that.”  What, a t-shirt and shorts?  To a baseball game?  Really?  What am I supposed to wear?  A sweatshirt and sweatpants?  Me and someone else can wear the same thing to the gym but then I am told what I am wearing is inappropriate.  Some women think I want their husbands.  I promise – I don’t.  I am friendly and nice to everyone.  To be honest, I’m a friggin’ goofball.  Some women won’t even try and get to know me.  I would be naïve if I said I didn’t know why.  But it makes me sad.  Almost angry even.   

So, there are days when I am just down in the dumps.  Days when I don’t want to deal with people.    Because, people suck.  If I would have known that ugly duckling would have to work so hard just to be considered the outcast swan… I would have warned her ahead of time.  I would have warned her that life doesn’t get easier.  That, as an adult, you will actually find yourself sitting at home, with your 14-year old’s arm around you, while you cry.

So today, on a day I need it the most, like Dory says, Remember, “Just Keep Swimming.”

Just Call Me the Crazy Chicken Lady

A friend of mine has chickens.  Lots and lots of chickens – and a pig too, but I’ll save him for another blog.  Last July she offered to let one of her hens go broody* so that I could have my very own backyard chickens. Of course I said yes!  Out of the five eggs momma hen faithfully dedicated 21 days to sitting on, all but one hatched.  Unfortunately, two of them did not survive.  My backyard farm was going to start off small…. And I was OK with that. 

Chicks
Landon and his Chicks

I brought two sweet chicks home when they were about 5 – 7 days old.  Landon named them Tina and Louise (from Bob’s Burgers) and they lived in a green tote in his room.  We were in love!

Green Tote Home
Green Tote Home

Two weeks later, Hurricane Florence hit.  After the hurricane, when life started to get back to normal, another friend gave me a coop she had that wasn’t being used.  It only lasted one day at my house before my mom and dad purchased a brand-new coop from Tractor Supply for me.  Tina and Louise were now officially backyard chickens. 

First Coop
First Coop

New Coop
Tractor Supply Coop

Another month went by and my girls were getting bigger.  I introduced two more hens and a rooster to my backyard chicken farm.  After a couple of weeks, they all started to get along just fine.  I was now up to a flock of five.  But, I began to notice….. Tina started to look (and sound) like a Terry or Tim. 

Black Tailed Japanese Bantoms
Black Tailed Japanese Bantoms

There was no doubt about it, Tina was a Rooster.  It was then that Landon and I decided, it being 2018 and all, that Tina could identify however he wanted.  We kept the name Tina.  He knew his name.  It suited him well.

Tina the Rooster
Tina the Rooster

As Tina and Louise kept growing, I knew we needed more space.  The coop didn’t offer enough grazing space for three hens and two roosters.  The only time they got to ‘free-range’ was when I was home and able to keep an eye on the dogs and the chickens together.  See, my dogs are a little rough when they play.  They mean well.  But, I wasn’t ready to see a dead chicken or two. 

The week before Christmas, my dad and I put up a fence to provide the chickens with their own area. It took less than two days and with my dad’s expertise and supervision – he made me do all the manual work.  Now the dogs and chickens could be in the backyard, together in harmony…. well, sorta. 

Time for a Fence
Time for a Fence

As Tina grew into a full-fledged rooster, his testosterone was on full charge 24/7.  He was cock-a-doodle-doo-ing all day and somehow, he found time to have his way with all the hens in the backyard…. roughly 30 times a day.  I am NOT exaggerating.  And it is not pleasant to witness.

I added two more girls to the flock.  I call them both ‘Fatty Patty’ because they are perfectly round and fluffy.  Also, I cannot tell them apart.  Tina took immediate interest in them.  They became his favorite girls.  I now had 7 in the flock.  And this provided some relief for the three hens I had.  They were happy to share Tina.

Fatty Patty - Buff Orpingtons
Fatty Patty – Buff Orpingtons

Tina’s testosterone also brought out his hatred towards the other rooster.  We had an all-out war in my backyard.  I received a phone call from a very upset Landon one day.  “The white rooster is covered in blood!  MOM!  Come home!   Tina is trying to kill him!”  My workout was cut short, I went home, found a blood-soaked rooster in the backyard, carried him indoors and cleaned him up in my kitchen sink.  My heart sank.  I didn’t have the heart to get rid of either one of my roosters.  I loved them.  For the next couple of days…. maybe even a week, I played rooster referee in a robe and my rain boots with a broom in hand.  I would take my coffee outside and wait for the cock fight.  When I would see Tina getting close, I would raise my broom and start yelling.  I even hit him with the broom once or twice. 

Blood Bath - Poor Whitey
Blood Bath – Poor Whitey

Winter came and went, and the roosters learned their place:  Tina was king rooster and Whitey – I ended up naming the other rooster after the blood bath – stayed away from Tina.  There hasn’t been blood shed in a while.  Thank goodness.   

Spring welcomed three new girls to the flock.  I was now up to 10.  Wow… that happened fast.  Then, all it took was one trip to Tractor Supply to get some chicken feed when I heard the “cheep cheeps” from a silver barrel and couldn’t resist.  Five more chicks came home. 

Leghorn Pullets
Leghorn Pullets

Straight Run Bantoms
Straight Run Bantoms

Now I have 15 chickens (the babies are living in a dog kennel in the garage until they are big enough to be with everyone else). And to top it all off, three of my hens went broody.  That’s right, they are sitting on 8 eggs (due to hatch later this week). 

I went from zero to 15 in 7 months.  You know that saying about single women and cats???  Well, I have chickens.  But they have brought so much joy to my life.  I love having my morning coffee with them, listening to them talk to one another in their chicken language and watch them fight over the ears of corn I give them.  I’ve learned more about chickens than I ever thought I would. 

So, feel free to call me the crazy chicken lady.  I’ve accepted it.  I own it.  And I make it look good. 

Moral of the story:  Chickens are like potato chips.  You can’t have just one. 

*broody is a term used for hens who plant themselves on their eggs for 21 days to hatch and raise chicks

The Un-Anniversary

women wears white and yellow tube strapless dresses holding white red and yellow bouquet
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On this day, 15 years ago, I said, “I Do.”  I was 20 years old, 4 months pregnant and dressed in white (the irony, I know) when I walked down the aisle of the Station Chapel aboard MCAS Cherry Point.  As I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, with my daddy by my side, all my little girl dreams of being a Disney Princess on my wedding day had become a reality.  In front of 150 of our closest friends, my soon-to-be husband and I exchanged our vows and promised to love each other until ‘death do us part.’

Today I wish my ex-husband a Happy Un-Anniversary. 

We were married for seven years.   We had great times, we had bad times, but we mostly had good times.  That is how marriages work, right?  You can’t have one without the other.  Over time we figured out that as a married couple…. we kind of sucked.  But as parents…. we were pretty awesome.  So, after the divorce was finalized in August 2011, we ended up becoming better friends than we had been throughout our entire marriage.  Why?  Because we were both focused on making one little boy happy.  We weren’t focused on trying to control each other.  We weren’t tired anymore from trying to salvage what was left of our relationship.  We were finally happy.  Who’da thunk it? 

Well, our friendship only lasted a few years after our divorce.  But that’s ok.  He’s remarried now and I’m enjoying living the single mom life with my amazing 14-year-old son, crazy flock of backyard chickens, and two adorable golden retrievers.    

While my marriage didn’t last, my divorce did help shape me into the person you see today; a strong, capable, smart, and educated woman.      

So, Happy Un-Anniversary to Me!

Coming Soon: The 15-Minute Weekend

white petaled flowers
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As I sat with my cup of coffee on the back patio today, watching the dogs run up and down the fence line taunting the chickens, I thought to myself – Damnit, I should have cut the grass this weekend. 

On Friday, when it was pushing 80 degrees out, I told myself I was going to mow.  But instead, I curled up on the couch and took a 3-hour nap.  Now, as I get ready for bed this Sunday evening, I am regretting that napping decision.  It rained most of the day Saturday leaving the ground still wet today.  Even though I wanted to mow on Friday, I really thought I would be able to go another week until a mow was absolutely necessary.  I was wrong. 

The grass (if I am being honest there are more weeds than there is actual grass in the yard) is so thick and tall.  So tall, in fact, that while I was doing the glamorous duty of scooping dog poop, I couldn’t find many poop piles… which means when I finally mow, the tires on the lawn mower will find all the ‘land mines’ I missed, and the blades will kick up a pungent air of freshly chopped dog crap!  AWESOME!  Not.    

What does this have to do with a 15-minute weekend?  Well, the grass is no longer dormant.  It’s Spring.  Summer’s next.  The grass and weeds will only continue to grow at Mach-Jesus speed.  That means I will be a slave to my yard during the weekends from here until October-ish.  My weekends will be jam-packed with chores.  Some of you might be thinking, “Hey Anne, you don’t have mow your yard every weekend” or “Hey, you can hire someone to do your yard” or “Don’t you have a 14-year-old who should be doing that?” 

Well, those are very valid questions that any normal human being would consider.  The keyword there is NORMAL.

I refuse to pay someone to do my yard especially if I am fully capable of doing it.  It would be a waste of money and an admittance of laziness if I paid someone to cut my lawn.  I also take pride in my house and yard.  Nothing irks me more than neighbors who put zero effort in their home and yard.  In my opinion, a yard should always be manicured.  And while it may seem that I am complaining about doing yard work, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I truly enjoy it.  I put on some tunes and jam out for the roughly 5 hours it takes to complete my yard.  I don’t half-ass anything in life… so you better believe I treat my yard like I do everything else.  I don’t rush through it.  So, while my 14 year COULD be doing yard work…. I prefer doing it because I know it will be done the right way.  I blame my dad for passing this trait on to me. 

So here I am, on a Sunday evening while the rest of the world is getting ready for the Game of Thrones final season premier, already thinking about the yard work that is in front of me next weekend, and every weekend thereafter for the next 6 months. 

Goodbye weekends.  It was nice knowing you. 

The B Word

It was only a matter of time.  I knew this day would come.  And I’ve accepted it.   I have become the B word.  

I.  Am.  A.  Blogger. 

See, I just finished my degree in Management/Marketing.  For nearly two years my studies included social media marketing, advertising and promotions, and web content.  Blogging is a relevant, online tool.  Don’t believe me?  

The number of active bloggers in the U.S. is estimated at around 31.2 million (statista.com, 2019).

Yet, I’ve never had the itch to blog.  I tend to be late to current trends and fads.  So I am not at all surprised that it took me until now to muster up the courage to give blogging a go.  But it didn’t happen overnight.  For the past couple of weeks I have been researching blogging.  Why do people blog?  Where do I start?  Do I have time to devote to this?  And finally, why would anyone be interested in reading MY blog?  

So here I am.  Taking a chance.  

My blog, This Unexpected Life, will not provide you with recipes for amazing meals, crafty ideas or DIYs, and I definitely wont try to pretend I can give parenting advice (I still toot my horn every year I keep my kid alive).  So if you are looking for expert advice in any of those areas… you’ve come to the wrong blog.  But if you are looking for the occasional laugh – stick around.  Follow me.  And enjoy the show.