Monday, October 31, 2011

Growing Up

In one of last week's blog entries I mentioned that I was very shy when I was younger. I was very introverted and introspective. There were many things that I would've love to have done that might've alleviated some of the shyness (ballet, Girl Scouts, baton lessons), but my parents couldn't afford any of those things. Instead, books are where I had my adventures. I remember reading a biography about Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. If I couldn't be a Girl Scout, at least I could learn their origins.

Of course I would talk to my friends when we were together, but for the most part I was that skinny little girl with the big eyes who never said much. If we ever had to do class projects I always volunteered to take notes or write up the report. This was how I acted in school, but around my immediate family I was a motormouth. If I knew you well, I'd talk to you without hesitation.

I think my shyness was brought on by being in such a different environment than my family's home. I also think my lack of self-confidence was a big factor. Once in second grade we were playing Twister on a rainy day, and the teacher called out a move that would've been hard for me to achieve. I remember saying to her "I can't do it." Of course she encouraged me and said I could, but I didn't believe that I could. I always wanted to do things right, so I figured if I couldn't do it right, I shouldn't try at all. On either my next progress report or my next report card my second grade teacher made a notation that I needed to work on my self-confidence.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Slight Gain

Yesterday was my weekly Weight Watchers weigh-in. Regardless of what the scale was gonna say, I like the way my pants are fitting, so I didn't sweat it. When I got on the lying bastard that is my scale at home, it said I had gained just a little bit. I thought to myself "So be it." My pants didn't feel binding in all the wrong places, so I thought "I'm good." Also, I caught another cold this week, so I wasn't able to exercise much.

After work yesteday I had to slog through the pouring rain. Added to that rain was the cold. It was very raw out there. By the time I got to my meeting my hands were starting to feel numb. I walked in, got on the scale, and saw that I did have a slight gain. It was less than a pound, so I wasn't bothered by it at all. Although the weather was craptacular, I even stayed for the meeting. Of course it was about strategies for coping with Halloween. I don't anticipate having trick-or-treaters, but it was a good meeting, nonetheless. I'm hoping that during this upcoming week I'll be able to exercise more so that I'll see a loss the next time I step on the scale.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Love Learning

From some of my previous posts some of you might remember that I'm taking classes to earn a certificate in copyediting. I can honestly say, without one iota of smugness, that words are my forte. The last installment of my background story told you that I practically lived at the library during summer vacation. Books were my escape to new and interesting places. Because I love words so much, I decided to steer my education in that direction a bit to try to incorporate my love of words into my life's work.

Last night I had a class, and the first part of the class was spent in the library putting together information for a five-minute presentation. I have a knack for gathering material and synthesizing it so that the necessary points are presented, yet it's not dull and dry. I'll touch on this in my next installment of my background, but I've always been a shy person. As I've gone out and done different things and taken more chances, that shyness has abated, but it's still there. Once upon a time I would've hated standing in front of a group of people I didn't know and talking about something they might not be interested in, but now I'm okay with it. I'm actually more than okay with it. I like it.

The title of this post is I Love Learning, but it doesn't only refer to learning in a classroom setting. Everything I do and every person I meet is an opportunity for me to learn something new. It may sound strange, but I like knowing stuff. The old Schoolhouse Rock shorts said that knowledge is power and I definitely believe it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Early Days, Continued

Kindergarten brought my first experience with a racial slur, but it would be nowhere near the last time that I experienced racism in school. When I was in the first grade and we'd have to line up in alphabetical order, there was a girl who stood in front of me by the name of Dana. Apparently she and her family didn't like black people because whenever we'd be standing in line to go to lunch she would always say in a sharp tone "Don't touch me!" Mind you, there was a normal amount of distance between the two of us and I wasn't even paying attention to her half the time. I guess the fear that one day I might actually touch her influenced her parents' decision to move her to another school, because after a couple of weeks I never saw her again. I often wonder what happened to her...

The rest of my elementary school career was fairly uneventful as far as my encounters with racism were concerned. I got invited to birthday parties and sleepovers, where I was always the only black child, but it never really phased me. I think it bothered white people more than it bothered me. A girl that I was friends with was going to invite me for a sleepover that she was having, but her mother said I might be uncomfortable being the only black person there. Seeing as I interacted with white people five days a week during the school year, I think the issue was more hers than mine. Looking back, I regret the fact that I couldn't reciprocate the invitations I received, but logically speaking there's no way a bunch of white parents would've let their daughters stay the night in a black household.

When I wasn't in school my summers were spent at home, reading. My parents couldn't afford to send me to summer camp, although I would've love to have gone. Instead my dad would take me to the library every few weeks and I'd check out about 10-15 books. Reading was a great escape for me. It took me to far away places and taught me about things that I never knew of. I gained a lot of knowledge about life in general from those books, and to this day, I love to read.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Well Whaddaya Know?

Yesterday was my weigh-in day but I decided to dedicate my blog to a more serious issue. I'm thinking about only blogging about my weigh-in on Fridays so that you can feel the anticipation of the build-up and then receive the instant gratification of knowing how things went.

Yesterday when I stepped on my lying bastard of a scale, it said that I was down. Of course I was hesitant to believe it because he's told me that before and I've been up. One thing I did notice was a change in the way that my pants were fitting, and it was a change for the better.

So after work I went to my meeting, stepped on the scale, and found that I was down. I won't say by how much, but if you read my Twitter timeline, you'll see :-). Yesterday's meeting was a good one. We talked about anchors. In this instance an anchor is an object that you can look at or touch to remind you of something that you're working toward or have accomplished. The leader gave each of us a rubberband to put on our wrists and said that it was our magic weight-loss bracelet. She told us to look at it, touch it, or even snap it when we feel the need to do something that's not going to help us accomplish our goals or maintain the results of the goal that we've accomplished. I am currently wearing mine.

Here's hoping that it does the job, hahaha!!! Regardless, it's nice to have something tactile as a reminder of where I'm headed and what I need to do to get there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Whatever Happened to Unconditional Love?

From the title you probably think I'm talking about romantic love, but you would be wrong. I'm talking about the love between a mother and her child. Earlier this week my sister-in-law's nephew committed suicide. He was gay, but his own mother refused to accept that fact. Being "different" is hard enough without your mother condemning you for something that you have no control over. I am so grateful that I was blessed with the mother that I have. She's nonjudgemental, but if you ask her for her opinion, she'll give it to you. If Mama sees that you're headed in the wrong direction, she gives you the space to make your mistakes and prays that you see where you're going wrong. Once your chickens have come home to roost, so to speak, she will listen to what you have to say about the lessons you've learned. She will also tell you that the power of prayer helped to get you back on track.

Whenever I hear of a child whose mother doesn't love them with all her heart, it hurts me. I've said that I don't plan on having children of my own, but that doesn't mean that I don't love children. I think I'd be a wonderful parent, but I don't see myself being in a position to take care of another human being anytime soon; especially not one that would be solely dependent on me.

Not one single one of us is perfect. We all have our flaws and foibles. If our mothers can't love us in spite of--or even because of--those flaws and foibles, what do we have left? The young man who took his life felt that he didn't have anything left. He was only 21. His whole life was ahead of him, but because he didn't have the safe and stable base of his mother's unconditional love, his potential will never be realized.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Early Days

As I mentioned before, I'm the middle child. I have an older brother and a younger brother. When I was little I used to always ask my mom when she was going to have me a sister. Since that never happened, I had to make do with two brothers. When we were little kids, we had the usual childish spats, but we also had lots of fun together. During the summer our time was spent playing with Tonka trucks or playing baseball and football. We would also ride our bikes through the woods and through my grandmother's yard because she lived next door. One thing I can say about my brothers is that they never treated me like someone who was weaker and couldn't do what they could do. Until I was about four or five, I actually thought I was a boy, too. Of course the whole anatomy thing never occurred to me. Luckily I caught on before I started school.

For me, school was a wonderful place. I loved to learn. Once I learned how to read, my time was spent with my nose in a book. I forgot to mention that I grew up in a predominately white area. Each year of my elementary schooling I was the only black child in my class. That would be pretty much impossible these days, but this was during the 1980s. My introduction to racism came when I was in kindergarten. It was recess time and we were all outside on the playground. A friend of mine and I were under a shade tree, by a fence playing in the dirt. A couple of feet away from us was a boy who was in another class. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it included the word "nigger". Because no one had ever told me otherwise, I didn't even know that "nigger" was a racial slur. I didn't know that I was supposed to be insulted. My friend, of course, knew what deal was and she told the teacher. The kid got a lecture about name-calling and that was that.

Even after that happened, I don't think I fully grasped the fact that I was supposed to be "different" from other people. When I watched TV, all I saw were people. I never even thought about the fact that some were black and some were white. Most shows during those days featured white casts, but I was never bothered by the fact that there was no one who looked like me on most of my favorite shows. One show that I identified with very much is Good Times. Although the Evans family lived in the projects of Chicago, I felt like my family was the country version of them. They lived in a two parent household with the father being the sole breadwinner. There were three children, two boys and a girl in the middle. The girl got the second bedroom while the boys slept on a foldout couch in the living room. The way that my life differed here is that I had the second largest bedroom in our trailer and my brothers had to share the smallest one. The similarities between my family and the Evans family were abundant. Although we were poor, I didn't realize just how poor until I was out on my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who's that Girl?

A friend and fellow blogger of mine suggested that I write a bit more about myself because she'd like to get to know me better. I've given you glimpses of what it's like presently to be Michelle Stringer, but you haven't read much about what being Michelle Stringer has been like up until this point.

"I was born a poor black child." That's the opening line from the Steve Martin movie The Jerk. He played it for laughs, but I'm dead serious. I'm the middle child and only daughter born to poor parents in rural northeast Georgia. The land where I grew up used to be pasture land and it belonged to my maternal grandfather. He gifted it to my mother upon her marriage to my father. My parents put a single-wide trailer on that land. It had three bedrooms, the smallest of which my brothers had to share. We practically froze to death in winter and burned up in summer. People assume that because winters in the southern United States aren't as harsh as those in the midwest or the northeast, that we don't get cold down there, but it's not true. In the rural south, it's a different kind of cold. Behind and all around our trailer were woods and some open space. There were no big buildings to buffer the wind or to absorb heat from the sun during the day and radiate that heat in the evenings. Add to that the fact that it was an old trailer that was poorly insulated, and you'll understand why it would be hard to stay up past 10:00pm on the weekends watching TV during the winter.

My father was and is the sole breadwinner. My mom stopped working outside the home once she started having children. My parents got married young. My mom didn't have my older brother until they had been married almost five years, and had my younger brother just before she turned 30. It was great having young parents to grow up with. If I had chosen to have children, I would like to have done it in my 20s so that I'd be finished having them by the time I was 30, too. As fate would have it, that wasn't the path my life was meant to take.

This is just a first look at the environment and the people that have shaped me. I'm actually warming up to this so I will try to include at least one entry a week in the "Who's that Girl" series. Thanks for this suggestion, Anne. By the time I'm done, you might regret your request to get to know me better ;-).

I Was Right

Yesterday I told you that I knew I'd be up when I weighed in and I was right. Oh well, such is life. One thing I will say is that I stayed for the meeting this week and I really enjoyed myself. I got to see a fellow member that I haven't seen since I started attending meetings on Thursday evenings. She's a very sweet lady with special needs who has been a Weight Watcher for 10 years and has lost just over 180lbs. I've mentioned her before in one of my other entries. I need to remember her as a point of reference with regard to this journey. She's living proof that sticking with it pays off :-).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Here We Go Again

After work it will be time to face the scale. I realize that I've gotten to the point where I'm very hung up on numbers. Until I get to a point where I actually like the numbers I'm seeing you will not be reading about them in this blog. When I'm up, I'll tell you I'm up. When I'm down, I'll tell you I'm down. Once I'm happier with the direction that I'm moving in, I'll start to incorporate numbers again. I feel that relieves a bit of the pressure I've been putting on myself. By the way, I can guarantee you that I'll be up today ;-).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taking the Advice of a Good Friend

You've all been reading the saga that is my weight-loss and like any other human being, I continue to focus on what I haven't done as opposed to what I have done. A good friend of mine told me that whenever I get discouraged I should look at old pictures of what I used to look like pre-weight-loss. Today when I got to work I printed out two pictures that were taken the summer before I started Weight Watchers. It's always startling to see just how different I look. I keep forgetting how big my belly used to be, compared to how it is now. I also keep forgetting how chunky my face looked. I think the reason why I keep focusing on the negative is because I've been at or around my current weight for a while, so I'm starting to feel like I did before I started my weight-loss journey. For kicks take a look at me three years ago:
Now when I see that, I know that I've come a long way. I'm more than halfway there. I'm actually about two-thirds of the way there. The thing that most people don't realize is that weight-loss is more mental than anything else. Learning to quiet the chatter, or better yet to stop it before it starts is the key to success. Thanks to everyone for their kind words and support. I really appreciate it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

No Big Deal

So yesterday's weigh-in showed that I was up 0.6. Not bad for being unable to work out due to being sick. The only thing that annoys me is the fact that the bastard scale lied!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whatever Happens, It's All Good

Today is weigh-in day but I'm not expecting any earth-shattering results. I've had a head cold all week, so I haven't been exercising. Instead I've been coming home from work, having a bit to eat, and going straight to bed. In the back of my mind a voice kept saying to me "Michelle, you need to work out." Luckily I was able to drown out that voice by telling myself that I need to get better first, so that this cold doesn't linger for weeks and weeks. When I stepped up on that bastard scale of mine this morning it said that my weight is the same as it was last Thursday. Thank God for small favors. As long as I didn't gain I'm really not worried about it.