Saturday, February 27, 2010

For a good time, call a Jew.

Last Saturday, my youngest cousin Sarah had her bat mitzvah. For those not in the know (from wiki):
According to Jewish law when Jewish children reach the 13 years for boys and 12 for girls they become responsible for their actions, and "become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah". In many Conservative and Reform synagogues, girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvahs at age 13, along with boys. This also coincides with physical puberty. Prior to this, the child's parents hold the responsibility for the child's adherence to Jewish law and tradition and, after this age, children bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics and are privileged to participate in all areas of Jewish community life.
So basically, when someone turns 13 in the Jewish faith, they are considered an adult member of the community. And you know what that means...


During the service at Sarah's home synagogue in Maryland, my mother turned to me and said, "there's a lot of joy in this room, isn't there?" And it's true. The room was full of people who were bursting with pride for Sarah, and not just because her reading of the Torah was magnificent and her speech was wonderful. But because they had seen her grow up into a poised and, dare I say, wise young woman. I know that sounds cheesy, but what can I say? Sometimes the cliche is true. And when Jews are happy, they aren't ones to stay quiet about it.

Seriously, Jews take any excuse to sing, clap, stamp our feet, bang on the table, dance, shout, and find any way to express happiness. And that's why they're great. Oh, and did I mention the wine drinking? My people! Gotta love them.

After the service, we spent a fun afternoon visiting with one my mother's 40 cousins (....that may not be that great of an exaggeration), and then it was off to the community rec center for the party. There were sparkly masks to go along with the Mardi Gras theme, cupcakes, and drinks. Drinks that me and Mom's cousins promptly spiked with the bourbon and gin we snuck in with us. What? I said we took any excuse to party!

And I even managed to get Mom and some of her cousins out on the floor to dance along with all of Sarah's 13 year old friends. It was a bat mitzvah miracle!

Who is that masked woman?

Mom does love her gin. Shh! Don't tell.

Round and round they go...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Step It Up

Well, I guess that decides it. Both my parents have suffered major cardiac problems within the past two years (before the age of 60) and at least one grandparent on each side of my family has died from heart-related problems (just before or after 60). What does that mean for me?

I'm totally hosed.

But I guess that really depends on me. After my mother had a heart attack, I decided to make some major lifestyle changes. I cut out processed food, began to really pay attention to my sodium intake, and became more dedicated to working out. And I lost about 20 lbs. Recently though I seem to have plateaued, and now its time to step it up.

Since about November of last year I've been focusing on working out at least 5 times a week. But here are the new rules: a "work out" consists of at least 30 minutes of solid activity. If I don't sweat buckets, it doesn't count. I'm also going to keep track of the workouts. I got some great suggestions over from my peeps on Facebook, including one from my friend Lis' blog (Inchoate Debate) to make a workout calendar with big red Xs on the days where I meet my goal. To help motivate myself, for every month that I meet the 5 workout a week goal, I'm going to treat myself to a reward. An item from my Amazon wishlist, a manicure or pedicure, or maybe some neat workout gear, but it will be something. FYI, I always go for the carrot rather than the stick, at least when it comes to self-motivation. Never underestimate the power of a good stick when trying to motivate others.

I'm also going to do better about keep track of my progress (i.e. buying an actual scale) and measuring my blood pressure. Maybe my first workout reward will a blood pressure machine!

Hmm. I'm not sure the "new blood pressure machine!" is really doing it for me in terms of a reward. So maybe I'll go for the Doctor Who specials on blu-ray instead.

There you have it: 5 workouts a week, continue avoiding processed food and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and in general keep living an active life. I also can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get back to my walks. After Mom's heart attack I started walking in the evenings and weekends about two to three times a week and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I have missed it since the winter kicked in. It's funny how quickly something can become a habit. So come on Spring, get me back out there!

Monday, February 15, 2010

30 year old Maggie and week old snow.

On Saturday my family and I celebrated my 30th birthday rescheduled from my actual birthday when Dad had his surgery. He's still doing great, so we gathered at his and Linda's (my stepmom) house for some birthday fun!

A couple of things made this a really great party. First, the cake was AMAZING. Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and Reese's Cups stuck in it. But here, take a look.

I know, right? Awesome.

The second thing that made the party great was that my brother was there! He had come into town to see Dad and it meant he was around for the birthday celebration. I only get to see him a couple times a year, so having a bonus-Bill visit was a definite silver lining to my Dad's operation. He lent his usual Bil-ness to the proceedings, as he referred to my new flip-flops (which were a birthday gift from my Aunt) as resembling a "pink muppet." Of course, he had a point.

Ok, so maybe they do like muppets. And have pom poms. But aren't they cute?

Before gorging ourselves on stroganoff and cake, we went for a walk with Dad and had some fun in the snow. Or I should say I had played around in the snow and Dad and Bill laughed at me and took pictures. And video.

Take that snow! I have conquered you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Atlantic City, Hey Hey Hey!

First, the most important part, a Dad update! He's doing great, is home, and no worries. Whew! But really, him being ok was the best birthday present ever. Plus, now we get a bonus visit from my brother out of the deal and he usually only comes home like twice a year. So, bright side.

Since Dad was doing so well after his surgery on Wednesday, my stepmom gave me the go-ahead to head out of town as planned for my Atlantic City birthday extravaganza! Unfortunately for me, there was also a huge blizzard coming down DC way so instead of 12 of my favorite peeps coming with me, only Chris and Kent were able to go since we had to hit the road early on Friday to beat the storm. But we were determined to make the best of it, have a great time, and outrun the oncoming storm!

The first flakes started to fall about 10 am on Friday morning, and we hit the road by 11. Luckily nothing was actually sticking to the pavement so the roads were clear. We also managed to stay ahead of the snow, and once we got out of Baltimore there was no more snow to be found! Until late in the evening when it started snowing in Atlantic City, but honestly it didn't really affect us. AC only got about 8 inches and the good thing about housed in a luxury hotel and casino? Everything you need is available without having to take a step outside.

Friday night we went to dinner at the McCormick & Schmidt's located in the hotel, where Chris arranged a little surprise for me.

He got my name and happy birthday on the menu! I felt like such a star.

Saturday was a day for relaxation. We rented a private cabana alongside the indoor pool that came with personal food and beverage service. We literally lounged all day, watching tv (the cabana comes with a flat screen), napping, drinking, reading, and just relaxing.

A shot of our private cabana with the pool in the background.

So what if I was drunk by 11:30 in the morning? I was on vacation, dammit. Stop judging me!

The snow and ice continued to pile up on the dome over the pool all day Saturday. But did we care? Nope! The pool stays a constant 82 degrees, so were nice and comfy.

And in the evening, we hit the casino! Which basically consists of me following Chris and Kent around to different slot machines and them being nice enough to let me hit the button and participate in the fun video bonuses in a lot of the games.

Since the snow wasn't that bad, the roads were clear by Sunday morning and we were able to get to the Atlantic City outlet mall and do some serious retail damage. The Kenneth Cole store was having a special sale where everything was 44% off, so yeah. I ended up getting 3 pairs of shoes. But trust me, they are AWESOME.

When we got back we hit the casino again where I gambled my *gasp* $20 away on my favorite slot machine, Goldfish. It gives you a lot of good bonuses where you get to play fun games with the cartoon fish. I know, it sounds lame, but it's actually real fun. And I ended up getting to play for over an hour with just my $20 so it was worth it.

Me playing Goldfish. Best game ever!

Oh, and there was some kind of football game going on? Maybe some kind of Bowl? That might have been Super? But seriously folks, it was Superbowl Sunday, but we were having such a good time in the casino we didn't actually watch any of the game except the last 3 minutes (which actually equated to the last 30 minutes of the game). Still, we got to the Saints take it which made me really happy.

Monday morning we had to pack up and hit the road, but Chris and Kent managed to squeeze in some more gambling time at the Goldfish slots...even if I was too lame not to put in any more money. Then it was back in the road to arrive home...just in time for the next blizzard that came Tuesday. Couldn't have planned that one better if we tried.

Coming up next: what I did over my staycation.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Going out with a bang.

Tonight is the last night of my 20s. The last 5 hours of my 20s actually. Here is what I had planned for tonight: relaxing after a rough start to the week by sitting on the couch, watching the premiere of Lost, and blogging and waxing poetic about transitions and entering into the next phase of my life blah blah blah.

Instead I'm spending it trying not to worry myself into a stressball. See, my Dad is having some major surgery tomorrow or the day after. Surprise! And happy birthday!

Obviously I'm not expecting anything to go wrong, but Dad is having a major procedure and nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, so I'm scared, nervous, worried, feeling helpless, etc. etc. The sad part is that it's all really familiar. Almost two years ago to the day I was in the exact same boat when my Mom had her heart attack. I can't believe I have to go through the same shit all over again.

But I suppose it means that I kind of know what to expect in terms of the emotional toll and the things I can do to help the other members of my family. For example, I'm planning on hanging out at the hospital with my Stepmom and Dad tomorrow, and I know exactly what I should bring with me, things I can bring to them, and how I can try to cheer them up. That's looking on the bright side, right?

So I'm waving goodbye to my 20s, ushering in the 30s, and hoping that when my family does get around to my now-rescheduled birthday dinner we'll have more to celebrate than just my birthday. We'll be celebrating my Dad's full recovery!