Oops! I didn’t blog for three weeks.

I’ve been blogging about various pithy details in my life for a few years now – actually, six years. I started my first blog, “A Strange Run of Humanity” back in 2006 just after I got married, moved to Greenville, and began the strange habit of running at 4:30 in the morning. Anyone who knows me knows how completely out of character it is for me to voluntarily wake up any time before 6 am, so where 4:30 am came from, I will never know. Now you can have some pretty intense experiences when in a state of dehydration and physical exhaustion, but running can get flat-out weird when you’re in the darkness, pre-dawn. Like the time my running partner and I found a drunk guy, face down in the grass at 5 am in front of St. Francis on Patewood. We were pretty sure we’d just become “those joggers” that always find the dead bodies. But he was still grunting, though not particularly interested in rolling over. So it was all good.

Anyhow, over the course of these six years, I’ve found that there come periods of time where you just have a lot to say and then others where you just don’t give a crap about talking. As my 20-day absence might indicate, I don’t currently have a plenitude of poignant, especially insightful words. So I’ll just tell you about what’s going on lately (since most people who read this blog have some inexplicable reason to give a crap about anything that happens to me, for which I must say “God bless you folks”).

I am kicking butt in the gym lately. A while back, around December, my back and shoulders were really just killing me on a daily basis. It wasn’t helped much by having Jonathan out of the country for an audit for three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas (a pleasant experience which we get to repeat in another two weeks, thank you very much Unnamed Employer’s Ridiculously Idiotic and Lengthy International Audit Schedule). I just wasn’t in a good place.

I kept waiting for the shoulders to loosen up and they never did, and my friend Grace had been asking me for six months or more to work out with her some time. But I was kind of in a stage where I didn’t want to put myself out there, and I certainly didn’t want to get schooled and thus be reminded another reason why I wasn’t all that good at anything (I’m highly aware of my own ineptitude on a number of fronts – trust me, it’s better this way). But then a funny thing happened and I started noticing that a plethora of CrossFit gyms were popping up around Greenville and they all seemed to be in creepy metal storage-unit digs. I started investigating exactly what was this magical, occasionally cult-like CrossFittery (which I had known of for several years but managed to act like I was ignoring…even though I really wasn’t). It was definitely intriguing. But it has too much disaster potential. I tend to be really competitive. As in, “Oh, hey, you can do that? Well…yeah, I can do that too…darn it!” This results all too often in me kicking my own a**, and waking up to a lower body so sore that I find myself desperately wishing that I could pee standing up because it hurts to sit on the potty. What can I say, I have a propensity for TMI, and I guess I just don’t play well with others. You were right, Mr. White.

As an “Ex-Chubby Girl” who has now been living in the shoes of a “Fit Girl” for 10 years, I can participate in a variety of sports while still maintaining and nourishing my inner Daria. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positive encouragement and empowerment and other various -ments. It’s just that with a lot of sports/fitness stuff, people tend to get suuuuper serious about what they’re doing. And that’s typically when I begin laughing uncontrollably at awkward moments. Let me explain: Somewhere along the way, normal, every day folks like myself have gotten mixed up and started mistaking themselves for uber-fit super heroes. This confuses me greatly. We are all just putting our stretchy yoga pants on one leg at a time. Let’s just remember that.

But my friend Grace impresses me for reasons that have substance completely removed from her gym habits, and her workouts interested me because she had the same goal I did – which is to be functionally fit. We both have kids who wear us out, and that’s what we train for. We’re training to handle eight grocery bags and a temper tantrum. No workout is exactly alike. Every workout is pretty intense. We sweat – like a lot. The best thing is that it’s never boring, and since I have no attention span, not being bored is a big plus. I’ll admit: whereas I used to wonder why these CrossFit types were so certifiably crazed, I do understand the crazy – I really do get it. It’s exciting to do things that are completely new to you and are physically challenging (intensely so) and accomplish those goals. I fully get that.

I don’t know if I’ll ever attend a sunrise bootcamp or a CrossFit “box.” Yes, “box” – I hear that’s their special word for a gym, which, if you know me, I have a peculiar phobia/suspicion of metal buildings anyways. I mean, don’t the evil gnomes and rapists just dwell in those things and wait to snatch you up and take you back to the compound? Branch Davidians much? I’m never saying never, I’m just saying they’ll probably beat me up after this post anyway. I will say that there is one on Pelham Road that just opened that looks interesting to me, mostly because they don’t seem to be too big on this whole schtick where you jump rope with the ease of a cartoon character, while yelling “Look how ELITE we are! We’re so elite! Yay Eliteness!!”

And maybe that’s really why I’m still being such a sarcastic jerk about this. It’s the self-help-book-esque, overly motivational aspect of it that genuinely makes me uncomfortable. Self-deprecation is just what I do. I can’t read self-help books because I don’t take them seriously enough and just end up laughing uncomfortably in the middle of book club. It doesn’t go well. But more than the constant cheerleaderism of some of the stuff that I see regarding any number of workout/fitness movements which gather cult followings in the same way that dark chocolate holds my attention, the “elite” mantra blahblah-ing is what really turns my screws. Bear with me, I’m an English major and I take some words seriously.

Though certainly not the word “moist.” That word just makes me giggle.

But seriously – no, really: Let’s get one thing straight, all ye people who put way too much worth on what ydo to burn calories. You’re not “elite” because of some workout program. If we want to get to the unassuming meat of “Elite,” let me break it down for ya:
My dad is elite (Army Ranger and 101st Airborne).
Our best man and Jonathan’s best friend Normy, who volunteered for the spot in the U.S. Army where you head out and DISMANTLE the IEDs and did just that in Afghanistan for the past year – yeah, that dude is elite. You’re not.
My friend Brittany’s husband, a United States Marine, is elite.
My cousin Vicky (U.S. Army) is elite, after her two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My friend Ashley’s husband Chris (Marine Corps), who watched the birth of their child on Skype from the wilderness of Afghanistan, is elite.
My friend Adrian (also U.S. Army) is elite after her time in the war zone.
Adrian’s friend Brian, who lost both legs when an IED struck him in the middle of nowhere – yeah, that guy is elite. A certified super hero, if you ask me.

Those are the elite folks and the rest of us civilians are just lucky that those folks exist.

Perhaps I’m undermining Webster’s a bit here, but to me, “Elite” means you put your ass on the line and say goodbye to your family for months on end, maybe a year or more, so that us civilians don’t ever have to worry about getting suicide bombed on the way to the gym, and that you do the equivalent of one of these fun little “mud runs” every darn day and don’t think twice about it because it’s your job. So with all these fitness movements that come and go and label themselves much higher than they really deserve, just remember that you are just folks in a gym who need to grow some perspective and eat something with a carb in it. Thatisall.

Anyway, rant over…

But Grace has really helped me to challenge myself and almost magically, my shoulder and back pain has gone away completely, for a few months now. I’ve always been a runner and I’ve always been active, but the back and shoulders were taking a beating and not keeping up well. Turns out those areas were extra weak after pregnancy. And carrying a 27-pound toddler around was not doing me any favors, either. So you do some deadlifts and some other fun stuff, and you bust your tail and those areas get better. Who knew, right? (I know…duh) And now I’m nearing unassisted pull-up territory! I’m pumped! But mostly it’s just so nice not to hurt all the time in my shoulders and neck. That is seriously ALL I wanted out of this.

And really, my only-half-serious flaming is not to target one particular workout schtick (you CrossFitters, no disrespect intended at all, I just have to pick on the “elite” thing). I really respect people who challenge themselves and do something outside the ordinary. I’m just saying let’s be level headed about it. And I can be an equal opportunity cynic! I can tooootally do that! Wait, watch…Ever seen those Boot Camp classes where some folks sport head-to-toe pink camo and eye black. Eye black? Really? You’re in a fitness studio in the suburbs. Pink camo? Yeah, because the point of camo isn’t at all to blend in with your surroundings and pink is totally a color that occurs in nature, right? Makes perfect sense.

But it’s okay! Hey, if you want to drink the Kool-Aid that’s fine. Some people have lots of cats. Some people like Gotye (or in my case, Nine Inch Nails). Some people enjoy ultra marathoning. It’s fine. We’re all just drinking the Kool-Aid and that’s okay. But let’s not label our specific flavor or brand of Kool-Aid “elite” when it’s just another flavor of Kool-Aid. Same goes for political parties, of course! So I guess the moral of the story is one that will really resonate with perhaps even the poor folks I’ve most offended with this post (seriously, don’t be offended…it is not that big of a deal). Hard work pays off. But enjoying what you’re doing is really important, too.

My husband, my child (and hopefully one day, children), and my family are the most important things to me. My goal in staying active is merely to be healthy and strong and to not keel over before my time. I’m not elite. I’m not particularly special. But that’s okay with me. I think Jonathan and I both feel pretty blessed to be bringing home healthy, mostly organic food (yes, we’ve managed to do it on a budget – score!!) and to wake up in the morning and keep up with this insanely energetic kid of ours. Well, most mornings. Some mornings, it takes a little extra coffee – not gonna lie. But isn’t that the most you can ask for? We’re not exceptional in any realm but that this life is so blessed that it’s exceptional for that reason alone. Not elite. Just exceptional.

Maybe a little insane, too.

It’s just another porch.

As is sort of custom for us, when Russ and I were left home on our own while Jonathan traveled to a conference in Orlando last week, we took off to go spend a little time with my parents down in the Lowcountry. Only this time, it was going to be a very different visit in the sense that we were going to a completely new place. Mom and Dad just recently sold their house (the one I spent my teen years growing up in) and built a new place further outside of my hometown of Conway (SC).

Now the other night, Jonathan and I were talking about all the places we’ve lived. Jonathan has lived in twelve places in his life and I’ve lived in seven (counting college dorms and apartments and the like in this tally). My parents brought me home from Conway Hospital in March of 1984 to a small one-story house on the corner of 701 South and Live Oak Street in Conway. Later, when my brother was born, we moved to a larger one-story brick ranch on the corner of Betty Street and Johnson Street in south Conway. And then when I was 12, my parents began building their dream house in north Conway on Windmeadows Drive. I remember right off the bat one thing I loved about this house was the high ceilings – Betty Street had what felt like such low ceilings (they might’ve even been 7 ft. or so, I can’t quite remember) and the house on Windmeadows just opened up over you and felt like a breath of fresh air. It was a house filled with light and color (we’d never had walls with color on them, only white and the occasional spot of faux paneling). And then there was also this brand new experience of having “New House Smell.” It’s this heady combination of drywall, new paint, and sawdust. Oh man…what a great smell. Probably not good for you, but I sure dig it.

Anyhow, the whole time I was packing for this little jaunt down to Conway, I legitimately knew that I wasn’t going to the Windmeadows house this time, and that I wasn’t going to be there again. But at the same time, my brain wasn’t really buying it. It was as if part of me was still saying “Yeah, yeah, okay. We’ll go have this nice time at this so-called ‘new place’ over by the river, and then next trip, we’re going right back to Windmeadows.” I wasn’t really getting it. But then I had to drive what felt like an eternity beyond my usual turns and stops in order to get to the new place. And it was really new. Not laid out the same, didn’t smell the same, didn’t feel the same. And I only went into Conway the last day we were there – the rest of the time, I was much closer to Coastal Carolina University, the hospital, etc. But I really loved the new house – it just didn’t feel like home the way the Windmeadows house did.

In truth, Conway stopped being my home years ago. When we first moved to Greenville, I said I wanted to go back, but that sentiment is gone now. Greenville is home and I don’t have any interest in ever returning to the Conway area or Myrtle Beach to live. But Windmeadows always felt like a safe place because it became a safe place when I needed it most. I was a teen back in the years before sexting, Facebook bullying, and the 24/7 teen contact cycle that cell phones, internet, and 4G connections have brought about. When I arrived home the day after being called fat, ugly, a whore, a slut, or having my feet pulled out from under me on the staircase at school, it felt like everything outside of the walls of that house bore some sort of poison towards me. Windmeadows was the safest place to me on those days. If for no other reason, I will always love that house because it was more than just brick and mortar – at least, on those kinds of days. On those kinds of days, that house was a fortress and I could finally breathe a little once I was in it. And it was always like that – I moved away and got married and all that, but with the house you grow up in, you can always pick back up where you left off. It always still feels a little like home.

Last Thursday night, on my last night in Conway, I finished up dinner with a few friends and headed back to the new house. But I took a detour and drove by the Windmeadows house. I drove down Graham Road, and it hit me that I won’t be running there again. I won’t head out and do my standard 4 mile loop, down Graham, over to Trinity, down to the railroad tracks near the elementary school and back to the house. The neighbors won’t be the Soucys anymore – they’ve been neighbors of ours my entire life, both at the Betty Street house and then again at Windmeadows. We won’t do anymore bridal or baby showers in this house (it was the perfect house for showers, and we did so many there). Not to take anything away from the new house, of course – it’s just, this is where I did all my growing up. It’s different.

Past the sign and into Windmeadows, I came around the last corner and saw the big white house there. Big red door, which my mom painted in order to help sell it (the red is fabulous). Everything looked exactly the same, feels exactly the same. I should’ve been pulling in the driveway, but I knew better.

There by the front door, a thin woman with a sandy brown pixie cut was dusting the springtime pollen off of the red paint. A pretty woman, but she couldn’t have been more antithetic of my mother and her long, dark hair. A car was parked in the driveway that looked nothing like my dad’s truck. It was one of those moments of adulthood when you realize that you’re not going to be any more “home” by being in one location, but rather by being with the people you love the most, the people who understand you the most. The house that my mother used to live in back in White House, Tennessee when she was a single mom is now a Verizon store, so I guess she really has a firm grasp on this concept. Rather than having just a nice family inhabiting the house now, her old place is filled with electronics, people, a “check in” station, and sometimes overzealous sales associates. I guess I should count my blessings that the Windmeadows house isn’t something really depressing like a dentist office. But it was weird and alien to see the house being lived in and cared for by someone else, nonetheless. With my family there, it was glowy and romanticized. But seeing some stranger there on the porch, it became just another porch, if that makes sense. For a moment, it felt like every memory in that house was suddenly just hanging out there, with nothing to ground it.

My mom reminded me shortly thereafter that she’s lived in enough homes now that she doesn’t care anymore about the Windmeadows house itself than she did the Verizon store (which, incidentally, she partially burned down after a bacon-grease fire – fun trivia about my mom). And I know she’s right – I already feel a little of it in my own life. Though I didn’t voice that in this conversation with mom, she always knows what’s in my head (this is how she kept tabs on me as a teen, coupled with the eyes in the back of her head of course). She told me one day this house (my house in Greenville) that I hate so many things about now will one day be a place that I love and sometimes long for. A simpler time from a lower budget life. The only place Russ has ever known as home. She reminded me that we are not the walls we live in, but the lives we lead within them, and that this is what makes a home truly great.

I’ve started saying these past few years that I really feel more at home in Manning (where my parents lakehouse is) than I do in Conway, and I believe that is still the case. If there weren’t family and friends there that I’d like to see, I would probably never go back to the Conway area. So, no, I’m not “sad” that the Windmeadows house is sold and gone. I’m just cognizant of the fact that another chapter is now closed. And I guess I’ve just always been a bit of a sap about closing the book up.