“Okay, guys. We’re going to start with an easy warm-up. I want you to run up the five flights of stairs in the parking garage. I’ll be nice and let you take the elevator back down if you want.”

These were the words I heard right before I began planning my escape route. What had I gotten myself into? Once again, I had taken a mystery shopping assignment to evaluate a gym. This one was in downtown Tampa. I figured, why not? I like getting paid, and while I don’t actually like to exercise, I enjoy it a whole lot more when I’m getting paid to do it. Plus, I needed exercise, so it was a win-win. I thought.

Just getting to the gym was a mental exercise in itself. My GPS kept sending me down a one way road, going the wrong way. Then, it tried to send me down the trolley track. Okay. I’m pretty sure that was actually my own mistake, but whose story is this? Luckily, I saw the trolley before I actually turned onto the tracks. By the time I got to the gym and found a park spot (after praying, “Oh, please, God. Don’t make me parallel park in this behemoth vehicle…”), I was already stressed to the max. Exercise would do me good. I thought.

I had chosen the class I did because it was in the middle of the day. Typically, the mid-day classes are for old people. (Note to self…that is not true in downtown Tampa where people leave work to go exercise.) I generally avoid classes that have, “Combat,” “Boot Camp” or “Extreme” in the title. This one seemed to qualify. The name of the class had the word, “Function,” in it. I was functioning just fine, so I should fit right in. I thought.

I walked in, and the front desk lady asked me if I needed a locker. I had to ask her to repeat herself three times. I couldn’t understand what she was asking me. I’m not sure if I was just fuzzy brained from parallel parking or if she was mumbling, but truly, it was like a foreign language. Finally, on the fourth attempt, she pointed to my purse and yelled slowly, “DO. YOU. NEED. A. LOCKER. FOR. YOUR. PURSE?” I yelled back, “YES. PLEASE.” I felt like an idiot, but I just went with it.

I walked into the locker room and was met first thing by three women standing there topless. They were chatting. Topless. Seriously. Do women actually do this in public? Apparently, in downtown Tampa, they do. By the way, I try not to change in the locker room, but if I ever have to, you’ll be able to easily spot me. I’ll be the one in the bathroom stall struggling to get her pants leg on without touching the toilet or putting her foot down on the dirty floor. I certainly will not be the one standing topless and talking with my friends.

I decided quickly that, though the assignment asked for photos of anything amiss, I would not be taking photos of the locker room. Luckily, it was neat and clean, so there was nothing to take a picture of. (“Woman gets arrested for taking pornographic photos in downtown Tampa. More at eleven.”)

After locking my purse in the, "LOCKER," I went to find the class. As I neared the classroom area, I quickly realized I was not looking at a gathering of grannies. Oh no. This was the twenty-something class. Tampa’s Up and Coming had gathered together to demonstrate their awesomeness through physical fitness. I considered hurrying back to the locker room but realized, for my assignment, I had to attend a fitness class. I prayed a silent prayer. At least, I hope it was silent. Sometimes when I panic, I think aloud. I really hoped this was not one of those times. However, being the giant old lady who talked to myself would not have made me feel any more out of place than I already did.

I went into the classroom where the cute little instructor was setting up circuits. I was not sure what “circuits” were, but I was about to find out. I stood there, awkwardly, as all the little people were chatting in their groups. There was an older lady who was one of the tallest in the class. She was probably 55 years old and was about 4’11”. Okay, she wasn’t really the tallest, but she actually looked very proportionate compared to everyone else who was there. There was one tall guy, but he frowned at me when I tried to stand near him. So, I stood awkwardly – the giant in the corner. The 4’11” lady came over and introduced herself to me. We’ll call her Ginger. Ginger said, “Are you new to class?” I chuckled and said, “What gave it away?” She said it was just a hunch. Then, Ginger said something that made me feel much better about class. She said, “Listen. These people are maniacs. You can’t live up to their level of exercise. I can’t either. It’s okay. We’ll stick together, and it will be okay. Just because they do something does not mean we have to. As long as we are moving, we are improving, right?” Bless her. Bless Ginger’s tiny little heart. I wanted to hug her for helping me know I was going to survive the hour. Then, Ginger said, “But I have to tell you, in case you are thinking of making a break for it - I will tackle you if I see you moving toward the door.” Crud. Maybe I didn’t like Ginger quite so much.

So, the class started, and the teacher said to start with a light warm-up of running up the stairs. Ginger looked at me and said, “I’m not running up any stairs.” I said, “Me neither,” so we took a walk around the city block instead. I had to chuckle at our reflection in the mirror glass as we passed buildings - the giant and the tiny woman. By the time we got back from our second lap, Little Miss Petite was explaining the various stations, or circuits, in the class. My favorite was the one with the aerobic step. This step was on 3 risers, so it was a good foot and a half off the floor. The object at this station was to jump with both feet at once and land on the step. When we landed, we were supposed to be in a squat. Then, we were to jump back down into a squat on the floor. Um, yeah. As Little Miss Petite demonstrated this, I stifled laughter. Ginger just looked at me and shook her head. We opted out of that circuit.

For the next 3 hours, we moved from station to station. Okay, Little Miss Petite said it was actually 21 minutes, but I think her watch was broken. Time seemed to be moving backwards. When we finished with the last rotation, I was so happy it was over! Then, the teacher said to grab a mat. I didn't think that was a good sign.

Little Miss Petite said we were going to cool down. We proceeded to do ten minutes of abdominal crunches. Ten minutes. That’s, like, a minute per fat roll on my stomach.  I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get up from the floor. My entire body was trembling. Everything burned. Somehow, some way, I survived the hour. Okay. It was actually a 45 minute class, but I want credit for an hour.

Before we left, Ginger told me two things. First, she said ibuprofen would work wonders. She highly recommended a good, strong dose. Second, she said there was another class tomorrow at noon. I told her to save me a spot. Let’s hope she knew I was kidding. -Al

Click the photo to read my response to my words being taken out of context.
Click the photo to read 10 Reasons Parents Choose to Homeschool.
Click the photo for the list of things homeschool moms wish you knew.
New Year’s Day used to mean great plans and grand ideas. There was the year I was going to read my Bible every single day, no matter what. (Sorry, God. That didn’t go so well.) There was the year I was going to lose 80 pounds. (We won’t talk about that one.) Then, there was the year I was going to organize my whole house, alphabetically, from left to right. (Uh-huh.)

Needless to say, my dreams and ambitions did not always match the reality. I had great ideas, but the follow through? Not so much. It wasn’t really my fault. I tried, but reality got in my way.

The reality is that life basically sucks. Really. I’ve said for a while now, if I ever write an autobiography, it’s going to be titled, Life Sucks and Other Proven Facts. Life pretty much bites the big one. It’s true, and if you don’t think so, you just haven’t been bitten yet.

The other day, I was discussing sleep habits with a friend of mine. I said I had found that I fall asleep in response to fear. While some people can’t sleep when they are anxious, nervous or afraid, I actually fall asleep faster. I’m worried? Asleep. I’m scared? Yawn. Mr. E is driving? Out like a light. Fear triggers sleep for me.

My friend said that was a sign of depression. Ya think? Actually, I’m not so sure. I think I’m just really tired. Seven years of bad luck will do that to a person. Maybe if I took a seven year nap, I would feel better. I’m pretty sure it would take seven years of sleep for me to start to feel refreshed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m blessed. We are all blessed. I try really hard to count those blessings and focus on those blessings. Life could always be worse. Well, it could always be worse, until it’s not. Then, you’re dead.

I went through a stage in the early 2000’s where I made a resolution not to make resolutions. That was one I actually kept. Finally, I found something I could achieve. Then, I lost heart even with that, and I decided just not to acknowledge the new year at all. When I was still writing 2006 on checks in 2012, I decided it was time to get caught up.

So, here we are. 2015. And I’m acknowledging it. Happy Stinkin’ New Year. I hesitate to even ponder what my life will hold this year. All I can say is, bring it on.

This year, I’m making a resolution. My resolution is just to survive.

I beat myself up so often because I’m not enough. I’m not thin enough, pretty enough, kind enough, giving enough, loving enough, clean enough (Okay, well, I’m clean, but the house is not clean enough), good enough, faithful enough, happy enough, thin enough (I know I said it already, but it needs to be mentioned twice). You would think I could burn some calories with as much as I kick myself!

This year, I say, “NO MORE!” (I was yelling, in case you didn’t get that.) I am pretty enough. I am kind enough (well…usually). I am giving. I am loving. I am good. I am faithful. I am trying to be happy. The thin and the clean? Well, it is what it is. I can only do what I can do, and this is what I can do right now. How many times can I use “can” and “do” in a sentence? If I try, I think I can do it more. (See what I did there? Eh? Eh?)

I hereby resolve that in 2015, I will be me! I resolve to be true to myself. I resolve to be weird and quirky and anything but average. And I resolve to quit beating myself up when I’m anything less. I will survive, and I will just be me. That’s my resolution, and I have a feeling I can achieve it. Happy Stinkin’ New Year!      ~Al