Monday, June 25, 2012

My Birthday Wish Is... You.

My 32nd birthday is a week from today. I always look forward to my birthday. Probably for the same reason I love New Year’s Day. It seems like a bit of a check point for me. What did I do over the last year that I’m really proud of? What can I do next year to make things even better? And, of course... 

What am I going to do to celebrate? 

Over the last few years, I have made it a point to be out of town for my birthday. Yes, I like to travel and see new things... but that’s not really the reason. Being out of town gives me an excuse to not have to try and have any kind of party or special event for my birthday. Why? Well, honestly, I’m always afraid that no one will show up and I’ll start my year off feeling pathetic and lonely. 

Making friends has never really been a challenge for me. However, creating close friendships that stand the test of time? Yeah, not exactly my strong suit. I’m not sure why, either... I don’t screw my friends over. I don’t lie to them. I’m not a backstabber. I’ve done shitty things in my past, but these days, I live a life of open communication and honesty. I think maybe I just... do my own thing too much? Maybe my independence keeps people at a distance? Or maybe I keep people at a distance because I’m afraid that, eventually, they will leave? 

I think another challenge for me has been that for so many years, I have relied on the men in my life to be my closest friends. This is okay in that adolescent stage of life where no one is married, kids aren’t on the radar, everyone is living with roommates, going to school, partying, etc. Now that I’m officially a “grown up” and watching so many people around me settle down, start families and get serious about their significant others, I no longer have these relationships to hold onto. 

Let’s take my wall for example. That was a fun project for me. It reminded me of so many good times with my friends. The picture of Landon and me at the Griffith Park observatory... the picture of Cory and his brother during a camping trip we took to Death Valley... the picture of Travis, dressed up with his then-girlfriend for a special event... the picture of Matt in his kitchen playing with his dog. There was a point in my life where I considered all of these people to be some of my closest friends. 

But then Landon’s wife didn’t want us to be friends anymore and so that picture came down... Cory and I are still friends, but I’m not any more important to him than his other 3,000 friends are and it seemed silly to me to think that our friendship was more substantial than it is. So that picture came down... After he stayed here for a while to get back on his feet, Travis moved out and I barely heard from him anymore. When I did, the conversations were one-sided and disconnected. So that picture came down.. And last week, because he was tagged in an ultrasound photo by his girlfriend, I found out that Matt was having a baby. Having been a back burner kind of friend since he and his girlfriend became involved anyway, I knew any kind of real friendship between he and I was officially non-existent. So today, that picture came down. 

So now, my wall is full of holes. The same way my life feels not having certain people in it anymore. All the pictures of me and Tim have come down. I’ve replaced a few empty spots with pictures of my family but it still doesn’t have that “complete” feeling it did when I first put it together. Even the pictures of some of my girlfriends that are still up don’t give me the same satisfaction they used to because I know we don’t have the kind of close relationship that I thought we did. I think maybe I put together the wall in an effort to make me feel better, without really wanting to admit that those particular friendships weren’t really what I thought they were. And when I try and throw any kind of event or party, I’m reminded that I have not created the kind of relationships with my friends that I’ve wanted. 

That’s why, when it comes to my birthday, I get out of town. 

I had planned on doing the same thing this year. I requested some time off from work and mapped out a mini road trip to San Diego. The problem is that work has been a little slow and I haven’t been working as much as I could so making ends meet has been pretty challenging lately. Taking more time off to escape didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. 

I considered doing nothing. Maybe just another dinner with the family or something nice and quiet with Rob. The truth was, I wanted to plan something fun. I’ve made some new friends at work and I really did want to do something different. It’s my birthday.. and I wanted to feel special. But I do have that underlying fear that, once again, no one will show up. 

After a lot of thought, I decided to suck it up and give it a shot. I decided to plan a party. 

I was out with a friend from work last week and we were playing shuffleboard. We also got a game of foosball in. I told him about the Bar Olympics that Cory and I had put together a few years back for one of Cory’s friends who was in town. My friend was telling me how much he would enjoy something like that. So, I decided that’s what I would do. 

I created some invitations as well as some Facebook events. I was nervous about it - not only was I planning an event, technically I was planning six of them in one day. A brunch, four activities at four different locations, and drinks at the very end. If no one showed up to the first event, the following five were really going to suck. 

It’s been almost a week and none of the events I created on Facebook have RSVPs. Here we go again, I thought... however, my paper invitations that I gave to some people at work seemed to go over well and a few people have told me how excited they are about all the events. Anyway, it’s too late to back out now. All I can really do is move forward and hope that I won’t be disappointed. 

It took me years to build the kind of relationships with my family that I’ve always wanted. It’s impossible to think that we could ever go backwards and I love that feeling. However, I don’t know how to create the same thing with my friendships. I don’t need to have hundreds of friends, I just want to feel like the ones I do have think highly of who I am and what I have to offer. I don’t want to keep taking down pictures. 

I doubt spending an entire day playing bar games will give me the answer I’m looking for. But I don’t know where else to start. 

I’m not quite ready to become a soccer mom.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“A Lot Of People Are Afraid Of Heights. Not Me. I'm Afraid Of Widths.” - Steven Wright

We made it. Six months of hard work and dedication. And we are just getting started. 

I’m so excited to have the chance to share the results of Family Fit Club, Season One. First and foremost, I want to thank my entire family for allowing me to post the before and after pictures of their Season One journey for all my readers to see. 

Surprisingly, I’m the only person in my family who takes no issue in sharing my junk publicly (yes, that should be read as sarcastic). But as my mom said - if someone can see the results and be inspired to make positive changes in their life, then she wants to be a part of that. 

Have I mentioned how incredible my family is? 


Susan Verde a.k.a. Mom 
Beginning Weight: 207 
Ending Weight: 159.4 
Total Pounds Lost: 47.6 
Total Percentage of weight loss: 23% 

Proudest achievement: In addition to losing the weight of a small human being, Mom also lost a total of 22 inches between her bust, waist and hips. She can walk to the moon and back with no issue and can’t imagine her life without the discipline of Family Fit Club there to constantly push her. Towards the end of the season, she even started jogging a little bit, something she hasn’t been able to do in years! 

Things got a little tough for Mom towards the end. In order to collect the money from her box, she had to meet her goal weight. With one week to go, she still had three pounds to lose. A tough week of counting calories and walking like a madwoman paid off. Tears flowed freely as she stepped on the scale last Saturday and saw her accomplishment. 
Here is the face of a VERY happy woman! She is truly an inspiration to me. 


Jon Verde Jr. a.k.a. J.J. 
Beginning Weight: 237 
Ending Weight: 190.6 
Total Pounds Lost: 46.4 
Total Percentage of weight loss: 19.6% 

Proudest Achievement: Besides the joy he got out of busting open everyone’s collection boxes to get our money? 

My brother has played baseball since the day he was able to hold a bat. On Saturday, he admitted to having thoughts about not being able to play anymore after the next year because of how difficult certain physical aspects of the game were starting to get. It wasn’t just about being sore from getting older... as a pitcher, if he had to run to cover first base after a hit, he needed a lot of extra time to get his breath back before he could throw to the next batter. He was beginning to get embarrassed by his performance. 

After dropping almost 50 pounds (pretty much his entire stomach, as you can see), he sees no end in sight for his baseball career. Knowing how much love he has for the game, hearing him share this made me fill up with joy. 


Jon Verde Sr. a.k.a. Dad 
Beginning Weight: 250 
Ending Weight: 198.4 
Total Pounds Lost: 51.6 
Total Percentage of weight loss: 20.6% 

Proudest Achievement: I’ve been talking about this for weeks already... and I’ll continue talking about it for years to come. 

When my dad first heard he had Type 2 Diabetes, he called me on the phone crying. He was overwhelmed with the idea of having to inject himself with insulin on a daily basis. He couldn’t believe he was going to have to take medication for the rest of his life. I think for the first time in his life, he was facing his own mortality. And it scared the shit out of him. 

That was back in October 2010. Six weeks ago, he stopped taking his medication completely. On Saturday morning, he took his numbers for everyone to see. He was at a very normal 128. 
When he told the ladies at the pharmacy that he had beaten diabetes, they laughed. I’m sure he just smiled... knowing he is the one that got the last laugh. 


Tina Verde a.k.a. Me 
Beginning Weight: 145.5 
Ending Weight: 125 
Total Pounds Lost: 20.5 
Total Percentage of weight loss: 14.1% 

Proudest Achievement: Sure, it’s nice to be back in a size 4. It’s great to feel comfortable in a bathing suit. It’s wonderful to hear how thin I am from my friends. However, I don’t consider any of these to be my proudest achievement. 

The people above are my proudest achievement. We all agree that one of the best things ever about this club is the fact that no matter what was going on in our daily lives - breakups, arguments, work woes, newborns, etc. - every Saturday morning, we were all in the same room, supporting each other, catching up on the week and looking at the “what’s next” in our lives. 

My dad comes from a huge family, my mom from a broken one. Ever since we were babies, it’s just been the four of us. We’ve been through more ups and downs than I think I could even recall if I needed to. While you always love your family, we haven’t always liked each other. My brother and I went years without any kind of real connection. My mom and I had safe, inauthentic conversations. My dad didn’t know anything about me and my life. 

Today, that is all different. I feel closer to my brother than ever before, my mom and I talk like we are best friends and my dad (whether he wants to or not) knows exactly who I am and how much I love him. 

Every Saturday morning, I get to look into the faces of the people that mean the most to me. And seeing my mom break into tears after meeting her goal weight, watching my dad proudly show off his drug-free numbers and listening to my brother fall in love with baseball all over again, I know what my personal achievements are. 

Season Two starts July 7th. We have additional friends and family joining and the challenges are going to be more exciting than ever. With all that we have already accomplished, I can’t imagine how much better things can get. 

But I’m certainly ready to find out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I Got A Fever... And The Only Prescription... Is More Birth Control.

For entire clip... Click here

There are babies everywhere. 

They are all over Facebook. They are at every family function I attend. They are at all of my friends’ barbecues. They are impossible to escape. 

And they are all adorable. 

Ugh... everyone told me this was going to happen. 

“One day, Tina... one day your clock will start ticking and you’ll realize you want a baby. It happens to everyone. Just accept it.” 

People mistake my statement for not wanting kids to mean that I hate children and think they are all the spawn of the devil. I have never thought this. I have many reasons why I have never wanted children, and most of them revolve around logic. An overpopulated planet... so many kids without a home needing loving adoptive parental units... not the right economy for a family... disagreeing with society’s idea of a strong value system... losing my independence... just to name a few. 

Lately, it seems I am scrambling to hold on to these reasons. 

As I wrote about in my last post, things just don’t seem to make sense to me anymore. I’ve spent most of my life trying to figure things out and understand the bigger picture behind life’s daily occurrences. However, it seems like the more I try to do so, the more confused I get. 

For example... 

So I’m officially dating Rob. Relationship status changed on Facebook and everything. I’m enjoying the casual nature of it so far as nothing about it has felt forced. We have opposite schedules and live on opposite sides of town. So, instead of spending the first few months of our relationship spending every waking moment together, we spend most of it missing each other. This is actually a nice, refreshing change for me and something that I think is important given how quickly I tend to jump into things. 

Most of our communication is done through texting since we don’t see each other incredibly often. Last week, after getting out of work a little early, I was at home, relaxing, watching television and having a fun and flirtatious text conversation with Rob. Somehow, we got on the subject of babies. I was joking about how it doesn’t matter what he tells me, it’s obvious that he wants to have kids. He was sort of throwing it back at me playfully as well. It was actually a fun conversation and as much as I didn’t want to be having it, I was enjoying it. 

Rob’s most recent relationship was with a woman who had a son. He was just a baby when they started dating and by the time they separated and Rob moved out to Las Vegas, he was six or seven years old. Rob was the only dad that he knew. I really can’t imagine what it must feel like to have left behind a child that you spent five years raising, but for reasons that are more personal than I am at liberty to discuss here, Rob knew the best thing for his own life would be to move on. 

But I can see the light in his eyes when he talks about him. He liked being a dad. He says he would be fine never having children... but I think he would be more fine if he did. Up until recently, I would probably end the relationship over this assumption. Sounds like a very “Tina” thing to do... 

But whatever. I’m not doing that this time around. Obviously, it’s way too early to make any kind of decision like that and this whole baby-fever thing could simply be a residual affect from being around so many mini-humans lately. And again, the way my brain works, I could feel completely different tomorrow. 

Back to our texting conversation, though... 

We spent some time going back and forth and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t imagining what life would be like as a mother. It was kind of a fun fantasy. One that I wasn’t planning on sharing with anyone as I knew the “I told you so”s would be rampant. But yes... I was smiling. 

Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by a siren just outside my window. I looked outside and both an ambulance and a fire and rescue vehicle were parked in front of my apartment with their lights going. It was just after 10:30pm. I crept quietly onto my balcony to see what the disturbance was. 

They were talking to my downstairs neighbor, Joe. Joe moved in a little over a year and a half ago. We became friends quickly as he had a Directv contract and they wanted to put his satellite dish on my patio for better reception. My apartment unit offered me $100 off my rent to accommodate this. I would’ve done it for free. We’ve been very friendly to each other ever since. 

Joe is probably in his mid to late 60s and smokes a lot. So I see him quite frequently on his patio as I am coming and going. During football season, we’ll rap for a while about big plays and what the Broncos are up to. He and Tim got along really well and were always bullshitting about something or other. I haven’t had a neighbor I’ve gotten along with like this since... geez... I don’t think I’ve ever had a neighbor like this. 

When Tim and I broke up and he moved out, Joe was sad. But he told me if I ever needed anything, to let him know. I said sometimes I go out of town and need someone to look in on Bailey. He said of course. He is very sweet. 

I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on that night with the ambulance. I could hear them talking to Joe about any health problems and heard him respond that he had diabetes but couldn’t really make out much more of what the actual issue was. A group of neighbors had gathered nearby to also observe the commotion. 

A few minutes later, I saw them loading him up on a stretcher and taking him away. It was dark and I still couldn’t tell what the issue was, but it made me feel better that he was communicating coherently with them. Joe doesn’t live the healthiest life in the world so I assumed it was probably something related to his diabetes or some other health issue and figured I would chat with him when he got back home in the next day or so. 

The next morning, my dad and brother came over to work out at my fitness center. As we were leaving my apartment, I was telling them about Joe and what I thought might be going on with him. However, when I looked over at his patio, I realized something more serious had happened. I saw blood. A lot of it. It was pooled just outside his door and while the sun had already dried it out, it was obvious that a decent amount had been lost. 

Why didn’t I go down and ask him what was wrong? Maybe there was something I could’ve done while he was getting help in the hospital? This was not a normal health problem... I suddenly felt like a pretty lousy human being and began to worry terribly about Joe. 

I went to the grocery store later on that afternoon. When I returned, I saw Joe on his patio, smoking a cigarette. A lump rose up in my throat as I saw his face. It was completely black and blue. His nose looked broken and his eyes were unable to open all the way. I got out of my car and walked up to him.  

“What happened, Joe?” 

With a sad and defeated spirit, Joe told me he had won some money at a bar just down the street the night before. A couple guys followed him home and proceeded to beat and rob him in front of his door. They took all the money he had on him and left him on the ground, bleeding and helpless. Two big black guys beating up on an old, lonely white guy over a little bit of money. A disgusting display of today’s humanity. 

I didn’t know what to do or say. I told him to let me know if there was anything he needed. He said he would and looked away. I went upstairs and cried. 

I was reminded quickly of one of the main reasons why I have never wanted children. Sometimes, I just really hate this world and the people who live in it. 

My head usually beats out my heart when it comes to decision making. There’s no telling whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing. But I’m on the pill again, anyway, because “oops”ing into motherhood is not exactly how I want to approach a life decision like that. I’d like to make sure I’m with the right man, the situation is perfect, and it’s not just a fleeting emotion that will depart as quickly as it arrives. Plus, after what happened with Joe, I may need a few more reminders that this isn’t a piece of shit world that I would be introducing to a human being. 

Call me a cynic... but perhaps more people should be a little cynical before deciding to have babies. Not everyone I know who has them are as thrilled as I would expect them to be. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. And seeing a great father in Rob is not yet as important as seeing a great partner. Far too early for that. 

I did get asked to babysit my nephew a couple of times next month. Perhaps that will set me straight again.