You load 16 tons …

… and what do you get? Another year older and covered in sweat.

Spiders: why did it have to be spiders? Last week I turned 56. No, please hold your applause. Coincidentally, I also helped my daughter move into a guest house, which had stood vacant for a year. When the former occupant moved out, the spiders and rats moved in.

I was on my hands and knees vacuuming spiders and rat droppings under the furnace, under the sinks, and under duress. Science lesson: birthdays are directly related to the pull of gravity. Kneeling, squatting, and sitting down are a snap. Standing requires an act of Congress and a rosary. Since Congress can normally only agree on naming November “National Turnip Greens Month,” you are likely to become well acquainted with every dust bunny on the floor.

When I finally managed to return to a vertical position, the same gravity caused fluids from my arthritic knees to migrate South. Leaking fluids from various body parts is also directly related to aging, but that’s a subject for another science lesson.

The upshot is that cleaning and many trips up and down the stairs of my daughter’s previous residence resulted in my feet swelling enough to necessitate the purchase of clown shoes. (Clowns: why did it have to be clowns?)

Years ago, we spent three years in Spain. While my friends were collecting Lladros (ceramic figurines for which you must sell two kidneys and your first-born child in the States) we collected slabs of marble. My daughter decided that she wanted the marble for her new home. This is where the title of this blog comes into play.

Where I once had the muscle tone of a gymnast, I am now able to successfully lift a box of toothpicks (as long as they don’t have the cellophane fluffy stuff on the end). I could always get a career making balloon animals. They’re much lighter than marble, and I already have the shoes.

Count to 10

So, I’m snuggled into the couch with my dog, watching whatever inane thing happens to be on TV. Normally this causes me to lose consciousness faster than a brick to the skull. Maybe it was because I was rummy from lack of sleep the night before, but I came to my senses as I was dialing the 800 number to order a Malibu pilates chair. Damn Susan Lucci and all the before and after pictures.

Even though I was on hold, I felt committed to the 30 day trial. For the last three days, I’ve been staying in my box, tucking my tush (which is a bit too bootylicious), and engaging my core. My core and I, by the way, have set a date, even though I know it’s been sneaking out with potato chips and caramel corn behind my back.

Unfaithful abs notwithstanding, I’ve committed myself to 30 days of walking, pilateing, and oatmeal (steel cut). Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Phhht! I’m more concerned with finding a pair of shorts big enough so I can bend over and breathe at the same time.

It seems like pilates come in sets of ten. Ten minutes, ten reps, ten days to lose a dress size. I think they should add “count to ten before taking an axe to your pilates chair.” Swinging an axe works the biceps, triceps, and abs (if you engage your core).

In my Lamaze class (somewhere in the last millennium) they were careful to refer to labor as “discomfort” rather than “pain.” I can assure you that my arthritic knees, my abs, and my left big toe (figure that one out) are about to give birth. I’m expecting some alien to pop out as I’m panting and blowing.

My stubborn nature and desire to get my money’s worth of shipping and handling is what spurs me on to day four. When I told my husband what it would cost to keep the chair, he spouted some invectives that could peel paint off the walls. I expect that when I graduate to the full 45 minute workouts, my enthusiasm and pain tolerance will drop dramatically. I’m counting on gaining enough strength from the exercises so that by day 29 I’ll be able to hoist the sucker onto the counter at the post office without putting myself into traction.

Hobble a mile in my shoes

Wednesday I went to the doctor’s for excruciating pain in my knee. In the commercials, a woman grabs her knee in pain as she’s going upstairs. She pops a couple aspirin and the next frame shows her taking the stairs three at a time while doing long division. I took Vicodin and still looked like I was recovering from a stroke while climbing stairs. Mathematical operators were the last thing on my mind.

X-rays revealed that I have osteo-arthritis. Now here’s my problem. Rheumatoid arthritis gets all the commercials and all the sympathy. Osteo-arthritis is like the poor second cousin who comes to sleep on your couch and eat all your cheese balls.

When I told my husband, “I can’t be on my feet long enough to make you dinner tonight,” his reaction was, “Oh boo-hoo.” He had the nerve to be annoyed. He showed his displeasure by bringing home hot wings. He knows I hate wings—they’re just skin and gristle on a stick. His passive aggressive dietary habits did not go unnoticed.

That’s when my survival instincts kicked in. Arthritis be damned, I dove on the potato salad like a vulture on road kill. The cheese balls were soon to follow. This wouldn’t have bothered me if I hadn’t recently rung the bell on the doctor’s scale.

The doctor gave me a tube of ibuprofin gel. What will they think of next? I don’t like to turn on the bathroom light and disturb my sweetie when he’s sleeping, so this morning, as I gelled up my knee, something didn’t feel right. I turned on the light and discovered that I had spread toothpaste on my knee. The fluoride and whitening power were little comfort, but my knee is now minty fresh.

Tonight I will try for a little normalcy. I’ll shave the front of my leg (nobody looks at the back anyway), hobble to the phone, and order a pizza. It may not make a difference on the doctor’s scale, but I’m getting tired of eating cheese balls.

I’m getting too old for this

In this corner, weighing in at 175 pounds, a Great Dane with droopy jowls, astigmatism, and absolutely no killer instinct … and in this corner, weighing in at 130 pounds, an English Mastiff with an unholy hatred for Great Danes. At the bell, come out fighting!

As you might expect, the Mastiff was all over the unresisting Dane, like flies on poop. What followed was three interminable minutes of two strong young men and two past-their-prime arthritic ladies trying to pry the Mastiff off the Dane.

After the first 20 seconds of hauling on the Mastiff, I was spent and sucking wind. I tag-teamed in a couple times, but it may as well have been a kitten bitch-slapping Godzilla for all the strength I could muster. My friend was spraying the hose to break up the fight, so we staggered into the veterinarian’s office wearing our jammies and eau de wet dog.

Maybe I’m too old to deal with pets of any kind. I spent the week house-sitting for my daughter, with her two Rottweilers, one chameleon, and one snake. The chameleon had a badly swollen and inflamed eye, and the snake was a baby who hadn’t eaten his first meal yet—a recipe for disaster.

The kids left last Saturday, and on Sunday, I found the chameleon in the bottom of her tank stiff as a board. I said some bad words as I chopped through laurel roots to dig the grave. After the admittedly underwhelming funeral service, I had to haul a heavy glass tank down a flight of stairs for the cricket catch and release program.

The dog fight was at my friend’s house, where I had gone at 4:00 in the morning to have coffee and commiserate. It wasn’t until the adrenaline wore off that I realized I had more aches than I did joints.

I went home the next morning to look in on my own dog, and found five diarrhea messes on the carpet. That was 90 minutes and a dozen attempts to drag myself up from my hands and knees to refill the portable steam cleaner.

By Thursday, I still hadn’t seen the snake, who was presumably somewhere under the pine mulch bedding in the bottom of her tank. I envisioned my kids coming home to two side-by-side reptile resting places in the front garden. That would have been hard to explain. I finally found her alive (hooray) and got her to eat her first pinky (baby mouse).

At least I managed to keep the Rotties away from horses, dogs, people, cars, electric mixers, brooms, balloons, lime jello, and bikes. They have issues. I made it through the week with only one dog fight, two trips to the vets, five diarrhea messes, one lost snake, and one burial. I’m looking forward to a long nap, preferably in jammies that don’t smell like wet dog.