Love in Limbo

A few months ago, this popped up in my reader, from Soul in Surreal’s blog:

“You can’t fall back in love with someone. Because you can’t love the same person twice. Because they’re not the same person. They were changed by the first time you loved them. And they were changed by the first time you left them too. So when you lean in close and whisper that you’re falling in love with me again, after all this time, make sure you’re in love with me, and not the memories.” – Danielle via Scribblingsanddust

(The post was here; it references this Facebook post.)

I had bookmarked the link back in January because with all the stuff going on with the hubs, it hit pretty close to the heart.

Fast forward to July, and I’ve been spinning my wheels in the mud, investing a lot of head energy to this whole mess, and getting nowhere.


Source: Imgflip

So how’s that there marriage goin’, Katie? 


We’re certainly pleasant and courteous to each other.    He’s kind and attentive.  He’s as affectionate as I allow him to be, giving me hugs often, and respecting my space when I circle back into myself and withdraw.  He’s willing to do whatever it takes to rebuild my trust, and is completely open to my inquiries about where he’s been, who he’s seen, what his email is about, and where he’s off to next.  And I should add that he’s more than helpful around the house – he gasses up the mower and puts the dishes away without me having to ask him.

So…it’s quiet, for the most part…as long as neither religion nor politics comes up as a subject.  When they do, the water begins to seep out between the carefully mended cracks in the vase, highlighting its weaknesses through the imperfect repairs and uneven layer of glue.

And before I get into this, let me state again that I 100% support varying religious, spiritual, and secular belief systems. I’m all about Team Coexist.  What I’m not a fan of is dissing the sincerely held beliefs of others.  Express what YOU believe, and let’s talk about it over whiskey coffee respectfully, like grownups.  But let’s not use it as a platform from which to spew hate, okay Skippy?  I’m not playing if you want to sling mud at the heartfelt beliefs of others.  Tell me what YOU believe for YOU; don’t sully the landscape by flinging verbal flaming poo bags around highlighting why you think everybody else is wrong.  All that does is add big brown spots to your lawn. It doesn’t help anything good grow.

So the other day, I surprised the hubs by coming home early.  (Spoiler:  this never ends well, does it?) He was corralling his boys to drop them off somewhere, and as he saw me, his hands went to cover the front of his shirt.

He was wearing…this:


Source:  Cafepress

His rationale, which he threw at me while boys were flying out the door, was “I thought I wouldn’t see you today.”  I guess in his mind, that makes it okay.

In my mind…notsomuch.

And yesterday, we were outside lighting sparklers, when I noticed that his car was sporting a new bumper sticker:


Source:  Zazzle

He was standing a little awkwardly behind his vehicle, blocking it with his body.  (Exactly how long did you think that plan would be effective?)  It’s like shielding the shirt design.  Why have it, then?  You want to tell the world something you don’t want your wife to know?

Why should that be okay?

And what do I do now?

I already don’t touch the shirts.  If they’re in the laundry, they stay there until he washes them himself.  It’s a bit passive-aggressive, to be sure.  But since he’s a grownup, I have zero obligation to do ANY of his laundry, so while I’ll happily chuck in boxers and socks if I’m doing a load anyway, I’m not enabling your hate for you.  (And yes, I could easily stage a horrific bleach accident.  I’ve considered it.  But destroying his property won’t resolve the issue; it’ll just escalate it.  I mean, I have a lot of really nice shoes.  Plus, he’ll just buy more shirts, right?  And the whole point isn’t the laundry, it’s why he feels the need to HAVE these shirts in the first place.  So.)

I don’t want to ride in his car any more.  He has a few other stickers on there that I don’t like.  In the past I’ve bitten my tongue for the sake of convenience.  And, admittedly, I’ll probably do that again.  But for now, I ain’t setting foot in it.  Because when I get out of that car, everyone will assume that the language on it represents me.  And while I shouldn’t care what others think, I’m just not okay being associated with that.

The hurtful part of this is that we already had this discussion fifteen months ago.  I told him that his need to rip apart the beliefs of others was spending a lot of my emotional currency…and I was going broke.

At the time, he cared enough to throw out the really offensive shirts.  Back then, I meant enough to him that my beliefs were worthy of some respect – at least in my own home.

Now, though, either he’s forgotten what I said, or his needs are screaming so loudly that mine can no longer be heard.  And I’m dangerously close to filing a mental Chapter 11 on it all.

He did suggest a couple of weeks ago that we try counseling again.  Would it help with this spiritual disconnect?  I can’t say until I try it, right?

It is a good sign…but these days, I’m not sure a sign is enough.

One of the questions we’re told to ask ourselves when questioning a relationship is “is your life better/easier with him or without him?”  And I’ll readily admit that he makes my life much easier.  He shares the household chores – and the bills.  It’s super handy to have someone around who can open stubborn jars of salsa and stop your bike pedal from making that weird noise, and it’s awesome to find that sometimes the Clean Dish Fairy has visited your kitchen AND put all the silverware away.

But are convenience and apathy a solid reason to stay married?

Or are they just enough reason to try?

The bottom line here is that the hubs and I are just very different people.  We’ve known that from the get-go, but it wasn’t challenging the relationship until about a year and a half ago, when he changed the dynamic; he changed the rules and started blowing whistles and I no longer understand who’s on my team or where the ball needs to go.

I no longer know who I married, exactly.  Was it this guy? The one I’m with now?  Because I would never marry a man who had this car and those shirts and this…hate.  Yet…I did marry him.  Was he just pretending before, suppressing who he is for the sake of winning my heart?   And if so, I don’t want to be with someone who has to pretend to be someone he is not, do I?

I’m still in love with the man I married.  Or the man I thought I married.  I’m just not sure I’m married to him anymore.  I don’t know if I ever was.

You can’t lose something you’ve never had, can you?

But…we had something great once.  We had that once-in-a-lifetime BOND.  The stuff of fairytales.

Didn’t we?

I’m hoping it’s like one of those times where you think you lost your car keys, and after looking frantically all over the house, emptying every purse, pocket, and hook searching for them, you look down to discover they’ve been in your hand the whole time.

Then again, the car keys I have didn’t ever go around trying to start other cars.  So there’s that, too.

A while ago, I bookmarked this quote from the book Full Circle by Tamra Price:

“We liked the idea of each other much more than the day-to-day reality of each other.” 

Maybe this relationship isn’t misplaced keys.  Maybe it’s more like a misguided art purchase – a bold sculpture in the center of the living area that we’re trying to decorate around in a way that makes it “work,” because we’ve invested a lot into not just the statue, but the furniture and the pets and the way we watch TV at night, and none of it really makes much sense together, but it’s a lot of work to disassemble it all and start over.

And then there’s the whole bit about…well, passion.

The other night, smack-dab in the middle of band rehearsal, we started working on this song:

I don’t sing lead on this one, so I got to sit back and listen.  And it gut-punched me right in the feels how much I miss being sung to.

See, when you make music with someone, you can really connect on a deep spiritual level.  There’s a fire fueled by the passion of doing what your soul is meant to do that spreads by doing it WITH someone.

This connection doesn’t have to come from music.  The hubs doesn’t sing – at all.  But there was fire at one time.  I know there was.  We had it.  We had it in spades, yo.  We had more passion than I had mint in the garden.  We were solidly, madly, and completely in love.

And now I’m looking at a pile of graying charcoal, poking it with a stick to see if there are any sparks left in the embers.  Because I’m just not attracted to the message of the shirts and the stickers.  Honestly, I’m completely turned off.  A campfire doused with an ice bucket.

But then rehearsal ran late, and I came home exhausted and spent, to find that the trash had been taken out, and the garbage cans were already out at the curb, ready for pickup.

Because he’s that kind of guy.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go?
Will you hide the dead man’s ghost,
Or will he lie, beneath the clay,
or will his spirit float away?

But I know that he won’t stay without Melissa.

Limbo, party of one, your table is waiting.


June Was Blingin’ out All Over

Since you’re all quite figuratively dying for an update….

No.  The landscaping isn’t done yet.

But it’s not due to lack of effort…if by “effort” you mean I glance at the stack of edging rocks collecting pollen beside my driveway every day when I’m tooling into the garage after work wondering what’s for supper.

In my defense, there’s been a bunch of other shiz going on this past month, too.

First up – I had a birthday.  (Shout out to my fellow Gemini peeps.)  Now, normally, this would be largely a non-event.  I’m not one who needs a huge fuss on her birthday.  I mean, first of all, I’m probably dieting, so it’s not like I’m getting any actual cake, right?  For the most part, I’m happy just getting a few cards, and having one day with a steady stream of Facebook notifications from folks who but for the gift of technology would neither know (nor care) about your special day.

And if you remember, last year’s birthday was kind of a bust.  I didn’t get even a mention of the day from the hubs.

(Side note:  This year, he did remember to at least wish me a happy birthday.  Still waiting for that card.  So much for managing my own expectations, I guess.)

This year, I decided to proactively treat myself.  BY SHOPPING. Because obviously, I am worth it.

Without further ado, I bring you the 2016 Birthday Loot Review.

**NOTE:  Men and non-shoppers can scroll down to the next bold green words.**

Since I shop a lot (A hella lot.  Hello, my name is Kate, I have A Problem) I have quite a few store-branded credit cards.  Now, if you use these cards, you absolutely HAVE to pay them off in full every month, because they charge an astronomical interest rate that will make your $50 sweater purchase rival the national debt in a matter of months.  But, as a token of gratitude for your money patronage, many of them send you “Free Gift on Your Birthday” coupons.  Usually it’s $10-15 off any purchase – no minimum.  So, at that point, it’s Game On! to see how much you can bag for essentially free.

Here’s my $15 Free Loot from The Limited.  (Total for both:  $14.71.  Yes, I did leave 29 cents on the table.  I promise I’ll try harder next year.)


I still have $15 at NY & Company and Ann Taylor to use before the end of the month.  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.  Yay free stuff! 

I also spent a day at one of the regional art (read: jewelry) fairs.  We happened to have three local shows going on at the same time (because we hippies are into crafts, yo) so we opted for the slightly more rural locale in a nearby quaint river town.

And by “quaint,” I mean:




I didn’t eat here. But HAHAHAHA <snort>

Bonus:  It was cloudy and threatening rain, so it wasn’t too crowded.  Makes it MUCH easier to paw through everything when you’re not elbowing other shoppers out of the way and stroller-dodging the strapped-down rug rats.


With the weather on my side, it didn’t take me long to walk away with some new bling.

First score:  two necklaces.

On this one, the artist made all the beads by hand.  Some were forged, some were polished, some were hand-twisted, others were…uh…baked?  X-rayed?  Spelunked?  Anyway, it’s super cute and goes with everything:


This one was probably made in China, but I don’t give a rip because PRETTY (and goes with everything ELSE):SWshop3

This hand-drawn sketch is for my daughter’s room, because she has a thing for pie:

And this shawl was on the clearance rack in a tourist shop…not a bad $12 find, especially if your favorite color’s orange!


Wanna place bets on how long my cats take to demolish the fringe on this baby?

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  (Guys, don’t come back yet.  Keep scrolling.)

I also treated myself to some new nose bling.  And I NEED to share this jeweler with you, because her stuff is FABULOUS.  I was hunting around Etsy looking for pieces that don’t look like every other boring, jewel-dot nose stud on the planet, and I stumbled upon a shop called RockYourNose.

And I am SO IN LOVE with this lady’s stuff.

I had previously acquired these:


Clockwise, from top:  Sterling flower with garnet; lotus flower with amethyst; rose gold triangle; malachite stud in sterling

I was so pleased with them – the quality, the size, the service – everything – that I decided I needed some more:


From left:  14k butterfly; Mexican fire opal in sterling; moonstone in antiqued silver daisy

If you need nose jewelry that makes a statement, go visit RockYourNose right this minute.  Seriously, her pieces are beautiful, bold, and comfortable to boot.   I WANT THEM ALL.  (Well, maybe not the rat, but I totally appreciate that there’s an audience for it.)

While I was scouring Etsy, I did find a couple other pieces that I JUST HAD TO HAVE.  This one arrived today:


He sent it with a penny from his home country!  Etsy shop: PicoNosePiercing

And this one is waiting for my signature at the post office:

This one was a real find.  I collect frogs, so OF COURSE I should have a frog nose stud.  But do you think anyone actually MAKES one?  Well, apparently, only ONE person does, and they live in Israel, but thanks to the Interwebs, I CAN HAZ NOSE FROGGIE. 

**End shopping montage.  Men and non-shoppers can resume reading here.**

So…another thing I did this month:  I wrote my first article for xoJane.

Now, before I share the article, let me just state that I’m…not proud of the subject matter.  I’ve written about this subject before, and I’m not sure why I decided to bring it up again.  Perhaps it has to do with my attempts at healing.  Or maybe even though it was a long time ago, and I have no way to undo it, I haven’t completely forgiven myself.  Either way, it’s a very real part of my past from a very dark, confusing, overwhelming time.  While it certainly doesn’t mean I’m glad it happened, you can’t exactly unbake a cake, and I got several life lessons out of it.

So I put myself out there, and <deep breath> here it is:  Kate’s First xoJane Article

I’ll admit that the comments were pretty rough – but that’s to be expected.  I mean, you don’t go writing about that sort of thing and expect the internet to throw you a ticker-tape parade screaming your accolades, right?  It’s more self-righteous indignation and flaming torches (and not completely unjustified, either.)  People reacted pretty much how you’d expect, and I’m (mostly) OK with that.

What really DID sting, though, were the criticisms of my actual writing.  (And NOW I sound kind of narcissistic and whiny.)  But…I don’t think I’m an awful writer.  Juvenile?  Sure.  Immature?  DUH.  But…not terrible.  (And come ON – Sick of CAKE?! That is SO NOT A THING.)  I’m trying to console myself with chips and dip the realization that 1) sometimes, people on the Interwebz are randomly mean because they CAN be and 2) perhaps my writing isn’t a style they care for.  And that’s OK…but, like a hangnail that you’ve caught on an afghan, it pulls and smarts all the same.

(Side note:  xoJane was wonderful to work with.  They made it really easy by outlining the process thoroughly, patiently suggesting edits to this complete noob.  Despite the icky feelings I got in my gut from the Mean Girls (and, to be fair, the honest ones), I might actually be tempted to try again.  Besides…I made $50.  Which is TOTALLY AWESOME, because I have a lot of bling to finance, as referenced above.  So there’s that.)

Oddly, the article was published on the same night that my daughter graduated high school.  (Which is the OTHER Big Time Eater I had this month.)

I was scrolling through Facebook while I was waiting for commencement to start, and saw the article link just as the lights were dimming in the auditorium.  I skimmed a few of the comments, and shut off my phone to deal with the virtual wrath later.  I’m somewhat proud of myself for that one – normally, I’d be obsessively refreshing to see every last post the moment the user clicks “send.”

But this night was about my daughter, not me.

So off the phone went, and I stuffed it and the accompanying anxiety deep into my purse.

In addition to ordering invitations, sending announcements, and taking TONS of pictures, I also planned a party for her – meaning, I co-hosted a huge shindig with her dad.  Which is monumental because we had a pretty ugly divorce in 2006 (that started in 2003!) and it’s only been maybe the last 18 months where he and I could go beyond stiff politeness and overwhelming mistrust to being kinda cordial once in a while.

But all the families, on both sides, who hadn’t seen each other in over ten years, ACTUALLY GOT ALONG.  There was small talk, there was hand-shaking, there was the exchange of genuine “how have you beens”and “what are you up tos”.

Everyone set aside the old hurts and haunts and just…celebrated.

Together.  For her.

And we had a lot to celebrate – namely, the achievements of this terrific kid of mine who <shameless brag> graduated third in her class and earned a full scholarship to college.

And afterwards, this amazing young woman pulled me aside and thanked me profusely for making the day run so smoothly.

It was a beautiful celebration of a milestone – a marker in time. A crown on the ability of her parents to work together and co-parent, and, despite being a little too human, have it turn out FABULOUSLY.


So, now that June is pretty much over, I’m hoping things settle down a bit and I can get back to the very hard, back-breaking, gritty work that is my marriage.


Or maybe I’ll address the landscaping first.  That might be easier.



Denim, Deciphered

It really wasn’t fair of me to write about a multi-day shopping spree without posting pictures of the hoard.

So, without further ado…the haul.

To start our adventure in spending, I took my sister to this really cool tchotchke shop called General Store.  If you lean quirky, you really need to go here.  They have everything from bath and body to cooking supplies to home decor to local delicacies and treats.  And, of course, clothes and jewelry.

One of the things I love about this place is that there’s a gift at every price point – whether you have $5 or $500, you can pick up some seriously cool shiz.  (I’m filling my coworkers’ Christmas stockings from here.  I usually give ’em alcohol, too, because I am an amazing boss who knows what people want. Or because they have to put up with my quirks and periodically remind me to eat.)

I started our basket with this phone holder for my bike. (So I can use my GPS. Not attempting selfies or texting while the wheels are rollin’.  Although that would likely make for some most excellent viral-quality YouTubes.  But I have a high deductible, so no.)


I’m hoping that if I can SEE the map while I ride, I can avoid an accidental extra five miles like what happened last fall.  (I mean, it was a great ride, but…well, I’d rather not revisit that whole scenario in general.)

I also picked up a candle (sage and citrus – I only buy candles that smell like food) and some shower aromatherapy fizzies:

I love these things.  They’re basically “bath bombs,” but don’t have to soak in order to activate. You just get ’em a bit wet and they fizz yummy smells all over your shower.  (Plus, who has time to sit around soaking in skin soup, anyway?)  I got grapefruit and lavender/vanilla, and WOULD have picked up Pumpkin Pie, but can you believe NO ONE HAS INVENTED A PUMPKIN PIE SHOWER FIZZIE YET?  Come on America, step it up already.  Can we AT LEAST get a coffee one?  Or bacon?

I also treated myself to a  few pairs of super cute socks.  (Which do not smell like food.  Or anything else, thankyouverymuch. Even though I totally see the appeal in bacon-scented socks, especially if you have a dog.)


Later, we moved on to our local mega-mall.  I ended up with three great blouses for work (two here, third was in my last post):


Left:  Forever 21.  Right:  H&M

Incidentally, the blouse on the left was $8 on the clearance rack…which was all “buy one, get one free” – so I HAD to pick out something else, right?  Because every time you leave free clothing on the table, an angel has to eat a beet.  And beet stains are forEVER, especially on white feathers and harp strings, so I snagged a groovy pair of leggings:


They’re so thick, I could almost call them “pants.”  In fact, I think I shall.  And did I mention they were FREE?  Best. Free. Pants. Ever.

For pants like these, you need this mid-calf length cardigan in dark green.  (You’ll have to use your imagination a bit, because I suck at taking pictures.)


Clearly, I could use a camera upgrade.  But it (the sweater, not my camera) really is dark green, not black, and is pretty much this one but not blue:

And now for the obligatory bling segment.

I found two new pairs of earrings:


Left:  Van Heusen.  Right:  The Limited

And a necklace:


The above came from a store called GreaterGood – you can read about their mission here.  TL; DR: when you buy their stuff, the proceeds go towards fighting hunger, curing breast cancer, and saving animals.  Unfortunately, I only spent $4 on this, so you need to go to their site right now and buy more stuff.  Because THINK OF THE CHILDREN.  And the kittens. <cue sappy melodramatic Sarah McLachlan tune>

As you can see, this was a very successful shopping journey.  But there was still a Moby Dick on my horizon.

I still needed a new pair of jeans.

And ladies?  We need to talk about denim for a sec.

Despite the many distractions documented above, the primary focus of my shopping mission was to find a pair of jeans that I LOVE. And by “love,” I mean “keeps you from doing that nose-scrunching thing whenever you pass a mirror.”  Women everywhere know how challenging this can be.  First of all, we represent a huge variety of shapes:  Some of us have a big difference between hip and waist measurements; in other women, it’s less pronounced.   Some of us pack extra padding in the trunk, while others don’t carry any luggage at all.  And legs are not just long or short – our gams model all animals from chicken to elephant to turkey drumstick.

The array of denim options available reflects this diversity somewhat in that they all fit differently.  Despite the variety, however, jeans are the universal equalizer in that pretty much none of us can find that “perfect” fit.

If that weren’t challenging enough, denim manufactures have created a mysterious sizing matrix that is confusing and largely illogical. Allow me to give you a peek through the secret decoder lens as we review the “system”:

Misses sizes: Even numbers, 0 – 20 or so. The theory here is that these are meant for “women,” so they’re cut a little more generously in the hip to accommodate a post-pubescent figure.

Junior sizes: Odd numbers from 1 – 17. Sometimes, though, you get a 0 or a 00 in there on the smaller end. (Seriously.  00?  What even is that, and why are two 0s smaller than one?)  Generally, these are narrower in the hip than Misses – so a Junior 7 could be tighter than a Misses 6, even though 7 is generally understood to be bigger than 6.

UK sizing: Even numbers, but not the same as US Misses. They tend to run a size or two smaller – so a UK 12 is closer to a US 8.

H&M: They list all the sizes on the tag, but…plot twist!  Everything is a size smaller than you’re used to.  Sometimes, two sizes.  So if you wear a US 8/UK 12, count on needing a US 10/UK 14.

Keeping up?  Wait…it gets better.

Waist sizing: Ah, finally.  Something straightforward. HAHAHAHAHAHA no.  In the US, this is in inches. 24-36, or thereabouts.  Of course, this doesn’t take into account whether you have Junior hips or Misses hips or a Kardashian caboose, so whether something matching your waist size actually fits you will depend on the designer’s interpretation of shape and/or your forearm strength as you hike ’em north of your buttcrack.  (For the record, clearing the cleft counts as “fits”.)

Chico’s: Last I checked, they had their own numbering system of 1 -4, with half sizes in between.  Since most of their tops fit like a scaled-down circus tent,  I have no idea how that actually correlates to anything.  I think a Chico’s 1 is somewhere in the ballpark of a Misses 8?  Juniors 11?  Camp flagpole?

And if THAT doesn’t mentally waterboard you, you can visit Manifesta, They don’t sell jeans – but neither do they stock conventional sizes.  Everyone’s a flower.  Check it out:

We don’t want there to be an inherent order to the sizes, with women striving to fit into the smallest number possible. And we don’t want women to feel bad for ordering a size that society has deemed “unacceptable.” We just want you to get what fits. So to find your size, use your measurements, not society’s idea of what you should be.

(Thanks to Ragen at Dances with Fat for alerting me to this one.)

I do appreciate the spirit of their system – beauty at every size – but in my mental garden, the dandelions are choking out the daisies.

Anyway.  The point here is that trying to find jeans that fit YOU will drive you straight to the donut box.  Partner that with a lifelong battle with food and body image, and you have the ultimate exercise in frustration. (Well, maybe secondmost-ultimate. I haven’t forgotten about swimsuits, even though I’m trying to.)

To further complicate the matter, I really wanted a different style of jeans. (Because learning the second language of size isn’t enough – you need to now take art classes to speak intelligently about the style):

I’ve tried flare and boot-cut before, but invariably, they make the tops of my thighs look really wide – like each leg is an hourglass.  (A great look for an overall shape, notsomuch for each individual leg.  Especially when you’ve invested most of your life trying to camouflage your thighs behind flowerpots, purses, random pieces of furniture, and your children.)

I usually gravitate toward a skinny cut, which tapers at the ankle…but the problem with this shape is that the contrast of the narrow ankle with flatter shoes makes you look like you’re wearing swim flippers.

Formal Flippers:

Not the look I typically aim for.

So I thought I’d try a few brands with a straight leg. BUT DO YOU THINK ANYONE ACTUALLY SELLS THIS CUT ANYMORE?  What the heck – as soon as I decide I MUST have these, the entire style goes underground.

But I persevered.  I searched high and low, trying on every brand in every store, no matter how high the price tag <coughcoughNordstromcoughcough> or how loud the bass (True Religion, I’m looking at you, and covering my ears while I do.)  And I did finally score one pair at Nordstrom’s Rack (I had them on in my last post) and two additional pairs at 7 for all Mankind Outlet, where not only did they have a wide variety of straight-leg styles to choose from, they were also on sale*. Score! 

*Which prolly means I will never, ever find them again.  Ah well.

And they don’t look bad, really. <deep breath as Kate practices this picture posting thing>


My Bubba Keg and my new denim.

I realize that my sweater is all cattywampus, and clashes horribly with my super-awesome coffee mug, but you will pry that sucker out of my cold, dead hands after I am done clobbering you with it. AND THIS IS ABOUT THE JEANS.  FOCUS, PEOPLE.

And, true to denim anti-logic, the pair I nabbed at Nordie’s is actually a size BIGGER than the ones I found at the outlet – but they’re TIGHTER.  Common Core has infiltrated fashion, folks.

But they fit.  And I don’t hate them.

That’s progress.  Real progress.

This Ahab slayed her denim Moby Dick.  For now.

Until we meet again, whale.

P.S.  My sister ALSO found an amazing pair of jeans…as well as the very last pair of these in the entire state:

Best walking shoes out there.  I know because I have them in blue glitter.


It’s like we’re related or something. 🙂

The Clarity of the Crystal Ball

In my last post, I mentioned that my sister and I had tarot card and palm readings while she was out to visit.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had various readings done from time to time.  I don’t use them as the final word in setting my life’s course or anything.  They’re more like those endless Facebook quizzes – entertaining (and fun to see how all your friends score), and they often validate your own insight into yourself.  When you get feedback that resonates, it feels a bit like you have permission to be exactly who you’re meant to be.

And with my issues, I’ll take all the permission I can get.

But sometimes, what they tell you is so spot-on accurate, it’s jarring.  That was my prior experience with Jeff Tyler:

When I met him before, he solidly nailed some things:

* He asked about my career. When I told him that I work in HR, he said, “Yes, but not the way most people are in HR. It’s different, and I like you there, because you can do HR the way you want to do it.” This is actually really accurate.  I’m not the stereotypical HR person; I like creating sense from the chaos at small companies, where I can roll up my sleeves and put in place just enough structure to function.  In contrast, I find large, well-organized companies completely suffocating.  (Plus, my company is privately owned…by a family – which adds a flavor of…uniqueness.  More on that brand of crazy later.)

* He asked if we had been doing construction or remodeling.   Again, spot on.  At the time, we’d spent much of the last two years fixing up the short sale property we’d purchased – in addition to remodeling the kitchen, we’d repainted nearly every room, redone two bathrooms, and put an addition on the back.  So yeah, I was all spackle-and-drywalled out by this point.  He suggested that I take a break from that particular chaos, and “take time to just enjoy what you’ve built.”  Although there was a bit more to be done, for now it was time to just be in our house – at least for a while.

* He then talked about creative energies.  He said he saw me active in “some kind of art – music, words, something….that’s the only time you’re all there and real. That’s where you can BE.”

At that time, my blog was six months old, and I was finding it to be quite therapeutic.  And I’m also a musician – I sing in a band, and while I’m no Sandi Patty, I don’t completely suck:

And he was right, again.  I’m totally absorbed in the moment when I’m singing.  Gone are the little gnats that cloud my happiness and nip at my joy and buzz distractions at me about my weight.  It’s just the music and me.

And when I write, I drop the cloak that shields my soul from the social crows who might otherwise pick at it.  I expose my jugular.  OK, yeah, sort of anonymously, but still. Emotional vampires aren’t picky eaters; it’s still a risk, and feels a bit like I’m dabbing steak sauce on my pulse points…but when writing, I throw caution to the wind, and get real.

So it was a great reading, and I really dug this guy’s direct, no-dancing-delicately-around-the-tulips approach – and I thought my sister would, as well.  She was receptive to give it a go, so off we went.

And once again, I got some solid insight.  Some of my highlights from this round:

* Your workplace is kind of a mess. Yep….as I mentioned before, it’s a privately-held, family-owned company.  And we have a new CEO, who is NOT family, so the resulting change in diet has given the drama llama more than a little intestinal distress…which alternates between noxious stink and hilarity.

* You’ve been working on spiritual growth, and you’re outgrowing who you were. But when you’re challenged, you revert back to who you used to be…and you don’t like that person very much. This was interesting to think about. Over the last year, I’ve been working on personal and spiritual healing, and trying to quiet the mental voices around my food issues. But prior to that, I worked myself out of a relationship that was mentally abusive. It took considerable strength to do that – leaving a marriage is hard, hard work; it’s even tougher if you’ve been mentally whittled down to nothing.

He had a point, though – in the struggles I’ve found in my current marriage, do I face them head-on? Not initially, no. I tend to revert to the same person I was in my prior marriage – timid, hesitant, reluctant to start conflict.

And he was correct in saying that I don’t like being that person. It isn’t me.  It’s like jamming your feet into shoes that don’t fit. You feel pinched and uncomfortable and can’t WAIT to kick them off, and they don’t really go with your whole spiritual outfit, anyway.

* You have some toxic older friends that you need to move away from to preserve your energy.

I scratched my head on that one for a bit.  I don’t really have close friends…sure, there are my Facebook connections, and my many “virtual” online buddies….but none of them are toxic energy leeches.

I shrugged it off as a “miss” in the reading.

My sister also got some interesting tidbits:

* You work really hard to hide your emotions.  But you shouldn’t.  You have really strong emotions, and you are a good person BECAUSE of those strong emotions – not because you hide them.

My sister’s always been a “feeler.” When we were kids, she was convinced that inanimate objects, like stuffed animals, had feelings.

Which reminds me of the Cabbage Patch story:

Anyone else remember Cabbage Patch dolls? My sister really, really wanted one. She didn’t get one for Christmas, because Cabbage Patch Kids were the It Toy of the year, and since people were generally losing their collective minds in their efforts to get one, Mom wisely opted out of the public stampedes and fistfights. So sis saved up her own money, until FINALLY she had enough stashed away. Off to the mall we went, making a beeline for the toy store. (This was a few months after the holiday rush, so the shelves were sufficiently stocked at this point.  No taser required.)

My sister had her eye on a redheaded doll. She spotted one in the second row, behind a blond, curly-haired one. She moved the first doll to the side…

…and I said something to the effect of “aw, that doll’s going to be sad that you didn’t choose her.”

I made my sister buy this one.

Looks heartbroken, doesn’t she.

My sister felt so bad about hurting the toy’s feelings that she LITERALLY BOUGHT THE BLOND DOLL INSTEAD.

And my brother spent the next several years torturing her with it. He gave her a voice, and whenever the doll wasn’t sitting next to my sister, he’d make it call out, “MOMMA! MOMMA! COME GET ME! I’M LONELY!  She was prone to mischief, frequently body-slamming teddy bears and pinning dolls belonging to overnight guests too.  (And sometimes our cousins, if they dared nap at our house.  They’d wake up underneath a Cabbage Patch kid who you’d swear had a smug look on her face….)

“Antonia Larina”clearly had self-control issues.  (Ah, siblings.  Ain’t they great?)

Anyway.  One of the reasons I wanted to have my sister see this guy was because of this stressful life situation she’s dealing with.  Interestingly, he had some insight into that:

* You’re struggling with making a big decision.  Perhaps you need to make a decision NOT to make a decision right away.  Take this time to heal and fix YOU instead. 

(For the record, this is EXACTLY WHAT I TOLD HER.  Validation for my spiritual gift right there, folks.  But wisdom is wiser when it comes from a third party.  That’s why consultants are so expensive, right?)

* You need to stop beating yourself up.  You’re hearing your mother’s voice of disapproval in your head…you need to stop listening to that and do what’s right for YOU.

Hmm.  That didn’t feel quite right.  Mom was never one to be overbearing with an opinion.  Apparently (I found this out later) HER mother was pretty up front with how she felt about things, and was none too shy about making sure her offspring knew her stance.  On EVERYTHING.  And don’t we always swear to do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what our parents did?

So we grew up with a lot of this:

Me:  Mom, what do you think of my current boyfriend?

Mom:  It doesn’t matter. I’m not the one dating him.

Sis:  Mom, do you think I should cut my hair?

Mom:  It’s your hair.  Do what you want with it.

Afterwards, my sister and I debriefed about our readings a bit (yes, while we were shopping – at the outlet mall this time to mix it up a bit.)

And as we were searching for the best slip-on walking shoes and the perfect jeans, we realized something.

The damaging influences he had referenced – the toxic relationships, the disapproving parents – these weren’t playbacks of external experiences.

They were internal.

In my sister’s case, Mom never really frowned on her life choices.  But my sister is so adept at self-flagellation, she was creating her own voice of disapproval.  RIGHT INSIDE HER HEAD.

It wasn’t Mom’s voice she was hearing – it was her own.

And with me – the “toxic relationship” is, in reality, with…myself.  It’s with the person who has food issues.  It’s the condescending voice hissing insults at me while I walk around with a BMI of about 18, telling me I’m too fat to eat back the precious few calories I burned on my morning run.  It’s that internal judge that hands out the verdict of “unacceptable” every time I look in the mirror and catch sight of my thighs.

The challenge?  It’s really, really hard to divorce your brain.  It’s awfully tough to break old thought patterns – to jackhammer out the long-ago-set concrete and haul the heavy chunks to the garbage dump.

It’s exhausting.

But if I move one piece at a time, and keep at it, eventually I’ll get there.

I had a small taste of what that might look like just this week.  I was sporting some of my new stuff – a new top, and what I thought were decent jeans (I can never be sure – I get myself thinking they look OK in the dressing room, but once I get home and look at them in MY mirror…well, ugh.  Thighs again.)

And you know what?  I thought I actually looked pretty good.


Throughout the day, I reminded myself that I looked just fine.

(Even now, I’m hesitating to post this picture, because I’m still second-guessing those damn thighs.)

But some  of the time?  I think, maybe, I’m starting to believe it.

I’m OK.

I hereby give myself permission to BE. Just the way I am.  A work in progress.

I hope my sister does, too.

Stay-cation Rejuvenation

A couple of weeks ago, my sister came to visit.

I know for most families, this sort of thing happens all the time – on weekends, holidays, or any random day of the week ending in the letter “Y.” But I don’t live anywhere near my family, so this is more of an event.  My parents are halfway across the country, and they’ve only come to visit once in the ten years I’ve lived here – they really don’t care for the hassles of travel (can ya blame ’em?) The only thing that enticed them to visit was my wedding.  Barring any additional marriages, and factoring in my dad’s health, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll visit again.

My brother’s never visited, either. His wife…well, she likes to be near her parents. I’m told she dropped out of college (twice, if I’m not mistaken) because being away from Mom and Dad all week was asking a bit too much. (I don’t mean to be unkind with that statement. It’s just fact. And my brother literally lives across the street from my parents, so there’s a lid for every pot, I suppose.) Also, she’s kind of a germaphobe, despite having three boys, so hotels and gas station rest rooms really stress her out. (Also not being cruel. Being grossed out by public bathrooms is totally legit. With the amount of travel I do, I have to ignore the reports on how nasty these places are, lest I contract into an immobile, inconsolable twitch ball.

My sister is the more adventurous one. She and her spouse have actually been out to visit twice – once for my aforementioned wedding, and once for our annual State Fair, where you can see top-billing performers like Weird Al and REO Speedwagon* perform, AND you can get pretty much any food deep-fried and served on a stick.

*Side note: I didn’t get tickets to REO Speedwagon. To date, this is my life’s biggest regret.

This time, though, it was just my sister making the trip. She’s been going through some life-decision personal-type stuff, so she needed a break from reality. Plus, she had some vacation time to burn, so out she came.

I should mention that I actually haven’t had a bona-fide vacation in years. I use all of my paid time off for my kids’ stuff, and to visit family. Sure, I take time off – the week between Christmas and New Years is sacred rest-and-recharge-at-home time – but the last time I had a stay-overnight-in-a-non-family-member-town was our brief two-night honeymoon in 2007.

Suffice it to say I’m long overdue.

So when I heard my sister was coming, I decided to make it as close to a vacation as possible. I scheduled a day and a half off, and started making plans.

During the six days she was here, we:

Worked a volunteer shift at Feed My Starving Children, packing food for hungry people. This is a really cool organization; they’re tremendously well-organized and they help groups do a lot of good in a short time. If you’re looking for an opportunity to chuck some positive energy into the world, check them out. They make it stupid easy to make a huge impact:  They set groups up assembly-line style, allowing you to pack hundreds of meals in just under two hours.  You can volunteer at one of their facilities, or with a MobilePack event where the work comes to you!

(The food they pack tastes kind of like Rice-a-Roni, in case you’re wondering.  They’ll usually let you sample it when you’re done.  Incidentally, it’s vegetarian, and they beef** it up with some proprietary superfood vitamin-enhanced nutrient powder.  Here’s the science.)

** Haha.  See what I did there…

And speaking of food….

Tried a couple new restaurants. Well, new to ME, anyway. When you have food issues, you tend to stick with the tried-and-true…or at least the places where you have some hope of accurately tracking the calories in what you’re eating. But while my sister was here, I was able to give myself a break.  I enjoyed pizza, a diner omelet, a MetaBoost Bowl***, AND a concrete mixer from our local Culver’s. (Because there is no Culver’s where she lives. Tragic. Simply tragic.) And I ate all of these things without beating myself up with the empty dish afterwards. (OK, I beat myself up a little, especially after Culver’s. But I did my best to forgive myself – and that alone is progress.)

***Kale, edamame, and unicorn sweat or something. It was really good, but I still can’t leap tall buildings or see through people, so I kinda feel like I should get a refund. #falseadvertising

Got coordinating tattoos. LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE:


It kills me dead how horrified poor Cookie Monster looks.

I mentioned a while back that my sis and I have grown pretty close, after basically not speaking for several years. So when she suggested we get tattoos, I was all over the idea. Once she found the basic design, I put our fates in the hands of an artist named…wait for it… Bleach Methane.  (I mean…with a name like that, he has GOT to know what he is doing. Right? And check out his work – the dude’s got wicked talent.)

If you look closely, you’ll see that the tattoos are slightly different.  We each got an eighth note – hers is an A#; mine’s a Bb. If you know anything about music, you know they’re the same pitch, written differently. How freaking poetic for sisters is THAT? We are geniuses, both of us.

Shopped like it was our job, yo. I live dangerously close to one of the biggest shopping malls in the country. I can’t quite hit it with a rock (because my aim is atrocious, and throwing rocks at buildings will generally get you arrested, even if you miss) but if I go for a run outside, I can literally SEE the mall from some of my paths. It’s a huge tourist attraction, and we spent the better part of three days there.

You read that right.  THREE FULL DAYS. When they finally recognize shopping as an Olympic sport, you NEED us on your team. We’ll make the US proud. Feel free to contact me directly for the endorsement deals.

Took a yoga class. Because ice cream.  And pizza. And because it feels good to stretch and bend. I really need to remember how much I like yoga – not the getting up early and sweating part (duh. Have we met?) but how accomplished, energized, and centered I feel when it’s done. I’m more serene, more confident in my ability to…well, to adult. It helps me shift my overactive, anxious brain from marathon-sprint speed to engaged stroll mode. And afterwards, I’m a little bit kinder to my physical self, having a refreshed appreciation for all the cool stuff my body can actually DO.

So yeah, I need to get that shiz on the agenda more than twice a year.

Visited a tarot card reader. I’ve mentioned that I’ve dabbled in the occasional psychic reading/aura photo dealio before.  To be clear, I’m not one of those people who needs to IM a mystic in order to determine what side dishes to serve at dinner or anything.  I understand that it’s more like reading a horoscope – if you WANT it to apply, your brain will find a way to make it appear so.

That said, my experiences have been really positive. I’ve received fairly consistent messages with my readings – specifically, I need to take better care of myself mentally and not be so hard on myself. Since I’m fairly self-aware, none of this is exactly talk-show-interrupting news.

But these readings often give me validation for things I’m feeling or experiencing. They motivate me to challenge myself, to make changes…or, at the very least, think over some of the things I need to think about. (Like promising myself to spend more time writing, and when I fail to do that, not beating myself up quite so much.)

Ultimately, after a “good” reading, I almost feel like the universe has granted me permission to be exactly who I am.  And if that helps me be a better ME, that’s not a bad thing at all.

Everyone has a different view on this sort of thing, and I wasn’t exactly sure where my sister sat on this spectrum. But, at the very least, it’d be entertaining, right? And maybe she’d get some direction for what she was trying to work through.

I made appointments for us to see Jeff Tyler. I’d seen him a few months earlier at some kind of holistic enlightenment fair, and had a mini-reading with him. At the time, I was pretty impressed. I totally dug his approach – he’s direct, doesn’t BS you, and drops the F-bomb a lot.


So we had our readings, and we each heard a lot of things…

…which I’ll share in a future post.  🙂

My sister flew back on a Wednesday evening. Her suitcase, packed with some of her new treasures, was just one pound shy of the weight limit. (Skillz, we haz ’em.)  I’m hoping she was able to leave behind some of the soul-sucking stress she was carrying.

I know you can’t fill the pit of anxiety and depression with material things. New clothes and good food only give you a temporary feel-good boost; they do nothing to actually clean out the pre-existing clutter in your head.

But the exercise of unplugging from the daily thought patterns can help you disconnect from the stress that surrounds you.  It’s a ray of light breaking through the fog to give you a view of the mountains you’d forgotten were just outside the window.

I had no idea how badly I needed the break until I took one.


Hey, sis?  Same time next year?

100 Ways to Heave Your Blubber

(My apologies for the inflammatory title.  Just sharing the earworm, because I’m giving like that.)

Losing weight is hard.

Oh, sure, we’ve all given it a go.  Whether it’s a New Years Resolution, a 30-day Bikini Challenge, or Every Freaking Monday of Your Entire Life, most of us have tried our hand at weight loss.

But most of us don’t make it to the finish line.  Because losing weight is ongoing, tedious, exhausting work.

For a lot of us, it’s not unlike attempting a kitchen remodel.  Witness the “before” shot of our kitchen when we purchased our short-sale house:


There were people LIVING HERE just a day earlier.  Eew.

The appliances were older than me, the cabinets were practically wearing bell bottoms, and THE GREASE.  <shudder>


That isn’t rust.  IT’S GREASE YO

The microwave was originally black, and not supposed to be…furry.


Mmm.  Who wants some squalor popcorn?

With a project like this, we look at the mess and decide we Must. Do. Something. Big.


So we start a complete overhaul, attempting to renovate our eating habits overnight.  We tear out the chips and ice cream from the cupboards.  We throw out our roomy, stretchy Thanksgiving Dinner/Chinese Buffet Pants.  We plan out an exercise routine that would make Jack LaLanne (or Jane Fonda or Jillian Michaels – pick your generation; I’m old) proud.

But that’s the demolition part.  The fun part.  WHAM!  BANG!  CRASH!  You rip out cabinets, you smash countertops.  Big things are falling, huge changes are happenin’, you’re absolutely TRUCKING.

You got this!

And then, fatigue hits.  You’re surrounded by debris and EXHAUSTED.  You have twenty-seven cabinets to scrub, strip, and refinish.  Each door has 6 holes to patch, because of COURSE new hardware doesn’t fit into old holes….and you don’t even have a place to wash a dish or nuke a bag of popcorn veggies.

What started as robust, vigorous  progress has come to a standstill.  You work all day – diligently – and see next-to-zero progress.  Or worse, you find problems you didn’t know you had (mold?  leaky pipe?) – and, even though you’ve been working your tail off, you lose ground and have more to do than you did when you started this whole mess.

Frustrated, you burn down the house and move.

Okay, no.  Not really.  (Although in the aforementioned kitchen, I won’t say I wasn’t tempted to invoke my inner arsonist.)

When it’s your kitchen, you can’t just give up working on it.  You HAVE to get it to a place where you can at least open your fridge without a HAZMAT suit on.

So you keep going.

You can’t look at the project as four coats of paint on 27 doors each with six holes to fill and re-drill, because between math and paint fumes, you’ll lose your ever-loving mind.  But you CAN fill one hole at a time, and repeat that until all the holes are done.  (Which is – for the record – 162 times.  But if you had told me that up front, I’d have whipped out the flamethrower.)

So, when we’re looking to make changes within ourselves – when we decide we’re gonna “get healthy” – maybe we need to use the same approach.

Instead of trying to bike ten miles tomorrow, maybe we should start with a walk.

Instead of twice-a-day workouts, maybe we shoot for a few times a week.

Instead of swearing off ice cream, wine, and pizza, maybe we could find ways to  incorporate tastes of them into our diets, and/or discover healthier alternatives that we enjoy. 

Instead of starving ourselves to death, perhaps we could just roll back the nachos and feed our bodies more actual fuel.  (And chocolate is fuel for the soul, so don’t put it in permanent time-out.)

For some of us, the way to make permanent changes is to make small ones, tackling one step at a time.

Going back to the kitchen remodel here…In addition to the 162 holes on twenty-seven doors that needed refinishing, this particular kitchen was a nightmare of grease and grime.  It took HOURS of scrubbing to get it clean.  HOURS.  HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS.

But I discovered that I had a decent floor under the uck.  How’d I find it?  One square at a time.


Tell me you can see the difference….

So how can we do this with our health journeys?

Well, we’re told “eat less and move more.”  And we can take that in baby steps.  Let’s look at “move more” for a sec.

Moving more doesn’t necessarily mean we have to set the elliptical to run as long as Gone with the Wind does. (Three hours and fifty-eight minutes.  You’re welcome.)

But we do have the opportunity to pepper our days with microbursts of exercise.  So instead of setting out to burn 500 calories….maybe shoot to burn 100.   You have to burn off 3500 calories in order to lose a pound – so let’s do the math:

2 times a day X 100 calories X 5 days X 52 weeks = 52,000 calories.

52,000/3500 = 14.857 pounds

In other words, if you burned 100 calories twice a day for 5 days a week, you’d burn off nearly fifteen pounds in a year.   That’s at least a dress size, yo.  Time to go shopping!

And speaking of shopping…burning 100 calories isn’t terribly hard to do.  I got this neat poster from the folks at Chobani.  Have a look:



Full disclosure:  The number of calories burned depends on a lot of things – your metabolism, size, age, gender, etc.  I’m female, over 40, and not six feet tall, so I have to do these activities a bit longer to burn 100 calories.  But that said, I can shop forEVER, so with THAT activity, I’m probably burning a McDonald’s Value Meal when I go long.

Anyway.  The point here is that with exercise, the important thing is to DO it.  Take small bites if you don’t think you can swallow it whole.  Baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

Today, I had an appointment at the airport.  Now, our local airport is freakin’ HUGE.  I know it always seems like a long walk to get from security to my gate – so today I tried to measure it.  I skipped the moving walkways and escalators and moved along, bobbing tourists and dodging families with small children as I hoofed it to my meeting.

Unfortunately, the GPS doesn’t work so well in the airport.  (I swear I was not drunk….)


MapMyFitness is apparently weirded out by fast food.

OK, I tried.  I probably can’t trust the mileage on this jaunt.  But I did learn that my hike took about 10 minutes each way – so by walking to this appointment, I got 20 minutes of brisk walking in.  Not bad!

So – how about “eat less”?

Again, we don’t have to marry ourselves off to a diet of green leafy disappointment and broiled protein heartache.  You and celery CAN see other people.  You just have to use some discretion, obvs.

I’ve been watching my weight for 34 (yowza!) years now, and I use a few guidelines:

1. Don’t eat food you don’t like.  If you’re cutting back, you don’t get too many calories to play with – why spend them torturing yourself?  If you can’t stomach beets, QUIT BUYING THEM.  For me, it’s cantaloupe.  Probably one of the healthiest fruits out there, but it tastes like feet and swamp algae, so it is NOT going in my mouth, no way no how, even if eating it would save a kitten.  Nope.

2.  Don’t cut out foods you love.  And don’t be shouting “BUT I LOVE ALL FOOD!”  Nice try.  Of course you do.  But you probably have 3-4 favorites, right?  If so, keep those in your diet.  Not at every meal, or even every day….but you gotta have ’em, or you’re far more likely to abandon ship on your renovation.  My list includes cheese, pizza, ice cream, and chocolate.  And wine on occasion.  And once or twice a year, a good hibachi meal.  Forever is a long time, after all.  It’s even longer if there’s no chocolate in it.

3.  Decide where you can adjust.  Here are my tweaks, corrections, and shifts:

* I generally don’t drink anything with calories.  I’ve found I’d rather eat my calories than drink them. Years ago, I switched from regular soda to diet; since then, I’ve switched to herbal tea and water.  I have coffee in the morning – but that’s medicinal. (Vitamin P for Personality!) And wine maybe once or twice a month – for dessert.

* I use low-calorie condiments.  Mustard, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, and salsa are among my favorites.  I don’t use any type of mayo or butter.  (I actually find butter kind of terrifying.)  Mayo was a little tougher – I mean, how does one make tuna salad without it?  But about a year ago, I came up with an alternative:

  • 1/4 c fat-free Greek yogurt (shout out to Chobani, since I stole your graphic) 🙂
  • 1 tsp grainy brown mustard
  • 3 good splashes of hot sauce
  • Liberal sprinkle of sea salt

Mix it up and stir it into a can of drained solid white tuna (yes, buy the solid white.  You deserve better than the greyish mystery chunks in Chunk Light.  Trust me.)  Mine also gets a healthy dollop of minced onion and pickle relish.  It doesn’t taste like mayo, but it’s darn good, I promise!

* I try to cut back on added fat. OK, I know this is a no-brainer, but fat has nine calories per gram, so cutting back even a little bit helps.  If a recipe calls for veggies cooked in 2T of oil, I know I can probably get away with halving that.  With salads that call for olive oil, I can very often sub in fat-free Greek yogurt for the olive oil for a creamy version of the dressing.

And let me share a little experiment I did a few years ago.  Have you ever seen people blot off the tops of their pizza slices with a napkin?  Did you wonder if it could possibly make any difference?

I decided to find out.  I own a food scale (I have this one):

Purchased from Amazon in 2010 and still works great, by the way.

So, I weighed a clean napkin, blotted my pizza slice, and then weighed it again.

The difference was 3 grams.  That doesn’t sound like a lot.  But at the time, I was eating four slices of pizza a week (half a large pizza that I’d split with the hubs).  Math time!

3 grams X 9 calories per gram = 27 calories, X 4 slices = 108 calories.

108 calories X 52 weeks = 5616 calories, / 3500 = 1.6 pounds

Yes, folks, I saved myself 1.6 POUNDS over the course of a year JUST BY BLOTTING MY PIZZA.

If that doesn’t sell you on baby steps, I don’t know what will.  Maybe new shoes?  Or just the knowledge that if you keep plugging the small holes and scrubbing the small squares, eventually you’ll have a new kitchen:



We like a lot of color, obviously.

As I write this, I realize that I need to use the same approach on my marriage.  I don’t need to swing a sledgehammer or set off an emotional M80 to see progress.

Instead, I need to focus on the fact that while I might want new appliances, the cabinets are pretty solid and might just need a coat of paint.  And I can continue to patch the doors, one hole at a time.

Special thanks to Chobani for inspiring this post!

Your Fate in One Date

Last Friday, the hubs and I attempted to go on a date.

I don’t know how often married people are SUPPOSED to date…but what relationship experts and the interwebz dictate is that you should go on an actual date periodically.  You need to break away from the routine of work and cleaning and taxes and laundry and bills and kids and all the AAAAAAUUUUGGGHHHH in life and spend some time just existing as a couple.


I’ve mentioned before that I travel quite a bit; this takes me out of town a couple weekends a month.  Over the last few months, the hubs and I have been on opposite schedules – he’s been out of town when I’ve been back home, and vice versa.  The result is that we haven’t had a weekend together since January.

Finally, last weekend, the stars briefly realigned, and we found ourselves expecting a few days at home together.

All week, the hubs expressed how much he was looking forward to our weekend…to spending time together.  He texted me daily with his anticipation, and told me again when I arrived home from work in the evenings.

But the weekend got closer and closer, and although the hubs had thoroughly communicated how much he was looking forward to it…we hadn’t actually gotten around to planning anything.

When Thursday came around, I broached the subject.  My “so…what shall we do this weekend?” was met with “I don’t know.  What do YOU want to do?”



I haaaaaate that answer.

Because we ALL know that it means, “I don’t really want to come up with any suggestions or ideas, but if I don’t like what YOU pick, I don’t have to take any blame for not enjoying it all that much.”

I went through that on my birthday last summer.  And  I experienced this REPEATEDLY with my ex’s family….

<cue painful flashback>

Me: So where do you want to go for dinner?

Ex’s Family:  I don’t care.  Anywhere is fine.

Me:  Any suggestions?  Preferences? 

Them:  Nope, anything will be good.

Me:  Seriously.  What do you people feel like eating?

Them:  Whatever you want will be fine, I’m sure.

Me: OK.  How about Chinese food?

Them:  Eh.  I don’t really care for that.

Me:  Well, what about <insert local family restaurant that is mediocre at best, but I’m flipping STARRRRVING so I’ll take a sadness sandwich with flaccid fries at this point>

Them:  Well, that’d be OK, I guess…but we just ate there Tuesday.

Me:  Pizza, then. Everybody likes pizza!

Them:  Pizza gives us heartburn.  But if YOU want it….

Me:  <explodes into guttural caveman war cry; whips out machete and Lizzie Bordens them all into confetti and dances on their entrails>

(Side note:  Don’t eff with me when I’m hungry.)

Now, I know some spouses don’t “do” planning – perhaps you know a couple like this, or maybe you’ve lived this role.  No, it’s not fair, but that’s just the dynamic you get sometimes, and you can choose to be mad for a lifetime over something that will never, ever change, or you can accept your fate as the household travel agent and at least ensure you book the hotel chain that actually washes the blankets.

But for those weekends where I’ve been out of town, and he’s been home, the hubs has managed to fill his dance card to the brim with things to do, places to go, and people to see.

So it’s obvious he’s perfectly capable of planning something.

If it’s important.

So I started the weekend kind of dejected that I didn’t make the priority list.  And it was apparent that if we were going to have plans, I was going to have to be the one to come up with them.

So I figured I’d try to salvage the date a bit by picking something I’d enjoy. I decided to look at comedy clubs.  I live in a pretty large metro area, and we have several to choose from.  And we’d never been to one, and this might give us a chance to laugh together.  Plus… booze.  Comedy + alcohol HAS to be promising…right?

I poked around online and found that Pete Correale was performing at the club closest to us.  I’d never heard of the dude (because I don’t have cable, and I live in a cave), but the comedy club PROMISED it was a hot act, and the trailer looked OK.  So I bought tickets, put on something sexy a thick sweater and jeans, because even though it’s April, it’s freaking sleeting outside (come ON, Mother Nature, catch up here, my Christmas tree is finally put away so you can let Spring in now) and waited for the hubs to come home so we could start our date.

He came home a bit early, which was great.  The show wasn’t for another four hours, so he suggested we head over early to eat (the club is on the top floor of one of our local highbrow malls; there were plenty of great food options there), and then we could just browse around until the show started.

(In hindsight, this is where it started to go south.  A good writer would call this “foreshadowing.”  The hubs HATES the mall, generally.  He swiftly loses patience with the lollygaggers, aisle-hoggers, and aimless tourists who lack both general direction AND peripheral vision, and quickly bores with the sport of elbowing people out of his way. Yes, he was the one suggesting we go early, but dangit, I KNOW this song, and the ending is the same every time it plays.)

The hubs went to change out of his work clothes.  And he came out – for our date – for our first evening together in MONTHS – in one of THOSE shirts.  One of those shirts that states his beliefs boldly across his chest – right at eye-level for me.  One of the shirts that blasts like an LED-powered billboard how spiritually far apart we are.

The shirt looked something like this:


Shirt from

On the surface, I know this isn’t that bad.  He has every right to state his beliefs publicly.  And it’s not in-your-face offensive, like a lot of the shirts he agreed to throw away.

But still.  It’s a public testimony to all the things not OK about this marriage.  It’s a reminder that he and I might not work this relationship out.

And he chose THAT to wear on our date.

And I chose to say nothing.

I mean, I don’t want to gut the mood, right?  I’ve been looking forward to this evening all week – no reason to start it on a sour note.

Shake it off, Kate. Put on your happy hat.

We head to the mall, and I lead him to a pizza place that I’d recently tried.  Dinner actually went well – pizza is kind that way.  Plus, I was absolutely ravenous – I hadn’t eaten all day, because, you know, dinner out has more calories than I normally get in a week day.

So.  Dinner.  Then we had three hours to kill before the show started.

We walked the mall, checking out the tchotchke shops.  Things were…pleasant, I guess.

It wasn’t overly romantic.  It wasn’t hostile or tense.

It was just…kinda flat.

About an hour into our strolling, he sneered.  Made a sound.


“That guy down there.  The one selling pillows.  He had to pull his cross out of his shirt just now, so everybody could see it, I guess.  Look, the guy in the poster has it too.  I don’t know why he needs to do that.”

Um.  Dude.  May I direct your attention to your shirt?

The one with HERETIC in bold letters?


The irony phone’s ringing, but his cell’s clearly on vibrate.

And I chose – again – to say nothing.

Because it’ll put a damper on the mood.  Because I don’t want to pick a fight.  Because I don’t have the energy to address the issue, not at the end of a busy week in a crowded shopping mall. Because I’m afraid the next straw will be the last one, and this delicate, fragile relationship we’re whispering and tiptoeing around will shatter into tiny splinters, irreparably and permanently broken.

We headed up to the show, and thankfully, it was good for some hearty laughs – and some yummy drinks.  I enjoyed the break from the tension, as well as my personal “sunset”:


Alcohol saves the day.

But, despite the laughs…the evening left me disappointed.



I reminisced about our early dates, where we’d talk and laugh over beer and nachos well into the wee hours; where we’d hold hands and just be content with each other’s company.

And I realized something.

If tonight had been our first date, it probably would have been our last.  I would have seen that, although the evening was pleasant enough, and he was a generally likeable guy, we just had differences too big to ignore.

How does a couple go from being so crazy in love, so absolutely CERTAIN of their insanely aligned compatibility, to “I don’t know if I can do this”?

How does the landscape shift so violently in such a short time?  And when it does, why is no one able to identify exactly where the volcano started or where the meteor fell?

And how does this happen to two intelligent, emotionally stable, experienced adults?

We could try to blame the whole Ashley Madison “incident.”  But…that’s a symptom.  Not a cause.

People change.  They’re constantly changing.  And they don’t always change together.

I feel like I’m on an island, watching him standing on a boat docked just out of my reach.

He’s drifting farther and farther away.

If I go to him – if I jump onto the boat – will it tip over, drowning us both?

If I don’t vault high enough, far enough…how long will I stay afloat in the icy water?

The boat sways.



Do I have the faith to leap? 


A Jawful of Sweet Tooth

“Don’t you have a sweet tooth?”

This question was posed to me over dinner on Saturday.  I was at the in-laws with the hubs, and we were enjoying one of my mother-in-law’s delicious home-cooked meals.

Let me preface this a bit by explaining that when it came to in-law assignment, I hit the absolute jackpot.  Most in-laws, after all, are fodder for many a gripe, complaint, and vent. The very phrase “mother-in-law” is pretty much stand-alone comedy; no one has to actually SAY anything to quantify it, because, well….

Let’s try it:


<group cringe>


After a lifetime of hearing horror stories from friends, relatives, and the internet, I know I am very blessed to be able to say that this is NOT the case with my mother-in-law.  The hubs is an only child, and when I married her son, she adopted me as her daughter.  And my kids get the same love, affection, and holiday presents as the blood grandchildren. On Mother’s Day, my mother-in-law actually sends ME a card – AND a gift.  (Which is kind of wrong.  But… I like presents.)

In addition to being an excellent cook, she’s also been gifted with the crafting gene.  She’s knitted me (and the kids, of course) many quality sweaters, hats, and scarves.  And to clarify, these are not your grandmother’s creations featured on the Goodwill rack of Ugly Christmas Sweaters.  These are things THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO WEAR IN PUBLIC.  Case in point:  A few months ago, I went to a local women’s art festival wearing a sweater and matching knit hat she had made me.  I received no fewer than a dozen unsolicited compliments on the set.  (And, incidentally, three phone numbers.  From women.  Hey, when ya got it, ya got it.  <strut strut> )  Seriously, though – is there a higher compliment in the knitting world than accolades from legit professional artists?

And she really, really outdoes herself at Christmas.  She doesn’t just include my kids – she incorporates them as equals.  When her grandsons were born, she made them each a very elaborate Christmas stocking.  I don’t speak craft-ese, but I believe they’re made from felt, cross-stitching,  wishes, and pixie dust.  Anyway, they are beautiful and look like they were a hella-tonna work.  And the Christmas after her son and I got engaged, there were two new stockings hanging on the deer antlers* over the fireplace for my little cherubs.

*Yes, they decorate the deer head.  Antlers are perfect for holding lights and stockings.  (And other things.)  Besides, the mantle was full of Christmas cards and the holiday letters that spell “LEON.”  They’re meant to say “NOEL,” but I visit too often for tradition to stand unblemished.  You’ve seen my Christmas tree angel.   And the manger scene?  Sometimes, if he’s really good, Baby Jesus gets a party hat or a stogie, or a visit from Batman, a giraffe, and some Disney celebs. 

(Side note:  I hope I didn’t offend anybody with that.  But I’m of the camp that thinks Jesus appreciates a good sense of humor.  I mean, platypus.  And how babies are made.  Followed by how they actually get OUT.  Come on, man, that’s stand up GOLD right there.)

(Side B note:  We just took down our Christmas tree earlier this week, after lighting it up one last time on April Fool’s Day.  Yeah…I’m THAT neighbor.)

Suffice it to say that meals at my mother-in-law’s house are the furthest thing from “everyday.”  When we’re up, she heartily takes on the challenge of feeding two carnivores, a very picky vegetarian, AND a gluten-free person.  She plans detailed menus AHEAD OF TIME.  She uses the oven AND the stove.  Not just in the same day, but FOR THE SAME MEAL.   And her meals have a main dish, several sides, fresh fruit, and a couple veggies.

And dessert.

There is always, always dessert.

Dessert is a treat, and since she’s a people-pleaser, she wants to ensure that everyone has a treat that they like.  You would imagine that having a homemade dessert present at EVERY lunch and dinner would be an amazing act of baking heroics.  But she knocks all expectation out of the park by offering two (or three!!!) homemade desserts.  It’s become standard operating procedure to have pumpkin pie, apple pie squares, AND chocolate pudding available.  Of course, there’s vanilla ice cream AND whipped cream.  And this doesn’t even count the two or three flavors of homemade cookies just sitting on the counter – because cookies aren’t dessert, silly, they’re a snack.

Oh, and guess what?  THAT ENTIRE FAMILY IS TALL AND THIN.  If they weren’t such sweethearts, I would really, really, hate this so hard I can’t even tell you.  But they’re all gazelles, willowy and lanky and lean as can be.  At their family get-togethers, I feel like the dumpy garden gnome who married into a clan of pink flamingos.

(WARNING:  I wanted to insert a picture here, but…. Let me just say you should NOT, for the love of all that is holy and good, Google image-search “gnome with pink flamingo.”  You canNOT unsee that.)

(You did it anyway, didn’t you.)

Having food issues can be tough:  you struggle with the dichotomy of wanting to be slender, but wanting, craving, NEEDING to eat the very foods that prevent you from getting there.  After years of alternating dieting/starvation with binges of Thanksgiving-meal proportions, you and the elusive concept of moderation are, as the Brits say, like chalk and cheese.  You’re just not coexisting in the same harmonious stew.

Now imagine marrying into a family where they serve you three full meals a day, with a small buffet of desserts at two of them, and in-between you’re surrounded by cookies and other snacks and (of course!) beer and wine, and EVERY PERSON IN THE ROOM EATS ALL THIS SCRUMPTIOUS, FATTENING FOOD AND NEVER GAINS A POUND.

Every person except you.

I’ve handled these meals much as you’d expect an OSFED eating-disordered person to handle them:  randomly and illogically.  My approach on any given visit is one or more of the following:

* I’ve eaten two big platefuls of food, followed by two desserts.  (Commonly known as the “F it” approach.)

* I’ve feigned a migraine and “slept” through dinner. (Avoidance.)

* I’ve eaten only vegetables and fruit for dinner. (Restriction.)

* I’ve eaten one small, sensible plate of mostly healthy food at the table, followed by an ENTIRE (!!) batch of chocolate chip cookies at 10PM when everyone else was asleep.  (Or peanut butter cookies.  Or snickerdoodles.  BECAUSE ALL OF THEM ARE AVAILABLE ALL THE TIME.)  (I believe this is called the “hot mess” method.)

* I’ve brought my bike and put in 15 miles on the road in the morning…and then polished off several servings of pie a la mode:  one slice at the table, one slice while pretending to clean the kitchen, and a third slice on the way home in the car while remembering I was SUPPOSED to be on a diet. (A permutation of “hot mess.”  There are several.)

But most of the time – at least in the last year or so – I don’t have dessert.  I’ve been learning that sugar is the gateway drug to a bigger binge; it flips my inner switch from “calm” to “anxious”, which has the domino effect of flinging my self-esteem into the virtual Port-o-Potty.  After all, as any dieter knows, once you’ve had dessert, you’ve FAILED, and further efforts at calorie regulation are moot.

And, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been on a roll with keeping my eating in check, and I’m seeing actual PROGRESS, reflected in a weight I haven’t seen since 2009 (and not since high school before THAT.)  So I don’t want to risk cracking the dam even a little bit, no matter how fabulous that ice cream cake looks.

(By the way?   It.  Was.  Beautiful. <sniff> )

So my mother-in-law hasn’t seen me eat dessert in awhile.  I typically munch on some fresh fruit while the rest of the family heartily digs in.

So last Saturday, as she’s spooning hot fudge sauce over the ice cream cake (half chocolate, half vanilla, just in case you have a preference) that I once again politely decline, she asks me the question:

“Don’t you have a sweet tooth?”

Do I have a sweet tooth?  Inside my head, an answer screams.

Yes.  As Godiva is my witness, dear Mother of Milkshakes, YESYESYESYES YES!  I want to rip the spatula out of your hand and shovel that delicious chocolatey goodness directly into my gaping pie hole.  I want to smother your home-baked cookies in both peanut butter AND that homemade fudge sauce and eat them until the snap from my jeans pops off at a velocity that takes out a window.  I want pancakes and cotton candy and deep-fried Oreos and doughnuts, all frosted with buttercream frosting and topped with coconut.

But I can’t.

I can’t have any of this, because my self-worth is tied up with my self-control.  Because every time I use the washroom, I look up at the mirror and judge my thighs.  Because no matter how good I feel about myself today, the scale will be there in the morning, just like she is EVERY morning, tapping her foot and waiting to issue me a failing grade.  And even on that rare day when even she can’t find anything negative to say, there’s always a store window or glass door to reflect my current valuation back at me.”


I don’t say any of this, of course.

I quietly shake my head and help myself to some watermelon (45 calories a cup.)   I bite my tongue, paste a serene smile on my face, and silence my wistful soul.

I pretend to be satisfied.

I pretend to be happy.



(Cover image source)



Weight for It…

I started this blog to help me deal with two things – my food issues, and the challenges with my marriage.  As of late, though, I haven’t posted on either of those things, so I’m probably due to provide an update.


It is entirely possible I’ve been avoiding the subject.  Because that’s how I handle things.  I don’t.  Instead, I eat (or don’t eat) to turn my focus on something I’m good at vs. the thing I really need to handle.

It’s like seeing a hungry alligator in your garden, and thinking, “Hmm…the tomatoes are wilting…I’d better get some water.”

Yeah.  Pretty much that.

But I’m at the airport.  (Again.)  And my flight is delayed.  (Again.)  Because of my mad travel skills, I did manage to devise a plan that just might get me home tonight:  At 4:45, I switched my delayed-by-nearly-two-hours 5:31 flight to the 3:13 which was delayed by three hours and is now leaving at 6:18, so I’ll land exactly forty-seven minutes before my connection leaves.  (Didja follow all that?  Forget that controversial Common Core – airport math is what y’all SHOULD be teaching nowadays.)

So I have some time to kill.  I can fill this time with food, of course – but  the “gourmet” options here really aren’t worth the calories (see my posts here and here for the not-so-delicious details), and I can’t choose which kid will need to forfeit college just so I can afford to snack.

Since I’m cheap, I still have a couple of pounds to lose, and the Wi-fi is free here….writing wins.

First, the weight.  I’ve been waffling around about 5-10 pounds higher than I want to be for – yikes – nearly a year now.  (And, if I’m completely honest with myself, for like two years before that.)  It’s been a roller-coaster – I’d have periods of deprivation worthy of sainthood, followed by a sudden seismic shift where I’d fall face-first into a Smartcar-sized bag of kettle corn and eat until my insides  kersploded.  So I’ve kept gaining and losing the same couple of pounds.

Since January, though, I’ve been solidly disciplined about eating 1200 calories a day.  Every day.  I have literally only had four days where I exceeded that limit.  Well, OK, there were like 3 days I was at 1202 or 1210.  But the fact that I allow myself that much flexibility is progress in this whole recovery, or pseudo-recovery, dealio.  I realize how absolutely bonkers this sounds.  But the beauty of EDNOS, or OSFED as it’s PC to call it nowadays,  is that you are frequently eating in a manner that is contradictory and illogical.  Allow me to illustrate some of the typical behaviors of this madness:

* Go out to dinner with friends and order a garden salad with no dressing.  Arrive home and eat an entire bag of potato chips and a pint of ice cream.

* Treat yourself to ONE brownie.  Then another.  Then, since the day is ruined, finish the ENTIRE PAN of brownies, six spoonfuls of peanut butter, and the 1/3 bottle of leftover wine in the fridge.  That way you can “start over” tomorrow.

* While shoving the aforementioned brownies into your mouth, carefully weigh and measure out exactly 28 grams of pistachios and 237 grams of fat-free Greek yogurt for your lunch tomorrow. 

* The next day, log a killer workout.  End the day six calories below goal, successful but starving out of your FREAKING MIND.  Ah…gum!  But wait…ten calories.  Tell yourself you’ll chew off the surplus, because four calories, come on, man.  Chew the gum and regret it five minutes later, because NOW YOU’VE GONE OVER.  AGAIN.  Do twenty jumping jacks and go to bed grumpy and dejected, vowing to do better tomorrow. 

After reading the above, you likely fall into one of two camps.  Some of you are nodding along like it’s a well-loved tune from your high school days, waving lighters and saying, “Yes!  EXACTLY!” And the rest of you are shaking your heads sadly, staring in much like you would at a mangy deer at the petting zoo, wondering why the thing just sits there allowing itself to decompose from apathy and grubby, sticky hands versus taking a flying leap over the fence and catapulting itself to freedom.

But like I said, I’ve been on a roll here.  I’ve been super-strict with myself, mostly because I HAVE to be in order to actually lose weight.  My basal metabolic rate is low enough that even occasional dalliances can totally destroy a week or two’s worth of progress (I blathered on about that here.  But don’t click it if you’re a woman over 40 trying to lose weight, because it’s effing depressing, and while chocolate and wine improve most situations, they do taste much better without tears in them.)

Another speedbump:  I haven’t been able to exercise much.  Inexplicably, one morning in December, I woke up one day and was slapped with a big “nope” sticker from my right hip.  After a few months of physical therapy, it seems that I’ve been leaning on that hip to pick up the slack from a bum left knee, so, frustrated by the unfair burden, it quit without notice. (Can’t blame it, really.)

Now that the hip is stronger, the knee is complaining to its union steward that I’m forcing it to perform tasks outside its previous job function.  After the grievance was filed and dismissed, the knee is now functioning, sporadically and unenthusiastically, like a disgruntled employee copping a bit of an attitude.  So, I’m slowly and gradually trying to re-increase my running, but I’ve had frequent setbacks and roadblocks.  I’m up to 3/4 of a mile at a time now, on most days, anyway.  It’s not where I was, but it’s better than I’ve been.   It’s maddening that it takes me an extra fifteen minutes to burn the same number of calories – I mean, that’s fifteen minutes of precious, precious sleep I could be having here, people!  If you know how I get along with mornings, you’ll understand that there are LIVES at stake here….

Side note – The hubs used to think it was cute to call my first-thing-in-the-morning persona “Fluffy.”  He wasn’t that far off:

But, although progress is slow, and not always steady, I’m down 9.5 pounds since the first of the year (yes, the cliché diet. I KNOW you did one too) and am now the lowest weight I’ve been in two years – even a half pound lower than I was at the conclusion of the very stressful Ashley Madison diet, where I lived off adrenaline and fury and lost six pounds in a week.  But there’s been no binging, very little deviance from The Plan, and while I have a few random days where a couple of pounds sneak back on in the middle of the night, the general trend is downward.

So, Kate, how’s your marriage these days?

Well…hmm.  I haven’t packed my things and relocated to Arizona yet – so, while we’re in remission, the jury’s still out on the life expectancy.

We’ve had some really, really good days.  When I focus on our relationship as we have it today, and filter out all the white noise from the spiritual differences and the now-infamous indiscretion, things are actually pretty good.  We’re generally compatible.  He picks up after himself.  He’s supportive and affirming.

But when I look closely, I can still see the cracks.  A T-shirt will appear in the wardrobe rotation, and while his current collection isn’t nearly as inflammatory as some of the shirts he used to have, they still highlight the chasm of differences between us.   We’ve attempted to begin discussions on spiritual issues – I want to understand his viewpoint, but I find it challenging to listen from a neutral position, especially when he struggles to present his thoughts without anger.

It’s exhausting.  Having these discussions is like working with Jillian Michaels.

We get started on a conversation, and after an hour or so of defending, diffusing, and explaining, I’m wrung out.  Spent.  Badly in need a break.  But the hubs insists on one more point, one more thought, and I can’t just lie there and let that stuff go without a response, so I push myself to the point of mental sports injury, leaving me feeling bruised, depleted, and desperately needing some Gatorade.  (And by Gatorade, I mean wine.  But I’ve already had my 1200 calories for the day, so no wine for you.  Sorry.)

So, some progress, but no final prognosis.  Definite cracks, but not completely broken.   It’s quite easy on some days to relax my focus and pretend I can’t see the damage through the thick layer of glaze resetting the pieces.

Holding together.

Holding promise, but not quite ready to hold water.

Salvageable, with work and care.

Still a vessel that we both feel is worth preserving.

As long as that’s true – and as long as I still have fuel – I’ll keep firing the kiln.

Ordinary Folks, Powerful Feels (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post, I talked about one of the dynamic speakers we had at our safety conference.  As I mentioned, he left an impression, and gave me lots to think about.

But the emotional pinata had only taken a few whacks at this point.  I had no idea it was about to be flogged until it hemorrhaged its contents all over me.

It was time for the next speaker.

A man by the name of Frank DeAngelis took the podium.

You might not recognize that name at first.  But it may ring a bell when I tell you that Frank DeAngelis was the principal of Columbine High School from 1996 – 2014.  And it was on April 20, 1999,  that two of his students carried out one of the largest school shootings in US history.

For the next hour and a half, we relive the terror of that day through Frank’s eyes.  We listen to his horrific account of watching students be shot and killed.  Of facing the gunman and hearing glass shatter around him.  Of seeing a fellow teacher distract the shooter long enough for him to hustle other students to safety, and of hearing the gunshots that would silence the voice of a dear friend.

We hear the anguish of the first responders, frustrated at their inability to do anything but wait outside, knowing what was taking place as they watched helplessly. (They were forbidden to enter the area until it was secure; that protocol has since changed.)  We can only imagine the tension – and relief – as the surviving students meet their parents at a nearby elementary school, and the unspeakable grief of those parents remaining when they are informed, by heartbroken officials, that no more students will be arriving.

Frank’s life was spared that day – but it was forever changed. It goes without saying that the trajectory of his life was knocked completely and permanently off its path.  And the nightmare didn’t stop when the shooters died.  There were students – and families – to support, and a school to run.  And there was additional fallout:  He was named in several lawsuits – when you’re grieving, you need a place to hang the hat of blame, and a lot of parents threw berets in his direction.  His marriage didn’t survive, and he is working to rebuild the relationship with his daughter, who stood aside as Frank poured his life into the needs of his students.

But then we began to hear a story of rebuilding, community, and hope.  We hear how,  through time, faith, support, and an unparalleled strength of character, Frank and the community began to heal.

I was fortunate to be able to talk with Frank later that evening.  A small group of us shared life stories and laughs over drinks later that night.  He’s a very congenial dude, really charming, friendly, and genuine.  Very Italian, by the way.  (He’ll tell you that in the first five minutes you speak to him.)

And human.  Very human.

I won’t begin to call Frank DeAngelis ordinary.  No one who positively impacted the lives of so many young adults – who genuinely CARED, and continues to care, about each and every person impacted by this horrific event – who helped rebuild a community – can be called “ordinary.”

But he was certainly a regular guy.  And one day, a terrible, terrible thing happened.  It would have been understandable if he’d left his job at Columbine.  But he stayed until every student who was enrolled in 1999 graduated.  (And a couple more years for good measure.)

Nowadays, in “retirement,” he advises on matters of school safety.

And he offers a message of hope.

I spent the next day of the conference involved in active-shooter training.

As you can imagine from the subject matter – it was a pretty intense day.  We analyzed case studies, listening to the 911 calls from the March 2009 Carthage, NC nursing home shooting.  We watched the video of the Bay District School Board shooting from December 2010.  (Yes, the entire thing is on video, because they routinely televised these meetings locally.)

And then we watched Run. Hide. Fight.

If you haven’t watched this video, you probably should.  (And spoiler alert – there are people with guns shooting down people without guns.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you; watch at your own risk.)

I’m severely disturbed that we live in a world where safety professionals are advising us to watch things like this, and to have “active shooter” drills in the workplace. But just since that training day, we’ve had two more incidents hit the headlines:  Kalamazoo, MI the day after I left, and a workplace shooting in Hesston, KS last Thursday.

It’s hard to deny that we need to prep employees for this, just like you might practice a fire drill or tornado watch.  But I can’t say that one can ever truly be prepared for anything like this.

We’re told to train our employees to run – get out – if they hear gunshots.  Study your workspace and think about where they’d hide if they couldn’t escape.  Plan for what you could use to barricade the door.  What you’d fight with if cornered.  Play dead if you have to.  Lie in a pool of someone else’s blood so they think they’ve already shot you.

Sometimes, the world is truly terrifying.

On my way home last Friday, I got the message that a dear friend’s husband passed away suddenly.  He leaves behind a young son, and the sweetest, dearest woman on the planet will now be faced with reconstructing her life without the husband she obviously loved very dearly.

He was just a couple of years younger than me.

The following Monday morning, I was advised than an HR friend had lost her battle to cancer.

She was talented.  Witty.  Spunky.  She personified “scrappy.”  An animal lover.  A beautiful soul.

She’s my age.

Two young, strong, vibrant lights, extinguished forever.

Most of the time, we take living for granted.  Every day, we expect to wake up in the morning.  (Slowly, and reluctantly, but we do eventually reach the generally recognized state of “awake.”)  We go to work with the understanding that eight (OK, ten or twelve) hours later, we’ll be returned to our families in pretty much the same shape we started in, albeit a bit tired or cranky.  Later, we eat dinner and go to bed, with no doubt about repeating the routine tomorrow.

But sometimes, on a very ordinary day, a terrible, terrible thing happens.  On average, 550 people per year will be murdered at work.  Nearly 90 people per day will be killed in a motor vehicle accident.

And if that doesn’t get you, there’s always the Big C.  If you go to this page, you can pull some interesting stats:

In 1975, for ages 20-49, there were 137 cancer deaths per 100,000.  In 2012 there were 157. Is 157 a big number?  No.  But it is a 15% increase.

Let’s look at the under-20 set.  Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of children dying from cancer, but even one is far too many – especially if it’s YOUR kid.  During this same time period, the incidence rate per 100 went from 13 cases to 17 1/2 – a 35% increase.

Sonofabeach96 wrote a post the other day about this very thing.

Right now, I feel like I have things sorta figured out. That concerns me, as that’s when life tends to kick you in the nads….

That said, if life is all ebb and flow, yin and yang, and good times, bad times, then will, or when will, my other shoe drop?

Once in a while, life slaps you right in the face with the fact that it can be unfairly random.  You can do everything right – exercise, eat right, live peacefully, and take every safety precaution – and you still might draw the short stick.

I mentioned my friend died from cancer.  Lung cancer, to be specific.  I know what you’re wondering, but please, please don’t ask me if she smoked.  What the hell does it matter?  Will it bring her back if I say “no”?  Will it offer YOU some sort of comfort, knowing you’ve never smoked, and allow you to believe it can’t happen to you?

Because it can.

Or something else can.

Today was not my day.  If you’re reading this, it wasn’t your turn, either.

So what am I doing with my life?  Why, I’m weighing myself daily while measuring every bite I take and beating myself up when the food I dare to eat inevitably displays itself on my thighs. 

For what, exactly?  Am I hoping for a smaller coffin?  Do I want to be a slighter target for a gunman, or have the ability to hide in a smaller space? 

Do I really think that will make any difference?

Shouldn’t I be focusing on the business of living?

It’s certainly food for thought.

I’ll be sure to ponder this while counting calories burned on my treadmill.  And, ya know, I’ll be dreading getting on the thing…but I shouldn’t be taking it for granted.

For now, I’m doing my best to throw a little kindness out into the world, trying to chuck good vibes out where I can.  In the airport last week, a lady was a bit rude to me – her kid rammed my chair while I was eating, and I’ll admit I gave him the stinkeye.  She got a bit mouthy – and while I have no doubts about my ability to defeat most opponents in a verbal showdown, I opted to remember how frustrating it can be to have an energetic young son, and decided to pray for patience and peace for her.

Sure, I could have sparred with her, but what good would it do?  You’d just have two angry people instead of one – and there’s enough hostility in the world already.  Right?

And in the middle of the week, I had just started my 35-minute commute (OK, it’s more like 40, but I start the day as an optimist) when someone ran a stop sign.  I blared the horn and slammed on the brakes, leaving an enviable patch.  Thankfully, I missed solidly T-boning her – but not by much.

Quickly, I made the decision not to be angry.  It was clearly a mistake.  (She looked VERY surprised.  Stop signs are subtle, sneaky things, sprouting up randomly in places they’ve never been before.)  Haven’t I made mistakes before?  Abso-freakin-lutely.  And I’d want to be forgiven.  I prayed for focus and calm for her and went on my way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still capable of getting plenty angry – both at others and at myself.  I’m not some peace pioneer – not by any stretch.

But, while I can’t be the sun, I can certainly try to shine a flashlight into the dark, dusty corners in my quest to find the good things about this sometimes bleak, scary planet.

And if anyone comes out swinging,  I’ll whack ’em in the cranium with the blunt end and run like hell.

Run.  Hide.  Fight.