The Indelible Ninja Scars

Warning: Dark post ahead. I should probably label this with “trigger warning” for the delicate flowers, but this isn’t a designated safe space, so enter at your own risk. I’m gonna talk about stuff that I shouldn’t be doing. You were warned.

<sigh> This post has been difficult to write. I’ve been knitting it and unraveling it in my head for a couple of weeks, debating whether I’m brave enough to put it out there or if I should continue to pretend it didn’t happen.  At this point, though, the latter isn’t working.

I don’t think I can truly pick myself up until I admit to myself how hard I fell down.

I know HOW it happened. Honestly, I should have expected it. It’s been happening for years, off and on, in unpredictable cycles. Like a well-trained ninja, it lurks in the shadows of my being, camouflaging itself behind my arrogant confidence that I’ve really got a handle on things this time, waiting to pounce in the blink of a vulnerable moment.

I’d been coasting along for weeks in a false sense of security: I’ve been having phenomenal success on a new medication that’s quelled my omnipresent anxiety and quieted it to an occasional flare of “wait…I should be, like, worrying about something right now, right?” that I’ve been able to squash like a bothersome gnat. In other words, it’s been quite manageable.

And I’d been rocking my personal fitness. I was running four miles 3 days a week, and mixing in yoga, too. I was cooking – actual food – with vegetables and quinoa and organically-raised tofu harvested by free-range leprechauns. (Close enough.)  I was nourishing myself.

Everything else was…calm.  Peaceful. The hubs had been treating me like a queen. The kids are doing wonderfully. My daughter had just finished her first year of college with <shameless Mom brag> a 4.0.  My son, a junior this year, has a darling new girlfriend. The situation with my stepsons, while not resolved, has stabilized. I don’t have any significant job stress. Mom was doing great – she was preparing to close out her and Dad’s business, and she has a…um…gentleman caller (?) who spoils her.

Side note: What exactly DO you call it when your 70ish-year-old mother is dating? “Boyfriend” sounds kinda juvenile, while “significant other” implies some sort of long-term commitment. And “friend”….yeah, no. You can just HEAR the air quotes when people say it. “…and this is Mom’s ‘friend’ Bob. Try it. See?!?

Side note #2: Should I feel weird about Mom dating? Because I totally don’t. Well, except that the guy she’s seeing is actually the father of my first ever real boyfriend. (Hurrah for small towns.) So, even though that was thirty (!!!) years ago, I sort of feel like I accidentally kissed my brother. But on the flip side, that means that I know this guy, and somehow, that’s comforting – he’s not a complete stranger. His wife passed several months ago, and as I recall, she wasn’t exactly a fan of me being in her son’s life because apparently, I had evil spirits floating around me. Anyway, I like the man and I love that she’s happy.

In summary, things were going smoothly.

The calm before the storm.

Then Mother’s Day weekend arrived. I wasn’t expecting any grand gestures, but the kids were aware, at least. We had a decent weekend planned – my son was getting ready to go to Prom on Saturday, and we’d have a quick lunch on Sunday before they went to their father’s and I got back on a plane.

Prom day was lovely. The weather had promised rain but surprised us with sunshine. The plan for the day was to head over to the girlfriend’s house mid-day, where my son (read: “we”) would cook dinner for the two of them. Then they’d put on their fancy duds and tolerate a few pictures before heading to the festivities.

And it went so well. My son and I worked together to prepare General Tso’s Chicken; I chopped the meat while he found pans and serving bowls. We opened sparkling juice and toasted the day.

Prom1

prom2

That’s my boy. LOL

After we Googled how to tie a necktie, we were ready for pictures. We skipped the usual local haunts (a quick drive-by indicated an intolerable crowd) and headed to his father’s house, where I knew the azaleas would be in full bloom. (I offered to take them to the local funeral home, or the cemetery, because OF COURSE there’d be fresh flowers there. But they declined. Sheesh, where is the sense of adventure? Kids today….) I snapped away, capturing the smiles. I even got some terrific shots of my son with his father that I know they’ll both treasure.  (I am SUCH a big person, ain’t I??)

prom3prom4

Shortly, the lovebirds were off to the dance. I met up with my daughter and her boyfriend and settled in to some serious Netflix. My daughter is really digging conspiracy theories lately, and yeah, there’s a series for that, believe it or not. Even though we’d ordered pizzas, her boyfriend, being a young man with an age-appropriate metabolism, brought “snacks” so we wouldn’t starve to death for the three hours we’d be sitting on our butts. His stash included two family-size bags of chips, a batch of beef stew, a kitchen-sink sized bowl of buttered popcorn, and two six-packs of soda.

Eventually, the two of them headed off to host an after-prom party.

Leaving me alone.

With the food. (Except the stew. I convinced him to take that home with him.)

So that’s HOW it happened. I just don’t know WHY.

But it happened.

Down went the family-sized bag of salt and vinegar chips and the rest of the popcorn. Even though I’d finished my gluten-free pizza earlier, I added a few slices of their leftovers to the frenzy. Then I headed off to Wal-Mart to top off the mess with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s finest.

Why not?  It didn’t matter. It’d be gone shortly.

I hadn’t done this in years. Decades, maybe. Sure, I’ve binged, but I’ve avoided sticking my toe back into the purging pool. Overeating is somewhat socially acceptable; we can half-ashamedly confess eating a doughnut we didn’t need or an extra slice of cake. Barfing, though, is still done behind closed doors.

Now, it was time.

I’d forgotten how hard this was. How violent. The body was not meant to do this. Yet, like riding the proverbial bicycle, mine eventually remembers.

Panting, gagging, my stomach rolls and heaves. I’m undressed from the waist down and perched atop a pile of lightly-used towels, as the bladder of a middle-aged woman can no longer bear the seismic onslaught forced upon it by making yourself vomit.

This is not an affliction for the proud.

get it out get it out get it out

Eventually, it’s over. I feel like a dishrag that’s been left at the bottom of the sink, sodden and heavy and unable to take any shape or form.

I clean up and try to sleep.

The next day, I carry the weight of my sins. My tongue feels as though I’ve burned it; my jaw aches like I’ve been chewing bowling balls.  Belches bring an acidic, burning reminder to the back of my throat. And to my heart.

It’s Mother’s Day. The sun’s out again. And the kids actually remember, bringing me cards and presents for the first time in maybe ever. The hubs surprises me with flowers, which showcase my favorite colors.

I am reminded that I am loved. And that today, I can start over. Reset the timer. 1 day since my last purge.

I can’t say this will never happen again. I’ve learned that swearing “never” is a cue for the fates to set up an elaborate exercise in irony.

But I don’t honestly have any idea why this happened. Why now, when things were going (relatively) fine? Why not when my dad died, or when the hubs and I were having more serious issues, or when my stepson was in the hospital? Why did this cap off a beautiful day bookended by my awesome kids?

And if I don’t know what caused this, how do I keep it from happening again? Was this a momentary lapse, or the beginning of a final descent? Was this random or a result? Fluke or fault line?

It’s unnerving. But I suppose that’s the crux of mental illness. If we could always control it, it wouldn’t be an illness, right?

Things have been…well…not great since then. I’ve done some exercise and a ton of eating. Zero days since my last binge. I’m blaming a canceled flight and an unplanned night in beautiful downtown Detroilet for the pizza and two candy bars I ate alone in my hotel room while watching (ironically) My 600-Pound Life for the most recent one.

I’ve kept it all down, though, and I suppose I have to remember to count that as a victory. Because the ninja still calls to me, whispering from the sink, the refrigerator, the checkout aisle. I’d learned to tune her out, and I need to ensure I have sufficient white noise in my life to block her song. Her voice is the mental mermaid that always tempts toward a tumultuous sea.

Sometimes, my footing slips on the rocks as the surf tugs at my toes.

Today, I hang on.

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Wearing the Stigma Scarf

I love scarves.

I have an entire drawer full of them, in all textures and colors. They’ve been inherited from relatives who’ve passed on, unearthed in thrift stores, discovered on clearance racks, and joyfully received in wrapped boxes at Christmas.

My favorites, though, are the ones that were hand-knit for me. I’m blessed to have people in my life who want to make me pretty things, and I wear these gifts with pride. I have two scarves in particular where I know the crafter saw the yarn and thought of me – primarily because the colors were…um…rather bold. They were materials that you really wouldn’t buy unless you distinctly had someone in mind who would actually WEAR something that obnoxious bright and colorful.

scarf1

And that someone is, apparently, moi.

scarf2

I’ve wondered on occasion if these scarves were perhaps a backhanded compliment of sorts.  Did they pick up the skeins and think, “Wow. Who on earth would wear THAT?” Did they twist the strands in their fingers, mildly horrified, and realize, “I bet Kate would. Yep. She would TOTALLY wear this”?  Did they giddily race home to half-jokingly create a monstrosity just to see if I’d dare sport it in public?

Maybe.  But it’s totally OK if they did. Because I love these scarves. They’re cheery, soft, warm, and they bring me joy. And someone created them just for me. Who cares if they don’t meet someone else’s taste? That’s fine. They can wear whatever makes THEM feel beautiful, and I won’t be offended if they don’t want to borrow anything from my closet.

We’re all unique, right? And the things that make us individuals don’t make us better or worse than anyone else.  They just make us…us.

But….

In my last post, I mentioned that things were going much better with the hubs, and that I was taking a more active role in my recovery.

But I didn’t tell the whole story.

Yes, the hubs has mellowed considerably on the subjects of religion and politics. Not, unfortunately, due to any spiritual shift, but because he’s got a new focal point: his sons. My stepsons, 12 and 14, are just starting the challenging transition from boy to man, with voices deepening and pants shrinking and sneakers no longer fitting on suddenly-larger feet. And with this hormonal tsunami, they’re pushing for other changes – primarily, to spend more time with their father, in the form of 50/50 custody.

Those of you with exes can probably guess how THAT’S been going.  Lead balloon?  Fart at a funeral?  (The latter of which may or may not <cough> have happened at my dad’s wake, and I might be acquainted with two stubborn, thoughtless children who will never let me forget it.  Kids can be jerks that way.  They must get that from their mother.)

Anyway.  For most of my stepsons’ lives, their mother has held primary physical custody, and with it has maintained tight reigns of control. Admittedly, while the hubs has been absolutely reliable in seeing the boys and paying support, he hasn’t been as involved in some of the “mom minutiae” that sucks so much mental energy, like scheduling immunizations or staying on top of what homework is due tomorrow. But he’s trying to take on his share, and while he’s made a huge effort in getting to know teachers, packing lunches, and slogging through the mental labyrinth of 8th grade algebra and Spanish, he’s getting shut out of what should be joint decisions, such as medical care and high school selection.

And the two of them have a long-standing inability to communicate effectively (read: without fighting.)  It’s epically horrific, to the point where I have absolutely ZERO idea how they stayed together in a room for long enough to make ONE baby, never mind TWO.  (Like how the praying mantis literally gets his head bitten off if he spends too much time thinking about baseball or didn’t feed her first.  Really.  Click here.  You’re welcome.)

As you’d expect, the custody battle barely tapped the border of negotiating “what’s best for the boys.” Since the parents despise each other, they were completely unable to focus on working out when the boys would live where. Instead, they hung verbal clotheslines and pinned up years and years of dirty laundry, finding faults and flaws in everything from nutrition to hygiene to spirituality to what cars they each drove and how long their emails and texts were.

The judge, of course, didn’t have time to be bothered with the parental equivalent of an alley cat fight, so he hosed them down by ordering them to attend…wait for it…marital counseling.  Yeah.  MARITAL COUNSELING.  They’ve been divorced for eleven years, and NOW they’re in marital counseling. Part of me wants to find this hilarious, but since the kids are the tragic punch line, I can barely manage a smirk.

So start with that constantly-roaring fire, and douse it with the kerosene of “Mom, I want to live with Dad half the time from now on” and “Why are you putting ideas in the boys’ heads/turning them against me/NOT LISTENING to me/diminishing my contributions/STILL EXISTING? Sprinkle on some grain dust in the form of autism spectrum disorder (both boys are officially diagnosed; Dad isn’t, but it doesn’t take much to see where they got it) and depression and anxiety (both boys; just depression for Mom and Dad, with medication all around) and you can probably see the pending mushroom cloud from the demoted non-planet Pluto.

The detonation occurred two Saturdays ago, when we received a 4 AM text that my older stepson was being taken to the local university hospital because he said that once everyone was asleep, he was fairly certain he was going to kill himself.

Boom.

It’s eerily quiet after an explosion. The silence is unnerving. Haunting.

The next day, the treating doctor ordered counseling for the “family unit.” The hubs texted his ex to clarify: biological parents only, or should the step-parents attend? She replied: “this is for guardians only.” So off the hubs went, while I waited at home for a report. After he arrived, it was clarified that he was expected to arrive alone, but she and the stepdad would both be in attendance since she had primary physical custody.

I was the odd man out. Not considered significant enough to participate in this very critical healing process.

Well, you can imagine how THAT felt.  But this isn’t about me.  (And, on the bright side, I suppose my exclusion proves that no one thinks I contributed to the “problem.”)

After a week of comprehensive inpatient therapy, my stepson was released, complete with tools, reminders, and a “safety plan” that included his wellness strategy.

This included a very specific note to his parents: “Quit fighting about custody.”

Gut-punches ya right in the feels, don’t it?

And you are the only people I’ve shared this with, except for my siblings and my mother.  Even then, I danced around what really took place, using words like “he’s safe now” and “getting the help he needs.”

No one else in my life knows that we had this crisis.

Why not?

Why did I hesitate to say that my stepson is struggling with a mental health issue, and it’d reached a critical point where he needed more intensive treatment for awhile?

When my dad had his pulmonary issues, I had no problem telling people the full medical situation in full detail.  See, heart issues aren’t loaded with connotations and bias.  They just happen, to good people and bad people and people who are…normal.

If heart issues were a scarf, they’d be a neutral color, like navy or black, which goes with many things and can be tossed atop nearly any outfit.

This was different.

For some reason, I didn’t want anyone to see the mental health scarf we had stuffed in the back of the closet.  After looking at it, I decided that it simply doesn’t match my outfit.

Suffice it to say it’s been a stressful time in our household.  Thank goodness I started that medication when I did!

Oh, yeah.  About that….

I haven’t quite gotten around to telling the hubs this little detail.

I didn’t intend to keep it a secret.  But when I went to the doctor, I was pretty convinced that nothing would work, and I didn’t want to get his hopes up that there might be something that could “fix” me.  I didn’t want my moods and actions analyzed, and I didn’t want a layman’s opinion of whether it was working or not.  I didn’t want a magnifying glass aimed at my cracks and fissures.

What the hubs does know is that he’s starting to get his wife back.

Isn’t that enough?

It’s not that he wouldn’t be supportive – heck, he takes meds himself.  If it had a chance of helping, he’d be heartily in favor of it. He wouldn’t criticize or judge.  He understands mental health issues as well as any non-medical person possibly could.

But the bottle is hidden.

It isn’t a scarf I’m ready to show him just yet.

Hmm…now that I think about it….maybe it’s NOT a scarf.  Maybe it’s Spanx. Or a Wonderbra.  YES!  That’s EXACTLY it.  It pushes everything around so that I can present my very best self to society.  It tucks and sucks the floppy bits that pollute my put-together look.

And no one has to know.  All they’ll see is fabulous.

I’m aware that mental health issues aren’t within my control. I know without a shadow of a doubt that hormones shoot holes in my stability.  I understand that I’m managing what is largely a chemical imbalance.

Yet often the scarf of anxiety is itchy and uncomfortable, and I don’t want to wear it at all.  I don’t want people to start judging my job performance through the lens of mental illness.  I don’t want my weight to be scrutinized by coworkers and friends:  Is she thinner today? Is she in trouble?  She seems so scattered…do we need to intervene?  Or worse:  She’s put on weight; she can’t be THAT broken if she’s able to eat all that food.  She must be exaggerating her so-called anxiety since she completed the 1095c forms on time. 

I know I shouldn’t feel this way.  I mean, okay, YES.  I’ll say it:  I have mental health issues. 

But they’re part of what makes me…ME.  They’re powerful spices in the Kate stew.  My anxiety and my food issues are colorful threads woven in the tapestry of the personality that is exclusively MINE.

No one else has a scarf quite like this one.

Perhaps I should embrace my individuality and be proud of the quirks I have.  They add some glitter to an otherwise flat surface.  Like any hand-crafted creation, they should be worn proudly.  Right?

“Normal” is kind of dull, anyway.

With a little elbow grease and a dash of confidence, maybe I can sparkle and shine.

On Thursday

My eyes slowly open.  It’s brighter out than usual.  I must have slept in.

The blinds are closed, but a foggy, soft light peeks into the room through the small slits.  I roll over and squint at the clock.  A red 7:37 confirms for me that today is not a normal work day.

It is Thursday.  It is unusual to have a day off in the middle of the week.  My brain works to reconcile this.  I am still in bed after the sun woke up.  Today is Thursday, but it is different. 

I turn over and blink at the ceiling.  I could get up.  Or I could close my eyes and doze for a bit longer.  Knowing that tomorrow I will have to get myself up, dressed, and presented to the world in time to support my coworkers in the Black Friday madness, I decide that I best roll out of bed and face the day.  Otherwise, sleep won’t come until the wee hours.

I go to the window and part the blinds with two fingers.  It’s overcast, but most of the snow that fell earlier in the week has retreated to the grassy areas.  The roads are clear, damp in spots and dry in others.

It is Thursday, and on Thursdays, I run.  I don my shoes and my fleece running tights and head out the door.

It’s cold and damp, but not offensively so.  I ask my phone to shuffle my music, and start my run-tracking appThe scale knows only that today is Thursday.  My thighs don’t know today is different. 

My spouse chose to sleep in, so today’s workout is a solo effort.  The hubs prefers a specific route, but today, I can choose my path.  I pause for a moment, overwhelmed by options and unsure of my direction.  On Thursdays, we go right.  But today is different.  I turn left at the end of the driveway.

Siri‘s in a Broadway kind of mood today.  My phone blasts excerpts from Aspects of Love and Hairspray. I don’t wear headphones when I run; I want to be able to hear approaching cars and unleashed dogs.  This morning, the air is largely still.  It’s unusually quiet for a Thursday.  The normal hum of rush-hour traffic is missing, and I can’t decide if the incongruous silence is comforting or unsettling.   My eyes and ears note the contrast.  Today is Thursday, but it is different. 

The lack of activity makes me hyper-aware of my surroundings.  I note the lone passenger at the bus stop, bundled in a thick parka.  I start as a squirrel darts a few feet in front of me.  A partially rusted car, painted with gray primer, makes a U-turn in the middle of the street and parks a half block ahead of me.  It’s a safe neighborhood, but I confirm my grip on my pepper spray, moving the nozzle to “fire.”  I watch as a wiry, bearded man exits the vehicle, hoisting his bag of newspapers over his shoulder.  I nod in his direction and smile as I call out, “Good morning!”  He looks up, surprised, but returns the greeting.  Perhaps on Thursdays, no one says hello to the junk paper delivery guy.  But today is different.

My phone announces the start of Mile Two.  Halfway there.  I cover a few more squares of sidewalk before carefully turning around to reverse my route.  I leap over small snow piles, avoiding the bumpy metallic curb slopes.  (Those suckers are slippery. ) Occasionally, I land in a pile of slush.  It clogs the treads of my running shoes and I lose a bit of traction.  I press on.  I shouldn’t fall.

I shake the snow loose and let my mind wander as I pass the ranch-styles and split-levels.  Is the neighborhood awake?  Are they in their kitchens, slicing potatoes?  Are they at their laptops, frantically Googling “fastest way to thaw a frozen turkey”?  Perhaps they’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of family – or maybe everyone arrived last night, leaving them wondering if it’s too early to uncork a bottle of red.  I wonder if any of them are looking out their windows.  Do they see me?  Do they think “look at her dedication, running even today!”  Because although it is Thursday, and there is no reason not to run on normal Thursdays, today is different.

Mile Three.   I run across a normally busy street without looking.  On Thursday, this is dangerous.  But it’s so peaceful, the possibility of traffic doesn’t even occur to me until I’ve crossed two lanes.  Today is different.  Even Siri attempts to remind me of the date, as she offers up When October Goes (yes, Barry Manilow is in my collection, don’t judge) and November Rain as subtle hints.

It’s unnecessary.  I know what today is.

Today, families across the country are gathering around tables piled high with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries.  They’ll cheer their favorite teams as they lift forks and spoons filled with spiced pumpkin and ice cream.  And after the game, they might sit around the table, sharing old stories and sandwiches and card games and coffee, reminiscing and laughing by a crackling fire.

This is not my today.  Today is different.

I arrive home, clapping bark and leaves off my shoes.  My kids are celebrating the holiday with their father.  My siblings are with my mother as she navigates both her first wedding anniversary and first major holiday without her husband in over fifty years.  Sure, I could have boarded a plane to be with them. I could have joined the millions of Americans who just yesterday jammed the airports and highways, shelling out dollars and tempers and myriad frustrations in order to chase their expectations.

Out loud, to coworkers, I pride myself on refusing to travel during what I have deemed “amateur hour,” fighting to get to my gate among beginners who don’t understand which line to wait in and never remember that a full water bottle is a weapon which must be discarded before you hit Security.

I opt out of the madness.  I claim to prefer a relaxed, subdued holiday.  Sometimes I manage to convince myself this is true.

The house is quiet.  Warm and dark after the damp, oddly bright cloudiness outside.  My stepsons are awake and plugged into their respective computers, oblivious to my entrance.

I retreat to the basement to stretch.  The cats join me, craning their necks for an ear-scratch while I release the tension in my quads and hamstrings.  I clean up a small pile of regurgitated cat food.  I scoop the litterbox.  I dole out hairball treats.

The scale is there, waiting for me.  It’s Thursday.  Hop on.  I sigh, exhale, and ask the judge for mercy.  She grants it, haltingly.  I’m still on probation.  Five more pounds, maybe seven.  I can do this.  Even today. 

After my shower, I switch on the coffee pot.  I assemble a green smoothie.  It is Thursday, after all.  No reason to switch to pancakes or cookies.  No occasion warrants a sidestep from the calorie-counting regimen.  Not even today.

Sipping slowly, I plot out my day.  There’s a sale starting at 6 PM; I get $10 off my purchase.  That might be worth waiting in line for.  Football will be on most of the day; I can toast some pumpkin seeds and relax in my new recliner until then.  I pick out an afghan that my husband’s grandmother made.  I turn on the Christmas tree, letting the lights illuminate the room.

Today, it is Thursday.  And my life will not be a Norman Rockwell painting.  Nor will it be an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  I suppose one might be thankful for that.

My life isn’t what I planned.  I envisioned hectic holidays, crammed to the gills with family laughter and delicious food and epic card games and stolen naps.  As a child, I never thought through the what-ifs of divorce and geography.  Yet I live it today, the quiet being a product of the choices I’ve made.

I did what I thought was best at the time.

Isn’t that all any of us can do?

Make no mistake, I’m aware that I’ve been richly blessed.  My life is, overall, quite good.

It’s just different.  Especially today.

Later, I’ll bake some fish and roast some of the veggies from my weekly crop share delivery. I’ll get my Christmas lists ready. Maybe a new pair of booties will wend their way into my Amazon basket. I’ll work to shove the should-haves and don’t-eats out of the way as I focus on nurturing my soul.

I should probably do that every Thursday.

But today is different.  Every part of my body and all of my senses are telling me so.

I hear it most clearly from my heart.

I settle into the couch and flip on the game.  One of my cats is curled up next to me.

To him, it’s just Thursday.  And he seems perfectly content with that.

catnap

I’ll try to be, too.

Days of Wine and…Popcorn

It’s been a rough couple of months here, folks. As you may recall, I’ve had a few things going on.

As I mentioned in my last post,  we just finished a month-long stint with my Dad in hospice care, where he spent most of his days sleeping and we spent the bulk of ours checking our phones and emails constantly for updates while we waited for the inevitable.  While we certainly knew what was coming, the anticipation of bad news wears on ya after awhile:  Is today the day I put life on hold?  The day I set everything aside?  Will it be later today?  Tomorrow?  Next week?  Month?    It’s absolutely draining, and I didn’t appreciate HOW exhausting it was until it had raced past me, kicking dust and leaves into my sweaty, sticky face and leaving me coughing.

Meanwhile, life’s been hucking other curveballs at my face, too.

First up:  We had a wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  We “celebrated” nine years of sometimes-blissful, lately-often-stressful marriage by attending the viewing of a friend who passed away suddenly.   Ted was one of those genuinely terrific guys (insert obvious reference to the relevant Billy Joel tune here) -the world should be really sad to have lost him.

And it was one of those “died in his sleep for no discernible reason” deaths, which is typically code for…well, stuff no one wants to talk about.  While I have my suspicions, we’ll never know for certain, and besides, it doesn’t MATTER what happened.  It won’t change the fact that he’s gone.  And he was a week YOUNGER than me, which makes it all the more…disquieting, ya know?

Stuff like that will cash your mortality check in a hurry.  Plus, it sort of trumps any sort of anniversary celebration.

Second: the hubs finished his letter to me – the one where he planned to outline all the reasons that Religion is Bunk.

religion_is_bunk_bumper_sticker-r692e2b5ac9a54586b39e5e568e1b5614_v9wht_8byvr_630

This is still on his car. No, I haven’t said anything. Yet.

I haven’t read it yet…more on that later. But it’s there, lurking under the bed like the proverbial monster from when you were five, just waiting to grab your ankles if you DARE use the bathroom.

Suffice it to say that living day-to-day with this level of stress takes a toll – and it was manifestering (like that?  I just made it up) as an escalation in my disordered eating habits.  I’ve been running 16 miles a week on 1200(ish) calories a day (Okay…maybe 1100.  Or 1000.  Most days.)

Oh, and speaking of running, even my food/exercise-tracking app is out to get me.  I use MyFitnessPal and sync it with MapMyFitness.  Normally, these tools work GREAT. But recently, there was a software update…and now, my 4-mile run burns 65 fewer calories than it did before.

@#)$(@#%@%^£{£}*|€\€]^$^%$&@!!!WHYYYYY?!?

Did a lower weight finally sync up? Rectified math error?  Dunno.  But let’s break it down to what’s truly important here:  with the new calculation, I have to run nearly SIXTEEN MILES to burn off ONE pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Sixteen f*%#!%@ miles.

That’s effing MADNESS.

Anyway, I decided I needed to circle my mental wagons around and work on ways to take better care of myself.  Before I disappear completely.  Or implode from stress overload.  Or start randomly stabbing furniture.

So HOW do I nurture myself?  While I’d prefer to be independently wealthy and retire to a warm, tropical location, I’m just a few gazillion dollars away from making that a reality.  So here are some things that I know I can do:

Stand up for myself.  Saying “no” can be tough.  Why?  Because we don’t want people to be mad at us?  Because we’re afraid people won’t like us if we don’t cater to their beck and call?  Or is it simply easier to cross favors off the list so we don’t have to think about them – and the potential fallout of saying “can’t today” – anymore?

Women tend to take on the overwhelming responsibility of ensuring the happiness of others.  And we make this a priority, neglecting ourselves in the process.  The results include exhaustion, frustration, and resentment.  Who’s happy now, chica?  Everyone but YOU.

So – repeat after me:

No, I can’t make that work right now.

No, I’m not available.

No, I don’t have the energy to address that at the moment.

No….Let’s discuss this at a later time.  I’ll let you know what works for me.

I know the words initially feel foreign, but trust me, it DOES get easier.  The world will not vote you off the island if you liberally apply these phrases, I promise.

Or so I’m told.

<ring ring> Is kettle there?

But in the spirit of “practice what you preach,” I’m doing this, too.  Remember that letter I mentioned above?  Given all the other white noise drowning out my mind, I actually stood up for myself – I told the hubs that now was not the time for his letter.  I can deal with the relationship issues LATER – after the kids go back to school, the election is over, and future bacon sprouts wings and flies right past my window.

Eventually, I WILL have to address this. It’s hanging over my head like the proverbial mistletoe at Christmas, just dangling there cluttering up the aesthetics, waiting for me to unsuspectingly park there while some opportunistic slightly-greasy dude plants a wet, juicy smacker on my lips.

But it doesn’t have to be TODAY.  Or tomorrow.  I can rest and recharge, and cross that emotional gorge once I’ve cleaned off my windshield and am running on a full set of batteries.

Exercise.  Yeah, I know.  <blearghhhhhh>  But regular exercise DOES help with stress.  You can read the science here, or review Dr. Kate’s breakdown:

When you’re stressed, your body releases this stuff called cortisol – it’s your body’s reaction to that whole fight-or-flight thing – so if you’re surprised by, say, a hungry bear in the woods, you have a “burst” to help you run away – fast.

The problem is that our modern-day stress is generally less about things that require physical flight.  It’s more along the lines of the annual tax bill, an unplanned job loss, or the unexpected arrival of swimsuit season.  (Which, despite arriving at approximately the same time every year, I AM NEVER READY FOR.)  We don’t have a physical need for this sudden storing of hormonal rocket fuel.  But it’s there anyway – and cortisol kicks you in the knees by weakening your bones, lowering your immunity, and killing your sex drive.  The more stress you have, the more cortisol spews out.

So how does exercise help?  Exercise is controlled stress.  You’re running/walking/Jazzercising/whatever, but there are no zombies waiting to sprinkle your backside with Frank’s Red Hot.  So your body thinks, OK, we’ve got some cortisol in da house, and we be chillin’.  We good.  Since there’s no direct threat, your tolerance for cortisol increases, and it can’t cripple you as effectively as it did before.  Essentially, your stress “muscles” are stronger, – you’re more resilient to stress , and it takes a bigger bucket of cortisol to knock you out.

Little Indulgences.  Whether it’s a mani/pedi, a massage, or a fancy coffee at a frou-frou java house, there are lots of small treats to be had when you need a boost.

I tend to look at inexpensive retail therapy.  You don’t have to spend a lot to get a lift – new earrings or socks can really cheer you up.  Just take a look at, well, ANYTHING from Blue Q: 

(Warning – adult language ahead.  But these are kick@$$ socks):

kickass_socks2

And speaking of wine…

Sometimes, there’s nothing like getting lost in your own sofa.  I’m talking TV, people.  And since we are an evolved, organized species, we can watch pretty much anything we want at any time of day.  Thanks to Netflix, Amazon video, YouTube, and other avenues, we have a nearly endless buffet of programming to choose from.  And, unlike the olden days when we had to actually dial our phones and GET UP <gasp> to change the channel, this is all available instantly.  So if you need a quick mental break, it’s there for the taking.  And it’s judgement-free, because no one can see you.

YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO WEAR PANTS.  (Sign ME up.)

Whether you’re into drama, comedy, or somebody-else’s-reality TV, nothing goes better with electronic entertainment than a good glass of what makes you smile and a bowl of something that satisfies.

Don’t get me wrong here – I am NOT advocating eating or drowning your feelings.  That just turns your current problem into a fat, bloated, belchy one.  (Which is far less entertaining than it sounds.)  But sometimes, you need to have a mini-getaway, and small, planned indulgences can make your couch more vacation-like, especially if you’re doing it in the spirit of nurturing your soul.

So here’s my recliner retreat checklist:

Entertainment:  For me, nothing relaxes like mindless TRASH TV.  Being an overworked intellectual (HAHAHAHA <snort>) I need a break from my exhaustive thinking, re-thinking, and over-thinking, so I amuse myself with the human freak-show circus. 

From my recent queue (don’t judge):

Beverage:  Wine.  (Duh.)  Red, white, or pink – I’m equal-opportunity and all about embracing the diversity.

Pro tip:  In some locations, there are “blue laws” and the liquor stores are closed on Sundays – so you might need to stock up on Saturday just to get through the weekend.   Given my life as of late, I had the foresight to prepare. (again – don’t judge):

winestock

Note – all of the bottles in this cart were $8.99 and under.  The Double Dog Dare reds were $2.99 each – and perfectly drinkable. (Then again, as you can see by my viewing choices, I may not have the most refined palate.  But you do you.)

I also liked this one, for $6.99:

wine

Because the label.  So cute!

I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying mead lately.  Generally, I prefer my drinks quite dry, and mead tends to be on the sticky side.  But this brand from Nectar Creek fits the bill nicely:

mead1

Don’t fear the bee.  Halfway through the bottle you’ll wanna give him a big ol’ hug.

Snacks:  Since I spent way too much time obsessing over my weight, I don’t want to pick a noshable that fills me out even more.  I mean, stressing over your de-stressor is like worrying about watermelon making you fat.  WHICH AIN’T RIGHT.

So I gravitate towards volume-packed munchies that fill up a big bowl for not-too-many calories.  The perfect choice for this, as we all know from years at the movie theater, is popcorn.

Ah, popcorn.  How I love thee.

The beauty of popcorn is that it’s no longer the dull, dry, packaging-material flavor it was back in the day.  Like TV programming, it’s evolved tremendously in sheer variety.  There’s a concoction for every craving.  Sweet?  Salty?   Spicy?   Yes please.  It’s out there, and in versions that will NOT make your butt look big.

Take a look at this snazzy infographic, courtesy of SkinnyPop:

SkinnyPop%20Wine

Find out more at SkinnyPop.com

A couple of thoughts on the above:

1.  I have had most of these flavors AND THEY ARE ALL DELICIOUS.  Just the other day, I found the Jalapeño at Walgreens, of all places. It’s really flavorful with just a hint of kick . I was thinking it’d be perfect with a crisp white, and it looks like the peeps at SkinnyPop agree with me.

2. The only flavor I haven’t had is the Dusted Dark Chocolate, because I can’t for the life of me find it anywhere.  This is Great Popcorn Sadness.  This shiz needs to be in my life, like, immediately, but for some reason, it hasn’t surfaced in the hippie-dippie part of the Midwest I reside in.

I’ll keep looking.

3.  You can’t really go wrong with wine – or mead, or beer, or ginger ale – and popcorn.  So mix it up and have fun!

I just have to remember to park on the couch with a bowl and a glass, NOT the entire bag and a bottle…because, after all, chip clips are for quitters, yo.  <burp>

How do you unwind?  What’s your go-to for chillin’?  Share your escapes in the comments!

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.)

bdayshop2bdayshop3

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:

SWsign1

That’s…a little TOO quaint. DOWN WITH OVERAPOSTROPHICATION!

SWsign2

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.

SWart

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:

SWshop2

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!

SWshop4

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:

bdayshop1

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:

bdayshop4

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:

bdayshop5

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.

gradcap

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.

<sigh>

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.)

bikephone

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.)

socks

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):

twoblouses

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:

ivyleggings

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.)

cardigan

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:

earrings

Left:  Van Heusen.  Right:  The Limited

And a necklace:

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>

Capture

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.

airportshoes

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.

IlookOK

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:

tattooos

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.

PERFECT.

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.

Aaaaahhhhhhh.

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:

IMG_2114

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>

IMG_2128

That isn’t rust.  IT’S GREASE YO

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

IMG_2142

Mmm.  Who wants some squalor popcorn?

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

RIGHTNOWRIGHTNOWRIGHTNOW!

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.

IMG_2143

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:

chobani_100cal_12version

Source:  www.chobani.com

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….)

airportwalk

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:

IMG_4771

IMG_4772

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!

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:

Mother-in-law.

<group cringe>

Right?

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.”

Sigh.

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)