Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Backward Yet Forward

In September 2009, I posted on Facebook that "I have decided that I want to become a MILF and shall henceforth commit myself fully to that end." Or something to that effect.

I was being flip, but there was sincere sentiment behind my words. I was very unhappy with how I looked and felt. The following week I found out that some weird symptoms I had been experiencing were due to three small strokes and the resultant damage to my brain. I also learned that my blood pressure was 170/120. And then I realized it was time to put those flippant words into action. And I did. I lost 75 pounds. I became a Zumba instructor and later, a Weight Watchers leader. To say that the journey (hackneyed word, but it cannot be described as anything but) changed my life is a gargantuan understatement.

And I resolved never to go back. I would NOT be one of those people who finds themselves back at Weight Watchers five years later, shamefaced and chagrined. Would. Not.

Five years after I started, I have gained 17lbs. They won't come off. And more is creeping slowly back on, despite my best efforts. Something is wrong, but I don't know what, and I don't know how to fix it. Despite severing ties with WW in December of 2013, I have maintained my active, healthy lifestyle. A looser version of it to be sure, but nothing like the sloth and excess of my pre-Weight Watchers life. I might allow myself a Skinny Caramel latte from Starbuck's two or three times a week instead of just one. I might allow myself one teaspoon of real butter on my fat free air popped popcorn. I might allow myself that second glass of wine with my baked salmon and grilled veggies while out to dinner with friends. I might even split a decadent dessert with my husband now and then.

Before leaving Weight Watchers, I would never have considered doing any of those things. And it had a profound impact on my life, one that was not wholly positive as you might think.

For our 20th anniversary, husband planned a beautiful, romantic getaway to a local winery. There was a tour, wine tasting, champagne and chocolates waiting for me in the suite, an amazing breakfast buffet with fresh crepes, waffles, beignets and pancakes...

All I could think about was calories.

When we arrived on Friday evening, we sat down to a lovely dinner in a restaurant so fraught with ambiance I almost believed we were in real French bistro. Husband suggested ordering a cheese tray. I declined. He suggested the stuffed mushrooms. I declined. He grew frustrated but held his tongue until I began to agonize over the entree. Then he said, "Baby, do you just want to go home?" I got his meaning. He had a whole weekend planned out for us and if I was going to obsess over everything that went into my mouth, the enjoyment would be lost - for both of us.

I realized that I was letting my fear of gaining weight control me. I began to worry that I might be on my way to a full fledged eating disorder. So I quit Weight Watchers and I resolved that I would be healthy, but not obsessive. I would allow myself those indulgences and not let the guilt overwhelm me. And I think I've done a good job. I exercise every day. I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I avoid processed foods and hidden sugars (It's everywhere you know). I gave up soda; regular and diet. I try to get as many healthy fats into my diet as possible.

I should be maintaining quite easily. Even on the days that I enjoy a little treat, I burn more calories than I consume, no doubt. I have a retail job and I am on my feet most of the day. In addition, I power walk around 20 miles each week, or do other forms of cardio such as Kickboxing or Step Aerobics. I do strength training 3-4 times a week. When I am at home, I make a conscious effort to be moving. I do get my butt time in of course. But I try not to let it make up the bulk of my leisure time.

And yet, the pounds are creeping back on. Slowly but surely, 17 pounds has found it's way back and believe me when I say that on a short girl, it looks and feels easily double that. I don't like how I look, I don't like how I feel. It takes noticeably more effort to get through each workout. I am more tired. My knees hurt more. Worst of all, my skinny jeans are telling me that my backside has expanded.

But I'm a determined person and I can fix this if I just give it a good effort!! Right? If the old strategies don't work, try new. Try paleo, low carb, no carb, clean eating, virgin eating, raw, juiced and extruded. Surely something will ignite that process of loss once again! Right?

Wrong.

Nothing I do is working. Nothing I have learned is true anymore. My body, which once responded so well to the manipulation I was putting it through, is rebelling. It's as though it has decided to regain what it has lost, all my efforts be damned. It's amazingly disheartening, because nobody believes that there isn't SOME reason for your lack of results; for the slow, inexorable gains. They believe you must be secretly scarfing ice cream after everyone has gone to bed, or pilfering the french fries and pizza crusts off your kids' plates, or secreting away to the drive through for a bacon burger after Jazzercise class.

The only people who believe me are those who have been there. And they are legion. The weight loss forums, Facebook pages, support groups and message boards are rife with them. People as baffled and disheartened as I am, people equally determined not to be that person who lost it and then gained it all back. People just as disciplined and focused and committed as I am. People who, like me, are getting fat again.

There is a well known makeup guru on YouTube who has lost 125 lbs. She is fully committed to a healthy, active lifestyle. And yet, she too has experienced the puzzling reversal. She is gaining weight and can't get it off. Look at poor Oprah. Winona Judd. Kirsty Alley. Delta Burke. Marie Osmond. Jonah Hill. Seth Rogen. Look at all the Biggest Loser contestants who ended up just as big or bigger than they were to begin with. Even people who have undergone gastric bypass and are physically unable to overeat, gain weight back. Is every single one of those people just making excuses? Did they simply give up and get lazy, complacent, apathetic? No. They got frustrated and disheartened and confused when the effort they were putting in was all for nothing.

I think like me, if they knew what to fix, they would fix it. They certainly have the financial means to do anything necessary. And yet, they are still fat. So what is it? Is it some biological needle in a haystack? Something we just haven't learned about the way the body reacts to deprivation, famine, stress? Some genetic switch we haven't learned to flip? Some evolutionary failsafe we have yet to discover? Or is it our food; laden with chemicals, preservatives and derivatives that is somehow short circuiting our bodies' ability to regulate and respond in a logical way to the much touted "calories in calories out" formula?

I have my suspicions, but I don't really know. I don't think even the experts know. If they did, we would not be facing the pervasive and overwhelming obesity epidemic that we are today. And it's spreading to other countries in which obesity was practically unheard of until recently.

What I know is this: I will keep trying. I will exercise and I will eat healthy and I will try not to let the skinny in my jeans be the barometer of my well being or self-esteem. I will try to appreciate being healthy and strong for the sake of being healthy and strong.

Goddamn it's hard. But it's hard to be sick and unhealthy too.

I also know that clean wholesome food and physical activity are medicine. I can count on one hand the number of colds I've had in the last five years. My migraines, once debilitating, are much diminished, both in frequency and severity. My body is strong and fit, even if my butt is too big. I can rise out of my chair without scooting my ass to the edge and pushing up with my arms. I can carry in all the groceries without huffing and puffing. I can climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath. I can arm wrestle my 15 year old son and while I can't win, I can actually make him work to beat me. Small things, yes, but a powerful reminder that I'd rather be strong and fat than weak and skinny.

So...healthy for healthy's sake. I guess that's the way it has to be. Now, I'm going to go pitch my scale in the garbage.

For real.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

No Pithy Title, Just An Age Old Debate

I am currently engaged in a debate with a Christian gentleman that arose over the current World Vision flap.

(Yes, I knew better, but I couldn't help myself this time.)

 In a nutshell, World Vision, a Christian organization that does humanitarian work all over the world, announced that it would now permit gay Christians who were in legal same sex marriages to be employed by their organization. They asserted that the "Very narrow policy change should not be viewed as a compromise of Christian values, but a symbol of Christian unity."

I kinda liked that, even if it wasn't the huge leap forward in acceptance and tolerance that the world needs. Look, they're a faith based organization and as such, they are obligated to uphold Christian tenets as part of their mission statement. I get that. BUT...they made an effort to acknowledge and embrace the evolving definition of marriage in today's world, and embrace those in non-traditional marriages as worthy and valued employees. It was a small thing, but a thing I could respect.

Unfortunately, the Christian community responded with outrage and threats to pull funding and sponsorships all over the world. What it really amounted to was an epic tantrum.

Forty-eight hours later, the decision was reversed. The statement issued said that "Rather than creating more unity [among Christians], we created more division, and that was not the intent," said Stearns. "Our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake and we believe that [World Vision supporters] helped us to see that with more clarity … and we're asking you to forgive us for that mistake."

Pussies.

Sorry, that was ignoble. But it's just so infuriating, because now they have reinforced the belief that if Christians just stomp their feet enough, they can force their antiquated ideals down the throats of the entire world. They can't. But World Vision has unwittingly given them a small taste of power that will feed that ideal and sustain the momentum of bigotry and discrimination for a very long time.

It  makes me crazy pissed off.

Anyway, the crux of the debate between this gentleman and me came down to choice. You've heard that one before right? Gay people choose to be gay? It's patently ridiculous. I asked him, as I always do when someone expresses this opinion, if he chose to be heterosexual. And as always happens, he ignored this question. Because to admit that he did not, is to admit that sexuality as a whole is not a choice. And that would unravel his entire argument that homosexuality is a sin because it's practitioners are willfully choosing to engage in an activity that is forbidden in the Bible.

See....their entire argument hinges on choice. They like to compare homosexuality to other "immoral" things like adultery and drug use and all sorts of unsavory behavior, which also infuriates me because those things are not innate behavior (with the possible exception of Pedophilia) but conscious choices. Now, nobody chooses to be a drug addict, but they do make the choice to take that first hit, that first pill, that first toke. Silly, silly argument, UNLESS you posit that being gay is a choice.

I want to tell you a little story.

When my youngest son was three years old, we were in the grocery store. Well...more than just the once really, but this is a story about that one particular time. He was installed in the front seat of the cart, happily zooming his matchbox car back and forth along the cart handle while I debated the various nutritional merits of cereal. Into the aisle swept a beautiful woman, with long blonde hair, bright red lips, sky high heels, skintight jeans, and enormous gravity defying breasts that would make angels weep, prominently displayed in a low cut halter top.

The kid dropped his car and his jaw and I swear his eyes did that cartoon bug out thing. ((AH-OOOH-GAH)) As she sashayed past us trailing a cloud of something floriental, he turned to watch her until his head was nearly backwards on his neck. Only the fact that his legs were imprisoned in the seat prevented him from watching her until she was completely out of sight.

He said reverently..."PREEEETTY MAMA."

Indeed.

My point? Stone cold heterosexual.

Did he choose that? No. He had no conscious awareness of sexuality. And yet, there it was, asserting itself. At three years old.

One of my best friends in high school was gay. He told me once that he knew he was gay when he was five years old. And he knew it was wrong. He tried very hard not to be gay. I knew him during the trying not to be gay time and the time after that. He says he was happier when he was lying. Afterwards, his parents wept, his Priest attempted to exorcise him and his peers shunned him. It's not hard to understand or accept that nobody would choose that, unless one is being consciously ignorant of that fact. And that, I'm sorry to say, is what Christianity promotes; conscious ignorance.

This demonstrates once again, how Christianity divides people.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There are wonderful Christian people out there. Indeed, in this particular debate, I met yet another and I'm glad that at least that one good thing arose out of it. It's not the people, it's the premise. I wholeheartedly believe people are inherently good, kind and tolerant. The premise of Christianity teaches them to judge, exclude and hate.

I hope one day to see Christianity abolished. Maybe the benign tenets will survive while the malignant ones are left to the pages of history books. And like the Holocaust we'll look back on it and wonder how such a thing could have happened. And we'll resolve not to let it happen again.

ADDENDUM: Interesting thing about this post: I shared this link on my FB feed as I usually do. And instead of the debate arising over the gay/sin thing, it became focused on my statement about abolishing Christianity. I got called a bully and accused of being as intolerant as the Christians I have criticized. So let me just say this, once again - My intolerance of your intolerance is not intolerance.






Monday, March 24, 2014

How To Not Suck At Getting Skinny

I want to share some tips about weight loss today, for two reasons.

First, I need to recommit myself to some of my healthy habits. I've maintained many, but a few I've let slip. And second, a sweet friend is beginning her journey and though I can't take the steps for her, I'd like to help her along in any small way I can. I won't tag her, she knows who she is.

C., I wish you all the very best and I want you to believe you can do this.
So here they are in no particular order:
1. Start small. You can't change everything overnight. Trying to do so will just make you pissy. And when you feel pissy, you do not make good choices. And when you do not make good choices, you regret it. You know what's at the bottom of that deep dark rabbit hole of regret? Cake.
2. Don't fling yourself to the bottom of the stairs. My perfectionism frustrated my Leader to death. I was good at being perfect...to a point. I could be perfect for days, sometimes even weeks on end. But eventually, because nobody can be perfect all the time, I would slip. And once I slipped, and the day wasn't perfect any more, it became a free for all. Finally she said to me..."Christina..look...if you were going down a flight of stairs, and you tripped and missed a few steps...would you then FLING yourself to the bottom?" For some reason that made sense to me. I still struggle with it, but I'm aware and I can fight the urge to fling. 
3. It's okay to do it because you want to wear skinny jeans.
4. It's okay to do it because you want to stop taking high blood pressure medicine.
5. It's okay to do it because you don't want to worry about what your ass looks like when you're bent over naked in front of your husband/significant other/booty call.
6. It's okay to take a break. Say you're best friend is getting married and you're the maid of honor. Eat the wedding cake, drink the champaign, and fuck the calories. Or the best man. The point is, have fun.
7. But don't let it last too long. Monday is not a magic day upon which you will suddenly find a wellspring of inspiration, motivation and willpower. Either is the day after your birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Summer Solstice, President's Day, Cinco De Mayo, Mardi Gras, Dragon Con, Comic Con or any of the related Cons. It's hard every day, so have your fun, and then move on.
8. Be honest with yourself. "Emotional eating" is often just girl code for idontgiveafuckitis. If you're eating a big honking Chimichanga smothered in guacamole and sour cream  because you want a big honking Chimichanga smothered in guacamole and sour cream....don't label it. Just own it and move on.
9. That said, know your triggers and avoid them. Look, it's pretty simple.... don't go to NutellaCon and then wonder why you gained five pounds that week.
10. Forgive yourself. Easy concept, difficult execution. You're not horrible person because you ate a carb. You ate a carb because they're fucking delicious and you're only human. Deal with it and move on.
11. Move your body. It sucks at first. But you will get stronger. And that doesn't suck at all. Being strong and feeling like you could outrun a Zombie and/or stave it's head in with one kick if the need ever arose....is the antithesis of suck. Seriously, this is what I tell myself when I just don't want to move. "Christina, You do NOT want to be the weak one they try to separate from the herd."
12. But don't try to run a mile the first day. Don't try to run the first day. Don't do anything that will cause onlookers to take our their phones and then wait, poised and ready, should they need to dial 911. This happened to me. The first time I tried to walk a mile, I ended up red faced, sweating profusely, gasping like a fish out of water, and periodically shaking my fist at the sky. People were disconcerted. Start small, progress slowly, and don't disconcert people.
13. Find something you love. You're not going to walk five miles on the treadmill every single day if it makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel. Do something that makes you feel like you want to get laid afterwards.
12. Don't look at this as a means to an end. It's not. This is a lifestyle change. You don't do this until you're skinny and then go back to gorging yourself on all the shit that got you fat in the first place. You know what that gets you? Fat plus ten.
13. Realize this will change you. Not just your body, but your mind as well. Weight loss is not just about getting smaller, it's about getting bigger too. You learn many truths about yourself; some beautiful and affirming, some ugly and unsettling. Both will help you grow as you shrink.
I think that's it. I hope it helps. Pass it on if you like.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

An Unfortunate Harvest

I'm working at ladies' retail clothing store these days. It was just to earn a little extra cash and give me something to do while I figure out what I want to do.

I was dreading it, truth be told. I've worked retail many times off and on throughout my life. I always found it absolutely torturous; long hours, low pay, and mindless work. To my surprise, I actually enjoy this job. Yes, my feet usually hurt like nobody's business after a shift, but in the smaller setting with more upscale merchandise, and thus, a slightly more upscale customer, it's not quite as mind numbing.

Of course I run into rude people now and then. That's true of every job. And occasionally, someone pees in a dressing room or leaves a soiled sanitary napkin. But as a Mom, I'm pretty hardened to that sort of thing. When the pee incident happened, my co-workers all shrieked with dismay when I got down on my hands and knees to sniff the suspicious looking puddle on the dressing room floor. But when a child has puked into your bare hands, a little pee seems fairly harmless.

Those instances are fairly rare. Most of the time, I have a good time putting outfits together for my clients and we chat about lots of interesting stuff. Several days ago a woman came in looking haggard and frazzled. I asked her if I could help her and she declined. But after a while she confessed she had to attend a funeral but couldn't even think what she might need. She was catching a plane in just a few hours. I put together two outfits for her complete with accessories. She bought everything I suggested and thanked me profusely as she paid. It was a small thing, but I was glad I could help her in some way. I'm not giving anybody a new heart or even helping them lose weight...but it isn't always a meaningless job.

So as I said, I meet some interesting folks. There is one lady who comes in often. She's short, blonde, and quite plump. She is very friendly and outgoing. Our store does not really make clothing for a woman of her size, but she always takes an armload into the dressing room. Often, she buys only jewelry, because, as she said, "It always fits." She's a very nice lady and we often chat for several minutes after business is concluded and she has her packages in hand. I had the niggling feeling that I knew her from somewhere. Most likely, it was Weight Watchers, but it's a delicate thing to broach with someone. It's not like asking them if you might know them from Pee Wee Soccer.

Yesterday, as I was helping her in the dressing room, I finally said..."I feel like I know you from somewhere besides here. Have we met somewhere else?" She cocked her head like a little blonde bird, and said, "Maybe. Where do you go to church?"

In the past I would have lied. I would have said, "Well, we're between churches right now" or "We don't currently have a home church." This often backfired spectacularly as it resulted in emphatic and sometimes relentless invitations to try their church. For this reason and many others, I have resolved to be honest when people ask me questions about my spirituality. So I was. I said, "I don't go to church."

I could see it in her eyes. They remained open, but something in them closed. Her face, though it remained impassible, lost some of the friendly animation I was used to. She opened her mouth but nothing came out. I know she weighing the possibility of asking me...WHY? When the first question someone asks you in such a situation is where you go to church, it's a good bet that they spend a great deal of time at church and doing church related activities. This gal was no casual Christian.

"Well....." she said slowly, "My kids go to Mr. Paran."  (local Christian school)

"Mhmmm" I said.

"I work in the administration office there."

"Mmmhmm." I said again.

She stopped talking and just looked at me.

"So maybe just the grocery store then." I said.

"Yeah, probably." she said.

Then she turned her back on me and walked off. She did not wait for me to follow her to the cash register as she usually did. There was no superfluous chit chat at the door once the transaction was complete. She simply paid and left.

I know what you're thinking. That means nothing! Maybe she suddenly realized she left the iron on. Maybe she had a vision that someone she loved was about to walk in front of a train. Maybe she had to fart.

It wasn't any of those things. Bigotry isn't always ostentatious. In fact I think that most often, bigotry is very subtle. So subtle that most people would say..."Well that doesn't mean anything! There could be a million reason for that!  And there could. But there aren't. As someone who has been on the receiving end of such more times than I can count, I assure you, I know when I am being judged and I know when someone has deemed me unworthy, even if their personal mores prevent them from pointing an accusing finger at me and shouting "HERETIC! BLASPHEMER!"

It made me a little sad, but I'm used to it. And what I've come to realize is that it's not her fault. Somebody taught her that I am less. When she was just a small and impressionable child, someone planted that seed and then cultivated it for years upon years, until it was as much a part of her as her love of the color blue or her fondness for chocolate.

It isn't a conscious thing, this judgment. I don't think most judgment is. None of us want to be judgmental, do we? And yet we are, because of seeds sown in our own gardens. I judge people who don't use proper grammar and are poor spellers. Why? Because my mother was very adamant that we, her three girls, speak and write well. Her indoctrination of us was purposeful and quite ruthless. So I can't not judge, though I do try.

So I will still give her the best customer service I can. I will still be unreservedly friendly to her...IF she continues to seek me out. But she won't. How do I know?

I'm an Atheist living in the Bible Belt. That's how.






Friday, March 14, 2014

FAT

Nothing profound or heavy in this post, but what I have to say today is too long for Facebook and the collective ADD that reigns there. And I do think what I have to say is important, because obesity in our country has become epidemic and so many people are at a loss as to how to fix it. So I'm putting it here.

Before: 232.4 lbs.
Some of you know I became a Weight Watchers leader in 2011. I left their employ in January 2014, for many reason that I won't go into here. BUT...since then, I've been experimenting with my diet a little. Weight Watchers, although they do put a lot of emphasis on fruits and vegetables and whole foods,  is very focused on low fat. I can't argue with the results...I lost 75lbs.

BUT, sadly, it's no longer working for me and keeping the weight off has been a real struggle. Thirteen pounds appeared without explanation and I could not get it off. I was on weight probation constantly. That's one of the reasons I tendered my resignation. I found myself falling into some extreme behaviors in order to stay within the two pound range stipulated by my employment contract. I actually became concerned that those behaviors could develop into a full blown eating disorder.

So I've been focusing on putting GOOD fats back into my diet, and focusing on cutting out sugar. Also, I've decided to stop using food substitutes and diet products. For example, I no longer buy processed protein bars and smoothies, which I once relied upon heavily. Instead I eat nuts or cheese or a hard boiled egg. To get good fats into my diet, I've been eating avocados, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, eggs, seeds, beans, and full fat dairy products. I did away with the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" and started using...ACTUAL BUTTER again.

All of those things were high in points on the Weight Watchers plan, and thus, people avoided them. People were eschewing healthy, delicious, vitamin and anti-oxidant packed foods in favor of low fat food facsimiles!! That was a problem for me. And there we have another reason I decided to leave my job, much as I loved it. My evolving personal philosophy about food and nutrition was no longer in line with theirs.

So anyway, when I made the shift, I won't lie...it was scary. We've been indoctrinated with the idea that ALL fat is bad, but interestingly enough, obesity rates started to rise about the same time that the low fat craze hit. I don't think it's a coincidence. I do think we should have noticed long before obesity became such a pervasive and widespread problem. Fat is not the enemy. Sugar is. And it took almost five years for me to realize that not eating fat was entirely counterproductive to my goals.

Now that I am eating fat again, I see the results in a number of ways. Is the weight falling off of me? No. I'm no longer extremely obese, so the losses will never be huge for me. But I am losing. I am MUCH more satisfied after my meals and I do not feel the need to snack as much. I'm not constantly thinking about food. And when the hunger does hit, it's just a little niggling. Not the sudden and terrifying plunger into devastating hunger wherein I would commit homicide for a hamburger. Do you know that feeling? I get it when I eat a bagel or a bowl of cereal. An hour later, I would mug a little old lady if she had a steak in her purse. Why? Because of the metabolic response to sugar; the spike, the crash, the murderous hunger. So the fact that I no longer experience that on a daily basis is pretty significant. And believe it or not, the difference in my hair and skin is pretty remarkable. I think I look younger. I know that sounds weird, but I don't think I'm imagining it.

This healthy lifestyle thing has been such an evolution in thinking for me. I had absolutely no idea how to eat healthy when I started. I thought I was giving my family healthy balanced meals because I was providing a vegetable, a starch and a protein. Never mind that they were highly processed, loaded with chemicals and sodium and swimming in butter, gravy or sauce (sometimes all three), and usually served with an abundance of bread or rolls on the side. And when I did wake up and realize I had to change my ways, it became all about low fat, low sugar, convenient diet foods and food substitutes. Because that's what I was being taught, not just by Weight Watchers, but the media, the food industry, even doctors and nutritionists!

I really do think our food is killing us and making us fat. The additives and chemicals are completely circumventing our bodies' natural metabolic processes and causing us to get fatter and fatter even though we think we're eating healthy. When people say they don't understand why they are getting fat, it isn't denial or excuse making. They really are mystified. I am not a nutritionist, but I think I know now more than most people about how to eat healthy. And I found a lot of that information on my own, with a little guidance. It can be done.

AFTER: Certified Zumba Instructor
It's hard to know where to start sometimes. But just start. Five years ago, I thought Hamburger Helper, canned green beans and yeast rolls was a healthy well balanced dinner. I'm a little chagrined to admit how much Hamburger Helper we ate. Now and again, I buy a box, just for a treat. You can't deny that it tastes damned good!! But it's an indulgence now, not a staple. And now, I no longer break into a cold sweat at the thought of exceeding my daily allotment of fat and/or calories (reason number three I quit Weight Watchers).

If I'm being completely honest, it's not just about nutrition. I like being able to slip into a pair of jeans or a short skirt and not worry about sucking in my gut. I like wearing a clingy t-shirt without worrying that my muffin top and back fat are on display. I like walking past a shop window and not being horrified by my reflection. I like looking good. I like feeling strong. I like the whole ball of wax and I am determined to keep it.

So the fat (in my diet) stays. Who knew?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Mother's Judgment

From the moment that warm, squirmy, astoundingly solid yet incredibly fragile little body leaves our own, we start to judge ourselves, don't we?

It starts with our feeding choice. Forget what feels natural, comfortable, easy. It's all about what's currently in fashion and what the books and "experts" say we should do. And if we can't do it, we judge ourselves to be less. Less fit. Less knowledgeable. Less strong.

And from there it just snowballs into a huge conglomeration of should haves and if onlys.

Here's what you need to know: we can do everything right or we can do everything wrong. But where our children end up is largely a matter of chance, circumstance and psychology.

I never thought I was the perfect mother. No sir. I was just as good (or bad) at judging myself as any other woman. And more often than not, I found myself not measuring up. But I did do some things as a mother that I was proud of. Shall I list them for you? Because truthfully, I could really benefit from that as well. So...


  1. I mastered breastfeeding.
  2. I became a stay at home Mom. For seventeen years.
  3. I gave my children a stable two parent family to grow up in.
  4. I made sure we had a family dinner every night.
  5. I was room Mom, PTA Mom, Team Mom.
  6. I made sure my children had extracurricular interests and activities.
  7. I limited screen time and insisted they move their bodies every day.
  8. I made them do their own laundry, clean their own bathroom and look after the family pets.
  9. I talked to them openly and honestly about sexuality. (THAT ONE WAS THE HARDEST)
  10. I made them get jobs when they were old enough.
  11. I researched their respective disorders (one ADD and Anxiety, one Asperger's and a bunch of other stuff) exhaustively.
  12. I made sure they had medicine and therapy.
  13. I went to battle with teachers and administrators. I became "that" Mom.
  14. I taught them to think for themselves.
  15. I taught them to question everything.
  16. I taught them to view differences as a reason to embrace, not reject.
  17. I taught them to respect all people because of our shared humanity.
  18. I laid awake more nights than I can possibly number worrying about every little decision I  had to make on their behalf and how to turn them into functional, successful, happy adults.
  19. I still do.
  20. Edited, because I thought of one more: I quit smoking so my children wouldn't have to be afraid every day that I was going to die. 

That looks damned good on paper doesn't it? I'm fucking Super Mom on paper.

Except that I don't feel like Super Mom.

I remember when my oldest child was born. He was six weeks premature. My water broke suddenly and there was nothing to do but prepare for his arrival. The neonatal team was standing by, ready to administer life saving measures to my tiny baby. But they were quite pleased with his size; a whopping 5 lbs. 14 oz. To me he looked very much like a little chick freshly hatched. However, he gave a lusty yell as soon as he was clear of the birth canal and pinked up the instant that yell faded into a confused squawk. They put him to my breast and he latched on with startling strength. The neonatal team exited the room with little fanfare; glad, I'm sure, not to be needed.

When we left the hospital, they warned me that because he had very little body fat, he needed to be kept warm. Keep him covered and next to my skin whenever possible. AND, he needed to nurse every two hours for at least ten minutes WITHOUT FAIL, to lay down the fat stores he needed to be able to regulate his own body temperature and to begin to grow and thrive. Many babies lose as much as a pound of birth weight. My baby, they warned, could ill afford to do so.

I went home relieved, but absolutely terrified. I was responsible for keeping this tiny little creature alive. Who decided THAT was a good idea?

I did as I was told. I fed him every two hours. I shook him, clapped my hands, played raucous music, and when all else failed, blew in his face or wiped it with a cold washcloth to get him to stay awake long enough to nurse for the requisite ten minutes. He would wake with a start that broke my heart just a little, but then begin to tug again, tentatively at first and then with vigor as the milk let down and filled his mouth to overflowing. I spent the time between feedings not sleeping, but obsessing over and devising new ways to keep him alert and awake while nursing.

At his two week check up the nurse announced, with surprise, that not only had he not lost any weight, he had gained fully two pounds. And while he certainly wasn't cherubic looking, he had lost that hatchling look and was beginning to fill out nicely.

I DID THAT.

You'd have thought I cured cancer. I felt very self-satisfied indeed. I felt like I had done something very, very important. I walked out of there thinking I had this mothering thing figured out. All it takes is a little ingenuity, a little effort, and a lot of faith in yourself. Yeah. I can DO this.

THAT day, I felt like Super Mom.

I was pretty good at the baby thing. I really DUG the baby thing, yannow? But they don't stay babies for long and the problems get exponentially more difficult to solve. I look back on those day now with envy. How I would love to be able to solve everything with a kiss, a boob, a clean diaper, a story, a car or a cookie.

Once that's gone, the Super Mom moments are much fewer and farther between.

But I did my best. We did our best. We tried to make good decisions. We tried to do the right things. We discussed and agonized and researched. We tried SO fucking hard.

But you know what? My incredibly smart kid, my infinitely capable kid, my handsome kid, my charming, funny, witty and big hearted kid...

He still failed.

And I won't lie. That feels like my fault. Is it really? I don't know. But it doesn't really matter. If every parenting expert in the world told me it wasn't, it still would be. We take that on, we Moms. We don't even realize it, but we do. Our kids' successes and failures are our successes and failures, whether we want them to be or not. And let me tell you, I really don't want to be responsible for the mess my son has made of his life.

I'm learning to let go of some of that responsibility, but it's hard.

And I've had to do a thing that goes against everything I know as a Mother. I've had to do a thing that I know is right, but feels so profoundly wrong.

I've had to let go, turn away, and turn him out.

It is WRENCHING folks. Nothing can prepare you for how deeply it cuts. The wound is bloody and ragged and unlike the rending of my body when he was born....this wound does not heal.

I watched him go and I thought of those long lonely hours alone with him at my breast. And I wondered how I was still standing there whole, rather than lying shattered in pieces on the floor.

Once, I thought that watching my infant be hurt by a doctor with a needle and enduring his wails and his look of utter betrayal was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I was wrong. Letting him fail without stepping in to fix it is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Even though I know it's right and I know it has to happen in order for him to figure out how to pick himself up, dust himself off and move on.

Why am I writing this now? Well, as many of you know, because I've stated it often enough...writing is therapy for me. Now we are taking baby steps towards resolution and healing, and I'm very much afraid of it getting all mucked up again. So I write. But I also write because I want you to know....

We can do everything right and still things go wrong. We have to let their failures be their failures, and likewise, their victories and successes be their own. We have to realize that autonomy means their responsibility and their accountability. Not ours. Disappointment isn't fatal. You'll both survive it and maybe even grow and learn from it. But you have to acknowledge it. You have to know that it's okay. It's normal. It's human. Anybody who tells you they've never been disappointed in their child is full of baloney.

So we're learning to let go and let him own his mistakes and failures. We're learning not to extend a lifeline, every time the going gets a little hairy. We're learning to let life happen to him.

It sure was a hell of a lot easier to whip out a breast. Slap a Spongebob bandaid on it. Feed him a cookie.

God I want that back.






Friday, February 28, 2014

Resurrection

I'm going to start posting here again. It's not going to be anything really profound, I'm afraid. Really and truly, this is going to be my own personal Facebook. I think I'll call it...Stupid Book. Um, perhaps not. I'll come back to that.

But here's the thing, and I've said this thing all along...unless every single person on your friends list thinks, feels and believes all the same things, then you are bound to offend somebody, somehow, someway if you post about controversial topics, regardless of the care or tact you put into expressing those thoughts.

When I first came to Facebook, reluctantly, I never dreamed of posting inflammatory political or religious or social content. To me, Facebook seemed like the internet equivalent of a cocktail party; fun, light conversation, nothing too deep or thought provoking, nothing too personal, nothing to send one careening down that slippery slope of inappropriateness with all the other social pariahs. Just chit chat. Superficial? Yes. Deeply satisfying? No. But for me that wasn't really the point of Facebook. Being so far away from most of my friends and family, it was a really brilliant way to stay in touch, make new friends and find like minded folks. Which I have.

But apparently, not everyone felt the same about what was appropriate Facebook fodder, and soon my feed was inundated with derogatory posts about a President I voted for and believed in, posts about how my lack of faith made my life hopeless, immoral and not worth living, and posts about pretty much every single life choice I had ever made was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. At first, I wasn't so much angry as puzzled. Why do people seize any and all opportunities to pander their own personal or spiritual agenda? Why can't it just be fun and light?

I didn't know why and I didn't know how to avoid or solve it, so I just lived with it.

But here's the thing about just "living with it". After a while, it begins to stick in your craw. You really try to take the moral high ground, but it begins to be a very lonely and pretty angry place You begin to feel seduced by the "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" mentality. You want to fight back. Prove a point. Take a stand. So you do. So I did.

It hasn't gone well. I will even go so far as to say...it was wrong of me. I proved no point. I fostered no understanding. I brokered no peace. If I did, it was lost amid the more spectacular and deafening clash of divergent ideals. The moral high ground might be a barren wasteland of human contact, but it's a lot quieter. And a lot less bloody.

I have found over the last five years, that Facebook either moves me to tears or makes me tremble with rage. And some days both. Some days, it has truly made me despair for the future of humankind. Some days, it has made we weep at the sheer beauty, grace and kindness generosity of our race.

I can't take that kind of emotional roller coaster ride, folks. My real life is tumultuous enough. I don't need that in my virtual life as well.

But still...I do think it's important to discuss our differences, hash out our disagreements and reflect on how to exist with one another in a world where diversity of thought, faith and race are fast becoming the cultural norm. I just don't think that a place where your great Uncle Herbert the Grand Dragon White Supremacist or your three times removed cousin Louise the Snake Handling Faith Healer or your Gay High School Math Teacher turned Transsexual Doomsday Prepper all swim about together in a vast bubbling cauldron of morality, philosophy and spirituality...is necessarily the most constructive place to do that.

I still have a lot of stuff swirling around in my mind and my way to dealing with that still is, and always will be, to set them down on paper, to exorcise them from psyche and then read them back until they begin to make sense. And let's face it, I'm just not the sit down and shut up type. I blame my mother for that. So although blogging isn't the trendy thing to do anymore, for me it's not (now) about fame or notoriety. I've just realized this blog is probably the best place for these words, these thoughts, these questions and these ruminations. Things were a lot better when I was here and I was anonymous. I can't re-anonymatize myself. But I can resolve that this blog is a better medium for the heavier, more controversial and potentially offensive stuff I might have to say.

So I would like to extend an apology to anyone and everyone that I offended pissed off, alienated, or insulted. I tried to be tactful and respectful, but what I know from my own perspective is that sometimes just expressing a thing is enough to make someone feel judged and disrespected and that even the most innocuous statements can harbor intentions that aren't really there when emotion are high and tempers are flaring. The reverse is true as well. I have taken offense when none was meant. It's hard, when no facial expression, no body language, no tone is present to help convey our thoughts and intentions.

I do think we accomplished some stuff in those bloody battles. You didn't change my mind and I didn't change yours. But you made me think. You really did.You continue to do so and you continue to give me the perspective that I need to understand you and everyone else in this world. I hope you can say the same about me.

I don't think we can live together and never acknowledge or remark  upon all the ways that we are different. Who would want to? I don't want to pretend that everybody is the same. I don't want everybody to BE the same. What a boring place this world would be if that were the case! What I want, and I feel that everybody wants, is just to be allowed to walk my own path without feeling the crushing pressure of your shoulds and ought to bes. I want to be judged by my actions rather than my demographic. I want to be respected as much for my differences as in spite of them.

But sadly, I'm not sure that is possible. So I'm reclaiming this space to rant, rave, rail and bemoan all the things that get under my skin. On Facebook? I'm gonna talk about recipes and post quotes and discuss books and movies. And makeup. Expect LOTS of makeup posts.

The End.