I’m Here! (And I brought along a “60 Minutes Australia” link)

I apologize for my absence. Clearly, I can’t blog and learn medical terminology, medical nutrition therapy, employment law, and the names of bacteria, viruses and tapeworms that cause food borne illnesses (which I can thank for my newly acquired hand washing compulsion) at the same time.
I feel like I’m in boot camp for the left-brain inept. Geez-oh-man… Summer offers no breaks, either. I just registered for five weeks of chemistry and lab and 10 weeks of algebra. And as if THAT won’t be enough fun, I’m registered for biochemistry and advanced algebra in the fall. Like my advisor said, “You know how to party.”

So if I’m not here much between now and winter break, I’m probably drooling in a corner somewhere begging to read Jane Austen.

Oh, I kid! Life’s not been all work and no “weigh.” My jeans are looser and my legs are stronger. I’m still committed to my food plan, exercise, meditation, and the people who keep me sane.

Here’s a bit of a summary:

Daughter Carlene and Boyfriend Ben got engaged! (No, it’s not a shotgun wedding. Carlene’s holding baby Mae in that picture.) Wedding date TBD, but next April seems likely.

Grandbaby Mae rode in my Jeep for the first time since being able to legally sit facing forward.
My stepson Andrew moved into his dorm. He’s studying filmmaking at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. It’s good to have the boy so close.

Claire helped.

Andrew’s brain food. When he was younger, we called him “Cereal Boy.”

I ate at bd’s Mongolian Grill with BF and his son a few weeks ago for the first time. Yum!  

Got the bike in to the shop for a much needed tune up. I upgraded her seat and pack, too. Comfy seat means longer rides. Longer rides means I have to pack more stuff than just a cell phone and Kleenex.

I also went to see the Moody Blues with Larry (my ex-husband, for those of you who aren’t familiar with his name). Larry and I have seen the Moodies 9 times in 15 years, and it was at one of their concerts that I felt the weight of my 300 pounds more profoundly than ever before, and that feeling contributed to my decision to finally lose weight for the last time.

It was 2003. The Moodies were playing a concert in a casino in West Virginia. Larry and I checked into the hotel, played a few slots, had dinner, and then about an hour before the show, went to the lobby to wait for the shuttle that would take us to the concert venue. A few other concert goers began to gather, too, when Larry nudged me and whispered, “Look to your left.”

Standing next to me was Moody’s front man Justin Hayward, whose music is the soundtrack of my life. I don’t remember a time I didn’t know “Nights In White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” or “Question.” When I need to remember to believe in myself, I listen to “The Voice.” And the song “Forever Autumn”… Gets me every time.
Justin’s shoulder was no further than a foot from mine. I wanted to say hello and to thank him for the gift his music had been to my life. Then I remembered I had  57-inch hips and I said nothing. 
At the concert, I sat in the second row, regretting all the choices that had brought me to such disappointment in myself. Disappointment not only in my size, but disappointment for feeling so unworthy as to not thank someone who’d contributed such depth of feeling to my life. 
I recall that unworthiness every time I see the Moody Blues, and each time, I vow that if I ever stand next to Justin Hayward again, I will tell him – no matter what I look like – “Thank you.”
My former body and the me who occupied it continue to be the source of my determination. I would dishonor she who was me by giving up the fight, because she is the one who thought enough about herself to start that march down the scale. 
David Ballment, Richard Malone, me, Howard Sacre, Liam Bartlett

Which leads me to the “60 Minutes Australia” piece I participated in. It aired last weekend and I just now had the courage to watch it. I’m OK with my part in it, but what surprised me was the almost defeatist attitude of the Australian researcher, Professor Joe Proietto. (Liam Bartlett is the “60 Minutes” correspondent.)

LIAM BARTLETT: So if we’re not completely obsessive, we’re just leading a normal life, we’ll probably put the weight back on?
JOE: Yep, yep. And that certainly explains the experience of all of us who treat obesity – that it’s a difficult thing. Not so much to get the weight off but the failure rate after a few years is very, very high. 
Thank goodness for, Dr. Rena Wing from Brown University, one of the researchers at the Weight Control Registry, of which I and many maintainers are a part.  
RENA: The Melbourne study was a very small study and I think that’s a very pessimistic message for viewers and listeners to hear because we know that many people are able to be successful at weight loss and so…
LIAM BARTLETT: It may be pessimistic but is it reality?
RENA: Ah, I don’t think it is. On average they’ve lost about 30 kilograms and they’ve kept it off about six years. One of the interesting things is that they report that they have tried many times before to lose weight unsuccessfully but this time they got it right okay.
LIAM BARTLETT: So what was the difference?
RENA: What they say is “this time I was more committed to behaviour change and this time physical activity was a bigger part of my regimen than it was in other approaches.”
I’ll shut up now and let you read the transcript or watch the piece yourself. I’d like to hear what YOU have to say about it. 
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My New Year’s Interview with "Today Show" Nutritionist Joy Bauer

Before we get to the meat (or tofu since I’m a vegetarian) of my interview with nutritionist Joy Bauer, I want to mention that I was not paid nor do I receive compensation for my participation in Joy’s book, “Your Inner Skinny: Four Steps to Thin Forever” (previously published as “Joy’s LIFE Diet”). I simply believe in Joy’s message. Her commitment to and passion for teaching and supporting healthy food choices and good nutrition is – in a word – infectious. The minute I met her, I knew I’d met a kindred spirit.

Joy Bauer is the nutrition expert for the “Today Show” and founder of the Joy Fit Club, of which yours truly is now a member. Joy is also the nutritionist for the New York City Ballet, author of several bestselling books and a contributing editor to Parade magazine.
Even if you’re already following a weight-loss plan or are maintaining your weight, “Your Inner Skinny” is full of no-nonsense nutritional advice, recipes, and – my favorite – real-life success stories that can inspire you, especially after the glow of starting a diet has waned. I’m honored to be one of those success stories, but mine isn’t the one I read when I’m not feeling the maintenance love. I read the lessons learned and words of wisdom from folks like Veolia, who lost 252 pounds; Howard, who lost 219 pounds; and Mary, who lost 177 pounds and says this about maintenance: “Once you get to your goal weight…you can’t revert to what you did before. It’s not a free pass…it’s a gift. No one can take it away, but you can choose to give it up and put weight back on.”
Ah…choice. That’s what it all boils down to. What we put in our mouths is always a choice. Cake doesn’t leap into our mouths. Fattening sauces don’t sneak out of nowhere and slather themselves on our pastas. So “choice” is how I decided to start this interview.
Lynn: So glad to have you on my blog, Joy!
Joy: Hi Lynn! I’m honored to be here! I love your blog. It’s the perfect blend of wisdom, humor, and fun. You are an incredibly talented writer and one true inspiration. Thanks for sharing your life (and the trials and tribulations of weight maintenance) with all of us.
Lynn: I love this quote from your book: “Maintaining weight loss is about understanding the power of choice…(T)he commitment to maintenance and good health has to be as strong as the commitment to shed pounds. Stronger, even!”
So what is it about maintenance that either trips people up or emboldens them to be even more determined? Do you counsel people at the beginning of their journey that they need to rethink their entire way of eating now and in the future?
Joy: Yes!! In my experience, it’s so hard for people to adopt that mentality of permanence – that, in order to lose weight and keep it off, you have to make a lifelong commitment to eating healthy.
People like to view a diet as a short-term deviation from their “normal” eating habits, because then there’s always the promise of returning to all the junk food, take-out, and restaurant food that they know and love. But we all know this strategy never works. Successful maintainers are those who develop a completely new outlook on healthy eating, and adopt it as part of their everyday routine. So many of my Joy Fit Club members and personal clients tell me that they’ve grown to love the crisp, fresh, clean taste of fruits and vegetables, and actually prefer the taste to the heavy, salty, fatty food of their “before” days. And although it’s perfectly normal to crave fattening fare from time to time (let’s face it, we all do), the payoff we receive from fighting that urge and not eating junk on a regular basis is well worth the fight!
Lynn: In my experience, “It takes a village” to lose weight. We need role models whose eating and exercise habits we aspire to emulate. The weight-loss successes you feature in your book are extraordinary, and yet their stories reflect the stories of everyone who deals with weight issues.
Joy: I agree 100 percent. Research and personal experience has shown me over and over again that having a strong support system in place (whether its friends, family members, co-workers, or an online community) is crucial to weight loss success. These people don’t necessarily have to be health role models; they can simply be supportive people, generally speaking, who are there for you no matter what goal you’re working towards. Of course, they can also be people who are in the same boat as you and can help you creatively troubleshoot solutions to your biggest dieting challenges.
Reading others’ success stories can be incredibly motivating, especially if it’s a person whose story you can relate to (they come from a similar background or shared similar childhood experiences, for example). That’s why I love inducting new Joy Fit Club members each week. I feel like every time I share another person’s unique story, I reach another pocket of viewers at home who are watching, desperate for inspiration to make a change.
Lynn: We’ve all heard the statistic that 95 percent of people who lose weight gain some or all of it back within five years. While this stat has been proven to be not completely accurate, the odds are still pretty high that people who lose weight will gain some back. For someone starting a weight-loss program for the first or tenth time, this can be daunting.
Joy: Unfortunately, weight regain is a common problem. But you never know which time your weight loss efforts will finally “click” and you’ll finally understand and accept what you need to do to stay slim and fit forever. Just look at the Joy Fit Club members I’ve inducted over the years, nearly every one of them was a chronic yo-yo dieter who had tried and failed on dozens of diets in the past. Yet, for each one of them, something about their last attempt was different, and they finally found their weight loss groove and stayed there permanently.
At the start of the journey, it’s really hard to predict when people have found the resolve to stick with it for the long haul. Ultimately, I think it’s important to be losing weight for the right reasons if your want to make a permanent lifestyle change. You have to really want it, you need a significant and enduring source of motivation for finally losing the weight, like being around to see your grandkids grow up or preventing another heart attack. Superficial reasons like fitting into a dress for a special occasion or getting in shape for a beach vacation tend to work for the short-term (and they certainly serve their purpose), but they can also set you up for weight rebound. Once the event or vacation has passed, your inspiration is gone and you slip back into bad eating habits. I’m all for making short-term AND long-term goals.
Lynn: You’re fit and look great! I assume you practice what you preach?
Joy: Thank you!! It’s definitely something that I work at every day. And please know that I am not one of those “genetic lean machines”. In fact, after each one of my three pregnancies it felt as though I was left with 10 pounds of cement – had to fight like mad to get it off.
Currently, I walk on my treadmill most days a week for at least an hour. I’m a huge multi-tasker, so I use the treadmill time to catch up on emails, read new nutrition research briefs, or take conference calls. Lately, I’ve been increasing the amount of strength training I do as well. I aim for at least 20 minutes 3 days per week. And, of course, I make healthy food choices 95% of the time, but my soft spots are ice cream, red wine, and cookies (crunchy kind only!).
Lynn: I love many of the recipes in your book, particularly the Maple Dijon dressing, Thousand Island dressing, Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps, chocolate pudding, popcorn ideas, and cauliflower mashed potatoes. How do you create your recipes, and do you experiment on your family?
Joy: I personally love to cook! I am constantly experimenting in my kitchen and testing the results on my husband and three kids (plus their friends, extended family members and neighbors). I also work with talented chefs, often budding young culinary students in the New York City area. I give them specific guidelines when it comes to nutrition and ingredients, and they never fail to impress me with their creative and flavor-packed recipes.
I have a new cookbook coming out in April 2010 called “Slim & Scrumptious” and it’s filled with tons of recipes geared towards satisfying kids’ palates (as well as adults) with healthy, nutritious food. And yes, I tested every single recipe on my kids because they always give their honest opinion! Some of their favorites in the new book include Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Spicy Shrimp Jambalaya, and Double Chocolate Pancakes. There’s even a recipe called AJ’s Mac-n-Cheezy, named after and developed especially for my youngest daughter, Ayden Jane. It took me a dozen tries before I earned her 5-star rating! I am really excited about this new book.
Lynn: My granddaughter calls mac n’ cheese “doggies” because the pasta she likes best is shaped like dogs. I’ll definitely try AJ’s Mac-n-Cheezy “doggies” out on Claire. The Double Chocolate Pancakes, though? They’re all mine.
Joy: Claire will be in cheezy heaven! Promise! And I hope you love the pancakes. Any excuse to have chocolate for breakfast, right? You’ll have to let me know how they turn out.
Lynn: What projects are you working on for 2010?
Joy: At the moment, I am very excited about my paperback release “Your Inner Skinny” and my website, http://www.joybauer.com/. The website currently provides a comprehensive diet program for a small weekly charge, and a daily newsletter called “The Daily Plum.” However, in a few months, JoyBauer.com will be expanded to provide massive amounts of free nutrition content on everything from lowering cholesterol to managing migraines, arthritis, blood pressure, osteoporosis and much more. I am really looking forward to getting science-based nutrition information out there (for free!).
Lynn: I’ll put up a link here when it’s up and running.
So…you’re a nutrition expert, you help people get healthy, you work at 30 Rock several days a week, but I know you have a family and a life beyond all the grit and glitz. Care to share the “softer” side of Joy?
Joy: Definitely! There’s more to me than meets the eye…..and I bet you laugh out loud when you hear some of my out-of-the-box details.
A few JB fun facts:
I was in a rock band in both high school (called Eclipse) and college (called The Space Sharks). I played keyboards. Thankfully for our fans, I did not sing!!
I was a competitive gymnast from ages 11-18 and spent most waking hours in a gym.
I am only 5 feet tall and still praying for a growth spurt!
Lynn: Yes, I can attest to that. You make me feel tall at 5’5”!
Joy: I was a hostess, waitress, and even a hat check girl in multiple restaurants throughout high school and college. I was NOT very good (lousy tips validated this!)
While getting my graduate degree in nutrition from New York University, I was a personal trainer and aerobics instructor – all over town. This is how I managed to make enough money to support myself while I was going to grad school. My undergraduate degree from University of Maryland was in kinesiology (combo of anatomy and exercise physiology), so I had the appropriate credentials and loved every minute of it. Go Terps!
Favorite book: “A Fine Balance
Favorite movies: “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory” (original version), “The Godfather” (all of them), “Shawshank Redemption,” and “Thirteen Going on Thirty.”
Lynn: Oh…Thirteen Going on Thirty. I watched that movie when I was on vacation in the Adirondacks in 2004, just a few months before I decided to lose weight. I spent the week contemplating whether I wanted to stay the weight I was or lose it. I had to make a choice because I was so emotionally conflicted. That movie touched something in me, something that said, “You can change and yet still be, at your core, the same person you always were.” Fun movie, but very personal for me.
Joy: I completely understand what you mean. For me, the best part about “Thirteen Going On Thirty” is that the entire Bauer brood loves it. And believe me, it’s a feat to get all 5 of us on board wit the same flic!
And as far as my biggest food vices (because I know you’re going to ask about that!): hard/crunchy sugar cookies, ice cream, red wine, and frozen peanut M&Ms. I am also a true nut-a-holic – I love almonds, pistachios and cashews.
Lynn: So even Joy Bauer has food vices 🙂
Joy: Of course! I’ve always supported a 90/10 philosophy: make 90% of your food choices healthy and treat yourself the remaining 10% of the time.
Lynn: Thank you for spending time with me here on my blog. Best of luck to you with the book!
To win a signed copy of Joy’s book, write a comment or send me an email at lynnbering@verizon.net. I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
I hope this finds you all inspired for the new year and ready to begin or continue on the path to good health and nutrition. I meant what I said earlier, it takes a village to do this. I know you’ve all helped me more than you can ever know. My hope is that my blog helps you in some small way on your own journey.
Happy 2010, everyone!

My Awesome Friend Who Lost 410 Pounds Will Be On TLC on Sunday!

My friend David Smith was interviewed by Matt Lauer yesterday on The Today Show. I met David when we were on Oprah together in November 2007. His 410-pound weight-loss story almost (almost…) made me ruin my makeup before my own stage appearance. He’s a hard act to follow, let me tell you. (Here he’s sitting with Shari in the limo on the way to airport.)

David is one of the kindest, gentle people I’ve ever met, and his personal trainer, Chris Powell (in the photo with me) is as nice as he is gorgeous. His story will be chronicled tomorrow night (Sunday, July 12) on TLC. It is called “The 650-Pound Virgin.” Alas, I don’t have cable, so I’m hoping TLC will make this available online.

Tune in if you can, especially if you’re feeling down about your body image and skin issues. David gets it. You don’t lose 400 pounds without some skin issues. I hope you find his story as inspiring as I did.

CNN Comes To The Suburbs of Pittsburgh

One of the first things CNN cameraman Mark Biello did when he walked in my daughter’s house on Thursday was introduce himself to Sadie the dog (who barked and ran away) and to Moose the cat. Then he asked me if there was a milk or orange juice container in the refrigerator.

Being the good hostess I am, I asked him which he preferred and went to the cupboard for a glass.

“No,” he explained, “I need the plastic ring from the lid and about three feet of dental floss. Oh, and a knife or scissor.

Curious, I handed him the orange juice, dug out dental floss from my purse, and handed him a steak knife. He cut one side of the ring and then tied on the dental floss.

“I invented this when I was living in Germany. You want to cut the ring so their paw doesn’t get caught,” was all the explanation I got.

With a confident grin and hanging on to the other end of the dental floss, Mark flung the ring at the cat and began running around the house with Moose in hot pursuit.

CNN producer Chris Hrubesh stood in the kitchen with me, smiling, his arms crossed and casual. Chris looks a little like David Caruso. He’s Czech, I found out later, and he likes canolis. He’s two years younger than me and has covered stories all over the world, mostly the West Bank, Kuwait and Israel, where he witnessed a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. A few days before coming to Pittsburgh, both men were on the campaign trail in New Hampshire talking to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now they were in my daughter’s home in a Pittsburgh suburb interviewing me because I lost a few pounds and I work out. Not worldly stuff and hardly unique. Heck, it’s hardly even interesting. But they were there nonetheless, doing their job, or at least preparing to do their job. Mark was still running around with the cat.

Nothing about that moment in the kitchen was what I expected when I agreed to be part of CNN’s Fit Nation. I guess I really didn’t know what to expect, but a cameraman being chased around the house by a large orange tabby was definitely not part of my anticipation. I understand now that I was unwittingly being put at ease and it worked.

The hours that followed were filled with easy, thoughtful and comical conversation, and I gave the easiest interview to-date because Chris and Mark coax calm. I suspect they don’t hear “no” very often. Mark and Chris are smooth – not a devious, lying, get-a-girl-in-bed smooth – but intellectually smooth. They are experientially rich, but their experiences still fascinate themselves in almost a naïve way. I’ve met some interesting people in the last few months, but these two guys from CNN are by far the most fascinating.

Img_2696 After scoping out the best place to set up (and commenting on the Gumby cookie jar in the kitchen), Mark and Chris hauled in their equipment. Cassie was sitting on the couch, holding Claire, and we all talked about politics (or the record, they accurately predicted the outcome of the South Carolina primary), native foods and alcohol of various foreign countries, the blight of the British Empire, and the time Mark came to Clarion in the mid ‘80s for a friend’s wedding, a large Slovakian event with lots of vodka and potatoes and cabbage. As they set up, we discussed our love of Chris Farley. CNN Chris said his favorite Farley SNL character was Matt Foley, motivational speaker (“I live in a van down by the river!”). This led us to sing a few lines from Lunch Lady Land, too (“Sloppy joes, sloppy, sloppy joes…hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders…navy beans navy beans…”). Img_2697

While setting up a tall light next to my chair, Mark said “Sixteen years ago today I was filming the bombs dropping on Baghdad.”

I thought for a second. “Wait,” I said. “Wasn’t that 17 years ago?”

“Huh,” laughed Mark. “It’s 2008, isn’t it?”

Mark (a.k.a. Mad Dog) was one of a small group of CNN reporters who were in Baghdad covering Desert Storm in 1991. I remember that night vividly, watching CNN, scared, wondering when it would end. How astonishing to think that the man shooting the video that night in Baghdad was now turning his camera on little old me. Whether it’s fate or coincidence or quantum physics, the world was very small and very simple at that moment.

Mark and his colleagues’ experience was turned into an HBO film “Live From Baghdad” starring Michael Keaton, Helena Bonham Carter and Joshua Leonard, who played Mark. Mark was an advisor on the set during filming. It was fun, he said matter of factly. Then he told me about the time he had dinner with Saddam Hussein at his palace and how complicated eating was for the dictator because people were always trying to poison him. I wondered if Saddam had a cat and if Mark made it a plastic ring-dental floss toy. Then it hit me: I was two degrees of separation from Saddam Hussein. And I thought meeting Oprah was mind-blowing.

Mark and Chris were in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina. Chris reported from Slidell (click here to read a portion of his report) and Mark was in New Orleans where, as he was working, saved more than a dozen lives. He said it as though he does that kind of thing every day. (Click here to read an interview with Mark after the hurricane.)

When Chris first arrived at the house, he said the guy he interviewed the day before had lost more than 190 pounds and that he’d cried during the interview. I told Chris that nothing he said would make me cry. Weight loss made me happy. Then he found the photo of Cassie and me from the day she graduated from basic training in 2002. It was in a frame on the bookshelf. I started telling him how I weighed about 280 pounds and Cassie was 117 and how last Friday I put on the pants Cassie was wearing in the photo and they fit perfectly. I told him how hard that summer was, saying goodbye to Cassie, waiting weeks before she could call, and when she did, how we spent the entire five minutes crying, barely saying a word. I teared up. Chris smiled.

“I knew I could get you to cry,” he said.

I’m glad that wasn’t on tape.

During the actual interview, the phone rang once, Claire squawked for a second, but otherwise it was quiet. I looked at Chris the whole time, fighting my natural impulse to look away when someone looks me in the eyes for longer than a few seconds. A lot of what I said will not make it in to the actual segment, which will only be about 90 seconds long, but the experience of sorting out my answers to the questions he asked me was yet another exercise in understanding who I was at 300 pounds and who I am now.

When we were done with the interview, they filmed me walking up and down the stairs and walking the dog in the snow. Mark gained Sadie’s trust and he threw her Giggly-Wiggly ball over and over again. Chris and I stood by their van. That’s when he told me about Tel Aviv. He also told me how he collects the little bottles of shampoo and soap from the hotels he stays at and donates them to women’s shelters. I told you our conversation was varied.

As they packed up to leave, I noticed they used a particularly large case that they stuffed with most of the things that had been in the living room a few minutes before.

“It’s called the Widow Maker,” said Chris. I could see why. It weighs 80 pounds, and while it’s on wheels, it still needs to be lifted in and out of vehicles and up and down stairs. I said it’s probably a hernia maker, too. Chris said that was a concern for many of the guys who haul the Widow Maker around.

Img_2698_2 Mark gave Cassie and me CNN caps and Claire got a little News Hound stuffed dog. (That’s Mark with Sadie behind him.) They said they were going to Station Square that evening and Cassie recommended Bar Louis.

“Martinis, eh?” said Mark with a grin. Chris rolled his eyes and said he wanted to work out in the hotel gym first. We hugged goodbye and they said if we were ever in Atlanta that they’d give us a tour of the CNN empire.

I didn’t think to ask them why they do what they do. Is it the adventure? To seek truth? Most of the time they have no idea what they’ll encounter when they get wherever they’re going. I couldn’t work that way. I get hives just getting on an airplane, let alone knowing I might be blown up in some restaurant in Tel Aviv or a hotel in Baghdad.

Who knows? Maybe one day our paths will cross again and we’ll drink an Imp and an Iron and I’ll ask them why they do what they do. In the meantime, I have their email addresses and I’ll look for their names on the credits when I watch CNN and live vicariously through them.

Here’s a few photos of us. Mark’s the one with the camera and Chris is in the red shirt.

Img_2699   Img_2700

People, The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight – Part 2

So the Today Show segment was over, Natalie shook my hand, we chatted for a few seconds, and then Marnie, Galina (the senior editor of People who was on the segment, too), Andrea the makeup artist and I made our way through the windy underground tunnel to the Time building and the People Magazine offices where I’d be doing the shoot for Entertainment Tonight.

I felt like a kid following her mother. I had no idea where I was going or what was going to happen and so I just looked around and tried to take it all in (and keep up – New Yorkers walk so fast and I still had on those Oprah boots!). Sandwich shops and lots of people walking and talking on cell phones are about all I can remember. We went to the Time building’s security desk and they had to see an ID. I showed them my driver’s license. I had my old license, too, the one when I was 300 pounds, and I showed Marnie who showed it to the women at the security desk. I told them my DMV story and how I had to beg them to give me a new license before it expired because I was unable to cash a check anymore because the photo looked nothing like me and I almost couldn’t purchase a bottle of wine. Oh the horror!

I got a pass and we got in the elevator. We landed on the 20-something floor, I think, and Marnie led me to a conference room. Andrea had several faces to do that day, including a retouch for Galena and me, so she set up her wares on the conference table. We talked about her family home in Jamaica and menopause and dry skin. She bought me some Baked Lays from the vending machine because all I had was a 5 and no change. She told me about her career, too, and like Marnie, I think we would be friends if I lived in New Yorkand worked in that field. I’ll probably never see Andrea again, but what a joy to have known her for a moment.

The ET production guys were setting up in another room. Three other production people from I-don’t-know-where were in the conference room with Andrea and me waiting to set up their own shoot. One of the guys told me his grandparents were Slovak and lived in southern Pennsylvania and worked in the coal mines. He and his wife had also done Weight Watchers together a few years before. Lost some weight. He seemed happy.

I loved all the accents most of all. Everyone had that New York thing happening to varying degrees. I loved the diversity, too. Like Chicago, there are so many people living and working in Manhattan from other parts of the world, and it’s fun to talk to them and observe them. It’s good to remember that I’m only a small part of this vast world. It’s easy to forget that living in a small town.

The ET folks were ready for me and I walked into a studio-like room and sat in a director’s chair. There was a producer, a cameraman, a sound man and another man, a director, perhaps, who looked like Samuel L. Jackson and had a voice like Barry White. Oh my. The producer sat in a chair by the camera and interviewed me off camera. They were all very kind and cool and I was beginning to understand why everyone was like this, both at Today and ET. If I’m feeling nervous, I won’t give a good interview. If they keep the mood light and I’m distracted by laughter, I’m more relaxed and will give better face to the camera.

The sound guy attached my microphone and lightly put a cord with a piece of tape on it on my chest. He asked me to press it on to my shirt. I said, “You don’t want to do it?” I meant it only in terms of letting him know I wouldn’t prevent him from doing his job. He said, “Well, only if you want me to.” I said, “Well, it’s not like I haven’t had a few sound guys’ hands up my shirt more than once today,” referring to the Today Show. I didn’t mean it the way it came out, or maybe subconsciously I did, but everyone laughed even harder and Samuel L. Jackson said, in his delicious Barry White voice, “We may need to discuss that later!”

Because this made me laugh and I was relaxed, they got the interview they were looking for.

And with that, my media campaign was over. I was free to leave the building. Free to leave New York. It was about 11:15 and I called my friend Tracie, whom I’d never met in person and who works just a few blocks from where I was, and she said she’d meet me at my hotel and we’d have lunch.

Tracie and I met through Weight Watchers online, and then when we discovered we both love Glen Phillips, well, that sealed the BFF deal. (It was this blog – A Perfect Evening: A Date With My Daughter – that started it all.)

Tracie is one of the most confident people I’ve ever met. She’s bold and sassy and smart and down to earth. Busy as hell, but she keeps it together. Here we are in the little restaurant where I wolfed down a ginormous salad because the Baked Lays earlier just didn’t cut it. Tracylynnlunch 

Soon it was time to get back to the hotel because a car had been ordered to take me to the airport at 1:00. The car was already there when we walked up the street toward the hotel, so I went inside, got my luggage and Tracie and I said goodbye. Unlike Marnie and Andrea and Natalie and Laura and Galina and all the other folks I met that day, I will see Tracie again.

There’s more to this adventure. I promise a Part 3 later today or early tomorrow.

People, The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight – Part 1

It’s not every day my legs are described as “toothpicks” by a member of the morning show media, but it sure is flattering when it happens. I think I even giggled a little.

So Friday morning rolls around, I take a shower and throw on some hideous but warm clothes for the walk to NBC studios. I took the elevator to the hotel lobby to meet Lindsay, a Today producer, and while I was there, Courtney Dawson walked into the lobby to meet Lindsay, too (click on our photo to enlarge). Courtney is also in People magazine and is on the cover. It was nice to have a few minutes to talk before we left. Courtney is so warm and kind. If she was nervous about her appearance on the show, she didn’t show it. Courtneylindsaylynn

Lindsay picked us up a little before 8 and walked us over to Rockefeller Plaza. Al was finishing the weather (it was about 10 degrees) and walked in right behind us. I felt comfortable being there from the moment I walked in the building. No one made a fuss, everyone was laid back and nice, the security guards were friendly. The lobby, however, is very breezy and on a day like Friday it was hard to stay warm. In fact, much of the first floor of Rockefeller Plaza, as well as the tunnel connecting it to other buildings, is windy and cold. I guess that’s one reason why New Yorkers walks so fast.

In the “green room,” which is not green, were several guests waiting for their on-air spot. There was coffee, fruit, vegetables and pastries laid out and two large TV monitors on either side of the room. The green room has several comfortable couches in a part of the room where the lights are muted and soft. Further in the green room are three dressing rooms and three chairs for hair and makeup. The lights there are very bright. A woman, who I later learned was MSNBC’s legal analyst, was having her hair blown out and makeup applied quickly because she was going on in four minutes. That was the day the Britney drama hit the news and therefore some of the show’s original top stories were changed and new interviews brought in. It was a little chaotic.

Courtney and I were brought to a dressing room and we changed into our on-air clothes. We laughed and talked like old friends, comparing weight-loss battle scars (aka skin issues) and exercise regimens. After we changed, we stood outside our dressing room until the hair and makeup people were ready for us. I looked at the name on the hand-written tag on the dressing room next to us. I whispered, “Courtney, look who’s in the dressing room next to us.” She turned around and saw Bob Saget’s name and we smiled like little kids.

When it was clear, I sat in the hairstylist’s chair while Courtney climbed in the makeup chair. I wish I could remember the name of the guy who did my hair. He was a hoot. His regular job was at the David Letterman Show, but they needed help at Today that day so he filled in. I’m guessing the television industry is like a small town. Everyone seems to know everyone.

He asked if I wanted my hair blown out or left curly. You mean I get to decide for myself? Cool. Leave it curly, I told him.

Meanwhile, Bob Saget entered the room drinking coffee and talking to a producer. I didn’t realize how tall he is. Nice looking, too. Age has been kind to him. He took a seat next to me in makeup (Courtney was done) and just talked like any normal person. Soon my hair was done, Bob’s makeup was done, and it was my turn in the makeup chair.

I hate having eye makeup applied. Between the bright lights and mascara, I’m a near mess in the makeup chair (same thing happened at Oprah). It’s like chopping onions. My eyes water badly, but I can’t let tears roll down my face or it would ruin everything and we’d have to start all over. Edna was fast, though, and gave me a great tip on lip moisturizer, like a reward for my not smearing her artwork.

After that, I met Marnie from People Magazine’s public relations. We’d talked on the phone a few times, so it was fun to finally meet her. She’s very nice and down to earth. Not star struck or fake. She’s the kind of person I’d be friends with in real life.

Lindsay went over the script and assured us that the interview would be like having a conversation with a friend. All the questions were straight-forward, no surprises, but I was getting a little nervous (OK, a little more than a little nervous) and tried too hard to remember why I started to lose weight, when I started my website, why I started a website, all those things that are rote at any other time anyone asks.

While I’ve only been on television once, I’ve dubbed my temporary amnesia Television Head. It’s like a senior moment or brain fart, only it happens just before you go out on national television. I learned if I just tune everyone out and spend a moment clearing my head and simply remembering who I am – literally who I am as in my name and where I’m from – my memory comes back in full swing and I’m good to go. It’s like having to turn off your computer when it freezes and waiting 10 seconds before you turn it on again.

With my shit together, we were off to the studio. We waited at the large doorway leading in to the studio until the segment on American Gladiators was over. I think this was around 8:50 a.m. or so. Matt and Meredith were on the couch with the host of the revived series. Matt’s wife and son, Jack, were backstage, too. She’s gorgeous and Jack is adorable and seems like a really nice kid.

Courtney, Lindsay and I went into the studio during the break. It’s not a very big space, but it’s bright and cheery and it feels like you’re in someone’s living room, only with cameras everywhere and a huge crowd peering in the windows. Like the green room, it’s a laid back atmosphere but extremely well-organized. Things happened quickly, they have to on a morning show like that, but never did I feel rushed or made to feel in the way or not welcome. There was also no feeling of ego in the room. The director, the camera and sound guys, Meredith, Matt, Giada, and Natalie all interacted and worked together like a family.

My microphone was hooked up (the sound guy thankfully had warm hands), Lindsay showed me how I was to enter the set during my segment, and within a few minutes, I was chatting with Natalie Morales on live television. It really was like having a conversation with a friend, just as Lindsay said it would, especially when Natalie called my legs “toothpicks.” Cameras? What cameras? Crowd? What crowd? It was just me, my old size 30/32 pants with an embarrassing hole in the crotch, and a few people chatting about weight loss.

….to be continued

People Magazine + The Today Show = A Big To-Do List

Of all days to get a cold sore. The Today Show called this morning and I’m flying to New York tomorrow to be on the show Friday to promote the People magazine I’ll be in, which comes out Friday, too.

Thank god Shari had a cold sore last week. Wait, that didn’t come out right. I’m not glad she had a cold sore, but I am glad she discovered Releev. I went to the drug store and bought a teeny tiny bottle that set me back 20 bucks, but I think Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al are worth it.

I put out an email SOS to my friend, stylist extraordinaire Michael who dressed me for the Oprah show. Listen to me! “Dressed” me, like I’m “somebody.” But that’s what he did. What he really did, aside from the clothes, was give me confidence. And now he’s coaching me through this whole wardrobe thing for Today because they’re letting me wear my own clothes, of which I have none. Well, not “none” none, but nothing Today Show worthy. I tried to go shopping today, but I live in a small town with limited shopping options and the places I went to have lots of dresses in sizes that aren’t mine. There was, however, a skirt I tried on, a lined skirt, mind you (not a stretchy spandexy skirt, but one with no give) and it was a size 4. Fit like a glove. I bought it not because I think I’ll wear it on Today but because of the number on the tag. Yup. I’m vain that way.

I also put in a call to my friend Ashley, who is also my hairstylist, who got me in for a last-minute manicure. As she painted my nails we talked about roasted vegetables and shampoo and short hair and we laughed a little about how insane all this People and Oprah and Today Show and CNN (another story for another blog) feels and I walked out of the shop feeling happy and positive.

Anyway, I’m taking along some pants (leggings and jeans) and boots and dresses and my mini skirt and tights. It’s only a one-night stay yet I have to check a bag. I admit, though, that the best part of this trip will be the limo ride through Manhattan tomorrow evening. All the lights….mmmmm….and I don’t have to pay attention to traffic. I get to just sit back and look out the window.

And then in my hotel, I’ll order some food, turn down the lights, and stare out my window. Kind of dull, I know, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours before bedtime across the street from Rockefeller Plaza. I’ll write and think and maybe read a little. That’s heaven for a Zen bag lady.

I’ll be on the show during their 9 a.m. hour. I’ll be at the studio by 8 to get “camera ready.” This means heavy makeup again. That stuff really creeps out my skin. I’ll certainly be washing my face in a LaGuardia bathroom before my flight takes off.

Ten bucks says they straighten my hair for the segment. What do TV types have against curly hair? I’m going to ask the stylist that on Friday. I’m just curious.

OK, I’m rambling. So much is going on in my head. I have a to-do list a mile long. At the top of my list is Kiss Baby Claire Goodbye. She and her mom will be in Clarion tomorrow so I’ll get to see my girls before I leave. That makes me so happy.

To recap, the People Magazine Half Their Size issue hits the stands on Friday and I’ll be on Today sometime between 9 and 10 in the morning. I’m very excited about it actually. Losing weight isn’t easy. I don’t care if it’s 10 pounds or 300 pounds. It’s not easy. If someone reads this magazine, sees Today, reads my blog or the blogs of the people featured inside, and changes their eating habits, exercises just a little more, then it’s worth all the cold sore medicines, manicures, frantic emails and schlepping of clothes I may never wear on TV to Manhattan. As my friend Kristin would say, “//word.”

I’ll try to blog tomorrow night or early Friday. As always, thanks for reading.

My Post-Oprah Challenge

Finally watching the Oprah show last Wednesday was a relief. As I said in an earlier blog, I don’t remember much about the actual experience except that I hugged Bob Greene and Oprah and said something about my workout. In the three weeks between the taping and the airing, I was sure I’d stood on that stage stiff as a board and quiet.

Then I watched the show.

My first response: Where the hell did those legs come from and where did I get all those teeth?! I moved across the stage like I had the right to be there and that surprised and delighted me. My body didn’t let me down, my smile didn’t let me down, the person I am on the inside didn’t let me down. In fact, she came out just the way I wanted and I didn’t even try. The nervous me was in my head, but the confident me did the talking. Thank God.

Life post-Oprah continues to amaze me. I suspected a few people would write or call after seeing the show, but the response is more than I imagined. I’ve gotten hundreds of emails and phone calls and I’ve appreciated them all, especially the ones from long-lost friends and family members, and from strangers struggling with weight-loss issues. This has challenged me to think about how best to use this momentum to help people who face their own weight issues. More on that in a moment.

I love to be a part of anything that unites family and friends, brings them out of the woodwork, like reunions or even funerals. I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would be because I was on Oprah.

A few of my elapsed relationships that have been rekindled are with Teela in New Mexico, whom I’ve known since I was 5 and had no idea I was going to be on Oprah and happened to be watching it when I walked out on stage; Kayla in Texas, a good friend from high school, who confessed to reading my blogs but not writing as often as she’d like; Jason, my nephew in South Dakota, who shared with me his own weight-loss success: nearly 100 pounds lost; and Rhonda, a fellow flute player from junior high band who is now a doctor and living in Florida.

My mother got an email from her cousin Nora in Texas whom she hasn’t seen in years. Nora got an email about the show from another of Mom’s cousins and the chain reaction began. Mom was very happy to be reconnected with Nora and no doubt they will get reacquainted through email. Thanks, Oprah!

Then there are the strangers and online acquaintances who found me mostly through the Weight Watchers 100+ Pounds to Lose discussion board and my weight-loss website. They’ve shared with me their stories of weight gain and weight loss and many have told me that seeing me on Oprah helped them know that they can succeed, that it is possible to get to goal. Some have said that hearing my voice and seeing me “in person” helped them read the words on my website with more clarity because they now have a face to put with the words.

I’ve said all along that if my weight-loss story can inspire just one person to take control of their weight and fitness, then telling it in any way I can is worth it. I’m merely paying a debt. I’m paying back the people who encouraged me and helped me reach my own goals. If I’ve inspired someone to lose weight, it’s because I was inspired to lose weight by someone else who lost weight.

Losing weight, while a solitary physical act, does not have to take place in a vacuum. We all have questions, we all have doubts, we all have victories, both on and off the scale, that we want to celebrate with other people who “get it.” The people who inspired me also answered my questions, calmed my doubts, and celebrated with me. It’s my turn to do the same for others.

Thus the challenge.

I’ll be featured in People magazine’s Half Their Size special edition coming out at the end of this year or the first part of 2008 (click on the link to sample the last special edition). A writer at People found my weight-loss site through my host, Freewebs, and asked me if I’d be willing to share my story. They will focus on others, too, who have kept an online diary of their weight-loss.

Oprah was great, People will be fun, but I think it’s time for me to own my own story. I already told you how Oprah’s folks got parts of it wrong, and because I’m not writing the story for People, it will be filtered through another writer’s senses. I will probably write a book, which is all good and fine, but I am just one person. There are so many inspiring people out there who have so much wisdom and heartaches and successes to share.

I want to develop a space in which these stories can be heard, either in print, online, on radio, the television, whatever media outlet I can find. Why? Because 65 percent of our nation’s citizens is overweight. We’re suffering physically and emotionally and we’re dying younger. Our bodies need respect. And there are many people out there who can encourage us to respect and care for our bodies because they’ve been down the same road.

What are your thoughts? What recommendations do you have for creating a space of support? This is all new to me and I welcome your suggestions. You know how to reach me!

My Oprah Debut Will Be….

Wednesday, November 28! Here’s a YouTube preview: click here.

I’m a little excited about being part of Oprah “history.” Together the 21 of us lost 3000 pounds. Oh my.

Last night when I got the call about the air date, I got a little nervous. When I was in Chicago for the taping, I thought of it in just that way: it was a taping. I met some really fun people, had my hair done, tried on mad numbers of clothing, and then with a knot in my stomach, walked out on a stage in front of 300 people to show then that I had, indeed, lost a few pounds. That was doable. When did I forget that cameras were filming all of it and eventually a few million people were going to watch this show?

Ain’t reality grand?

I’m not going to stress about this any more. I’m going to watch the show with Shari, who went to Chicago with me, and I’ll sit on her couch with my hands over my eyes like I’m watching a horror movie, and peek out between my fingers once in awhile until I get comfortable seeing myself on screen.

I keep reminding myself of the reason I did this in the first place. If even one person decides to lose weight, exercise, take control of her life because she saw me on Oprah, it was worth it all.

Please let me know what you think of the show. There are so many amazing people on it. I can’t wait to watch it. I’ve completely forgotten what I said.

Chicago Thursday & Home

     Two days ago I was glammed up and shaking Oprah Winfrey’s hand. Today, I’m wearing leggings and a sweater and grocery shopping at WalMart. I love that about life. You just never know.

     Here’s what happened on Thursday. Shari and I packed our bags and went to the lobby to wait for our limo along with the other folks from the show. It was like the last day of summer camp when everyone stands around talking, exchanging email addresses, taking photos. Here’s a group shot with half our group and one of me with the hot Russian door man. Group Lynnrussian

The limos were an hour late, which turned out to be a good thing because it gave us all more time to swap stories. We were all a little nervous, too, unsure of how our moment in the spotlight would unfold.

The limos arrived and Shari and I shared a ride with four other people, one of whom was Michael the head stylist. Here’s a photo of Michael, Jahi and I (click on the photo to make it bigger). Michaellynnjahi I definitely had the best seat in the limo. Jahi lost a lot of weight and is now a competitive body builder. Michael saw me naked and still has a smile on his face.

At Harpo, the producers were in full “show mode.” I was led right to the makeup chairs where a very nice, very tall, thin, beautiful woman worked magic on my face. I managed to get some good makeup tips before I was handed off to the hair lady. She’d touched up my hair the day before so we were already BFF. She, too, worked magic and made my curly hair oh so straight. The producers wanted me glammed out which meant bangs in my eyes. I hate hair in my eyes. It itches and pokes my eyeballs, not to mention I can’t see much. But I was willing to sacrifice for Oprah.

When that was done, a few of us went to final rehearsal. There were a lot more people in the studio than were there the day before. Camera guys, sound people, directors everywhere. Kelly, Jahi and I were the second segment of the show. We quickly ran through rehearsal in our street clothes, but Kelly and I had on the shoes we’d be wearing. Nothing screams redneck quite like the crop sweats and t-shirt I was wearing with $200 suede boots.

After rehearsal, I went to the changing room where Michael helped me get dressed. I thought he was my friend until he and Lisa chose big gold hoop earrings as the accessory. My earlobes still haven’t forgiven me.

After I was dressed, PP&BFF went over the script with me. She told me, “Oprah might ask this question and so you might want to say this, but then, she might ask you something completely different and in that case you’re on your own.” Great. I could barely remember my name at that point, let alone the answer to a question I might get asked. I started pacing a little, memorizing the following: “I can tie my shoes, cross my legs, fit in airplane seats, I work out five to six days a week.” I figured if I could remember the highlights, I was good to go.

I went back to the dressing area to hang out with some of the other folks. Shari had been taken to the green room along with a few other friends, trainers and SOs that had accompanied other guests. I talked to Artie and Melissa and Cathi and Nancy. We were all in a zone, trying to deal with the unknown.

We were taping the show at 1:30. At 12:45, Kelly, Barbara, Mandy and I got called back to the stage. The director made a change. We weren’t going to walk out and sit between Bob Greene and Oprah. He decided it would be better if we stood there and chatted. Kelly was thrilled because she was sewn into a little green dress that had the possibility of showing the world a little too much Kelly. I was worried because I didn’t know what to do with my hands. At least when I’m sitting I can fold them in my lap. I’m a hand talker. I fling my hands everywhere when I’m talking. Dammmmit. I was so cool up til then.

After showing us our new marks, they whisked us off stage because the audience was starting to file in. They didn’t want them to see us. I started pacing again. The audio lady came over and hooked up my microphone on to my bra and wired it under my arm to the top of my shirt. As I said before, modesty gets you nowhere in television. I did a quick sound check and she left me to hook up another guest.

1:15. Time to get lined up. Kelly, Barbara, Mandy and I were brought to the hallway outside the back of the studio. Hair and makeup people kept walking by, fussing with our faces and hair. Then I heard a producer say, “Oprah’s walking.” She doesn’t want to see guests before the show because it interferes with the spontaneity of the meeting on stage. We were then led to the another part of the hall and watched the show on monitors. Nancy was first. Then David. I couldn’t listen to David’s story because it was so heartbreaking. I had tears in my eyes. The makeup artist saw me and whispered, “You can’t cry!” So I paced the floor and blocked out David’s voice.

A producer took Kelly and me backstage. I was nervous, but not overwhelmingly so. That surprised me. Lisa had told me to stand tall, like a string was pulling me up straight. I was tall and beautiful in that moment. Kelly went out on stage and did her thing. I got on my mark. They started my montage. I watched 10 seconds of it and had to look away. I heard my voice talking about how I felt when I was 300 pounds and I saw the photos of me and I got sad and I knew I couldn’t take that person out on stage with me. I had to be positive. I looked away. The guys behind stage kept looking at the monitor and then at me, their faces skewed in disbelief. Yes, I thought. That was me. This is me. We’re the same person inside, just not on the outside.

Then I heard Oprah say something like, “Come on out, Lynn, and show us what you look like now.”

And so I did. 

I walked out, the crowd clapped and cheered, I smiled and waved a little (at least I think I did) and then I hugged Bob Greene. Then there was Oprah. Oprah Winfrey. She shook my hand and gave me a hug and when I looked in her eyes, I was calm. She has the most soulful, calming eyes. I knew that anything I said up on stage, she would hear. I knew she was in the moment, not thinking about what she was going to do after the show. She was there. Right there. And I was able to answer her questions as though I were talking to her at my dining room table. Before I knew it, the segment ended and the director led me to my seat.

I did it. I let out a huge breath. Some women in the audience gave me smiles and thumbs up. A man behind me said I looked fabulous. Fabulous? I was just so happy to be sitting down and breathing again that I hadn’t thought about what I looked like up there. I can’t wait to see the actual show.

After the final interview, we were all called up on stage for the last segment. Standing there, looking out at the audience, I felt empowered. I thought, ‘I’ve lost a lot of weight. I really worked hard for this moment.’ While I didn’t lose weight for that moment, I finally appreciated and understood what I’d done the last (nearly) three years. 

Back in the production area, we were all relaxed and happy and so full of joy and energy. So were the producers. Adrenaline was everywhere. My flight home was changed since taping ran long and I was scheduled to fly out at 8:00 rather than 5:00. Shari and I shared a limo to the airport with David, his trainer Chris (see photo), Lynnchris Mandy, Barb, Donna, Mandy and a few of their friends. I didn’t care that it would take an hour to get to O’Hare. I wasn’t driving and I got more face time with some amazing people.

At the airport, we all said good bye. Shari’s flight didn’t leave until the next morning, so the driver took her to her hotel and I was alone at O’Hare. I repacked my bags, changed my clothes in the ladies room, and headed to the kiosk to get a boarding pass. A very nice woman from Ukraine helped me, but when she asked for my ID and I gave it to her, she looked concerned. Oh no! I thought. This makeover makes me look nothing like my ID! I explained to her that I’d just been on the Oprah show and, well, you’d think I’d just met Jesus himself. She was all about Oprah and we laughed and talked like we were old friends.

Then I went through security. I was prepared to be questioned and I was, but again, the guy thought my story was just outrageous enough to be true and let me through. It was smooth sailing from there.

My daughter picked me up at the airport and I stayed with her Thursday night so I could pick up Shari the next day. Friday morning, I washed out the straight hair, stuffed my curly hair into my new Oprah ball cap, and drove home. The French manicure is fading, but I still have a million memories and stories and new good friends.

I met Oprah Winfrey. I also met 20 other amazing people who walk a similar walk as me. I slayed dragons and took chances and am today not the same person who boarded that plane to Chicago on Monday.

I know this was long and I thank you for getting to the end of this blog. As I told you all last time, I couldn’t have done this without your support. Thank you so very much.

I know it’s not always easy, but don’t you just love the way life unfolds sometimes?