Rebuilding

Seven months ago today, my boyfriend Jim’s garage burned down, taking with it 70 percent of all he owned in the world.

Second only to the pain of personally losing something or someone we love is watching someone we care about lose something they love.

Conversely, the same is true when we witness their Phoenix moment, when they rise above the loss.

Some people – including me – wondered if Jim would sell his place and move away from the memory of that night in February. But he meant what he said when the fire still smoldered: “I’ll rebuild.”

I bought this bracelet yesterday:

When I saw it, it struck me that for awhile now I’ve been living in the future. “One day, when my knee doesn’t hurt anymore, I’ll ride a bike again.” “One day, when I say no to the white bread in a restaurant again, I’ll lose weight.” “One day, when I work out with hand weights again, my arms will have the definition they used to.” Envisioning an end goal without considering the journey is like Jim dreaming of one day having another barn. He can dream all he wants, but dreams don’t get things built.

Whether you’re rebuilding a barn or rebuilding your resolve to lose weight or start exercising…again…starting over takes a lot of courage. The work will take place in the shadow of what took away what you built in the first place. Will the same thing happen again?

Today, seven months after the fire, there is no sound more lovely than that of a backhoe hauling away ash and debris and digging a ditch for a water line. Soon enough, there will be a barn, of that I am certain. There could also be another fire, of which I’m not certain. But that’s the chance you take when you rebuild something you love.

Cooper inspects the site of the new barn.
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Boom. Done

My fortune cookie last week

I’m not a very good painter. (As in painter of walls and furniture.) I’ve had ambition to paint, but never enough to get me through an entire project, or at least, an entire project done well.

I can see the potential in a worn piece of furniture. I can imagine what a room would look like in a different color. But usually that’s where my motivation ends.

Until this week. This week, I did the one thing I never bothered doing before any other painting project:

I learned how.

My niece is moving in for the summer. I have a spare room and a spare bed, and instead of hauling her dresser out here from Minnesota, I told her I’d get one.

I looked at new dressers in my price range (read: cheap) and I was pretty sure if I bought one, we’d be making s’mores over the fire we’d make with it by the end of summer. So I sent out an email to friends and local family members to keep an eye out for a used dresser. Jim’s mom called and said a friend of hers was moving to Florida and was getting rid of all her furniture. Perfect! For $20, I got a 5-drawer 1950s-style chest of drawers, and man, was it ugly! BUT…I saw its potential. A little paint…

I can’t find the photo I took of the entire dresser, but you get some idea of its ugliness.

The blessing and curse of dating a carpenter is that I can’t fake my lack of carpentry knowledge. The blessing is that I can plead ignorance (or actually BE ignorant) when it comes to things I know I can’t or don’t want to do, like fix the exhaust fan in the bathroom. It’s a curse when I think I can do something and I screw it up.

In my mind, the dresser project was going to go this way: Pick a main color and an accent color, buy a brush, throw down a drip cloth and paint. Boom, done.

In Jim’s mind, the dresser project was going to go this way: Ask the guy at the paint store what he recommended I do to the dresser to get it ready for the paint. Sandpaper? What? Huh? Ask the guy at the paint store to recommend the right kind of primer. Primer? Ask the guy at the paint store to recommend the right kind of base paint. You mean there’s more than one kind? Buy a block of medium sandpaper. Buy a 4-inch roller and a couple of pads. Go home. Remove handles of the dresser. Scuff dresser. Prime dresser. Wait at least four hours. Those are the instructions where? On the can? Paint dresser. Wait another four hours. This will take forEVER! Paint dresser again. Next day (next day?), prepare area for accent color by taping the edges of the bevels. Paint accent color. Wait four hours. Paint accent color again. Dry overnight before reassembling. Boom, done.

Asking questions and painting things slowly and deliberately was new to me. Painting was supposed to be easy, something we all innately know how to do, right? Gee, hmm…maybe that’s why my painting projects never turn out the way I envisioned.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

The reason so many of us don’t lose weight or don’t keep it off is that we never took the time to learn how. It should be easy, right? You stop eating so much, you move around a little more. Boom. Done.

But it’s not that easy. There’s way more to it than that. And it starts by asking the right questions, both of ourselves and of others who know what they’re talking about.

However, knowledge only enhances ambition. You can be excited you bought the right paint, feel smart that you bought the right roller and pat yourself on the back for selecting the right drop cloth, but the dresser won’t paint itself.

Boom/done doesn’t happen in successful weight loss and maintenance. Success is an every day commitment to patience, ambition, and learning how.

I’m a day away from boom/done

 

Love Always Trumps Weight

Today is my 31st Mother’s Day, and it’s also 31 years since I first weighed 200 pounds. Kind of a strange two things to put together, but if you’re like me, you remember what you weighed at momentous points in your life.

I made my formal debut in the 200-pound zone when I stepped on a scale in the labor and delivery ward of Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on March 10, 1983. I made my husband Bruce stay in the labor room. Anyone who didn’t wear scrubs to work didn’t need to know how much I weighed. Bruce was a hair over six feet tall, weighed 170 pounds, and had no clue that when we were married a year earlier, I weighed just 10 pounds less than he did.

As I walked to the scale, I felt the air on my bare back since my stomach took up most of the gown. The nurse held my hand as I stepped up. I looked down at the round monitor that brushed against my lower belly. 205.

“Please don’t tell my husband,” I begged.

Not that Bruce would have cared that I weighed over 200 pounds. I was the one with scale issues. When I looked at myself I saw a double chin. When Bruce looked at me, he called me beautiful. I told him he was just being nice. He told me he never lied.

I’d gained 45 pounds in nine months, 15 more than my obstetrician recommended. It’s not that I didn’t care about my health; I’d just never been told by a doctor to gain weight, only to lose. So when chubby, self-conscious, 19-year-old me was given permission to gain 30 pounds, I went a little food crazy for the first seven months.

I was free to “eat for two.” I didn’t have to “suck it in.” I made grilled Spam and Velveeta sandwiches on white bread, doused salads in full-fat salad dressing, ate ice cream late at night, and put half-and-half and brown sugar on my cream of wheat every morning.

When I developed high blood pressure in my fourth month, I watched my sodium intake and cut out cheddar cheese, ketchup, canned soup and TV dinners. But there isn’t much sodium in baked potatoes with sour cream, prime rib, fried eggs, Hershey Kisses or zucchini bread.

We were farmers. Bruce and I had moved back to the family farm when his parents retired. We had a couple hundred cows, three sows, a bore, and a couple dozen feeder pigs. Bruce and his brother also farmed several hundred acres of corn and soybeans. There were endless chores every day.

When I blew out of my maternity coat late in my eighth month, I dressed in layers and wore Bruce’s coveralls when I went outside. My fur-lined boots were heavy, but twice a day I trudged through knee-deep snow to the silo, then the pig shed, and then the water trough. I even cleaned out the silo room a week before my due date, thinking I could “help things along.” I burned dozens of empty pellet bags that had accumulated over the winter. It took 10 trips back and forth between the silo and the area where we burned trash – easily a 100-yard hike one way – and for my efforts, I was rewarded with eight hours of Braxton Hicks contractions.

At week 40, the baby was still a few weeks from coming out on her own. The doctor predicted she weighed more than eight pounds and measured longer than 20 inches so, certain she was “done,” he decided to induce labor.

Returning from scale, Bruce helped me into bed and the nurses hooked up a Pitocin drip and fetal monitor. After the first contraction, I didn’t think any more about my weight. Scale shock gave way to labor, and for 13 hours, my body cramped and pushed until Carlene was born, all 9 pounds and 22 inches of her.

In the recovery room, a nurse brought Carlene to us and offered to take our picture. My hair was matted to my forehead, I had IVs in both my hands, my face was swollen, my breast was exposed, and Bruce was still wearing scrubs. Normally I’d have protested, but this was not a normal night. Bruce and I were smiling and gazing at Carlene as the nurse took our first and only family photo.

The next morning, the water weight bloat from the drugs was mostly gone and my blood pressure was normal. As I waited for the nurse to bring Carlene to me, I laid in bed and touched my stomach. I gathered its soft folds of deflated skin in my hands. I’d heard it was called an “apron,” the skin that folds over the top of your pelvic bone and rests on the crease where your thighs meet your torso. I followed the rivulets of squishy stretch marks with my fingers and remembered how upset I was when I noticed the first one – a small, light purple line just to the right of my belly button. My mother birthed five children and never had a stretch mark. After one baby, I was littered with them.

I kneaded my skin gently and smiled. I still weighed around 200 pounds, but I had a perfect little girl and an awesome husband.

I’ll lose the extra weight, I thought.

Until his death 10 days later, Bruce and I spent our time figuring out how to be parents. He got up with me for every feeding, especially the ones at 2 a.m. when a Sioux Falls TV station aired “Rocky & Bullwinkle.” In the evenings, he rocked Carlene and sang to her while I slept. In the mornings, Carlene sat in her infant seat on the kitchen table while we ate breakfast. While I moved gingerly and leaked profusely, it was…to this day…the most contented I’ve ever been. A lesson in love, which always trumps weight.

Own It!

Jim and I had coffee at Starbucks a few weeks ago with our friends Dave and Peg. The manager came around with samples of Starbucks’ new bakery items…chocolate croissants, berry something or others, coffee cake…you know what I mean. The guys dug in, but Peg and I refused them. I said to Peg that I’ve gained a few pounds since meeting Jim, to which Jim said, “I may have had a hand in that.”

While I appreciate Jim’s willingness to shoulder some of the responsibility, absolutely no one but me decides what I eat. He’s off the hook.

I introduced Jim as “Steve” in my blog post, “Food is Like Brylcreem: A Little Dab Will Do Ya,” in February 2013. Jim is a capital “F” Foodie. He’s a great cook and loves to go out for dinner. He understands my desire to eat clean and doesn’t push food on me. But his way of life has influenced me, and what I’ve seen happen in 15 months is exactly what Shelley described yesterday in her post, “Getting Back to Basics”: “I have slowly let other things become more of the norm instead of the exception…”

While writing this post, I noticed how often I wanted to use the words “blame” and “fault.” I’d originally written, “Jim was willing to take part of the blame, but it was my fault.” Ew! Where’s the loving kindness in that? Nowhere, that’s where.  Losing and maintaining weight takes determination and vigilance. Absolutely. But it also takes a kind approach to disappointment. Not blaming, shaming and faulting.

Have I let more food exceptions become the norm? Yes. Am I disappointed with some of my choices? Yes. But I’ve been disappointed in some choices my children have made over the years and I still love them. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 50 years it’s that I respond more positively to identifying a feeling as disappointment than I do blame and fault. Blaming someone else takes the responsibility off of me, and blaming myself is punishment. I cannot grow or learn from either of those reactions. Disappointment, on the other hand, allows for self-examination and spurs me to do better, to make amends.

Our friends’ and family’s food behaviors can have sway in our lives. But our friends and family are not responsible for our choices.

Jim is an adventurous foodie, and if I choose to eat something he offers, that’s solely my decision. Now, whether I’m listening to my inner voice at the time…that, too, is up to me. Like last night’s pound cake incident (while watching the Pens game…Go Pens!):

Jim: “Want some?”
Inner Voice: “You’ve been on track all day! Atta girl! Keep it up!”
Me: “No, thank you!”
Jim: “Oh, man! Did you see that shot?”

My decision to not eat pound cake had no impact on Jim’s life.

I’ve been at this online weight-loss blogging thing for almost nine years. One of the things I hear the most from people who read my blog is the angst they feel about other people’s food behaviors, either in the form of “pushing” food on them or not accepting their decision to improve their food choices. Food as a form of psychological pressure. I know much has been written about this issue, but really…it comes down to individual choice. My food choices are not responsible for someone else’s happiness. Nor is any resulting weight gain or weight loss or weight neutrality a result of something someone else has done, said, made or offered.

Yikes! I sound so militant. But then…losing weight and maintaining weight takes a bit of militancy. Militancy based in loving kindness for one’s own body. It’s yours! The only one you’ll ever have! Own it.

Disappointment happens. Let go of the blame and shame and fault.

And don’t let anyone tell you what you should eat.

Numbers Revisited

244, 136, 92, 90, 120/72, 27.5

The numbers are in from my latest blood work: overall cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“happy” cholesterol), triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and BMI.

For comparison, the recommended numbers for most people are:

  • Overall cholesterol
  • LDL
  • HDL >60 mg/dl
  • Triglycerides
  • Blood pressure 120/80
  • BMI 25 or less

Compared to when I wrote about this before (See “Lady in Red, Do You Know Your Numbers?”), my HDL still has a slight edge over LDL, but not as much as it did. Triglycerides are hanging in there, but the overall number is up, higher than it’s been in a long while. Years. Many years.

Higher-than-normal cholesterol levels are in my genetics. A few of my thin and not-so-thin kin need medication to control it. But I know my levels can be controlled through diet and exercise. I can’t use genetics as an excuse. Or menopause. Or daylight savings.

Refuse to Regain’s Barbara Berkeley recently posted a blog about how weight gain isn’t a simple ratio of too many calories consumed to too few calories burned. She wrote: “Weight gain appears to be much more related to the specific ways in which our individual bodies dispose of (or store) the foods we eat.”  

This is most definitely true for me. I don’t process a piece of cake the way my boyfriend does. I can’t look at Thanksgiving stuffing without gaining five pounds. The same is true for cholesterol. The foods I eat and how my body processes them directly impacts not only my scale number, but my lipid battery numbers. Cholesterol follows my scale number like a dance partner – from my heaviest weight (300+) to my goal weight (138) to my lowest weight (125) to the weight I am now (165).

All of my numbers improve when I eat: 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies (mostly veggies) a day; beans and legumes several times a week; one or two daily servings of reduced-fat dairy; eggs (mostly egg whites); grains such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and oats; a serving or two a week of soy products such as edamame or tofu; and five or six servings a week of nuts, like almonds and walnuts. Oh…and green tea every day. I also like a bit of seafood now and then: white fish, tuna, scallops, mussels, shrimp and canned salmon.

I know “low-fat” diets aren’t in anymore, but when I eat fatty foods, including olive oil and the new darling of the nutrition world, full-fat dairy, I feel queasy and really full. I hate that full feeling. It makes me tired. Slows me down. Fat isn’t my thing. Neither is sugar or white flour. But clearly I’ve been consuming them to varying degrees since my last blood draw, damn any full and queasy feeling. I knowingly (and regretfully) increased my white flour and sugar consumption, and, no doubt, saturated fat tagged along. Thus an embarrassingly high overall cholesterol number (and a rising BMI…ugh…).

That’s what got me on the weight-loss band wagon nearly 10 years ago. My numbers. They were abysmal (triglycerides were 300!) and you KNOW I wasn’t exercising one bit.

A scale number doesn’t scare me half as much as a cholesterol number, but knowing I can control both through what I eat and how I move is like opening a window on a beautiful spring day. There is hope in change, in eating right, in moving, and there is power in having the key to success. I know what works for me. I have documented proof.

But my digestive system isn’t your digestive system. We each need to find the foods that work best for our overall health and well-being.

WebMD has a spiffy little quiz to give you a quick “back of the envelope” primer on cholesterol. And the Mayo Clinic offers these “Top 5 Foods” to eat to help lower your cholesterol.

Do you know what your numbers are? If not, don’t be afraid! Knowledge is power, and armed with your numbers, you can carve out a diet that works for you to keep your arteries free flowing.

Settling the Dust (and Nasoya coupon winner announced!)

What a long, strange trip this last month has been. (Not THAT kind of trip, although intoxicants of the wine kind have been used a time or three.) Most of us have been through enough snow and ice and cold this winter to last a lifetime. Throw in a move and a fire, and that’s enough to make me cry “Uncle!”

Dust like this blows around sometimes. I get that. And sometimes you get so used to the dust that it becomes normal, and the thought of it settling is unsettling. Thinking clearly isn’t always easy. Neither is figuring out how to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s easier to let the dust decide our fate.

One of the days between the move and the fire, I visited my grandkids. Their energy feeds me, sort of like the Borg, only not as creepy. I didn’t know there would be a barn-destroying fire in a few days, so the dust blowing around me was the kind your sandals kick up on a dirt road, just enough to get your jeans a little dirty.

Mae asked me, as she does every time I visit, “I find da Buddha, Grammy?”

The Buddha is a 1-inch thin stone with a seated Buddha carved in it. It’s a “worry stone” and I keep it in my purse.

Well-worn worry stone

Mae has a ritual in her pursuit to find “da Buddha”: She draws in my notepad; cuts a piece of dental floss and flosses her front teeth; counts all my coins; lines up my debit, grocery, gas, and credit cards in her hands like she’s playing poker; blows her nose; asks to write in my checkbook (“No.”); shakes up the child-proof pill bottle and asks what’s in it (I’ll never tell); squirts lotion on her hands; puts Burt’s Bees on her lips; and powders her nose (and face and the baby’s face and Luca’s face) before finally…FINALLY….

“I find da Buddha!” she exclaims.

Usually, she puts the Buddha back in whatever recess of my purse she found it in, but the last time – the time before the fire – she held it in her hand and pretended it was an airplane. She ran around the house exclaiming, “Flying Buddha!”

Mae is madly into princesses, and she was wearing one of her several sparkly pink jammies that have a princess on the front. Claire is madly into super heroes, and she was wearing her third outfit of the morning: Thor. Luca was sitting on the floor playing with a ball maze, sucking his thumb to help him strategize. Audrey just sat on the floor, contemplating whether she preferred princesses to super heroes. She’s not quite 1, so she has time to decide.

When I left them and drove back to my new home 60 miles away, I thought about these last 6 years as a grandmother, and the dust settled a little. I thought about my resume, the book, the blog, and about when I’d get in the pool at the Y again. I strategized “normal.” I envisioned my life as calm and cool and collected.

Two days later, there was the fire, and the dust kicked up like a V8 Chevy racing down a dry southwestern Minnesota country road. That kind of dust on the prairie goes nowhere without wind. Without wind, the dust is like a scene from “The Matrix,” suspended in air. It filters out  the sun and drifts back to the ground slower than flowing maple sap.

Some things can’t be settled in the mind in a matter of minutes or even days, no matter how badly we want them to. But given time, dust will settle. The laws of physics make it so.

Flying Buddhas and super heroes also make it so. Determination and patience make it so. Being kind and friendly make it so. Eating well and exercising make it so. Even going to Costco makes it so. Think about it: life is going to do whatever it needs to, but you still need a 32-ounce jar of pickled herring, right? And an 8-pack of tooth brushes, a 5-pack of toothpaste, and a 6-pack of dental floss to share? Windshield wipers and a cordless mouse? Retail therapy can help get you through the dust, too.

Dust happens. Dust settles. Dust will happen again.

How do you settle your dust?
———————————————
The winner of last week’s Nasoya coupon giveaway is Diane! Please email your info to me at lynn.haraldson@gmail.com and I’ll get that coupon for a free Nasoya product off to you right away.

“School’s” Back In Session

Because this is true:

This must go:

To quote N’Sync, “Bye Bye Bye.” See you later, Popcorners! Welcome back, Greek yogurt! (BTW, did you see N’Sync on the VMAs? Not that I listened to a lot of N’Sync back in the day, but my kids did. It was fun to see them together again.)

As other people’s children go back to school (grandbaby Claire on her first day of Kindergarten…*sniff*), I’ve declared my summer food and exercise vacation over. Sporadic and once-in-awhile planning and implementation is out. Accountability is in.

It felt “fun” at the time – eating off plan a day or two a week, staying in bed rather than going to the gym – but fun has a price tag, both physical and emotional. You can’t maintain your weight eating your way through a box of pasta, even if it is whole wheat, or noshing on Popcorners and birthday cake, and you can’t stay sane telling yourself it’s worth it, because it’s not.

Of course, maybe that’s just me.

This summer wasn’t a complete exercise and eating disaster. Damage control is readily implemented with a few swift kicks to my arse and a purging of the Brie in the cheese drawer. Not that I’m damning Brie, but right now, it’s not a welcome guest in my fridge.

I’m not reinventing the wheel. It’s more like a chiropractic adjustment, tweaking (NOT twerking!) the  lifelong learning process of weight. Getting back in sync. Back to one small dark chocolate a day and all the other things that worked before. Salad…it’s what’s on the menu every day. Kale, chard, raspberries. Baked squash and lentil dishes. Homemade soup and cheesy quinoa. I’m even going to give wheat berries a look-see.

The mind is willing. The flesh is willing. Bring on the new “semester.”

X-Amount of Time

I couldn’t follow the dharma teacher’s guided meditation this morning to save my life. My monkey mind swung from thought to thought, and my body busted loose from every position I put it in, even though I was in the comfiest place in the world: my bed.

I sat up and took out my iPod ear plugs and said, “What? What the hell do you want?”
The answer I got was, “Live now, not later.”
Don’t ask me where that came from because I don’t have a clue. I often wonder if it’s not my past lives coming through (all of whom had obvious issues with patience) saying, “Come on already! Figure it out and let’s move on! Chop chop!” But I guess that wouldn’t really be embracing patience now, would it?
Anyway, I sat with that question and answer for a moment. Then I reached in the nightstand for a pad of paper and wrote this: “When my knee is fixed, when I lose 10 pounds, when this depression leaves me, when I’m done with school…THEN life will be the way I want it.”
Ha! Like some magic fairy is going to come along and make my life great – without any  exertion on my part – once x-amount of time has passed?! Fat. Chance.
X-amount of time will pass: One. Second. At. A. Time. And in those seconds, I am.
I. Am.
So instead of a formal guided meditation this morning, which clearly wasn’t happening, I broke it down into my own meditation.
I am:
1. A person who needs a knee replacement.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and surgery? “Duh…” say my impatient past lives. “You can still have goals!”

I can’t ride my bike and I can’t work out on the elliptical – two things I love to do – but that boo-hooing has put at least two pounds on each of my thighs, I swear. I CAN walk, for cryin’ out loud. Pretty well most of the time, despite the limp. And I can lift weights. And I can strengthen my core. So I set goals: To walk the entire length of my beloved 20-mile bike path twice before replacement, a few miles at a time. And every other week, my BFF Shari will join me, like she did today. So will Al.

Today, Shari, Al and I walked my favorite part of the bike path and I saw some old friends and their babies:

I’ll also pick up the weights again at home, and I’ll hit the gym and talk to a personal trainer. I might even join a yoga class, like I’ve said I’d do for how long now?

2. A person who wants to lose 10 pounds.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and when my shorts feel a little loose? PAY ATTENTION to everything I put in my mouth. It worked before, it will work again.
3. A person who is clinically depressed.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and the time I’m feeling less depressed? I’ve already started doing something about that (pat on my back).
“I met her in a Kuhn’s grocery store parking lot…” Sounds like a great beginning to a cheesy romance novel, but that would be how I met my AIM blogging friend, Debby. Google maps sent her 20 miles away from where we were supposed to meet, and when she called and said she had no idea where she was (which is totally understandable since Debby lives in California and has never been to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh motto is, “If yinz don’t know where you are, go home.”), I went in search of her.
“Stay put, I’ll find you,” I said, and typed in her coordinates into my Garmin. (When I was a kid, I wanted to be Uhura).
We were supposed to meet – of course – at a groovy healthy breakfast place, but that was light years away from the grocery store, so we went to my favorite Mexican place, Mad Mex, where we ate pepita hummus, chips and salsa, and chopped salads.
Often, the Internet feels ethereal, so meeting Debby grounded me. I needed to be reminded that real people read my blog, real people write blogs, and real people interact with real people, just not always in person. Having said that, the Internet has a silent surrealness about it, at least it does for me, and I’ve been needing some real-life connectedness.
Last week, I met another online friend, who works at Clarion University, just a few blocks from where I used to live, and yet, we never got our s*it together to meet when I lived there. Melissa has lost over 100 pounds and, like so many of us, struggles with the “Can I/How do I/Do I want to lose more?” question, along with “Who am I now?”
We got along juuuuust fine *grin*
I also went to a Pirates game with my friend Rachelle.
The Bucs are doing great right now, but even when they’re bad, I can’t be sad at a Pirates game, thanks to Michael McHenry and Andrew McCutchen. …sigh…
4. A person who is still in school.
Sooooo….What can I do in the x-amount of time between now and certification?
Study. Finish my final projects. Pass my exam. There’s no room for wishy-washy, feel-good sentiment here. I need to kick myself in the ass and do it.
I. Am.
You. Are.
We all have x-amount of time between now and….when? I will do my best to fill that space with compassion. Fill that space with love. Fill that space with curiosity and questions. I just know I can’t fill that space with the future. It doesn’t exist.
“Live now, not later.” Life is the way I make it. Now.

Ready!!!


Alice will do anything for beef jerky or peanut butter. Anything, that is, except go up stairs.

In my ancient house, there are 13 steep and narrow steps to the second floor. One friend says climbing them is akin to scaling a wall. Not an unfair comparison, actually, considering you have to ascend and descend sideways, gripping the handrail like a safety rope.
So if two-legged creatures have issues with my stairs, imagine what a four-legged pup must think. In Alice’s case it’s, ‘Are you KIDDING me?’
I spent two-and-a-half weeks bribing Al with her favorite treats, the ones that make her “sit” and “stay” and reward her for doing her business outside. I would set a bit of jerky on the first step. She’d reach for it, no problem. Second and third steps? East peasy. Fourth step required a bit of stretching, but with a bit of snout and tongue maneuvering, she got it.
The fifth step took some contemplating and some pacing back and forth across the threshold. After she had time to think about it (“How bad do I want that jerky?”), Al would skittishly hoist her back legs on to the first step and stretch just far enough to nab the jerky before running into the dining room to feast.
When I set a jerky on the sixth step, she looked at me from below like, “Um….no, human. That is NOT happening.” Even though every time I went upstairs, she’d sit at the bottom looking up, wondering, no doubt, what was up there, the jerky treat sat on step six for days.
So imagine my surprise last Wednesday at about 9 p.m. when I heard something moving around upstairs. As far as I know, my house isn’t haunted, so I stood up from my desk and looked around for Alice. She was not on her couch or in her crate or sniffing around the garbage can. Windows and doors were all securely shut, so she hadn’t escaped. The only place she could be…
I looked up the stairs and there she was, peering at me from around the corner of the spare bedroom, her tail thumping against the door, like she’d discovered some secret passageway to Nirvana.
I don’t know what motivated Alice to climb the stairs on her own, but I find great inspiration in her actions. No amount of bribing, cajoling, firm tones, soft tones, or words of encouragement from me were going to convince her that climbing the stairs was in her best interest. Only she knew what was right for her and when.
Al slept on her bed beside me that night, and I thought about the 19 steps that challenged me eight years ago. I had to climb them every day to get to my second-floor apartment, and every day I’d look up to the doorway at the top, draw a deep breath, and grab the metal railing. My knees crunched and my hips popped, and my lower back burned, and by the time I go to the top, my head was pounding and I could barely breathe. Then I’d sit down on the closest chair and tell myself, “That wasn’t so bad.”
But it was that bad, and everyone around me knew it. And yet no amount of bribing, cajoling, firm tones, soft tones, or words of encouragement were going to convince me that losing weight was in my best interest. Only I knew what was right for me and when.
Like Alice, eventually I figured it out, but I did it on my own terms and in my own time. Brave Alice and her determination to discover what was at the top of the stairs is no different than me or you or anyone else who finally says, “I’m ready!”
In the process of writing this blog over the last few days, I was fortunate to read Jen’s post, “Transitioning My Eating” (she writes the blog, “A Prior Fat Girl”) about her move to transition her eating from more to less processed foods. She wrote: “A lot of you have been very vocal in telling me I should do this for years. But I wasn’t ready then, mentally or emotionally. I wasn’t there yet. Something changed though…in the past couple months. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching @dietitiancassie’s tweets, and the articles she’s sharing. Or maybe it’s because of the conversations with my co-worker, Darcy, over the past couple months. Or maybe it’s because I’m just ready.”
“Ready” doesn’t always mean “I’m super confident that I can succeed!” “Ready” means ready to take a chance on the process with a hope that the outcome will be in the ballpark of our expectation. And if the process or the outcome aren’t what we thought it would be, if our path takes us somewhere else, well, then, we still took a chance because we were “ready.”

Remember The Ant Farm!

Tara Brach tells a story of her son who, in first grade, received an ant farm for his birthday. He watched the ants living life the way they do, and in the process, he grew to know them. He saw fellow ants take their dead comrades to an “ant cemetery.” He watched them build homes and share food, and observed their interdependence. Then one day at school, he saw his classmates on the playground squishing ants and laughing. He was devastated. He couldn’t understand why they were killing the same kind of creatures he’d witnessed living their lives in his ant farm. His mother said, and I’m paraphrasing, that his classmates, unfortunately, didn’t know the ants like he did.

You can’t destroy that which you love or know intimately. And, on the flip side, you cannot love what you do not know.
So why is it that we do things that hurt ourselves, the person who should be our own best friend,  the person we love most in this world?
The hurt is often subtle. A bag of Cheetos, a donut at a work function, some ice cream after a long day. In and of themselves, these things aren’t “bad” when consumed mindfully. For instance, I chose to eat a few baked chips while writing this blog. I wasn’t subconsciously destroying my food plan. I’m PMSing and I recognized the craving for salt and crunch. It feels awkward to say I “loved” myself enough to eat baked chips, but satisfying that craving by consciously choosing to eat a small portion was, in a subtle way, an act of love.
Now the decision I made yesterday to sit on my ass all day and not exercise when my body was clearly needing movement? Not so loving. My excuses and distractions were like squishing ants on a playground. I was not intimately in touch with what was going on in my body. I put my fingers in my ears and refused to listen to what it was saying.
I attended a lecture last Saturday on the topic of how to change your life. I’m not looking to change my entire life, but there are parts that could use some tweaking. The speaker, Eileen Colianni, is the one who said, “You cannot love what you do  not know,” and she went on to emphasize that “knowing” isn’t enough. We must act, too.
I “know” eating carrots rather than carrot cake is a healthier choice. I “know” going to the gym is a better choice, too, than…say…going to Dunkin Donuts (unless it’s for a non-fat latte AFTER a workout!). I know these things and yet…sometimes something stops me from choosing the better path.
As Eileen said, we are often caregivers and are used to asking, “What do you want from me?” She challenged us to turn the question around and ask, “What do I want from me?” And to get what we want, she said, we have to decide something. De-cide. The root of “cide” is to kill. So in order to decide, we must (proverbially speaking) “kill” something to get what we want. For instance, if I want to lose 20 pounds, I need to “kill” the thought that floats around in my head that 20 pounds will magically disappear simply because I want them to. Therefore, the death of a negative thought or a misheld belief is the key to knowledge and, in turn, the pathway to love. Loving what we know.
(Maybe now is a good time to take a deep breath and reassure yourself that you don’t have to fully ingest or even accept what I just wrote. I know I get all tight in the stomach and I scrunch my shoulders and wince my eyes when I read convoluted philosophies about “how to” live my life. So…OK…take a deep breath. Hold it a few seconds. Let it out. Feel better? That, my friends, was an act of love.)
We all have it within ourselves to discover our own truths about what we truly want and need. And it is without self judgment that I urge you to examine what those somethings are. What good is self flagellation anyway?
If you need a reminder about not being able to destroy that which you love, remember the ant farm! Make it your mantra and do what it takes to love your bad self!