Tuesday, October 01, 2013

They called it frightening, I called it enlightening

Having a teenaged daughter means I get a front row seat to a lot of really wonderful things.   But along with the good things, come the realities of being a kid today.   And at the risk of sounding like Aunt Bea from Mayberry, bless their hearts.  Some of it makes me real sad.

I remembering being in the car with friends, one of our parents driving us somewhere and, as each girl would pile in, we'd talk nonstop, laugh hard, and sing loud.   Now as the driver, I grit my teeth as I hear  my daughter repeating the same question to her friend three times, while said friend has her head stuck in her phone.  If I wasn't a subscriber to the Zen Habits email, I'd swing my arm over the seat and start swatting, hoping to knock the phone from her clutches.  Hello!  Remember us?  We're ACTUAL PEOPLE!  Three-dimensional, animated beings!  We breathe!  We speak!  We pull cars over and make rude little brats walk!  

And what are they doing on their phones?  Well, there's texting, of course.  But then there's the NONSTOP checking of Vine, SnapChat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  (Note that I didn't mention Facebook.  That's because, to this generation, Facebook has become a place for people who discuss politics, grandchildren, medical illnesses, and bus trips.)  I think that's what is different between growing up in 2013 versus growing up in the 19 (cough) 80s.  Yes, we had MTV, Seventeen magazine and Brooke Shields in her Calvins, but it wasn't incessant.  It wasn't ALWAYS in our face. 

The stories of what models do to be so scary-skinny have been around for awhile, but the latest revelation of models eating Kleenex to feel full is a new all-time low.  How does one even come up with that idea?   I mean, did one model have a cocktail party and serve up  neatly folded Kleenex skewered on toothpicks?   I can hear it now, "Oh, Sasha, you have GOT to try the Puffs Plus with Lotion.  THEY. ARE. DIVINE."  The only positive about this ritual (and clearly, I've given this way too much thought) is that it allows you to poop and wipe at the same time.

Sure, we had our "designer jeans" and Bermuda bags (with covers), add-a-bead necklackes and Polo shirts, but it just didn't seem as intense.  Or maybe I just didn't care?  (That's entirely possible.)  But now, not only do you have to be stylin' from head to toe, you've gotta bring your A-game when it comes to undergarments, too.  While girls today are sporting the newest thong from Victoria's Secret, my biggest worry in the swimming locker room was trying to put on my underwear without letting them touch the slimy floor.  (Ew.  Just typing that gave me the shivers.)

Add to it the pressure to be ready for your close up every single minute of your life.  Remember how we had an entire year to prepare to get our picture taken?   The friendly folks from Life Touch rolled up to school with their sponge-painted background and case of free black combs to capture us in our pubertal glory.  For double-the-fun, they had that run of "Reflection" shots.  Because we all know that if your braces and breakouts look good from the front, they are gonna be SLAMMIN' in the right lighting, from the side.   If you were like me, the picture usually sucked, but you drew a mustache on yourself in the yearbook and life went on.  You had no way of knowing if people "liked" your pic.  If someone drew a wart on your nose in their yearbook, you were none the wiser.  You didn't have to go back and read 325 comments from people, critiquing your look.  

So in an effort to inject a little bit of reason into the SHEER INSANITY of today's image machine, I decided to take action.  I shared with Olivia and Maddy a YouTube video from one of my favorite shows, BBC's "What Not To Wear."  Because this is the British version, they have no problem throwing around the terms "tits and ass" and showing women in various states of undress.  Oh, those cheeky Brits.  

In this episode, they were on a mission to get the women of the U.K. to wear a properly fitted bra.   While it may sound like a snorefest, what I found so gloriously refreshing was that the woman featured was 100 percent REAL.  She wasn't a 20-something, pushed up, silicone-enhanced, fan-a-blowin-through-her-extensions, Botoxed, spray tanned, 83 pound Abercrombie model.  She was what 98% of the women on this planet look like.  (While I've totally made up that figure, I think if I did a few years of research, I could totally back it up.)

So as the video progressed and the woman lifted up her arms and took off her shirt, this is the commentary that went on in my family room: 

Olivia:   Oh, no.
Maddy:  Oh, my gosh.  What the --
Olivia:   Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
Maddy:  I can't look.
Olivia:   Turn it off, Mom.  Seriously. 
Maddy:  I'm really scared.
Olivia:   Why do they look like THAT? 
Maddy:  This is SO wrong.  
Olivia:   No, really.  Why do they look like THAT?

Even with their heads buried their hands, peeking out between their fingers, victory was mine!   I was able to undo the damage caused by watching the last two seasons of "The Kardashians" with one click of the mouse.  

Don't get me wrong, I am not about tossing our razors and burning our bras.  We all want to be healthy and look and feel our best.  But this unrelenting focus on physical perfection is nuts.  And although I probably won't be ambushing the young ladies in my life with any more images of gravity-affected, middle-aged breasts, I will keep reminding them that the truly beautiful people aren't always displaying chiseled cheeks and six-pack abs.  It's those compassionate souls that draw you in with their sense of humor, their wisdom, their generosity and their kindness.  How about we start seeing some hashtags like that?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hey! Blogs don't expire!

Okay. So if my blog was a house, the windows would be filthy, soggy and yellowed newspapers would be littering the driveway, and the grass would be tall enough to shelter a medium-sized tribe of pygmies. Well, don’t look now, but mama is coming down the street right on a riding mower, armed with Windex and 25 contractor-sized garbage bags.

Whoever coined the phrase "time waits for no one" was no joke. If I didn’t see the date for myself, I wouldn’t believe it's been almost two years since my last post. Maybe that’s because I’ve had so many virtual posts in my own head. Although some of them genuinely kept me entertained while sitting in traffic, others probably would have caused you to ask for the five minutes of your life back that it took you to read them. Trust me.

But somehow I just haven’t been able to kiss the blog goodbye for good. And while I can’t promise that every post will knock your socks off, I hope to at least make you smile. Or cringe.

Three years, 60 pounds, and more than a few wrinkles ago, this blog began. My first post chronicled life as a middle-aged mom, just trying to keep all those balls we juggle in the air. The posts that followed spoke about how I’ve struggled with my weight. That oh-too-familiar place for a lot of us. And to those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about and simply cannot identify, to you I say, in my sweetest Georgia accent, "Well, bless your little heart." (That’s an expression that people in the South use when they don’t have anything nice to say.)

I will never for a minute pretend that I have this weight loss thing in the bag. Is there a time limit after losing weight that you no longer have to fear the yo-yo effect? Maybe there is, I’m just not ready to take that chance. But I am learning things on this journey that may help others who have found themselves in the same puffy place I did. You know, like when you walk by a store window and catch a glimpse of your reflection and think, "Oh. My. God. Why hasn’t someone TOLD me?" Or what about the dreaded side or rear view picture that someone took without even asking you to sign a photo release? And if they tagged you in it on Facebook? Oh, it’s ON.

Before I begin, let me offer this disclaimer. Outside of my own experiences, I generally have NO IDEA what I’m talking about.

1.  ACKNOWLEDGE. This is the first on my list and also the probably the toughest. You know how I know? Because I used to be completely delusional and in denial. How in the world could I have possibly packed the equivalent of 240 sticks of butter on my 5 foot 3 inch frame? That’s what’s so insidious about this weight thing…it literally happens OVERNIGHT. Or over several years, which is kinda the same thing. I know, I know. You can’t understand how you got to be the size you are because you really don’t eat that much. Unfortunately, as in my case, that’s probably not true.  To be fair, you aren’t totally to blame . Have you taken a look lately at the OUTRAGEOUS portions served at restaurants? And I know I can’t be the only one who has looked at a packaged product that any Dorito-loving-American would consider a snack, only to realize that the manufacturer intended you to share it with THREE friends. What in the world? My friends and I never share food. That’s one of the things we love about each other! But until you are super-real with what you are eating, slaying this dragon will be impossible. Writing down what you eat can be helpful. You can destroy the evidence at the end of each day, but acknowledging what you are TRULY digesting is both eye-opening and necessary. 

2.  BE AWARE. You know the commercials on television for the sleeping pill, Ambien? One of the side effects can be unconscious eating. What’s so weird is, that SAME EXACT THING has happened to me! Only I’ve never taken Ambien. I have never, in my 45 years, eaten an entire bag of chips. I’ve never even polished off a quart of ice cream. But guess what? More than once, I have reached into that box of Tastykakes for a 9 p.m. snack, only to realize it’s half gone. (And unfortunately, since I hid them, I can’t blame the kids.) It’s those little bites, the couple of cookies, the handful of chips while packing lunches, that add up. My solution? As tree-huggerish and granola as this may sound, getting in touch with the REAL reason I was shoveling something into my mouth was crucial. Whenever I want to eat something, I stop, put my hand on my stomach, and say, "Ethel (I sometimes call myself Ethel), are you REALLY hungry?" Because honestly, we all really do throw around the phrase, "Oh-ma-god, I’m STARVING!" when we truly have no idea of the meaning.  

Try thinking about the real reason you are reaching for vittles.  Maybe you’re bored? You’re stressed? Your job sucks? Your kid had a book fair today and you were the loser parent that forgot to send in their money? Well, as the old saying goes, "If hunger isn’t the problem, then food isn’t the answer." If I am TRULY hungry, I try drinking a bottle of water first and then make myself wait 10 minutes before snacking. More times than not, drinking water and waiting makes me rethink that rendezvous with my frenemy, chocolate.

3.  BE REALISTIC. Although there are a million excuses, it really comes down to the fact that, when we eat too much and move too little, we get fat. We’d like to make it more complicated, but sadly it’s not. There is no pill, no shake, no vitamin, no drops for your tongue, no plastic suit, no overpriced-delivered-to-your-door-full-of-preservatives-meal that is going to make you lose weight. Because if there was, the United States wouldn’t be in the throes of an obesity epidemic. Do some of them give results in the short-term? Sure. But NO ONE can live their life having "a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and a sensible dinner." It’s just not realistic. I have no stock in Weight Watchers and am not a paid spokesperson, but I do whole-heartedly believe there is a reason they’ve been in business for decades and have thousands of lifetime members. It’s because they have no required prepackaged foods and no food is off limits. It’s just about choices.

4.  BE OPEN. I had to accept that the way I was doing things wasn’t working. Accepting that and being honest about where my choices got me was (just like my butt) huge. Learn from others. And not just people who have also struggled with their weight. Believe it or not, the skinny person you secretly give the one-finger-salute to may be one of your biggest (or should I say smallest) teachers.

Here’s an example: I am someone who hates to waste food and had designated myself as a One Woman Clean-Up Committee. My kids left some pasta on their plate? Come to mama! I mean really, what’s two more bites? I can’t let it go to waste! Someone doesn’t like pizza crust? Toss that dough my way. After all, there are children starving while sewing Nike sneakers in China! But guess what my oh-so-slim sister said to me when I brought this up a few years ago? The BRILLIANT revelation that, either way, THE FOOD IS GOING TO WASTE! It’ll be waste in the trashcan or waste in the toilet. (But with the latter, most of it morphs into back-fat.) I could've licked plates for the next 10 years before that would have occurred to me! But that was completely logical to a thin person. See what I mean?  

And don’t just assume that if you see someone who is not overweight, it’s because they possess the Kate Moss chromosome. While that’s true in some cases, often times those people are making different choices about what they eat. I took my daughter and a friend to get their nails done recently and another customer complimented me on my haircut. She then opened up about how she felt like she was in a rut, both with her hair and her body. She said, "I am trying to lose weight because I’m not blessed with being naturally thin like you." After looking over my shoulder to see if she was actually talking to me, I told her that I think about eating almost every hour of every day and about how I only like Yankee Candles that smell like food. While it does come easy to some, a whole lot of people are playing the game all day long, deciding what’s worth it and what’s not.

I guess my point is (and I do have one), YOU CAN DO IT!  Even with restaurants working against you by bringing out meals in troughs, it’s possible. Even though too many foods are laden with salt, sugar, and chemicals we can’t pronounce, it’s possible. Despite feeling that we are all just rats in the race and there’s no time for reading and planning and cooking and shopping, it’s possible. Feeling less guilty, less tired, less defeated…it’s possible.  And you're worth it.

I still carry my Weight Watchers keychain and I have incorporated other things to help me stay the course. Believe it or not. the most un-athletic person in the 21014 zip code, has joined a gym, an experience that will be the subject of my next blog post. In the meantime, I truly apologize for leaving you with that horrifying visual.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wow, four months go by QUICK!

I know I've been a complete blog slacker when it comes to new posts, but four months? Really? How is that possible? That's almost half of a school year! And I remember thinking those lasted FOR-EVER when I was in middle school.

Without going into all the details, I'll just say that life has had a few twists and turns as of late. And although I'm not one for making resolutions or particularly thinking that January 1st holds some magical power that December 31st didn't, I will say that I am very excited about 2011. I believe you can make a fresh start at any point in your life, whether it's 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in April or January 1st, but I'm optimistic that 2011 will bring lots of excitement, laughter, and love to us all. :-)

My last post, many moons ago, was about dear Cora. Since it's been so long, I'll remind you, dedicated blog reader, that I eluded to the fact that I was living and working in Norfolk, Virginia. When I first moved there, I started working for a temp agency and was blessed to be hired on as a full-time employee on my very first assignment. It's a job I'll never forget.

For those of you who have worked in the health care field, you'll agree that NOTHING is taboo. I firmly believe that one of the best coping mechanisms available to any of us is humor. Surely there are situations when laughter is completely inappropriate...I just have yet to find one. That especially holds true when working in reproductive medicine.

Our office was a bit of a dichotomy, we did contraceptive research and development (three cheers for the female condom! Hip, Hip...okay, maybe not) as well as seeing infertility patients. (This made for quite an odd mix in the waiting room on several occasions, BELIEVE ME.) Throw in a few menopausal ladies with hot flashes and vaginal dryness and you've got a PARTY!!! As you might imagine, working with this cross-section of women provided quite a lot of comedic fodder. I mean, where else can you openly discuss yeast infections, Astroglide, and sperm donations and not get funny looks? Church doesn't count.

One story that immediately comes to mind is the older, but evidently not wiser, lady who came in for a run-of-the-mill yeast infection. She was examined and sent on her way with a cream that would hopefully end the itching and burning she was having south of the Mason-Dixon. Much to our dismay, she called in three days later to complain that she was still suffering and the medicine was not helping at all. After a few basic questions, we were puzzled. When asked if she was using a FULL applicator to dispense the proper amount, she answered, "Why, yes! I fill it up and squeeze it on a bagel in the morning and eat every bite!" Clank. (That's the sound those old phones make when they hit the top of a desk). With one phone call, she quickly took all the funny out of the patient who had eaten suppositories for a week and never had hemorrhoid relief.

I mean, where do these people come from? Honestly. Would YOU not think it weird that your medication was individually wrapped? In foil? It's not a box of Russell Stover's chocolates for crying out loud. And what about the waxy nature of your "pills"? Is that for a gentle glide going down? And that vaginal applicator, does it look like a kitchen gadget to fill with bagel topping? Did she mix cream cheese in for her schmear? It boggles the mind really.

Genius was not limited to the elder generation either. A younger patient was having a laparoscopy. For those of you not in the know, a hole is made near your belly button and a tiny "scope" inserted to spelunk around your pelvis for a lookie-lou. Two days after her surgery, she called the office and asked to speak to the doctor. We often tried to field the question ourselves, if we could. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: "Dr. Archer's office, may I help you?"
Patient: "Hi, Stephanie. Can I ask the doctor a question?"
Me: "Jane, is there anything I can help you with?"
Patient: "Well, I'm not sure. I wanted to know if I could get a perm on Thursday."
Me: "Please hold."

Now keep in mind, these scenarios all took place circa 1990-92, well before the whole Brazilian waxing craze. But where in God's name was this woman getting a perm that she thought it would effect pelvic surgery? I got back on the horn and told her to go ahead with her perm, but just don't get her brows waxed unless she wants a one-way ticket to the ER.

Obviously, our office saw mostly women. But on certain days, when inseminations were taking place, men were obliged to visit our facilities to make a "deposit". To this day, I still think it was as uncomfortable for me as it was for them. I honestly felt sorry for them, on some level. Not that I thought it was painful, or that it was something that they hadn't done 1,000s of times, unsupervised, but it was the fact that it was all so public. So clinical. So hilarious.

We had an Andrology lab with several rooms that provided privacy, as well as a few girlie magazines, for this very purpose. However, this was the institute that had the first successful "test tube baby," so it was a popular place. When the other rooms were occupied, we used our exam rooms for the gentleman to do their thing.

I guess awkward is the best word to describe the atmosphere. Yes, we're all adults. Yes, it's for a good cause. Yes, it's very sterile and scientific, but let's be real for a moment. We ALL knew what was going down in that room. And it's difficult to know exactly what to say when you are in that situation. I was always friendly and tried to be reassuring, handing them their cup, accompanied by a gentle smile or a grandmotherly wink-of-the-eye and tip-o-the-hat (okay, maybe I never wore a hat). And I always kept in mind the lines that I definitely did NOT want to use in these situations. Here are just a few that come to mind:

- I can hear you in there!
- That paper I hear crackling on the exam table can be distracting, I know. Just take your time.
- You've been in there awhile now, sir. Is it the music? I can change the station. What do you prefer? Country, classical, HARD ROCK?
- Clean-up, aisle 4.
- Let me know if you need a hand!
- Wow, aren't you quick! You must have had a LOT of practice.

It didn't help that we were in an antiquated setting that consisted of the lab being across a MAJOR four lane road. The emotional, nervous patient was up in stirrups, likely praying this was the day she'd conceive, whilst I was dodging Ford pickups and school buses, trying to retrieve the sperm that would facilitate such an event. I would grab the vial from the straws that were kept in dry ice and hold it in my hot little hands all the way back to the office. This HIGHLY scientific procedure was timed just right, so that when I arrived back, insemination took place. I couldn't help but think that if I ever took a step off of the curb too quickly, I'd have one heck of a hit-and-run situation to explain.

In a stroke of irony, while many women were aching to have a child, others were trying everything short of bricks and mortar to avoid it. Our contraceptive research and development arm of the practice was just as interesting, I thought. I remember asking the doctor early on why there weren't more products in development for men. He laughed and that was pretty much the end of that conversation. As we approach 2011, with no major developments in MALE contraception, I guess I understand now why he thought the question was so humorous.

The female condom was one of our bigger studies. It was being touted as the next major offering to women, as far as barrier methods. I think we all knew it would never take off. Visualize a bread bag, but smaller (obviously) with a rubber bracelet on the end. Now if that doesn't just SCREAM, "Come to mama!" then I'm not sure what does. I think it would probably be 100% effective...because no one would get NEAR you once they saw that thing hanging out. What the heck? I'm not superficial, but let's be honest here. The only thing that device made you "Wonder" was whether you were going to get white or whole wheat. Next!

There was also the development of Leah's Shield. It was a solid plastic device that a foreign researcher named after his wife. (Note to self: If a man wants to name anything after me, make it something that doesn't develop an odor if not properly cleaned.) Imagine solid white rubber-like plastic, in the shape of a hockey puck, but it has a little valve on the end. Oh, and did I mention it weighed the same as the hockey puck? That's probably important, I think. We were each given one to try over a weekend. We were STRICTLY told NOT to use it for contraception, but just to report back on comfort, ease of placement, etc.

I guess if you could get past the psychological part of a "barrier" device having a valve on it, it wasn't so bad. That is if you don't mind weighing an extra four pounds and hearing a constant whistling when you go outside and it's windy. Other than that, it was a stellar product. Not. Sorry, Leah.

Truth be told, these stories just scratch the surface of material I have in my gynecological vault (yes, that's what I said). Maybe I'll do another post. Maybe I'll just save them for the next class reunion. If nothing else, I hope you got a laugh, along with a dose of confidence for your next visit to the doctor. Whatever question you have, it's nothing they haven't heard before. And more than likely, it's never going to be wacky enough to make it into a blog.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is this thing on?

Hello! For those three of you who are still checking in on my severely anemic blog, I send you greetings...and apologies. I won't make you jealous with the reasons why I've been MIA, but suffice to say it involves my vocation, a hospitalization, my son's new mode of transportation, a graduation, a girls mini-vacation, all the -tion words you can think of basically. Oh, except masturbation. Unless you count that case I was on where I had to listen to three full days of details about that very topic. File that under "strange but true", friends.

So just when you thought it was safe, I'm back. This time, I thought I'd introduce you someone who I, myself, haven't even had contact with in over 15 years, but she's been on my mind. Her name was Cora.

Lemme give you a little background. In 1990, I moved to Norfolk, Virginia. My husband was a proud member of the U.S. Navy and I gathered up my cosmetics and hair products and moved myself down to the largest Naval base on the east coast. I found a job at a medical school and was able to find an apartment that was "cozy, charming, and with character" (read: small and old). Although my husband would leave a few months later for "Operation Desert Storm", I was determined to make the best of being a landlubber in a strange town until his return.

If you are a child of my generation, you may remember "Melrose Place". You know how they lived in that uber-cool apartment building? Stucco walls and courtyard with a pool? Well, the place I found was sort of like that. Emphasis on "sort of". It had the stucco walls, but the tenants weren't nearly as fashionable, there were weeds in the courtyard where the pool should have been, and there was a "manager", Mrs. Shockley, (and I use the term manager in the least effective sense of the word) who I'm pretty sure was skimming some Benjamins off of the top when she asked that we all pay in cash because it was easier for her to just send one check to the property owner. I have no proof of her embezzlement, because I was too busy being impressed by her vast array of Mrs. Roper-style muumuus.

A one-bedroom apartment was available on the third floor so I put pen to paper and signed a lease. I was looking forward to making this little plaster palace home for at least the next year...or longer if good old Mrs. Shockley was ready to cut a deal.

It wasn't too long after I moved in my casserole dish and curling iron that I heard a knock on my door. I had a neighbor! A friendly neighbor! I was so excited! That was the day I met Cora. The one-and-only, Cora. She was also a 20-something Navy wife, having moved from Ohio just a few months before I arrived. I was happy to know that, with all the time I'd be spending alone in a strange town, there was someone in a similar situation just right across the hall.

In the beginning, we would say hello at the mailbox or while passing in the hall. I noticed that they didn't seem to have a car, so I offered to let her know when I was running out and she could tag along. She was sweet and seemed grateful.

Having grown up in a great little suburban town in Maryland called Joppatowne, I guess I never realized what a homogeneous place it was. I kinda feel like everyone there was "middle-class". We all pretty much were of the same means and lived very similar lives. Cora was about to teach me a lot about how, without my ever knowing it, I had lived a pretty sheltered life.

Living on low-ranking enlisted Navy pay meant you had to get creative with the food budget. I was lucky to have lived in a house where my mom, too, had a grocery budget but was still able to put a nice meal on the table each evening. With my list and coupons, I took Cora to the not so appropriately named grocery store Be-Lo. (About which I would soon coin the phrase, "I don't know why it's called Be-Lo because their prices Be-High!). She opted to share a cart with me, which was fine. I tossed in some produce, bread, tuna, meats. With each item, she'd say, "Wow, are you really going to cook that?" This went on for about four aisles, my adding items and her just following along.

That was, until we reached what she called "potted meat". Quite frankly, I had never even HEARD of "potted meat" until I had to duck as she threw about 36 cans of it in the cart. It's only 25 cents, she exclaimed! I hated to harsh her mellow, but I had so many questions. Meat? In a can? And in a 2 ounce can at that. This is when I knew Cora had a LOT more to teach me about life. And "meat".

It wasn't long before Cora started greeting me after work. The minute she heard my footsteps coming upstairs, like a lovable puppy excitedly wagging its tail, she'd wait by my door. In the beginning, it was fine. But I would be lying if I said that some days, I wished she was more like a cat.

Getting to know each other meant that she also felt more comfortable calling me at home and at work, in addition to the personal visits. Keep in mind that these were the days before caller ID (and, thank God, before cell phones). You never knew who was going to be on the other end of the phone until you heard their voice and it was too late. Just when I thought I'd slipped in unnoticed, the phone would ring and it was....Cora. Here's how one of our conversations went:

Me: "Hello."
Cora: "Hi, neighbor! What are you doing?"
Me: "Oh, just got home from work. How was your day?"
Cora: "Good. I watched soaps and played video games."
Me: "Wow! Sounds fun! Did you need something, because I'm really --"
Cora: "Actually, yeah. We're having hot dogs and beans for dinner and I was wondering if I could borrow some hot dogs and beans."
Me: (Silence)
Cora: "Steph?"
Me: "Um, sure. Let me see what I have. Come on over in a few minutes."

Okay. As I said before, I was raised in the suburbs, so the very idea of borrowing something from a neighbor isn't foreign. But I gotta tell you, we NEVER, EVER borrowed the main dish and the side dish. I mean, are you REALLY having hot dogs and beans for dinner if you don't actually HAVE any hot dogs and beans? Cause in my world, you're just having hot dog rolls.

And the requests didn't stop there. Cora's husband had some sailor buddies that were going to be staying with them for a few weeks (one of which I would later come to find out she left her husband for, but that's a WHOLE other blog post). She was fretting about getting the place in order. I had just stencilled a border on my walls(STOP laughing right now. It was in back then, I swear) and she wanted me to give her quick-and-dirty seminar on how to spruce up her place as well. With stencilling brush and acrylic paints in hand, I went over and gave it my best shot. I did one wall and then left her to her own devices for the other three, fully knowing that this would probably be the event that would lead to my never being offered to renew my lease with Mrs. Roper.

A few days went by and Cora called again, this time asking to borrow a lamp and a chair. Again, where I come from, you borrow sugar. Maybe borrow a cup of sour cream. Even a lawn mower if yours is on the fritz, but furniture? By this point I'm thinking that Ohio is not a part of the United States.

When I went to bring the lamp and chair over, she asked me to come in and see her stenciling work. She said she knew it wasn't the best, but she didn't care since she was only renting. Now I am FAR from Martha Stewart, and I'm certainly not perfect, but I also will say that I know a straight line when I see it. Her stencilling...well, it sort of gave you the impression that she either (a) was hitting the bottle when attempting this project or (b) she has undiagnosed vertigo. That floral pattern had more waves than Ocean City.

The requests went on...she borrowed a table (which I should have expected because it was crazy for me to loan her a lamp with nothing to put it on) and a phone. She borrowed food. I was excited for her when she branched out from the potted meat and said she was actually using her oven, but of course that meant she had to have me come over to peek in her oven and see if I thought her Tuna Helper was fully cooked.

And although I joke about it, the requests really didn't bother me much. That was until her husband went out to sea for three months and she asked if I could do her a favor. She wanted to know if I would take nude pictures of her to send him. I don't consider myself a prude, but to ask someone you barely know to photograph you in all your glory, it just struck me as odd. Well, that was until she told me that she had her mother take the last set of pictures.

I could go on and on with my Tales of Cora. My husband left for six months, her husband returned. I helped her decorate the building and make a special dinner. Obviously I had underestimated the aphrodisiac qualities of "potted meat" because, within a month, she told me that she was pregnant. I was happy for them, but I'll confess that I thought I should probably buy a few cans of baby formula so Junior could get a meal or two...at least until she realized babies can't eat Tuna helper or meat in a can.

My concerns were validated when I offered to pick her up from her first doctor's appointment. She got in the car and I asked how it went. She said that everything seemed to be fine and that she actually learned something! I can safely say that, for as long as I live, I will NEVER forget her disclosure, "You know, I was sitting on the exam table waiting for the doctor and they had a poster on the wall. I was looking and looking. It was like a poster of all your lady parts. I couldn't believe it because I never knew there were three holes down there!"

I'm pretty sure this was when I heard the gravel from the shoulder of the road hitting my car because I had blacked out from sheer fright. This is a woman who is giving birth to another human being...a little person she will be responsible for the feeding and care of, and she has NO idea of how many holes she has "down there". Forget that she had never had a driver's license, forget that she borrowed the main dish on her dinner menu, forget that she was married to a man that insisted on answering the phone in the voice of cartoon characters, at that moment, it all paled in comparison.

And all these years later, I do wonder what she's doing now. Is she sleeping on a mattress borrowed from a neighbor? Did her son become a rebel vegetarian? When we last spoke, she had left her husband for his friend, was trying to get a driver's license, and had decided that she wanted a career. And of all things, she wanted to be a mortician. It was the LEAST frightening thing I had ever heard her say.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pull up a chair...

Yes, it's me! I'm back. It has been awhile, but I've been kind of busy with life. I had a son that went to prom....

and a reunion with spectacular high school friends.

So life has been kinda hectic. In a fun way.

As most of you know, I've been dutifully reporting for weigh-ins on Sunday mornings at my local Weight Watchers. Since you likely have never been to a WW meeting, I thought I'd invite you to join me, inside my own head (where I'm guilty sometimes of spending WAY too much time) to pull up a chair and take it all in, from my perspective. Admit it, you've wondered what goes on behind that store front.

First off, just to give you the idea of the setting, this is my local Weight Watchers. For me, a necessary evil.

This, however, is completely UNNECESSARY and very evil.

What commercial real estate broker thought it would be ironically funny to rent out space to a BAKERY, right next to Weight Watchers? Someone who apparently never struggled with their weight. I'm not even going to show you the 180 degree view of this location. I will tell you that it includes a bistro, Chinese take-out, an Italian restaurant, McDonald's, Chili's and Taco Bell. Not that I've really ever noticed.

So upon arrival, you are greeted by three smiling ladies, eager to grab your $12 and have you hop on the scale. They have conveniently placed chairs next to each scale, because disrobing is not at all unusual. Ladies are peeling off their jackets, shoes, keys from pockets, emptying loose change. I even saw one lady pluck her eyebrows before weighing in. From someone who has, in all honesty, considered a pre-meeting enema on many occasions, I'm not here to judge.

Your representative will scan your record book as you step on the scale. This is right about the time I start hearing the Jeopardy theme music playing in my head. I look at her face and try to read her expression. Wait, why is she furrowing her brow? Great. Now she's squinting. I gained. I know it. But last week's topic was "Stop the Negative Self-Talk", so I need to get positive here....and QUICK.

Hold on, now her eyes just got kinda bulgy. Either she has the new onset of a thyroid condition or I have just set a Weight Watchers World Record! GO. ME. I TOTALLY kicked butt and lost like 18 pounds in a week, didn't I? I knew it! I am a Weight Watchers MAS-TAH'. Go ahead, hit me with the digits lady, cause I've got some random dance moves to celebrate that you will NOT believe. Okay, why is she still clicking that mouse? I bet she's deleting my weight loss! Because she'd have to give me a free box of Smoothie Mix for my efforts and she just doesn't want to put out! She absolutely is! UN-REAL. I knew this place sucked. It always has. I'm quitting...I'm quitting as soon as ....

WHAT? I lost 4.3 pounds? Oh. Em. Gee. No way! I ask to jump the counter and hug her. She giggles, but politely declines. That's okay. I'm not letting that Gloomy Gus bring me down. I mean, who doesn't like a free hug from a skinnier person? (Skinnier being a relative term.) I get my book back, put my pants, shirt, and undergarments back on, and head on into the meeting room, my head held high. And really, I don't mean to brag, but I SO don't need to stay for the meeting. Obviously, I've got it completely figured out. Hello? 4.3 pounds! But since the leader has gone to all the trouble of planning and gathering materials, I guess I'll hang. Plus I know that all the kids at home right now are probably yelling out their breakfast orders, so Mamma's gonna stay put.

The leader goes to the front of the room and begins her topic. She often has a chart or some information to share. Luckily, I really LOVE this leader. She's got a great sense of humor which, to me, is CRUCIAL. I mean, she could be 850 pounds and gaining, and I'd still consider her to be a great leader if she made me laugh. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that.

As she proceeds into her presentation, she'll often make open-ended remarks, waiting for a response from the group. As hard as this may be to imagine, 99% of the time, I say nothing. I'm actually quite shy when it comes to public speaking of any sort. I'd rather be the listener. Plus, I usually have so much witty banter going on between the voices in my own head, I need to keep my mouth shut so I can focus.

I've noticed there are others, however, who are BIG TIME into sharing. I know the philosophy is that we learn from others, but there comes a point when I just don't want to hear from you anymore. That may sound harsh, but I also know that all of you have been in a meeting at work or elsewhere where the "teacher's pet" insists on over-sharing. Like, they have no filter. They don't even realize that the rest of us are sitting there because it is ALL about them.

There is one over-sharing lady in my group who was there the last time I joined Weight Watchers...THREE YEARS AGO. Yep, she's still showing up. By my calculations, she has paid $5,250 to lose 11 pounds. While she may get high marks for persistence, three years into it, do you REALLY think it's wise to tell everyone how you ONLY eat steamed vegetables and you hike 5 miles every single day? I mean, I'm not saying you're lying. But you are. Because if you really did that, you'd be rockin' the size 6, sister.

Then you have the men. I happen to love the men that go to meetings. All three of them. One is an older man who is a truck drivin', motorcycle ridin', lifetime WW member. He's usually quiet, but when he does have a remark, it's STELLAR. It's like he saves up his wit and then just smacks us with it. He's still struggling, but he's still attending. I like that about him. I also like that I saw him at Panera after one of our meetings.

I'm not trying to rob the men of their accomplishments, but we all know that men lose weight differently than women. Obviously Weight Watchers knows it too, because they give them a free 8 points just for having a third leg. What the hell? That doesn't seem fair to me. I mean, I'm carrying around two somewhat heavier breasts (well, maybe not heavier than the fella in the third row, but still) AND a uterus that bore four human beings. Shouldn't that count for something? A point maybe? Come ON.

My adoration for these metrosexuals who are manly enough to join WW ends, however, when they decide to raise their hands and share. "Hi, everyone. I'm Jim and I only lost 7 pounds this week, but I'm not giving up!" (insert unenthusiastic clapping from one participant, who I think may be drunk, and the leader.) Okay, did he just say SEVEN pounds in one week? And I did NOT just hear him say "ONLY". Well, guess what, JIMMY...I only lost 1.2 pounds last week. And I was proud of it until you opened your pie hole and had to announce your so-called failure. So, you know what buddy? Bite me. Isn't there some fishing show you could be at home watching? And by the way, I hope you lost that ENTIRE 7 pounds, and a few inches, in the only place a man doesn't want to.

Believe it or not, some of these men are accompanied by their wives. This is a strange, strange phenomenon to me. Part of me thinks it's kinda cute. But most of me thinks it's sick and delusional. And are you ready for this? Last week I even saw a woman open her book, turn to the page with her weight, and VOLUNTARILY show it to her husband. What kind of dysfunctional relationship is THAT? I'd rather be kidnapped and held hostage in a dirty hotel room by terrorists than to have my husband know my weight and put it on a missing poster. But if that kind of closeness, sharing, emotional support, and kindness works for them, WHAT-EVER.

Last, but certainly not least, is the "I've got an excuse" member. There's one in every group, except for Sundays when there are about four. If I sucked at WW that week and ate an entire sleeve of Oreos in my car on the way to work because I was PMS'ing, I would keep that to myself. I mean, is that something you want to broadcast? For some, apparently yes. Shortly after that confession, she throws in how she can't help that she went over her points because a pregnant coworker had a baby shower, and then her Uncle had his bunions removed and she had to visit him in the hospital and all she could eat was from a vending machine and...(just about now is where the excuse-maker's voice morphs into the voice of the teacher on Charlie Brown). I mean, when the group starts pilfering their purses for some high calorie contraband, it may be time to end your story. If not then, how about when you hear the sticky name tag labels being peeled from shirts and the lights are being turned off? Either one.

The meetings end with the leader grabbing her little tray of "rewards" and asking who needs recognition. I understand the concept of positive reinforcement, and certainly we all like to get credit for our hard work from time-to-time. Like maybe when you lose 5% or 10% of your body weight, or when you've hit a 25 or 50 pound milestone. But when she says, "Who needs a bravo because they are just happy to be here?" I think you need to slither on out the door quietly. As a grown woman, do you REALLY need a little green star sticker for putting your tush in the car and hauling it to a 30 minute meeting? Really? Cause that's a bit much. And a bit ridiculous. Move along.

Since I hate to end on a sarcastic, biting note (well, not really but the peace and harmony part of me who is trying to be a better person is bringing on the guilt), I will say that even with the cast of characters, and the over-priced crappy snacks they peddle, Weight Watchers IS working for me. I've shed 24 pounds thus far and I'm still motivated to melt away more. I know it's not for everyone. But for me it's accountability, it's educational, it's motivational and, above all, it's entertainment for all those voices in my head.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Believe me, you'll thank me later.

With this post, there will be no pictures. For reasons that will become obvious, I have no images of my latest fitness endeavor.

Apparently Weight Watchers not only wants me to calculate points, keep a journal, and attend weekly meetings, they also expect me to exercise. Or, as my leader puts it, "move my parts". I'm happy with my 15 pound weight loss thus far, but have come to accept the fact that, if I plan on continuing to lose, I'm going to have to institute something a little more strenuous than carrying laundry up the stairs and running through the aisles of Target to get to the bathroom because of the MASSIVE amounts of water this program has me taking in.

I have a few workout DVDs that I somewhat enjoy, but thought if I joined something a little more "organized" I'd meet with greater success. But what to choose? I didn't want anything that would be so crazy difficult that I would immediately feel defeated. I like to just go, blend in, and quickly leave before I hear the snickering about how out of shape I am. So what class do you think of for someone who is overweight, shy, and out of shape? Why pole dancing, of course!

I've seen it on Oprah and read about what a fun, fantastic workout the "tease" classes were providing to women everywhere. Moreover, it was supposed to boost your confidence! And who doesn't love that? Even here in suburbia, I easily found a business that lets you pay-as-you-go with no long-term commitment. They had an introductory class, 30 minutes of chair dancing and 30 minutes of pole. That has me written ALL over it! I like situations where I can calculate, down to the minute, how long I'll be publicly humiliated.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the super-friendly owner, wearing her "Got Pole" t-shirt and surrounded by shelves of thigh-high boots and clear heels. Dorothy, you aren't in Kansas anymore! We were brought to the studio where they had chairs and mats waiting. Of course, I immediately staked my claim on the back row real estate. No way was I flaunting my wares in the front row. Plus it wouldn't really be fair to anyone behind me that was forced to view the show I was about to put on. I care too much for my fellow man.

I looked around at the other ladies who were there. There were a few young girls who looked great and were definitely having fun. I got why they were there. But the lady in the front row, I'll admit, had me a bit puzzled. She was probably in her fifties, no make-up, un-done hair, and very nondescript. As she looked around, I figured she was probably discovering that this was NOT the place she meant to go to. Maybe she took a wrong turn and was supposed to be at the copy center next-door? Yep. I was right. There she goes, walking away and going ... hold on. What is she doing? Why is she going over to those -- OH. NO. SHE. DI'INT! She did NOT just go over to those baskets and pluck a pair of CLEAR HEELS out and put them on! WTH? She has her own SHOES? That she keeps HERE? This is not for real. I'm being Punk'd, aren't I?

Luckily, the instructor took the stage so I would stop staring at Connie Clear Heels. She got her boombox a rockin' with some warm-up music. This isn't so bad, I thought. She was a 20-something who was very sweet and encouraging. She even got me a little choked up, talking about how we women are much too hard on ourselves and that we ALL should be comfortable in our own skin and find our inner "sexy".

I was actually starting to believe her....well, that was until she went all mud-flap on me. Yes, mud-flap. Apparently one of the first moves we had to learn in chair dancing is the "mud-flap". I know you've seen them on the trucks going up and down the interstate. It's the Pamela Anderson-type silhouette with long flowing locks, perky breasts, and legs that reach up to her armpits. Yeah, those. Unfortunately, I've got short hair, post-breastfeeding breasts, and legs that go from a cankle directly to a thigh. Yay me.

Moving quickly, she introduced our next move, the "kitten crawl". I don't have a cat, nor do I want to pretend to be one, but apparently the opposite sex finds this maneuver BEYOND sexy. You have to get on all fours and put your chest toward the ground, rear up in the air, and crawl. I guess, in the right lighting and with the right amount of alcohol, I could make this look sexy. And by that I mean that alcohol would be involved for both parties. In large amounts.

And speaking of the other participant, one thing that did kind of bug me was her referral to the other party as "the victim". I realize she doesn't want to generalize by saying husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, mailman, etc., but "victim" just seems a bit crass, don't you think? Although midway through this erotic dance, I started thinking that anyone I'd be performing for might readily agree with the classification of "victim".

We did 30 minutes of what turned out to be quite intense exercise. I'm hoping they didn't inspect the chair I used, because I'm pretty sure I left some indentations from my fingernails during that little episode of hyperventilation I had. Come to find out, the chair would be my friend, when you compare it to the next piece of apparatus...THE POLE.

The "pole room" had about 16 poles and mirrors on every wall. They are quite clever with the mirror placement, thus throwing off my equilibrium and making it difficult to determine how I could grab a spot in the back row. I took the pole in the corner and hoped for the best.

We were given coaching on a few basic moves and then the music started playing. The instructor did an AMAZING demonstration. How ever you feel about strippers, pole dancers, etc. they have to be quite flexible and have tremendous strength to do what they do. I was basically moving forward on a wing and a prayer, and hoping that my hours spent on the jungle gym in elementary school would finally pay off for me in a BIG way.

First up was the basic walk with a spin around the pole. It looked easy enough. She would gracefully and slowly glide around the pole and end up back where she started, unwrapping her legs as she went. It started out well, but apparently I gave it a little too much gas and went flying around the pole for about three revolutions. When I heard myself quote George Jetson by saying, "Jane, how do you stop this crazy thing!" I knew I had gotten a little too big for my dancing britches.

With my newly found confidence, I attempted the spin with both feet off the ground. I was giving it all I had, concentrating on hand placement and speed. I was doing it! Do you have an advanced class because I am SO signing up! Look at me, Lady Pole Dancing Instructor, look at me, right over here, I'm -- wait, where'd she go? Holy CRAP. She has TOTALLY moved on and climbed the pole all the way to the CEILING...where she hanging with NO HANDS. Is David Copperfield behind one of those mirrors, levitating her? Okay, she's phenomenal. I get it. But while she was busy showing off, she totally missed how great I was doing. Apparently she's not one of those teachers that gets joy from seeing her students excel. Whatever.

We learned a few more fancy tricks and then, how to gracefully dismount from the pole. The teacher gave a demonstration and then had us try. As we were coming back around and ready for our big finish, she said, "And this, ladies, is where you bend down and pick up ALL those $100 bills!" She smiled gently at me when I asked what you should do if all you find is a nickle and a piece of lint.

Thankfully friends, I'm not in it for the money. Despite my less than desirable performance, I plan on going back. It was a fun workout and I was actually sore the next day, working muscles that I didn't even know I had. If you've secretly wondered what these classes are like, I say GO. You only live once and, as the saying goes, if you work it just right, that will be enough.