About Me

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I'm the mother of four children who hopes to raise them to be productive, compassionate, humble citizens of our planet...who will also use their turn signals.

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.