Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reflecting on the Changes

Today I'm reflecting a little on some of the changes that I've been through since the end of January when I decided to quit making excuses and got busy trying to improve my life a little.  Not that every area of my life is squeaky-clean, nor have I really hit all of the goals that I set out for myself either.  I was a little bit vague in the beginning about what I wanted to accomplish other than finding a height-weight chart and choosing a number for my final destination based on what average people weigh.

But I'm not average.  Never really have been.  I'm more of a "pass-fail" type to be perfectly honest.  I'm either able to something or I am not.  Either passable or hilariously bad at it.

Just ask my old Modern Dance teacher.  She gave me an "A" for effort because it was evident that I gave it my all.  For actual performance?  Well, let's just say that it was a good thing that I was paired with two other really good dancers and leave it at that.  Ask Allyson who I'm sure has seen far better burpees in her training career.  Mine are kind of in slow motion with a side order of awkward.

I suppose that all of us have something that helps us get through life with our psyches intact.  Maybe it is natural talent, connections, the help of others, a winning personality, luck of the draw, or a particularly pretty face.  Perhaps others see us as capable, confident or cool and treat us accordingly.  I don't know what the difference is sometimes between one person being chosen for this or that and another...but I have more often than not been the one on the bench.  Rarely chosen first and usually considered somewhat as a surprise when people get to know me.  But I've learned a lot on the bench.

Like natural enthusiasm and persistence will get you to places that other things won't.  Being enthusiastic will open doors to you because people like to see someone who is passionate about what they are doing.  Persistence is a quality that few people have because it normally initially involves failure...and people tend to shy away from anything related to failure.  And these two traits have gotten many people to places that they never thought they'd be...sometimes by default...because everyone around them threw in the towel and quit.  I love developing these two qualities because they tend to be easier for me...although I've had the benefits cancelled out by stupidity or poor timing.  But for the most part...I strongly believe in both.

I also believe that most of us are capable of doing more than we think but we don't think to try.  Sometimes as we age, the list of things we do well becomes more or less ingrained in us and everyone around us so we're good with that and don't really feel the need to step out into a new area.

Nobody could top my great-grandmother's lemon pie in my mother's memory.  Nobody could top my grandmother's chess pie in mine.  My mother is a wonderful actress and still delights people who go to watch performances and be entertained.  People tell me that I have a pretty handwriting and so I do wedding invitations and write out bible verses when asked.  If you do something well...why bother trying to get better or find something new to master?

However, there is a lot in us that we know not of.  The secret is to find the people who don't see our limitations - or the ones we've put on ourselves - and who tell us that we can do or be more than we ever thought possible.

I had a friend, Lisa, who told me years ago that I'd be a good teacher.  I thought I'd give it a whirl to conquer my shyness about public speaking.  I ended up teaching banking classes for ten years.  I had another friend who gave me some recipes and told me that I'd be able to make jellies and pickles if I tried.  I can and do.  (No pun intended.)  What would have happened had I written that off and not tried because I was afraid of speaking in public or messing up my kitchen?

Right now, I am working with a trainer and instructors who apparently don't see me as 51 but as someone who is trying to get better.  Who is strong and capable.  Who can run around the parking lot at the gym (slow but still...) seven times last night.  Who can do 100 crunches with a fifteen pound weight held steady above my head.  Someone who can squeeze out 15 more repetitions and definitely more than the week before.  Who wears workout pants from 2005 because they now fit although they are horribly out of style.  Who couldn't care less that her hair is soaking wet and so is her shirt when she leaves the gym.

I think that part of the secret of life is to never stop learning.  To never stop setting goals for yourself.  To never quit thinking that things are possible.  I suppose that the older I get, the more I see people happy with where they are, unwilling to make sacrifices to change, or scared that if they drop their guard for a second that someone will swoop in and put them at a disadvantage.

Actually, I have been all of those people.  It was exhausting.

I have friends who roll with different interests the older they get.  They dream of travel, learning a new skill (my mother-in-law learned the dulcimer in her 70's), or just being a better version of themselves.  If this is not what you are doing...then think about it and see if you may be really, really comfortable and are letting life pass you by just a bit.

Because I have been the "poster child" for being unhealthy, I suppose I've gone the other direction toward reversing the damage.  I won't be able to do that entirely, however, because of my age and the fact that I have battle scars from my neglect.  But instead of being angry about it, I accept this.  There are consequences to every decision, and one of the glaring consequences of my poor ones include some veins that run over my body like a map of New England.  Fine.  But there's no reason that I can't try to be one of the successful people who lose half of their body weight.  Because people actually do that all of the time.  It isn't easy...but it is possible.

There are changes that have stuck with me such as giving up artificial sweeteners, cutting out most breads and butter, dairy, and processed foods.  But every so often I'm not going to act like the Wicked Witch of the West and be "melting" just because there's a little cheese on my salad.  I'll be fine.  I also feel much better if I am wearing it out at the gym instead of sitting around trying to make the weight come off with diet only.  But I have no patience for using ridiculously light weights just to do exercises because 51 year old women shouldn't lift heavy.  I'm big on progressing to heavier weights so that I'm challenged.

It actually makes me feel quite amazing.  Capable, strong, and like anything is possible.  I don't necessarily feel that while running, but I hope that someday I will.  I wasn't a good runner when I was young and more fit, so I doubt seriously that I'll be running a marathon anytime soon...but you never know.

Wherever you are today on your path...retired, waiting for a vision, settled, fat and happy, or just a little bit filled with out a way to challenge yourself to do something new.  I don't care if it is finally putting in and maintaining that flower bed you've dreamed about for years, joining a class or boot camp at your gym, planning a trip to Europe, or organizing your spice rack.  Just figure out something that gives you that wonderful feeling of accomplishment and that anything is possible.

I find that at the gym.  I find that when I weigh less than the day before.  I find it when I look back at how far I've come.  I'm still very fluffy, but I'm 61 pounds less fluffy than I there's that.

Thank you to all of you who have made me feel like I could keep going through this.  Who encourage me to write about the journey or to just pick up a 15 pound weight instead of a 10 because I can.  Who tell me to keep doing what I'm doing because they can tell.  Who tell me to keep working hard because it is paying off.

Hopefully, someone out here reading this will be encouraged to get off the couch and into doing something that makes them feel incredible.  Perhaps not...but that is my hope.

Thanks for reading.  And for everything else.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Extra Effort

This morning I'm staring at the screen and trying to remember what it was last night that I wanted to write about when I got up.  Actually, I was supposed to be up 45 minutes ago...and I asked God to please wake me up so that I'd have a little time to put some thoughts down.  He did...via Riley's incessant whining...not my cell phone which was set for 5:15 a.m.  

I got up, opened the door to let him out, but Dixie was in no mood to be roused before she heard the phone alarm go off, so I had to lift her out of her warm bed and shoo her out the door with him.  I sunk back into bed because yesterday was "leg day" at the gym and there are certain parts of my lower half that had apparently not been worked hard enough over the past few days and were screaming for me to rest a few more minutes.

I did.

Made my coffee...which I am still drinking black...even though I can technically put cream back in should I choose...but I've gotten used to giving up those calories so I do.  It serves the purpose of keeping me at one cup because I hardly make it to the bottom of the first one.  

The dogs ran from window to window as I prepared their food with the Dinovite in it and put them at their places.  I feed them in two different spots and give Dixie a head start because Riley tends to finish early and will prod Dixie to move so he can finish hers.  Sometimes she is okay with this and other days she goes all Godzilla on him...making sounds that are hard to believe come out of a well behaved, loving, little shih tzu.

She doesn't much resemble a shih tzu right now seeing as she got into a nest of briars last week on her great escape from the yard into the neighbor's.  There is a strip of wilderness between the two yards because apparently we are not people that they care to associate with after we scared a guest of theirs with a fake alligator by the pond and our sweet former dog, Harley, would chase his guests up from the pond.  You've not lived until you've seen somebody's MeeMaw take off at warp speed toward the house.  

Anyway, the briars are there, but weren't really the prickly kind...more the kind that stick to everything and you can pull them out but it takes forever and eventually you realize that it is necessary to let a professional handle it.  So, we let Petco do it.  Fifty dollars later, she has very little hair on her ears or face and underbelly.  Her tail is not the plumey long variety, but looks like someone attached a stick on her rear end.  

It isn't her best look.  But if she keeps getting in the briars when her battery runs down (which I suspect was from chasing the cat) then she deserves to look like a canine Sinead O'Connor.  

Bless her heart.

The room is really quiet now that Big Dave has gone to take his shower...and in a few minutes...he will reappear and make breakfast.  It will either be eggs and oatmeal or oatmeal and eggs.  He changes the order every morning just to keep it interesting.  I'll drown the oatmeal with a fair amount of cinnamon from Penzey's Spices (you can order online...) and eight blackberries cut up so that I can taste some in each bite.  I don't put any sugar, honey, or milk in there.  Yes, it can be a little like eating what I suspect wallpaper paste tastes like...but I'm still off of the artificial sweeteners.  The blackberries help.  The copious amounts of cinnamon actually taste sweet to me now.

Yeah, I'm weird.

After we eat, I'll go back to the bedroom, make the bed, pick up any underwear that Riley has stolen from the laundry basket overnight and dry my hair while reading "James Madison" by Lynne Cheney.  I am on this quest to read something about each of the Presidents and would like to go to some Presidential libraries.  I still miss my book on Harry S. Truman by David McCullough ("Truman") that was my constant companion for about a month because I couldn't read too fast (McCullough is full of details and I don't like to miss them...much like reading C.S. cannot speedread through it.)  I actually liked the person who was Truman.  I'm finding Madison a little less interesting so far...but that is because he was the 4th President and it is hard to relate to living in colonial Virginia.  I'll probably skip around and hit Eisenhower next and then go back to John Quincey Adams (another book I've already purchased) so I don't get all bogged down.

Yes, I'm a nerd.  But I've embraced it and moved on.

I don't know what today will hold...whether it will be another "Chamber of Commerce" day where the weather is perfect and I make excuses to go down the street and drop a letter in the box just to get out of the confines of the four walls and the air conditioning that is apparently set on "arctic."  There are two temperatures at work...Hades lite and arctic.  You have to own a fan and a heater just to survive.

(Big Dave just asked me if I want oatmeal and eggs or eggs and oatmeal.  Told you we were predictable.  We're having oatmeal and eggs today.)

I also just remembered what I wanted to write about...the little bit I'll see if I can launch into that after describing my incredibly boring morning to you.

It really came about yesterday when I was in the ladies room facing a fresh roll of toilet paper for the umpteenth time.  Yes, it is better than being "stranded" but almost as bad.  Why?  Because the little extra bit of effort is always required when I see a fresh roll.   Let me explain...apparently our toilet paper in the bathroom as a lot of glue on it to keep it closed and when you try to undo it, you'll either get a pretty clean break, or the roll will look like a wildcat has gotten a hold on it and left little paper pieces all over the floor.  There is nothing in between.  

To use the paper, you must undo the glue.  To do that, you have to take the paper off of the roll.  Why people don't just do that when they change the paper roll is beyond me.  They stop at just replacing it.  Why not go the extra step and make it easy for the next person?  

Because very few people go beyond what the minimum that is required.  Even with the things that don't matter.  They just don't notice it.  

I, of course, notice that kind of stuff because I'm apparently weird.  And because I am almost always the next person behind the fresh roll.  

It is the little things that really get us sometimes, isn't it?  Finding out that you are out of one ingredient that you need to make something that you really want.  Finding that someone left the toilet seat up when you are making a mad dash.  Finding that someone didn't secure the cap on the 2 liter bottle of Coke and the rest is flat.  Finding that there is 1/8 of a tank of gas which means that you have to fill it...when you don't really have time.  Watching a yahoo (always male) jump in front of you when a new line opens and you were next.  Having people submit things to you that aren't proofread.  

The little things.

And as Big Dave's grandfather used to say, "It's the little things that make the big things look so good."  The reverse is also true.  It is the little things sometimes that make the big things look crappier than they really are.

I realize that I'm probably just being a little ridiculous about the toilet paper, but it is something I noticed months ago and try not to roll my eyes about.  I'm pretty much the queen of eye-rolling sometimes.  I'm also a little vocal with the jackwagons who break line the guy at CVS on Saturday who should have let the guy with the two kids bouncing around go before he did.  But he didn't.  Because men in stores don't like to wait.  They'll hold the door for you if you get there first, but after that...chivalry is dead.  

I can live with that.  Sometimes Towanda mentions it to anyone who will that the offending individual cannot help but hear as well.

Maybe you are one of those people who does more than anyone expects.  I hope so.  I think if everyone did just a little bit more than expected...the world would be a far better place.  And because there are a  lot of people may even have to do a lot more than expected.  Chances are...people won't thank you for it or mention it.  You have to do it because it is the right thing to do.

This does not mean that I get it right every time.  Do I snatch the bibb lettuce at the Farmers Market on Saturday that someone behind me had her eye on because I was ahead of her in line?  Yes.  After I offered it twice and she refused...I took it.  After all, if you want it...then if someone offers it to need to take it or get the romaine.  That's what she did.  I'm sure that she thinks I'm a heifer.  I suppose sometimes I am.

But I do try.  

Most of the time anyway.

I am currently six minutes away from having to get to the second stage of my routine - drying my hair.  So, although this post is a little odd...I'm going to have to wrap it up anyway.  Plus, my oatmeal is getting a little cold and I can't write and eat at the same time.  I lost that skill set when the kids got old enough to feed themselves.

Have a great day everyone.  Look for an opportunity to do more than is expected.  Like my friend, Michelle, who mailed me cookies one year because I happened to say how awesome they sounded.  Or my friend, Allison, who shared my blog on hers because she's an encourager.  Or my friend, Beve, who goes beyond the normal confines of friendship into sisterhood to blaze the way ahead of me in many ways, to my friends Bonnie and Lisa who will send me a card in the mail to encourage me on my weight loss and tell me to keep moving forward.

Or anyone reading this who takes the time to do so and often checks "like" or leaves a comment.  I appreciate that extra effort so much.

I really do.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

When Life Hands You Lemons...

I am well aware that there is a full moon right now...even if I hadn't seen the huge orange globe on my way home tonight.  It looked like a giant pumpkin in the sky and was simply confirmation that every thing that I have always thought about full moons is probably tragically correct.

It has been a week.

Actually, it has been a month.

A month since I've had great weight loss and wasn't struggling.  A month of going to the gym and working hard...only to hop on the scale and see it registering something similar to the day before.  Some days it would go down and other days it would go up.  But on was moving slower than I do after leg day at the gym.

That's frustrating.

Okay, it isn't earth-shattering.  It isn't even really that bad in the grand scheme of things.  People started reminding me that muscle weighs more than fat.  Telling me not to give up because it was just a plateau...and I'd eventually have another drop in weight soon.

As you know..."soon" is relative.  Two weeks seems like an eternity when you are 8 1/2 months pregnant.  An hour seems like a week when you have been in a car for 18 1/2 hours.  Five minutes seems like a whole lot longer when you are waiting outside the bathroom and you need to go.

You know what I mean.

What I've been through is a test.  Was I going to stay with the program?  Keep going to the gym?  Stay positive?  Be faithful to my goals for myself?  Or was I going to quit and go facedown in a bag of Oreos?

I'm really not that big on tests.  But you do learn a bit about your resolve when you are in the midst of one.  I learned that I am going to stay with the program...and will be embracing the most strict part of it again for the next few weeks.  That going to the gym  - and pushing myself to progress without injury - is not going to stop just because my relationship with gravity is a bit tense.

I'll admit that staying positive was not maintained 100% as I started getting angry with my metabolism again and calling myself names that I shall not repeat here because I know it was just the frustration talking.  I also decided that my goals are not changing simply because the scale is taunting me.

Oreos?  No thank you.  Seriously.

I did learn that one of the delusions that I had for years was that I was the only person in my family who was of a "healthy" size.  I use that positive term "healthy" because it sounds so much better than "fat girl."  And then I saw a photo in Pennsylvania that really changed my mindset and made me feel so much better.  It was of my great-grandmother...who was not as "healthy" as I was or even currently am...but I did see where the thicker thighs and rear end may have originated.

Thanks, Nana.

Somehow knowing that I wasn't alone really did help me.  Strange, but true.  I suppose that having the "lemon" of extra badonkadonk that I've struggled with for decades really isn't something that you can make lemonade out of.  It just IS.  The funny thing is that I don't remember Nana but in her older years.  And as such...I never knew that she was a beautiful full figured lady when she was about my age.

I suppose she took those lemons and made lemon pies out of them.  I heard that her lemon pie was the best in the world.

But speaking of lemons...I've had a lot of friends dealing with various things right now.  Probably more so right now than I've seen in quite awhile.  Maybe it's the full moon...or maybe it is just that time in our lives when we have to deal with everything on a much larger scale.  I don't know.  What I do that we'll get through it.

After all...there's always the option of freezing those lemons and then hurling them at the people who are causing us problems.  (That's not an original thought, by the way, but I like it.)

Maybe you are at a place in your life when you are tired of the lemons and would really just like something sweet and light for a change.  Perhaps you don't really know which way to go or who to trust or how to extract yourself from a sticky situation.  As I see have a trio of choices.  You can keep doing what you are doing, you can change it, or you can change perspective.  Those are pretty much the only options.

Unless you win the Publishers Clearinghouse or something and buy your way out.  That's back, you know...but it isn't the same without Ed McMahon.

If you decide to keep at it...just be sure that you are doing the best that you can and aren't just treading water and wearing yourself out in water shallow enough to stand.  Exhausting yourself because you don't want to stop long enough to devise a plan.  Be faithful to your best self.  Be persistent if it will eventually make a difference or the storm will pass in time.

If you choose to change it...then by all means do...but don't throw away the baby with the bathwater.  Some people like to just walk away from problems because they don't want to deal with unpleasantness.  They don't want to be hassled with the needs of others, the maintenance of relationships, or the time it takes to be a true friend.  Don't be that person.  There are enough of them already...and I've met my quota for this lifetime.  Truly.  But I admire people who choose to fix their problems instead of blaming them on other people.

Your last choice is to change perspective.  To look at what is negative and take yourself to the worst possible place and see what it looks like.  Would you survive?  Would you be able to take care of yourself and/or your family?  Would your stress level go down by a tremendous amount or climb to the stratosphere?  I just know that most of the time when I'm in a tight spot...I have to change perspective.  I have to look at the lemons all around me and figure out what to do with them.

Sometimes lemonade is in order.  Sometimes lemon pie.  Sometimes you need to squeeze it in your hair and make it blonder.  That's what my Mom used to do when I was a little girl in the days before "Sun In" and highlighting.

Just don't give up.

I'm just newly on the other side of the plateau and I'm back in the saddle trying to move that scale down again.  I realize that I'm fighting a little genetics, hormones, age, and many years of body neglect, but it is getting better all of the time.  If I keep doing the right things...that scale will eventually move.

In fact, it did yesterday...and again today.  I am hopeful that it will again tomorrow.

But if it doesn' won't be the end of the world.

It really won't.  After all, I'm nearly 60 pounds down right now.  And I'm smiling as I just typed that.

So there's that.