Friday, August 22, 2008

This Isn't Goodbye...

I wrote a blog today over at ZenBagLady bidding readers a temporary farewell as I put the blog on hiatus to pursue the book proposal I've committed to writing. I must also do the same thing with Lynn's Weigh, although unlike ZBL, I'll write here once every few weeks because I don't want to lose touch with all of you. And as I said on ZBL, I'll still be posting once or twice a week at Refuse to Regain, so it's not like I'll be completely holed up in my office writing a book.

I feel like I just put my kindergartener on the bus for the first day of school. I know it's necessary to let go of some things for the greater good of another thing, but it's still sad nonetheless. I promise to stay in touch and hope you will do the same.

Below is today's blog over on ZBL:

English can be such a dull language. It’s so practical in terms of pronunciation – mostly clean and repressed – and it often relies on phrases rather than one single word to communicate an idea or action. Not like German where you get to spit and gargle when you talk, and where several words are pasted together into one word to relay meaning.

Today, though, I’m meditating on one English word that is not only fun to say, but holds great meaning for what I’m about to do to ZenBagLady. The word “hiatus” is one of those English words that creates a stop in your jaw, makes you think for a split second about how it feels coming out. Hiatus. If you look at it long enough, it begins to look like a foreign word, from some Pacific island, meaning a flower, maybe. Or a bug.

But what it really means is to take a break. And that’s what I must do. I’ve committed to writing a book proposal and I’m afraid I’ve not given it the time and energy it needs to be the best book proposal I can write. As much as I hate to do it, ZenBagLady will go into hiatus, like a mediocre sitcom, beginning today. However, I reserve the right to publish a blog on occasion, so ZBL won’t be completely gone. It’s a break. An “interruption in space,” according the dictionary.

Thank you for reading the Lady. It’s been a lot of fun writing it these last two years. I’ll still be blogging once a week over on Refuse To Regain with my friend Barbara, and I promise to return ZBL after I get this proposal written.

‘Til next time….auf Wiedersehen, my friends.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I’m Not the Energizer Bunny

It’s rare for me to admit when I’m tired. When I was a kid, my mom would tell me, “Go to bed!” when she saw me staring heavy-eyed at the television on a Saturday night. “I’m not tired!” I’d insist, even though I could barely keep my head on my shoulders.

What do I think I'll miss out on by going to bed or taking it easy? I asked myself that question today and I concluded that I equate tired with weak or wimpy. It’s OK to be tired if I’m really sick or when I had babies or surgery, but it’s not OK to be tired after a vacation or concert or something else that is technically “fun.”

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve run smack into 45 and I’m slowing down or if it’s because I’m coming off a crazy 16-day schedule or if it’s a combination of the two, but I admit I’m tired. Bone tired. I had every intention of working out this morning, but I physically couldn’t bring myself to get on the elliptical or lift a weight. My thighs are stiff, my arms feel like dead weight, and my brain is fuzzy, like I’m looking through a smeared mirror.

When I got back from Minnesota last Monday, I worked out five days in a row, including Saturday before leaving for Scranton to attend the Journey concert. Yesterday, we drove home so I didn’t work out, but I figured I’d get a good nights sleep and do a normal routine today. Problem was, when I woke up, my body said, “Umm….no.”

Of course, in walked the fat chick in my head who said, “Ha ha! If you don’t work out today, you’ll gain weight. Nanner nanner nanner.”

I hate when she talks to me like that because I tend to believe her, and then I have to talk myself down from feeling like a total lazy butt. So I called my husband.

“Honey, if I don’t work out today, I won’t gain 170 pounds, right?”

“Right.”

“OK, good. Just checking.”

He’s so reassuring, isn’t he?

So instead of an intense workout this morning, I caught up on laundry, dishes and the grocery shopping, and I told myself I could go for a walk later today if I wanted. I’ve also got a lot on my mind and things to sort out, so I'm contributing that to my tiredness as well.

I hate being tired and I hate feeling guilty for not working out. But both require my attention today rather than simply tossing both feelings under the rug. I need to tell myself that it’s OK to be tired, especially after the hectic activity of the last few weeks. It’s also OK to feel guilty (trying to deny a feeling is as useful as wearing sweat pants in a Jacuzzi), but it’s not OK to act on that guilt by beating myself up. I’m working on acknowledging it and letting it go.

When I was putting on my makeup in the bathroom this morning, I heard my neighbor playing her piano. She is a music professor and a concert pianist and in the spring she suffered an injury which left her unable to play the piano for several weeks. Today, as I listened to her play scales, I was reminded that our bodies almost always have the final say in what we can and can’t do, despite what our mind says. My neighbor still plays the piano beautifully, even after being away from it for awhile. She got her mojo back, even if she felt a little rusty. Same thing with my body and exercise. I’ll get my energy back. The mojo is still there. I’ll kick off the cobwebs tomorrow, or when my body says, “Go!”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nothing Like A Women's Magazine To Take You Down A Notch

Why do I read magazines? Or maybe the more specific question is, why do I read magazines as a way to “relax”?

I won’t mention what magazines I subscribe to, but believe me, my subscriptions can’t run out fast enough. I used to read my magazines cover to cover the minute they arrived in my mail box. But these days, I have a better sense of myself, what makes me happy and content, but damn it if magazines don’t make me feel less of a woman, a failure almost. I can’t afford $1000 dresses or $500 cardigans, the recipes they publish expect me to use spices or foods I’ve never heard of, let alone could find anywhere close to where I live, and the vacations or “get-aways” they suggest are actually pompous escapes for people with too much stress AND time on their hands.

My idea of a get-away is exactly what I’m doing this weekend: a rock concert in Scranton with three friends I met via Weight Watchers online. We’re going to see Journey, Heart and Cheap Trick. Total cost? About 200 bucks, the price of a half-hour massage at a ritzy resort. I’m packing a cooler of my “comfort” foods and hitting the road with Chris in her totally pimped out, daisy-wheel compact car that I can’t remember the name of at the moment. But it’s not a show-off car by any means. We’ll swim in our hotel pool and talk smart and drink a little and rock out like we’re in our 20s. My outfit will consist of shorts, a t-shirt and sandals.

Ugh….I’m still reeling from the magazine I just read. Are we all supposed to be picture perfect with lots of under-eye concealer and a butt-load of money? I’m not, don’t want to be, but still, there’s a nagging voice inside that says, “You really need to have that $400 ‘party’ dress that some male designer says every woman over 40 needs to have.” Has he BEEN to Clarion? Does he realize that “dressed up” here is jeans and a shirt without words on it?

I’m making a vow right now. I’m done with “health” magazines and “women’s” magazines, at least the snotty ones I subscribe to. What was I thinking? Can you suggest something less pretentious? Less airbrushed? I really do love a good magazine (I’m still a faithful reader of Newsweek and I peruse The Atlantic online), so please, help me out here. What can I read that won’t make me feel like I have to be pencil thin, exercise in contortionist style, and cook like I have a trust fund?

Thanks for letting me vent. I’m beginning to feel normal and real again. Remind me to throw away the next issues when they arrive in the mail. I believe both subscriptions run out at the same time. Thank god.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This Is What 45 Feels Like

Today is my birthday. I am 45. Is that officially mid-life? Can I realistically live to be 90? I suppose so.

The funny thing about turning 45 is that I don’t “feel” 45, even though I have no idea what it feels like to be 45. When I was a kid, 45 seemed really old. My grandmother, who lived to be 94, was getting perms and having her hair “set” every Saturday when she was 45. She wore cotton dresses and sensible shoes, glasses on a chain, drank Phillips Milk Of Magnesia, and drowned herself in Avon powder every morning. For nearly 50 years, she was “old.” At least old to a little kid. I’m sure she enjoyed her life the way it was. It just didn’t, and still doesn’t, seem like much fun.

Despite the arthritis, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been as an adult. In my 20s, I went up and down the scale, drank like a fish, partied, smoked sometimes, had unprotected sex…I was not the healthiest person around. But then, I didn’t care. I was going to live forever. In my 30s, I settled down a little bit, although I got a tattoo on my 30th birthday after drinking too many Yuenglings and was dating someone 7 years younger than me (go me!), and toward the end of that decade, I was nearly 300 pounds and definitely not healthy.

My 40s, though…they’re alright. Sure, I color my hair to keep the gray at bay. I get a little more tired and I like a routine. But I’ve learned so much about myself and other people and how we all move and grow within this world that I wouldn’t trade this age for anything younger.

So on this, my 45th birthday, I’m officially welcoming the second half of my life. My husband is out of town so I’ll be celebrating alone, but alone is good. I need some alone time in my house to catch up from my trip last week. Here’s my day’s plan: I had a veggie egg-white omelet for breakfast and I’m about to have some yogurt with a nectarine; I’ll haul my bike to the bike trail this morning and ride 16 miles; when I get home I’ll put a Moroccan stew together in the crock pot for dinner; I’ll catch up on some writing and talk to my kids and probably my parents; and I’ll meditate on where my life has been, where it is now, and where I hope it will be in the next 10 years. No Milk of Magnesia or Avon powder; I’ll wear spandex bike shorts and Avia tennis shoes rather than a cotton dress and sensible shoes; and my hair will be free to blow in the wind instead of shellacked to my head with hair spray. I love you, Grandma, but this is what 45 should feel like.

Yes, this will be a good birth day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vacations Are Like A Pancake

I woke up this morning in the last hotel I’ll stay in on this trip. My daughter and I head home to Pittsburgh in a few hours and last night was the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I got to Minnesota last Sunday, thanks only to exhaustion. (However, I want to smack the ass clown who stayed in this room before me and set the alarm clock for 4 a.m. and the radio on high.) I ate breakfast in bed, having put together a tray at the complimentary breakfast buffet downstairs. I chose a small yogurt, three hard-boiled eggs (I took out the yolks), coffee, one bite of a mushy apple (so disappointing), and Total Raisin Bran sans the raisins (not a fan) with soy milk. I was surprised by how few raisins there were in the box. Seven doesn’t seem like very many, but at least they were easy to pick out.

After eight days, I’m running on adrenaline, fruit, carrot sticks and three-buck Chuck wine. (It’s two-buck Chuck in California, but costs a dollar more in Minnesota. Shipping costs, they said at Trader Joe’s.)

My food intake was healthy and I ate a few things I wouldn’t normally eat because I knew it was special and not a part of my regular regimen. I’ll get back into exercise tomorrow, which I’m really looking forward to. I think it’s good to give our bodies a little R&R once in awhile, but I would never opt to not go back to a regular routine after vacation. It not only helps me maintain my weight, but man, it’s a great stress reliever. I had a great time on this vacation, but I could have used a good cardio workout more than once just for the stress release factor.

Someone asked me in a comment on my last blog: “I'm just curious what your thoughts are on eating what you want vs. eating well to maintain weight loss.” She was referring to something her daughter said to her when she said she was going to try an egg-white omelet at the Original Pancake House. Her daughter thought she should order pancakes because she wanted them. My thought is that it’s OK for me once in awhile to order something I “want” versus something that would be a healthier option, but for me, staying disciplined with my food intake is more important than the few seconds that “special” food is in my mouth. I know what a good pancake tastes like and I’m satisfied to have one bite of someone else’s or nothing at all. The memory alone is often good enough for me.

Also, what I “want” these days tends to be what is a staple in my dietary regimen anyway. I really wanted that egg-white omelet at OPH and I ordered it the way I wanted and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, a large omelet filled with veggies is much more satisfying than a pancake that will sit in my stomach like a rock all day. Having said that (and lest you think me too militant), I don’t close myself off from sticky gooey treats once in awhile. But remember, this is MY food journey. You have to decide for yourself how to navigate your own food journey. If you feel like eating a pancake or an omelet or whatever, let your conscience be your guide. How will you feel about eating it? Not eating it? How will you feel afterwards? These are questions only YOU can answer for yourself.

The answers are never easy at first, but the further you get into weight loss and maintenance, the more rote they become. Eating the way I do feels safe to me. It’s comforting to know I don’t have to reinvent my diet every day. I know what I like and don’t like, and how certain foods will make me feel physically and emotionally, and I make my decisions based on those factors. It doesn’t take much time at all anymore to decide whether I’m going to eat something or not. It’s taken me a few years of practice to get good at making quick decisions like that, but it’s all part of the weight loss/maintenance discipline you have to have in order to successfully lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off.

I’m glad to be going home, back to my own kitchen and my own gym. Vacation is like a pancake (or Rice Krispie bar). They’re nice once in awhile, but getting back to “real life” and real eating is always a relief.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Large Showers and Room Service: My Trip Continues

I’m a room service junkie. Usually when I travel I stay with friends or relatives or in cheap motels with a Denny’s next door, but when I stay at a place like The Marquette in downtown Minneapolis, I’m all over the room service menu.

I just hung up the phone with a nice man with a perfect Minnesota accent after ordering a bowl of oatmeal with skim milk and a big bowl of fruit. What I really wanted was the egg white omelet with spinach, roasted asparagus tips and artichoke hearts, but I woke up to my American Express bill in my email inbox and decided oatmeal was the more frugal choice this morning.

Last night, my friend Todd and I went out for dinner. We walked along the Nicollet Mall (a long street in downtown Minneapolis with shops, restaurants and other businesses) and decided to eat at an outdoor table at The News Room. I ordered the grilled asparagus with parsley oil and parmesan cheese, and a spinach salad. I ate half a slice of bread smothered in brie and thought I’d died and gone to food heaven. Despite the fact that I walked into the men’s room rather than the ladies room, and that a waitress and the two women seated next to us flirted unabashedly with Todd (no, we weren’t on a “date,” but how did they know we weren’t together?), it was a perfect dinner. Oh, and regarding the bathroom incident, in my defense, there were no signs and I was distracted by the two-way mirrors above the sinks in which you can watch the opposite sex washing their hands. A very cute guy waved at me as he rubbed his hands in the sink across from me. If that’s not a little discombobulating…

In the time it’s taking me to write this, room service came, and I’ve eaten all the strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and bananas, and the oatmeal is almost gone. I was reminded I’m still not a fan of skim milk, but I was too lazy and too underdressed (still in my pajamas) to go down to my car and grab the soy milk, so I added a little extra brown sugar to the oatmeal to counter the gag-me taste of the milk.

One last thing before I go, I wanted to mention the bathroom here. It has a ginormous shower with glass doors and is situated opposite of the wall-sized mirror. It’s hard not to watch yourself shower, which is something – thin or heavy – I’ve never done before.

Also, my room faces the IDS Center, the tallest building in Minneapolis. I used to date a guy who worked there. Not much of a boyfriend, but he let me drive his Corvette.

In a few hours I’ll be on the road to my girlhood hometown of Jasper, Minnesota, population: 500. There’s an all-school reunion going on this weekend along with their annual goat races. I’ll stop at a grocery store here in the metro and stock up on Lynn food (my father bought me a Styrofoam cooler to haul around the state with me this week) before heading south and west. I’m staying with my cousin who’s hosting the Class of ’81 party tonight in his machine shed. Ah…country parties. If you grew up in a small town, you know what I mean. At least tonight we’re not lined up on a dirt road with headlights shining on the keg so you won’t spill your drink and car stereos blaring for entertainment. Now those were the ultimate country parties.

Wow. I’m full and it’s time to get into my no-holds-barred shower and get ready for the day. I suspect the oatmeal will stick with me all the way to Jasper. It may be the last decent breakfast I have until Monday. Say a little prayer for my stomach this weekend. I’d appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Rice Krispie Bar and a Coffee

Hi everyone! I'm writing from yet another patio, only this one is at a Caribou Coffee. The sun is out, it's about 81 degrees, and I'm processing yet another amazing visit with an old friend. This vacation has exceeded all my expectations. You know how I said in my last blog that I was going to go back to my hotel to write? Yeah, well, I changed my plans (see my last ZenBagLady blog). I did something completely spontaneous and it turned out to be the perfect decision.

I've been eating well, sticking to my plan, and today I had a Rice Krispie bar and a coffee with half-and-half for lunch. And it was fabulous. Gooey, sticky, sweet...exactly the kind of vacation indulgence I was looking for. I don't feel guilty. Never even occurred to me to feel guilty. I feel, well, normal. And normal is good.

I just wanted to check in and let ya'll know I appreciate your well wishes and comments while I'm on the road. Makes me feel not so far away, you know?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Greetings From a Restaurant Patio in Minnesota

To simulate my deck, I’ve parked my butt at a table on the patio of Houlihan’s in Maple Grove, Minnesota. This is my only “free” evening and I didn’t want to spend it cooped up in my hotel room. It’s wonderfully hot and humid here in the Cities and while I don’t know anyone here on this patio, I feel at home. I grew up in Minnesota and I was born in the heat and humidity of August (45th b-day is the 14th) and I feel comfortable among my “people.”

In fact, the song “Back On The Chain Gang” by the Pretenders is playing on the speakers right now and that was one of my late husband Bruce’s favorite songs. I’ll go visit his grave on Friday, although I don’t feel his presence there. I feel it at the oddest times, but never at the cemetery.

But I digress.

Eating right when you vacation in a city is pretty easy. Even at the Original Pancake House, where my daughters, son-in-law, grandbaby and niece had breakfast this morning. I ordered an egg-white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes (no cheese) and asked the server to ask the cooks to use no or very little oil to cook it. It was p-e-r-f-e-c-t. I coupled it with an English muffin and some fruit….I was in heaven. I did take a few bites of my daughter’s pancake (OPH syrup is really quite yummy) and my other daughter’s hash browns. It’s the simple indulgences that matter most to me.

I stocked up at Trader Joe’s and have plenty of veggies and fruit for dinner tonight when I return to my hotel and lock myself in my room to write and listen to iTunes.

Thank you all so much for your supportive comments about this trip. I’m not anticipating any weirdness in the next few days. Had a little bit yesterday (long story….might tell it some day in my book), but otherwise, the friends I’m meeting in the next few days won’t dwell on my stuff. I’ll eat my food without comments and our conversations won’t revolve about weight loss. To them, I am just Lynn, the person they’ve known for ____ years.

I discovered my hotel has an exercise room and while I’d figured I wouldn’t have the opportunity to exercise while on vacation, I’m going to hit it hard tomorrow because I’ve got a little pent-up energy and will feel really good after an hour on an elliptical.

My battery is getting low and the wine glass is empty. It’s time to head back to the hotel. I might go for a walk later and take in some more heat and humidity. I can’t believe how much it doesn’t bother me.

I am sad, however, to listen to the food people around me are ordering. Of course this might be their one indulgence for the week or month. I don’t know and don’t want to jump to conclusions. But chances are, fried calamari is consumed frequently. I do hope they order a little broccoli, too. A girl can hope. These are still, after all, my “people.” And I wish them a healthy life.