Saturday, November 29, 2008

Because I Said So

Back when the Season of Food began (aka Halloween), my friend Shari was struggling with food and was feeling deprived that she “couldn’t” eat some of her favorite foods while losing weight. It was an emotional struggle and we talked about it at length. A few days later, she read the blog I posted about my own difficulty with Halloween candy, and sent me this email: “Ah, Halloween candy. I bought mostly stuff I don't like...with the exception of M&M's. I thought I'd be safe as long as I didn't open the bag... and I was... until one day when I thought, ‘Just one fun size package would really make me feel better.’ Four days and many fun size packages later, you saved me with a visit that pulled me out of my funk. I haven't touched them since. :) Thanks, buddy.”

You’re welcome, Shari, but as you and many of my readers know, I don’t always practice what I preach. Good advice I dole out to friends doesn’t always get through my own dense thinking.

Over at Refuse To Regain, I wrote in my last blog about how my knee (which subsequently turned into “knees”) went out and I was unable to work out like I wanted to so I could have a little extra T-day food. When I wrote the blog on Tuesday, I really thought I’d wrapped my head around it and accepted that I’d need to be careful with my choices on Friday (we had a delayed T-day this year) since I didn’t have the buffer of a huge cardio workout.

On Thanksgiving Day, first daughter and I cooked for six hours and I didn’t pick or taste test anything except the new cranberry sauce recipe I tried (which was fabulous by the way – click here to see it). I patted myself on the back, solidly convinced that since I cooked the meal without being tempted, I’d be just dandy the next day when we bought it all down to second daughter’s house to eat it.

What derailed me was the scale. (*Insert big eye roll and sigh*) I stepped on it while getting ready to go to second daughter’s house and wouldn’t you know it? I was up a few pounds. After posting a rant to my online maintenance group about it, I thought I would just move on, let it go, deep breath, all that s*it.

But that scale number sat there in the back of my head all day, gnawing at my good sense and sanity. I kept thinking, ‘What happened to what I wrote on RTR?’: “I forget that I really do know what I’m doing. Pilots are trained to fly in inclement weather. I, too, have been trained to maintain when these physically turbulent times arise. I just need to trust myself, continue to fight, and utilize the tools I’ve honed over the last four years. Yeah, so, I gain two pounds. Doesn’t mean I’ll gain 170.”

What happened was that I didn’t fully embrace my own words. I still, after nearly two years in maintenance, don’t fully trust that I know what I’m doing or that I won’t throw it all away in some mad potato/stuffing/pumpkin pie craving and dive head first into each one as they pass from the person on my left to the person on my right.

*Insert additional eye roll*

As we played The Game of Life (a T-day tradition), I ate a few baked pita chips and salsa and sampled the artichoke dip (as I had planned). I drank a glass of wine, picked up G-baby Claire at least 20 times because she wanted up (I can never say no) and made the green beans and checked the meal warming in the oven. But still, that ever-nagging, “Why me? Why can’t I eat all the potatoes and stuffing I want? Why? Why? Why?” wouldn’t go away. Finally, I retreated to the bathroom and got all mom on myself. While I can’t say no to G-baby Claire, Child Lynn had to be told to suck it up. She had to hear, “Because I said so.”

Parent Lynn compromised with Child Lynn and allowed her to have a taste of the stuffing and the potatoes. Not a face-full, but a taste. And a taste sufficed. In fact, a taste made me remember why I don’t eat “party” potatoes or stuffing (the real stuff. The kids banned “diet” stuffing this year). Rather than eating more than a taste, I had a few extra string beans with almonds and another bite or two of sweet potatoes and Child Lynn was really happy.

Today, I am back to clean eating and (mostly) clean thinking. I stepped on the scale (sorry, Sondra, I just had to) and I was down a pound, which made me realize that other factors beside food and no exercise contribute to the scale number (like water retention in my melon-sized knees, maybe?) and that I do, probably, know what I’m doing. Wait. Scratch that. I don’t actually “know” what I’m doing all the time. Weight-maintenance Nirvana will take a little longer, I’m afraid. But I trust the learning process. I (almost) trust myself.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stuff That Won’t Be In The Book – Part 6

Many of you wrote to say Part 5 made you teary. Sorry about that. It’s why I decided I may as well hit ya’ll over the head with another one and get it over with. This part still makes me cry.

Part 6:

Mary and Mr. Jones made me visit places I’d not been to in years. While I could have been undone, I was proud of myself for facing the fear and feeling the pain and crying the tears, all while losing weight and working and doing all the other things I did in my normal life. Grief hadn’t won. Yet.

Just as I was about to walk on stage and thank the Academy for my awesome performance, Carlene got an email from David – the man who married us, buried Bruce, baptized Carlene and stood in the center of my loss.

“As I sit here at my computer, I have in front of me the bulletin from the funeral service for Bruce,” David wrote. “I often think of that week in the life of the Jasper community because it was filled with some of the most profound pain and sorrow I have ever witnessed. Your dad belonged to those people and his death was deeply felt by all who knew him…

“…Looking back, I also remember one of the greatest errors we made in those days was not letting your mother at least touch some portion of his body. It was not fair of us (the mortician and me) to not make it possible for this physical ending to happen. How difficult it must have been to have Bruce virtually disappear from her life…my deepest apologies for this mistake.”

When I learned Bruce’s tractor was hit by a freight train and David told me I couldn’t see his body, I imagined Bruce strewn in a million pieces along the tracks. Blood, body parts, his coveralls, boots, and hat all unrecognizable pieces of what had a been the person I woke up next to four hours earlier.

A week after the funeral, our local newspaper confirmed I was wrong. And they had photos all over the front page to prove it.

No one warned me there would be photos. I expected there would be an article about the accident, but I never thought there’d be photos of Bruce’s mangled tractor next to a line of coal cars, of people mulling about the scene like it was an Easter egg hung, or of glass and metal scattered all over the tracks and ditch. But one photo in particular hit me smack between the eyes: “The body of Bruce Bouwman can be seen in the center of the photograph alongside the tracks and covered with a tarp.”

What the…? I didn’t understand. For a second, I floated outside my body and looked at me looking at a photo of my husband’s bootless legs sticking out from under a tarp. Then I was riding on an asteroid plummeting through the earth’s atmosphere.

Think, Lynn, think. What’s going on? What is this?

I tried to make it make sense when a few seconds later, wham! I hit the ground, and from the crater rose up so much anger and despair I started to choke and hyperventilate. There is no sense of direction in hell.

“That’s my husband!” I screamed to no one, although Carlene was asleep in her crib in the next room.

Tears and snot ran into my mouth as I reached for the phone on the wall and dialed my parents’ phone number. Dad answered the phone.

“Daddy,” I bawled, “you promised me I’d never have to see his tractor! You promised me!”

“Lynnie?” he said. My voice was unrecognizable and he was obviously taken off guard. He begged me to calm down and tell him what happened. I paced the length of the phone cord and cried and listened to him saying calmly, “Shhhh, honey. Shhhhh. Shhhhh.”

Finally, I slumped to the floor and in fits and stops, told Dad about the photographs. While it was true he promised me that Bruce’s tractor was taken far away and that I’d never have to see it, he couldn’t have known there would be published photographs. My dad, who’d lost his father when he was 6 years old and felt tremendous personal sorrow for Carlene, was beside himself trying to comfort his daughter 200 miles away. As a parent, I can only imagine how he felt. My guess is he wanted to hurt someone. Really badly.

The only thing those photos did was assure me that Bruce had not been cut into a million pieces by a freight train, and that the body we buried in the ground was whole. I wondered why that mattered. Dead is dead. But because it mattered and I was left with so many questions about the accident, I sought the answers a few weeks later. I went to talk to David because I knew he’d tell me the truth. Even though he thought he was protecting me by not letting me see Bruce’s dead body, he knew I needed to know what happened and how.

I told him of my original fear about how Bruce died and he assured me that Bruce’s body was indeed intact and that he died of a severe head injury. Investigators surmised that the train hit the front wheels of Bruce’s cab tractor and that his body was thrown through the front window and into the ditch. The glass lacerated his brain and he was killed instantly. I still wonder if in the last seconds of his life, Bruce saw the train and if he was afraid and if he knew he was going to die. My heart aches for him if that is true.

David was on the ambulance crew that day, so he’d seen Bruce dead, and David’s trauma became my lasting nightmare. I developed what I call “Bruce dreams” shortly after our conversation and I’ve had them ever since. Experts say it’s because I never saw him dead. Never got the chance to say goodbye.

I wasn’t angry with David about his decision to not let me see Bruce. I knew he acted out of love and compassion all those years ago. Still I welcomed his apology because it validated what I’d felt for years – that I needed to see Bruce dead so I could have some closure. If I hadn’t been a 19-year-old bleeding, nursing new mother, I would have demanded it.

Reliving the hardest days in all of my life gave the 19-year-old me some satisfaction, but the present me was falling into a black hole. As Carlene’s project wore on, I became more aware of how the time separating Bruce and me had stolen the small details of our life. I remembered the painful things, but I couldn’t always recall the good.

Carlene’s project was under my skin and had become way more personal than I expected or wanted. By the time the final response came in late winter, I was off the DASH diet and on an antidepressant. I had too many feelings and not enough space in my head. I couldn’t stand the nights of crying and days of sleeping. I got stuck when I tried to break away from the memories and put them in perspective, all the while trying to nurture my real-life relationship. I still loved Bruce and I felt like I was betraying Larry by crying over a ghost.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stuff That Won’t Be In The Book: Part 5

A few more sections to go. This one’s a little long. Sorry about that. I really appreciate allowing me to share these with you. While Carlene’s project happened years ago, putting these stories out here is healing all over again.

In Part 4, the letters and email began arriving in earnest. As Carlene’s project progressed, so did my deepening awareness of my unresolved grief.

Here’s Part 5:

With every email and every letter, the 200-pound, 19-year-old me tapped at my window, begging to be let in, but I resisted. The first couple dozen responses were easy to take, and while I visited a few soft spots reading what people wrote, I was in control emotionally and physically, still DASH dieting and heading down the scale. But the girl who was widowed and left a single mother could not be silenced. She had unresolved issues that she demanded the 200-pound, 36-year-old me deal with.

Bruce’s high-school girlfriend, Mary, selected a few letters Bruce had written to her when he went off to college that she thought Carlene would like to have. When I read Mary’s initial email offering to send the letters to Carlene, I remembered a moment from the day of Bruce’s funeral, when the mortuary’s limousine was parked in front of the church and I was sitting in the front seat between the driver and my grandmother waiting for the processional to the cemetery to begin.

Mary’s family lived in a stone house near the church. I saw her leave the church and I watched her walk briskly across the street.

It could be you sitting in this car, I thought as a couple of tears welled.

I wish it was you.

I shifted in the seat to reach for a tissue in my coat pocket and felt the pull of 35 stitches between my legs. (Note: Carlene was 9 pounds when she was born and I was still recovering from her delivery 2 weeks earlier.) I caught the tears with my gloves and I thought about Carlene. I felt grace in the knowledge that she was my daughter. If Mary or anyone else was sitting in that car, Carlene wouldn’t be mine. l would never have known Bruce’s silly humor, freezing feet and balding head. I wouldn’t have warmed baby pigs born at 2 a.m. on a cold winter night or sat in a tractor in a bean field after the sun went down singing “Endless Love” at the top of my lungs.

I also wouldn’t have learned how one simple moment in a car on the way to a burial could feel as real in the present as it did when it happened 17 years earlier. I sent Mary an email thanking her for helping Carlene with her project, and in my mind, thanked her for not being Carlene’s mother.

Shortly after Mary’s envelope of letters arrived, Carlene received a package from Bruce’s high school choir director. Bruce was a talented tenor who won every choral award possible in high school. He toured Europe with America’s Youth In Concert, and was a member of the Statesman’s Chorus at South Dakota State University. When we were alone, he talked about leaving the farm and pursuing a music career. That’s what made Mr. Jones’s gift so difficult to receive and yet the most important piece of Bruce’s past anyone could give Carlene.

“You’re not supposed to have favorites when you’re teaching,” said Mr. Jones in a cassette recording. “But Bruce was one of my all-time favorites and as far as vocal music is concerned, probably my best performer. As far as his personality, Carlene, your dad…was always with a ready smile, very polite, very positive, calm and really quite unflappable. I wish I had some of those characteristics.

“Along with the program from ‘Lil Abner,’ I’m sending a very poor tape of a rehearsal we had for ‘Oklahoma!’ Keep in mind that this was a number of years ago and it was a little hand-held tape recorder and on a stage where there was a lot of activity. Much of the voice is lost, but at least you have an inkling of what Bruce sounded like. Hope you enjoy it.”

Bruce was a senior when he played the lead in “Oklahoma!” and during every performance my 13-year-old butt was planted in the second row with my eyes focused only on him. My heart flip-flopped when he sang the duet, “People Will Say We’re In Love,” and as I listened, I secretly hated the female lead. I couldn’t sing my way out of a bag, but I wanted to be Laurey. I wanted Bruce to sing to me and kiss me. But Bruce never paid any attention to me when he’d come over to our house with my older sister’s friend whom he was dating or when I’d go out of my way to walk past his locker when I wore my junior high cheerleading outfit. I was just Debbie’s little sister. An eighth-grade nobody.

Twenty-two years later, I was his widow and the mother of his child, and I was standing in a living room in western Pennsylvania holding a tape of him singing “The Surrey With The Fringe On The Top.”

All these years I’d kept Bruce’s memory comfortably alive in photographs where he was safely one-dimensional. Dead. The last time I heard his voice, I was sitting on the living room floor changing Carlene’s diaper. He got on his knees and kissed her cheek.

“Goodbye, Carlene. Be a good baby for mommy.” Then Bruce kissed me on the head and said, “See you at noon! Love you!”

Now I was in a different living room and standing next to an almost grown up Carlene. I feared the joy of hearing his voice again wouldn’t be enough to counter the dread of remembering he was dead. Holding the tape was like holding the pull cord to a net filled with grief disguised as confetti. If I played the tape, I’d release the grief and surely it would bury me again.

Then I looked at Carlene, who’d only known her father through the voices of others. Her face was beaming with excitement. She was only 11 days old when he died, much too young to remember what he sounded like. Without me, she might not know which voice was his on the tape. I thought how I’d witnessed so many of her firsts – first step, first day of school, first date, all the things Bruce missed – and decided that despite anything I feared, I couldn’t miss the first time she heard her father’s voice.

I put the cassette in the tape deck and hit play. We stood there staring at it like we were looking into the sky for a shooting star. Just as Mr. Jones said, there was the raucous sound of teenagers laughing and a pit band rehearsing. Then, like fine tuning the radio, I pulled Bruce’s voice out of the chaos. Rather than a net spewing grief, his voice spread into the room like a warm blanket. He was singing in our living room, his voice playful, animated, and for me, familiar. I was relieved that I hadn’t forgotten what he sounded like and I was grateful to Mr. Jones for helping me introduce Carlene to her father in that one, small way.

Carlene listened, wide-eyed, and hung on to every word he spoke and sang.

“I’ve never had the whole package, Mom,” she whispered.

Carlene saw images, heard stories, and handled tangible pieces of physical evidence that her father had been alive once, but in all her life, he’d not been a part of the family. She was a Bouwman. Her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were Bouwmans. But Bruce, in his absence from her visits at Christmas or Easter or during school breaks, wasn’t. He was a face in a photo that looked a lot like her, but he was never a living breathing member of the family she’d grown up with. Then Carlene heard his voice, and in it, she heard her grandparents and uncles and cousins. More importantly, she heard herself. Finally, Bruce was more than her father. He was her dad.

In the written portion of her project, Carlene wrote about the tape, “It was by far the best gift I could ever receive! If anything happened to it, I’d be crushed.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

It’s My Favorite Breakfast Day!

I realize I have strange taste when it comes to food. I get reminded of that all the time by my family. “Ew!! How can you eat that?” is a phrase I hear often.

Do I let them stop me from eating what I want? Nope. I’m happy eating leftover asparagus and Shredded Wheat for breakfast or tomato soup and tofu paprikash for lunch. They can have their boring meat and potato dinner. Give me a huge cookie sheet of roasted turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, red peppers and onions with a side of Ak-Mak crackers and PB2 and I’m set for the evening.

I’ve never been one who can’t eat in the morning. (Evenings, though? Not a big fan of food after 7.) That’s why I love breakfast most of all. I usually break breakfast into two parts: before workout and after workout. Before working out, I eat some protein and maybe a complex carb. After I work out, I have a protein and a fruit. I rotate through yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, maybe a smoothie once in awhile, plums, bananas, berries, what have you.

But once in awhile I treat myself to my favorite breakfast ever; the one I think about before going to bed and wake up eager to eat. (Yes, sadly, things really are that simple in Lynn Land sometimes. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.)

I give you: French toast and a mushroom omelet. Total POINTS: 3.5

I use ¼ C Egg beaters mixed with two egg whites (1.5 points) and two slices of lite bread (35 calories each, 4 grams of fiber, no fat – 1 point). I dip the bread in the egg mixture and cook it on a non-stick griddle. While that’s cooking, I sauté a cup of mushrooms, minced onion and minced garlic in a pan sprayed lightly with Pam. When they’re done, I pour the rest of the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with 2 t. of parmesan cheese (.5 point), tarragon and basil and flip it into an omelet. Sometimes I’ll slap a few tomato slices on depending on my mood. Then I get out the REAL maple syrup (2 tsp equals .5 point) and pour a teaspoon over each slice of French toast and there you go! My favorite breakfast ever.

Told you I was easy to please.

This hasn’t always been my favorite breakfast. Things have changed a lot in four years. My favorite breakfast used to be a toasted bagel with chive cream cheese and a big-ass latte from our local coffee shop. Easily 10 points. I used to love bacon sandwiches, too, and potatoes at Bob Evans, and three-egg “veggie” omelets (if you call bits and pieces of soggy tomatoes and peppers “veggies”) with a side a pancakes and hash browns at our local diner.

Now it’s my turn to say, “Ew!” I can honestly say I don’t miss those things. If I want a pancake, I have a few really good low-fat whole grain pancake recipes that I like very much. If I want hash browns, I make them without oil or I use butternut squash instead. A bagel and cream cheese is something I could eat if I wanted to, but I don’t want to. I’d get too full. I’d feel miserable afterwards. I used to always feel miserable and thought that was normal.

I like my new normal better. I like eating things that make my children say, “Ew!” In the long run I’d rather stay a size 6 than eat bacon ever again. Compromise? Perhaps. But I really, really love my French toast and mushroom omelet days. And that, as well as many other foods I choose instead, makes up for any food I might “lack” or say no to.

What’s your favorite (healthy) breakfast? The one that gets you out of bed in the morning? The one you wish would last all day?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stuff That Won't Be In The Book: Part 4

In "Stuff That Won’t Be in the Book: Part 3," I was DASH dieting and feeling good about reaching my goal of 150. At the same time, my oldest daughter Carlene began a school project that involved her late father – my first husband, Bruce, who died in a train-tractor wreck in 1983 when Carlene was 11 days old. To read more about Bruce, I’ll provide links to blog entries at the end of this piece.

Here’s Part 4:

In order to graduate from high school in Pennsylvania, seniors must design and implement a project in which they demonstrate the accumulative knowledge they’ve gained throughout their high school years. Some kids raise money for charity, others perform community service or write a play or a song. Carlene decided to write a biography of her late father (husband #1).

She wanted to get a head start on her project during her junior year and began planning shortly after I started the DASH diet. I was 100 percent behind her project, fully expecting to stay detached from her research. I’d lived with her father. I knew him and loved him well. Bruce was never a ghost in our house. Anything she learned would just reinforce what I’d told her all her life: that her father was a kind, gentle, fun man who loved us very much.

We sent a press release and letters to editors of newspapers serving the area in southwest Minnesota where we used to live, explaining her project and asking people who knew Bruce to share their memories with Carlene. As we waited for a response, I told her to not be too hopeful because it had been nearly 17 years since Bruce was killed and probably not many people who knew him would see the articles or even remember him very well.

More than 40 emails and letters later, it was clear I’d underestimated the memories of the good folks of Jasper. Carlene’s project became an almost sacred place where Bruce’s friends could finally share their memories, love, and profound pain. They needed to tell Carlene about her father, like they’d been waiting all this time for an invitation, and they remembered him in incredibly precise detail.

Bruce’s second-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, sent Carlene the get-well letter Bruce wrote to her in 1967 when she was recuperating from an illness. In it he wrote, in his best second-grade penmanship, that his cousins had visited over the weekend and that when his nephew messed up the house, they had to clean it up. After supper, he said, they watched “The Monkees.” He signed it “Your Friend Bruce.” She also included the playbill from the community play Bruce was involved in when he died and she told Carlene the story about how Bruce brought a banana cake and a Thermos of coffee to practice the night after Carlene was born to celebrate.

One of Bruce’s classmates, Darcy, gave Carlene a piece of sheet music she’d kept from a wedding at which she accompanied Bruce on the organ.

“Bruce had written the words of the second and third verses on the first two pages so we wouldn’t have to keep turning the page back and forth,” she wrote. “I remember having a lot of fun practicing this song with Bruce. It’s difficult for me to give up this piece of music since it brings me back to that time in my life, but after seeing your article in the paper, I feel it may mean a lot to you. Not only was Bruce very talented, but he was a fun, upbeat person to be around. I’m am sure that Bruce would have been very proud of you.”

A groomsmen from our wedding, James, sent Carlene a letter and photos of a fishing trip he and Bruce and some other friends took when they were out of college. Another friend, Rick, wrote that some of his favorite memories of Bruce involved hanging out with their friends drinking a few beers and listening to music. And as only Rick could tell it, he told Carlene the story of how Bruce, who when he was 18, snuck his friends who weren’t 18 into a drive-in that was showing the X-rated movie “Pom-Pom Girls.”

“He was worried that if we got caught they would kick us out and he wouldn’t get to see the movie!”

Bruce’s neighbor, Marilyn, wrote that she and Bruce rode the bus to school together. Sometimes they’d walk down to the creek near their farms and throw rocks in the water and talk about school and baseball and her brother, who died in a car-train wreck in 1971 at the same intersection.

“This seemed to bother Bruce,” she wrote, “and we talked about it many times; I in grief, he in curious compassion. Ironically, his life would end at the same spot.”

Almost everyone who responded with a memory also included the story of where they were and how they felt when they’d learned Bruce died. Our friend Jim’s response summed up what many people expressed: “It’s amazing how people will remember so much of a single moment in their life. It’s like a picture was taken at that moment I heard your dad died and I remembered everything. God, it was so tragic. I thought about you and your mom for days and how devastating it must be to your mom. This is still hard to write about….We all missed out on a lot since Bruce was killed. What would have been different if he were still here? Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I wonder how much better things would be in Jasper if her were still here.”

Jim was right about “It’s A Wonderful Life,” only we were watching it in reverse. Instead of Bruce being shown what life would be like without him, we, his family and friends, were actually living life without him, and there was no Clarence in our lives trying to earn his wings by saving us from jumping in the river.

For more blogs about Bruce, click here to go to the entry I wrote earlier this year about Bruce. In it are several other links to entries I’ve written about Bruce over the last few years.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I *Heart* Burlington, Vermont

I loved Burlington the minute I laid eyes on it as I crossed Lake Champlain in a ferry. It’s a lovely and clean town with beautiful old buildings and a fabulous seafood restaurant near the wharf where I had the best mussels ever. And now I have even more reason to love it. I read this morning on CNN that it’s been named the healthiest city in the U.S.

How appropriate considering the only time I’ve been in Burlington was during the vacation that set me on the path of better health.

It was September 2004, a few months before I joined Weight Watchers, and I weighed 300 pounds. Larry and I hadn’t been on a vacation in years, partly because I was busy with my antique store but mostly because I didn’t like to travel very far from home. I lived with a lot of inner demons when I was morbidly obese which made me prone to panic and anxiety. But the times were changing and I was getting restless. I missed my freedom and no longer wanted to feel stuck in my body and mind, so I agreed to a vacation.

We chose the Adirondacks because Larry wanted me to see the high peaks he calls his spiritual home. Whiteface Mountain was the site of the downhill ski competition during the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Unlike most of the peaks that required visitor to hike to the peak, Whiteface has a five-mile road called the Veterans Memorial Highway that leads to the summit. Given I was in no shape to hike 50 yards let alone 4,600 feet, we chose to drive up Whiteface.

I’ve always been afraid of heights to the point of feeling dizzy and physically ill looking down from anywhere higher than a third-story building. It didn’t occur to me as we were driving up the mountain that we were going to a place where the vegetation was sparse and you can see Canada 100 miles away.

On the last curve of Veterans Memorial Highway is the entrance to the parking lot which is the entrance to the summit. When we turned that corner, the view hit me like a two by four. Even though I was safe inside the Jeep, I felt like some uncontrollable force would open the door and propel me into the atmosphere.

“I have to get off this mountain!” I cried.

There were cars driving up behind us, a parking lot attendant ahead of us, and tourists mulling about taking photos. I had to choose which fear I feared most: freaking out and drawing attention to obese me in the Jeep Cherokee or being 4,600 feet in the air.

“Do you want me to park or drive back to the bottom?” Larry asked after he paid the attendant.

I had to think for a minute. I knew how eager Larry was to show me the view and I already felt guilty for being too large to fit in the fishing boat the day before or to go on a simple hike without my back giving out. The least I could do was sit on top of this mountain and try to figure out what it was he wanted me to see.

Larry parked the Jeep. I opened one eye and looked around. I opened my door and put one foot on the ground. The sun was bright, the air was clean and warm, and my head felt steadier. I got out of the Jeep and we walked to the middle of the parking lot.

“Wow,” I said, amazed that I was so calm. “It’s really beautiful up here.” Larry just smiled.

I walked a little closer to the 3-foot stone wall, the only thing separating me from the bottom of the mountain. My body started buzzing a little, but I breathed evenly and told myself I wasn’t going to suddenly lose my mind and jump over the edge.

My courage was rewarded with a breathtaking view of Lake Placid to the west, Lake Champlain to the east and Canada to the north.

“Oh my,” I said, looking out into the valley.

Larry and I walked to the granite castle at the end of the parking lot where I did something even more unimaginable than looking over a mountain’s edge. I asked Larry to take a photo of me standing below the sign that read, “Whiteface Castle, El. 4602’”. I’m not sure who was more surprised – Larry or me.
I wrapped my flannel shirt around my waist thinking that would make me look smaller, and posed with my hand to my mouth in mock fear.

Three years later, that photo was broadcast worldwide on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Funny how, when we learn to trust our inner selves a little, our true natures can shine through. That vacation was the best gift I ever gave myself. I was glad to be reminded of that this morning. Thanks, Burlington!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stuff That Won’t Be In The Book – Part 3

Lynn’s Helpful Hint of the Day: Tea tastes much better if you clean out your teapot more than, oh, say, EVER. Not much grosses me out, but the black, yes BLACK, stuff that clung to the paper towel when I reached in and wiped around the interior of the pot made me gag worse than one of Claire’s explosive poopies. Word. Clean out your teapot.

I decided not to space out book reject parts two and three with a blog in between because this section reads like a blog I’d write anyway. In the second installment, I got married and was 215 pounds by our first anniversary. Here’s what happened next:

Part of the gain came from an underactive thyroid that wouldn’t be diagnosed for another year. Most of it was self-induced. At the paper, we ordered in lunch two or three times a week. My usuals were a tuna sub smothered in mayonnaise (with a side of baked Lays and unsweetened iced tea); a vegetable stromboli swimming in olive oil and a side of garlic cheese bread (only one slice, though. I shared the other piece); or a Wendy’s chicken salad with an entire packet of light dressing and a baked potato with extra reduced-fat sour cream. When I wanted to eat “healthy,” I walked a block down the street to the coffee shop for a cheese sandwich with extra lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes between two large pieces of homemade whole wheat bread. I’d order a large coffee, too, and dump a quarter cup of half and half in it and called it a serving of dairy.

Losing weight became urgent in the fall of 1999 when my blood pressure measured 140/110. I’d had high blood pressure for 14 years, regardless of what I weighed, and was on medication. During those years, I watched my sodium intake, yet I overate on a regular basis, causing my heart to work overtime to digest excessive amounts of fat and carbohydrates. I was often flushed and full after a meal, not understanding the toll all that food was taking on my blood vessels and internal organs.

My doctor upped the strength of my medication and gently suggested I lose weight. Surprisingly I didn’t recoil. Her advice didn’t feel like a personal attack for the very reason I didn’t think much about losing weight on my own: life was good. For once, losing weight wouldn’t be some kind of revenge against myself. Instead, I welcomed the challenge as the grounded, happy person I was.

I researched diets online and found the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was not popularized in the mainstream at the time. DASH was similar to the old Weight Watchers exchange program that I followed militantly in 1987, and since it felt familiar and, more importantly, was structured and easy to follow, I decided it was the best way to get to 150 pounds.

I created a three-ring binder in which I filed the DASH diet information as well as pictures of exercises I cut out of magazines. On the cover I taped three photos of myself from the time I weighed 138 pounds for five minutes back in 1990. One of the photos was of me drowning in the size 20 pink dress I wore when I married Jason (husband #2) in 1985. I was thinking, as I smiled for the camera, how lucky I was that I’d finally tamed the obesity demon and was residing in the land of the thin. I threw the dress away after the photo was taken, believing I could discard a painful and obese past just by tossing a dress in the garbage.


Me at 139 in 1990 before I got rid of the '80s 'do.

I shook my head as I put the photo in the binder. How smug I’d been. This time was different. I was going to lose weight and keep it off because I was married to the right person, my kids were happy, I liked my job, and had no issues to deal with. The past was behind me and I was enjoying life despite being obese again, so things would only get better the smaller I got.

I stocked up on healthy foods and immersed myself in DASH on October 12, 1999. I religiously marked off every fruit, vegetable, protein, carb and fat I ate immediately after I ate it. When I wanted a snack, I carefully measured two teaspoons of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light and poured it over air-popped popcorn. On the days I completed three sets of sit-ups, leg lifts and bicep curls while watching “Donny and Marie,” I’d stand over the sink and eat a half a can of water-packed tuna and a dry Wasa cracker. By December 12, I’d lost 25 pounds. Only 40 more to go.

But (and there’s always a but) if losing weight is like walking and emotional challenges are like chewing gum, I soon remembered that I didn’t do both well at the same time. Despite my best efforts to balance a diet and the rest of my life, I was blindsided by my daughter’s school project.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stuff That Won’t Be In The Book – Part 2

Is it wrong that I craved black bean soup for breakfast? I was going to have it last night for dinner, but butternut squash and a Boca burger got in the way, so I threw it in the fridge for lunch today. Only, I woke up really hungry for bean soup. I hope it doesn’t wait until I’m having my tooth filled this afternoon to reach my nether regions, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo…let’s get on to Part 2. Thanks for all your positive comments about the first story. I really appreciate your feedback. For those of you new to my blog, an explanation:

I’ve done a lot of writing the last six months and after restructuring and rethinking the angle of my book, there are several stories that will end up on the cutting room floor. Before they do, I thought I’d share some of them here.

The book is largely about how I lived life at all my various weights. Some of the stories I’ll share here will be condensed or referred to in the book, so this is my chance to expand on the details a little more.

In the
first installment, I left you with the surprise goodnight kiss. Here’s what happened next:

Eighteen months later, on a hot, humid June night, Larry surprised me again.

I was pounding out a features story on my computer in the air-conditioned upstairs of our house when he knocked on the door and asked if he could come in. He said he needed to talk. I knew that line. It always meant there was a financial issue we had to work out. He probably wanted to talk about the car.

My 1987 Chevy Cavalier needed a new transmission and I’d been reluctant to fix it because I could barely pay for food, insurance, the kids’ school lunches, clothes and my wardrobe (now in a larger size) on a journalist’s salary, which in Clarion meant $14,000 a year for 50-plus hours a week of writing, driving and pulling out my hair.

I wrote in the newsroom and at home. I drove everywhere in the county and took countless photos of school art projects and music festivals. I interviewed people with profound stories to tell and people who grew freakishly large pumpkins and zucchinis. At the end of the day, I had just enough energy to write one last story but not enough to talk about money. It made my stomach upset, and it was already in a funk because I’d eaten, as usual, too much of whatever I’d made for dinner, and the prescription strength Zantac hadn’t kicked in yet.

I’d stopped weighing myself at home and I never looked when I stepped on the scale every six months at the doctor’s office. I assumed I was at or past 200 pounds by how quickly 80 degrees made me sweat and the fact that I no longer tucked. All my shirts were worn outside my pants and skirts again. I was back in “If you hide it, it’s not there” mode, but not because I was sensitive about my body image. I was OK looking the way I looked because life was good. I had a permanent roof over my head; my girls were happy, thriving teenagers; and I was in love with a solid guy whose life was devoid of drama, although he worried about money a lot more than I did.

“Come on in,” I sighed. I saved the document, and sat down next to Larry on the futon.

“Remember last month when you came home from church on Mother’s Day,” he said, “and you asked me what our future looked like, if we were just playing house or if we were going to get serious?”

Hunh? Get serious about what? A car?

“Well, I did a lot of thinking about that,” he continued as he reached in his pocket and took out a small black box, “and I’d like to know, would you marry me?”

I’m a writer and a mother. I’m never without words. Then again, I’d never been proposed to. I’d been married three times but never asked. It was always assumed. Engagements were like business arrangements. One of us would say, “I suppose we should, you know, get married.” To which the other would reply, “Yes, I guess that’s the next logical move.”

I didn’t know what to say. My mind was prepared to talk about money. Instead, I was sitting on a futon and wearing a sweaty tank top and elastic-band shorts and being handed a little box with a sparkling pear-shaped diamond ring inside.

“Oh, Larry, it’s beautiful!” was what I managed to get out.

He took the ring out of the box and put it on my finger.

“It’s just beautiful,” I stammered again, staring at my finger. “I love it. It’s so pretty.”

I looked at Larry and he was beaming. I smiled back.

“I thought you wanted to talk about my stupid car again!” I said and smacked him on the thigh. Then I looked at my finger again. “Wow. It’s really pretty.”

Larry let me sit there for another minute with my jaw on the floor before he cleared his throat “Lynn?" he said. "You haven’t answered my question.”

“Hunh?” I looked at him for a second when finally my brain leaped back into my body. “Oh my gosh, I haven’t, have I? Yes, yes, of course I’ll marry you!”

I threw my arms around his neck and peeked again at the ring behind his back. Then we called my parents, told the girls and set a date. We would be married October 3.

By the end of September, we had the place, a preacher, the wine, the food, and an RSVP’d guest list of 54 friends and family members. The only thing missing was my dress.

While being married didn’t scare me, getting married did. In all the excitement, I forgot about the part where 54 people and Larry would be watching me and taking pictures. Even on my best calorie-reduced diet, I couldn’t lose 30 pounds in a week and no amount of industrial strength spandex could make 200 pounds look like 170. I paged through Lane Bryant and Roamans catalogs hoping to find something that would drape and hide while still signifying that I was the bride and not the matronly grandmother. Unfortunately, the models in these plus-size catalogs are so thin they wouldn’t really fit in the clothes they’re selling without alterations. I knew there was no way the cocktail dresses on the leggy brunette and the lanky blond would look the same on my 5’5”, 200-pound frame. I couldn’t take a chance on something I didn’t actually see on me first, so a few days before the wedding, I went shopping in a real mall. I hadn’t gone shopping since I busted out of size 14s because it wasn’t fun shopping for clothes that covered me up.

I shopped alone, and for two hours I tried on skirts, pants, dresses, and tops, squeezed into body shapers, and poured the “girls” into industrial strength bras, all under unforgiving fluorescent lights. Flushed and frustrated and cursing myself for ignoring this latest weight gain, I settled on a long black skirt with a small-link gold chain belt and matching black jacket in size 18. It fit a little big, but in my eyes it gave the illusion that I was smaller. I tried on lace-up boots with 3-inch heels, but they hurt my toes and would make me taller than Larry, and God knows I didn’t want to stick out any more than I knew I would. I bought black flats instead.

It rained and I didn’t like the way my stylist curled my hair, but on our wedding day, I was more happy than insecure. I reminded myself during the champagne toast that Larry met the 140-pound me, dated the 180-pound me and married the 200-pound me. A few times during the day, my size reminded me of the albatross it was, causing small pangs of self-consciousness any time someone said, “I want a picture!” Pangs that felt like I was being pricked with a needle along my spine. The script in my head told me that what I looked like that day would forever be a part of our family’s photo albums, so with every flash I cringed a little. But at least I was smiling, and for the most part I meant it.

Within a few days the out-of-town guests were gone and life was back to normal. The memory of the self-consciousness and the prickly feeling of being photographed faded. Once in awhile I thought about losing weight, but life was sane and in sync. I was loved and accepted for who I was. Losing weight didn’t seem urgent. Neither did not gaining. By our one-year anniversary I weighed 215 pounds.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Omega-3: How to Get It, What to Avoid

In the most recent edition of Health magazine, there was a small blurb on the potential danger of eating tilapia. Before I became a vegetarian, I ate tilapia. A LOT of tilapia, mostly because it was cheap. The taste was OK, too, but I liked the price tag more than anything.

The article, “Wake Forest researchers say popular fish contains potentially dangerous fatty acid combination,” makes a compelling argument against eating tilapia if you have “heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an ‘exaggerated inflammatory response.’ Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract.”

As you know, I have severe degenerative arthritis (That’s what my ortho docs keep calling it, but it seems redundant to me. Isn’t simply “arthritis” enough to put a wince in your eye? Does it have to be “severe” and “degenerative,” too? It’s like salt in a wound. Yeah, I get the picture, doc. It ain’t good.) Anyway, as a person with arthritis and who knows many, many other people with arthritis, I try to stay on top of the latest science involving arthritis pain and prevention, and this article is another hammer in the toolbox, so to speak.

But there’s a disturbing catch-22 in all this information, that has to do with what I said about the price of tilapia. It’s cheap. “This ability to feed the fish inexpensive foods, together with their capacity to grow under almost any condition, keeps the market price for the fish so low that it is rapidly becoming a staple in low-income diets.”

So yet again, people with the least access to healthy food are getting screwed. “Eat more fish!” they hear health professionals say. And so they do. Only it’s not going to help them with their heart disease, arthritis or other ailments because of the fish’s lop-sided combination of omega-3 and omega-6. It can potentially hurt them.

In a Mayo Clinic article, sent to me by my blogging partner, Barbara Berkeley: “Omega-3 in fish. How eating fish helps your heart,” salmon and trout have a much better omega-3 record, but both are more expensive. What to do? Perhaps flaxseed is a less-expensive alternative to fish.

Dr. Dean Ornish, a vegetarian, said this about omega-3s in an interview with PBS Frontline (a very good in-depth interview if you have a few minutes to read it): “The omega-3 fatty acids, for example, can reduce sudden cardiac death by 50 to 80 percent. My mentor when I was doing my training at Mass. General, Dr. Alexander Leaf, discovered this 20 years ago. Just 3 grams a day of fish oil or flaxseed oil can reduce sudden cardiac death by 50 to 80 percent and lower your triglycerides, [it] can reduce inflammation of arthritis, many other benefits. But you don't need more than that. Just a little can provide what you need without getting too much, so you can get the benefits without getting too many calories.”

Sounds good. But will people who need to hear this message the most get the message from the medical community? My fingers are crossed.

Back to arthritis for a minute, while I’m all for the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3, my immediate priority is reducing inflammation of arthritis any way I can. So I add ground flaxseed to many kinds of foods. (My favorite? Sugar-free chocolate pudding, of course.). I’ve been using flaxseed for almost a year in conjunction with exercise, Synvisc injections, massage, chiropractic and weight management to help control my arthritis pain and inflammation. I can’t say for sure it works, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything, either, so I’ll stick with it.

So my questions today are, do you make a conscious effort to eat foods rich in omega-3 and for what purpose? If you have arthritis, how do you treat the pain and inflammation?

Looking forward to your comments! You always teach me so much.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stuff That Won’t Be In The Book – Part 1

I’ve done a lot of writing the last six months and after restructuring and rethinking the angle of my book, there are several stories that will end up on the cutting room floor. Before they do, I thought I’d share some of them here.

The book is largely about how I lived life at all the various weights I’ve weighed in my life. Some of the stories I’ll share here will be condensed or referred to in the book, so this is my chance to expand on the details a little more. I apologize in advance for perhaps boring you with all this, but I promise to only post these stories every other blog, at least for awhile. Thanks for indulging me.

This first story is about how I met my husband, Larry.

I met Larry in 1991 when I weighed 140 pounds. I was our local university’s campus coordinator for Habitat for Humanity. Larry, a biochemistry professor, was one of the group’s faculty advisors. We were friends, nothing more. Both of us were married and he had two young sons. It never crossed our minds that we’d find each other remotely interesting in a romantic way five years later. The only things we had in common were that we attended the same Presbyterian church and liked white wine. Larry was a runner, a scientist and had lived in two foreign countries. I worked out with Cindy Crawford videos once in awhile, had started but not completed a B.A. in English, and lived in three states, including a 3-month stint in South Dakota after I graduated from high school.

I don’t think I even said goodbye to Larry when I left Clarion in 1994 and moved the girls and me back to Minneapolis so I could finish my degree at Augsburg College. I was too busy being divorced, dating a man seven years younger than me, and worrying about weighing 160 pounds. By 1996, the girls missed their stepfather and I was concerned about raising them in an environment in which they had to lock themselves in our apartment from the time they got home from school until I got home from work. Carlene and Cassie had freedom in a small town, where they could ride their bikes and go to the pool and buy candy at the drugstore without being tethered to me like dogs. So we schlepped our stuff back to Clarion and I promised the kids we’d stay this time.

I weighed 180 pounds when I ran into Larry at a downtown coffee shop the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was a deadline day at the newspaper. I was the features editor, and I needed a large Mexican Custapec. With cream, of course. The real stuff.

The place was packed. As I stood in line, I saw Larry having coffee with a few colleagues at a table 20 feet away. He had on a Burberry trench coat over a shirt and tie and Lands End dress pants. He still had a runner’s build and most of his hair. I wondered if I should say hello, but before I could decide, Larry looked up and saw me, and the grin on his face said he recognized me, even though I’d gained 20 pounds.

“Lynn!” he exclaimed.

He got up, and in what I thought was a very un-scientist, un-Larry kind of move, he walked into my space and embraced me.

“I saw your byline but thought that couldn’t be the Lynn Haraldson I knew. She moved to Minnesota!”

“Ah, but I moved back,” I said, laughing. His hug felt good. Too good because I recognized that safe and warm, chocolate-pudding feeling you get when you first really like someone, and I was not ready to like someone again.

I’d heard through the grapevine that Larry and his wife were divorced and that she’d returned to her teaching position at a private college in upstate New York. I was sad to hear they’d parted after 15 years. When I told him that, he thanked me but said it was for the best.

“I’m going to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving,” he said. “Can I call you when I get back?”

“I live on Wood Street,” I replied. “I’m in the book.”

He looked me up and called on Saturday. We made plans for him to come over to my apartment the following Saturday, which he did with two bottles of wine in hand.

He knocked on the door. I cracked it open and asked him if he was allergic to cats.

“No. Why?” he asked. I let him in and our cat ran toward him.

“This is Silas,” I said.

“As in ‘Silas Marner?’” he asked.

What? I thought. This runner scientist guy knows Brit lit?

“Yes, actually. You’ve read the book?” I pressed a little further as I hung up his coat.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I’ve read George Eliot, and Jane Austen, too.”

Hmmm. Interesting.

He opened the first bottle of wine and I put on “Tapestry.” He said he liked Carol King, too. This guy was batting a thousand. We sat on the couch and talked about where I’d been and what I’d done, and where he’d been and what he’d done. Before we knew it, it was 3 a.m. and we were both yawning. I walked him to the door and we agreed it was good to get reacquainted. Then, just as he’d done at the coffee shop, he leaned into my space, only this time he kissed me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Post-Election High? Maybe. Or Is It The Weather?

I’m going to bed a little early tonight since I stayed up until 1 a.m. last night/this morning watching election returns and listening to concession and acceptance speeches. No matter which way you float, last night was historic. I stay awake for very few things – I’m pretty wedded to my sleep schedule – but new grandbabies and presidential elections will keep me up.

I was up before 7 a.m., ready for a new day. I ate a half cup of Greek yogurt with some stevia and a plum cut up in the bowl, and two egg whites cooked and stuffed between a Thomas’ lite English muffin and topped with a few slices of tomato and a side of my favorite condiment combo: mustard and ketchup. Simple is best in Lynn World.

I got a little sleepy around 9 a.m. after checking blogs, answering emails and reading more news. But I had put on my workout clothes and I had no excuse. I’m taking Friday off, not today. As I brought my dishes to the kitchen, I walked over a few leaves brought in by the dogs and dug into the carpet as well as remnants from last night’s popcorn love fest with the puppies. (Once in awhile I make a bag and throw it out to them. It’s the little things in life, you know?)

Hmmmm…maybe a quick sweep would warm me up. I brought the vacuum out and did a quick run-through in the kitchen, dining room and living room, stretching the cord as far as I could to reach the few leaves in the space between the stairs and bathroom. God forbid I actually unplug the cord and move it closer. The. Leaves. Were. Right. There. If. Only. I. Could….Reach……

On my way back to the vacuum storage space, I walked past the front door and saw the disarray of leaves and dog hair on the porch and decided I should do a quick once-over of the Astroturf. I was feeling energized, so I spent 10 minutes vacuuming up the the debris of fall. By the time I was done, I was ready for my planned 20 minutes of cardio and 50 minutes of strength training.

I got on the bike, determined to do 10 minutes followed by 10 on the elliptical. Funny thing, though….after 10 minutes I wanted to do another five minutes. And then another few minutes. Afterwards, I got on the elliptical, and 20 intense minutes later I thought, ‘What the…?’ I was drenched in sweat and feeling awesome. I was pumped.

On to the lifting. Every muscle, tendon, sweat gland, and brain cell fell into perfect symmetry as I made my way through an hour of lifting this and moving that.

My question is: why did this happen? Was this an emotional response to the election or just me feeling good on a rare 65-degree November day? I felt light in spirit and body even though the scale hadn’t changed and the same worries I had yesterday followed me into this morning. I decided not to over think it and just let it be what it was. As we all know, finding the energy and enthusiasm to exercise some days means bypassing the immediacy of our thoughts and digging deep into our “it’s what’s best” reserves. Today, though, my body and mind were in perfect synchronicity. That is a rare occurrence for me. My body usually drags my mind kicking and screaming into the first few moments of a workout and then my mind chills and says, “I was with you all along. Really. I was.” Whatever.

I wish you all a good night and a good workout tomorrow. Most of all, though, I wish you peace, both in your body and mind. Balancing all of this isn’t easy. Our dieting or maintenance plan lives side-by-side with the way we spend the rest of our days of family, work, and even presidential elections. Take the gifts your body and mind afford you. Don’t ask questions if you body feels awesome and you just want to move or if your mind is clear and doesn’t question your choice of food or movement. This is the way life is supposed to be.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Year Ago Today….

As many of you know, I write a blog about weight maintenance called Refuse to Regain with my blogging partner, Dr. Barbara Berkeley. Barbara’s book, Refuse to Regain: 12 Tough Rules to Maintain the Body You've Earned, was published last week and I thought it fitting that I received my copy today, on the one-year anniversary of my life-changing trip to Chicago – the day I wandered almost over my head into three months of media craziness and a year of challenges I never thought I had the strength to face and opportunities I never thought possible.

It’s fitting because as a writer, I’ve seen my byline in magazines, newspapers and online, but never in a book…until today. I wrote the foreword for Refuse to Regain, and seeing my byline after the foreword was almost as thrilling as meeting Oprah. Fitting because had I not been on "Oprah," I might not have met Barbara. Fitting because a year ago, I’m not sure I could have written the foreword. Not because in it I refer to a particular moment on the Oprah show, but because I’m a stronger, more confident person today, thanks mostly to all the people I’ve met this last year and continue to meet in person, in my blogs, other places on the ‘net. People who challenge me, teach me, encourage me, and, yes, even piss me off sometimes.

I blogged about my Oprah experience, if you want to read about it. There are a few photos there, too. I went back to read it again for the first time in a year and even now it’s still hard to believe it actually happened, even though I wear the boots every chance I get. Not the jeans so much. Or the belt. …sigh… I’m really not en vogue, not by any stretch of the imagination. My apologies to everyone who’s tried to instruct me this year in the ways of fashion.

Anyway, it’s what happened next that guided my life to where it is now. As I wrote after the show aired at the end of November:

“I’ve said all along that if my weight-loss story can inspire just one person to take control of their weight and fitness, then telling it in any way I can is worth it. I’m merely paying a debt. I’m paying back the people who encouraged me and helped me reach my own goals. If I’ve inspired someone to lose weight, it’s because I was inspired to lose weight by someone else who lost weight.

“Losing weight, while a solitary physical act, does not have to take place in a vacuum. We all have questions, we all have doubts, we all have victories, both on and off the scale, that we want to celebrate with other people who ‘get it.’ The people who inspired me also answered my questions, calmed my doubts, and celebrated with me. It’s my turn to do the same for others. Thus the challenge.”

This led me to begin this blog, Lynn’s Weigh. Then, after being featured on CNN’s FitNation and being “found” by Barbara, we started the Refuse to Regain blog. What’s funny, though, is that I still get far more inspiration, feedback and learning tools from readers and other bloggers I’ve met this year than I can ever give in return. So a hearty thank you to all of you for your insightful gifts.

Chicago last year was the mother of all trips. Seeing my byline in a book today was the mother of all head rushes. That is, until I see my name as the author on the cover of my own book J Which reminds me, I owe that book some Lynn time today, so I best get to it. I confess, though, I’d rather hang out here on the computer with you guys.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Long Post About Combating That "Feel Like Crap" Feeling

Thank the heavens, my kids, a 1-year-old pink monster, and a bottle of “Aches & Pains Liquid Mineral Bath,” my two-day pity party has ended. Actually, pity isn’t the right word, or even party, for that matter. There’s not much fun in pity. But is there such a thing as a “feeling-like-crap” party? It’s not very alliterative, is it?

It began Wednesday, halfway through my workout. My body hurt and my mind was racing and nothing – absolutely nothing – was in sync. I finally said, “Screw this! I can’t do it anymore,” and I went to Pittsburgh to spend a few days with my daughters and my granddaughter. By the time I got home last night, I was feeling better. I woke up this morning and the crap feeling had subsided and I was able to work out and think clearly at the same time. I even got the grocery shopping (at three freaking stores) done and the porch winterized and the garage cleaned. My reward? A bath. A long, hot bath with my new favorite bath stuff, Village Naturals Therapy liquid mineral bath. I found it at WalMart. Sometimes you find stuff there, you know?

Soaking in a hot bath, life just makes sense. My knees feel better, my wrists feel better, my shoulders feel better. I can shave my legs and other parts. I can think and breathe and work the crap out. When I get out, life’s a little lighter.

It’s at that point – shaved, dressed and refreshed – when I started writing this blog. I was going to expound on the virtues of mineral baths and positive thinking when Jake the Golden Retriever started barking and I went to the living room to see why.

Crap. Two guys were at the front door. They could see and hear me so there was no faking I wasn’t home.

Are they Obama or McCain? It’s an innate response anymore, given the way things are this election year. Both campaigns have hit our house (and phone) a lot lately.

Wait, I thought before opening the door. Did I put on a bra after my bath?

I looked down and saw that yes, thankfully, I did. I shooshed the dog and thanked the gods even a little more when I opened the door and learned the two guys weren’t from a political campaign. They were fraternity boys selling raffle tickets for some good cause or other.

Then I thought, That’s worse!”

Self-deprecating 45-year-old me wondered why do frat guys have to be so damn good looking when I’m smelling of Vicks Vap-O-Rub, have rosy cheeks, and am wearing no makeup and sporting an oh-so-lovely outfit of grey sweat pants and a baggy white shirt with a permanent Claire spit-up stain at the top?

You’re 45, you’ve felt like crap for two days, you get to be who you are in this moment, Lynn, I told myself.

With just that little affirmation, I felt better. Well, that and remembering that living in a college town, I encounter a lot of students and it’s my civic duty to remind them to be mindful of who they’re interacting with. They can’t be sure if they’re talking to a future professor, or worse, a future professor’s spouse. You really don’t want to piss us off.

“What’s your major?” I asked after they gave me their spiel.

The first guy answered, “Secondary English education,” and the second guy said, “Microbiology,” like I was going to be all impressed. Perfect answers. If they’d said they were accounting or economics majors, I’d have just given them my money and walked back in the house, telling myself it was OK to look like a total goober in public.

“Ah….so you’ll probably have my ex-husband for a prof at some point,” I said to English major boy while I looked through my wallet for a five (I could get one ticket for $1 and six for $5). “Dr. Bodziock.”

English major boy blinked.

“Um, no, not yet,” he fidgeted. “This is my first semester.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure you will at some point,” I laughed.

Microbiology boy looked as sober as his friend, although I doubt either one was sober last night, being Halloween and all.

“You’ll have my husband at some point,” I told him.

“Who’s that?” he said, wide eyed.

“Dr. Bering,” I said.

Whenever I tell a kid I’m married to “Dr. Bering,” the reaction is either joy or fear. There’s no in between.

“So…,” he stuttered. “What kind of teacher is he?”

I give the guy credit for asking me the question. It’s pretty ballsy to ask the wife of your future prof what she thinks of her husband.

“Well, I’ve heard he’s tough, but I think he’s a nice guy,” I said. “You can ask him yourself. He’s walking up the street right now.”

I pointed to scary biochemist Larry who was returning home after walking our other two dogs. I gave English major boy my money and he handed me my tickets. He and his friend thanked me and dismissed themselves faster than my Golden Retriever pees on a tree.

I sat on the ledge and watched them greet clueless Larry with the guttural, “Hey,” that guys do. I thought for a second about my “feeling-like-crap” party and wondered if those boys knew or would have one themselves. Probably. We all do, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s about food or exercise or college studies, we all have them.

I relieved my most recent “crap” feeling with a visit with the people who mean the most to me. As I started feeling better, I used it to conquer a good workout, a yard/garage clean-up and a bath.

I make plans and schedules for the week, but they’re all dependent on feeling physically and emotionally normal with nothing extemporaneous intruding. It’s how we deal with the unexpected that plays into our weight-loss and weight-maintenance lives. We could choose to eat and throw it all out the window or we could be rational. Sometimes I throw it away for a moment, but mostly I take a deep breath and think for second. There’s nothing wrong with distracting ourselves or jumping in a tub. You never know what might happen, right?

My aches and pains are a little more numb tonight than they were on Wednesday. My mind’s had enough time to sort through the crap. Maybe things will be normal this week. Maybe they won’t. I take comfort in knowing that I will figure it out eventually, come what may. I can only make a commitment to eat well and exercise and listen to my body despite (or in response to) the unexpected. If I screw up, well, hey. I’m a work in progress, right?

Here’s my little pink monster grandbaby who makes this commitment a little easier to fight for.