Thursday, May 26, 2011

3.8 and 5.1 and Everywhere In Between

Meet my new biking partner:


After impressing her with my bike rack/bike tying skills (“Oooohhh, Grammy! My bike is so safe! It won’t fall off!”), I buckled her in her car seat and we were off to the bike trail. (Part of our conversation along the way: “I love my baby sister. We get to keep her!” along with her asking and me answering at LEAST 30 times “Are we there yet?”)

From the moment Cassie threw her positive pregnancy test stick on my menu at Applebee’s, I dreamed of this day. Me – post-weight-loss and in love with biking – teaching my grandchild the joys of a trail.

Today’s ride was everything I’d dreamed and more.

Claire – 3½ years old and 3½ feet tall – has taught me more than any human ever has. As we rode today, with me riding alongside her and protecting her from the edge (“You’re high up there, Grammy! You have a big bike.”), I felt not only the responsibility of being a grandparent, but an even greater love for her than I can possibly explain.

Claire named her bike Fast Star. As she peddled along the path right around 3.8 mph (which is a heckuva lot harder for me on a “big bike” to maintain than peddling 10 or 12 mph because of the balance factor), once in awhile she’d yell, “Go Fast Star! Go fast!” and get her speed up to 5.1. Talk about keeping me on my peddling toes.

“Don’t run over the worms, Grammy!”

“There’s a cardinal!”

“What’s that butterfly, Grammy?”

“A swallowtail,” I said.

“A shwallatale.”

“Yup.”

Taking a water break.
As we made our way to one mile and back again (“Where’s the parking lot, Grammy? My legs are getting tired.”), we took a break and I thought about when I first learned she existed. Thought I’d share what I wrote back in 2007

Welcome to Life, My Little Grandbaby!

You’re no bigger than a walnut, with webbed stubs and budding eyes, but you’re my favorite kid on the planet.

I love you because you are alive, multiplying cells, developing hands and feet and ears and kidneys and a liver and a brain. Somewhere along the way I hope you develop a good sense of humor, too. You’ll need it in this family.

I learned of your existence in a way only your momma would do. Grandpa Larry and I met her at Applebee’s for lunch three weeks ago and she threw her home pregnancy test on my menu, having secretly taken it a few minutes earlier in the restaurant bathroom because she suspected you were inside her, lurking. Yet even after we saw the faint blue plus sign, we read the instructions over and over again, making sure we were seeing it right. News of your life took a little while to sink in.

But exist you do, growing and turning into the little person I’ll teach to make lefse and bird seed cakes. You’re the little person I’m going to read all my favorite children’s books to and let stay up past your bedtime because we’ve made a tent in the living room. We’ll eat s’mores by flashlight and listening to Raffi and sing “Baby Beluga,” just like I did with your momma and Aunt Carlene.

You will be adored by many, but I, of course, will adore you above all others because I am your Granny Lynn. Your mom and dad will think you’re groovy, too, but I promise to love you like no other. We’re going to have a good time as you grow up, my little grandbaby. You are my future, my anticipation, my happiness, and delight. You’re showing me a new kind of love. My mother and my neighbor Martha told me I wouldn’t understand the whole grandmother thing until I experienced it, and they were right. I love your momma and your aunt and your uncles Kevin and Andy more than I can explain, but you are different. I love you in a way that is wild. We will talk together, laugh together, work together. Discipline will be negotiable between us.

You’re causing your momma to break out like she was 13. Good for you. Just try not to beat her up too much, ok? Be safe in there.

I don’t care if you get your dad’s bad sinuses or your mom’s bad hips, my lack of coordination or your grandpa’s taste in music. We’ll work through it. Just come out screaming and everything will be fine.

I’ll see you in October, little one, and not a moment sooner. Stay inside until every last cell you need is in place. I’ll be there, waiting to welcome you to the other side.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Know I Can, I Know I Can

How appropriate that, in light of my recent blog – “I’m the Little Red Engine…”, my first official bike ride of the season yesterday was on a rails-to-trails bike trail. It was on the Butler-Freeport Community trail that, around mile 9, I turned “I think I can, I think I can” into “I know I can, I know I can.”
Ex-husband-turned-BFF Larry (the man who bought me my bike when I got to goal) and I biked 11 miles in an hour and change. This was down from our usual average of 13 to15 miles in an hour. But my body is different this year and so is my focus. As I said in the little engine blog, “Somewhere in me exists a balance between Hardcore Lynn and I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Lynn.” Yesterday, I found that balance, and – shockingly – it felt right. The ride was challenging, but not killer, and the best part was that I saw so much more than I ever did peddling 13+ miles per hour.

The Butler-Freeport Community Trail has several trailheads five to15 minutes of my house. I opted for one about six miles west of the start of the trail, which put us in the downhill slope first. Downhill is normally not my favorite starting position on a rails-to-trails trail (I’d rather do the uphill work first), but this was my first ride of the season with a crankier-than-usual body and I had zero confidence that I could bike more than a few minutes or a few miles, especially on an unfamiliar surface – crushed limestone and, in a few places, mud. The trails I cut my biking teeth on in Venango and Clarion counties were paved. I knew that taking it easy the first half of the ride was just plain prudent. (This would be me thinking ahead…looking for balance…I think I can, I think I can…)

I bought a second-hand bike rack last month, one that fits over the spare tire of the Jeep. I’ve never owned a bike rack, nor have I ever attempted to load a bike on to a bike rack. In my bike-riding married past, that was always something Larry did.

Yesterday, however, I read the instructions and put the bike rack securely on the tire AND loaded the bikes AND secured them with bungee cord and a strap AND drove us to the trailhead…with NO major incident. Having this knowledge makes life so much easier. In the past if I wanted to ride my bike alone on a trail, I’d have to stuff it in the back of my Jeep. This took longer than the actual ride, and one or more body parts ended up cut or bruised and much cussing ensued. These days, with grandbaby car seats practically welded to the back seat, the space in the Jeep is very limited. If I want to ride on a trail, I either take out the seats (which y’all know is a big old PITA) or learn how to work a bike rack.

My handiwork:
At the trailhead. It only took about five minutes for me to feel comfortable riding on crushed limestone.
Massive tree down…lots of mud on the trail.
Little waterfall. This is what I meant about biking slower. I not only heard the water falling, I saw it.

Larry, as bad as his eyesight is, is an excellent birder. He can always spot the smallest of birds. Yesterday on the trail, he saw a scarlet tanager and stopped suddenly. I nearly ran into him. The bird flew away so I didn’t see it. So disappointing. But a half mile later, Larry stopped again. “Look! An indigo bunting! See it? See it?” Yes, I saw it. And it was beautiful and brave (it didn’t move even though we were just a few feet from him) and he’s now on my Life List.

We turned around 5.6.miles in. Here I am, getting my confidence together. It wasn’t going to be a bad uphill ride, but it would be constant, and given I’d not biked like that in several months and I was not quite the cardio queen I was a year ago, I was a little worried. But hey, what goes down, must come up, and I’d been down long enough. I took off the long-sleeved thin shirt I wore over my t-shirt, tucked my Blackberry in my pants (to take photos on the way back), and started peddling.

Minutes in, the lung rush and the increased heartbeat started, but it was familiar, like an old friend. I knew what was being asked of my body. I’d been there before. And despite a lack-luster, half-assed winter of “exercise,” I felt incredible. I stopped a few times to take photos, but I peddled and peddled and peddled and when I got back to the Jeep, I was a sweaty stinky happy-beyond-belief mess.

Since getting to goal, I’ve eagerly anticipated the first bike ride of the season (Here are links to the blogs in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010). I’ve been on dozens of rides in four years, but this one was the most “spiritual.” It renewed my faith in my physical self (I know I can, I know I can), and it affirmed what I’ve been trying to accept for many months, that less is better and that there is balance between doing everything and doing nothing.

What do you know you can do now that you didn’t know you could do before?

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More photos:
I never thought…all the times I crossed this bridge in my car…that I would be riding my bike underneath.
The creek at the end of the downhill.
The creek near the end of the uphill. (It's down there somewhere.)

A very happy me :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wal-Mart, Spinach Hummus, and Commonality

I know Wal-Mart has a China-cheap and a what-was-he-thinking-when-he-got-dressed-this-morning/what’s-with-the-butt-crack kind of reputation, but I shop there because it’s close and the mangos are 89 cents and they carry a bubble bath I can’t find anywhere else (probably because the rest of it’s in China).

On Sunday, I had $20 to blow on groceries and knew I could get low-fat cheese, a roll of paper towels, bananas, blackberries, spinach and a bag of carrots there and still come under budget. I also had a dollar to spare in my checking account, so when I was done shopping, I was going to rent a Red Box video, too.

In the checkout line, a man (who I honestly thought from behind was a woman) in a motorized cart was unloading a case of Mountain Dew, a box of Little Debbies, two bags of Doritos, a can of Cheeze Whiz, a container of Cool Whip, and a box of Pop Tarts. Not judging here, but I seriously wondered what kind of freaky party (s)he had going on at home. Very interesting.

Anyway, when he stood up, he somehow put the cart in reverse and it backed up. I wasn’t paying attention (I was still staring at his food choices on the belt) and so…startled…I backed up my own cart, stepping on the toes of the woman behind me.

“Oh!” she exclaimed.

I turned around and was face-to-top of a grey-haired head with a small woman of…oh…75?

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I said. “Are you hurt?”

She laughed.

“Don’t worry! I wasn’t paying attention. I was reading the headlines about the Kardashians!” She rolled her eyes. “Apparently Kim Kardashian lived through a torturous life with her mother or her thighs or hair extensions. Something like that.”

I’d not been in the best of moods and I hadn’t cracked much of what could be remotely considered a smile most of the weekend, but this woman made me laugh. The cashier heard us talking and said, “Yeah…if that’s torture…” and started laughing. Pretty soon, the three of us (and the rest of the folks in the 20-or-less-items line) were laughing, too. It’s not like we really understood why we were laughing, but we fed off each other’s laughter. Obviously more than a few of us were having crappy weekends.

I had topsy-turvy hair, was wearing no make-up, and was flat broke, but I was laughing. The little grey-haired woman was an unexpected and very appreciated gift. But she wasn’t done with me yet.

I took my bags and went to the Red Box. What to rent, what to rent. I’m not one to keep up with Hollywood, so I was a little lost in the titles.

“Even though you ran over me and I have to limp back to my car, I’ll tell you what I’d recommend,” said the woman from the checkout line. Her face beamed and her eyes shined. I looked at her and smiled and felt so at peace. I don’t know her story or who she was or is or if someone was waiting for her at home, but looking at her, I felt like she understood what was going on in all my aloneness and dysfunctional functionality.

“Check out ‘Grown Ups,’ she said. “It’s funny. You don’t have to think much. And you’ll recognize everyone in it.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I will. Have a good night!”

When I got home, I had a hankering for hummus. Spinach hummus. I had a renewed energy, AND I had the chickpeas, the spinach and the tahini. All I needed was a recipe. I Googled and found four recipes that sounded good, but each seemed incomplete. So I combined them, added a few of my own ideas, and made what gave me the worst and happiest garlic breath ever. Here’s the recipe, to the best of my recollection:

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained (but save the liquid)
2 T tahini
2 T lemon juice
1-5 garlic cloves (depends on how much you love garlic)
¼ t black pepper
¼ t sea salt (I’m pretty sure regular salt would work, too)
2 C fresh spinach
1 15-ounce can artichokes (in water)
4-5 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes

Throw everything in a food processor and process until smooth, adding the reserved chickpea liquid as necessary, depending on what consistency you want. Next time I might add some fat-free Greek yogurt for a smoother texture. Anyway, it made 3 cups. Holy wow. I gave half to Larry to take home (he was in da’burgh and stopped by yesterday). Now he has wretched and happy garlic breath, too.

Anyway, later that night, I watched “Grown Ups,” and I laughed and laughed, all alone, by myself, completely comfortable. Inane movie? Yes. Simple movie? Yes. But it put me right again, at least in terms of mood, and I have only the woman at Wal-Mart to thank.
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I don’t think I’ve ever been so inspired/humbled/moved/provoked to think by blog comments as I was with the ones from my last blog. (I hope this link will take you to them.) If I could, I’d engage everyone who wrote in a personal conversation about what’s going on with them and why that post resonated with them. If only we could all get together at a Sbux and chat… Oh how fun would that be? Too bad I don’t play the lottery, because if I won, I’d send “yinz to da’burgh” for a GTG  Thank you so much for sharing what you do. It’s not only me who you get thinking. There are a lot of lurkers out there (at least technology tells me there are) and I know more than a few of me and those who posted and emailed have the “I just want to feel comfortable in my body and not worry, fuss or fight about it anymore” dream. So thank you, again, for your comments. I have printed them and will put them in my journal for those times when I need a reality check.

Not that THAT ever happens…no, no, heck no.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I’m The Little Red Engine, Damn It!

Power walking with my dog the other day, I felt every jiggle of my reemerging Little Miss Muffin Top (how I didn’t miss you!) and a panic I haven’t felt in several years set in: Get this fat off me NOW!

I’ve learned a thing or two about weight loss these last six years, namely that there is no quick fix (duh) and that it will take time (double duh) and that I need to appreciate who I am right here and now, muffin top and all, if I’m going to be successful.

So I went searching for help, like I always do, in the blog-o-sphere. Wise people out there, as you know. First up, DietGirl, who I’m so very sad I won’t get to meet at FitBloggin’. My Jeep needs new tires and a fancy oil change or it won’t pass inspection. Ergo, I can’t afford to go. *tear* If you or anyone you know wants to attend FitBloggin’ and is looking for a half-price ticket (part of my Lynn Needs New Tires fund), shoot me an email at lynn.haraldson@gmail.com.

Anyway, back to DietGirl and her recent blog, “New Year Goals Check-In: April,” in which she outlines what I define as a kind of Self Bill of Rights. One thing she wrote really struck a chord, especially in light of my recent interview on Two Fit Chicks and A Microphone:

“The thought of having to be ‘hardcore’ for the rest of your life was just totally depressing, quite frankly. But I've been thinking about it and I reckon what I've been doing this year is sustainable and realistic – healthy but not hardcore…I feel so peaceful and positive right now, and a helluva lot happier than I did when I got to my so-called Happy Weight a few years ago.”

Sustainable and realistic; healthy but not hardcore. Hmmm….

Then there’s Sandrelle, who blogs at Keeping it OFF! She, too, is one of my weight-loss heroes. We share many things in common regarding how we lost weight and in our philosophy of weight maintenance. Like me, she’s gained a bit from her lowest weight and feels…well…blah. As she posted on Lynn’s Weigh on Facebook: “I'm also up a few pounds, around 140, and NOT happy because it's not me. It doesn't feel like me.”

Doesn’t feel like me. Hmmm…

Finally, BFF 40-Something’s Shelley posted this week about being angry that she didn’t appreciate her body when it was at a weight she realizes was probably her “happy weight.” She just didn’t know it until it was gone.

Shelley wrote: “I truly did not appreciate how good I looked last summer. Don't get me wrong - I was thrilled with fitting into the size 6 Bermuda shorts, but did I focus on that? No - I couldn't stop seeing my extra belly flab…WHY didn't I appreciate my body then? I'll tell you why...decades of dieting. Never having the inner strength to say ‘I like how I look and feel now’ - never quite standing up for myself.

“I am so mad. I just want to go back and say ‘You dope! Enjoy what you've achieved!’ and I know that I'm not showing self-love, but so what. Sometimes I need a reality check.”

I like how I look and feel now. Hmmm…

So the three points I’m pondering in my continued search for body acceptance are: 1) What is sustainable and realistic; healthy but not hardcore; 2) Why does this extra weight not feel like me; and 3) How do I get to the place where I like how I look and feel in the moment?

I used to be hardcore. Worked out so dang hard I didn’t have my period for 3½ years (see “To Weigh Or Not To Weigh…”). Then my body started falling apart and I had to back off the 90-minute marathons at the gym. But in the last several months I’ve more than backed off. My exercise routine has gone from tsunami to a nearly dried up creek bed. Granted, it’s been a rough few months, but it’s time I…(click on the video)



Somewhere in me exists a balance between Hardcore Lynn and I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It Lynn. I’ve not thought about what is realistic for me and what my body can take in terms of exercise. Therefore, my plan is to sit down with myself and conduct an inventory of what I realistically can do in light of my limitations. I can walk, I can ride my bike, and I can do modified strength training using the exercises my physical therapist prescribed last year.

The tricky part of this inventory, however, is learning to accept my limitations without throwing in the towel. I will establish exercise goals and find the strength and tenacity (which I know are in me somewhere) to reach these goals. Sustainable and realistic, healthy not hardcore.

Next, why doesn’t this added weight feel like me? Considering I’ve been overweight or obese most of my adult life, you’d think I’d not feel like myself at any weight, and yet at 132 I felt at one with myself. Nothing flapped around much, I liked how my body looked in any type of clothing, I felt…healthy. This added weight, particularly around my stomach, doesn’t feel healthy. Having said that, and considering point #1, is it realistic that – given my physical limitations – I will be 132 again without living on 1200 calories a day?

Which leads me to point #3.

If I’m going to accept where I am right now and love the me and the extra pounds (and realistically lose what I can), I first need to understand why I’m not accepting where I am right now and why I don’t love the me and the extra pounds.

The first word that comes to mind is “failure.” I feel like I’ve failed. Failed myself, failed my family, failed my blog readers. Looking the way I do now, with a bit more weight (which I know is hardly noticeable to most people, but I see me naked every day), I want to hide in t-shirts and shy away from being touched for fear someone will “feel” the real me. I’m this close to saying, “Weight, you win! I’m crawling back in that fat hole again. I give up.”

However…like Shelley, I’m going to stand up for myself and try a little tough self-love first:

“Lynn, you worked damned hard to lose 170 pounds. Don’t you DARE start gaining it all back. No food is going to comfort you; it will only bring you down. You KNOW how to say ‘No’ to yourself. Remember how you used to ask yourself, “How will I feel 5 minutes after I eat ____?” Yeah, well, chicka…make that your mantra AGAIN. Now. Not tomorrow. Today. You want medjool dates? Fine, but one will suffice. Same goes for all your other favorites. Go back to the beginning. Read your blogs. Remember how it felt at 250, 200, 170, 150. You can do it, Lynn. You really can.”

At least, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

Monday, May 9, 2011

Let The Mauling Begin

Running away is laborious, and yet…it burns no calories. That’s too bad considering I’ve done more running away than exercise the last eight months. As a blogger of personal things, it’s often difficult to know what to keep and what to give away. I offer, as personally as I can, the following as a way of explaining my infrequent postings. I framed it within the lyrics of the songWe All Need Saving by Jon McLaughlin. Thanks for sticking with me.------------------------------------------

Come on, come on. You have got to move on. This is not the you I know.

Last week found me sitting on the deck of my former house with my former dog gazing at my former gardens. A me I don’t know very well yet started crying. She was missing her gardens between her fingers; she was missing her life.

This isn't real. It's just all you can feel. And that's the way that feelings go.

A friend told me months ago that until I learn to live within the space of my new life with the same strength and determination with which I lost weight, I would be forever grasping for and holding on to bogus and temporary securities.

That pissed me off.

“I haven’t lived alone in 30 years!” I argued. “I’m doing the best I can. What more is there to it?”

“You have to let it maul you,” he said.

“Well I’m sorry Mr. I’ve Been Alone for Four Years, but I don’t want to be mauled by loneliness,” I retorted. “It hurts and it’s scary.”

“Exactly,” he sighed. “But in time, the mauling becomes a scratching, and that scratching a gentle touch, and it won’t hurt as much and you’ll be stronger.”

While I didn’t have a definitive “Ah ha!” moment that led me to lose weight, I definitely danced around the idea for a few months until that One Thing happened: the photo of 300-pound me with my daughter on her 20th birthday. It opened my eyes to see the real me, inside and out…the “you” I got to know.

Last week on the deck was the One Thing necessary to “start the mauling.” After the first round of tears, I got up, went to the garage, found a pot and shovel, walked to the end of the garden, and dug up one of the chives. I put the pot in the Jeep, gathered my things, and started driving home.

When the cloud in the sky starts to pour and your life is just a storm you're braving, don't tell yourself you can't lean on someone else, cause we all need saving sometimes.

I cried for 20 miles before calling Mr. I’ve Been Alone for Four Years.

“This sucks!”

“Yup. But you’re not alone. And you will be OK.”

I don't know why it has to be this way and I don't know the cure. But please believe someone has felt this before.

I’ve been around this block. I remember trying to be “OK” in a new life and failing miserably. It was 1983, after my husband died. Following the funeral, friends and family returned to their homes while I had to move out of mine. The farm was my in-law’s business, and without Bruce, I didn’t belong there.

One week after the funeral, I sold our livestock and grain.

Two weeks after the funeral, I gave away Bruce’s clothes.

Three weeks after the funeral, I moved in with my parents.

Four weeks after the funeral, my breasts dried up like an old cow’s, and I nursed our 1-month-old daughter for the last time.

I weighed 200 pounds and I felt as big as it looked when its two large zeros glared back at me from the Diet Center scale three months later. My friend Lisa was marrying Bruce’s best friend in the fall and I was in the wedding. As an incentive to lose weight, I ordered my dress a size smaller. Diet Center promised fast weight loss, which was perfect since I didn’t want to spend all summer on a diet. The faster I looked normal, the faster life would be normal.

Fifteen minutes at Diet Center, I was stripped of a week’s pay and put on an 800-calorie per day “meal plan.” I met with a “counselor” every day who weighed me, gave me a pep talk, and sent me home with vitamins. It didn’t matter that after one week I was dizzy all the time or that I was constipated and my skin was dry. I lost 20 pounds in 4 weeks and my bridesmaid dress zipped up like skates on ice. I quit Diet Center and celebrated with a Dominos pizza.

I spent the rest of the summer trying to get back the life I knew before 200 pounds, to shed grief like a snake sheds its skin. But the more I searched for Bruce in every man’s eyes, a thin body in every sandwich without mayo, and some peace in a bottle of 80-proof something, the less normal life felt and the more weight I gained. A month before Lisa’s wedding, the zipper of my bridesmaid’s dress wouldn’t move past my waist.

Back at 200 and too ashamed to admit it, I told Lisa I couldn’t be in her wedding because it would be too hard without Bruce. Sitting in the back pew in the same church I was married, I realized I hadn’t lied. It was hard without Bruce. All of it – the wedding, losing weight, raising a baby, living alone. As the bridesmaids walked down the aisle, I was crushed by jealousy. They were smiling, which I couldn’t do, and wearing the dress I couldn’t wear. I knew if I cried I’d draw attention to myself and then I’d be “Poor Lynn” all over again. I hated sympathy almost as much as weighing 200 pounds. Once everyone was safely up front, I did the only thing I knew to do. I left.

Remembering all of this 28 years later…that’s how I know this time – like the last time I lost weight – has to be different. I can’t leave. And no diet, no man, no distraction, no amount of lying to myself is going to save me, either.

I write this not for sympathy, but rather to say that no matter what we lose – weight, love, gardens, sanity, money, friends, knowledge – running away cheats us out of the mauling, which in time – I truly believe – becomes a scratch and then a gentle touch until finally, we become who we are meant to be.