Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How Blake Shelton Helped Me Take My Clothes Off (not literally, I swear, Miranda)

Sagging, bagging, wrinkles and all, I strive to love the body I occupy. I tell myself that it’s a good place to live in now, in this moment, and in every other moment past and future. I say that, I mean that, I embrace that…

…as long as my clothes are on.

When I want to de-stress, I take a bath. A long, hot bubble bath with candles and wine. I turn on my “Bath” playlist, and once everything’s assembled and the tub is filled, I quickly take off my clothes and slip under the suds.

One of the songs on the Bath playlist is Blake Shelton’s “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking?” Every time it comes on, Blake and I have a conversation.

Do you pour a little something on the rocks?

“I don’t drink the hard stuff, Blake, except a Maker’s Mark on occasion. But I confess I drink chardonnay on ice. Sometimes the boxed stuff. I’m culture with a side of pork rinds, my friend.”

Slide down the hallway in your socks?

“Well, I’m no Tom Cruise, but I do a pretty good lip sync to ‘Old Time Rock n’ Roll.’”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“Blake,” I say. “I imagine there’s a lot of freedom associated with undressing on my way to the bathroom and not in the bathroom with the door closed, lights low, and seconds before I hop in the tub.”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“I wish I could, Blake, but you see, I have this body image thing that’s hard to shake…”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“I feel pretty beat up, Blake, over this whole ‘body image’ thing. The last time I didn’t care about my body, I was in 5th grade, not yet wearing a bra and still happy to just fish bullheads out of Split Rock Creek.”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“I’ve never walked around my house in just my skivvies or less, Blake. Why, you ask? Do I really need to tell you this? OK, fine, I’m embarrassed to expose myself to even myself. I always wrap myself in robes or towels. Can we move on to the next question?”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“Why do you keep pressing this issue, Blake? Yeah, sure, I’ve always suspected there was something about walking around the house wearing only a bra and underwear. Something sexy. Something daring and freeing. But that’s not me, Blake. I’m not sexy or daring or carefree. I’m Lynn, Queen of Body Issues, remember.”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“What do you mean I was never appointed Queen of Body Issues? I pulled the body image equivalent of Excalibur out of a stone many years and many pounds ago, for cryin’ out loud! I’ve worked my whole adult life to defend my throne! Don’t tell me to abdicate!”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“Fine. I’m tired of arguing with you Blake. Next bath, I’ll leave a path. Will that make you happy? Good. Just promise you won’t look, OK? That would be a deal breaker. Promise me. PROMISE. OK…pinky swear works. It’s a deal.”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“I did it, Blake. I took that walk from the bedroom to the bubble bath, leaving a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a bra, and my underwear in a path to the bath like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Sorry, but I left the socks for the bathroom. You know my feet are always cold.”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“I sunk to my nose in that bubble bath, and I reveled in the feeling of walking my body – in various stages of undress – to the bathroom. I had no idea that air cascading over my wrinkles and sags and bags and folds could feel so empowering!”

When you undress, do you leave a path? Then sink to your nose in a bubble bath?

“Yes, I do.”

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Would Uncle George NOT Do?

Exercise has become so dull and predictable that I practically sleep through a workout. It’s the same old thing on the elliptical and recumbent – up and down, round and round, rote, like an actor playing Hamlet for the gazillionth time. I know every crack in the sidewalks around my neighborhood and every rut on the bike path. It’s Snoozapalooza!

It’s not that I’m slacking physically. I’m just not challenging myself psychologically through exercise, which is the very thing that makes exercise so important to my overall well being. Riding my bike in the same place, walking the same route, and reading books on my elliptical is safe. I like safe. There’s nothing wrong with safe. But safe can be pretty boring and unfulfilling.

I have no excuse other than complacency. I live near a park in which there are at 7 hiking trails, including 3.5 miles of the 35-mile Rachel Carson Trail. I take my grandkids to the playground there all the time, but I do little else than intend to hike there. Same is true for the infinite number of bike trails I’ve yet to discover in western PA. “Some day…”

My great-great-uncle George always used to say, “It’s plenty good the way it is!” George wore loose fitting dentures and had a heavy Norwegian accent, and he’d say “It’s plenty good!” with a dismissive wave of his hand. I loved George, but the man changed nothing. Not even his underwear. My mother used to sneak into his room and take his dirty clothes and wash them on the days he drove 35 miles to Sioux Falls to fill his tank because gas was two cents cheaper there.

I’m not knocking “plenty good.” Things ARE plenty good the way they are right now, but plenty good doesn’t translate to growth. And without growth, I would become complacent in more than just my exercise life. Good grief, the last thing I want to do is become that person who does nothing but talk about “the good old days.” That would be a big “Uffda!”

So last week, I got off my complacent butt and went to the park and hiked Pond Trail, which took me to…of all things…a pond. A really lovely pond with a wooden birding lookout made by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout project. It was a fairly easy hike, but the change of scenery was just enough to call out the part of me that welcomes and embraces change and challenge. That lead to this weekend in which I tried not one, but TWO new bike trails.

Saturday, I decided on a 13-mile stretch of the Allegheny Trail. I was a little nervous about it since I’d never been to the town where the trailhead was, and I didn’t want to look like a tourist. I wasn’t 100 percent sure (certainty is big for me) how to get to the parking lot described on the trail’s website, and Google was no help. So with nothing more than a good sense of direction, BF and I loaded the bikes and drove northeast.

A few miles in, Colton asked, “Do you know where you’re going?”

“Kind of,” I said, handing him the printed directions to the parking lot. “I can get us to instruction number 4, then you need to read the rest to me.”

“Ok, Puddin’,” he said. (That’s my nickname. Puddin’. No, you can’t call me that.)

As we got closer to the road to the parking lot, Colton said the directions were to drive past the entrance to the marina. What did I do? I drove into the entrance to the marina. Tourist! At least I turned around without running over the fisherman carrying a bucket of bait and an oar, and I eventually found the parking lot. We unloaded the bikes and started riding.

It started out pretty.

Then it got kind of industrial and urban.

When the trail stopped abruptly with no signs of where to go, I asked a biker who was coming the other way where the trail picked up. He said the next part of the trail went through town and that the gravel trail picked up at the power plant near the bridge. Goody. A bridge.

We followed his instructions and soon I could see the bridge in the distance.

Living here in the land of rivers, bridges are hard to avoid, so I suck them up and think happy thoughts when I’m driving over them or riding under them. Stopping to take photos was actually therapeutic. They’re concrete and steel, for cryin’ out loud. They aren’t going to grow legs and chase me, right?

We continued on into Kittanning.

Having passed – up close and personal – several bars and living rooms (there’s a stretch of trail in which the path itself is literally a front yard), we concluded we’d had enough urban and turned around at the 6.5-mile mark. We biked back to the car and agreed we were glad for the experience, but not enthralled. Too many people, too many roads, too many stop and starts.

Today, Colton wanted to head north of the Flannel Curtain to see his parents and do some work around their house. I really wanted to ride again, so I searched online for a trail near Meadville. I found the Ernst Trail, a rails-to-trails renovation that is 5 miles in one direction and runs along French Creek. No traffic, no towns. Perfect. Colton loaded up his hedge trimmers and I threw my bike on the rack and we were off.

I got to the trail at 2:45. It looked promising.

A quarter mile in, I was treated to this.

There was a slight incline all the way, which I knew would bring great coasting opportunities coming the other direction. And since the temperature was 86 degrees, the breeze would be welcomed.

The last quarter mile was steeper than the previous 4.75, and I had to downshift to 2. When I got to the top, I turned around and coasted down the hill. ‘You can do that again,’ I thought, and I downshifted and charged back up the hill. My thighs might hate me tomorrow, but the downhill was sooo worth it. I felt powerful. Best of all, I felt psychologically challenged again.

Tomorrow I’m going to hike a 2-mile loop in my local park. It is rated as easy-moderate, so I’ll probably do it twice. Or perhaps I’ll go back to the Pond Trail and do some bird watching. Either way, it will be my own personal mental-health-through-exercise adventure. Uncle George wouldn’t understand, but “plenty good” isn’t good enough anymore.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Last Wednesday, I finished my first year of a 2-year dietetics program at Community College of Allegheny County. I have never, ever felt so relieved to finish something in my life. Not even after delivering my kids after 13 hours of labor or reaching goal after losing a million pounds have I felt so glad something was done.

When I applied to CCAC last year, I thought, ‘It’s community college. Please. How hard can it be? I’ve got a BA already. I know a thing or two about nutrition. This’ll be a cinch!’

Nine months later? Ms. Academic Snob has been silenced. Nutrition assessment, medical terminology, medical nutrition therapy, and their accompanying sidekicks – chemistry, math, and killer case studies – kicked my liberal arts ass. I may know where my arachnoid membrane is (I didn’t even know I had one!) and feel certain my ex needs a palatopharyngoplasty, but my head hurts just writing those words.

While all the sweat and mind bleeds will be worth it in the end, for another year and a half I’ll be offering anyone my right kidney for a left brain. A year and a half, you say? What happened to the 2-year program? Well…shockingly…British Literature and Feminist Theology do not fulfill my chemistry and algebra requirements, and I can’t take advanced algebra or bio/organic chemistry until I know the basics. Considering my algebra knowledge is 30 years old and I got through the chemistry parts of my classes this year thanks only to the graces of my ex husband, I had to add a half year to my program.

Community College: 1
Ms. Academic Snob: 0

But life is good! This old dog needed the challenge of new firsts! A few years ago I was morphing into Bartleby the Scrivener, preferring to do nothing more than wonder what it was I should do with my life. And if I’ve learned this lesson once, I’ve learned it a hundred times:  Wondering and hoping get you nowhere. Getting off your rear end and DOING something nets results. 

Ergo…I will learn chemistry despite my propensity for Jane Austen. It’s a first for me.

Another woman who knows about firsts is my daughter Cassandre. She ran her first (and she swears her last, but that was just her thighs talking) marathon on Sunday.

In April, I posted a link to her blog entry called “My Body,” in which she wrote about why she was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon: “Someone once told me I can’t.”

“My body has survived cutting and neglect, pain and loss, change and change and more change.”

Cassie lives her life with respect for, but above the shadows of, her cutting and neglectful past. She has a clear understanding of her pain and understands the possibility of future pain, but right here, right now, she wanted to run a marathon. And she could and so she did.

Like many of us who blog about what we strive to do and what we accomplish, Cassie was overwhelmed by the support she received from so many people who’d never met her or read her blog before, including someone called “itsjustme”:

“I am a 54 year old woman, in SC, who started running inspired, in large part, by you. So, when you are thinking of people each mile of your marathon, as suggested by Tracy, think of me for a few minutes, even though you don’t know me. You inspired me to become a better, stronger person. Thank you.”

She knows about firsts.

After the race, I posted her marathon results on my Lynn’s Weigh Facebook page because I was so darn proud of her. She wrote to me later that night: “I appreciated every single one of their comments and well wishes. I'm still so humbled by it! I thought of all the people who supported me when I felt tired and found that extra push to finish. I truly appreciated it all. I still can't believe I ran a marathon, Mom. That's a shit ton of running. I'm so proud of us!!!” Us being Cassie and her husband, who ran every mile with her, danced with her in Homewood, and held her hand across the finish line.

Go Cass! Go me! Go any one of you who aspire to reach beyond some comfort zone or false belief that all you are right now is all you can be! Even if you don’t make it all the way right away or at all, the fact that you tried sets you apart from the people who think that the way things are are the only way things can be.

 A few other fun "firsts" from the marathon weekend:
Maintaining Diva Sondra came to Pittsburgh for the first time. She ran the half marathon (not her first, but her first one over five bridges!). She also met baby Mae for the first time.
Claire's first time driving. ...sigh...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

“What I Did On My Summer Vacation”

In grade school, we referred to the time between grades as “summer vacation.” It wasn’t defined by travel. It was simply time away from book learning.
I’m many years removed from 6th grade, but next week at this time – god willing and the creek don’t rise and I pass my finals – I will be on “summer vacation.”
In grade school, my only summer vacation plans were to sleep late and play flashlight tag as late as my parents would allow. My dad owned a grocery store, so of course I had to work, too. But it was a good gig and earned me enough money to afford as many Trixie Belden books and “Teen” and “Tiger Beat” magazines as I could read in three months.
This year’s summer vacation plans are a bit different. I won’t be tearing out posters of Shaun Cassidy and hanging them on my bedroom wall, but I will still read as much as I can. I will also work in the soup kitchen, blog more regularly, help my daughter plan her wedding, and take my grandkids to the park. A LOT.
I will also…..RIDE MY BIKE!
I know. Shocking. But it’s something I get so dang excited about, it’s hard to explain. I know many of you know what I mean. You’ve found your “thing.” That something you never dreamed you’d love to do, let alone get all mentally wrapped up in.
Biking is my thing, and every spring since discovering my love for biking, I get this angst of “What if?” I could never articulate it until I read “My Journey To Fit: A Forty-Something’s Weight Loss Journey” blog post yesterday. Shelley nailed my thoughts. I just substituted “bike” for “run.”
Here’s what she wrote: "Run the mile you are in" - Runner's World posted that on their Facebook page yesterday, and it struck me: I seem to spend so much of my runs worrying about what's around the corner - the hill (ugh, so high!), the distance (ugh, so far!), the wind (ugh, so strong!), the heat and humidity (ugh, TEXAS!) that I tend to not focus on and better still, enjoy the moment.  Because I really DO love to run. I think it's just in my nature to want the circumstances to be perfect and easy...and we all know that doesn't happen very often when it comes to running! But I am going to work harder on the mental aspect of it, and just BE a runner and stop fighting everything else that comes with it.”
What I will do on my summer vacation is all I noted before, PLUS, I will “just BE a biker and stop fighting everything else that comes with it” and bike the mile I’m in. There will be hills I’ll be slow to climb. There will be heat and humidity and I’ll smell bad and my hair will suck. There will be people on the path who don’t respect the rules. (Texting and biking? Seriously?) There will be flat tires.
But there will also be birds and trees and the rich smells of the forest floor. Most important, there will be freedom. That’s why I love to ride my bike. When I ride, I’m free – for an hour or two – from the everyday minutia. I am focused only on me. Just me. Am I hydrated? Do I need to stop and stretch that muscle? Spit out a bug? That’s freedom, my friends. That’s quality “me time.”
And speaking of “me time,” this weekend is the Pittsburgh Marathon. There will be thousands of folks out there concentrating on themselves for 3, 13 and 26 miles (plus a few yards), including my daughter Cassie, her husband Matt, Maintaining Diva Sondra, and my friends Jim and Kara. Good luck to them and to all of you doing your “thing” this weekend and every opportunity you have ! May you always live the mile you’re in.