Category Archives: musings

Lasting Impressions

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I was probably in my early 20’s when I finally realized the connection between calories and weight. It happened one lunch hour. I was standing at the Take-Out counter of a diner waiting for my order behind a woman, perhaps a few years older than I, who was dressed to perfection. Her dress was form fitting, but not vulgar. She was stunning and more importantly, she didn’t seem to notice she was! I don’t think I have ever been as happy to be waiting for my food as I was that day. I had no place to run and discreetly taking notice of her style didn’t cause anyone any harm. If iPhones had been around, I might have taken a picture! I could not see what she ordered, but I know it was not a plain salad! That’s when I began to really, really think about calories, exercise and weight. I wondered if she was one of those lucky people who was “naturally” thin but I know that those people are usually very aware of how much fuel they need to keep their bodies in perfect condition.

It was 1975. I had lost a lot of weight quickly which I promised myself I would not gain back. I always had been chubby prior to that and although a lot of people teased about thyroid problems being the cause of my bulk, I knew it was a combination of eating too much and not moving enough. Still, I managed to lose weight (slowly usually) so I never blamed my thyroid. After the weight loss, I restricted my meals and although I love the taste of food, I loved being able to buy ready-to-wear clothing more, that was my incentive to keep my figure.

My weight fluctuated 5 lbs. either way for decades. When I was pregnant with each of my two children, I was very careful about what went into my body (more for safe births than vanity) and after their birth, I quickly rejoined WW and went back to my normal weight. I don’t really know when I began the slow but steady loss of discipline that has resulted in this chubby senior citizen! Perhaps living in a country that doesn’t have the same prejudice has encouraged this laxity, perhaps just getting older and knowing no one would dare criticize me now. It would be elderly abuse! I cannot say.

Yesterday, I was waiting in line at the Post Office behind a man in his 30’s. He was average weight, build and height. Nothing special about him except his clothes. His shirt was crisp, the pleats of his trousers were neatly pressed, his leather belt was fashionable and his shoes were comfortable and shiny. It reminded me of the young woman I saw more than 40 years ago. For some reason, looking at him and remembering her has prompted me to get back to work on cooking and eating healthfully. I know it’s calories in and calories out. It is not easy, it never has been easy, but it is doable and ready-to-wear clothing has never been more beautiful.

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What Are We Bringing To The Table?

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Here we are past the midway point of the first month of 2020! I am sure I am not the only one who has become very aware that time just gets away from us whether we are using it wisely or wasting it. My resolve and determination to follow my WW plan (Go Purple!) has been taking some effort because there is always a friend dropping by with goodies, children visiting who request that I make them favorite (non-dietetic) foods or community meetings that come with coffee and dessert. What to do? I try to simply do my best every day and remember when I get on the scale that the number is guide, just something to remind me that I have come this far and that with steadfastness and attention I can become as inspiring and the many WW people who have lost and kept off their hundreds of pounds.

When I was a young girl, other people’s obsession with my weight always entertained me. I didn’t really understand why they were so focused on me when their own lives, whether they were thin or fat, did not have anything to do with my weight. It wasn’t like they were purchasing my food or my clothes, or feeling the discomfort that I had when the tight(er) pants began making marks on my body or when my feet were just so tired from walking with the extra weight.

I eventually became an adult, got my weight under control and kept it that way for a very long time. The fact that now, as a full-fledged senior citizen, the excess weight seems like a permanent thing in my life, the only thing I want is to be healthy and live a long long time. I think my best solution is to relax, accept that the number (for now) will remain a little higher than I like but that I can and will finally reach a point where three sizes in my closet is a thing of the past. For today, I will track and plan the meals I will eat and go about the rest of my day with a positive attitude and an optimistic viewpoint.

Imagine a world where our size is no longer an interesting part of our personality? I do and try my very best to bring other things to the tables I frequent.

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Enter December!

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I’ve been on the WW plan for almost two years now. I have lost almost 20 lbs. which is better than gaining but certainly nowhere I thought I would be two years later. It is not the plan, it is definitely me! But today is a new day and WW is nothing if not supportive. It does not matter that it is a business and wouldn’t survive if we were all successful but I cannot worry about other people’s weight journey, I can only “control” to a certain degree what goes into my body and what movements I do to use the calories. As I have always thought, the reason why I am not extreme in dieting is because my weight (matronly but still somewhat shapely) does not stop me from doing things. I am outgoing, simply move into a larger size when things start to get tight, etc. but when I see pictures of me, they do not look like what I see in the mirror or the image I have of myself in my head.

I live in the tropics but my children live on the East Coast of the US where it is cold and snowy. I have been looking up recipes to try with my diet and all of them are calling for “cozy foods” that will warm us up…hey, we have overweight people in the tropics too, no recipes for us?

The month of November was given over to NaNoWriMo. I do write quite a bit anyway but November is specifically designed to just write, write, write. I did not make the 50K mark but I did make it to 40K and that was a very great milestone. Not only that, I did begin the memoir that I want to leave my children. Writing it now and letting them read it allows them to ask any questions while I am still able to remember stuff.

Heck of a ride I am in for as I continue all the end-of-year projects. I hope the days go slower than the year has gone.

 

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November Musings…

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I have been participating in NaNoWriMo and decided to write my memoir. It is amazing how the writing flows when the story has already played out. What I am most surprised about is the various segues that occur when writing about events in the past. I notice that my older sister comes up in my life so often I have to ask myself if I am writing her story or my own.

My sister’s behavior towards me starting in our childhood looms over me as I write. She passed away a year ago, unexpectedly at the age of 65. I feel like I had already grieved her passing because we had been estranged for a few years and I never expected that we would make peace, we were just so different, it was a difficult relationship for me. The funny thing is that I don’t think she ever saw it that way. In my writing yesterday, I was able to see that I had been emotionally battered by her all my life and that being a victim of emotional battering by several people was just a pattern I developed and felt comfortable with. I hope those days are over for me as I begin living my 65th year. I am a senior citizen now, writing is my current passion and I know that I need to start saying “NO!” to a lot of things so I can fully investigate and honor this creative side of my being.

My children seem to be thriving, that is the one big worry that is always in the back of my mind. I know that I need to trust that all the tools their father and I and their education have given them are enough to navigate the current chaos we live in but I still think it would be great if we could be physically much closer than we are currently. But we have all made our choices and fortunately we have a strong family connection that makes it possible to communicate often.

Writing in November in this structured way is a wonderful jump start to a lot of people hoping to write their novel. Why not believe that it is possible for me too?

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My philosophy on Weight Loss Programs

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Whenever I see a large cat like this, I am invariably reminded of the gangster movies I enjoyed as a teenager. You know the kind I mean, with the rich guys (fat cats) spoiling their loved ones  and crying over their loss even as background stories show how cold and horrible they can be to their enemies. Not sure what brought that up really, except that I watched a “horror/horror comedy” last night that really made me think about how awful people can be to each other.

As usual, the month is flying by. I can honestly say I have been very good about keeping track of my nutrition and have happily lost a bit over 3 lbs. since I returned home from my trip early last month. It doesn’t sound like much but since I lose very, very slowly and I am trying to eat all my daily points and weekly extras, I feel I am making some very welcome progress after plateauing for various reasons for a good number of weeks.  This month, I am committed to a challenge that will hopefully find me losing 5 lbs. before the end. We shall see, I have been doing my best to stay on track.

I recently read an article by an author who takes issue with weight loss plans. I understand her basic premise which is that any weight loss plan is created as a business first and does not really care about the individuals that follow or shall I say more accurately, pay to join and pay additional monthly installments, don’t follow the plan but also don’t quit the plan so essentially they are not losing anything but money. The author believes that the customers are victims of some cynical marketing plot.

It is my contention that most intelligent people have choices. Although it might not be easy to quit a program once you’ve joined it, it is not impossible. In other words, sometimes the paperwork to get out is complicated or the savvy marketing department has taught the people manning the phones to pitch ways in which the customer can improve their results and at the same time keep paying their monthly quotas. I understand all that but I still believe that one can indeed quit programs. My daughter did it recently and although she does confirm that the person on the other side of the line tried very hard to persuade her to continue, she was firm and was able to get out.

I have been pretty successful with my WW plan. This past couple of weeks have seen me focused on doing everything I can to lose at least 4 lbs. this month. My scale is in kilos so it is difficult to gauge with any exactitude but I will not purchase another scale just for that. I can see that the trend is downward and I am happy with that. And let’s face it, if one is overeating one doesn’t usually need a program or a tracker to tell us that.

At this moment, I am feeling very satiated. I had a good breakfast and for lunch I ate a whole half avocado which was juicy, tasty and filling. I hope I can have a good rest of the day, the weekends present a challenge because I am not as busy on weekends as I am on other days and have a tendency to look in the refrigerator more often than on week days. In any event, I am satisfied with my numbers today and figure that if I can lose one pound a week for the rest of the year, that will be 28 lbs. less than when I started! Down is good. I might stop there too since it will be exactly where I would like to stay for the rest of my life. It is doable and I know I can do it.

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Time is personal

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Time is Personal

I’m currently reading a mainstream NYTimes best seller. It is very enjoyable and the author is or has recently been on a tour to promote her two books and working on her third. I can’t really remember how I happened to catch the title, really, and when I went on Amazon, it was a bit costly so I didn’t buy it. Then I remembered that through my library I am able to “borrow” books electronically. I searched for the title and reserved it for at least two months. When the library informed me last week that the title was available, I promptly downloaded it into my app and began reading. I am finding it entertaining but I do notice that I am reading with an editor’s eye, rather than just enjoying the book for what it offers. It is a terrible thing.

My ambition is to write a mainstream novel this year. Whether or not it gets published is not really important to me. Getting it down on paper (well, in my case in Scrivener!) is what I really want to do. I spent the month of November 2018 participating in NaNoWriMo and got about 90 pages done, or more or less 30%. I did not “win” because I did not complete 50,000 words in that month, but I did write almost every single day. I have not written very much on the novel since December 1st. I find it hard to believe how the days and weeks just fly by.

Someone told me recently that “time” was personal…whatever that meant. Today I kind of got his message: I spend at least one hour every day on personal grooming. I try to make it go faster but by the time I shower, apply body lotion everywhere, comb and style my long, curly hair, find appropriate clothing that is clean, pressed and fits for the day, and then put on my makeup, an hour has gone by. Then I try to spend at least 40 minutes practicing my guitar, another 20 minutes watering or tending to my plants…right there are two hours that my friends who have short hair and wear t-shirts and jeans and no makeup, have no musical hobby or plants save…so I guess he is right.

My weight loss journey continues. I am pleased to say that I have been following the Whole-30 pretty closely although I have given myself a couple of “cheat” days and then begin anew. I am in a different space, at +60 it is no longer appropriate to be wondering if anyone is going to scold me for being overweight! I feel really good though and have lots of energy despite not eating any bread or added sugar. My problem has and will always be portion control! Each meal is an opportunity to practice, that part is fun, watching myself as if I were a stranger!

 

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Personal responsibility…

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It has been kind of an odd day. I woke up pretty early, didn’t do my laps because my husband was traveling and I was going with him to the airport. All went well with that outing and on my return home, I stopped in my favorite nursery and purchased a few things I needed for repotting an orchid. As a prize, I also bought myself two lovely, flowering African violets for my growing collection. I love my violets and their flowers tell me they love me back.

This particular blog has turned into my most honest one, the one where I often really do have a stream of consciousness, unapologetic narrative that deals with real issues going on in my life. I rarely read over what I write because it is a good exercise in purging myself of toxic things that might otherwise make me ill or require the help of a therapist.

I have shared that I was an overweight kid. Not obese by any standard but a good 10 lbs. overweight before my 10th birthday, causing my mother a lot of guilt, some embarrassment but mainly a sense of her own failure up close and personal. As a consequence of my fatness, I was not ever happy about a clothes shopping spree with Mom because pretty clothes in my size did not exist. My personality is such that I never really believed there was anything intrinsically wrong with me (we can credit Grandma for that, she never, ever made me feel inferior because I was fat), just that I enjoyed food and didn’t like to feel hungry.

I learned to sew in my early teens and never knew what size I wore because I made my own clothes. I was a happy kid despite the rejection from Mom and the relentless teasing and taunting of other people. My other (positive) traits became strong. I felt a need to be helpful, funny, responsible, etc. and those attributes did not feel like burdens. For the most part, I enjoyed being me although I do admit that I had imaginary friends who loved me unconditionally for more years than I care to admit.

Today, after the long and rather hectic day, I decided to take a look at the Discover part of WordPress to see what was new and exciting in the world of blogging. I came across a blog written by a fat person (I am one so I don’t feel I need to apologize for calling the blogger that too) writing long and hard to thin people she feels were/are judging her as she is getting on an airplane to travel. I admit that the writing is excellent and the thought process also. The long blog made me curious to see other blogs by the author so I visited her page and found one that was specifically about one of the popular weight loss programs in existence for about 60 years. It is the only one I feel really works and one that has taught me all about nutrition, calories, and getting to know good habits for maintaining weight and fitness.

It has always been my belief that we are each responsible for our lives. Unless there is some real issue, mental or physical, most of us should be able to accept that most of our decisions are responsible for where we find ourselves in our life. I believe that it is true that some of us have more of a tendency to have a hard time putting on or taking weight off but for the most part, it has to do with calories in (eating) and calories out (exercise, etc.) All diets will work if given enough time and most people who lose weight can maintain their loss if they continue to follow a routine of eating in a healthy manner. If one is consuming too many calories for their height/body type, etc. even from good food, one will gain weight. There is no way around this. To say that a particular diet plan is simply a business endeavor designed to make one fail and keep re-joining is to disrespect one’s power. I know what she means in a way but I can’t really accept the thesis. I have about 30 lbs. to lose. When I traveled 25 lbs. heavier than I am now in my small frame, I could feel the sides of the airline seat squeeze me in and so I purchased a first class ticket…these days, minus those 20 lbs. I can sit in coach and spend the extra cash somewhere else.

The blogger’s arguments against weight loss plans are not without merit but to simply give up the idea of travel because the preparation just along the weight issue (will people stare, will people not want to be seated next to me, will people insult me, will people assume laziness, etc.) is a nightmare very sad to me. I envision myself 30 lbs. lighter by the end of this year. My motivation is maximized when I look at pictures of myself 15 years ago because I remember that I never felt deprived foodwise but I always stuck to a more or less healthy, normal eating pattern. Years of dieting in my childhood and teenage years has made my metabolism very slow. This is something I know. I also know how many calories I can consume to maintain my weight. Extra calories without any extra exercise will make me gain weight. Although that is not the end of the world, being fat interferes with the way I want to live my life.

I want to wear belts and dresses. Right now, they don’t look good on me. I want to be able to go into my closet, pick out any item and know that it fits. I used to be able to do that, I am annoyed because these days I often have to try on a few things before I find something that is clean, ironed and fits. I want the old days back. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with paying for it when I can see that trying to do it on my own simply doesn’t work for me.  So while I accept that the blogger has a right to feel empowered by her rejection of following a plan, I think it is important to point out that some of us thrive (without obsessing) by sticking with it. Discipline, commitment and optimism are key to losing weight initially and perseverance and attention are required to maintain. What is wrong with that?

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Unexpected catharsis

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I woke up this morning with one goal in my mind: clear off and put away the items on the love seat and two small chairs in my bedroom that have been serving as “hot spots” for the last several months! It is now 12:45, I haven’t even gotten to the first item on the love seat because my morning has been filled with other more urgent matters that were not on my agenda.

First, I needed to reply to a couple of important messages. Then my husband asked if I would call the glasses place to see if his new eyewear was in (it wasn’t). We have had some guests for the last couple of weeks so I gathered and took the linens to the laundry room to get rid of that item quickly. In the meantime, I noticed that my kitchen counter was looking rather shabby so I stopped and began to clear the counter of all the dust and debris collecting there despite the fact that I have a once-a-week cleaning person. She never cleans the counter and I never have time to do it properly. I didn’t have time to do it properly today either but I just couldn’t stand to look at the dust anymore. I expected to be done in 5 minutes, it took 35 minutes because it is a very large counter with much clutter…I understand why she doesn’t do it, although truth be told, I was very resentful today that we pay her…

As I was going on about my household business today, cleaning, wiping down, discarding the odds and ends that have no rhyme or reason to end up on the kitchen counter, I thought about my childhood. I am currently reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. I am not sure how I happened upon it but reading it has allowed me a glimpse into a world that I have seen portrayed in movies or sitcoms but have never really experienced to that personal a degree. My mother was not a good housekeeper. She made no apologies for that. My parents moved to “America” in 1963 with four kids and a brother in tow in order for us to have a “better life”. I was only 8, I never really knew at that point that my life was anything but idyllic. Moving to the States was a shock that I don’t think I have ever recovered from.

Although we were not dirt poor, my parents did have to resort to boarding people, working extra hours and using their credit cards creatively in order to attain a middle class existence. We did not have a maid; we did have chores that were expected to be done in exchange for an allowance. I don’t think I appreciated that at the time, it just suddenly dawned on me this morning that my mother’s expectation that household chores would be done was not unrealistic. I remember always doing my chores and having to often do my sister’s chores to avoid the screaming and fighting that would ensue and make me feel so anxious. I remember my mother’s words (“What do I have here? Four mortgages?”) when referring to us after she found that we had not done what was expected. I hated that feeling of being a burden, she made no effort to hide it. But what I realized today is that she was not wrong in her expectations, I have been wrong in my interpretation. I have been so wrapped up in being resentful that I did not give sufficient credit to her for being willing to pay for the chores to be done. She was not exploiting us, she was simply exchanging money for work, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

My husband and I are retired now. Well, he is semi-retired but his work does not take him from home, he can do it from the comfort of our beautiful estate. He has always worked with his mind, physical labor has never been his thing. I do not fault him for that, he is generous and has never balked at paying for household or gardening help. He would rather pay for anything than have to do it himself. I knew this when I married him, I worked with him, I was familiar with the fact that here was a guy who could literally do nothing all day long but read and watch television. He is a very educated and intelligent person, he just doesn’t have ambitions or hobbies that venture into the realm of building furniture for example or learning to fix simple electrical or plumbing issues.

As I was gathering the clothes for the laundry and wiping down counters, I could see him in bed reading. I could feel myself getting annoyed because I felt oppressed while he is wonderfully relaxed. Then I dug deep into the real reasons for my resentment and can honestly say that my feelings have zero to do with him and 100 percent to do with me. I too could lie down and read my books, it is my choice not to do so.  In fact, aren’t I this minute spending time writing? Tomorrow is the cleaning lady’s day. She is not great at her job but she needs the money and frankly, does a better job than I do on the floors. I could speak to her about the counters and debris but I prefer to keep the status quo.

A lot of things are going on with me right now, I think it is best to accept that I have had a tremendous catharsis today regarding my mother and that is a really good thing. I am going now to clear off at least the love seat!

 

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This is my ranting blog!

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…and because it is, you can stop now if you just don’t feel like you
want to hear it!

When I was around 14 or 15, my mother decided to go back to school
and get her Master’s degree in Social Work, Family Therapy. Good for
her, I thought. How wonderful that she has that much ambition. I was
only in the 10th grade probably but I already knew I didn’t even want
to go past high school education. Back then, it was quite possible to
get a good paying job with a high school diploma and I couldn’t wait
to begin my “real” life.

Well, my mother was working and going to school at night which meant
that household duties fell to us children. My older sister’s constant refrain
of “I didn’t ask to be born” which meant “so I don’t have to do anything”
also meant that most of the household stuff fell to me because I was a
pacifist and the noise from constant yelling between her and my mother
just didn’t suit my style. So plug away I did and most of the time, I was
okay with it because frankly, I like order and I like quiet.

When it came time for my mother to begin preparing her thesis, she relied
on me to read and record the passages of the books she was assigned so she
could listen to them while doing something else…very efficient. It never
occurred to me until recently that this was its own form of child abuse. After
all, I had to use my “free” time to do her work. One of the books she/we read
was by Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of NeuroLinguistic Programming.
I so enjoyed reading the book, not to mention what I learned psychologically
about words, their uses, their meanings, etc., that I forgot to be mad at Mom
for cutting into my time. As a birthday present to me for my 18th, my mother
bought me my own copy of the book which I noticed again today. The inscription
always makes me sad and a bit guilty because I was not living at home at the
time of my 18th birthday, having opted to skip the chaos and turmoil at home
and travel to places abroad. An emergency at home brought me back almost a
year later, and to be honest I don’t remember when my mother presented the
book to me finally but I have always loved it and read it often to understand me
and the rest of the world.

But I began this blog saying it was a rant and I’ve gotten off course. My rant is
simply that I still feel put upon. My family, which now includes my siblings, my
nieces and nephew and my own children, still put unreasonable emotional demands
on me at times that I am powerless to ignore…I love them all dearly but sometimes
I wish I could fugue…

Thanks for listening…

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Household help!

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By anyone’s definition, my house is very big. Although it is only my
husband and me living here now, there was a time when our home
did not seem big enough for our family and the many guests we had
over the years when our children were young.

In my early childhood, my parents were able to afford household help
so that other than making my bed and the “teach-your-children-
responsibility phase” my mother was going through, my chores were
not very many. That all changed when we moved to New York and
household help was something that only the very wealthy could afford.
That was my introduction to the “real” world of hard physical labor
if one wanted a clean home.

Both my parents worked during my childhood so that each one of us
was expected to do our share. I remember waiting until the last minute
each day and then scrambling off the couch when I realized my mother
could be walking in any minute and would scold us for the fact that
nothing was done. I wouldn’t have minded the scolding except that my
mother’s scolding was actually more of a whine…the kind that is tinged
with just the appropriate amount of guilt-producing expressions that
are difficult to forget even years after the events have passed.

To give an example, my mom would say: “What have I got here? Four
mortgages?” and sigh deeply. Once, in my haste to clean up all the dishes
that had piled up during the day, I didn’t realize that one of the glasses
in the sink was broken until I felt the stab as I plunged my hand deeply
into it. I remember panicking more about the scolding than about the
blood that was profusely dripping into the sink or the stitches I should
have gotten at the hospital or clinic. Instead I made my sister promise
not to say anything to my parents and I hid my injury for however long
it took to heal (at least two weeks). I still have the scar.

The silver lining is that I never, ever again let dishes accumulate in the
sink. To this day, my sink is always ready for action. I am always washing
and putting away the dishes, whether they are mine or everyone else’s.
Peace of mind is very important to me.

But I was actually intending to write about household help. Like the
frustration I feel when I see that my cleaning lady (who has been with
me for 3 years) still doesn’t sweep behind things…unless I specifically
ask her…Just this morning, I noticed accumulated debris under the
pingpong table. I am not sure what the problem is, I have already said
that this is a big house, still it is not a big deal to just sweep it. And
having said that, I guess I will take myself, my broom and dustpan and
take care of it now!

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