Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why I Won’t Ever Lose Those Last Five Pounds

Those last five pounds.

To be totally transparent, there weren’t any first five pounds.  Or middle five pounds, for that matter.

Just those last ones.

I’ve been up and down five pounds many times in my life.  A couple times I lost ten or fifteen pounds, but it wasn’t sustainable.  As my grandmother taught me: you have to eat to keep your weight.   It seems silly to say that out loud, but such are most truths.  My body likes its weight.  I eat to maintain it.  So why do I still hang onto the feeling that I have five pounds to lose?

It’s been going on for a while.  Since my teens, and Egg McMuffins on the way to school, splitting a whole large pizza with a friend, Spaghetti-Os and hotdogs on Fridays before football games and milkshakes and fries after.

Since my twenties, and mid-afternoon Moons Over My Hammy and $2 nachos at 2 am, after drinking beer all night.

Since my thirties, and leftover chicken nuggets and grilled cheese crusts scrounged from little people’s plates after my own lunch, and all the girls’ nights in and out with margaritas and bottles of wine poured and toasted and drank, and then something salty or sweet to soak up all the booze.

And now, my forties, and my new love/hate of sugar in all forms.

Those last five pounds are made up of junk food.  Empty calories.  Poison.

It’s no secret to me that when I cut out those things which are bad for any body, the ones that make me feel terrible – processed foods, sugar, alcohol – the last five pounds disappear.  When I drink water instead of iced lattes, chomp carrots instead of chocolate, and stop at one glass of wine instead of pounding three, the five pounds go away. 

Those five pounds - they're the fun ones.  And, I am reminded, the last ones.  But they are also the ones that make me scrutinize my reflection in every mirror, the ones that make me suck in my gut for pictures, the ones that make me regret that second (fourth) cookie.

I eat and drink and consider that maybe I shouldn’t have had that cocktail, those fries.  All those extra calories.  I should exercise and drink water instead.   Skip the ice cream today.  You had some last week.  Does a body need ice cream?

Mine doesn’t.  In fact, it feels a lot better without it.  I know what I need to do, to lose those last five pounds, to keep them at bay.  Then I see cookies, and think of pizza.  My mind says no and yes at the same time.  Sometimes no wins.  But yes is having more time in the sun more often.

As I age, I enjoy those last five pounds more and worry about them less.  I will have another glass of wine.  I will eat one (three) of the cupcakes my daughter made today.  And tonight is wing night.

It’s just five pounds.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #6: What is sabotaging your plan to drop 5 pounds?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ten Things About Pennsylvania That Are Better Than The Name Pennsylvania

Hey, y’all!

I’m from Pennsylvania, the most boring state available.  I’ve lived here darn near my whole life, save for some stints out west and down south.

Which is where I got the y’all. 

In PA they say yinz or yunz or youns or youse, but not often y’all.  I used to say you guys a lot, but I realized that I’m not often talking to just guys, and it’s not fair to girls to be called guys all the time.  I do say “you meddling kids” sometimes, to my own amusement. 

Talking to a collective is complicated.

Anyway, Pennsylvania is generally boring, and that’s where I’m from.  Nobody goes to Pennsylvania just to visit, unless you’re my relatives who live in Delaware and they visit each year because there aren’t many other states out there more boring than Pennsylvania except for Delaware and maybe one or two others (I see you, Ohio). 

Pennsylvania is a big state and we have lots to offer in the way of small towns and bad bridges and roads, and stuff like hiking and fishing and other outside-y things.  We try to beef up the interest by offering the Amish subculture and gabbing about William Penn, but the cold hard fact is that Pennsylvania is not Florida or California, and is most certainly not Hawaii or even South Dakota.

And all the Texans say “Stay out, Yankee wimps.”

Or whatever tough things Texans say.  Because Texans are tough, and hey Texas, let’s be friends.

But there are some things about Pennsylvania that are quite nice, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve lived here for a long time.  Truth is, it would be nice to live anywhere else that is easier to spell than Pennsylvania, my goodness who came up with that name?  IT’S SO HARD TO SPELL.

Here are ten cool things about Pennsylvania:

1. The landscape.  Pennsylvania is pretty.  I mean it – it’s pretty, and I totally took it for granted when I grew up here.  Put away your visions of strip mines and coal slag, and think about rolling mountains and hills, and lush, lush flora.  The Appalachian mountain range is part of our backdrop, and it’s an old and gorgeous girl. The mountains here are tall if not neck-breakingly so, and we have waterfalls and stuff befitting mountainous regions, but instead of bare rocks, ours are covered in vegetation that changes year-round. 

2. The climate.  PA has a beautiful change of seasons, which means that in the throes of winter when I want to cut my limbs off to stop the freeze that spreads through them toward the bulk of my body, I think: in four short months it will be 90 degrees and all will be right with the world.  And when it’s over 90 and I’m quite certain there are parts of me that are melting, I think – in four short months I will be wearing sweaters and boots for real and I won’t be posing just to look cute.

3. Close to other places you want to see more than your gorgeous yard.  We have it all: lakes, rivers, mountains, amusement parks, historical areas, resorts, cities, farms, suburbs, shopping, etc. etc. etc. ETCETERA.  I grew up in a rural area, and there were still things to do on an off-day.  Usually ride around for hours on country roads, but there was always something to see.

4. We call it PA.  If you live in PA, you call it PA (pee-YAY).  Tip: if you come across someone who says they’re from Pennsylvania, ask them: How long have you lived in PA?  They will regard you as one in the know and you will be in.  You know what I mean when I say in.  You’ll be there.  Just a little secret from me to you. 

5. College!  People in Pennsylvania are smart, kids.  They stay in school and build schools for you to do your learning.  There are like twelve hundred state schools or something crazy like that (Total made up number.  People in PA are smart, but not about everything at one time.  Plus, look it up, jeez.).

6. People aren’t all up in your grill. We see you, but we don’t fall all over you to show it.  We wait for you to approach.  We don’t care if you drive by and don’t wave.  But if you do something wrong, somebody’s going to call you on it.  You’re not so special.  Other states might consider us rude.  Love us or don’t love us; we don’t really care.  On the other hand, if you have a booger on your face or spinach in your teeth, someone will tell you.  And if they don’t, they’re not making fun of you about it.  Clean yourself up and get over yourself already.

7. History.  Philadelphia was the first capital of the world.  What I mean is that it served as the capital of the United States for a time.  Can you say that, Orlando, Florida?  No.  You can’t.  I’ve driven down the road to see the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s grave, and oh, we boast little places called Gettysburg and Valley Forge, two pivotal sites in our fine nation’s history.  Our Declaration of Independence AND the US Constitution were signed here.  And do you like being polio-free?  Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine in Pittsburgh, duh.

8. Fallingwater and Andy Warhol.  Lest you think we’re boring McHistory-tons, we also have Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece and the coolest Andy Warhol museum this side of Mars.  I’ve only seen one of these things, to my great sadness.  We also have this cool place called the Music Museum, this totally oddball house that my daughter visited once and will tell you all about it if you have several hours to listen.

9. Burning towns and Abandoned Turnpikes.  Ever hear of Centralia?  It’s a near ghost town, and it’s in PA.  There’s a fire burning underneath it.  For over 50 years.  And we have a bunch of stretches of the Pennsylvania turnpike that are abandoned and totally creepy.  You can hike/bike/explore them.  It’s not my cup of tea, but it might be yours.  Go ahead and do it.  Don’t wait for me to approve your getting on with your freaky needs.

10.  It’s home.  So I have a soft spot for PA, despite it being boring in its non-Alaskanicity.  Who doesn’t love the state they live in?  When I lived elsewhere for a time and came home, I could breathe.  I was not an outsider any longer.  Pennsylvania, despite my misspelling it EVERY SINGLE TIME, is part of who I am.  I fit in here.  I know the people and they know me.  And I am cool with that.

Take that, New York.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #6: List 10 things you love about the state you live in.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Seventh Grade Hair

We lounged on the couch together, her head near my lap.  The boys were out of the house, and we were having a girls’ movie night.  I picked the movie, a favorite of mine from the 90s.  She didn’t like it much, as evidenced by the many times she got up to do something else while the movie was playing, and the repeated questions she asked about the story.  I was keeping her there by playing with her hair.

Her mid-back length, in need of a trim, bleached by the sun hair.  I twisted it, braided it, curled it around my fingers.  I gathered it in my fist and admired her thick, straight ponytail.  I relished in the awareness that she will still lie near me like this and allow me to touch her; blessedly, the angst that comes with the teen years has not yet arrived.  I still have time to wind her hair around my hands.

She, like many of her friends, wears her hair like this: long and straight.  In a cluster, these girls are nearly indistinguishable.  They all have that hair, those clothes, those shoes.  It’s the middle school summer uniform of 2015: long hair, busted tees, flip flops.

I think back to my own summer before seventh grade.  I had permed hair, a poufy business-in-the-front-party-in- the-back mullet that I sculpted with a curling iron and hairsprayed to within an inch of its life every day.  It was the ’do of the rural tween girl then.  Watch any movie from the 80s and you’ll see us in the background players, the scene fillers who weren’t a part of the main action but were included for cultural perspective.  The main characters didn’t wear their hair like we did.  We took a hint from the movies and perverted it to the curly helmet we all wore on our heads.  En masse, our mothers succumbed to our pleas for perms, and we mastered our curling irons and thought we looked fantastic. Before I knew it we were growing out our bangs and perms.  By senior year, our hair was completely different.

Did anyone wear their hair different than mine in seventh grade?  Probably, but I can’t remember many.  My memories are fuzzy of one girl who didn’t have bangs to tease and spray – probably her mother wouldn’t let her get her hair chopped in a thousand layers to coax in nine different directions.  Probably she was told that her unmolested locks were beautiful the way they were, loose and free. 

The way I tell my daughter that her hair looks great the way it is.  I love this sun-kissed look, I say.  No, you are not getting it colored or highlighted – you don’t need it.  Remember how you tinted the ends with Jello and they got crunchy?  Processed hair is expensive and time-consuming to maintain.  I should know; my appointment is tomorrow, and I’ve carved a three-hour block out of the day for it.

You need a trim, I tell her.  I know, she says.  I have split ends.  Nothing a good six-inch chop can’t fix, I tease.  She looks at me to see my smile.  You’ve got a month of summer left, I say.  Unless it really bugs you, you can get a trim in a couple of weeks. 

Until then, leave it.  Stand in a circle with your girlfriends and wear your hair together.  That long, straight hair from the summer before seventh grade will be gone in a moment, a breath.  We don’t know what next summer will look like, but it will never again be exactly like this.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #5:
What grade is your child going to be in? Share a memory you have of yourself at that same age.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thinking Before Doing is a Complex Life Skill

When my husband and I met, we started dating immediately.  We lived five hours apart.

After a month of dating – or, in other words, seeing him three times total – I asked him if he wanted to go with me to Europe in six months.  He said “okay.”  We went to Europe.

We wanted a dog.  We got the first one we looked at.  She was sick and puny and full of worms.

Pretty much every piece of furniture that we have was purchased or acquired on impulse.  Sure, we’ll take that bedroom suite that nobody wants.  We’ll take that one, too.  I’ve gone into the discount store for toilet cleaner and sandwich bags and came out lugging an end table.

Two years ago we decided to pave a good portion of our small backyard for a basketball court.

There are hundreds of wine corks hot-glued to our dining room wall.  I don’t know if I’ll have to repair the wall when they come down.

My answer to every question of “Do you want to go to…?” is YES.

I wouldn’t say that I am a risk-taker exactly, but impulsiveness is definitely a trait I claim.  I regard every pack of gum in the checkout line as a necessity, at least for a moment.

My impulsiveness is not out of control, I think – just like an addict would.  I can research, think things through, deliberate.  I have done these things, am quite good at these things.  But in certain matters, what’s the point?  More times than not, I feel good about an impulse, and there’s no use in going through the motions of deliberating, especially if I’m not hurting anyone emotionally, physically, or financially.  What’s the use in overthinking things?  I’m not buying a Corvette to replace my minivan.  I stay well within the lines of what’s appropriate and practical for average people.  I own only one white sequined party dress.

The problem with impulsiveness is that it seeps into every area of life – the ones that can hurt people if you’re not careful.  I have a snap temper, saying harsher things than I should at times, and like to appear witty and irreverent, a quick-on-the-draw word vomiter who says inappropriate things to people I don’t know well, who don’t know and love me yet.  Yet.

I do the same among people who do know and love me.  They roll their eyes, say “that’s enough,” and change the subject quickly – quickly! – when I go off.  They save me from myself.  I am indebted to them. 

Impulsivity does not always have a brake pedal.  I realize my character flaw almost before I reveal it, and I reach for it just as I let it fly into the faces of those around me.  Sometimes I can charm my way out of it, but not always.  And I don’t often feel charming.  Lucky for me, my impulsiveness came packaged with a large dose of humility.  I’m a professional apologizer; words said without thinking are definitely bitter-tasting.

I like to think that I am taming this part of myself, that I leave the impulsivity for harmless behavior and life-enriching things that I feel good about trying.

Like winging off to Europe with my future husband, or owning a white sequined party dress. 

I highly encourage both of these things.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #3: Write a blog post inspired by the word: impulsive.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Our Stories

I hear a lot of stories.  I tell them, too.

Shared stories depend on the setting and the mood of conversation.  I’ve also been guilty of sharing a story in order to change the direction of conversation.  Stories I tell may involve others: my children, my husband, an old friend.  Sometimes, a story I share is just about me.

We all like to tell stories.  They help us learn from each other, and to figure out where we belong in time, space, and history.  They are how we relate to each other, how we communicate and exchange information, how we understand others and invite them to understand us.

For a story lover, an important thing to consider is if a story suits the time it is told.  Is it appropriate for me to share this story with you?  Is it relevant?  Will you take it the wrong way, will it cast a shadow on my character, am I going to get the details right?  Am I exaggerating too much, taking too much artistic license?  Is this story crossing over into fiction? 

Most importantly, is this story mine to tell?

I’ve heard quite a few stories from others about their own experiences that have stuck with me, ones that I remember well.  Some are laugh out loud funny, unbelievable tales that I couldn’t make up if I wanted to.  Some are gut-wrenching, tear-filled remembrances that are recalled in pain.  We can mention them in passing or to illustrate a topic, but a good story by itself is enough.

Some stories are so good that my storytelling bones ache from wanting to adopt them as my own. I’d love to tell about the time my dad came home on Christmas day with a real live monkey, when I met the president, or how our family vacation turned into an adventure.  I’ll trade any of these stories for the one I have about witnessing a diarrhea accident in the checkout line at the grocery store.

I make it my business to tell stories on my blog.  Sometimes they’re mine.  Sometimes they’re about my family and friends.  Toeing the line between what’s appropriate to share and what’s not is not a difficult decision.  I think about how I’d feel if someone else shared a story of mine, something private.  It could be a conversation or something I did that I’d rather not repeat.  I call it the cringe test.  If I cringe thinking that a story was being told about me, I keep it to myself.  I always ask if a shared story crosses the line over into someone else’s experience instead of mine.

Asking to share a story is a kindness.  I’ve never been refused when I’ve asked another person if I could share their story.  Usually people are willing and honored to be written about, or to be mentioned to others.  At our core, we all just want to be known and understood.  We all want to share our stories.  If someone else thinks our story is worthwhile to share, that makes us happy.  It makes us feel visible and valuable.  It connects us.

Stories, mine and yours, unite us all.  When we share them, we are seen.  We are heard.  They enable us to take a place in time and space and history, and allow us to feel as if we’ve made an impact, no matter the size.