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Category: Fifty

Memories & Goodbye to My Minivan, Hello Mini SUV

I cried on my 30th birthday. I was sitting in a bar in downtown St. Louis at an impromptu party that my husband had organized and suddenly I was crying.

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

My friend, Jan, asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I’m 30 years old and I’m driving a minivan.”

Jan snickered and reminded me I wanted the minivan, believing it would be easier on my back to get my 2-year-old in and out of her car seat. That only made me feel worse – I chose to drive a minivan for a practical, “old lady” reason.

“Oh God,” I sniffled. “What’s next? Sensible shoes? Then Depends?” We laughed and the moment passed.

That was in 1997.

It’s 2016 and I’ve owned four minivans since that time: a Dodge Caravan, a Chevy Venture, a Kia Sedona and finally a 2004 Honda Odyssey — My favorite. Car. Ever.

My goal was to drive the Odyssey for several years after we paid it off, which we’ve done. With 207,000 miles on it, it’s starting to need more maintenance and repairs, and the last repair happened when I was out of town, which was a major inconvenience.

It was time to downsize.

But my Odyssey served me well. It was extremely reliable. And kid friendly and comfortable. And best of all, it had lots of Mom-friendly real estate, which means lots of places to stash things and the perfect spot to put my large purse where it wouldn’t tip over and spill its contents all over the floor.

Criteria for a New Car

When I sat in the Honda dealership to choose my next used Honda, our salesman asked me what things were important to me in a vehicle. I said:

“A place to put my purse; safety; good gas mileage; room for family road trips; low mileage; a key fob with automatic door locks; comfort; all-wheel drive; a backup camera; deep cupholders for my coffee; and don’t forget a place to put my purse.”

Salesman: Does color matter?

Me: No.

Salesman: Do you want alloy wheels?

Me: What are alloy wheels?

Salesman: They’re nicer wheels. They come with the higher trim package.

Me: No, I curb my tires all the time. I’ll ruin them.

Salesman: Leather seats?

Me: I don’t care. But I like having an arm rest, and I need luggage racks on top. If I’m giving up the space of my minivan, I need to be able to put luggage on top. I don’t travel light. So I want a trim package that comes with those things. And a place to put my purse.

Salesman: Purse. Gotcha. Okay, well, let’s take a look.

My new Honda CRVWe ended up purchasing a 2014 Honda CRV. It had everything I wanted but the luggage rack, which Honda installed for me. Not surprisingly,  the dealership agreed that we could sell our used Honda for more than they could give us, so we took it home to sell ourselves.

Minivan Memories

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

This van used to smell like chlorine, because my oldest was a swimmer and I drove lots of carpools, meaning a wet towel was forever being left inside to bake and release its chemical scents into my cloth interior. Now she’s a swammer (retired swimmer).

It sometimes reeked of teenage boy sweat because my son plays basketball and seldom used the locker-room showers before climbing in to ask “What’s for dinner” or “Can we get Qdoba?’ Now he drives himself home from practice.

It used to smell like sour milk because a sippy cup would inevitably roll under the seat to start the process of making cottage cheese. Now she won’t even drink milk.

It’s covered in dog hair from our Golden Retriever and coffee stains decorate the carpet. Well, at least the dog still sheds and coffee still stains.

Here are some of the things I found as I cleaned it out:

  • A complete change of clothes in size 3T – pants, top, underwear, socks, shoes –My youngest now wears a size 8, but in the not so distant past, a mess that would require a complete change of clothes was a very real possibility.
  • Multiple cloth rags, one tucked under each seat in case of a large spill. They reminded me of the time my daughter got carsick on the way to camp; and the time my son had rotavirus; and all the carloads of kids who would spill their slushies, ice creams and milkshakes onto the carpeting, complimenting my numerous coffee spill stains.
  • Two first-aide kits for an emergency that thankfully never came. One kit contained a baby enema and “night-night juice” (aka Benadryl) that I may or may not have used to drug my daughter and my niece on a lengthy road trip that was wrought with whining and fussing.
  • The remote control to an entertainment system that quit working two years ago when a Barbie movie borrowed from a neighbor got permanently stuck inside.
  • A handheld can opener and enough food, some packaged, some petrified, to sustain me on a Whole30 eating plan for at least three days.
  • A stack of bank deposit slips from a bank I left six years ago.
  • $3.57 in change.
  • A princess blanket that I discouraged my husband from purchasing at Disney when my daughter was three because I didn’t think she’d use it. I was wrong, and we never make a road trip without it. It came in quite handy a few years ago when I was snowed in at a swim meet in Crawfordsville, IN and had to stay in a nasty hotel that shared a parking lot with a strip club. I was reluctant to use their bedding, so I busted out the princess blanket for my daughter and I to use.
  • A handful of my late father’s police department business cards, proving he was a detective and giving me some help in a avoiding a few speeding tickets.
  • A Chick-fil-A placemat and a box of melted crayons from Applebee’s.
  • 10 reusable grocery bags from Aldi’s, Wholefoods, Dierbergs and Schnucks.
  • Three lip glosses.
  • 12 pony tail holders.
  • Four road flares (again, the cop thing — no car is complete without government-issue road flares – these are at least 30 years old).
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (Couldn’t resist).

I’m almost 50. My oldest is 21 and moving out for law school in August. My middle child is 18 and will be a senior in high school this year, most likely going away to college in 2017. My baby is 8 (and a half).

It was time to downsize.

So, I cried at the start of my mini-van days and I almost cried at the end of them.

It’s a minivan full of memories, representing an entire era of my life that has come to a close. But I really love the CRV so far and I think we’ll have fun making memories to fill it, as well.

NOTE: We purchased the pre-owned Odyssey and the pre-owned CRV from Bommarito Honda in Hazelwood, MO. That is NOT close to our home, but we had such great service there in 2008 that we returned. We were treated like family and they went above and beyond to make sure we found the car that was right for us. Then they went above and beyond to get my luggage racks installed before we head out on our first road trip. A big thanks to everyone who helped us: Kevin Hall, Randy Graves, Guy Taylor and Jake from service. 

The Journey

I completed the Go! St. Louis Marathon on Sunday, April 10, marking the 4th time I’ve completed this journey and run 26.2 miles.

IMG_0129Statistics say that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has ever run a marathon. So according to the numbers, I’m in a pretty elite group. But I didn’t feel accomplished on Sunday. I was disappointed with the number on the clock as I crossed the finish line.

Instead of going below my best time , I added 37 minutes, taking 5 hours and 7 minutes to cross the finish line. In my mind, it was a failure.

I trained for the last four months with Fleet Feet to prepare for the event, and my dedicated, loyal coach ran 19 of the 26.2 miles with me, including the grueling back half of the race. I began complaining somewhere around mile 15.

“It’s  hard to keep going knowing that this is going to be my slowest marathon time ever. Why bother?” I pouted.

It's all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.
It’s all smiles BEFORE the race and the rain, with Coach Lindsey of Fleet Feet.

She went all “coach-y” saying,  “I want you to see this as an accomplishment, a win. You’re running with an injured knee. And it’s your first marathon in a long time. Absolutely everything has to come together perfectly to get a PR (best time). That doesn’t happen often,  so it’s better if you focus on the journey.”

Then she told me that the main reason she coaches for Fleet Feet (a volunteer position that requires a LOT of time) is because she gets to spend time with people who have learned to enjoy the journey. The journey that leads up to the race is the fun part. The race is a piece of that journey, but it’s not about the time it takes to finish it.

“I hope you’ll be able to see it that way, even if you can’t right now” she said.

She was sharing these golden nuggets of wisdom during the worst possible miles of the marathon. Even when I’m having a good race (which I wasn’t) and when I’m feeling great (my knee was howling) and when the weather is good (we were getting drenched in rain and whipped by wind), I am not in a happy place between miles 19 and 23 of a marathon.

So, I promptly ignored her Polly Anna pronouncements. Thankfully, I kept all “shrew-like” thoughts to myself, so I don’t have any amends to make, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think them. Sorry Lindsey.

The next day, however, it all started to come together for me in light of another statistic and another journey that is tied to my running. And those things helped change my perspective.

About 16.6 million people suffered from an alcohol use disorder in 2013 according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only about 1.3 million of those adults received treatment in a specialized facility in the same year —  about 7 percent of those those who have a problem with alcohol.

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t release much information about its membership — thus the anonymous part — but estimates are that there are about 2 million members worldwide.

I am a sufferer of this diseases, but was blessed with sobriety more than 11 years ago through a 12-step program.  That’s also when I began distance running.

Relapse rates for alcoholism are high — some estimate between 50 and 90 percent. By God’s grace, and the fellowship of others in a 12-step program,  I am NOT part of that statistic.

So again, I’m in a couple of elite groups: the group that got sober and the group that has, thus far, stayed sober without a relapse. Truth in advertising: It’s  not my doing. God and the fellowship get the credit.

Recently, however, instead of being grateful for my blessings, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Jan and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

I was with a dear friend in Italy on an incredible vacation where the wine flowed with most of the meals.  It was social drinking, meal-oriented drinking, perfectly normal drinking that was intertwined with food and culture and festivity. But I couldn’t participate in the drinking part of the festivities.

The trip was so fabulous and I was having so much fun that I really didn’t care one iota about that. In fact, I didn’t even think about it while I was in Italy. I was with one of my closest friends. I was seeing the Amalfi Coast, and Capri, and Positano and Rome! I was laughing and shopping, eating and touring. I jogged on trails cut into stone overlooking the Mediterranean below and Pompei in the distance.

I didn’t have the time or the inclination to feel sorry for myself until I got back home. Then, in the days following my trip and leading up to my oldest daughter’s 21st birthday, I began brood about how I won’t be able to enjoy a glass of wine when I return to Italy in a month with my daughter to celebrate her graduation and birthday. Yes, I will be back in Italy in a month!

Instead of focusing on that — on the fact that my 21-year-old daughter chose a trip with ME to Europe as her college graduation present — I was brooding on how flawed I am, how “less than,” how “left out.” And I was letting the time it took me to complete 26.2 miles diminish the fun I had preparing for the race.

But over the past few days, as friends and family have texted and called to congratulate me on the marathon finish, and posted words of praise on social media, I began to reflect differently on both the race and the gift of sobriety.

I am back to seeing the value in the journey — both the journey leading to my slowest marathon ever and the journey that means I am blessed, or so very blessed, to be among the small percentage of alcoholics who GETS to live a sober life. It doesn’t make me flawed or “less than.” Instead, it means He made me for more.

My daughter and husband asked if this is my last marathon. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Miles 19 to 23 are still too fresh in my memory, so it’s not a good time to decide.

But it wasn’t my last race or the end of my journey.

 

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Gratitude — Hearing the Right Messages

Rejection. Dismissal.

Those are lonely words – words of not belonging, of being on the outside, of being alone.

Yesterday, I was rejected and dismissed by someone I love, someone to whom I used to be very close. I experienced a range of emotions and the symptoms of those emotions – sadness and tears, anger and spitefulness, thoughts of revenge, sarcasm, detachment. I finally settled into sadness and disappointment.

I sat in my family room that looked dreary and neglected and felt sorry for myself. I looked at the layer of dust on the furniture and the cat and dog hair woven into the area rug and gathered like tumbleweeds against the baseboards. I stared through the blinds and dirty windows at the common ground behind our house and the landscape matched my mood – cold, gray, a little dingy from the melting snow. The trees were bare, no evidence of life.

Except there was evidence of life. I was briefly distracted by two squirrels racing impossibly fast across branches that appear too feeble to hold them, then leap from the large oak in my backyard to one of the unknown (to me) species of trees in the neighbor’s yard.

I spent my evening brooding, occasionally tearing up, but basically moving from task to appointment to task. I got some good advice — “Write down your blessings. And thank God for them” — but I didn’t follow it. I’d wasted enough of my day crying over the situation.

No time for gratitude.

Today, I attended the memorial service of a 22-year-old young man. Many people loved him. He was a loyal friend and a devoted son and brother. He was greatly admired because he showed courage in the face of tremendous health challenges, and then he used his compassionately, selflessly help others.His life ended much too soon.

I knew this man because he was a swimmer with my daughter on the Rockwood Swim Team. Not surprisingly, there were dozens of people from our Rockwood swim family in attendance at the funeral.

Just like there were dozens from our swim family in attendance a few months ago when the mother of one of the swimmers died.

Just like a group of them gathered a few weeks ago to help one of the swim dad’s celebrate the arrival of his 60s.

Just like they dropped off meals and gifts when I had a baby at age 40, and helped me get my daughter to swim practice in the weeks following.

Just like they surrounded a widower nearly 10 years ago when her husband died of cancer, leaving her to raise three young children.

Just like they’ve surrounded many others in times of great joy and great hardship.

And it hit me. These people. The people helping to fill the pews at this memorial service. They are the ones who matter. The ones to include on that gratitude list.

Somewhere along the way, probably as children, most likely in a school lunchroom or on a playground or in gym class when teams are chosen for kickball, we feel that first sting of rejection. We internalize that first message that “you’re not wanted” or “you’re not good enough.” The lucky ones get the message from people outside their families; the unlucky ones get the message from those closest to them. But all of us, at one time or another, have gotten the rejection message.

And for some reason, those messages often ring louder, sound truer and echo longer than the messages that say “I love you” or “I’m here for you” or “You’re good enough.”

Why is that?

Maybe because we don’t write that gratitude list.

Maybe because we don’t always see the squirrels racing on the branches and remember that they are reminders of the life that is still present even though the trees are bare.

I think the memorial service for Christopher Parsons was beautiful on so many levels – it was an amazing tribute to his life. For me, it was also a reminder to be grateful for those around me, to notice the signs of life and hope amid landscapes that seem lifeless, and to let messages of love, friendship and affirmation ring louder than messages of rejection.

And those thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

NOTE: Christopher Parsons father read this poem at his son’s memorial service. I thought it was beautiful so I looked up the words. Here’s a link.

 

Marathon Training — Trust the Process

My family is harassing me – in a loving way, of course — because I announced my plans to run another marathon this spring.

Their reactions?

“But you said . . . . “ and “I specifically remember you stating . . . “ and “What about your hip?” and . . . “Are you crazy?”

I swore off this 26.2-mile event in October 2011 as I crossed the finish line of my third marathon. I was running Chicago, hoping to get a personal record, hoping to maybe even hit that 4-hour marathon goal. Instead, I added time, going 4:38:35. And I was miserable for the entire second half of that race. I said a lot of things, and one of them was “I am never doing this again.”

I kept my promise and haven’t done a full marathon since that time. But I love running, and I’ve done shorter distances – a half, a few 5k’s. I even took 3rd place in my age group in a Make Tracks for the Zoo 5k in 2012. Mostly, though, I’ve gotten slower and my running distance has decreased. Those are hard words for a proud runner to type.

Lately, I have begun to feel the marathon bug again — that itch to go further; do more; challenge myself again. I’m growing bored with my current exercise routine.

When I run errands on a Saturday morning and see someone running, I fondly remember my marathon training days.

marathon trainingI remember the feeling I get in my chest when I’m breathing hard but steady for a long period of time. I remember how much I like the feelings that follow a long run – mentally, a sense of accomplishment and overall well-being; physically, a general heightening of the senses, expanded lungs, strong heart, fatigued muscles that have enabled your body to thoroughly expend all its energy. The mental and physical combine to create a buzz.

I don’t miss the pain, however – the limp when I get up in the morning; the pain in my hip while I drive; the ache that radiates from my glute, down my hamstring and sometimes around to the front of my knee.

I was having doubts about whether I could do it.

Then I happened across Fleet Feet’s training program.

I’ve never had a professional running coach. I ran my first marathon with a charity and trained myself for my second and third. I’ve run most of my life, but never with a coach.

Professional Marathon Coaching

Fleet Feet has professional coaches. And scientific V02 Max assessment “takes the guesswork out of training by analyzing an athlete’s oxygen consumption while they run . . . The collected data defines their heart rate training zones so they can maximize their training efficiency and minimize their risk of overtraining.”

And they have a functional movement test that identifies tightness and weaknesses.

And a training program that includes individualized training, twice-weekly runs with pace groups and speed work, a professional head coach, mentors, classes, support.

So I’m doing it. But this time, I’m going to do it with support. I am over-the-moon excited because I’ve got a program! Being a goal-oriented, project-focused individual, having a program is perfect for me. And having a program backed up with science is even better.

Brandi Barbre, Fleet Feet’s training director, conducted my V02 Max test and went over my results with me. She’s designing a plan that will include a recommendation for the pace group I should start in for my marathon training, which begins in January. She identified my anaerobic threshold and is going to have me train under that threshold. More on that later. It’s all very “science-y.”

Tim Cary, Fleet Feet’s head coach, did my functional movement assessment. Then, he showed me some individualized exercises and foam rolling techniques to improve my movement, reduce my tightness and improve my running. My favorite line from him: “The best foam roller is the one you’ll use.’’

One of the biggest “ah ha” moments of my work with Tim was this: my quads, rather than my hamstrings, are tight. I’ve been stretching my hamstrings for a couple of years now, trying to reduce the pain I feel in them when I run. Tim showed me that my tight quads are pulling my hips forward, putting an arch in my lower back and keeping my hamstrings in constant state of extension. I didn’t really believe him until he had me use the foam roller on my quads – yowza. That lit me up. They are tight, indeed!

Trust the Process

Now the hard part – I have to trust the process. Isn’t that always the hard part!!? Whether it’s a move toward healthier eating like the Whole30, or embarking on a journey to write a novel, or re-learning how to run, it’s hard to let go of what you’ve always done and trust something else.

Brandi wants me to do a couple of “field tests” where I stay within a heart rate zone that is below my anaerobic threshold, and then report back to her what my pace on one of the runs and my distance on another. Staying in this heart rate zone means I have to run really slow. REALLY. SLOW.

I’m not fast, but I’m proud. I’m going to have to ask my ego to get out of the way here and trust that Brandi knows what she’s doing. She explained it all to me and like I said, it’s very “science-y.” When I’m comfortable that I completely understand it myself, I’ll write about it in more detail.

For now, I am going to do what she says. And I’m going to train with the pace group that she recommends. And I’m going to try to find my foam roller, because I think the best foam roller is the one that you pull out of storage and use.

I’m super excited about this training program. If you are looking to start running, return to running or improve your running, Fleet Feet offers a bunch of training programs including:

  • Marathon
  • Half-marathon
  • 5k
  • Boston
  • Trail running
  • Speed School
  • Youth Running

They also offer lots of free running opportunities. You can find out more about those here.

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The Shadow of Fear versus the Light of Courage

My late Grandmother once told me that fear is a sin. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that prompted the conversation, but it had something to do with my children – my fears and worries related to them.

The message sounds harsh, but that wasn’t her intention. Her words were delivered lovingly, without judgment, and her point was that I should trust Jesus more and fear less. I listened, and then continued to be fearful, especially when it came to my kids. But the words stuck with me and through the years, in a quiet moment or sometimes in a moment fraught with fear and worry, I remember them.

Thankfully, I haven’t lived with the kinds of horrific fears others have endured – fear of physical abuse or violence, fear of starvation or homelessness or life-threatening illness. I have been abundantly blessed in the areas of family, health, home, education and opportunity.

But when I am being honest with myself, I realize that fear has been a fairly constant companion in my life.

Sometimes, fear has been like a rude roommate, dampening my joy as I entertain guests or meet new people or embark on new adventures. He whispers words of doubt or criticisms in my ear or shouts insults from the well-worn Lazyboy he occupies inside my brain. I know he’s there and I’m aware of his tactics. Therefore, I’m able to ignore him for the most part, but he still makes an impact.

Sometimes fear disguises himself, arriving in designer cloaks of justifiable worry or good parenting. Like many mothers, my greatest fears involve my children, and most of the time those fears take the form of concern for their health, safety, future and happiness. I worry when my teens drive away from the house. I grow fearful if they are driving in bad weather. I fret over their academics, their success in and out of the classroom, their social lives.

Fear is most effective, however, when he takes the form of my shadow — unnoticed, unacknowledged, seemingly inconsequential. Just like a shadow at high noon, fear is smaller and less effective when there is a great deal of light on the subject at hand. But when I keep things hidden, intentionally or unintentionally, the light grows dimmer like a setting sun and the shadow of fear grows longer and more powerful.

That is when fear can change the course of my life. That is when he can keep me from discovering God’s purpose for me, from enjoying the blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon me. That is when I unknowingly, unwittingly take action based on my fears. And more often than not, because I’m unaware that fear is occupying the driver’s seat, my action is simply NOT TAKING ACTION.

But recently, I’ve started to let more light shine into areas of my life that I’ve historically kept to myself, and that light has decreased the size of my fear shadow. I’ve set out on a new path prompted by a maturing faith in God, age, life experiences and an increasing awareness that my willingness to keep company with fear speaks volumes to my children.

I am pursuing my dream of writing fiction. Although I have always made a living with the written word, I strayed from my profession some in the past few years for various reasons, some of which had to do with fear.

I have returned my focus to making a living as a writer and communicator, but I’m making room for writing that fills me in addition to the writing that pads our checking account.

Interestingly, fear followed me on this new path because I left him a trail of breadcrumbs. Bad habits die hard, and he catches up every once in awhile. When he does, he tells me:

  • “You don’t have time for this” or,
  • “You aren’t creative enough to write fiction” or,
  • “You’re too old to write a novel” or,
  • “You have no idea what you’re doing” or,
  • “The rejection letters will just keep coming” or,
  • “You need to focus on making money and bringing in new clients/projects, not writing stories” or,
  • “You’re being selfish to spend time on this hobby” or,
  • “You are a Mom, not a writer, and your mom work is more important and the two are mutually exclusive,” or
  • the list is exhaustive . . .

A friend recently recommend the book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is speaking to me – the book is singing to me. In the first few pages, she writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”

I would say that it is God, not the universe, that buries those jewels within us, and God that gives us the courage, if we let Him, to go on that hunt.

I’m choosing to let Him. I’m writing, and I’m putting myself out there: on this blog; in the short stories that I keep submitting and that have, thus far, only resulted in rejection letters; and now, in a book manuscript that is starting to take shape.

Gilbert suggests that we are more than the sum of our daily obligations and duties and that we can choose to make something of ourselves with ourselves. And she says that “fear is a desolate bone yard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.” That is not the life or death I want to choose for my dreams.
Dream Hope JoyI’m trying to choose courage, trying to let the light shine on my dreams a bit more – to shorten the length of the shadows that are cast over them and instead let them cast shadows of hope and joy.

Now it’s time for me to get back to work on my manuscript.

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Done Waiting on My Weight – My Whole30 Success Story

I threw away my scales. I’m finally free to the life God intended me to live, unencumbered by a number.

whole30 success
I am no longer a slave to these devices.

That is the priceless, immeasurable result of my Whole30.

For the first time in 34 years, my relationship with gravity and the device used to scientifically measure that relationship no longer determine my mood, dictate my happiness or demean my sense of self worth.

I put two of my scales in the trashcan, on trash day, and let the trash man haul them away. I meant it literally when I said I threw away my scales. And I asked my husband to take the third that we use to weigh luggage before we travel to his office and store it there.

Background

The chains binding me to those scales stretch over three decades. I’ve had self-esteem and body image issues since age 14. When I hit puberty, my previously thin body and raging metabolism turned against me. I gained weight and was subjected to sometimes-weekly weigh-ins in front of my family because my mother thought that would motivate me and help me adhere to a diet and stay trim for pageants, dating and cheerleading tryouts. It didn’t – it had the opposite effect.

As a teen, I did Weight Watchers (which was horribly humiliating), Elaine Powers, jogged, fasted, started smoking, took diet pills and did any number of other things to attempt to lose weight.

I went away to college weighing 180 pounds on a 5’5” frame and was wearing a tight size 14/16. Then I got sick with an ulcer and experienced what seemed like and overnight return to my size 8 pants — because it hurt like hell to eat. Very. Effective. Diet.

I vowed to never get “fat” again, and I pretty much kept that promise to myself, but only through a lot of self denial, severe diets, tons of exercise and a scale obsession.

I stepped on my scale everyday. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes on different scales to try to get a different, lower, better number.

I almost starved myself in the nine months preceding my wedding, wreaking havoc on my metabolism and blood sugar but getting thinner than I had been in high school.

I ate salads for the first two years of my marriage, except when I couldn’t stand it anymore and then I’d eat everything chocolate and “non-salady” in sight. Then I’d feel lousy and return to salads with no cheese and barely any dressing. I started running regularly and eventually ran half marathons and three full marathons.

I went on severe restricted calorie diets after my first two pregnancies to lose the baby weight and went back to Weight Watchers after my third baby, who I had at age 40. This time, I wasn’t humiliated because I wasn’t 16 years old. This time, I achieved my goal weight and lifetime member status.

But as my 40s progressed, I was having a harder and harder time keeping weight off and was feeling worse and worse about myself. I ran more. And I weighed more. And I hated the scale and my body more.

I decided to become a Beachbody coach, because surely leading other people through fitness and nutrition challenges would hold me accountable and help me lose weight and keep it off.

Then I became a certified personal trainer and certified group exercise instructor and began teaching classes.

During 2013 and 2014, I did the 21-Day Fix. I did the Ultimate Reset. I did the 3-Day Refresh I did P90X3. I did PiYo and got certified to teach it. I did Insanity and got certified to teach it.

Everything worked and nothing worked.

Because I didn’t fix my head and I didn’t fix my heart. I didn’t like me. The goal was weight loss. When I achieved it, I was happy. For a time.

But I was unhappy when I gained weight. Or when I didn’t lose it fast enough. Or when I returned to my candy and chocolate habit or my Diet Coke or sugar-free French Vanilla creamer in my coffee or flavored Stevia in my carbonated water or spoonfuls of peanut butter just before bed to satisfy my sugar dragon and because I deserved it — I needed it — after a day of skipping meals or skimping on calories.

The Beginning of the End

My Whole30 calendar countdown.
My Whole30 calendar countdown.

I saw a powerful video several months ago (link below). It sparked something in my soul and I knew I needed a paradigm shift, but that shift didn’t happen until I found the Whole30.

I completed my first Whole30 on September 4, 2015. I complied with the program 100 percent, including the part about not stepping on the scale. But from the beginning, I planned to step on it the instant my 30 days were up. In fact, I was discouraged when I read some of the information that kept repeating how this was not a weight loss program. I was just certain it was a weight loss program and I focused on the testimonials of all the people who had lost weight.

I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to wear a smaller size. I wanted to lose these 10 pounds that I have always wanted to lose and then I was certain I would be satisfied and happy with my body. Finally.

But something happened. Within a week, my husband commented that I was eating more food than he’d ever seen me eat in 22 years of marriage. I was sitting down to meals with my family with a full plate of real food – not a shake, not a plate full of lettuce, not portions measured out in containers or weighed on scales, no calculator to count calories or points or grams of fat, protein or carbs. My little girl noticed too.

I wasn’t hungry or feeling deprived. I missed sugar at first, but eliminating artificial sweetener for my coffee, diet soda and all the other sugar-free fixes I’ve used during previous “diets” set me up for success. The sugar cravings disappeared in a few days.

Within two weeks, I noticed that my stomach was flatter and my clothes felt better. I was feeling GREAT – mentally and physically — and was tempted to step on my scale. I wanted a tangible measurement of my success. My best friend who is doing the program with me encouraged me to stay off of it. We both talked about how we were feeling better and how our clothes were fitting better. She said, “Do you want to let the scale steal your joy?” And she was right. So I resisted the temptation.

I started to think that my mood might be a factor in how I was feeling when I looked in the mirror. And maybe it wasn’t weight loss afterall. Again, I was briefly — VERY BRIEFLY — tempted to step on the scale. But I stopped. Because if I like what I’m seeing, and I like what I’m feeling, then I don’t want a number to change my mind.

And so I rid my house of the scales. These habits and beliefs connected to the scale took decades to form. I don’t want a bad day or a moment of temporary Whole30 (and now Whole9) weakness to tempt me into believing the lies the scale tells me anymore.

Success & Whole30 Reintroduction

This photo gallery shows me enjoying life — what you can’t know but what I will tell you is that the number on the scale used to determine the level of enjoyment I had, regardless of the event. Not anymore.

And I am now in the “reintroduction” stage and I’m taking it super slow. I don’t plan to reintroduce everything. Sugar is a dragon and one that I will have to be very careful and cautious about keeping on a short, fireproof leash. I added it back in first because of a special event. I had a treat and then left it at that — no binging on chocolate and all other things sugar afterward. Then I had a treat a days later with the same self control and intentional enjoyment. I LOVE this.

I plan to live mostly compliant to a Whole30 lifetsyle – I’m still meal-planning, cooking recipes from the book and all the other resources  suggested throughout the program – I subscribed to the daily emails and I highly recommend them. They were a big part of my success, as was TheClothesMakeTheGirl website, which gave a lot of variety to my program. I am reading everything I can about the Whole9 Life. I’m shopping differently and cooking differently and eating more and sharing more meals with my family. My friend (who has had great success, as well) and I plan to do some joint cooking sessions to share food. It. Feels. Good.

I am no longer “waiting to be fully alive” because of “weight.” Watch this amazing video by Emily Timmer (excerpt below) if you want to see what gave me the motivation to make this shift:

We speak of weight in pounds, in kilograms… measurements of guilt and shame… The ideal of “thinness” our singular aim, and hit or miss we’re so bound up in blame… Blame for that five pound gain, that indulgent meal, that failure on the scale. Again and again. And again. There’s pain… And it sits in our bellies – too deep to be carved away by calorie cutting, calisthenics, or cardio … We almost feel insane – cycling ceaselessly through the same closed loop of self-abuse. Why can’t I be thinner? Why can’t I look like her? … Then there’s the mirror… We use it like a whip… staring into it and abusing ourselves for our thighs, our arms, our hips. We look, we see our reflection, and curses fall from our lips. One thing controls us. And this is it…

 Our body size, our Weight… Wait. We wait to be fully alive, feeling disallowed from joy, unable to REALLY live… until our size can be something other than “big.”

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Adult Friendships – Make New Friends But Keep the Old

PREVIOUSLY POSTED AUG. 2008

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently hooked up with a very dear, almost life-long friend. My friend and I met as freshmen in high school.  We took classes together, partied together, traveled together and even lived together (rather peacefully, in fact) in an apartment until I lost my job and had to relocate to South Carolina for a new job. My friend visited me in South Carolina, was in my wedding and visited me in the hospital when I had my first baby.  When my husband worked nights and weekends while my first-born was young, she kept me company and provided much-needed “adult” conversation.

Then my husband’s schedule changed and he was home at night and on the weekends.  I had another baby.  then dance lessons, soccer practice, life as a wife and mom took over.  Meanwhile, my friend advanced in her career and started traveling the globe on incentive trips.  She even invited me to go on one with her — all expenses paid for a week in Scotland.  I really wanted to go, but my “babies” were 6 and 3, and I couldn’t bear to leave them for that long.

We made the effort to get together several times a year, then once or twice a year.  Eventually, we got to the point where we’d only see each other once a year.  We’d lament this fact every time we’d hook up because we always had so much fun.  We laugh about old memories and how no matter how much time passes, we’re still basically the same people.  We were both raised by cops, thus we’re both terrible cynics.  (really, NOTHING good happens after midnight!) We agree on things like crime and punishment. We both love strappy sandals, but think you MUST have painted toenails to wear strappy sandals. You know — all the important stuff.

I used to get upset that we didn’t see each other more often, and my friend would console me by saying that her mom told her this would happen. She said that friends “drift” some during the  childbearing/childrearing years, particularly if they don’t both go through those years at the same time.  Her mom said that you get so busy during those years that the only friends you have time for are the ones who have kids the same ages as yours and/or kids who are involved in the same activities.  But, her mom concluded (all of this from experience) that once you get those kids raised, you gravitate back to those “old” friends because “they knew you when” — and there is simply no replacement for that intimate knowledge.

As my friend and I sat at the water park and watched my baby play, I came to the conclusion that her mom’s predictions will prove to be true.  In the meantime, we’ll cherish these few get-togethers and do what we always do.  We laughed at some of the antics of our youth, and my friend promised to pray that my own children don’t try half the stuff we tried. We laughed even harder at the minor (and sometimes not so minor) dysfunctions in our families of origin. We talked about whether she might ever get married, and if not, will she try to have a baby without a husband.  She shared her exciting stories of global travel with me, and I shared stories of being a mom to a teenager, a pre-teen and baby all at once. And we talked about those years in the future when we can get together more often, maybe even travel together again.

I’m very thankful that we make the effort to stay in touch, even if our encounters are few and far between.  I know I’ll be glad when I’m old and she and I are attending Red Hat Ladies luncheons, or we’re sunning our wrinkled old bodies on a beach somewhere.

UPDATE May 9, 2015

Awesome morning exercising with one of my bestie’s since high 10258681_10152908937665488_3637393969448378393_nschool, Jan Wadsack . But the BEST part? The trip down memory lane! As we were leaving, she was following me because we were trying to find a place to have coffee near Creve Coeur Park. And this was in the rearview mirror because of Jan’s expired plates, of which she was unaware. It has been AGES — like 30 years — since these two daughters of police officers were pulled over together. Being that our dads, and Jan’s uncle, all wore the badge, we could not go ANYWHERE without some police officer keeping an eye on us. One officer in particular pulled us over regularly just to harass us. I wish I had thought to ask the officer today to pose with us for a photo with his lights a-blazing. Another bonus — he didn’t give Jan a ticket!

Last Chapter: Aging Gracefully

My friend called me this week to tell me she is officially done with menopause — as in scientifically DONE, as in she has lab results with real numbers indicating that that she has completed this phase of her life.

I wanted to say something clever or quote a song lyric. But nothing came to mind as I watched the kaleidoscope of memories flashing like a flipbook in my brain. We’ve shared so many milestones, some in person, some on the phone.

Flash: She’s relaxing poolside and she spots the man she would eventually marry. “Do you know him? Can you introduce me?”

Flash: My phone rings and she’s telling me she had sex for the first time.

Flash: She’s chasing me into the bathroom at a wedding reception, telling me he popped the question.

Flash: We’re at her wedding reception.

Flash: We’re on the phone and she’s telling me the pregnancy test was positive. She’s going to be a mom.

Flash: Another positive pregnancy test. And another. And another.

Now this. Menopause. I’m doing it, too, although I don’t have any lab results to prove it. Not sure I’m on the other side of the fence yet, but those details don’t really matter. What’s important is HOW we’ve decided to do it.

We have both arrived at a milestone, a crossroads  of sorts — our coordinates are not exactly the same. We are in slightly different spots, coming to the crossing from slightly different angles. But our theme song is same. Jeremiah 6:16 says “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Our theme song, our chorus, is that “We are going to walk in it and we are going to OWN this last chapter.”  We are aging gracefully but with panache. That was how we ended the phone call announcing her post-menopausal news.

“Last chapter” sounds macabre. But it’s not. It simply means we are trying to:

Love the skin we’re in, and the bodies with which we have been blessed. We began a Whole30 journey together and we are both really excited about the program. It’s not a diet. It’s not a weight loss program. We are both embracing those aspects and we are both feeling great. For me, it has provided freedom from the scale, something I have not had since I was in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL! That’s 35 years. I didn’t know that I could ever feel good, really good, about myself unless a certain number showed up on the scale. But I do. And my scale is hidden away, collecting dust. I honestly don’t know if I’ve lost a pound. This article explains part of my victory. And this is a beautiful video which explains why I’m done “waiting” — “Our body size, our Weight… Wait. We wait to be fully alive, feeling disallowed from joy, unable to REALLY live… until our size can be something other than “big.” Waiting. weighing.  withdrawing.” — I’m not going to “wait” anymore.

Exercise (but not abuse). For me, this means less pounding. Less running. Less is more. Again, a new concept for me. My friend and I have been meeting to walk and do some strength training. But for once in my life, I’m not worried about achieving the burn. I am simply enjoying the time. Soaking in the early morning hours with the very best woman I know. I am honored to spend the time with her. I put it on my calendar because it nourishes my soul.

Parent and Let Go. We both have daughters who are the same age now as we were when we met. We have teens who are navigating the tricky waters of high school. I have a 7-year-old who is giving me the opportunity to enjoy all of it again but with the wisdom of an older Mom. During this last chapter, we hope to parent with wisdom and serenity, owning the pieces for which we are responsible, and gracefully (or not so gracefully at times) letting go of the pieces that belong to God. My friend reminds me not to arm-wrestle Him. Her skills are better developed in this area than mine.

Wear the Damn Hat (or boots or jeans or . . . ). This is as simple as it sounds. I am leaving the land of “cares what other people think.” I love hats, boots and bell bottom jeans. And in the last seven days, I’ve worn all three (Yes, boots in August. And bell bottom jeans that my son thinks are just awful. And a J-Lo-looking cap with a blinged out cross on it). I also love big earrings, and lots of mascara. And bohemian-flowy tops with macrame. My friend loves frosty orange lipstick and she seriously looks hot when she is wearing it.

Embrace our Strengths/Gifts. Several years ago, my friend attempted a career change and eventually found her way back to her original field. She reflects on the journey as God’s way of showing her that he bestowed her with certain gifts and talents, and today she embraces those gifts, not only in her work life, but in her approach to people and circumstances. I’ve spent the last couple of years floundering in an attempt to build success in a professional arena outside of writing. I abandoned those efforts recently, initially feeling like a failure, unable to move outside my comfort zone in order to make more money and be more successful. Then my friend reminded me of her journey, and encouraged me to embrace my gifts. I am a writer. I like that label. It feels comfortable – because it is my strength and my gift. But I will venture outside my comfort zone because I’m going to finally, finally, finally follow my dream to write fiction. So I’m keeping my work life in writing and communications, and I’m adding fiction to spice things up.

And I just might wear bell-bottoms and a sleeveless flowy top while I’m doing it (sleeveless in case of hot flashes!)