Friday, October 20, 2017

Dollars for pounds..........

At the risk of alienating a lovely family member or two, I cannot let my most recent insult go unblogged. (That's a word, even if my spell-check says it's not).

Recently I spent ten (10!) days in California. Sounds dreamy, no? Except I was there on "business" as it were, helping Jeff's grandma after a stint in the hospital and rehab center. She had suffered a mild heart attack and was on the mend, but Jeff's mom (grandma's daughter) was scheduled to go out of town on a vacation, and her other daughter (Jeff's aunt) does not speak to her mother, so there was no one else to step in but Jeff and I. I will preface this by saying that Jeff is totally devoted to his grandparents and happily spent many vacation and sick days taking care of his grandpa previous to his death. So, of course he feels the same about grandma and always takes an opportunity to visit and help out. This time, he needed to be back to work and could not take the full ten days to help her so it was decided that I would stay the full ten days on grandma duty. We rented a condo nearby, booked plane tickets, and headed to sunny Oceanside where we ferried grandma around, took her to appointments and lunches, kept her company, and enjoyed sharing stories.

Since then, we have kept up communication with grandma through letters - she loves to send letters and it's lovely to get a piece of old-fashioned "snail mail" with a newsy letter and/or magazine clippings, or, better, a hand-colored card or postcard (grandma's new hobby is "adult coloring"). Today a letter arrived addressed to Jeff, and one to just me.

Here is what mine said:


How does 50 for 50th sound? Losing 50 pounds for Jeff's 50th birthday. And to top it off I'll give you a dollar for every pound $50 or whatever you accomplish. That means leaving ALL sugary stuff out, including your downfall, Starbucks. 

Just think, you are going to Hawaii and that would be a start. Start after the 1st of the year or sooner if you want. 

It's a goal worth working for. Is it a deal? 

Love you, Gma Jo

Well. After reading it, I had to take a breath and a "step back" and tell myself, she's an elderly lady, different generation, etc. I TRIED to justify it. But on what level is this ok? WHO would ever want to receive a letter like this and who would not be offended? I was stunned and carefully folded the letter and put it aside. I considered hiding it. And then I thought, how does she know we're going to Hawaii? We might have mentioned it but neither Jeff or I could recall having a discussion about Hawaii, my weight, or anything of the sort while visiting. I had exactly ONE Starbucks drink in the ten days I was there, which is about the norm for me, so I wouldn't exactly say Starbucks is my "downfall". Neither did I have any sugary treats in her presence save for a bowl of ice cream she offered us the first day we were there. I got plenty of exercise while visiting, reaching my step goal every day with evening walks along the sunset-lit beach. I have no idea what prompted this letter or who she might have been talking to who knows about my travel plans and/or my eating and drinking habits.

I read the letter to Hannah first. She was flabbergasted. I asked Jeff if he had been discussing my weight with his grandma. He denied ever having any type of conversation like this and then I read him the letter. His mouth dropped open and he immediately apologized for his grandma's faux pas. I read the letter to Arlie. She had the same reaction and said "she must be getting old - she has no filter!" Harrison read the letter on his own and he had to read it over again to be sure. I won't repeat what his response was.

In short, my family was offended FOR me, and could not believe someone would take time to send me such a letter. After a short while, I didn't even think about it again, but Jeff brought it up once more and I thought, I have to blog about this! I just have a lot of thoughts.

There are so many things wrong with this letter. For one thing, the fact that she took time and energy to point out my weight and suggested that I lose weight FOR JEFF. Never in my wildest dreams would I lose weight for someone other than myself. And I sure as hell won't accept a bribe to lose weight. (Also, $50? Lol!) I know I can go to Hawaii no matter what I weigh - there's no requirement to be bikini-ready for a trip to the islands. Also, "that would be a start" - how much weight does she think I need to lose?

I am well aware that I am fat. Would I like to lose weight? Yes, but on my own terms, the details of which are between myself and my doctor, who is the ONLY person it's acceptable to take weight-loss advice from. Do I feel the need to lose weight as a gift to my husband, to take a vacation, or for a monetary incentive? Absolutely not. Additionally I am not in the practice of taking goal-setting advice from someone who knows almost nothing about my daily life, my health, or my personal ideals.

I do appreciate that she probably sent this to me in all sincerity and a sense of camaraderie as a woman. After all, she gained five pounds in the hospital and was desperate to lose it. She has probably weighed close to the same weight her entire adult life. She is a small, slightly-built woman. Her daughters are not of her build and carry extra weight themselves. If you lined the three of them up, you would be hard-pressed to see the familial relation. But that's exactly the point - we are all individual. Skinny moms can have fat daughters. Fat moms can have skinny daughters. My own three daughters are all different weights, and have been through weight changes over the years, just like all women. I've never considered offering them money to lose weight. I've never considered asking them to change their bodies to fit whatever my view of a "healthy weight" is.

Like all women, I have been many different sizes in my life. When I hit 96 pounds in the sixth grade, I was horrified that I was so dangerously close to the dreaded 100 lbs, and even more horrified to learn that the two most popular girls in my class each weighed 76 lbs. I felt fat.

When I went through puberty and soared to 125 lbs and didn't know how to dress myself because I wasn't comfortable in my own skin, I felt fat.

When I gained the "freshman 15" my first year of high school (not college, I was always ahead of my time!), which was also the year I learned to bake, I felt fat.

When I stalled at 130 lbs for many years, and still wore a bikini to the beach, I lamented my thighs and hips and all my perceived imperfections, and held my stomach in when taking pictures and I felt fat.

When I got married at 146 lbs, my highest weight ever, festooned in 1990's battenberg lace and puffy sleeves, I felt beautiful, but I felt fat.

When I discovered a tiny belly pooch that I couldn't seem to shake even with SlimFast shakes and aerobics at the Y, I felt fat but I got pregnant so it was ok to be fat.

When I hovered dangerously near the 200 lb mark just before delivery, and wore hideous maternity clothes (bought on clearance because we weren't rich so I couldn't afford to be cute), I felt fat, but I was going to be a mom so I didn't care much. I would lose the baby weight.

And I did, most of it, but then another baby came along and I didn't gain as much weight, but there I was raising a toddler and a newborn who didn't sleep and the stress and chaos didn't help, and I felt fat.

And another baby came and then I joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 lbs and everyone said WOW you are so skinny, but in pictures I still had a belly pooch so I felt fat.

And then I raised my kids and I got divorced and all the while I fought my debilitating anxiety and I got remarried and I decided to finally do something about my anxiety and the medication made me gain 40 lbs in record time and I felt fat.

And then. And then.........I was at my highest weight and I did two triathlons. I was at my highest weight and I had a regular yoga practice and I worked out and I was in better shape than my (much younger) kids and I took a fitness test with my (much more athletic) husband and I found out I wasn't actually in terrible shape and I was maybe even a little bit strong.

And now? Now I weigh more than I care to, but I can bike and hike and walk and exercise and I'd like to do all of those things better. I am active and standing most of the day, teaching little kids. I love healthy food and I make conscious decisions to eat well every day. I like my sweet treats, but I limit them (and I recognize this as my biggest challenge nutritionally). I have a Starbucks drink, on average, once a week (and yes, I checked my account to verify this). I drink only water most days, I rarely drink alcohol, and I almost never eat fast food, unless we're on a road trip. We eat out maybe once a week or less. I almost never watch TV and if I do, I'm folding laundry while I'm doing it. I'm not lazy. Some days I'm energized, some days I'm really, really tired. And sometimes I still feel fat.

But I forget I'm fat when I'm going about my day. Being fat doesn't define me. I don't spend every waking hour worrying about being fat. I'm healthy and all my "numbers" make my doctor happy. I take care of myself. Could I be doing a better job of it? Sure. So could all of us. But I strive for balance in my life. I'm quite happy and content and I really love my life. I seriously doubt my happiness level would change with my dress size. I like myself today and I'm sure I will like myself tomorrow and all the days to follow no matter what size I am.

So, no, Grandma Jo. I respectfully decline your offer. My weight is my business and between me and my doctor, no one else. I'll go on being awesome and you keep your $50. We'll both be richer.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Patch that!

Today we took our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. Now, the "kids" are 18, 19, 21, 22 and 24 (yes, that includes the married couple). There was some debate about who's idea it was to venture out on the last sunny Sunday of October (according to the weather forecast) and mix with a crowd of hundreds to pick an overpriced pumpkin and take some festive pictures. My husband asked how long we had to take the "kids" to the pumpkin patch and how old did they have to be before we stopped? The kids said it was all my idea. I said I was the first one to suggest we skip the patch and buy pumpkins at the grocery store and just have a carving party. Either way, once again, our annual trip has come and gone (in short order this year because I'm sick and was done less than an hour in) and nothing has really changed.

First, it takes careful planning to make this happen. When your kids are adults, and work, and go to college, the time available when everyone can be in one place at one time is.........nonexistent. I know this because every year it takes a Herculean effort and some work schedule changes in order for us to meet at the patch for an hour (sometimes two - bonus!). Once we plan this outing, there is often the procurement of special equipment (that one year we spent over $100 getting everyone boots for the muddy patch literally minutes before we left). And since pictures are always a huge part of the day - let's be honest, it's the ONLY part I care about - everyone has to spend time transforming themselves from sloppy college student to Pinterest-worthy fall photography subject. This involves a cute outfit, makeup and maybe even a fall scarf. We traipse out to the patch, and get stuck in traffic. Just today my husband remarked how nice it was to drive all the way out to the country only to sit in traffic for 45 minutes. In fact, today's traffic jam was taking us to the WRONG pumpkin patch. The one we were supposed to meet at was the opposite direction by a good twenty minutes. So, we arrived an hour late.

I was asked to take pictures of a couple of other families while we were there. No worries, I love taking pictures. Except, as I mentioned before, I'm sick so my energy level was not up to par, and we arrived so late that one family was leaving as we arrived and the other took a while to find, at which time we snapped a few quick pictures and they returned the favor by snapping a few of our crew (hey, it's a rare event, we needed a picture to prove it happened). After pictures, we headed out to the pumpkin field to choose the perfect pumpkin.

But here's the thing about pumpkins - I like them, I think they're cute, and it's fun to pick a unique shaped one, but I HATE carving pumpkins. So, I just never carve mine. Which makes me wonder why I would want to spend $10 or more on a fun-shaped pumpkin I have no intention of carving. Instead, I have resorted to picking a mini pumpkin and maybe a couple of squash or gourds. The others spend a lot of time choosing their pumpkins (too much if you ask me, it was getting hot in the fields). We drop $40 or $100 and haul our pumpkins back home.

Today's agenda involved coming home to chili in the crock pot, biscuits, corn bread and homemade dessert. After we warmed up with this quintessential fall dinner, we would carve our pumpkins and have it all done in one day. Except, when we got home, we started watching movies and no one carved their pumpkins! This happens every year. One year we didn't carve them before Halloween arrived so we just left them as Thanksgiving decor, and when Christmas arrived, we just spray painted them white, put hats and scarves on them, and called them "snowmen". Now why do we spend money on pumpkins that we never carve? I have no idea.

Also, the lines were long, the crowds were thick, and since the kids aren't little anymore, there's no allure in hayrides, games, rubber duck races and mini-golf (and thank God, too, because those things cost even more money!). We were at the patch a whole hour before we all decided to leave - it took us longer just to get there! I was exhausted and thinking only of being out of my "cute" clothes and back in my pajamas, and I heard a few complaints of being hungry and thirsty (again, another way to blow your paycheck at the pumpkin patch - kettle corn! Hot dogs! Apple cider!). No one seemed sad that we were headed home.

So, my husband and I came up with an idea - next year we'll just create our own pumpkin patch. We'll decorate the back porch with a few hay bales, maybe even make one of those funny scarecrow boards you stick your head in for photos, serve mini donuts and apple cider, and buy a handful of pumpkins at the grocery store to scatter in the park in our backyard. We'll invite the adult children over to "pick" a pumpkin, have tables and carving tools set up for making jack-o-lanterns, and do the whole shebang in a few hours right in our backyard. No traffic, no crowds, and we won't sell out of roasted corn like the patch we visited today. Plus, we can enjoy adult beverages with the kids!

This should work for a few years until the grandkids come along. And then we'll be right back at the patch because it's really only fun with little kids. And tradition means something different to everyone and changes with the seasons. I still love taking fall photos of my family, but, truth be told, some of the best fall colors around here happen in the office park where my husband works, which is five minutes away. Next year we'll schedule an office-park photo shoot right before our backyard pumpkin patch and our fall celebration will be complete without ever leaving town.

Happy Fall, y'all!