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May 2008

Weighing In

I hate to talk about my weight. Not only when I've gained, but just generally hate to talk about it because I am so much more than what the scale says when I step on it. I've had numerous people comment about my weight lately. I finally feel like I'm getting my body back. Everyone from a woman I worked with a decade ago, my sister, and my mother-in-law have brought it up. My mother-in-law particularly seems determined to figure out how I've done it for some reason, not that the woman needs any weight loss secrets. She cornered Lissfull at one of the kids' birthday parties to ask her how I was losing the weight. I'm not sure what she expected to hear, "Yes, Diosa's taken up coke, but just until she reaches her goal weight."

I refuse to diet. I think the entire concept of dieting and weight loss in this country is fundamentally flawed. It causes men and women both, to have unhealthy attitudes toward food, their body image and their self-esteem. I was placed on Weight Watchers by my pediatrician, or rather, temporary pediatrician, when I was twelve. He labeled me as obese. Talk about crushing a young girl's self esteem. I'd never been thin, but obese? So I started on Weight Watchers and started losing weight. Everything went fine for a while, but after a few months I stopped losing. The pediatrician told my mother I must be cheating, but I wasn't. They restricted my caloric intake further. I was hungry. I still didn't cheat. I still couldn't lose anymore weight. I don't remember exactly how long I spent on Weight Watchers, somewhere in the vicinity of six months to a year. And while I did put some of the weight back on, it's not like at any time my weight was seriously out of control. At least not in my opinion.

Several years later, my mother took me to another doctor to have my height analyzed. I am four inches shorter than my sister and nine inches shorter than my brother. At 5'3" on a day after I've done yoga and stand my straightest, I do not have short genes. My height was stunted while I was on Weight Watchers. What the damn pediatrician or one of the counselors at Weight Watchers should have considered, is that a pudgy twelve-year-old girl could be getting ready to go through a growth spurt. A growth spurt that never happened because I wasn't eating enough to grow.

This does not mean I eat anything I want and ignore extra pounds. I do not use my height or my previous experience as an excuse for my weight. Maybe I'd be four inches taller, maybe I wouldn't. Doesn't do me much good to know either way now. If anything, it just means I have to work a little harder at it.

While I was in college, I spent several years teaching aerobics, and was physically in the best shape of my life. I got down to a size 8. The smallest I'd been ever. I ate very carefully. Lots of salad and grilled chicken. And I worked out an average of 7 hours/week. Not to mention the 30+ hours I spent waiting tables. And still, I was NEVER the thinnest girl in the room. But that didn't mean I wasn't the one with the best figure. Yeah, no self-esteem issues here.

Obviously, I don't have the kind of time to devote to working out that I did before I had kids. I get in about 3 hours/week usually. But when I'm sick, the kids are sick, we're moving, or there's some other stress sucking up my time, it might be not at all. And with the foods kids like to eat, it's easy to pop fatty, calorie-ridden food in your mouth without even realizing you've done it. Eating right and exercising takes vigilance, planning, and a lot of self-control. I do pretty well at it most of the time, but then there are those days . . . I know you know those days. The days when all self-control goes out the window. When you didn't have time to eat a proper lunch and now you're home and stuffing yourself with chips or whatever was the first thing you could grab. Or when you just don't have the energy to care. When you'd just as soon someone take a gun and put you out of your misery, as put down the chocolate.

But through all the years I've struggled with my weight, which is basically since I was twelve, or even earlier than that, I've learned that dieting is not where its at. The whole concept of a diet, where you deprive yourself for a period of time and then at some point stop and go back to eating like before, it doesn't work. We're completely inundated with diet ads, weight loss pills, the best new thing that's going to make you thin - and it's all a bunch of crap. The woman who trained me to teach aerobics, she was this tiny English woman, and she said something to me once about weight loss that's always stayed with me. It's there in the back of my mind every time I see an ad for a new weight loss drug or miracle program. She was talking to a number of us in the training program, many of us interested in losing some weight, and she told us, "There is only one way to lose weight." And I'm listening intently to what amazing secret she must have to offer us, because obviously she's figured it out. "You have to burn more calories than you take in," she told us. And it was sort of eye-opening for me. I mean, we all fundamentally know this. It's basic science, but somehow we still buy into all these crazy weight loss promises. So whatever the new hype is, the new diet craze, I always come back to that - There's only one way to lose weight - Burn more calories than you take in.

I don't mean to knock anyone who is dieting, because if you need some structure or support in losing weight, by all means, go out and get it. And if there is one weight loss program that does make sense to me, it is Weight Watchers. Because they'll teach you about appropriate portion size, about where those calories that are landing on your thighs are coming from. I still remember and apply the tools I learned at Weight Watchers more than fifteen years ago. And it's easy in our society where everything is super-sized, and it seems everyone's having a grande cappuccino with whip cream and muffin for breakfast, to not know where those calories are coming from. Bottom line is - everything you put in your mouth adds up.

But you're never going to be done eating healthy. It has to be a life-long commitment. I run into people that I haven't seen in fifteen years, and I'm not going to lie, there's some satisfaction when you see the former size 2 cheerleader has an ass bigger than yours now. But this is where I have the advantage. Because while other women find themselves all of the sudden struggling with their weight, I have years of experience on them. I have the weight management thing down. Losing those last ten pounds I want off, well I still haven't managed to do that. And while I'll keep working at it, a little bit at a time, I know it's not the most important thing in my life. I'm happy and I'm healthy. My weight does not get in the way of me living my life. My cholesterol and all that was so good from my check-up last year, they didn't even run any this year. I seem to be doing something right.

You shouldn't be put off by the life-long commitment either. It's a commitment to yourself, to your health, happiness and physical and mental well-being. When you're eating right and exercising, you just feel better. Your clothes fit better, you expel the stress and toxins from your body, you feel that great endorphin rush, and you can just move, sleep and breathe easier. Time is your friend. If you just keep at it, work it a little every day, you can find your rhythm.

So that's it.  That's my secret. I'll never be a size 2,  but I'm perfectly okay with that.


The Big Picture

I've been trying to figure out about registering for a class for next semester, but it's gotten so much more complicated than that. What I've been attempting to do is take the pre-requisite classes to apply to MA Computer Science program at the local university. I don't really want another under-grad degree, I have two. The problem is my BA is in English, and I can't just apply to MA Science program. So fine, I'll just take the classes I need as a non-matriculated student. Except the classes I need are not being offered at very opportune times. And even if I could get my boss to agree to let me change my schedule to take a couple of hours off in the middle of the afternoon, it'd require me coming in early or staying late. And since my schedule has to be the flexible one for the kids, it'd probably be staying late and require having the nanny stay with the kids extra hours. I don't want that, and I think professionally, it'd cause alot of problems and headaches for me.

So now I'm thinking I need to find another way to take classes. I could look to take classes and transfer them over to the MA program I want, but that's often easier said than done. And the classes I'm required to take for the program I'm finding a bit frustrating, because they're not directly related to my job and there are many far more advantageous areas I could be spending my time and money learning. And now as I think about all this, and after having faced the very real possibility of the company I work for being dissolved a few months ago, I'm not sure a management or MA degree is going to help me in the long run. I'm thinking one of the few reasons I'd consider leaving my job would be if it were no more, in which case I'd probably look to keep as many clients as I could and go into business for myself.

What I probably need to do is look into getting a degree online, The U of Phoenix or something. A place where I can broaden my programming knowledge a bit, but on my own time. Without having to worry about the kids spending more time with the nanny, or how crazy it is for me to pay someone to watch them while I go to school, when I already have a good job. On the flip side, if anything were to happen to the company I work for, I need some additional training. And I won't be able to sleep easy at night if I don't have some contingency plan in place.

After spending time and money taking two Calculus classes, I'm realizing I may have been wasting my time and money. I realize I could very easily become one of those professional students. The truth is, I like to go to school. I have this burning need to keep learning, keep moving forward, constantly have some goal I'm working towards. But now I'm not sure what that goal is any more, and it's very unsettling. I wonder why I feel the need to constantly work so hard, learn more, when there are so many people searching for a way to work less. And not having that goal, it causes idleness in my mind, and thinking too much about what's going on in the world, about my family's financial future, about the recent tragedies in Myanmar and China, about the political future of our country, about the tenuous state of our environment - it's overwhelming and depressing. It's much easier to just spend the evening doing Calculus until my brain hurts and there's not one spare brain cell left to worry about the future or my place in the world.

I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off dropping the whole idea of additional education and taking the money and investing it. Or perhaps I should take a creative writing course and find some completely different outlet for my crazed and spinning mind. If I'm truly a creative and intelligent person, why haven't I found some invention, written some book, developed some business scheme to make enough money to retire. Or if I were truly socially, politically and environmentally vested, shouldn't we just quite our jobs, sell our house and move the whole family to some village in Africa where we help educate and feed those less fortunate than us?


The Horror, The Horror

We had  Dance Recital Picture Day yesterday, which is better known as Hell on Earth. Three costume changes for a dozen 4-7 year-olds, group photos, individual photos, head shots. There was inevitably the sick little girl, crying and miserable. Also the very pregnant mother, reaching around her huge belly to try to dress her daughter. My two boys were, of course, bouncing off the walls. The photography waiting room was small and way too hot. LT had to decide to pee right after we put his costume on and walked across the street to the photography studio.

I did not need to go through this experience to know that I hate being a stage mother. Two hours of costume changes and pictures is just too much for little kids. How some mothers are willing to make a full blown career of this parenting nightmare is beyond me. It took everything I had not to run screaming from the chaos, noise, heat and boredom. Had either of them started crying or complained they didn't want their picture taken, I probably would have high-tailed it out the door. I suppose I should be glad I have boys, and thus can avoid the tortures of braiding hair, pinning in head pieces, and applying make-up. The flip side of this is that boys are not satisfied with playing dress-up in their costumes. They think it's sort of fun and all, but it only holds their attention for approximately 2.2 seconds. Then they begin complaining they're hungry, bored, have to pee, want to go outside, and begin climbing you and swinging off any available limb as if you were a human jungle gym.

To top it all off, the boys' costumes for one of their numbers aren't ready yet, so they got to sit one picture out. Have I mentioned the one thing I hate more than anything is sitting around bored and wasting my time? I'd rather do Calculus. I'd rather watch football. In any waiting room I have a book, unless I have no way of avoiding bringing my children with me. Because stuck in a room waiting somewhere with my kids is something I avoid at all costs. And if I know there's no way of avoiding it, I plan carefully with snacks, toys and distractions. But having 45 minutes of wait time thrust on me with kids in all stages of dress running about, kids crying, and barely room to move, during dinner time no less, and there will be a question of my sanity staying intact.

All I can say is, those better be some damn cute pictures.


Television Favorite

There are not too many television shows that Blackstone and I will watch together. As with our perferences when it comes to books, movies and music, there are those areas where our tastes overlap, but there is a vast array of areas where our tastes divluge. He likes to watch the history channel and read books on wars and the Masons. He has the kids enjoying nature shows and Dirty Jobs. I like my television largely mindless and entertaining - Dancing with the Stars, Desperate Housewives. But there are some shows we both like. CSI, only Las Vegas, we both agree on that. Lost, which I still watch with him, though they're quickly losing my attention. I see this show going the way of Twin Peaks and who killed Laura Palmer. Which is to say, it's going nowhere and everywhere at once, and seems with every episode to move further and further away from any satisfying resolution.

The show that seems to be our favorite lately is probably not anything Blackstone would be too quick to share. It's one I used to watch by myself but has slowly and reluctantly won him over - Medium. And I should admit this is only currently our favorite because we're not watching Dexter. I've realized over the years that I like science fiction. And not only do I like science fiction, but I particularly enjoy science fiction shows with strong heroines, clever writing and LOTS of sarcasm. Now, I'm no trekkie or sci fi junkie. I rarely watch the Sci Fi network. I DO have a life. But among my past favorit shows are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dark Angel, and Roswell. The last two watched on DVD long after they went off the air. The point is, Medium is right up my alley. But what's really so great about this show is not the whole science fiction, sixth sense angle, but the relationship between husband and wife Allison and Joe. Two working parents trying to juggle work and family, often impeded by seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. I may not talk with dead people, but I can certainly relate to the long days, bickering children, budget problems and scheduling nightmares.

This to me, is one of the realest marriages on television, where most time spent together is first thing in the morning in the chaos of getting everyone fed and out the door, or late at night as you get into bed and have those last few minutes before you both fall asleep. They disagree and argue, comfort and support one another. And the scene this week where the girls are wondering what their parents could possibly be doing out in the garage, while the two of them are going at in the car like teenagers? Hysterical. Of course Blackstone would argue Joe's dreaming about blowing away his sexually harrassing boss topped that, but we can't agree on everything now, can we?


Day of Dread

It is a gray, raining and rather miserable morning when I wake up on the day I have been dreading all week. For months really. It is one of those cold, raw New England spring days that chills you right to the bone, not because it's actually that cold, but because it's such a shock to the system after a string of warm and sunny days. It is a fitting morning for the day of the final I've been dreading. The final I have been studying for for hours every night after work. I've spent so much time holding a pencil and solving problems that a blister has formed on my index finger.

I resist the urge to pull the covers over my head and delay the start of what will surely be a heinous day, not only because of the looming final, not only because of the shitty weather, but also because I have new application launching at a tradeshow next week and I'm sure to be hounded all day with emails, conference calls, new lists and files to import. And I already know I will spend the day ignoring the dozen or so emails coming in demanding my attention on another job. A complex website developed dynamically in flash that is now being converted into three different languages by a company in San Francisco. Apparently the localization engineer cannot locate all of the text he/she needs to translate despite my detailed instructions. Nor can he/she figure out how to right-align some of the text for Arabic. I will being ignoring all such emails and phone calls because I simply don't have the time and the other job is more pressing, and I WILL be leaving work early to study for a couple more hours, eat dinner and not head into my seven p.m. final completely fried.

Throughout the day, I calmly listen to the nurse from the elementary school as she explains to me how my son fell off the bench at lunch and hit his head, but he's okay and back in class. Gee, I wonder how that could have happened? Could it possibly have been a stunt to garner attention or laughter from his peers, sort of like the prat falls he used to take at the mall or really appropriate events that call for two-year-old stunt men. You know, like wakes. I also take deep breaths as my Outlook spurts out its final miserable breath and crashes for the last time, corrupting my 2 gig .pst file. So long Outlook and my beloved address book. Luckily, I have another copy at home. I knew the damn thing was on its last leg, it's been getting more erratic and doing funky things like not completely shutting down and accepting mail while the program is supposedly closed and trying to force me to re-install MS Office. I should have known today would be the day.

My boss offered to get me drunk as he watched me teeter on the obvious edge of sanity all day. Each phone call, email and request edging me just that much closer to the brink. But I bravely told him no, alcohol would not help me through this day. That I would be uber-productive, not freak out over the clients' 8 plus phone calls that day, and I would head to my final with a cool and prepared mind. I would do this if it killed me. Getting drunk was not an option.

And tomorrow would be a better day. It would. And this weekend would be a better weekend. Because my class would be over. Because my father-in-law had already cut off the tip of his thumb and my mother-in-law had hit a Fed-Ex truck on the way to meet him at the hospital.

And it was a better weekend. Except Friday night, when my sixteen-year-old niece had her appendix removed.

Everyone's doing well by the way. And I really hope I don't find another reason to buy flowers this week.