Lenten muffin reduction

Remember the good old days when a little round of depression* had the nice side effect of weight loss?

Not so much anymore. I’m sure the government, right about the time it yanked pseudoephedrine-laced cold medications off the shelves, decided to cut the weight loss advantage out of all-American depression. You want weight loss? It’s extra. Fill out the forms. We’ll be sure to reject your claim.

What can I say? It happened. Specifically, illness, a long winter, and about of the blues happened. Now, I have extreme muffin top.  I’ve written about this enough lately, with folks waving me off as crazy when I say I’ve packed on a few pounds, but I have. So, I’ll spare you all details except this one. I went to Target today to buy some new workout clothes, in the sizes I always buy (the first sign of denial), by the maker I always buy. Since I know overseas clothing manufacturers are not shrinking pattern sizes, I had to face the truth: my sickly, piggy ways have led me to this place.

So, here’s the plan. It’s Fat Tuesday.

I am not Catholic, but each year I take up the Lenten practice of giving up something. Generally I give up what I call the cookiescakespiesanddoughnuts. I don’t really eat any of those things in great quantity. It’s just the code for the crap I do eat: tortilla chips and other salty snacks, trail mixes, and  those chewy granola bars, which are really glorified candy bars with a few nuts, seeds, and dried fruit thrown in for good measure. I love anything salty. In addition to the carbs and calories, I’m sure the salt intake has every cell in my body retaining water. I think my retained water is holding water.

So, no cookiescakespiesanddoughnuts for six weeks. Maybe longer.

The first week is always hell. After that it gets easier. By the time Easter dawns, I’ll have lost my urge for chocolate and overly salty snacks. Go ahead, wave an easter basket stuffed with candy under my nose. I’ll not flinch.

Also, I’m returning to my working-out-every-day routine. Some time last fall, around respiratory infection No. 1, I started slipping. If I didn’t skip a session, I went through the motions like a zombie. My lungs burned and seized up when I pushed too hard. My head spun from the medications. I decided I needed to get more sleep and take care of myself. That turned into a long winter’s nap, two more respiratory infections, and more medicine.

Now, I’m starting with a two-minute maximum run time on the treadmill, which is dreadful considering I used to do 15- 30 minutes when I was in good shape. I still don’t have full lung power, but I’m toughing it out, using interval training as a method to ease in.

If the mirror and a dresser full of clothes that do not fit aren’t enough motivation, there’s always my search engine search phrases:

 

This blog is proudly sponsored by grandma boobs

 

* I know I sound flippant, but I’m really not. I’ve suffered from depression all my life. I don’t wish it upon anyone. But, I’m still ticked off that it no longer knocks me down a dress size or two when it’s over.

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Face(book)

By chidorian

It started out quite innocently.

He wrote: “You look like the spitting image of my ex-fiancee. Could you be one of her daughters?”

He was a stranger who contacted me through private message. We have a Facebook friend in common, he explained, and my face jumped out at him because it looked so familiar.

Daughter? Ex-fiancee? Am I talking to one of my mother’s old boyfriends? My curiosity was piqued.

“Who is your ex-fiancee?” I wrote back.

Within moments, he wrote back. Based on the ex-fiancee’s current hometown and back story, there’s no connection. The thing is, my father’s extended family tree has many long limbs. Once in a while I meet a stranger who turns out to be a second cousin twice removed. We trace our branches along the tree until we reach a familiar intersection. We nod, ask a few questions, then part ways.

I thought this was one of those times.

Several hours later, he wrote me again. He’d found some stuff of mine online. He commented on it, then added: “I can’t believe how much you look like her.” 

Suddenly, I’m reminded of an odd moment in the mid-’90s when a man old enough to be my father — who’d been flirting with me at the coffee shop next to the paper — turned out to be the guy my mom was dating. I started to get an itchy, oily feeling. This isn’t going to end, is it?

I clicked over to his profile, poked around, saw class pictures, graduation dates. I did the math. He and I are about the same age. There is no way I could be the adult daughter of a woman only a few years my senior.

I wrote: We are close in age.

He wrote: Your profile picture makes you look much younger.  Is it recent?

I wrote: Thank you very much, but it is a recent, non-Photoshopped picture.

He wrote: It doesn’t look like your other pictures.

Hold on a minute, Mister. My other pictures? What the hell? So, you’ve been Googling me. You’ve been comparing pictures. My, how very stalker-ish of you. I double-check my Facebook privacy settings. They’re as tight as a nun’s drawers.

As much as I’m tempted to say something, anything, I decide the best move is to ignore him.

Hours later, he wrote again: Sorry to bother you again. Have I jumped to a conclusion? Is this even your picture at all? Sorry, I just have to ask.

I’m speechless at this point. What will he say next? “I’m sorry, your picture is simply inaccurate. You have deceived me. I’m going to have to kill you.”

I do the online equivalent of hiding behind the curtains. I maintain my silence. So far, I’ve not heard back.

Still feeling a little itchy from the experience, the next day I open an e-mail request from a former co-worker who is trying to connect with me on LinkedIn.

She wrote: “I think I worked with your mom years ago at (Newspaper XYZ). Tell her I said ‘hi.'”

I wrote back as politely as possible, even tossing in a joke that maybe I need to update my profile picture, that we worked together, not she and my mother.

She wrote: You look way too young in your profile picture to have worked with me.

Again, speechless.

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Mask/unmask

I came upon this angelic form outside the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing in Los Angeles. Awash in patina, she stood regally on the deserted streetscape. The flowing locks, the wings, the open arms beckoned me to approach. As I got closer I noticed the angel was wearing a mask.

I thought about why this shocked me just a little.

I am a keeper of secrets. A wearer of masks.

This comes from a lifetime of practice.

Having an alcoholic parent, I learned to clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for public consumption.

It goes on from there. A bad first marriage made it  easy to slip back into the habit of  clean up/cover up/divert attention/lie/gloss over the facts/rewrite history for family consumption.

Having sprouted from a family tree whose limbs are heavy with the weight of secrets/lies/cover ups is another big part of it.

It gets to the point where I cannot buy a pair of shoes without wondering if I should say anything to anyone.

I’m trying to unmask a little more. But it’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t know how to defend my own truth. I put something out there and the consequences seem endless. It’s easier to keep it tucked away.

Sometimes, when in the right company, I can just be me. Later, always later, I cringe. I went too far, I think.

Then there are those times when candor  is nothing more than handing ammunition to the enemy. Years ago I revealed to a partner — one to whom I thought I could go maskless —  that I am an abuse survivor. He couldn’t handle this truth. Ultimately, it destroyed our relationship.

I want this to end. I’m aware that every mask I strap on my psyche further clouds who I really am. Not only to others who have nothing other to go on than what they see and hear and read, but also to myself. How can I live an authentic life and interact with others when I am not presenting to the world who I am?

This is one of the many goals I’ve set for myself. I want to unmask a little more and live with the consequences. If someone can’t deal with my truth, I need to let it go.

Tricky

“I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.”

~ Linus Van Pelt

Do you have a Great Pumpkin? Is there something in your life that means a great deal to you but that you keep under wraps? Have you let the secret out to someone and had an unfortunate outcome?

I have a few things about me that when I share them with others, result in silent, polite head nodding or a series of questions that imply: I think you are a bit crazy so I need to know if I should leave you alone with my kids.

What happens next? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes a shift in a relationship dynamic. Sometimes exploitation. Sometimes a new alliance.

To sit out in a pumpkin patch, alone, based on the idea that something you cannot prove or explain will happen at some point, is faith or it is foolishness, or it is both. That’s the thing about Great Pumpkins. You kind of know and feel somewhat foolish for believing, but you keep the faith all the same. It just feels better that way.

Still, I tend to keep my Great Pumpkins to myself. I’ve learned the hard way. Ever since I admitted a crush on the class dork in second grade and was mocked on the playground after school, I’ve learned to keep my deepest wishes, desires and practices to myself.

Great Pumpkin theories are shared on a need-to-know basis.

I’m not always happy with this arrangement.

Some of you out there are so open with your lives. Whether it’s a health issue, an impending divorce, a hurt from the past, an addiction or weird obsession, or just stupid daily stuff, you put it out there. This is the stuff of life to which I’m drawn. Raw. Real. Honest.

Blogs about perfect people and their perfectly sculpted and staged lives bore me on good days and gut me on bad days.

Blogs about real things keep me coming back for more. Just today I read three moving posts: a woman fighting for her life, overcoming one emotional trauma at a time; a woman revealing that she and her husband have separated; a woman breaking silence about the domestic violence in her home.

Not all is gloom and doom in the blogosphere. I also enjoy reading about those of you who are doing well but share your life in a way that endears me to you, makes me want to meet you some day over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.

Sometimes I think I know more about the bloggers I read, and they know more about me, than the people I know in real life.

And that is a pumpkin of a different color.

Aurora made me do it

Photo by Jaredmoo via Creative Commons

It’s after 1 a.m. and I’m semi-lost. I’m also very sleepy and considering blowing through every red light in this shady town so I can escape its tricky streets that keep landing me in the same intersection. At the last red light, a low-rider packed with trouble and pulsating loud music pulled alongside my family wagon, confirmed this as a questionable, if not outright irresponsible, parenting moment.  I willed us, a car of two women and one young child, invisible.

How did I get here? Driving in circles through the maze of one-way streets in this downtrodden burg? How is it I’m watching the contents of several nightclubs spew onto the streets while keeping a peripheral eye on the vagrants weaving along the  curbs instead of gazing at the heavens above for signs of magic? I glance in the rear-view mirror to see my four-year-old slumped in her car seat, her bowed lips slightly parted in deep sleep.  What are my children doing out on the streets when they should be home in their beds?

Aurora  borealis made me do it.

That’s right.

It started out so innocently. A radio report that afternoon promised a rare view of the northern lights in Michigan. Solar flares and all the other magical stuff that goes into aurora borealis meant I could show my children something special on an otherwise boring weeknight.

I hatched the plan quickly: We’d go around 11:30 p.m. and just head north out of the city. I’d drive until I could see more than two stars.  I had a quarter tank of gas, my water bottle, my digital camera, my cell phone and my keys. Left behind: my wallet and my common sense. I drove with my window down and every so often gazed upward to see if I could see anything glowy or shimmery. That was my whole plan. It was the plan of a 12-year-old child.

See, some of it is based on the last time I answered the call of the hypnotic northern lights. I lived in what once were the outer suburbs. It was easy to drive an hour to a purely unpolluted night sky. Ten years ago I moved close to the city center. I’m lucky if I see ursa major in the sky on a clear night.

I love the northern lights. I love them so much, I lose all common sense to view them. I’ve only seen them four times in my life, which is probably more than most folks who live below the 45th parallel can claim. My husband has never witnessed their otherworldly beauty. Neither have my children.

My first sighting was as a college student.  I stumbled out of the student newspaper office well after midnight, red-eyed and wired on caffeine. I don’t know what made me look upward, but when I did, I had to rub my eyes and slap my cheeks a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating on this brisk night. I knew northern lights were awe-inspiring, but I had no idea how much so until I stood in that empty  parking lot staring at the sky. Within minutes, other newspaper staff members joined me. We found a bench nearby and sat, shivering, watching what looked like giant celestial curtains puffing in the breeze.

Over the next decade I saw them three more times: in the outer suburbs of Detroit and twice while camping in northwest Michigan.  Each time the display was bigger, more colorful and dramatic than the last.

I react to the northern lights the way some people do to seeing the face of Jesus on a potato chip or when alphabet soup inadvertently spells your future spouse’s name. I am moved. Moved to stupidity.

I can’t help it. I realize that piling my children into the car in the wee hours of morning without a plan, with less than a quarter tank of gas, and ending up turned around in a dangerous town was not one of my shining parental moments.

Eventually I found the right road to get us home.

When we pulled into the garage and the automatic door rolled down, thereby restoring us to a sense of safety, a let out a heavy sigh. Relieved we’d made it home. Embarrassed that my promises of magic were duds. Annoyed that an hour’s worth of driving didn’t get me any farther away from the urban sprawl and light pollution. Disappointed as hell that I didn’t get to see those celestial curtains blowing in the breeze.

Mentally, I'm still on vacation…

… and part of it is due to my obsession with this strange cloud formation we encountered in central Missouri. In all my travels I have never seen this type of cloud. While it looks menacing and otherworldly, it isn’t always dangerous. It depends.

We came upon this mass at the end of a hot and sunny day exploring a portion of the Missouri Ozarks, a densly forested area of low mountains. As we worked our way northeast toward St. Louis the topography opened up to the plains and presented a stunning view of  this massive dome. As we drew closer and then slipped underneath it, we were both thrilled and agitated.

We are veteran road trippers through the nation’s broad and flat central states. We’ve witnessed a number of strong storms and violent weather. I recall my father outrunning a tornado in Kansas back in the mid-1970s. Although we only saw the rotating skies overhead and never witnessed the funnel or touchdown, we followed the course of the storm by way of a crackling AM radio broadcast. My only other memory of that afternoon was a stop at an ice cream stand where we had cones and my dad took a long pull on a bottle of bourbon.

Memories of that day as well as how clouds look in the Michigan skies when tornado sirens roar to life had my heart jumping and my fingers dancing on the car radio scan buttons. I switched to the Weather Band, fully expecting to hear the staccato squawks of the Emergency Broadcast System. Nothing. We were puzzled. How could something so daunting be so uneventful? We checked Weather Bug, a cell phone app, and saw a large storm cell on radar moving northeast of us but we never encountered anything more than moderate rainfall.  Later,  I did a little Internet sleuthing and learned it was a shelf cloud, which is attached to the leading edge of a large thunderstorm. Based on all the YouTube uploads, I’m not the only person to be fascinated and fooled by this weather phenomenon.

This is the first sighting of the cloud, which looks like a space craft.

Almost under the cloud. Camera in one hand, the other scanning radio stations for a weather report. No warnings. No big deal.

Another view as we moved under the cloud

Under the cloud. The wisps descending earthward resemble funnel clouds, but they are not a threat.

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Bossy in Detroit

When Bossy stuck a strategic push pin on Detroit (I felt that!) declaring it part of her six-week, nationwide (No)Book Tour, I just knew I had to be a part of the day somehow, some way.

I’ve adored Bossy’s blog ever since I first stumbled onto it three years ago. She had me at “sister mercy.” As she worked out the details of her (No)Book Tour with her publisher bank account,  I wrote her a poem and begged her to come to Detroit, where she could skate on a real ice rink and not a frozen puddle on the street.

When I realized that she’d be here on a Monday night, my heart sagged a bit. Of all nights, Mondays are the toughest in this household. Mondays are long and taxing affairs. They feature sweat pants, dark glasses and multiple trips through the Tim Horton’s drive-through lane.  There are no meet-ups, nights out, glam or, god forbid, cameras pointed at me on Mondays.

I made an exception this Monday. I’m a little sore from moving the planets, but I got them aligned just in time to meet Bossy and a group of Michigan and Ohio bloggers. We claimed a cozy corner in a wonderful micro-brewery inside a historic building in a Detroit suburb. We drank things like “Clementine Lemon Thyme Wheat Ale” and “Cherry Hard Cider” and ate copious amounts of hummus, fattoush and tzatziki on pita. At one point, we were asked by a group of subdued dudes behind us, “Who are you people?”

We are Bossy’s people, silly men.

Ms. Bossy and MomZombie at the (No)Book signing

Now, for a few questions:

Is Bossy as stunning in real life as on her blog?

Oh, my, yes.

Is Bossy as funny and nice in real life as depicted on her blog?

Even more so. Especially considering her hectic schedule for the last month. Would I look so fresh-faced, stylish and chipper? Would you?

Am I glad I gave up sleep and my Monday night workout for this?

Absolutely.

To Bossy and all the great women bloggers*  I met yesterday: It was a pleasure to eat, drink and be merry with you. Please be kind and Photoshop the parsley out of my teeth before you post pictures. I know it’s there!

Mommy’s Martini

Unmitigated

Just Juli

The Suniverse

@grandemocha — look her up on Twitter

It Is What It is

Table For Five

Mommy's Martini, Suniverse, Unmitigated and Bossy

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Denial Twist

jackwhite

"It Might Get Loud" movie still via img.com

I hope my husband is happy.

He thinks that I’d dump him for Jack White, that I’d run away to live in the hills of Tennessee with the former furniture upholsterer turned guitar god with the penchant for dressing like a dandy, channeling Delta Blues musicians and crafting guitars out of wood, a nail, a glass bottle and wire.*

Good thing Jack White only has eyes for tall, leggy, doe-eyed redheads or maybe I’d have a chance. *ahem*

Seriously. Several times, by happy accident, I’ve stood elbow-to-shoulder with the man and trust me, his attention was elsewhere. My husband has never let me forget those evenings. Not that I could. It was thrilling to be able to just share the same floor space with someone of such talent. Back then he was just a local guy drinking a beer and sucking on a cigarette at a popular dive bar. Honestly,  my favorite memory is second-row seats at a Raconteurs concert positioned directly in line with Jack White as he did that thing that he does. I don’t know Jack White, the person. He is a stranger to me. I do know Jack White, the musician and performer. I don’t want a date; I want concert tickets.

I don’t know what to do around “celebrities” of any sort. Even when I was a reporter, I’d skip those assignments in favor of interviewing an everyday Joe or Jane.  Years ago at a David Bowie concert, I stood in a concert T-shirt line next to familiar young man who turned out to be Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings. I didn’t realize it  until I’d left the concert venue. My friends were jealous, pumping me for details.  I didn’t have any to share since I just assumed it was a guy from high school.

Yzerman

Via About.com: Hockey

Before the White Stripes went on hiatus, it was kind of an inside joke that I was president of the local chapter of their fan club.

So it was with deep embarrassment that I learned last weekend, at a children’s birthday party for god’s sake, that he was named musician of the millennium or something like that. I went home and looked it up. Here’s what I found:

Their fourth album, Elephant, was named No. 7 on a list of most influential albums of the decade.

Jack White was declared the rock and roll musician of the decade.

I know. Lists, schmists. Everyone and their brother is going to compile these lists as we slip from the aughts to the teens. And what do I know of the caliber of the Guardian U.K.? Even the White Stripes’ and affiliated Web sites have failed to make note of these honors, so I’m not sure what to make of them myself.

While I’m thrilled that Jack is getting the attention, acclaim and respect I’ve felt he’s deserved all along, I’m rather embarrassed that I had to hear about this from a fair-weather fan over cake and ice cream. I hope my husband is happy; it’s obvious I have more pressing matters on my mind than the latest Jack White news.

Perhaps, if my spouse would stop this foolishness for a moment, he’d realize I’m thinking about him.

(Little does he know he’s getting a guitar for Christmas. That, and a pair of red and white pants.)

*I dated my share of out-there artsy types who did things like drive Hearses, dress like people from different eras, wear make-up, and get in character for their art. They always ended up embarrassing and frustrating me.

The night time is the right time


via noahg.

via noahg/search.creativecommons.org/

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

~Vincent Van Gogh

I agree with you, Mr. Van Gogh. I do love your richly colored masterpiece, “Starry Night.” I think I understand why you painted that picture. If one can ever understand a man who sliced off part of his ear.

I’m living in my own starry night. I’m a hardcore night owl. No matter what I do, I can’t change my feathers and fly with the early birds.

Against the grain, in opposition to mainstream life, I do things like arrive at the gym to exercise at 11 p.m.; begin the laundry at midnight; engage in all-night movie-watching marathons; pound the keyboards until dawn; plow through books; flip through photo albums; take on big projects — all long after everyone else in the house has surrendered their souls to sleep.

If I’m away from the city, I’ll want to spread out a blanket and gaze up at the sky to count falling stars and look for aurora borealis. I’ll want to walk at night — preferably along a shore or on familiar roads or paths in the Michigan woods. I’m not so crazy about doing this in the city unless I’m with others. I’m scared to death of packs of feral dogs.

Like the zombies and vampires, I come alive after sunset. Even if I’ve dragged myself through a day, at dusk I feel renewed energy pulse through my veins.  I love to keep the lights low and burn candles instead. I like the solitude and freedom that comes with a quiet house at night. It is only then that I can move about undisturbed. Neither the phone nor the doorbell sounds at night. Requests for service are nearly nonexistent.

I spent much of my career on night-shift duty. It would be easy to say that experience explains this behavior. But it doesn’t. I was born a night owl and as a young person challenged my bed times and curfews.

I do not dislike the morning, with its soft light, shimmering dew and birdsong. It’s the midday that gets me. There is an expanse between caffeine withdrawal and sunset that can only be described as something to endure. This I do not understand. Is it the weight of a day’s expectations bearing down?

Perhaps I should move to Spain, where I could have my sunrises, caffeine fixes and a few productive hours before retreating for a siesta grande. Then, when the sun slanted through the blinds, I’d rise and resume my activity into the wee hours. What a life that would be.

What about you? Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o’clock is a scoundrel.

~Samuel Johnson

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Beach therapy

cresentgrasstree

The beach hides behind these grassy dunes.

Summer performs its final act in these next few weeks.

I see the foreshadowing in the orange-tinted maples along the highway. I watch the plot development in my garden: plants are yielding less produce each week. Blooms are brown, spindly or spent. I witness the last chapter as it writes itself: Girl from the West gets up early for the first time in months to attend sophomore orientation. She talks excitedly  about the upcoming football season and the homecoming dance. Tomorrow, we take Girl from the East to her first-ever soccer practice.

Knowing that the show is about to end, I grabbed my summer to-do list last weekend and checked off the last item: day at the beach. Sure, there are beaches along our many inland lakes close to home, but they are not worth the entrance fee. To find a good beach, we Michiganders must head to one of the Great Lakes.

cresentshore

What the tip of Michigan's thumb looks like

Earlier this week we spent the day at Port Crescent State Park, one of my favorite beaches along Lake Huron. It’s a manageable drive from home and well worth the slow sojourn through corn and soy bean farm country. I’ve dreamed all summer of  this beach’s fine-grained sandy shores, soft lake bottom free of muck, sharp rocks or seaweed,  and its breathtaking views of Michigan’s “thumb.”

We kept it simple: a big blanket, a cooler packed with snacks and water bottles, and a plastic tote stuffed with beach toys. We splashed and swam and threw Frisbees and dodged lapping waves in search of the perfect skipping stones. We dug a hole to the center of the Earth, erected wobbly castles, ate a few sand pies, and battled seagulls for territorial rights.

digdeep

Imagine what our bath tub looked like that night.

No matter how tough times are, how many challenges we face, it’s good therapy to take at least one day a month and escape into a world that offers nothing but sensory pleasure.

Beach therapy. Tickets are still available at a shore near you.

crescentsand

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