Still Got A Lot Of Fight Left

Oh, my daughter. She drives me crazy. I’ve said it before, “How dare she behave like the woman I’ve raised her to be? Independent, strong willed, determined? AUGH!” But I could not be more proud of her, because she is EXACTLY the woman I raised her to be. Oddly enough, it’s not because of me, but in spite of me, which makes me even more proud.

Aubrey was never one to follow the beat of the different drummer. No, Aubrey beat her own drum. I spent her lifetime trying to fit my round peg into the world’s square hole, and she fought me every step of the way. So maybe I did do something right?

I expected her to follow a traditional path, one that I didn’t get a chance to follow. I sent her to one of the best women’s colleges. I supported every decision she’s made, even if I stood on the sidelines saying, “Are you really sure this is what you want to do?” I am her biggest cheerleader, especially if she’s losing, although she rarely loses. When she came home from college after just one semester, I lobbied for her to go to a local college. She refused.

Instead, she got a job as an aerial acrobat and hostess at a Brazilian steak house. She’s been there over three years now. Her manager just offered her a position as the event manager and now they are waiting for all the paperwork stuff to go through. She is the best at what she does, but I’ve never doubted that. No matter what Aubrey’s done, she was the best at doing it.

Now she’s also an entrepreneur; I taught her how to dye yarn because I had hopes of running a business with my friend. When that turned into a social disaster (NEVER go into business with a “friend”), Aubrey took over. She created a true business entity. While I dye as a hobby, a few skeins here and there, she runs everything behind the scenes and dyes at night after getting off work. She also cakes, skeins, markets, and mails…then she passes out and does it all over again the next day.

Recently, I was in Boston and saw a sweatshirt for Boston College, where I was accepted but didn’t attend. I thought about getting a shirt, but realized every single time I wore it, it would just make me angry and resentful. The entire time I walked around Boston and Cambridge, all I could think of was, “This was supposed to be me. This was supposed to be my life.” Then I reminded myself that if I’d gone to Boston, I wouldn’t have Matt and Aubrey, and I would not trade them for the world.

I’ve always worried that at some point, Aubrey would regret not going to college and would blame me for not being supportive enough. But being in Boston made me realize that no, she can’t blame me. I’ve always supported her no matter what she’s chosen. College is not her chosen life path, and finally, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with it because SHE is okay with it. And THAT is my job as a parent. Not to create the mold to shape her into what I want her to be, but to hold the mold she creates for herself.

Really, that’s all any child needs. They don’t need us to tell them what to do, they need us to support them in what they want to do. It’s funny that other people complain that their child is an artist but they want them to be a manager. My daughter is a manager and I complained she wasn’t using her artistic talent. But she found a way. Now she’s a manager and an artist.

I spent years crying behind the scenes, certain she was ruining her life by not doing what I told her to do. Now, I am full of pride that she fought me for what she wanted. So while all my friends’ kids are graduating and going on to entry level jobs with assloads of debt, Aubrey has assloads of money in the bank, her own business, and a successful first career. She has no intention of staying in food service forever, but she’s learning skills that will translate well to anything she wants to pursue. And yes, it’s a lot harder to succeed in today’s world without a college degree, but I’m not worried. She’s still got a lot of fight left.

Feel Me Up, Tie Me Down

Swimming for the amount of time that I do takes a lot of effort. I don’t mean the time in the water, I mean getting my ass up off the chair and into the pool. It’s worth it, of course, especially now. I have something I haven’t had in a really long time…muscles! I expected the arm and shoulder muscles, but it’s the other ones that have me obsessed.

My glutes, obliques, and upper and lower abdominals are starting to emerge. There is still a layer of fat over everything, and likely will be for a few more months, but underneath, there is a hardness that wasn’t there before. I was squishy and jiggly. Now I’m mostly jiggly and only moderately squishy. While lying in bed, I poked and prodded at my body, amazed at how quickly it is changing. I still have grandma wings under my arms, but they are noticeably less noticeable.

Last night, I was only slightly teasing when I told Ron he needed to start exercising or he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. While the soreness slows me down and I’m sleeping about 12 hours a day, when I’m awake I’m full of energy. The best part is that the crazy awful pain in my left shoulder blade has decreased to a mostly tolerable level and is staying even. That’s better results than steroid shots, without the yeast overload that they cause.

This morning I shopped for swimsuits and had to laugh at the ridiculously poor photoshop job from the Walmart web guys. I despise shopping at Walmart, but they are the only ones that carry Catalina, which is the best suit I’ve ever had. No binding, easy on and off, and it’s held up really well. I need a couple more so I can rotate through and have one to wear while I wash the rest. A good suit for athletic swimming doesn’t have cutesy ties, ruffles, or frilly skirts. I found two that weren’t hideous or just for show, and they were only $16 each. Paired with bike shorts (2 for $12!), I am good to go.

A woman stopped me in the locker room to ask where I bought my swimsuit with the long legs. She couldn’t tell that they were bike shorts underneath my suit. Most bike shorts are made of the same lycra spandex that suits are made from, so they are fine for the pool. They keep me from worrying about my bikini line, plus they also keep my thighs from chafing while I swim.

Swimming gives fast results, especially when one does it for an hour and a half, three or four times a week. You can either spend twenty or thirty minutes using a few muscles here and there, or 90 minutes using EVERY muscle. One swim is not just equivalent to three gym sessions, it exceeds it. In the gym, most people alternate upper and lower body. That means at three times a week, you will only work one part once a week. Results increase motivation, too. One is much more likely to continue when effort is worth it.

Then there’s the injury aspect. While swim injuries do occur (I pulled an oblique the other day while reaching for the wall), they are much more rare than gym injuries. With severe fibromyalgia, the gym is just pain waiting to happen. The pool is pure relief.

Almost any doctor will recommend exercise for people with fibro, which is always a laugh. It hurts too much to even get started! A pool is the solution. It is zero impact, so no weight stress on joints, bones, or muscles. The water is supportive, so it holds you up until you can hold yourself up, and it gives your body a chance to completely relax most muscles without any pressure on any tender points.

More than anything, though, swimming just puts me in a deliriously happy place. It’s meditative, breathing in and out and counting the lap in my head over and over so I don’t forget where I am. It’s relaxing, listening to my favorite music without interruption. It releases endorphins, increases seratonin production, and spurs brain cell generation. Yep, swimming can make you smarter!! Some doctors believe it is more effective than anti-depressants. Considering I can’t take any SSRIs because they make me vomit uncontrollably, swimming is a triple win for me: weight loss, stress reduction/anti-depressant/anxiolitic, and body sculpting. Yeah, that 90 minutes is totally worth it.

Saturday Night I’ll Be In The Spotlight

Today is my 46th birthday. Every birthday, I look back over the past year and think, “This has been the best year so far!” In a way, it is, because the new one has yet to reveal itself, but I am always amazed at how each year outdoes the last.

45 was fantastic in every way. Matt got better and started a new chapter in his life. Aubrey moved out and has yet to  move back now that Matt is gone. My relationship with Ron strengthened and we’re better than ever. I made fantastic friends, cleared away the clutter of bad relationships, became a better knitter. We got a new (ish) car. Everyone is as healthy as can be expected.

46 is going to be amazing, though. I’ve got a core group of truly wonderful women that I regularly spend time with, talk to, dine with. I’m in better shape than I was a year ago, and I’m getting physically stronger every time I swim. I’m a faster knitter, so I should be able to finish more projects this year. My friend Danna and I are starting our own line of hand-dyed and hand painted yarn.

This year, the house will finally get (at least a little more) organized, I will get rid of anything that doesn’t fit me in August, and I will do whatever it takes to avoid getting any more steroid injections. We will finally get a few projects done around here, like fixing the fence that is currently held up by a rope to our basketball hoop.

This year, we will get the last credit card paid off. We will take another vacation together this fall that will be better than last October’s because it won’t have the pall of my newly diagnosed heart condition hanging over it. We will buy a second car that’s not from craigslist. I will visit Matt in California at least once.

Yep, 46 is going to rock. And if you don’t believe me, just watch.

Existential Weight Loss

Yesterday, a friend posted a link to a blog post about “before” and “after.” The blogger’s weight loss was extreme and she was having problems adjusting to the “after” aspect of her journey. I’m in the before, and the during, but I highly suspect my after will be quite different than hers, because I’m also in my after.

before

My before photo, taken February 20, 2015 at a knitting retreat. Apparently I had a serious case of resting bitch face that day, because I was actually having a really great time. LOL! Photo credit: Sara Serine Orton

 

I’ve struggled with an eating disorder and with my weight since I was 14. I was skinny as a teenager, but I was on the flag team and we had a horrible coach who was an ex-cheerleader and baton twirler. Jayne was overly focused on our weight and would make us step on a scale every Friday morning. If we weighed more than what her little insurance chart said we should, we supposedly wouldn’t be allowed to perform. Of course, she let everyone dance anyway, but the fear was instilled in us all. I already had ridiculously low self-esteem, so it was easy to see my 125 lb self as humongous.

At 5’4.5″, my frame is not meant to weigh 125 lbs. I missed periods. I fainted regularly. And I starved myself daily. I developed bulimia, but not the throwing up kind. I wished I could throw up, but I thought it was gross and just couldn’t make myself do it. Instead, I learned to “calorie shift.” I would starve all day so I could binge on junk food at night. Starve and binge, binge and starve.

While I was pregnant with my son, I gave up on the starve bit and just binged. And binged. And binged. I weighed 183 lbs when he was born. I’ve never been below 163 since. Even during my two years with Overeaters Anonymous, I was a size 8 and to me, I still wasn’t thin enough. I wanted to fit back into my junior size 13 skirt that I wore in college (at 163 lbs), and dammit, I did eventually make it, but I still thought I was fat.

This time is different, though. Why? Because this time, I’m not in it for a number. I’m not in it for a size. I’m not trying to make an old boyfriend jealous, or get a new boyfriend.  There is no magical thought process of, “If I’m thin, I’ll be happy.”

I am happy. I absolutely LOVE my life. My husband loves me unconditionally. My friends could not care one whit what size I am. It’s been years since I let my mother’s not so subtle jibes about my weight bother me. I am not the number on the scale, I am not the size on the label of my shirt. I weigh what’s on the scale. I wear the size on my shirt. Those things do not define me, no more than having fibromyalgia defines me.

This time, weight loss is secondary. Maybe even tertiary. The reason I am swimming is the same reason I am gluten free. Swimming makes me feel better. I want to feel better. Therefore I swim. I count my laps because I’m OCD and I’m competitive, although this time, I am only competing with myself.

Along with swimming, I’m trying to eat better. Yeah, at the moment I’m still eating junk food, but I’m eating less junk food. I’m trying not to eat out. I’m piling my plate with veggies. I will not weigh my food, I will not count portions or points or calories. I WILL NOT let my food make me crazy. Crazier.

I am not exercising and eating better because I hate myself. I am exercising and eating better because I LOVE MYSELF. I want to weigh less because I want to be healthy, not because I want to be thin. Healthy is my goal, which I know includes weight loss, but that weight loss is just a side effect of exercising and eating better.

I am living in the after, but I’ve only just begun.

Short, Dark, and Chubby

When I was in Europe 15 years ago, no one could guess what country I was from. I was too dark to be English (plus I had no accent), not dark nor blonde enough to be Spanish (plus I had no accent), and I was really too chubby to be European of any nationality. I certainly couldn’t possibly be American because I was quiet, polite, inquisitive, respectful, and not arrogant. But American I was and American I am and 15 years later, I am still short, dark, and chubby.

My husband loves short and dark. He finds my brown eyes and black hair and olive complexion most attractive among a sea of blonde haired, blue eyed, pasty white skinned soccer moms, which I don’t understand but I’ll take it. However, the chubby is something we both struggle with. Don’t get me wrong! He still finds me attractive and I still feel sexy and we have a healthy sex life, but I would be so much more confident if I could look like I used to and he worries about my health, rightfully so. It doesn’t help that in the back of my mind, I keep hearing words he said back when I lost a ton of weight with Overeaters Anonymous. He loved my new, thin, body, and said it was such a relief after my being so chubby for so long. That was great until I gained the weight back. He never said anything mean or derogatory, but I knew he longed for the days when I was the perfect size to complement his size.

After coming back from my trip to New England in January/February, I weighed more than I’ve weighed in five years. It’s not my highest weight, but it’s getting there. I couldn’t even fit into my fat clothes. The only thing that fits are knit skirts with elastic waistbands and t-shirts. Fortunately, I have plenty of both, but I’m sick of wearing them. It was long past time to do something.

I love to swim. I can spend hours in the water, backstroking across the English Channel in my mind. I have waterproof music, so I can swim until my battery dies. I feel graceful and light and athletic when I am in the water. I decided I need a pool if I’m going to stick to any kind of exercise regimen. I looked at various pools around town and it was a nightmare! The JCC has a fabulous pool but it’s outdoors and in the summer, there will be 50 million kids splashing around, plus they have limited hours. UIW has my favorite pool, but the parking situation is ridiculous, plus their locker room is beyond disgusting. The public natatoriums are filthy, the locker rooms make me wretch (I once saw the same used tampon on a shelf for a month in spite of my complaining about it every other day), they have limited hours, and they are expensive. A few of the school districts have their own natatoriums, but again, limited hours and expensive.

No matter where I went, it was going to be expensive. I started looking at gyms, which around here is Gold’s Gym. I saw five that were decent, but the pools weren’t very clean and they were crowded. However, there is a gym about 30 minutes from my house that has a gorgeous, clean pool with clean lockers and is loaded with amenities, but it is pricey; about three times what a regular Gold’s membership costs. Ron very generously agreed that it was worth it if it meant I would swim regularly. So I joined last week and let me tell you, with that price tag hanging over my head, I’m swimming, dammit!

I’ve missed one day out of four, which isn’t bad. It takes me almost four hours from start to finish to swim one mile. A lot of that is travel time to the gym and back. Even without travel time, it’s three hours. I have to gather my stuff from where I put it all out to dry, change clothes, rinse off, swim (which takes about an hour and a half), then shower, change clothes, come home and hang everything out to dry again. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is.

On top of that, I sleep about twelve hours a day to compensate for the exercise. While yes, my body is less sore, the payoff is that I am more tired. When I’m awake, I’m more energetic than when I don’t swim, but I’m not awake for as long. What it comes down to is that 16 hours of my day is taken up by sleeping and swimming.

All of this puts my husband on the other side of the fence. Now he’s telling me to slow down, not to swim, not to go to the gym, to take it easy. This is what ALWAYS happens. He teases me that I need to exercise, but when I do, he insists that I’m overdoing it and need to rest.

This time, I am not listening to him. I’m not listening to anyone except myself. I will know when I’m overdoing it, but until that time, swimming is my focus. I will Nike this bitch one day at a time, one lap at a time. I don’t care what time of day I have to swim, I will “Just do it.” I can’t do anything about short, I can’t do anything about dark, but I can certainly change chubby.

The Great Clutter Clear Out Day 2

One of the worst things about fibromyalgia is the lack of consistency. I might feel great one day then feel like crap the next. In fact, that’s pretty much guaranteed. So while I managed to get a lot done yesterday, I got very little done today. However, what matters is that I at least did *something*. Even if I only manage to get rid of two things a day, that’s still 730 things in a year, right?

I thought for sure I would sleep like the dead last night, but I was oh so wrong. I slept for a little less than four hours. I managed to grab another couple of hours this morning, but I finally gave up and got moving at 9:30am. I tackled more coffee cups and the two drawers of spatulas and spoons. I assigned a shelf for the wine glasses and got them washed and put away. I loaded up the dishwasher, washed a few pans, then left for knitting. My 15 minutes was more than up, so I didn’t feel at all guilty.

I’ve been having major sensory overload issues since I’ve come back from Leigh’s. I love love love my knitting groups, but both Sunday and today left me with light and sound sensitive headaches. As part of “doing things differently,” I decided to be happy with what did get done instead of running myself into the ground and not being able to do anything at all tomorrow.

As Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

On A Clear Day

I spent the last couple of weeks up in New England with my BFF, Leigh. Leigh’s house is magazine-worthy gorgeous. She does everything herself (with all the labor supplied by her wonderfully willing husband, Bill), from kitchen and furniture design to decorating. She is an amazing little fireball of energy and creativity. I love being up there, because it’s a retreat from my cluttered house of chaos.

While I was gone, I realized that if I came home and everything was gone (besides my luxury yarn…people would die if anything happened to my luxury yarn!!!), I would have no idea what was missing. Matt had joked that he was going to throw everything away while I was off at Leigh’s. Next time, I might take him up on that.

A few days ago, I somehow got sucked into Pinterest; not sure how that happened, as I try to avoid it. It’s sort of like that scene in Interstellar where every hour they spend on the planet is seven years on earth because of the gravity well. Every minute on Pinterest is an hour lost in real life, or at least that’s how it seems. Anyway, I was browsing through my “Pins For You” page and found a link to Home Storage Solutions 101. It is a life altering page that I highly recommend.

As anyone with clutter can tell you, the hardest part is knowing where to start. Looking at a room of disaster is overwhelming. It causes me to immediately shut down, close the door, and retreat to my knitting chair. Yes, I have a knitting chair, don’t you?? However, HSS101 truly is a solution for people like me. She breaks everything down into daily and weekly challenges. Even better, Monday challenges are just reading assignments to prepare you for the challenges of that week, because who the hell wants to clean on a Monday? No one! Daily challenges are a max of 15 minutes (unless you have serious hoarder level issues), so even the busiest person has no excuse.

Obviously, you can do more than one challenge a day, should you so choose. Today is my first day, but I wanted to get the first week of February done anyway. Since today’s challenge is reading, I figured I would take on Feb 1-8. I bribed Matt with breakfast tacos and since he’s still not working, he helped me git ‘er done. Most of those challenges have to do with recipes, although Feb 1 was to clean off the tops of the kitchen cabinets. OMG, what a mess! I tossed a ton of foil pans that I’ve had for over a decade and never used. I found a valentine cookie pop pan, just in time. I put all my melamine Christmas dishes in a garage sale box, along with various vases, pitchers, and teapots I don’t like. I also decluttered and cleaned my kitchen hutch and the top of my fridge while I was at it. Go me!

The challenge for Feb 3 & 4 is to gather, sort, and organize recipes. Feb 5 is to declutter cookbooks. That one was easily done, as I owned exactly three small ones, of which I used exactly zero. All three went into the garage sale box. I use allrecipes.com for just about everything that I haven’t come up with on my own, and even though I tend to modify the recipes from the site, I do refer to it for the basics of various recipes. I keep promising my kids that I will write my recipes down so they can have them, so maybe that will be my personal challenge for February.

We got everything done in about 45 minutes. I put off dusting the cabinet tops until the counters are cleared, otherwise I’ll have a big muddy mess that will make for more work. I stuck a pin in it though, so I know to go back to that part of the task. This evening, I’ll sit down and type in the few paper recipes that I have floating around in my junk drawer. I think the only thing in there that we use is for flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

Although my kitchen is still quite the disaster, it’s only noon! I had to rest for a bit and I have an appointment with my rheumy this afternoon, but Matt will continue while I’m gone. Our goal is to get the kitchen completely emptied so we can do a deep cleaning. I desperately need a plumber to come replace the pipes under the sink and install a new garbage disposal, but I’m too embarrassed to have anyone come stick their head in that scary spot even if I am paying them. Fortunately, I have a great plumber, so I don’t have to research for that. I promised my husband that I would have all the kitchen repairs done by the end of next week. That and a clean kitchen is his valentine and anniversary present (12 years on Friday, the 13th!).

The weekly challenge is to create a home recycling center and devise a routine to deal with trash. The first part of that is easy, as our city has a recycling program. Everything recyclable goes into a brown bin and trash goes in a blue one. We have two large bins in our kitchen; a black one for trash, a white one for recycling. They get emptied into the city bins every other day or so.

Devising a routine to deal with trash is the hardest out of all the current challenges for me. I am terrible about throwing away mail. One friend suggested keeping a trash bin on the front porch so the mail never comes in the house. That may be the solution, but I am going to work on putting it directly in the recycling bin the instant I bring it in the house, rather than setting it on the table to go through it later. As for the rest of the house, I just need to remind Matt to empty ALL the trash cans every other day, not just the kitchen trash.

Some of you may remember that last year at this time, Ron and I were on the verge of divorce, yet here we are a year later, more happily married than ever. Once we started communicating, he said that one of his issues was how messy and cluttered the house was. Over the last year, I’ve decluttered a lot and we’ve all gotten a LOT better at day to day stuff. But it’s still not CLEAN clean. He’s much happier with the way it is now, but I know it could be a million times better. My goal this year is to get it to the best it can be. We’re about to have our house to ourselves (just a few more months and then Matt is moving to the Seattle area!), and I want it to be fabulous.

Will my house ever look like Leigh’s? I doubt it. For one thing, she has access to things I don’t, since she regularly gets an influx of furniture for free (Bill owns a moving company and gets free stuff all the time). For another, she has skills I don’t have. She is an artist in every sense of the word. I have an eye for color. My hands don’t cooperate with my eyes the way hers do. That being said, I do have one resource…Leigh herself! So while I may never make it onto the cover of Good Housekeeping, I have hopes that this hideous crap shack will eventually be transformed into a super cute cottage with a functional kitchen and a second bathroom. Wish me luck!