Category Archives: Memory Lane

Hear her roar – she’s forty-four

Age is a funny thing.  Kids can’t wait to tell you how old they are, and they’ll even cheat a bit by rounding up to the next number. Teenagers can’t wait to be older.  I think one of the greatest compliments I ever received as a 16 year old was being told, ‘really?  You look at least 19!’

But somewhere in the mid twenties, things start to change.  Suddenly we aren’t so keen on telling people how old we are anymore.

 When I was a small child I had a doll named Johnny.  He and I were inseparable.  I carried him with me everywhere and when he wasn’t with me I cried.  I loved him to the moon and back.  Last year while helping my mother unpack her belongings in a new apartment she’d recently moved into I opened up a box marked winter clothes.  There inside was Johnny.  “I found him up in the attic and thought you’d like to have him,” she said.  “You were given lots of pretty dolls when you were a little girl but they just sat on the shelf while you played with Johnny.”  I picked him up and looked at his worn, plastic face.  His stuffing, once tightly fitted in crisp yellow flannel pajamas was now lumpy and sparse.  His body was now worn and tired; two fingers appeared to have been slightly chewed – signs of a child trying to break herself from the habit of sucking her thumb.    

I thought about what my mother said about the other dolls in my room, all waiting to be played with while instead, I clung to Johnny.  Most of them had long flowing hair, perfectly smooth skin and frilly pressed dresses.  My baldheaded doll-baby may not have been the prettiest thing to carry around but I can assure you that he was the envy of all the other toys in my room – we went places, he and I: vacations, car rides, grocery store outings, restaurants, you name it.  He’d been dragged though the snow, sat in the dirt, left out in the rain and if I remember correctly, vomited on a couple of times but truthfully, as I held him that day at my Mom’s apartment he still looked pretty good for being over four decades old.

Today is my birthday and I have no reservations whatsoever about telling you how old I am (forty-four).   As I reflect on what this new age represents, I guess I’m kind of feeling like my childhood doll: some places are looking a bit worn (wrinkles around the eyes), the stuffing is now a bit sparse in some key locations (slightly droopy breasts) and a few chewed up areas (some pretty impressive scars).  Recently I was scouting for a quote to pair with one of my paintings and came across one that I really connected with; I put it in a little notebook that I keep handy so I will always remember it:

I don’t want another girl’s body.  I want my body – happy, healthy and strong.  

How true this statement is for me.  Sure, there’s still that tiny part of me that wishes I had beautiful, long hair or lean and perfectly toned arms but at the end of the day I’m just grateful for the things my body does for me.  It’s likely that all this wisdom has something to do with the aging process and feeling more comfortable in my own skin; it’s positively true that I’ve learned to appreciate my body through the practice of yoga. I’m just feeling pretty darned lucky to be here I guess; that’s a feeling I never intend on taking for granted.

 

 

 

 

Memory Lane: Comfort Zone Challenge

Please enjoy one of my more lighthearted posts while I’m away this week.  Original post date: June 20, 2011

Every once in a while I’ll refer back to my comfort zone challenges that I used to do last year.  This is one of those days.  For those of you who are newer to my blog, I’ll provide a short recap:

Late last year I spent some time working on stepping outside my comfort zone.  Each week I’d choose one thing that I found difficult to do; I’d do it, then post about the result.  One challenge had me going to a party where I barely knew anyone.  Another challenge led me to eating lunch at Panera all by myself.  And then there was the time when I decided to go out and speak to strangers at random.

If you recall, that particular challenge didn’t go so well.  I wasn’t very good at small-talk, felt out of place, and considered my experiment a flop.  HOWEVER, just because the post ended, it didn’t mean that I gave up.  I continued to work on talking to strangers and have a story to share about my progress since then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday morning I made a trip out to our local pet store.  On my way there I had an allergy attack which left me sneezing every 10 seconds until I arrived, where I pulled into a parking spot and promptly blew my nose.  I checked my appearance in the rearview mirror to make sure everything was in order and went inside.

I went to the stall, pulled out a cart and began wheeling down Isle One-Dog Supplies.  I saw a woman who was looking at dog brushes and stopped beside her.

“What kind of dog do you have?” I asked.  This question led to a nice conversation on various brushes and how a German Shepherd’s fur is different than that of a Golden Retriever.  I wished her good luck on finding the right brush and happily continued down the aisle where I successfully found my life-or-death items by remembering the conversation the dogs had with me before I left:

Brulee:  “Hey, brown-haired lady?  Could you please bring home another stuffed fish?  I seem to have put a hole in this one – again.”

Emmie:  “Yeah, and while you are there, do you think you could get one of those rawhides with the knots on the ends?  I’d look so cool carrying one of those around, don’t you think?”

I proceeded to the checkout where I chatted with the cashier about the weather and how pretty her nails looked.  But my main order of business was afterward, where I walked over to the manager where I wanted to ask about ordering a special dental powder for Emmie so I could stop paying Mafia-like shipping fees for it over the Internet.  I was warm, polite, and listened in great detail about her own dog for the better part of 5 minutes.  She took me back to another worker and together we chatted about the best way to order my product for the least amount of trouble.

After another 5 minutes or so, I thanked all the workers for their help and followed the manager outside where she was heading for her 10 minute break.  We continued to talk for another few minutes, I thanked her again, and happily rolled my cart out to the car, all the while thinking to myself, ‘Ellen, look how far you’ve come.  You weren’t apprehensive at all.  You were GREAT!’

I slid into the car, started the engine and looked into the rearview mirror before backing up the car.  My face went pale.

Did I mention that I sneezed one more time before entering the pet store?

I put the car back into park, all the while, never taking my eyes off of the
big,
giant,
booger that was hanging out from my right nostril.  I know, I know…the word booger is off-putting; it’s gross, but it is the ONLY word that comes close to describing just how disgusting this, this……THING was; and it wasn’t just there, hanging half-way out of my nose – oh, no; it was suspended in midair, delicately hovering in the center by my nose hairs.  Oh, the humanity!

By now, you are probably wondering the same thing I was at that very moment (after the initial feeling of sheer horror):  why oh why, didn’t someone say something??!!  Well, forget that for a moment; it’s not relevant, really. Here’s what is so important about this story:

After grabbing a tissue and thoroughly blowing my nose, I did freak out for about a minute.  Then I started the car, put it into gear and instead of carrying around complete humiliation for the rest of the day – which is what I would have done just a few short months ago – I felt…well, pretty darned GOOD.  Instead of reliving the experience over and over?  I spent the rest of my day focused on how unbelievably comfortable I felt while talking to people I didn’t even know.  Back during my comfort zone challenges last year, I would have had to force myself to do it; and I would have felt extremely self-conscious about it.  I felt none of that on Friday.  Instead, I felt free from my fear. Who would have thought I’d finally ‘graduate’ from a challenge on the same day I happen to parade around a store in complete ignorance with dried snot hanging from my nose?

It’s OK to cringe, laugh, shudder, be glad you weren’t me, and be happy for me all at the same time.  That seems to be how my husband feels as well.  I can’t tell you how hard we laughed over this story when I told him what happened (yeah, me laughing about it showed just as much progress, I think).

The obvious lesson in this embarrassing story?  The next time you choose to challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone, please PLEASE – for the love of Mike, check your nose first!  You don’t want to end up like ME!!

No, I’m just kidding – that’s not it. Seriously, just remember:  our unwillingness to do things, is in part, due to how we feel we’ll be perceived by other people. We don’t want to look foolish and we don’t want to fail.  Really though, it’s about how we perceive ourselves.  Not how others perceive us.  At least, that’s my lesson in all of this.

That, and having a pocket mirror handy.  Just in case.

Good Naked vs. Bad Naked

Due to the heavy subject matter over the last couple of weeks, I thought some lighter fare was in order. I hope you enjoy the few Memory Lane posts that I picked out for you while I’m away for a few days.  Original post date: 6/24/11

 

 

Yesterday I went to see my dermatologist whom between you and me, I have a secret crush on since he routinely saves me from dying of skin cancer.  As a result from my days of sun worship I routinely have suspicious freckles/moles removed that contain pre-cancerous cells.  This time however, I received the all-clear and needed no surgery.  Whew!

While waiting for my appointment I browsed through several brochures describing various forms of cosmetic improvement.  In addition to the well-known Botox, there were several others I’d never heard of:  Fractional Resurfacing (a laser is used to treat fine lines, scars, stretch marks), Photo rejuvenation (treats brown sun spots and fine, red blood vessels), V-Beam Laser (a pulsed dye-laser that treats stretch marks, age spots, rosacea) and Cool Glide Laser (treats spider veins).  The one that caught my eye however, was Thermage.  The brochure reads:

A safe, deep heating procedure used to tighten lax skin anywhere on the body.  Thermage stimulates collagen for smoother, tighter, and younger looking skin.  Only 1 treatment is needed with final results in 6 to 9 months.

Hello, Thermage!

I stared at the before & after photos on the back of the brochure.  After picking up my jaw from the floor, I discreetly folded it in half and slipped it into my purse.  Was I rethinking my growing old gracefully attitude?

When my husband came home from work I pulled out the brochure and showed it to him.

“Hmm,”  he said, giving it a once-over before handing it back to me.

“Can you believe it? Getting results like that without going under the knife?”  I asked.  He said nothing for a few seconds before widening his eyes.  “You’re not considering this, are you?”

“No, not really.” I said.  I wasn’t, for two reasons.  One, the cost would be comparable to an all-inclusive vacation in the Caribbean for a solid week.  Two, the results – even though very effective, only last 2 to 3 years.  This would be the equivalent to getting a really dazzling, super-awesome present – on loan.  Who wants to rent a tight tummy?

Still….

 

I have to admit in all honesty, the idea called out to me.  The logical mini-me sat on one shoulder whispering, ‘Ellen, you’re not that vain.  You look perfectly fine and know how to dress so that your stomach is not an issue.  Besides, would you really consider going all ‘Britney Spears’ with your wardrobe?  I think not.’

But the other, more flabby mini-me was whispering, ‘Think of all that hard work you do; all of those exercises.  Don’t you deserve to be able to see your efforts instead of letting them sit there unappreciated under all that loose skin?’  Flabby Mini-Me made a good point.

Have you ever had one of those days when you want to complain to your better half, just for the sake of complaining?  I turned to my husband and said, ‘It’s the gravity, honey – the GRAVITY.  It’s against me.’ and I lifted my shirt as I bent over at the waist, where I will leave what was witnessed to your imagination.  Let me just say that a bit of tugging and flapping side-to-side was involved.  My husband just laughed.

“Ellen, you’re not the only one who can manipulate her body so that it looks less than attractive, you know.”and he proceeded to make an I’m uncomfortably constipated look with his face.  My very sweet, wonderful, goofy, doesn’t-quite-understand-but-tries husband.  And yes, technically, he was right; I was kind of forcing my stomach into looking like a hundred-year-old spinster.

In our home, when we have a favorite TV show, we sometimes like to incorporate funny moments or storylines that we’ve seen into our everyday lives.  My husband said, “Remember that episode on Seinfeld when Jerry’s hot girlfriend walked around naked and he thought it was a total turn-on, until she tried to open that jar of pickles?  Everyone has good naked and bad naked, I don’t care who they are.  OK.  Score one for the husband.

So, that was my short-lived dream of having a tummy you could bounce a quarter off of.  Would I get Thermage if I had oh, 200,000 pennies lying around?  You bet I would.  But for now while I’m saving up, I’m going to stick with breast-hugging, waist-slimming clothes, and good lighting.

Oh, and also – it probably would help if I stopped pointing out my flaws to other people.  Jeesh!

When I was little…

I so enjoyed Karen’s version that I had to follow with my own trip down memory lane.  If you feel like playing along, I’d love to read some of your answers to any or all of the questions below.

 

Haircut courtesy of the local beauty college.

 

I wanted to grow up to: run my own rescue sanctuary for mistreated Circus animals.

I refused to eat: school cafeteria mashed potatoes.  You could lift the whole thing off your plate with one stab of a fork.  We weren’t allowed to go out for recess until we cleaned our plate, so I‘d fling my ball of potatoes under the cafeteria table. 

My favorite thing to do outside was: get an empty egg carton from my Mom, sit in the alley behind our house and search for pet rocks.  I’d line the compartments with toilet paper and place a rock in each one until all 12 sections were filled.  When it was nap time, I’d close the lid.  To this day whenever my husband and I go on vacation, I have to bring home a rock to place in my garden. 

I thought that Santa was: Scary!  I liked the idea of Santa, but was too shy and afraid to visit him at Christmastime.  I much preferred the thought of him tiptoeing  in and out of the house unnoticed.  There is only one photo of me sitting on his lap:

 

 

I must have wanted something pretty badly that year to talk to the Man himself!  

I was the: Shyest kid there ever was.  Whenever we were at an adults house and I saw a candy dish, I’d walk over to my Mom and whisper in her ear to ask if I could have a piece of candy.   I think I must have unintentionally created the phrase, ‘Children should be seen and not heard.’ 

I got into trouble when: I rarely got into trouble.  I was always a rule follower, so my parents never had too much trouble out of me.  However, if I ever said a swear word in front of my mother, I’d get into trouble.  Even today she still scolds me if I let one slip!

My favorite food was:  (typing quickly) Donuts.  What are you, new?  lol   My father would occasionally take me to the local donut shop and we’d sit at the counter eating donuts.  I’d have milk and he’d have coffee.  We’d sit in silence because we really didn’t know each other very well (Dad worked a lot of hours) but it was just us and that was special to me.

My favorite toy was: my growing Snoopy collection.  My Dad gave me my first stuffed Snoopy when I was 5, and from then on I started collecting anything and everything Snoopy. 

My favorite memory as a child:  When my mother wrote Charles Schulz (creator of Peanuts) and told him what a big fan I was.  He wrote back with a letter and a signed Peanuts book.  My Mom came outside where I was sitting and told me that I had a package from someone special.  When I opened it, I started to cry.  That was the best moment ever. 

I hated it when my Mom:  combed knots from my long hair.  To this day I cringe when my hairdresser washes or combs out my hair. 

My very first record was: a single by the Police, called ‘Spirits in the Material World’.  I played that song over and over again – then again, that was probably because it was the only record I had. 

On family vacations we used to go to:  My grandparents house in Kentucky.  I would help feed the baby goats and watch my grandpa gather honey from his bee hives.  There were always chickens roaming around the yard.  I named them and pretended they were my pets.  I noticed one went missing right before supper.  On the table was fried chicken.  I vowed at that very moment I’d be a vegetarian for the rest of my life.  I refrained from eating any meat whatsoever for about 15 hours.  The smell of homemade sausage gravy and biscuits woke me the next morning. 

My Sign-of-the-Times favorite outfit was: A blue and white striped t-shirt with yellow floral pants.  Creating new trends, 70’s style:

 

Your turn!

Extended post on mental illness within a family

I’ve been sitting here lately reflecting on some upcoming posts for the Hate-Loss Challenge that I’m beginning in January.  Specifically the question, ‘What makes me the way I am and why do I still struggle with self-esteem issues, shyness and negative thoughts in my life?’ Something I wrote in a previous post kept coming back to me over and over again:

Chances are if you have an issue or problem that you can’t figure out, look to your childhood and you’ll generally find all the answers you need.

I began to identify some of the baggage that I carry around as an adult as unresolved issues I had when I was younger.  Many people use the phrase, ‘It’s best to just forget the past and move on.’  I believe this is true if you’ve come to terms with it and have accepted it for what it is.  After all, you can’t change it, right?  But what if parts of the past have been ignored or shoved deep back into the corners of your mind where you can’t get to them?  Are they really gone?  No.  And I can’t leave something behind when it’s still taking up unwanted space.  It’s time for me to begin cleaning house.

 

During my Reinventing the Holidays post I shared a bit of information on a family member who is mentally handicapped.  I was touched by the comments and email I received from people who either know of or are part of families similar to mine.  Those of us who celebrate holidays with challenging people tend to become more anxious this time of year.  Additional stress on top of the already fast-paced season can wreck havoc on our physical health as well as our emotional health, both of which need to be protected more than ever if we’re also trying to keep healthy food habits in check.    This is a very delicate subject, and one that is not discussed very much, but with the holidays in full-swing and tempting food at every table, I think it’s a topic that is very appropriate for a weight-loss/healthy living/maintenance blog.  If you happen to be dreading the holidays and a loved one is part of the reason why, then this post is for you.

When my brother was diagnosed with various mental disabilities, there was very little community support.  He was born in the fifties, and at that time doctors were quick to coax parents into sending their handicapped children off to mental hospitals and told to forget they exist.  There has been so much progress since that time, it staggers the mind.  Not only have many state hospitals closed their doors allowing intellectually disabled people the choice of living in group homes or with their families and personal caregivers, but many carry jobs and live very fulfilling lives.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. 

Growing up in a household with a handicapped sibling is extremely challenging for any family, no matter how dedicated the parents may be to the family as a whole. Not only have I experienced this firsthand, but I’ve spent years working with families who have chosen to keep their children at home instead of utilizing other services such as group homes.  Trust me when I say, I’ve seen things that makes my story look like a fairytale.

My siblings and I grew up in two very different homes.  The one in which my sister and brothers grew up was one where my oldest brother had periods of extreme rage.  When he reached puberty, he became uncontrollable, both verbally and physically.  He would frequently walk the streets at night, spitting on neighbors’ front doors while cursing at the top of his lungs.  He was unable to listen to direction or do things that were asked of him. 

I was two years old at the time of the incident.  My sister vividly remembers the family sitting at the dining room table; I was in my high chair.  As my father made a comment about slowing down as he ate, my oldest brother grew very angry and threw a fork across the room which almost struck me in the eye.  My sister who was 12 at the time,  asked my mother, “How much longer do we have to live like this before he really hurts one of us?”  It was shorty thereafter that my brother was transferred to a state institution. 

Before I was ten, my other siblings were adults living on their own.  My oldest brother came home to visit many times during the year including holidays.  His behavior varied from visit to visit.  Sometimes he would be overly-medicated and often sleepy and lethargic, then suddenly get a rush of excitement and go into the kitchen and eat uncontrollably until he’d vomit onto the floor.  I’d watch as my mother cleaned the mess, begging him to stop as my brother began eating all over again.  Other times he would arrive so agitated and hyper that if I happened to ask him a question or simply be standing in his path, he would hit and/or push me to the ground.  I became afraid of him from an early age, and to this day still find myself on guard within his presence. 

Birthdays have always been a very tender subject for me.  My brother’s birthday happens to be two days before mine so to save time and money, my parents celebrated our birthdays together every year.  Because of his violent mood swings and attention seeking behavior, I usually spent my birthdays hiding away, leaving my parents tending to my brother.  Within the last 5 years I’ve tried having a discussion with my mother about feeling neglected on my birthday.  The conversation did not go well. 

Stories like these may shock those of you who have never dealt with mental illness, but I’m guessing that there are more of you reading who are nodding your head thinking, ‘Yep.  I can relate to that.’  Personally, I think this type of thing isn’t discussed because we feel ashamed if we express how difficult it can be.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, ‘You have it easy compared to him.  You have nothing to complain about and should be grateful.’   But how could I learn to be grateful when everyone around me, including my brother was absolutely miserable?    It’s true, I am not a mother of a handicapped child. I don’t know what it’s like to see that child sent away as you are left to deal with the guilt you feel about not being strong enough to parent him. I am also familiar of the stigma attached to needing but refusing to seek therapy back then in order to deal with feelings of inadequacy and frustration. It just wasn’t done. And so, life carried on as it always had. Back then there was no outside intervention, no therapists to talk to, no one to intervene and take some of the pressure off of my parents.  They did the best they could under the circumstances.  

I’m going to share something else with you.  When I first mentioned my brother, that was the first time I’ve ever discussed it in length with anyone who wasn’t extremely close to either me or the situation.  In other words, I’ve always kept it within the family.  I’ve since come to realize that this is a subject that begs to be discussed more often.  If I hadn’t first addressed it with my therapist and then with all of you, I don’t know how many more holidays would have passed before realizing that I deserve Happy Thanksgivings and Merry Christmases and wonderful birthdays as much as he does, they do, or you do.   I may be my mother’s daughter but I am not a child anymore.  Being an adult can be freeing but it can also bring on some serious backlashing.  Unpopular decisions aren’t easy and someone always gets hurt.  I am preparing myself for some people to become upset and overwhelmed.  When we quiet conformists do things that are unexpected, especially if our job as Peacekeepers is being compromised we have to anticipate some resistance. 

I’m not saying that we should all ditch difficult people and forget they exist.  What I am saying is that it’s easy to feel as though we have no control when it comes to tender situations.  In lowering my inch thick wall of guilt, I’ve found that I’m mourning many lost birthdays and holidays.  I can’t undo the past but I can agree to give myself the gift of control over Christmas this year, which I am doing.  My husband and I have decided to forego presents for each other, instead giving ourselves new traditions.  I will be seeing my brother on Christmas Day, but with the understanding that when things become too stressful, we will excuse ourselves and spend the rest of the day at home with our dogs and enjoying each other’s company. 

I’m leaving this post wide open for discussion.  Here, you can share your stories, tips on dealing with stressful people over the holidays, or post questions of your own.  I’m sure someone will have words of wisdom (I get a lot of those around here).   ;) I have one lucky blog. 

Thanks for reading today, everyone. 

 

XO,

~Ellen

Foodie Memories: Father-Style

My father was a very interesting man, and he had a very interesting way of looking at food.  He didn’t horde it, but if there was an opportunity to get food in bulk form, he wouldn’t think twice about stockpiling it in our basement, giving little thought as to what it was or whether he would eat it. 

A running joke in our family comes from a time when my dad worked for a tow-truck company.  He was dispatched on a call that a semi-truck had overturned on the highway; the goods that the truck was hauling was spread out like a deck of cards all over the road. 

When he came home later that night after his shift, he wasn’t alone.  With him was a full box of jars filled with mint jelly.  When my Mom asked why on earth he’d bring so many home, he told her of his good fortune: out of all the boxes that lay on the road, this was the only one that wasn’t shattered. 

The night my father brought those jars home, I was two years old.  When we moved to a bigger house, the box of jelly found it’s home in a cabinet down in the new basement and it wasn’t alone.  It had boxes of tomato soup and packs upon packs of Velamints  and discontinued gum to share space with.  When I was a teenager – you guessed it, the jelly was still sitting there, part of the family.  ‘There’s nothing wrong with that jelly,’ he’d say.  ‘You can tell if things go bad by their top.  If the lid is bulging, THEN it’s no good.’ 

Obviously, the mint jelly story is one that still makes me, my brothers and my sister smile when one of us brings it up.  Dad passed away in 1998, and I think it took us a couple more years before we finally parted with those jars, and as far as I know not more than one or two had ever been eaten.  Heck, I didn’t even know who in their right mind would want such a thing; it tasted terrible on peanut butter!  But then I was informed that mint jelly is usually served with lamb.  This made the jelly story even more funny because my father had an aversion to lamb and couldn’t be in the same room with the stuff.  But the price was right, and that jelly wasn’t going anywhere. 

When it came to food, my Dad could never pass on a good deal.  Sometimes he’d come home with canned goods, except the labels would be missing.  We never knew what we were going to get; sometimes it would be a can of peas, sometimes stew.  Sometimes, a mystery meat that no one would eat – not even Dad. 

My aunt – my dad’s sister, passed away earlier this week and since then, while thinking about her I’ve also been thinking a lot about him.  It’s odd that most of the memories I have of him are also related to food; odder still, that these are some of my fondest memories. 

I’ve read in several weight loss books about the importance of realizing that food shouldn’t be associated with happiness because it gives power to something that is simply supposed to provide us with sustenance.  What do you think about that statement?  I guess I understand the concept, but in this mind, I’m stuck with the memories I have and I wouldn’t trade them for anything – even if they’re kind of corny or oddball.  I own them; they’re mine. 

Our contractor and construction workers started back up again this week at our home, this time to finish up on our first floor half-bath (the unplanned job because of the discovery of the leak and subsequent rotted floor).  Next weekend my husband and I are going out to celebrate the end of Operation Bathroom Surprises and the fact that our home will once again be ours.  How?  By going out to dinner, and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time.  I suppose we could choose to celebrate with a nice hike in the woods, or by going for a nice drive somewhere.  But, in all honesty, I’d rather go out for Mediterranean and linger over kabobs while sharing with my husband about my dad’s quirky foodie obsessions.  We’ll laugh and I’ll end the conversation by saying what I always say when I bring up my father to him:  “I wish you two could have met, because he would have loved you.”

Have a good weekend, everyone.  Keep old memories alive, and make new ones.  Try and include some mystery meat in there somewhere.  That’s always fun.  lol

XO,

Ellen

Memory Lane: The Obesity Lies

You’re about to read a Memory Lane Post: one of my favorites over the past year.  Little did I know when I wrote this post, originally published on February 1st of this year, that it would create as much buzz as it did by gaining the most combined comment/email responses of any other post I’ve ever written.  Most were extremely supportive – I’d say roughly 85 percent; however it did stir up some anger and other raw emotion in several readers, especially when featured on another, widely-read website.  Because of the amount of thought, discussion and opinion generated – as well as my own introspection on the topic, this remains one of my favorite posts.

While at the library the other day, I was browsing through the self-help books.  I flipped through a worn-out, oversized paperback and came across a chapter about abusive relationships.  I was going to continue flipping past that chapter because I thought it didn’t pertain to me, but the first paragraph grabbed my attention and really stuck with me long after I put the book back onto the shelf.  It was about abusive relationships.  The chapter wasn’t about the physical abuser, but the emotional abuser.

I am paraphrasing here as I did not check out the book, but it went something like this:

People have a tendency to remain in abusive relationships because there is something they get in return; something that is satisfying them just enough to make them stay in their current situation.  Think about reasons why you may be keeping yourself in an abusive situation and journal about it. 

I thought about that statement for a long time as it pertained to my obesity.  I started wondering why I let myself stay in that unhealthy body for so long. Could it be true that I was an emotional abuser?  What on earth could I have possibly gained from remaining heavy?

One night I began writing.  I posed the exercise as a question that I could identify with and I thought I’d share what I wrote:

What did I gain from remaining in a morbidly obese body for so long?

It was convenient. If I was at a buffet and wanted dessert for dinner and fried meat for dessert, that’s what I ate.  I had no interest in, nor did I issue any self control.

I required little maintenance.  When I was obese, I wore comfortable clothing all of the time.  Elastic ruled my wardrobe.  Shopping was easy, too.  All I had to do was look in the Hanes section of Wal-Mart and pick out things in XL.  I didn’t even have to try anything on.  And tops? I didn’t have to try them on, either; the bigger the better (I bought into the illusion that the larger my shirts were, the thinner I looked.)

I convinced myself that I was saving money.  Not having to worry about keeping any kind of style allowed me to have the same attitude about my hair.  I rarely had my hair cut.  I’d just wash and pull it back into a ponytail every day; problem solved.  I never got a massage.  I never got a manicure or a pedicure.  Basically, I never allowed myself the luxury of being pampered and I told myself and others that it was because I needed to save money. Truly, the reason was because I never felt I was worth it.  

I excused myself from stressful situations (even if it was unhealthy to do so).  I never had anxiety about going to the doctor because I refused to go.  I didn’t like being reminded that I needed to lose weight so I’d put off my appointments and only go if I were quite ill.

I felt protected.  This was an illusion, but at the time I felt like the bigger I was, the less I could be hurt by people.  The truth of the matter was that by keeping myself heavy, I had an excuse to keep people away.  No one would get the chance to hurt me, but no one would get the chance to know me, either. 

I had less guilt.  If I ate crap for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, well – that was just normal so I didn’t really stress about it.  I didn’t experience any guilt if I didn’t exercise; of course this was because I didn’t exercise. 

As sad as it was, there were times I thought well, this is the way I am, so I just need to live with it. I held on to the belief that I was fat because that’s just the way it was.  It was scarier to change than it was to stay the same and so, I schlepped  through life and made up these little lies along the way to make me feel better about why it was easier (dare I say, better?) to stay in a morbidly obese body.

So maybe there was abuse going on in my life.  I’d been abusing and degrading myself for years, using excuses and negative thoughts -  in part through the simple act of denial.  Because I didn’t want to participate in life I told myself those things so I could stay heavy – which would then prevent me from participating in life (and round and round she goes.)  Eventually, it became exhausting to carry on like that; some people manage to do it all their lives.

When the misery began to outweigh the appeal, I knew it was time to change.

Have any of you ever used an excuse to remain stagnant about a situation in your life?  Maybe like me, change seemed too hard, scary, or just a little too out of reach? 

 

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This is the final in my series of Memory Lane posts, marking my blog’s anniversary on September 20th.  This is also the last prize I have in my goodie-stash for you:

If you’d like to win this great water bottle, just leave a comment and you’re automatically entered (unless you instruct me not to include you in the drawing.)  You’ll have until September 20th at 9 PM, EST to enter.  The winner will be picked by Random.org and announced during Wednesday’s blog post.  I welcome and look forward to comments from everyone, but per contest rules, please remember that only US readers can be included in this drawing.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

XO,

Ellen

Memory Lane: Lessons from a Golden

This post was originally written on October 4th, 2010 and as you can see from the photo below, Mandy was still pretty spry for an old gal.  However, her health took a quick turn for the worse shortly after this post was written and sadly, she died less than two weeks later.  Even though Mandy is no longer with us, I decided to keep the writing about her in the present tense because really, she’ll always be with us. 

So, for very sentimental reasons, along with a lesson we all can learn from, this is one of my favorite posts.  I hope you enjoy it. 

 

 

My husband and I have found the joys of senior dog ownership. When we acquired Mandy she had been at a rescue facility for several months. I don’t think she’d ever been on a leash in her life and she had been so neglected it took months to medically prepare her for adoption. Arthritis, blown-out knees, surgery, mammary tumor, ear infections, hip mobility issues; you name it, she had it. Adopting a senior dog – especially one that was already nine years old – was a gamble for us. We walked into the foster Mom’s home and Mandy trotted right over and plopped down in my husband’s lap, looking up at him with those old-soul eyes and it was all over; she was coming with us.

Two-and-a-half-years have passed since Mandy joined our family. Almost every evening we take our dogs to the local county park for their walk. They have walked these same trails for years and yet every day they cannot wait to get there. If only I could harness that kind of excitement over exercise. They don’t see it as mundane or uninteresting; they see it as an adventure. They simply cannot wait to be outdoors experiencing life.

We used to walk over two miles every evening; now that Mandy is 11 years old, we walk a little over a mile; then she’s has quite enough. I always feel bad for Brulee who is now six but still has enough energy to generate electricity. He looks back at Mandy every once in a while as if to say, ‘Would you please get the lead out??’

We’ve been walking in this same park for nearly 4 years. We take the same trails and know exactly what to expect around every corner. It can get a little numbing at times, but the dogs act as if they are experiencing something mystical. Every evening after dinner, Mandy watches for any sign of familiar movement in one of us. Then she’s off down the stairs barking; barely able to contain herself she scrambles into the car and demands us to by God, roll down the back window already!  Brulee is more laid back about the process simply following Mandy along letting her do all the directing, however he’s just as excited.

Mandy and Brulee at the park.

Our veterinarian told me that for goldens, along with other large breed dogs, the age of seven is considered senior status. Due to inbreeding, other health issues and unfortunately personal experience, many golden owners sadly don’t see their best friends live beyond 9 or 10. But Mandy who is now 11 1/2, refuses to let her aches and pains get the best of her. If she’s having a hard day and cannot get off the floor without a lift, once up, she is ready to go to the park for her walk. When she’s limping a little bit toward the end, she makes it clear that she is going to get the job done anyway; she may sit and rest a few times along the way but she’s determined to cross that finish line. She is a survivor.

I’ve learned a lot from Mandy. Not only about how fulfilling it can be owning a senior dog, but also that instinctively, she instinctively knows that she needs to get up and move her body every day or else the day may come when her body will no longer want or be able to move.  She holds the secret to life, this white-faced dog: enjoy every morsel of food in your bowl, experience every day like it’s your last, and find excitement in the little things.

Unlike Brulee who knows countless tricks including how to whisper, (yes, click-thru – there truly is a video of it) Mandy has only ever ‘learned’ one command: sit.  Yet, she is one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known.

 

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That was another Memory Lane post, and you know what that means:  time for another giveaway and as always, it’s things that I’ve chosen because I personally use and love them. 

I’ve kept journals for several years. Whether you’re having a difficult time right now or are embarking on an exciting road ahead, journaling your life will be something you’ll never regret. So, how about entering for your chance to win this beautifully illustrated journal, paired together with a box of Tazo Zen tea?

 

Don’t know what to write about?  Let one of the many uplifting quotes inside be your inspiration.  The one above says, ‘When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced.  Live your life so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.’  How beautiful is that?!

Rules: same as before.  Leave a comment and you’re automatically entered (unless you ask me to exclude you).  You have until 9 PM EST on Thursday night to enter.  My lucky winner, picked from Random.org will be announced during Friday’s post.  US readers only, please.

Have a good Wednesday, everyone. 

XO,

Ellen

Memory Lane: Comfort Zone Challenge-The Party

My neighbor April and I were talking last Wednesday night when she asked me if I wanted to go to a party that her daughter Joanne was having (a direct marketing party, like selling Tupperware – except this was jewelry). 

Normally under a situation like this I would run for the hills, or at the very least, come up with an excuse and say ‘thanks for thinking of me, but…..’  Parties like these always make me feel like I have to make a purchase and I have more than enough jewelry already.  Plus, mathematically speaking, it was clear to me that I would not know 80% of the people there;  those two things alone were enough to increase my anxiety level 7 or 8 notches. But, remembering my decision to say yes to new things, I quickly said, ‘Thanks for thinking of me; I’d love to.’  Oh, boy.  What did I just agree to?!

My plan was this: I decided that I was going to allow myself to worry about this as much as I wanted – but only two hours before the party.  Every time that ball of anxiety started forming in my stomach, I reminded myself that I could think about it – even obsess about it…but not until 4:30 PM on Friday.  It was hard to keep redirecting my thoughts, but eventually my mind agreed to save up the big ball of stress until Friday evening.

Friday: 4:30 PM
As I curled my hair and put on my makeup (hey, I needed to pull out the ‘big guns’ for this challenge….I wasn’t going to the grocery store, after all) I let my mind go wild with thoughts of standing all alone by the taco dip or worse yet, following my neighbor around all evening like a lost puppy.  I paced the floor for a while, stared at Brulee and then decided to test the theory that if you pet a dog, your blood pressure will go down.  I think I came close to rubbing off all his fur. 

 

Friday night: 6:25 PM
My husband sees me watching for April at the front door.  He gives me a pep talk.  Says I’ll do fine.

“Don’t forget to smile,” he says.  Check.

“And whatever you do,” he adds, “don’t stand like that.” 

I look down and see my arms firmly crossed across my chest.

“That makes you look like you’re on the defensive.”  Double Check.  

Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM
I walked in and was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone was waiting for me.  They all clapped as I took off my coat and complimented me on my hair and my fabulous sense of style.  Three people fought over who got to fetch me a drink and I spent the rest of the night throwing my head back in laughter as everyone around me lined up to talk to me, even for a brief moment.

Friday night: 7:00 – 9:45 PM (OK, OK…..what really happened)
I smiled;  I complimented Joanne on her lovely home;  I grabbed a bottled water from the kitchen, and I made sure that every person there knew my name.  They didn’t have to remember it; nor would I be hurt if I wasn’t spoken to past the initial, ‘nice to meet you.’  That wasn’t the point.  The point was, I was not invisible and I was reaffirming that thought every time I said, ‘Hi!  I’m Ellen.’

I will admit, it wasn’t an easy crowd.  Everyone there knew each other because they all lived in the neighborhood.  Their kids all played together, so you can imagine all the things they had in common to talk about – things that I couldn’t relate to.  But that was really OK.  It didn’t matter, because I did succeed in talking to two of these women past our standard introduction.  They didn’t leave after a minute of small talk.  They stayed because they wanted to.

I smiled, felt confident.  I gave compliments on hair and clothes; I asked how they knew Joanne.  And I did one more thing that worked like magic:  I asked them about themselves.  People love talking about themselves.  You just have to remember not to ask too many questions – you don’t want to appear like you’re interviewing for a job as a stalker!  lol 

When it was time to go, I made sure that I didn’t forget the receipt for the pair of earrings I’d just bought (you really didn’t think I’d get out of there without making a purchase, did you?), let everyone know how nice it was to meet each of them – and we left. 

It wasn’t until I got home that I felt really and truly proud of myself.  The party itself wasn’t bad compared to the anticipation of it.  I think if I can get over that part, I may just have this whole thing figured out!

 

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You’ve just read a Memory Lane Post, which is a repeat of one of my favorite posts.  This particular post holds special meaning to me because even though I didn’t know it then, attending that party encouraged me to say yes to several other social situations I normally would have avoided. It was a definite turning point for me;  I’ve come a long way since that post, and it’s nice to have a written memory of that.

 

GIVEAWAY:  Speaking of Memory Lane Posts, you know what that means: it’s time for another giveaway!  Today, I’ll be sending off another item that I’ve personally chosen for my readers; one of my favorite things:

If you use Burt’s Bees then you already know how nice this kit will be.  If you haven’t, here’s an opportunity to have the chance to pamper yourself, and what better way than with the Essential Burt’s Bees Kit, which includes: Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream, Hand Salve, Milk and Honey Body Lotion, Beeswax Lip Balm and Coconut Foot Cream. 

Again, entering is easy.  Just comment on this post and you’re automatically entered into the drawing.  You have until 9 PM EST on Sunday night to enter.  I’ll use Random.org to pick my winner and maybe YOUR name will be announced during Monday’s post!  I welcome and look forward to comments from everyone, but per contest rules, please remember that only US readers can be included in this drawing.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

XO,

Ellen

Memory Lane: The Dream Body Lottery

Expectation [ek–spek-tey–shuhn]: the degree of probability that something will occur; a prospect of future good or profit.

From 1990 to 2004 I knew exactly what that word meant. To me, it meant that when I met my goal weight of 130 pounds, I was going to be living a different life. When I won the dream-body lottery I was going to have a better job. I was going to have more friends. I would be happier, prettier, oozing with confidence; I would be more appealing to other people; I would feel better, stronger; I’d be more respected and admired; I could go on, but you get the point.

Did it change my life like I expected it to? Well, in truth the unexpected happened: Along with the weight, I thought all of my other problems were going to disappear as well.  That didn’t happen.

I didn’t land a better job (I waited, but no one offered me one.  Go figure). And I didn’t gain more friends.  No one noticed me any more or less than when I was heavy. I didn’t particularly see that strangers found me more appealing, either; nor was I admired more.

People in the world had their own problems; they were too busy living their own lives – too busy to fix mine.

Losing the weight did give me moments of happiness, however, once the weight came off there was (and still is) a constant fear of gaining it back so it’s quite bittersweet. The one thing I can honestly say that changed was my health. I do feel better; I do have more energy; I am stronger. Physically, I’m more comfortable. Emotionally and mentally however, I still have some of the same personality issues that I did when I was heavy. I am still shy; I still consider myself a control-freak; I still get lonely, and I still at times wonder why I can’t just accept who I am right now, this second.

When my expectations weren’t met, I had to sit back and figure out what happened and why. Then it became clear: I made the mistake of thinking that if I changed my body on the outside, suddenly everyone around me would see that I was now worthy by completing my transformation on the inside. With the weight gone I assumed people would find me more appealing and want to be my friend. It took 100+ pounds to figure out that what I should have been working on was not my physical health but my mental health. If all of my worth was completely dependent on being a size 6, then I was missing out on the part that was already lovely and perfect: my kindness towards others, my empathetic nature, being an attentive listener, being a loyal friend and a good person.

Years have passed and I feel a little wiser, now. Maybe it’s because I turned the ripe old age of 40 this year, or maybe it’s because I finally cut through the crap. I still have insecurities and fears, but you know what? Working on those things will give me the life I’ve always wanted. Being a desired size is simply a perk of an already fulfilling life. I only wish I’d had this knowledge back then.

Changing my body did not change who I am. In the end, I’m still me. A work in progress; whether I’m 235 pounds or 130 pounds. 

Live your life.  Be your best self.  Now. 

 

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What does Memory Lane mean? 

It’s a code word used for one of my specially chosen favorite posts over the past year which has been republished to celebrate my one year blog anniversary this month. 

Why is this one a favorite of yours?

I love this post because I wanted to write a brutally honest account of what my expectations were before and after I lost all of my excess weight; I wanted people to see that I had unrealistic expectations of weight loss, and wanted to show how important the mental and physical health connection truly is.

Isn’t there some kind of giveaway going on here? 

Why, I’m glad you asked that question.  Yes!  Because I posted a Memory Lane post, you now have the opportunity to win this truly awesome prize:

If you have never worn Smartwool socks, please understand that these are NOT just a pair of socks.  They are so much more than that, and you can read all about them from a post I wrote which is located here

Description:  These are a soft lime green color, sized medium (which fits up to a 9.5 shoe size) and are a Ladies sock. They are labeled as a running sock but I use them for any kind of workout or just lounging around.  They are particularly great for long walks because they have a wonderful cushion in the heel and the ball of the foot.  They sit right by the ankle, which is great if you don’t like your socks to show when you’re wearing your shoes.  Retail value of these socks from Smartwool is $13.95

 

Is Smartwool paying you to endorse these socks? 

No.  Every prize I give away during my blog anniversary month are things that I’ve carefully considered and purchased with my own cold, hard cash.  I’m giving them away to you because they are some of my favorite things and I hope you’ll love them as much as I do (I feel just like Oprah!) Plus, I want to let you all know how much you are appreciated as my readers. 

So, what do I have to do again to enter?

That’s the simple part.  You don’t have to become a follower; you don’t have to follow me on Twitter or any other social network.  All you have to do is live in the US, let me know that you are a reader of my blog by leaving a comment below, and you’re entered.  This isn’t mandatory for entry, but if you’ve never left a comment before, I’d love to know how long you’ve been reading!

You will have until 9 PM EST. on Sunday night to leave a comment.  I will announce the winner during Monday’s post.  The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with his/her mailing address so I can send out these great socks.  If I don’t hear back from the winner during that time, a subsequent name will be drawn from Random.org until a winner comes forward to claim this nifty gifty. 

Good luck!  Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday :)