Monday, January 9, 2012

All I Want For Christmas

When I was a child, Christmas was a magical time for me.  I recall going to the tire store each year with my dad to buy their new Christmas music album.  Back then music came on LPs (long playing vinyl).  All I wanted for Christmas was toys.  When I got clothing, I was usually disappointed.  Christmas has changed dramatically for me over the years.  There was, of course, the times when we tried to make Christmas super magical for our children, only to be told recently by one of my boys that we really stunk at hiding their gifts. Oh well.

As a young stay at home homeschooling mother, I often wondered if the boys would ever grow up and move on.  Now I face the reality that they are starting to do that.  We haven't celebrated Christmas much ever since our oldest one left to be a Marine.  Then there was the Christmas a year or so later that we chose not to celebrate because Jack (Dad) was away in Iraq.  Then the boys just got too old for all the fluff and I began to have to work on Christmas Day.  Just give them a gift card and they're good.  For the past several Christmases its been all about longing for the husband or sons who weren't there.  Christmas 2011 was the 5th Christmas in a row that I've had one of my sons on a mission and gotten that ever important missionary call.  Missionaries are only allowed to call twice a year.  Once at Christmas and once on Mother's day. 

But Christmas 2011 brought longing on a whole new level.  I have a grandson!  

In January 2011, Jack and I were able to visit with Andy and his very pregnant wife, Anthrea in their home in North Carolina.  First I need to say that we live in Anchorage, Alaska and North Carolina is way on the other side of the US.  Not only that...Alaska Airlines doesn't fly there.  We are able to fly out of Alaska once a year because we have airline miles.  But you can't fly where the airline doesn't go...well, not without severe penalties that we just can't afford.   So, to get to North Carolina we flew to Orlando, Florida on airline miles.  We then rented a car, stayed the night in a hotel near Orlando and drove for 12+ hours up the coast to mid NC near Camp Lejeune. I gotta tell ya...that's plenty hard on 50+ old bodies.  Then after a few days, we drove back to Orlando, played a bit with Mickey Mouse and flew home.  It takes an entire day to fly home to Alaska. 

Trivia:  Baltimore MD is closer to Disneyland in California than Anchorage AK...and we share the same Pacific Coastline!  Just sayin'. Oh yeah...I checked!

One year,  BC (before children) Jack and I drove to Denver from Wasilla, may have heard of Wasilla.  Sarah Palin, who my youngest sister in law went to school with, lived there.  The trip took us 6 days.  I know people who have driven to Salt Lake City in about 3 days but that's non stop driving, usually with 2 drivers, one drives, one sleeps.  I have no idea how long it would take to drive to North Carolina from Anchorage but all I can say is those 12 hours trapped in a car from Orlando to NC are too much for me.  Jack and I hobble out of the car whining about all our aches and pains. 
In March, 2011, we were blessed with a very healthy and beautiful grandson, Elijah!  Oh how I love this little boy and I've deeply wanted to go see him, hold him and kiss him!  But Jack was working long hours and as a union carpenter, you work when there's work.  After describing what it takes to get to North Carolina, you probably won't be surprised that I wasn't up to making that trip alone and Jack would have been deeply hurt had I made that trip without him. 

So, when can we hold our grandson??? 

We asked asked ourselves this question many times.  With this and that and other stuff, it seemed like we never could get out there to hold this bundle of least not until 2013.  In September I was seated in our Anchorage Alaska temple and I did something I hadn't done before...  I prayed and begged Heavenly Father to allow me to hold my grandson.  I was done waiting and had faith that Heavenly Father could make the impossible happen.  I wanted to hold Eli so badly!  I also asked if I could please have this blessing before 2011 was over.  My prayer was heard and answered!

First, Andy and his family moved back up to Washington DC and guess what???  Alaska Airlines flies there!!!  Then in November, the project Jack had been on for nearly a year and a half ended.  We stared at each other one day and Jack said it wouldn't be any more expensive to sit around in DC at Andy's home as to sit around here.  He asked me to see if there were any airline miles seats available.  What???  Was he kidding?  Airline miles up for grabs during the holidays????  Well guess what????  I found airline miles seats AND with the new Club 49, we got our baggage FREE!  Gotta love FREE!

So on Thanksgiving Day, we ditched our 2 sons and all of Jack's family and headed to the airport.  It was weird being in an almost empty airport on Thanksgiving Day.  I got a nasty, dry turkey sandwhich at one of the few places that was open.  It was food.  We flew to Seattle where we had to stay the night.  I had gotten a good deal on a room near the airport.  The next morning Jack and I utilized the exercise room, walked to the near by Subway and got some better food for our flight to DC.  We got on a plane and spent 10 wonderful days enjoying our grandson, Eli.  I can't say enough wonderful things about this boy!  I knew this was a special gift and blessing from Heavenly Father.  I am so grateful for the time we got to spend with Andy, Anthrea and Eli!  We flew home on December 6, 2011.

Debbi T and me!
CSI: Color, Stories and Inspiration!
So here's the whole point of this particular post.  Another wonderful gift that I was blessed with during our Washington DC trip was to be able to meet Scrapbooker EXTRAORDINAIRE Debbi Tehrani.  Debbi just launched a brand new scrapbooking challenge site.  The colors were perfect to scrap this (below) photo of Eli.  After reading my story, I hope you will realize how precious this Christmas gift is to me.  All I really wanted for Christmas was to hold Eli!  

On Christmas Eve we got to Skype with Eli who now knows us when he sees us on his Dad's computer screen.  It is SO much fun to watch this little boy laugh!  Grandchildren are THE BEST!

So this is my layout for our first CSI challenge:

We had a color challenge, I used all 5 colors.  I also journaled in rhyme.  I'm not clever enough to make up my own rhyme so I picked some lyrics from the Christmas song, All I Want For Christmas Is You. It seemed perfect for this layout.  I used bows and journaled on tags, all as part of the challenge.  Most of the paper is by Close To My Heart, though its several years old.  All the paper is from my extensive stash. I really could open up a store!  The die cuts are all QuicKutz.  I loosely followed sketch 189 from Creative Scrappers.

Eli had so much fun with this box! I have enough photos to make a companion page. 

Elder Ben Mitchell 
On Christmas Day, we got to talk to our missionary for 3 and a quarter hours!  He's serving in the West Virginia Charleston Mission.  Currently he's in Ashland, Kentucky.  Part of his ward or congregation is across the river in Ohio so he continued to talk to us on the cell phone even as they were driving across the river.  He and his companion thought that was pretty cool.  We were just so happy to hear his voice.  Only one more Christmas to go!  

Please excuse any typos I make.  I'm trying to hustle this up so I can Skype with Eli! 

Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Story (Part 3) The Finale!

Fill 'er Up!

June 2010
As you can clearly see, blood transfusions are a LOT of fun!!!  Okay...NOT!  Seriously, I didn't feel anywhere near as happy or as perky as I look in these photos.  I'm just a HAM and definitely HAD to photo document this moment.  I was actually quite scared and physically drained.  I also honestly thought that as this life giving fluid was pumped into me that I would start to feel strong and powerful.  I figured I'd want to leap tall buildings and all that.  But you know what the truth is???  I threw up pretty much non stop all night!  Fun times!  Don't tell me I don't know how to par-tay!  By the way...that RED stuff is blood!  Bwahahahahahaaaa!  Does this make me a vampire?

Asta La Vista Baby-carriage!

Shortly after getting my tank topped off, my doctor and I discussed what to do next.  Did you know that a uterus has only one function?  Yep.  Its a unitasker.  Don't tell Alton Brown.  He hates unitaskers.  Its only function is to be a baby carriage.   That's it. age 51...I wasn't planning on using that carriage again...EVER!   I also don't take kindly to body parts that are bound and determined to kill me.  So since it was kill or be killed...the carriage had to GO! 

On June 30, 2010 my 19 year old, youngest son, Ben took me to the hospital.  He was so awesome!  He brought a game for us to play while we waited for what seemed like forever!  I was given one of those OH SO stylish hospital gowns and we sat and played games for a few hours.  Eventually the anesthesiologist came in to give his schpeal.   Talk about a pep talk!  He listed all the things that could go wrong.  Ben told me that really scared too.  So Ben asked to say a prayer with me.  Awwww!  I absolutely LOVE that boy!

Oh!  And how about that medicine they give you to make sure all your insides are totally clear of last night's dinner??!!!  Yeah!  It's a SCREAM!!!

Eventually they wheeled me down the hall and parked my gurney.  They made me hop off, walk across the hall and into the operating room and get my exposed fanny on another table.  SHEESH!  I didn't realize there was going to be a physical fitness part of the spa treatment.  Once I got situated I started to feel like I was suffocating.  I absolutely couldn't breathe.  The anesthesiologist had warned me I'd feel like that.  He told me not to panic but to relax and let him breathe for me.  I said a quick prayer and then let go.  I wasn't totally sure I'd wake up in this life or the next. 


Quite honestly, it seemed like I had only just closed my eyes when I was waking up again.  More than 4 hours had passed!  But I had the most amazing experience that I really want to share with you. I felt like I was wrapped in a cocoon of love.  You know how the Holy Ghost is often called the comforter?  Well, I felt like I had been wrapped in a big, warm comforter filled with the most amazingly pure love.  It genuinely felt like angels were hugging me.  All I felt was love and gratitude.  My first thought was that the anesthesiologist and my doctor had done a great job.  I was so thankful for them.  I was grateful to be alive!  I was extremely thankful for my husband and sons.  I love them so very much!  I was grateful for every person in that room who assisted me that day.  This was a super powerful feeling and I felt right from the beginning that it was something I should let everyone know...not that just I was loved but that we are all loved that fiercely.  One of the nurses later said this love I felt was drug induced but I have to tell you all right here and now, after a year and a half, I have a firm testimony that it was NOT from the drugs but from our loving Heavenly Father.  God loves us all so very much!  Though that loved feeling began to fade in a few hours, the memory of it lives within me.  Its something I will never ever forget.  It was also another confirmation that my life is worth living to the fullest.  No more eating myself into oblivion!

You Know What To Do!

The next morning my doctor showed up.  She talked to me about my surgery and how there were a few problems though nothing she couldn't handle.  She totally ROCKS!  Its a very weird sensation to have someone literally and actually look inside my body and tell me how very healthy all my body parts are besides the tons of fat in there that kept getting in the way of her instruments.  I figure she could have helped a girl out and taken a vacuum to all that excess fat but she didn't. She left that job for me.  Then she got all serious and said that I had been given a second chance at life. I agree whole heartedly!  She really didn't want to see me back there in another year with heart disease and full blown diabetes because of my obesity.  And I gotta tell ya, I'm SOOOO done with hospitals! 

I asked her what I needed to do.  She told me I know what to do.  Uh...HELLO!!!!!  If I knew what to do, don't you think I'd be sitting there in size 4 jeans???!!  I mean REALLY???  That's the best she's gunna give me??? 

My doctor thought about this for a moment and then offered me 2 choices.  2 is perfect.  Not too many to choose from and not too few so the choice is still MINE.  I could either go on the Mediterranean diet or the Biggest Loser diet.   She felt they were both excellent diets to start with.  She said both were sound and neither was a fad diet.  I didn't know anything about either diet and I had never seen The Biggest Loser on TV but I knew I could probably find the most stuff on that diet.  So I got several Biggest Loser books and began reading almost as soon as I got home from the hospital. 

Ben took a week off to take care of me.  I was allowed to sleep, walk to the bathroom and into the living room to sleep again on the couch.  NO STAIRS!  Not one stair for at least a week.  Ben cooked me anything I asked for.  He and I watched all 3 extended versions of The Lord of the Rings.  AWESOME!  They're really great watching them like that only I think I killed a spot on my bum sitting like that for so long.  Just sayin'.  We also watched all 3 Jurassic Parks and after that its a blurr. 

On about day 4 staying home I got up and exercised.  I started out with about 10 minutes of VERY SLOW walking in place to a Wii Fit game called Walk It Out.  I still use that game a lot only now I run on the treadmill while playing it. 

The Nuts and Bolts

So, here's basically what I did.  The Biggest Loser has an easy to follow formula. 

1.  Step on the scale.  Don't be afraid.  The bigger the number, the more you get to eat.YAY!

2.  Multiply that number by 7.  So I weighed 218 when I got on the scale.  Times that by 7 and I got to eat 1526 calories that day.  Not too shabby.

I started out eating what ever I wanted.  I just stopped at 1526 calories.  When I ran out of calories but didn't want to go to bed hungry, I ate a rice cake (about 35 calories) with a huge glass of water.  That always filled my tummy. 

Another tip: I literally ate Subway daily.  I stuck with Jared's lower calorie favorites on whole wheat.  I packed these sandwiches with tons of veggies, NO cheese, mayo or oil.  Just vinegar, salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and oregano.  I lost 40 pounds while eating Subway almost daily. can be done!  I only got the baked chips or the apples and only diet soda.

One of the things I think made this formula work for me is that as I lost pounds, I had to cut calories out of my day.  This meant I had to think about what I was eating.  Suddenly, that 300 calorie small bowl of ice cream had to be rethought.  I switched to Skinny Cow ice creams. 

Later, I began removing all the empty calories from my diet.   These are foods that still left me hungry after eating them.  I got to where I couldn't waste what calories I ate each day on something that wasn't filling.  The best part of this was I made this choice.  I ate the foods.  I knew what foods were filling and what weren't.  I decided what would go and what I would keep.  I also kept a food journal.  A really good one is at

I continued on this weigh and multiply formula until I got to where the calories were so low I just couldn't eat that little.  This is when I added more exercise.  I started with 1 hour a day and kicked it up a notch to 2 hours.  One in the morning and one in the evening.

I should mention that after major abdominal surgery, I had to take it easy for a while.  But as my body healed, I was able to work up to a full hour or more of exercise a day.  On Black Friday, 2010, Jack went out and bought a treadmill.  So I went from walking in place to walking on an incline on the treadmill.  I still continue to push myself to walk and even run faster.  The incline helps to really engage your legs. 

After I had lost 40 pounds, Jack and I joined a gym.  A friend of mine taught Zumba in a gym and she said that I was more likely to work out harder and longer at a gym.  There are so many distractions at home and too easy to step off the treadmill or turn off the DVD for a distraction.  She was right.  I love working out at the gym.   I also hired a personal trainer.  She got me reading a book called, The Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno.  I highly recommend her diet.  By the time I had lost 40 pounds I was ready to to make a bigger commitment to myself.  I still watch the Biggest Loser show. I find it very inspiring.  I own most of Bob Harper's work out DVDs.  He rocks!  But I was ready to significantly change my lifestyle.  I also learned that weight lifting is very important.  The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.  Well, who doesn't want to burn more calories while they're sleeping?!!  I SURE DO!!!

So that's really it in a nutshell.  I push myself to exercise twice a day.  I work at eating clean and I lift weights regularly.  Lately, I've had to hide my scale.  Well, Jack's hidden it for me. I began to stress out a bit about how fast this weight is NOT coming off.  Did you know that stressing releases a hormone that causes your body to hang on to fat?  Yes!  That's SO NOT what I want!!!  So I had Jack hide my scale and I've been focusing on a new approach to weight loss. 

Here's my new philosophy: 
I've gleaned it from my yoga teachers and several books I've been reading lately.

First its all about what you eat.  If you eat healthy and fully nutritious foods that are filling, you are less likely to over eat and calorie counting becomes unnecessary.  Now, this means giving up foods that are deemed "Anti-foods."  These are foods that are high in calorie, have little to no nutritional value, are not filling and are actually damaging to the body.  Most if not all of my former flavorful friends fall into this category.  Its difficult at first to give them up but in a very short time your body will feel so much better without them that it will complain when you indulge in them.  I've found I don't crave them any more.

 Me! December 2011
So, it starts out with filling our bodies with healthy, nutritious and filling foods.  Then add cardio and weight lifting to your day.  By the way, Yoga is amazing for strength training!!!  When you are doing everything you are supposed to, in time, your body will become its most ideal self.  If we put a number on that, we may choose a number that will force our body to become smaller than it's ideal.  So, I'm no longer looking to become a certain number on the scale or a certain pant size. My body still has more fat on it than is its ideal however I intend on continuing this way of eating and exercise for the rest of my life.  The big pay off is in how good I feel!  In time I'll be at my body's ideal weight.  I just need to Keep it up, keep it off and be patient. 

I continue to look for alternative choices than food to celebrate and console myself.  The other day I hit the blues particularly hard.  In the past I would have plowed through a giant bag of M&Ms but this day I pulled out my iPod, plugged into all my favorite up beat music, tuned out everything else and scrapbooked.  I had such a wonderful time!  I was dancing and feeling really good after a few hours.  Best of was calorie free! 

I'm ever on the look for alternative things to do with friends rather than get together to eat.  Its a real challenge but its my new mission in life. 

What is the best thing ever?  Being able to tie my shoes.  Okay...not just tie my shoes anywhere but ON A PLANE!  Yeah!  That feels pretty doggone good.  Also being able to synch in that airplane seat belt.  Ahhh!  Not long ago I saw someone struggling to get their shoes on and tie them on the plane.  I remember how that felt.   I wished I could say something to them but I also know how it feels to have someone thoughtlessly tell me to lose weight.  All I can say is I feel better now in my 50s than I have in the past 20 years! 


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Story (Part 2)

"A certain woman, who had an issue of blood... when she heard of Jesus pushed her way through the crowd, came up behind him and touched his clothing.  For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole."  --Mark 5:25, 27-28

It's Just Menopause! (isn't it??)

In the Spring 2010, shortly after our trip to Utah, I began to have symptoms that I thought were probably menopause.   I had a friend who had described her menopause experience and I seemed to be going through the same thing.  So I didn't worry about it.  But there were a couple of people at work who noticed something was definitely different with me and that the problem persisted week after week after week.  They each sought me out privately and urged me to see a doctor.  I gave my standard glib response, "I'd rather die than see a doctor."  And I meant it!  I've had a couple doctor visits in the past 10 or so years and they always focused on how FAT I am rather than the problem which urged me to come see them in the first place.  One went for the whole guilt trip and another tried to shame me.  Both were very negative and non-effective in getting me to lose weight.  They both depressed me and guess who I turn to when I'm depressed???  You know it!!!  My best friends in the whole wide world!  Chocolate and Pizza!  My dear friends are always ready and waiting to bring me comfort and joy! 

Time went on...weeks even...and the problem persisted.  I began to be a bit concerned.  I still felt this was menopause but I didn't know how long I could keep this up and survive.  I began to focus on the New Testament story of the woman with the issue of blood.  On multiple occasions, when I was alone, I would envision the Savior standing there in the room with me.  I would then earnestly reach out with my hand to grasp onto the His clothing hoping that would remove the problem.  Of course, it didn't.  Though, I have to say I felt very close to the Lord during those times.

One day, about 6 or 7 weeks into this thing, when I was heading upstairs, I had to sit down and take a rest half way up.  By the time I got to the top, I had to take a nap.  It was then that I felt strongly impressed to Google my symptoms.  Well, I about freaked out when I found out these were most assuredly NOT caused by menopause.  The articles I read all suggested getting to an emergency room immediately.  I had no intention of doing that.  The thing was that my husband Jack is a union carpenter.  We have great medical benefits when he's working, but when he's on lay off status, we have none.  Jack had only recently become employed again and our benefits hadn't kicked in yet.  There was no way and no how I was going to an emergency room!  But I did feel impressed to check out the yellow pages for a doctor.  It probably won't surprise you one bit to read that I didn't have a doctor I trusted.  There was no one to turn to.  So I opened the yellow pages and hoped something would pop out at me.

POP OUT it did!  There was one Women's Wellness Clinic that seemed to have lights dancing around their ad.  When I called and told the very nice receptionist my problem she told me to go to an ER.  Nope.  Not doing that.  She then said they didn't have any openings for 10 days.  She gave me 2 other clinics to call in hopes that I could be seen sooner.  I called these clinics and got super rude receptionists who told me they were all booked for a month out or more.  So I called back the "nice lady" from the glowing ad and made an appointment.  I had already called Jack and found out that his insurance would kick in a couple of days before the appointment.  YAY!

I saw this doctor on a Friday.  She was a no nonsense kind of woman.  Right from the get go I told her I had no intention of sitting there and having her tell me how FAT I am and how I need to go on a diet.  I told her how I mistrusted doctors and have had very bad experiences with them.  I wanted the bleeding to stop and I wanted her to focus on that alone.  She looked at me a bit surprised and then said she'd find out what the problem was. 

I was poked and prodded.  Sliced and diced.   At the end of a very thorough exam, the doctor told me that she was testing for cancer along with a number of other possible ailments including diabetes.  She told me she had a suspicion that I might be a full blown insulin dependent diabetic by now and if that was the case, she would need to refer me to another doctor who specializes in diabetes.  She then told me that she would first address the bleeding and after that she would talk to me about my weight and what steps I needed to take to get it under control.  I felt that was fair. 

I did leave her office in tears.  That cancer word scared me to death.  My mother's respite provider was going through that and I had seen it's effects on a daily basis while I was still caring for my mother.  I called a good friend and cried to her.  Instead of getting the comfort I had sought, I was told to stop crying and get over myself.  I was told that my doctor wouldn't be doing her job if she hadn't checked for cancer.   I actually needed that.  I felt the longer it took the doctor to call me back, the less serious the problem.  I was thrilled when I got no call on Monday.

First thing Tuesday morning my doctor called.  "How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Fine."  I said.

"Really?" she asked

"Yes."  I said.

"You don't feel dizzy, light headed or short of breath?" 

OH MY GOSH!  I felt all of those things!!!!  I was particularly annoyed that I would be holding something in my hand only to find it on the floor.  I know I never let go of it!  "Yes!" I exclaimed, "I've been feeling all of the above!"

"Well," she began, "this is because you're running around with only half the amount of blood in your body." 

I didn't realize a person could run around with only half of their blood.  She wanted me in right away for a blood transfusion.  OH NO!  No way!  I wasn't going to do that.  "Is there something else I can do to build up my blood supply?"  My doctor told me I could eat lots of red meat, spinach and take iron supplements.  So I ran to the grocery store and stocked up on all these items. I mean, how long could this possibly take?  A day or two???  Man!  I'm dumb sometimes!  It was probably the lack of blood or something like that.  And by the way, I was still just PRE-diabetic.  YAY!

By noon that day, my problematic symptoms had actually increased.  I called Jack all scared.  He insisted I call the doctor immediately and get scheduled for that transfusion.  I was in the hospital within a few hours.  They insisted my husband drive me because I should NOT be driving myself. I should point out that through out this whole process I continued to work.  I really don't know how I did it and the doctor was horrified to hear I was driving myself every where!  "You could have passed out behind the wheel!"  She blurted out at me.  Calm down.  Obviously I hadn't.  That never occurred to me.  I guess my Guardian Angel was totally on the job looking out for me. 

Do you remember the drama TV show, Dallas?  They're bringing it back...JR Ewing and all! I saw it on an ad this weekend during the pre-show for a movie.   The thing I remember most about Dallas is their end of season cliff hangers.  Remember those?  Well...I'm afraid I'm going to leave you hanging on here for another day.  I want to do this story justice.  I have some photos to gather...YES!  Of course I have pictures! 

So I promise I'll gather photos and my thoughts and get back in here to finish up very soon.  But before I go I'll leave you with a special gift I received at that moment in this story.   Before heading to the hospital for my blood transfusion, I called my oldest son, Andy.  At this time he was a Marine, married and living in North Carolina.  I wanted all my boys praying for me.  DUH!  I even called my son, Tim's mission office and asked that he be called and pray for me.  I was scared.  The gift came just by the tone of Andy's voice.  He a tease and he's tough.  He doesn't let his tender emotions show very often but I knew when I got off the phone with my Marine that he still needed me.  (Okay, I'm crying here as I type this...just so you know...its hard to type with tears in my eyes).  But I honestly hadn't realized that even though they grow up, move away, learn how to kill the enemy with their bear hands--yeah...he's a MARINE, get married and have another woman who is vastly more important than their mother in their life...they still need their mother.  And as I mentioned in part 1, its not just a need but its really a WANT.  Its become a need by choice.  Before the end of that day I was told by 3 of my 4 boys that they need and want me around for a very long time.  My missionary wrote that to me in his next letter.  They might not need me to raise them any more but there are other ways to be needed.  It was a light bulb moment for me and it hit me hard.   It all started when I heard Andy's concern in his voice.  I knew I had no business ever thinking my life was no longer worth fighting for.  From that moment on I knew I would do what ever I had to so that I didn't depart like my dad.

We each have a purpose for being here.  There is always another we can uplift and love.  There is a reason for each of us to live long and healthy lives.  And I'm here to tell you that a wonderful life really CAN start at 51!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Story! (part 1)

I have had a few people ask me to write more on here.  REALLY???!!!  I find that amazing.  Last night my husband asked me for a favor.  "What???"  I'm always rather suspicious.  "Wendy, I need more Running with Scissors."  "Seriously?"  Well, I have to say I've had this particular story running through my head for quite some time now.  It's actually the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. But I'm a bit nervous to tell this story.  However, I'm asked about it often.  In fact, just the other evening I was at a holiday party and was visiting with a beloved long time friend and a brand new acquaintance.  Some how the topic of diet and weight loss came up and I said I had lost over 50 pounds in the past year and a half.  Its been quite a while since I've seen someone drop their jaw when I say that.  I've forgotten how much I enjoy that.   This acquaintance had to turn to my long time friend and ask if I was being truthful.  She said she couldn't even imagine me 50+ pounds heavier.   I think that's pretty fun! So here goes--here's my story. 

Ewes Not Fat, Ewes Fluffy

Do you all remember that refrigerator pin?  I sure do.  For those who don't, there's a fluffy ewe or lamb standing above the saying.  But let's not sugar coat this please. I'm sure I've applied far too much sugar in the past.  I was FAT.  Nope...not fat...OBESE!!  Yes this is true.  I wasn't Pleasingly Plump nor was a Perfect Just the Way I Was.  I was obese and in serious health trouble.  I have photos to prove it!

These photos were taken in Feb 2010 while on vacation in Utah.  Aren't these totally unflattering?  I keep wondering why the woman who took this one of Jack and me put me in front???  What was she thinking????  However, today I'm glad for it.  Those are size 24 pants people!  I wear size 12 today!!!  And I'm not done yet.  By the way, I included these unflattering photos of me because they were taken just before my transformation.

But, on with my story.  How does someone start out as a skinny ballerina (I'll have to go digging for a photo to prove that) and turn into Humpty Dumpty?   Well, as with many people, it starts with genetics and also with a Dad who wanted a junk food devouring pal.  That would be me!  I have this early very fond memory of the day Dad introduced me to one of his favorite treats,  a Root Beer Float!  I even remember what brand of root beer my dad said was the very best and exactly where I was standing when he shared with me his excitement over this deliciousness.  I had to have been either 4 or 5 years old.  So, let's just say if I wasn't born with it, I was carefully trained and coached to have a sweet tooth. 

I've spent quite a bit of time recently trying to map out the WHYS of my obesity.  I had probably been obese for 18 years at the time of these photos.  I gained 80+ pounds during my last pregnancy and never really lost it.  That number on the scale went down a few times only to go back up again.  I'm pretty sure I'm the heaviest ever in these photos.  I obviously self medicated with food.  Not just any food, mind you.  I was quite selective.  It had to either be chocolate or pizza or cake or ice cream or chocolate or cheese cake or hamburgers or anything with cheese or chocolate or cookies or soda pop or french fries or chocolate covered raisins or cinnamon rolls get the drift.  If life got the least bit stressful or difficult and it most certainly did, I turned to one of my many flavorful best friends.  Some times I turned to 2 or 3 of them in one sitting.  So I self medicated all my blues away.  And I obviously self medicated often.

When my dad turned 50 he married my step mother and found out he had full blown insulin dependent diabetes.  He died 12 years later from a heart attack which was a complication brought on by his mismanaged diabetes.    When I got his death certificate, I was also mailed my dad's father's and his father's death certificate and they all died from the same thing!  Wow!  It runs in the family.  Is this something I get to pass on to my sons?

In 2006, I was diagnosed with borderline or pre-diabetes.  Well, that's fun.  I got scared and went on the current "lose it fast" fad diet.  I lost a bit of weight and later, when stress came along and the fad diet failed me, I gained it all back and more.  I've been there and done that too many times to count. 

I have one other thing I feel a need to share.  In 2003, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and came to live with us.  I thought this would be a warm and fuzzy thing but it most certainly was not.  My youngest was about 12 at the time so I was still raising and home schooling my 3 youngest boys.  Its very difficult to watch a loved one deteriorate like that.  Alzheimer's has been described as the disease that kills your loved ones twice.  I have to agree.  There is a death when they stop knowing who you are and another when they finally leave this frail existence.  I was warned by professionals that my mother's Alzheimer's could suck me into a dark hole.  And it did.  I don't really want to dwell on this subject because its very dark, difficult and very sad.  But I do want to share that I self medicated myself a LOT during the nearly 5 years I cared for my mom.  Somewhere along that road I got it into my mind that I didn't want to put my children through this again when I was aged.  I had decided that I was doing my boys a favor by indulging my sweet tooth and leaving this earth as my dad did with candy and cookie wrappers strewn around the house.  Besides, they were growing up and very clearly didn't need me any more.  I was starting to deal with the empty nest syndrome and after spending the better part of my adult life as a Stay At Home Home Schooling Mom, I no longer had any real purpose to my life.  I had no mission and no real reason to stick around.

I recall one evening having a pain in my chest and wondering whether to wake up my husband or to allow the heart attack I thought I was having to take me.  I did NOT wake up my husband and I told God I was ready.  It was obviously not a heart attack but probably gas from all the junk I ate that day. 

I mention this dark place because maybe someone reading this might be feeling somewhat the same way.   I want you to know that I understand that dark place.  I've been there.  I lived in it and probably wallowed in it for years.  I had let my mother's Alzheimer's get to me.  The thought of going like that and putting my boys through that all over again was destroying me and my will to live.

Today, I want to tell you all that the dark place is a lie!!!!  It was that cartoon devil sitting on my shoulder whispering all those dark lies in my ear.  I never should have listened to him but I did.  When I share the next part of My Story, you will find out about the event happened to totally transform me.  There's nothing quite like facing your own mortality to realize you want to keep living.   Frankly, there are a LOT of reasons to keep living, a new mission in my life and (by the way) my boys still need me.  In fact, its not exactly that they need me so much as they WANT me around, involved their lives and in the lives of their children.   There is a wonderful and exciting life after 50.  Chocolate, cinnamon rolls and pizza are actually NOT my best friends!  Being healthy brings a wonderful GREAT feeling with it!  Its AMAZING!

Now go read one of my other (and certainly more upbeat) posts while I gather my thoughts to continue on with what happened to change everything and give me a second chance at life!  How about reading "Enjoy the Journey" because I gotta tell you, its all about the journey and we might as well enjoy it!  Or "Let's Hear It For SKIN!"  Our bodies are so remarkable!  By the way, I have less skin now than I did when I wrote that.  COOL! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

...and I'm NOT a runner!

We met a wonderful woman at Time Out For Women named Laurel Christensen.  She probably impacted me more than any other. 

I just want to take a moment to tell a bit about her.  She introduced herself as a runner.  She admitted she didn't have a runner's body yet but she was indeed a runner.  She had actually recently completed her first half marathon!  Okay, she rocks!  Laurel told the story of how she was in an airport getting ready to board a plane.  It was going to be 2 flights with a layover inbetween and she needed something to read.  As she wandered the airport she saw a magazine that caught her eye but she dismissed it because it really wasn't "her" kind of magazine. By the time she ran across this magazine a third time she had to buy it and walked out of the newsstand with her first Runner's magazine.  She goes on to tell her story about hiding the magazine inside another one so no one would judge her.  However, by the time she arrived at her destination, she walked with a new confidence proudly carrying her Runner's magazine in full view and thinking to herself..."I'm a runner!" 

Here is Laurel's blog:

I loved her story.  I loved that she spent 2 weeks at the Biggest Loser Resort (okay...that doesn't sound like it should be called a resort) in Ivins, Utah before she began her journey as a runner.  Laurel also challenged us to do hard things. 

One of the main messages I learned from Time Out For Women is:

"Do not be afraid to try hard things because they help us rely more on the Lord". 

I came home from Time Out For Women and told my husband Jack about Laurel and how she is a runner.  Jack IS a runner.  Jack loves to to run.  For the 4th of July he ran a half marathon just on his own around the neighborhood early in the morning while the rest of us slept.  He did that just to do it.  He even loves to run in the rain!  Jack loves to run.  And Laurel's story gave him hope that I would learn to love to run, too.  He's gone out and bought me awesome running shoes that I happen to love and he's taken me on runs. 

Our first run was around the neighborhood.  I hated it.  It was on concrete sidewalks (before the new shoes) and running past a stinky dump.  It hurt my "already had 3 surgeries" knees and my nose.  Stinky!  So we've since run on the Russian Jack trails and I like that better.  I want to stop and look at the super cool mushrooms but Jack keeps me running.   I ran about 2 weeks ago and actually hurt my knees. That scared me!  I don't want a 4th surgery!!!   I haven't run outside since. 

Now Jack wants us to run in races.  I'm certain he envisions us running across the finish line of some marathon holding eachother's hands in victory.    So, I've tried to make this my goal too.  I even told people I was going to run in the up coming 5K while Jack runs in the 10K but I haven't been able to figure out how to register on line.  After all, this is a hard thing for me.  A very hard thing.  And I don't want to be afraid of it.

Well, it was just last night as I discussed the race entrance fees and the trouble I'm having signing up on line that I came to the actual realization that I am in fact NOT a runner.  By the way, just FYI, I hate to run.  I don't mind running for fun with Jack on his runs and even running to push myself and my breathing on the treadmill but I'm not planning on entering any races any time soon.  The thing is, I'd rather spend the entry fees on scrapbooking supplies or on more time with my personal trainer or on additional yoga classes. 

I told this to Jack and though it probably made him a little sad, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  You see, I have spent a great deal of time this past year reading stuff by fitness gurus, talking to personal trainers and my yoga teacher.  They all say the same thing,

"Find a fitness activity you love to do and then you'll keep doing it." 

Kinda reminds me of my need to enjoy the journey!  Well, I LOVE spinning classes.  I love them so much that I'm toying with the idea of getting my own spinning bike for home.  AND I have recently discovered that I love yoga!  I love other exercise too but yoga is my new favorite thing.  I'd rather buy some yoga classes than pay to run anywhere. 

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it!   "Hello!  I'm Wendy and I'm NOT a runner." 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Let's Hear it for SKIN!

Isn't skin wonderful?  I mean, it covers every inch of our bodies and there's never a shortage of it.  In my twisted little mind I can just see an angel "Up There" (capital U, capital T...okay, so that's a very deliberate Mary Ellen Edmunds reference...don't worry, you'll know who she is with my next post) ANYWAY...I can just see this angel with a staple gun saying, "Yeah...we ran outta skin so I'm just gunna stretch this as best I can and staple it in this crease.  No one will see it!" 

However, THAT never happens.  Each baby comes into this world with just the right amount of skin.  Then it grows as we grow.  Sometimes we wish it wouldn't.  I'll be honest here.  I have some extra skin I'm not overly crazy about. It is shrinking, which is another super cool thing about skin.  But it is taking its sweet time at it.  AND my personal trainer pinches that lovely extra skin with this fat measuring device and everytime she does that I get all embarrassed.  I was telling this to a friend and she said the most wonderful thing!  She reminded me that I got that extra skin from having 4 wonderful boys. Ahhh! (plus eating too much chocolate...let's be honest)  But suddenly I don't hate that part of my body any more.  Thank you so much Skin for stretching super big to accommodate these beautiful boys.  I love them so much!  I love them to distraction!  I couldn't imagine life without them! 

So I seriously thanked my skin.  And I think it liked that.  Really. 

I wonder how our body feels when we hate parts of it?  I wonder what that negative energy does to our brain and our body and our soul?  In the book of Mark in the Bible we are told that the first great commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind and strength and the second great commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  So...if we hate some or most or all of ourself...does that mean we don't have to love our neighbor?   Maybe it means we are not able to love others if we can't love ourself.  Plus, I'm not thinking the Lord is expecting us to kiss the mirror because we think we're so spectacular and possibly even better than everyone else. I don't think He's talking about that kind of love at all.

But this is food for thought.  Right now I'm just marveling that I have all the skin I need and then some.  My skin covers all my fingers and toes.  There's no shortage to it! 

Did I tell you the last time I was measured that I lost a half inch in my neck?  I'm totally befuddled as to where it went to...but its gone.  AND I DON'T have a bunch of excess skin there on my neck either.  Its gone too.  It shrank away without leaving a mark.  Is Skin awesome or what????

So the purpose of today's ramblings is to be grateful for our bodies regardless of the shape, size or whether we have more skin than we want.  Be comfortable in your skin!  "Hey Skin!  I love you!!!  Thank you for being there for me!  Thank you for healing when I carelessly use kitchen know what I mean.  You healed that cut right up!  You're awesome!"

And by the way, out there reading my ramblings...yes you!  You're awesome too!  Thank you for being my friends!  XOXO!

Dr. Seuss
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Enjoy the Journey!

I will be happy when.... (fill in the blank).  

I'll be happy when the kitchen is clean!  Then I turn around and find a giant, sticky jam smudge on the fridge!  And children are in their 20s...and YES! there is still sticky jam residue on my fridge. 

I'll be happy when the laundry is finished.  Then I turn around and find a very nasty, smelly, dirty towel hidden somewhere.  Ugh! 

I'll be happy when I lose 50 pounds.  I've said this for the past 20 years.  About 6 weeks ago I actually achieved this milestone and it totally messed with my head.  First of all, losing that weight was wonderful and deserved celebration but the truth is I still have about 40 more pounds to go to reach my ideal weight.  UGH!  So just like finding that nasty hidden towel or that jam stain, my journey isn't over.  And to be honest, I've been fighting depression ever since I hit that minus 50 mark!  Really???!!!  Yep!  Why???  Because its hard work and I want it to be over.  However, my yoga instructor told me just the other day that I need to learn to enjoy the journey.   She was just another in the long list of people who have suggested I start a blog.

Enjoy the Journey!  This has been on my mind a lot...probably because I have heard it so often recently.  I think its an area I really want to work on.  Okay, let's be honest...its an area I NEED to work on.   But how do I learn how to enjoy the journey???  This is the ultimate question.  How indeed?

Suddenly somewhere between Friday September 9, 2011 and today, Sept 11, 2011 a light bulb turned on for me.   It started on Friday.  I was attending a Time Out For Women here in Anchorage.  I'll be making more posts on that later.  I got there early to secure a good spot for my mother in law, 2 sister in laws and me.  Then there was time to wander around before the event started.  One of the sponsors had a display about digital scrapbooking and turning the layouts into hard bound books.  I looked at the samples and visited with one of the sales reps.  I said I've never digi scrapped and honestly I have far too much paper, ink and embellishments to go digital.  She explained that she had a big garage sale and sold all her stuff and then started digi scrapping.  And then the crucial words: "You can make a whole scrapbook in just a couple of hours rather than a couple of months.  You just drag and drop!"

Whoa! Hold on Hannah!  I like my paper.  I like the smell of it and the feel of it.  I like to cut it, tear it, ink it, crumple it, punch it, glue it, turn it into flowers, stars, snowflakes and fans.  I like to layer it and slowly see a page come to life.  I want each of my layouts to be completely unique.  No two alike.  I want them to each be a work of art.  I love every step to the process.  I love shuffling through my photos and choosing the one to scrap this day.  Oh no!  It starts before that!  I love taking the photos and collecting the memories of persons, places and things I LOVE and I want to remember.  Then I love spending time with these photos.  Sometimes it feels like I get to spend a day with a very dear loved one who is now far away.  I don't want to drag and drop and get massive quantities of scrapbooks finished and on the shelf to collect dust so I can say "Its done!" and move on to something else.  I want the process to linger.  I want to enjoy and treasure every moment of it.  I like to enjoy this journey!

Oh my gosh!  I have a journey I enjoy!!!  I actually know how to enjoy one of the journeys in my life!  I quite literally just realized it this morning!!!!  Now...can I take that knowledge of Journey Enjoying and transfer it to my new healthy lifestyle?  I think I just might be able to do that.  After all, even when I do get these next 40 pounds off, I will still hopefully have about 35 more years to work at keeping it off.  Certainly that's going to be a journey in itself!  I might as well stop stressing about when the weight training will be over because clearly it won't be over until I'm dead and gone.  So, I guess learning to enjoy it the way I enjoy scrapbooking would be a good thing!

So thank you to all you Enjoy the Journeyers out there!  I think I'm going to try to join your ranks!