Thursday, December 25, 2014

"December 25th is not my Christmas" A Divorced Parent's Experience of the Holiday.

It is 8:30 am on Christmas morning.  There was a day seven years ago that I never would've imagined I could confront with joy the silence that surrounds me, the emptiness under the tree, and the absence of my two most precious gifts, my young daughters.

It is Christmas for hundreds of my friends, posting photos of merriment on Facebook.  It is Christmas for my closest girlfriends, who have included me in a group text message, and my phone is erupting with their back and forth warm wishes for the day. But it is not Christmas for me.  Not yet.

If you are a divorced parent, then you can really understand what I'm saying.  As much as I wish my girls could be here with me every Christmas morning, the truth is, I have only every other December 25th with them, so I have to accept that instead of 18 "Christmas" mornings with my girls until they go off to college, I will have 9.

Seven years ago this reality nearly crushed me.  Our first Christmas apart, I watched them leave me.  Elizabeth gripped in her father's arms, Madeline's little hand encompassed by her Daddy's larger one. They were not in tears, but as soon as I closed my door, I was.  They came rushing, crashing out.  I cried like I did when I was a child, heaving and then a slow hiccuping when my eyes had no tears left.

That Christmas Eve I drove down to the bar and a dear friend of mine, who happened to be the bartender (It's a small town), took a glance at my face and poured me a series of shots.  It wasn't the best way to deal with my despair, but at the time it was the only way.  Drunk and oblivious, he called a cab.  I stumbled through my front door with a pristine snow swirling all around, an evening that in all my childhood dreams had never transpired in this way,  and passed out on the couch.  I woke up with a pounding headache, nauseous, and the tears spilled again.

I cried because  there were not tiny feet coming down the steps.  I cried because my husband was not my husband and I was alone.  I cried because my heart was broken.  I cried because I was lost and I didn't know who I was anymore.  And lastly, I cried because I was ashamed that I had gotten drunk on Christmas Eve.

Although subsequent years were not as hard (thank you to my sister, Amanda especially for spending these holidays with me so I wouldn't repeat my shameful previous performance), they were certainly not easy emotionally.  And they were not easy financially either.  I needed a second job to be able to survive the cost of the holidays.  For the first three years I taught summer school.  The following two years I got seasonal jobs, working in the mall one year at a jewelry store and another year bartending.  I worked only when my daughters were with their father and was able to save enough money to make Christmas happen.  Every year I felt sick as November approached.  I knew we were entering the holiday season and emotionally and financially this was painful.

This has been the first year that I've looked forward to Christmas since 2006, when my second daughter was born.  A combination of factors has changed my misery to merriment.  A big part of it was having cancer.  Something about thinking you could die changes a person.  Another part of it is having an amazing man in my life, who is tremendously kind, generous, understanding (not to mention how much he likes to clean!  What more could a girl ask for?).  He and his three children and my girls have become a blended family of seven.  There are difficult, crazy, chaotic days, but I feel that I am learning a new way to live.

So I am sitting here on Christmas morning with the wind blowing hard through the two story tall pine trees, watching CNN, cupping a mug of steaming coffee, looking forward to early afternoon when my girls come home, looking forward to the evening when Brock's children come home and when Brock finishes his work day.  Then, my new family, patched lovingly together from our previous defeats, will celebrate our Christmas eve.  It may be a day later on the calendar, but not in our hearts.

For all divorced parents who will celebrate your Christmases, Thanksgivings, Halloweens and Easters apart, I hope you come to see the holiday is in your heart and it's not the date that matters, but the day you create with the ones you love.

Peace and blessings.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Frenzied Mosaic of a Thousand Deaths (or How Howard Met his Demise)

Here is a piece of fiction I've had written for a very long time (since 2003) that I'm finally publishing.  This is my first piece of fiction that I have shared on this blog.  I hope you enjoy it and I welcome feedback!


She closed the door as gently as she could, her heart beating louder than the bare whisper of metal clicking.

"5:30, Eunice. " And louder, "5:30."

Howard's eyes stared forward, focused on the newspaper, although his rigid voice attested to his intense dismay.  Her arrival was two minutes later than customary and thus unacceptable.

"Sorry, Howard.  I got caught in traffic..." Her voice trailed off as she hurriedly slipped off her white nurse's shoes and padded softly toward the closet to hang her jacket and pocketbook. "The girls...doing homework?" She glanced at the clock.  5:02.  Of course they were.  What a stupid question, Eunice. She berated herself.

He did not reply.  His ignored her question  to express that it was beneath him to be concerned with the domestic responsibility. 

Her own stupidity at even asking astounded her.  She blamed it on her nerves for being late.  She knew the routine.  Until 5:15 they would toil at the kitchen table, at which time they would close their books, deposit them into their matching blue L.L. Bean bookbags, and hang them on the prescribed hooks in the closet.  Noiselessly they would wash their faces, and by 5:20 they would be setting the table: Four bone white Corelle plates, four glasses (right side of plate), resting on four meticulously folded and pristine napkins would be four forks and four knives (left side of plate, knife blade facing the plate, then the fork), and four spoons to the right of the plate.

Two ice cubes in each glass, filled to within an inch of the brim (only with spring water, never with tap).  There was never a reason to err as Howard had marked a line on each glass with a permanent marker to ensure compliance.

"Howie..." Eunice  started in her sweetest, good-wife voice, "...dinner won't take long.  I pre-made it this morning.  It will only need to heat through and then it will be ready."

She waited quietly for some reply.  A short head nod, a grunt, a look in her direction.  Nothing.  Her palms began to perspire.  She stood for a thirty second spell that felt more like a lifetime prison sentence.

Howard slowly, with production, closed the paper, folding it neatly and crisply in half.  He placed it on the table beside him then pushed his glasses up as he turned to her.

"Fine, Eunice."  The clock read 5:05.

Howard placed his feet in his leather slippers, then, using both hands, pushed himself up out of the recliner. "I'll have my cigar now," and exited the room,  her cue to be about her wifely assignment.

In the kitchen, the only sound was pencils scratching.  She entered like a floating phantom, nodding a silent hello, and sharing a commiserate glance with the girls.     Outside the kitchen's door, Howard was smoking his cigar, right handed.  He had removed his glasses and placed them in his right breast pocket beside a pair of black felt pens.  He was staring into the kitchen, almost like he was waiting to catch her making a childish mistake.

Fourteen years ago the girls were born.  Eunice and Howard joyfully received the news that they would be blessed with not one, but two healthy girls. To Howard's dismay, they emerged with flaming red shocks of hair.

Eunice sighed, opened the refrigerator, and removed the aluminum foiled Shepard's Pie.

Before the girls' arrival, she'd noticed a quirk here, some paranoia occasionally.  Every once in a while, Howard expressed some interesting whimsies, which had intrigued Eunice at the time.  It was the 70s then and his crazy ideas and eccentricities were the cornerstone of the 60s culture.   She attributed any bizarre behavior to the drugs he'd done at one time.

But fourteen years ago, when the red-headed twins were born, so was a new Howard.  

Eunice clicked the dial on the stove to 325.  And, without preheating, slid the dish into the oven.  It was 5:11. Dinner would be lukewarm or late.  Either way was unacceptable.

Before the twins, before Howard, Eunice was enrolled in pre-law at Georgetown University.  She had burned her bra, read Kate Millet's book "Sexual Politics" and cheered wildly in '73 when the Supreme Court finally gave women the right to choose with Roe vs Wade.

Men were not just attracted to her physically, although she was easy to look at: hazel eyes, high cheekbones, and dirty blonde hair, a curvaceous bottom half and a waist that dipped in tightly. Her voice, deep and sultry like Lena Horn, easily melted a man's will power.  But, she wasn't much interested in men or their will power, despite how they may have felt about her.  While she stayed committed to her feminist views, men chased her.  One by one they approached, intoxicated by the idea that he may be the one to win her, stifle her independence, bend her to his will.  Eventually, the endless phone calls and stares, the appropriate and inappropriately vulgar proposals, unnecessary catcalls, and pinches on her bottom in both bars and crowded elevators, well, eventually she determined to elevate her social circle.  That was when she received the happy notice that she'd been accepted into Georgetown.  She met Howard her first semester.  He was her professor.  Mathematics, not Law.  It had been a compulsory class.

Howard did not have glasses then, nor did he have pocket pens.

Howard was only moderately attractive, at best.  But Eunice found as the semester passed he was witty and intellectually stimulated her.  And, for the first time in her life, she was dumbfounded that there was a man who was not sexually overt with her.  Never did he steal a glance at her chest.  Not once did she catch his eyes on her bottom.

She pursued him.  The more he insisted it was inappropriate, the more she pressed.  With the class ending and only a final remaining, two months after her first offer, he finally agreed to meet her for dinner.

They held hands with only a chaste kiss here and there for months.  Eunice began to go wild, waiting for him to make more remarkable advances.

After five months, during a routine evening "good night" kiss, Howard slipped his tongue between her lips and Eunice's legs began to tremble.  She felt herself willing to follow him anywhere, he was a knight in shining armor.  She was willing to toss aside any previous notion of careers and success to be taken to the edge of this climactic precipice, where she wanted to fling herself into his passionate embrace.

She was enchanted by him and while he continued to maintain a distance, he slowly and steadily made advances, butterfly kisses on her neck, flowers delivered for no reason, a gentle tug on her hair while kissing, later pushing her and holding her against the steel door during a lingering kiss, before turning abruptly and leaving.

It drove her crazy.  That and his brilliant mind.  Over coffee he would quote Kafka and Locke.    He admired Descartes philosophy on dualism and heralded it as part of his own: insisting they ignore the weaknesses of the human body and focus instead on the innate power of the mind.

One day, inexplicably, while sitting alone in a cafe drinking a black coffee, she suddenly realized it.  Her bra burning days were over.  She was in love with Howard.

On their eight month anniversary he unexpectedly arrived at her one bedroom apartment (of which he disapproved.  A single woman, living alone?  How dangerous and inappropriate).  In his hand he carried 8 white roses.  Not red.  Red roses were for love, Eunice knew, and Howard had not once professed his, although Eunice had many times since her black coffee revelation.  It was then she agreed to be his wife.

The sound of textbooks closing disrupted Eunice's memory.  5:15.  She started the dishes, while the girls tread to the bathroom to clean up.

They made love for the first time after the wedding.  It was not the jaw dropping experience Eunice had hoped for.  But she was practical and realistic.  She knew it wasn't always earth shattering.  But after repeated monotonous encounters, she soon realized that sex was routine for Howard.  Routine became the word that described Howard's life.

At first it was nothing to even notice.  Wake up at 5:30 am and shower.  Breakfast at 6:00.  Cheerios.  Without fail.  And strawberries, cut into four chunks.  Never sliced.  Two pieces of toast with peanut butter, cut in half.  She quickly learned to satisfy these needs ("Wipe the peanut butter off the knife onto the bread, Eunice, not on the lid").  At 6:30, after he left for work, she showered and went to classes.  Until he decided law was not a profession suited for the mother of his future children.  Nursing.  Nursing was acceptable for Howard.  And so she had accommodated him.

And then, she began to notice more.  Every Tuesday and Thursday he called his mother and they spoke for exactly an hour.  On Sunday, she called at 4 pm and they spoke for two hours.   Eunice always gave him privacy and slipped into the bedroom to wait it out. In the beginning, she'd thought he'd made the calls so frequently just because she was halfway across the country, in North Dakota.  It was kind of endearing that he cared that much.

But after months, she couldn't understand what they had to speak about for four hours a week.  Then, unable to withhold her curiosity, she eavesdropped on a Sunday conversation and was astounded at his demeanor and monotone voice during his calls, "Yes, mother.  Of course, dear.  I'll be sure to do that.  I took my pill at 6:30.  Yes, Eunice makes me breakfast every day... No, mother, I would never watch that.  It's not appropriate for me.  Of course I will say a prayer for you... " and so on and so on with more, "Yes, mothers" and  "No, mothers" and then at the end, she nearly gasped at the repetition of, "I love you mother," and then "I love you too, mother." She turned quickly, afraid she would get caught listening and tiptoed back to their room.  A single tear had rolled down her cheek.  Howard had still not expressed his love to her.

And that was how it went, until the twins came along.

5:20.  The girls entered the kitchen, one behind the other.  One withdrew plates from the cupboard near Eunice's head, the other retrieved a white linen table cloth from the upper drawer in the oak sideboard.

In the living room, Howard's voice was low, a murmur.  Wednesday.  Talking to his mother.  He had started speaking to her every day recently, but only for ten to fifteen minutes outside of his Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday routine.

Eunice scrubbed the back of a pot furiously, resuming her daydream.  She remembered the time she had thought Howard would passionately embrace her and she would be taken to the edge of desire, where together they would spill over, consumed with their love for each other.

Indeed, she had come to the edge.  But it was no passionate cliff.  It was the intense monotony of the day to day, each predictable and unchanging event,  the horror of the invisible leash Howard had placed around her neck (which she felt she had voluntarily handed him) and ultimately it was the life that she had tossed aside, dreams that he has chewed and spit out, that gripped her and drove her to the edge where she found herself now, terrified and wild.

And the twins.  She bit her lip.  She was allowing him to wield it over her girls.  She clenched her fists and jaw, then relaxed them, breathing out deeply.  She plunged her hands in again, to finish off the silverware, which she had saved for last as they were her least favorite.  The spoons, forks and butter knives she scrubbed and rinsed, then reached for the steak knives which she had not placed in the water, for fear she may accidentally stab herself while reaching around blindly in the soapy water.  She did those very last, one by one, carefully sliding the cloth up and down the blade.

"Thank god for daydreams," she whispered.  Thank god, she thought, that Howard could not chain her mind.

"Excuse me, Eunice."  Howard's unexpected voice caused her to slip and slice open her hand.  She looked at the twins, who were looking down.  They knew not to speak before they were spoken to.

"I...I'm sorry Howard.  I've cut my hand on the knife?"  It was a question.  It was asking permission for a bandage. 

Howard was unconcerned with the steady drip of blood.  He cleared his throat ceremoniously, an accusation at the very least.

"5:30, Eunice.  5:30"

Eunice's heart sank.  Her hands, covered now in blood, trembled.

"Dinner is served at 5:30... What time is it, Eunice?  "  She knew that was not a question she was supposed to answer.

The clock on the oven twitched at that very moment.  5:29.  She had one minute to have dinner on the table.  Howard stood tall now, to his full height.  He towered, blocking the light from the chandelier at the table where the girls sat.  Eunice cast a longing glance their way.  She wished they would look up, look at her.  Their eyes continued to be cast downward.

She stared at her girls for a heart breaking moment,  one that stood still and was marred by the smell of blood like copper.  She saw them now, really saw them.  Their hair pulled back off their face severely, into a matronly bun at the bottom of their head.  Their mousy brown hair, dyed by Howard when the entered junior high school.  Eunice hadn't wanted it but Howard's mother had insisted he do it. She saw them now, in their drab clothes, pale skin, withdrawn mouths. 

Howard moved a step toward Eunice and with his breath hot at her ear said, "How am I supposed to wash my hands for dinner if you are bleeding into the goddamn sink?"

"One minute, Howard, I promise.  I can clean this right up."  Howard did not move, he stayed bent, watching her every movement.

With him so close and the threat of punishment imminent as a result of the tardy dinner, Eunice stifled a muffled sob of relief when the phone rang and Howard backed away.  He moved slowly, letting his hand brush her thigh menacingly as he did.

"Hello?... Yes, Of course Eunice is alright.... What?  Of course you would be worried. She certainly has not missed a day of work in five years... I will let her know you were concerned."

Her hand, wet and shaking, found the knife.  Her fingers gentle traced the smooth blade.  The girls were breathing heavily.

Howard placed the phone into its cradle on the wall.

How voice started low then built to a raging crescendo, "Euuunnnice!  5:30.  Dinner is served at 5:30 Eunice!"

Howard's hands were on his belt.  The punishment.  He unfastened the clasp.  A square piece of metal that had created so many little frames along her thighs, stomach and chest, black and blue pictures frames by red welts.

"Please, Howard,  Please.  Not in front of the girls."

He slipped it off in one quick motion.  Eunice stepped back, shifting the knife behind her.  Howard was a giant in front of her, but behind her she could see Eve standing, moving away from the table and approaching the kitchen.  She was carrying the crystal pitcher of water.

Howard lunged forward precisely at the moment Eve, behind him, dropped the pitcher, which shattered into a thousand fragments upon the tile floor.

Each fragment became a mirror, and in its reflection a frenzied human mosaic.  

Each fragment became a potential blade which became a thousand stifled memories upon a thousand jabbing thrusts. 

When the police arrested Eunice later that evening, in garbled sentences she explained she was standing too close to the edge and she slipped.  She had no choice but to jump.  They carried her away, ranting like that.

Her last glance was back, at her daughters.  Their hair was loose, wild.  Their eyes, passionate. 

Eve cleaned up the mess of shattered prisms, and later, much later, washed the blood from her hands.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Death Face and What Cancer Taught Me

I wake, stretching, feeling my achy joints cracking as the last residue of sleep leaves me. 5 am is my time. I love the morning. The quiet. The darkness. The stillness.  The children sleeping with cherub cheeks. The Keurig spitting. The furnace kicking alive. The unfulfilled promise of another day.

I push up into a sitting position, reclining against a pile of pillows wedged behind me.   Brock has already turned on CNN and he pads into the room, emerging like a shadow, hands laden with two cups of steaming coffee.

"Is she on again?"

The "she" he is referring to is a 37 year old woman who's lifelong dream has been to swim a distance in the Atlantic Ocean that has never been done before. For weeks the news covered the pending journey. This woman had faced a series of setbacks and she'd gritted her teeth, settled in for the long haul, dauntlessly clamoring, refusing to accept defeat. Against all odds, she'd determined to take the risk for this dream and here she was, the culmination of a life's work coming to fruition.

"I think so. She was supposed to have started  swimming yesterday I thought."  He hands me the coffee and I sip, a steady sigh of steam rising from the surface.

I would not admit it aloud, thinking it is rather cheesy, but I have been silently cheering for this woman, hoping for her success. When the news covered her life's story last week, building audience anticipation for the event, I viewed quietly with the kids and Brock until finally I left the room, tears slipping, and wept alone in the bathroom. Perhaps it was being menopausal that resulted in my behavior, or perhaps my own personal journey through the fire of a hell I didn't know I would be forced to endure. I pray for her success as though my own is incumbent upon it.

There is a sudden cheering on the tv but not a joyful cheer. The surge of noise is a mournful sound. A sound that means "Please, God, no. Don't let it be true." My coffee is almost to my mouth when I hear it and it jolts me so I spill it on my lap, burning into my belly.

And yet I am not even thinking about the burning because on the tv I am watching her swimming. But not for long.  Nature has a way of becoming an unexpected guest: a wave so large emerges from the bowels of the ocean that even a seasoned surfboarder would have taken flight. The cameras are on her and then they are not. She is swallowed in one breath by the ocean.

But the cameramen came prepared, with sophisticated underwater equipment. The picture on the tv shows her being flung around, tossed like a pebble, pushed deeper. The sound is a gurgling like too much water being drained from a bathtub. The sound is an echoing  reminding me of when I was a child and I would stay underwater in the tub, just my ears, with the water framing my face, and hear the bubbles, the voices, the rushing faucet smashing water.

The camera's light shines on her as she twists and turns. She casts a white glow. An incandescent bulb. She is too deep now. It's been too long. My heart beats hard. Then darkness. The camera malfunctions.

I feel her story though. I know what is happening. She is consumed by the water. It slowly lifts her up now, toward the surface. I can feel her weightlessness, how the water caresses her, thrusting her higher, spitting her out.

She is not afraid. She is not anything. She feels the same calm she has felt only during meditation.

It feels good to let the ocean smash her will, bend her to its own. It feels good to know something bigger than her is enveloping her, part of her and yet very separate. She is pushed one final time forward and then stillness.

Her story is not over. I still see her. Not her face. I have never seen her face. Not all these weeks on television. Never her face. She is facedown on the surface, hair fanning out like weeds, wild, willowy.  My view is from under the ocean. It is dark down here but beyond her, the surface. I can see the light. I am moving slowly toward her. She is blackness.

Her hands perpetrate  the slow movement of a shy hello, bobbing with the undulation of the waves. Her hair crowds her face but I am close to her now. So close. I know she is dead. I feel her death. It surrounds her. It reminds me of when I was a child playing at the beach and my sisters dug a hole, burying everything from the neck down. Death has swaddled her like a newborn baby wrapped into the cocoon blanket by his mother.

I am close enough now. I gingerly reach toward her hair face. A strange glow behind her I know is just the sun, the sky, the other side, merely inches away. The water is velvet between my fingers as I brush back her hair revealing her face.

I stare at her. It is impossible.

The hair fanned out. The arms askew.

The death face is my own. She is me.  We are the same.

This is the dream I awoke from Wednesday morning.  It was 3 am. I woke, startled and began to weep quietly. I was still tangled in the dream and tangled in sleepiness and logic was not fully upon me but I knew this dream is a sign. I reached for Brock in the dark and rested my face against his back, letting the dream subside. I drifted back into sleep for an hour and when I woke to take my levothyroxine as I do every day since cancer destroyed a part of me; when I do, the dream reemerge and I can't go back to sleep.  I spend an hour in the darkness breaking it apart until eventually I come to understand its meaning.

There was a time only one short year ago when all my life's ambitions were arranged like art in a gallery.  I was amazed at the power of my body. Proud at the determination I displayed as I committed myself to more reps, just one more set, another mile, just ten more pounds on that lift. I thought I had it all figured out. It was a puzzle and all of my pieces were placed. I was that close to seeing the finish line.

But you are never allowed to know when it will be taken away from you. You never know when the wings you are given will lift you up so high that you will be among Angels.

I saw for a moment the death face. Just for a while I experienced how it felt to think it would be the end. It was a moment that was too long and too intense. It was a moment that was many moments and the one I remember best is this:

I am laying on the couch again. I am due for surgery in just a few days. It is four o'clock in the afternoon. I am watching my daughter Madeline. She is laying on the floor reading "The Heroes of Olympus". She is ten. Her blonde hair cascades down her back. She is on her stomach and her legs are bent at the knee, feet in the air, kicking slightly back and forth.

.I imagine the moments in her life that I may not ever witness. I see her at her 6th grade graduation and she is still my baby faced girl, slowly emerging into adulthood. Her first junior high dance where she stands in a crowd of her friends and giggles about the boy she is crushing on. Her first solo violin performance in the high school orchestra. Another dance recital. Another birthday. Now she is 16. She plays soccer and scores three goals in one game. She dresses for prom without me,  but she thinks of me as she looks at herself in the mirror, makeup, hair piled atop her head in blonde curls. I see her graduate at the top her class. Her dad is so proud. Her sister hugs her tight in the picture. She goes to college and meets the man she will marry. They honor me at the wedding. Her Tika, my sister, speaks on my behalf. She has her first baby. It is a girl. I am a grandma. I am not there that day, but I am.  My spirit is always there with her.

It has taken me a long time to come to accept the events of 2014. I am still sometimes in denial. What I've come to understand it takes more grit and determination to accept my body will eventually fail me and I will eventually die than it ever did to run miles or pump weights, give speeches or write 20 page essays.  I accept this idea some days and some days I do not.  I am a novice.  I am learning how to live in the moment.

For everyone who has stared death in the face, there is not a medal made of enough gold, a trophy big enough.  You may not have a stage.  You may not have snapshots in magazines.  Yet,  it is you who has the courage children read about in fairy tales. Yet, your courage, your resilience, your determination is real. It is what makes legends.

I honor you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Divorce Diary Part #1: He Wants a Divorce

While scouring through the basement looking for paperwork last weekend, I came across "The Tote."  I'd hidden the memory of the heartache inside, but after seven years, I took a deep breath and unsnapped the lid.

As I read, the story of a divorce emerged.  I could feel the hurt that woman experienced, could imagine the sadness lingering in those pages, but didn't feel that woman was me.

It was me.  It still is me.  But I've changed.

I've emerged.

I'm sharing with you the actual diary, word for word except in the case that you would be confused, and also replacing actual names to protect the privacy of my ex-husband and his wife, for whom I am happy and wish them the best.  I am sharing this not to expose them, but to help anyone who feels the need to hear another's story.  I hope if you are seeking solace, you can find some here.


Tues 7/3 (2007)
Yesterday Jason wanted to have the 'hard conversations'.  It didn't take much to figure out he didn't want our marriage to continue.  We talked a lot.  I cried a lot.  I want it to work.  I want to try.  He doesn't.

I moved into Mom's today.  It was hard.  Mom left work early and watched the girls (so Jason and I could talk).  Jason was doing day 2 of extended work year for school.  Since he didn't see the girls all day, I let him keep them the night.  I cried harder after leaving them than I have since this started in May.

Wed 7/4
We went together and got Ella's bloodwork done.  Bought lunch at Burger King since girls were sleeping.  Talked as we ate in the car.  Still so sad.  Never expected this.  Disillusioned.

Took girls from 12:30-2:00.  Jason picked up Maddie @ 2:00 and went to Jenny's.  Brought them to me @ 9.  We talked.  Sounds like Maddie spent a lot of time being supervised by Dorothy's daughters and Jillian.  She peed her pants.  She doesn't do that often.  Sounds like she and Samantha had fun.  Girls stayed night with me at Mom's.  Mom bought a pack and play for Ella.  Maddie slept with me.

Thursday July 5
Went to Jason's and opened the antique shop at 11:40.  Jason had picked up the girls at 9:00 from Mom's.  I closed up the shop and left at 5:00.Very hard day being there.  People driving by the house must think we look like the perfect family.  We aren't.  Girls stayed night with me.

Friday July 6
Dropped girls off around 8 am.  Jason fed breakfast.  I went over to open the antique shop later, around 11:45.  About 2:00 Jason took girls for groceries.  They were sleeping when he got to the store, so he called me while he was sitting in the parking lot, waiting.  Returned about 4 and he made dinner.  I watched and played with girls while working at the store.  He's being nice to me.  Asked me to stay and eat.  I did.  He kept the girls all night.  I went back to Mom's.

Sat July 7
Appt with counselor.  Cried immediately.  She asked me if I was sure there was no one else.  "I don't think so," I said.  I said, "How could he have time?"  But, I remember the yucky feeling I got when he talked about how he wished I would like her because he likes her (Dorothy) and him getting her the sweatshirt at the retirement party when she said she was cold-Thursday before school was out.  He practically jumped over the table to get it before her husband could.  He was completely trashed that night on the way home and said he was a failure as a husband and a father.  Why is this happening to me?

Went to the consignment store and priced new items.  I'm closing my antique booth there in July.  It's the  right thing to do, just like no more E-bay.  I don't have enough time for me.  Picked girls up about 2:30.  Stayed night with me.  A good night.

Sunday July 8
Been calling on apartments this am.  Jason said he "guesses" what he wants is a divorce. I wanted to know where he thought I would be in September as I have to have a home for me and the girls.  I let him decide-by phone last night.  I thought I would die when he said that he doesn't see us together.  Why can't he just try to make this work?

Amanda and Bridget watched the store for me.  Jason wants to take the girls Thursday night through Monday night to his parents' home near Saratoga.  He is angry because I said no and won't compromise.  I need them right now.  I think my heart would shrivel and die if he took them that long.  He said I always get my way.  I said if it was my way we would all go down together as a family.  He said I could go down with him. HOW could he say that?  He's miserable to me!

He said he trusts me and wants us to continue to be friends (and let's not forget about how I said I would come over for intervention and he said, "we'll just end up having sex.")  I told him to get his head out of the clouds.  He wants a divorce, treats me like shit.  And he thinks I'm going to go with him?  I think what he really wants is his "cake and to eat it too."

I remember at the end of May when this erupted and he said that we should put up a house next door in the empty lot and things would be perfect if I lived next door.  Then he said he was jk.  What's wrong with him?

We argue, he says.  Of course we argue!  We have two little girls, 1 1/2 years old and not quite 3.  What do you expect!  We both work full time jobs and previously with e-bay and the consignment store, as well as the antique shop, that's a lot of stress.  We've got this huge, old house.  It doesn't take care of itself.  OF COURSE we are going to have arguments.  That's normal!  Of course it's not always going to be happy-happy-happy.  That, to me, doesn't mean we give up!  But I told him I can't hold on like this and if he lets go, then I'll let go.  I'll walk away.  I guess it's time.  He doesn't love me, he says.  He's said it many times now.  He tells me he doesn't "want" me anymore (like I'm a tool that no longer has any use).  I asked him, why?  He has no answer.

Mon July 9
Girls to day care today.  My first day of teaching summer school. Jason wanted to send girls to daycare even though he could've watched them and now he won't see them today.  It was his choice.  Mom brought girls home from daycare at about 4:00.  I'm still staying at Mom's.  It was a long day.  Tired.  Hard.  But better b/c I didn't think about him every minute of this day.  Girls stayed the night with me.

Tue July 10
1st day summer school with students.  Dropped girls off at Jason's on way.  Maddie has a dr appt at 2:45. I picked her up and took her.  Ella stayed with Jason.  Mom picked Ella up on her way home.  Ella was puking, up all night sick.  Maddie slept great.  Her bug bites are getting better.  Went to see Grandpa Ronnie today.  I cried.  A lot.  Couldn't speak.  Choked up.  Grandpa believed in me.  I feel like a failure.  I let him down with this divorce.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thrown into the Crashing Crests, Clothes and All

Time heals all wounds, or so it is said.  That must be why usually I write about events that were in the past, or about my fitness or nutrition successes.  They've healed and the hurt isn't pressing in on me anymore.  It isn't often I write about the here and now, and my immediate feelings of grief or despair.

Who wants to feel despair?  I certainly don't, and it comes in ripples, like waves that saunter toward toes.  I step away, avoiding.  But sometimes life happens in sudden and strange ways and it's not a little ripple or a small wave.  You are thrown into the crashing crests, clothes and all.

And so, I suppose it has not been a surprise at all that I've been remote these past few months.  It's not pleasant to face the harsh reality and remotely striking beauty of what has been happening. 

I envy.  I see the Tough Mudders posts and 5ks, half marathons, TRIs on Facebook, hear friends speak about their successes, see runners alongside the road and turn away, afraid of a tear that might slip out.  I am happy for my friends, but it is hard to listen. 

I still haven't seen a true work out since January.  (Working out = my therapy) Haven't done a jumping jack, swung a golf club, done a push up.  

I've spent countless days on the couch, watching empty tree branches covered with and without snow, budding, dancing and swaying, then green, and windows filled with butterflies and bees.

I pitied myself, holding it in like a leaky pen, poison. Until it was exhausting and pointless. 

But the truth of the situation was beyond my control.  It still is.  After my surgery for the ruptured disc in my back, the swelling never really subsided.  The numbness in my arm never retreated.   The swelling, at first thought to be fluid on the site of the incision, later, after an ultrasound, proved to be something attached to my thyroid, growing, and then last week, the biopsy showed it is a tumor in my neck.  Shaped like an egg and expanding.

And so my sister and I sat in another specialist's office just this past Tuesday, hearing him discuss how he would remove the tumor and biopsy it during the surgery.  What will happen if it's benign adenoma. What will happen if it's malignant carcinoma. 

As he spoke I interrupted him, put my hand to the window sill, felt like I would faint, "I'm going to pass out."

Me.  Superwoman.  Invincible.  Indomitable spirit.  I almost fainted.  Twice. 

That night I held my daughters close to me as they slept, smelling their Watermelon Strawberry Shampoo.  I thought about the administrative classes, the impending internship, my plans for the future.  And I realized that none of it matters, not one damn bit if I can't have the people I love by my side. 

I wanted to stay that way as long as I could, in the dark, the sound of cars rushing by, and the immense silence.  Just me and these two beautiful girls.  It reminded me of nights long ago, the sounds of a rushing river, and my own mother by my side, singing gently to me.

I felt my own mortality, like the moment I almost fainted, pressing on me. 

And I began to envision my blessings, each person who has stepped quietly into my life and stayed, even if it was only a little while, leaving a footprint.  I fell asleep that way, Madeline cradled close to me, listening to her breath, a tear slipping out as I considered this challenge, once more, a test:

You see, all this time I've been waiting, feeling like something is supposed to happen, something immense.  Thinking that I would have some kind of epiphany, some colossal event, like a bolt of lightening, some achievement, and as John Kabat-Zinn would say, I'd "Arrive at my own door." 

What an idiot he I faded into the sweet breaths of sleep I realized, I'm not going to arrive at my door or anyone else's because I'm already here. 

I've been here all along.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Vegan Smoothie Your Kids Will Love
3/4 cup OJ
1 cup frozen berries (I also put in pineapple)
1 banana
2 ounces Silken Tofu

Ella giving a thumbs up to this delish smoothie :)
About 250 cals, 4 grams fat, lots of carbs but they're good carbs (about 45)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sometimes Moving Forward Is Actually Staying Still

Today marks one month since I woke in the most excruciating pain I have ever known (yes, more than giving birth with no pain meds).  I called to my daughters to dress themselves between my tears, sent off with their father, and drove myself to the ER.

That initial pain which caused me to literally beg the doctor at the ER to give me a shot of something to take the pain away has dulled, but it is still there all the time.  I look forward to the morning I wake up and it's gone.  I took my health for granted.

I make it a point in my life to find the lesson in every experience... I ask myself, "What is this teaching me."  

Before the slipped disc, I was at Heart to Heart working out at least three times a week for about two hours a session.  If I could get there five times a week, I would go five times a week.  I was sticking to my vegan diet with a tunnel vision, very regimented, with little consideration for fine tuning or changing the diet as needed.  My last two college courses had begun and there was an unhealthy amount of commitment to which I had extended myself.

I am one of those people who thinks I can do anything and as much of anything as I want and I don't need anyone to help me. I put pressure on myself in unfair ways sometimes to expect results.  I have a vision of the way I want my life to be, and the pace at which I live is unnatural. I think much of this has to do with the time I spent with my ex-husband, which I often reflect upon as "wasted years" because I was in a stasis, waiting on him.  From 19-31 years old, and then even after, I had to unlearn some very damaging habits I had developed with him.  I often feel like I have to "make up" that time because I did and was "nothing" when I was with him.  This is not true and if you are a woman who functioned in that type of relationship (or dysfunctioned)  then you understand what it feels like to put your life on hold to please someone else. I look in the mirror and I see that I am no longer that girl, that at nearing 37, I am a woman progressing toward my middle years.

What have I accomplished?  I ask myself.

This is dangerous.  I have to veer away from this thinking.  Because I'm constantly looking for an answer that would be something on my resume, not realizing that I've accomplished so much more than that, and it's not the courage to climb a mountain that's necessary, it's the courage to take the first step, and every step after that.  I don't give myself credit for all those little steps.

With all the push, I had begun meditating and doing yoga in the morning regularly to help bring some balance to that, but it wasn't enough.  My body did what my mind could not, and it did it in a way that literally brought me to my knees.  It forced me to stop, reflect, be more thoughtful, depend on others, say no to others so that I could focus on reconnecting with myself, and it also gave me a healthy lesson in humility.

The pain from the disc is not the pain that brought me to beg the doctor for a shot to put me out of my misery, it's the pain from the pinched nerve.  When the disc slipped, it pinched a nerve that runs along my left arm, and the pain deferred through the entire arm.  The pain changes every day, depending how badly the nerve is pinched. Often it is a radiating current that is like an electrical jolt that runs up and down, but for a while it was that and a pressure cuff on the entire arm.  Now, the pain has dulled to an aching, often a burning ache, in my back, elbow, one spot in my forearm, tricep., and shoulder.   My pointer finger and thumb are still numb in the tip and along the length they tingle, like when you wake with a "sleepy" arm.  There is really nothing that can be done to make the pain go away (except the "magic" shot at the ER which I needed a ride home after--thank you Melissa R. for that ride).

In the past month I have lived with the pain which at two points was so terrible I could do nothing but sit up and cry like a baby (talk about humility).  There have been moments when I could not even hold a coffee cup in my left hand because of the weakness in my hand. The doctor did give me prescriptions to help dull it and help the muscle relax.  This in itself was a lesson because I do NOT like taking meds unless it's absolutely essential: Flexerol, Tramadol, Oxy, Hydrocodon, Steroids...  It was essential at the time, but at the last visit I refused any pain med, just deciding I would endure the pain and continue to see the chiropractor and massage therapist. The penultimate point in that decision came when I was on the Flexerol and Tramadol and that combo was causing me to feel extremely depressed.  One night, between the drugs and the pain, I called my mom and just begged her to come over... I didn't know if I was going to be able to endure another night.  She did and just having her sit with me was a balm.  I drifted in and out of a drug induced haze that night.

While my back is getting better, I have not spent time doing much but sitting on my couch (really pleased with the color I painted my living room...).  From where I've laid with an ice pack on my upper back and a heating pad on my arm, I've observed for quite some time the branches across the street that are so tall they extend well above the rooftops.  I've seen them sway, dancing, stand still... lost them to the fury of a few snow storms...  I've thought about the many blessings in disguises that have come into my life and reconsidered what they mean to me, reflected on the people who have contacted me over the last few months to tell me how I've inspired them, and thought about the people who have lifted me up in my darkest times (thank you Jill M., Wendy L., Amanda L., Bridget L., and my Mom).

I've mulled over the events in my childhood, reconsidered my own reactions to them, and shaped some new perspectives.

Last, the pain has resulted in an evolution of my thought.  Yes, I do have goals.  I have an idea about what I want from life and where I would like to be, but I don't need to push so hard or so fast, and what happens, will happen, and I have to be ok with that.  This is it.  This one life, so fleeting, is really only this one moment, now gone, now another, and it's gone.

This is the only time that really matters: Stopping my work to smile at my daughter, Ella, while I peel her orange, and tuck her hair behind her ears.  To look at her, and really see her. The freckles on her nose. The dimple in her cheek.  To listen to her laugh.  Or leaning back to appreciate how the wind can make a branch wave...the stabbing shape of the icicles along the roof lines, the perch of a bird on the wires....calling my Mom to remind her that no matter our differences, I love her.

I am enough.  This moment is enough.  The people in my life are enough. I have and am everything I need.

The gym...and everything else...can wait a moment longer.  

“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.” 

― Lemony SnicketHorseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I Want to Die: What Coping is Like When Your Relationship Fails.

It may be time to discuss the immediate coping in the aftermath of failing in a relationship with someone you desperately love.

I have avoided a deeper discussion of what it was like when my marriage began its unraveling because the truth is it was a very dark and ugly time for me.

"Jack" and I met when I was 19 years old at SUNY Plattsburgh.  I was smoking a cigar, illegally entering the bar, Filion's, using a fake Jersey license. I was encouraged by friends to talk to him.  So I walked up to him and pretended that we had met previously.  He had no clue who I was (of course. We had never met.) It was an entertaining conversation.  In those days,  I was brazen and wild. I wanted to test my boundaries, sometimes in unproductive ways.  Luckily, I was still getting 4.0s in most of my coursework, and surprisingly I was working three jobs successfully to pay my bills.  I was independent and I wanted to take a bite out of the world, just to have a taste of what it had to offer.  But I was also so very naive and impressionable.

I had just gotten out of a short term relationship (about 4 months) and I was not looking for another one.  At the time, meeting him was probably one of the best things that happened to me because I was getting out of control.  I needed someone to tame me a little.   .

"Jack" did more than that "taming".  Over the course of ten years together, I gave everything I had to him, sacrificing myself in the process.  At the end, I was barely recognizable to myself, and the downward spiral began before we started having children.  Little by little, I abandoned hobbies, friends,  and interests, hoping to adapt and accommodate him.  It never seemed to be good enough.  I never felt good enough.

In June, when he told me "I love you but I'm not in love with you," I knew I had to make it through the month at school, teaching, before I could emotionally deal with his words.  He wrote me a very long letter, I believe it was about 12 pages, which listed every reason why he didn't want to be with me anymore.  It listed every wrong I had ever committed that he had remembered.  I was shocked.  He told me I made him miserable.  That he was not living the life he wanted and it was my fault. I hated myself.  I wanted to erase myself from existence after reading that letter. I believed him that this was my fault.... (This was the same man who had written a very different letter only months earlier in January, which described how much he loved me and how very in tune with me he was....)

At that point, my first course of action was to talk to someone.  I committed myself to therapy, even though I felt like it made me "weak" that I needed to go to therapy and have someone help me deal with my problems.  I think I went to therapy twice a week that first month.  I asked Jack to also go to therapy, but he refused.

Jack was being very emotionally cold to me, and he would stay up after I went to bed, often sleeping on the couch, or coming to bed later than I so that we weren't intimate in any way.  I decided to start sleeping in the spare bedroom.

The daily coldness and distance was a 24 hours-a-day punch in the stomach.  I walked around with a constant ache in my heart.  I did everything that I could think of to sway his opinion back toward me.  I cooked, cleaned, spoke kindly, offered him anything he needed.  I invited his friends over for dinner, went anywhere he wanted, allowed him to start smoking cigarettes again (he had stopped smoking in college after we met).  I wanted him to be happy so much that I would have done anything to give him that. I even recall an evening on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor because he said it never looked clean.

It was around this time that I finally went to see my grandfather and tell him about what was going on.  I could barely utter a word as I sat next to him on his couch, cradling a cup of coffee in my hands.  How could I tell this man, whom I admired, adored, and respected, that my marriage was failing.  I felt like a failure in telling him.  My grandfather indeed was surprised.  He asked me to tell him more.  Once I told him that Jack has said "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" and described some other actions, my grandfather said, "He's having an affair. I would know."

That was crushing to me.  My therapist had also questioned me multiple times regarding a possible affair, but I refused to believe it was possible.  Now there was another emotional wrench thrown into the mix.  If my grandfather said it, it was true.

When Jack said he needed time and space, I willingly left the house to temporarily live with my mom.  He seemed unfazed.  I stalked the house the entire time I was living with my mom.... driving by to see if he was there, and if so, was anyone else's car parked in the driveway. There is more to this story that I'm not willing to lay out for the public, but at a certain point the validity of the affair was proven.

 Jack told me soon after that he had gone to a lawyer to see about a divorce. (Ironically, the lawyer told him he had no grounds for a divorce).  I finally sought some legal counsel myself and moved back into the house at the advice of a lawyer.  This was like living in my own personal hell.  Jack came and went as he pleased and I was "the reason" for the breakdown of my family and my failed marriage.  He denied an affair, instead saying she was a friend to him.  "A true friend"  I didn't want to believe he was having an affair.  I wanted it to be as simple as I needed to be more considerate of him and his feelings.  I needed to be a better wife.  So I focused on that.  I could fix that.

I felt guilty.  It was all my fault.  He said it, and I believed it.  I ruined my marriage.  I destroyed my family.  It was a wrenching burden to carry.  I asked Jack if he still loved me.  I asked him if there was anything about me to love.  He told me, "Well, you're smart."  I don't know why, but I felt a need to ask him every once in a while some kind of question regarding his feelings toward me and every time he treated me like I was a stranger.  Why I continued in that behavior makes sense because I loved him and was seeking his approval, but it was a quicksand.  It took me a while to get out of it and every movement in it just further deepened my wound.

The emotional upheaval was exhausting.  I slept, breathed, and ate with a superficial smile pasted to my face.  I walked around in a daze, not knowing who I was anymore or what was going to happen.  My daughters' needs kept me going.  But even they couldn't keep brief thoughts of dying and how I might just end it all at bay.  I lost weight, going from a size 12 to a size 8.  I ate because I was sitting at the table with my little girls and I had to because that's what a mom does.  So I walked through the days like an automaton.  I went through the motions.  I pretended in public.

And in private, I cried.  I cried all the time, behind closed doors.  My mom knew.  My sister knew.  No one else saw the tears.  I cried, went to therapy, and I wrote.  I wrote a lot.  A few friends knew what was happening, but most people did not.  The truth was I really didn't have many friends anymore.  My friends were his friends.  And in the course of the events, I felt like they were not people I could go to.

In September, I moved out.  I did not want to.  Jack was gone to Florida, visiting family, for ten days, and in that time I realized I needed space from him.  He was suffocating me with his cruelty.  He may as well held a pillow over my face.

Leaving Jack and my home was the most difficult action I've ever taken.  I didn't want to move out, but he would not leave our home, even though I asked him repeatedly to.  He told me, "I've invested a lot of time and money in this house.  I'm not going to walk away from it."  To which I replied, "We've invested a lot of time and energy in this relationship, but you have no problem walking away from it."

At the time I was still in therapy.  I had started doing some running again and a coworker asked me to play volleyball in a league on Thursday nights and I agreed. (I had abandoned all athletic events when Jack and I got together because they didn't align with his needs. Anyone who knows me understands exactly how much of a sacrifice that was.  Much of my personality had been defined by my athleticism..)

School started back again and it was my escape.  I knew what to expect there and emotionally it was a time out.

But the nights were the hardest.  Especially the nights without the kids.  I shared custody with him because I believe if a man wants to have his children in his life he should be allowed that.  I know not everyone shares my sentiments, but I had a tumultuous childhood and much of it was due my dysfunctional relationship with my father and step-dad.  While Jack became a husband that was unrecognizable to me, he was still a great dad and I wouldn't take that way from him.

I fell asleep every night crying.  I woke in the morning, opened my eyes, and once the recognition of my life hit me, I wanted to die again.  Every movement from brushing my teeth to starting the car, felt like work. I felt like I was underwater.  How can I live this way?

Then, in the course of my sadness, another emotion crept in, anger.  It came in waves.  I loved, hated, wanted to murder, wanted to be held by my husband.  I bought a voice recorder (the kind used by reporters) and began to talk into it whenever I got angry, which was often, because I could not write fast enough to get my emotions out.  There were days I screamed into that recorder.  There were days that I drove away from his house, leaving my daughters there, and I uttered every curse word I had ever heard.  Then I yelled them.    I was sure he could hear me through the car and through his house.  My heart was black.

(Another area that I haven't much mentioned is the financial strait I was in.  I received no support for him, had gone from two incomes to one, and had to pay my own bills.  It was another stressor that caused a great deal of anxiety.)

Finally, on the way to therapy, on a brilliant, sunny afternoon, it happened.  I stopped thinking  I want to die, and I had my first vision of how I could kill myself.  I was driving along on this absolutely gorgeous fall day and I explained logically in my mind how if I increased my speed and ran into a thick enough tree or a telephone pole, then there would be a likely chance I would die.  And if not, then maybe he would be struck by his love for me seeing me in the hospital, and come back to me.  I imagined other ways I could die, but they all seemed so messy.  I was (am) not a violent person.

The peace I felt imagining I would no longer exist made perfect sense at the time.  As I write this I have difficulty believing that was ever me, but it was.  Then, as my mind was mulling the consequences of my death, at the same time I was waiting to hit a straight-away where I could pick up my speed and hopefully see a sizable tree, I thought about my Ella, face pressed to the glass when I left her at her father's.  I imagined how her tiny fingers closed around my thumb.  I thought of Madeline's bouncy blonde curls, the way she made a fake smile for the camera whenever we did photos.  Would I leave these children with the man I loved and his girlfriend.  I burst into tears.  Why?  Why me? Please, God, take away this pain. I thought.  By the time I got to therapy, I'm sure my eyes were swollen from the tears. I felt nothing but pity for myself.  I was in a "Why me?" stage.

But that moment was heart stopping.  My world changed.  At therapy that day I told my therapist about what had happened.  That was when she recommended I try using some kind of anti-depressant.  I was very against this, but I couldn't allow these thoughts anymore.  I had to dig out of this darkness.  I succumbed to modern medicine.

My thoughts changed that day too.  Yes, soon after I started taking Zoloft and I'm sure either that, or the idea of how that would change me (mind over matter) began to take hold.  I KNEW my thoughts had to change if I was going to pull through this.  I knew my actions also had to change.  I also knew I couldn't do this alone.  I was going to have to reach out, make friends, make changes, start doing somethings I love (what did I love?  I wasn't even sure...).  I decided that my marriage was over (not that this was the last time I thought that.  I went on to beg him a couple more times to try again, before I finally gave up).

And what happened after that is a story for another day.

But to end today, here are some wishes I have for you.

May you have peace of mind.

May you realize that hope is only a thought that YOU can make happen and it comes when YOU make the decision to seek happiness.

And one more thing.
That person who has caused you pain, they were important in your life.  I like to say, "Some people open doors in our lives that they are not meant to walk through with us."

This is your door.  This is your time.  Walk through.
My grandfather and myself on my wedding day.... 
It was a happy day. Nothing can or ever will change that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So You Don't Like Your Body... and You Want To Make Some Changes. Are you Ready?

It's 2014 and you've made a resolution.  You plan on losing some weight, getting healthy, and looking good in that bikini or those short shorts (ok, maybe not you guys, but you ladies....).  You know you're not getting any younger and it seems harder every year to keep the weight off.  You're looking for a little inspiration and motivation.  You've read all about eating and exercise, you think you are ready for this change.  But, are you?  Do you want to be a different person looking back at yourself next year at this time?  I know that two years ago I did.  I wanted to change.  Changing your body will also be the beginning of changing your mind.  What your body does and how clean it operates affects your mental well being as well.

So, if you think you want it, and are wondering if you can do it, take a look at the list of questions below.  If you say yes to all of these, then you are ready.

1.  Are you seriously willing to make the commitment?
Getting healthy is, of course, about changing the body, but it starts with the MIND.  If you think you can, you will.  It is not ever your body that fails, it is your mind that tells your body.  You must get into the mindset of a champion.  You have to be willing to resist temptations and it will NOT be easy.  I know this.  Anyone who has made this change knows this.  But the good news is, you can do it and the people who really care about you will support your efforts and understand that when everyone is eating a buffet at the summer BBQ that you can not have a plate loaded with potato salad, hamburgers, hot dogs (both on rolls), pasta salad, etc. (Big thanks to all my friends who have supported me in this area.  You've made it easier for me).  Making this commitment does NOT mean you shouldn't indulge every once in a while.  Give yourself a break.  It does mean that you are going to have to accept that the weight is not going to fall off.  This isn't like your cat shedding its winter fur.  It shouldn't come off so fast anyways.  You want a lifestyle change, not an easy come, easy go temporary fix.

2.   Do you understand that it takes baby steps?
Losing weight and being healthy means taking baby steps.  All goals are accomplished this way, including financial.  How many people actually become millionaires overnight playing the Lotto and how many people are wishing and buying lottery tickets, but doing nothing every day of the week to make their dreams happen?  The people who have made it to the top didn't get that way in the matter of weeks.  It took hard work, determination and dedication.  It happens a little bit at a time.  Many people aren't satisfied with little results.  That, unfortunately, is our culture.  We want immediate gratification.  You must be willing to accept that it will take time.
(For my female friends, you should also realize, especially if you are a woman that has had children, that you are probably NOT going to look like a Victoria Secret angel.  Be proud of the scars that came from being a woman who went through pregnancy.)

3. Do you have a mentor, friend, or trainer?
You need someone to know about your goals.  Telling someone else makes you accountable for it.  Telling someone who is a friend who also has the same goals is even better.  This was how I started.  My very dear friend, Katie Lashomb, was living with me at the time, and she and I decided we wanted to make some changes.  We got a membership at Heart to Heart and we also decided to try the low carb method.  Having Katie there with me held me accountable, but she also gave me the kudos and was a cheerleader for me.  I don't know how successful I would have been without her.  Now I don't need that anymore, but it's still nice to meet a friend at the gym.  (Good girlfriend time).  What I have needed is a trainer to introduce some new moves when my routine gets boring.  Aj Sutter works at Heart to Heart and is a great trainer who listens to your needs and will create a basic plan for you.    Having a mentor, someone who has "been there and done that" or is a personal trainer or nutritionist who can help you develop a plan... even better.  The best, but most costly, is to have a trainer who will develop an exercise and fitness plan for you and hold you accountable for it (I believe that Laura Tarbell from Heart to Heart does this.)

4.  Do you avoid excuses and accept when you've taken a step back and refuel toward success?
If you want to make the changes to your health, but find yourself saying, "I just don't have the time this week." And you have a list of reasons about why you are serving Stouffer's lasagna to your family and not getting any exercise, then you're not ready.  Of course, I understand that there will be a week that it truly will be nearly impossible to make healthy choices.  But if it becomes a theme, and you are making constant excuses, then you should go back to #1.  What I say to myself when I start feeling like I want to give up or I am making excuses is a line from my favorite movie, "The Shawshank Redemption" when Red says, "Get busy living or get busy dying."

5.  Are you willing to get educated about health?
You can't make the changes you need to and be completely ignorant about the topic of health and exercise.  If you find yourself often left wondering what to eat, what to cook, what workouts to do, then you need to find a friend, buy a book (I highly recommend the book Skinny Bitch), consult a nutritionist, anything.... but do something!  I have made mistakes in my own diet and exercise regiment.  BUT I was doing something.  You WILL make mistakes. We are human.  We are fallible. This isn't about being perfect, it's about finding what works for you and doing it consistently.

6.  Are you willing to see a doctor to get a routine check up and find out your deficiencies?
Your body needs the proper vitamins and minerals to function.  Your doctor can tell you your deficiencies.  You should also be sure you don't have any other issues, such as a thyroid problem, which women, 8 times more than men, have.  If you have another reason for weight gain, then you need to identify and deal with that issue.  Changing your diet will be one of the first actions your doctor will advised you to do.  Your doctor can also check your BMI (body mass index) and you can use that number as a way to check your progress later.  Heart to Heart trainers can also check your BMI.

When I started, I had a BMI that was pushing"obese".  I was a size 14/16 and weighed about 180 pounds.  I had difficulties sleeping and suffered from a lot of anxiety.  I was unhappy with my body and disappointed with the path my life was taking.... and if I can do it, so you can you.  It's about your attitude.  I'm now about 130 pounds, size 4/6, and have a handle on the direction of my life.  I am much more satisfied with my personal relationships.  But I'm not perfect and I continue to set goals for myself.  Life is about constantly changing and evolving.

I'm not a dietitian, nor am I a nutritionist.  I'm a single, working mom and an English teacher (with aspirations :) who decided two years ago after my grandfather's heart attack that my life had to change.  I am blessed that I have the support of amazing family (including my two daughters 9 and 7 years old) and great friends.  You can see my blog which has some basic changes you can make today toward better health.
And, as always, you can find me on facebook

Think like a champion, my friend, and you will become one.
Christmas 2013