Wednesday, April 1, 2015

40 pounds and 40 inches: hope, regret, perspective.

My husband and I, Walking Dead theme party one year ago!

It's been a year since I started working out. In that time I have dropped 40 pounds, 40 inches, four clothing sizes (or more), and a whole mess of bad habits. What I have gained is perspective. For example, I know I need to push this body four or five times a week, every week, in order to keep this fitness cycle going. I know I need to eat WAY more vegetation than I ever figured on. I know I need to remember that it can't be about what the scale says, or the mirror says, or even how people tell me I look. My perspective is, I have to feel it from the inside and see how it goes.

The big regret I have on the fitness journey so far is that I didn't learn soon enough how good it feels to have muscular tone. I wish someone who I trusted had taken me aside in the 1990's and let me know that feeling strong is awesome, that muscles not properly trained will be lost, and how good it feels from the inside to have a body I can trust. Being tall and awkward as a teen, it would have been a huge asset to me to train my muscles and know their strengths and limitations. I might have been braver about my choices, more daring in how I moved, and less concerned about how people thought or felt about me.

So the perspective now becomes a gift to my future. Not for my boys, because I think guys instinctively understand their muscular physicality, but for my daughter. 

Hopefully I will be enough to combat society in her fight about her own body image and body consciousness. Hopefully I can build her up to the knowledge that her beauty comes from strength, and that strength can translate to character, integrity, physicality, emotion, whatever the tool she needs at the moment she needs it. Hopefully she will continue to hit the weights with me, because although I find it annoying now to be interrupted, she is seeing me get sweaty and watching the change in my body. I hope she doesn't wait as long as I did to figure it out. You don't have to stick with the body you are born in; with time and patience you can build what feels right to you from the inside out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Truth about Losing It.

A few words on the truth about losing particular, if you are not genetically gifted and are rather inclined to overeating junk and not working out (like me).

1. You will learn to love working out. Truly. This is one of the myths I had heard about from other folks, and could never believe until it happened firsthand. The days I have scheduled as rest days now feel weird to me. And every 13th week when I have all week off, I am cranky and out of sorts without my dumbells. It takes about six weeks, but you will get there if you push yourself.

2. The extra skin might be a problem. I am a large boned person, and gave birth to two large babies. The middle guy was "normal" size. But still, my skin has stretched in the thigh, belly, and bosom areas and will never go away on its own. Never. I have accepted that truth, and frankly, if I keep the weight off for the next two years a tummy tuck and boob revision will be a gift I give to myself. I will have earned that.

3. Exercising is another one of those things that you do alone--like when you play golf, it's against yourself. It's great to go to the gym with a buddy, but your buddy isn't inside your head. Your buddy can't make you do one more rep (even with encouraging words), only you can dig in and get it done. Or the last five minutes of your workout tape, or one more hill on the treadmill, or getting up off the couch, or whatever your goal is. You need to accept that you are responsible for your energy outputs.

4. And for your energy inputs. A fitness guru can write you a beautiful, concise meal plan, but you are responsible for those extra pretzels you eat, or the three bites of cheese, or whatever. Writing it down can help keep you on track--this is another line of crap I didn't believe until I had to live it out. Now I understand the equation, and that I am the person in charge of balancing it. Food and exercise are like a check book, and it's up to you to make sure you are not deeply in debt to the energy side. Likewise you can't starve yourself--make sure you are fueling enough to keep your activity going.

5. On the other hand, you will find eventually that you are NOT ALONE. I have a colleague/friend/fitness coach who is shaped beautifully, graceful as a dancer with long clean lines and she isn't done working on her physique. What might be goal achievement or fitness achievement for you, is someone else's "work in progress". Fitness allies are everywhere you look, and finding emotional support isn't hard at all. On the days when you realize you really are alone, and that inner voice doesn't sound strong enough to keep you going, the outside encouragement of friends, family, coworkers--it's essential. But you have to stop comparing yourself to other people and be realistic for the goals you set with the body you are living in.

6. Energy might be a problem...or is it motivation? Some days I feel energized, ready to tackle every challenge and deal with the growing complexities of life. But the rest of the time, I don't get the energy until I put some work in. Energy drinks or caffeine intake can only help you so much. Sometimes you have to give a little in order to get.

7. Life is never going to be simpler, easier. You will not be getting any "extra" time. What would you do with it if you did? It's so easy to speculate that you could get your workout done if you had more time. You could plan healthier meals if you had more time. Honey, quit wasting time and get busy doing something. If you truly examine your life and reflect on where your time is going, you might be suprised to realize all you have to do is turn off the TV. Put the phone down. And go run laps around the pool with your kids. Do 10 jumping jacks. Somebody is going to be doing it with you, more than likely! A gift to give your kids now is love of exercise. Build it into their physical being just like you are building their emotional intellect, their brains, their spirits. Nourish them with that and make an example of it.

8. Recognize that your spouse might not be ready. I will admit it's been tough for me. I don't want to be alone in this, but I am. I just hope it comes together eventually. Adults are independent, responsible citizens who unfortunately have to be responsible for themselves. You can't change them, and they will come to resent what they feel is "nagging". I won't apologize for it, but I do accept these facts.

Meanwhile, I am going to be eating some of these beauties:
I have about 6 of these beauties, about 5" across so far, and a couple smaller than that. They will be harvested next week or so. This second planting will be a real gift! Everyone here loves broccoli.

I call this "lunch". Gonna saute the onion, wilt the chard, and toss in some grilled chicken. I'm saving the lettuce for dinner!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plain, Simple, Real.

15 months, yo!

I can't believe it's been 15 months since I wrote to you. That is a LONG time, and I have been busy. So here's my accounting of the time passed. Right before my last post, we went from a two income family status down to one. I picked up a metric shit ton of extra hours at work, barely saw my kids, and was struggling under all the pressure. I also gained a few pounds...I'm not proud of it but there you go. I took the winter to wrap my head around life, the universe, and everything I wanted to be when I grow up.

 For a while things were looking up...we had a couple of episodes of positive cash flow--just enough to lure us into a false sense of security. Then we were robbed, my entire jewelry box was stolen and my world went sideways. I kinda lost my mind for several weeks. I really just lost touch with reality and neglected my family while I nourished the hurt of losing family valuables, the sense of lost privacy and home invasion, and the feeling of security I had about our remote mountain aerie. So, eat a few more pounds of crap mmkay?

Winter turned to spring and the other false sense of security was gone once more. But I had decided in the interim to stop being a victim. In March, I started a weight training regimen and began once again the attempt at eating clean. I took a new approach to diet, and only have occasional flings with white carbs anymore. I lost 30 lb and 30 inches. I am still tipping around 200 pounds, plus or minus two, but I feel so much better physically. I see muscles starting to trace in the shadows and light of my body plane. I feel STRONG. And that physical strength is helping me deal with my security issues.

I took a class in the spring on statistics, and started a program to become a Family Nurse Practitioner in June. Time is going so fast I can hardly believe it. My children are growing and thriving, my husband is doing cool home projects like getting the deck painted and firewood cut and stacked. It would be nice to have more money, and gosh I sure miss having mom's pearls to wear, but in the end my most dear possessions and loves in life are safe. I feel very lucky overall.

My grandmother made her celestial translation this summer, and it was kind of beautiful and bittersweet to say goodbye to her. She did it her way, she made the choice after a full and wonderful life of 93 years, so no regrets. We had lots of time together to speak our hearts to eachother. My sister gave birth to a beautiful baby and we were so lucky to see them twice this summer! It's a long road between Texas and PA. I miss them more than I can possibly say. My brother and his family are doing great, big important family things and it's awesome. My parents are happy, healthy, and I see them frequently. THESE ARE MY GIFTS.

My in-laws are healthy and happy, and I see them frequently too. My kids are beautiful and smart, and have such bright outlooks. Snuggling them close and giving them kisses is the best part of my day, every day. My husband is staying strong, trying to keep a positive outlook, and really working all his contacts. I have faith in him, and respect him so much for being so resilient. Things are going to start happening soon, I believe.


Things move forward. So, I will keep plugging away at my course work and move forward on my education plan. I will also keep "picking things up and putting them down". I knew eventually exercise would need to be part of my lifestyle, in addition to responsible eating, but I never suspected I would learn to love that part of my day. It took six weeks to start liking it, and start feeling like I couldn't go a day without it. I don't typically become such an advocate but if you aren't exercising, building muscle and getting your body to work with you, it will start working against you in the long run. Find the thing you love. With so many options, there really isn't an excuse. Ain't it fun living in the real world?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Birth Plans, Nurse's Perspective

This post is written with sympathy to all expectant mothers. Giving birth is beautiful, empowering, and certainly the most special day of your life. It seems, however, that many of you come to the hospital with certain expectations that I would like to analyze. These "rules" are sent to you with love from labor nurses everywhere, in the spirit of sisterly sharing. These guidelines apply to full-term labor and delivery, and only touch on key points. This should not be taken as any medical advice, but merely sister-sharing from someone who has been in the trenches! Here are recommendations from someone with 10 years of experience in Labor and Delivery, and three births of my own:

We can do it!  Image copied from

  1. The first rule of motherhood is to stay flexible, and it starts before birth. The goal of every childbirth from your health care provider's viewpoint is a SAFE and HEALTHY delivery for both mother and baby. THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE. Get your head around that for a second, because while you may want to use Lamaze or Bradley methods to labor and push out your baby it becomes a moot point if your baby is not tolerating labor (or if you have a necessity for induction of labor). Things change so quickly; we do our best to explain what's happening but we like to act quickly for your safety and your baby's.
  2. If you have never pushed a human being out of your body but want an unmedicated labor and delivery, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Practice the method of your choice all the time, make it second nature--do it on the toilet, or during lunch, or when you have your daily run of Braxton-Hicks contractions. Plan on doing it alone, because unless your baby-daddy is Mr. Awesome, he is going to need a break and you might end up breathing through many contractions alone. Get your focal point and use it early. If you tell the nurse not to offer you pain medication, don't blame her for following your wishes. And don't feel guilty if you change your mind.
  3. Understand that labor is a MARATHON for most people, with a SPRINT at the very end when you are the most exhausted you have ever been. (And then after that you get to take care of a baby...more on that later).  We are going to be "coaching" you through every contraction during pushing, so don't hold back and give us all you can.
  4. If you have medical conditions like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or other chronic pre-pregnancy conditions, please make room to accomodate them in your birth plan. It is likely that pitocin will change your mind about things, and so will magnesium sulfate. Refer to rule one. If you have preterm labor with an infant born and sent to Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU), we will encourage you to pump shortly after delivery, visit baby often, and will support your care of the baby as much as possible. Refer to rule one. This may be completely opposite of what you expected.
  5. If you look up a birth plan to borrow from online, please pick only the five most essential options. If you pick more than five options, and you are very rigid, we will see you in the operating room. It's nothing personal, but Murphy's Law tends to dictate those cases more often than not. Again, see rules #1 and #2 above. Flexible and prepared. This mainly refers to the big things--pitocin, pain management, food, movement, etc. The little things like when and who cuts the cord are usually easy to accomodate in any birth.
  6. You have been with your OB/GYN for some time now. It's your job to build a rapport, to understand their dictates and preferences, and to accept them as they apply to your own birth experience. We know your doctor quite well, and we will advocate for you as needed, but you have had 8 or so months to propose and agree upon a plan for this baby, while we just met you. If you don't trust your care provider-- get it worked out sooner rather than later! 
  7. If you plan to breastfeed, have your OB/GYN take a look at your nipples. While this is very personal and private during pregnancy you can rely on the fact that some nurse is going to have her hands all over your boobs trying to get your baby to latch, and it's a lot easier if your nipples stick out. Wearing nipple shells during pregnancy can help. Rule 2: Prepared.
  8. In the end, if you are healthy and your baby is healthy then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Do not look back and dissect how things went, you are somebody's Mother and that is no small thing! Get sleep while you can, enjoy your baby, and take good care of yourself.
With love, from a Labor Nurse.

ADDENDUM: #9 (recommended by a friend) If for some reason your labor is really fast, and you wanted an epidural but couldn't get one in time, quit complaining. You have been blessed, the pain is over now, and we are happy for the safe and healthy delivery on your behalf. There is no need to write a letter of complaint to the hospital blaming us, we have no control over your labor unless we are running pitocin...and even then, honestly, it could go in any direction.

ADDENDUM #10: Please stop scaring your friends, neighbors, sisters, and distant foreign relatives with your birth story. It is what it is, hold your baby and be glad. Save the drama for your husband, he should be the only one you are scaring with that story. There is no need to make a first time momma feel more frightened of labor and delivery than she already would normally be. With that being said, women do this every day and while it is a rite of passage, and sacred, be realistic. Tomorrow you have to get out of bed and start caring for yourself again no matter how you gave birth. Keep your perspective and get on with life.

(This blog will return to its usual topic at a later date).

Monday, August 5, 2013

This Old, Busted Ass is HURT.

Boy am I having trouble with this blog tonight. All my pictures are out of order and orientation and everything. Not much of a story this way! I was going to slip this photo in last as a reminder of the moments I miss when I am doing all those extra shifts (see below). Me and Big G snuggling on the couch before I got called back to work last week. The weight loss has been VERY disappointing in the last week, between hormones and lack of sleep, working too much and eating a boatload of crap. I have lots of setbacks and I keep telling myself that I am doing this for my own physical fitness not to be "skinny" so why worry so much? Because. I am a woman, and we worry about things that guys never have to even process.

Seriously. Most guys never have to think, evaluate, and make a decision before they have a bite of something. It's pretty much "Mmm, cookies, om nom nom". In the meantime I am supposed to push a bowl of chips away in favor of greek yogurt. How does that even correlate? So as the family were enjoying molasses cookies the other night, I ultimately ate two after giving myself a complete complex about the consequences in which I now find myself--that of having gained back 3.5 lb which is most likely water. And the ugly truths of how I eat and why, how I don't want that pattern handed down to my three little loves, and how I don't need to be responsible for my DH's own food issues. He has to deal with them himself, but we still have a chance to teach the younguns about fitness, healthy eating and snacking, and why special treats need to stay special (and only occasional).

So the running. I finished Week 2 of C25K and my left knee is screaming, all up behind my patella, and I am thinking that even though I can scarcely call myself a runner I nevertheless find myself suffering from what is likely a case of Runner's Knee. Apparently I have been pushing way too hard after being way too sedentary for pretty much the entirety of my adult life. It has been suggested to me that I try to rest it for a month, which actually might be okay since it's canning season.

I have already started, with the bulk of my recent cucumber crop in yonder jars soaking up the tasty bread and butter juices. I can just about imagine crunching into one of those babies as it nestles atop a freshly grilled cheeseburger...(I have no idea why this photo is sideways, or how to correct the matter, or why these last two paragraphs were suddenly centered instead of left-justified). 

Beautiful, sweetly crunchy tangy pickles. 4-6 weeks until you are all mine.

In other news you may not be aware that I have disappeared from the world into the void that is my workplace. I worked 66 hours a week for the last two weeks and on Thursday, it will all be worth it. I made up in two weeks all the cash we were missing in July. And as you might notice in the photo below, I will be making it happen again if the flow of business allows. By the time my kids board the school bus in September I will probably croak from exhaustion. It has been suggested by the people who love me the most in life that I am overdoing things--the job, the exercise, the canning/gardening. I promise we will get to the point where I am feeling more like my Wench self soon. But for now, affairs of state must take precedent over affairs of State (with thanks to Mel Brooks, I have always loved that quote). Ah I see we are back to the left-justified margin. Very interesting indeed. It's almost like I have no control over formatting tonight.

This here is the demon schedule. Only two extra days this week, but check out next week. This is in additon to my regular shifts!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kickin' A** and Naming Names!

C25K Week 1 Complete!

Actually it was more like ten days...but I lost 7 pounds already. One of my buddies said it was just water weight (BabyRN) but I am the most hydrated person on the planet on any given day, so I say NO. It's for real. I double-checked. FIVE TIMES.

Today (That would be Sunday for you day-walkers) I started Week 2, it was a rough one but I did finish it. I had to dial back the effort a bit when my heart rate hit 200, but I felt pretty good after. Think I may give it a few extra days on this "week" installment also. I am not on any time-bound schedule to complete a 5K race or anything, just for fitness' sake so I don't mind being off schedule.

I ate pretty clean this week although I did treat myself to some real bacon, a piece of cake, and a couple pieces of cheddar cheese during the week. I felt like I was dropping pounds too fast, and I am trying to be pretty rational about myself for the long run. I do not plan to EVER give up bacon and cheese, but to have a more deliberate approach to food over all.

And now to name some names. I wanted to give a shout out to the people who did not laugh or mock me when I mentioned my plans to run. Big thanks to Michelle, who inspired me in the first place! Thanks also to Sharon, Kari, Virgil, BabyRN, OctoOOPS, Scooter, and all my other friends and family.

Hopefully after Week 2 I will have some significant numbers and measurements to post. Check back soon!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Running with the Devil on my shoulder!

So before we talk about the nitty gritty I want to brag a bit. Two Thursdays ago I passed a very difficult test with my work wyfe and we both passed! So pleased to announce that I am now a Registered Nurse - Certified In-Patient Obstetrics! (RNC). While I am not able to get a higher rate of pay it is pretty satisfying to have completed the course successfully and it's good for my career to ultimately move forward.

So in the spirit of forward progress, I decided there is no time like the present to get moving. The Hubs is on the same page and plans to kick his act into gear this week physically as well. But as for me, I started running on Sunday and although I did not finish my first installment (a planned 30 minutes of interval training known as "Couch to 5K"), I felt pretty good about it. I still feel pretty good. Hopefully I will not succumb to injury or laziness. The picture below was taken right before I started my jog.

Bad angle, my legs do not normally appear to have fact they are quite shapely!

My new favorite place to be this summer has been out in my garden. I never realized what an earthly delight it is to watch your own food grow, through your own diligence and efforts. The kids have been so excited about it that they voluntarily started eating spinach. Right off the plant. If I was a man I might have dropped a nut in astonishment. But I digress! The next few photos are right from the garden. It got a little rocky about one month ago when cabbage worms started to take over, and I was forced to dust. I had hoped to avoid it by placing mantis egg cases in the garden to hatch but they took longer than expected. We did control the loss of inventory and I would like to introduce you to one of my new little friends, Melvin.

Melvin and his siblings are destroying the japanese beetle population in my yard, along with a large number of other leaf munchers! I now have sunflowers and basil to enjoy, not to mention the protection of the leaves on my peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, etc. Melvin is pictured perched upon a tasty Swiss Chard leaf. We have been eating salads of Chard and Bibb lettuce, and the occasional saute of chard in olive oil. So tasty and filled with lutein!
This is Melvin the Terminator!

Cabbage. Gonna eat this bad boy soon.
The cabbage above does show a small amount of leaf destruction from the cabbage worms but they seem to have vanished along with the broccoli...either from the dust or the vigorous attention of 200-300 praying mantis juveniles. We hatched 4 egg cases! Notes for next year's garden include hatching the mantis' earlier in the season, along with placement of a soaker hose prior to maturation of the plants.

Already ate this one. Yum.

Eggplant, soo tasty. Shared with my parents, delicious!

Harvested two of these butternuts on Sunday morning.
I am pretty excited to eat some butternut squash but am told they must cure for a week in a low-humidity, cool environment. So I shall stick them in the basement for a bit and update you all later. Stay tuned for delicious meals incorporating the butternuts as a puree, or as oven fries, or stew additives...

Tomatoes ready to go wild.
I have an almost worrying amount of tomatoes ripening on the vines. There is a large amount of Roma tomatoes pinking up, along with a healthy number of Big Boys getting bigger by the day. I am dreaming of fresh marinara sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato sandwiches, grilled cheese with tomato, bruchetta, and possibly canning up some green tomato relish at the end of the summer!

Still anticipating a nice crop of cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, green peppers, and possibly carrots. I snuck a carrot out of the ground yesterday and it's already bigger than last year's crop so I may just have some normal sized carrots to speak of. We've been eating plenty of green beans every 2-3 days, they are so tasty and fresh! The 5-yr-old loves to harvest fresh beans every day, and I love to have him helping me out. Actually all of them, even the 2yr-old, have pitched in around the yard to help grow food. What a treat to have that time with my beloveds!

You might correctly suppose that we have been eating well lately, and it's true, but Daddy has been doing more of the shopping and he has a sweet tooth. Well, more of a generalized snack tooth really. So no weight loss despite the influx of fresh produce, because we have all been snacking. I stepped on the scale at work and was horrified by the number: 228. This is unacceptable. I think I am finally at breaking point over my weight. I am giving the running program 2 months to be successful and could really use some encouragement. You can follow me on Twitter @beckyaul76 and gimme a shout out! (I am kinda loving Twitter even though I said I never would!) Enjoy!