Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Woman Power

I want to tell you a story. It's a story about many things, but ultimately, it's about empowerment.

I think a lot of us spend too much time feeling hopeless, helpless and powerless. But it is within each of us to change that. My Mom's greatest legacy to me and my sisters, was knowledge and confidence; knoweldge that we can do anything we set out to do and confidence to face change without fear. She never backed away from a challenge, and she never shied away from the new and unknown.

Not everybody is as lucky, I realize, to have had such a role model in thier lives. There are women out there who desperately want and need to change their lives, but don't know how or don't have the strength. That's when we have to support and empower one another; as mothers, wives, friends, co-workers, neighbors....women. When that happens, it's a truly awesome and moving thing and I have been lucky enough to have several such experiences lately.

This is a story about one of those experiences and how it has changed the way that I think about women.

Because the truth is...I haven't always particularly liked or enjoyed my gender mates. I have often avoided gatherings and groups of them. But now I see that I was wrong to judge all of womankind by the few who thrive on melodrama, gossip, scheming, conniving, and backbiting.

So. Let me tell you what changed my mind.

About six months ago, I started going to Zumba classes at a small little independantly owned studio that caters to women. My Weight Watchers leader had been hounding me to go for months, but I dragged my feet. The only reason I finally decided to take her advice and just go was because the studio was owned by her sister-in -law, whose praises she sang daily. This woman had created a place where all women could feel welcome and comfortable. It wasn't a big gym with a lot of hard bodies looking to score. Still, I was nervous. I didn't consider myself the fitness "type" and I was afraid I would stick out like a sore thumb.

My fears were completely unfounded. The class was populated with women just like me; fortyish, imperfect and just as apprehensive as I. The instructor, seeing a new face, came over to welcome me. She was a tiny little woman with a huge personality and I liked her immediately. In heavily accented English she told me not to worry if I didn't pick up the steps right away and also advised me to stop and rest if I needed to. That first class was tough, but I made it through. And when it was over, I felt like I could move mountains. I knew I had to do it again and so, I bought a punchcard and became a regular.

I felt like I belonged there. These women were like a family. The owner and all the instructors seemed to really care about giving their clients the best possible experience, but also...about making them feel welcome and valued. And I did. From the very first moment I set foot in the place.

One day, after I had been going several months, I arrived for the 9 a.m. class about fifteen minutes early, as was my habit. There was a lady there I hadn't seen before, signing up for classes. She was a large lady and I was a little worried for her. I had been exercising regularly for a good six months before I took my first class and still it kicked my butt. I didn't want her to be discouraged or disappointed with herself if she couldn't make it all the way through the class.

As I signed in, the owner of the studio, who was manning the desk that day, caught my eye and inclined her head slightly in the direction of the new gal. "HELP her!" the look said. I gave her a small nod. "I understand. I'm on it!"

I introduced myself and asked if this was her first time doing Zumba. It was. And she was scared. But she had recently joined Weight Watchers and knew that this was the next step in changing her life. We chatted about Weight Watchers a little bit, I learned a little of her personal history and then, as the music started, I tried to reassure her. I told her what I had been told when I first started; if you get lost, just step touch until you can pick it up again. If you have to stop, stop;  there's no shame in being aware of your body's cues. Drink water! With that said I wished her luck and took my spot.

Throughout the class I tried to keep my eye on her. Several times our eyes met and we giggled over missteps. I gave her a thumbs up now and then, just to let her know she was doing okay. She struggled...but she perservered. Several times she stopped to catch her breath, but she always came back. She didn't quit.

Finally the music stopped and we began our cool down. Her relief was evident. But so was everyone else's. Gisela is an amazing instructor, and she works us hard. It's good to know my body can do what she asks, but it's also good when it's over. It's a satisfying kind of tired.

When we finished, I walked over and asked her how she did. Do my astonishment and dismay, she burst into tears. I didn't quite know what to do, so I just put my arm around her and hugged her until she could articulate her thoughts. By this time, others had noticed that she was crying and come over to see if they could help. The poor woman had a crowd around her as she struggled to pull herself together. Everyone murmured words of encouragement and comfort to her. They patted her arm, they squeezed her hand, they rubbed her shoulder.

Finally, she was able to speak. What she said surprised us all.

"I did it."

And then she smiled a smile that was so incandecscent it took my breath away.

There was a collective sigh of relief from the crowd. She wasn't upset because she had struggled. She was PROUD because she had kept on and made it through.

"YES! You DID do it!" I said.

And then, the crowd of women huddled around her cheered. It was a sound that still warms me to the bottom of my heart when I think of it. It was the sound of empowerment.

She laughed as she wiped away the tears streaming down her mahogany cheeks.

"I can DO this!" she said with no small measure of amazement.

The crowd agreed. "Yes you can!" was the collective reply.

It was a moment that humbled me. It was powerful and poignant and it joined us all together in the solidarity of our sex. We can do it. We can help each other do it. We can make a difference to one another.

Some of you know that I have searched long and hard to find the thing that I am meant to do. Some say it's writing. Maybe. But this....this power, this sisterhood, this amazing thing that women do for one another....that's something I want to be part of. I want to make a difference to someone who desperately needs it. I had several people walking with me on my journey; people without whom I could never have taken the first step, much less completed it. And now I would like to be a part of that legacy.

This year has been hard....yes. But it has also been filled with moments such as this. And for that I am enormously grateful. It has changed my life in ways I could not have imagined when I set out to simply change my body.

I don't feel powerless or helpless anymore.'s a gift we too often overlook I think. But it's there inside each one of us. We just have to help one another find it. I can't wait to be a part of that. Just ten more pounds, and I can begin fulfilling what I have come to think of as my destiny. That sounds silly, I suppose. But a life without purpose...well, I've learned, that's no life at all. have served me well this year. I hope I can return the favor.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here's to HumDrum

Merry Christmas from the Antagonist Family

L to R : Diminutive One, BA, Hubs, Pubescent One

Doesn't Hubs look great? He's lost 50lbs. He and I are going to begin training to run a marathon in March. YIKES! Doesn't PPO look like a giant? I sometimes forget how big he is until I see a picture of him next to me or his Dad. And I was wearing three inch heels. DO is from my gene pool obviously. I don't really see it, again, until I see a picture of him next to me. He really has my mother's face, and I have often forgotten that. Now however, I sometimes gaze at him for very long moments, remembering how they looked side by side. His face has become my emotional touchstone.

We've had a tough year. But we made it through together. I feel enormously fortunate to have a man by my side who is my best friend as well as my life partner. My boys? They challenge me, as you know if you've been reading BAS for any length of time. But they are really good boys. They have kind hearts and they have inherited their Dad's loving and sensitive nature. I hope one day they each find someone with whom they can share the kind of strength and happiness that Hubs and I have found with one another.

I hope the New Year will bring peace, love and contentment to all of you. I selfishly wish the same for myself. I'm ready for some humdrum living now. Raise a glass and let's make a toast. To "Humdrum" and the happiness it brings.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicken Soup for The Daughter's Soul

Originally published in 2006 under the title "Chicken Soup for the Granddaughter's Soul".  I'm republishing today because I am making soup and remembering. My Mom's death has added a new dimension to the soup legacy. Read the footnote for further thoughts on that.

I'b sick. It happens every year. The kids go back to school and bring back germs. They get a little sniffle sniffle, a little koff koff. I get the head cold from hell with a full complement of symptoms. If you're like me, nothing is more comforting than a mug of steaming hot chicken soup when you're under the weather.

But not just any chicken soup. No reconsituted quivering chicken flavored goo from a can will suffice. When I'm sick I want chicken soup made from my grandmother's age old family recipe. "Dane Soup" they call it, though I don't know why. We have a smattering of Danish heritage, but we are mostly of German descent. My Great Grandmother's name was Willhelmena Ernestina Steinberg, (Steenberg, not Stineberg)and it doesn't get much more German than that. My Grandmother, Rena, married my grandfather, Edwin Schroeder (ShrAY-der, not ShrOH-der). The combination of their genetic Teotonism created four children who could have been poster children for the Aryan race. So the name has nothing to do with lineage, nor do the Danish hold a patent on chicken least not to my knowledge. It's a mystery.

This soup is a badge of honor in our family. It's difficult to make becuase one must do more than just follow a recipe. The ingredients are fairly simple, the combination unremarkable. But for the dumplings to come out right...firm but springy, light but substantial, doughy but not has to have a certain sense of when the batter is right. It must be thicker than pancake batter, but not as thick as drop biscuit dough. It must be elastic but not sticky. It must sliiiide off the spoon, clinging, stretching, until the filament breaks and springs back. It not only has to look right, but it has to feel right when slips into the bubbling broth and it must sink quickly and then bob to the surface where it will be steamed into plump and tender perfection.

Once, I used self-rising flour in ignorance. When I expectantly lifted the lid off the pot, I was stunned to see that the dough had absorbed all the liquid and swollen into one giant dumpling with bits of chicken, celery and carrot protruding from it's craterous surface. Another time, I forgot to add the melted butter and the dumplings crumbled into the soup leaving bits and pieces of gluey debris floating in the rich yellow broth. Once, for no particular reason that I could think of, the dumplings sank to the bottom of the pot and stayed there, where they became tough, chewy, warty little dough clods.

But I've got it now. My dumplings are perfect and that means that I have passed the test. I'll always be remembered in the family as one who got the dumplings right. But it means more than that to me. It means a sense of connection to a grandmother I never knew. Every time I make this soup, I think of her. Every time. And I miss her. She died when I was an infant, of a myseterious heart malady. A cousin of mine, who was 13 at the time, told me just recently that it was the worst day of her life. Because according to everyone who was lucky enough to know her, Rena Mary Schroeder was the quintessential, cookie baking, doll clothes sewing, apron, glove and girdle wearing, in your face with hugs and kisses Grandma.

My mom often tells me how proud Grandma was of me. My mother was born late in my grandparents' lives, although these days, 35 isn't "late" at all. But her closest sibling was already 17, so by the time I was born, most of the grandkids were teenagers, and there had been no babies for quite some time. I had a full head of black hair, and my mother would tell me smilingly how Grandma had to take off my bonnet and show everyone that unruly mop of fine jet black baby hair. The other cousins had all been fair and bald (that Teutonic blood again) until the advanced age of three...and Grandma delighted in the novelty of a hirsute baby. She knitted me sweaters and booties and bonnets, she sewed me dresses, she combed my hair into fantastic creations secured with bows and ribbons and pink plastic barrettes. She showered me with love and attention and then, quite unfairly, she died abruptly at 59 with no warning and no word of good-bye.

Then, I didn't realize what a loss her death was, but years later as a young girl, with only one remaining Grandma, who was enjoying her freedom after years of raising three boys to adulthood on her own and wasn't particularly interested in baking cookies or sewing doll clothes...I felt monumentally cheated. Every Christmas and every birthday I missed her. When people spoke of her, I was jealous and I was angry. Why hadn't she gone to the doctor? Why hadn't she taken better care of her health? Didn't she care about being there for her last three grandchildren?? And then just as quickly, I would feel contrition and sorrow. Of course she hadn't wanted to die. She hadn't meant to leave us without a grandmother. Like all of us, she just never thought that death would claim her so soon or so suddenly.

Not long ago, while cleaning out my Aunt's basement in preparation for their move to a retirement community, my mother came accross several old reels of 8mm home movies. She brought them home and showed them to me on my last visit. I had seen many photos of my grandmother of course, but its hard to divine someone's essence from a motionless black and white photo.

As I watched the grainy flickering image on my parents' living room wall, she emerged form the screen door of a white farnhouse. Startled and embarassed by the camera, she smiled. That smile took my breath away. She was beautiful, but it was more than that. It was proof that she actually lived and breathed and existed somewhere other than my imagination. She patted her hair and then waved her hand as if to indicate that the camerman should not waste any more precious film on her. As she walked away, I was struck by a sense of overwhelming familiarity. I knew that gait, I knew the shape of her body. But how? Was it an actual memory, or just the desperate need to identify with her somehow?

Just then my sister breezed in, and once again my breath was snatched from my chest. I had always wondered where my sister got her beautifully aquiline nose and her sweeetly shaped lips. But it was more than shared features. It was the sway of her hips, the curve of her bosom, the spring in her step. They were so similar that it gave me goosebumps. And now I have something other than a crumpled photograph or a grainy home movie. She is more than just a hazy, amorphous grandmother ideal. She was real and she lives on in my sister, and all of us really. Nearly 40 years after her death she is always a topic of conversation at family gatherings. She is spoken of as if she was here only yesterday.

So I stir my soup, and I think of my Grandma. The comfort is not in the soup itself, but in the history of its making. I feel close to her and I like to think she would have been proud. I did it Grandma. I made the soup.

If I'd had a girl child, she would have been named Rena. I would tell her all about the woman she was named after and I would have taught her to make Dane Soup and made her a part of our special legacy.

Added today: Now that my Mom is gone, the legacy of the soup grows. I'm making it today; it's our traditional Christmas Eve meal, meant to save me from an entire evening in the kitchen, but also to celebrate my connection to a family that is always too far away at this time of year. I didn't expect to cry. It's been two months and thought I had cried all I could. But I remembered last year, making the soup and then freezing the remains to take with us to Wisconsin for my Mom, and hoping it would last the entire 18 hours in the car. It did and my Mom was tickled pink. She insisted on having some right away and after the first spoonful she declared, "This tastes just like my Mom made it." I can think of no higher compliment. Now, without her here, the soup destroys me. It's silly, but grief is not a very dignified or sensible process I've learned. So...the dumplings may be flavored with the salt of my tears for many years to come, but I hope one day, I can make it and smile once again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Calling All "Mk1" Experts

I think a lot of my readers (perhaps former readers might be more accurate, as I've not been exactly prolific of late) originally came to BAS because of the tales I shared about my Diminutive One, who has ADHD, Asperger's, and a genetically inherited stubborn streak that makes parenting him a challenge even on his most stellar days.

You may remember the story about how my son was bullied relentlessly in fifth grade and how, when the administration failed to deal with the problem appropriately, we took him out of school until they took measures to a stop to it. You may also remember that the Principal's response to this was to expell my son, the victim and how we, in response to that, lawyered up.

Best $500 bucks we ever spent.

Unfortunately, things have not gotten better in Middle School.

Middle School sucks for even the most socially adroit and popular kids. It's a time of enormous change, both physically and emotionally. There are hormones and body image issues and romance and peer pressure to deal with, not to mention the drastically increased workload and an end to the handholding and mollycoddling by well intentioned grade school teachers. It's a lot to deal with. For a kid like mine, who doesn't understand the social nuances or the strategems of Middle School hierarchy, and who doesn't fall in line with group think or pack mentality, it's a living hell. He walks around with a target on his back simply because of who he is.

We had one very serious incident at the beginning of the year that prompted us to involve the police. It was assault, pure and simple. I will say that the Administration at the Middle School has been incredibly helpful, supportive, and reactionary. The Assistant Principal has some understanding of what Diminutive One is up against and does her level best to address these issues when they arise. Unfortunately, no sooner do we get one issue resolved, than another crops up. Recently, Diminutive One decided he has had enough.

Some backstory:

About a month ago, Diminutive One casually mentioned that there was a kid giving him trouble in the typically sneaky and covert way that bullies have. Never really hurting him, just pushing, niggling, picking, chipping away at his self-esteem day after day after day by calling him any variety of names, all of which wound far deeper than his tormenter probably even realizes. Also doing things like grabbing his book out of his hand while he's reading so he loses his place, "accidentally" knocking his books and papers off his desk, "innocently" bumping into him at every opportunity, causing him to stumble and sometimes fall.

Finally Diminutive One had enough.

The next day I got a call that he had punched the kid and would be suspended for three days. Now as I said, the AP has some understanding of how these things work. She knew he had been provoked and she did not come down on him like a ton of bricks. She didn't yell, she didn't accuse. She simply asked him to tell her what happened and then tried to talk to him about better ways to deal with bullies. She told him she hated to punish him, but she had to. He understood and he didn't mind because the other kid got suspended as well.

What he did mind, was the fact that the other kid then proceeded to spread the rumor that HE had kicked Diminutive One's ass, which wasn't true at all. Diminutive One then had to face imprecations such as "pussy" and "weakling" and "loser". Despite the suspension and a long talk by the AP with the kid's parents, the harassment continued unabated. All this was unbeknownst to us.

Until, that is, the night that he made up his mind to make a stand.

He's been taking Tae Kwon Do, you see. He knows how to get his opponent down on the ground and then  immobilize him. He knows all the right places to hit in order to incapacitate. He knows how to subdue and then attack. This of course, is not the objective of Tae Kwon Do. They strive to teach discipline, self-control, respect for others, and peaceful conflict resolution.

But just in case you ever need to kick some ass...well then, it's best to be prepared. And he is.

He felt that during the first confrontation, he had struck out in anger and frustration and not used what he had been taught. He was disappointed in himself for that. So he had formulated a plan, one which he felt would send the message that he would no longer be the victim. One that would let everybody know that if they chose to engage him in a fight, he would make them sorry. First, he would get his opponent down with a leg sweep, then he would immobilize him with a wrap hold. Then he would punch him in the solar plexus and if that didn't keep him down, the kidneys. And then finally the nose. At which point, hopefully, his point would be made.

He told us all of this very calmly and it I don't mid telling was a little chilling. He was premeditating violence towards another child. But as chilling as it was, I did not find it at all unreasonable.  He told us he knew he would get in trouble, but he didn't care. He thought it was worth it to achieve his objective. I asked him to consider letting me go to the AP one more time. He refused. "MOM..." he said..."That doesn't help. It just makes things WORSE. I have to take care of this myself."

It was clear that his mind was made up. Husband and I let him know that we understood why he felt the need to do it, but that we wished he would find another way to settle the issue peacefully. We told him he would not suffer consequences at home, but that we could not protect him from those at school, or possibly even with the police. He nodded firmly, his blue-gray eyes flinty with determination. For him, there was simply no alternative.

I emailed the AP immediately to let her know what was going down. It was ten p.m., but I hoped she would get the email first thing in the morning. I followed up with a phone call at 8:30 am, but only got voice mail. Still, I didn't worry too much. Everybody checks voice mail and email first thing in the morning right? Around 8:45, I got an email from the Guidance Counselor, whom I had CC'd. She said she was no longer the student liaison for 7th grade, but was forwarding my email on to the new student liaison. Satisfied that someone on staff was aware, I sat back and waited.

Around 1:00 pm, the call finally came. He had done it. He would be suspended for five days. The AP was surprised, as she had no idea that things had continued after she took action last time. She realized however, that I was not surprised. She asked me if I had known what was going to happen and in turn I asked her if she had checked her email or voice mail or spoken with the Guidance Counselor that day. She hadn't and she was clearly upset that she hadn't been sought out and made aware of the situation. Someone got a tongue lashing that day, I'm sure.

She expressed great remorse that her efforts had not been successful. She thought that the discussion she had with the kid's parents had conveyed the seriousness of the situation and the need to stop it. She asked me to give her one more chance to handle it before calling in the muscle (aka: our lawyer) and I agreed. But, I told her emphatically, this needs to stop NOW. If what Diminutive One had done didn't stop it, then someone else needed to. We are done dealing with this kid, I told her. She understood. And because of our past history, which is posted prominently in his permanent record, she knows I do not make empty threats. She also knows that I will do what's necessary to prevent my kid from ending up swinging at the end of a rope.

So there we are. He was happy when he got home. He followed through on his plan and made his point. I think that up until he actually did it, he wasn't entirely sure he could go through with it. He's not a voilent kid by nature and shies away from conflict of any kind given the chance. But he was also concerned that since he would not be at school to refute the rumors, it would once again be circulated that HE had been the one getting his ass kicked. Which is one reason he made sure he had witnesses. Still, bullies are pretty good at public relations and progaganda. It's their greatest and most valuable skill, as Diminutive One well knows.

He's was at home with me all last week he's been like a different kid. He's relaxed, sleeping well, cheerful and clearly relieved of a HUGE burden. I really wish I could keep him home with me always, although truthfully, I doubt either one of us would survive that. I wish we could though. I'd homeschool him in an instant if I thought it was a truly viable option. I'd do anything to spare him the hell he goes through every day.

You know what? Forget Breast Cancer and Alzheimer's and Leukemia. Someone needs to identify, isolate and eradicate the "mean kid" gene. Let's call it the Mk1. Now that would be truly worthy of a Nobel Prize.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Confessions Of A Maternal Humbug

(Reposted from almost the exact same time last year)

This season defeats me.

My mother never liked Christmas, though she made a valiant effort to hide that fact. She decorated the house and she made a dazzling array of cakes and candy. But her heart wasn't in it. When I was a young child, I didn't and couldn't realize that of course. But as I got older, I knew. It wasn't something that was articulated or even fully cemented in my childish mind. It was just an awareness that something was amiss. But I didn't give it enough thought to ruin my enjoyment of the season. Kids are just wired that way.

But I understand now.

Like my mother, I just don't embrace Christmas with the same enthusiasm that others do.

Maybe because I see it as just one more glaring example of how I fall short of the ideal when it comes to being a model parent. I don't bake cookies. I don't make candy. I don't do cutesy crafts. I decorate, grudgingly, but I put it off until my kids are afraid Christmas will pass us by altogether.

Why? I really don't know, but I think it's resentment.

Resentment that all of this is on my head. More work, more worry, more stress...all piled on me. Nobody blames the Dad if there aren't Christmas cookies. Nobody blames the Dad if Christmas cards are late. Nobody blames the Dads if the children don't have matching outfits for the family portrait. Nobody blames the Dad if the teachers' gifts are lame, or the class party is a flop.

Nobody blames the Dad for anything.

I'm supposed to make all this happen. I'm supposed to make wonderful and cherished Christmas memories for my children. I alone am responsible for the miracles wrought and Joy to the World and Good freaking Will Toward Men.

It's been this way for like...always, I realize now. The women make it happen and everyone else reaps the benefit of their hard work. The families enjoy the fruits of Mom's labor with single minded enthusiasm. It's EASY to be jolly when someone else is doing all the work.

Hell, even I could be jolly if I had a full household staff to do all the drugework, and then serve me something hot and frothy while I enjoy the twinkling lights and the festively decked halls.

I guess some Moms find it rewarding to be the engineer of carefully constructed Christmas cheer.

I find that it pisses me off.

And I suppose yuletide apathy is my way of rebelling against the onslaught of expectation.

Perhaps it would be easier if there were some snow. All I see here is the dead landscape, bleak and brown. For a gal who grew up in Wisconsin, Christmas south of the Mason Dixon is a little bit...incongruous.

You know what always cheers me up though? Little House on the Prairie. You know, that one where Laura sells Bunny to buy Ma a stove. Pa wants to buy the same stove, but Laura already bought the only one in Mr. Oleson's store? And then Ma and Mary make Pa a shirt out of the same fabric? So Ma pretends that she didn't get anything for Pa. She surreptitiously pushes the package beneath the Christmas tree skirt. And then...and THEN...Pa gives Laura a saddle that he made for Bunny not knowing that Laura sold Bunny to Nellie Oleson. When Nellie comes to get Bunny, Ma tries to stop Laura and Charles says, "It's her horse, Caroline. She has the right." and then Caroline says, "But she LOVES that horse!" and then Charles says, "But she loves YOU more."

Sweet weeping Jesus. Now that's what the hell Christmas is all about.

Not who has the brightest lights or whose Mom makes the most cookies or who got the teacher the most expensive gift or who got the most brand name crap.

My kids are older now. They see. I know they do. I know I can't fake or hide it anymore. I don't want them to think that I resent them. Because I don't. I would buy them the world if I could. I just don't want to decorate it or bake it cookies.

Is that so wrong?

I don't know. Maybe I just need to quit worrying and do it my way and just be okay with that. Maybe "enough" is just what I make it. And maybe...maybe I should just accept that Christmas isn't for me. Once, I reaped the benefit of all my mother's work and worry and that was my time.

I find it immeasurably sad that I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have then.


Well, whatever. I am who I am. Christmas at our house is what it is. It will have to be good enough.

Any of you Christmas freaks want to come decorate my house and bake my kids some cookies?

I'll make it worth your while (wink).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The "E" Word And A Kick In The Pants

Okay, sorry...I know I've let you down. But I just don't have the mental fortitude or the heart for the post I promised on the whole "faith is a choice" concept. But I do have other stuff to share. Though it's not my usual fare, it is something that I've become passionate about.


WAIT! Don't run away yet, please. I know it's an intimidating topic. Diet and exercise are scary things to contemplate. A lot of people don't know where to start and can't afford to pay someone to advise them. But it doesn't have to be expensive or scary or excruciatingly painful. I promise.

I lost some ground with my weight loss when my Mom died. For six weeks or so, I just didn't care about anything. Not Weight Watchers, not Zumba, not housework or hygeine or being a Mom. Some days I ate out of control, other days, I couldn't force a single thing down my throat because it was swollen with grief. My weight went up and down during that time, but thankfully, I only gained about a half a pound when it was all said and done. I knew that was a gift and so, I managed to get ahold of myself and regain some of my focus and motivation.

I also knew that the holidays were just around the corner and that if I didn't get my resolve firmly back in place before then, I would become a statistic. Numbers vary, but according to my Weight Watchers leader, the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's is between 7 and 12 pounds. Do you KNOW how long it takes me to lose just one pound??? Now that I've lost a signficant amount of weight, the losses are getting smaller and smaller each week. I finally reached my 70lb milestone, but I have been working on that since July. No joke. Up a little, down a little. Period. Birthday weekend. Mom dies. Another period. Up a little, down a little.

Needless to say, I don't want to gain any pounds. I need to lose fourteen more pounds to reach my goal and then I can become a leader, which is something I really, really, really want to do. I don't want to set myself back another five months. am I going to manage not to gain weight over the holidays? How can you?

It's pretty simple really. Calories out have to equal more than the calories in. Some days I achieve that just by living life; vacuuming, mopping, making beds, scrubbing tubs and toilets. But not every day. And so, I have to make a conscious effort to create a calorie deficit.

This is where the dreaded "E" word comes in.

Again, I know this is a scary word and a scary concept. But it doesn't have to be. You just have to start small. I think the number one reason people hate exercise and become defeated so quickly is that they try to do too much too soon. They hurt, they feel sick and dizzy, they sweat and puff. It's not fun. They quit, thinking they are just not meant to be active people.


When I started, I could scarcely make it around the mile long track twice. Now? I'm doing hour long Tae Bo and Zumba classes. And LOVING it. The body is an amazing machine that will adapt to do whatever you ask it to. As long as you're smart about it.

I am a huge fan of Leslie Sansone's Walk Away The Pounds program. It's easy, it's doable, it's cheap and it's done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. You don't have to worry about vicious dogs, sexual predators, inclement weather or leering gym rats. I took off the first 50 pounds doing Leslie's workouts exclusively. At that point, my body needed more, because as I said, it adapts. I needed to challenge it more and moved on to exercise with more intensity. But I still use Leslie on days that I can't get to the studio. She has several workouts that do still give me the burn that I need, especially when I haven't done them for a while.

So I'm going to make this easy for you. I'm going to tell you exactly how I used her program so you have some idea of how to get started.

I started with this series:

Walk Away The Pounds Express; 1,2 and 3 Mile 
I didn't use the one mile workout. But if you are extremely overweight or have been completely sedentary for many years, you might want to start there. The 2 Mile Express workout is easy and thoroughy unscary. It covers all of Leslie's walk moves. It's a great introduction to the series and to exercise. The 3 Mile Express workout is one of my all time favorites and I still do it occasionally. I love the stretchy band segment at the end. I saw the results in my upper arms very quickly. I actually developed some defintion, which thrilled me to pieces, because I felt that it sort of detracted from the bat wings I'm still struggling with. It's a 45 minute workout and it will make you sweat. If you can get through the second mile, you can make it through the rest of the workout. Just grit your teeth and do it! You'll be glad that you did.  

I graduated to this video:

Walk Away the Pounds Express; 4 Mile Super Challenge

I didn't use this one much, to be honest. It got the job done, but it was a little monotonous and it didn't have any arm work, which I really liked and wanted to continue with. I started by alternating days with this and the 3 Mile Express workout that I liked so well. I found that I could grin and bear it every other day, because I knew it was changing my body. But eventually that one stopped being challenging enough as well and I knew I needed to up the ante yet again. 

I decided to try this one:

3 Mile Slim and Sleek Walk

I was excited to try the core toning segment. My tummy is a problem area thanks to my youngest son, who was nearly ten pounds at birth. And it turned out to be just long enough that I could get through it without feeling like I might rupture something. Don't get the wrong idea; it was a challenge. But a doable one. I found that I really liked this video a lot. It was a step up intensity wise, so I knew my body was being challenged the way it needed. There were some new moves and combinations to keep it interesting. The only thing it lacked was arm work. But I decided I could do that on my own since I knew what to do from the previous videos. I was very pleased with this video and used it for quite some time in conjuction with the 3 and 4 Mile Express videos. I liked having a library of workouts to mix it up and keep me from getting bored. But know what's coming right? Yep. I had to take it up a notch because it was getting too easy for me.

About that time, Leslie released this new video:

Walk Weightloss Boot Camp

And this is, in my opinion, the perfect workout. I LOVE it, and still do it on days I can't get to Zumba or Tae Bo. And it still makes me sweat. It works all the major muscle groups, so its very comprehensive. It's all here. You don't have to do anything extra to get a well rounded workout. It's fun, challenging and goes by very quickly. It uses interval training to torch calories and optimize your workout, which I really like. The intervals make the workout doable, and also makes it fly by.

This is just how I did it. Leslie has a ton of excellent videos that you can mix and match to meet your own unique needs and ability. That's the beauty of the program. The only video that I tried that I did not like was this one:

Walk Away Your Waistline
The walk belt was just a pain in the butt. Even fastened as tightly as I could possibly make it, the belt rode up my torso when doing the arm moves and ended up beneath my boobs. Plus, the handles had to be tucked into the belt when not using it, which wouldn't have been a big issue if all the arm moves had been done within a given time frame, but they were very haphazard and sporadic. So I had to keep dragging them out and then tucking back in. Annoying. This is the only one of Leslie's videos that I thought was just poorly done. I bought it before I discovered Collage Video, where you can watch clips and read customer reviews on all the selections. So go there and do the research before you buy. It's a great resource!

So there you go. It's not hard to start exercising. And I know you've heard it before, but here it is from the lips of a former couch potato:  Exercise really does make you feel better, in a lot of ways. I sleep better, I suffer fewer migraines, I have more energy, it lifts my mood and makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. It's good to know your body will do what you ask it to. It's good to feel strong. I wish I hadn't wasted so many years feeling sluggish, tired and depressed.

I've moved on from Leslie now, but I still feel very strongly that her program is one of the best around. You don't have to kill yourself, you just have to move. And Leslie gets people moving.

You can do this. If I can, anybody can. Fifteen months ago, I would have had a hearty laugh at the idea that I would one day love exercise. I would have laughed harder still at the thought that I might contemplate becoming a fitness instructor. I had just about talked myself into attending a Zumba certification workshop that took place in November, when my Mom passed away. By the time I had recovered my senses enough for anything, enrollment was closed. But I'm hittin' the next one.

A formerly fat chick, stroke patient, couch potato...on her way to becoming a Weight Watchers leader and a Zumba instructor.

Ain't that a kick in the pants?