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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Behind The Scenes

"People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved."

     ~Anne Sullivan

Not that long ago, a reader sent me an email letting me know I was inspiring him in a couple of areas.  (Thank you for that feedback - I really do love hearing that!)  After a couple of exchanges, the person seemed shocked to learn that I work full time and have a 45 minute commute each way.  His comment was something like "whoa - you do all this - write the blog, work out, take care of a son, run the household, pay the bills, take care of the house, etc. AND you work a full time job?  Seriously?  I had NO idea!"  He went on to say he was even more impressed.

The whole exchange really got me thinking.

What DO people know about me?  What DO they see?  What about the folks who knew me in high school but skipped over the whole adult years until recently?  What about those who saw me walk through some pretty torturous periods in my life - the "all time low" times?  What do THEY see when they look at me, my progress, my journey?

I know for certain there are some people who look my way and think "well, easy for HER.  She's got it together and has the kind of personality that is organized enough to do all of that."  What they don't see is what it took to get this far, and the sometimes halting, debilitating, painful steps I still sometimes need to take to get to the next leg of the journey.  And believe me, there are many of THOSE steps!

I really want to come back around to this topic over the next couple of weeks.  But for right now, I'm in the middle of climbing out of one of those painful, halting, debilitating places and have to focus on just the basics:  Food, shelter, job.  What are the minimum requirements moving forward immediately to get me to higher ground?

  1. What I eat must be "clean" and nutritious.  I have been eating so much junk and you really ARE what you eat.  I have felt horrid, depressed and unable to make good "next right" choices.  So I have to commit to eating choices that I know will offer nutrients, vitamins, energy and a positive impact on me.  So far today, so good. 
  2. I have to get moving.  Even if I just commit to 10 minutes on the treadmill, I will feel better instantly.  I know this.  Yet I have resisted since I got back from all my travels.  I can't ignore this anymore.  Just 10 minutes between now and bedtime tonight.  No matter what.
  3. If 1 and 2 above are in place, I will have much more clarity to focus on the rest of the "musts."  I have many "musts" that have to be taken care of:  Of course, my job must stay a priority.  I am also enrolled in college and the classes aren't going to care the this whole hurricane business derailed me or debilitated me.  They are going to care that my homework is done and I am participating.  So this is a MUST, no matter what.  And the whole mothering, cooking, carpooling, pta stuff looms overhead.  I'll just need to look each night at what MUST be done the next day, keep it simple, make a list, do it, and keep moving.
I think I'm moving in the right direct again after a slight derailing.  At least my MIND is moving in the right direction today.  I really do believe that if I do #1 and #2 above well, the rest of me will follow quite aptly again.  It's all related.  And it starts with recommitting to the belief that I'm worth the effort.

I want people reading this to see, and to know, that not all the steps are easy.  Not all the choices are easy.  walking the walk is infinitely harder than talking the talk.  Life knocks me over.  Dealing with the hurricane on the heels of a whirlwind of travel and being out of my routines knocked me on my butt.

I read a quote today (don't know who to attribute it to) that speaks to this whole blog today:

"Circumstances don't make you, they reveal you. How you respond to the life God offers you is what makes you."

 It all comes down to choices.  I'd like to choose wisely. If I eat healthy and exercise, I seem to make MUCH wiser choices.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Aftermath (Hurricane Irene)

Warning:  This might end up being a really long blog entry as I feel like I'm working through many mixed feelings.

Like the entire east coast of the US, I just experienced hurricane Irene - the warnings leading up to the storm, the advance preparation, the storm itself and the 'aftermath.'    I can't go in to work today as our phones are out and we're teleworking.  And I'm finding myself having a strong delayed reaction to the past several days.

To help organize my thoughts, I'm going to break them into 3 sections:

  • The Storm
  • The Background
  • The Aftermath

The Storm

Hurricane Irene rolling in Friday night at mi casa
I spent a lot of time before the storm hit researching about it.  I googled and found the Maryland emergency management site.  I watched the Weather Channel 24/7.  All reports showed that the storm of our lifetime was coming.  Maryland Emergency Management stated that everyone east of Frederick, MD should put plywood on their windows, and do all the other preparations.

I am a single mom with my nearest relatives several states away.  That makes me solely responsible for the welfare of me and my son, as well as my home.

Yes, I taped the windows.
I own a 1947 house with a roof that already leaks.  Ironically I had an appointment Saturday as Irene was rolling in to get a price on a new roof.  I have several large trees around the house.  I bought 14 gallons of water.  I had dry ice and block ice in the cooler anticipating the widespread power outages. I bought plenty of non perishable foods as well as fruits/veggies that are 'ready to eat.'  I made sure the propane tanks were turned off.  I bought rope and tied down the grill and patio furniture.  I taped all the windows.  I made sure we both had showers Saturday afternoon and then filled the tub with water in case it would be needed for flushing.  I made sure all the laundry was caught up.  I went to several stores in order to get D batteries (as they were sold out almost everywhere.)  I got an extra charge pack for charging a cell phone if the electricity went out.  I made sure all our electronics were charged.  And that candles and a lighter were nearby and easily accessible.  I had sleeping bags and a "go bag" ready in case a tree fell through the roof and we had to go quickly.

I don't remember everything  I did, but I spent two solid days getting ready.  I went to bed Saturday night, exhausted, knowing two things:  (1) The brunt of the storm was about to hit overnight and (2) I had done everything humanly possible - the outcome was out of my hands.

Two houses down from me.  That's gonna leave a mark.
The storm came and went.  My roof did not leak.  A big branch the size of a tree fell in my yard (no harm done at all).  There were big trees nearby that did fall (one on a poor guy's van).  Of course, there's widespread power outages in the area but our house was fine. Yesterday (Sunday) I spent the day cleaning up the yard and undoing a lot of the earlier prep (taking down the tape, etc.)


The Background

Many of you don't know me, or didn't know me over the past few years. You didn't see where I started, what it took to get me to this point in my life.  I left a volatile, emotionally and verbally abusive marriage as a crushed human being in early 2005. I got a protective order in early 2006 as he continued to escalate despite the separation, and the divorce became final in May 2006.  During that time, the thought of simply going grocery shopping, coming home, putting the groceries away....that whole process....was at times overwhelming.  There were times when I'd have to break a task like cleaning the kitchen down into tiny baby steps in order to not feel overwhelmed and paralyzed.  Major clinical depression, a little post-traumatic stress and a whole lot of responsibility sometimes knocked me to my knees for days even weeks at a time.  Little things like just doing dishes or taking down the Christmas tree could derail me emotionally (really.)

Over the years, I have used the "baby steps" approach to tackling almost everything in my life - my career, my finances, my parenting, my housekeeping, my smoking, and my weight.  One little topic at a time I have been becoming stronger, more competent, more able to roll with life's punches and keep moving forward.

So when the whole hurricane warning thing came up, I was thankfully in a position to be able to deal with it alone without it overwhelming me or knocking me over,  I had the financial resources to buy what I needed.  I had the personal time available to take a day off and work on the preparations.  My house was already pretty clean/organized, so all my focus was on safety things.  My body and mind switched into "high alert" and I just did all that needed to be done (in my opinion....others felt I may have gone overboard on my preparations, but I would rather be prepared and not need it than the other way around) like "Rabbit" from Winnie the Pooh "Must keep the schedule, must keep working."

So Friday and Saturday was non-stop preparation. Sunday was assessing the aftermath, cleaning up the yard, and realizing we'd dodged quite a bullet here, followed by watching what was happening as the storm approached my friends and family from New Jersey to Maine.  (One cousin in Mass. had a tree fall on her house and electric wires on her car, my elderly parents were and still are without power in Maine and I was worried all night that they could get flooded, etc.)

The Aftermath

Today, I have been hit with overwhelming emotions from it all.  Maybe part of it is that the adrenaline that kept me going stopped being necessary and has drained away.  Maybe the intensity of watching The Weather Channel and following (with great stress) what was happening to my friends and relatives as the storm went up the coast has dissipated.   Maybe it's my overwhelming sense of isolation and "aloneness" in times like these that's hitting me.  Or just pure relief?  Or some combination of all of the above (most likely.)

Regardless, I have been out of control eating today. One minute I'm sad or angry about nothing in particular.  The unseen enemy?  Or frustrated to no reason - or alternately....feeling empty, too.  It's just a strange combination of ups and downs and it's ticking me off.

I have gotten into ridiculous amounts of carbs which no doubt are making me feel much worse.  I also have thought about going out and buying cigarettes!  Of course, I'm NOT going to do that (I'm on day 666 of my quit!).  But the thoughts did cross my mind.  It gets to me that when my emotions soar like this it's ME I feel like subconsiously destroying.  What's up with that?

Anyway, I'm fine.  I normally don't share days like today.  The thought of strangers reading this doesn't bother me at all.  I feel like I'm just showing the reality of my inner life.  The thought of my own mom reading this, or friends/relatives/coworkers makes me feel vulnerable and like putting put a big notice:  Please do NOT call me and ask if I'm okay or I'll scream!  

I don't ordinarily share ANYTHING when I'm in the midst of it.  I'm WAY more comfortable fixing it, getting over it, dealing with it, etc. and THEN talking about it in the past tense,  It's just how I roll.


I'm human.  Life isn't always easy.  No matter how positive and rah rah I get, sometimes life can just be hard and there are times that require a lot from us, and though we rise to the challenges, sometimes, we need a soft landing afterwards.  I don't really have that soft landing (I'm still here, still responsible, still have to figure out how to get the tree outta my back yard, still have to be the breadwinner etc.) and I want a soft landing dammit.  So I'm landing in soft carbs.

I need to have a better plan.  Like landing on a soft treadmill.  Which I haven't been on in 2 months. blog topic?  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breezy Shorts

First, I want to say I am SO happy to be back on a schedule and routine.  I am making smoothies every day, eating good lunches, solid dinners, and am in control of the choices.  It feels good to be getting back into the swing of things after so much travel.

Before I left I had a pile of clothes in my spare room I needed to go through.  Things I wasn't sure if I should take on my trips, or that I wasn't even sure would still look good as I suspected they might be too big.

So I tried on a thing or two.

Holy Mackerel!  That's definitely a boost to the esteem and adds a bit 'o "recharge" to the whole process.  No, I'm not in it just for weight loss.  My main goal is longevity - getting healthy and staying that way.  Of course, one measure of that is attaining a healthy weight.  Even if the scale hasn't moved all that much this summer, seeing this sure was a shot in the arm!

I still have some more clothes left to clear out/donate, and I do look forward to it.  There's something uniquely strengthening in purging out the old to leave room for the new (physically and metaphorically.)

What a nice way to start the week!

Back To School

It's that time again....Back To School at the Carly house.  And I'm not just talking about my son!

This year my son is going to a new school - he's leaving elementary school behind and heading to middle school.  He auditioned for, and got accepted into, a special magnet school - a Performing and Visual Arts (PVA) school - and it starts tomorrow.  I'm so darned proud of him!

Getting him there is going to be a challenge.  It's public school, but because it's outside of our regular area the bus makes only centralized stops.  What that means for me is getting up and out by 6:45 a.m. to get him there on time.  (I'm used to leaving the house around 8:00 for elementary school.)

The other thing is that I am also going back to school.  I have been enrolled at University of Maryland (UMUC) for the past couple of years but have only taken the occasional class here and there.  I have decided it's time to stop playing around and finally get my bachelors degree.  So Biology 103 starts tomorrow.  The syllabus says to plan to devote about 20 hours per week to this class.  Ouch.  Who has 20 hours to spare?  Well, I don't, but I'm going to have to find 'em somewhere.

What this means is I need a solid game plan,  I do not want a reason to derail my progress.  Remember, I want to make this all fail proof!  So I need to think in terms of "How can I ensure success?" rather than "How can I survive this?"  Big difference in outlook and outcome, methinks.

So in planning, there's a lot to consider.  I'm a single, working mom.  I have to factor in a 45 minute commute each way, about an hour per day of exercise, about 2.5 hours per day of homework/reading, some cooking time, some eating time, some shopping/errands/housework time, and of course, some quality time with my son.  Hmm.

Here's the initial plan:  Make lists and post them prominently where both my son and I can see them.  Make sure we have the "as soon as you get home" list of things to accomplish at the end of the work/school day, (prepping food, cooking dinner, doing homework, etc) the "before you go to bed" list of things that must be done (get clothes ready, pack the next day's lunch, son take shower, Carly blog etc.) and the "as soon as you get up" lists (get in some exercise, mom take shower, etc., bring lunch,bring son to school) etc.

It's going to be hairy, and I'm totally going to need to rely on my son to step up and take some responsibility for himself.  I've kind of spoiled him (sort of) in that I haven't required him to do that much around the house.  Well, we're a team and my side of the team is getting a heck of a lot busier and so he'll need to pitch in more. Frankly, I think this is a good thing.

A really encouraging thing is that he is looking forward to, and planning for, a healthier lifestyle this upcoming school year.  He wants to get more fit.  He wants to exercise more and eat better.  He's TOTALLY into the smoothies   We made one yesterday with radishes, cucumbers, spinach, kale, parsley, coconut oil, bananas and strawberries and he loved it!

I think I started making these changes (quitting smoking, eating healthier, exercising) just in the nick of time.  I think much of this is going to be incorporated into what my son just does naturally as he gets older (he's 11 right now.)  I am so thankful for the friends and family who helped me get to this point.  You have no idea what a train wreck I was just a few years ago.  And here I am now with weight goals, health goals, work goals, school goals and a son who's chomping at the bit to try out this new, advanced curriculum at his new school while also getting more fit.  Incredible.

I think I can work it all out.  It might take a little 'growing pains' to figure it all out and work out schedules, etc., but anything's possible if you don't give up!  Whew!  Wish me luck!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rudeness in the Air

I did a good bit of traveling this summer. On one of the flights, I was mortified at the rudeness of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant toward a gentleman trying to board the flight.

He was just walking slowly down the aisle, as was everyone else in the line, kind of looking to the left and looking to the right to find a seat that he might like. (Southwest doesn't allow to you pick seats in advance - it's more a first come, first served kind of system.)

The man was clearly very overweight.

As he was slowly passing by the exit rows on his way toward the back of the plane, the flight attended abruptly and loudly said, "Do you need an extension for your seatbelt sir?"

He responded quietly "Yes, probably."

To which she (again, loudly) said, "Then you may NOT sit in an exit row."

He responded rather upset: "Who suggested that I sit there? Certainly not me."

This whole exchange was loud and in front of all the folks on the plane. I was so upset! What an ignorant woman, And I felt the guy's pain, truly. I mean, he already knows he's large and just the fact of needing a seat belt extension is enough to make one feel badly, but must we loudly humiliate overweight people like that?

I felt really powerless, too. I wanted to come to his side and tell the woman what an ignoramus she was, but sadly that would have just brought more attention to the situation when the man probably just wanted to invisibly slide into obscurity.


I truly don't think people realize just how OPENLY rude a huge part of society is toward overweight people and how totally ACCEPTED it is as being "okay." The comments I have received over my lifetime by otherwise "nice" people would shock you. The very real discrimination would surprise you. And the open, in your face jokes about fat people are a daily thing. But if you're not tuned in to that station you don't even notice the sound waves. And the majority of people aren't tuned in.

Heck, even family members who truly love me have spent a lifetime making fat jokes, like it's cute, warm, funny and a way to somehow make everyone feel more comfortable with my size. Hard to explain.

I was so glad to fit in the seat easily myself, not need an extension, and actually had to pull the seat belt to tighten it like a normal person. But I didn't take it for granted, I celebrated it, I kept watching the sides of the seat to see if I would "spill over" into the other person's seat (I didn't) and was painfully aware of what flying has generally meant for all these years. Even as I lose the weight, I still think like a morbidly obese person. I wonder if that will stop when I reach my goal?

As to the woman at Southwest Airlines, she needs to get out of the customer relations business until she takes some serious sensitivity training and gets an education about discretion. And there are people like her everywhere you turn. Please, don't be one of them. :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Never Sausage A Selection!

Yesterday I got the neatest package delivered to me - a little cooler with an ice pack and an assortment of Al Fresco chicken sausages!

It seems the "Al Fresco" people saw my blog in April where I reviewed their Sweet Apple Sausages (here's the  LINK (lol like the pun?)

Anyway, a few weeks ago they contacted me to see if I'd be interested in trying some of their other products. How cool is that?  So now I have some buffalo sausages and sweet italian style sausages to try.  I'm actually looking forward to the italian style.  Maybe I'll fry them up and add them to spaghetti sauce this weekend.

I feel like a celebrity, my first payment made in SAUSAGE!  I'll have to frame one! Or not.  But I will let you know how they taste.  Next time I think I should review BMW's.  teehee


In other news, I have eaten super "cleanly" since returning from vacation.  And it's amazing.  I can REALLY tell the difference in how I feel, how I speak, how I act.  I'm happier and more energetic.  I feel healthier that quickly...just a couple of days into better eating and it makes all the difference.

Now if I could just hoist myself up onto the treadmill and get MOVING again!  That's my goal for this week:  Get back into a routine of MOTION.  Even if I start with just 10 minutes with free weights and 10 minutes on the treadmill...I must do it!

I wonder why it's so hard to get busy doing something that I love doing for myself?  Seriously.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

All Juiced Up!

I posted a few months ago that I'd rather eat my calories than smoosh 'em all up into a smoothie or juice and drink them.  I have since totally changed my mind.

First, there is an AMAZING health-related website:  MERCOLA.COM that discusses food, nutrition, exercise, etc.  Dr. Mercola researches this constantly and stays abreast of changing news, scientific data, etc.  He's quite a "holistic" approach kind of guy and although he is certainly an entrepreneur (sells some vitamin products etc.), he is really more about spreading the word about health and nutrition.  If you sign up for his newsletter and site access he does NOT spam you.

Anyway, he's a big proponent of juicing.  I'm more in the camp of smoothies.  Dr. Mercola extracts all the liquids and drinks them (leaving out the fiber from the veggies and fruits) and then eats what's left separately (ick) because the body digests it better that way.  I'm more into the quick and easy method:  Toss it all into the blender and call it a day.

So I researched and while the Vitamix and HealthMaster type blenders look amazing, they are also upwards of $300.  Instead I found a "NINJA" at Walmart for $79.00 (maybe it was $89.00 can't quite remember.)  This blender ROCKS!

My green smoothies so far consist of:

  • Spinach (2 cups)
  • Kale (2 leaves),
  • Parsley (a few sprigs - fresh)
  • Strawberries (3 large)
  • Blueberries (1/2 cup)
  • Banana (whole)
  • Coconut Oil (1 tbsp.)
  • Water to suit...about 1 cup
Believe it or not the sweetness from the fruit takes the edge off the bitter dark greens and it's pretty enjoyable.

Last night I bought lots more veggies and some more fruit to try changing it up: pineapple, mango, peaches, celery, radishes and collard greens.  These are all things I almost never eat, but which offer their own health benefits.  So if I can toss 'em in, eat 'em raw and get the benefit...WHY NOT?

I can't believe how I did such a 180 degree turn on this.  I tried a green smoothie at a friend's house while traveling and was surprised mostly by how EASY it was to do.  THAT was probably my biggest reason for not doing it before.

I had a fancy smoothie maker with a spout etc.  The thing was a pain to use and a bigger pain to disassemble and clean.  The vitamix 5000 model my friend had was just one unit.  Toss everything in and when you're done, rinse it out, blend some hot water and dishsoap, rinse again and done.  SO EASY!

The NINJA that I bought is the same way, you only remove the blade from the top and the container, blade and lid are even dishwasher safe.

I'm sold.  I'll talk more about the coconut oil in another blog (google's fantastic!!!) but for today, I'll just leave with this thought:  If you aren't getting the recommended servings of veggies each day, this is an easy and totally healthy way to even drink them on the run.

And if you're doing weight watchers, it's 100% point free (except for the coconut oil, but I personally won't sacrifice that!)

Chat with y'all tomorrow....I'm off to make my smoothie and take it on the commute to work!  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On this day in 2010

August 2010 Massachusetts vacation 320 lbs.
On this day in 2010 I posted the following on Facebook right after my summer vacation:

"thinks it's time to get back on a healthy eating plan. After 9 1/2 months of "post-quitting smoking" eating, I realize if hunger isn't the problem, eating isn't the solutiion. Vacation is over - and I'm out of excuses. :-)" 

I weighed 320 at the time.

One year later, I am down 72 pounds, to 248, two days after this year's summer vacation to the same vacation spot.

I have been lax for the past couple of weeks.  Not posting on the blog, not exercising at all, and eating ridiculously bad choices.  While on vacation at the lake I actually ate Little Debbie's snack cakes for pete's sake.  It can't possibly get worse than that!

August 2011 Massachusetts vacation: 248 lbs.
Well, in 2011, upon returning from vacation, I can say...

I think it's time to get back on a healthy eating plan. After2 1/2 months of  mega travel and being out of my regular routine, it's time to get back on track.. Vacation is over - and I'm out of excuses.

It's time to get blogging, get moving, and get on track.  I have lots to share and a lot has happened these past couple of months....time to kick this healthy living into high gear!  I have a lot planned for my fall and I'm going to need all the energy, focus and positive attitude I can muster, so here we go!!!!!

I'm already back on track and amazingly, I thought I'd gained 6 pounds during my vacation and after only two days back I'm back to my pre-travel weight.  I suspect a lot of the gain was water from the tons of sodium I consumed (that i'm not used to!)

I'm back, I'm blogging, and I have lots of new goals.  See you tomorrow!!!

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