Appreciation, blogging, Building self-confidence, enjoying family, Exercise, fitness, food and family celebrations, Having fun, learning, losing weight, love, Maintaining Weight Loss, Medical Weight Loss Program, memories, optifast, Thankfulness, weight loss journal, Writing

I’d Fight a Zombie for You


Last year, on December 16th, I attended an informational meeting about Optifast at our hospital’s bariatric center.  I was nearly 230 pounds and physically miserable.  My health was on a downward spiral of pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, depression, and limited mobility.   My spirit was in even worse shape.  In fact, shortly before my first bariatric visit, a silly family conversation about the Zombie Apocalypse* turned pretty serious as each family member was discussing their special skill in defeating the undead.  My husband’s years in the Army have given him amazing survival skills, coupled with a sniper-like aim with any weapon available.  My younger daughter is super fast, fearless, and strong. Her fiancé is resourceful and also an expert in survival and weaponry.  My oldest daughter is cunning, has expert medical skills, and extremely resilient, and her husband is wily, quick and strong.  After talking out a few scenarios that slayed more than a slew of zombies, my family turned to me,

“What would you do Mom?” my oldest asked.

“I’m fat,”  I replied, “I’d be your diversion.”

With that, their happy conversation ceased and I spent the next hour, promising them that I would get healthy.

Fast forward to yesterday.  My oldest I were happily dancing around the kitchen to holiday music with a few twerking songs thrown in, when she reminded me of last year’s Zombie Apocalypse conversation.

“What would you do now, Mom?” she questioned **

I answered with a high, karate-style kick that finished just inches from her head.

“I’d kick their asses!,” I replied with a smile.

With just one year of extremely hard work, I’ve gone from a Zombie’s holiday meal, to the undead’s worst enemy.  I’m nearly 100 pounds lighter, am no longer pre-diabetic, no longer have sleep apnea, depression, or high blood pressure.  My asthma medication has been cut in half, and I’m physically fit. I’ve met new, wonderful people through my gym and this blog.  I don’t fear life anymore, and I’m certainly not afraid of a few zombies!

I feel so immensely blessed this wonderful holiday season. I’m thankful for the love of my friends and family, for my health, and for all of the caring, sweet people that I’ve met here on WordPress.  I feel like I know all of you as friends and wish you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays! ❤ ❤ ❤


*Something that people who have years of advanced education tend to do, along with lengthy discussions of Star Wars, Star Trek, and other various super cool subjects!

**Once again, her extreme coolness coming out.


ADHD, Anxiety, blogging, Having fun, learning

I Bring the Bling

My third grade teacher was just like scary  Miss Truchbull from Matilda! (photo courtesy of Tri Star Pictures)
My third grade teacher was just like scary Miss Truchbull from Matilda! (photo courtesy of Tri Star Pictures)

I was an exuberant child; quick-witted, smart, messy, noisy and driven by a very colorful motor.  In my earliest years of schooling, my inability to sit still and cease talking, often made me the naughty chair’s number one occupant.  Additionally, my bottom was more than well-acquainted with the class paddle.  My lack of impulse control regularly made me both the object of my peers’ delight ,when it came to completing their dares, and the blaring object of their ridicule because I was so clearly not cast from the same mold as them. “They” wouldn’t dare get out of their seat to pass a note during a lesson.  “They” wouldn’t dare make the noise of a train whistle as our bus crossed a railroad track on a field trip.  “They” would never moon someone out of a classroom window, or do a science report on the chemistry of boogers.  “They” seemed like dull, complacent control, to my sparkling, unruly chaos.  Because I seemed to rapidly zig when everyone else was zagging, as a young child, I usually felt like I didn’t fit in.

Then, came third grade, the worst school year of my life, with Miss Stooky.  Miss Stooky was a classic nasty of a teacher.  She could easily be compared to Miss Truchbull, from Dahl’s Matilda.   Her classroom was run like a tight ship and I was its loose cannon, a fact that she reminded me of nearly every single day.  The year was 1973, and teachers could pretty much get away with saying and doing whatever they pleased to make their young charges attend and behave.  Miss S took full liberties with this notion. She paddled me, hit my knuckles with a ruler, and made me an example of what not to do to the rest of the class–thus increasing my already nonexistent popularity. Her very favorite punishment was to send me to the special education room to spend the day.  This was back in the time when the physically and mentally impaired children were placed in a faraway corner of the school, separate from everyone, as if they didn’t exist.  Truth be told, I didn’t mind going there.  It was far more of a safe haven than a punishment.The special education teacher, Mrs. Campbell was a kind-hearted lady, who never seemed to mind having me as her classroom “helper” for the day.  I certainly didn’t mind helping to feed lunch to a boy with cerebral palsy, or reading stories to Sabrina, a girl bigger than me, who still didn’t know the joy of reading by herself.

One day, while I was helping to put away the large wooden beads that some of the children had been sorting into groups of colors. Mrs. Campbell asked me what my parents thought about me spending my days with her in the special ed. room.  I quickly revealed that my parents didn’t know.  Like I said, this was 1973, if you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home, as well.  I’d kept my days in special ed. a secret from my parents figuring that it was a “win-win” situation for me, as well as Miss Stooky.

A few days after that conversation with Mrs. Campbell, my mother surprised me by telling me that I was going to have a day off from school to visit a special doctor in the city.  I was delighted to meet Dr. Green, an educational psychologist.  Her office was full of interesting toys and she had a plethora of fun “tests” that were relatively easy for me to do.  At the end of the day, my parents had answers about my behavior and my situation at school was about to improve for the better.

I had a dual diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder and gifted-ness. Now at school, I would spend part of my day with the gifted teacher, some of the day a grade up in a fourth grade classroom, and only a small portion of the day with Miss Stooky.  I couldn’t have been more overjoyed.

Hyperkinetic disorder is now known as ADHD  (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)  and even as far back in the 1970’s its diagnosis was controversial.  Like today, in spite of neurological and genetic evidence, some people blamed it on poor parenting and deemed it an excuse for bad behavior. It’s estimated that 5-10% of the world’s population has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD.  Statistically, most suffers of ADHD are male, so I am a rarity.    Treatment in the ’70s involved the use of stimulants, as it does today.  My mother wasn’t comfortable with the contraindications of putting me on medication and preferred the use of behavior modification techniques which were somewhat effective.  Though I’m sure there are school teachers who blamed their gray hair or baldness specifically on me!

As I got older, self-consciousness sunk in, and I learned to better control my behavior in order to fit in and have friends.  I became involve in theatre and found teachers who fostered my love of reading and writing like never before.  I figured out things about myself academically and socially.  I learned to force myself to pay attention when I needed to, or to at least make myself look like I was attending!

Truth be told, most of the ways that I’ve dealt with having ADHD have been self-taught. I know I can’t stick with the same task for very long before my attention begins to wander.   I know that by changing activities frequently and doing a bit of something at a time, that I eventually get everything done that I need to.  I know I need to exercise to burn off excess energy and to improve my concentration. I’m also very aware that I can get “carried away” with silliness, in some situations, and I keep myself in check.

The good news is that ADHD doesn’t completely suck.  In fact, I think it makes me more interesting and adventurous.  I know it made me a much more understanding teacher when it came to helping children with my same disorder. My friends and family are in hearty agreement that my sense of humor and boundless energy give me an extra sparkle–and who doesn’t like a little bling in their lives? 🙂

(taken from
(taken from




blogging, Breast Cancer, learning, losing weight, weight loss journal, Writing

Bad Warriors Hide (Don’t be a bad warrior!)

As scared as I am, this will be me this afternoon. Please send good thoughts my way!
As scared as I am, this will be me this afternoon. Please send good thoughts my way!

I’ve been awake since four-something this morning; worrying, tossing and turning, chastising myself for something that I should have done in April 2013. I don’t’ like to speak badly of myself, but for the past week, I’ve reminded myself that in one potentially big area of my life, I am an idiot.

My oldest daughter got married on June 15, 2013. Because she was away at medical school, she enlisted me to do a vast majority of her wedding planning. It was amazingly awesome to pick out flowers, design and create centerpieces, make favors, and even write the ceremony. In fact, the months, weeks, and days leading up to her ceremony were so fantastically special for me, that I didn’t want anything to mar the fun that I was having. So when my doctor handed me the order for my yearly mammogram in April of 2013, I tucked it away with the good intention of fulfilling it after the wedding. After all, I wouldn’t want something to show up on a life-saving diagnostic tool that could add stress to such a happy time in our family’s lives.

Fast forward to this April 2014; when it’s check-up time, my family doctor realizes that she doesn’t have last year’s mammogram results and promptly writes me a new order. I’m in the midst of dropping pounds like a dude drops twenties at a strip club. Life is good. I feel great; way too great for any bad news. So like the year before, I slipped that order into my underwear drawer and continued to live the good life.

This Monday, I had another check-up with my family doctor. I needed blood-work to check my hemoglobin because of my extensive peri-menopausal bleeding, plus, I’d pulled a pectoral muscle goofing off doing push-ups and side planks with my daughter. My blood-work came back great; my red blood cell count was borderline, but higher than the last time, and my cholesterol and blood glucose were perfect. Things weren’t as rosy when my doc checked my pulled pec. She noticed some slightly enlarge lymph nodes in the area where the pain was. This reminded her that she didn’t see my latest mammogram results in her computer. While she told me that the enlarged lymph nodes were most likely an immune response to a muscle pull, or possibly a tear, and their existence reminded her to check the date of my last mammogram.

I got a new mammogram order and the lecture of a life-time about the life-saving benefits of mammography. The thing is, I should truly know better. My mother had breast cancer and endured a radical mastectomy in her late 30s. I’d witnessed it all; the angst, the surgery, the scars, the chemo and radiation. As a young girl of 11, I’d watched her gorgeous brown hair thin and fall out. I brought her cold washcloths and mint gum to sooth her nausea. I learned to cook full meals, do laundry, clean the entire house to my dad’s strict standards, and get myself and my brother ready for school each day. Breast cancer was a horrible presence that bridged the gap between my innocence and adulthood. Long after my mother recovered, I was anxious and never again a carefree child. So it isn’t any wonder that I’ve actively tried to hide from the beast that took my childhood? However, as an intelligent woman, I should know that hiding from anything only gives it an advantage. Good warriors strategize, and a yearly mammogram is an integral procedure in the fight against breast cancer.

So today, at 3:50, think of me as my breasts are squished to the limit in the mammogram’s vice. If you pray, lift one up for me that I haven’t given the enemy the advantage. If you’ve put off getting your yearly mammogram, and this post speaks to you, call your doctor, save yourself some worry, and make an appointment.  Be a good warrior in the battle for good health!

On a happier note, I wish everyone a fabulous fun-filled Fall weekend!

Bipolar II, blogging, Building self-confidence, enjoying family, Food Addiction, Having fun, learning, marriage, mental illness, Thankfulness

Gratitude: I’m thankful to be the best me I can be!


Life is awesome, and so is coffee, in moderation!  Yes, my hair really is that big! LOL!
Life is awesome, and so is coffee, in moderation! Yes, my hair really is that big! LOL!

Though I’ve had my share of  struggles, I’m a very fortunate person. Life has given me the privilege to meet, get to know, and live with several distinctly different versions of myself as an adult. The first version of me was the wild 18-22 year-old college student who often made terrible decisions based solely on what made the pain of a dying mother go away. Those decisions often involved rather risky behaviors and very little positive cognitive processing. If it felt freeing, fun, or dangerous, I was doing it with little thought of consequences.

My wild years, ushered in the next phase of my adulthood which reigned from 23-30 and involved the birth of two gorgeous daughters, one marriage followed by one divorce, and the joy of living below the national poverty level. (I’m not using the word joy in a facetious manner; an explanation is coming)

Next, came my years of single motherhood from 31-36. These years were marked with fun, adventure, frustration on many levels, loneliness and continuing poverty.

My single years ended when I met the man that I’m now married to. From 37-40 all of our lives became significantly better, fuller, and richer with love.

Then, just when things seemed to be flowing smoothly, my younger daughter’s first depressive episode surfaced when I was 41. Though my daughter was properly diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder within two years of her first episode, and though she was properly treated and doing well, my years from 41-48 were dark. Anxiety and isolation were the central themes of my existence and I spent most of my time compulsively eating to quell my anxiety and waiting for the next episode to happen.

Now, at 50, the past two years of my life have been an incredible period of growth for me. I have two wonderfully healthy daughters and a fabulous stepson. I am married to the kindest man in the world. I have the freedom to be the person that I want to be and I’m finding that the true person that I am is loving, patient, kind, giving, caring, calm, healthy, at peace, and very awake to the possibilities that life has to offer. The amazing thing is, that I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without the contrast of the past “me(s)” that I’ve been. Had I not had a “wild” period would I have been naïve to what my teenaged children could have been up to?  Had I never experienced anxiety, would I now recognize peace? Had I not lived in poverty, would I now appreciate the little things, like having a dishwasher, or my own washer and dryer? Would I have figured out how to make something fun, or useful out of the limited resources that I had? I don’t think so. Had I not witnessed illness, I could now take my own health, or the health of my loved ones for granted.   Had I not known loneliness and lack of family, I might not hold my husband, and the family and friends that I have, so dear.

The suffering that I experienced in my past is only a memory that I can chose to dwell on, or learn from. I’m certainly glad that I’ve finally reached a point in my life that is no longer dictated by the past. Goodness is now and the days ahead are what I choose to create. Do I wish that I could have figured this all out sooner? Of course, but I think we all figure things out in our own time though our own life experiences.

What experiences have you learned from and have  made you appreciate the life you have now?

blogging, body fat calculator, Exercise, fitness, learning, losing weight, Maintaining Weight Loss, strength training, weight loss journal, Writing

I’m Normal!! (At least in one way)

I’m always nervous about using the word “normal” to describe most things. As silly as I am, I realize that one person’s wacky is another person’s normal, and so on.  However, when we’re talking body mass index, or BMI, it’s perfectly acceptable to use that word.

As of last night, my weight is 144, which puts me, with my 5’4″ height, at a BMI of 24.7%, which is in the normal range.  While this is certainly something to celebrate, I know that BMIs can be deceiving.  For example, my trainer, who looks like she could compete in bikini contests, told me that her BMI is in the obese range.  It’s no myth that muscle weighs more than fat.  In addition to personal training, my trainer teaches upper level fitness classes throughout the day; the girl is solid muscle and healthy as a horse.  The BMI scale is meant to be used as a general guide, but not as a complete decoder of fitness.  Though my BMI may be normal, it’s not a true indicator of my level of health or fitness.

To better understand one’s personal level of fitness, the true ratio of muscle to fat must be obtained.  This can be done in several ways.  Most of us

My trainer uses the Omron body fat indicator. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)
My trainer uses the Omron body fat indicator. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

remember the skin-fold test with calipers from gym class. They’re somewhat accurate, but do involve some math and other than balancing my finances, I try to avoid math at all costs.  My bariatric doctor measures muscle to fat ration with body fat scales that use an electric current to gauge the amount of lean mass, water, and fat in your body.  These are also fairly precise, however, the reading can fluctuate depending on your personal hydration level.  My trainer uses a hand-held device that operates in the same way, with the same chance for inaccuracies based on hydration level.

I'm not sure that I would have fit in the Bod Pod 80 pounds ago!!
I’m not sure that I would have fit in the Bod Pod 80 pounds ago!!

Another way to measure body fat is by a complicated machine called a Bod Pod.  My daughter actually did this for extra credit in a fitness class at her university. Her school had just acquired one of these expensive little ditties and wanted volunteers to test it out.  The Bod Pod works by measuring the volume of air you displace inside of the pod.  The Bod Pod then does a complex mathematical equation (ARGH! Math, again, but the machine does it for you) to measure your fat, lean muscle mass, and resting metabolic rate.  It’s extremely accurate, and used by athletes, but certainly isn’t easily accessible to the average person.

The dunk test is another very accurate method of measuring body fat.  My daughter did this one, too.  She’s a glutton for extra credit!  The dunk test involves jumping into a pool while sitting on a special stool, in a crunch position so your body is entirely immersed. Then, you exhale as much air as possible and remain completely still as the machine weighs you. This is also really accurate, but, like the Bod Pod, it can be difficult for the average person to access.

The ultimate in body fat testing is the InBody.  This is the latest technology and can be found in some fitness centers, like Lifetime Fitness.  Using the InBody is as easy as standing on a metal platform and holding onto two handles for about one minute. This measures your body fat percentage, tells where your fat is stored and where you have water collecting in your body. It also measures the general strength of each of your limbs–which is pretty cool!

Though I’ve only experienced the less accurate methods of body fat testing, their results are close enough in telling me that I still have plenty of work to do.  According to the Body Fat Percentage Scale, for a woman of 50, my fat percentage should be less than 30% at the highest end of the range.  I’m at 38% right now and still concentrating on building muscle to be at a healthy body fat range. (When I began my fitness journey, my fat percentage was 67!) My muscular trainer, whose BMI tells her that she’s obese, has a very healthy fat percentage of 22% and is considered lean.  Having a normal BMI is awesome, but I think we have to look beyond the BMI, because it isn’t always an indicator of how fit and healthy a person is.

0body scale
(Scale courtesy of

What do you think?  Does a healthy BMI mean a healthy person?  What’s your favorite way to burn body fat?

blogging, learning, nature, Writing

Nature and Girl Power

Just a few minutes ago, I retreated to the patio, with my daughter, to warm up.  Now, with 60+ pounds of insulation absent from my frame, I get cold much more easily. Unfortunately, I’m outnumbered by family members who run hot. Thank goodness, cardigans are plentiful in my meager wardrobe!

A few minutes into our warming session my daughter let out a shriek and jumped up from her chair.  I wasn’t too alarmed as this is often her reaction at the sight of anything flying, buzzing, or crawling.  Yes, this is the same daughter who dissected an entire human body during her first year of med school, and could still sleep at night, with the lights off.  This is same young woman who can drain a cup of pus from a wound, put in a drain, stitch it up, wash her hands, and then eat a six inch tuna sandwich from Subway for lunch. Go figure!

“OHMYGOD,MOM! It has a SPIDER!  A HUGE SPIDER!!” she screamed.

I edged slowly closer to investigate and sure enough there was a wasp-like creature, crawling along at good clip, with an enormous wood spider, at least four times its size.  Unfortunately, I got too close in my wonderment and scared the poor wasp away.

With the wasp’s grasp loosed, my daughter was the first to notice the wiggling of spider legs.

“Ooooooh, it’s still alive!” she squealed.

I’m not really afraid of creepy crawlies and I teasingly raised my bare hand and asked her if she wanted me to finish him off.

“NoMomNo!! Pleeeeease! Don’t touch it!  Let nature take it’s course.”

So, as cruel as it may seem, we waited and watched, from afar.  In a minute or two, the legs stopped twitching, and soon, our wasp friend was back on the scene.  He scurried and danced around the perimeter of his prey, and then latched on.  He’d drag the giant arachnid a foot or so, stop, scurry-dance to check for other predators, and then go back to the task of dragging his disgusting dinner to our stone retaining wall, where they both soon disappeared.

We retreated back inside the house, and quickly set to researching.  Who was this friend of arachnophobes, who worked so tirelessly to rid the world of terrible spiders?  A quick Google search revealed my daughter’s new best friend to be the humble Spider Wasp.

Thank you my beautiful nectar sipping wasp friend! (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Thank you my beautiful nectar sipping wasp friend! (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

I soon found out there were several things that I was distinctly wrong about in assessing this interesting pompilid.  First, our wasp was most definitely a female, and secondly, this horrifically huge spider wasn’t going to totally be her meal.  This delightful, and hopefully accurate, description from Wikipedia explains it all:

“A female wasp will search the ground and tree trunks for a spider, and upon finding one, will sting it, paralyzing the spider. Once the spider is paralyzed, the female wasp will make a burrow or take the spider to a previously made burrow. She will lay one single egg on the abdomen of the spider using her ovipositor, and then enclose the spider in the burrow. The egg will hatch and the larva will feed on the spider, breaking through the integument with its mandibles.”

I feel pretty fortunate that we got to witness this awesome example of nature’s “girl power.”  While my daughter was fairly impressed, our research still has her worried.  Her first, and smaller, concern is the wasp burrow that we obviously have within our patio’s retaining wall.  Her second, and much bigger trouble, is the knowledge that Spider Wasps are strong enough to pick up and fly with their spidery prey clutched in their mandibles.  “OHMYGOD!  What if they drop it on our heads!?” was her last sentence before she bravely scurried from the family room to read about cancer, aneurysms, heart disease, kidney failure and other truly frightening subjects as she studies for her Step II Medical Board Exam. I guess as females we all specialize in our own kind of girl power!

Are you terrified of creepy crawlies like spiders?  Ladies (and any gentlemen who wish to share), what’s your special kind of “girl power?”


Appreciation, blogging, enjoying family, learning, Motherless Daughters, problem solving, Self-Soothing, Thankfulness, Writing

Analyzing the Literature of Life

Clipart courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Artist:  J Alves
Clipart courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Artist: J Alves

My mother called me at college, early in the morning, on the day of her death, to remind me to turn in my financial aid information for my impending senior year.  Our conversation was brief and ended with our usual, “I love you,” and little did I suspect that she would turn the final page in the story of our lives together that spring afternoon.

On the separate occasions that my own daughters were presented to me, squalling in their disdain of leaving my warmth, I had already begun the tale of our lives together. I’d nurtured them  in utero with good food, music that I thought any developing fetus might love, and stories by  Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Margaret Brown and all of my  childhood favorites. Becoming a mother, the role that I take most sacredly, made me an integral supporting character in the story of their lives. No matter what milestone they reached, success they accomplished, or heartache they endured, my presence was written firmly on their pages in indelible ink.  As my own mother had been the arms waiting to hold me, the ears open to listening, and the words of guidance that I most cherished, I endeavored to be the same for them.

Most of the time our plot was sunny and full of the natural fun and laughter that we all craved.  When storms, like heartbreak, illness, or the impulsive choices of the teenaged brain struck, we bolstered in and rode it out together. Though the situations may have differed we were still writing a book that I’d read before.

When my daughters reached young adulthood, I entered into a dauntingly unfamiliar territory. When I was 18, my mother’s terminal illness caused her to weakly hand the pen to me to continue our tale. Immaturity, inexperience, and grief made my version of the story scattered and our plot weak.  I veered off into dark subplots and invited in characters that I normally would have avoided.  While my greatest supporting character was dying, I couldn’t consult her expertise.

As my own daughters broached 18, I  was struck by a foreignness that I couldn’t shake for the first few years.  Of course, I was still there, but not in every sense of the way.  There were doubts and questions. How do I guide them when they seem so grown?  How can I conjure advice that I was never given?  Where does my character fit in this  scenario?  Fortunately, I was driven by the only memory that I had of being their age; needing her.  Just simply, purely and fully still needing my mother, no matter how grown I looked, or how capable I mostly seemed, I needed her.  Knowing this, aided me in learning my new role.  I realized that no matter how adroitly or eloquently they wrote, there would be times that the pen would be handed back to me. I relaxed, I listened, and the advice came as I began to see where I belonged.

This morning, I watched my youngest leave for work. Dressed  In smart business attire, she approached this Monday with a bright smile, eager to begin her day as a recently promoted human resources specialist.  This past weekend, I was equally impressed with my oldest as she ran at full speed through a local store’s parking lot to help an elderly woman that she’d witnessed falling.  While they both still live at home; my youngest saving money as she waits for her fiancé to graduate this fall, and my oldest as she finishes her medical school rotations, I am blessed to witness these vignettes.  However, I am sometimes struck with the sadness that my mother never got to do the same.  At our denouement I was still stuck in conflict without a resolution in sight. I was, at my best, a struggling college junior with a crappy boyfriend, and underdeveloped coping skills.   She didn’t see my achievements, advancements, acts of compassion, or the strong capable woman that I am today.

Thankfully, I’ve experienced the growth of my children, from conception to adulthood, in full circle. Gratefully, I have the memory and insight of  the faith that I had in their ability to do the right thing even in their darkest of  situations.  I like to think that my mother was soothed by that same insight and faith in me as she handed me the pen to finish our story.  Perhaps, the gift in all of this, the true denouement, is the supreme level of reverence and appreciation that I hold for every miniscule moment, every tiny memory and sequence, that I share with my  precious adult children.

What do you hold most sacred?  Who are the most important characters in your story?