Archive for December, 2010

Five by five

Christmas is upon us.  As one who is trying to lose weight AND enjoy the festivities, I’m very much looking forward to slipping into bed Saturday night with a belly full of my mother’s superb spaghetti knowing it’s all behind me.

My will is wearing thin and I’ve consumed more chocolate these past few days than is advisable. I’m not out-of-control-eat-everything-in-sight crazy, but I do find it irritating that my pre-period ravenousness should occur during the week of Christmas. Talk about your planets aligning. Bah, humbug!

On the other hand, I am fortunate to be able to complain about an abundance of food.  I should probably chew on that thought rather than the bag of chocolate-covered pretzels that were given to me this morning.

Actually the pretzels are gone. *Sigh*

I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately because it is everywhere, and though I can play the victim card and claim the world is out to sabotage the efforts of the wannabe healthy eaters, I do have to recognize I have had a hand in my own undoing.

And with that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the top five ways in which I’m screwing myself this week.

  1. Buy your child candy stocking stuffers after you’ve finally convinced her the Halloween stash is gone.  And the reason you know it is gone is because you helped make it so.
  2. Commit yourself to the tradition of making The Pioneer Woman’s French Breakfast Puffs on Christmas Morning even though the final step of the preparation process involves dunking said puffs in 2 sticks of melted butter and rolling them in sugar.
  3. Fall in love with truffles (Like these and these).
  4. Decide to chuck the traditional sugar cookies for Santa in favor of those both you and he would enjoy more.
  5. Allow your frugal sensibilities to supersede your weight watching by taking advantage of all the chocolate currently on sale. Seriously, Walgreens, you’re killing me.

Now lest you think I am preparing for a complete fall from grace, I’ve also compiled a list of the top five ways in which I’m going to kick Christmas in the cojones and ease some of this food-related holiday stress.

  1. Decide to join a local gym a week before Christmas and actually go.
  2. Allow yourself to opt out of the work potluck without guilt. Grab a book and head out of the office for an hour. You work with 40-some odd people and they will not miss you or the cookies you pick up at the store that morning because you forgot to actually make something.
  3. Allow yourself to skip one holiday party without guilt. As much as you may love your extended family, sometimes you have to put yourself first or pray for a snowstorm that will keep you home without raising their ire.
  4. Do not spend all your extra weekly Points (Plus!) on booze no matter how much your husband keeps pushing that Leelanau Cellars Winter White in your face
  5. Realize you’re human and enjoy the things you love. Focus on family and friends (unless you’re skipping their party) and allow yourself to be a little imperfect. If you get through the next week without having lapsed into a sugar coma, you’re already ahead of the curve.

Speaking of which, since I’m already down six pounds since Thanksgiving, I think that puts me WAY ahead of the curve.

Spaghetti, here I come.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!


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When I was a kid, I used to babysit regularly for the families in my neighborhood. There were a lot of kids around back then and I was able to find steady gigs for a couple of years until high school and marching band took me off the market.

Truth be told, I was a pretty shitty babysitter.  I can say that now that I’m a parent and realize how little caring and nurturing skills I possessed,  but back then I thought myself pretty capable. As long as the kids were put to bed with freshly brushed teeth and all their limbs intact, I figured I was doing my job well.

Never mind that I once forced the five year-old across the street to sit through an episode of “Amazing Stories” in which Christopher Lloyd spends most of his screen time walking around with his head lopped off.

In my defense, I had REALLY been looking forward to that episode but it had been pre-empted by the seventh and final game of the 1986 World Series.  This was way before the invention of TiVo and I couldn’t miss the show when NBC finally re-scheduled it a few weeks later.

Yeah, I know. That’s not so much a defense as it is an admission of shameful narcissism. His parents trusted me to keep him safe and instead he spent a good hour cowering behind the couch begging me to turn the channel.

You’ll be happy to know this boy grew up to get married, have kids and become co-owner of his own business, so apparently I did not inflict any permanent damage.  Still, it would be interesting to hear how he feels about Christopher Lloyd now.

Another time I was watching the kids of the family two doors down from the first when the boy wet himself. This was apparently an isolated incident as he had been potty trained for some time, but he had the bad luck to slip under my watch and I was completely clueless as to what to do. He stood in a puddle of urine while I placed a frantic call to my mother who was thankfully only a few hundred feet away.  My mother, God bless her, dutifully walked over, changed the boy and slipped his soiled clothes into the wash.

I probably should have given her a share of my wages that evening.

It was with this same family that I experienced my most embarrassing babysitting faux pas, one that thankfully had nothing to do with the care of their children and everything to do with a box of Bugles.

As I eventually discovered from yet another young neighbor who was sometimes a little bit of a prick, I had cultivated a reputation as being a babysitter who liked to eat a lot.  As he put it, his mother didn’t ask me to watch him anymore because I ate too much, and while I found the accusation hurtful, it wasn’t exactly untrue.  I just had no idea anyone else but me was aware of the problem.

I always chose to snack after the children went to bed and I always went through the cupboards to see what was already open. I never opened a bag or box of anything myself and I never left evidence of what I had eaten for the parents to discover later.  At the time I thought I was pretty slick about it all, not once realizing how large a void I left in the pantry at the end of every shift.

As this story so far illustrates, I wasn’t concerned with how my actions affected others and never suspected that those in charge of replenishing the stores might realize how quickly and thoroughly they disappeared.

So one evening I was pawing through the cupboard and came across an open box of Bugles. Bugles aren’t my favorite thing, but if I’m bored and in need of something to crunch on, which I was, they’ll do in a pinch. I took a handful and put the box back on the shelf.

A few minutes later I went back for seconds. Hand, Bugles, back on shelf.

I can’t tell you how many times I went back to that box, but I can tell you my last trip to the cupboard occurred at the very moment the parents came home.

If I was careful to never leave evidence of what I’d eaten, you can bet I wasn’t going to get caught in the act of eating it.

I had just taken my last handful of Bugles when I heard the key in the lock.  Shit! What to do? There were too many Bugles to just shove into my mouth and if I pulled the box back out to replace what I had taken the parents would find me in what I considered to be a compromising position.

In the seconds it took for the door to open behind me, I weighed my very limited options. Trash? No, they’ll see the Bugles sitting right there on top. Sink? Crap! They don’t have a garbage disposal.

So I did what any moderately sane teenager with food issues would do. I took a quick tug at my waistband and dropped the Bugles down the front of my pants.

This was back in the ‘80s when we wore our pants tucked into our socks, and as I turned around to greet the parents, I could feel the Bugles travel down my right leg and pool at my ankle.

Never in my life have I wanted to leave someplace as much as I wanted to leave that house.  Dear God, I thought, please just get me out of here. Just get me out of here without revealing to these nice people that I’m walking around with corn snacks stuffed in my pants.

I grabbed my coat, accepted my payment for the evening and was just about to leave when the dad said, “Hold on a sec.  I’ll walk you home.”

“Oh, uh, that’s okay,” I said. “I’m only going across the street.”

“Nonsense,” he insisted. “It’s late and I want you to get home safely.”

“But it’s only across the street,” I said getting frantic. “I’ll be fine!”

It took him all of two minutes to walk me home.

They were the longest two minutes of my life.

I talked loudly as we crossed the street, hoping my exuberance would mask the sound of the Bugles crunching above my sock.  The house was dark, my parents having already retired, and as I slipped my key into the lock, I thanked the father for the escort home and quickly escaped into the seclusion of my garage.

Oh. My. God.

Waves of mortification and shame bombarded me as I pulled my pant leg out of my sock and shook the Bugles out onto the garage floor. Who does that? Who stuffs food DOWN HER FREAKING PANTS just because she doesn’t want people to know she likes to eat?

Knowing this, is it any wonder I eventually found myself weighing over 350 pounds?

To this day I have no idea if either of the parents suspected the lengths to which I went to disguise my snacking that night, but I’m fairly sure that was one of the last nights I watched their children.

It was one of the last nights I watched any of the children in my neighborhood.

Parents talk to each other. I know that now.

It was probably just as well. Not long after this I found myself a lucrative gig at Burger King.

They did not frown upon eating at Burger King.

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Today I am wearing a skirt.

Please do not judge the shoes. They were stylish the last time I wore the skirt.

Yes, it has been that long.

Fat people who are in the process of losing weight refer to rediscovering old pieces of their wardrobe as “shopping in my own closet.”  For the past few months I have been doing just that.

It started with the bras. Then I found two pair of  never-worn canvas cargo pants that still had the tags on them. Sadly, the OD green pair of those pants developed a mysterious tear in the posterior and has once again been relegated to the closet until I can find a patch for them.

Now I am in full-on wardrobe heaven because I have re-claimed a good 75% of my old clothes.  Just the other day I was bemoaning my lack of laundry initiative because I had only one pair of clean work pants, a pair of khakis that were very similar to the pair of khakis I had worn the previous day. So I pawed around in my closet and found a pair of black trousers I hadn’t tried on in several months. They fit perfectly and will be replacing the very last pair of “fat pants” I’ve worn since before I started losing weight a year ago.

There’s something to be said for hips that can hold up the same pair of pants 80 pounds later. They do save you some money but eventually you have to realize that just because you can wear something, it doesn’t mean you should.

Yesterday I decided to wear the green cardigan with the fringe hem and cuffs. I call it my “hippie sweater” and have worn it liberally every winter since Autumn was born. I was going to pair it with a green Land’s End turtleneck, size 1X. The turtleneck was supposed to be a 2X, but Land’s End screwed up and sent me a size smaller, which actually wasn’t that small at all.  So I put on the turtleneck, slipped on the cardigan, and for the first time ever was able to close the sweater and secure every button.

I looked in the mirror. It was awful.

The sweater hung on me like a shroud. It was boxy and unflattering and just…awful.

It now sits with the fat pants awaiting the Goodwill bag.

I don’t like getting rid of clothes, but it’s much easier getting rid of clothes that are too big than it is to get rid of clothes that are too small. Ask any woman who has struggled forever to keep the pounds at bay and she can probably show you a closet full of things she hopes to wear again.  We fat women cling to our too-small clothes like Miss Havisham clung to her wedding day and nothing can convince us we won’t actually get back into them.

Sometimes, though, we have to realize how many years have gone by and ask ourselves if we actually would wear those things again if we could.

Several times in the past 20 years I’ve had to do that. I used to have this full-length emerald green wool coat that I adored, but I was only able to wear it one winter before I started putting on weight. Once in awhile I’d pull out that coat to see how it fit, but I always wound up having to hang it back up in the closet. When I moved from my parents’ house into the apartment with Nathan, the coat moved with me. When we moved from the apartment to the duplex, the coat moved too. Finally the coat found a home in a closet in our house until I pulled it out, decided it screamed “early ‘90s” and brought it to Goodwill.

The leather bomber jacket I just had to have in 1993? It was given away at the same time, though I suppose if I had held on to the things a while longer they’d eventually come back in style.

Now I am 39 and have to ask myself if the old clothes scream “late ‘20s or early ‘30s.” These are important questions that may or may not lead to some shopping in an actual store.

Thankfully a woman approaching 40 can get away with a faux suede skirt and clunky shoes.

At least I think she can.

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Depth of field

In photographic terms, the world bokeh refers to the out-of-focus part of an image, or rather the way a lens renders the out-of-focus part of an image.

An image with good bokeh brings the subject into focus by way of making the background out-of-focus. You can still tell what’s in the background more or less, but what’s there is rendered as a soft mass of pixelated colored light, forcing your attention to what the photographer wants you to see in the picture.

I haven’t taken as many pictures as I wanted to this year. November has come and gone. My baby turned five, I turned thirty-nine and l’ve been too dang busy.

This was the first year since Autumn’s first birthday that I didn’t post an annual photo montage video. I felt a slight twinge of regret about that, but in all honesty it was very liberating not to spend hours in a cold basement hobbling together something that would have gotten yanked from YouTube or Facebook for copyright infringement because I didn’t actually ask the surviving members of The Beatles if I could use “For You Blue” as the soundtrack to my daughter’s fifth year.

I hear Yoko Ono is a tough nut to crack and that Paul McCartney may not be fond of women named Heather so I wasn’t even gong to try.

I might still do the video for myself, but right now reminiscing about this past year, especially these past few months, is not high on my to-do list. Right now we’re all about the future and making sure we don’t turn our child into the next generation of reality show train wreck.

Nathan and I have been having a time of it lately.  We’ve found our relationship with our daughter to be way more complicated than we ever thought possible at five years old, and since she’s our only child we don’t know if what we’re experiencing with her his normal five year-old behavior or if she really is hell bent on driving us to the loony bin.

For the past couple of months I’ve struggled with wanting to share what’s been going on in the hopes of finding comfort in my online community. Maybe some of you have experienced the frustration of being an impatient person trying to parent an impatient child. Maybe you’ve experienced meltdowns at Target over a bag of popcorn or at the bowling alley after a failed attempt to get a prize out of the claw machine. Maybe you’ve looked at your child and have already wondered what you did to mess her up and shouldn’t she have been the child your brother had instead of you? After all, he was the one who gave your parents all the problems.

I love my daughter. She’s sweet and charming and so incredibly funny. Just this morning she walked out of the bathroom with a Kleenex dangling from one nostril and said, “I don’t know WHAT’S going on up in my nose!” She has an incredible memory, she knows the names of all 50 states and has her father’s uncanny ability to recite cartoon dialogue verbatim. She has limitless energy that I hope will one day allow her to do whatever it is she wants to do.

It’s just that right now we’re having a hard time dealing with the more unpleasant side of her personality, in particular the part of her personality that insists on not listening. Ever. Or the part of her personality that has her throwing daily wicked tantrums. We never thought we’d be dealing with this still, EVERY DAY, at five years old.

But like I said, she’s our only kid, so we don’t know if this is normal or not. All we know is it sucks and some days it feels like she’s draining the life force right out of us.

That’s a nice thing for a parent to admit, isn’t it? Which would be why I haven’t been writing. The things I’ve wanted to write about have been too personal and the things I could write about too trivial.

So that brings me to where I want to go from here. A year ago I said I was quitting the blog, and while I probably could walk away right now, I don’t really want to. Granted, it has been great just living life instead of living and writing about it, but this blog has brought so many good things to me that I can’t imagine cutting it out of my life.

I just can’t write about the parenting stuff so much anymore. It’s not fair to Autumn now nor would it be fair to the young woman she’ll be some day if I openly discuss some of the difficulties we’re experiencing at home right now. The last thing she needs is a full chronicle of her tantrums to be published on the internet.

That being said, if I’m not going to write about my daughter, it stands to reason that this blog is in need of a name change. There can be no more “Autumn At Oak Hollow” if there’s to be a lot less Autumn in it and since I don’t want to quit entirely, I have to figure out what I do want to write about.

I’m choosing weight loss.

Up until now I’ve resisted making that the focus of the blog because I’ve never wanted to make The Weight be my defining characteristic. But let’s face it; a person does not get to be as big as I was without the weight being the most striking characteristic about her. And should I find myself at my goal weight some day, the fact that I’ve lost so much weight won’t be anything to sneeze at, either.

The weight, whether gained or lost, will be a part of me forever.

And if we’re going to go back to the photography metaphor, Autumn will now be part of the bokeh. She’ll be there, but she’s going to be out-of-focus. She’ll be an important part of the overall composition of my life, but she’ll no longer be featured as my muse.

That means I have my work cut out for me. There’s a lot that goes into re-branding a blog and I haven’t even begun to sort it all out. Even with a week off work between Christmas and New Year I can’t possibly launch this anytime soon. I just wanted to let you know well ahead of time that it will be coming.

Until then, wish me luck. My plate will be full.

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