Archive for the ‘LJ's Story’ Category

The Weighting Game

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Fair Warning: This post has NOTHING to do with Commuter Couples.

Why is it I can put on 20 pounds inside a few months and then spend years trying to take it off?

As you might recall, in October I developed sensitivity to gluten, which is basically anything that is made with wheat or flour. You try eating the standard American diet and not eat wheat: it is no fun. I was avidly reading food labels, interrogating restaurant service people and wondering if I’d ever eat pizza again. I was shocked at the number of processed food items that have wheat or wheat products in them, which basically means they are off limits to me.

I did a lot of research during this time about gluten allergies/sensitivity/Celiac Disease. Every book I read and many blogs dealing with gluten sensitivity talked about how much better people felt after clearing gluten from their system. They extolled the unexpected weight loss they’d had after getting wheat out of their diet, as wheat often acts as an inflammatory agent.

Not so for me.

After I went gluten free back in October, I packed on 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

Go figure: taking out all of the wheat in your diet also takes out about 85% of the fiber as well. What are left are simple carbohydrates which turn into sugar in your body. All the calories and none of the satiation factor? No wonder I gained 15 pounds!

Gluten free felt like prison to me. Unless I minutely controlled everything that went into my mouth there was a chance that within an hour of eating I’d have gut-clenching pain and suffer the sting of acid reflux.

My sister, who has tried more interesting food plans than you’ve ever even heard of, recommended going on a “raw” food diet. Before you flip out: we both decided that steak tar-tare and sushi wasn’t our thing (not that there is anything wrong with either of those food choices. To each his own).

Once again, the research on and offline and blogs praising the Raw Food diet pointed to the fact that people who were on a raw diet were likely to return to their natural weight. When the primary sources of food in your diet are fruits and vegetables you’d think your weight would drop like a rock.

Me? Not so much. I packed on another 5 pounds.

Even still, I spent 12 weeks eating raw. The nice thing about being 90-95% raw (I just couldn’t quite get rid of the coffee) was that it felt like freedom. I could eat anything that wasn’t cooked without worrying about running into that evil gluten demon.

I felt awesome eating raw. Almost all of my food cravings went away. I slept better; I had more energy. Except for that pesky weight gain, eating raw food was much more rewarding than eating gluten free.

Then real life got in the way.

A friend was coming to town for a week and asking someone else to limit themselves to restaurants and meals that are all raw was more than I was willing to do. I reverted to being gluten free during her visit.

Now being 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be I’ve found myself being very conscious of all aspects of eating: what I’m eating, how I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how fast I’m eating, etc.

My friend is naturally thin. While she was in town I availed myself of opportunity to observe her eat.

The difference in the way she and I handled ourselves around food was striking. While eating meals, about 2/3 of the way through whatever her entrée was, she’d say, “I’m full.” More importantly, she’d push her plate away from her. And most importantly: she didn’t touch the food again.

My first inclination is always to be part of the “clean plate club.” The starving kids in China, Africa…pick your own continent…was my impetus to eat up!

But back to today: even if I do claim to be full, I rarely push my plate farther away that my chubby little mitts can reach and NEVER do I leave it alone. Oh no: I’m going to pick and pick and pick at it until once again I am a card carrying member of the “clean plate club.”

Fairly early on in her visit I made some smart-mouth comment about her size 2 body.

She put her fork down and caught my eye and very calmly said, “Please don’t make comments about my weight.”

At first I was taken aback. What was the big deal?

Later as I reflected upon it how arrogant was I to think I had the right to comment on her weight (or the lack thereof). How furious would I be if someone commented on the 20 pounds I’ve packed on in the last few months? (Hold that thought. Later you’ll see how I responded.)

Was it okay to comment on her slight physical stature because that is what society deems as ‘desirable’? While my overweight body is the opposite of what is ‘desirable?’

I had never thought about my reverse snobbery: hating people (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, however, definitely envious) of size 2 women when the closest I’ve ever been to a size 2 is when there is another digit to the right of it and I’m embarrassed to admit it wasn’t always a “0”.

Sadly, since my friend’s departure I’ve kind of fallen off of the wagon. I’ve reverted to some of my higher fat, lower fiber choices, eschewing the wonderful green smoothies that I enjoyed all of January and into March. I no longer want the spinach salads that I was drooling over a few weeks ago.

While visiting my doctor last week she pointed to the steady weight gain since last year. “Do you realize you’ve gained 20 pounds from your lowest point?”

Was she serious?? Do you think you can hide 20 pounds? Do you think I haven’t noticed that I only have two pairs of slacks that fit (or are fit) to wear into the office? “Yes, Doc, I noticed. It is kind of hard not to when your underpants are cutting off your circulation!”

So what is the deal? Why do I struggle so much with my weight. Why is it a dragon I just can’t seem to completely vanquish? I’ve spent many hours pondering why I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life. Is it because I like food too much? Rich food too much? Is it portion control? Is it that I don’t exercise? The answers to those questions by the way: Yes. Yes. Yes. No – I do exercise.

Let me tell you a story:

Recently my mother visited a friend whose health has deteriorated to the point she can no longer live alone. My mother found the visit very depressing and she had a hard time shaking off the sadness she felt after leaving her friend in the assisted care unit. She called me a few days later and I was surprised at how upbeat she sounded.

“What changed for you?” I asked.

“We went for a drive today and ended up around the lake. We stopped at that frozen custard shop we always like. It reminded me of vacations we’ve taken together, Lara. Somewhere between the dip of vanilla and chocolate I started feeling better.”

“Gosh,” I began, tongue securely in cheek now. “All these years I’ve wondered how it was I’d become an emotional eater. Now I know I came by it legitimately.”

“Very funny,” she said her tone dry.

“Truly, Mother: the only thing I’m waiting on now is for you to tell me you smothered your ice cream in peanut butter.”

She was silent a moment.

And another.

I wondered if I’d gone too far.

Peanut butter is my mother’s answer to everything! It is her Ultimate Feel Good Food.

“Lara – if I’d have thought about it or had peanut butter handy, I certainly would have glopped it on top and relished it as it went down!”

Indeed.

Mystery solved.

Okay. In all honesty being an emotional eater wasn’t news to me. Like many people, I don’t treat food like it is nutrition or fuel for my body. It is there to comfort me when things are tough. It is there to celebrate with me when times are great. Food is my fair weather friend. No matter what happens: food is always there for me.

When I started this blog in July 2009 I swore to myself that it wouldn’t devolve into another blog about food and food issues (again: not that they’re anything wrong with them). Yet here we are. I appreciate your indulgence in this and I promise to keep my food drama to a minimum.

Lastly, just in case you’re curious: Unless you’re my immediate family (sorry, you’re fair game) I always run any portion of my blog past whoever I’m including stories about. When I sent the story about monitoring my thin friend and her eating habits to her for her approval she responded: “I’m not a size 2. I’m a size 4.”

I don’t know about you but that didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, basically she can never come into my house again. I can’t afford the liability: her skinny butt might slip between the cushions on my couch and she might suffocate! Of course the pillow I might hold over her face might factor into it as well…….

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The Upstairs Bath

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

As I mentioned previously, at the end of February I decided to de-clutter the house. Mr. J and I are both packrats and now that I work from home, I was really feeling hemmed in by all of the “stuff” that we had accumulated since we moved into the house six years ago.

I decided that I needed a neutral place to start getting rid of all of the junk that had seeped into my life.

Since Mr. J moved out, the upstairs bathroom gets little use. It seemed like the ideal place to start de-cluttering. I mean: after all, how much stuff could there be in an unused bathroom?

Well, as it turns out: TONS of JUNK.

The bathroom upstairs has a vanity that spans the entire wall and was packed solid not only with all of the towels, toiletries and toilet paper you might expect to be under a vanity but also: multiple bags of free make up giveaways (gift with purchase sort of deals), candles of all shapes and sizes, lace sheer curtains and if that wasn’t strange enough there were various insoles from approximately ten pairs of shoes.

The two drawers that the vanity has were completely filled with jewelry, hair products and pint-sized toiletries taken from luxury hotels: such as the bed and breakfast we stayed at on our wedding night and the Wynn in Las Vegas.

I was horrified when Cyndee said, “Everything has to come out.”

What?

What I would soon find out was Cyndee wanted everything out of every drawer, every cupboard, every shelf, etc. of the bathroom (and later every room in the house). She pulled all of the shampoo, conditioner, and soaps out of the shower and as she began to wash down the tiled shower area I felt my face burn crimson as I realized not only was I a packrat, I don’t know how to clean a house!

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. Who teaches you to clean a house?

My idea of “cleaning” is vacuuming and dusting.

I’m not trying to throw my mom under the bus here, but seriously, where do you learn to clean a house?

I’ve walked into people’s homes and been shocked to find NOTHING on their kitchen countertops; nothing on their bathroom vanities; nothing on any surface in their home.

I don’t get it!!

As I stood in the middle of the upstairs hall surrounded by more mini-bars of soap than anyone could ever need, I knew that unless I (wo)manned up and got with the program the whole de-cluttering was going to end in ashes before I even got started.

Cyndee looked at me with kindness on her face and said, “I’m not here to pass judgment. You decide what you want to keep. We just have to find its place.”

And that became the mantra as we worked our way, room to room, upstairs to downstairs. “Find its home.”

So tell me: who taught you to clean? What does cleaning mean to you? How deep do you clean? And how often?

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Life Lessons

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

I thought I’d interrupt the de-clutter fest to talk about some very valuable life lessons I learned this past week:

1 – I don’t care how much fun you are having with your writing buddy: do NOT drink an entire bottle of wine on a school night and forget to drink gallons and gallons of water to offset the dehydration. No Bueno.

2 – Do not schedule your annual physical on a beautiful Friday afternoon when you still have work to do at the office and then proceed to get into a ‘discussion’ about hormone replacement therapy (Dr: Pro; Lara: Con) and expect to get back to work in time to finish up your work and then leave by 5pm. This will result in your being inside on the most beautiful day of spring until well after 6pm. You will be ticked.

3 – Do not run out of your estrogen patch. (See #2 above and note the irony that I was arguing “con”.) More specifically: do not run out of your estrogen patch and then flip your lid at an email at 8pm and shoot off a zinger of an email, cc’ing your boss.

4 – Put zinger emails, cc’ing your boss, into a “draft” folder in your email software. Sleep on it. Check it in the morning. See if you still feel the way that you did when you wrote it or if you just sound like a crazy witch who has been off of estrogen for two weeks. (Don’t laugh: some of you know you’ve been there!)

5 – Do not try super gluing ANYTHING after two bottles of Hard Cider. Trust me: you will end up with every finger glued together and/or skin all over whatever the heck you decided to fix. This sounds gross but: skin does not come off of wood, particularly after being affixed with super glue. (Cyndee: I hear you: “You can’t super glue wood!” You can if you mix a little human epidermis with it.)

6 – Do not keep peanut/almond butter in the house if you plan on drinking an entire bottle of wine and/or two bottles of Hard Cider and you know you are susceptible to eating the ENTIRE jar with a spoon even without being hammered. (Mother: this one falls squarely on your shoulders!)

7 – Do not watch your favorite home shopping network after drinking aforementioned wine/cider and then wonder why all of these packages are showing up at your front door. (The same could be said of Ambien but that is a whole other story.)

8 – Learn how to say ‘Thank You” when you’ve received an awesome compliment. Cyndee, who is helping me declutter, is one awesome chick. I sent her an email telling her how much she meant to me and how I wished I had more of her energy, her positive attitude and her eye for design. I said I hoped her family knew how lucky they were to have her.

She responded to me and said, “Are you drunk?” Since there seems to be a lot of “Life Lessons” revolving around alcohol I’m going to say that just for the record: that night I wasn’t drunk.

9 – Noting that there are several of these lessons that do involve alcohol, I’d like to point out that lesson number nine is: First you have to admit you have a problem……

Just kidding.

No really.

I’m fine.

Hey! Give me that bottle back!!!

0

Airing my Dirty Laundry

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

1. Deodorant
2. Greeting Cards (unused)
3. Holiday Cards (unsent)
4. Envelopes: any size you can imagine
5. Bath products
6. Body lotion
7. Make up
8. Tea: Herbal or otherwise
9. Cellophane Tape
10. Candles (all unburned, of course)

What do the things on this list all have in common, you might be asking yourself? Well: they are things I never need to buy again. Ever. Ever. EVER.

You can add to that list:
1. Dish towels (3 ratty. 20 unused.)
2. Shoes
3. Binder Clips
4. Purses
5. Wrapping Paper/Gift Bags
6. Paper Clips

It would be relevant to note that you don’t see “Cleaning Supplies” listed anywhere on this list.

A few weeks ago I decided changes had to occur in my house. Spring fever had set in.

Generally in my neck of the woods we don’t see spring until mid-May. By the end of February I was climbing the walls of my house/office and desperately needed a change.

Now traditionally I change my hairstyle or color as February is on the wane but since I’ve started working from home and basically being in the house 24/7, I decided a more substantial change was needed.

I suckered a friend whose house I always love walking into because it looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Garden into helping me declutter and redecorate.

“Redecorate” might be the most liberal interpretation of that word ever as I’d never really decorated.

While shopping for sofas, easy chairs, ottomans and nifty decorative accoutrements was the most fun part of the job, the back breaking labor of decluttering was an amazing (and sometimes shameful) learning experience which you’ll hear more about in the next couple of weeks.

More to come!

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Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry….Gym Arc 3 of 3

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I walked into the locker room of Unbridled Nakedness (see previous posts if you need further explanation) and stopped short when I piled into a gaggle of young girls stacked seven deep in a line. They had stopped suddenly as a woman who was in at least in her 60s, walked in front of them. The woman they were waiting on to pass had nothing on (that I could see) except a towel around her WAIST.

I’ve already owned up to being a prude so not only did I run smack into girls, I also resembled the girls insofar as I was standing there my mouth dropped open, looking like a guppy.

Without getting too graphic let me just say this woman (in her 60s, did I say that already? Well it bears repeating.) had the largest set of ‘er, well, breasts, I’ve ever seen with the naked eye. The visage of a (clothed) Dolly Parton popped into my head, actually. And while gravity hadn’t been too kind to the naked sexagenarian, I quickly felt down to my size B- cups to make sure my saggy, baggy boobs (I lied about not getting too graphic) were strapped up inside my sports bra: a place where they cannot go anywhere regardless of how much I might need to take a deep breath and decided that age had been kinder to her, in myriad of ways apparently, than it had ever been to me.

After the spectacle, the girls moved along and I escaped to a locker where I divested myself of my coat and car keys. As I was locking up, trying to get the image of that woman’s breasts out of my mind, I found myself wondering what was up with the group of girls. There are rarely more than 1-2 girls in the locker room at any given time. Heading out of the locker room (and trying to keep my eyes on the floor) I once again stopped short.

There were the girls. Now, however, I noticed they all had on t-shirts that said, “I Came to Play” sprawled across their backs. They were standing, still in a line, with a perky 20-something gym employee-cum-camp-counselor with them. The ‘camp counselor’ was – you guessed it – blonde. They are always blonde. They are always perky.

The chipper 20-something was weighing each girl on the scale kept in the locker room. This is not your normal bathroom scale. It is a stainless steel box that when you get on it, your weight is displayed on the wall in a nice red digital format, rather large font. I glanced at the line of girls and wondered what on earth would possess anyone to weigh young girls in a public setting where they each get to see each others’ weight.

Aren’t our young girls already too focused on their weight and have body image issues? Why start them at eight or nine or ten?

Then I caught myself and thought, “Lara – not everyone has weight whack-a-do-ness like you do.”

I quickly scanned the line of girls. They were all about the same weight, probably around 60 pounds. All of the girls were laughing and looking on curiously as the girl in front of them was weighed. They didn’t seem stressed out.

Then I saw the girl at the back of the line. She was not joining in the friendly chatter; she was not smiling. She was heavier than the rest of the girls. And when she looked up and I saw the unhappiness in her eyes I wanted to scream at the 20-something: “Stop it! Right now! Do you have any idea what you’re about to do to this child?”

In the next few minutes, if it hasn’t happened before, that young, heavy set little girl is going to be stigmatized and it might take her 30+ years to get over it.

I know of which I speak.

Suddenly I was transported back to my first grade classroom: Classes for first and second graders were taken in what used to be called, “Pre-Fabs.” The buildings were wooden, and the floors noisy when young children ran across them. I can still smell the chalk, and hear the loud excited voices as we all line up, grateful for any chance to get out of our desks.

Mrs. Walls, in her infinite wisdom, had decided to draw a long line on the chalk board where we would learn about numbers plotted on a number line. As part of the lesson she was going to weigh us and then we would plot our weight along the line. She had already told us that she would be point farthest away.

Like the little girl in the gym locker room, as we all filed down to the side of the classroom to form a straight line, I too, hung toward the end of the line.

Why wouldn’t I? I was the fat kid.

I watched as each child ahead of me was weighed and then successfully plotted their respective weights on the number line.

When it came my turn, red hot shame suffused my face and I refused to get on the scale.

There was nothing Mrs. Walls could have done would have coerced me onto that hateful piece of metal. “But, dear,” she said, her voice kind, not to mention clueless. “If you don’t want to be weighed can you tell me how much you weigh?”

Having no idea how much I actually weighed but almost in tears I blurted out the biggest number I knew, “125!”

Even Mrs. Walls gasped.

My humiliation was complete when I walked to the black chalkboard and with trembling hands plotted the hateful number in front of my abruptly silent classmates.

Mrs. Walls duly weighed herself and recorded her weight as 128.

Snapping myself back to the Locker Room of Unbridled Nakedness and to the young girl at the back of the line who was fidgeting nervously as she grew closer and closer to the scale, I longed to take her into my arms and tell her it would be okay: that her weight isn’t an indicative of her value as a person. Unfortunately I had to turn 40 before I realized that….and occasionally it is still a struggle.

I wish I could tell her that she would not be judged by her size or her looks, but that would be a lie unless something drastic changes in our society.

I wish I could tell her that this moment in time doesn’t matter but chances are she will remember that day in the locker room as one of the worst days of her young life.

Standing in one spot long enough that I was beginning to draw looks from the girls, I weighed my options. What could I do? What could I say either to the little girl or to the 20-something camp counselor? Any interference on my part would only draw attention to the little girl and I’m fairly sure that is the last thing she’d have wanted.

I swallowed hard and forced myself to leave the locker room and head toward my car. I felt like a failure. I felt as if I’d watched a train wreck and then turned my back, walking away from the victims.

It has been two weeks since I ran into the group of girls in the locker room and still I am haunted by the face of the little girl at the end of the line as well as haunted by my own painful past in similar shoes.

This was the story I set out to tell when I started my gym arc of these three posts. I hope you enjoyed them all. It was fun to write to a theme….and fortunately for me, there is a lot of fodder at my gym!

A question to you now: what could I have done differently? What words of wisdom might you have offered to that little girl or even this old-little girl? What own torturous stories of childhood do you have to share with me? We all know misery loves company! I hope to hear from you here or on FB or via email.

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Someone: Send Chocolate, 2 of 3

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

I must have cabin fever. It is, after all, the beginning of March and I still have roof high snow drifts around my house, and did I mention the roof is leaking? Therefore, I am irritable. This is the kind of irritability that normally strikes me in the dead of December when the world is at its darkest, in a solar sort of way.

Yes I suffer from SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. But we are 60+ days past the Winter Solstice and the days are growing longer. You’d think I’d be joyous.

You’d be wrong.

There is no pill I can pop or a light box I can sit beside to cure cabin fever. What is needed is a two week (hopefully paid for by someone else) vacation in the Caribbean. But is that going to happen? No.

In fact the only place I seem to be going these days is to the gym. You remember my gym, right? If you haven’t read my previous blog, go do so now. Then come back and listen to me rant. Please.

The other day I’m walking out of the Locker Room of Unbridled Nakedness (yours truly excepted, of course) when I overhear a personal trainer say in a consoling voice to a woman I suspect is one of her clients, “No, don’t worry about it. Muscle weighs more than fat.”

My legs lock and I feel a muscle around my eye begin to twitch.

“Muscle weighs more than fat.”

Oh does it now?

That statement is one of my favorite pet peeves. It is right up there with “Can I ask you a question?”

How can muscle weigh more than fat?

One pound of muscle weighs exactly one pound. One pound of fat weighs exactly one pound.

See where I’m going with this?

Having been on the receiving end of this stupid statement (which in all truthfulness didn’t strike me as stupid at the time because I was so miserable about a weight gain) what I believe people are trying to do is console someone who has experienced a weight gain when in fact they were expecting a weight loss.

So the question remains: what are they really trying to say? Obviously they aren’t going for a literal statement here. Or if they are then it says a lot about the sorry state of our math education in the school system because: 1 pound = 1 pound. Fat, muscle, chocolate or china. One pound = one pound = one pound.

I used to think the intent of this statement, “muscle weighs more than fat,” was to say, “You look smaller so obviously you’ve gained ‘muscle’ which is causing you to weigh more.”

Was that supposed to make me feel better? I should be pleased with a weight gain because I am gaining muscle?

Well genius, I hate to break it to you but no one wants to weigh “more” when they are trying to lose weight. So you might as well save your breath. And if you insist on trying to cheer your tubby friend up, please don’t regale them with the “muscle weighs more than fat” axiom.

It was all I could do to not go over and pimp-slap the perky blonde trainer and toss a Milky Way bar to her chagrined chubby client while I explained very basic math concepts with a bright red crayon on the sand colored marble floors.

Deep breath, I told myself. After all, isn’t the reason I work out to reduce my stress??

The twitching muscle around my eye beat a staccato tattoo all the way home and as I bit down into creamy milk chocolate I was glad I hadn’t given my Milky Way bar away.

1

Gym-Dandy 1 of 3

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I’m about to go off on a riff about fitness centers in the next three blogs. In order to set the stage I thought it might be helpful for you to experience the gym I belong to.

Just so you know: what you are about to read is actually pieced together from several visits. Everything that I write about here actually occurred. Just not all in one trip.

Imagine you’ve just driven into the parking lot:

You’ve got to be kidding me. I feel as alien going into this place as I did starting high school. I can’t help but notice all the Audi’s, Saabs, and Escalade’s in the parking lot. All of them much newer and a tiny bit spendier that my Toyota Camry.

I hit the front door and the smell of eucalyptus and something citrus-y wafts from inside. A gym that smell like an upscale Bath & Body Works?

Mentally I add another $10 to what the monthly dues must be.

The biggest horseshoe desk I’ve ever seen – it easily would house eight people behind, covered in black marble – is staffed with perky blonde 20-somethings. Three of them at the moment. They could be sisters.

“Hi!” one of them says. “Can I help you?”

“I – I had an appointment with a membership advisor at 2pm.” I glance at a wall clock which shows that I’m 10 minutes late. “Traffic,”I say, noticing her gaze. “I didn’t allow enough – ”

She cuts off my lame excuse, “No problem, ma’am. Do you remember who you were meeting?”

“You have more than one membership person?” I ask baldly. Another ten bucks.

“Yes,” she says. “Trina, Brad and Zachary.”

“Brad, I think.” I’m trying to take in this reception area. It is huge. The ceiling is so high that I’d crane my neck if I decided to check out the stunning Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque chandelier.

“If you’d like to take a seat, I’ll get Brad for you, Miss – ?”

“Jones. Lara Jones,” I say, sinking into the softest leather seat I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in. Not on. In. Another $10.

“Can I get you water while you’re waiting, Ms. Jones?”

Water is good. Every health guru on the planet preaches ‘drink more water.’ I nod, still overawed at the scope of this place.

“Spring or sparkling,” she asks, coming around from behind the desk.

Add another 10 spot. “Spring,” I say.

She is back in no time. From where I sit I can see a restaurant which is where “Mandy” (per her name tag) procured the water. “Brad will be right with you.”

I smile and take the glass from her. A restaurant in a gym, I ponder. That seems wrong somehow. A conflict of interest maybe?

I watch the patrons come in, handing over a card which one of the Barbie sisters swipe and then hand back with a smiling, “Have a great workout.”

These gym members are decked out to work out. I watch as tennis skirts and Izod golf shirt wearing women carrying leather encased rackets file in. They gab as they wait in line, the Mandy-Barbie’s fingers whizzing as she welcomes them all by name, “Have a great workout Mrs. O’Connor.” “Have a great workout Mrs. Henderson.” “Have a great workout Mrs. Jacobson.” “Have a great workout Dr. Adams.”

I’m so busy checking out their muscular legs and wondering if the honey colored flesh is ‘fake and baked’ or sprayed on that I’m startled when a deep voice says, “Ms. Jones?”

I look up and into the face of a beautiful black man who should have considered a career in modeling instead of membership sales. He is dressed in an olive suite with a thin cream sweater beneath his suit jacket.

“Hi, I’m Brad.”

“Hello,” I say a little breathlessly as I shuffle to my feet, balancing the water as I struggle out of the plush chair. “I’m sorry I was late,” I begin.

“It’s no problem. It allowed me to finish up some other things I had outstanding.”

Beautiful and gracious too. Wow. I really like this place. And obviously they hire with an eye for well, eye candy.

“We’ll start with a tour of the facility,” he says.

I nod dumbly and trail along.

“On this floor we have our reception area, as you can see. Here on the right is our ‘Work out Cantina’. We specialize in all natural food – no antibiotics in our meat, for example. Everything we prepare in house is made with organic food. We also sell some of the healthier prepackaged bars if you need a quick pick me up after your work out.”

As we pause I notice a group of tweens and teens noshing on pizza. The smell is divine and my stomach growls.

“As you can see,” he points to the back wall of the cantina, “it overlooks the climbing wall, which we’ll tour downstairs.”

He pivots and points toward glass offices on the opposite wall, “Our membership team and our department heads have their offices right here as a convenience to our members. That way if you have a question or a concern, you can catch us on your way in or out of the gym.”

I smile and say nothing. We head down stairs, even though I can see the rows and rows of cardio equipment and strength-training machines are on this floor.

Downstairs I can hear the plop, plop of tennis balls zinging back and forth. We tour the cardio studios where Brad picks up a schedule and a key explaining what all 25 different cardio group fitness classes are about. I see everything from kickboxing to something called Nia.

“You can see that we have plenty of variety for whatever type of group experience you’d like.”

“I’m not much of a joiner,” I say, mumbling under my breath.
“Well that is okay too. We’ll tour the cardio and strength training areas upstairs.”

He points out the yoga and cycling studios without spending too much time, given my declarative “I’m a loner,” statement I’m guessing.

“Do you have children?” he asks.

“Good heavens no!” I say, perhaps too emphatically, because he laughs.

“Well – we have a great child care facility that I won’t bore you with then. Do you play tennis?”

“No.”

“Well we also offer tennis courts and a basketball court where people like to form quick pick up games.”

“How nice,” I say.

“Let me show you where the locker rooms are,” he says, obviously picking up on my lack of interest in basketball as well.

“Obviously I can’t go in with you but I’ll give you a moment to poke your head in. We have a sauna, a steam room, an indoor Jacuzzi and access to the indoor pool from here. On your group fitness schedule you’ll see that we offer a variety of aqua-aerobic classes. For amenities in the locker rooms themselves, we have stations with hair dryers, lockers which you can either rent monthly with a combination lock or lockers just for day use: accessed with your membership card.”

“That is nice,” I say, thinking I’d rather die than change clothes in a locker room. I’d been scarred for life in high school locker rooms. No need to repeat that trauma.

“We also provide shampoo and soap in the showers, hair spray, deodorant, Q-tips, mouth wash and tissues.”

Mouth wash? Deodorant and shampoo? Are people sleeping here too? Good grief.

Sensing I’m supposed to go in, I wander down a long winding corridor – presumably to ensure that men can’t peep in from the hall.

The first thing that catches my eye is the luxury: sand colored marble tiles on the floor and half way up the wall. Even the lockers are veneered in wood, the mirrored stations with hair drying accoutrements look to be of professional grade, complete with marble tops that match the marble at the front desk.

Wow. Add another $10.

And it seems to go on forever. I walk through, peeking into the redwood sauna, past the steam room I see the Jacuzzi, quickly averting my eyes when I realize the women sitting inside are naked.

However, as I turn, I catch sight of several members au natural. There stands a woman completely naked, inspecting herself front to back while rubbing lotion all over her body, contorting her arms in ways I’ve never seen.

What the hell is she looking for, staring at the mirror that way – running her hands all over her body? A carcinoma? I’d think she’d be able to feel it as much touching as she is doing. No need to watch so intently in the mirror.

I don’t think I’m a prude but good heavens. Okay. Maybe I’m a prude. Changing discretely in a locker room is one thing: getting off in front of a mirror is quite another.

I turn away, knowing I’ll never change my clothes in here. There is no way I’d be able to let my flabby thighs, overhanging gut and back porch bootie shine for complete strangers to see.

I get caught in a swarm of topless 20 year olds, obviously they’d begun strip down on their way inside the locker room. It is very apparent that the front desk staff isn’t the only thing “perky” in this gym.

Something on my face must have triggered a comment from Brad when I come barreling out of the locker room. “I forgot to mention that there are actual private changing rooms for people who would prefer. They are on the back wall of the locker room.”

“Good to know,” I say, raising my eyebrow back at him, not wishing to discuss it further.

“We also have a full service salon and spa here in the club. It is between the locker rooms, here.” He points toward a frosted glass door.

“Ready to go check out the cardio floor?”

Once upstairs, Brad points out that the left half of the large area has banks of TVs. “You can tune in on your personal audio device,” he says, pointing toward discreet cards that give a frequency. “Otherwise they are all set to CC captioning if you’d like to read them. We also have our own in-house station that shows music videos. That is the music you’re hearing.”

I cock my head sideways, listening. Sure enough music plays over the PA, but not loud enough to interfere with the patrons who would prefer to work out to their mp3 players, complete with tiny earbuds, as it appears most people do. It plays a steady backdrop to the whir of the treadmills, the steady Plonk, plonk of footfall as people jog.

“We have all of the latest cardio equipment,” he says.

The rows of treadmills give way to elliptical machines and strange looking hybrids that I’ve never seen before. I do recognize stair climbers and stationary bikes but they too seem to come in various configurations. The choices are intimidating.

“Your membership comes with a complimentary 50 minute personal training session where one of our certified trainers goes over how all the cardio equipment works,” Brad says.

Well thank God for that, I think. Otherwise I was wondering if I’d need an advanced degree in physical fitness in order to operate the machinery.

“Our trainers also talk to you about adding strength training to your workouts.” Brad gestures over to the other side of the floor.

There I see contraptions that whisper of Elizabethan torture chambers and promises of pain.

As I debate asking Brad about the training staff and, of course, what that costs, I hear the occasional clanging of weights as people let them down too fast.

We’ve stopped in front of a smaller version of the marble horseshoe from the front lobby. “Here is where our trainers are stationed. Feel free to ask anyone if you have a question or need assistance with a machine. They are here to help.”

Two young women, attractive of course, are there. They both smile at us and greet us before we move towards the strength training area.

The deeper we walk into the weight machines the tangier with fresh sweat the air becomes. The ventilation isn’t as good as it is around the cardio machines.

On one side is an open wall overlooking the basketball courts. The sweat is more overbearing, verging on sour: the squeak of rubber soles stopping abruptly, men’s voices mostly muffled – occasionally rise in a shout of “open” drifts up, as does the clapping hands when someone scores.

Turning back I catch sight of myself and Brad in floor to ceiling mirrors that surround the free weights. Wow. I look at the men who are already so very buff in their miniscule muscle shirts. They stare at themselves in the mirror. Narcissistic much?

It strikes me that so far I’ve yet to see anyone in this place that actually needs to work out. I mean: they are all so super fit. I glance back at the cardio side of the room, which seems to house more women, and then back around me in the strength training side: about 85/15 men. Regardless of the gender split I seem to be the only person that has a spare tire. Or two.

The women are decked out in sleeveless racer back Easter egg colored tops and either matching or black bike shorts. The men, as I’ve already appreciated, are in shorts and itty bitty muscle shirts.

“So what questions do you have Ms. Jones?”

I bite my tongue to keep from asking where they keep their fat members. “I guess we should discuss contracts and pricing,” I say sweetly, “I want to make sure I understand what I’m getting myself into.”

“Of course,” he says. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll go back to my office.”

Stay tuned: now that you have a taste of the gym, I have two more blogs about stupid and heartbreaking things that occurred there.

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Valentine’s Day Remembered

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

If you’re looking for some romantic babblings about how I spent Valentine’s Day with my husband even though we’re a Commuter Couple you’ve come to the wrong place. That kind of crap never works out that way in my life.

Bitter much?

During the winter months one of the hardest things about both of us living in the Snow Belt is trying to time our drives while dodging snowstorms.

As you might recall, Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year and on Monday the 15th I was flying out from my home state for business.

With a concern for my safety we had been meticulously tracking the weather at both ends for days. Sunday seemed like the perfect day to travel as there was no snow forecasted for V-Day.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up only to find that I could barely see out the patio because of the heavy snow!

Again, we checked the weather channels and websites at both ends, “Snow showers,” it said. “Road conditions clear.”

“That’s a snow shower??” I asked, incredulous. “I’d hate to see a blizzard!”

Luckily (or so it seemed at the time) the snow where hubby lives tapered off and by 1:30 or 2pm, things looked good on that end. We began packing the car.

It is always sad when we begin packing out. It is a solemn affair. It feels just as terrible as it did when I was packing up to go back to college, leaving my home, leaving my family. Now I’m leaving my heart.

The road north was not bad. For the first 45 minutes. After that it became a nightmare. While it wasn’t actively snowing (at this point) the road was snow packed and drivers who had any sense were forced to drive well below the allotted speed limit.

For the first time I was grateful I’d left the cats with Mr. J. I had not looked forward to having the house to “myself” for the next couple of weeks. It is lonely being the only living thing in the house. But with the delays in the drive time I’m glad I’d opted to leave them instead of having our fabulous cat sitter watch them.

As I reached the last 100 miles of the trip, and as the sun began to sink, the snow began to fall, harder, driving down so fast I could barely see in front of me.

By the time I got home I was almost shaking from the stress of the drive. A drive that took two and a half hours longer than normal.

I walked into the house, carrying as much as I could in that first haul and again found myself grateful I’d left the cats. (Look for silver linings whenever you can.) Without them here I could prop open the garage door as I hauled my booty in from the car.

Only as I sat down the freezer bag on the counter did I realize:
I. Was. Not. Alone.

When I had flipped on the lights in the kitchen I had frozen in place hundreds and hundreds of ants!

The kitchen was CRAWLING with them.

I literally screamed! Like a little girl! Oh yes! I’m not ashamed to say it: I hate bugs!

Once again I thanked God I had left the cats with Mr. J. With my own skin crawling, I reached into the area under the sink and grabbed out a can of Raid for ants.

How well prepared, you might be thinking. Well. The last time they turned up I had people over for Easter dinner and spilled a little pineapple juice on the floor. When Mr. J called me into the kitchen it was literally a swarm of those nasty little beasts. That spring we could never seem to get rid of them so in desperation I bought some Raid and locked the cats upstairs for a few days. But I digress.

Screaming (this time like a warrior going into battle), I am spraying everything in the kitchen knowing that I will have to completely clean out my cabinets and wash every piece of equipment in my kitchen before I use it. I trace the little beasties, looking for their trail…there is always a trail.

As I rounded the corner in my kitchen I slip on the bug spray, of course, and down I go.

Hard.

The good news? I killed a few of the marauders with my rather generous backside when I fell.

The bad news? My rather generous backside hurts and I have to board a plane in the morning for a business trip and now my skin is crawling even more!

That night, as I’m nursing a painful hip, I flip on the TV to find out what is up with this snow and will I be able to fly out. I hear the meteorologist say, “Well, this one caught us by surprise.”

Ya think??

I turned off the TV disgusted.

It’s been a week since that “lovely” Valentine’s Day. I’ve been asked several times if I miss having the cats in the house. The truth is: Yes. Thinking back to when was the last time I was in my own home without at least a furry friend I realize it was in college. And then I had roommates: though with most of them I was grateful when they didn’t come home.

It is odd to be the only living thing in the house.

At least I hope the ants are dead.

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Posted in LJ's Story |

In the Shelter of His Eyes

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I spent the first three weeks of the year in my husband’s tiny, tiny apartment. As I was working at home, I rarely left the apartment. I was cocooned in this warm safe “nest” with a full-length window out into the courtyard where daily I watched the snow pile up higher than the rails that should have led down to the complex’s swimming pool.

It was a wonderful way to start off the New Year. It allowed me to ground myself as I made some additional changes into my daily routine. I hesitate to call them New Year’s Resolutions as most resolutions are destined for failure.

I added yoga or Kettlenetics (modified version of working out with a Kettle bell) into my daily exercise routine. I also made additional modifications to my diet because the gluten free made me pack on pounds.

There is something funny about living with someone after you’ve been apart for two years. One day I almost had to chase Mr. J down after work: “Are you going to kiss me or what? Do I have to move back home for a week and then come back to get you to notice me?”

He had a few choice words for me, which I won’t repeat here. But it is interesting how quickly we fell back into taking each other for granted.

In all fairness I should point out that I wasn’t exactly model perfect when I was demanding a kiss. Sweatpants, no make-up, hair barely combed…..suppose that had something to do with it??

After the first few days of living with one another, our interactions quickly fell into those of an “old married couple.” While it wasn’t exactly “familiarity breeds contempt” I am here to say that “absence (really does) make the heart grow fonder.”

On the other hand, there is something to be said about having a warm body next to you in the middle of winter, about limbs brushing under the covers as you turn over half asleep, secure in the knowledge that someone is right there beside you: someone who loves you and whom you love in return.

I grew accustomed to long days spent on the computer and on conference calls, to quiet evenings of simple dinners and watching Criminal Minds or playing games together on the computer.

I enjoyed the stark winter scene outside our patio window, evoking the photography of Ansel Adams. For the first time since moving to the Snow Belt I appreciated the beauty of winter: the sheer unadulterated stillness of nature in repose was there whether I was working on projects for work or working on my Tree Pose during yoga.

As the time came closer for me to return home, I had mixed emotions. I was returning home because I had two new hires starting and I needed to be there to walk them through the onboarding process with our company. Yet, I knew that living “in the real world” wouldn’t be as comfortable as living in the sheltered world of my husband’s home.

I took the title of my blog today from a Don Williams’ song that my father used to play when I was a child. I hope Mr. Williams forgives any copyright infringement as I post a couple of stanzas of those lyrics here: For Mr. J.

“In the shelter of your eyes
I have finally learned the song
It took so long to realize
I just can’t make it all alone

And I’m, gonna stay,
right here ’cause I’m
In rhythm with your mind
Tune out the world
and rest my head
‘Neath the shelter of your eyes”

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And Then I Set the Cat on Fire…

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Ever have one of those days? From the moment you reached your hand out from under the warm cozy comforter into the dark, freezing bedroom to shut off the blaring of the alarm you just knew: you were going to regret getting up.

You shiver into your robe and a dull throbbing in your temple taps a rendition of “All My Trials,” and your joints ache; a voice in your head whispers: “go back to bed.”

But you ignore it.

This was my day earlier this week. By 10am I had burned my wrist with my curling iron, I’d dropped almost everything I picked up: including my laptop bag, with laptop inside, of course, and I’d been late to a meeting – something I can’t stand. My father used to say he’d rather turn up 30 minutes early than five minutes late.

By noon I’d slammed my knee on my desk and almost hyper-ventilated during another meeting.

At 1:30p, after gritting my teeth through yet another meeting I went into the well-appointed women’s restroom, tried to stand so as to not activate the automated faucets which can (and have) splash my suede jacket. I took a long, deep breathe. Twice.

“Everyone can’t be an idiot, Lara. The common denominator is you. Get. A. Grip.”

The afternoon was little better and by the time I got home I’d had more than enough.

A warm bubble bath and a well worn copy of one of my favorite novels was calling my name. I lit a candle I’d received for the holidays, preparing to disrobe and slip into the luxurious warmth of my garden tub.

Just as I reached for the faucet I remembered I needed to call my father. He’d started physical therapy and I wanted to get a progress report.

I Skyped my parents on my laptop and we talked for a few moments.

In the middle of my relaying my rotten day I suddenly smelled something horrible.

Something was burning!

Immediately I ran for the dryer: after all when was the last time I’d cleaned out the lint trap?? Try September.

I opened the lint trap and pulled out a 3-inch pile of who-knows-what….but that wasn’t what smelled. I walked over to our gas fireplace. No smell there either.

“The candle,” I remembered. I walked into the bathroom, took a whiff of the candle: there wasn’t any particular smell, good, bad or indifferent. “What a dud,” I said, blowing it out, hurrying back to my laptop to my parents who were concerned.

“No idea,” I said, as way of explanation.

Just then Alex, my long haired (previously) long tailed tabby cat came into view.

His tail was a disaster!

Luckily, thankfully, the fire had gone out before it burned down to his skin. He didn’t seem to be hurt at all, in fact, he didn’t seem to even be in distress.

I almost collapsed with panic at what could have happened: how Alex might have been painfully burned. Or when getting away from the flame, his long tail could have brushed against the cotton shower curtain or my bamboo-fiber robe.

The next time I wake up and feel like I should stay in bed I’ll probably still get up. But I’ll make sure there are no open flames…which Alex will appreciate. In the meantime we’re calling him Stubby……

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