May 15th, 2010

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May 12th, 2010

This week finds Mr. J and me together at our condo on a large lake miles and miles from either of our homes. We’re trying out something new: he is on vacation and I am working remotely. We brought the cats who absolutely love the screened in deck. We are literally over the water, the back of our condo lining up with the granite edge of the shoreline: no sandy beaches here.

We come here every year for Mother’s Day. My parents join us. It is the little things we do in life, such as always meeting on a certain day, at a certain place, eating at the same restaurants that create the history between people, isn’t it?

It is the remembered snippets of conversation and silly inconsequential things that we laugh about years later: the crazy house on the lake with more garden statues than trees!

Every year when we come back to the lake we eagerly await passing the house up the road from our condo because they’ve added some new whack-a-do outdoor décor: first it was mustangs, reared up. Then 12 foot pelicans which dwarfed the mustangs. Now they’ve added some interesting brick structure in-the-round reminiscent of something you would see on the road to Jerusalem during the crusades. Apropos I guess. I mean, we are smack in the middle of the Bible belt, don’t you know?

Since I’m actually working, I wasn’t really expecting to have the absolute best time of my life this week, but I was hoping it would be somewhat restful and rejuvenating. It started off well enough:

Day 1 – Saturday, we: Mr. J and I, our cats, my parents and two cases of wine arrived at our retreat at about 6pm. We had a little wine and a little nosh for dinner, catching up with one another and enjoying watching the cats nose around everything, noses on ‘high alert’ as they took in all of the smells and nuances of the lake condo. We watched a funny movie: “Along Came Polly.” I’m not sure it would have been so funny had we not had the wine, but who knows.

Day 2 – Mother’s Day dawns. Mr. J made his famous omelets for breakfast. We go “topside” which is a 15 mile jaunt on windy roads amidst tall, tall pine trees into town to run a few errands and pick up the makings of a BBQ cookout on the grill. It is cold and I have to keep reminding myself I’m 500 miles south of my home in the Snowbelt. I mistakenly purchase Beer Brats (Beer has gluten, so no brats for Lara) and beef burgers.

After dinner we watched another movie, “Time Traveler’s Wife” and a documentary called “King Corn”.

The premise behind the documentary is: “Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn.” It starts out with the film students doing a hair analysis which shows that most people will test positive for a high degree of corn in their system.

Maybe we should have watched the documentary BEFORE we ate the burgers.

Apparently corn fed beef isn’t good for the cattle or for us. Who knew? Since no one really knows what’s in brats anyway (besides beer) I’m not even going to worry about eating those. Brats are known ‘eat at your own risk’ food, right?

I made scones and fruit salad before going to bed so I can feed my parents breakfast before they take off for home and I settle into work on Monday morning.

Day 3 – Monday night – Tornadoes develop all across the plains area where my family lives and where we happen to be located. On pins and needles we spend hours glued to weather radars, first watching them bypass my family, and then closing in on us, feeling like sitting ducks exposed as we are out on the water. Luckily around midnight all calms down and everyone seems to be all good.

Day 4 – Tuesday – Mr. J walks down to the pool area, trips and falls onto cement walk way tearing up his knees, hands, and hurting his back. I’m on a conference call when he returns and in between hashing out business requirements for a project, I’m cleaning him up and applying Neosporin and bandages. I get all bossy (which I know will come as a shock to most of you) when things like this happen: “Get into bed. Elevate that knee. Hold the ice pack here! Don’t move. I’ll get it.”

Day 5 – Wednesday. 12:42 am – A storm hits. I have never been so close to lightening in my life. Again, our condo is out literally over the lake. Howling winds, pummeling rains, and the most frightening sound I’ve ever heard: a lightning strike. I’ve heard the crackle before thunder splits your eardrums before but this was 100 times scarier.

This sound was like hitting sheet metal with a mallet causing it to reverberate with a high enough pitch that you feel it in your teeth and jaw. You wince while simultaneously slamming your hands ineffectively over your ears. The second time I heard it: I screamed and dove beneath the covers, reverting to being a scared six-year-old who thinks the blankets will protect her.

2:54am – Round two of storms. But these are so tame compared to the last two rounds I barely even notice it past the initial clap of thunder which, of course, wakes me up.

5:28 am – One of the cats is sick. I hear the telltale signs of his gagging: the beginning of him throwing up. I wearily crawl out of bed, headed for the bathroom sink, fumbling for a wash cloth to wipe up the sick.

7:45 am – Staggering from bed, knowing I have to be signed on at 8am, I walk to the kitchen to find two very disturbing facts:

First, we didn’t pre-set or pre-fill the coffee pot:
No coffee + no sleep =no bueno.

Second, the bar area is teeming with my favorite nemeses: ants. Really???
Didn’t I kill all of those little !@@#$%! at home?? Mr. J pointed out, “Where did you expect them to go given the biblical proportions of that storm last night?”

With no caffeine and no sleep under my belt I didn’t even have a single snappy comment in reserve for him. I just glared.

2pm – Migraine. I could spend an entire post ranting about migraines and how much of my life has been sidelined because of them, and maybe one day I will.

At this point I’m beginning to think the week at the condo is cursed.

10pm – We’ve killed another couple of bottles out of the cases of wine and enjoyed some awesome smoked turkey and burnt ends from our favorite local BBQ joint, so things are more mellow. So far, there are no signs of storms in our night sky.

Here is hoping that the last half of the week goes much better for Mr. J and me. And even more importantly here’s hoping that all of my readers are safe from the prolific lightening and thunderstorms and rounds of tornadoes that have fired up every night this week!

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May 3rd, 2010

Spring has come early(relatively speaking) for my neck of the woods and that means the most happening places in town are garden centers.

We have awesome garden centers full of amazing plants – mostly trucked in from warmer places, no doubt. Lush coral and crimson colored begonias, calla lilies in ranging in hue from traditional white tipped in green to a deep burgundy, and varieties of roses in every shade imaginable from the palest ivory to the velvetiest ruby.

Having said all of that I’m actually too cheap to go back to the amazing nursery up the road. I mean: I only need mulch. How different can mulch from the hoity-toity upper scale gardening “nursery” be from the mulch you can buy at one of the big box stores?

Of course, there was that one the year that I did frequent the awesome nursery and found that you could purchase mulch made from the shells of cocoa beans. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that meant that every time it rained my garden smelled like a chocolate sundae. It was bliss.

However, after gaining five pounds while applying the chocolate mulch I decided that not only could I no longer afford the $5.99 for a 1.5 Cu Ft of chocolate mulch but per my last post, I’m really not looking to gain any more weight. Seriously people: the smell. Five pounds…..or it could have been the half-pound of Dove milk chocolate I felt compelled to eat when I went inside. No matter.

This year I decided to turn to the Big Box Home Improvement Store which carries everything you could possibly want except clothes….and sometimes they carry those too. Surely they must have mulch.

Strolling through their seasonal gardening area I rounded a corner and come face to face with pallets and pallets of mulch. There are varieties of cedar, cypress and pine in varying colors and chip sizes. It is truly a sight to behold. I step closer: there are a variety of price points as well: $2.99, $3.83, $4.85….clearly I was being taken to the cleaners by the choco-love mulch. Even more proof: the mulch here comes in 2 Cu Ft.

Nice.

Then I notice something peculiar. There are four people standing around staring at the $2.99 Cypress mulch.

I glance around, not sure what they find so fascinating and I continue my price checking, inspecting the various colors of the mulch: trying to remember what I have left over on the flower beds from last year.

I scratch my head and begin to mentally calculate how many bags of mulch I’ll need.

Now I don’t have to get it exactly right: To find the area of a square or rectangle… length x width = square feet (area). The area of a circle equals pie r squared or 3.14 x the radius of the circle x the radius of the circle again (the radius is the distance from the center of the circle to the edge)

Now my beds are a cross between a rectangle and a circle. So all I have to do is….

HAH! Just kidding. I have NO idea what 2 Cu Ft means! None. Who makes this stuff up?? What I’m really trying to do is remember how many bags we bought last year and if we had excess or not enough.

I look back at the gathering at the $2.99 area. What ARE they staring at? I wander over.

Ah. I see. There are no single bags of mulch there to purchase. All that is left are bags that are broken open or multiple pallets that have been shrink wrapped to within an inch of their lives.

I look back at the $3.83 bags. Do I really want to wait until someone comes to open up the $2.99 pallets of mulch? I mean the alternative isn’t even a dollar higher.

I look back at the group staring at the pallets and check my watch. They’ve been there for at least five minutes. How long ago did they send someone to get box cutters?

Finally I ask, “Is someone coming with a knife or scissors to open those up?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Everyone shakes their head, confirming what the first guy said.

Really? You’re standing here why? Why? Why? Why?

There are FOUR people standing here gazing at the mulch waiting expectantly. One was an elderly lady so I’m going to give her a pass.

The other three were men. The men were in their mid to late 40’s so not so old as to be feeble nor were they 15 and indecisive. Yet there they stood.

Once I again I thought about grabbing my bags of $3.83 mulch but it just amazed me that these adults were standing here waiting for the Messiah or something.

What? Were? They? Waiting? For?

Christmas?

Someone to chew their food for them too?

What was the deal with mulch?

Was it special mulch?

Was it Transformer Mulch and going to turn itself into some kick-butt crime fighter?

Was Harry Potter going to suddenly show up, wave a wand and the pallet of mulch was going to magically jump into their carts??

WTH??

Oh for the love of –

Taking my keys out of my pocket I stepped forward, past the passive people and starting ripping cellophane off. Folks: I’ve had body wraps less tight than this stuff was wrapped around these individual bags of mulch.

After a moment the spell broke and two of the men who had stood there in limbo came to assist me.

“I guess this is what you call ‘self service,’” one of them said to me.

“I don’t need no stinkin’ service,” I replied.

Actually I’d just call it “taking action.”

Mr. J. called me as I was leaving the Home Improvement Center. I relayed to him the oddity of the situation. He said one of those men would probably go home and say to his wife, “Dang. I wish that woman had come along sooner. It would have saved me from standing there for 30 minutes!”

Once home I piled the bags of mulch onto my front porch and considered. Maybe I jumped the gun. Maybe I broke the spell of the “special” mulch too soon. I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping careful watch on the Bags ‘o’ Mulch. I mean: if they’re going to do something worthy of getting me on Oprah! then I’m happy to sit here drinking a cold one (just kidding: beer has gluten in it. Who knew?) watching those bags of $2.99 mulch until the cows come home.

Sadly, not only did they not turn into breathtaking renditions of Michelangelo’s Pieta or David, they also didn’t spread themselves on my roses and day lilies. Nope: they were still sitting there this morning.

Heavy sigh. I guess I’d better get to work.

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Tags: , | Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |
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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Tags: , | Posted in LJ's Story, Nutrition |
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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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!!!

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April 10th, 2010

One of the main differences between my commuter hubby and me revolves around cable television: I don’t have cable. I think it is ridiculously expensive and frankly I’d rather spend my discretionary income on high speed internet and “presents” from my favorite home shopping network.

However, Mr. J, being very much of the male persuasion, has every cable channel imaginable in his apartment. When I’m ‘in residence” at his pad I admit to ‘jonesing’ (pun intended) for a few channels: A&E is one of them. In January A&E started a new season of “Hoarders.” In case you aren’t familiar with it, the name is pretty explanatory.

Each episode showcases two separate people whose inability to let go of things is so out of control that they are headed toward disaster: the house is unsafe and they might lose their children (‘lose’ as in: taken away from them, not ‘lose’ as in they can no longer find them in the mountains of junk); a loved one has fallen down stairs, breaking bones, and is now threatening to leave them unless the clutter is cleared. The show considers hoarding a disease and cleaning out the house is only the beginning step to change the person’s life.

After watching two episodes in February I turned to Mr. J and said, “We are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.”

Now I might have been exaggerating just a little (and I hope anyone who has ever seen my house is nodding their head in agreement right now) but I am serious in my concern.

Both Mr. J and I are packrats. We tend to keep everything: books, plastic containers, electronics that are completely outdated, clothes from the 1990s and my personal bugaboo: paper.

Paper breeds in my house, multiplying like bunnies. Paper slays me: I don’t know what to do with it and I can’t let it go.

To piggyback on the problem of being a packrat partial to paper, I struggle with organization as well. Historically my bosses have complained about my desk being piled high with folders, industry magazines (an occasional copy of Oprah! thrown in as well, but they couldn’t see it, now could they?) and paper.

Yet, if anyone needed something I could lay my hands on it immediately. Eventually, tired of the comments, I’d give in and clean my work area. Of course, the minute I’d either tossed or filed something I needed it within days.

Like everyone who has been through any sort of time management course, you know the number one mantra: “only touch paperwork one time.” You are supposed to: Deal with it. File it. Trash it. All at the same time. Unfortunately for me, once it is filed it is lost to me forever, like a black hole: I have no idea where it is.

Just to pile on: I also have a family history of clutter: my parents’ house has been known (occasionally) to have a tiny, tiny bit of clutter. My grandparents who lived through the depression tended to stockpile non-perishable goods: coffee, aluminum foil, soap, etc.

With those two and one-half strikes against me (not even I would be so negative as to claim three strikes):
Predilection to hang onto everything
No innate sense of organization
Maternal (thus the one-half) family history of hanging onto or hoarding “stuff”

I felt justified in my comment to my hubby: we are about 2.5 steps from being hoarders.

We might not be hoarders today, but where would we be 5 years from now?

It was time for an intervention!

Stay tuned as my friend Cyndee first comes into our house and we begin to declutter what should have been an innocuous room: the mostly unused upstairs bathroom.

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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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Tags: | Posted in Decluttering, LJ's Story |
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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Tags: , , | Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |
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.

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Tags: , , | Posted in LJ's Story, Tangent |