Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Raging Waste of Potential and other Compliments



Wow, I haven't posted in forever. I would love to announce that I'd spent the last eight months writing a script or perfecting my ballroom dancing skills, but I cannot because I did not. Maybe next year.
I did, however, follow through with the subject of my last post and began attending thrice weekly bootcamp. And you know what? It worked. I fucking did it.
It has taken me since February, three days a week plus a few extra days if I was up for it, to
s-l-o-w-l-y lose nearly twenty pounds and gain a ton of muscle strength.

And I drank wine every single day.

The upside is that I'm wearing the clothes that I've hung onto since 2005 B.C. (Before Children- I'm not THAT old).The downside is that I haven't accomplished anything else, so perhaps I am incapable of working on my mind and my body concurrently. Oh,well.
Yes, neck pain persists: I'm like a rotisserie chicken at night, turning periodically on the spit that is my spine to keep it from getting too stiff. However, at the age of forty five, after Esquire deemed women in my age group as surprisingly still fuckable, I'm actually being called "fit" by my instructor for the first time in my life. He kindly called me a "raging waste of potential" around the second month, and he's correct: I've never committed to any kind of exercise plan for more than a couple of months in my entire adult life. If I had made an effort when I was younger, he's saying that I might have been an athlete. But I didn't. So I wasn't. It was never about being Strong, which it turns out, is way better than Skinny. I tried Herbalife, Diet Center, Michael Thurmond Six Week Makeover(pre-Extreme Makeover). Nothing stuck or made me Skinny. So I officially call bullshit on Skinny. And I cannot over emphasize the awesomeness of Strong.
I'm NOT bragging here, people, I'm simply saying that if I, notoriously and shockingly lazy for my whole life about this sort of thing, can get into acceptable shape, then so can you. It just takes some time. Three hours a week is where you start. Do more, get there faster. Eat less, lose more weight. Blah blah blah. It's totally boring,I know, this conversation about weight loss/fitness, but it does work if you do it. And I still have miles to go.
The other revelation that I made was in this last month: sugar is like a bad boyfriend-sweet but ultimately going to kill me and my kids. This includes brown sugar, evaporated cane juice and cane syrup,confectioners’ sugar( my personal favorite),corn sweetener and corn syrup,dextrose,fructose,fruit juice concentrates,agave, glucose,granulated white sugar,high-fructose corn syrup,honey,invert sugar,lactose,maltose,malt syrup,molasses,raw sugar,sucrose,syrup. I hate this revelation with a passion, but it's been had, and I'm thinking we're not going back. I had the kids watch "Fed Up", and it scared them into not complaining about the whole wheat pancakes with a dollop of light whipped cream that have replaced challah french toast with maple syrup, or the sugar free puffed brown rice cereal and unsweetened milk alternative that replaced Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Life.
No more orange juice, apple juice, Z-Bars, granola bars, cookies, twice/thrice weekly visits to frozen yogurt/ice cream/popsicles after school. No more enormous 20 ounce lemonades at lunch before white rice/white pasta slathered in butter and cheese. It's water/milk alternative and brown rice/whole wheat pasta slathered in Earth Balance/olive oil and some sort of sugar free tomato/pesto sauce with mandatory broccoli/carrots/fresh peas/salad. Its frozen mango after school or homemade lightly stevia sweetened peach frozen yogurt that will save us a lot of money in the long run, but I might have to get a new food processor because it HATES making frozen yogurt.
We cheat on the weekends, but a lot less than before, and when they have a cupcake at school or chocolate milk at a party I don't make a big deal out of it.
It's a little depressing, actually. There is a joylessness in a world without sugar, but the choice is either a slightly joyless present or an acutely joyless future with a host of potential medical issues.
Despite the temptation to substitute, the kids don't get any chemical/artificial sweetener except occasional stevia in moderation because the point is not to replace but to diminish the desire for sugar altogether. You may be thinking "duh, already did all that", but before seeing "Fed Up", I wasn't that concerned. Neither child is overweight, their cholesterol is excellent, they exercise regularly. As a family we are lucky to eat well, primarily vegetarian, and our genetic background is-oh, yeah that's right- each of us has a first cousin with diabetes and my husband has a  grandmother who has had it for twenty or so years. It never occurred to me that diabetes might be a risk factor for us. It is predicted to EXPLODE in the next few decades, so I did the math for the added sugar that the kids eat each day. This is not their entire diet, just the stuff with added sugar:

Breakfast
french toast/pancakes/waffles with syrup(15g);Honey Nut Cheerios with milk alternative (12g), occasional juice or smoothie(22g)
Lunch
Sunflower seed butter sandwich with some Nutella/jam on whole wheat or challah bread(20g)
Z-Bar/granola bar(11g average);cookie (5g)
After school treat
frozen yogurt, ice cream, popsicle(12-25g)
Dinner
penne with red sauce(5g)
Veggie chicken with ketchup(4g)
Dessert

small treat(10g)

Add it up. Give or take it's 80-100 a day of added sugar. Holy Shit.

They are supposed to have 12g.
12 GRAMS according to the World Health Organization.

To my surprise, my primarily vegetarian kids with zero exposure to fast food, 7-11, sodas etc. were getting seven or eight times the recommended daily allowance. This was not every day, but it was more the norm than the exception. And if we were that far off, what must be happening with the population of kids who have no one telling them what not to eat? I shudder to think of the state of their young livers. I fear for the future of all those sick people that will have done it to themselves.
I took the advice from "Fed Up" and started really reading labels.There is added sugar in EVERYTHING. Even a few grams here and there can add up to a lot more than you realize.
It's overwhelming, but it's our new reality. And, yes, I will eat cake on occasion and will never stop drinking wine. Some things are worth dying for.
I am very proud of my girls for not flat out rebelling. They've been very supportive when my "breakfast bread pudding " is too disgusting to eat or the smoothie sans sugar is not very good at all, they politely decline. It's a work in progress. I'm hoping some of it sticks and that they go into middle school and high school with a sense that healthful equals strong, smart and beautiful instead of being the exclusively pizza eating, soda drinking, candy bar consuming kids that we saw in the movie and see every day out on the world.However, if you notice them hiding in the bathroom at school binge eating Hershey's Kisses, let me know, okay?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Don't wanna hurt anymore...

I have a love hate relationship with LA Fitness. Aside from the obvious reasons why anyone would hate their gym (and I imagine that applies to The Sports Club La with its fabled dressing rooms filled with Hugh Hefner's girlfriends), having belonged to LA Fitness off and on since 1987, I have seen it morph and change and somehow stay the same while I, too, have morphed and changed and also stayed the same- well, now I'm fatter and older, but so is LA Fitness.
I signed up at the original Hollywood Boulevard location, and the two dudes who checked us in for the work out were straight out of an SNL skit:
Mr. My Pecks are Huge said "heyyyy, okaaaaaay....can I see you driver's license, please?" which sounded more like "would you like to see my penis?"
He took my sister's license while his co-worker,  Mr. Hair Gel,  took mine.They both gazed appreciatively at the respective pictures (we are talking about drivers license pictures, people, possibly the worst photographs ever taken of anyone) and handed them back, squinting seductively. Mr. My Pecks Are Huge nodded and murmured "five five...one twenty five..." as he handed my sister's  back to her, perhaps attempting to seduce her with her own measurements? Mr. Hair Gel just grinned, appreciatively, I think,  but his expression was so alarming that I'm not entirely sure. My sister and I took our frozen with embarrassment expressions and went to find  the personal trainer counter. We avoided the locker room, just in case the two front desk dorks might have bored a Porky's style hole in the wall, because that is how bizarre it was. We signed up for the complimentary fitness test. A pudgy guy put me on the treadmill for ten minutes and took some measurements. Nothing creepy happened, but when he declared my fitness level to be elite, or "off the charts", I knew that this was not going to work out, literally. He needed to tell me that I was going to die if I didn't work out every day for the rest of my life. I was there for motivation, not to get a date or to be placated. I probably went to the gym six times in the three years I was a member.

Over the years, I joined other gyms-Bally's, Bodies in Motion- but nothing ever grabbed me and made me want to do it. My husband loves to tell the story about Bodies in Motion where I cried in the kickboxing class and ran out, never to return. Fuck that instructor for yelling in my face. It wasn't "Officer and a Gentleman" for god's sake.  He is lucky I didn't make him the punching bag. I also walked out of the Wilshire LA Fitness once because the obese employee eating a Subway sandwich and a twenty four ounce soda right next to the treadmills asked me to put my minuscule backpack in a locker. It had three hundred dollars in cash inside- probably my rent- and I wasn't about to put it in a locker with a label on it that said "not responsible for articles stolen from locker". The whole thing was so weird- I mean, his sandwich was bigger than my backpack.  The oniony fumes permeated the entire area. I should have asked him if there were health department rules about eating in such close proximity to sweating people. I stormed out (I'll take any excuse to skip a workout) and didn't go back to that location for a few years. He came after me, lettuce stuck to his face, saying "Come on, Ma'am...please? Just come back?". Uh, no fucking way?
Over the years, I've had spurts of interest in walking, running, hiking, yoga, Wii Fit, Zumba, the Barre Method(which left me practically paralyzed with pain for four days), Morning Bootcamp at 6am-I've tried everything but Pilates, which terrifies me. Motivation, where are you hiding out these days? Maybe if my husband was overtly disgusted at the sight of me, I'd find the right fitness routine, but that is not the case. Thanks, honey, for enabling my abject fitness laziness.

I STILL have a membership to LA Fitness. I go infrequently, as evidenced my my squishy belly and penchant for pie baking in my spare time. The last time I went was a few weeks ago, and it was actually kind of thrilling. As I sat in the waiting area, watching the oldest man in the world slowly use the thigh machine and trying to decide which boring exercise method I would drag ass through for the next forty five minutes,  a well toned butt was suddenly right by my face. It was an employee, in spandex,  and she was uncharacteristically taking the defibrillator off the wall and getting ready to use it on someone. I moved to the opposite seat so I could better view the developing scene. Normally, the employees are the most bored people on earth, and why wouldn't they be? Arguing with members about lapsed payments; validation issues; noisy, grunting, aggressive weight lifters; other gym rats behaving badly; sweaty, angry, slobby people. Ugh. However, in action-they were kind of impressive.  A second girl rushed from the bathroom to the front desk. The manager was lackadaisically saying "If you can't resuscitate her, call 911, okay?" but he might has well have been saying "get me the tuna fish, but make sure they put the mayo on the side, okay?", but maybe he was just "remaining calm".
Both girls rushed to the bathroom, and after a brief angel/devil conversation with myself, I followed. Just around the first doorway, a gaggle of towel clad women were gathered around a fully nude woman, probably seventy, and about the size of my eight year old. She was emaciated and faint, her head bobbing here and there as various women asked her questions and kept her listing body upright on the changing bench. One of the front desk girls was on the phone with 911, explaining, passing on information that came from the gaggle as it developed. I watched the scene for a few minutes, but it never really unfolded-she had some sort of medication she forgot to take. Getting old is so much fun. I finally went to the treadmills with an old New York Times magazine. The fire department arrived and took her out on a stretcher a few minutes later.

I haven't been back since.  My neck hurts all the time, running down the beach with a kite renders me limping for days, my knees hurt going up stairs(it's pathetic), and the very thought of putting on a bathing suit scares me more than all of Eli Roth's gory movies put together. Well, things are about to change. While the endorphin rush will be nice, I'm not trying to be Mrs. America or get all crazy with my appearance- I just want to not ache all the time. I want to  be able to hold any grandchildren or nieces and nephews that might come my way without getting a week long crick in my neck. I want to shave my legs in the shower without getting a charley horse. I want to go to Machu Picchu and Nepal and the Grand Canyon and not be the straggler who can't make it off the tour bus. You get the idea.  I have to start now because it will take FOREVER, but I've got no choice.
Thanks to Groupon, I have signed up for a ladies only bootcamp, beginning next week, which starts at a delightful, manageable 9AM and sounds kind of, well...fun? My husband has predicted that I will have my flabbalicious ass handed to me Day One, but I am feeling optimistic. I have my friend, One Fit Mother, to thank for the ongoing encouraging FB posts and the evidence that change is possible; my friend Rachel, who is an ongoing inspiration, and I have my own mother, who is in amazing shape at sixty seven years old, to thank for good genes that I have been so shamefully wasting.
This is my version of putting a "before" picture on the fridge, as a reminder of exactly what needs to change, so feel free to inquire when you see me next, or better yet, sign up and join me while it lasts or go to their website


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I, Tooth Fairy.

It is coming to an end and fast. Not to sound too Don Henley about it all, but he does sing about being "poisoned by these fairy tales" in his hit song "End of the Innocence". Despite his past penchant for bending  not one, not two, but three simultaneous prostitutes over his couch and entering them like so many glory holes in a truck stop men's room, I suppose he knows about innocence lost as much as the next rock star. 

But that isn't what I am talking about. 

I am talking about the genuine article,  the purest sweetest kind that still believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth fairy: kid innocence.
It never occurred to me not to perpetuate the myths of my youth. I have no recollection of when and how I discovered the truth, but I am certain that I hold no grudges for being lied to, nor am I scarred by my belief in any of it. 

I hope the same is true for my children. 

I will never forget the look on Big's two and a half year old face when she came out on Christmas morning and the cookies and soy milk we had left out were gone, carrot bites were strewn about as if reindeer had been tramping around our tiny living room, and the coffee table had been moved aside as if some large fat man in a red suit had really visited us in the night. She froze at the sight of it, momentarily processing that someone had been in our house while we slept. The pile of  glittery wrapped presents superseded any residual fear she might have had but for a short lived aversion to giant fuzzy mascots. She and, later, her sister happily accepted the unspoken deal that if they were good and followed the rules, these unseen characters would reward them with stuff a few times a year. It's been almost six years and Santa is still real, for now.  The Easter Bunny is going strong, but I had to change the baskets last year because kids retain details like some sort rogue computers and spit it all back out: "how did the Easter Bunny keep the same baskets?" " how come the fake grass is always the same color?". So much for reduce recycle and reuse. How are these kids even noticing with all the crap jammed inside the basket anyway? 

The Tooth Fairy is in serious trouble, though-I give her a couple of weeks. A few years back,  Big panicked when she hadn't lost any teeth by five, or six and was overjoyed at seven when the two front teeth finally came out. The Tooth Fairy came and left money or gifts which Big stores in a shoe box in her dresser drawer. I have yet to be detected and have even gone so far as to reply to a note Big left in mini handwriting answering the burning question of her Fairy's name and favorite color. The problem is that other kids are starting to get wise, and she is starting to ask direct pointed questions like " Is the Tooth Fairy real, tell the truth...Mooooommmmm".
I know that the right thing to do is to tell her the truth and bribe her not to tell her sister (who just lost her first tooth), but the truth with regard to childhood lore is a slippery slope: Once the Tooth Fairy is exposed as the boozy, lying fraud that she is, the other myths will follow suit and then it's over. Since we aren't religious, all of those holidays will just become about over consumption and acquisition. Blech.

I came close to ruining Christmas last summer when a note that Big had left for Santa showed up weeks later in a folder full of old holiday cards. I was cleaning out a box of crap and the note was in there, likely jammed in on Christmas morning before they came downstairs. She had taped a calculator to a piece if paper so he could figure out how many miles he had left to travel and scrawled something adorable next to it. She saw it under a small pile of stuff and seized it indignantly-"My NOTE! Didn't Santa take it?" I stammered and came up with some lame excuse that it must have gotten blown into the holiday cars when he opened the door to leave. She bought it, and we moved on, but this Tooth Fairy Inquisition is hardcore. If there is a quiet moment, she tries to pin me down. I deflected the first round with an impromptu discussion about puberty, going so far as to show them a picture book about reproduction. They were sufficiently grossed out by the cartoon drawings of girls and boys at the various stages of growth, and- despite being  repeatedly compared to the drawing of the grandmother, whose breasts sagged at her wrinkled, old belly button-my diversion worked. Things got quiet when I explained that they, too, would grow hair on their private parts-possibly as early as fourth grade. "There goes childhood!" proclaimed Big, leaving the room in disgust. Little just giggled uncomfortably, thankful at last to be the younger one. From the mouths of babes...

We got  a break from all the questions and "Come on, Mom, you can tell me the truth"-s with the puberty talk, followed by Thanksgiving/ Hanukkah/Christmas,  but this is not over by a long shot. I would have taken her aside months ago and explained, but since I am one half of a parenting team- the less romantic, more practical half- I need to convince my husband that it's time to tell the truth. 
But it's not that easy. Santa squeaked by with some inventive use of 99 cent store labels that say "from Santa" and special wrapping paper that is now hidden in our garage until school starts so it can be donated. They were thrilled by the sit on bouncy balls that Santa brought them- the "surprise gift" from their carefully written letters where they proclaimed themselves worthy of their requests.  "That Santa is a genius," I said.  "I'm Good! I'm Good!" cried Little, bouncing wildly around the living room. My husband beamed. Yep, innocence is awesome. 

Just after Christmas, the Tooth Fairy came for Little. As I scrawled out the teeny words in response to Little's note: "Dear Tooth Fairy, What is your name and what is your favorite color?", I did have a pang of regret. What are we protecting? Who is being served? I got an answer the next morning, when Little crawled into bed at 4:12, exhilarated from the receipt of a ten dollar bill and a response from her very own Tooth Fairy. It was confirmation from a trusted, widely acknowledged non-parental source that she was good, worthy, deserving. Big read the note and tossed it aside- " it looks like Mom's writing".  I then spent an embarrassing amount of time writing out the same words the Tooth Fairy had written on a separate piece of paper, emphatically pointing out the differences and joking with her that hand writing analysis is not in her future.  I think, hopefully, that Big wants to believe. Yes, she will be confused by our choice to deflect rather than explain. There are significant issues of trust and respect that will definitely need to be addressed,  but I will ask her to join in on keeping it all alive for her younger sister and hope that in doing so, she will come to understand the magic of myth and its infinite whimsy, imagination, hopefulness, wonder, escape. If that makes me a lying sack of shit, so be it.