Monday, September 07, 2009
"Mom, do you think I'm pretty?"
My mother looked up from the ever present stack of high school english papers she was grading and said,"You're pretty enough, but you should be more worried about your brains than beauty. It'll serve you better in life"!
In retrospect, those were wise words, but to a 13 year old girl they only showed a total lack of understanding. Huffing to my bedroom, I flung myself down on the floor of my closet and dissolved into tears.
Softly, there was a knock at my door and my father peeked into the room. He crossed to the bed and patted the space beside him. "Come to your old Bappa and tell him what's wrong." "Come on", he insisted. I sat down beside him on the bed and wiped my tears into his strong shoulder. "There's Daddy's girl", he said as he softly stroked my hair. "Now what's wrong"?
"No boy is ever going to like me", I proclaimed, sniffling. "Look at me! I've got frizzy red hair, pale skin and freckles, braces, and NO BOOBS", I wailed.
This was, after all, the summer of 1970 when teenage girls idolized the "Coppertone girl" -- Voluptuous, tanned, with platinum blond hair, ironed straight. I was about as far away from her as you could get.
My father drew me back and looked at me. "Now now", he replied with all sincerity. "In a year or so, you'll be a swan. You wait and see". He was of course alluding to the children's fable, The Ugly Duckling. In just a few words he had acknowledged my feelings without being condescending. He knew a 13 year old girl wasn't ready to buy the "beauty comes from within" spiel. Yet he bestowed some hope at the same time.
In a few years, I had indeed finally developed a figure, learned how to avoid freckles with sunscreen, and managed to tame my "auburn" hair into soft waves with a brush and hairdryer. My pale skin was porcelain and clear, while my friends all seemed to be plagued with acne. And yes, I was noticed plenty by the boys.
My father was fourth of 6 children born to German immigrant parents in 1913. He was poor and had memories of growing up with days where he only had a slice of bread spread with lard on it to eat. On days when his day laborer father had found work there might be a little meat and some sugar for the bread. His mother gardened and canned but it was never enough. During the start of depression, his older brother drowned, and so now being the oldest son, he dropped out of 8th grade to work in a lumber mill 60 hours a week. He enlisted after Pearl Harbor and served in the army in the south pacific, coming home with a war bride from New Zealand at the war's end.
My father was so proud that after the war, he got a steady job making patterns in a carbon paper factory. Unlike his childhood, he was able to put ample food on our family table so that my three older siblings and I never knew a hungry day. Dinner time was an important occasion at our house, and you were expected to be on time and presentable. No hair rollers on your head at my father's table! My mother served up kettles full of starchy casseroles, accompanied by margarine ladened vegetables and potatoes, and a stack of white bread served with more "oleo". Both parents, having survived the depression, stressed how fortunate we were to have so much to eat. There was never any question of liking or not liking a food. You ate what was put in front of you and with gusto. You could have seconds, but certainly never left anything behind on the plate. Even though I don't recall them ever actually saying you couldn't, it just never occurred to me to do otherwise.
Years went by and, as we all do, I grew up. I met a wonderful man, married, and had three children of my own. We lived close to my parents and as I stayed home when my children were very small, my now retired father would come over for coffee daily and share recipes with me. I served my family many of the same starchy casseroles I grew up eating. My dad and I shared another common bond. By now, all that starchy eating, and cleaning the plate had left me as an obese adult. My father had long since succumbed to the effects of such daily fare, and sported a big waistline of his own.
I always remember my mother being a large woman, and in her 40's she developed Type II diabetes. This was the beginning of a downward health spiral that eventually lead to a stroke, and ultimately heart disease that killed her shortly after a mastectomy for breast cancer.
My father was ten years older than my mother and although she was young by today's standards when she died at age 66, he was 76 and definitely heading into his twilight years. One thing seemed to make a difference though. He got a yen for a Schwinn exercise bike and surprised us all by purchasing a nice new one and he proudly set it up on his front porch. It had handles that moved back and forth toning the arms while you worked your legs. He road that bike, revving it up to quite a sweat, 5 miles a day, 5 days a week without fail. He began to read magazines like Prevention, and watch how much fat he ate. He avoided sugar and switched to whole grains and wheat long before it really became popular. Yet strong as he became, he failed to lose a lot of weight because he struggled just like me, with portion control. It didn't matter if your sandwiches were made with 100% whole wheat bread if you were eating two at a time instead of a modest one.
When our children were leaving the nest and we were down to just one in high school, we moved in with my father so we could take care of the yard and do the house maintenance that he could no longer keep up with. I have wonderful memories of sharing cups of coffee with him after eating dinner, discussing politics, religion, work, and of course food. After our last one went off to college we bought a nice big home on a beautiful street and moved him and his exercise bike in with us. This time the dynamic had changed. It was my home and I was in charge of the shopping and cooking. I felt a since of relief because finally I felt freer to eat how I knew I should. I began to make healthier food in smaller portions. He didn't complain and was always grateful. Everything I cooked was "the best he'd ever eaten"! I began to throw away many uneaten leftovers from my husband and I, albeit, discreetly. I started riding his exercise bike more, as he started forgetting to ride it at all. I began losing weight and as my profile story goes, I turned age 50 as a thin and fit woman. To my father that was the ultimate. He told me constantly what a beautiful woman I had become. More and more, though, I could see signs of him slipping into old age. Physical health as well as mental health was declining. After all he was in his 90's by now. Politics were no longer a topic of discussion. Instead of asking who he would vote for, I was asking if he needed help emptying his catheter bag.
We started with having home health care nurses come in during the day while we were at work, but they couldn't stay all day. We tried hiring a "day companion" who would do light housekeeping, but she chain smoked, cooked herself a steak for lunch out of our freezer, and only swept the kitchen floor. All for an outrageous sum of money per day.
I made the decision a little over a year ago at age 94 that he needed more care than I was able to give at home. I moved him into a very nice nursing home close to where we live.
At first, every visit was tough. He repeatedly asked me why was he there? When could he come home? He promised he wouldn't be a burden to us anymore. He'd be real good. I'd leave the nursing home in tears. He eventually got too foggy to remember that he had even lived in our house recently and except for the perpetual question of who is paying for his hotel room, he seems to have acclimated. Like with most elderly, his long term memory is much better than his short term memory, so he usually remembers me with only occasional prompting needed as to which daughter I am.
He's been in an out of the hospital three times this year with pneumonia. He's developed a chronic lung problem and so he is prone to it. Each time he leaves the hospital, he seems to be weaker. A few days ago, he laid waiting on a gurney in the emergency room once again, feverish, disoriented, and short of breath despite the flow of oxygen. I was overwhelmed at just how frail he looked. He kept mumbling something over and over. I took his shaking hand in mine and leaning over into his now thin shoulder asked, "Daddy what's wrong? What can I do for you?"
He looked at me and gasped, "Why doesn't the Lord just take me home?".
Stroking his thin white hair, I replied, "Bappa, I don't know..."
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The Bible tells us that all of us fall short of the glory. Smart man who wrote that.
I'm here tonight with a confession: I fell short.
The other night a sparkfriend commented on my blog saying I had amazing willpower. I answered back, a little self-righteously, with something to the effect of not giving in to my cravings because NO tenderloin tastes as good as THIN feels!
Uh-huh. I actually (with good motivational intentions) wrote those words and then CRAVED a freakin' breaded pork tenderloin ever since!
Well folks, it's Wednesday and on Wednesdays our local diner just down the street conveniently has 2 4 1 tenderloin night. Comes with fries and a drink even. Did my husband want to go?
He asked if it was some sort of a trick. After all my last blog about the buffet pretty much cast him in a somewhat unsupportive light. He wasn't going to end up in another blog for public viewing was he?
Off to the diner we went. In all fairness to the diner you could substitute the deep fried breaded pork tenderloin for a plain grilled pork tenderloin. You could sub a salad for the fries.
Nope. No subs. I had to get the darn craving out of my system. My husband cast me a wary look as I ordered the whole shebang. Topped off with a DIET cola - I am trying to keep my weight off after all.
The waitress wasn't to the kitchen before I started fretting. My husband said he thought that this hadn't been a good idea. Finally he said if I kept obsessing he was going to call the waitress back and cancel the order. I shut up, but quietly kept working myself into a tizzy.
It arrived on the plate in all it's glory -- huge - hanging over the edge of the bun. Pickles, onions, on the side. Surrounded by a mound of crinkle cut fries with just a smidgen of room left on the plate for ketchup.
It looked good, smelled fried but not greasy. Oh for God's sake, I told myself. Get a grip it's a tenderloin not strychnine!! Enjoy it. You haven't eaten one in maybe three years.
I dug in to the hot fries. Nibbled all the over hanging pork and started to feel full. Good right?
No to a charter member of the clean plate club. I had a long way to go. Did I really want to eat to point of bloated caloric overload? No I didn't, I realized.
That was my former life. Each and every meal.
I ate about half. Took off part of the bun. Shared the rest of the fries with my husband and covered the remaining food with my napkin.
THIN still feels better then that tenderloin tasted.
But it's over. I'm confessing. Not beating myself up. I'm still a healthy eater. Most of all --
I'm not a hypocrite, I'm human :)
Sunday, August 30, 2009
What is it about the very word "Buffet" or smorgasbord as my german father calls it, that can strike terror into the heart of a 52 year old woman? Maybe it's the images of rows of steaming pans holding stuff like mounds of fried chicken, heaps of fluffy mashed potatoes, taco bars, carvings of rotisserie meats? So when my mother-in-law announced today that she wanted to go to one for her 81st birthday I cringed. My husband cheerfully announced "Good choice"! I shot him a look that said "traitor"!
All the way there I pulled out my best self talk and said you can do this. Use the salad plates for all your choices. Maybe they'll have lots of fruits and vegetables.
We parked in front of the restaurant and were greeted by a huge sign that proclaimed "Welcome to the ALL YOU CAN EAT MEGA FOOD BAR"! Dum de dum dum...
A sunny waitress sat us down and asked if we would like some of their house speciality fresh baked rolls. My husband and I answered yes and no respectively at the same time. I murmured a faint yes, I guess. Another dirty look to my "better half".
I bellied up to the mega bar and was nudged by a an older gentleman wearing a belt buckle as wide as the state of Texas. He looked over my slender frame and booms out "You need to eat, darling. Why my belt buckle is wider than your hips!" If he only knew that I didn't get to this weight by eating a steady mega food diet!
Somehow that jarred me out of my culinary sensory haze into reality. You did lose 70 lbs. You didn't do it eating platefuls of creamy "best in the midwest" macaroni and cheese or polska kielbasa just like grandma used to make.
I strode to the salad bar and loaded the small, chilled plate with dark leafy greens, fresh cut veggies, threw on a few olives for some mono unsaturated fatty acids, and said a prayer of thanks that there tucked in the ice was a bottle of FAT FREE RANCH dressing!
After slowly eating that while my husband was digging into barbecued ribs, I approached the steaming tables. No need for a small plate. They had bins of cabbage, broccoli, green beans with a little ham, and whole kernel corn that didn't even look like it was swimming in butter!
Piling my plate with that there was a little room left for some baked salmon. The mega sized woman next to me leaned in and whispered "That's not chicken, honey. It's some kind of fish". Yeah! Ain't it sweet!
I finished gobbling all that down and watched my husband plop down with a huge piece of cake smothered in chocolate ice cream. He beams me a winning smile and says they have some sugar free desserts at the dessert bar. He's all supportive now his stomach is beyond full. I thought about going up there. Filing by my absolute weaknesses -- cheesecakes, bread puddings, brownies.
"Thanks dear, I think I'll just stay here and have a roll"...
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Well the scale apologized to me today. It can be so frustrating to be doing all the right things regarding food and exercise only to step on the scale and find you not only didn't lose, but put on a little extra! I was tempted to say to heck with it and console myself with beer and nachos. And I did... but with one light 64 calorie beer and a saucer full of light whole grain tortilla chips sprinkled with 2% cheddar cheese and lots fresh non fat salsa! Not feeling guilty helped me stay right on track and as I have chosen Saturdays as my "scale day", I climbed on today.
Not only had I lost what I thought I had gained, but 1/2 lb. bonus to boot. Goes to show, we do fluctuate weight on a daily basis for many reasons. Best not to tempt fate and risk dejection by weighing so often. That being said - to the scale: "Apology Accepted"!!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Today I made up my mind not to a slave to the scale. I'm used to weighing daily at the Y where I work out but It can be as frustrating as it is motivating. I'm tired of letting the scale dictate my mood. I'm just going to keep exercising and trying to eat healthy. Once a week, I'll step on the scale, but I can't give it so much power over me on a daily basis.
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