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Rollercoaster

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Yesterday afternoon I felt like I was making real progress again. I was fantasizing about being thinner and toned after attending a core class and finally getting some strength training in. I ate well and was planning for success at my nephew's birthday dinner last night. And then I was presented with fresh baked dinner rolls and birthday cake and ice cream and I pulled the rationalization out of my pocket. It all happened so quickly: "well, it's a special occasion, and there's really no reason I shouldn't enjoy it." Now, it wasn't all bad--I did decide not to have an alcoholic drink, and I split an entree with my SIL. But on the way home I thought again about something I thought about a lot when I was closer to my goal weight: How can someone like me, who loves food (especially carbo-intense food), who uses food as a comfort and for celebration and for socializing, expect to make the type of lifestyle change required to maintain a healthy weight in the long run? I don't have an answer today.

I woke up this morning, and the memory of last night's birthday cake lingered. I was craving a tasty morning baked treat. Currant scones, perhaps? And then I spent some time thinking about how I would eat almost the whole batch today. That would not be prudent. And I decided to stick with the usual--a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Small steps, celebrating good choices!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NVDONNA 9/14/2012 2:40AM

    Hi There! Thanks for popping by my page and checking in on me. Your blog rings true with me. Special occasions seem to come along all the time, and as much as I rationalize, hey life is short,,enjoy special times,,,the reality is, we can and should be able to practice moderation all the time. One bite of cake really can suffice. Am I there? No. Will I ever get there? Maybe...I hope so. I did well for 3 days in a row...and then today I overate trail mix. It's kind of healthy,,,but loaded with calories. A serving would have been fine,,,,but half the bag was just a BAD CHOICE. Tomorrow will be better :)

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CAROLISCIOUS 9/9/2012 8:59AM

    I went to a beach party yesterday where I knew I would eat lots of goodies I don't normally have. One would think I would have been at my best all week, making good food choices so that this day of indulgence would go by unnoticed.

NOT!

I ate poorly all week! Some days I feel like I have learned nothing from being here all these years.

I shall follow your example and find my way back to good choices...today!

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QUEENOTHEFOREST 9/8/2012 7:27AM

    Oh man have you nailed it on this. I can truly relate. Resolutions. Clarity. Visioning success. Progress. Rationalizing. Next thing I know carb fest. The key words here ought to be "when I was closer to my goal weight". Because I think for both of us we are a lot closer than when we started Spark and started paying attention? I guess that is what is meant by progress not perfection. Instead of getting blown off track by one carb fest you had your better option breakfast. Brava. Good modeling here. I am right behind you sister.

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JESPAH 9/7/2012 11:06AM

    Excellent choices.

Hey, we all do odd things on occasion. I think the trick is to not make a habit out of 'em.

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Lifting My Head Up

Friday, May 11, 2012


Iíve been noticing something about myself lately. Maybe itís the same for you. I spend a huge amount of time with my head down. I sit at my desk 32 hours a week looking down at papers or my computer screen. I sit on the train 2 hours a day looking down at my book. I sit at home on my couch each night looking at my smart phone or at my computer. My perspective is so limited during these times. I feel closed in, dissatisfied, constrained. Everyone once in a while during the week, I break away. I head out for lunch or walk from the train to my office. If Iím really lucky, Iíll hop on my bike for a brief while or get together with my friends. During these times, my head is up. Iím taking in the world around me, noticing how beautiful and how ugly things and people can be. It feels great, like Iím learning and growing. The effects are both physical and emotional.

The past two years have been ridiculously hard. It was at about this time two years when my mom started feeling crappy. The doctor said she had Lyme disease and gave her antibiotics. She didnít get better. The doctor said she must have gotten Lyme disease again and gave her more drugs. And she still didnít get better. Oh, gee, I guess itís terminal cancer! So my head was down as I devoted myself to supporting my mom. After she died, I put my head down to tend to her estate. There were papers to deal with and the massive job of cleaning out her house. I thought maybe things would ease up when we sold her house 9 months after her death. Itís been harder than ever. Her house being gone means that sheís really dead. Oh, and did I mention I look at that house every day because my mom was my neighbor? So my head is down a lot of the time as I wipe my eyes and nose with an endless quantity of Kleenex. I also spend a fair amount of time looking down at the roll of fat around my waist. After two years of emotional eating and limited exercise Iíve gained about 30 pounds.

I think Iím finally ready to lift my head up. I want to live a life where having my head up is the rule and not the exception.

Step 1: I gave notice at work that Iím leaving in mid-June. Iíve never really enjoyed my job and have fantasized about quitting for a long time. And I canít afford to continue having it drag me down. Iím done. So there!

Step 2: I have retained the services of a life coach. Over the years Iíve gotten a much clearer picture of what works for me and what doesnít. I just donít know how to turn those into a satisfying vocation. Iím hoping an impartial observer can help me get there.

Step 3: I told my boyfriend Dan that we have to figure out where our relationship is going. Weíve been dating four years. So are we going to move in together or are we going to move on? I need to know so I can figure out my life. Weíre starting that discussion in earnest this weekend.

Step 4: Iím ready to take care of myself again. Not working will give me time to take care of three big things that are a drag on meómy lack of exercise, my poor food choices, and the clutter in my physical environment.

Iím not fully there yet. The grief Iím dealing with constantly tugs at me. But I think having my head up will help me deal better with it. The sun is shining right now, the lilacs are blooming and my head will be up for the rest of the day. And for many days to come.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 8/30/2012 9:21PM

    After reading about your big plans over with the nuns, I wandered over here into your neighborhood to scout about, looking at photos and then came upon this now three-month ago blog.

It's really a wonderful statement of awareness and purposfulness. And the cross-country trip is testimony! If you cruise through central AR, let me know! I live near Little Rock.

Blessed be!
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Maha

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DMPRIDER 5/15/2012 9:43PM

    I'm glad you are ready and able to take care of yourself again, and I mean all 4 of those steps.

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CAROLISCIOUS 5/12/2012 11:08AM

    Good to hear from you, MAL...you've had some rough days. Hugs to you and kudos for putting it out there...not in a "whoa is me" fashion...but in a way that shows you are resilient and strong. I admire you.
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JESPAH 5/11/2012 12:47PM

    Man, grief can really drag down your head.

But you are strong.

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QUEENOTHEFOREST 5/11/2012 9:19AM

    Oh lordy how good it is to see you here and read these words. I have been wondering how it was going for you. You sound so full of hope and great energy. You know where to find your teammates if you are ready for that and we are so ready for you. Got fingers and toes crossed for you to keep your eyes fixed on your stars.

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Feeling My Age

Friday, September 16, 2011



I remember my grandmother telling me that she always felt like she was 18 years old in her head no matter how old she was. I definitely understood where she was coming from, as I'm sure many of you do.

Lately, I've been feeling exactly my age--44.

I have a the job of a 44-year old person. I sit at a desk in a cubicle in the city after commuting in on a train with a bunch of people like me.

My life as a suburban homeowner involves issues 44-year-old persons deal with: septic pump issues, hurricane preps, basement flooding. I'm very lucky to live in a lovely home on a lovely property in a lovely town, but it's a place where the average age of people is probably 44 and they're focused on earning a living to support their family.

Dealing with the sickness and then death of a parent is something many 44-year-olds face. I had to take on serious matters of making treatment and end-of-life issues. I now spend much of my personal time dealing with estate logistics: selling the house, getting rid of mom's stuff, and dealing with finances. That my boyfriend (who's all of 3 years older than me) is dealing with issues of a similar import (divorce of a sibling and placing a parent in a nursing home) reinforces my own age.

Younger people (20- and 30-somethings) bug the crap out of me. They just seem so frivolous and naive. And they're totally unfamiliar with so many of the cultural references of a 44-year-old, like Bo Derek and Bruce Jenner!

I feel like I no longer exercise for the joy and accomplishment of it, but rather because it's what people who are my age do to prevent the spread they've allow to creep on from expanding even further.

I do know that much of this is just a phase. My mom's death was a super big event in my life and it takes time to work through the emotional and logistical fallout. The issues my boyfriend is dealing with will settle down too. I will at some point renew my interest in my fitness activities and a healthy lifestyle. And I will live in a place where I can more easily access the activities and people that bring out my younger self and earn my living in a way that is a better fit.

For now, though, my 44-year-old self is slogging away and looking forward to that time when I'm young again in body, mind, and spirit.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESPAH 9/18/2011 8:56AM

    Oh sweetheart.

It's funny. I was at a brunch with friends and we were talking about aging parents. One guy mentioned a 90+ year old who is gone now but used to live near him, and would walk around the block every day. One day, John walked with him and they struck up a conversation. Mister 90+ said, "I have walked every day of my life. I used to have a bunch of friends who didn't. I'm the only one who's still here."

We can't prevent death and decay. But we can put it off and put at least some of it on our own terms.

Hang in there, and know you are loved.

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CAROLISCIOUS 9/17/2011 11:16AM

    You are too young to be feeling old. I would love to be 44 again! (I'm 53...yikes!) You've been through some rough times here lately...it will get better.
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QUEENOTHEFOREST 9/17/2011 7:29AM

    That next to last paragraph is exactly true. Nothing like grief to temporarily make us old and careworn. And as you said it will pass. Meantime that exercise you described is one thing that will really help move along the dark times and bring on the pink clouds once again. This was such a moving blog. Glad to see you again too.

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CARRIEANNE1027 9/16/2011 6:16PM

    Wow.. our lives seem almost the same.. I just lost my dad whom I took care of these past 3 years, and I'm handling his estate.. My boyfriend is taking care of his mom who had a stroke, and now is showing symptoms of alzheimers.. and I'm 47! However, at this stage of my life, I decided to go to nursing school. After taking care of my parents these past 3 years, it seemed to be the thing to do. Of course I'm the oldest one in my class (besides my professor), but oh well. I look around at these "kids" and realize I have more life, more spark, more energy and more enthusiasm than half of them combined.. Not a bad deal.. I think our attitude determines our outlook and how we feel about things. It's been a rough road for me these past 3 years with losing my parents and taking care of them both during their illnesses, but I'm determined to get through it, and through nursing school with a smile on my face.. I refuse to get old in my head, even though my body is pushing 50!

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NEED2MOVE2 9/16/2011 5:31PM

    emoticon

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Holding Myself To It

Thursday, June 02, 2011

One of the reasons I wanted so badly to reduce my work schedule from 5 days a week to 3 was to make sure I would have more time to dedicate to my fitness. I then set a goal--I would exercise each of my four days off.

I'm now several weeks into this new schedule. I work M-W and am off Th-Sun. And each week, Thursday comes around and I have trouble drumming up enthusiasm to exercise. When I feel that way, I remind myself of the goal I set and that 1) I'm foregoing income in large part to exercise and that I'm darned well going to do it and 2) I'm not going to increase my fitness level if I don't actually exercise.

I'm not a big goal setter as a general rule, but I have to say that it's working!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 6/4/2011 11:13PM

    Mighty impressive, grrl!


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JESPAH 6/3/2011 8:06AM

    Good -- you are living it.

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QUEENOTHEFOREST 6/3/2011 7:36AM

    Amazing. Very inspiring. It is so much easier to find excuses and girlfriend you have better reason than most people to sit this one out. I am going to think about you when my lazy evil self starts whispering in my ear.

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LAB-LOVER 6/3/2011 6:16AM

    Wow! Good for you. My current plan is to walk 30 minutes/day for recovery. I confess that I got so busy yesterday I completely forgot, but I WILL do it today! And so will you!

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I Love You, Mom

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


My mother died last Tuesday night at home. It is the end of her life on earth and certainly the end of the most important relationship in my life. But itís also a new beginning for me. Bear with me while I unburden myself.

Last September, I largely dropped off the Spark planet when my mother was diagnosed with extensive stage small cell lung cancer. This is one nasty cancer. Itís not curable and the average person diagnosed with this cancer lives 10 months from diagnosis. My brothers and I knew this, but my mom chose not to. She was also a very private person. As a result, I felt I needed to keep her ďsecretĒ to myself. Iím a person who tends to tell it like it is, so I tried to avoid talking about it rather than telling people things that were less than completely true. And I grieved. I knew that focusing on an uncertain future wasnít productive, but it was impossible not to focus on what was almost certainly going to happen. My mom was going to die and she was going to die fairly soon. I feared for her, and I feared for me.

My mom has always been a huge presence in my life. She and my dad ran a farm and were always home when we were growing up. We worked together at the family business, they came to our sporting events, visited me at college and in the various places I lived after school. We traveled together, went to shows, museums, etc. My dad died in 1994, and six years ago I moved back to my hometown. I lived with my mom for two years while I built a house next to my momís on land she gave me. During those six years, my mom drove me to the train every day, cooked me meals each night, helped out with errands and chores, lent me things, attended events with me. In many ways, my mom was like a spouse to me. She was SO generous. With my mom at my side, I was never lonely.

Things werenít always perfect, of course. There were times (many times, in fact) that my mom would drive me crazy. She could nag and criticize with the best of them. I often found her to be one-dimensional.

When my mom was diagnosed, what I felt more than anything was that I didnít want her to feel alone or afraid. I attended as many of her medical appointments as possible. She didnít have much interest in learning about her cancer or treatments, so that role fell to me. I researched the treatments and asked the questions of the doctors. I questioned whether we were pursuing treatments aggressively enough. I agonized over whether she should undergo preventative brain radiation (involving irradiating a healthy brain to prevent the spread of cancer to it). This allowed me to give back to my mom some small measure of what she gave me over the years. This process brought out the best in me, especially with regard to patience and compassion.

I also felt so privileged that my momís treatments went so well. She only felt nauseous one day in six months. We had an amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas. We went to Vegas together with a college friend of mine in January. I was hoping for a last vacation this springóto the beach, where we all have such a great time with my brothers and their kids.



My mom turned 70 in March. I decided we should throw her a big birthday party. I knew it would likely be her last, and I wanted her to have the chance to see her closest friends before she died. We had it at her house on April 9, and it was spectacular. She was tired, but did great. It was especially poignant for my brothers and me because we learned on April 8 that the cancer in my momís liver was causing it to fail. For the past three weeks, she was totally exhausted. The doctor told us to expect worse and expect it quickly. We feared the end would come within the next couple of months and that it would be very tough.

The Monday after my momís party, she called me at 6 am saying she needed to go to the hospital. She was clearly in very bad shape. It was pneumonia, and it was quite bad. The doctors ultimately told us they couldnít really do anything for her. We brought her home on the 15th and set her up in the living room where she could be in the center of things and have a view of the farm she worked so hard to make thrive. During this time, we were able to tell her how much she meant to us and how much we would miss her. As she slipped away over the next four days, I grieved more. IT WAS SO HARD. I was sleeping on an air mattress on the floor next to her bed when she died the night of April 19. I think she wanted to die when we werenít hovering over her like we had been at other times near the end.

Over the last week, it has been SO amazing to hear what people felt about her. She was larger than life to so many. She was active in our community and passionate on so many matters, like art, knitting and supporting local agriculture. I think we understood that on some level, but not to the extent weíve been hearing. Itís like looking at my mom from a totally different perspective.

It still doesnít feel to me like sheís gone. I go to her house and itís like sheís away for the weekend. I donít know when it will truly hit or what it will feel like.

Iím going back to work on Monday. Iím going to reduce my schedule to three days per week so I can tend to myself and to the business of her estate. And my future will likely include some big changes. I will have the means to be less dependent on a ďreal job.Ē And my mom is the main reason I live where I do, so I may move on. I have a super tough time imaging living here without her. Moving on may involve moving in with my boyfriend, something Iíve never done before. He has been AMAZING through this last stretch. I will also be able to bump up my fitness activity again. I would really like to be super fit again, and Iíll be more free than ever to do so. Even when my mom was healthy I felt somewhat constrained due to the time we spent together. So Iím feeling a bit conflictedóat this time when I should be drowning in sadness, Iím feeling liberated. Thereís a lot to think about in months to come.

Iíve missed you all in recent months. I hope you now have a better sense for why Iíve been gone. I look forward to reconnecting with you all as I begin this next phase of my life.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 5/1/2011 9:16AM

    My vision is blurred by tears and I'm here simply relishing the beauty of the telling and the connection. Your awareness of the contrast between the deep sense of loss and the liberating sense of freedom is so elegantly articulated. I had the same experience with the loss of my mom, who also died last.

I bow to this exquisite tribute of a life well lived, and to you for sharing these poignant, joyful and intimate details out of the last several months of your life. It's such a pleasure to know you much better now, as you walked through the light and shadows with us.

Blessed be,
Maha

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LAB-LOVER 4/29/2011 6:27AM

    Hey there -- the first time I read this was was reduced to blithering tears and couldn't comment, but I wanted to come back. I love the photos of Jean, love the honesty in your blog and can totally relate to what you are going through. Feeling like you did everything you could, but somehow wishing you could have prevented what happened in the end... hearing stories of a parent that make you say "wait, I want to ask her all about that and now I can't"... feeling relief and sadness all mixed together in a jumbled ball of emotion.

I am glad you are able to rearrange to take some time for you. Don't make any big decisions right now, just give yourself time to remember and work through the stages of grief -- I suspect that you will discover that it takes longer than you expected, and that's ok.

Love and hugs to you and your family. And fond memories of Jean.

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CAROLISCIOUS 4/28/2011 9:16PM

    Mal, what a beautifully written tribute to your mother. She would be so proud to read it, I'm sure. I love the pics of her...I can tell she is someone I would have loved to meet. What beautiful memories you have!

I am so sorry for your loss...you did right by your mom, and you can be at peace with that.

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JESPAH 4/28/2011 8:28AM

    I can hardly imagine a better or more loving tribute.

You were lucky to have her, and she was lucky to have you.

And I bet the feeling that she's just away for the weekend -- we humans do that, yanno. And I think that's okay, sometimes. Not denial -- just a lingering echo, I suppose. Maybe it's just a really long weekend.

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NVDONNA 4/28/2011 2:57AM

    Mal, your words brought tears to my eyes, as I could feel so strongly all the emotions and feelings you are having now, and during this whole process. Mothers are so special it is hard to put it all into words, but you did it beautifully. Being able to spend so much time with your mom these last few months was such a blessing for both of you. I am sure that your mom appreciated you going to her appointments and sleeping next to her bed and taking such good care of her. You are a loving and giving daughter, and I understand your conflicted feelings, but know that your mom would want to you get on with your life and not drown yourself in sadness. Getting focus back on health and fitness is never a bad thing,,,glad you will be back with the sisters! Sending big hugs,,,donna

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MARCHMAID 4/27/2011 11:41PM

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. The conflicting feelings you have seem entirely normal to me. You did a wonderful job honoring and caring for your mom in a way that should give no regrets. Go on. Enjoy your life--she gave it to you in the first place and from your description of her, she enjoyed her life and wanted the same for you.

Yup. It'll be hard and different, but you have every right to feel both loss and liberation. Life is always full of those contradictions, isn't it.

Take care. I'm so glad you have a supportive family and love in your life.

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DMPRIDER 4/27/2011 11:33PM

    Mal, I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your Mom was an amazing woman and great mom. I love the pictures of her. It sounds like you had a good, strong relationship and have many good memories to cherish. That is a beautiful thing.

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Take all the time you need to process your emotions. Some things may take you by surprise.

Your Spark friends are here for you.

Peace for you and your mom.

Hugs,
Donna

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LESS_IS_MO 4/27/2011 11:22PM

    Mal. THanks for sharing the beautiful blog about your mom. I love the pictures. They show her deep and quirky character. I used to live 7 hours away from mom, but now she lives in the house behind me. You've reminded me of how precious the time is with aging parents.

I'm so happy to hear you are feeling liberated and thinking about your future. We should not have any regrets if we've done our best to help a parent achieve a good life and a good death, and it sounds like you did that in spades and that's why you are at peace.

Take care. Big hug.

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QUEENOTHEFOREST 4/27/2011 9:35PM

    Oh My God Mal what a beautiful--real-- blog. You have made me wish for a daughter just like you. The picts are just great. So full of life and character. And your loyalty and tender care are moving and so rare. Maybe you think not so rare in your family. But rare. Trust me. I am not surprised by the mixed feelings you describe. But I am surprised and very moved by your clarity. I think that is also rare. I too wish you peace and comfort. And I am so glad you plan to be back to Spark more often. I think it is great for healing. that is the amazing thing about fitness. It just plain feels better. Even in the most challenging times.

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CHEFKATLEANER 4/27/2011 9:32PM

    I am so, so sorry for your loss. You will always have those wonderful memories of your time together. It sounds to me like you did everything you could to make the end of her life as comfortable and dignified as possible. Take the time you need to grieve, but then return to focusing on you, and doing what makes you happy. Your mom would want that.

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AHMARROSE 4/27/2011 9:27PM

  you story is touchable, my dad passed away last summer with colon cancer and it is not easy to loss beloved one, but this is the live.
I am really sorry to hear this , just pray for her and remember her always.



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PRIMAVERA_81 4/27/2011 9:24PM

    I am really sorry for your loss, everyone grieves in their own way, no way is the wrong way. Your way sounds like you put a lot of thought in how you feel about her and what she meant to you and everyone around her. She sounds like an amazing mom!!! I'm sure that this is your way of celebrating her life and the time you had to spent with her. Maybe in a special way your mom is by your side and knows that this is what you wanted, to be healthy, and she is giving you the strength to carry on!!! You sounds as though you are already grieving, You and your Mom will be in my thoughts!!!!!

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LORIKAT11 4/27/2011 9:17PM

    Your blog really touched my heart. I love your honesty. My mom started chemo last week for lymphoma. She is 83 and I fear this may be the beginning of the end. You have inspired me to make our time count. Unlike you, I live an hour and a half from her, so I am not able to spend a great deal of time with her. One of my brothers has stepped into that role, and I love him for it. I pray you find peace and comfort in the memories you shared.

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ZZYYGGY 4/27/2011 9:10PM

    Good luck. I know how hard it is.

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