street signs with arrows

Day after day
life goes one way.
You’re not deterred,
your dreams aren’t deferred.
You work and play,
and time ticks away.
Potential rises,
you find surprises.
Stay the wallflower,
acquiesce the power.
Or grab the chance
to come out of your trance.
Behold the arrow,
turn wide or narrow.
You go one way
and there is no stopping.

 

 

photo of Kelly

The beginning and end photos from my 30-day DietBet. You can’t see much, if any, difference, but I can feel it!

Like so many women–and you know what? It’s not even a woman-thing. Like so many people, it is always my desire to just drop a few pounds. A month ago, I got back on the horse. I began going to the gym again three or four times a week. A couple of weeks ago, I figured out an alternative bike route to my office that is a little further but which I can ride in the same amount of time. I toned down some of my consumption habits. I joined a 30-day DietBet game.

Let’s start with the DietBet. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a website where you pay money into a multi-person game to bet that you will be able to lose a certain amount of weight. You win by meeting the target, and the pot is split by everyone who made it. For the 30-day game I just completed, the goal was to lose 4%. For me, that was 8 pounds (3.6 kg). I’m not going to lie–I joined that particular DietBet because Karina Smirnoff was the host. You know how much I love Dancing with the Stars!

I went to the gym regularly for the first few months of last year and it felt great! I dislike running, but trotting on the treadmill has kind of become my thing since I discovered the Couch to 5K business two or three years ago. It only takes a couple of weeks for me to begin seeing and feeling the difference, so that’s my approach every time I start over. I fell off the wagon (er, treadmill?) when I went on vacation last July and spent the next three-quarters of a year subsidizing other people’s memberships. But my weight also crept up to the highest it’s ever been, and so finally last month I started going again and have managed to get back in the good habit.

Feeling the inspiration on foot, I also try to bike a little more, too. From about March through about October, or for as long as the snow holds off, I bike commute to work every day, a 15-minute ride through the heart of downtown. I don’t really think of it as exercise, even though it is, and so have been trying to go out for a long ride at least once on the weekends, and a medium ride in the evening every now and then if it’s not too hot.

Perhaps you are a fan of the NFL (National Football League) and know that the Minnesota Vikings are building a brand new stadium where the Metrodome stood until last year. I guess it’s going to resemble a giant, glass Viking ship. All I really know is that they didn’t spring for bird-safe glass. We’ll see how that plays out. The area of downtown adjacent to the stadium site is also going through a major redevelopment, and shiny new office buildings are rising from the backhoed rubble of a number of former surface parking lots.

Well. All of this construction activity has wreaked havoc on the very streets that I use every day in my commute. There are closures and detours which, unless I want to go significantly out of my way in one direction or, in the other direction, ride on a busy artery with cars only thinking about the freeway access a half mile ahead. Even the quieter alternative a couple of blocks beyond that is under its own construction of a sewer project. There is no good way to bike that particular vector.

Thus, I finally broke down and tried the route that takes me along the Mississippi River bike path to a bike commuter trail to the western suburbs. I can enter and exit within blocks of home and the office. I had balked at using it because it is a longer distance, and when I’m commuting, I’m all about not wasting time. But it turns out that, even though it’s 3.25 miles versus the 2.5 miles (5.2 km vs 4 km) of the downtown route, it doesn’t take me any more time because there are only a couple of interactions with streets and I don’t usually have to stop even once, and I can just go. Riding this route for the first time was an epiphany! It’s easier, it’s so much less stressful, it’s scenic, and the longer distance fits in with my increased activity desires.

photo of several meals

These are a few of the quick (usually about 30 minutes to prepare), delicious, home-cooked meals I’ve been making.

The final component of the last month has been to be more mindful of when and how much I’m consuming. For me, the largest part of that is to cut back on the beer. Instead of three or four, I try to keep it to a couple. And instead of my favorite double IPA or big stout, I often choose ones with lower alcohol content. Along with that is the realization that it also helps to eat a lighter supper earlier rather than later. Gorging on a burger at the bar is a whole lot different than freshly preparing a meal of more sensible foods (that I actually like better anyway). A staple has been a few ounces of salmon, a pile of asparagus, and one-half cup or less of a whole grain, such as quinoa or my new favorite, farro. I have resumed documenting everything that goes down my gullet in the Lose It! app. I don’t necessarily try to meet the calorie budget that it suggests, but the act of tracking eventually causes you to more carefully consider your choices.

So doing all of these things consistently for the last five weeks paid off. I surpassed my DietBet target and lost 8.8 pounds (4 kg), and won $49.68 on my $30 bet! My stamina has increased so much from the treadmill trotting and wobbly bits are coming a little more under control. Mainly, I just feel better and that is very satisfying. The knowledge that this happens when I keep up with things is what gets me through the afternoons when I’d rather just go home (okay, that, and that I’ve been watching 30 Rock while I trot to distract myself).

But it’s my desk-neighbor at work who put the extra little spring in my step today. She’s 23 and just out of college, where she was a competitive swimmer and is still someone who you would call an athlete. A couple of weeks ago I was moaning about being sore from my first session of strength training the day before and we had a brief conversation about my activities at the gym. Well, today she asked me how it all was going and was astonished when I said I had gone fourteen times last month. We talked a little more and I mentioned that I had lost about 7 pounds (3.2 kg). In response she uttered the five words at the top of the page and that is the most gratifying and motivating thing of all!

———-

Addendum: Because I want to keep the momentum going, I joined another DietBet game. This one goes on for six months with a final target of a 10% loss. There are monthly official weigh-ins with their own mini-targets, and you can win those, too. I tried one last year with little success, but I feel like I have a better attitude now. Stay tuned!

Kelly in London with bronze statue of Hobbs, Samuel Johnson's beloved cat.

The last thing Kelly would have wanted would have been to have to talk about herself, especially if it were in the third person. It’s true that if you were talking to her, she’d frequently interrupt with “related stories,” but they were always in the first person. She liked to think of it as an endearing personality quirk—the stories were related—but in the end she figured that she likely was just annoying to the other speaker. She tried to control the impulse with only moderate success. The issue probably stemmed from her general enthusiasm for things she liked and her desire to seem relevant.

Which is not to say that she liked people—she’d be the first to tell you that she didn’t. But sometimes actions—or interruptions—spoke louder than words.

Kelly liked to say that she inherited the best from each of her parents. Her mother was an extrovert and loved talking to anybody who would listen, and even if they wouldn’t. She, too, was generally enthusiastic about most things. Kelly’s father, on the other hand, was a quieter, more reserved sort who never made a spectacle of himself. So though Kelly knew that she often was loud and boisterous in her enthusiasm, she pretended that she knew when to dial it back and stop the stampede. Moderate success.

Anybody who is a friend of Kelly’s knows that in recent years, two of the things she was most enthusiastic about were writing and craft beer. And if you asked Kelly herself, she’d tell you that one of her favorite activities was to write her blog while she was drinking beer—and getting kind of tipsy while doing it. If she were here right now, which we know she is in spirit, she’d want everyone to stop moping and go enjoy something you love.

One of the things Kelly wouldn’t hesitate to say she loved most was London, England. She had hoped to move there one day but unfortunately, that’s a dream which will now remain unfulfilled. And that seems like a good way to draw this to a conclusion. If she were here now and succumbing to clichés, she’d say, “Go for it!” One of her philosophies of life was that you won’t know if you don’t ask which, on occasion, led to awkward moments. But she felt that though the answer might have been no, it might well have been yes. And if it would have been yes, wouldn’t you be disappointed not to have found that out?

Ugh, letter to 16yo me, not

September 26, 2013

yearbook photo

Usually when I see that someone has written a letter to their something-year-old self I roll my eyes and move on immediately. And now I’m supposed to do that very thing. Groan.

There isn’t actually any reassurance or advice you can give your adolescent self because at that age, you’re going to think you know it all and not listen anyway. And that will just be frustrating for your current self. Nobody wins in this situation.

The thing I’ve always said with regard to this topic is that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t lived my life the way I have and done the things I’ve done, and since I more or less like myself, I wouldn’t really advise myself to do much differently. And even if I had tried to advise myself, I certainly wouldn’t have listened to someone else giving me directions.

I still don’t.

Right. This is a dead-end.

I got caught doing what?!

September 15, 2013

I’d need a while if I were to recount all of the incredibly embarrassing moments I’ve endured in my life. But whenever the topic comes up, there is one incident that my memory invariably shoots straight to, even though it was, now, forty years ago.

the scene of the embarrassmentI was about ten years old. I went into the Lawson’s Dairy, the 1970s version of today’s convenience store, I don’t even remember why. Maybe my mom had charged me with the important task of buying some milk, or maybe I merely intended to procure some candy with my allowance. I don’t recall that part. I only remember that curiosity got the better of the cat and I innocently picked up a Playboy or Penthouse and started leafing through it all wide-eyed with wonder.

The store attendant, an “older” man (so probably in his thirties or forties) with dark hair, glasses, and a mustache, bustled over to me and grabbed the magazine out of my hands. “You shouldn’t be looking at that!” I don’t know which one of us was actually more embarrassed. I do know that I nearly ran him over trying to push past him to exit the store as hastily as possible, absolutely mortified. It was a long, long time before I’d go back into that store.

Hard for me, harder for her

September 8, 2013

Two years ago, my cousin and her fiancé were in a car accident. They were stopped in traffic in an interstate highway construction zone. They were behind a semi-truck. Another one barreled up from behind. It turned them and their little Honda into sandwich filling. They both had serious head injuries. I suppose that’s redundant. When is a head injury not serious? When is it not life-changing?

I will preface whatever else I write today with the acknowledgement that anything I felt or feel is nothing compared to what my cousin, her fiancé, and both their families struggled with and will continue to struggle with for the rest of all their lives. I know that I’m just a bystander and that in life, it’s not about me.

But this blog entry is. The immediate aftermath of the accident ranks right up there as one of the hardest things I’ve been through. That’s why it’s been more than a week since I last wrote. I had to work up to this. Selfish.

Me and cousin A, a week after her birth. One of the only times in my life that I've held a baby.

Me and cousin A, a week after her birth. One of the only times in my life that I’ve held a baby.

I have a small family. I’m an only child, my mom’s an only child, and my dad has one brother. My uncle and his wife have two children. The oldest, A, the one in the accident, is seventeen years younger than I, and our two branches of the family never lived nearby geographically. My cousins and my parents are pretty close, but not them and me.

Nevertheless, when my parents called to tell me about the accident, the family instincts kicked in. The first thing to do was shepherd my other cousin, A’s sister M, through her overnight layover from Montana through Minneapolis to Michigan. I brought her back to my place for a few hours of fitful sleep, then got her back out to the airport. M is outdoorsy. She didn’t care about a refreshing shower.

The next day at work, I began making my own arrangements to go to Michigan. Fortunately my schedule usually can be pretty flexible, so I was the first of my family to be able to go. I didn’t know what I was in for.

Again, because of our tiny family size, I haven’t had to deal with many misfortunes. My parents are ridiculously healthy. My four grandparents all made it to old age, so there weren’t any big surprises when they died in their 80s, 90s, and, finally, 105. I’ve attended the funerals of friends’ loved ones, but those weren’t people I had a huge vested interest in. I had my own visit to the emergency room a few years ago for what turned out to be severe heartburn brought on by a week of eating tomato-based dishes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t laugh. Women tend not to think they’re having heart attacks. I didn’t want to be a statistic. Twelve hours later it all made sense.

My point is, nothing in my life had prepared me for the shock of seeing my cousin lying unconscious in a hospital bed.

You see it in movies and in soap operas. You see actors with fake needles in their arms and fake tubes in their mouths. You see actors weeping at the bedsides of their actor fake relatives. It doesn’t prepare you for the first time you see a real person whom you actually care about lying unconscious in a hospital bed with needles in her arms, a tube down her throat, a tube in her neck, her delicate hands that could play the violin so well lying limp at the side of her induced comatose body. It just doesn’t. And then you go into the next room and see her beloved lying there in the same condition.

A and A (my cousin’s fiancé is also an A, also a musician, and I think it’s appropriate that I’m not using their full names) had just finished packing up their Michigan home to move to Boston for job opportunities, with their wedding to follow soon thereafter in Wisconsin where my aunt and uncle live(d).

I am an emotional ice queen. It’s not that I don’t feel stuff, but I don’t often give much away outwardly. I partly get that from my dad. With my mom, nothing is unknown. She doesn’t filter, and she kind of badgers and passive-aggressives to have things go her preferred way. My dad, on the other hand, internalizes, maintains a pretty even keel, and mostly goes with the flow. I internalize, too, combined with the life experience of failed relationships and not wanting to make that emotional commitment too soon. I try to save my energy for the things that matter more.

I guess I had been saving it up for the moment I saw my aunt and uncle, which was followed closely by the moment I was ushered into A’s hospital room. I became a puddle of mush. My aunt and uncle had the advantage of having had a week already to culture their disbelief and numbness. I was fresh.

I stayed for a week. I met A’s good friends and cousins-in-law from my aunt’s side. Everybody was trying to be optimistic about A’s chances. I feel guilty because at the time I was more in the realistic camp as it seemed in those early days. I felt guilty for not having been a better cousin in the previous thirty-one years. At A’s bedside I promised to do better, but I haven’t. I still feel guilty.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been proved wrong about A’s recovery, at least. Again I’ll say that nothing you learn about head injuries leads you to think that things will return to the old normal. But A is leading a decent life, considering her circumstances. She remains in Michigan and my aunt and uncle live there with her. She has resumed many professional musician activities, though she has issues with short-term memory.

I don’t know the status of A’s relationship with her fiancé, whether they are still considered to be engaged. He, too, has made a recovery, but is not as well physically. He has paralysis, which includes not being able to swallow, and is confined to a wheelchair, though his mental faculties are intact and strong. He is back in Indiana with his parents.

I don’t know how to deftly wrap this up. Thanks for reading.

Lies, lies, lies, yeah

September 1, 2013

I fib regularly. So do you. If you claim not to, then you’re lying! I massage the facts, I don’t tell the whole truth, I say I like the food or the beer when I didn’t quite. Everybody does it. Then there are the things that I’ll tell to health professionals in whatever field but about which I’ll keep stumm in casual conversation. You don’t need to know some of those details.

But have I ever told a whopper of a lie? I honestly can’t remember. Continuing on the theme that has cropped up the last couple of posts of remembering back to my youth (which is longer ago for me than it probably is for you), I imagine there must certainly have been things that I lied to my parents about. Well, no imagining about it. You’re a teenager, you lie to your parents.

Actually, going back to that list of things that I remember about where I grew up and the peeing along the side of the church incident, I know I lied to my mom about that. She, of course, wanted to know why I hadn’t just come home to use the bathroom. Home was two doors down. I told her that I just had to go so bad that I wet my pants. I didn’t confess that Lulu had shown me how she always did that and goaded me into doing it with her, sans pulling down my shorts.

When I was an older child, maybe eight or nine, I perpetrated some vandalism. I ended up being questioned about it by the administrators of the building and I did out and out lie and say I knew nothing about what happened. I imagine the adults all really did know it had been me because after it happened I was no longer taken along to that place. Don’t ask, I’m not telling more than that!

Some youthful indiscretions I didn’t get away with. The main one I remember was when I stole pocketfuls of penny candy from the drug store. Naturally, my parents wanted to know where I had gotten it all. I could maintain the subterfuge for only so long, and then it turned into a confession, and then into the inevitable kid learning experience of taking the unconsumed items back to the store and shaming myself to the owner.

The other one that I remember “getting away with” was in high school when I had entered into my rebellious phase the second year after we moved. I stayed out all night for the first time ever with my friend Kurt. When my parents and I were having the heart-to-heart in the aftermath I told them everything except where we had actually been, which was behind a rollaway bed in an upstairs back hallway in the Holiday Inn.

I can’t think of any major lies that I’ve told as an adult. Of course I pull the occasional sickie—again, who doesn’t? And I suppose I do have to count the times when I’ve proclaimed “I’m fine to drive” knowing I probably wasn’t actually.

Lying is an uncomfortable thing to think about. What’s your biggest lie?

photo of me not lying about anything

Age 6-1/2, amusing myself at home drawing a picture, which doesn’t require lying. Note how my mom artfully framed me off-center so that she also captured the Christmas decoration on the coffee table behind me.