Sweet treats

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I like to treat myself. My Moma says a little too much but I work hard and I’m a relatively decent person so why shouldn’t I? This week has been especially hectic with tons of meetings and a heavier than usual workload. I needed a treat. Before I started this journey to lose a big chunk of my body, treating myself would typically have ended with a sweet treat somewhere. If I was getting a pedicure, I’d have The Picnic Cafe’s raw sugar crusted cranberry muffins. A facial, Gigi’s wedding cake cupcakes with just the right amount of almond flavoring would be calling my name. A massage, a cookie or assorted bag full from Bread and Company. A new outfit, heck I’d earned a slice of the Cheesecake Factory’s Dulche de Leche cheesecake just for having expended more calories wrangling my body in and out of ill-fitting clothes.

Today, I called Valentina, a woman who fled her homeland in search of her American dream. My sisters and I call her the skin whisperer and her skin is evidence of that, no wrinkles, no fine lines, just perfection. After examining my skin, she said in her thick Romanian accent, “today, we do hard facial”. I agreed, having absolutely no idea what she meant but knowing she was the expert. I didn’t care. I was wearing a bathrobe cocooned in warm blankets with a steam machine blowing on my face, the most relaxing way I know to spend a late Friday afternoon.

Today’s facial was a right of passage, much to my chagrin. I have now entered the stage of life where facials are no longer about relaxation and pampering but a desperate attempt to stop the aging process. In a nut shell, “hard facial” as Valentina called it means having the top few layers of skin burnt off with a substance that, while it smells like key lime pie, is more closely related to pouring gasoline on your skin and then lighting a match. Or blow torch. It was that bad.

As the acid peel continued to set my face ablaze, I went to my happy place and dreamed of the wedding cake cupcake I’d get when I left. The moist almond flavored cake covered in a mound of icing dotted with shiny white sprinkles. Yes, I had just eaten lunch, a delicious piece of salmon with a side salad and was full but this was a cupcake and there is always room for a pretty little cupcake.

The burning sensation soon ended and we moved on to the pampering part of the facial, praise the Lord. Thinking of cupcakes can only take your mind off pain for so long. When the facial ended, I hugged Valentina and thanked her for her efforts to preserve my youth with the facial she must have learned from Stalin or Hitler then headed to get my sweet treat.

Once in the car, almost simultaneously, an angel and the devil set down, one on my left shoulder and one on my right beginning their game of tug-o-war. Get the cupcake. Don’t get the cupcake. You deserve the cupcake. You deserve to be thin. It will taste so good. It won’t taste THAT good. Get it. Don’t get it. You’re not hungry. So what you’re not hungry, there’s always room for cupcakes.

As I approached the traffic light turning red, wishing the warring factions in my head would just shut up, I saw Gigi’s brightly colored sign showcasing their scrumptious morsels. I glanced in the window to see my usual after facial delight, my mouth slightly beginning to water. Then, the light changed and I drove past. Whew, that was a close one.

Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Reality

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I don’t like reality weight loss shows. They aren’t reality. Take me away from my friends, family, job and responsibilities and I can lose weight. Put me with a group solely focused on shedding pounds and I can lose weight. Give me a trainer, dietician, camera crew and a grand prize at the end and I can lose weight.

If I had a camera crew follow me around all day, you think I’d end up in the candy aisle of a local drug store right before closing time to buy a twelve pack of Hershey’s with almonds? Do you think I’d let the world see me sneak a handful of French fries from my unsuspecting 5-year-old nephew’s happy meal? Absolutely not. I have more pride than that. More pride plus the fact that $250,000 awaits me at the finish line. Of course, I could lose weight.

I don’t like the sometimes condescending demeaning trainers on those shows, either. Nothing about that motivates me. If my trainer talked to me like that, I’d get a workout, all right. Stomping her. Probably more cardio running to flee from her but you get my point.

I don’t watch these shows. Partly because it’s such an inaccurate depiction of maintainable weight loss and partly because I’m jealous the producers haven’t whisked me away to live my life in their bubble making me drop these last forty pounds that seem to be hanging on for dear life. Jealous I don’t get to put my life on hold to complete the task at hand. Jealous in the same way I am jealous of Duck Dynasty. Unlike the rest of the free world, I haven’t watched five full minutes of that show. I’m so jealous of it I can’t. My husband spends most waking moments of his life daydreaming about shooting mallards from the sky and we haven’t pocketed one red cent. I’ve got family members that would make the Robertson clan look like big city boys and no one’s filming me drinking sweet tea by the gallon.

I could lose weight if a camera crew stood watch in my kitchen waiting to catch my next move for the whole nation to see. But eventually, the cameras turn off. Then, who’s watching?

Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

A Soldier’s Homecoming

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Tonight, we celebrated the homecoming of a real life GI Joe at an upscale Italian restaurant with a family style dinner menu that would make even the Gambino mobsters jealous. We celebrated the safe return of this brave solider, a man with a boyish smile that had won our hearts, with strong shoulders that had pulled fellow soldiers from burning Humvees. A man who knew what it was like to look death in the face and make it home to the arms of his adoring flag waving financee.

We celebrated with bruschetta. We celebrated with chicken parmesan. We celebrated with cheesecake. Maybe if I had made the choices, we would have had steamed broccoli and baked salmon but who am I to deny this defender of freedom crispy deep-fried chicken covered in stringy melted mozzarella cheese atop a mound of spaghetti with marinara. Not me. He had been eating MREs for the last year, meals served in silver pouches that you add water, shake and call supper. Meals that made the grilled chicken and baked fish I’d been living on the last year seem decadent.

I would just fill up on the spinach salad, try some of the entree and eat until I was satisfied. This meal would be a little higher in calories than normal for me but I wouldn’t go overboard. I wouldn’t eat until I needed to unzip my skirt. I wouldn’t eat until it hurt to breathe. I wouldn’t and I didn’t, for the most part.

I love anything with lemon, lemonade, lemony chicken picatta, lemon tarts, lemons in iced tea, and most especially lemon pound cake, the only thing my Granny Ruth could cook, successfully, that is. So when it was time to leave and the waiter brought lemon cookies as a thank you to our patriot, I sort of lost it. 6 cookies and only one taker. It would be rude to leave the other 5, right?

I left Maggiano’s with 5 lemon cookies wedged in my clutch. No to go box, not even wrapped in a napkin, just shoved in my purse. I waited for my car thinking of how good those tangy sweet crescent moons would be with a glass of milk later, a perfect midnight snack. As I tipped the valet and hopped in my car, I almost reached for one to pop in my mouth for the ride home.

Almost. I gave them away at my next stop. All five of them.

Psalm 73:2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped, I had nearly lost my foothold.

Photography courtesy of Ashley Oman Chapman Photography  www.aocpix.com

Photography courtesy of Ashley Oman Chapman Photography
http://www.aocpix.com

Happy Birthday, Melinda

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Today is my sister’s birthday. Born twenty months after me, Melinda was my first friend. Opposites attract and we were opposites in every way. I was loud, she was quiet. She was tall, I was short. I was chubby, she was not. I never met a stranger, she tried hard not to meet anyone. She rarely spoke, I never shut up.

Tall and thin with golden locks and blue eyes that sparkled like diamonds, my parents skipped me and saved all their good-looking genes for her. Did my parents just hate me? Short, dark-haired, born wearing a plus size onsie, with hazel eyes reminiscent of a muddy algae infested pond.

I grew up thinking I was ugly. All I heard from people was how pretty Melinda was. No one ever told me I was ugly. They didn’t need to. I watched as boys lined up for slow dances with her while I stood like an outcast at middle school dances. I helped her carry arm loads of Valentine candy and vases of roses home from school sent by all her adoring admirers. I saw the way people looked at her, like they’d just witnessed a beautiful sunset or a rainbow after a summer storm, a thing of beauty. I saw the way they didn’t look at me.

I resented her. I was jealous of her. She was the pretty one and that made me the ugly one.

Years later, she told me she had been jealous of me, too. People always told her how smart and funny I was and if I was the smart one, that made her the dumb one. What? Her jealous of me. She was smart and pretty, was she crazy? How did she not realize that. She made grades just as good if not better than me. She must be delusional. How could she begin to think she wasn’t as smart as me? Her standardized test scores proved it. Teachers could verify it. How could she believe something so wrong? How could she see herself in that way?

How? The same way I had convinced myself that she was the only real beauty in our family. I had let the devil brainwash me into thinking that I was the girl version of the hump back of Notre Dame. I let the devil drive a wedge between us.

I wasn’t ugly just because she was pretty and she wasn’t dumb just because I was smart. The realization that we were both smart and pretty, each in our own way, healed a hurt we had long concealed. We had each believed a lie.

Truth is she is my best friend, her and my other sister Joanna. I am grateful for the friendship I share with each of them. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a tad bit jealous of her tall, lean frame and jet black eyelashes.

What’d y’all expect? I ain’t Gandhi!

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Just for Today

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We had a guest preacher at Church this Sunday. To me, guest speakers on Sunday are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. In my opinion, we typically get the weird fake strawberry piece or the nougat one that pulls fillings out of your molars. On those Sunday’s, I generally busy myself making out the grocery list, nonchalantly scrolling through Facebook and quietly perusing old receipts in my purse, even doodling on some of them if the preacher is that boring. As this Sunday’s guest began to speak, I began to make my grocery list and scroll through the calendar on my iPhone planning for the week ahead. After a few moments, I stopped. A voice boomed from this portly middle-aged gentleman that demanded you pay attention. The type of voice that could stop a mischievous kid with a simple “NO”. The type of voice that you knew had blessed countless newborn babies, joined many in holy matrimony and prayed with others as they took their dying breath. The type of voice you don’t question.

In that commanding voice, he said this “In my imagination, I go into the future. When I take that trip into tomorrow, I go there alone. I go with no strength, I go with no grace, I go with no God because it’s a trip that I was never meant to make. The strength, the mercy, the grace that I have been promised is for today.”

At first, I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Weren’t we suppose to have imaginations? As a girl, my imagination had come in handy playing Barbies with my sisters. I made up the storylines, they played along and my Barbie was always the one that saved the day. As a teenager, my imagination (or lying spirit, as my Moma called it) saved my hide on numerous occasions. In business, it had allowed me to think outside the box and come up with innovated ways to interact with clients. I wasn’t sold on his theory, at first.

As he continued, I realized he was talking about how God had given us strength for the day and we shouldn’t obsess over the future. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow, calculating how many pounds I’ll be down by Christmas if I follow Atkins as strictly as possible only to be disappointed when the scale doesn’t match. I don’t have to beat myself up over the corn dog and tater tots I ate the day before at the dairy dip on my way home to cook supper. God had granted me strength for today to overcome that daily internal tug of war that went on in my brain over what to put in my mouth.

While I do have to preplan my meals and schedule time for exercise, I don’t have to worry about whether this truly is a lifestyle change, whether I can keep up exercising 5-6 days a week, whether I’ll lose the remaining 40 pounds or gain them all back plus some. I just have to concern myself with today. Today, God gave me victory over the jar of Nutella in the break room, the jar my assistant keeps stashed on the top shelf over the microwave, the one I can’t reach without a step stool. Today, God gave me victory over being lazy and I didn’t send the text I typed to my trainer to cancel our session. I showed up and had sweat dripping from my eyebrows onto the floor, something that while not lady like at all makes a trainer’s day. Today, I got this. Today, Me and Jesus have it under control.

Deuteronomy 33:25 And as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

No Workout Clothes for the Full Figured

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After I cleaned out my pantry, it was time to purchase some new wardrobe items. I was going to start working out. At this point, I had no idea what that meant. The last time I worked out the ab roller was all the rage and most people were sweating to the oldies with frizzy haired Richard Simmons. I hadn’t worked out since the last millenium. However, one thing I knew was that you can’t workout in three-inch heels and a business suit. I didn’t own tennis shoes, the last pair I had was from cheerleading in high school. I didn’t own jogging pants, I was a lady for goodness sakes and would rather die than be caught dead in a pair. I didn’t have t-shirts, unless you count the ones bought at college football games over a decade old that hugged my fat rolls and cut off the oxygen supply to my brain and other extremities.

You would think the target market for workout clothes would be geared toward people who needed to workout because they didn’t fit in regular sized clothes anyway but I found out that was not the case. I started at a poplar sporting goods store that sold every type of equipment and clothes an active person would need. Active people size 12 and under. I went to a few department stores and found the same thing there. If I had rock hard abs and a butt you could bounce quarters off of, they had workout apparel for me. A 5’3″ 240 pound woman was out of luck. I ended up at a plus size clothing store and bought a pair of black cropped leggings and a kind of gathered black knit top with a chain belt. The outfit if paired with strappy sandals was more suited for a summer cocktail party than the gym but I cut the glitzy chain belt off, bought a pair of silver and white Nike’s and joined a gym.

After being given my free introductory tour of the weight machines, I opted for the treadmill instead. One thing was certain, I knew how to walk. I may not have known where my hamstring was, what plank position meant or how much weight to curl but I could walk.

My type A, all in, over achieving personality thought the middle school’s Bear Cat Bolt 5k at the end of my first week working out was the obvious next step in my training regimen. Long story short, I was last, not last, like a pack of runners with me toward the back. Last like, all alone except for the school cheerleaders following behind me in a Chevy truck, picking up signs marking the route. I wanted desperately to get in that truck and have them shuttle me to the finish line and end my misery. My shins hurt, my side ached, my heart was pounding and I was sweating like a pig but I knew I had to finish this race. I had to and I did.

Today, with the help of my trainer Brandi, I am doing things I never thought possible. If I had stopped and jumped in the back of that truck instead of finishing that first 5K, little victories I have experienced along the way probably wouldn’t have happened like being able to put my hands on my hips and feel my pelvis. I forgot there were bones beneath all those layers. Being able to run a mile for the first time without stopping and wanting to say “in your face” to all the condescending middle school gym teachers from my past. Being able to play with my nieces and nephews and not feel like the air was being sucked from my lungs by a vacuum cleaner.

Start simple. Move your body. No matter how slow. No matter what others think. Finish the race.

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.

BAD

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Finding me standing before the pantry with the trash can, my husband asked, “Are we throwing away all the bad stuff, AGAIN?” I knew what he was talking about….all those hopeful times I purged our kitchen of chocolate and potato chips, swore off Crisco and white sugar, optimistically refilling the cabinets with the latest fad powder, shake or miracle smoothie just to go back to my old ways in a week or two.

This time I wasn’t throwing out all the “bad” stuff. I was getting rid of foods that I could not control. I kept the white flour. I certainly wouldn’t eat it by the spoonful. I kept that 99 cent loaf of bread my husband eats. My sophisticated palate wouldn’t dare allow me to put anything but fancy artisan bread in my mouth. I kept the little pouches of instant hot chocolate that had been in the back of the pantry bought years ago during the last big snow in Tennessee.

I did, however, get rid of those crunchy saltine crackers, blocks of cheddar cheese and 2 liters of diet coke. Maybe this combo is weird to some but to me, it was more like the holy trinity of snacking heaven. Give me a sleeve or two of crackers, a big chunk of Wisconsin cheddar, a tall glass of Diet Coke, especially with Sonic ice, a new episode of the Real Housewives of Wherever and my day is made.

I got rid of the bag of chocolate chips, the ones hid in the back of the pantry that I bought on sale to stock up for Christmas baking. Only problem, it was summer and I’d probably end up buying at least 20 more bags before Jesus’ big day, grabbing a handful of the little morsels any time I needed a pick me up. My little secret.

I got rid of the container of cookies and cream ice cream, the one with holes dug throughout the thick frozen custard searching out the biggest hunk of Oreo. The one behind the frozen peas in the back of the freezer awaiting my whirlwind midnight rendezvous. I got rid of all the things that trigger me to over eat and over indulge.

No food is bad. I cannot stand to hear a girlfriend say “let’s be bad” when the waiter asks if we’d like dessert. Heck, if I was going to be bad, we’d have a couple of shots of whiskey, smoke Malboro Reds until our lungs bled and flirt shamelessly with college age boys.

Just because I don’t consider any food off limits doesn’t mean I have Twinkies and Little Debbie cakes lying on my kitchen countertops. Why set myself up for failure? I now keep a fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. I am learning to balance the occasional splurge with an overall healthy diet full of foods that are not only good for me but pretty darn tasty. I write all this after having eaten a plate of French toast stuffed with cheesecake cream topped with a Jack Daniel’s caramel sauce on the veranda of the Hermitage Hotel at a bridal shower honoring my dear friend Lacy, the future Mrs. March. She’s no playboy bunny, that’s her soon to be new last name. For heaven’s sake, who do y’all think I run with? If you are one of those that consider some food bad, my friend, this luncheon would qualify as a cardinal sin!

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.

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