My Night Before Christmas Every year on the night before Christmas, kids run screaming through the house, everyone is cranky -especially my spouse. No hope to stay home for the holidays, it’s true. Responsibility and family force us to create our holiday memories slightly askew. We spend holidays stuffed tightly into Granddads house with no room to spare. I always have high hopes that the liquor will help me not to care. The children will be running through the house acting crazy. Pumped full of sugar, bed time will be far in the future and I have no dreams of being lazy. I’ll be in the kitchen for hours that night. “Helping” my kids make cookies for the fat man’s delight. How the heck is Santa going to eat this spread? I was already eating tums, looking towards the night with dread. Little hands in the dough, on the floor, on their bum: These cookies have flavor, pizazz – Where’s my rum? Granddad in the recliner telling the kids awful stories. Of ailments, pains, medications – it’s quite the inventory. My husband is doing what he can to relax. In his head he is already piling the luggage into neat stacks. As the kids finally wind down, and I settle them down for some sleep. New family arrives and I say BLEEP, BLEEP! I start drinking in earnest, the night will never end. Oh No – let’s all visit. People without small children just can’t comprehend. So up jump the children to investigate the clatter. Springing from their pallets like gunshot splatter. Away from the beds they flew like flash, tearing away my dreams of sleep in one small dash. The glare from the lights blinking a bright red and green, start a twitch in my eye and add a maniacal glean. When, what to my wondering eyes should appear my mom’s voice of reason still mixed with holiday cheer. Dear family, it was time to depart. Keeping the children up this late is just not smart. Less rapid than turtles, but still they departed. So off to bed, my children I carted. Goodbye family, Good night children. Tuck in tight it’s time for the business of the night. Visiting hours in this nut house are over. Red Rover, Red Rover it was time for Santa to come over. Children listening and hoping, I’m just happy to sleep and Blake is already snoring. Christmas is the time of year for family, drinking and stress. But I’m so very happy because I’m so very blessed. Merry Christmas to all and to all a (stressed) blessed night.
When you are obese you lose your legitimacy, you lose your voice. Obese is not the same thing as being over weight and needing to lose a few pounds. Obesity is being completely out of the doctors range of acceptable weight for your height. The stage after obesity is morbid obesity. At the peak of my weight I was considered morbidly obese according to the BMI calculator. www.BMI-Calculator.net I went from fit and social to fat and invisible. My personal experience didn’t include anyone being mean, it just consisted of my involvement being pushed to the fringe of life instead of right in the big mix. Situations that used to consist of people listening attentively to my stories and thoughts became an awkward and distinct lack of eye contact or dismissal of my viewpoint. For someone that has always thrived being the center of attention, it was a death knell. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t found my inner fat girl social mojo. It wasn’t. I had lost my legitimacy. I was no longer valid. I had no voice. I don’t have any proof of why you become invisible once you become obese. I just know that you do. I have a theory that disagrees slightly with the articles I’ve read. Most of the articles I’ve read like to paint the person that is obese as the victim and others as a cruel and discriminatory. Everyone is a victim these days. I’m nobody’s victim. I’m sure people can be hateful, but I think the cause is something else. I think that being obese is an outward symbol to others that you have no control over yourself. How can you possibly contribute to the conversation, the group, the job when you are obviously out of control and can’t even help yourself. I don’t think these thoughts are spiteful and mean, I think they are subconscious conclusions. I see a picture of fire, it means hot. I see a picture of an ice cube, it means cold. You get where I’m going with this. No one has the time or inclination to dig under the surface to your medical, mental, and physical health issues. No one has the time to dig deep into your soul. You have seconds to make that fist impression and you just made a bad one. You are invalid. You are dismissed. As recent as three months ago, I was in a discussion with a very slender health care professional. She has a medical degree. She casually dismissed weight loss as a simple math equation and people that can’t lose weight are stupid, lazy or truly don’t want to lose weight. I could have slapped her upside the head. Lady, you have no idea. Everyone is in a struggle. It is just that the obese person’s struggle is on display for everyone to judge. I don’t regret my weight gain. I don’t regret being obese. I don’t even regret losing my voice and validation. I certainly don’t regret my journey with Weight Watchers or my current journey being a gym rat. I don’t regret it because I found a new voice. A voice that is deeper and rich with experience. I am ripe with knowledge and empathy. I found my fat girl social mojo and married her to my healthy girl social mojo. I am legitimate. I have a voice.
I have always stated that people are mentally deficient in their thinking and problem solving skills until they are at least 24 years old. I stand by that statement. I also think it’s cruel and unjust that you have to decide your entire life course and career before you hit that age. I certainly didn’t have enough information to accurately chart my path. I was making bad decisions planning out my weekend at that age and you want me to plan my life? My net was too small. Life isn’t linear. We are all dragging about this big net of information behind us. It’s all about the connections and how you pull it together. Your net contains your life experiences and all the information you spend a life absorbing. Your net starts out small and grows as you grow. The people that are interested in life and spend that life learning and growing have nets bigger than those who see learning as a chore to be avoided. You’ve got to stay interested in life. Working GirlIn the end of the movie Working Girl, the businessman they are trying to impress asks Melanie Griffith how she came up with her ideas. She spends the next little bit describing how she heard a radio segment, remembered an article she read, added it with information from her job, mixed it up in her head a little bit and was able to see a bigger picture. I remember being a little dismayed with that as a big climatic movie ending as that is how everything works, right? You take a little bit of this, little bit of that, mix it all up and you shake it all about. That’s what it’s all about. The mental hokey pokey. The bigger your net, the bigger your hokey pokey. curiousI’m not here to judge your net or your hokey pokey. Some things slip through, some of us lean more towards certain topics so our nets are specialized. The people that go down in history are the ones that have so much information in their nets that their hokey pokey changes the world. I wonder what it would feel like to have a hokey pokey that big. My net started out small and my hokey pokey was non existent. I’m a reader not a writer. I didn’t grow up writing stories. I don’t have closets full of short story attempts. I didn’t have any thoughts about writing a book. I didn’t squash my dream of writing with anguish and heartbreak so I could pay my bills. My net wasn’t big enough for me to write. I’ve had a book in my hand almost every day since I was 4 years old. I’ve now read so much, experienced so much, learned so much that the words are now forcing themselves out of my fingers. I don’t even have a choice anymore. It has become a part of my identity. For better or worse, the words are blowing out of my net like water out of a busted fire hydrant on a hot summer day.
I am arguably the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. I can do any bootcamp, insanity, ballet barre, pilates, yoga, cardio class you want to sign me up for and when I’m strength training, I use what I formally called the ‘man weights’. So why does that number on the scale drive me to insanity? My weight loss journey has been a long one. I have never been the skinny girl, but I was never overweight. My main difficulty is that I went straight from looking like a child to looking like an adult with curves. Good curves. Get you into trouble curves. I might have turned chunky if I hadn’t been involved in Athletics and Cheer all through school. The constant activity kept me in shape. It helped that in the summers my friend Bobbi roped me into her summer workouts. Running to the gym, lifting weights and then running home was the price I had to pay to hang out with her. It always leaned me up for the coming school year. In college, I was too poor to get chunky. I did gain my freshman 15 because I was on the meal plan. Those cafeteria meals are crazy high in calories. Salt, sugar and butter can make anything taste edible. But after that first year, I had to choose between spending my money on fun things or food. Guess which I picked? Many nights I would just open a can of green beans or eat a bag of popcorn and call it dinner. I would scrounge for food during the week and then swing by my moms house on Sunday night to do laundry and eat everything she put in front of me. My Aunt and Uncle were always good for a meal if I would pop in at the right time. After college I moved to San Diego. I don’t know about older age groups, but the 20 year old lifestyle in San Diego doesn’t revolve around food and dinner parties. Those years in San Diego were about rollerblading the lake, running the beach paths, dancing, hiking, golfing, swimming, shopping as cardio, biking, driving to the mountains to ski,and working your tail off during the day so you could afford your rent. I’m pretty sure I left San Diego skinnier than when I arrived. Married life makes you fat. We moved into our home in Dallas and promptly went grocery shopping and we never stopped. I didn’t know how to cook so my goal was to make food edible. I didn’t even think about healthy. Salt, butter and sugar can make anything taste edible. So we were eating my unhealthy food, eating out yummy Texas size portions when I didn’t cook, working 12 hour days and not spending any of our time on an active lifestyle. I gained weight. Then I got pregnant. Getting pregnant when you’ve spent a lifetime eating anything you want without actually understanding the consequences of those calories is a problem. A big problem. My precious baby helped me gain so much weight that I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror even months after I gave birth. I’m pretty sure I was under the impression that weight would melt off. Well, it didn’t. It never came off. I remember going bed hungry, so hungry and then it would spiral me out of control when the scale would stay the same or maybe even go up the next day. How can I not be losing weight when I’m eating salads and going to bed hungry? I stayed over 200 pounds until I had my next child. When I left the hospital with Lily, I weighed 253 pounds. I knew from experience this weight was never going to come off unless something radical happened. But what was that going to be? I’d already tried every miracle pill out there. I remember thinking to myself if someone offered me a choice between a million dollars and being a size 10, I would pick a size 10. I was a size 28. 6 weeks after I had Lily I walked into a Weight Watchers office. It wasn’t a miracle pill, it wasn’t instantaneous and it was hard work. But it worked. I went from starving and not losing weight to being full and losing weight. It truly is the best way to lose weight when you are obese. In one year, I lost 80 pounds. I became a size 10 for $12 a month. My third child sent me right back up that scale but I now had the knowledge of how to help myself. The thing about Weight Watchers is that it will absolutely help you get within your doctors range of weight. What it won’t help you do is get to that next step. You have to begin a different journey to get to that last step. I’ve been going to the gym every day for the past two years. I take a morning class that always has me dripping in sweat by the end. I run on the weekends when I can, I eat clean and I make deliberate choices with my food 90% of the time. I am a size 6 and I can actually fit into a bikini without anyone staring and pointing in horror. I’m even starting to see definition in my biceps and when I look into the mirror during class, I can see my muscles ripple. I’m the smallest I have ever been, I am the strongest I have ever been, I am the healthiest I have ever been. Why does the scale still make me cringe in agony? I don’t know.
Before my husband and I could get married, we had to go see Brother James for “The Talk.” The sweet and gentle preacher from my teenage years became an unyielding guardian of the gate. Gandalf stonewalled the Balrog with less vigor. I remember him stating that he wasn’t going to officiate the ceremony if he didn’t feel we were ready. Marriage is forever and Southern Baptist preachers don’t play around with their approval. That talk ranks up as one of the most awkward and painful hours of my life. I would volunteer to be tased before I would have that conversation again. But it made an impression. He said people get divorced for 4 main reasons. Money, sex, disagreements over their children, and stresses from extended family. Not to be a Grinch but Christmas is the perfect storm of marriage conflict. If you happen to drive this Christmas season to your holiday destination, just take a look into the cars driving next to you. I would bet at least 50% of the people in the cars are fighting. Someone is yelling, someone will have that furiously silent face, some people are waving their arms in exclamation, and you will see quite a few people staring out their window with tears streaming down their faces. I watch for this every year. Every year, during Christmas, the highways are a hot mess of conflict. Forget worrying about people texting, the bad weather, you worry about them swerving because someone’s about to get violent in the car. Those that aren’t fighting in the car are fighting at least once the season. It still counts as a fight if you are suppressing your rage deep down into your soul, yet never let it out. That totally counts. You aren’t fooling any of us. Others of us just experience one long extended fight the entire holiday. Good times. Good times. Let’s break it down. Money: Do I even need to go into detail? Your bank account is bleeding. Travel, oh my word travel. No matter where you go or what method you use to get there, it’s going to cost money. Gifts for family, friends, co-workers, workout pals, church group, teachers, that crappy boyfriend your cousin insists on bringing to the family gathering, neighbors, ornament exchanges, food for holiday parties, you are supposed to tip service people like your mailman, every business wants a donation, that very persistent Salvation Army guy ringing the bell, and those of us that have December birthdays. I’m sorry my birthday is in December. Trust me, it sucks worse for me than it does for you. Sex: If you have found a way to have a “moment” in a hotel room with your spouse while three kids are sleeping in the same room – I don’t want to hear about it. I really, really don’t. Then factor in your exhaustion levels, the fact that your spouse is probably the most irritating person to you on the planet at this moment in time, you are already stressed about money and you are probably not feeling all that well from all the food you’ve been consuming. Plus, when you eat weird, you get gas. Bad gas. Offensive gas. I can’t possibly think about sex with you after smelling that, type of gas. Someone is going to be upset that the “moment” isn’t happening. Maybe both of you are upset that the “moment” isn’t happening. Doesn’t matter, because the “moment” isn’t going to be happening the way you are wanting it to happen. Disagreements over your children: This has too many scenarios to adequately cover. Let’s just assume you and your spouse are on the same page over your kids right now. Good for you. But it’s the holidays. Jesus is the reason for the season but we have zero time to show that example unless we cancel multiple other commitments. I’m just being honest at this point. So now what? Church on the fly? Add in the purchasing of gifts: How much should we spend? This child hasn’t earned the trust to handle that electronic, why did you buy it without discussing it with me? I feel this one shouldn’t get that toy. You’ve bought too much, they need to learn how to give graciously. Are we teaching them to be inconsiderate and selfish? This child is upset should we turn this into a life lesson? I’m too tired to turn this into a life lesson. It’s your turn to take them to the polar express. Will anyone know if I skip the Polar Express? I’m totally skipping the Polar Express. Homework, extra activities, parties, parties, parties. Frankly everything could become a fight over the children as the holidays put a magnifying glass over your parenting. Stress and judgment are an ugly combination. Ugly. Stresses from your extended family: Let’s face it, you married your spouse despite the horror show of their family. You can put lipstick on a pig all you want, but those people are not like your family and everything they do is different and a “situation” to translate so you can partially understand why they did or said something or act a certain way. I’m no different. The family I’m bringing to the marriage table is just as much of a train wreck as everyone else’s. Maybe even more so. So now it’s the holidays. Cousin Jethro’s impromptu beer run with my 10-year-old child might possibly cause a tsunami of rage from my husband that not even I can stop. That hasn’t actually happened and I don’t have a cousin Jethro – but it could happen. I’m just throwing out an example and stating that leaping over a coffee table to choke the life out of your spouse’s family might cause a brief rift in the family dynamics. Quietly dragging your spouse into the bathroom to whisper WTF are they thinking, your family should all be committed, I will NEVER do this again, I think you are spawned from the devil is also not helpful. It can be a Merry Married Christmas, it really can. Surely it can. Jesus can be celebrated, traditions followed, goodwill towards man. It can happen. It just has to happen in the middle of the storm. The Christmas Marriage Storm. The no money, no sex, you are failing as a parent, drama-in-law Christmas Marriage Storm. Good luck out there.