Non-Food Indulgence

Posted by Vicki on July 16th, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude, Exercise, fitness
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I do not put myself last, something which may be considered unseemly for a woman, even a woman of the millenium, even in the U.S. Nor do I put myself first the majority of the time. Although I believe I am a
ways in some part of my brain considering my needs, like when and what will the next meal be. Food does crowd out other thoughts as mealtime approaches. I do wonder what it would be like to be on one of the weight loss meds I prescribe, but of course, not meeting the criteria, I would not ever take one of the meds. To have the volume turned down on food would be such a foreign way to live! To want to eat only when truly hungry, to want to stop when nutritional needs are met, to not always want more, even when stuffed, to not have cravings. That would be such an unburdening!

However, I do get joy out of non-food indulgences as well, and, as the reader is well aware, from life and its big and little pleasures. Unlike my abstemious husband, who is one who does ALWAYS put himself last, I do spend money on myself, always have. Even when we were students with little to spare, I would buy myself things, albeit less expensive ones. Always, I would enjoy getting presents for loved ones and get a big kick out of them liking the gifts.

My latest real indulgence was a purchase, a transaction which happened rather quickly, last weekend. I had been thinking about getting a new bicycle for a few years. The one I have been riding – an older style, heavy Specialized hybrid – took me through three triathlons, three several day long bicycle trips with cb, Grace and Stu, and numerous long rides in Pittsburgh. cb and I went on some rides together and with others along various trails. I have done a lot of road and off road riding by myself, with multiple favorite routes. Lots of exploring. Since age six, cycling has been one of my favorite things to do, almost as good as food, especially climbing a steep hill for the reward of a long downhill coast. In high school, I rode to school on a yellow Atala road bike, and to Dobbs Ferry to do some Audubon Society volunteer work, the nature of which escapes me but it had something to do with going to this old woman’s house and getting stuff from her to distribute. I did not bring my bicycle to college, but when as a post-baccalaureate I took all my pre med courses and worked as a secretary and then research assistant at University of Pennsylvania, I bought a new bicycle in West Philly with the guidance of another post bacc pre med student on whom I had an unrequited crush, another road bike. This boy and I went on a number of very fun rides together throughout Philly. This same bicycle I used throughout med school to commute to and from class, and also during residency. I rode the six round trip miles from West Philly to Hahnemann and back, or to and from St. Agnes Memorial Hospital, all year round unless lots of snow and ice. St. Agnes was in South Philly. The streets could get very dark on the way home at night, and in retrospect I was pretty foolish. I did not even own a helmet. Nevertheless, this was how I simultaneously commuted and stayed in shape, as well as saved time and $ – much quicker and cheaper to go by bike than by public transport or car!

When we moved to Pittsburgh, We lived on top of a steep hill, so any cycling would require a tough uphill ride home. The one time I tried, I knew I would be in trouble on my freewheeling way down Hulton Road. When I got to the bottom, I ended up walking the bicycle back up the hill because even in first gear, I could not even nudge the bike upward. The hill seemed to be at an 80 degree angle, at least, steeper than Negley Avenue, I am sure of it. So as you might imagine, it was quite some time – years in fact – before I ventured out again.

It was my friend John Ritter (the artist, not the actor) who persuaded me to get another bicycle, one that would be good for trails and roads. He and his family moved across the street from us a few years after we had relocated to point Breeze and our current address on Reynolds Street and had become friends, because not only did both households contain a bunch of small children, but also we thought they were extremely cool and we just connected, the way peops do sometimes. I had been enviously watching John ride his mountain bike around the neighborhood when we struck up a conversation about cycling and how much I missed it. He found someone in the Pennysaver circular (must have been prior to Craig’s List) who was selling a Cannondale for something like 200 dollars, which seemed like a lot to me, but John assured me it was a great deal. I did not know from Cannondales. He accompanied me to a Giant Eagle Parking lot on Route 8 where we met the guy with the white Cannondale, which was very nice. After a trial ride around the parking lot, the seller and I completed the transaction. The only problem with the bicycle, which did not really improve, was that the brakes squeaked, but the bike worked fine. Then, because I did not have the foresight to lock the bicycle up when it was in our garage, one day I found that it had been stolen! I did then go to Pro Bikes and purchase three bicycles so we could go on family bike rides, which although it never happened quite the way I had hoped it would, did happen somewhat. Max used one of the bicycles to get to work one summer. I went on my morning bike rides by myself. Woody took one out occasionally. And of course, cb and have had our trips. Recently, Mollie has gotten a bit more interested, so that is a good thing. But my hybrid was getting very worn down and so very heavy, every year heavier than the year before. Tough to put in back of the van, a real struggle sometimes. And even though I do not feel or do not want to acknowledge that, despite my efforts to the contrary, I am no longer at peak strength, that very decline may well be the very thing that prompted me to look for a newer model. Bicycles, even hybrids, are made lighter these days, with thinner tires. The really light ones are prohibitively costly, like several thousand dollars. But when, dragging cb along with me, I visited Pro Bikes again, AFTER returning from our Michigan jaunt, I checked out some of the options. You might think it would have made more sense to make the purchase in preparation for that trip, but, in fact, it took that trip for me to realize that I really needed to do this. The bicycle just seemed to be so much more difficult for me this time, not sure exactly why I am finding it so. Or maybe it is not worse, but I am just tired of it. Anyhow, the prices of the bicycles I looked at were similar and manageable, although there is always that one which is the most expensive. I wanted to think about it some, so we went home. I was not really sure there was that much difference among the three I was shown. cb of course told me I should go for the most expensive one. When I went back to do a trial ride, it turned out that the most expensive one, which was also blue, like the old one, now, but instead of it being a deep teal, it is a pastel shade, gave the best ride and was definitely the lightest, easily hefted in my right hand. It is another Cannondale. Cringing a little with sticker shock, I got it on Sunday. I forgot to bring my helmet to the store, so like the old days in Philly, I rode home in bareheaded triumph.


Old Responses To Small People

Posted by Vicki on July 11th, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude
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So much of our behavior is based on our previous behaviors, starting way back in toddlerhood. As so many who have known me over the years are aware, I was always a little on the jumpy side, easily intimidated, tightly wound, always apologetic. Of course, this persona is usually not only kept under wraps these days, but overcome by a much more confident, contented self, especially when in my element, meaning in my offices at work, and at home and with family and friends. So many things feel comfortable – but then there are those things that are not. Partly it is a matter of being competitive and perfectionisitic, feeling if I am not perfect or great at something, it means I have failed. But this must be taken in context – for example, I can be excellent at something, like the Monday xword puzzle, and feel momentarily superior, or complete a long bike ride and feel really fit, but then those feelings go down the drain when I cannot get one Saturday xword puzzle clue, or when I am on the cycling part of a triathlon and being passed by seemingly everyone. Everything is relative.

These kind of self-deprecatory feelings come into play when I go out of my comfort zone, something that happens a lot. Something, in fact, which I make sure happens a lot because I think growth can only happen through at least initial discomfort. This is because all things new and all change involves uneasiness. Unease has its disadvantages, but the disadvantages of stagnation are far greater. As a happy aside, I am so delighted and lucky to have a husband whose approach to life is the same as mine. Who knew, right?

Examples of things that in the past little while have made me uncomfortable: going to bike store to get new bike; going to quilt store to purchase binding for Mollie’s quilt, so long in the making; asking for directions; asking for assistance at The Apple Store or from The Help Desk. Cops. Postal workers. As you can see, a lot of this happens in stores. Rather counterintuitively, it is the folks in sales or whose job is customer service who can be the most intimidating. Maybe it is because those who behave like that are small people with an extremely limited expertise who need to make themselves feel bigger, as so very often happens in life. A form of bullying, if you will, takes place in these venues, if permitted. This week, I went into Quilt Company on Middle Road in Hampton Township. It is a wonderful store, but just like JoAnn’s Fabric, seems to favor a certain type of employee. The prototype is a short woman of about age 60 or so, often shaped like an apple with a just below the knee denim skirt and some sort of nondescript gray hairstyle, spectacles and poorly define facial features. This personage always seems so extremely busy, that even if you are the first customer of the day your entry triggers no acknowledgment and certainly not even the most cursory of greetings. If you dare to ask, “Can you help me?” she will not raise her head to make eye contact. If she does reply, it will be something like, “when I’m finished with this.” Reminiscent of Bartleby. This is what happened at The Quilt Company the other day, although that woman did look up from whatever she was measuring, to look not at me, but only at the quilt I had brought with me, and with conspicuous disdain. Luckily, there was a other salesperson who saw I needed help and took me into another room where she helped me choose from a limited array of ready made quilt binding, and measured my quilt and the binding. She was very efficient, but did take the time to show me how to make mitred corners; I thought I got how to do it, but admittedly did not take notes because it would have been embarrassing, and ended up later at home trying to figure it out with You Tube tutorials, which confused me even more. So although the second woman seemed on the surface to be more accommodating, her attitude was still somewhat brusque, as in, let’s get you out of here. The place was not exactly hopping, you understand, there was just one other customer who was being helped by the rounder aforementioned matron My suspicion is that the prevailing attitudes toward me had something to do with the collective and unspoken opinion about my quilt. In fact, there was no comment at all about my quilt. A remark might have been made, for example, about how my quilt is so colorful and bright, evocative of happy times and whimsical moods, but this is not the sort of thing that excites quilters. Quilters – that is, the ones who work in quilt stores or who teach quilting – value and admire the precision the most. This exacting breed would see no virtue to extol in even one of the 4.9 quilts I have thus far slapped together, or that is how they would describe what I have done. My seams are crooked, the squares are different sizes, the ends do not match up. But my quilts are interesting. I do choose great color combinations. Two quilts I sewed completely by hand. One of these I designed myself with appliqué throughout. But the saleswomen neither knew nor bothered to find out any of this. You might ask, “Why should they? It is just a job.”. But if you ask that question, “why should they?” you need also to ask, “Why so judgmental?” Because even this nicer salesperson, by saying nothing at all about quilt, barely masked the fact that my craftsmanship did not impress her. So tell me, were these two salespeople born knowing how to make quilts? Are they quilt savants, to whom the term “learning curve” is meaningless? After ringing me up at the register, just as I was thinking how much nicer this salesperson was, she suggested I not forget to retrieve the quilt we had left in the other room. Maybe I am overreacting, but this felt wrong to me. Should she not have gone and gotten the quilt that she had laid on measuring table and gotten it for me? Was she so disgusted by quilt that touching it again was too abhorrent to bear? But saying nothing, I went and gathered quilt, folded it, and placed it in its plastic bag. I left store somehow a bit cowed, sheepish even, or perhaps like some other sort of farm animal, and at the same loving the store itself and its promise of so many quilts yet to be made, with its splendid variety of fabric, and the rainbow of quilting threads, and other myriad quilting contraptions and notions, and quilts on display, and quilting books, and announcements of classes, and drive away happy I had gotten my binding and two pairs of very sharp scissors and some marking chalk. Then here were these two women, who did not know me, who nonetheless decided something about me, based upon nothing more than the quilt I had brought in and my unassuming presence. Or maybe my haircut or my dress or my sandals – maybe I was not Talbot’s enough. Most definitely on the surface all was well – I had come in, gotten what I wanted and that was that. Anyone observing would have though it was quite a civil transaction. And in fact, the only problem may have been my own exaggerated, possibly erroneous, perception of events: my feelings of intimidation and embarrassment may have stemmed from nothing more than my own insecurity and not from anything either of the two ladies did. I was thinking and imagining certain things which led me to feel other things which led me to behave a certain way which the ladies picked up on and responded to. So I need only to change the way I think which will affect my feelings and behavior. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 101. The point is it does not matter what others think or how they act, it is how you perceive them, and if you do not let yourself overthink or imagine the worst case scenario, you will feel confident and competent and you will behave that way.

Which brings me to the next experience: the Pro Bike bicycle store on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Bike shop employees are definitely notorious for being snobs and condescending, just like a lot of computer and math geeks, jewelers, even servers in ostensibly upscale restaurants who give unsolicited advice about how well done one should not order one’s fish. Once again, it really should not matter what they think, but how one responds to whatever their behavior is. So a lot of times when I walk into this store, which I think is a very good store, the employees may ignore me for a while, and then may give monosyllabic answers, or no answers. The attitude is often not very smiley, not that one must smile all the time. Not especially welcoming. It seems to me that with a rival bike shop right down the street and REI a hop skip and jump away over the Hot Metal Bridge and three additional bike shops within a stone’s throw without going over any bridge, that they would feel a little pressure of competition, but if so, you do not get a sense of the hard sell when you are in the store. I am afraid to ask questions for fear I will get a gruff answer like, “Over there!” and then have to ask, “But can you show me?” instead of someone offering to do just this in the first place. Notwithstanding, I managed to get someone to show me some bicycles last week, and did not buy one right then but went home to think about it. I also got the same peop to order me a bag to put on back of bike. I went back yesterday and got him to show me bikes again, and I opted to test drive all three I looked at, and chose the most expensive one, of course, which I purchased despite Mollie’s strenuous objections (she and her boyfriend thought I should go with “lightweight Schwinn” which would save me hundreds of dollars). So despite being cowed again and sheepish again, I forced myself to go through with the process. I rode up a steep hill with relative ease on the Cannondale, a hill which I have ascended numerous time upon my five hundred pound clunker, and even in the lowest gear possible, felt each time like I died a thousand deaths before reaching top. It has gotten to point that even going flat is somewhat difficult on clunker. With Cannondale I might be able to ride up Negley without stopping! Now that is a goal if I ever heard one. So I have a new bike – have to get it tomorrow. And a new bag which I will not keep kicking with heels as I pedal, and a new wireless odometer.

The point is that even with the discomfort, I am able to assert self and do what I need to do. Things still intimidate and scare me and I wish they did not, and maybe some day they will stop scaring me. And maybe sometimes it is just my warped perception and no one means to be mean or rude, and other times people do very much intend to be intimidating and nasty. Whether or not I allow these behaviors – imagined or otherwise – to bother me is far less important than being able to stand up them as of they do not.


Posted by Vicki on July 5th, 2015 under Big FAT Bunnies, BodyChangers, craziness, Eating Behavior, Funny things, gluttony, weight
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Although I appreciate and am grateful for everything in life, it is very difficult for me to just relax and enjoy it. I mean, I do enjoy it, but there is always that tinge of anxiety mixed in, even in my dreams, when I wake up in the middle of the night with a throbbing headache. Physicians know that waking up with a headache is a red flag symptom, that it could mean something ominous like a brain tumor or carbon monoxide poisoning. But I know it only means i have been clenching my teeth in my sleep again, having another of my myriad anxiety dreams about multiple subjects, usually about me being late, someone else being late, not being ready for a math or science or history test, not being prepared for something or other, family member not being prepared. Sometimes I am living in my house in Ardsley with my parents, husband and kids. Sometimes I dream that I am not married. Sometimes I dream that I am just starting college at age 61, so much older than everyone else and living in a dorm. Just such bizarre dreams, but many of them repeat themselves. I wake up worried and anxious, with this terrific headache, and wonder if I should take Tylenol, or wait to see if it goes away after a cup or two of coffee. Today, I took the Tylenol because the headache was pretty damn bad, but most of the time I do not.

We were at Bob’s last night for his July 4 barbecue, which takes place on his balcony atop Mount Washington, facing The Point, where the Three Rivers meet. To be more accurate, I believe the Mon and Allegheny meet there to flow into the Ohio. So there is always a great view of the Point and the fireworks exhibit. When we first started going to Bob’s annual Fourth parties, it was before Mollie was born, and kind of exciting. We would bring the boys and let them stay up late to see the fireworks display, which was quite dramatic because it was very close and the view of the rivers at night is spectacular. Afterwards, everyone would try to leave Mt. Washington at once, so the traffic would inch down the mountain and it would take forever to get home. Now, having seen so many of these events, cb and I are not that into dealing with the traffic along Mt. Washington’s very narrow streets, so we leave before the fireworks and get home in like ten minutes. Since we started doing this several years ago, everyone always seems very surprised when we say we are leaving. No one else seems to care about the traffic, but we do. When we left yesterday, the fireworks had already begun. On our way to the car, I looked backward a few times to catch a glimpse, and felt like Lot’s wife! Nothing happened to me, though.

This Big Fat Bunny just had a Big Fat Dinner with more food than you can shake a stick at. Mollie made both turkey and beef sliders which were yummy, and I made a chopped salad, sauteed green beans, and put a few bowls of various fruits on the table – a bowl of Ranier cherries, a bowl of Bing cherries, and a bowl of raspberries and blackberries with several pints of blueberries grown on the farm of Mark and Frank, my favorite farmers who sell the best apples in the entire world in the fall, the only reason I look forward to fall. Then cb roasted some summer squash rounds with a bit of cheese on top, and we also had some of the leftover roasted eggplant and spherical zucchini with more cheese. Then I had a few of those twenty calorie (or so they say) Irene’s biscotti. So very much of a big fat bunny this evening.

I have a real problem – lots of folks I asked to donate to the crowdsharing effort for the BodyChangers app actually did donate, and quite a bit. So I had to video myself doing jumping jacks and other calisthenics, one for each dollar donated, as a promised thank you. I had to do five hundred of these, and there is another hundred at least since then. I need to both video that last one hundred and figure out how to edit and also upload onto the appropriate You Tube location. I need help with this part – I guess I could google how to do this, but it would take me hours and it would be so much easier and better for all involved, especially my family, who would have to be subjected to the consequences of my inevitably frustrating attempts to get this done. Everyone I emailed about this is of course out of touch for the fourth of July weekend, which is the one time I have to get this thing taken care of, and cannot do until I get help which will not be until at least tomorrow, the beginning of a hectic week for everyone. I do have a bit of time off this week, although reinserted myself foolishly into the work schedule when I saw I had taken the entire week off which I had forgotten about doing, and which seemed unwise and inappropriate since I just got back from the bike trip and then there was the fourth of July weekend, which was not technically truly off, since it was my turn for telephone call, but I must say, that did not turn out to be too onerous. However, the night is not over. It is the unpredictability that gets you – the first day is always the worst because you do not know if you will or will not be slammed with phone calls. Sometimes a phone call will be simple, and other times involve a lot of time and effort. A lot of times, on a holiday, peops may decide to ignore symptoms, then get worse by the next day when they call you. That happened today – a man in heart failure decided to wait till today to call, because he wanted to go to a party yesterday, but by today, could not get out of bed. Some phone calls involve my going on the computer and reviewing a patient’s entire medical record. Others involve long conversations and advice-giving, and other calls only require me to call in a prescription. Since the advent of the electronic medical record, I have been getting fewer drug-seeker phone calls – I used to get at least one every time I was on call. Different individuals, but always the same story. They would have a list of docs and run down the list with their sob story till some sap fell for it and called in a narcotic. The electronic record gave us a chance to check to see if a pt was legit or even a patient in our practice. Now, there is something even better: we are not allowed to call narcotics in at all – patients have to pick up the paper script at the office and hand carry to pharmacy. The office is closed on weekends and at night, so our hands are tied. I believe it is a new federal regulation, and a welcome one. The calls for narcs have all but completely stopped, and on the one or two occasions when I had to deal with a narc caller, it was extremely gratifying to tell them “so sorry but no can do.”

Anyway, I had misgivings about both taking time off and now about reinserting myself in schedule.

I just partly killed and cb nearly finished off the second enormous beetle that has made its way into our house over the past two days. It is big enough to feed a household of ten, were this household partial to beetles. cb says it is not dead yet. He reported that it was emitting a rattling sort of hiss and would not let go of a napkin he had tried to squeeze it with, (pincers), so he dropped the bug outside. I don’t understand why my efforts did not kill it. I absolutely crushed it with my shoe. It must have an exoskeleton of utmost durability. Well I did my part. Not sure why cb decided to let it sort of live. Meanwhile Mollie is freaking the fuck out. She both photographed the partly macerated creature and sent photo to boyfriend, and is now herself attempting to identify via Google. She has surmised that it is a hister beetle. She thinks it is called that because it “makes me hysterical,” but that “it is not supposed to hiss or make noise.” I think what cb heard may just have been some gas seeping through a fenestration I hopefully created with my shoe. Yesterday I found the former partner of today’s erstwhile creature lying on its back on our stove top. The reason these bugs are paying us a visit because we do not have screens on our doors and sometimes in warm weather open and close the doors a lot to let cat in and out, etc.

Onto a more pleasant topic – wandered into Petland during errands today to see of there were any cute rescue animals and there were! An entire litter of tiny kittens, white with black spots, just like Catja! They could be her kids, but they are not.

I hope by my next post I will be able to report that I have posted the You Tube videos

Annual Bike Trip – Our Third Adventure with Grace and Stu

Posted by Vicki on July 3rd, 2015 under aspirations, Eating Behavior, Exercise, fitness, food!, friends & family, gluttony, inspiration, Lifestyle, Nutrition, philosophy, weight, Weight Gain, Weight Loss, weight management, Wellness
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We went early this year, and to another location. This time, we drove to Ann Arbor after work last Friday, arriving at Grace and Stu’s at close to midnight. I had packed dinner for the car ride, but of course our hosts, clearly exhausted from their workdays, offered us food and drink, which we politely declined. Just had to get to bed! The next morning, after a breakfast of fruit, yogurt and bagels, we packed their SUV with our luggage, racked the four bikes – mine is the heaviest by far – and drove north. Stu did almost all the driving this trip. No outfitter this time, carried our own luggage and biked from our destinations and back each day.

Our first stop was about three hours from Ann Arbor, in the Gaylord area. We stopped for lunch in Gaylord, which was attached to an amazing, nontouristy shop in which I could have enjoyed a major shopping fest had I allowed myself the liberty, which I thankfully did not. The most adorable clothes! Just my style – a little funky but not over the top, ok for someone of my advanced age to wear without looking eccentric. Great jewelry, books, and very original lamps and lampshades, which are impossible to find, as well as vases and other containers, all unusual. I am so bored by the stuff at Target most of the time, and many places which sell such boring ordinary things because they are so terrified anything original will not sell, that they carry what they think will please the masses. The unusual stuff, when it is to be had, is often pretty ugly and also stodgy and also very expensive. This store was reasonable, although not cheap. But did not buy a thing. Forget what I had for lunch. Iced tea was part of it.

We stayed at a spot called Silent Sport Lodge. Got settled in our rooms and went for a 20 mile bike ride – 10 miles out and ten back. Although the day had started very gloomily – pouring, relentless rain in Ann Arbor – the weather had completely cleared and the sky was blue and cloudless, the temperature perfect for riding bikes. Gravel trail, not the easiest to ride on, but flat, lots of wildflowers on the sides.

We had dinner rez at 7 at a place near hotel, where we had one of the specialties, Walleye fish, which is a firm white fish caught in the Great Lakes. Got an enormous glass of sweet Reisling, my unabashed favorite, and within a couple of sips, felt myself getting tipsy. Grace, also a cheap date (but with more sophisticated wine tastes) also began to feel the effects almost immediately. We got pretty relaxed and silly, a sequela that lasted for a few hours. After dinner, we wandered to a soft serve spot, where I chose a small (not kid sized) chocolate cone with sprinkles (rainbow was all they had, but I would have preferred chocolate). And by this time, we were all pretty exhausted so went back to this lodge, which was nestled deep in a wooded area and intended mostly for hikers and birdwatchers. Very prettily situated, with beautiful gardens. The inn was constructed with logs, and hand built by the owner. Lots of nature knick knacks, including skins of various animals. In the entry room were many bears, some plush, some actual bearskins, draped everywhere. In our loft bedroom, what looked like a beaver skin decorated the top of one of the bureaus. One memorable thing about the place was the well water – very delicious!

We shared a table the next morning with another couple, who were about our age. The man was overweight and the woman, his wife, was extremely overweight. In our conversation, in which we discussed flyfishing, it became clear that the woman did not venture forth from her home much, but that her husband often went out flyfishing and on other active adventures with his sons. I felt sorry for the woman – I had a feeling her weight held her back from doing things she might otherwise have enjoyed, and that part of her craved adventure, but decided that train had left the station long ago. The breakfast was sausages, maple pancakes made with hometapped maple syrup, and fruit. The food, including the fruit, was served family style. Bowl of fruit at table seemed to me to be but a single serving, but meant to be shared by all. Everyone took a small portion. When I noticed some leftover, I helped myself to the rest. One of the owners came to collect the dishes and clucked when she saw the bowl was empty, muttering something about there not being enough for the other couple who had not eaten yet. Like, if you want some left over, don’t serve it family style, lady! Anyhow, breakfast was at 8, so anyone who did not make it to the table by then would, a la High Anxiety, miss the fruit cup, right? Grace and I bonded on this matter, but the guys did not express an opinion.

Mackinaw City, an hour away, was our next destination. We got settled into the inn and onto our bicycles well before lunch, and rode with Lake Huron in view almost the entire time. Trail was gravel again, kind of hard to ride on. On this fifteen mile ride, on another clear and sunny day, my legs were really feeling the resistance, even on lower gear. I think maybe I was just not as in good shape this year as last – more time to prepare last year since trip had been in autumn and I had been able to cycle many times prior. Had only biked twice prior to this year’s trip, since weather had been conducive only recently. At the fifteen mile mark, we stopped at a one horse town for lunch, at a place which seemed to attract Grace with its offering of olive burgers, apparently a northern Michigan specialty – a burger adorned with olive sauce, with olives in the sauce, but not in the burger itself. I got an unimpressive taco salad and fries. I was starved to death, so gobbled it all up, but the fries were such a disappointment. For some reason, the fifteen mile ride back to hotel seemed burdensome to me. It might have been the gravel, I do not know. My tires were fine. I decided I need a new carrier for the back of the bike, one that does not hand down the sides of the wheel to be constantly in the way of my heels as I try to pedal. I had gotten this particular Mongoose carrier because I had seen that Stu had one a few years ago. This is why I ended up getting a Patagonia cross shoulder pack – because I saw Grace with one last year. This purchase was great – it is very light, not hard on the neck or shoulders, and a great way to carry a surprising quantity of necessities. I kind of liked the Mongoose carrier also, because it has a large capacity, but the hanging down part has proven to be a real pain. I also think maybe it is time for me to get a new bicycle, a lighter one, if such can be had, that is also a hybrid, but not over the top expensive.

So by the time we returned to the inn, it was about four. I needed a shower and a little rest, feeling absolutely drained and exhausted for reasons unclear. Just no energy. Maybe I was dehydrated, although I had been drinking water, but just beat. Felt better after a shower, actually had to lie down and doze for a few minutes – about five minutes into this doze, I got la madre of all hot flashes, which awakened me right quick. As a matter of fact, all this discussion about fatigue makes me feel like taking a nap right now. ZZZZZZZZZ. . .there! All better! Just kidding.

That night, which was Sunday, we went to a place recommended by several sources called “Darrell’s.”On our walk to restaurant, we passed a soft serve place and cb got some because he was hyoglycemic. Grace and Stu got some also, right before dinner!!!!! I wanted some too, but refrained. I do not like having dessert before dinner anyhow, but as far as weight management, it would have been a dumb and thoughtless, or as we say in the jargon, mindless, move. We got to the restaurant, where there was a line, which although initially intimidating, moved very quickly. A family restaurant, informal and with no alcohol, which was probably a good thing. Another good and bad thing: none of the bread on this trip was worth eating. The first night, the server kept forgetting to give us the bread I had requested. The second night, the bread, supposedly made on the premises, was white styrofoam, even the crust, and lunch on the third day supplied one of those very boring dinner rolls from which I ate a bit of the crust. Anyway, the specialty at Darrell’s was their white fish, another fish caught in the Lake. Broiled, dripping with butter, even tho I requested without, a huge slab. I could have finished but left about a quarter of it, and there was a big side of white corn kernels and a baked potato, and I also had a salad and I had homemade chicken noodle soup, heavy on the noodles. At the hotel, homemade dessert was served at 8, which was cheesecake, and I only had about 1/4 of my piece, with some coffee. I really wanted ice cream, but was too full and lazy to go out for any, so even tho cheesecake is only an ok dessert in my book, I had some anyway.

Another “light” breakfast the next morning at the inn, which was fruit, very big pastry with icing, spinach ham quiche, and blueberry muffins. I skipped the juice, skipped the ham, the quiche crust, and the pastry, although partook of the icing, and ate the muffin top but not the muffin body. Fruit serving was, once again, paltry – a few grapes and two triangles of watermelon, whose isosceles sides measured about two inches apiece. Of course I observed the other couples, this time, thank the Good Lord, seated at separate tables – misanthrope that I am, I am not keen on breaking bread with random peops with whom I am unlikely to have anything substantial in common, and whose presence I generally find intrusive, especially when I am trying to catch up with friends I have not seen in a long time, or even my husband, with whom, even tho I see him almost every day, I hardly ever get to spend quality time. The other guests did not seem like folks I would take a particular interest in. All maybe about our age, all very conservative looking, with dowdy attire and hairstyles, all overweight, all unfit in appearance, none animated. I know I am a snob and insufferably judgmental, and unapologetic about it. I do try to be judgmental for the right reasons, though. This aspect of my personality is unfortunately reminiscent of my Mom. My Dad was also judgmental, but not as vociferous about it and also more sensitive than my Mom about other peops’ feelings.

Never got much of look into the many shops in Mackinaw City, mostly because they were very touristy and commercial. Many of the numerous establishments sold fudge, saltwater taffy, kettle and other popcorn products, and ice creams of various varieties and flavors. Not much fro yo. No healthy food joints. Many bars. I was pretty overwhelmed, even coming from a city like Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s heaviest cities, by the prevalence of extremely high BMI’s during our travels. Very few folks were making use of the trails – trails were virtually empty the first two days — and the average BMI was well over 45. This includes children and adolescents. Many of these individuals of size walked around with enormous ice cream treats. It was flabbergasting. The scariest part for me is that I can visualize myself in that situation. If left to my own whims with no filter or inhibition, I would spend my entire day eating high fat, high sugar, high calorie , high sodium, mostly processed foods. If I had different genetics, I would not have any internal buffers against weight gain. If I were not in the health field with a focus on obesity, if not raised in a weight-conscious family where I was scrutinized for the acquisition of even an extra ounce, if I were any lazier or less motivated, if i had not been practicing weight control for so long, if I had not recognized the need for help fifteen years ago when i joined Weight Watchers to stem my out of control eating, if I had not married such a supportive (and thin!) husband, anything could have happened, but I fear my BMI would be in competition for heavyweight championship. So I am not without sympathy or empathy – although I am well aware that I could not possibly really understand what it is like to carry enough extra weight to be unhealthy, I do completely get impulses and compulsions to eat too much and not exercise, and now, with menopause, and a far slower metabolism, losing any weight at all, even a pound, takes so much effort, that I can imagine how it must be to have to lose so much more. Upon return from the bike trip, at Weight Watchers, the scale showed a gain of 1.2 pounds, which is fairly good. I did eat a LOT by any objective measure, BUT still very much restrained myself – so many things I did not eat that I wanted to eat. This year only biked a total of about 60 miles, as opposed to the hundred plus of last year. Our second biking day, as I mentioned, 30 miles seemed like a lot.

This last morning, we ferried to Mackinac (also pronounced Mackinaw) Island. it is an island without motor vehicles (snowmobiles allowed in winter) – travel is by foot, by horse, or by bicycle. The island’s perimeter is a bit over 8 miles. The detour we took to see The Grand Hotel – an uphill bicycle climb – put us at ten miles that day, and that was enough for me. We were going to have a four hour drive back to Ann Arbor that afternoon, which meant cycling, lunch, ferry back to Mackinaw City, then begin the drive, probably not get on the road till about 2. I could not see getting into bed till about 11 or later! Then we would have to get going very early on Tuesday morning in order to get back in time for cb’s Deans’ meeting – our drive would be about five or so hours. Lunch was ok – the disappointing roll I mentioned earlier, a salad with feta and two large but not the freshest shrimp. Anemic fruit salad for dessert.

Walked around afterwards, visiting the myriad shops, all very much the same as each other. Slightly higher end shops on a street parallel to the main drag, none kind of nice, selling a lot of wares from Ireland, managed by a guy who lived on the island all year round and loved it. I cannot even imagine. But he seemed like a great guy, liked talking to the customers

Although a lot of bicyclists on the island, the horse drawn buggy tours of the island seemed to be the main attraction for the ferried tourists. Some buggies carried six to eight people, and with two horses in front. Once again, the passengers were generally of very high BMI. I felt very very sorry for the horses, who during the course of their tours, had to go up steep hills carrying loads which might have equaled a ton or even more in some cases. Day in and day out they have to do this.

Animals we saw: deer, horses, a bunny, squirrels, a few cats, a few dogs, lots of birds. No bears or unusual creatures. Even the innkeeper with all the bear paraphernalia confessed to having seen only one live bear in the entire twenty years he had owned the place.

When we first arrived on Friday at Grace and Stu’s we got a glimpse of and a hug from their oldest son, Nick, who is a bit younger than Max. We had not seen Nicky for several years. He looked great and happy. After getting back to Ann Arbor on Monday evening, Topher, who is Mollie’s age, got back from an afternoon of rock climbing, gave us a hug and disappeared. He also looked very handsome, and about ten inches taller than when we saw him last. cb and I like these kids a lot.

Of course, Grace and Stu decided to prepare an unbelievably elaborate meal, which they called a Japanese/Korean fusion meal, the components lf which were to be grilled on their new table top grill,actually a griddle, although there is also a built-in indoor stovetop grill. cb and took on role of sous chefs, slicing veggies according to Grace’s strict specifications. Once food prepped, we all sat around griddled, which was made very hot. We cooked items individually, and ate as we went along. Everything was very fresh – by far the best meal on whole trip. Crab legs, shrimp, scallops, marinated beef, KimChee, acorn squash,exotic mushrooms, peppers, onions. The were scallions. There were also stir-fried bok choy, shredded cabbage mixed with sesame oil, and various condiments and sauces in which to dip the cooked food. I may be forgetting something, but you get the idea. Just superb. No room for dessert, not too heartbreaking, considering the quantity consumed.

So food and exercise, with peops I love – the ingredients, so to speak, of my perfect vacation.

But I had missed Mollie, who was holding down the fort, and I had missed Catja, who was bringing lots of animals into the house and leaving behind only their entrails, which Mollie cleaned up, and I had missed Pittsburgh. I always do miss being home. It is great to be back.

To all friends, family and colleagues who kindly and thoughtfully and so generously contributed to the crowdfunding effort to develop a BodyChangers app, Jeff and I thank you. I know the identity of the two Anonymous donors, but will never tell. My peops contributed a total so far of $500.00. We now have almost three thousand of our seven thousand dollar goal, so I ask my other friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances to check out the website:, click on BodyChangers. And consider donating to a great cause – socially interactive app with a healthy rewards premise to improve health and fitness. Only 18 more days!

For every dollar contributed, Jeff or I will perform a calisthenic activity, which will be videoed and posted on the website, pretty embarrassing! Also on Facebook.

Longest Days

Posted by Vicki on June 22nd, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude, friends & family, love
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The summer solstice is always bittersweet, like so many things. The longest day is the best day but you know that all days from now till December 20 or so will be progressively shorter. Thinking about the short days and the cold weather makes me so sad, and wishing I did not have to be reminded of this during my favorite time of year.

Another beautiful day today, took the day off, very happy to have hours to do things I want and need to do, knowing never enough time. A wonderful way to end my week off to go to Boston, because both boys are in town – got here Saturday, surprising Mollie and cb (for Father’s Day) which i somehow was able to keep a secret, since i knew about it about a week ago? My being out of town during the time i knew about their visit probably helped me to keep to myself. Because even in the few hours between my getting home from Boston and their arrival, I had great difficulty keeping mouth shut and acting calm and nonchalant, while knowing any moment the boys would walk in. cb was so surprised, and he is rarely surprised. I think he was absolutely delighted.

As always, i am full of excitement about expanding – no pun really intended – the weight loss work I do. The ideas just keep coming, although implementation lags, and being patient is tough. Need to have another one on one meeting with Lou Baverso to touch base and let him know my thoughts, both visionary and concrete, and see what page he is on. Due to tremendous increase in his responsibilities at Magee, he has not been able to be at BodyChangers meetings and speaking with him personally is a real challenge, have to set up meetings to do this.nn

Going to take boys and Mollie to yunch today; back to work tomorrow, boys leave on Wednesday, early early. Such an amazing treat, always, to see them. Spending time with my kids and husby – all of us together – is my fave, fave, fave thing in the world, hands down.

Boston Long Wharf

Posted by Vicki on June 19th, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude, being a doc, weight management, Wellness
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My last night in Boston and home tomorrow late afternoon, if my plane is on time (at least it is a direct flight) and does not crash or experience any other unfortunate glitches. I have pretty much enjoyed my time here, and the conference. Very intense conference – ended at 8 tonight. From six something to 8, there was a last workshop which I have not attended in the past – too much – and had not intended to go to tonight, but when I got off the elevator to go to dinner I realized the workshop was just about to begin so I decided to go. It was very good – challenging real cases presented by three obesity fellows, all women.

A couple of the talks in the past few days were somewhat annoying – boring or annoying speakers – but a lot of the conference was excellent. Also I ran into two peops I know – one was Kay Lovig, who was an endocrine fellow who rotated through my clinic at Magee who is done with fellowship and living in Mt Kisco and has a job there; so she grew up in Westchester, as did Lee Kaplan, who is the director of the course I am attending. Also I then ran into Erin Kershaw and we had lunch together and had a great time.

The Harbor is beautiful – a part of Boston I never saw. And for the past two mornings, which were perfect running weather, I ran to the Boston Common and Public Gardens, of Make Way For Ducklings fame, which i have always wanted to see, and they are beautiful. It is quite an active city, with a bar and grill on every corner and in between, and this great building on State Street, the Old State Building, with gold turret and gold lion and unicorn adorning top of building. Just beautiful. Original lion and unicorn were destroyed -burned – because they represented the British monarchy. But replaced recently. Anyway, I pass the building when I run. Many of the streets are cobblestone. I am staying at the upscale Long Wharf Marriott – Marriott has many quality tiers – we are elite members so in this hotel I get free wifi, although I think I would anyway because conference participants have an access code. But I have stayed at many different Marriott tiers – Springhill Suites, The Courtyard, some very big structure in Greenburg, NY, which was a fancier variety with a VIP penthouse where you could get snacks and a very special breakfast, The Fairfield Inn, and also this place. Racking up rewards points! Anyway, the Marriott is definitely a home away from home.

So Boston. It is really hopping. Much more so than the area around the Royal Sonesta, which I thought I would miss but this area is much more lively and interesting, although the crowds get to me after a while. Piped music, mimes, live musicians, acrobats, food vendors, bus tours, duck tours – they started in Boston and were brought to Pittsburgh by one of the founders who moved to Pittsburgh. A marketplace with crafts vendors and more food, restaurants galore. Which is why the food has to be really good, because there is so much competition. Interestingly, though, it does not seem to be all that diverse in these parts, it is for the wealthier crowd – restaurants are quite expensive, it is not a cheap city. Mostly Caucasian, twenty or thirty somethings who like going drinking.

Even though I feel at peace and content in Pittsburgh, I like visiting other cities. I like visiting NYC, and of course although I would not want to move back, I feel comfortable there because I know it so well. Boston, not so much. Is it because it is unfamiliar or because it just is not my style? The whole Harvard thing. It does not seem to be a warm, welcoming city somehow. New Yorkers are cranky sometimes, but they are not cold. The peops at the hotel and restaurants have generally been very nice. Maybe it is the conference folks. The directors of the program just are not all that friendly or approachable. Every year I think I should network more, but I have not been able to do it. I am most interested in interacting with the course directors, but of course they are very busy with orchestrating the conference and pretty overwhelmed. Most of the time, I am not that interested in spending time with the other attendees. Every once in a while there is someone who seems like someone I would want to know. Hm. Maybe i am the one who os not that welcoming or approachable!

Anyway, as always, I feel re-energized, being at this conference. Always get new very helpful information and ideas to bring back with me to Pittsburgh.

Third Annual Fashion Show: Summer Sizzler

Posted by Vicki on June 14th, 2015 under aspirations, Attitude, Eating Behavior, Exercise, Fashion, fitness, fond memories, food!, friends & family, Healthy eating, inspiration, irritation, Lifestyle, love, Nutrition, weight, Weight Gain, Weight Loss, weight management, Wellness
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It was a success! Did not quite meet my goal of 100 participants, but almost got there this year! Next year we will do it. The models looked ravishing. once again, we held it at The Herberman Conference Center at Shadyside Hospital, which is a perfect venue. The biggest difference this year was that three of the models – Jd, Valerie and Mark – took it upon themselves to do a tremendous amount of work to make it happen. It was a definite teamwork effort – there was our planning committee – Karen, Lynne, Beth, Jeff, Kalli, Mark, Jd, Valerie, cb and me. But Mark, Jd, Beth, and Kalli were tireless. Vic and Scott worked their magic – everything at Herberman from the set up to the food and drink was flawless. The place really vibrated with excitement.

For the past three years, BodyChangers has organized a fashion show in order to celebrate our members who have become healthier and happier while changing their bodies. All have lost weight, some in massive amounts, some through lifestyle alone and some with the tool of weight loss surgery. After losing weight, some of the models ended up having body contouring surgery to get rid of the pounds of loose skin that remained after their weight dropped. Most of the members have participated in BodyChangers events and/or Magee’s weight loss programs, either medical or surgical. Many of the models have been with us since year one, and still keeping their weight off. I think the fashion show gives them some incentive to stay on track. The veteran models become increasingly confident each year – you can see it in their step, in the way they carry themselves, in the way they have fun with the audience as they strut their stuff on the runway. The first year, it took them a lot of courage to out themselves out there – for so long they had done whatever they could to keep themselves hidden. Even now, they occasionally express self-doubt because their body images may not have caught up to reality, but they are getting better at putting those doubts aside. We tell their stories to the audience as they model their casual and dressy outfits – there are gasps and cheers as comparisons are made between the “before” photos on the slideshow and the new, fit and thin “afters” on the runway. The newer models, buoyed and mentored by the more experienced ones, may have been nervous, but it was impossible to tell. These are the models: Jd Doptis, Mark Dodd, Lynne Erlich, Pam Reiger, Valerie Billisits, Elizabeth Jones, Leo Beatty, Beth Walley, Barbara Khristy, Dana Black McGrath, and Lauren Barnes. I have my eye on at least six new ones for next year, and some of last year’s models who could not make it this time. I am so happy with how it went! Macy’s donated some of the clothing, Eleni Alexander, who owns a salon, volunteered to come in and do hair, and we got raffle baskets donated so we could raise money for Children’s Hospital Child Obesity Program. Karen put together one of the raffle baskets – she is very good at that – how does she make such beautiful bows?

This is the part that puzzles me: only one doctor from my practice, not a single staff member from my practice, not a single one of the bariatric surgeons, only one of their staff, and not a single member of my weight loss team have EVER EVER come to a fashion show, even though many of their patients are the models!!!! Even though they have been invited EVERY YEAR!!!! No other physician on our invite list has come either. Only one of Jeff’s partners comes to these – Carolyn de la Cruz. Rana Billeh came to the first one. Vicki Conti has come. Lou Baverso came to the first one. Oh, also not a single one of my non-BodyChangers friends, not even my Weight Watchers friends, has ever come, either. It is hard to believe that every single year, every single one of these peops is busy. It saddens me a lot not to get their support. Last year, my boys and Shannon came in from New York and Carol and Paul were there as well, which was amazing. And cb and Mollie have been loyal attendees.

The other infuriating thing: we got 110 “yes” RSVP’s. Many of the attendees yesterday were walk-ins who had not registered at all. So probably 2/3 of the peops who registered were no-shows! To a free event with food! How do they think we arrive at a head count? Do they understand that when you respond to a party invitation money is spent on the assumption that they will be there? They could not have all had last minute emergencies. It is pretty inconsiderate. Luckily, we had the walk-ins, so most of the food was consumed.

But despite these setbacks and less than optimal support from peops who should know better, we push on, and we succeed, and we get better and better. We will continue with this annual, feel-good, upbeat event. one by one, our little army of stealthy proselytizers will prevail upon our fellow Pittsburghers until before they know what is happening, they will catch the spirit and be persuaded the fun of healthy living. You know this: These lifestyle diseases are the biggest killers of Americans: tobacco use, alcohol overuse, unhealthy eating and inactivity.

The Last Chick

Posted by Vicki on June 7th, 2015 under friends & family, Lifestyle, love
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We are about an hour away from leaving for Mollie’s high school graduation. Our last chick is about to leave the nest. This is a time that is both exciting and sad, as well as a little scary; cb and I are on the brink of something we have not yet experienced – the empty nest. Yet another sign that we are entering the final phase of our lives, which hopefully will be a very long phase, but nonetheless.

Woody came in for the graduation. This morning, he, cb and I watched a dvd of our family on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard the summer of 1992. As usual, my Mom, the only member of the fam who acted like this, kept putting her hands or a book in front of her face to shield it from being filmed. Very obnoxious habit of hers. She hated photos and videos of herself, probably because she never liked herself very much. Anyhow, she was in the midst of one of her strenuous objections when I, the videographer of the moment, complained that we would not have anything of her. . . “When I’m gone?” she said, laughing. It is really odd to see her saying that now that she actually is gone. Seeing everyone so young, all together, makes me very happy that we spent all those summers together, and so grateful to my folks for treating us for so many years, and at the same time, so nostalgic, and missing them so much and missing all of our younger days so much. That particular summer, Mollie was not even an apple in our eye, so she was especially young! We did not have the pleasure of knowing her yet, and would not for five more years. She was born in March of 1997; about four months later we brought her to her first summer trip with the family – I believe it was our last summer in Bretton Woods. Since that DVD was filmed, Harry joined the family (born about 8 months after Mollie), and our latest additions, about five years ago, were Buddha and Catja. Catja does not come on our vacations. Ten years ago was the last summer my folks were able to travel, right before my Mom broke her hip. We surprised her with a big 80th birthday celebration in Honesdale, inviting all her best friends without her knowledge. We had arranged another surprise party at their home in Armonk when she was 65, bringing the boys all the way from Pittsburgh without her knowing about it. Curtis had arranged for the catering and for she and Dad to be out for the afternoon. When they came back, everyone yelled “surprise!” and she was thrilled.

My Dad was as thrilled as, or even more delighted than, she was, because since his birthday always coincided with our vacations with them, we always celebrated them with a bang, and all together. Since we could not always be in town for Mom’s birthdays, he was worried about her feeling neglected and unloved. When we were able to celebrate with Mom, though, we did it up big – she was on cloud nine with the two surprise birthday parties. All her friends came to them both. They made a big weekend of it when they came to Honesdale. And for this party, Mollie and Harry were there, too. It was also the last time we saw Evelyn and Alfred, who have not been able to travel since.

We were all hanging out on Curtis’s and Jenna’s porch on Hatchery Road when the Silvermans pulled up that May of 2005. When Al got out of the car, Mom was so confused at first. “Is that Al Silverman?” she inquired incredulously. “What is he doing here?” For a moment, I believe she thought it must be some kind of weird coincidence, but when the situation clarified itself, she became very excited, and soon the others began to arrive. The weekend was a tremendous success. We all stayed at the Stonebridge Inn, where the birthday dinner was held the second night. The first night, we had a barbecue at Curtis’s place. Just a lovely, joyous occasion.

Today is another joyous occasion. Family celebrations are always joyous, the more of us the merrier, and I am so, so happy Woody made it home for this one; although, these days, since Mom and Dad are gone, much joy seems tinged with the bittersweet. How Mollie’s grandparents would have loved to join us today! However, living this long would not have helped matters for Mom and Dad; they would not have been able to make the trip for Mollie’s graduation. But this afternoon, they will both be there with all of us, beaming and so proud of their beautiful, magical granddaughter at this shining moment.

More About Excuses And Drama

Posted by Vicki on May 31st, 2015 under Uncategorized
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Last Saturday, I began getting sick, which has not happened to me in several years. It was just a cold, and just a viral one at that, but you know how you get with a cold, you feel like warmed-over shit and like you are about to die. I feel more like I am about to die with a cold than I ever did when diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer, which was, in fact, and still may be, life-threatening. By Sunday, I felt like I had been hit by a truck, and this continued into Monday, was about the same on Tuesday, took a turn for the worse on Wednesday and Thursday, making me think I was NEVER going to get better, or, worse still, that I might need antibiotics! And then. For some crazy reason. By Thursday late afternoon, I felt like a switch had been flipped – a sudden, miraculous sense of energy and well-being that I thought was not to be recovered. When you are sick, you cannot remember what it is like to feel well; when you are well, you can barely recall the discomfort and enervation that define illness. Maybe it was the pizza. After Weight Watchers, I had to walk home and immediately race downtown to get to Mollie’s senior literary arts performance in time, only it turned out I had the time wrong and was like more than an hour early. I had not had lunch – and i knew I did not want to, could not, wait till after the performance, which would end sometime after three. There are some spots nearby Mollie’s school, but the closest one is Pizza Parma, the kind of place I actively avoid during lunch hour – I cannot be trusted with pizza, especially for lunch, although it is not really the pizza itself that is the problem. One slice of pizza for lunch should not be a problem. It is just that the one slice, even though perfectly well within an acceptable calorie range for that time of day, can send me into one of those dreaded tailspins of overeating, just because it is a variation from my usual routine. My dinners are much more variable than my lunches and breakfasts. Weight Watchers and others with weight issues will definitely understand what I am talking about but other more “normal” readers will not, so just suspend your disbelief if you will. So I thought to myself, what to do, what to do? And made a conscious decision to get a slice with a salad. I felt pretty sick and exhausted, but appetite, of course, was unaffected. So for the first time in the six years Mollie has been at CAPA, I found myself at the counter at Pizza Parma, ordering a small salad, dressing on the side, and a slice of cheese pizza. Place a bit seedy, but I have seen a lot worse. So I took tray to table and really enjoyed it – had the salad had a few more peppers, tomatoes and a few olives, and had a little pizza been a little warmer, the place a bit cleaner, the staff less dour, the clientele less disheveled, it would have been an excellent repast. And I believe it was curative. It took a few hours, which does make sense. I sat through the entire performance, waiting for Mollie to read her poetry, which was, by far,the best of all, and also her reading was the best, I still felt very exhausted and had many not flashes. Afterwards, I was able to take Mollie home and we stopped at Giant Eagle for groceries, and she helped me shop, load and unload and unpack the groceries. It was right after the groceries were unpacked that I felt my immune system surge, chasing those toxic humors being out of my body. Preparation of dinner was marked by frissons of vigor, and, a little later, by veritable waves of salubrity! Each day since, I have improved and am now well onto the recovery highway. SO.

During this entire week of feeling shitty I went to work every day – I never call off work for illness, ever. Have planned to be off for things like colonoscopies, a lumpectomy, and other medically necessary procedures, but even a few years ago, when I had to have an oophorectomy, I scheduled it for a Saturday (which happened to the the only day the robot was available). Not only did I go to work, but I got up at 5:15 in order to make my trainer appts Tuesday and Wednesday, went to two killer crossfit classes last and this Saturday, went on a ten mile bike ride last weekend, and several 3 to five mile walks. I shopped, cooked, cleaned, stayed up to date with my charting, led two eight a.m. meetings. Did not cancel one thing the entire week, and am no worse for the wear. This is not to say I am some great, amazing creature better than everyone else. The point of this is not to brag or even humble-brag. The point is I could have let the stupid cold get in the way of my life and chose not to. So many of my patients have excuse upon excuse upon excuse: I was sick. It was too hot. It was too cold. I have news for you: if you wait for conditions to be perfect to exercise or do anything, you will end up spending the rest of your life sitting on your ass with nothing to show for it but a big ass, and a flabby one at that. We all have obstacle and barriers, but these can almost always be overcome, and we are the only ones who can overcome them. Please do not expect me to do it for you. About a year ago, a patient seeing me for the first time told me, “I came here so you could work your magic.” I have news for you: there is no magic, folks.

Yesterday, at the exercise class, we had only the usual suspects: Karen, Lynne, Jeff, cb and me. It was a pretty brutal class. Jeff thinks folks may be scared off because class is too hard. I do not think so. The exercises are all modifiable and we are shown modifications. The instructors work with the participants to modify further. No one is forcing anyone to do more than they are capable of. Exercise is SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable, folks. Sure, it is not going to be too tough to go for a walk around the block for most of us, but for some, even doing that is a challenge. It is good to challenge our bodies so we do not become deconditioned as we get older. The classes a only an hour long out of a seven day week. The classes we used to have at Magee were not as challenging, but peops did not come to those, either. The lectures we have had recently about how to start to exercise were well attended for a few sessions, then a big drop off in attendance.

My patients have so many reasons for not exercising, they could get in an hour session in the time it takes to rattle off the excuses. I can see that for a person who weighs 400 pounds and has terrible breathing problems or arthritis that any moving around might seem daunting. But the peops I am talking about are usually not in such dire straits. They have decided : they just don’t want to move. They come for help with their weight and even tell me, “It’s the exercise. I have to start exercising.” But month after month, when -IF. – they check back in, they still have not gotten started. Not that the exercise will get the weight off. That is just a myth. You just do not burn off that many calories when you walk a mile! Even hours of exercise get you only a few hundred calories ahead, probably not even the equivalent of a slice of pie.

About drama. Ever notice that some folks cannot seem to escape drama – and by that I mean bad drama? Here you were, going through your life. Every single day is a mix of potential dramas. Good things happen, bad things happen. On most days, these are little things, part of life. Sometimes, way bigger things happen – illness, death, accidents, losing a job, losing a fortune, losing a home, getting robbed, mugged or injured, having a tree fall on your house, having the furnace break, you car towed, getting a speeding ticket, getting an IRS audit, being reprimanded by someone, or in a very unpleasant fight or argument, uncomfortable social situation, being rejected or estranged by or from someone, being deceived or even unfriended. These things happen to everyone every day, and maybe a monumental catastrophic event. However, if you gathered a bunch of peops into one room and could observe how they each reacted to the same life event, you would find a wide range of individual reactions from the ridiculous to the sublime. I have known some folks who are materially impoverished but perhaps spiritually wealthy, to whom horrible things seem to keep happening, and they somehow manage to take it all in stride and remain grateful for the life they have and at least seem to be relatively happy. I have known others who have absolutely everything material they could possible need or want – clothing, hair, nails, decor, remodeling, jewelry, expensive and frequent jettings off to exotic locations, luxury vehicles – all the while reeling from one disaster to another, as if asking why me? What did I do to deserve this? Why does God hate me so much? The more dramatic, the more emotionally impoverished. It is not that these folks do not have to deal with tragedy – they do. And it is not that only peops without fiscal resources know what is really important. These are just the extremes. The point is, there are some folks who are drama kings and queens to feel they have somehow been singled out and cursed, as if there is some intention behind what has befallen them, like a conspiracy. I am very, very close to someone who is the greatest of all possible heroes and mentors to me – who has met the challenges of multiple pretty serious medical problems since babyhood, who has experienced multiple very painful, unwarranted rejections and losses over the years, and who somehow has risen above it, kind, generous-spirited, altruistic, accepting of whatever happens or has happened, never becoming embittered, always moving forward.

But it is only fate. Any of infinite worst case scenarios could happen to any of us at any time. Each moment is precious. Live life – accept and rejoice in your own drama, which is your only life. Take care of your body by nourishing it in all ways, every day, and use your body the way it is meant to be used. Which means exercise regularly. You are lucky your body can do what it does – what if it could not? And this is reality for so many. I have had scores of patients in their thirties and forties! so heavy and deconditioned that they had already become wheelchair bound. They were unable to work, on disability, spent days asleep, nights watching TV and eating junk food. This is you, unless you start taking care of yourself.

Books and Writing

Posted by Vicki on May 25th, 2015 under aspirations, creations, friends & family, inspiration, Lifestyle, philosophy, projects, stress management
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Everyone in my fam is a lover of books and reading. We also like to write. Many folks like to write. Most are unpublished. But even without being published, writing has its advantages. For me, it is restorative, cathartic, reflective, and sometimes creates a repository of memories. It lets me play with and (try to be) creative with words, which I love to do. It gives me a chance to solidify and communicate my feelings and opinions (to anyone interested!).

BTW, I just intentionally stepped on and killed a bee. Important aside. It was half dead on front steps, and I simply out it out of its misery. Although I value the work bees do, and their significance in nature, I am averse to being stung, so even if it were not half dead, having witnessed it, I would have put an end to it, which may make me a bad peop. I don’t know.

In the midst of finishing what I believe is Mollie’s ultimate writing project for her Majors at CAPA high school, she wondered aloud about how to describe a gesture, then went on to explain that many students in this class have verbalized similar obstacles. She is writing a TV script – she is actually quite good at scripts. An ear for dialogue is not enough – conversations in literature are not simply tape recordings of real people talking – a reader would find this tedious – but instead verisimilitude – selection of the salient features of an imagined dialogue and making it seem real. She can do this well, even received a Scholastic Award for a play she wrote. But in scripts, that pesky task of stage direction, in which the playwright or screenwriter parenthetically instructs the actors, can be an art in and of itself. Gestures and gesticulations within context of stage directions may seem like mere suggestions to the actors, but they also serve both to create the mood within a scene and to flesh out the characters, who otherwise would be described only through dialogue. Some authors are quite descriptive in their stage directions, others are not. And of course, in prose, there are all sorts of author styles as well. When poorly done, integration of gestures can seem stilted and self-conscious, like “look at me, what a good writer I am.” With good writers, of course, the flow is so natural you are barely aware of what they are doing. Mollie wanted to describe a character defusing high emotion in group of people by not only saying something like, “Don’t freak out, calm down,” but by a gesture, which was outstretched arms, palms facing downward, moving up and down as if patting the air. My description sounds pretty awkward. Not sure how she resolved it, but hopefully she will let me read it later, when she is done. She said she would, but does not always allow me to see her work. I love reading her stuff, but of course must respect her wishes. When I was writing fiction previously, O often would not want anyone to read it, and was often sorry when I did, except for cb – I would show him most anything. Blog posts are different – most of the time i do not even look back at them, they are like thread on a spool or dental floss, you let it out then fuggedaboudit. Another thing she does well in her writing which I always had trouble with is creating scenes in which bunch of peops interact at once. This is a real challenge, with the back and forths, keeping the characters and voices straight, distinguishing one character from another, knowing who to focus on, but keeping those in the background in play, plus having a plot-forwarding reason for having a group of peops in the first place.

Which leads me to another thing Mollie is good at – plot. From the outset, she seems to be able to visualize a beginning, middle and end, and I do not think she attends much to a written outline. When I wrote fiction, I never knew where I was going till I got there, and there was usually “no there there.” Even for short stories, and forget the novel, where the plot needs to be more intricate and multifocal. No way. My thinking patterns are just not that complex. I did try, though! Wrote two novels which got a few kind words from agents and publishers, but I realize now were really awful. Even the thought of looking at them again makes me cringe. Mollie enjoys writing poetry the most, and hers are among the few poems I actually both understand and like. They are touching and creative, simultaneously ingenuous and sophisticated, as well as full of insight, and, as always with everything Mollie does, executed with a maturity beyond her years.

cb has written so many wonderful short stories and sonnets. He writes sonnets for me all the time, which are just beautiful and often make me cry. He is a deeply emotional person, but one who hides his emotions even from me, although I usually guess at them correctly because I know him so well. It is one of those relationships where nonverbal communication is very important. If you were writing a book about cb, you would have to include descriptions of gestures in order to capture his personality. Oh, and with one utterance, “hm,” cb speaks volumes. “Hm” always is fraught with meaning and never means anything good. Often means he can’t find something, has encountered a computer glitch, or has to deal with something otherwise unpleasant. But his sonnets to me are eloquent, in perfect Shakespearean form, and, like Shakespeare, filled with wit, but imbued with romance and love and charm. He dashes off sonnets for birthday celebrations, to departing or retiring colleagues, and to his graduating medical students. He wrote a sonnet which he read for my Mom at her funeral. He can write a perfect sonnet in a matter of minutes. In my first year of knowing cb, he let me read some of his short stories. His writing was one of the things that made me fall in love with him, in part because it showed me his creative side, but mostly because through cb’s writing, I came to realize just how empathic he was and how deeply he felt – everything.

Both of my boys write beautifully, too, both poetry and prose. However, at this point in their lives, they have put creative writing on the back burner. Woody’s very first story was written at age 4, phonetically, on the word processor, and there was an alligator in it. I think cb may still have it taped up somewhere in his lab. Max has participated in poetry slams, although I never saw him do this, and really was into that for quite a while, and published poem of the day on a website he had.

My brother, Curtis, received his MFA on writing from Sarah Lawrence. I saw a few of his stories, which often well-done character studies of eccentric, lonely men. They were written before he was with Jenna.

Even my Mom and Dad wrote. My Mom wrote a few paragraphs after coming home from the hospital with me. They were about how trapped and depressed she felt now that she was a Mom, and about how my Dad was oblivious to this. I found this recently after she died, while going through her things. My Dad kept wonderfuly, wry diaries of all of our elaborate and luxurious annual family summer vacations together. I have read some of them, but still not all. He enjoyed describing how we all looked when we went to dinner. My Mom would have painstakingly selected outfits for all of us to wear each year, and the photos represent us as a very happy, well-groomed, fashionable family. My Mom was the only one who really was fashionable, but she made us look as if we were. And although all of us were stubborn and opinionated, with our unique styles of showing this, and all tightly wound perfectionists, although most would have described my Dad and brother as laid back, those summers are the source of great and happy memories for me. So many of my memories have faded. Reading my Dad’d diaries brings a lot of them back. It is remarkable how you think you forget so completely, but how a few words can so quickly recall joyful moments.

This is why writing and books are so important.