Saturday, July 20, 2013

among the cliffs

So... where was I and where were we? 

Ah, yes, heading from Durango, Colorado to Moab, Utah. Driving along, still making up funny stories about many of the things we saw. We got into a conversation about Mesa Verde National Park, which had not made it to our list of things we would do on this trip. We talked about how it should have made our list since everyone we encountered had raved, telling us to stop there. How it was too bad we had not taken the time to determine exactly where it was or how to get there. Decided that next trip, we would definitely add Mesa Verde to our list. Started making up stories again as we drove.

Not 3 minutes later, literally, there is a sign that says the next exit is for the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. We took the exit, spending the rest of the day lost in the cliff dwellings.




Statue of a climbing cliff dweller at the entrance to the park.




















Close up of the entrance to the cliff dwelling. That entry hole is pretty small!













I am amazed at how these were constructed.














The kiva, where spiritual ceremonies took place.












Can you imagine actually living in here?














The uppper cliff wall seems to press down.













I'm so glad we took the time to stop at Mesa Verde. And remember the guy who slept through most of the train ride in Durango? As we walked out from the cliff dwelling, we ran into him and his wife! They had not planned to go to Mesa Verde either, but decided to go on the spur of the moment, just like we had done.

Headed out of the park and on to Moab. It was late when we got there, thankful for the day and the pizza delivery guy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

train dorks

Yes, we are total train dorks!  

One of our favorite trains to both ride and chase is the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. For several reasons, we stayed in Durango an extra day. Part of it was a bigger break from being on the road, another part because we adore steam trains so much that we wanted to be able to get pictures of this one in a variety of types of light.


Early morning, just before it left the station, another kind stranger took our picture. We did return the favor, then spent an hour talking with her and her lovely family. Discovered much in common, and despite the fact we never exchanged names, we did determine that we share a common faith. I'll enjoy knowing more about her later, in heaven. 






Wish you could hear the engine chuffing and the whistle blow. Sounds we love! 






This Engineer was not into having his picture taken that day, but finally decided that I would keep shooting until he at least looked my way. Can you see the "just get it over with" look?












 The Brakeman was intent on his duties, as he should be on a moving train! 











 After the train left the station, we wandered into the museum. Of course the maps caught my attention. This one was hand drawn on linen. It's part of the original survey.



 The museum was filled with trains and train memorabilia. This poster amused me.

As we wandered the museum, we discovered that they also had a behind the scenes tour of the train yard that would start in 5 minutes. We quickly joined that tour and had quite a time seeing things that aren't part of the normal public venue.


Then, time to wander downtown Durango. I almost stopped inside here, just because one can't truly ever get away from work, even while on vacation.

 However, the Man convinced me to go have lunch and a beer instead.

We eventually wound our way back to the station to catch the train as it came in, late that day.

The next morning, we got to ride the train! Here are some views from the ride.



Just after leaving Durango, the train follows the river and begins to climb on the journey toward Silverton.



As the grade gets steeper and we climb, the river falls below.




















 Soon, the cliffs appear.



At this point, the drop is around 300 feet. We are in the last car on the train, so the view is amazing. 
















And then I turned to the guy sitting next to me to comment about the beauty. He stayed nodded off for about half the trip! 




There was a break for lunch in Silverton, then on the way down we had a short stop to take on water. The stand of aspen here was so pretty!



This is the opposite view, train going down, at the point of about a 300 foot drop down into the river.


Train dorks are happily stuffed with train memories and will head toward Utah in the morning.




Monday, July 15, 2013

road trip silliness and fun

The Indian battlegrounds were so interesting and gave us much to discuss as we traveled. 






And then places like this one, which was next door to a gas station in the middle of Wyoming, gave us a lot of silliness wherein we laughed together. We never did figure out why they had a giant Bugs Bunny, (pictured here) the shark from Jaws, Daffy Duck, and numerous dinosaurs on site. We simply enjoyed them.

We got a big kick out of the alligators in this truck, and also from the dinosaur peeking around the fence corner. Struck our sense of whimsy and silly, and we make up stories and jokes about this scene for many miles.


Colorado. Gloriously gorgeous country. Since railways were a big part of this adventure, of course we needed to ride the Pike's Peak Cog Railway. This thing is an amazing piece of workmanship. It really should not have been accomplished, but they did it and we rode it. 



At the bottom, before the ride.



During the ride up, about a third of the way, they pulled over on the way down to let us go up. 












We saw bighorn sheep! I swear the lead sheep posed for us.


From the summit, it really feels like the top of the world and that the "down" goes on forever.

 a nice stranger took our picture, then we returned the favor for her.



Could not resist this shot halfway down the mountain and totally got lucky that the flamingo came out at all. Cracked me up that it was put in a nest way up there! I'm slightly in love with the person who did this.


From Pike's Peak, we headed to Durango on Independence Day. The train was adorned with flags, and there was a small town parade just about suppertime.




This man and his little one were totally flirting with every female they saw. The other gentleman was singing America the Beautiful.











 I absolutely wanted to join this biker club. Of course, that would mean I'd need to learn how to ride. They were the Hardly Angels, with a mixed age group that looked to range from about 25 - 75. They were having a ball!


They had a calliope!





At the tail end of the parade, pun intended, was the steam cleaners who gently blasted the crowd with their hoses. The guys in these getups were having a gloriously fun time and made everyone laugh.








After the parade, we headed down to a local brewpub for dinner and a beer. Lots of fun just watching people having fun together. We continued to make up stories, and we talked with lots of folks to get their stories. The street remained closed so that a couple bands could take over. Dancing in the streets took on a literal meaning as people did just that. And the fireworks! Oh, the fireworks. Did not get pictures of them, just enjoyed.

Our country, which will always have problems, was celebrated in a grand fashion on the 4th of July in Durango.

Up next, steam trains and cliff dwellings.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

road trip recap

Poor neglected blog!

We've been busy over the last several weeks and I've had a couple vacations. Yes, more than one, but I scheduled my time off work this way this year so that I could see Mama again and also spend time away with the Man.

Time with Mama was good. I see differences in her each time I see her, but she is 80 now and time does take a toll on everyone. Grateful for the time and ability to have seen her at the end of May.

The last 2 weeks were an amazing adventure in our series of road trip vacations that I tend to call Days of Wine and Railways. The overview is that we drove through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, back through Idaho, Oregon and back into Washington.

The beauty of this country amazed me. At every turn, there was another catch-your-breath moment. Many places are so beautiful they brought tears to my eyes.

A few pictures here today, and a few more will follow for several days.

This is Wallace, Idaho, where the movie Dante's Peak was filmed. At each corner of this intersection is a sign that indicates "Center of the Universe".



We stumbled upon this fun little wine bar after dinner. As I took this picture outside, the owner walked up and invited us in to see the other work he had done. His demolition business allows for the reusing of all sorts of interesting items for the furnishings. Great place, wonderfully done. It's a new business, just 18 days old when we were there. Ray, Lana and Lauren are fun and knowledgable about wine and food. We ended up spending a couple hours with them, talking and laughing as if old friends had invited us into their home for a glass of wine. Wonderful beginning to this vacation!






From there, we headed toward the Little Big Horn National Park and the monument for Custer's Last Stand. On site is also a National Cemetery, with gravesites for service folks from many wars. We saw some who had served in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam, in addition to the Little big Horn and other Indian battles.






We found that through some archeological work, they were able to determine exactly where the folks fell in the battle. There were many white marble stones to mark the 7th cavalry soldiers. For the Indians who died on this battlefield, there were only a few red marble markers. We were told that it was because the Indians took the bodies of their loved ones away as quickly as possible to bury elsewhere. 







I still wonder who put the flag here since it is one of a very few markers with a flag added in. It intrigues me and I want to know the stories of the decendants of Goes Ahead.





One of the few red marble markers indicating that an Indian fell in this spot, each reading that the person died defending the Lakota way of life. (or the actual tribe to which the person belonged.) I found that phrase to be moving.






 This is the hillside where many of the officers of the 7th cavalry died. This portion of the battlefield is fenced off. Custer's marker is the one with the black inset. His brother's marker is just in front of his, and there are markers to the right of these two for an uncle and nephew.




A little closer shot of the markers for the Custer brothers.






This wedding ring, in the museum, really brought it home to me that these were real people, not just names in history books. 









When we left Little Big Horn, we headed down into Wyoming to the site of the Fetterman Massacre. There are reports that Fetterman, who was a Civil War hero, said to give him 80 men and he could ride through the entire Sioux Nation. Sadly, his lack of respect for the fighting style of the Sioux didn't work. His entire group was wiped out in 20 minutes. This is the monument to that battle.












The inset plaque reads: On this field, on the 21st day of December, 1866, three commissioned officers and seventy six privates of the 18th U.S. Cavalry, and four civilians, under the command of Captain Brevet-lieutenant Colonel William J. Fetterman were killed by an overwhelming force of Sioux under the command of Red Cloud. There were no survivors.












Next stop... Colorado and Pike's Peak!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

3 beautiful things

Haven't done a 3 beautiful things post in a long time. It's time today.

1. lilac bushes in full bloom
2. a birthday serenade from the high school choir
3. the hug I get from my friend, Ruth, when she greets me.

So many other things that were moments of beauty today, too. Am grateful.




...may there be mercy and appreciation when moments of beauty come my way.

celebrations

And a happy birthday to me! 

I love birthdays and we are celebrating all month. 




...may there be mercy in choosing to enjoy the life given

Monday, May 13, 2013

blown away by love

Yesterday I received a card that surprised and touched me so deeply. It was my first ever Mother's Day card, reading partly as follows:

Thank you for all that you do.. love, care, share, pray, worship, work, sing, treat, smile, hug, bring joy, laughter, and comfort. and tons of encouragement... thank you so much for loving me, always listening to me and encouraging me. I love you so much.

wow.

did I say wow?

So blown away by the gift of love given me by my young friend who told me I am considered her adopted mama.

When I have been so mired in the dark places of life this last length of months, (okay, 2 years). this gift of love shines the purest light of God's love deeply into my spirit, lifting me up into places that feel like the verse that says "her children will rise up and call her blessed." (Prov 31:28)

Again I say, wow.


...may there be mercy in the sweetness of the gifts of love.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

a little this, a little that

Random thoughts...

work:  I have finished training our new Recording Clerk. She's bright, has experience with documents, well organized, detail oriented and is rockin' the job. Already she works on her own for hours at a time, only asking me a couple questions here and there. It's awesome to be able to do my own job full time again!

Well, full time and then some as I've been working quite a bit of overtime trying to get a handle on how far behind my desk got while I covered the other job so much. Between vacations, (mine and the now retired person's), sick time and Fridays, there were quite  few weeks this year wherein I only worked my own desk a couple days a week. Those days would be spent putting out fires, but not making any headway into the mess.

I'll work a little more overtime during the next 10 days, but then I'll take a break.

vacation:  yes, one week at the end of this month and two weeks in July. Not to mention the week at the end of the year. Happy!!  Officially, I get 3 weeks per year, plus one personal day. Since I generally butt my vacation time up against holidays, I can end up with the appearance of 4 weeks of time off. Sweet, really sweet.

This month, I'll have a combination of down time and a brief surprise visit to see Mama. It's fun to surprise her. Plan is to have my sister distract her, then I'll knock on the door and ask if she has the coffee on. Can't wait!

the Man:  also working overtime, which makes time together even more precious. His birthday is next week, but he hasn't mentioned any particular gifts of interest. We may just go for nice dinner next weekend. I may find him something fun at the Train Museum in San Diego. He may actually come up with something. Who knows? At least we still like hanging out together, eh?

family: am quite concerned about brothers, and for each of them in a different way. Al just turned 63, but a recent picture of him shocked me at how much older than that he appears. Jerry isn't yet fully recovered from his accident last year. Buddy is a walking skeleton looking for his next drug fix.   There are days that I wonder if any of them will make it to see Christmas this year. 

Deb is working at a new job and loving it. So happy for her! Mama is struggling with the issues of being elderly with bankruptcy and post-cancer treatments. 

me:  today, I'm tired. Lack of sleep, which feels all too common right now, combined with the overtime and a lot of emotion. I'm actually doing okay, with the exception of not making enough time for taking better care of myself. I've skipped my workouts for about 10 days now, not good for my physical or emotional health. Tomorrow I go back to working out when I get up. Although the getting up time will be much later than my usual 5 a.m. 

And I'm wishing for more time to be knitting.



...may there be mercy and comfort in the random, normal bits of life.


Sunday, May 05, 2013

short and sweet

The last 2 blog posts were terribly long. That's not going to become the norm here. Only at times!

This post is just to show I can write something short and sweet. :-)

Today we went on an old style Sunday drive. Cameras in hand, letting adventure and whimsy take us where it would.

We discovered that there is a little, old cemetery nearby. It's a few miles down a back country road, hidden from mainstream traffic. Some of the headstones are hard to read, but on closer inspection I find birth dates in the 1800's.

I get lost in the names, the dates and the making up of their stories in my head.



Finding myself talking to some of them, asking what happened in their short lives.












Wondering how they lived so long in times much different than these.










Since the Man was waiting for me, I said an early good bye, with a promise to return soon.




...may there be mercy in marking of the history of lives gone before.




Saturday, May 04, 2013

sweet tears, precious gifts


This afternoon I had taken off my glasses to do something and as I reached for them to put them back on, I noticed they had tear stains on them. Again.

If you know me at all, you know how very much I hate to cry. It’s a messy, unpleasant process and it gives me a headache. It feels awful to do, it feels awful to sit in the emotions. Not to mention that one cannot be any kind of pretty when crying. It just isn’t possible with a variety of liquids running down one’s face and mascara smudged all around the eyes.

Okay, that last part was my vanity talking. I know. I keep working on that vanity thing.

And I know that I judge myself much more harshly than I would ever consider for anyone else. That whole “we are our own worst critics” thing comes heavily into play. With anyone else’s tears, I am fully able to love and support and encourage, or simply sit being a witness to their story.

This week I had several opportunities to be on the receiving end of loving, supporting, encouraging, and simply being a witness to my story.

Hate to have cried so many times this week. Just hate it. It was really hard, but I know, so necessary.

The first 2 weekends in May are always extra hard for me. Mother’s Day looms large, hitting my emotions squarely with an in-your-face taunt of all things taken out of my grasp, of pain and regret in the realm of wishing we could have done more to have a child in our home, of big dreams that have died.

Hiding this pain has become a way of life for us. Since just about everyone has children, and many of our friends are moving into being grandparents, there is no frame of reference, no true comprehension of how very different our lives are from theirs. There isn’t an understanding of how it actually does get harder for us at times, and not easier, with hearing about the varying stages of life, the firsts that they get to celebrate, the growing stages, the difficulties of parenting toddlers and teens, the fun of planning college dorm rooms and weddings, the joy in the anticipated arrival of a new grandbaby, the knowledge that they will have someone to care for them as they age.

We miss out on much with other folks. Many times we hear about the fun things that they all did together, but they didn’t think we’d be interested since we don’t have kids. Much of the time, it is something we would have enjoyed immensely, even without small people of our own, just the being together in community would be nice. Or even the thought of an invitation to join in. It’s a feeling of exclusion and of not being good enough in and of yourself, as if we are lacking something, somehow, and just can’t measure up.

But there is still a boatload of nurturing love in my heart for kids and young people. Love that needs to be expressed.

So I’ve spent much of my life investing love into other people’s children. Spending time with them, listening to their woes and joys, their normal, everyday lives. Encouraging them, sympathizing with them, loving them, becoming auntie-c to them. The one who isn’t one of their parents, but who loves them deeply and without reservation.

There is a level of sweetness to life that comes when we can be involved in a child’s life, no matter who the child is. And yes, I’ve tasted that sweetness, savoring the delicious moments of a spontaneous hug coupled with the words, “I love you, auntie-c” from precious little ones, teens and young women into whose lives I’ve been invited.

Precious, treasured moments. Snugged safely in the banks of my best memories.

And then, the little one goes back to Mommy, the teen back to her parents and the young woman back to her life and her own family.

And I go back to wishing for someone to call me Mama.

This week, I talked with my counselor about finding ways to parent without being a parent. About what I’ve done with that for so much of my life. How it still isn’t enough for my heart since they still go home to someone else, the someone else who gets to be Mama.

We talked about how no one really gets that I actually am Mama, but my children are not here. In 1984 and again in 1997, I miscarried. Since I believe that life begins at conception, I also believe that my longed for children are waiting for me in heaven. It will be amazing to finally see them and hold them.

It’s hard not having them in this life.

And as we talk, my counselor tells me that he actually does have a level of understanding of my pain - they had miscarriages. They were unable to carry a child to term. They eventually adopted. But in the midst of it all, they also knew that they were parents. Mama and Daddy to children they would have to wait to hug.

As I realized how much understanding was on the other side of this conversation, I discovered there were tears on my face. Tears that reflected my pain, yes, tears for their story, yes. And yes, tears for the affirmation and understanding that I am Mama.

Dangit, but I hate to cry. It was really hard to sit with these emotions and to talk about them. But it was good. It was important. It was helpful in the healing process.

As I left my counseling session, I tucked my emotions and my tears safely back inside. Or so I thought.

Going about my normal life, the next day had a lunch date to celebrate birthdays with a young friend. The month of May brings a ton of birthdays for friends, for family and also for both the Man and me.

My young friend turned 20 last week. She’s a gorgeous young woman, full of life and joy, and so very normal in her challenges and dreams. We talked nonstop about a young man that has caught her interest. They are friends for now, but they are talking about the possibilities of a dating relationship at some point since they both recognize there are feelings between them. They both have high standards about their faith and about their individual relationships with God being most important. It was a fun conversation.

And then…she gave me a priceless gift.

It was a moment of encouraging her to learn to be friends with guys, of counsel about having not only dating relationships, but friendship with them, and of the importance of keeping her family close,

As I do with all my young friends, I reminded her to keep her parents close, that she has only one Mama and Daddy forever. At that point, she reached over and took my hand, saying “and one adopted Mama”.

Precious, treasured word, spoken with absolute love and certainty…  to me.

me.

Oh, wow, to me.

I soaked that loving moment in deeply as she went on to tell me that she has always felt like I was her adopted mama, much closer to her than an auntie.

Yes, tears running down my face again. Still I hate to cry, but I noticed that these were sweeter tears that tasted not of sorrow, but of love.

I’m still sipping at that memory cup, savoring the deliciousness of it. Taking it deep in my heart, knowing it will probably be the only time here on earth that it comes to me. Deeply grateful that God brought me this amazing young person who looks at me as an extra mama in her life.

And then God gave me another sweet gift of something a mother of daughters gets to do.

One of my coworkers has a daughter who is a senior this year. This young friend shares my love of shoes, fashionable clothing, and being a very girly-girl. Since her mother doesn’t care much about such things, she calls on auntie-c to shop with her. Over the years, we have had such fun finding cute clothes and shoes for her, and for me.

Today is her senior prom. She asked me to go with her to get her nails done.  

It’s a little thing, getting your nails done before prom, normal and part of the fun of getting ready for that big event. Not something that really jumps out as a gift in life.

But it really is something that would normally be done with either her friends who are also going to prom, or her mama.

Something that a mama would savor in the joys of moments in her child’s life and in the sweetness of memory later.

She wanted me to go with her. And her mother thought it was a fabulous idea. Now granted, her mother is not into pretty nails and all that froo-froo.  And she did  go with her daughter to get her hair done in an updo. 

But I know that it would have been a happy morning of mother-daughter time that was graciously given to me. 

When I picked up my young friend this morning, she had that sparkle in her eyes. The sparkle that says she was anticipating a fun time with me, her auntie-c, and then the fun of getting all dressed up to go out with a really nice guy to a big event in her young life.

Oh, the laughter and silly fun we had today. We got iced coffees at Starbucks. We fussed over color vs French and what would go best with her dress. (French, with a very elegantly understated design on the ring fingernail) We picked up the boutonnière, delighted with how well they matched the color of her dress in the flowers.

She and her mother gave me a sweet taste of what I would have had with a daughter here.

Driving home after I dropped her off, happily showing off pretty hands to her parents, again there were sweet tears running down my face. Again, tasting not of sorrow, but of love.

Mother’s Day continues to loom large, and the emotions associated with that day don’t just automatically go away. But I’m deeply grateful for these priceless gifts. 

In my heart, it feels like God sprinkled a little extra love down on me and gave me my own personal Mother’s Day.





…may there be mercy in the shedding of sweet tears




If you are newer to my blog, and don’t know anything about our childlessness, there are a couple blog posts from a few years ago that speak to our story.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

journeying to healthy


Haven’t done a blog post in a while, but it’s been on my mind quite a bit. Much has happened over the last several weeks, some of which will become blog posts as I figure out what I want to write about and what is better left unsaid while moving on. 

Today is a very long post. It’s a story about body issues and our cultural expectations. It's my story.

When I started 7th grade, at age 12, I was already 5’ 9’ tall, towering over almost everyone in our school. For an awkward, and painfully shy kid, this feeling of standing out in a crowd was terrible. Add to it the fact that I only weighed 110 pounds then, and I looked like this giant skeleton walking around campus. We won’t go into the other teen issues of beauty products, hair, acne, clothes, etc., right now. Suffice it to say I was not thrilled with my appearance, but there was little I could do about it then.

I ate everything I could stuff in. The more fattening, the better. Overstuffing myself at every meal. Snacking like crazy between meals. Trying to gain just 10 pounds so that I didn’t look so emaciated, since my appearance drew such ugly comments from other kids. 

Nothing worked. My metabolism was apparently too high and I burned off all that excess food. My weight remained the same, my appearance continued to draw comments.

Fast forward a few years into high school. I had moved far beyond painfully shy at school, but was a completely different kid at my church youth group. While still a bit shy there, the love extended to me by my church family allowed me to be more of myself and enjoy time with friends. These kids didn’t make ugly comments about my weight, height and appearance. They simply loved me.

By my senior year, I had gained that longed for 10 pounds, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to really matter much to my appearance. However, with the level of encouragement and love given by the youth group, not to mention the spiritual changes in me, I blossomed into a much more outgoing and happy person. I was still one of the tallest kids around, and one of the skinniest, but I was happier inside and more able to cope.

Over time, health issues and a more sedentary job combined to add another 10 pounds by the time I was 26. If you’re keeping track and doing math, that puts me at 130 pounds and still 5’ 9”. Still quite thin, but more healthy appearing on a simple visual level.

This was the first time that someone actually commented to me that I was “not going to look good in my jeans if I kept eating so much and gaining weight”. 

The person who made the comment blithely went about her day, never knowing what she had set off inside my head. Her comment was really about a level of amazement at how much I could eat, although phrased very poorly. And her timing sucked as I had just left my husband, starting the process of a divorce. 

Yes, at 130 pounds, wearing a size 8 or 10, what I heard was “wow, you’re fat now and no man will ever think you are attractive.”

What? Really? Fat?

Yep, really. 

FAT.

You see, my sister WAS the fat kid in school. She got all the other ugly comments for being the overweight kid. The minute I heard that comment, all I saw was my sweet sister’s much bigger body in place of mine. My head screamed at me all of the comments she had received.

And I stopped eating.

Oh, I blamed it on the stress of the divorce. Folks accepted that reason. In just a couple months, I’d dropped that 20 pounds, back into a size 5-7, and felt much better about how I looked.

Then came the concerned comments about how thin I was getting.

Can you sense my internal level of confusion about my body? 

My head got really messed up on how I viewed my body. I didn’t know what to do. I loved food, always have, but was afraid to eat because I didn’t want to be fat. I was also afraid to avoid food because I didn’t want to become anorexic. After all, Karen Carpenter had recently died from anorexia. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to look right for everyone.

Confusion reigned on how this body really looked. Was I fat? Or was I skinny? The messages that I received from others and from my own confused self were so mixed up that I stopped looking at myself in the mirror. All I could see was the fact my tummy was not concave anymore, but flat across the hipbones, so therefore I was fat.

Yep, flat across the hipbones made me fat. And I wanted to look right for everyone. Did you notice that I didn’t want to look right for me? Did you notice I didn’t care if I was healthy?

When I married the Man, I weighed 115. I’d started eating again, but was incredibly careful about it. In fact, I only ate in front of people. That way, I could monitor how much I was eating by using them as a gauge. If someone made a comment about how much I was eating, I could then “become full” with just a couple more bites. Not eating by myself, or eating only a very little when alone, allowed me to keep my weight down in that range where I would not receive comments about being fat. Since I knew how to ignore comments about being skinny, this seemed to be working for me.

At least I told myself that it was working.

After we settled into married life, I got lax about food. After all, he was here for more than 1 meal a day, and I do love to cook, so I had no choice but to eat. I gained a little weight, but that was okay. And I continued to snack at my desk. All day. I gained a little more weight, but it was fine. And my health issues, 8 surgeries in just a few years, combined with sedentary work added into the mix. All day stress eating became the new normal for me.

I gained quite a lot of weigh over time, hitting 185 pounds.

I’m still that 5’ 9” tall person, and can carry extra weight without folks realizing quite how much I’m carrying, but 185 is actually overweight by 16 pounds. The height/weight charts all say the healthy range for this height is 135 - 169 pounds. At 185, and needing to buy a size 14-16, I was really unhappy about it, but figured it was just late-30’s, moving into 40’s-normal and what I’d be forever.

And then I fell down the stairs at work.

When the paramedics came, they thought I’d broken my back. Backboard, neck brace, onto the gurney, and with  a loud, “oomph”, 3 men lifting me into the ambulance.  Yes, 3 men. At the ER, during the exam and diagnosis of badly bruised back, I overheard the doctor mention that I was a “mildly obese woman”.

Not broken, but obese on top of injured.

Ouch and OMG… he said the obese word about me.

I mean really, I just thought I was fat.

Obese.

In my head, I saw myself as if I weighed twice what I did. My body ached from the fall. My emotions were battered even more from the label of obese. For a few weeks, I cried most nights after work, with an internal dialog that allowed the critical voice to hammer home that I was the biggest whale ever. 

And then the Man quietly asked if I wanted to do something to make myself feel better. 

Ever so carefully, and with the gentlest of loving tones, he suggested that I go to a single Weight Watchers meeting. If I hated it, or was not comfortable in any way, I never had to go back. But if it seemed a good fit, maybe it would help me to feel better about myself.

Ended up that I joined Weight Watchers. I lost 50 pounds. (if you’re still doing math, that’s down to 135) I felt pretty good about how I looked and felt much more confident. I kept it off, or most of it, for several years.

Did you notice that I felt “pretty good” and not great?

Why didn’t I feel great that I was at the bottom end of the healthy weight range for my height?

And then the number on the scale started creeping up. I ignored it. After all, midlife, late-40’s, and menopause will combine to change the body a little, right? Add in that I’d come into my own in my love of cooking and food, learning to enjoy wine and cooking with it. A restaurant owner’s daughter, I gloried in really good foods. Not to mention the high stress levels in all areas of life. Work stress, family stress, stress with my best friend, stress everywhere. I ate more and more, consoling myself with food, which in turn showed up on the scale and in my emotions.

When I hit 170 pounds, I saw the fat woman had come back. It made me sick to see myself in the mirror, but I could not seem to do anything about it. Oh, I might drop a pound or two, but then put them back on immediately. 

When I turned 50, I had hoped to be back into a healthy weight range, but my weight kept climbing as I kept eating. I kept cooking and eating great foods, my high stress levels continued. No end in sight, in fact some of them increased as we cared for my precious father-in-law for 6 months during his terminal illness. The number on the scale climbed to 190, my highest ever. My head screamed “obese!!!”  I hated my body. Then, at the same time that my father-in-law died, other stresses ratcheted up and my family stress skyrocketed. I tried to cope, but really lost any ability to do so.

While this blog post is not about depression, it does need to be mentioned in this story. Spiraling into depression was not pretty. It took me a while to admit it to anyone. Months, almost a year. Then, it took me months to seek help from my doctor and a good therapist.

One of the bad things about depression, for me anyway, is that I stop eating when I hit the lowest level. Stress makes me overeat, depression makes me stop eating. Completely.

When I hit that point, last year, I ate less in a week than a normal, healthy person would eat for half a day. This went on for about 3 weeks. Much concern from the Man, my doctor, my therapist and the couple friends who were aware of the depression. I dropped 10-12 pounds in that short time from simply not eating. While I needed to lose some weight, I needed to do it in a proper and healthy way. This wasn’t it.

Doc had a “come to Jesus” talk with me about eating and exercise and depression. How these things work and work together to lift the mood. My counselor backed it all up at our next session. Somehow, what was said penetrated. I started both eating a little and exercising each morning.

I’m not going into the swearing at the elliptical I did. I hate exercise with a passion, but this isn’t about hating exercise. It’s about doing the work needed despite the hate to do it.

As I worked on my issues in my counseling sessions, I began to eat more normally. I realized that I could actually begin to eat less at any one sitting, and stop eating when I was actually full - long before the overstuffed feeling showed up.

At a healthier pace, the number on the scale kept moving downward. By Christmas, I’d lost 35 pounds and was feeling much better about myself because I’d been doing it right, doing the work of getting my body healthy in healthy ways.

Oh, crud, that stuff all the doctors have said for years about eating less and exercising was working! And no, I have not admitted that to my doc yet!

Did you notice the reason that I felt better about myself? For once it wasn’t about what other folks were thinking, seeing saying. It was because I was doing it right. Me. Working to get healthy.

Yes, everyone has noticed the weight loss. There were many comments about how thin I was getting. All of them were positive, encouraging me that I looked great and healthy.

At the beginning, all I could hear of those comments was that I had been so fat. I couldn’t hear the compliments, all I could hear was that I needed to keep going because I was still fat.

If you’re still with me, doing the math, I weigh 155 at this point. I’m down to a size 8, sometimes 10. Well within the healthy weight range for my height. Why did I still see myself as that obese woman?

In my head, while I felt better about myself, I still wasn’t done with losing weight. Still had the critical voice whispering “fat” inside my head. Could not see myself properly yet. Could not hear those compliments quite properly. I dropped some more weight, bottoming out at my current weight of 142, and a size 6. If you’re still doing the math, that is a loss of 48 pounds.

In counseling, we talked about and worked through some of the body issues I had, silencing that critical voice. I’m seeing my body in a completely different light. While I still struggle with some body issues, I don’t give that critical voice credence. I don’t hear it saying the words, “you’re fat”.

I can actually see in my own mirror that I am a thin woman who has worked hard to get her body healthier.

Wow, did I just say that? Me, a thin woman? 

Yes, me, thin. Yes, me, healthier.

And then… Friday.

On Friday, someone asked if I was going to continue to lose so that I could hit the 50 pounds lost mark. I told them that the number wasn’t important to me. I am done with being in weight loss mode, and am now content to be in maintain mode. It surprised me that the person seemed disappointed in me for “giving up” at 48 pounds lost.

Wait, giving up? What? Are you telling me I’m still fat? Just because I didn’t shoot for an additional 2 pounds that would make a round number of 50?

I say a resounding NO.

I’m not fat because of that 2 pounds. I’m not a quitter. I do not have to have a certain number lost or on my scale in order to validate my body image. I don’t accept someone else’s disappointment as my own. I am getting healthy.

Did you notice that I said I was content? Did you notice I said no?

I suspect there will be folks who look at the numbers on my journey up and down the scale and dismiss me as one more skinny girl who thought she was fat in order to gain attention. After all, my number never topped 200, which seems to be the OMG number for our culture.

Remember back at the beginning of this journey, I was that shy, awkward kid who never wanted attention. I never looked like the culturally accepted beauty who had the right measurements. I bought into the lies that I was too thin, or not thin enough. 

I could not see myself as others did. Or as I truly was.

But I learned to do so.

…may there be mercy and contentment, seeing ourselves as we truly are.