Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cooking the Books

My first cookbook was called "Dad's Own Cookbook" and I bought it after reading it, cover to cover, at a house where I was babysitting.  It's still pretty great, as it's unbelievably basic, teaching you things like how to cut an onion and how to boil an egg.  The chocolate chip cookie recipe in that book makes the best cookies I have ever had and I think some of my relatives only love me because I bring those to family gatherings.  They're unbelievably great.

Nowadays, I have a bunch of Cooking Light cookbooks, although for the most part I find recipes using their website.  I like that because there is something that turns my stomach a little about seeing things like dried batter and flour on pages in a cookbook.  A good solution would be to not be such a slob in the kitchen, but it's easier for me to just use the computer rather than try to undo several generations of evolution.

Typically my criteria for cooking is less than thirty minute recipes, with calories listed (because I am getting a little better but I still have issues, so shoot me) and skill levels of basic to intermediate.

I would really love to hear some suggestions of great cookbooks or websites where they have awesome recipes.  Even specific recipe recommendations would be great.  I need a little inspiration in the kitchen lately as it seems like every day I only want to eat turkey sandwiches and carrots and hummus.

Oh, and I am allergic to eel, so I know that eliminates a lot of suggestions.  It's the cross I have to bear.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Drawing on the Past

I used to babysit all the time for my favorite family in my old neighborhood.  I love all three of their kids like they're family members and feel really lucky to have them in my life.  The youngest, Clare, was my little buddy for years.  We have shared a love of "The Wizard of Oz" since she was two and I was 23 (shut up) and she was the first person I know to notice that Dorothy's socks were blue rather than white, which you wouldn't think would work with ruby slippers, but then again, I'm no Stacy London, so who knows?  

Anyway, Clare loved me, even bringing me to show-and-tell at her preschool.  One day, she was very excited to show me a picture she had drawn of the two of us.  It was on a huge piece of paper so I had to break it up to scan it.  Here's Clare's self-portrait at three years old:

And here is me:

Can you see the resemblance?  I remember looking at it and just laughing out loud.  She didn't draw it with any malice or judgment, obviously.  This was just reality for her- Taryn the babysitter was round and fat and it didn't matter to Clare at all.  I held onto the picture for years and every once in a while remembered it and wished that I could have the same judgment-free appraisal of my physique, to view myself as big and not see it as any kind of a weakness or fault.

I am lucky to have a lot of friends and a frighteningly large extended family.  (I remember reading about the population explosion in middle school and thinking of my 50+ first cousins and feeling unbelievably guilty.  Sorry, Mother Earth).  (Further proof that there is no guilt like white Irish Catholic oldest-child liberal guilt).  Over the years, I've been a bridesmaid a handful of times, always when I was over 300 lbs.  I was unbelievably honored to be asked each time, but part of me always wondered what the heck the bride was thinking.  Why would anyone want me, this gigantic blimp of a person, taking up space in their wedding pictures?  It was really hard for me to see beyond what I looked like and realize that, hey genius, some people actually aren't shallow superficial head cases like you.  It was a tough lesson to learn and it's something I still struggle with occasionally.

This is a great article that I've been hanging onto for a while now.  The author, Megan Northrup, lost a ton of weight through gastric bypass and writes about how weird it is to be thin and about how differently people treat her now that she lost so much weight.  I'm going to get into a lot of those issues another time, but the thing that really struck me about the article was the last paragraph.
"Recently my mother and I were going through old pictures of me—all those years of photographs and truths that I've hidden from new people in my life—and, picture by picture, my expressions of disdain and disgust grew louder. Fully acculturated to the thin insider group, it took my mother's tears to shake me out of my judgment. With wet eyes she said gently, "Be careful what you say about that girl. I loved her very much." 
Oh man, tearjerker, huh?   This is something I have to remember.  I look at pictures of myself back in the day and I either want to laugh or cry, but even when I didn't really love myself, I was always surrounded by people who loved me no matter what I looked like.  Rather than sweeping these pictures under the rug or being embarrassed by them, I have to remember that they're part of who I am and that there's nothing wrong with that.  I've got to learn to look at this poor obese extremely fashion-challenged young lady and love her too.

The weird blonde highlights?  I think those will always be okay to hate.  

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yes, Megan Wright, This Entry is About You

Don't you just hate it when you're at a lovely party and the dinner was great, the conversation sparkling and the company wonderful and then someone has to ruin it all by introducing some sort of game that brings your inner insane competitor to the surface and causes you to embarrass yourself in front of all party guests?  Me too.

On Saturday, I went to a party and was introduced to a game called Rock Band.  I was very uninterested in trying the drums or guitar part of the game, but as soon as I saw that microphone my heart started beating a little bit faster.  Here's a secret:  I am a great undiscovered Broadway star.  No, really.  Although my mother says that what I lack in talent I make up for in volume (rude) I think I make up for any pitch problems by being extremely enthusiastic and also in my dedication to my craft.  I sing in the shower and in the car and sometimes, without realizing it, in the grocery store.  No one has ever burst into applause at the end of one of my performances but I'm guessing that's because they're stunned at the vast talent exposed in front of them that is thus far undiscovered. 

Anyway, I was very excited to try it and tried to be patient as my cousin demonstrated for us how it was done.  Every fiber in my being wanted to grab the microphone from her, but I told myself to play it cool and waited patiently until she was done and then pulled it from her hands when she was almost completely finished with the final note.  At this point I was still trying to play it cool and not reveal that I had already begun imagining myself breaking records in this game, reducing the rest of the party guests to tears with the beauty of my voice and possibly getting a record deal.  I really do try to hide the insane competitor inside of me.  Most people I know are not aware that I time myself when I make my bed and try to beat my best time every day.  I kind of wish I was kidding, but alas.

So it soon became obvious that I would have a problem with Rock Band.  When scrolling through the available songs, I only recognized one or two.  My knowledge of rock is very limited.  If the Brady Bunch never covered it, odds are I have never heard of it.  I did keep my familiarity with the Brittney Spears song book quiet, as two of the party guests were musicians and I knew that I'd be shunned and possibly disowned.  I do know they were horrified that I had never heard of most of the songs.  I feel the same way when people don't know the name of "the other guy" from Wham! so I can relate.  Soon we switched to Beatle's Rock Band and I had a much easier time with song selection.

Yes, as you can see above, I took this very seriously.  Check out my death grip on the microphone and the passionate look in my eyes.  You really do believe I live in a yellow submarine in that picture, don't you?  That's called selling the song, my friend, and you either have it or you don't.  Also notice my sister Annie's condescending look.  I want her to remember that when I charge her for an autograph when I make it big.

It turned out that my cousin Megan was my biggest competition.  By that I mean she was the only one who considered it a competition at all because the other guests were normal.  I already knew we were a lot alike in the ego department as she told us earlier that evening that she constantly asked her boyfriend if every song he wrote was about her and that her favorite entries in his blog were the ones that mentioned her.  Still, I was unprepared for her strong desire to win.  We both warbled away as the rest of the party became increasingly uncomfortable.  I did feel like she wasn't using her talents wisely, as she is a ballerina and never produced a single pirouette, but still, she was a worthy competitor and I felt a strong sense of pride when I absolutely SMOKED her and kicked everyone's butt at the game.

I won!  I won!  I won!  I won!  I won!!!!!

Actually, I thought I hid my insanity pretty well, but I came back from the bathroom to find the whole party talking about what a psycho I was, so apparently I didn't play it cool quite as well as I thought.  Here's the thing, though- us superstars can't really be bothered by the jealousy of the little people.  I humbly understand that and I know Megan does too.  I can't shine any less bright just because the other stars are dull.  I will savor this victory, though, as it was hard-fought and I look forward to beating everyone again, just as long as it's not a ballet contest.

This is my cousin and I am not lying, she is a real ballerina.  Sometimes I fall when walking.  Some people have all the luck.

Although if I start practicing now, I guess you never know.

Results: Week Seven

Down 2.6 lbs for a total of 12.2.  Not too shabby!

I've decided that for every ten pounds I lose on this no dieting diet, I'll tell you guys an embarrassing story about one of my immediate family members.  I can't think of any better motivation for me than that!  I'll do that later today, unless I get threatening phone calls from said family members.
  • Still not working out, but I decided to not cancel my gym membership.  I really like riding my bike up there in the summer and taking spinning and stuff, so I decided to hold on to it.  And no, the elliptical is still not fixed.  I make procrastination an art form.
  • Last week, I made the brilliant decision not to grocery shop and to eat stuff in my freezer to clean it out a little.  By Friday, I was so bored I was considering slaughtering my dog and roasting him up for a little variety.  Lesson learned.  I need to be excited about what I'm cooking for dinner.
  • I am currently at work at 6:29 AM and I am drinking a Diet Coke.  I am weak.  Still, a couple of cans a week are much better than the six pack I was drinking every day two months ago.  Again, I am guessing that heroin would be easier to quit than Diet Coke.  
  • I am wearing jeans that have not fit in almost a year, so that's a plus.  
So this week I will work out and get the elliptical fix.  You have my word on that as a former Girl Scout, although my scouting career ended pretty early after I got freaked out by the older girls playing "Bloody Mary" in the bathroom after one meeting.  Still, once a Brownie, always a Brownie, so the solemn vow stands.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Pictures

I bought this bone for Cooper in 2007 or so, fully expecting him to chew it up within days.  For some reason, it became his most cherished possession.  When I have visitors, he digs it out of his toy basket and brings it in the living room until everyone comments on it.  Then he very quickly runs into one of the bedrooms and hides it so no one can steal it from him.  Some days he carries it around for hours, but he's never chewed it even a tiny bit.

The dog is not normal.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sturdy Thirties

I cried at a bar just minutes after officially turning thirty.  It wasn't that I was worried about getting older.  I felt like I had wasted a good portion of my 20's being depressed and letting my insecurity about my weight limit me.  At 29 I lost a hundred pounds, and just when it seemed like my 20's were improving, BAM, I turned thirty.  It just didn't seem fair and I found myself mourning what I felt was a lost decade.

Of course, alcohol might have also played a small factor.

Classy as always.  Anyway, despite entering the decade under a veil of tears, so far my 30's have been pretty incredible.   You've all heard that expression "What other people think of you is none of your business?"  I always thought that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, but since turning thirty, I am totally on board with it.  I've stopped trying to be the perfect daughter, sister, friend, etc and started just being myself.  No longer do I wonder why my neighbors don't reply when I say hello in the morning or worry what people will think about what I buy in a grocery store.  I'm so much more comfortable in my own skin that, even when faced with evidence that there are people who don't like me, I just can't bring myself to care a lot (yes, hidden Care Bears reference).  I like myself and since I've turned thirty, that's been enough.

Since I've turned thirty, I've pursued every guy I've had a crush on, with the exception of Mr. Favre.  Once that restraining order expires I have big plans with him too.  Yeah, rejection is still hard, but you know how when you were a teenager your mother would tell you it was his loss?  Now that I'm thirty, I believe that.  I would never want to try to make something work with someone who felt forced to be with me, and since realizing that, it's been a lot easier to move on.  Also, with my new self-confidence, it seems like more people are interested in me, which has been a nice surprise.  

So I started this blog and recently told people I know in real life about it.  I am sure some of them have been shocked about the content.  Believe it or not, I've never been a real feeling-sharer, and some of the stuff I've discussed on here is probably a little embarrassing.  But you know what?  I don't care.  This is me, take it or leave it.  I can't pretend to be something I'm not anymore, and I can't be embarrassed by any of the strengths and weaknesses that make me me.  

I finally understand the quote above and try to remind myself of it anytime a fleeting moment of insecurity rears its ugly head.  After wasting a decade of my life paralyzed with doubt and worry and fear, it feels like a miracle that turning thirty has changed my outlook so much.  It might have been rung in with tears, but I'm happy to say that this has been my best decade yet.

Please remind me of all this on July 6, 2018 when I'm crying in a bar about turning forty.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Miley Cyrus, Mentor

Last night I attended another party that may or may not have revolved around "American Idol."  (You know, admitting I have food issues and struggle with a weight problem has been embarrassing, but all of this AI talk might be the most humiliating thing I've discussed in this blog).  We ordered Thai food and then ate the beautiful cupcakes I brought for dessert.  My friend John had the most inspired idea since the invention of the electric light and we cut each cupcake into four pieces so we all could try every flavor.

As I was taking this picture, I tilted the plate and the cupcake piece on the bottom right tumbled into my lap.  Do you see what I go through for you people???  Of course I still ate it and my friends aren't the type of people to be offended by gigantic chocolate stains on a pair of jeans, but it was still a lot of effort for a terribly unfocused picture.

AI was pretty good, especially when Miley Cyrus performed and apparently suffered some sort of seizure.  (2:32 in).  Please tell me that you saw that.  At first we thought she had fallen and my friend's face lit up like a child's on Christmas morning.  It rivaled last week's WTF moment with the girl with silver all over her face and a headdress on her head.  YOU ARE NO GEORGE MICHAEL, MILEY CYRUS!

Speaking of George Michael, I was so thrilled to see the contestants butcher my favorite song "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."  My friends and I had just been talking about how much I loved that song and low and behold, Crystal Bowersox got to strut uncomfortably through that song, pondering the price at which she sold her soul.  It was almost as great as the Ford commercials they shoot every week.

Anyway, it was a great night and I have discovered the power of having this blog.  I make vague threats of exposing embarrassing stories and/or pictures of my friends and they acquiesce to my will.  We also discussed possible topics for me to write about.  I think you'll all enjoy my fake pregnancy that's coming up.  I'm going to drop very obvious hints that the father is a big celebrity and then will give my kid to Brad and Angelina for adoption.  It will tug at your heart strings.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Evening with Iceholes

Last night, I went to my very first hockey game, the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Phoenix Coyotes.  My mom got the tickets for Christmas and was nice enough to ask me to be her date.  She behaved herself and didn't try to get fresh at all, although I did have to buy her dinner.  All in all, one of the better dates I've been on.

My mom is a big hockey fan.  I have only seen three or four games on TV and felt a little like the people who I hate to sit behind at Bears games who ask too many questions and don't realize how incredibly stupid they sound.  At one point, the puck sailed across the ice and I thought it was a bird.  Yeah, I don't think hockey commentary is going to be one of my career opportunities any time soon.

We sat next to a woman with the most annoying voice I have ever heard.  She was apparently a teacher and I felt so sorry for her students.  Every time someone stood up, she'd cackle-screech at them to sit, even during intermissions. By the time we left, I was so paranoid about standing up that I accidentally elbowed my mother in the face trying to rush out of the game.  I think she might have a black eye, so between that and my missing tooth we really did look like hockey players!  A for Authenticity!

I think I'll stick with football as my favorite sport, but the game wasn't bad, and the Blackhawks won.  I also have a new plan of encouraging my beautiful goddaughter to reach for the stars and become one of the scantily-clad ladies on the Bud Light Ice Crew.  Oh, and my mom wants a Zamboni for Christmas so it's good to know I have to start saving for that now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Don't Terminate my Catchphrase

Just begging for a top hat and a tap number

Last weekend, I watched both "Terminator" and "Die Hard" for the first time.  I know some people might find that fact unbelievable, but typically the movies I watch contain at least one song and dance number, something both of these movies were sorely lacking.  Would it have been so much to ask to include at least one heartbreaking solo where Arnold Schwarzenegger mournfully sang for the cameras and expressed the fact that although he was created to kill, there's a whole other side of him that people ignore because of his glowing red eyes?  I don't personally think so.

Anyway, after viewing these cinematic masterpieces, I came to the conclusion that I need to create myself some catchphrases.  You know, something like "I'll be baaaahhck" or "Yippee-ki-yay, mother$@C&#$!"  or "Come with me if you want to live."  My guess is that the theaters just exploded with cheers when these lines were delivered in the movie.  They scream with commercial appeal and relatability, two things I've found myself lacking in my everyday life, so I'm on a mission to become quotable and vaguely threatening at the same time.

Years ago, I had a catchphrase.  Whenever I was using a declarative sentence, I'd preceded it by saying, "It's official."  Example:  "It's official.  The Bears stink this year," or "It's official.  My shoes are untied," or "It's official.  Dinner is at 6 PM."  I thought it worked out great but my family and friends disagreed.  They'd often repeat that line back to me in a mocking, annoyed voice, apparently frustrated that I'd use it several hundred times a day.  Some people just don't understand marketing.

So now I'm looking for a new catchphrase.  My talents include keeping a ping pong ball suspended in midair above my mouth by blowing air out carefully, Tetris, knowledge of "Full House," "Beverly Hills 90210" and any "Real Housewives" series, and having an excellent memory for dates that at times might be borderline idiot savant.  My mind is blank on ideas but I'm open for suggestions.  The next step is hiring a screenwriter to follow me around and pepper up my dialogue (whoa, dialogue isn't in the Blogger dictionary but Schwarzenegger is.  What's wong with America??) with these little gems.

I'll be sure to keep you posted on how this develops.... errr, I'll be bahhhhhck.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sending Out the Bat Signal

I was walking my dog through my old neighborhood when a group of middle school boys caught up to me.  At first I didn't see them as I had headphones on and was probably having some intense one-on-one time with George Michael or maybe the Les Mis soundtrack, but I noticed the dog tense up and turned around to see them approaching.

"Hey Fat Ass," one said jovially.

I seriously felt like I was in a dream sequence from an 80's teen movie.  I took the headphones off, still thinking couldn't possibly have heard that right and said, "Excuse me?"

"Hi Fat Ass.  How you doing today, Fat Girl?"

My stomach tensed up. For the first time in a long time, I was speechless.  I don't think they knew me or who I was, but I knew one of them.  He was the younger brother of one of my friends and I remembered when he was born.  They were probably 12 or 13 and I was 23, but they seemed to have no fear that they'd get in trouble for anything they might say.  Just a gang of wild pre-teen asshole boys having a fun time taunting random people walking their dogs. 

I forget what I said to them.  It was one of those days where dealing with life had just not been easy.  I had been walking the dog to blow off steam and relax.  This scene right out of "Welcome to the Dollhouse" didn't help matters.  The boys followed behind me for about two blocks, calling me names and taunting me.  I finally turned into a park, sat down on a bench and blinked back tears.  

I was shaken and sad, probably PMSing too, because the typical me would have crippled these kids verbally.  Luckily, I had my cell phone and I called my parents' house and asked my 16-year-old sister Kerry to pick me up.  I told her briefly what had happened and she hung up the phone, promising to be there soon.

Five minutes later, I heard brakes screech on the street in front of the park.  Kerry was driving her car, which in itself was something to see.  It was a twenty year old beater that she had painted black with house paint.  She had also painted the Batman insignia on the front hood.  The Wrights are a classy people, in case you've been wondering.  Kerry opened the window and yelled out, "Get in."

When I boarded the Batmobile, I found Kerry, absolutely furious and clutching a carton of eggs.  She was in no mood for small talk.  "Which way did they go?" she demanded.  She meant business.  Nobody insulted her sister and got away with it and Kerry was ready for a good old fashioned egg attack.  

I can't really remember what happened after that, which is funny.  I'd love to write that we found the kids and pelted them with eggs, that they all cried and begged me for forgiveness and that they sent me beautifully worded letters of apology along with gift certificates for iTunes, but my mind is blank.  Sorry about that.

The thing that I'll take away from that memory, which just came back to me for the first time in years last night, was that my sister was there for me in minutes, ready to brutally attack anyone who would have hurt me and made me cry.  There was no hesitation or asking to hear the other side of the story- she was instantly ready for battle.  If she could have killed the little losers at that point, she would have done it, consequences be damned.  

That kind of loyalty and love is shocking when it's directed towards you and it instantly made me feel all better.  The fact that a group of children had made me cry suddenly seemed ridiculous and hilarious.  A day that had seemed terrible and then gotten worse was now an adventure, all because of Kerry's reaction.   I'll never forget how it felt to be rescued by my sister in the Batmobile.  

I am lucky to have a Batman in my life, and her wheels have improved considerably since that day in 2002.  

Results: Week Six

Well, after going out to eat approximately nine times this weekend, including one ill-advised trip to White Castle at midnight, I somehow managed to lose 2.2 pounds this week.  That makes my grand total so far 9.6.
  • TOTALLY got called out yesterday at a dinner party.  My family ate dinner at our friend Mary's house and she asked me what I wanted to drink.  I said, "Diet Coke is fine."  She looked at me and said, "I thought you quit Diet Coke."  See, never put anything in writing, people.  It'll always come back to bite you in the behind.  I was just trying not to be a pain in the butt dinner guest, but she had Diet Sierra Mist for me so I am still DC free.  Thanks again, Mary!  
  • Add bowling to the list of sports in which I have humiliated myself.  I am truly terrible at it, no matter how much people try to coach me.  At one point, I was concentrating so heavily on keeping the perfect form and holding my wrist straight and not letting the four year old kid in the lane next to me beat me that when I wound up to throw the ball, it slid off my fingers and went rolling backwards towards the spectators.  Cross off the professional bowlers' tour from my list of future goals.
  • I still am not working out.  The elliptical machine is still broken.  I've turned procrastination into an art form.  I am promising you right now that I am calling today because it's getting ridiculous.
  • Today I am registering for my cooking classes!  The lovely bride and groom at the wedding I performed gave me a gift certificate to cooking school.  Imagine all the ways I can embarrass myself there!  Keep in mind that my father cut off two of his toes with a lawnmower, so the genetic blueprint for amputation is definitely there.  I'll bring my camera just in case.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pre-Weekend Updates


The above pictures are from March 4th.

These are from Wednesday.  Progress pictures for Mother Nature!

  • In caffeine addiction news, it appears I've beaten my Monster addiction along with Diet Coke.  I've been drinking iced tea with lemons, water, Crystal Light Cherry Pomegranate and diet tonic water with limes.  Yes, I still miss Diet Coke.
  • Just realized my shirt is on inside out.  I've been at work for over an hour now.  It's a good thing I work alone in an office because I don't think I could pull off the professional look.  Is it possible to put a suit on backwards or inside out?  If anyone could do it, I could.
  • Ha, I'm at work watching CNBC (barf) and they had a commercial for their prime time special, "How Much is Your Dead Body Worth?"  I am not making that title up.  Check this out.  It bugs me how much the media, especially this stupid channel, depends on fear as a motivator for people. However, I think they should have saved this lovely warble for Halloween.  I particularly enjoy the ominous music in the background.  Who is lurking around just waiting to steal your body parts, America??
  • If there was any doubt I lack a large attention span, this post should clear that right up for you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Diary of a Fat Kid

This article depressed the crap out of me.  A three year old asking how many calories are in her turkey sandwich?  Way to prepare your child for a lifetime of paranoid and obsession with her weight.

I really do think dealing with childhood obesity should depend on the personality of the kid.  I've said before that I have crazy perfectionist qualities.  In fourth grade, when I started to gain weight and people started to gently (and not so gently) point it out, I was absolutely devastated.  To have this flaw just out there for all the world to see was too much for my type-A little brain to handle.  I'd go home from school and cry and beg my mom to write letters getting me out of gym.  It was obvious that this was a problem.  I still don't know what a good solution would have been.

My parents tried everything, and I know that it was with the best intentions.  We went to two different nutritionists, an eating disorder program, and a psychologist.  They promised me a pool, vacations, new bedroom furniture and Game Boys if I could lose weight.  I went on special diets and they locked junk food up to prevent me from binging on it.  I was involved (and awful) in every sport my grammar school offered.  Still, my weight went up and I became harder and harder on myself.  Truly the definition of the vicious cycle.

That picture above makes me so sad, because I remember the day it was taken and I remember being so down because I felt like a fat cow.  Now I look at it and that just blows me away.  As an adult, I've watched as a few of my young cousins got a little chunky right around fourth grade, just like I did.  It seems like it was just a precursor to puberty and when that finally hit, they grew into their weight.  Part of me wonders that if such a big deal wasn't made about my weight that this problem would have dealt with itself.

I do know that I was miserable and dealing with the weight issue made it worse.  If my school had started a program about childhood obesity, I would have felt singled out and that would have made it worse.  At that age, I just wanted to be like everyone else, and I knew most sixth graders weren't going to dietitians and psychologists, so none of that ended up being very helpful at all.

Solutions?  I don't know.  I don't think freaking out about your child getting a little chunky is helpful.  Maybe head out as a family on walks on a daily basis or something?  Overhaul the diets of the whole family instead of the child, but in subtle ways so the little chunky kid doesn't feel like he or she killed dessert for the rest of the family?  I don't have children and when I think of issues like this, I am not sure I want to have them.  Being a parent seems like the hardest job in the world, and it's not fair that the kids they try to do their best with end up being their harshest critics.

It seems like letting go of trying to be perfect and just trying to be myself helped a lot for me, but it took twenty years of counting calories and feeling guilty about wanting ice cream to do it.  Teaching your kid about calories at three?  That seems like setting her up for an eating disorder to me.

Do any of you guys have any better ideas on how to deal with this issue or stories about what worked for you?  It's still a little hard for me to talk about being a fat kid, which shows how long those wounds take to heal, I suppose, but it's a subject that is really close to my heart.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's for Dinner?

My sister Annie doesn't cook.  She also doesn't eat leftovers and she washes her hands way too much, but that's not the point.  She's been bugging me for weeks to make Cooking Light La Bamba Casserole
and has even gone as far as telling me that she'd pay me to make it for her.  Well, I was nice enough to only charge her a single cupcake but I did make it for her.  It's the most Duggarific thing that I cook as it's entirely made out of canned stuff like refried beans and corn, but it really is good.  If she knew how easy it was to make, she would have saved herself a cupcake.  I won't even mention here that the picture above looks a lot like vomit.

This recipe was really easy and a lot better than I expected.  I've never understood how people eat hamburgers without cheese on them.  Somehow, the Cooking Light Barbeque Turkey Burgers
didn't need it at all!  I made six of them and froze the leftovers and they reheated in the microwave and were still delicious. 

Since it finally hit fifty degrees in Chicago, I had to grill outdoors on my five foot by five foot balcony.  I have never really grilled anything barbecue before but the Cooking Light Barbecued Pork Chops were easy peasy and pretty good too!  Next time I think I'd use less brown sugar in the sauce, but this recipe was definitely a keeper.


I am in the midst of refinancing my condo and so spent many frantic hours cleaning my place yesterday in anticipation of the appraiser arriving.  Me being me, I concocted a fantasy in which he would come in, take one look around and declare it the cleanest living space he had ever seen.  Yes, these are the type of fantasies that I have, which may explain some of the ups and downs I've had in relationships.

He arrived and I immediately began following him around, pointing out every single flaw in my unit.  You're reading that right- I helped him depreciate the value of my property.  What flaws, you might ask?

Do you see the gigantic hole in my bathroom wall?  That's good, because the appraiser didn't, until I pointed it out.  I had remodeling done almost two years ago and the no-good, ridiculous, possibly drug-addled contractor ended up walking out before the job was finished.  I am not sure why he had to pop a hole in the wall, but I've been staring at it for two years now.  I think it gives the place a rustic, country look.

In this picture, you might notice the single bulb in the non-middle of my kitchen ceiling.  Believe it or not, this is an improvement because for a year and a half, there was just a hanging mass of wires and a lamp plugged in and shoved into a corner.  Also note the bizarre outlet placement and the patchwork that needs to be done on the ceiling.  Again, if you ever need to know what contractor NOT to use in the Chicago area, please contact me.  

This used to be the entrance to my kitchen and now it is a lovely showcase of the back of my refrigerator.  Eventually there will be a wall there.  Also, at some point, the "Lost in Space" style tract lighting will be taken down.

So anyway, the appraiser came and went in fifteen minutes, never once mentioning how clean my baseboards were or noting the beautiful organization of my guest bedroom closet.  He also never thanked me for helping him take points off my final score.  I guess some people can't acknowledge a helping hand.  Next time he comes, I'll point that out to him too.

EDITED TO ADD:  Here's a picture of my old kitchen, just for comparison.

Yes, the new one is an improvement.  It only took six months to 95% redo an 8 by 10 foot space!  That's an admirable work ethic. 

Also, if you're in Chicago and need a mortgage broker, I have a great one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Minister Costume

I do look pretty pious, don't you think?  Or at least as pious as someone with D cups can look?

(Please ignore the gigantic rip in my tights.  I had to go to a wake yesterday afternoon and beforehand met my friend Rachel for lunch.  Because my life is a sequel to the Bridget Jones' movies (with less attractive English fellows and more humiliation), I ripped my tights and had to go to the wake looking like I was auditioning for a retro 80s music video.  I just define elegance and grace).

(Also ignore the dog bed in the background.  When I was a kid, as a "Wizard of Oz" fanatic,  I badly wanted to have a dog that I could keep in a basket.  My dog is sixty pounds and wouldn't be able to fit in on a bicycle if Mrs. Gulch came to drag him away, but I am living my childhood dream and he has a basket.  It can't be comfortable for him, but hey, a dream is a dream, right?)

(My smile is weird and has been for months because I try to hide my missing tooth issue.  Six more weeks and the whole stupid experience will be over with.  It still kills me that I didn't work a Halloween costume around it and be a hillbilly or a Palin.  Just a joke, Sarah!  Please don't call me out on your Facebook status!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Goin' to the Chapel

A few months ago, I got a text from my cousin Bizzy.  "Aren't you able to perform weddings?"

It took me a few minutes to figure out what she was talking about.  Years ago, on a slow night at my old job, I heard someone on the radio talking about the Universal Life Church.  They talked about how you could become a minister for free online.  I figured that could look great on a resume so I signed myself right up.  There are very few free things that I would turn away.

When I got that text from Biz, I had forgotten all about that, but she had not.  She asked me to officiate her wedding as a Universal Life minister.  Of course, I was unbelievably honored and I agreed right away.  I decided that I'd better order my ordination certificate online, just to add an air of respectability to the whole thing.  A few weeks later, this came in the mail:

Check out that date of ordination- I've been a minister since 2001 and this was the first time I've actually used this title!  Shocking and upsetting.  By the way, check out this list of my fellow Universal Life ministers.  Yes, Wavy Gravy, Tori Spelling AND Jeff Probst.  Who wouldn't sign up for free to be in that kind of company?

A few days before the wedding, I started to think carefully about the task that lay before me.  I don't exactly have the best track record for, um, behaving like a minister at weddings.  Examples:

(I did blank out my partners-in-crimes' faces in the pictures.  Just because I am publicly humiliating myself doesn't mean I want to drag everyone else I know down with me!)

(Oh, also, that picture of me in the green dress reminds me of that scene in "Steel Magnolias" where Dolly Parton talks about how some woman should be wearing a girdle and that it looked like two pigs were fighting under her dress).

(Also, I can just hear my mother sighing when she sees the above pictures.  Sorry, Mom.  She tells me three times a month that she wishes I would develop "filters" and I am guessing this would fall under those).

Anyway, I decided I needed to be a little more low-key and respectable since I was going to be the one actually marrying Bizzy and Mike.  Shopping for a dress that made me look like I had the authority of the Lord inside of me was also interesting, but I think I pulled it off pretty well.

The wedding was beautiful.  Bizzy and I grew up together and I feel like she is one of my sisters, and her new husband is a smart ass who fits right into our family.  Bizzy looked stunning, like a supermodel.  I'm not even exaggerating or kissing up to my cousin; she took my breath away.  I'll post pictures when I get them, with the permission of the bride (although she is sensibly much more private than me) but take my word for it, she was gorgeous.  There were only a few people there but you could feel the love and support for Bizzy and Mike just radiating off of everyone in the room.  I truly felt lucky to be there and to play a part in joining the two of them together for life.

I think I did a pretty good job.  I read the word "lover" two or three times without giggling uncontrollably, a major accomplishment.  Standing up there in front of a couple who were pledging to love each other for the rest of their lives was very powerful for me.  Pronouncing them husband and wife felt surreal, but honestly, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.  I love them both so much and really do wish them all the happiness in the world.

It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to officiate, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat (although hopefully not for either Bizzy or Mike!)

Results: Week Five

Drumroll please... I stayed exactly the same.

As an English Lit major, there's a big part of me that wants to up the plot on this whole thing for you people.  Maybe secretly start working out four hours a day and appear amazed when the pounds drop off.  I can recognize a good story and nothing drags down a plot like slow, lingering build-up with no pay-off.  If you've ever sat in a class for weeks discussing "Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady," you know exactly what I mean.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty committed to being honest, so this whole thing might take a while.  Insert forty billion "Rome wasn't built in a day" type metaphors.
  • The elliptical machine is still broken.  Costco mailed out replacement parts and I finally got them on Thursday.  I have to call and schedule a day for the repair guy to come out.  Admittedly, I've been using this as an excuse not to work out.
  • I still feel great about this non-diet thing.  My anxiety level about food is way down and I haven't had urges to binge and go crazy because nothing is off limits.  Not counting calories after mentally doing it for, oh, two decades or so is a relief in itself.
  • I'm starting to FEEL like I'm losing weight.  My pants are getting loose and my winter coat seems huge on me all of a sudden.  Maybe the scale is just lagging behind.  Who knows?  None of this ever seems like a science to me.
This week, I'm committed to getting back into the working out groove, even if it kills me.  And speaking of that, driving to work this morning, I imagined the entire plot of the True Crime book that Ann Rule would write about my life if I turned up murdered.  I think it would end up being pretty good!  I'm thinking of starting on an outline for her, just in case.

EDITED TO ADD:  I owe you guys progress pictures (although none of you knew that, but I'm anal retentive to the extreme today) so I snapped these beauties in the bathroom at work.  At some point, I'll post pictures on here where I have showered, brushed my hair and perhaps applied make-up.

Don't even get me started on the mess, but know it had nothing to do with me.  Again, the English major in me wants to tell you about the homeless man that I unselfishly allow to live in my office, but reality is a lot less interesting.  Heavy sigh.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Monster Off My Back

I have a confession to make.  Remember how I bragged repeatedly about giving up Diet Coke?  Well, that was true, and it's been four weeks since I've drank one.  Oh, actually, that's not true as I realized that I drank several rum and Diet Cokes when I went out to the burbs for my Wright Cousin Extravaganza Reunion 2010.  That can hardly count, though, as I'm sure the rum cuts out the unhealthiness of the Diet Coke, right?  Have you ever seen a fat pirate?  Have you ever seen a pirate of any kind in person?  The United States is disturbingly lacking in pirates as of late, and I think this is something President Obama should address.

(Pausing here to acknowledge that I remember that Somalia is riddled with pirates, but I've never been to Somalia and typically we don't see pirates in Chicago, so I'm sticking to my last statement.  Oh, and I'm talking about the eyeliner-wearing, hard-drinking, cleverly-cussing pirates who like to sing and dance and occasionally make someone walk the plank, not the pirates who have guns and kill people, FYI).

Well, I'm not stalling at all, am I?  Anyway, I did quit Diet Coke, but I've been harboring a dirty little secret:  Low-Carb Monster Energy Drinks.

It started off as a once-in-a-while thing around Halloween.  I work really early in the morning and one of these was definitely a great eye-opener.  I don't drink coffee so I figured this was no big deal.  I'd stop at 7-Eleven on my way to work to grab one.  No problem, right?

Well, I started buying it by the case.  It says on the can not to exceed three a day, so that was my limit.  I'd have one as soon as I woke up, whether I woke up at 5 AM for work or 11 AM on a Saturday.  When I would start to run low, I'd go into a low-grade panic.  Yeah, all the signs were there that I might have been developing an addiction.  For instance, I took this picture and texted it to my sister before going out on New Year's Eve:

I think any time you're photographing yourself with your favorite beverage, curlers be damned, it's a bad sign. Unless you're on vacation and drinking a strawberry daiquiri.  That's 100% necessary to document to make your friends at home jealous.

After I quit Diet Coke and bragged about how I didn't go through caffeine withdrawal, I did a little googling to find out exactly how much caffeine my little energy drink habit was bringing to the table.  My three Monsters a day was the equivalent of drinking almost ELEVEN Diet Cokes.  Whoops.

So this week I quit cold turkey.  Boy, has it been miserable.  I come home from work and want to take a four hour nap.  My head aches and I'm cranky and unpleasant.  (Sorry, family and friends).  I've been drinking iced tea to try to get a little caffeine in my system, but its 10 mg per 8 ounce serving make it seem like child's play.  Who would have thought that caffeine withdrawal is just not fun?

So I apologize for hiding this from you.  The last two days have been much better, as in I've only been sleeping twelve hours a day instead of sixteen.  My head only mildly feels like it's going to explode.  Progress is measured in teeny tiny steps, after all.

On the bright side, I discovered the reason they call it Monster.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Grape Freezes Over

When I asked you guys for snack ideas a couple of weeks ago, Kim suggested I try frozen grapes.  I promptly began considering Kim as half-crazy and wondered if she was one of those people who calculate the calories in mouthwash.

Frozen grapes?  Ick.  I remember my dad eating those in the 80s as a weight-loss aid.  My dad is insane about his diet.  He'll eat whatever he wants for three weeks, realize he's gained five lbs and eat nothing but spinach for ten days.  He's been gaining and losing the same ten lbs since I've known him.  Very healthy role model.

Anyway, today I finally tried them.

You know what?  I can see the attraction.  They're kind of like little Popsicle balls.  I'd imagine they'd be especially delicious on a hot summer day, although at this point I forget what those are like.  Next time, I think I'll try them with red grapes just to see the difference, but these were pretty great.  Not cupcake great, but really, what is?

So sorry, Kim, that I thought you were crazy.  Your snack idea gets two thumbs up.  If anyone else has other ideas, I'd love to hear them!

A Way with Weights

When I joined a gym in April of 2007, I had never really worked out in my life.  Seriously.  I barely knew how to turn on a treadmill let alone figure out a strength training routine.   Faced with figuring out how to lift weights on my own, I undoubtedly would have either injured myself or possibly killed someone else.  You think I'm exaggerating but really I am amazingly uncoordinated.  Remember that "Seinfeld" episode where Elaine is such a terrible dancer?  I make her look like Mikhail Baryshnikov.  I decided to spare myself (and the world) that kind of pain and hire a personal trainer.  

Before meeting her for the first time, I carefully studied Jackie Mosure's bio on the gym's website.  

Based on this picture, I decided Jackie was a stuck-up bitch who was obsessed with herself and wouldn't eat a candy bar if someone held a gun to her head.  I imagined that she'd take one look at my fat rolls and be disgusted.  She'd make subtle fat jokes and insults and then try to humiliate me into working harder.  She'd look at the other trainers in the room and roll her eyes as I huffed and puffed through the routine she'd set up mostly to amuse herself at my inability to complete it.

Um, yeah. I have more issues than National Geographic.

The first thing I noticed when I met Jackie was that she has the world's kindest face, and that isn't an illusion.  It only took me a few minutes to stop feeling intimidated by her.  That first day, she lead me through a tough routine and I had to stop twice because I was close to fainting.  She'd tell me to work some muscle group and I would have to confess I had no idea where on my body that was.  I was a beginner in every sense of the word, but she was patient with me and understanding about how nervous I was about the whole gym environment.

We worked together for two full years on a weekly basis.  She became much more than a trainer and I'm happy to call her my friend now.  And our results?  They were good enough to warrant this article in the gym newsletter.

(Yes, when that article came out I was mortified and thought that all the fit people on the treadmills around me were staring at me and thinking I should work harder.  Again, my brain is not 100% right).

When I hit my 100 lb loss, Jackie gave me a ring.  I had told her that I had never been able to really wear rings at my highest weight and months later, she gave me one.  It fit perfectly.  I can't tell you how great it is to look down at it and remember that there's someone out there who knows how hard I have worked and who is rooting for me on the sidelines.  (Yes, this is like a scene from an 80s movie but I love 80s movies so just suspend your disbelief and enjoy it).

After the economic downturn, I couldn't afford to see Jackie as much.  Recently I decided I'd go back to seeing her once a month, and yesterday we were reunited.  I am unbelievably sore this morning and  part of me hates her for that.  When I tell her that, she just smiles sweetly at me and tells me to get back up on the treadmill.  I've been lucky to have her in my life, and I know I owe a lot of the success I've had at weight loss to her.

Oh, and Jackie also trained Bernie Salazar, who was on "The Biggest Loser" a few years ago and won $100,000 after losing the most weight at home, thanks in part to my favorite trainer!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Here's a Story...

Last night, I hosted a dinner party that may or may not have been centered on watching "American Idol."

First and most importantly, my friend Peter returned this book to me after borrowing it in 1995, fifteen years ago.

I think it's safe to guess what I'm going to be doing this weekend.  Both Peter and I marked which episodes we had seen in here too.  I wonder if kids in 2020 will do this with "Full House" and "Saved by the Bell?"  What a question.  I am sure there will be college courses and PhD programs devoted to those masterpieces.  I'm sure the original 90210 will have libraries of books analyzing its impact on society and culture.

I made Cooking Light Turkey Jambalaya and it was a big hit.  It wasn't hard to make and it tasted like I slaved away at it all day, always a good thing.

The corn and bread casually tossed on the plate really classes up this picture, wouldn't you say?  Truly, food photography is my calling.

Anyway, we enjoyed "American Idol," although I find it a little disturbing that three contestants sound exactly like Jewel.  I think my favorite girl might be Siobhan, although her quirkiness might grate on my nerves in like 14 seconds, so we shall see.

For dessert, Peter and John brought cream puffs from Beard Papa's, which apparently is a franchise from Japan.  They were delicious.

Poor John had hurt his back and spent most of the evening walking around like Frankenstein and sitting stiffly and in pain in a chair, but Coop was extremely happy to see Uncle Peter, who is his favorite male in the world, by far.

All in all, it was a great evening.  Now excuse me as I'm off to do some important doctoral research on the Brady Bunch episode where Greg accidentally dyes his hair green.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's for Dinner?: Cooking Light Blueberry Pancakes

 Last week I made Cooking Light Blueberry Pancakes.  They were delicious and the perfect consummation of my new-found love of blueberries.

I used to not like pancakes because normally they were served with Mrs. Butterworth's syrup and it was wayyyy too sweet for me.  Ever since I tried real maple syrup I have been a big fan of pancakes and waffles.  I only use a little bit but it is delicious and it reminds me happily of scenes from the "Little House on the Prairie" books where they made syrup candy out of snow.

Holy Hobby

Some people like to knit.  Others play tennis or collect Precious Moments figurines.  I myself enjoy visiting roadside shrines made out of broken dishes and seashells erected in honor of God and Jesus.

This is the Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin.  I'll pause for a few seconds while you get the chuckling over that name out of your system.  Would it help if I told you the grocery store in nearby Galena, IL changed owners from Dick's to Piggly-Wiggly and decided to transition by putting up a sign saying "Piggly Wiggly Dick's?  Didn't think so.

A priest named Father Mathias Wernerus was apparently called by God to make a shrine to both God and America in this teeny tiny town in Wisconsin.  He took donations from his parishioners of shiny rocks, buttons, broken dishes and shells and constructed sculptures out of them.  God told him that it was going to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.  It hasn't quite worked out like that but I have high hopes.


One of the best things about the Dickeyville Grotto is its shrine to our country.


There's something about the wording of that plaque that makes me swell with patriotism and pride.

I love Dickeyville and its grotto and I thought it would never be topped in my heart.  I should tell you that when I was growing up, my mom had a bone chip from St. Elizabeth Seaton that someone loaned her as a relic.  I have also gone to the Vatican, own a Pope John Paul II bottle opener and have seen a saint encased in oil in a glass coffin in a church when I went to Rome.  When I say Dickeyville was number one, I am not making that statement out of ignorance.

Then, this fall, I traveled to Alabama and discovered the Ave Maria Grotto.  I feel awful, like I'm cheating on my good pal up in Wisconsin, but I have to say I fell madly in love with this place.

It's 20 times the size of the one in Dickeyville (yes, I like saying Dickeyville) and it is filled with wonders, such as this church connected to the Statue of Liberty.

It also showcases more modern buildings, such as this architectural wonder.

The creator of this grotto didn't forget where he came from, either.

Towards the end of the tour, he seemed to start running out of material a little, though.

I guess there are a lot more seashells in Alabama than Wisconsin, which makes sense.

I love both of these grottoes because I love imagining their creators suggesting them and then persuading people to let their visions come to fruition.  I've always been drawn to people who dream big, even if their dreams involve creating religious shrines out of gear shift knobs and broken porcelain dolls in small towns.