What I Read Instead

At some point last year, I said to myself, “I should really log off Facebook and, like, read a book or something.”

So, I did. I read some books. And, I am here with recommendations.

Ready? Here we go!

Read this book if you want to read something with interestingly drawn characters and an ending that you don’t want to be an ending and also if you’d like to read anything from my list of recommendations that was popular within the past 18 months so you appear current and relevant and like those super smart friends you know who have Goodreads accounts:

Read this if you buy books based on how cute their covers are but actually really want to read THE MOST charming story because this is it and you will probably not read another book that is so lovely and surprising and one that makes you wish there was a sequel:

Read this if you’d like to go in the way back time machine to when Oprah was telling us what we should read and also if you want your worst parenting nightmare to be described in haunting detail:

Read this if you want to remember how quaint and inconsequential all of our problems were back in 2011:

Read this if you want to feel WAY, WAY better about your own parenting skills but also, I have some serious questions about the stories in this book and how one can remember actual dialogue and super specific details from when they were three years old and I’m kind of making a face when I think about this book so maybe we should discuss further:

Read this if you want to know how much of the Native American narrative was excluded from history class and if you want confirmation that everything Kevin Costner was trying to tell us in “Dances with Wolves” was true but also do not read this before bed as it is not a sleepy-time book because you really need some active brain cells to get through it but it is SO INTERESTING OMG READ IT AND REPORT BACK:

The actual title of this list of recommendations should be “What I Read (Or Listened To) Instead” but that seemed rather clunky.

BUT, I have MORE recommendations for you but they are not books, they are podcasts which are really just like books when you think about it but don’t think too hard about it because that isn’t really true but sometimes podcasts are all we have time for because life is very, very busy lately and listening to podcasts is all we can make time for while we work and fold laundry and do dishes and cook dinner and drive people places we don’t actually want to be.

These are my latest favorites and most of these were recommended to me and I now I am recommending them to you.

Listen to this if you want an interesting podcast with rotating topics that are always relevant and somehow never stale (I specifically recommend the episode pictured below):

Listen to this if you want to cry and laugh at the same time, every time (one of my all-time Moth story favorites can be found here):

 

Listen to this if you want to be ENRAGED at how multi-level marketing schemes target (mostly) women who are already in financially precarious positions, furthering their cash flow problems and leading them into deeper and deeper debt:

Listen to this if you’ve been thinking about doing one of those online genetic tests to find out where you’re from and who your distant relatives are (SPOILER ALERT DON’T DO IT SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER NOT TO KNOW TRUST ME):

Listen to this if you want to feel absolutely, unequivocally DEFEATED over how we treat  women and girls who are brave enough to come forward with stories of sexual assault:

Listen to this if you want to learn more about the people, places, culture, and experiences very different than your own that all merge together to make up the rich tapestry of this country leading to a deeper empathy for the lives and journeys of others (seriously):

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Weight Loss Edition

At a holiday party last month, an acquaintance I had not seen in months asked, “Have you lost weight?” When I replied that, yes, I had, she asked with a fair amount of trepidation, “…on purpose?”

She thought maybe I was sick.

tenor

I’m not sick but I did lose a lot of weight last year. On purpose. It’s really the only resolution that I managed to stick. Though, like any good resolution, I waited until around March to really make an effort.

I get asked about my weight loss often. And, the initial query is inevitably followed by questions about how I lost weight. The questions never bother me although, I fear my response is always kind of a letdown. “Diet and exercise,” I reply. I think people always expect me to say I went Keto or started Whole30. I don’t know what those things are but I don’t think I’m allowed to have Little Debbie snack cakes on either of them so they were never really an option for me.

So, in case you, like me, find yourself over forty and wanting to make some changes, here is how I managed to lose weight.

(And, I should note, I feel qualified to share my approach since I managed to survive the two months between Halloween and New Year’s Day without gaining any weight. In fact, I continued to lose weight. That, my friends, is a holiday miracle. Helped in no small part by a terrible stomach bug that snaked its way through our entire family two days after Christmas lingering for more than ten days but WHATEVER. The dehydration was worth it because it cancelled out all of the Christmas ham.)

Step 1: I stopped eating all of the food.

I’ve never been that into fast food (though I strongly believe an Original Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A with a single packet of mayonnaise and three pickles is one of the ways our creator shows their love for us). And, I’ve never been the type to, say, hide a shoebox in my closet filled with candy bars (although if you do this, please invite me over and I will bring Butterfingers as a contribution). My issue has never been consuming too much fast food or too many sweets or eating too much fancy cheese. It’s just been eating too much food all around.

I love food. I love it so much. I love to make good food. I love to buy good food. I love to eat good food other people make. Food is fantastic and good food is such a lovely part of life. But, I consistently ate too much good food.

Losing weight for me involved being more conscious of what and how much I was consuming. That was the key. I started tracking everything I ate. And, look, I know. I KNOW. Tracking what you eat can be laborious. But, I use an app on my phone and after months and months of logging everything on my plate or in my bowl, it’s become second nature.

I don’t place any restrictions on the type of food I eat. I just keep track of it ALL. And, I have a REALISTIC daily calorie goal that I try to hit but I also don’t stress too much if I don’t hit that mark.

The side benefit of tracking the food I eat – of being more aware of what I’m consuming – is that I’ve naturally moved towards healthier food choices and more moderate portion sizes. I can navigate a dinner out with friends or a potluck at a neighbor’s house without overindulging or eating, say, all of the pie and none of the grilled vegetables.

That’s a big deal since one cannot subsist on Little Debbie snack cakes alone.

Step 2: I started moving more.

Even though I would rather be doing literally anything else, I started exercising daily – or almost daily.

Integrating consistent exercise into the routine of an indoor cat was a challenge but I managed to do it by, surprisingly, heading outdoors. Turns out, I loathe every piece of indoor exercise equipment we have sitting in our basement. Daily hikes outside have been the thing that has kept me motivated and kept me exercising. I don’t like the extreme cold or the extreme heat but I do like moving and how it makes me feel and so, most every day, I go for a hike.

And now, to absolutely everyone’s surprise, most of all my own, I’ve taken up running. At one point, last fall, I went out for my daily hike and the weather had turned cold so I figured the quickest way to warm up would be to just start running. Then, I didn’t stop. I’ve been running ever since. The thing about running, besides the fact that it absolutely trashes your knees, is that it also trashes your feet. Running is amazing but also terrible but also THE BEST but also the worst and ZOMG, do you want to talk about running because I think Bob is tired of talking about running with me.

Look, exercising is time consuming. There’s the stretching beforehand, the stretching afterwards, the extra care I have to take nightly with my old lady feet, the precious minutes I spend worrying about the pain I’m having in that one knee. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve had to ignore to make time for the entire process of daily exercise. But, I’ve always ignored household chores anyway. Exercise has given me a legitimate excuse.

Moving more for weight loss just means finding your “thing.” And, that thing may change over time. As we head into the long, dark, seemingly endless months of January and February, I know I’ll find it difficult to head out in the cold. I would much rather be warm, underneath bed covers, watching BBC mysteries and eating Little Debbie snack cakes. As a result, Bob is trying to get me to go swimming with him but I think we should go running instead.

tenor-3I recently found a picture of my sixteen-year-old self, lounging by a pool, wearing a bikini. I can barely remember ever having skin that… smooth. When did it become so unsmooth? Everything is more… ripply now.

My body has changed in incredible and irrevocable ways over the past couple of decades, most notably growing three children. It continues to amaze and horrify me regularly. I’ll never have that same bikini body again. But, I haven’t regretted the time I’ve spent this past year taking better care of the body I have now.

I feel so much better. So much more like, “me.”

And, weight loss works better with a support system. So, if you want to go for a walk or a run or need encouragement or want to be friends on MyFitnessPal, let me know. We can do this! We ARE doing this! We can help each other!

I will bring Little Debbie snack cakes because it’s all about balance.

 

Thirteen

As of 5:22 this morning, I am the parent of a teenager.

That went fast.

I keep a set of pictures in my wallet. They’re of my children. One wallet-sized picture of each of them from every school year. I’m not even really sure when or why I started keeping them like that. No one seems too interested in school pictures anymore. I casually asked Henry if he wanted a set of this year’s photos to trade with his friends and by his absolutely bewildered reaction, I’m assuming students no longer do this. Just another industry killed by millennials or Facebook, I’m guessing they’ll say. But, on a moment’s notice, I can make the march of time tangible by pulling out the thin stack of photographs from my wallet, laying them all in a row, and marveling at how my kids have changed through the years.

I can see how my bespectacled kindergartner has become a bespectacled middle schooler. How he still, begrudgingly, after all of these years, agrees to wear the one collared shirt he owns on picture day. How he looks the same and yet so very different. How I think I can get a glimpse of what he’ll look like when another eight years pass. How I sometimes feel like I only know him in the present and have completely forgotten how he was in the past.

At thirteen, Henry has become a kind, interesting, funny, sporty, and (somewhat consistently) respectful adolescent.

I’ve found myself over the past several months asking other moms who have parented teenagers what the journey is like. I’m afraid I ask questions of them like I would the big cats caretaker at the zoo – a mix of earnest curiosity and inherit fear. The answers I receive are frequently mixed. For every, “It’s not so bad,” there’s a, “No comment.” One parent will speak fondly of the time while another just looks off into the distance, a little battle-weary. I’m always left with the impression that the teenage years are something to survive rather than relish.

And, we have many, many years of survival ahead of us. During a particularly challenging parenting moment a few weeks ago, when the dust from the frustration and the anger was settling all around us, I looked at Bob and said, “We have a full DECADE of parenting teenagers ahead of us. We didn’t really think this through when we decided to have three of them, did we?”

It’s strange to be beginning this journey. It makes me feel old in a way that turning forty never did. I’m old enough to have a teenager! I still remember being a teenager. It all feels like the start of something but also the end of something. Fun and exciting but also destined for frustration and heartbreak. But, that could describe every stage of parenting.

I suppose teenagers are just a different kind of difficult.