About Me

My photo
Celoron, NY, United States
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath



I'm feeling a bit discouraged today. Once again, I'm fat. I heard, once, that for every extra pound the body carries, the heart has to pump blood through another mile of blood vessels. Mine is taking a trip to the Baja Peninsula every day. I'm tired, my knees creak, and my clothes are tight. I'm confident that people who make the lifestyle changes to lose weight don't do so because of any great epiphany, but because they know they're sixteen ounces away from wearing pajamas to work.
To a large degree, a person's size defines their identity. Think about it. There's the small girl who orders small drinks, has a compact car, readily offers to be lifted by others in any kind of safety demo, and heads straight to the SMALL tab on the clothing racks. She never gives a thought to the length of a seatbelt, the weight limit of a life jacket, or the integrity of a lawn chair. When bare legs come into fashion with dresses, she loves the idea. She has no idea what the best product for chafe prevention might be. She wakes up and navigates her day, eating what she feels like eating, wearing what she feels like wearing, and doing what she feels like doing. She serves herself a small portion of M&M's, and puts that bag away without another thought. M&M's are not love to her. Not consolation, not reward. They're just cute little candies that melt in your mouth; not in your hands!
I'm a smart girl. I know there are small people walking around who navigate the battlefield with food. Who deprive themselves, count every calorie, and still see me in their mirrors. How do you get to be the well-adjusted one?
I have two small dogs. Both are breeds that are prone to overweight if overfed, but they are sleek and fit. My husband is slim and trim. My children are gorgeous; not by any means because of their sizes alone, but they are of normal, healthy weights. I'm the only roller-coaster riding, sweaty, miserable wicker-tester of the bunch. Am I weak? Not intellectually. Not creatively, and not professionally. But this weight thing is something I can't seem to get around. Pushing fifty, I know that my long range health and longevity are at stake. Mine is not a great family medical history. That alone should be an incentive; I look forward to grandchildren more than winning the lottery. I DREAM of retirement, but not one spent inactive and immobile, with doctors' appointments every other day. I want to be the old lady jumping out of an airplane with a hot tandem skydiver strapped to my back! What to do, what to do.
True, I'm the girl who feels pretty smokin' as a large. I'll never have a 'small', or even 'medium', imprint; it's not in the cards, but that's OK. I'm down with the LARGE concept, but I'm pulling XL's over my head. And filling them UP, Kids.  Up, up, up.
I know how to lose weight. I've done it countless times. I get on that track and become a paragon of healthy eating and exercise. And the DAY, make no mistake THE DAY, I look and feel good is THE DAY the needle starts going up again. I can't maintain. It's a terrifying, impossible situation. Yeah, I know. I'm in management; we don't use those kinds of words. We prefer 'challenging', or 'opportunities to improve'. Guess what. For me, health and weight maintenance have proven to be im-frigging-possible. There. It's the truth, or I wouldn't be stressing the sofa at this very moment. Reality bites; as they say.
I could embrace it; act like I planned it this way. Book an agent and do a calendar for the Chubby Chasers. Design a plus-size clothing line (which, by the way, I WOULD NOT WEAR). I'm extra-large, not W. There is a critical emotional significance to the difference (further proof of the disfunction; WHO am I kidding?)
Eat, Breathe, Move, Baby. I know the formula all too well. And so, I'll try to put it into pracice.



I am addicted to the TLC show, A Baby Story. I record each episode. They run four or five every weekday, and I watch them back-to-back most days after work. When you skip commercials, they go pretty quickly. My husband usually walks in, dog-tired, just about the time we are fully dilated and ready to push. I always feel a little cheated when we need a C-section. Either way, when the baby is born, I can't help but get choked up.
What makes a grown woman, well past child-bearing years, want to watch this series? I'll try to explain.
As a nurse, I have spent my career being present during some of the worst and most difficult days of people's lives. In ICU, there was trauma, brain death, heart failure, hemmorrhage. Now, in a nursing home, I witness the pain of the residents and their families when they have to accept that they can't go back home; that they have to give up their pets and choose a few precious momentos to bring with them.
At home, I no longer have little ones to cuddle and care for. They've grown up and moved on, and I'm sure remember me working, frazzled and short-tempered more clearly than they recall my deep and enduring love for them. Too soon old; too late patient and calm.
But on A Baby Story, the people having babies are happy! All types of families are featured as they prepare for the birth of their child(ren). Married, unmarried, widowed, or same-sex, it doesn't matter. They all experience what it's like to love someone before they are even here. There are anxious mothers, Zen mothers, surrogate mothers. Mothers who don't want any drugs, those who want drugs immediately, and those who decide they want drugs along the way. There are women who smile calmly as they give birth, and others who require bleep edits. And their partners! There are the supportive, the nervous, the gung-ho, the self-absorbed, and the faint. It is fascinating to see that there are so many different ways to get through pregnancy, labor and birth; as many ways as there are people,  One element is universal; the surprised and ecstatic reaction of anyone who sees their offspring for the first time. As a viewer, you are witnessing that magical moment!
A baby symbolizes newness, freshness, and an opportunity to begin again. (S)he embodies our faith that life, with all its difficulties, is worth sharing with somebody new. And that family ties endure.
When the episode ends, you are spared the fates that befall the unsuspecting cherubs. Oh, you can see it coming; before a child is born, we select the styles and colors of their clothing; purchase baseball gloves, ballet slippers, and Baby Einstein videos. We try to make up for any unfinished business or unrequited dreams of our own by molding our children toward our own tastes and interests. The pressure!
At times I watch other reality TV offerings, like Intervention. I try to understand how these young people, all of whom started out as innocent babies, and most of whom were wanted and anxiously awaited, came to be so troubled. Despite the best intentions of their parents and families at the time of their birth, these babies suffered abuse, irrational expectations, dissolution of family, and loss. Put simply, life happened to them.
Of course, many more babies are comfortable, well-adjusted and successful; and a few will change the world.
Is it any wonder that I find A Baby Story irresistable? Tune in and you'll see.



Minnie didn't know her. The new girl on the job stood at her register, bored, hands in her smock pockets, staring into space. How long would this one last, Minnie wondered. In her twenty-seven years at Save-Mart she had seen hundreds of them come and go. These young kids had no work ethic, she thought to herself. Just here to pick up a paycheck until something better came along.
It was a slow evening. The weekly specials would come out in tomorrow's newspaper, so the locals knew to wait for the bargains. Besides, it was Friday night, and most people had better things to do. Everybody, that is, except for Minnie. And What's-Her-Name over there snapping her chewing gum.
She wasn't sweating where her crazy husband was right now. No doubt Carl was planted on his barstool, if he wasn't out running around on her. It wouldn't be the first time. He'd been on disability for three years, claiming a back injury but that didn't seem to hamper his screwing around. And here she was, forty-nine years old, working the four-to-ten shift with some high schooler. You tried to tell me, Mother, Minnie remembered as she sprayed down her conveyor belt with Mr. Clean. She liked to keep her work station tidy. She'd picked up the  bottle after a customer dropped it in aisle nine. The cap had shattered and the sprayer was loose, but she liked to use up the damaged items so they didn't go to waste. Minnie was always trying to reduce waste and save the store money. Where did it get her? After she finished wiping everything down, she would study tomorrow's ad to be sure she was up on the sales. She liked to tip her customers off so that they saved money where they could. A lot of them didn't earn much more than she did, and every little bit helped. Minnie was a customer favorite. Hadn't she been 'Super Saver of the Week' twelve times?
"Looks like we've got some good deals on this week," she said out loud, feeling a little guilty that she hadn't said a word to the youngster all night. "How are you liking it here?"
"I love it," the girl panned. "I've never had so much fun."
That's what you got for trying to be friendly. Minnie tried again. "At least it's been quiet tonight. And we've got just an hour left. I can count out and close up if you've got something to do after work."
That brought Miss Thing out of her shell a bit. "Well, my boyfriend is coming to pick me up. He hates to wait. It would be nice to leave on time for once." Minnie knew the kid left pretty close to on time whenever she worked. With her sour attitude, the customers usually took one look at her and went to another cashier. It didn't take long to count out her shallow drawer. Didn't the managers notice these girls with the low receipts?
Minnie looked at her co-worker's nametag. "Destiny," she said to her. That's a pretty name. It suits you. You're an attractive young lady. Is your momma pretty?"
"Not like I am," Destiny said as she smoothed her shiny black hair. "I'm honest about it 'cause it's all I have."
"All you have? What's that supposed to mean?" Minnie was stunned by Destiny's lack of modesty.
"I'm not smart. I don't work hard in school, but I don't need to. The teachers give me passing grades. And every boy in the highschool is in love with me. I'm beautiful. It's not my fault."
"Well I'll tell you something, Missy. I've never been pretty, and I've had to work for everything I've ever had. Harder than anyone else I know. Just so I can work here and get varicose veins and heel spurs and support my husband while he goes out with lookers like you. Well, they don't look like you anymore, but they used to. Now they're showing their age a bit. They're a little used up. Women who think the world owes them a living don't get very far once they don't have the looks to back it up."
Destiny stared at her. "Wow, Lady. You're bitter. Don't take your problems out on me!" She pulled out some lip gloss and turned her back to Minnie while she put it on.
"This boyfriend you have," Minnie sniped. "I'll bet he gets real grumpy if he has to wait more than five minutes for you. Bet he never comes to your front door when he picks you up. Am I right?"
"What difference does that make?" Destiny shifted her weight from side to side, fidgeting with the ends of her ponytail. "It's not like we're married or something."
"Honey, he doesn't respect you. Because he's only after you for one thing. You're so nice to look at, but you've got nothin' else to offer. You're just this month's fling. He'll dump you when he's tired of you. That's one thing we have in common."
"What do you mean?"
"Men. They use us all for what we have to offer, be it brains, brawn or beauty, and then they're on to the next victim. Can't any of us count on them. That's what I told Charlotte last night on the phone."
"Wait. Who's Charlotte??" Destiny demanded.
"Carl's girlfriend. I called to have it out with her."
Destiny scoffed, "What kind of woman calls her husband's girlfriend?"
"What kind of woman doesn't? I won't have that hag make a fool of me in my own town!"
"I feel sorry for you. You've got issues, Minnie. I'm not really comfortable talking about this. And my love life is none of your business." Destiny pulled out her cell phone and started texting.
Minnie dug in her pocket for some money. "I need to go back and pick up some bread and cookies for Carl's lunch tomorrow. Would you ring me out? Then you can punch out if you want to."
"Sure," Destiny rolled her eyes. "This is my last night here anyway. I joined the Spirit Squad, so I have to go to all the football practices and games. This job sucks."
Minnie tried to hide her disgust, heading for the back of the store. She hoped they had some of those raspberry filled cookies left in the bakery. Carl loved those.


Missing You

Haven't done much today; it's a holiday weekend but doesn't feel like one somehow. One year ago today, we hosted a big party for extended family near the lake. We talked, laughed, grilled, kayaked, canoed, and connected; with an undercurrent of apprehension and concern. My father had been diagnosed with lung cancer in recent weeks, and the news stunned and frightened us. He has one of those larger-than-life personalities, and it was unthinkable that we might lose him. His surgery was scheduled for October 14th, and in the meantime we packed in all of the family time that we could. On Labor Day Sunday, he enjoyed the party but was a bit distracted. My mother did what she always did; made potato salad and cookies, thought to bring the obscure condiments and serving utensils, and cleaned up the mess with my aunts while others of us watched the lighting of flares around the lake at ten o'clock. My dad was there, and my daughter, my son and his girlfriend, my husband, my neices, nephews and cousins. I stood in the dark fighting back tears, wondering if this was to be the last summer I would spend wih my father. He had lost weight and coughed a lot. It was impossible to ignore the changes. Characteristically funny, with a quick wit, he became reticent and talked a lot about dying. Mom, who had survived a gruelling battle with breast cancer fifteen years earlier, said she wished the lung cancer had been given to her, because she knew how to fight it. She wasn't sure Dad had that fight in him. In the end, he fought better than we ever expected, and she, woefully, got her wish. At Christmastime, she too was diagnosed with lung cancer. Strangely, though I had become completely unhinged with my father's diagnosis, I really wasn't worried about her. She was that invincible to me. Having done the cancer-go-round once, Mom was clear about her treatment boundaries from the onset. She would have surgery, but nothing else. No treatments like the chemo that had exhausted her and taken her hair; and Hell No to the radiation that left painful third-degree burns on her chest- so that she had to sleep on her side on the couch, with her left arm up over the back of it, for weeks in 1995. But hey, Dad had minimally invasive surgery and came through it quite well. His cancer was staged 1B, and he required no follow-up treatment. He was bothered by a few other complications, but over-all has come through relatively unscathed. Today he made crock pot chili and read outside in the sunshine. Mother had an eight-and-a-half hour, butchering surgery that left her deconditioned, short of breath and whispering. Nerve to the diaphragm? Cut. Nerve to the voicebox? Cut. Pulmonary artery dissected and patched. A week on the ventilator in touch-and-go condition. A permanent pacemaker. Clostridium difficile (you don't want to know what that is if you don't know what it is.) Short-term rehab. placement. Oxygen, medicine, nebulizers. She hated it all. One night in the hospital ER with an infection, the chills, pain and indignity were too much.  She whispered "What would it take for all of this to stop? I've had enough of this. I want to see my Mama."  And so she got her wish a second time, on May 23rd. Almost five months to the day after they saw "something" on her chest xray, but not before she suffered a metastatic hip fracture, and probably more in other sites, and what had to be unimaginable pain. We loved her, supported her, cared for her, and said our goodbyes. And she was strong, courageous and in control until the very end. So it tortures me to think, tonight, that last year I spent time with my father, so concerned about him, while she toiled back at the party site. We dealt with his illness together, she and I, and we kept each other strong. I can't look back now and regret what I did for him, and I know for certain that she wouldn't want me to. But tonight she is gone. Gone! I still have trouble believing it. What it has taught me is that we don't know what the future brings. Life changes with a phone call. We have to cherish, appreciate and respect those closest to us; to let them know what it means to have them in our lives. No regrets.


Here we go!

And so here it is; the first installment of pretzelwisdom. What to say, what to say. I feel compelled to be wise, but the truth is I'm kind of a bullshitter. I freely tell others what they're doing wrong, and how they should live. I don't always take my own advice. Take my husband (please!) Just kidding. I've realized this summer that I need to try and appreciate him more. Have you ever noticed that you treat the person closest to you the worst? I'm the type of person who will go out of my way for anyone that I care about; and that covers a very broad scope of humanity. If a co-worker asked me to drive to Pittsburgh and pick up her cousin at the airport, I'd jump in the car in a minute. But let my husband ask me to refill his coffee cup as we lay around watching tv, and I sigh deeply, heaving myself off the couch; muttering "what's the matter, your legs broke?" as I snatch the mug from his hand. Anything he asks me to do is an imposition. The situation reached its zenith one day this summer. "Zeke" (not his real name) was out back of the house on a ladder, struggling to repair a fallen gutter. I was taking my leisure in the downstairs half bath when there came a knock at the back door. The bathroom window is next to the back steps; making restroom acitivities audible, and the head of the bathroom occupant visible, to anyone approaching the door. At the time, the persistant knocker was a neighbor wanting to talk to Zeke, and I was the unsuspecting urinator. Zeke, not wanting to leave his perch and interrupt his demanding work, demonstrated temporary deafness as I attempted to fold myself in half beneath the window and tinkle silently. I can't express here the resentment I felt toward Zeke at this moment. The son-of-a-bitch! Like I'm supposed to jump up, flush the toilet (which would immediately let the neighbor know why it was taking me so long to answer the door- of course he had only to look to his right to take it all in through the window) and hustle to the door! The non-stop yapping of our two little dogs only intensified my frustration. I did the only thing I could do; I just froze there and waited for the guy to leave; which he eventually did. I hastily got myself together and hot-footed it to the backyard. "Why didn't you answer the goddamned door?" I demanded. "I didn't hear anybody at the door," he lied. "How could you not hear it? I was on the toilet! I can't believe you hid back here." Zeke fumbled with his gutter-parts with what I was certain was a guilty smirk on his face. "Hey. I need you to run to the store and get me some silicone caulk," he said, without missing a beat.  I mean, can you freaking believe it? My reluctance must have been evident. Zeke peered down at me and said dryly, "Let's try something. Pretend I'm somebody else." And we both laughed until we cried. That's what has kept us going for thirty years.