Book Festivals and the Pulpwood Queens

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I’m gearing up for an exciting book tour for Cherry Bomb, with thirteen events now scheduled in six states, and more in the making. Several festivals and conventions are on the list, including a few I’d like to mention here today.

At the Mississippi Book Festival, August 19 in Jackson, Mississippi, I’ll be on a fiction panel for Cherry Bomb, and also moderating a panel for women authors. “Her Story,” the panel I’m moderating at 12 p.m., features the following panelists:

Mary Ann Connell, An Unforesen Life: A Memoir

Jessica B. Harris, My Soul Looks Back

Suzanne Marrs, Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald

Norma Watkins, That Woman From Mississippi

At 4 p.m. I’ll be on a panel, “Voices of Home,” moderated by Tracy Carr, director of the Mississippi Center for the Book, for a discussion of Mississippi writing from four current Mississippi writers:

Tracy Carr, Mississippi Center for the Book Director and the Library Services Director at the Mississippi Library Commission, MODERATOR

Julie Cantrell, Perennials

Susan Cushman, Cherry Bomb

John Floyd, Dreamland

Johnnie Bernhard, A Good Girl

I’m already friends with Julie Cantrell and John Floyd, and I’m looking forward to meeting Johnnie Bernhard and Tracy Carr. Book festivals are such a great opportunity to get to know others in the literary world!

 

In September I’ll be on a panel for A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be, at the Decatur Book Festival. The schedule isn’t set yet… stay tuned!

October 13-15 is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, where I’ll be on a panel for Cherry Bomb. Again, the schedule isn’t published yet, but you know I’ll keep you in the loop!

CL.PulpwoodQueenLogoAnd my latest news (drum roll, please) is that both Cherry Bomb and A Second Blooming have been chosen as book selections for the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs (over 700 clubs internationally)! A Second Blooming is the pick for February, 2018, and Cherry Bomb is a bonus book for March of 2018. I’ll be traveling to Nacogdoches, Texas for their annual Girlfriend Weekend, January 11-15, 2018. Several hundred Pulpwood Queens Book Club members will be there, along with several dozen authors. This amazing book club and annual event are organized by Kathy L. Murphy, author of The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life.

CHERRY BOMB Book Tour is Shaping Up!

cherry bombAfter a fun and busy spring book tour for Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s (11 events in five states) and A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (7 events in four states, and one more coming up next week in a fifth state), I’m slowing down a bit in June and July. Doing lots of reading and “mental prep” for my new novel, which is I’ve started and stopped in order to refuel.

Cherry Bomb (my novel) launches August 8 at Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi, and my publisher, Joe Lee (Dogwood Press, Brandon, Mississippi) and I are cooking up some fun events for late summer and fall. These (and more to come) will be listed on my web site’s EVENTS page, so feel free to check in from time to time for updates. Meanwhile, here’s a preview of coming attractions in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida:

August 8 (5 pm)            Lemuria Books/Jackson, Mississippi

 

 August 19                        Mississippi Book Festival/Jackson, Mississippi (panelist for

                                                Cherry Bomb; also moderating another panel)

 

August 26 (12 pm)            Turnrow Books/Greenwood, Mississippi

 

September 1-4            Decatur Book Festival/Decatur, Georgia (panelist for A

                                                      Second Blooming; possibly also for Cherry Bomb)

 

September 7 (5:30 pm)            Burke’s Books/Memphis, Tennessee

 

October 12-15            Southern Festival of Books/Nashville, Tennessee (panelist for

                                                A Second Blooming; possibly also for Cherry Bomb)

 

October 28 (time TBA)            Capitol Oyster Bar/Montgomery, Alabama

                                                (“Choose Your Own Cover” event with live music)

 

October 30 (4 pm)            Sundog Books/Seaside, Florida

 

More events are in the works for November…. We’re still nailing down details, so stay tuned.

The Afternoon of Life

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In Monday’s post I wrote about three seasons of life as I saw them in Petula Clark’s song, “Fill the World With Love,”—the morning, noon, and evening. Yesterday I was talking about this with a friend (who is in her eighties) over coffee at her kitchen table and I said, “You know, I think I may be in the afternoon of my life. Surely I am past the noontime and not yet to the evening.” She agreed and encouraged me that the afternoon of our life holds much that is wonderful.

At home later in the day I found an email from her with a quote from Jung, so I Googled the topic and found this article which reflects on Jung’s wisdom about this season, “Enjoying the Afternoon of Life: Jung on Aging.” There is much wisdom in this article, but I especially like this part:

Jung called the elder years—those from c. age 56 to c. 83—the “afternoon of life,” using the analogy of the passage of the Sun through the sky from morning to night. Youth was “morning,” noon corresponded to mid-life, and night was old age, while the sixth and seventh decades see life energy wane, much as the Sun’s warmth declines as it sinks lower in the sky. Just as we need the full cycle of the Sun to support life, so we are meant to live out the full cycle of human existence, and Jung recognized this. More than just living, Jung urged us to enjoy the “afternoon” of life….

So how are we to enjoy these years, where so many of us “Baby Boomers” find ourselves? I see many people trying to stay young—those with money chasing the elusive fountain of youth with personal trainers, expansive wardrobes, makeup routines (and plastic surgery), and behavior which denies aging. While I want to remain active, I don’t want to compete with younger generations. My body won’t let me, and I want to be content, to actually enjoy the afternoon of my life. But the article at the Jungian site describes a lifestyle I’m not ready to completely embrace:

The interval between age 60 and age 80 is the time most people retire from full-time participation in the work world. Generally in this interval children have grown up, gone off to college and set up their own families. This means there is more leisure, fewer family demands, and minimal restrictions in daily life due to the demands of work. Ambitions and desires tend to decrease, and oldsters often feel relief as they “downsize” into smaller homes, condos or collective living arrangements. There may be relief also in the realization of no longer having to keep up with new technologies.

Since I never had a “career” (I was a stay-at-home mom most of my life, other than running an aerobic dance business and doing some freelance writing) I’m not “retiring” at age 65…. I just had two books published and have two more in the works. I’m just getting started! And yet, I’m doing these things without the restraints of a mother with children still at home, and yes, with more leisure. I can choose what to do with my time, which is a great gift for which I try to remember to thank God daily.
I guess my main “complaint” in the afternoon of my life is the limitations placed on me by my body—although those limitations are mostly my own fault for not taking better care of it. The weight gain, the daily aches and pains (many from the car wreck three years ago), the sagging chin and drooping eyelids, all scream at me and make me yearn for my youth. But do I really want it back, with all its anxieties? No!

Today I will move forward, learning to enjoy the afternoon of my life. I will even allow myself to take a nap when I need one, or read a book or watch a movie in the middle of the day. But I also realize that my privileged leisure comes with a responsibility to others. No longer my mother’s caregiver, and with my grandchildren 2000 miles away, it’s easy to become lazy about reaching out to others. And to feel guilty that I’m not doing more volunteer work. I talked with my octogenerarian friend about these things yesterday, and she encouraged me that I have a gift to offer—my writing—and that in order to do my art, I will need to go inward and not spread myself too thin doing multiple “good deeds.” I’m still thinking about that, and trying to consider my writing as a full time job. That and taking care of my body. I’m so lazy when it comes to exercise, which will greatly help the aches and pains and weight management.  So how do I move forward?

Jung felt the older person had the opportunity to re-imagine him or herself. Approaching life with a new sense of freedom and individuality, the oldster can improvise more, with less need for perfection and more boldness in affirming his/her uniqueness. No longer feeling the need to honor the past, no longer needing to honor dysfunctional family patterns, the oldster can even dare to be outrageous, to adopt the persona that feels right, rather than conform to what society expects.

I love what this says about no longer needing to “honor dysfunctional family patterns.” I’ve struggled with issues from the past for 65 years. Many of those issues have fueled my writing, but as I begin a new novel (yes!) I want to move on, to leave those issues in the past, and to “dare to be outrageous,” whatever that might mean for this season of my life. Hopefully I can tell a new story (one that has been percolating for only a few weeks) without those shackles. Here’s to the afternoon of life!

My Body

33025569I’m reading my fourth and fifth books of 2017 simultaneously, as I often do. Especially when they’re so different. That way I have choices: which book to read with my morning coffee? What am I in the mood for with a cocktail in the evening? Which one will I take to bed with me?

One of my current reads is Angela Doll Carlson’s Garden in the East: the Spiritual Life of the Body. Two years ago I reviewed another of Carlson’s books, Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition. There was so much I could relate to in that book, so I was excited to see her book on the body. See, I’m a bit obsessed with my body. Always have been. Maybe because of my childhood sexual abuse. Maybe because my mother always told me I was fat. Maybe because I couldn’t stop comparing myself to the beauty queens on the Ole Miss campus when I was a student there in 1969-70. If you’ve been reading my blog very much, you know that I always struggle with weight. I worked so hard to lose 17 pounds in the last few months of 2015 and early months of 2016, only to gain back most of it last summer. I’ve been stuck with it ever since, and it sends me into bouts of depression and self-loathing on a regular basis. Not to mention the discomfort of my clothes not fitting. I don’t know what I’d do without my extra large yoga pants.

This morning I went to my annual physical exam—my first since turning 65. I am so grateful for my wonderful internist. She’s (1) smart, (2) communicative, (3) energetic, and (4) non-judgmental. I bubbled over with an apology for the weight gain before she could even bring it up, and she made no comment at all. No lecture. She knows that I will do something about it when I can. Or I won’t. But her words won’t make a difference.
But Angela Carlson’s might. Using the metaphor of our body as a garden, she writes about the importance—and the joy—of tending that garden. Of loving it. These words remind me of how I feel when I remember that I could be dead or paralyzed after my wreck in 2013, which left me with pretty continuous aches and pains (broken neck, leg, and ankle, all full of permanent hardware):

In my best moments, I am grateful to be walking around, upright and active. In those moments, I am not noticing the forward jut of my head, misaligned form age and bad postural habits built up over time. I am not worried about the creaking of my knees or my elbows. In my best moments, I am thinking about deep issues like world peace and schoolyard bullies and what’s for dinner.

Oh how I love those moments when I am not obsessing over my body! For me, those “best moments” usually involve writing, editing, reading, or watching an excellent movie or television drama. Sometimes they involve music. Or taking in the beauty of a spectacular sunset, at the Mississippi River (three blocks from my house) or a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. I can easily pour out my love and appreciation for these things and places that bring me joy. So why can’t I express that same love for my body, my garden I’ve been given to tend? Carlson says:

This body is a garden and it is mine. I am responsible for its care. I am responsible for the words I use when I describe it, even to myself, even when I’m alone.

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Carlson continues the garden metaphor, even laying out for us parallels involving loving and caring for both, which includes the way we speak to our garden. I’ve never been much into growing things, and I’ve certainly never spoken to my plants. But I used to talk to my cat all the time. And the tone in my voice told her she was loved, just as the tone in our voices sends a positive message to our children, our spouses, our friends. So how should we speak to our bodies? Carlson says we should tell our body that we love it. That it is good and strong and beautiful—an amazing mystery created by God and given to us to cradle our spirits and allow our souls to grow and be happy and at peace.

Maybe if I learn to talk to my body, I’ll eventually learn to love it. Or at least not to hate it.

It’s Always Going to Be About the Weight

Kate and TobyI’ve been watching the new show, “This is Us,” on NBC. It follows a family with triplets (well, two triplets, since the third died in childbirth, and the parents adopted a third baby who had been abandoned at the hospital) and the daughter has a weight problem. Shown as a girl of around eight, she was already a little chubby, and her mother was encouraging her to eat fruit when her brothers were eating sugary cereal for breakfast. Then there’s a discussion between the two of them where the mother says, “You know I love you. I’m just trying to help.”

Those scenes take me back to my own childhood—well, actually my adolescence—when I gained weight too quickly and my mother started in on me. But she wasn’t as gentle as the mother in the TV show (played by Mandy Moore). So I’m watching to see how their relationship changes as the daughter gets older. (The show goes back and forth between decades, showing their childhood and later the kids as adults.)

2016-0818-ThisIsUs-ChrissyMetz-1050x1050-CVIn the scenes where the “triplets” are adults, “Kate” (played by Chrissy Metz) is seriously overweight. In one scene in Episode 2, Kate meets “Toby” (played by Chris Sullivan) at a therapy group for people with weight/food issues. Toby is attracted to Kate and convinces her to go on a few dates, but as he pushes for intimacy, she is obviously afraid. There’s this one scene that tells it all for me, when Toby asks her to go somewhere with him where they can just be themselves and not think or talk about food and weight issues. He says something like, “Life is not just about being fat.” She replies, “For me, it’s always going to be about the weight.” As Avery Thompson says in Hollywood Life:

It invades every aspect of her life, and she just can’t change what she feels in her core. Her confession is an honest one. Not many people have the guts to talk about what really troubles them deep down in inside so openly.

I felt her pain in my gut a she said this. And I understand that it’s “what she feels in her core.”

There’s a slim young woman in Kate’s overeating therapy group who has body-image distortion issues. I also identified with her, from back when I was running an aerobic dance business in the 1980s and weighed 116 pounds. I would look in the mirror—in my spandex tights and leg warmers—and still believe that my thighs were too fat. (Of course I’d give anything to weigh 116 again.)

So when Kate says it’s always going to be about the weight, I worry that I’ll never be free of this obsession. I worked so hard to lose that 15 pounds last fall, winter, and spring, and then so easily gained back 10 of it this summer, and now I’m ready to start losing it again. But the prospect of having to focus on everything I eat (again) isn’t a happy one. I’m tired of this lifelong battle. Of course when I share this with people, I get lots of suggestions about different diets and lifestyle eating choices. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate people trying to help, but I’m pretty well informed. But “knowing” is only half the battle, if even half. For me, it’s about waking up every morning and as part of my morning prayers asking God (and Mary of Egypt, my patron saint, and my guardian angel and Mary the Mother of God) to help me that day to be disciplined in my eating and exercise habits, and to please help me lose weight.

I’ve been praying that prayer almost every day since I was a teenager. I’m sixty-five years old. And now I’d really like to lose 25 pounds, which sounds like moving a mountain.

Anne Lamott said (in an article for Oprah Magazine in 2009) that one thing she did to become the person she was meant to be was “…whenever I could, for as long as I could, I threw away the scales and the sugar.” She makes it sound so simple… to quit caring about her weight, but also to quit eating sugar. Neither is something simple.

And so I begin again. Today. I’m going to try to talk to myself as a kind, sweet, supportive, non-judgmental mother would talk to her daughter. As I know my own mother thought she was doing, God rest her soul. I’m going to try to quit blaming her. I’ve already forgiven her, which is a big step, but taking responsibility for my own actions and leaving her out of it is much harder. Today I’m going to focus on my writing projects (three!) which I love—proof-reading galleys for one book; working with an editor on the manuscript for another; and honing marketing plans for a third—and hopefully the joy this work brings me will flow over into a more positive focus on food and exercise. Deep breath. Here goes….

Mental Health Monday: The Summer of My Discontent

The Summer of My Discontent by Melissa Pynn http://www.elfwood.com/u/lissapynn/image/fcf50b10-254b-11e4-8293-7393fb7fed06/the-summer-of-my-discontent

The Summer of My Discontent by Melissa Pynn

Today I am declaring the summer of my discontent as officially over. Three long, hot, hard months of weight gain, depression, grief, sloth, lack of exercise, over-eating, over-drinking, and over-thinking are OVER today. Labor Day seems like a good time to turn this ship around.

Of course it helps that I’ve got such exciting news on the publishing front and plenty of work to be done to get those two (and maybe three) books birthed in 2017. There’s definitely a correlation between my depression lifting and those emails and phone calls and meetings with publishers the past couple of weeks.

Today’s post might seem to be as much about physical as mental health—and it definitely is—but for me, the battle is always as much mental. After watching the Olympics in August, and now the U.S. (tennis) Open, I’m reminded over and over again how much success in athletics is a mental thing. My two favorite sports to watch are tennis and golf, and I’ve seen many a seasoned athlete lose, not so much to other players as to himself. We beat ourselves when we let stress and negativity overwhelm our efforts at success, in any area of our lives. So today, I’m focusing on one of those areas I’ve neglected this summer—exercise.

Aerobic Dance Instructors at Phidippides Sports, Jackson, Mississippi, 1985

Aerobic Dance Instructors at Phidippides Sports, Jackson, Mississippi, 1985

During my years as an aerobic dance instructor (1982-1991) I worked out regularly and never really thought of it as exercise, because it was fun. I love to dance, and I love to teach. (And yes, I even loved the cute outfits with the leg warmers and headbands back in the 1980s.) But when I quit teaching in 1991—twenty-five years ago—my battle with exercise began. I tried taking aerobics classes, but found it hard to motivate myself when I wasn’t the instructor. I had temporary success with Curves (circuit training) in 2001 (when I was recovering from surgery for cervical cancer) but that was the last time I participated in any kind of organized exercise program.

Breaking my neck, leg and ankle in 2013 greatly hindered my efforts at exercise. Walking on hard surfaces (outdoors) hurts. I can’t do yoga. Pilates hurt my back. Swimming takes too much time (okay that’s my excuse, though I may have to get over that one day). And so I’ve pretty much been limited to the elliptical machine for the past four and a half years. And it’s right here in my office, with a view of my flat screen TV. In the air-conditioning. How difficult can that be, right? (I’m trying to take inspiration from Venus Williams, who is ranked #6 in the world at age 36, in spite of having Sjogren’s syndrome. Makes my arthritis and other aches and pains seem insignificant by comparison.)

Older-woman-holding-weightsWith new information encouraging us that 150 minutes a week is good enough, and that those minutes can even be broken up into 10-minute intervals, I should have no problem hopping on the elliptical once or twice a day and logging those minutes. Which I plan to start doing again. Today. (And I’m trying to remember that exercise isn’t just about weight-loss.)

I’ve gained back 5 of the 15 pounds I worked so hard to lose over the past year, so I want to lose it again and another 10 or 15 more. I know it won’t be quick, and I know success will depend upon overcoming my eating disorders and committing to exercise. And not just for weight loss—I realize I also need to start doing some strength training to build muscle and bone. Haven’t figured out a plan for that yet. Today, I’m all about getting back to the diet and exercise.

Happy Labor Day!

Mental Health Monday: Joie de vivre!

Susu beachA number of years ago I discovered the wonderful book French Women Don’t Get Fat (published in 2004). The author’s simple but revolutionary (for Americans, anyway) approach to eating—and to life—is something I find myself returning to over and over, at each stage of my life in which I find myself needing a radical return to a mindful lifestyle. It inspired my efforts when starting a 1000-1200-calorie “budget” last fall. Basically it encourages us to enjoy excellent food in very small amounts (tiny, for those of us over sixty) and to exercise regularly and drink lots of water. Simple to understand. Very difficult to execute, at least for me it is.

And so now I find myself six months into this new attempt, having lost 17 pounds and gained back 2 of them, “stuck” as Winnie-the-Pooh was when he ate too much honey and couldn’t get his fanny out of the hole in the tree. My “goal” was to lose 33 pounds (or more—I’ll know when I get there) so I reached the half-way point and hit several walls. Family emergencies. Travel. Holidays. Boredom. Anxiety. All things that can easily derail a diet or any healthy initiative.

Forever Chic coverEnter Tish Jett’s book Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance, which jumped off the shelves of The Hidden Lantern Bookstore in Rosemary Beach, Florida, when I was there last week. My husband and I are going to Paris in May (bucket list item) and I’ve been doing some related reading. A few weeks ago we went out to dinner with our good friends who are going on the trip with us. Tim asked each of us what we were most looking forward to during our ten-day immersion trip in Paris. Some of the answers from the others included art museums and galleries, food, local markets, and the must-see tourist attractions. My answer? French women. I want to sit at a sidewalk café and observe them—their bodies, their hair, their skin, their clothing, the way they walk. This book confirms my interest, and I’m taking in the wisdom from the American author who learned it as she lived in Paris for years and became herself a femme d’un certain age.

I’ll share more from the book in future posts, but for now I’m focusing on some words of wisdom from the first chapter, especially because of my “stuckness” with weight loss right now. And while I want that je ne sais quoi that French women seem to have, losing fifteen to twenty more pounds is in the forefront of that dream for me. Jett reminds us in this first chapter that “discipline will set us free”… and that need for discipline increases with age:

… the difficulty factor has amped up as the forces of the elements, our hormones, and life in general throw additional challenges at us. One of the nutritionists I interviewed noted that menopause requires cutting two hundred fifty calories from daily intake just to keep weight stable.

But French women aren’t thrown by reality—they are pragmatists. As Jett says, “Frenchwomen eat well, drink little, and take the time necessary to perform their serious daily toilette, the ritual ablutions of skin, hair, and body care” (more on some of that in future posts).

So how do French women deal with binge-eating, backsliding from their healthy routines? It seems that American women tend to get depressed and go into self-loathing and more weight-gain when this happens. I find those wolves at my door right now as I have grown a bit weary of my low-calorie routine. I gained another pound while at the beach last week. So how should I look at my situation? Jett says:

And no, discipline does not preclude the occasional flight of fancy. Even the most disciplined Frenchwoman wanders off course from time to time. It’s part of enjoying life to the fullest. Remember that other famous French expression, joie de vivre? How could one possibly have joy in her life if she didn’t allow herself chocolate cake and champagne Exactement.

chocolate fonduExactement! My friend and I walked an hour to an hour and a half each day at the beach, so we got our exercise, and we enjoyed excellent meals and drinks every day, often sitting outdoors at lovely cafes along 30-A, the Gulf coast’s Champs-Elysées, soaking in the fresh air and sunshine along with the martinis, wine, seafood, and yes—chocolate fondue at La Crema, an amazing tapas and chocolate bar in Rosemary Beach. And that was after brunch on the porch overlooking the green at The Pearl—a lovely boutique hotel just across the street. The weight gain wasn’t because of the excellence of the food, but the amount. We were on a four-day vacation, enjoying a month’s worth of food and fun! Now that I’ve returned home (and, interesting timing, entered into the season of Great Lent with its prescribed fasting regimen) I should be able to get back on track, right? And yet I’ve been eating junk—potato chips and Cokes especially—and not enjoying it at all. Jett’s book is reminding me that discipline will free me from this plight. Discipline and joie de vivre!

And so I begin again. With more advice from Jett:

The smallest effort has major rewards, everything from setting a dining table with care—every day—to getting up, getting dressed, and getting out there to see what adventures the new day holds.

When I read those words with my morning coffee, still in my gown and robe, I got up and got dressed and came to the computer to write this post. Next up? Elliptical. Then I’m getting “out there” to run a few errands before driving down to Oxford this afternoon for a 5 p.m. reading at Square Books. My first cousin, Johnny Jones, is editor of a new book about forced integration in our high school in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early seventies. Watch for a future post about Lines Were Drawn, and read this interview with some of the editors. Meanwhile, I’m going to see what adventures the new day holds!

Mental Health Monday: (Not Upset By) Holiday Weight Gain

indexI’ve been on a 1000-1200-calorie “budget” (I don’t like the word, “diet”) since the first of September. If you’ve been following my blog you know that the good news is I’ve lost 15 pounds. The ongoing news is I’ve got 18 more to go to reach my initial goal. (We’ll see if I change the goal once I get there.)

Everyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows the mental and emotional battles involved—especially when you “blow it” and lose momentum. This has been my first experience with a weight-loss plan during which I’ve been able to stay fairly balanced, emotionally. I’m not sure why—probably God’s grace combined with a small degree of emotional maturity after so many years with this battle. Taking it not only one day at a time, but one bite at a time, really helps.

So, a couple of weeks ago when I had my first really serious binge (on homemade fudge) instead of getting depressed and continuing to over eat the following days, I let myself enjoy the fudge (lots of it!) as an annual event, and continued the plan immediately. Amazingly, I didn’t gain any weight.

Enter Christmas holidays and our trip to Denver to be with kids and grandkids. And lots of wonderful homemade food. Some of my favorites were: Honey-baked ham, potato casserole, green bean bundles (wrapped with bacon), homemade sugar cookies with icing, and egg nog! We were gone for five days. I made a decision to count calories four of those days and just enjoy myself (but with some moderation) on Christmas Day. Well, I ended up with second servings on Christmas day, something I haven’t done in months! But it was a conscious decision, so I enjoyed every bite (and sip) and didn’t worry about the weight. The next day I didn’t feel like I was “starting over” but just continuing what I now believe will be my new lifestyle—mindful eating with rare intentional binges.

So, when we got back to Memphis and I got on the scales, I had GAINED ONE POUND. (According to this article, people tend to gain a couple of pounds during the holidays.) That’s the only time in four months I’ve gained any weight, but it was only one pound, so I’m a happy camper. I know it may take a week to lose it again, but that Christmas feast was awesome!

41q3u72wumLAs the New Year approaches, I’ll continue my plan…. Hoping to reach my goal weight by May, when we have a trip to Paris planned. Am I worried about gaining it back in Paris? Not really. Although French food and wine are wonderful, it’s French women who inspire me. Remember the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano? (Read more about her here.) The premise is that (most) French women (1) walk everywhere they go, which we can’t really do in Memphis (but I try to work out on the elliptical) and (2) eat VERY SMALL amounts of really GOOD FOOD being very INTENTIONAL. I’ve really been learning to do that, and I’m getting used to this new lifestyle. Can’t wait to get to Paris!

Mental Health Monday: Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol

de1219_445370bd0288459a94e4bd1c5491f175I’ve been on this 1,000-1,200-calorie diet for about three and a half months now. Still holding at a loss of 13 ½ pounds. (I got kinda “stuck” this past week while making home made fudge and taking it to a cookie swap.) But I press on, even with the holidays in full swing. It kind of helped that we missed two Christmas parties Saturday night due to my husband’s illness. I was so sad to miss the chance to celebrate with my husband’s work colleagues and then with neighbors, but I took advantage of our situation and stayed on track with my calories.

This past weekend I read two articles that address different elements of my situation. The first one was excerpted in Spry Living, from a longer piece by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, which I found online here:

“Intermittent Fasting Has Benefits Beyond Weight Loss.”

I was especially interested in Kirkpatrick’s article because of my church’s tradition of fasting—on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, and for longer periods of time during Advent and Lent and before other major feasts of the (Orthodox) Church. It’s interesting that this intermittent fasting recommends reducing calorie intake for two days each week. On those days, you eat two meals of about 500 calories each, which is actually about what I’m eating every day on my current weight-loss diet. The article says that this calorie-cutting can reduce cravings, which I’ve definitely noticed these past three months. But I’ve been wondering what I’ll do once I reach my goal, and this sounds like a healthy idea. And it can be nicely woven into the spiritual fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

The link to this second article was sent to me by a friend on Saturday:

549ba7ec5ca53_-_alcohol-and-calories-does-drinking-cause-weight-gain-1-lg“6 Reasons to Drink When You’re on a Diet”

This friend was aware that I’m allowing myself a vodka martini (210 calories) most days, which amounts to 20% of my daily caloric intake. Doesn’t sound very healthy, does it? And yet, this article cited studies done at Harvard—involving 20,000 women, which found that those who drank two glasses of wine a day had a 70% reduced risk of obesity compared to non-drinkers—and another long-term study by the National Center for Disease Control looked at more than 7,000 people over 10 years and found that alcohol consumption didn’t increase the risk of obesity. You can read the article to get more details, but for now, I’m not beating up on myself on the days I include a drink in my calorie budget. And as long as I work out on the elliptical, I can have 1200 rather than 1000 calories. Perfect—30 minutes of exercise=one Kettle One martini. Works for me!

Mental Health Monday: One Thing at a Time

I had planned to write more about my mother and Alzheimer’s today, but when I woke up I had something else on my mind. So instead I’ll share an article from The Guardian (October 20) that has some excellent information on dementia and caregiving:

“The Deviousness of Dementia” by Dasha Kiper. Here’s a teaser:

Dementia, of course, has been identified, classified, and even anatomically annotated. And because we’ve labeled the anomaly, describing it as something carved out in the brain, a swerve from the norm, a deterioration of cognitive ability, we believe we understand it. Having lived with a dementia patient for more than a year, I am not sure I agree. I believe that something remains hidden, something we’re not inclined to see, precisely because dementia steers us away from it.

eating-watching-tvAnd now back to what was foremost in my mind this morning: diet and weight loss. I’ve now lost 8½ pounds (towards my goal of losing 33 pounds) and while I’m pleased, I wish it was happening more quickly. I’ve been dieting for almost two months and had hoped to lose 2 pounds/week. But I’m like that about most things in life—I want it NOW. Instead I’m learning some things about myself and this process that I might not have the opportunity to learn if it happened quickly.

One thing I’m learning is to delay instant gratification (I know, that seems obvious, right?) in order to experience a bigger goal. Isn’t this what we do in other areas of life, like spending less money on small things in order to be able to enjoy the larger things—a bigger house, a new car, a wonderful vacation? Which is why I decided to call my plan a “1000-calorie budget” rather than a “diet.” I just don’t like the word, “diet.” And while budgets can be hard to keep, they can also be rewarding.

I just spent a week in Denver visiting kids and grandkids. I was a little worried that I might gain back some of the weight I’ve lost since I wouldn’t be at home where I could more easily control the budget. And I wouldn’t have my elliptical machine, on which I usually burn about 200 calories a day. But thankfully I lost one pound while I was there! How?

I let my kids know about my budget and they were supportive. They never said things like, “Oh, Mom, come on, you can splurge just once.”  So, the evening that my son and daughter-in-law fixed Italian sausage spaghetti for supper, I only ate the chopped salad. And the night we had Kentucky Fried Chicken at my daughter’s house (I LOVE KFC!) I pulled the crust off of a small thigh and skipped the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. One morning my daughter was picking up breakfast from McDonalds on her way back from dropping Gabby at daycare, and I asked for a sausage and biscuit. Knowing they have 430 calories (!) I only ate half of it. It’s my favorite fast food, so I enjoyed it slowly, savoring each bite as I watched my two-month-old granddaughter sleeping on the couch next to me. Which brings me to another point.

multi taskingMy daughter is working on getting her three-year-old to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if we are playing a table game and she gets up to play with another toy during the game, she is encouraged to leave the toy alone and sits back down. Same thing goes for watching TV while eating, which we all do from time to time. As I watched this lesson she was trying to teach her daughter, I thought about how much more I could enjoy each activity if I focused on the one thing—eating my tiny meal, playing a game, watching a TV show, reading a book. That one thing should be enough to entertain me at the moment, and its enjoyment is increased by the singularity of focus. (I never eat food in front of my computer because I am so hyper-focused at the computer that I would not enjoy the food.)

Hope everyone who is trying to lose weight or get healthy in any way will appreciate these simple observations today. Have a great week!

If you’re new to my blog and want to catch up on my posts about my weight-loss budget and journey, here are a few, with tips on the Lose It! iPhone app, exercise, shoes, and more:

“Wiggle Room”

“You Go Girl!”

“Counting Calories Part II”

“Counting Calories”

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