Friday, October 29, 2010

Confessions of a Foodaholic

I should watch carefully what I eat. All the time. Everyday. I cannot bear to see in print, in stark black and white or any other color, my BMI - body mass index. Last I checked it was not in the obese category, but not far away. 

I exercise, but not enough, and eat too much. And my metabolism is really, really slow.

So today I ate well, until the evening. This is confession time. 

I dug into the Hershey kisses kept in a bowl on a high shelf, usually taken down only when company comes. I do not know why I did it. I like chocolate, but can eat only a little before my body rejects the chocolate and me. 

Hershey’s is not even one of the best chocolates. If I am going to have forbidden fruit or chocolate or cake or anything else, it might as well be the best. Make the guilt worthwhile.
I fall off the diet track often. Actually I am rarely on a real diet track. I am doomed to be not thin or slim or even average weight. Motivation may be high, but willpower abysmally low. 
I know women who could eat everything until they hit menopause. Not one of the lucky ones, I had a weight problem since a teenager.
 I try not to make eating an obsession, but it must be in my genes, my cultural heritage and upbringing, childhood, and social life, all revolving around food. Good food. Lots of it. 
 There is no answer to my dilemma. While all around me people look slim and lose weight, I do not. On the other hand there are so many overweight people I do not feel out of place. Maybe I should. Maybe that would be an incentive to lose excess rolls (body and bread rolls).
Or maybe I need to learn to be happy with who I am.
Who am I kidding?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Penalty of Not Exercising

Last night I went to my dance exercise class for the first time in three weeks. I was out of town and did not go to a gym or participate in any meaningful exercise. I took a couple of walks - strolls actually; definitely not power walks. 

From the first stretches and warm up exercises my lack of body movement became evident. I know I should stretch every day, but it does not happen. By the end of the hour and a half class I was exhausted.
There are twenty-somethings in the class as well as women in their thirties, forties, fifties, and me (yes, I am the oldest). I have a feeling missing three weeks of class would not be a problem for the youngsters. They would jump right in without missing a beat.
I realize there are sixty-somethings and older who run marathons and do all kinds of athletic stuff. But I was never into vigorous athletic activity. I now do some bike riding, walk (keeping to flat terrain as much as possible), visit the gym (not as much as I should, but I am trying to maintain a regular schedule), and enjoy my belly dance and Zumba class. Zumba is a recent addition to my workout regimen. It is great exercise, fun, and demanding.
I feel better and look better because of the exercise. Although I have great trouble losing weight (I love food and I love to eat), I have to wonder what my body would look like if I did not exercise. It would not be a pretty sight (not that it’s such a great sight now, but it could be a lot worse).
My goal is to lose weight (isn’t that just about every woman’s goal?) and increase my stamina and energy level. I do not want the body to disintegrate before my mind is ready for my bod to give in to age and lethargy.

Out of Touch...Out of Mind

I am half way across the country visiting my son, his wife, and my three grandchildren. Number three was born two weeks ago. I am on grandparent duty, attempting to help wherever and whenever I can in a household with a six-year-old first grader, science enthusiast and dinosaur buff (a.k.a. big brother), a three-year-old mini-prima ballerina and drama queen (morphing from little sister to big sister), and baby sister (2 ½ weeks old and very cute).
The change is challenging. My energy level is not what it used to be. Keeping up with a three-year-old and six-year-old is  exhausting. The baby is fine, as long as I am not on the night watch. Grandma needs her sleep, and attempting to wake her during the darkest hours of the night is dangerous business.
Three days into the trip and I am surviving. It is nice to be far (figuratively speaking) from the steady 24/7 news bombardment. Unless a major disaster occurs, I am blissfully unaware of the daily mini-crises swirling around. The stock continues moving up or down without me checking its progress several times a day. 

News commentators constantly tell us what is going on and what it all supposedly means. I have not heard them for a couple of days. I have not listened to the latest political give and take between the numerous political candidates running in the next election. If I miss a few days of the drama, I still will be able to make an intelligent, informed voting decision. Wall Street and Main Street go on without me continuously poring over the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and online business news sources.
 It is a relief to take a vacation from the constant media barrage. Whatever happens in the next couple of weeks, my inattention will not make a difference. 

If more people paid less attention to the talking heads and media mayhem we would all be better off. We need to step back occasionally and put our world – our personal world and the real world – in perspective.
 And so back to diapers, three hour feedings, Candyland and Cat in the Hat games, board books and chapter books, and enjoying time with the family.  There is plenty of time to read about the latest Wall Street antics, financial scandals, and political give and take. They will always be around. The kids will not stay little forever.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cross One Off the Bucket List

We all have bucket lists, whether formalized or an informal, unwritten list of activities to complete before we die, or are too old or sick to do. One thing hub and I discussed was simple, doable and cheap, but we had not gotten around to it. Until one Saturday in September.
Our goal was a bike ride down the New Jersey coast from our home to a resort town 50 miles away. Many people will roll their eyes and say, that’s not a big deal. But to 60+ baby boomers who have not made physical activity a priority most of their lives, this would be an achievement.
Initially we had no intention of completing a 50 mile ride.  Our goal was to bike a little further than  previously. A steady stream of company - friends and relatives, business and social commitments, and extremely hot weather limited cycling time over the summer. 
One of the great things about riding along the Jersey coast is that it is flat. The only inclines are bridges, and bikes can easily be walked up a bridge if necessary. 

We left early in the morning, our initial objective locating a place for breakfast. 

I have been exercising regularly, attempting to build up my very mediocre stamina and squishy muscles. The long, beautiful bridge from our island to the one directly south of us has always been an obstacle for me; Saturday was the first time I rode the length of the bridge.
After two leisurely hours of cycling we were ready for rest and breakfast. We stopped at a dilapidated shack offering food and outside picnic tables, the kind of beach place open only during the season. Relaxing, eating and admiring the scenery, hub announced we were already halfway to our 'bucket list' destination, and since we had no plans for the day, why not go for it?
We continued our ride along the coast. The weather was cycling perfect - no wind, slightly overcast and not hot. 

We stopped a couple of times at convenience stores seeking restroom facilities and water, but at the shore public restrooms are difficult to locate (retailers do not want to be overrun by beach people all day). Hub had no problem using porta-potties located for the convenience of workers at construction sites. I am more discriminating.

After another couple of hours exhaustion set in, and when we spotted an ice cream stand the sign begged us to stop. Unfortunately it was probably the only ice cream shop at the shore not open during the day. A sign stated the stand opened at 6:00 p.m. We sat at the outside tables to rest for a few minutes and were too soon on our way again.
The last leg of the trip proved daunting. Hub underestimated the mileage, and our breakfast stop was not the halfway point. We rode on and on over a neverending flat expanse of pavement, sand and sea on one side and beach cottages on the other side of the road. It was a picture-perfect landscape, but I was too tired to appreciate it.

By the time we reached our destination I was exhausted, cranky, hungry, and my butt hurt. 
But we made it! 

Our first stop was the Welcome Center for a bus schedule, our transportation home. 

We consumed a high-calorie late lunch at a local pub, savoring the food and not feeling the least bit  guilty. 

The bus ride home seemed to last forever, with numerous stops. Eventually reaching the bus station closest to the house, we completed another three mile ride before finally arriving home. 
Next time we attempt a similar ride I will insist on a more accurate tally of the total distance and plan on additional stops along the way, lingering for more than a few minutes. A half hour R&R stop was all I needed to rejuvenate and complete the trip without feeling as if I could not peddle another block.
One item successfully crossed off our bucket list! An impulsive move resulted in a quest completed and a sense of accomplishment and pride. 

I am inspired to plan another long-postponed activity. It is time to write down our bucket lists, otherwise too many things will remain undone. I probably have only another couple of decades of good health and exploits left…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chelsea's Wedding and "Committed"

I figure that the degree of difficulty in combining two lives ranks somewhere between rerouting a hurricane and finding a parking place in downtown Manhattan. 
     ~Claire Cloninger, "When the Glass Slipper Doesn't Fit 
and the Silver Spoon is in Someone Else's Mouth"

I did not make the guest list for the Clinton/Mezvinsky wedding bash the summer of 2010, which is not a surprise considering I never met Chelsea, Marc, or their parents. Although the event apparently cost more money than most of us will ever have in our savings accounts, the one to three million dollars was apparently peanuts to the multimillionaire parents. 

At least the event did not turn into a paparazzi happening; far fewer celebrities were invited than the press anticipated. That is a good thing. Perhaps the wedding planners had their head on straight and invited those who knew and cared about the bride and groom, not just political cronies, celebrity seekers and hangers-on. That probably made the event more meaningful (and less of a circus) for those involved.
I thought about Chelsea’s wedding recently when reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Committed”. I read  "Eat, Pray, Love," and after passionate discussion among friends over which countries we want to experience our Eat, Pray, Love adventures, we moved on to her next book. (Our favorites for Eat was Italy, Pray was Israel, and Love was France.)
"Committed" is Ms. Gilbert's personal journey from a fear of commitment and long-term relationships, resulting from a messy divorce and other relationships, to a willingness to try again and the joy of moving on.

I doubt Chelsea read Gilbert’s book. But I wonder how, or if, she has thought about the institution of marriage and how it will change her life from this day forward. Her parents have a checkered marriage history, and Marc’s parents are divorced. What does that portend for the newlyweds?
They are part of a generation of young, educated, ambitious Americans forging ahead with optimism and great promise for the future, unaware or indifferent to the boundaries, real and imagined, placed on previous generations. 

We  wish them the very best for their future – a life of love, companionship, understanding, and growth, facing the world together, supporting each other with respect, grace, humor, and friendship.

Unexpectedly Unpatriotic in an Economy Begging Me to Buy

I have come to the reluctant conclusion I am unpatriotic after reading commentary from the economic gurus of our time. Many economists believe a key to getting our country out of the economic doldrums is for consumers to consume. A few lone voices talk about the need for companies hoarding money to spend, but those are not the stories making headlines. 

I do not understand why my few dollars can begin to compare with companies loosening their wallets, buying equipment and hiring employees.
It is ironic that not so long ago we were being admonished to save money. We (the baby boomers) might be a generation of retirees with not enough money to meet our needs. But now  we are being told to loosen our purse strings and not save so much, even though the lost decade from 2000-2010 has not served our generation well by allowing us to prepare financially for our future.  

I have become unpatriotic for a couple of reasons. 

First of all I quit my job. Uncle Sam lost some tax revenue from me. The upside is I created a position for someone else to step in and get a paycheck, pay taxes, contribute to a retirement plan, and consume. So on balance Uncle Sam probably has not lost much. I on the other hand have attempted to cut expenses.  I have cut way back on my clothing budget. I no longer have to get dressed five days a week for the office. We enjoy eating out, but cut back on the number of meals consumed out and the amount of money spent. I buy less gas. The environment should be grateful.

But Uncle Sam wants me to spend more money now. As a consumer society, we need (or so economists tell us) to buy stuff. Factories can then make more stuff. Companies will hire, employees will earn a paycheck and a lot more people will have money to buy more stuff.

Unfortunately too many people over the years bought too much stuff and got themselves into a lot of trouble, with mounting credit card bills and loans they cannot pay. 

Now we have to live with the results of our profligacy. Banks, mortgage companies and the salesmen they employed got greedy and sold loans the companies knew were not viable. 

The good times rolled and nobody cared about long-term consequences. All corporations and their employees cared about was their paychecks, bonuses, and corporate profits. No one took responsibility for their irresponsibility when everything came crashing down.

When the financial crisis hit and the housing market collapsed major financial institutions compounded their irresponsibility, taking advantage of their dominance by foreclosing on mortgages gone bad. Large banks were never the friends of the small guy. When residents of Main Street collide with the titans of Wall Street, Main Streeters lose.  

Here is a quote from a JPMorgan Chase & Co. spokesman when confronted with the question of why foreclosure documents were not reviewed:
                We believe the accuracy of the factual loan information in the affidavits was not affected by whether or not the signed had personal knowledge of the details.
Really? I can just see the big guys lamenting the fact that they had to spend their valuable time reviewing foreclosure documents. 

"How much will it cost us?" asks one manager. 

"How much can we charge?" asks another…And after they realized there was no money to be made, they do whatever was necessary to get these unpleasant tasks completed so employees could get back to the real work of making money for the financial institution. 

The mortgage holder now in trouble was undeserving of the bank’s time, effort, service, or assistance. Toss the people out of their homes and move on.
There are many reasons for the economic problems plaguing our country today, but the shortsightedness, arrogance and greed of major financial institutions and those who run them played a substantial part. 

It is ironic those of us taking the old-fashioned financial road are supposed to haul the economy back to life. And we are supposed to start by going shopping.