Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Does this happen to anyone else my age? Your face changes overnight. I mean literally overnight. You wake up in the morning and find something that you swear wasn't there the night before when you wiped off your mascara.

Last week it was a pointy skin tag perched on the top of my cheekbone just under my left eye. At first I thought it was the start of a zit. I find a pair of cheaters and hold up a mirror, the magnifier side towards my face. Magnified, the thing looks like a nipple.

I'm grossed out, but intrigued. How does something like this come out of nowhere? The bad thing is that unlike a zit when you're a teenager, the thing isn't going away. When you're 50, whatever grows on your face stays on your face.

I'm tempted to snip it off with a fingernail clipper, but that seems kind of messy not to mention bloody painful.

I've tried covering it up with makeup. Doesn't work. It's like a beacon. I can sense it's there and catch glimpses of it even when I'm staring straight ahead.

But then it's not just the skin tags I've been accruing. I have this wrinkly thing going on under my chin that bothers me. I can still see my great grandma's sizeable turkey waddle. You could grab hold of it with both hands and swing.  When she talked, it quivered. I'm wondering if my neck is going to look that way in a few years. (Okay, Great Grandma Johnson was 90 when she died, so maybe it'll take more than a few years. And, by then I won't care.)

I pull my neck skin taut to see what I'd look like with a neck lift. Huh. I wonder if I could get insurance to pay for the lift. I could make a case that it's a medical necessity. The loose skin could get caught in a zipper or something. I might hang myself. 

Just for fun, I Google "face lifts." The search produces some fascinating results in a train-wreck sort of way.

Amazing what people do to hang onto the face they had 20 years ago. Mostly they end up looking really, really silly, if not downright scary. I won't mention any names; but you've seen the celebs with swollen lips and eyebrows pulled up to their hairlines. When does that trout pout ever look good? They resemble Joker on Batman.

Anyway, I feel sorry for these folks. They don't even look like themselves. It's sad. How defeating that in the quest to look young they become icons for plastic surgery gone bad. It all seems so tragic and empty to be consumed with the outward appearance.

A few verses come to mind:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV)

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. (Proverbs 31:30 NLT)

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.  (1 Peter 3:4 ESV)

So, I have some lumps, bumps and some saggy skin. So, what? I'll be getting more. But I can have a certain kind of beauty that isn't going away, in fact, that becomes deeper with age--imperishable.

I've had a few women in my life who have aged with that kind of grace and beauty. My friend, Marcie, who remained radiant even as she encouraged others bedside as she was dying of cancer. My mom, who just lost her husband of almost 60 years, and still has a zeal for life that is contagious. Her beauty as a young woman is legend. She still is beautiful. Joanne, a lovely lady with gorgeous snow-white hair, who greets people at the church door with a huge smile and a warm, tight hug.

All of these ladies have one thing in common. God has done a graceful work in their lives as they have spent time in His word and allowed His transformation in their hearts. They are a testimony of growing more beautiful with age.

I hope to be like them. God continues His major overhaul on my heart. I'm getting there. But just so you know, I'm not going to feel bad about doing a little snip-snip on that nasty bugger under my eye. I'm also not wearing any hoodies with zippers.



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Grad Party Gone Mad

Landon, Class of 2013
I've been working all weekend getting ready for Landon's graduation party. It's less than a week away, and I'm semi-panicking. I know I shouldn't be. I told myself that with this last child's grad party, I was not going to stress. We'd just blow up a few balloons, put out some food, open the garage door, and call it good.

But then the day looms closer, and I become a woman possessed. I'm pulling up dandelions with a spade from the lawn, vacuuming lint from behind the dryer, and washing grime from the bathroom ceiling fan.

I know this is ridiculous. Like any of it matters. Who's going to be looking behind the dryer or at the bathroom ceiling anyway?  It's not likely, but the fact is that someone could. And that's what terrifies me.

My own mom painted the porch floor only when we were having a graduation party. She'd have good intentions but would inevitably run out of time and be up half the night before graduation painting the cement floor green. I still remember fans going full blast in a vain attempt to have the floor dried before the first guests pulled into the driveway.
When I was in high school, everybody had their party right after the ceremony. So, basically you didn't go to anyone else's party except your own. The standard fare was ham sandwiches (on buttered buns), a sheet cake, mints and punch. The really good parties had little weenies in barbecue sauce.

Now there are pasta bars, gourmet hot dog buffets, hog roasts, and walking tacos. A few years ago, I went to a party which was a Sunday brunch. They set up omelet, waffle, and pancake stations. They served 250 guests on China (the mom had been collecting place settings from garage sales for two years). It was memorable, if not insane.

Parties now stretch out from weeks before graduation into mid-July. You might get invited to 20 of them. You waddle from one party to the next, pacing yourself. A chicken wing here, a root beer float there. You don't have to cook dinner for eight weekends running.

I'm trying to keep this all in perspective. Landon's party is going to be among 50 or more next Saturday. We'll have more than enough food . And, no one's going to notice if there's a stray dandelion in our backyard.

With all the things that went on this last year (his dad's surgery and recovery, his Uncle Lars' hospitalization, Paige's wedding, and Grandpa's funeral), Landon deserves a blow-out party. We'll celebrate his accomplishments and the confident man he has become. My sweet boy's all grown up. I say I won't cry at his graduation. But, of course, I will.

Okay, enough with being on the computer. Break's over. I need to start baking the 20 dozen cookies for the cookie buffet.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

My Kinky Colonoscopy

The defining mark of turning half a century, my first colonoscopy. When my doctor said I needed to have one done, I was less than thrilled. But I was resigned. If colon cancer is caught early, it can be successfully treated and cured. And, the only way that is possible is to do a search-and-rescue up your behind.

I made my appointment for a Monday. I was to limit what I ate for the week, fasting the last day before the procedure. I was warned that if I wasn't completely cleaned out, I'd fail the test and have to come back to repeat it. Fearing being a failure, I did exactly as I was told.

By Sunday, I felt like I had been in the hunger games. I was dreaming about fajitas with guacamole on the side. At 6 o'clock that night I was to drink the first dose of the nuclear laxative aptly called MoviPrep. I read the directions and mixed two bags of powder--Bag A and Bag B--with a quart of lukewarm water.

Remember those suckers grocery stores used to give kids in the checkout line? If you found a bunch of those--the green lemon-lime ones--all stuck together under your car seat, unwrapped each one, placed them in a jug of warm water overnight and then stirred in a cup of salt in the morning, you'd have what tastes the equivalent to MoviPrep. Awful stuff. 

After an hour, I had finally gacked it all down.  I went downstairs, telling my husband and son that I was going on a private retreat and that under no circumstance were they to visit. I lit a few candles, placed several magazines strategically in the bathroom, and found a movie on Netflix. I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," which, ironically, is about the American diet and how it is killing them with diseases such as colon cancer. Colon cancer is rare in countries where people have plant-based diets.

Thirty minutes into the movie, I finally felt the need to go. I can only describe what happened next as traumatic. I didn't want to think about what would happen if I had eaten the fajitas.

By eleven, I was pretty sure that my colon was more than cleansed. It had been sterilized. I went to bed, fell asleep for five hours and then got up to the alarm to repeat the whole process. Since there was nothing left inside of me, I was pooping pee.

At this point, I was so hungry I felt like a wartime prisoner. My only comfort was that it would soon be over and I could eat again.

When I arrived at my appointment, I was told to take off all my clothes and don the gown. I went to sit in a waiting room with strangers who were also butt-naked under their gowns. We all knew we were there for the same reason. No one looked each other in the eye.

I was given an IV. From here it gets a little fuzzy. I remember singing "The Long and Winding Road" by the Beatles. I caught a rather unflattering view of my behind on the screen overhead before the lights went out.

The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and asking if I could have a cracker. The nurse said unfortunately, no, I would have to remain fasting. I had failed the test. They had run into a kink and couldn't finish. I was a fail? I had a kink? Yep. I would need to go for a scan that afternoon. I was given another jug to drink, this time filled with dye for the scan. Then they put me in a recovery room to wake up and pass gas along with everyone else I had seen in the waiting room earlier.

After three hours laying on my side in a dark room, it was time for the scan. I figured the scan couldn't be that bad. Just a picture, right? Oh no, the fun was just beginning. The tech said she was going to fill my intestines with air. She'd then insert a balloon to hold the air in while she took pictures. "Oh, and please don't emit any gas, while we do this." She said this all with a straight face.

I had to get into several awkward positions, somehow holding the balloon and the air in while she took the pictures. Mercifully, she finished and told me I was free to go home. Dave pushed me in a wheelchair to the car. I wasn't feeling so hot. Halfway home, I got out of the car and got sick. There wasn't anything to throw up except my tonsils.

I continued to get sick the rest of the evening. Finally, it occurred to me that this may not be normal. Maybe they had punctured my colon, and I was being poisoned to death by toxic laxative and dye. I called the resident on call. She said it was probably an effect of the anesthesia. I think it was the combined result of all the atrocities done throughout the day.

Finally, it was over. I woke up the next morning surprisingly no worse for the wear except for sore tonsils. On the bright side, I must have lost like 10 pounds. I hopped on the scale. Two.

Since I failed my colonoscopy, I was told I would need to come back in five years instead of ten. At first I said that I'd become a vegan before I'd have another colonoscopy. But I'll suck it up. There are worse things than a colonoscopy. Like having colon cancer and not knowing it until it's too late.  Thankfully, my test came back negative.

If you haven't had a colonoscopy, don't let my experience scare you. Really it isn't bad as long as they don't run into a kink in the road. Which probably would only happen to me.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eating in the raw and other diet fiascos

Someone recently gave me the book Wheat Belly. The book says that wheat is a malicious food and is behind America becoming obese. Lose the wheat, the front cover claims, and you'll lose the weight.

Wheat Belly may have a grain of truth (pun purely intended). If you cut wheat from your diet you'll be cutting out most processed foods and you'll probably lose weight. Great. But I don't think it's a sustainable diet. Eventually a birthday cake is placed in front of you, and you take a bite. And, another and another. The problem is still there.

The author of Wheat Belly gives these soothing words, "It's not your fault." That's what we all want to hear. Sorry, I'm not buying it. I've been down this road before.

Beach babe in heels
I tried my first diet when I was 11.  I discovered my mom's pocket calorie counter. On the back of the booklet was a picture of this very tan, very thin woman walking away from the camera. She was wearing a black cut-out swimsuit, a floppy hat, and three-inch heels.  Kind of funny she was wearing heels on the beach, but the image left an impression. She looked so cool with her long, thin Coppertone legs.  I wanted to be that woman, sashaying along the boardwalk.

I made an attempt to follow the book's seven-day menu plan. A sample breakfast was a boiled egg, dry toast, and black coffee or tea. Lunch was one apple, 1/2 cup tuna, and carrot sticks. I tried the diet several times that summer, but I never lasted past day two and never lost any weight.  But I did learn how to count calories. I can still tell you how many are in a medium-size orange (80), a hot dog bun (110), or a fist-size broiled 90-percent lean hamburger (230).

Weighing and measuring

So, set the course for future diets. My friend, Joy, and I signed up at a diet clinic after we gained the freshman fifteen in college. We weighed all of our food and ate Melba toast. By living on approximately 800 calories a day, I lost the fifteen pounds and some of my hair as well. Of course, I gained the pounds back quickly when I returned to school that fall. But I kept the little food and weight diary that my $230 sign-up fee bought me and would refer to it every time I tried to lose weight.

Counting points

I discovered Weight Watchers when I gained happy pounds after Dave and I got married. Instead of calories, Weight Watchers had you count points. This made it so simple. Except I'd use up all my points by lunch time. And was left with eating vegetables and drinking diet sodas for the rest of the day, both which were point free.

Counting and planning for every bite you put in your mouth makes you think about food every single minute of the day. And when you quit "working the program," as Weight Watchers calls it, you gain the weight back because you've become so focused on your next two-hour feeding.

Nursing it

With my third pregnancy, I failed the seven-month glucose test, more than likely because of the Christmas fudge I had just eaten. I was sent to a nutritionist and put on a diabetic diet. I didn't gain a single pound for the rest of the pregnancy. But I was craving--no, lusting--for coconut cream pie the entire time.

When Paige--all perfect nine pounds, five ounces of her--came into the world, I cradled her briefly in my arms, then handed her to Dave and asked, "When's lunch?" Lo and behold the hospital's dining menu offered coconut cream pie. I ordered a piece and one of everything else on the menu.  When Dietary came to the door, I heard her say to the nurse, "This one's going to need two trays."

Someone had told me you can eat anything you want when you're nursing and still lose weight. Great! Paige was a voracious eater. So was I. I heeded the advice and stayed the same weight that I was when I was nine months pregnant.

Stop the Insanity! Fat's to blame!

I thought I found the solution to losing weight while still feeding my hunger when I heard about the new book Stop the Insanity. On her infomercial, the author (the bald and somewhat scary Susan Powter) screamed at the top of her lungs, "STOP THE INSANITY!! IT'S FAT THAT MAKES YOU FAT!"  She claimed you can eat as much as you want as long as it wasn't fat.

Oh, boy. This totally appealed to me. I never lost the baby weight, but I learned to scarf down whole loaves of bread without butter and entire pizzas without cheese.

No, it's carbs, you dummy

I really don't know what happened to Susan Powter after Atkins came out. You never heard of her again. Atkins claimed just the opposite. Carbs are the culprit.

This diet didn't even make sense to me, but of course I had to try it. After eating nothing but fried eggs, bacon, and pork rinds for three days, my mouth felt like it was coated with butter and I could have slapped someone silly for an apple.
South Beach was another low carb diet that I tried. Similar to Atkins, it was a bit more relaxed with the amount of carbs allowed. It was impressive that after two weeks of following the plan I had lost 10 pounds. It was even more more impressive that in two days I had gained it all back after someone left a pan of bars at our house.

Eating in the raw--an avocado saved my life
The raw cleanse was quite possibly the stupidest diet I ever tried. A friend who was losing on the cleanse convinced me to do it. The idea was to cleanse your body of all toxins by eating only raw organic vegetables for a week. I was skeptical but desperate.

Day one of the cleanse wasn't too bad. I felt a little jumpy and had the start of a headache, but these were symptoms to be expected as the toxins left my body. I started to get irritable on day two. By day three I was lightheaded, had a hollowed out feeling, and my hands were shaking. By day four, I was weak and seeing little pricks of light. To get through the day at work, I got a Naked Juice at Starbucks. And then went home and cheated by eating an avacado, which I'm pretty sure saved my life. That night I figured I had been cleansed enough and wolfed down three bowls of cereal for dinner.

No end to hunger

I joined a woman's group at church that was following the Weigh Down Diet written by Gwen Shamblin. Gwen came at the weight problem as a spiritual problem. We are trying to use food to fill a void that only God can fill.  I never lost weight by reading her book, but something she said stayed with me: diets are an effort to make food behave instead of making ourselves behave.

Calling it quits

My problem was I ate too much. I knew it. We all know it. But we try to circumvent that fact by controlling the food instead of getting a grip on our appetites.

So, I tried to think of a way I could eat for the rest of my life, without having to count calories and points or computing the total amount of carbs, protein or fat I consumed daily.

It took awhile and it wasn't easy at first, but I finally learned to eat like a normal person who has never had a weight problem (i.e., not like a seasoned dieter). I eat real food, just a lot less of it. I stay away from most processed foods, especially ones with a long list of ingredients you can't pronounce. Even though I eat healthy, I'm not rigid about it. I still eat dessert, just not the whole pan. And, I'll never give up Ripple Potato Chips. I eat a handful of them every single day. I also try to break a sweat at least three days of the week.

I'm done with the dieting thing.