No More Guilt with Every Bite

At the pottery studio where I take classes, someone recently brought in a box of donuts to celebrate a Hallmark holiday. They were left on the counter with a note that said—Enjoy!

The conversation among women in the lunchroom that followed was depressingly familiar. “Ooooh, they look so good, but I shouldn’t be eating this,” said a woman who cut a chocolate frosted donut into quarters and took one. Another woman chose a whole plain donut, the smallest one she could find and said, “I worked out last night, so it’s OK.”

I’ve seen this behavior again and again—among young women as well as older ones and with thin women and heavier women. Interestingly, I’ve rarely seen men do this. Most of the time they help themselves to a treat. Or they don’t. But men don’t seem to participate in the chorus of guilt, denial, and shame about eating and enjoying anything that has fat, sugar, or salt in it—in other words, anything that is considered a treat.

Many people forego sweets or salty snacks because of concerns about diabetes or heart disease. I respect their need to abstain and recognize that the box of donuts—while meant to be a generous bit of fun—is a trial.

But what I’m referring to is the ingrained habit many women have of not allowing themselves to simply enjoy a treat. First, they must apologize for wanting it, then if they have some, they feel excessively guilty. Or if they take a portion, they feel compelled to justify it: “I had a salad for lunch, so I can have a piece of cheesecake for dessert.”

Why? Because in our culture, it seems like everyone feels they have the right to monitor or criticize a woman’s weight. We learn at an early age that what really matters is being thin and attractive, despite the many positive messages to the contrary.

I’ve made those same apologies and given the same justifications. But seeing how often this conversational pattern occurs makes me sad. And angry. I wish women felt they had the agency to eat whatever is appropriate for our own health and weight without defending or apologizing for our decisions.

I’d love to see a group of women savor a treat without guilty apologies. To refuse to characterize the moment as “pigging out.” To hear them exclaim, “This is so good!” and own their enjoyment.

Advertisements

Lessons Learned on a Sick Day

She was up barfing at four. When I arrived hours later, she had pink cheeks, a kitty ears headband, and was play-ready. She assured me it wasn’t really being sick to barf, but pre-school wanted her to stay home. She was sad Mom wasn’t staying home, sad to miss her friends, but game for whatever Grandma brought to the day.

Lemon-lime soda was no longer needed. Water was fine. Munching many plain saltines and a cup of dry cereal made up for a missed breakfast. Within minutes we were on the sofa deep in a Brain Quest card deck working through sequencing challenges, adding, matching letters and words, talking about calendars and telling time on old-fashioned round clocks.

Those clocks sparked the first pronouncement of preschool wisdom. She thought I must have had a clock with numbers in a circle because I am old. I corrected that statement to older. She didn’t buy the change. A teenager had given me the same look when I asked if the general store in a small town carried watches.

With interest in Brain Quest waning, I suggested we start an art project. She turned down the idea because she said she loved to learn things. There wasn’t anything better she could have said if she hadn’t finished with a sympathetic sigh before sharing that it was sad that old people couldn’t learn stuff. That’s not true I replied and told her about a friend who learned another language to work with immigrants, another friend attending university classes, my own tap-dancing studies. She frowned and said maybe I had special friends. That I do.

Even at her age I couldn’t do backward summersaults, so she had me at that, but I didn’t expect to frighten her when I got down on the floor to do a plank next to her. Old people could get hurt doing planks she said. I replied anybody could get hurt doing planks, but we were both strong because we could hold a plank for almost a minute. Then I sat back to watch her attempt head stands and intricate twirls.

We rounded out the day with dressing the cat, coloring paper dolls, and baking a chocolate cake. She looked tired, but happy. Her mother looked tired after an important work day. And grandma drove home, happily tired out after an unexpected play day.

IMG_6051

Birkebeiner or Bust

Birkebeiner photo credit to Joy Jurewicz

It was bust for me. Even though I had every intention of going—- since March 2018.

I asked Crystel right after the 2018 Birkie if she would like me to plan a Birkie outing for 2019.

I had a lodging reservation within days of her saying, “Yes.”

I did everything that one would do to accomplish their goal. I wrote it down. I emailed an invitation to a group of people and I set it in my mind that I would get out on the ski trails.

Birkie 2019 was going to happen for me.

Even so, today, I’m sitting on the couch in my living room while Crystel, Jody, and friends are at Birkie 2019. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to go to the Birkie, even though I was the organizer, Jody stepped in and took the reins.

What happened?

It wasn’t the three lodging changes. My first reservation was canceled when the resort was sold, the second reservation when the owner decided to move back home. I reserved a third lodging option. After the sale didn’t go through on the first reservation, I reserved our original lodging. I remained steadfast throughout.

I must have appeared as if I was in the throes of a personality disorder as I continually updated our group on lodging changes.

On the bus to the start. Crystel and Allie

It wasn’t that I didn’t get out and ski. I skied two or three times. Enough to know that I could do the Prince Hakken 15K, the shortest race of the Birkebeiner.

No, it was something else entirely. Something I had to face. Because even though I did have meniscus surgery three weeks prior to Birkie 2019, I could have joined our group and been a spectator.

It was the fact that I knew that I would be miserable. I had to acknowledge it. All the facts pointed to it. I don’t like the cold.

I had a goal this year to be at every high school Nordic ski race. I was determined. I declared to Juan Jose’ and Crystel that in 2018-2019 I’d be at every meet. In their 2017-2018 season, I made it to half of a race. I say half, because I never showed up at the start line. Instead, I snuck on the course at Hyland Hills, by walking through dark woods in deep snow. I stood at the edge of the lighted ski path, yelling, “Go Crystel, go!” to anyone who looked remotely like her.  Later, I did learn that one of her friends heard me. It could have been her that I thought was Crystel. Skiers are bundled from their neck up, hiding themselves from the frigid air. With uniforms that hug their slight bodies, they all look alike. I hadn’t been to enough races to know Crystel’s nuances.

Athletes

I knew Juan’s. He dislikes the cold as much as I do. And, he’s on the team. If a race was optional, which this one was, he usually chose not to participate. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he must. Heck, I couldn’t get out to even one race in 2017-2018. This season I didn’t go to any.

Jody told me not to discourage the kids. I didn’t, I insisted. I just looked at her skeptically each time she headed out to a meet. “Why do you do it?” I asked her. “Why?”

She said it’s fun and that she likes the community.

Jody and Nicole

I scanned the crowd at the Nordic ski award banquet this year. Yes, the people seemed nice and the end of season slide show didn’t make me cold in the heated auditorium where we sat listening to the accolades.

There wasn’t a bad parent award. Thought I might get that one if there was.

Maybe I will get out next year to a Nordic ski race.

But, let’s face it, probably not.

 

Three Keys . . . to What?

My key ring has a nice heft—it’s big enough that I can feel it in my down coat pocket even when I’m wearing puffy mittens.

Part of the bulk comes from a beat-up green aluminum bottle opener my son gave me when I admired his. I used to keep a miniature red Swiss Army knife in my purse because it had a bottle opener, which was handy on picnics for opening pop, and occasionally, beer. After I’d thrown away several forgotten knives at airport security, I wanted a different solution.

There’s my house key, of course. My car key is on a flimsier wire loop so I can easily give it to service managers at the dealer.

But what are those other three keys?

I think the small silvery rectangular key is for locking luggage. But what piece of luggage and why? I never lock my luggage. It’s fabric covered and would be easy to slit if someone wanted my stuff. A lock would be superfluous, a waste. Years ago, did one of my kids ask me to hang onto it? If so, why do I still have it? Maybe it’s a subconscious reminder of the joy of getting away. I love traveling, seeing new places and cultures, visiting my son in California, and seeing my siblings in Ohio.

Then there’s a slightly grubby round brass key. The numbers 293 are etched on one side. Hmmm. Does it open a padlock? The kind I might have used on a gym locker? But where’s the lock? It really doesn’t matter, because although I exercise, I rarely work out at a gym where I’d need to lock up my belongings. So it’s a crazy artifact of past good intentions.

The last key is to my parents’ house in Ohio, one they gave me so I could easily come and go when I visited. Or get in if something happened to them. So I’d always feel welcome. But now my parents are gone and the house belongs to my brother. He doesn’t mind that I have a key to use when I visit, but it isn’t really necessary. I’m only there when he’s there. But that key unlocks a place and time I wish I could still visit.

Barbie, Midge, Robin and Me

The father of my best friend Robin owned a tool business franchise which provided two young girls with opportunities to fill bins in his wonderful red truck, to bake cookies he could share with customers, and access to dozens of interesting empty boxes.

Robin attended 95thStreet School and I went to parochial school, but we had matching pencil boxes in our desks. Most kids found a source for cigar boxes, but we had decorated paper boxes not needed in his truck into unique containers with compartments for pencils, color pencils, scissors and such. We didn’t know each other’s school friends, but we shared something deeper: hours of playing with Barbie, Midge, Skipper and Ken in wonderful houses, stores, airplanes and schools constructed out of even more empty boxes.

When the weather was cold, Robin’s basement became a town for an afternoon of play. Her Barbie had a flight attendant outfit, mine had a tailored suit. We shared a plastic pseudo-Barbie car that took one to the airport and the other to an imaginary office. Neither of us knew anyone who worked in an office or flew on planes so eventually the story turned back to all the dolls sitting at little box desks with one Barbie, attired in a skirt and sweater, called teacher.

Robin had an older sister and we both had moms so we knew real women weren’t built like our Barbie crew, but we didn’t know flight attendants, nurses, doctors, brides, or girls who wore wonderful ballgowns. Our parents didn’t buy us Barbie’s plastic house or bedroom furniture, but Robin’s dad shared tape and scissors and boxes to build furniture and a variety of workshop towels to make blankets. We stood next to him in his wood working shop as he made small frames and blocks that could extend our Barbie furniture building. We learned how to sand.

Our Barbie phase lasted less than a year, a simple time when we creatively explored, built and did what kids are supposed to do. Parents helped feed our play then stepped back. And we did okay. And I wish I could say thanks to Robin’s father and all the other parents who stepped out over the years with camping trips or garden planting or an evening at the opera to expand the world beyond the girl toys of Barbie and her crew. And those who do that today as  they parent another generation of kids.

IMG_5720