Fear: Perception vs. Reality

While I was out walking, I saw this shadow of a spider on the ground today and had to laugh. If my daughter would have been with me, she would have panicked. She’s terrified of spiders and likely will destroy her house one day trying to kill one.

Now, I am always of the opinion that a little fear is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes. I don’t go around picking up every spider I see but I also don’t get a blow torch to take one out. It’s kind of a “live and let live” situation for me. But if seeing a spider in my house kept me from entering the room it was in or rearranging my day to avoid it, well, that’s a different story.

99% of the spiders we will come across in our lifetime will be harmless. They just appear bigger and more intimidating than they really are. Likewise, with most of the things we fear—we let our minds take us to places that we’ll likely never go. We are paralyzed. We cannot make the choice to kill the spider or ignore it and move on.

I think I’ve said before that I am the Queen of What Ifs and What Wills. What if I do this? What will the repercussions be? Will I end up in a worse spot than I am in now? Will I destroy everything I’ve worked for? This kind of thinking leaves me in stasis. I stay in the same sad situation and live with the known fear because of fearing the unknown.

BUT… What if I reach out and stomp that spider into a greasy spot on the floor? Or just walk into that room, knowing that hairy eight-legged creature is there, and carry on about my day the way I had planned? I have faced my fear, conquered it and moved on with my life. I am no longer hindered by the unknown because I am now in control of my fear instead of my fear being in control of me.

I realize that many people would welcome a spider compared to what they are facing—marriages falling apart, serious issues with children, medical diagnoses, et al—and I am not making light of these things. They would terrify the hell out of me too. I’m referencing situations where we feel stuck and miserable and refuse to make changes because of fear. What if I make a career change? Will I fail? Will I like the new job less than I did my old one? What if I start checking off those ridiculous items on my bucket list? Will I be able to stand on skates? Will I sink instead of swim?

It’s nerve-racking to try something different, to step out and try something new but it’s equally as nerve-racking to live trapped and unhappy. I’m not suggesting that my daughter should become an arachnologist, but she does need to put the flame thrower down. Every time we face a fear and overcome it, we build courage, strength and confidence and that, my friends, is a good thing.

The next time you’re facing your spider, either stomp that sucker into smithereens or choose to live with it but refuse to give it power over your life any longer. You can do it!

Mirror, Mirror

It’s hard being a woman today. (And before the opposite sex objects, although I am sure it’s not easy being a man, I can only speak to the XX chromosome experience.) We are constantly bombarded by photo-shopped and airbrushed images of women with perfect bodies, perfect families and perfect lives. At least that’s the way it appears on the surface.  And therein is the kicker…  Underneath that perfectly coiffed, painted and pressed exterior lies the heart of a woman who is beset by the same insecurities as me.

Recently, I was surprised to read a Facebook post of woman who has come into my life at time when I really needed someone like her. Christie Bricking of EmPower is positive, upbeat, dynamic. She has a kick ass, take charge, “living my dreams” attitude. And have I mentioned she has also lost 150 pounds? Frankly, I’m kind of awed by her achievements. See to me, Christie has it all—a loving family, supportive friends, a life journey that has led her to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Her hard work and determination is touching so many lives in a positive way. She’s just awesome. And you know what? She has insecurities. She doesn’t like her arms.

Until she mentioned it, I had never thought about her arms. I was focused on all the other awesome things about her. After her post, Christie came to class in a tank top, completely vulnerable, and I was even more impressed by her. What a brave and courageous thing to do and what a good example for the rest of us. And once class began, all I could think about was keeping the sweat out of my eyes, my squats in proper position and my ripstixs in my hands. Her arms didn’t matter—to me. Afterwards, when I got home, I wished she could borrow my vision of her for a while, see herself through my eyes.

I do not want to minimize her feelings. I understand them completely as I have my list of dislikes about myself as well. But I want her to know how precious her arms are. Those arms have held people she loves beyond measure. They have helped shoulder the burden of heartache and pain. They have reached out to offer a hand of friendship or a pat on the back for encouragement. And while they may not look exactly the way she wants, they are strong! I’ve seen her use them to hold a plank position. Oh yeah, they’re strong alright.

So many women feel this way about themselves. My daughter works in a women’s retail clothing store and has talked about beautiful women who are model thin sob in a dressing room over the way they “think” they look. One woman, a size 6, who had just given birth a month earlier, was crying because she was now a size 8. Hey lady! Your body just grew and nurtured a tiny human life—give yourself some credit–and time.

Last year, I went to a black-tie dinner. Since my idea of “dressing up” is wearing khakis instead of denim, I was out of my comfort zone. Couple that with other issues I have and I was a mess. I had spent nearly two hours getting ready for this event between makeup and dressing. (Yes, it sometimes takes that long, especially if you buy a body shaper that takes two people to help you wear and then leaves you bruised for days because of said application. Talk about suffering for vanity’s sake!) I was miserable and when I walked in, the first thing I see is a photographer and the event goes immediately from bad to worse. But that woman ended up being the best part of the event for me.

See, my husband told me how beautiful I looked but, in my mind, he kind of has to say that because he’s my husband. (And he said it after having spent about 20 minutes pushing and pulling on shape-wear and asking me why in the world I’d do this to myself. Why indeed?) This photographer, however, doesn’t have to say a thing other than “Smile!” When we walked up, she smiled at me and said she liked my tattoo. I had opted to wear a short dress and a tribute tattoo I have for my mom and dad on my leg was showing. Then she looked a little closer and said, “Ooooh, you have a nose piercing,” and turned to my husband and said, “Lucky you! You have a wild child here!” With that one small statement, my self-esteem rose about 1,000 percent. As sucked in and uncomfortable as I was in that body shaper and dress, I thought to myself, “Someone thinks this 51-year-old momma is a wild child.” She saw me as I wished I could see myself and it was enough to allow me to loosen up and enjoy the rest of the evening. Looking at myself through her eyes was an eye opener to me.

Women need to encourage and support each other. We need to advocate for each other and build each other up. That’s one of the many things I like about Christie, her daughter, Savanna and EmPower. I know there are times that I look like a complete goofball in class, off beat, missing steps in the routine, but they make me feel so good for what I did accomplish that I don’t dwell on what I couldn’t do.

I certainly don’t need anyone to point out my flaws and faults. I live with, and magnify, them every day of my life. But I would like to occasionally hear a positive and encouraging word. Why don’t we make a promise? Let’s promise, to each other and ourselves, to only say encouraging words and live encouraging lives. Let’s also promise to share our vision of others with them as well. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to hear that someone thinks you’re a wild child every now and then?

wild child photo cropped

This is the “wild child” the photographer saw that night. She even positioned me so that my tattoo would show in the photo!!

Here is a link to EmPower’s website with their class schedule. As Christie said after class one night, “Everyone needs to start somewhere.” If you’re looking for a place to start a fitness routine or to add something different to what you’re doing, I would encourage you to start here. EmPower Strong Link

(Disclaimer: I have received no compensation from Christie Bricking or EmPower for this link or mention. I am a fan and participant and just wish to share how good EmPower has been for me.)

The “Perfect” Dad

I have hesitated to write this tale as, on the surface, it contains two subjects that people in polite society never discuss in public—politics and religion. However, since it’s Father’s Day and the heart of the story has little to do with taboo subject matter, here goes.

Before I begin, you need some background to set the story up.

I know every parent says this but our daughter, Donna, was a child prodigy from basically out of the womb. I mean, this child survived a difficult birth and still managed to score a 9 out of 10 on the APGAR. (But of course, she is her mother’s daughter.) Up until first grade, she attended a private Christian school. The quality of the education she received was topnotch. She had beautiful cursive penmanship before she could print block letters. She could also read and do simple math by the age of four. Although we did not attend the church affiliated with the school (we were active in another denomination) their overall philosophy was mostly aligned with our belief system. Notice I said “mostly.”

More Background: It was October 1996 and Donna was five years old. I was back in college, working on my degree as I did not finish right out of high school. I attended a small college with a student body of around 3,000. I would sometimes bring Donna to school with me. She enjoyed attending classes as much as she did hanging out with my friends and participating in our functions. Even though I was a “non-traditional” student, I got involved in campus activities, one of which was being an active campaigner for Bill Clinton’s reelection when he ran against Bob Dole. Given his political and legal issues with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that election was headline news for a variety of reasons that had little to do with being president.

Now the story:

One day I was picking Donna up from school and they were outside marching around the playground. Her classmates were in a row and she was last in line, jumping up and down and waving her arms. When I went to the gate to get her, she came running to me, face flushed, out of breath. We walked to the car, got in and I asked her the same question I did every day, “How was your day today?” And this is how the conversation went…

Donna: “Mom, is Bill Clinton a sinner?”

Me, completely taken aback by the abrupt turn of our everyday conversation matter: “Why do you ask?”

Donna: “Well, all the kids were marching around the playground yelling ‘Bob Dole’ ‘Bob Dole’ but I didn’t think that was fair so I was yelling ‘Bill Clinton’ ‘Bill Clinton’.

Me: Why do you think Bill Clinton is a sinner?

Donna: “Well, Mr. So and So said that Bill Clinton is a sinner.”

Me, now aware that the principal/preacher had initiated the idea: “Well, Donna, aren’t we all?”

(For goodness sakes, she learned the alphabet through Bible verse memorization with the letter “A” being Romans 3:23-All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.)

Donna: “That’s true.”

Me, now on a roll: “You know, there’s only one perfect man to have ever walked this earth.”

Donna: “Yes.”

Me: “Do you know who that was?”

Donna: “Dad!”

Me, incredulous that I had walked myself into this very trap: “Jesus?!!”

Donna: “Yeah, Him too!”

And there you have it, a five-year old’s combined views of politics and religion—no one could live up to her dad! Not even Bill Clinton or Jesus!

We had a lot of good talks, from the “perfect dad” to the “I put a rock in my ear today” (and finding out about three months later after an appointment with an ENT that narrowly avoided major surgery that she had, indeed, stuck a rock in her ear) and I am glad that I took to time to ask and listen although obviously, I sometimes failed to act.

And, as typical with any kid, that view of her dad changed as she aged but for one shining moment that is destined to live on as I keep telling this story, Donna believed she had a perfect dad.

Years later, although Bill still may not be “perfect”, he’s certainly been perfect for us—a loving husband and father, a good provider and role model. He’s lucky to have us but we’re even luckier to have him! Happy Father’s Day!



Love Triangle (Thinking Healthy)

Let’s finish the story today. What the leader at the weight loss meeting should have said was “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I can get behind healthy. Healthy is quantifiable. Resting heart rate, blood pressure, relief of aching joints… When I had lost weight and was exercising regularly, I had more energy. I could carry things up a flight of steps without being winded and when you live on the second story that is important. My overall sense of well-being was better. So why did I stop and why am I starting back now?

I don’t know for sure. Wrong motivation? Food deprivation? Cessation of exercise? All that I do know is now that I am approaching 53, I need to get back on track. I hurt—feet, ankles, knees, hips. I sound like a bowl of rice cereal when I get up in the morning. If I live to be a senior adult, I want to be an active one. The kind that kicks ass and takes names. (I’m kind of kidding about that last part. I just want to be able to lift my feet up and remember names!)

And now I start… Well, actually, I started about three weeks ago. I purchased a fitness band and began logging my daily food and activity. While it takes a bit of time, it’s so much easier than following a plan or counting points. It’s simple math of calories in verses calories out. That is the basic formula for weight loss. (Weight loss in real life should be so simple! At the very bottom of this blog, I’ve attached a couple of links that calculate calories.) I would like to lose 20 of the 30 pounds I gained. Why just 20? Because maintaining that full weight loss was a constant struggle. I don’t want to fight anymore and since I’ll never “feel” thin enough ever, I’m letting that go as well. I am eating better and incorporating intentional exercise back into my life. I walk more days than not and have added a fitness class using drumsticks into my exercise repertoire to mix things up a bit.

If you would have told me nine years ago that I would be where I am now, I would have told you that after working so hard to lose the weight, I would never let myself put it back on again. Heck, I would’ve said the same exact thing each and every time I’ve lost weight. And nine years later, I’m back at it. I’m not going to lie. It’s still a struggle. When I get up in the morning, I can think of 100 reasons not to walk. But when I look at my progress over these few short weeks, I lace up my shoes, crank up my walking music and haul my lazy butt out the door. And, I have started food planning. You have to when you are choosing to live a healthier lifestyle because hunger is an enemy of good food choices. When I’m planning now, I’m occasionally including small portions of food I love because otherwise, I’ll have an unplanned overindulgence.

I honestly don’t know where this journey will lead. It would be a relief if it busts up the triangle/hexagon but old habits die hard. I know this because I have been trying to kill these for years. The only thing I do know for sure is that I’m headed into the right direction and according to my fitness tracker, I’m 227,681 steps further ahead than I was three weeks ago. Wish me luck!

Me at present day, after I managed to find the 30 pounds I had lost!


Here is a link to a site that allows you to calculate, based on age, sex, current weight, height and activity level, calorie intake needed to maintain or lose weight.

Caloric Intake Calculator

This is a link to a Body Weight Planner. You tell it your stats and what you’d like your weight to be by a certain date and it will calculate the number of calories you should eat daily to hit that goal. This is on the USDA website.

Body Weight Planner

(Disclaimer: I am not being compensated in any form for attaching these links. These are sites that I’ve found useful and just wanted to pass along.)

Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” That’s what a leader in one of those organized, pay as you lose, weight meetings once said. Forgive me for my language but for me and every other person who struggles with their weight, I’m calling bullshit. I have lost and regained weight for all of my adult life. Most recently, seven years ago I lost 55 pounds and have since regained 30 of it. The weight gain was due to several factors but primary was the reintroduction of foods I had previously given up eating and secondary was the cessation of intentional exercise.

Let’s start with food, or more to the point, the lack of it. It’s that whole “deprivation” thing. After a while, it backfires. Big time. I hate deprivation about as much as I hate being overweight. Let’s face it, chocolate cake tastes good. As does fried chicken or a rare plus prime cut ribeye… Yes, those things, and many others, taste damn good. But as for how being thin “feels”? I haven’t got a clue. That “feeling” or lack thereof, is at the heart of my issue with food.

Once I self-identified as fat, no matter how much weight I lost, I never “felt” thin. Honestly, I could lose enough to fit into every chart and guide and still not “feel” thin. Minus 55 pounds, I still spent as much time in front of the mirror fussing over my appearance as I do now.  And when I say “fussing over” what I really mean is “critiquing my appearance against unrealistic standards for any human.” Thin is a state of mind that, unfortunately, many of us will never identify as no matter our size.  And in my mind, if I’m never going to be “thin”, why fight it? It’s much easier to succumb to this triangle/hexagon thing I have going.

And why did I quit moving? When I chose to give in to food, to stave off the inevitable weight gain, I had to move—A LOT! I think there’s a secret ingredient in chocolate cake that wears down your resistance over time. That would be the easy excuse to use. Actually, when I began to reintroduce more “junk” into my diet, I just didn’t feel up to exercising. Overindulging in fat and sugar made me feel tired and sluggish and just reinforced my innate desire to remain sedentary. And once the pounds begin to creep back on, fat starts coming back, previously conditioned muscles hurt from exertion and it becomes easier to let go.

Let’s face it; I used the word struggle for a reason. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is like being in a constant conflict with myself. After a while, the clash between my desire to eat and my desire to lose weight becomes too much and I give up and give in to food. Tomorrow I’ll move forward to present day and where I’m at now.

On the left of this photo is of me at my heaviest in 2007 and me after losing 55 pounds in 2009.


For Part One of this story, click here: Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

Love Triangle (When I First Realized I Was Different)

I have a confession to make… I have been embroiled in a love triangle for a long time and this sordid affair must come to an end. On one side, there’s me. On the other side, there’s food. And, on the remaining side, there’s my desire to be fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If truth be told, it’s probably more like a love hexagon when you also consider my love for anything that remotely resembles a dessert, that I hate the feeling of deprivation when I’m “dieting” and that, in addition to work, my hobbies (blogging, reading, genealogical research) are sedentary. Of course, a love triangle sounds much sexier than a love hexagon but when you’re in conflict with food and your emotional and physical well-being, there’s nothing sexy about it whatever terms you choose to use.

In my family we have a saying, “Some people may eat to live but we live to eat.” From home cooking to fine dining and everything in between, count me in. I love food. Always have. I was every mother’s dream. Put any jar of Gerber’s in front of me and I ate it. Food marked every special occasion or celebration and was a way to demonstrate love.  As in, “Happy birthday! Here’s your favorite meal of fried chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and homemade rolls. Oh, and I made your favorite, an oatmeal cake with brown sugar icing for dessert.” And at our family reunions, the amount of food could feed a small third world nation. Now before you get any ideas, I must tell you I had an extremely happy childhood, surrounded by people who loved and supported me. But in addition to the abundance of love, there was always an abundance of food.

The teasing and taunts about my weight began around fourth grade. I don’t think I really noticed a difference between me and my peers until they ungraciously pointed it out to me and from that point forward, I became “fat.” It started to become ingrained into my identity. I wore “chubby” sized kid clothes (I think they call them “pretty plus” now). I was picked last for any group activity in gym. I started choosing more solo activities to avoid the name calling. I developed a warped sense of my body image. If my peers thought I was fat, well, I saw myself as bigger than fat. The result of this?  Around about the age of nine, my love/hate relationship with food commenced and the love triangle was firmly in place.

I’m not asking for a pity party and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. This is just part of my story and before I can move ahead, I feel I owe you a bit of the backstory.  Tomorrow, I’ll delve into my attitude towards weight loss.

This is my fourth grade school picture.

Fourth grade edited

For Part Two of this story, click here: Love Triangle (Thinking Thin)

Smile and Say “Cheese!”

Today is Mother’s Day. Yesterday, after I could no longer deny my self-induced social media shame, I began searching for that “perfect” photo of me and my mom to update my Facebook profile. Sad thing was, in the brief few minutes I spent looking, I couldn’t find any of us together as adults. I’m sure there’s probably a few that exist, they just haven’t been scanned and saved yet. But given that I am the family photo repository, it bothers me that’s there not an assortment from which to choose.

Yesterday, we had a surprise 86th birthday party for my mother in law. We had a wonderful time. And the best decision of the day? People who know me well will be surprised to read this but it was having a photographer present to record and capture the memories of the day. I think after the search for my mom’s photo, I was particularly sensitive to it.

I have always hated having my picture taken—from my smallest to heaviest weight, braces, hairstyles, it doesn’t matter. I can always find something wrong. I don’t need an outside critic—no one can be harder on me than myself. And I think my mom was the same too. Compound that between the two of us and you end up with no photographic evidence of us together as adults.

Here’s the rub. When I look at pictures of people, I’m not looking at their physical traits (although some of the fashion choices we made makes me smile) I am looking at the sweet souls I love dearly. I am thinking about the day the photo was taken, the laughs we’ve shared and the times we’ve spent together. And sadly, for many of the people in these pictures, I can no longer get just a “me and them” photo.

The picture of me and my mom that I’ve attached to this blog is not the best but I smile every time I see it. We were having one of those “laugh until the tears run down your legs” moments that we often shared and someone captured it on film. I am so thankful they did.

There’s going to be a lot of photo taking today. Like Elsa sings in the movie Frozen, “Let it go!” Release the insecurities you feel and take the photo. It’s not about the perfect body or hair. It’s about the love and relationship.

Smile and say “Cheese!” The people who love you will be grateful you did.


Sister Act

Most people would never admit this, but I’m not most people. I have laughed so hard at times that I have peed my pants. Of course, I have also sneezed and coughed and had the same result but those events correlated to age and childbirth rather than humor.

I think I got my sense of humor from my mom. My dad thought things were funny and would laugh and carry on but he could quit giggling at the snap of a finger. My mom and me, not so much. We would laugh until we nearly made ourselves sick (or wet our pants). Air gasping, sides hurting, tears streaming… And whatever the event that would start these uncontrollable fits of giggles, they would be just as funny to us days, if not years, later. Yes, we made public spectacles of ourselves on more than one occasion but the one that comes to mind and was probably our first public display just happened to be at the expense of my sister, Karen.

I loved to sing and began my sharing my “talent” with my church when I was around 14 years old. Thank goodness that they loved and cared about me as that first year or so was painful—for them and me but that’s another story. As I gained confidence, I expanded my repertoire. I would occasionally play the piano or do an instrumental duet with Karen, her playing the French horn and me, the piano. Where I made the critical, and hysterically funny (at least to me and mom), mistake was deciding to do a singing duet with her.

Karen is five years younger than me and very good natured. I come up with hare-brained ideas at times and she is usually a willing participant. Naturally, when I asked her to sing with me at church, she agreed. We were going to do a simple duet, “Give Them All to Jesus” by Cristy Lane, but even simple songs required practice. We knew that song inside out and were prepared for every possible disastrous scenario, except one…

That Sunday arrived and, as we stood to sing together for the first time, we looked out over a congregation, filled with family and friends, that had watched us grow from small children and was excited to hear us perform. I knew Karen was nervous because I grabbed her hand and it was ice cold. The first chords were played and we began on cue. We were singing and doing a fabulous job until the chorus. Part of the chorus was written as an echo. I started with “Give them all” and Karen echoed “Give them all” but the second time, her voice cracked on “Give.” At that precise moment, I looked at mom—the disastrous scenario for which we had not planned.

Believe me when I say this, you would never find a mom who was more loving or supportive as ours but she was also a mom who was finely tuned to our nervous systems. If we had nerves, she did too and I think it was harder on her watching than on us performing. That being said, mom and I locked eyes on the cracked “Give” and that was it. I spent the next 90 seconds giggling, tears streaming down my face and trying to catch my breath while Karen continued to sing.

I had no idea how my church family was reacting because every time I looked out, it was at mom. Actually, it was at the top of her head. She was bent over, laughing so hard that the pew was shaking. I could see my dad, mortified, poking her and telling her to stop but she couldn’t. Neither could I. And bless Karen’s heart (and I mean “bless” in a good way, not in the Southern way), she, much like my dad, never cracked a smile and sang until the song was over. At the end, all I could do was reach over, hug her, apologize and tell her I loved her.

It was then that I finally looked at the congregation. Everyone was clapping and a few were crying. Afterwards, nearly everyone, to a person, told us what an excellent job we did and that they were touched by our duet. Dad, on the other hand, forbade us to ever sing together again if mom were going to be watching in the audience. And mom and me, we laughed like crazy after church and years later, every single time we would talk about it.

As for me and Karen, there was never to be a “Sister Act II”. Since that fateful Sunday, we have been on many hare-brained adventures together at my urging but I was never able to convince her of a repeat performance. I guess love covers a multitude of sins except laughing through a debut singing performance with your sister!

Karen and me

Happy Birthday, Mom

Today, April 28, is my mom’s birthday.  She would have been 77 years old. I often wonder what she would have been like as she aged. She was active and interested in new things, especially technology.  She had her first computer long before I did and I’m sure she would have been texting or using a smart phone before me too.

My mom, Donna Sue “Susy” Yelton Deaton (I use her whole name, including nickname, as genealogy was one of her passions), was an amazing woman—she wasn’t perfect but she was perfect for our crazy family. She loved us without measure and was a great encourager to have in your corner.

She’s been gone since April 17, 2004. More days than not, I can talk about, tell stories and remember her with smiles and laughter instead of tears. Some days though, without warning, the grief will wash over me in waves and take my breath away.

I don’t know if we ever come to the end of grieving the death of a parent. There is always something missing. It’s like putting together a puzzle that has 1,000 pieces and when you’re almost done, you realize that you’re about 10 pieces short. You can see the whole puzzle but you notice there’s something missing as well. Thankfully, from my personal experience, one thing I’ve found is that the days eventually get better. They will always, from now and until I’m gone, be different but they slowly become better.

So, what about today, her birthday? I will acknowledge her special day and the fact that she not here with us to celebrate it. Ignoring these days tends to deepen the feelings of loss and isolation that often accompany grief.

Today, amidst smiles and a few tears, I say,

“Happy Birthday Mom. I love and miss you. Until we meet again, you will always remain in my heart.”

Your “favorite oldest” daughter,

Nancy Lynn

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