Thursday, April 28, 2011

Big Girls Do Cry

I just read a post by Lisa at Life as we know it that could have easily been my story. Or one of many people that I know.  You may have heard it before...

I've been overweight my whole life (despite being born at just over 6 pounds and 'undernourished' - go figure), but still relatively healthy and active. I played softball during my high school years and have always loved bushwalking and all that kind of 'outdoorsy' stuff.

I went to high school in the mid-late 80s, when there weren't nearly as many overweight teens as they are now. I wasn't hugely obese, probably a size 16 (there are far more size 16 girls wandering around these days). I looked OK, I thought:
But others clearly didn't think so, particularly the boys that I desperately wanted to be noticed by. Actually, they did notice me. They called me 'Rollsy' and 'Fatso' and 'Jelly Belly' and shouted 'look out for the earthquake!' when I ran anywhere or did long jump and stuff like that.

I laughed it off, and was still 'friends' with almost everyone, but I didn't get to have the boyfriend, or become any more than a mate to the boys that I went to school with. Especially the ones I really liked. They thought I was a great friend, but that was it. They had a reputation to protect after all.

After school, I was still plus-size (but not obese yet). I always had to have the 'extra large', but could still wear normal clothes for the most part. I still had the same old problems. Lots of guy friends, but no one meaningful. I'm not sure why it was such a big deal to me. But it was. I just wanted someone to love me.

When I was around 19 I hooked up with a guy that didn't acknowledge me as his girlfriend until about 2 months in. That should have set the alarm bells off, but I was just so happy to have someone pay attention to me. I thought I was in love with him. He was nice some of the time, but he was pretty self-centred. When he dumped me (while we were living together), he told me that I'd be his soul mate if I wasn't so fat...

BANG. There I went. For the next three or so months I practically lived at the gym, eating little else but coffee and oranges. And yes, I lost a heap of weight. He thought I looked great. But by then I'd figured out that he was a prick.

Then I met Anthony and the rest was history. I knew he liked small women, but something else attracted him to me, and he always says he loves me no matter what.

You'd think that would be enough for me. That secure in the love of a good man I'd be able to execute my demons and find a healthy balance. But no. I think the issues that I have run too deep. Are ingrained.

I put on a lot of weight when I was pregnant with Sam (probably 30 kilos). Then I had a c-section and some pretty yucky post-natal depression, so it didn't come off in a hurry. In fact, it took me about 7 years to lose 20-25 kilos. Of course, then I got pregnant again. This time, I got to my heaviest-ever weight:
8 Months Pregnant with Oliver
After I recovered from my second c-section (I got an infection that slowed me down a bit), I got motivated, and over a couple of years I lost about 40 kilos. I was still overweight, but felt good, and healthy.
At my graduation in 2005
I managed to keep that up for a while, and was quite often heard to say 'I'm never going back there'.

Then, Anthony got sick (depression - a story for another day) and I had a tough year at work (colleagues that didn't always get along), and the weight started to slowly creep back on. Then Sam died, and it's been all down hill since then. I think I'm almost back up to my heaviest. Yes, I'm exercising regularly, but it's not helping.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, one thing that I got from Lisa's post is that it's important for us to talk about it. Not only because then people can give us help and encouragement but also because we need to make people aware of our situation. One thing that Lisa wrote that really struck a chord with me, is how we (us fat people) are often perceived as 'disgusting', 'lazy' or 'slack'; 'we've brought this on ourselves, and if we really wanted to lose weight, we would'.
In some ways that's right. But it goes a lot deeper than that. Most of us do want to lose weight. Desperately. And most of us have tried (and succeeded). Many times. We've probably spent more on books, gyms, equipment, pills, potions and shakes than anyone. I know I personally have a deep understanding of good nutrition and what we need to do to become 'normal'. We do lose the weight. And then something happens and we put it all (and then some) back on again. It's different for all of us. For some it's compulsive behaviour (I think that might be my problem), for others it's related to mood or even physiological.

It's not that we're lazy. It's not that we don't care or haven't tried. It's just that it hasn't worked. For many of us, it becomes a self-esteem issue, exacerbated by people's perceptions of fat people. And unrealistic expectations about how easy it 'should be' to lose weight. Woog posted the other day about the latest celebrity fad - 'How I got my body back'. Well of course it's easy when you've got a nanny, and a personal chef, and unlimited resources to pay for trainer, or gourmet organic foods. Shows like 'The Biggest Loser' don't help either. It's pretty easy to lose weight in those ultra-controlled environments. But who's got time to exercise 5 hours a day? How sustainable is it in the real world?

I know I have to lose weight. I want to. But sometimes that's not quite enough of a push.  I don't want to yoyo again (because that's just as bad for your body as being overweight). I want to get to a healthy, but sustainable weight. I'll never be stick thin, but that doesn't bother me.

The problem is how. As I said, I've tried everything. I know that I have to make sustainable changes to my lifestyle, but that's not easy either. Sometimes I think I'd like to try a lap-band (a couple of people I know have had great success with it), but it's well and truly out of my reach financially.

And it's getting started. And training my brain. I look at chocolate and say to myself 'don't eat that', but then go and eat it any way. I've got to change that thinking. And I don't know if I know how to do that. Maybe I'll try hypnosis, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Or something. I dunno. But I suspect you're going to hear a bit more about it. It's the only part of my 'life change' that I haven't got a handle on. And that's killing me. Perhaps I have a fear of getting everything right?

Anyway, thanks for listening. In a society driven by the way things look, it's hard to be a fat person. Sometimes I think we cop our fair share of discrimination, and it's good to share our side of the story.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If I could change the world...

Be the change you want to see in the world 

Mahatma Gandhi

BlogThis asked us: If you were boss of the world, what is one thing you would change? Just one.

***I'm sorry if you've read this already, I made a couple of little changes. Oh, ans sorry about the weird formatting issues. No idea what's going on there...

One thing? Oh come on! (as Oli would say).

Maybe it's the way I think, but I can't think of just one thing that would make that much difference.
And it's not that I haven't thought about it. In fact, I've thought about it a lot.

In my early 20s, not long after I had Sam, I discovered that I had a bit of an idealist streak. During that time, I actually thought I could change the world, or at least my little part of it. Despite my status as a full time working mum, I did what I could: I went to a couple of protests, talked a blue streak to anyone who would listen, and wrote lots and lots of letters: to the paper, to politicians, even to celebrities.

One of those celebrity letters actually had a positive outcome. There was a TV show in the early 90s called 'Recovery'. It was a Saturday morning 'youth' show, with music and other stuff, and it was hosted by the underrated Dylan Lewis. I thought he was pretty cool and wrote him a letter about youth-type issues and my hope to get young people motivated to do something about 'all the problems in the world'. He wrote back a couple of times and was very supportive, reaffirming my belief that not all celebrities are selfish pratts. He was encouraging, and sympathised with my 'struggle', and very down to earth.
Sadly, nothing really came of it. Still, it was nice to have a response.

For a brief period, I also had lots and lots of letters published in our local newspaper. I was one of those serial letter writers, going on and on about everything from violent movies (and how they didn't make people violent) to politician's salaries. I even managed to stir up the letter writing pot once or twice.
It was through the letters column that I realised that there were lots of people who didn't share my opinions or values, and lots more that just didn't give a hoot.

After a while, I realised that no one was really paying attention, and that I wasn't really having that much of an impact. Being the sunny-side-up kid that I was am, it kind of got me down, and eventually I turned my energy to other stuff (like going to uni). I must admit, I haven't written a political type letter since.

Looking back, these were very different times, before the internet, blogging and instant communication, which I think has certainly helped some well-meaning (and some not so well-meaning) people make little changes in the world. But I'm not going to dwell on the fact that I didn't save humanity...

It's not that I've stopped caring. I still do my little bit. I recycle, I grow my own fruit and vegies (as much as I can), I walk where I can (instead of driving), I treat others as I would want to be treated, etc. I know it's probably not as meaningful as mobilising a whole community to action, but it's my contribution. And you never know...I'm still young...

But to answer BlogThis' question:

If I was the boss of the world, I guess that might be what I would change. I would demand that ask everyone to pay attention to their own little part of the world. To clean up their own back yard, so to speak. I would mandate it that people were empathetic, ethical, kind, generous, friendly, environmentally responsible and tolerant. Just of the people in their community would be a start. Perhaps if we started small, we'd see big changes.

What would you do?

Just after I posted this, this song came on shuffle on my iTunes. Is it a sign??? 

Me and all my friends
We're all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There's no way we ever could

Now we see everything that's going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It's hard to beat the system
When we're standing at a distance
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door
And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want

That's why we're waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

It's not that we don't care,
We just know that the fight ain't fair
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

And we're still waiting
Waiting on the world to change
We keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

We keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change

Loooooong Weekend

Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it. And it's not like I've been busy being enormously productive or anything. It's just that I was struck down by Long Weekend-itis.

And this long weekend has been an ultra long one; with Easter and an extra day to make up for ANZAC Day being on Easter Monday. If I was still teaching in a classroom I'd be pissed, as it's slap-bang in the middle of the school holidays (Easter is usually one of the nice little breaks during term time). But I'm not, and it's been great. Because of the 5 day weekend, I thought I'd take some leave either side, so I ended up with 12 days off and only had to take 5 days leave.

Most of Canberra has taken off down to the coast. I thought about it, but decided it would be nice to just hang at home. And it has been. Easter was fairly low key, as usual (last year we did a little family thing). We had one of Oli's friends sleep over on the Friday, hung out at home on the Saturday and I hid lots and lots of eggs around the house for Sunday. Some of which are still hidden! :)
We had the family (Anthony's) around for drinks in the afternoon, which was nice (it always is), and Oliver was very generous with his eggs.
Then yesterday, we went and saw Thor, which I really enjoyed. One of my favourite 'comic book' movies so far.

So it's been nice. And I think I know why. For once, when I had some time off, I didn't make a huge list of things I had to do. Because every time I do that, I come out of the time having only done 1/3 to 1/2 of it, and I get stressed and upset that I didn't do it.

This time, I had a vague idea of a couple of things that I wanted to do, but went into my time off thinking: relax, spend time with Oli, and maybe do a couple of things. So far, so good! I've done a bit of relaxing (reading, watching a couple of movies), I've spent time with Oli (walks, movies, board games, lego), and I've even managed to clean out my wardrobe and do some gardening. And I've still got 5 days until I go back to work! Yay!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A new addition...

I can hear my dad groaning all the way from Scotland...

OK, I admit it, it was a bribe. But I had to do it!

Oliver has been relentless on his quest for a baby brother or sister. I must admit for a while he had me convinced. I would very much have liked another baby. There are lots of reasons (including my insane cluckiness, and other darker, sadder reasons that I won't go into), but I was most worried about Oliver not having a brother or sister to bounce things off as he got older. I love having Anthony's brothers around - we have the occasional beer-fueled fun afternoon, go to concerts together and generally do lovely family-type things. I was (still am) concerned that Oliver will miss out on that.

But then I figured that he'd probably marry some girl (or boy) with 5 brothers and sisters to make up for it. Or something like that. Here's hoping.

And I thought about all the reasons I shouldn't have a kid: I'm 37, terribly overweight, getting settled in a new (and ever upward, I hope) career, fairly financially stable, and enjoying the no-nappies-or-crying-but-a-full-night's-sleep-yay! years.

We talked to Oli. We told him all the reasons that a new baby might be a problem. We suggested maybe an animal might be better. After all, we've got a few around here anyway (have I told you about our two dogs, one cat, one duck, 5 chickens and 100 parrots?); what's one more?

So on Sunday, we went and bought a baby rabbit. His name is Roger. Isn't he cute?
Oliver has been a great 'dad': feeding, changing the water, vacuuming the scattered wood shavings, even picking up poop with his bare hands! I know it's early days, but all the signs are good!

So yes dad, it's another animal. But consider the alternative...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Food, glorious food

Samuel loved his food. He always had a hearty appetite (like his mother), and it went straight to his hips if he ate too much (like his mother). But he had a real appreciation for food.

When he was a baby, I was a pretty rotten cook. I was also a shift worker and we were on a fairly low income (nothing new there!), so he probably didn't have the best of starts food-wise. My version of vegetables would have been frozen peas and corn (maybe), and we ate a lot of junk. Most of the photos from that time include hot chips....

What a terrible mother...

Anyway, I got better at it as time went on, and I realised that I'd actually better pull my finger out and cook nutritious meals EVERY day. Of course, that was when the battles started. Being the young naive parents that we were, we had the 'eat all your dinner or you get nothing else' attitude. It's not so surprising, it's what we were (sort of) brought up on.

I remember lots of arguments about rice. For a long time, Samuel HATED rice, and I cooked it at least twice a week. He would sit there stubbornly for hours, not eating it. He was great at being stubborn! (got it from his mother...and father...oh boy, he was doomed!)

There were a few other things he always refused: tuna (that was OK, I didn't like it much then either), mushrooms (he got that from his mother) and many types of vegetables. He did get better at trying things though. We started a 'you can't say you don't like it until you've tried it' rule, and nine times out of ten, he liked it.

But he really liked his junk. He loved all things chocolate (his nanna didn't help - when he was younger she often made him peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches), lollies (he was partial to sours, but would eat any type), chips (Wicked Cheddar Twisties), and all sorts of cakes (especially 'Aunty Sue's' cheesecakes).

He would often spend his pocket money on food - especially when he discovered new things; like the peanut butter M&Ms we found on a trip to Sydney (he bought a couple of $5 packs), and fudge or chocolate covered strawberries when we dragged him to the Bus Depot Markets.

So yes, he did put a little weight on as he got older. He was a little hefty from about 8 years old to 11. He was a growing boy! He loved his steak, and his friend Ryan got him into fish too.
He was trimming right down around the time he died, and looked like he would become quite tall and slim (and gorgeous of course!). He started eating better around the time he got to high school. Lots more vegies and less junk.

But it wasn't only about eating. He liked cooking too. He'd often make these delicious choc-chip biscuits that everyone loved - and that we haven't been able to replicate since - despite having his recipe:

He also really enjoyed food science classes at school, and would often cook us whatever he'd done in class that week. By his last year, he was cooking dinner for us at least once a week, which was really nice. I miss that a lot.

Friday, April 15, 2011

One down...

I've just submitted one assignment, with the other one due on Monday. I'm in for a long weekend I'm afraid, as I have dithered and dithered about this one (it's a research analysis, and I haven't been able to settle on two pieces of research that I want to use!).

Never mind, I'm sure it will get done. I've made a deal with Oliver that if he lets me sit in my office all weekend, I'll do lots of things with him in the holidays. While I don't have a whole two weeks off like my teacher buddies, I've managed to get 12 days off with only 5 days of leave. Gotta love Easter for that reason! We're not going anywhere, so lots and lots of movies, board games, swimming and crafty stuff are on the cards!

OK, I've had my break, back to the grind. I will hopefully be back with more when I need a little procrastination time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Second Year

I've had a week or so of really missing Sam. Not constant melancholy or anything like that, but strong feelings of loss.

It started with the usual stuff - last Saturday we watched the broadcast of the Foo Fighters gig, which brought back those feelings of 'wish you'd been there'. Then on Sunday night we went over to my brother-in-law James' house to watch the DVD of the Green Day tour that he and Sam went to, just before Sam died.

Even though the DVD was shot in Tokyo, it still gave me a really good sense of what it must have been like, and I know that Sam would have loved it. It was his first major concert, one of his favourite bands, and it was a pretty awesome show from what I can see: lots of great songs, a real presence on stage, fire and special effects, sing alongs - everything you want from a good concert experience.
 As I said a while back, his main reaction was 'it was good, yeah', but I know it was a lot more exciting to him than he made out. Despite getting home from Sydney quite late, he still went to school the next day to tell everyone about it!
The concert DVD ended with 'Time of Your Life', which as you know was played while Sam's coffin was lowered at his funeral. So it was a bit of a sad moment for all of us.

Despite a busy week, there have been lots of little moments when Samuel was right at the front of my mind. I'm also seeing lots of comments from his friends about learning how to drive, which starts that ache again. I hate all these reminders that Sam won't get to do those things. Not that I begrudge his friends, it just hurts.

Then, on Saturday night, we watched the movie 'Tangled', which (of all things) set me off. As you probably know, it's an animated Disney movie about Rapunzel, so not they type you'd usually associate with grief. But there's a scene towards the end where the town sends a big bunch of lanterns up into the sky, an annual thing that marks the birthday of the lost princess (i.e. Rapunzel). For some reason, all I could think of was Sam, and the tears just flowed.

I've mentioned before that I've found this second year harder than the first. That's not to say that I am spiraling into misery or anything like that - I'm definitely in the 'testing - acceptance' stages of grief - but I am experiencing many more of the feelings now, that I expected, but didn't feel in the early days.

My best friend Sally and I were talking about it yesterday, and we decided that during the first year, we were so busy getting used to things, and going through 'firsts': the first Christmas, first birthday, first Mother's Day etc; that we didn't have time to think of the permanence of this. Not as much as we do now, anyway.

It is permanent. I'll never see him again. That's hard.

Don't worry about me; there are plenty of things to make me happy, and to keep me going. But it's important that I still document these things. Because I do miss him. So much.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wise Words

Among others (I'm one of those people who has several books going at once), I'm currently reading a book by a very clever and inspiring fellow, Sir Ken Robinson. He knows a lot about lots of stuff, particularly creativity and education. He's done a few TED (and other) talks, including this one that I've seen about 15 times now, but never fail to find something interesting in it. We play it a bit in the training that we run, and my boss played it for lots of principals and school executives over the last couple of days at the conference, which is good, because despite the couple of provocative issues it raises, it's good for getting people thinking.

The book is called 'The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything". It's about the people who have found success doing what they love, because they're doing what they love. I haven't finished it yet, but it has certainly made me think. It's very good advice.

As you know, since Sam died I've been on a bit of a voyage of self-discovery/self-improvement. In some ways I'm succeeding at this (finding a new job, achieving a better work/life balance, finding some comfort in writing, going back to uni), and in some ways I'm not (I'm still way too overweight!)
A big part of this journey has been finding myself. I'm not there yet, but reading this book has reinforced for me that it's so important to find something you love, something you're good at, and do that.

I'll report more on what this means when I've finished the book, but in the meantime, I thought perhaps we could think about advice.

I've got some good advice in my life. From friends, family, bosses...advice that always comes back to me when I need it. Advice that helps. Sometimes quite simple, but always helpful. Here are some memorable tidbits:
  • Always keep your mouth closed when you're cleaning the toilet.
  • When you're swimming backstroke, watch the line on the ceiling (and keep your arm close to your ear. Thanks Sam).
  • Measure twice, cut once.
  • When you're editing, lose 10%.
  • One year of seeds, seven years of weeds (I so wish I could keep up with the weeds!).
  • There's always someone with a bigger problem.
  • Line the curb up with your left windscreen wiper to stay in the middle of the lane.
  • Dull women have immaculate houses.
  • Roll, don't fold.
  • Always check the mirror before you leave the house.
  • If you can't sleep, get up.
  • Hope is not a strategy (some of my teaching friends will get this one).
What are some good bits of advice that have stuck with you?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Go Go Mode

Hi all,

Just stopping in to say it will probably be the weekend before I get in here to do a nice, juicy post. It's been an extraordinarily busy couple of weeks, with the next two set to cap them off!

Over the next two days, I'll be attending (and helping at) a leadership conference here in Canberra, including a dinner tomorrow night. But that won't be the end of my night, I've then got to go online to do a webinar about a product we'll be using here in schools later in the year. I have to do it at 10:30 at night because it's based in England (and 10:30 was better than 1:45 in the morning!)

Speaking of England,  my parents are over there at the moment. Having a wonderful trip, I'm sure. They left last Thursday, with a stopover in Japan (that we were worried, but not really worried about), and what sounds like a nice flight. How amazing to fly over Siberia and Russia when it's covered in snow and ice! My Dad's blogging about it if you're interested. I'm missing them already, and they're away for a loooooong time!

I've also been diligently exercising - every morning I get up before 6am and either walk or go to a class. Not that it's doing much good. I swear I'm putting weight on!!! I do eat too much crap though. I think I'm going to have to do some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or something - it's getting ridiculous!

And I've been pretty good at keeping up with my study. I've got two assignments due next weekend, so I think I'll be 'heads down' whenever I can, to make sure I get them done. I'm loving it though, it's great to be studying again.

And work is hellishly busy too! Because there are only two of us who do training, we are constantly on the go. Very tiring some times (which doesn't help with the study in the evenings, for as soon as I start reading, my eyelids grow very heavy!). But it's fun. I love working with lots of different people and sharing my passion!

Of course, on top of all that I'm making time for my boys. Oli and I are in a Harry Potter habit - we're reading at least a chapter every night. It's a nice hour or so with him. I also try and hang out with Anthony at least once a week. We went to the movies the other day (saw Limitless, I didn't mind it), which was nice.

So, yeah, busy. but I'll pop in on the weekend and post something a little more substantial!
'til then.....

Saturday, April 2, 2011

How many kids do you have?

A very simple question, with so much meaning now.

'How many kids do you have?', 'Do you have kids?', etc...It's a standard part of any conversation between parents. And one that's easy to answer when all of your kids are alive.

For me, the question has changed forever. Because you have to answer it differently, depending on who is asking, and the situation. And because I'm in a new job, and meet lots of new people every day, the question comes up a lot.

Most of the time, I answer it truthfully: "I have two kids, one who died in 2009, and one who is 7." (or something like that). I don't hide the truth from people because Samuel is someone I don't want to hide from people. Why should I leave him out of conversations because he's not here any more? He was here for 13 years, and made a big impact on my life. I'm not going to ignore that.

But of course, answering the question that way usually means that I have to explain: how he died, how old he was, how Oli is doing, etc. Which I don't mind doing either.

But it's not always appropriate. Sometimes it's people I'll never meet again, sometimes it's part of a bigger conversation and there's no time for explanations. What do you do then?

Usually, I say "two boys" and leave it at that. I have even once or twice said "one son", but I didn't like the way that felt. Because I have two sons.

It's funny that a simple question requires so much thinking.