Soup's On

Thursday, January 19, 2017

If you were eavesdropping on the party in my head this week, it would have gone something like this...

Winter Comfort Food Craving Me: I need tomato soup!

Gluten Makes Me Sick Me: *discovers all the store soups contain wheat*

Foodie Me: I'll make tomato soup!

OCD Me: I'll make ALL THE TOMATO SOUP EVER. And freeze it! Because why solve a problem for today when you can solve it for 37 other days in the indeterminate future?!?!

Foodie Me: *discovers chicken stock supply in freezer is too low to make all the soup*



Reasonable Me: *rolls eyes* You were saying?

Foodie Me: *dances around* IMMA MAKE. ALL. THE. STOCK!!

Anxiety Me: OMG!! What if we don't have enough stock for the recipe??

Reasonable Me: How much do we need?

Foodie Me: About a quart.

Reasonable Me: We're making 3 gallons.

Anxiety Me: OMG!! What if we don't have enough containers to freeze it all?!?!

Reasonable Me: Did you even take your meds today?

Winter Comfort Food Craving Me: Was there going to be soup at some point?

Foodie Me, 10 hours later: SOUP, BITCHEZ.


Reasonable Me: OFFS. Prepping for the zombie apocalypse, are we?


Winter Comfort Food Craving Me: Sooo... can I eat now?

Soup so good it makes you not even notice the sad, gluten free faux sandwich!

5 Things Never to Say to Someone Who Lost a Lot of Weight

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

© Kristo - Gothard Hunor | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Significant weight loss is a unique and personal journey. We share struggles and goals, but at the end of the day we each have our own reasons powerful enough to drive us through the blood, sweat, tears and years it took to reclaim our bodies, our health, our lives.

As individual as our stories are, responses from friends, family and even strangers are surprisingly uniform, and often unintentionally hurtful.

Here are 5 things you should never say to someone who lost a lot of weight.

  1. When did you have the surgery?

I continue to be astonished this is often the first question new acquaintances ask when they find out I lost 140 pounds.

The notion that no one can lose a lot of weight without bariatric surgery is so pervasive that my insurance company actually insisted my doctor provide written documentation of my weight loss proving that I didn't have it. So, I understand why the average person makes the same assumption.

However. Unless you are a doctor and need that detail of their medical history, it doesn't matter how someone lost the weight. Asking is an unbelievable invasion of privacy. Not just medical privacy, but delving into deeply personal, often traumatic issues.

Maybe they have an eating disorder. Maybe they are diabetic. Maybe they had cancer. Maybe they were terrified of dying young like a parent. Maybe they gained the weight as an emotional barrier because of PTSD from childhood sexual abuse and finally got enough therapy to face losing that physical shield.

Asking when someone had a weight loss surgery they may or may not have had is asking them to revisit emotional triggers you know nothing about.

Personally... I find the immediate assumption I could only have had surgery insulting. I spent 12 years working my ass off. Literally.

Success stories are rare, and obviously people ask because they are eager to express supportive curiosity. That is lovely, and we welcome the positivity because our journey is ongoing. But rather than asking when we had surgery... just ask "How long did it take?"  That respects the privacy of any medical decisions we made while showing that no matter how we lost it, you recognize we must have dedicated ourselves to the effort for a very long time.

2.What's your secret?!

They know there's no secret. Everyone knows there's no secret. It is hard work. It is dedication. It is, if the weight loss is to be maintained, a permanent lifestyle change we will wrestle with day in and day out for the rest of our lives.

I realize this question is usually meant more like a "how are you" - a socially generic expression of politely supportive inquiry without the expectation of an honest answer.

In my experience, people are generally looking for my answer to support their confirmation bias regarding their own weight loss efforts. While I can and have engaged in depth with this in a rewarding way, I know that most of the time I am supposed to smile and answer along the lines of "there is no secret, just hard work."

Rather than obligating us to the 7,482nd recitation of this faux conversation, why not just express the general sentiment behind it?  "Wow, that must have taken a lot of work, good for you!" 

Then, all we have to say is a heartfelt "Thank you!"

3. Don't you miss your favorite foods?

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, YES. Of course we miss our favorite foods. Thank you for rubbing it in. At a party. While we watch you eat them.

This is another case where expressing the conceptual sentiment behind the question would be a lot less insensitive. "You must have made some really challenging long term changes to your eating habits. Good for you!"

Unless you live it, there is no way to explain what it takes to fight the urge to indulge in our favorite foods. One comment regarding the food we eat may make the emotional difference between winning and losing the battle on any given day. If you feel the need to say something, make it supportive.

4. Call me next time you work out! I want to start exercising and need someone to make sure I stick with it.

I used to fall for this. A lot. I spent years believing people who said they wanted me to help motivate them to exercise.

In the early part of my journey, I felt guilty for failing to help them because I wasn't yet clear they needed to help themselves.

In the middle of my journey, I felt frustration that they were asking me to make a major temporal, logistical and emotional investment in them when I was struggling to keep myself on the right path.

Now, in the maintenance phase of my journey, I feel annoyance that they have no idea what they are asking. Which is for me to trade something like my time slot allotted for a 10 mile run that's planned in a training schedule meticulously arranged around an upcoming race (and work and child care)...  for a 30 minute mosey around the local park trail. Usually followed by peer pressure to go drink twice the calories we just burned in Starbucks.

The thing is, if you ever decide you're ready, you won't need someone to make sure you stick with it. It will come from soul searching. It will come from fierce desire. It will come from inside.

If you do need an outside boost - and we all do sometimes - take an instructor led class or hire a personal trainer. Please don't put someone on the spot who is probably already using every ounce of emotional energy they have to keep themselves on track.

It makes perfect sense to talk about your own fitness goals with someone who has achieved theirs. If you want their guidance because you respect the work they put into adopting a healthy lifestyle, it's more realistic to ask something like "Do you have any tips to help me get started?"

5. Aren't you afraid you'll gain it all back?

The first time someone asked me this question, I was recovering from the last of my weight loss skin removal surgeries. I literally still had stitches in my body. I was flabbergasted.

Statistically, the success rate for weight loss rounds down to zero. Study after study has shown this to be so.  Science has determined that body chemistry remains in an altered state after weight loss. The effect is that our bodies are chronically trying to force us to regain the weight.

This is why it isn't about willpower. It's about biology. And for reasons unknown, this particular biological process is actively waging war against us.  Because of this, long term success stories are so rare there is a national database that tracks them.

We have all dieted, lost some weight, and then been embarrassed to gain it back.  I went through that cycle myself more times than I care to count, back when I still thought diet programs were a thing that could work.

So, YES. I am afraid. Of course I am afraid. My odds of keeping it off approach zero. We all know it.

But here's the thing. How about not asking that after I've been at my goal weight for all of 5 minutes? How about not asking that while I'm recovering from a series of surgeries that cost me my meager retirement fund? How about just not asking that??

Back before I did the emotional work that enabled me to make the drastic, permanent lifestyle changes necessary for this I was just as at risk as the next 99.98% of people of gaining it back.

But I made the sacrifices. I did the therapy. I changed every single thing about the way I was living my life. It took me 2 years to decide I was even ready to try. Because the thing is, those of us who choose this? We first have to accept that it's forever. We have to accept that we must wake up every day for the rest of our lives and make an active choice to continue living this new life. That, or accept the weight back.

Am I afraid? Yes. Do I think my odds of being one of the statistical outliers are good? YES. So much so that I even registered myself for the national tracking database.

There is no way to salvage this question. Don't ask it. Just be supportive. We all know the odds. Let your friend enjoy their success for as long as they can fight for it.

Nerdy Cat Names FTW!!

Monday, December 5, 2016

After our last cat of four passed away over 2 years ago, we agreed to wait until the kids were a little older to bring in more pets.

It was the right call. But it feels like forever. Because KITTEH. I need one. Or four. Whatever.

Last weekend, the husband and I realized we were sitting in separate rooms surreptitiously surfing the same shelter cats. After having a good laugh, we piled into the van and went to visit them in person.

Y'all know we brought home a cat.

Exhibit A

His shelter name was Goose. But we don't have a Maverick so his name had to change. Because obviously.

We enlisted the help of friends. We wanted something clever or distinctive or geeky. The geekier, the better. I mean, come on. We're us.

You guys. A handful of these are mine, but my friends delivered hard core. So much so I just had to collect their ideas and give them the credit they deserve. I'd need to adopt a whole shelter full of cats to use them all.

So. Without further blather I give you... geeky cat names!

Literary References
Pixel (Heinlein)
Mr. Underfoot  (Heinlein)
Ender (Orson Scott Card)
Cheshire (Alice in Wonderland)
Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker)
Ford Prefect (Hitchhiker)
Xaphod Beeblebrox  (Hitchhiker)
Paul Miau-ad'Dib (Dune)
Mr. Darcy (No one in my family appreciated this one. Clearly the wrong audience.)

Harry Potter References
Peter Pettimew
Professor McGonagall*

*If this sweet little tabby had been female, I'd have gone straight to Professor McGonagall and called it Minnie (Minerva) or maybe Maggie. Because of course I would. But he happens to be male, so I'm saving it for another cat.

Tolkien / Middle Earth References
Purregrine Took
Mrrriadoc Brandybuck
Furamir, Naptain of Yawndor
Tomcat Bombadil

Game of Thrones References
Catlin Stark
Tomcat Purratheon, First of His Name   (I love this one so. hard.)

Star Trek References
Chief Meowls O'Brien
Pawvel Checkov
Jean Luc Picard
Worf son of Meowgh
Earl Grey
Gul DuCat (DS9)

Firefly References
Shepurred Book
Meowl Reynolds
Captain Tightpants

Science References
Sagan (as in Carl)
Darwin (call him Charlie)
Schrodinger (this nearly won, we've always wanted to use this name on a cat)

TV References
Captain Jack Harkness (Doctor Who)
Doctor Mew (Doctor Who)
Benedict Cumbercat (Sherlock)
Doctor Watson (Sherlock)
Moriarty (Sherlock)

Princess Bride References
Fezzik / Fuzzik
Inigo Meowtoya
The Dread Pawrate Roberts (I wanted this one badly.)

Miscellaneous Movie References
Senator Palpurrtine (Star Wars)
Max Rockcattansky (Mad Max)
Fievel Catch-a-Mousekewitz (An American Tale)
Dade (Hackers)

General Geekery
Aaron Purr (Hamilton)
Gattos Vakarian (Mass Effect)
Commander Shepurrd (Mass Effect)

Sports References
Rizzo (Cubs)
Wrigley (Cubs)

The kids really liked Moriarty, so that's what we landed on. It works. The 4 year old likes to call him Mo.

It's already like he's lived here forever.

The very first night!

Do you have any ideas for geeky cat names? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

This Is Bananas

Monday, September 12, 2016

When I was in Madison this weekend to crew Ironman Wisconsin, I ended up buying lunch for a homeless gentleman on State Street when I was on the way to work a run aid station. 

Well, "lunch" in that it was lunchtime.  He didn't have teeth, and all he wanted was a protein smoothie from Jamba Juice. I've never done something like that before, though I have many friends who do. He said quietly, "I'm so hungry."  I couldn't walk away.

He noticed my race shirt, and told me he helps take the leftover bananas to a local food pantry.  I thought this was great, and I was glad to have helped him out a little bit. I don't know if his claim is true, but it seemed perfectly plausible.

The thing is, I have always assumed this sort of thing is routine.  There are always tons of product and refreshments left after events and there are hungry people everywhere. It's a no brainer.

The crew leader had mentioned to me on the phone that they have had issues in the past with local homeless individuals trying to take food from his race station's supplies during the race.  And I did notice a substantial number of homeless in just the few blocks my activity for the day was focused.

Point being... I was STUNNED to find out that the extra food is supposed to go back on the truck, and it sits there for possibly days while the trucks are sorted out, and then it all goes into the garbage.

I asked the crew leader why it doesn't go to a food pantry or homeless shelter.  He said he did contact a local food pantry once and they refused it because they didn't want to pick it up after the race.

From just my aid station, this was the produce left over:

- 4 boxes of oranges (I'm guesstimating 50 lbs a box), 3 unopened
- 2 full, unopened cases of bananas
- 3 flat cases of grapes, 2 unopened

Plus some potato chips, pretzels, many gallons of bottled water and Gatorade concentrate.

A run aid station serving food and beverages to Ironman racers.

The volunteers shared the leftover gels and energy bars, that was easy. I agree with the crew leadership that it's nice to give something to the volunteers who worked incredibly hard supporting the race, many from sunrise to after midnight. My real concern was the high quality fresh produce not be left to rot in the back of a truck.

There are at least 5 run aid stations and at least as many bike aid stations.  The math on the wasted food makes my brain melt.

The juxtaposition of the spectacle of luxury and privilege that is a world class endurance event with the homeless population literally sleeping on the side of the street as the racers go by is deeply disquieting. Throwing the remaining food away is unconscionable.

Last night, they were literally going to send the food to be thrown away with several of them sleeping within 50 yards of us. I just couldn't let it happen.

Another volunteer and I put our heads together and decided we would take the food.  We figure it can't possibly be THAT hard to find a food pantry or homeless shelter to answer their phone on a Monday morning and accept the donation. The other guy ultimately decided to handle it this time since he lived locally, and I had already agreed to disposition 4 nearly full cases of cups that I couldn't bear to see go in a landfill (they are apparently discarded once a case is unsealed for logistics reasons).

A quick search revealed at least half a dozen possible food pantry/soup kitchen type places in Madison that he planned to call this morning. I pointed out if we can make it work for this station, then we might be able to set it up so each aid station has a designated food pantry they work with every year to receive the fresh food.

Or perhaps, we can work with the UW Greek system. Many sororities and fraternities are affiliated with charitable causes. I bet it would be pretty darn easy to convince one or more of them to pick up the food and take it to a shelter.  The homeless population on campus is noticeable.  Anyone with half a heart should want to help.

Because seriously? I refuse to believe that there isn't someone willing to swing by the race site for 10 minutes on a Sunday night to pick up several hundred dollars worth of free fresh food to serve the hungry.

I'm not able to volunteer at Ironman every year.  It's a lot of time and money for me to go up there.  But I hope working on this problem will be a contribution I can make that has a lasting impact on the race, and the lovely city that hosts it.

If you are in the Madison area and know of any organizations that would like to work with me on this, please send me an email.  The crew leader told me if I am able to find someone to take it, he would be very happy to support that. We have plenty of time before the next Ironman, but it's also a concept that can be applied to any event, and endurance race season is in full swing now that fall has arrived.

There are countless races all around the country every year, and most of them offer athletes some form of refreshment.  I strongly recommend that leadership of food pantries and other organizations serving the hungry get in contact with organizers of local events to ask what they do with their leftover fresh food. 

Guys, this isn't acceptable.  On any level.  We have to do better.

Another Argument With Myself

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I'm on the tail end of my 6 month plastic surgery adventure. I had to see the surgeon unexpectedly today to get a few stray sutures excavated that had become problematic.

The Crazy People Who Live In My Head: This is going to mess up today's workout! And this week's training schedule was already altered because of last weekend's travel!! CODE RED. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Voice of Reason: You're technically still recovering from surgery. And you're in so much pain from that new shoulder situation you had to take a freaking Percocet.

The Crazy: Your point being...?

VOR: It is perfectly reasonable to skip today's workout.

TC: Clearly, you are unaware the world will end.

VOR: You are actively bleeding from multiple incisions.

TC: It's only a flesh sound.

VOR: Sit the fuck down. Shut the fuck up.

TC: BUT....!!!

VOR: *brandishes duct tape*

TC: FINE. *stomps off to alphabetize something*

Seriously, y'all... this is me medicated. How did I even function before the anxiety pills?

Conversation With Myself

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I accidentally crashed my triathlon blog, so this post goes here for now until I get that sorted out.

So I got my tubes tied. I'd been told I would be able to "resume normal activities" within a day. In true medical disaster fashion I was in bed for days with a painful anesthesia reaction, but I knew I probably couldn't resume "normal" activities that soon anyway, because these days my normal is most people's haaayyuuuull no.

8 days post op the annoying tugging feeling with every step was finally subsiding and I decided to go for a walk. Which... included some running. Even though I'd debated being ready for a walk. Cause Type A.

Me that day, wondering WTF is wrong with me...

Skeptical chick is skeptical

The next morning was chilly. Almost cold.  I squeed the squee of a thumbholes addict and rushed to put on my shiny new cool weather running outfit.  The one I had to buy because apparently, running is a thing I do now.

Thumbholes cause spontaneous jazz hands!
(Weight loss to date: 107)
I knew I should be taking it easy but... Mother Nature. She called to me.  I was bursting to run. BURST. ING.

Which, to be honest, is not an emotion with which I am familiar. I'm in it for the cute outfits. And the thumbholes. And I was still taking it easy, right? Riiiiight.

This was the conversation the crazy people who live in my head had that lovely morning:

Newly Minted Runner Chick: ZOMG!! Perfect fall day! We need to ruuuuuuuun! Come on guys let's go let's go let's goooooo!

Post Op Chick: Are we sure about this?

Pragmatic Chick: Let's go slow and see what happens.

NMRC: This feels GREAT!!

Pragmatic Chick: I don't think we should do more than 2 miles. We already decided not to race that 10K next month, no reason to push.

Triathlete Chick & NMRC & Type A Chick: ONLY 2 MILES???

Pragmatic Chick: What say you, body?

Body: I'm up for 3.


GPS Lady: total distance, 3 miles

Body: I, um... kinda sorta totally don't want to stop. On account of this is awesome.


Pragmatic Chick: Uh, guys...

Frowny Face Ortho Doc: Didn't I JUST lecture you about being an over achiever?

NMRC: Don't listen to him, we ROCK. We can run forever. We could do that 10K right now if we wanted to!!

GPS Lady: total distance, 4 miles


Body: She has a point.

Pragmatic Chick: OFFS

Frowny Face Ortho Doc: *throws up hands and stomps away*


Pragmatic Chick: This is your regular workout distance and you're only 9 days post op. Howz about you get your head out of your ass now?

Thus ended the workout that subtly tipped the scales of my identify from "one who reluctantly runs to calorically finance my martini habit" to "runner."

Summer Party 7 Way Drink Station

Friday, August 14, 2015

I love to entertain, and I've spent the last couple of decades learning from my party planning mistakes. Especially when it comes to cocktails. One of the most surprising lessons I learned is that, when a party guest asks for a drink, you should never just point at a stocked bar and say "help yourself!"

And not for the reason you'd think. Turns out, the average party goer offered free reign will, surprisingly often, opt for a glass of water.  Reasons are all over the place, but in general it's just too overwhelming.

After many years of leftover party beverages and wondering what on earth I was doing wrong, I finally figured out that my guests enthusiastically consumed beverage selections limited in scope, mixed ahead of time and carefully coordinated with the party's theme and menu.  The whole time I'd been trying very hard not to tell them what they had to drink, and apparently what they wanted was for me to tell them what to drink.

Which brings me to this 7 way summertime drink station. I recently threw a casual summer cookout and wanted to offer several refreshing options for both kids and adults with a minimum of fuss, counter space and ingredients. This is what I came up with!

Drink Station Features
Large dispenser of lemonade
Large dispenser of iced tea (unsweetened, brewed fresh)
Squeeze bottle of simple syrup (I do a more saturated 1.5 c sugar / 1 c water)
Bottle of Bushmills Irish Honey (it has to be exactly this)
Bottle of vodka (your preferred brand, not pictured)
Ice bucket (not pictured)

I should also note that I froze portions of the iced tea and lemonade in bundt pans overnight to float in the dispensers. This helped keep it cold much longer, and greatly reduced the constant hassle of restocking the ice bucket.

When I do this again, I'll label the containers and post a list of the combinations above the station to eliminate the need to repeat the explanation as new guests arrive. Because apparently I'm the only one nutty enough to think this is self explanatory.

Drink Combinations
1) Iced tea (unsweetened)
2) Sweet tea (sweetened to taste by guests with simple syrup)
3) Arnold Palmer (half tea, half lemonade)
4) Lemonade
5) Vodka & Lemonade
6) Bushmills & Lemonade (a current favorite)
7) Arnold Palmer & Bushmills*

*I've spent the better part of the last decade in search of the elusive spirit to mix with an Arnold Palmer without tasking like blech. The tea is a tough taste to blend. So when I tried the Bushmills Honey...  it was like a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

As cocktails go, the possibilities are endless. Personally, if I hadn't run out of gin the day before I'd also have added that to the station because gin & lemonade is delightful.

It's no secret that I come from rednecks, so sweet tea and Arnold Palmers are my summertime raison d'etre. But if that isn't your style, just use the concept as a springboard for your own station.

Have you ever done a multi-mix drink station? I'd love to hear what combinations you featured!

I pinned this post to my Entertaining Inspiration board.