Saturday, February 21, 2009

Life in the Fat Lane

Eight years... the amount of time in my life when I was not fat. Alright, before I go any further, let's get something out of the way. "Fat" may seem like a politically-incorrect word. But, consider the other options: obese, thick, pudgy, tubby, heavy, stout, plump, metabolically-challenged, overweight, rotund, abdominous, plump buxom, chub-o-lub, hulking, round,
potbelliedblubberychubby... eh... yes, you get the picture. That's why I prefer the label "fat."

Believe or not, there are many advantages to being fat. Of course, it is obvious that there are many disadvantages to being fat. For those of you who have never ventured into the "fat lane," I'd love to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences.

Disadvantage: The Doctor's Visit
Most doctors have a built-in stereotype that everything wrong with a fat person is because of the extra baggage. Not to brag, but even though I am fat, I am quite healthy. Perfect blood pressure, low heart rate, great stats. But still, every time I visit the doctor for every type of malady, it is because I am fat. A broken finger - "Well, Ms. Dobson, I believe your fat got in the way of you being able to see the door that smashed your finger. And, the fat fingers on your other hand most likely malfunctioned as they tried to stop the door from closing slowly. Lose some weight!" Bronchitis - "The fat around your lungs caused a heaviness which slowed the proper release of mucus from your lungs. Lose some weight!"

Advantage: No Need for Designer Clothing
Since I am not in the size-range of designer clothes, I do not need to be bothered with shopping at Dillards, Macy's, and all of the prestigious boutiques that specialize in overpriced, designer clothing. A great money saver for our family!

Disadvantage: Airplane Seats
*Gasp*! Been on an airplane lately? Who designed the seats? Obviously a person with no hips, standing less than 5'3". Lift up the arm rest? Oh my gosh! A flight attendant is there like a hawk, chirping, "That is not safe, ma'am, you need to keep the arm rest down at all times!" She also sees my hips creeping over into the next seat, and I just wait for her to tell me that I have to pay for an extra seat. So far, that hasn't happened. Yet. So, I suffer through and arrive at my destination with two large bruises on each hip.

Advantage: Bring On the Nuclear Disaster
While my thin friends will be starving, I will be able to live off my fat reserves for awhile...quite awhile, in fact.

Disadvantage: Going to the Gym
Our family has been members of the local YMCA since 1999. At first, I went five or six days per week. I did lose some weight and became a "fit-fat" person. Many at the gym, especially during the "January rush," thought that I was one of those New-Year's-resolution members who would be there for a month and then all of a sudden disappear. Not a chance - I'd been there for years! I got more snubs and more unsolicited advice than I can even share in this paragraph. Oh well, those people didn't last more than a few months... and I did! Ha! Justice is sweet!

Advantage: I Love Winter!
While those with no extra meat on their bones struggle to keep warm in the winter, I stay toasty and cozy. An added plus indeed! Just don't get me started about July and August....

Disadvantage: Grocery Shopping
Each week, I shop for five people. That means a grocery cart full of food - all types of food. You know the drill. I have a husband, myself, my father, a teenager, and a pre-teen to shop for. Yet, people look at me as though I am purchasing all of that food for myself. Yes, another myth of the fat person: we eat so much more than a "normal" person. Perhaps we do, to an extent. Consider this theory - many fat people, like myself, have been on every diet known to humankind. Going off and on diets screws with your metabolism. Then, it doesn't take much for extra weight to creep back on. But, I digress. Back to the shopping experience. Placing all of the items on the belt, you can see the eyes of the person behind you checking everything you purchase. God forbid if there is a carton of ice cream! Or Oreos! Oh no, not spaghetti - carbs! Look out!

Advantage: To Thine Own Self Be True
Being fat, I know who I am. When I make a friend, I know that they like me for me, regardless of what package I am in. Always remember, you never judge a book by its cover. Sometimes the best-looking cover has an awesome book inside; sometimes the cover is just a guise. Look inside - you may find a true gem!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Things That Work

I really should be fixing my hair. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded. Oh yeah, I have to re-wash most of the dishes because the dishwasher is broken. All three beds are unmade. There is clean laundry strewn across the living room floor that needs to be put away. I have class in two hours. I have to miss my son's Valentine's party at school because I will be in class. Oh yeah, I have a migraine. 

Things that work....

This past Tuesday, we had a small group meeting at church. We are going through the Boundaries study by Cloud & Townsend. Great book! I highly recommend it. Anyway, one of the questions in the study guide was: "What things and persons are you jealous of?" My husband and I were sharing book. I had the pen. Of course I did. I immediately circled the word things and drew an arrow down to the blank space. I wrote, "THINGS THAT WORK!!!" My husband just smiled. He knew exactly what I meant.

Things that work...

In my ideal world, these are a few things I wish for:

- A dishwasher that cleans the dishes on the first run and isn't so loud that it's decibel rating is considered deafening. 
- Being able to wake up perky and clean, fixing my hair and make-up immediately, fixing a nutritious breakfast for my family.
- Either there would be a cure for migraines or they would not exist at all.
- I could be able to take classes to fulfill my failing sense of worth AND make it to all events at my children's schools.
- The gym would be my best friend.
- Our family would never run out of money before the month is over.
- Friendships could be deep and meaningful and real. No fear of sharing, no fear of receiving. 
- Life would make sense.

Things that work...

Until then, I will choose to be content. I have been blessed. I have a home, a husband, two healthy children whom I love so much, a wonderful father, and blossoming friendships, both new and old.

And as far as that old dishwasher, who cares! That is why God gave me two hands, after all!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tae Kwon D-OUCH

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, I sit at the YMCA and watch my son stretch, jump, punch, and kick his way toward a colored belt at Tae Kwon Do class. I love watching him, but I also use this time to catch up on my reading, as do most of the other parents.

At the beginning of January, class was progressing as usual. I was reading a social work text and taking notes on a legal pad. Out of nowhere, Miss Tan-and-Blonde-Perky-Little-Sunshine (a.k.a. the instructor) looked over at the group of parents and said to the kids, in a sugary voice, "I think some of your mommies and daddies should quit reading their magazines and take this class with you and work off all of those Christmas goodies!"

My head snapped up so quickly that I almost whip-lashed myself. "Huh?" I thought to myself. "Did Malibu Barbie really just say that?" I discreetly peered at the other parents, to see if anyone else seemed as shocked as I was. Magazine pages continued to flip.

Maybe I took her flippant comment as a challenge because I used to be in fairly decent shape. No, I was never a black-belt anything; however, I could take on a rigorous one-hour deep water aerobics class followed by an hour on the treadmill. Lately, my most rigorous exercise regimen is opening and closing the refrigerator door and operating the lever on the recliner. But, how difficult is a half-hour childrens Tae Kwon Do class? I mean, really!

Two days later, Daniel and I arrived at class early. I was dressed for success - the same black sweat pants I usually wear around the house and an old t-shirt that hopefully hid all of the "Christmas goodies" I was there to work off. Daniel showed me the warm-up stretches. I watched him intently, but declined, because it would involved plopping down on the floor and I wasn't sure I would be able to get back up in time for the beginning of class. One by one, the other active kids arrived to class. The magazine-reading parents filled the row of chairs, looking at me quizzically.

Miss Malibu burst through the door with her usual energy. "Oh good!" she exclaimed. "We have a visitor!"

I gave her a weak smile.

"Line up, class!"

"Yes ma'am!" the children responded.

"Let's warm up!"

What happened next was beyond humiliation for me. We did a series of stretches, calisthenics, and cross-training moves. I had watched my son completed these moves dozens of times without thinking they were so difficult because he did these with such effortless ease. I, however, creaked, cracked, and moaned my way through the warm-up. These were the vertical, standing-up moves. Next, it was time to move to the floor. Here we go...

"Put your bottoms on the floor!"

"Yes ma'am!"

The children dropped to the floor like balls of hail falling from the sky. I slowly went to one knee, placed my hands on the floor, heard the crackling of the first knee, tried not to gasp audibly as my lower back was about to give, placed my other arthritic knee on the hard floor, then, one, two, three- plopped my extra-padded bottom on the floor. Aside from wondering how I was going to get back up, I was ever so proud of my great accomplishment!


Malibu yelled out the numbers 1 through 4 in Korean, and the children yelled them back, all the while moving their arms from leg to leg and touching their little hands to their feet and their little noses to their knees. I touched my grown-up hands to my sore, sore knees.

"Now, put your feet together and touch your nose to your feet...go!"

Again, the Korean numbers. Again, the little noses and the little feet. Again, I was able to bend approximately 2 centimeters toward my feet.

After a few more agonizing stretches on the floor, the moment I had been dreading since I "plopped" to the floor had come.

"Pop up like you're coming out of a hot toaster...go!"

"Yes ma'am!"

The children POPPED with vigor. I rolled my butt one direction, put both hands on the floor, put one abused knee on the floor, popped the joints of my knee (the only popping I did that evening), put my other knee on the floor, both hands on the floor, then, up, up, UUUPPP! The entire class watched and waited for what seemed like five minutes as I rose from the floor. I, one again, was very proud of my accomplishment!

The final half of the class was the actual Tae Kwon Do moves. Punches, high blocks, kicks, stances. Since we were NOT on the floor, I was actually able to keep up with the bundles of energy. I felt like a fitness guru, a model of health, an example to those magazine-reading couch potatoes!

The following morning, getting out of bed was nearly impossible. I walked down the hallway like a 90-year-old. Three ibuprofin could not touch my throbbing pain. After I got my kids off to school, the couch was my best friend for several hours, until I had to go about the plans I had for the day. I was barely able to walk. I don't think I had ever experience so much pain. Why was Vicodin not offered to me? I got it after my hysterectomy, for goodness sake! I really think I was in more pain from the class. At least after the surgery I had a morphine drip for two days!

The next week, I was not dressed to participate in class. I was sitting in reader's row with the other parents. Malibu came up to me and asked me why I wasn't going to take the class again.
I had to think quickly. I couldn't let her know how much pain she had inflicted on me. I didn't want to appear to be the unfit, couch-potato that I actually was.

"Well, you see, I really have to make it through this text book within the next few months," I said. I really emphasized the words text book so as not to be associated with the magazine readers.

"It's only a half-hour class!" she offered.

"I know, but I am so busy during the day," I half lied.

"Okay, but we will miss you," she said, giving me her widest smile.

"I'll miss you, too," I said, grinning, my fingers crossed behind my back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big Bird Wipes Out

Since I confess to being a recovering perfectionist, there was a time in my life when I was a full-0n perfectionist. Let's just call it ages 3-39. How do I know I was a perfectionist at age 3? My larger-than-life Lego set! It must have been an early 70s thing, but the Lego's only came in two colors, red and white. I would connect and disconnect those shiny bricks o' magic, over and over again, for hours on end - red, white, red, white, and so on. Always the same pattern. On the same, off the same. Stored the same way, played with the same way. Yes, I'm in therapy now!

One endearing quirk that I began around the age of 6 was collecting napkins. Not sanitary napkins, I'm not a freak! Birthday party napkins. I grew up in an extremely small Nebraska town where all of us kids where homies. Everyone was invited to everyone's birthday party and everyone had a birthday party! Not the extreme themes or the parent parades of today - just simple cake and ice cream and Pin the Tail on the Donkey (which evolved into Spin the Bottle in junior high... but that is a whole different story). The parties had the cone hats with the choke-your-little-throat elastic, plates, and napkins that matched. Oh, the napkins...

I developed a very unhealthy obsession for those stiff, cheaply-manufactured napkins. They had all of the popular characters of the day: Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobbie, Fat Albert, Barbie, Charlie Brown, all the Sesame Street characters, and so on. At each party I attended, I consumed my cake and ice cream ever so carefully, so as not to use my napkin. If I had the option of spilling on myself or catching the cake with the napkin, I chose the former. Bringing the napkin home meant keeping it from any tears, bends, or folds. It had to be in mint condition for my collection! My beloved napkins were displayed on my dresser with the mirror. I had them alphabetized by character. They were absolutely beautiful - a treasure, true art, pristine beauty!

One day, one horrible day, the unthinkable happened. I was suddenly stricken with the stomach flu. It was coming out both ends. Mainly the lower end. But, that was not the horror of horrors - diarrhea I can handle. We were out of toilet paper. I was in the upstairs bathroom and I yelled for my brother to check the downstairs bathroom. No toilet paper. I asked him to check for tissues or paper towels. No paper products at all in the house. Only.... NO! It's too horrible to even mention!

Well, I ask you, "WWYD?" (What Would You Do?) I was trapped on the toilet. My fate was in the hands of my little brother, David.

"David," I yelled, "bring me my collection."

"Which collection?"

"The napkin collection," I mumbled.

He laughed his ass off! Then he cracked the door open ever so slightly and threw the entire stack of napkins at me (dang, I had a lot of them!) I carefully weighed my options. I started sorting them, first, by color, then, by oldest to newest, finally, by most favorite to least favorite. I grabbed my least favorite. Poor Big Bird. He never hurt anyone. Such an innocent creature!

The most important lesson I learned from that day (besides never run out of toilet paper) was if you are going to collect napkins, make sure they are not made in China and as rough as a tree!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Can Dig It!

As every parent of a boy can attest, digging a hole to China is a rite of passage. My son had a different rite of passage - he decided to dig his own grave. I know that sounds quite morbid - you just have to know Daniel. He's a thinker and a planner. He was just planning for the future, something to check off of his lengthy "to do" list. Let's put it this way - he's already saving his Christmas money and weekly allowance to purchase his first home, because, as he says, "I'm the boy, and the boy becomes the dad, and the dad has to pay for everything!" Smart kid!
One busy day, Daniel was outside digging his grave while I was fixing dinner, doing laundry, knocking my cats off the counter, picking rotten food off the floor, you know, the usual stuff. It was an important Cub Scout meeting night - the annual uniform inspection would occur. I was so prepared for this! The day before, I had driven to the regional Scout Shop, nearly 30 miles away, to purchase a three-dollar slide for his neckerchief. I would do anything for my little guy to get a 100% rating on his uniform inspection!
Daniel arrived home later that evening from his meeting, looked at me sheepishly, and handed me his inspection form.
"How did you do, Sport?" I asked him.
"Well, I combed my hair in time!" he said with pride.
"You had a comb?"
"I heard them talking about another boy whose hair was messy. So, I combed my hair real quick with my fingernails," Daniel said.
"Hmmm..." I said, as I took the inspection form from his hands and read the results. He had points taken off for having his shoes untied and having dirty fingernails. Digging his grave, I thought. I forgot to have him wash his hands! He combed his hair with his nasty, dirty fingernails!
"Get in the shower!" I exclaimed. "And tomorrow, start filling in your grave!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Undies and the Vacuum

I told my husband... I'll admit I whined to my husband... "I want, I need, I MUST have a new vacuum cleaner!"

His usual answer, "With what money?"

Yes, we were newlyweds. Yes, we were broker than Citibank. I hated that stupid vacuum. I really did. I would say, "It sucked!" - but, that's the problem, it didn't suck! Ahhh... such is life. Balancing our wants from our needs. But, thus, here is one perfect time when my imperfection worked to my advantage.

I was vacuuming (a rare sport for me) our ragged, one-bedroom, basement apartment. My "non-sucking" vacuum was humming along as I pushed, prodded, pleaded, and prayed. "Lord," I prayed, "give me strength. Give me victory over this beast."

God answered my prayer in the form of my panties. Not exactly Moses and the burning bush! I was maneuvering the beast behind our king-sized, 1970s-style, funkified water bed when I heard the shriek that was both frightening and freeing.

"Oh crud," I thought, "I killed it!"

I heard even more commotion before I could get the blasted beast turned off. I flipped it over, trying to find the lose piece of yarn (I don't knit) or the spare blade of straw (we didn't have sheep). I could smell a faint scent of something burning, like a wiener past its prime. I quit vacuuming and waited for Steve.

The first thing out of his mouth was, "Did you burn the beans and weenies again?" (Like I said, we were poor, and like I did not say, I was the worst cook ever).

"It's the vacuum," I mumbled. "I can't figure out what's burning."

He took it apart, piece by ugly piece. Up in the hose was a pair of my favorite tiger-print undies. They were ripped, charred, and slightly burned. Ruined!

"You did this on purpose!" he exclaimed.

"Did not!" I retorted.

Well... that day was much like a wedding, when a family loses a son but gains a daughter. Only I lost undies and gained a new vacuum. Fair trade.