Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Parenting before children

I became a parent before I had children.

It's my responsibility to make my father be his better self. So he will show up, to face the reality of the situation. It's a responsibility born of love, because I deeply love my flawed father, and he deeply loves his flawed daughter. And yet, it weighs at my psyche, so I eat.

I recently told my stepmom how excited I was for my upcoming 30th birthday. She laughed and said, "You were 30 when I met you [at age 14]. You always have been." It's true that I have always been responsible, carefully weighing my choices against potential consequences, a skill developed from our family dynamics, from having to cope with the realities of life from an early age.

It's not just my father to whom I have a responsibility. I collect lost things. My porch is full of beautiful chairs discarded from our neighbor decluttering his home. Inside, my home has too many animals, full of rescues who are sweet and wonderful and shed fur all over the damn house. My children are adopted from foster care, "older youth" because their memories of their biological parents make them unwanted by all the adoptive parents who want to pretend that it was their baby all along. My children sat in foster care for years as a consequence of their ages when they entered care, 5 and 6, already "older youth" in an unfair system.

My collections bring me incredible joy. I love having chairs for people to sit on, animals to pet and purr, and children to share my life with. I sought these lost things out for their joy, but always they show their past lives. The chairs are nicked, the animals scared or aggressive, and the children heavy with emotion.

As my grandfather lies sick in his hospital bed, I am trying to manage my father. "You should visit. You should call." I'm trying to convince him to leave his toxic environment and join me in my new city.

At the same time, I am dealing with so much else. I move quickly, never stalling too long on a decision before I jump in head first. I multi-task, not just juggling my work and children, but trying to build community and be my best self too.

Right now, I am also managing depressed friends, calling and visiting to ensure that at least today won't be the day they commit suicide.

I am unpacking and renovating a home and trying fiercely to feel settled in this new place.

I am trying madly to make friends in this place, going out and finding new people and places and community.

I am preparing to teach a subject I have never taught, still a brand new teacher beginning Year 2.

I am trying to manage my own sadness about my grandfather's sickness, about how I have rarely been in touch with a family that cared for me in my childhood.

I am helping my children settle into their new home. I have promised them it will be their last childhood home, and I intend to keep that promise by making it so incredible I never want to leave.

I am celebrating and preparing for children's birthdays, the start of classes, and the approaching High Holy Days.

I love my full life. Every week people come to our place to celebrate Shabbat, and we eat good food in a home filled with love and half-packed boxes. Food is central to our lives. It's how my parents showed they loved me, and how I show up for my family and friends. In the midst of this chaos, we always have Shabbat.

I live in a beautiful community, full of incredible people. I want to show up for them, but it's hard sometimes to show up for myself. I rarely prioritize myself, and I don't know how to prioritize eating healthy and gym over my children's needs, my wife's needs, and my own stress. Since I found my scale, I have not gained weight, but this month I have not lost weight either. We have gone out to eat too much, and I haven't utilized my beautiful kitchen for healthy choices. I worry that as the summer comes to a close and the stressors of life do not diminish, that it will feel impossible to manage my health and responsibilities.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Do you want s'more?

In line at Trader Joe's with a cart full of healthy-ish food, I reach for a bag of butter-honey potato chips. Rarely does the impulse area grab at me, but I had just talked myself down from various other unhealthy items in the snack aisle, and I was too tired to say "No!" to myself one more time. I took the bag, justifying it by the incredible price (less than $2!) and the fact that the children would like it, and I put it in the cart.

That day, I proceeded to help eat the entire bag. Later, when my wife commented on the fact that the bag was almost gone, my eldest child said, "It was mostly mama." I was so angry. First, it wasn't mostly me. I had worked really hard to not gobble down the whole thing, using tricks like sharing with the kids, having the kids hold the bag, and saving some for my wife. Second, she was right. I had eaten more than anyone else. While I hadn't eaten most of the chips, I had eaten almost half the bag, despite there being four of us eating the bag together.

I was so ashamed at all the chips I ate. And yet, I continued.

Late my wife asked me, "Do you want another s'more?" Despite the fact that the ingredients were put away, and she would be going up a flight of stairs to get the food, and I had eaten half a bag of chips, and I had a s'more already, I said yes. After the marshmallow had browned over our outdoor fire pit, I ate it hastily and shared a bite with my kid.

I thought that maybe if it disappears quickly, it won't make me deeply embarrassed. The whole time eating the gooey deliciousness, I was thinking about how I shouldn't eat this. It felt like another failure of my willpower. Already I eaten half a family-sized bag of chips, and now I was powering through another s'more. Why do I sabotage my weight loss efforts in these ways? And yet, I continued to eat.

I went to bed at 9 p.m. that night. I had been tired that whole day, with little sleep the night before and the night before that. It had been weeks of bad sleep, filled with summer fun and children, late night parties, drinking on the porch, and other activities ill-suited to weight loss. It had been fabulously fun, and draining.

I eat more when I'm tried, and as someone always on-the-go, I am almost always tired.

I slept 12 hours that night. I woke up exhausted and shamed by my behavior. I fear it will never change. Already my weight holds me back. I don't fit into rollercoaster seats, or airplane seats. I measure my girth against chairs and avoid smaller places.

The next morning I logged into My Fitness Pal for the 390th day in a row. I fear it's all for nothing. Nothing changes. I keep getting bigger, I keep over eating. I can justify the bad choices - I was tired, I was celebrating, I was stressed - but it doesn't change. I am not losing.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hurting and changing

The room vibrates with sound, electrifying the sweating bodies moving against each other. Our Saturday night DJ was a skilled professional, building the energy of the dance floor and making me move my body. For over an hour, my friend and I stomped, swayed, and gyrated to the club's music. We weren't ready for the night to be done when the DJ announced it was the last song, yet we shuffled out with the other sweat-drenched partiers. Walking home on the warm summer night, the breeze cooled us as we talked about what good fun and exercise it had been.

At 29, I finally have the nightlife experiences I've always dreamed of. Late night adventures have always held my fascination. I love to dance, and I love to have fun, but dance clubs were always outside my reach as a regular experience. As a sober young adult who was scared of risk, I had no companion to accompany me. So, I relish these nights of dancing debauchery (even though I now no longer do it sober).

Yet, one must always face the next day, and the next morning, slightly hungover, I woke up to find my knees were not the same as they had been the day before. They were swollen and painful. I spent the day trying to avoid all inclines, which is hard to do when your home is on the second floor and includes an interior staircase. Getting up from chairs was painful. Going up the curb was painful. Sitting down was painful. Climbing into bed was painful. It was a day where I worried about my morbidity. Less than 30, I was already experiencing the pain I associated with my 90 year old grandparents.

This summer I weigh more than I have before. At 281 pounds, I should lose over 130 pounds to be in the "healthy" BMI range. It feels impossible and necessary. For a year I have counted every calorie, and slowly weighed more and more. For a year, I have meditated on my desire to lose weight, and all that has changed is that I now track every single thing I eat, even as I eat too much and judge my portions poorly.

This year has also been the hardest of my adult life. My children have unraveled, I survived a hard year of teaching, we mourned the death of my father-in-law, we remodeled our home from a dilapidated place missing windows and floorboards to a messy home that was only slightly safer, and we bought and sold and bought houses and moved to a totally new city, living between two places before we could truly settle somewhere new.

And so I keep trying. My weight loss goal doesn't begin and end with a number - either on the scale or inside my clothes. It begins with chasing my children at the park and long nights dancing, and it ends with my beautiful wife - healthy and living together into our old age. Something has to change.

So, today I went to the gym for the first time in months. I googled healthy recipes. I went shopping.

Something has to change. So I made a change today. Hopefully, tomorrow will be even better.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Dream House

I own a mansion. Technically it isn't a mansion because of some arcane rule that says it needs to have a ballroom. But it's a mansion. I'll just put a ball in a room and we'll call it a ballroom.

I own a mansion and I grew up on food stamps.

I sold a house that had rotted out floors in one city and bought a house with six bedrooms in another city.

We were able to buy a beautiful house in the perfect neighborhood because my father-in-law died and left my wife money. Because my wife and I both have jobs. Because my mom let us live in her house rent-free for a year so we could buy our first house. Because our first house tripled in price post-recession. Because we're incredibly lucky.

This house was not bought with our money. It is not through our own grit that we bought a mansion. It was because we were lucky and we were smart with our luck.

I've always wanted a mansion. While other children were playing with barbies, I was dreaming about a house that was so big you could get lost in it. It was a poor person's dream, wondering how the rich lived. I dreamt about hardwood floors and tall ceilings. Later, as an adult, I would dream about front porches and large backyards. I would add crown molding to my dream house, and a sitting area to work and read books. The dream house would have a big kitchen and space to entertain friends and family.

My dream came true, and I'm not sure how. A year ago we struggled to buy a house with three bedrooms. Now we have a house with more than twice that.

I feel guilty for my dream coming true. Every time I invite someone into my home, I cringe at their remarks about the hugeness and beauty. I want to explain that we bought the house so we could give permanency to needy kids. I want to explain that we bought the house for our growing family. But then I feel like I'm profiting off our children, I'm profiting off the pain associated with foster care. So I accept the compliments and feel guilty.

I don't know what to do with this house. It's perfect and too much. It's exactly what I've always wanted, but I don't deserve it. How can I justify this perfect dream house when children are starving? Literally starving. Or when 13 year olds work so their families won't become homeless. How can I justify my perfect dream home when something half as expensive would have housed our family? How can I justify my perfect dream home when that money could have been spent making the world a better place? It's not enough to open our doors to help children in need because I want to have a big family. Building our family through adoption is something I enjoy doing, and now I get to also enjoy this beautiful home. It's too much wonderful things and I feel guilty about all of it.

I grew up on food stamps and constantly worrying about money. I grew up smart and I grew up fast. And I grew up fighting for my own survival.

I don't need to fight to survive anymore, but I eat like I do. Eating was my coping mechanism. It's now my addiction. I haven't binged or starved myself in years, but still I eat in excess. It's hard to have an addiction to food. Food is something I need to survive, but it's also what keeps my body from moving in the ways I want. Eating is what I do when I'm stressed or emotional or bored or happy. I've done it for so long, I don't know how to stop eating too much. Even in my perfect house, that I feel guilty to own.

If only I could live in my perfect mansion and be happy to be here. If only I could look around and see that I don't need to fight to survive anymore. If only I could orient myself to my new surroundings. But they feel so impermanent, and I fear that one day I'll lose my dream home, one day I will need to survive again. I feel guilty, and fearful, and excited, and overwhelmed. In my dream house I eat less, but I eat more than I need to. I love my dream house. One day maybe I'll love myself too.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


I have been overwhelmed for the last year. My father-in-law died at the beginning of the year, I finished my education program and became a new teacher, I am a parent to two pre-teens, we bought a new house and moved, and we're now preparing to sell our home and buy another. To say the year has been full feels like an understatement.

The new year is often a time of reflection, renewal, and new commitments. Judaism often dictates these rituals in my life, but this secular new year feels like a refreshing time for reflection and recommitment. As a teacher, I have few moments for sustained contemplation, and this break has been necessary as a new teacher.

My health - heck, my entire self - has not been a priority this year. My children and students have come first, and there is so little for me at the end of the day. I am emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. As a glazed over zombie, I am capable of eating and watching bad TV, but little else. My weight fluctuates within two pounds, but I never am able to maintain a healthy eating regiment. The only thing that has helped me maintain my health is being reflective, and I have no mental capacity or physical energy for this at the end of the day.

I'm not certain I can change any of those problems, or if it's an outlandish idea to focus on health when I must focus on so many other things every day (lesson planning, classroom management, parenting, and running a household to name a few), but I want to try and refocus. I want to be healthier. I want to fit easier into amusement park rides. I want to be fit and active. I want to climb a flight of stairs without being winded at the top.

I want to make small goals and try to accomplish them. Today's goal was to figure out my gym membership. I bought an elliptical hoping that it would encourage me to work out, but I have found that I am less likely to work out at home. I discovered that part of the joy of the gym is getting away from it all. So I renewed my old 24 Fitness membership and looked up Zumba classes. Maybe I'll go to a Zumba class tonight...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Weekly Weigh In:270.8

You have to be kidding me. I've worked out six times this week. SIX! And I weigh exactly what I weighed last week. True, I could have made better eating choices. I totally splurged this weekend on my calories. But for five days I ate within my caloric confines (or landed somewhere close), and two days I ate over my calories but did not binge. Yet, I'm still at 270.8.

Maybe my body is building up heavier muscle. Maybe weekend eating ruined my week's progress. Maybe it's the fact that I'm on my period. I don't know why I'm at the same weight, and I'm frustrated without answers.

My last weight loss journey was mostly for vanity and to avoid future health problems. This weight loss journey is different than my last one. I'm only 26, but already my body is loudly complaining. My knees hurt, I'm winded when I walk up stairs, and I simply can't have the life I want to have. I'm afraid to get on a bike - that I'll be exhausted after a few minutes. I don't dance anymore. I don't like my body at all.

I need to lose more than 100 pounds. What an overwhelming thing to say, especially when I've loosely tried for months, and thoughtfully tried a week, to lose weight...and I've only been able to maintain or gain weight. It's so frustrating!

I know I'm doing something wrong, but I'm not entirely sure what it is. I'm not confident I can complete this journey, but I know that I need to. I'm scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, and annoyed. I wish I was confident, excited, energetic, and knowledgeable.

This week I want to lose ONE pound. Just one pound. I want to step on the scale next Monday and see some difference. I'm trying to make different choices in my life - why doesn't that reflect on the scale?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Weigh in

Current weight: 270.8

I guess I can't call these weekly weigh ins right now...since I haven't done one in over a month. As you see, my weight's about the same.

I feel like I'm holding my breathe. I passively sit here, letting life happen, letting myself get fatter and feel awful about that fact. Yesterday, my knees hurt, my foot hurt, and I just felt immobile because of my fatness, which is so embarrassing and frustrating. I made cookies and ate too much, sitting on the couch frustrated at my own limitations.

But I also planned for the week. For me, making healthy choices depends on how well I plan. I cooked food for the week - including dinner, which is my biggest pitfall. This morning, I went to the gym and ate a nutritious breakfast.

My June goals:
* Lose between 1-2 pounds a week
* Work out 5 times a week
* Track 20 days in a row