Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A few weeks before we moved into our home, the previous owner had a bear on her front deck.  She woke in the night to the sound of the front gate opening and figure it was her son coming home from a night out with friends.  She was surprised then to hear him coming up the stairs to enter the door on  the deck instead of entering through the basement as was customary for him.  She got out of bed to see what was going on and instead of her big teenage boy at the door she saw a big bear on the deck drinking the contents of her hummingbird feeder.

This story thrilled me!  That would be the perfect way to view a bear, with walls and glass between you.  I hoped all year to catch a glimpse and with a little jealousy and awe, read the sightings posted on the neighborhood chalk boards.  Almost everyone I've known up here has seen one or two a year.

My first year went and the closest I got to a bear were my friends stories and the clues the bears would leave telling us they'd been there.

Last night Aaron and I were jolted awake by a crashing sound under our window.

"What the hell...?"  Aaron whispered.

"Bear!  The trash!"   (We were still not awake enough to speak in complete sentences.)

 We know the rules and typically we obey and keep our trash cans in the garage.  A few times the trash has been so smelly that the whole house would stink up, particularly our bedroom as our room is directly about the garage.  Do to the stinkiness we started putting it outside.

"We might get bears, honey."  I warned.

"Nah.  It's close to the house and the cars block it."

I think he has been secretly hoping to attract bears.  Evidence: he has planted fruit bearing trees and blueberry bushes on our property.

"Babe....remember?  Where there's berries, there's bears."

But he insisted and the trees and bushes were flourishing, until....  While the boys and I were in Texas I got a call from Aaron and he was fit to be tied:

"Those %$#@ deer ate my cherry trees!"

"Yes.  That is what they do."

"I'm taking off from work tomorrow.  I'm going to sit on the deck with my shotgun and if I see one of those @#$%-ers come near my tree....  Let's just say I'll have deer sausage for you when you get home."

I had a vision of Aaron on the deck with a gun and sixer of beer at his side.

"You've been alone on the mountain too long."

Breathe easy reader, he did nothing of the sort.

All of that to say I was not surprised at all to look the window and see a bear dumpster diving in our trash. I say "see" but it was so dark all I could see was it's shape.

"It's a bear!" I stage whispered.

At that, the shadow sort of bobbled and rolled over to my neighbors house.  We went back to bed both delighted and disappointed.  We could not get a good look at it.  Still I was glad to finally have a bear story of my own. 

One step closer...  I could hear Caren say.

We had not laid our heads down but for a few minutes when the banshee-like yells of a fox were heard in the distance on the other side of the hill.  As the sound drew nearer Drake added his baritone to the chorus.

"Nice."  Aaron mumbled.

"Yes, he didn't make a peep about the bear but the there is something we need protection from."

Worst guard dog ever. 

In his defense, the bear incident was on the other side of the house from him. 

"What time is it?"  I asked Aaron.


I tried to go back to sleep but rarely can after being interrupted.  I laid there snuggled up to my hubby and petting my Smee-cat.  Then I head another noise!  I looked out the window and saw a mountain lion!  I tried to wake Aaron up but he wouldn't budge.  I saw that there was a mountain goat on the hill as well and the lion was stalking it.  I didn't want to see what was about to happen but I couldn't turn away.  Suddenly, the lion pounced on the goat.  Just as quickly as that happened a herd of goats came out of no where and attacked the mountain lion!  They were ripping his fur out of his back.

Then I woke up.

I spent the rest of the night (all three hours of it) on the threshold of sleep with one foot in a dream and one in the awake world.  Drake's barks were woven into my dreams.

When my alarms went off, Drake was still barking and trying to bust through the door.  I had a text from Caren:  Bear.

All of the neighborhood dogs were barking like crazy.  I let Drake out and the barking pretty much stopped.

I called Caren and told her what happened last night.

"It was about 3 when I heard noises outside of my house," she said.  "I turned on my light and saw a bear.  The light scared it and it took off towards your house..."

"Yes, thanks." (I think that was when I dreamt of the lion...)

"Our garage door was open though and I didn't want the bear to get our trash cans so I checked to see if he was around and then went out to shut the garage doors."


"I know!  I was so scared!  I had left one can out because it only had boxes in it.  The bear came back though (I had a vision of a bear ping ponging back and forth between our homes) and he spent a lot of time on that can.  Evidently there was a bag in there.  He tore it up and had a picnic in Pete's yard."

"Oh he is going to love that!"

"I picked it up this morning. But I texted you because with all of those dogs barking I could pick out Drake's bark and I wanted you to know why he was barking."

"You think the bear was still there?"

"Oh yeah.  The dogs across the street were going NUTS!"

I just brought Drake in and he is still going nuts.  I've never seen him so ramped up.  He tore through the whole house and checked every room and has finally settled down enough to sit by me but not calm enough to lay down.  Chill, dog.

The kids were so mad that we did not wake them up last night to see the bear but it happened so fast!  I do understand their disappointment though.  Since their daddy insisted on planting fruit trees, I am sure they will get their opportunity.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I Like My Jesus to Party

One of the funniest scenes in Talladega Nights is when they are sitting around the dinner table talking about their perceptions of Jesus.  One of the characters says, "I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party."  It's funny but I also think it's true.  I think Jesus enjoyed a good party and He loves when we get together with one another! 

One thing Caren and I love to do together is throw a party.  It's so fun to incorporate decorations, food, drink, favors, etc. into a theme!  The preparation is always so fun but the best part is seeing everyone enjoy it all and getting to enjoy it with them.  Especially, the food.

For the most part my diet consists of healthy fare.  I could stand to eat more veggies and drink more water but I don't eat a lot of junk food.  The problem with my diet is not so much what I eat but the WAY I eat.  My portions are too big and when food is in front of me I eat and eat and eat. 

That's where the parties get me.  There is always yummy foods out on the table before you.  When setting up for a party you try to have various places where one can grab food so that no matter where your guest chooses to do their socializing there is food with in reach.  Do to the easy access of food at parties, I find myself mindlessly putting food in my mouth all night long.  Party in my mouth!  Woo hoo! 

My nutritionist sent me home last week with several pamphlets on Social Eating.  Here are some of the tips I found with in them:

At some events there is that ONE thing (or two, or three) that you just have to have!  My friend, Jen, makes these super amazing mini-sandwiches, Slider type things.  They are also super fattening.  (Oops.  I'm supposed to be changing my language.  Instead of saying a certain food is "naughty" or "fattening" I should say that it is "high-calorie.")  So Jen's sandwiches are high calorie but I don't want to be deprived of them.  So what to do when I am faced with them at a party? 

Eat them.  That's right!  Eat small portions of the selections that are really important to you and larger portions of low-calorie foods.  So I can have Jen's sandwiches but just one instead of 4 or 5.  I can have a slice of Caren's pear pie.  A slice.  A small slice.  The rest of my plate should be loaded up with the stuff from the veggie or fruit platter.

Bring one or more low-calorie, nutritious side dishes to share that way you can ensure that there is something for you to eat that will not un-do all of the previous hard work.  Also, you can make foods that you don't particularly like but that you know everyone else likes.  For example:  I don't like seafood.  (Wish I did.  I try all the time but something about it...blech.)  A shrimp cocktail platter would be genius for me to bring!  That's one less thing there that I would be tempted to eat.  Or something with mushrooms in it.  That would work for me too.

The pamphlet also suggests that I eat a high-fiber snack shortly before the party to prevent that famished feeling.  I don't know if this would work for me because I don't eat for sustenance but for pleasure.  So I don't know that it would really matter that I feel full.  I think maybe the idea is that you are not so hungry that you start gorging food.  I don't want to add any extra calories though so I think having several glasses of water is a good way to make yourself feel full plus I can get in that extra water I need and be more hydrated before taking down a few cocktails as well.  Win-win-win.

They also suggest focusing on non-food activities such as being involved in events with the children.  Boo.  Terrible suggestion!  I don't want to play with my kids at the party.  The beauty of it is that we adults can sit and have a conversation because all of the kids are occupied with one another.  Plus there are not always children at our parties.  I could focus on playing a board or party game with the guests. 

Plan ahead.  If you know you are going to a party eat a light, low-cal lunch that day so in the evening you are available to take in more calories. 

I highlighted a few other tips from the pamphlets as well as worked on my mind set.   I started my Pillar of Positives on my kitchen wall.  This is where I am writing positive things about myself in order to move out the negative talk and thinking. 

The first day I wrote "nice stems."  I thought, I love my legs!  Well...except that I'm knock-kneed.  I started to think what I might put for the next day and the next and I noticed that every time I gave myself a compliment I followed it with an insult.  I like my face except for my big nose.  I like my hour glass shape but I just wish I was not so short waisted or so big busted.  It went on and on like this until the light bulb came on:  I've decided that when I write my positive thing I will accept the compliment in full and not allow the negative half to follow.  What happens is that I only hear and remember the negative part and forget all about the compliment.  I want to practice muting that voice so that when others give me a compliment I can graciously except it with a "thank you" and feel good about. 

So where is this negativity coming from?  When did it start?  As a child I remember being quite proud of my beauty but it was simple then.  I had pretty hair, pretty eyes, pretty smile.  The body was just a little girl body.  I think it was around Jr.high that I started being concerned about my body.  My brother would tease me about being fat and I had a rather competitive friend that would brag about weighing less then I did.  I'm sure these things had an effect on my concept of weight, beauty and how they applied to me but as an adult I know those things don't matter.  As an adult I know that my brother was just being a big brother and that he is proud of me in every way.  As an adult I know that my friends jabs at me had nothing to do about me and everything to do about her insecurities with herself.

I also think some of it has to do with trying to be a humble, Christ-like, woman.  I would feel guilty when I looked in the mirror and was proud of what I saw so I would temper my pride with an insult.  How that would be Christ-like I don't know.  I imagine He was very comfortable in His skin and did not give a flip about the esthetics's of his physique.  He was healthy and that was all He concerned Himself with in regards to it.  After all, He knew His time in that body was to be brief.  Isn't that true for all of us?  These bodies are not permanent. Can I get an "Amen" or "Praise God" for that?  So what is the obsession about them for?

Last night Caren hosted a back to school party/happy hour.  She rented an inflatable slip-n-slide for the kids and there were water balloons and other fun things.  There was also all kinds of yummy food.  Knowing there was to be a party I had a delicious but small and light lunch of sliced tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil:

Picture of health!

Before the party I drank a few glasses of water while reviewing what I wrote on the board.  The Pillar of Positives read:

Nice stems
Hour glass

Feeling healthy and (dare I say) pretty I headed over to join the festivities.  Once there I had a little trouble with the chips and salsa because it was just a bag of chips sitting in front of me.  To keep from grazing, I got a plate and dispensed the amount of chips I was going to allow myself to have on it.  When the chips on my plate were gone I was done with them.  I used a small plate when I served myself the main meal foods that way I kept each portion small.  This made more caloric space for wine and a bit of dessert.  I felt very good with the way I managed my eating while still being able to enjoy everything offered.

The best part of the party was not the food but the edifying fellowship with all of my friends.  It was so good to see everyone; many of whom I had not seen all summer because of our travels.  We all got caught up and shared laughs.  I can't help but think that Jesus might look on the goodness of a time like that and say, "I like to party, so I like My people to party!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Return of Baking Day!!

The kids are back in school and the comfort of routine is setting in once again.  Drew tumbled out of the bus yesterday with a scowl and greeted me with: "Why didn't you bring the car?  Now WE have to walk all the way up the hill!"  (As if I was going to float up the hill...)  On the chalk board wall in the kitchen I asked the boys to write one good thing about their day at school.  The first day Drew wrote: We are Magic Makers!  Gabriel wrote: It seemed short.  Drew did not write anything for yesterday but Gabriel wrote that his one good thing was: I got to go home.  

"You are so full of it,"  I told him.  "I know you had fun and happy moments at school today."  I know because Caren saw him there and he was all smiles and cheer!  Ha!

This morning was a bit of a struggle to get down to the bus stop because we had a late night; but then Caren and I left to work out at Red Rocks.  She met with her Nazi of a trainer and I went to hike the trail.  Red Rocks is one of my favorite places to hike!  The huge rock formations and their red hue are just so gorgeous!  My heart can't help but swell with praise and admiration for God's creativity.

The first time I hiked it I was afraid to go alone.  I was afraid of critters, i.e. mountain lions and rattlesnakes and I was afraid of people, i.e. rapists.  Today I forged the trail on my own with no hesitation.  Colorado has had a ton of rain this summer and so all the foliage is lush and tall.  The tall brush made it harder to see what's around the corner and I wondered what was hiding with in it.  I was not afraid but my mind kept dipping it's toe in the thought of what's in there?  My suspicions of critters a-foot were confirmed when noises of movement came from somewhere nearby off the trail.  It was something large to be sure. 

I stopped.

It stopped.

I looked down over the edge of the trail and saw two little fawns.  Just as I started out again the doe of the fawns crossed right in front of me.  She was about 15 feet away and she stopped to eat.  I slowly approached while taking pictures.  She never moved.  I got about 5 feet from her and snapped a shot.  I was ready to move past her but she just sat there looking at me.  Deer seem docile but they can cause damage to a person.  Their hooves are sharp and their haunches and legs are strong.  People have been killed by deer (usually bucks though) and so I backed up a little and waited.  She stared me down and then finally moved on.

I continued on my hike and encountered 6 rabbits at various points of the trail.  I finished the whole hike in about 40 minutes.  Not bad for a rugged terrain.

After the hike Caren and I met up and returned to her home for Baking Day.  Followers may recall that Baking Day is usually on Tuesday but we've changed it to Wednesday this year.  (Girlfriends who avoid calling me on Tuesday's because of my baking: take note.)  Before going in we were talking about our weight loss goals and my frustration with how things are going for me in that department. 

While hiking I noticed that nearly every guy I passed checked me out.  When I see myself in the mirror though I just see...Yuck and I wonder what is wrong with these guys!  Just as quickly I ask myself, what is wrong with YOU.   Loved ones and strangers alike compliment me all the time.  Why can I not recieve that?  Why can I only believe the negative bemoans in my own head?  Why do I keep telling myself negative things?

"I posted a quote of Olivia's from her Fitness magazine interview that says 'Weight loss starts in the mind.'  This is exactly what my nutritionist was getting at on Monday.  I just don't even want to get into it though!"  I confessed to Caren.

"What do you mean?  With your nutritionist?  With yourself?"

"Both," pathetically I teared up.  "I don't want to hash that out right now."

"No.  You want to play!"


"It's like this though, you know when you were young and you had that shoe box that you would put things in that you thought were special and you wanted to save?  Then when you reached a new phase in life you went back through that shoe box and you were like, 'Why am I saving this?  This is lame!'  Like baby clothes!  You will save several outfits that you thought were so cute and then when you pull them out you're like 'Gross!  This is stained and old or out dated.  I'm not putting that on my kid!'  When you start to go through that 'stuff' for why you don't eat right and why you have such a poor self image, you may look at that stuff and think 'That's lame.  Why am I hanging on to that?'"

"You're right.  That is very well put.  Let's bake."

(People, tack that little nugget to your bathroom mirror.)

Today we had a small showing.  Not everyone is back into the swing just yet.  Laurel came to bake our bread, (yea!) Caren made granola and I made snickerdoodles to treat the boys with after school and to share with my Evita cast mates at rehearsal tonight. 

I mixed the butter, sugar, and eggs; doubling the recipe as I went.  Next was the flour.

We mill our own flour and we use different types of grain for different types of baked goods. 

"You should you Soft Flour for those,"  Laurel suggested.

"I only have a little of that left, " Caren said.  "You'll have to mill the rest."

So into the pantry I went to put the Soft grain into the mill.  It's not that big of a deal really.  You just pour it into a machine and flip a switch.  Wa-la.  While that was being taken care of I went and added my other ingredients.

"1 tsp of nutmeg," I read allowed.

"You don't put nutmeg in snickerdoodles," Caren said.  (She is not a fan of the spice.)

"That's what the recipe says."

"Well does it call for 1 tsp or is that after you've doubled it?"

"That's the double."

"I would use 1/2.  Nutmeg is not something you ever want to double."

Taking a smell of the nutmeg I agreed.

"It's pretty spicy.  Half a teaspoon for my friend Caren."

"Thank you."

I retrieved the flour from the mill and brought the finished product into the kitchen.

"Use this," Laurel said as she set a scale in front of me.


"You are doing so good so far, Michal.  We want to help you to not make any mistakes,"  Caren said.

Baking is not my forte to be sure.  I'm good for some laughs though!

"When you mill it the flour gets a lot of air in it so if you measure out a cup of flour it won't be exactly right.  A cup of flour will weigh 6 oz,"  explained Laurel.

I needed 3 1/2 cups.  I weighed each cup.

"There.  Three and half!"

"Now add another 1/4 cup," she instructed.

"Why is this now?  Oh wait..."  I always forget this:  "For altitude."  Laurel and I said together.

Everything was mixed and I consulted my recipe once again.  I needed to make the dough into balls and then refrigerate it for 30 minutes to an hour.  I hate that.  Boo.  I obeyed and made little balls of snickerdoodle dough.  After 75% of the dough was made into little balls Caren asked me where I was putting those balls.

"Just in the bowl.  I have to refrigerate them first."

"Oh, I was just asking because I didn't know if we were going to have to fight over a spot in the oven or not."  Then she started laughing.


"Michal, did the recipe say to make it into balls before refrigerating them?"

"Yes," I said rather indignantly and then went to reference the recipe again.  "It says here make dough into a ball....and refrigerate....  Oh my lands.  I am such a lame-o!  What the heck?!"  We all laughed as I always, always, always seem to over look or misunderstand some direction in a recipe.

"Oh Michal!  You are absolutely the cutest thing!"  Caren laughed.

I agreed and lumped all the balls together in a bowl and tossed it into the fridge.

In the end the snickerdoodles turned out lovely!  The nutmeg addition was just right and Caren was so right to not have me double it.  It would definitely have been over powering.

I am considering changing my chalkboard wall from the kids writing what went well that day to a Pillar of Positives.  They can write what went well at school and I can write positive things about myself.  Hopefully, this will help to move that old negative stuff out of my "shoe box." 

Monday, August 22, 2011

"A" For Attitude

"Mom!  Mom!  Are you awake?"  Drew stage whispered in my ear at 6:00 this morning.  "I can't find any shorts to wear!"

"There are folded clothes on the couch in the basement," I mumbled.  "What time is it?"

"6:00,"  Aaron growled.

"Drew, it's too early.  Go back to bed."

"But I want to get ready for my first day of school!"

"It's too early..." I repeated as I tumbled out on to the floor and fumbled for my glasses.  Once I am awake there is no turning back. 

I tried to help Drew quietly get ready so that Gabe could sleep but...

"HEY!  Turn out the light!"  Gabriel shouted covering his head with a pillow.

"But I can't see where my shoes are Brother!" 

Gabe, like me, was not going to be able to go back to sleep and so he made the slow climb out of the top bunk and started to get ready too.

"Oh good grief, boys!  You are going to have hours to just sit around."

Drew was dressed, fed, lunch made and back pack on by 6:20.

"Awesome, son.  School starts in 3 hours.  Why don't you take your back pack off and relax."

But he couldn't relax.  Never has that boy been so excited for school!  Last year I was chasing him up the hill when he tried to make a run for it when the bus pulled up.

"We have a Runner!"  Caren would announce with a laugh while I hauled up the hill to catch the little turd. 

So this is definitely a welcome improvement!  I hope he keeps up the enthusiasm but starts keeping better hours...

Drew has a tendency for nose bleeds and had a doosey yesterday.  This morning there was some residual bleeding.

"Oh...I hope I don't have a bloody nose at my first day of school..." he whined.

"You'll be fine buddy and I'm sending your medicine just in case."

It's Aaron and I's 13 year anniversary and so he took the day off.  We decided to eschew the bus due to the large amounts of school supplies, and the whole family rode to school together.  Drew talked (shouted) the whole way there and Gabriel confessed to being apprehensive. 

"I heard my teacher is kind of tough,"  he said tentatively.

"I heard that he awesome!"  I encouraged, "He is one of the school favorites.  You are going to have a great year!"  Please God, let him have a great year...

At the school I dropped off the medicine for Drew's nose with the nurse.  While in the front office teachers came in enthusiastically greeting Drew and Gabe.  Everyone seemed pumped and optimistic!  When Drew got to his class we surveyed the desks to see what students were sitting where.  He clapped and cheered for friends that he made last year that would continue on with him this year.  He told his teacher (the best of the best, I must say) how excited he was to be there and to have her for his teacher.  We hugged and kissed him good bye.  Drew is going to have a stellar year.

Next we took Gabe to his class.  His teacher told him to find his name card and that he could then pick where he wanted to sit.  Gabriel found a spot on the second row in the center.  His class is mixed with 4th and 5th graders.  Gabriel is small for his age as it is and seeing him up against some of the 5th graders made me nervous for him.  Academically, I know he will do great.  Socially.... Eek!  I told Gabriel goodbye from the doorway and wished him a great day.  Aaron went over to tell him goodbye and they slapped each other a "five."  No hugs and kisses here.  Gotta keep it cool, yo.

After getting everyone off I had a visit with my nutritionist. 

Hello Scale!  Please love me today.

"You lost 1/2 a pound this week.  Not bad."

"Not great either," I countered.

"The scale is fickle.  Let's go to my office and figure this out."

I ate very healthy this week.  No deprivation but healthy choices and good portions.

"You have a caloric deficit this week so that is good and you got plenty of exercise."

"But I'm not losing."

"Last night you ate out."

"Yeah, a friend took me out to celebrate my birthday belated.  I feel like I made pretty healthy choices with my meal though we did have dessert.  It was split three ways though."

"Well, I'm not making excuses for you but when you eat out it tends to be saltier and so there is water retention.  You probably lost more this week then a 1/2 lb.  How did you do with recording your diet?"

"I only did 3 and a half days..."

"This week lets shoot for 5."

She then had me take a quiz and the results were all sorts of labels for the kind of eater and dieter I am.

"You are a Doubtful Dieter.  Why don't you think it will work?"

"Because it hasn't.  Even when I am on top of my diet and exercise I get stuck.  Back in Texas I was very good about things and I worked out 4-5 times a week.  I could never get past 135.  Now you and the doctor are trying to get me down to 130 and I don't see how I can do it.  I'm so far beyond 135 as it is I don't see how I can get under it."  (She told me they actually think 120 is a very realistic goal for me.  I didn't even weigh that in high school!)

We looked over some of the other quiz results. 

"You are a social eater.  You don't snack much at home but when food is set in front of you, you have to eat it."

"Yes.  I'd say that's right."

"Well, you are not going to stop socializing so let's talk about how you can manage these situations."

She gave me a pamphlet (that I have not read yet) with tips for social eating.  She encouraged me to be free to eat and enjoy my meals.  Ignore when my friends encourage me to eat more then I should.  Pay attention to when I am full.

"I'm going out to lunch with my husband for our anniversay right after this."

"Wonderful!  What will you have?"

"I don't know.  I don't know what is on the menu and I'm worried about that."

"Can you choose to eat a salad?'

I made a face.  "Not very festive."

"What would you like to order?"

"I don't know if it's on the menu but I would like pasta with some sort of creamy white sauce and bread."

"There will be wine?"

"Yes.  We are going to a winery so...that's a given."

"How about dessert?"

"We don't always order dessert but since we are celebrating our anniversary I am guessing that may happen."

"I think that sounds like a great lunch!  Go and enjoy it!  BUT eat it slowly and savor every bite.  Pay attention to when you are satisfied and take the rest home.  Have dessert but not if you are going to beat yourself up with guilt on the way home.  Do you do that?  Do you feel guilty after eating foods you label as 'bad?'"

"Not guilty...ugly.  I feel gross and ugly after eating too much or breaking a diet."

"We are not on any kind of 'diet' that is depriving.  I want you to enjoy food and eat what you like but you need to eat smaller portions, eat the food for the right reasons, stop when you are full and satisfied.  Nothing is going to change for you physically until you change what's going on for you mentally.  No one is better or lesser of a person because of their size."

"I don't think that of anyone else but myself.  I have friends who are more over weight then me but I think they are absolutely beautiful because their beautiful personalities make them so.  I think to myself, 'she's such a little hottie and she has a belly...why can't I pull that off?"

We talked about what that implies...  Ug.  I don't even want to rehash that.

So two more weeks.  I am to record my meals, keep exercising, make plans and practice what to do in social situations, enjoy my food, and love myself.

Aaron and I had a lovely lunch and I tried to apply what we discussed.  I ate half of my portobello panini and had a salad on the side.  We had a dessert flight, which were chocolate pairings with various dry wines.  The portions were small (and delicious!) and I left our meal with a doggy bag and feeling loved by my husband and content with myself. 

The boys missed their bus.  Sort of.  They were out front to get on the bus but the front office ladies saw Caren and her oldest daughter (a drop dead gorgeous bomb shell) waiting out front to pick up her youngest.  They mistook the young bomb shell for ME and told the boys that I was out there to take them home.  Obviously I was not there and so when the buses left they had to call Aaron and I to pick them up.  The boys took it all in stride.  I did too!  They thought I was that hot little number?! 

It was a good day.  A great day.  I am praying that the boys choose to keep their good attitudes about school and that I can choose to have a good attitude about me.  Positive talk only around here.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Destined For Fatness

My doctor had recommend I see a nutritionist due to my body habitually experiencing blood sugar crashes.  He felt this was a "fast track" to diabetes and prescribed I lose 10 lbs.  Really Doc?  Like I haven't been trying to do that since I was 14 years old.

Prior to seeing my nutritionist I visited Texas and added an extra 6 lbs.  Sweet.  So now I have to lose 16 lbs.  Also while away, my husband threw my scale away. 

"Where is it?"  I asked upon realizing that it was gone.

"Where is what?"

"My scale.  Where did you hide it?"

"I didn't hide it."

"No.  Tell me you didn't...  Did you throw it away?!"

He smiled and laughed.  I laughed too but not because it was funny.  More because I was freaked out.  How will I know if I gained?  Rather how would I know how much I gained?  Or lost. 

The 6 lb gain was confirmed for me at the nutritionists office.  She instructed me to record my diet daily on  I am to keep my caloric intake for each day at 1600 calories.  .com

"What can you do for exercise?" she asked me.

"Well, I'm dancing in a production of Evita so that will be good exercise...."

"It will be great but what will you do when the show is over?  Is there something you can guarantee yourself to do every day?"

"I can walk 3 miles.  There is a loop in our neighborhood that is 3 miles long.  I could do that with my dog every day."

"That would be wonderful for you!  The fastest way to lose weight is to work out the largest muscle in your body and that would be your legs.  So keep track of what you eat on sparkpeople and walk 3 miles.  This will be an excellent start.  Come back in 2 weeks and we'll see how you are doing."

During that first week my friend Lesley was with me.  She was faithful to walk with me every morning.  In addition we hiked, paddle boated, and ate healthy every day.  The following week I was on my own.  I did not walk 3 miles every day but I did manage to get out there 3 or 4 times that week. 

The day of my appointment, I was so excited to get to weigh in.  I had lost 3 lbs!

"That's very good in two weeks," she said.

We reviewed my diet.  She asked what I learned from recording what I ate every day.

"I don't eat very many vegetables," I observed. "And my eating picked up when my friend Lesley left."

"Why is that?"
"I was bored and lonely.  My husband was out of town as were many of my friends."
"So you are an emotional eater.  You eat for entertainment at parties or to cheer yourself up."

"Yes, I do.  I like to "set the stage" and food is usually involved.  I make it look pretty and inviting and then I eat it.  All."

So my mission for the next three weeks was to add vegetables ("Buy pre-cut veggies or the steamers in the frozen food section") and to pay attention to my emotional eating.  I was supposed to "score" it and decide if the food would really make me feel better or not.

"Sometimes eating to cheer yourself up is OK but sometimes the need is not that great and/or you intend to cheer yourself up but instead make yourself feel worse with guilt for over eating."

Problem:  During this three weeks I would be spending part of the time in NY followed by out of town company.

"You can still do these things despite all of that," she said.  "See you in three weeks."

Three weeks with no scale. 

I could tell I was gaining though.  My shorts were too tight. 

How is this possible?  I've walked all over the city of New York.  I've been hiking and horseback riding almost every day!

But I knew.  I felt fat every day in NY but one.  The morning after that I asked Aaron, "How could I feel so great one day and the very next feel like a Texas Cow?"

He too was baffled as he always is by my self image.  God love him, that man adores me and he loves the way I look.

"You don't need a scale to tell you if you look good or not," Shalah told me.  "Just ask your husband how he thinks you look."

I tried it.

"Baby, I feel like I've gained weight.  I feel disgusting and gross.  How do you think I look?  Do I look bigger?"

Wrapping his arms around me he whispered in my ear, "I think you look like a woman should.  I think you are a Hot Mama!"

"You are amazing," I told him.  Why couldn't/can't I believe him?  It's easier for me to believe that he is delusioned and biased by his love for me then for me to believe that I am the one who is delusional.

Back to school shopping with my friend's young ones, we stopped at a bra store.  My sides were bruised from the under wire in my bra and I wanted to get remeasured.  I was appalled when the sales lady handed me a certain size bra to try on.

"Is this for me?"  I asked.  She confirmed that it was. 

With young women present, I realized I had to be careful of how I responded to my new size.

"I pretended that it didn't really bother me," I told my sister. "Though I wanted to cry and protest."

"Sissy, it really makes me sad that you have to 'pretend' to like your body."

Today I weighed in with my nutritionist.

"How do you think you did?" she asked as I stepped on the scale.

"I think I gained.  My clothes feel tighter."

"'re right.  You gained two and half pounds this week."

"So I'm basically back where I started."

We sat in her office while she gave me a pep talk.

"It only takes about 600 extra calories a day to put on 2.5 lbs in 3 weeks.  That's not a lot of food.  Being on vacation and having company....that will do it.  Things were not typical for you."

"But they won't be.  My brother and later my brother-in-law are coming next month, then it's the Holidays...'Untypical' is more the norm."

"It is for many.  That's why Americans keep getting overweight.  We are waiting for this or that to start or stop for us to be able to manage our weight."

"I'm tired of that though.  I'm tired of my weight being such a big deal for me and of eating right and exercising and the results being thwarted in so little time just due to some small life event.  I don't think my habits are all that bad..."

"They're not," she agreed.  "We need to work on your expectations and we need to plan better but all in all you live healthy and you look healthy.  What we are doing now is a preventative against diabetes.  We are not trying to improve your look so much as your health."

"I want both."

We talked about making a plan for when company is in town or for when I go out of town or for when I'm bored.  It's ridiculous.  I have an excuse to eat for every situation I'm at in life.

"Basically you need to realize that this is not going to happen fast for you.  You need to know that and accept that reality.  You were not recording your diet while traveling and while company is in town.  Let's do that again for a month.  Get back to walking the 3 miles.  How about I see you in 2 weeks?"

I blinked back the tears, frustrated with the weight gain and unhappy with not having a scale.

"One week then?  That way you can see how you improve this week and be encouraged."

She's sure I'm going to lose weight this week.

I IM'd Aaron when I got home:

"What goes up and down more then the stock market?"  I asked.


"My weight."

"'d it go today?"

"I gained 2.5 lbs."

"I see."

"It seems I'm destined for fatness."


"Yah.  In fact, I may adopt a fat German lady accent.  How else can I sexy this up?" 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

No Kind of Dancer

We landed in CO with in minutes of our friends from Texas who came in for a visit.  I had a great time this past week with my girl Jenn and her kiddos!  We hiked, rode horses, swam at the lake and more.  Basically we played hard.  There is still more to do so we look forward to their next visit.

Our guests were to leave early, early this morning and I had rehearsal scheduled so we all went to bed early last night.  With in minutes of our heads hitting the pillow; a yowling scream broke the nights silence.  It made me grab my man tighter and every hair on my body stand on end.

"Mountain lion," Aaron whispered.

It screamed again and again and again.  The sound seemed to get closer and sounded to be coming from the direction of Caren's house.  I thought about calling her but did not want to wake anyone up.  Not a single dog barked but as the screams moved on I did hear the dog across the street howl a few times.

"Maybe it was a fox," Aaron mused.

"We've heard foxes though and that was not as staccato.  Needs more bark to sound like a fox."

The red fox makes a crazy sound.  Something like a dog bark, cat yowl and a woman's scream combined. 

Needless to say I did not sleep well.  I googled "mountain lion screams" in the morning.  I did find a recording of a mountain lion in heat that sounded dead on to what we heard last night.  The only thing is that I think they have cubs in the spring and I don't think their gestation period is very long so...maybe it was a fox with a cold or something...Ha!

Since I was so tired I decided to grab a cup of coffee on the way to dance rehearsal.  Though I can not handle caffeine well (blood sugar crashes and arthritis) I knew Starbucks still has a little trace of it in their decaf.  I figured it would be enough to give me a kick.  Plus all that sugar!!! 

Darn the drive thru!  They can never hear right.  I got the real deal this morning.  I flew down the road to rehearsal.  I felt like I was going fast and everything else was going slow.  On top of it all my right eye was aggravated by something.  I had hoped it would work out before I got there but instead it seemed more inflamed then ever.  I removed my contacts and wore my glasses instead.

My prescription is one of those wonky high, high, high kind so when I put on my glasses it's like looking through a fish bowl.  My depth perception is off and my peripheral vision is nill.  When I looked down at my feet they seemed sooooo far awaaaaay.  Add the swirly, buzz, tornado going on in my body from the caffeine and you have one screwed up little dancer.  Woo Hoo!  My poor cast mates.

I'm trying so hard to be a good girl but I can't help but make wise cracks.  It's a stress reliever for me and since dancing is so out of my element the jokes fly.  A few here and there is fun for all but I'm finding myself to be obnoxious and so I'm sure others do as well.  The coffee did not help this either.  Again, I shake my fist at you Starbucks!  I should've double checked before pulling away from there.  Curses!

The effects seemed to wear off just in time for our last dance of the day.  Since I missed last week I was learning a couple of new dances.  This last one is not difficult really but I just could not get it.  I can't stand when I don't know what to do or where to go.  I really can't stand when I can not manage to do very simple moves.  It was extremely frustrating for me.  In one of the dances we move together in a cluster.  In order to stay together we connect with a hand on a shoulder or elbow.  This was helpful because the hand on my shoulder could give me gentle direction and lead me to where I should go.  I truly was grateful for it but also peeved because we could move smoother if I knew where to head. 

"How was rehearsal?"  Aaron asked when I got home.

"I would not have given up our time in NY for the world but it would have been nice to be on the same page with everyone today.  I was a mess.  A total embarrassment."

"You are too hard on yourself.  Everyone knows you missed.  I'm sure they are allowing for your mistakes so you should too."

Good advice, I'm sure, but I felt no more comforted.  Being new to this theater group I feel like this is one big audition.  I totally had it in my head that if I did not get the part of Eva then I would be asked to be in chorale.  I never EVER dreamed that dance ensemble would be an option.  I almost feel like they just want to see what I can do which is rather egotistical really.  I'm sure the added pressure is imaginary.  I am loving it but...whew!  Today kicked my butt. 

I am exhausted from all of the playing we did this week, from that darn mountain lion, and from nearly 4 hours of dancing.  A nap is needed. 

Must. Get. Pillow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mountain Woman Takes Manhattan: The Final Chapter

On my first trip to New York the "hands down best day" was when Lesley and I took a walking tour, guided by Ben, through The Village, Little Italy, China Town and then across the Brooklyn Bridge.  I so wanted to do this with Aaron so on our last full day in Manhattan we set out to sort of re-enact the same tour.  Aaron wanted to start further up at the 9/11 Memorial, then to Wall Street, across the Brooklyn Bridge and then end in Little Italy for lunch.

When I had last been to Ground Zero it was a big hole.  A construction site.  I had not planned on visiting it then but Les and I had been close and so felt we should go.  Now there is almost a whole building erected.  I don't know what it was about that but this time there was so much more emotional.  As Aaron and I viewed the bronze wall mural across from the site, the tears started to well up.  There were tourists in hard hats preparing for a tour of the Memorial site.  Aaron checked the schedule to see if we could join a tour.  While he checked I turned away from him so he could not see how hard I was crying.  I did not want to keep him from doing anything on the trip that he had hoped to do.  Thankfully the next tour was not until 11 and, since we hoped to be in Little Italy by lunch, we had to forgo it.  As we walked away toward Wall Street I really started sobbing. We couldn't walk away fast enough for me.  Ug.  Maybe one day I'll be able to do a tour but... whatever it was.  It just wasn't in me this go 'round.

An unfortunate thread that weaved through our trip was the stock market.  What a mess it was last week!  (This week isn't looking any better.)  I wanted to unplug every single one of those ridiculous monitors back at the hotel because all it talked about was the stock market.  Since this is a major part of my husband's job he could not help but pay attention and be effected by it.  There was someone he left basic instructions with at work but when the Market was behaving like it was he had to make calls, texts and conferences to tend to them.  At one point the battery on his cell phone was dying and he had a conference call.  We dove into a T-Mobil where Aaron bought a charger and then asked the clerk if he could plug in here because the conference call was in one minute.  I did some people watching while he took his call and then we resumed our tour.

Aaron felt awful but even though we are on vacation the world did not stop.  He wished the Market had not been so darn dramatic on our trip it was.  Anywhoo, all of that to say Wall Street was all the more interesting that day due to the roller coaster it was on.  CNN news was there as were other stations, reporting about the chaos on the floor from outside the stock exchange.  There was an ambulance there.

"I wonder what happened..." I thought aloud.  "Some poor guy probably had a heart attack," I said to Aaron.

"Or committed suicide," he said.


Onward we walked.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge you see some great views!  It's also very hot.  Whew!  I thought this would be another great scene for a goofy picture but Aaron was not "in."  We finally made it across and then took the subway back to Manhattan.  We accidentally got a train going the wrong way though so we had that to finagle...  Once on the right train we were serenaded by some old guys singing old Motown hits.  This is another thing I love about this city!  Yea!  It's like in the movies!

We made it to our destination and walked through China Town to Little Italy.  A friend of mine had recommended we eat at a place called Angelo's on Mulberry St.  (Dr. Seuss!)  Aaron and I stood at a corner on Mulberry St.

"Which way now?"  Aaron asked.

"I don't actually know but I'm sure we could just ask someone."  Of course Aaron does not want us to talk to the New Yorkers but I told him there is one thing New Yorkers love and that's giving directions.

"Excuse me," I asked the nearest gentleman next to me.  "Do you know where Angelo's is?"

"Yeah.  It's right theh," he answered in a perfect New York accent.  I looked in the direction he gestured but didn't see it.


"Right theh!  You tellin' me you don' see it?"  I looked again.

"Oh!  There it is!  Wonderful!  Thanks so much!"

"No problem."  I wished I'd had a more challenging quest for him.  Angelo's was across the street and three venues down.  The food is great there BTW and so is the atmosphere with waiters passionately talking to one another in Italian.  I reviewed our map of the city while we ate.

"Hey, The Empire State Building is a block from our hotel.  Maybe that really is the Empire State Building outside our window."

"It just doesn't seem old enough," Aaron said.  "Maybe it is..."

We walked home through what was supposed to be The Village but it was not the same as when Ben took me.  He had showed me such a pretty area and had trivia to share.  I had no idea where we were really and it just seemed like any other part of the city.  The people watching was still rich!  At one intersection we pedestrians had the "go" to cross but a bus decided it was going to go as well.   The bus inched through the intersection trying to force it's passage but this one woman was not going to have it.

"What the hell do you think you are doing?!"  she yelled up to the driver as she hit the grill of the bus with her shopping bag.  "We're walking here!"  she shouted.


Back home we showered and changed for a show.  We had tickets to see Jersey Boys at 8 and had originally planned to go to dinner first.  Since our lunch was later than we thought it would be neither of us were hungry.  I also had two big blisters on the bottom of my feet.

"Why didn't you pack tennis shoes?"  Aaron asked.

"I packed the same two pairs of shoes the last time I came here. We took the subway more though."

I had heels for the dress I was to wear that night.  Aaron was worried about my feet and so we decided to grab a cab.  To catch a cab on a Friday night in NYC is not easy.  We still had walking to do.  Looking fabulous, we walked in the general direction of the Theater District until Aaron was successful in hailing a cab.

"How are your feet?"  he asked.

"I'm good!"

He directed the cab to a wine bar near the theater where we could have a light meal and cocktails.  Since we had yet to get our silly NY pic for the day I thought we could do something in the taxi. 

"Since it's just us in a cab you have to make a funny face," I instructed.

"That's you being silly?"


"Oh Baby!"  I laughed at him.  These things are good for him.  I'm certain!

The wine bar we went to was called Casellula which means "little house" or something like that.  We ordered a variety of cheeses.  I can't recall now what kind of wine we had...some sort of white and then with dessert I had a Pinot Noir.  It was just right and we were only a block from the theater so there was no problem with walking. no problem as you can get in heels with blisters.

Jersey Boys was super and our seats were great!  I boo-hooed through the whole thing, as I always do when I watch people perform.  I just wanted to run on stage and hug all of them and shout "I am so PROUD of you!!!!"  They're doin' it!!!

Show over we headed back to the hotel.  Funny thing about sore feet: You would think resting them would help but it only made each step more painful!  I figured we would walk a bit until Aaron could hail another cab as we did on the way there. 

"How are your feet?"  Aaron asked.

"Um...I'm OK right now..." I winced.  We walked on and quickly found ourselves in Times Square.

"This is out last chance to walk through Times Square,"  Aaron said.

"So it is,"  I sighed.  It is fun to be there at night!  I figured we would walk through and THEN he would get a taxi.

"You doing OK?"  he asked as we came out the other side of it.

Not wanting to make him feel bad I said, "Yeah.  I'll make it," still thinking we were getting a cab and meaning I'd make it until we got it.  Aaron understood it to mean that I could keep going.  With each step I was in more pain and getting more ticked off as I realized we were not getting a cab.  Finally we were about 3 blocks from our hotel and Aaron asked about my feet again.

"They hurt.  Badly."  I snapped.

"Well, why didn't you tell me?  You want me to get us a cab?"

"NOW?  We are only 3 blocks away.  I'm finishing it now." 

Once back at Hotel Wacky I turned on Aaron.  "Why were you concerned enough about me walking in heels TO the theater but not BACK?"

"I asked and you always said you were fine."

"I was fine knowing that a cab was soon to be in our future!"

"I'm sorry I had no idea that's what you meant.  I still don't understand why you didn't bring tennis shoes."

"I told you these are the same shoes I wore last trip and my feet were fine.  Of course we took the SUBWAY that trip!"

"Well this is not how I hoped our last night here would end."


We sat on the bed for a bit.  I rubbed my sore feet and Aaron his sore ego.

"You screwed up and I screwed up," I told him.  "It was not fair of me to assume you understood what I was thinking.  Let's end the trip the way we started.  Let's go back to Blaggers."

We changed clothes and headed back out.

"How are your feet now?"

"Brutal."  I growled, still not done seething.

The bartender that was there the first night was there this night as well.  He remembered us and asked what all we had done on our visit.  Our anger dissolved after I had a Stella and Aaron a Guinness and after re-playing all the fun times we had together.  Our Irish bar tender set up the shot glasses again.

"We are still celebrating a birthday," he said with his fabulous accent.

This time he set up four glasses as his other 'tender (from Dublin) was going to join us.

"Something sweet, right?"

The next morning Aaron and I set out to buy souvenirs for the boys and to solve the mystery about the Empire State Building once and for all.  We found some books for the kids and NYPD ball caps then walked a block over to where our map marked the Empire State Building.  It was indeed the same building we saw from our window.  The one thing that was actually nice about that hotel was that we apparently had a great view the whole time but didn't even know it.  Ha!  Don't ask.  We felt pretty lame.

We found ourselves exhausted and well spent on the whole scene and so called for Deano to pick us up an hour early. 

"Yous enjoy your visit?"  he asked.

"Very much."

Mountain Woman Takes Manhattan Part 2

We woke up early our first morning in New York.  Hotel Pennsylvania continued to impress (please note my sarcasm) with their Continental Breakfast.  The breakfast room allowed entry with a key.  There were about 8 cocktail sized laminate tables, two chairs per table.  In the corner was of course the TV tuned into CNN.  (Ug.)  The coffee was nasty.  There were bagels and cream cheese and a variety of croissants and muffins.  I think there was orange juice...the end.

After breakfast we rode the sketchy elevators down to the lobby which always had a winding line to the front desk.  Always.  It looked like the lobby was an airport.  That place was so weird it was actually a relief to get out onto the crazy streets of New York.  The one good thing that did come of that place was that it had a magazine on the desk that had a map of Manhattan in the back.  It included subway information.  I carefully tore it out and folded it into my purse.

Armed with our map we headed towards The Metropolitan Museum via Central Park.  Aaron figured we could walk the whole way. 

"Well, we can...but I think the subway would be faster,"  I said.

"Yeah, but we'll see more of the city this way." 

I did not disagree with that and I wanted Aaron to see and be immersed in as much of the city as possible.  We passed through Times Square which is always good for pictures and people watching.  I was keeping my photo mission in mind while we went.  At one corner I saw a guy dressed in a Mickey Mouse costume. 

"Oh!  Let's take a picture with him!  The kids will love it!"  I posed with Mickey.  As soon as the picture was snapped he held out a bag asking for a tip.

"What?  No man, I'm not paying for a picture I took with my own camera," I said as I started walking on.  Aaron stayed back though and gave the guy all his loose change. 

"No more engaging people on the streets of New York," he said as he grabbed my arm and we hoofed it on. 

"Pooh," I pouted.  "That's half the fun."

Once we got to The Met we were surprised to see two long lines winding out of its doors.  The last time I came we just walked in.  It was almost 10:00 and the museum opened at 9:30.  I could not remember what time it had been the last time I came.  We obediently fell into line though.  Others were confused as well.  Apparently the line was for security, who was checking everyone's bags.  Luckily the line was fast and we moved through quickly.  By quickly I mean in 45 minutes but that seemed very fast for a line of this length.

While in line I told Aaron that the museum is actually free.

"They give a suggested price but you can just give them a dollar if you want.  It's just a donation.  So don't pay the suggested price."

At the ticket counter was a sign that read: Recommended price $25/Adult

"See,"  I said pointing out the sign, "It's just a recommendation."

Aaron asked the clerk for 2 tickets.

"The recommended price is $50," the clerk said and then Aaron paid it.

"Why did you do that?"  I asked.

We pressed on.

Aaron loved all of the art!  It was so great to show him my favorite pieces from my last visit.  I could not wait to show him his favorite artists as well.  It's amazing to see these famous works in person.  Aaron carefully examined a Van Gogh who slathered on his paints so thick that if it was a dessert you knew it would be rich.  Amazing texture!  I was inspired by so many works.  Can't wait to paint!!! 

I kept looking for a hall I'd seen before that was full of marble sculptures.  This would be the perfect place for our silly New York pic.  After consulting our map and then an attendant the hall was finally found.  There were Greek and Roman busts of various philosophers, ornate columns and sarcophagus'.  And then I found it.  A sculpture of some one...I did not even look at the plaque...who was naked.  There he was in all of his marble glory.

"This is it, Babe.  Let's take our picture with that guy.  We'll pose like we are shocked by his nudity."


"Come on!  It will be hilarious," I implored as we moved around the sculpture.

"I'll take your picture with it but I'm not getting in it."

"Nope.  The rule is that you have to be in the picture too."

"That means we have to ask someone else to take it and I already told you that we are not going to talk to any more random people on the streets."

"We're not on the streets," I argued.   "We are in a museum and there are other tourists.  Look...she looks nice and Mid-Western.  Excuse me, would you mind taking our picture with this sculpture?" 

By this time we were at the back of it.

"Sure," she said as I handed over my camera and Aaron sighed in defeat.

"Oh, perfect!  We'll just take it from his back side.  Remember to pose goofy, Baby."

Mountain Woman Takes Manhattan Part 1

For my birthday my Good Man took me on a trip to NY.  He arranged for my mom to come up and watch the boys so that it would just be the two of us.  I had only been to NY one other time, about 2 years ago, with my friend, Lesley.  We stayed with Olivia and Ben in their adorable little apartment near Harlem.  The two of them took us all over the city.  It was awesome having our own private tour guides. 

I was a little apprehensive as to how this trip would go.  Though we were hoping to catch up with Ben and O for dinner, we would not have them to GPS for us.  We would be maneuvering through the city on our own.  We would be landing in Newark so I was already concerned as to how to get from there to our hotel across from Madison Square Garden.  I called Christina the night before we left and left her a message to call me if she knew what trains to take to get us to the hotel.

"Hey Baby," Aaron interrupted my call, "I've already got that taken care of."

"You do?  How?  There must be a website somewhere..."

"No.  Just...I've got it taken care of."

At the airport I informed Aaron of my side mission while in The City.  While we were to be in NY, another friend of mine was vacationing in Hawaii.  We had decided to have a photo-scavenger hunt of sorts.  I had to take silly pictures of Aaron and I doing something uniquely New York-ian and she had to take silly pictures with her travel companion doing something uniquely Hawaiian. 

"We both have to be in the picture, Aaron and we both have to be posing funny."

"Great," Aaron said.

After landing and getting our luggage Aaron made a phone call to a guy named Deano.  (I kid you not.)  Deano from Jersey met us at the curb in a Suburban.  He jumped out in a dark grey suit, opened the doors, loaded our bags and welcomed us to Jersey with an accent thicker then those guys on The Jersey Shore.  Apparently, one of the companies that Aaron does business with uses Deano's services and arranged the "lift" for us.  I was thrilled to bits because the thing I love about NY is seeing the stereotypes in real life: the rat in the subway, the crazy lady yelling at her imaginary foe, the Italian guy from Jersey with the slicked back hair giving "what for" to someone over his cell while punishing a piece of gum.  Classic! 

We pulled up to our hotel, a beautiful building with "Hotel Pennsylvania" in gilded letters over the canopied entrance.  Deano unloaded the luggage and told Aaron he would pick us up to return us to the airport when our trip was over. 

Hotel Pennsylvania.  What the hell?  Like a lot of the buildings in NY, this one is old.  That's another thing about NY that I love.  The juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers sandwiched in with pre-war architecture is  a very present reminder of the history of the city.  Hotel Pennsylvania is one of those fabulous older buildings but it has not been well kept.  The carpets were once very fine but are now faded and worn.  The paint on the walls were chipping.  The brass accents were in need of polishing.  Our whole stay there I felt like we were visiting a foreign country.  The front desk was staffed by 4-5 foreign people all from different countries.  It was both check-in and money exchange.  Behind the clerks was a long row of television monitors all playing CNN and stock market tickers.  The clerks were efficient but terse.  They offered no extra information and no well wishes for your visit. 

Aaron and I boarded the small elevator. We were followed by probably 8 more people and their luggage, all of us from other lands and speaking other languages.  Later I reminded Aaron that New Yorkers and many of it's visitors have no concept of "personal space."  There are too many bodies going to the same places to make room for "space."  The elevators also had TV monitors with CNN blaring.  The elevator went up and at every stop, shook from side to side.  Awesome.

Our room: white walls, no art.  There was a bed, a TV, a desk and a teeny tiny bathroom.

"This bathroom is not much bigger then Ben and Olivia's," I told Aaron.  Another NY trait.  Tiny bathrooms.  Space is an issue everywhere.  I opened our curtains, expecting a view of a roof top.  There were many roof tops and rising from it all a tall skyscraper that I was certain was the Empire State Building. 

"That's not the Empire State Building," Aaron said from behind me, "doesn't look old enough..."

"Huh...I guess you're right.  Seems to me it should be more ornate."

After freshening up we met up with Ben and O and headed out for dinner.  It was lightly raining.  I kept at a quick clip to keep up with Olivia's long strides in order to share her umbrella. She had a place in mind that she hoped to take us to but when we got there it was closed.  We tried to find a place out of the walking traffic to pow-wow and choose a new spot.  I think it was Ben who had a new suggestion.

"It's a diner," Olivia said.

"Sounds good!  We are game for anything," I told her.

"Alright then!  It's so cliche.  A New York City diner.  Ha!"

"That's exactly why I love the idea!"  I said.

Once at the diner we all placed our orders.  Everyone else chose a breakfast omelette of sorts (Olivia's with turkey sausage) but I ordered a delicious bow tie pasta cooked in olive oil with scallions, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes.  While waiting for our meals Olivia filled me in on the "behind the scenes" of The Biggest Loser and of what is in store for her next.  She just got her copy of Fitness magazine with she and Hannah on the cover.

"No one in Biggest Loser history has been on the cover of Fitness!" she excitedly exclaimed.  "Jillian Michaels was just on Fitness two months ago," she said in awed disbelief that she was sharing the same honor.

Our food arrived as we continued to catch up on one anothers lives.  Olivia and Hannah had been offered a job on Dr. Drew's new television show improvement (I guess is how to describe it.  Over coming addictions and things.)  Hannah and O will host the fitness portion of the show; helping others who are struggling with their weight to get in shape.

"This tastes like pig!"  Olivia suddenly exclaimed mid-conversation.  "Ben, taste this.  I don't think they gave me turkey sausage."

Ben took a bite.

"If that's turkey I want to know the brand.  That's really good...." Ben said with a pleased expression.

"Will you ask the waitress when she comes back by?  Double check for me.  She's going to say it's turkey but I know what pig tastes like.  I've gone too long with out it to not know the difference."

Aaron and I were cracking up at this whole conversation.  The rest of our trip "This tastes like pig!" (said in Olivia's southern accent with emphasis on the word "pig") was our new catch phrase.

Way to go though, Olivia! 
"It's all about making healthy choices," she said.

After dinner I told Ben and Olivia about our side mission while on vacation.

"I think it would be fun to have you in the pic too," I told Olivia.

Ben obliged to being the photographer:

With hugs, kisses and instructions from Ben on how to return to our hotel; we parted ways at the corner diner.  On our way home Aaron and I passed an Irish Pub called Blaggers. We decided to pop in and enjoy a pint.  The bar was another New York City cliche in both appearance and patronage.  I was pleased as punch!  The bartender was an Irishman who immediately pegged us for tourists (apparently we were cliche as well.)  He gave us his recommendations for enjoying The City.  Upon learning that we were there to celebrate my birthday he lined up shot glasses.

"Oh no.  I don't 'do' shots,"  I told him.

"You do tonight," he insisted, "what will it be?" 

"Those aren't all for me are they?"  I asked noticing the three shot glasses.

"Nah," he winked, "we're all going to celebrate."

"One then," I said, "Something sweet please."

He and Aaron exchanged eye rolls to heaven as he began to brew up a potion.  We each took our glass and raised them up in Cheers.  Down went the delicious concoction.  Tasted like lemonade; the sourness cutting the sweet to something the blokes could stand.  We thanked him for our shots and and his tips for fun in the city and set back out for our hotel.

The rain had started again and increased as we continued on our way.  Aaron picked up our pace to a light jog.  I love, love to get caught in the rain!  I was laughing as we hurdled puddles and dodged people; stopping only at intersections.  Our clothes were drenched through and rain ran down the tips of our noses.

"I love this!"  I shouted to Aaron.  He kept pulling me along not appearing to share the same affection for the situation.  While stopped at another intersection I pulled Aaron under the canopy of a closed up souvenir shop and kissed him.

"You and your 'sweet' shot," he said through a smile.  I laughed again, grabbing his hand and running on as the herd began to move through the intersection again.