20 books & 20 lbs (week 37): Rediscovering bodice rippers

I did a weigh-in on Sunday morning, at 4am, just prior to taking off for the marathon. My weight was a few pounds north of where I’d been the week prior. However, since I hadn’t finished sleeping, I figured that I could retake it on Monday at a more reasonable hour and see where I came in. Thanks to the marathon (and having slept more), I came in where I needed to be: still 11lbs down from my starting point.

I realize that it’s hard to lose weight, since it requires so many changes from the routine that got you to the point where you were. What’s actually comforting, though, is that I can see and feel results. Plus, when I put it into perspective, I’ve already lost 5% of my weight from when I started, and that’s typically a “gold star” kind of moment.

So, now: how to maintain? My downfall is really threefold.

Firstly, I still have desserts most nights. It’s become part of how I manage my blood sugar, making sure that I’m not waking up with such a deficit that I can’t function at all. I should probably choose something healthier (like cereal), but there is something remarkably wonderful (and quieter) about eating ice cream instead.

Second, I’m not always snacking healthily at work. I’m not dipping into the candy bag as much as I could, but I’m probably going to it more often than I should. And yes, I could dump the entire bag EXCEPT that I keep it there for others – and in my office, candy is like cigarettes in a prison. You can’t imagine what kind of goodwill it gets you when you have candy. (Or maybe YOU can.)

Third, I need to integrate exercise into my routine more than I already do. I recently signed up for a series of Monday night yoga classes at the studio near my house, so I’m hoping that will help. Of course, I’m immediately challenged on attending – the first night, I was recovering from the marathon the day prior, and the second night (tomorrow), we have an open house at dd’s school. But, and here’s where I hope I’m turning a corner, I STILL WENT to yoga, despite being creaky and sore, and we’ve already agreed that we’ll miss the open house because it’s important that I get to go to yoga.

I’ll work on it piece-by-piece. My goal of losing 20 lbs this year may not be attainable, but I haven’t given up trying.

Book #13: “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

My very first paying job -ever- was as a page in a public library about 20 minutes from my house. I had exactly two responsibilities: 1) shelve the books/magazines in such a fashion as to make it easy for patrons to find what they needed, and 2) refer any patrons with questions to the librarians. It was a sometimes quiet job, since I’d work efficiently and quickly, which left me with time to explore the books in other sections of the library than I usually inhabited at the tender age of 13 yrs and 9 mos old. That’s where I discovered Bertrice Small, who I realized was only one of a number of writers in the genre of the lengthy bodice-ripper, where women were perfectly happy being dominated by strong men and where women were CONSTANTLY in some sort of peril that the aforementioned strong men would rescue them from. Oh, and there was sex. Lots of it. Vividly described. And every woman had a mind-blowing experience *each and every time*. (Note to all teenagers: literature sometimes lies like a cheap rug.)

Fast forward nearly 27 years (wow – am I THAT old?) and I’m out for dinner with my friend, Jen, who’s been lucky enough to receive free copies of “Outlander” to distribute to some friends/other bloggers. I’d never heard of the fantasy/romance novel series, so I came into it fresh. The premise is rather interesting: a young nurse is on a second honeymoon with her husband, after a long separation due to World War II. In 1945 Scotland, Claire and Frank Randall are tentative lovers trying to re-learn what it’s like to be a couple again. While exploring some of the nearby pagan scenery, Claire is suddenly transported in time. She doesn’t realize it immediately, but she eventually comes to terms with the fact that she’s been moved back some 200 years in time – to a Scotland far removed from the one she left.

This is the portion of the story that then brings her to the endless cycle of “things that happen to Claire because that’s what happened back then.” Threats (or attempts) of rape. Battles. Torture. Being accused of and tried for witchcraft. On and on, the stream of events continues, sweeping her up in a never-ending tide of misery. She even escapes one form of misery through (seemingly) another: the forced marriage to one of the clansmen she met when she was captured just following her passage back in time.  And so, we now come to the bodice-ripping section of the book, where Claire and her paramour, Jamie Fraser, have enough sex that you start to wonder how she can manage to ride a horse for any length of time.

Of course, I make jokes…but it was an interesting read. It’s entertaining, it’s an incredibly fast read – which is no small feat for a book that tips the scales at more than 800 pages – and the characters are well drawn. Where I take issue with the book is the fact that “Outlander” spends so much time putting Claire into harm’s way that you get the sense that people of that time either spent their lives in quiet misery or were constantly in fear of just about everything. It’s a bit of a caricature, and I got tired of Claire and Jamie getting into horrible situation after horrible situation. At several points, I just wanted it to stop, if only so that I could stop tensing up about the possibility that the next flower she would step on would create an international incident.

Clearly, the books sell well: Gabaldon has put out book after book in the series, and there’s recent news that STARZ is working on a series based on the books. And so, it’s possible that I may just continue reading the “Outlander” series, once I get through the remainder of the books needed to finish off the twenty I planned for this year. I will say, though, it’s highly likely that I’ll be doing just what all those Bertrice Small fans did back in the day…and check them out of the library.

20 books & 20 lbs (week 35): Musings on being lucky

It would be an understatement to say that the last week has been pretty hard on everybody. We lost a friend, and I wanted to just leave up my memorial post for him so that I could focus on just getting through the week’s events.

Amazingly, after eating seemingly everything in sight – and at some of the oddest times of day for me, I managed to keep my weight relatively stable. I’m still 10lbs down from my starting point, so I’m hovering at that halfway mark towards my goal, but I didn’t gain…and I consider that a big success. Or maybe it’s luck. It’s hard for me to guess.

I’m sure that I need to do something more drastic to lose the remainder of the weight, and I’m trying to figure out what I’m up for that’s actually maintainable over a long span of time. I can say that going down the 10lbs has already paid me back nicely in pants that fit a bit looser (which is both a blessing and a curse, since I hate wearing belts and then end up endlessly fussing with wayward capris).

Trying on outfit after outfit to wear to the wake and memorial service left me thinking that I have an odd dearth of black dresses appropriate for such events; even worse, some of the dresses I have that COULD be perfectly appropriate are a skosh too small for me right now. If I lost that other 10lbs…maybe. So, there’s always THAT for additional motivation.

Book #12: “Lucky Man” by Michael J. Fox

This has been on my list for a donkey’s age. DH added it to our library, since we’re both fans of Fox going back to “Family Ties” days. I knew about Fox’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) at a very high-level; I knew that he got it very early, and I knew that he worked as long as he could before disclosing his condition and dropping out of the acting world for a while. Reading his autobiography gave me an even better sense of what it was like for him, both before and after his diagnosis. He describes himself ultimately as a lucky man for having realized just how precious his time is and how he can use what status he has to help others. Just as he says that (post-diagnosis) he suddenly started to notice when someone young had tremors or other signs that were similar to his, I started to notice that about people I come in contact with. It makes me wonder if I’m looking at early-onset PD or something else.

This cleverly-written, engaging self-portrait talks of his meteoric rise to stardom and the life of a normal guy who could’ve fallen off the fame cliff with a bottle in his hand had he not found just the right partner in his wife, fellow actor Tracey Pollan. He describes how he spent nights (and some mornings) completely blotto, because that’s how someone at the top of his game found escape from his own nagging self-doubts. It makes me wonder if any normal person sucked into that unreal reality would react; there are just too many stories coming out about stars taking comfort in bottles, needles, pills or other unhealthy distractions. In many ways, he IS lucky for having survived just that, although the PD diagnosis seems like a cruel reminder that even rich and famous people are just that – people. Humans.

Towards the end of the book, he talks briefly about setting up the Michael J. Fox Foundation – an organization to which I have donated money (and will certainly do so again in the future). There’s something very noble, very touching, and very human about someone realizing that they have the ability to help others and then exploiting that opportunity in the best possible way. And, as someone who’s enjoyed his work on the small and big screen, I can say that his writing only makes me love him more. You can’t help but root for him and hope that his luck only keeps improving.


20 books & 20 lbs (week 32): Stumbling towards success

So, the good news is that I lost more weight; I’m now 11lbs below my starting point. The not as good news is that it was most likely at least PARTIALLY due to the fact that I got sick (although this time not sick to my stomach). The last few weeks have been pretty rough in our house. There was that week where I had the stomach whatever-that-was that took me out of the regular eating game for a few days. Last week, I caught a cold from ds that was brutal, and I ended up face-planting on our bed before dinnertime with a fever and a complete inability to be upright. Thankfully, I have the BESTHUSBANDEVAR, who stepped in and took care of everything for the four hours that I was tossing and turning in our bed. I then spent another 3hrs in our bed, reading with my booklight…at which point dh kicked me out of bed.

Well, I probably deserved it. I guess reading until 1am is bad form?

Anyway, I moved out to the den and waited out the rest of the fever there, which finally broke sometime during my sole nap (4am-6am)…but by the time I was ready to muster the strength to get to work, dd came into the den sporting a pair of slightly pink eyes. So, there went my Thursday. Thankfully, we have no shortage of DVDs and OnDemand options, so dd had some screen time while I worked away on all the things, waiting for her eye goop prescription to be ready.

So, short story quite long, I lost weight…but I’m not entirely certain it was for the best of reasons, if you catch my meaning. I’d rather that I lost weight because I was doing something really great, not because I wasn’t able to eat / interested in eating. My appetite is still off, a side-effect of not being able to breathe too well through my nose, but hopefully that’ll go away soon and then it’ll just be me vs the scale the way things were intended to go.

Now, not to get TOO down about a weight loss (I know, I’m clearly not looking at the bright side here), I did manage to use that long stretch of awakeitude to finish off my latest read…and I loved it.

Book #11: “The Inner Circle” by Brad Meltzer

I wasn’t familiar with Meltzer until fairly recently; I’m not quite sure what rock I’ve been living under, since Meltzer has been a best-selling author for some time, as well as the host of the History Channel show “DECODED”. RadioBDC got him to speak Live in the Lab back in January, and I managed to catch the stream on my computer. I found him charming, utterly engaging, and impossible to ignore. He’s just a great storyteller, someone who easily got the audience focused 100% on what he was saying. “The Inner Circle” is much in the same vein – something that captures your interest and becomes something you don’t want to put down, even when it ends.

The story revolves around Beecher White, an employee of the National Archives in Washington, DC. Beecher’s just been contacted by a middle-school crush looking for her father, and his help gets them both far more than they bargained for. Add in some serious historical references about…well, just about everything…a conspiracy theory or four, and you have a convoluted but manageable story that pivots on the Presidency and what it means to preserve that at all costs. Beecher stumbles into his future, clumsily at first – until he gets to the point where he runs at a breakneck pace to reach what he thinks is his destination. Along the way, he learns more about his former dream-girl, Clementine Kaye, and how truth and strength are really only what you want them to be to others.

For native Washingtonians who’ve migrated elsewhere, like me, Meltzer’s story is a treat, and it has enough to offer so that those from outside that sphere of interest would find it interesting, too.  I’d never even HEARD of the Culper Ring before, and now I’d love to read more about it. I’d also like to take a second crack at the National Archives, since I’ve only ever been there once or twice, and now I know there’s much more for me to see than just the “gasper” documents.

The other nice part of this is that I’ve discovered yet another writer whose works I need to plow through. If any of his other books are as good as “The Inner Circle”, I suspect the man will easily occupy a shelf in our library rather soon.