What stares at me from my refrigerator

Instead of pasting my refrigerator door with pictures of slender, nice-looking, middle-aged catalog models in bathing suits, I have put up this picture of Lauren Bacall.     It is from one of my all-time favorite movies, “To Have and Have Not,”  a film noir gem starring  Humphrey Bogart.  This was her first movie role.   She was 19 years old.

Lauren Bacall, 1944

Of course I am not aspiring to a 19 year old body or face.  But I like the overall package.  Tailored, understated, not too girly, but sultry.

I guess if I were to describe my ultimate dream body image in one word, it would be sultry.    Sultry to me is a strong sort of attractive …  self-assured, smart, cards played a bit close to the vest, but honest.   Doesn’t have to be exotic, or gorgeous, or even obviously sexy or super-feminine.    Or young.  A woman can achieve sultry and still be your basic girl-next-door but with confidence, strength, a quick wit,  honesty,  maybe a bit of mystery.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was sultry, but also exceedingly gorgeous.  Obviously, I’m not going for Elizabeth Taylor, although I liked her character Maggie a lot … her abiding loyalty to her husband, the deep commitment to saving her marriage, the bit of a Southern drawl, and of course the slip.  And that she was married to Paul Newman in the movie, even though he was pretty much a crybaby wimp for 107 out of the 108 screen minutes.    I am too porky right now  to look good in that slip.  But I like the idea of wearing a sultry-looking slip and looking like I belong in it.

Now, the type of sultry that I think I can do is Lauren Bacall.  She wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous but she had hair, eyes, voice, attitude and self-carriage that all added up.  That package has aged well, besides.  I think I have the hair, and eyes, a bit of the voice, a good amount of the attitude most days.  Of course, I can’t do the carriage until I am not carrying around the pork.

So I see Lauren Bacall every time I open the fridge and imagine myself  an older and wiser version striking that pose, in that suit, with that dare in my eyes, capturing the heart of  Humphrey Bogart.

How’s that for inspiration?

Weird Science #3 — Natural High

I got a little sidetracked looking  for ways to get the effects of exercise without actually doing it.   My brain has been stuck on the concept of endorphins and how they are commonly theorized to produce feelings of euphoria, well-being, and/or happiness from exercise, among other things.

I think physiology or God got it backwards.  I think endorphins should be naturally occurring,  without external causation, at all times.  Because then I would have the feelings of euphoria, well-being, etc.  that I need to keep exercising through the overpowering urge to nap out of the sheer boredom of it.

Aside:  When I imagine what endorphins look like, I see a school of  dolphins laughing and  jumping and splashing around in my blood.  Because “endorphin” looks like “endolphin.”

Then I find out through my extensive research (one reference in Wikipedia, my favorite source of fast, sometimes accurate information about all things) that there is another naturally occurring feel-good thingamajig that may even be better than endorphins — endocannabinoids.  Big word for the naturally-occurring chemical that interacts with the brain deeliebob that causes the marijuana high.

Confession … I do know from experience what the marijuana high is, at least the marijuana high in the olden days, when a lid (ounce baggie) cost about $10, c. 1973 or so.    I don’t know what the quality was then,  but that, rolling papers, a bus ticket to the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, a pair of well broken in guaraches, puka shells around my neck, turquoise and silver dangling from my ear lobes,  a couple dozen chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal gunk cookies, and my best friends along was the finest living my 16-year old self could wish for.

Endocannabinoids are involved in the “reward system of the body, controlling the rewards for both exercise and consuming of dessert.”  This makes sense to me.  The body rewards itself by feeling good, and doesn’t care whether the good feeling comes from a good work-out or a Twinkie.

So, connecting the endorphin-endocannabinoid dots, it seems to me that I all I need to do is eat some cake or pie while visualizing myself on my horse or a treadmill.   Since I’m “high” from the cake/pie, my body thinks it really is exercising and in response burns calories and builds lean muscle and loses fat.   This then causes my body to jump-start some endorphins.  Which also make me high.

Summary:  Eat cake  –>  get high —> lose fat –> get high again.   Far out.

Another aside:  Yes,  it does occur to me that I could spend less time dabbling in science and more time on my horse.

Exercise is boring. Or way fun.

I hate to sit on equipment and maneuver  heavy objects with my arms and legs and butt and move my muscles in a mechanical, repetitive motion that is supposedly good for me.    How can something so mind-numbingly boring be good for me?

Boredom is why I read Spanish language mystery novels on my Kindle when I am on my recumbent bike and pedaling with some of my might to get my heart rate into whatever the fat-burning zone is, which, whatever it is, has to be about 50 whatevers above what my heart wants to rate.  And if I ever did reach that zone, the effort would be totally devoid of any ROI whatsoever anyway, since I would no doubt arrive there in full cardiac arrest, rendering both my heart rate and the question of  ¿Quie’n mato’ a Don Francisco?*  altogether moot.

When I ride my horse Mo,  I am doing basically the same exercise — sitting on equipment and maneuvering a heavy object with my arms and legs and butt and moving my muscles in repetitive motions.  Of course the “equipment” is living and breathing and large and capable at its whim of all kinds of unexpected twists and turns and bounces and sudden changes in speed and/or direction.  It also has a wicked sense of humor and loves to get my goat, so to speak, by being stubborn or pushy or lazy or amped or spooky or just a moron.

So you can imagine riding Mo is much the opposite of boring for me.  So much the opposite, in fact, that a good, exhilarating ride, with all of the physical challenge and mental focus that it requires, is nothing short of pure joy.  My version of a runner’s high, I suppose.    As long as Mo doesn’t do anything so dramatic that I find myself suddenly and unexpectedly airborne and on my way to the  moon, briefly.  Then, inevitably, on my way to what-goes-up-must-eat-dirt.  Then, joy, not so much.  At least not until there are pain meds.

What’s the difference?  Why no endorphinous high when I ride my bike or take a good long walk?  I’m working, breathing, sweating the same as when I ride.  And why is tired and sore from the routine exercise so bothersome, when tired and sore from riding is so gratifying?

The answer is fear.   I am fundamentally afraid of horseback riding.  Even with Mo as perfect as he is for me most of the time, I am always on alert and wondering when my next fall will land me in the E.R.    Along with all of the rewards of riding — learning to communicate with the horse, the rhythmic grace of being connected to his motion,  improving my cues and getting  his best response — there is always an undercurrent of fear.

So I conclude that all I have to do to get a comparable level of enjoyment from the other more mundane forms of exercise is to develop a healthy fear of them.  I guess something like look at my recumbent bike and think “”Hmmm.  How windy is it?  Are there wild turkeys around?  Is there a  bike that my bike hates in the near vicinity?”  Or, look at my walking shoes and think “Hmmm.  What if there is something on the ground for them to trip over and they lose their balance?  What if the big puddle we are approaching gives them the heebie-jeebies and they decide to run off with me?”

Hmmm.  Could work.

*Who killed Don Francisco?

Sometimes no progress = some progress

As you can see from my scoreboard,  I had a very small upswing last week.  This I attribute entirely to the perils encountered during my business trip.  Notice I didn’t even bother with the Weekly Food & Activity Journal for last week.  I couldn’t remember half the stuff that should be recorded in the Food part.  And the Activity part was just about nada, anyway.  I think I rode my horse two days.

I will have more weeks like this and I don’t care.   Really.   The next trip is slated for San Francisco end of March.  San Francisco being one of the food capitals of the world, and my boss apparently enjoying the food part of working very much,  I will just need to gird my loins.   Or bring my own food.  And then explain to the co-workers in San Francisco that I am allergic to San Francisco and all the food that is in it.

But I sort of like this lack of progress.  I like it because there is a reason for it.  I knew what I was doing with the poor food choices and the resulting 1.0 probability of negative  impact on my goal.   So, I like that I can predict the future.    I have been hoping to gain this magical power for quite some time.

This is if the lack of progress is actually real.  A 0.2 pound gain may not be really any gain at all, given my scale has a mind of its own and likes to play tricks on me to drive me mad.  Think Charles Boyer – Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight.   He play tricks on her to make her and everyone else think she was losing her mind, so that he could declare her insane and  get control of her dead aunt’s jewels.

My scale does not have this particular goal I’m pretty sure, but it does add and subtract pounds from my reality for the sheer joy of torturing me into madness.  I know this because sometimes I pick up one of my fatter cats and get on the scale, and it subtracts three pounds from the sans-cat result of five minutes earlier, instead of adding the approximate 10 pounds I know that cat weighs because it weighs just about the same as a flake of hay.  I know this because when I am tossing hay to the horses, sometimes there is a cat hiding in the hay cart and I pick it up without looking and toss it into the hay feeder and don’t realize right away that a cat landed in the feeder instead of the green stuff.    I later realize this because the thud of the cat landing in the feeder sounds different to the horses than the thud of hay and they react by spooking in all directions.

Anyway, let’s say there no overall change this past week.  That’s true enough.  I like this because part of the week I successfully  stayed on my plan and got in a little bit of activity, which I hypothesize (since no one has ever thought of this before) counteracted the effects of the other part of the week.

So the progress in my lack of progress is that I seem to be getting a clue.  I like that.

Business travel is to my diet as …

… Bluto is to Popeye before spinach.

… Popeye is to Bluto after spinach.

… Natasha and Boris are to Rocky and Bullwinkle.

… the Road Runner is to Wile E. Coyote.

[If you were a kid in the olden days when cartoons were an art form, and just about the only TV we were allowed to watch, and only on Saturday mornings, you will get it.] 


I had a two-day, one-night trip to a business meeting this week.  The meeting was good.  My client was generous with food.  Apparently because she is going to work the collective butt off of my team for the next couple of years and we need to store extra fuel.

I haven’t yet informed her of FFFF.    Among other things.

Day 1.   Catered lunch:  Mexican, with all the trimmings, including two Mexican desserts, neither of which were flan.  Thank God in heaven there wasn’t flan.  Damn  the tortillas.  Full speed ahead to the flan.   I would OD on flan. 

Day 1.  Restaurant dinner:  Italian.  Including appetizers of melted butter and garlic with bits of seafood sprinkled on top.  Clams, mussels and oysters were discussed by the team but I don’t think concensus was reached.  And those squiggly Spaghetti-Os-shaped squid pieces that you can give a fancy name like calamari to but they are still fishy-tasting, rubbery Spaghetti-Os to me.   Warm sourdough bread.  Antipasto.  Then pasta.  Then pasta-Round-2.  Then chicken, with pasta.  Then desserts.  And I do mean multiple.  Cannoli, spumoni, and death-by-chocolate Sacher-torte-ish something or other.  And then, after these appetizer desserts, tiramasu for the main-course dessert.

Day 2:  Catered lunch:  Average, sensible turkey sandwiches on whole wheat.   Accompanied by the not-so-sensible side dishes of macaroni salad and potato salad, and then the downright senseless torture of gigantic macadamia/choc chunk cookies and brownies with freakin’  mile high peppermint frosting  and sweet red stuff drizzled on top.   

I am not going to say what I did and did not eat.    I just want to forget all about it and move on and wait for the Roadrunner-destroying anvil and matching catapult to arrive from ACME, and then have the catapult backfire, catapulting me over the edge of a cliff to the bottom of a deep desert canyon, and then with my body half-plunged into the ground, look up just in time to see the anvil falling directly onto my head.

That’ll teach me.

Sleep now, or forever hold your peas

I’m all for any weight loss method that requires me to do nothing, except maybe knit.  Or breathe.

So imagine my delight at finding this recurring theme in many health and fitness publications on the web and in print: 

 Sleep deprivation or poor sleep can lead to weight gain. 

 So I am fat because I don’t sleep well and enough?   I like it.  And I like the ergo even more:

If I get more sleep, I will lose weight.

Nap my way to a Size 6.  I can do that.  I can easily toss all of this eat-right-and-exercise-crap and just go lay down.  Except now that I’m in Week 7 of FFFF,  eating right and exercising are growing on me.  So to speak.  That is,  they are becoming more auto-habit than conscious thought revving up into disciplined effort fueled by the heebie-jeebies of tortilla withdrawal.

 Or at least I am beginning to have thoughts that I should be thinking about practicing to make them more habitual.  And without also having other thoughts accompanying them like crybaby sidekicks, lagging several steps behind, kicking rocks, whining “oh shoot, do I haveta?”    This is real progress.

The concept has to do with the effect of sleep on metabolism,  and the hormones ghrelin and leptin.  Which sound like good names for hobbits.  But I’ll just leave the endocrinology at that.  I’m not in the mood for Weird Science tonight.   I have to pack for an overnight business trip  and   I    DO     NOT    TRAVEL     WELL.    In a word, cranky.

Many nights I have insomnia … I  sleep for a couple of hours, wake for couple of hours, go back to sleep, and so on.  When morning comes,  I tell my dogs to just shoot me.   But they never do.  Apparently every word that comes out of my mouth is some variant of the root word “cookie.” 

 Yes, there are OTC and not-OTC sleep aids.  I don’t want the not-version because I have enough prescribed Help getting through the day.  I do not want more to get through the night.   Motrin PM I like but it makes me very groggy in the morning so I only use it on Friday and Saturday nites because I don’t usually have to show up anywhere early on Saturday or Sunday mornings with correct makeup and/or correct underwear.  Unless I go to church.   Although they haven’t inspected my underwear.  Yet.  

I am trying valerian and melatonin now and I’m getting a nice deep sleep but only for about 4-5 hours.   I also listen to a hypnosis app on my phone.   I assume I am being hypnotized, since I don’t remember anything when I wake up. 

And here’s another light bulb.  The evenings I ride my recumbent bike, that is really ride it (vs. the evenings I sit on the recumbent bike not pedaling because I can’t pedal and at the same time comprehend the Spanish language murder mystery on my Kindle),  I am sleeping so much better.   “They” say that exercise does that.    

So exercise = sleep = weight loss.  But exercise = weight loss.  Ergo, I shouldn’t need any sleep at all.  Which is where I’m headed, since I’m going to bed.

FFFF Hall of Fame – Laurie

I’ve mentioned that I enjoy seeing Before and After photos of people who have lost significant amounts of weight.  But as you now know, I consider a lot of them suspect, creative manipulation of photoimagery.   Those that do appear legit might be interesting or even remarkable, but they’re not necessarily inspiring to me personally.

 I don’t know those people and as far as I know they could have personal chefs, their own home gym with their own personal trainer, lipo, gastric surgery, boobectomies, frontal lobotomies or any number of other medical-surgical-pharmaceutical-voodoo magic helps.  Or they could have done time in one of California’s correctional facilities, and had access to a special health-conscious diet, “free” physical, mental, and dental health care, and top-of-the-line recreational and physical fitness amenities.

But when the Before/Afters are someone I know and have been friends with most of my adult life, like my friend Laurie, then it really means something.  Laurie and I first met when we were stationed together in the Air Force, early 1980s.  I liked her right away because she was smart, professional, funny, honest, self-aware, articulate, direct.  Same with her husband Randy.   Both generous, inspiring friends, straight-shooters.  I  wanted to be like them when I grew up.

I also liked them because they had a hot tub and I received frequent invites to their home for food, drink and hot tub.  And then later they got a bigger home with a pool and a great view of the Sacramento Valley.  Liked them even more.

When we first met, Laurie and I were both reasonably svelte.  We had to be, because the Air Force forced us with mandatory physical fitness testing and weight restrictions and threats of punishment, like demotion, involuntary discharge, public humiliation and worse of all, 7:00 am mandatory formations for PT (physical torture, aka running).  With another Air Force friend, Cindy, we were the Broads in Space … although all of us strong, smart, competent women, rising in rank, we had moments of surprisingly poor judgment and extreme dizzy-broadness.  Surely there was a book or a screenplay or some business venture we could collaborate on and make a fortune.

Eventually Laurie and I both separated from the service and went on with life.  We had career successes, big and small.  We had some personal catastrophes, like a home being destroyed by a violent tornado (her), a psyche damaged by violent relationship with an abusive drunk (me).  We reconnected with our faith in God.  We found contentment and fulfillment in middle-age.  We gained weight.

Fast forward — Laurie and Randy now live near Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.    We are on the phone this past Christmas catching up, Laurie, Cindy and I.    At some point, Cindy tells me that Laurie has lost over 40 lbs.  Wha …..???  I am so excited to hear that, given I am thinking about launching a similar project, someday.

I start pumping Laurie for her diet secrets (fundamentally low-carb) and exercise plan (none to speak of), and then tell her if she sends me Before and Photos, I will induct her into my FFFF Hall of Fame.  Here she is:

Laurie – before

Laurie – now, down 50!

Thanks, Laurie.  Thirty years later, I still want to be like you when I grow up.

Country Life 101: How to Survive a Water Outage with A Smile

I live on a little five-acre wanna-be ranch out in the country.   Living out in the country means I do not have a home life like regular people in regular neighborhoods have.   I have year-round roughing-it, sort of like camping, except there is a house instead of a tent.  And the restroom isn’t a quarter mile from my campsite.  Unless, as it sometimes happens, I don’t have running water, then I have to execute Restroom Plan B.

Here, like in the olden days, I get my water from a well.  Sometimes in the winter it gets just cold enough (the California definition of “cold”) to freeze up my well pump.    When that happens, the pump can’t pump, hence no water.


So, while I wait for warmer temps to thaw various frozen well-pump doo-dads,  here are some steps I take to stay amused until the water comes back on :

[Step 1]  Build a fire in the woodstove.   Find a log that has a black widow spider on it.  Put the log in the fire.  Wait and watch for the black widow to crackle and pop.    [If you listen closely, you can hear the tiny evil creature scream right before the pop.]

[Step 2] Let the idiot cat-killer dog loose in the yard. Then let the giant rat-killer cat loose in the yard with the idiot dog.  Wait and watch to see which one of them will end up in a tree first.  Wear gloves, long sleeves and heavy boots since I may have to climb a tree to rescue a German Shepherd.

[Step 3] Neatly stack next to the kitchen sink a week’s worth of crusty, algae- and fuzz-covered lab experiments gone awry that just two days ago were mere dirty dishes.  This I do in the hope that I will have water and the inclination to wash dishes in the foreseeable future.  This assumes, of course, that I remembered to get dish soap which I never do at the grocery store which I try to never go to.

[Step 4] Get out the machete.  Then go to the room in the home loosely referred to as the “home office.”  But first clear a path to it with the machete.  Then once safely inside the home office,  start sorting crap and making piles of related pieces of crap.  When I have been at it about 5 minutes, I take a break, get some coffee, machete one of the piles of crap off of the desk chair, sit, and log in to the web.  And then I go to YouTube.   A few hours later, groggy and disoriented from sensory overload, I emerge from the “office” without any idea whatsover why I went there in the first place.

[Step 5] Break the ice covering the outside fish pond, fish out any little frozen goldfishsicles I may find, punch a hole in each little fishsicle, thread the hole with some hay twine, and then hang them from the trees like strings of little sparkly frozen gold Christmas lights. Eventually they will thaw and smell but then I have instant homemade cat food.

If after all of these amusing distractions, I still don’t have water, then I park my butt alongside a couch dog in front of the classic movie channel on TV.  If I have electricity.

Embracing the During

I love before-and-after weight loss photos.  Even though I suspect that most of the time the Afters are not as much After Actual Weight Loss as they are After the Liberally-Applied Artistic License that Comes with Photoshop.

Me and Mo, competing at an informal dressage show.  I am saluting the judge.  Mo is being a smart-ass.

[I do appreciate some art and I like to do some art myself.  My artist Muse periodically shoves me into one of my scary closets to dig out the dusty, spidery plastic tote box labelled “Art Supplies” which should be labelled “Attempts at Art- When You Need To Come Up With A Gift In A Hurry And You Have No Idea What To Give And Even If You Did You Wouldn’t Shop For It- Supplies.”]

Even though the visual transformations can be remarkable and inspiring, what is invariably missing from the Before-After photo comparisons is the During, which is the most important and for me the most helpful to visualize.    After all, it is in the During that the real meat-and-potatoes of weight loss occurs.   What it looks like at the end is interesting but it doesn’t tell me what it is going to be like along the way.

The polar opposite of instant gratification is inch-pebbling, pushing a line of pebbles toward some sort of finish line, one pebble at a time, with my nose.  And learning to celebrate each pebble making each inch forward to its own finish line worthy of balloons and celebration.

I was going to title this post “Enduring the During.”  But simply enduring it is not going to be enough for me.  I’ll post photos along the way.  No Photoshop, unless it’s to fix a really bad hair day.

How to try on some extra pounds, just for fun

For those of who you are reasonably fit (like you, Mom), or not as far below it as me, and can’t imagine what all of the blubbering is about, here’s a way :

Next time you are in Hell [the grocery store], go to the Pet Food aisle and find a 50 or so pound bag of dog food.  Hoist it over one shoulder.  Get one of the teenager bagger dudies to help, if needed.  Now finish your shopping, then continue on with your life.  You can reposition the dog food bag on other spots on your body if you want, but you can’t take it off, not all of it, not right away anyway, no matter how uncomfortable or whale-ish you feel.

That’s what my extra weight is, about 50 pounds or so of extra kibbles-n-bits most of which are geographically located in and around my equator and kept glued in place there by blubber.  [You’d think my legs, which do not have one iota of pinchable fat anywhere below the hipbone, would have long started to give up their ghosts by now and collapsed in a gasping akimbo of femurs and tibias and metatarsals.]

[I love anatomy.  Just not my own.   I even had my own cadaver once.  I named him Morris, after a very bad date.  I played with him for half of a college semester in Human Anatomy 101, 1975.  The other half of the semester I spent at a one of the local fraternity houses.  Regrettably.  Mostly.]

Now to get the weight off,  you have to punch a small hole in the dog food bag, big enough for one kibble or bit, and then wait for each chewy morsel to drip out, one by one.

This is known as working toward a long-term goal.    This is not instant gratification.  Ergo, not my cup of green yuck tea.

Since I am not the long-term-goal kind of person, I am trying to think of ways to tear a bigger hole in the bag so more kibbles leak out and faster.   I suppose this would be the functional equivalent of liposuction or something like that, already determined to be out of the question for me, since [1] I do not have medical insurance right now, [2] I have no desire to have the end of an attachment hose attached at the other end to a Bissell Cyclone inserted into any openings of mine, man-made or otherwise, thank you,  [3] it would be cheating, somehow,  and [4] it would require me to center this blog on other topics such as religion, politics, and cooking, about which I have not yet collected enough words.

So imagine me lugging all of this dog food around, going through my normal living.  I still manage to walk many steps each day, do my twice-daily farm chores, make it from the parking lot at work to my desk and back every day, hoist myself up and onto my horse’s back and ride (ignoring the leg gasps) a few times per week, and from time to time carry another bag containing an additional 50 pounds of oat hay pellets intended to help keep the weight on my 1300-pound horse.

Go figure.