FFFF Hall of Fame – Jan

She tells me I can do anything I put my mind to.  She has been telling me this for many years.  Somewhere along the line I decided to believe her.

Jan is my mother.  She is middle-aged-plus some years.  She has spent most of her life on the fit end of the fat-fit continuum.  She shares not one of my bad habits.

my father, mom, sister Linda and me, 1957

I remember believing when I was little that my mom was a Movie Star on vacation.  I am not sure why, except she has always had this bit of star quality about her.  Her mother, my grandmother Dorothy, saw it first perhaps — getting my mom into voice, piano and dance lessons when she was a young girl growing up in Indianapolis.  Somewhere in the family archives there is a photograph of Darlyn (my mother’s middle name and the name she was known by) on stage in a short flouncy little dress and Shirley Temple ringlets.  If I had that photo you would see it here.  And I would probably be in Big Trouble and have to Go To My Room/Farm.

Jan and her brood, c. 1963

My mom has always loved music and is a fabulous singer although we don’t get to hear it much.  Somewhere also in the family archives are recordings she made as a teenager.  She is a fan of all types of music, Dixieland Jazz a favorite.  She is also an accomplished ballroom dancer and for years she made a point to be out dancing a couple nights a week.

out dancing … 1990’s

I don’t favor my mom physically.  Her heritage is Mediterranean French.  I favor my father’s side, Anglo/Scot/Irish/German.  She is small boned, slender, and has a light olive complexion.  I am larger-boned, slender only from the hip down (thanks to Mo), and have my father’s ruddy complexion.  Although lucky for me, I got her Good Skin gene.

I did not get her genes of Self-Discipline, Healthy Eating, Good Housekeeping, or Pretty Hands.  But I did get her Mystery Fiction gene, Coffee gene, Jewelry gene, and Lancome gene.  From her, I also got my love for music and my desire to study piano  (the desire that disappeared in a flash when I discovered there was a thing called Horse, and sold my beautiful baby grand to be able to afford my first horse mistake).

The reason my mom is one of my favorite sources of inspiration is that she is a survivor. For most of my childhood and adolescence, she was a single working mom, mostly on her own raising four kids — who all turned out to be reasonably productive and responsible people, btw.  If not, each in their own right, just a tad bit wackadoo.

She survived bumps in the road — maybe stumbled a bit here and there, but she  always landed on her feet.  She survived difficult marriages and divorces.   When financial times got tough, she worked second jobs.  We kids always had plenty, and her abiding example that we could have a good life in spite of difficulties if we were willing to work for it.

She survived going back to college during her 40’s and earned her AA degree, all the while working and raising four teenagers.

daughter Susan’s wedding 1986, with daughters Linda and me.

She survived the long illness and passing of my sister, her youngest daughter and the mother of her only grandchildren  — this with grace and strength that awes and uplifts me to this day.

Jan, daughter Susan, granddaughter Stephanie, daughter Linda

She survives still.  She manages her life and her health and her home, on her own.  She loves reading good mystery novels, taking walks, tending my little sister’s resting place.

Like me, she cherishes her independence and enjoys her privacy as well as her freedom.  She gets my sense of humor.  She gets my contentment with solitude.  We share passions for old movies and mystery fiction.  She encourages me in my  writing, and she will be my Number One reader and critic when I have a mystery baked well enough for her to read.

on a trip to Italy with her favorite ex-husband – 2007

I know she is my Number One Fan.  I hope she knows I am her Number One Fan.  I am so very proud of her.

Love you Mom!

FFFF Hall of Fame – Alejandro

These posts are mostly about a fat middle-aged and somewhat psycho woman writing to other middle-aged women who might enjoy following along with my adventures in getting fit at a point in my life where it is apparently impossible.  More on that when I start the Whining episodes.  Which I am trying not to start.    Anyway, the FFFF Hall of Fame is a place for me to applaud my heroes, people who inspire me along in this adventure, even though it is beginning to Piss.  Me.  Off.

But, back to inspiration.  I choose this episode to be about Alejandro.

Alejandro is a great friend,  devoted dad of two young boys, consummate horseman, my horse trainer and riding instructor, and my Spanish practice buddy.   Alejandro is not a woman, and he is not quite middle-aged,  although I enjoy reminding him on each birthday how much closer to it he is getting.  Also,  “Ale” (ah-lay) has never had a single fat molecule stick to any surface anywhere near his body.  That I’m aware of.   Naturally, this must be due at least in part to genetics but I’m sure his diet and exercise regime have something to do with it also.   His diet and exercise regimes fascinate me.

From what I have observed in the past five years of knowing Ale, his diet consists mainly of a few bites of pieces of sandwiches eaten between lessons or horse training sessions, large amounts of regular Coke, and pie.    I confess to partial responsibility for the pie.  I wanted to learn how to make pies, and I needed a lab rat to test my recipes on.  Ale makes a good lab rat,  since he will eat anything that has huge quantities of sugar as the Number One ingredient, and he doesn’t die or go into convulsions.

As for his exercise regime — it is simple:  Train 8-10 horses per day for about one hour each.  This means riding and/or ground schooling.  Some of the horses are young and just getting “started”, which means they are not yet trained or rideable and therefore can escalate the physical exercise factor for Ale exponentially and explosively.  Personally, I find the exponentially explosive sessions  the most entertaining to watch.

This is a short video of Ale tuning my horse Mo’s performance over fences.  Mo is not the explosive type.  He is more of the asleep-at-the-wheel-on-cruise-control type.

In between his horse training sessions, Ale also teaches dressage and hunter/jumper riding lessons to people,  many of  them middle-aged women with various physical and emotional challenges, like myself.   This is good exercise for Ale’s patience and sense of humor.

On his days off, Ale likes to take his human and equine clients to horse shows.  Which means competing in events himself, plus doing schooling rides for the young horses, plus coaching the humans in their own events and teaching lessons at the showgrounds.  From my observation, Ale’s diet at horse shows consists of pastries (primarily bear claws) and Coke.  Once in a while a beer.

On some other days off, Ale likes to take his boat out and wakeboard.  Even though once he fell off the wakeboard and broke his leg.  I believe the actual breaking process had started earlier, by a horse that wished to smash Ale’s leg into a fence.  And got his wish.

And I think he does some other semi-dangerous activity in snow but since I don’t do snow, I have not been interested in finding out more about that.

Ale is one of my heroes because he faces a lot of challenges in his life and in his work with horses and horse-loving people with patience, strength, humility, grace, humor, and quiet self-assurance.  These qualities are what I admire and what I aspire to.  I also want to ride like Ale when I grow up.  Fat chance of that, so to speak.  But he encourages and inspires me toward achieving my goals and he hardly ever yells at me.

¡Muchisimas gracias, Ale!

P.S.  You can read more about Alejandro, his bio, his training business Rancho Pura Vida, and see lots of photos on his web site www.ranchopuravida.com.


This video I made to thank Ale for his work with my young mare Rainy after her second training season with him.  When she first met Ale, Rainy was an unbroke (not yet trained to be ridden) four year old mare with a strong, stubborn will.  I learned so much by watching Ale work with Rainy, and his diligence and expertise in both her training and mine eventually allowed me to achieve a dream and ride her myself.

If you have a slower connection, the video may have fits and starts …  just let it buffer completely before playing.

Music:  “Teach Your Children” … performed by Crosby, Stills and Nash … written by Graham Nash.  No copyright infringement intended.

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.