Madelene and my Mom

Disclaimer, the title of my blog is Just Me and Sometimes Bacon. And although I mostly focus on weight loss, there are some posts that are, in fact, just me. This is one of those.

Oh, the thoughts running through my heart right now. I’m following the advice of a dear friend who said to me today, “I see some blog posts here. It’s how you process.” Well, that and some Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, but I digress.

As some of my readers know as I’ve blogged before about her, I lost my mom almost 15 years ago. And in these last almost 15 years I’ve learned that the hardest thing I’ve ever done was not to lose her, but to have so many life moments without her. Sure I’ve visited her gravesite, sure I’ve had conversations with her, sure I’ve written her Mother’s Day cards and notes and even blogs. But there are life’s moments that I wanted my mom with me. And I didn’t have her.

This past week one of her dearest friends passed away. Madelene was like another mother to me.   When I was in her house she treated me like a daughter and that included loving on me and also setting me straight when I needed it. She took me dress and shoe shopping as she had boys and my mom truly hated shopping. We had holidays together. When I started a home business she invited me to her school to help me. She had my kids over for holidays. And when my mom died, she called me every month to check on me and make sure I was okay.

Both from New York and both the quintessential Jewish mothers, if a director called Universal studios and said, “Hey, send me a Jewish mother type,” these two women would show up. They loved through pure adoration, attention, guilt, and sacrifice. And because of all the years together and all the memories, and all I felt about her, I needed to be there this week.

I wanted all the honor to be about Madelene and I expected it to be hard on me emotionally. But, I wasn’t prepared for how hard. I wasn’t prepared for the memories of my mom to be as intertwined and connected. And at first I thought that’s a disservice to Madelene, but it’s not. It defines her – that she took on my family as her own and family is intertwined. That’s the way it is. So all the emotional entanglements that I was feeling about my own loss was because Madelene took such incredible care to connect.   She was a good connector, that one!

I saw many of their mutual friends, some – most – I haven’t seen since my mom’s funeral. These friends are people who taught with her, who make my mom’s food, have her picture in their homes, had our family over their houses.   We’ve celebrated joys and sorrows together. There has since been joys and sorrows that we no longer celebrate together.  Kids grow up. They have children of their own. Wives lost husbands. Friends become ill. Life happens whether I witness it or not.

That was not only my lesson, but my pride this trip. Life happens whether I witness it or not. I need to be present – and I was. I talked to as many of the people as I could. I avoided the food and embraced the connection.

The beauty of shiva (the tradition of the first week of mourning) is the sharing of the stories. We live on in whom with we’ve shared our lives. We let the soul know that they’ll always be alive so it can move on. And the sharing of stories were filled with humor and joy and a common theme of love (and shoes and maybe some food).

Madelene, you raised two amazing sons and a world full of other children with your heart. Your legacy will live on in all of us who knew you. Mom, you’re now with your friend. Catch up and show her around and give her a heavenly hug. And both of you – please… continue to watch over us.

Acceptances and disappointments

On any given day in social media, you will find articles and pictures telling us to be happy with our bodies. Accept and love them. That the way towards shedding the weight is to be happy WITH the body you have.   Be comfortable in your skin. Don’t make excuses in it – revel in it. Buy the shorts and the swimsuit and the sleeveless dress.

Also on any given day, you’ll find the models selling shoes and clothing – even plus size clothing – and they’ll all be a size 0 or 2. They’ll have the gaunt faces and rarely smile.

So this tells me two things: the media is confused and models aren’t happy.

Confession – I’m one of those people on social media who spreads the “acceptance and the happy with our bodies” messages. I wanted that known up front because my light bulb moment arrived when I realized (even though I’ve been speaking the words for years) that I could be simultaneously accepting as well as pretty disappointed with my body.   And I am.

I love that I am fairly healthy.
I love that my cholesterol went way down after I lost my weight.
I love that my legs can safely and (most of the time) take me for pain-free walks to experience scenery.
I’m disappointed I don’t do this more frequently or faster or longer.
I love that I can stand for hours.
I’m disappointed that I don’t do more varied activities.
I love that I have a small waist.
I love having an hourglass figure.
I’m disappointed that it’s a lot of hours and most of the time the sand isn’t split very evenly.
I’m disappointed that my bones are weak.
I love that I have blue eyes and that they can see fairly well.
I’m disappointed that I’m at the top of my comfort zone in weight.
I’m disappointed that so far I haven’t wanted to work hard enough to move that lower.
I’m disappointed in a size 8 when I used to be a size 4 but I love that I’m a size 8 because I used to be a size 16.
Why, on most occasions do I confidently follow my plan and on others rip it to shreds and dive in to the chocolate?
Why, if I feel SO good after I exercise do I not do it more frequently?
Why when cooking a variety of healthy and interesting meals do I feel awesome and then get lazy and stop doing them?
Why don’t I ask for help more frequently?

So here’s my letter to myself:

Dear Marci,

It’s okay. It’s okay to feel all the feelings.   It’s not okay to just whine without action. It’s okay for that action to not be immediate. It’s okay to be both happy and disappointed as long as you appreciate the happy and actually do something about the disappointments. If you choose to NOT do anything, then stop the whining. You’re a grownup and you can’t blame someone else bringing candy to the office and your house on your inability to keep your hands out of it. Marci, “No, Thank you” is a complete sentence. Practice it once in a while. You’re 53 years old; you might want to start eating with dignity again.   It’s okay to want to feel small. It’s okay to want to feel more attractive – you’re not superficial for wanting this. It’s just as okay to want to lose weight for cute clothes than a more important reason such as good health. Marci, there is no one more important reason.   It’s okay to leave something on your plate. It’s okay to spend a little more if it means you’ll feel physically better.   It’s also okay to think when people say “food is just fuel” that they’re wrong or crazy but just don’t judge them. It’s okay to think about lunch or dinner while you’re eating breakfast. It’s not wrong just because others say it’s wrong. You’re allowed to be a bit obsessed with food, but you might want to start behaving more appropriately with it.  Be grateful for the things you have, Marci.  This is really about the serenity prayer.  Accept what you can’t change,  but do something about the things you can.   I’m fully aware that you can.  I believe in you.

All my love, Marci

Wow – it’s been 10 years!

Ten years ago this month, numerous events took place: test results from a physical showing my cholesterol to be extremely high, a printed picture of a night I thought I looked great but didn’t – at all, and sitting watching TV with an open and empty bag of chips and no memory of eating those chips.

Oh – and I walked back in to Weight Watchers for the 6th time.

Most people come in the door to Weight Watchers because they’ve decided to lose weight. But it’s rarely just a number that freaks us out. It’s usually something that number is causing. For me, it was high cholesterol, vanity, and the fact I was out of control.   Completely out of control.

If I had a bad day then wine or cookies or just the cookie dough or chips or all of the above were on the table. And I say “on the table” in a figurative way because sometimes I didn’t have them on the table. They went hand to mouth. Food was my crutch. And truth be told, it’s not completely NOT my crutch now. If I celebrated, I celebrated with food and drink. If I was alone in the house I might have had 4 meals before lunch. So yeah – I was definitely out of control.

Once I made the decision to join I felt I should be thinner immediately – or at least within the week. We’re in a world of instant gratification so if I wasn’t thinner, then it wasn’t working and I needed to quit. But that’s not what happened.

I had to work. I had to work hard. I had to do it daily. And I made it hard on myself at first. You know how we are in the beginning – all excited and motivated. We want to do everything perfectly and get the best results so that it can keep motivating us to keep going. But that’s also not what happened.

I worked so hard and would lose .2 or .4. Others in my meeting were not (in my very resentful opinion) working as hard as I was and they were losing more. But somewhere in that first month I heard someone say a common phrase I hear (and even say) now: Don’t do anything to lose weight that you’re not willing to do for the rest of your life.  I was making this a bit too strict and I’m not a “bit-too-strict” kinda girl.

I relaxed in to this journey, this adventure. I took it baby step by baby step. I intentionally was not perfect. There were some weeks I was less perfect than others and some weeks that it was easier all around. And ironically, it made NO difference to my weight loss. My stubborn body was only going to release .2 or .4 at a time. (There might have been a few choice words during this process.) But a beautiful acceptance crept in to my life and my household and this is just how I cooked and ate and lived. Some of the small changes that happened over time was meal planning, water drinking, measuring and weighing food, creating new recipes, and splurging with limits. (Up til then I didn’t understand this word “limits.”)

I had setbacks. We all do. “We get the I don’t wannas.” “I shouldn’t havetas” and even the “I’m gonna have it all despite this *@*@&!! Plan”. We have surgeries and family crises and job layoffs – we have setbacks of our own making and setbacks that are out of our control.   And trust me, when that food is a crutch, that’s where we go. And no one emotionally eats broccoli. (Please do not tell me that you do.)

Asking the question “what do you do?” is not necessarily “what is it that you SHOULD do?” I’m a fairly intelligent woman and I know that when I have a setback I should not give up. Then why time after time after time do I?   And since I’ve been leading meetings, those setbacks come with an added sense of guilt – now I’m a hypocrite. Why, if I can’t get my act together should I be in front of people leading how they should?

But I’m not a hypocrite. I’m simply a flawed human – redundant, I know. I’m a member first.   I have to remind myself that I do different things today than I did 10 years ago and that makes me a work in progress. I do some things a lot better and some things a little better. I’ve come a long way. I’m not where I was and I’m not where I’m going. A long time ago I decided I will like the journey. I will fall down and that’s okay as long as I get back up. I will make a dish I hate. Then I’ll make a dish I love. I will try a new form of activity that I might like. I will feel the feelings that come along with falling and rising.   That’s the adventure. That’s the life.

So now my cholesterol is lower, I like more pictures of myself than I don’t, and there are no chips in my house. Happy WW anniversary to me!

Setbacks be damned.


Cookies and Raviolis and Laser Pointers – Oh my!

I was telling my friends the other day about a fascinating story I heard on NPR.   It was an interview with an author about eating and one of the things the author mentioned was that as parents telling us to finish our plates was a mistake. It didn’t allow us to define our own limits with food. And one friend piped in, “Might I remind you, if any of us knew our limits with food we wouldn’t know each other.”   Ahhhh yes.

So this blog post isn’t about knowing our limits. Nor is it about weight loss. (I’ll start that again next post.)  And although it isn’t even about Weight Watchers, I must say that I have Weight Watchers to thank – AGAIN – for this post and these amazing women.

As every Weight Watcher Leaders does, I started out as a member and, honestly, that’s my first and most important role with Weight Watchers.  I was, and always will be, a member first. And, as a member, I need support. Not just once-a-week-in-a-meeting-support.   I needed to be talked out of the vending machine, the catered lunch, the midnight munchies.   And now we have something called 24/7 chat, but then – almost 10 years ago, we didn’t. Enter the Community Boards. There were many boards (age groups, dietary preferences, etc.) and I gravitated towards one. And on this board I found “my people.” It was a few years in that I joined the world of Facebook and became even closer to “those people.” Over the years I’ve met a few here and there. Some have stuck it out with Weight Watchers, most quit, and then there’s me who live and breathe it. But now, “those people” were in my heart.   It was those members I started with that became amazing friends and I have always felt blessed that they were in my life.

So a few months ago this past weekend was *born* so to speak.   One of these women planned a trip to visit another for her birthday.   Then, surprises were planned. Visiting for a birthday quickly turned chaotic when our friend told her not to come.   We had all purchased tickets and now had to back peddle. But we didn’t. We decided to go help our friend and her business and turn the trip in to what we originally did when we met – support each other.

Spreadsheets and airplanes and hotel and car rentals and mass coordination ensued.   Countdowns occurred.  And then it was here!   What happened next was pure magic. Never did we think, “oh my goodness – five women living under one roof doing everything together – we might kill each other!” Five women came together – we’ve known each other for years and some of us had never met in person – but the bond was real – palpable.   We came together and worked hard.   Yes – 5 women who originally met on a Weight Watcher community board were now at a Cookie Convention cutting samples and selling shortbread like no one’s business. (I suppose if they overdid it, I could have followed it with a business card saying sign up for WW personal coaching, but I digress.) We worked. We succeeded. We helped our friend – our sister. And we blossomed. We blossomed as friends, as a unit, and individually as women.

Something happens when 5 women come together and work hard in an area we’re unfamiliar. We’d either be stepping on each others’ toes or we’d flourish – and we flourished.   For days we worked together, laughed together, ate together (and oh my did we eat WELL!), drank together, slept together (mind out of the gutter, people!) and cried when it was over. Not one bit of drama among us. Not one moment of angst.   It was ideal.

So I thank Weight Watchers, yet again, for the vehicle that was necessary to bring people in to my life. What I know is that being affiliated as a member and as a leader has fulfilled me in so many countless ways. The fact I lost weight is just a bonus.

The beauty of these strong women was in our diversity – not necessarily ethnic, although there was some of that – but in our values and ideas and careers and our tastes.   We celebrated each other – our differences and our samenesses. (Yeah, I’m making up words.)   We were all fortunate enough to be able to make this happen (and we don’t take that lightly!) and are all richer for making it happen.   We bring different strengths to each other, different words of support, different ways to digest information and conflict, different coping mechanisms and definitely different sleeping patterns!   (Can you say ear plugs?) We have new ways of looking at cookies and laser pointers and raviolis.   Forever changed and forever blessed.   Thanks, ladies. I love you.


I’m at the bottom of the Seesaw

The first time I joined Weight Watchers I was engaged to be married and wanted to lose 20 pounds. I joined with my mom and a few of her synagogue friends. The center was in an office building next to a mall and we’d go weigh in, then go to the mall, get the famous “White Flint chicken salad”, eat it, and go back for the meeting. I was the youngest in this group by at least 25 years. These women never got to goal and I really don’t even know if they wanted to. It was really another social event. They were okay with that. I was okay with that. The leader was another synagogue member and although I liked her, she wasn’t a great leader. I didn’t know it then.

I’ve struggled with my weight off an on (when I didn’t struggle with it, I was heavy and didn’t care) since then. It finally clicked. I can attribute that to a number of things, but that’s not for this note.   I rejoined WW numerous times because although I lost that original 20, when I quit I gained it back plus more (being an overachiever!)   Joined and lost. Quit and gained – and gained more. Joined and lost. You get the drift? I’m sure some of you can relate.

Seven years ago today I was in training to become a Weight Watcher leader. I remember my training and I remember getting back to my hotel room reaching for the phone to call my mom. She led me here. I know she’s proud, I know she’s watching. I see her in so many members. I remember the overwhelming feeling that we were going to be entrusted with members’ stories, their emotions, and their struggles.   I remember being taught how to deal with different emotions.   I remember being taught different words to say and different members’ personalities to lead towards. I remember being so excited but also SO nervous.   And I wasn’t nervous about talking in front of people – I’d been doing that for many years.   I’ve spoken in front of groups ranging from 5-1000 – doesn’t phase me. In fact I love it. But I took this role – not a job – very seriously.   I remember what I needed from my leader and when I got what I needed and when I was left empty. The responsibility of inspiration was so overwhelming.

But what I learned in that class and what I’ve learned in the 7 years I’ve been a leader are different.   It’s not until someone actually cries at your scale that you truly know what to do when they cry at your scale. This is not something you learn in class. This is something I learned from my Mom. This is why, I believe, she’s with me in every meeting.

When someone hugs you SO tight because she’s under 200 pounds for the first time in 40 years….you don’t learn that reaction in class.

When someone shares with her meeting members – her clan – that not only is she celebrating 28 pounds gone, but her doctor took her off her blood pressure medicine, your joy in taking part of that is palpable.

This week I had a coaching member who got to a place where she never thought she’d get.   She’d cry on the phone begging me not to give up on her. And over the course of the last few months her improvements were so amazing and yet she still didn’t believe in herself. I did. I never doubted in her ability to do this. I did doubt in my ability to help her.   That’s what leaders do – they want SO badly for their members to succeed, they’ll ask for help, they’ll lose sleep, they’ll worry and sometimes they’ll pray. But we didn’t give up on her and this week she had a huge milestone. As happy as she was – and oh boy, she WAS! – I don’t know whose heart was bursting more.

When you get to see women and men start in the back of the room and slowly, as they get more confidence, move forward, your pride soars.   I didn’t learn that in class.

In any job we can get frustrated.   We can be frustrated with how the company handles things. We can be frustrated in the pay scale. We can be frustrated in fellow employees and inconsistencies.  And amid whatever occasion frustrations I might have, I still have the feeling that I was meant to be here right now doing this job, this thing…. I suppose that’s the difference between a job and a calling. If I weighed all the good against all the frustrations, I’d still be at the bottom of the seesaw.  And I’m happy there. I’m being nourished.








Sometimes I’m up for a challenge. Sometimes I am the challenge.

Sometimes I’m up for a challenge.
Sometimes I am the challenge.

I could take this a lot of ways.   Today after lunch it was simply tripping over NOTHING (or, as I say, that big invisible rock) in the middle of the hallway.   Flat ground seems to be a problem. But in reality, this is what I’m seeing this month of January in Weight Watcher meetings and it’s reminding me of my own journey.

Sometimes I’m up for a challenge. Ask a friend. Start a diet. Go to a meeting or two. Get excited. Learn a new program. This is fun. OOOhhhh, I’m losing weight. This is great!   Then the friend can’t make a meeting and you don’t want to NOT do it together so you pass it up, too. Then there’s happy hour with the girls and then there’s the dinner out with the hubs.   Then there’s the chocolate cake.   And now….

Sometimes I am the challenge.

Who relates?

At lunch today – before the stumble – I was talking to my friend who is starting a new race season.   “I guess I’m the kind of person who always needs a challenge.” I loved this. Where are we if we don’t have something to work towards?   We’re stagnant. A marathon doesn’t have to be your challenge. It could be to start – and then finish – reading a book on your list, blogging regularly, bench pressing a higher weight, running a marathon, losing 20 pounds, or getting a new job.

Challenges should be part of everyday. They are part of everyday. Sometimes it’s our colleagues. Sometimes it’s our friends’ troubles. Sometimes it’s our boss.   Sometimes it’s a headache. Sometimes it’s more of a serious illness. Sometimes it’s our kids. We face challenges every single day. And yet we survive. We go to bed, wake up to face new ones.

When I was a kid, my friends would “dare me” to do this or that. (No, I’m not telling what or who!) But what made the dare fun was the challenge.   It was out of the comfort zone. That’s what made it scary. That’s what made it fun.

I have to do the same with weight loss and weight maintenance. I have to make it interesting – worth doing.

One of yesterday’s challenging was the entire conversation I had within myself about getting the chocolate. You see, the day before I was stuck at home and had chocolate in my head and there was almost none to be found. Even my emergency stash (don’t judge, people!) was gone. I managed to find, in my baking stash about a dozen chocolate chips that had to be from a least 2 years ago kept inside a bag of mini marshmallows that had to be equally as old. Ever try to break apart mini marshmallows that are determined to stick together? Nevermind. Anyway, I was having a pity party for myself and wanted….needed chocolate to be invited.   It was sad. So yesterday I was out and facing the store and in front of the chocolate.

“Do I get you, Riesens? I like you most. But I will eat the whole bag and feel sick.   I don’t need you. I need some healthy small amount. But that dark chocolate candy bar isn’t enough. What if I want more? But you’re doing so well.   You haven’t had any for a while. You really don’t need this. But I want some. I can have some. All I have to do is track it and I’m on plan. I know exactly how much that would be. But you’re having company this weekend and you’ll go over your budget with them. With wine. You don’t need the chocolate. The company needs the chocolate.”

Yeah – that all happened in my head. I’m still asking….who relates?

Sometimes I’m up for a challenge.
Sometimes I am the challenge.

Really the only thing that differs in these two statements is the attitude.

If nourishing is my theme for 2016, I must face these challenges with the attitude of “can do.”  I need to have healthier conversations with myself than the one with the chocolate.  I need to realize that every place I’ve been, every task I’ve done, every job I’ve had leads me, and – most importantly – prepares me for  the next challenge.   Now that next challenge could simply be going to the grocery store before a forecasted snowstorm or to nurture my members towards their weight loss goals in a better way than I did before.   I must have the third statement.

Sometimes I’m hungry for a challenge.


No exclamation points today

A member told me a few days ago that she visited her mom in Tennessee for the holidays and went to a Weight Watcher meeting there as her mom’s a member.   Of course I gave her a bravo for doing that and asked how the meeting was.

“My mom loves her leader and I see why. But she’s a comma where you’re an exclamation point.” The room laughed and I smiled and we moved on with other inspirations.

Today my son went back home.   The irony of that statement is that prior to visit, we both spoke of him coming home for the holidays.   And it became clearer to him as well as us (his parents) that his home is not with us. This is part of raising kids. It’s such a joy and a privilege to give them their first home. But it’s just that. Their first home. And it’s with simultaneous emotions of love, pride and joy and sadness and awakening, and a bit too much “adulting” comes the realization that OUR home – although he KNOWS he’ll always have a place in it – is not HIS home.

So today, as I pray for his safe travels and smile as I enjoyed seeing him and am totally proud of the man he’s become, I have no exclamation points.