Saturday, January 29, 2011

Getting into My Jeans (originally written 2005)

     Warning:  If you were intrigued by the title, thinking perhaps this were some comment on my lack of morals, you may want to peruse the adult section of your nearest bookstore, as this particular essay may seriously disappoint.  But, if you are like me, and have ever had to lie back on your bed, suck in your gut and struggle so hard to button the fly of your jeans that you nearly wore off your fingerprints, read on and commiserate with me.
     The last bell had rung, signaling the end of another long day at school and I was sitting at my desk, shuffling through the mounds of paper that seem to continually cover any horizontal surface in my classroom.  My back hurt; my knees hurt; my shoulders hurt.  I tried convincing myself it was my age.  There was a gnawing thought in the back of my head that knew the real truth.  Healthy 39-year-old women do not have aches in every joint.  My weight was making me miserable.  The physical discomfort was one thing but the emotional pain was worse.
     I hated having to shop at Lane Bryant for dresses made with voluminous amounts of fabric that would cover my bulging body like a Coleman tent.  Heaven forbid that any of the material would get caught in one of my fat rolls!  I've never liked wearing dresses, but they were comfortable.  A short, no-fuss hairstyle, flat shoes and large pink-tinted glasses completed any ensemble.
     There was a time when I felt comfortable in nearly anything. . Growing up in the south, I wore Levi's 501 button-fly jeans like the other high school kids in the late seventies.  How I missed wearing 501s and a simple t-shirt.  This old school teacher was so far away from the school girl she used to be.
     I suppose I saw myself as the frumpy teacher in fifth grade.  Allow me to introduce you to our team.  I'm the oldest, a middle-aged mother of three.  And then there are Mike and Rhet.  They're younger and athletic; they are coaches at the high school.  On Sesame Street there is a song that they sing that goes, "Which one of these is not like the other?  Which one of these does not belong?"  That would be me.  It's not just that I'm a woman.  Those two are physically fit.  Let's be honest; they look hot.  Can I say that?  I must.  It's true.  I envy the ease with which they maneuver themselves on the playground, playing football and basketball with our kids.  The testosterone just flows at our end of the building.  There is a constant, good-natured competition between those two.
     As I guzzled the last of my Diet Coke at my desk, I could hear my teammates talking in the hallway.  This day's conversation seemed to have an unusual, almost sympathetic, flavor to it.
     "I need to take off a few pounds; I'm up to about 210."
     "Yeah, I know what you mean.  I'm at my heaviest...almost 205."
     I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair.  For once, I was glad not to be included in their conversation.  Women generally don't volunteer a lot of information about their weight, especially not in mixed company, not when the topic carries with it so much shame and embarrassment.  It didn't take me long to do the math.  I was now, officially, the heaviest member of the fifth grade team, and quite possibly, the school.  At 224 pounds, I could have wrestled on Mike's team as the heavy weight.
     That overheard conversation haunted me for days.  How could I change?  I went to the doctor to see if there were another magical pill like phen/fen on the market to help me on my way back to the land of good health.  Dr. Chappell chided, "You don't need a pill, Denise.  You know what to do:  eat less and exercise more."  Mustering up a little more determination, I set out to shed my unwanted pounds.
     A serious walking regimen got me on my way.  I would wake up early, tug on my too tight sweats and laboriously plod one mile up and one mile back down Sierra Vista Lane.  After a couple of months, I was down to 208...good progress, but still uncomfortably close to the weights of my male teaching companions.
     One weekend, while visiting my health-conscious brother during the summer of 2000, I noticed a new book on his dining table:  Body for Life by Bill Phillips.  "What's this, Eric?"
     He explained briefly that it was a way of life that incorporated a balanced diet with weight-lifting and cardio.  "Look at these amazing 'before and after' pictures."  The book showcased hundreds of people who had taken the challenge to transform their bodies with Phillips' 12 week program.  The grand prize winner, the person who made the most improvement, took home a million dollars.
     Every "before" picture showed a tired, washed-out pudgy competitor and every "after" picture showed a glowing tanned athlete with some definite muscle tone.  "Is there something in the diet that turns your skin brown?" I asked sarcastically.
     "No, but you have to admit, the tan shows off their new physiques better," Eric laughed.  I noticed they all wore bikinis or posing briefs, even in their beginning photos.  That took some guts, I thought.
     By the end of the weekend, I had devoured the book and had formulated a plan.  If all of those formerly fat, non-athletes could do it, so could I.  I didn't have any grand notions of winning a million dollars, but I believed that seeing myself in photographs would help me become more accountable and help me achieve my goals.
     I stood before my closet and considered my wardrobe options.  I could wear a bathing suit or workout clothes.  A bikini was out of the question.  Who in their right mind pays perfectly good money for a size 18 two piece swimsuit that you hope never to be big enough to wear after the picture is taken?  Not me, that's for sure.  I stuffed myself into my matronly swimsuit and lumbered into the kitchen where my teenage son Dylan looked doubtfully at me.  "Just take the picture," I sighed, as I pushed my camera toward him.  "I need a front shot and a back shot."  I smiled weakly into the camera lens.  "Take it!" I hissed through clenched teeth.

    Now I had the humiliating task of taking the pictures into town to have them developed.  Who could I trust with these photographs?  I decided fewer people could access them if I went to the one-hour photo shop.  My heart fell and my anxiety level rivaled that of a tone-deaf singer at karaoke night  as I noticed one of the district employees, a MAN, was moonlighting at the store.  With great bravado, I marched in, handed him my roll of film and winced as I strode out the door.  I comforted myself with the thought that the employees probably don't have time to really look at everyone's pictures anyway.  And if that's not true, I don't want to know about it.
     I was horrified when I got the pictures back.  I was in worse shape than I thought.  Nothing like a glossy photo to shoot down any romantic notions you had of simply having a body Rubens would have liked to paint.
     My husband had a hard time getting excited about my new plan.  He suggested I lift common, everyday objects rather than go to the expense of buying weightlifting equipment.  It was obvious to me he didn't believe we'd need any more exercise equipment to trip over once the novelty of this latest diet wore off.  I was not going to let his lack of enthusiasm dampen my spirits.
     So...some people pump iron.  This chubby mama was reduced to "pumping tin."  Tin cans filled with 16 ounces of cherry pie filling, to be exact.  When those became too easy, I moved up to boxes containing .22 bullets.  After a month or so of faithfully lifting "weights" three days a week, I convinced DelMar that I was serious.  We headed out to a neighbor's yard sale and bought a bench, some dumbbells and ankle weights.  I had graduated to real weights!
     By the time school started at the end of that summer, I had officially entered my first body for Life Challenge.  I was required to take photos (again) and fill out a questionnaire to document my progress.  I found myself mixing protein drinks in the blender, reading Muscle Media magazine and actually becoming excited about this new found world of fitness.
     The teachers noticed the changes that had taken place over the summer.  They encouraged me to continue my efforts by applauding my progress and complimenting my physical changes.  Rhet and Mike became my cheerleaders, asking about my workouts and noticing when I wore new, smaller clothes.  Mike even showed me around the high school weight room and coached my friend Margie and me on proper lifting techniques.
     The first 12 weeks came and went, and I still had a long way to go.  One thing I'm glad I didn't know when starting Body for Life was how long my transformation would take.  We all know that "slow and steady wins the race" but it was difficult not to get discouraged when my results were not as dramatic as the previous winners of the challenge.
     I recall Mr. Winn's teasing in the faculty room one day.  "Denise, if you win the Body for Life competition, promise me you'll tell people it takes longer than three months to get those results!"  I laughed because I knew it would take me MUCH longer to get to where I wanted to be.
     I officially competed in three challenges over five years.  Did I ever honestly think I'd WIN the challenge?  Well, no.  But the way I see it, anyone who improves their health and well-being is a winner.  My prizes were confidence, an increase in self-esteem and a healthier body.  Each challenge found me another 10 pounds closer to my goal.  All told, I lost over 70 pounds.

     On this day, I'm going to wear my 501s because they take me back to another place and time, the south in the seventies. 
At 44, it gives me that high school feeling again to know that not only will I be able to wear them with confidence, I'll be able to button them while standing up.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

*In the Roar of the Rapids

     "Is that Skull?" The question came from the stocky oarsman at the back of the raft.  John had maneuvered rubber rafts through this part of the Colorado many times.  But this summer, the water was running higher than usual.  It would take a keen eye and a cool head to make this a smooth trip.  Skull would be the trickiest part of our run through the whitewater.

     "Look, there's Room o' Doom," John pointed out the landmark that was our cue to watch for Skull.

     My grip tensed on the nylon rope that was threaded around the raft.  The adrenaline began surging through my body.  I felt my stomach tighten into a fist.  Was it only last week that the river raft crew had consented to let me come aboard?

     Sid, my crazy outdoorsy friend, my rock-climbing, cross-country skiiing and backpacking mentor, was on the phone with George, one of the owners of Comin' and Goin' Whitewater Adventures.

     "I have a friend here who would really like to go down the Westwater with us...Well, no, she's never been rafting before."

     "Sid," I whispered, "Tell them I can swim; I'm a lifeguard!"

     "George, she's a great swimmer.  She coached a local swim team and she's lifeguarded all summer."  Sid held his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.  

    "George says if a raft flips over, it doesn't matter if you can swim or not.  You really need to be experienced with whitewater rafting in case you run into trouble."

     My hopes fell.  I wanted so much to go on this trip with Sid.  We did almost everything together.  Sid resumed his phone conversation.  "George, she's a good kid; a real 'granola girl.'"  His eyes smiled at me through his darkened glasses.  "I think she can handle it." Silence.  "Hey, that's great.  Okay, I'll remind her.  See ya." 

     So here I was, fulfilling a dream.  Such a risk-taker these days.  At 23, I often found myself in the mountains of Utah, drinking in all of the natural beauty and doing things I had never dreamed possible.  At that moment, I found myself sitting in the bright southwestern sunshine, surrounded by friends, fresh air, and flowing water.

     My mind raced to our leader's speech on the shore of the river earlier that morning.  We were a somber group during breakfast, in contrast to the bawdy bunch that had partied in camp the night before.  George got everyone's attention as we were milling about the river's edge, loading our gear and securing all of our gear with ropes.  Our eyes locked onto his gaze as we sat on the damp sandy beach.

     "Ya heard the park rangers yesterday warn us how high the river's runnin' this summer.  When the Colorado's high, she's fast.  I'm not tryin' to scare anybody but we need to talk about what to do in the off-chance one of the rafts flips over.  Yer first instinct may be to try to breathe.  Don't do it.  And whatever ya do, don't try to swim!  You just hold yer breath and let the life jacket do yer work."

     I was jolted out of my reverie by a neaby voice rising in pitch.  "This is it!  This is Skull!"  With all of this water around me, I found it hard to believe that my tongue felt like a thick cotton ball in my mouth.  I tried to swallow as my knuckles whitened with my clenching fists.  The voice was screaming in my ear now.  "Turn!  TURN!" 

     Our raft jumped onto the back of a wave that was building in momentum and size.  John's obscenities floated toward the front of the craft.  We were now at the mercy of the river.  The raft slipped over the wave into a deep hole and then flipped up and over.  Water came crashing over my head as I was swept from the boat.  The rapids swirled and churned around me.  The river tightened its hold on me and pulled me beneath the roar of the rapids.  It was strange being in the center of so much movement, so much force, and hearing nothing.

     This sensation was nothing like I had imagined in the nightmares of my childhood.  I had an unexplainable fear of death by drowning.  Breathing is something most of us take for granted until we are presented with a lack of oxygen.  I had imagined myself gulping for breaths of air only to fill my lungs with water. Drowning would be a violent, terrible way to go.

     Everything was dark above me. I was shooting down the river UNDER the raft.  My hands felt their way across the floor of the raft.  The silver-colored tube reflected a little light.  I could see the yellowish frothy water and then sunlight!  I grabbed a quick bite of air and was swept under again.

     I was spinning, turning.  For a few moments, I forgot George's words of advice and gave in to my instincts.  Swimming furiously, my arms moved in wide sweeping motions and my legs kicked violently against this angry wave that had taken hold of me.  The more I swam, the colder the water felt.  My brain engaged itself once again and I realized I was swimming toward the dark bottom of this wild river.  In my mind, I saw George's sun-tanned, bearded face looming in front of my own.  "Let yer lfie jacket do the work.  HOLD YER BREATH!"  I stopped swimming, clutching the font of the plastic-coated life vest.  My body shot up through the water, bobbing up to the surface like a cork.  AIR!

     Through my dripping hair, I saw Creed holding onto our overturned raft.  I desperately clawed at the boat to get a handhold.  Over the roaring current, I heard Creed shout, "Face forward!  Feet first!"  I dropped the rope from one hand as I tried to face forward to fend off any submerged boulders with my feet.  The wind was knocked out of me when I was swept away from the safety of the raft by the impact of another ruthless wave.

     Once more I found myself bathed in the silent peace I had come to know under the seething surface of this wild river.  The longer my brain went without oxygen, the more relaxed I felt.  Perhaps this is how my life would end.  Fighting it was as senseless as trying to swim had been.

     When my lifejacket popped me up one more time, I breathed deeply and searched wildly for Sid.  If this weren't my time to go, I was going to get back into survival mode and swim like mad!  I heard someone shout from the paddleboat ahead of me, "There's one!  Pick her up!"

     To borrow a thought from Oscar Wilde, "There is nothing quite so exhilarating as being shot at and missed."  Unless perhaps it is being swept away in a drowning torrent of water and living to tell about it.

     Death by drowning no longer has a part to play in my dreams of fear.  The monster of my childhood has been tamed and can frighten me no more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

*Eagle Point Ski Resort: Learning to Ski as a 50-something

Who doesn't love a day off of work or school to do something purely fun?  Bridger and I skipped school to have some mom/son time at the local ski resort near Beaver, Eagle Point.  

Bridge took a snowboarding lesson, and I spent most of the day working on my beginner level skiing techniques.  Notice I said "beginner level."  This day was my first day NOT wearing "adult learner" skis. I was excited to try things out at my own pace while Bridger was with a professional instructor.

I noticed our location was surrounded with signs marked with green circles, indicating beginner level trails. This was the place for me. The hills looked inviting and gentle, and so I began my first run. I do not know HOW I missed my chair lift, but later that morning, I found it, and cannot fathom how I missed it the first time. Apparently, I was lost in the moment ,and skied right past it.

Immediately, I thought I may be in trouble. I was heading for a narrow tunnel, and signs all around warned SLOW. How much slower could I ski? 

I snowplowed as best I could, and before I knew it, I was sailing down a narrow pathway. There was a sharp turn up ahead. I noticed there were no barricades, no markers, no soft cushy things to keep me on this trail around the curve, and I took note of the very steep drop off on the right side of the trail.  

I had been praying my quick, futile prayer for protection and safety, and before I knew it I was saying many words not appropriate for prayer. I'm not sure prayers sprinkled with such words are very effective.  I have a friend who assures me that God understands; but I have to wonder. I was scared to death.

Somehow I made it down the run, only wiping out once, and when I got to the bottom, the ski lift operator informed me I was his first customer of the day. I bet, I thought. I hadn't seen another soul on my death-defying adventure. I made it onto the lift without incident.
On the way up the hill, I enjoyed the view. The sun was just breaking over the tops of the pines on the eastern horizon. The air was crisp and cold and so very clean. I was lost in this Zen moment. 

But when I arrived at the top of the hill, nothing looked familiar. Where was the Skyline Lodge? Where were all of my friendly little green circle-marked trails? I was surrounded by trails marked INTERMEDIATE. 

The lift operator pointed and said I'd be fine going down THIS particular trail over here, even though it wasn't marked for beginners. Uh-huh. Like I had another option now that I was up here. 

And so began my second descent. Once again: snowplowing, sharp turns, narrow trails, and heart-stopping
scenery over the sides of the CLIFF I was skiing down.  I went as slowly as I could but occasionally gravity took over, and I went flying, uttering my profane prayers once again. When I finally got to the bottom of the very long trail, I knew better than to take the lift I'd just taken; there was another one just beyond it. That must be the one to take back from whence I came.

But alas, that was not to be. At the top of that chair lift there were black diamond (ADVANCED) trails and blue squares (INTERMEDIATE).  

"Um, where are the EASY trails?" I asked yet another unfamiliar ski lift operator. After discussing my predicament, his best suggestion was to take off my skis, hobble over to the parking lot beyond the restaurant, and wait for the shuttle to take me back to the top of the mountain. Whew. Relief was almost in sight. Unfortunately, walking in ski boots any distance is a very treacherous situation in which to find oneself, but provides entertainment for any onlookers in the vicinity.

It didn't help that I misunderstood his directions, and ended up in some homeowner's back yard. I could see the bright, yellow shuttle bus in the distance. I needed to hurry because I sure didn't want to miss my ride back to the world of EASY trails!  

As I hurried, I fell. More than once. Now my hands were freezing , and I was getting winded. It is not an easy feat to hurry in those infernal ski boots. If you've never worn ski boots, imagine running in leg casts. Yeah, your ankles don't flex, and your feet don't bend.  I moved like a spastic Frankenstein.

The bus driver seemed to be chuckling to himself as he told me his job is to direct inexperienced skiers to stay at the top of the mountain where all of the runs are easy. I didn't complain that the trails didn't seem all that well-marked to me, or I never would have ended up in this situation. I just ate my "crow," and let him take me back to safety.
For most of the remainder of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on my bunny hill. I practiced snowplowing, and traversing the face of the mountain on the steeper parts. 

I watched Bridger during his lesson from my elevated perch on the ski lift.  He looked like he was having fun, and he looked like he knew what he was doing. How nice to have someone with him who knows the trail system, I thought. 

We gave Bridger's teacher an hour break during lunch. Bridger must have thanked me a dozen times for bringing him to Eagle Point. The day was spectacular: blue skies, sunshine, and comfortably cool temperatures. The two of us ate pretty quickly, and Bridger suggested we ski until he had to meet back up with Kevin. 

It was fun to see what he was learning.  He only fell once during our run down the hill. You can imagine how impressed I was.

After lunch I enjoyed myself on some easy trails I hadn't tried. I skied into some powder (accidentallly, I might add), and a snow-laden pine tree branch slapped me in the face. When I went to push myself up, my arm dove through about three feet of snow, and I knew I would have to remove a ski.  

While trying to release the binding, I caught my ring finger in the binding. There was no way I could release it with my other hand. So I pulled it out with great pain. It hurts now to type with that poor bruised finger. 

At the end of the day, I decided to try one more intermediate run before I turned in my gear.  It was invigorating, and I didn't fall, but my muscles were screaming from the exertion. The non-beginner runs tend to be a lot longer and steeper. 

Eagle Point was not crowded, the staff was so friendly and helpful, and it is one of the most beautiful resorts I've ever had the privilege of skiing.  

Dylan, my 23-year-old snow boarder wanted to know if there were any steep trails. Oh, yeah. I'd seen them while in the shuttle bus on the way up the mountain. Sheer mountainsides full of moguls and powder. I told him they were steep enough that if I had to peer over the edge of one, I was sure I'd wet my pants! They look extreme to me. That's where the black diamond runs are. I'll leave them to Dylan and Jamie. 

For now, I'm perfectly happy on the beginner runs, and occasionally, an intermediate trail or two. What a great, great day.

Now I'm on a mission:  to get my own ski gear so there's more money for lift tickets!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

*Know You What It Is to Be a Child?

I wanted to capture the essence of this quote today as a light snow swirled outside our windowpanes. I pulled on my ski pants, a hat, warm socks and my snow boots. Before I put on my ski parka, I was sweating and wishing I weren't so hot. It brought back memories of pulling on those infernal rubber boots that had an elastic band clasp that pulled over a large plastic button. Those boots that I could never pull off without pulling off my inner shoe, too. I recalled snow days where it seemed it took hours for my brother and I to put on all of the clothes mom required. I called for Marley, and we set off for the back woods.

Our house sits on six acres of woods and open ground.  I love to walk along the path that leads to the creek.  In the spring, the aspen trees rustle with the slightest breeze.  But today, in the snow, there was only the muffled sound of my footsteps as I clomped along in the new dry snow that was dusting the old crusty snow from earlier in the week.  I love the silhouette of the greyish white winter branches against the sky.  Marley woofed at something unseen to me.  According the all of the tracks down below, we've had a lot of deer traffic.  I'm sure there are rabbits and occasionally turkey and squirrels. 

I lifted my face to the sky, letting snowflakes land on my cheeks and eyelashes.  I wanted to be present in this perfect winter moment.  I could hear the creek bubbling along under the frozen drifts of snow.  I peered through the willows to see the bare patches where the water had melted the snow.

Winter has not always been a season of pleasures for me.  I hated walking to class in the deep snows of Provo at Brigham Young University.  I hated the cancelled flights and the delayed travel plans coming and going during the holidays of those college times.  And then I discovered cross-country skiing after college.  I learned how to dress for the weather and discovered another universe dressed in white and surrounded by cold air and steamy breath.  I have learned to laugh at snowflakes with my children, to enjoy a good packing snow with youngsters at school.  I have enjoyed the challenges of downhill skiing during my mid-life.  Now that I'm 50, I am learning to enjoy all that life has to offer.  Every season, every time, every phase. 

Childhood is a good place to revisit.  We must get older...but we can choose whether we will get old.  I choose NOT.  I am loving this life and the variety each season offers me. 

*The Novice Skier; That Would Be Me!

When I woke up yesterday, I was calm and joyful. I did yoga, I journaled, I took down the Christmas tree. I was thrilled that I was going to get another chance to go skiing. I'd survived the humiliation of my horrible display of klutziness from several days ago.  My cheeks still redden with the memory of Last Week's Fiasco at Wolf Mountain.

When we got to Brianhead near Panguitch, the sun was shining and the temps were in the thirties. Perfect weather! Once again, I requested the adult learner skis. They were IDENTICAL to last week's skis: neon green and about the right length for perhaps an elf to use. I noticed an advantage today: lift operators slow down the chair lift for "we of the neon green skis." Ha ha! It made me laugh, but I was kind of grateful; I have a fear of wiping out coming off the chair lift.

I took pictures of the shadows down below the ski lift. To survive the runs down the hill, I just tried to replicate the movements of the advanced skiers, at a slower speed. I know sometimes skiers probably thought I was trying to outrace them, but honestly, a few times I just lost control, and couldn't quite get those tips to snowplow, and I just enjoyed my "flight."

So this week, my children are happy, their mom is happy, and I'm not operating from that dark place in my head. I've even figured out a supplement/medication regimen that allows me seven hours of sleep. And that helps immensely.

*Too Big for My (Ski) Britches

December 31, 2010

It has been such an odd holiday. Odd in that it has seemed perfect on so many levels that I have been puzzled when I'm not absolutely shivering with delight each and every moment. But my mood gets the best of me at times, and for the life of me, I can't just be grateful for everything that's right; my mind sneaks into the dark crevices around the edges, and suggests there are so many little things that aren't quite right, so let's focus on THOSE for a bit. And I do. And I become emotional, and I cry for no outwardly apparent reason.

I have loved the snow, before and after Christmas. I have loved spending time with my children. I have loved not having to work and having time off work. I have loved baking, and, oh, yes, the consequent eating. But let's not go there just yet; the added four and a half pounds is just the tip of the iceberg of one of those dark places my mind visits, and that makes things so much worse. The presents I gave seemed to be a hit, and the ones I received were so much more than I expected. I found joy in small moments; snuggling with Marley in bed, reading a lovely book about Dean Koontz's golden retriever, and enjoying the early morning hours when the house was lit only by the Christmas tree's glow.

Yes, yes, the whole holiday was practically magical. And yet. The only thing I can come up with when pondering my puzzling emotional state is that Sierra broke up with her boyfriend. And I don't understand it. 

That kid was perfect for ME. Everything looked wonderful to ME. He would be the perfect son-in-law for ME. 

Oh, yeah, but it's about HER this time; not me. And I could not quite wrap my head around the fact that I am not in control of my children, nor their choices, nor their future destiny. Hmm. Usually I am the QUEEN OF MY LIFE, and all of my subjects seem to bow to my every whim, and when they don't, I shake my head in amazement, and try to keep my mouth from gaping.

I woke up on Christmas Eve EVE, feeling blue. I wanted to talk to Sierra about it but it never seemed the right time. So we texted while watching Shrek the Halls with Bridger. Totally unsatisfactory, but that's what we did. Every time I questioned her actions, I realized they were not mine to question. She truly is an adult. A wonderful, mature, caring adult who is in control of her life. I must come to terms with the obvious; she gets to choose for herself, as I chose for myself. I am doing the best I can with what I know, and everyone else in my kingdom is doing the best they can with what they know. It's unfortunate that I no longer will have contact with the ex-boyfriend because circumstances have changed. It is very, very sad that he had such an emotionally draining holiday, but life goes on, and those two will find their own happily ever afters. I must let this go.

I realized this when I was sitting at the bank teller's window, and felt tears rolling down my cheek. That was two days I must back up and wallow in several of the dark crevice spots to which I referred.

The day before the unexpected tears hit, I'd been skiing for my third time. That morning I was horrified to discover that one just cannot cram an additional 17 pounds into a pair of ski pants that fit perfectly the previous season. Yes, I've gained some weight over the last year. And gained four and a half pounds more since this holiday began. 

That is a very terrifying prospect because I live in fear of being the extra-extra large woman I once was in 2000. And I'm well on my way. So I just balled up the too small ski pants and pulled on some comfy work out pants with lots of stretch. They'd be warm enough, right? 

Well, as we neared Wolf Mountain Ski Resort, I kept my eye on the outside temperature reading in the pickup. 23...17...14...11...I thought I'd be okay if the temps could stay in double digits.

I don't own my own equipment, so I waited for an hour and forty minutes outside, and then inside, the ski rental shop, which smelled remarkably like a high school boys' locker room. I had to record my height, and my astronomically high weight on paper for the teeny, tiny girl at the counter so she could help me get the right size boots and skis. 

I decided to stick with the "adult learner" skis. They weigh about a quarter of a ton, and are fluorescent green in color. 

"What? No vest with blinking lights? No warning beeps at intermittent intervals to alert other skiers in the area?" I joked. 

The ski tech looked out from behind his curtain of long hair, and said, "Well, that bright green color is enough, don't ya think?" 

So there is a class system here on the slopes of Utah: the real skiers, and the novices wearing the neon skis that are only about three feet long. The skis looked more like snow shoes than skis. 

I was so obviously a beginner. I couldn't even figure out how to open the boots to get my foot in; there was a secret latch hidden from view that only experts seem to know about, but I digress even more. Sorry.

My first pass down the hill was extremely FAST. Somehow I could not quite get the snowplowing technique right, and practically flew down the mountain. I'm pretty sure my wild eyes were hidden from view with my dark sunglasses, but I think everyone there knew "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" was simply an out-of-control adult learner trying to pass herself off as a skier. 

I did a lot of falling that day, and reattaching my boots to the bindings was so hard for me. After one bad tumble, I gathered up my unattached ski, and gallumphed and harumphed across the middle of the ski hill. I was near tears. My mind was jammed with so many jostling thoughts: my daughter's break up; my big, fat butt; my freezing cold legs crusted in ice and snow; my aching muscles screaming from each attempt to get back up after a fall. Everything was taking its toll on my psyche. It took everything I had to put that infernal ski back on, and try to keep in an upright position the rest of the way down the hill, and keep my tears from spilling, but I did it. 

We called it a day after that run, and I still had not cried about any of my troubles that were eating away at my peaceful serenity during this holiday.

So the next day, I found myself with tears streaming down my face at the bank window in the truck.  All of it hit me at once. I felt sad, and I didn't think I deserved that privilege. I should be HAPPY. My life was going great, sort of, except for feeling fat, and the loss of a potential son-in-law, and being a lousy skier.

During my massage that morning, it came to me; the Serenity Prayer.  

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  And that's all there is to it, really.  

The actions and choices of others are not within my control; it was time to accept those, and be done with them. I have the strength to lose this weight. I've been here before, and I can get through it once again. And again, if necessary. The wisdom part just comes so slowly to me, it seems. And so, my friends, this is the rather long story of my enlightenment over the holidays. Love me through this, please. I'm learning. Slowly, slowly learning, but learning nonetheless. 

I pray we'll all overcome our troubles this new year and become triumphant over our weaknesses. I want to love more deeply, and laugh even more than I already do. With the support of my friends, I know I'll live to tell about this with more of a smile in years to come.

Happy New Year to us all, dear ones.