Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Getting off of the DIEt Roller Coaster

Setting the Stage
My Personal Struggle with Body Image Part I

When I was born, my mother was told that I was underweight. Mom took this seriously and made sure that I put on weight before the next doctor's assessment. She didn't know anything about fat cells and how the rapid growth of these cells during infancy might doom your child to a struggle with life long weight control. It didn't help that in those days a chubby baby was considered cute, even healthier. Since I was bottle fed, overfeeding me was easy. Apparently, I liked eating from the get go. 

                                         My earliest baby photo was at taken 8 months. 

The next at 14 months. Apparently my parents were very busy with my older brother.

Fortunately, I grew out of that baby fat because I was a very active child. I loved to ride my tricycle and run around in general. Here is me, at the far right, a normal weight at age 6. My German country Oma next to me, would play a crucial part in my 50 year love/hate relationship with food. In the coming blogs I will talk about how obesity affected my self confidence and ultimately led to a multitude of diets and eating disorders. 

Were you a chubby, overweight baby? Did you have problems with overeating and weight control as a result? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Friends Forever


We met buying school supplies at the local mall. Running into each other more than once in our mission to get every thing that we needed, we smiled, then Shelley started up a conversation. My son was a year younger than her son and her daughter, a year younger than my son. Our children hit it off too. Shelley suggested we take a break and have coffee. During that time, we compared notes and found out we had much in common. We were both recovering from horrific motor vehicle accidents, caused by drunk drivers, where our survival was considered a true miracle. Both drivers of our vehicles were killed. For me, my fiance, for Shelley, her best friend.

Shelley told me about the aqua-size class she was attending that was helping her get her mobility back and recommended I join. Fortunately, I had a lot of time to take a fitness class since I was unemployed and lived with my parents. Later on, I was a self-employed seamstress working out of my home. Shelley and I attended the same aqua-size class for about 8 years. We also had coffee after class to socialize with other people we met there. Fun times!

Shelley despite her ordeal, was an outgoing, friendly person with a winning smile. She also had a great sense of humour and called a spade a spade. Everyone loved her. I, on the other hand, have always been an introvert and the aftermath of my accident made me even more so. I was extremely overweight and had a marked limp. Shelley accepted me the way I was and never criticized. She understood. Without Shelley, my life would have been very boring and I would have not regained my walking ability or my self-confidence as easily.

Today, after 21 years, Shelley and I are still friends. So are our children. We no longer live in the same area or even in the same country, but those experiences that brought us together continue to provide a connection. The most important thing we have in common is a faith in God. We believe God gave us a second chance for a reason.
Shelley and I, 2012

Shelly and her mom, reunion lunch with friends.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Reflections on Turning 60

Time to grow up? 

In some ways, you do begin your second childhood when you enter your 60's.  Rather than being focused on what other people think of you, you become more interested in having some fun again. Another kick at the can, so to speak. On the other hand, if your parents are still living, you can no longer lean on them with your problems, expect them to bail you out. The roles have switched. You are now the caregiver, looking out for their safety and well being. For me, it made me feel like I was truly an adult. I was totally responsible for my own life, with the added responsibility of caring for my parents. 

When I was young, I thought 60 was ancient. You were considered past your prime, over the hill, a senior, an old bag etc. Now that I have reached that milestone, I honestly don't feel all that different. Certainly not old! A few aches and pains, a bit of memory loss, but I still have my curiosity, the drive to learn new things, intact. I enjoy talking to people of all ages, learning their history, story, valuable information. If I don't experience it first hand, the internet has made it possible to connect with people from all over the world. The isolation and loneliness of my youth has long been banished. I am of the generation that may have initially sworn off using new technology. I did. That included microwave cooking, ATM use, computers and then the dreaded Smartphone. Now, I embrace them all. Microwaves, not so much because of the possible effects on food chemistry. I love digital photography. Being able to view, edit and share images in minutes is very exciting.

I must admit that turning 60 this May, put me in a bit of a funk. I even went off Google for a while. I was depressed. I thought of all the projects I hadn't finished and probably wouldn't complete, all the things that I may never do. Teaching overseas for one. I had started an English course to that end and withdrew. I usually don't give up easily. Over 20 years ago, I had to put my teaching career on hold due to a car accident that left me unemployable for 3 years. After 26 job interviews, the last 3 years ago to teach in Abu Dhabi, I had to except the fact that I was never going to get another teaching job. Thankfully, the United Arab Emirates position fell through.  I wouldn't have been able to help my parents, keep them in their lovely home and country property they worked so hard to build and landscape. I would have also had a more stressful life  as a day care supervisor and would been away from my son, who still needed me. 

What lies ahead? Based on the example of my parents, friends and relatives, life can be enjoyed as long as you keep a positive outlook and live a healthy lifestyle. Don't focus on the negative aspects of aging. Get out and smell the roses, the woods, immerse yourself in new hobbies and interests. Read a good book that not only entertains, but teaches you something about history, other cultures. Plunking yourself in front of the TV, becoming a couch potato, will shorten your life and you won't really live anyway. You will just come to exist. Nourish your friendships and value your family ties. It is people that make life worthwhile. Above all, have faith!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Why I write about Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Violence in the home between partners is not about to go away. Just over the past holiday season, there were several incidents in Alberta involving deaths. One case, stemming from a marital breakup, was so horrific the headlines read "Worst Mass Murder in History" 

In an affluent neighborhood in Edmonton, a separated spouse went on a rampage, killing his wife, two of his children and some of his wife's relatives. He later took his own life. In total, nine lives were lost. The wife may have felt safe because she had a restraining order against her abusive husband. Neighbors later reported hearing a lot of shouting coming from the house. The bottom line is, if a partner threatens to kill you, get out of that house.

The judicial system, the police, can't protect you 24/7. If someone wants to kill you, they won't give up easily. Abusers get extremely angry when forcibly removed from their homes and often feel they have nothing else to lose. They won't just kill you, they may also kill your new partner, relatives, even your children. No house or job is worth your life.

The reason I left my husband, my house, a teaching position and the city I lived in for 16 years, is because I took my husband's threats seriously. I also had a young son to protect who was only a toddler at the time. I have a true story to share that made me realize this was the only safe option.

I got quite close to one of my students, who I will name Susan. I took Susan out for dinner as a thank you for working with me to run a school snack shop. That evening, Susan was wearing a stunning red suit and I remarked how nice she looked in it. Susan told me it had belonged to her deceased older sister, Debbie. Then she calmly related the story of her sister's murder. Debbie had been shot to death by her husband with a shotgun while she sat in a living room chair. Her husband was in a drunken rage when he came home at three in the morning and discovered she was packing up to leave him. Their toddler son was sleeping in a crib in another room. Debbie's neighbor, a mother of 3 children, was helping her at the time. Her husband also shot the neighbor lady to death. Susan's nephew ended up being raised by her parents. Needless to say, Susan's story about her sister was shocking, but also a revelation to me about my own domestic situation.

If you are in an abusive relationship and fear for your safety, be cautious when you decide to leave. Do not move in with known friends or relatives, it puts them at risk. Leave secretly while your partner is at work or out of town. A women's shelter can only help you for so long. Leaving the area is your best option. Severing ties with in-laws may also be necessary to keep you safe. An abuser is not going to change without professional help. 

You can read my personal story in more detail in an interview with Gill Andrews
There you an can also find an infographic detailing 7 signs you are in an abusive relationship.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Why it is more Important to be Kind than to be Right


Some people believe "honesty is the best policy", which in most cases is true. Some people, though, use that information in a hurtful way and then throw it in your face if you get upset. Then they add insult to injury, by saying they were just being honest!  If you really care for people, you don't do that.

There are kinder ways to give pointers to someone and remain truthful. Pause before responding. Think about how you can say something in a way that respects the other person's feelings. Some people are more sensitive than others. It is easier to communicate face to face where body language can be read. How many relationships are ruined by texting in anger and haste, where messages are often misunderstood? If you have to rely on emails or texts, at least take the time to clarify meaning.  

Then are the soapbox people that have to rant and voice their opinion. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, just don't expect everyone to agree with you. Publicly humiliating someone, on Google+ for example, even when you feel wronged and in the right, is never OK. Then blocking the person, so they don't have a chance to defend themselves, is just plain nasty!

It all comes down to being respectful and having good manners. I am sometimes guilty of foot-in-the-mouth disease because I want to be honest. I was raised in an environment where much criticism was offered and it is still an 
ongoing thing in my family.

I want to break that habit in my own life, especially being kind to the people I love. I once read that you should treat family, loved ones, like company. Often we treat those closest to us poorly, with unkind remarks, because we think we can get away with it. Even if someone is rude to you, rise above it, don't take it personally and choose to be kind! Sometimes the best thing is to say is nothing at all, just listen.

Friday, 26 December 2014

What Makes a Good Friendship?

I want to start off with stating what is not a healthy friendship. Some people drain the lifeblood out of you, They are always negative. Their story is the worst one ever, and your problems can not possibly compete with their's. They will monopolize the conversation and not really listen to what you have to say. It is almost like they have an addiction to sympathy and a "poor me" way of thinking. Basically, these people are self-absorbed and have nothing to give. You begin to feel that the relationship is one-directional. OK, everyone has some baggage, unresolved issues, but if there is no effort for self-improvement, these people remain stuck. Their misery will start to effect your personal happiness. I call these people "takers".

Another type of person to avoid are the well meaning people that want to make you their make-over project. I call them the "control-freaks".They say they have your best interests at heart, give you criticism to "expand your horizons" and lend you advice you did not ask for. They pretty much think they are smarter than you and have all the answers. In reality, their own lives are a mess and it makes them feel better to fix yours, because you are much worse off than they are. (sarcasm) In this "friendship" you always feel like you aren't good enough, that you can never live up to that person's expectations.

What will ultimately kill any friendship? Jealousy! No one can be a true friend if they are not happy for you and your accomplishments. Feeling superior to you, keeps everything just perfect from their point of view. They are often the type that confide their problems to you in hopes that you will spill the beans to them.This personal information becomes juicy gossip that they can pass on to their other friends. They feel important that they have the latest info to thoroughly make you look bad. Of course,they are free to embellish or even invent a story, just to be the center of attention.Trust is big component to a friendship and once breached, can not be easily regained.

With that said, the chances of finding true friends appears bleak. But once found, friends are precious gems to be nurtured and cherished. The people in my life I consider good friends become lifelong relationships and are not superficial. Age, distance, cultural background, race, gender, occupation, education and economic status, do not present a barrier. Even after a long period of no contact, that person still has a place in my heart.

So many people are satisfied with their own little cliques and do not allow new people in. They are afraid to lose their position of influence and do not like change. Being open to new relationships keeps life exciting. Everyone has some knowledge, insight to offer. A friend is not a clone, mini-me. It is an individual that has their own opinions. Friends respect differences and accept you the way you are. I like to say I am a work in progress and I try not to judge others where they are at in their journey. However, feelings need to be mutual. You can't make someone like you and not everyone will want to be your friend. Move on, there is a whole world of people out there!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Don't Take Critcism Too Personally Part 2

In my first blog, I wrote about how criticism effected me growing up and as an adult. I must have inadvertently given my son the same treatment, the critical, negative comments, because now he is doing it back to me! It has made me more aware of my own habit of criticizing without much thought about how it effects the other person.

In the latest chapter of my life, I am looking after my elderly parents. When I lived in Germany, I got to know my maternal grandmother better. That relationship made me realize where my mother got the critical personality from. Just recently, I asked my mother about it when she delivered another one of her zingers to me. I forget what it was about because it is an ongoing thing. My mother is 90, I love her, and I never would want to disrespect her. She answered that she meant no harm by the comment, that it was just an observation and that in her home growing up, everyone did it. I mentioned to her that she had complained to me about some of the hurtful things that her mother had said to her as a child. Because my mother has dementia, she remembers some things better than ever, others not at all. Now she speaks of her mother as if she had been a saint.

The main point I was trying to make is that you can't change other people. They sometimes even get worse with age. You have no control what comes out of their mouths. I am speaking about adults here. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to treat others with respect. What we can do is to consider the source, recognize that people are just having a bad day and that they are going to be negative with everyone. Don't let someone that is not happy with their life bring you down. When students attempted to do that to me as a teacher, once I got to the point of not taking it personally, I would smile and ask them if they were having a bad day. 99% of the time that was the case.

There are people out there that purposely try to hurt you. That was the evident in my first marriage. My advice, get out! Don't put up with abuse from anyone.

Ultimately, you are only responsible for your own actions and behavior. You can't rescue someone who has had an abusive childhood. You can't make someone else happy and you shouldn't stay in a relationship because you feel sorry for that person. The choice of taking criticism personally, is yours!