Scarlett’s Letter August 5, 2013

I re-read my own article on self-esteem. I determined that I need to go to rehab. No, not what you’re thinking, but I do need to rehabilitate some of my healthy practices in order to maintain my healthy self-esteem.

I have fallen “off program” a bit lately, with work-related travel to New York City, immediately followed by a two-week vacation to Alaska, followed by a mourning period of returning to my “normal” life after two weeks in NYC and two weeks in Alaska. Then there was the birthday celebration, which lasted for a week. Or two. And, wow, it’s August and I’m feeling a little pudgy, lethargic and have caught myself with a few self-critical thoughts and actions as a result. Like calling myself “muffin top” in the mirror and patting my belly and going “ugh”. I don’t like the way my jeans are fitting and I can still only do twelve push-ups. My goal is 100. And there is that full marathon coming up in December.

So back on track. I am making an effort to read thirty minutes of self-esteem bolstering material a day. I am currently in the middle of “How to Light Up a Room: 55 Techniques to Help You Increase Your Charisma, Build Rapport, and Make People Like You” by Kate Kennedy. I’m on technique #37.  I’ve also decided to make an effort to study for at least thirty minutes a day for a professional certificate I hope to obtain to allow me a bit more flexibility career-wise in the next few years. And, of course, I have vowed to mend my wicked ways, as follows:

  1. One serving of bread per week
  2. One dessert per week
  3. One adult beverage per day
  4. Portion control
  5. Detox

I love bread. Who doesn’t? But when I was busy shedding those fifty unwanted pounds and plateaued, by eliminating my daily serving(s) of bread and replacing it/them with whole grains like quinoa or bulgur, I immediately dropped another fifteen pounds. My daughter has suffered from eczema on her legs for much of her life. When she moved in with me over the summer between college semesters, she also gave up bread and her eczema immediately and permanently disappeared. There is definitely something to the bread intensive American diet that has many of us on the brink of dietary destruction. I would rather enjoy one exquisite piece of bread per week than loaves and loaves of ordinary bread and the related health consequences.

Dessert. Ditto. One amazing dessert per week is so much more worth it than a bunch of mediocre sweets that only destroy my well-intended efforts everywhere else. Total elimination of treats is a prescription for failure and complete denial is always only temporary. But looking forward to, anticipating and planning for that one, epic, epicurean dessert delicacy makes the whole experience so much better. And with good results, too.

Number three. We’ll see. Who am I kidding? Maybe one beer and one wine per day. To start. Hmph.

Portion control. I’ve got this under control. I don’t do seconds. What is it with seconds? Did it not taste good enough the first time? Eating more of something doesn’t make it better, it makes it overeating. And as far as portion size goes, I buy my lean protein servings and simply repackage them into four-ounce servings and freeze them individually. As for everything else; I use itty-bitty bowls. A portion of most foods should not exceed in size, the size of your fist. Hopefully you don’t have mutant, jolly green giant fists. My itty-bitty bowls eliminate any guesswork there. If it fits in the bowl, it is likely a reasonable serving, unless it is a serving of caramel and fudge with whipped cream and marshmallow topping. Ew, anyway. But still, I seem to be overeating. My dinner plate is mostly vegetables, but I have been eating to the point beyond feeling full and that should never be. I need to learn to cook only as many vegetables as I can fit into my little bowl, but, it is hard to get the large variety of veggies I like to fit into a tiny portion. Something to work at.

Detox. I need to detox my thoughts and my self-speak. I have caught a few self-critical thought sneak by, I have slipped out of living in the “now”, now and then, and I have had less than wonderful sleep cycles lately, being plagued with stupid insecurities, petty and fruitless anxieties and annoying song lyrics for a few hours per night when I should be in dream cycles so HGH can naturally release into my bloodstream. Focusing once again on meditation, yoga, cardio and living in the present is a sure cure for all that ails me here.

So, after my run, and my glass of wine, I am going to read a chapter or two in my book, maybe write a little, and nestle down for a restful night’s sleep. Rehab isn’t so bad.


My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!
My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!


To Change or Not to Change

Life is never exactly the way we imagined it, sometimes things are better than we ever imagined, sometimes, they aren’t. We’ve chatted a bit about fear and we’ve chatted a bit about change. To recap, ditch fear, embrace change, it’s as simple as that. Okay, simply said, harder to employ.

The real question comes up when deciding if something in life that isn’t quite all we imagined should be changed, or just left alone, accepted “as is”, and a compromise made. There are many things in life, especially those things we yearn for, try really hard for, think about, work towards, envision, focus on, concentrate on and visualize, and when it comes to be, isn’t nearly what we envisioned or visualized. I think sometimes our imaginations are so good, the imagined outcome ends up being far superior to the real deal. So, when this happens, do we seek to change it? Or accept it for what it is? And if we do, is this a compromise? If we don’t accept it for what it is, are we ungrateful?

This dilemma can apply to very big things in life, and to very small matters. The point is, change is not always easy and we often accept less, compromise, because it is easier than shifting gears and initiating very necessary change. We are afraid of the amount of effort to change versus the actual reward.  Again, ditch fear, embrace change. Simpler to say, harder to employ.

A seemingly small change I’ve made recently, at least small to most, but huge for me; I have always hade love/hate relationships with purses. I buy a purse and think we’ll be together forever. A week later, I hate it and in “the pile” it goes. “The pile” has recently been pared down to two boxes, with the last move. Two boxes of beautiful purses I can make myself carry for a day or two because of the color, the pattern, the size or some other temporarily tolerable benefit. After a couple of days, back in the box it goes and out comes the ONE and only purse I have ever truly loved. If you’ve paid any attention to my pictures or videos, you’ve probably seen the ONE purse I have truly loved; my Kandee Johnson Imoshion bag in leopard print vegan material.

My leopard bag was designed by Kandee Johnson, a YouTube entertainer/mom/professional make up artist. She has incredible style, a ton of practicality, great fashion sense and knows how, exactly, a real purse should be designed. Imoshion approached Kandee and asked her to design the bag of her dreams and the result, my beloved purse. There was some minor hysteria over a contest to win one, then more hysteria over ordering from the first limited batch, then more hysteria over ordering one from the extended batch after the first batch sold out immediately. Through some hysterics of my own, and by employing every family member with internet acumen to attempt to obtain one online (the only way they could be purchased), I finally persevered, and only because I was willing to set my alarm at some unholy hour and attempt placing an online order when the web traffic was a bit more manageable. I’ve had my Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard bag for just over a year. I have never, ever, ever, ever, completely worn a purse out. Ever. Until now. It is, literally, in tatters.

To clarify, this is a very high quality bag, but, I am brutally punishing to any bag I carry, and one I carry day and night, on my business trips, crammed under airplane seat after airplane seat, set upon the floor in every imaginable condition, carried untold miles holding a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, make up, a leather jacket, a wallet, an umbrella, a cardigan, a water bottle, snackage, electrical cords for various devices and even, occasionally, a bottle of wine, and weighing in at probably well over thirty pounds, is bound to die an earlier death than a bag that sees only occasional, light duty use.

As I prepared for my month-long excursion from California to New York, to New Jersey and on to Alaska, I eyed my sorry leopard bag. When I left home just over a week ago, it had a tear in the bottom, the pink satin lining was peeking through a half-inch round hole. The lovely turquoise tassel is long gone, the cross-body shoulder strap still looks brand new, but comes unclipped at the most inopportune time, usually when burdened with the most weight imaginable. The zipper at the top is busted so the bag is always gaping wide open to display its contents. The leopard printed “vegan” material actually wore thin in several areas and looks blurred. The metal studs were vanishing at an alarming rate. I eyed my poor bag and wondered if a) it would survive one more very long, very hard trip and b) would I look like a homeless person carrying it, especially to and from the clients’ office? I ploughed through all my other bags and decided a trip without this purse would be intolerable.

I have been routinely checking in with Imoshion to see if they’d be stocking any more Kandee Johnson leopard print vegan material bags and I would have willingly bought one, two, three. In every color. Furthermore, I get so many compliments on this bag, I could easily have sold another 1,000 bags had they been available for sale! But, the website perpetually said “Out of Stock”. I finally emailed them from the website contact form and told them about my relationship with my bag. They kindly replied, suggesting I follow them on Facebook for upcoming news. I have followed Imoshion on Facebook since the prototype giveaway over a year ago. So, I set them as a favorite, now every little photo and blurb Imoshion makes about every OTHER product they carry, creates a notification on my iPhone, which, frankly, is driving me crazy. Crazier, even, because none of the notifications have anything at all to do with the availability of a replacement for my beloved bag.

This weekend, in New York, the half-inch hole in the bottom of the exterior of the purse finally wore through to the interior, making a “clear through” hole out of which my treasures could tumble. The leopard printed “vegan” finish was peeling off like a bad sunburn. The bag was, really, almost nauseating to look at. I checked the Imoshion website one more time. “Out of Stock”. I caved. I went to Fossil and plopped down three times what my Kandee Johnson bag cost for a new bag. And it was on sale. At first, I was thrilled, more because the color was amazing, and it was genuine leather (sorry vegans). Mostly, though, because the nice salesman at the Fifth Avenue Fossil store found a way to embellish my “tote” with the cute gold key that “only came on the purse”. So, my bag is unique compared to others “exactly” like it. He had nice eyes, too, for the record.

I’ve been carrying my new bag for just over twenty-four hours and it is a major adjustment. I have a “system” when I move into a new bag so it will be easy to find things, I will use the same pockets for the same things. Always. Once I’ve “set up” a new bag for the first time, everything has a place and everything is always in its place. I am not one of those women who can’t find things in my purse. Well, about 99% of the time, anyway. This is a huge adjustment for me. I can switch domiciles more easily than I moved out of my beloved leopard bag into my new Fossil bag. After the first trip down a NYC street with it, realizing I could no longer carry a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, my leather jacket, an umbrella, a cardigan, a full water bottle and all the things a purse is supposed to carry, I remarked to my daughter that I was going to hate the bag. Soon. Of course she laid “dibs” on it.

Today was the first day I carried it to work, and, well, it worked. I did get the cardigan in. And a small water bottle. When I walked into my hotel in New Jersey, though, and both the ladies at the front desk exclaimed excitedly over my bag, I fell a little in love with it. It garnered nearly as much attention as my leopard bag, which, by the way, I can’t bear to throw away. It is in a carrier bag, carefully tucked in my one of my overstuffed suitcases. I will take it home, I suppose, and decide upon an appropriate ceremony and internment for it. Sigh.

I know this seems like much ado over a handbag, but I suppose many of you just don’t understand the depth of the relationship I hold with such an item. We travel hundreds of thousands of miles together; it is, truly, the one constant in my life. Always there. My friends, my family, my possessions, are with me only here or there. My bag is with me at all times, never more than a few feet away. Change was very hard, and I am still a little uncertain, but, I’m afraid there is no going back, at this point.

So, what in your life, big or small, has deteriorated to the point where you really should consider making a change? There are other things in my life that are warranting similar consideration. Truthfully, there should always be a LIST of things in our lives that are up for consideration. A list of things far more serious than a handbag; career, living situation, relationships of all types, fitness, health, diet, spirituality, attitude, social life. To name a few. If any of these facets, or any other facets of your life are less than spectacular, aren’t measuring up, have finally worn through and become tattered, it is not only okay to consider change, it is acceptable to seek change. In fact, necessary is the more appropriate word.

We should not be settling for less when we know in our hearts, in our souls, and in the deepest corners of our minds, that we deserve more. Sure, the superficial voice may tell us we don’t, but our true voice knows better and should speak up. We deserve more. An unfulfilling career, a relationship that is one-sided or languishing, whether a union, a love affair, a friendship or a family tie, our broken health, diet or fitness habits, or whatever else in life that is sub-par, should be rectified, reevaluated, rejuvenated or sent off to the recycling pile and replaced. And, yes, some of these things are easier to change than others, but they should be changed and you should be initiating that change. You need to finally decide it’s time to get a new handbag, especially if the old one can’t be made whole. And, yes. It is scary!

You should have seen me yesterday, with the contents of my leopard bag spilled all over the hotel bed. The carcass of the leopard bag by my side, the hot pink satin lining visible from every open pouch and pocket, looking a lot like blood from many incisions, like after an autopsy. I sat there amidst piles of lip color and coin purses, wallets and device cords, hair ties, batteries, SD cards, various small personal electronic gadgets, an umbrella and a half dozen reusable Whole Foods shopping bags (the really good kind with the amazing prints that cost $4 and support a worthy cause and have a single cross-body strap). I was a little distraught; how was I going to fit this into my new large, more expensive, but somehow smaller and less capable bag? I would have to adapt. I have already begun. I actually felt quite a bit better carrying my new bag today; I felt that my image is improved for finally replacing my tattered bag with a new one. I had a little spring in my step today that wasn’t there yesterday, like I was saying, without words “look at me and my new bag!” It is going to work out and the change will have been the right decision.

What other scary changes need to be considered, and made, in order to move forward in better condition, in a better direction, with more confidence, with improved self-worth and self-esteem? What other scary decisions will leave you shaky and uncertain at first, but happy and whole, after a brief period of adjustment? You will never know the good that awaits unless you are willing to evaluate changes to that which you are carrying around, full of holes, worn bare and thin, weighting your down with excess and compromising your (self) image. What are you hanging on to that could be replaced with something more serviceable, more rewarding, more fulfilling? Only you know and only you can identify and initiate what needs to change, and I guarantee, no one is immune from having something in their life ripe for change. We just fail to see it, or fear the outcome. It is time to ditch fear and embrace change. You deserve it.

My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
A change has been made. The new bag.
A change has been made. The new bag.


I’ll Eat What I Want

I am moving in with Mom.

Mom is 89 and says “I’ve lived a long, full life, I’m going to eat whatever I want.” Which means, cookies, ice cream, chips, cheese, crackers, etc.

I’m going to be 50 and I’m hoping to preserve myself so that I, too, may enjoy a long, full life, so I’m going to eat whatever I want. Which means all organic, kale, quinoa, sprouted grain breads, on occasion, and nothing that contains enriched flour, refined sugar, hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, or anything overly processed.

Somehow, we are going to coexist in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

I don’t keep on hand things I shouldn’t eat; cookies, ice cream, chips, cheese, crackers, etc. Mom stocks up whenever there is a sale, a coupon, or both.

Mom, always the gracious entertainer, will, when I visit, offer me, repeatedly, the things I should not eat. She knows full well I don’t want to eat them, yet she offers, relentlessly. Over Christmas, I spent a few days with her, I finally told her she was like a drug pusher, but with enriched flour and refined sugar! “What, do you work for Gold Medal and Spreckles?”

My mom is frugal, buying what is on sale, that for which there is a coupon in the paper, and certainly nothing “unnecessarily” expensive, like organic produce, free-range chicken and cage free eggs, and grass fed, hormone free meat. She chides me for my excessive spending on things like organic produce, free-range chicken and cage free eggs, and grass fed, hormone free meat. I contend that by investing in wholesome food now, I am warding off expensive medical care and prescriptions later. I call this the “Whole Foods Standoff”, and I’m not sure exactly how a winner will be determined, except that it’s going to be determined after one, the other, or both of us pass into the next life.

Mom always asks me whether this particular food, or that particular food are on “my diet”. I’m not on a diet. This is how I eat. A diet is something you do for a measured period of time to change a condition; usually how much you weigh (and, I contend, water weight), but sometimes some other undesired medical condition. When you have been choosing to eat kale and quinoa and organic food for over two years, that is not a diet, but a way of life. For some reason, I let this get to me, “is this on your diet?”

Mom used to go on diets, every week. Occasionally, I think they lasted a full week, once or twice, maybe even two. I can tell you what night of the week it is by what lands on the dinner table based on the Scarsdale Diet. I have my thoughts about diets, and I think they are backed up with a mountain of evidence gathered by reasonably intelligent people over the course of many years. They don’t work and, in fact, end up making you fatter. Perhaps that’s why the word enrages me so.

I lost fifty pounds. It took me a year and a half. I’ve kept most of it off and the only reason a little crept back on was because of my busy travel season, which makes eating organic and working out nearly impossible for the last few months of the year, which, coincidentally, are the holidays, when no one on the planet is eating anything remotely healthy. I am so relieved to back to a more normal schedule, still with travel, but not constant. I can work out regularly and eat normally and be a bit more comfortable in my size sixes. Though I’m shooting for a size four this year. I don’t care what I weigh, really, I care what I wear. As long as I don’t weigh more than my boyfriend. Every time he says he’s going to lose ten pounds I get real antsy.

This brings up another point. When I shunned my size eights for my size sixes, Mom suggested I hang on to my size eights, just in case (what did I say about those “diets”?). Um, no. I’ve worked really, really hard, I’ve invested heavily in sweat and in dollars to get to size six. Size eight cannot be an option. If the size sixes start feeling snug, I had better buckle down, because I shop at Buckle, and if I don’t, it will be a huge economic hardship to return to size eight. And thus a deterrent, but not as much of a deterrent as losing face.

I hate to admit this, but I don’t always have the willpower necessary to stay out of trouble. I’m an all or nothing. If it’s there, I’m going to eat it all, so my only option is to make sure there is nothing, as in, don’t buy it. This is why Mom’s shopping habits concern me. She will buy several cartons of ice cream, at one time, if they are on sale. She will buy all that the coupon allows, or as much as will fit in her freezer. I am quite happy the extra freezer in the garage died. Less ice cream. When I buy ice cream, and I do, on occasion, I pay way too much for just a little. I’ll buy a pint and I’ll eat the whole thing, if not in one sitting, then within the day. This usually occurs as a reward for running twenty miles or something that makes me feel outrageously deserving. But, as long as that pint of ice cream is in the freezer, it is the only thing on my mind. Let’s not even get started on Oreos, which, by the way, are almost always on sale, somewhere, and so, in endless supply at Mom’s.

I go way back with Oreos. There used to be a copper chafing dish on the back counter in Mom’s kitchen. Early in the morning, my dad would get up, go downstairs, make coffee, and take it up for he and my mom to enjoy in bed while listening to the news on the radio. While the coffee was percolating, he would quietly remove the lid of the copper chafing dish and remove three Oreos from the package hidden therein. He’d eat them. Only three. At some point in my childhood, I became aware of this secret stash of sweetness. As soon as I could reach the chafing dish I was raiding the Oreo stash on a regular basis. The unspoken rule was that there had better be three left in the morning when Dad came down to make coffee. Somehow, my entire childhood, I managed to look freakishly malnourished in spite of my eating habits. At some point after marriage, pregnancy, I think, this all caught up with me.

So, the exodus back to my childhood home, where my bad habits were learned and supported, is going to be an exercise in sheer will and determination. To further challenge me is the fact that not one of the three gyms I belong to are in my home town. They are near enough by that I cannot cancel my memberships, but in every case, they are in a neighboring county requiring significant highway travel and unpredictable traffic. I love my gyms, I consider them a refuge. When I am in need of motivation, when I am feeling weak and need some inspiration, I head to the gym. An hour of cardio, a good, sweaty class, and my purpose and motivation are returned.

I know it all sounds pretty hopeless, but, you know what? I can do this. If I can lose fifty pounds by changing my lifestyle and not by surgery or fad diet, I can do anything. I can certainly learn to maintain my lifestyle in less than favorable conditions, I mean, I guess I already do. I travel a great deal of the time, for work, and I eat in restaurants more often than not. And I have managed to only fluctuate about ten pounds, and keep the size sixes “business appropriate”. Barely.

So, when you spot me in Buckle, rest assured, I’m not there buying size eights, I’m there to buy size fours! And I’ll eat what I want in order to achieve that goal.