My Weight Loss Progress

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Book Reviews: Dewey 400--Languages

Books on language, grammar, and usage. (English)

A Man of My Words : Reflections on the English Language,  by Lederer, Richard, 1938- ; New York : St. Martin's Press, 2003. 

My favorite of this month's non-fiction, A Man of My Words was both entertaining and highly educational. Lederer explores the vagaries of English language, grammar and usage with a delightful mix of example (as in the case of puns), explanation, definition, and even controversy.  I recommend this book for anyone interested in the joy of words as well as for the dedicated "verbivore."

The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Publishedby Skinner, David, 1973-New York, NY : Harper, [2012], ©2012

This book had an interesting take on the history of dictionary publishing. I felt a bit like you do when you take a class and somehow skipped the prerequisite introductory class. It was explaining names and events that seemed to presume a familiarity, but with which I have no familiarity.

I might have stuck with it if I had not gotten thoroughly immersed in "A Man of My Words" and switched almost entirely to reading it instead, along with some non-fiction. 

bull.shit [boo'l-shit] a lexicon by Mark Peters, New York : Three Rivers Press, [2015]

This book was full of short entries explaining the background of many words and phrases that mean nonsense, horse manure, and, well (please excuse my language) bullshit.  It was entertaining for a little while, but I did not feel that I was learning much. The book had the adolescent tone of a boy who is throwing out swear words just because he can, hoping for some shock value or at least entertainment, all the while justifying his use of them by their legitimate meanings.  

French learning programs

Starting out in French, New York : Living Language, [2008] 

This was the easiest to use in the car. With no booklets required, I could just drive around and repeat the phrases and practice my accent. The french part is pronounced by a native speaker.  I like the way it simply explained the meaning of words in a conversation, as they are used. Maybe later it gets into the spelling or historical background--I never got past the first CD because I don't drive that much.

French complete course the basics.
New York: Living Language/Random House, p2005.

Because it required the booklets, it was not as efficient for learning while driving. The first CD's seemed to be mainly lists of words to say after the speaker, with no meaning given. Since I am not entirely a beginner, I was able to understand and repeat most of them, but it seemed like a pointless exercise. I never got past the first few lessons.

French/English Dictionaries

Concise Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary : French-English, English-French Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press ; [Paris] : Hachette Livre, 2009.

This, among the three French dictionaries I found, was the most useful. It had more words and a very nice layout.

750 French Verbs and Their Uses, by Mathy, Jean-Philippe. 
New York : Wiley, c1992.]

This was somewhat useful. Like any French/English dictionary, it is much more helpful if you know the root verb you are seeking.
Harrap's everyday French and English dictionary.  New York : McGraw-Hill, c2009.

This was okay, and easy to use. I just found that for myself, I liked the other one better.

What has changed about my motivation?

I've worked out before, but as other things come pressing in, it becomes less important how I look in my clothes.  This time around is different. I started avoiding mirrors, or at least the reality I saw in them. I was busy, living my life, and did not have time to worry about all that. I'm in my fifties, in school, working, and letting things go.

When reality hit, it hit hard. It wasn't about looks or self-esteem. It was about health.

In July of 2015, I caught a weird virus that affected my nervous system and threw me into almost instant vertigo. Within two days all I could do was crawl and vomit. It was horrible, not a nightmare I would wish on anyone.  As I began to heal, I had to walk with a walker for a while and do physical therapy to regain my balance.  I was fortunate; except for a slight loss of hearing, I have recovered very well.

In November, we moved. It was exhausting!  I kept pushing through the fatigue until I hit crash point. My husband wanted to drive part way to our new city at the end of our last day of packing and cleaning. I just looked at him, and I said, "I'm done. I can't drive tonight. I'm so done I can't even drive up to the office and turn our apartment keys in."  Though he was disappointed, he took care of the keys, took me to dinner, and found us a hotel.  We hadn't even left town!

Late November or early December, I tripped at the end of a driveway and fell.  I got up and made my way to my car. I cried for a minute, talked myself into being brave, and drove home. I never even told the homeowner I fell. I just wanted to get home to my safe little place.

Within days I was at the doctor's office getting both my knee and wrist checked out. Neither were broken, fortunately, but both took plenty of time to heal.  In fact, my knee is not healed yet, and may never be.

That fall was a wake-up call. I had to take it easy for a while, and going to visit and play with my grandchildren was physically difficult. Their parents don't drive, but we rented a car while we were there. Still, we took a train one day, and went shopping, and I was in awe over how trim and fit my daughter-in-law was, just from walking regularly--taking her children to school, getting to work, doing her grocery shopping--she looked great!

I don't expect to look like a 30-year-old. I don't expect to feel like one. But that fall told me something very important. It told me how much a little thing can affect my quality of life just because I'm so out of shape.  When all the extra 75-100 pounds of me went down face first, that's a great deal of pressure on the parts I landed on.  I mean, I thought I was doing okay from walking so much while in school, but the eating habits and lack of regular exercise after graduating all caught up to me as I lay there on the ground taking stock of whether I could even get up.

It's not just about my cholesterol and blood pressure, though they are high. It's not just about my thyroid and depression, or even balance or lack thereof.  It's about the potential damage.  When I fell down, there was nothing to stop me, and little muscle tone so I could catch myself and absorb the shock to my joints.It's about the total picture of my life. Health. Looks. How I feel about myself. Accident prevention.  I don't know; I guess it was just the last straw.

I know I can't reverse aging.  I can, hopefully, slow down its progress--or at the very least enjoy the process with less fear of health issues.  It's about being able to fully be me. I don't know how to express how deeply it hit me this time, but it's a far deeper motivation that how I look. It's about doing yoga and riding a bike and swimming with the grandchildren. It's about being able to walk as much as needed at my son's wedding in September. It's about feeling good inside and out.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Orthopedist or Drivers' License Division

I went to a highly recommended orthopedic clinic.  I think it's rated a little lower now, after I completed the survey they sent out.

I won't go into the long and boring complaining details, but let me put it this way:  I wanted to see a doctor, not get shipped off like a cow at auction.

I walked in, and there was a check-in kiosk. What? I don't even know my user name and password. I looked up and a clerk invited me over to her desk.  She took my insurance card and identification card and waved me off to a chair.  I sat there until I got called up, whereupon a second clerk asked me two questions that were not on the preregistration I did online, gave back my documents, and waved me back to my chair to wait. And wait, and wait.

That was just the beginning, but I was definitely feeling more like a number than a person. I'm surprised they didn't look for ear tags and a brand.  Just keep herding this cow from one station to another.

The upshot of it all was that I was told that I have arthritis in my knee. Does that have any bearing on why my knee has not healed from an injury five months ago?  No new X-rays.  Just a steroid shot in the knee and a prescription for a powerful anti-inflammatory drug and a six-week followup appointment scheduled.

At least now I know that what I was told years ago was bursitis is actually arthritis, and I probably have it in both knees, though he only had the x-ray of one.  No cure, I suppose, but I'll definitely be looking at supplements to see what may help. I don't think you can rebuild cartilage, but there must be a better solution than taking drugs for months.  I wonder, though, if the doctor who told me it was bursitis had examined me more closely, if something could have been done then to treat it.

The good news is that for now, at least, I don't have to have surgery or anything like that, and I don't have to quit exercising--the fear that has been keeping me back from seeing a doctor for a few months.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In no particular order, unless two go together, here are other pictures from my walk last week. They're just kind of fun. And no, I am not going to be a dad!  I just thought it was neat, and it reminded me of my sons when their babies were born, and of my husband proudly carrying around our first-born.

Write printing on a blue background. "I'm so excited to be a dad!"

Sculpture of a cube with concave sides, cast aluminum.Sign that identifies the sculpture. John Simms "Imploding Cube"

Tree in bloom with dark pink blossoms, green leafy tree as background behind it.

Row of trees in bloom with bright pink blossoms, taller trees with little foliage among them, wooden rail fence in foreground.

No bikes allowed sign
Sign at the beginning of the
dirt trail that goes off of the paved trail.
Bike tire tracks in the mud.
Tracks from the critters that can't understand
the picture on the sign, or why it is there.

Dog print in mud
Dog print
smaller dog print in mud.
Probably another dog print.

Raccoon footprint in sand

Front and back raccoon paw prints in sand
Raccoon, front and back.
Notice how it has "fingers." 

Carpenter ant on round green leaf.
Carpenter Ant
Carpenter ant on round green leaf plant with tiny purple flower.
Same carpenter ant. He was quick.

Large tudor-style apartment building amid trees, behind wrought-iron fence.
This gives the feeling of huge manor house in English countryside.
In reality, it is an apartment complex. What at beautiful setting to live in.

Graffiti--"It's impossible not to draw on everything when I'm handed a pen" and a drawing of a girl. Silver ink on royal blue background.
A fellow doodler. I want to buy the right color pen and go
write on one of these. I've always wanted to graffiti something
but I don't want to deface public property.
There's just something about leaving your mark
on the world.

Sculpture graffiti, "If it rains look for rainbow. If it's dark look for stars.  White on navy blue, illustrated with stars, Saturn, and a crescent moon.

Sculpture graffiti--silver on dark blue--"Beets turn your pee red!"  Underneath, on separate tile--"False--Dwight Schrute" and "I second, False!"  Caption "The truth lies somewhere in between?"
The truth lies somewhere in between?

Sculpture graffiti: "Avoid Drama Break a sweat daily--Secret to Life."  White on Navy Blue.

Spider on sand.
Jumpy little spider. I had to get close and move very slowly to get this photo.

Spider on a piece of wood.
Spider on a log. He thought he was hidden so he sat very still.
He really did blend in with the stick until I got close.

Spider on a piece of wood--taken with a zoom lens.
Same spider, even closer. Sshhh, don't tell my husband. I always
expect him to deal with spiders in the house. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

What? There are no fitness fairies to get me to my goal? I've gotta do it myself?

Two posts, seen right together on the Crescendo sculpture: There's not much I can add. 

In this case, no one can do it for you.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On Patience and the Process

Sometimes it is hard for me to trust the journey when I feel stuck, like I'm not making progress, but I know if I am doing the right things I will break through eventually. It may take me in unexpected directions, but that's okay. I never expected to be given a bike, but now I am happily riding.  Etc.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wednesday Walk

This one walk provided material for several posts, if I am to keep them short.

There is a long and lovely bike/walking trail that winds through our cities and townships. On Wednesday we drove to one of the entry points and started off on a walk. Soon we discovered a small side path that went off the paved trail and was open only to walkers, not to bicycles. We headed down there, and my feet said thank you for getting them off the pavement. Even though the dirt is hard-packed it still felt better on  my feet. I'll post some pictures of that later, but for now I want to focus on an inspirational sculpture in the park there.

At the end of our walk, we detoured off to examine this sculpture, which we thought looked like a giant blue crookneck squash. From the distance it looks like it is created of mosaic tiles.

Sign near the sculpture, 
giving little explanation.

This picture gives perspective
on the size of the sculpture.

A closer view of the composition of the sculpture.

As we drew near, we could see that the outer surface is actually composed of 
plexiglass tags with writing on them.  They were fun to read. Some were serious, others joking or just drawings. There were several with words of wisdom.  I'll share others another day but my favorite is this one.

I'll just leave it here for now, and expound on it another day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Moving is a Painful Process

And I'm not even the one moving.

Photo Credit: U-Pack
I went over to help some new people in the area move into their house, and they had all their stuff delivered in those large moving bins.  I've always wanted to do that. You load them at your own pace, they ship them over for you, and you unload them when they arrive.  You travel in a car or fly, however you want to get there, at your own pace.  We always go the cheaper way of getting a truck and driving it ourselves, but that means doing the loading all in one day. For our last move, we hired movers to do the loading and unloading. It was expensive, but not as much as the additional cost of the moving bins

Clipart from the tomatoes,
colorized by me.
Yesterday I discovered that I do not want to go the moving bin method. You see ads for how they are at ground level and you don't have to go up a ramp like you do with a truck.  That sounds great, but I discovered yesterday that it means a great deal more lifting.  With a high truck, you can slide the boxes over to the back and then lift them from knee level or waist level and carry them off to wherever you want them.  With the pods, as the load gets lower, you have to bend and lift each box. 

Photo credit
I took over two hand trucks (handcarts or dollies as they may be known in other parts of the United States) but even with them, the boxes have to be moved to the cart, wheeled in, and then moved back off of the cart.  I think I did about four loads, maybe twenty boxes total, and then the homeowner and I stopped to chat.  I think she was getting tired, because she said "That's enough for now."  I thought I could do a little more but I didn't want to push her too hard.

Photo Credit
While we visited, a young man and his wife showed up to help. He works for a shipping company. He quickly took the flat cart, attached the handle properly, and dug in. They said he emptied the first bin and half of the second in record time.  I left my carts over there and headed home.

I felt like I pulled something in my shoulder, but it eased off after a while. Today I got up and did yoga and ate breakfast, still feeling pretty good. Then, suddenly my whole upper back, shoulders, and neck, are seizing up in pain. I may have to interrupt this day for a hot bath and strong dose of ibuprofen. 

I am in much better condition than I was four months ago, but obviously there are some things I should not do, and moving is one of them.  Next time someone I know is moving in or out, I will drop off the hand trucks, maybe provide food, and leave.  When someone is in the middle of moving, cooking can be difficult and eating out, expensive.  If they could not afford movers to pack and unpack their bins, maybe they would appreciate a home-cooked meal instead of having to eat out or work in a new, unpacked kitchen.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Paige's Progress

My friend Paige needed to lose 100 pounds quickly. Undaunted, she set out on a vigorous plan to do so. Since, due to health reasons, she couldn't exercise at first, she attacked her diet with a vengeance. By cutting out carbs, most fatty foods, and sugars, sugary drinks in particular, she has lost 30 pounds in about two months.

I'm very impressed!  30 pounds in two months!  Way to go, Paige! In about three and a half months, I have lost a little over half that much.  I didn't even try to do an extreme diet like hers. I knew I wouldn't stick with it, but Paige is and the plan is working for her.

I have to resist the urge to make comparisons, and just do what is working for me. My goal, at least for now, is to lose 75 pounds.  At the rate I'm going, that's going to take a while. However, I hope that what I am doing is something that I can continue to do for a lifetime.

I measure portions and set up a whole meal at once. Instead of eating 8 ounces of hummus in one sitting, I put an ounce or so on my plate with some vegetables and one piece of toast or a handful of tortilla chips.  I no longer eat out of the bag.  I will serve myself a nice meal and eat it. If I am hungry after that, I get a small snack, and that can hold me for hours.

I do a few extra things like trim the fat off my meat, but generally I don't worry too much about margarine on bread or dressing on a potato. If I'm eating less potato, I'm naturally going to get less dressing along with it.

I try to remain aware of my body--not snacking because something looks good, but eating for hunger satisfaction and nourishment.  I could take off in six different directions here--now I have some ideas for future posts--but I'll try to stay focused.

My main point of focus is that you have to do what works for you.  My exercise program would not work for Paige. Her food program would not work for me.  Our bodies are different, our goals are different, and our plans are different, so our results are different.  Yet we are each achieving what we want to achieve, so we can each call it success.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Walk on the Mild Side--and Meeting Nessie's cousin.

Taking advantage of a beautiful spring day, my husband and I went to a park with a nature center and hiking area. We both enjoyed the views of the river and greenery here as the earth begins to waken from its winter sleep.

The trails has steps wherever it goes up and down a hill of any steepness, presumably to stop erosion, so it is a fairly easy walk. At intervals there are also nice flat wooden platforms, which must be really nice for school field trips or other large groups. If everyone stands on the platform, no one is out trampling the foliage and it lessens intrusion on the natural habitat of the animals that live there. We saw squirrels, ducks, Canada geese, and a tiny bird, but the highlight was spotting Nessie's cousin.

In Scotland, there is a lake (loch) called Ness, where there have been numerous reports of a large creature appearing in the lake. "Nessie" as it is called, is undocumented but there are many legends and reported sightings.

As we walked along, I managed to capture several pictures of a Nessie-like creature. Fortunately, it was very still, apparently enjoying the spring sunshine as much as we were.

Can you see our dragon down there in the middle of the picture?  It is a fairly impressive dragon.

No, this is not a boat or a human construction, I promise. It's not a duck or a goose or other waterfowl. 

Fortunately, the sound of our voices did not scare it away, or maybe our Nessie is deaf.  

Or maybe we were just far enough away that it didn't care, but as I said, we were able to get lots of pictures.  

So I'll post another one, this one zoomed in and cropped a little closer.

I confess, I did blur the figure a bit in the first picture.  Here it looks even more scaly and dragon-like.
It is also more obvious that our Nessie is a branch caught in the river with leaves piled up against it.
It is still hard to see in the picture, but I promise, that's exactly what it was.
Pretty cool dragon, though, isn't it?

Now for some other pictures, signs of early spring along the river.

Tiny bright blossoms greet us alongside the water.

A close-cropped picture from the scene at the top.  I like the way the branches frame the river.

Brambles at the  river's edge.

All photo rights reserved. Please contact me for permission to share them. A comment on this post will reach me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Allergy Woes

Short post today; I have an appointment to see my allergy specialist this afternoon. I've been getting shots for several weeks now, so it's time for a follow-up visit.  Sometimes I wonder if these shots are really doing anything, but these things take time.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stand up. Put Your Best Foot Forward.

Now put the other foot forward.

Congratulations, you've just taken your first step.

After reading the article about feet, I went on to other things and did not give it much more thought. Today, however, as I was doing yoga, some of it came to mind. I was doing a warrior 1 pose, and losing my balance. I remembered that Karen wrote that when she loses her balance she checks her feet. (Link to post)

I took a quick inventory of my feet and realized I had them scrunched up, my toes curled like a child's toes in too-tight shoes.  I spread my toes wide and focused on grounding through the width and length of my feet, and had no more problems with balance.

Warrior One, from Wikimedia, Creative Commons License

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I honor the lotus-flower feet of all the gurus

Today, instead of personal reflection, I am posting a link.

Feet in Yoga: From the Ground Up

A few of my favorite quotes:

Just as the foundation of a temple must be level to support all the structures above, so the feet must be balanced and sturdy to support the legs, spine, arms, and head.
 Our bodies are mobile temples, and our feet are required to be flexible and adjustable. 
 The practice of yoga postures can transform our relationship with our feet. Practicing barefoot, we develop greater feel for the ground below. As we become more intimate with our feet, they also become stronger and more mobile. 
Thanks to my cousin Karen Groscup-Murphy for posting a link to this article on Facebook.  Karen says: 
I love the thread the feet have from teaching early development and yoga to kids as an OT to my own yoga practice. Awareness of the feet is the first thing I look at when fostering motor skills starting with finding the feet with hands in supine, then finding the connection of the toes and earth to begin crawling, and finally pushing against the earth to stand.
Finding the feet with my sensory kiddo's is the first thing I teach to help them find their bodies in space, to ground them with a "I am here" way when proprioceptive is not perceived well by the nervous system. 
When I see difficulties in balance, again, these kids benefit from strategies to begin connecting to their feet with their eyes and the earth. When I fall out of standing poses, I laugh to myself, as the first thing I do, is reroot my feet before I try again! Cheers to our feet 😉!!

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Yup, one of those days. Went to bed upset and angry, got back up and stayed up until 5 a.m., then woke ready for the day around 9. What's up with that?

So my eyes hardly want to stay open, probably mostly due to allergies, and I took headache pills, and now I'm feeling pretty good. I just want to close my eyes, but then I sit there with thoughts churning.

You know what I'm going to say, right?  I did my yoga anyway, and it was helpful to relax me and get rid of the tension. A lot of it today was core work, so my abs should be nice and tight tomorrow. (By which, of course, I mean achy.) But you know, I'll stretch again tomorrow and loosen it up again after my walk tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Allergy Shots

Last night I was extremely tired, to the point that my eyes were watering. When I went to bed I stayed there for about 9 hours! I have noticed that I am more tired on the day I get my allergy shots and the day after. I am not getting a skin reaction, but apparently an internal reaction that just wipes me out as  my body fights off the effects of the shots.

I am supposed to increase my dosage strength next week. I hope my body can handle it.  If it's worse, I'll have to talk to my doctor.  Maybe this means that my body is actually reacting and building up antigens the way it is supposed to.  I need to do more research on this phenomenon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Flirting with French

Photo Credit:
April Book Review: Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, & Nearly Broke My Heart,  by William Alexander

I loved this book!  It's a light-hearted take on Alexander's intensive efforts to learn French. Along with his personal narrative documenting his experiences in France and in the United States while learning the language, he interweaves French history, a bit of world history, geography, culture, and a good deal of information on linguistic studies, doing it so artfully that I hardly perceived it as a course of study.

New York Times

Now and then I paused to reflect on the amount of research it took him to write the book, in addition to the dedicated study of the French language, and it boggles the mind. For the most part I was just like a sponge, soaking in the information, because that's the way his writing comes across. It was every bit as fun as reading a novel. 

I enjoyed the rather wry reflection on age and language learning. Alexander was only a little older than me at the time he was studying, so I related to his frustration at the opinions he was getting that older people have a harder time learning languages. 

I recommend this book to anyone who has studied French. He does interweave some French terms in, usually explaining them but not always. It's a good read for anyone, but if you've studied French, it makes it even more enjoyable.  

As a personal way to relate, during the course of his year, he ran into some heart troubles, and had to have radio catheter ablation done more than once.  I have had that procedure, but only once, thankfully, but having that in common with him made it even more interesting to me.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Starting from Scratch

March Book Review: Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard, SB Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 2008.

From the back cover: 
Is the American Dream still alive or has it, in fact, been drowned out by a clashing of the classes?  Is the upper class destined to rule forever while the lower classes are forced to live in the same cyclical misery?
Millions of Americans fight for the answers to these questions every day, and here, in Scratch Beginnings, one man makes the attempt at discovering the answers for himself. Carrying only a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 cash, and restricted from using previous contacts or his education, Adam Shepard sets out for a randomly selected city with one goal on his mind: work his way out of the realities of homelessness and into a life that will offer him the opportunity for success. 
The back cover pretty well sums it up.  I found it an interesting read. I don't want to give any spoilers, but it did raise some question. If I found myself broke and homeless, would I handle it as a challenge or would I give in to inevitability?  Does age make a difference? Is this easier for someone who is young and healthy but inexperienced, or would it be easier for someone a little older and wiser in the ways of the world.

This book gives names and faces to the poor, mainly men, since it is written by a man who stayed in a men's homeless shelter for a time.  My church has asked us to reach out and help refugees, and this book helped me see a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities they face--in addition to a language barrier that the author does not have. They are no longer the people in masses, but individuals who need help, and need to be seen as individuals.

One day I was grabbing fresh foods for lunch, and felt inspired to pick up a beautiful peach. I didn't want the peach. I like peaches but I had plenty of food. Still, I felt so drawn to that peach that I bought it anyway, tucking it carefully into my school backpack.

A few hours later, between classes, I saw a wheel-chair bound homeless man on the street corner, begging. I approached him and offered a smile, saying "I can't give you money, but I have a nice peach if you would like it."  His face lit up as I handed him the peach, and after I crossed the street I looked back to see him eating the peach with a look of pleasure on his face.

I truly believe that there were two things involved here: God saw the man and knew how much he would enjoy that perfect peach.  Also, the man enjoyed having someone look at his face and speak directly to him while sharing.  They are human, you know, real people.

Yes, as the book makes clear, some homeless prefer to stay that way, some are addicted to various drugs, some beggars may not even be homeless. But others are trying their best to claw their way out, working pathetic day jobs to try to make--and save--a buck. Some come from terrible backgrounds and are doing their best to overcome it. I doubt many are like the author, deliberately choosing homelessness, whether for an experiment or otherwise.  I learned much from him as he learned from them.

I am grateful that I have always had a home, enough to eat, and people around me who love and care, people in church and people in my family who stay in touch. I cannot imagine the loneliness of the way of life that some people have in this world.