Wednesday, February 29, 2012

not good enough (lyn)

Gail and I go to Weight Watchers.  I arrive early and shed my watch, my scrunchie, and even my skirt.  I’m down 1.2 pounds from last week, though I was expecting my loss to be more.  I even try another scale at Weight Watchers and the result is the same: 124.4.  About three more pounds to go.

I come home and toss the remaining lemon bars.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

a little note on the burrito story (lyn)

My phone rings.  “Hi, it’s me.  Are you at your computer?”  I am.  I’m in the middle of revising a presentation for the new product I’m working on.  But M sounds serious.  “Can you look something up for me?”  “Sure,” I say.

“Okay,” she begins.  I’m waiting for her to need some important fact for a meeting she’s about to have.  Or maybe it's something she needs for one of her kids.  “How many points are in 1 gram of fat, 13 grams of protein, blah, blah, blah.”  This is M’s emergency.  I calculate six points.  She’s happy.

“Where are you, anyway?” I ask.  “I’m in my bedroom.  I just ate a burrito and want to know how many points are in it.” 

She’s in her bedroom!!!   Her bedroom is about five feet away from her computer, but her phone is only two.

6 points (m)

One of the many things I've given up since joining WW is the breakfast burrito at McDonald's.  Under the Points Program, it was 15 points.  I am sure it's more than that with the Points Plus program.

While shopping at Costco on an empty stomach, I sample the cheese burritos that come in a box and are sold in the freezer section.  The woman who is doing the demo says they are "veddy veddy low in fat."  I say, "Llet me see the box, please."  One gram of fat.  13 grams of protein. 48 carbs.  Six points total.

I take them home and heat one up in the microwave.  They are excellent and very filling.

The only thing I'd change is that I would do them in the toaster oven next time.  Takes longer to cook but the skin won't be so tough.

Monday, February 27, 2012

leftovers (lyn)

There are some benefits to hosting a party, aside from the obvious it feels good to have a bunch of friends over.  First, you don’t have to leave your home.  Second, you don’t have to travel to get home.  And third, you can keep the leftovers.  Not only that, but you get to decide which leftovers to keep, which to give away, and which to toss.  Kind of like cleaning a closet.

I elect to give a way anything that screams at being bad for me.  The remaining quarter of the chocolate mousse cake goes to Shari, along with more than half the lasagna.  A bag of lemon bars go to both Shari and Corinne.  And Janice gets the leftover white wine. 

No one wants the big bag of chips, so I put a few in a baggie and toss the rest.

But I keep: the remains of the arugula salad,  a big fruit bowl, some lemon bars, green beans,  cold ravioli salad stuffed with something brownish (maybe mushrooms?), and the remaining guacamole (this, I know, should have been given away but I just can't resist).

My entire consumption for the day consists of these leftovers.  I have the arugula salad and fruit for lunch, and green beans, cold ravioli, and lemon bars for dinner.

I don’t dare get on a scale. Why didn't I give away all the lemon bars?  Maybe I'll give them to my doormen tomorrow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

oscar night (lyn)

Since I was old enough to watch TV, I have watched the Oscars.  When I was very young, I would stand in front of a mirror and practice my response as they announced my name as winner of the Best Actress Award.  I did the same for the Miss America pageant.  I’ve always been a closet geek.

I’ve fortunately outgrown the fantasy of winning an Oscar, but my interest in the show has never diminished.  Tonight, like last year, I invite some friends over to watch the broadcast. 

I spend the day cleaning the apartment, making lemon bars, preparing the arugula for the salad (which simply means washing it), and ridding my refrigerator of fattening pastries (I toss a piece of carrot cake, a chocolate croissant, an apple tart, and a cinnamon swirl breakfast pastry).  I arrange the glasses and plates (I decide not to use paper), the flowers (a dozen pink and white roses), wash and dry my hair, and await my six guests.

Shari arrives before everyone else so she can put her signature lasagna in the oven and prepare her famously delicious homemade garlic bread.  She is an amazing cook and more than oversees the salad of arugula, portabella mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and roasted pine nuts.  Her finishing touches make an ordinary salad spectacular.

Corinne brings an amazing homemade guacamole with chips.  I think I eat about six avocados worth.

Janice comes with string beans and a spinach ravioli pasta salad.  Pam brings fresh fruit and a fabulous chocolate mousse cake.  Ellen and Zelia bring wine.

I have to beg for a photo of the group, with a few arguing strenuously against having their picture taken.  In the end, after much cajoling, the group poses for a photo, and Pam gets the coveted job of photographer.

The Artist is the night’s big winner, taking home five awards, including Best Picture, Director and Actor.

holiday cards in february (m)

Here's how I look at it.  If you can't send your cards out by the first week in January, don't bother sending them.

This week, I get two cards.  One from my next door neighbor.  He writes the newsletter for his family (his mother is a retired English teacher).  It's two, single-spaced typewritten pages.  All drivel.  I feel like I'm living their boring lives in real time.  These are the neighbors we've spoken to face-to-face about six times in twelve years.  I want to send the card back with a sticker that says, "No recipient by that name at that address."  It's not like they'd know since they don't engage with anyone on the street.

The second card is more interesting.  It's from this woman with whom my husband used to work.  She's brilliant.  She has written many popular business books, has a vibrant consulting business ($10,000 a pop per speaking engagement) and has a working farm which she tends in her spare time.  I almost don't read the card as it usually talks about her over-achieving offspring and jet-set lifestyle.  Let's face it, after two funerals this week and a weight gain of indeterminate amount, I was not in the mood to be kicked when I was down.

But, something catches my eye.  The note is the usual two-page update.  The accompanying page of photos is not.  T, the woman, appears to have lost a ton of weight.  She was huge and now, there's a photo of her in riding pants, just like the ones Jackie Kennedy wore.  You know...tight...beige.  She looks good in them!

I see more pictures of her....T is in jeans in one of them with her dog who took first place in a French dog show (whatever that the dog French?  Was the show in France?)  I want to know what she did to lose weight.  I read the letter (a last resort) and she mentions "being under a doctor's care to lose 150 pounds in 16 months."

I couldn't sleep last night.  How did she do it?  Was it a vegetarian diet from her working farm?  Salads? Exercise?  Did she suddenly come up with all this resolve to lose weight?  Such dedication.  Such determination.  Such focus.

My husband gives me her email address and tells me to write and ask her what she did. 

She writes back this morning.  Answer: gastric bypass surgery.

As jealous as I am of her stunning weight loss, I feel virtuous that I've lost my weight the old-fashioned way.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

no wonder (lyn)

Losing a few pounds is not easy when you are not used to it.  I think I’m eating little but the scale does not reflect it.  Take today for instance.  This is everything I eat:

  • fiber one bar
  • coffee with a little half and half

  • salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, with a little Japanese dressing
  • a few million cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • a handful of cashews 
  • one Lindt Lindor Truffle 
  • two Pepperidge Farm pirouette cookies
  • more coffee with a little bit of half and half

  • a tuna sandwich on 100-calorie bread
  • a handful of chips
  • a half sour pickle

I see a play with Zelia, How I Learned to Drive.  It’s excellent and upsetting.  Get home, crawl into bed, and turn on a DVR’ed episode of The Mentalist.  Suddenly I’m starving.  This is unusual for me.  I am not a late-night snacker.  I get out of bed and make a big bowl of berries (blueberries, cranberries and strawberries), and cover it with whipped cream.

So I’m curious to see if what I think is a small-eating day is really that small.  I go on the WW site to calculate points.  I err on the high side and come up with 35 points, that’s nine over my daily allowance.  Now if I'd skipped the 5-point nuts, the 2-point teeny tiny candy, and the 3-point cookies, I would have been okay.

No wonder I’m not losing those few pounds.

high for a minute (lyn)

Last night I saw a $4 play, alone.  I could only get one ticket.  It’s a rainy night and I’d rather be in, but I go.  By the time I get to the theater, my hair is stating to frizz, and the little bit of makeup I am wearing is probably gone. 

The play, CQ/CX, is the story of the Jason Blair scandal.  Blair was a New York Times prolific journalist who, in 2003, was found to have written articles with unchecked facts, interviews that never happened, and even a story lifted directly from a Texas paper.  It is a fascinating story of race, hubris, and the fall of key executives at the Times.  I thought the play was great.

As I'm leaving the theater, I get in a conversation with the person next to me…a 64-year-old woman (I later learn) who seems culturally and socially aware.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been a protester in the 60’s.   She thought the play was flawed, and in some cases, didn’t get it quite right.  It turns out that she was an art director at the Times during those turbulent times.  It was fascinating to talk to her about the real story.

As we are walking together toward the subway, the conversation evolves to other things.  We get on the subject of blogs and photography and I tell her of my blog.  She looks surprised when I tell her its name, and says, “But you are so thin.”  Ohhh, those words still feel so good.

As we talk about photography, I mention that my best subject, my son, is now away at college.  She looks at me and says, “You’re kidding?  You don’t look old enough to have a child in college.”  I ask her how old she thinks I am and she says, “I don’t know, about 30.”  I tell her my age and she literally stops walking and looks at me.  “I don’t believe it.  Really, I just can’t believe it.”  My big fear is not looking heavy; it’s looking old.  I know that in better lighting, I look nowhere near 30, but it still makes me feel remarkably good.

This morning I am talking to M and tell her the story.  “I want to write about this, but do you think it sounds too obnoxious?” I ask.  She hesitates as she ponders my question.   Then she says, “No. I mean clearly there’s something wrong with that women.”

And with M’s comments, I’m brought back down to earth.

good grief (m)

Two days after Aunt Y died, Cousin Mary also died.  My cousins and I watched in disbelief and awe as these two women--first cousins and lifelong friends--converged onto the same trajectory at the end of their lives.   Aunt Y came from a family of 9 children.  Cousin Mary was one of 4 and her mother died when she was 14 months old.  Her family was raised in an orphanage where Aunt Y's family visited them every week without fail.  Once they left the orphanage, they came to live with Aunt Y's family for a few years.  They spent every holiday together.  They received last rites on the same day.  And now, this.

We sat with Aunt X to talk about the we do Aunt Y on Thursday and Mary on Friday?  We decided that was al ot to ask of people and, with most of the attendees being from the same family, we decided to host a double wake and double funeral.   Besides, this was more than just a coincidence.  Aunt Y never went anywhere alone.  We called a meeting with the priest and funeral director.  My cousins, Mary's next of kin, and my brothers and I were there.  As soon as the meeting converged, Aunt X nudges me and says, "Tell them."  The priest was fine with the double funeral.  The undertaker was nervous.  I pulled him aside to ask why.  "Because people get crazy at these things.  You wouldn't believe the arguments...who wants to be in the first car behind the hearse, who thinks they deserve the first row in the church, etc."

I assured him that none of that would happen with my cousins.

True to form, my cousins rose to the occasion.  This past week has been a most amazing experience for all of us.  Every day and every night, the house Aunts X and Y shared was filled with people --30 to 40 people all day.  They brought food, drinks, desserts.  They cleaned and helped Aunt X set up for everything.  We wrote the eulogies together as a team.  I did Aunt Y's with lots of input and my cousin Steven delivered it.  The whole week was a team effort. 

At the wakes, we had three rooms on the top floor of the funeral parlor where the crowd went from room to room, making sure things were "even" between the attendees for each of the women.  My friend Mary, who is Jewish, does not "do" open caskets.  She came to pay her respects and was white as a ghost.  She asked my permission to leave after 5 minutes but called the next day to say how overwhelmed she was by everything and how amazing it was to see so much love and support from a family.

The funeral was spectacular.  My sister-in-law was the music director.  She brought in a world-class organist, a violinist and a trumpeter.  A soprano, alto and tenor (my brother, Phil) sang.  When they did "Time to say Goodbye" --Andrea Boccelli's signature song--the place erupted in tears.  It was beautiful.

We went to Aunt Y's grave for the burial, and then to the next cemetary for Cousin Mary's burial.

Afterwards, we hosted a joint reception at a restaurant.  100 people attended and stayed for a few hours.

I complimented the undertaker on how well the proceedings went. He shook his head and said it would not have gone so well if the family hadn't been so accommodating.

It was a great sendoff for two extraordinary women.

Friday, February 24, 2012

an eye-opening trip for some groceries (lyn)

I’m making lemon bars and a salad for my Oscar get-together on Sunday.  I go to the local D’Agastino’s to buy some of the ingredients.  The lemons are $1 each and I need six, so I skip these, feeling much like my mother who will skip tomatoes for a week if they are not well-priced.  I need pine nuts for my salad, and am shocked by their price: $12.39 for a small bag of pignoli nuts (which I am told are the same).  But then I see an exact replica of the bag I saw for $12.39, sitting on a shelf labeled $1.39.  I buy these.

I get to the check out and the young girl behind the register is sporting a bright red eye.  It looks nasty and new.  The woman behind me asks the cashier what happened. Her unexpected candor surprises me.  “Someone punched me in the eye,” she says.  Though I want to say more, all I do say is, “I hope that person isn’t in your life anymore.”  She nods and says, “They aren’t.”

The red-eyed girl rings up my pinenuts at $12.39.  It turns out, they were just misplaced. But because they were misplaced, the manager reluctantly agrees to honor the $1.39 price.

I leave the store feeling like I got the deal of the century, and wondering who would punch someone in the eye, and thankful I don’t know any people who would.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

a celebration for shari (lyn)

After yesterday’s weigh-in and in anticipation of tonight’s dinner, I try to eat relatively little, but I become less successful as the day progresses.  Last night I had a healthy salad for dinner (my only splurge being the avocado I added) followed by an unsatisfying chocolate Skinny Cow on a stick.

I wake up and weigh myself and my scale says I am down three pounds since yesterday, which of course can’t be right.  I pretend otherwise and bask in the loss.

Breakfast is coffee-only, and lunch is squash soup with those very good, weight watchers 3-point roasted-salsa-multigrain- crisps.  I spend the day working (love being able to say that), getting my hair colored, and then stopping by 16 Handles for a cup of fat-free yogurt.   Come home and can’t resist a handful of cashews. 

Tonight is a special night.  Ten of us are meeting at Grace’s Trattoria to celebrate Shari’s birthday.  One of the girls was diagnosed in September with glioblastoma.  Most of us have not seen her since Shari’s birthday celebration a year ago, and we are all so grateful that she is doing well enough to come.

Janice, Zelia and I are among the first to arrive and I’m able to get a couple of pictures taken.

Aside from one near-explosive argument, everyone seems to have a great night.  The food is excellent and plentiful.  Shari pre-orders salads, fried calamari, salmon-pizza, and the best French Fries I think I’ve ever eaten.  Janice and I split a duck entrée, and we all take a few spoonfuls of multiple desserts.  Red wine is poured throughout the three-hour dinner.

It is a perfect celebration for a very dear friend.  And may all her wishes come true.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MD aware (lyn)

At today’s weight-watchers meeting, Betsy mentions that the topics lately have centered on the mechanics of losing weight---smaller portions, tracking, fewer high calorie foods, more exercise, etc. etc.  “But what we seem to be leaving out, are the underlying reasons why some of us are stuck.  We’re smart people.  We know what we're supposed to do; we just can’t seem to do it.”  She suggests that some members, like herself, can’t envision themselves as thin.  “It’s as foreign to me as imagining myself living in rural Kentucky,” she says.

After class, Gail and I are talking and she tells me about MD Aware.  She explains it this way.  Let’s say a doctor is operating on a patient and a nurse in the OR says, “Doctor, your patient is turning red. “  And let’s say the doctor responds, “MD Aware.” The nurse should say nothing more.  The doctor has acknowledged his awareness; mission completed.

I think it’s a great response-phrase that can be line-extended.  Student Aware to frustrated mothers who keep trying to give unheeded advice to their college-aged children. Person Aware to people who give ridiculously obvious advice.  And of course Dieter Aware to people who say things like, “Ya know, that chocolate croissant has a lot of calories.” 

weigh too high (lyn)

I go to weight watchers, step on the scale, and Robin gives me a weak smile.  Even she, the eternal optimist, cannot say much that's good about being up 3.2 pounds since my last weigh-in four weeks ago. Although she does try.  "Not horrible. I wouldn't panic."  I wonder if there is a list of upbeat comments to use when members have increased in weight?  "Oh, it's just a teeny tiny amount," for when the gain is less than a pound.  And perhaps, "It's just a blip," for one to two pound increases.  I can imagine the Manual of Acceptable Phrasing saying something like, "Always make the members feel good, regardless of how much weight they may have gained."  Today I am 125.6.  The last time my weight was officially this high was in April of 2009. Okay, I have a month until I have to weigh-in again.  My goal: 122 or less.  I need my small-sized clothes to fit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

tax time (lyn)

I decide to bake a banana loaf.  I find a recipe for a low-cal version, and then make it even lower cal by substituting margarine with applesauce.  Believe me, that’s not something I thought of; I read some of the consumer comments by other, more skilled bakers.  I wonder how this discovery was ever made?

The result is surprisingly edible.  So much so, that I bring a few slices for my accountant, whom I am meeting this morning.  Seeing Janet always reminds me of that play, Same Time Next Year.  Every February we get together.

I walk in and Janet immediately says, “You really look incredible.”  She’s referring, I’m sure, to the fact that I have remained thin since my last visit a year ago.  Janet struggles with her weight, and while she’s been on Weight Watchers for years, the result is not dramatic enough to notice.

The only good news about earning $3,450 in 2011 is that the process for filing my taxes is painless.  And seeing Janet is always nice.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

a visit to the dentist (lyn)

My teeth, if they were people, would be fat.  They attract food.  Lots of it.

I go to a new dentist today for a cleaning.  My criteria for choosing this dentist are: 

  1. Location:  he’s only three blocks away
  2. Referral: a friend of mine goes to him and likes him, and he graduated from Penn Dental
  3. Drugs: he uses nitrous oxide  
The dentist’s office is small and clean.  The hygienist is brisk and efficient. I ask for the nitrous oxide and when she asks if I can feel it I lie and say, “Only a little.”  Within minutes, I am enjoying my dental visit.  I can feel the pain of the cleaning, but the drug is miraculous, I don’t care.  I can hear Nicole’s instructions to open wide or turn to the right or “close you lips like you are sucking on a straw,” and I follow them like the good student I am.  Hygienists must love nitrous oxide.  I have become totally compliant.  Nicole agrees that it’s a great drug for most of her patients, except the ones who fall asleep.

I walk out feeling lighter.  My teeth look brighter and I feel cleaner.  I almost wish I could avoid eating for a few days just to prolong the effect of today’s cleaning.

Now that would be a great way to lose weight.  If only it were that easy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

sofa shopping (lyn)

I haven’t seen Carol since Christmas, so we make a plan to get together.  I suggest brunch and then immediately regret it.  I have been eating too much, and I know that I would not order a healthy egg-white omelet.  The last (and only) time I had one I felt nauseous after.  I’d probably end up with pancakes or eggs benedict. 

I rarely go to museums, and some of the worlds great ones are right here in my neighborhood.  I talk to Carol and we decide on The Museum of the City of New York, not one that is world-renowned, but one we both like.  Plus, it’s a beautiful winter day and it’ll be a nice 2-mile walk there.

We start off with good intentions.  We walk up Madison and within five blocks, we are sidetracked. We pass Lululemon and go in.  We try on several jackets but buy nothing.  A few blocks later we pass Ankasa, a chic store that sells furniture, scarves, bedding, and tote bags.  It’s an odd combination of offerings, but everything in the store is gorgeous and expensive.  We fall in love with a sofa, until we see its price.  But seeing a beautiful sofa reminds Carol that she is looking for one, and reminds me that Bloomingdales has offered to replace mine instead of re-stuffing its cushions and pillows.  Carol asks, “Would you mind if we went to Bloomingdales instead of the museum?  I’d like to take a look at their furniture.”  I’m happy to oblige.

We get to Bloomingdales where we spend the next two hours looking at sofas. We sit on many.  Consider a few.  And then decide on one. We then spend another hour or so reviewing hundreds of Ralph Lauren fabrics.  Carol selects a few she likes.  I choose two:  one is a light grey cashmere blend and the other is the same fabric I have on my existing sofa and still love.

We end up not walking two miles.  We end up not being nourished with culture.  But I do end up both eating and spending nothing.  

I get home and walk into my apartment; see my sofa; and decide I like it better than anything I’ve seen.  I’ll just get it re-stuffed.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

two endings: one unsatisfying, the other too long in coming (lyn)

I could have gone to theater this afternoon with Robyn, but since I’m going tonight, I thought two plays in one day, even for me, was one play too many.

I could have gone with Shari and her friend to meet with a personal shopper at Loehmanns (who knew they even had personal shoppers?) but didn’t.  I knew that if I did I would spend money on clothes or purses I don’t really need.

Instead, I spend the day at home. I make squash and apple soup and have it for lunch.  I finish a book, Into the Woods by Tara French.  A compelling mystery is set up in the first chapter, and 429 pages later, it is left unsolved.  A million intriguing clues sprinkled throughout the book, and then nothing?  Really, there should be a governing literary body that prevents this kind of irresponsible writing.  

Zelia and I are seeing Yosemite at Rattlestick Theater in the West Village.  Last time we were there we had wanted to eat at a little restaurant called The Spotted Pig but the wait was too long, so this time we arrive in plenty of time for an hour’s wait.  Zelia drives and luck is on her side; she finds a perfect parking space on the street.  Theater is at 8, and we get to The Spotted Pig at 5:45.  We ask how long the wait is. "An hour and a half to an hour and three-quarters.  There are 40 people in front of you."    And this is at an hour when most New Yorkers don’t even eat.  We are shut out, again. 

We end up at Westville, one of my favorite little hole-in-the walls.  The restaurant seats less than 20, and the kitchen is smaller than mine.   (I know this because I have to walk through the tiny kitchen to get to the tiny bathroom that is in the kitchen, not near it.)  Yet the menu is huge, the serving sizes are ample, and the prices are reasonable.  I get the teriyaki salmon with grilled asparagus topped with parmesan cheese and some greens.  It’s excellent, and so is the warm blueberry pie with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream that follows.  I try not to think about the number of points I eat.

The play is dreadful.  Horribly and relentlessly depressing.  Our seats are fifth row center, and it’s one very long one-act, so it’s impossible to leave.  The actors yell and scream and swear and then sulk for long periods of time with no dialogue at all.  The characters in the play are all miserable.  The audience is too.  Finally one of the characters dies and the lights come up.  I only wish it could have happened sooner.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Aunt Y takes flight (m)

Woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach.  I had hoped the situation with my aunt was a dream but I knew it wasn't.  Brought the car in to be serviced, got a manicure for the Ball tomorrow night and then headed to the hospital. I was dreading it. Aunt X and Cousin Patty were there.  Phillip was leaving as I was entering.  He said the hospice nurse thinks she has another 24-48 hours.

Went into her room and saw Patty and Aunt X, sitting there quietly.  Aunt Y looked dramatically worse than the day before which is when I last saw her.

I sat down and rubbed her hands and feet and talked to her.  Nothing.  Her breathing was labored as the hospice nurse explained it would be.  Pretty hard to take. 

I took her pulse.  58.  Not bad.  Her feet were still warm.  She could easily last another 2 days at this rate.

I looked out the window and commented that it was a beautiful day.  Sunny, Spring-like, no wind.  "Great day to fly," I said to Aunt Y. 

I turned to look at Patty who was discussing what food we should order for after the service.  I turned back to Aunt Y and thought she looked different.  I waited for an intake of breath, but it never came.

We called the nurse in and she listened for a heartbeat that wasn't there.  She nodded to us, confirming what we already knew.

I've seen lives enter this world and I've seen lives leave this world.  Each entrance and exit has its own magic and mystery.  I never cease to be awestruck by the miracle of life in either direction.

It occurred to me that we never told Aunt X that her nephew Jimmy died last week.  I hope she's not upset with us when she finds out in the next world.

After a while, we left Aunt X's hospital room and went to see Cousin Mary who is in tough shape.  She was given last rites the same day as Aunt X.  She, too, will be gone soon.

We walked out of Mary's room, depressed as hell.

Patty turns to me and says, "We're probably going to have two wakes at the same time.  We're going to have to order alot of food."

I turned away and went to my car.

temptation (lyn)

Have an urge for Lloyd’s carrot cake.  Somewhat justify that urge by walking the three miles or so to get it.  Come home and learn that a Cosmopolitan is 6 points.  Not that that would have stopped me from consuming two last night, but still, I had no idea.

In an email, Gail reminds me of what we didn’t eat last night: 

...we passed on the potatoes, the rolls, the cakes, the lobster bisque (you know that would have ruined an entire month for me), the stuffed lobster ...

There is so much temptation everywhere.  Losing weight, or even maintaining it, is not easy.  It’s like shopping.  I walk out the door and this being a holiday weekend, there are signs everywhere beckoning me in:  70% OFF; PRICES SLASHED; WINTER CLEARANCE.  And then all those emails from shopping sites offering major discounts.  I don’t even have to leave my house to be weakened.

I wonder how long it will be before the computer can instantly deliver real food?  Not for a very long time, I hope. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

and the winner is... (lyn)

I’m having dinner with Gail and her husband Greg at Capital Grille.

A little over a year ago Gail was a memory….someone I had loved working with, someone from whom I’d learned a lot, but someone I no longer knew.  Now, we are in touch every day; we shop online together; we ask each other’s opinions; she helps me immensely with ideas for the new business I am developing; in short, she is an intricate part of my life.  And I can’t imagine it ever being different.

We arrive at the restaurant at 7, and three hours later, we leave.  In between, we never stop eating, laughing, and drinking.  Gail can float away on one Cosmopolitan; it takes me two. 

The calories are listed on the menu, which does help with the ordering.  While Gail and I are mindful of the points we are consuming, Greg is not.  Greg is thin, fit, and a brilliant cardiothoracic doctor.  His eating is more interesting than ours.  While Gail and I start with a dozen oysters (about 10 calories each), Greg chooses a Caesar salad.  “But I thought you don’t like salads, “ I ask.  “This one is okay because it’s mostly white; I don’t like greens.”

Next, Gail and I order steaks.  I get the aged sirloin with a Kona rub and Gail gets the filet.  Greg goes for the Filet Oscar that comes covered in a Béarnaise sauce, asparagus, and “colossal lump crabmeat.”  I remember my weight watchers training and cut my large steak in half; now I'll eat less and have dinner for tomorrow.  Greg also decides to get a side of the restaurant’s signature mac and cheese with bacon.  Gail and I are not even tempted to try it.

For dessert, Gail gets the low-calorie sorbets; I get the 450-caloried crème brulee with berries, and Greg passes.  Every course is outstanding.

Gail and Greg have generously treated me to this wonderful dinner.  The restaurant is on 42nd Street; they live on 37th Street; and I’m on 79th.  Perfect; I can at least drop them off first.  In fact, I send an email before dinner saying that I’m taking them home. 

Dinner ends, and as we are exiting the restaurant, Gail says, “Listen, I have some bad news.”  I immediately know where she is going with this bad news statement, and before I have a chance to say a word, a cab pulls up, Greg admonishes me not to argue (“It’s just not worth it; you are going to lose.”), and Gail and I talk over each other as we give the driver the first stop address.

Even though it makes no geographic sense, the driver takes me home first.  Greg is right; I lose.  But only in regard to the ride home.  Having Gail and Greg in my life makes me a very big winner. 

deathwatch (m)

Aunt Y's death is imminent.  Her blood counts are "incompatible with life" according to the doctor.  Aunt X makes a very brave decision not to have her sister undergo blood transfusions and all sorts of IV infusions.  It would only prolong the inevitable.

I arrive in the ER in the morning and see Aunt X, my brother Phil and my sister-in-law B, all surrounding Aunt Y's bed.  They are crying.  I whisper to Aunt Y that it will be all over soon and that we will watch over her until then.

Then, we decide to embrace death. 

We call a priest and have him administer the last rites.

We have her transferred to a private room.  We turn on the music channel to a station that plays her favorite music. We remove those awful compression stockings and massage her legs with cream.  We hold her hands and tell her we love her. Her friends come up and reminisce with her even though we're not sure she can hear us anymore.

We call for Hospice care and they come and tell us what to expect from now until the end. They give us a book which explains everything.  As I a, reading the pamphlet, I come to a section about eating.  It says the dying will stop eating several days before they go.  First thing they stop is meat.  Then vegetables and fruits that are hard to digest.  Then mushy foods.  Finally, liquids. 

The Hospice nurse evaluates Aunt Y and thinks it could take a day or two as she has "meat on her bones."  She weighed 155 pounds just prior to surgery.  She hasn't eaten for two weeks, going on three.  Yet, somehow, she can survive for a bit more.

I look to my brother Phil and say, "How long do you think it will take me to go?"

Without a beat, he turns to and says,  "You could last until November."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

a matter of perspective (m)

I loved Whitney Houston's music.  I have the album with her on the cover in a sarong sitting in front of an orange background.  It is iconic.  I could not have survived the drek that passed for music in the '80's without Whitney's gorgeous voice and beautiful lyrics and melody.  I cried when I saw The Bodyguard.  They said that Princess Diana actually approached someone in Hollywood to make a second version of that movie starring herself.  That would have been a dream come true for me.

We were at Sam's school for his hockey game on Sunday when my husband checked his phone and passed along the news of her death.  Shocked but not surprised was the reaction.  "How did she die?" everyone asked.

Drugs, we all assumed.

On Monday, more details emerged.  I won't go into them here as I'm sure you've heard them.  I was horrified.

On Tuesday morning, Lyn calls me.  She just heard that Whitney Houston's family eschewed a big, public funeral in LA and brought her body back to her hometown of Newark, New Jersey.  This bothers Lyn to no end.   "Promise me you won't bring my body back to Brockton when I die."  That for Lyn would, indeed, be a fate worse than death--for this New Yorker to be permanently entombed in the blue-collar town where she grew up.

Me: What do you want me to do?  Scatter you on the Hudson River?
Lyn: Oh I don't know...just not Brockton, okay?
Me: Okay...we'll put you somewhere in the Atlantic, maybe on the Cape.

Where they bury me does not concern me. .
 What concerns me is being found naked.

a gift on valentine's day (lyn)

Every three weeks Poland Spring delivers water to my door.  My standard delivery is two, three-gallon bottles, and one case of the half liters, at a cost of about $20.  Last delivery didn’t come at the scheduled time. The next day the wrong delivery was dropped off.  A few phones calls got everything straightened out.

Yesterday was my delivery date, and again, nothing was delivered.  I got a recorded phone call around 7pm…sorry we were unable to deliver, blah, blah, blah…and tomorrow we will try and get to you.  Try?  I mean really, what kind of service is this?

I call Poland Spring today and get someone who sounds like it’s her first day on the job.  I explain the problem and she offers an apology that sounds scripted.  For my inconvenience AGAIN, I ask to be credited for the $7 case.  She does one of these, “Do you mind if I put you on hold for a minute?” and then before I have a chance to answer, I’m listening to awful music.  Ten minutes later a new person picks up and I can immediately tell by her voice I am in safe hands.  Christy’s level of concern suggests she may have been a 911 operator before moving to Poland Spring.

After profusely apologizing for everything (my wait on hold, my inconvenience, the person before her who wasn’t helpful, and things I hadn’t even thought of), Christy says she will credit my entire order of $20 for today.  All I had asked for was a $7 credit.

I so wish Christy would leave Poland Spring and go work at ATT or Time Warner Cable.

Monday, February 13, 2012

is it or isn't it? (lyn)

So my biopsy results are back, and as expected, they tell me nothing.  The little itchy welts I sometimes get could be some kind of bite.  Or it could be  hives.  It could also be an allergic reaction.  It could be a lot of things, but what it is seems to be anyone's guess.  My wise friend Meredith does not think it's bed bugs and her rationale makes sense.  If it were, why would the bites present themselves in exactly the same manner...never more than three bites in one location, and usually only one location at a time?  It's a good theory, and one I like.

I'll try the allergic-to-raw-fish theory again, and order in sushi for dinner.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

the BAFTA awards event (lyn)

A few weeks ago at Weight Watchers, our leader Steve spoke about the go-to meal.  It’s the meal that’s easy to prepare, healthy, and satisfying.  Everyone volunteered their favorites.  Mine was probably sushi.

Similarly, I believe that everyone should have a go-to outfit.  It’s the one that fits, that you feel good wearing, and that satisfies most dress codes, even the ambiguous ones.   Mine is some variation of the following:
  • A black skirt (either my pencil skirt from Wolford or my black Thakoon skirt)
  • A cashmere sweater (color and style vary, depending on the occasion)
  • Black opaque tights
  • Black booties or boots (determined primarily by how much standing is involved)
Today I am volunteering for a BAFTA event where BAFTA members and guests can watch a live feed of the award ceremony in London, while eating and drinking in New York.  I have never been before because (a) it costs $100 to attend, and (b) it seems like a lot of money to pay for watching a TV show, even if good food is being served.

I have no idea what to wear, so I choose a variation of my go-to outfit:
  • A black Wolford skirt
  • A small black cashmere sweater with little ties on the side
  • Black opaque stockings
  • My favorite flat-heeled Prada black boots that are almost as comfortable as my Uggs and look a whole lot better
  • A black cashmere Loro Piana fringed scarf
The 130 guests arrive in a wide variety of outfits…from sparkling glittery tops and shoes to bold colored look-at-me dresses to quiet Diane von Furstenberg wraps to sloppy jeans, better suited for a rap concert.  I am appropriately dressed in New York black.

The event is hosted at the offices of BBC. It's a magnificent space that is easily converted into a party venue.  6-8 large TV monitors hang from the ceiling.  Tables are tastefully covered in orange linen, and topped with vases of yellow and green flowers.  If you don't want to sit at a table, you can cozy up in a restaurant-style booth or sit with two or three others at small round bar tables. Or, like me, you can sit on the stadium-style wooden benches dotted with comfortable cushions, and watch the show on a very large video wall. 

I help with set-up, check-in, and check-out.  The rest of the time I am eating and watching the awards show.  The Artist takes Best Picture and its male star, Jean Dujardin, wins Best Actor.  Meryl Streep wins for her role as Margaret Thatcher.  There are no real surprises. 

The food, catered by Abigail Kirsch, is exquisite.  I partake in all of it…little pizzas topped with figs or salmon, macaroni and cheese, chicken skewers, salad, and something with eggplant called baba ganoush.  Desserts are little chocolate chip cookies and mini-chocolate or raspberry cakes.  I start eating around 4 and don’t stop until the ceremony ends two hours later.  

There’s something to be said for a one-meal day, even if that one-meal is a two-hour eating spree.  I'm just grateful that the BAFTA’s ceremony didn’t go into overtime.

something fun (m)

Friday is a bitch of a day. Take Aunt X to the rehab facility to see Aunt Y who is still out of it. My cousin B meets us there with Cousin Mary who has bladder cancer and weighs less than 80 pounds. B is the sister of my cousin Jimmy who passed away this week. Words cannot describe how depressing the whole scene is.

I seize the opportunity to leave the rehab center and get lunch for the group. I go to Whole Foods because, more than ever, I am determined to lead a healthier lifestyle. I get salad and sushi. The rest of the group wants pizza so I make a pick-up at Papa Gino's.

After 5 hours of this maudlin scene, I go home. Once there, I have a pounding headache and an overwhelming urge to put on my nightgown and go to bed. Which I do.  At 6 p.m.  I tell T and Harrison they are on their own for dinner. If I could crawl into a hole, I would. Just as I'm about to succumb to a depression-induced nap, the phone rings. You know how I feel about the phone these days. I am tempted not to pick it up, but I see the caller I.D.  My niece, S.

 S: " are you?!" 
Me: "Couldn't be better ."(that's not a lie given the circumstances)
S: "Want to have some fun?" 
Me: "Fun? Yes, before I forget what that is, I believe I would like to have some fun. What do you have in mind?
S: "Meet me at a bridal shop tomorrow morning and help me select a wedding dress." 

S and her sister are both engaged. J, the sister, is getting married in Newport this summer. A beach wedding, formal attire which is stressing me out to no end. I helped J pick out her wedding dress. S is getting married in May of 2013 but she is a planner and likes to do things well ahead of time.

We arrive at the bridal shop--named Best of Boston-- and I see many beautiful gowns. While J is heavy set (though she has lost 25 pounds thus far), S is thin as a rail. S favors the Carolyn Bessette Kennedy look...simple and slinky. Her mother and I are trying to add some volume to her body by choosing things with a bit of pouf. She wants slinky. S tries on a dress that looks like a fancy slip. Even in the sample size, they have to clamp the back of the dress to pull in excess fabric.

The bridal dress consultant (what are these people called, anyway?) looks at her and asks, "How much weight do you plan to lose before the wedding?" Seriously? Why can't the woman let the kid try on the gown and then have the bride-to-be tell her if she plans to change her weight prior to the wedding? Why would the woman ask how much weight she planned to LOSE? I can't remember a weight question when I was trying on gowns for my wedding. Believe me, I would have cancelled the whole event right then and there. No wonder women are neurotic about their weight in this country.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

not kosher (m)

Aunt Y lays in the bed, barely moving, staring straight ahead.  We can't tell what she is thinking or comprehending.  The case worker comes in and tells us it's time to move her to a rehab facility.  She looks as ready to do physical therapy as my body does for a bikini.  We are given a list of facilities from which to choose.  The hospital does not recommend any one in particular.  I am intrigued by the brochure for this new facility.  The photos are beautiful. 

My brother, sister-in-law, and Aunt X go with me to visit the new facility.  It's gorgeous.  Beautiful wood in the lobby and a waterfall.  Like an apartment building in Manhattan.  The representative for the facility greets us.  Her name is Ida and she explains that this facility is a whole new concept. People from all over the world have come to study this facility.   The patients are called "guests."  The building is modeled after a house where the guests reside.  The elevator opens up to a lobby where there are topiary plants framing a nice door with molding that looks like Jefferson's Mount Vernon. 

We walk into the living room and there's a fire in the fireplace and a large flat screen television with the news on.  Some of the "guests" are reading the newspaper, waiting for dinner.  There's a salon that looks like the one in Canyon Ranch.  They do hair, nails and massage.  We continue on to the "gym" where the physical therapy takes place.  The guest bedrooms are beautiful, like a room in a high-end Westin Hotel.  The bathrooms are granite topped sinks and marble floors.  No smell of urine or sick people. 

My brother Phil decides that we should live there when we get old.  Ida takes us on a tour of the kitchen.  It's beautiful.  Large, open kitchen with granite countertops.  A farmhouse table is set for 10 "guests."  They have cloth napkins.  This is too good to be true.

Aunt X asks what they are cooking for dinner.  It smells divine.  Ida says their food is first quality and everything is Kosher.  Well, didn't that stop everything.  Aunt X asks for clarification. 

Aunt X: "Do you mean we can't bring our own food in for my sister?"

Ida: Yes, that's correct, but our food is excellent.  We cater to every dietary requirement.

Aunt X: Thank you for all your help today.  We really appreciate it but we have to be able to bring in our own food.

Ida: I'm sorry.

And there you have it. The evidence that my family places food above all else.

Friday, February 10, 2012

dispelling a myth (lyn)

New Yorkers often get a bum rap.  We're pushy. We're snobby.  We're arrogant.  We think our city is the best in the world and refer to it simply as the city.  We're always in a hurry.  We're tough.  And we're aggressive.  Yes it's true; we can be all these things.  But when people say we're unfriendly, well those people are simply ill-informed.

Take today for instance.  I have a few errands to run.

First, I take three pairs of unworn or barely worn shoes to Pavlos, a shoemaker that Robyn has been raving about.  He delivers; his prices are fair; but most importantly, he does a fabulous job.  I'm a little nervous having work done on shoes that look like pieces of art (and cost as much), but I need to get rubber soles put on all of them.  He can even stretch the shoes to make them more comfortable.  But when I ask if he can make my 3-inch heels feel like Uggs, he smiles sadly and tells me he can't.  But he can put red rubber soles on my red-soled shoes.  I hand over my credit card to pay the $86 I owe him, but he only takes cash.  I have $83 on me.   "That's fine, he says.  "Consider it a new customer discount."

Next I go to Williams-Sonoma to buy refills of their dish and hand soaps.  The stylish woman helping me is both knowledgeable and engaging.  By the time I leave, I know she has three children, is a grandmother of six-month old twins who live in Bethesda, and has a son who is a sophomore at Vanderbilt.  

I then stop at the Corner Cafe for their Asian-seasoned salmon, chicken-turkey loaf, tomato salad, and mashed potatoes.  Before leaving, I walk next door to their bakery, which I haven't been to in over a month.  When I was going to Weight Watcher meetings regularly, I'd stop by every week and get one piece of lemon-frosted angel food cake, and one piece with chocolate frosting.  Today, I walk in and don't see the cakes.  Without saying a word, one of the sales people sees me and says, "Don't worry, we just moved them to the other side of the counter."  

And then, because I'm carrying so many bags, I uncharacteristically take a cab home.  I give the driver my address and he says, "420 (my street number)  not good number."  But we start talking and in the twelve block drive to my apartment, he tells me he's from Pakistan, has been in this country for 24 years, lives in Queens, that the people who live in my neighborhood and further east are "very very nice," while those who live in Sutton Place area are "very very mean."  While I'm paying he says, "I change my mind; 420 is good number."  I have no idea what made my address bad when I got in the cab, but it's nice to know it's good by the time I get out.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

where the hell have you been? (m)

After 10 stressful but exciting days in California, we return home.  

Last Monday morning at 7 a.m. EST, I get a phone call.  My body has not adjusted to the time change and thinks it's 4 a.m.  My eyes are sealed shut and my brain isn't working.  I stumble and fumble to find the phone.

Me: Hello?
Aunt X: M! Are you awake?  Aunt Y fell!  We are in the Emergency Room.  It's bad this time.  Can you come here?  

Aunt X broke her hip and banged her head hard.  She was semi-conscious when I got there.  They performed surgery that evening on her despite her advanced age (87) and poor prior condition. 

For the balance of these past 9 days, Aunt Y has been in between worlds.  Her kidneys shut down and were barely working.  She was almost comatose.  She ran a fever and was found to also have a urinary tract infection.  When she opened her eyes, she couldn't focus.  People called her name but she didn't respond.
As her medical proxy, I spent much of the week conferring with her doctor, the case worker and a slew of relatives.  I went to visit rehab centers for care in the event she made it out of the hospital.  I comforted Aunt X and updated my cousins. 

Once she stabilized somewhat, I left the hospital on Friday and drove with T to New York to see Sam and go to his hockey games.  We got back at midnight on Saturday and left Sunday morning at 6 a.m. to take Harrison to New Hampshire to meet someone at his first choice college.

Got back Sunday afternoon at 4 and went to the hospital.  Get there and my brother Phil and sister-in-law Betsy and Aunt X are sitting in the room.  Aunt Y looks even thinner and is still sleeping.  It was like a wake.

Me: Has she been sleeping all this time?
Everyone: Pretty much.  You try to wake her up.
Me (walking over to one side of the bed): Aunt Y…Aunt Y…hello…are you in there?
Aunt Y (opens her eyes, stares at the ceiling, slowly turns and sees me and says:) Where the hell have you been?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

girls night out (lyn)

The reservation is for 7:45 at Capital Grille.  It’s restaurant week and six of us (all current or past Horace Mann moms) are meeting for dinner.  Four of us arrive on time, but we cannot be seated.  “I’m sorry, but we are fully committed tonight, so everyone in your party must be here before we can seat you.”  At 8, another person in our party shows up.  She’s late because she had to wait for her husband to come home so she could heat up soup for him, as he doesn’t know how.  “Okay, we’re all here,” we lie and tell the sweet-smiling but insincere hostess.  “I’m sorry, we are just clearing your table.  It’ll be just a few more minutes.”  At 8:15, the sixth and final person in our party arrives.  She’s an obstetrician, so she always has a good reason to come late.  Finally, around 8:30, we are seated. 

But it’s worth the wait.  We get a great table in the middle of the floor, looking out onto a wall of windows.  We start with drinks, and I get my standard cosmopolitan.  By the time we order, everyone is starving.  And though I hadn’t planned on eating any bread, by 9pm I am too hungry to resist.

Restaurant week is a great value here.  For $35, I have a caesar salad, a 14-ounce “bone-in kona crusted dry aged sirloin with caramelized shallot butter” (kona is some kind of coffee rub that tastes far better than it sounds), mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and a flourless chocolate cake.  The portions are large; I take half my steak home.

Tonight’s conversation is light and fun. We laugh at stories about in-laws and parent girlfriends.  We talk about our boys; all six of us have sons who are freshman in college.  There are no serious discussions about politics, no friendship-ending comments, no criticisms of any kind.  It’s a great night out.