#reverb17//6//What about the holidays brings out your inner Grinch?

grinchWhat about the holidays brings out your inner Grinch?

The very first thing I thought of when I read today’s prompt was Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester, CT.

For six or so of my illustrious ten year career with Friendly’s Restaurant, my Christmas season started with a cringe worthy day of serving weary, impatient, aggravated shoppers on Black Friday at the “Friendly’s in the mall.”

You had to clarify which Friendly’s then because there were three within spitting distance of each other – the one “in the mall,” the one “outside the mall,” and the one in .Burr Corner – just around the corner from the one inside and the one outside the mall. I worked at all of them at one point or another, as well as the Silver Lane and Burnside Avenue locations in East Hartford, the Rockville (CT) location, one crazy day in Mystic, and a winter break at the Sumner Avenue location in Springfield, MA.

Buckland St
Friendly’s “Outside the Mall”

But the Friendly’s in the mall was my home location. It was the most fun job I ever had. Ever. I was an excellent server and I loved coming home with an apron full of cash and an arm covered in ice cream up to the elbow. Our little group of workers were tight. We’d fist pump when we were working the same shifts. We’d pool our tips even though we weren’t supposed to. We get to work, kill it, close up and hang out til 1:00 or 2:00am. Get up and do it all over again the next day.

Black Friday signaled the start of the most irritating two months of work. Also the most lucrative, but I’m feeling the annoyance creeping up on me just thinking about it.

First of all, you had to leave for your shift at least an hour early to get through the traffic to the mall, find parking and walk from Guam into the restaurant in the middle of the complex.

Now, if you live in NoVA, this isn’t a big deal. You probably leave for work well over an hour early everyday, but that is just NOT how it is in Manchester, CT and sitting in the line of traffic on Slater Lane was infuriating.

You finally get in to find out you’re covering breaks. That’s restaurant speak for “making no money while taking care of everyone else’s tables.” The unspoken rule in serving is if you start the table, it’s yours. Even if all you’ve done is drop off waters and take an order. So when you’re covering breaks, you’re mostly taking care of tables off of which you will not be making any money. Then you’ll get one party seated in that section that IS yours and ten minutes later, you’re in another section covering for another server and you have one table there. And so on and so on…

You finally get your own section and you’re trying to get into a rhythm but these people are insufferable. They are tired from getting up early to get the good deals. They are indecisive because they’ve had to make decisions on gifts all day. And absolutely MOST importantly, they’re out of money. I mean, not everyone, and never completely, but they sure as heck aren’t in the “giving mood” after shopping for presents for their entire family and probably for their in-laws, too.

If it’s early enough – 11:00am to about 12:30pm, they are probably just stopping for a quick bite before braving the crowds again. One Senior Fishamajig with cole slaw and a coffee. Total bill: $7.50. Tip: $1.00.

At 12:30pm, the families start showing up. Exhausted and unable (willing?) to keep their kids from mashing up french fries, crushing their crayons, and then throwing ALL of it on the floor, I will beg the hostess to sweep under the table before seating it again. I know this is futile. A. The hostess will just kick the crayon/french fry mush further under the table because B. The carpet sweeper hasn’t worked in three months.

One Turkey Supermelt with fries (hold the thousand island dressing, sub ranch, light on the cheese and hold the butter on the bread), one Colossal Bacon burger with waffle fries (oh, waffle fries are 50 cents more? Never mind. What is your vegetable today? Broccoli? Ok, but no stems, k? Thanks), one Kids Grilled Cheese with applesauce. (YES applesauce. YES APPLESAUCE!), one Kids Mac and Cheese with french fries (Because SHE behaved herself in Macy’s unlike someone else. No, no milkshake. Because you get ice cream with your meal) **cringe** Two Cokes, two Kids milks, and four waters. (But can you put theirs in the kids cups with the lids and could you give them the different colored straws in each? Thanks.) Total bill (after making a Monster Mash and a Conehead Sundae to-go): $35. Tip: $5.

Three o’clock is actually the sweet spot of the day. Hardcore shoppers are gone. Kids are playscapein the playscape and out of your hair. In walks the appetizers and ice cream crowd. Solid $20 checks, solid $4-5 tips. You have time to put an extra cherry on the sundae of the college kid flirting with you. You have time to do “coffee shots” with the crew before gearing up for dinner. You steal a slice of bacon from the VAT on the grill. You plead your case to the supervisor for why you should be the first one cut if it slows down.

At the end of your shift, you roll two trays of silverware, you “marry” the ketchups, you refill the sugars and you make yourself a sundae to-go. You may or may not pay for it.

You make plans to meet up with everyone after they close and you take the long walk back to Guam, get in your car and try not to get ice cream or grease on anything.

Now that I think of it….

Maybe it doesn’t make me so Grinchy…. 🙂

#reverb17//5//The holidays aren’t the holidays until I….

The holidays aren’t the holidays until I…

Go home.

My parents’ house is a masterfully decorated winter wonderland. There are tiny snowmen in nooks and crannies. There are gorgeously painted Santa Clauses clustered perfectly. The mantle is trimmed with fresh greens and there are angels seemingly floating above it.

There is ALWAYS Christmas music playing. Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Amy Grant, Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow….and of course, the family faves: NSync and The Muppets (RUN RUN REINDEER). That’s to name maybe 20% of the collection. The music plays, we all sing along. Sometimes Ginzo will whisk you into a two step or spin you around just to catch you and lead you expertly in rhythm to Barry begging you to stay because, “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”

There are at least a dozen different kind of homemade cookies. Of course there are. We all have different favorites. Kate – sugar, Dad – cocoa logs, Mark – oatmeal raisin/lemon, Ginzo – hmmm…she likes the shortbread with the chocolate and the lemon and the cookies she adds a raspberry jelly to…and me? I don’t even know if I can narrow it down. I love the “lace” cookies, break-ups, scotch crunchies (Mom – are those the ones with the Chinese noodles, peanuts, chocolate, and butterscotch? Those.) I’m not even sure if I can choose a favorite of those. Mmmmmm…

Kate’s pretty stocking and my ugly one.

Midnight Mass at St. Bridget with the choir.

Snow. Or at least cold weather.

It’s just not quite the same when we’re in VA for Christmas. I don’t seem to get into the spirit quite the same way. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’m fairly certain I married the Grinch 😉  It’s not his fault. If your birthday was December 23rd, Christmas might not be your fave either.

I’m thankful my parents will be here next week through Christmas. Maybe when Mark is out, we can play some merry little tunes and they can spread a little of that Christmas spirit around my home the way it envelops theirs.

Ten more days…

 

#reverb17//4//Traditions

Prompt 4 is…. (if you’re thinking, “Wait! I missed prompt 3!” no worries, so did I. A picture of “Whimsical Holiday Decor.” I don’t even know what that means. Skippin’ it.)

Prompt 4:  What is one tradition you plan to pass on to future generations of your family and friends?

Kind of a loaded question for a childless-almost-forty-year-old. I don’t know how you pass on a tradition without kids. I guess I hope my sister passes on our family’s traditions to her kids. Or maybe I just hope they include us in the new traditions they create for themselves.  That would be good, too.

As for traditions I enjoy…

I like a real tree. I like the smell and the feel of a real tree. I like the imperfection of a real tree. I like the responsibility and the struggle of a real tree. I like the memory of my dad tagging a tree ahead of time and cutting it down himself. I like the memory of unveiling said tree when it was ready to bring in and set it up.

tree

The actual decorating of the tree is actually not my fave. If I could just come home one day and a real tree would be set up and completely decorated, I’d be a very happy girl. Probably has something to do with bucking against the extremely precise way we decorated growing up:

  • Ginzo picks 5 Christmas CDs to be played IN ORDER. No shuffle. No way.
  • Lights go on the tree
  • Kate and Ginzo check for duplicate colors too close together and switch them (not kidding)
  • Ginzo hands us our ornaments one at a time. Hanging them has it’s own rules:
    • Small ornaments up top and larger ones down low
    • Each turn (one by one) goes on in order: Front, side, back, side, repeat.
    • You do not put two ornaments in a row in the front.
    • You do not skip the back of the tree.
    • You hang Ginzo’s for her because she is conducting this orchestra of decoration, BUT her ornaments follow the same pattern – no skipping.
    • You ask dad to find a branch strong enough for your porcelain bear ornament and he inevitably skips the front/side/back/side order and is reminded it is not optional.
  • Garland on
  • Star placed

(Ginzo is either laughing at the precision of this description or bitter that I don’t love it the way she does 😉

Yeah – I’m cool with decorating a little more willy-nilly than that. Or making Caleb and Sam do it for me 🙂

Christmas dinner is a fave.

Christmas music is a fave.

Not sure what I’ll pass on or to whom, but there are definitely some traditions that I really love that I hope continue. Fingers crossed.

 

#reverb17//1//On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Here we are. Reverb 2017. Oh what a year it has been. First 2017 prompt:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

In 2017, Mark and I made a concerted effort to focus on our marriage. After five years, life had gotten in the way of what made us US and we knew we needed to find a way to rediscover our couplehood after all the excitement of weddings and houses and puppy dogs and career changes. Those things are great for sure, but for the first few years of marriage, we were living exciting change to exciting change and when the changes stopped coming, so did the excitement.

Marriage is hard. Not always, not everyday, but it certainly has its moments. We are not faultless as human beings. We hurt; we fail; we ignore; we take for granted. And after five years and some trying situations, it can be a seductive idea to walk away and start fresh. Shrug off the disappointments and dream of the one who would never allow doubt into the equation of your perfect relationship. That person HAS to be out there, right?

Wrong. We are not faultless as human beings. Weren’t you paying attention? It was only four sentences ago! Keep up!

We could walk away. We could find other people. We might even find someone great. But we aren’t going to find someone perfect. They don’t exist and thank God for that, because if they did, the pressure to live up to the PERFECT mate…Jesus. That’s just the kind of thing my anxiety is made of, peeps.

If we’re being real real, and you KNOW I like to keep it real real, my perfect, imperfect mate is Mark. We are very different people. Very. Different. People. But..he brings out the best in me. He is the first person with whom I want to share news. He is MY guy and I am so proud of that. Maybe that’s why I know it can work and maybe that’s why I want to keep trying, keep really working.

What did my true love give me this year?

He gave me a reason to fight for me, for him, for us. He gave me direction and purpose. He reminded me of what is truly important to me. He reminded me fighting for what you want can be so hard and there can be so many roadblocks, but in the end, you will never regret the effort you put in to something you really want. Even if you don’t get it.

So Mark, please know, you are worth every laugh, every argument, every Sunday morning cup of coffee, every doubt, every revelation, every hard, honest moment, and certainly you are worth my love, loyalty, and dedication for as long as you’ll have me.

You are my true love.

 

Elizabeth 2.0

It’s been quite some time since I have written about My Tape. I tried on multiple occasions, but forming words around what life has been like has felt impossible for a long time.

I have to write about My Tape as honestly and openly as possible because it can’t help me to share half-truths. It doesn’t help me to shroud the tough stuff. And there has been some tough stuff.

I consider myself a moderately strong person and then I think of the other people in my life:

My sister and her ability to raise a teenage boy and almost-teenage girl so exceptionally and with commitment and with joy.

My friends whose baby so unfairly has cancer and their ability to still find a way to keep their older daughter’s life full, normal, and fun – not to mention find time to write a thank-you note for a meal delivered.

My good friend who lost a parent suddenly and even though I know the devastation has be all-consuming at times, she has still managed to handle all that comes with that loss – including selling her childhood home – with her unbreakable spirit and grace.

These people are strong.

I am not them. I am generally a mess. When the going gets really tough, I do tend to shift into hyper-gear but I usually just take on far more than I should. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Maybe it’s instinct. Maybe it’s both. I don’t know. I just know that’s how I generally deal.

Over the past eight months, I experienced loss and uncertainty to a higher degree than I ever have before. It proved to be too much for me to power through. I spun out of control. I ate and drank to dull the emotional and physical pain.  I squirreled myself away.  I disengaged.

My anxiety, which I normally keep in check with exercise and sleep, escalated to a barely functional level. Unable to get a full night’s (half night’s?) sleep, getting myself to work was getting harder and harder. I would have full on anxiety attacks in the middle of the day triggered by just about anything. I’d get home and just want to feel a sense of calmness…get my mind to slow the hell down…and out came the wine. And the chips. And the ice cream. And the isolation, because who wants to be around that?

The loss of the most important friendship of my adult life, a heartbreaking discovery, never ending physical pain, and no sleep lead to this unbearable level of anxiety and with it came depression.

I didn’t want to see people. Not my friends. Not my family.

I wanted to curl up with my dog, in my bed and shut out the world. In January, there were literally three people, including myself, who knew everything going on with me. Today, there are six. The additional three? Two therapists and a dietician.

For someone as open as I normally am, the secrecy of all that was going on added to the guilt and shame I felt. I couldn’t and shouldn’t have shared everything with everyone and it just isolated me more and more from the people I care about.

I withdrew from everyone and everything. The only tasks I accomplished were absolute necessities. I didn’t (don’t) have energy for more than that and keeping my head above water most days.

I watched my friends struggle with my withdrawal. I felt their frustration every time I declined an invite or backed out last minute. I empathized with the betrayal they must have felt at my seemingly instantaneous departure from our social circle. I have been there…on the other side…on their side. There is a feeling of abandonment like no other when a friend removes themselves from your life and while I didn’t want to hurt them, I didn’t know how to be around them either. Getting up and going to work took just about every ounce of energy and motivation I had. To keep up the “I’m great!” facade on the weekends, too? Nope, I couldn’t do it and since I also couldn’t tell them what was really going on, I just…avoided them. Everyone.

In February, I hit my breaking point. I had gained 15lbs since October and I was missing work, binging, purging, drinking, and still not sleeping. My eating disorder behaviors were completely out of control.

That’s the thing about eating disorders. They provide a false sense of control. I can’t control what’s going on in my life? Fine. But I can “control” what I put in my mouth. If I hide food, then it’s just mine and no one can judge it or take it away. That’s “control,” right? Oh, and when I want to get rid of it? I can control that, too.

I was rapidly coming undone. I finally called an in-patient eating disorder center to discuss my situation and possibly check myself in. They had a wonderful in-take process that helped figure out what level of care I really needed at that moment. Obviously in-patient care is a big step and they wanted to be sure was the right one.

Through the process, it was determined Intensive Outpatient Therapy (therapy multiple times a week) would be the appropriate level of care. I made appointments with my primary care physician, endocrinologist, a new therapist, and a new dietician specializing in working with patients with eating disorders.

Since the “dark days of February,” and what feels like one thousand doctor and therapy appointments, I’ve been officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety, and Bulimia. The Fibromyalgia explains the pain and with it, the rest explain the anxiety, depression, binging, purging, and even the inability to sleep.

There are no blood tests for any of these things so it’s really based on signs and symptoms. Treating them are just as hit or miss. I have started on a medication which has drastically reduced my anxiety and pain and I honestly don’t know where I would be without it right now. Of course, it also messes with my sleep more than before, but I’ll take functional and tired over anxious and isolated. At least for now.

For now, the biggest risk to my health is the bulimia. And so I that’s where I start the road to recovery.

Eating disorders live in the darkness of shame, guilt, and secrecy. It’s the only way they can survive. When the behaviors and the reasons behind them are revealed, the shame and guilt subsides and the eating disorder has no function. So I’m told….

I am far from totally transparency. I feel buried under my shame and my guilt, but at least now, with a plan in place, I see a tiny pinhole of light.

So here I am. In the muck of recovery and attempting to come out of the darkness.

Still trying to change my tape.

Recovery is and will be my biggest struggle yet because my choices are:

Focus on losing weight or focus on recovery.

There is no “both.” They are mutually exclusive. I literally can either get better, or I can worry about losing weight and since it’s been my lone goal for the last 25 years, I’m not sure how to not focus on losing weight so I can get better.

At least while I was trying to lose weight I could commiserate with my friends and class participants. So unfortunately,  it is part of regular conversation with every woman I know. Now I have to ignore that talk. I have to focus on recovery.

The thing is, it’s already so hard walking into the gym to teach class having gained 45lbs in 4 years and now…now I have to do it knowing I will most likely gain more before/if I lose again. Recovery involves throwing out the diet talk. Throwing out the good foods vs. bad foods thoughts. It involves listening to my true hunger feelings and then honoring them. It cannot include restriction. In the end, the hope is my I figure out the actual real balance of food I need to fuel my self when I need energy, to celebrate without guilt, to eat without labels.

At the gym, I feel like a fraud and, at the same time, I just want to yell, “Do you know how hard I work? It’s not like I want to look like this!”

If I’m being honest, though (and that’s the point, right?) I felt the exact same way 45lbs ago.  There are posts on this very blog to back that up. And I’ll tell you this: I’d feel like that if I lost 60lbs tomorrow.

That’s what an eating disorder is. It’s mental and emotional sabotage. It’s my mind racing with completely irrational thoughts all day long – all the while packaging itself as a coping mechanism wrapped in a security blanket.

My eating disorder makes it impossible to love and respect myself for who I am, not what size I am.

But I have to try. The alternative is too grim. It’s not what I want for my life.

Therapy is hard, but good. What’s that we say (no doubt while sprinting in RPM)?

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Well this is the biggest challenge of my life. And I am changing.

Just writing this – putting it out there – not letting this eating disorder fester and grow in secrecy – that’s a big change.

I have been spending more time with friends and family and getting out a bit more. I hope they will wait for me. I hope they will understand my need for space at times. I hope they will forgive me for keeping them in the dark for so long.

Because it feels good to be headed back towards my old self even if that girl seems so far away right now.

Or maybe I’m just headed forward, towards the new me. The next me. Elizabeth 2.0.

Change the tape, right?

please-wait

Correct Me if I’m Wrong…

I apologize for abandoning you in the middle of the ClassPass Experiment. The problem was that I took no good classes. None. Zero. Zippy. Writing the blog articles became an exercise in how to be entertaining without being mean. Because I had almost nothing nice to say. And I think we have all learned, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

I do have something to say to the group fitness instructors of the world, and also to the group fitness enthusiasts. My hope is both groups benefit from both messages.

Demonstrator
No, no. Ones who demonstrate movement.

To the group fitness instructors out there:

That’s what we’re most-often called, I think? Instructors. Sometimes teachers. Occasionally trainers. What else are we? Leaders? Educators? Demonstrators?

My point – we are INSTRUCTors. So why do so many of us shy away from actually INSTRUCTing? In 23 years of teaching group fitness, I know I have had several different answers for this. I’m guessing many instructors reading this will be able to find themselves in one of the following stages of group fitness instruction.

Continue reading “Correct Me if I’m Wrong…”