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Of Picnics And Plateaus

Before I got married, my work colleagues threw me a party. One of the gifts was an insulated picnic backpack, which we never used until years later, after we adopted Chuck. Our first Memorial Day with Chuck, Dave suggested we have a picnic by the Potomac. The first picnic consisted of a very long walk to the picnic site, Dave’s homemade goopy brownies, and lots of Rolling Thunder.

Since 2005, the Memorial Day weekend picnic has been a tradition.

Dave’s picnic idea was brilliant. You see, I have a problem. I’m very good at planning, but I’m not so good at being in the moment. Several years ago I remember laughing out loud while watching an episode of “Inside the Actors Studio.” I think Ed Harris was talking about what it was like to work with Marcia Gay Harden in “Pollock” and he said that she was a great actress because “she was present.” That seemed like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard, of course she was present, how else could she have been in the movie? But now I sort of know what he meant.

This annual picnic is one of the few times I can think of when I just let myself be in the moment and relax–be present, if you will. We hang out on blankets, eat Dave’s delicious food, drink celebratory fizzy beverage, look at the water, watch Chuck eating his special treat, and coo over how adorable he is. For once, my mind isn’t somewhere else. I’m not watching the clock, wondering how long this is taking, worrying about my to do list and what I’m not doing because I’m doing this, or planning what I should do later.

The feeling I have during the picnic is glorious and I have to figure out how to feel this way more than a few hours per year.

Dave is a kick ass picnic provider. It’s one of our “cheat” occasions, when we don’t really worry about what we eat even though we both want to lose weight. This year, the menu consisted of:  lemon rosemary lamb with tzatziki, grilled zucchini, and Mediterranean orzo salad with feta vinaigrette (not pictured: sparkling lemonade, my Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, and a frozen Kong for Chuck).

Here is this year’s portrait of my special little family.

Since part of the tradition is taking pictures, this means we have pictures of us around the same time every year. Given the title of this post, you may see where I’m going.

I’ll start with the good news, a set of before and after pictures. On the left is my not so glamorous before (this photo makes me cringe) at my highest adult weight ever. On the right is my glamour shot from this year.

I know these shots aren’t set up the same, but there are almost always differences in before and after pictures that aren’t related to actual weight changes. Have you ever noticed how miserable the person looks in their before photo? The before never involves good hair or a smile, while the after photo involves both. At least some of the difference is attitude.

I wasn’t at all pleased with the way I looked on the left. I threw my hair back and put on a hoodie to cover myself even though it was hot. And I gave Dave a stupid look assuming I’d just delete the picture.

In the after, I’m much happier with how I look. I bothered to do my hair and wear something a little more photo-ready. And I smiled and posed in a not totally hunched over trying to hide myself way.

But there’s also a 15 pound difference. Trust me.

So what’s the bad news? The picture on the left was taken three years ago. I lost the 15 pounds between 2008 and 2009. Since August 2009, my weight has stayed stubbornly the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled I’ve kept the weight off for two years. But I wasn’t done. I have been actively trying to lose a little more the whole time. Since August 2009, I trained for and completed: two 5Ks, a 10K, two 10-milers, and a half marathon. While I can’t prove causality, the amount of exercise I do points to my problem being diet. Fuck.

In the weeks before Easter, Dave and I tried eating based at least loosely on the Primal Blueprint. We didn’t follow it religiously (for example, we didn’t give up dairy), but it was still a pretty drastic change, particularly the no added sugar thing. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and I lost about 3 pounds pretty quickly.

But then Easter happened. I planned on having a free for all over Easter for about a week, but the Easter chocolate joyride lasted a full month, courtesy of my miscalculating how much chocolate we could consume during my Mom’s visit and my Mom bringing more than we had requested. By the time the carnage was over, those 3 pounds were back and it was time to plan the Memorial Day picnic. I made cookies and had a cookie every day for a week until they were gone.

I have a special occasion problem. And there’s a special occasion ALL. THE. TIME.

Valentine’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, my birthday in August, Dave’s birthday in September, our anniversary in October, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mom’s visiting, I’m on vacation, I had a tough day at work, I had a good day, it’s a full moon on Tuesday.

I don’t want to live in a world in which I can never have another cupcake, but it’s way too easy for me to justify a treat.  There has to be a happy medium somewhere and I need to find it. Because it’s crazy to run the distances I have run over the past two years only to support a cupcake habit.

How often do you justify treats?

Chuck O’ The Irish

Apparently we often get our dog Chuck groomed in March, as evidenced by all the Irish-themed bandanna pictures I seem to have of him. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d share the best of Chuck celebrating his Irish (?!?) heritage. Dave insists that Chuck is a Finnish Lapphund, but I guess he can still be an honorary Irish dog since he looks so good in green.

We had Chuck groomed last weekend in preparation for a visit from my Mom this week. She really dislikes animals (I have no idea how I came from her), so we like Chuck to be all freshly coiffed when she’s going to be around him. Here is this year’s shamrock bandanna…I think Chuck rocks the argyle.

Last year’s bandanna was a little creepier…leprechauns!

But the bandanna that started this photo series was from a grooming visit in 2006. The picture from that year is quintessential Chuck. Not only is it the best of the Irish-themed Chuck pictures, but it is also my favorite picture of Chuck ever.  I titled it “Chuck looking adorable.” I love the sparkling bright happy eyes, I love how it looks like he’s smiling at me, and I love how his cheeks and neck are made entirely of fluff.

Dave used this picture to buy me the best present ever a few years ago for Christmas. He sent Baby Faces this picture and they made a custom pendant for me. When I opened it I was so confused. I thought Dave somehow found a Chow Chow pendant that happened to look a lot like Chuck, which would be weird since Chuck is a part-Chow mutt. I asked him how he found such a thing, and he explained that he had it made for me. This gift made me a little teary. It gives me comfort to wear this pendant when I have to be away from my Chucky puppy.

Quite frankly, I find the pendants of people kind of creepy, but the pet ones are adorable. I think animal eyes lend themselves to this application better.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

When You Care Enough

Could it have been a coincidence that I found this purveyor of fine greeting cards right before my Mom turned 70? Probably, but what luck to find a card that gives voice to EXACTLY what I was thinking about this momentous occasion.

I’m extremely lucky to have a Mom who receives a card like this with good humor (and her sense of humor is probably the main reason she seems younger than she is). I remember quite vividly when she turned 40. I thought that was O-L-D. All her friends did too, so they gave her all kinds of “over the hill” novelty birthday crap. Now that I’m, ahem, a few years away from 40, neither 40 nor 70 seems quite so old.

I would love to use this card for every major birthday, but I don’t have the balls. For example, my father-in-law will not be receiving this card for his 75th birthday next month (at least not from me!). If Dave doesn’t end up reading my blog, I’ll be able to use this card next year when he turns 40. Fuck, he’ll be old.