Twenty Before Fifty

I promised myself I’d lose 20 pounds before turning 50 and I did it.  As of today, I’ve dropped 23 pounds and my birthday is still a week away. Forget about health and wellness. The biggest perk is fitting into clothes that haven’t seen the light of day in more years than I’m willing to admit. Just thinking about slipping into my favorite hip Banana Republic short-shorts over spring break makes me wistful.

Humor is the best medicine for what ails you.

The problem with gaining weight is that there’s a measurable lag between packing on the pounds and actually awakening to the reality that you’ve morphed into someone befitting of adjectives like “plump” or “chunky” or as my friend’s mother would say “big-boned.” Even though it should have been obvious, as I propelled my way up the size charts, I’d managed to abide contentedly in a state of self-denial for several years.

Sizes run smaller nowadays…or…I must’ve thrown these jeans in the dryer again…or This mirror makes me look a bit portly…must be propped up at a funny angle was how I rationalized my changing physique. It was not until I saw myself, I mean really saw myself, the way others did, that I acknowledged the gravity of my predicament.

One day I set out to organize a batch of photos I’d recently taken and found one of a woman who looked vaguely familiar. I don’t remember taking this photo I thought as I tried in vain, but couldn’t place her. Who do I know with arms that fat? Somebody needs to let her know she doesn’t need to be going sleeveless with those sausage limbs… 

As I analyzed the photo more closely, I slowly began to process what I was seeing. I have that same shirt…and those sandals…and that wristwatch…and that very same mole on my left cheek just under my eye…

I stared incredulously at that photo, eyeing every detail, and HEAVEN HELP ME that’s when I made the startling and painful discovery: the fat woman with the gargantuan thigh-arms was ME (proper rudiments dictate the sentence should read that fat woman…was I, but my rioting sense of panic seems to make this is an appropriate time to break a grammar rule). For the first time in a very long time I was seeing myself the way others saw me. I was a bloated mockery of my trim, fit self and it wasn’t pretty.

My first impulsive thoughts were HOW DID I LET THIS HAPPEN and I’M NEVER LEAVING THE HOUSE AGAIN. Luckily however I recovered quickly because 1) the prospect of never leaving the house was ridiculous, and 2) “this happened” because I’d turned into a chowhound. I decided a more active solution was in order and immediately began to take mental inventory of the diets I’d followed over the years.

Let’s see. There was the Flat Belly Diet, South Beach Diet, the cabbage soup diet (too gassy), Atkins, Sugar-Busters, and even that one where you eat a can of beets at every meal (which was scary because it turns your poop red), but the one I kept coming back to was Weight Watchers. Because it works*.

I know what you’re thinking. The words “weight” and “watchers” are benign on their own, but stick them together and you have a whole new meaning. I’m the first to admit it. Weight Watchers conjures up images of crowds gathering for cultish meetings, and hokie gold stars for every ounce lost. It’s pathetic and desperate, but guess what? I WAS PATHETIC AND DESPERATE. If the kick-start I needed was somehow wrapped up in a couple of hip-hip-hoorays and a gold star, well then that was that.

I googled “Weight Watchers Atlanta Georgia,” and while the organization is certainly no Waffle House, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were several locations in and around the midtown area. As luck would have it, there was a meeting scheduled for noon at the one most convenient to me. A quick glance at my watch and I knew if I hustled, I’d get there in time to reactivate my membership and quietly slip into the meeting.

When I decide to do something, I do it with gusto and rejoining Weight Watchers was no exception. In a flash I was dashing across SunTrust Plaza and barging headlong through the doors of the World Trade Center Offices. I blitzed past a display of flags, made a sharp turn to the right (where I’m fairly certain I knocked down one portly woman and left several others clucking disdainfully in my wake) as I kicked into the home stretch.

My destination lay a stone’s throw ahead, but just as I eased off pace, a slow moving crowd began to form.

“Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me.” I dodged and weaved my way through a maze of jiggling thighs, flabby muffin tops, and cellulite-covered “assets.” A large woman, clad in ill-fitting yoga pants topped with a rather unbecoming sport bra and carrying her shoes, appeared to be the final obstacle in my path.

“Hey,“ she whined as I shoved past her. “You can’t do that! I was here firrrrrrst.”

“Sorry,” I said hyperventilating as I lunged to the front of the line, “this is an emergency.”

Smiling sheepishly, I approached the check-in desk (which I would soon be reminded is referred to by insiders as the “weigh-in” desk) and chirped in a cheerful turbo-charged voice, “Hi! It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, like a decade, but I’d like to come back!”

“Fill this out,” the woman sitting behind the desk said disapprovinglyl. “And next time you’ll need to wait your turn.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said and took the pen and form she handed me. Sliding over to make room for the next person in line, I took a few seconds to catch my breath then quickly completed the form. I scrawled a number in the box labeled GOAL WEIGHT, fully expecting I was no more than eight, maybe ten at max, pounds over.

I handed my form and credit card to the woman behind the desk. “Here you go. I’d like to pay for one month, please.”

“Mmm-hmm,” she mumbled. She glanced at my paperwork, then peered at me over the rims of her reading glasses, and finally looked back at my paperwork again.

“I’m pretty sure I can get down to my goal weight in a month,” I chattered nervously, punctuating my commnet with a giddy laugh.

“I’m sure you can,” her voice dripped with innuendo, “but maybe you should consider three months,” she gave me a once over. “Buy three months and we wave registration fees for returning members.”

“Oh,” I said feeling a little foolish (and in case you don’t know, feeling foolish in public is bad enough, but couple it with feeling fat and it’s about the worst most degrading feeling there is). “Okie-dokie, then. I guess I’ll go with three months.”

She processed my paperwork, all the while yammering on about e-tools and how the Points Program had recently become the Points-Plus Program and, blah, blah, blah. At some point I simply quit listening, my attention having been captured by one of those life sized cardboard cut-out, stand-up poster-things of Jennifer Hudson. Gosh she looks great…I wonder how she did it?

I snapped back to reality when it hit me that the woman behind the check-in desk had stopped talking and was staring at me inquisitively, as if expecting a response of some kind.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Could you repeat that last little bit?”

“You need to step on the scale so we can get your starting weight, “ she repeated.

A surge of blood shot to my ears. My vision became blurry and a cacophony of words began to swirl around inside my head – HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE PART WHERE YOU GET WEIGHED IN FRONT OF COMPLETE STRANGERS?

I hadn’t set foot on a scale in a very long time (it’s part of the whole self-denial thing associated with lag-time in acknowledging the slow upward creeping of one’s weight), but when I did make weighing myself a dutiful part of my daily routine, I followed a strict set of rules.

First, I only ever weigh myself completely naked. Second, I do it alone (that’s right, not even the dog is allowed in the bathroom when I hop on the scale). And third, I either weigh myself early in the morning prior to eating and drinking and preferably after indulging in my “daily constitutional” or, if it’s later in the day, after a two hour jaunt on my treadmill or a sweaty three-setter on the tennis court.

“Ms. Datoc?”

“Yes?” I was still dazed.

“Can you step on the scale for me, dear?”  For the first time, the woman behind the desk seemed to have sincere and honest empathy for my ordeal, but no amount of kindness was going to quell my angst.

“Now?” I asked meekly. “In front of everyone?”

Suddenly it all made perfect sense. The large woman I passed earlier…her unbecoming, ill-fitting ensemble, and the fact she was carrying her shoes. Why hadn’t I had the presence of mind to change into lighter clothes before dashing out the door?

“Yes, dear. Remember? Even though the part of the scale you step on is out there,” she rose up off her chair and pointed to my side of the “weigh-in” desk, “the display panel is back here so no one sees it but me.” She smiled genuinely and I noticed a smudge of lipstick on her front teeth. Normally that kind of thing strikes me funny and I struggle to stifle myself. Not today.

I slipped off my Reeboks, removed my jewelry and holding my breath stepped onto the scale. The woman behind the “weigh-in” desk recorded my weight on a small slip of paper, folded it in half, and discreetly slid it across the counter to me.

I was horrified. It was worse than I expected…by a long shot. Even with the handicap I’d calculated for time of day and clothing, I was heavier than I’d been in my entire life. In that precise moment I vowed to lose 20 pounds before turning 50. 20 before 50. It became my mantra.

No matter how you slice it, shedding pounds requires burning more calories than you consume. Period. Simple in theory, but in practice…not so much. That’s why whenever you lose a bunch of weight, people want to know how you did it. I get it. I’ve interrogated my share of newly svelte friends hoping to uncover the next quick fix or wonder diet secrets.

I promised myself I’d lose 20 pound before turning 50 and I did it. 20 before 50. My secret? Weight Watchers. Because it works.*


Christmas Just Ain’t Christmas Without a Card You Love

It may be the most wonderful time of the year, yet every trip I take to the mailbox makes me increasingly anxious. No, no, no, I’m not avoiding bill collectors. It’s Christmas cards that make me nervous.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love receiving Christmas cards. I savor every family photo and update that comes my way. It’s just that each joyful greeting serves as a reminder that in spite of good intentions, no matter what I do I never can get my cards in the mailbox before it’s time to set out the milk and cookies for Santa on December 24. This year promises to be no exception.

I’m as fond of spreading good cheer as the next gal and it wouldn’t be so bad if all I felt compelled to do was buy a big box of assorted commercially manufactured cards, sign ’em and slap computer-generated address labels on the envelopes, but nooooo. Can’t do that. That would be far too easy, not to mention (and I hope I’m not offending anyone here) impersonal.

The truth is, I dug myself into this hole and with each passing year it gets harder and harder to pull myself out of it. Confused? Let me explain.

About 20 years ago I started getting creative. No store-bought cards for the Datocs. No-siree. At first I sent out simple photo cards. You know the kind you order from Wolf Camera with a picture of your kids and the dog wearing matching sweaters. Next I started inserting entertaining year-in-review newsletters, which led to photo collages, which led to graphic timelines, and eventually to one-of-a-kind super-duper-fantastic cards, designed and produced single-handedly by yours-truly.

It’s grown into an annual tradition that consumes more time and cash than I’m willing to admit. I am the proud owner of a vast range of professional photo editing and graphic design applications as well as the world’s fastest, all-in-one, photosmart, two-sided commercial grade printer.

Even with state of the art equipment and technology, it takes a lot of time. A lot of time. Concept development routinely begins in July. By November I’ve got a couple of firm ideas which I dutifully run by the husband and kids for approval. Each year I am met with their blank expressions indicating a general lack of interest in the process. This prompts my annual frustrated fist shaking and idle threat to scrap the whole project which is met by more blank staring from said husband and kids (and dog who always stares at me when I throw tantrums).

It is at this stage that I become more annoyed than I ever have been (except perhaps for the time I went shopping on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and some lady in front of me at the check out counter refused to bag her own groceries…don’t get me started).

Anyway, I stomp around the house thinking… FINE. I’ll pick the one I like best…and Nobody appreciates what I do around here… and suddenly I remember It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake…snap out of it. I recall comments from friends and relatives who receive my cards each year. They think I’m clever and witty and… (sigh) People do appreciate me. Oh all right. I’ll do it. After my sour mood runs it’s course, my husband hops on the band-wagon and together we manage to pull off another terrific card… one even better than last year’s.

Unfortunately, this year there’s a problem. See, I’ve set the bar rather high all these years. It’s not easy being the one who sends out the best-ever Christmas cards year in and year out. People expect the Datoc family Christmas cards to be funny and unique and engaging. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to take a nap.

This year I found myself in quite a predicament. Thanksgiving leftovers were already a distant memory. The yuletide season was breathing down my neck and I still had not started working on our Christmas card. I was forced to admit what I’d been denying since last summer. The wellspring of ideas had run dry. Yep. I was fresh out of clever Christmas card concepts. It was bound to happen after nearly two decades. I had nothing. Nada.

I hated to concede, but I needed help this year and I needed it fast. I was in a tizzy and since Prozac was not an option, I decided to think outside the box. What can I do to stimulate some ideas?

Imagine an assembly line of industrial Christmas elves. One elf signs “Merry Christmas from the Datocs” in swirly elfin penmanship. Another elf stuffs the cards into envelopes. A third elf addresses and stamps the envelopes. Finally the most responsible elf of the bunch drives me to the post office to mail somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 Christmas cards (he’d go by himself, but he’s too short to reach the after hours mail slot).

All of this is completed by Black Friday leaving me with ample time, after a full day of shopping, to roast chestnuts on an open fire whilst Jack Frost nips at my nose and my husband and sons serenade me with yuletide carols, which they sing by the same fire on which I am roasting chestnuts. Ahhhhh…

Okay so maybe we just watch football and maybe harboring elves to secretly assuage my Christmas card burden is ridiculous (Santa would never hire out during the Christmas rush), but my fantasy got me thinking. I’d been so consumed with thoughts of impending writers’ cramp, paper cuts on my tongue, lingering glue after-taste and all the other unpleasantries associated with the mammoth task ahead, I was unable to generate a single creative idea. That’s when it hit me. I’m still creative. I’m just lazy.

Hmmm. Keep thinking outside the box. I enjoy the Christmas e-cards that find their way through cyberspace into my Inbox just as much as I do the paper ones the postman delivers to the mailbox at the end of my driveway, right? So…why not join the 21st century and send a Christmas e-card?

In less time than it takes to say partridge in a pear tree…okay make that four calling birds-three French hens-two turtle doves-and a partridge in a pear tree…I created the first ever one-of-a-kind super-duper-fantastic Datoc family Christmas e-card, designed and produced single-handedly by yours-truly.

You know what they say. Christmas just ain’t Christmas without a card you love…so here’s mine. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas from my family to yours.


Just Because You Could, Does Not Mean You Should

Humor is the best medicine for what ails you.

I’ve been shopping for sweatpants for over two weeks and it’s making me cranky. I need a pair of sweatpants and I need them in time for Thanksgiving because… well…because I plan to eat a lot.

I need a pair of cotton fleece, heather-gray classic Leave-It–to-Beaver looking sweat pants. You know the kind Wally threw on after hitting the game-winning, three-pointe shot at the buzzer. The kind of sweatpants he wore with high top Chuck Taylors and a matching Property-of-Mayfield-High-Athletic-Dept sweatshirt.

The problem is you can’t find good old-fashioned sweatpants anymore. Trust me. I’ve looked everywhere. It’s not as if there are no sweatpants to be found. There are plenty of trendy sweatpants available, but trendy is not for me. I’m in the market for something simple and classic and baggy enough to bamboozle me into believing I have enough room for both the pumpkin cheescake and the bourbon pecan pie a la mode…even if I don’t.

Yoga pants seem to be very popular among women these days. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes: Capri-length, boot cut, tapered, misses, petites, plus size and they stretch. The thing about yoga pants is they all sit low on your hips. I suppose that’s sexy if you’re sporting a pierced navel or tasteful (is there such a thing?) lumbo-sacral tattoo, but not so much if you consume enough turkey and stuffing to make fastening the top button on your sensible britches an agonizing struggle.

My gut spills over the waistband on a pair of yoga pants on a good day. Forget about Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving I need something with a drawstring. Something I can hoist up comfortably over my entire midriff so when Grandma asks if I have room for dessert, I can answer with resounding YES…even if I don’t.

I actually found a pair of drawstring sweatpants the other day. It was just another ordinary day. I’d lost hope of ever finding a pair of sweatpants to my liking when BAM! there they were. Bunches of drawstring sweatpants piled high on a table, just waiting to be found. I grabbed a pair and made a b-line for the fitting room.

I tried them on and made a full assessment. They weren’t exactly what I had in mind: cotton jersey instead of fleece, black instead of heather gray, flared hem instead of elasticized. They weren’t perfect, but they had a drawstring AND they sat at my natural waist, not six inches below it. Hmmm…close enough…SOLD…to the lady in the frumpy jeans.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will now pause for a moment in order to express my gratitude. I’ll bet you’re expecting me to give thanks for regular old drawstring sweatpants. WRONG. Thank heavens for three-way mirrors. Amen

I figured those sweatpants were as close as I was going to get to the real thing. They fit. They were comfortable, and I was this close (imagine me, pinching my thumb and index finger together for dramatic emphasis) to a purchase when something came over me. I’m not sure what possessed me to do it, but I’m glad I did. I pulled back the curtain of my private cubicle and stepped in front of the communal three-way mirror. Rotating slightly to the left I craned over my shoulder to get a glimpse at myself from behind and that’s when (gasp) I saw it. BOOTYLISCIOUS.

The word Bootyliscious (and I’m not entirely sure what it means, or why someone would put it there) was scrawled in large white letters across my derriere. What’s more, as if the stark contrast of bold white letters on black sweatpants was not enough, each letter B-O-O-T-Y-L-I-S-C-I-O-U-S was embellished with rhinestones. Go ahead and reread it. That’s right. RHINESTONES. Even if you have the good fortune to possess the anatomical padding associated with bootylisciousness, why would anyone want to sit on rhinestones? Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

I can’t help wondering. Rhinestones? Tete-a-tete on your tail? Who came up with the idea to put words on people’s backsides and why? WHY? I mean there simply is no good reason to draw additional attention to a colossal rump. If the seat of your pants is expansive enough to contain an eight-letter word, there is a good chance YOU ARE NOT I repeat YOU ARE NOT BOOTYLISCIOUS.

I stripped out of those sweatpants faster than you could say Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which happens to be the longest word in the English language and, might I add,  could easily fit across my own prodigious behind, but you don’t see it plastered there do you? DO YOU? Of course you don’t because I know better.

I know better and it took a pair of (for lack of a better name) words-across-your-rump sweatpants for me to realize it. I could wear “Bootyliscious” or”Juicy” or “PINK” or “I – heart- My Sschnauzer” sweatpants, but I won’t because I know better. I could eat my way into a tryptophan coma on Thanksgiving Day, but I won’t because I know better. There are all manner of things I could do, but I don’t. Because I know better.

There is a moral to this story. Just because you could, does not mean you should. I know better and for that, I am thankful.

Read Just Another Ordinary Day in the Smyrna-Vinings Patch.

Just to Make You Laugh

Every now and again, in the middle of just another ordinary day, something happens that tickles my funny bone.  This morning when I opened  facebook I was greeted by the following photo in my newsfeed.  I usually try to keep my postings apolitical, but this one’s just too funny not to share…just to make you laugh.  Have a good one…

Photo credit unknown

Just to Make You Laugh

Every now and again, in the middle of just another ordinary day, something happens that tickles my funny bone.  Yesterday was just one of those days.  I opened  facebook to find the following photo and caption in my newsfeed as posted by my friend Missy Antonelli DiGIanni.  I’m sharing it with you today just to make you laugh.  Have a good one…

Credit for this laugh goes to my childhood friend, Missy Antonelli DiGIanni.

K Mart Smart

There’s smart and then there’s K-Mart smart…bwahahahaha!

“There’s smart and then there’s K-Mart smart…priceless.