Saturday, August 29, 2009

Just Like Ted

"What are you gonna do this weekend?", asked a friend last Friday. "Nothing much," I said at the time and I meant it then. But what I did was spend Friday night and most of Saturday glued to the TV watching the memorial and funeral services for Edward Moore Kennedy.

Forty-five years ago I spent a similar weekend in November watching the events surrounding his brother's assassination, the murder of his killer, and finally his funeral. But those were very different days and I was a very different person. At seventeen I had hardly started forming my beliefs about life, and what's right and what's wrong. In those days I blithely spouted the anti-Kennedy things I heard at home. (Did you know that JFK was a Catholic? Apparently it mattered then. At least to Dad.)

I remember being fascinated on that long-ago weekend, with the wall-to-wall news coverage of the event, and especially the shock of actually seeing someone killed on TV. Even tho I didn't feel any real personal loss at JFK's death, the mourning of nation moved me.

By the time Martin and Bobby died in the late 60's, I had begun to change. Concern about people whose lives were harder than mine had begun to be important. I no longer understood the values of the Old South in which I had grown up where people were treated poorly simply because of the color of their skins.

Today I feel much different. I now see the world filled with "have's" and "have not's" and I want to even the balance. I no longer understand this country of extremes where we are willing to let people die because they become sick and don't have access to adequate medicine; where we are willing let people lose their homes and health insurance because they lose their

According to Senator Kennedy's office, he wrote more than 2,500 bills, of which more than 500 actually became law. Look at some of the things he accomplished in the past 47 years:

-- Legislation passed quadrupling cancer funds.

1990 -- Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits disability discrimination.

1993 -- Co-authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, requiring businesses to provide unpaid leave for emergencies or births.

1996 -- Kennedy-Kassebaum Act allowed employees to keep health insurance for a time after losing job.

2002 -- Backed President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law.

2002 -- Voted "no" on Iraq war resolution

Perhaps it is that when you have plenty of money and don't have to worry about having the wherewithal to take care of your own family, you can take the time to think about the families of others, especially those who slip between the cracks.

So, I mourned last weekend the death of an icon, but more than that a man who chose to live by the rule we all seem to neglect - you know, the one about loving others as ourselves. When you listen to all the stories about Ted Kennedy the theme that runs thru them all, is that he was the first to reach out to others: to call or write when one had trouble and then to continue to follow-up. He constantly thought about how he could make life easier and more fair for the weakest in our country - the poor, the sick, the disabled, the undereducated, the pregnant, the old.

We all need to think that way now. How can we help? How can we make it easier for someone who doesn't have the same advantages? the same access? Teddy represented all that is good about liberalism today, and his is the kind of liberalism that I want to embrace. I am my sister's keeper.

What would Teddy do?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Woman on Page 194

If you have been busy the past week you may have missed the controversy about Lizzie Miller - a lovely young woman who models in the most recent Glamour Magazine.

I haven't seen a Glamour - well, the inside - in at least 30 years. It's always been too high fashion and too studiously hip for my taste or my body type, but I do check out most covers from the grocery store line. However, I have the advantage of working from home and get to listen to TV all day, so I met Lizzie and her controversy earlier this week on the Today Show.

It seems that she is a "plus size"model - which is model-talk for "she wears a 12 or 14". Don't know about you, but I think of "plus size" as 20 and above, but apparently the folks at Glamour and in the fashion industry think a lot smaller than the rest of us. And Lizzie is The woman on page 194.

If you just followed that link, you will have seen that Glamour has received more than 700 responses to that post on Glamour editor Cindy Leive's blog and thousands of emails to her. And you will have seen the picture that started all the talking and blogging and discussion. In "the photo" Lizzie is nude.

She has a belly. She has thighs. She has a bit of cellulite. She looks like us. Well, 40 years younger, blonde and bubbly, but you get my drift anyway.

So, what Glamour readers are saying loud and clear is that they love her; they love having images in the magazine that are "like us"; and "give us more". The Glamour editor actually said that she is considering using more plus size models in the future - perhaps not nude, tho.

The ladies on Today went to far as to express surprise that 12 or 14 is considered plus size. I've read elsewhere that the average American woman wears a 14, so I would call it "average" myself, but the whole things brings to light one more time our obsession with our size and our weight.

I remember a time [in the 60's] when our standard for size was Twiggy. Fortunately, most of us decided that her build was unattainable and perhaps not such a good idea for most of us. So, in the 70's we moved on to Farrah. She was a bit more "round" and in addition to skateboarding, she played tennis and ran and swam and overall had a pretty active lifestyle - at least in publicity photos - but as unrealistic as having her hairstyle work for us, was the thought of getting a body like hers. In the 80's we went back to Twiggy - oops, my mistake. That was Kate Moss.

And so it goes. We are obsessed with our weight and our shape. And as the decades pass it gets harder and harder to maintain, much less reduce, our size. Harder to exercise, harder to eat less - just plain harder to love ourselves as we are. We rejoice with Oprah, Kirstie and Valerie when they lose a few pounds [well, 40 is a whole lot more than a few!] and we understand when they fall off the thin wagon - just as we have done for years.

My current excuse is that when Dad died we spent 10 days in a hotel, eating restaurant food. Yeah, but that was three years ago. The nearly 30 pounds I put on in the next six months is still firmly attached to my body - well, at least most of it. Think of it: thirty pounds in six months is more than a pound per week. Have you ever taken off a pound a week - consistently for six months? I thought not.

So, what to do? How can one achieve a healthy weight, and stop trying to look like Valerie, or Ellen (Degenes or Pompeo) or Meredith Viera. There's a lady of "a certain age" who looks normal - like the rest of us. It all comes back to getting down to basics:

Accepting that fad diets don't really work. I lost 35 pounds on Atkins, but put it back in six months once stress kicked in again.

There is no miracle pill... at least not yet. Alli helps a bit (limits the amount of fat one can metabolize, so you eliminate the rest). But, now the FDA is investigating a possible link between Alli and liver damage. It's only 30 patients in 9 years, but 20% of them suffered liver failure - makes you at least think.

The basics still work - more exercise and better food choices.

Fear helps, too. One of my favorite things at a previous job was a model of five pounds of fat. Imagine being able to peel that off your hips all in one big slab - boy! would that be liberating!

So here's where I am today. I really need to lose 30 pounds to be back to a healthy BMI. But I have a plan now.

Ten months ago I started taking Jazzercise, and I am finally seeing some results. Actually, I believe that if I could just dump 10 pounds, you would see that I have built up respectable muscles underneath, especially in my core. I am trying to increase from two or three days per week to a consistent four or five.

A summer with all my kitchen counters covered in fruit and my vegetable bins filled to overflowing has helped me to decrease the amount of meat and [my beloved] bread I normally eat, and to at least double the amount of fruits and vegetables. I am trying to choose lower fat alternatives and to shave a few extra calories where I can - like a tall chai at Starbucks, instead of a grande. And, on the advice of my personal trainer*, I've actually added a couple of healthy [most of the time] snacks to my day.

Progress is slow. I have finally lost the first five pounds. It's a tad more than 15% of my goal. I have not set a time deadline, but hope to lose about two pounds a month, so it will take a while. I am starting to see little things. I wore a tee shirt tucked in yesterday for the first time in several years.... because I have a new waist! Triumphs are small, and perhaps far between, but I believe that I can do this. Will keep you posted.

* Special thanks to my "personal trainer". Stacy is a health educator in western Virginia with whom I worked for more than 15 years at a previous job. We have stayed in touch and she has been very helpful and encouraging. She just doesn't know that she's my personal trainer - until now. Thanks, Stacy!