I Love Snow...and Tangents

I love snow.

We only got two snow days this year, and one of them didn’t even count because school was called off due to the predicted forecast of several inches of snow the next day. The next morning arrived, and after sleeping in like you’re supposed to on a snow day, I jumped out of bed and hurried to look out the window.  I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning, and guess what I saw??

Nothing.

No snow.  Just clear roads and concrete.

What a bunch of crap.  We were cheated this year.

I wasn’t sure at whom to be mad, so I directed my anger towards God.  I shook my fist up toward the sky, but then I reconsidered, slowly unclenching my fingers and bringing my hand back to my side.  I did have the whole day off to drink coffee and read books, after all, so why exactly was I angry?

“Alright, God, I forgive you this time,” I said, “but next year I want more snow.” (I get away with talking to God like that because I’m his favorite.)

In November 2017, my husband and I took a trip to Banff, Canada, and can we just jump into a quick tangent while I post this picture?

This was the skinniest I had ever been in my adult life.  Well, besides the months leading up to my wedding, wherein I wanted to look supermodel skinny so I subsisted on a steady diet of tuna in water straight from the can—no mayonnaise—and Brussels sprouts.  I don’t recommend it, in large part due to the way it makes one’s breath smell.  (Really, I’m surprised he still married me.  Honestly, though, it’s not like he had a ton of other options, so it worked out okay for both of us, I guess.)

Anyway, when my husband texted me the above picture from where he was sitting across the living room so I could use it on this post, I gazed at it wistfully.

“Look how skinny I was,” I breathed.  “I could’ve been a model!”  (I'm just going to keep typing and hope the sound of my laptop's keys clacking will drown out the shouts of "Not with that face!" that I can almost hear in the voices of my dad and brothers and sisters.*)

You know how they say youth is wasted on the young? I think skinniness is wasted on the skinny. Because even though I have an ego bigger than those of all of the Jersey Shore cast members combined, I still never remember one point in my life—not even one tiny moment in time—where I was like, “I have a few pounds to play around with.  I think I can take the day off from running today and eat a cheeseburger!”

I’ve been a hardcore gym rat since I was 19 years old. Funny story, that:  When I was getting dressed one morning in mid-May at the end of freshman year to move home for the summer, the khaki shorts that I had worn to move into my dorm the previous August no longer fit.

“No longer fit” is putting it nicely; I couldn’t even yank them up over my hips. (An old friend of mine named Joey, God rest his soul, once said to me, “You’ve got great birthing hips, Wheatzie,” and he was such a good and loyal and sincere friend that my immediate reaction was a big, “Thank you” along with a feeling of warmth pulsating from my heart.  

A friend of ours, standing nearby, actually got jealous.  "What about my hips?" she whined, attempting to steal my thunder.  "Don't they look like they could bear a child or two?"

Man, I miss you, Joey.  The world sure isn’t the same without you in it and by the way, is it weird to feel sorry for random strangers who never got to meet my friend, who was, quite simply, one of the coolest people alive?)

As the khaki shorts legend goes, my roommate walked into our dorm room to see that I had fallen stiff-legged onto my bed, the blasted pair of khaki shorts halfway up my body. The shorts and I had had a slight…disagreement…and the shorts had won.

I didn’t take myself too seriously back then, so when her unfortunate eyes fell upon me, I was laughing so hard at the whole situation that I was crying.  The puffy pale stomach I had grown over the past two semesters was exposed since my shorts were in a sort of slovenly purgatory…unable to go up but also unable to go down.  My stomach did this jiggling thing—a move that was perfectly synchronized with my guffaws as if the lot of them had gotten together and practiced:  guffaw, jiggle.  Guffaw, jiggle.

This only made me laugh harder, which made the whole thing happen again, which made me giggle even harder, causing it to happen again, etc., etc.  It was cyclical and I wasn’t sure how to get off that merry-go-round or if I even wanted to.  I’m a really happy person, always have been, but even I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.

I thrust a helpless hand into the air so that my roommate could pull me up…but she didn’t like me, so although she did take a few moments out of her busy schedule packing up boxes to laugh with (at) me, she did not, in fact, help me.  She left me lying there, a turtle on its poor, obese back, to figure things out on my own.

The first thing I did when I finally stopped laughing was call a gym.  They told me what I would need to bring in to sign up the next day, and I did, and that marked the beginning of a beautiful, lifelong relationship between me and any gym anywhere ever. I’ve worked out daily ever since.

The second thing I did that fateful day was call my dad and tell him that he was going to need to take me shopping for new clothes “in maybe a size or two bigger.”

“I was wondering when I was going to get this call,” he said with a chuckle, as if I had only just realized something about myself that everyone else in the whole entire world had seen a hundred years ago—or at least several  months prior.

And maybe I should have realized it earlier (but like I said, I didn’t take myself too seriously back then):  Only a few months before Khaki Shorts Gate, my sweet Gramps—God rest his soul, too—was alive and kicking and had come to town to take my ex-best friend and me to a Chinese buffet. Between rounds 1 and 2, I dramatically jumped up from the table.

“I’d better go get some more lo mein, Gramps,” I said, left hand on my hip, right hand stretched in an arc over my head as if I were warming up for a big run.  I hopped up and down a few times, rubbing my hands together gleefully. “If I don’t get some more food in me, I might dry up and fly away!”

It was something my childhood best friend’s mom had said to me once when I was a kid, and I’d always found it funny. Gramps, however, wasn’t laughing.

“Oh, I don’t think so, hon,” he assured me, his brow furrowed as he studied me.  “You’ve actually put on quite a bit of weight this year.”

Gramps and Grams (God rest her soul as well) always were really good at pointing out my weight fluctuations.  It was especially fun when dementia totally took away Grams’s filter in her golden years.  I used to love visiting her at the old folks’ home, where my favorite party trick was to grab one of the free ice cream sandwiches they kept in the freezer for guests, only to have her slap it out of my hands with a “Tsk tsk!”

To her credit, she would always give me a cheeky grin when she did stuff like that, and those were the days I was convinced she was just messing with us and the whole dementia thing was an act.

Man, I loved that old bird.

Anyway, the weight loss I’m unwittingly showcasing in the above photo in Banff was brought to me by, yes, my daily workouts—in the photo I was 39, so at that point, I’d been working out consistently for 20 years. (It’s been almost 27 years of daily workouts now, but who’s counting?) (Me. I’m counting.) 

But that particular year, it was also brought to me by the anti-anxiety meds that my doctor had prescribed to me during a routine visit when I happened to describe to her a day in the life of my undiagnosed OCD self, starting with that one time I woke up convinced I was having a stroke after I’d slept on my arm wrong.

Anti-anxiety meds and I were definitely not the perfect fit, so I didn’t take them for too terribly long. In the meantime, though, I was one of the few who lost her appetite on this particular medication.  Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I’m convinced that losing your appetite is like slowly losing your mind…you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late to enjoy it.  You just know that your clothes are suddenly a lot looser and you start walking around saying things like, “I guess all the working out I do has finally caught up with me in a really big way after 20 years!”

My older sister tried to tell me what was up the whole time:  “Maybe it’s the meds, Wheatzie…” but I wasn’t having it. I mean, couldn’t she just be happy for me that I was a size 6 for the first time in my life?  WHY WAS SHE TRYING TO TAKE THIS FROM ME? 

Everything changed one day when I realized that I’d been walking around like a zombie for the past two years—granted, a very skinny zombie—and that maybe I’d like to, you know, feel again.  I kind of missed, like, having emotions.

So, after consulting with my doctor about the safest way to do it, I stopped taking the meds.  And boy oh boy, did I ever get my emotions back.  Along with my voracious appetite and 40 pounds…like two little prodigal sons that I most certainly did not throw a party for.

I remember sitting at lunch one day about two weeks after I’d gotten off of the meds.  One of my newer co-workers casually asked about the adoption process with our older son…whom we had adopted ten years before.  I had proudly told his adoption story about seventeen thousand times throughout the years, so it’s not like we were fresh off the plane from Ethiopia just yesterday.  I’d had awhile—you know, ten years and an additional kid with a cute origin story of his own—to get used to the fact that I was really, really blessed to be a mother.

And yet, I started to tell the story and was horrified when I bawled so hard that some of my tears—and snot—fell into my co-worker’s salad.  I don’t think I was as horrified as she was, but still.  Horrified.

I’ve often wondered if she was sorry she’d asked.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I sputtered.  “I’ve told this story a million times.  And sure, it’s a great story. The greatest story of my life, really. Becoming a mom was the best thing that ever happened to me, but still—“

I hadn’t cried this hard in years! But I simply couldn’t stop blubbering and snot-crying over the fact that my children are the best things that have ever happened to me—

One of my closest friends, a teacher whose classroom was right across the hall from mine at the time and with whom I worked very closely, put a hand up.  “Ugh, ignore her,” she said, rolling her eyes. “She got off of her anxiety medication and she’s feeling emotions again for the first time in two years.”  She added a fake gag as she said the word “emotions” because she’s one of those people who doesn’t have any, like a vampire, and she thinks they’re a waste of time and energy. She waved her hand dismissively in my direction.  “We’re hoping it’ll wear off in a few weeks.”

In closing, I will apparently need to write a part two to this snow story because, well, tangents happen.  BOY DO THEY

*All joking aside, we're actually a very loving family...which I'm sure my siblings will attest to once they start speaking to one another again.

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