Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

From Strength Training to Childhood Memories



It’s been a long haul, my commitment at the YMCA. Five months is the longest I’ve ever stuck to an exercise program. The difference being I was working with a personal trainer this time who kept changing up the workouts and I felt like I had something to prove after getting rejected from taking her "Move it To Lose it" class for not being strong enough. I freely admit my heart wasn’t into the workouts this past month and I wanted badly to be off her strength building train. Exercise is time consuming! Sure, I could have dropped out, not scheduled anymore appointments with Julie but keeping a blog helped drive me to see it through to the end of my paid-up sessions so I could write about her final evaluation on what I’ve accomplished. If I wasn’t a blogger, I’d have gone back to being like a toad burrowing under a log by day and coming out for dinner in the cool of night.

Practical differences strength training made in my life: I’m able to walk up and down stairs one foot after another instead of always leading with my right. I no longer have to seek out the handicapped bathroom stalls. Much improved posture. Improved balance. I can pick up the dog, all 29 pounds of him and easily stoop to do things close to the floor. I’m able to do my own pedicures again. I'm less fearful of falling. But the biggest change of all is I no longer feel physically fragile. 

From my trainer’s evaluation: I only lost 10.75 pounds which sucks but Julie says that I’ve actually lost 13.75 pounds of actual fat because I gained 3 pounds of muscle mass---they have a fancy scales that can tell the difference between lean mass, water mass and fat mass. I also gained two pounds of water mass, probably water retention from the heat, so using ‘gym math’ you could say I lost 15.75 pounds. You could say it but I won’t. I also lost a total of 20.75 inches added together from the nine places that were measured, my waist being the biggest loser with 4.5 inches. She was thrilled that "all my hard work paid off." I was surprised. She says I need to---get this---eat 300 more calories a day to lose weight faster. (I track my calories in and calories burned on my Fitbit.) On the test for upper body strength I can now officially pull 100 pounds fourteen times in one minute and for lower body strength I can do thirty-one wall squats in a minute. And those two achievements might come in handy if I want to get a job baling hay back in the 1950s when they actually used manual labor to stack those bales on wagons.

This week is the beginning of my unscheduled---or I should say my lightly scheduled summer. There was just one other thing on my day planner this week besides the above mentioned ‘date’ with Julie and I’ll write about my appointment with my bone doctor next time. I’m thinking about signing up for a cardio drumming class at a nutrition store now that I’ll have more time. I’ve been wanting to try it and few people know (or care) that I spent time in my youth taking drum lessons only I didn’t have a drum at home so I practiced by sitting on the floor and banging on the hardwood floor. My mother was a saint. Or maybe she had a good set of ear plugs, I don't know which. I also took saxophone lessons and lessons on the Hawaiian guitar, the latter of which I stuck with the longest. My brother took lessons on the accordion for quite a few years while I was jumping around from instrument to instrument. He got pretty good at it and we both played on a “stage” a couple of times. It wasn’t a big deal in hindsight. It was at a yearly Christmas party at my dad’s CIO union hall and other kids of its members took part in the talent show as well. I loved that union hall. I did my first political volunteering there working a phone bank on Election Day to help get out the vote.

What I remember most about being on that stage in front of 200+ people is the plush, forest green velvet dress I wore two years in a row. To this day, my younger cousin reminds me often about how much she loved getting my hand-me-down clothing. We were both sad when we out grew that velvet dress. It wasn’t that I had a great wardrobe back in those days---what my mom didn’t make came from Sears & Roebuck’s. It was the fact that my cousin’s dad drank up so much of his paychecks that they didn't have a lot. My mom frequently slipped her sister cash from her own grocery allowance so my cousins could eat. He was a mean, abusive drunk but despite it all (or maybe because of it) his only daughter grew into a wonderful, caring human being. She is truly a woman with a pure heart who works hard for her church, who would help anyone in need. My cousin’s formative years were obviously harder than mine but she married one of the sweetest, most supportive guys on earth. And they have so many loving grandchildren that she’ll never have to worry about dying alone and lonely. Sometimes the yin and yang of the universe can only be seen with a mind's eye overview that comes from our own longevity but one thing is for sure: German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was right when he coined the phrase, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” ©

Photo at the top: That’s me playing my Hawaiian guitar at the Christmas party and I’m wearing the velvet dress.

26 comments:

  1. An inspiring post.

    Congratulations on keeping up with the 5 months' program - that's excellent. And losing more than a stone in weight, and inches around your waist!! I bet you like looking at the mirror nowadays.

    You look pretty and innocent in the picture.

    Yes, life has a strange way of turning out. I've seen ths wheels of fortune turn in my own extended family. Poverty to riches, to poverty again (that was the hardest blow), and then the slow climb back to riches with the children's aid.
    I'm often reminded of a book I read as a child: two orphan girls, one becomes a call girl and the other a millionaire. It was just a matter of 'Open/ close doors',it could just as easily have been that the girls (both from equally humble origins) had their future reversed. I found it heartbreaking. ~ Libby

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    1. I'm thinking in the fall I might do another round with the trainer, a shorter one though. She says if I can do just 1-2 workouts a week I can maintain the strength I gained with out backtracking, but to gain more I have to go 3-4 times a week. If I add the cardio drumming plus the dog is back to normal and can go for walks again, so I'll still be burning calories. Soon I need to do a project purging in my closet. I've been wearing the same cloths that were skin tight 5 months ago and are now quite loose. If I go down a size, they will probably be skin tight so I'm not really looking forward to that in the summer. LOL

      Fortunes turning in my parent's generation sure was influenced by who a woman married. The book you mention sounds interesting.

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  2. Sounds like your strength training paid out dividends! Are you going to continue the exercises at home this summer or switch up to power walking or somesuch? Not surprised about the need for additional calories with the program.

    Drumming, sounds interesting. On the floor? I have to agree, your mother must have been a saint.

    The story about the velvet dress brought back memories of the hand-me-downs I used to get from my cousin. Never anything as posh or elegant as velvet though. It's not funny how some girls have to pay for the foolishness of their fathers.

    Now that the weather is heating up, I suppose you will be taking Levi for walks in the early morning. Good time to take your camera. I'm sure it's a relief not to have to run to the gym. Have a great day!

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    1. I'm not good about doing exercises at home. But I do plan to do a shorter workout at the gym over the next few months and add the cardio drumming (I think). I'll know more later on this week on that. They drum on big balls and metal can tops, like a course you march around as I understand it now.

      Levi and camera won't mix well unless I want blurry pictures. He is always in motion. I actually like walking on a treadmill better than in the neighborhood---too fishy bowlie. And the nature trail scares me this year because of ticks.

      I never got hand-me-downs but it's the only thing both my parents wore growing up. I don't know why. I had older cousins, but kids back in those days wore out their clothing more than they do today.

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  3. Great job with the 5 months of exercise. I need your discipline. I can exercise with no problem, it's getting me to go there. If they would just come to my house. How is that for lazy? I love the velvet dress!

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    1. You call it discipline, I call it stubbornness and not like being told I can't do something like that class I wanted to sign up for.

      If I was rich, a personal trainer coming to the house would be ideal. My trainer does that, too, for the big bucks.

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  4. Yes congratulations on completing your program. That really does sound worthwhile. It must be so encouraging to have added flexibility. After a certain age, I think we all simply assume that we can't change the deterioration in our bones. Personally I would like to return some flexibility to my arthritic fingers before I have to stop playing the flute but I am not sure that I can do much about that.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. The added flexibility and strength really is amazing. And you are right that we tend to accept deterioration as something we can't do anything about. But arthritic fingers? All I know is there are exercises people to for that but I think it's to keep what you've got rather than building more. There is an arthritis class at the Y and they do finger stuff. Might be worth an google search.

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  5. Congratulations Jean, it looks like your hard work strength training has paid off, I'm proud of you.

    My step dad was that type of drunk so I understand the struggles your cousins went through, your Mom helping her sister is reminiscent of the help my Mom got from hers.

    I never played an instrument but our kids did, I do remember the hours of practice they put us through ha ha.

    Excellent post Jean.

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    1. Thanks you! I'm actually surprised I made it for the full five months. I'm still going to go to the gym but without someone monitoring me I can ease up on myself.

      Problem drinkers are hard on the whole family and thankfully, I never had to deal with it on an up close and personal level like so many others did/do.

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  6. I am so impressed that you stuck with the program and had such great results. Who knew blogging would be good for our healthy? Hope you keep it up and don't back slide. Keep those hard won muscles.

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    1. Blogging really does motive me to do a lot of things so I'll have things to write about.

      I'm hoping to stay going to the gym a couple of times a week, if I don't I can't justify the membership fees of $55 a month.

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  7. I always felt all "dolled-up" when I wore a velvet dress. Something about the way that material felt, made me feel regal. I walked taller and was less clumsy. :-)

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    1. I don't remember if I ever had another velvet dress but I would imagine that fabric has that effect on everyone. That old velvet was richer and heavier than what you can buy today.

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  8. I always had hand-me-downs as a child. We were poor (though I did not know it then), and I used to get lots of clothes from another girl of a similar size. I never cared; I was just happy to get new (to me!) clothes. One was a black velvet jumper, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever, ever seen. Velvet had such cachet for kids.

    Congratulations on improving your strength! That is a Huge Win, I think. I'm still working on mine, and my stamina, after a long illness. It is difficult, I know, so kudos to you. You really are a Force.

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    1. I would love a black velvet jumper even today. I loved jumpers in my teen years and nothing beats black velvet for making you feel good.

      I'm glad you're on the mend. You'll get back your stamina even if it's two steps forward and one step back from time to time.

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  9. There's nothing like velvet. I had a cranberry velvet jumper when I was in high school, and it was my favorite piece of clothing. Anyone who says velveteen is just as good never has worn real velvet. Back in the day, we knew.

    Every kind of congrats for sticking with your program. I'm just so proud of you. I finally am making another run at the weight loss, and I'm six days in to my new no-sugar routine. One of my friends offered to be my go-to-person if I'm overwhelmed by the urge -- tempted by sugar, I can call her and get talked out of it. Or at least shamed a bit. But so far, no calls have been necessary. I'm not sure how long it takes for the cravings to go away, but right now I'm substituting fresh figs for cookies, cake and ice cream.

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    1. Oh, boy, thanks for that link. I'd forgotten about that song.

      The trouble with sugar is that you can be away from it for several months---four is the longest I've gone---but the minute you have a cookie or cake, the craving comes right back there. I have learned that having one square of good quality dark chocolate daily works better for me than no sugar at all. I hope having a friend to call will help. I think six days is enough that any cravings are emotional not physical.

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  10. WOW! Congrats on the health and strength front! That is pretty darned amazing. I hope I can get some of your discipline after physical therapy is over!

    I, too, had ONE part velvet dress handed down from a cousin. Had my one and only piano recital in it. Brought me good luck!

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    1. Thank you. Did you finally get your knee replacement?

      I'm amazed that so many of us remember having a velvet dress. I guess they're memorable because because they were bought for special occasions?

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  11. Congratulations on your strength training success. They say that strength training is the single most valuable kind of exercise for elders, especially because of the way it improves balance and lessens the risk of falls. Do you have some kind of maintenance program (at home or at the gym) so that you don't lose the muscle tone you've gained? -Jean

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    1. That's exactly what my doctor said about strength training for elder people. My trainer says if I keep going to the gym twice a week I won't lose what I've gained in strength and can added to it. I plan on doing that and hitting it harder again in the fall for weight lose, maybe even buy a few more sessions with her to tweet my workout. I'm not good at doing exercise at home. Right now I need a break from the pressure of the accountability the comes with a trainer.

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  12. What progress you've made and what benefits you've received from your YMCA commitment. It's fantastic. You should pat yourself on the back, which you're probably better able to do now. :) I understand what they say sometimes about eating a little more in order to lose weight faster, but I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

    I loved velvet when I was a kid. I always wanted a red (my favorite color) velvet dress.

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    1. I can't wrap my brain around that eating more to lose weight faster either. You and I grew up in a era where we counted calories was King and the less the better.

      Red was my favorite color growing up too! Now it's purple.

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  13. I'm finally getting caught up on your blog and I am SO IMPRESSED with your gym success!!!! Truly fabulous. Doesn't it feel great to feel stronger? I feel I am in better shape now than in my 40's and 50's. Are you going to keep it up? My semi-private lesson trainer in the "Senior" Strength and Fitness class has decided to move to Sedona. I'm really gonna miss that class -- no word yet on who will take over and I may instead go to the Silver Sneakers classes at the YMCA. I don't want to backslide too much!

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    1. Our YMCA doesn't accept Silver Sneakers aka payment from the insurance. I wish they did!

      I've cut my workouts down from nearly two hours long to just over an hour and only two days instead of 3-4. For example, instead of doing the staircases 8 times I'm only doing them 4 times. And I'm doing only exercises at the gym that requires a machine---12 of them. Before she cut my trainer said that should be enough to keep me from going backward and in the fall I'll kick it back up.

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