The Blob


Did you ever see Steve McQueen’s first movie? It was a low-budget 1958 horror thriller called The Blob, in which an asteroid lands on earth.

The grizzled farmer who finds it in his field scratches his day-old beard and hitches up his dungarees while thinkin’ ‘er out. Then (reasoning like any scientist) he whacks the asteroid with a big old stick…

…and out oozes The Blob.

It’s a black, oily, gelatinous substance that gives no clue whatsoever to its goals, conflicts, or motivations. It just sits there, pulsing ever so slightly, waiting for someone (like a hapless old farmer) to say “Hey – what’s that? And what happens if you poke it with a stick?”

It consumes you, obviously. It flows against gravity up the stick and onto the old farmer’s hand. Hey – I can’t get this off! Help – hey, help, you kids!

Enter achingly-young Steve McQueen and some winsome lass. We’ll take him to Doc’s. He’ll know what to do. (Doc, it need not be pointed out, does not know what to do.)

Eventually The Blob eats pretty much the whole hamlet and the National Guard is called in. Steve McQueen freezes the diner-sized Blob (it’s eaten a lot) and Army helicopters fly the mass to be dropped in Antarctica where it will be immobilized by the cold, to await the really SERIOUSLY bad sequel in 1988.


Today is my husband’s deathiversary; he died two years ago. His death certificate actually lists The Day as tomorrow, since the rescue squad restarted his heart in the hospital. It was very noble of them, even if it did take his immediate and tidy death from a massive heart attack and draw it out into a 24-hour deathbed scene of massive brain damage and panting and an unconscious refusal to close his eyes even though he wasn’t in there any more – it was grim and horrible as you can imagine.

But March 29 is the day I found him dead in the doorway of the garden shed, so this is his deathiversary to me.

And I’m looking at my grief like I was a grizzled old farmer in a field.

The grief is black and oily and bloblike. It’s sitting there just pulsing, and I’m pretty sure if I poke it with a stick, it’s going to flow uphill and consume me.

So I’m walking around it suspiciously, scratching my day-old beard and hitching up my dungarees. I’m carefully choosing my stick. I’m setting up for the Blobbening. I’m hoping to ride it out and be left standing on the other side.

And it entertains me, as so many things do, that Jonathan thought Steve McQueen was a god. He would LOVE the idea that I’d need to be – if not rescued then at least exclaimed over – by Steve McQueen.

Who is ALSO dead. Jeesh.

Mental health. It’s part of the overall health quest, right? I get to write about what I want, surely?!

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Steve McQueen. Cute at every age.

The Weight


“Why do you have to weigh me to look at a bumpy place on my skin?”

My doctor, really a very nice lady, must have thought I was particularly annoying today.

I went in to see her because I have a bumpy-up place on my skin – right in the “bad sunburn” triangle that developed on my chest during a childhood spent grumpily reading books at the beach. (I am a vampire in a family of sun-worshippers, and until I was old enough to stay at the rented beach house alone, I used to be dragged unwillingly to various beaches, where I would inevitably lobster up but never, ever tan.)

My mother is constantly sporting bandages from the dermatologist where they’ve once again carved out a hunk of her skin that at last, after many, many decades of exposure to solar radiation, had finally begun to protest this abuse; mild forms of skin cancer are her daily bread.

So when I got the bumpy-up place (and it was mildly itchy), I hove myself over to the doctor for a look-see, just in case. And I noted the reason for my visit in the “comments” portion of the electronic appointment system.

Today, when the (entirely pleasant) nurse called me from the waiting room, she took me immediately to the Station of Shame. You know the one – stand on the scale, get your blood pressure taken, hold a thermometer in your mouth.

“Why do you need to weigh me so the doctor can look at my skin?” I asked her. “You don’t need to, do you?”

“Yes – it’s a vital sign. I have to get your vital signs.”

She weighed me.

“You know,” I said huffily, “I saw a study once that said many women were put on blood pressure medicine unnecessarily because they get anxious when weighed in a doctor’s office.”

“Really?” she said, not at all impressed with the scientific authority of “I saw a study one time.” “I maybe should take the blood pressure before I weigh people?”

It was nice of her to imply that she might change her time-honed routine. I grimaced and shook my head. “Won’t matter. I’ll know the scale is coming up.”

As it happens, my blood pressure is quite low – a genetic gift from my maternal grandfather – and she looked at me as if vindicated. Clearly MY blood pressure hadn’t been affected by being weighed. See? I just shook my head; she wasn’t going to be able to re-configure the entire massive Kaiser Permanente system just on my bitching anyway.

But while I was waiting for Dr. Long, I got to stewing about it. I didn’t need any prescriptions; there was no need to calculate pharmaceuticals. I had no chronic conditions like diabetes or anorexia that might make weight maintenance critical to a care plan. I had a bump on my skin.

Why did I have to be weighed?

The longer I sat there, the more I fussed. So when that kind, long-suffering woman walked into the room, I practically leapt like a wrestler who’d scaled the ropes to really get a good drop on her.


I explained to her that I’d been spending the last three years coming to grips with the fact that the scale is a liar when it comes to being a good measure of health – and that having to be weighed just to enter the inner sanctum was an immediate reversal of all that good work. It was like she was saying my weight was the only measure of my health that she was interested in.

She explained that there are several easy constants that she – and all doctors – can use to map a body’s condition over time, and that weight is one of them.

Then – because she’s a very good doctor and likes a thoughtful question – she posited a few what if’s for me. What if I was a diabetic? Would it be wrong to do regular weight checks?

(But I’m not a diabetic, I replied with a pout, and this wasn’t a check-up; it was for a specific issue. And the nurse had stopped to check my file to make sure she’d gotten all the vitals she needed before putting me in the exam room; there could have just as easily been a note to her that said my weight was of annual – and not more frequent – interest.)

If you had an anorexic daughter, she asked me, wouldn’t you want her weight to be part of every doctor’s visit?

(I have very little experience with anorexia, but I offered the opinion that telling an anorexic that her weight was the key indicator of her health was a terrible idea.)

She told me that it happens that people don’t realize that they’ve lost or gained weight, and she can forestall larger issues (she said the word “malignancy,” which is like a trump card in any exam room discussion) if she can see what’s going on with their weight.

“Everyone knows what they weigh. You can feel it in your jeans.” I dismissed her comment.

“Not if they don’t want to know,” she shot back – and damned if she wasn’t right. We all see what we want to see, and if you fear that your sudden unexplained weight loss is a symbol of a returning cancer, you might very well choose to ignore the potential horrors.

She explained that weight can even be a factor in arthritis, which was a pretty good stopper to my arguments – and she clarified that for her, weight is not about shame or societal expectations or emotions; it’s a scientific measure of the body and that’s it.

“But my weight is ALL about shame and expectations and emotions to ME. You’re not weighing me to upset me, but that’s the result.” I was terribly pugnacious today.

If I was empress, I told her, I would change the policy in every doctor’s office. I’d have a scale in every exam room instead of one scale in the nurse’s area. And once the doctor came in and found out why the patient was there, the doctor could choose to say “Let’s see if weight is a factor in what you’re telling me; step up on the scale.”

“You’ve given me something to think about,” she said – which proves she’s a kind as well as a skilled doctor. And then she used nitrogen to freeze the bumpy place off my chest because it wasn’t even a remotely interesting case to the dermatologist she consulted.

It’s hard enough to give up the idea that my weight determines my health – it’s even harder to go up against the medical community. But I’m telling you: Weighing every patient, every time, is unnecessary and sends a bad signal to anyone who already feels badly about their body. It might even cause someone to avoid the doctor entirely.

I guess it’s easy for a basically-healthy person to say that. What’s your take?


I’m really getting good at the ugly selfie. That’s my bumpy place, after being insulted by a nitrogen freeze treatment. There goes my career as a bikini model, at least for a while.

PS: I’ll be sending a link to this post to my doctor; maybe she’ll correct my errors in a comment! Hi, Dr. Long. Want to continue the discussion?

Is it Fear? IS IT??


If you were puttering happily down the road in a rusted AMC Pacer (remember that car? Fat-bottomed and proud of it?), and the passenger next to you reached over and flipped a bright red switch you’d never noticed before…

…and if a nitrous oxide engine boost alarmingly kicked on and rocket flames burst from your tailpipe and you were suddenly screaming down the road like a Fast and Furious movie…

…you’d freak out, right?

You’d feel a huge loss of control. There might be screaming.

I’ve spent the last three years attempting to become one with my glutes. Mind you, I didn’t KNOW that’s what I was doing when I started out – but you can be very sure that Barbara and Grace and Gwynn and Chip and all the experts at Falls Church’s Body Dynamics knew.

Barbara had me sussed in about five minutes. I use my back and thigh muscles where I should be using my abs and butt muscles. And frankly, it’s a lot easier (although not easy) to help a client find her abs. I’ve spent my life uselessly sucking in my stomach, so I at least knew those muscles were there.

But I’ve always been … let’s call it butt-blind. I knew those muscles were back there, wrapped for a long winter’s nap under ample downy blankets. I even THOUGHT I was using them. But I wasn’t.

Early on, magnificent trainer Barbara hooked me up to a strap like Farmer Ted plowing the back pasture. She’d put the strap around my hips and get behind me. “Now run across the room,” she’d say.

Barbara – nothing but lean muscle and intelligence and x-ray vision – is a slip of a woman. If I fell down on her, she’d be Barbara-jam. So dragging her across the room wasn’t actually THAT hard. Not easy – she was back behind me, digging in and dragging me back with all her might. But I made it back and forth a few times, giggling and panting. You really have to lean in, but it’s doable.

And it’s the leaning in that is the trick – because that’s when the glutes wake up and start getting involved.

Then she’d drop the strap. “NOW run across the room.”

And I’d go flying across the room like I was shot from a gun, glutes doing what they were supposed to have been doing all along. Like someone just flipped a switch on the nitrous burner. “Eeeee!” I’d shriek, horror and excitement warring in me as the wall grew in my vision like a cartoon disaster. “What the hell!”

She doesn’t do that any more. Now we actually run – on the streets or on a treadmill. She’s got Gwynn the masseuse unlocking fuzzed fibers and educating me about the three muscles that make up the mighty, mighty ass. Grace and now Chip are brightening up the stabilizing muscles.

So now when I walk, I have this slight unease. What the HELL is going on back there?

And just as the AMC Pacer owner always admired the Ferrari, I don’t know what the hell to do with this power. I thought I wanted it, but now that maybe I have it, I am … well … a little scared of it. I’m all off-center. That is NOT where power usually comes from. It’s like walking while someone behind you is continually pushing you off-balance.

You mean those muscles have been there all along and I just never noticed? That’s weird. No – don’t flip that on. I’m not used to that. We can just putter along in the Pacer. We’ll get there. We don’t have to go like a missile.


I’m thinking – maybe it’s fear that’s my biggest obstacle. This is going to take some getting used to.

I know that pro-5K people will immediately decide that it’s my “horror glutei” (fear of ass muscles) that is holding me back from running a joyous 5K, but SHUT UP. I just have no desire to run a 5K and still haven’t heard (even from the most eloquent) any benefit to group agony that persuades me this is something to be desired. THIS post is simply about accessing unsuspected (and terrifyingly powerful) muscles, so let’s let the 5K thing go, ‘kay?!

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The AMC Pacer inevitably makes it to any list of “The World’s Ugliest Cars,” but I always liked it. It didn’t look like every other car on the road. It was proudly plain. Boastfully humble. And it never set a speed record. Yes, a Ferrari would look prettier as my image for this post – but as noted, I’m a little afraid of the implied speed. I’m poking along, working up my courage. Ferrari later.



My trainer Barbara has me on the horns of a dilemma. (A most uncomfortable position!)

She returned to an old chestnut that I’d foolishly hoped had died long months past – that I was ready to run a 5K.

She seems to think there’s something so joyous about running in a group that I, like so many others, would suddenly discover I was having a good time. This seems unlikely to me; I’m not much of a joiner; I’m not much motivated by shared experiences.

Anyway, I feel that, were I to join with others in a 5K, it would be more likely that any runner in my immediate vicinity would end up walking and then stopping completely, bitching vigorously about how much faster this would be if we could all just get in our cars and drive the stupid course. I would have a net negative effect on the race as a whole.

But that’s beside the point. I ventured my primary objection to Barbara.

“I can barely make a mile, and you want me to go 3.1 miles? That’s insane.”

And Barbara – with the implacable logic of a mother – ignored me completely. “You just don’t THINK you can do it, so you can’t. If you made up your mind that you were going to do it, you could do it. You’re ready.”

This filled me with a rising tide of smoky, swirling frustration. Like, your hands are full but there’s one single hair tickling your face and you’re not going to be able to get it frustration. Overwhelming.

Barbara thinks my problem is attitude. She thinks my limitations are mental.

I KNOW my problem is physical. I think I’ve demonstrated a pretty impressive positive attitude throughout this entire process, and to suddenly claim I was defeating myself – well, that’s just a slap in the face of all that I’ve accomplished.

I believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. I believe in the mind-body connection.

And I stupidly thought that Barbara, jogging slowly beside me for all these months, correcting my foot placement and rib cage angle and use of butt muscles while no doubt plotting her fleet-footed streak across the landscape at the Boston Marathon, was seeing my desperation.

I thought she realized that I was saying to myself, “Okay – I’ll get to that corner before I walk. Okay – I can make it to that bush. That fire hydrant. That crack in the sidewalk…. No, no I can’t. I’m walking now.”

I thought she could feel the rawness in my lungs as the mission to suck in oxygen became critical.

I thought she understood that my entire body turns to lead and moving ahead at any speed requires every ounce of strength I have.

She must have thought I was kidding when confronted with that last fatal hill and I would grit my teeth with an audible crunching sound. She must not have noticed that I put my head down and refused to look up to see how far away the top was. She should have been able to feel my desperation and determination and longing to drop dead of a massive heart attack so I didn’t have to take a single step further – but she didn’t.

She thinks my problem is MENTAL.

It is SO not mental. Mental is what gets me to the end of the mile, far beyond the bounds my body would accept without the slave driver in my brain viciously using the long whip to get those damned mules moving through the mud.

But here’s my problem: Barbara is ALWAYS RIGHT. She’s earned my deepest respect over the last three years. She can see inside my shoes and inside my ponderous belly. She knows which butt muscles I’m using when I don’t even know.

So how can she be wrong about this?

So how can she be RIGHT about this??

This conundrum has so stymied me that I’ve stopped blogging while trying to figure it out. And I still haven’t. So I’m blogging, instead, about not knowing the answer.

I’m sorry. No words of wisdom today. Just me – all undecided.


This is potentially the least-flattering photo of me in the history of mankind, but it does sort of typify my confusion on the subject – and CLEARLY this blog is not about me being particularly attractive. So… truth in advertising!



Under what incredibly rare circumstances is an overweight woman actually happy when stark naked?

I know what you’re thinking. You went right for sex, didn’t you? But you’re wrong. Your typical overweight woman has seen rom-coms. She’s even seen porn, even if she’s not going to admit it. She knows what sex is SUPPOSED to look like, and generally speaking, she’s pretty sure she doesn’t look like that when in the throes.

So lots of bedcovers are favored. Darkness is an ally. Careful poses and great suckings-in of the stomach, plus a wish that one could suck in the hips or the thighs or the baby’s-got-back.

Other times an overweight woman is naked: At the doctor’s office, and even then, they give you ridiculous paper vests and large drapes, also made of paper, with which to hopefully cover some of what the doctor is forced by his or her profession to look at with (at best mild) contempt.

No overweight woman is happy in the doctor’s office. I saw a study a few decades ago that said that women should never be weighed BEFORE having their blood pressure taken; it’s so stressful that the BP is never accurate.

You’re naked when you take a shower or bath, but we all arrange things so we don’t have to examine the light gleaming off ample rolls of wet flesh. Once again, that’s not how (we think) a pretty woman is supposed to look… so bathing becomes about utility.

So IS there a time when an overweight woman is truly happy while naked?


I went to see Gwynn yesterday – the therapeutic masseuse. We first discussed the various physical readings from my body, and then because Gwynn is all about the total person, we discussed stress and mood and sleep and all the non-exercise-based things that were influencing the way my body moved.

She developed a plan. (This time? “Let’s focus mostly on your shoulders,” she said. Yes – lets! That’s where stress lives in me!) (Gwynn says shoulders; what she means is that she’s going to work on muscles that I NEVER would have thought would influence the shoulders… but she’s always right.) And then she stepped out so I could strip down.

Which I did. Eagerly. And then I slipped under the sheet and blanket on her heated massage table. It was near freezing and raining outside – a grey, unfriendly day – so lying flat and quiet on Gwynn’s heated table was sweeter than candy. My feet were warm; I was warm. It was quiet. No phone calls, no emails. No chores or To Dos. My job was to lie still and feel my body relax into the padded table.

And I knew that when Gwynn came back in, she would NOT see the excess of adipose tissue on my body; she wouldn’t raise an unseen eyebrow at the bulges under the sheet. She saw me as a wonderful tangle of muscles and capability and it was her project to straighten me out.

Which she did. She cradled my skull in one strong hand and turned and lifted my head so she could knead the neck muscles. She got to my lats. She worked on the quads, and did a quick tour of my feet. I was a lump of happy clay and she was Rodin. She shaped me into something better and more graceful. The image of being sculpted was so vivid that I asked if she ever tried working in clay.

“I don’t have an artistic bone in my body,” she demurred.

That can’t be true. She was shaping me with such skill. What could she do if you gave her some Play-Dough??

But my point: I was absolutely naked, and just blissfully happy about it. Yay!

Some people don’t like massages. “I don’t like to be touched,” they say. And I feel SO SORRY for them. It’s such a blessing, really. And when Gwynn was finished with my hour, I was so stoned I felt it was probably unwise of me to drive right away.

I did drive. All my stressors and troubles were waiting just outside, and I woke up pretty quickly once I left…

…but for an hour, I was floating and supported and approved of. What a gift.

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That’s a trio of Reubens nudes. At the time, those women were famed for their voluptuous beauty. Of course, they were also expected to survive the occasional famine, which is what made them so voluptuous. Good breeders. Alas, we live in a time when the snaky-hipped are praised… They’d be the first to go if we had a famine now. Remember that, my generously-sized friends; we are genetically superior in all ages but this one!



“Brao” sounds like what a pudgy, 59-year-old lady says when she sees photos of smokin’ hot actors, right?

In fact, THAT sound is “RAOW.” (Duh.)

BRAO means something entirely different; it’s a huge motivator for me.

You see, during the roughly two years when my husband was decaying like a malted milk ball (you know the one – looks normal but turns out to be almost hollow, with the malt condensed and crusted on the inside of the chocolate shell? Kinda gummy?), he pretty much did nothing more than sit.

He was dealing with physical issues as well as possible brain trauma and deserves empathy for his decision to take to his recliner (the “decliner”)… and one day while he was sitting there, he realized he couldn’t see right. The lower, inner quadrant of one eye (the part that lets you just barely see the side of your own nose) was black.

So he sat there for a while.

Turns out that even if this had happened to him while sitting in the exam chair at a retina specialist, there wasn’t anything that could be done. A small clot had developed in his bloodstream and upon slipping along one of the hair-like arteries in the retina, had gotten wedged into place. Within three minutes, the region of the retina that the artery branch served had died.

This wasn’t something that could be treated by diet or medicine; there was no operation that was going to bring the vision back. A hunk of dead retina is just that; dead. No more go.

When we finally got to the retina specialist, he was warm and comforting; this is nothing to feel bad about. It just happens sometimes. Jonathan had had a Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion – or BRAO.

But you know, there’s a larger truth there. You can’t do anything that will definitely protect you from a stroke… but you can take action to make it less likely. Right?

Don’t decline. That’s the top advice. Get up and strut around a little. Get the blood moving so little pockets of quiet in the heart don’t get sludgy and start calving like glaciers into tiny clot-bergs.

Make a few different choices at the dinner table. Avoid poisons like diet sodas. Skip the bread basket. Have chicken instead of beef.

Sugar. Damned, insidious sugar, with its hooks deeply embedded in my brain. Resist. Resist. Resist.

Jonathan didn’t. He sat. And declined. And lost the vision in part of one eye. And eventually he died, and never saw his son graduate from high school or got to visit him at college in Vermont. He never got to drive my new car. He has no idea my nephew is going to be a father. He’s missing EVERYTHING.

This journey into Jonathan’s decline comes because in a quest for a cool spot (the furnace is on too high in this chill weather), I ended up on his side of the bed in the early hours. I woke up and found myself caught in a grim memory loop. The BRAO came back to me vividly; I couldn’t shake the reflection of a nightmare time.

This morning, I got up and ate my yogurt. Then I ran the stairs. Up and down, up and down, up and down – ten times in all, grimacing and wishing I had the breath to say all the bitchy things I was thinking about how annoying it is to get cardio exercise…

…and I thought “BRAO.” This is why I do stairs. Forget the waistline. Forget the label on the jeans. Forget being “good” or “bad” about my health. Just do it so you don’t go blind one day.

I could sit comfortably now and ignore the stairs and perhaps lose my vision later… or I can pant and grunt and complain now while thudding from floor to floor in my house and later have a marginally better chance of seeing my son live his life, and meeting my grand-nephew or niece, and eventually buying another new car that Jonathan won’t get to drive. Maybe one day I’ll hold a silly novel in my hand that I wrote and actually published. Maybe.

So – stairs. BRAO, man. Stairs.

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Google Images assures me that is a retina. Honestly, it could be a hugely injured retina or a textbook example of what a retina is supposed to look like… I wouldn’t know. I just thought the red was pretty. Jonathan’s scans (which were always in black and white, not flaming red) had a large dark shadow over part of this image. BRAO.  Brr.





In the depths of grumpiness, the seeds of bliss can be found. Here’s how I know:

I was working out with Barbara today at Body Dynamics. I’ve been feeling sort of badly that Barbara keeps having to jolly me along lately; I’ve begun to dread my workouts. (I think this is seasonal; my grizzly bear DNA says it’s time to hibernate, damn it.)

(That’s how grizzly bear DNA talks. It’s not just time to hibernate. It’s time to hibernate, DAMN IT.)

So I’ve been relying on habit and the implacable demands of having appointments on the books to keep me going. Gritted teeth and a refusal to give up, even if I find little joy in what I’m doing and the jeans aren’t getting any looser.

But this is tough on Barbara (and Grace and Chip and Gwynn) – I imagine at the beginning of a January cold snap they have nothing BUT rosters of grumpy clients who they’d prefer to take a cattle prod to. You wouldn’t know it, though; the entire Body Dynamics team either puts on a brilliant game face as soon as the doors open or they really DO like coming to work every day, because they’re all still happy and energetic and eager to laugh at/with a client who can’t find her glutes.

I was running/walking on the treadmill today, grumpily plotting fierce rebellion and sending out waves of black temper to tarnish the joy of anyone around me. “When was the last time you ran?” Barbara asked.

I grimaced. “It was in 2018.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

She checked her records; she was right. I’d run in 2019, but just barely. “It’s been 21 days since you ran. You’re doing SO WELL!”

Hm. I don’t think so.

Then we went after individual muscles – including the aforementioned glutes, which are inert masses on my backside and always have been. I think Barbara is puzzled by what she must see as my willful refusal to use my glutes. I can’t even feel them to turn them off; I don’t say I wouldn’t if I could – after all, I frequently plot rebellion and insurrection. But I have no idea how to communicate with those muscles, so I take neither credit nor blame.

After a great deal of griping and whining on my part, the last of sixty minutes ticked past and I stomped out, a thundercloud of delight for all who came near me.

“What is the MATTER with me?” I wondered.

I got in the car and drove from the parking garage into the blinding sun. Fumbling for my sunglasses, I put them on and was immediately fogged in by the waves of heat coming off my face. More grumbling.

Finally I cracked the sunroof. It’s 24 degrees in Falls Church, Virginia – not as cold as some parts of the nation (my son, in Vermont, reported that it was a degree yesterday. The only use of “degree” in the singular. This amuses me.) but still plenty crisp.

If I’m quick on the sunroof controls, I can stop it before the sound and wind baffles kick in; at one very specific point, I can force outside air onto my head like a wind tunnel. That’s what I did, figuring some freezing air might de-fog my specs and chill out my grumpitude.

And OH MY GOD it felt good.

I remember when I was a kid and we only had air conditioners in the bedrooms, I’d attempt to stand in front of the open freezer door for as long as possible in the summer until my mother would protest that I was melting the ice cubes; shut the door.


Of course, the air blows only on the right side of my head, so I had to turn and angle my head to send that bliss over the left side, too. Over the skin. Into the hair. Across the crown of the head. Around the eye sockets. And then I got on the highway.

The noise was epic – but OH LORDY. I drove along at 70 (not TOO illegal; there are parts of the Capital Beltway where you can go 65 legally) twisting my head around like those old “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” Breck commercials where a supermodel with a blow dryer forced even more hotness into her lustrous mane. Only mine was icy cold and my face was blotchy and hot.

And suddenly everything was fine.

I left my black mood in a million tiny pieces behind me in the express lanes of the Beltway, blown away by the cold. Yes, I know the exercise released endorphins and it just took a while for them to kick in – but what a mitzvah that cold, cold air was.


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By the way – when I opened the sunroof, it was a relentless 24 degrees out. By the time I got home, it was 28. I take credit for that rising temp; my skin was VERY hot. See how hard I work out?!

Regulate after NIGHT ELEVEN


Well, now I’m confused.

If the alarm goes off at 8AM and I wake up all Disney-like – stretching my arms up luxuriously and smiling at the birds singing and twittering at my window (okay – I mean the gray light of midmorning forcing its way between the slats) – then is that because I’ve finally gotten the right hormone regulated?

That is, have I persuaded the wake-up hormone cortisol to get with the program and do what it’s supposed to do after eleven straight mornings of waking up at 8AM?

Or is it because the go-to-sleep hormone melatonin now has the chance to put me to sleep at TEN THIRTY AT NIGHT??

So when the alarm went off at 8, I’d been pretty much asleep for NINE AND A HALF FRICKIN’ HOURS??!

Actually, I woke up at about 4:20 this morning, but I’ve figured out how to get my 100 ounces of water into my body AND ALSO stop drinking at around seven at night, so my bladder wasn’t desperate and I didn’t have to get up; I only lay in bed for about half an hour in an in-between awake/asleep time, telling myself a story (about how I’d hide a handsome stranger on the run from bad guys in my house while the faux-cops searched for him; I’ve been binge-watching “Justified” while knitting and such shenanigans seem entirely reasonable at 4:30 in the morning) until I put myself back to sleep.

So what’s the answer? I woke up easily because I’d slept for an astonishingly long time? For the eleventh day in a row?

Or because the cortisol was doing its job and waking me up?

And does it matter which?

Chicken or egg? Paper or plastic? Timothy Olyphant or Nathan Fillion? Do we really have to choose?!

I’m enjoying this long run of handsome men in my posts of late. In review: We’ve recently had Harrison Ford as Indy, Jason Momoa, Rob Lowe, and now Timothy Olyphant. Really – it’s a public service I’m doing by illegally posting these images. And it’s all in the name of BETTER SLEEP.

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On the other hand, if I keep posting photos of smokin’ hot men, luring in potential readers, and then they discover the blog is about a fat old lady trying to get healthy, mightn’t that annoy people? Jeez. THAT’S not the goal. But really – would you rather see a photo of me snoring? Yeah – me neither.

Regulate after NIGHT SEVEN


I’ve been sleeping by the clock for a week now. Lights out at 11; alarm goes off at 8 – no screens allowed between those hours.

Actually, no screens allowed between 10PM and 8AM, since Chip, the Body Dynamics nutritionist, says that the blue light of screens influences both the melatonin and the cortisol hormones – so no screens for an hour before bedtime, too.

Sometimes, I’ve found, I get rushed into the evening and can’t finish Rachel Maddow until AFTER 10PM, and then I tell myself I’ll just turn out the lights at 11:15 or 11:30 or whatever – as long as I’m out before midnight, I figure I’m good…

…but 11:00 rolls around and I’m so damned sleepy that I can’t keep my eyes open any longer and I give up and go to sleep.

This is highly unusual for me. I enjoy staying up late. Professor Bice, who taught Psych 101 a million years ago at the University of Virginia, told me confidentially (well, I was sitting in an auditorium with 299 other underclassmen, but he was a great teacher and I FELT like he was confiding a gossipy bit of news just to me) that somewhere in Scandinavia, where night lasts all winter long, some scientists set out to assess a truly uninfluenced sleep cycle.

So they took some willing grad students and put them in bunkers underground and totally isolated them. They had food for three months and all the school books they could want to study for their final exams.

(What kind of schools in Scandinavia were these? Where you could be absent from class for three months and then show up to ace the exam and everyone was fine with that? Maybe they were working on doctoral dissertations down there in their bunkers; I don’t know.)

And then they tracked when the students went to sleep and woke up by monitoring when their lights were on or off.

I don’t remember the results; it was something like when allowed to adjust to their own rhythms, the body’s hormones didn’t really like a 24-hour cycle and preferred something different. What, you may ask? I’m sorry – I was a terrible student. I don’t remember. But the concept has always stuck with me: What would YOUR body do if you had no sunrise/sunset, dinner to make, Good Morning America? What would your natural rhythm REALLY be?

Of course, we don’t live in bunkers. (At least, I don’t. I make no assertions about you!) And there ARE cues that begin or end our days. And I’ve now, after seven days, got the “go to sleep” cues all lined up and working for me.

I’m still missing the “get up” cues. So for the second week of my two-week experiment, I’m self-imposing EVEN MORE DRACONIAN regulations.

When the alarm goes off, I don’t have to leap out of bed immediately – but I can’t pull over the iPad to check messages or Facebook or any other form of delayed rising. I can lie there and admire how nice it feels when my hip flexors aren’t on high alert, but that’s it.

And by 8:30, I must have not just gotten up but also:

  • Peed (always the top priority in the morning – still working on getting in 100 ounces of water a day, and those 100 ounces have to come back out eventually)
  • Dressed myself in clothes you could answer the door in
  • Brushed my teeth and hair
  • MADE THE BED (I said these rules were Draconian)
  • Opened the bedroom curtains
  • Fed the dog and let him out.

Then and only then can I delve into the electronic world.

I’m thinking that by holding off on “what happened during the night that I missed?” until I accomplish that list, I’ll be a little more zippy in the early morning half-hour. And that, as much as the time the alarm goes off, should influence the cortisol to come on stronger and help me wake up perky after a great night’s sleep.

Because I don’t live in a bunker and I can’t just sleep and wake as I please. So why not let all those external cues work FOR me for once?!


Note the shadows in this photo; the sun only hits my office desk in the morning, when I’m rarely awake… or at least, when I used to be rarely awake. Isn’t this a bold and dramatic shot? Pretty – sunshine! I feel like a healing vampire.

Regulate after NIGHT FIVE


You remember dreams only if you wake up during the night, so they can go from short-term to long-term memory. The same dreams are spooling out when you’re sleeping straight through; you just don’t remember them.

So I know that I really WAS tossing and turning all night last night.

(So often we assume we had a bad night’s sleep when in reality we were just unconscious during most of it.)

Because I had some weird and vivid dreams.

Melatonin is in the right cycle; I get sleepy as evening wears on. In fact, I can’t wait for bedtime because I’m worn out from the day and longing to sleep. (Although – last night, I did get caught up in the current book, which is Martin Cruz Smith’s Polar Star, in which ace Moscow police detective Arkady Renko is working on a fish filet factory ship in the North Sea, which is every bit as grim as you might imagine, and STILL he’s smarter than everyone else around him; love me some Arkady, and Polar Star is the best of a great bunch.)

Where was I?

Right – I bid Arkady a reluctant good night and snapped off my light at a little after 11.

Then I was up at 1:30.

And 3:30.

And 4:15. Not ENOUGH melatonin to keep me under.

At least the dreams were interesting. There was one connected dream that stretched across several grumpy roll over/go pee/sit up/punch the pillow episodes. In it, my sister Twig was waiting in my car while I ran into our childhood Safeway for something.

But in the Safeway were all these friends, and I got to gabbing. My good pal Rob Lowe (his presence in my dream obviously a product of too many Brat Pack movies in my youth, not to mention Parks and Rec, mmmm) had just invited me to assess how soft his new necktie was – isn’t that silky? Why, yes, Rob, it really is – when I saw Twig outside.

I found her and she handed me my car keys. I have a kidney infection, she said, and it’s really, really bad. She stomped off to walk home. I can drive you, I called plaintively, but she wouldn’t hear me.

(I actually think I might have a kidney infection; I’m going to the doc to investigate on Friday. That’s neither here nor there; I just think these ties to reality help to ground a dream.)

So then I couldn’t find my car. I stood in the rainy dark night as Rob and my other friends bid me a cheerful farewell. No car in the parking lot. Hah – I have a (dream-based) GPS tracker on my car; I’ll use that. Off I walked, down rainy country roads, following the beep of my car.

Look – there it is. Twig has disguised it as a huge, Transformers-like tow truck parked on the more-or-less lawn of some disreputable and very dark home. No, wait – it’s not the tow truck; my car is in the bed of the pick-up (this tow truck had a pick-up bed with two silver cars in it; mine was hidden behind the other) (and it was my last car, not the Countess). Clearly this was going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Never mind – I’ll go to my OTHER car. (I don’t have another car.) (Well, I do, but it’s not a green, impossibly small Fiat with a bizarre sunroof composed of square glass tiles that slid against each other to open.) Here it is, parked down the street. Oh, Lord, I’ve left the strange sunroof open and it’s raining; now my little car is going to smell. As I was standing on the sidewalk next to my little car, a large pick-up truck pulled off the road and onto the sidewalk; as it slowed to stop, it struck me a glancing blow on the head with its massive chrome grill.

I fell back into the wet leaves. I’m fine, I called – I can already tell I’m fine. (I might be wrong, I thought – but I didn’t want to worry the collection of teenagers now staring at me anxiously from the truck.) Two boys hopped out. They helped me up. You forgive us, don’t you? Yes, of course – now get out of here before I find out there’s something wrong and I change my mind about forgiving you.

Then I woke up.

Bizarre. Very vivid.

By the time it got to be 7:40 (my alarm was set for 8), I was exhausted from trying to sleep and gave up and admitted I was awake.

So does that mean the cortisol was doing its job waking me up? Or was the melatonin simply out of whack? I have no idea. I suspect I’m going to be tired today – and my To Do list just isn’t that long. I’m going to have to find ways to avoid napping. Arkady, I’m counting on you.

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Rob Lowe. Cute all his damned life. And – nice tie.