Oh, and also fifty-five. For a writer, it’s surprising to be pretty much ruled by numbers. And me so good with the twenty-six letters, too. All vowels cheerfully used.

Eighty-one is not my age… yet. (But I’m going to get there, and beyond – just give me time.) It’s not my weight. (Try multiplying by three!) (Wow – that’s about right. Last time Barbara let me weigh myself, I was 242, with is almost exactly 81 x 3.) (And for a writer – 81 x 3 might as well = 242 exactly. What am I – a scientist?)

(But don’t misplace an apostrophe, man. I’ll land on you like a piano falling from the sky.)

Where the hell was I?

Oh, yeah – eighty-one. That’s the temperature today, according to my iPhone. And 55% humidity. Most people would say that’s about ideal in the Glorious Weather category; just about every person suffering through summer in northern Virginia would see it as proof of a benevolent God. I mean, it’s late August. We’re supposed to be set on “Wet Sauna.”

But I have just huffed and puffed my way around my one-mile jogging loop and I’m here to tell you: Nope. Eighty-one is STILL TOO HOT.

And now I’m sitting in my kitchen in full sprawl, lasering my contempt at my Wicks Away Moisture shirt, draped over the next chair. The advantage to living alone is that all 242 pounds of me can sit in semi-nudity and just exude sweat. It isn’t pretty.


I have jogged/walked my mile – fourth time in two weeks. The theory that this gets easier is clearly the worst kind of bullshit, but every time I do it, it makes it harder to come up with a good excuse next time to NOT do it, and maybe that’s enough.

Here are some scenarios with which I entertain myself while plodding along gracelessly:

  • I’m the messenger from Marathon, bringing news of the victory to the king of Greece. I’m going very, very slowly, but why does he need to hear about a victory so quickly? Is he holding off on a stock trade until he knows if his armies won or lost? How rude. Now, if he’d lost, it would have been smarter to send a faster runner, but he won. Hold your horses. In fact, give me a damned horse – I could get there a lot faster.
  • I could run from a mad dog if I had to. If the mad dog was crawling. And gave up quickly. Maybe I could run from a zombie. For a little while, anyway. If there were more than one, I’d have to start looking for a tree to climb. Christ – do I have the energy to climb a tree? Everyone in this neighborhood has trimmed off all the low tree-climbing branches. I’d be utterly stranded. Zombie food. This is why I stopped watching The Walking Dead.
  • Under the theory that something will get me eventually – cancer, diabetes, Dengue fever (it could happen) – then I choose to believe that every damned mile I manage to stagger around northern Virginia pushes back that inevitable Bad Diagnosis by, oh let’s say one week. If it’s a mile in northern Virginia in the summer, count it as a week and a half. Not very long… but I’ve been running with Barbara for a year or so now. And a year – yeah. That’s a long time. I’d take that.
  • I’ll keep running to the next street. Well, maybe that last driveway. How about the shade on the sidewalk – can I make it to the shade on the sidewalk? Nope. Apparently I can’t. Oh, hell – this is a great song to run to. (“Middle of the Road,” Pretenders.) I guess I can stagger along for a few more measures. Christ. Where’s that King of Greece horse when I so desperately need it?? I have an Uber account, don’t I?

I don’t think I’ll ever be a joyous runner… but I might be a joyous granny one day. Or a joyous romance author. Or a joyous winner of Bingo at the VFW hall. And I’ll be forced to admit that running played a part in that.

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But eighty-one? That’s still too damned hot.







My kid sister showed me something about my own car that I didn’t even know.

My sleek, beautiful little car doesn’t like to have its trunk slammed; it objects. It prefers to have the button pushed and then it will lower itself gracefully into place while I walk to the driver’s door, trying hard to look very cool while this automated wonder happens behind me… but secretly wishing there was someone I could gush to. “Lookit my trunk! Isn’t that awesome??”

But last week, Lexie said “Which button do you want me to push?”

I did a double-take. I’ve had my pretty beast for two years; what do you mean, which button??

She said “This one right here.” Hoot, mon – there was a button RIGHT BESIDE the “automatically close the trunk” button. I swear, it wasn’t there yesterday.

“What the hell does THAT do??” I hollered.

“Closes the trunk AND locks all the doors,” my sister replied.

I was dumfounded. “Gowan!”


I spent most of the rest of the day feeling like a fool, and like I’d been missing something pretty useful for a long damned time…

…and then today I was working out with Chip at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA, and the same freaking thing happened.

No, Chip did not point out the second “close the trunk” button on my car, but he might as well have.

“Chip, after I run with Barbara, the next day the hip flexor in my right leg is unbelievably cranky. After I sit for a while, when I get up to walk, I limp for the first five or ten steps. Can you fix this?”

Chip had me stand up in front of him. That’s all I did – I stood there.

“Yes,” he said. “We can fix that.”

“Gowan,” I said. “You can tell that by looking at me standing here?”

“Well, look. Your weight is mostly on your right foot; your left knee is bent.” I looked down in astonishment; he was absolutely right.

“But – this is how I always stand. I’m standing on two feet.”

“Yeah. I know. Look how far out your left foot is turned.”

Again I looked. He was absolutely right. “Gaw,” I said intelligently.

“The little muscles in your hip flexor area are trying to do the work your right glutes are supposed to be doing. We can fix that.”

I don’t actually remember WHAT he said the cause was; I know glutes were involved, and something about inner thighs. I don’t need to know; CHIP knows. And so Barbara will know, and Gwynn the therapeutic masseuse will know. And they will fix me.

But, seriously, now. I’ve been in that car for two years and never noticed the button. I’ve been in the body for 59 years and didn’t know what Chip saw in mere seconds.

Sometimes it pays to have someone else close the trunk of your car.

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Chip didn’t want me to take a photo of him doing something balletic. “Like what?” he said suspiciously. “Like the arabesque you just did.” He scoffed. “I certainly did NOT do an arabesque!” Former ballet dancers have a whole different level of standards. Instead he gave me a goofy pose, which I am delighted to share. (Barbara, working with my fellow Balance Class attendee Rosemary, was standing in the same room. “No, you may NOT take MY picture!” she forestalled me. I don’t know why; she’s got the prettiest alignment of anyone since Chip.)



“You’ve got my sister!” I gushed to Mario. He looked quite startled by this statement.

“In with Gwynn,” I clarified. “She’s getting a massage!”

Mario, one of the Big Brains at Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA), looked both disinterested and relieved that he wasn’t being accused of kidnapping. “Oh,” he said – which, honestly, is about the only acceptable answer under the circumstances.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn, the therapeutic masseuse (one of four at Body Dynamics – and I’m sure the other three are just as brilliant) (but how could they be? I mean really) (No, I’m sure they are) (methinks she doth protest too much)… lost my train of thought. Hang on.

I’d waxed so rhapsodic about Gwynn that my sister Twig finally caved and made an appointment. Just in case you don’t keep track of these details (what – you’re not a crazed stalker?), Twig is my sister who says things like “Damn it, I’m going to have to miss cardio tennis” or “I just had the greatest kick-boxing class.” She lives for Orange Theory. Beneath her beautifully tailored, utterly simple wardrobe is one long, springy muscle; Twig could kick your ass but wouldn’t because DARLING how rude would THAT be??

Her inaugural Gwynn massage was at 10:15 yesterday, and I was working out with Barbara at 11 – so when I arrived, I knew that Twig was lying on Gwynn’s massage table, being brought to the very edge of pain and then washed in the euphoria of a muscle that was at last getting oxygen again. I knew Twig was being educated about things in her body that she’d never known before. I knew Twig was prone and near drooling. And I was as excited as a kid on the day parents come to school to talk about their careers.

“My sister’s here!” I crowed to Chip. Chip, who I see on Wednesdays, wasn’t even looking for me. He was eyeing the waiting area for his next client when I all but body-tackled him. “My sister’s here! In with Gwynn!”

“Oh,” he said. (He and Mario use the same playbook.) “That’s nice.”

“You can look at her when she comes out!”

Chip regarded me with a slightly alarmed air.

“To see if she’s like me! You know – is she lordotic? Do her hips do what my hips do? Don’t you want to see a sister? Like a control in a lab experiment?”

Worn down by my puppy-like enthusiasm, Chip allowed as how that might be interesting. “I have a client with six sisters,” he said. “There’s not a commonality among ‘em. All different.”

Huh. At the stroke of eleven, Barbara appeared, and I swiveled my focus to her. “My sister’s here!”

“Are we running?”

“Yeah – come on. We have to run now to get back to catch her before she leaves. I’ve already stretched. Let’s go!”

I gasped my way through my little mile while Barbara trotted gracefully alongside me, a tug boat guiding the Queen Mary. I tried – I tried! – to run a little faster, but even the promise of “My sister’s here!” couldn’t turn my engines up to eleven; it took the same 15 minutes it always takes. I was doing my panting cool-down walk out front of Body Dynamics when we finished (down to that curb cut – touch the curb with my foot; pivot, walk back up – breeze, hopefully, blowing away the thermonuclear level of heat I generate when I jog – past the front door to that curb cut – touch it with my foot, walk back – an anal-retentive ritual that must be observed) and peering hopefully through the windows to see if I could see her. Nope.

And then as I went past – “Oh, whoo-hoo!” The call we all learned from our mother (her “come down for dinner” call) rang along the street and I swiveled like a laser-guided missile. Look! It’s Twig!

I trotted back as eager as if I hadn’t seen her in years (rather than spending the last two weeks at her side cleaning out Mom’s house). “This is Barbara!” I said eagerly. “Hello, Barbara,” said Twig politely.

“Nothing like you at all,” Barbara said. “Not even close.”

And somehow, this made me howl with laughter. Barbara knows what my feet are doing inside my sneakers; she has the most uncanny ability to understand how a body is working purely through her astonishing powers of observation – and she could see in an instant that Twig’s body was completely different from mine. Of COURSE our bodies aren’t anything alike. Something in Twig’s chemistry makes her crave cardio tennis. Something in my chemistry makes me measure every piece of furniture for its potential value in a marathon novel-reading session.

Twig and Barbara were having a friendly, gentle chat while I was biting back a ridiculous grin. I wanted to shout. It was like a lifetime of struggle clarified in one moment. I don’t like cardio tennis because I am nothing like my sister. I wanted to go up to every gym teacher I ever had, every scornful saleslady in a dressing room – I wanted to get Mom’s ashes off the shelf in the hall closet and say I AM NOTHING LIKE MY SISTER! Isn’t that awesome?!

It’s not strength of will (or lack thereof) that has padded my entire middle like I’m swaddled in pink ceiling insulation. It’s not a lack of effort.

I’m just not like that.

I’m so proud of my sister… and I’m so proud of me.


By the way – Twig says she’s a total Gwynn convert. Her massage was amazing. TOO RIGHT, IT WAS! This photo is of me (on the left) and Twig in the “fascinators” she cleverly made for us for a luncheon of the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. Twig is off-the-charts creative.



O Lord of Boredom, please spare me any dry-as-dust financial planning talks. I nod brightly at The Wise Advisor while trying to work out if I can remember all the lyrics to Scooby, Scooby-Do, Where Are You?

The answer is – yes, I can. You can, too. Go ahead – I’ll wait.

Here’s the point: You know you’re supposed to put a few dollars aside each week so when you’re decrepit and frail, you’ll have enough money to play Bingo at the VFW Hall on Saturdays. What else is retirement for?

(I have no idea where my local VFW is, nor if they offer Bingo – but I like the idea of knowing these things once I’m old and frail. I’m going to be a hell of a Bingo player in my dotage.)

So now I’m thinking there’s a different kind of investment I can make to have a better decrepitude.

If I put in a few hours every week on keeping my muscles flexy and less likely to snap under pressure, then when I trip over a curb on my way to Bingo, I won’t actually break an ankle. Or a hip.

I’m 59 years old; there’s no sense in deluding myself into believing I can exercise my way to a supermodel ass. It’s just not going to happen. But I can delay the onset of the Scooter Season for as long as possible.

I went to Balance Class today. Barbara’s legend as a spectacular trainer is only growing; there were sixteen people in Balance Class. Body Dynamics frowns on this; they’re quite serious about keeping their small classes SMALL. But Barbara just starts grinning as more and more people stream into the exercise room.

She loves a crowd. “This is where your balance is necessary. You’re not going to fall over in the middle of your kitchen floor. You’re going to get into a situation where you have less control – a crowd, an unstable surface like ice – and your body needs to know how to protect you.”

So the many multitudes worked across the room, giggling and snorting as we squeezed past each other. Charming Karen and I did a do-si-do of truly epic grace, and Barb and I were hip to hip during the warm-ups, discussing which songs we could work out to. (We are of one mind on needing a lot of harmony to sing along with.) Penny, graceful as any ballet dancer, and I tossed and caught the big grapefruit-like weighted ball and danced to Earth Wind and Fire.

And we were all making an investment in the Better Aging bank.

Sometimes I think of these peculiar exercises (and in Gabby’s Stretch Class, right after Balance Class) as applying an oil can to the frozen joints of the Tin Man. Whenever an exercise is particularly awkward, I know I’m getting into a joint or a muscle or a tendon that thought it was done; it had settled down to playing Bingo at the VFH Hall. But I’m not quite ready for that, and the strange, awkward exercises are the ones that are doing me the most good.

So, seriously: Would you rather listen to someone talk about investments? Or sweat for 30-60 minutes? I know; me, too. They’re both dire. Adulting is so BORING… but you know it’s the right thing to do!

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I know we’ll catch that villain!



Couture gown or parachute; can you imagine? You could drape princesses in midnight blue silk… or suspend soldiers leaping by night behind enemy lines FROM THE SAME FABRIC.

It boggles my mind. Tough and fragile; lightweight and strong as steel.

This huge contrast brought to you by the inside of your cheek – which (stay with me, here) is the silk of the human body.

I just had a tooth extracted. I lost the massive molar that’s almost at the back of the horseshoe of your teeth. Did you ever notice? That one is almost twice the size of the guy right next to it; it’s a whopper. Funny how many things about our own bodies that we take for granted until something gets up-ended, and then I’m all “hang on – this tooth is freaking HUGE. Has it always been this vast, or did I run afoul of some nuclear waste, or something??”

So there’s a gap in my tooth wall. A big one.

Everything is streamlined; there’s nothing poking into my cheek. It’s all sleek ivory and smooth gum wall and sibilant, slippery smoothness…

…and yet my inside cheek is being driven up the wall. I can feel tender places abrade as my teeth wear a new topography onto the silk that lies against it. I don’t understand it, but I know it’s going to take a while for my mouth to learn its new contours – and until that’s done, I might be slightly insane. Beg yer pardon.

The silk of my inner cheek – so supple and flexible – is learning a new pattern. AND THAT IS HARD.

Today I was doing remedial work with Barbara (the master guru trainer at Body Dynamics in Falls Church, VA) and thinking about patterns.

I was stepping on and off a low platform – maybe six inches – attempting to keep every part of me facing forward. (I tend to let my feet swivel outward, or my knees, or lord knows the many directions my hips can go.) Step up on right foot – swing left knee up and forward, don’t put the toe down – step back down on left foot – bring right foot back to start. Like all of Barbara’s “simple” exercises, it was leaving me drenched in sweat and muttering “Glute – left glute… aaaaaand RIGHT glute… weight on heel, knee up, hinge from the hips, step back, foot straight, right glute, LEFT glute…”

Sometimes I did pretty well; sometimes I was teetering all over the little platform. People nearby looked nervous as the “TIMBER!” looked more and more likely.

And I thought about the silk in my cheek.

We learn these patterns over the years and decades – like how the second-from-the-back molar lies against the cheek, or how the hips tilt to accommodate glutes that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing – and they’re so ingrained that we don’t even recognize them. It’s not until something gets up-ended that the quick-fix solution loses its effectiveness.

Barbara’s goal, then, is to up-end my quick fix so I can learn to move more intelligently before something actually goes wrong. What a luxury that is! It’s so very hard to re-learn a decades-old pattern… but that’s no excuse not to try. Because it will be far easier to relearn it now than it will after something (like advancing age or a life of stress) takes the option out of the equation.

I have a bone graft in my jaw, healing so the dentist can put in a screw (the concept gives me the huge heebie-jeebies) and then implant a fake tooth. I know it’s the right thing to do, so I’m going to re-learn the patterns on the inside of my cheek… and my tongue is going to continue to wander, confused, into that empty socket in wonder… because that’s what it will take to maintain my health. I don’t like it, but the alternative is worse.

And if you’ve made it this far, then I’ll share that the stress that caused my tooth to finally crack was the rapid illness and death of my mother in June (she died on July 1), and the subsequent massive marathon my sisters and I underwent to empty her house. That’s done now, and I can focus on safeguarding my health once again. More blog posts in “The Adventures of a Fat Lady in Fitness Land” to come, and I’m sorry (more than I can say!) for my extended absence.

Now go think about silk gowns blissfully made from midnight-blue parachutes, because that’s way more fun than filling your head with remedial exercises and mortality. After all, silk (like you) is impossibly strong – but one rip in the wrong place and you’re naked on the ballroom floor. And you’re going to want to look good when that happens!

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