A Penchant for Plus: Sizing up Acceptance

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By: Jana Greene

Can we just be real here for a minute? I need to tell somebody this secret I’ve been keeping, and I thought 1,800 of my closest friends would enable a soft place to fall.

It’s official. I’m plus sized now.

Whoop-de-doo, you might be saying. So is half the adult population in America! Although that is true, and I have friends of all shapes and sizes and find them all BEAUTIFUL and stunning creatures regardless of what a little tag inside their blue jeans says, I cannot seem for the life of me to afford myself the same kindness.

That little tag meant nothing to me when I was a kid.

I remember being so thin that my step-father would make fun at me at the dinner table by taking two toothpicks and making them ‘walk’ around the table. “Look! These are Jana’s legs!” He’d laugh.

So hilarious.

Even my beloved grandmother – who was a big lady – fed me lines about weight as far back as I can remember. “Don’t get fat,” she’d say, point blank. “Most men don’t like fat women.”

Here’s what I wanted to say: “Well, that’s okay since I’m SIX YEARS OLD right now.”

Here’s what I said, “I’m sorry.”

Because I am always, eternally SORRY for every and anything, including the food I ingest. I’m starting to think the guilt thing is far more pertinent to my weight issues than I’d previously thought.

I wanted to ask her why there was a clause for boys. One of them rode my bus in middle school. He often wore a T-shirt that said “NO FAT CHICKS” (hey, it was the early 80’s – that kind of crap was allowed.) I’m not sure if this kid ever got the memo that he HIMSELF was a VERY fat guy.  He was known for being a fat guy. And for wearing a shirt that looked like this:

fat

Well, alrighty then.

My mother was always thin. And always drop-dead gorgeous. She didn’t seem to struggle with weight at all.

As a teen, I grew gigantic boobs practically overnight. This blog may seem an inappropriate forum to share that, but stay with me here. They were not SEXY big, they were FREAKISHLY big. Everyone – even my family – made a huge deal over them, so I started to think maybe fat was OK, IF it was in the right place. It seemed like a cruel twist of fate, since I had zero input in deciding where my fat went.

Let me make sure I’ve got this straight -Toothpick legs are bad (or are they good?)

Boys won’t like me if I’m fat.

Unless it’s boob fat.

Got it.

I grew up with an abysmal self-image, and became a lady whose weight see-sawed like crazy.  In my 20’s and 30’s, I was plump, but paid it no mind since I was busy doing things like growing new human beings in my body and nourishing them with milk, compliments of those enormous boobs. I wore mom jeans and baggy shirts, and stayed busy.

And then came the divorce. It was a horrible divorce. I had no interest in food whatsoever and took twisted glee in watching myself whittle down to nothing. I smoked 2 packs of ciggs per day and got my nutrients from Diet Coke.

I would play mind-effery games with myself, like ‘how little food can I get away with eating and still be alive?’ I lost 80 pounds total, and people told me I was too skinny or asked if I was sick. In some way, it validated me. They think I’m sick? I must be SUPER skinny. GO ME!

When I met and married my second (and permanent) husband, I was JUST RIGHT. I’d quit smoking and started eating normally again. He caught me right at a 10-minute window where I was my personal best. Ok, I’m exaggerating. It may have been a 15-minute window.

I took a solemn vow to never, ever, ever get fat again. Not to my husband, who has this quirk of finding me attractive no MATTER what age / weight I am at any given moment. I took the vow to myself never to get fat again.

Except that I did.

I started gaining when I quit smoking cold turkey in 2006 to impress my boyfriend (now husband.) That’s where the first 10 extra pounds piled on. I substituted Virginia Slims for Jolly Ranchers – preferably the sour variety. I constantly had a Jolly Rancher in my mouth, but rationalized that “at least I’m not smoking cigarettes.”

Maybe the catalyst was the hysterectomy I had in 2008 – I sure as sh*t haven’t gotten smaller since then.

Or the lack of exercise that followed major surgery to rebuild a broken ankle in 2012.

Or the way I use food to numb / enhance / punish / reward myself. (But that’s a blog post for another day.)

Perhaps I just freaking love to eat food.

I do, you know.

You would think seeing myself naked getting out of the shower would have tipped me off. It SHOULD have tipped me off.

You might think squeezing my muffin top into and under a pair of elastic-waisted pants  or squashing into shirts may have given me pause.

As long as it was size 14 or smaller, I could handle it.

I have a sick fixation with 14. It is the last stop in the ladies department

“Please squeeze into the 14. Please squeeze into the 14. Please squeeze into the 14,” I would plead with my fat.

To which it would reply: “Hey, look what I CAN DO!” before spilling copiously over the top of the waistband.

I am not in great health. Several of my medications carry the cruel side effect of weight gain. Migraines make it difficult to commit to a work out routine. Excuses? Probably. But also damn good reasons why I’m not the hottie my husband thought he’d married.

I’m not proud at all to share what I’m about to share, but in keeping it 100, I feel I must. There have been times in my 40’s that I have stooped to the “binge and purge” low. It’s gross, I know. It’s also more of a control thing than a food thing. It’s the ugly secret of having your cake and eating it too – just not keeping it down for very long. I haven’t purged in a long time – bingeing? Well, several weeks ago, there was that sale on Haagen Dazs and I needed to self-soothe an anxiety that I don’t even remember any more.

I have to employ the same 12-Step strategy that keeps me sober to help me deal  with my food issues. I’m so tired of food issues.

I’m tired of pleading with fat.

I’m tired of feeling guilty for every morsel I eat.

I’m tired of giving a little tag so much power.

I’m tired of assuring my own beautiful, smart, hilarious, strong daughters that they are PERFECT in the bodies they are in (because it’s TRUE!), all the while hating my very own body.

I will probably never have toothpick legs again.

I care less and less about whether or not ‘boys’ like me – I lassoed the only one I care about and he doesn’t seem to mind my extra fluff.

I will try to eat healthier, but put away the cat ‘o nine tails when I don’t.

So, hello, plus sizes.

I have one more regret. I’m sorry I villainized  you.

I think you’re the WWJD of clothing – soft and forgiving. I especially dig how forgiving you are. I figured since you’re probably going to stick around a while, we should make peace.

And suck it, little white tags. You’re not the boss of me.

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The Fierceness of Facing Age

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Ugh. It was really hard to put this picture up on the blog. No make-up, no filters. Photo filters are increasingly becoming my very best friend, to be honest….

 

By: Jana Greene

About that ageing gracefully thing….

Let me just preface this with a nod to those more spiritually evolved than myself, who will remind me that old age is an honor, and that silver hair a crown of glory, and that women are like fine wine and only get better with age (I never understood that one, but I drank only wine that came in a box before I got sober 15 years ago.)

You are right, yes. I get it! But some days, plain old regular vanity kicks in and sucks all the platitudes right out of getting older.Sometimes it’s just helpful to hear, “You, too?”

Remember those first wrinkles you discovered around your eyes in your early thirties? The ones that snapped you out of the delusion that wrinkles weren’t going to happen to you? The ones that spurred you on to buy that expensive sunblock at the Clinique counter? Doesn’t that seem wildly over-reactive and optimistic now?

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I feel like Father Time has been walking on my face wearing soccer cleats and things on my body (including my face) are forever getting softer, lower, and unable to ‘snap back.’ Can we just be honest about it?

I was musing about this on Facebook one day, and I invited my women friends to weigh in on their processes of ageing AND accepting that the process is a thing.

Crepey neck skin, bags under my eyes – who said “getting old is for sissies”? Is there a meat clever around? I’ll give em sissies!

Ah, the crepey skin. Just when I’d finally learned how to properly apply eye shadow, it disappears into the crepey folds of eye lid.  (Take care to take your eye makeup off without rubbing, young ones! You will thank me later on.)

Another sister really just kind of summed it up thus: (If ever there were an occasion to use multiple emoticons, it is here. Mid-life is ONE LONG EMOTICON, I’m finding.)

Hello death to the metabolism… Moment of silence please …… Ok, no need to expound there … Attack of weird skin issues. All things saggy , crepey, spotted, super dry, moles, veins veins, veins..did I mention veins ? Hormones that go up and down, like the rides at the county fair …. One minute I want to devour my husband, and another I want to zap him with a stun gun!  😍😘🔥😱😁😂 😊… Let’s just Changing sleep patterns can not be a good thing 😱😁💤😴💤😵😵😵and so begins The Strangeness … Memory ? Oh yeah what was I saying ? Why did I come In this room again? … I don’t feel like doing a darn thing ..life takes too much energy…

And…

Inside there is this 20 year old thinking she can still do what she used to. Then someone decided we need mirrors over every stinking bathroom sink and BAM! I see that the outside is not a 20 year old any longer.
How did that happen?
Wrinkles? Seriously? They are coming folks and it doesn’t matter how much cream or moisturizer you apply, they are coming.
I think the hardest part is the wisdom streaks that seem to be popping up everywhere. Anywhere there is hair.  Sheesh.  Gray…… thank God for this wonderful invention of color. We really can be anything we want to be. Not a blond? Not a brunette? Not a red head? No problem, there’s a color to suit your every whim.
For me, well, I’ll try to continue to do this aging thing gracefully but I’m just not ready to show all of my wisdom to the world just yet. Maybe in another 20 or 30 years. Maybe by then, I won’t be bothered by those pesky, lying bathroom mirrors anymore.
In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

Dang, that’s good.

I have the best girlfriends in the world, ya’ll.

Arthritis in the back. I love being active and that reminds me every time that I am not at young as I used to be. Not that it is stopping me now. I just fear it will some day!

Fear is a big thing with us, but we need to let that go. We ARE all still 20 year-olds, we are just driving classic cars now. Costly, sputtering, high-maintence, they-don’t-make-’em-like-that-anymore classics. We’ve survived this long, Baby.

Suck it, Fear. (I say that now….wait 5 minutes for mood to change, and we’ll re-assess.)

Several friends mentioned the dreaded and slow-morphing phenomenon that is ‘turkey neck,’ which deserves it’s very own blog post. Seriously, it needs a blog post all it’s own.

But then this:

I like me more emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. So things drag a bit…and the skin is drier, and there are things I never had before–moles, skin tags, hairy face….I am good with me. I love this stage of life.

OMG, I love this stage in my life, too. I really do!  I can be authentic without feeling like I need to apologize for being who I am.  The younger me wanted to people please 24/7, and was always worried about making herself small.  Part of authenticity is being honest about grieving the loss of the season, while still being cognizant of the honor that comes with age.

As the Facebook thread bemoaning our collective youth kept moving along, the posts got more positive. Like we all needed to just SAY IT – admit our struggles in gory detail – and find camaraderie with one another.And then we could entertain the awesomeness of mid-life.

We are all women who love God and know that silver hair is a crown of glory. But sometimes we bitch about getting older anyway, and grace fills in the cracks in our vanity like the wrinkle creams promised to do for our faces. Grace-fully.

Slowly, the sentiment became – yes, our bodies, faces and minds carry the wear and tear – but our spirits have never been so vibrant! Getting older ain’t for sissies, but that’s okay. We ain’t sissies.

We’re FIERCE, friends!

I wouldn’t take all the young, taught skin and youthful energy in the world for the relationship I have with The Father now – it took a lifetime to learn how to ACCEPT His love. My earlier years were so focused on earning it, I forgot to accept it.

I laugh more, share more, love more, taste more, savor more, give more. In the end, I suppose vanity aims to squash down the ‘more-ness.’ Don’t let it take your MORE!

If there’s a damn wrinkle cream on the planet that works, I haven’t found it. And there are a thousand things about ageing I sincerely do not appreciate. I would like my metabolism back, pretty please. Also, I’m very sorry I didn’t appreciate estrogen when I had tons of it…in retrospect, it was rad. I wish I still only equated ‘crepey’ with French foods, and thought only of giblets when I consider the ‘turkey neck.’

About that ageing gracefully thing again….to re-quote a fabulous friend of mine:

….In the meantime, I know whose child I am and He loves me even with all of wrinkles that pop up daily it seems and the ever growing wisdom streaks..

You, too?

Amen, Sister.

Amen.

 

(**Side note: If you are a woman in mid-life and have not read Nora Ephron’s book “I feel Bad about my Neck, and other thoughts on being a Woman,” please do. You will relate and likely be brought to tears from laughter. Which may bring more smile lines, but honey, it’s WORTH it. Laughter is ALWAYS worth it!**)

 

 

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Mom, Re-purposed

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By: Jana Greene

On my youngest daughter’s last high school theater performance, I sat in the front row to watch her take her last bow and had the sharpest pang in my heart. My husband and I had sat in that same theater through the band, chorus and theater productions of our three daughters seemingly hundreds of times through the years. On this last event, I had come by myself. As the crowd filed out of the theater, I just sat in the chair and felt tears well up in my eyes. The Drama teacher and her troupe of performers were packing up the last prop in the darkened room when I finally stood up and – much to my own surprise – loudly questioned to the empty theater, “What’s a helicopter mom supposed to do NOW!?”

It was a very sincere question, one that I would wrangle with for the next few years as the kids left the ‘nest’ one by one to pursue their own lives. Just as they should.

Being a Mom is a full identity, right? RIGHT!?

Except that it really isn’t and never should have been in total. When God created us and poured the emotions and and love into us, I’m not sure anymore that he expected us to pour every drop of it back out without leaving anything for our own spirits. I don’t think ‘wife’ and ‘mom’ is our only identity, even those roles are a huge part of who we are.

It’s not that we didn’t want our kids to grow up. Oh how we did! During the teen years especially, God prepares you to let them go by allowing the obnoxiousness and rebellious quotient to replicate exponentially in your child. Yes, they ‘grow up so fast’ but NOT FAST ENOUGH when they are full of attitude and angst. But what they say about kids ‘coming back around’ on the other side of the teen years is SO true, I am happy to report.

I am not asking them to move back in. PLEASE LET ME BE CLEAR ABOUT THAT.

I am just asking God to re-purpose me as a 47-year old woman whose kids have become awesome and independent young women.

Mother Identity Crisis is also known in more polite circles as “Empty Nest Syndrome.” The subject doesn’t get a lot of play in the media because it isn’t a hot topic. It pertains to middle-aged women and the grunt work they did with hearts a-burst with love who have lost their some of their purpose as the children grow up and need them less.

It isn’t a subject that graces magazine covers. It’s not the subject of Lifetime Channel movies.

It isn’t ‘sexy.’

But it needs to be addressed because the women who make up this demographic are a huge part of society and are walking around like shells as they try to explore who they really ARE now. All we really hear about as we near our fifties is the message that we are past our prime, and too many of us believe that.

I flatly refuse to be past my ‘prime.’

I had many ‘jobs’ when my kids were growing up, but never a ‘career,’ and that was purposeful. I wanted to pour all of my emotional energies into my kids and did so as I do every other thing – obsessively. Who needs hobbies when your whole life is about making sure these offspring have dance lessons to chauffeur and field trips to chaperone? Who has time for exploring interests when the 2nd Grade classroom needs a “Room Mother” (now THERE’S a calling for you!)

I just kind of lost myself in fray, and it seemed a noble thing to do at the time.

It WAS the noble thing to do at the time. Nothing makes one feel successful like cutting peanut butter sandwiches with heart cookie-cutters and packing a lunchbox with a note that says “Your book report will go great! I love you!” I’m not being snarky…things like that did indeed make me feel successful. Making my kids happy was tantamount.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

But mothers of youngsters take note – you will need to remember who you are at your own core one day. Take that pottery class. Pursue that degree, if you wish. Read books that aren’t only about Very Hungry Caterpillars and the adventures of Junie B. Jones. Listen to music not sung exclusively by puppets and cartoon characters.

Super importantly, go on date night with your husband. Your relationship with him needs to stay fresh for the day your children take up residence in their own lives.

A dear friend of mine has four children, all of whom are peering over the edge of the nest – the nice, fluffy, safe nest their mother has feathered all of their lives.

“So here we are,” she says. “And my life is still revolving around planning my celebrations around the fleeting loyalties of my offspring.”

She and I often compare notes about MIC and the challenges of this new season. Mainly, figuring out who God created us to be outside of the “mom” role.

“God is doing a new thing in my life. GOD IS DOING A NEW THING,” She recently mused. “Maybe I need to stop doing the old things and expecting them to fit in my new life?”

I think she is on to something there. Our kids still need us, but in brand new ways. They need us to do the new things, and  to trust in who they grew up to be.

But Lord Jesus, help us with ALL OF THESE FEELS!

Letting go is HARD.

Lord, help me to consider things not from the perspective of an ‘Empty Nester’  (with the emphasis on loss and hollow space) to being FULL and purposeful.

I’m not sure what that fullness looks like yet, to be honest.

But I know that I want to set a precedent for my grown daughters to know what a fulfilled woman in mid-life can be, just in case they have daughters of their own to pour into, who will – as it should be – leave their own nests one day.

I know that the Lord wants abundant life for us in this season. He wants His daughter to know her own interests and ministries outside those of her children. He wants us to be able to enjoy our marriages, which were so often put on the back burner in the interest of feathering those nests.

Re-purpose me, God. My kids are grown but you are nowhere near done with using and blessing my life. Take the front row seat in my life.

In each new season, re-purpose me.

The Last First Day of School – a minor motherhood identity crisis

By: Jana Greene

Today is the last “first day of school” for my youngest child.  She is nearly seventeen now – a senior in high school.  Before I dropped her off, she and I said a quick prayer together – Dear Jesus, please give her a great first day and a great school year.  Now that she is in 12th grade, she has a lot to look forward to.

But as it is the last day I will ever drop a daughter off for her first day of the new school year, it’s a little bittersweet. As I watched her walk into the building, my eyes stung for a moment. Wasn’t she only a kindergartener clinging to my legs a couple of years ago? Now, she is a beautiful young lady carrying herself with confidence. I am so very proud of her.

Driving my kids to school in the morning is one ritual I’ve tried to keep constant through the years. They rode the bus home in the afternoons, but morning trips were mine. It usually felt like quality time (in 20 minutes or less), except for when they were thirteen and fourteen, and then it sometimes felt like a root canal (what with snarky attitudes and slammed car doors).  But mostly I remember a lot of laughter, and singing to the radio, and really good talks about the deep and the trivial.

A happy morning ride to school made me feel as though my kids would be okay. I would remind them to “make good choices” and get a feel for what was going on in their little worlds. On the mornings all went well, I felt born to be a mom. I didn’t know that they would grow up so fast.

You hear a lot about empty nests but my husband and I can’t really relate to that concept yet.  In our blended family, the children are twenty, twenty and seventeen respectively and all three are still living at home. None of them seem in a particular hurry to fly into the world without us.  He and I often groan about not having FIVE MINUTES alone in the house; we joke that we will have to move to an island in the middle of the night and leave no forwarding address, just to get five minutes alone. We have a bit of empty-nest-envy sometimes, in truth, because I was also born to be his wife and now in our mid-lives, he deserves to be the center of my attention as well.

This morning, the milestone of my youngest daughter’s last first day of school generated a tiny little identity crisis panic attack in my heart. I think that’s normal, but then I remind myself that “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine.

The truth of the matter is that we Moms – having devoted ourselves to our kids – have to learn what makes us “tick” all over again when they grow up. There is so much purpose in motherhood that I forgot it might not be my sole purpose. I’m still figuring out where God’s plan places me in the scheme of my identity, but many times His plan places me nowhere near who I’ve understood myself to be. He knows I will always be “Mom” to my beloved daughters, but His plans for HIS children are grander still.

Enjoy the full nest! my empty-nester friends tell me. Enjoy your kids…they fly away soon enough!  And it’s true – mine is a SENIOR now! If I get teary now thinking about her being in 12th grade, how will I fare when the kids really DO move out?  If I worry about them so much now while they are still under our roof, how much more will I worry when they are out? What will I fill the space with – the space that is feathered now with clutter and noise and drama?

And the small, still voice that I recognize as family, too, says “Trust. Fill it with trust in me. I’ve got them now.” So I have to try, because my Father knows best.

For her last year in high school, I hope circumstances allow me to take my youngest to school each day.  We will laugh and sing to the radio and talk about subjects deep and trivial in twenty precious moments or less, and pray together quickly before she leaves for class. God has fresh ideas for her life, and she has the whole journey ahead of her.

Born to be God’s child, too….