Scenic Route 53


“A great alternative way to reach Grants from Gallup is via Scenic Route 53, which runs parallel to, and south of, I-40. It takes a full day to really experience this out-of-this-world landscape of lava tubes and red arches, volcanic craters and ice caves, as well as unique historical attractions and traditional New Mexican towns.”  

-Lonely Planet

On Friday, I turned 53. I’m not particularly bothered by it. I happened to be online around 1 a.m. and commented that I’d been 53 for 53 minutes, to which my mother (the next day) said “Not exactly.” Which is true, I wasn’t born until 6:40 in the evening. My father had gone home to make a sandwich.

And it was one time zone over, so I guess I wasn’t truly 53 years old until twenty minutes of eight on Friday. But that’s not what this is about. I could be turning 39 or 57 or 10.

This is about expectations.

Like everybody, I’ve had good birthdays and crappy ones. I’ve had full-blown week-long celebrations and birthdays that passed with little notice. Oh wait, that last part’s not true.  I’ve never had a birthday that passed without notice.

But lately I’ve started to realize that the enjoyment I found in a celebration had direct correlation to what I expected from it– but not having any expectations is not only not realistic, it’s not the answer.  The answer is this: make your own fun.

One of the very best things about my birthday is that the weather, which has been a socked-in-solid deep freeze for the last several weeks began to thaw. I know it isn’t spring, this is still January. But it was forty something, and the air felt soft. I went out into the world wearing a velvet coat.

It starts with a swim at the Y, a brand new luxury for me. The day before my husband went with me to sign up for a membership and bought a parking pass for good measure. Then we went out to buy shoes.

“Shoes?” you query. “Who needs shoes to swim in a pool?” Well, that’s true. I don’t need shoes to swim in a pool. But I might need them to sneak a little walking or racquetball or some other exercise disguised as fun. This is a very delicate arrangement, I don’t want to frighten my good intentions.  These are the shoes, they’re far more gaudy than any pair of shoes I’ve ever bought in my life, my footwear exists in the spectrum from Doc Martens to sensible Mary Janes.


After swimming, it was off to the kind of meeting that makes you wish you were having a root canal instead. For two hours. Lord help me. Save us from people who refuse to be reassured and offer nothing in the way of solution or support.

And I didn’t even get paid for those two hours lost forever from my life, on my birthday no less– it was all part of a volunteer gig. On the other hand I was the youngest person in the room. That gives me faith that 53 is not all that old, and that there are still plenty of years ahead for me to make trouble.

After the meeting, a late lunch with a friend. The white tablecloth restaurant where we hoped to go had closed for lunch, so we ended up at Panera, but that was alright, I had a favorite salad and it was delicious. My friend gave me this wonderful birthday card, one of the best I’ve ever seen. Inside it says “You’re just a few clicks past thirty.”


bostonbdayI would have lingered longer but I had to go pick up my son.

At home, there were birthday cards– one, from my father’s widow, had a generous check enclosed. There was an odd shaped package from my mother, which turned out to be a tall object resembling an umbrella stand.  We don’t think it truly is an umbrella stand, but it has found a place in the hallway and I like it.

Earlier, on our way to the closed restaurant, I passed by the windows of a shop I had only seen from the car. I’d always thought it was a high end gift shop– you know, home of the $40 paperweight. But walking by the window I saw on a shelf a figure of a dog, but I hadn’t had time to check it out before going home. So, it’s my birthday, right, I’ll indulge myself a little.

Back to the shop, and it is chock full of interesting stuff, shiny baubles and costume jewelry and beautiful French wrapping paper. The dog figure is only ten dollars, but it looks like the head of a mastiff on the body of a hound, so I pass on that, but pause over a number of bracelets, inspect some marked down Christmas ornaments and buy some French wrapping paper. It’s a place I’ll go back to, I’m only sorry it took me so long to go in the first time.

From there to the weird hum of the Goodwill outlet, where I found a blue plaid wool blanket, a poster from a Grand Funk Railroad tour, a first edition of LeRoy Neiman’s Art and Lifestyle, an interesting Melmac tray and a Magnajector. This is a Magnajector.




From Goodwill to the grocery store, and flush with the unexpected birthday check, I splurge on steaks for us. And a ganache-covered torte to serve as birthday cake.

Birthday dinner, then was sublime. More relaxed than any restaurant and you could go back for seconds. No candles on the torte and no singing (that may have been a misstep) but the cake was awesome.

It was nearly midnight before I sat down to check the computer. There were emails. A couple of texts. Some Facebook messages . . . and more than 150 posts wishing me a happy birthday. Some of them so perfect as to be gifts all in themselves.

Like this one.

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And this one from my friend, Terri, quoting Byron.

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And this one from my pal Mark, noting my return to the water.

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What gift could be better than messages like those from friends like that?

And then I found out all kinds of interesting things about the number 53.

  • It’s the number of an incredible scenic highway in New Mexico.
  • 53 is a prime number.
  • It’s the code for direct-dial calls to Cuba, a place I desperately want to visit.
  • 53 is the racing number for Herbie the Love Bug.
  • The Daily Mail says that 53 is when middle age begins.
  • At 53, Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony
  • Sidney Sheldon began writing his first novel at 53.
  • Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole at age 53, and that’s how old Walter Hunt was when he invented the safety pin.
  • 53-year-old playwright Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia.
  • Sue Monk Kidd published her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, at– yep, 53.
  • The atomic number of Iodine is 53. In it’s gaseous state, it’s violet, like the cardigan I’m wearing in the photo above, taken on my 53rd birthday. It is present in ocean water, as I too, would so like to be. But the Egyptian-inspired pool at the Y will have to be a close second.
  • The character of the Grinch (who stole Christmas) is 53.


As is Dewey Largo, who in the episode of The Simpsons that I just happened to watch on the night of my 53rd birthday, sings “My country ’tis of thee, my job is misery. Life disappointed me, I’m 53 . . . .”

(I think I aged better than Mr. Largo.)


Here’s what I know: you are responsible for your own happiness. I had a wonderful happy birthday, because I decided that I would have a wonderful happy birthday. Many, many people, friends and family alike, helped make it even happier. But from the time I got up in the morning I decided to celebrate the day like the present it was.

Today I am still eating birthday cake. Lucky girl.




I am the Queen of the Sensible Shoe. From the time I was a little girl in patent leather Stride Rites, to this very day, I have chosen flat shoes. Well, there was that period in 1975, when I was thirteen and traded some of my most precious possessions to the daughter of a family friend for her David Bowie style platform-soled shoes, but that was just a passing phase.

Even in those days you would mostly find me in Earth shoes (remember those?) and yes, Mother, in retrospect I agree that they were the ugliest shoes ever. And unlike my somewhat more glamorous stepsister, I wasn’t drawn to three-inch stilettos either. Mind you, Hannah was blessed with beautiful feet, like those that grace the paintings of William-Adolphe Bougeureau. I don’t have beautiful feet. I have very serviceable feet that look crudely sculpted and  stuck on the end of Very Sturdy Legs. 

Even if I could walk in them, I would look absurd in sexy shoes.

This is not to say that I have a closet full of Old Maine Trotters. Indeed, my husband is amazed at the variety of shoes I have acquired. Stegmann clogs. Doc Martens of many varieties, including the pair pictured– a birthday present to myself when I turned 51. Penny loafers. Riding boots. Sperry Top Siders. Fisherman sandals. Merrell barefoot running shoes. (More on those in a minute) And Mary Janes of every description by half a dozen of my favorite shoe makers and usually in black.

Last year, when I took up the Rehabilitation and Remodeling of Myself, I did a lot of research on running shoes. I have always found big, over-padded  athletic footwear (in white) uncomfortable in every way; not fun to wear and besides, they made me self-conscious. I was curious about the move towards “barefoot running” and I found a pair of Merrell shoes that were designed for the task– not the freaky looking ones with separate toes, just nice slender lightweight athletic shoes with a zipper. In black, of course.

I loved those shoes. They were incredibly comfortable. I wore them all summer long. And then one day when I took them off, my feet were really sore. It had been an active day, with a hike and a brief run at the end of it– and I just thought I’d overdone it. The next day my left foot was intensely painful. It was actually my neurologist who told me that I’d probably strained my Achille’s tendon after I nearly leapt off the table during a routine neurological reflex exam. She recommended RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation.

It was really aggravating to be sidelined when I’d been making such good progress, and as soon as I was able the old shoes were back on and I was at it again. I was still having some pain in my feet, but I figured it was just a little tendonitis, nothing to get too concerned about.

I started to notice a pattern. In the morning, when I got up, I could hardly stand. After I’d been working at my desk for a while, it would be excruciating to walk into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. This was not tendonitis. This was the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis, where the fascia that runs the length of your foot becomes inflamed which mostly manifests itself as heel pain, but also general foot swelling, which would explain why some of my favorite sensible shoes no longer fit.

Strangely, the longer you walk, the more it eases off. But if you’ve been on your feet a lot, and then you stop, or sit down, or go to bed– as we all must do– God help you when you try to get back on your feet the next time. It seems so unfair. I mean, I know that my sensible shoes have helped me escape bunions, corns, Haglund’s deformity, hammertoes and sciatica– but I never expected to end up lame anyway.

My weight has a lot to do with it. My serial monogamy for shoes– when I find a pair I really love I tend to wear them exclusively until they are totally worn out. Showing dogs– which involves lots of standing and running on concrete floors. The spectre of menopause. It is mostly my left foot that is affected, and it was my left foot that had the Achille’s tendon issues. And it was my left foot that sustained numerous hairline fractures when a big hunter mare stood on it 35 years ago.

Though the prognosis is nearly  always that it takes more than a year to recover from Plantar Fasciitis, there are exercises to do, and shoes to wear and inserts, orthotics and padding to consider. This is when I really miss having health insurance, because perhaps it would be nice to have a little guidance in these matters. But free clinics aren’t interested in your sore feet and orthopedic specialists just aren’t in the budget right now.

So, I soldier on doing what I can. After all, I need these feet to carry me through another 40 years of treasure hunting, puppy training, making photographs, dancing in the kitchen and visiting zoos, museums, slums, waterfronts, burial mounds and crime scenes. I don’t have time to be lame.

One, two, buckle my shoe.



Retrieving the Pink

(This piece is two years old now. But the message is still the same. ~ L. ) 


The Marketing of Breast Cancer in America


One bright blue Saturday morning this October, on my way home from an assignment, I made a left turn into a throng of pink, and came to a stop. On the previous blocks I had seen a few groups of people, two or three or five, dressed in pink caps, or pink t-shirts. I hadn’t thought much of it.  It’s October after all, Breast Cancer Awareness month, there’s a lot of pink about.  But here on the long stretch of Monument Avenue, the pink undulates like a vast sea before me. Muttering to myself about how poorly the Dayton media alerts us to these things, I settle in to wait.

Pink sneakers, pink wigs, pink bandanas, pink balloons. A number of women carry pink long-stemmed roses. One scowling ginger-haired boy is bedecked with a pink plastic lei. There are dogs wearing pink dresses, and men in pink sweatshirts proclaiming “Real Men Wear Pink.” (I also saw the somewhat crass “Don’t let cancer steal second base.”) Pink jackets, pink sweaters, pink feather boas.

“Pink, it’s my new obsession,” I thought, hearing the Aerosmith song in my head.  “Pink, it’s not even a question.”  But this army of pink from the blush of a petal to the violence of fuschia, this has nothing to do with that. This, this is all about one of the most successful sales campaigns of all time: the marketing of breast cancer.

Rare is the person who hasn’t contributed in at least some small way to raising money for breast cancer awareness. We’ve bought yogurt with pink lids. We’ve bought the t-shirt. We’ve bought a pink bucket of fried chicken. A few weeks ago I made my profile photo pink on a social networking site, because being one of the half a million people that did so would increase a Canadian telecommunications company’s donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure to $200,000.

Breast cancer is such an easy cause to support. We think of breast cancer and we think of mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, daughters who might be (or are, or were) afflicted with this scourge. In truth men get breast cancer too. In 2005, 1700 men in America were diagnosed and given that the breast cancer survival rates are about equal among the sexes, more than 300 men died. Breast cancer is free of those pesky lifestyle questions that tend to dog causes like AIDS and lung cancer. People ask you and you give. The amount we’ve given collectively and as taxpayers is staggering.

One question nags at me as I thread my way through the pink. What about the other cancers?  My father died of laryngeal cancer. Is there a color for that? (The answer is: not really.) What about lung cancer victims? What about people suffering from colon cancer? Or leukemia? Or cancer of the pancreas? Where is their march, where are the yogurts and sneakers and blenders I can buy to support fundraising for them? When I got home I did some reading.

Cancer of all types accounts for about half a million deaths a year in the United States. That’s considerably less than the number of people who die from heart disease (616,067 the last time the Center for Disease Control counted.) The American Heart Association has seized their own month (February) and color (red) but it is has failed to saturate popular culture in quite the same way. When we see a red t-shirt or hat, we might be more apt to think “Red Sox” or “Ohio State;” but when we see pink garb, we see breast cancer.

Every year 205,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 will die.  That’s a mortality rate of about 19 percent.  And if someone you love, or you yourself is one of those people, well that’s at least one too many. Consider for a moment some of these other deaths: colon cancer will claim 48,000 (with a mortality rate of 45 percent). 57,000 women will die from genital system cancers, of which ovarian cancer is the most pernicious, claiming 76 percent of those diagnosed. 77 percent of the 17,000 people diagnosed with a brain tumor will leave us this year. The 30,000 people that die from pancreatic cancer represent 98 percent of those diagnosed. Even with a poster boy like Patrick Swayze, the most deadly cancer there is cannot get the traction that the breast cancer industry enjoys.

The cancer that claims the most Americans every year is, hands down, lung cancer.  Although there are fewer lung cancer diagnoses than breast cancer diagnoses, there are four times the number of dead; 160,000 people annually. A hundred and sixty thousand people! That’s the population of my fair city. Every year.

Among the interminable list of those we’ve lost to lung cancer are Walt Disney, Nat King Cole, Steve McQueen, Johnny Carson, Yul Brynner, Humphrey Bogart, Edward R. Murrow, Sammy Davis Jr., Duke Ellington, George Harrison, Louie Armstrong, Ed Sullivan, Lucille Ball, Count Basie , Spencer Tracy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Harry Reasoner, Peter Jennings. And my old friend Bobby Block’s marvelous wife, Donna. And my dear friend Noelle’s beloved father, Dan Sullivan, who succumbed to lung cancer secondary to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Noelle’s father (like Dana Reeve, 44 and Andy Kauffman, 35) was one of the 17,000 people who die from lung cancer every year in this country who never, ever smoked.  Where is their parade? Where can I buy a colored ribbon magnet for my car?

Other prominent causes of death in the U.S. include stroke (135,000) respiratory illnesses (like emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 128,000) Alzheimer’s disease (75,000) diabetes (71,000) and the flu (53,000) none of which enjoys the kind of media attention and generous funding that breast cancer does.

The National Cancer Institute is one of the eleven agencies of the National Institutes for Health, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The N.I.H. allocates approximately 2.5 billion dollars a year towards research for the treatment of heart disease. The N.C.I. funds six billion dollars a year towards cancer research. So, even though twenty percent more Americans die of heart disease, it gets less than half the funding cancer does.

In a 2008 piece for the New York Times, Tamara Parker Pope delineated the amounts that NCI spent “per diagnosis” and “per death” in the most prevalent cancers. Prostate cancer got one of the smallest amounts per diagnosis, a mere $1318. But because the prognosis of prostate cancer is generally not fatal, the amount is a whopping $11,298 per death.  Colon cancer research gets $2361 per diagnosis, or $4,566 per death. Pancreatic cancer, reflecting its sad death-sentence nature, gets $2297 per diagnosis, which works out to $2200 per death. Lung cancer (remember 160,000 deaths a year) gets the worst funding of all– $1,518 per diagnosis, $1,630 per death.

And breast cancer? Breast cancer’s allocation is $2596 per diagnosis, or $13,452 per death.  The total amount of funding NCI provides to finding effective treatment of lung cancer is $261 million dollars a year. The total amount they provide for finding effective treatment of breast cancer is $538 million dollars.

This is not the money from the pink sneakers or the walk-a-thons or “DVDs for the Cure.” This is money collected from taxpayers to be allocated by the federal government. Given that this is government funding, it might be reasonable to suppose that it be allocated in accordance with the number of people afflicted by type of cancer. It’s not. Perhaps it is allocated by the deadliness of the particular cancer?  Nope. It’s allocated on the basis of the strongest lobbying efforts. There’s something morally wrong with that.

Then there’s the money from all the other sources, the “pink” money. The money from the Canadian telephone company, from the sales of pink Snuggies, pink Barbies, pink golf clubs, pink m & ms, tickets on Delta’s pink Boeing 747.

The revenue stream for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure in 2009 was $298,685,007.  (Or about $7,467 per death.) Since 1982 they have funneled tens of billions (that’s with a “b”) into breast cancer research and awareness. Do they have any answers yet? The sad truth is no. Though the Centers for Disease Control reports a one percent downturn in both cancer diagnosis and deaths across the board, there has not been any significant improvement made in the area of breast health.

Though many people know the name “Susan G. Komen,” (and have supported the organization, either intentionally or unwittingly), most couldn’t tell you who she is or was.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 at the age of 33, Susan Komen died three years later. Her younger sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker launched the foundation in her sister’s memory in 1982. On the 25th anniversary of the organization, the name was changed to “Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure,” and adopted the explicit (and utterly unattainable) mission to “end breast cancer forever.”  Such a pie-in-the-sky goal would seem to indicate a basic lack of understanding of the mechanism of any cancer.  They might as well express a desire to farm unicorns.

But their supposedly naïve expressed goal to “end breast cancer forever” is actually something far more cynical. They know that there will be no “ending breast cancer forever.” By hoisting such a lofty and impossible goal they can go on raising money forever, and they want to because as it turns out the commercialization of breast cancer research is very big business.

It used to be that October shopping meant autumnal colors, or orange and black for Halloween. Not any more. Take a look down the cosmetics aisle of any drugstore and what do you see? Pink. There are pink tennis balls (promising 15 cents per can donation to “a breast cancer research organization.”). There are Lean Cuisine boxes sporting a printed pink ribbon. (There’s actually no donation associated with these at all. But there’s a notice on the box directing you to the Lean Cuisine website, where you can buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote, and five dollars of that price goes to Susan G. Komen.) There are pink treadmills, pink appliances, NFL players in pink cleats, pink stationery, even fishing guides on the Madison river in a pink driftboat. Pink pink pink pink.

“Don’t get me started about the “pink” money,” my friend Kelinda wrote. “I left the cancer center to work in mental health . . . night and day difference in funding.”

A woman commenting on a story in the Boston Globe about the pink phenomenon wrote: “The pink ribbon is one thing, but pink everything is way, way too much. My mother survived with breast cancer for 12 years and if I thought for one minute that a pink blender would have helped her cause I would have gone out in a heartbeat and bought one. But it doesn’t help the patient, only the corporation.”

There’s the rub. Corporations are making a lot of money off of breast cancer, and as a woman in a Toronto Globe and Mail said “It’s the commercialization of my disease.” Breast cancer research groups and activists have coined the term “pinkwashing” to apply to corporations that they feel are trying to boost their own image through breast cancer fundraising, even though they manufacture products that may (or may not) contribute to the incidence of breast cancer. Considered “pinkwashing” are BMW’s one-dollar-donation-per-test-drive  (because cars contribute to air pollution) the pink branding of many cosmetic companies (because wearing makeup can be harmful to your health) and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s pink bucket campaign, in which Yum! Brands donated fifty cents per pink bucket.

The chief objection to the KFC fundraising seemed to center on the concern that eating fried chicken isn’t healthy, and that given the location of many KFC restaurants in low-income areas that Yum! Brands was promoting unhealthy eating on the back of breast cancer awareness. (Gee, maybe they should have been raising money for heart disease. That seems like a more direct link.)

However, it is important to note that through this campaign Yum! Brands made atwo million dollar donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (And they sold about sixty million dollars worth of chicken in the process.) Talk of “pinkwashing” or not, Susan G. Komen Foundation lent their name to the promotion and they took the money, so they are as culpable as the businesses with whom they climb into bed.

Last Christmas I unwrapped a pink Cuisinart hand mixer, and my heart sank.  I wanted the mixer, it wasn’t that. (I have a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but sometimes (like whipping cream) that’s more mixer than you need.) The Cuisinart is an excellent mixer. I absolutely hated the fact that it was pink. Even before I’d looked into how much money is funneled into breast cancer research, even when I only suspected that companies were probably making an obscene amount of money on these special pink items, they felt exploitive to me. (Cuisinart gives three percent of the purchase price to Susan G. Komen, so about two bucks for my mixer.)

I looked at that mixer in my hands and I thought about how breast cancer gets so much attention and the other cancers so little. I wondered what it would feel like to have breast cancer and see so many people making so much money off of it, and I put the mixer away deep in the back of the cupboard.

Then one day I had cause to use it, and as I was fitting the beaters, I thought about how breast cancer activism and marketing has stolen pink from us. I’ve had some great pink things. A favorite pair of lace-up leather boots, pink-striped pajamas, pink lipstick, pink peonies, pink socks, a pink mohair sweater.

Pink used to make us think flamingos and bubble gum and cotton candy.  Pink should be ballet slippers and Peter Seller’s panther, pink ladies and strawberry ice cream.  That’s when I decided that my pink mixer would be the pink of pink cadillacs, of baby hats, a froth of tutu, Memphis’ Pink Palace.

We can be “tickled pink,” or “in the pink.” Let us all be pinkos and let none of us get pink slips. We can grow pinks and eat at Pink’s Hot Dog stand, listen to Pink Floyd and sleep on pink sheets. (Or get our stock quotes from them.) There is summertime, with pink watermelon, your dog’s pink tongue, her pink collar.  There are pink collar jobs, usually held by women.

And there’s the pink triangle. The Nazis made homosexual prisoners in concentration camps wear pink triangle badges. 15,000 pink-triangle wearing men were annihilated during the Holocaust. In the 1970s, the pink triangle was reclaimed by gay activists and re-invented as a symbol of gay pride. (As a side note, the Nazis had a wide variety of colored triangles: red for political prisoners and liberals, green for criminals, blue for foreigners, purple for Jehovah’s witnesses, black for gypsies, the mentally-ill, alcoholics, pacifists, and lesbians and yellow for Jews.)

The American Cancer Society has an official roster of colors for the various cancers, some are a little thoughtless: yellow for bladder cancer, black for melanoma, gray for brain cancer. Lung cancer doesn’t have a color, just “clear.” Clear t-shirts? No wonder they’re not marching. And pink for breast cancer.

Except that we don’t have to go along. Fight to reclaim pink, all the Crayola colors from Carnation  Pink (1949) to Ultra Pink and Shocking Pink (1972) Tickle Me Pink (1993) Pink Flamingo, Piggy Pink and Pink Sherbet (1998).  Don’t let your daughters grow up to think that pink means fear and fighting and chemotherapy. Sing of Little Pink Houses and dream of pink elephants.  Tell your kids to turn down the P!nk CD. You can be pink with embarrassment with talk of pink canoes and pink sausages.

Give directly to charities that are important to you. Donate to heart disease research. Make a gift to fight specific cancers. Give to your local animal shelter. Spend your money to end domestic violence. Breast cancer research has already had more than its fair share of our collective wealth.  We’ve been conditioned: we see pink, we think breast cancer. It doesn’t have to be so. Reclaim pink in your own life. Stop feeding the pink pig. Stop buying. Put an end to marketing of breast cancer “awareness,” end the exploitation. Cancer can’t be cured through shopping.

The Pedometer Wars

In February, before I even really got started on this, I bought a pedometer. I did some research, read quite a few reviews and settled on a tiny one (about the size of a book of matches) made by Ozeri. I recommend this odometer, it is completely reliable and very tough. Here’s the link, if you’re interested. Day in and day out, I counted steps. I wear the pedometer from the minute I put on my clothes until I take them off at night, so I also end up wearing it on the treadmill sometimes. Because I wear it on the treadmill, I know that it’s accurate. My regular walking stride is two feet. It takes me 2640 steps to log a mile.

The biggest day I had in terms of steps was around 14,000– and it was one day last March when I was at the Louisville dog show. I was there with three dogs– an Irish Red and White setter, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a Scottish Deerhound. That morning I hand walked each dog for a distance of about 8 blocks. Each. Louisville is a huge show, and on this day, my parking spot was about a quarter-mile from the door. I had to make three roundtrips to unload the dogs. The various rings were scattered all over the building and the Scottish deerhound judge was a little on the sadistic side, making us “go around” the 50 foot ring (at a run) about seven times. Once the showing was done for the day, my friend and I made the rounds of the vendors. Then it was more trips to the car to load up the dogs, and back to the hotel where they were all walked again. Then I had to run out to Target to pick up some things and being it was an unfamiliar Target, I wandered round and round.

Most days though, I manage to log about 5,000 steps, provided I’m not sitting all day doing research or writing. It was a wonderment to me though how so many people were logging 10,000 plus steps per day even though they sat a desk all day underwriting insurance, or serving as a receptionist, and going home at night to flop in front of the television. One of them said she walked in place in front of the tv. What do I know? Different strokes for different folks.

Then last week my husband bought a pedometer for six dollars at a Tuesday Morning store. (If you’re not familiar with Tuesday Morning, they are an upscale salvage retailer, who sell nice merchandise at a fraction of its list price. Interesting place, you never know quite what you’ll find.)  I looked a bit askance at him when he said he wanted it, but really, fine. He’ll see how hard it is to rack up 5,000 steps.

The first day he had 14,000 steps.

Friends, he never left the house. Yes he went down to the basement two or three times. He walked out to the garage. He went upstairs once or twice. These are things that I too do everyday, and I can assure you it’s not five miles worth. He insisted that the pedometer was accurate. He swore up one side and down the other that it didn’t count as steps the Saab lurching in and out of potholes down Salem Avenue.

He said “See, I told you I was putting in as many or more steps than you.”


My husband is past retirement age. He is reasonably fit. He has the kind of metabolism that allows him to sit down and eat a half-gallon of ice cream in a single sitting and not blow up into some kind of balloon. There’s no competition here. I am just trying to stay active. I don’t want to have a contest of who is walking more steps, and certainly not with someone wearing a pedometer that counts steps when you jiggle it in your hand. Encouragement would have been nice, instead of having to deal with someone else’s competitive drive.

Weirdly, all this corresponded with the clip breaking off my own pedometer. I’m waiting for the replacement to arrive in the mail. I still wear the pedometer, but I know it is only logging about half the amount of steps. I have checked it by simply counting steps as I walked, and by measuring it against the treadmill. It’s too snug in my bra, apparently.

Then one day, my husband’s pedometer turned up on the dresser upstairs where it has stayed ever since. I appreciate that he thinks some things are worth arguing about. On the other hand, it rests there like a toad, mute yet accusatory. Maybe I’ll get him an Ozeri for Christmas and we’ll really see who’s walking . . .

Today’s target 70 Steps (not accurate) 2183.

Breakfast: yogurt with granola. Lunch: Spring rolls by Lean Cuisine (not as awful as it sounds) half a bell pepper, half a cup of frozen yogurt. Dinner was off the diet: two glasses of red wine, a few ounces of cheese, some grilled vegetables, a bit of pate, a bite of brownie, a tiny tart, a little puff pastry, three bites of a grilled sandwich. But I enjoyed myself. 

The Ringmaster

It’s been a week since I cranked this three-ring-circus up again. It’s been a mixed week. I don’t know that I’ve hit the goals that I set, because this is really the first chance I’ve had to sit down and look at them. I’ve almost been able to get the exercise I need.

I have nibbled wantonly, mostly  because there’s more junk in the house than usual and my husband and son aren’t doing their part to get it eaten. If it’s not gone by midweek, I’m just going to chuck it. I’d do it now, but waste is a big anathema around here.  Still, they’ve been warned.

Still I feel essentially like I am more or less in control. Occasionally the elephant steps out of line, the dogs are rambunctious, the clowns don’t cooperate and of course you can depend on the diva for at least one hissy fit every few days. Some nights the ringmaster is too tired to even weep. But still, it’s up and running, my life.

We’ll see where we are again next week.


Target: 75  Steps 5735

Breakfast: hard-boiled egg, 5 m & ms, Lunch: Cobb salad, chocolate chip cookie, Dinner: 2 cups salted watermelon, two hard-boiled eggs, yogurt with granola, smore and later, two Oreos. 

Vigorous 1.5 mile over Huffman prairie. 

– This Week –

Number of pounds to lose this week: 1

Number of pounds lost this week: 1

Cumulative number to have lost by this point: 26

Actual cumulative number lost: 26

Number of steps to have walked: 30,000

Actual number of steps walked: 32,845*

Cumulative number to have walked: 500,000

Cumulative number walked: 609,474 (230 miles!)

*okay, I had an extra day this week, sue me. 🙂
bike ride, hike with run, 40 minutes apple picking, heavy-duty cleaning,
exercise associated with entertaining, energetic walk

The Reinvented Wheel

There’s some truth to the adage that the more things change the more they stay the same. I can re-work how I’m going to approach diet and exercise, but there are limitations as to how many ways I can reinvent it.  For instance the following are off the table: liposuction, Nutrisystem, gastric bypass, Jenny Craig, fad diets– and on the exercise half of the balance, it’s unlikely that I’ll be getting fit through running marathons, climbing mountain faces or sumo wrestling, though you never know. Especially the Sumo wrestling.

But I did tweak this plan a little, because I had run myself into a big deep rut. I’m eating more or less the same. I didn’t eat the vegetables I hoped to get today, but there’s always tomorrow. I went to late lunch-early dinner with a friend, and sometimes that precludes eating just as one should. I am going to try mightily to broaden the variety of what I’m eating, and hope to cook more. A reader suggested Thai recipes and that’s a great idea. At the time I was too disheveled and disheartened to think about “recipes”, I just wanted something I could land my hand on in the fridge.

That ennui has lifted, like fog rolling off the shore, and I am going to make an effort to prepare at least seven meals a week at home. That will also give me something else to write about. (By “meal” I don’t mean a dollop of Brown Cow yogurt with a sprinkling of granola. A meal is made up of several dishes and generally served to the whole family. I hope someone else will clean the kitchen.)

While I will continue to wear the pedometer, I am giving up my relentless pursuit of 5000 steps a day. That really got to be a grind. I do want to average 30,000 steps a week; and will try to achieve that in a variety of ways– hiking, shopping, dancing, bowling, showing dogs, and even a little running. In addition to that I am adding four exercise sessions a week. I had hoped that today was going to be one of them, and was looking forward to my inaugural visit to the Y.

Alas, I spent the morning on the telephone with a variety of bureaucrats– harumph– and will have to go Tuesday morning instead. So– four days need to see me get my ass in gear: on the tennis court, in the pool, on the treadmill, on the bike path, on the back of a horse, in the racquetball court, in the bowling alley, in a fitness class. It doesn’t really matter which one, at least to start with, I just have to get moving.

I did get some housecleaning in today and I also washed Rowan, our Irish Red and White Setter– so I probably burned a few extra calories there. I’ll be noting in each day’s report what kind of active things I did and whether or not they qualify as truly exercise. Don’t chide me too much for my sloth, these habits were years in the making.

I have scaled forward the target weight loss number by another twenty pounds, so that in the end I will be a hundred pounds lighter. Also, it makes it easier to figure percentages– like, I’m nearly 25 percent to my goal! A quarter of the way! So the number is bigger, but that’s okay, it won’t be for long. I’ve reset all the cumulative numbers back to zero, because it was too difficult to figure it all out with the time off. I may need to take more time off down the road, I’ll cross that bridge if and when I arrive there.

Finally, the most important thing. I ran across this in someone else’s blog, I don’t even really remember how I got there, and what she wrote was only marginally applicable to my life, but her theme struck me to the core:

Lose weight by satisfying your true hunger.

I’ve done fairly well at giving up eating while mad, or sad or bored or annoyed or frustrated, though all of those have been at play in the past.   But here’s the question, still. What does satisfy my true hunger? Because it was that hunger, not fed or even met, that was gnawing away at my sense of contentedness. I was following the rules, but I wasn’t seeing progress and I wasn’t happy. Some mornings I would lie in bed and stare at the ceiling.

A few months ago I started a book. It’s an American story, not fiction, and there is an enormous amount of research that needs to be turned over and looked at with a fresh eye. I got off to a great start, and then little things here and there started to intervene. I was supposed to go to Washington for a research trip to the Library of Congress in May. That got put off. Days went by, then weeks, then a month. Another month. This story needs to be told and I am the one that needs to tell it. As soon as I returned to the research, a great weight lifted from me. I felt infused with joy. I am feeding the real hunger inside me, and with a little help, the rest will take care of itself.

Target number 76, steps 3403.

Consumed: cup of  yogurt with quarter cup granola. Bowl of lobster bisque, and three slices of foccaccia. Two  small slices of wood-fired pizza. And again, a cup of yogurt with a quarter cup of granola. 

Tidied the dining room and kitchen. Washed large dog. Wandered around in fireworks warehouse. 

Rising of the Moon

“New Moon” by Albert Aublet, c. 1890


It’s been awhile.

Five days since I posted. Longer than that since I tracked anything– food, exercise, mere steps. I was so bored with myself I could hardly stand it. The amazing thing is that readers went on reading these little posts even when I stopped writing. Someone, somewhere on the other side of the world would click that they liked a post, or a friend would write that they missed hearing my voice.

It wasn’t that I’d gone without a break. I’d taken breaks here and there; though I kept walking, kept counting and measuring and judging. Most of the time, I even kept writing. So, five months in, I really did have to lay it down for a little while. It wasn’t just my intellectual interest that had been ground to dust, my body was also tired.

I’ve used the time away to think about how I’d like to see this project change. I’ve decided that I’d like to lose a hundred pounds rather than the mere 80 I’d set in my original sights. So the target number is going to start off higher again. I just couldn’t imagine getting to the end of this and then tacking on an additional twenty pound goal. I am restarting the cumulative clock. It’s too difficult to figure out from this point, so those will be zeroed out.  It was enough to know I’d walked more than two hundred miles. Tomorrow I will weigh again, measure and reset the pedometer. I’m also going to the Y in the morning, my inaugural trip. Monday will be the first day.

Since Monday’s post is about the reinvention of the wheel, I am not going to say too much more about the new program tonight. I don’t expect that any journey is without bumps in the road. This one reminds me of losing the air-conditioner compressor in the Saab in Iowa City, Iowa on my way from Montana to Ohio. I slowed to a stop, and had to reconfigure how the rest of the journey was going to unfold.  One thing for sure is that, now like then, I have to figure out a better use of my time. On that trip, I had to cut out some slack time– now that’s the story of my life. The problem is that, like many, I’m deeply fond of killing time. Even when I know that the end of my life will come too soon.

Thanks for hanging around. More tomorrow.