7.07.2013

Long Overdue Update

When I started this particular blog, my weight loss was to be one of the focus topics.  Over the months and years, I let that fall by the wayside, mostly because I hit a big plateau.  My weight stayed within a 10 pound range, going up and down, for a year or so.  My shape would change as I was converting fat to muscle, but the scale would not budge.  I began to figure that my body had reached the weight it wanted to be, and I started to resign myself to that size and weight.

Then I happened across a very effective diet, one that allowed me to break through the plateau.  It's called the "Broken Heart Diet."  You find a great significant other who breaks your heart out of the blue.  Then your appetite pulls a Houdini while you resort to over-exercising as a numbing behavior and way to kill free time when your mind may wander into the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" territory.

I don't recommend that diet.  I was on it for about 3 weeks, and I was losing about 4 pounds a week.  1-2 pounds per week is considered a healthy weight loss rate; anything more than that is "too fast" unless you have had a procedure like gastric bypass.

Still, it got me past the plateau AND under the 200 pound mark for the first time since... well, probably since high school, maybe my last year of undergrad when I also lost a bunch of weight.  I brought my diet & exercise under control, in part due to my emotions leveling out and in part thanks to the "My Fitness Pal" app.  The weight loss went to a more appropriate rate.

I am now at the 107.5 pounds lost mark.  I've gone from a 22/24 to a 12/14.  I feel great, and my friends are constantly saying I look fantastic.  Even clients at the gym and other folks who only see me periodically have been noticing the recent loss.  My original goal would require me to lose only 2.5 more pounds, but I have changed that and pushed it back 10 pounds.

I'm never going to be super skinny.  I have big bones and I'm muscular, or "athletic" as some dating sites would say.  And of course there's the ever-popular excess skin, too.  What is the new psychological challenge for me is how close I am to my goal.  I've spent almost 4 years chasing this number, with exercise and calories my rulers for the day.  What is it going to be like when I'm maintaining and not losing?  I just can't fathom it.

Should be an interesting few months.

3.26.2013

Marriage Equality

Someday I hope to marry.  I am a successful, reasonably attractive, educated woman.  I am also a heterosexual.  Marriage is something that not only have I never been denied, but it is even expected of me.

I have hundreds of friends who would also like to marry.  Most of them have met the person they want to share their lives with permanently.  Yet, with the exception of certain states, they cannot marry because they are gay.

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on the constitutionality of California's infamous Proposition 8, which by popular vote (barely) banned same-sex marriage.  California courts ruled it unconstitutional.  Prop 8 supporters have pushed it to the highest court in our nation.  Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, more commonly known as DOMA.

While their rulings aren't expected until later this year -- speculation is July -- the fact that the court is hearing these cases is monumental in and of itself.  To mark this occasion, the Human Rights Campaign created a version of their logo -- the yellow equal sign on a blue background -- in the socio-stereotypical colors of red and pink for love.  People were encouraged to share it and make it their profile pictures on social media websites.  Variations involving heart shapes, the words "marriage equality" and other colors appeared.  Throughout the day, I watched my Facebook news feed turn into a sea of red and pink equal signs and rainbow hearts.

I felt so blessed.  Friends who I didn't know supported marriage equality were changing their pictures and posting other things in support of marriage equality.  Some of these people didn't surprise me.  Others, who I know for a fact hold extremely conservative views on many, many things, did shock the heck out of me.  Maybe I am guilty of stereotyping, but I'm going to be floored when a "keep your hands off my guns at all costs and quit killing unborn babies you liberal scum" person posts a rainbow and flat out says they support gay rights.

My glow of happiness for my gay friends lasted until about 6:30.  That's when I checked and saw the first two vitriolic posts against marriage equality.  "The Bible says homosexuality is a sin!  Even if a million people believe a lie, it is still a lie!" proclaimed one status.  Another friend shared one of the "share this if you believe marriage is between a man and a woman ONLY" pictures.

Although tempted, I steered clear of commenting.

I'm a Christian.  I'm a loud and proud Christian.  I'm a worship leader.  Yes, I know what Paul wrote about homosexuality.  I also know he supported slavery and treating women as property.  Going along with the cultural standards of the time, he would have supported polygamy and that sex with one's slaves wasn't considered adultery.  How about all those Jewish laws about cutting your hair, wearing garments made from more than one kind of thread, or eating unclean meats like pork and shellfish?  He would have followed those, too, since he was Jewish. 

So let me quote you what Jesus said about homosexuality.

*crickets*

How about what Jesus said about marriage?

*crickets*

I strongly believe that I am to love my neighbor as myself, as Jesus instructed, period.  I can't love my neighbor if I think they are less deserving of the same rights I have.  Jesus said in the gospel of John that "HE doesn't judge, although we judge by human standards."  

But let's put our Bibles aside and look at the legal issue at hand.  Marriage, by definition, is a legal and civil act.  After meeting certain standards -- age, currently free to marry, blood tests, etc. -- one can attain a marriage license.  Then with your betrothed, you exchange vows in front of a person with the legal ability to proclaim you married, along with a couple of witnesses.  You can do this in a court house, a love chapel in Vegas, out in a forest or on a beach, or in an enormous church.  Upon completing the legalities, you have acquired over 1100 additional rights, ranging from tax benefits to health insurance to end-of-life benefits.

Marriage is NOT a religious institution.  It was not created by the church.  It is not "sanctified."  What was created by the church is the sacrament of Holy Matrimony (also called Holy Unions).  Holy Matrimony is a ceremony performed by a clergy under the auspices of a church wherein you make your vows to your spouse "in front of God."  It is ONLY recognized by the church.  Without the legal paperwork, a service or sacrament of Holy Matrimony won't change your legal status.  It isn't recognized by the government.  You still have to file taxes as single.  You have no rights to visit your spouse in the hospital or make decisions for them should they be unable to make them for themselves. 

That is the crux of the marriage equality argument -- the difference between what is recognized by the government and what is recognized by the church.  Those who oppose marriage equality on the grounds that it is morally wrong based on their religious beliefs are not seeing the legal issue at hand.  They believe, because honestly we are poorly educated, that marriage is a religious thing, and simply put, it is not.  Holy Matrimony is.  Marriage, no.

Churches can deny anyone the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  Catholic churches do it all the time for couples that have been living together out of wedlock, couples that have borne children out of wedlock, couples where one or both has been previously married, couples that are not members of that parish, and many other reasons.  If -- actually, when -- same sex marriage becomes a legal right, churches will still have the right to deny the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  While gay couples may not have the ceremony in the church that they love, they will have all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

There are plenty of things that we may or may not believe are morally wrong, yet we don't make them illegal.  In case you are wondering what I could possibly mean, what about alcohol?  Plenty of religious organizations believe consuming alcohol is a sin (never mind that pesky drinking of wine at the Last Supper thing).  We overturned Prohibition almost a century ago.  How about smoking?  The Bible tells us to treat our bodies as a temple.  On that note, there are scriptures against tattoos and piercing of flesh.  There are scriptures against cutting ones hair, and working on the Sabbath (which is sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).  Jewish law forbids the eating of "unclean flesh" such as pork and shellfish -- better take those bacon-wrapped shrimp off every menu.

Marriage equality isn't a moral issue.  Morals don't determine our laws.  Marriage equality is an issue about treating people with the same respect and dignity you believe you deserve.  Don't like gay marriage?  Don't get one.  But until you can show me how a gay marriage has ruined any aspect of society, how it has destroyed your heterosexual marriage or scarred your children, I kindly ask you to take your Bible and review all the teachings of Jesus about loving your neighbor.

They significantly outweigh the ones about homosexuality.

1.30.2013

It Can Happen to Anyone

I've read over and over that victims tend to blame themselves.  Certainly last night, as I looked across the parking lot and immediately recognized the dark, gaping hole where my driver's window had been less than an hour before, I was blaming myself.  "Stupid, stupid, stupid me for leaving my purse in my car!"  I mentally kicked myself over and over, while muttering profanities as my only way to vent my rage and crunching on the glass on the ground reflecting the dim light.

In the period of approximately half an hour, one or more assailants came into the parking area of one of the gyms I teach at.  They targeted at least three vehicles for the purposes of property theft.  One member had left his SUV unlocked; the thieves initially stole his cell phone and a few other items which were found nearby under a tree, miraculously undamaged in spite of the rain and near-freezing temperatures.  The other two vehicles were not so lucky; we both had windows broken out of our cars and our purses stolen.

Through the investigation by the local sheriff's department, one thing became clear: even if I had done what I usually do -- lock my purse in my trunk -- I still would have been a victim.  The criminals came prepared to do their business, and they had been watching the parking lot for women arriving alone.  For some reason, there is a belief that car windows can be pried out (not true, according to the glass repairman), so he or they had brought a pry bar and bent the window frames on our cars before shattering the windows.  They went for the windows that would draw the least attention from passers-by while they were doing their deed.  For the other female victim, they broke out her back driver's window to gain access to her split rear seat -- because she had locked her purse in her trunk.  They took advantage of a brief, approximately 30 minute, lull in member ingress and egress from the facility.

I consider myself lucky.  Two rather unusual things ended up saving my bacon, two temporary moments of laziness and abnormal (for me) behavior.  The first was forgetting my cell phone at home, and deciding that although I had time between my two classes to go back and get it, I'd just wait until I got home.  Given my Facebook obsession as well as my desire to receive a text from an inamorata, this was extremely odd behavior for me.  The second was realizing as I was walking from my car into the gym that I'd failed to clip on my employee badge; it was in my purse.  Although I had sufficient time to turn around, walk back to my car, and get it, I decided the cold drizzle was bad enough to only brave once prior to my class.

The former was fortuitous for the very clear reason that an iPhone, which is what I have, could be of interest to a thief.  Although I have my phone "passcoded," it is nothing to wipe it clean and start over, and even though I have my information backed up to "The Cloud," without that phone I am largely out of touch with the rest of the world.  How the employee badge part was a good thing is less obvious.

As I was standing out in the drizzle (which had mercifully slowed to a cold mist), filling out paperwork for the gym and beginning the process with the sheriff's deputy, one of our maintenance guys who was out there was hailed on the walkie-talkie by our office staff.  "Is Suzanne still out there?"  A few blocks away an observant citizen had been aware of a car that had lingered at a stop sign too long; the headlights of the car had been shining into his living room window.  After the car had been there for about 10 minutes, he went out to check on it, causing the car to speed away.  In its wake was my purse and belongings, strewn all over the street.  Seeing my employee ID badge, he called the center hoping to get a hold of me.  Because of that, my purse and belongings, minus my cash and some worthless gift cards, was returned to me before I even had a chance to call my bank and cancel my debit card.

From that, we (meaning the sheriffs, mostly) learned that whoever did this was seasoned.  They stole only the cash and untraceable things, namely a Visa gift card (balance approximately $3) and a QuikTrip gift card (balance $0; don't ask why it was still in my wallet).  They didn't touch my debit card, they left my check book alone.  I've had a wallet stolen before by people looking to make a quick buck, and they tried to use my debit card first thing, which was declined because my billing zip code is different than the one on my driver's license.  These criminals didn't even try.  Oh yes, I'll be keeping a close eye on my account for a while, and making sure my home is secure as they at least had the opportunity to see my home address.  But by and by, they went for what was easy and untraceable, end of story.

$250 and a long, snowy night later, I have a new driver's window on my car.  (Fortunately, snow is a pretty effective deterrent from someone wanting to steal a vulnerable car.)  So far, I have noticed no issues from the slightly bent frame, but I have been warned there may be some whistling when I'm on the freeway or something.  From now on, my purse goes with me, because even locking it in the trunk is useless.  If someone wants your stuff, they'll get your stuff, period.  By doing nothing more than going to work, I was marked as a victim by an opportunistic thief.  It could happen to anyone.  Anyone. 

Learn from my experience -- don't be the next victim.