Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bet Me

I struggle to think of a single period of time in my life that I have not been waging war with my body.
I was 12 when I started weight watchers for the first time, at a size sixteen. By this time I'd already been on a handful of fad diets, Atkins, grapefruit, cabbage soup, Slim Fast.
For the next 12 years of my life I would yo-yo, never quite losing enough but always gaining plenty.
In 2012 I had a change in coarse and began a rapid weight loss culminating in 180lbs shed in just under two years.
I made it back into those size 16s and was proud of that body that I once thought was fat. But I wasn't proud enough. I had excess skin, I'd lost my breasts, and the weight loss had slowed. I even thought my face wasn't as pleasant looking anymore, that one slightly askew tooth seemed more noticeable now.
I also found myself unsure of where I belonged. Size 16 isn't exactly skinny but I'd lost most of my curves. Suddenly I felt like a fraud. I wanted to proudly claim my body. I wanted to shout from the rooftops how I was this sexy plus-size woman but I felt fraudulent. While I was running nearly 3 miles every day, plus biking, plus yoga, plus swimming, plus zumba - usually not all in one day but there were some days ... - while I was doing all of those things and in the best shape of my adult life I didn't exactly fit the "fit" mold either.
I had conquered and yet I was still battling with my body and my body image. Maybe more than ever.
Then I got pregnant. I wasn't sure I could. With PCOS and Insulin Resistance and the minor fact that my husband and I hadn't exactly been careful for the five years we'd been married. I was wonderfully, miraculously - and in large part thanks to my weight loss, pregnant for the first time.
And even then, even when my body was literally working miracles, creating an actual life, I was still in a fierce battle with my body.
My body was nauseated, dizzy, and exhausted.
I was filled with dread at the idea of regain.
I didn't gain much during that first pregnancy, in fact I was into my pre-pregnancy pants within the first week or two after delivering. I was looking forward to the extra weight melting clean off as I was told was the case with nursing.
But nursing was just another battle I fought with my body.
I was sick. I was suffering profoundly from Postpartum Anxiety. A perinatal mood disorder I did not even know existed until I was nearly out from under it's dark looming cloud. That anxiety kept me up all night - all day. I could not sleep. If I fell asleep my baby would certainly quit breathing. Or someone would break in and steal her. I wasn't eating because I had no appetite - my stomach was constantly tied up in knots. My body -  starved, dehydrated, and fraught with anxiety was in an all out war with my mind.
Strangely, I still gained thirty pounds in those sleep deprived, underfed first few months post-baby. Just as things were getting easier - just as I had begun to exercise again and get quality sleep once more, I missed my period.
But periods were another of those body battlegrounds for me. Still, I took a test and then immediately two more. "Holy shit," I uttered from alone inside our bathroom. We were pregnant again - just like that. Just like that and just like that, after nothing for five years.
Now my body has produced not one but two beautiful miracles and still the battle raged on.
My skin is stretched out, I've passed a threshold I never wanted to re-enter again, I'm saggy, and frumpy, and rarely have time or energy to glam my frump up. I have a hard time finding time in the day to do my job let alone run, and bike, and zumba again. I barely have time to read.
I started listening to audiobooks from the library and after a decade or better of my friends encouraging me to read Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie I finally got around to it.
I had picked up what I thought was going to be a warm, fuzzy, funny romance novel. I was wrong. What I had picked up changed my life. Minerva Dobbs was at war with her body too but she was better to herself than I was. But for me, it wasn't her confidence or her acceptance of her shape. No, it was watching Cal fall in love with her. Watching him slowly fall in love with her spirit, her mind, and especially her body allowed me to finally fall in love with mine. 

What I have learned since reading this book is that I couldn't care for something I didn't love. I couldn't and you probably can't either. You might be able to get results with hate but you cannot actually care for yourself unless you care for yourself, that means doing it in love.
I'm not saying it's easy - because it's not. It is one of the hardest things I've ever done. What I'm saying is it's possible, no - necessary. It's possible to think a terrible thought and let it go, just hear it but don't linger on it - just let it go.
I'm not starving myself or depriving myself. I'm fueling my body and trying to free my mind to think about the many things I want to get out and experience. I'm also forgiving myself. No more battery, no more guilt and shame. I'm moving on from that.
This body is my vessel. It is mine. I do not get another. She allows me to be here. She has carried life. She gives me life. She allows me to laugh and sing and hug and yes, one day again I'm sure, run.
She did not just bring forth miracles - she IS a miracle. I am that miracle. I love every blemished, imperfect inch, and each and every ounce.
To stop warring with my body, I had to start working with it. I couldn't do that until I accepted it in all its imperfect glory. I couldn't do that while actively hating it. I had to embrace it, celebrate it, and quite frankly -  be kind to it.
I hope you'll give love a try and be good to yourself.


I'd love to know about any book that changed the way you looked at yourself and at your own body. <3

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Book Club's Best Read in 2016

Book Club's best read of 2016 

*drum roll please* 

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother's name. What is the book's connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon's grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand. 

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Honorable Mentions go out to 

Sara Grey’s world shattered ten years ago when her father was brutally murdered. Now at seventeen, she is still haunted by memories of that day and driven by the need to understand why it happened. She lives a life full of secrets and her family and friends have no idea of the supernatural world she is immersed in or of Sara’s own very powerful gift.

In her quest for answers about her father’s death, Sara takes risks that expose her and her friends to danger and puts herself into the sights of a sadistic vampire. On the same fateful night she meets Nikolas, a warrior who turns Sara’s world upside down and is determined to protect her even if it’s the last thing she wants.

Sara’s life starts to spin out of control as she is hunted by an obsessed vampire, learns that her friends have secrets of their own and reels from the truth about her own ancestry. Sara has always been fiercely independent but in order to survive now she must open herself to others, to reveal her deepest secrets. And she must learn to trust the one person capable of breaking down the walls around her.

The Witness by Nora Roberts 

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man's seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever. 

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems -- and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail's reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something -- and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today's most reliably entertaining thriller -- and will leave people hungering for more.

Our Favorite Independently read titles this year

Happy Reading!