Oh Canada!

Have you ever opened an old cedar chest or come across a forgotten photo album? Such events can open a floodgate of memories, forgotten treasures, the experiences can actually mentally transport you to another place in time that was forgotten, tucked away like an old baptismal gown or wool sweater created on the needles of a deceased relative. A couple of nights ago, after a sushi dinner, an early birthday outing for my husband (before my son returns to grad school) such a thing occurred. I have been quite literally flooded with memories of places and people that were a huge part of my formative years. These people had never been forgotten, the memories not repressed but simply saved on an old hard-drive, buried somewhat by newer memories and experiences.

It began with looking at  Facebook on my phone and seeing a friend request from a name I did not recognize. When I opened the profile, there was the relatively unchanged face of a woman who I had not seen in perhaps thirty-five years. The adult woman who had sat beside me as a teenager at my parent’s dining room table, in a home I haven’t been in for nearly a quarter century. It was the face of a girl (who along with many of her friends) that I had searched for periodically on Facebook over the years. to no avail, as we had married our names had changed.


When I was thirteen I was “initiated” into the International Order of Jobs Daughters, a girl’s organization for young women who are related to men who are Free Masons. For those not familiar with what can best be described as a “youth sorority” it might appear that the girls in white satin robes were cult members. I count the young women that I encountered through this affiliation among my closest friends to this day. Instead of typical high school rivalries, this organization resulted in friendships for a girl attending Minneapolis Southwest High School with girls from Minneapolis South, West, Washburn, Edina East, Edina West and Bloomington Jefferson. While much of the function of the organization was social, it’s where my lifelong passion for volunteerism began. We served as candy-stripers at the Masonic home, raised money through paper drives (before recycling collection became the norm at homes) and car washes for philanthropic causes such as cancer research. Jobies dinner.JPG

We worked the phones for the Jerry Lewis MD telethon and sought sponsors for rock-a-thons, a somewhat bizarre event featuring highly caffeinated teenagers sitting in rocking chairs for 24-hours to raise funds for some cause of their choosing. Our “Bethel” (think club house) had the Squirrel cabin at Camp Lake Hubert annually and prepared for the highly competitive skit competition with weekly rehearsals during the summer. We had dances with the boy’s organization “Demolay” that shared in equally mysterious rituals and whose youth leadership pinnacle was the Master Counselor, a counterpart to our Honored Queen. Beyond our local chapters, we often attended the “Installation” (best described as “coronation” to those not familiar) of other Bethels (events that occurred in June and January each year) around the state. We went on “mystery trips”, had midnight breakfasts and even attended state-wide and national events for the organization. While the objective of the order was a wholesome youth outlet, many of my best memories were the unsanctioned activities of 1970’s girls with a burning desire to behave like grown-ups.

Jobs Skit

Though purged from my “permanent record” , this month it’s been  thirty-nine years since I was arrested in St. Louis Park (at fifteen years of age) for “Possession of Alcohol by a Minor” after an Installation. Though that time, it was beer and I hadn’t consumed any of it, my earliest Job’s Daughter’s/alcohol adventure involved Tickled Pink, a fine product of the Boones Farm vineyard that never got the same measure of popularity as Strawberry Hill but appealed to the more youthful palate than Country Quencher which I was exposed to by a cucumber farmer/insurance salesman while at college…but I digress and will save that musing for a future blog.

Judy's Installation

As so often does, while writing this “life happened” . In the midst of writing this two weeks ago I discovered my nearly 13 year old beagle had suffered a stroke overnight which resulted in us putting her down, my son returned to grad school, a severe cold snap resulted in a bizarre attic freezing situation followed by a “January thaw” and water damage and insurance claim in our master bedroom. My son had car issues that ultimately required a new battery and alternator. Not crisis, just “stuff”, the distractions of life that allows you to unexpectedly lose touch with people. Now I shall resume my tale of youth and reconnection.


A short time after my initiation I attended my first installation and at a reception for the newly crowned Honored Queen encountered a beautiful Honored Queen visiting from Canada, she was friendly, funny and had THE accent, all qualities that had me liking her immediately. Her name was Kelly. During a subsequent installation the Canadian Bethel brought a busload down and it was then that I hosted two “Jobies” at my parent’s home, one of them being Cathy, the Facebook “friend request”.

During the years that followed I made several trips to Winnipeg, some via Greyhound bus and others with tickets purchased by Kelly’s older sister Lori, a grownup with a real job, who for whatever reason was willing to finance my travels. She was a quieter version of her sister, with stunning eyes, a quiet observer who often had an amused expression at the antics of all of us more animated girls.

I think my first visit was to Cathy’s and I arrived during her exams.  In Canada high school finals are more like college finals here. She arranged for her boyfriend Gary to come hang out at her parent’s apartment while she went to school. Gary was hilarious, seemed to love all things American and preferred to be called “Burt” because he thought Burt Reynolds was perhaps the sexiest man alive. We hit if off and by the time Cathy returned home I had pierced Gary’s ear for him.

Though I have a great memory, after all of these years my recollection of specific trips run together with overall details of my various travels being somewhat blended. I do recall that Winnipeg winters are brutal, the air so cold that ones nostrils freeze shut simply by inhaling. I remember that the summers were similar to ours and cherish many great memories of time spent by the backyard pool of Kelly’s parent’s home on Roselawn Bay (?), either drinking Lonesome Charlie wine (the Canadian version of a Boones Farm) or vodka slushes (made by Kelly’s mother) that were kept in an ice cream pail and mixed with 7-Up before serving.

I remember that on one of my Greyhound bus rides I was near the rear of the bus and got seated in by a handsome former member of the Canadian military. At Customs at the border the agents broke my suitcase after going through every photograph in my luggage (chronicling the adventures of my previous trip). When I returned to the bus which had been delayed because of the search my seatmate commented that he couldn’t believe they gave me such a thorough search as he had a rucksack full of porn in the overhead bin and a stiletto in his boot. The next trip I opted to sit nearer the front of the bus, thinking that would be safer. At a stop to pickup packages at a station in North Dakota, as soon as the driver disembarked a man entered and knelt beside my seat and with a screwdriver removed the side panel and began removing baggies of powder from the seat and tucking them into his shirt via the neck hole. He then rose and hastily exited, leaving the panel in the aisle and the screwdriver as well. When the driver returned he looked at me like “What the Hell did you do to your seat?”. I flew in one time with a horrid ear infection and the pressure brought tears to my eyes. That was the trip that I ran into Duran Duran at MSP airport and asked to take their picture. During the flight two of the band members came up to me and offered me several tickets to their Winnipeg show and an invitation to an after party. It conflicted with the wedding social (a hybrid of a shower/Go Fund Me event for an engaged couple) for my friend Nancy that Lori had sent me the ticket to attend (as a surprise to Nancy). Oh to be seventeen again. The band had played a gig at First Avenue the night before that I had opted out of attending due to my earache. That flight took particularly long to deplane and my waiting entourage was certain it was because Monty Hall (Lets Make a Deal) a native son of Canada was also on my flight.

Though getting to and from Winnipeg was always memorable, the adventures while there were beyond fantastic. Everything seemed exciting to a girl from Minneapolis; 5 Pin Bowling, some of their parents were in Curling leagues, their potato chips had vinegar, their fries were served with a side of gravy and a Rye & Ginger came with the shot at the bottom of a larger glass and a juice glass of ginger ale for you to mix yourself. The liquor stores were called “LC” for Liquor Commission and “vendors” were semi-trailers in what seemed like random locations where one walked up temporary stairs and purchased beer. When you took beer to a party, it was customary to leave your empties behind as a courtesy to the host who could return them for the deposit.

It seemed like a veritable font of culture with teenagers drinking hot tea and where Jobs Daughters had registries just like a bride for a Royal Albert China pattern. I believe Cathy had Memory Lane and Kelly selected Old Country Rose. Near Kelly’s house was a takeout burger place that was owned by perhaps Greek immigrants who sold Fat Boy burgers that were smothered in chili and raw onion. I loved it all.

Music was another area that brings back a flood of memories. We attended a Streetheart concert during one of my visits and Kelly was smitten with singer Kenny Shields the lead vocalist. Martha and the Muffins singing Echo Beach was the soundtrack to my visit the summer of 1980 when I went up to visit for my friend Karen’s installation. The first time I laid eyes on her brother Cory I was serving as the American Flag Bearer and there was nothing between us but an altar with an open Bible on it. It was infatuation at first sight! Kelly and a group of friends came to Minnesota to see Bob Marley and the Wailers and I met up with her for what was perhaps the last time when a group came down to tube the Apple River and go camping in Somerset, Wisconsin.

We went to a Winnipeg Jets hockey game during one brutally cold winter visit and I sang the American National Anthem louder than the soloist on the ice. I rang in the New Year 1981 in Winnipeg. I recall Karen and Cory’s mother calling in favors at dawn one morning when a crowd that had remained up all night had drank the liquor cabinet dry but didn’t want the party to end. The alcohol was replenished and the dancing, singing and laughter continued.

Upon reconnecting I learned that much like our own Bethel members, some had drifted apart for awhile. Sadly I found out that what had gotten their group back together was the passing of Lori from cancer a few years ago. It seems Nancy now makes her home in Georgia but returns near the end of January each year for a visit. During a past visit Kelly dug out old letters from me and they read them and shared some laughs. I look forward someday to seeing what was going on in that teenage head of mine.

Just like the items in a cedar chest, those that survive continue to get older and the memories they evoke grow more precious. Like the lyrics of this nearly forgotten song say, I can’t help but think I’ll be back someday!

Echo Beach
Martha and the Muffins
I know it’s out of fashion
And a trifle uncool
But I can’t help it
I’m a romantic fool
It’s a habit of mine
To watch the sun go down
On Echo beach, I watch the sun go down
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
On a silent summer evening
The sky’s alive with light
A building in the distance
Surrealistic sight
On Echo Beach
Waves make the only sound
On Echo Beach
There’s not a soul around
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time



Baby Book Is Never Truly Finished

E 2017

The day my son was born I had a sensation I  never had experienced before and would not again until last week. Like my pregnancy with his sister, I had been induced. Shortly after my doctor had examined me and left, I asked the nurse “Did he say I could push?” her response was “No, he needs to be here.” and explained he had returned to his office across the street. With my daughter I had never had the urge to push and had to be coached through it by the doctor and nurse. Now, I suddenly found myself overcome with the desire and told her she needed to summon my doctor immediately. She said  “Don’t push until you see the whites of his eyes.”. My response between panting was “His eyes better get here soon!” . The best way to describe to someone what this felt like was having the worst case of stomach flu and being told “The bathroom will be available in a half hour.” You simply know that will not work.

The doctor made a speedy return and the team swung into action telling me when to push, when to breathe and then in what I consider to be the most comical part of the delivery, the doctor said “The head is huge.” and my husband concurred and I somewhat angrily and unamused (at the time) said “I KNOW!!!!”. I followed the continuous coaching of being told when to breathe, when to push and when to stop. It only took about three pushes and then I was given the news that it was a boy! I held him briefly before he was whisked away. I then experienced the odd sensation that I wanted to continue to be instructed as to when to push and when to breathe and when to stop. It had all happened so quickly, it was as though I needed further guidance. I had experienced no such confusion when my daughter was born. It was as though I needed further confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing.

My husband left the room to find out where the nurse had taken our new family member and I was left alone to simply breathe in and out on my own without being told to by anyone, much like I had been doing the previous 31 years of my life. When my husband returned his eyes were scared and he told me “There is something wrong with him but they aren’t telling me what.”. So I swung my legs over the side of the bed and waddled to the nursery where my 8 pound plus newborn dwarfed the tiny newbies hooked up to wires and monitors. To my untrained eye, he looked fine to me. A visibly pregnant doctor in a lab coat turned around as I looked down at my son and she said “He was born just a half hour ago.” I responded “I know, I was there.” and her eyes grew wide and she called for a wheel chair and asked why I was up. I told her that my husband couldn’t find out what was wrong with him so I had come to see for myself. She told me that he was perfectly healthy but was getting some sugar, as bigger babies sometimes deplete their supply during the delivery. Everything was fine, those are the words all parents want to hear about their kids. It begins with the first prenatal sound of the heartbeat, continues with the ultrasound and goes on and on through every pediatrician visit and school conference.

In most cases there is very little a parent knows about their child before they are born. My husband and I didn’t want to know the gender of either of our babies before their birth, comparing it to unwrapping and rewrapping Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. After finding out their gender, height and weight, other things are revealed to you like hair color (not much with either of ours), eye color (both of ours have stunning blue eyes) and later their disposition. As time passes more aspects of who they are become apparent. Our son was two when we discovered he was allergic to cats. It wasn’t until third grade we learned he was dyslexic. Between those ages it was apparent he liked Barbies, enjoyed dress-up and could create fashions on a sheet of paper that when cutout were perfect three-dimensional articles of doll-sized clothing. He liked music and loved to dance. He was very social and loved babies.

E and Me dressup.jpg

He has a love for history, the Faberge Eggs led to his interest in Royalty from the Russian Czars to the British thrown.  He is fascinated by the Kennedy era of politics. He likes pop culture, runway fashion and most any movie with Leo DiCaprio in it. I knew none of these things about him when I carried him or in those early hours as I held him in the hospital.

As he has grown older it’s become clear how compassionate he is; growing his hair during the entire year he was ten to raise money for childhood cancer research to have it shaved for the St. Baldericks organization and donating the hair to Locks of Love, running the blood drives at his high school for three years, participating in the Box City Vigil (staying overnight on the lawn of the Capital in boxes) to raise awareness of homeless youth. Participating in (and winning) the Mr. AXO man pageant, a sorority event that kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness week. I recall in middle school him coming home and telling me about a classmate who had been molested by her uncle and his resulting deportation. When I asked if the other kids were understanding of her situation he told me that none of the other kids knew, she had only told him. Over the years he has often been the understanding confidante to his peers.

From pre-school on there has always been a girl(s) with a crush on him. During school open house in elementary school we were often asked “Are you Eddie’s parents?” then were told “We hear a lot about Eddie at our house.” only to walk ten feet down the hallway and have another set of parents say the same thing. His social calendar was filled with five proms, numerous Sadie Hawkins day dances and twenty-four formals and semi-formals filled his college weekends.

E and Crissy

His natural ability to lead people and organizations had him holding offices in student government, show choir and serving two years as a theater captain. His energy and natural gifts lit up the stage at dance recitals, theater productions and show choir competitions. College saw him step away from performance but serving on his campus Activity Board and as a class senator in Student Government, then as the treasurer and eventually as President for his senior year. Joining a fraternity rounded out his “free time” alongside his jobs in offices on campus and academics that garnered him a major in Business Management and minors in Economics, Studio Arts and Religion in four years.

Currently he is in grad school, living in a house with five guys and working on a Masters in Business Design and Innovation. His boundless creativity, time management and circle of friends have seen him accomplish more in 22 years than many do in a lifetime. His father and I are proud of both he and his sister for the people they have grown to be.

E with Bee

Over the years we have frequently been told what a great job we have done raising our kids and my response has been “We can’t take much credit for it. They come to you prewired and you can either support them in their interests and guide them or you can force your own plans on them and make them miserable.” My other sage parenting advice is “Don’t treat your children equally, treat them equitably, as they need different things.” I describe my daughter’s youth as being “linear”, she liked to participate in one activity at a time and valued her free-time for reading, art and time with pets. While she participated in athletics, she did not like when seasons overlapped. More of an introvert (like her father) she often needed a nudge to socialize. My son on the other hand could go from squeezing in an extra class prior to the start of a school day to returning from rehearsals after 10:00 pm, followed by homework and springing out of bed the next day to decorate for Homecoming and emceeing the event. If we had told him “Your sister did one activity at a time, you need to choose between dance lessens, theater, show choir and student government.” it would have crushed him and not allowed for him to reach his full potential. An example of the equal/equitable is their 17th birthday gifts, our daughter received a set of pens for her art interests, our son a used car. Our daughter is still using the markers (also had a Studio Arts minor) and never got her driver’s license until after completing college. I needed my son to have a car after years of drop-offs and pickups at strange hours. Same goes for a cell phone, he had one first because it was a necessity before it ever became a priority to our daughter.

Since going off to college texting has been the primary form of communication with both of my kids. As a Mom I relish the occasional phone call, even when it’s just for information to complete the FAFSA. There was the call that he’d been elected President, the call that he was part of the Homecoming court during his senior year and a couple of weeks ago there was a Friday night call to say that he had gone to watch Elizabeth Smart speak on campus. He told me that as he listened to her account of abduction, abuse and eventual return to her family that he was reminded of what his father had told he and his sister repeatedly when they were kids “If someone ever takes you, know that we will never stop looking for you. If someone tells you that we don’t care about you or have forgotten about you, that it is not true. No matter what, we will never stop looking and we will find you.”. He went on to say that he was looking to volunteer with an organization in the community that works against sex-trafficking and the sex trade.  As Minnesotans and newlyweds when Jacob Wetterling was abducted,  we intentionally raised our kids with an awareness that not everyone is kind and well-intentioned. When I hung up the phone and told my husband about our conversation it was confirmation that our kids carried with them the message repeated in innumerable ways since birth, that they were loved no matter what.

E Snoopy

Last week while I was at my best friend’s cabin, my husband was on a business trip in Georgia and my daughter was planning for a road trip with her roommate, my son sent a group text. In the brief message he let us know he was “coming out” and thanked us for raising him in a household where he knows he has our love and support no matter what. For a brief moment I was overwhelmed with the sensation that I had only previously experienced on the day he was born. I wanted someone to tell me to breathe or push or stop. Then the exact same thing happened, I just kept breathing on my own. It swept over me with the realization that this was simply another aspect of who he is being revealed and confirmed. Like a cat allergy or dyslexia, something that I had once not known that I was now aware of. An aspect of life figured out.

E Agitator.jpg


Other thoughts on parenting my adults can be found in previous blogs: https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/i-suppose-we-all-have-to-grow-up-sometime-im-getting-there





Cousin Dorothy Turned 90

Unlike my typical blogs, the following is a small speech I gave the other night at a surprise party after a fabulous Russian cuisine meal at Moscow On The Hill and before the candles were blown out on the cake by the guest of honor, her son who’d recently turned 60 and a grandson from afar via cell phone. It’s a tradition.

Dorothy speaking.JPEG

October 8, 2017

I am Nancy Rose Pribyl and my paternal grandmother died two and a half years before I was born. On the day I arrived my grandfather came to the hospital with this ring I am wearing today, saying that my grandmother has instructed him “If Charles ever has a daughter, I want her to have this ring.” My grandmother Neona was Dorothy’s cousin, her mother being the sister of Dorothy’s father. Though Dorothy is from two generations ahead of me, most of the generation between us is gone, she is actually more of a contemporary of my father, graduating from West High in Minneapolis with my uncle, a few years ahead of my Dad. Dorothy continues to gather alumni of West High from the 1940’s annually, as they are a demographic best served by not waiting to meet every five years.


My first piece of jewelry

My first recollection of Dorothy was about half of her lifetime ago, after returning to Minnesota she hosted a cocktail party with games. My parents did not have a sitter for me, so I tagged along. I remember that she was stunning and that my father and her could easily make each other laugh as they reminisced. Dorothy is one of few people I know that attended my parents wedding in May 1956 and the only one who has related to me with clarity what she wore. A yellow outfit that she worked on her tan for, she was 28 years old. She recalls fondly my parent’s courtship and how crazy they were about each other.
While we gather to celebrate the milestone of Dorothy turning 90, it made me wonder what else happened in 1927. Coolidge was in the White House and announced that he would not run for reelection, women had won the right to vote just seven years earlier and as a result the nation was in the midst of Prohibition. The musical Showboat debuted on Broadway. Ford ended the production of the Model T and ushered in the Model A, which could be purchased for $460 dollars. The Kodak Brownie camera could be bought for $2.29. Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight and quartz time keeping was invented. With travel and photography being more easily accessible to the masses, it seemed the world was ready for Dorothy, as long as Prohibition could be repealed before she became an adult. The first week of October that year saw the release of the movie The Jazz Singer which ended the silent film era and that same week work began on Mount Rushmore a monument featuring four men, none of whom lived through more American history than Dorothy has. Ninety years ago today, the New York Yankees won the World Series in a sweep of the Pirates and they continue to bruise the egos of teams to this day!
Dorothy has not simply been on earth for ninety years, she has actually lived for ninety years! She inspires all of us with how she has lived, spending last New Year’s Eve in Dubai because she had heard they had the best fireworks and reasoning that she had already rang in a New Year in both Las Vegas and New York. When a grandson was studying abroad over a milestone birthday, she traveled to see him and hiked in altitudes that were a challenge for others half her age. During her eighties she has sailed, cruised, danced in an Irish pub, attended jazz festivals and maintained relationships with friends and family. She even starred in a grandson’s short film where she was cast as a drug lord She attended one of my son’s high school plays because she saw it posted on Facebook. I personally find Dorothy to be more reliable than our local meteorologists; the first day of spring arrives annually when Dorothy announces it is a beautiful day for “going topless” and posts a picture of her in her convertible with the roof down.
As with all of you, I treasure the time I spend with Dorothy. My 25-year old daughter said after a recent lunch “I want to be her when I grow up!”. I believe we all do. Let us all raise a glass to Dorothy who has made 90 the new 60!

Dorothy and I 90.JPEG


Five Monumental Moments in a Year of Weight Loss

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of me starting to lose weight (again). The picture accompanying this post was taken sometime in October, when I had already lost perhaps 10 pounds. While I have dropped 8 sizes over that singular calendar, have carted away and donated nearly my entire wardrobe and reaped innumerable health benefits, there have been other, perhaps more subtle milestones along the way.

  1. When I went to Las Vegas with my friend, who is a teacher over her spring break for a second annual girl’s trip I was six months into this and down about 60 pounds. She was the one who took note that I did not ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender, as I had needed to the previous year.
  2. When I go to the doctor now, the nurse doesn’t have to scramble to locate the BIG blood pressure cuff. My thighs are now pretty close to the size my upper arms were a year ago.
  3. When I hit the ninety pound weight loss mark, I actually weighed 50 pounds less than the weight on my drivers license. Currently I’m 79.8 pounds less than that “fudged” number.
  4. A high point for me was picking my son up the evening before his college graduation to go to dinner. He had last seen me over Christmas break when I was down 40 pounds and then spent his spring break visiting a friend on her East coast campus, followed by a long Easter weekend spent visiting another friend in Utah. When he came down to the lobby, he shook his father’s hand and then looked at me with a pleased expression. I was down 80 pounds from when we had watched him deliver the convocation address in September of 2016.
  5. Though this final one should likely not be a pride point for a five foot, seven inch tall woman, those who know me will affirm that I find the humor in everything. Those who don’t know me but have tipped the scales with shocking numbers should be able to relate. I currently weigh less than any of the men on the NFL roster!

I am different than many people who struggle with their weight, I think that other than my physical appearance that I am pretty much the same person I was when I was 18. My weight has never defined me or left me feeling depressed. Perhaps that is because I have surrounded myself with people who have always seen me as the person that I am, not one defined by a number on a scale. In looking at the photograph this week my daughter said “I never realized you were that big.”. I know that many don’t have that luxury and feel judged by others for their appearance or some perceived weakness. That’s not what the scale tells us, that’s something we tell ourselves. So no matter what your struggle is in life, I would simply suggest to be positive, be kind to yourself and whatever changes you want to make should be done with patience and the realization that whatever your struggle is, you didn’t arrive there in a day but if you start today, you will be 365 days away from it a year from now.


What’s in Store? Lots of Good Food

For many the concept of a diet involves cutting many beloved foods from regular consumption. I have found over the years that deprivation and being overly restrictive with what I eat leads to an “on” or “off” diet mentality that likely increases bingeing during “off”-mode and ultimately isn’t helpful in the long-run. I’ve had several people ask me about “cheat days” and personally that strikes me as thinking of making a bank withdrawal as being a “thief day”, ultimately you are impacted by either such day in the same way. The solution for both is to stay within a budget and if you do go on some sort of spree, making sure you quickly return to your regular habits. So if you buy an expensive pair of shoes on Tuesday don’t say to yourself “I blew the budget this week, so I’ll start again next week.” then proceed to buy three dresses, a winter coat and some jewelry. As consumers, we might like it all but that doesn’t mean we should “have it all” at once.

In my last blog ( https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-girl-i-lost chronicling my then 116# weight loss ) I promised that I would share what foods I typically have in my refrigerator, freezer and cupboards.

I eat a lot of protein, so you can always find eggs in my refrigerator (I baste, poach and hard boil them). When buying eggs I take the remaining ones at home and hard boil them, as the shells are more easily removed from older eggs than the fresh ones. I also use Better’n Eggs (regular and just egg whites) when making omelets (at least three days a week). I always have bacon and sometimes turkey bacon on hand as well. I buy steak when it is on sale and freeze it, I choose it based on a portion size I will consume in one sitting. Some days I eat it for breakfast, more often for lunch or dinner. I like Buddig lunch meat, chicken and turkey, usually bought in the individual serving size for ease of portion size. Chicken breast is another good protein source to purchase when the price is low and freeze. Starkist Tuna packets pack a lot of protein and though I will still buy canned tuna, I appreciate the convenience and portion-control of the pouches. Among my favorite discoveries over the last year is Boar’s Head London Broil. It’s honestly the best meat I have ever had from a deli.  Locally I get it at Fresh Thyme or Lunds. While I have tried other brands, theirs is the best. The one product that is consistently in my home is Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Crumbles, I use it in omelets, on pizza and in stir fry. My husband told me “You can quit buying other sausage for me.” he puts it in breakfast burritos and uses it in other ways as well. It comes fully cooked in a resealable pouch and when it’s on sale I purchase a fair amount as it can be stored in the freezer. As a final note on proteins, jerky is a decent option when traveling or going to a movie, available in a number of varieties at most gas stations which can save you from a desperation stop at a drive-thru when you are suddenly hungry. They also travel well in luggage, which make them a good in-room snack on vacation.

I love sauces and intense flavors! Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard is among my favorite condiments. I am loyal to my A1 Steak Sauce, my husband (like my father) a Heinz 57 devotee. In an odd twist of fate, my husband enjoys many of the new A1 flavors (I believe a chipotle one is his recent favorite) while I remain a purist. I enjoy good quality horseradish (please see Boar’s Head London Broil above). Miracle Whip Light is a staple and I’ll add a tablespoon of it to a tuna pouch or chopped hardboiled egg and stuff it in a pita or toast some Village Hearth Bread (several varieties to choose from, typically I have one on the counter and one in the freezer) for a quick meal or snack. Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce is an ingredient in one of my favorite go-to meals (I will share a few recipes in a future blog). I also like hot sauces and have tubs of fresh salsa or pico which I like to put on my eggs. Kalamatra olives, jalapeno slices and a variety of pickles take up part of a shelf as well. There is always yellow mustard and restaurant size servings of Smuckers Grape Jelly in my refrigerator. Coffeemate sugar-free vanilla and a carton of heavy whipping cream are stored in the door.

I have always loved cheese and it may be the one food where portion-control had to be most reigned in. Since I eat less of it, that has allowed me to buy even better quality cheese than I had in the past. I use goat cheese in my omelets and have tubs of feta and mozzarella on hand.  Typically we have a small brick of something new we are trying, such as a Smoked Gouda. Then there is also a variety of slices and shredded options. I also have string cheese available as a quick snack. There is still American cheese in both the door and in bags in the freezer. My husband loves it but I no longer opt to eat it. Cream cheese is bought on sale, has a long shelf life and I use it to make an onion dip that is a family favorite.

On my counter-top there is always a pepper grinder loaded with peppercorns, several varieties of non-stick cooking sprays (Pam and store brands ranging from butter to olive oil) a couple of bottles of olive oil and balsamic glaze. There is a butter dish as well. Chinese five-spice is my most utilized new addition to the spice rack.

Flatout (flat bread) is a  product I use for broiled pizzas but they are another item that my husband really enjoys. Tortillas (I like the taco size) are always on the counter and usually English Muffins are in the freezer, as I don’t go through them as quickly as I used to.

For many, weight-loss is all about the veggies and occasional fruit. I often eat salads when in restaurants because there is a lot less waste then when I buy everything I need for them and end up throwing it out the following week. Most of my vegetables are honestly consumed while dining out. So here is the limited list of fruits and vegetables that are usually in my kitchen; bagged shredded cabbage, white onions, scallions, white mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, colored peppers. I will sometimes buy cucumber and during the summer tomatoes, radishes and corn on the cob (entire cob will cook in microwave in 4 minutes, cut off ends with bread knife and remove outer leaves and silk after cooking). Carrots are another vegetable that I like but honestly end up throwing a good portion of them out.  Fresh garlic is a personal favorite! My husband loves frozen broccoli, canned green beans and canned carrots. I have cans and jars of tomato based sauces that I use when making a chilli or as a topping for flat bread pizza’s.

When it comes to fruit the Granny Smith Apple is the one constant for me, my husband is a Honeycrisp loyalist. We both enjoy bananas, just not as many as we anticipate we will enjoy when purchasing them. During the summer strawberries and melons are something else I enjoy. When having breakfast out, I try to have fresh fruit as the substitution in my meal for either the toast or the hash browns. While I enjoy pineapple, multiple berries or melons, I would never be able to consume that great of variety before they spoiled. Diet Ocean Spray cranberry juice varieties may be the only thing besides sugar-free soda that uses the word “diet” in the name that I buy on a regular basis.

Finally there is the sweet tooth and snacking products, plus a few remaining foods that don’t fit other categories. If I won an award for weight loss and had to give an acceptance speech, instead of “Thanking the Academy” I would be giving a shout out to Jolly Time Healthy Pop Butter and Kettle Corn (two separate products that I usually pop and combine) for being a constant along the way. PB2 and PB2 Chocolate was a completely new product to me, if you are not familiar, PB2 is a dehydrated peanut butter powder that you rehydrate with water, it’s much lower in fat than traditional peanut butter and would be totally awesome on a camping trip or simply while traveling. Halo Top ice cream is good quality, with a variety of tasty flavors. Both of my (adult) children liked it too, so it’s something you could serve to guests that won’t taste “off”. Watch for coupons or sales, as this is a more expensive item. My husband takes an Oikos yogurt to work with him everyday, the key lime and cherry are the two most frequently found in our fridge. Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Oven Roasted Almonds are in my purse or car at all times. They are a great source of protein and stave off hunger quickly. They are also something that can be put out when entertaining that don’t seem like a stingy “diet food”. These gems made the trip to Vegas and are a take along on girls weekends.

Maybe there is something new I shared that you can incorporate into your routine. For those skeptics thinking a list of foods eaten by someone who has lost over one-hundred pounds in a year would simply include 5 varieties of Kale, I hope this was an eye opener.  I am not like many who plan their week or even their day in advance when it comes to food preparation. I could not tolerate the monotony of the same lunch everyday but know that for some a routine is helpful. My final food tip is that even if you are not a gardener, growing something makes it somehow more palatable. I am still using oregano I grew in my window box last year and this summer I grew basil, lemon basil and lemon mint. I encourage everyone to try something new. Feel free to follow my blog or share with others whom might find it useful. Comments and feedback are always welcome!




The Girl I Lost

Last month I made a Facebook post consisting of a picture of my best friend and I attending an annual event a year ago (that started when we were 18 at my family cabin)beside it I posted a picture of us this year in the same pose. This year I weighed 110 pounds less than last year. In the black and white picture at the top of the blog is a photo of me after the first time I had ever dieted. I initially lost thirty pounds in thirty days and in this photo I weighed 105 pounds. In the past 11 months I have lost 116 pounds, meaning I have lost more than that entire eighth grade me. Before I fully explain how I have lost the weight, it’s best to start at the beginning and understand how I gained it.


Blog Cubs O's 16Blog Cubs O's 17



I came into this world at 2:32 a.m. on July 11th of 1963. As with most babies born in hospitals, the first thing they did was record my height (20 inches) and weight (7 pounds, 8 ounces). It’s not lost on me, the irony that from that first breath on, what one weighs is the cue for how others react to you. Weight determines whether or not you are deemed healthy, if feeding quantities and frequency need to be addressed. Quite literally, that’s the story of my life.




I started out falling into a range that was considered “normal” but follow-up appointments at the pediatrician had me not gaining at the desired rate (Americans love their chubby babies) and at some point in my infancy I was given medication that was designed to help me gain weight and retain it. I’d love to read the label on whatever that potion was and know more about the potential side effects, as some days I imagine that on a cellular level I am still reaping the “benefits” of the magic elixir!

My childhood was pretty typical, when starting school I was always among the tallest in my class but otherwise pretty average in build. My mother weighed not much over two pounds when she was born (a twin) and had also been given some sort of growth-related remedy in infancy. She was thin growing up and for her era at five-foot and ten-inches tall with size 11 feet she stood out among her peers in the 1950’s. Her weight-related struggles began after having children and were owed much to her sweet-tooth; Butterfingers, Chuckles and Sara Lee cheesecake being among her favorites.

The 1970’s was a tragic decade for our family; the sudden deaths of my three remaining grandparents, compounded by a fall that resulted in the eventual loss of a beloved great-aunt (my father had grown up the floor below her and her mother in a duplex and she lived in the apartment complex adjacent to the South Minneapolis home I grew up in) and the shocking death of my uncle/Godfather at 44 during open-heart surgery made for a lot of loss for a child. My mother found comfort in alcohol and life in my childhood home grew more chaotic with my father’s first heart attack when I was in fifth grade and following a house fire a few years later.

It was during this era that food became a comfort to me. With a drugstore around the corner and a Tom Thumb Superette across from that I had easy access to candy, chips and the entire array of Hostess and Dolly Madison “baked goods”. For real baked goods I need go no further than my best friend’s house across the street where her mother baked daily; cookies, bars, cakes and caramel rolls that could be supplemented with her store-bought ice cream, pop and candy. My best friend was tiny by comparison to me, to the point where one Halloween when we were trick or treating a woman looked at her and said “aren’t you adorable?” and looked at me and said “aren’t you a little old for this?”. My best friend is four months older than I am.

By the time I began sixth grade I had hit puberty about four years earlier than my peers and had reached my adult height of five foot seven inches. There was one boy in my class who was taller than me. None of this bothered me until I started junior high at a school that spanned grades 7-12. In grade school all the neighborhood kids knew each other and other than a few boys making awkward comments, my early maturity was somewhat ignored. With a bunch of new kids, in a new setting my adult body attracted a lot of unwanted attention and the fact I weighed so much more than the others girls my age bothered me for the first time. As a twelve-year-old I had not taken into account that someone five inches shorter than me weighing 25 pounds less than me really wasn’t that big of deal. With age comes wisdom.

One night at the dinner table I chose not to eat something and suggested that it was because I needed to lose weight. My dad said “why don’t you ask the doctor about it at your next appointment?”. That’s exactly what I did and he pulled out a chart that showed me in the upper edge of the “normal” range and then he said “But, if you’re concerned about it, you could eat your hamburger without a bun.” As a twelve-year-old I somehow internalized that as him being too polite to tell me I was fat but was telling me to start cutting out foods. I cut out breakfast and lunch and began eating half of what I’d normally have eaten for dinner. I joined a spring sport and came home from practice where I jumped rope outside or hooked a contraption to the bathroom door knob and laid in the hallway with my feet and hands in straps that pulled my legs up and down. I was often light-headed, suffered from headaches but thirty days later and thirty pounds lighter I was sure I had solved any weight problem I had. Actually I had started an unhealthy relationship between me and my weight that would take over forty years to resolve.

Dinner for me growing up had consisted of meat, instant mashed potatoes and some mushy vegetable I detested from either a can or more often it was boiled in a bag. As a result I grew up hating vegetables. I did however like salads. Salads at our house were made of iceberg lettuce doused in dressing. My dressing of choice as a kid was Thousand Island and French, I eventually graduated to Blue Cheese and French together.  An unusual part of my childhood in retrospect is that when we stayed at the family cabin during the summer we could drink all of the pop we wanted. The cabin had no running water and we would bring a 5 gallon Igloo water dispenser that was to be rationed for cooking and brushing teeth. So when we were thirsty it was pop we were told to drink. My father would come to the cabin on weekends and either bring groceries with him or go into Cumberland, WI to shop. He would ask that we write a list of what we wanted. My friend and I would stay in either a small A-frame or tent at night and watch TV late into the early morning hours. Typically our list consisted of M&M’s (plain AND peanut because who can decide?), Oreo Double Stuff cookies, Stir & Frost Cake (a cake that came with a disposable pan and a packet of squeeze on frosting) and Sour Cream & Onion potato chips. By the time we hit our teens, we were asking for Tab and other early diet sodas to supplement our diets. We swam, we walked, we rowed in the boat and played basketball, our high calorie intake had little impact on our bodies but the Teen magazines we poured over made us self-conscious anyway.


Back to school

15 year-old sophomore &                     11 year-old sixth grader

High School came and went with boys dropping weight for wrestling and girls dropping weight for school dances. The first time I saw a Weight Watchers plan was when a girl was passing a pilfered one of her mothers around. It was like the female equivalent of a guy with a Playboy magazine. Everyone wanted to see it but it felt necessary to be discreet about it. Then there were DexaTrim, weight-loss pills that made girls shaky and crabby and left ones stomach growling from lack of food. Weight loss was a game and most diets were fine to break if a group was walking to Dairy Queen for lunch.

I graduated from high school weighing about what I started seventh grade six years earlier at. Then it was time for college; dining hall food, late night pizza, alcohol consumption, going out to eat after the bars closed and right before bed was a natural recipe for weight gain. My sophomore roommate and I would eat lunch, walk the stairs to our 11th floor dorm room, watch soap operas, smoke cigarettes and drink diet soda before doing the Jane Fonda workout. Then we’d shower up and go to happy hour. By my last year of college I was up about thirty pounds from my freshman weight and with a spring break in Mexico in the works I went back to my tool bag and rapidly lost thirty pounds.

SCSU Grad with Sue

Shortly after graduating and prior to moving out-of-state for my first job I shattered my elbow in a freak accident, in the following year I went through two surgeries and 17 casts, combined with hours and hours of physical therapy. That first job was on a campus in a small town with a DQ, local ice cream parlor and video store, a movie theater that showed movies twice a week and a bowling alley that was open by appointment, a single bar where I learned to drink “Root Beer Barrels”, the new business arrival that year was a Pizza Hut. In the evenings the student union had items like chips and cheese available. Driving a half hour into the next big town to shop and dine was considered a recreational activity.  I didn’t gain a lot of weight but I also wasn’t eating healthy. A year later  I was on a campus in Winona Minnesota, my coworker knew every happy hour in town and that’s where we went every night for dinner; mini pizzas, baked potato bar, bagels and cream cheese, fried egg and cheese sandwiches and of course you had to purchase a beer to get the food. After gaining some weight I did a “computer generated diet” with a coworker that claimed to create a reaction in your body that maximized weight loss. Though I don’t recall the sequence of consumption or many of the details I think the primary foods were cauliflower, hot dogs and vanilla ice cream. We did lose weight in the three days that we could tolerate doing it but the same could be said for a combination of any three foods in limited quantity.  I was learning there was no quick fix, I was twenty-four and had been manipulating my weight for over a decade.

I moved back to my folks home for the summer and started running or walking the area lakes with my friends on a regular basis. I was starting a new job in Wisconsin at the end of the summer and I was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding that coming fall. I was in such great shape by the wedding that fall that even in a bridesmaid’s dress I was able to snatch the bouquet when it was tossed. Turns out that I had met my husband the evening before at the rehearsal and seven months later we were married.

Blog wedding

Two months after my wedding my father died of complications of the heart disease he’d been battling since I was in fifth grade. My husband moved to the college-town where I was working but had no luck finding a job there. My mother (who had stopped drinking while I was in college) struggled over the death of my father and came to live with us for a period of time. I made a point to come home for lunch daily to break up the monotony of the days for my husband and takeout and delivery were easily accessible in a college community. By our first anniversary I had gained about forty pounds.

After our first year of marriage we moved back to Minnesota where we both could work. I worked multiple jobs in retail and temped for different businesses, it was during this time that I first attended a Weight Watchers meeting. At that time the program relied heavily on the government food pyramid and the plan basically required that you eat more of what was at the bottom of the pyramid and restricted the choices from the top. It was the early ’90s and there was a ton of no-fat and sugar-free foods lining the grocery store shelves. The concept involved eating a lot of “fake foods” with little nutritional value in lieu of their higher calorie counterparts. You could lose weight doing this but it was not terribly sustainable as a long-term solution. The meetings took place in a dreary basement storefront in the mall one of my jobs was at.  A friend from college came with me sometimes. I remember that my leader loved Hershey’s Kisses and often talked about savoring one alone each night after putting her kids to bed. She also brought in a horrible looking yellow negligee that she related in someway to being about her goal. I found her unrelatable and didn’t feel much connection with the other attendees, the meetings somehow felt like being sent to the principals office. I lost my weight quickly as a means of getting it over and done with. Shortly after I was done I was planning a happy hour for college friends while an out-of-state friend was in town. I was working three jobs, had been focused on losing weight and was feeling tired as I prepared for this social gathering. I took a pregnancy test the morning of the party and found out I was in fact pregnant.

I was sick my first trimester of pregnancy but from my reading knew the importance of folic acid. I discovered that Cap ‘n Crunch and Pop Tarts both contained folic acid and I made a point to eat them regularly throughout my pregnancy. I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy! I began a nanny job when my daughter was three weeks old and accepted a live-in position with an apartment complex for college students when she was nine months old. The following year I got pregnant again and gave birth to my son. I weighed exactly the same on my delivery day with both babies. When my son was ten days old we got a babysitter for two hours so we could stop by a surprise 30th birthday party for my brother in-law. On our way back we stopped by a bar where my husband knew his coworkers would be and we bought some pull tabs. I won a few hundred dollars and decided I would put it toward Weight Watchers. I used a nursing plan and I successfully lost all that I had wanted within six months.

I took care of the kids by day, worked my job at night, invested time volunteering and was the primary driver for my mother to get to medical appointments and do errands such as birthday shopping and Christmas shopping. Our mother/daughter outings typically included a meal and the meal always included dessert. My weight fluctuated but I was a happily married wife and mother and it simply was not a priority.

After a couple of years we bought our first house. Our neighborhood was very social with every weekend being a party. My weight continued to creep up and I eventually returned to Weight Watchers. When my kids were in first and third grade we moved to our current home. I had an ankle situation that was diagnosed as requiring surgery, the procedure meant that I would be laid-up for six weeks. Being sedentary, I lost muscle tone and gained weight, I weighed more than I ever had when I was not pregnant. As I approached 40 I decided I needed to take the weight off. Again. The program had changed and was an early version of the “Point” system, I liked it better than the previous plans and stuck with it, losing 76 pounds and achieving “lifetime” status.

As happens with most people, life continued to throw curve balls. My brother in-law was battling cancer and planned a cruise he wanted the entire family to go on that Fall after his treatment was complete. While everyone suggested trip insurance I told my husband that I thought it would be unfair to our kids to tell them they were going to see a rainforest and then take that away. The school year began before Labor Day that year and my daughter began middle school. I did not work on Fridays, so that Friday I took my mother to the mall to get outfits for her 50th class reunion the following weekend. She bought the first dress she had purchased in the fifteen years since my father had died. She selected another outfit for the all-classmate social to take place the evening before the reunion. She had arthritis which combined with her weight made getting around the mall a slow process and we stopped for lunch before I took her home. As I dropped her off after lunch I told her that I would pick up several pairs of shoes for her that next week and bring them to her to select from. She turned and said “I like something with a little patent leather”. At the time I had no idea that those would be the last words she said to me. My mother died on Labor Day, she was 68. Following the funeral we learned that my brother in-laws prognosis would not allow for him to take the planned cruise. That cruise kicked off a twelve year period of unrestrained consumption. That spring, the week he turned 40 my brother in-law succumbed to his cancer, leaving a wife and three kids. We spent that final week (our kids spring break) in hotels near the Mayo Clinic. When we returned home it was obvious that our 5-year-old lab had struggled with our absence. Despite our neighbors always caring for our dogs while we were away it seemed he had lost weight. After a few trips to the vet we realized that our beloved dog had brain cancer and had to be put down. It was oddly the harshest blow of all, perhaps because it felt personal. It brought back a lot of memories of what felt like the never-ending cycle of death from my own childhood and was a trauma I could not protect my kids from. Weight seemed like a trivial and shallow issue, which allowed me to slip back into poor eating habits I previously had and likely even to develop new ones.

Fast-forward to where I am today. This is the part that made you want to read this blog in the first place. My kids graduated from high school, went on to college, somewhere in the midst of that the job that I had loved and was devoted to for 20 years was eliminated without warning and a year ago last weekend my son was preparing to begin his senior year of college. As student body president he gave the convocation speech to the incoming freshmen and their parents and we were provided with front row VIP seats next to the University President’s wife. While there are great pictures of my son giving his speech that day, there are no pictures of the family. On the drive home I thought about wanting to get a picture with him during his commencement in the spring. Then I thought about what I wanted that picture to look like. I began Weight Watchers for the last time on September 30th, 2016 and by his commencement I had lost 80 pounds.

Blog with Eddie at Graduation

The current points system has been modified from the original in a way that encourages you to eat more protein and fiber. I have to say that the biggest struggle I have had is going from eating once or twice a day to making sure I eat something when I get up in the morning and three to five more times during the day. Quantity-wise I consume a lot more food today than I ate a year ago. My metabolism is back to working the way it was designed too after years of abuse.

I am often asked “What can you eat?” and my response is honestly “Anything you like.” and that is why this is the last time I needed to join, I figured it out. In the past it seemed I was hardwired to set a weight or an event as the goal I wanted to get to and then because the plan was too rigid or restrictive I needed to step away from it. I refuse to eat anything I do not like. “I’m too old for that.” I often find myself saying. I have eliminated most fat-free and sugar-free items, even changing my sugar-free coffee creamer to actual cream. I still drink diet soda but know many who opt not to. I drink a lot more water than I used to. Despite being raised on margarine after my father’s heart attack, our home only has butter in it. I do use Pam cooking spray but also use olive oil and other unsaturated oils when cooking.

I had looked at gastric bypass a number of years ago after my doctor suggested it but my insurance had recently stopped coverage of it. My current WW leader had done that and upon gaining a large portion of her weight back returned to WW. While I know people who have had great success with it, I also know of others who have lost and then gained back all or more of what they lost. I had tried a plan with bars and powdered mixes which I found unpalatable and not compatible with attending functions and socializing. That’s why a meal delivery system would not work well for me either. I simply needed to learn how to eat what I wanted, wherever I was. During my initial stages of unemployment I was miserable staying home all day conducting a job search, as an extrovert it was draining not having the interaction with people. My introvert husband understood this and we would often go for half prices appetizers as dinner, simply to get me out of the house. As I am currently over four and a half years of being un(der)employed (working multiple seasonal positions to generate income while looking for the next position I love) I really enjoy the consistency of attending a weekly meeting. After my initial sign-up and first weigh-in I consciously selected a 6:30 a.m. Saturday meeting to prevent any excuses for not going. To date, I’ve only missed three meetings, while either traveling, being parked-in by overnight guests or prepping on the eve of a holiday. I have had four different leaders and each one has brought something new to the table. I find encouragement from the “regulars” who attend and each new member who chooses to share their story. My meeting consists of several lifetime members who stay on track via their weekly accountability and a desire to stay the course. When my brother connected with a high school classmate who complained that her year of daily treadmill walking had not achieved the results she was aiming for he connected her with me and she is now down twenty pounds. College friends have reached out asking what I have done, as have high school classmates.

My blood pressure is normal, my cholesterol is down, my joints no longer ache, my bad ankle seldom swells, my skin is clearer, I haven’t had a Rolaid in ten months and I sleep great. I gave up my gym membership (that was going unused) to cover the nominal cost.

People often frame weight-loss as something to do down the road at a time that will be easier. Over the last year I have hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, our 24th-annual New Year’s Eve party, a graduation reception and family reunion. I have gone to Las Vegas with a girlfriend, attended an All-Class reunion, gone to wedding receptions, funeral luncheons and open houses and consumed numerous beers and cocktails during three cabin getaways and continued to lose weight.

I dine out regularly and have eaten Mexican, Italian, Greek and seafood. I have lost 116 pounds eating at Subway, McDonalds, LeeAnn Chin’s, Perkins, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, Baker’s Square and numerous other places. I am going to eat every day for the rest of my life, so it only made sense to me to continue to eat presently in places I desired to eat in the future. I have done this eating a Chorizo bowl weekly from Chipotle.

Those who have not seen me in a long time congratulate me and sympathetically comment “I know what hard work that is.” but honestly it hasn’t been. Sure it doesn’t come off in a day but it didn’t go on in a day either.

For anyone looking to get started, I have posted a link for a current promotion in bold below. I will help anyone who wants to get started (whether I know you already or not). Feel free to follow my blog and share the link with others you think might find a spark of inspiration in my story. While writing this I have come up with 20 other topics to cover in future blogs. In my next one I intend to share what is consistently in my refrigerator, freezer, cupboards and what specific products I have found over the last year that have helped make this process so easy.

If you sign up by 10/31/17, we’ll both get a $20 credit to spend in the Weight Watchers online shop. Use my unique referral link http://zenreferrals.com/5171093 to sign up for a subscription plan. Check out the offer terms for more details!


You Don’t Have to Know Your History to Celebrate July Fourth -but it’s interesting

Flag Fireworks

Sparklers are typically the “gateway drug” to children’s fascination with fireworks. Diamond Sparklers in Ohio is the sole manufacturer of sparklers remaining in the United States. Every year we celebrate our nation’s birthday with both public and private fireworks celebrations that feature displays that primarily are manufactured in China.

When I was in elementary school I recall that often our lessen plans followed the calendar, which meant that we annually learned about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln around their birthdays, near Valentine’s day. The classroom bulletin boards would reflect this trifecta with profiles of the presidents stapled to white doilies onto the corrugated paper and surrounded by hearts. To an inattentive student like me this left me with the idea that George Washington (despite chopping down the cherry tree) maybe had a big heart and maybe Abe Lincoln (though honest) appearing pretty dour was a great lover?

My point being, we were not in school over July 4th and therefore Independence Day was never part of the school curriculum. Sure, I grew up knowing it was our nation’s birthday and fondly recall the Bicentennial in 1976. The Bicentennial coincided with a presidential election and the summer Olympiad. Everything from pancake mix to ketchup bottles were emblazoned with some sort of Red White and Blue label or commemorative design. Commercialism being as patriotic as a John Philip Sousa march!

The thing about being a kid is that time is a difficult concept. By the time I got out of elementary school, if you had asked me for a history of the United States, I may have told you that the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock, George Washington got off and after planting a plantation at Mount Vernon invited some Indians (yep, didn’t start using the term Native American until I was in high school) over for some corn on the cob and turkey with mashed potatoes after the harvest. Everyone loved him, so he became our first president. This is likely no reflection on my teachers, more of my own mind that tended to wander and as noted earlier a lack of concept of time.

If any others have this warped sense of history, let me share with you that the Mayflower set sail in September of 1620, it was the autumn of 1621 that is denoted as the origin of Thanksgiving to celebrate the first  harvest. George Washington’s great grandfather was not born until ten years later and it was 1656 before he crossed the ocean and settled in Colonial Virginia, he had a son Lawrence, who had a son Augustine who sired George. This makes George third generation living in what would be known as the United States of America, on my mother’s side I myself am just second generation, my grandfather having arrived from Ireland ninety years ago this year. My daughter is currently deciphering a small leather bound calendar he carried as a journal that year. He has noted dancing as a popular activity and when he wrote letters to a particular young lady (not my grandmother) a family he dined with regularly and then hopeful thoughts that another young lady would be at dancing (my eventual grandmother). Not much of his crossing is documented and one gap is explained with his good fortune at having found his diary along the roadside. Police raids and other notations remind us that teenagers around the world aren’t always doing what they are supposed to be up to. So my own maternal side of the family arrived over 300 years after the Mayflower and more than 250 years after Washington’s descendants. To a child, that seems like around perhaps dinosaurs and Moses era which were close, right?

So July Fourth, a time for social gatherings, boating, picnics, parades and mattress sales commemorates what? Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. July 2nd of that year Congress voted to declare our independence. It was not signed until August 2nd of that year. It was delivered to Great Britain in November of 1776. You may have noticed that none of these events occurred on the fourth day of the seventh month. Well politicians then, much like now, did not always agree on everything. As the result, it took a couple of days for the Continental Congress to approve the final wording. July 4th commemorates the day that the changes and edits were finally approved.

You may be imagining that this led immediately to annual celebrations, backyard badminton and pool parties. It wasn’t until 1870 that July 4th was commemorated as a National Holiday. You also might be thinking that George Washington was president when all of this occurred. George Washington was not elected president until February 4th of 1789. He was twice unanimously elected by the electoral college to serve four years. If you wonder what his wife Martha wore to the inauguration that took place in New York, you might be surprised to know she did not attend but stayed home to manage Mount Vernon. George was reluctant to accept this newly created position because of how the young nation was divided among partisan lines. A lot has changed, yet much remains the same.

Whether you fly the flag, light fireworks or simply take the day to relax, it’s important to remember that since its inception this country has been a nation of people that come from different places, different belief systems and differing opinions. Yet we all can contribute and it’s a relatively safe place to share ones opinion, even when you don’t agree with your neighbor or perhaps the actions of your government. When hosting an immigrant family for Thanksgiving a number of years ago, the father commented how much he enjoyed our table conversation, as even in a private home gathering with family in his homeland, one could not speak freely for fear of government retribution. He makes his home here now with his wife and son and when his parents come to visit their government holds all of their assets as an assurance they will return. A former employee who went through the naturalization process after graduating from college and whose parents remain as college professors in his native land told me “Despite other countries criticism of the United States, most parents around the world wish that their children could live here.”.

I heard a young man the other day comment “I’m an American but I’m not proud of it.” and I thought about all of the people who had made sacrifices, simply so he could say that. I thought about what might result if he were to publicly utter such a thought in another country. While no place on earth will ever be perfect, the vision of those who took a risk and came and the others who shouldered the work of trying to lay out a plan for how to incorporate and tolerate the desires of such a wide array of opinions is something worth celebrating.

So raise a Coke or grab a beer and celebrate our nations birthday! Make a new tradition with family and friends. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the United States remains in the growing pains of a young country. A tradition for many is a pound cake and Cool Whip  cake decorated with blueberries and strawberries to look like an American Flag. To the young, that’s ALWAYS been a part of July 4th. You can wait until July 5th to let them know that Cool Whip was not invented until 1966. Why spoil a good party?

Cousins July 4th