Monday, December 28, 2015

100 Pounds and Counting: Maintaining and Feeling Good

So, the first thing that I should tell you is that I have no idea how much I weigh right now. *blushes* I've been out of town for about a week, and I couldn't find a scale in the hotel where I'm staying. Granted, I didn't look very hard, but one thing I can say for sure: it's not in the dining room. Or in the cafĂ©. Or under the pastry cart.
I do know that before I left home, I was maintaining a weight of 262. For anyone who's number obsessed (as I am) that means I've maintained a weight loss of 103 pounds, although I did gain back thirteen pounds from my lowest weight. So that's where I was a week ago. When I get home day after tomorrow, I'll know where I am at that point.


Feeling Good

There is an evil little part of me that wants to brood over the weight I've gained back; wants to pick it apart and spend hours telling myself how inadequate I am. But you know what? That part of me is a jerk, and it can take a hike. To be honest, I feel pretty fantastic about myself, and here's why:

I move more easily.

Compared to this time last year, I feel like a bunny rabbit instead of a giant tortoise. I can trot up the stairs (if there aren't too many of them), and gallop down (thanks to my old frienemy, gravity). It is a pleasure to be able to double-time it across an intersection, or race down a hallway to catch an elevator. Increased motion means increased freedom, and I'll take every little bit that I can get.

I look good, because I look like Me.

Surely it goes without saying that I am not beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. But when I see myself in the mirror, I look like Me. And while that Me may never grace the cover of a fashion magazine (unless someone starts a fashion magazine called Dowdy Dames, which would be all kinds of awesome), here is what that Me can do:
  • Make a stranger smile, just by smiling at them first. (Never underestimate the power of a smile! It can change someone's whole day.)
  • Make a friend laugh, with my proclivity for puns. (Although of course those elicit an equal amounts of groans.)
  • Make someone feel good, by telling them that they're fabulous, and meaning it. (While I'm on the subject: YOU, who are reading this, are fabulous. I may not know who you are, or where you come from, or what you've done in your life, but I am 100-percent, right-hand-to-God certain that you are fabulous. And if you don't believe me, then send me an email through my website, and I will convince you. Because your own fabulousness is something that you need to recognize, and I'm serious about that.)

There is more good stuff to come.

There are plenty of times that I feel dispirited about getting older, about not being able to fit into a size six (I'm barely out of a size twenty-six, for crying out loud), about all sorts of things too numerous to name. But the beautiful thing about life is that it ain't over until it's over (and after it's over, who knows if it's really over?).

For me, there are adventures to be had (horseback riding lessons is on my list of things to tackle next year, as are travel and writing, writing, writing!), there are new friends to make, and there are old friends to play with. There's work to be done, yes, but it's the right kind of work, and that's always a good thing.

And What About You?

So, I've spent the past few blogs talking about myself, my journey, and all things Me. Now, what about you? How are you doing? What kind of adventures are you looking forward to?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Truly Home for the Holidays

Gingerbread cookies, country plaid, and pine cones decorate Nic's kitchen.
The phrase "home for the holidays" has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I've always thought so. But I have a confession to make. During twenty-some years on the move with the military, "home" always meant packing up and heading back to the state where it all started for Mr. Christoff and me. If at all possible, we'd travel across the continent each holiday season to crash at his parents' place, and then mine. We'd swing by my grandma's for plenty of home cooking. As if we were kids, we'd stay up late with siblings and cousins, and we'd always meet up with childhood friends. As a result, the house where we lived the rest of the year often got neglected at the holidays. Oh, I might manage to hang some kind of wreath on the door, but that would be about it--until this year!

All year long, you awesome reader, have followed each of the Rockville 8 on our personal journeys of growth and discovery. My own path has brought me to that stage of life called "nesting," and now that I'm in a house for the long haul, I can't think of a better time of year than the long, dark nights of winter to do just that. As a result, I've got homey gingerbread hearts decorating my kitchen this season. My living room is dressed in gold-tipped, glistening evergreens. And in the bedroom, flannel snowmen sheets chase away the chill when it's time to cuddle up at the end of the day.

There have been days this December, however, when it's still hard to think of our house as "home." However, maybe that has less to do with the habits developed over my husband's military career. Maybe, instead, it has to do with accepting that some of our loved ones are aging. Some have even passed away. "Home" has changed, and maybe, deep down, I suspect it's slipping away.

Of course, the true meaning of home doesn't have to disappear. Home, quite simply, is where the heart is. So, this year, I'm opening my heart and decorating my house. We'll crash at our place where we've followed grandma's recipes and we've got cousins are on the way. I'll be truly home for the holidays, and I hope you will be, too.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Our Fantasy Holidays

The holiday season is a magical time: twinkling lights, flickering candles, our hearts full of joy. But it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year: cash runs short, shopping lines run long, patience runs thin. So this year, we at the Rockville 8 decided to give ourselves a mini-holiday from The Holidays.

Letting our imaginations run wild, we asked ourselves, if money were no object, if distance were not a factor and if family obligations were magically suspended, how would we spend the holiday? Where would we go, what would we do, and who would we do it with?  We hope our fantasies give you a break from the holiday stress. Feel free to share your own holiday fantasies with us in the comments!

Nichole Christoff

Where: A deluxe cabin in the Adirondacks

What: Is there anything more dreamy than an old-fashioned Christmas like the kind Mel Torme or Bing Crosby sang about? I'd love my own personal blanket of white, Jack Frost, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Snowshoeing in an evergreen forest by day, hot toddies at night, and heaps of handmade quilts on an antique bedstead in a luxury log cabin? Ahhh! That's the holiday for me!

Who: Book boyfriends are a-okay, but when it comes to my dream holiday, I'd want Mr. Christoff snuggled up in front of that fireplace with me.

Misha Crews

Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the past few years I've developed a fascination with the American Southwest, even going so far as to set one of my novels there. Something about the confluence of cultures, combined with the vast landscape, which in pictures manages to be both austere and lush, captures the heart and inflames the imagination.

Photo credit: Christmas Pics for All
What: I would take Barbara Harrelson's Literary Walking Tour of Santa Fe, and spend hours wandering, listening to stories, and reveling in the spectacular greatness of storytellers, authors and literature. Then I'd spend Christmas Eve Santa Fe Plaza, admiring the hundreds of farolitas (votive candles in paper bags full of sand), drinking cider and singing carols.

Who: This took some thinking over! And with all due respect to my real-life husband, I think I would most like to take Mike Hanlon, the fictional character from Stephen King's It. This may seem like an unusual choice (not to mention that the fellow doesn't actually exist, except in imagination), but as a librarian, Mike would appreciate the finer points of the tour. He also has a sense of humor and an appreciation for history. Plus, if we were confronted by ancient evil, he would know how to defeat it. And after everything he went through in Derry, Maine, the guy could really use some time away!

Mackenzie Lucas

Where: El Camino de Santiago in Spain.

What: I've always wanted to do a pilgrimage. This is the Way of St. James, one of the apostles, and a favorite pilgrimage of Christians since the Middle Ages. After watching Martin Sheehan in The Way and Reese Witherspoon in Wild, I've desparately wanted to experience this kind of pilgrimage walk to see who I meet along the way and who I find deep down inside myself when challeneged mentally, physically, and spiritually to this degree.

Who: I don't think I'd take anyone in particular, but I'd be interested to meet other seekers along the way and learn their stories. It would be a fascinating journey.

Lisa McQuay

Where: Perhaps it’s the influence of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” but nothing says Christmas to me like England. Specifically, I’d love to be whisked away to Bath, England. I remember being fascinated the first time I read about Bath in a novel where the Regency heroine spoke of “taking the waters” there.

Picture from
What: I’d love to visit the Christmas Market in Bath. Tiny chalets are interspersed between the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey. Shoppers wander through the chalets, purchasing gifts, drinking mulled wine and eating mince pies. I’d also love to see the Christmas Carol service at the Bath Abbey. Of course, then I’d tour the city itself. After a full schedule of shopping, eating, touring, and caroling, I’d make a trip to the thermal spa to relax and wash off the dust of the day.

Who: My husband. I know that may sound boring but I’d only want him there with me. If he’s there through the tough times then, of course, he’s there for the fantasy trip.

Keely Thrall

Where: A Dude Ranch in The West

What: Riding dudes. No, wait! Riding horses. Yeah, riding horses. It’s not so much that I’m a fan of cowboys (although, come on, it’s not hard to see why a lady might linger over a pair of well-worn Levi’s). I’m not horse mad either. But ever since I first read the words “Big Sky Country,” I’ve felt a deep tug of longing to spend some time in Wyoming or Montana. The scale of the world is different there, in my imagination, the pace more relaxed, perhaps, and a little friendlier. What a perfect place to gather with family and friends for a little unplugged down time (as long as there’s hot water and indoor plumbing. Big sky, yes. Cold showers, heck no.).

Who: Lately, I’ve been falling in love with the Winchester brothers. I’m up to season 7 of Supernatural and I just can’t get enough of their emo vibe, even when I want to slap them upside the head when they act like doofuses (or possibly the writers’ heads when the plot goes awry). In Frontierland (Season 6, episode 18), Sam and Dean travel back in time to the Old West. Sam looks pretty hot. Dean wears a blanket. Snort. Regardless of Dean’s wardrobe fail, I think I’d take the brothers with me. Because if my holiday is ever invaded by monsters, these boys know a thing or two about saving the day. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

So This is Christmas

Happy Xmas (War is Over)
By John Lennon and Yoko Ono

So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas

I hope you have fun

The near and the dear ones

The old and the young

A very merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

Let's hope it's a good one

Without any fear

John Lennon wrote this song in 1971 as a protest against the Vietnam War. I’ve always liked it especially since it has the Harlem Community Choir as back up to give it a beautiful, full sound.

The song also challenges the listener. So I ask myself—what have I done?

I’ve decided that I’ve not done too badly. I’ve been going through my certification program, which if things go as I hope, I’ll finish in February. I’ve been trying to write. I’ve been dealing with my daughter starting high school and helping her adjust and move through her grief at leaving her beloved elementary school behind. Seeing the changes in my parents and realizing that I won’t have them forever.

A friend at work who I have known for many years recently told me that I seem stronger physically than I was a year ago. I do feel stronger. There have been days that I was so exhausted I felt like I couldn’t take another step. Sometimes, on the weekend, I’ll sleep at night for twelve hours. Back to back hospital stays weaken the body like nothing else can.

But I’m moving forward to the rest of my life. My war is over for now. I’m hoping for a happy Christmas. I’ve made it through to the other side. But there will always be challenges. And sometimes those challenges feel overwhelming. But I’m finding more and more that I’m able to handle it again.
Two years ago, in the midst of my surgeries, I couldn’t take on much more than what was right in front of me. I was afraid of every bump in the road being that one thing which would put me under. It’s a good feeling to get back some of my former strength, or maybe even emerge stronger than before.