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Tuesday, September 30, 2014


" Have you ever sank down into your couch and felt as if nothing in the world is going right for you? Or have you sat at your desk, drowning under the weight of work? Situations like this call for action, and by this, I really do mean action. Instead of reaching for the bar of chocolate or the bottle of wine, think about putting your training shoes on and going for a brisk walk or a jog. It will clear your head and help you get a new perspective on life."
(Josh Clark, inventor of Couch to 5K)

 YES!! to all of the above......

 I have been harboring a few secrets here in Judiland.
But, let me start at the've got time, right?  
{First, I must caution you......the beginning of my little confession starts out a tad depressing but stay with the story and you will see how the less-than-perfect things were actually the turning point to where my journey is going ....}

One by one, my kids told me I had to get a LIFE. 

Gee, I thought I had a life.  
As it turns out......I did have a was THEM and their father.
Evidently, my kids were feeling a bit guilty about that.

At first, I really didn't get it.
Then, one day as my daughter was leaving the house to meet up with some friends....she looked at me and said "Mom, will you be alright if I go?"
Of course, I would be alright, I told her.....I'm a 55 year old woman, you are a 23 year old young woman......GO!...that's what you are supposed to do...
But, she hesitated at the door and said "I hate to leave you alone so much....
I shooed her off with a laugh and then tried to fluff off the comment...convincing myself that I have lots of things to do to keep me busy.  Even though the things that I had to keep me busy really weren't things of substance.  I really wasn't feeling doing the laundry, cleaning out closets or washing down walls.  Maybe that would suffice for another girl but not me. It's just not enough for me.  And, the fact that it isn't enough for me has always made me feel guilty.  So, I took to the kitchen and cooked and that I had no idea who would eat.  As you know by is something that I do when I need to unwind or to de-stress or  to feel worthy or to just fill the time.   
But, if you really want to know the truth--when I cook, I am always thinking abut feeding people.....

A few days later, my son told me that something came up and that he couldn't make it into town.
As a result--we couldn't do what we had been planning to do that coming weekend.
Naturally, I was sad.  I was so looking forward to his visit.  I had been cooking for days....
He happened to call me as I was waiting on my workaholic husband to come home.
My children know I do that a lot....
And, my voice must have sounded as sad as I was...prompting him to say in an exasperated tone-- "go out and do something MOM! Don't sit there and wait!! You have to find things to do besides wait for dad to come home or wait for me to come home or wait for Toni to come home."
Taken back, I told him that I do a lot of things......don't I?
I take care of my father, I go out with girl friends, I cook, I entertain, I shop, I get massages, I go out to dinner, I go to work.....
 I mean, I am always busy.....right?
Yes, of course, I have a full life.
A busy life.
A busy life is a full life....right?   

I am not so sure.....

The funny thing about all of this is that I have known for a long time that I spend the majority of my time on obligations and on  making other people's lives better.   
And, for the most part, I'm okay with those things.  It's what I know.... 
It never occurred to me that it might be an issue.
You see....I spend a lot of my time wanting to do other things but feeling trapped at times by my obligations and living by other people's schedules..... many times-- I wait for them to have time for ME or I wait for them to see what they need from me.....
Sounds like I'm Ms. Unselfish....aren't I????
Would a truly unselfish person be resentful?
Thus, I was becoming the type of person I hate the most.....A MARTYR.  
  • What if I wasn't there with dinner made when my husband got home 3 hours late?
  • What if my son wanted to come visit on a weekend that was inconvenient for me?
  • What if my husband wants to do some business entertaining and I can't fit it in?
  • What if my daughter did come home and want to eat and I didn't make dinner?  
  • What if my sisters needed someone to stay with my father and I wasn't available?
  • What if my in-laws planned a dinner without asking me my schedule and I had something else to do?
  • What if I had plans and all of a sudden my husband decided he wanted me to do something with him and I said "I'm busy"....?
  • And, what if my husband is too tired to go somewhere that I really want to go?
What if I actually had something I enjoy doing--that was JUST MINE---something that makes me feel good and that somehow changes my life?  
That was the question that was gnawing at me for months.
The question that I pondered as I sat in traffic, as I sat on the couch, as I struggled to sleep at night.  
That question gnawed at me as I did all the same things that I always did...everyday!  
As I got more in touch with how I was really feeling....I realized that there were times when I felt resentful and under appreciated and to be honest---downright stupid.  
Why was I doing all of these things when I was feeling this way?   
It was a hard question to answer.  
Was I angry?  
I wasn't sure.  
What I did know that I didn't want to just stop making dinner or being available just to make a point.  
I wanted to make some permanent changes that would enhance my life---in more ways than just giving me something to do.  
And, to be honest--I was so over being doing everything for everyone  and feeling like I was being taken advantage of.
I made me take stalk of myself and own my role in all of it.  
It wasn't a good feeling.  It made me come face-to-face with how I allowed this to happen to me.
And, it was a good reminder that I am the only one in charge of my journey.  
I needed to make the changes.... NOW. 
Let's be honest--I didn't really want to tell anyone how I was feeling because I feared that it would either make me seem selfish for thinking of myself or make me seem like a doormat for doing all of that for all of these years....
I felt very alone in my quandary.  I was unsure and unsteady in how I wanted to go forward.  
I knew that I didn't want to just do a complete 360 just because I was feeling this way.  
I wanted whatever changes I made and how I decided to enhance my life or spend my time to matter.
I didn't want to just disappear to a Walmart parking lot just to prove that I should be appreciated for all I do.  And, the funny thing much as I felt under appreciated....I wasn't looking to be appreciated.  I was actually looking to find something for ME....something that was MINE. 
But, I just didn't know what it could be.
So, I gnawed on the question some more....

So....what did I decide to do?  
That's what we are going to talk my journey continues....




Monday, September 29, 2014

I might just become a MOVIE STAR!!!

We  ushered out the first weekend of Fall with some Hollywood-esqueness.
We took our movie-loving teenage nephew on a tour of the Pittsburgh movie sets that's hosted by our local film office....... 

Did you know that Pittsburgh is a very popular destination for movie making?
Well, if not...check out this LINK to find out more than you ever wanted to know.....
It's kind of fun to know that I'm living in the Hollywood of the East Coast!
As a matter of fact.....the largest movie studio outside of Hollywood resides right here in my hometown.....31st Street Studios....

Over the years, I've had a few encounters with stars and movie-making when they are filming either on or nearby our campus or out in the Judiland suburbs.
Two noteworthy encounters a few years back with they were making Smart People on our campus in 2005 and Wonder Boys in the late 90's.  
That's when I met up with Dennis Quaid (Smart People)  and Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys).
Take it from me.....they look much better in the movies......
 I could use some looking much better in the movies right about now....
For some reason, I'm feeling awfully old today!!

Friday, September 26, 2014


Do I even know what hunger feels like? 

In my never-ending quest to psycho-analyze myself and figure myself out and put myself on the path to a joyful self awareness,  I sometimes find that the most ordinary word sets me off on a journey of exploration that consumes much more time than it really should!   Case-in-point---over the years, I spent hours and hours motivated to explore my inner being by words like joy, soul, time, dwell, nice, fear, name a few.   I see a word, I hear a word--and I could be a word that I've seen or heard a million trillion times before--and poof, I am tossing it around in my head and I am thinking on it and processing it.....yep....that's what I do.  You heard it here folks.  I have a strange attachment to words....

When we were on vacation, the word HUNGRY became that word....
"Are you hungry?"  was a question that was asked at least 3 times a day.
"What are you hungry for?"   was another popular question. 
"OMG! I AM SO HUNGRY" was another often spoken phrase.  

I get it.....we were on vacation.....eating out is definitely an important piece of our vacations.  So, of course, we talked about going out to eat--choosing restaurants, did we want to dress up? go casual?.... what did we want to eat?...etc.. 
But, we often masked our desire to eat by using the word HUNGRY.  
As if we wanted to hide our desire to JUST EAT for pure enjoyment by making it sound as if it were more of a physical need......
Is that what years of my dieting-guilt-overeating-guilt-obesity-shame-guilt trap has done to us?
Are we so embarrassed by the fact that we enjoy food that we convince ourselves that we are HUNGRY? 
This revelation and these questions stayed with me and made me wake up and take notice to how deep, how long lasting and how very emotional my relationship with my weight and eating is.....




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Weight Loss Surgery for YOU?

It's OLD NEWS that I had Weight Loss Surgery in 2007.
Yes, I had a Lap Band implanted 7 years ago.
Since then, I have lost over 100 lbs...give or take a pound here and a pound there.  
So, weight loss surgery of choice was an excellent tool to give me back my life and my health.
If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you know that my  journey has been filled with lots of ups and downs and lessons learned and lessons learned again...and again and again.
And, in between all of that, I have lived my life and shared my stories and moaned and groaned a bit and gave recipes and paraded my pictures for all to see....and then some.
Because that's what living with a Lap Band is all about....
The Lap band was not and IS NOT a magic bullet but it has been and continued to be my saving grace. 
It gave me what I needed to do the work that I needed to do....for me.  
Today, I sit here a far cry from the woman I was a little over 7 years ago.....a 250 pound woman who was unhappy in her own skin and feeling the daily tortures of being morbidly obese.  
My story before that fateful August day in 2007 is not any different from any other person who has battled weight.
I did all of the programs out there---Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Bariatic Weight Loss, the pill mills, the diet doctors, the OTC stuff and on and on and on......yes, I did it all.  
Getting my Lap Band was the only tool that helped me to lose the weight and keep it off.
IT CHANGED MY LIFE.  And, that's no small thing....
Yet, I often wonder--especially when I think of others who didn't have the same success-- if I would have been as successful with it at another point of my life? 
Was it just my time?  Was I just so ready for something to work for me?  Was I stronger?  Was I more devoted?  Were the moon and the stars just aligned perfectly for me? 
I will never know the answers to those questions.
What I do know is that seven years ago I got a Lap Band and I was able to make it work for me.
I'm thankful and to be perfectly honest--I'm pretty damn proud that I did it.
Because seriously folks.......knowing myself as I do, this was a huge accomplishment.....

Every once in awhile, someone will stumble upon my blog and send me a private message asking me a list of questions about weight loss surgery or about my Lap band.  I'm always very happy to share my views and provide the answers that I have found along my journey.  Sometimes they come back to tell me what they eventually decided to do or to let me know if I helped them or they come back with more questions.  But, more often than not, I am never really sure what happened to them.  I just always hope that I helped them in some way....
About a year ago, a woman who I have known casually in our neighborhood for many years asked me if she could hitch a ride back and forth to work with me for a few days since was attending a conference on our campus.  Our daily trips through traffic made for some welcomed conversations.  As typical with most woman-to-woman conversations, we found ourselves talking quite a bit about weight and diets.  Naturally, I told her about my Lap Band surgery.  At the time, she didn't ask many questions but about a month later, she reached out to me to tell me she was "looking into weight loss surgery" and she asked me a few questions.  That was the last I heard from her or saw her until I ran into her early this summer at our local farmers' market.  As we chatted about nothing in particular, I wondered if she ever followed through on anything with the surgery.  Of course, being the polite girl that I am, I didn't want to ask.....
Fast forward to a few weeks later.....when I ran into her again at the farmer's market.  We were both standing around a demo on drying herbs.    When the demo was over, we chatted a bit about the herb demo and other food-related things.......when, all of sudden our conversation somehow turned to weight loss.  That's when the woman said...."you know, I looked into getting weight loss surgery and it wasn't for me....".    
So, it got me to thinking about how you know if weight loss surgery is a good choice before you even do it.  Because, damn, I only figured out it was a good choice for me AFTER I had it done.....!!
So, I throw this question out into the blogisphere---how do you know that Weight Loss Surgery is for you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back to matters at hand......

 and, at the top of  MATTERS AT HAND IS......ME! (and you!)
Visiting our new neighborhood brewery this past Saturday---where they also serve great wines from a local winery.  If you are ever in the neighborhood....stop by won't be sorry.  Oh....and please stop by and pick me up on your way. We can walk there from my house!  In fact, we probably should walk......for the exercise....

As with the onset of each Fall semester for the past 35 I've spent in higher ed at a top-tier institution, I am back in the land of sleep, eat, work, repeat.  The days are long, the nights are short...which is nothing new.  What is new are the major changes in our operations and how we do what we do.  Twenty-some of my office mates have been relocated to an entirely new space on campus--leaving 4.5 of us to run a facility that now has almost tripled in size and capacity.  Unless you know what I do, that probably makes no sense to you at all.  Let's just say that it's been a pretty big change.  A change that impacts me squarely between the eyes.  Essentially----it means that up until this year, we could only host about 15-18 corporate visitors a day....which was more than enough work!   Now that the majority of the staff has vacated our facility, we have turned their offices into spaces for another 20+ corporate visitors---thus we can host over 30 a day.  And, they are certainly coming....
Although my team has always been the front line for those 15-18 corporate visitors each day, we were still able to rely on the other 20+ colleagues in the office to take on some of the hosting duties.  Now, it's just my team of 4 well-seasoned superstars to take on 30+ visitors a day (not to mention all the work it entails to get them here and make sure their visits are successful).  
As talented and knowledgeable and capable as we all are--it's no small feat.   
Yesterday was the first day of our regular season.  
Last week was our kick off to our regular season. 
And, let me tell you--last week  was a true test of our endurance--hosting a few hundred of our corporate partners, several thousand students and everything that goes with it....yeah, it was wild. .  
So, we came into this week--our regular season--a little tattered and torn from the over-activity of last week.  Translation---we are tired already. 
Now, I am not telling you any of this to impress you or to flaunt my I-am-busier-than-you flag.  
That's just not my style.   Because I know that we all have our own things....
Why I am telling you all of this is to remind you and ME that sometimes life gets busy and life gets hard.  And, that even when our intentions are grand,  it's understandable to feel so overwhelmed that our own personal health and well being takes a backseat to what's demanding our immediate attention.
It's a reality in today's world.  Like it or not.  
So, why do we beat ourselves up???
I stumbled upon all of this last night as I was sitting in the inevitable rush hour traffic after a day that pummeled me to the bone.   You see--all summer--as my world was on full-tilt--both personally and professionally--I would tell myself that as soon as all the madness of visitors coming and going at home was done with and the craziness of the happenings in the office were settled, my world would stop spinning so hard and I would be able to settle into a routine and I would not be eating on the run and eating all the wrong stuff and my exercise routine would be much better and......well, you know the drill. 
Even now, after the summer madness is gone, I can't fathom how this will happen....
Because I am feeling like there's more madness.....of a different variety!
And, this time, I don't have a Plan C.  At least I had a Plan B all summer. 
My Plan B is now.  
And, it ain't happening....
Last night as I was torturing myself, I sadly realized that defeat was starting to set in.  
Which, I might add--explains the chocolate candy I ate....... 
But, we aren't going to talk about that......are we?   
 What's a girl to do?
Well, for starters.....NO MORE GUILT.
(and, no more chocolate in the car....)
It is what it is.

And, I am who I am. 

I suggest you follow my lead......

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hello friends, Hello Fall....

Now, where were we?
Toes in the sand, drinks in our hand

Ah, yes, it was summer and the livin' was easy.  
The sun has set on yet another summer......(although I am pretty sure this picture is of the SUNRISE!!!  Details, details....)

Summer is now just a distant memory......
Judiland is now struggling to get back to some sense of peace and tranquility after a full docket of visitors and activity that stretched even this party girl to her limit......
Here's what happened in Judiland since we last spoke.....
We hosted an August star-spangled event for some August visitors.....

Our New Jersey family came for a's me and beautiful Bella visiting some of our Pittsburgh family during their time with us....

And, there was our Concert in The Backyard....with family musicians showing off their talents.....that Carmen...the headliner of the event.....

Then,  we had the first ever family reunion on Carmen's side of the family.  This picture is missing about 30 people but was a rough crowd to get together....! 

With so many Italians in one can be sure there was lots of amazing food!  So, yes, there was lots of cooking involved.  Here's  a few of our newly found cousins helping put out all of our amazing recipes! 

Hey, there's Carmen and I getting to know his cousin Joe (a local celebrity) who we never knew was a cousin.  We bonded over my rendition of Italian Sangria! 

We tied it all up by hosting  family members who are Pitt alums for the Pitt game at a place where I didn't have to cook or entertain.....I was so done.....

So, yeah...that explains our early September escape to the beach......with 2 fun vacation companions....
Our lovely daughter and her beau....
 And, that explains where I have been for well over a month....

Yep, I'm back.....

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


It's been quite a month in Judiland......between house guests and house guests and house guests and cooking and cooking and cleaning and cleaning and hosting 2 pretty huge family events......and not to mention--going to work and taking care of  and dealing with what needs taken care of  and dealt with in Judiland....I was clearly in need of some major beach time....
So, that's just what I did......

Thank you all so so much for your kind notes of concern.
Next time I disappear for close to a month, I will be sure to let you know before I just melt into the sunset.
I guess I just underestimated  how overwhelming life would be with all of that stuff going on!!!
I'll be back to my regular blogging in about 7-10 days.  

We will talk more then!!!!