Friday, January 6, 2017

I recently noticed something...

... And it left me really bothered.

As many of you already know, I recently went on a Christmas trip to Boracay Island, Philippines, with my family from Christmas Day until New Year's Eve. My family went boating, snorkeling, paddle boarding, helmet diving, scuba diving.....and I caught a nasty food born illness or parasite that I am still fighting. Think: fevers, puking, body aches, cramps, delirium, and just about the worst case of the poops I think I've ever had in 40 years on God's green earth.

I've been to two doctors, been on IV hydration, on multiple medications, and still feel as though I were hit by a truck. I tried to go out for a late anniversary dinner with my sweet husband last night, and came home in tears, because I was just so tired and achy, and I literally could not stomach being out of my bed for one more second. In addition to feeling like caca 24 hours a day for 10 days straight...I've also used the restroom more in the last week and a half than I had in all my forty years prior to traveling to Boracay. Literally. I wish I were kidding. Nobody should be allowed to **** this much without dying. I may as well just move into the restroom. Live there permanently. Get a fax machine and a mini fridge set up in there. My children just know to talk to me through the door. My husband doesn't even bother asking me to hurry it up, because he's got to go. I't's my new habitat.

So that's my (current) life in a nutshell. Not so much fun. But hey, I'm alive, so I'm doing alright. Right?

But oddly enough....this peculiarly unfortunate life twist has afforded me some very interesting fodder for blogging. Namely: what women (myself included) have said in reference to my torrential case of the craps, and how sick & twisted it is that THIS is where our minds go when we hear someone is deathly ill with diarrhea.

"Imagine how much weight you've lost!"

"Ha! I'll shed those last few pounds with all this diarrhea!"

"Your face! You must've lost so much weight. Congrats!"

"Think of all the weight you must be shedding with all these stomach issues!"

"Well, if there's a silver lining to all this, you'll likely drop a few pounds."

"My pants fit so much better! I mean, I've crapped my body weight on the daily for a week, but my jeans fit nicely now!"

These are all comments that have been said to me lately. As in, since coming home with a nasty gut bug so stubborn that I am still on medication and being IV hydrated over a week later.....

Does anybody else see a problem with this?

These things were said by lovely, sweet, normal women. Women of all sizes. Women from all backgrounds. One of whom is ME, for Pete's sake!

(***A little background here: three years ago this month, I had weight loss surgery, and went from being 250 pounds to being around 145-155 pounds, depending on the time of month, and how active I am. I made the choice to get WLS because my weight was making me sick. I was pre diabetic, had apnea, and neuropathy issues. I wanted to feel good again, and I wanted to meet my grandkids some day. The physical prep for this surgery was excruciating and arduous, and the work since hasn't been a walk in the park, either. Anyone who says WLS is the "easy way" is clearly clueless and ignorant. It's constant work for the rest of my life, and that will never change. Every single day is a struggle for me, because food is the only addiction that you have to continue to dabble in and indulge, rather than quit cold turkey--and because in changing my stomach, the doctors couldn't change my brain. And the part of my brain that feeds my self loathing, insecurities, and addictions is still alive and well. My body might be healthier, but the way I see myself, accept myself, and understand myself will always be an uphill battle for me.***)

Anyhow...what these comments made me think was: how screwed up is it that we live in a world where women's minds immediately and innately go to a congratulatory state whenever any fellow female loses weight--whether it's intended or not?

Take for instance, the beginning of the school year at my children's school....I saw my son's old teacher, and she looked thinner in the facial area. Sure enough, I congratulated her. Told her how good she looked, and then beamed when she seemed so flattered and grateful. I did the same thing for a friend. She'd returned after being gone for the summer (in the expat community, people always holiday all summer) and looked slightly smaller than she'd been in June. Of course I complimented her, and she responded with a very enthusiastic thank you so much! Because we, as women, are trained to be grateful when someone tells us we look thin. It's ingrained into our DNA as females. If someone calls you a skinny b*tch, you say "THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"....even though being called a skinny b*tch is downright insulting. Using the word bitch in any term is degrading.

(I say all that while fully acknowledging that when I was overweight, I called my smaller friends "skinny b*tches" all. the. time. and I fully expected gratitude in return. Not nice, Brooke. I accept and own how not nice that was. Forgive me, friends, for I knew not what I did.)

What got me thinking was...what if the teacher I'd complimented in August was thin because she's battling an illness, or because she lives abroad and someone at home is sick, so the stress is making her appetite go down the toilet? What if the friend I'd complimented was thin because her husband made a discouraging remark about the size of her derrière, and she's been starving herself because she feels like crap right now? What if both of them are suffering in some random way that hasn't even crossed my mind, and I just pointed it out to them, making them feel even worse??

Or........what if I'm losing a little weight right now because my dad died two months ago, I've been grappling with some guilt and angst from that? Oh, and also because I missed my deadline with my editor, so my two new releases are getting pushed back again. Ugh. Also add in the holidays--which are ridiculously expensive for a large family like ours, not to mention the fact that our daughter's birthday and our anniversary lands in the middle of it all. Then pepper aforementioned stress with traveling to the ends of the earth with four kids and seven suitcases on rickshaws, fumey busses, two plane rides, and rickety boats. Then, to top it off, plop a stomach virus from hell on it all......

Would all of those stressors warrant compliments from people? Not likely. I mean, when you break it down, whittle it down to the bare bones of what's really going on in my life, it probably isn't "compliment worthy," if you know what I'm saying. It's stressful and gritty, yes, but probably something you would offer a hug and/or some chocolate over...not compliments.

And yet, I keep getting told, "Hey, at least you're dropping some weight with all this diarrhea!"

Who says I wanted to drop more weight? Who says I'm happy about this? Who says this is a positive change in my life? I'll let you all in on a secret: I would take my 250 pound body back  in a heart beat, if it meant I could have one weekend with my father at Priest Lake, Idaho, or my Boracay vacation back, sans hallucinations and excessive TP usage?

It's important to share that I know it isn't as though my friends are trying to be mean. On the contrary. They're just trying to be nice. They're good women, probably some of the very best out there, and they're trying to find the joy in an otherwise crappy (pun intended) situation. Heck, even I've been doing the same thing!

What troubles me is.....why are women so quick to compliment each other on presumed weight loss? Why is that where we, as women, naturally go? Why do women feel this innate need to hate ourselves, our bodies and our shapes, and our friends' bodies and shapes, much that we would congratulate each other on getting a ****ing parasite that causes us to POOP FOR TEN DAYS STRAIGHT!?

Are we so inundated with pictures of the likes of Gigi Hadid, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, and Miranda Kerr, with their round, perfect butts and their perky B cup boobs, and their antagonizing flat stomachs...that we only consider ourselves, or our friends, successful when we're shedding pounds? Like.....for real? What about career heights, or family successes, or personal triumphs? What about volunteering, or teaching, or caring for each other without fanfare? What about successfully existing in a world not intended to support and uplift women?? Holy heck, that must count for something!

I don't know about you, but my friends are gorgeous. They are white, black, and every color in between. They are old and young. I have one who has a head of naturally curly hair that just sprouts from her head in ringlets, and another who wears black all the time and who struts like she's fresh off a catwalk. I have another who looks adorable in every hat she tries on, and another whose body looks like you could bounce a quarter off of her midsection. I have fat friends and in between friends. Friends who like cake, and friends who eat tofu. . I have one who is tall and unapologetically herself, and another who is soft and curvy and undeniably sexy, even when she's just trying to be a regular old mom. I have one whose smile could light Times Square, and another whose quiet presence feels like a cup of cocoa and a warm blanket.

I have friends who have fought--and WON!--against depression, eating disorders, sexism, ageism, racism, cancer, pancreatitis, obesity, being dumped, losing babies, and more. I have friends who have dropped everything they were doing to bring me Jewish Penicillin and York Peppermint patties because they heard I was sick, and others who write to me every single day, despite being 5 thousand miles away...just because they know I depend on it. I have women in my life who care for others as if their life depended on it, and who share their gifts with others because they know others can't go on without their help.

They give and give and give and give........and yet, we compliment them because they dropped a pound or two.

I say no more.

No more letting what the world calculates a woman's worth on determine how we value ourselves. No more letting a woman's size determine her worth. No more letting her size, or fluctuation of size, determine whether or not she warrants a compliment. No more letting her physical image, or more specifically, her weight, be the one thing we watch, monitor, and gratify her for. If we want to be smaller, then so be it. If we want to be bigger, then so be it. But that shouldn't be the one detail about us that her friends/family fixate on. Even if we mean it with the kindest of intentions. Women are worth more than that. We are not just pretty packages. There is more to our depth and internal qualities than anybody ever pays attention to, and I'm over it! Who cares if my pants fit better or worse after this stomach issue goes away?? I'm more than a size.

I am more than a size. I'm freaking Wonder Woman. 

I was a foster mom. I became a published author with a loyal following. I am a loving wife and a functional mother. I lost a daughter. I moved abroad to a place where I don't speak the language. I travel. I live. I laugh. I breathe. My body heals itself. My mind does, too. How freaking amazing is that!?

Yeah. I'd like to drop another 15-20 pounds. To see the numbers I used to see on the scale in high school. But frankly, I'm 40, and I've had four kids. It's not going to happen. Instead of fixating on the numbers, or how many rolls I have when I wear a swimsuit at the beach, I'd rather focus on how much healthier I am now than I was three years ago.

Instead of focusing on how much thinner my face looks now that I've been crapping myself silly for ten days, I'd rather focus on how much better I feel when a friend brings soup to my apartment, or when my bestie from across the ocean sends me a sweet text. I'd rather focus on the friends who seem to like me, despite my being a big boob who says the wrong thing in every situation, and the fact that I've kept for children alive for seventeen years. I'd rather focus on writing my books that bring people joy, and listening to music that makes me happy, and being around people that make my soul comfortable. Those are the things worth fixating on.

I love complimenting people. Nothing makes me happier than telling someone that their outfit is cute, or their hair looks great. But I am no longer going to compliment people when they appear to have lost weight. I don't know their whole story. And I'm not sure that the weight thing is something worth complimenting people on anymore. Like I said, WLS helped me to lose weight, but the mental part of food addiction and self loathing...that's all on me. And being told that having torrential diarrhea is a good thing because I might drop a pants size only seems to perpetuate the problem. I'm better than my weight. I am more than my weight. My worth is greater than that.

And so is that of my friends.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I got sick.

While on vacation to the GORGEOUS (and alarmingly remote) island of Boracay over the Christmas break, I caught the crud.

Actually, the crud isn't accurate. I've seen two doctors now, and the consensus is that I (and my ten year old) caught a food/water born illness that (as yet) remains unidentified.

Yeah. Super gross. And painful. And crappy. (literally)

We don't know where we caught the illness, and as much as friends have tried to sympathize with me, saying "Oh, I caught food poisoning over my break, too, and I was off my feet for a full day!" I have to just shake nod my head and bite my tongue.

We've been sick for a solid week. And by sick I mean body aches, fevers, stomach cramps, vomiting, and torrential diarrhea....most of which is occurring at the same time. It was so bad that my son, Charlie, and I missed most of the week's worth of activities. My husband dutifully took our teenagers to do their awesome activities, and provided our eight year old with just enough sand castle and french fry time to keep him happy. He was a champ! (It couldn't have been fun for him to care for Charlie and me, on top of managing the other children on a busy island so far from home.)

At one point, Charlie passed out after throwing up and couldn't be woken up. I was so feverish that I was seeing geckos on the walls (think: hundreds of them) and my father...who died last month. At one point, I was so sick, and keeled over with stomach cramps, that I told my husband I was going to die in the Philippines, and I meant it. I legitimately thought I would. When we went to the hospital, I was told I needed to be admitted for IV rehydration, but we didn't have time for me to stay (8 to 10 hrs) before we needed to leave to make the arduous trip back to our home. We had to refuse treatment in order to get back to South Korea, where one of my good friends is a doctor.

It is a miracle we made it onto the flight(s) home. The trip to and from Boracay is done through two plane rides, a taxi ride, a two hour bus ride, and a ferry ride. The process takes no less than 12 to 18 hours. Going home so sick was awful. I cried and cried because my body ached so bad, and because Charlie was so hot with fever, and he kept vomiting. How we managed to get home without having an accident in our pants is inexplicable. We (still) have literally no time between the urge and the action, and how we managed to sit in plane seats is beyond me.....the grace of God, I imagine.

Just as we got onto our last flight, as we stood in line on the tarmac to board, our youngest child started vomiting (not illness related...he is on the Autism spectrum and has sensory issues, and we'd fed him orange just with high pulp. Let's just say, he didn't like it, and it all came back up at the feet of about a hundred other fliers.) By some miracle, the airline clerks didn't notice, and we were miraculously allowed onto the flight. We flew home, and within 12 hours of landing, I was in the office with my friend the doctor, and we are (finally) on the road to recovery.

The body aches are gone, as are the fevers and the vomiting. Though the #2 issues still linger.....isn't that just the way? We still don't know what it is that Charlie and I caught. All we know is, it seems to be getting better, and we're not going to die. I no longer ache everywhere. He no longer vomits until he passes out. Thank God.

I am grateful that my husband worked so hard to afford and provide us with such an incredible trip to a new country. I am grateful that the other kids were given so many opportunities that I never had as a child, or even as an adult. I am grateful that we saw such an awesome place--please, if you ever get the chance, visit the Philippines. The people there are some of the warmest, most loving, most helpful, most joyful humans I've ever met. And while our situation was unfortunate, and well, downright ugly, if I'm being honest, I'm not sure it's exclusive to Boracay or the Philippines. It seems as though it was just an awful, nasty case of bad, bad luck.

I'm mostly grateful to be alive. I legitimately didn't think I would be.

I woke up this morning without any aches in my arms and legs. That counts for something.

I will post pictures of my Boracay adventures as soon as I can.

Happy New Year, reader and writer friends. You are all loved and appreciated.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Traveling home today.

Our Boracay adventures are over. Today we travel back home to the ROK. Who doesn't want a good book to read during their travels?

Check out an excerpt from Keeping Secrets in Seattle....

I was hideously out of place.
            “Yoo-hoo, we’re over here.” When Alicia wiggled her fingers at me in a cheerful greeting, the sunlight that poured through the windows glimmered on her ring.
            “Hi.” My voice came out entirely too noisy, and I cleared my throat. “Er, hi.”
            “Did you have trouble finding the place? I told Gabriel to give you directions.” Alicia was sitting primly at a long table, with four girls sitting at either side. “We ordered a mimosa for you.”
            “Thanks.” I took a deep breath, flustered by the jog. “Sorry, I had to jump a few buses to get here.”
            The girl to Alicia’s left wrinkled her nose. “You’re a bus person?”
            I nodded. “No need to pay for gas when there is only parking for one-third of the cars in the city.”
            Alicia’s green eyes sparkled. I swear she could do it on command, and I hated that about her. “I know. I’m always after Gabe about how much it costs to run our car.”
            I swallowed the urge to point out that the car she was referring to was Gabe’s car. Not hers. He and I bickered over the fact that he bought a gas guzzling all-terrain vehicle after receiving his last raise, instead of the economically earth-friendly smart car I was pushing him toward.
            “I would be way too nervous to ride the bus everywhere.” She giggled, flipping her red hair back. She looked great, as usual, and it made me want to bang my head on the tabletop. “You’re much braver than I am, Violet.”
            I cleared my throat. “Well, sometimes the bums smell bad, but they tell a hell of a good story, too.”
            “Girls, this is Violet Murphy,” Alicia explained. “She is going to be Gabriel’s best man. Violet, let me introduce you to my bridesmaids.”
            I looked around the table at the four girls surrounding Alicia. It was like an ad for the United Colors of Benetton. All four pairs of eyes reeled to my face at once, and I immediately sensed scrutiny. My hair, my face, and my outfit were immediately assessed, as Alicia rattled off each of their names.
To her left there was a thin Asian girl, Rose, who I was sure I’d seen in an ad in Seattle Metro Magazine before; and a blonde, Kate, whose teeth were capped into a row of white bathroom tiles. To her right, there was an African American woman, Shawn, whose long, braided hair shone like a licorice rope down her back. Next to her was her cousin, Marissa, who was equally as beautiful as Alicia, which was incredibly annoying. Last but not least, there was a brunette, Kate, who glared at me while fingering a BlackBerry. Each one of the girls was at least three sizes smaller than I, and though in any other situation I would have been proud of my curves, in this group I wanted to hunch over to hide my breasts and tugging at my shirt to disguise my tummy.
            I waved at them, my jewelry clunking together. After slipping my bracelets off underneath the table, I dropped them into my purse, and unfolded my napkin onto my lap. “Thank you so much for inviting me. I’ve never eaten here.”
            Alicia sipped her mimosa. “Gabriel and I come here often. It’s one of our favorites.”
            I looked around at the other women. “Wow, with these girls as your bridesmaids, and you for a bride, your wedding party will be stunning.”
“Well, I have to look at these pictures for the rest of my life,” Alicia joked, patting Marissa on the hand sweetly.
Rose snickered under her breath. “Hope the best man doesn’t plan on wearing that hat.”
I glared at her. “So…how do each of you know the bride?”
            Kate spoke first. “I’m her agent. I work for Puget Model Management. So I’ve known her since she signed on with us...oh, how long ago was that?”
            Alicia’s hand went to her chest sentimentally, and I waited for her to say a number of years. “Eight months.”
            My eyes bounced between the two of them, who were obviously sharing a tender moment. Did she just say months? Confused, I moved on to Rose, who offered me what could only be described as a grimace intended to be a smile. “I’ve been her roommate for a year now.”
            “We did our first nudes together.” Shawn grinned. “That was two years ago. I hadn’t heard from her in a year, but here I am.”
            My eyes bugged out of my head. “Nudes?”
            Alicia waved a hand, dismissing me. “They were for an avant garde pictorial. There’s no porn in my background, I promise.”
            I shook my head and sipped from my glass. “No, I wasn’t—”
            “I’m Alicia’s cousin.” Marissa’s voice was loud and commanding. “She’s told me everything about you, you know.”
            I nearly choked on my mimosa. “Oh yeah? Such as?”
            "Apparently you and Gabe have been friends since you were, like, ten, right?” Marissa folded her deeply tanned arms. Who in Seattle, in the middle of February, was tan? Really?
            “Six.” I bit the inside of my cheek.
            “You two are, like, best friends, right?” She eyed my hat with disdain.
            I tugged at the collar of my shirt. “Is it hot in here? Um, yes. Nobody knows me like Gabe does.” As soon as I said it, I cringed. Talk about opening myself up for scrutiny.
            “Right.” She flared her nostrils. “So anyway, you guys apparently know each other inside and out?”
            I shifted in my seat and laughed nervously. “Listen, I know Gabe really well, but not to the extent that he and Alicia know each other. I mean, some things just come with being in an actual relationship, you know?”
            The other girls nodded in unison, and I released a breath of relief.
            “Did you guys go to school together?” Shawn asked.
            I nodded. “Yes. Clear until our junior year.”
            “And you guys were neighbors,” Alicia pointed out, her mouth tightening.
            “Yes.” I gulped. They should hang a single light bulb over my head and slap me every time I answer.
“What’s his favorite color?” Marissa snapped.
            “Gray,” I answered without thinking.
            Kate nudged Shawn with her elbow. “What’s his shoe size?”
            “Eleven and a half.”
            Shawn tilted her head at me curiously. “What’s his favorite food?”
            “What’s his biggest pet peeve?” Marissa polished off her mimosa.
            Rose sneered. “What brand of toothpaste does he use?”
            I noticed that Alicia’s eyes were round and the corners of her mouth were downturned, and felt sorry for her, despite myself. It had to be embarrassing to be shown up by your fianc√©’s female best friend. “His mother’s homemade lasagna, he hates it when people snap their gum, and he uses Crest.”
            All five women at the table stared at me in silence.
            “But, wait.” Rose the roommate pointed her finger at my face. “Didn’t you and Gabe date at one time?”
            My stomach turned. Alicia knew about Gabe and I dating? Well, of course she knew about Gabe and I were more than friends for a brief time. They were engaged, for pete’s sake. I wondered how much detail he’d shared with her. Did he tell Alicia how much I’d loved him, and how much it destroyed me when it ended? Did he share with Alicia how awful those months afterward were?
            I could feel the weight of all their eyes on my face. “I...I don’t know if I would call it dating.”
            Marissa tapped a fingernail on her glass. “Well, what was it, then? If it was significant enough for Gabe to sit Alicia down and explain it all to her?”
            I began weaving together tapestries of curse words in my mind, inventing colorful ways of inviting Alicia and all of her bridesmaids all to go to hell. I wanted to tell Alicia that she didn’t deserve Gabe, or the rest of the Parker family, for that matter. Heat rose from the collar of my shirt like a teapot, warming my face. Just as I was toying with the idea of flipping the table over and screaming like Tarzan, someone else wormed his way into my thoughts.
            Whether or not I liked it, Gabe loved Alicia Von Longorial. He made his choice, and if I loved him, or ever had, I would make it work between Alicia and me, no matter what it took. I didn’t like her. Not even a little bit. But Gabe loved her, and I loved Gabe. That had to be enough for me. Even if it meant going against my natural instinct to cuss like a trucker and possibly pull some hair extensions out of their perfectly coiffed heads. And if they didn’t think I knew those were extensions, they were kidding themselves…
            My eyes locked with Alicia’s. “Gabe probably wanted to make sure you knew everything about his past with me, right from the get-go. He didn’t want you to think that he and I were trying to keep something from you. Because there was never anything...” I paused and gulped. “...real between us.”
My fists clenched underneath the table. Lying about my relationship felt downright sacrilegious. “We were just...sixteen, and curious, I guess. It never meant anything.”
            Liar, liar, liar...the word echoed in my head like the beat of a drum.
            “It didn’t mean anything?” Rose repeated. She was perceptive, for a model.
            “No.” I forced myself to laugh breezily. “Gabe’s my best friend. Nothing more.”

            Liar, liar, liar.