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European Vacation – Venice, Italy

venice-italy-dwplatoI’ll never forget where I was when the doves cried. I had just boarded a jet, going to Europe, when I read Prince had died. The soundtrack of my first overseas flight immediately became purple, with a hint of blue. Rest in peace, Prince.

When I landed in Venice, Italy, the first thing I noticed was it looked a lot like Northern California, you know, right around Napa and Sonoma where wine grows on the vines perfectly. The weather was approximately the same for that time of year too, cloudy, cool and ready to bloom.

A cab from the Mestre, main land, to the island of Venice was next. The driver tried to explain to me with limited English that there were no cars in Venice and once he dropped me off, I would be on foot. A large expanded white bridge crested over the first canal. “That way.” He pointed after I had collected my roller bag. Several men with orange vests that read ‘official porter’ were anxious for my business but I assured them I could manage.

The sidewalks were crowded. Boats cruised back and forth on the canal. I found the alley I was to go down for our hotel. It felt old and worn, like the cobblestones under foot. The room was small-ish. I’ll admit, I’ve seen smaller, but for the two nights I’d be there, it was perfect. The view was terrible, it seemed our room looked into a courtyard that was used to store the items the hotel was not currently using, tools, machinery and supplies. Once settled in, I went back to the restaurant where the nice man had given me directions to my narrow, covert alley. It was early for the dinner crowd so I had the place to myself. When I eat out, often I ask the server what is good or what their favorite dish is, this night I asked my waiter, “If I could only have one meal in Venice, what would you recommend that is local and unique?”

“For you, American, I have just the thing.”

The host that had seated me came over and asked in broken English heavily laden with an Italian accent if was sure I wanted to try what the waiter had ordered for me. “It is … um … how you say … strong.” I smiled and nodded it was fine. My dish was a black spaghetti. Dark black with chunks of meat. A flavor most certainly of the ocean, it was indeed, STRONG. Half way through I asked, “How do they make it so black?”

“It is the ink of the squid.” I was told. Yes, that’s right squid ink.

Once dinner was over, I wandered through alleys and followed canals in and out, around and down, over and under bridges, taking in the sights and smells of Venice. The one thing that stood out as far as the aroma of the city was no matter what scent I was smelling, whether it a fruit stand, food from a restaurant or piss on the sidewalk, there was an ever present odor of cigarette smoke. It was the single biggest turn-off of this area.

At one point I heard music and a woman begin to sing, “I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…” I jogged in and out until I found where the street musicians were playing and stood in the shadows and watched a small group of people hush and slip into a revered daze. “I only want to see you dancing in the purp-pal rain.” I was moved to tears. When she was done I approached and told her thank you, the song was very moving. She smiled and said, “No English.”


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I’m losing it

The New Year’s resolution that started it all…

When I was young, I had “That” kind of body, one that rivaled lingerie models. I was 5’9” by fifth grade and voted most likely to appear in Playboy when we were seniors. One of my favorite sayings as an adult is, “If I had the body I had then and the self-esteem I have now, I could take down small countries.” Anyway…

Of course I took my body for granted, blamed it on great DNA and went about my business, never counting calories or carbs, never setting foot into a gym nor having a regular workout regimen. Back then if anyone had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them an author. I wanted to write my own books and illustrate them too. Aw, those dreams that are put on the back burner. Are you familiar with that old saying, “youth is wasted on the young”? It’s true.

Life happens. Years rolled by. I had a baby, got married. I got comfortable in my job. Decades rolled by. My baby turned into an adult, my job changed. Life. Knowing the average woman gains approximately five pounds a year, I was pleased with myself when those years went by and I only gained 2-3 pounds, way below average, right? Okay, to be fair, there were a few years I gained more than average, 7-10 pounds. In the summer of 2014, I found the only clothes I could find that fit right were from the big and tall girl stores and I became a regular at Lane Bryant and Torrid. (Ever cried in a dressing room? You don’t really have to answer that out loud.) I reveled in the fact I was still buying the smallest sizes on those racks until those didn’t fit me anymore and I had to buy the next bigger size. At that point, I was fifty pounds more than the day I gave birth to my daughter. That’s right, fifty pounds heavier than I was when I was ten months pregnant! (seventy-two pounds heavier than when I conceived her.) What the hell?!? Right?!

“That does it!” I said in frustration in December of ’14, you know, that magical month that resolutions and promises fly from our mouths. 2015 was going to be my year. My goals were simple and attainable. I wanted to lose one pound a week (52 weeks = 52 pounds) and write my first novel. The strategy would be just as easy, I would work out (with an Insanity program I bought from the internet) 30 minutes a day and write 500 words a day. No sweat. (No pun intended-okay, maybe there was a pun intended right there, anyway…)

Everything was going along fine until June. I had reached my pound a month goal and was down twenty two pounds when I hit a plateau. I dug in, worked out harder, cut out more carbs, still the scale stayed steady. I was discouraged and sore. Then my daughter asked me one morning why I bought a dress a size too big. What? It wasn’t a new dress, I had it for years. I looked in the full length mirror. Yea, it did look a little baggy on the back side. Digging to the bottom of my closet, I found a size fourteen skirt that was just too cute to get rid of when I hit size eighteen. I slipped it on and the zipper went up without lying on the bed, in fact it was comfortable and I could sit and still breathe, a definite bonus. And, my novel was wrapping up, I found a love for writing and wrote more than five hundred words each day on a regular basis. (In fact, when I have a spare minute I find myself writing, it’s become an obsession.)

As we wrap up the first half of 2016, I’ve held steady at 199.8 pounds (which really does sound so much smaller than 200, right? And yea, easy math, I was up to 222.) I’ve found an exercise routine that works for me, not too much, not too little. I’ve kept off the twenty-two pounds and recently bought a pair of MEDIUM sized sweatpants. Total, I’ve lost 17” (one third of those off my big bootie) and finished a four-hundred forty-one page novel plus started a second one.

The realization I will most likely never be 150 pounds again, ever has become a reality for me; however, I love weighing less than my husband (this is the first time in our relationship I’ve been more than ten pounds lighter than him, we usually run about the same-within five or so pounds.) I love being in shape, my daughter used to like to tickle me until tears streamed from my eyes, but now she hesitates after her twenty year old self was taken down and tickled until she screamed mercy. It’s nice to feel strong, fit and healthy. And it’s never too late to start.