Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's Confirmed, I'm Back to Normal

I looked up my BMI today...and for the first time since early 2003, I'm no longer overweight. My BMI is down to 24.1, squarely in the "healthy/normal" range. A year ago? It was 28.5, approaching outright obese. I'm down a full 25 pounds, and my BMI is probably not entirely accurate, given the muscle I've built.

So after seeing my BMI, I decided to try running again for the first time since 2005, when I left the Army and was told my right knee was beyond repair. I figure, 25 pounds lighter means about a hundred fewer pounds of pressure on the knees when running. So I ran for 15 minutes at the end of my workout today.

And it felt GREAT. Nothing hurt. And even better? Nothing jiggled. I used to HATE running when I could feel my belly doing a full figure-8. I could even feel my ASS moving when I had all that extra weight. Not very motivating...it literally felt like dragging ass.

But today, it felt like it did when I loved to run, before I put on the weight in New York. Well, I can't run for an hour like I used to--don't want to aggravate the arthritic knee--but it made me think that if I keep it down to 10-15 minutes a day, I can probably knock out one weekly run of about 30 minutes--which means running outside this fall. The occasional 5K for fun.

It puts another tool back in my box and I couldn't be happier. I could stand to knock off another 20 pounds, and this could be the jump start I needed to reach the next level.

Other than working out religiously and ensuring I keep losing weight and not putting it back on, I've been working on the house. Painting, unpacking, cleaning up all the little clutter and messes that accumulated both in my absence and in the scant couple of weeks I spent in the house before deploying. I just never fully settled in, and that's what I'm doing now. Nesting. I've painted the guest apartment and my bedroom, and all the boxes have either been unpacked or moved into the storage shed.

And it looks fabulous. There's still plenty to do before school starts next month and I may not get it all done--I'll probably have to choose the den or kitchen to paint the lovely light copper I picked out. But it feels like a neat, clean, functional home. It feels finished. I have a gorgeous desk out in the garage apartment where I'll do all my studying, and I really went all out--painted the walls a gorgeous terra cotta, bought very nice tan suede furniture and bedding, hung all the pictures. And it looks like a place where I'll enjoy spending a great deal of time...which is a big part of staying motivated to study, just having a cozy environment for it.

So I'm ready for school, which will start the week after I return from my Florida vacation with my sister. Life is good. I read an article once about how mood is directly influenced by environment--a messy room exacerbates depression, etc. I believe it. Since the house really started coming together, my doubts about coming back here and making this career change have largely dried up. I know I'm doing the right thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Window Seat Acrobatics

The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and after waiting several hours for the next leg to Atlanta, I was asked if I traveled alone. Then I was pulled from the line, taken to a little room, and grilled for about fifteen minutes on my travel. I suppose that traveling alone from Kuwait is cause for suspicion. They started to get too specific about what I was doing in Iraq--I showed them my orders, which explain all they need to know, and they finally let me go.

I had the window seat next to another American woman traveling alone. Her name was Joanne and she'd been called off her Florida vacation to business in Amsterdam. She looked like one of the Indigo Girls, I don't remember which, and was in a foul mood before we even took off.

I ordered a margarita and she glanced sidelong at me, as if I might soon become a belligerent drunk. I explained that I was coming off a fifteen-month tour in Iraq and the margarita tasted splendid. It did. She didn't seem overly impressed with my explanation and the sidelong glance became a direct stink eye when I ordered a second. I wondered if she expected me to start in on some PTSD-fueled rant, like everyone who's ever been to Iraq is likely to do after a few drinks. She sighed as she crossed her arms over her chest, and went to sleep.

Even after two strong cocktails, I was able to climb over her to the aisle and on to the bathroom without rousing her. I knew that asking to get out would earn me another hairy eyeball and I wasn't in the mood for some pissy broad. I'd had no sleep and my broken tailbone barked at me from all the sitting around.

I returned to the seat and began the delicate climb back over her lap to my window seat. And naturally, she awoke just as I was spread out over her...and I almost made it. From her perspective, that first moment when you wake and figure out where you are must be even more disorienting when there's some half-drunk lady climbing all over you.

I'm horribly jetlagged, and speaking of that disorienting moment on waking, it took several seconds for me to figure out I'm in a rather nice hotel in Columbus, Georgia. It's 2am and I have to be on post in a certain location that I have yet to find at 5 am. So I'm about to check out and go to Walmart, make a CD to listen to on the way back up to Atlanta, find this place, and maybe nap in the car.

But I'm back in the land of the big Walmart and I'll be home-home tonight. *Whew*

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Departed

Leaving the big building and all the people I've come to know and love was very emotional. The day I left was filled with Nerf gun shoot-outs and froggy comments about how much I curse and NOW who will call Kevin an asshole?

I managed not to cry as everyone lined up for good-bye hugs. It felt utterly surreal, even moreso as I climbed into the truck and drove through the International Zone for the last time. It still feels surreal--I imagine it will have this movie-feeling until I get fully settled back in my house. Fifteen months is a long time and I have to be patient with things at home, all the little things that will inevitably be different than I would have them.

When Jessie came back from leave, I found that I was no longer angry about the whole incident I blogged about earlier. I'd missed my friend and forgave her. It felt like it used to between us, when we were really close, and I already miss her. She plans to come visit me in Mississippi, as do several people, and having that furnished guest apartment will prove to be a huge plus for having visitors.

I hope there are many, but I have to work around law school--I understand that first year is a bitch.

So I fly out tonight, following the final insult of the trip--piling all my bags, which must weigh a couple hundred pounds total, on my back for the long trek to the bus station. There are no carts, it's gravel (so the wheeled carry-on is useless), and it'll still be over 115º this evening when it's time to duffel-bag drag.

I absolutely got my luggage down to the bare minimum by mailing stuff home. It's the goddamn equipment I was issued that has to be returned at Fort Benning, Georgia. It's a full duffel bag and weighs a TON. Without it, I only have the carry-on and a medium-sized suitcase. I shudder to think what the airline will charge me for the two checked bags. My company will reimburse it, but damn I hate dealing with it.

There's a four-hour layover in Amsterdam. The flight arrives there at 6 am and I'm hoping there's an open bar in the airport--a beer would taste lovely and I need to knock myself out for the 10-hour flight to Atlanta.

One more hurdle, then it's smooth sailing. Benning will likely prove an additional pain in the ass, but at least I'll be stateside and can find a Denny's, eat some fluffy pancakes and eggs. And the hotel will have a bathtub. Oh yes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Egg Soup

The first time I met Kuwait was June 2004 when my Infantry brigade landed here. We spent over three miserable weeks in full armor and gear training in the relentless desert in 130º heat. At the time, I compared it to Tatooine of Star Wars fame. And was promptly called a dork for knowing the name of the planet where Luke spent his early years with his uncle and auntie. I got called a dork just yesterday for rolling down my window at a checkpoint in the International Zone, waving my hand around, and telling the bewildered Peruvian guard, "These are not the droids you seek."

I digress.

I just disembarked from the miserable C-130 flight out of Baghdad International, during which I puked my guts into one of the little twistie-tie bags the Air Force supplies so the crew doesn't have to clean up the inevitable leavings of That One Person, there's one on EVERY flight, Who Pukes. And yes, ladies and gents, it's always me.

I know this, that I will always hurl on every military aircraft I ever board, but never once a commercial flight. So I don't eat before I fly military. Keeps things tidy and the little bag may or may not even contain anything for all anyone can tell when you sheepishly deposit it in the garbage bag held out by the raised-eyebrowed flight crew. Except that they know what's in there because they were talking about the puking redhead on their little headsets. Think I don't know what goes on? How could they NOT laugh about it? I had sweat pouring off my face onto the floor, I'm sure I went even whiter than usual, and I had to look miserable during the dry heaves that are the ugly little downside to not eating before an inevitable vomit session.

So here I am in Kuwait again. In July. It's over 130º and there's that wind, the feeling someone's following you with a blow dryer filled with sand. Or a heat gun. This is a miserable place.

As has always been my tradition, the first thing I did after recovering from the sickies and dragging my 200 pounds of baggage through the rocks to the crammed tent I'll sleep in tonight, was walk to the little McDonald's. I had not, after all, eaten all day. I ordered my favorite, the meal I found difficult to resist and so ate it three times a week while I lived in Arizona and gained a metric assload of weight--the two cheeseburger meal.

Those little cheeseburgers are like heroin. The pickles, the little dollop of ketchup, the minced onions, the soft little bun. I sat at a picnic table in the shade (there's no air-conditioned spot to eat), where it was maybe 120º. And you know what? It just didn't taste very good. Maybe it was the heat, but I've eaten in hotter--hell, I've gone running in hotter. I ate one of the two burgers, about a third of the fries, and pitched the rest. Well, except for the vanilla milkshake, that was ggoooooddd. I had the same experience when I came through here on my way home for vacation last November--it just wasn't all that.

Has fast food lost it's death-grip on me since I've been over here and haven't had access to it? I cannot imagine I'll ever NOT want a Chik-fil-a chicken biscuit...that's pure heaven. But the rest of it? I don't crave it, particularly. The foods I've missed the most have been pretty basic--real eggs cooked well (i.e., not rubberized), and a cold glass of 2% milk. Homegrown maters.

My favorite egg preparation and the first thing I'll eat when I get home, is what an old boyfriend called "Egg Soup." I boil them very soft, the yokes with a layer of cooked stuff and the rest still runny, scooped out into a bowl, mushed up with a crunchy piece of bacon, salted and peppered, eaten with a spoon. It tastes like pure spring sunshine. I might go crazy and spoon it onto a piece of buttered wheat toast, which I'll use then end of to sop up the last runny bits. Oh, and the butter goes on the bread before it's toasted--that way, you get these little spots of soft buttery yumminess. Old boyfriend called this "Egg Soup on Backwards Toast" and ridiculed me greatly until I talked him into a bite.

Then it was Egg Soup for two, baby.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's Finally Here...Almost

I leave the day after tomorrow. And despite my having spent the last week packing up and mailing boxes home, it still doesn't seem real.

My chore list at home is as long as my arm: rearrange my whole bedroom, paint the entire interior of my house and the guest apartment, buy and arrange furniture for guest apartment and back porch, plant daylillies, unpack the dozens of boxes I never dealt with while on leave AND the ten boxes I've sent from here...it's like a move, coming home after 15 months. I have a little over six weeks to knock it out.

And it's work I love--and what a great way to spend six weeks. Get up, make breakfast, work out (oh yes I will, it's a habit now), paint or otherwise work on the house/yard, cook dinner, chill with a glass of wine, go to bed. It just sounds amazing. And foreign. It's been so long.

I have a plan for maintaining and even improving on my 20-pound weight loss. No break from the gym. I get home Friday night, I'll give myself Saturday to be manic and knock out initial stuff, and I will be in the gym on Sunday. I know why I suddenly started losing--it's all the muscle I built. My metabolism must be on fire.

You should see my arms and shoulders--people, I have guns. My friend here, Doc, told me I'm cut. I can't say I've ever been described that way, but after six months of focusing on strength training, I found what works. I lift heavy, I lift often, and I'm at a point where I can maintain the muscle mass with only an hour a day in the gym, including the cardio. Granted, that's 5-6 days a week, but it's doable. And that's the point.

People, I can do pullups. Admittedly only two, but pullups!! I turn 38 next month, and I can do pullups!!

At some point, I quit worrying about dropping the weight quickly, and just made some small changes (along with the weights) that I can live with. I stopped snacking, and just eat meals that are big enough to keep me happy. Somewhere along the line, I quit thinking about food all the time. That sense of urgency (Must! Eat! Now!) went away. I came to not mind being a little hungry by the time a meal rolls around.

Don't get me wrong, I still have a little pad of what I call "refrigerated biscuit dough" around my middle, but I'm still dropping about a pound a week. And patience, I now understand, is the way to approach this thing.

Another secret? Success is wildly motivating--I look sooo much better. I've lost that bloated look I had with the 20 pounds. I bet I added at least five pounds of muscle...I'm smaller than I was when I joined the Army. Still not down to my Athens (Georgia) weight, but getting there. For the first time in years, I feel as though I look great--and it seriously keeps me from overeating. I feel HOT, and it's amazing. I don't ever want to lose that feeling again. It makes all the difference in the world--in how I interact with people, how I feel in the morning when I get dressed and ready for work, how I feel in the gym, everything. It's like a drug.

My next goal is the six more pounds I need to reach my Basic Training weight. At that point, I will start running again. And I know that will jumpstart the next ten pounds. Once that next six pounds is gone, I feel I can run without pounding my bum knee with all that extra weight. I took off the rucksack, and I just want to get back to running local 5K's, having the extra tool in my kit, be able to run outside in the fall. My favorite fitness activity ever.

In celebration of buying and looking good in a cute little Victoria's Secret tankini, I'm taking a vacation in August: Palm Beach, Florida, with my sis and possibly another buddy. And the other item on my to-do list: dive certification. I'm determined to do it before we go to Florida. Although if I don't get certified, snorkeling in my little tankini sounds like more fun than a barrel of monkeys!