For the Birds

Since the beginning of Project 40 I have had several challenges in mind. One of them was the Look Better Naked cleanse: a 2-day menu designed to “detox” your body. It seemed like a good choice because it was clear, it was only two days, it involved real food, and who doesn’t want to look better naked?

Since I was home alone for several days while the family attended a reunion (I had to stay home to teach…) the timing seemed right. I went grocery shopping and did all of the necessary prep work. I went to bed Sunday night excited to have a smoothie that just needed to be blended and a lunch that just needed to be packed. I was worried about the lack of coffee, but I’ve made it three days without during the Dr Oz cleanse. I figured the food would give me the energy I needed, and I could deal with any headaches.

I was wrong.

By 10:00 AM I was clutching my green tea and wishing I had more cucumber slices.

By 11:00 AM I was drinking black coffee to get through my class. It isn’t part of the plan, but it’s clean and calorie-free so I figured it was alright.

By 1:00 PM I had digested my lunch and I was hungry. Really, really hungry.

I made another cup of green tea to help me through rehearsal from 2 to 5. But I spent the entire three hours thinking about my stomach and feeling like I was having a sugar crash. I was dizzy. I couldn’t focus.

By 4:45 PM I was staring at the clock trying to figure out the nearest place to get food. I was honestly concerned about my drive home. Rehearsal ended and I went to the teacher’s lounge to raid the kitchen. I found, to my extreme relief, that I had some leftover pasta in the refrigerator. I wouldn’t even have to steal anything. (Although that option was absolutely on the table.) I ate the pasta cold and, still hungry, had three Oreos leftover from a recital. I was sick to my stomach most of the way home.

I did my best to follow the plan for the rest of the evening. But I added some snacks and salad ingredients.

Because. It was not. Enough. Food.

As a reminder, I’m just over 100 pounds. I am not a big eater. When I say this plan made me feel like I was eating like a bird, I mean literally. Yes, birds can eat more than their weight every day. But they don’t weigh very much. This plan quite literally felt like it would not keep a bird alive.

Not even a baby bird.

I have a lot of discipline. But I decided when I set out for Project 40 that I would only do things that felt healthy to me. And the Look Better Naked “cleanse” was not enough food. I decided it was for the birds.

I have plans for a longer-term, healthier-seeming clean eating plan in the near future. One that amounts to more than just a crash diet. Look for that one soon. In the meantime, learn from me:

Just because it’s on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Welcoming Lucy

My daughter has a heart for animals.

And when I say that, I don’t mean oh, she’s a little girl, so of course she likes ponies and kitties.

I mean that on a spiritual level, my daughter has a heart for animals. She wants to take care of them. She relates to them. Her demeanor becomes calmer when she is with animals. She knows what they eat. She knows where they live. She knows what they need- both from things she has learned and things she seems to know instinctually. Her favorite shows are “Wild Kratts” and “Aquanauts.” Her favorite place in the world is the Bronx Zoo.

Every year the kids at our church share their passions at an event called Passion Sunday. Lily has visited the Bronx Zoo and then spoken- in front of the entire church- about the animals she visited. Both years.

My kid. Loves. Animals.

It comes as no surprise, then, that her heart’s desire for quite a long time has been to have her own dog. Since we recently moved into an apartment that allows them (not just with the rules, but with the space. We have enough room inside to house a dog. We also have a yard with a fenced-in area.) it has been on our radar. A few weeks ago we told her that she could start working towards one. She got a sticker every time she went to bed without a fuss, got dressed for school without a fuss, or let Mommy do her hair for ten minutes. (Only one sticker was ever earned in by hair time. Baby steps.) She was doing pretty well with 25 stickers on her chart. So we decided to start a little research. We were looking at breeds, area shelters, that kind of thing.

And then on Saturday morning, I saw an announcement in my twitter feed.

It was Broadway Barks day.

I’ve always known about Broadway Barks. But not being as dog-obsessed as my daughter, I never paid much attention. Sure, gathering Broadway stars and adoptable dogs is an awesome idea. But it was never enough of a draw for me to get in the car. This Saturday was different though. We were looking for something to do with our Saturday. We were in the market, at least preliminarily, for a furever friend. Once I read on the website that most of the shelters that participate in the event don’t do same-day adoptions anyway, it seemed like a safe bet.

We would go to Broadway Barks with our animal-loving girl “just to look.”

Yeah, yeah. I hear you laughing.

Lily and I took the train in while Ryan finished up some business at home. We were excited to see the doggies. You know. Just to look.


We walked up to Shubert Ally and I was immediately overwhelmed. So many people. So many dogs. So much Broadway. Lily glanced casually at many of the dogs, stopping to pat one occasionally. She spent some time with this little lady, asking her handler what happened.


The handler told me that people stop to look at the sweetie, but don’t necessarily interact with her. My Lily knows what doggies need attention.

But she soon grew bored. She literally said “these dogs are boring to me.” And we spent some time with the cats. We already have two cats. We weren’t looking for cats. But she wanted to hang with the cats.

I was beginning to think the event would be a bit of a bust for us; I started wondering if we should find someplace fun to have lunch instead. That’s when Lily saw this face.


She looked up at me and said “I need to adopt that dog.” Without waiting for my reply, she called to the woman behind the table. “Excuse me? I need to adopt this dog!”

I asked the woman if we could spend a little time with her and if she could tell me about “Walinda.” She told me she had been a stray, was probably around two years old, and was both very sweet and housebroken.

Housebroken? I’m listening.

Meanwhile, Lily and Walinda bonded. Except that Walinda was now named Lucy. Lily told every passerby “This is my dog. Her name is Lucy. You can say hi to her and pet her but she’s going home with me.”

I sent Ryan the picture of Walinda (Lucy?) nervously waiting for him to tell me we had decided not to get a dog yet. Lily started to cry when she was waiting for Daddy to answer. She thoughts she was losing her heart’s desire. But his response: I’m in love. Do what you need to do.

And the adoption process began. Of course, we found one of the shelters who did same-day adoptions. We were getting a dog today.

This was not our family’s first adoption rodeo. And I found the process strikingly similar. Before anyone gets all up in arms thinking I’m comparing the life implications of adopting a child to those of adopting a dog- relax, people. I am clearly not even kind of saying that. But the process itself brought up a lot of similar emotions and thoughts. What if I fill out the paperwork incorrectly? What if they don’t like us? What if our references say something awful? What if they say no?

It didn’t happen with Lily. And it didn’t happen with Lucy. All the fears were for nothing. She was ours.

Lucy had to stick around for the celebrity presentations. Lily hung out with a bit of the cast of Rescue Rue while we waited for Lucy to shared the stage with Bernadette Peters.


Then we walked to the car, and we drove Lucy home.

And it really does seem to be her home. Lucy is indeed housebroken. To our surprise, she is also crate trained. She is an easy addition to our family- getting along with even our two 14-year-old cats. (Who would have rolled their eyes at me if cats could do that.) Lucy snuggles on the couch with us, goes to her crate when she needs a break, and hasn't had a single accident. She plays nicely with the other dogs at the dog park, is learning to sit, and stops when we say no.

She is the perfect dog.

I like to end my blog posts with a lesson, or some connection to things I've been writing about. But today, I'll just end with a thank
you to Broadway Barks for bringing us our furever family member.


Things I’ll Never Be

I just had the strangest moment.

I was walking out of Starbucks. That part isn’t strange. In fact, the barista at the location nearest camp where I teach asked me “so, are we gonna see you every morning now?” My reply, “During July? Yep.”

So that part wasn’t weird. Then I saw a pregnant woman walking across the street. She was really fit, so she carried like she had swallowed a basketball. The way I always kind of imagined I would carry because I’m so little. I felt a little pang. That part isn’t unusual either. I haven’t seen a pregnant woman without feeling that little pang for at least eight years. And then the same thought followed.

That will never be me.

This happens over and over. Sometimes more than once a day. Nothing about this is unusual, and I’ve stopped believing it will ever go away.

But here’s the weird part.

A new thought followed. Something entirely new, really. A “yopp,” if you will. (If you don’t understand that reference, please go read “Horton Hears a Who” or we can’t be friends.)

I had this crazy understanding that it’s true. That will probably never be me. I am thirty-nine years old. And if I have never been pregnant after all this time of trying and not trying and what-have-you, it seems unlikely it will ever happen. No one knows why. (Unexplained infertility. Gee. Thanks.) But it’s just not in the cards for me.

Being a mother is a big part of my life. But I have always felt a sense of loss that I never carried a child. But a new peace came today. It was as if someone tapped me on the shouldered said “You’re right. You will probably never be pregnant. You know what else you will probably never be? A farmer.”

Really, little voice? REALLY? A farmer?

I started to list all of the things I’d probably never do. Live in another country. Be a CEO on Wall Street. Learn to surf.

Now there’s a major difference between those things and being pregnant
I didn’t spend my entire life under the assumption that I would someday be a farmer. But the little voice made a fair point. There are lots of experiences I will never have. Being pregnant is one of them. One. One I really wanted, for sure. But not as much as being a Mom. Which I absolutely am.

And then I started to think of some of the ridiculous experiences I have had.

Living in NYC. Graduating from NYU. Performing Beethoven’s Ninth at Carnegie Hall. (As part of the main season.) Producing a show in the NYC Fringe Festival. Performing on the field for a sold-out stadium. Working with my favorite composer, John Bucchino. Writing a book. Having someone tell me I’ve changed their life. Having a judge declare that it is in the opinion of the court that we are the very best parents for this child.

Most people don’t get those things. Any one. Let alone all of them.

I will always feel that little pang when I see a pregnant woman. But today was different.

I just realized John Bucchino said it best. I had a glimpse of the weave.

I remembered something.
Something bigger than want, or even need.
Something that felt like contented.
I know it’s crazy, but something that felt like healed.
Something that felt like being free.

Turbo Sweat

My friend Melinda had been inviting me to Turbo Sweat at the YMCA for months. First of all, it’s at 8:15 AM. I kinda don’t do group classes. I really don’t do 8:15. But second, I didn’t know what was involved in Turbo Sweat. I knew it was difficult. I knew the very most hard-core members at the YMCA go. And the trainers.

And did I mention it was at 8:15 AM?

But I figured if I was a little scared, it made it the perfect challenge for Project 40.

So I set my alarm. And I walked into the gym at the YMCA trying not to think about the fact that I had no idea what was going to happen.

Right away I found Melinda. She hugged me and introduced me to the instructor and a few of her friends. Then I saw my friend Rob who suggested where I should stand and who I should watch. (And also, who I should maybe not watch.) Before class started I was given one final piece of advice.

Don’t leave.

You will be chased down.

Seriously. Don’t leave. If you have to pee, tell the instructor. Otherwise he’ll think you’ve given up. And he will chase you down.

I had two thoughts in response.

1. Man, I hope I don’t have to pee.

2. Why will I want to leave?

We got started. And for a while I’ve totally got it. It was like Tae Bo. I’m pretty OK at Tae Bo.

Ok, so it was like really relentless, nonstop Tae Bo.

Soon my arms felt like rubber bands. That was right about the time we started doing push-ups. I figured I’m new. So it will be fine if I just do my best and put my knees down and


So maybe not with the modified push-ups then.

I pushed on. Tried to kick at the height of the instructor’s hands as he came around. Tried to keep going. Then I realized. We’ve been doing everything on the left side.

Oh dear God.

This is half.

I got some water. The I saw that lots of people dropped out to get water. Even the trainers. And people were dropping sets to shake it out or stretch. Everyone needed breaks.

Aha. That took all the pressure off.

Sure, I wanted to do as much as possible. But I allowed myself some room to admit that “as much as possible” couldn’t possibly be every set of every exercise.

The right side was emotionally easier because I knew what was coming, and physically more difficult because holy cow I was tired. But I stuck with it. And I did it. And I got some water. And I was smiling.

And people weren’t leaving.

They were putting down mats. Because it was time for abs.

What the wha?

I have strong abs. I’ve never been afraid of a little ab challenge. So I jumped in.

And I have never had the feeling during a workout before that I might genuinely puke. Like, really. I thought for a moment it would happen.

Mercifully, the class eventually ended. I was exhausted. And sore. And a little nauseous. But I had done it.

I had a victory picture taken with a few of my friends and classmates. (Several were taken. None of them are acceptable. Below I’ve posted the one that’s the least upsetting.) The people I know from this class are all parents. One had just returned from a long trip. One had a three-day-old daughter. (A dad, clearly.) One has three boys who run her nearly ragged. But they all gather for this class. They encourage each other. And they push each other. And I get it.

I probably won’t return, but I get it. (Just not an 8:15 girl.) It’s about the community.


Aesop’s Fitness

I’m teaching drama at a Summer Arts Camp. The youngest of my students are presenting several of Aesop’s Fables. We started with the most popular: the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. When the scene ends, all of the students recite the moral together.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race.

This phrase has been ringing in my head lately. Partially because I hear it over and over. But it also has a lot of relevance to Project 40. When I think about the whole project, or even all of one challenge, I get overwhelmed. Nearly every time I run, I think to myself “I’ll never be able to run a half marathon.” Or a 10k. Or whatever I’ve decided to obsess over on that particular day. Of course I remind myself that I never thought I would be able to finish a 5k, either.

In the case of the Riverside Run, slow and steady finished the race.

And that’s probably a more helpful attitude in this case. Slow and steady finishes the race. Unless of course by winning we mean it in the you’re-a-winner-because-you-tried-here’s-your-trophy sense. Then sure. Slow and steady wins the race.

In order to remain slow and steady, I need to do 3 or 4 challenges a month. Otherwise I’m going to find myself like the tortoise: sleeping the whole race and sprinting too late towards the finish line. While our recent move put me in need of a little baby sprint, my steady pace has for the most part continued. In just under 3 months I have completed six challenges:

1. The Presidential Physical Fitness Test
2. Shrink Session
3. The Dr. Oz 3-day Cleanse
4. The Riverside Run
5. Cardio Boxing (blog about that one tomorrow!)
6. Breakfast

Yep. I am now a breakfast eater. I still have to make a bit of a conscious effort. But I know it makes a difference, so no more pushing through til lunch for me.

I have started a few other challenges and have plans for yet a few more in my immediate future. I should be on track to finish 15 or so by the 4-month mark.

But I did have a situation that put me a bit behind. For several weeks I tried to follow the 4-week summer work out challenge. And. It was too much. My life does not allow for four weeks of working out for an hour every day. I needed to follow another piece of advice from Aesop.

You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘Em, know when to fold ‘Em.

I think that was Aesop, right?

I learned a lot attempting the summer challenge. It got me back in the weight room. It had me trying things I wouldn’t have tried. But.

It was just. Too. Much.

I have a lot of trouble letting go of projects once I’m committed. But after my 4th week of trying to complete Week 4, I knew I needed to listen to the Gambler.

I mean Aesop.

So stay tuned as I slowly and steadily finish this race.

My Body is Not A Computer

I like data.

I like charts and graphs and budgets and just numbers in general that help me understand things. Maybe it’s because I appreciate its relationship to music theory. Maybe it’s because a class in grad school taught me how to quantify anything. But whatever the reason, I like data.

So I get really excited by things like the word count graph at Camp NaNoWriMo. Or the calorie counter on MapMyRun. Or, when I was trying to get pregnant, the temperature chart on Fertility Friend.

In my memoir about that time in my life, Hope Springs, I talked about the first month of temping, and how concerned I was that I had done something wrong. The following is a scene in which I discuss the situation with my therapist.

I could save myself a lot of time and money if I just walked into Dr. Matthews’ office one day and said “Here’s what’s bothering me, it’s probably my parents’ fault.”

But I’ve chosen to take the more difficult path. To examine each minute detail of my life. And today, it’s the minutia of my basal body temperature.

“I just don’t know if it’s right. It seems like I should have ovulated, and I just don’t get it. I really thought charting my temperatures would help me get pregnant, but right now it’s only making me crazy. But I mean, I know that it’s not the chart- itself- that makes a baby. I mean, the chart is just a tool to tell me when I ovulated. The actual chart itself has nothing to do with conception. I know that, right? No, I know that! Of course I know that. Having sex makes babies, not taking temperatures. It’s just a chart. But still.”

He’s smiling a little as I talk. I get the impression that he might even be laughing if his stoic therapist face were capable of laughter.

Last night I was running at the beach. We are so incredibly lucky to live near a place that looks like this:


So I’m looking around and trying to push a bit and enjoying the view. And I realize that at some point both running programs I’m using (MapMyRun to check pace and calories, and C25K to help me with intervals) have stopped running.

And so I stopped running. Because I mean, the workout was ruined, right? I would never figure out how many calories I had run, or how far. I would never know what my intervals were of whether they were “correct” or part of some official plan. So what was the point?

And then I thought of the scene above. And I started running again.

Because I like data. But if lack of data is getting in my way, then maybe I need to cool it with the whole numbers thing. Data about my body can be helpful. But I have a tendency to rely on it so heavily that if it’s not available I freeze. It is the workout itself that makes changes in my body. If I could track and manipulate data to get the exact physical results I wanted, I would have a biological child or two (in addition to my daughter) and would weigh about 15 pounds less. For that matter, if our bodies operated that way we could wipe out disease.

But my body is not a computer. It does not respond mathematically. Maybe I should delete MapMyRun for a bit.

(Starts to panic at the thought, realizes that if I’m panicking then I probably really need to do it…)

How to Run the Soft Reset on your Life

Two weeks ago, we moved into our new apartment. The next day,our cable was installed. I was quite proud of myself for being so on top of things. And hour later, the screen went pink. We were busy moving, so I didn’t have time to deal with this inconvenience. A few days later I decided to call for help. When I found the phone number, I read an all-but-plea from the cable company. It essentially begged that before you call, at least try resetting your cable box on your own. So I did. And it worked. I was basically a super hero. I sent my husband a text explaining what happened.


His message really resonated with me. When in doubt, restart.

A little under three months ago I committed to making some changes in my health. I was doing well for a while. And then, well, lots of things. I lost a friend to cancer. And we moved. And this happened.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago vowing to return to Project 40. Work-outs since this blog: zero.

I find myself on a other Monday morning. And I’m ready to start again.


Before I had a smart phone (remember the time before smart phones? My daughter doesn’t.) I was a Palm Pilot user. Big big fan. Relied on it heavily. And every once in a while it would slow down or get stuck. Since this was in the pre-software-update-every-few-months era, the problem was often that the device needed a soft reset. Remember those? You put a paperclip into that little hole and held your breath, hoping you didn’t lose everything?

And then you would turn the device off. And turn it back on. And everything was up and running again.

Sometimes you needed to delete something that was causing problems. Sometimes you lost a bit of work. But for the most part, you could start again.

Today, I am running the soft reset on my life. (Without the paperclip.) I have Flylady habits established from my past. I know what to do. I have a new home that sure, still needs to be unpacked a bit… But there is a place for everything, even if everything is not yet in its place.

I am participating in an abs challenge group, and have some plans to get me back on schedule for Project 40.

I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, working on a new book for the first time in years.

I even plan to *gasp* practice the piano accompaniment for the student show I’m musical directing this summer. (I usually just wing it.)

If a student came to me deciding to make all of these changes, I would discourage it. It’s too much all at once.

Except. These are habits that have already been in place in the past. It’s not a new Palm Pilot out of the box. It’s just a soft reset. Sure, I may lose a little of the work I had already done (like the few pounds I had dropped that are back…) but for the most part, I can pick up where I left off.

Turning off.

And… turning back… on.

And everything is up and running again.

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