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"Any changes you make to your eating plan should be sustainable long-term so that it becomes a permanent lifestyle change instead of a temporary diet"
Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer and Health Coach, 1/11/2021

October 12th... 2020 - 9 Years Ago Today…
My life looked completely different than it does now… I was happily married to a man I had called my husband for the preceding 30-years and together we were the proud parents of three amazing young men – the oldest of which had graduated that year from NIU and who was planning to marry the love of his life three days from today and the youngest of which had just come home from his 1st day of working for Sears, having gotten his degree in Applied Mathematics the previous year from IIT. Our middle son had just returned home after being out of the house for quite a few years getting his degree at IIT and beginning his career in a suburb of Chicago.
My sister lived nearby in a group home in Rockford. My brother was still in relatively good health living in his apartment in Chicago and working for a Contractor’s hardware store. Nothing about today foretold this future for any of us...
We all lived together in a rambling old house at 1311 North Church Street, a 5-bedroom fixer upper that we never did quite finish. One of our rented sons and his partner lived with us as did a rented daughter needing a place to stay that was quieter and more loving than from whence she came. This was the house that 20 years prior we had moved across the river for… the one where my kids actually grew up. As rough-around-the-edges as it was, we all loved that old house and we shared it gladly with an ever-changing cadre and a passel of cats. I was a full-time student at NIU starting what I thought would be my 3rd wonderful year and I was on top of the world.
Then 24-hours later we all fell from heaven in the matter of a couple of hours – into a place so dark that that nothing living could have thrived there…
Nine years have passed since those memories were made and today the world little resembles that reality. My oldest son now calls that beauty of a woman his wife and together they are the loving parents to my amazing grandson, Jackson, who turned 5-years old this past July. My middle son and the love of his life moved to the Twin Cities area and he is now a research chemist. My youngest son and his wife recently bought a home in the same neighborhood he grew up in.
And as for me I drive a different car than the one I had in 2011, I am an Oma in addition to a mama… I now live alone in an apartment overlooking the river, having lost that old house 5-years ago to foreclosure & my clowder of cats now numbers a sole survivor – Loki. I finally got my degree in 2014 but have worked at OfficeMax for the past 5+ years. My nights are many times lonely but I have also learned to appreciate my alone times. I am quieter than she was and a lot more introspective. I was a prolific poet back then but today I write only into my journal. School is a distant memory.
The world contracts under the weight of a pandemic that has permanently altered how we as a society live and very little in my life resembles anything that would have been true those nine short years ago. Sometimes I am left breathless at the realization of how much is different. Where I once was dependent upon others I now depend primarily on myself & even my sister has moved 45-minutes away – to Oregon, IL My brother’s ashes now adorn one of my bookshelves – in between my husband and mother.
On my way to work this morning I started to examine just how unlikely it would have been for anyone to accurately predict this present-day reality from the life we inhabited 108-months ago. And beyond the injunctions of pop-psychology there is little rhyme or reason to how we all fare when we look into the mirror today. On a brighter note I do weigh 25+ pounds less than I did 9-years ago… but I also see a lot more grey hairs than I know I had back then. I never expected the universe to remain unchanged during the last decade but I didn’t prepare myself in advance for just how dark the storms would be… I am melancholy today – and reflective to a fault.

September 9th 2020... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

August 1st... reset my weight, reset my weight tracker to finally reflect my present goal - no more looking backward and riding the laurels of my previous victories... starting fresh today. I have really been working on becoming more of a present-tense realist when it comes to some of my goals - it really doesn't matter anymore that I lost 80+ pounds years ago - BRAVO to me, but now it's time to move forward again.

July 26th... This has indeed been a stressful and rollercoaster kind of Spring/Summer...with quarantines and masks and a shortage of almost everything at one time or another, we have all been affected by this pandemic - no matter how remotely. I have worked throughout - being considered an essential worker. I was tested back on April 13th and I was shown to be negative. However circumstance beyond my control have made it imperative that I get tested again this Tuesday morning. I got the news of a possible exposure just as I was wrapping up a wonderful weekend with my grandson. At first I freaked out a bit but now I am calmer and will simply do what I need to in order to put all lingering doubts to rest.
In between all of that I am struggling with my weight, my eating, my exercise, and my pain levels... I have tried to log my food everyday for the past couple of months but I still haven't made one complete month. I know I have indulged in behavior simply out of an attempt to feel better that were not in any way the right solution for the problem... now I need to pick-up where I left off and get back into the journey of my life.

May 11th… I had the most amazing night yesterday and day today! After I got home from work I had the chance to videochat with Angie. Then I went over to Erich’s & Haley’s house to visit and they gifted me the most beautiful ring – a delicate gold filigree spelling out RUSZCZAK & I was speechless. Shannon, Haley’s aunt, and her beau John Kim gifted me a baked mostaccioli and green salad lunch which I feasted on this afternoon. And Courtney and Camden bought me a world map cork board which I will hang first thing tomorrow.
I got to work on time and as soon as the workday began we were swamped! I was so busy that the first four hours of my shift went by before I even noticed. I ended up with 4-SquareTrade & 6 Rewards Sign-Ups! Best day I’ve had in awhile! I had some great clients and a few jerks, but the day was wonderful overall and for that I am extremely grateful. Days like this make going to work a joy!
Right now I am just sitting at my desk, watching TV and journaling. I want to make a list of my credit cards and their account balances versus limits. I felt like spending money I didn’t have today and I promised my inner child that if she would just be patient we could make a list and she could see that we’re making real progress. She agreed as long as I did make this list and then keep it current. I don’t want to sound hokey about my inner child but sometimes I really do feel like its my internal childlike self that gets me into trouble when it comes to splurging on spending and also eating. It is that part of me that perpetually wants. I want to rein her in while also showing that part of me that I am worth this effort, that as long as I bring all of the different sides of myself together in love I can’t lose and life will get better every single day. I want to be as joyful as I am now – not just happy for the moment but deeply content.
I have tracked my food for the last three days and I honestly believe that I am more conscious of what I put into my body because of it. Sticking to this plan has lifted my self-image out of the shadow space it has occupied lately… I so need that.

April 17th... It was a little over a month ago that I last posted here, on my wall. In the interim what was just a topic of conversation (COVID-19) has become a scourge on the world at large and every one of our communities. Life as we know it is changed. Sheltering at home has both upsides and perils. With more time on my hands since my hours, even as an essential worker, have been drastically cut, I have more time to cook and prepare foods that are cleaner and better.
On the downside, hours of boredom make mindless eating far more possible and even a worthy alternative to doing nothing... much to my peril and my weight. For those of us that tend to eat according to our emotional state, the dread of the virus and the stress of 24/7 predictions, numbers, and tragedy leads us, in isolation, and deprived of the ability to reach out and touch those we love, to eat more and to eat more of the foods that will defeat our aspirations of getting fit, getting healthy and feeling in control of our world. We have a lot to pray for... but in the end we will succeed or fail according to how diligently we practice what we say we believe... that we're all in this together.

March 11th... The time has come for me to make a commitment to myself and my health. The specifics haven't been worked out yet, but I will see my Primary on March 18th and from there I want to restart my commitment to SparkPeople, to fitness, eating clean, and making this the best time of my life...
So much is happening in the world right now to make it a scary place... news agencies from around the world continue to announce the dangers of the COVID-19 virus and it had led to mass panic in so many sectors of life... more than anything it reminds me that health is #1 - if you don't feel good the rest of it doesn't really matter...
I want to be healthy again and I'm not... this has got to change!

January 19, 2020 ~~~ Another year, another decade ending and beginning... I want so much... but do I really want to work for what I want? That's the question I am asking myself this evening and the answer is important. I have done "this" for so long that it is time I ask myself "Why?" I vacillate between contentment & disenchantment. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark.
Maybe it's time I step back and actually decide what I'm going to focus on instead of trying to do everything I'm "supposed" to do? I have an open road ahead of me and no one to hold me back... my family and friends have always been supportive of my choices when they were healthy.
I need to take some time and meander through my life - remember who I am, who I used to be... regain my footing and renew my 20/20 vision.

December 9th... so much to learn, so much to do...

November 4th 2019... the year is speeding to its conclusion and there is so much I wanted to accomplish that just seemed to fall apart during the 2nd half of this year. Finances, Fitness, Diet, Work... all of it more tenuous now than it was just 6-months ago.
I learned once again that I can slip off the rails and into the muck if I am not conscious of my choices and attitudes.
I wish I didn't have to learn these lessons over & over again. But the end of 2019 and during the year of 2020 it will be one of those "two steps forward, one step back" periods in my life... I am not throwing in the towel just yet - but I really do have to start paying better attention to what the universe and my "self" is telling me. Tenacity might become my best friend...

October 22nd... we are now one month into Autumn and the world is ablaze in color. This has always been my favorite season. My spirit soars as the weather turns crisp. I am at the starting gate for a number of life changes and want to finish 2019 on a strong positive note.

August 17th... WOW - it's been almost three months since I added anything to my page... but it's been a hectic and very interesting summer. Things turned out very different than I had planned - but I need a little more time to process it all before I can set it down in pixels...

May 19th 2019 -- Although yesterday was a terrible day for calories my weight has remained stable. I’m still in the mid-150s. As long as I don’t backtrack into gaining weight, the occasional stasis isn’t quite as bad. I am grateful, in fact, that I am learning to let me body stay put sometimes. It’s a very hard lesson for me but at the heart of these last two years of weight management. Two years ago at this time I was laid up after surgery and this latest journey was fully underway as I was gaining weight almost every week. I reached a high of 166.1-pounds in January of 2018, up from a low of 136.4-pounds in February of 2017. Since then I’ve gone through all sorts of conniption fits about my weight. Slowly, though I began to realize that I was maintaining my weight, albeit at a level too high for my ego, with little stress if I just didn’t think about it so much.
For decades I was the diet princess – I could lose weight on almost any crazy plan, but keeping that weight off was damned near impossible. I would be okay for a short while, sometimes even a few months, but then the weight would pile back on far more quickly than it went off. While looking at my pictures over my life I came to the conclusion that I had become the great “accordion” woman – alternately expanding and contracting through the decades. I wanted off that merry-go-round. I started back on this trek in June of 2008, weighing right around 230-pounds, The first step was to return to the gym – the YMCA to be exact – and I became a “gym rat” even before I started to address my eating.
I joined SparkPeople on November 18th 2008 and by that time was just above 200-pounds. It’s been a rocky road sometimes but I know that having this site in my arsenal went a long way towards changing how I look at the whole diet-and-exercise thing. I’ve gotten better at maintenance and lazier at losing. And as I’ve gotten older my body is not as adept at simply shedding the weight everytime I eat a few hundred calories under my maximum. But I am still learning – and I might add getting better – especially at just picking myself up and getting going again after I fail. No more throwing in the towel for months/years at a time.

May 10th... Today was a good day. I've had quite a few of those lately... despite the fact that my bronchitis simply refuses to leave completely. And my heart is full of gratitude... for the loves of my life, for being a mother, for my apartment and the freedom I have forged for myself, for my job that lifts my spirits and reminds me everytime I go that I am more than just somebody's______. And for SparkPeople, and the chance to reach out to others that are also on their journey of self-discovery and so can appreciate mine. There may still be much to complete in my life, but I am especially grateful for the journey...
I know there are times when I get really down on myself, down about all the things I don't have, can't do at the moment, didn't do as well as I had thought I would or could... but for right now - this moment - the world and I are golden.

April 17th... 2019 -- In my cupboard I still have full bottles of It Works! Advanced Formula Fat Fighter™ and It Works! Ultimate ThermoFit™ as well as It Works! Greens™ which together are billed as the Triple Threat. I have been wondering about these products of late and since I already own them am thinking of trying them out – together – in something of a personal experiment for say a period of a month to see if they or any one of them actually do anything. I also have a small sampling of THRIVE Experience | Le-Vel® products, including some of their patches and have also wondered aloud how and if these work. Now I’m no fool but I am curious. Since I have far fewer of these products I would probably start with them.
This whole idea was rekindled by a photograph Dean took of me yesterday that really disgusted me… I look awful – not at all like the generally decent, actually pretty, overweight woman I thought I was. It shocked me into realizing that I am far from done because I just shouldn’t look like that when I am seated and not fully dressed. I have bitched and moaned about not losing weight ad nauseum, but I didn’t think I looked that bad since I settled in the high 150s/low 160s. But that picture spoke volumes and none of it was flattering. And while others have called me everything including “tiny” that was definitely NOT what I saw on that picture.

April 1st... I came to a realization as I was completing logging yesterday’s food intake on my tracker that I have set my caloric scale to go from 1200-1950 calories because that’s the range between my losing weight quickly and my maintaining my weight at its current level. I did this quite unconsciously. But it does give me an insight as to how I’ve been able to maintain my weight with so little fuss. Something inside of me makes the decision every day – “do I want to lose weight today, or just stay where I am?” How I eat that day then reflects my choice. I have been blogging forever now about how I want to get back to 136.4-pounds, but the truth is that on a daily basis, this is what has been going on underneath all that angst.
Do I still want to lose that weight? Most days… I guess not, or I would make choices that reflect this goal. But on other days I do, and now I’ve discovered within my very own process the tool to make that happen. What a revelation! It certainly explains how I’ve lost the first 10-pounds toward that goal (off my highest post-surgery weight). I am about 20-pounds away from that 1st goal (my eventual goal is to weigh about 129-pounds) on a daily basis – with minor fluctuations happening all the time.
Gaining any more weight is absolutely NOT an option I leave open for myself. My body appreciates the work I’ve done and rewards me with incredibly good health despite the fact that I have underlying autoimmune disorders and I smoke. Lately I’ve had all sorts of tests and procedures and incredibly I‘ve managed to keep myself in a condition that still allows me immense control over how I feel. For that I am both proud and extremely blessed. And at the end of the day also phenomenally excited because I now understand that the power – most all of it – does reside within me to change my world.

February 28th... the last day of February 2019... time to think about what I want for myself over these next 6-months until I turn 62. I am starting this period of my life in the low 160s and I know I want more than anything to be at my driver's license weight of 145 (or lower) when I renew it on my birthday this year. But I am completely unsure of how to accomplish this. This time around, nothing seems to really capture my motivation.
I am also approaching my 4-year work anniversary (April 14th). I know I want to stay on at least until I make my 5-years at OfficeMax... but where there? This year I am diligently working on my "getting debt-free" plan however I also want to travel... really go somewhere I've never been before... try something new...

February 12th... Our area of the country has really been nailed lately by snow storms and ice storms... making any kind of a long walk very difficult. Still I am lucky to have a job that keeps me on my feet for the entire shift (I work retail).
I am still experimenting with different ways of eating however I am 99% sure that however I structure my diet, not eating anything heavy in the hours before I go to bed seems to make the biggest difference with how well what I'm doing translates to the scale and the fit of my clothes.
My body has made it very clear that the "cleaner" I eat the majority of the time, the happier it is - even my IBS is easier to control. I want to come out of this year better than I went in... however that manifests itself.

January 8th 2019... the first week of the New Year is finished and I've accomplished a lot. I'm learning about meal-prepping, continuing to work on becoming debt-free, getting in touch with my doctors to get the check-up, tests, and medications I need to be at my best. I've caught up on organizing and have started purging extraneous "stuff" from my life. Still not logging, but I'm keeping watch and I will work on beginning that process again very soon. Still enjoying the freedom from counting... and I'm holding fairly steady in weight.
On January 6th I weighed 164.5-pounds and I changed my weight on both SparkPeople & FitBit. I want to begin this year spot-on honest about my weight – both the good & the bad… In fact I want to become more rigorously honest in all my endeavors. Especially anything that pertains to my progress in one of the many journeys I have set myself upon. I have allowed myself too much wiggle room in these matters and it has detracted from my joy whenever there is a victory to celebrate or a failure to learn from… and I don’t want to do that anymore… There’s no pleasure left in “getting away with it” when it’s me I’m trying to cheat or hoodwink.
It's not the best solution, but for right now a good one. I'm doing more journaling and getting a lot more honest and open in what I write (don't ask me why I've censored myself there... I'm not sure) but the more honest I am becoming in my life the more I'm getting ready for a fitness push.
Not sure where this year will take me, but I'm definitely in my life in a more involved and introspective way and it's producing results. I am holding myself to my promises in other areas of my life until I can get this weight loss/tracking/fitness thing off the ground. I know keeping in touch here on SparkPeople - even in a less detailed way by not logging my food, is essential to where I want to be and where I want to go...

December 27th 2018... Since I’m in a pensive mood anyway I figure this is a good time to begin to reflect on this past year. Beginning with my weight issues. For long stretches of this year I didn’t log my food intake at all. Actually my boycott started even before 2018… I quit logging on October 26th of 2017 and didn’t start again for 6-months (4/26/18)… then I quit again on September 1st of this year and haven’t started back as of yet. I didn’t actually decide to quit either time – just sort of gave up all at once. Of course I still weigh myself and try to keep in contact with SparkPeople but I just didn’t want the hassle of recording everything I ate for a while.
Of course 2017 was the year I had foot surgery and watched my weight balloon from a low of 136.4-pounds on February 6th 2017 to a high of 166.1-pounds on January 15th 2018. But for most of 2018 my weight has remained steady, vacillating only a few pounds here-or-there. I will probably end the year right around 162-pounds… so the weight I gained after I was laid up has stubbornly refused to leave and while I have become an active walker again I don’t seem to be able to make a dent in any of my numbers. On a bright note however, this is a year that saw me log less of my food intake than over the previous 10-years. What that tells me is that this is a weight I could probably maintain for the rest of my life.
The question then becomes – do I want to weigh this for the rest of my life? I have a very firm and adamant answer for that – NO! I really think my body would do better at 129-pounds. I’ve never thought that this number was unrealistic and no one I’ve shared it with has felt it was unwise or unhealthy. So how do I go about shedding these last ~30-pounds? And will I be able to maintain that weight as easily as I do my current weight? What would I have to do differently than I do now, eat differently, how would my thought processes have to change? I am afraid of starting a yo-yo effect with my weight – I know that’s unhealthy both physically and emotionally. I did that for decades and it was awful. After having dieted for the vast majority of my life (I think I was 9 the 1st time) I am completely unsure of what to do now.

One week until Christmas 2018... and I am both festive and contemplative... so much to do and so much to be thankful for! This morning I weighed 161.1-pounds, not wonderful but far better than I thought. I am right to believe that my body and the way I eat normally really does settle at right around this weight. But come the 1st of the year I really want to push ahead to a lower weight setpoint. One of the SparkPeople Coaches advises that we should find our “happy” weight not some numeric ideal. But although my body seems quite content to maintain itself around 159-162-pounds, emotional “me” is NOT happy here. So which one do I listen to? Medically I know that 129-pounds is a much better weight for my body frame, age and physical health. This is not some fake “beauty” weight, but a genuinely good weight for someone like me to maintain.

December 2nd... the last month of 2018 is upon us and everywhere I look the world is in full Christmas mode. This will be a truly good month - I can feel it! Last month I celebrated my 10-year Sparkversary and I am holding steady at about 159-pounds even though I have taken the last three months off from formally logging my food intake. I am getting a minimum of 10,000 steps in on at least 5-of-7 days per week and that's one reason I think that my weight has been so stable.
I will resume tracking in January because, despite warnings to the contrary, losing these last thirty pounds will be my New Year's Resolution and I want to hit the ground running!

November 12th... I have this presence online…on Facebook & Google+… on SparkPeople & Pinterest… and of course with my fledgling blog, Serendipity’s Ditchdigger on Blogger. I even have a VERY minor presence remaining on MySpace! There are details about me at and related academia sites. And I’m sure there are wisps of my poetry on various sites throughout the cloud-o-sphere. I exist in this digital world just as surely as I do in the flesh-and-blood world of Rockford, Illinois. I have always been tempted to pay one of those PeopleFinder sites to get a full report on myself – just to see what others can see but I’ve never done it. I also have a profile and information on… and I’m sure if I searched my memory and the internet long & hard enough I could come up with several more places where traces of me linger. Yet I aspire to something more… a place of my very own consolidated…

October 13th... It took my almost an hour to catch-up on everything here on SparkPeople... I didn't realize I had been away so long! I'm still not logging my food but want to check-in every day. I'm wearing my FitBit Alta HR almost everyday now and at night too and recording both my activity and my sleep patterns. On the days I work I average 15K steps! My weight has floated back into the low 160s but it's not all bad - this weight seems relatively easy for me to maintain.
I don't know what direction this is all taking me right now but I do know that I'm not giving up.

September 26th... what a crazy month... with my birthday coming at the beginning (September 9th) and my thoughts turning to next chapter of my life (as it always does in September). My weight refuses to go much lower than the mid-150s and frequently floats into the low 160s of its own accord. But seeing that I haven't logged my food since September 1st the fact that I didn't gain my weight back from its highest point is something to be grateful for - and I am.
October 1st I see my doctor again and there is much I need to discuss with him regarding my health - no big worries of course just a lot of details that would help me live my best life. I am still seriously considering keto or carb-cycling but something about giving up the processed carbs really scares me... how nutty is that? But when I think about eating clean I have a great deal of trepidation and this vague nagging sense of loss... sigh

August 20th… I reset my weight trackers to reflect this morning’s weight (158.5-pounds) on both the FitBit app and SparkPeople. Why? Because the truth is more exciting than wishful thinking and I want to document my genuine struggles as much as possible. It can be hard to stay at this weight sometimes and pretending that the struggle is easier than it is diminishes the importance of my quest. I want to learn to embrace my truth wherever it might take me because none of this comes easily to me. I know I am apt to color my reality at times and I want to get away from doing that so I know I am living authentically.

August 8th... It's time to bite the bullet and begin carb-cycling with keto... I simply need to do something different than I have been doing. Although I am grateful my body seems to hover in the 150s without much effort. I never thought that could be my reality when I weighed a hundred pounds more than I do today... maintenance was a dream... but now I'm ready to reclaim my 136.4-pound victory.
Work has been super busy because of Back-to-School and I am walking at least 10,000 steps a day. I am sporting a FitBit Alta and trying to find more ways to burn calories. But it's a real knock-down-drag-out fight with my food cravings and crazy eating schedule.

July 21st... my weight has been up-and-down but seems to be hovering in the high-150s all by itself... finally recovered from all those germs! Last two weeks at work were my happiest in months!! Lots of things to get right but I am feeling on top of the world and ready for the challenge!

June 17th... Father's Day 2018. I am at the tail end of a bad bout of bronchitis and a week away from my youngest son's wedding! I have been off work for almost a week-and-a-half. Starting tomorrow it will life-as-usual and getting ready for the festivities. I'm hoping this is my "sick time" for 2018 (the last time I had a cold was back in November 2017). Although I still feel a little like my sinuses are under water.
Stepping outside of one's life when you're recovering from a cold is surreal - time slows down - thoughts are fuzzy because of the congestion or the cold medications. My taste buds are flat and I'm smoking way, way, way too much out of boredom. Then getting going seems like such a huge project.

May 25th... It's been tough but I am finally less than 30 pounds from my ultimate goal of 129-pounds and only 21.5 pounds above my previous lowest weight. I am carb-cycling and keto-ing and trying to get in as much walking as possible. One of the hardest things is not eating at night since I have been working evenings for almost two months now - but it definitely pays off by letting me get better sleep, be more regular and actually hold on to the weight loss I am working so hard to earn.
For me one of the hardest aspects of following a healthy lifestyle is being able to find that happy medium between watching my numbers and obsessing over them. But I am proud of the fact that I simply have not given up and after almost 10-years on SparkPeople I have learned to ride my ups & downs with a real measure of grace and persistence.

May 12th... I returned to tracking exactly as I said I would and so far doing that, as well as really watching my carbs seems to be working for me. One of the biggest things I have to be vigilant about is what I put into my mouth in the evenings. I am also becoming very picky about eating out having found myself disappointed more times than pleased. I am so close to breaking back into the 150s and I can't hardly wait!
Work is slow but I'm doing a lot of walking. I wish sometimes I could just lose these 25-pounds overnight but I'm back to slow & steady and I know in my head and most times in my heart that this is the way to go.

April 7th... On Thursday, April 26th I will begin logging my food once again after having taken a 6-month break.

March 19th... I had the inspired idea that maybe the reason I’ve gained so much weight is that I’m eating too many carbohydrates but I can’t discern a definite pattern from the charts I pulled up. This would be so much easier if I could pinpoint the reasons behind this weight gain. I think I am going back to my original conclusion that it has more to do with exercise than food.
I remain curious however as to what would happen if I consistently ate a maximum of between 50-100 grams of carbohydrate per day – would the lower carbs push me into ketosis? And if that were the case would it result in my feeling better and re-starting my weight loss? Unfortunately the only way to test this theory is to return to logging my food intake – something I am seriously contemplating doing come April 26th. I’m not looking for the quick fix as much as attempting to discern what makes my body happy to be lighter.

March 10th… OMG what a Saturday – one SquareTrade on a chair and five-yes-five more ink subscriptions by the time I left after 6-hours. Haley was kind enough to take me both to and from work so I also got to sleep in, eat breakfast, and after work pick up my Prozac prescription. None of the payments cleared today but I sort of figured they wouldn’t given that it’s Saturday. I will wait until they clear (probably Monday) before I make the last payment of the month – to the Amazon Prime® VISA™ but at least all the charges have cleared so I have an accurate balance on that account. For dinner I stuffed myself with 5 Chicken Tenders from Beef-A-Roo. But overall, even though the scale was being very mean to me this morning, I am still confident that I am eating better and the weight will drop back off. I think it might just be a serious rebound effect from how dehydrated I must have been during my illness.
I am currently reading another fascinating and definitely psychology-oriented book, The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. This book builds on the work of Daniel Kahneman, whose book I read a few months ago. I still have quite a few books to get through before I break open my wishlist but so far I’ve kept up a pretty steady pace. I know that reading is as much a “safe harbor” for me as is walking… something I do to come to a place of serenity and balance – no matter how tough of a subject. It’s the education component of reading that feels so invigorating and refreshing at the same time – it’s mental calisthenics.
Come April I want to begin the great spring purge of 2018. I’ve kept this apartment neat & tidy for the most part – and more organized than any other domicile I’ve ever inhabited; however it needs a bath as well as a major reduction in stuff. I am still trying to decide what to do about the books I no longer wish to keep – give them away or donate them formally to an organization… or even maybe sell them back to Amazon? I don’t want to list them separately so I would use Amazon’s buyback service if I were to sell them. I want to know they’re going somewhere that will appreciate them and that they will be read over and over again by someone.
Tonight we push our clocks forward one hour to enter Daylight Savings Time. I’ve already reset all of the manual clocks in the house in anticipation. It’s going to be weird waking up in the dark again but getting off most days while it’s still daylight will be fantastic! Except for the nights I close I should be able to walk to & from the bus stop without worries. My kids and Rose have been amazing but I am looking forward to being back to independence. I never want to take for granted how much the quality of my life and standard of living is dependent upon their support and assistance. And while my ego suffers at times they never make me feel like I am putting them out. I am so blessed to be a part of a team effort within the family and another one within the confines of my employment. Who gets this lucky?
It’s not fair that I’m getting hungry so late in the evening – it’s just a half-hour before midnight and now my stomach is growling… grrrr. Figures though – it always seems like I get hungry at inopportune times during the day and night. But of course it doesn’t matter in the long run since I’m trying hard not to weigh myself every morning and just give my body the time it needs to make a real difference. My system seems quite content with the 160s even though my psyche is fixated – as is my ideal body – on being 129-pounds. I still think that would be the optimum weight for my frame. While the actuarial tables might put my ideal weight at around 110-lbs. I think that’s too unrealistic and restrictive for what I want for myself.

February 9th...
After picking up my prescriptions at CVS and lunch at Culver’s (a Cod Sandwich and Cheese Curds) I came back to the apartment and got Strego. By the time we got Hillcrest Animal Hospital my heart was beating so hard so fast & hard I could feel the pulse in everywhere in my body. After a minor amount of preliminary paperwork I was taken to a room.. Rose stayed with me until the tech came with the euthanizing medication (pentobarbital).
I held Strego in my arms as they delivered the medicine – his head nestled in the crook of my ar. Within seconds he was gone… unafraid and knowing – I think – how loved his was. It was all carried out gently & and with great compassion and afterwards they left me alone with him and told me to take however long I needed to say my goodbyes. Once I informed them I was ready to let him go they gently carried him out of my sight wrapped in a soft blanket.

January 15th... 2018. Health & Fitness-wise it's been a very frustrating first two weeks of the New Year... my weight is higher than ever - I've now put back on 30-pounds over my lowest and I'm feeling miserable... our family even formed our own "Biggest Loser Club" in preparation for my youngest son's wedding at the end of June. I can't get any traction, and I've resisted starting logging again because I get so obsessive... I need help!

December 19th... Christmas is less than one week away! Where has this year flown off too? I am holding steady even though I have taken a much needed break from logging my food - I am starting to eat "cleaner" and more wholesome foods on my own! Still have that ~20-pounds (18.6 to be exact) to lose to get back to my lowest weight, however I am preparing for the big push come 2018. I might have to have surgery again - my foot didn't heal like we had all thought...
But if I'm off my feet this time for the same 12-weeks I will find a way to burn calories come hell-or-high-water!

November 14th…159-pounds…recorded weight on SparkPeople … learned a frightening new term – “excess-calorie malnutrition”.
It is a fact of life that we need to eat yet this process has become so convoluted it takes an expert to inform us just how to go about it? When did I forego my own sense of self and body and turn over all this discretion to the realm of experts? And am I better off for having done this? These are questions I have yet to answer – in fact these are questions I am just beginning to ask… as a species and as an individual adult we were genetically and evolutionarily programmed to take care of ourselves… when did this become an exercise in rocket science? Yet the more I read the less sure of my own ability to make decisions that are I in my best interests. What-in-the-hell is going on? Yet as pissed-off as I am the words I read feel correct.

October 18th... 2017 -- still plugging away...

September 4th... this morning I weighed 155.7-pounds - not quite 20-pounds above my lowest... and yet I am okay... I have decided that for whatever reason this is where I need to be until my birthday - there is some karmic lesson in all of this - although at the moment I don't know what that is... I will weigh myself daily from now until September 9th - my 60th birthday... and from there I will begin to make the changes necessary to regain my momentum and return to my lowest weight of 136.4-pounds that I first achieved back in February.
Once I hit my stride again I know that 129-pounds will happen & I can use that image to propel me... until then I just need to let it be since all my previous machinations have accomplished little but to stress me out and make it easy for my to really self-loathe. I don't need that kind of negativity and so I am casting it off unto the ether of the refuse pile, along with all the other self-defeating thoughts and behaviors I once entertained...

August 29th ~~ I simply don't know what I'm doing anymore ☹

August 18th… I am changing my weight tracker back to 136-pounds – not because I want to fool anyone or delude myself but because honesty hasn’t made a difference so I am trying a new approach – flooding my visual field with the number 136. Although I want to eventually get to 129-pounds this 1st goal is super important to me given that I had reached 136.4-pounds back in February and haven’t seen that weight since ☹. I have it on my home page, a chart on my refrigerator – and now I am putting it everywhere I can on SparkPeople. At the same time I am changing my daily caloric intake to reflect what it should be to maintain my weight at 136-pounds and let that be my guide now. My thinking is this – if this is what it takes to maintain my 1st goal weight and I stick to it I should reach it in a timely manner.

August 8th... One month and one day until my 60th birthday... I have been without a scale for several weeks - it feels like forever - I'm not yet sure whether it's helped or hurt (I am continuing to track)... I think I will buy myself a new scale come September for my birthday present to myself... I think I am ready to handle knowing what I weigh on a weekly basis...
In the meantime I am learning to love myself without external validation... without "proof" so to speak...

July 24th...
...have I gone crazy or do I still feel lighter even though I couldn't keep from snacking last night -- ?
a short stack of Zesta saltines w/ Land 'O Lakes spreadable butter w/ Canola oil and more Starburst (which I've put back in the cabinet).
Without a scale I am forced to look at my body and feel its contours as my guide to whether or not I'm on the right track... that and continuing to login to SparkPeople and making sure I log my food intake and at least estimate my fitness minutes...
I have a lot of re-learning to do...

July 23rd... One week without the scale... I think I feel lighter... I know I'm less stressed and can finally eat at night after work if I'm hungry because I don't worry about it affecting "the numbers" anymore. Still logging and still need to improve my eating habits but I'm walking more (it still hurts) and that is the best medicine I can get. Once I'm 100% I'll be at my lower weight again...

July 16th... One of the things I did this weekend is somewhat of a miracle and a huge act-of-bravery on my part – I gave away my bathroom scale – that’s right – I have no way of weighing myself at the present moment. My obsession with those numbers was draining me of all my joy and though I haven’t given up my goals – not in the least – I will wait a while before I buy another scale – in the meantime I am going to get to know my body and its signals again and put more faith in my ability to sense when I have lost weight. Then once I’m ready I will buy another digital bathroom scale and see if my putting some distance between us will make the scale less of an enemy and more like an ally. I am tired of depressing myself every morning.

July 1st... 2017 -- I am not in a good space right now - still fighting my weight and losing confidence in myself to know what to do. I tried not weighing myself for a few days and discovered I had only gained more weight. I know I am retaining fluid - I know I am not back to my full activity level or my full health... however I can't shake these feelings of failure and without breaking free from this morose attitude I will get nowhere...

May 21st... Re-set my weight trackers to more accurately reflect the ups-and-downs of my weight since weighing my lowest back in February. I now have a much more accurate view of this frustrating time. Today I weighed 145-even. I need to show this journey not run from it - hence the additional numbers now on record. I've gained roughly 10-pounds since weighing my lowest, the most stubborn pounds being those that occurred after my surgery on March 22nd. But if I wish to enlist support I first have to be honest with myself and everyone else - especially here on SparkPeople.
This is going to be a long hard slog back to my lowest weight but I’m starting to view it as a contest instead of a curse. I know myself to be very competitive and this has given me an entirely new prospective on this journey. I also know I need to step back and not be as paranoid about the numbers on the scale or the pooch around my belly. I see and feel every one of those 10-ish pounds even though I seem to be the only one who notices (or the only one honest enough to acknowledge it).
I've posted about it on Facebook and now here. Given my history of bouncing weights I know exactly where my anxiety comes from - the total terror surrounding putting back on all 90+ pounds I've lost over the past 8-years... I also know that this is impossible to do one-day-to-the-other and I need to get my head clear and focused on the immediate goal of getting myself back under 140-pounds... I haven't given up my ultimate goal of weighing 129-pounds however that won't happen overnight either.

May 20th... NOTE TO SELF...
Had a wonderful day resisting temptation at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg with Stephan, Ashley, and Jackson since it rained too hard and too much to make going to the fairgrounds realistically pleasurable - so we'll have to do the *Pec-Thing* next year and hope for sunshine that day.
As the totals show it would have been a decent day of eating had I not splurged on a Small Portillo's Chocolate Cake Shake (must be 16-ounces at least). Although I shared it with Jackson and he did drink about a quarter of it those calories probably put me way over the top for today.
Then I got hungry in the evening but the cheese & crackers weren't a bad idea for dinner.

May 13th… 2017… Ten years ago on this day, the Saturday-before-Mother’s Day, my mama, Hildegard Warner went home to be with her Lord and Savior. I normally don’t speak in such pointedly religious terms but there is no other way to describe Mama’s home-going. All her life was tied together by serving God and her Church. On that Mother’s Day then, in 2007, two things happened – I became an “official” orphan and the matriarch of my family. I haven’t looked at Mother’s Day quite the same since. Now 10-years-later I pause once more to reflect back on all that has transpired since that day…
Mama never got to see her grandsons graduate from college, but I know she was beaming as each of them crossed the stage. She adored her grandsons – and her love has given mine guidance whenever I am with my own grandson, Jackson. I doubt my mother thought she would be joined by her own son a mere 5½ years later, but I’m sure she took a picture of Steve as he entered the gates of his new home. What did she say to Erhard I wonder? Was she worried that I was now alone? How much harder it must have been when Steve died just 11-months later. I know she kept watch over Angie all that next year… I could feel her presence and so could Angie who routinely spoke with her during her most needful times.
Now Angie is doing well – better than well – and I hope each day that Mama is proud of what I’ve done for her… She’s never far from my thoughts… I have her tri-gold ring ever on my left ring finger to carry her with me wherever I might go. I finally had it re-sized so that it’s now a permanent fixture on my hand. I thought of her as I walked across the stage myself in 2014… she and Erhard and Steve making up my own trifecta of Jedi-masters. I am melancholy today because not missing her has never been an option and even as each Mother’s Day comes and passes the realization of her being gone and my position as eldest female never quite leave my thinking. I am forever grateful that she knew I loved her before she went home.
How ironic it was those ten years ago, however, since not 24-hours before she slipped into a coma had I promised to take her to my house to live once she recovered from her latest bout with infection. God had other plans… there are always a million regrets that can eat into one’s soul after being a caregiver… and I know that at times I was a lousy daughter – the unvarnished truth – yet I adored this woman with my whole heart and had longed for her love all my life. I know so much more now than I dared admit then, but even so, I’d give up most of my world for 5-more-minutes with her… to just fall into her embrace and be little again.
To my daughter-in-law, Ashley… I want you to know how much I love you and stand in awe of your own mothering… to my friends who are mothers… I send a special hug of knowing love… to everyone I have had the privilege to mother – my three sons, Stephan, Christopher, and Erich first & foremost, I am thankful each day for the honor of being called your mama…
there are no more words that would better explain my feelings, so I will just leave my thoughts here… with one last … Happy Mother’s Day…

May 2nd... it would have been my 36th wedding anniversary so I am feeling nostalgic and a touch melancholy... it doesn't help that my weight is stubbornly holding at well above my lowest and even though I see my doctor in a week I grow impatient with my lack of mobility...

April 17th... I am so incredibly bummed out and I need support... I have been off my feet since March 22nd due to foot surgery and despite what I think has been a good effort on my part I am now 11-pounds heavier than my lowest weight... I am morose and angry at myself and trying to find some patience in the knowledge that I am so much less active right now. I've even tried to adjust my eating but I think I'm failing at everything...
I just don't know what to do with myself right now...........................

April 13th... Stitches and Stabilizing Wire are out... three more weeks before I can walk any kind of distance, but I am in an air cast/boot for support so a bit more mobile than just the wheelchair... can't get my weight to cooperate at all - very disheartening but today I ate & drank myself silly just because... come tomorrow - back to normal for me!

April 6th... becoming restless not being able to move around much after my foot surgery... but the healing is doing fantastic!

April 3rd... WELCOME APRIL 2017!

QUOTE OF THE DAY 03.16.17...
Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

March 10th...
well that might explain it... a late night snack of 16ozs. of Zammuto's Cherry Granita might well have thrown off my good intentions for one more day... my weight is being stubborn and it's starting to really get to me... on top of that I think I'm trying to fight off a bug. I keep telling myself that weight fluctuates (especially mine) but the fact that I'm skipping around the low 140s has me in a serious funk...

February 20th... this month is turning out to be a rough one when it comes to money issues. I have lost two sources of income within the past couple-of-weeks. I am still doing okay but these developments were unexpected. I am having foot surgery come the 22nd of March - so until then its all about getting my "house-in-order" so I don't have to think about much beyond recovery come April. I have noticed that when my weight fluctuates now it remains in the 130s... WooHoo!

February 3rd, 2017... I tweaked my numbers - lowering my goal weight by 2-pounds (I want to flirt with the 120s once in my life) and upping my daily allotted calories to take into consideration how many hours I spend on my feet and moving at work each week (since my calories tracker does not change).
Lately I binge nightly on ice cream but save myself only because the amounts are probably half of what they would've been before this SparkPeople journey began... still I'm really concerned about the sudden and dramatic spike in my sweet-tooth cravings... and confused.

January 17th... Lately I feel Like I can't do anything right.

January 8th, 2017 -- The Holidays officially end this evening - the 12th Day of Christmas and Epiphany Sunday... back to everyday life and the long winter ahead.

December 22nd... There's only a little over a week left to 2016. What a year it's been! I am so looking forward to the adventures that will be mine for the exploration in 2017. I want to continue to focus on being the very best me I can muster. This means physically, at work, emotionally, with my grandson... you get the picture - every day striving to make this moment the most important moment of all... There is much to recollect and much more to reflect on... but I am indeed blessed because I am surrounded by love, thrilled by challenge, and passionate about learning. I really like & love the person I've become.

December 19th 2016...
Only 11 days left to the year! I weigh 137.4-pounds!

November 11th - 137.6 pounds and counting - just 6-1/2 pounds to go and I will equal my all-time lowest adult weight... for that I am thankful in more ways than I can say...

October 21st - I am still trying to wrap my head around weighing 138.6 pounds - the lowest weight I've attained since I was a senior in high school and that time I achieved it by obsessively exercising & not eating. Not so this time - I've done it slowly and healthily - but my head is spinning over this latest achievement anyway.

You'll Never Believe What I Did...
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
I have been reading Geneen Roth's book "Women, Food and God" (Geneen Roth is one of my "gurus", Marsha Sinetar is the other). I have learned so much about self-love & trust from her books and journey.
But today I did something I don't think I've ever done - we were a local medical facility, keeping one of my best friend's mom company during her treatment... as part of her usual intake process she steps on a scale to weigh-in. It's one of those pressure-sensitive ones built right into the floor - after her weigh-in I gleefully (GLEEFULLY mind you) asked the nurse if I could step on - ME in public, weighing myself for fun! My girlfriend guessed 159 pounds ... however the scale read a little over 148-pounds (this is after I've been up for a while have had lots of liquids and was fully dressed) She was amazed and the nurse smiled approvingly and I nearly jumped for joy - I think I actually giggled...
NEVER NEVER NEVER would you have told me before that very moment that I would have ever done that... celebrated me... not the perfect me, not the I'm-at-my-goal-weight finished me, but the ME I am today... !!!! In that moment I loved myself and wanted to brag about myself and my progress in the most subtle for others, but for me most demonstrative, way possible and that scale was my opportunity. AND I TOOK IT!
I haven't "come down" from that experience yet... I am so amazed, so overwhelmed by how good this feels...
so going to remember this the next time I want to beat myself up over something....
I just wanted to share... because you, my online SparkFriends, have been my support for almost 8 years now and I know I would not be here without all of you...

September 9th... 59 years old as of 9/9/2016 - 145 pounds.

July 27th... Still hovering in the 140s but its a stubborn struggle with my bouncing between my lowest (144.4) to my highest (149.8) weight but I am grateful that I have learned patience and persistence with SparkPeople!

June 3rd... Acknowledging Setbacks & Celebrating Victories¦ I re-set my weight track on SparkPeople this morning to reflect my true weight as of this morning -- 149#. I am pleased to be back in the 140s after bouncing around in the 50s for the better part of a week. But I realized something upon waking up this morning - if I'm unwilling to acknowledge my setbacks, then how am I to be truly proud of my victories? One almost depends on the other because had I not had to work as hard as I have over these past few years when it came to my weight (among other things) my dynamic life would actually be rather dull and static.
I want to learn to realistically appreciate myself w/ no fairy tales, no pretending that ups & downs don't happen & a genuine appreciation of my growing sense of self-reliance and self-efficacy depends entirely upon honesty. So today I am celebrating "getting real" as much as I am looking forward to returning to the low 140s and beyond. This is how I view and treat the rest of the people in my life - with compassionate love and true joy at their victories - it's more than time I do the same for myself.

May 30th... Yesterday I walked down the hill after Mass at St. Peter's to see how 1311 N Church was fairing. There is now a zip-tie on the mailbox so we won't have to worry about lost mail anymore. The porch and garage have been emptied and the old car is gone... there are numerous "No-trespassing" signs on every outside wall and front window. Erich looked it up and said it was now on the market as a foreclosure with an asking price of $70K. But the old girl looks like there's someone watching over her and I can now walk away for the last time without regret. I am hopeful that if it ever does become a home for someone else that they will love it back to life. She was a good home – she deserves that from her next occupant.
Perusing some online real estate records it appears that both 1232 South Grove and 620 Paris sold last year- I guess 2015 was the year all properties changed owners. Not sure why I was so curious but it is a coincidence isn't it? This apartment is my home now - located in the River District I am close to where I am familiar and closer still to the real downtown areas of Rockford making this an ideal location. I live in a building with a name "SkyRise" - an evocative name it is indeed! I am the Oma in the high-rise overlooking the river. The size of the apartment is perfect for me and the amenities - while simple - are exactly what I'd like in a place.

May 15th... Pentecost Sunday. I am on the 3rd day of the Metamucil© Fiber-Full Challenge on SparkPeople. Although I don't work today I am once again up early but this time I took advantage of that fact and enjoyed a nice, long, hot shower. I need to do laundry later on this afternoon/evening but otherwise can look forward to a relaxing day at home after Mass. I am in decent spirits, although I hate my scale again. I want a digital scale that is even more precise - like the ones at the doctor's office. I would especially like one that has a read-out that is closer to eye-level and that can convert from pounds-to-kilograms with a touch of a button. I know I am obsessed with weighing myself these days, but no matter how matter articles I read telling me to find other ways to measure progress I can't keep off that damned scale.
Well that didn't quite work out like I had planned but it was a good day nonetheless. After the 9am Mass I went back to Rose & Mike Carr's house and watched television for a few hours while Mike made dinner. John, Sarah, and Nathan came over and we stuffed ourselves on baked ham, homemade baked macaroni & cheese, fresh green beans, watermelon cake and Captain Morgan Private Stock & Coca-Cola-s. I got a ride home from John and now that it's 6:30pm I am in no mood to do laundry tonight, preferring to spend the remainder of my day off lazy-as-hell curled up in my chair and enjoying both the warmth and the quiet. Nathan's a sweetie, but as a 2½-year-old he's boisterous and playful and the conversations were loud.
Tomorrow is Monday - the first day of my 4-day-work-week and the beginning of my counting down until I get paid and also have my doctor's appointment and get my meds. Unless needed for extra hours my schedule is a straight 10-4 every day this week. We're still in our slow period so the only way I will get any added hours is if someone calls-off. I should have about 50-hours on this paycheck. If everything goes as planned I should be in good shape financially since I will receive three paychecks in June. Since I have no more reserve monies and am not putting any of my money away until July I should be completely caught-up on my responsibilities by then. I'm then going to start stashing cash away again.

April 20th... I have been at my job a full year now, and in my new apartment for six-months. I am stubbornly trying to re-lose a few pounds but am still at a lower weight that at any other time in my adult life in the last 30+ years. I have my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and did very well on my GRE last June. I need a new direction to go - a return to freelance writing and lecturing? - a return to Graduate School? - perhaps a place I've never been... I don't know, but I am restless and definitely scanning my horizons.

April 7th...God, I hate the scale on these mornings! But I have to remind myself that it hasn't yet been two months since I attained my lowest weight and I just have to refocus and remain true to what is best for me - realistically. The temptation at these times is always to go on some sort of short-term austerity plan in order to regain the ground I lost but I fear that such actions only provoke my body to shut down its metabolism, making it even harder to maintain the ground I make up over the short-term. I need to do something before I go nuts.

March 14th... LEVEL 22! 200,011 SparkPoints...

March 11... My weight has re-calibrated itself stubbornly -whether I eat or don't, exercise or lounge, fiber or mush doesn't seem to produce any tangible result. Although I know my mental state is exacerbating this I feel puffy and fat and every ounce above 144.4 and that makes me sad and frustrated and antsy. Looking back on last month to see what I might have done different to effect the weight loss I did experience I find absolutely no clue into this increase. But I know the scale is correct because I feel different. As it is my internal self-talk has turned vitriolic & I have begun a million caustic monologues only to find myself even more depressed. Times like these I feel out of control and I think that's the worst feeling of all.
It's a fact of my life that my weight fluctuates like this and I am trying with all my heart to embrace this aspect of myself and keep my chin up while still pursuing a return to my lowest weight.
When did I start weighing myself daily? For the vast majority of my adult dieting life I always weighed myself weekly, now the tyranny of the daily weigh-ins has become routine. Every article I read in SparkPeople advises against it, yet every morning there is this compulsion to get on the scale for better-or-worse. I know this is only adding to my stress level and taking much of the pleasure of this fitness journey out of the equation. Maybe that's what I need - not so much a re-vamping of my eating but a break from weighing myself every day

February 20th... 144.4 pounds and feeling fantastic! I am so ready for spring - I want to get out and take a really really long walk... but my life is good and I am working my program and making better choices every day... I could not have accomplished this without SparkPeople!

February 5th... 146.2 pounds - My Wedding Day Weight! I am almost besides myself with joy, and gratitude, and am humbly proud of myself and the results my hard work has produced... I am within 15-pounds of my goal weight of 131 (the lowest adult weight I have ever been). I am not sure if I will continue past then - I will let my body tell me where it needs to go from there. But in the meantime I am searching for a new exercise routing to add to my daily walking and housework-turned-fitness.

January 21st, 2016. The year has begun in a wonderfully high note - everyone is well and my life is moving forward in so many positive directions I can't express how blessed I feel. I have a financial bubble so I am not living paycheck-to-paycheck, my health is good, my energy-level is high, I am sleeping well and getting enough exercise. The last time I recorded my weight I weighed 149-pounds... the lowest since I had my 2nd son Christopher 31 years ago!

December 31... last day of 2015 - New Year's Eve - and the day has begun on a mixed note. I am able to use Erich's car to go to & from work and to go shopping at Schnucks after, I had a decadent breakfast of chicken salad and crackers and slept till 8-am to boot. Yet I am unable to reach the realtor on either her direct line or her cell phone and have left messages on both. I'm a bundle of nerves surrounding the issue of money even while the rest of my life is positively fine! I am looking forward to a wonderful New Year! Just looking around me I am reminded at all points about how blessed this year has been. Where I am today looks nothing like where I was a year ago. Over the course of the year I started a new job, took my GRE, learned to live alone and even moved into my very own apartment, became a biological grandmother for the first time to an amazing little boy named Jackson, and lost almost 20 more pounds.
I returned to my faith community and began to find peace with the ghosts of the past, allowing me to bring them along as memories not agonies. My children and rented children have also done well this year - new jobs, new homes; new experiences with the loves they brought along. I am amazed at how bountiful the blessings have been - we are all farther along on our journeys than were this time last year - who could ask for better?

November 30th... Last day of November, first day of the new pay-period. It's been an eclectic & smorgasbord kind-of-day. I had the hardest time falling asleep and then slept until the alarm went off; I've eaten a random collection of food although I have been satisfied with almost all of it; I locked myself out of the apartment but discovered how to buzz myself into the lobby with my cell phone (I now owe the office a $5 lock-out fee) and on & on. Erich will be over tomorrow instead of tonight to look at my network settings - which is wonderful since I am a very tired old woman right now and want to do nothing more adventurous than put my feet up & watch television. I have to be at work earlier tomorrow (9am) so I will need to get to sleep very early tonight. I did get a phone call from the management - there have been bedbugs reported in an adjacent apartment so they're spraying my apartment tomorrow.
I'm not sure I actually ate 2,342-calories but I'm just going to leave it be. November was an odd month of transition but the best part of it - fitness-wise anyway is that I now weigh 152½ lbs. - the lowest I have weighed in at least a quarter-of-a-century. I have a new apartment - the first under my own name and completely mine to decorate the way I choose. I received a 4% raise at work and I was part of the Black-Friday Team that made their SPIFF goal meaning we get a 2½% bump in our compensation for the week's sales. I am looking forward to the last month of the year - 2015 was an amazing year for so many reasons and I'm going to need every one of the next thirty days to list them all. It has been wonderful to see how much good has entered each one of our lives - Lord knows we all deserved a good year this time around. Everyone has worked hard to make the best of the last half-dozen years and all of our hard work, coupled with an immense amount of Diving Grace has made all the difference.

September 12th... Dearest Friends & Family
It's been a little under 36-hours since I left the courtroom after learning the outcome of this long home foreclosure process. In a nutshell I have been given 60-days (November 10th) to vacate this property and find a new place to live. The judge kindly extended the time normally given in such matters by a full month so that I might be able to make my arrangements. The normal duration between the closing of a foreclosure case and the time when the property must be turned over is actually 30-days. Despite this kindness however there is much I need to do & that's where I need your assistance.
First off I ask for your prayers that I may use the time remaining wisely and that as I steady my emotions and think clearly about what my very next steps will be I will not give myself over to feelings of failure & grief. For most of you this is the only Ruszczak home you have ever known and I am keenly aware that there are more than just my memories wrapped into the mortar and wood. In truth I have lived here longer than I have any other location during my entire life. I know every crack & stain – and the house echoes with the whispers of a million memories.
Second I need help in planning and executing a series of open-house & garage sales so that I may be able to raise the money I need to actually move somewhere else. Although I have been working at OfficeMax since April it is only part-time and now my hours have been cut as the Back-to-School season is over and the Christmas season has not yet begun to ramp-up. I make just enough money right now to make my bills, take care of my animals, and buy my RTA pass to get myself back-and-forth from work. Please understand I am not complaining - I have been incredibly blessed by this job and being able to take care of myself without my family having to donate to my support has been life-changing. I love the job - the people, the work, the customer interaction - and although I never intended retail to be the career I chose after graduating from college (and the possibility of my going to Grad School is still very much on the table) I have thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn back to the world of retail.
I am also aware that right now I don't make enough to afford most apartments - and that fact scares me. On top of that I am more aware than ever that I need a car since I cannot guarantee that I will be able to move to a location that still leaves me the ability to get to-and-fro without one. I want to stay in Signal Hill - this neighborhood has been my home for a quarter-of-a-century. In addition I must now make arrangements to re-home my four cats, Kaze & Frankie in case I cannot find an apartment that will let me keep them (and many places won't).
Lastly I want many of you to have certain items from this house as a token of my love for you and my gratitude for all of your affections & support (especially these last 4-years) that sustained my heart & soul through some very dark times. I cannot fathom my life without all of you in it & am not ready to say good-bye to any of you. But my future is really up-in-the-air at this point.
Almost everything I own is up-for-sale at this point - I want to move with the least amount of possessions I can manage. I also want to raise as much money as I can in order to give myself the cushion I feel I need to weather the changing number of hours that retail work is known for and doesn't leave me at the mercy of capricious reality. I barely know where to start - it really feels like everything needs to get done all-at-once. Any suggestions, assistance, and support you give me at this time will be deeply appreciated.
I cannot help but feel that I am at one of life's great tipping points and if I don't do "this" right, I may never recover. Although I knew this happening was inevitable given the financial requirements of keeping this property & continuing to maintain its many aging mechanicals I have yet to fully appreciate the details of my future. I do ask one more thing of you - if you hear of an apartment somewhere close to this neighborhood I would deeply appreciate you letting me know.
Thank You.

August 7th... Can you believe it? It's August and I am trying to get it together since my house was theoretically sold only a week ago - but I have heard nothing - am I homeless? I am working, but I know in my heart that I am on the precipice of something - trying to control my reactions and my appetites but I know something i wrong because the only way I will eat is if I drink something alcoholic first - depression?
I know I am retaining fluid - lots of it because I feel bloated. I know I am depressed but I am not sure what precipitated it - maybe just missing the people I do. I love my job - don't get me wrong - and I have much to be thankful for - but I simply can't shake this sadness and when I am sad sometimes I eat but I almost always drink.

July 28th... 154 pounds! WOW! The lowest in decades. Working hard - my house was sold for foreclosure. I am a grandmother. So much... never enough time to record it all. I love each of you - read your blogs... cheer for you... working to make it one-day-at-a-time.

June 29th... My internet is temporarily down so I thought it would be a good idea to check-in after having been off-journal for the past week. Last week was tough - being high and then getting sick and working 5-days-in-a-row left me exhausted. Saturday however I cleaned the entire house - scrubbing both the kitchen areas and the bathroom. All of my laundry is done. The garbage has been taken out and just needs to be put by the alley tomorrow. Work has gone well even though I was sick most of the week. My eating-plan has continued to work and I am maintaining that 161½ pound weight (even dipping to 161-even for a day). It's all about eating earlier in the day for me and then making sure I eat breakfast. I have spent the majority of my reserve funds keeping myself afloat this week - but I also had the opportunity to buy my grandson two nice gifts for his mom's shower, and taking Kathy Pederson out for brunch at the Swedish Pancake House and paying for it with my own money!
I received notice that the sale of my home is set for the 23rd of July and the DHS sent me a letter asking that I verify my eligibility for LINK and Medicaid because my working has been noted by their authorities. I am not worried - I don't make enough to threaten my benefits, but I am aggravated that I can't get through via phone and will have to go there in person Wednesday morning before work. I splurged today and treated myself (as well as Haley & Erich) to dinner from Portillo's. I had three packs of cigarettes this morning and now am down to less than half-a-pack because Erich needed cigarettes and took more than a full pack from me.
I came home very tired and quite itchy so I've been on Benadryl all night. Erich lent me the car so I can drive myself to work tomorrow morning. Last Friday while walking Kaze he decided to run batty around the grass for a bit and with the retractable leash extended I suffered a rope-burn so serious it smoked across my right wrist. Now there's a deep red scar since the scab peeled off this evening. I re-treated it with Hydrogen Peroxide and Vitamin-K Lotion. It doesn't feel as taut but I don't think it was ready to ditch the scab just yet. I have to re-mail the book my customer ordered but am trying to wait until I am off work and have gotten paid. Only a few more days to endure. However I must make important arrangements much quicker than I want because of recent events regarding my financial position.

June 8th... 32 years ago I became a mother for the first time! Happy Birthday to my eldest son, Stephan! June will be a good month -- Steve is home, I am working, and the pooch & I are walking twice a day. There is much to do, much to think about, but for today -- hope & joy rule! Soon there will be difficult decisions to make regarding my home, my future, my pets... but I have to trust the universe and the God who created it to keep me safe as long as I let His Will be Done. I am trying to eat well and exercise but my weight is being stubborn. Blessedly though I still register as overweight instead of obese - so I am on the right track!
Summer is a time of big changes and the heat of the day melts away worry if you let it. I hope to move through the next few weeks as successfully as I can, and that means keeping watch over all of the areas of my life that I have some control over. I have returned to church, am working, supporting myself as best as I can, eating right and exercising - in short I am living the life I have decided for myself.

May 30th 2015 --
I have reset the weight tracker on SparkPeople because I am ready to live in the real world and not just the one of wish. Life is never as static or as simple as fixed numbers depict & the amount of work needed to make life good should be honored and voiced. I am ready to admit my imperfection as well as cheer my bravery and tenacity. While I am using the last of my reserve money to ransom Steve's ashes I am ready to have him home and feel it is the right & good thing to do. I rely on my faith in God first and foremost, and in those I love next to guide me and support me as I walk my way through this new beginning. Reaching out to people I have never met through the GoFundMe campaign is just one more step of faith and hope. I hear the clock ticking in my head, feel the time needed to rescue my home slipping away in every fiber of my being and yet I must release my future to serendipity.
On June 13th a local senator is hosting a Homeowner Mortgage Resource Fair here in Rockford. I want to attend to once-and-for-all see what I might be able to accomplish. But in truth I am starting at zero monetary reserve - although for the moment I am self-sufficient (not counting housing costs or any funds devoted to ever managing the acquisition of a vehicle). I am doing my best and allowing the larger universe of love & luck to carry me forward. Pray for me...¦ share my campaign... and contribute if you can and my journey resonates with you. I will continue to post here and on my blogs. I know I am not alone - there are many more hidden stories like mine & I hope to somehow reach them and give them voice as I go.

May 8th... Another update to my GoFundMe campaign:
I slept in until 9am this morning, the latest I've gotten up in a very long time. Got dressed and took Kaze for an extended morning constitutional. I did a lot of thinking during the walk - especially as I passed properties that are being fixed-up. I don't want to spend the money to fix this place up, knowing I will leave it in a couple of months, or try like crazy to keep this house and them put in some money and sweat equity to fix some of its problems. This house means the world to me - there's no denying that if I had a choice I would stay here. I have lived in this house longer than at any other address and every nook & cranny is filled with memory. I watched my boys grow into men here, nurtured an entire cadre of rented kinds within these walls. This house is home for me – Erhard and I began our new life here in Rockford at a different address, but considered this house our true Rockford home. Now the thought of leaving it behind because I've lost it to the bank is heartbreaking. Every time I think I'm over it and ready to move on something pulls me back here. It feels like another death of family event.
On top of that I have been informed by Muzyka Funeral Home that my beloved brother (Steve's) cremains are finally back (he donated his body to medical research following his death from the autoimmune syndrome know as Wegener's Granulomatous). I have waited 2½ years for him to return and now I can't ransom his ashes because I don't have the $225.00 required to close-out my account with the funeral home. I don't blame them - they handled all the arrangements and transport beautifully and deserve to get paid - I just don't have the money. I want him home. I have my mother's and Erhard's ashes and have always imagined interring them all together. But I cannot conjure money out of thin air and although I am taking on as many hours at work as I can get I am just beginning to break even and being able to support myself somewhat.
I pray every day that my story makes it out there and that serendipity is generous. I want to turn back the clock to a time when I was the "fairygodmama" to others - helping them in their time of need or want. I know that once I can I will do it again. But right now I am the one in need and this is the only forum I know of that might prove my solution.

May 2nd... Today would have been my 34th wedding anniversary. Its days like this that give rise to much introspection on my part - of where my life has taken me and where it's going now. I've just finished my third week of work and I am glad that I have the opportunity to contribute to my own support. I am also more keenly aware than ever of how much more difficult my life is without a car. I took the bus to work yesterday and while I am rejoicing in that feeling of independence it comes with a price -- both ways would turn a normal 8-hour workday into an 11-hour sojourn. Besides leaving me completely exhausted and in more pain than I have had in quite some time, it makes it difficult for my dog, Kaze as well - perhaps a side concern - but a very real one for anyone who has ever cared for a beloved pet.
This morning, as Kaze & I took our usual hour-long constitutional I was also very attuned to the fact that while I need cat & dog food, kitty litter, and household supplies, I have no way of getting to anywhere that sells them. Nothing is within walking distance here - even though I live in the heart of Rockford. While I have the money to buy my cats food I have no rational means of transportation that would allow me to bring those purchases back home. I don't want to sound ungrateful for the support I have already received - I am flabbergasted and humbled by the outpouring of generosity I have experienced. I just fear that I'm not getting any further than this. I have been looking at cars - hoping that I could find one for less money than I had originally asked for in my campaign - but the truth of the matter is that not a single usable car was priced under $4995 (and even then these had well over 150,000 miles on them already). If I don't increase the amount of my campaign goal I simply won't be able to get my freedom back. I won't be able to do the things I need and that leaves me saddened and frustrated.
My sister Angie will soon have major surgery and getting to her is absolutely impossible without a vehicle. There is nothing running south from Rockford along the Rock River - no bus, train, or pony ride I could take. Oregon is over 30 miles away - way too far for even my "Chicago-legs" & my love of walking and hiking. I am her guardian and I am getting desperate.
Looking around my home I am also acutely aware that the clock is ticking on my being able to remain here. I have less than 2 months in which to raise enough money to attempt a reasonable modification and/or renegotiation of the mortgage on this property. Since my name did not appear on the loan, and my beloved husband left no will or final instructions, I am required to have far more money up-front in order to begin this process. I have almost nothing to start with. Every cent I have been given so far has gone to pay-up my past-due utilities (which are now current and for which I am immensely grateful & relieved). But if I can't rescue my home or act as my sister's guardian in the fullest sense of that responsibility my campaign will have only succeeded in making my situation better and I will still be prevented from "giving-back" to those I love and beginning the process of empowering others in my position to rebuild their lives.

April 18th... Desperate Times - Life Makeover 3.0:
Although I have excitedly begun my part-time job I am still falling further behind every day... I am not one to ask for assistance easily, but I finally broke down and created a GoFundMe page...I want to keep my home, get a car and move into the life I think I was supposed to live...
this is the link ~~

April 11th... So many changes in just the past couple-of-weeks: Erich & Haley moved into their new apartment so I am now officially living alone! I registered for my GRE and also for Section-8 housing since my home has gone into foreclosure. I have accepted a part-time job at Office Max and made arrangements to get a new set of dentures. I have an appointment (finally) for Energy Assistance.
And I am eating everything that isn't nailed down - terrible choices - and way too much of everything! SIGH. But I have been walking my pooch twice-a-day, so I don't feel like a total fitness-failure. One-more-time to recommit and move forward without looking over my shoulder at past mistakes. I can do this - fits & starts might happen - but I can and have persevered through much tougher times.

March 25th... I weigh 165-pounds! I went to the doctor today and was pleasantly surprised to discover that walking with my pooch as been very beneficial for both of us. My BP was 118/76, my pulse 68. The doctor's office scale verified my current weight! HURRAY!

March 20th... HAPPY SPRING! It's glorious outside and the dog and I took full advantage of the sunshine and warmth. I am slowly getting back to my lowest weight but everyday is a struggle - it was so much easier gaining the weight. My weight eventually crept up to 169-1/2 pounds (ten pounds higher than my lowest). It was depressing - I had only gained 5 pounds over the holidays but the other five came as a result of eating terrible and not being able or willing to walk in the frigid weather. Slowly - as the weather warmed we started walking once a day, but now, in the last week-or-so we're back to two walks-a-day (each of them at least 45 minutes) and I have already lost 2 pounds.
I have resisted resetting my weight tracker because I was ashamed of the fact that I hadn't maintained my lowest weight and didn't want to advertise that fact - but reality is what it is and I know its better to own it, forgive it and then improve it. Holding myself accountable with love & care for my health and happiness has made this journey as successful as it has been and of course SparkPeople is vital to that journey. I look forward to losing the remaining 8 pounds and then moving forward until I reach my goal weight of 135 pounds (although that number is an educated guesstimate and once I get closer to that weight I can decide where I want to go from there...

March 2nd... Spring really needs to get here! I have started walking again but tentatively, since there is still a lot of ice covering the sidewalks where I live. I began March with a perfect tracking day! So I am confident those pesky holiday five (pounds) will be gone by the end of the month and I will be back on track!

January 24th... Gosh darn it - If I would just stop putting things into my mouth that I know I shouldn't be eating or drinking re-losing those pesky five pounds wouldn't be so darn hard! But alas, I haven't been able to sustain my obedience for more than one meal at a time. However I have reworked my resume and there is a Regional Job Fair next week in Rockford, so my job prospects are looking up. I know that once I start working I will have less time to ruminate over eating.
If only the ice & snow would melt a bit faster I could take advantage of these mid-30s temperature and take the dog out for a nice long walk - but I dare not venture out onto the slippery sidewalks just yet. I always end up injuring myself when I fall... I am still waiting for my degree (the personalized fancy one) to come in the mail (I will take a picture and post it when it does). But even in the face of all these self-fulfilling setbacks (like going to my last interview with a simply terrible, unprofessional resume and not being ready for the questions) I have not lost my optimism that this year will be fabulous and transformative in many areas of my life. By this time next year I want to be at my goal weight of 135 pounds. I know this is realistic - now to just get all the different parts of my emotional self in line for this goal.

January 12th 2015... The New Year has begun - we are now beginning its second full week. The weather has made it virtually impossible to walk with my pooch so I am struggling to lose the five pounds (yes, only five!) that I gained over the holidays. I have indulged in too many sweets - too much coffee with creamer (instead of black) and too many rich savory foods. SIGH - I know what I must do, but my self-discipline is weak from so much feasting and emotional eating...
I am at the point where I am trying to be patient with myself and yet hold firm so that at the very least I don't gain any more weight while I wait for my internal fortitude to return. I have gathered together my exercise videos - now I just have to re-dedicate myself to my fitness and do some of them until I can return to my twice-daily hour walks... as it is I need to seriously consider upping my physical activity - the walking alone is becoming too easy.

December 26th... Christmas was wonderful! Secret Santa gifts, dinner at my youngest son's girlfriend's parents' house, even a gift from my sister Angie! My weight has been stable - trying to hold my weight steady (or within 5 pounds) all through the holidays. I am looking forward to beginning 2015 on a high note... with more fitness, and exerting greater discipline over my eating.

November 18th... Today is my 6-year SparkVersary! Six years and a million miles of changes. So much has changed in my life since I began my journey here on November 18th 2008 -- I am now a widow, I have endured other family losses, my oldest son got married, my other two sons got "attached" and now I am about to graduate from Northern Illinois University with my Bachelor of Science degree -- and in that time I have lost 70+ pounds and gained an entirely new attitude towards my body and fitness... and that's the short version! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

November 14th -- I am struggling to maintain my weight in the face of my body staging a general fibromyalgia revolt. I have been depressed and anxious lately -- and the frigid weather has limited my ability to walk the dog -- although I still try to get out at least once-a-day. I am in the last month of my final semester and money is extremely tight... but this is real life, eh? Sometimes I hate being a grown-up...

October 10th... I am at my lowest weight in decades - 159-1/2 pounds and I feel amazing! I walk my pooch at least once a day and frequently we walk 2-3 times for about an hour at a time. It has really benefited him as well - he has slimmed down and the vet is thrilled with his physical condition. But still I have one quandary - although my calories intake is good I can't seem to eat withing my "fat percentage" allowance to save my life - HELP! I just don't know how to get this one number down and I have a sneaking feeling that I would really jump-start my weight loss if I could just master this... Does anyone else have this challenge? And what did you do to tame the "fat beast"?

August 18th... 161-1/2 pounds... I am stunned speechless and overjoyed. I am beginning my last week of summer vacation from school and there are a million things to do. My new short-term goal is to be under 160 pounds by my birthday - September 9th. I know what I must do and how to do it - now I pray for the fortitude to carry out this newest health-project. Two-and-a-half pounds in three weeks is entirely doable within a healthy approach to being fit and eating clean.

August 10th... I weigh 163 pounds and am doing well in all areas of my life. School starts in only two weeks. My stress level is lower and my fitness level higher. It has been a good summer - not too hot, not too humid - perfect for long walks with the pooch. Still clearing and cleaning but the house looks good. I have accomplished much this last month and am in no way-shape-or-form ready to stop. I have reached a point of contentment that only a few months ago I would have thought impossible.

July 5th -- I haven't weighed this in decades - I am 167-1/2 pounds on my super-accurate (even when I wish it would cheat) digital scale. I feel better and look better. Walking the dog three times a day has definitely helped, as has the increase in daily activity - turning housework into exercise.
It's been a hectic summer with lots of ups and downs, but this is definitely one of it's highlights! Soon there will be more to blog about here on my Sparkpage, but for now I just wanted to share my joy. I know tracking my food and staying active on SparkPeople has definitely helped keep my spirits up and me focused on fitness!

May 10th... the School Semester is over, and I am looking forward to spending more time concentrating on my fitness and also my physical space. I did very well this semester, but all of the grades have not yet posted. I am ecstatic to weigh 169 pounds, although I am not stopping there... I just need to decide a new short-term weight loss goal for myself. I know I definitely want to start taking long walks again - this is the perfect time of year for that and I have much to think about over the summer.
Soon my oldest son and his wife will be moving out on their own, my youngest son soon to follow... time to really set some new personal goals for myself. Although I am still really hoping to graduate this December, my grades will make that determination for me. Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I know that some of my sadness revolves around my missing my mother, my husband, my brother... holidays are still hard.

April 12th, 2014 -- A gorgeously warm spring Saturday makes this the perfect day to clean house! My cold is almost gone and I am ready to tackle the dusty recesses. Over the last week I was able to weigh myself and I am down 4-1/2 pounds to 173-1/2 pounds. Being sick contributed to that, of course, but I am hoping that by keeping active and watching my intake I can make this last weight loss permanent and continue on to my goal of breaking the "overweight" barrier of 169 pounds.

March 6th... I just had to share my "before" and "after" numbers from my doctor's appointment last Friday:
Weight: 91.7 kg (201 pounds)
Blood Pressure - 122/74
Weight: 81.2 kg (178 pounds)
Blood Pressure - 118/68

February 15th... I finished the Fall 2013 semester with a perfect 4.0 and made the Dean's List at NIU! This long, cold winter has dragged on for weeks, alternating between brutally frigid air and snowy days but there is a thaw predicted in the weather-casts for next week and every pore on my body is ready for some renewed warmth. I have lost another pound - so I am down to 178 pounds and I am thrilled! All sorts of things are swirling in my brain as I start to look toward the next season and what I want to accomplish. I am still tracking and in fact switched my food tracker to take into account exercise calories burned in its computations of each day's allotted calories.
In anticipation of warmer days to come I have changed my background to colors reflecting sunshine and warmth. It might just be wishful thinking at this point - but a little hope is never misplaced. I wanted to get my homework done, but anxiety and the two dogs competing for my attention put those plans on hold until later this evening, once others are home and can take over the care of the puppies. But my mood has lifted as the hours have passed today, and it feels good to get out of the doldrums.

January 31st 2014 -- I weigh 179 pounds - only ten more pounds to go before I move from the "obese" category to the "overweight" category! School is going very, very well and my moods have remained upbeat even through this long stretch of frigid weather and cabin fever. I am sooo looking forward to the warmth of springtime so I can start walking outside again.

12.26.2013 ~~ Crazy, Crazy Christmas... filled with deepest loneliness, unbelievable worry, warm conversations, spirit lifting, profound moments of faith, small giggles, many hugs, delicious food, and finally... great joy and a grateful soul... PEACE TO ALL!

December 7th: I am almost done with school for this semester, and my work is caught up and I am ready for my finals. Only one more day of actual class attendance and then I will have a few weeks to collect my thoughts and make plans for 2014. I have lots of plans and ideas in mind for next year.
I am still logging my food every day and, for the most part, still staying on track. I even received a "perfect attendance" award last month - my very first! My weight is stable at 183 1/2 pounds, and while I would love to lose more weight before New Year's, if I just maintain my weight during the holidays I will consider it a success. I really want to start working out at the NIU Fitness Center next semester - I just have to plan out my time to allow it. Life is good right now, and my days have been very productive and satisfying despite the pressures of finishing school, my sister being sick again, and the holidays fast approaching.

THANKSGIVING DAY... Thursday, November 28th... I woke up early this morning, having gotten a good night's sleep. I immediately began to think about the meaning behind this day - as I do every year, in part, I think, because I am a writer and archivist of the family. Two-thousand-thirteen was a tumultuous year- Angie has been sick and in-and-out of the hospital since early January; Ashley, Stephan and Daisy moved back into my house in early summer and are now waiting to hear if they have a house of their own; Christopher is in the first serious romantic relationship I have known with Chelsey; Erich is approaching his first Christmas as MPU Lead at Sears; Chris H is once again working, and he and Nick are still with me; and I returned to school at NIU in the Fall despite reservations about Angie's health, and have enjoyed every moment on campus, relishing the independence that my actions presage.
Events in the lives of our extended family also took center stage at various times during the year - Kathy was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and underwent surgery; There were many births among the rented kids and their growing families - Jeff and Olivia Mueller welcomed a new little boy, as did Jennie Irving. Ryan and Sara Rodgers welcomed a little girl, as did Lila and her husband. Sean Rodgers and his wife, Ashley, welcomed a second little boy into their family as well. Paul Fina received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Rose Carr celebrated 10 years cancer-free and Sara Rodgers celebrated her 5 year cancer-free re-birthday. For the last couple of months there have been 8 adults, 2 dogs (for a while it was three), 8 cats and a turtle named Frankie sharing 1311 N. Church Street and although there have been some rough patches, we haven't killed each other yet.
My Papa has been gone 41 years and Erhard's mother, Lina, has been gone 17 years, both October 18th; Erhard's father, Joseph, 13 years June 15th; Mama, 6 years May 12th. Erhard, was gone, 2 years this October 13th; Steve, a year September 22nd, and Mike Ruszczak a year September 26th. Praise the Lord; we lost no one this year, although Angie did give us a series of frights with her health. Time has dulled some of the edges of sorrow, but never for more than a few heartbeats at a time. Yet we survived. We laughed. We celebrated. We moved forward.
I have been so blessed these last twelve months, rescued from disaster and my own devices more times than I can count. My faith in God and his angels has been made stronger; my love for those I call my children, and rented children deepened beyond even what I could have understood just a year ago. My extended family, my friends, whatever is good and holy and sacred in my life I have once again been shown is best expressed by your love, your faith, your assistance. I am fortunate that my daughter-in-law, Ashley, whom I adore, and I have become even better friends since she has lived under my roof... to her immense credit in putting up with all of us.
To say I am thankful seems trite; the actual emotion runs so much deeper. I have learned to not take anything for granted because over the course of this year there have been many times when even putting together a complete meal was a greater challenge than could be met on some days. We came very close to having utilities turned off and had health concerns unaddressed, sometimes for weeks. Automobiles didn't always cooperate with our budgeting plans and long-deferred, but now pressing household maintenance threatened to completely disrupt our lives. Yet we came together and persevered, and triumphed in both large and small ways over the challenges presented to us. Without my family, extended family, and friends, tough times would have been catastrophic.
There is little editorial to add, words fail to convey everything I feel, yet as a wordsmith, they are the tools I have been given to communicate my love, my appreciation, my awe. There has always been some debate as to the exact details of that first Thanksgiving, who brought what, who was present but at the center of that story is a cautionary tale of pride broken into humility and elevated to gratefulness � our own lives, my life mirrors that process, sometimes daily. As we gather with family and friends this day. May serendipity surprise you, may the Lord bless you... may the joy be overflowing...

September 5th 2013... I am back at school and deliriously happy and productive. Better still I am sober, starting to exercise, and making some profound emotional changes with respects to how I view life, eating, and adhering to a "LIFE PLAN" instead of "DIETING" ~~~
By the end of this month it will have been 1 year since I regularly logged my food intake, or even refused myself unlimited quantities of foods I know are not in my best health interests. Gave myself the toxic permission to drink too much too often...
It will also be 1 year since my beloved brother, Steve, died... and quickly approaching the 2-year anniversary of my husband, Erhard, my lifelong soul-mate and 30+ year heart's companion's, sudden death in October of 2011. I still grieve deeply and quietly.
AND I know I must move forward - in life, with school, and by regaining my emotional AND physical well-being. I am returning to counseling, and as of October 1st will re-assess how I can best use this SparkPeople site to achieve my goals. I ask for your prayers, encouragement, and support...

This is a copy of the letter I sent to the Admissions Department of NIU... I thought I would share it here because I think it sums up succinctly what the last two years have been like...
I began the Fall 2011 semester with a 3.893 cumulative GPA. I enrolled for 15 hours of coursework that semester � all of it at the Honors level. Sadly, one-third of the way into this semester, on October 13th, 2011, my beloved husband of 30 years, Erhard Ruszczak, passed away suddenly from a massive stroke. Two days later my oldest son, Stephan, an alumni of NIU just that past May, got married. It was an intense emotional weekend that left me ill-prepared to return to my studies while managing the affairs of my now devastated household. Erhard left no estate and financial worries crippled my thoughts even further. At the time of my absence from school I was achieving "A" level coursework in all of my classes. My professors were more than understanding (and still are) and I took all "Incompletes" for that semester with the idea that I would return in the Spring of 2012 and complete my degree.
During the ensuing holiday semester break my older brother, Steve Ruzic, with whom I had always been extremely close, went into the Intensive Care unit of the hospital with Wegener's Granulomatosis-induced kidney failure. He had been originally diagnosed during a similar episode back in 2005, and I became his primary caregiver and Power-of-Attorney. He had been remarkably stable and had regained the majority of his health at the time of this sudden downturn. I began the semester anyway; hopeful he would soon be back on his feet. I registered and began 10 hours of coursework, in which I again excelled academically. I also managed to catch up on some of my work from the previous semester, again with high marks. However, Steve's health continued to be precarious during the entirety of the Spring 2012 semester, as he went into the hospital many times and began tri-weekly dialysis. With the blessings, once again, of my earlier professors coupled with my now additional professors I again elected to take �Incompletes� and postpone my graduation until December 2012. Over the summer I planned to make-up as much work as I could on my own so that I could begin the Fall 2012 semester with as little residual classwork as possible. However as my brother's health continued to decline, I ended up spending the majority of my time in Chicago and away from my studies. During this time the "Incompletes" I took previously began to be changed to"F-s" as I was unable to meet the extended deadlines. My professors, however, continued to support me and assured me that if I completed my work, my grades could be changed.
Fearing I was straining my resources to the breaking point I opted to return in the Fall of 2012 with only 6 hours of additional coursework. Again, I began the semester well and excelled in my classes, I also managed to catch-up a little more with my previous work. Sadly, on September 9th, 2012 (my birthday) my brother collapsed while I was with him and had to be rushed to the Intensive Care unit of Illinois Masonic Hospital. Within a week his breathing had worsened (Wegener's is an autoimmune disease that destroys both the kidneys and the lungs) and he was intubated. I was now at his bedside continuously and my school attendance vanished. On September 22nd, at about 9:30pm he died quietly, after I had made the heart-rending decision to take him off life-support. I was crushed. As I was planning his memorial and handling his final wishes, I learned that my brother-in-law, Michael Ruszczak, had died as well - also unexpectedly -from pneumonia and Pancreatic Cancer, four day after Steve, on September 26th. Financially, I was bankrupted by the expenses of taking care of my brother's final wishes, and with no additional personal income, I found myself unable to return to school, even if I had been emotionally able to proceed. My grown children rallied to my support and I began, once again to make plans to return in the Spring of 2013. By this time most of my grades had converted from "Incomplete-s" to "F-s" although my professors were all still ready to allow me to finish my classes.
I made what came to be both a serendipitous and disastrous decision to not enroll for classes for the Spring semester because I no longer needed any additional hours and I planned to focus only on completing my work and graduating in May. What I could not predict at that time was two-fold, that my not returning to school forced the Bursar's Office to require full payment of the $3498.21 due the school because the converted "F" grades resulted in the school returning certain student loan funds, and that 2013 would open with my developmentally disabled baby sister, Angela Warner, being rushed to the hospital in full sepsis. She entered St. Anthony's Medical Center on January 4th of this year and has spent the vast majority of the last five months either in the hospital or in some rehabilitation facility. She nearly died several times. I am her legal guardian although she resides in an independent group home not far from me. Not only have I spent the vast majority of my time at her bedside these last 5 months, negating any attempt at schoolwork completion, but my emotional infrastructure began to visibly crumble as I was forced to make many of the same life-or-death medical decisions as I had with the other, now deceased, members of my family. Blessedly, happily, Angela has recovered and returned home just this past week. All indications are good that she will no longer relapse and I can once again return my focus to my schoolwork. During this time I have been in constant, if spaced, contact with my professors and also with Dr. Elizabeth Garcia of the Student Counseling Office at NIU.
My plan of action is three-fold. First, with the approval of some of my professors I will simply finish up my work for some of my previous classes, out-of-class, over the summer. This will result in some of those "F" grades being changed shortly after classes resume in the fall. Secondly, with others of my professors, I would like the opportunity to retake their classes since I spent an enormous amount of time out of their classroom and want to be able to fully partake of their respective areas of study. All of my professors are willing and would change my grade at the class's completion as long as this is administratively possible. Finally, If this plan is acceptable to you, and to the Bursar's Office, it is my understanding that the balance due the school would be negated by a combination of my having completed the previous coursework and having been approved for additional financial aid (with EFC of Zero) for the Fall Semester.
Please consider my request for readmission to NIU. I truly believe I can finish my degree within the year, and if it is at all possible regarding the changing-of-grades, to graduate summa cum laude in May of 2014.

August 17th, 2013 -- I keep resetting my weight tracker higher as I struggle to get the momentum required to return to logging my food. Even watching what I eat is becoming difficult. So much on my mind these days -- from going back to school (HURRAH!) to finding a source of employment, to managing my time effectively so I can get work done around the house.
I haven't lost my sense of purpose yet though. I am practicing being mindful of my inner self and focusing on that safe niche of contentment from which all productive activity springs. I repeat to myself daily that I am competent, that I will succeed at what I strive for, and that I am worthy of my own success.

What I Can't Do On My Own... My Return To Discipline
June 24th 2013 ~~ After months of trying to do this on my own, only checking in to SparkPeople for some sense of accountability I find myself heavier than I have been in almost 5 years. SIGH. I know what to do and I also know what I am NOT doing... but without the benefit of tracking my food, a lot of my choices have drifted back to the unhealthy way I used to eat.
Come JULY 1st however, this will change as I recommit myself to living a SparkLife! I ask all of you for your support, prayers, and well wishes as I once again pick myself up and move forward - logging food and activity, posting on boards, being a good Team Leader... So much has changed in my life over the past two years... and it's been hard to fight the depression and anger and loneliness. My abandoning the requirements of the SparkPlan is just one indication of how low I have gotten. But I know instinctively that the only way out is through, and I am ready to take my first steps back to the life I want to live.

April 3rd 2013 -- I have returned to logging, posting, and watching what I eat after a 6-month hiatus during which I wanted to see if I could finally master the challenge of maintaining my weight at or near 185 pounds... all together I think I have done better than I ever managed before... but I have returned to give myself a new push to finally lose and maintain an even healthier weight-- my interim goal is to be at 168 pounds by my birthday, September 9th. It will be the first time in decades that my BMI will move from "Obese" to "Overweight." I know I can do this -- SparkPeople is my way=of=life!

2012 -- The Year the World Didn't End
It's ten-after-three in the afternoon, December 29th, 2012 and I am contemplating the conclusion of another year. So much has happened in just the last few months that it almost seems like the first part of the year didn't happen. All this year there had been talk of the great Mayan Apocalypse of 12.21.12 - a day that actually slipped by almost unnoticed in the end. But so much has changed that maybe in a way my world really did end and I am just now coming to terms with just how different life is. I entered twenty-twelve never thinking I would be here right now. Plans were in place for me to graduate with my Bachelor's degree last May, our finances while decidedly more touch-and-go then when Erhard was alive seemed to be holding together, and my brother Steve and I embarked on a whirlwind of outings that brought us closer together and me some real measure of comfort as I learned to deal with life as a widow.
And then September happened and everything just fell apart. Steve became seriously ill on my birthday (September 9th) and entered the intensive care unit the next morning. Within the span of a week-and-a-half I was reinstated as his power-of-attorney-for-health-care and I had to make the fatal and horrific decision to stop life support and let him go... while still in shock I reached out to my sister-in-law just at the moment she was calling me to let me know that her brother (and my brother-in-law) Mike had died suddenly four days after Steve. That had to be the most surreal conversation I have ever had in my life - the two of us trying to come to terms with the fact that BOTH our brothers were suddenly gone.
School became a blur, even as I had made the decision to graduate in December (something that didn't happen) and scraping together the money for my brother's final expenses and some large expenses coming due at the same time wiped out every extra cent I had without the possibility of any more self-generated income. I suddenly became a dependent again- something I can't begin to describe. Ever since then I have lived in the margins of my mind - equal parts focused and determined and desperate and grief-stricken. October and November blended into each other, the holidays came and while there were moments of great contentment and joy a part of me felt out-of-sync and emotionally absent. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew there were solutions to be divined and made tangible but they were always elusively just out-of-reach. I am left feeling helpless and free-floating in some abysmal mire waiting for the mental fog to clear even as I reach for just about any substance to keep my mind altered.
Now as the clock ticks off the last hours of the year I am again faced with new situations that I would truthfully just rather not deal with but for which there is no other choice but for me to act in a responsible manner. Early next month my sister, Angela will undergo eye surgery to restore her vision. The concept of Angie as blind and frail at 49 years old never pinged my radar but as of this Thanksgiving reality came home when she came for dinner and it was obvious that her health had taken a serious downward turn. The prospect of one more caregiving role is almost too much for me to contemplate but here I am.
If I should dare look away from this situation and focus on my own life I am left contemplating the fact that my car is now seriously on the fritz - needing both a new thermostat and tires. I am so far behind in my schoolwork I have decided to not enroll in any more classes until I can complete the legion of incompletes currently on my transcript, even though that means I will have no health insurance and only six months before the first of my student loans need to be factored into my expenses. For the first time since Erhard's death not a single bill has been paid this month and I am not sure that there is enough anywhere to cover the cost, despite the fact that both kids and renteds have stepped up to fill the gap. I can't even bring myself to gather up the bills although I know instinctively that I will have to have this done by Monday.
Yet as I looked around this morning after waking up hours later than usual because I was unable to sleep until past seven-this-morning I felt a security and contentment as I gazed around my cluttered, mismatched home and realized that I loved this place and my life and I had to ultimately prove that no, the world really didn't end.
I know that I face months of therapy and assistance before my equilibrium returns completely but for right now, this moment, I am okay. I am safe within the cocoon of a loving, large, raucous family and extended family and that none of us are willing to watch the others sink. Sitting at my feet is a mixed-breed puppy too large to be recognized as the baby he still is, offering me his warmth and comfort and unconditional love. The house is dark yet the lights on the Christmas tree twinkle brightly just a room away reminding me of the riotous mix of colors and styles that make up the life and the living space I occupy. I have just gotten up and lit the candles in the foyer that keep watch over the memorial to my mother, brother, and husband. A little less darkness in a space that is far more used to light than gloom.
While far from gourmet there is food in the cabinets for human and critter alike (both dog and six-cats worth). Beyond my melancholy I know there is still joy and love enough for me and everyone I care about - even if reaching it is more laborious than I would like. I am content with my humanity, my spirituality, even my weight which curiously hasn't changed much in the three months I have stepped away from daily measuring and recording - a small tidbit of trivia that actually makes me quite proud. I am not where I want to be but where I am is alright for now.
I have not given up on the idea and practice of interdependency even as I wrestle my ego into submission whenever I have to ask one of the guys for something - even something small. I have a role to play in this world and something to contribute even if right now I don't know exactly what that is and somehow, in some strange weird bohemian kind-of-way that knowledge comforts me. Life is broken but repairable. Just like the nooks and crannies and garage spaces I have cleaned out of late I can clean out the clutter of my loneliness and despair and make room again for contentment. Routine activities bring me solace. The simple acts of life maintenance remind me that I am really still alive - that once again, the world really didn't end.
I am not sure exactly what 2013 holds for any of us - there is always the hope that it will somehow be better than what came before, but no guarantees come with living this real life. If I could wave a magic wand over my world I would enjoin the spirits of the universe to bring us safely back here twelve months from now better than we ever were in the past - that all of us will find 2013 a cherished year. But I have no magic, only a ditch-digger's shovel resourceful enough to find serendipity alive and well after the sweat and tears dry.

September 1st, 2012 -- Reset my trackers and short-term goal once again... although I think I am retaining fluids I weighed in this morning at 192 pounds. I want to weigh 168 pounds by the time I graduate in December, a number that will tip the statistics from obese to overweight. I have 3-1/2 months to lose 24 pounds...

AUGUST 22nd 2012
In just a little under a week I will begin school again... the summer has gone by quicker than I had thought possible, but it was full and productive. Now in these last few days I turn my attention once more to my education � I have started to complete my previous semesters' work and by Friday I will have some idea about selling Erhard's car, making this month's bills, and registering for additional classes. Then a week from yesterday it's back to school!
My weight continues to puzzle me - I know I am getting at least some exercise and most days I do pretty well in the eating department, but progress is slow and I still weigh far more than I think I should at this point...SIGH. Tried SparkCoach but can't afford to stay with it right now - money is SO tight. But one thing I can do is be more vigilant about what I eat and when I record and if I workout, so ultimately I will become my own coach. I have been using Pinterest as my "vision collage" maker and I love it!
Taken all together I'd say I have arrived at a tentative state of contentment. What isn't the way I would like is certainly heading in that direction. Even my loneliness has made me more aware of the choices I need to exercise in my life. For now the greatest commitment I can make to myself is the promise to do my best in every endeavor...

UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE -- July 31st 2012
I have made real progress these last few weeks, checking items off my to-do list with regularity. I was scheduled to see my therapist today however she postponed our session until next Tuesday to take care of other matters. That leaves me to my own devices with regards to drawing up the next set of tasks for my agenda. These last couple of months have been an emotional roller-coaster, especially in the areas of school and finances. Financially, I have come to the end of any and all monies previously dispersed under Erhard's name. I am, in a word, flat broke.
On the plus side however I did manage to Erhard's title to the '96 Lincoln and can now sell it - giving us another couple of months of monetary self-sufficiency - although that statement is predicated on my being able to sell the car for cash-up-front-and-in-total. The paperwork for school has been completed and sent and now it's time to start on my missed assignments. So that's definitely on the agenda. Driving home from Chicago I made the decision to straighten up the house from the top down - no major cleaning, just a quick tidying-up. This will clear a mental and temporal path for me to start on my assignments. In addition, I should probably go ahead and run a load of laundry too.
For the last 2 months I have relaxed my adherence to SparkPeople's trackers in order to determine whether I could maintain my weight loss without the daily recording, but I have discovered that this isn't true yet so beginning tomorrow I will return to keeping daily logs. Although I didn't gain back anywhere near what I would have in previous diet incarnations I still have 50+ pounds to lose before getting down to my ultimate goal weight of 135 pounds. SparkPeople definitely makes a difference!
I have begun to list items on eBay again and already have some sales that need processing. Right now selling off as much of my things as I comfortable can is my only hope of generating some income. I do need to get the i-cash forms notarized as well and apply for DHA assistance and any home improvement grants available for the Signal Hill area. I also have to file my guardianship status form so that I can continue as Angie's guardian. More items for the agenda.
Beyond these tasks I have come to the conclusion that now is the time to start working on the new garage. It looks like as flea market exploded in there! I simply can't tolerate the mess anymore, seeing as how my entire house has been cleaned and the old garage is still pretty much intact. Not to mention the fact that I want to hold a garage sale in the near future and there are plenty of items that could be sold online or donated outright. So I think I have my plan-of-action in mind. If I stay on task each one of the items I mentioned can demonstrate real progress by the time I see Dr. Garcia on the 7th of August. Just one more thing to note... I am going to try my level best to extend my allocated medications farther than I have... preferably into at least the middle of August. In the past it has been too easy to run through them like candy and then suffer later. This is one demon I have been wrestling with for many years and this time I will make real, tangible progress towards its defeat.

PROOF OF LIFE - July 11, 2012
I don't normally share the contents of my therapy sessions, but since little else in my life really feels normal anyway, I have decided to open my thought processes up to a little observation in the hopes of more accurately communicating just what's going on with me these days. I will not belabor the details of sadness but will admit to it still being a large part of my every waking and dreaming minute. Sadness has caused me to retrench back into myself in many ways that I thought I had long since retired in favor of being more open and present. The resulting stagnation has produced little except miscommunication and misunderstanding and my further emotional recoil. It is a toxic, dangerous spiral.
About two months ago I began therapy through NIU. While I had hoped that in the ensuing years since last I sought help some sterling-silver panacea had been developed to rid me of my emotional ills, the truth is that while productive and beneficial, this therapy requires the same old slop of work and determination that it has always demanded. There are the celebratory epiphanies and desperate agonizing periods of regression. So while my life is not currently in the throes of downward spiral, my days and nights are spent living in what can best be described as a sine wave.
As a result, my therapist and I have worked to construct a clean foundation with which to begin the transformation of this up-and-down pattern with something more approaching contented forward progress. After much introspection it has become clear that for me to begin, three items need to be addressed first: Make the decision to finish or leave school; Ruszczak Family Conference and Shred my old therapy notes. For some of you reading, the first of these will be surprising, since almost everyone who has ever known me knows how much I have talked about finishing my degree. But as a precondition for this process to work, all should-have-s and must-do-s have been swept off the table, everything in my life had to be recognized as being completely optional and driven by my choices and decisions alone. This implies my ownership of what happens from here on out.
Over the last nine months the volume of work required to complete my schoolwork has become almost overwhelming, and the heart and soul of my desire to finish this degree has been dying of malnourishment as I have turned my attention to almost everything and everyone and where else. So the time has come to recognize the crossroad and choose a direction - either I finish my work and graduate this December 16th or I withdraw from school and petition to have my last year erased. Every other option has already been considered and eliminated. It's do or do not.
The second of those "the Ruszczak Family Conference" comes down to some very practical and currently salient questions regarding the continued financial stability of my household , most notable me. Before leaving for therapy this afternoon I sent away what amounted to the tenth monthly installment of household bills - ensuring that everything is now paid until the end of August. But I am at the end of my financial rope and have no further ability to conjure additional string out of thin air without the input of the rest of the family. I am proud to say that we have managed to stay afloat for far longer than I think anyone thought possible last October - but I am unable to continue this without reinforcement.
The last one may seem out of place- surely shredding one's previous notes could not compare in urgency with the other two and yet for me right here and now it ranks as highly as those having to do with far more tangible concerns because of the emotional investment I have accumulated in the keeping of those note for so many years post-therapy. I have not looked them at any length for twenty years and yet they represented for me my proof of life � the repository of my mental energies and insights. But I require that energy in the here and now and so I must move beyond yesterday's answers and gnosis even at the risk of having to relearn some of their lessons. They represent the me that was becoming the me that was, and do not speak of or to the person writing this blog today. I have managed to purge a considerable amount of "stuff" these past months and years, but the time has come for this particular set of notes to go.
For anyone who has ever sought to encapsulate their life into writing - whether journal, fiction or notation, the weight of this decision will be obvious. For anyone who has ever been in therapy, the decision to destroy the old and move beyond its boundaries will be apparent. I am both agonized and excited.
My next session is one week from today, and this is what I have pledged to accomplish during this time. Your encouragement, suggestions, and prayers will all be appreciated.

April 1st. 2012 Reset my trackers yet again...and took measurements for the first time in almost two years. The results are disappointing but at least they're accurate... SIGH. But I have fooled myself for too long and paid the price for my foolishness... success only matters if it's honest... time to reassess and stay true to what IS not just what I wish it would be... Now when I accomplish something I can be legitimately proud and hold my head up, unafraid to look myself in the eye every time I see a mirror...

March 1st, 2012 Coming To Terms With My C+ Life
I took a long drive this afternoon... and did a lot of thinking and re-evaluating of my entire present-day situation. Depressed, angry, completely ready to quit everything and just hide in a cave, I knew I needed to get away and make some decisions. Since today is the first day of March, and the first day of meteorological spring, it seemed like an appropriate time to consider my own rebirth into an identity forged by my hand. Coming to terms with being a solo entity and the realization that I had always wrapped my entire identity around Erhard gave me pause. With him gone, I simply can't do that anymore. It occurred to me that in some areas of my life I have been unbelievably successful, and in others an epic failure. Averaging them out I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that I have led a C+ life, not quite average, but less than I want for myself.
It would be so easy to list the many things I am dealing with right now and try to console myself with the notion that I am unique in the challenges I face, but as the road hummed beneath my tires I had to admit that none of the components of my life are so unique that someone, somewhere is not also dealing with the exact same paradigm. While the constellation of my life is probably unique to me, each individual piece is not. I thought of the metaphor of all matter, how everything in the universe is constituted from the same essential ingredients, yet the combinations are myriad and unique to each structure. So it is with my life and being. The simple answer then is to break my life and being down to its most essential parts and reconstitute them in such a way as to give meaning and pride to my existence.
Of course this means work, and lots of it. There is school to consider, my health and fitness, our financial situation, the realities faced by those I hold close to me that weigh upon my heart... But if I just slow down, deconstruct, and organize my schedule and priorities, in thirty-one days my life can become appreciably lighter, freer, and more joyful. To begin with I need to break down the requirements I must fulfill for school � both last semester and this present term. There is nothing that is really stopping me at this very moment from completing everything I have to do to complete last semester's work and remain completely current with my present studies over these next thirty-one days. It will take motivation and time management and more discipline than I have held myself to for a very long time, but the pity-party is over. One month of concentrated work is not beyond anyone's capability, and certainly not mine when I am functioning at my best.
Sometimes trying to figure out where to begin is the most overwhelming part, trying to find a way to organize my thoughts and behaviors in such a way as to produce real results. I am lousy at this - I think I have always been bad at this stage of the plan. But I have made a list of last semester's written assignments and that's a start. What I failed to list however was the volume of reading necessary to complete each of those assignment and that has been in part what has kept me stuck. But if I want to be realistic, each written assignment must be matched by its corresponding readings or else they don't tell the complete picture. I missed so much of the semester that without the required reading, the assignments are almost incomprehensible. Additionally my lack of motivation has already put me behind in this semester's work, and I cannot afford to screw this semester up. So this digital journal is my beginning template. Google Calendar is going to become my best friend for awhile. My physical journal will also be at my disposal, parked on my nightstand, although most of my planning will obviously occur here, since editing these entries is a hundred thousand times easier. It's time to begin.

Scattered, that's the only word I can use to describe my thoughts and Sensations right now... edgy and confused my mind races around the central pole of my grief. Grieving sucks... but its the only fitting emotion to describe this sadness this darkness that clings to every millimeter of my periphery, it must be grief, or the first inklings of dark insanity. And crazy I feel sometimes like I am losing all grasp of the strings and everything is about to dissolve like sand through my fingers. Home, school, income, worries, who balances this stuff and makes it look good? I need to meet them sit at their feet guru-like and listen to directions... but all I hear is the ringing in my ears and vacuous silence beyond... Going through the motions isn't enough anymore, I want to excel like that ego image in my mind tells me I can do, blow everyone's and my mind with my overwhelming proficiencies... SIGH
I hate panic, and that's what I am feeling because when I panic I freeze. Like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights I get a sick churning feeling in the pit of my stomach and the world blurs out and my head hurts and every great and small plan dissipates into a pathetic whimper... by the time I come to hours can pass in comatose lassitude. How pathetic. My energy and motivation comes in short manic bursts and I have to get as much done as I can during those times because when its gone I am drained and sweaty on the inside. Everything just fogs backup again and I am nauseous with worry and anxiety. Then I do nothing or do everything I shouldn't be doing, watching mindless television for hours numb and drunk. Projects tilt and weave in and out of my thoughts and threaten to choke off the last of my air... and then the sadness hits me again and the anger builds at no one and nothing... SIGH

my heart still longs... february first, two thousand twelve
it has been weeks since your sudden departure and life has moved forward in staccato moments... my heart still longs and searches for your face, futile and failed is my search... but I continue to move forward, continue the life you bequeathed me with your death.
School has begun again... between this semester and last I am carrying twenty-five hours... money is tight but coming... eating is erratic and forced... but one step at a time comforts me, six seconds to breathe...

The road not traveled 'til looked behind,
to see the distance covered blind...
the story of a year - two-thousand-eleven
We begin each new year hoping it will be eventful and full of new experiences. Obviously we also hope those events will be jubilant, celebratory, highlights in our lives... yet we also enter each year with a bit of trepidation and wonder - at what will transpire during the next three-hundred-sixty-five days. How will it change us? Move us? Teach us? Two-thousand-eleven began this way for most of us... there were marriages and births already anticipated, and it was predicted to be a very full and busy year.
We think others are the reason we live... but in the end we find out that it us - a selfish act of reclamation that keeps us going. We live our own lives even as we think we live for someone else. I thought I lived for Erhard, but found out that in the end I would live for me.
Sitting here now, two days into the new year, I have many mixed feelings. I cannot dismiss two-thousand-eleven out-of-hand despite the fact that tragedy raised its ugly head toward its end. I was witness to and receiver of many blessings. The Ruszczaks were privileged to gather to celebrate the addition of a bright, articulate, beautiful new daughter-and sister-in-law on October 15th when Stephan married Ashley. I was there when many of my rented children married their respective loves and to marvel over babies that now graced their lives. New people have joined our extended family, bringing with them their sunshine. Even in my saddest hour I was humbled by the outpouring of love that surrounded me and my family after Erhard died so suddenly on

October 13th.
I don't know where two-thousand-twelve will lead us... I am terrified as events continue to unfold that have darkened the lives of many I love dearly. I have new responsibilities that sometimes leave me breathless. Financial matters continue to plague me. I have an entire semester of work to catch up even as I begin my last semester as an undergrad at Northern. But I am determined to raise my head and meet these challenges head on. To be there where and when I can for the people I love. To continue to celebrate the precious gift of life we are all given in daily measure. I am both wiser and smarter than I was a year ago.

My body aches from a weekend spent diligently working to clear the dining room table and living room of stuff in order to ready the house for Christmas decorations. Even parts of the basement are now neat and organized. I am proud, but tired. Interspersed with this burst of cleaning there has been the usual work of grocery shopping and fixing meals. On the surface the days seem to progress from one to another in relatively stable fashion. But underneath it all there is a reservoir of anguish roiling in my heart which threatens to spill at any moment out into the world. Erhard has invaded my dreams just like he consumes my waking thoughts, appearing suddenly and ordinarily as if nothing had changed. I cling to him but he his distant and waking up leaves me shaking and vulnerable.
I have a dozen sincere requests for conversation and comfort but I feel myself withdrawing from all of them in an attempt to stabilize my inner world without having to explain to anyone the gnawing hunger that propels me constantly to feel less and do more. My fears are both unfounded and entirely pragmatic, how will we survive this? How do I continue to keep this house afloat until I can secure some form of regular income for myself, not having to rely on anyone, although the offers and the ability are there. I want to step out of the dependency shadow I endured for more than three decades. While Erhard's love was unconditional, my status was not... and It grieved and angered me through my twenties, thirties, forties... and haunts me still. Now that he is gone I flail to cast off this net, vowing never to walk into such a prison again.
I mourn him every the candle in the bookshelf � my clear Catholicism on constant display. The flame comforts me as it flickers and arches to embrace the oxygen that surrounds it. A tiny light, but a powerful metaphor. Writing becomes my voice, my solace. Surrounding me with words that bereft of paper do not bubble to the surface as easily. An armada of relief ships threatens to submerge my tiny lifeboat. How do I tell the world I know of your support, but I must do this for now alone and in my own time? I stumble between intense focus and a fuzzy confusion which obliterates all evidence of the path I walk. Progress is spastic and intermittent. But it is my progress, my work which will eventually lead me back to some semblance of a normal life. The list of people waiting for me is growing endless, and I fear losing myself in the wash of their emotional outpourings. I loathe the reminders of my own desperation and loneliness.
Their names form the architecture of my history - reaching across decades to define the external parameters of my identity. They stand as sentinels, guarding me from the larger world as I struggle to birth a new inner identification. Erhard's presence had wrapped them all into his, covering every available space with his love and protection. In his absence each has moved closer to the other in a valiant attempt to reinforce the spaces that now appear, ragged and maimed, in my scaffolding. How do I communicate to them that my awareness of their presence is laced with both gratitude and fear? Fear that I will never be able to sufficiently speak to each of them individually? That I do not know where to begin? Is it really as simple as making a list and power-dialing it through the course of an entire day just to touch base with each of them for a few moments or hours? Would that finally ease my distress at their constant invitations? Or do I resort to some mass mailing that explains my situation and thanks each of them for their patience? That seems so trite. But each conversation feels as if it is cleaving words from my soul that I am simply not ready to speak.
I am lost in a tunnel of questions. What trepidation holds my tongue captive? Why am I so reticent to reach out to the world that I myself constructed? The certainty of my love and allegiance to them is certainly not at issue... then what forces me into this vortex of silence? I do know know... but the mere thought of stepping out from inside this hurricane is akin to the prospect of slowly splaying my flesh from my frame. My emotions lie like shards of broken glass just beneath my vocal chords, purging them causes only pain and hemorrhage. Explaining myself leaves me looking like an imbecile � unable to vocalize my hesitancy in any coherently adult form. So I remain frozen and uncommunicative in this catacomb as the cacophony grows louder.
It is in silence that I find my moments of contentment... tiny glimmers of happiness and balance find their way through the cracks like colorful weeds struggling to break the surface of city pavement to enjoy the sunshine just inches from where they root. Within this bubble I am safe and I am at peace. But this ataraxis comes at the exclusion of any movement towards honoring my fidelity to those I love and who need to hear from me. It is bitter medicine. Yet at my desk, when the house is quiet and dark, I find my comfort here at the keyboard. Since moving my desk into the bedroom I feel so much more contained and that is good and solid consolation. My private shelter. I feel at home here. Even when the house returns to life I can count on this space to be soothing and remote.
Good thing too, since the work still left to be done can be consuming... whether I choose to focus on the house, my now disrupted education, or my financial future the options and tasks are so numerous, and their urgency so pervasive, that I become mired in the muck of the mountain and make no headway. Escape is not an option, neither is failure. My mind still blurs when I attempt to revisit academia in any form, the financial obligations mount and I am crushed under the weight of their liability... the house - manual labor interspersed by decision - is all that has served me in these last weeks. I have retreated into organization and cleaning as therapy. Along the way I have found hours of prudence that allow me to conduct the financial business of running a home and the fortitude to attend classes and bring my whole self to its pursuit. But these moments of audacity are short-lived in comparison to the hours I spend blankly staring into the gaping void of my future.
Tomorrow is Monday... the first working day of December for me and my academic existence. Will I be ready to process facts and information and complete more than a cursory perusal through my semester? I am praying as I write... because I really don't know. I know I love school, love the subjects I am learning, love the challenge... but I also know that the person who attended classes this semester is lying broken in this room, attached to his keyboard, clinging to the hope that her brain cells will reengage. Praying that I don't wake in in a cold sweat from another dream... frightened and childlike, alone in my bed. But I will. I already know what tomorrow morning looks like because it will look like every other morning since October 12th passed into history.
So I blog... write what I cannot speak, hope that something will move inside of me that makes me want to exist here in a world where everything of meaning is either history or leaving... or changed in ways I do not yet understand. Where every joy has its shadow, every agony is endless... what can I say to those who stand ready to comfort me? I am coming... wait for me? I am fine, moving forward? No. These would be lies. What I am saying is give me time, I don't know... I am clumsy and imperfectly human. I am grieving. But I am aware. Conscious and on my own life-support. I am returning, but for now... I am gone. Leave me if you must... love me if you can. They say that time heals all wounds. I beg its truth. But for now I fear not the weeping wounds for they draw me closer to my future. Purge me of my remorse and my doubt, temper me is some hideous fire. Spare me your worst... I am ready to face this abyss of agony.

November 16th 2011 -- BABY STEPS...
It had been a month since Erhard, my beloved husband of thirty years, suddenly passed away after a massive stroke. The past month had been trying... there was all the minutiae and detail required of filing a dozen different forms and writing countless letters. There was the gnawing sorrow that ebbed only occasionally... there were the long nights.
But last Saturday we finally had his funeral mass... there had been a delay to allow for organ and tissue donation as well as cremation and during those weeks it was almost impossible for me to concentrate on school. Now coming to the end of my first week back at school I finally feel like I am bringing my whole self to my studies. This is life part two... money is extremely tight, I have a month of work to catch up with, and there are still interminable nights of loneliness... but I am ready and moving forward.
In the past six weeks I have lost the thirteen pounds that had crept back on during the last couple of years... I am ready to make more progress now � and 1400 calories seems to be my ideal number. I know that I must return to my exercise routine as well, and once school is finished for the semester I will have the time to figure out just how to incorporate more than just walking into my fitness program. I would be lying if I said that my pain levels have decreased... but I know that once I start working out again things should get better...
So much to do... so much to feel... one step at a time.

October 16th 2011 -- In the Blink of an Eye...
There are few things in life as capricious as life itself. This can make life an adventure or fill it with dread depending on what kind of surprise it bestows. This weekend life handed me both. Yesterday, a gloriously sunny and cool Saturday my oldest son Stephan got married to his beloved. While the wedding was not a surprise by any stretch its jubilance and celebration took me off-guard.
The reason sadly was that just a little over 48 hours prior to the wedding my beloved husband of 30 years, and the proud father of my oldest son, suffered a massive stroke and passed away within the space of mere minutes. His sudden and permanent absence tore a gaping hole in my heart that still weeps...
So this weekend has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions and love - of new life celebrated and another lionized - there is so much left to arrange and organize - the doing part starts now... but right now, this moment I needed to give voice to my thoughts and enter them here...

October 1st 2011 -- 9:30am... I have weighed myself on both the mechanical scale in the bathroom and the digital scale from the front room that I brought into the bathroom. They are 14.5 pounds apart. The mechanical scale reads 185 pounds. The digital scale displays 199.5 pounds. I am disheartened by both, but devastated by the second. My body contours most closely approximates the first, but some of my clothes fit like I weighed the second. Either way I am a long way from 172 pounds, and it's time to get back on track.
I don't know which scale to trust. When I am at the doctor's office their scale calibrates even higher than either of them. Although when I weighed 172-175 pounds at home the doctor's scale read 193 pounds, so it's always been off. Today I am re-calibrating my weight loss tracker to more accurately reflect what I have been seeing on these scales. But I still don't know which one to trust. For my ego's sake I am using the lowest weight � I figure that as long as I use only one of the scales continuously my weight loss will show up no matter which one I pick. But this is just the kind of detail that drives me crazy and causes me to obsess about the wrong aspects of my new lifestyle. If anyone has any advice or a few words of encouragement, I could really use your input right about now...

Thursday, September 29, 2011 -- Here it is the second-to-the-last day of September and I haven't posted a blog in almost 6 weeks. I can tell I have been busy with school.
Had a wonderful 54th birthday on the 9th of September...
I am currently getting all A's in my classes...
October 1st -- I weigh myself officially and change my tracker to reflect reality!
Life is getting busier now that the semester is in full swing, but I still hope to check out the NIU Gym to see about working out in-between my classes on Tuesday and Thursday or before class on Monday and Wednesday.

08.15.2011 -- As of today I have been a member of SparkPeople for ONE THOUSAND days... I have learned so much, battled so long, accomplished more than I could have dreamed and owe my persistence to the support and direction I have found here at this community. I have dieted in one form or another since I was 9 years old, but this is the first time in my life I have made a solid effort towards approaching this as a life choice instead of a temporary trial on my way to a "perfect" Every other time I have attempted this I have eventually fallen off the wagon and given up (and regained the weight plus more). This time I got back on the wagon, even after days and days of mindless eating. Am I at my goal? NO. But I am at peace with my journey while still not complacent and that change is near miraculous! I am somewhere around 58 pounds lighter than I was when I began this journey... and although the scale has slipped of late, I am undeterred in my goal. I am ready to move forward again. Here's to you all... and the NEXT 1000 days of my journey.

08.10.11 -- Enough stalling already... spent 10 minutes on the stationary bike, biking a little over a mile... it felt wonderful, even though my body complained... time to just DO IT!

August 8th -- Three days without recording again... two of them spent just barely conscious... but I have recorded what I could - more will surely come which I will add down the line... I almost don't care anymore - I am in pain and angry at the world and frustrated with myself for abandoning so many goals.

July 29th 2011 -- The last two days have been filled with celebration and lots of food. While yesterday went well at TGIFriday, tonight we ate at the Old Country Buffet and I was hungry. While I don't think I ate too terribly, calorically it was a bust... But it almost felt good to just relax and eat, not having to count or watch and as much as I know that diets are not to be postponed until the first of the month or week, the fact that August begins on a Monday is definitely causing the wheels in my head to turn. I have plans for August.
As of August 1st there are exactly three weeks until the first day of the Fall Semester at NIU and my return to intense academia. Suddenly there is so much to do and so little time left to accomplish all I need to... the long days of crippling pain interspersed with dark depression have taken their toll on my productivity this summer. But there have been good days too and I am going to draw on the strength of their memory to motivate me to really buckle down and lose some significant weight before school begins. My birthday is a little over six weeks away and I want to look my best come September 9th.

07.28.2011 -- So yesterday was a day of intractable pain and eating everything not nailed down to try and numb some of my feelings. I haven't eaten that many calories in one day for some time now but instead of fudging the numbers I decided to simply record everything and let the reality be what it was...

Monday, 07.11.2011 -- It's been months since I started eating below my allotted caloric range. Yet my weight loss is stalled and I am growing impatient and frustrated by its lack of progress. Checking my Sparkpeople Tracker Charts only makes this apparent disconnect more confusing. Although I know there have been days on end where my recording was done from memory and many days I have been blank, I also know that I did not spend every waking minute of those days eating. What am I doing wrong? I just purchased four new pairs of Size 20 Jeans and most of them are uncomfortably tight even though my Size 22s are too loose. I just need some direction after running a few errands I am finally sitting down with my hardcover copy of The Spark in the hopes that it can shed some light on my predicament. I need to get back to my former "low-end" weight of 172 pounds before school starts again in August ... come hell or high water.

06.01.2011 -- A new day, a new month...and so many goals. Now that I am done with school for the Summer I can turn my attention to all of the goals I have set for myself regarding the other areas of my life. Spring semester 2011 was a successful one - I ended up with a 4.0 & five A's!
Erich, Erhard, and I are going on Atkins. Erich wants to lose the last ten pounds of body fat he feels is standing in his way of feeling really feeling good about himself; Erhard needs to do something because his weight is really affecting his quality-of-life and health; I want to jump-start my weight loss again... three people three reasons, one method.
My plans are to interject some excitement back into my fitness commitment. Slowly over this week, I plan on implementing this new diet plan into my eating habits. Lord knows I have craved Erhard's attention since I was 15 years old, and still want to be able to turn his head...
One of the first things I want to do is catch up with all of my food-tracking so that I am able to begin this month clear and ready. Beyond my eating concerns there is so much I want to accomplish with respects to money, and cleaning, organizing my paperwork and setting up my office for next semester and to launch my business.
I am ready to hit the ground running and succeed beyond my wildest dreams.

May 9th 2011 -- It has been just shy of a month since I last took the time to journal here...the last weeks of a school semester are always so hectic and I have been solely focused on completing my work. All I have left to do is complete my 15-page LGBT Honors paper, my 3-5 page LGBT take-home final, take my in-class Psychology of Sexuality final, and attend the last Psychology Lab meeting. Then I will be free to pursue my summer break...I have several important goals and plans ready to be put into practice... a summer internship at Spectrum LGBT Centre, going on the Atkins diet, and cleaning/painting the house are just three of them. I want to work out again, finally go through my things and donate, sell, or toss the extraneous � finally coming to the point where it's all clean and organized.
Lately I have been diligent in logging my food intake in the SparkPeople Tracker - and I have gotten a grip on my runaway appetite as well. I can feel my collarbones more easily again, and feel like I am making progress towards returning to 172 pounds. Got on the scale this morning and it hasn't moved - which is both counterintuitive and very disappointing. I weigh somewhere between 185 and 195 pounds according to that scale (it changes dramatically depending on where you put your weight) and after the last few weeks of really restricting my intake, I don't think it's accurate. I will keep doing what I have been these last weeks until we finish off most of the foods in our cupboards and pantry...then it's on to Atkins for a while - I want to see some dramatic weight loss!

April 15th-17th 2011 -- Recorded as much as I could remember over these last three days... I am sure there are items missing, but my mind draws a blank as soon as I attempt to concentrate. One thing I am sure of is how healthy I have been eating: fresh, non-fried food, well-made. Over the next few days I am sure more will spring to mind, and of course I will record it then, but it's a good start. One day I want to get to the point where healthy eating becomes blissfully second-nature. Until then, I will record as much of what I eat as soon as I am able. If nothing else my eating has become mindful and life-affirming and I am less obsessed over what, how much, and when I eat. Still - I do wish I would record my intake as soon as I am done-rather than putting it off. What I have learned however, is not to panic - it only drives the memories surrounding my food intake deeper into my subconscious and away from easy recall. Three more weeks of school and one exam week and then it's summer break. So many goals left to complete, but with the right planning everything will work out.

March 26th 2011 -- It is a little past the halfway point in my semester. Spring is here if one looks at the calendar but not in the weather and I am getting so tired of this long winter... Finding it harder and harder to stick to my goals and although I am generally content, this gets me down... Need to get back on track before I start gaining too much weight back. I am considering beginning a new push the 1st of April. More on this a bit later...

02.06.2011 -- Another day and so much work ahead of me... My mind is swirling with ideas � fitness and dieting thoughts, schoolwork that has to be done, money woes and solutions... I don't want to backslide and I am terrified that I have started to regain some of the weight I've lost. I have decided that I am going to buy myself a scale with a digital readout at waist-height... no more bending over to see, will probable read for hours today and have a Statistics assignment due tomorrow... need to follow through on my financial goals and plans... especially in filing my taxes and filling out my FAFSA report... all of it mental clutter keeping me from doing anything but ruminate.
But right now all I want to do is eat breakfast and go watch some television...probably HGTV... another one of my mental indulgences that this year I have promised to turn into real achievement. The house is in desperate need of another once-over and I want to finally get moving on all those design goals... random thoughts... disorganized and frenzied, bombard my every waking moment...

January 25th -- The month is almost over and school has started. This semester promises to be amazing! My eating is slowly coming back around and as soon as I am able to file our 2010 taxes I can apply to the YMCA for financial assistance... in the meantime I need to focus on what is most important AND also within my control - eating well and healthy and looking for ways to incorporate fitness into my day...

Just a Couple of Days...
I did absolutely nothing yesterday, in direct opposition to what I had set out to accomplish...SIGH. Today has to be filled with something more...there are only two days left until this year ends and another begins. Two-thousand-eleven will arrive and with it the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century! What a time of recollection then these last few days bring on...of the last year, the last decade. So many things have much to recall! I know that one of my more "secret" goals is to start a blog this year, a general "just-me" blog not connected to either SparkPeople or FaceBook or MySpace - but I am unsure of how to begin or where to go to find such a site... I have seen advertisements for blogger and Windows Live but getting the real scoop is one of my goals for these last two days of two-thousand-ten.
That's not to imply that I will stop writing on any of the other sites, I just want a place where I can feel free to pull it all together and also a chance to see if I could actually develop a following... I think I have a unique perspective and since I have always wanted to make at least part of my contribution to the world and my economic security via writing, this seems like a perfect opportunity. Lord knows I have a lot to say... I read others' writings and watch a myriad of non-fiction television and have yet to see myself reflected as well as I would like...there's always a bit too much "gloss" in the rest of what I see "out there". My life doesn't look like that - even though I share many of the features of each and every other story there is always that part that seems absent - an absence of admission and/or recognition, I think.
I live in Rockford, Illinois - a town where many of the homes hover well below one-hundred thousand dollars and yet when I watch HGTV I get the distinct feeling they are completely unaware that we exist. I am a 53-year old full-time returning student at Northern Illinois University and O magazine really thinks I should outfit myself in $700 leather trench coats and designer blouses so that I can maximize "my look" - really? We live on a fixed income since my husband went on disability this last year - losing our insurances - all of them - life, health, you name it... no, we are still well above the poverty line but are still struggling to live at 40% of our former income. Yet I don't see many articles about us, only stories devoted to people much younger or much older. My husband is 60, too young for Social Security and too old to start over in a new career given the economic realities of our country. My three sons are in their 20's - two of them hold Bachelor's Degrees and the third will get his in the spring - yet only my oldest is employed, and he works for a large retailer in their merchandise pick-up department - hardly the career for which his degree was intended. Yet we do not appear on the government indices because none of us are unemployed in the way the government seems to think is worth noting. Over the past decade I have been the primary caregiver for both my mother until her death in 2007 and for my older brother while he was battling Wegener's. Just this fall I became my younger developmentally-disabled sister's legal guardian. Although there are many good sources of information for caregivers there is very little written about how one goes back to one's own life after these responsibilities wane through either death or recovery. The years I spent away dealing with their respective illnesses left me feeling very different when I ultimately returned to my "former" life.
Over the last two-and-a-half years I started working out again, diligently going to the YMCA until my husband's illness made affording even that impossible. My finding SparkPeople happened shortly after I started getting back in shape and the two years I have been a member have seen me lose 58 pounds and although I struggle like hell now to keep going I have maintained most of that weight loss longer than at any other time in my life. Look at pictures of me through the years and you will see that I am "accordion" woman - shrinking and widening like the folds of an accordion. But even here the constant "upbeat" mood of the site is only vaguely assuaged by the real stories I find on the message boards and most of the calorie-saving suggestions I find onsite are blatantly unrealistic - such as the one that stated you could save calories when eating a Big Mac by ordering it without sauce, cheese, or the middle bun - exactly how is that still a Big Mac? I get uncomfortable with the site's reliance on what I consider to be "fake food" - such as no-fat sour cream and mayonnaise - all chemicals and no food. Now I am also smart enough to realize that neither of these is patently "necessary" in anyone's diet, but I would rather eat less of these in their natural form than indulge in some convoluted facsimile.
I haven't even touched on my political and religious leanings - socially progressive and Roman Catholic - an odd mix if you look at either without the other. But I live both, a reality invisible in anything I read or watch on any kind of regular basis. Yet clearly here I am, trying to navigate the complexities of psychology and faith, ethics and dogma. I am both a social scientist and a devout spiritualist and I believe that my voice is not alone in the crowd - it just encompasses too tangled a web for any one dedicated site to contain. So I am embarking on a new journey, or heading in a new direction depending on how you look at life... since it can be said that no matter the path we take or where it leads, in a very real way all movement is forward. And there is more to me than even the details I have started to share here... a history that is at times quite graphic and gritty, layers of my personality that are not readily apparent to anyone, secrets I carry... but have gotten tired of keeping. All of these are fodder for the blog - each of them will speak to what it's like being a "real" person... light and dark, at times scarily dysfunctional on one level while maintaining complete competency in another... and sometimes living the middle ground between complete chaos and outstanding accomplishment - being ordinary. It could turn out to be a fascinating story or a complete bore - but either way it needs to see light.

December 18th -- The semester is over and I am eating everything in sight... I have eaten out almost every day and the calories are really adding up...
My "lucky jeans" are uncomfortably tight and this really depresses me. I have to add more exercise back into my schedule - I am not really sure why I avoid working out... clearly I enjoy it - the fitness counts from the last two years should be proof enough that when I put my body into motion I love it!
My grades are in - 4 A's, and a B in Calculus! Hallelujah! Maybe this is me celebrating...but I suspect it's more like "this is me anxious and bored..." Started working on my household projects and also my hectic Christmas shopping list... but there is still something disconnected between my appetite and my energy levels... SIGH

December 8th -- My world is uneven right now... almost done with school, but not quite; eating well one day and everything in sight the next; moments of calm determination interspersed with panic and the distinct temptation to run away from my life; my clothes still fit although I have not yet weighed myself, my grades seem good but I think I messed up my last psychology examination � I simply ran out of steam and motivation; SIGH. So today my world will center on finishing the last lab report for school � then all I will have left is my calculus final Friday morning. If I don't end up eating my way through the house in the next few days, I will weigh myself Saturday morning. Life will go on � it must, but I am struggling to keep the promises I made to myself and everything seems like such a chore these days.

November 29, 2010 -- I am finally making real progress in the completion of this semester's schoolwork and exercising more control over my eating (although some days my appetite and compulsivity REALLY spike)... still no noticeable weight gain but no loss either... However I won't go near a scale because I am truly afraid of what it might say, so I am judging my progress (or lack of it) by how well my clothes continue to fit and appear flattering... for now my wardrobe still works for me, and my collarbones haven't disappeared, but eventually I HAVE to weigh myself!

11.09.2010 - One more month...then this semester is
over. It has been a hectic, challenging time. I was not sure I could succeed, but I have learned determination, patience and faith... So much left to do - so many things not done. Yet there is much to be thankful for. This morning, this life - a new day, so many new and exciting possibilities... All Is As It Should Be...

10. 24.2010 **DEPRESSION** -- Unconscious irresponsible eating just because I felt lousy and was bored...still reeling from my dismal performance on my much-studied-for, yet dreaded Calculus exam - my head hurts from all the thoughts swirling inside - bumping into the sides of my brain until it's bruised and sore. I want to shut off the world and just hide, curl up and forget that I still have much to do and almost an entire half semester left...**SIGH**
So there was Cream of Wheat made with whole milk and Cocoa Powder and Dark Brown Sugar, Italian bread toasted with Salted Butter, Circus Peanuts...anything starchy or sweet to take me away from myself. It didn't work. I am still here, feeling bad and still having to do all of the things I hid from...

October 10th, 2010: Coming to terms with my lackadaisical recording, I have flashes of foods eaten and not recorded almost every other day � which have become quite disconcerting. As soon as I am able to nail a particular infraction down, I record it in the Nutrition Notes provided beneath the Nutrition Section, but lately it just feels so out-of-control. My weight appears to be stable � but only as measured by the way my clothes fit and how my body feels - I don't dare creep near a scale...
I must discipline myself to record more regularly - there are times when several days pass and then I try to catch-up all at once and that is where the greatest number of omissions happen. I know this. Yet I still procrastinate, even when those days were good in terms of foods eaten and quantities...sometimes I am just tired of the whole thing... but I have come so far and I know that the recording of my daily intake and activity is the single greatest reason I haven't regained my weight...
I know what I must do... and I am committing myself once again to doing it...

9.21.2010 -- I can't believe it's been a month already... I always tell myself I want to post something, check in... but then the days get so long and I am exhausted by the time I get home from school... Life is good overall -- but tiring and my schedule requires endurance.
I now weigh 172 pounds - at least on one scale - and my clothes are loose. I can get really depressed when I get on other scales though - they average 15 pounds heavier... but I KNOW that can't be true because my "skinny" clothes simply wouldn't fit me at that weight and they fit just fine... SIGH... I just want a consistent measure... my eating has been erratic of late - there are days I barely eat anything - and I know that's not good - but I am too tired to think about food after an 18 hour day... I just want to be under 170... 3 more pounds and I move from obese to overweight... but I seem to be in an intractable holding pattern and the fact that the scales don't match just depresses me to no end... I am in pain almost every night and know I need to get more exercise than is available to me during the school day - but exactly where do I make room for that?

8-30-2010 ... School has started and I practically elope to the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb, IL each day. August will soon be a memory - Autumn is coming! Although money is extremely tight there is a renewed sense of contentment surrounding me. I am presently taking 5 classes for a total of 16 hours. Between my Honors contracts and the piggyback Math course I am taking as part of my Calculus class I am putting in the work of someone pulling NINETEEN credit hours! I spent all last week in my lucky jeans - size 16! Just knowing that they fit and are comfortable makes me smile - but they are ruthless when it comes to my gaining weight - literally no wiggle I KNOW I am still maintaining my weight at 175 pounds. More intuitive eating, rigorous tracking...appreciation and exercise. SUCCESS IS just a little farther on...

08-17-2010: My last week of Summer Vacation before returning to school - SO much to do! Fighting fatigue and an almost constant headache has made exercise and housework difficult to motivate... I really am beginning to think I am in flare... my weight is stable but I am eager to lose more weight, get back on track... I have no emotional patience for stasis. Craving sweets like they were leaving the planet and alternating between wanting high protein foods and tons of carbs... SIGH... just not sure what is going on exactly, but today was a beautiful warm-but-not-hot day and my mood lifted along with the humidity... things just have to turn around, there is too much left to do and I am ready to see progress!

August 11th 4:27am-- It has been a long day, but for the first time in over a week, a productive one. Ran a few errands, cleaned house, took a long, hot bath, caught up on my emails and Facebook correspondence, wrote poetry, tracked my food and stayed within my caloric range, posted on the SparkPeople Message Boards, and basically just got back into life. A GOOD DAY! I know tomorrow will be equally as busy - my life might actually be coming off pause... so many days have languished and I am ready to set forth on some new adventure - a different direction. Funny how an ordinary day, spent really living instead of just "being here" can bring one back to center. I look forward to tomorrow's new beginnings, sure in the knowledge that I still have a lot of living left to do...

08-05-2010 -- What a mixed bag... on the one hand I have reconnected with friends close to my heart that I have lost touch with these last years... on the other, my eating and exercising have been terrible and I am stalled on my cleaning progress due to pain and lethargy. Don't want to blame the Fibromyalgia and Lupus, but my head is in a fog and I am plagued with a perpetual headache and hip pain... as a result I have been eating junk and way too much and turning to alcohol to numb the pain - which is a terrible solution. Need to get back on track and listen to my higher self, my soul instead of this broken body... keep moving, keep striving...but it gets so mundane and tiring and I long for excitement! School is a mere 18 days away and I am panicky and excited all at once...must recenter my self and reach out... time to enlist support!

August 2nd -- Cleaning is going well and I am satisfied by the progress. Just a little over three weeks to go before I return to school. So much still left to do! I am holding steady at 175 pounds but would really like to lose another 6 pounds by my birthday on September 9th.

July 27th -- I am in pain all the time now - and I am getting less done because of it... but I have lost another two pounds - 55 pounds in total! I now weigh 175 pounds ...Still cleaning... the progress is SOOO affirming! I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH! I am SOOO glad that I have made an effort to become more active again - when I am away from this site for too long - I begin to feel alone and disconnected and my progress starts to feel like punishment...

07-12-2010 Today was one of those ravenously hungry days that happen every so often... but this time I simply recorded it since I have vowed to no longer "fudge the numbers" of my tracker... I am tired of cheating - it does me no good because both my conscience and my body don't really forget... Since these days are truly random and not at all frequent, it becomes a matter of just being honest and moving on... life can't just be a struggle of calories... I will continue to be diligent, but I am cutting myself some slack as well... after all, I am alive and that living comes with the possibility that there are days I will simply overeat...

July 6th -- Today I woke up feeling really good - about myself, my life, my body... I am maintaining my 177 pound weight and not stressing over every detail, the house looks good and I am motivated to continue cleaning... and in just over a month-and-a-half I return to school and am looking forward to continuing my education - all together a WONDERFUL day... in just a little while I will be off to my son and future daughter-in-law's apartment to pick up a bunch more boxes and then it's down to the basement to really get going on a long overdue project - cleaning the space completely from one end to the other and finally purging all the extraneous stuff from our lives - clarity is everything...I am really excited!

June 24th -- Reworked my nutrition tracker...trying to put the last few days of mindless eating behind me... FUDGING NUMBERS -- wipe it off the tracker... but not out of my mind. I know I have been overeating, and the tracker began to depress me... feeling really out-of-control right now... even find myself looking forward to July 1st so I can.... what?

6/23/2010 -- I have been altogether lazy for three days...
fighting an ever-present migraine that responds to NOTHING! Should call the doctor tomorrow and then BACK to exercise and cleaning! My son Erich has re-inspired me once again... and now, at 53 pounds down I am within 10 pounds of moving from being Obese to Overweight according to the weight charts here on SparkPeople... time for another real PUSH... also need to rework my eating... anyone have suggestions?

June 18th - The first floor public rooms are finished and I have accomplished SO much... eating and especially drinking alcohol to excess is becoming problematic again and I feel so out of control - I should know by now that self medicating to ease the pain is a... BAD IDEA! But I always slip into that mode when I find myself depressed or just hurting from a flare-up of my Lupus/ Fibromyalgia...

6-13-2010 CLEAN HOUSE -- Here I come!

06.11.2010 -- Being lazy for awhile...power-watching TV and lounging about... but soon, if our finances allow it - we will all rejoin the YMCA and start sweating! It will feel SO very good. Keeping careful watch and limits on my eating has been hard, but not gaining any weight in these off times is worth it...

JUNE 4TH -- For the last week we have been in Northern Wisconsin (at Russell Memorial Campground in Merrillan) and I haven't exercised this much in months... fishing, hiking, just working around the campsite... It has been wonderful, and since I had to come back to Rockford for Angie's Guardianship Hearing and my doctor's Appointment it was doubly wonderful to discover than I haven't gained ANY weight even while eating pretty much what I wanted all week... Driving back early tomorrow morning for a few more days... can't wait to go fishing again with Erhard. Hmmm, things are finally working themselves out again... and I can feel the stress lift off of my shoulders a little more each day...


5.19.2010 One more paper to go - but I have my grades, even if they don't show up yet... 3 - As; 1- B...3.75 semester GPA; 3.875 cumulative... Almost afraid to get on the scale, but I think I am still holding steady at 180 pounds, even though I feel like I've eaten everything that isn't nailed down... SIGH... Looking forward to being done with this semester and figuring out a fitness plan, because Lord knows I need one... On a brighter note, last Saturday my youngest son, Erich, graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Applied Math.

MAY 6th... only 4 papers left to go... and two days left to do them... then I will mark one year since returning to school full-time... how blessed I am!
It has been a difficult semester at times --
Erhard getting sick and going on disability...
My getting sick and not being sure what's behind it...
Having my car totaled and suddenly being without reliable transportation to take me to school...
This has been the most intellectually intensive semesters EVER!
My weight is stable at 180lbs.
Now that I am almost done with this semester, I look forward to finally being able to thoroughly clean this house - TOP TO BOTTOM!
Qualifying for a grant so I can go back to the YMCA to restart my fitness program ...
The time has come for me to work out again...

5.2.2010 - Erhard and I have been married for 29 years... looks like we made it, schatze!

ALMOST HOME...04.19.2010 I am eating too much of the wrong things in too large portions for it to be hunger alone... I am stressing about everything and at the same time accomplishing very little. Need to breathe, focus... work instead of daydream and futz...can't give up so close to the end of the semester, after all of my other hard work... but panic leads to confusion and too much food... sometimes I just need to remind myself of what I have already accomplished... anyone else feel this way sometime?

Saturday April 3rd... 4:03am...Still weigh 180 pounds, still have a mountain of work to do, still stressing out every other hour...BUT somehow I am content...GO FIGURE! The bronchitis I had been fighting is continuing to linger, so I will soon be scheduled for a lung function test...I really think it's time I quit smoking...

Friday, March 26, 2010 9:38pm... a new car to replace the one I lost due to the accident - another 2003 Chevy Malibu 4-door, this one Gold (or Champagne, as they call it) and in pristine condition. More projects completed - this time purchasing Erich a new bicycle (a sliver and deep blue TREK) the house a bit more picked up... all of this in preparation for compiling my DONE list and my TO-DO much schoolwork to think about - the last mental block and physical holdout of progress... slowly but surely my life gets done...

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 - After months of remaining at my weight plateau of 184-pounds and adopting a never-give-up persistence, weighing myself regularly, eating the right foods in the right amounts, and stressing - I got on the kitchen scale this evening right at nine o'clock and discovered - to my utter incredulosity - that I now weigh 180 pounds... I have lost 4 pounds! FINALLY! I am now a proud Sparker with a 50 pound total weight loss! OMG... :-D

March 19th 2010 -- What a week of ups and downs, a real roller coaster of emotions... my bronchitis is finally clearing, Erhard is back out of the hospital after one more round of tests and another setback, my beloved 2003 Malibu was totaled in a freak and almost deadly accident and I really thought I would have to withdraw from school because I have fallen so far behind with everything else going on...and then I spoke to two of my three professors and they assured me they would do anything they could to make sure I could finish up this semester, even if it meant taking an incomplete and extending my work through the summer.
I learned that I am a lady of mercy, grace and class as I navigated the details of illness and accident this week. While I remain at 184-pounds still, given everything else going on, I'd say that was a major accomplishment in its own right...and so it goes - one moment at a time - still striving, still succeeding...

March 9th 2010 -- Trying to recuperate from this latest bout of Bronchitis while using Spring Break to catch up on my schoolwork... so far I am doing far more recovering and too little catching up... need to be patient and take a breath... being more patient with myself and my processes has always been relegated to the bottom of my emotional to-do list... it's more of a problem that any surface anxiety. But for now I must strive to take things a little more like they come instead of always attempting to wrench perfection out of my humanity...

March 5th 2010 -- BRONCHITIS AGAIN! Phooey! But I am bound and determined to make March a roaring success one way or the other... look out, stand aside - Here I come!

February 14th 2010 -- Valentine's Day -- Despite my best efforts I am still maintaining my weight at 184-pounds. Ultimately I try not to get too stressed out over it because for years maintenance was the most difficult part of staying healthy for me...School is wonderful! I am busier than ever but love the challenge. Although I have remiss in keeping up with my Sparkfriends, I am never far from all of you in thought and affection. So much to do...Spring can't get here fast enough! CIAO!

01.31.2010 - Can you imagine, we are already one month into the New Year...New Decade!? School has started and I am once again wrapped up in scholastic pursuits. Shortly after the 1st of the year, I came down with an annoying, albeit not serious, upper respiratory infection and as a result really cut back on my eating...very few things taste good after NyQuil...but now I find I have gained weight precisely because I might have slowed down my metabolism. PHOOEY!

12.26.2009 Christmas was simple and wonderful. Now it's time to turn my attention to the end of the year and my son, Christopher's, 25th birthday. Time to set goals and make plans... What do I want to accomplish in 2010?

12.18.09 School is over...Christmas is coming...WHEW! Last couple of weeks have been spent losing direction and sinking into depression... but today a glimmer of fight has returned and I am running with it instead of eating myself into a stupor or starving myself in order to feel something...

12.03.09 DECEMBER IS HERE! I am holding steady on my weight... GO ME! :-D My semester is finally over, except for finals... so far, I have a 4.0...I am SO excited! Wish me luck! Erhard is back to work, and feeling better. GOALS FOR DECEMBER - Wrap up the personal things I need to before the end of this year and break 180 pounds! Blessings to all...more soon. Gabi


11.13.2009... Friday the 13th - 184 pounds...another pound lost! I have tried to stay active but I so miss the YMCA. My husband is on disabled leave from work and we've had no income since September all memberships are cancelled for is stressful, but we take it one day at a time.

10.24.09--- I weigh 185 pounds!
I have lost another 2½ pounds!
Total Weight Loss - 45 pounds!

09.27.09--- I weigh 187½ pounds!
Total weight lost to date - 42½ pounds!
New goal: 175 pounds by 12.31.09!

09.26.09...Can't believe it's been an entire month since I updated my page! TIME FLIES! I have been in school for an entire month now and absolutely LOVE it! My eating has been erratic, but still relatively healthy and although I have really been lax with the YMCA, I have been doing a lot of walking while on both the Northern Illinois University DeKalb and Hoffman Estates campus grounds - going to and from the various classrooms and meeting areas spread over 4 or 5 blocks and have tried to take stairs whenever possible. My weight is stable at 189-pounds - heavier than I want to be, but a far cry from where I was...maintenance has always been my undoing, so the fact that I holding steady is a beautiful thing! I turned 52 on September 9th and have vowed to make this the best year of my life! LOOK OUT WORLD, HERE I COME!

08.31.09...I AM ONCE AGAIN AT 189-POUNDS!

08.26.09... School has started and I am busily adjusting to the increases in my responsibilities. There are SO many things I want to accomplish! It's time once again for one of my infamous to-do lists. Once completed I shall post it here to facilitate my accountability. Until then, know that I keep each and every one of you, my dearest SparkFriends, in my daily thoughts and in my heart! I am so very grateful to have found SparkPeople and I know that I

Member Since: 11/18/2008

Fitness Minutes: 399,653

My Goals:
Get to a HEALTHY, ACTIVE weight that's right for me...right now I'm thinking about 129 lbs!
Be debt free by September 2020
Become comfortable logging my food intake without getting obsessive.

My Program:
taking the time to explore different ways of eating - clean eating, flexitarian, KETO... looking for the right program for me.
learn some new fitness routines in 2019... maybe finally find a way back to the gym that I can afford
in the meantime - WALK! WALK! WALK! and now with my FitBit Alta HR, track those steps!

Personal Information:
Gabi Ruszczak
Rockford, IL

Born in Germany, grew up in Chicago, now a 28-year resident of Rockford, IL.
Widowed after being married 30 years, 3 sons - Stephan, 36-1/2; Christopher 35; Erich 32
One grandson - Jackson (4-1/2)
Part-Time Tech Specialist at OfficeMax, Rockford, IL

Other Information:
Living with Degenerative Arthritis, IBS, and Fibromyalgia and the possibility of having Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (or some sort of AutoImmune syndrome)

B.S. Alumna Northern Illinois University - Cognitive/Clinical Psychology Major - Anthropology Minor, LGBT Studies Certificate
LGBTransQ+ Ally

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  • v WILDKAT781
    Hope you are having a good day!!!!
    55 days ago
    Sending some Christmas cheer. May yours be Merry and Bright! ♥

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    394 days ago
    emoticon emoticon Happy Saturday, Enjoy! emoticon emoticon
    800 days ago
    Looking to stay focused through the upcoming Holiday Season? Want to get connected with a Team to support you through your Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle? If yes, then consider joining the BL Challenge that starts early December. Each week 11 teams of 24 Active, do fun nutritional and fitness challenges. The challenges promote a healthy lifestyle and If for some reason you cannot do a challenge then they are modified to meet your needs. Often we do the challenge in a game form, we have BINGO and TIC TAC TOE or seasonally themed. For the Fall we had Cardio Hoedown, World Series and Sleepathon. I hope that you decide this might be for you you can leave your name on the waitlist for the Winter challenge. To get to the Challenge go to my page and click on the “BLUE BIGGEST LOSER” Icon, or copy and paste the link below, or let me know and I can send you an invite. Join the Team then sign up on the waitlist. It’s the thread right below the Chit Chat.
    805 days ago
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    Hello Sunshine! Let’s choose moments filled with happiness and set out to have a successful week!
    939 days ago
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