Tuesday, April 22, 2014


This is a re-post (with additions in red) from an earlier post.  Today is my one year anniversary of being abstinent from sugar, flour and alcohol.  

I remember the moment I realized I was fat.  It was a rude awakening to hear Dave Lamb infer it on “Come Dine With Me South Africa” and I was blown away by his cheekiness.   

I was in a room full of people who were watching the airing of the TV show and cheering me on, even though we all knew I hadn’t won.  At the very end of the show I declared “It’s over!” to which the narrator said “It is now!” as I laughed. 

We have a saying in America – “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”  I was laughing my melodic laugh, a song on most other days – Most other days where I’m not called fat on nation-wide TV. 

“Does he mean I’m fat?”  I cried out loud  - no one knew what to say.   Not even Mario.

Mario had been in one too many of these situations and it was no-win for him.  He could see I was hurt and just smiled, encouraging me (as did everyone else) that it was a joke about my laugh, not a crack about my weight.   Somehow I got over it, but it always stung  every time I re-watched the episode.  After all, I knew what the narrator meant.

Even after the Come Dine With Me airing, I didn’t change much.  After all, my husband loved me madly; my friends all supported me.  My family was (as always) very supportive of me and wanted me happy, no matter what.  Weight wasn’t important to all of them.

The truth was this: I was overweight.  My husband’s opinion would not change that.  Neither would my family’s or my friends.  After moving back to America, I had to get real with myself.  My personal trainer stayed behind in South Africa and I was at a crossroads in my life. I had to get the weight off -once and for all. 

I did. 

I’ll keep it off, God willing.  I can beat the patterns that got me there in the first place.  I have the ganas, the desire to beat back the death that used to live in my old brain.  I am being transformed; restored.    

It all started with a few truths I had never been ready admit to myself until April 22, 2013.  I wanted to share some powerful truths that caused the change between my ears ; because that’s really where I’ve lost the most weight.

1.  I got honest with myself.

I was overweight by anyone’s standards.  I’ve never put a lot of faith in the BMI charts, but they are a good place to start in determining if you are overweight.  A healthy human adult should weigh a certain weight for the height that they are, unless they are a body builder or a gymnast.  I was neither. 

I was overweight on most days, using most scales, during every season.

The reason I was overweight wasn’t because of my genes.  It wasn’t because I was fifty and had a hysterectomy.  It wasn’t because of my supreme cooking skills or my life of hosting so many people in my home. 

It was because I ate whatever I wanted – when I wanted it. 

I had rules for my overeating and they made sense to me.  I would overeat at parties, on special occasions, on Sundays….  My permission slips to overeat were only surpassed by my “morning-after-regrets” and my disbelief in what the scale said. 

I refused to believe that I had a deeper problem – a terrible feeling of never having enough.  Overeating was only part of the problem.

2.  I learned about food and the power it had over me.

A person who overeats usually has other health concerns.  I had chronic asthma and took my inhaler wherever I went.  I had antacids at my bedside, in the kitchen and near the TV. 

When I decided to follow an eating plan that fed my body instead of my taste buds, I began to nurture a new Janet who lay dormant inside of me.  I watched movies on nutrition.  I shopped for organic produce and fresh whole foods.  I started paying attention to which foods satisfied me most. I measured my portions and became truthful about my serving sizes.  I ate three meals a day and I was honest with myself that that was enough.

The first few weeks I was “hungry.”  Truth?  I was coming off white sugar and white flour.  I was an addict to both – and my addict demanded that I get a fix.  An addict’s least favorite word is no; so I felt my body rebelling by sending signals like “I’m hungry!” 

Most of the time I was “hungry” I was tired -  I needed rest.  I tried to lay down every time I was hungry.  It was excruciating, but I did it.

And then I realized I was an addict, and I was okay knowing that.  I had to start somewhere.

3.  Alcohol had to go.

Alcohol is a food.  It goes into your mouth and is processed by your several systems that keep your body moving.  When I decided to be honest with myself I that included that I would have to be honest about everything that I was ingesting. 

I suddenly was confronted with addictive patterns that didn’t belong in my life.  I had been using food and alcohol to tranquilize my head and heart.  I never processed the pain that was causing my compulsive patterns.   Food I couldn’t eliminate, but alcohol I could.  I gave up the best red wine, the finest martinis and said hello to water.  Tea. 

And I still haven’t said goodbye to Diet Coke.  A friend who has watched my transformation up close suggested that I watch a documentary on aspartame.   I groaned, knowing she was right. 

4.  I had to process sources of pain that caused behavior I didn't want in my life.

Read that again. 

If I had to be honest and weigh and measure my food, AND give up the hooch…. I had to begin a journey into the center of my soul that needed to be repaired.  The journey is exhaustive- and exhausting. 

Still, it’s better than the lifestyle of plastering all the wounds without paying attention to why they are there. 
The funny thing about wounds are that they cause behaviors.  Limping around, favoring  my weak sides, being grouchy when I am tired are only physical signs that something is wrong.  The real wounds people have are deep inside and most of us (if we are honest) don’t have the time to take care of them, or we don’t know how.  Some of us have been taught that if we only believe … if we only have faith that our wounds will heal.

I have learned that I must participate in a lifestyle of taking care of my wounds so that they really heal.  If I do this, I will less likely hurt others that I care about. 

My restart included a lot of honest, humility and reflection.  I had been living a life that discouraged looking within too much.  I had to give myself permission to tend to my own wounds; and I am in process.

5.  I had to be accountable to someone safe.

What would I do without friends?  I have so many who are lovely and loving – they genuinely care about me.   One of my friends offered to be my “bullshitometer” on this journey.  I can squeak past my old friends with my old patterns, but not her. 

She had recently gone through a similar journey herself.  Her journey began with a similar moment of awakening and she was confronted with painful patterns in her own life.  Because of her journey, she can relate to mine.  We both are becoming “filled with sanity” little by little. 

Because of her, I can be honest about my deep emotions and my food battles.  Even sobriety  and self-awareness can’t hold a candle to the beam of the truth that comes from a good friend.  She understands the truth behind the truth.

6.  I have rediscovered God.

Confessions of a missionary? 

In all the years I say I “served God”  I mean this in the most humble way:  I had neglected my true love.  I had been busy doing good things and forgotten about my love. 

My rediscovery has been very personal; very private, but very real.  It hasn’t come with bells and whistles, but with love.  I have had doors open with grace, things drop off of me with love…true love. 

I get shy talking about this, mainly because it is such a personal thing of how we know God.  I spent years running around doing things for Him, even in His name…but now I realize that He wanted only me. 

That’s refreshing.

7.  I have practiced gratitude.

The antidote for the poison of “not enough” is gratitude.  I have learned to be content with slow progress and minor victories. 

While I haven’t had the mounds of pizza and Mexican food that I swore I’d have upon my return to my home country, I have been grateful for raw and organic foods that abound here.  I am grateful for a smile or the sunshine.  I have to remind myself that inhaling and exhaling are gifts I’m not entitled to.  I have chosen to love things that before I would complain about. 

I adore raw red cabbage.  I love raw cauliflower.  I am grateful for beans.  I have a long list of things I cannot believe are mine.  I have to say it over and over again several times an hour.  Thank you, God!  I am grateful. 

The journey has just begun, but I can tell you this:  It has been three months since I started a journey of being nice to myself.  In those three months I have lost thirty pounds (13.6 kg’s) The new count is 50 pounds - or 22 kg's.  I have a graveyard of unused inhalers, I don’t even know where Mario keeps the antacids and I haven’t washed a martini glass for three months. I have not had a drink of alcohol in a year.  Praise God!!

Instead of feeling deprived, I feel free.  If I were honest, the best reward is being free.  

It almost makes me laugh.  And now no one can say that the fat lady is singing.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Vince at Great America, 1990

The first time I saw his face I felt myself get washed by the grace of God.  There was no way I deserved this child; no way to consider myself worthy enough.  I wasn't – I’m not.

Having children is a way that God shows us that He is gracious.  While I was busy trying to be worthy (and beating myself up because I wasn’t) Vince was busy growing up.  He identified shapes and colors as soon as he could talk.  He read, knew the maps of states, and could count to one hundred before he entered kindergarten.  His mind was constantly going and I loved him so much I was afraid he would disappear. 

Before long he was going to school; then he was playing basketball; then he played Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, reciting Shakespeare to such perfection I wept.  Then he was eighteen, leaving home. Today he is twenty nine.

Twenty nine.

My friend texted me the day before yesterday, a beautiful mother of three boys – all under five years old.  She told me she was just trying to keep her head above water, trying to get the laundry done and make dinner each night for her three little boys.  Next week she’ll be wishing her oldest a happy twenty-ninth birthday.  

That’s how fast it goes.

My son is no longer just mine.  He's moved from being my gifted and talented little boy to a man in this world.  Now our relationship is something that is one grounded in love and mutual respect.  I’ve actually been given the chance and opportunity to know him as a person.  For that, I am eternally grateful. 

Again, it is all the grace of God. 

Happy Birthday, Vince.  

Vince and Rikki - January 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014


The hall of mirrors that is my heart-
Holds many kinds of love,
Twisted, woven, passionate.
I look into the depths and see:
A love that rages,
Offended at the world assuming
There could be a replacement for it.
A love that worries
it may be forgotten; insecure and shaking
Like a child beneath a table.
A love that licks its wounds,
Self-preserving, destined to betray itself.
So many hidden, gentler loves,
The ones that laugh and speak and whisper

If all the pure love in my heart
Were to roll against itself and become a wheel –
It would travel smoothly to your own,
And gently invade your soul.
Because, my love, you do inspire
The purest love that comes from me.
And in this carousel of love-
There is the sacred, life-giving love;
One so beautiful that it could only be for you.
This offering.
I share my life and all the wonderful, wicked parts of my heart –

With you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Justin's time-lapse equipment

At the center of good art, there is a person who understands and elevates a culture to a level of beauty.  The artist can take us to a peephole that previously only they have seen through and show us something that takes our breath away.

This happened to me this morning.  I sorted through email and found a link sent to me by my fabulous husband.  “So you love Sacramento?  Okay, Babe… check this out….”

Mario is a man of few words.  First of all he knows I love Sacramento.  Second of all, he knows I’ll check out anything he tells me to (especially when he calls me babe).  What I saw took my breath away. 

It was a time-lapse video of scenes of Sacramento.  The technique is when film frames are captured of a subject slowly over time.  When played at normal speed time appears to be moving faster – a flower unfolds before our eyes.  

This particular  vimeo link was a time lapse montage of our unsung city (Sacramento is not just second city in California, it’s fourth or fifth) capturing urban, suburban and country views with beautifully  smooth day-to-night transitions.   

Below the vimeo link was  Justin Majeczky’s (the multi-media specialist) synopsis:
Justin and his wife, Cady

“Two years ago my wife and I relocated to Sacramento, California so she could attend school. While here, I have learned to love the vast ethnic and scenic diversity of the area. California's capital may not be best known for scenic beauty, but you may beg to differ after seeing this video! I personally love the quiet fields of agriculture that lay just outside the bustling city. Sacramento certainly has its own unmistakable flare and charm! This is my exploration of different timelapse methods while using motion control gear provided by eMotimo (emotimo.com), Dynamic Perception (dynamicperception.com), and some homemade equipment. Over 20,000 individual photographs and 18 months of hard work went into creating this timelapse journey around the Sacramento area. I hope you enjoy!”

Immediately I loved him.  I love when artists move to our city and elevate us.  I had to write about this, but to do so, I wanted to talk to him.  I emailed him, and he graciously consented to an interview.  Of course I wasn’t the first asking this of him. 

“It was funny,” Justin said on the phone.  “The first day I posted the time-lapse I had maybe 1200 views.  The following day, Tuesday, I woke up and saw that it was a vimeo staff pick and I had 30,000 views.”

Vimeo is the videographer’s way to be seen and staff picks don’t come along every day.  When they do, the top-notch video gets the “staff-pick” seal on the cover, and lots and lots and lots of views.  At this writing, Justin had worldwide reposts, not to mention shares on sites like Daily Picks and Flicks,  facebook and twitter.

“It’s hard to know how I feel about it,” Justin said, thoughtfully.  “Once it went viral, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback.  Still, it hasn’t sunk in, it’s almost like I’m dreaming.” 

Justin and his wife moved to Lake Tahoe from Pennsylvania, falling in love with the area only to be uprooted and planted in Sacramento where his wife started school. 

“I started shooting photos anytime I could,” Justin said.  “When I wasn’t working; anytime I had extra time.  About two years ago I started doing time-lapse, before a lot of people were doing it.”

I asked him if he used a tripod, since the video was steady and seamless.  This question led to the answers that soared over my head.  “Sometimes I used a tripod.  I used an eMotimo  motion control pan tilt.  I’d combine that with a Dynamic Perception slider platform and use them together.”

Cricket.  Cricket.

“Oh,” I said, nonplussed.  After I hung up, I researched.  I found the equipment that Justin was talking about, and suddenly understood the great expense taken to produce something so beautiful.  I was grateful, and impressed that his craft meant so much to him.

Justin, like all artists, has heroes.  “Old school, I’d say Ansel Adams is my favorite.  New school, like right now, I admire a guy named Michael Shainblum.  He has really beautiful stuff.” 

“Usually people come to me with a project idea.  We talk about it and I’ll give them some ideas and we see how we can work together on it.  I have a great producer, Karl Alexander from Kinetic Illusions.”

I’ve watched it about ten times now;  I can’t stop watching it.  I told Justin at the end of our interview that it would go super-viral.  All things this beautiful go super-viral.

Sacramento Timelapse from Justin Majeczky on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Alex                                                                                                    Flannery

I grew up in the eighties, which means that I cut my teeth watching eighties movies, listening to eighties music and wearing every eighties hairstyle there was.  I have the pictures to prove it and the children who won’t let me forget it.

I must have seen Flashdance six or seven times, jealous of the svelte bodies of all the dancers – even though they were strippers in a seedy nightclub (when you’re young that stuff doesn’t matter).  The plot of the story was simple: Alex, a steel town girl (on a Saturday night looking for the fight of her life) welds by day, strips at night.  In between, she wears cute leg warmers and sloppy sweatshirts and dreams of being a ballerina.  She has a dog, good friends, and a rich man lusting after her. 

At the end of the movie, that rich man is her boyfriend and actually accuses her of being afraid of her dream: to dance for the prestigious Pittsburgh Dance and Repertory Company.

At the end of the movie, Alex actually tries out for the company, even though she has no formal training.  She rocks the audition, promptly going out to the sidewalk where her rich man is waiting for her with a dozen roses. 

It only occurred to me later (when I was married with children) that the film never said if Alex made it in to the company.  In a way, it didn’t matter if she did.  The celebration and joy at the end of the movie was because her happiness came from dancing – and she danced.  She wouldn’t be defined by the rules, which implied that formal dance training was required to audition.  She faced her fear and gave it everything she had. 

All of us uneducated girls with dreams loved Alex for that dance at the end.  It was a “fuck you” to the establishment – the ones saying silently that we weren’t good enough to even try.

I have to do my dance in a couple of weeks. 

I’m untrained, unschooled and – by all .edu standards –unqualified to enter a writing contest named after one of my heroes: Flannery O’Connor.

I met her when I was 22, reading a collection of short stories from Oxford that was a selection of the Book of the Month Club.  “Parker’s Back” was her story, a haunting gripping tale of a tattooed man who inexplicably gets tangled up with a stoic fundamentalist Christian wife with no empathy for him.  

While I read, I smelled the grace of God – a precious thing that people long for.  Even the Bible says “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)  The story wasn’t religious by any stretch – in fact, the reverse.  It made a mockery of religion while gently alluding to Parker's longing for acceptance and love from God.  His wife was adamant he would never receive it.

Over the years, I have read and re-read everything she’s written.  Each story is perfect – in mechanics and theme.  Each story whispers of God and redemption.  Each is special, memorable, occupying a place in my heart so sacred that they are like friends.






Flannery O’Connor is the best writer I have ever read, including James Joyce or Leo Tolstoy.  I return to her like a trusted friend, even though she died two years after I was born.  As a writer, I have to admit that I seek to emulate her. 

The prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction is open, with a deadline of May 30.  Writers are invited to submit a collection of short stories or novellas (40,000 – 80,000 words) to submit to a board that will review their work.  Most of the members of the review board have at one time won this prestigious award. 

Established by the University of Georgia (Flannery is from Georgia), the prize was established to encourage gifted emerging writers by bringing their work to a national readership. Winners are selected through this annual competition that attracts as many as three hundred manuscripts. The winner receives a publication of their submitted manuscript from the University of Georgia Press. 

The competition scares the heck out of me.

As I get my submission together I liken it to a crayon drawing of stick figures drawn on recycled paper.  In my trembling hands, I bring my drawing to a Dutch Master who paints flawlessly with oils.  I am afraid he will laugh and pat me on the head for my effort. 

It’s then I remember Alex. 

So what if I’m uneducated?  So what if I’m an unpublished wannabe?  Hell with you all, I’m doin’ it – my way.  My stories.  My voice, influenced (like Flannery’s) by my heavenly father who loves me. 

Start that music!  Hand me my leg warmers…

Here I go.

Pray for me.