30 days in



I’m 30 days into my new plan to take better care of myself. For 21 days I was a rock star. I mean a full on ROCK STAR…meal prepping, walking, getting enough rest, mindfully approaching fueling my body…like a rock star.  And, tragically, like a rock star, once I had a taste of success I went way off the rails and crashed.

Every year I take a day off from work and bake hundreds of Christmas cookies for family and friends. Cookie Day 2016 took me down. Hard.

It wasn’t so much Cookie Day itself that started the fall, it was the days following Cookie Day – the days where there were trays and trays of cookies on my dining room table waiting to be delivered – just sitting there on the table silently taunting me with their sugary goodness. Bastards. That’s when the sugar beast made her appearance. And once she’s out there’s almost no stopping her. Suddenly everything else changed too. No more walking.  My daily water intake was surpassed by my daily Aperol Spritz intake. Meal prep consisted of craftily unwrapping a cookie tray from the table, snatching out a few of my faves, then re-wrapping the tray (I actually got pretty good at that).

“Hi, I’m Rena and I’m a cookie addict.”…..”Hi Rena.”

So here I am on December 29; finally sick of cookies, sick of feeling achy and grouchy and pretty sure I’ve un-done all the progress I made in my first three weeks of being a healthy eating rock star.

The game isn’t over yet. I fell down. I ate a lot of cookies while I was down. I’m not staying down.

Happy New Year, dear friends. Thanks for being with me on the journey. xoxoxo




The Jill Look


December 2001


A sea of SUVs and minivans greeted me as I turned into the plaza.  I was overcome with a sense of panic that felt like a huge stone being laid across my chest.  ‘Tis the season, I thought to myself.  The overcast December day did nothing to relieve my stress.  After finding a place to park in what felt like another zip code, I stepped out of my car frustrated, hot, and tired.  The cold air slapped me in the face as the slushy parking lot assaulted my already soaking wet feet.  How could I be so hot and miserable and yet freezing at the same time?  Even though it was an icy late December day, I had abandoned my coat in the trunk of my car hours before.  My holiday stress had become my little internal furnace.  My cheeks were flushed from the cold and from feeling so overwhelmed.  My hair was gathered into a messy ponytail and pulled through the back of a baseball hat – which was only sealing in the heat.  Why did I put on this damn hat?  My purse felt heavy over my shoulder and my body ached with exhaustion.  I was in a hurry, and I looked like it, walking determinedly through the lot with an intense scowl on my face.  I had a list of fifteen things to do and I was quickly running out of time.  The last days of hurried shopping before Christmas had left me looking, and acting, like a bit of a lunatic.

I trotted through the sloppy lot and began to recognize the soft tones of Muzak Christmas Carols being played through the plaza’s sound system.  The noise only bothered me.  The annoying melody of White Christmas was soon wiped out by the sounds of whiny children and frustrated, snappish mothers.  Great, I thought, just what I need – a bunch of whiny kids and their bitchy mothers who really should have taken them home for a nap an hour ago.  The true spirit of Christmas had completely passed me by.

I dashed in and out of Bath and Body Works in no time at all.  Two things checked off the list.  Yes!  A quick trip to the movie theater for tickets for my nephew and that’s one more thing ticked off my list.  The Hallmark store?  Not on your life.  Not the week before Christmas.  No way.  I just didn’t have enough time.  After all, I was busy.  I had things to do.  Those little ornaments would just have to wait until the after Christmas sale.  I was turning on my heel after rethinking the trip to the Hallmark store when I saw her.  Oh God, not now.  Why me?  I had a million things to do.  There was just no way I could deal with this right now.  More accurately, no way I could deal with her right now.  Jill was walking slowly down the sidewalk.  She was smoking a cigarette and looking down at her feet as she walked.  The world was whizzing past her so quickly, and typical Jill, she hardly even noticed.  She was wearing a cream colored ski jacket and dark blue jeans.  She always looked like an LL Bean model.  Her blond hair was cut shorter than the last time I had seen her.  She had that look on her face.  The Jill look.  The look that says “my life is absolutely miserable and I have nothing positive to say.”  I think everyone knows somebody like Jill.  She’s the friend that will suck the life out of you like fire sucks the oxygen out of a room.  Everything about her is a downer.  It had been three years since her engagement had abruptly ended, and yet she still talked about it as if it had only happened last week.  She was still as heartbroken, still as confused, and still as bitter.  It was as if her misery was her companion now.  It was exhausting to be around her.  She was a beautiful woman, and she was letting her entire future slip away into a world of bitterness and anger.  I could see her becoming a crazy old cat lady.  I looked up again quickly, and made a split second decision to duck into the closest store.  It was easier to stand in there and pretend to look at things than it would be to stand out there and listen to Jill complain about her loneliness.  I waited for about ten minutes and then decided the coast was clear and that it was safe to make my way back out into the plaza to finish my list.

I went on about my day, eventually finishing all of the items on my list, like I always do.  No matter what, I always get it done.  It’s what I do.  I should have felt a terrific sense of accomplishment that I got it all done.  Why did I feel so bad?  What was wrong with me?  Why had this overwhelming sadness settled on me?  I hadn’t even talked to Jill, how did she manage to bring me down this way?  I saw her face in my head over and over again.  That look.  That Jill look.  Dammit!  It was stuck in my head.  That damn Jill look was ruining my day.  That pathetic, lonely, Jill look.  How the hell did she do it?

That night as I was brushing my teeth, I looked in the mirror and saw it.  It was right there.  It had been there all day.  I was ignoring it.  It wasn’t the Jill look that was ruining my day.  It was the Rena look.  As I was brushing my teeth and replaying the events of the day in my head I thought about Jill and I blushed.  All alone in the bathroom mirror, I blushed.  I was ashamed of what I had done.  I had behaved horribly.  I had turned my back on a sweet woman who was simply having a tough time getting back on her feet after a loss.  I was sick to my stomach.  How could I ever fix this?  I couldn’t very well call her at this hour and say “hi, Jill, I totally ducked you earlier today because I didn’t feel like listening to you whine, and I’m really feeling badly about it, so I just wanted to call and apologize.”  That would never work.  That’s not much of a plan at all.  Why can’t I just go back and undo it?  In a split second I had defined who I am capable of being.  I was sick with my newfound knowledge.  I decided that the next morning I would send her a cheery holiday note.  It was nothing more than an effort to appease my guilt.

As I lay alone in bed that night I thought of Jill.  I thought of the pain she had been through.  How she had wallowed in it.  Had she?  Or was she just working it out in her own time?   I thought of the pain I may have caused that day.  I obsessed over whether or not she saw me.  Had she?  Had she seen me at my worst?  Could she ever forgive me?  Did I deserve to be forgiven?  In those moments Jill became my mirror.  She held up the mirror and let me see the kind of pain I was capable of causing.

Some people wear their loneliness openly.  It’s the Jill look.  Always looking down, shuffling their feet slowly, never noticing the world around them.  Others wear their loneliness differently.  They carry lists of things to do, they look through the crowd, complain about tired children, and trot along without really hearing the music.  As I drifted off to sleep I realized that’s what hurt so badly.

Why I hate this picture



I hate this picture of me.

I *should* love it. It’s me teaching my first yoga class – which was the culmination of a summer’s worth of really hard work. I can sort of see that I’m smiling in the picture – I was having fun! I’m clearly talking with my hands – which tells me I was in my expressive state of peace. I remember what a high it was to be guiding that class.

And yet I hate this picture.

I can’t look at this picture and deny anymore that I’m carrying around an extra 25 pounds. I just can’t. I can keep on lying to myself and believe I’m achy and tired all the time because I’m anemic, or not getting enough rest, or not sleeping well, or, or, or….

OR…I can accept the fact that my skeleton is used to carrying about 130lbs, and for the last year I’ve asked it just about every week to carry just a little bit more for me. No wonder my body hurts. No wonder I’m tired.

***sigh*** It’s time to get serious about taking care of myself.

My incredibly energetic and wonderful neighbors across the street are fitness professionals (seriously – they’re like Stepford nice and beautiful). They’re going to help me on this journey to reclaim my body. The journey began yesterday with my first day of sugar-free, junk-free, responsible eating and exercise.

The journey gets pretty effing real today when I push “publish” on this post and commit to sharing the journey 🙂

Lots of people share their journeys with before and after pictures. I’m going to share this journey with gratitude  – not pictures.

Today I’m grateful for courage. Today I’m a braveheart. Today I push publish and put it all out there – the whole messy, crying, doughy, over-eating, sugar-binging, comfort-seeking, self-deprecating, scared, lonely, insecure, hot mess of a 51-year-old curvy girl’s journey to reclaim her healthy body.

Wish me luck.


I am not in danger



“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.” – Will Smith in After Earth

“Screw you guys, I’m going home.” – Eric Cartman in Southpark

I’m working with fear right now. And by “working with” I mean trying to forget it, tame it, get through it…trying to kick it’s ass.


I’m a brave heart. I look at a challenge and say “let’s do this!”  I’m Being Rena. I’m confident, funny, smart, strong and happy. I’m the one you want with you in the foxhole.

So why am I so f’ing afraid right now? Why does the ding of a text message make me feel a little sick? Why am I so damn jumpy?  What’s with all of this new insecurity? Where the f*%k is this coming from?

Why am I suddenly living in a world of…flashbacks?


That’s it. It’s flashback. It’s flashback to years of a roller coaster ride I couldn’t stop. Moments of love and joy  would keep me fed through the weeks of manipulation and verbal attacks sinisterly framed as “open and honest communication”. F*%k that. F*%k him (and  if he happens to be reading this, f*%k you, you sick coward).

Somewhere in my brain, the wires are crossed and I’ve come to expect that moments of joy and connection will be followed by verbal and emotional attacks. I thought I was passed this. I thought I was healed.

Ah, but I’m in new territory now. I’m in that place where the rubber hits the road – where I’ve got to use my skills in a new way. I’m spending time with a wonderful man. He’s smart, funny, playful, thoughtful and he’s quite the hunk (lucky me!). He thinks I’m the bees knees and tells me so all the time. Why am I waiting for the other shoe to drop? Am I doomed to feel like this forever?

OMG – f*%k that. Just f*%k that altogether. I’m not going to continue to wait around for some other shoe to drop. And I’m not running. I’m not. I won’t. That f*%king coward does not get to take anything else from me.

Blinding flash of accountability….I will not give any more of myself to my past.

I choose not to submit to my fear. I am not in danger. I am not in danger. I am not in danger. I will whisper that mantra to myself for as long as it takes.













just a day



It’s early Sunday morning at the hospice. Clarence and I are sipping coffee in the kitchen (well, actually I’m sipping coffee and Clarence is snoozing on the floor next to me) waiting to meet our new resident . I flip through his chart to get to know him. He’s about my age (a few years younger), he’s fairly independent (although a bit unsteady on his feet), he’s coming from an extended hospital stay (nearly three months) and now he needs *us*. He’ll be with us for (maybe) a few weeks.

He shuffles into the kitchen with his laptop balanced across the top of his walker. We exchange hellos, pour a few cups of coffee, look at pics of his life on his laptop and spend an hour laughing like old friends. It’s just a day. The conversation turns to breakfast….

“I’d really like a diner breakfast”

“I can do that, no problem. What would you like?”

“No, I want to go to a diner”

He has a mischievous twinkle in his eye that I can’t resist.

I don’t know which one of us is more surprised when I blurt “Okay, let’s go!”

A handful of phone calls later and we’ve got everything we need to hit the road. My mom brings over a heavier coat for him and takes Clarence home with her. Our director talks me through everything I need to take with us. I’ve got his pain meds in my pocket and his DNR in my purse. What could go wrong?

He seems entertained by my dorky sense of humor and matches me joke for joke as we head to the diner. I’m determined to treat him normally – paying no attention to his physical limitations or his terminal illness. We’re just a couple of friends heading out to breakfast on a Sunday – it’s just a day. We’re genuinely having fun.

He takes what seems like f o r e v e r to decide what to order for breakfast. Our waitress is endlessly patient and appears oblivious to the growing line of people waiting for tables. The three of us discuss the fact that he’s at a point in his life where he really doesn’t have to choose between delights. Get the pancakes and the omelet and the hashbrowns and the waffle and the french toast. Live big. Enjoy the day. So we do. We cover the table in diner breakfast delights. He’s ecstatic. He eats about 4 bites and announces “I need to go to Wegmans”. 

ohmygod. I panic. There is no way his frail body can do a trip to Wegmans. No way. The trip to the diner is fun – but Wegmans? That’s just crazy. NO WAY. Absolutely NO WAY this is happening today. I’ll get a list from him, drop him back off at the hospice with the mid-day volunteer, then run the errand for him.

“I just want to go up and down every aisle and look at everything”

10 minutes later we’re in the car on our way to Wegmans.  So much for NO WAY this is happening today…

I’m passed panic well into terror. This is a really bad idea. He looks exhausted after the trip to the diner. I tell him I’d feel a lot better if he would agree to use a motorized cart instead of his walker. He says we both should get one so we can drag race. This dude is straight up mischief. His eyes twinkle with life.

He cruises up and down the aisles at Wegmans with me standing on the back of the cart hanging on to his shoulders. We’re on a motorcycle ride through life. We giggle and stop at every sample station. Today is delicious – totally and completely delicious. It’s just a day.

It’s life.

For both of us.

We get back to the car and he falls asleep as soon as he buckles his seatbelt. He’s smiling.

We pull up to the house and he’s too weak to walk back in. He tries to stand up to get out of the car and collapses back into the seat. He’s still smiling. Its been a good day.

We get him inside and settled into bed – he’s beyond exhausted after our 4 hour adventure. He whispers “thank you” and “will you come back tomorrow”.  I assure him I’ll swing by on Monday to check in.  

I leave smiling and thinking I’ve laughed more today than I’ve laughed in the last few months. It was just a day – just an ordinary, delicious, silly, life-filled day.

What a gift.

For both of us.




I’ll probably get kicked out of the girl club for this…

shaking a stick at someone makes you a bully, not a leader

Any chance this is satire – women actually laughing at themselves for how ridiculous this has become?

So – I’m probably gonna get kicked out of the girl club for this – but I’ve had it up to about freaking HERE (hand sweeping across the top of my head) with this bossy girls = leadership skills nonsense. I’ve seen this picture with the little girl shaking the stick at the little boy all over Facebook and Pinterest for the past 2 weeks and every time I see it I just shake my head in disbelief.

Where do I even start?

As I so often like to, I’ll start from my heart – my mommy place. As the mother of a son, I’m so offended by the picture of a little girl shaking a stick at a little boy. Why is that okay? Why does a little boy deserve to be on the business end of an abuse of power?  Why does ANYONE deserve to be on the business end of an abuse of power? If it was a picture of him shaking a stick at her he’d be (rightfully, in my opinion) labeled as abusive, dangerous, and despicable. She gets to be expressing her leadership skills. I just see her as a bully.

Professionally, I’m mortified. I’m mortified as a woman, and as a professional who has led successful teams for many years. Here is the thing – whether you’re a man or a woman – if you’ve got to use a stick you’re not a leader, you’re just a bully. Yep, you’ve moved right past bossy into bully. If you’re using a stick, you don’t have leadership skills.  If you’re using a stick, you’re driving from behind the team. You’re bullying them to the finish line. Want to know if you’re a leader? Look behind you. If your team is following you, you’re a leader.

Maybe I’m just taking this whole thing too seriously. Maybe this cute little picture is actually just women making fun of themselves – a little self-deprecating humor at how we’ve gone too far to the other side. A smart-alecky little look at the ways in which some women have excused their questionable behavior by trying to give it a more positive label. The pendulum has swung so hard to the other side that we’re trying to laugh our way back to the middle. Maybe. Maybe not. But a girl can hope, can’t she? Its my sincerest hope that women are looking at their behavior and starting to hold themselves accountable when they label their questionable behavior as “leadership skills”.