Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sexy Unicorn's story continues in 14 photos

In April 2013 I told about my first year of "Sexy Unicorn" using 16 photos. The post ended with my finishing the half marathon (just barely I had an incredibly high fever that sucked the life force out of me, but I did it). My story didn't end there and so much of it is no longer focused around weight loss but on taking risks, exploring, nurturing my strengths, and accepting (but always challenging) my short comings. I keep saying it and I mean it: Comfort Zones aren't set for life. Challenge them.

Strength. For a while this past year I worked with personal trainer Kevin Purvis. I loved working with the ropes and reminding myself just how strong I am. Also, Kevin let me throw heavy objects around... Always a favorite activity of mine. No matter what happens I cannot let myself ever forget again just how physically and mentally strong I am.

I was terrified to perform with one of my favorite guys Greg Shapiro. I used to work at a comedy club he performed at (Boom Chicago) and would watch from the balcony too scared to even try and perform myself. However, when asked to do the show I sucked it up and agreed to do it. I have no regrets about it and have to remind myself to play it cool whenever I get recognized from it. And the only person who thought I shouldn't be allowed to perform in the same show as someone I respect was me. I can perform with anybody.

I helped plant the Andersonville location for Urban Village Church, and used to be a name tag dictator by heading up hospitality and greeting. On Memorial Day weekend I got to serve my church in a way I had long desired to, I co-preached with my dear friend Matt Richards. Now my church knows all about my youth spent going on architecture tours, my vulnerabilities, and my take on the Christian life. Also, I will end a sermon by playing the music of Swedish pop star Robyn.

Hula Hooping!!! I have always wanted to do it, but never seemed to have the body for it. What a blast to be able to hula hoop around my newly found hips.

Yes, I woke up at 3am and realized I wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep. So, what else could I do but bike to Indiana to see the sunrise and still make it back for work at 9:30? So, that's what I did.

I kinda zone out on my bike and on one day when I was meaning to have a quick ride, it turned into 140 mile adventure. I only realized I had gone long past my original goal when I saw signs for Kenosha and thought, "yes, but Kenosha is in Wisconsin.... Oh..."

Trying to blend being a fabulously grown up woman with my inherent Tom Boyness sometimes is awkward. However, it's 100% me.

Biking from Urbana Illinois back up to Chicago with Lily (the girl who sold me my the bike that would change my life) was quite the adventure. Ending up in the middle of no where in a real biker bar hang out and being unconditionally welcomed. Reminder that even if on sight you don't belong it doesn't mean people won't welcome you in with open arms.

The extender belt. I stole this from an airplane 10 years ago on a flight to London. In September I had my first flight since losing over 100 lbs. I was a bit panicked... What if I still don't fit in the seats?!!!! I went back and forth about whether to take my security blanket of an extender belt and last minute opted to leave it. I was fine. I fit! Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I look the same, nothing has really changed and than I sat in an airplane seat with some extra left over on my seat belt and I knew things had changed.

I ran a marathon! No that's not right. I RAN A MARATHON!!!! That's better. I finished it too. A month before hand I pulled my glute and could barely stand or walk. I ended up doing my last month of training all by bicycle and yoga. And some how I pulled it off. I finished a marathon and it was wonderful, so much love from the city I love. Accomplishing the goal that had set all my life changes in motion.

Yes, confident enough in myself to perform in a gold skin tight jump suit.

Random decision to attend a Computrainer race (specifically because I was promised free beer) with Lily has now lead to me joining a new cycling team BFF Racing. I am so excited to have teammates and competition again.

Posted this photo as a joke because this dress always emphasizes my "line backer shoulders" Then I really looked at the photo and thought for the 1st time: ya know Carol I wouldn't automatically see a "big girl" or a "fat chick" if I saw you. So, why do you still automatically assume that's what others see?
Really time to start looking in the mirror differently.

I have had an on and off again relationship with yoga. When I first attempted it my stomach was so big I couldn't even do resting poses. My body hurt and ached all the time but I did nothing to fix it because doing something would remind me how far I had to go. I still have a long way to go with all my goals, but now when I focus on my body and health it is also a nice reminder of just how far I have come.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cycling for Girls

Around 90% of girls ride bicycles. The numbers are drastically lower for women with only about 30% of women reporting having ridden a bicycle with any regularity in the past 10 years. We need to get girls riding their bikes, and to continue to ride their bikes in to adulthood. A bicycle provides girls with a tool to adventure and independence. Also, we have seen the adverse affects of a stationary lifestyle; and a bicycle is a great way to off set this current trend. I will be riding from Austin,Texas to Miami Florida in February and March. Along the way I will be working with Girl Scout troops where they can earn a special cycling badge. I didn't want to have to ask for help with funding this journey but finances change and people keep asking if they can help. So, here it is. A small little donation button and any little bit can help. I need to order the badges this week and that'll cost a couple hundred dollars alone. This is an exciting journey in which I hope to engage with girls and get them out riding or inspired to take some action in the safety of the riders in their town. When I say my bicycle saved my life I am not joking. I had lost control of my life and was unhappy and unable to see a way to turn things around. Those long slow bike rides gave me my first opportunities to truly decompress, to explore my beautiful city, and to get in exercise without even realizing it. The bicycle is a beautiful machine. One that isn't exclusive to any gender, income group, or age. So, even if you can't go ride a bike for a while (most of you have bigger commitments than I do) than maybe you can join in this adventure with a small donation. I love you all and truly appreciate all your support and encouragement.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My year in 16 pictures

My old Peace Corps buddy Lydia woke me up with a text in January saying to check my email. My excitement about what it could be was slammed back down when I saw she had signed us up for a half marathon, in April. A full two months before I wanted to run a half marathon. yeaaaah...Merry Christmas to me...
I saw it was on the year anniversary of my weight loss journey so I decided it was serendipitous. This past Saturday Lydia and I went up to Wisconsin and ran our half marathons. Lydia killed it, getting a great time. I ran it... I finished it. I powered through being incredibly sick and having an unbelievable temperature. 

Determination is something I got in spades. And when I struggle through things like a half marathon I have to remind myself I have come a long ways in a short amount of time. I have the marathon in 6 months and I look forward to seeing what lays ahead, but for now I reflect on this is past year in 16 photos.
From May 2012 with one of my favorite comedians. I just want to brag again that I creeped on Kevin McDonald while he tried to use the rest room.

THE BIKE! Again thanks to everyone who donated to it. You all are the best!
I had lost 10% of my body weight and in this photo could see the results of cutting out pop and meat and cycling everywhere.

The Bridesmaid dress. If you loss 42 pounds between taking your measurements and getting your dress there will be some alterations that are needed. Emergency, very expensive alterations were done and it looked fabulous. But I did have to endure some abuse from the seamstress about, "Why? Why? Why would I do this to the bride?!"
Waiting outside iO for my friend Patrick's SNL Showcase. This was the first time I was able to fold my legs up against my body like this, now probably the most common way you'll find me perched in a chair.  

With my first improv teacher Pat Reidy after his show at The Second City. This picture was the first wave of people noticing I looked a little different. I started getting comments about how I was "becoming pretty" and "Who knew Bontekoe had so much potential?" Comments that seemed like they desperately were meant to be complimentary but suck my very delicate and frail confidence about my appearance.

Since I was in middle school I had wanted to kayak the Chicago River (an Urban Canyon) . I was finally small enough to fit in a kayak (just barely) and had a wonderful evening kayaking the Chicago River with my girl Lydia. 

The SKINNY jeans weren't so skinny anymore. 

The GAP dress. I had never been able to fit into GAP clothes. When I a teenager the fact that I couldn't fit in anything from the GAP reflected to me my inability to blend in if I wanted to. 

The struggle will always be to find comfort in my own skin. 

Starting to feel like a grown woman. What are these hips?!

Stepping out of my siblings shadow. I have always been confused for my sister Karen or people have thought I was "Mark in a wig!" Now I feel I'm my own person and hope to be recognized as such. 

Oh I have the perfect picture to split screen this with. NYE with my friend Sam  I told him I had a picture of us from when I had visited him in Ann Arbor. We BOTH are getting better with age. 

Lost a 100 lbs by my 29th birthday. 

Doing yoga's Crow Pose. I assumed I couldn't do it and was terrified to even try. Once I stopped under estimating my own abilities and trusted my own strength I was able to do it. Have to live my life more that way. 
Right after my half marathon. Incredibly ill, running a fever, and looking a hot mess. But I finished. I just gotta keep moving. 

*If you would like to donate towards my bike ride across the Gulf Coast to get girls out and riding their bikes and hopefully changing their lives, you can donate here:

Thanks and so much love!!!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pick Your Head Up

"Imma girl, Imma girl, Imma GIRL! And... nobody wants to fuck me."
The drunk girl adjacent to me at the Cheesie's bar folds over and places her head on the bar. Still dressed in her Caribou Coffee work shirt she is now post-shift and plastered with a man on either side of her. She gasps and pops back up from the bar, "I mean... you''d...ya'd think somebody, ANYBODY would want to sleep with me. BUT! no. no." She shakes her head as she places her face into her folded arms resting on the bar. She mumbles into the space between her forearms and body, "Nope, no one wants me."
I giggle and take a pull from my Vanilla Porter as I continue to transcribe her monologue into my notebook. I don't giggle out of judgement, I giggle out of recognition. I giggle because I am this same kind of drunk: The-insecurities-boil-over-so-I'll-tell-you-everything-that-is-wrong-with-me-and-how-aware-I-am-that-I-am-undesirable-before-you-can-point-out-how-unattractive-I-am-Drunk.This girl's insecurities speak to my heart. And I giggle because she seems completely unaware of her two male friends on either side of her that are diggin' on her something hard.
I try to send her a telepathic message-- pick your head up and look to either side of you. The one on your left is cute. Trust me you can get it if you want it. You just gotta believe you are desirable and this will be so easy for ya.
She didn't hear me. Hell, I rarely hear me when I try to send that message to myself. I tend to be very complacent in my own undesirability. Yeah, I get it. Totally on board. yep. Oh, are you still talking to me? Let me just make sure my insecurities seep through your pores and get under your skin. Now just leave the ugly girl be and walk away from me sir.
Except. Except sometimes I feel sexy, sometimes I feel desirable, sometimes...hell... I feel I might...maybe...could attractive.
Unfortunately it's not when I'm dressed up and out amongst men. Not when my hair is done or my eyeliner meticulously drawn onto my lower eye lid. It's not when I have my heels on making my calves look long and sleek. And it definitely isn't when a guy tells me I look good, because as we know he is just being an asshole... right?
The time I feel sexiest is when I first wake up. My hair is an absolute mess. No make up to cover up my red cheeks or the wrinkles on my forehead. I shuffle around in cow slippers, dressed in an old Detroit Tiger's shirt that no longer fits and underwear.
This is when I feel my most attractive. Those moments before I can start talking myself out of it. Before I start comparing myself to others. Before I pin point just exactly all the things that are wrong with me. It's here brewing morning coffee, splashing cold water on my face, brushing my teeth, sliding my fingers through my hair as I try to pull the snarls out that I don't just feel sexy-- I know I am desirable. Maybe not the mainstream kind of desirable, but a kind of desirable that if you give it a chance can be pretty awesome. Like when you find a band that no one has heard of and you just fuckin' love 'em. My sexiness may be that underground band just waiting to be discovered. But it's there being awesome and under appreciated. It turns out I have to discover it before anyone else can. I have to give my own desirability it's big break just by believing in it enough.
My drunk soulmate at Cheesie's was the first time I had heard that unlocked flow of insecurities come streaming out of someone that wasn't me. And it broke my heart. It also made me realize it's not helping and it's not true. So, as I tried to telepathically tell her I have to say to myself yet again.
Pick your head up and look around.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Enjoy the View

"What happens when you plateau?"

On my 29th birthday I hit the hundred pound weight loss mark. Since April I have biked over 5,000 miles through the city of Chicago, become a vegetarian, fallen in love with Pilates, stopped drinking pop, and well lost 100 lbs. There is a lot of "Now what-ing?" from friends and acquaintances about what am I to do now that I have lost 100 lbs.
I don't really have a game plan, I have never had one. This weight loss has been the result of a lot of external and internal changes in my life. Lots of very small changes that when added up looks like, in retrospect, it was one huge life changing decision.
 I know I'm running in the Chicago Marathon in October. I know I'm going to bike a ton this summer. I know I'm stickin' with the no pop-vegetarian thing. I know I WANT to be a more open person and not be so guarded. That's about it.
Still no idea what I'm doing.
 If the weight comes off wonderful. I still have 60 more lbs that I  need to lose. However, this was never strictly a weight loss journey for me. It was a journey of taking control of my life, a life that had seemed to lose all direction or control. It is still rather directionless but I can at least see where a few of the turns are coming.
Plateauing is only a problem if you refuse to remember just how far you have come, you forget the journey that brought you to this plateau. I have come a long way in a relatively short time and I can't forget where I was a year ago.
 I have a history of getting down on myself and being my own harshest judge, aren't we all? Right now I have to tell Carol to shut up and let me be pumped about how great I'm doing. How excited I am to be running a half marathon in a month with my friend Lydia (we will eventually figure out how to make energy bars). How excited I am that I can buy clothes in non-specifically plus size shops. And I'm taking big risks outside of this whole weight loss thing that are fun. And I love the city I live in. I meet new and interesting people every day. I'm still quirky, awkward, showtunes lovin' Carol. And I'm fabulous. So, to the Carol that is saying it's all not enough just shhhhhhhhhh. Let me enjoy this for a minute.
I know I'm only about 2/3 of the way on specifically the weight loss part of this transformation journey and the last third might take a lot longer but I'm having a blast and I'm thinking long term. I want to be healthy- LONG TERM- not just looking for being "New Hot" right now. Long term health includes mental health and if you beat yourself up about the scale not moving when you are out living a life full of risks and adventures, then you are missing what life is about.
I refuse to miss out on life. I have this one life and it is going to be full of peaks and valleys. A plateau here and there can be a welcome change of pace sometimes. I'm gonna enjoy the view from where I'm at right now. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This is What Awkward Looks Like: Flirting

"Carol were you trying to flirt with that guy?" Asked a staff member at my favorite bar this past Saturday.

"Ugh... yes? I'm actually not entirely sure what that was."
"Yeah... Something... was happening there."
"Did he seem into it at least?"
"Whatcha drinkin' honey?"

What goes through my brain when I'm talking to a man I find very attractive, especially if he is also smart and funny? Nothing. NOTHING!! It's like being black out drunk without the excessive alcohol or any justification for what I just subjected this man to.

"Wait? I said what to him? Why would I say THAT?!" 
"There was dancing? Was anyone else dancing?"
"That isn't even the right context for the term Bossy Bottom.... Oh, God!"

Maybe it's the jock in me but I really feel a game tape of ...of... what ever you can describe me as doing would really help. So, here I review this past Saturday; because in all honesty I had no idea how painful it was to watch from a distance until it was reviewed.

I would like to say first off I don't think I was flirting, I might have been, I hope not, poor man... 

I've seen this man around for a long time and always thought he was very handsome but called it a day at that. Then we started interacting a bit and... Damn it! He's funny. And smart. Shit. Here comes a lot of hand movements and fidgeting. 

So, each conversation since the first one has become that much worse and more awkward than the last one. I came over at first to chat with his two friends who I have worked with in the past and enjoy so I wanted to say, "hey." Then, as it was pointed out to me afterwards, while they were all sitting I stood (all 6'1" of me) towering over them. Only pulling up a chair when one of his friends said, "pull up a chair so I can tell you a tale about my youth in Nazi Germany. " I did as told and waited for his story- then realized he is 30, not 70. That's what we call a bit. 

Fine, do your little bit. I'm about to charm the pants off your attractive friend. 

This might be the place to mention I was in work out clothes, hair in a bun, and no make up. I continuously zipped and unzipped my Chicago Marathon jacket. Repeatedly covering and uncovering my face. Just a lot of zippering happened. 

I felt a good conversation topic was how Dick Cheney is over compensating for a small penis, then proceeded to act out what I imagine Dick Cheney masturbating looks like. Topped it off with, "hope you dream about that and think of me." Oh, Carol...

I was told asking people about themselves is good, it's like a nice thing to do. It shows you are interested in them. I kept asking the same question over and over again about his work and don't know why I would think there would be any kind of different answer than what he had just said. What was Einstein's definition of insanity?

Then looking for a conversation change to me asking the same question over and over again I came out with, "You seem like the kind of guy who didn't peak in high school. No... ya know. Like you weren't cool. I mean. Your. ya know. Your best days weren't in high school. Right? I hope."

Accusing a guy of being uncool in high school never helps. Shockingly when he and his friends (again people I know and can chat with) were leaving to get food I was not invited. I did mention I was very hungry and eventually one of the guys (not the one I just awkward all over) said, "uh.. you can come, er, if you. ah, want to."

I stayed, got tater tots from next door. Ran around like a crazy woman because my sister had just called me to tell me she had gone into labor. And then was told how awkward my interaction looked like from a  distance. 

I keep reminding people: it might be painful to watch me interact with men, but I have to live with being this. All of this. 

So... I think we can all say it together, "Nailed it."

Guess which one of these women plays awkward and which one is actually awkward. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


 I want this!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Team Sparkle: Fear, Weight Loss, and Improv

A bit about some of my fears and why it took me so long to try improv.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Team Sparkle: Body Shaming

A few of my issues with Body Shaming. Remember you are fabulous!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Let the Races Begin!

Middle School 200 meter race.
I can't believe it, I had so much fun running in my first 5K.

I have always been miserable running even short distances. In middle school and high school my track coaches tried to make me run 100 meter and 200 meter races. These races came to an abrupt halt my sophomore year when I was crushed by the only other girl in my heat. She happened to be blind and handicapped and she destroyed me in the hundred meter dash. That was when Coach G decided it was time I focused on shotput and discus, bringing an end to me and racing.

At MSU my teammate Erica and I mastered the run-walk for our warm ups. This is where from a distance it can appear to be a very slow run but in reality it is just a walk with some flair. Since the end of college there have been some brief attempts to pick up running. They always ended as abruptly as they began.

Since April this year, when I decided I was sick and tired of being unhealthy and that I am determined to run the 2013 Chicago Marathon, I have been able to put some focus on my running. I started with the couch to 5K program and struggled through the 1 minute run, just waiting for the moment I could start walking again. However, I have lost 60 lbs since then and have built up a good amount of endurance by cycling 2000+ miles this summer.
Pre-race with Team Sparkle:  Lydia, Shawn, and Gloria

Running is still by no means something I love doing. I enjoy a lot of other things more than going for a run. However, I loved running in a race. I ran with my friend Shawn who had agreed to help with pacing me and keeping me focused through the run. My goal when I 1st started was under 40 minutes. Then after doing some practice runs it was revised to under 35 minutes. Shawn and I ended up running it in 32:20. We started in the very back because I had to guess what my pace time would be and I guessed 15 minute miles. It ended up being 10:25 miles and I finished almost exactly in the middle of the pack for the Bucktown 5K. I have never been so pumped to be in the middle of the pack of anything before. Starting in the back means Shawn and I had plenty of people we were passing. We would split around them and meet up on the other side of the person we had just passed. We picked up speed to try and get around stroller dad who kept reappearing out of no where.  We saw a young girl holding up a unicorn cheering on the runners. Since my nickname is Sexy Unicorn I felt she was cheering specifically for me. There was a giant dead rat in the route that the woman in front of me screamed and than hurdled over. It was a blast!
Finishing strong!
The comradery of the race is what I enjoyed the most, after that the challenging myself out of my comfort zone is always exciting. I am already signed up for a couple more 5Ks and I'm looking into running some longer races. This was a great start to lead up to the marathon next year. I now have a time, a pace, and the belief that yes I can run.
I can race.

Ready, set, GO!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Drink More Water.

Since I have lost nearly 60 lbs and it is becoming noticeable that I'm losing weight people have started to ask what's the "secret".  In reality, there is no secret. It's all stuff you already know. Eat more fruits and vegetables, less junk food, and exercise more. You know that, I know that. Yet, we Americans find it difficult to make these changes at once. So, when people are looking for a good starting point I have to say, "Drink more water."

I also want to say stop drinking pop. Yeah, I know you  don't need to stop because you drink diet. STOP IT! I didn't drink pop for 8 years and then I moved to Africa when I was 20 (where it was my only safe choice) and it took 8 more years to quit drinking pop. I would contribute 10-15 lbs that I have lost simply to the elimination of pop. When I tell people this they quickly say, "Yeah... but you didn't drink diet. Did you?"
I drank it all. I love pop. I love the taste, the carbonation, the sound a cold can makes when you open it on a hot day. However, here is a chart of all that pop does to you.

And Diet Pop? Well you are just drinking a can of chemicals. How do you think that is helping your longevity, health, and weight? 

Seriously, if you are just looking for a starting point drink more water. You should be drinking half your weight in ounces. So if you weigh 150 lbs you should be drinking at least 75 ounces of water a day. At the minimum.

One, of the many, nutrition books I read gave the visual of a flowing creek versus a stale pond. When your body is dehydrated and you don't have enough water going through your system you are like a stale pond with sludge and gook building up. When you drink plenty of water your body is like a fresh flowing spring from a glacier. Pure and clean.

So, grab a water bottle. Fill it up. And Chug-a-lug.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One Fat Kid's Love For Her Collar Bone

"What? What's that? My collarbone? Yes... yes it is my collarbone."

I pull the collar of my shirt out so the person (I did this to many people) I'm talking to can see my newly exposed collarbone.

I was met with: "so..." or "yeah... everyone has a collarbone." What my friends and random guys on the street didn't seem to understand is this is completely new territory for me and what other Fat Kids can attest to, not everyone has a collarbone. I understand the basics of anatomy and even Fat Kids technically have a collarbone, but you wouldn't know it because you'll never see a Fat Kid's collarbone.

The more weight you lose the more exposed you feel.

Over the past four months I have lost just over 50 lbs and it is only now that people are starting to be able to "tell" that I've lost some weight. Before now I had to inform people I had lost weight and I received a lot of, "oh.... yeah. Sure. I can see that. In a your face right? Sorry, where have you lost 25 pounds?"

I wasn't mad or frustrated with people for not being able to tell I had lost weight because in all honesty I couldn't tell myself since appearance wise I looked the same. However, how much healthier I felt and the scale reminded me that I was in fact losing weight. When I had lost about 30 lbs and was asked where I had lost the weight I found my answer a bit odd but it was the only place I had noticed real change, "my neck..."

This was not the answer people who are looking to lose lbs around their mid-section wanted to hear. When people think about losing weight they think about losing that gut that keeps them from the perfect outfit not their neck. Myself, family, and friends have joked around about my lack of a neck since I was in middle school, so when I noticed that I had started to have a neck I actually thought it was pretty cool. Then at around 40 lbs I was wearing a v-neck shirt in my weight lifting class and noticed something I had really never seen before: my collarbone. I continued on with my flies, but if anyone had noticed my face in the mirror they would have seen a look of utter confusion. At first I couldn't figure out what I was looking at in the mirror. Once I realized my collarbone was starting to show I really started lifting hard and had a determined face with a hint of a smile.

My collarbone showing was the first visual sign that all my hard work was paying off. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I already knew that I am healthier and in better shape but I couldn't "see" any change. That might be why I was a little over zealous at first showing people my collarbone, although hobos on the train didn't seem to mind.

There's my neck.
One of the hardest parts of weight loss is the mental game that your own brain is going to put you through. I know for a fact that my waist has to be smaller. I am down a shirt size and two pants sizes. Yet when I look at myself in the mirror I think my waist looks bigger than it ever has. I have always had very skinny legs for my size. However, with the insane amount of cycling, lunges, and squats (oh so many squats) and with my smaller waist my thighs are actually starting to look rather large. And to my face... I have a nose that genetically from my father wasn't that great to start out with. Throughout the years it has been bashed in more than a few times. Sometimes it has been popped back into place others times I've had to let it ride. This has made it so I have a knob on the ridge and my nose hooks to the left. As my face narrows I feel that my odd nose becomes more prominent on my pointy face.

That's why I love my collarbone so much. I see that and it reminds me how far I have come. I'll be honest I have had a lot of fun getting in shape but losing 50 lbs is not easy and I have at least 100 more to go. When my brain starts trying to play games with me to make me insecure about my body I tilt my head and give my neck a look or I roll my shoulders and check out my collarbone. This isn't just a weight loss journey. It is a total transformation to be a healthier person. Self love, self acceptance, and finding the things that make me beautiful and unique are important; because to become physically healthy I have to stay mentally healthy and have a healthy view of myself. For I am glorious and worth living a better life.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm Coming Out (of the back row)

"Carol, move to the back so we can see Claire."

"NO! I'm not being forced into the back row anymore!"

My boss had hit a nerve with the instruction for me to move to the back row so we could make room for everyone's favorite Claire to be front and center. Heck. Claire is even one of my favorite people in Chicago; however I had made the decision just days before that I'm not going to keep getting forced into the background, sidelined, or silenced anymore.

There have been a lot of decisions made through out the years to minimize my impact and make it so favorites can be brought to the foreground while I quietly slink out of the picture. As a tall, large, loud child there was always a place for me in a back corner at the Christmas concert. Team photos from high school where I can be found in a shadow in the back corner. Going un-mic'd while all the other leads in the play got microphones. As an adult I started self placing myself in the back. At the gym I would be in the far back corner where I couldn't see the instructor, and where no one else would be forced to see my awkward burpees.

I even moved to Friesland (the land of my forefathers) in hopes that I would not stand out just once in my life. If you don't stand out as being different no one feels the need to hide you right? However, in a land of tall, extremely blond hair, blue eyed beauties I didn't blend in with the crowd as much as I had hoped.

As I struggle to take control over my own life, my future, and my body I realized I was only hurting myself by agreeing to relinquish myself to the background. This agreement had made a once bold child grow into an adult with crippling stage freight. Where I had once taken pride in my height and size I now struggle to accept my oddness with the same joy it once brought me.  Also, always being told to go to the background makes it so eventually you become suspicious of any positive attention you receive. If out with my girlfriends and guy decides to chat me up over my decidedly more beautiful friends I get creeped out and become convinced that we'll have a Silence of the Lambs- lotion in the basket type situation happening before we know it.

I naturally stand out in a crowd and I am learning to accept and embrace that fact. Anyone who has ever heard me try to whisper knows I'm going to be heard from a mile away whether I like it or not. I'm always going to be tall, even when I'm an old lady and I start to shrink I'll still be taller than most people I know. I'm not always going to be as big as I am now, I'm working too hard to stay here forever. However, slender and waify will not be terms used for me in the future. And while I'll never be a favorite I'm taking my spot front and center, because that's what I deserve.

So, no Mark I'm not moving to the back. Me and my big hat will stay right here. Front and Center.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Team Sparkle

I'm doing it.
I'm going to run a 5k in September.
I'm going to lift weights.
I'm going to bike everywhere I possibly can.
I'm going to lose 100 lbs.
I'm going to run a marathon in 2013.
Changing your habits, your lifestyle, and yourself is a very difficult process.

Team Sparkle: Double D, Scott, Me, and Alana
I was born a big kid and have subsequently grown into a big adult. My size only rarely phases me. Living abroad for a large chunk of my adulthood didn't make me notice it either, because aren't Americans suppose to be fat? Me being bigger than everyone or unable to fit into things just seemed right. It wasn't till I moved back to the United States, and the Midwest in particular, I became aware of just how big I had become. It was the fact that I wasn't actually the biggest person around anymore that drew attention to it.
I work at a large museum that practically every Midwesterner visits at some point. I started noticing people around my age who couldn't walk up 3 flights of stairs or had trouble covering the entire distance of the museum. I started to think there must have been a point when they could have turned it around. I'm not saying it is ever fully impossible, however, when someone can barely walk because of their weight I can see where it starts to feel like an impossibility. This made me start to look at myself more carefully. I began to realize how inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle can creep up on you. It had creeped up on me. I wasn't really heavier than I have been at other points in my life but I was flabbier, softer, quickly tired, eating all the time, and yet totally malnourished. That's how you get to the point where you can't climb stairs at the age of 30. It isn't an overnight thing but a decade of bad choices, lack of focus, and self loathing that enabled me to keep with a destructive lifestyle.
I decided then and there that I didn't want to live a life of self destruction. I want to live a healthy, active, and engaging life.
A year later I actually started working on changing for good and making a complete lifestyle change.
In the year following my decision and getting to the point where I actually started working towards my goal there were a few failed attempts to become more active and to eat better. They failed pretty quickly and I burnt out fast trying to do it all by myself. I would go out and buy, for lack of a better word, vats of cookie dough. There were huge bags of candy that I would consume in my room with the wrappers covering my floor, serving as a reminder of what I just did. A lot of shame comes when you have one of these binges. The shame last 4 to 5 times longer than the satisfaction of having just torn apart an entire pie.
As a very goal orientated person I knew I need to pick some BIG goal. Something that wasn't coming up too quickly and would give me time to work towards it with smaller milestones leading up to it. I knew exactly what it had to be, something I have always wanted to do. I like to be mentally and physically challenged. It had to be a... MARATHON. The fact that people laughed whenever I brought up the idea of me running a marathon when I haven't even run a 5K was a good indicator to me that it is the perfect goal.
There is a weird amount of embarrassment involved with saying you want to lose weight or get in shape or quit an addiction (sometimes it's a 3-for-1). It means having to admit out loud to another person that there is a problem, even though odds are other people can already see the problem you are so desperate not to acknowledge.
I thought weight loss and better health could be mastered the same way I took on knitting. Someone takes an hour to show me the basics, makes uncomfortable faces at my awkwardness, then I go into another room for the next two days watching Barbara Streisand movies and when I re-appear I have a scarf. It turns out while knit and purl is a challenge, it is nothing compared to eating healthy.
I have a tendency to crumble if I know anyone is paying attention to me. Crippling stage fright has plagued me my whole life. I wasn't able to knit when my mom, who was teaching me, was looking over my shoulder. I had to be able to go in another room and fail and succeed and fail without anyone noticing. That's how I wanted weight loss to be- in another room, alone, where no one can see me fail they just see the end result of my triumph.
Also, when speaking of weight loss I feel the weight loss reality shows have hurt people. How so? They hurt people because we all love the idea of the "Big Reveal". The moment you come out with the lights on you, in a tight skirt, and some rockin' heels. However, if you aren't leaving your world behind the "Big Reveal" is impossible. And trying to hide or keep your goals a secret seems fruitless. No one can help, encourage, or join you if it is a secret in hopes of some moment of revelation in others. And you are unable to help, encourage, and set an example for others if you are keep your own struggle a secret.
Once I decided to run a marathon, for me, it meant game on. I needed to get in shape for this test of endurance. That meant eating better and working out. I also knew I needed to include at least one other person that would be with me all the way to the end. To me the natural person to ask was my best friend, Scott. When I asked him if he would commit to the next year and half of training, races, and finally the 2013 Chicago Marathon; he laughed in my face and said, "no". I wasn't surprised by his answer.
Scott and I are not friends because we have so much in common that it was inevitability. We met when I crashed a party at his place and proceeded to talk to him because he has a Frisian last name. I am an extrovert to the nth degree combined with a relatively open nature. Scott in contrast is introverted and a very private person (I'm sure if he reads this he is not happy that he is even mentioned in this- tough cookies! :P). And where I have a tendency to give a resounding "yes" without thinking about the situation, Scott will give an automatic "no". Sometimes he comes around other times he'll let the gut reaction "no" remain.
When it came to the marathon question a few days later he came around and said he was in. I am so glad he decided to go on this journey with me and to know I'm not alone, it made a world of difference in my training and focus to know someone will be there for me. Also, it's been nice to see him reengaging with a healthier routine after the most tragic and stressful year of his life had moved him away from a healthy lifestyle.
I began a quest to recruit more people. To keep me accountable but to also give others a goal to work towards as they try to become healthier and happier people. I know that to ask people to commit to a a marathon is a bit much, so I have begun with the Bucktown 5K in September. This particular 5K was chosen because it has a particularly nice goodie bag combined with being enough in the future to get people to join in and start running. So far two others have committed to running the Bucktown 5K with Scott and I; our friends Alana and Daniel David (Double D).  I am so excited for all of us and have started calling us Team Sparkle. I'm committing myself to helping the other members of Team Sparkle live more active lives.
I have read lots of articles about how your friend groups influence your health and weight. Maybe I have had a negative impact on friends in the past because I didn't take care of myself. I hope now and in the future I can be a good influence on my friends lives instead of a detrimental one. The only requirement there is to being apart of Team Sparkle is the taking responsibility for your life and to live an active and engaging life.
It's encouraging not to feel alone in this struggle anymore. To feel others are helping me and maybe I'm helping someone else.
 Remember if you want to see change, than you have to be the change.
 And most of all sparkle so the world can see you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I find this quote from Albert Einstein very inspirational. Feeling stupid or less than is a horrible feeling. Hopefully one day we can all find our genius.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 through the Facebook Status- part 1

January 1st:
I think Obama should use an executive order to get rid of the BCS. I think that is a cause we can all get behind.

January 5th:
why are the Kardashians famous?

January 7th:
a conversation about whether bridges of madison county is a meryl streep movie or a clint eastwood movie shouldn't end in a shouting match but in my family it was inevitable. the follow up argument about whether we were watching the movie on the Oprah Winfrey Network took the argument to a ridiculous level.

January 16th:
my mom felt the need to leave me a 5 part voicemail. the last four parts started with, "Hi Carol I'm not done yet."

January 18th:
I turned and looked into the window of a local Mexican restaurant at exactly the wrong time. Right when I looked in I saw an older man (60ish) literally feeding a younger man (early 20s) a banana. Now I have to ask… why did he have a banana in a Mexican restaurant?

February 6th (my first time at Urban Village Church- Tim Kim preached)
at church today the minister was a total 20 something hipster. he had to keep telling us the things he said are ironic.

February 10th:
note to the 'band' I just saw, being strung out on drugs does not make you an artist! and yelling 'fuck capitalism' at the end doesn't make you an anarchist.

February 14th (my first time at Mongays):
I got 'outed' as being straight at an LGBT Faith meeting. ah, well what can ya do God loves people of all sorts :)

February 19th:
So... year 26 was definitely not my year. I'm really gonna NEED year 27 to be my year.

February 25th:
My approach to relationships is like Gaddafi's, "If they don't love me. They don't deserve to live!"

February 25th:
apparently dancing down the street pretending I'm Doris Day in my head will garner quit a few looks! too bad life isn't a Doris Day movie cuz it would get me some looks from James Garner

February 28th:
oh my goodness! Second City just did a Lady Gaga song about Bontekoe Dairy Farms! my face hurts from laughing so hard :)

March 3rd:
I LOVE walking around N. Halsted in Chicago. I think cuz it reminds me of Amsterdam.

March 4th:
I like contemporary art museums they make me believe if I did drugs I too could be an artist.

March 6th:
Chicago Moment. Tourist: what happened? Chicago Cop: Well there are 30 fucking fire tucks what do you think? Tourist: I don't that why I asked you. Chicago Cop: Do not make me me explain why there are 30 GOD DAMNED FIRE TRUCKS HERE, and this whole area smells like FUCKING SMOKE! Tourist turns back to friends: I guess there was a fire or something."

March 12th:
me dancing at the EL a woman gets out of her car to yell, "you don't know how to dance!" my response, "why thank you! and a fine evening to you too." That shut the bitch up.

March 14th:
I like that at a gay bar karaoke doesn't start till after Rupaul's Drag Show

March 15th:
Attending my first Drag Show tonight. It's like Drag Open Mic night! How exciting. As Mandy said I can say in the future, "Oh, I knew her when she was just a Drag Princess

March 16th:
I just want to say I am the master of being abandoned in gay bars and making new BFFs!

March 24th:
I found once I started thinking of crazies on the train as performance artists I didn't find them so annoying. now I'm pleased that I get a show, for FREE!

March 27th:
going to church on 1.5 hours of sleep after a very fun late night out. It's like Senior year of college all over again. however, I know I have grown up because now I am mature and smart enough to wipe of last night's make up before putting on today's face :D

March 28th:
IN YOUR FACE CHICAGO!!!!!!! Just when I was going to give up on ya I get a job at the Museum of Science and Industry!!! Woohoo! :D

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock: after a year amongst The Gays.

The World Traveler, Vagabond, the Best Friend you never see. That’s been me for the better part of my adult life. Running, flying, biking around the world. Always someone new to meet, a new language to learn, a new site to see. Most comfortable when out of my element, at ease when stressed about a flight, peaceful when crammed into a bus seat.
This past (almost) year I have been living in the capital of the Midwest: Chicago. Close to home, and seen to be wholly without adventure. Not exotic the way my previous adoptive homes were. I was saddened as I wore out my travelers boots walking the streets of Chicago last winter. I hid them away in my closest not strong enough to throw them away and say good-bye to my wanderlust ways.
My favorite part of traveling and the part I assumed was gone, at least while I remained in Chicago, is immersing myself in a culture that is not my own. I enjoy learning the holidays and customs of another culture. I read history books about their past to better understand how they came to be the way I find them now. Being the chatter box that I am I will quickly start learning the language of my new community in order to better connect with those around me.
The move to Chicago was a spur of the moment decision. A place that wasn’t suppose to have that weird adjustment period that comes with moving to a new country. With no money, no job, no friends, no family and no place to stay; Chicago actually proved one of the most difficult adjustment I had ever made. I had nothing and I knew it. I didn’t even have the benefit of enjoying my passion for learning about new cultures, for I was in the midst of a culture that I already knew.
Midwestern Mentality: Check. I’m the daughter of a Midwestern Dairy Farmer. My Midwesterness is undeniable.
Big City Living: Check. Already lived in that crazy, wonderful, international city of Amsterdam.
Extremely Corrupt Government: Child please. Let’s just say Kyrgyzstan and Uganda. Double check.
Only recently while experiencing reverse culture shock did I realize that I had found and become apart of a culture not my own. Without realizing it I had immersed myself in Gay Culture. I now speak fluent Fabulous. I have read numerous books and articles this past year about the Gay Rights movement in the United States and around the world. I have even participated in the Gay High Holy Days: Pride, Market Days, and Halloween.
This reverse culture shock came when I returned to a familiar place: the sports bar, a straight sports bar. A bar filled with hetero-normative behavior ...eerrrr… in a way guys in that bar would understand it was filled with Dudes.
Beer guzzling, whiskey shot taking, high fiving, chest bumping, backwards hat wearing Dudes. My people. My Dudes. Someone chest bump me now! I was in a room full of Lions fans(my favorite sports team) most of them Michigan State alumni (I myself am an alumna of that fine institution). Regular Dudes from Michigan have always been my specialty.
I can talk sports, especially Michigan sports. I LOVE beer. I’ll do as many shots as you do and when you pass out in the corner I’ll still be standing and suggesting that you buy me another one. These kind of guys have always loved me. They have been the ones I call to move my couch when I move. They are the ones who have helped me steal beer from the party next door when the party I’m at has run out. I have shot guns at cans with these guys. I know them.
Or so I thought.
Last Sunday I experienced the same feeling I had my first time back in an American grocery store after Kyrgyzstan, a bath after Uganda, or the first time I saw my friends sneak off to smoke a joint after coming back from Amsterdam. I was experiencing reverse culture shock. Being thrown back into the deep end of your own culture after an extended period away can sometimes be just as jarring as being ripped from your native culture and put into one you have never heard of. I suddenly found myself sitting back and observing instead of fully participating in the rituals of the sports bar. Dudes still high five, get aggressive for no reason, and the ubiquitous shot of whiskey was ever present.
It was me that was no longer present. I was in a daze trying to re-learn social patterns that I know I know. Then I found myself playing a new game in my mind. Spot the gay. Who is on the DL (Down Low) in the Sea of Dudes? This is similar to a game I play in Europe: spot the American. Not the obvious ones, not the ones like me that cannot blend in no matter how hard they try. No I like to find the ones that are trying their darndest to wear the right shoes, coat, and jaunty scarf but some how still read as American.
My bench on the side wall gave me a great panoramic view of the Sea of Dudes. My year of adventures amongst the Gays have trained my eyes to spot them even in the dimmest of lights. The way a lighthouse keeper’s eye are trained to spot a ship in the distant horizon. Unsure if I was really spotting Gays in the Sea of Dudes or if they were just mirages I was relieved when a back up pair of eyes came in. My best friend here in Chicago, who happens to be gay, showed up. He picked off my potential targets immediately: chic scarf to the left of us, tight gray sweater at the bar, The over compensating dude at my table who when the Lions won in an amazing 98 yard run at the end of the game celebrated by rubbing the back of his “buddy.” Sure Dude. Keep lifting weights, no one will ever think you’re gay.
This reverse culture shock happened to me by going no further than walking distance from my apartment. The traveler mentality, my passion for people, and adventure aren’t based on how far away from home I go. My return to hanging out with Dudes reminds me that I might need to start making time to occasionally Bro It Up so I don’t have that shock again. Like all great travelers, even if I am staying in one city, I need connect with my ability to slide in and out of cultures with ease. Especially between my native culture and my adopted culture.
As I approach the year mark of me living in Chicago I get nervous. Should I make a run for it? I have enough money to get to… Wyoming. Maybe Idaho.
I don’t stay places.
I leave before I can get left behind. Yet, something is keeping me here. I want to stay here. I want to develop very real and long term friendships. Not the surface friendships the constant traveler develops, the ones that keep you from being overtly lonely but are not intimate, deep, and lasting.
There in that straight Dude Bar, that I didn’t know anymore, I felt like a traveler again but it also put in to perspective that I have some very real friendships here. I embraced by a community of people that are not my own but I have grown to love them and care about them, and gosh I hope they feel the same way. Right now I’m happy where I’m at, amongst the Gays. And if I ever need a jolt of culture shock and the travelers rush, Wrigleyville and bars full of Dudes are a short train ride away.