Chapter 1  Senior Year Setback

Today was my weigh-in for my  health and wellness program I restarted. I texted my weight to my health coach. Hallelujah, I had five pounds less to report. About 5 years ago, I was struggling with my weight, and went on this awesome program, Take Shape For Life. My husband and I went on it it together and we lost all the excess weight.  (He of course has a lot less than me, but still needed to be healthy.) We looked and felt amazing. People started asking us how we did it, and as a result they asked me to help them.  I studied and became a health coach for the program. I made a little side income from it.

Several people lost weight under my coaching  and I was glad to pay it forward. I gained so much confidence, and I even gave a concert for all my friends at a winery for my fortieth birthday. My body came into alignment with its true healthy weight for my frame. Things were going well, but that was too hard because my life was fairly quiet at the time. Sure I was busy with teaching, and parenting, and being a children’s ministry leader. But really, it was  the quiet before the major storms that were coming. Although I was helping others with staying on their program, I had not yet become an expert on maintaining my own personal health through crisis.  I had a history of emotional eating, and my life was about to go through some rugged waters.   Some of the most stressful events of my life, were about to  come raging in.

Being a music teacher often means eating dinner at late hours. (often practicing on your lunch or grabbing food quickly between rehearsals.) Food has always been a struggle for me, and I tend to stuff my feelings and then stuff my face. Having a glass of wine and a cheese plate with my hubby in the evening, has been a way of forgetting the ills of the day. Truthfully, I can also be a grazer at times and I  can eat healthy a good portion of the day, but then get really hungry and eat whatever I can find that is easiest later. I can eat too few calories, and then way too much at dinner, or find my way to the brownies.

I have been known to bring home leftover cookies after Christmas recitals at the beginning of December, and start a sugar binge that lasts through new years day. My eating habits have been stellar when I am in a program, and then bad again when I am off. I guess we are all human, and this is a true struggle for me. But this last round of going off my program was pure survival as our life’s course was about to navigate through storm after storm.

It started with my older son’s senior year. His performing arts school switched from being a private school to a public school. This meant that the seniors had way too many credits in the arts and humanities, but didn’t meet the requirements of the state for math in their senior year and some other classes. My son had already taken Trigonometry for half a year. He wasn’t flourishing in trig his junior year, and we had told him that was enough.  He could be done with math. But the new state requirement meant that he had to take Trig again or calculus. He had to have math in his senior year and there was nothing left to take but that being offered. His speech credit was also not accepted, and we had to cram some other courses in.

He was stressed and falling behind by the first semester parent teacher conferences. We didn’t want him to ruin his decent GPA as he was applying to colleges, and we were very concerned about his stress levels.  So, we gave him a choice. He could stay in his current school and try even harder to understand trig and get all those courses in, or he could do online school. Online school offered personal finance  instead of trig,  he could work at his own pace.  He chose online high school.

The outcome of this  change was that he became sad. He was no longer  with his peers and would not graduate with his class. I literally had to sit with him all day everyday and be a cheerleader and monitor his work so that he would graduate on time. That was the start of the sitting and stress eating for  me. The pounds started coming back on. I had to help him stay on track through all the college applications and  music scholarship auditions. Along with his instructors, we had been working steadily towards his dream of getting into a top music conservatory as an upright jazz bassist since middle school. We had done the rounds of the jazz festivals, and he and his brother had done well. Now it was go –time, and the audition process was strenuous.

Then the next big disappointment came. He was accepted into some very outstanding programs, but even with the scholarships he earned we could not afford the programs.  His top choice was to attend Cal Arts. We were so proud of him being accepted into the jazz program, and receiving an excellent scholarship offer. Honestly, though, scholarships are really just a discount. We would have to cosign on some hefty loans so that he could attend. If he graduated in four years on schedule, he would still graduate $80,000 in debt as a jazz musician. As musicians ourselves, we know how unreasonable that is. W e were also behind on our own retirement savings, so for us to take on more personal debt  would be completely irresponsible.

Additionally, his brother was coming up right behind him to graduate the next year  as a jazz drummer. He, too  had worked just as hard. We couldn’t sign our whole life away to our older son and then say,” sorry about that,” to our younger son. We deliberated, but we just weren’t signing for those loans. (Not at Cal Arts or any other prestigious program.)  We weren’t willing to risk losing everything for our love of jazz. Dealing with this disappointment was another  factor in my own emotional eating. I really hated having to say no after all the years we had invested in getting the boys to that level. It had been a family dream that the boys would attend prestigious music program.   This became a  couple cookies here or there, a glass of wine or two, some more brownies…

My in-laws lived behind us on our property and my aging father-in-law was getting worse with his dementia. That summer the Alzheimer’s  was really settling in, and he was becoming increasingly confused. We were  in constant worry for his safety and my mother-in- laws well- being.   We convinced  our older son to go to North Idaho College, a very nice community college. He didn’t want to go there, but we loved the college. We had both attended it, and had great memories of the school. We  also had family nearby in Spokane. Coeur’ d Alene is a beautiful place. To us, it was a great alternative, that would buy us a couple years. He was deflated, but he complied.