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What an ‘Old Lady’ Taught Me About Life

At the age of 44, I thought I was old.

I felt old.

I wasn’t looking forward to the years ahead. Aches. Pains. Wrinkles. Medicines. It seemed like everyone around me was slowing down and just going through the motions of each day, coasting until they could reach retirement. And for some, retirement simply meant they could watch their television programs anytime they wanted to.

So there I sat on my 44th birthday with tears running down my face, thinking that the best years of life had passed me by. I missed the carefree days of my youth spent gliding across the water on the soles of my feet. I had tried barefoot water skiing the day before my birthday, with dismal results. My feet, I reasoned, were truly hung up to dry.

Until an “Old Lady” changed my life.

My husband sent me a link to a TODAY Show segment featuring Judy Myers, a 66-year-old competitive barefoot water skier. I sat there and watched the TODAY Show over and over. The passion that I saw on Judy’s face reminded me of the feelings I had when I was a teen. I loved barefoot water skiing.

judy and karen

I got in touch with Judy and she invited me to Florida to learn how to barefoot water ski again. In the process, I gained a mentor and a friend. Judy taught me some great lessons that apply to life; lessons that I put together in a new book, Outside the Wake, How an “Old Lady” Taught Me to Live.

Outside_the_Wake

At the age of 44, I thought life was a downward slide of life becoming less and less, and I was afraid that the best years of life were behind me.

Judy taught me the opposite: the best years of life can be whatever you want them to be. You don’t have to accept growing older–you can choose to grow BOLDER instead.

Grab a copy and find out for yourself: Outside the Wake

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Old Age–It’s a State of Mind

 

Every muscle ached when I sat down in the plane for the flight home. I had just left the World Barefoot Center in Winter Haven, Florida, where I spent a few days barefoot water skiing.

“What happened to your eye?” my son asked when he picked me up at Midway airport.

 “Ah, I fell backwards and popped a blood vessel,” I explained.

I was also sporting a colorful collection of bruises dotting my body and a swollen tongue.

At the age of 44, I took up the extreme sport of barefooting again–more than 25 years after becoming deaf from a fall.  I spent three days in a boat with three other gals, but at age 45, I was the youngest one there. Kim Taylor is 48, Claudia Landon is 58– and at 68 years of age, Judy Myers is the world’s oldest female competitive barefoot water skier.

“Suck it up,” Judy told me when I dared to complain about my aching body on the second day. When I watch her on the water–I find it hard to believe that this woman is almost seventy years old. Her nickname is the “Old Lady,” but she skims on the water– backwards, forwards and on one foot. Even when she falls at 36 mph, there’s a smile on her face when she surfaces.

  I’m thankful I met Judy– because she changed my life and gave me a whole new way to look forward to the years ahead. She smashes the stereotypes of what it means to grow older– reminding me that “old age” is nothing but a state of mind. As we add more candles to the birthday cake each year, it seems like it’s all too easy to buy into the notion that we are supposed to slow down and become more careful as we age. We are often bombarded with messages that perpetuate the stereotypes of aging, or what I call the “I’m-too-old-to-do-that” syndrome. Instead of accepting the status quo, why not go out and be the first person to shatter the age myth?

Take Jim Boyette, for example. He took up barefoot water skiing at the age of 45 and began to compete in barefoot tournaments. Every single year, he shows up at the Barefoot Nationals and has not missed a tournament since he started in 1978. That’s right– do the math– Jim is 83 years old and still competes in an extreme sport. And to top it off, Jim has Charcot Marie Tooth disease– which atrophies his feet and arms, but he doesn’t let that stop him on the water. As Samuel Ullman once said, “Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

Published in the Chicago Tribune, May 2011

Reinventing Yourself at Any Age

boomers reinvented

“All our life experiences are building blocks to the next opportunity, to the next path, to the next journey, and it’s up to us to take that and go in that direction.”

 ~Karen Putz

I’m turning 50 this year and I am so looking forward to celebrating that milestone.

But at the age of 44, I felt quite the opposite about life. I was NOT looking forward to the years ahead. Life had become ho-hum and I wasn’t thrilled with approaching mid-life. Instead, I was looking back with regret, wishing I had done this or that. I had the feeling that the best years of my life were over and done with–and that aging was a downhill process.

karen and judyMeeting 66-year old Judy Myers turned all of that around for me. I first saw her on the TODAY show which featured her story of taking up an extreme sport at the age of 53. Judy was older than me and truly living life to the fullest. We both shared a love for barefoot water skiing, and she brought me back to the sport I loved as a teen. Our story has been shown on PBS and CNN:

A Mom Who Walks on Water

Making a Splash on Water

In the last five years, I’ve reinvented myself over and over by trying new things and experiencing new paths. In fact, I love helping others to the same–to unwrap their passions and start living life wide open.

karen love

Over at Boomers ReinventedLeAura Anderson is on a mission to encourage the Boomer generation and beyond to reinvent themselves and live their best life.  I shared my own reinvention in an interview with LeAura in which we talk about passion:

Life Wide Open (Captioned)

If the first half of your life journey hasn’t quite been the life you wanted, you can simply start reinventing yourself right now and pivot in a new direction. Learn new skills or try something you’ve always wanted to do. Connect with a mentor and receive guidance. Experience something you’ve been putting off for “Someday.”

Life begins now. Don’t put it off. Reinvent yourself.

The Power of She: Don’t Put A Limit on What You Can Do

 

karen-and-judy-2015

Five years ago, my husband Joe sent me a link that forever changed my life. It was a TODAY Show segment featuring Judy Myers, a 66-year-old barefoot water skier from California.

Barefoot Water Skier is Landing on her Feet at 66

Judy inspired me to get back on the water and dive back into my passion for barefoot water skiing. The “Old Lady” taught me many lessons on and off the water, including the biggest one of all: don’t put a limit on what you can do. Age really truly is a number–and you can choose to grow bolder instead of older.

Catch Judy’s story (and mine) on “The Power of She” on Headline News:

Making a Splash: Senior Barefooter, 71, Inspires

Transcript included.

Maybe the whole thing would be canceled, I thought. I don't know who answered the phone at the World Barefoot Center, but they reassured me that they could ski in all kinds of weather and that it was supposed to clear up.

Sure enough, the weather cleared up and I found myself in the boat with two-time World Barefoot Champion Keith St. Onge,  the world's oldest female barefoot competitor Judy Myers and several others.  As I watched skier after skier do trick after trick on the water, I wanted to crawl out of the boat and head back home.  The flip-flop of nerves came up over and over again that afternoon at every step of the process.  I alternated between "I can do this!" and "I can't do this!" Half of me was excited; the other half of me was wondering what the heck I was doing down in Florida with a bunch of people with talent way over my head.

Had I given into the nerves, I would have missed out on the most incredible life transformation that unfolded.  In a  year and half, I went from not being able to do a deep water start-- to competing in four tournaments, complete with sponsors.

How many of us have missed opportunities in life because we give in to doubts, nerves or fear?

Last week, Judy said to me, "You have to pay your dues." This remark came after I experienced some frustration at the lack of progress on the water after trying the same simple trick over and over (left one foot)-- ending in crash after crash. If you want to accomplish something in life, you have to put in the time, effort, practice, work, sweat and toil, -- and sometimes the only progress comes after years of experience-- and putting in your dues over and over, until you reach that place of success. The key is to not give up in the process.

Last summer, I spent the entire summer trying to conquer a deep water start. I achieved one successful start in June and I triumphantly texted Judy about my accomplishment. "Backwards, here we come!" Judy texted back. (Backwards? Are you crazy?)

I thought I'd breeze through the rest of the summer. Instead, I was met with one failed start after another, the entire summer long. I became pretty skilled at riding on my butt, though.

Dave, my oldest son, pulled me through start after start, over and over. He consoled me when I dissolved in tears one night. "I can't do this," I told him. But he reassured me that tomorrow was another day and we'd try again. And sure enough, I accomplished it. But then I went right back to square one and rode my butt for weeks after that. One step forward, twenty steps back.

Yup, barefooting is a lot like life.

I sent my brother a picture of my first back toe hold. My brother is a former barefooter-- he's off the water now due to a cracked vertebrae (like me, he also lost some hearing in a footin fall). "Wow!" he wrote. "I could never do that!"

Here's the thing: I said the exact same thing when I watched other people doing toe holds on the water.  I remember watching Judy do a toe hold and thinking, Gosh that looks so hard. I could never do that!

And how much do we hold ourselves back in life by thinking in limits?

How many of us have looked at someone who is successful and wished for that same success... without understanding the journey that came before success? Before I could get that snapshot of a back toe hold, Keith stripped me back to basics. Backward on one foot. Backward with my foot in the air. Backward with my foot touching the rope. Backward with the foot on the rope and one hand in the air. And then I had to work on the dreaded left foot backwards. The result? Crash after crash into the water.  Then little by little, I worked my way toward  success.

Crashes are not failures... and stumbles in life are not failures... you learn from them. You learn what causes them-- then you take a different course of action. And like Judy says, you pay your dues. You put the effort and time in to gain experience and little by little, you accomplish your goals and achieve success.

And speaking of crashes: A Whack on the Head.

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What Barefooting Taught Me About Life

A year and half ago– March, 2010 — when I put my feet down on the water for the first time at the World Barefoot Center, I had no clue how much my life was going to change from that moment. That morning, I almost wanted to chicken out. I was nervous about being in a boat with people I didn’t know, I didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit, and deep down, I was afraid to try– and fail. So when I woke up to a rainstorm that morning, I was secretly relieved. Maybe the whole thing would be canceled, I thought. I don’t know who answered the phone at the World Barefoot Center, but they reassured me that they could ski in all kinds of weather and that it was supposed to clear up.

Sure enough, the weather cleared up and I found myself in the boat with two-time World Barefoot Champion Keith St. Onge,  the world’s oldest female barefoot competitor Judy Myers and several others.  As I watched skier after skier do trick after trick on the water, I wanted to crawl out of the boat and head back home.  The flip-flop of nerves came up over and over again that afternoon at every step of the process.  I alternated between “I can do this!” and “I can’t do this!” Half of me was excited; the other half of me was wondering what the heck I was doing down in Florida with a bunch of people with talent way over my head.

Had I given into the nerves, I would have missed out on the most incredible life transformation that unfolded.  In a  year and half, I went from not being able to do a deep water start– to competing in four tournaments, complete with sponsors.

How many of us have missed opportunities in life because we give in to doubts, nerves or fear?

Last week, Judy said to me, “You have to pay your dues.” This remark came after I experienced some frustration at the lack of progress on the water after trying the same simple trick over and over (left one foot)– ending in crash after crash. If you want to accomplish something in life, you have to put in the time, effort, practice, work, sweat and toil, — and sometimes the only progress comes after years of experience– and putting in your dues over and over, until you reach that place of success. The key is to not give up in the process.

Last summer, I spent the entire summer trying to conquer a deep water start. I achieved one successful start in June and I triumphantly texted Judy about my accomplishment. “Backwards, here we come!” Judy texted back. (Backwards? Are you crazy?)

I thought I’d breeze through the rest of the summer. Instead, I was met with one failed start after another, the entire summer long. I became pretty skilled at riding on my butt, though.

Dave, my oldest son, pulled me through start after start, over and over. He consoled me when I dissolved in tears one night. “I can’t do this,” I told him. But he reassured me that tomorrow was another day and we’d try again. And sure enough, I accomplished it. But then I went right back to square one and rode my butt for weeks after that. One step forward, twenty steps back.

Yup, barefooting is a lot like life.

I sent my brother a picture of my first back toe hold. My brother is a former barefooter– he’s off the water now due to a cracked vertebrae (like me, he also lost some hearing in a footin fall). “Wow!” he wrote. “I could never do that!”

Here’s the thing: I said the exact same thing when I watched other people doing toe holds on the water.  I remember watching Judy do a toe hold and thinking, Gosh that looks so hard. I could never do that!

And how much do we hold ourselves back in life by thinking in limits?

How many of us have looked at someone who is successful and wished for that same success… without understanding the journey that came before success? Before I could get that snapshot of a back toe hold, Keith stripped me back to basics. Backward on one foot. Backward with my foot in the air. Backward with my foot touching the rope. Backward with the foot on the rope and one hand in the air. And then I had to work on the dreaded left foot backwards. The result? Crash after crash into the water.  Then little by little, I worked my way toward  success.

Crashes are not failures… and stumbles in life are not failures… you learn from them. You learn what causes them– then you take a different course of action. And like Judy says, you pay your dues. You put the effort and time in to gain experience and little by little, you accomplish your goals and achieve success.

And speaking of crashes: A Whack on the Head.

Karen Putz in Ability Magazine

Check out the current issue of Ability magazine, featuring “Standing on Her Own Two Feet,” which chronicles my return to barefoot water skiing.  The story also features Keith St. Onge, but unfortunately, they left out Judy Myers!   It was the hubby who found the link to the Today show segment that lead me to Judy Myers, who lead me to Keith and the World Barefoot Center.  Life did a 180!  Thank you, Keith, Judy and Joe– for turning it all around.

To receive a free digi-issue of Ability magazine, click the “Like” button on Facebook:  Free Issue of Ability Magazine

Karen Putz Barefooting on Growing Bolder TV

Bill Shafer and cameraman, Jason Morrow from Growing Bolder TV did a great job capturing the story of how I met Judy Myers and Keith St. Onge at the World Barefoot Center.  You can see my very first, sort-of-official backward barefoot start (with no shoes!)– but don’t blink, or you’ll miss me keeling right over two seconds later.

Find more inspiring video, audio, and images at Growing Bolder.

Filming at the World Barefoot Center

Karen Putz on Growing Bolder

I first discovered the Growing Bolder website while doing some research on Banana George for a book that I'm working on.  From the first moment I set eyes on the site, I was intrigued by the stories of people living bold, exciting lives.  Growing Bolder is about folks who break the boundaries of ageism, and it's reflected in their motto:  "It's not about age, it's about attitude."  Growing Bolder reminds us that we don't have to settle for ho-hum lives as we get older-- we can break the stereotypes and reinvent ourselves along the way.

After interviewing me and Judy-- Bill and Jason joined us in the boat with Keith St. Onge.  "Watch me fall in front of the camera," I dryly remarked to Judy as we walked toward the dock.  Sure enough, I went tumbling in the water on the first deep water start.   There's a lesson right there-- don't go entertaining negative thoughts or you'll put them right into action.

"Watch what she does on water," I told Bill, as Judy got ready to do some barefooting.  "You won't believe she's 68!"   It was amusing to watch Bill's mouth fall open as Judy did one foots, toe holds, tumble turns and backwards.   When it was my turn, I shakily lifted my foot for a short one-foot ride and then did some backwards barefooting on shoes.  I ditched the shoes to try a backwards start on my feet and made it up for a very brief ride before falling over.  Judy claims it is an official "you got up and rode it" start, but I'll have to wait to see the evidence on the Growing Bolder show.

Growing Bolder is broadcast on over 250 PBS stations.  To check if it will be shown in your area:  Growing Bolder TV by Zip Code.  If you don't see your local station listed, you can contact your station and ask them to add the show to their line up.

"I feel like I've known you for fifteen years," Bill said as he hugged me goodbye.  "Except you're not that old!" he grinned.

Karen, Bill and Keith

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Karen and Judy’s Story: Growing Bolder on PBS

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Shafer from the TV show, Growing Bolder, which is broadcast on PBS stations nationwide.  Bill, and cameraman, Jason Morrow, were on hand at the World Barefoot Center to capture the story of how I met Judy “The Old Lady” Myers and went back to barefoot water skiing after becoming deaf from a barefooting fall as a teen.   Bill is the Executive Vice President of Growing Bolder Media and was a news anchor for WESH Channel 2 for 25 years.  From the moment I met Bill, I was instantly comfortable with him and it was easy to see why he is considered one of America’s best storytellers– within minutes, he was entertaining us with stories of people he interviewed over the years!

I first discovered the Growing Bolder website while doing some research on Banana George for a book that I’m working on.  From the first moment I set eyes on the site, I was intrigued by the stories of people living bold, exciting lives.  Growing Bolder is about folks who break the boundaries of ageism, and it’s reflected in their motto:  “It’s not about age, it’s about attitude.”  Growing Bolder reminds us that we don’t have to settle for ho-hum lives as we get older– we can break the stereotypes and reinvent ourselves along the way.

After interviewing me and Judy– Bill and Jason joined us in the boat with Keith St. Onge.  “Watch me fall in front of the camera,” I dryly remarked to Judy as we walked toward the dock.  Sure enough, I went tumbling in the water on the first deep water start.   There’s a lesson right there– don’t go entertaining negative thoughts or you’ll put them right into action.

“Watch what she does on water,” I told Bill, as Judy got ready to do some barefooting.  “You won’t believe she’s 68!”   It was amusing to watch Bill’s mouth fall open as Judy did one foots, toe holds, tumble turns and backwards.   When it was my turn, I shakily lifted my foot for a short one-foot ride and then did some backwards barefooting on shoes.  I ditched the shoes to try a backwards start on my feet and made it up for a very brief ride before falling over.  Judy claims it is an official “you got up and rode it” start, but I’ll have to wait to see the evidence on the Growing Bolder show.

Growing Bolder is broadcast on over 250 PBS stations.  To check if it will be shown in your area:  Growing Bolder TV by Zip Code.  If you don’t see your local station listed, you can contact your station and ask them to add the show to their line up.

“I feel like I’ve known you for fifteen years,” Bill said as he hugged me goodbye.  “Except you’re not that old!” he grinned.

Karen, Bill and Keith

World Barefoot Center will host another Women's Barefoot Week in November and it promises to fill up fast, so reserve your spot!  This is your only chance to see Keith St. Onge, David Small and Swampy in a dress!

WOMEN'S BAREFOOT WEEK

Judy "Old Lady" Meyers, 67, is on a mission to prove that barefooting is not just a sport for the physically young, but is a sport that everyone, especially women of all ages, can safely enjoy.

Judy organized the recent "Women's Week" barefoot clinic at the World Barefoot Center, Nov. 1-6, in Winter Haven, Fla. Fifteen women's barefooters - 12 over the age of 40, with four of those being over age 60 - enjoyed a week of barefooting and camaraderie.

World Barefoot Center

'Footers pictured above are (back row, left-to-right): Keith St. Onge and Lauren Lindeman, World Barefoot Center; Karen Putz, Chicago, Ill.; Claudia Landon, Post Falls, Idaho; Judy Myer, Alpine, Calif.; Coach Gary "Swampy" Bouchard, World Barefoot Center; Valerie Shinn, Redmond, Wash.; David Small, World Barefoot Center; Lorraine Piskura, New Fairfield, Conn; (Kneeling, left-to-right): Charlene Portman, Clearwater, Fla.; Joann O'Connor, Oshkosh, Wis.; Kay Wiser, Winter Haven, Fla.; and Lisa Browning, Winter Haven, Fla.

For information about women's barefooting and future events, contact Judy at oldbarefooter@mac.com.

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Women’s Barefoot Week Featured in Waterski Magazine

Back in November, 2010, I spent a week barefooting with gals from all over the U.S.  We gathered at the World Barefoot Center for a week of fun skimming on the water.  Waterski magazine joined us for a morning and took a snapshot of all of us barefooting off two booms, two boats (see below).   The article and short clip about my return to barefooting are in the March issue of Waterski magazine.

Waterskier magazine included a blurb about Women’s week in their newsletter (reprinted below).  The World Barefoot Center will host another Women’s Barefoot Week in November and it promises to fill up fast, so reserve your spot!  This is your only chance to see Keith St. Onge, David Small and Swampy in a dress!

WOMEN’S BAREFOOT WEEK

Judy “Old Lady” Meyers, 67, is on a mission to prove that barefooting is not just a sport for the physically young, but is a sport that everyone, especially women of all ages, can safely enjoy.

Judy organized the recent “Women’s Week” barefoot clinic at the World Barefoot Center, Nov. 1-6, in Winter Haven, Fla. Fifteen women’s barefooters – 12 over the age of 40, with four of those being over age 60 – enjoyed a week of barefooting and camaraderie.

World Barefoot Center

‘Footers pictured above are (back row, left-to-right): Keith St. Onge and Lauren Lindeman, World Barefoot Center; Karen Putz, Chicago, Ill.; Claudia Landon, Post Falls, Idaho; Judy Myer, Alpine, Calif.; Coach Gary “Swampy” Bouchard, World Barefoot Center; Valerie Shinn, Redmond, Wash.; David Small, World Barefoot Center; Lorraine Piskura, New Fairfield, Conn; (Kneeling, left-to-right): Charlene Portman, Clearwater, Fla.; Joann O’Connor, Oshkosh, Wis.; Kay Wiser, Winter Haven, Fla.; and Lisa Browning, Winter Haven, Fla.

For information about women’s barefooting and future events, contact Judy at oldbarefooter@mac.com.

I grew up waterskiing and barefooting and I really missed those activities.  My niece convinced me to try water skiing again on July 4 in 2008.  I got up on two skis and kicked off one.   I went back and forth across the wake a few times and called it a day.  I was out of breath and had no strength to continue.  It was one very short ride on the water.   I was in a size 16 jeans and wearing 2x tops.  No, it wasn't pretty.   You would think after seeing this photo on my niece's Facebook page-- that I would be motivated to lose weight.  I wasn't.

Ever hear the saying by Buddha:   "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."   Well, that's pretty much what happened.  The teacher turned out to be Keith St. Onge, from the World Barefoot Center.  Keith went through a metamorphosis of his own several years ago.   He was packing on too many pounds as a professional athlete and wasn't feeling healthy.   He became serious about his health, made some changes in his lifestyle and eating habits and went on to win two World Championships.    At the end of May, Keith sent me some eating guidelines to improve my health.  I was ready, finally ready, to make some lifestyle changes.

"You have to cut out pop," he told me.

I loved my Coke and Pepsi.  I lived each day for the moment I could sip the soda.   Every time we went out to eat, I ordered soda.  And now it was time to kiss it goodbye.  My friend Sue had kicked the pop habit and she was trying to get me to kick it a year ago.   But now, I was ready.

I wanted a lifestyle change, not a diet.  Keith's guidelines fit right into that.  I made healthier choices, but I enjoyed the food.  Instead of boneless chicken wings, I went for grilled chicken on a salad when eating out.  Salmon with asparagus.   I went for more fruits and vegetables and less of the processed stuff.  I found ways to cut out white flour-- but I have a weakness for Panera Bread's sourdough rolls, so eliminating that completely felt like death.   So I saved it as a very rare treat.   And I got hooked on quinoa.  "Keen-wa"-- the whole grain with funny name.   I introduced my book club to it one day and they liked it.  I brought in almond and coconut milk and the kids went crazy for the almond milk.

I also had two other barefooters who provided support and encouragement, Joann O'Connor and Judy Myers.  Both of them had wonderful weight loss stories of their own.  I joined Donna Cutting's weight loss group on Facebook, and it helped tremendously to be surrounded by others walking the same journey.

It's a work in progress-- as I still eat emotionally and I deal with that all the time.  It's a work in progress, I remind myself again and again-- as I still have a ways to go to get healthy and lean.  In a weak moment this fall, I texted Keith after I had scarfed down two rolls at a fundraiser.   "Always bring healthy snacks with you for moments like that," he said.  Then he shot me a modified Dave Ramsey quote:   "If you want to live like no one else, make decisions like no one else!"

I put my fork down when the dessert came.

I had two incredible highlights this year:  the day that I learned to go backwards on the water... and the day that I slipped on size eight jeans.   Thanks, Keith, for both of those highlights.

'>

Losing Weight — A Work in Progress

At the beginning of this year, I joined Loser Moms in an attempt to lose weight for barefoot water skiing.  I was heading down to the World Barefoot Center in March and I wanted to lose a few pounds before getting on the water.   Part of the requirement to join was to post a picture on a personal blog.  So with a heavy (yeah, pun intended!) heart, I went searching for a picture to post.   I had to close my eyes when I hit the “publish” button.

The thing is, by the time that picture was snapped, I had already lost a few pounds.  I’m estimating at my heaviest, I was probably 215 pounds.   I wouldn’t know– I avoided the scale, the mirror and the camera every chance I could.    The only exercise that I got around to doing was playing a weekly volleyball game in a league.  A local bar sponsored our team, so we were obligated to head over there after the game and hang out.   I filled up on appetizers, sometimes late at night.

I grew up waterskiing and barefooting and I really missed those activities.  My niece convinced me to try water skiing again on July 4 in 2008.  I got up on two skis and kicked off one.   I went back and forth across the wake a few times and called it a day.  I was out of breath and had no strength to continue.  It was one very short ride on the water.   I was in a size 16 jeans and wearing 2x tops.  No, it wasn’t pretty.   You would think after seeing this photo on my niece’s Facebook page– that I would be motivated to lose weight.  I wasn’t.

Ever hear the saying by Buddha:   “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”   Well, that’s pretty much what happened.  The teacher turned out to be Keith St. Onge, from the World Barefoot Center.  Keith went through a metamorphosis of his own several years ago.   He was packing on too many pounds as a professional athlete and wasn’t feeling healthy.   He became serious about his health, made some changes in his lifestyle and eating habits and went on to win two World Championships.    At the end of May, Keith sent me some eating guidelines to improve my health.  I was ready, finally ready, to make some lifestyle changes.

“You have to cut out pop,” he told me.

I loved my Coke and Pepsi.  I lived each day for the moment I could sip the soda.   Every time we went out to eat, I ordered soda.  And now it was time to kiss it goodbye.  My friend Sue had kicked the pop habit and she was trying to get me to kick it a year ago.   But now, I was ready.

I wanted a lifestyle change, not a diet.  Keith’s guidelines fit right into that.  I made healthier choices, but I enjoyed the food.  Instead of boneless chicken wings, I went for grilled chicken on a salad when eating out.  Salmon with asparagus.   I went for more fruits and vegetables and less of the processed stuff.  I found ways to cut out white flour– but I have a weakness for Panera Bread’s sourdough rolls, so eliminating that completely felt like death.   So I saved it as a very rare treat.   And I got hooked on quinoa.  “Keen-wa”– the whole grain with funny name.   I introduced my book club to it one day and they liked it.  I brought in almond and coconut milk and the kids went crazy for the almond milk.

I also had two other barefooters who provided support and encouragement, Joann O’Connor and Judy Myers.  Both of them had wonderful weight loss stories of their own.  I joined Donna Cutting’s weight loss group on Facebook, and it helped tremendously to be surrounded by others walking the same journey.

It’s a work in progress– as I still eat emotionally and I deal with that all the time.  It’s a work in progress, I remind myself again and again– as I still have a ways to go to get healthy and lean.  In a weak moment this fall, I texted Keith after I had scarfed down two rolls at a fundraiser.   “Always bring healthy snacks with you for moments like that,” he said.  Then he shot me a modified Dave Ramsey quote:   “If you want to live like no one else, make decisions like no one else!”

I put my fork down when the dessert came.

I had two incredible highlights this year:  the day that I learned to go backwards on the water… and the day that I slipped on size eight jeans.   Thanks, Keith, for both of those highlights.