Category: Ramblings

Oh to be Nancy Drew

When I was in about third grade my cousin introduced me to Nancy Drew. I fell in love with her immediately.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Nancy Drew is a teenage sleuth (you have to use the word sleuth to describe her – it’s such a delightful word to say out loud – sleuth.) She and her two best friends, Bess and George (Georgia), and her boyfriend Ned would continuously run across mysteries that needed to be solved. Nancy, being the sharp cookie that she was, would always figure out the truth and save the day.

The name of the author on the cover was and still is Carolyn Keene (new books are still being written today even though the first book was published in 1930). Carolyn Keene is like Santa Claus, she never actually existed but you don’t want children to know this. Instead a long string of adults have pretended to be her, the first being Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson, who lived to be 97!

Mildred Wirt Benson (University of Iowa Press)

Nancy Drew has been translated into nearly 30 languages and in some countries is known by a different name (or a variation of her name) for example Alice Roy in France, Kitty Drew in Sweden, and Paula Drew in Finland.

The original company that created Nancy Drew was the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which also published a slew of other children’s series including Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, and the Hardy Boys. Syndicate, hmmmm, sounds shady, doesn’t it? Librarians apparently seemed to think so because for years most of them (us) refused to carry any of the “Syndicate” series (admittedly it wasn’t the company’s name that made them do it but the idea that reading series led to laziness.)

Edward Stratemeyer definitely was the Henry Ford of publishing. He figured out a business model that turned out books quickly and created demand. He had a series of ‘guidelines’ that had to be followed (from Wikipedia).

All Stratemeyer Syndicate books were written under certain guidelines, based on practices Stratemeyer began with his first series, the Rover Boys.

  • All books would be part of a series.
  • To establish more quickly if a series was likely to be successful, the first several volumes would be published at once. These first volumes are often called “breeders”.
  • The books would be written under a pseudonym. This would provide apparent continuity of authorship, even when an author died, and would disguise the fact that series were written by multiple ghostwriters and plot-outliners.
  • The books would look as much like contemporary adult books as possible, with similar bindings and typefaces.
  • The books would be of a predictable length.
  • Chapters and pages should end mid-situation, to increase the reader’s desire to keep reading.
  • Each book would begin with a quick recap of all previous books in that series, in order to promote those books.
  • Books might also end with a preview of the next volume in the series: “Nancy … could not help but wonder when she might encounter as strange a mystery as the recent one. Such a case was to confront her soon, The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes”.
  • The books would be priced at 50 cents, rather than the more common 75 cents, $1.00, or $1.25.
  • Characters should not age or marry. Protagonists of early series such as the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and Ruth Fielding did grow up and marry, but sales dropped afterwards, prompting the Syndicate to make a rule that characters never marry.

Obviously the guidelines worked. For myself, when my cousin told me that she was already on number eighteen (or thereabouts) I knew that I needed to catch up to her. Although it wasn’t really necessary to read the books in order, there was a unwritten rule that you do.

“What number are you on?”

“I’m up to twenty-seven!”

Photo of some “antique” Nancy Drew books taken at an antique shop near Oconomowoc, WI.
Photo taken by my wonderful cousin who introduced me to the teenage sleuth.
Those yellow spines make my heart sing.

When I first started reading there were only fifty-one titles but more were published as I read. I think I gave up somewhere in the sixties. I was able to read an entire book in one afternoon. I relished reading them, especially if it was a rainy or snowy day. I would close the door to my bedroom, nestle in the chair near the window, get all cozy and sit there uninterrupted for several hours and just read.

Afterward I would feel so uplifted and happy and the first thing I would need to do is… clean my entire room. Yep, because the thing I loved most about Nancy Drew is how she was perfect – so neat and put together all the time. She always had on exactly the right outfit for every occasion, she knew how to do everything, she was always prepared for any situation. She was completely perfect. I wanted to be Nancy Drew and if I was going to be Nancy Drew I was going to start with… my room (which I’m sure you can visualize, it looked like the typical bedroom of an preteen.)

The first thing I would do is take every single piece of clothing out of my closet and out of the drawers of my cabinets. I would take everything off of my bookcase and dust, and then put everything back perfectly. I would empty all the drawers of my desk and put that all back. I’d clear OFF the desk and clean off the top. When I was finished my Mom would come in and oooh and aaah and tell me how wonderful it looked and I’d feel so proud. “I’m Nancy Drew,” I would think to myself! I’d lay out my clothes for the next day. I’d brush my teeth and wash my face. I’d climb into a clean bed and I’d sleep like a rock.

That would last about two days.

It didn’t take long for my Mom to figure out that connection between my cleaning my room and reading Nancy Drew. Eventually when she would notice my room looking like a pigsty she’d ask, “do you want to go to the bookstore and get a new Nancy Drew?” Hell, getting me to clean up my room for less than a dollar was totally worth it.

Now jump forty years later and I’m obviously no longer in 3rd grade. I’m living in a two-story colonial where I’ve had a major break-down because I was in the basement doing laundry and couldn’t get up the stairs. Turns out I have a degenerative joint disease and I need both my knees replaced. But here’s the rub – in order to have the surgery I have to lose fifty pounds but you try losing fifty pounds when you can barely walk. Yeah.

But I did it. I pretty much turned my life around. I moved from the two-story colonial into a ranch (my Golden Girls dream house) and I went onto a very strict (non-maintainable diet) where I starved myself for about 7 or 8 months and lost those damned fifty pounds. I had both knees replaced in a six month time period. Thank god!

When I moved from the two-story house to the ranch I decided not to take shortcuts like I had done in the past. This time I was going to do it right. This time I was not going to just pack everything up and pile up a bunch of boxes full of things I didn’t use in my basement. I hired an organizer to help me, because basically I had over twenty years of stuff jammed into my house.

We took TWENTY-SEVEN carloads to Goodwill and I’m fairly certain I filled up an entire Waste Management sanitation truck. It felt so good to purge my life of all of my accumulated belongings, things that I didn’t need or want anymore.

Going through the boxes in the bases was a riot. I found my Fran Drescher The Nanny Doll that talked and a miniature pair of Fruit-of-the-Looms and this 80s cardigan….

Yes, I actually wore this.

I also found many things that I actually kept. Things that were my Mom’s or that actually would be useful.

When were were about half finished I looked up at my organizer and at 51 years of age I said to her, “I’m so Nancy Drew!” Because I still want to be Nancy. Her response was “huh?”

Of course she knew who Nancy Drew was but she never heard the name used as an adjective before. I explained it in my usual long-winded way. From that point forward we would say our goal was to be Nancy Drew.

For me it still is, it always will be. To achieve complete Nancy Drew-ness is equivalent to a Buddhist reaching nirvana. Every time I clean up my work space, or wash all the blankets and quilts on my bed and remake my bed so it’s nice & clean, or delete mail from my inbox, or go through the stack of real mail that I’ve let accumulate and toss all the stuff I don’t need into recycling (and take care of all the rest of it right away), or clear off a counter or garage that I’ve let get cluttered, every time I do all these things it clears out my head and helps me feel more myself. I find that I remember things more easily – less struggling to find words, less likely to be going down the wrong row of a parking lot, able to recall the names of all the actors who played on particular episodes of ‘Murder, She Wrote.’ Faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… Yep, all of these things, just because I cleaned up my room.

And actually, there is a bit of science behind this. Too much stuff can be distracting and can create stress, and you may not even realize it.

I have major sleep issues. I have trouble getting to sleep because I obsess about things – mostly about what I did wrong that day and what I have to do the next day or week. I also am a worrier. I can worry about everything and anything. What I discovered is that I sleep MUCH better on nights after I’ve done some major ‘Nancy Drew-ing’ of some sort. Did the laundry for the week and prepped for the next day – sleep better. Made a bunch of meals for the week and put them in the freezer – sleep better. Cleared out a bunch of mail (both electronic & snail) – sleep better. Checked off several important things from my endless to do list – sleep better.

And sleep of course, has a tremendous impact on a person’s health. I’m going to write an entire blog post on this so I won’t go into depth on that here.

The question is, why did it take me so long to figure this out? I have no answer to give. All I know is that at least I figured it out before it was too late.

So, I’ll stop because I need to get back to Nancy Drew-ing!

Oh, and one last thing, for any of you who are super Nancy Drew fans like I am, you may want to check out the new Nancy Drew show on the CW but be prepared – this Nancy is nothing like the one you have grown to love. This Nancy is still smart as a whip but she’s a bit selfish, she and her dad are not on good terms (which is really weird,) and she and Nick (Ned Nickerson goes by Nick in this modern version, I think because Ned would be considered too dorky?) are having sex – GASP! Nancy Drew doesn’t have pre-marital sex!

Also, the ghosts are REAL. Having said that – the show is a typical CW show, sort of like Nancy Drew mixed with X-Files. Which is, I suppose, why I kind of like it. That with the Nancy Drew references are keeping my attention. See what you think.

Nancy Drew — “Pilot” — Image Number: NCD101c_0397r.jpg —
Pictured: Kennedy McMann as Nancy — Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Mixed Feelings – Part I

Whenever I read or hear about how body or size acceptance has made so much progress, how society as a whole has finally started to recognize, okay, has sort of started to recognize? maybe is seemingly recognizing? that fat shaming* is not acceptable, I’m always torn.

You’re probably thinking, what in the hell is there to be torn about? How can you of all people think it is absolutely not a good thing? Are you a butthead? (The butthead part may just be me.)

Well, I’ll tell you, I’m torn because not only was I born the year Twiggy’s modeling career began, but I’ve lived through a few decades where people, doctors, and even scientists were extraordinarily ill-informed on diet and nutrition. Truly a double whammy.

And now that things seem to be coming ’round, well, frankly, it’s too late for me. Which SUCKS. I mean, it’s great for all the younger people who hopefully won’t have to go through what I did, but I’ve already lived the prime years of my life – I don’t get a do-over. And the things that have been done to my metabolism and to my gut, and to my self-confidence, well, some of it is irreversible. Selfish, yep, but I can’t help it, the feelings are there.

But that is why this blog has become so important to me. It is the way that I plan on getting through the rest of my life. It gives me motivation to learn about what I can do to improve the quality of my life and hopefully I will help others along the way.

Okay, jumping right in. For as long as I can remember I have either had a weight ‘problem’ and/or dieted. About 15 years ago my Mom was diagnosed with a neurological disease (it ended up being Lewy Body Dementia – I am sure I will talk about this at length in the future). My life changed rather dramatically very quickly. One thing I started to do was begin scanning all the family photo albums (a total of about 5000-6000 photos to date.) My Mom was declining fairly quickly and was also heavily medicated, she couldn’t even take care of herself. I was worried that the photos would end up being misplaced or worse, accidentally thrown out.

As I began to go through them, I saw photos of myself from grade school and high school and I thought, “well crap, I wasn’t all that fat” (at least not by today’s standards) or “damn, I would give anything to be that ‘fat’ now.”

It made me remember all the diets I had been on over the years, all with my parents encouragement and financing – Weight Loss Clinic, Weight Control Clinic, Nutrisystem, dozens of trendy diets I can’t remember the names of, things like the Grapefruit diet or the Cabbage Soup diet.

One of the very first attempts was to send me to fat camp. It lasted for seven weeks during the summer before I started high school. That year I weighed around 170 pounds and was 5 feet 9 inches tall.

Me the year before I went to fat camp, I weighed about the same the next summer.

People (including doctors) used a rule of thumb back then (they still do but it’s been modified a bit) to determine how much a person should weight. For women, and this only works if you are 5 feet or taller, you start by saying a 5 foot tall women should weight 100 pounds and then for every inch over that add 3 pounds. Fairly easy. According to this, I should have weighed 127 pounds.

Problem is, it didn’t take into account things like whether a person was an athlete or possibly a person who just had more muscle mass. Most people know that muscle weighs more than fat, (sidebar, this is why the BMI – Body Mass Index is such bullshit but I will discuss that another day) or other factors that could account for why a woman (or a man) might weight more or less and still be the right and healthy weight for their body.

Anyway, back to my story. For the seven weeks I was at the camp we had pretty much the same routine every day and I still remember it even though it was over 40 years ago. We would get up early and exercise, usually that involved calisthenics and a 3 mile run. This was followed by breakfast. The camp was at a university so we stayed in dorms. There was a sports facility about 2 miles away. After breakfast we would walk over to that facility and each of us would be allowed to choose one of several activities – ballet, gymnastics, track, or swimming. We would take the bus back to the dorms (I’m guessing because of time constraints) for lunch. After lunch it was back to the sports facility to do two more activities. Then walk back to the dorm where you would have an hour free time before dinner. After dinner there was a group activity, usually a team sport followed by calisthenics, another 3 mile run and a snack before bed.

Me (center) and my parents right after I returned from fat camp.

Here’s the thing. I did lose 30 pounds in those 7 weeks. Boy were my parents happy. I weighed 135 went I got home. I was still 8 pounds over the ideal weight but so much closer.

I also lost some of my hair. And I didn’t have a BM for the entire time I was there. There is no way I could have continued the amount of exercise that we had done at the camp on a daily basis, I had to go to school for one thing.

Not only that, I had been eating fairly well to keep myself fueled for all the exercise I was doing and I had gotten used to it. Surprise, surprise, I put the weight back on and then some. The same with all the other diets. On each one I would lose about 40 pounds, almost exactly, then I’d hit a plateau. I’d quit and I’d put the weight back on plus 10. Every time. And my weight tick-tick-ticked up.

You know, people still use that rule of thumb thing but guess what, it’s been modified. They don’t use 3 pounds per inch anymore (well, I had someone tell me that is “model weight.”) No, I’ve heard a few variations but the most common is that you should try to be ideally between 4-6 pounds per inch for an average frame. You can go to 8 pounds per inch for someone who is athletic or larger framed. That means for someone who is 5’9″ the weight could be anywhere between 127 (for a model) – 154 (average frame) – 172 (larger frame). What did I say I weighed before I was sent to fat camp?

I have often wondered to myself, if I had just been left alone, would I look like I look today? Of course that’s only part of the story. There’s also the genetic thing, the antibiotic thing, the additives thing, well, there’s a lot of other things – and I’m planning on talking about them all. But I’ll stop for today.

To be continued…

My First Blog Post

If not me, who? If not now, when?

— Emma Watson.

It was important for me to launch my blog on the first day of autumn (if you continue to follow my blog in the future you will find out why.)

I have been thinking about starting a blog for sometime. People are often telling me I should write a book, but I’m not sure I actually have enough of a “story” to do that (or frankly, the discipline.) I have several social media accounts and I use them to discuss a variety of topics, but all of them seem too limiting. Because, the truth is, I’m a talker. If I had a nickel for the number of people who have told me to “try to be succinct” or “keep it brief” or “don’t be so wordy”, well, I’d be a super rich person.

To be honest, it was James Corden’s response to Bill Maher’s fat shaming segment that finally motivated me to get my rear in gear. I was incredibly frustrated that I didn’t have a real platform to discuss that specific issue. I also recently stumbled across a massive amount of information related to menopause and/or weight and I feel the need to share all of it as much as possible.

It was for these reasons that I knew it was time to finally create something where maybe, just maybe I could not only help other women who are going through menopause or starting menopause or wondering about menopause or are scared shitless about the prospect of menopause, but that perhaps I could also help people in general understand about women’s health, weight loss/gain, body issues, fat shaming and the mental health concerns that go along with all of these things.

I am not a medical professional, I am going to say that straight out, but I do hope to get opinions in the future from individuals in that industry. I also will be citing articles, studies, and books that contain legitimate scientific research.

So, there’s my first post. It’s not much, just an introduction really, but I think it might be one of the more difficult posts I will have to make. Because it was tough figuring out exactly why I wanted to do this and what I wanted to accomplish. Let’s see what happens. Are you with me?