There is some etiquette involved in working in a cubicle. Believe it or not, this is my first cubicle experience, having worked in the past in my own office; a shared, open office; or behind a cash register. The cubicle is a whole new experience for me. I’ve decorated it with pictures and magnets, trinkets and toiletries. Apparently, toiletries are inappropriate, and my mouthwash and makeup were banished on Day Three. But I do get to keep my all-seeing Truman up ( a photo of Capote from Gerald Clarke's biography of him, with eyes that follow you wherever you are in the office) so I’m happy. My officemates are a little creeped out (honestly, he’s always watching) but if they don’t like it, they can stay out of my cube.

I have some cubicle neighbors. To my left is a woman I’ve spotted once or twice. She’s super-quiet and moves like a snake slithering through sand. Honestly, she makes me incredibly paranoid about my own noisemaking activities (like typing, or breathing). I never hear her, which is weird, because the whole floor is like a library. I ought to hear her burp or sigh once in a while. Not like my neighbor on the other side, whom I like to call “Sneezy.” Sneezy had a cold this week, which I can empathize with, but I was so grateful, because her hacking and coughing covered up all of my boisterous activities (honestly, there’s got to be a quieter way to click a mouse button).

I’ve learned the importance of quiet food. On my first day, I bought a bag of chips from the vending machine. When I opened the bag, it sounded like a shuttle was launching from my cubicle. My neighbor, the silent wraith, quietly rose, glared at me with murderous intent, and slunk off to the bathroom until I was finished with my snack. Never again. I stopped at the grocery store after work to find some more restrained munchies.

I quickly realized that a lot of quiet food was also healthy. Score! Maybe I could lose a few pounds while being respectful of my neighbors. Bananas, grapes, marshmallows (hey, they're low calorie) . . . all silent snacks. I embarked on my new, healthier lifestyle the next day. I felt smug. Truman seemed to approve. All was well until lunchtime. Guess what? Salad is decidedly NOT quiet. The wraith drew a silent slice across her neck after my first bite. Plus, by 2 p.m., I was so hungry I was licking what I thought was a chocolate stain off of my lunch bag. (It turned out to be soy sauce. I didnt care.) I gave up my diet and contributed to the Pop Tart™ fund. It turns out Pop Tarts™ are very quiet, so everyone was happy.

Phone etiquette is pretty important, too. My new company apparently has no problem with making personal phone calls during the day, as long as you get your work done. I found this out by eavesdropping on everyone else’s (hey, it’s like a tomb in that office. I can’t impress enough upon you how deathly silent it is.) The woman three cubicles down had problems on Tuesday because the school nurse called to say her kid was sick. The Wraith is having an issue with her satellite dish company; Sneezy’s doctor won’t call in a prescription unless she goes in to see the nurse. Feeling emboldened, I called Jason from my desk phone.

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I admitted.
“Why’re you calling during the work day? Is something wrong?”
“I just wanted to talk to someone,” I said. “Never mind. Truman’s staring at me; I gotta go.”

The office cubicle: it can be a lonely place.

He sees you when you're sleeping . . .
We’ve all heard it time and time again: calories in, calories out. (I like to imagine it being said in a high, shrieky voice, like an obnoxious personal fitness trainer is browbeating me to death.) But let me tell you another story: last night, I weighed myself for the first time in months, simply because I had no idea where I was at. Great news: I’d lost five pounds since the last time I’d stepped on the scale o' doom. Excited, I decided to try it again in the morning, because every Weight Watchers lifer knows that you weigh the least first thing in the morning.  For the first time in months, I had something to look forward to in the morning. Imagine my surprise when the scale registered that I'd gained three additional pounds overnight! And my anger! And my despondency! And the reason why I ate half a german chocolate cake for breakfast to make myself feel better!

(Side note: I do not normally keep half a german chocolate cake in my house for emergencies. But Dan Foley brought a whole german chocolate cake to writers' group this week. After we all had a taste, I whined about how I was the birthday girl and should take the rest of the cake home to share with my husband. So I got the cake, and when Jason went to try a piece, I stabbed him with a fork.)

But back to the evidence at hand: If it really is “calories in, calories out,” then please explain to me how I gained three pounds doing nothing but sleeping. Plus, I grind my teeth at night, which could technically constitute exercise. There is NO WAY that by following the traditional model, I could consume zero calories, burn calories with all that tooth-grinding, and still gain weight.

Clearly, we are all being lied to. It’s a conspiracy by the dieting industry and possibly Richard Simmons to keep us all fat, miserable, and shelling out our hard-earned cash for weight loss products that don’t work. I, for one, refuse to stand for it. (In a few months, at this rate, I won’t even be able to stand, in which case, I will refuse to roll for it.) Clearly, eating less and exercising more is just a stupid fairy tale. I am an adult. I demand to know what the secret to weight loss really is. And don’t give me this “calories in, calories out” crap. I would be more likely to believe that magical elves come out at night and use their pretty purple wands to determine who will gain and who will lose weight overnight. Wait? Is that it? Are there magical weight elves?

That’s something to ponder as I drive to the store to buy new batteries for my bathroom scale. It flashed me a low battery alert this morning.

But I really think I’m on to something with these magical elves.

The truth is out there.
Another year has passed, and you're probably wondering how my 2013 was. Wonder no more: Here are my highlights from the past year!

January: January 23rd came and went without any injuries to my knees. Since it was January 23, 2011, that I fell while ice skating and tore my MCL and chipped my knee cap, I tend to dread this date now. Also, I turned 40 this month. My family and friends plied me with lots of chocolate cake, so it wasn't so bad.

February: This was the month that I failed miserably at my attempt to follow the Atkins Diet in what will forever be known as "The Great Chocolate Mousse Cake Intervention." After recovering from my sugar withdrawal, I decided it would be healthier and safer for all involved if I ditched the diet and just bought bigger pants.

March: A low point in my year. Yes, I ate chocolate cake on my sister's birthday, but I had a sinus infection for most of the month. This was the month when I discovered home remedies for illness don't work that well. Also, if you chug apple cider vinegar, it will make you vomit.

April: This was the month we filed our taxes. Also, we realized we could no longer afford chocolate cake. I thought March was bad? Hah!

May: My addiction to Downton Abbey began in May. My mother and sister forced me to start watching this series (by mentioning that it was good) and my life was changed forever. Side effects have included talking in a mangled British accent and dressing like the Dowager Countess. Withdrawal symptoms can be easily managed by re-watching seasons over and over again on Netflix.

June: This month, I wrote an introspective letter to my teenage self. Highlights: I still love Duran Duran, and I have turned into my mother.

July: I went to see Stephen King at the Bushnell. He failed to acknowledge my existence. Hack.

August: This month, I listed the top ten sexiest actors ever. People universally hailed my list as "shallow" and "ridiculous."

September: Jason and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary by watching Sharknado and eating chocolate cake. Mmm, cake.

October: My book, Secret Things, came out this month. Hooray! This enabled me to brag that I had a book out, and meant that 3/4 of my Christmas shopping list was done. Didn't get a copy of Secret Things for Christmas? When's your birthday?

November: On November 2nd, I fulfilled a lifelong dream (or at least a dream I've had since the first season of Survivor aired) and met Richard Hatch. Now, besides bragging about having a book out, I could brag about meeting Richard Hatch. Life is good.

December: With every good thing that happens (see: meeting Richard Hatch) life has to throw a few dirty snowballs at you to keep things even. I had to sit through no less than seven crappy holiday specials this month, including Santa Claus is Coming to Town (insipid), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (wishy-washy), and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (nauseating). Also, because of all the cookies, there was no chocolate cake. But at least I got to meet Richard Hatch. 

Here's hoping for a fabulous 2014! And more Richard Hatch!
I love this man. Oh, and Jason too.
I have a closet in my office where I store my off-season clothes. See, in my family, the women have a full wardrobe for each season. Since it was an alarming 35 degrees out when I got up this morning, I figured it was time to break out the winter clothes.
This isn't simply a matter of pulling out everything in the office closet and switching it with everything in the bedroom. No, a change of seasons means that each item of clothing must be gone through to see if it still fits, remains fashionable, and is free of stains and/or  holes. Join me on this adventure, won't you?

Pants: I have seven pairs of winter pants that don't fit, and two that do. See, on my mother's side of the family, if we're not on a diet or undergoing major dental work, we're gaining weight. Since I take after Mom, it was no surprise that my pants seem to have shrunk while in storage.

Toss the pants that don't fit? Heck no. There's a chance I could weigh less next year. Plus, I have long legs, so finding slacks that reach the bottom of my ankle is difficult. They can live in the bottom drawer of my dresser all winter.

Sweaters: I found several sweaters that still fit, mostly because I tend to shop in the menswear section for these items (women's sweaters are made for fashion, not warmth, and I like to be warm). However, I did find a few that got shorter over the summer.

Toss the sweaters that fall just above my belly button? Absolutely not. While I won't be baring my midriff in the dead of winter, they're too cute to toss, and they might magically grow longer in a few months. (What? It could happen.)

Turtlenecks: Nobody looks good in a turtleneck. I'm serious. If you think you do, you're lying to yourself. Even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson looks like a doofus in a turtleneck, and you know I love me some Dwayne Johnson.

Toss the turtlenecks? Sadly, no. I have some sweaters that are loose-knit (read: see-through) and the only thing I have that offers warmth and complete torso coverage are these stupid turtlenecks. Keep.

Suits: I still have several sharp-looking suits from my "have to go to a board meeting" days. Now I run a bookstore, where the standard office attire is "not a sweatshirt." When will I wear these things again?

Toss the suits? Nope. If I toss the suits, my store will go bankrupt and I'll need the stupid things for job interviews. I'm too superstitious to jinx myself like that. They'll live in the closet all winter.

Dresses and skirts: Also a little too fancy for work, but they're good for holidays and funerals. Plus, when I'm feeling lazy, there's nothing like a dress to quickly pull on so I'm not walking around naked. However, I may need to invest in some more control-top pantyhose. 

Toss the dresses and skirts? Nope. Too handy for lazy days.

See how tiring and time-consuming this can be? It also explains why I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Going to be a long winter, folks.
Why is this picture here when it has nothing to do with this blog entry? Because Jason and I met Dee Snider and I want to brag about it.
None of my pants fit any more, except for one pair that I think were my sister's maternity jeans from 2000. No, I'm not pregnant - just a little, teeny bit tubby. I needed to lose weight, fast!
We have a lot of diet books in the shop, so I started poking through a few. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution  promised that during its Induction phase, followers would lose weight, fast. Dr. Atkins warned that it absolutely, positively should not be used as a crash diet for a few weeks just to lose 10 or 15 pounds. The effects on one's health could be devastating and irreversible. Since I just wanted to go on a crash diet for a few weeks to drop about 15 pounds, it sounded like the perfect fit. Goodbye, carbs, hello, size 10 corduroys that have been giving me uncomfortable wedgies for months now!
Day 1 of Induction went fine. I ate eggs for breakfast, chicken on a bed of greens with oil and vinegar for lunch, and tuna salad for dinner. I'd picked up some Atkins caramel chocolate mousse bars for a snack, but they kind of tasted like dirt, with snail mucus dribbled on top. No problem, I had a few slices of bacon instead.
Day 2, I woke up with a massive headache. I recognized this pain - it was the same headache I get when I don't have enough caffeine. But I'd had my usual four cups of coffee yesterday - what was the meaning of this?
I was an absolute bear all morning. I yelled at Jason for driving too fast, driving too slow, driving medium speed, driving while talking, driving while listening to the radio too loudly, and for driving while breathing too loudly. (Turns out the last one was because he was fuming over my helpful driving tips, thus the breathing like an enraged bull.) I hadn't been this cranky since the first time I'd quit smoking. (The second time, I had some wonderful drugs.) I flipped through the Atkins book to find out what was wrong with me.
Dr. Atkins gently suggested that I might be going through withdrawal from my sugar addiction. This was crazy, of course. I have no such addiction, and Dr. Atkins was a LOUSY QUACK WHO WOULDN'T KNOW A SUGAR ADDICT IF IT HIT HIM IN THE FACE WITH A BANANA CREAM PIE!!!! Okay, maybe he was on to something. After all, I've eaten cake every day for the past two weeks as one or two or all three of my major meals. I often followed this with frosting straight out of the can for dessert. Maybe - just maybe - I had a problem.
I stuffed an Atkins caramel mousse bar in my mouth to see if it would help. Suddenly, on Day 2, it tasted like silky smooth chocolatey goodness. It helped for a little while, but then Jason started LAUGHING AT A PICTURE OF A FROWNY CAT ON FACEBOOK WHICH WAS JUST DUMB!!! Clearly, more Atkins bars were needed, ASAP.
I'm now on Day 3, and I'm happy to say the headache wasn't as bad today. There is a STUPID @!!@$! blizzard going on, and Jason and I are trapped in the house together all day. Gotta run - Jason's trying to force-feed me Hershey's kisses and cake. What's HIS problem?
Whenever somebody asks me when Jason and I are going to have children, I like to ask them about their anal warts. Because really, neither topic is appropriate. However, what I do wish people would ask me is how I come up with such fabulous dinners for two on a limited budget, considering that the supermarket is filled with anti-two person household portions. You know, "family size."

It takes some creativity to come up with tasty dinners in healthy portions for two. I'm pretty proud of some of the meals that I've come up with, and I'd like to share:

1.  Ben & Jerry's Bonanza: Take two spoons and one pint of Cherry Garcia's. (Any flavor may be substituted.) Voila! A healthy meal with all the food groups: dairy, fruit, and chocolate!

2.  Spaghetti Surprise: Cook one box of spaghetti and one jar of Paul Newman's Sockarooni spaghetti sauce. I know the portions turn out to be huge, but I sure do like my pasta. Surprise! You've gained five pounds in one sitting!

3. Eggs a la Betty C: Start with two eggs. Add flour, butter, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, vanilla extract, and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. You now have a fine chocolate cake—oops! quiche—that you and your dining partner can enjoy.

4. Taco Bell: It's just cheaper and easier to swing by Taco Bell on 89 cent taco night than to whip these up yourself, especially if it's just you, your hubby, and two sour-cream-stealing cats.

There you have it. It's not easy feeding a family of two adults, one Wednesday, and one Pugsley, but we manage. I only hope that some of my childless friends out there will find inspiration in these treasured recipes. Also, I wouldn't recommend any of these before a Weight Watchers meeting. On those nights, we eat rice cakes for supper.

I nearly slapped my doctor when she told me my cholesterol was 244. Luckily for her, the fat in my blood slowed my killer reflexes, and all I managed was a limp wave. She thought I was trying to be friendly.
I honestly don’t understand how this has happened. I try very hard to eat healthy things. Why, just take a look at my meal plan during a typical day:

Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with bacon.
Lunch: Salad topped with ranch dressing, cheese, and bacon.
Dinner: Grilled tilapia wrapped in bacon, with a side of cheese smothered in sour cream.
See? Oatmeal, salad, fish … these are all healthy foods!

Since clearly my high cholesterol couldn’t possibly have been caused by something I ate, I decided it must be the result of genetics. I called my parents to yell at them for hardening my arteries.

My mother was sympathetic, until I noticed the way the conversation was heading. Wait a minute—was she actually bragging about her HDL levels? Show off! Although she did have a point—with numbers like that (I have to admit, she impressed me) it became abundantly clear that my father was the culprit.
“Hi, Dad. I’ve got a teeny, tiny bone to pick with you,” I seethed when he came to the phone.
My father admitted that my cholesterol woes were probably a direct result of being his child. He gave me some good advice, mostly on how to beat the cholesterol screening the next time I had to have one. It was kind of hard to hear him, though.

“Wait a minute! Dad, you’re eating potato chips right now!”

“No, I’m not,” he mumbled through a mouth full of potato chips.

“Yes you are! Those are Cape Cod chips, too. I can tell by the sound of their crunch!”

Dad was busted, so he gave the phone back to Mom. She assured me that there are a couple of light cheeses out on the market that tasted better than, say, boiled socks or dinosaur dung, but not much. I hung up the phone, heart sinking. I had to face the truth: my love affair with cheese was over.
I kissed my hunk of Gouda goodbye, and carved the block of cheddar in to the shape of a heart before throwing it out. I’ll admit, it was an emotional breakup. I chewed on a slab of raw bacon to soothe my broken soul. That helped a little.
I’m determined to control this thing without medication. I’ve decided to shed a few pounds, so I’m starting the Atkins diet tomorrow. I can’t wait to see my doctor’s face at my next cholesterol screening!
My shoe size has gone up; I keep shopping for long sweaters and baggy skirts; people no longer ask me if I’ve made a mistake when I accidentally wander into the “plus size” section.  It’s time to face the truth: I need to go on a diet (again).

I have heard of people who can eat whatever they want and never gain a pound.  I’m pretty sure these types of people don’t really exist, if only because the rest of us have hunted them down and locked them up in Hostess factories until they develop double chins and saddle bags.

I hate dieting.  HAAAATTTTEEE it!  (And that, for you aspiring writers out there, is how you translate whining to paper.) I hate the idea of eating LESS and exercising MORE.  None of that sounds like fun.  But, as I’ve spent the last four months eating more and exercising less (and lets face it, I was darn close to sedentary to begin with), I have managed to put on 9 pounds in four months.  This may not sound like much, but since I had already put on 7 pounds in six months before that, I’m up almost 20 pounds in less than a year.  

I’ve tried many diets.  I was a big fan of Atkins, since it allows me to eat lots of cheese and bacon, but when I was on it I found myself having dreams in which I would swim in seas of pasta, which just freaked me out.  Plus, my cholesterol shot through the roof, so Atkins is out.

Ditto for South Beach, mostly because their frozen meals taste like cardboard topped with chunky vomit.  Dr. Phil’s diet is also off the table, because he requires you to work hard, make fresh meals every day, and hold yourself accountable for your failures.  That sounds likehard work.  I already am not happy with my weight – why do I want to feel bad about my life choices, too?  No thanks, Phil.  

I’ve decided to return to Weight Watchers, since I’ve done it before and I know it works.  I signed up online this morning, and immediately found that the points system I’d had memorized is completely obsolete.  They’ve completely revamped their program.  AND the coffee with non-dairy creamer (1 PointsPlus for the creamer) and handful of brazil nuts (30 PointsPlus, 5 points for each nut) I’d already eaten this morning had caused me to burn through my entire points allowance for the day, plus some.  Sigh.

The good news is that all fruits are now zero points in value.  Which is very good news for me and my beloved Hostess fruit pies! See, dieting can be fun if you just get a little creative with it…
When you suddenly lose the use of one of your knees due to your misplaced confidence in your ice skating abilities, you gain a whole new outlook on life.  Personally, I now have a healthy appreciation for the fragility of the human body, and have already vowed to live my life a little more carefully.  Sure, I was never one to run a marathon pre-injury, but in the past, Ihad been known to sprint through the grocery store when Ben & Jerry's pints were announced as the manager's special sale of the day.  In the future, I will be sure to walk, not run, to thefrozen food aisle.  It will not be the end of the world if I get there too late to clean them out of Cherry Garcia.  I will simply buy up all of the Chunky Monkey instead and be happy with that.  And I vow to be nice to all of the rabid ladies who ignored the "slippery when wet" signs who will surely be crying as they writhe on the floor, clutching their twisted knees along with their pints of Chubby Hubby.  Smug self-righteousness is no excuse for losing one's ability to empathize, I always say.
Don't judge me.  Ever since being hobbled, I dream about things like ice cream sales a lot.  I have a great deal of time on my hands, and not much to do with it.  For instance, I took a couple of hours the other day to come up with this list of things I miss doing:
1.  Shaving my legs
2.  Standing upright unassisted
3.  Putting on shoes all by my self
4.  Painting my toenails
5.  Wearing pants that fit and look nice, not all loose and 'leg brace lumpy'
6.  Driving a car
7.  Watching a hockey game without wincing or screaming "Slow down before you hurt yourself, for the love of God!" at the television
8.  Going to the bathroom alone
9.  Cooking a meal (this, of course, requires me to be able to do item #2 on this list)
10. Make it through the day without weeping

So for all of you out there who are feeling superior because you have two good knees that bend at will, take this column as a warning: danger lurks where you least expect it.  That innocent-looking treadmill could be an agent of doom.  Walking down the driveway to get the mail could be dangerous and a horrible risk to your well-being. In fact, any sort of exercise is hazardous to your health.  If you really want to be healthy, my best advice is to stay in bed and enjoy a pint of Ben & Jerry'sin the safety of your own home.  The frozen yogurt variety, of course - we are on a health kick here, after all!
 Everybody wants to lose weight, except for that really skinny witch from high school with the freakishly high metabolism.  You know, the one you would sit on every day because you hated her.  I hated her.  I was the one next to you holding her down and force-feeding her a Ho Ho.
The problem with losing weight is that it's hard, and it requires self-discipline.  Neither hard tasks nor tasks that require self-discipline are fun, which is why most people don't do well trying to lose weight.  
I have personally tried every diet out there.  The  Atkins Diet worked for a while, but I began having vivid dreams of giant bowls of pasta begging me to eat them.  Some would have found their little fettuccini mouths squeaking "you know you want me!" alarming, but I found them to be a perfect formation of buttery parmesan goodness.  My Atkins days were done for.
The South Beach Diet was a little better, because it occasionally allowed for a carb or two.  However, one of the side effects of South Beach is atrociously bad breath, and I found that the cats would urinate spontaneously whenever I tried to lean in for a fuzzy feline kiss.  My boss asked me if I would consider a work-from-home program.  And the reality was, a fresh Hostess fruit pie had never given me halitosis.
Weight Watchers, that old tried and true, tends to work, as long as you count your points religiously.  After a while, I became an expert at reading the calories, fat, and fiber content on the nutritional information label of any food item and calculating the points value in my head (that Hostess fruit pie?  11 points!  That's almost half a day's worth of food!  So long fruit pie, hello clementine - half a point each.)  
The problem with Weight Watchers is that the higher the fiber count, the lower the points - and I became a fiber fanatic.  Fiber One yogurt (zero points!) and 1/4 cup Fiber One cereal (also zero points) for breakfast, fresh vegetables in vinegar for lunch (zee-ro!), a Vita Top muffin for snack (one point)...the effect of all this fiber on my system was distressing, to say the least.  I couldn't walk without experiencing excessive flatulence, and my boss asked me if I wanted to consider a work-from-the-bathroom program.  It was just too embarrassing to continue with all this healthy eating.
Sadly, it turns out that there is no miracle solution for losing weight.  It requires eating less and exercising more, no matter which way you cut it.  You just have to resign yourself to working hard at counting calories, avoiding the Hostess outlet, and joining a gym and then actually going to it.
Or abusing laxatives.  That works too.