LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Life & Death: A Curve Ball

You may have heard the expression “life threw me a curve ball.” Well, that is certainly true in my case. If you’re following my blogs that are about the  ® nutrition plan I’ve been on for 15 months, you may have noticed I haven’t written one for two months. April Fool’s Day seems like a fun day to get back on track.

Because getting back on track occurs to be a theme for me these days.

I have only been on the treadmill once since Jan. 29. Before that, I had had a healthy regime of three to fives times a week on the treadmill plus one to two times a week walking around the lovely, art-filled, piped-in-music, gorgeous- landscaping lake that is just across the street from, La Condo, our home. Both take 30 minutes.

In Minnesota winters, the treadmill is my friend. In summer, I’d rather cycle or walk outside, of course, and with no snow, now, I’m eager to do that.

This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.
This group of young women accompanied us on our afternoon at the beach with lunch following at Dora Valentin Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, conveniently located two blocks from the beach.

But Jan. 30, I began another fascinating life altering adventure. (Reminder: I started MB® Jan. 2, 2016.) Along with 12 members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, we flew to Cuba for a nine-day mission trip. As an international photojournalist, I volunteered to be the official photographer for the group and took 5,000 photos plus 50 short videos.

As a result and due to intentional planning, I have three Cuban photo exhibits opening this year, two in April and one in October. So I’ve been super busy getting ready for those.

Unfortunately, there also have been two life-altering events that have occurred. One, in retrospect, not so serious. Due to the 12-hour days, in which we did a lot of walking and mostly on uneven cobblestones, my poor already arthritic left knee — which had not given me any problems since loosing over 50 pounds — has flared up again.

It has been extremely painful for almost two months, and that has prevented me from getting on the treadmill.

So this week, at the recommendation of my MB® nutrition coach, Christine Lindell Detweiler, I went to a Mayo Clinic sport medicine doctor.

After several X-rays and an exam, she recommended physical therapy and a surprisingly painless cortisone injection. Thankfully to my surprise and delight, I had immediate relief!

I’ll start going to the pool now that I’ve finally bought a swimming suit that fits. I left my old one, about five sizes too big, with new friends in Cuba. Next week, I’ll be back on the treadmill. Yeah!

I mentioned I had two life-altering events. The second one was tragic. My sister, Sharon Henneman, died suddenly of an aortic dissection Feb. 21, three weeks before her 74th birthday. She had been my inspiration and the person responsible for me being on MB® after she had lost 90 pounds the proceeding year.

Despite enduring many deaths of family members and friends throughout my 71 years starting at the young age of 11 when my grandmother died, nothing has rocked my world in the worst way since my father’s suicide, when I was 12. Absolutely nothing can prepare you for a sudden death, especially since Sharon was the closest person to me my whole life.

As children on the farm where we lived, we played together for hours riding our ponies. In the summer, we’d walk up the gravel road to the culvert and squish our toes in the cool mud. We didn’t have a care in the world.

When Sharon returned to Minnesota after a few years of a hippy fling in San Fransisco and the West Coast during the 1960s, she was a newly divorced young mother with two young children. We became college roommates so I could baby-sit for her kids when she was in class.

When I lived in Europe for 20 years, we wrote letters. Since returning from Europe in the early 1990s, Sharon and I became even closer when along with our older sisters, we bought our grandparents farm, lovingly called La Farm, a play on our last name.

Whenever we went to La Farm — a 2½-hour drive from La Condo — we’d get together and talk for hours while playing Hand and Foot.

So her sudden death has been truly devastating. I’m still grieving. Thankfully, I have been able to keep extremely busy focusing on preparations for two of my photo exhibits, one opening next week in rural Minnesota (Thursday, April 6, Kaddatz Gallery, Fergus Falls) and the other opening in downtown Minneapolis (April 30th, The Westminster Gallery, noon).

Those two life-and-death events have obviously impacted my MB® success. In Cuba, I didn’t even TRY to stay on plan. I did, whenever we ate at restaurants, do my best to make healthy choices. I also drank wine whenever I had the chance, which wasn’t every day.

Lobster dinner.
Lobster dinner.

There’s no way I was going to go to Cuba and not take advantage of the local cuisine. OMG, it was fabulous! I ate a lot of fish, lobster, shrimp, salads, black beans and rice especially whenever we ate at churches. I did succeed in drinking seven bottles of water a day. Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s. I also experienced Cuban coffee and Cuban rum for the first time. The fact that I brought back two bottles of rum, one of which cost $40, and a 2-pound bag of Cuban coffee may indicate my enjoyment of the local fare.

A fruit stand in Havana.
A fruit stand in Havana.

I was thrilled after getting back and inviting a Cuban friend over for a meal and photo slideshow, when he gave us four tiny Cuban coffee cups — and they even match our dishes perfectly!

For the most part in Cuba, I didn’t eat between meals nor have seconds. I did eat a lot of fresh fruits — mango, pineapple and watermelon — and veggies.

A delightful throwback to when I worked as editor of a weekly newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands back in the early ’70s was rediscovering the delicate taste of plantain, a type of banana, served as a dessert fried in butter. Yum.

I was delightfully surprised that upon returning home, I’d only gained a pound. That was totally due to the incredible amount of walking exercise I had. The downside was the damage to my knee of excess walking on uneven surfaces.

Sharon’s funeral program featured a photo I took of her on her birthday almost a year from the date she died. I also wrote her obituary.

Exactly two weeks after returning, Sharon died. I don’t know about where you live, but here, especially in rural Minnesota, when someone dies, people bring the affected families food. And it’s absolutely not what I eat on MB®. It’s what is commonly called comfort food, for good reason.

From Day 1, cousins, friends and neighbors brought catering-size pans of homemade lasagne, pork and beans, mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes and ham, tater tot hotdish (for some of you, that would be a casserole) and blueberry crumble.

I didn’t even attempt to stay on plan during that first week. In fact, I was so shocked, that I didn’t even remember to track my food, something, I’ve done every meal since starting on MB®. In addition, another life event was our granddaughter’s 9th birthday when we returned home, so we bought her a Dairy Queen birthday ice cream cake.

After all that, it was seriously time to get back on plan. Due to a lack of exercise for the past seven weeks, I’ve gain 6 pounds, and I still have 36 pounds to reach my goal weight — now that I have a pain-free knee and can start exercising again. That is baring any unplanned life-altering events. I intend to reach goal by this Thanksgiving.

When I reflect back to 2015, before I began healthy eating, between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, I gained 9 pounds. After being on MB® for nearly a year in 2016, during the same time frame, I lost 3.5 pounds.

Those are the kinds of results of which I’m proud. It’s important to me to have balance in my life, and when life throws those curve balls, you just have to deal with it the best you can, one day at a time.

The good news is that each new day, I get to choose.


One thought on “LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — Life & Death: A Curve Ball”

  • Christine Lindell Detweiler April 3, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Barbara, this is really moving. I knew, as I writer, that you’ve been composing thoughts about these last few months. Thanks for sharing your joys and your pain through this blog. You are right, each day we get to choose. Whether we are choosing to eat healthy or not, whether we are choosing to seek peace with those around us or not, whether we are choosing to make this world a better place or not, it’s all about which one we choose.


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