Two Milestones, A Major One and A Minor One

Five years ago this month we went in for our annual physicals where are doctor gave us a real talking to. He had told us for years that we needed to get moving, but this time there was an additional element added to the pep talk. He told Bill, “If you don’t start walking, you’ll be riding around in a cart within a year.”

I don’t know what went through Bill’s head when he heard those words, but I know what went through mine. I understood full well that being sentenced to riding around in an electric would amount to a death sentence for him, so we came home and started walking. At first I could only walk 250 steps or so at a time without sitting down to rest, and it took weeks to build up to that magic-sounding goal of 10,000 steps a day, a total that turns out to be right at five miles. At the time I weighed 265 pounds and was wearing a size 26 pants.

As I walked that spring and summer, I remember watching my shadow and wondering if my hips would ever get smaller. Well, guess what? They did. The combination of changing our eating habits and doing our walking worked. I lost 65 pounds, and went from a size 26 to a size 16.

It’s five years later, and I’m still walking. According to the pedometer on my phone, as of Friday of last week, I’ve walked 7,000,000 steps since I started keeping score. Yes, there are six zeros on that number. According to the app, that means I’ve walked more than 3,000 miles—far enough to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Hey, maybe I could be a pioneer when I grow up.

But speaking of growing up—that’s what I did in Bisbee, Arizona—I grew UP! People who meet me in person are always surprised by how tall I am, which is to say, 6′-1″. Several times fans have told me, “You don’t look this tall on book covers.” That’s because book cover photos are usually taken with the subject seated.

But I am tall, as tall as my Grandma Busk and her mother, Grandma Hansen. I was six feet tall by the time I was in seventh grade, and that was not a barrel of laughs. I towered over most of the girls, many of the boys, and some of the teachers.

For someone who was that tall in junior high and high school, shopping was an absolute misery. My friend Pat could walk into J.C.Penneys and come out wearing pants that went all the way to her ankles. We once went in and tried to buy matching outfits. Her pants came out just fine. Mine ended up looking like pedal-pushers. When my mother relented and took me to visit the Tall Shop in Tucson, the clothing there was aimed at people much older than I was. And shopping for shoes wasn’t much better. It took years to overcome the ego damage from a shoe-salesman at Ortega’s Shoes who told me my feet were like “gunboats.” (He didn’t last long, by the way. Mr. Ortega gave the guy his walking papers shortly thereafter. I doubt I was the only customer he insulted.)

So now we’re going to move the timeline of this blog forward some sixty or so years. Almost a year ago, we sold our Tucson house. We had owned it for close to twenty years, and as my clothing sizes changed, the items I’d “outgrown” moved to the far end of the closet—and stayed there. I hated shopping for clothing so much, that I just couldn’t bear to part with pants that were long enough for me even though I could no longer wear them. When it was time to move out, I went through the closet and unloaded the clothing that was way too big. What I found in the far back corner were the size-sixteens that I was able to wear briefly in 2002 and 2003 when we were following Dr. Atkins’s advice almost religiously. And it wasn’t just pants, either. I found the lovely blue cocktail dress that I bought from Cele Peterson’s dress shop in 2003 in honor of my daughter and son-in-law’s renewal of vows celebration. (I can still wear that one, by the way. It’s now my go-to dress for formal dinners on cruise ships.)

After we dragged all our freshly-curated clothing home from Tucson, it was time to re-do the closet at this end of the road. We put all our clothing on racks in the garage while California Closets came to call.

This week, I went into the closet and grabbed a pair of black jeans. When I tried to zip them up, I had trouble. Surprised, I looked a the label—Tall Shop Size 14. I remember buying them in 2003 when Seattle’s Tall Shop was still in business. How they managed to hide out in a back corner of a closet for that long, I have no idea. It probably has something to do with having two closets at opposite ends of the road.

So what did I do when I encountered that size 14 label? I did what any right-thinking girl from the sixties would do—I went out to the bedroom, laid down flat on my bed, zipped them right up, and wore them.

And there you have the two milestones for the week—7,000,000 steps and size fourteen pants.

Not bad for someone who’s verging on her 76th birthday—not bad at all.

PS: I have a problem with that tacky fashion statement where ladies pants feature threadbare thighs and legs. For one thing, my long closeted pants are indeed beginning to wear out, but they’re not wearing out on the front of the legs. They’re wearing out on the inseams. Why? Because they are OLD! They don’t consist of new material that has been deliberately “distressed.” If you read Sins of the Fathers and notice J.P. Beaumont grumbling about those phonily-ragged pants worn by one of the characters, you’d better believe that Beau and I are on the same page on that score!

PPS: Have a lovely Covid-free day!

25 thoughts on “Two Milestones, A Major One and A Minor One

  1. I love this post. I had the job of sorting my brother and my Mom’s clothes. I quickly learned that I come by my need to keep clothes until they fit again or because I might need them very naturally. Hope lives within us. Living today in the Covid 19 restrictions I should probably sort through my own clothes. I admire the fact that you and Bill started walking and changed your lives one step at a time.

  2. I laughed when I read your comment about J.P.’s feelings about women buying “fashionably” torn jeans. I have felt the same way for years. When I was a kid if my jeans got torn from being worn out about the best I could do was make them cutoff shorts (if they weren’t too short). I was amazed much later to find that kids actually purchased cutoff shorts! Reading, Sins of the Father right now! Just about done and enjoying it very much. Thank you for your wonderful books and blog!

  3. Love your blog! It was especially welcome this am when I got up at 4 after tossing and turning for 2 hours. Some people just can’t let one world tragedy be enough even in our small town and I am just not sure how to fix it. But I loved your thoughts on your wardrobe. I, too, have gone through many size changes in the last couple of years but my clothes are all in one place. I wish we could get together and share your height – I’m 5′ nothing and everything, I mean everything has to be shortened for me! I sent size 16 all the way to 10s to the Goodwill this summer and it felt marvelous! Now I am doing my best to stay at a size 8 because I finally got all my “trousers”, jeans and pants shortened. Congratulations on all your steps!! I used to walk all over and loved it! But blew a knee skiing and now it doesn’t work so well. Keep up the good work; it’s one of the best things we can do.

  4. I passed this on to Lark. I am going through Beau’s and Joanna’s books, back and forth.

    Lark grew up in Seattle above the Fauntleroy Ferry toward the top of the hill. I have my Seattle map out during his travels around Seattle.

    We live in Portland and I often remind her of the traffic when she gets lonesome. Her brothers family lives in Bellevue after leaving Mercer Island.

    Thanks for your hard work and memories.

  5. Love hearing your hard “walked” struggle and daily victory. Keep up the great gift of living healthy. We need a lot more stories. Stay safe and smart.

  6. I am on the other end of the height spectrum – barely 5 feet tall. I learned how to sew but even that was not easy because they did not make patterns small enough for my size 5 dress size back then and I did not know how to alter. But I learned and I made my daughter’s clothes and some shirts for my sons. This came in real handy the year the swimsuits were cut high and we did not want any butts hanging out. I never thought I would be making a swimsuit but it was around the time ‘Stretch and Sew’ was teaching eager students how to work with stretch material. We learn and grow and survive.

  7. My sister who has a nice sewing machine, but is not really a sewist, was always asking me to make hers and her husband jeans wearable again, so they were not obscene. Well silly me, I patched ALL the holes. She doesn’t ask anymore.
    I firmly believe that this “fashion” would never have taken hold if women still sewed. Most were not taught. Back in the day, most women were not expected to also be the breadwinners. Only so much time in the day. It’s all priorities.

  8. I got on walking habit after a heart attack in 1997 (I am much blessed had a 100% blocked LAD called widow maker). I am in mid seventies, walk four miles a day, have cut back in last year from six to four. I have twenty year old clothes, still fits and headache of shopping. Your blog reminded me of how blessed my family and I have be3n. Salute to you.

  9. As I read this, I have a dress in the wash today that I know was worn in 1988 – size 10 (now I am a 14). For sometime, I have been putting my favorite clothing, outgrown and/or faddish, into zip lock bags with a picture of when and where it was worn. I am just a couple of years younger than you, but my first granddaughter was born six weeks ago. When she gets older, she will have a trunk full of great clothing to wear as a costume or just for fun.
    When I buy something new, I “try” to give away something so the closet doesn’t grow. I find I don’t care for most of the clothing until they are a couple of years out of style, or the fabric doesn’t really suit me.

  10. I also don’t get the current fashion. About a year ago we were standing by the side of the road waiting for the local homecoming parade to start. I noticed our pastor’s wife with jeans that were holey (NOT Holy). I also saw that my daughter in law, who is a good friend of the wife and about the same 40ish age, wearing an absolutely identical pair. I walked up to the pastor’s wife and said,”I normally give poor girls a dollar as a down payment on a new pair of pants. But I only have this $5.” Bad decision. She snatched the 5 so fast I didn’t see it coming. She did say Thanks though.

  11. My older jeans all have holes approx 1″ in front of the right side seam. Apparently (like my husband used to do), I walk like a police officer with my right hand where a holster would line up, so my thumb rubs the threads. Personally I’ve never understood the “worn look” which costs three times what a good pair costs.

  12. It is a joy to hear your stories and to know you and the hubs are putting your health ahead of convenience. I know how hard it is too start an exercise routine that has no ending. It seems like there is always something that can pop up to prevent your activity. Perseverance is amazing when you continue! It now feels wrong to not be exercising first thing every morning. The rain messed me up this a.m. but will be on a bike or dancing for exercise by this afternoon! Love all your books too!

  13. The 2 closet, winter and summer, is a conundrum in itself.
    Taking a special jacket back only to find the matching pants missing, happened too often. I kept boots at the north end. Not worn for years, when I did wear, the lining had deteriorated and dyed my legs. They didn’t clean up through a shower. Had the get back in and scrub again.
    My granddaughter’s back to school in September had her in holey jeans. Shaking my head.

  14. Isn’t it ridiculous but I had to giggle. Back in the early 1980s I pulled into a parking lot in Montana on a windy below zero January morning. Standing next to his vehicle is a young man wearing his wool football jacket and a pair of jeans that had slits about 1.5 inches long all around the pant legs rising up in columns to the mid-thigh. He very obviously did not have long underwear on and just as obviously was extremely cold. I snickered about that off and on all winter.

    I told my granddaughter if she wanted distressed jeans to find a pair at a thrift store, put them on, mark where she wanted the holes and distress her own and save $40.

  15. And I have the opposite challenge- I’m just 5 feet and have to hem every pair of pants unless I can find Capris, those I can wear without hemming. Yes, I could shop at the petite stores but why, when I can get a pair of jeans at Costco for $12 instead of $45.
    And when my favorite jeans wear out in the inseam I want to cry and will be lazy for awhile and just roll the up.
    I have a funny story to share about the distressed jeans, my mother was a seamstress and had customer drop off a pair of jeans with a note to hem them two inches. She was a very good customer so my mom hemmed the jeans and fixed the thighs and knees to close up the holes!
    As the oldest girl of 9 and a mother of 7 this woman knew how to darn socks, fix sweaters and patch up clothing so it looked almost new. You can imagine the conversation my mom had with her customer, all I heard was “you paid $120 for pants with holes in them?!!

  16. You brought back a few memories with this bogg I also lay flat on my bed to zip them up … I even taught my husband this trick.
    When we moved to AZ 18 mos ago I had to clean out that closet that held all memory clothes , the size six linen pant suit ( I wear 18 now ) all the bathing suites from 20 years ago, the dress I wore to my daughters wedding 20 years ago … I just closed my eyes and threw them into the charity box .. had trouble with all my coats hard to give them up as I a coat for every occasion… I sold shoes at Lamont’s, and People’s in Federal way for years so I had about 100 pair of shoes gone gone gone now I have flip flots and Birkenstocks…
    I am so proud of you for walking your my hero I hate walking but good for you .. take care STAY INSIDE be healthy God Bless

  17. While being secluded during this cold virus “time, I discovered your books. I’ve only read four so far But I am so glad there are many more on the list. Thank you for all the information you gave about growing up in the info on your blog. It’s nice to feel as though I know you a little bit. I’m originally from New York state but did live three years in Tempe Arizona. We love to go back and visit our friends and love the west. Thanks for writing such fun,heartwarming books.

  18. What a highlight to my morning! Thank you!
    I, too, have several sizes of clothes in my closet. The best part is when I lose weight and can “go shopping in my closet!” If I’ve kept a garment, it’s because it’s especially pretty so is exciting to wear it again!
    Ok, you’ve told us your wonderful adventure of weight loss….. How has Bill done?

  19. I don’t wear jeans. I grew up on a farm in Central Iowa and to me jeans or overalls belong on farmers, not me. I am surprised to see them worn on formal occasions and with holes or tears in them. Think that is tacky.

  20. Howdy..
    Has anyone pointed out the problem with the very first sentence….

    and my daughter has purchased those jeans with the knees torn — waste of money

    Micki D

  21. Dear J.A. Jance, just I note to say thanks for all your great books! I am amazed at your output! My favorite of your series is the Walker family series. I love how you combine Indian folk lore with a modern mystery story! Keep up the good work and stay safe!

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