Excerpt: Valerie Bertinelli's 'Finding It'

Read the first chapter of new memoir from "One Day at a Time" star.

Oct. 6, 2009 — -- The following excerpt from Valerie Bertinelli's new book, "Finding It -- and Satisfying My Hunger for Life Without Opening the Fridge," a follow-up to her memoir "Losing It -- and Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time," comes courtesy of Simon & Schuster publishers.

Chapter One

The Sex Talk

The only time I enjoyed being fat was when I was pregnant. Iweighed nearly 180 pounds, and I was in heaven. As I ate Italiansubs that my mom made to tide me over between meals, I wouldsmile at the thought of the miracle of bringing a life into this world,a life that I would raise and nurture, guide and fill with love andwisdom. It was a special time in my life.

I did not think the same thing when that miraculous creationof mine called on the phone from the road where he was touringwith his father's band and said, "Hey, Ma, can I sleep at my girlfriend'shouse?"

I wanted to vomit.

Actually, I wanted to open the fridge and eat everything on thesecond shelf, the third shelf, and then the top shelf. Not even theold brick of cheddar with the mold on it was safe from the surge ofanxiety and uncertainty I felt at that moment.

I kept my head on, though, and said, "I don't think it's a goodidea."

After we'd said goodbye, I held the phone at arm's length inshock. Wolfie's question lingered in the air, like a smoke signal inan old western portending imminent danger.

I looked around for Tom to ask him how I had gotten to thisplace. He had gone outside, which was lucky for me. With gleefulsarcasm, he would have reminded me that this situation was theresult of one night nearly eighteen years earlier when I had gottenfrisky with my then-husband, Ed. Now I had a sixteen-and-three-quarters-year-old teenager who wanted to sleep with his girlfriend.Then Tom came through the front door whistling his happytune. I was still debating whether to eat or throw up. I filled him inon the news.

"Tell me again—what did Wolfie say exactly?" he asked.

"He said he wanted to sleep at Liv's house," I said.

"Well, that's not exactly saying he wants to sleep with her," hesaid.

"You're talking semantics," I said. "I'm thinking sex."

"You are?" he said, his face unfolding in a giant smile.

"Oh, shut up," I snapped. "What is it with men? I'm in a quandary,and you've somehow turned this around and think you'regoing to get lucky."

"I'm not?" he asked, with a sad face.

"Come on," I said. "Help me think this through."

We sat down at the kitchen table and talked. Tom pointed outthat Wolfie had called home to ask permission. He hadn't sleptover at Liv's house, even though he was halfway across the countryand traveling as part of a rock-and-roll band. Tom suggested I think about how Wolfie's dad had been at that same age, somethingthat made me say a quick prayer of thanks. Wolfie knew right fromwrong, Tom pointed out. If he didn't, he was trying to figure it outand had looked to his mother for advice. He was a good kid. Ergo,what was I worried about?

"Losing him!" I said with an exaggerated whimper.

At the time, I weighed 132.2 pounds, down 40 pounds from whenI had begun a very public diet earlier that spring. I had already surpassedmy original weight loss goal of 30 pounds and at somepoint -- I had failed to note it on my calendar -- I had gone fromlosing weight to being on maintenance.

I had talked about maintenance for months as if it were achange of life. But I had no idea what it was really about. I figuredI would learn once I got there. Then I got there and wonderedwhat it was that I was supposed to be maintaining. My life was influx -- it wasn't a work-in-progress as much as it was simply work.As I would find out, maintenance was exactly that -- more work.

And it was life work, not losing-weight work.

If my weight was a barometer of the rest of my life, I still wasn'twhere I wanted to be. In addition to concern about my weight, Ialso knew that I could be better, kinder, smarter, more disciplined,compassionate, patient, and loving. I wanted to feel like I mattered.I yearned for a lightness of being that couldn't be measured on ascale. I wanted to feel whole, peaceful, and connected to a HigherPower even if just for a few moments.

But real life made that seem impossible. Whether it was Wolfiebeing away from home, Tom's struggles to be a hands-on father tohis children, my career, the house falling apart, or my anger atBush and Cheney for where they had taken the country, I was unable to relax much less get a firm grip. Then Wolfie fell in love andI felt as if part of the floor had given way.

"What about condoms?" Tom mused one day.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"For Wolfie," he said.

I looked at him, aghast at his insensitivity.

"Not funny."

I liked Wolfie's girlfriend, Liv, who was a friend of Tom's oldestdaughter. Wolfie had met her the previous summer in Arizona, buthe never appeared to take any special interest in her. Nor did shein him. One time he mentioned that she bugged him. I shouldhave taken note.

Then Liv and her family moved to Kansas and we didn't hearabout her. In the meantime, Wolfie went on tour. We talked everycouple of days. He was semi-good about keeping in touch. Hetexted me from Indianapolis and phoned from Chicago and Detroit.He had a story about each city. Then he called from Kansas,where in an unusually excited voice, he said that he had the day offand that he and Matt, the young man who drove his tour bus andwatched out for him, had been invited to eat dinner at Liv's house.

He asked if I remembered Liv. Had I developed Alzheimer's sincehe'd gone out on tour with Van Halen a few months earlier? Ofcourse, I remembered her. He said that Liv's mom had invitedthem to have a home-cooked meal.

"Isn't that nice of them?" he said.

"Yes, it is," I said.

"I'm so excited," he said.

Wolfie was never that effusive unless he saw a new gadget atthe Apple store. All of a sudden I paid more attention. My son hadn't sounded like himself when he had asked, "Is that nice ofthem?" He crossed the line when he said, "I'm so excited." I realizedhe was telling me that there was more to this invitation thandinner. He liked this girl.

It was one of those subtle moments in life when you openyour eyes and discover that the pieces that have provided longtimefamiliarity in a relationship have shifted slightly in one direction oranother. It's like waking up in the morning and remembering thatyou rearranged a couple pieces of furniture in the room. You haveto create new walkways so you don't bump into things.

I'm not someone who likes change. I have had the furniture inmy living room for twenty years. I bought it with Ed early in ourmarriage. I have been meaning to get it recovered for the past fiveyears. It shows you how fast I move. I wasn't ready for my son tohave a girlfriend and everything that meant. Is any mother everready to relinquish her place as first in their child's heart? I wasn't.

I told Tom, who digested the news with a calm nod. It mademe suspicious. I asked if he had known that anything was going onbetween Wolfie and his daughter's friend, Liv. I emphasized Liv's relationshipto Andie not to remind him of who this girl was but toinstead put him on notice that everything that happened betweenthem from here on out was his fault. He understood and shook hishead no.

"You can't do that to me," he said.

"Yes I can," I said.

"I'll find out what's going on," he said.

"Good idea," I said.

Like a dutiful soldier in the age-old battle of parents vs. children,Tom reported back that Wolfie was indeed tight with Liv. Ifelt a little like an editor at a tabloid magazine. But so what. I wanted to know everything Tom had found out. According to hissource, they had been texting and talking on the telephone formonths. Wolfie had fallen into "deep like" with this pretty girl, andfrom the information Tom had turned up, she felt the same wayabout him.

"So it's all good," Tom said,

"All good?" I asked.

"I wonder if they've kissed," he said, ignoring me.


"What do you mean?" he asked.

"I don't want to know if they've kissed or anything else," I said.

"You don't?" he asked. "Now's the time when you want toknow everything. Well, not everything. But you want to knowwhat's going on."

"I hate it when you're right."

Late that afternoon, Wolfie phoned home and reported on dinnerat Liv's. His voice was upbeat and I could hear that he was happy,very happy. Wolfie's willingness to talk was a surefire indicator ofhis moods. When his voice was soft and he used words as sparinglyas a nomad would drink water in the desert, I knew there was trouble.Now I couldn't shut him up. He told me everything Liv'smother had served for dinner and every bit of conversation at thetable.

It was a little overboard even for him. I wanted to ask, are youreally my kid?

"And guess what?" he asked.


"They invited me to sleep over after dinner. Can I?"

"I don't think it's a good idea," I said.

"But Ma!"

"Wolfie, it's very nice of Liv and her family to want you tosleep at their house. But you have a hotel room and a show thenext day. I'm sure Dad's going to want you there."

Grudgingly, he agreed. I was sure his willingness to listen tome stemmed from the newness of this relationship and the othercircumstances of his living situation. I reminded myself that hehad called to ask my permission rather than decide on his own,which was the way I had tried to raise him. When you don't knowsomething, ask someone for advice, preferably your parent—andthat's just what he'd done. But I wondered how long he wouldcontinue to listen to me. I was a year younger than he was when Igot involved in my first serious romance and I worked myself intoa full steam of anxiety remembering what I had done and not toldmy parents.

If it had been possible, I might have flown to Kansas andbrought Wolfie back home for the night. I had the urge to have mylittle boy back, the one who used to look at me with blind devotionand raise his arms high in the air and say, "Mama up!" I didn't wantto think about him having a girlfriend and all the complicationsthat might ensure. But as Tom reminded me when he got home,this wasn't about me. Even though I wasn't ready for him to havea girlfriend, he was and I would have to deal with it.

"I supposed that's why God invented M&Ms and potatochips," I said, jokingly.

"No," Tom laughed. "But I think it's why He invented thephone, the video camera, iChat, private detectives, and so on."

Luckily for me, within a few days, Tom and I visited Wolfie ontour. The trip had been planned months earlier, so it didn't seemlike I was checking up on him. Though delighted to see us, Wolfie still needed a little time to adjust to having his mom out there withhim. I understood. I upset the routine he got into of studying duringthe day, going to soundcheck, performing, eating dinner late,and then staying up even later as he wound down from the show.

It wasn't exactly the day of a normal sixteen-year-old. But that'sthe reason I visited as frequently as I did. I thought whatever facsimileof family time I could manufacture would be better thannone.

On this trip, though, I had questions. I asked the obviousmom-type questions before the show. I didn't ask about Liv untilthe show was finished and we were back at the hotel, playing cardsin the two-bedroom suite Wolfie shared with Matt. Wolfie wasmuch more relaxed than he had been prior to the show, which Ireminded myself made sense considering he had many things onhis mind before performing onstage in front of twenty thousandpeople. Finally, I asked how dinner at Liv's had been. All of a suddenhe perked up. His eyes opened wide and he began to recountthe dinner in the same detail as he had on the phone. Except thistime, in the course of telling me the story, he mentioned that heliked Liv.

"Oh, really?" I said, drawing on thirty-six years of acting experienceto deliver that note of nonchalant curiosity.

"Yeah," he said. "The way I felt about her last summer . . ."

"You liked her last summer?" I interrupted.

"Now it's not the same, you know?"

"Good for you," I said. "She's a very nice girl."

"Really nice," he said.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents and brother, Pat, and hiswife, Stacy, in Arizona. Wolfie was there with us, regaling everyone with stories from the road and catching up with Tom's son, Tony,and friends. After the holiday, Liv flew in and stayed with us for aweek. I was more nervous than she appeared to be; in fact, I had toremind myself that I was the parent, not the girlfriend visiting theboyfriend's family. The problem was, I didn't know how to playmy role, whether to be strict or cool or super cool or what.

Pretty quickly I figured out that I really liked Liv, who impressedme as a mature and together young woman. I could tellthat she had been raised properly. She was considerate and well-mannered.When she arrived, I had her put her suitcase in Wolfieand Tony's room and made it clear the two boys would sleep in theplush tour bus parked in front of the house. She thanked me forallowing her to visit.

Very late that night, I woke up in a panic, wondering whereWolfie and Liv were sleeping. They had not given me a single reasonto suspect they weren't in the places I had assigned them earlierin the day, but my mind was full of scenarios that filled mewith concern. It was because I had been a teenager once, and Iknew what I had done at that same age. Actually, I'd been younger.Was that beside the point? Or was it the point? I had no idea. Nordid it matter. I got out of bed and crept through the house like aguard on the show Lockup. As I tiptoed back into the bedroom andquietly slipped back under the covers, Tom rolled over.

"And?" he asked.

"Everyone's where they're supposed to be," I said.

"Except for you."

"Touché," I replied.

I shut my eyes and tried to go back to sleep while realizingsomething that many parents before me had discovered: I was theone with sex on the brain, not Wolfie or Liv. I knew that would change if they stayed together, but for now this was more my issuethan theirs. I supposed it was part of being a parent. I had the wisdomand experience to know what lay ahead, and to prepare for it.Was I prepared? I didn't know; I'd have to see when I got there,wherever that would be.

There was a more important question: Was Wolfie prepared?Had I done my job as a parent?

I thought about two things: The talks I hadn't had with himabout sex and love and maturity, and the discussions I should havehad with him about relationships, the highs, lows, joys, difficulties,and potential of heartbreak. We had spent hours discussing favoritemovies such as Galaxy Quest and Lord of the Rings. We had also talkedendlessly about the video game Legend of Zelda. We had discussedschool, music, favorite bands, clothes, acne, friends -- all the stuffthat happened. I had at times even solicited his opinion on stuff Ihad seen in the Pottery Barn catalog? How had I managed to nottalk to him about girls, sex, and love? What was wrong with me?I felt like a bad mother. I worried that I had failed both of us.

I still felt that way in the morning. As I made myself coffee, Ithought about handling those feelings in the way I had done somany times in the past: by opening the fridge and eating my wayinto numbness. I didn't do it. I knew it wasn't a healthy or productiveway to handle a problem. I had learned that I was an emotionaleater, and as such, I had come to recognize my desire to eat duringtimes of upset or stress for what it was—an emotional response toa feeling that is starved for action or discussion, not a desire for aslice of leftover pizza at 9:30 in the morning.

I heard Tom stirring and took him a cup of coffee. I asked if hewanted to go for a walk, explaining that I needed to work off somethingthat was bothering me.

"What's up?" he asked.

"I haven't had the sex talk," I said.

He put his hands on my shoulders, pulled me close and said,"Baby, we don't have to talk about it."

I pushed him away.

"Not you, silly," I said. "I haven't talked to Wolfie about sex."

"Doesn't he know where babies come from?"

"I'm sure he does. It's how they're made that I'm not sure heunderstands completely."

"Or how to keep them from being made."

"Thank you."

"I'm sure he knows that part, too."

"But I'm not sure," I said.

"It's a little late, don't you think?" Tom said. "Besides, he'sprobably seen everything and then some in the movies or on theInternet."

"Yeah, but I know seeing it and talking about it are two differentthings." I took a deep breath and sighed. "This isn't fair."

"What isn't?"

"Wolfie's still in bed, sleeping soundly without a care in hishead other than what he and Liv are going to do today--and I'mpacing the kitchen, wondering if dipping Cheetoes in peanut buttermight make me feel better about not ever having talked to myson about sex."

"Probably not," Tom said. "I think we should take a walk."

"Yeah, good idea."

I had a good, albeit sardonic laugh as I thought of being on maintenancein the context of my life. First, let me say that I wasn't yeton maintenance. I was looking ahead. In reality, thanks to a handful of macaroons, I was up one third of a pound, which meant Istill had a pound and a half to go before I reached my weight lossgoal. On my blog, I wrote, "Guys, what if I'm on maintenance nextweek?"

What if I was?

That's what made me laugh.

What was I trying to maintain beyond my weight -- and eventhat wasn't set in stone?

I made a list in my head, and the things I needed to fix orchange outnumbered the things I was content to merely maintain.Who came up with this concept of maintenance?

I realized my life was similar to my closet. No matter whattime or year, it could always use a little straightening or cleaning.The job was never finished. Motherhood was the same. The problemschanged, but they didn't end or get any easier. At one pointwhen Tom and I were on our walk, I looked up at the sky andmused, "Oh really, God. Why didn't you tell me that it wasn'tgoing to ever end or get easier -- or that the poopy diapers were justa warm-up?"

The following afternoon, I had an opportunity to talk withWolfie. I found him on the sofa, watching TV. Alone! Miraculously,he wasn't with Liv. The two of them spent more time togetherthan conjoined twins. I seized the moment.

"Hey, I want to talk about you and Liv," I said, trying to soundcasual and relaxed as I plopped down on the sofa.

"Yeah, Mom. What's up?"

"We've never officially or even unofficially talked about sex," Isaid. "You know, the sex talk."

"You mean where babies come from?" he asked.

"No, more like how babies are made."



"Please don't go there," he said.


"It's gross."

"But you're in a relationship."

"It's gross."

I took a deep breath. I agreed with him. I was uncomfortableand embarrassed talking about sex with my son, not that I wouldcharacterize what we were doing as talking about sex. But I wantedto make a point. Unfortunately for me, I hadn't thought that partthrough to a conclusive place I could articulate. In my head, I hadonly gotten as far as "we need to talk."

So I just looked at Wolfie until he said, "What? What are youlooking at?" How could I explain what I was looking at? I waslooking at sixteen years of life, his remarkable growth, my frustratinginadequacies, and the fact that in the beginning it had been justthe two of us and now here we were, the two of us brought togetheryet again by the miracle of life. I could have, and probablyshould have, just been forthright and said that from the little intelligenceI had been able to gather, I knew that he and Liv were stillas chaste as the Jonas Brothers, and I wanted to keep it that way, atleast for a while. But if things were to change, here's what I wantedhim to know. Here's what I had learned about men and women,sex and responsibility. But there wasn't a chance in hell of thatcoming out of my mouth.

I also thought about asking if he would take a vow of chastityand I would take a vow of silence and the two of us would meetback here in a few years. But that didn't happen either. Instead, Iblurted out that I was looking forward to being a grandmother someday. But he was way too young to start giving me grandchildren.

Wolfie responded exactly as I would have if I had been sixteenand sitting cross from me after that ridiculous statement. He staredat me with a look of startled bewilderment. I shrugged. I thoughtit was a nice try—the best I could do.

"Do you feel better now?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said.

"Mom, let me just talk to Dad about it," he said. "How aboutthat?"


Relieved, I walked out of the room. About two minutes later, Iwas kicked in the butt by reality. I couldn't believe what I hadagreed to. Had I lost my mind? God only knew what kind of informationWolfie might get from his dad. Getting your sex talk fromEddie Van Halen wasn't recommended in any of the parentingbooks I read.

A few days later, Liv flew back home, Wolfie went back on theroad, and I reached my goal of losing 40 pounds. I celebrated themilestone at the kitchen table in my sweats, asking myself whatnow? Maintenance? Ha! Instead of throwing myself a party forhitting my goal, as I had always expected to do, I went for a hikewith Tom up and down Pinnacle Peak, a rugged mountain outsideof Phoenix.

As we huffed and puffed, I asked Tom if his parents had evertalked to him about sex. They hadn't, he said. He had learnedabout the facts of life from friends on the playground. I had discoveredthat information the same way, separating fact from fictionas I went along. Did anyone get the formal, sit-down sex talk? Or was that just a chapter in the parenting books that everyoneskipped?

"I'd like to think that I progressed beyond my parents," I said.

"Well, I have always spoken pretty openly about sex to mygirls," Tom said. "They even told me when they got their periods."

"Aren't you evolved," I said.

He grinned.

"I just recently told your mother that I've seen your penis," Isaid.

"What?" he said. "What'd she say?"

" 'Oh, honey. I've seen it too. It's no big thing!' " I said,laughing.

By the time we returned home, I had put all joking aside anddecided to speak to my son again and make sure we had the kindof talk that I knew in my heart was right. I wanted to make sure hewas prepared, responsible and sensitive -- and informed -- if onlyfor my own peace of mind or just to prove that I could do betterthan my parents. I knew that I would beat myself up if I didn'tdo it.

Later that day, after working up my determination and thinkingabout what I wanted to say, I called Wolfie at his hotel. He waswaiting for Matt to finish bundling gear before they headed to thearena.

"Do you remember the talk I wanted to have with you afterThanksgiving?" I said.

"Maybe," he said.

"The one about sex," I said.


"Have you spoken with your dad about it yet?"


"Good," I said. "I wanted to get to you first."

"Ma, it's gross -- and whatever happens between me and Liv,it's none of your business."

"You're right," I said. "That would be gross, as you say. I don'twant to know about the two of you. This isn't about Liv, in fact. It'sabout you." I paused momentarily, waiting for him to cut me off.He didn't-- and I knew right then I had him and this was my time.

"Look, I just want to tell you that as far as you and Liv or youand anyone else that comes into your life goes, it's about your heartand hers. Don't give your heart and self away easily. But when youdo, don't protect it to the point where you don't open yourself upto your feelings. Always be kind and treat other people the way youwant to be--"

"Ma, I know," he said, cutting me off. "Treat people the way Iwant to be treated. You say it all the time. I get it."

"One more thing," I said.


"Babies come from storks."

Relieved, I told Tom about the conversation. I don't know if itwas helpful, but I felt better.

A few days later, all of us rendezvoused at the Van Halen concertin San Diego. Before the show, I pulled Ed aside and askedhim to speak to Wolfie about being responsible and sensitive inrelationships. I didn't come right out and say he was serious abouthis girlfriend and we needed to make sure he was well informed.But Ed understood. I saw him take it in, think about what heshould say, and then he looked at his girlfriend Janie, at me, and atTom, and nodded.

"Got it," he said.

I was nervous about what he might say, because he could be crude even when trying to be sensitive. But I felt like I had run outof options. God help me, I turned it over to Ed.

A little before the show, I was standing with Tom in the hallwayoutside Ed's dressing room when I thought I overheard himhaving the talk. I shushed Tom and inched closer to the doorway.Tom was right behind me when I turned around and we heard Edtell Wolfie to listen to his heart, to be careful of who he gave it to,and then "when you give it away be careful of their heart, too."

Then he added, "Treat each other with kindness."

I gritted my teeth at Tom.

"That's what I tried to tell him," I said.

"Shush," Tom said. "They're still going."

We listened closer and heard Ed finish: ". . . and be wary of allthe sluts and skanks and whores who will want to be with you becauseyou play in a band and have a famous last name."

I shrugged. I wouldn't have said that last part. But it was essentiallythe same talk I had tried to have. I wanted to praise Ed,but remembered that we were eavesdropping and quickly grabbedTom and guided us away from the door. Then Wolfie strolled outand into the hall. He was in a good mood.

"Hey, Ma," he said.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said. "Just talking to Dad."

I watched him walk back to his dressing room. All of us werelearning about the facts of life.

Notes to Myself

Drink more water! Thirst is different from hunger. Thirst forknowledge, thirst for health, thirst for love . . . lots of water.

Today, my mind and body are in conflict about going to thegym, but I'm telling them to get on the same page! How? I'mthinking of all the times I've wished I'd worked out but couldn't.And the times I've wished I'd felt good about myself butdidn't. Now that I have the time to get exercise . . . is forty-fiveminutes such a big deal?

Tom says I snore. He doesn't. We're an odd couple.