Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feed Your Head

I just read a great article. You can read it, too, here, if you wish. And then run for the hills the next time one of these chain restaurants tries to trick you with clever, marketing double-speak.

I promised I wouldn't be come obsessed with health and wellness and blog about it all the time, but I have to tell you, I'm thinking about it a lot. I agree that a cleaner, healthier lifestyle is not for everyone. If you love Ho-Hos and watching TV and potato chips more than anything, I wouldn't tell you to stop...that is all for you. Sometimes, even knowing what I know, it feels like health is not for me, when I'm lazily watching TV, letting myself get too busy with things for others, or there is something else I want to do, like sew things or make jewelry.

But I also have found that once I get started, if I can just get started, the joy and energy I feel after exercising or making quality meals from scratch makes it all worth it.

I'm learning to make this my every day and finding it very fulfilling. And even relaxing (as I mentioned desperately needing in my last post!) when I approach it the right way.

When you, as Susan Powter keeps reminding us, take the time to put high quality food into your body and move in oxygen, you are improving your lifestyle.

For this week, I've cooked every meal from scratch, exercised for 30 minutes every day and avoided stuff I know is bad for me. In my food bag for today? A travel mug with a smidge of organic turbinado sugar in it so that I don't have to use the white refined stuff in my coffee at work, a clementine, an organic apple, a raw potato, a bag of roasted, in-shell pistachios (I'll farm these 8 ounces out over a week) and a container of leftover veggie soup I made from scratch the other night. Pistachios and coffee for breakfast. A clementine mid-morning. Soup and microwaved potato for lunch. Apple for the webinar I have to attend later on.

The only processed food I've had this week is a bit of cheese and sour cream on a baked potato, a slice of rye bread, powdered creamer in my coffee and some Szechuan sauce that I used in preparing last night's dinner for Steinvic and I. I'm on day four of this and I have to's easy when you consider the alternative: continuing to feel the drain of energy and not looking or feeling the way I want to and deserve to look and feel.

So, while I haven't eliminated processed foods completely, I'd say I've cut them waaaaay back and that is a great start. I'm not giving myself permission to keep using processed items or to not exercise daily, but I am also aware that making ALL the changes at one time is a way to set myself up to fail (except for quitting smoking...that is an all or nothing with me and I'm happy to say I am no longer doing that. Even if I did have a random freak out last weekend where I really wanted to smoke, which I just rode out and then thanked my lucky stars the next day that I hadn't.)

How can I not get a little obsessed about something that has the potential to improve my life in every way? It's not a resolution, it's a revelation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Frankie once asked us to relax, even though the beat to that song made it impossible to relax while it was on.

And I am trying to learn to do it. All the big red flags are waving furiously, trying to get my attention.

Sleep is bringing strange, icky, way too murky to understand or way too vivid to tolerate images. I catch myself not breathing, holding my breath while I'm typing. A colleague sweetly slipped me a copy of 8 Minute Meditation...

I need to RELAX.

It's hard sometimes, though, really is. I get fired up. I have to be appropriate and professional in some pretty tricky situations throughout the day. I'm diplomatic, though...not a pushover, and that requires skill and a lot of energy. I'm blessed to have a good job, and to have the meaning and motivation behind that job be something I'm passionate about.

At the same time, though, sitting on all that energy can make me tense. Intense. And that is just work. Not to mention genuine concern for people I care about. And then the meaningless every day stuff. Traffic. Bills. Wearing away on my Relax.

Maybe I need to start sprinting every time something gets to me. Not non-stop, though...I'd end up in Florida.

For this evening, I'm going to breathe deeply on the way home, not rush in the grocery, calmly take my time to prepare our dinner lovingly, and while that is marinating, selfishly spend the half hour on ME, on my exercise machine, that I need so I'll feel good about me. And burn some of this stress off...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Leave Justin Alone!

I have never (knowingly) heard a single note of a Justin Bieber song. I know teenaged girls love him and that he has a movie out. And that he was on Saturday Night Live the other week with Dana Carvey and I appreciated that he seemed to be "in on the joke," which I thought was pretty good for a 16-year old. I know all of these things vicariously, as I exist in a fairly Bieberless world, mostly because I am not a teenaged girl.

But I did catch the headlines yesterday referring to his Rolling Stones interview, and how Justin apparently does not believe in "loveless sex or abortion." One should note that he was asked a question about this; he wasn't using the interview as a platform for his personal beliefs. And actually, if you read what he said, he seems to be unsure and stammering a bit, almost like he's sorting it out as he is answering. Probably because he hasn't given it a lot of thought...

Because he is sixteen. He isn't a female and isn't able to get pregnant. He hasn't really wrapped his brain around the concept because it isn't part of his everyday concern. As well it shouldn't be, if you're a famous child who is probably supervised 95% of the time and doesn't have a lot of time to think about sex or abortion.

But those cackling, opinionated women on The View are all up in Justin's grill today, talking about how Justin Bieber is insensitive, doesn't have a right to comment and how inappropriate he is. How victims of rape and incest surely would not appreciate his limited views.

And here is what I have to say about that: First, I doubt in that moment that Justin was answering the question that he was thinking of abortion as a "solution" for a female who had been impregnated involuntarily by a twisted, evil family member or a vicious, piece-of-garbage-stranger. And second, I would like to see a statistic that says that the majority of abortions performed in the United States of America are on women who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

Please show me this number. I need to know. What is the percent? Because when I was Justin's age, many girls in my school snuck off to Planned Parenthood to get abortions because they had voluntary sex and didn't bother to use birth control. Yep, I said it...didn't bother. They were in the same Health and Sex Ed classes as me, they took biology and probably got better grades than I did and they knew that penis + vagina (sometimes) = pregnancy and they did not bother with making an effort to avoid that situation.

Certainly, these girls usually got on The Pill or started using condoms after the abortion, but that was an afterthought. And one girl in my class had seven abortions. While we were in junior high (which at our school was grades 7-9). And she was told that she may not be able to get pregnant again. And even in my youth and with my very liberal upbringing, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that it might not be such a bad thing for her to not be able to get pregnant again. Of course I did not voice this opinion because it was not my business and she would have beat me up (she was kind of a coarse chick...)

I imagine the problem stems much deeper than whether or not a teenaged boy is permitted to share his opinions, or whether someone is so caught up in the moment that they forget about birth control, or whether or not it's a woman's right to choose to have an abortion and whether or not a man (or boy being interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine) is allowed to have an opinion about it.

I think it's that we're tangling morals with religion with practicality with fantasy with reality with human decency. No, it does not seem reasonable for a woman to be forced to have a baby as a result of a rape or incest. If we could go all Little House on the Prairie, we might suggest that idealistically, every woman who gets pregnant in that manner should just have that baby and give it to a good family who can care for it and love it forever, and everyone wins! Right? No. The bio-mother would probably live her life even more torn up than before. So am I saying abortion is fine in this situation? Nope, I can't. Am I saying it's not okay? No, I am not saying that, either.

I can't say. It is not my place to choose. I am not that woman or girl. I can't make decisions for anyone on this planet but me.

But I can candidly and opinionatedly address the situation that will more likely be more common for kids who are Justin's age. And that is, if you don't want your child to ever have an abortion, then find a way to teach your kids about abstaining, safe sex and birth control. They are three separate things and you don't have to tie religion into can simply approach it from a place of self respect, encourage lots of communication and honesty, and then pray for the best.

I am not a blood parent, but I was a kid and I remember it well. And, I have been an active part of Young Man's life since he was 13. And while I know it is different when you're a blood parent, I can honestly say - and I have honestly said to him - I'd rather have him come to us and tell us what is up, what he needs and how we can help then to have him go through the heartbreak, stress and fear of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

I realize that a lot of good folks who are traditionally religious want their kids to not have sex, and they don't want anyone to have an abortion. And that is an okay belief to have and something you can shoot for or work toward in your family and in your life. But pretty much, I'm not sure that it's realistic to have it both ways. Recognize that, like it or not, kids sometimes have sex, and one of those kids may be yours. If you make them feel ugly and dirty about it, or unloved or that they have sinned, they will still have sex, but they will hide it from you and that fear can lead them into bad places.

I think that these cranky ladies on The View, chastizing Justin Bieber for his opinion, send a message to kids that they are going to be criticized when they talk about sex or love or intimacy and that is a shame. Instead, They View might have noted how it's interesting that children are sexualized and teen idols are now asked about such grown up issues. They may have mentioned some good ways to talk to your teenager about sex and abortion, and then maybe have an expert and some real parents on there who have done it successfully. That may have been worth the airtime.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Something Right

Nothing can chase away funky feelings like having something to look forward to. I was really ready for Steinvic to get home from Columbus. I'd started cooking before he got home and when he arrived, we had some wine and caught up while dinner cooked.

It was so great to have him home. Sometimes, even an overnight can seem like a long time.

And it felt good to be in comfy pants, cooking away, in our tiny kitchen.

I made vegetarian Shepherd's Pie using a "recipe" I completely winged, based on things I've seen and read.

It included white onion, celery, a yellow bell pepper, carrots, turnips, parnips, potatoes, zucchini and mushrooms. I made a "vegetarian gravy" and after heating all the veggies and spicing them, layered everything in a pan to bake. I sprinkled a very sparse layer of cheddar and Parmesan and then topped with potatoes I piped through a press.

And I have to say, I felt like I'd done something right...

Isn't it pretty? Steinvic said, "Do not forget how you made this! It's perfect!" I will do my best.

Here's to feeling like I can accomplish something...which isn't about making Shepherd's Pie. It's making someone feel like his homecoming is a really big deal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two Weeks

Wow...two weeks and I haven't posted a thing here.

I've thought about it, but I almost never get on the computer at home, can't really post from work and it seems like every single second of my life recently has been occupied.

When I'm not at work, I'm running errands.

When I'm not running errands I'm doing wash.

When I'm not doing wash, I may be sitting down, sewing something (yep, I'm finally opening an Etsy site for my craftiness) but then I'm stopping to get the wash or check on something that is cooking or or or.

When I'm not doing that, I'm trying to jam in 30 minutes of exercise so I can look and feel better.

And work...I'm so grateful for my job, but work has become increasingly difficult. Stressful. Increased level of intensity for projects. I got a promotion recently and while that has nothing to do with my new projects (here you do the work first, then get promoted), I don't have the normal spring to my step I would after receiving recognition. I work with a few people who don't value my input and push back on every suggestion, even though providing input and guidance is what I'm paid to do.

I'm just at that whiny, cranky point where I don't feel like I'm good at a thing and I don't feel especially valued. I don't feel attractive or clever or talented.

Before you go handing me the jumbo-sized bottle of Midol, that's not it. And I'm not depressed, either. I just feel...disappointed.

I count my blessings. heart! The most handsome, patient, witty, creative, loving man in the world. And he married me. ME! I am so fortunate to have him in my life. His son, Young Man...such a magnificent person who makes us both beam at the very mention of his name. My Mom and her husband. Fantasticly generous and loving people! The big family that Steinvic has given me. Our health. J and a few other good friends and loads of lovely acquaintences that keep things light and interesting. A good job. A solid roof over our heads. We've got so much to be thankful for and I am thankful. I really am.

But that doesn't stop this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that won't cease. I'm not satisfied and I don't know what it is that is missing. My verve...poof! Gone.

I kind of feel know when you're driving somewhere you've never been before and you've got directions and you're following them as best you can...holding that little scrap of paper, glancing at it ever so often, while trying to watch where you're going and drive safely, too? And you're following along and suddenly come to a spot in the road where the directions are kind of murky and it tells you to veer one way but the road you're seeing isn't exactly as described on paper? So you do what you think you're supposed to do and about ten minutes in realize that you've gone the wrong way. You actually feel it in the pit of your stomach before you notice that none of the landmarks on the directions match and then once you've made that realization, your face gets a little hot and you feel a bit panicky and you hope you're able to get turned around and headed in the right direction again...

Know that feeling? Me, too. And I've been cranky (sorry, Steinvic...) and a little short-tempered and mega-sensitive...just a wreck. Not my usual self at all. And maybe that is why I feel like I suck at everything right now...I'm not doing anything joyfully.

I'll shake it, I know I will. But in case you wondered why I've been so quiet, I'm just working to sort things out...

My goals for today? To take deep breaths and make a delicious vegetarian Shepherd's Pie tonight. To happily welcome Steinvic home (yep, he had to spend Valentine's Day out of town...) and spend some time just being me. To keep sewing. To have as much fun at work as I can. To keep my chin up. That seems like a long list for today, but the motivation is in the doing, right?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just Makes Sense

I’ve been listening to Susan Powter online since she recently started her new radio in Taos, New Mexico. What a dynamic, fascinating person...she continues to transform. (One thing hasn't changed, though...she’s still - thank goodness - radical.) Now, instead of selling her workout programs and famous, philosophical books, she’s making art and giving fitness away. For real. If you order something gorgeous from her Etsy site, she will send you DVDs as well.

What a novel concept. She is giving away valuable information. Instead of selling it, she is sharing it. Wow. That is how much she believes in her message.

She’s over the top, yes. Fired up? Yes. Intense? Yes. But if you listen to her and hear what she has to say, whatever level of it you wish to accept or apply to your own life, it’s kind of amazing.

A few things that have really resonated with me and I cannot ignore. The most significant?
There isn’t an obesity gene. We’re spending millions of dollars as a country looking for the obesity gene and trying to explain why people are getting fatter and fatter. But in most cases, it’s not genetic. It’s all about what we’re putting into our bodies. We need, instead, to buy whole, quality food – less processed, fewer chemicals – and start moving around more. That simple.

You know how John and Yoko said, “War is over – if you want it”? Well…same, simple concept: “You don’t have to be unhealthy – if you’ll quit poisoning your body.” DUH, people! How could we be so naive?!

And other things have occurred to me – OF COURSE the exercise people and the heart people and the disease people are all telling us outrageous things like, you have to have an hour or more of intense cardio and strength training every single day in order to maintain. To maintain your current weight. Not to lose weight. If you wanna do that, you have to do MORE. I don't know about you, but I'm not even a Mom and I don't know how I'd find an hour or more every day to exercise.

Oh, but I believe that statement is true…with a caveat: IF you are going to eat the typical, American, processed-food diet. Yes. If you are going to eat fast food, packaged food, additives and synthetically forced produce, your body is probably going to require a lot of intense work to process and digest it.

Susan gently points out certain spokespeople for diet programs who fail, not as a criticism, but as a wake up call to stop wasting money on "programs" that are temporary and change our lifestyles instead. When I think about it, it’s not that Kirstie Alley is a failure. It’s that she stopped the program she was on. I fully believe that the Jennifer Hudsons, Valerie Bertinellis and Marie Osmonds of the world who got thin on a food program are still thin because they are still on the payroll and still eating the prescribed food. I have a beautiful friend here at work who is at a fine, healthy weight and fitness level, but periodically goes back on her diet program, and pays a financial penalty for being "over her goal weight"…financially penalized and goes back to saying things like, “I did bad this week,” if she hits a plateau. (She is not "doing bad." She is not bad. We really have to stop beating ourselves up.)

Of course each time these folks stop eating this prescribed, pre-packaged food, they gain weight. They gain because they’re continuing to eat the typical, American, processed-food diet, without watching their portions and you can’t eat very much of that kind of food without getting bigger. Those programs are still a modified version of the very lifestyle from which we should apparently go running away from into the darkness, screaming in horror while escaping.

My friend J has been teaching her adorable children about label reading for some time. They know the more ingredients in something, the worse it is for you. What an incredibly important lesson to teach a child. You should see them counting the number of items on their food packages when we have lunch together…they’re so far ahead of the curve already. J has taken the time to research ingredients (now that is parenting) and found that some of the things in our food are also poisonous or have completely non-nutritive purposes and we both wonder why, oh why, is that ingredient in there? Huh.

Last night, I made calzones, mostly from scratch. I used unbleached, organic flour, yeast, a bit of organic sugar and salt for the thin, simple crust. I cheated and used a little high-quality jarred sauce (no artificial stuff! I didn’t have any of our homemade sauce on hand), and sautéed some portabellas in a touch of olive oil and balsamic. I hand-grated just a little imported Parmesan and sliced six, small medallions of fresh mozzarella cheese (the kind without preservatives, in whey). Guess what? It’s insane but when you use fresh cheese, you don’t need as much. Of course not…fresh has flavor! I folded the calzones over, crimped the edges with a fork and baked them until they were golden brown.

I made a huge salad with organic lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and carrots. (I also added green olives, but they weren’t organic.) And while the produce wasn’t bulging with the size and color of the non-organic produce, I noticed that when I cut the pepper open, it smelled like a pepper. When I peeled the cucumber and had a bite of it, it tasted like Spring.

I have been feeding Steinvic and I the genetically modified, chemical crap for too long. (I'm sorry, Steinvic.)

Despite the length of this post, I’m not a fanatic. Really. But the light switch has come on and I don’t think I can go back. This simple message makes sense and has reached my chemically burdened brain: Any place I reasonably can, I’m upgrading our food.

The funniest thing? When we finished our meal, we were satisfied, but we didn’t feel “stuffed” or bloated. I think when your body doesn’t have to wade through all the chemicals to begin using the food you give it, it’s satisfied faster and you eat less. Just a thought…