Slog the Blog

This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.
This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.

Since my last blog post I just haven’t been able to figure out what to write about. Everything seems so uninspiring. I don’t seem to have anything original or clever to say, no brilliant ideas, no aha moments. What is wrong with me? I’m not depressed, but I just have no oomph.

Then, suddenly, AHA! An aha moment. It’s the end of October, the beginning of November. The days are shorter, and my body has not adjusted. I’m still in “missing the long days” mode, and haven’t yet made it into “cozy and creative winter activities” mode.

So I’ll just slog on this week. A few too many games of spider solitaire, a little too much white food*, a few too many snippy remarks at my long-suffering husband.

But I am getting the garden tucked in, I’ve started a blog about learning to recycle, and I’m experiencing the joys of figuring out what health insurance to go with next year.

All is well.

Send me an inspiring story.

*I still have parosmia, and it seems that almost everything that doesn’t smell bad is white. White bread, white potatoes, white rice. I’ve started making jokes about going to the “white food” section of the grocery store. Sounds vaguely racist, but I can’t figure out exactly how.

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Shhh…Mind the Baby…Habit

SeedlingI am hardly Miss Meditation. In an early post, I mentioned that I found the idea of Mindful Eating was boring. But my attempts at circling in to better eating behavior were just not working. Sure, I was eating plenty of vegetables, and drinking plenty of water, but the poundage of chocolate eaten on the couch was easily overwhelming my other efforts. And the poundage was sticking to me.

So, on my birthday, the day I found I had re-gained twenty hard-lost pounds, I read the first two chapters of Mindful Eating and tentatively began to practice it.

And found it not at all boring. If I really pay attention to the food, the process has its own pleasure, sort of like stepping into a warm bath, or sitting on the porch on a sunny spring day and feeling the sun on your face. Who knew?

The wonderful side effect of tuning in is that I noticed when I’d had enough – way before eating half a bag of Oreos.

I hadn’t yet blogged about this experience. It felt too new, too tender. I didn’t want to crush it by shining too bright a light on it. Nor did I want to have to admit later that I only kept it up for a week.

A few days into these first attempts at mindful eating, parosmia crashed into my life. Nauseated and disoriented, I stumbled around just trying to find where the horrible smell was coming from, and learning what few foods I could eat.

Three weeks into parosmia, I have a list of foods that taste good or at least all right, and have begun to branch out a bit. Added to white rice, potatoes, and French bread, I discovered pound cake and vanilla ice cream. Yesterday I tolerated a bowl of white rice mixed with plain canned diced tomatoes and plain canned kidney beans. The protein felt so good!

But as I re-discover high-fat, high-sugar foods, I’m realizing that parosmia can become an excuse to return to compulsive eating. “Oh I’m sick, I need special treatment…Honey, would you please bring me another piece of cake?”

So, tentatively, I am returning to mindful eating. Yesterday I baked a small potato, added margarine, placed it in my favorite blue bowl, sat at the table without the radio on, admired the hand-embroidery on the table-cloth, took a bite of potato, rolled the rich, soft potatoey-ness around in my mouth, and enjoyed the feeling of food reaching my stomach. A small potato was just the right food, and just the right amount for that meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mindful eating is still new. It’s still tender. I still have parosmia. I continue to stumble around doing the best I can.

Life is good.

Parsley Gratitude

GasMaskAt bedtime I often review the day and name things I am grateful for. The list always starts with my husband Ed, then meanders through the day’s activities, perhaps including pancakes, a chat with a neighbor, a completed project, a hot bath. But not until today did the list include parsley.

A week or so ago I started noticing a vile smell in the house. It assailed me as I reached the bottom of the stairs in the morning. Opening the refrigerator, I realized I hadn’t cleaned it out in way too long. I worried whether the recent sewage leak in our basement was back.

Ed and I cleaned out the fridge thoroughly. I checked the sewer pipe (no leak). I started sniffing everywhere – the heat vents, under the couch, the attic where we have bats, the trash can, the closets. No source found.

The smell got worse and more pervasive — a nice concoction of rotten onion, dog doo, and vomit – flambé.

When the newly sparkling and baking-soda’d fridge started stinking again, I began to realize something was rotten in Denmark. Perhaps I was smelling normal things, but they smelled “wrong” to me. I had heard of this in people who have temporal lobe seizures, but not in any other context. Could there be something called “parosmia”?

Yes, there could. Apparently, damaged olfactory cells are trying to regenerate, but they’re not hooked up to the interpretation center properly, so they just send out random (and in most cases unpleasant) signals.

Turns out the smell at the bottom of the stairs in the morning was Ed’s coffee brewing. The smell of onions makes me gag. The fridge was putting out the gases of ripening fruit and vegetables. Mint is horrible, including toothpaste.

And, I can’t stand the smell of chocolate! I can’t figure out if this is a nightmare, a dream come true, or just God having a chuckle.

I am trying to figure out what to eat. Ed took all the produce out of the fridge and put it in a cooler outside. He re baking-soda’d the fridge (see why he’s first on my gratitude list?) and it is now bearable. I am eating white bread, peeled potatoes and margarine. I never thought I would miss vegetables.

But parsley tastes great. Picked out of my front yard, it’s crisp and fresh, and decidedly not disgusting.

Parsley potatoes for supper.

I’m so grateful!

Many happy returns

carrot bdayToday is my 63rd birthday. The week leading up to it has coincidentally not been a good one. Unfortunately, having a rough week means I ate constantly and skipped my exercise class a couple of times. This completed the gain-back of the 20 pounds I lost two years ago. Sigh…

But I decline to remain discouraged. A birthday is a great time to re-assess, re-group, and get a fresh start.

In reviewing what I have been doing since I started this blog, I realize that I have been dancing around the central issue like the elephant in the room dancing around a maypole.

I just don’t want to give up eating on the couch; with acrostics, with books, with Netflix.

So I’ve been trying to change all the peripheral habits. And having some success. More weeks where I eat lots of fruits and veggies, more mornings where I prepare ice water for the day to have handy, and, till this week, the occasional meal at the table.

But what I’m realizing is that the core of the issue is the couch eating. The mindless eating. The eating for comfort, the addictive eating.

So, “just for today”, as those wonderful 12-step people say, I am going to do the two most important things:

  • Eat only at the table
  • Include fruits/vegetables with every meal or snack

And I’ll keep working on the peripheral things which make it easier to do those two things. I’ll keep prepped fruits/veggies in the fridge, plan what’s for dinner, fill my thermos.

So far my birthday has been great. I went to exercise class, went out to lunch with Ed, (at a table!) and received a sung “Happy Birthday” message from my daughter.

Who could ask for anything more?

Who the heck is Harro?

Play "Hearts and Flowers" on the world's smallest violin
Play me “Hearts and Flowers” on the world’s smallest violin

Last night I was going through a box of memorabilia and came across a journal of mine from 1982. Gingerly, I took a peek inside. Ick, ouch, ugh, wince, oh dear. There, for all the world to see (at least until I can find the matches), was my younger self, going on and on about a young swain named “Harro”, who, I can see clearly from my current perspective, just wasn’t that into me. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m glad I didn’t see you again – it wouldn’t have been worth the pain – it would have been too great a reminder that I couldn’t have you. Yet my heart thumps even now at the thought that perhaps you left me a note, or a flower, or somehow showed that you cared…”

Ok, this might not be too bad if I’d been sixteen, and/or if Harro had been the love of my life. But I was 30, and, honest to God, I have no idea who this person is.

In addition to feeling acutely embarrassed, I do have some compassion for this younger self. I spent many years thinking about almost nothing but romance. The happy childhood I recall was actually a bit short on affection, and devoid of any role-models for lasting relationships. Clearly I was working on that.

I also have huge gratitude. At 40 I found Ed, now my husband. I had worked out enough youthful angst to begin building a marriage, and Ed was (and is) kind, steady, and calm. Not to mention handsome, smart, funny, and a great dancer. Twenty two years later, I give thanks every day for him, and for having gained enough wisdom to appreciate him.

There is another struggle mentioned in the journal with which I have had less success. Here is another excerpt:

“I’ve been good about food for four whole days now. It feels great, except when I have cravings to knosh (sic). I notice how much it happens when I’m bored, lonely, and when I’m in transition between one activity and another”.

I have to say, that except for spelling “nosh” correctly, I could have written that sentence last night. Well, and except that I haven’t been “good” for “four whole days”, or even “four whole hours”.

Finding that excerpt gives me pause. All these years of struggling about food, and I’m pretty much right where I started. Since that time I have learned a lot about nutrition, become (mostly) vegan, and managed to keep within twenty pounds of a comfortable weight. Yet the preoccupation with food and the desire for (and over-indulgence in) sugar and chocolate persist.

I could despair about this, or lash myself for lack of progress. Or, having learned how much is driven by genetics, dopamine, and even gut bacteria, I could absolve myself of all responsibility and just give up.

But I think I’ll do something else. Being a lot older and little wiser now, I think I’ll be kind to myself, maintain hope, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the journey.

And Harro, whoever and wherever you may be, I hope you are doing well.

Anyone need a bucket?

No, that's not us. But it's our inner, secret selves.
No, that’s not us. But it’s our inner, secret selves.

My husband Ed and I enjoy Argentine Tango dancing. Recently a fellow dancer asked if dancing in Buenos Aires is on our “bucket list”.

This got me thinking about the aphorism: “no one ever says on their deathbed, I wish I had spent more time at the office”. The saying is supposed to shake us out of our apathy, help us overcome our fear of change, and energize us to dream big and reinvent ourselves.

Well, I can say unequivocally that I have gone for the gusto, and the regret that I “haven’t really lived” is not in my future.

I grew up in Mexico City, lived for 19 wonderful years at Twin Oaks Community, and spent 1990 in crime-ridden Philadelphia, where, among other activities, I collected a wide variety of cute little crack vials from the sidewalk around my house.

I have hitch-hiked across the country twice (once with a 2-week old puppy in tow), camped along the Appalachian Trail, and hung out in San Francisco during the Summer of Love.

My work has been deeply satisfying. I happily dropped out of high-school, and still ended up as a rural family physician. I switched careers to go into animal rescue,  and opened the Cat’s Cradle Adoption Center  on a budget of exactly zero dollars.

I have tried to make a difference in the world, providing much free medical care, starting a battered-women’s support group, founding a spay/neuter organization, and fostering lots and lots of animals.

And through it all, whenever possible, I have danced – folk-dance, ball-room dance, swing-dance, and now the subtle and mysterious Argentine Tango.

So I’ve lived a bucket-full of adventure. What I hope to do now are the slow and steady things. The things that people who did their duty rather than following their dreams have perhaps already accomplished:

  • Be a parent. I was unprepared for motherhood, and lousy at it. My daughter is a lovely adult now, and has done more than her share of the work to create the close relationship we enjoy. It is my desire to continue to nurture this relationship. Forever.
  • Be content. Settle in. Enjoy the moment. Even perhaps (gasp!) do a little meditating.
  • Be nice. Sure, to the grocery clerk – that’s easy. But also to those who disagree with me, to my neighbor who hates me, and to my long-suffering husband, even when I’m cranky.

Will I say on my deathbed that I wish I had kept my house cleaner?

Probably.

Where we goin’, and what are we doing in this handbasket?*

This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn't pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.
This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn’t pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.

I was doing pretty well, and then I made the fatal mistake.  A couple of days ago, out of nowhere, I weighed myself. And discovered that these past two months of blogging and forming new habits has led to a two-pound weight gain.

And it all went straight to hell.

I tried to shake it off, pretending to myself that it doesn’t really matter, I look fine, I’m in it for the long haul, yadda yadda. “Coincidentally”, I went to Costco that afternoon and bought, yes, the dreaded XXL Peanut M&M’s. And a giant box of chocolate chip cookies, nicely done up in sub-packs of six for “portion control”. And one of those big square boxes of chocolate-covered raisins. And a big pack of rice-cake rolls. And a big box of those cranberry-“thin” breakfast wafers.

I’ve mainly been hitting the chocolate covered raisins so far. Raisins make my stomach hurt if I eat too many, so I suck off the chocolate and leave raisin skeletons.

I was lying in bed last night, my stomach hurting, feeling dispirited and wired on theobromine, and decided, “once and for all” (where have I heard that before?), that I just need to suck it up and STOP eating on the couch. After a couple of antacids, I was able to drift off firmly holding to this resolve.

Which lasted until exactly one minute after lunch today, when I licked off a new batch of raisins. (Got that acrostic licked too!)

This is so frustrating and discouraging.

But I want to do two things: 1. Hold Fast to my 52 weeks of trying to improve my eating habits, and 2. Avoid “all or nothing” mentality.

So, I am counting on you, my vast audience of supporters.

This week’s habit goals:

  •  Continue to eat breakfast at the table.
  •  Eat lunch at the table. 
  • Immediately after lunch, meditate for 15 minutes. (THEN I can lie on the couch and get to work on the XXL Peanut M&M’s. The raisins are about gone.)

Are ya with me? Send me your woes, your triumphs, your deep thoughts, the dumb joke you heard at the office.

Namaste (Is that something to eat?)

*This is apparently an old joke, but my daughter used it in context recently and I thought it was hilarious.