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Shameless Day 12: a health struggle

November 16, 2011

So I have decided, again, for perhaps the 50th time, that it is TIME to lose weight. I know this is not a unique struggle, and that me and half the country share the same need (and some of us the desire) to lose weight and get in shape.  For me it has been a life long struggle. To be active enough, to eat healthy foods, to eat the amount of food my body needs (which is always less than what my body wants it would seem), to cast aside my sedentary preferences for something that gets my heart pumping – these are all things that I pick up and cast away like a toddler with blocks. Dedicated and focused at first, sometimes even a little giddy when I see it coming together.  But then distracted, and then totally done with that and back to my normal lifestyle. Which, has proven over and over again, will make me overweight and very out of shape.

Wonderful, loving and supportive friends always say “oh, but you aren’t fat!” or “but you love your yoga, don’t you?” or “yeah, but you eat all those veggies and whole grains and stuff.”  I love their well meaning support, I truly do. But it isn’t the truth. I am fat.  I do love yoga in my mind and heart but I don’t do it enough for it to truly benefit my body. I do eat lots of veggies and whole grains, but I like to put peanut butter and cheese and butter on them.  What I seem to love most (despite what I think or say, because actions really are the truth) is sitting on my kiester and drinking scads of coffee, and then later in the day, sometimes wine or beer or a G&T, and eating lots of carbs (preferably the kind that include butter and sugar) and things with bacon or cheese.

An unexpected side effect of being a mother (one who actually carried her child, though perhaps adoptive parents could feel this way too??)  is the new light through which I view my body. My body is capable of astounding things: like providing all that is needed to grow an entire person, and summoning epic strength to deliver said person from my inside to my outside, to providing milk that my child could be fed and be healthy, to moving as fast as a super-hero to catch him when my child is falling. In addition to all that, I now have a little person who absolutely adores me. He loves my body.  He wants to be near it, touching it, all the time. He doesn’t care one whit if I have on sweats or a dress, heels or slippers, or if my tummy is flabby and soft or toned and firm. He cares when I hold him, kiss him, smile at him, talk to him, hug him, rock him, feed him. It has rearranged my sense of self as more complex and amazing than I ever thought myself to be.  What a gift he has given me, and I think he will probably never know.

I hope he doesn’t know. The other side effect is wanting to be healthy, at least in part, to hopefully spare him this same lifelong struggle. To teach him that being active is as much a part of the day as sleeping and reading and seeing friends. To show him that apples and granola are foods we can always eat, and brownies and ice cream are delicious but rare treats.  So that these things are as ingrained in his mind as they are foreign to my own.

Today then is Day One. Again. But every day is a new day, right? Maybe better not to think of it as Day One but just A Day where I make wise choices that honor my body and my health instead of trashing it. No Day But Today, as some would say. ;)

Do you do TED talks? You should.

September 29, 2011

In having watched many hours of clips, talks and videos from ted.com, I have never once felt that my time was wasted. I can’t think of any other collection of media that gives me that feeling. The one I watched today was on the terribly important and vanishing power of touch in medical practice.

Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to TED and open your mind.

Shameless No. 9: something messy or dirty we hide

September 28, 2011

Recently, one of the originators of this amazing project issued a call to return for those of us who have lapsed (and after a quick view at the wall on the challenge, it would seem most of us have). So I saw it as my call to get back into posting.  It is not that I simply forgot or got lazy. I was actively avoiding a topic I didn’t want to discuss. What’s that you say?  I could just skip it?  No, I couldn’t.  I am not a stickler for other people’s rules, but I am a downright drill sergeant when it comes to my own. This habit often does not even serve me so well. Yet, I can’t seem to break free from the tyranny of what I think I should do. So despite knowing that there is no “right” way to be doing this project, I have committed to doing them each, one by one, in order.  Thus, I could not – literally could not make myself – skip the one I really didn’t want to do.

Number 9: expose something messy or dirty you’d usually hide.  Hello!?  The whole reason we hide the dirty things is because we don’t want them exposed to the light of day!  I’ve thought about this a lot.  I don’t think I’m a particularly messy or dirty person, and in general I’m not ashamed of my normal bodily functions or needs so that wouldn’t really qualify. Isn’t it funny what pushes our awkward buttons?  I could talk about sex all day long. I can easily tell people things I do both well and not so well. I can admit that I have an effed up relationship with my mother, and that I eat too much, talk too loud, and curse way too often. But the messy, dirty things I do when I’m alone.  Oh. God. What if people judge me? Look at me funny? Think I’m gross? Isn’t that the whole point of this project? To shamelessly claim the things that might make others judge us and say “I don’t care. I am Me and I am Cool with that. Yep, I am.”

So. Still, I have fear and trepidation to reveal to you the things I consider dirty.  So, with a tight chest and averted eyes, I will admit: I like to pick my nose. I immediately feel the need to qualify it by saying I don’t do anything really gross like eat it, or wipe it on other people or anything.  I usually go get a tissue.  But still. I like it. It provides the kind of feeling I imagine people get when chasing down something elusive: “ha! I got it! you can’t get away from me, you tricky fellow!” Also, I really like farting.  I am very unlikely to do it when others are around (unlike my father who will fart anyplace, anytime) but when I am by myself it is like “yes! now I can just let ‘er rip!” I know that lots of people do that with no shame, but I’ve always been private about it.  But it always is followed by such a wonderful sense of “ah. that’s better.” Immediate rewards.  I like immediacy.

There. I put it out there.  Judge me if you will; I can take it.

Shameless No. 7: Something I really, really wish I was good at. But I’m not.

August 30, 2011

My first thought on this prompt was “how will I pick just one?” My mind immediately began to tick off things I am not good at. To my credit (not to mention my immense pleasure) my inner Champion piped up and said “but there are this, this, and this that you are fantastic at!!” (I have been consciously cultivating, watering, feeding, and giving love to my inner Champion and I am so pleased to see that she is healthy and full of pep, since she was a little sickly for a while there.)

No. 7 of 30 Days of Shamelessness is “share your efforts at something you don’t think you do well.” There are plenty of things I don’t do so well. Some I don’t care about too much (I am so un-sporty it is comical)  and others that I am working on but spending more time feeling bad than doing anything productive (exercise). Though, when I use the lens that I have tried to maintain for this 30dos project, I have to get to that place of I Never Admit To This and air it out. If I can.

“Don’t worry about it.” “Let it go.” “Just forget about it.” As if I could. My defining frustration, the one around which my personality and life is shaped, is my astonishingly overdeveloped worry and obsession tendencies. It is downright astonishing if I think about the sheer diversity and breadth of what I can obsess about, simultaneously, and without ceasing. Ahem, ahem.

Why are people so unbelievably dense about global warming? Are we really going to elect some freak tea-partier wfor President? God. nononono – we’ll be an international laughing stock. I’ll have to move to Canada.  Why are we persecuting “illegal immigrants” – as if we don’t exploit them for shit work and crap we don’t like! Why hasn’t (so-and-so) called me? Is she mad? Is it my turn to call?  Should I be doing more ‘educational’ stuff for my son?  I really need to make a nightly schedule. Then maybe I could workout.  Or get to bed at a reasonable hour. Or have time to do fun stuff after the baby is in bed. I hate working out. Am I going to die of a heart attack because I can’t effing get my ass in motion?? I need to figure out what I’m going to do about going back to work. How old do I have to be before I know what I want to “do when I grow up?” What am I doing to do about mom? Did I move the laundry over?

Just a small sample. I have what is sometimes referred to in yoga circles as the Monkey Mind. I have an ongoing barrage of stuff and it is almost never quiet.  But particularly if I think I have done something wrong or something I shouldn’t have done (or didn’t do something I should have) I just can’t. let. it. go.

I have tried redirecting my thoughts. I’ve tried distracting myself with something physical. I’ve tried writing it down. I’ve tried just “letting the thoughts go and quiet[ing] the mind.” Ha! I’ve tried playing out the whole what-if sequence to its conclusion. I’ve talked to therapists. I’ve even tried just accepting that this Monkey Mind is a part of who I am and embracing that. Usually talking to one of my favorite people (my husband, dad or BFF) helps and I don’t hesitate to do that when I really need a break. But Ideally I’d like to be able to turn off the Obsession Channel sometimes without outside help.

It goes in patterns, like the moon or the ocean. Sometimes my Internal Chatter is a little quieter, a little more lighthearted and less condemning. Sometimes that goes on for a long time. Sometimes I have nights where I actually can’t sleep because I’m so wrapped up in obsessing over something or another. This is hard for me to share because I want (I want this so badly. Like some people want to be rich, or famous, or beautiful or thin- I want this) to be Chill.  I want to embody equanimity. I want to be at peace with myself and with all the things I can’t change.  I want to be serene and worry-free. But I am not.

I’m afraid that this post might result in a new wave of “gee, you worry too much” and “you should should let that go.” I have had so many, so so many, people tell me “just don’t worry about it!” And I think they are well meaning. But that is like telling an alcoholic to just “stop drinking.” It is an addiction. One that is not good for me, or helpful to me or my life, one I don’t want and that takes up more of my emotional and mental resources that I would like. It isn’t something I can just quit. Or I would have.  A thousand times over I would have.  But I’m working on it.

Shamelessly embracing Stay-at-home-mom-ness (version 2.0, though)

August 25, 2011

My favorite thing, so far, about the 30 Days of Shamelessness project is that it is very thought provoking. I find that many of the prompts do not immediately grab me with an idea for action or response. I am currently working with myself to improve discipline and impulse control (alas, this is still a struggle for me. brownies, anyone?) so I am restricting myself to doing the 30 prompts in order.  I am so tempted to skip around and do the ones that appeal to me (read: are easy) first, but I want to take this more seriously and really allow the prompts to challenge me.  So I wait and only move forward when I can deal with the one I’m on.

Prompt six asks us to “act “girly” or “manly” in a way you’d normally avoid.”  Man I have thought about this for days.  So much has changed since I’ve become a mom and I already have changed in ways I never would have before.  I almost never went out without a little makeup on (being a fair-skinned natural redhead I always felt I was ‘invisible’ without makeup) and I never ever went out of the house without a bra on. Just yesterday I went to three different places with no makeup, a messy ponytail, and no bra (a tight tank with another shirt atop provided sufficient decency) and was not one whit embarrassed.  I thought about just using that, because I do it so shamelessly! and never would have before my son. (As a side note, it is not that I think mom=undone and casual, but that my son’s absolutely unconditional love and infatuation with me has freed me from the continual stream of self-judgement I used to subject myself to. If he can love me just as I am, for the person I am and not my hair, or eyelashes or clothing, couldn’t I do the same?)

But this morning, as I was drinking coffee, listening to the news and whipping up some raspberry-bran muffins — at 7:00 a.m. — an idea popped into my head.  Normally I get my feathers all ruffled at the notion that people should be confined and defined to acting gender-appropriately. I do think there should be some differences between men and women because we are not the same (though we are definitely equal and should damn-well be treated as though we are equivalently important to this damn society). Yet, I challenge and defy the notion that some things are just inherently feminine or masculine. Women should be able to be  competitive and goal-driven without being a bitch.  Men should be able to be kind and compassionate without being pussies or gay. I just can’t tell you how much it drives me crazy when I hear people ascribing value to societal gender-based stereotypes and chastising people for defying them.

It drives me so crazy that I really struggled with the decision to be a stay-at-home mom. I absolutely do not want to underscore the notion that the woman’s place is at home, and that men are the breadwinners and women the baby-makers. I am no fan of Ann Coulter and her ilk and really don’t want to add any fuel to that fire. Yet, isn’t feminism (and humanism, if I had my way) really about making the choices you need and having the freedom to live a life free from the expectations of what your sex “should” do? So, in my case, to put my child in day care and go back to work (so that I could support the notion that women can have children, love them madly, and still go to work) would have been personal torture.

My husband and I talked about him staying home, but I knew immediately that wouldn’t work because I would be insanely jealous. I had a child because I wanted to have a child – have all the hugs and feedings and bath times and play times and discoveries and firsts – and no job could have fulfilled me the way this does.  But that was our choice – our personal, thoughtful, carefully reasoned choice. My husband does not like doing house stuff.  He doesn’t enjoy cooking (which I LOVE with the passion of a thousand hearts), he doesn’t notice mold growing in the tub, or dust bunnies on the floor, and he could care less what is on our walls, hanging on our windows, or topping our bed. So I stay home and spend lots and lots of time with my child, and lots of time cooking, and cleaning, and planning, and crafting. I like planning meals. I like sewing. I like decorating the house. I do not like mopping, or dishes, or doing laundry, but I do those things because I do like cleanliness (and see prior note on dustbunnies).

And as I thought about it, the fact that I do this, that I stay home and am living the life of the house-wife-mom, is for me every day an act of girliness that I would normally avoid. Some days it gets under my skin like a splinter that my biggest accomplishments are doing three loads of laundry AND getting peach pie filling fixed and in the freezer.  Did the 50’s descend upon my house??  I want to be out changing the world! Directing projects, pulling together presentations, running meetings, organizing!

But mostly, I am thankful that I have the chance to be the other person that I want to be – the one who gets local farm-fresh produce and then busies herself in the kitchen to make sure we can eat it.  The one who mends her own clothes and alters clothes from the thrift store because we like to make things last and to save our money for more important things (like beer).  The one who does, in fact, mop her floor so that her little man can crawl around and not get sick or choke. Yes, I will shamelessly embrace my role.  Yet not as simply wife and mother, but as Queen Goddess and Chief Executive of the Home and Family.

Shamelessly Wasting Time

August 16, 2011

Come with me, you who make so bold as to read my ramblings, from the shallows wading pools to the deeper waters.  Day 4 of 30 Days of Shamelessness challenges us to “waste time.”  First I thought about all the things I could list that I do that count as time wasting.  There are plenty.  Then I thought about getting into the philosophical nature of wasting time.  Can you really waste it? Aren’t you always spending it on something?  If you get any value at all, is it wasted?  I thought of the times that I did something that really did, afterwards, feel wasted – like mopping the floor to promptly spill something on it – but still that wasn’t where I wanted to go.  None of that was tapping into the real challenge: airing out our mental closet to loose the sources of shame and embarrassment that bind us.

So. I put this post off for a while.  Not sure I was ready to be public about the concept that was forming in my mind. But the truth will out, and it is this: I feel tremendous guilt when I do anything I perceive as wasting time. It doesn’t matter to me if others might see it as wasting time or not – I judge myself only on my own personal scale.  If something is accomplished, produced, fixed, cleaned, or resolved I feel like I am a valuable and worthwhile person. Just hanging out, or spending time with other people, is ok (read: no guilt) because I am a social girl and I love my friends and I want to be a good friend to them. However, the things that have no outcome, no purpose save for my enjoyment alone I often berate myself for.

Oh, and I am specific in my criticism.  Say I read a book that is educational, intellectual or uplifting, then all is well because I have improved my character or mind.  But if I read a book purely for the sake of enjoyment, I feel a twinge of guilt when I look back on the time because I could have been getting something done! Nevermind that I love to read and that it gives me a sense of peace and joy.  That alone couldn’t be a worthy purpose! There is nothing to measure, nothing to cross off, nothing to show to anyone else and say “see?  I am a success!” I happen to love the game “The Sims.” Nothing gives me more guilt than playing that game.  Because I feel like such a loser that I am playing a game to improve or advance the lives of gigabits, instead of doing something in the “real world.” Such judgement!  Am I too not allowed to just “have fun?” Can fun, simple entertainment, even mindless enjoyment, not be a gift I bestow upon myself?

It has taken me a long time to realize that I am this way.  That if I do something that doesn’t get a check mark on my list, or have the potential to earn me a pat on the head, I feel as though I am failing at being a productive member of society. Which generally gets around to me feeling like I am, in fact, A Failure.  I am working now at redefining my sense of self as a person that Is, who can simply be worthy because she Exists, Loves, Dreams, Thinks – and not only because she Produces and Accomplishes.  So I am going to be a bit rebellious to myself today and do something purely for my own private enjoyment and refuse to accept any feelings of shame and guilt that will rise.  I will tell those feelings to STEP BACK and let me just Be.

Lots of frozen raspberries must mean it’s time for… tart.

August 14, 2011
tags:
I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille...

When I tried to get something out of the freezer earlier this week and almost caused an avalanche I decided it was time for a freezer clean-out and reorg.  In doing so, I discovered I had 6 bags of frozen raspberries.  What?!  Seeing as how freezer space is valuable real estate, I immediately began thinking how I could use up this abundance.  Most recipes I came across either wanted fresh raspberries, or required such a tiny amount of berries (1/2 cup was average) that they weren’t going to do much to reduce my overflow.  Now some people would be content to just get a few containers of yogurt and have smoothies for a week.  But not me.  I was determined to bake something that would be a treat and use up raspberries at the same time.  So I thought “oh!  a tart with a raspberry filling!” and began looking for a recipe for said item.  Would you believe I could not find one single recipe for a berry tart with a jam-like filling made from whole berries?  Not one!  Plus, 9 out of 10 recipes had crusts that were so fussy that it just didn’t seem worth it to spend that much time in the kitchen and do that many dishes for something that was originally calculated to free up freezer space.

So instead I rolled up my sleeves, put on my game face, and began to get creative.  Using a loose adaptation of: a recipe for raspberry cake filling, a super-easy tart crust recipe pulled from Epicurious, and method and presentation from Smitten Kitchen, I made a what promises to be a very tasty tart.  Oh, and it was very easy.  Maybe not as easy as just using jam (which is apparently pretty popular) but better, in my opinion, for several reasons.  First, because this started with whole fruit, I can pretend it is healthier.  Second, it allowed me to control the sweetness of the filling, which I dialed down from your normal jam sweet.  Third, and I may be the only person here, I don’t strain my raspberries.  I like the seeds.  So doing it myself allows me to keep those in there, since almost all jams are seedless.  So, here you are: my easy-not-jam-raspberry tart.

Raspberry Tart

Crust: (these measurements are weird because I used an existing tart ingredient list but wanted half-again as much.  But it worked out perfect for my 9-inch pan.)

  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
Filling:
  • 4 cups frozen (or fresh would be fine, if you have those you need to use up) raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (you could use more here if you like it more sweet, but I’d taste it first)
  • a scant 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in an equal amount of cold water
Melt the butter and mix in the sugar and vanilla.  Whisk in your flour until incorporated and smooth.  The batter will be too stiff to really whisk when it is mixed well.  Section your batter into thirds and set aside 1/3 for the top crust (it would be helpful if you roll this 1/3 of your dough into a log, like a fat cigar, which I did not do, but you’ll see why this is helpful in a bit). Press the remaining batter into a 9-inch tart or springform pan, pressing up the sides 3/4 of an inch or so if in a springform pan.
Cover both the tart pan and the remaining dough and chill for at least one hour.  This is, in fact, a key to tart success. I have eschewed dough-chilling for so long because it just takes time, and advance planning, and patience – all of which I am often short on – and I just skip it.  But, it is actually an important step because the chilling allows the gluten in the crust to relax, which keeps it from shrinking and makes it more tender.  And starting with a dough that has melted butter which makes the dough so much easier to make, it seemed a small concession (I also chilled it for 6 hours because I had to go somewhere, so that is just what happened, but one hour is plenty).
For your filling, put the berries and sugar in a good pan over medium heat and cook until bubbling and cook for 10 minutes or so to reduce the volume a bit and break down the berries.  When your berries are broken down and it is a sauce, add in cornstarch slurry and stir to incorporate.  Continue cooking until thick enough to run slowly off the spoon (don’t get it too thick, it still has to bake, remember), 3-5 minutes or so, and then allow to cool to room temperature.
Heat oven to 375°F.  Take tart crust out of the fridge and pour most of the filling into it.  Depending on how much filling you like and how deep your pan is, you may not need it all (I had about 1/2c. left over).  Then take your remaining dough and cut into small disks. I did this from a ball, and so I cut the ball into half and then sliced thinly.  If I had thought ahead I would have rolled the dough into a log, and then would have had actual circles.  But whatever.  Lay on top of the filling in cocentric circles, touching but not overlapping.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top crust is brown.  Result is this:
I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille... 
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