Tag Archives: Being

Perhaps I was a Bit Slow to Admit I Needed Help

Six weeks ago I made a decision about my weight issues. I decided that I had been trying various methods of dieting for 2 years, and nothing had really worked, so maybe it was time that I swallowed my pride and got some help. A couple of my co-workers have been on Weight Watchers for a long time, and both of them have really liked it, so I decided to give it a shot. However, the whole idea of attending meetings and weighing in under supervision really freaked me out. All I could picture was a weekly recreation of humiliating childhood experiences in locker rooms. Now, I know that’s irrational, but it’s a fear nonetheless. So I decided to use the Weight Watchers online program to start, and if that didn’t work, then maybe I would try the meetings.

What I have discovered (rediscovered?) in the first 6 weeks is that there really is no magic bullet for me. Yes, my metabolism could be more sluggish than that of others. Yes, I can’t eat as much as the average person can because I’m petite. Yeah, my body doesn’t process sugar very well. Yes, many of the excuses that I have used for giving up in the past could possibly be true. But none of those excuses will ever change the fact that my body is what it is and it only needs a certain amount of food per day. I can think it’s not fair all I want, and it’s never going to change the fact: I’ve been consuming too many calories for my body to use.  So I can either suck it up and stop being whiny and excessive or I can learn to accept being overweight and uncomfortable.

I choose “suck it up.” I am very interested in being healthy, and in being able to enjoy life to the fullest. I am still working on the whole issue of image v. self (ie., how much of my wellbeing is truly determined by  my own and other people’s perception of my appearance?), but I would like to feel good about my appearance. Regardless of who’s deciding the definition of beauty, I think that healthy is beautiful.The straight up fact is that I haven’t been very healthy, and I don’t look it. At the age of 31 I am already being physically limited by problems caused by being overweight: my neck, back, and knees have been suffering.

Anyhoodle, so far the WW online program has been working for me.  I like that no food is off limits. I can stick to eating traditional foods and not using low  fat or other processed food (if I don’t wanna!) without a problem. I have clearly been having a problem with estimating portions on my own, so I also like the point system that WW uses because it makes keeping track of portions a lot easier than trying to count calories, fat grams, or carbs. Each week I also get “activity points” for any exercising I do. That means that I get to eat more as I work out more. I haven’t even been using all my activity points, but something about them really drives home that “treating myself” is a trade-off. The added incentive means I’ve been working out for a minimum of an hour 5 days/week (rollerblading, biking, hiking, or jogging with the dog).

I’ve lost 10 lbs since joining, plus 5 I’d already lost earlier in the spring. 15 lbs is a lot of bulk off from a short person! My knee problems are already almost gone. I have voluntarily been eating more fruits and vegetables. I still have a long way to go, but I am already feeling a lot better, which is the greatest possible incentive.

My Family and The Great American Roadtrip

Around this time of year, when it is beginning to warm up enough outside so that one doesn’t need to be so vigilant about skin coverage, but it’s not quite warm enough to declare spring, I begin to plot out all of the ways in which I will enjoy the imminent warm weather. Traditionally, this has included a summer vacation. This year some dear friends of mine are getting married in Los Angeles in December, so we are forgoing our summer vacation in order to save our pennies for the big event. In the absence of a vacation to plan, I am instead reminiscing about vacations past to get me through my March .

When I was growing up, my family never took winter vacations. We didn’t ski, and we couldn’t afford the high prices of escapes to Florida or Mexico. Furthermore, my mother was violently opposed to letting us miss school for any reason other than deathly illness. Therefore, all of the vacation energy for an entire year was focused on the summer road trip. My family (Me, Mom, Dad, my Bro, Uncle Pete, and sometimes Cousin Chris) drove all over the middle and western parts of this country (my dad typically refuses to go farther east than Michigan. Except for when we went to Disneyworld when I was 15. He is not a fan of cities, and therefore is not charmed by the idea of the East Coast). These trips consisted of a conversion van, lots of camping gear, a ton of snacks, and hours of staring out the window. We drove to the Black Hills, through the Rockies (hitting Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, and a good chunk of the National Parks), Mackinaw Island, The Porcupine Mountains, Wisconsin Dells (that was an early one when I was about 7), and Florida (that was a crazy drive in August – it stormed the whole drive down!).

When I was 13 we broke precedence and got on a plane. We flew into Reno; where we, naturally, rented a conversion van and began the road trip! We drove to Lake Tahoe, all the way to San Francisco, and up the Big Sur. We saw the massive Redwoods, and the petrified forest. We saw the ocean; the first time for my brother and I. When we had seen all we wanted to see of California, we headed back to Reno to fly out. The trip was notable not only for the number of first sights seen, or for the fact of flying, but also because we stayed in roadside motels (some scary, some not). The last night in Reno was spent at the MGM Grand; all of it’s movie-set kitsch was particularly thrilling for us kids, who, despite our “well-traveled” status, had rarely been exposed to tourist traps.

The last family vacation I went on was when I was 20. It was July, exactly one week before my 21st Birthday. Of all places, we went to Vegas. Uncle Pete did not join us for this one. None of my family really gambles, and my brother and I weren’t old enough to drink. Dad isn’t so much into the shows. My brother and I went to a waterpark one day; we wandered down the strip and stared at everything another day. But, overall none of us was really into the whole Vegas thing. It’s just not really our speed. So, what did we do? We rented a car and drove to see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Yee Haw! I wish we would have done that right away. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had to stand on the edge of that cliff. Another notable thing about this trip was that my entire family had a near-death experience at the same time. The plane that we were on was one of the little tin-can charter flights that were so popular at the time. These little planes are what made it so cheap to get to Vegas. However, they are terrifying in a storm. We flew through a raging storm on the way home, that caused the lights to flicker in the cabin, and the plane to pitch about. Have I ever mentioned that I am a terrible flyer? I’m pretty sure I prayed most of the way home…

Moving on! David and I have continued the tradition of big road trips. The biggest one we’ve taken was during our second summer together. It was a 2-week road trip that included the Smokey Mountains, a three day stop at Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee, and roaming through the Ozarks in Arkansas. That trip is so packed with notable events that I can barely pick which ones to share! This is probably the favorite: when driving out of Memphis, and into Arkansas, we saw a store that was called “Last Chance Liquor.” We thought it was a clever name. As it turns out, most of Arkansas is dry. Now, Dave and I can get by just fine without drinking, thankyouverymuch. But we were on vacation, and we were camping. We just wanted to go out for dinner and drinks once in this whole crazy adventure. After almost a week of winding our way through the Ozarks, with much of that time spent looking for fire wood so we could cook and have campfires (we got a whole lot of “fire wood? What do you need fire wood for? It’s summer!”), we had just about had it. We wanted to relax and have a decent date night. We got a wild hair and ended up driving all the way up to Branson, Missouri, and picking up some beer from a place that, literally, had a giant, waving, neon cowboy on top of it. Then we didn’t want to drive back down to our tent (in Arkansas), so we decided to get a hotel room and go out for dinner. Unfortunately, there was a convention in Branson that weekend and every last decent hotel was booked. It took us hours to find a place to stay. That is how we ended up at Maude’s. MAUDE’S!!! The whole building was Pepto-Bismol pink, and the rooms were decorated like potpourri satchels. With vibrating beds. I cried when I saw our room. By then it was too late to go out for dinner, so we ordered pizza, and drank our cans of cheap beer. And I cried a little more. Romantical, right?

Ah, the great American road-trip. Producer of crazy stories for the whole of my lifetime. Most likely the producer of more crazy stories in the future. I can hardly wait!

The Old American Dream

Related to last Thursday’s post, I am aware of the source of some of the anxiety that I’ve been having about this move. It is rooted in choosing to live in a way that is different from the way that I was raised to live. I was raised in the suburbs. I have one brother. My parents worked opposite shifts so we never had to go to daycare. We certainly didn’t have a lot of money as a family unit, but I always had my own bedroom, even when we lived in a trailer. We went to Catholic grade school. We went on annual vacations (even if it was just camping most of the time!). We had plenty of toys. Plenty of stuff. We had very little awareness of what a struggle it was for our parents to provide all of this to us. In our minds we weren’t spoiled. We were just “normal.” Now I look back at what my parents sacrificed for us (They never had new clothes. They always drove crappy cars. They never got to get away alone together. Etc.), with a mixture of awe, gratitude, and horror.

At the time, mom and dad were just doing what they felt they were supposed to do. Get married. Have kids. Buy a house. Accumulate stuff; mainly for the benefit of their children. They were raised under the idea that their role as parents was to provide a better life for their children than the one they had themselves (even if it meant going into debt to do it). The American Dream. I still think that this ideal rings true; I think that most young parents still want to create the best life possible for their children. I hope so, anyhow! I just think that “a better life” is in the process of being redefined. The idea of “the good life” in American culture is very stuff-centric. There are prescribed steps that, when followed, are supposed to lead to success. Success is a nicely decorated house on a big lot, with lots of fancy appliances and electronics, new cars every couple of years, vacations, etc. In my parents’ generation, and for a couple generations before and after theirs, everyone strove for an approximation of this image of success.

My generation may have been the last where the majority of us were raised in some approximation of the American Dream. The middle class. We were raised to believe that the culture of stuff is normal, and even necessary. Now the middle class is disappearing. There are the rich (we’re talking Oprah and the like, here), the wealthy (aka, anyone that can afford to live the way that my generation was raised to live), the poor (what used to be blue-collar middle class), and the very poor (those that can barely afford, or can’t afford, basic needs like food, shelter, etc.). My friends and I represent the new middle class. Educated, but without any of the money or stuff that has historically been associated with being educated. We simply can’t afford it – our incomes are not commensurate with our education, or with the amount of educational debt we carry.

Roughly 90% of people I know in my age group (I’m thinking of a group of about 100 friends and acquaintances) went to college. A good chunk have advanced degrees as well. The majority of us are married or permanently coupled. At age 30-35, only around 5% own their own homes. Almost everyone I know still rents. We all buy our clothes at discount stores. Some of us have some fancy electronics, etc., but they are in apartments or very modest homes. Many of us are thinking about starting families, but are worried that we can’t afford it, particularly when we are so mired down with student loans, and aren’t yet making enough money to comfortably pay on them, live life, and support children. For us, the old American Dream just simply isn’t really available.

What I think, what I hope, is happening, is that many people, particularly in my generation, are readjusting their ideals for “the good life” to look a little less like their parents’ ideals, and a little more like their grandparents,’ or great-grandparents’ ideals. To be happy, we don’t need a lot of stuff. We can’t require a lot of stuff for happiness, or happiness would literally be impossible. We can still have families. We can still experience life. We just can’t do those things AND own a lot of crap. For many of us, it has to be a choice. I think that for those of us that are on the cusp of this change in ideals, the transition can be emotionally difficult. It has been for me, anyhow. It is difficult to be raised in one value system and to then adjust to another value system. Pieces of the old value system still come back to haunt you, as unreasonable as they may be. My old value system comes back and whispers in my ear that, even though I make a relatively decent living and don’t hate my job, I’m not as successful as I should be.

The reality is that I simply can’t afford to live the same way that my parents did, and neither can most of my peers, despite the fact that I took full advantage of all of the opportunities that they gave me; I took all the right steps. That reality feels a little bit backwards, and my emotions rebel against it (as do those of my parents). But the truth is that I know that the way that my parents ‘ generation, and the generations around theirs, lived has caused massive destruction on this planet, and in the health and well-being of billions of humans. I don’t really even want to live that way. The simple truth is: of course I can live in a small space and still raise a child well. Of course I can be happy and experience life in that same small space. Of course I can get by with fewer outfits. Of course I don’t need every updated gadget that appears on the market. Of course I don’t need to buy my children gobs of toys. Of course I don’t need to eat out all the time. And so on, and so on, and so on. My grandmother did it. Her mother did it. Everyone turned out just fine. Everyone turning out fine and happy is the true mark of success. Not stuff. My family and I will be just fine, too.

The Great Apartment Search of 2010

This is only week 2 of earnest apartment searching, and I am already fatigued! I feel like the hunt is consuming my life at the moment. I guess that I have always really lucked out when searching for apartments. I’ve never had to look for more than a week before I found exactly what I was looking for. Of course, I’ve never looked for an apartment during February in Minnesota (aka, “coldest month of the year,” aka, “no, seriously, if you move right now your face and hands will freeze off before you get the first box in the door”). People don’t move in Minnesota during February. That means that there is not as much stuff available as there will be in April. Although, most landlords require 60 days notice from tenants prior to their move-out dates. Which means that I’m not totally out of my mind looking for an apartment now when I want to move by April 1 (which is still kind of chilly, but certainly isn’t the dead of winter!).

So far we have only physically looked at four apartments. The first one was a bad apartment in a good neighborhood. The second one was a great apartment in a bad neighborhood. The third one was a near-perfect apartment in a borderline neighborhood, and the fourth one was a really great apartment in really bad neighborhood. *Sigh* So, really we have only spent a grand total of about three hours actually running around and looking. The extremely time consuming part is trying to find places to look at. Scouring craigslist and other rental sites like a crazy woman. Calling and emailing prospective landlords. Trying to keep them all straight so I know which ones I’ve already called. Looking at various properties on Google maps to rule out any that are obviously in neighborhoods we don’t want to live in. It takes a lot of time and head-space.

The lack of desirable properties in our price range also makes me wonder if we need to lower our expectations. Maybe we can’t really afford a 2-bedroom, that allows dogs, in a decent neighborhood. Or, maybe we are carrying around incorrect perceptions of what constitutes a descent neighborhood. On that front, I have set out to create a crime report that compares the number and types of crime, per capita, in each neighborhood. I want to know what neighborhoods are actually “good” or “bad.” I’m also comparing it with crime, per capita, in each of the south suburbs. My aim in doing so is to settle a long-standing argument with my dad that his idea of safe (ie., suburbs only) isn’t actually any safer than where we choose to live. Reports?! How nerdy is that?! Apparently, though I’ve never been a numbers person, working in a stats department is having some kind of effect on my brain!

Another angle is that maybe we really can afford more, but don’t want to. We’re really not ready to think about buying a house. But, another part of me feels pain at the idea of paying the same amount as a mortgage in rent each month. Maybe I just have to tell myself that Minneapolis property tax is notoriously high, and that I don’t have to pay for (or complete) any repairs or maintenance as a renter. Maybe that will make it seem more worth the cost.

Anyhow, in the off chance that anyone who reads this knows of an apartment that might fit our profile, here it is: 2 bedrooms, dog friendly, decent-sized kitchen, a yard (communal outdoor space is totally fine!). Neighborhoods currently up for consideration are in South Minneapolis, preferably on the east side of 35W (but not necessarily). If you have any suggestions, please shoot me an email at: dharmabum35@hotmail.com!

Making Raw Candy

Typically I will write about food shopping on Mondays. However, I didn’t do the grocery shopping this week; my husband did. This is not a typical scenario. He hates grocery shopping (we split household chores based on who likes to do what. Luckily, there’s not a lot of overlap!). Anyhow, I suppose that I could just write about his shopping experience. But I really think that if I got a pass this week, I should just take it! Besides, this post is still food-related!

Dave and I attended a candy-making class at the Traditional Food Warehouse on the Thursday before Valentine’s day (yep, I’m a little behind on posting about this!). The class was taught by Dave’s sister Sheri, who, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is the goddess of mind-blowing healthy desserts. It was framed around creating a gift for one’s valentine. Of course, I was there with my valentine, so he and I just made our candy to our own liking (how romantical, right?! This is what starts to happen after 7 years of togetherness!). It made for a fun date night, regardless, as we listened to music, sampled different flavor combinations with cacao, and drank wine while learning about, and learning to make, raw fudge.

I’m not going to go into great detail regarding the content of the class, as I recommend that anyone interested should check out one of Sheri’s classes in person. I will say that the basic premise of the class is that raw cacao (uncooked ground cocoa beans), and the other ingredients in the fudge, are health foods. This fudge contains no oil and no sugar; raw honey is the only sweetener.

Pasture butter is used instead of oil or corn syrup:

Here’s some of the class pounding the clumps out of their raw cacao (that’s Dave in the foreground, of course, and the guy next to him is my uncle Pete!).

Here’s my brother-in-law and his girlfriend creaming the butter:

Raw Cacao is a controversial amongst health-foodies. Some nutritionists list it as a superfood. When uncooked our bodies are able to derive a buffet of nutrients from the cacao, including much-needed enzymes and anti-oxidants. However, some still argue that cacao is toxic. Toxicity is doubtless when cacao is added to sugar or corn syrup and hydrogenated oils to make the candy bars found in standard grocery stores. I tend to doubt that raw cacao sweetened with honey is anything but good for us (in moderation, of course!) – especially since it has been used medicinally since ancient times! Here’s the raw powder :

We could choose from a variety of spices to add (Sheri measured them out for us – I chose cinnamon!):

When we were done mixing up all the ingredients, we spooned them into these heart shaped candy molds (I also added walnuts to mine):

The two pieces of candy above may not look big, but in terms of how rich this fudge is, they are enormous! Between Dave and I we had four, and there are still 2 1/4 sitting in our fridge. They are so good, but not in the addictive, crack-y way a Hershey bar is good. The raw fudge, unlike commercial chocolate, tastes really good. You eat one bite, and are satisfied. It doesn’t impart what Dave and I call the “shovel reflex.” Anyone who has ever eaten half a bag of Hershey’s kisses without realizing it knows what that means! It’s the impulse to keep eating that sugar signals.

Sherri has started a product line of raw cacao ice cream toppings called “Rock-a-Cow” (get it? raw cacao = rock a cow!):

If you are interested in trying some of this delicious dessert topping, or in taking one of Sheri’s healthy dessert classes, she can be reached at sherimiller.miller@gmail.com!

Do Clothes Matter? More Adventures with Body Dismorphia

My husband got a job! Woohoo! (this will be the supplement to his own massage practice). He had a bunch of interviews last week, which means that we had to go shopping on Monday night to get him an interview outfit. It ended up being more of a shopping extravaganza than we expected. My husband very, very rarely shops for clothes. He would like to do it more often, but when it comes down to spending money on clothing or on other things, he will always choose other things. This means that he often lets clothing disintegrate way too much before replacing it. Hence, he was, until Monday night, at a place where almost everything he owned was completely worn and tattered. We ended up getting him 3 shirts, a hoodie, a pair of shoes, and a wool coat. He walked out of the store like he had a new lease on life. After his first interview he told me that for once when he walked into an office, everyone there seemed to respect him. He felt that it had a lot to do with being dressed nicely (I suspect it also had to do with him being a professional in the field that is practiced in that particular office!).

We both need further wardrobe infusion; and we have set aside a bit of our tax return for that purpose. Despite the fact that this runs counter to our attitude throughout our 20’s; at this point in time Dave and I are both convinced that clothing does matter. Both of us have observed enough at this point to have noticed the difference in people’s attitudes towards us when we are dressed nicely. Is it shallow that human beings base so much on physical presentation? Probably. It shouldn’t matter. Can we help our snap judgments based on personal presentation?  Maybe. But I’m leaning towards “no.” Not without some consciousness training. Our brains are wired to pick out traits that denote health and social dominance. In our society, those traits aren’t always inherent to our bodies or minds. They are  often purely ornamental.

I spent most of my 20’s stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that “business casual” is an acceptable requirement for work. My attitude was based on 2 things: 1. clothes don’t actually hold any bearing over a person’s performance of their job, 2. business clothes are expensive, and few people make enough money in their 20’s to afford work clothes AND casual clothes. I still think that both items are true. However, I now know how it can hold a person back in their career to show up to work looking less-than-polished. People will judge you; whether they mean to or not.

The paradoxical thing about my attitude at the time is that I did actually really like clothes. I had a personal style, it was just much more casual than what was appropriate for work. So, I did actually care about my appearance. Just not at the office. I like clothes because of personal expression. Dressing oneself can be a pretty creative act. It can be a lot of fun, and can have a  profound effect on they way we see ourselves. I still love looking at clothes…on other people, that is. I fear that I have lost any zeal for actually dressing myself.

Sometime around the age of 23 I recall having a conversation with a friend that included the phrase: “please don’t ever let me go out in public wearing sweats.” Fast forward 7 years, to my frequent uniform: yoga pants and a tee-shirt. This decade’s sweats equivalent. Furthermore, most of my work clothes are ill-fitting and/or really old. Most of my casual outfits consist of jeans, a tee-shirt, a hoodie, and tennis shoes. When I have to go out for social events I panic about what I’m going to wear. I know that I would feel a lot better about myself if I liked what I was wearing. Sadly, I have realized that I have lost most of the sense of personal style that I once had.

Shopping now is kind of a wilderness experience for me. I feel lost. I feel uninspired. I feel frustrated. I have had very little luck during recent shopping trips. I just haven’t been able to find anything that I like that also looks decent on me. Part of me feels like the problem is that I have never adjusted my personal style to the change in my body size. I still like clothing that really only looks good on women who are smaller than I am. This could be somewhat true. There are some things that are exclusively for the size 8 and under. However, I often see outfits on women who are my size, or larger, that look really cute, and would totally fit under the category of “things I like.” This leads me to suspect that part of the problem is that, once again, I am not seeing what is really there when I look in the mirror.

So, what do I do? I guess that I’m just going to have to take what I know intellectually about shapes and colors that flatter me (the “shapes” bit is mostly stuff that I’ve picked up from What Not to Wear. Hey, it’s instructional!). And buy things based on actual fit instead of on what I see. This could be kind of tricky! But I’m going to have to go for it.

What do you have a personal philosophy on clothing? Do you think it matters?

Creating a Life

Lately I’ve been focusing a lot on food and health on this blog, but that is not the only fish I’ve got to fry! What of my art goals for 2010? Well, I have not resumed The Artist’s Way. I have not joined a writer’s group, and I have not started guitar lessons (yet). However, I don’t feel like I’m suffering for lack of creative outlets.

I haven’t started doing the creative endeavors that I set out to do this year because I’ve been pretty busy. I’ve been busy in a good way. For one thing, I have been doing a lot of editing lately. As David has been working on getting marketing materials together for his massage practice, and cover letters together for job applications, I’ve been busy helping him to craft messages that are good representations of him and what he believes in. I’ve also been asked to look at several cover letters for friends recently, which is fun for me. Editing is something that I’m good at, and it feels good to use something I’m good at to help people out. Many people may not realize that editing is actually quite creative. It’s a real creative challenge to take something that somebody else has written and tweak it to suit his or her audience while still retaining his or her “voice.”

Editing aside, I have also been learning HTML. The main reason that I set out to learn it is for career development. Many writing positions are now web-based. Even though I already know how to use several web editors, most web-based positions require at least a basic HTML knowledge. The second reason for learning it is that I am slowly but surely building a (very basic) website for David’s practice. I know that there are a lot of cheap services that we could use to create a website for him; we may still use one of them to build something fancier. But right now it’s good for me to have a specific project as I’m learning. It helps reinforce the knowledge. I have been finding the project very inspiring.

I haven’t put a whole lot of action into creating a career path for myself recently. At least not directly (above and beyond HTML!). But I have been working on it; at the very least I’ve been working on it at an emotional and intellectual level. This kind of thing takes a lot of thought; a lot of working through issues that I didn’t know I had. It takes up a lot of head space.

Another piece of the puzzle is trying to whip my body back into shape. I won’t hover on this topic very much right now, since I already do a lot of that on this blog, but attempting to re-create one’s body is actually very creative. So much creativity and interest goes into pouring over recipes, making food choices, designing meal plans, choosing exercise routines, and cooking. It’s much more artistic than I have ever thought it could be.

Finally, though it hasn’t been reflected much yet in the consistency of my posts, this blog has also been enormously inspiring for me. For one thing, it has brought me back to the page. It has got me writing (in public – yikes!) after a long absense of the will to write. It has me feeling exploratory, and really thinking about what it is that I want to write. There are trillions of topics to pursue, and just simply writing about my own journey through “getting my act together” has really been helping me to figure out what my secondary passions (after words) are.

I feel fulfilled right now, with the creative end of my life. It’s a new revelation that simply creating my life can fulfill that creative urge within me. Therefore, I’m not going to come down too hard on myself for not hitting the specific goals that I set out for myself a month ago. I am excited to move on to learning new things, and creating new things. But right now my life seems pretty full!