Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Making a good thing even better

Do you remember when you were a kid and you’re favorite thing in the world was making that ridiculous slurpy sound that comes when you’re trying – literally – to suck the bottom of a cup through a straw to make sure that you’ve got the last bit of milkshake out? Or was that just me, given that the whole world is merely a projection of our interior stories? Regardless….

For what ever reason, those days have been long gone for me. Maybe it was the late in life milk allergy (actually, I was allergic early in life too, but was so out of touch with my body during my childhood and teen years that I stopped noticing). Or maybe it was because somewhere I read something that suggested that it really wasn’t a good idea to be swallowing something that had just passed through a tube or cheap, industrial plastic. Maybe it was the straws that I grew up on as a kid were actually kind of beat (to paraphrase Michael J). Or maybe I just decided that I was too old for such silly noises while I ate or that my father – who is very big on inter-state rivalries – wasn’t around to tell me: “You know, in Arkansas, that means you’re done.”

So, even though I have green smoothies (or sometimes not green smoothies) every day, if not more, I did it sans straws. Instead, I used a spoon and felt very much the responsible adult. And life was good – or so I thought.

Then, lo and behold, Michael J bought me a Christmas present and it was, as you’ve probably guessed, a straw.

But not just any old cheap plastic straw that’s too narrow to use for anything other than soda and collapses under the slightest bit of suction. Oh no. A beautiful glass straw (complete with a life-time guarantee, since I have been known to be “hard on things”) that is plenty broad and has a nice beautiful bend.

I love it. It truly is a piece of functional art.

Moreover, and against all predictions to the contrary, it slows me down. No longer do I gulp my smoothies down with a spoon. I sip it. And occasionally I’ll pull the straw out and suck the smoothie out. And sometimes, though not in front of guests, I find myself practically fellat-ing the thing as I suck the outside of the straw clean before dipping it back into the class. Playing with my food? You ask.

To quote one of the great luminaries of our time (NOT!): “You betcha.”

Recently, I attended a two day pleasure camp with Pleasure Revolutionary, Jena La Flamme. Three of the big takeaways around food were 1) slow down, 2) eat with pleasure, 3) breathe. (There are many others, mind you, but you’ll have to join her for a week in Rhinebeck, NY this summer to find out more ;).

Over the holidays, I must admit, that I had sort of lost sight of these relatively simple guiding principles. Indeed, there were many times over the break that I realized that I was not eating with pleasure (but rather, for pleasure), I was not breathing, and I was certainly not slow. When I returned home, I was dismayed to find that my waist had ballooned to pre-program proportions. And as I lamented all this to Michael J. he said, why don’t you just start doing the pleasure principles again.

“I don’t know how!” I practically wailed (and most certainly whined).

He looked at me funny. “Don’t you just have to slow down and breathe?”

And them, almost like magic, he handed me my Christmas present….

Some things are luck. Some things are serendipitous. Others, really are close to magic.

Somehow, my glass straw, pulled me back from the brink and back into pleasure.

I’ve slowed down. I’ve remembered to breath. And most of all, I am enjoying my food – even that which is not accessible to said straw.

I love my straw. It’s awesome. It makes me laugh and makes me feel like a little kid. There truly is something delightful about that ridiculous noise, not to mention the act of getting every little bit out of the bottom of my glass.

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New Year’s Intentions

Before I go pawing back through my posts to see if I have ever written a post of New Year’s Resolutions (which, this right here tells you how effective they are!) I am going to set what can best be described as intentions.

So what’s the difference, you say? Well, according to dictionary.com, not much:

res·o·lu·tion
   [rez-uh-loo-shuhn]
noun
1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature,
a club, or other group. Compare concurrent resolution, joint resolution.

2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.

3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.

4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

5. the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.

in·ten·tion
   [in-ten-shuhn]
noun
1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

2. the end or object intended; purpose.

3. intentions,
a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.
b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are.

4. the act or fact of intending.

So why would I prefer the word intention, when, in some ways, intention seems more slippery than resolution. I mean, nowhere in the definition of intention – any of them – do you find the words “firm,” “determined” or “resolute.” If I were serious about what I intend, shouldn’t I be determined, resolute, and of firm mind? Yes. And, well, no. Because when making changes in behavior, sometimes being determined, resolute and firm can be stifling, whereas allowing yourself a little wiggle room now and then is a good thing.

So here’s why – this year – I am setting intentions, instead of resolutions.

1. At this point in our history (I started to say evolutionary history, just to freak out my sociologist friends), our relationships with resolutions – particularly New Year’s Resolutions – is somewhat of a joke. We make them, almost with the intention to break them. Such a tradition doesn’t exist for intentions (neither do the neural pathways that support such behavior).

2. Also, if you break a resolution, game over. However, if you don’t get around to doing what you intended to do, the consequences don’t seem to severe. Indeed, it’s more like, when you intend to call your mother. You may not get around to it today, but there’s always tomorrow or the next day. This may seem minor, but this is actually a huge difference. Most people head into their resolutions with firmness and commitment, but once they break it (or them, since oftentimes resolutions are related) they forget about them. With intentions, you are always intending. You don’t do it today, yet the intent remains. And just that reminder – that intention – may be just what you need to keep you on track (albeit not necessarily on the straight and narrow) for a longer period of time. Of course, the possibility does exist that you’ll never get started, but to the degree that you remain conscious of your intention, our behavior should change, even with minimal effort on your part.

3) Resolutions are to all or nothing. Even the well worn phrase, “breaking resolutions,” suggests that resolutions are fragile and impermanent. With intentions, however, we don’t just make them, we “set” them. Now granted, we do set things that are impermanent, such as a table or an alarm, but we also set things that are considerably more permanent, like cement, as in when laying the foundation for a house or a home. Again, I know that these minor details may seem silly and irrelevant – I get that. However, sociologists, cognitive behavioral therapists, and sociolinguists – not to mention politicians, preachers, and marketers – have known for decades that words structure our reality, our emotions, and, no pun intended, our resolve.

So what are my intentions this year, 2012?

1. To start applying all of the me-tools that I have learned over the last two years.

2. To be present – when engaging with my husband, my family, my friends, my finances, my work, my body, my food,
myself….

3. To live in balance.

4. To produce more than I take in.

5. To pursue pleasure in all realms.

6. To love more (myself included).

7. And to laugh often.

Happy New Years.

May your 2012 bring you every wonderful thing that you can possibly imagine and more….

The “K” List

No, I am not pretentious enough to pretend to be Oprah (or be even anywhere that cool), but I will steal a good idea when I see it.

I do a lot of shopping and a lot of self-experimentation.

Here a list of my favorite things, all in one place, in no particular order.

1. GT’s Kombucha (Multi-green) – I think that this is the second year running (or would have been if I had put this list together last year) for the green stuff. Super healthy, tasty, and has become my go-to drink when I need a snack, especially when traveling to someplace where I know that almost everyone else will be drinking alcohol.

2. Q Tonic – I just found this stuff. Delicious. Tonic water with just a little agave nectar, bitters, quinine, and maybe one other ingredient. I drank this all the way through the holidays in place of wine and margaritas and was absolutely content. Bitters is not only an appetite suppressant, it cuts sugar cravings, stimulates digestion, and the creation of bile (which, believe it or not, is a good thing!) There’s apparently a ginger version that I may get for Michael J, since he’s the ginger guy in the family.

3. EOS lip balm – A non-food or libation. I love the container; it’s easy to hang onto (i.e., not easily lost in a purse or bag) and it’s great for lips. It’s “mostly” natural, but I wouldn’t look to close if the on-line reviews are anything to go by. Regardless, I’m willing to risk it. I also like their purse-size hand and body lotion. More to the point, it’s all under $10 and available at local drug stores.

4. Forbidden Rice – Michael J and I started eating this on the recommendation of a friend and we haven’t looked back since. Reasonably priced ($3.99 per bag), it has a ton of fiber and protein and can, in some rights, be considered a complete meal. Super nutty. Micheal J makes it up in batches and eats it as an afternoon snack. Chewy, fragrant, filling, and delicious. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, a handy dandy rice cooker helps.

5. Hula Hoops – I must say, when my Aunt Linda told me that she was buying a hula hoop for exercise, I was skeptical. I bought my first one in May and it was pretty dismal, but after a week…. Now I have four – yes four – hula hoops hanging on the hoop rack (a/k/a the Nordic track). Fun, great exercise, and a killer ab work out. There is a lot to say about the hoop, but we’ll suffice, for the time being, with these two words: get one!

6. YogaGlo – Boy, do I wish YogaGlo had an affiliate program. I have single-handedly convinced 6 people to sign up for this membership site. It’s basically live yoga classes streamed from a yoga studio in Santa Monica, CA. They have a ton of teachers, a ton of archived classes, and 6 or 7 different types of yoga. The classes run anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours and you can search for specific things, like Yoga for Insomnia, Travel Yoga, Hip-Openers, Supporting the Immune System, etc. I used to hate yoga, but ever since I found YogaGlo, I have done it regularly since early August. How regularly, you ask? Tomorrow will be my 38th consecutive day.

7. Etsy – A website that gives you access to artist for the purpose of buying unique handcrafted goods. Etsy has been around for a while, but it’s new to me. I love looking at all the cool stuff and I bought my wedding jewelry there. Reasonably priced and much more interesting stuff that you’re likely to find anywhere else.

8. Amazon – Yes, a conglomerate! But I live in a relatively small area (we have a general store, a post office, and a volunteer fire department; all roads but the state highway are dirt). Needless to say, I get a lot of my stuff via post. I have a huge list at Amazon that I get through their subscribe and save program – which means they deliver to you regularly. Some things come automatically once a month, some things every two months, three months, six months, etc. Not only do I not have to think about it, it comes with free postage and a 15% discount. For a while there, I was getting packages every day, but I eventually figured out that I could change the delivery date so now everything comes in one ginormous box.

9. Avocados – What’s to say? I had sort of gone off avocados for awhile, but they’re back. I’ve found that if I put a half of an avocado in my morning smoothie, the day goes a lot better for me food-wise. I guess my holistic nutrition coach wasn’t lying when she told me to eat more fat.

10. Garnet Yams – These gems are well named. Delicious, good for you; they travel well, and they are equally good with black beans and sauteed kale or in a cinnamon/vanilla spice hemp smoothie. I’ve recently learned that slicing them up and steaming them makes them even better for your blood sugar than baking. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my other list.

11. Kale – I could eat kale damn every day. Enough said.

12. Smart Wool Socks – I used to think that wool was for little old British men or grumpy academics. Having moved to the far north, I have reassessed my opinion. And not only is wool for everyone, it’s for every day. I’m not sure what the makers did to these socks, but I wear them winter, spring, summer, and fall. And, believe it or not, they don’t absorb odor like most socks do. Seriously, you can wear these puppies, with boots, and they never stink. And they don’t make your feet sweat. Now, it’s true that I wear lighter ones in the summer than I do in the fall/winter, but that’s not the point. It’s still wool. They are pricey at $16-$24 a pair. I found a semi-decent replacement (not 100% wool, obviously) for $8 at Target. These aren’t as good, but they’re 1/3 the price.

13. Reiki – Pronounced Ray-Key, Reiki refers to both universal energy and the act of transmitting the energy from one person to another; in other words, it’s both the medicine and the delivery system. I had received Reiki a couple of times – I found it to be super relaxing. I decided to get the first Reiki attunement earlier this year and it’s been amazing. I do self-Reiki regularly and I will do it on anyone who’s open to it. I did Reiki on my 70 year old father this holiday season and it was awesome. I love giving it as much as I do getting it. I’ll have more to say on this in future posts as I continue the attunement process.

14. Female Pop Divas – It started when Amy Winehouse died. I realized that all I knew about this woman was that she had been a train wreck waiting to happen. So, probably like a lot of other gawkers, I downloaded her album, Back to Black the day after she died. And like I’d imagine anyone who didn’t know who she was, I was blown away – not only by the voice, but by the depth of the lyrics, and the ridiculousness of her destruction. However, there is only so much Amy Winehouse one can listen to and stay sane (besides, there’s not that much of it). Then onto Florence and the Machine, followed by Adele. I’m not sure what it is about these women that speak to me so much, but there it is. Oh, and let’s not forget my newly found near obsession with Tori Amos….

15. Ugg Boots – Yes, I have Uggs. But can I at least say that they’re not the super trendy boots that the college kids wear even though they’re not waterproof, have no arch support, and little traction? These are the “Not Your Granddaughter’s Uggs” version. They are waterproof and have vibram soles. I’m not sloshing or sliding anywhere in these boats. And they’re super toasty!

16. Convertible Mittens – These aren’t the ones I have, but you get the idea. Super warm, because of the hand-heat, but with flexibility because you can flip open the top and use your fingers to pick things up. And, at least in mine, there is a slit in the thumb so you can poke your thumb out. But the best thing is that when I got for a walk around the pond, my hands get hot, but not hot enough to take the gloves off. So, I can ventilate. And mine are multicolored and cheerful, which make them a perfect accessory during the darkest time of the year.

17. My high speed blender – Still getting multiple uses a day, I literally don’t think I could live my life the way I know it if Michael J hadn’t bought my that Blendtec that fateful day so long ago….

18. Not a Paper Cup Tumbler – an insulated ceramic cup with a silicon lid; perfect for my morning cup of tea on the road. Mine doesn’t have a horse on it, but that’s the only one I could find on-line. I got mine at TJ Maxx for $4.99!

19. Dagoba Chocolate Bars – It always makes me snicker when I see their New Moon and Eclipse bars in the grocery stores…. Regardless, my favorite, hands down is the Xocolatl. I don’t have it often, but when I do, it’s always worth it.

20. And last, but certainly not least, Michael J. (And not just because he keep me stocked in Kombucha, supports my hula hooping, applauds my near egregious use of YogaGlo, doesn’t freak out when he finds avocados ripening in the cabinet next to his amazon-acquired smoothie ingredients, and buys my high speed blenders, but simply because he is).

I’m sure there are others, but that’s probably enough for now.

Ah, even more ways and reasons to eat yams….

I’m consistently blown away by how good the Whole Foods website is.

For instance, check out their page on yams.

I’ll be curious to do the slice and steam prep they recommend for maximum health benefits (including blood sugar regulation), but it’s doubtful that I will ever give up my favorite: Candied Yams Without the Candy.

Although I had originally pitched this as a dessert, I’ve recently paired it with black beans, a little bit of forbidden rice (for texture more than anything else though it too is ridiculously good and good for you) and, last but certainly not least, my favorite kale recipe.

I put it all together on a beautiful multicolored, hand-thrown plate/bowl (7″) and I’m good to go. Not only is it super satisfying, it’s also beautiful with the gem-like colors: emerald, not quite ruby, and onyx. Seriously it’s almost as visually appealing as it is delicious.

You’re seeking the path of what?!

I was sitting in a bakery/coffee house in Jaffrey, N.H., but I felt like I was sitting outside of an catch-as-catch-can Ashram just outside of Iowa City….

It was the second day of my Reiki I class and instead of sitting alone, hoarding the only free wifi in town like I’d done the day before, I pulled up a seat with my classmates. And, instead of sticking with the women I had bonded with the day before, I found myself at a small table with the two men – to neither of whom, I had spoken a word.

Given that I’ve never been one for small talk (not to mention the 2:7 male-female ratio in the class), I jumped right in.

“So,” I say to the guy sitting across from me who I know is a Physician’s Assistant, but who is reluctant about telling anyone at work that he’s doing Reiki, “how did you get here?”

In retrospect, I see that that could be seen as a weird question. Maybe a better question would have been, “Why are you here?” or, better yet, “Why did you decide to enroll in a class that you’re too embarrassed about to tell your colleagues?”

Though perhaps, given his response, it wouldn’t have mattered: “I’m seeking the path of enlightenment.”

I swear, where’s your pocket McKenna when you need it?

I blinked.

“Excuse me?” I prompted gently.

He repeated his answer, very earnest. He’s a very earnest young man, I’ll give him that much.

I shook my head slightly and took a bite of what has to be one of the most micro-managed, yet lovingly assembled, chef salads in the planet. Not only did I ask for it without dressing, I also had them hold the cheese, the ham, the red onions, and the croutons and, if they didn’t mind, add extra spinach and turkey.

It was essentially romaine, spinach, a ton of turkey, and an avocado that I had picked at the grocery store that morning before class, a handful of raw cashews, and some fresh lemon. All things considered, it was amazingly satisfying. (Although this may seem like a digression, at that moment all I could do was study the content and quality of my salad.)

“I don’t mean to be harsh or anything,” I began. And the thing is, I didn’t. I really didn’t and I still don’t. “But what does that even mean?”

Our table-mate choked around his tuna melt and immediately goes for the cookie, suggesting that he, like most people I know, reach for sugar when the going gets tough.

It was his turn to blink. “I’m not really sure.”

I nodded encouragingly. “But you’ll know when you get there?”

He smiled as he bit into his dill spear. “Exactly.”

You know, I could have stopped there and maybe I should have. But I didn’t.

“But what does it mean? What are you actually doing in order to get there – other than this…” I waved my hand between the two tables… “of course.”

“Well, I eat healthy.” He hesitated. “I meditate a lot. I’m learning Reiki.”

I kept nodding, because at this point, I could have been talking to myself or at least half of my friends.

“Oh,” he added after a bit of thought. “I do a lot of yoga. I find that I get a lot out of yoga.”

I take a quick mental note of how I spend my days, these days: check, check, check, and, well, check.

Does that mean that I, too, am on a path of enlightenment or is simply that my daily activities resemble his quest for a spiritual plane that is currently more lofty than the one in which he currently finds himself?

Then I had a crazy thought: ‘What if that is the path and I just happen to have stumbled on it accidentally?’ Even as I speared a particularly luscious piece of avocado, I decided that that was ludicrous. But the question remained – well actually a couple of questions remained:

1) What is enlightenment?

2) Can we all have different paths?

And, perhaps, the most troubling:

3) Why is it that I am doing what I’m doing?

I don’t have answers for these questions. In fact, I’m not sure that I need answers to these questions. But even if I did (need answers, that is) they would be beyond the scope of any particular blog post.

So, instead of tackling that today, I’m going to dig out Mr. McKenna (and maybe even my tarot cards [I bet you think I’m kidding]) and give it some thought. Who knows, I might even meditate on it.

When I figure something out – or maybe even before then – you’ll be the first to know.

Becoming a cliche (and not minding all that much)

I always tell my students that stereotypes exist for a reason, but it doesn’t mean that we have to fulfill them.

I’m beginning to see that the same thing holds for cliches and, despite my best efforts, I have done exactly what I’d said I’d never do: become one.

I’m actually so far gone into cliche-dom, it’s hard to tell the forest from the trees. Simply put, I’ve become like every other 40-something woman I know.

It started with Tony Robbins.

Then segued smoothly into an interest in holistic health.

Then it was other self-help programs.

Add in coaching…

Add in massage…

And blogging…

And women’s retreats

And health supplements…

And green smoothies…

And chiropractic…

And acupuncture…

And belly dance…

And hoop dance…

And yoga….

And now, last (well, probably not) and certainly not least, Reiki and meditation.

What happened to the driven type A professor who worked 8-10 hours a day, 6-7 days a week and worked out (hard!) approximately twice a day? You know, the woman who scoffed at yoga and whose idea of meditation was the 5-6 hours between midnight and 5 where, admittedly, she was lying down with her eyes closed…and probably breathing, though may not through her nose.

What is it about the 40s?

As someone who is much further along her spiritual path than I am (and more about that later) recently told me: “We all like to think we’re unique, but essentially we’re just a bunch of bozos on a bus.”

The thing is, I love my life; I’m having a great relationship with my body (in fact, one could say we’re having a love affair of epic proportion after years of abstinence); I actually feel better than I have in years.

But when I look in the mirror (with my crystals and rocks) after having stowed my yoga mat, strap, blocks, and bolster, I can’t help but ask: “How did get here?”

I asked my new husband if he minded me not only turning into a cliche (but also his ex-wife) he assured me he was cool with it. Though on second thought, he did draw the line at snake handling. I guess no one’s perfect! 😉

Maybe not all 40-something year old women are slaves to personal/spiritual development; maybe it’s the just ones that I know. If that’s the case, it makes more sense, because as sociologists have known for years – change your peer group, change your life.

For now I’ve decided that the little voice inside of my head (the one that uses words like “cliche”) is just the part of me who doesn’t want me to change; the part of me that doesn’t like balance, doesn’t trust it.

For now, I am going to continue what I’m “called” to do and what I firmly believe is going to heal all of the damage I did during the first 36 years of my life between the extra weight, the processed food, the horrifically abusive people that I not only welcomed into my life but actually invited, and the unending – unmitigated – stress. For now, I will ignore that little voice, but I, too, for the sake of marital harmony (among other reasons), will draw the line when it comes to snakes.

Resistance is what you make it

I was on the phone with a friend of mine who was telling me that she loves yoga. She loves everything about it: the clothes, the way it makes her feel, the music…. She just can’t get herself to go to class.

My ears perk up: “Try YogaGlo!” And then I go into the long laundry list of reasons why I think YogaGlo is the best thing since GT’s Multigreen Kombucha.

When I stop to take a breath, she says, “You’re way more committed to working out at home than I am. There’s just so much resistance to working out at home. It’s too hard.”

What?!

“Wait a minute,” I say. “If I had to go to a class to do yoga, I’d never go, whereas I do yoga at home almost twice a day.”

And here’s why.

When you work out at a class you have to:

1) Get dressed (either in your yoga clothes or get all of your stuff together to change there; if it’s the latter, insert a step between 8 & 9 to change clothes dressed and somewhere around 14-16 to change back into your street clothes).
2) Go outside.
3) Get in your car (because there is not a studio anywhere near my house [or hers for that matter]).
4) Drive for 20 minutes.
5) Find a parking spot.
6) Walk inside.
7) Check in at the front desk.
8) Go put your stuff somewhere.
9) Find the class (which is only offered at a particular time a day or day per week).
10) Pick your spot.
11) Go get your props.
12) Do your class.
13) Put away your props.
14) Go get your stuff (now you may need to change or shower or what have you, so number accordingly).
15) Walk to the car.
16) Drive to wherever you’re going next.

Now, here’s what I do:

1) I turn the alarm off and roll out of bed.
2) If I slept in pajamas, I go downstairs, pee and get a drink (though if I slept naked, I get dressed first).
3) Grab the props.
4) Turn on the iPad (or maybe even the Apple TV if I’m feeling particularly ambitious).
5) Hit the icon on my desktop for YogaGlo.
6) Pick my class (which, to tell you the truth, is often the most challenging part).
7) Take a deep breath.
8) Following savasana, I grab a fleece and make a smoothie.

It was just really funny to me that she thought that my routine was so much more challenging (or caused so much more resistance) than hers.

But since she wasn’t following through with hers either, I convinced her to at least try mine for a while. And maybe I really will do that local Bikram class this winter – goodness knows that in this neck of the woods, the heat should feel pretty darned good.

A smoothie by any other name….

I am going to spend the weekend in a small town in New Hampshire to get my Reiki I adjustment. I’m spending the night at a local B&B.

Because I tend to have very weird – by most people’s standards – requirements for breakfast, I decided to email the innkeeper to let her know that I don’t do wheat or dairy (sob!) and that I’d be good to go if I could just bring a blender and make a smoothie in her kitchen.

Her very gracious reply:

Yes, I do serve breakfast and I do have a blender. I buy fruit for the weekend. Do you want me to purchase something special for the smoothie? Bananas, strawberries, pineapple? or something gluten free – we have a good range of products up here.

Hmm… Fruit in a smoothie. What a novel idea. Unfortunately, my body responds to sugar (including the natural fruits a normal smoothie drinker might actually put in a smoothie, as if were crack.

I write back:

Some spinach, maybe. Or some romaine.

Her prompt response:

You got it!

You know, I tend to be shy about asking for what I need in certain situations. I’m perfectly fine to give a waiter a run for their money (in the most polite way possible) in order to get my needs met, but somehow I had always held back when it came to B&B’s. But I guess what they say – whomever they may actually be – ask and you shall receive.

It’s shaping up to be a lovely weekend!

New Winter Dessert Smoothie

I know that for most people, the words “winter” and “smoothie” rarely go in the same sentence.

However, I am one of those people that love cold, creamy desserts all year long.

Unfortunately, like most of the people in my family, I can no longer easily reach for ice cream or even a milkshake, as my ability to digest dairy (even raw dairy and goat’s milk yogurt, which is totally annoying) has diminished with age.

I can eat it (or drink it); it’s not like it causes me to swell up or anything like that. But it makes me feel crappy and it really throws a wrench in my normal digestion.

So for me, protein based shakes have become a staple – not only for breakfast, but also for snacks and desserts.

My newest concoction is perfect for the fall. I haven’t yet come up with the perfect name yet, but here it goes.

Vanilla Garnet Spiced Smoothie

8-12 ounces of cold water (or unsweetened almond milk)
4 tablespoons of Raw Organic Living Harvest Hemp Powder – Vanilla Spice Formula
1 medium garnet yam, cooked
1 tablespoon of psyllium husk (or Yerba Prima’s Colon Care)
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 pinch of pink sea salt
1/8 teaspoon of xantham gum, to thicken

Put all of the ingredients in a blender (preferably a high speed blender, though it may not be necessary for this particular recipe).

This is ridiculously good. I’m sure that you could also use pumpkin, but since I had a yam on hand, I just tossed it in – skin and all!

It hits all my buttons, the ingredients are super healthy, and it’s chock full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. It also tastes suspiciously like a pumpkin pie milk shake (especially if you use almond milk as opposed to water). And if you’re worried about being cold, the cinnamon and the cayenne are very warming; I’m sure that cloves or nutmeg would also be excellent.

I’ve had it twice this way and I’m pretty happy with it. However, because I’m really conscious of adding more fat to my diet – yes, you heard me, more fat to my diet – I may throw in half an avocado or a tablespoon or two of coconut oil, manna, or creamed coconut.

I’ll keep you posted as the recipe evolves and if you try it, please do the same!

p.s. Now this makes a lot of smoothie, so you could easily serve four as a dessert!

From ‘Yoga? Uh, No’ to ‘YogaGlo’

If you’ve been following me for a while (or if you’ve known me for any length of time) you’ll know that an exercise shift of seismic proportions has taken place.

Two years ago, I spent at least 7-8 hours a week at the gym, mostly in an anaerobic state. And I’d spend at least two (if not 3) hours at home on the nordic track.

If asked, I would say that I was addicted to cardio. I liked to sweat. I loved exercise. I liked the gym (though, for the life of me, I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been there).

Whenever I would talk to my friends they would say, I bet you’d love yoga. Or even better, my boyfriend: “According to Bob Weir, yoga is the ultimate exercise.”

Uh huh.

Thank you, but no.

I had this thing – you know, like an equal sign in the brain – where I essentially equated yoga with no exercise or, worse, a complete waste of time.

I also had an equal sign between people who did yoga with “preciousness.”

I think this one came from one too many times at Omega, where I’d set my mat up in front of the floor to ceiling window, in the front row, 15 minutes before class started, only to have some supposedly “super conscious” skinny cow wearing Lululemon would sneak in 15 seconds after class had already started and wedge herself between me and the window. Now, granted, she was skinny, but she wasn’t see through. And although she might have been internally aware, her external awareness needed some work. But I digress….

You see, what was really going on was that I also had a complementary equal sign: exercise = calorie burn.

I didn’t burn calories when I did yoga (at least not as many as I did on a spinning bike or on the nordic track), thus from a calories in-calories out model of weight loss, it wasn’t exercise.

I hadn’t quite figured out why it was that everyone that I knew who was addicted to yoga had the proverbial “yoga body.” Though self-selection, I figured, was as reasonable an explanation as any.

This summer, Michael and I went to go visit a friend-couple of his. Cheryl, who was quite a bit thinner than she’d been when I’d met her the year before, mentioned that she’d started doing – you got it – yoga. Granted, it was Bikram Yoga. And because you sweat in Bikram Yoga my primate brain perked up. Besides, 10 pounds is 10 pounds. I wasn’t able to go with her that weekend (we all overslept following Chris’ 50th birthday bash), but I filed the thought away and upon returning home, I did a search for Bikram yoga in my area. And, after many attempts, came up dry (no pun intended)

But in the process, I stumbled across this website called, “YogaGlo.”

YogaGlo, located in Santa Monica, is a free yoga studio that streams their classes online for only $18 a month, which is the cost of most single drop in classes. They have a variety of classes (in terms of style, length, intensity); they have a variety of instructors (many of whom are nationally recognized yoga teacher trainers); they have searching features so that you can search for classes in terms of duration, style, intensity, specific use (such as hip openers, immunity booster, yoga for insomnia, morning yoga, etc); they have a beginner series for each style of yoga so you can get introduced to the principles in a step-by-step manner; they have a way to favorite your favorite classes; they keep a history of the classes you’ve taken; and they have a practice tracker. They also offer a 15 day trial for free. I thought, why not? I liked the Santa Monica vibe and I figured that if I didn’t like one class, I could try another. If one instructor got on my nerves (which has only happen once or twice) there were at least eight more to try from. If I only had 15 minutes, they had classes for that. Heck, if I only had 5 minutes, they could accommodate that too. And if I didn’t feel like yoga, maybe I could try one of their many meditation sequences, something else I hadn’t ever fully been able to embrace.

So, I signed up.

And out of that first 15 days, I did 17 hours of yoga. That was in August.

Though the number of hours that I spend on the mat has decreased, I still average about 4 days a week (usually once a day, but sometimes twice) and boy does my body feel the better for it. And it looks better too. To the point that someone I had never met took one look at me and said, “Well, you have great posture. You obviously do a lot of yoga.” (I’d have preferred a yoga body, but hey, posture’s a start 😉

So what was it about Yogaglo what liberated me from “Yoga? Uh, no.”

1) It’s cheap.
2) It’s really good.
3) There’s a lot of variety (both in terms of classes and instructors).
4) Even though you’re not getting adjustments, it does actually feel like you’re in a real class.
5) Because in some sense it is a real class, you’re getting a lot of information about the various types of practices.
6) Because you can search for specific uses (travel yoga, evening yoga, energizing yoga) you can get exactly what you want.
7) Because it’s streamed, if you find the perfect class, you can do it again.
8) You can do yoga without having to deal with anyone else (maybe that’s not being particularly enlightened on my part, but there you have it).
9) Because there are so many options (and they’re always loading new classes) it’s almost impossible to get bored. Think about it, for less than the cost of a semi decent lunch, I’ve got access to over two years of yoga courses…and counting.
10) And because they have a an account tracker, I can keep track of my practice. This isn’t quite as crazy as counting calories – which I have given up again – but it’s sort of interesting to see just how much yoga you’ve done and how consistent you’re being over time.

Anyway, I am a total yoga junkie these days. I even bought a yoga themed tea cup.

Oh well, there are worse things I could be addicted to. In fact, there are worse things I have been addicted to, including, but certainly not limited to, the anaerobic cardio with which I began this post.

For those of you who are already into yoga, I won’t mention the benefits of yoga, but for those of you who were skeptical like me: just try it. At least for 15 days.

Namaste.

P.S. As I was writing this, I stumbled across my local Bikram Yoga Studio – go figure. I might try out the visitor’s pass: $20 for 10 consecutive days.

KJ: An Owner’s Guide

I was on the phone with my coach, Steph, when she asked me a couple of really interesting questions – which, given that she’s a very good at what she does wasn’t that that surprising. However, as almost always happens when I’m talking with Steph, what was surprising was my answer.

“So what do you have going on that you might be worried about or feeling some tension around?” (I’m paraphrasing here, by the way.)

I hesitated, not entirely sure. Because to tell you the truth, things have been pretty darned awesome lately.

But you know what happens when you ask – eventually you’ll find something. I finally admitted – a little sheepishly – that I was a little concerned about what’s coming next and whether I’ll be able to maintain my overall feelings of awesomeness as I get even busier than I am now.

Again, I’m paraphrasing, but I think I likened it to having created a perfect smoothie, only to realize that I had yet to dump three trays of ice into the Blendtec. It’s the age old question: Will it blend?

Without missing a beat, Steph asked: “So what are you doing now to take care of yourself?”

It seems like an innocuous question, does it not?

But embedded in that relatively simple question is a massive kernel of truth (if not wisdom).

Things aren’t just going well; things are going well because I am doing things to make them go well.

Whether things are “going well” have little to do with what’s going on around me and almost everything to do with what I am doing. As a symbolic interactionist, I have known this for years, but like most academics, knowledge is not always practiced in the real world or, as Erving Goffman would say, “in every day life.”

So, what am I doing now that is so different from other points in my life? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit. Thus, the next real question to grapple with is how do I keep doing these things while adding in all of my other opportunities and obligations?

Things That Make KJ Tick:

1) Hula Hooping
2) Yoga
3) Listening to self-development programs
4) Attending retreats
5) Using essential oils
6) Meditation
7) Weekly phone calls with a friend who is on a similar path
8) Eating very healthy food (and eating it slowly with presence and appreciation in a state of relaxation)
9) More sleep (and less alcohol)
10) Reading for pleasure
11) Going to walks
12) Taking care of my skin
13) Blogging
14) Chasing the sunlight
15) Wearing fun clothes
16) Adding fat to my diet (1/2 an avocado for breakfast, 1 Tb coconut oil at lunch and another at dinner, and a Tb of nut butter [or just nuts] for a snack
17) Listening to music
18) Drinking tea
19) Paying off debt
20) Staying connected with friends and family
21) Hanging with the cat
22) Talking to my inner child
23) Deep breathing exercises
24) Visualization

And these don’t even include the time I spend with my new husband and all of the things we get up to that probably shouldn’t be enumerated here 😉

The point is, things aren’t just going well because the stars have lined up in my favor. Things are going well because I’ve finally learned how to take care of myself.

I decided to blog about this so that I’ll have a written record of what’s working for me right now so that if things take a turn for the worse, I can go back and ask, Have I been following my own owner’s guide? What have I forgotten to do lately that may be affecting my mood, my productivity, my resiliency, or my health?

The second reason I decided to blog about this is, if there’s anyone else out there reading this, to ask: When things are going well, what are you doing – or what have you done – to get them there? What are you committed to doing to make sure they continue that way? In other words: What’s in your owner’s guide? And how committed are you to make sure they get done?

Thanksgiving – the bane of dieters everywhere (or not)

Thanksgiving, hmph. In years past, I would have simply said bah humbug and be done with it.

Although I know that Thanksgiving is theoretically supposed to be about giving thanks, it’s always been a source of stress for me (no matter where or with whom I was “celebrating” it). I think that is, in so small part, due to the fact that I have never truly celebrated Thanksgiving. Instead, I dreaded it. I didn’t dread it so much for the time spent with family (in fact, I actually like my family – now, families – and look forward to spending time with them), but because it was the kick-off of the non-stop feeding frenzy that is the holiday season within the U.S., or to be fair, at least in my neck of the U.S.

Over the last few weeks, however, I have adopted a “pleasure-based” approach to weight-loss. I believe the originator of this approach is Marc David, author of the book, The Slow Down Diet. However, the person who got me to fully embrace it is one of David’s protegees, Jena la Flamme.

The book itself is an 8 week breakthrough diet program which is less concerned about what you eat than it is how you eat it, when you eat it, and under what circumstances. According to David your body automatically goes into relaxation mode (or pleasure). When you are relaxed, or in a state of pleasure, your metabolism heats up and you burn calories and build muscle more easily. Thus, pleasure is a weight loss dream, whereas stress (which causes your body to store fat and shut down muscle building due to the increased cortisol and insulin in your bloodstream) is a weight-loss nightmare.

Ideally, every time one sits down to eat, she should be in a relaxed state. She should breathe before, during, and after the meal (if only to trick the body that it’s relaxed). She should eat slowly and truly enjoy it. She should also forget about calories.

Shorthand: You stress about the food you’re eating, or even about the food that you’re not eating, you gain weight. When you enjoy the food you’re eating, or even the food that you’re not eating, you lose weight.

So, for the last two weeks, I’ve been doing this. Breathing. Slowing down. Not stressing about food. Really tasting the food that I’m eating, etc. And regardless of whether I’m actually burning more calories or building more muscle, I am eating less. Much less. And I’m way more satisfied at the end of a meal. Interesting.

I also realize that when I slow down enough to really taste something, I may not like it as much as I thought I did. A few night ago, for example, M was eating blue corn tortilla chips that smelled awesome. I enjoyed the smell – in fact, I got a tremendous amount of pleasure from the scent. However, when I finally tried one, and really took the time to savor it, it was too oily. In fact, I ate half – yes, half a chip – and threw the other half away. I’ve had similar experiences with chocolate that I used to eat huge blocks of. I’ve also gotten rid of my peanut addiction (touch wood), not by not eating or determining that I don’t like it, but enjoying it when I eat it. You see, what was happening before was that I was eating it, but I wasn’t tasting it. I wasn’t savoring it. I’d literally eat 4 – sometimes more – tablespoons in a 2 or 3 minute sitting and still want more. However, when I put 1 tablespoon in a chocolate hemp shake and sit down and really taste the cold peanut butter chocolate goodness…I am more than satisfied.

So what does this have to do with Thanksgiving?

Well, I got an email from Marc David this morning the following subject line: Can Thanksgiving Really Make Your Metabolism Run Hotter?

To do it justice, I will just reproduce it here, in it’s entirely:

Dear Kathryn

Last week I was contacted by CNN so they could get some “expert” advice on how not to eat like a pig when eating your turkey. Every year for the last several decades, some major news outlet asks me such questions around Thanksgiving as if they’ve never been asked before. Seems that too many people are worried about eating too many calories, which would mean too many extra pounds, which means too many subsequent days of punishing exercise and food prison. What a conundrum. We’re trying to celebrate the “discovery” of America, which we didn’t really discover, by giving thanks for such bountiful amounts of food, which we feel guilty about eating. I wonder if the pilgrims were as concerned about fitting into those cute colonial clothes as we are about fitting into our yoga pants.

So, when the young smart eager-to-learn interviewer at CNN asked me what the best strategy was to limit our appetite around the holidays, I had one rather un-profound answer:

Don’t.

I went on to say that I felt we needed, as a culture, more ritual. But the healthy kind of ritual. The type of ritual where we can stop the work, slow down, feast, feel, discuss, giggle, pontificate, resuscitate, inebriate, integrate, and above all else, celebrate. Far too much time is spent in the American way of chasing after more. Yet more never seems to be enough. Giving thanks is a rather odd notion in the material times we live in. Some of us have so much access to so much food that we’ve become enslaved to our fears of eating, our fears of body fat, and gripped by the massive illogic of media images that would have our women looking like fashion-conscious starvation victims, and our men looking euro-slim and cash heavy.

Ritual can heal us. The human psyche loves repetition, loves eternally returning to a happy and holy place. Thanksgiving is as good as it gets. Calorie-count another time. Give thanks for food, for love, for life, for your body, for what you have right now. Healing happens when love is present. Metabolism gets hotter when we relax. Digestion is empowered when we feel pleasured. And food increases in nutritional value when it’s shared with others.

Thank you for your continued friendship and camaraderie and support. Though we likely haven’t met, I believe you and I are enthusiastic about and committed to the same positive messages about food, nutrition, health, and Life. The world needs so much healing. Lets give thanks that we are fortunate enough to be up to the task. And for one day, and at least one day, lets celebrate the Journey.

My warmest regards,

Marc David
Founder & Director
Institute for the Psychology of Eating
303-440-7642
info@psychologyofeating.com
http://www.psychologyofeating.com

It seems scary, but I think I’m going to do this.

This year I am going to celebrate Thanksgiving. I will count my blessings. I will express my gratitude and my love for those around me and for those who are further away. I will nourish my body in a state of relaxed joy and consummate pleasure.

Now, does this mean that I’m going to eat everything in sight? No, it means I am going to slow down, taste my food, only eat what tastes wonderful to me at that moment and will make me feel good for the rest of the day, and check in with myself regularly to see if the current bite tastes as good or less good than the bite before. I will also make sure that I am eating for energy, instead of putting myself into the traditional Thanksgiving come.

In other words, I will celebrate the food. I will celebrate my family. And, perhaps most importantly, I will celebrate my body, because without her, everything else would be for not.

What are you doing this Thanksgiving?

Happy Holidays!

Deflection Writ Large – When Did I Become One of Those Women?

According to affect control theory (a social psychological theory of identity) people create events to confirm their fundamental identities. Simply put, if we think we’re a good person, we create events where we engage in good behaviors and we’re more likely to do these good behaviors in good settings, while feeling good emotions. This is the reason why people who think they’re lovable often find themselves with people who love them (almost like magic), whereas those who think they’re unlovable find themselves in situations with people who don’t.

It’s also why people who continue to see themselves as fat – even after they’ve lost weight – tend to gain it back.

If it’s not clear yet, just know that this is the root of the self-fulfilling prophecy, not to mention classic self-sabotage.

The weekend before last, I went and did a workshop on pleasurable weight loss. I know that particular phrase may seem like an oxymoron, but there’s definitely something there. The workshop facilitator, Jena, spent a lot of time talking about sexy. One of her premises is that until sexy is safe, you will never lose weight.

Actually, although that’s not the purpose of this particular blog post, just sit with that for a moment and see if it resonates: Until sexy is safe, you will never lose weight.

She then asked us to write down all of the negative thoughts we had associated with “being sexy,” and then she invited us to the microphone to share.

It’s dangerous.
I’ll get unwanted attention.
It’s scary.
I’ll get wanted attention.
It’s dangerous.
More people will be attracted to me.

As more and more women got up to share, the trend was clear. They were all afraid of getting more – more love, more attention, more sex, more harassment, more intimacy….

I finally stood up and went to the mic.

“Hi, I’m KJ, and my most insidious one is that nothing will change. I won’t get more attention. I won’t get more intimacy. More people won’t be attracted to me. And then I’ll know that it’s not my body that’s the problem – but me.”

A woman sitting in the front row shook her head slowly, considering my words. “Wow,” she said quietly, “that’s a good one.” (I always was an over achiever – even when it didn’t serve me).

Later that afternoon, on a break, a petite blonde approached me in the kitchen.

“Hi, I’m B and I’m curious about your story after what you said earlier at the mic.”

I began to explain the statement, when she stopped me. “No, I want to know why you think you have weight to lose. I’m a health practitioner and if you were to come see me, I wouldn’t work with you. I make my living assessing people’s body weight and you don’t have any to lose. I want to know why you think you do.”

She looked like a nice woman and she never raised her voice. There was no judgment; only compassion. Well, compassion and curiosity.

You would have thought though, by my reaction, that she’d been waving a hot poker!

I got all defensive (the affect control term for this state is deflection – that is, the difference between your fundamental self sentiment and your situated self sentiment) and started defending my history. Luckily she just stood there and let me babble until I realized what I was doing (not to mention what I sounded like).

I took a deep breath. Folded my hands in front of my heart, then opened them.

“Let me just receive this for a minute.”

She just stood there.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for bringing this up for me, let me think on this and I will get back with you.”

“You’re welcome.”

The next day, I was talking to a few other women when the health assessor (my accuser;) walked by. I told the women that I was with that I needed to follow up with her on something she’d said the day before.

“Did she say something that upset you?”

I essentially told them the story and they both blinked.

“You know,” one of them said, “I actually thought that myself. When you said that yesterday, I thought, ‘she doesn’t have any weight to lose.'”

The other woman nodded. “Yeah, I thought that too.”

The deflection spiked, but not nearly as much.

I stopped, before I said anything, breathed, and received it. I then excused myself and went and found the health assessor and we talked again.

I’m changing my fundamental sentiment regarding myself; I’m going to let the story go. Because I don’t want to be shooting myself in the foot or presenting like someone with a major body image problem or worse, an eating disorder. I also don’t want to be one “of those women” who, when they stand up and talk about weight, other women look at and dismiss everything they say out of hand simply “because [they] don’t have any weight to lose.”

According to affect control theory, when an individual experiences a discrepancy between their “fundamental sentiments” regarding self and their situated self they experience deflection (often perceived as a sense of unlikelihood). In order to reduce that feeling of what is, essentially, cognitive or affective dissonance, the individual must either change their behavior, their identity, or both.

In the past, I would have changed my behavior by eating and gaining weight so that no one would mistake me for someone who “didn’t have weight to lose.” This time, instead of reaching for the peanut butter, I’m going to change my identity – or at least the story about who I am.

I’m no longer the woman who struggles with her weight.

I am a woman at peace with my body, who loves myself as much as any food. I am also a woman who has a lot to say about weight loss, not because of the weight I still need to lose, but because of the weight I’ve already lost and kept off.

Thank you, Jena, for creating the space for that interaction to occur. Thank you, B, for asking the question and simply holding space for me while I struggled and flailed for an answer. And thank you, the two women whose names I have forgotten, for not writing me off like I’ve written off so many skinny women before me.

May all of us recognize our destinations and come to enjoy – truly enjoy – the fruits of our labors, whatever those fruits (or labors) may be.

Namaste.

Forgiving the perpetrator

As may or may not be clear in the subtext of this blog, my husband (wow, that still seems strange) and I are very much in to self-development. We started off doing things together, but about a year and a half ago, I started doing programs geared more towards women and he, as you might guess, didn’t.

One of the cool things about doing things together is simply we like spending time together and since self-development weekends or sometimes even weeks, usually push at one or more of one or both of our hidden buttons. Then again, that’s why they’re called self-development. It’s a good opportunity for us to work through those things together – that is, if we’re together.

One of the cool things about doing things apart, however, is that we’re pulling a larger variety of ideas into the couple. And when we relate the information to each other after the fact, it’s a good chance to integrate the material. It’s true that the best way to learn something yourself is to teach to it someone else. Trust me on this one.

During the last session of a year long program that M attended, his coaches introduced something called family constellations (which is apparently some sort of family systems thing). We spent one evening talking this through. I must admit that I was initially turned off, because they use terms like the victim, the perpetrator, and the hero. (Other similar systems, I even more recently found out, use similarly cheesy terms: firefighter, manager, and exile.)

I’m totally oversimplifying this, but according to the model as M understood it, in order to be free (or to have freedom in your life) you, as the victim, must forgive the perpetrator. And in order to do this you must first acknowledge that the conditions that you grew up in were absolutely perfect for the life that you have now.

Caveat: that’s my understanding of his understanding. (Have you ever played Gossip? In other words, I may have totally screwed it up, but I found meaning it in nonetheless.)

Okay, I was trying to explain this to a friend of mine and her face pretty much seized. Once she was able to get her teeth unclenched, she managed: “We’re going to have to come back to that one.”

My own way to avoid dealing with this was to assume that I had nothing to forgive. I mean, my parents didn’t starve or beat me or anything like that….. I looked at my shadowy places; no grudges there.

Then I happened to read a blog post that I wrote not a few months ago, nor even a few weeks ago, but a few days ago.

I quote: “Would I have preferred to have grown up skinny? Absolutely.”

Hmm, that doesn’t sound like perfection. And if I was willing to cast my parents in the role of perpetrator and, even harder still, myself in the role of the victim…. Maybe I owe someone an apology for holding a grudge, even one that wasn’t openly acknowledged. Maybe I owe someone some forgiveness, because if I have a secret grudge, might they not be carrying around some secret guilt or at least some degree of responsibility? Responsibility, if my childhood was absolutely perfect, that is misplaced. And how much better would my relationships with 1) my parents, 2) myself, and 3) my body be if I could clear – either energetically or face-to-face all of this hidden resentment/blame and misplaced responsibility/fear.

Note: know that I hate the terms victim and perpetrator. When I think about myself being a “victim” it doesn’t seem to ring true, because I had agency. And I also don’t think of my parents as perpetrators, because when I think about them being “perpetrators” I tend to think of negative intent and I know that there was no negative intent on their part. Having said that, I am going to go ahead and work within the metaphor.

So here it goes. Why were the conditions of childhood obesity perfect?

1) Just because someone is thin when they are young, does not mean that they will be thin later in life. In fact, most of the super thin healthy people I know now are super healthy and thin because they were overweight at some point in their life. And most of the overweight unhealthy people I know were thin when they were young. Part of the reason they’re struggling (or not) now is because they never had to develop the habits or they’re not identified with their weight, which may or may not have significant consequences on their health. One could say, and it wouldn’t be far from the truth, that part of the reason that I am so healthy and weight conscious (which can be both good and bad) is because I was obese as a child. So, was it worth 16 years of fat to have 70 years of normal weight (assuming I inherited my grandparents’ longevity gene?) Absolutely. Not only do I forgive you, I thank you.

2) Whether it was the result or part of the cause (or both) of my ever expanding girth, my sister and I spent more time in libraries than on playgrounds. My mother would trundle us up an city buses and we’d go to the central library in our towns every week in the summer, where we would check out the maximum number of books, which I believe was ten…each. During those summers, sitting underneath window air conditioners or box fans, and probably eating homemade chocolate chip cookies and ice cream (or Oreos dipped in milk) I developed a love of books, not to mention words. When my sister and I finished our ten books each, usually by Friday, we’d spend the rest of the week making up stories or writing our own. These habits, just like the ones regarding health that I developed after my sixteenth birthday will last a lifetime. And, let’s be honest, they served me well. Can anyone say tenured faculty member at an Ivy League Institution? Thank you.

3) And because I was chubby (cough) at a time when most teens weren’t, I also didn’t draw unwarranted (note that I didn’t say unwanted) attention from boys until I was well into my upper teens. And I didn’t start experimenting until into my 20s. It’s true that I had a slew of crap relationships well into my mid twenties (and then another batch in my early thirties), but i retrospect, I was just learning what most of my skinny peers had learned in their teens. If I hadn’t been slow of the mark, due to my weight, I might have married early on and I wouldn’t have met my beloved at the exact moment and time when we could be together as we are now. So again, not only do I forgive you (whether the you is my parents or myself), I also thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Now, I could go on, but I think these are the big three. And, as I said, I really hate the term victim, so I want to move on to not-victim as soon as possible. I take full accountability for my actions, for every Little Debbie treat eaten in the closet of my Grandmother’s house, all of it, because if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be me. And, you know what? After years of self-development, I love me. Every part of me. Even those that I used to despise.

So, again, thank you.

P.S. Just to lighten the mood, this, more than any other piece of “art,” surmises my attitude toward the word, “Victim” – Enjoy.

It’s that time of year again (winter wardrobe reset)

Every October or November, I pull out my sweater collection and I think, ugh. Why are these suddenly too short, too long, too ugly, too boring or just too not what I want to have on my body? It never fails. In all fairness, I do have two sweaters that have survived the annual purge, not just once, but multiple times: a black sweater from the GAP and a grey one from Banana Republic. In fact, I bought them both the same year: in 1997. Pretty good, huh?

Now there are also a couple of recent acquisitions that also made the cut – like this super cool textured sweater that I got God knows where (probably someplace cheesy like Kohl’s or TJ Maxx as shopping is limited in my neck of the woods) and a couple of cardigan-like things (one brown, one orange, one turquoise, one brown, one black, and one red).

But I really wanted sweaters.

You know, the kind you pull over your head and make your hair go all over the place. The kind you layer over soft t-shirts and wear over jeans and short skirt with wool leggings. You know, those kinds of sweaters.

So this year, instead of making my annual pilgrimage to Kohl’s or TJ Maxx (this time not because they’re cheesy – see above – but because they’re closed due to flooding) or driving an hour or two to the nearest mall, I headed to the local community center. I’ve written about this place before.

I decided to go see “if they had some sweaters.” I walked out with two garbage bags of clothes – so much for my chosen goal of lightening up. The only saving grace is that all proceeds go to help feed, clothe, and shelter people in the community…or at least that’s what I keep telling myself anyway (and anybody else who might see me carrying around two trash bags of clothes!)

So, to the degree that I remember the haul, here’s what I got:

1 black sweater (Banana Republic)
1 black turtleneck (Chico’s)
1 red sweater (Ralph Lauren)
1 purple sweater (Charter House)
1 sable sweater (The Limited)
1 brown sweater (tags still on)
1 long sleeved pullover shirt, lace (J.Jill)
1 long sleeved button up shirt (J.Jill)
1 pair of carpenter pants (Gap)
1 red fleece (??)
1 (more) red sweater
1 (more) brown sweater (American Eagle Outfitters)
1 killer jacket (Coldwater Creek)
and….

1 slinky black skirt.

Now, it would be one thing to just tell you that I got all of this stuff for less than $50. (Compare this to the $180 shopping spree that I witnessed from my little sister, who got one pair of jeans, two t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a handful of underwear, and some earrings.) But to stop there wouldn’t do justice to my shopping experience.

On a whim, I went back into the co-ed changing room and slipped into said slinky black skirt. It is one of those garments that has two zippers. One at the waist, so that you can put it on. And one at the foot, so that you can 1) get into a car or 2) go to the bathroom while you’re wearing in. I slide both zippers up; it fits like a glove and, despite that I’d paired it with winter boots and a blue fleece, I must say that it looked pretty darned good.

Just as I decided that, yes, this skirt was me, I reached around to unzip the back, when, lo and behold, I realized that the zipper that zipped so easily going up was stuck. I’m not talking a little stuck, but a lot stuck. It literally wouldn’t budge. I tried my left hand. I tried my right hand. I held it away from my body. I pulled it up. I straightened it out. I turned around (for good measure). I turned it around. I think I may have prayed. I most certainly laughed.

And I’m not sure if it was anxiety or just my 41 year old bladder having a good joke, but all of a sudden, I had to pee.

Did I mention that there’s not bathroom in this store? At least not one that’s open to the public?

So let’s recap: I have on a skirt that requires the wearer to take itsy bity steps. Said skirt has a zipper that’s going nowhere. I have to pee like a race horse at this point (don’t you love how the mind and body work together on these things?) and there’s no bathroom. Oh, and the only other person in the dressing room is a guy, who already thinks I was hitting on him when I asked him whether a particular shade of lavender made my skin look yellow.

(I swear, he looked like I’d asked him to loan me $100. Blink. “Who, me?”)

Given our earlier encounter, I didn’t figure he’d be up to wrestling me out of a skirt….

So, I do what any self respecting thrift store shopper does. I grab everything up, including the pants I walked in with. I march up to the cashier (very slowly, mind you, because even with the lower zip done, this skirt, unlike my boots, were not made for walking).

Did I mention I had to pee – badly? Very badly.

Once there, I tear off the tag with as much dignity as I can muster and hand it to the cashier. “I can’t get the zipper down on this skirt, so I think I’m buying it.”

He looks me up and down. “It looks like it fits pretty good to me.”

Bladder clenches. I unclench me teeth and try to smile.

“That’s not the point,” I say, trying not to breath or make any sudden moves and inadvertently fall over.

“Do you think you’re going to be able to fix it?” he asks as he folds my other purchases.

Deep breath, as quickly as I could, willing him with my eyes (and my treacherous bladder) to pick up the pace. “With a pair of scissors maybe,” I mutter just about the time I realize that even if I do make it to a public bathroom in time, it’s not entirely clear that I will be able to get the skirt up over my hips to do anything once I’m there.

‘Shit,’ I thought, only to hear my inner child who is delighted for whatever reason by my adult discomfort, chuckle, ‘That too.’

“Well,” the cashier says thoughtfully (that is, slowly), meticulously (read, slowly) straightening the Gap pants before placing them (slowly) in the 3-gallon clear plastic bag without meeting my eyes, “if you really don’t think you can fix it, maybe we should just call it even.”

I was so stressed out at that point, I’m not even sure if I remembered to be grateful.

He sums me up. I toss my money on the counter, promise not to break anything upon my return, and hop to the car.

Once in (a maneuver worth it’s own post, but let’s suffice it to say that the bottom zipper needs to be about 6 inches longer and I’m really beginning to understand how this lovely garment ended up in near mint condition at a community thrift store), I drive like a demon to my office. I get out without falling out (also probably worth documenting), hop to the bathroom, and without going into too many gory details, when all is said and done I try it one more time and – wouldn’t you know it? – the zipper slides down as easily as a warm knife moves through butter.

Unbelievable.

And believe it or not, I actually felt guilty about cheating the store out of the $3.25 for the skirt, which I may or may not ever wear again….

Regardless.

I feel like I have completely gone off an a tangent here, so here are the takeaways, assuming, that is, you’re still with me.

If you need (or want) to completely revamp your wardrobe, community centers or thrift stores are one option. Not only are they fun (actually, they sort of remind me when my father used to take me to the flea market when I was a child), they are cheap, and, if all else fails, a potential source of embarrassing stories with which you can regale both friends and families.

Oh yeah, and in the face of serious wardrobe malfunctions, you might even score some free clothes 😉

Get up, get dressed, and get going (whether you leave the house or not)

I’m taking a risk by saying what I’m about to say or, rather, to disclose what I’m going to disclose. It feels particularly risky because there are a number of exes who read this blog – not only my exes, but my new husband’s exes as well.

About a week ago, I went for a long walk with a friend and about 3/4 of the way through it, she laughed nervously and blurted out: “I’ve stopped showering.”

What?

She went on to explain that she had stopped showering. In fact, she was down to pretty much once a week, though she assured me that she didn’t smell bad. And that her hair actually looked better when she only washed it once a week.

Okay.

To each her own.

And given that her hair did look pretty darned good, who am I to judge?

Yesterday I came home from a day of running errands and when Michael saw me he said, “Didn’t you sleep in that last night?” The words (and the night before and the night before that) hung in the air between us, unspoken.

I thought about it; and much to my chagrin he was right.

I also hadn’t taken a shower in three days.

Granted, I’d been working – hard. But that’s no excuse to go back to graduate school levels of hygiene (though I will swear to my dying day that I didn’t smell, either, though I will admit that my hair didn’t look nearly as good as my friend’s).

So last night, I took a shower, washed my hair (my grandmother is turning in her grave at the thought of any granddaughter of hers washing their hair at night) and fell asleep, exhausted, on a damp towel, dressed in a t-shirt (albeit a clean one) and a fleece.

This morning, I woke up feeling better than I had in, oh, three days. Go figure.

I also got up and, gasp, got dressed.

I pulled on a new pair of Gap Carpenter jeans (there’s a story there as well) and a new red sweater that is so friggin’ comfortable that I feel like I’m wearing a sock. It’s great. Not only would my grandmother approve – as she loved red – it’s so much better than sitting around in the same clothes that you slept in, and sat around in the day before, and so on….

So, what’s going on? What is about winter that reasonably outgoing women – reasonably successful women – stop showering, stop dressing not only for decency, but for pleasure/entertainment? And as I’ve heard from other women who live where I live, stop shaving their legs?

1) It’s cold (at least where I live) and sometimes staying in your clothes is simply more comfortable than changing them.

2) Today marked the end of Daylight Savings Time. Although I actually appreciated the extra of work time that comes along with Spring Forward/Fall Back today, it also means that the days are getting shorter. More to the point, people who live in the region of the country where I live (particularly if you are a transplant, like many of us are) have a tendency to get depressed.

For me (I am not speaking for my friend) my lackadaisical approach to appearance and, admittedly, hygiene, was a warning sign. Essentially, as we continue to barrel into winter, I need to start taking better care of myself instead of engaging in a marked lack of self care.

From now on, no matter how cold it is: shower, clean clothes, and accomplishing something, even if that something is nothing more than spending an hour dancing in the living room accompanied by Tori Amos and being gawked at by a very silly cat. Hopefully if I can manage those three things, everything else that needs to get taken care of will follow.

In the Eye of the Beholder (a/k/a Oh Yeah, I Have Stretchmarks)

Have you ever been to a women’s retreat?

I’ve been to a couple recently. They’re interesting. The energy there is totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. It’s soft. It’s powerful. It’s feminine. It’s sensual. It’s warm.

And having seen a recent set of photographs that were taken at the event – there’s a tremendous amount of body love. Never have I seen so much cleavage, so much form-fitting clothing, so much skin, jewelry, scarfs, scents, and curves. It’s really amazing.

I had the benefit of actually staying at the retreat location with the two leaders and three other women.

The following morning, two of the women did yoga on the deck, one plugged in, one walked around looking at the books and objects of art lost in her own thoughts, one did I know not what, and I took the opportunity to break out my travel hoop and do a little dancing.

The space was perfect. The room, cavernous. The sunlight, cutting into the room from a variety of angles. The views, mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. It really was magical.

As it often does, the hula hoop tends to draw a crowd. And you can literally see the little girl in every woman as she reaches for it and gives it a try. One of the women, I’ll call her B, was quite good. In fact, I shot some video of her hooping in her nightie, which happened to complement the hoop perfectly (what was it that I was saying about women’s retreats?)

Conversation turned to the health benefits of hooping – both physically and mentally – and when B said that it was a really good core workout, I actually pulled up my tank top to show her my new ab definition. Given the pro-body, self-love vibe of the weekend, her reaction was not one that I expected.

“Wow,” she said. “Were you really overweight?”

It took me a minute to figure out how she had made that – what I considered to be – intuitive of a leap and then I remembered.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

I used to hate my stretch marks. I was so self-conscious of them. I thought they were so ugly.

I had forgotten about them. To the point that when a women with my hoop in a turquoise nightie pointed them out to me, I literally drew a blank. Oh, yeah. I used to weigh 232 pounds and I gained 40 of that 232 in about a two year period. A period in my adolescence where the skin couldn’t quite keep up. Hence, the stretch marks.

How could I have forgotten? I look at my stomach every day, though obviously that’s no longer what I see when I look in the mirror.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

It reminded me of a time when I had first gotten naked with a new lover and he said, “Wow, how long have you had those stretch marks?”

My answer, as I pulled my clothes back on and headed to the door: “Long enough to know that only an asshole would ask me how long I’d had them.”

Today, with a little more self-acceptance than I had then, I’m sitting in a tank top – rucked up so that I can see my stomach.

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

But under the stretch marks that have been there long enough to have faded to almost nothing but still catch the light like silver fish in a pond, I have a lot of muscle. And with that muscle, the strength to keep myself up right, the strength to protect my lower back, the strength to allow me to do any number of yoga poses, the strength to dance for an hour (or sometimes more) with a weighted hoop….

Oh yeah, I have stretch marks.

And if I ever get to the point of wearing a bikini in public, I may actually paint them. Not so that they can fade away even further into my skin and into my past, but in bright, bold colors, for the entire world to see.

Hell yes, I have stretch marks.

They are a testament to where I’ve been.

They are as much a part of me as my eyes, my nose, or my fingers and though I used to think them hideous, they have their own unique beauty.

Would I have preferred to have grown up skinny? Absolutely.

But given that they’re here, I wouldn’t change the learning they’ve brought me for the world.

Poem of the Day – “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

Someone read this poem to me the other day – someone who I consider to be a phenomenal woman, a woman who spends a good deal of time inspiring other women (and probably men) to be as phenomenal as well. I thought I’d share and also store it here., so that when I began to doubt myself – in any realm – I can remind myself that I, too, am phenomenal.

Phenomenal Woman

By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

I give up

I have written three different posts.

The first two were just not anything near what I wanted to say.

The third one was close, but not quite. However, I thought it was good enough.

Apparently WordPress had different ideas….

When I finally find my voice, you’ll be the first to know.

“I Love Your Blog!” Blog? What Blog?

I was out to dinner last night with Michael and Don – Don will be marrying us in 9 days, so we figured we should get together and hash out of the remaining details. As we were waiting for our table, I man grabbed me by the waist and scooted by. As he did so, he whispered in my ear, “I LOVE your blog.”

I was like, “What?! What blog?” And then I remembered, that yes indeed, I do have a blog. And despite my serious lack of attention to it, I love it too.

When I first started writing, I had something to say everyday, if not twice a day. Losing weight was literally at the fore-front of my mind. I wouldn’t say that I was obsessed, but I was overly interested. Something’s changed. I’m not sure what or why. I’m not sure if it’s the thousands of dollars that I have pumped into self-development, or the fact that my job responsibilities have grown almost exponentially. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve done so many cleanses that require so many different food choices that I have lessened my attachment to any particular thing or style. I’m not sure if it’s the cultured vegetables that I eat three times a day, which to tell you the truth, are the best cure for food cravings that I’ve ever come across. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I have given up punishing cardio (though I still take an almost sick amount of pleasure in counting calories) in favor of daily yoga and hoop dance and, when the weather’s nice, walks around the pond accompanied by either my favorite female vocalists or a friend from work. I’m not sure whether I have finally – without realizing it – achieved the tagline for this blog.

The newest insight from holistic healthcare practitioners is that you have to have balance in your life in order to successfully lose weight. That means your hormones, your brain chemicals, your nutrition, your digestion, and the one thing that most of us are quickest to ignore, our lives. When you have pleasure and accomplishment in your life in equal parts, as well as work and recreation, your body – apparently – knows what to do to be healthy.

Despite that I am a new chair, a chair-elect, chairing a search committee, planning a wedding, getting married, and have deadlines out the wazoo, I’ve only had one night of stress eating. Ironically, it happened last night, after someone said to me: “I love your blog,” and I realized – appearances aside – I did too.

As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s hard to write about your life when it’s going wonderfully. One, it seems like you’re bragging. Two, we humans have the unfortunate tendency to bond over adversity rather than celebration. Three, when you’re busy celebrating, the compulsion to write about it disappears. That said, I have a lot to say about living a balanced life and I will be sharing it here. Not necessarily as advice for others, but as a reminder to myself.

In the very first post, I wrote that I was going to blog in order to remind myself what I know is true. It seems that starting from a place of love, gratitude and peace is as good of a way to start as any.

Namaste.