Thursday, July 29, 2010

Probably the Last Pre-Pre-Menstrual Post of the Month

There once was a gal who felt fine.
Though she was expecting decline.
Her mood it will plummet, right down from the summit...
And then she'll just grumble and whine.

I expect my inner (insert unpleasant Creature here) to show up, probably tomorrow. I thought I would try to eke out one last post that is not overly introspective and/or whiny. I wonder how many thoughts will come out here? My mind feels pretty blank...

1) I mentioned recently that I can't read anything new right now, and for the past few days I have been re-reading one of Karin Slaughter's novels. I have read a LOT of crime and mystery novels, and hers are some of the best, if not THE best. Patricia Cornwell's first novel, Postmortem, is the only one I can think of that comes close. Ms. Slaughter does a great job developing her characters while also coming up with really disturbing crimes. Plus, there are autospsies - although not as pleasantly gruesome as Ms. Cornwell's. She did a very brave thing and killed off one of her main characters a few books ago. That made a lot of people angry, but I respected her for it....oooo, I just checked the library website and she released a new novel in June!

2) I have gotten a few Post Secret books out of the library recently - I love those books. If you are not familiar with Post Secret, it is a mail art project originally started by a man named Frank Warren. These books would make a great contribution to what I consider the core coffee-table anthropolgy library, which consists of Family, Family of Man, Family of Woman, Material World and Women in the Material World.

People send in postcards that are usually a combination of words and images, on which they share a secret that they have never told anyone. There are tragic secrets, hysterically funny secrets, criminal secrets, sexual secrets, mean secrets, religious secrets, hopeful secrets and every other kind of secret you can imagine or may have hidden yourself. I always have to paper clip a few pages together before I can let my 16 year old Moppet look at them! But the older she gets, the fewer I censor.

If you are the judgemental type who likes to think everyone but you is going to hell in a handbasket, you won't like these books. But if you are a sinner and know it, and have compassion for all the other sinners out there, I think you will love them. This is the kind of project I could see being used as an illustration in more "progressive" Christian churches - not as part of the service, but as an audio-visual demonstration of how God remembers our sins no more, once we are in Christ

I am always impressed with how your average person can make a really compelling layout - I am assuming that most people who send in their secrets have not spent lots of time visual journaling or doing mixed-media artwork, but there is a lot of beautiful stuff. Some people choose imagery that goes pefectly with their secret in a logical way, while others make great use of incongruity.

3) I have been wondering lately if I really have any desire to sell handmade things. I love making stuff, but I don't love the pressure that comes with trying to have a business. I usually remember that right now, when I have lots of kids around, is not the best time to try that...but I don't know if it would ever be right for me on anything but the smallest scale. Of course, I would enjoy making money using some of my knowledge and/or talent, but I think I would do better being a workshop instructor. I have long wanted to have a zine-making workshop - and visual journaling workshops and book-making workshops would be simple and fun as well. I could make money doing that, but I would not have the stress of needing to produce things, usually on a deadline. Yes, I would have to plan the workshops, get materials together, make handouts, etc. But I could plan workshops at the time of the month when I am most patient and energetic. I truly think I am a better encourager and creative enabler than I am a producer.

There was more in my brain than I thought...but now there is a big dry gulch that is calling for a double-strength decaf latte!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forty-Two Things, Final Installment

31) I just bought two pairs of pants after not wearing pants for about 12 is very hard for me to find pants that look good on me, but some of the styles out now seem to be perfect. I think most people thought I only wore skirts because of some kind of religious conviction, but it was sheer vanity.

32) I always worry during creative blocks that I will never do another creative thing in my life.

33) Yiddish is the only foreign language I have any interest in learning.

34) I can read the most gruesome things in novels, but have a hard time watching a fistfight in a film.

35) I won't drive on the freeway because I will have a panic attack. I hope to get over that one day, but for now I always drive side streets.

36) My favorite artist is Modigliani.

37) I absolutely do not want to see nudity in any sexual context in films etc. but have no problem with nudity in art in general, and I don't care if my kids see it.

38) My oldest Moppet is a huge Harry Potter fan, but I can't get past the first chapter without zoning out in boredom. But they sound fascinating when she talks about them, applying all her thoughtful commentary.

39) Despite being very vain, my personal grooming is not great. My hair is always a mess, I leave the house without washing my face, and things like that.

40) I really miss my Volkswagens and my bumper stickers. I wish everyone put lots of bumper stickers on their car so driving would be less boring.

41) I had no problem thinking of 100 Things six years ago, but getting 42 Things now is like pulling teeth.

42) I love fried food, and eat it with some regularity, despite all my concern about not being too fat.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Making Food Choices That Will Satisfy You Without Making You Fat

There once was a gal who ate food
About it she tried to be shrewd.
Eat just enough, though that can be tough...
But worth it, she's had to conclude.

One of the most important things I have learned on My Quest for Health and Fitness is that you need to choose a way to eat (and a way to exercise) that you can live with, For Life. That means you are not on a diet (and you are not "just trying to tone up for summer"), you are in it for the long haul. And for me, the only way to accomplish that is to eat the healthiest, lowest calorie manifestation of whatever it is that will satisfy me...if nothing will do besides a 12 piece nugget meal (complete with fries) at Chick Fil A, then that is what I eat. But a lot of time I will be perfectly happy with a grilled chicken and brown rice salad - a similar meal, being that it is hot, cooked protein and carb - but definitely a healthier and lower calorie choice. Doing this will cut down on your calories and up your nutritional intake more than you realize.

Thinking about some foods as "bad" and others as "good" is setting yourself up for failure. It is much better to just eat a normal portion of the food you are craving and get it over with. It is also better to make healthy foods a little less healthy if you won't eat them otherwise - I am not a big fan of salad without real bacon bits on it. If I don't have the bacon bits, I am unlikely to eat that big salad. I finally realized that it is better for me to eat it with bacon bits on it than not eat it at all.

After you have been thinking about this for a while, it will become more second nature. You will learn what substitutions you can make and still be content - for example, instead of eating a 4-inch-square brownie with probably 400 calories, see if your desire for chocolate is satisfied by two squares of really good chocolate - more like 100 calories. I recently made a perfectly satisfying pan of chicken enchiladas with green sauce, using a FULL 2/3 LESS pepper jack cheese than the recipe called for. I even used reduced fat cheese, which I don't normally do, but I actually prefer the reduced fat in pepper jack...anyway, it was not as gooey and greasy and cheesy as "normal" enchiladas, but my taste buds were happy and I did not have to feel like I squandered a whole day's worth of calories in one meal.

Occasionally, you will do that, too. And it's not a big deal.

But if you do it every day, and then eat 2 more meals and maybe snacks that day as well, you will be overweight. But if you are mindful, you will learn to balance out those nummy indulgences with a few days of lighter eating.

So, taking into consideration that I am not any kind of certified anything as far as health and nutrition, and I still have some fat on me - here is my advice. It has helped me lose and keep off 30 or 35 lbs:

1) Don't eat too much in general - watch your portions. Learn to know when you are Pleasantly Satisfied Rather Than Full. This takes time to learn.

2) Eat the healthiest, lowest calorie choice of food that will satisfy you. Make substititions and try different ways of getting that taste you want. You will be surprised how often something smaller, or with fewer calories but a similar taste, will do it. And I am not talking gross low fat pretend versions of the good stuff. Definitely, have the good stuff in a normal portion if that's what you really want. But I have found that most of the time I am just as satisfied having a full cup of non fat greek yogurt, with a spoonful of sugar and coffee powder (about 160 calories) as I would be having 1/2 cup of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, at 270 calories.

3) Add healthy extras to the food you are eating - put enough romaine lettuce on those chicken tacos to equal a salad; put spinach on your homemade pizza, etc. All those nutrients add up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Suddenly Grumpy

There once was a gal who got grumpy.
Not even because she felt frumpy.
To hide from her flock, the room door she did lock,
Till her nerves became calm 'stead of jumpy.

It seems a bit early in the month for me to be falling into my hormonal grumpiness, but I just felt myself slipping out of my good mood sometime in the middle of the afternoon...that kind of unexplained mood change is usually indicative of the need for a rapidwrite. I haven't posted a rapidwrite on this blog yet, but they were a staple on my old blog. Basically, a rapidwrite is a chance for you to wade in my Stream Of Consciousness, totally random unrelated thoughts with no paragraph breaks. You lucky folks!

I took a nap this afternoon, straightened up the house and read When The Bough Breaks - Johnathan Kellerman's first Alex Delaware novel - it is so good it makes his last 10 or so look even worse than they are. Now they are just page after page of disjointed, flat dialogue with no interesting plot or character interaction. The same kind of thing has happened to his wife Faye's books...I don't understand why they don't just sit back and enjoy their multi-millions and stop subjecting their fans to these awful new books. It has been at least 3 weeks since Moppet 2 did any of his "schoolwork", and I want him to start back to it tomorrow. I think I need to tweak it a little, because what seemed like a lot when he first started doing it (back at the end of April) has now become much easier. It was his first foray into planned schoolwork, and he found it intimidating at first. But now it is becoming familiar to him and he is getting it done in record time. I think I will spend part of tomorrow re-thinking what I want him to be doing. I also want to spend time working on reading with Moppet 3 every day this week - I thought she would read earlier than Moppet 2 because she is a girl, and I have heard they tend to read earlier - I can't say she doesn't get it, but she is just not in a hurry to read for some reason! I want to have her doing copywork, though, when Moppet 2 does his stuff. I got these new workout DVDs - Jay Johnson's Boot Camp. It is a 9 week program, but after P90X and Chalean Extreme, I don't think I could stick to anything for that long. It has a very military feel, with a big American flag on the cover - not the kind of thing I usually go for, but I like the gym feel of it and the basic quality of the exercises. I think I am going to use the strength segments 2 days a week and use another full-body strength workout on the third day, and use the cardio segments two days a week, before I do my bum-focused barre or floorwork. I have not worked in any of my journals for a while, and while I am feeling a creative block, sometimes the best way to break through that is just to do something. So, I want to Just Do Something in my journals this week. Yesterday I was at Barnes and Noble and looked at the new issue of Art Journaling magazine, and there was a feature on
Ingrid Dijkers, who makes some very interesting journal pages. One thing she does is cut the edges of her pages into different shapes - or even cuts a whole page into some weird shape. I might try that. I am feeling a bit better since I started writing - I find that even a few small things on my mind can really start to burden me if I don't open up the suitcase of my brain and unpack them all. One of my cats is sick - we brought home a new cat a few weeks ago, and she had a cold when we brought her home. That was about 2.5 weeks ago - it took about a week for the first cat to catch the cold. It seems like he is recovering from that, but he is still not himself and has thrown up a few times. I am not the hugest animal lover but I feel bad that he is unwell, and I don't know whether it is something that needs a trip to the vet (which we really can't afford) or whether he just needs a bit more time to recover. I don't feel totally unpacked yet, but I also can't see anything else in the suitcase.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Forty-Two Things, Part Two

There once was a list incomplete,
With trivia it was replete!

This gal sure can chatter, she's mad as a hatter...
But hopefully not indiscrete.

14) I love making multi-step, time consuming desserts like baklava or danish pastry, but making a regular dinner totally stresses me out.

15) Since I have been Reformed (10 years or so) I have never once felt that I wasn't doing enough, or being "good enough" for God to approve of me...but often I feel like I am not doing enough or being "good enough" for other people to approve of me.

16) I own about 225 workout DVDs.

17) When I recently re-watched Dead Poets Society (after 18 years or so) I was surprised how much of a subconscious impact it had on my philosophy of education and childrearing.

18) My kids and I all stay up later and sleep later than I think most people would approve of.

19) For years, I had toast and a cafe latte for breakfast every morning. But in the past few months I have broadened my breakfast horizons, and now it rarely includes toast or coffee.

20) I still think politics and religion are the two most interesting subjects, but I rarely talk about either one anymore.

21) When I die, I want to go to The Body Farm.

22) I don't like dogs. We've tried to have one a few times, but they always last less than 24 hours.

23) One thing I want to get over is feeling like I always have to be "productive".

24) Above my mantelpiece I have this huge painting of two rabbis, and right underneath it is a crucifix made in Rome. There is also a big brass menorah with a wooden egg made in Russia or something, with an iconic-type painting of the Apostle Paul on Jewish and Christian selves live side by side quite peacefully.

25) I am always really thrilled when I read something I wrote in the past, and it affects me like I would want it to affect the reader - if I laugh, or am somehow touched, I know that what I wrote is true in a human sense and also somewhat well-written. I am sorry to say that this is not the majority of my writing, but glad that there have been a few glimmers here and there.

26) One day I would really like to try the experiment in the book Not Buying It, and go an entire year without buying anything truly necessary. One of my biggest struggles is guilt over how discontented I am, despite having just about everything, both financial and otherwise.

27) I am in one of those periods where my mind cannot handle reading anything I haven't read before.

28) In the summer, I have to keep fans going full blast in every room even with the air conditioner running. I feel 10 degrees hotter if I just hear a fan stop running. It takes me at least a week to get used to the eerie silence in the fall when I have to turn them off because it is getting cool.

29) I can't decide whether it would be more frustrating to have more babies (and so have to spend more years being tired and having less time for other pursuits) or sadder not to have them. I'm glad we are letting God decide, since I don't think I could make the decision myself.

30) I sleep with a giant 5 foot-long stuffed catfish.

Stay tuned for the thrilling final installment of Forty-Two Things!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Current Fitness Pursuits

There once was a gal who worked out
To prevent herself growing too stout.

Weights she did lift, and her fat it did shift,

Which it won't if ya just bum about.

I have officially been working out for three years. I used to think doing anything that made me sweat for 5 minutes FELT like three years, but now it has to be about 50 minutes before I start looking at the calendar and wondering what month it is. There are still hills and valleys on the Road To Fitness, but with three years under my still-decreasing beltline, I believe I can safely call it a habit. But I do think I would still be a slug if we still lived in the pre-internet age.

I only read two fitness-related things online. The first is the Video Fitness forum. Anything you need to know about absolutely any fitness DVD on the market can be learned here. Lots of these women have been working out with home videos since the Jane Fonda days. You can find people that are super advanced, as well as beginning beginners and every level in between. There is no talk about specific diet or eating plans allowed at Video Fitness, and no discussion about the specific bodies of any instructor. They want to promote at-home fitness for reasons other than thin-ness. I almost never make a mistake in a fitness purchase anymore because I can read so many opinions of a particular workout before I take the plunge.

My other favorite place is Skwigg. She is just a little older than me and has run the gamut from anorexic to chunky to obsessive bodybuiler food-freak who never put anything into her mouth that had not been weighed, measured and analyzed. She finally got tired of being controlled by food and exercise and managed to find a balance where no food is off limits and she doesn't have to beat herself up in her workouts. She likes to take little pictures of what she eats and post them on her blog, and she keeps numerous boxes of Cadbury Creme Eggs in the cupboard with her aluminum foil. She looks awesome and is very funny, as well as knowing lots and lots about all things fitness and nutrition.

Now, from Skwigg to me...I am just getting back into exercising regularly after about 3 months of low energy. From about March to June I didn't feel great, and didn't do much besides walk most evenings and do a full-body weight workout once or twice a week. I did lose about 10 pounds during that time though, because I was having digestive problems and so ate way less and very little junk. But to be really lean, I could still stand to lose about 10 more pounds...I don't know if I will ever get there, but things are firming up nicely since I have jumped back into working out 5 days a week.

Like I mentioned above, I don't do really long workouts these days. There are too many other things to get done, plus I don't really need to work out much longer than 45 minutes to get the results I want. I have a lot of DVDs that I can use alone or mix and match to give me a good workout in about that much time. This is what I have been doing recently:

M/W/F...some kind of full-body or mostly upper body weight workout. Most often I have been using Kelly Coffey-Meyer's 30 Minutes to Fitness series. I think I would probably choose these DVDs if I had to give up all others (although I hope it never comes to that!). Kelly is definitely in her mid or even late 40s, and her workouts are fun and challenging without being so hard they have a dread factor. Every DVD has two 30 minute workouts as well as various pre-mixes, so you get a lot of bang for your fitness buck. None of the workouts uses super heavy weights, but with a few of them you can use up to 15 lb dumbbells, which is not for wimps. There is even a workout that is all bodyweight exercises and uses no equipment at all. She has a really good modifier for beginners, or people with knee problems or other situations (like general tiredness or lack of energy like I was experiencing for a few months) that might require less impact, or more moderate range-of-motion, or whatever.

I can't gush enough about Kelly. I never get tired of her.

Sometimes I substitute pulldowns with my extra heavy-duty-in-the-door-hinge resistance band for back work, instead of using dumbbells, because getting rid of the last of my back fat is my main fitness obsession. I have also used Bob Harper's new workouts a few times on M/W/F...those are tough!

On T/Th I have been doing the warmup, YES only the WARMUP, from an Insanity workout - plus the 5 minute stretch that follows. The warmup is about 10 minutes and is tougher than many actual cardio workouts. I have come to really hate cardio and since I can't walk these days because it's too hot, this is my compromise. Then I have been following that with a medley-for-the-buns...some floorwork with ankle weights from Brazil Butt Lift, followed by the seat section from Squeeze Stronger (not having a pancake butt is my other fitness obsession). Then a little ab work (as little as possible, like about 5 minutes) and then I'm done.

I used to try to get in a workout on Saturday, but so often that just didn't work and I would get frustrated, and one of my main goals these days is to minimize frustration - so I decided to just exercise M-F and take the weekend off.

Foodwise, I am working on watching portions and really upping the servings of fruits and veggies...ideally, I have two salads every day, and at least a huge smoothie made with a bunch of different fruit and greek yogurt. When I manage that, and eat normal sized portions of everything else, I feel healthy and not overly full, and I am usually at a good place calorie-wise. I do pretty well not eating something just because it is sitting there - but sometimes I still pop whatever it is into my mouth. I also eat between 2-4 squares of Lindt 85% dark chocolate every day! My goal is to get lean enough that if I gain weight during menopause, it will be no big deal.

Moppet 1 is waiting for the computer - we are sharing since mine is being repaired - she is learning how to use Adobe Photoshop Elements.

So far, this blog experiment seems to be working; 3 posts in one day.

Forty-Two Things, Part One

There once was a gal middle-aged
Who wanted her psyche assuaged.
Hormones, anxiety, not enough piety....
From life made her feel disengaged!

On my last blog I had a link to 100 Things About Me...that was an interesting exercise. Since I will be 42 in November, I figured I'd use that number and write an updated version. I feel like a totally different person than I did in 2004 when I write the original list, so I will be interested to see if there is any overlap at all. I have a feeling this one may be a bit more negative.

1) I am physically in the best shape of my life, but that has shown me that the problems I have with my appearance are almost totally psychological - because I am no more comfortable in my own skin and still suffer from all the same insecurities.

2) I have gotten over my eternal hatred and distrust of television. I am still not the type to sit mindlessly on the couch channel surfing, but I have spent hundreds of hours in the past year and a half watching every episode of Six Feet Under, Dexter and House. I am about to go back (thanks to Netflix) and revisit a few shows from the early 90s, literally the last time I watched television at all. I have been pleasantly surprised to see how good television can be on both artistic and psychological levels.

3) Sometimes the main emotions I experience are guilt and resentment.

4) By guilt I don't mean theological guilt, but rather guilt from failing to live up to whatever unrealistic expectations I have put on myself, or think other people have of me. More often than not I am wrong about these things being important at all.

5) I can't focus on a million things at once like I could in my middle 30s...I won't accomplish anything requiring more focus than dishwashing if I also have to tend to children. This means I don't get all that much accomplished in the creative or intellectual realms these days.

6) I let my 16 year old Moppet read and watch things I never thought I would when she was 14. I don't think I realized the difference between the maturity level of 14 and 16 year olds. I think it has actually been a benefit rather than a detriment.

7) I have become a lot less outspoken. In a way this is good, since I used to be the freaked-out type of person who could talk or argue something into the ground for the sake of debate. But in other ways I think it shows that I feel more easily defeated and less sure that I have anything interesting to say.

8) I finally bought a baking stone and peel last year, after wanting one for about a decade. And baking on a super-hot stone really does make a HUGE difference in the quality of pizza and artisan breads.

9) I have always felt like I am sitting on the outside observing life, rather than living it, and this is getting more pronounced as I get older. I do this with my own psyche too - I sit and analyze myself like I am a psychiatrist, like That Neurotic Person On The Couch is some patient and not me.

10) I stopped drinking caffeinated coffee about 3 months ago, and I truly had no idea how much of a drug caffeine is, and how much it affected me physically and psychologically. I was totally clueless about my normal sleep patterns. I still drink some caffeine in iced tea every few days, but I know if I drank a triple-shot non-decaf latte now I would feel like I was on speed.

11) Though this whole list probably reflects it - I will say specifically that my 40s have (so far) not been the positive experience I expected. I have had more anxiety, more depression, less confidence and more physical problems.

12) I used to think I would never take any kind of hormone therapy, but since I learned about bio-identical hormones I have reconsidered that. With as bad as you can feel through peri-menopause and menopause, I now think that even with possible risks, it would be better to live a few years less and be happier. I actually read a forum for peri- and menopausal woman on a regular basis. It's hard to believe I am old enough to need to do that.

13) One of my goals is to look good into my older years...maybe not quite as good as 73 year old Ernestine Shepherd here, but as good as I can get.

Sitting here letting my rear spread out will not get me closer to that goal. It's time for me to work out. I have a new Kelly Coffey-Meyer DVD I am looking forward to doing for the first time.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment of Forty-Two Things.

Blogging Again?

There once was a gal, forty-one,
Who assumed that these years would be fun.
Thought she'd have it together, it would all be clear weather...
But instead feels like coming undone!

No Spring Chicken will eventually be a real paper zine, but my own computer has been out for repair for WEEKS, and I don't work well on a long project using someone else's computer...but I have been neglecting my writing and I have a hard time JUST writing in a journal since I started visual journaling. I have gotten so used to writing on some kind of painted or decorated surface that I can't get past the blank white page anymore. Plus, I type faster on the computer.

I haven't had any luck sticking with blogging since I gave up my long-term blog back in 2006 (I've started and abandoned a few since that time) and I have no idea if maintaining a blog holds any interest for me these days. I am not even sure if I should necessarily be writing - sometimes I think it is good for me not to write, just to let things go. I have at times been kind of obsessive, feeling like I need to somehow document every thought I have. But it has been good to have boxes filled with hundreds of printed blog posts, copies of the many long letters I have written, all my practically illegible handwritten journals, and my zines - all of which, taken together, make a detailed chronicle of my inner and outer lives.

Blogging as a writing tool has good and bad points.

The Good: I take more time to make sure my writing is clear and understandable, because other people may read it. I try harder to be clever or funny. I would never write limericks in a journal. Sometimes it is good to have other people read my thoughts - either to understand me and join in my pity party, or else kick me in the pants.

The Bad: Blogging felt like a burden after a while - because people read it, it began to seem like a duty to produce something for them to read. I hated when I would get caught up in whether or not there were comments, or whether people agreed with what I had written. Sometimes I would allow that to dictate how I felt about myself that day. It can also take a lot of time, and be a distraction from other things that need to be done. It was good for me to give up blogging because I needed to learn that the world would not stop if I did not put in my two cents about (insert topic or issue here). I think I have learned that lesson though, almost too well.

I do know that I am in a time of life when I am conflicted, confused and generally not functioning at high levels, and writing has always helped me to sort things out. We will see what happens.