Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts During Major House Purge

There once was a gal with a mess
Which undoubtedly caused her some stress.
Tossing and purging got energy surging...
But it's challenging nevertheless.

I usually do a big cleaning and decluttering in the Fall and's not a "plan" or something I do on a conscious schedule, but those seem to be the times when I really notice the mess and feel an unquenchable desire to conquer it. I always swear this will be the LAST time I will ever have to do this...when everything is finally organized perfectly THIS TIME, it will stay that way! But that never happens. I used to enjoy this process more - but like lots of things I am finding it more of a challenge than I used to, trying to do a big job and still interact with the kids. I get stressed trying to do multiple things at once - the Chaos is in my mind and the Chaos in the visible world seems to conspire against me and my sanity. The Chaoses have also also hired the Hormones to help them, maybe to break my figurative knees or put me in figurative cement shoes.

I am making progress though, and there is actually more incentive to do the job than there usually is. There is a good possibility my mother will be coming to live with us in the next few months, and since she will be getting one of the rooms, we have to find ways to do what we always do, with one less room. I don't want to be scrambling to get that done right before she comes. We are also going to paint a few rooms (including hers), and husband is going to build some floor-to-ceiling shelves on a few walls. He is also considering adding on a small room that would be his office when he starts his own plumbing business in the semi-near future. That room would be built into part of the garage, so that project would also entail moving the washer and dryer out of the garage. The plan for that is to make one of our bathrooms into a laundry room, leaving just a half-bath.

I am trying to get rid of things I have had for years, but which have never found the right place in the house, or are not sturdy, etc. I especially have a difficult time getting rid of furniture, but I think I am ready to cut one of the couches loose. I was actually considering getting rid of all the milk crates I have built shelves with for 20 years, but I don't think I can do that! I am using a very wide and deep closet for my art stuff - and I will use the crates in there. Husband is going to take the doors off the closet, so it will look like recessed shelves. I am no longer going to let my 7 year old Moppet have open access to my art supplies...while she usually cleans up and puts things away superficially, too often something is missing when I go to look for it. I have not been doing art at all for about 4 months, but I am getting ready to start back up, and I want my stuff to be there. I guess I will probably sort through my supplies and give her a lot of the older stuff, and restock what I need.

These days I never know why I am doing something. I have always had in the back of my mind that I should "do something" with whatever I am creating or producing. I should try to sell it, or whatever. But I have no desire to do that right now. I just want to learn how to do things I enjoy, just because I enjoy them. I don't want to be concerned about finished products. I am not good at living in the present, in general...and knowing how to do that is part of enjoying things for their own sake. I wonder if I will ever learn to do that, or if living so much in my head is just who I am?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Books Being Read And Maybe Other Thoughts

There once was a gal who read books.
She reads 'em lots more than she cooks!
Murder, psychology, sometimes anthropology...
All stuffed into crannies and nooks.

I've had an interesting mix of books from the library this past week. A few crime novels set in the Amish country of Ohio; the 10 year compilation of recipes from America's Test Kitchen tv show; Home Alone America - The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes...along with a few fitness reads - New Rules of Lifting For Women and Naturally Thin, by reality tv star Bethenny Frankel.

I have been needing some new crime novels, and the way I decide which ones to read is to find ones that are recommended by authors I like - somehow those seem to be more accurate than general reviews in magazines. The novels with the Amish background were recommended by Chelsea Cain, who wrote some really cool, creepy books wherein the killer is a woman and the detective develops a a kind of Stockholm Syndrome love for her...I love those and so figured I'd like these, and I did. The whole Amish angle was very different, the killings were properly gruesome, and the main character is a woman who grew up Amish but left that lifestyle. The author portrays the Amish compassionately, and the female lead is appropriately damaged herself, which is helpful in making a character believable.

The cookbook is great, just like everything Cook's Illustrated does. The only downside is that they leave out all the interesting commentary about creating the recipes, which is a hallmark in the magazines (Cook's Country, as well as Cook's Illustrated). I really relate to them, because when I have an idea about how I want something to taste, I will try and fail (sometimes for years) before I finally get something I like. When I was first married and I would try to make pizza, I didn't understand yeast and always wound up with something so thick it was like a loaf of bread that swallowed up the toppings. Only within the last 5 years or so have I learned to make consistently good it takes them 50 times or so to get the recipe right, and it takes me 20 years. For the kind of cook I am (basically lazy and uninspired) subscriptions to both magazines pretty much give me everything I need - but I know they are great for better cooks, too!

Speaking of cooking, all the Moppets and I have recently gotten into watching the Food Network show Chopped. In case you have never seen it, it's a show where 4 professional chefs get 3 baskets full of totally weird ingredients, and they have to make an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, with a frighteningly short amount of time for each. They also have access to all kinds of other ingredients, but they have to incorporate their basket stuff into the meal...things like buffalo steak, kiwi, rotini pasta and some strange unpronounceable cheese. Then they have to bring their dishes before three stern looking judges and say something like, "I've prepared for you today Buffalo and Kiwi Kabobs with Unpronounceable-Cheese-And-Tarragon Dipping Sauce, accompanied by Pasta Tossed In Garlic-Infused Oil, Pistachios and Sage". The judges eat the food and then critique it, and at the end of each round someone Gets Chopped.

It is the first reality show I have ever seen, and I am always just freaked out with anticipation by the end. What I would really love to see is a spinoff show called Chopped:Home Edition, which would feature non-professional chefs and still diverse, but more "normal" ingredients. I am actually going to write to the Food Network and suggest it - I wonder if I am the only person who has ever thought of that? It would still be exciting, but would actually be helpful for the home cook because it wouldn't be quite so avant-garde.

The Home Alone book is secular treatment of the subject. The chapter on music was the most interesting, because instead of complaining about how awful music is today and how it's obviously corrupting the kids and teenagers, the author asks the important question, "WHY does this music speak to these kids?" There were lots of quotes from songs that deal with broken homes, nasty divorces, fatherless lives and other situations that more and more kids find themselves in today. It was very, very sobering and was good at building compassion for people's sad lives (including Those Awful Rappers like Eminem) rather than seeming judgmental.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women is something I got to use with the new barbell my father bought me. I had pre-ordered a new DVD by Kelly Coffey-Meyer that has an Olympic Lifting segment, and I tried that one for the first time today, with the bar loaded at 35 lbs. It was totally different from any other workout I have tried; definitely a challenge, but fun as well. I think I could load the bar heavier for some of the moves in the book, but I think I will have to purchase it since I can't keep it out of the library that long...I have enough plates to load it to 80 lbs. I could definitely do squats with that load, and maybe deadlifts and lat rows. I am hoping it will take my fitness and strength to the next level.

I got the Naturally Thin book because it was recommended by my fave fitness gal, Skwigg. It is basically a book that gives you tips on how to change your eating habits so that you can be a healthy and attractive weight without being "on a diet". She has 10 rules or tips that are really right on the money:

1) Your Diet Is a Bank Account - Basically, what you eat and what you burn has to even out if you want to maintain your weight, and to lose you need to burn more than you consume.

2) You Can Have It All, Just Not All At Once - No food is forbidden or off limits, but you have to pick and choose what to eat right now that will be the most healthful and will keep your account "balanced", if you choose to have french fries with lunch, it's probably best not to have a shake too. You can have the shake tomorrow, but what will best balance your account for weight control and health today?

3) Taste Everything, Eat Nothing - Have small portions of a wide variety of foods so you don't feel deprived

4) Pay Attention - She believes your body does not process very well the fact that it has eaten if you don't eat consciously, and also that it is much easier to overeat if you are not paying attention to whether you feel satisfied

5) Downsize Now - Practice portion control without measuring, by using the right size plates, bowls and glasses

6) Cancel Your Membership in the Clean Plate Club - Learn to know when you feel satisfied and stop eating

7) Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself - learn to stop binging by not eating for emotional reasons, and by not letting food control you because you know no food is off limits

8) Know Thyself - Know what you like to eat, what makes you feel good, what doesn't, what your natural eating patterns are, etc. Eat like YOUR body wants and needs, not what some diet or fitness guru says is the best way for everyone.

9) Get Real - Eat more real food as opposed to processed stuff

10) Good For You - think about how food fits in with taking care of yourself in general, along with sleep, exercise, relaxation and stress management, etc.

These are all things I have been learning to incorporate into my life over the past few years, and they really are the key to getting out of the diet mentality and into lifestyle eating. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be healthier and slimmer, and especially to people who have control issues with food - thinking that one food group or certain foods are "bad" and so bash themselves and suffer guilt if they eat certain things.

My one criticism of the book is that I think the amount of food she actually eats herself, or perhaps recommends or assumes is a good amount of food to eat, might not be enough for some people - at least it wouldn't be for me - at least not for a maintenance level. It would probably be about right for good weight loss.

She does fall into the Get-Enough-Sleep Camp, and I am going to take that advice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wednesday Rapidwrite

I just gagged down my before-bed pills - 5HTP, B-Stress capsules, Vitex and the multivitamin I forgot to take earlier. I wish I didn't have supplements that needed to be taken before bed because that last glass of water always adds another night-time trip to the potty. My art room, which I haven't used in at least a month for anything but exercise, needs cleaning anyway. I am starting to be a bit crumb-y when I get up off the rug, after doing grueling floorwork! I had considered cleaning it this evening, but instead I washed dishes and read a bit of my crime novel and ate popcorn with seasoning salt. I have been very successful lately at not doing anything more productive than making sure no one starves and the house doesn't get condemned, and I am feeling fine about that - which is good, since I said in my Forty-Two Things list that I wanted to get over feeling like I always had to be productive. My laptop computer was out "being repaired" for a full six weeks...I am sure it did not take six weeks to repair it. I don't plan to buy any more electronics at Fry's after the experience - absolute lack of communication and disorganization on their part...and now that I have it back, I can't remember the password to log onto my wireless network, so I am still sitting at my husband's computer! I take it back about not being productive - I HAVE been working out 5 days a week for the past 3 weeks or so, more regularly than I had been since probably April. It feels good to be strong once more, and I am looking forward to September, when it usually gets cool enough to start walking again in the evenings. Moppet 1 has spent a few evenings this week on Skype chats (one lasting until 3am!) and I was thinking how neat it is that programs like that allow young people to have a social life without always having to leave home - which is great for those of us who don't love to leave home to drive anyone somewhere! I am amazingly not-grumpy, considering that this is day 23 of the ol' cycle. In general I have felt sooooo much better these last few months...I have been struggling with all kinds of psychological baggage begging to be unpacked for the past few years, and have just been more depressed and anxiety-ridden than normal, and I was afraid I was on the perimenopause train, with no stops scheduled. I am thankful that there are stops! I can get off and have something to eat in the diner, at least, before I hear the Conductor call, "ALL ABOARD!" Don't know how long the stop will be, though...I am just trying to enjoy it while it lasts. One thing I am hoping to do in the next few weeks is get back to working on the print version of No Spring Chicken. I only have two pages written so far - most of the intro. I have to get it off my external hard drive after I re-load Publisher on my computer, which was completely restored to factory settings during its time away. I still have no idea what will eventually end up in there - the only thing I am sure I want to write is a review of My Name Is Asher Lev, a novel by Chaim Potok. I relate to Asher in a lot of doubt you are so interested to hear why I relate to him that you are already counting down the days until the zine is published, so your curiosity can be satisfied, hehehehee! It is later than I should be up, but I slept waaaaaaay too late this morning...or I should say yesterday morning! Moppet 4 just went to sleep himself; already he is a night owl like his Mama. They are all night owls. I am kind of dreading going to bed though, since the left side of my neck has been so tense lately, and when I am lying in bed it is most noticeable - I guess because my attention is not focused elsewhere. I finally ordered Moppet 2's math book - I start my kids late on math, since I read about doing that in the Bluedorn's book Teaching the trivium. It worked just like they said with Moppet 1...she just jumped into a 5th grade textbook at age 11, no problem.

I guess I'm going to give the bed a great thing about rapidwrites is that you don;t have to apologize for abrupt endings.