Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Nutritional Mental Overhaul

This week has been a challenge for me as I am at the start of a nutritional overhaul.  Well, technically, its called a cleanse.  What it feels like is torture.  As I sit here eating my hot brown rice for breakfast and dreaming about the days of cappuccino and buttered toast, I heavily sigh.  Yet, just like pushing myself up the sidewalks five times this morning, I hunker down and go for it.  I may not like it but I do it.  It is just something that I need to do.  Besides, it is just for 21 days.  I can do that!  That's easy.  That's just three weeks.

My coach said something this morning that I usually abide by.  He said, "You are what you project."  I fully agree with this statement.  Aside from the occasional moments of pure negativity that are warranted from time-to-time, it seems a positive attitude is the most fruitful.  It doesn't mean that you are selling out to "the man" by being a bit can-do.  It means that you are putting yourself on the right foot as you start off on your day.  To project positivity will generally set you up to receive it, plentifully.  Granted, even the most joyous people have their challenging day.  They keep on going.  They swallow the blow, recuperate and maintain.  Because they practice a positive and proactive attitude then it is much easier for them to shake off the drama.

With this in mind, I have psyched myself into my nutritional plan.  I have been preparing myself for this plan for months.  Like a mental workout, my psyching-up would include telling myself that this would be something new and exciting.  I looked forward to the possibility of new flavors and textures that maybe I might actually like now - now that I am forty.  I was up to the challenge.

This flavor thing is something that has always haunted me.  My Dad would say that it confuses him because he feels he raised me differently.  I don't like things like olives or olive oil dressing or soy milk or flax seed.  I really am not that in to avocado (Guacamole lovers unite!  That means more for you!).  I grew up in the Midwest - on a farm in South Dakota to be exact.  And the culinary flavors of that region are just pretty simple, really.  Some would call them bland.  Meat and potatoes and maybe a simple vegetable (canned corn, steamed carrots or green beans) were the contents of a daily meal for my family.  I wasn't really exposed to many diversions from this daily plan through out my entire childhood.  This has made things quite difficult for me as an adult.  It all comes back to the basic mental processes.  A person like me really has to wrap their mind around the possibility of different tastes, textures and consistencies.

Slowly my tastes have expanded.  I eat cheeseburgers now.  This wasn't always the case.  It used to just be plain hamburgers for me.  I mean dry old burger on a dry old bun and with some ketchup.  That's it.  Now I will have cheese and maybe some grilled onions on there.  And that has been a growth experience.  When I was on my honeymoon this summer, I was a total rebel and had a teriyaki burger (well, more than one but that's beside the point).  It was a challenge for me to consider that there would be pineapple in there next to my burger and that it would be hot, not cold.  But I loved it!

Through the years I have ventured to add things to my palette such as sour cream and mayonnaise.  I eat artichokes, bell peppers and garlic willingly.  But, like I said, this was not easy to accomplish.  I have to tell myself to be open to the possibilities.  So when I received my new nutrition plan and it had all these new flavors on it, I was very excited!  I went through the grocery store with my husband carefully reading every single label as I plopped the new spices (like turmeric and ground mustard) and flavors (like navy beans and olives) into our cart.  I came home, gleefully organized everything and set my mind to a new day to begin the following morning.  Yet, when I was standing there making my hot brown rice with ground flax seed, all the apprehension filled me once again.

I have had to consistently remind myself of my health goals.  I remind myself, again, that this will not be but for three weeks.  As I choke down some olive tapenade with my delicious carrots, these things run through my mind.  You can still keep your avocados, folks.

Yet, just as there are things that my tongue fights me on there are also things that are pretty darn good options.  The fact that I get to eat either salmon or tilapia every day is happiness for me.  I already love salmon and found out just yesterday that tilapia is pretty good too.  Well, I like it anyway.  Maybe this is where my bland palate is benefiting me.  I had never had rosemary sweet potatoes before and I think I am now a fan.

Well, I am only two days into this thing and my scale told me this morning that I had lost two pounds in this short time.  So, I'm guessing this is benefiting me quick like.  I suppose that makes it all worth it!  I know that I am complaining a lot about this but it upsets me because I really really really want to like every last item on the menu but it is just not happening.  I will attempt to be more positive.  I know that I will not give up.  I will not cheat.  I may not finish the tapenade but I definitely tried it and won't replace it with something bad for me.  I will wait it out.

Another thing I hear my coach say often, "Be more."  This is a simple and powerful statement.  In taking on the four day per week workouts and now adding the nutritional cleanse, I am doing everything within my power to be more.  I'll keep you updated on the process and my progress.  As I always say, "I do not pacify.  I aim to inspire and seek inspiration in return."  I certainly am getting my dose of this right now!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

Today I set out to clear some space in my living room for a friend that was coming over for a yoga session.  The space I focused on was a stack of 5 boxes that my father brought to me on his last visit from the farm back in South Dakota.  These boxes were filled with valuable heirlooms and collectibles that he couldn't see fit to throw out himself, so he bequeathed them to me.  As I am a romantic, I did not mind the early inheritance.  Yet I procrastinated going through these boxes to find a home for the contents.  Well, I have been a little busy this year.

I savor the idea of antiques and vintage pieces.  I inherited this from my Mom who used to be an avid collector of antiques.  She stopped collecting and she sold mostly all her pieces during the economic downturn of the early 1990's.  My Mom had an old wood cook stove when we lived on the farm.  It was what she cooked on at first when we moved to the farm in 1974.  I was raised on wood stoves for heating the home and, at some points, wood stoves for cooking.  During the freezing winters, my Dad would place a pot of leftovers on the wood stove in the morning when we went outside to work.  By the time we got in for lunch, the food would be piping hot and ready to warm our tummies.

I distinctly remember my Grandma Hazel coming over once or twice to make traditional lefse on that old cook stove.  She came over early in the morning and stood with her less than 5" stature over that hot iron monster as she walked my Mom through the old world process.  I think it took them all day.  Or at least they cooked them all day because this was certainly something that they weren't going to repeat often.  It was a curious site for a little one like me.  It looked like a lot of hard work - all that kneading and discussion over the perfect combination of ingredients.  I would give anything to experience that again, this time being active in the process and only as learned from specifically them.

So I opened those five boxes that have been sitting in my living room since March.  I barely remember what I helped to put into those boxes last summer when he packed them.  I found depression era stemware and tea plates.  There were old coffee pots and candy dishes.  You know - the kind of pressed glass candy dishes that your Grandmother or your Great Aunt always had sitting out on the buffet when you would come over for holiday.  It was usually filled with hard candies the way my Aunt Matilda and Uncle George did it.  My Grandma Hazel filled it with pastel mints.

In those boxes, I also found old bottles and canning jars.

You see, the Johnsons, the people who lived on my family's farm for many many years before we bought it, used to throw their trash into the grove of trees.  They did this instead of taking their trash to the city dump which was 10 miles away.  They did this for a very long time.  My Dad decided that we were going to clean all that trash out of the trees.  My brother Lee and I would be handed empty 5 gallon buckets and told to go fill them up.  My Dad would pull up a corn wagon close to where we were gathering.  With every bucket filled with broken glass and pieces of metal and wire, we would dump them into this wagon.  I was barely bigger than the buckets when I started doing this.  And, I had to walk up the tongue of the wagon to be able to lift the bucket over my head to dump it.  Sometimes Lee would have to dump them for me.  This exercise would happen for one hour after every day of school and often times on Saturdays when there was nothing else to for us to do on the farm to help my Dad.  It was kind of his fall back chore for us.  When nothing else was pressing there was always the grove to be cleaned out.  For the most part, Lee and I cleaned that grove for a couple of years straight.  That was the intensive part.  But I also remember being in high school and, while on the riding lawn mower, pausing and reaching down to pick up a shard of something so it wouldn't ruin the mower blades or be shot into our house windows.  I was on constant alert for this problem.  That right there is at least 13 years of this girls life dedicated to the finely detailed cleaning and maintenance of that farm.

I believe there are two intriguing items that surfaced during rainy springtimes in that grove of trees.  One was a full size grand piano that had been buried in the dirt of the grove at some unknown point in history.  We never could figure out how such a lavish item had found its way to our poor farm with a sad economic past.  The second item(s) of intrigue were pickle jars.  Pickle jars like the great big old crocks you saw in the country store on episodes of Little House on the Prairie.  We uncovered a set - one about five gallons the other about three - next to an old ash tree.

But between the broken bits and pieces of glass, metal, leather pieces, plastic combs, glass insulators and broken toys, we found jars and bottles fully intact.  With their rusty screw top lids or decomposed corked tops, these bottles were things of the sort you might find in a medicine cabinet, if you could afford to have one.  There were lineament containers and aspirin bottles, antacid tins and salad dressing containers.  These were the types of bottles that didn't have labels but the company name was embossed on the side in an ornate fashion.  The bottles had a green or blue tint to them.  And we saved them.  There they were, preserved amidst the mud and the worms, and we uncovered them, washed them off and saved them.

Now I don't know where my father had been keeping these bottles for the past 40 years.  Probably he kept them in the old stone basement before he replaced it a few winters ago, but here they are.  At least here are a few of them.  Wrapped in newspaper and dusty, some still have decomposing corks stuck inside or halfway down the neck of the bottle.  Here they are in a box in my living room in Westchester, California.  Here they have been for the past six months.

I don't even know how to begin to find out how much they are worth.  I'm guessing it's something like zero dollars and even less cents.  Would these items be worth anything to anybody?  How would I even search their worth on Google?  Type in "dump bottles circa 1940-1970"?  I suppose I could type in the company names, but realistically who would be interested aside from me?  Who would be more interested than the very person who slaved and slaved tugging these items up from the dirt like a reluctant archeologist?

These bottles serve to inspire the imagination and they serve to jog my repressed memory of a labor I learned to despise.  I really should hate these bottles but they also serve to remind me of a lot of time spent with my lost and only brother.  They remind me of a life lived long long ago not only by me and my brother but also by my parents and my grandparents.  It is a reminder of an isolated life during those driving Midwestern winter storms when you couldn't go through your front door for 3 days at a time or when you tied a rope to your waist so you wouldn't get lost on your way to feed the cows.  It reminds me of a way of life that I have come to greatly respect - a way of life where you literally worked yourself into the ground.  Relentlessly ranching, my father still follows this code of work ethic.

Dad still lives on that 40-acre farm.  It is where I was married this summer.  I respect what he does and I respect the pride that he has poured into his work and instilled in us to do the same.  Yet, I still appreciate why I fled that farm just three days after high school graduation.  I have to go back for a visit every once in while to remind myself just why.  Now, here in my very own home, I have constant reminders, embossed in blue green glass.  I stare at them while settling into my yoga stance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Love and Inspiration

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  The inspiration is flying across the web like a flock of mosquitoes on a dark and hot summers night near a street light by the lake.  Yikes!  This is a beautiful thing.  I was inspired to get my blog together because of my friend JB.  Then, I inspired my girl Brenda and, I think, Valentine.  Nicole is talking about it.  Who else?  Apparently, we all have something to say.  And, apparently, we all want to hear it.  I'm glad.

There is, however, a heavy common theme today.  LOVE.  There are first loves, new loves, Paris loves, Minnesota loves, California loves, old loves, wouldn't-know-true-love-if-it-hit-'em-in-the-face loves.  Everyone is talking about it.  Not enough of us are succeeding at it.

I remember my first true love.  And, like the post from my man JB, I was also fourteen.  It just so happens that this was the guy who also took my virginity.  Insert stupid precedent for sex equals love here.  It followed me...I'm sorry...This precedent haunted me through most every relationship since.  Don't get me wrong.  Attraction is key to getting a relationship going but it doesn't a relationship make.

I think if you are clear on your expectations then it will help to guide you along the way.  If you go into something knowing that the intimacy is all that you are looking for then you have less of a chance of getting hurt.  But if you go into it thinking that this could be the perfect person then you only set yourself up for failure.  Enjoy yourself.  Have fun getting to know that person.  And if something springs up along the way then cool beans.  If it doesn't then it won't be as difficult to simply move on.  Next!

I think there are a lot of people, however, who are truly looking for that "perfect" person to fit into their world.  This is where you go wrong.  There needs to be compromise.  There needs to be openness to the possibilities.  It is difficult enough to find someone compatible enough to be able to stand one another on a regular basis without putting stipulations on their being.  Let's face it.  You're not perfect, are you?  It's a good idea to have a general notion of the type of qualities you find distasteful in a person you would consider for a relationship.  But to have a laundry list of requirements is unrealistic.  I'll say this again.  Be open to the possibilities.  Do NOT consider it settling if that quirky little nerd actually floats your boat.  Forget what everybody else thinks and go with what feels right to you.  Give somebody a chance.  Be their friend for at least a minute and you just might discover the love of your life lurking in there.  If you give somebody the once over and decide they don't make your "Must Have" list of requirements, you both lose.  You lose the opportunity of the possibilities unknown to you and they lose the chance to be with someone so neurotic as you.  Good for them.  Bad for you.

If you are the type of person who is forever wondering when they will meet that perfect mate and is forever looking forward to that moment, then put the dang list away.  Stop with the requirements already - must be this tall, must be this age, must be this educated, must have this hair color and must love my propensity for sitting home and picking my toes on Friday nights.  Enough already!  Put the list in your pocket, or, better yet, in the trash, and simply enjoy the ride.  Also, stop putting the perfection pressure on yourself too - once I've done this, once I've made this much money, once I've lost this much weight.  Just be yourself - pure, honest, unbridled you.  If you're lucky, right at that very moment that you throw away the list (yours and theirs) and officially stop looking for that ideal - right at that exact moment - you just might have one of those world stopping moments when you meet the love of your life, delivered right there at your feet, in the most unexpected package.

I did.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Beagle Doesn't Want Me to be a Writer

My beagle, Alice, doesn't want me to be a writer. Specifically, she appears to be opposed to my blogging. Which, amuses me considering I named her after one of my favorite authors, Alice Walker.

Alice is three months old now. She is pretty simple, in fact. Things you can expect from her include three hour naps, spurts of high energy, lots of drinking, lots of eating and lots of excrement. Don't forget the chomping. As near as I can tell, she is really into this and somehow thinks that it is ok to attempt to perfect her skill. She chews on everything - dresser knobs, kitchen rugs, couch edges, chair legs, bedroom trashcan, Garrett's weights, my fingers - everything! We are training her but this takes time and is often very difficult with such a young pup. We provide her with chew options (lots of toys), bark out the suggested "NO!" and praise her immensely when she does what we ask of her. Yet, her chomping persists.

So shortly after my Friday blog when my husband followed Alice to the living room to find this, I wasn't too surprised.

This is the exact magazine that inspired me for my first blog. Poets & Writers is actually a perk given to me by my scholarship back at USC, the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund. Its purpose was to do exactly what it did - inspire. And I was really feelin' this particular issue. When Garrett presented me the fiasco, I had to laugh and hard.

Since Alice arrived, I have been attempting to get this blog together. It took me an inordinate amount of time to settle in to being a new mom to a little pup. I found it quite difficult to do anything when she was awake. I had been complaining that my life was on hold until she was trained. As a recent graduate and new wife, I am constantly asked, "So what are you doing now? What are your plans? Are you writing?" My consistent response refers to my amazement as to how much I can manage to not achieve when left to my own devices. Between working out and tending to Alice, washing the laundry and washing the dishes, I felt a sudden connection to the housewives of the world. One minute you are getting up at 5:30am to meet your trainer and a few minutes later you look at the clock and it is time to go to bed. Ugh.

Having finally achieved my blogging goal and feeling all cozy in my writers nook, I had to laugh at Alice's well-intentioned proclamation. There was my muse, my inspiration lying on the floor greatly assaulted and evidently shredded and bruised. Why would my little green gas emitter do this to my magazine? Did Alice somehow know that when she was put to napping that I was in my nook typing? Did she despise the magazine for taking time away from her? Was this jealousy? Or was this just a really inviting chew toy? I am thankful that it was not my laptop lying there this way - cold, wounded and shaking.

Regardless, the pup has spoken. She is demanding of my time, which interferes with the creative process. She has destroyed the evidence of my inspiration for the first blog, however, in doing so, has created inspiration for the third. I love her still. I will continue to write and blog. And, I know that we will continue to fight about this. A compromise is imminent and, yet, I have a feeling that this won't be the last we hear from Alice Lucille. No sir, not the last at all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Applying my GPA to my Thighs

I am a New Year baby.  This means that forty knocked on my door on the morning of January 1st, 2009.  By May 15th, I finished my undergraduate degree (well, mostly).  By June 13th, I was sprinting down the aisle to wed my handsome Garrett.  I would have thought that sleep would have been an option at that point.  Nope.  Six days after my nuptials I was training with my newly acquired "other" Mom out at Kenneth Hahn Park, Bonnie.  This instantly turned into a 3-4 day per week 6:30/7:00am commitment.  

In fact, today I was out there extra early.  Extra early being 6:27AM.  But this is what I saw when I arrived upon "the hill."  The sun was not yet up, offering only hints of another hot day in the eastern California sky.  The day was looking gorgeous and I couldn't wait to get it started.

I have been working out up here for about two and a half months.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you can find me here at this hour.  Sometimes I am here on Saturdays.  And what amazes me most is that I continue to do so.  I haven't given up on it.  I haven't talked myself out of it.  I haven't fibbed to get out of it.  All I want is more of it.  

You see, I have a blockage about my body image.  I am about 50-60lbs over my ideal weight - that which makes me feel most comfortable in my own skin.  Weight management for me has been a challenge since I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Patience, when I was twenty-two years old.  Usually on the manageable end of this challenge, I have encountered two difficult periods of weight gain.  Once, I gained drastically during a post traumatic stress period in my late twenties.  This occurred after I was a victim to a violent crime (I will get into that story on another day).  For three years, I suffered and I gained.  

This second problematic gain came during my latest attempt at undergraduate education - a six-year journey.  When I started at Santa Monica College in 2003, I weighed a sexy 155lbs or so.  Now, do the math.  With every semester, I buried my head further and further into my studies.  It was my intent to overcome my educational obstacles and, in doing so, paid no mind to my body.  I did spend my third year preparing for and running in a 5k.  I built my endurance but I did not lose the weight.  By the time I enrolled at USC in the fall of 2006, my weight had maxed and, frankly, I did not want to know the real truth of the actual figures in pounds.  However, with everything I had learned through my education and my sustainability pursuits together with the sound advice of some dear friends, I began to change how I consumed.  My whole household changed their perspective on what we were consuming versus what we should be consuming.  Conscious consumption had been born in our home.  

So while we made efforts to go organic in addition to cutting out things like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated whatever oil, the weight was still there.  Some came off.  I don't know how much.  I just know that my clothes fit better and my complexion was better.  I felt better but I was still 50+ pounds heavier than my comfort weight.  

The entire time that I pursued my education, I had this fantasy.  I wanted to apply my grade point average to my body.  I wanted a great big old fat tube of GPA that I could squeeze out in massive amounts and rub onto my thighs and my upper arms and my belly like a heavy night cream.  Really, this was my fantasy.  The way I saw it, I was achieving monumental goals through the exercise of my brain on a daily basis.  I was assaulting my blockages psychologically to retrain how I approached mental processes.  I was winning this battle and, as a result, receiving outstanding scholarship awards and grants - massive recognition to help me achieve my academic goals.  It seemed that the higher my GPA grew, so did my weight.  So, I thought to myself, why couldn't I apply the same techniques that I used to get past my own mind to get past my own body?  This fantasy eluded me as I continued to chose my studies over my body.  

Upon graduation and wedding, my unspoken fantasy surfaced.  It has come to fruition in the most unexpected ways.

I get to work out with my new mom-in-law, Bonnie.  And one of my trainers is my new sister-in-law, Tianna.  The local natural environment is our gym.  Our trainer, our coach, Erich Nall, presents such a positive force that there is never any doubt.  Ours is a family environment that extends to everyone on the hill.  Always smiling, always laughing, we have a great time while we put our best selves forward challenging the physical and mental barriers within us.  It is all of these factors that keep me accountable and committed and excited about this new venture in total wellness.  

In my near-three months that I have been participating in applying my GPA to my thighs, I have shed somewhere between 6-10lbs.  My physicality is in constant positive change and my mental processes are smoothing out.  I am loving the heck out of conquering fears and blockages that have been there for years.  And, I am eager to see what each new day brings.  

I may still be tired and I may still be pounds over my ideal but I am making progress toward my own personal transformation.  And, like a mentor of mine said to me today, "If you are moving in the right direction, why stop and ask for directions?"  Gaining the weight took me six solid years, so dropping it isn't going to happen overnight.  I will remain focused and patient and revel in the little accomplishments along the way.  My new husband loves me exactly as I am.  I am already the cake.  I am adding the icing along the way.  

OH, man.  Did I just say cake and icing?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Parabola: Modern Times in Romanticized Spaces

There is a nook in my home that we use for talking on the telephone.  It seems that our mobile carrier does not provide service in most of the downstairs of our two-story home.  We find the service best in the north east corner, so we have created a nook.  This nook is special to me because is hearkens back to those movies you watch where there is a specific place in ones home (usually somewhere between the foot of the main staircase and near the kitchen door) where one would have a would-be private location to hold a conversation on the telephone.  That is, except for the household members (your mother or your little brother) who may be lurking in the kitchen door or at the top of the stairs.  Ours is nestled between our patio doors and my daughters antique Wurlitzer piano.

Our nook is not a resultant feature of our home but a created space - an assembly of two parts vintage 1970's rusty orange eight-piece couch, one part glass and steel coffee table, one part Home Depot lamp and one part patio door.  The lamp suffices for night time illumination while the patio doors offer an amazing morning glow for our talking pleasure.  These moments of speak occur every Sunday morning when I receive a call from my father back on the farm in South Dakota, or when my husband is talking business that requires a focused attention.

And while this area has been created for a specific purpose, I embrace it none-the-less.  It is, for me, a parabola.  Now, I have never been one for math (it took me five attempts to accomplish basic algebra and I certainly never made it through geometry) but there is something about the intersection of a surface and a parallel which create a line that just somehow get me in the heart.  See, in my heart lies a hopeless romantic, and romantics like me usually possess a passion for the past - the romanticized past anyway.  While I presently cannot afford a beautifully sculpted and well-maintained Victorian home, I can certainly embrace one in imagined spaces of my current dwelling.  Our nook is an intersection of those nooks of the past with the parallel of now that creates a space in the present - my space, our space.

This space I use to yap yap away, be it on the phone or on my keyboard.  I sit snuggly cushioned in my couch-with-a-questionable-history and type away while gulping my cappuccino and appreciating the noise that assaults my space from the buses, motorcycles and down-shifting fire trucks that bumble by on Manchester Avenue.  For inspiration, I can glance up to see kids on the street skateboarding or back-packed teens racing to the city bus.  Or, I can simply look ahead to the bottom dwellers in my fresh-water tank searching for tasty algae.  Family pictures and beautiful paintings line the walls amidst the dust and the house plants.  All of these serve to inspire this writer I know as "Me."

Some writers collect vintage typewriters.  This writer creates vintage space - a nook, a parabola - and, hopefully, a worthwhile communication.