Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Fat Body (In)Visible

I really enjoyed this mini-documentary.  I was introduced to it by one of my favorite posters on Nappturality.


the fat body (in)visible from Margitte Kristjansson on Vimeo.


I think that there were so many valid points made.  And even though I've lost all the weight now, I can appreciate the message that we need to learn how to a) accept ourselves just the way we are and b) work hard and actively to change the prevalent ideas of who can be included as part of the "beautiful people).  Anyone who falls outside of these unrealistic beauty standards is subject to being invisible or being "the freak"--and even those who match the beauty standards to a tee eventually will not.  It's inevitable.

Anyway, I thought I'd share.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What's Your Style?

This question always throws me for a loop.  Right now, I don't think I really have a style.  My goal most days is to look neat.  When I go to work, I want to look professional enough to be taken seriously.  I don't have any pieces in my wardrobe that I would say point to my personal style.  I had a style at one point.  It was kind of an Earth-mother, natural sista style complete with head wrap and long, flowing skirt.  I liked to wear buttons a lot too . . .  

But as I got older, had children, started to conceive of God in a different way, gave up the fight to grow locks, settled into the job of at-home mom, I became a lot more conservative about the way I dress and accessorize.  And I realized that I have always been on the more conservative side--even when I was rocking the Earth-mother style.  I never rocked huge ankh rings or other really obvious jewelry or clothing.  I'd wear a daishiki or other African-inspired print but usually just as accents.  I kind of always just wanted to blend in and not call attention to myself.  I think most people who are fashionable do so because they're comfortable being the center or attention.  I'm just not.

It's just funny that I considered myself a radical person for so long but now that I think about it, I've always been more conservative in my  dress and in my way of being.  It's just so funny when one realizes that they're just not as revolutionary as they suppose.  Or else they would have just done the dang thing already . . .

No real point to this post.  Just kind of rambling.  It was inspired by this jewelry that a sistren of mine introduced me to.  Very beautiful but I can't imagine wearing anything other than a ring to a very special occasion.  I like the fact that the jewelry is made from healing/energetic stones.  More than likely, knowing me, I'd purchase a stone with a certain quality but wear it inside where no one could see it.  Although I'd like to think I am hip enough to wear some of the other pieces comfortably and confidently, it just ain't so.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Craftiness

Okay, so maybe not all that crafty.  After all, the candle rolling kit I bought is still sitting there untouched.  But I did bake up a storm!  This year I went with banana walnut bread and baked 7 loaves in total.  I also baked a dozen chocolate chip cookies for my sister.  The wrapping materials were all courtesy of the dollar store.  So the top picture is how I presented the loaves (with sparkling pomegranate juice from Costco--6 bottles for $8-$9) and the bottom picture is of the cookies (although by the time I got to take a picture, my sister had already opened it!).  I think that everything came out to about $30 maximum--Costco and Trader Joe's made that very easy.




This is my approach to the holidays--baking for people.  People love to eat and there's something so nice about a slice of homemade bread slathered with butter.  Hopefully as the boys get bigger, they can participate more and we can bake even more for those we love.  Another thing: this year I was moved to bake a loaf for our neighbors.  Recently, their son has been coming to play with Z1 and he's really a sweet kid.  So I used that little bit of connection as my opening to maybe make us more neighborly.  It's so disturbing to me that we live in such close proximity to people and don't even know their names.  I'm hoping this bit of holiday baking will go a long way.   

Monday, December 20, 2010

Too Fast!!

I am, by nature, a very impatient person.  I am also not a procrastinator.  I like to get things out of the way.  As quickly as possible.  I call it efficiency, that is, getting things done.  But, as most everyone can attest, when you increase efficiency, you have to sacrifice something.  For businesses, what's first to go is quality (especially in the customer service department).  In my personal life, most of the time what goes is thoroughness.  Things get done well enough.  Not perfectly.  It's the complete opposite of the hubby who takes forever to do things but does them with careful attention to detail.  As a busy mom though, sometimes efficiency is just what is needed.  I simply can't take a long time to do everything I have to do or else the stuff just wouldn't get done.  

But there is one area that I really need to focus on:  my eating.  Like everything else I do, I eat fast.  I mean, I inhale my meals.  Mealtime is over in about five minutes, generally speaking.  Yes, because of Weight Watchers, I spend time to plan out what I eat but the actual eating is a blur.  To compound the program, I usually like to read a magazine or a book while I eat.  No matter how spectacular the meal, it's over before I can really enjoy it.  To achieve efficiency, I sacrifice my enjoyment of eating, my observance and appreciation of the finer points of cuisine and, perhaps most detrimental, complete and thorough mastication.  

I'm trying to change this.  I am determined in this new year to really learn how to savor and enjoy food.  I realize that eating fast affects how well I can digest food (and my digestive issues are what caused me to start thinking that how I eat is probably just as important as what I eat).  I'm trying to not do anything else but eat at mealtimes.  No computer, books or magazines.  I would like to make my eating a practice in meditation.  This means becoming more consistent with offering thanks at the beginning and end of each meal.  This means really being mindful of what I'm eating and how I'm eating and what it feels like the whole time.  I want to really enjoy my food and stop eating for efficiency, i.e. just to get it over with and move on to the next "task".  I want to recoup all the sacrifices I have made in the name of efficiency when it comes to eating.  


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bikram Yoga!

I finally got around to taking a Bikram Yoga class today and I think I am in love.  I'd heard folks gush (and gush and gush) about classes and insist that once I took one class I'd be hooked.  Well, let's just put it this way:  I am trying to move my schedule every which way to see how I could fit in my next class.  

I really can't think of any cons about this yoga style. There was so much I loved and that vibed with me.  I loved the style of the teacher.  It's kind of detached and no-nonsense. There's no joking.  No miscellaneous talking.  No doing one side then [the teacher] getting distracted and forgetting to do the other.  The teacher doesn't demonstrate the poses but she gives a lot of detail about what should be happening in each pose.  The teacher also doesn't adjust you.  The heat and humidity really agreed with me: my sinuses opened up without me doing a thing and I could breathe fully and deeply and it was not uncomfortable for me.  The only other time I enjoy such free breathing is when I'm running but running feels like so much more effort.  It was so amazing: I'd do the postures which are not all that active (no jumping into positions or fast sun-salutations) and when I'd get into savasana (which was often) my heart would be pumping as if I was running.  Typically, after the yoga class I've been attending on Thursdays, I go for a run because the hour-long yoga practice really didn't feel like exercise at all.  So I'd do the yoga and then go exercise.  No so with Bikram.  It felt like yoga, i.e. the connection and getting into my body but it also felt like exercise.  I like the fact that I could learn the whole sequence of poses and still be challenged and engaged.  One of my biggest issues with yoga has been that I get distracted and my mind wanders.  Not so with Bikram.  The only thing I think I missed what the cueing about when to breathe in and breathe out.  I also got quite nauseous during Pose 11 and 12 but the teacher warned that beginners to the practice may get nauseous or dizzy.  I just sat out those poses and then jumped back in when I felt ready.

It was just a very cleansing experience overall and I really enjoyed it.  I did not want to get up from my final relaxation.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I don't want to speak too soon

And jinx myself.

But I think I finally know what is the cause of the stomach/gut problems I have been experiencing all these years: beans.

If nothing else, eating a wheat free diet these past weeks has forced me to really focus on my eating and how I feel after I eat a particular meal.  I noticed that typically after every meal, I'd feel bad.  Sometimes worse than others.  So I had started to suspect that wheat was not the culprit since I had not felt even a tiny bit better after cutting it out.  I started to suspect beans.  Yesterday, I didn't eat any beans at all.  No tofu.  No hummus.  No bean anything.  In other words, I had to rearrange everything I ate yesterday to exclude beans and that was actually more difficult than excluding wheat.  Three-fourths of my diet centers on beans.  

So I didn't eat it yesterday.  And I felt amazing yesterday and I continue to feel amazing now.  My stomach is settled.  I'm not in pain.  

I kind of feel a little foolish for not realizing it sooner but I had always prepped my beans properly (well soaked and cooked with kombu).  And I'd never heard anyone complain of gas associated with eating tofu or soy milk so I didn't think that could be part of the problem (although I did eliminate soy at one point to see if it was making my hair thin).

Now I have to really re-vamp my whole diet and I'm a little daunted.  See, I don't really know how to cook any other way besides vegetarian. I eat fish but it is really just as an aside:  a baked salmon fillet or some canned tuna added to a salad (that probably has beans in it).  I searched some books I have and also on the internet and came up with some recipes for raw burgers and hummus-like dips made with seeds or nuts but my intuition is telling me that this is it for me and a mainly-plant based diet.  I'm going to return to eating meat.  Of course, I have lots of standards for whatever meat I will eat and as my fortune would have it, I met a great mama a few weeks ago who runs a buying co-op.  The co-op sells all kinds of meat, milk, eggs and other groceries raised and produced at a farm nearby.  So I'm able to purchase high quality animal products (not fed soy) in a relatively inconvenient  way (pick-up is not far).  I'm not exactly sure where to start first in terms of cooking it but I figure that I can start by just adding chicken, turkey or beef to dishes where I would have used beans.  And then go from there.  Like Monday's dinner was sweet and spicy chili from Vegan Planet.  It tore my stomach up!  But I could cook the chili and before I add the beans, take out half or so to another pot and add some browned turkey or beef.  And then with the remaining half, add half the amount of beans.  

Sometimes I feel so stupid for going down the road of vegetarianism and staying on it even though I just felt worse and worse and worse as I continued.  I really wanted to be healthy but I got some micro-focused on this one way of "healthy" eating that I ignored the fact that it hasn't been healthy for me.    Yes, I had allergies and acne and all that . . . I really believed that a vegan/vegetarian/plant based diet would heal me.  Instead, I still have all that stuff and more complexities added on to it.  

I think about the spiritual aspects as well and I have to be completely honest:  not eating animals has never made me feel any closer to God or any more spiritual or connected.  I guess it's kind of hard to get connected when your gut feels like it's going to explode or something.  I actually feel that eating in a way that doesn't cause me to feel sick is the most compassionate thing I can do for myself . . . but I'm not sure how to align compassion on myself with compassion on the animals that have to die in order for me to eat.  The very least I can do is to make sure that the animals I do eat had decent lives and were killed as humanely as possible.  

It just amazes me sometimes how the ideals I had in my early twenties have just not matched up to my reality.  And it's taken this long to finally be okay with letting go and accepting what is.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wheat-Free Oatmeal Waffles and Weight Watchers Update

I'm still giving this wheat-free diet a try.  This coming Tuesday will mark 2 weeks that I've, to the best of my ability, avoided wheat.  Usually on Sundays we have pancakes and since I can't have my regular pancakes, I've been making wheat-free oatmeal waffles.  I googled and came up with a bunch of hits.  I combined 2 or 3 recipes to make up this one.  

Wheat-Free Oatmeal Waffles
Start by heating up your waffle iron.  You will need

1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup almonds
1 medium banana
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon oil

Put everything in the blender and run it till smooth.  Spray your waffle iron with cooking spray, pour about a 1/2 cup of batter in and cook for about 8 minutes.  You should come up with 4 waffles.  
----------------------------------------------------
The waffles are really good.  I still have my tempeh bacon (which I marinated for the first time yesterday--they were awesome!) with them except I make sure to use wheat-free soy sauce.  By the way, the tempeh bacon recipe comes from You Won't Believe it's Vegan.

As for Weight Watchers . . . perhaps the best thing about WW is that it is adaptable to any diet: raw, wheat-free, vegan, macrobiotic, whatever.  Recently they changed the program saying that this new one accounts for new research discoveries--and it does seem to accommodate diets that have more fruit in it.  This new program assigns 0 points to fruit whereas with the old program, fruit was 1-2 points depending on the type of fruit.  I've spent this whole year that I was on WW diligently tracking my fruits and treating them with respect.  I don't eat 2 bananas a day (because that was 3 points) although before WW I would have without giving it a second thought.  In fact, all points are calculated differently (in some cases points values are higher) but you're allotted more points daily.  

I'm not one for change especially if something is working. I'm skeptical about the new program and I've considered canceling my account with them.  But I have to say that tracking what I eat with WW E-tools has kind of become a way of life for me.  I have tons of recipes on there and it's something I use every day.  In fact, I keep the window open all day long and sometimes plan out my whole week of eating.  

I realize that WW is a business and they have to change things up every so often to a) attract new customers and b) keep profits high (by keeping people from figuring out how to do WW without paying) so I can't fault them too much.  We weren't given a choice in the matter (i.e. the choice to stick with the old program or switch to the new) and so I have to get with the new plan (or quit altogether).  That in and of itself was really maddening but, I mean, if I just stick to what I've been doing more or less, I expect my weight to stay the same.  I am trying not to let the different point values change anything. I'm also thinking about using SparkPeople since they also have a recipe tracker and all that and it's free.  However, I'm comfortable with WW and I don't really feel like changing even though I fork over $12 a month to them.  

I have to admit:  when I woke up one morning and found that they had changed everything, I went into a sort of panic.  Like I said, tracking has become part of my life.  It really upset me that they had changed things.  I immediately considered canceling.  After all, I've lost the weight and I have a pretty good idea of how to eat to keep it off.  I think.  I'm not totally confident though and I like having the support of an online tracker to help me keep it visual and to keep a record.  I wish, though, that wisdom about eating were more intuitive to me.  I mean, all around not just with WW.  The WW change made me realize all too intensely that I don't know exactly what to eat to feel good and healthy. There are so many camps with different ideas about what to eat and I am willing to try different things but honestly, it's challenging.  And I seem to have no internal direction about what would make me feel good and what to eat (and how much to eat) to stay this size.  So I just keep trying this and trying that and having to rely on outside things like WW  . . . psychologically, that doesn't feel right at all.  But it's something that I think many of us struggle with since we are so disconnected from food production and traditional ways of preparing and eating foods.  We're at the mercy of those who say, "Eat this and not that."  It's all very . . . disconcerting.  

Anyway, I wanted to share that recipe and how I'm feeling about the new Weight Watchers. 

Mother's Guilt

is never too far away.

An acquaintance of mine recently said: "There's no such thing as bad weather . . . only bad clothing".  And I've sort of come to agree.  I still despise the cold (after all, I'm an African and do far, far better in the heat) but I see that if one dresses properly, one can be comfortable in some pretty extreme weather.  

I made the decision to continue running through the winter and invested a grip on appropriate winter running gear.  When I go for a run in 20 degree weather, this is what I'm wearing:


Bottom
  • wool socks 
  • Underarmour base layer bottom
  • fleece pants over that
  • windbreaker pants
Top
  • Underarmour base layer top
  • fleece vest
  • fleece windbreaking jacket
  • windbreaker
  • gaiter
  • fleece hat underneath a wool hat
Hands
  • silk liner gloves
  • windbreaker running gloves
  • fleece-lined wool mitts
And wouldn't you know it?  It works.  I'm comfortable throughout my run (although I do need to get something to protect my face--Vaseline can only do so much).  I've cut my runs down a bit.  Short runs are now 20 minutes and long runs only 40-45 minutes.  So I can be outside without asking myself what the hell I'm doing out there for about 45 minutes.  It's amazing.  I've always been the kind to hunker down once the thermometer drops--a real whimp about the cold and here I am.  

Anyway, it got me to thinking that if I can be outside for 45 minutes in freezing temperatures, so could my kids.  And heaven knows they need to get out.  All this pent up energy . . . they are just bouncing off the walls trapped inside the house because of the cold.  But they don't have appropriate winter gear--nothing made for being outside for longer than 10-15 minutes maximum.  And they should.

Uh-oh.  Whenever should comes into the conversation, guilt is soon to follow.

I started to feel terrible because I've plunked down all this money on clothes to make running in the cold possible but I really haven't invested any time or money into serious cold weather clothes for them.  Oh, they have all kinds of "warm" mittens and hats, jackets and sweaters made from polyester fleece.  It's warm.  It's good.  But it's not the best for the cold.  It's not as good as wool and other natural fibers.  That's what they should be wearing!

I've been planning to knit wool hats and gloves for my kids for a long time.  I have the patterns lined up and all.  I just haven't gotten around to it.  I checked the prices for wool long johns and socks online and it's not cheap.  I felt bad because I've spent so much on stuff for myself without buying warmer, higher quality stuff for them.  

Until I realized that I wouldn't even be considering taking my kids out to play in this kind of weather had I not challenged myself to continue running through winter.  I would never have thought it would be possible to have fun outside in the cold (even if we can't be out there for hours).  The whole re-structuring of my attitude towards the cold is a direct result of running.   Why should I feel guilty about buying the things that allow me to do this one thing that does so much for me?  So I dropped the guilt thing.

In a few weeks, I'll look into wool long johns and socks for them.  I'll slowly purchase yarn to make wool hats and mittens.  Meanwhile, they have wool sweaters I bought at the thrift store over the years, random wool hats that I've made over the years that they can wear under their fleece hats, and cotton waffle knit long johns that while not the greatest are okay.  So maybe we won't be able to be out for very long right now but at least it's a possibility in my mind.    

Facebook Folly: Just Do It

I am on Facebook and have been for a while now.  I don't get too involved.  I check it once or twice a day, read statuses, sometimes post my own status and then log off.  It's been a great tool to check on people from my past lives (i.e. elementary and high school) but I don't get too wrapped up and try to keep my friends list cropped.  Despite the fact that I don't get too involved, there are some things that are pet peeves of mine on there.  One pet peeve,  was able to take care of was all those games and things people play that were showing up in my News Feed.  

My major pet peeve though is when folks get on Facebook and post these kind of statuses:
"I'll be cutting some of you guys off here on FB so take this as a warning!"
"Some of ya'll don't ever talk to me so you will be de-friended this afternoon."
"Oh cruel world, Facebook has done me ever so wrong!  I'm taking an extended leave!"
"I hate when folks post stupid status updates!  I don't care!"
"If you don't like what I'm saying, if it pisses you off, too bad!  Take me off your friends list!"

I just don't understand the point of these types of statuses.  If you want to prune your friends list, JUST DO IT.   No type of announcement is needed.  If you just deleted them as friends, if it's true that you guys are not that close, they probably wouldn't even notice.  People collect friends on Facebook like Z1 collects rocks:  not much of a criteria so long as it's a rock.  If you need to leave Facebook because it has taken over your life, JUST DO IT.  If you don't like what folks have to say you have the option to block them so JUST DO IT.  If you have folks on your Friends List that would take offense at you being who you are, take yourself off their friend list.  JUST DO IT.  For goodness sake.  

The world of Facebook has to be the most ridiculous world ever.  People taking offense at being de-friended.  Letting the world know their most personal details because they've forgotten that Facebook is *PUBLIC*  place even if your page is private.  I'm approaching 29 but I definitely feel like I'm out of step with the times.  Facebook is just not that serious and I don't really care about what goes on there.  It doesn't affect my life that profoundly.   And I really don't understand why it gets to that level with some people.  

I know, I know, to each his own.  But if something about Facebook annoys you, feel free to JUST DO IT.  Whatever it is.  Because it's just not that serious.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Leapster

For Z1's fifth birthday, we bought him a Leapster (which comes pre-loaded with games), two games and a case.  After about a month of pretty consistent play, Z1 seemed to have lost interest altogether in the game.  So I went on Ebay to scout some new, more advanced games figuring that he had already mastered the games that he had.  I bought two new games and that seemed to do the trick: Z1 was interested in the game system again.  That lasted about one week and then he started to ignore the game again.
I know already that in terms of learning style, Z1 is a dabbler.  That means that he likes to do a little of this and a little of that.  At times, however, he will find something he really likes and work on it tirelessly.  This was how he was with puzzles for a very long time.  Of course, I went out of my way to get him a wide array of puzzles and now we have a ridiculous collection.  Which he never touches. (Luckily, Z2 is into puzzles now.)   

Z1's learning style is very similar to the hubby's style:  the hubby knows a lot about and is competent in many things.  Recently, he picked up the harmonica and just with books and YouTube, has really taught himself a lot.  Learning the harmonica inspired him to pick up the kette drum again (he had just dabbled with it before) and now, he plays wonderfully.  I mean, it's really awesome to hear him play.  So I'm not really worried about Z1's learning style even though it's almost completely opposite of the way I approach things.  (I normally don't attempt things that I'm not sure I can be reasonably proficient at and then I focus on mastering that thing but these days, I'm trying to be more open and willing to take risks when it comes to learning).

Anyway, I got to wondering whether the issue with the Leapster is a learning style thing or is it a technology thing?  Z1 can play games on the computer for hours if you let him. He constantly asks me to extend his daily one-hour time limit.  He loves to watch my nephews play games on the Playstation.  And he covets his neighbor friends PSP.  So maybe the Leapster is just not as slick visually as these other systems?  Maybe the games are not as modern?  Is it like playing Atari when everyone has moved on to Nintendo?  

I will admit that I'm not in any way a game person.  I never had a game system and the only game I was really ever able to get into and play well is Tetris.  I prefer pen and paper word games.  Sometimes I like puzzles like tangrams.  Mainly I like to write and read.  So I'm having a difficult time figuring out what the problem is because I would like him to use what we bought for him.  At the same time, if it is really that the Leapster is just not as "fresh" as other games out there, I'm not ready to get him a different handheld gaming system. I watch the kids at his swimming class glued to those things.  It's what they do.  I feel like it's just one more distraction to add to the long list of distractions.  One more way to disconnect from the rest of the world.

I feel a bit sensitive about the issue already.  People texting when they very well could have called.  Staring at their phone, looking very busy, as a way to avoid social (polite) interaction at the playground or at a baby shower for that matter.  In a world that I feel is growing more and more difficult, it's pretty obvious to me at least, that we need each other, we need strong communities if we are to survive this economic climate.  Yet, it seems that at this time, there are just more and more things pulling us apart.  We're so "busy" all the time that we hardly have time to be with each other.

So pardon me if I'm not running to get the latest techno gadget for Z1.  I'm not ready yet to have him plugged in all the time although I do wish that spending my money on the Leapster didn't feel like such a waste.  I know that I can place limits on the times he can play with these things just like he's limited on the computer but . . . it really is a struggle to get him off once he's on.  He's human after all and how many adults complain about how hard it is to get away from their Blackberry or laptop long enough to have a real dinner?  Technology is addictive that way and I just think that he's too young right now and I'm not ready.  So it's the Leapster or, as it seems he has chosen, nothing for now.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fire Starter

Even though I don't blog about it much anymore, I'm still working on my emergency preparation/survival skills.  Recently, I purchased fire steels.  I had been wanting to add these to our supplies for some time now because I realize that there are situations where matches wouldn't really work (like if the conditions are wet).  I was having trouble figuring out how to create sparks with the fire steel despite following the directions.  Luckily, there's YouTube.  Sorry I couldn't embed the video but Ray Mears, who does the video, has some other really good videos available on YouTube.  (Another interesting channel I found is NaturalBushCraft.)  Not only did I learn how to use my fire steel, I got a tutorial on how to start a fire, an invaluable survival skill.  It's really cold right now but I'm really looking forward to the spring so that I can practice starting fires in the backyard.   

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Foiled Project!

I wanted to get my fingers busy working on a project.  Something simple and easy that wouldn't take too much thought or attention.  It needed to be something that I could make with some of my stash yarn because recently I've spent a lot of money (mainly on cold-weather running gear).  I decided on this hat (Ravelry link).  I have some bulky acrylic yarn someone gave me ages ago.  It's a pretty color (green is my favorite) but it feels like . . . acrylic.  Anyway, I figured I might as well use it up and maybe give it to a charity or something for this holiday season.

I happily cast on and was knitting away on my cheapie bamboo circular needles.  The stitches were hard to move because of the friction created by the cheap yarn and the cheap needles.  So . . . I decided to switch to double points.  At that point I realized the hat was incredibly HUGE.  I don't know what I did wrong!  I cast on the right number of stitches using the right needles . . . there's no gauge listed in the pattern so I guess it serves me right!

The hubby joked that I could use it as a neckwarmer/scarf and I seriously considered it.  The picture just really doesn't show how ginormous this thing is!  Nonetheless,  I would have just continued on knitting but the pattern with it's 1 stitch cabling was just too fussy to keep going long enough to make a neckawarmer.  So I just cut my yarn and decided to start this pattern today--an actual scarf/cowl.  No big deal.

I'm going to make another scarf (which are really good stash-busting projects). I'm going to make this scarf which I saw someone wearing the other day and I thought was cute.

Anyway, here's a blanket I finished crocheting.  I just used stash yarn (Caron Simply Solft) and this pattern.  I love the pattern and I think the results are pretty.  My only complaint is that it doesn't lay completely flat.  But the only time you need a blanket to lay completely flat is for a picture. :p


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still Growing, Still Learning

I am.  

I let something go down a few days ago that had me kicking myself for my inability to stand up for myself and defend myself as the hardworking, knowledgeable, resourceful, experienced, well-read and wise woman that I am.  I was angry at myself for giving up my power.  I was angry at myself for the incredibly inane act of actually giving someone fodder with which to criticize me in my misguided (and just flat wrong) attempts to be agreeable and, well, liked.  And angry at the person too even though he/she wasn't doing anything I didn't allow.

I'm constantly doing work to better myself as a person and a mother.  I read a lot.  I meditate a lot.  I chant.  It's a priority to me and I'm open to advice and instruction.  I just always need to bear in mind that no one knows better than me (and I will *know* best if I just stay in touch with my gut, my true self).  

Anyway, after a couple of days, I am finally grateful for the experience.  It served as a gentle reminder to myself that I still have a lot of work to do in the area of communication. One of my best friends has been studying non-violent communication for a long time and this was finally the experience that I needed to make me realize that I need something to help me learn how to communicate in a way that's effective yet non-violent.  I recognize that many of my communication issues stem from my childhood and the way I was raised.  I feel myself tense when there's a possibility that a discussion will lead to flared tempers or hurt feelings and so I recoil and get passive (with strangers or folks who don't know me very well) or I get very defensive and lash-out (with those I'm closest to).  I want to express my needs without worrying about others reactions because I know that I'm conveying what I feel without accusing or projecting.  And that's a challenging thing to do.  

On another note, recently at my altar, I've been reading the book Buddhism for Mother's by Sarah Napthali.  This book is really a good one for me.  For some reason, I've been unable to incorporate ideas (or I've been inconsistent about doing so) from other books regarding integrating Buddhism into daily life but not the case with this one.  It is surprisingly accessible and I'm really enjoying it.  The last topic I covered was anger and on a few occasions, I've been able to watch my anger and figure out beneficial ways to handle it. The other day, I had just put a fresh diaper on Z1 getting him ready for be and he took it off. We were already running late and I just wanted to get them into bed.  Ordinarily, I would have flown into a rage (tired, frustrated, etc) . . . but this time, I was able to just acknowledge my anger, acknowledge that it was frustrating and just to put on the diaper with love and keep it moving.  In the grand scheme of things, really, it wasn't a big deal.  Certainly not big enough to let anger ruin the whole evening.  

Another surprising by-product of this book is that I've been honoring the Buddha(s) more.  It's amazing how so many of his words ring true even in this day and age.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Russian Blue

A couple of weeks ago, we got a Russian Blue cat.  The hubby thought it best to get another cat quickly so that we wouldn't feel the loss of Sophia so strongly and so the mice wouldn't get excited and come back.

Our new cat's name is Nora, not that she cares.  She's like the polar opposite of Sophia and it's been quite an adjustment. Whereas Sophia was not affectionate (would sometimes scratch or nip you if you tried to pet her), Nora always wants to be petted and loves to be around us all the time.  She often gets underfoot though which is driving us crazy.  But she's a beautiful cat with a sweet demeanor.  I really just like to look at her . . . she's that pretty.  And for some amazing reason, she doesn't drive my allergies crazy unless I stay really, really close to her for a long time.  That's a huge plus.  

Bringing Nora home drove home the point that you can't ever really replace another living being that meant something to you.  I sometimes worry about the hubby going through with the vasectomy thinking that if we had the great and unimaginable misfortune of losing one of our children, we wouldn't have the option to have another.  But even if we did, just from seeing how I feel about our cats, it wouldn't, couldn't make up for the loss.  

I wanted to share a picture of Nora with you all but it's daytime and she's under something sleeping.  When she gets up in the evening to eat, I'll see if I can catch her.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Trekkie!!

Folks who love Star Trek in all it's many forms and incarnations are usually thought of as geeky or strange--"Trekkies".  I love Star Trek in all it's many forms and incarnations (although I don't attend conventions and don costumes) and I don't really care what anyone thinks!  It's just so . . . amazing!  

Netflix made the Star Trek: The Future Begins (2009) a "play now".  I have had it on my queue for a long time waiting for the right time to watch it.  I finally did yesterday and I was not disappointed in the least.  I thought it was casted brilliantly and I just tend to love movies in which the concept of time is called into question (which is why I cherished Kindred by Octavia Butler).   I also recently enjoyed Star Trek: First Contact (thanks to Netflix) which also dealt with time travel and changing destiny by changing things in the past or the present.  To me, it's something really interesting to think about because while right now we cannot change the past, it's powerful to be fully aware that what we do know will definitely and without question change what happens next.   

Long and short, there hasn't been one thing I've seen having to do with Star Trek that's left me feeling disappointed. 

I realize that I've loved the science fiction genre (in books and movies) since childhood. For some odd reason, I wasn't introduced to the science fiction genre as a genre until college but I've always like science fiction type stories, shows and movies. Star Trek: The Next Generation was what I grew up watching faithfully.  That is, until we had a houseguest who was an "evangelist" and declared that Star Trek was demonic and un-Christian (because of the aliens) and my parents quickly agreed and banned it sending me underground with my Star Trek love.

I think I appreciate Star Trek even more now that I've read and watched a wide array of futuristic books and movies.  Star Trek manages to create a future world where people of different races, sexes, heck even different species, have successfully figured out ways to coexist and accept each other. Yes, there are hostilities and issues but overall, we get a picture of a world that while not idyllic is a place where racism, sexism and even specie-ism are greatly reduced.  

I tend to prefer the more modern incarnations to the original Star Trek though.  It's hard to get with a future that looks so . . . 60s.  But I'm always intrigued by the plots and impressed by the story lines.  Star Trek: The Future Begins was no exception.  Also, I think Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are cuties! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Problem with Thanksgiving

When I undertook homeschooling, one of my biggest goals was to counteract the omissions and blatant lies that is passed off as history.  My children are pretty young right now so we're giving them a rather G-Rated version of what the first thanksgiving was really about.  But as time goes on, they'll receive a more rounded version.

Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast.  And that did happen - once.
The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to  England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped.  By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language.  He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.
But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest.  But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought. 
In 1637 near present day  Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside.  Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered.  Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.  
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now  Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages.  During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls.  Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- where it remained on display for 24 years.  
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.
This story doesn't have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast.  But we need to learn our true history so it won't ever be repeated.  Next  Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families.  They, also took time out to say "thank you" to Creator for all their blessings.

So what are we really celebrating today?  It's kind of sobering.  Too often,this day feels like one big excuse to eat way too much and a precursor to all kinds of "deals" on things we don't really need (more consumption) on Black Friday.  In any case, I'm happy that for at least one day, folks ostensibly take a minute to give thanks for all they have instead of focusing on things they are going to get.  Let's remember to give thanks for those who came before us who sacrificed so much and had so much taken from them so that we could have what we have now.  Let's give thanks every day for the many blessings we have and let's keep things in perspective. 



Fitness Mish-Mash

This week and last week have been difficult for me.  I've been fighting off a chest cold and flu-like symptoms.  I've been trying to take it easy but I'm still keeping up as much as my body allows.  I just finished a short 25 minute run and I actually feel really good right now. Here's to hoping the feeling stays.

Anyway,  a few notes:
  1. I have continued to run even though in the morning the temperature is consistently below 40 degrees.  It's been working out except for the fact that my hands get really cold.  It can be painful, too especially when I get back into the warm house.  So I did a little research online and invested in a pair os 180s Ultralite CRG running gloves. They cost $25--more than I've ever spent on a pair of gloves (but thankfully, shipping was free).  They arrived quickly and I was excited to try them to see if they would work.  I was disappointed. Admittedly, my hands stayed warmer than if I had worn my regular winter gloves (fleece gloves lined with Thinsulate) or my thin, acrylic running gloves but my hands were not warm.  So, after reading some more reviews and articles, I invested a little more money and bought a pair of silk liners.  This improved the situation but it's still not perfect.  My hands are still cold when I run but at least, I will happily say, they are not painful--just uncomfortable.  I thought maybe I could pick up a pair of thin, inexpensive fleece gloves and try layering the silk gloves underneath the fleece gloves . . . or some variation.  I've been wanting to knit wool gloves forever but who am I kidding?  Quite honestly though, my hands and feet are usually cold even when I'm not running--more so than the average person, I'd say.  So I guess I should expect it to be a challenge for them to stay warm when I'm running (and all the blood is pumping to my lower half).  
  2. Lately, sometimes before and after a run, I've been doing yoga stretches indoors.  I found Karen at FlexibleWarriorYoga on YouTube and subscribed.  She does an excellent job of putting together simple, quick yoga routines to target all the muscle groups that get worked during running.  Generally to warm up before a run, though, I do the warm-up that goes with the Plyometrics X routine that's part of P90X.  That warm up is awesome because it really does get me very warm while stretching out all the muscles that I will be using during the run.  But for a quick run like today's, Karen's pre-run warm up is what's up:
  3. I've been feeling kind of disconnected from my body with the whole gluten/intestinal issues stuff.  It's so amazing how exercise helps to bring me back to my body.  Simple things when doing exercise like how my hamstrings are affected by my spine.  Today, I was fascinated by what a difference arching my spine makes for a stretch (as opposed to rounding it).  If I round my spine, my hamstring will not fully stretch.  Arch it and oh boy.  I don't know.  Maybe I'm a little dorky in this regard but really and honestly, exercise is my release.  I don't really know I could deal with how badly I often feel in my gut if I didn't exercise.  It's the only time these days where I feel healthy and in tune and wanting to be in my body.  
Anyway, so that's my fitness mish-mash.  Hope you are enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday--or at least the day off.  

Making it Work Better!

Our living situation that is.  We accomplished this recently by moving things around in our house.  


Let me see if I can describe the layout of our house. We live on a single floor. We have a front room which we call the cold room. We can't use it during the winter months at all. Next to that and moving towards the back of the house, we have a large room with a fireplace (which was the living room--Room A). Separated by French pocket doors, next to that (and continuing to move towards the back of the house) is the room that was serving as our master bedroom (Room B). Separated by a solid wood door, next to that (all the way at the back of the house) is the children's bedroom. 

Room A is bigger, has a fire place and guests can walk directly into it.  Also, it's two rooms away from the kids' room which is great for when I workout in the morning and the hubby and I can hang out when they go to sleep without bothering them.  The cons of Room A (mainly one) is that it is dark. We needed to have lights on in there are all times no matter how bright it was outside.

Here are the pros of Room B: it is very bright--4 high windows. Another pro is that it's closer to the kitchen where I spend lots of time and since it would have the computer in it, I would be closer to the computer.  Here are the cons of Room B: guests have to walk through the kitchen or through Room A (which would be the bedroom and ain't happening) to get to Room B, it's in the middle of the house, adjacent to the kids' room, and it's smaller than the Room A (some things would have to remain in Room A).

So we moved everything around.  We made Room A into our master bedroom and Room B into the living room and now our bedroom is separated from the kids' room by the living room.  This is a really hard adjustment for the kids who were used to me being right next to them as they fell asleep.  Every night since we re-arranged things, they have ended up in our bed due to bad dreams and monsters.  


I really like having Room B as the living room, though. A lot.  I think it will have to stay this way and hopefully my children adjust soon.  I love being able to read by the window and I love all the light.  Yes the bookcase is still in the bedroom, our library books stay in there along with DVDs and other media but it really doesn't bother me.  And I honestly don't care as much as I once did if people have to walk through the kitchen to get to the living room.  

I realize we'll probably be living here a long time. I get so happy when we do things to make this place more functional and more like home. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What could it be?

So I've been conscientiously eating gluten-free for the past 2 weeks and I have not been feeling the slightest bit better.  In fact, I've been feeling worse.  Not to gross folks out but I've been running to the bathroom and my stomach is rumbling.  Painfully at that.

I realized that I must be eating something that is just totally not agreeing with me.  The culprit is supposed to be wheat but I'm not eating wheat.  What could it be?

I had purchased some gluten-free baking mixes a while back when they were on sale.  I also decided to make a small batch of my own gluten-free mix.  I used these mixes in some muffins and tried pancakes (which were horrid).  The muffins came out okay so I started to think that the muffins might be a great breakfast option.  I'd been trying various gluten-free breads for breakfast.  But I was feeling more and more horrible.  I kept thinking that everything I read says it may take some weeks or months to start feeling an improvement and I was just trying to hold on to that magical day that I'd feel better.

But I was getting worse.  So today I decided to skip gluten-free bread with breakfast and ate regular, old sprouted wheat bread.  I then made a cup of strong ginger tea.  And I feel so much better already.  It's amazing.

I'm still pretty sure I don't do well on wheat but I can't have these gluten-free things at all.  I believe it's the xanthan gum that is added to bind things (the way gluten would) that I am reacting too.  It seems like, indeed, some people can't tolerate xanthan gum.  Initially, I thought, it can't be xanthan gum which is in the soy ice cream I get.  But then again, I don't eat soy ice cream every day and I don't eat a lot of it.  I've never had as much xanthan gum as I've had in the last two weeks in my whole life.  It's quite possible I'm intolerant to it.  

So I researched a little and it seems guar gum is a suitable alternative but truth be told, none of these gums sound natural or like anything I want to eat anyway.  I think I'd rather risk having one slice of sprouted grain bread (I'll make sure to purchase multi-grain as opposed to straight wheat) every so often (2-3 times a week) than have any of these crazy gums and additives. At least I can recognize all the ingredients.

In my heart of hearts, I want my diet to be clean and natural.  I want to eat things I can make on my own from easily obtained ingredients.  I don't want my eating to be a science experiment.  

At this point, honestly, I don't really want to eat at all.  It's kind of a scary endeavor.  Eating makes me feel sick and I don't even know what I should or shouldn't be eating.  And no one really has any answers for me.  Super frustrating.  

I'm supposed to make sweet potato pie tomorrow.  (((sigh)))

Anyway, for now, no products with xanthan gum.  I definitely have to get good with other  other normal (not science experiment) starches.  This is even more difficult that going vegan.   

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Simple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

On a whim, I decided to pick up a butternut squash at last week's grocery shopping trip.  We didn't grow up eating squash and I really haven't done much with squash in terms of cooking.  But squashes are everywhere now so I thought I might give it a go.  

Initially, I was going to find a recipe online but I decided to be a bit more experimental plus I didn't want to be bothered..  Here's what I did:

Ingredients

  • Small butternut Squash (mine was about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • half of a large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt, pepper, dried thyme, cinnamon, brown sugar
  • water or vegetable broth, 3 cups


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the squash length-wise and use a spoon to remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1-2" cubes.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the cubed squash on it.  Pour one tablespoon of oil on the squash, adding a dash of salt and black pepper.  Use your hands to massage the oil and spices onto the squash.  Roast in the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until you can see that the squash has browned nicely (not burnt).  

At about 35 minutes into the roasting, add the other tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sauce pan and turn on the heat to medium.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic.  Toss the chopped onion into the hot oil.  Add 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, dried thyme and brown sugar to the sizzling onions.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the spices are fragrant and then add the minced garlic.  Cook for another minute or so being careful not to burn the garlic.  Once things start to stick a little,   add your 3 cups of water or vegetable broth.  By now, you squash should be ready.  

Pour the contents of your pot into your blender.  Add the roasted squash.  Blend.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning.  Pour contents of blender back into pot and warm (if you like hot soup).

Makes 4 servings.  

I thought this was very tasty and really autumn-esque.  I went heavy on the olive oil but you could cut it a bit and get good results, I'm sure.  As the recipe is written, each serving is 4 Weight Watchers points.  Considering that there's no real protein in this dish, I'd say that's a lot of points.  But it's oh so good.  And I need to put on weight.  :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The title of this book was intriguing and I really wanted to love it.  The plot is one that I should have loved since I really enjoy reading books that imagine the future.  But I don't know . . . this novel was dry and uninteresting as opposed to being "funny and unexpected" as it's described on it's jacket.  

The novel imagines a future after the United States has collapsed.  The collapse is precipitated by the assassination of the president and the machine-gun execution of congress which opens the way for the installment of a repressive theocratic government called the Republic of Gilead.  Under this regime, all personal freedoms are stripped.  Even the freedom of choosing to bear children.  Apparently, in this futuristic world, the birth rate for "Caucasians" has dropped considerably due to disease and nuclear mishaps/pollution.  Our protagonist/narrator is one of the many handmaids or concubines (the term handmaid is a throwback to the biblical Hagar who was Sarah's handmaid and bore Ishmael to Abraham) who are sent to powerful (childless) couple in hopes of producing a baby.  The potential baby would belong to the powerful couple and the handmaid would be transferred to another couple to do the same job.  Handmaids would undergo a sort of brainwashing/training at the hands of "Aunts" who were not afraid to use torture as a tool to bring about submission.  Once placed in a household, the handmaid had to follow strict moral and social protocol or risk being killed or sent to clean the "colonies" which we are made to understand are toxic wastelands (and to which the protagonists mother has probably been sent).  There are very few options for women in this world.

We never get the protagonists real name:  we only know that she is Offred which really only means she is the handmaiden of "Fred".  We learn this at the end of the novel which takes us a university symposium of sorts studying the Republic of Gilead--or more precisely, the tapes left by Offred. We cannot be sure what happens to Offred or even if her account is true.  Lots of loose strings and holes to fill at the end.

What struck me most about this story is how quickly the United States transitions from a stable, transparent government to a shadowy, repressive government.  The new government seems to have no head--just higher ups, who are still puppets and subject (as we learn at the end of the novel) to the same kinds of judgments they have meted out over the years.  I was happy to see that Atwood imagines that there was some kind of underground--I think there will always be.  What also struck me was that when the transition was happening, one of the first things the new government did was strip women of their rights--to own property, to own themselves.

For me, this novel was tortuously long.  It was choppy and really lacked a good flow.  I sometimes wondered if Offred was really insane or at least off balance (which would be understandable).  None of the characters were really well-rounded out and I guess I could say that it felt just like something that would be produced in a society where writing/reading and any other expression of self is strictly prohibited.  I felt that Atwood could have gotten to the point long before she did. I am not totally sure what her point was although I realize it's supposed to be a commentary of sorts.  I guess I didn't get it.  There were some horrific scenes in the novel.  There was lots of pain and sadness and anxiety.  Life in the world Atwood imagines is anything but pleasant for anyone.  One of the last joys is . . . oranges.  

Anyway, I've put the movie on hold at the library.  I'd like to see how they bring this novel alive.   

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Etc . . .

I picked up a nasty chest cold from the kids and I'm having difficulty breathing.  My last chest cold sent me to the emergency room which turned out to be a waste of time and energy.  So I'm just trying to take it easy, taking my vitamins and Buckley's and wondering about how to avoid this in the future.  A chest cold doesn't have to automatically lead to wheezing and shortness of breath.  Something else is up especially since I know my mom is severely asthmatic.   I sound just like her when she's having an attack.

Anyway, I'm coming to realize that the form of Buddhism I've been practicing for the past two years is not really doing much for me.  I'm very distracted and my mind wanders constantly when I'm chanting.   There is really just not enough guidance/training as to what to do to still my mind and when I'm chanting, it's so easy for my mind to find other things to focus on.  In addition, I have learned no real tools to draw upon when I get into difficult situations.  I need a more meditative form--a form that encourages me to sit quietly and observe.  To still my mind and be present.  It seems that for me, chanting is great but I also need silence and lately everything I've been reading is encouraging me to develop awareness. 

There's a Zen Buddhist center about two towns over and I really want to get around to their introductory meeting one of the Wednesday evenings. 

I know this post is disjointed.  Sorry.  I feel kind of crazy. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Working with a Stability Ball

I've had Women's Health Total Workout in Ten (led by Amy Dixon, one of my favorites) for some time now but I had never tried the stability ball workout because I didn't have a stability ball.  Well, a few weeks ago, I picked one up for $10 (I hope it lasts). I bought it primarily because it's required for the New Rules of Lifting for Women, a program I really want to start soon if I could just focus and read the book.  Anyway, I finally got around to doing the core section in Total Workout in Ten.  Just a few minutes ago.  While the kids are awake, no less.  (They are currently playing with the stability ball and having a blast.  Please, kids, don't pop my stability ball!)

The routine is a quick 10-15 minute deal.  It's over before you know it.  But my core is really lighted up right.  It was a lot of fun yet challenging!  I'm looking into purchasing some more DVDs that utilize stability balls.  I've been rocking with Ab Ripper X for some months now and I'm getting a little tired of it (not that it's not still kicking my behind).  It'll be cool to add something just as challenging but different  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trying to find some good

I really dread winter.  I mean, I almost shed a tear when I realized that this Sunday starts daylight savings time.  So last year, when it started getting cold, I tried to find one good thing about winter.  And I did.  This year, I really had to think long and hard.  So here's what I came up with:  there will be a bit more light during the early mornings.  These past few weeks, it's pretty much been pitch black until 7 AM.  

I've really been thinking about safety while running and considering getting some more reflective gear.  But it should be lighter outside between 6 and 7 AM, the times when I am running so I might not need it.  Hopefully.  

That's all I could come up with.  What about you?  Or do you love winter? 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update on my gluten testing

I just came back from the gastroenterologist and like I suspected, the tests showed nothing (except that my hematocrit is 11.8 which is ever so slightly anemic but I was menstruating when I took the test so I'm not that worried).  So the doctor wants to put me on antacids.  I am not really getting the connection but he claims that with IBS (which is what he thinks I have), sometimes too much acid in the stomach is what it is.  But I'm almost totally sure this has nothing to do with my stomach and much more to do with my intestines and I'm not trying to trade in one problem for the other nor am I willing to be on antacids indefinitely.  He could go in and do a biopsy but it's kind of involved so he doesn't want to go that route just yet.  He also said it could just be that the nerves along my digestive tract are just overly sensitive so that I perceive what's going on in there more intensely.  My bloated belly tells me, though, that this is not the case.  He also wants to send me for more blood testing (to check on what's causing the anemia). 

I don't know.  I find it hard to have confidence in doctors.  They seem to know about as much as I do about what's going on with me. 

So I don't think I'm going on the antacids or going back to the doctor.  I'm putting myself on a gluten-reduced diet (I figure if it didn't show up that I'm not allergic but sensitive). We'll see.  For the few weeks that I did eat gluten-free, I did not feel better.  Some sources say it may actually take up to a year to feel better so . . .

The next time I go grocery shopping, I'm going to buy the ingredients to make this gluten-free flour mixture.  One mom from a playgroup I recently joined shared it with me and while she's new to gluten-free living, she says she's been able to use this flour in place of unbleached white flour in all of the recipes she has tried so far.

Recipe for 12 cups of flour

5 c brown rice flour
3 c sorghum flour
2 2/3 c cornstarch (but i use arrowroot)
1 c potato starch (but i use tapioca starch/flour)
1/4 c + 4 t potato flour
1 T + 1 t xanthum gum

I think this recipe come from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking.  She also recommended Bake Deliciously as another great cookbook that teaches about substitutions and variations.

Voting

Yesterday was election day.  

I feel like I should be ashamed to say that I didn't go out to vote.  But I'm not.  

Every time a person (a Black person especially) says that they didn't vote, there's always these judgmental looks that follow.  Like, "Do you know what your ancestors went through to get the right to vote?" of "Do you know that in some places people are still losing their lives to vote?"  These questions give me pause until I realize that if I didn't have the right to vote, I'd be fighting for it too.  

But not because I think voting is so vastly important in terms of who will be in office.  Rather, I think, the right to vote symbolizes that an individual is a full-fledged citizen, equal to all other citizens.  Not a visitor.  Not an outsider.  But a real part and parcel piece of the puzzle that makes up the nation.  That's so incredibly important.  And so I would fight to protect voting rights because of what it symbolizes.  

Having the right doesn't mean that I need to be told how to use it, or if I should use it at all though.  I thought of the analogy of a wealthy heiress who has inherited 6 beautiful homes all around the world but hates to travel and loves the one home she lives in.  The houses belong to her.  It's her right to live in all of them, use some and not others, use them as hotels, sell them, or let them fall into utter neglect.  We all  have our opinions on what she should do but at the end of the day, the are rightfully hers and she's free to do whatever she wants with them.

I really resented having my mailbox filled to the brim over the last couple of days with pamphlets and fliers essentially advertising different candidates as if the election was some kind of blow-out sale.  I have never even heard of these people before now.  Those who were seeking re-election had never in their 4 year terms made an effort to reach out to me.  But now, they want my vote.  Of course.  Also, I religiously avoid watching or reading the news (my psyche really can't take it) and I really don't have many people in my life who talk about politics so I manage to really not get any information about candidates just in the course of my daily living.  But, had these candidates left reading material at the local library over the last few months, most likely I would have read something about them.  Even something as small as a bookmark because I'm good for swiping bookmarks.  

I'm just not all that interested.  I think sometimes that it's awful that I'm so apathetic to politics but honestly, the first election I could vote in was the botched one that put Bush in office.  That shook my belief in the system in a way that I've never recovered from.  In my town, I've also watched one mayor hand off to another mayor only for things to essentially stay the same although the new mayor's credo was to bring sweeping change and reform. 

It doesn't help that I view politics as a kind of game where voters are really just the spectators.  Sure, if spectators (voters) don't show up, the whole game suffers.  They are needed, no doubt because the pay the admission fees (taxes).  But who is really controlling the game?  Who really makes a difference in how the game is played?  What happens next?  It's the players (politicians), referees, coaches and owners.  To me, if you really want to make a difference, you have got to be one of those people or at least very close to one of those people.  

I read a story in Good Housekeeping magazine recently about the families of people who were killed on a short domestic flight.  Turns out that with these short domestic flights, there's a lot of dangerous things going on like unskilled and tired pilots and other shortcuts being taken to reduce cost.  These families went to bat to try to get some laws passed to fix things.  But they didn't vote about it.  They went to Washington.  They wrote letters to their representatives but I believe the reason they were able to get anything done really was because they got so actively involved.  Casting a vote would have, quite simply, not been enough.  You have got to get all up in the mix.  In a way that many of us do not have the time, energy, money or motivation to do.

Interestingly enough, I'm teaching Z1 about what it means to be a good citizen.  For a five year old, voting doesn't even factor into the equation.  Being a good citizen means things like: 
  • someone who cares about their community and world
  • someone who understands rules are created for the common good and doesn't break them (I add unless those rules are unjust)
  • someone who shows respect for the neighbors
Too many of us grow up and reduce our good citizenship to whether or not we voted in the last election.  Pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and keep on living in our insulated, solitary worlds caring not one whit about all the other hallmarks of good citizenship.

So maybe I should have gone out to vote yesterday but I'm not losing sleep about it.  Not even really all that interested in the results.  I kind of know that there is a system in place and that no one guy voted in is really going to rock the system too hard.  

There are some elections that I know I should pay more attention to (like senate and presidential elections--playoffs and superbowls).  But the others . . . I'm just not at all motivated.  But it doesn't mean I'm ungrateful for the sacrifices made so that it was my decision to make whether or not I'd go out and vote.
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