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Archive for October, 2008

Hi, everybody, and Happy Hump Day!  Sorry to have been absentee for so long, but life has been unruly of late.

Here’s my Wednesday Wisdom for you, in an uncharacteristically succinct format.  Planning a sleepover for a group of nine-year-olds for a birthday party?  Save yourself time and effort and just stab yourself in the eye with a dull ice pick.  Quicker, less painful, and (even with the medical expenses) probably slightly less expensive.

Okay, but seriously.  YD’s sleepover/birthday party was Saturday night, and it actually went very well.  We had fewer kids than expected, which did not hurt my feelings at all.  As always, I went overboard with planning and prep, and had it not been for the absolute wonderfulness of my friend B. and ED, I’d never have had it all done in time.  But they were both awesome, and things went well.  I did have to sit through High School Musical 3 (the focal point of the party) and that was…well.  The girls enjoyed it, and that’s what counts.  🙂

*Note to Disney execs:  Stop there.  Really.  Please.  Just stop there.  Do not attempt to go to that well again.  It is not only nearly dry, but at this point I believe the water may be carrying some horribly disfiguring disease.  As the mother of a preteen who is obsessed with Zac Efron, I beg you, Just Say No.  Thank you, and good night. *

In other news, the weekend was rough in terms of workouts – i.e., I did none.  Not a one.  There just wasn’t time, and while I recognize that as an excuse, I also recall very clearly the total lack of sitting-down or sleeping over those three days, so I’m not sweating it much.  (Ha.  Get it?  No workouts = no sweat.  Strangely unfunny, somehow.)

Eating wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great.  I did take a couple of bites of pizza Saturday but it was actually rather awful, so I tossed it as “not worth the calories”.  But there was some random snackage and all in all, I’m not awarding any stars for those two days.

It all equals a slight gain as of Tuesday, but it’s water and it’s mostly gone as of today, so it’s all good.  The end result is that as of yesterday, I was at exactly the same weight as last Tuesday, so that makes last week a wash.  I can live with it.  I’ve been eating well this week and getting my workouts in – I did an hour an a half on the treadmill last night during the Biggest Loser, in addition to my WiiFit time, and I feel pretty great about that.  Now, if I could just get a decent night’s sleep, I might feel almost human.

And about the Biggest Loser, while we’re on the subject.  Why is it that, as much as I adore Bob Harper, I always end up loathing his team members?  Truly, deeply, passionately loathing.  The only one I can stand is Amy C.  Last night ended up pretty much the way I expected it to, but as always I find myself deeply impressed with the general class and decency of the Black Team members.  However, I find myself certain that this season will end with a winner I cannot bear.  But the eliminated players come back next week, so we’ll see.  Once that happens, it’s anybody’s game, as Ali proved last season.

Also, NBC execs should be SHOT for the frequency and length of the commercial breaks during the show.  It’s bad enough that every forty-five seconds of the show is a Product Placement moment (excuse me, but chewing Extra gum has NEVER made me stop wanting to eat crap, sorry), but we also have commercials every five or six minutes, and they last FOREVER.  I knew this already, but it was brought home to me last night with a vengeance.  I’d decided to run for the duration of the commercial breaks and one of them was six minutes long.  I kid you not.  I timed it.  Please to remember, I do not run. So that was sheer torture for me.  I did it though. B@$tards.

So anyway, that’s my week so far.  I’d like to say I’m going to get caught up reading blogs today but work is a bit brutal at the moment, so I’m not sure.  I will try to at least read if not comment, and please know I’m thinking of you all even if I can’t get there.  And have a wonderful Wednesday!

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Why, hello, there!  Happy Hump Day!

This week, there’s a lot going through my mind.  I’ve got a lot going on in life right now – nothing bad, just a lot of things – and that typically triggers a period of major overthinking for me.  I end up obsessively analyzing every single detail of everything that happens around me, to the point that I am incapable of real, productive, rational thought.  I call it “hamsterbrain”, because my mind is literally racing in pointless circles, just like a hamster on a wheel.

The sad irony is that, although I end up in this state as a result of trying to do too much and be too many people, the end result is that I become incapable of accomplishing anything.  Work languishes, the house accumulates clutter…I fall behind on everything, which increases the stress of an overfull plate, which increases the hamsterbrain, and the cycle accelerates.  I think this is true of many of us.

I’ve got a plan for handling it, though.  I’m going to focus on simply Being Present.

We’ve all – or most of us have – heard this said, generally in the context of yoga or meditation.  Be present.  Be still.  Feel your body, your mind, your spirit.  Allow yourself to be yourself, to be where and who and what you are in this very moment, and nothing else.  Focus your entire awareness on every cell of your body, your breathing, internal and external sensations.  You can, by doing this, be completely aware of what is going on around you, without overreacting to any of it.

Okay, so that’s great if you’re sitting on the floor with your shoes off in a dark, quiet room, or even on the porch swing in the sunshine.  But how does that fit into the course of a normal day?  It’s hard to be aware of your body when you’re driving in rush hour traffic, for instance – you really sort of need to be aware of the traffic around you, actually.

Being present isn’t just about meditating or holding a yoga pose.  It’s about being one hundred percent involved in whatever it is that has (or should have) your attention, at any given moment.  That may be scrubbing a bathtub, or climbing on the monkey bars with a little one.  That may very well be rush hour traffic.  It doesn’t matter what it is; give it your full attention, without attaching an emotional reaction to what is happening.  (Unless it’s the monkey bars.  Feel free to giggle like a 4-year-old there.)

To my mind, one of the nastiest, most annoying words spawned by society in the past couple of decades is “multitasking”.  We say it like a mantra….like a prayer.  We offer it up like a paean of worship to the Gods of Distraction and expect to be patted on the back for our skill at it.  “I’m great at multitasking.  I can text my kids, drive to work, balance my checkbook, put on my makeup and listen to a podcast reading of Women Who Think Too Much, all at once!”

Okay.  But why would you want to?  You’re risking an accident, an inaccurately balanced checkbook, messy makeup and a teenager who’s thrilled that you just distractedly agreed to let her take your car to South Padre for the weekend with nine of her closest friends.  Oh, and you didn’t learn a great deal about Thinking Too Much, either.  Trust me on that one.

But that’s how we roll.  That’s how we get through our days.  Emailing, IM-ing, texting, all while eating our meals and working and reading and having phone conversations and doing internet research.  And probably watching TV.  Is it any wonder that A.D.D. is so prevalent, and becoming more so?  Is it any wonder that we’re obsessive-compulsive when we feel we have to be just to remember if we turned off the fire on the stove, because we were talking on the phone and helping a child with homework while we were cooking?

So my suggestion, which I am endeavoring (and often struggling!) to take, is to slow down.  Put your full attention on what you are doing.  If you are cooking a meal, take the time to be there.  Smell the aromas, feel the textures of the food you’re preparing (skim over this one if it’s raw meat, probably), focus on each step of the process.  (Chopping celery, I have found, can be surprisingly soothing; possibly it’s the rhythm.)  If you’re helping your child with homework, point your mind directly at the problem.  Don’t detach and wonder if you ironed that blouse for tomorrow yet, or if the car was on empty and you’re going to have to fill up on the way to work.  If you’re having a conversation with your spouse, don’t do something else at the same time.  Really focus on every word, on every nuance, on every expression.  He, or she, deserves it.  So does everything else you do.

Yes, this is hard.  I know that.  I struggle with it.  But when I manage it, it is so worth it.  I have never enjoyed a meal as thoroughly as one that I focus entirely on eating.  No conversations, no thinking about work, no TV, no book.  Complete focus on each bite, on the taste and texture, on visualizing how it is going to benefit my body.  [You know, sort of like after a couple of glasses of wine, how everything suddenly seems much clearer and more intense?  Or is that just me?]

A couple of tips that might help, if you’re finding it hard to let go of multitasking without panicking about what you’re missing:  Set aside a certain time of day as “thinking time”.  I have found it helpful to do it right before bed, because then I can go to sleep more easily knowing that I’ve set down my concerns.  Make a list of all of the things that are going through your head, that you’re afraid you’re going to forget.  Be it a project at work, something the kids need for school, some advance preparations for dinner, picking up dry cleaning, whatever.  Write it down.  Keep a special notebook or pad just for this purpose.  Give yourself a set time period – fifteen minutes should be about right, but YMMV.  Write down everything you can think of – and think hard.  Put those worrying muscles to good use.  And at the end of the fifteen minutes, stop.  You’ve probably thought of everything at this point anyway, and anything more is really just encouraging perseverative thought.  So take another fifteen minutes to be present (in the meditative sense), to get yourself out of Worrying Mode and into a calmer, more relaxed state.

And then trust yourself.  You’ve written it down, and you can take care of it when the time comes.  For me, that’s the following morning.  I’ll wake up, and as soon as I get moving and am really awake, I will go over my list.  If there are things that need to be done immediately, I will do them.  If there are things that I need reminders of for later in the day, I’ll program reminders into my BlackBerry or leave a voice mail for myself at work.  And then I can let go of them.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot to do something – turn on the light, write that down on your list as well, and then turn the light off and let it go.  Spend another fifteen minutes being present – usually, that will segue neatly into sleep without any conscious effort on your part.

Along the way, you’re going to come up with things you can’t control or can’t do anything about.  Most of us worry more about the things we can’t do anything about than we do our to-do lists.  In that case, I’ll repeat the mantra I’ve found so helpful:  Worry is praying for something you don’t want.  (Someone very wise said that.)  So when I find myself doing that (as in, when I’m lying awake at 4 a.m. idly worrying that a bear will somehow find its way into our house and we’ll be trapped with it between us and the door – I kid you not.  That is how hard I will work to find something to worry about) then I say a real prayer.  And I ask for what I do want, as in, for my family to be protected.  This won’t work if you don’t pray, but you can very easily substitute by simply taking your worry and turning it around.  When you’re focusing on a lost job, manhandle your brain into a 180 degree turn and spend fifteen minutes thinking about how good it is going to feel when you find a new one.  Imagine the scenarios in which that will happen.  Daydream your way through the successful job interview.

It is possible to control your wayward mind; it just takes practice.  But with that practice, and with that self-regulation, comes an enormous sense of peace and serenity and freedom.  With that sense of calm and freedom comes greater focus and productivity…and that cycle escalates, as well.  But in the right direction.

Today, take time to be present in whatever you are doing.  Take time to regulate your breathing, to gently set aside the things that are not a part of your current task, and give yourself to the task at hand.  If you can do that even part of the day, I think you’ll find that you end the day with a greater sense of peace and security and accomplishment.  And the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to do it.  At least, that’s the theory.

And have a wonderful Wednesday!

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At least I got the week number right this time, right?  🙂

In the past week, I netted a 0.5 pound loss.  Not what I’d prefer, but I’m not remotely disappointed.  It wasn’t the most perfect week.  Very good in many ways, but not perfect. This one, so far, has been much better, and I plan to keep it that way.

My only real struggle is going to be Saturday night, when we’re having a slumber party for YD’s birthday.  There will be pizza.  There will be some form of cakelike substance.  There will, no doubt, be chips and cookies and whatnot.

But perhaps not.  Let’s see.  I can buy the ingredients for them to make individual pizzas.  That’s always fun, and I will just not make one for me.  I’ll have salad or something.  There’s the pizza problem taken care of.  Cake…well, gotta do the cake, but perhaps we’ll do ice-cream cone cupcakes and, again, they can decorate their own.  Another fun activity, and I just have to restrain myself from nibbling on leftovers as they never eat all of theirs.  Instead of chips, I can pop a ton of popcorn, because that’s not too unhealthy and I won’t eat too much of it.  And instead of cookies, I’ll have bowls of fruit out.  Juice instead of sodas…

Yeah.  This could work.  We’ll be going to the movies – High School Musical 3 comes out Friday night, so that’s the centerpiece of the party – but we’ll only be getting popcorn there, too, and I am (shock, gasp) not that much of a fan of movie theater popcorn.  Sunday morning, I’ll have to make something terrible for breakfast (come on, pancakes or cinnamon rolls are always a staple of slumber-party morning-after breakfasts at our house) but I don’t struggle much with breakfast; it’s my easiest meal of the day.

And as for exercise?  Heck, how can you get better exercise than a HSM Dance-A-Thon?!?  We are so gonna rock the house.

A healthy party that doesn’t seem like a healthy party.  I will trick them into doing healthy things and they will never suspect!  Mwahahahahaha….. (that was an evil laugh, BTW.)

S.L.A.P.  And if you recognize that, you’re as big a MizFit fan as I am.  🙂  (Or possibly you’re actually MizFit.  But that would only apply to, like, a very small percentage of potential readers.  Like, one.  Reader, not percent.  Um.  Anyway.)

In other areas…I’m being very careful with my food, and very diligent with my workouts.  Tonight is The Biggest Loser, so big workout night for me.  Tomorrow night will be my night off, because I can tell my body’s ready for one.  Then I am going to try very hard not to have another night off for a while.  Saturday, I hope (not plan because my plans never work out) to get my workout in super early, so it’s out of the way and I don’t stress over missing it because of the party.  That will depend on how much party prep I get done Friday night though.  If I have to have a night off on Saturday, it’s not the end of the world.  I’ll just feel better if I don’t.

I’m feeling pretty good about things.  The healthy mindset and habits are becoming well-ingrained again, and I feel that I’m settling in for the long haul.  Not crazy-gung-ho passionate, but steady and committed and (most importantly) consistent.    Goalz?  I haz them.  (Too much icanhascheezburger.com for me, clearly.)

So here’s to a great, consistent, steady, productive week.  Hope everyone has a wonderful one!

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Happy Monday!  (No, that’s not an oxymoron!)

I’m feeling particularly chipper this morning, which is sort of unlike me, but I have plenty of reasons.  The weekend was wonderful in a lot of ways and I’m surfing the momentum in hopes of making the week great as well.

DH, YD and I spent the weekend at the cabin.  I had planned to make it a very active weekend, getting out and doing a lot of things with YD, and that worked out a lot better than my plans usually do.  Saturday we decided to check out a local park not very far from the cabin; we wanted to ride bikes and maybe walk some.  We’d actually intended to do this at the campground, but it was actually pretty full so we went to the park instead.  This ended up being a great decision, as the park has a long loop road perfect for biking, with very little traffic, so we rode that and stopped for a while to play at the playground:

…which was fun.  Then we finished our ride and headed for our real find of the day:  a FitTrail!

If you’ve never heard of these (you probably have) they’re walking/running/hiking trails that have, every few yards, “stations” where you do various exercises.  This one was definitely hiking – it was in the woods, which I love, unpaved (unless you count a three-inch leaf carpet as paving, which I sort of do) and absolutely gorgeous.

I promise, I did the exercises too, I didn’t just make YD do them and take pictures of her.  🙂

I couldn’t even estimate the distance; no pedometer, because we were just out having fun.  It ended up being an awesome workout though, which was very cool.  We met a couple of friendly local dogs while on the trail; sorry, I didn’t get pictures of them.  They were cute though.

Saturday afternoon we went up to the dam so that DH (and YD, some) could fish the tailwaters.

We spent a couple of hours or so there, and YD and I spent a large part of it on the playground.  No pictures of that either, sorry.  But I wish I had, because it had a very cool rock (okay, plastic rock-like stuff) climbing wall – only about seven feet high, but I’m afraid of heights, so that was perfect for me.  🙂  We climbed it about ten times and I forced myself to go up and over and down the opposite side – I know, it’s not very high, but it was a big deal for me!  There was also a zip-line sort of thing that we did over and over – BTW, if you spend much time with kids on a playground that has one of these, I recommend trying it out.  It’s a great pectoral workout, as I discovered the following morning.  Ouch.

Anyway…that evening was spent around a fire drinking tea (no s’mores for me, thank you) because it was cold.  Then Sunday we got up and all three of us went and did the bike-ride (walk in DH’s case, gotta get him a bike) and FitTrail again.  It was awesome fun.  I did discover, however, that I am still incapable of doing a pull-up.  Not much has changed since the days of the hated President’s Physical Fitness Test, evidently.

Last night, fearing I hadn’t done enough in the way of exercise to counteract my deviations in the realm of food (they weren’t horrible, but let’s face it, folks, potato soup is never going to be anyone’s idea of a low-calorie option, at least not the way I make it) I spent forty minutes on the treadmill.  Nothing to watch on TV so I resorted to my trusty iPod – and realized how much easier it is to run when you’re listening to music that gets you jazzed up.  Laugh if you will, but that Hannah Montana’s got some rockin’ beats.  🙂  But my very favorite was “Animals” by Nickelback – I ran for the whole song on that one, as well as “Next Contestant”.

I think I ended up running about 25 of the 40 minutes, which is definitely an all-time high for me.  High in more ways than one – it felt awesome and (interestingly) at no time did I feel out of breath.  I was running faster than I usually do, too.  I think it demonstrates how much of my difficulty with running is psychological – if I’m paying attention to the music, I don’t seem to have many problems…

So it was a great weekend for physical activity.  And at my official Monday morning weigh-in, I am down a total of half a pound from last Monday.  I’ll take it, all things considered.  (Remember, I had a less-than-perfect anniversary evening and the weekend wasn’t exactly perfect either.)  No gain over the weekend, no loss.  I’m good with that.  One of the reasons, as I was telling someone today, is that I can feel the changes in my body.  Dropping numbers on the scale are nice, but there is nothing, nothing better than the change in how your body feels.

In other weekend news, ED had stayed at home so that she didn’t have to miss her voice lesson.  This was only her third lesson with this lady (or was it fourth?) so she didn’t want to skip it.  I’m glad she didn’t, because her voice teacher (who has, in the past two weeks, told her both that she is a joy to work with and that she – the instructor – is going to have to find harder songs for ED) told her that she wants to enter ED in a competition in early December.  She said she wouldn’t normally do this with a new student, but ED is such a quick learner and has enough skills that she wants to go ahead and start getting her out there.  That made ED feel pretty good, and I feel pretty good for her.  As I’ve mentioned before, this woman is an amazing voice instructor, very knowledgeable and very skilled and just amazing to be around.  I am so pleased with how it has gone and very thankful for the decisions we’ve made in this area in the last year.  You never know how things are going to turn out, but this seems to be a winner.

And last but certainly not least, I am a great-aunt!  Again.  But it never gets old.  🙂  My niece Ashley gave birth at 4:44 this morning to a precious little baby girl, Chayla Harmony.  I am so excited for her and very grumpy that I can’t be there to hold her.  I’ll post pictures as soon as I have them, but I just had to crow a little.

And on that note, saga over.  Have a wonderful week, everyone!

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Well, it’s Friday again.  Hard to believe another week is past.  I’ve been so busy that it’s literally flown by.  Okay, not literally.  It didn’t grow wings.  But it went by really quickly.

It’s been a good week overall, though it’s had its ups and downs.  Last night was pretty cool; I ran on the treadmill for about six minutes, which is about four minutes longer than my usual max.  Not fast, but steady.  DH was doing the “long” run on WiiFit and I ran with him.  It reminded me of something I tend to forget whenever possible – most of my limitations are self-imposed.  I can run, I just really don’t like to and I generally choose not to.  But it’s nice to be reminded that I am capable of it.  I need to make myself do it more often, because if there’s one thing that will short-circuit weight loss efforts it’s getting too comfortable in your exercise routine.

I had a great workout last night, but was up 0.2 pounds today.  I’m actually not too disappointed by that for a few reasons.  One I particularly want to mention though is this – it’s an amazing post by Lynn, who is in herself, of course, amazing – but also check out Cyndi‘s comment, which is number 49.  This really made me sit up and take notice of how I’ve been thinking about my efforts and my results.

The thing is, during the time period that I’ve been working to become healthier and lose weight, I’ve also been working on getting out of debt.  Working hard on it, in fact.  So my life has a double focus and they’re both all about self-control, sensibility, frugality and moderation.  And they’re very similar.

What this made me look at, though, was my own reaction to the number on the scale.  When I have worked hard, and I step on the scale and see no loss or a gain, I (like most people) tend to take it personally.  I’m no good, I’m a failure, I’m pathetic…it’s a direct reflection on my worth as a human being.  And typically, I start to feel discouraged and hopeless about the process, which generally means there’s a binge (or at least a major slip) somewhere in the very near future.

But when I check my bank balance online – which I do frequently, to make sure I haven’t missed writing in a transaction – I don’t feel that way.  If it’s down, I look at the transactions, make sure I have them all written in, and plan my spending accordingly.  If it’s a lot lower than I thought it should be, I find what I had missed, and yes, I probably kick myself a little for spending that money (if it was something non-critical).  But I don’t spiral into depression, and I sure as heck don’t go on a spending spree at the mall!  How stupid would that be?  Oh, I’m overdrawn (or really low), I am such a loser, I think I’ll go buy those $150 boots I saw the other day.  Or a new couch.  (Note – sure, spending money would make me feel better, which is one of the reasons I am in the situation I’m in, and one of the things I need to cure.  But even I am not that compulsive, that addicted, or that clueless.)  It would only make my problems much, much worse.

That being true, why would I do this with food?  If I’ve slipped, and it’s resulted in a gain or no loss, why would I think the rational thing to do would be to go eat a bag of chips?  That’s just silly.  The rational thing to do is to conserve – i.e., work out a little harder and be extra-careful with food –  just as I would with my bank account.  If I’ve spent too much, then I don’t spend till I get paid again.  If I’ve overindulged, I cut back a little until I’m back on track.

This seems self-evident, but nothing makes things “click” for me like analogies.  🙂  This, because of the work I’ve had to do on my spending habits, is a perfect one.  So this is what I’m focusing on.  I’m up a little – and I can easily, since I’ve been weighing almost daily, pinpoint exactly why.  I am not racking my brain to find that transaction; it’s clearly printed out on the screen for me to see.  I know where the extra 0.2 came from, and I pretty much expected it, so I just nod and go on.

What it does do, is tell me that I need to be extra diligent this weekend.  That’s really a good thing, because weekends at the cabin tend to be lazy, undisciplined times for me.  But since I know I’m skating on the edge of a “no-loss” week (I’m, at this point, down half a pound, but if I am not careful this weekend, that could change) I know that I need to be sure not to take anything overly tempting or unhealthy, and stick resolutely to my healthy meals.  Exercise won’t be a problem, as I plan to get out a LOT with DH and YD.  (ED, unfortunately, won’t be going with us; she has a voice lesson she doesn’t want to miss, so she’ll be staying here with my Mom.)

So I wanted to thank Cyndi for the insight, which has both put some things into perspective for me and helped me let go a little of my love-hate feelings toward the scale.  It’s just a scale.  I don’t hate the computer for showing me I’m out of money.  I don’t need to hate the scale for showing me the results of my own behaviors.  I don’t need to hate anything.  I just need to use the information wisely.  So while it makes me more comfortable with daily weighing, it also goes a long way toward removing the compulsion.  I don’t need to weigh myself compulsively, any more than I need to compulsively check my bank balance.  (I used to do that, too.  I’m much better now, though.)

Life’s all about learning.  I’ve learned a lot this week, and in my book, that makes it a great week.  Have a great weekend – I plan to!

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Well, it’s Thursday again, and that must mean I’m thankful.

Actually, I should amend that, because lately I’ve been paying a little more attention to being thankful all the time. However, today is the day I actually post about thankfulness.

Yesterday was my anniversary.  I have now been married to DH for 14 years; we’ve been together for almost 16.  That means a lot of things, but one that keeps coming to mind is that in just four more years, I will have spent more of my life with DH than I spent without him.  (I was 20 when we met.)  I think that’s pretty amazingly cool, I must confess.

It hasn’t always been easy.  That’s sort of a no-brainer.  Marriage isn’t easy; but then, life isn’t easy, and marriage is part of life.  So if you really think about it, the hard parts are going to be there whether you’re married or not.  They’ll just be different hard parts.

I have learned so much from this man that I couldn’t begin to put it into words.  (But you know me, that never stops me from trying.)  I’ve learned about love and acceptance and self-sufficiency and caring for myself and for other people.  He helped me to grow up and be a decent person simply by assuming that I would.

He’s my reality-check and my anchor, and he accepts without criticism my tendency to float away into dreams and intricate philosophical concepts.  He is a wonderful provider and father to my children, and partner and friend to me.  He’s no-nonsense and down to earth, and funny as hell in a smartass sort of way.  He has loved me through the ups and downs of my depression and anxiety, my battles with my weight and the attendant health issues, and more rants about job stress and other frustrations than I can count.

Okay, I suppose he’s not perfect.  Well, neither am I, which (in a quantum sort of way) makes him absolutely perfect – for me.  Sixteen years ago, I somehow sensed that and my certainty on that count – through all the ups and downs – has never wavered.  You know how some conversations stick in your brain forever?  I remember one that occurred when we’d been dating for about six months and were already engaged.  We were standing in my mother’s hallway, and I think we’d just finished having a fairly spectacular argument about who-knows-what.  He told me he wasn’t perfect, and I said, “I know.  But you’re perfect for me.”

No one ever knows what the future holds, but I do know this: I was right.  And come what may, I will always know that I made the right choice.  And today, I am thankful for that choice, and everything that has come from it, because I am a better person today.  And so, so blessed.

I’ll leave you with a picture of my “anniversary flowers” – every year, DH sends me one rose for every year we’ve been married.  Appropriately enough, in the background is my “Gratitude Board”.

And a song:

My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why
I got out of bed at all
The morning rain clouds up my window
and I can’t see at all
And even if I could it’d all be grey,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me that it’s not so bad,
it’s not so bad

I drank too much last night, got bills to pay,
my head just feels in pain
I missed the bus and there’ll be hell today,
I’m late for work again
And even if I’m there, they’ll all imply
that I might not last the day
And then you call me and it’s not so bad,
it’s not so bad and

I want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life
Oh just to be with you
is having the best day of my life

Push the door, I’m home at last
and I’m soaking through and through
Then you hand me a towel
and all I see is you
And even if my house falls down,
I wouldn’t have a clue
Because you’re near me and

I want to thank you
for giving me the best day of my life
Oh just to be with you
is having the best day of my life

Have a wonderful day, with much to be thankful for!

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Have you heard? It’s Blog Action Day! The day when bloggers all over the world come together to address a common theme dealing with a global issue. This year, the topic is poverty.

I don’t think it’s a big secret how poverty affects our health. Particularly with the economy in its current state, so many of us are struggling to get the bills paid and have anything left over, and as most of us know, eating healthy is expensive.

There are a few truisms that most people who have been on the weight-loss train for very long know. Processed foods are, generally speaking, bad; trans fats, HFCS, and preservatives are big no-nos; the best things for you are fresh fruits and veggies and lots of water. These are pretty much true no matter what plan you’re doing, with the possible exception of Atkins. Even Atkins, though, revised his plan to include more fruits and veggies.

Unfortunately, the cheap stuff is processed. It’s full of all the things we’re supposed to avoid, and very few of the things we need. I’m very blessed, at this point in my life, to be able to afford the fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains that I need to eat healthy and clean. I can afford to go to the drugstore and get the vitamins and supplements that I know will keep my body ticking over and working like a well-oiled machine (oiled with fish oil, of course).

It wasn’t always that way. In fact, only in the past few years has it been that way. Let me tell you a story.

When I was 19, I became a single mom. At that point, I was just out of high school and attending a junior college. I lived at home, with mom, because my dad had passed away a few years previously. Mom, at that time, had nearly no marketable job skills. So we were a half-income family, at that point. I eventually left school and went to work making what I know now was a pathetic excuse for an income, but at the time seemed amazing. We could pay the rent! Sometimes, we could even afford to buy propane in the winter – that was our method of heating. When we couldn’t…well, the baby slept with me those nights. It gets very cold in Oklahoma in the winter.

We spent every dime of my income and mom’s (before she broke her ankle and couldn’t work) on the rent, utilities, and gas for the car. I worked an hour away from home, so gas was a big one, even when it was cheap. Food was the last item on the list, and it was whatever we could afford with what we had. If it hadn’t been for food stamps, that would have been nothing. As it was, it was typically Hamburger Helper (if we could afford the hamburger, that is, and we couldn’t always – Hamburger Helper without hamburger sucks, BTW), ramen noodles, and lots of beans and potatoes. I don’t recall ever entering the produce section of the store. Thanks to WIC (don’t know about WIC? Check it out here) we had milk, eggs, and cheese, and cereal. Yeah. Cereal. Sugary, processed cereal. Cause that’s what kids need. (Note – WIC’s food list has changed enormously since then – bear in mind this was 16 years ago.)

The other problem was that I was working full time and, for a while, going to school (until I started working too many hours to have time for that). So even if by some miracle we’d been able to afford to buy healthy stuff, we didn’t have time to prepare it. Mom worked full time too, making nearly nothing, but it was enough to swing the balance. So who was going to cook all this lovely whole food? When we were home, she was exhausted from being on her feet all day cleaning cabins, and I was dealing with the demands of a very energetic (and, thank God, very resilient) baby/toddler. I was trying to spend time with her and be part of her life despite being away from her nearly all day and night. I wasn’t spending time in the kitchen. I was also trying to do my part to keep the place livable, because honestly how fair is it for Mom to half-kill herself all day and then come home and pick up after me and my child?

Vitamins? Forget it. Talk about a luxury! Water? Sure, I drank water – that was one thing that, since we had a well, was free.

Later, things got a little easier, even though Mom was disabled, (remember that broken ankle? Turns out a lot of hospitals don’t provide very good care when you don’t have insurance and it healed….well, I could say “badly”, but that’s a pale reflection of the truth) because I was making a little better money, and something called “child support” entered our lives. Not a lot better, but a little. Enough that we didn’t have food stamps any more. Man, was that an improvement! (I was glad to be off them, because even at 19 I had more pride than was good for me, but it actually made our situation worse.) But thanks to the child support, I could now afford things like soda, cheetohs and canned ravioli. Wow, healthy. And expensive by our standards – but still a lot cheaper than produce.

Oh, and while we’re at it – what did I feed my child? I’m so glad you asked! Why, the aforementioned sugary cereal, cheetohs, and ramen noodles, of course! Plenty of healthy sugar, salt and empty carbs. Yum, yum! Oh, come on, don’t look at me like that. I got her fruit roll-ups and gummy snacks, too – that’s healthy, right?

[I know, I’m getting a little bitchy. That’s because I hate to remember that. I know for a fact that my elder daughter’s horrible food habits now are a direct and immediate result of what she learned to eat then. And looking back, I know that I probably could have found a way to feed her better, even within our nonexistent budget. I’m wallowing a bit in mommy-guilt here, so I’ll need a moment.]

And that’s where education comes in. I wish to God someone had sat me down and shown me an illustration of exactly what these things were doing to her body. I wish that I had been taught, preferably during pregnancy if not before, about the effects of these things on a child’s development. Sure, some of it nobody knew then – but some of it we did. But while there are assistance programs, and the government does make sure you have access to some food, they’re not doing a lot to educate you about what food you should be eating.

So there’s a sort of three-pronged problem, there. No money to buy the healthy stuff, no time (when you’re living hand-to-mouth) to prepare it, and no real understanding of what you should be eating, even if you can solve the first two issues. (Oh, and let’s not forget that most people who are living this way are so exhausted and emotionally broken by their lives that they don’t really think much about their health. If they’re healthy enough to work, that’s all they have the energy to care about.)

How do you fix this? I wish I had the answer. I do have suggestions, but I can’t tell you if they’re sufficient or even practicable.

First, we need to educate people, and we need to do a better job of it. This food group/food pyramid crap isn’t even beginning to cut the mustard. And it shouldn’t be limited to kids in schools. Recipients of federal or state aid need to be provided with educational tools to help them make the most of that aid. They need to be taught that it does make a difference far beyond your weight – because honestly, when you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head – forget about clothing, you’re just hoping for hand-me-downs – the last thing you’re thinking of is the circumference of your thighs.

Federal and state aid programs need to be more geared toward healthy foods. I don’t know that there’s a lot you can do to make them easier and quicker to prepare, unfortunately, but for God’s sake, can we not arrange for produce vouchers? Can we not specify whole-grain breads on food lists? Can we not make vitamins part of the list? (They may be, by now, I’m not sure. If so, scratch that one.)

And I’ll tell you another thing that scares me. At the last debate, both candidates were talking about cutting entitlement programs, including (of course) Medicaid and other low-income assistance. I do understand the need to cut spending. I do understand that there are things that will have to change. But I was horrified and angered to hear McCain say “freeze spending across the board (including and especially entitlement programs) except for critical things like defense spending.”

Sending our troops overseas to die protecting foreign oil interests is critical. Keeping our people alive and healthy is not.

That sort of says it all. I don’t know what you do with that. Clearly, taking care of our people isn’t going to start at the top, so I guess it’s going to have to start at the bottom, with us. And really, isn’t that how it’s been all along?

So here’s my suggestion for anyone reading this: Today, make some contribution, however small. Find a local food pantry and make a donation, and make it healthy. Since we normally have to stick to non-perishables, donate whole wheat flour instead of white. Donate low-sodium or salt-free canned vegetables, and low-sugar canned fruit. It’s not as good as fresh, but it’s better than the standard version. Donate things that aren’t cheap. Yeah, it’s going to be a few dollars out of your own pocket, but you can afford it better than the people who are turning to that food pantry because they have no other choice.

While you’re at it, see if you have a place locally that does something like this. If so, support it. Think about giving money, instead of just leftover canned foods. Think about donating time, if you have it. For instance, do you know a single mom who’s trying to take better care of herself? Could you maybe offer to babysit while she walks in the evenings? I’m not asking anyone to undergo hardship, but do what you can. And yeah, I’m talking to myself here, as much as anyone else.

I’m not rich, but I’m a lot better off than I used to be, and God knows I remember what it was like. So, as Edward Everett Hale said:

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

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