Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Last Week, In Photos

Good timing!
Lilac season!  So blissful, so short.  I've found two big bushes that sit on property that MIGHT not be actively owned and cared-for.  Under the cover of night I cut as many blooms as I can fit in a grocery bag.  Lilac bandit, unashamed.

Blown up, it's really apparent how out-of-focus this picture is.  I was just so proud to have found morel mushrooms in my own front yard.  Soooo delicious sauteed with kale, garlic, and Irish butter.

I can't wait for Stella to come home and arrange my flowers for me.  I have to have flowers inside my house.  Flowers and candles make up for piles of clutter.

Lush backyard, halfway weed-eaten (hence the orange cord snaking over the back stoop fence)

Sad attempt at gluten-free lemon cornmeal pancakes.  But everything tastes good covered in fresh strawberries and sour whipped cream. 

My next-door neighbor picks flowers for me.  Remember being 3 yrs old and only picking the blooms?

Early spring in the Ozarks.  I love this time of year.

The landscape I adore.

Pink house

Once I had a flying dream where I flew over this exact same pasture outside Clifty, AR.

My grandmother's favorite blooming tree, the Dogwood.

I wish I knew the story behind this little church that sits off Highway 45 between Hindsville and Clifty.

Church outhouse

Captures the Ozarks perfectly, huh?


Hindsville, Population 75

One day I'm gonna stop and have a piece of pie at the Valley Inn Cafe.  Doesn't it look like they'd have good pie?

Valley Inn Cafe, Hindsville, AR

The tail end of Rosebud season

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Un-Sexy Breasts

I've hesitated writing about this because it isn't my story to tell so I will just keep it to my feelings and reactions to learning that my oldest, closest girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer.  "We are way too young!" was my first thought, but of course we are not.  "But she's the healthiest person I know!" I thought next...as though that's ever stopped cancer before.  There is no family history.  She was 38 when she discovered a mass during a routine self-exam.  To my readers in your thirties - when was the last time you did a self-exam?  Really and truly.  It seems that there was a bigger PR push for self-exams in my twenties than in my 30s.  In my shared housing in college we even had a hangtag on our shower caddy reminding us every time we took a shower.  My friend is a nurse at Planned Parenthood so perhaps she thinks about women's health more.  Or hell, maybe she just feels herself up more.  Like I said, not my story to tell.  All I know is that she was told to come back in a year to have it checked again.  When she returned last month it was immediately diagnosed.

Today is her surgery and it's all I can do not to get on a plane right now just so I can smother her with love and cooking and taking care of her household for her.  But I know she has a very strong circle of girlfriends around her who love her as much as I do and will take good care of her.  Her doctors are optimistic and she is trying to be positive so I might as well too.

This is the 2nd time breast cancer has affected my close circle of friends.  You may recall my writing about my friend Patt who passed away in June, 2012.  This isn't uncommon.  It's a disease that strikes 1 in 8 women in the U.S. (if these statistics are to be believed) and is the 2nd highest cancer rate of women behind lung cancer.  These will not be the only women I know affected by it.  I pray that I will not be.

I'm not a fan of that "pink for breast cancer" crap.  And it's not even that helpful, really.  I was super pissed at the Susan B. Komen organization for cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, even though they've reinstated that funding.  They have a decent rating on Charity Navigator (if you don't know about this site already, it's incredibly useful before making contributions), but I tend to think that if it weren't for the extreme and massive public backlash, that funding would still be cut.

I don't want to buy any pink ribbon junk.  I don't really want to participate in any Race for the Cures.  I think, on my next payday,  I will just donate in my friend's name to Planned Parenthood, where she works part time and where low-income women can be screened for cancer in addition to receiving contraception and other women's health services.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Gave Her My Heart And She Gave Me A Pen

Lloyd Dobbler.

We know that name, that guy.  He's the Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate) of my generation.  We know he is into kickboxing ("sport of the future") and Diane Court.  His shy-but-confident wooing, his earnest and abiding love for her, his speech about not wanting to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything,  and of course this boombox scene - he pierced the hearts and minds and longings of my generation.  He's a touchstone for us tail-end-of Gen X'ers.  How many of us girls wanted a guy to do this, make a big, dramatic, romantic gesture?  How many of you guys wanted to work up the courage to get the smartest, prettiest girl in your class to fall in love with you?

Say Anything is 25 years old, which is shocking and painful for me.

I was 14 when I saw it at the Malco Razorback 6.  I went with my friends and co-workers from the snack bar at Blue Springs, a strange hybrid fish hatchery/natural springs/stop along the Trail of Tears where petroglyphs are visible on the rock structures.  In reference to the Trail of Tears connection, the snack shop was called The Indian Giver.  For real.  It was my first job.  I made popcorn that visitors bought to feed the ducks and scooped ice cream all day.  The family who owned Blue Springs had three children close in age to me.  The middle sister and youngest son (my age and 6th grade "boyfriend") invited me to drive to Fayetteville to see Say Anything.  I was thrilled to finally be making my own money and had saved up to buy a bottle of Estee Lauder's Beautiful perfume which I sprayed myself lavishly in preparation for the excursion.  We lived an hour away from the move theater that showed new releases so it was a bit of a production to get a group of people together to see a movie.

What I remember about seeing it the first time in that theater is how strongly I identified with Lloyd Dobbler, more so than any of the female characters.  I also had a weird family life.  I fell hard in love with guys and just knew how good I could be for/with them.  I loved Peter Gabriel and the early Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Replacements and Fishbone like Lloyd.  I didn't want to anything to do with processed, bought, or sold products either.  I knew what it felt like to be disappointed by the adults in my life.  I liked to wear a big, old green army trench coat (have you ever noticed how teenagers tend to wear baggy, oversized clothes in order to hide from the world?).  Lloyd seemed to have shit figured out, or trusted that he would figure it out if not.   He had soul, something lacking from most films about teenagers.

I think so much lately about aging.  I don't know if it's because I just turned 39, or because I'm living alone for the first time in 20 yrs and have time to think about things.  It boggles my mind that 25 years have passed since that night at the Malco 6, when I left the theater with my heart in my throat, so ready to feel that elation of solid, hearty, "I will follow you to England" true love.  I'm still waiting, really.  TWENTYFUCKINGFIVEYEARS.

My favorite song from the Say Anything soundtrack, which I might still have somewhere on cassette.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pushing Through Hard Stuff

This week has been rough.  I've fallen off the clean eating wagon a few more times than I'd like to admit.

Two weekends ago, my sister and I took our grandmother to Hot Springs for my birthday weekend.  We took three senior citizens plus our special-needs adult cousin to the horse races.  My patience ran thin.  I acted bratty.  I have so little patience for people who are obviously full of shit, even if I know that deep-down they're good people or I'm related to them by marriage.  Oh well.  It's not my place to inform others when they're full of shit.  It's my place to recognize it, adjust my reactions appropriately, and be grateful that most of the people in my life are legit, smart, quality folks.  I insist upon it.

My eating habits need to be reined in more.  My wonderful co-worker offers me mint Oreos or Andes mints every afternoon; she might as well be offering me heroin.  I am weakest in the afternoons after hours staring at a computer screen and deflecting every request that comes my way.

This phase is all mental.  I am fighting mental demons

This week I'm redoing the Couch to 5K Week One.  It took me nearly a month to complete Weeks One and Two.  HOWEVER, the fantastic new hot yoga studio in town, Trailside Yoga, was offering a too-good-to-be-true offer of 90 days for $90.  So I can go as often as I want.  I did three classes in two days last week.  I've been twice this week.  My goal is to get up to 4-5 classes per week.  The teachers are positive and energetic and exactly what I need when I leave work for the day.

Here's the deal - I've been "doing" yoga for about ten years now.  I've periodically attended classes and have a pathetic half-assed home practice.  I know that my balance is stronger than my flexibility, which has helped my confidence in yoga.  So I can't bend forward at the waist and touch the floor with my face in the wide-angle seated stretch (upavistha konasana), but I can manage a few seconds of crow pose (bakasana) before I topple over and can hang out in tree pose (vrksasana) for what feels like forever.  What I love about yoga is what it teaches me about my own body and its strengths and limitations.  I know that I need hip-openers and flexibility exercises because those kill me the most.  I love that these teachers always include an inversion because inversions challenge the hell out of me and are so necessary with how I spend 8-10 hrs per day, sitting in a chair staring at a glowing screen.  Because I have made these hot yoga classes a priority I am starting to see incremental improvements!  Each class I am pleased to discover that I can hold a pose longer without dying inside or having to drop my arms or hide out in child's pose (balasana) for a bit.

The scariest pose of all for me is a headstand.  I'm scared because I've had chronic neck and back pain and I'm afraid of hurting myself.  I'm scared because it's SO dramatic and challenging.  I'm scared because I think I'm too heavy.  But, with the help of instructors, I've gotten into a headstand twice now.  Pushing through the mental blocks and fear is what yoga does for me and why it's my favorite form of therapy/exercise/relaxation.  I sweat SO MUCH in these classes.  It drips down on to my mat and off my arms and I immediately go home and peel the wet clothes off me and throw them in the washer.  Mentally I picture toxins leaving my body along with the fear and constant inner dialogue of "you could never do this; you are too fat; you are too old; you will never change."

In other change news - I got glasses.  My eyes are all kinds of F'ed up with nerve damage in my left eye which has made my right eye way overcompensate and I frequently go cross-eyed and tend to squint with my left eye more and look ridiculous and weird in pictures, which means I frequently look weird and ridiculous in real life.  Maybe these will help.  I mean, I will always BE weird and ridiculous but don't always want to LOOK weird and ridiculous.  You know what I mean.  I hope these help.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wherein I Discuss MY DIET

Diet has become a dirty word and I understand why and do agree somewhat.  It used to mean "what we eat" but has become to mean "weird temporary eating disorder."  Well...how I'm eating now could fall under either meaning.  Or both.  I am 99% following The Fat Flush Plan.  Oh, how I despise that name.  I definitely feel like I am doing penance by continuously having to say those words when people ask about my dietary changes.  Usually I just say "liver detox" or "liver cleanse" but then sometimes have to clarify no, not that liver detox...more like eating only protein and vegetables and fruit but added supplements and new habits like dry-skin brushing and SEE?  That's why it needs its own name....but please, maybe a better one that I don't have to whisper?

Women don't want to say out loud, "I am on the Fat Flush Plan."  At least this woman doesn't.  Ugh.  Even typing it made me shudder.  It connotes a woman who wears light blue chambray cotton pants with an elastic waistband pulled up over her protruding, unavoidable belly and tucked into a pink turtleneck.  She might cover that turtleneck with a vest decorated with quilt squares or embroidered farm animals.  She's been on every diet featured on Oprah. THAT woman goes on the Fat Flush Plan, not me. Right?

Except I do.  Or I did.  And periodic-and-half-assed-ly continue to every year or so.  It's a diet in that it's mostly just food you put into your body, emphasis on FOOD.  It's also a weird temporary eating disorder in that you must stick to strict guidelines:  no sugar, booze, wheat, dairy, salt (I know...salt?),  and many fruits and some vegetables for at least two weeks.  In addition to what you can't have you must add things like 2 TBs flax oil a day, drinking ground flaxseeds in unsweetened cranberry juice first thing in the morning and at night followed by hot water with lemon.  You must add certain supplements and dry-brush your body before showers to "rev up" your adrenal glands.  Everything serves a purpose, though.  That appeals to the sensible part of me (what? ...I've got one!).  I fully understand how ideal it is to only consume things that are beneficial to my body and remove anything that doesn't serve a healthy purpose.  It helps that I love to cook because this requires the desire or ability to try different ways of seasoning food when you can't use salt, or cheese.  But I won't lie - it's restrictive and gets boring on some days.

Here's the skinny (ouch, sorry):  I wake up and immediately drink ground flaxseeds w/ cran-water then hot water with lemon.  For breakfast I usually make a smoothie with frozen strawberries & blueberries, flax oil, and a scoop of vanilla whey protein (for some reason that's allowed but no other dairy).  I take an enormous handful of supplements:  evening primrose oil, calcium, L-theanine, chromium, B-complex, turmeric, sometimes flax oil if I don't eat it with breakfast.  I'm usually too full from that to eat a mid-morning snack.  For lunch I either eat a salad with protein (frozen fish or shrimp are super fast to thaw, season and cook during a lunch break) or leftovers.  For dinner I make protein that should be organic and grass-fed if necessary with vegetables and possibly another salad.  I roast veggies a lot.  Before bed I do the ground flaxseed/cran-water & hot lemon water routine again.

Rinse and repeat.

For two weeks at least.  The first two weeks (no longer than three) are called Phase 1.  This phase is designed to re-set my palate, my cravings, and give my liver a break from filtering out all that stuff that causes inflammation in the body.  Then I can start adding "healthy carbs" one at a time, such as sweet potato, sprouted grains, and brown rice.  The plan says to stay on Phase 2 until you reach your goal weight.  Then I can transition into Phase 3 otherwise known as "Fat Flush for Life." Ew. I will try to never say that.

I followed this plan exactly ten years ago and within a few months had lost over 30 lbs.  I felt like I hadn't even tried.  I kept it off for over a year.  But then...you know...LIFE HAPPENS.  I started slipping, eating sugar not just as a special treat but every day, going back to real half-n-half in my coffee, drinking every weekend.  And the weight came back.   Of course.  And I'm ten years older;  I have chronic pain and a slow thyroid for chrissakes.

I don't want to start my 40s in pain and feeling lumpy!  I won't!

My friend Christina is doing this with me, Praise The Lord.  Just having someone else to bitch about caffeine withdrawals, share menu ideas, and celebrate feeling slimmer without worrying that the other person thinks you're a jackass...just having that feels almost as good as actually slimming down!

That's why I chose this new course in my life.  I know it will work.  And instead of closely following the FFP to a letter, I think I will transition into more of a relaxed paleo approach.  I am bonkers crazy for Nom Nom Paleo and her philosophy about eating paleo.  See, this is why I need Christina - so I can say things like "relaxed paleo outlook" without punching myself in the face.

There is so much more for me to say about again starting the Fat Flush Plan journey, making these conscious choices (and many more health- and fitness-related ones), and all the other stuff happening in my life right now but it's after midnight and I can't hold my head up anymore.

But because I always like a visual aid, here are some meals I've cooked this past week:

This was our "last meal" before going super strict, which is why you see that glass of wine back there.  This is the prep for shrimp ratatouille.

Grilled shrimp and roasted asparagus. 

This is the one meal I went "off" the diet - fried polenta with asparagus, portabella mushrooms and a poached egg.  Corn isn't allowed. 

Nom Nom Paleo's World's Best Braised Cabbage.  Pretty damn good.

spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs sharing a pan.

turkey meatballs & spaghetti squash topped with a tomato/fennel/mushroom sauce.  DELICIOUS!

chicken drumsticks marinated in a cilantro/garlic/shallot sauce and then broiled.  That braised cabbage, steamed asparagus, and a fresh salad.  SO GOOD.

I really want to thank my friend and former colleague Liz for encouraging me to write about this.  It's taken up a huge chunk of my time and attention so this should be considered blog content but it's hard to write about.  It's a vulnerable experience to openly admit that I am unhappy with how I look and feel, to accept responsibility for allowing my body to get to this current condition, and to describe the ways in which I am making changes.  If and when I reach the place where I am happy with and proud of my body's appearance I will share photographic evidence.  That's been the most vulnerable thing I've done so far - taken what I hope will be my "before" picture.  Join me on this journey if you'd like.  I can't wait to share the "after" with you! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

I figured that the title of this post was first said by someone famous, so I did a search and found this fun site.  I'm bookmarking it for sure because I get annoyed by people who just re-post quotes and aphorisms that are misattributed.  Oscar Wilde and Kurt Vonnegut seem to be the most popular for this.  A few weeks ago a woman (who I respect and admire it should be noted) posted a quote on Instagram about how you don't love someone for their money or because they own "a fancy car" but instead for "the song in their hearts" or something to that effect.  The quote was attributed to Oscar Wilde.  At first, as with most things I see posted online, I just scrolled on past, on to the next thing!  But then I thought, "Wait a minute...didn't Oscar Wilde die around 1900?   How many people even dreamed of owning a car, any car, back then much less a 'fancy' one?"  Ever the copyeditor, I just had to say something, doing my part to reduce the tsunami of misinformation online since 1995.  Sure enough - false quote and she took it down. 

So anyway....some people think Eleanor Roosevelt said that we should do one thing every day that scares us, but the reality is that many of us have said it and some of us have the ability to print it on mugs and t-shirts and in cool fonts for Pinterest. 

If I really wanted to do one thing every day that scares me, I would walk to work.  I'd have to walk with little-to-no sidewalk for a good portion as well as pass the Salvation Army just at the time when they kick everyone (most likely already in the throes of DTs) out for the day. 

Of course what is meant by this quote is that we should challenge ourselves.  I did that last week when I got up onstage for a storytelling show.  The Speak For Yourself series, started in part by the brilliant Erika Wilhite, occurs once a month at my favorite watering hole.  There is always a theme and the story must be original and amateur - no previously-published stories.  The theme last week was Travel so I got up and told my story of when I was assaulted on the beach in Recife, Brazil.  Although I have been able to massively reduce any fear or anxiety of public speaking through years of teaching and facilitating trainings and workshops, I had never done this before so I was a little nervous.  I could've thought about it more and certainly could've ended it stronger, but Erika says that she wants the show to feel loose and improvisational.  I had fun, though!  It was fun to interact with a whole new group of people and hear their stories.  I enjoyed having people come up to me later and tell me they liked my story.  I definitely will do this again. 

Not much else going on....these last final weeks of winter are the worst.  Everyone's mood is BLAH.  So I've been watching movies (Dallas Buyers Club, Blue is the Warmest Color, lotsa docs), television (True Detective, Nashville, Parenthood and hurray for the return of The Good Wife!), reading tons of magazines and even a book or two (I Am Malala, Empire of the Summer Moon, Gone Girl).  I'm cleaning up my bad dietary habits, preparing for sunshine and longer days.  Dreaming of my garden this summer.

I also have been telling people that I'm turning 39 for the first time in a few weeks.  It's true.  Gah.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Sunday Scenes

We had a weird sudden ice storm this morning. I was awoken by loud thunder and hail at 8:00am and it just got louder and stranger by the minute. Thundersleet! So what else to do but take photos of things inside my house. Here are a few favorite little parts of my home:

An icy day full of feline medication.  Perhaps some whipped cream & cinnamon on top of regular coffee might make the rest of the day go smoother.   Especially considering those medications are for dealing with a cat's inflamed anus.  When do I get to stop worrying about another creature's bodily excretions?  

looking into the kitchen zone

What Chickie has been staring at for hours

See - just staring away.

What you see when you first walk in.  Some of my art.  On the far left is a photograph I love by Adam Smith, a talented photographer I've known since I was a kid.  Then a print of the college where I stayed in Oxford, a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Olivia Trimble, Sleet City Decor on Etsy.  She's fantastic.  A print by  Dea Self, photo of Stella, another photo of Stella, and then a pen and ink of a prescription drug pool party that I really love by Sam Hauser. 

Chicklet.  Watching all day long. 

Bookshelf topped by a small Megan Chapman print, an old photo of my mom holding infant me, then little 3 yr old Stella. Plus wooden sculpture from Mozambique and Matryoshka dolls from Russia. 

A closer view

Megan Chapman's piece that is deceptively simple.  You can find similar pieces in her Etsy shop.

My mother and father worked at Renaissance Faires up and down the coast of California selling flutes when I was a baby.  That might explain my mother's outfit here.  Or this might've just been a normal outfit for her in 1975. 

Adorable Stella, outside the OG Penguin Ed's.  Probably 1997.

I love this ceramic plate with the subway map for London glazed on top.  By Ginny Sims a while ago.  In looking to link to her,  I found her website and she's got some incredible stuff on there!  Like I said, this is an older piece but I cherish it.  And an Alibrije pig from a Oaxacan student.  He's sitting atop a wooden cigarette dispenser I found at a flea market.  

Clockwise - Ozarkians record album, print by Dea Self, photo of sleeping 8 yr old Stella taken by my dad, iridescent root painting by Megan Chapman, family photo by Andrew Kilgore, Stella's senior portrait taken by Lindsey Chacon, who is no longer doing professional photography with Bluebird Photography, which is a shame as she is very talented.  

The sad state of my dining room table all the time now.  But I love this lamp that I found for $10 at Goodwill.  I had this shade on a different lamp but how perfect is that shade with this lamp?  I love how architectural it is.  Seems very Frank Lloyd Wright-esque.   Above the lamp is a piece Stella made in middle school art class, using the cats to examine the concepts of positive and negative space.   Fellow parents - don't you agree that there is something so fun and special about framing your children's work?  I think it helps to legitimize their talents.  

Another work of art Mom gave me when she sold her house and moved out west.  So sorry about that reflection.  

Table top display that I like. L-R: Christmas cactus gift from @Fear_Ants, photo of my sisters and me, beautiful sculpture from a special student from Oaxaca, photo of my family.  Skull sculpture also from Oaxaca.  In the back is a prayer rug from Palestine.  

Close up of family photo taken at a wedding in 2002.

My sisters.  2005

A basket made for me by my good friend Mario's tribe in  Brazil.  He gave it to me when I went to Brazil last year.  I treasure it because his mother and sisters personally made this for me.  His mother is a powerful woman in their tribe and is often called to São Paulo or Rio to speak on behalf of the indigenous people in Mato Grosso do Sul.  When I look at this basket, I feel connected to powerful women around the world who are working to keep their culture intact .  

Steamy window.  I found that blue bottle behind my sister's shop and thought it was pretty.  I took it home to clean it and realized it was a Bud Platinum bottle.  Still pretty though, right?   This funky old house has funky old windows that are anything but airtight or insulated.  Oh well.  It's a small house and still relatively cheap to heat and cool.  

The few succulents that are surviving.  Backed by a little pot Stella made a long time ago and a rock my friend Eric painted to look like an elephant.

Turtles made by little Stella, the prettiest jar lid in all the land, and another sort-of-surviving succulent.

I know I have a better way of displaying this gorgeous cabinet my mom gave me when she sold her house.  I need to hide my cleaning products and medicines…maybe put fabric behind the glass?  The post office boxes are handy.  I keep one around and every time I see a little something I want to give to Stella I toss it in a USPS box.  When it's full I mail it off to her.  Have I mentioned how much I love sending care packages?  BECAUSE I LOVE IT.  

Top of the cabinet

Baby Stella at a few hours old. 1995.

Little elephant.  Halloween 1997?  Back when all costumes were based on matching Garanimals sweats and building around them.  

Picture that sat atop our grandfather's desk for as long as I can remember.  Jessy and me, taken on the day that our grandfather first taught us how to fish.  My first fish!  He hand-carved the phrase "ask me about my grandchildren" on this frame that he also whittled.  So precious to me.  Toothless smiles, sundresses, and the first fish - timeless.

Wonderful hilarious clock painted by the crazy-talented Becki Lamascus.  I LOVE how her mind works and want at least five or six more clocks of hers.  

Print of "sea monsters" that Stella and I found at a flea market.  The frame I got at Goodwill.  That is something I always look for at thrift stores - mats and frames.  You can find DIRT CHEAP good quality frames and mats for little art pieces I seem to collect like dust bunnies.  *coughHOARDERcough*

Old print of the Flat Iron Building in Eureka Springs I found in a  flea market for $5.   Again with the reflection - sorry!

Painting and pen-and-ink sketch by my daughter.  Christmas gift 2013.

Hope you liked the little peak into my messy, colorful world.  I love my STUFF.  I love my house crammed full with all the STUFF I've collected over the years.  I love sitting on my couch, looking around, and feeling so comforted and happy by being surrounded by all these little things I've purchased or found or been given throughout my life.