The New Normal

IMG_3015

With the lake effect snow we had last weekend, I had to pull out my snow boots and heavy coat and get used to the “snow” drill again. On Sunday, I put on my boots and bundled up for a trip to Sawyer for some coffee and biscotti. It took forever to get out the door. I forgot my mittens. Then I remembered I needed my computer. Oh yeah, then I had to shovel snow to get the car out of the driveway. Finally I was off!

I spent some time reading and drinking coffee and then decided I should do my grocery shopping. I’ve been trying to save a bit of money, so I thought I would try shopping at Meijer, a Michigan-based Walmart-type store. I hate that store, but it is cheaper. This week it would be good to save some money.

Bundling up for the early morning routine…

IMG_9179

 

As I said in my Yummly blog, Yummly is changing my life. I got out my shopping list and began checking off items. Meijer’s produce is wildly disorganized, and I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to the setup. I even asked an employee how it was organized, and she couldn’t tell me either. All she could do is point out the items when I’d read them off my list. “I hate this store,” I mumbled under my breath. “Breathe… you are saving money,” my saner brain countered. I continued my shopping which seemed to take approximately 3 hours because I couldn’t figure out where anything was. The lotion was completely across the store. It was a mile and half walk through molasses to get it and then walk back to the dairy and frozen foods. “I’m never doing this again,” I said. “Relax,” my saner self said. “It’s almost over.”

It’s 5 AM. Go shovel!

IMG_8052

I finally got in the line, and it was like being in a slow motion movie. The woman in front of me had purchased food for the entire state of Michigan, and the cashier was in no hurry to get finished. I tried breathing. I attempted meditating. When it came to the point where I wanted to scream and leave my basket in the lane, I had to talk myself down off the ledge. “You don’t ever have to come back here again,” I bargained. “It’s worth $100 to shop somewhere else.”

Yep… gotta shovel…

IMG_7370

I walked out to the car, loaded my groceries in and left. I had to go the local bookstore to pick up some Christmas gifts, and I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it when I was checking off my list in Meijer. I drove back over to see if someone had turned it in. I trudged through the parking lot looking close to where I parked to see if I dropped it. Snow and slush and water covered the area, and I knew that phone could be covered up under that or run over by a car. The customer service desk (and I use that term loosely) had no better news, and I drove back home empty-handed.

To make a long story short, I ended up having to cut off my phone and get a new one. But the whole saga took about 4 hours and $300 off my Sunday. Going to Meijers did NOT save me any money, thank you very much. I will never go there again.

It’s been one frustration after another this week. I get up, check the driveway to see if I need to shovel. Shovel if necessary. When I get ready to go to work, I have to get boots, pack a pair of shoes for work, pack my lunch and bring mittens along with my purse and phone. I inevitably forget something. Once I’ve been outside in my boots, I can’t wear them inside because they are wet. So I have to take the boots off and go back inside to get what I forgot. If I forget something in the car, I have to put my boots on to go outside … and my coat … and my mittens. Everything just takes so long!!!!

My friend Ann and I went downtown to look at the Christmas lights. We bundled up, bundled up Ashok and headed down Main Street. When we turned on the street toward the Christmas lights, the cold north wind off Lake Michigan roared right through us. It took my breath away. We walked about 10 steps, and Ann said, “I don’t think I can do this.” “Maybe we could drive by the Christmas lights”, I said … and we did.

IMG_0524

 

It’s the Degree of Enjoyment That Matters

 

IMG_5639

 

My sister texted me: It’s snowing!

WTF? In Louisiana? I looked out my window, and we had nothing. Not a flake was stirring. I pulled up the Weather Channel, and, sure enough, it was snowing in Cottonport and Baton Rouge. And I guess the whole south ended up with some degree of the white stuff yesterday.

“Well I guess you are off today then,” I stated the obvious. Louisiana would be officially closed down with even the threat of snow much less actual flakes flying through the air. The temperature was below freezing, so I KNOW the bridges were closed. And since every person in the state lives on the other side of some bridge, there ain’t no way to slip-slide to work. With the exception of my friend Ray who got to work before it started. Since he’s driving a sissy sedan instead of a truck, I hope he got back across the bridge okay.

It was fun to see all Southern snow pics on social media. Even this morning – long after the snow had melted – images of bayous and live oaks covered in snow were still populating on social media. This day will go down in history, and I mean that quite literally. It may not snow again for years if not decades.

IMG_5666

When I let Ashok out early this morning, we had a dusting of snow on the ground, and by the time I left home for my errands we had at least a few inches. I was able to back out of my driveway with no problem, but it kept piling up. I felt a little rusty driving, and I cautioned the car behind me to “Get off my *ss, Yank. I’m a Southerner. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.” By the time I left the Saturday morning Weight Watchers meeting, the roads were really dicey. The snow removal teams better get out of their summer sleep and wake up to winter, because it is snowing sideways out my window. We will need to dig out in the morning.

IMG_5110

By the time I got home, there was so much snow in my driveway that I got stuck. Some good samaritan had cleaned my sidewalk, and I saw him coming toward me down the street. He helped me get my driveway cleaned off, and he helped me extricate my car from the snowbank. We have 10 inches more coming tonight and snow in the forecast every day through at least Friday.

IMG_2656

Whether it’s a touch of Southern snow or a lake effect snow event, my tummy starts calling for hot chocolate. Buying hot chocolate on the town is out of the question because those drinks have upwards of 40g of sugar in them – almost 10 teaspoons. I’ve discovered that I can eat about 7-9 grams of sugar in one serving without any adverse effects, but anything over 10g sends my blood sugar over the cliff. It makes me feel so bad it’s just not worth it anymore. I’ve had to accept lately that eggnog lattes (unless they are really small) are now out of the question.

IMG_5669

So, I’ve been experimenting. I’ve made vegan hot chocolate with almond milk, almond butter and cocoa. I’ve used different cocoas and low-sugar hot chocolate mixes. They’ve all been good. But I think tonight – during the first snowmaggedon of the year – I have discovered the secret recipe to low-sugar hot cocoa that is as good as the high sugar variety. It has cocoa, just a few dark chocolate wafers that will melt into chocolatey goodness, 2% milk and stevia. Of course I topped it with whipped cream. Perfect! 

I hoped to take Ashok for a walk under the Christmas lights on the bluff, but the weather outside is truly frightful. I think I’ll stay hunkered down inside and read a nice book. I’m pretty excited about the snow myself. I’m only a year and a half away from being a southerner. It looks like everybody got snow this week. It truly doesn’t matter the degree of snowfall that you get, what matters is the degree of enjoyment you get from it. And Southerners may just have Michiganders beat on that count.

Go grab some hot chocolate and enjoy a nice winter night. Wouldn’t it be fun if everybody got a white Christmas in 2017?! And, don’t worry, Louisiana friends, you’ll be in shorts by the end of the week, I’m sure.

The Extraction of a Troublesome Tooth

IMG_5343

This morning I had a tooth extracted. But this was no ordinary run-of-the-mill tooth. This was THE tooth. This was the tooth that cost me hours upon hours in dental offices and literally thousands of dollars. This was my first root canal, and it would become my first extraction. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear,” the Michigan endodontist said, “but that tooth needs to be extracted. The root is cracked.” My heart sank as I looked out the window where the birds were eating at a feeder. But a voice inside my head, said, “Let it go.” And shame washed over me.

In my early thirties, this tooth had lost a filling or cracked or something, exposing a nerve. I’d never had any kind of serious tooth problem. But when I would drink anything hot or cold or even bite down on it, it would hurt. It keep getting worse and worse, and it got particularly bad one day when I was at a sportswriter’s convention with my ex near Gatlinburg. The pain was so bad, I called up a friend’s husband who was a dentist, and he agreed to see me right away.

I was so naive back then and so filled with anxiety that I was literally shaking as I went in to his office. I thought this was going to be horribly painful, and I would be broke for life. I had always been healthy, so this seemed like the end of the world to me. The pain was so horrible that I was literally traumatized by it. He was so nice. It was a tooth with 3 canals, he told me, and it needed a root canal. He usually sent those out, but since it was me, he agreed to do it. I’m quite sure he could tell I was scared to death and would burst into tears if he didn’t do it.

I drove the hour back to Gatlinburg and then returned the next day for the procedure. I was pleasantly surprised that the procedure was no worse than getting a filling. And the pain blessedly was gone. I was still woosy from the drugs, so the curvy hilly drive back to Gatlinburg seemed like a drug-induced dream. But the worst was over.

It was only about a year later that the tooth got infected. The very same dentist who now had my undying loyalty sent me to a specialist for a re-treatment. I wasn’t as afraid this time as I knew the drill – pun intended. The pretreatment went fine, and the tooth seemed happily content for many years. One day when I was in Louisiana, I noticed a bump on my gum above the tooth. That’s weird, I thought. It didn’t hurt. It looked like a pimple. I didn’t think much of it, but when it didn’t disappear I called my amazing dentist in Baton Rouge.

“That tooth is infected,” he told me. “The pimple is releasing the pressure so you don’t feel it, but we need to retreat the root canal.” Off I went to yet another endodontist to retreat the root canal. I expected him to advise extraction since it had already been treated twice, but he didn’t. The second treatment had lasted about 20 years. That was three years ago.

I found the pimple again the day before Thanksgiving. I’m trying to rid myself of troublesome things. I have beliefs that don’t serve me, and they haven’t served me for decades. I’m making headway in letting those go. I’ve made choices in my life and in my relationships that make my life lighter. I’ve downsized my belongings, and I’ve gotten out of debt. As I stood in front of the mirror and looked at the telltale sign of a hidden infection, I truly felt it was time to let this go, too.

Extracting a tooth is fairly serious. It’s why we put so much money into keeping them. After you extract one, you have to either bridge it which involves destroying two other teeth or get an implant which is surgery. If you leave the socket empty, you risk bone loss or shifting teeth which causes a new set of issues. Whatever my choices, it will take time and money and a bit of an attitude shift. And in a weird, surprising way I feel a bit of shame that I didn’t – or couldn’t – take care of my tooth. I remember feeling shame the first time it was worked on. Perfection? Failure? Loss? Not sure of the root, but there’s shame there.

So, today I have a hole where a tooth once lived. I’m eating soft, cold foods because it has to scab over. Luckily it’s hidden so I don’t have to look at it, but I’m sure I’ll take a peek. When the dentist was done, I asked his assistant if I could see the tooth. She gets a tweezer and picks up this tiny little bloody thing I could hardly see without my glasses. It came out in two parts because it was broken. “It’s so tiny,” I thought. In my mind, it was massive with big hairy tentacles and dripping with blood.

My first instinct was to ask to bring it home. I’d invested so much in it over the years, and it was a part of me. “No,” I heard. “Let it go.” And I did.

 

Owning The Story of Your Life

IMG_2524

On this beautiful 55-ish degree day in November, I am very grateful to have run a 10K down to the lighthouse from my house. Fisherman lined the catwalk manning the lines plunging into the clear green water that was uncharacteristically still. One smiled at me as Ashok and I ran by so I stopped to ask him what kind of fish they caught out there. Trout was what he was hoping for, but he said that they weren’t very big this time of year – not like in the spring when salmon might be running. He assured me that being out on such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place was its own reward.

IMG_5593

We have our rituals. Mine is sitting in coffeehouses writing and watching people. On other days, my practice might be walking in the woods. When I’m at home, curling up on the sofa by the reading lamp with a hot cup of tea and my fur babies listening to Enya and writing or reading is my favorite pastime. As I ran past the fisherman bundled up on the catwalk, I imagined that this is way they like to wile away their days when other responsibilities don’t intercede. It seemed so peaceful, and it seemed that they knew each other … each one in their chosen spot with their chairs and tackle and creature comforts.

On my headphones, Ginger Zee, a meteorologist who reports on natural disasters, was being interviewed on the 10% Happier podcast. Her latest book, Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One,  details the story of her life and her experiences and misadventures with depression. I listened as I clocked off miles 3, 4, 5, and six. She called off her wedding after she and her fiancé had mailed the invitations. She waited at the post office until it opened the next day, and the postmaster helped her pull the invitations out of the stack of mail. “This has happened before,” he reassured her. And I thought of the desperation and embarrassment of having to undo marriages and bad decisions and failed attempts at life. We all have had those moments of pulling sent invitations out of the mailbox – in one way or another.

IMG_9096

In yesterday’s 12-step meeting, a man said, “The only thing we own is our story.” I was taken aback by the truth of that statement. Money and relationships and careers and belongings come and go as easily as water beneath a bridge. But it’s the stories of our lives that define us and connect us with others. I feel most alive and spiritually connected when someone shares their deepest, darkest story with me. I live for the communities in my life where the stories are welcome and embraced.

We are living in a time where truth is being tested. Whether it’s sexual predators facing the truth and consequences for their choices, or the victims risking honesty for the first time, the secrets of the past are being unearthed. Reality was not what we thought it to be. I’m listening to at least three podcasts where people are being liberated through their storytelling. Addiction is rampant across all segments of society, and we are being brought to our knees by lies and deceit. Secrets make us sick, and our culture has been sick and disconnected for a very long time. We were a world of pretenders. Even though the truth alarms and shocks us, it will be the only thing that heals us. The truth tellers will save the world. Those who harbor their sick secrets will perish.

IMG_0366

The fishermen dress for the weather in the morning, pack their tackle, find their spot among compadres, bait their hooks and fish. This ritual is part of their story. It is where they noodle the problems of their lives and feel moved by gratitude for the present moment. They each have a story running in the background that has nothing to do with their sport. Yes, they may be fisherman on a catwalk in the morning sun, but this is only one thread in the tapestry of their lives. Are they addicted to painkillers? Have they endured a blinding loss? Have they recovered from an astounding mistake? While talking about fish is interesting in its own right, I would love to know more… and I KNOW there is more.

Where do you hear people’s stories? Where do you tell yours?

Podcasts where people tell their stories:

 

 

 

Yumming on Yummly

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 7.32.27 PM

Whirlpool bought a tech company named Yummly. Why would we need a tech company? Well, Yummly happens to be a virtual recipe collection app. And, think about it. We make kitchen appliances. What do you do on kitchen appliances? You cook food. And how do you know how to cook food? You look for recipes. Thus, we now own a virtual recipe collection app called Yummly. And I was curious. After all, I like to cook. I’m up for change when it’s for the better. So I started exploring the world of Yummly.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 7.33.13 PM

I downloaded it for free from the iTunes app store, and signed in with my email address. It asked me for my food preferences. I liked that approach. I chose vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan. I also prefer to avoid recipes with beef, pork, and sugar. It asked me about my favorite cuisines. Apparently, this thing works sort of like Tinder. The more recipes I “yum” (like), the better the app gets to know what I like. Theoretically, I’ll see more of what I like as I teach it my preferences.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 7.34.09 PM

So I Yum’d several recipes and I created some labels that made sense for me. I found a vegetable soup that looked really yummy – not to be confused with yummly. The recipes list the nutritional information, the ingredients, directions and even reviews.

And, best of all, there’s an “add to list” button. I clicked it, and it immediately added all of the ingredients to a shopping list. I’ve had apps with shopping lists before, but they were pretty static. With this one, I could go through the list and check what I already have on hand. If I check the box, it drops down to the “I got it” section. Each ingredient links to the recipe so I can click through if I have questions while I’m in the store. Sweet!

I didn’t have time to do much else, so I left for my morning errands. When I got to the grocery, I decided I would make that soup tonight, and there was a hot chocolate recipe I wanted to try. I went to the Yummly app, added the ingredients to the list and started shopping. I was able to shop and stuck to my list which helps with my budget. I felt very good about my trip, and I had all of the ingredients for a nice dinner and a healthy cup of cocoa.

 

 

While I was eating that lovely soup, I got online and started learning more about my newfound helpmate. I added a “bookmarklet” to my browser on my computer and one on my iphone. I can search the entire web (not just Yummly) for recipes, and when I find them, I can bookmark them to Yummly. This is going to revolutionize the way I keep recipes. Right now, I bookmark them but sometimes they are on Safari, and other times they are on chrome. Sometimes they are on my phone bookmarked, and other times they are on my computer. Most of the time I just forget that I saved them and never use recipes. I end up wasting food or not having enough stuff on hand to cook a healthy dinner in a hurry.

On my iPhone….

 

On my computer….

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 7.37.34 PM

And I found out that I can manually add items to the list as well. So, even if I have to buy things like toilet paper or milk or eggs not tied to a recipe, I can keep it all on one handy list.

IMG_5576

This app has the potential to revolutionize the way I keep recipes and grocery shop. If I’m in the grocery, and they have some great-looking winter squash, I can get right on the app and search for a recipe. And with one click, I can add all of the ingredients to my list. Or if I plan a meal, and the grocery doesn’t have a key ingredient, I can just quickly delete all of the stuff for that recipe and find another. And I love a checklist for groceries. It’s much nicer than creating notes and having to delete them or edit them one item at a time.

My favorite benefit, though, is the database of great recipes pulled from many, many different sources with a focus on my personal preferences. Google was easy, but this will help refine my search much more quickly. Maybe I’ll even try some new cuisines! So it looks like I would describe Yummly as Yum! Oh yeah… tell them Whirlpool sent ya!

Here are the top features I like:

  • Easily created and editable grocery list
  • Customizable labels for recipe collections
  • Preferences to weed out things I don’t like or things I don’t eat
  • Seasonal recipe collection – Cook things “in season”
  • Easily shareable recipes
  • Bookmark from any blog or site on the web (You can also add your own, but I haven’t tried that.)
  • Pictures, reviews, my preparation notes and nutritional information are all in one place and accessible on any of my devices

So, here’s the link to Yummly.com. There are some helpful resources on the site, of course.

And here are some tips on how to use it:

The Power of Gentleness

205221-Be-Gentle-And-Kind-With-Yourself

I chose a meditation this morning from my 10% Happier app that promised to provide focus. Sharon Salzberg was the teacher, and she promised to help me focus on the space between the breaths. I noticed my breathing was labored. I struggled with pausing between breaths. As soon as the exhale ended I was gasping to inhale. My body was reacting as if I would die if I went a second without oxygen. I know from experience this is a symptom of my anxiety.

My anxiety’s creator is what I call my drill sergeant. He literally has a whip that he uses to keep me on the right track. “Do it right,” he screams and cracks the whip. “You can’t stop now,” he admonishes when I stop to rest. His goal is to keep me on track, to shame me into sticking to a standard is always be elusive. And when I’m meditating, he rails at me to “relax …. stop thinking … quiet your mind … breathe smoothly and easily …. you’ll never get this right”. What actually happens is I can’t do any of those things. I just get scared that I’ll never do it right, and I lunge at my breath to help me feel safe.

“Be gentle with yourself,” I tell my friends when they are lunging after their breath, their eyes wide with anxiety and fear over something that they can’t seem to accomplish or make right. I see their drill sergeant and can almost hear the crack of the whip as he admonishes them to meet an impossible goal. It’s not infrequent that people tell me that they can’t be gentle with themselves. If they are not harsh with themselves, they will fail.

When I recognized what was happening this morning, I stopped trying to follow her instructions, and I said, “I love you, Sharon”. I gave myself a big, imaginary, long hug. Immediately my body relaxed, and in a few minutes my breathing and my mind settled into an easy, relaxed cadence. I love the lessons of meditation and yoga. They are so subtle, and they only come when I pay attention to my internal drama. I think the drill sergeant is my internal voice, but he’s not. He’s an external structure built by a lifetime of experiences, demands and uninformed authority figures. He is not what is within me.

Yoga, meditation, therapy, 12-step recovery and other spiritual practices quiet the unhelpful voices that cause us to lunge after our breath or material goods or addictive substances of any kind. These safe practices – and if they are not safe, they are not healthy – provide a different structure that provides a soft spot to land and an absence of expectations. We all have enough goals and demands and expectations that drive us nearly to our death. The inner voice of the spirit is so gentle and sweet in comparison. It’s only when we meet it with gentleness that it becomes audible.

Ms. Salzberg echoed my experience this morning when she said that we can only improve and succeed if we lovingly support ourselves. Want to stick with a diet? Need to stop drinking? Is your life not working? Don’t listen to the drill sergeant. He’s what drove you to this place. Listen to your inner voice that tells you what you need and want and who genuinely adores you just the way you are. In my experience, it’s in the safety of sweet gentleness that my spirit ignites. The human spirit is infinitely more powerful than being driven from the outside…. and a lot more pleasurable, too.

Be gentle with yourself. See how powerful you really are.

 

I Work(ed) in a Zoo

sun-conure

A sun conure like Penny

Today’s daily prompt is zoo.

I worked in a zoo. No, I mean I really worked in a zoo. Some of my workplaces feel like a zoo, but I actually worked in a real, live zoo in Knoxville. I was a birdkeeper, and I actually really liked the job. In many ways dealing with the sh*t in the real zoo was more fun than dealing with it in an office that just feels like a zoo.

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 8.08.00 PM

You know the office bully? She’s the one that waits for you to say something that might be a tad controversial or for you to hesitate on offering an opinion. Then she takes you down in a flurry of backhanded jabs or snarling bites. Give her one inch, and you will regret you ever let your guard down. Iggy was our bully at the zoo. The black swan was sequestered in a back section of the back pond because he was so mean. We could not take the chance of a child sticking his hand through the fence. Iggy was ferocious. And swans are big, muscular birds with massive wings. I had to ease up to the fence and grab the food bowl before Iggy ran over and attacked me. We left a large stick right by the opening. As we put the food bowl back in we’d take the stick and hold Iggy back lest we be beat to death by the big black angry winged bully.

Black_swan_jan09

And, then, of course, there’s the office talker. He comes over to your desk and talks about politics or his family or his next project ad nauseum. He’s nice enough, but there’s too much of him for too long. Penny was a sun conure that I tried to teach how to talk and do tricks. She was doing pretty good about doing tricks, but she’d just shriek all the time. I never could quite get her to the level where her language was more entertaining than irritating. And intermittently, she reach over and bite the crap out of my hand. Ouch!

And you know that group that is totally anti-social. They hide around corners and talk about everybody else in hushed tones. I want to tell them to come over and chat with the rest of us, but for some reason, they kind of creep me out. The Marabou Storks were in an enclosure off the African plains. I had to enter through a barn that was damp and moist and stunk like hot, sweaty animals. I would throw them meatballs of raw horsemeat across the ravine. There were four of them that would stand in a row. They’d catch each one with their big beaks, throw it to the back of their throats and swallow in one big gulp. They’d tap their beaks on each other and just stare off into the distance until another meatball came their way.

Marabou_stork_(Leptoptilos_crumenifer)

Marabou Stork

Don’t forget the stinky woman with the bad body odor. You try to be respectful but can’t help but hold your breath when you are in close proximity. You wonder if she ever notices that you have labored breathing or that you turn blue when talking to her. The emu enclosure was filled with this liquidy sticky poop that we literally had to shovel up out of the dirt. It was like picking up pudding out of mud. The big stinky birds stood there watching while I tried to clean the enclosure without looking or breathing.

And, of course, there’s the office sweetie who is always being sweet things to the office for everyone to eat. Everybody loves her. She makes you feel like the most interesting person every time you talk to her. The toucans were so beautiful, and they had these lovely long beaks. They’d literally look down their beaks at you as if they were kissing you with their eyes. Feeding them grapes was so much fun. They’d catch them, toss them up in the air and gulp them down. Then they’d look at you like the cat that ate the canary. I loved the toucans. It was a highlight of my day.

animals_hero_toucan (1)

My personal favorite is the smartest guy in the office. He seems to know everything. I could listen to him talk forever just because I learn so much. He seems to lead a charmed life, and everyone looks up to him. The sulfur-crested cockatoo was our star. That bird was so smart I would swear he was trying to talk to me. I’d walk into his enclosure, and he’d strut over, throw his comb up on his head, lift his foot and cock his head at me. Then, he’d turn around and run up one of his ladders and start talking. He was beautiful and magnificently entertaining.

sarus_cranes_gopi_sundar1

Sarus Cranes

And then there’s the rest of the office color. Each one has its own idiosyncrasies and quirks, and each one has some lovely attributes. To call them background would be a vast understatement. They ARE the show. At the real zoo, I spent my days taking care of each of them with their own unique needs. The ducks would get frozen in the water in the pond, and I’d have to break them out. The Sarus Crane was so dangerous that the women were forbidden to feed him anymore. The Nenes had a million babies, and we had to bring them inside to take care of them all. And the Bald Eagle just demanded your respect as it took your breath away. Every last one of them spent their days eating and pooping. It was called job security for a zookeeper.

Somedays I miss the zoo. Somedays I feel like I’m right back there among my feathered friends. Frequently I wish my responsibilities were as simple as feeding, picking up poop and dodging real bites. Other days I’m glad I don’t have to get my hands that dirty. Then there are the days when I wish I could find that stick to put Iggy back in his place. It always felt a little exhilarating to survive the battle.

 

 

 

 

That First Bite is the Sweetest

IMG_8270

Today’s Daily Prompt is “bite”. 

Why is it that the first bite of food is always the best? Maybe I’m hungrier. It could be a supply/demand sort of thing. Scientists also say that the pleasure centers in our brain register the pleasure of food or any addictive substance even before we consume it. For an addict, just being in a place where they usually score drugs can ignite the pleasure center of the brain as much taking the drug. Maybe it’s anticipation that creates the sweetest of sensations on our taste buds. It’s a good argument for me to stay out of bakeries.

The first time I really had to work at losing weight was in my 20s. I had never read any diet books or anything, but I realized that thinking about eating food brought me as much pleasure as actually eating it. In fact, it might be even more pleasurable because there is no remorse afterwards. If I saw a piece of cheesecake that I wanted, I took a minute and imagined what that cheesecake would taste like. In my mind, I took my fork, swiped a bite, let my eyes savor it for a few seconds and then let it linger on my tongue. So, it was not a problem to imagine the sweet creaminess of a cheesecake melting on my tongue. I just had to tap into that memory and let her rip.

I remember being so frustrated with the short amount of time that food was actually satisfying. If I’d really eaten the cheesecake, it might last 10 minutes at the most. So, I’d have 10 minutes of pleasure followed by 6 hours of kicking myself for eating it. Why not skip the 6 hours of kicking myself by not eating it? By fantasizing about it, the only thing I lost was the 10 minutes of pleasure in the interaction with the food. And if I really did a good job of imagining it, I only missed a small fraction of the pleasure. I guess you might call this food porn!

 

 

 

 

Sundays in Saugatuck: Relaxing Holiday

IMG_5429

It seems like just yesterday, I penned my blog about the long vacation waiting ahead of me. I feel more rested at this point than I did then even though I ran a 7-miler this morning. Yesterday was particularly relaxing. I only left my house to go to the YMCA for a workout. The rest of the day was filled with reading, blogging, researching writing courses and snuggling with my fur babies. I got a chance to catch up with my friend Kristine on Facetime in a “just woke up, no makeup, bad hair day” coffee date.

I also Facetimed with my friend Leah from Memphis on Wednesday. I actually love these virtual visits. The only thing missing is the touch of skin. We even get to show off our pets. There’s no driving, no getting dressed and no hassle. Just dial-up a friend’s number, and you get face-to-face conversation and laughter. I know people who date people long distance, and they actually Facetime while they have dinner and watch movies. It’s a great way to stay in touch if you are open to it.

It’s a beautiful day outside, and I think I’ll take Ashok for a walk downtown when I get done with my coffee and this blog. Saugatuck is a bit crowded today, so it feels festive. People are milling around dressed in their best winter sweaters, scarves and boots. All of the leaves have finally fallen off the trees and summer coffee specials like the lavender latte have made way for the more wintry bonfire latte made with maple syrup and smoked salt. The word is warm, and the feeling is definitely cozy.

My mittens are the pink and brown ones. My sister Susan has the strawberries… 

 

As for me, I put on my wool lavender sweater and some sweatpants before driving over. I packed Ashok’s cozy pink sweater just in case we took a walk. I’ve been tearing my house apart looking for my wool scarves from last winter, and I finally found them this morning in the back of one of my horrible closets. I will need to get those closets redone if I live here any length of time. I picked out my favorite soft plaid on winter white scarf from that box and grabbed some beautiful wool mittens that I bought last summer. I didn’t want to put a hat on my head since my hair was still wet, but I grabbed one just in case.

IMG_5275-1

So, looking back at the end of my holiday, it was very connected and very relaxing. I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Nancy and her family. I got in yoga every day and ran my 5K as frustrating as it turned out to be. I even blogged every day. I feel good when I do that. It tells me I have plenty of energy if I’m being creative. And, in turn, writing helps me keep on the path to good mental and physical health. It’s sort of one of the leading indicators that things are well with me.

It’s back to work tomorrow for most of us. Have a great week, and remember it’s only 29 days until Christmas. I’m still on the fence about decorating. I may just enjoy everyone else’s Christmas trees. Time will tell. Have a great week, y’all. 

 

 

 

The Underdog: Base Layers of Merino Wool

IMG_2078

You can’t see it, but I have my Smartwool base layer on!

The Daily Prompt today is underdog. For some weird reason, the only thing I can wrap my mind around is underwear. Is there an underdog of underwear? Honestly, my base layer I wear when I’m running is sort of like the underdog of my wardrobe. It may not get the audience or attention that my outer layer gets, but it is definitely an unsung hero. With out it, I would freeze. (How’d you like that transition?)

When I took a job as a bird keeper at the Knoxville Zoo, I had to learn how to dress for winter. Much of my day would be spent outside raking up bird poop, washing water bowls and checking on the health of our bird collection. My supervisor told me to get lots of long underwear, and I ordered it from Land’s End. I was astounded at how much difference it made to wear a base layer. I was always toasty warm. But the long underwear in those days was thick cotton or silk. While both had advantages, they are not nearly as nice as the base layers we have today.

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 3.52.18 PM

I have a hard time convincing my friends in Louisiana that I don’t get really cold up here.  I dress in layers. These days, I almost always have a merino wool layer next to my skin which keeps me toasty even when wearing skirts. Smartwool makes tights that are cute, soft, warm and very durable. I wore one of about 4 pair almost every day last winter. I’d throw them in the washer and dryer, and they still look great even after a year of constant use. I bought three more pair at the end of the season on clearance.

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 3.54.45 PM

I bought Smartwool base layers two years ago for backpacking. Our backpacking teacher said they were the best for sleeping and for wicking moisture on hikes. I wear those things on runs and even for sitting around the house. Occasionally I wear them for sleeping. I could easily use another 2 or 3 pair, but they, too, are expensive. And now I’m salivating about some Smartwool running tights. If I could wear that stuff year round from head to toe, I’d be thrilled. I even have a Smartwool balaclava and neck gaiter!

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 3.49.18 PM

Yesterday I ran upon a blog claiming that Merino wool is the hot new technical wear for athletes of all kinds.  Those sheep live in very cold climates but have to suffer through pretty warm summers. So, the wool is very warm but is breathable enough that it’s not too hot when temps rise. This stuff is like a miracle. And, another blogger I follow was laughing at himself because he has never been happier since he paid $25 for a pair of Merino wool cycling socks. Who knew wool was the workhorse of the underwear business?

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 4.01.02 PM