Thankful

teddyThe past few days I’ve seen people posting the things that make them thankful on Facebook. It is a meme that goes around every year. People do it for a month and then forget as they get busy with other things. I forget too.

That said, I’ve always liked the idea of a gratitude journal. For a while, I was keeping little slips of paper in a pretty, round box decorated with peacocks. I used to keep it on the mantle and each evening put in a little note of one thing for which I was thankful or one good thing that happened that day. That was until one day when Tedward the Giant Labradoodle decided to explore his feelings about gratitude by eating the box. Since then, I’ve never really gotten it together enough to start over.

As we enter the month of November, I have been thinking a lot about the good things in my life. October was a rough month for a number of reasons (dog surgery, spiritual malaise, aging parents, feeling like I’m drifting away from some parts of my life to make room for new ones), but I am determined to do what I can to make November happier and more productive. I think that will help me with the quest to be healthier that started this blog. Lately, I’ve felt so overwhelmed and adrift, I probably could have used an exercise in appreciating what I do have. So, here are nine random things that make me happy and for which I give thanks:

1. My dogs. The house is a little overrun with them, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that all but one of them are rescues. It makes me feel good about the kind of person I am.

2. My mom. She drives me nuts, but I really do love her more than anything and can’t imagine not being her daughter.

3. Family. I am in the midst of the unexpected, but happy experience of reconnecting with a cousin I haven’t seen in 15 years and a niece I haven’t seen in even longer than that. Both happened independently and out of the blue, but it’s been nice to feel like I have family beyond my friend-family and my mom.

4.Getting to do my job from home. I have spent a lot of time over the years complaining about my job, but I have to say that I am really happy in it right now. I have a great boss, I am home officed. I can show up for work wearing cookie monster pajama bottoms and a fuzzy hoodie and no one bats an eye.

5. My friends. I may be an introvert, but somehow over the years I’ve managed to make some really good friends, many of whom are like family.

6. My kindle. It’s probably not good to get too materialistic, but I really do LOVE the endless supply of books and movies that are literally at my fingertips. Who knew a flat little screen could hold so much knowledge and joy?

7. My dog’s ophthalmologist. I know. I don’t even have an ophthalmologist, how did my dog score one? However it happened, I am SO thankful for him and his team. They are wonderful and have worked so hard to help take care of Lily and help her through her rocky recovery from cataract surgery. He even gave me his home number in case something happens on a day when he’s not working. Talk about caring!

8. Yogurette (look it up, it is DELICIOUS)! I only wish it were easier to find in the US.

9. New hair. I don’t know what it is about a new haircut and a new color, but it’s one of the best feelings ever!

What makes you happy?

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Summer’s End and New Beginnings

ImageThere is a lot to celebrate this week, so Happy Samhain, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos and All Souls Day! Did you know that in addition to the whole spooky “veil between the worlds grows thin” thing, Samhain is also a harvest festival and considered by some to be the start of the new year? And what better time than the new year to make some changes!

It has been a while since I’ve posted much about my diet or anything else, so I have decided to do something I used to occasionally do on my old blog and proclaim this a Blogstravaganza month, so I can get back in the habit of writing on at least a semi-regular basis. This is something I would do in the month of January to help start the year off with lots of writing and creative projects, but since it’s something I made up, I can totally change the rules and proclaim and emergency November blogstravaganza. Normally, I would just do NaNoWriMo, but it feels like there is just too much going on to undertake a novel, even a crappy novel written over the span of the month. That said, NaNo is truly a fun experience, so if you’ve never tried it, I can highly recommend it.

Since I haven’t posted in a while, this will be a catch up post covering a plethora of things:

The Diet UpdateI’ve been struggling. I go up, I go down. On the plus side, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home using fresh, hormone free, RBST free and organic ingredients. I’ve also eliminated 98% of the diet soda from my life. So, not the exactly progress I wanted, but progress nonetheless.

The Lily Update: Back at the beginning of October one of the loves of my life, my dog Lily, had cataract surgery. Her recovery has been slow and arduous. I feel like I spend more time at the vet than anywhere else. She has regular weekly checkups and has been in for quite a few urgent care visits in between due to issues with inflammation and fear of glaucoma after an early glaucoma spike. As of the last visit, her opthamologist proclaimed that we “are not winning the battle, but we’re not losing either, so that means there is still hope,” but I still worry a lot about her. In the five years I’ve had her she has become my second shadow and it just breaks my heart to think of her in pain or blind or worse.

The Chasing Happiness UpdateI’ve decided to take a class! It is called Divine Guidance: Trusting Your Inner Wisdom and Connecting with Spirit and is taught by Jen Trulson. I’ve been feeling really disconnected lately and am hoping it will help me listen to my own intuition, creative spark and also just connect a little better with the people and world around me.

So here’s to rebooting and trying to reignite both my creative spark and motivation to do keep doing things that are emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically healthy. That is my focus for the fall. What is yours?

Plateaus, purging (the good kind) & motivation

One thing you will probably notice, if you get to know me (or at least my blog), is that you can tell how well things are going with the old diet by how frequently I post. I’ve not been posting much lately and when I do, it’s been about other things, so…Well, you get the idea.

I suppose everyone goes through plateaus, periods of inertia where “I should” yells louder than “I am”. Nature is filled with cycles. This is just another of them. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s a horrible feeling to feel like you want to do something but find yourself unable to cross that bridge from wanting to doing.

Tonight I’ve been thinking about ways to inspire myself, so I spent the early evening watching Hungry for Change. If you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth the 89 minutes of your time. It is easy to follow and full of good sense things you probably already know deep down inside. I found it to be incredibly motivating. One of the things I love about the film is that it emphasizes adding new healthy foods with the idea that they will soon crowd out the old, unhealthy ones, rather than having the focus of “going on a diet”.

One of the things I had promised myself when I started my lifestyle change was that I would focus on eating fewer processed foods and on making smarter choices about what I eat. While I’ve certainly done better at this, I definitely have a long way to go.

Before watching the film, I was already developing the idea of doing a spring cleaning of my cupboards (yeah, I’m about 6 months late, sue me!). Now that my attitude has been reinvigorated, I want to make sure it’s not just getting rid of old stuff, but doing a real purge of items that represent an old way of eating.

One of the things I traditionally have a hard time with is throwing things away. This is as true for food as it is for objects. With things, I am often ruled by sentimentality. With food, it comes from this ingrained notion that throwing it away is wasteful. I paid good money for it and there are starving children living on far away contents who might be able to eat it if it weren’t buried under refuse and cat litter in my trash can.

But in the end, what is more wasteful? Throwing away a carton of cookies laced with high fructose corn syrup and a couple cans of MSG laden soup or damaging my health by ingesting them? And don’t even get me started on the diet soda. Oy, the chemicals! Let’s just say I am an addict.

So, tomorrow I am cleaning the cupboards (some more – I got excited and did a little pre-cleaning). I already did some organic fruit and vegetable shopping over the weekend, so I am set for healthy things to eat. I don’t expect perfection, but between the healthy fresh foods in the crisper and the major offenders on their way out the door, I think I am in good shape for my next step.

I’m so happy that I decided to approach my diet malaise from another, more holistic direction. Sometimes ours strides are just as much a product of how we fill our minds as they area about the rules we set for ourselves.

Graduation Season

Today we went to my niece’s graduation party. After missing her actual graduation due to our sweet, old cat Isis choosing the same night to pass away, I was happy we got to go. She is a good kid, even if she does strike that completely unnatural hand-on-hip-slightly-bent-kneed Kardashian pose every time there is a camera within a 20 foot radius. Oh to be 18 and filled with the potential of your whole life ahead of you instead of…well, not.

Her first summer of post-grad freedom reminds me so much of mine – a month of work, six weeks visiting relatives abroad and then back for her first days of college where she will hopefully meet one of her best lifelong friends in a History of Western Civilization class taught by some guy who looks like Hitler and is fond of muttering gems like “they all TOLD me not to teach at a community college” at random times during his lectures. Oh, the places she’ll go!

It was such great barbeque weather – perfectly sunny and breezy. Being the most awesome auntie ever, I got the graduate to tickets to go see her favorite performer (Drake) with a friend in September. I have no idea who he is, but he is apparently way cooler than either 80’s hair bands, Nirvana or even my early childhood Hardy Boy of choice, Shawn Cassidy, none of whom she recognizes. He is also way cooler than the Hanes cotton granny panties I threatened to get her, if she didn’t give me some clue as to what she would enjoy as a graduation present.

Of course, there were lots of cameras and pictures at the party. These days it only takes a nanosecond for whatever you’re doing to show up on Facebook. Typically, I try to stay on the business side of the camera, so there are not a lot of pictures of me floating around, but somehow I ended up in a group shot. And, oy, are my chins and I depressed after seeing what I look like in my uncomfortable with my body glory. It makes me want to cry, give up AND crack down on my diet all at the same time.

But then, I started thinking about how this has been a bit of a graduation year for me as well. I faced my worst fear – losing my job and somehow came out okay. I’ve made some significant changes in my diet and lifestyle. I’ve got a long way to go, but at least it’s an important start. Like life, it’s a process. So, instead of being depressed and loosing steam, I’ve decided to look at it as a “before” picture. A before where I was the awesome, kind, funny, creative, gentle, animal loving, bleeding heart of a person I am now; a before where I acknowledged that I was not living in a healthy manner and had the fortitude to do something about it.

And, I guess, if I had to give my young graduate friend a piece of advice, it would be the same advice I’d give to myself: Enjoy life, be open to new experiences, be willing to change when something isn’t working for you, rock on with your Kardashian posing self and let people take pictures of your happy smiling face for posterity, and, most of all, don’t be so hard on yourself.

Little Earthquakes

It has been longer than I have wanted since I last posted. It’s been a bumpy couple of months here. Back on March 12, just as I was preparing to take a long deferred week off from work, I logged into my work computer to find that I and everyone else in my company had been laid off, because the company was filing for bankruptcy. It was all due to a really ugly feud between our two evil billionaire equity partner owners, but for this post the why is not as important as the what. If you are interested in the details of my adventures in unemployment, you can read about the whole experience on my general journal blog. What I really want to talk about here is shake ups as an impetus for change.

Overnight, I went from stressing over getting everything done in time for a vacation I had planned for the next week next week, to stressing about being on vacation FOREVER. (That’s right, FOREVER. If I’m going to have a freak out, I’m going to go big or go home!) I ended work Monday night with a full schedule of meetings and tasks to complete on Tuesday, then logged into my work computer on Tuesday morning to find that after eleven years with the company I was now among the ranks of the uninsured and unemployed. Because I am home officed, I got to process the shock in my pajamas in the privacy of my own home. My coworkers at our headquarters in Michigan, on the other hand, were greeted with the news at the front door, told to pack up their things, and go home. I have been lucky enough to always leave jobs on my time and my terms and have never in my life needed to file for unemployment. Needless to say, this new turn of events was pretty overwhelming.

There is nothing like a cataclysmic life event (or even just a small earthquake!) to make you stop and take stock of who you are and where your life is going. As traumatic as the whole experience was, in its aftermath, I’ve come to believe it was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. In the end, things worked out with my job. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the son of the company’s founders spearheaded an effort to buy it back out of bankruptcy and rehire the employees. So, instead of working for two Mr. Burns clones, I now work for a company with ethics and a commitment to making the world a better place by helping schools and churches fundraise and local merchants thrive within their communities. While I am so grateful for this happy ending, what I am really grateful for is that having the time off reinvigorated my commitment to the goals I’ve set for myself this year and made me stop and reclaim some of the passions that have taken a back seat to work over the past years.

All this taking stock has helped me reach some important epiphanies:

Lesson One: Health is not just about getting skinny. Yes, it’s about living and eating healthfully, but it’s also about feeling good, finding happiness, having a good quality of life and enjoying it. I think that to really be healthy, one has to have a balance of mind, body and spirit. It’s not just about diet or a number on the scale.

Lesson Two: Sometimes the worst thing that could happen is the best thing. In my month off, I started writing again, joined a monthly music jam, started exploring new spiritual paths, and have come a long way toward figuring out a solid game plan for losing the weight I want to lose this year.

Lesson Three: Feeling in control is important. One of the first things I did my break up with employment was to cut off all my hair and dye it bright red. While this might sound a little shallow, for me it was a symbolic act of reclaiming control. My life might suck, I might have no job and no prospects, but I can change things.

Lesson Four: If something isn’t working, change it. The truth is that even though I knew my job was negatively affecting my personal sphere (read that as the polite way of saying “it was becoming soul sucking”), I didn’t make too much effort to change it or to set strong boundaries. Reclaiming myself ever the past month made me realize that I don’t want to lose the whacky, creative parts of myself that enjoy noodling around with music and words and life ever again. No job is worth that.

Lesson Five: It is okay to fail as long as you keep trying. After returning to work, I learned that the founder’s son had been quietly trying since January to buy the company from what I now like to think of as the evil empire. He made multiple bids that failed to be accepted. In the end, he had to change his strategy to buying the assets out of bankruptcy. Even there, things did not go smoothly. There were delays and overturned trustee recommendations, but in the end he prevailed. The lesson of flexibility here applies to weight loss as much as it does to corporate finance. While I was off, I decided (despite my January proclamations about eating whole, real foods) to go back on the Take Shape for Life program I started a year or so ago. I still had almost a month’s worth of pre-packed foods in my cupboard and in my new budget economy, it seemed really wasteful to not use them. While the program absolutely works, if you stick to it, I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I really struggled with it. I struggled with staying on the plan. I struggled with not wanting to disappoint my sweet friend, who is a health coach for the company. I struggled to the point that started feeling like a big, fat loser. Then, the other day, I realized that I was creating my own hell. There are plenty of diet plans that work. The mechanics of weight loss are the same whether you eat food from medical packets or the grocery store. I just need to find a sensible program that works best for me. In my heart, I really believe that what I need to learn is to eat properly using real foods, so I signed up for Weight Watchers (mostly for the support aspect, but I find I’m actually really digging the points system) and am again just focusing on eating whole, healthy foods.

These epiphanies also made me think about this blog and the life project it represents. I don’t want it to only be a chronicle of my diet struggle (which it will always continue to be in part), but also a place to focus on the things that make life healthy and happy, because what we feed our souls is just as important as what we feed our faces. I think they will all be part of my success or failure in reaching my goals. One of the reasons I called this blog The Peacock Project is because of the affinity I feel for those gorgeous birds and the confident beauty they represent. Even with their tails down, they are beautiful. With them fanned out, they are breathtaking. Don’t you want your life to be breathtaking? I know I do!

Things are getting juicy

Three days ago, the juicing began and today I woke up to angels singing Händel, except instead of “Hallelujah!” they were singing “Mastication!”. Seriously. I did not think I could ever miss chewing as much as I came to after day two of the fast. That said, I am so happy I hung in there and stuck it out! Now that it’s over, I feel lighter, healthier and proud that I took one small step toward doing something good for myself in the New Year. Here is a fun piece The Hairpin did on the 3-day juice fast, and this is how the experience went for me:

Day 1:

Woke up feeling raring to go. My fridge is filled with Ziploc baggies to dump in the blender every few hours. I am feeling self-satisfied as I sip my morning detox tea. The dogs are less excited. As the day goes on, I can see they are experiencing their own emotional detox. Whenever I go to the refrigerator, they gather round, eyes shining, bodies wiggling excitedly only to look dejected when they see that it’s just another of those “stupid bags” as I am sure they come to call them in their heads. Every time I take one out, their eyes narrow and they look at me in disgust. Around five o’clock, Teddy is tearing up the phonebook. As I pick up the pages, I see they all contain ads for pizza. Well played, labradoodle. Don’t let the stupidsilly name fool you. They may look like muppets, but they are devious and I am convinced he was about to call for take-out. But my resolve is strong! By the end of the day, I feel lighter. The shakes don’t taste bad. I could even see myself incorporating one a day into my rotation as a meal replacement. This is easy! Go me!

Day 2:

Woke up with a raging headache. I drink my detox tea and wonder if it’s worth it. Because they are furry little bastards, the dogs look at me as if to say “You know it’s not. You would feel SO much better if we all sat down to a nice, chewy breakfast.” I take some ibuprofin and ignore them. By 9 a.m., I would almost kill for a diet coke and a tofurkey sandwich. Instead, I drink my morning shake. Afterwards, my head still hurts. My stomach feels a little googly. I decide that my tofurkey sandwich will definitely be on olive bread and may or may not involve swiss cheese, but will definitely feature avocado.

As I chop vegetables for the green shake, I’m wishing I would have done the prepared baggie thing again for today. That made things so much easier. After my lunch shake, I’m still dragging. I start to wonder if I’m not just getting sick. I get the headache. It’s the lack of caffeine. I am kicking myself for not heeding the advice to slowly start to ween myself off of it starting a week before beginning the fast. I was eager to get started and didn’t want to wait. Next time, I will plan better. The googly stomach (don’t look at me like that, it’s a legitimate medical term!) confuses me more. How can vegetables and fruits I eat already make me feel all wonky inside? I do some googling and learn that this is a normal side effect and I should “embrace it”, because it means it’s working. Yay! I resolve to find the person who wrote this and send my cat to gack in their shoe when they’re not looking. Embrace this, biatch! Meanwhile, I continue with the juice drinks. My head still hurts. I make it to about 8:30 pm before breaking down and drinking a small glass of diet coke. I try to divert my attention from food by reading Teri Reid’s Loose Ends, a funny, paranormal mystery that has me laughing out loud in parts. I read the whole thing in the matter of a few hours and go to bed feeling victorious, despite the momentary lapse into coketasticness.

Day 3:

Home stretch! Hooray! Still have a bit of a headache and the dogs don’t even bother to follow me to the refrigerator anymore, but my stomach feels better. I can do this. It’s only one day. I can do anything for a day. Is it just me or do the shakes feel thicker? The green vegetable one feels especially “chunky” and hard to swallow today. On days one and two it tasted fresh and I was openly mocking the commentor who said she could barely choke it down. Maybe I just didn’t blend it enough. Work is busy, so I don’t have too much time to think about what I’m eating or not eating. When the shake alarm on my phone rings (“My Milshake brings all the boys to the yard,” okay, not really, but how awesome would it have been if I’d thought of that!), I go blend, then get back to my desk and drink while I work. Towards evening, I celebrate the end of my fast by going to Trader Joe’s to stock up on healthy, non-chemical and preservative laden groceries. Oddly enough, I realize that I am not craving candy and burgers, but whole, healthy foods – just foods that I can chew. I buy nuts, fruit, ingredients for things like pumpkin soup (organic, unsweetened canned pumpkin, delicious, but seasonal, so stock up!) , black bean & orange chili and nice, crunchy, fresh salads.

Day 4 (The Aftermath):

I’ve been avoiding the scale while I was juicing, because I didn’t want to be discouraged by any numbers, but today, I weigh myself. I am down 5 lbs. I feel a little tired and have a runny nose and watery eyes, which leads me to believe that while some of the run down feeling might have been due to allergies or the beginnings of a cold (I haven’t figured out which this is yet). Still, I feel ligher and good as I toast my whole grain bread and wash the berries I’m going to have for breakfast. When the dogs see me preparing real food, they look at each other smugly. I can tell they’re thinking, “Ha! She’s finally caved!” Little do they know that I think I will do it againperiodically – maybe the whole thing or even just for a day here and there. More importantly, I have done something good for myself and have taken the first step of the many toward my goal and am on a good path. Go me!

WEIGHT LOST: 5 lbs

PROGRESS TOWARD BIRTHDAY GOAL: 20%

Happy New Year (The 2013 New Beginnings Mix!)

A couple years ago, I started this blog along with a diet. The diet wasn’t going so well, so I let it morph into posting about happy making things. While finding joy and balance are among the many reasons I want to improve my health, the truth is that my diet failed. I started, I lost a bit of weight, the diet petered out and the weight crept back. I know I’m not unique in experiencing the yo-yo, but there is something that goes along with weight and failed diets and fitness programs that carries so much shame with it. My relationship to my body (even at times in my life when I was not heavy) has always been tinged with shame.

I have never been one of those people who can eat whatever they want and stay thin. I was a chubby (or on the verge of chubby) kid for most of my childhood. At some point around late middle school/early high school, I went on a diet. I ate weight watchers and lean cuisine, I did aerobics for what now seems like 8 hours a day, and I lost weight. I even developed the kind of body where one of the ladies I babysat for thought I was a runner. (Me? A runner? I’ve always joked that the only way you could get me to run up a hill was if there was an ice cream stand at the top!) But the point is I was fit. But I was fit with a completely distorted body image. When I look at pictures from that time, my body looks long and lean with strong, shapely legs, toned  arms, and a narrow waist. What I would give to look like that now! A the time I still felt like the little fat kid. I wore long sweaters and jackets to cover my body and was so shy and insecure I could barely look at a boy. And, yet, I was thin.

I managed to maintain it for a few years, but then I went to college and it started creeping back. Then my dad had a stroke and I lost thirty pounds. I was a mess. I couldn’t eat or sleep. You’d think when he died, I would have experienced the same, but it was just the opposite. I went to grad school out of state and was miserable and ate my way through my pain. Ever since then, it’s been a struggle. I think I have tried just about every diet under the sun. I am not (and neither are most heavy people) stupid, weak or lazy. I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve eaten only protein, I’ve had shakes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and eaten a sensible dinner. I’ve been vegetarian. I’ve been vegan. I’ve counted calories. I’ve counted carbohydrates. I’ve taken pills that mess with your bowels when you eat too much fat. I’ve taken pills that mess with your heart rate and require regular testing at the doctor’s office to ensure they don’t drive your blood pressure up to high.  The truth is that there are lots of diets out there that work. The problem is that most of them hard to maintain over the long haul. It’s one thing to eat only protein for a short span of time, if you only have 10-20 pounds to lose. It’s quite another (far more daunting) thing to know that the changes you need to make are of a more longer term. Like so many out there, I’ve lost and regained.

So, this year I am trying something new. I am not worrying about how much weight I have to lose over all or every change I need to make to get there. I am simply promising myself that I will focus on eating and living more healthfully and thereby lose 20 lbs by the first day of spring. I’ll worry about the rest later. Twenty pounds in 3 months is doable. I am going to start by doing a 3-day cleanse that I found on the Dr. Oz website. After that, my plan is to eat a balanced diet incorporating as many natural, whole foods as possible and eliminating as much white flour and sugar as I can. I’ll figure out what works from there and report my progress here. No one may ever read it, but putting it out into the ether will help me hold myself accountable. If anyone else reads and wants to join me, that is great we can motivate each other, but this is something I need to do for myself.

Today has been a day of preparation. I have purchased fresh berries, kale, spinach, fruit, vitamins and all that I need for the three day juice fast. Later, I will divide my fruits and veggies into ziploc bags that can be dumped into the blender for each meal. Then tomorrow, I will begin. My theory is that by the time the detox is over, I’ll be happy to eat regular, healthy foods. Until then, happy new year. Here’s to positive life changes. Even the longest journey begins with a single step.