The First 15 Days

There was a group I signed up for at the end of the year, inviting “30 days of hustle” to jump start the new year.  Each day we get a little (or not-so-little) to-do in our inbox, designed to encourage or nudge us farther on our path toward our goal.

Today, the 15th, is a “progress report” day. Since my goal was about establishing patterns and habits (in how I eat), I can’t really suggest a “bridge” between where I’m at and 100%, but the challenges have shaped the way I think about what I’m doing, so I’ll just run through what we’ve done so far, with my goal (eating patterns) as the example. Continue reading »

January 1, 2014

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.

— John Carmack

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Gerla Brakkee via stock.xchng

I am |this| close to making a resolution to not learn anything new this year.

But that would be silly.

I’ve made “not” resolutions before (like NOT buying books). That didn’t really work/happen/exist very long…

And I didn’t feel bad about it, either. HA!

Last night I updated my Writing page, and for the first time actually made a list of what I’m interested in– what I research, pursue and actively learn about. And it wasn’t a mile long!

Though I admit to some deceptively concise labels.

I used to think this complete listing was not possible, since I’ve watched myself latch on to any new idea that enters my line of sight. I’ll chew and taste and explore– and that willingness has sometimes made me feel like and intellectual toddler who needs to be protected from my own curiosity.

That unnamed image actually made me vulnerable to the type of person who was more interested in telling me how to think than strengthening my own ability.

It was my untrained, but still existing, ability to resist this attitude that taught me I wasn’t an intellectual toddler.

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Mihai Tamasila via stock.xchng

I was an explorer– an occupation which requires intense levels of maturity, initiative, adaptability and courage, words that, until last year, never entered my mind as ways to describe myself.

Much of my adult life has alternated between delighted and frantic exploring. I see something I don’t know, and rather than just enjoy it’s existence, I need to understand it– to explain it– to participate in it. Sometimes I feel behind and deficient until I am up to speed with usable information about whatever just hit my radar.

[I should qualify this to say not everything-everything is this way. I always love it when an experience completely “misses” that absorption instinct– fly-tying, bell-choir, crochet, singing alto. It allows me to absorb– and release!– that topic in a completely different way.]

Sometimes, if I cannot deliver an extemporaneous lecture on any topic (no qualifications– any topic) that leaves me feeling deficient.

Today I’m declaring that unrealistic.

I have my brief (deep) list, it encompasses more to study than I can ever use up , and it provides quite enough meat and sugar for my life and brain.

I don’t need to keep looking for new things to know.

~ ~ ~

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Richard McCroskey via stock.xchng

For many years I have been in the pursuit of the “right” system– that magical *something* that will make life “work” where it hasn’t before.

I’m convinced such a system exists– there are so many books about organization and time-management with great (This WORKS!) reviews– but I think now that this system is something as effective as medication for brain-based disorders. That is, about 40% effective at best.

40% is a pretty high number, and nothing to dismiss– That is a LOT of people with improved lives. Unfortunately, if any of those lots-of-people found their peace (or method) without difficulty or pain, their level of understanding and compassion or grace is diminished toward the remaining 60%.

The rest of us must learn to live in ways that schedules and methods may inform, but not master.

In 2013, my future-focused, planning-addicted self began to ask:

What if this life didn’t change? What if this is who I am, what I’ve got, and it’s everyday? Then what? Would I choose this?

I’ve found this way of thinking to be incredibly helpful for me. It actually keeps things from getting too big. As someone who goes meta really quick, it’s about the only thing that’s ever been effective:

One day at a time.

Take food as an example. We all KNOW that we’re not supposed to “diet,” as in change the way we eat, just for a little while, with the plan to return to our old ways.

If we want to be healthier we must find a way (meals, timing) to eat that we are willing to continue forever.

One day at a time.

So this is where I’m beginning the new year:

I write. Every day. Already. I don’t need a resolution to do that.

Sort of like I eat. I don’t have to plan for it to happen.

I do have to have some sort of  plan if I want to reach certain goals, but this plan doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.

The beauty of a plan, of any plan that’s worked for me, I mean, is how many decisions are already made.

And this loops back in to What you already know.

Decisions that don’t need to be made.

I do have goals, because I know where I want to end up.

But the difference this year is that I’m focusing exclusively on what I already know to do.

I know a whole. heap. of a lot. I have had experiences that worked, and have learned from things that didn’t work.

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Farquois via stock.xchng

For the month of January, I am doing many things (like pressing on with the writing plan I began in October), but counting the days, I am returning to a few food principles that I know work for me.

  1. I’m writing down what I eat– holding myself accountable for the good decisions I know I should make.
  2. Decide that every every meal (or snack!) I eat has to include protein.
  3. I will still eat deserts (while following #2), but only on the weekends.

These are all things I’ve done and sustained before. This is not an “experiment” I hope will work. These are proven strategies I’ve been too [fill-in-the-blank] to stick with.

So here it is: not a new-year-resolution, but a plan to remind myself

I have enough. already.

Staring Down the Dragon (Featured Article at Wyn Magazine)

First, the bad news:

For some people, depression isn’t something you “get over,” and sometimes there really are things you can do that slow your recovery or make the depression worse.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help yourself get better and stay better.

(Read the rest at

Weight Therapy #10: Activity

The number-one thing that everybody should agree on (full disclosure: they don’t) is that any movement is better than none.

Image courtesy of Belovodchenko Anton via stock.xchng

That is, if you walk your dog, push a grocery cart, haul water or run after the school bus, it all works your body and is better than the alternative.

The reason I’m talking about this now is I’m back to my “default” activity I discovered three years ago, the first time I lost all the weight I’m fighting round-two on.

If you’re going for maximum fitness, you will do well to include weight-training (with serious weights that you have to think about) on a regular basis. If you’re going for best use of time for a “cardio” activity, you’ll do intervals on whatever device (bicycle, treadmill, city block) you’ve committed to.

But if what you like is neither of those highly efficient forms of exercise, it still has value.

What is the best form of exercise for you? The one you keep doing.

For me that’s walking. Treadmill walking. The kind of exercise a bunch of people I  respect say will gradually become useless, because my body will adapt and “efficiently” skip seeing it as exercise.

I’ve read some of that research. I’m not disagreeing with their conclusions, but here’s the truth: I am a long way from “efficiency” right now.

So if I ever get so fit that walking can’t get my blood pumping, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now I’m just enjoying how warm it leaves me for barn chores in the evening.

At -40º I’ll take all the help I can get.

Walking does three things for me that are good for my mental health as well as my physical health.

  • It give me a chance to be alone
  • I have a “free” space to read anything I want, or watch a show, guilt- and obligation-free. (This is why I prefer the treadmill.)
  • The repetitious bilateral (left-right-left-right) activity is theorized to strengthen the brain’s integration of both sides (an intriguing theory to me, especially thinking a lot lately about how the left and right sides balance one another in terms of attitude). Basically, the idea is the continual, even activity may help even out some of the inequality that exists within the brain.

Dunno if such “evening” is actually possible, but it’s a cool idea, and adds potential value to a simple activity.

  • And I just plain feel more rooted after walking.

The point is, do what you can. As often as you can. And think about how you feel. This is to take care of yourself, so don’t let it derail that effort.

Image courtesy of abcdz2000 via stock.xchng

If you’re still tired from your previous workout when it’s time for the next one, take a day off.

If you feel more hungry, eat more within your HEP.

Never use exercise as an excuse to eat junk (you’ll never guess the ratio right, speaking statistically), but remember to fuel your body.

Exercise is asking your body to do more. Don’t punish it by then expecting it to subsist on less than it did with less activity.

Weight Therapy #9: Nutritional Typing– the missing piece

So I’m back on the wagon (with my HEP– Healthy Eating plan) after a stretch of stress that just wasn’t going away.

I knuckled down (warned my husband there would be a couple days of withdrawals– I was right), and just started doing what I know works for me: minimal carbs (none of them grains), very little dairy, plenty of protein and good fats.

Image courtesy of typofi via stock.xchng

“They” say  that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

What is it called when you know what will produce good results, but you don’t do it?

I already knew this works for me. I’ve done it before, and I feel so. much. better. when I eat this way.

But I  get stuck on weird things.

Like: if this is so good for me (and many-many others), why is is there so much futzing and quibble (and sometimes meanness) against low-carb/high-fat?

Part of the problem comes from my everything-is-integrated mind, and some from my training/view of Ultimate Truth.

Granted, my Ultimate-Truth category has gotten smaller and smaller as I’ve gotten older, but it’s one of my default matters, and so it’s my position of  origin that I have to negotiate (away) from.

If something matters enough for me to rearrange my life for it, how can it not-matter to anybody else? I might lose steam…

My awakening of understanding sort of grew out of this concept: You don’t know what you don’t know (until you know it).

I had no idea how much my body craved fat (in a good way) until I’d been mostly-off it for a while then went back on. Let me tell you: I could feel the difference.

But before that point I had no reason to question what I’d been taught.

One of the best/easiest ways to be patient with people who think differently is to assume they just don’t know yet. Continue reading »

Weight Therapy #8: Motivation

There is a joke (that I don’t agree with) that goes like this:

Heart Attack on a Plate!
(Image courtesy of arrowp via stock.xchng)

Did you laugh? Yeah. I don’t think it’s funny either.

Here’s another not-funny one:

Depression in a Box!
(Image courtesy of allergyfre via stock.xchg)

Thing is, even if you’re not ready to accept the growing link between sugar/grains and mental disturbance, I have noticed readable changes in moods after eating stuff like that.  So I don’t play with fire.

I was depressed for two years. I’ve only been back to “normal” for a few months, and I’m still learning what normal means after two years of ‘not being myself’. If I can keep that scarey stuff at arm’s length by paying attention to my food?

I’m motivated.

Continue reading »

Talking About Feelings

I spent my young adulthood in a master’s course on parenting.

That is, at age 16 (I believe it was) our family began hosting foster kids.

Our first placement was a set of three sisters. We were prepared for one, but they asked if it were possible not to split them up.

So I ended up sharing my room with a 6-year-old while the other two bunked in the next room.

Can I just say (and it’s all I’ll say) that going from 3 to 6 kids overnight was stressful.


After them we had a string of boys, one at a time, and I got to watch my parents deal with the vast variety these kids brought to the table. I even had to be one of those skilled adults at times (thankfully some training was provided).

There have been several times when I will tell a story (from my childhood) to, or in front of, my mom. And it’s not about her or to guilt her. In my mind she’s incidental to the point of the story.

And she will say, “I’m so. sorry. I had no idea. I was so young.

And then I feel really nervous, because I’m currently (or my kids are currently) our respective ages.

Gets me wondering what I’ll be apologizing for in 30 years.

But by the time we were bringing extra kids in, my parents had worked through three kids of their own. Kinda ironed out the major wrinkles it seemed to me, and I just took it all in.

When I had my own kids, I didn’t feel overwhelmed or “completely unprepared” like the sympathetic MOPS speakers always talked about. Yeah, the ever-present daily-ness of things wore me out, but it was a while before I really felt out of my depth.

All that to say that I know the “right way” to do most things.

Whether I have the energy to do those things is frequently in question, but I’ve always got this You should/could be doing *this* in my head.

And I know from months and years of watching and working with parents and children that (for example) it’s a good thing to talk about your feelings, rather than letting them explode all over your environment and the people you love.

So I’m really good at not-exploding.

But I’d had so much on the “emotions” side of things in the last week, that I should have been doing *some* talking at least, and I think I was doing less. Of the meaningful kind.

By yesterday I was so stretched (I was back on the wagon after a weekend of too much sugar and grains, working too hard, and that other, emotional, stuff) that I was pretty minimal on the parenting side of things.

I normally redirect and (try to) teach negotiating skills during after-school conflict, but I was just burned out and laid down a lot more ultimatums than usual.

Image courtesy of Ned Horton via stock.xchng

Anyway, there was yet another sizzling confrontation in the living room, and I walked in on Melody trying to explain something to a concertedly disinterested Elisha.

She was escalating; I ordered her off her brother’s case and she turned to me with her copious tears.

“I just want him to understand!” she said.

“But it’s his project,” I said, slipping into default mode (my default is pretty much autonomy). “Unless he wants to include you in his project, you’re stuck. You can feel what you feel, and ask God to help you with that, but you can’t push in where you’re not welcome.”

I remembered an earlier mom-intervention from that afternoon.

“Not long ago Natasha tried to help you with your spelling, but you didn’t find it helpful. I told her to back off, because that was your project, and it wasn’t her place to tell you what should work for you.”

Melody’s face was now troubled.  She was beginning to see both sides, and even for grown-ups, simultaneously holding both sides of a conflict gets heavy.

“But– but–!”

“It happens to me to!”

I wanted to shout, but said it carefully. Melody looked interested now, through her pout.


“I want to help another grown-up, I think I’ve got great ideas, just like you do for Elisha, or Natasha does for you. But it’s not. my. project. If this person doesn’t want to let me in there’s nothing I can do about that except pray, and give my feelings to God. There’s too much in life we just can’t. control.”

And at that moment I felt something in me relax.

I was still so tired my skin ached, and annoyed at how long it takes my system to level out after eating wrong, but I’d said something I needed to say.

And it didn’t hurt that my little girl seemed to learn from it too.


Weight Therapy #7: Engage Your Imagination

I think imagination is perhaps the most under-used tool in the modern world.

I have a few ways I try to engage the power of imagination in training my habits.


Image courtesy of Byron Solomon via stock.xchng

This may be less effective for those of you who love all foods and they all love you back, but most people I know have foods they return to even though they aren’t satisfying or actually are negative.

I’ll actually play a whole memory in my head: yes I love the texture, the warmth, the flavor; I may even get a bit of enjoyment out of the memory, but then I’ve got the conclusion of that lump of cornbread hanging out in my belly way. too. long.

Sorry if that’s too weird for you, but the point is your body has a very good memory, and you can use that to your benefit.

Play Pretend

Try these on for size: Picky Toddler and Bank Teller 

Picky Toddler

Most of you reading this have children, and those who don’t have doubtless seen that “comedy” staple where a hapless parent (or other caregiver) is pitted against a resolute toddler whose compressed lips clearly communicate You shall not pass.

When I think of how I went a long. time. as a child without eating lunch (because I wouldn’t eat peanut butter or tuna fish), when I see those little lips pressed together, I’m reminded that I am the only person who decides what goes between my lips.

And that hunger hasn’t killed anybody I know.

If this is all you have the strength for: just avoid the first bite.

I don’t know about you, but I do much better with absolutes. If I’m having no. grains. at. all., saying no to the GF brownies is a lot easier.  If I can justify one bite, I can justify a whole brownie, and I’m so logical I can move from a single brownie to more than that.

Bank Teller

No matter how poor an honest bank teller is, she doesn’t pocket the money she’s handling.

Why? It belongs to someone else. It’s not hers.

This is how we can prepare and share food that isn’t on our HEP (healthy eating plan) with minimal temptation to ourselves.

It requires a mental shift. A level of seriousness that means we’ve committed. We can know what’s not ours.

After my major, unignorable reaction to food at a birthday party last October, I decided I was done with gluten. The reaction was clearly not in my head. Living with gluten-intolerance wasn’t about other people’s comfort level anymore. It was about my safety, and now that was going to trump others’ discomfort.

I continued to buy store-bread and “convenience” food for my family, but no matter how many times I made them something, I never took a nibble.

Made experimenting with Atkins surprisingly easy, btw. Most of what we find “tempting” is highly processed things quickly available when we have a surge of hunger. Since there are fewer GF things that meet that description, I had an easier time managing my environment.


Ultimately this comes down to honesty.

Be honest with yourself. (And if something always makes you sick, your body could be trying to tell you something.)

Picture your goals.

This is kinda hard for a lot of us, because we’re afraid to aim to high, but try it any way. The original Protein Power book includes a mathematical formula for determining your (as in you, the person doing the math) lean body mass.

From there is is easy to extrapolate your own personal weight range, based on healthy body-fat levels for your age and gender.

This is freeing because it removes the super-unrealistic from play.

For example, I’m 5’4″. According to the BMI chart I could weigh 110-140 lbs and still be in the “normal” range. But my best (and temporarily successful) bid for a size-six body did not get me close to 110. And I haven’t been that small since I was 14.

Doing the math, I narrowed that range to 130-139 lbs.  Talk about freeing!

But it also allows me to be ambitious if I want to.  I have a range to work within for my goal, and it is a healthy choice, no self-abuse involved.

Having lived there three years ago, I know what I like about it. I have a favorite dress I’m looking forward to wearing again. And I use my imagination, my memory of the first time I tried it on and was thrilled about how it fit and how it looked.

How I looked.

I liked it. I’m looking forward to that.

Imagination is a tool. Learn how to use it.

Weight Therapy #4: Getting it *Right*

It’s amazing to me how much being healthy in my mind changes the way I take in information.

When my world feels like it’s falling down around my ears, everyone but me is the expert, and there’s no way I can go wrong doing *anything* different that I’m doing now.

In such a state, the vastly contradictory messages that daily fly at us create a fierce cognitive dissonance that my broken self wears itself out trying to reconcile.

By contrast, the reading I did over the month of July (Scale Down, Living the Low-Carb Life, Protein Power, The UltraMetabolism Diet, The Fat Flush Diet, Never Say DietYes these titles make me squirm, but yes, they all had good content that make them worth mentioning by name.) created a sort of scatter-pattern that left me with a comfortable grouping of behaviors that I have been working at consistently (my food-diary says) since June 27th.

My clustered behaviors:

  • No gluten (already integrated, and the foundation of everything else)
  • Shoot for ~24g protein/meal (an ounce of meat contains 7 g. of protein), 72g/day
  • Minimize grains
  • Using my WW points as a single number to watch how much I’m consuming.
    • With the higher protein demands, this limit brings up the consumption of (zero-points) veggies to edge out the grains naturally
  • Fist-full of vitamins every day. Divided them up into a.m. and p.m. clusters, and I forget the evening ones half the time, but my consistency is improving.
  • Minimize caffeine (which for me means choosing herbal teas– which I choose based on other reading/research I’ve been doing– heavy on the ginger and peppermint.)
  • 45-minute walk (brisk, but not a run) 4-6 days/week (usually on the treadmill with a book or a TV show).
    • reaching 10,000+ steps on a pedometer from a busy day meets the same goal: I don’t do both or I’m dead within 48 hours)
  • Loads of water. To the point where my body *craves* it and I know if I’m behind.
    • One day last week I drank two quart jars before 9 a.m., a pot of peppermint tea before I left the house, another pot of (real) tea while visiting with a friend (we finished two pots between us), a tall glass with dinner and another quart jar with my evening walk.  Realized later that I’d been so scattered in the previous two days I hadn’t kept a water bottle nearby and was seriously behind.
  • Minimal dairy– cheese in one-pot meals, and sometimes raw goat milk from our milk share
  • Sugar self-limits without the grains and dairy– I use fruit or smoothies if my sweet tooth is nagging me

Anyway, yes this is a lot of specific behaviors, but other than the protein and the walking, these don’t actually come into a list that I keep in the forefront of my mind.


It only turned into a list when I sat down to record what I’m actually doing for myself.

If I’d collected all this and tried to do it all from the opposite behaviors I lived four years ago, I’d think I was nuts.

This is the beauty of “growing into” a plan. It’s also the challenge of hearing someone ask you what to do.

I smile and try to think what to say to make the first step seem in-reach.

It’s the sympathetic smile you get from an experienced mom when your infant’s not sleeping through the night.

There are things that are just hard, and if you can do anything at all they are you only get into a rhythm over time.

Continue reading »