Has to Break Somewhere

Usually I can handle “a lot” – my default setting is ‘happy’ and it buffers me from the vagaries of daily living.  I love being the one who comes through for my friends and family.  I have been resilient in the face of my financial difficulties, my health issues, and the political climate.  But last night, I just fell apart. Sometimes things get to be too much.

This is my stream of consciousness of what’s wrong:

teach my son to write better than an eighth grader by tomorrow for his first college paper make sure everyone votes Democratic show up for a party that I said I go to but really can’t handle right now cleaning up my house putting away all of my off-season clothes cook dinner every night grocery shop for two households the tooth I had capped still bothers me my older son’s college schedule drive younger son to college courses keep up with dental and medical appointments for three human beings go home to see my conservative parents for Thanksgiving who are supporting the hate filled agenda of the administration live on a shoestring budget for the last year and a half because my ex is out of work keep up with possible things that would help with my menopause symptoms and weight gain be a good friend read all the things I can about what’s going on with this administration and the terrible things it’s doing to our country and my friends try to do something about that be terrified that my teenage son shares none of my values and seems to lean heavily to his father’s conservative side and expresses things that as he gets older are going to be abhorrent political views read a 1000 page novel keep up with a new part-time job that has a business owner who is less than on top of things be worried about the failing health of my parents and the likelihood that my dad’s an alcoholic the fact that I have a shoulder impingement that hurts me each and every day but I don’t currently have the money to go to a physical therapist that my car continues to have things fail on it and it’s getting to where it’s not worth repairing, but I don’t have the money to buy a new one the exterior of my house is starting to decline and my yard is completely out of control so bad that I have four feral cats living under my back porch my gums are bleeding my son’s college plans don’t seem to be lining up with his abilities and I keep trying to offer alternatives and he refuses to look into the difficulties I’m pointing out I am so sad that my parents *are* the problem that a group of friends that I really like no longer naturally get together regularly I have never felt so afraid for my actual person and for the people in my life as I do now even compared to September 11 when the plane that flew into the Pentagon was close enough to make my windows rattle and the anthrax scare actually exposed my husband at the time

Some of these things I can control.  A lot of them I cannot.  And the odds are that some of the “bad” will actually come to be.

Therefore, I am making an attempt at a media blackout for a week.  While I might still try to check in on my friends via FB, I will be zooming by all “current events” posts, not turning on NPR, not listening to  topical podcasts, and not watching Colbert/Noah/Meyers on YT.

breakAnd here is me enjoying the fruits of this world’s climate destroying ways – it’s 75 degrees on Novemember 1st.


Not Again.

I’ve talked about my current way of eating (low-carb/high fat), my exercise protocol (weights, not cardio), and my struggles with menopause.  How about I wrap them all together with an update?

I easily maintained my 2009 weight loss for five years. Then menopause hit. I struggled for over a year and a half to get rid of the 20 pounds that surged on when my hormones went away and that’s how I settled on low-carb/high fat. That set point seemed easy enough to maintain until…….. My doctor determined that I was fully in menopause and decided to remove the hormonally based birth control I had been using. That seemed like a reasonable thing to me. But I started gaining weight. It took a year of steadily gaining (a total of 12 lbs!) before it dawned on me – I was experiencing a SECOND menopause related weight gain. My eating habits hadn’t changed, my exercise hadn’t changed. But my hormones had (or at least ones I had access to even though my body wasn’t where they were coming from.) Fuck. So here I am again, figuring it out once more.

My history has taught me that nothing really budges my weight except changing my eating. Don’t get me wrong, I am not stopping my lifting. I really like the muscles that I can see; Jim does too. I know that exercise is really my only way out of my familial predisposition to diabetes too. So revamping my eating needed to happen in order to shed this hormone induced weight gain.

I am trying intermittent fasting. For a week now, I have been fasting for 18 hours and having a 6 hour eating window. The way I am getting through this is to drink A LOT of tea. I also happen to drink it with a lot of fat (coconut oil or heavy cream) because I am aiming for ketogenic. This is technically not fasting with the added fat, but it works for me. I am then making sure that I “break my fast” with protein and fat, usually scrambled eggs or a hamburger. When I eat my evening meal I make sure it meets the ketogenic criteria I have set for myself. So far, it’s working. I have lost 3.5 lbs. in the last week. Yes, of course I know it is “water weight”, but it is encouraging and to be expected when going back to keto. Fortunately, because I have been at least low carb for the entire last 2+ years, there was no “keto flu” like the first time.

As I mentioned, I am loving drinking tea all day. Right now I am avoiding my precious Choffy because it has carbs, and tea does not. To be able to drink it late into the day, I needed to try some herbal teas. But I always though I didn’t like them. Turns out, I just didn’t like the kinds of herbal tea I had had been exposed to, like Lemon Zinger and Raspberry Twist – yuck. So this is what I am drinking these days.

The additional plus of this is that increasing my fluid intake will help me avoid a repeat of the kidney stone I had last spring. Unlike so many, my stone didn’t cause me excruciating pain until it passed. No, instead it was SO BIG I had to have surgery. Yay. I definitely want to avoid that again – not because it was difficult surgery, but more because even with *really good insurance* it cost a fuckload of money! I also stopped a medication that is known to dehydrate and contribute to kidney stones. Damn, it all gets so complicated when you get older.

I am trying to ramp up my cardio, too. I have been inconsistent at best, but at least I wasn’t avoiding it any longer. Now I am trying to do it every day. Still don’t love it and truly find that when I work out harder, I am hungrier. The body *really* wants stasis. If you “move more”, the “eat less” is just that much harder to do. Again ~for me~ the high fat element makes me feel like I can handle it.

Because I have been lifting consistently, I am happy with my muscle mass. Now I just need to shed some of these pounds so it is visible! I may not have a beach body by the time I go to the Jersey shore with my extended family, but I will be on my way and I will be sure to don a bikini at least once.

Health By Chocolate

I eat chocolate every day. Seriously, every day. I wasn’t always like this though. I didn’t start eating chocolate every day until I started losing weight eight years ago. Not what you’d expect, right?

First, let’s clarify, I like dark chocolate, around 70% cacao. I can easily pass up milk chocolate because I actually don’t like how it tastes and can generally pass up anything below 60%. As a benchmark, Hershey’s Special Dark bars are 45% and what I liked as a child. So the chocolate I do eat is relatively low in sugar and high in antioxidants, a plus for anyone’s eating style! I used to eat cookies. In fact, I was so hooked on cookies that I knew I always had to have some in the house because when I wanted one, nothing would suffice except a cookie. I could eat a whole manner of other sweets and delicacies, but if it wasn’t a cookie, I was not satisfied. I found that I could save a lot of overeating if I just had some damn cookies in the house and ate them. I only ate three cookies to be satisfied, so having them in the house wasn’t “dangerous”. And the reason three was the magic number? When I was growing up, my mother strictly limited us to TWO cookies. Being out on my own meant I could do whatever I wanted – so THREE cookies was my defiant stance. When I first lost weight, I stopped the cookies and milk thing cold turkey and substituted dark chocolate for my sweet treat. This fit nicely into the low carb/high fat lifestyle I have adopted.

I don’t like to spend extreme amounts of money for my chocolate, so I am always scouting for a sale. But there are a couple of brands at Whole Foods, chocolate 1

Trader Joes’s, chocolate 2

and Aldi chocolate 3that are both reasonably priced and delicious. The fun thing is when I go somewhere, I always try to get some interesting chocolate. In Ireland, I managed to find a chocolatier in the process of trying to get directions to an abbey ruin I could see but not get to. In New Mexico, while poking around the artist town of Madris, I found Shugarman’s Little Chocolate Shop and was delighted by the exotic combinations they offered like cashew & lemongrass or pink peppercorn & lavender.

One of the things I discovered was a brewed ground cacao drink called Choffy.  I have never drunk coffee, but I had a coffee maker and it sounded like an intriguing idea. Oh man what a marvelous idea! I drink it like I eat my chocolate, no cream and only slightly sweet. It’s warm, tasty, and satisfying. I often share my pot of chocolate elixir with my friends and have converted a few people, advising them to prepare it the way they take their coffee. I’ve even tried a “Bulletproof” version (with butter and coconut oil) to make a low-carb, tasty, latte-like drink. Unfortunately, I can only get it mail order. So if you want to try some come by my house and have a cup. And if you like it and plan to order some, let me go in with you so we can share the shipping – it’s heavy stuff!

Unlike coffee and popular thought, chocolate does not contain much caffeine if any at all; it contains a chemically similar substance called theobromine, a word derived from the genus of the cacao tree meaning “food of the gods”. The upside to theobromine is that while the positive effects are similar to caffeine, the chemical enters the bloodstream more slowly and leaves it more slowly. That means there is no “crash”, isn’t as “addictive” as caffeine, and actually reduces blood pressure. Could there be more good reasons to eat or drink chocolate?

What is WRONG with US?

I am a person who is horrified by what is currently happening at our borders with children. Since I am a mother, I am sure that adds to the intensity of what I feel. Just trying to imagine being so afraid of the place I live that I am willing to trek hundreds of miles *with my small children* to a safer place, only to have them removed from me unexpectedly gives me tremors.

Seeking asylum is completely legal and it must be done within the borders of the United States. As I understand it, the US has decided that only certain crossings are eligible for asylum2the seeking of asylum and most (?) of those locations are being blocked by nefarious forces on the southern side. This forces asylum seekers to cross at other locations and present themselves. The US has decided that crossing at these locations is illegal regardless of the reason. Therefore, they are charging these asylum seekers with a crime. This is the administration’s basic premise. If following that to the letter, children are taken from the criminal and placed in some form of “protected custody” because children cannot go to adult jails/prisons/detention centers. And herein lies the rub. The crime that they are charged with, crossing illegally, is a misdemeanor. (Granted, there are instances that elevate it to a felony, but the vast majority of cases to do not trigger felony charges.) Some examples of misdemeanors are reckless driving (going just 20mph over the posted speed limit), making a false police report, failure to pay child support, and driving without a valid license. I don’t think that anyone in the entire country expects that if they were charged with any of these crimes while their children were present that they would have their children seized and placed in a group holding facility that has no clear plan for reunited them.

asylum1Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the Democrats are 100% responsible for the laws that have created this horrific situation, as the administration is clearly stating. Who can fix it? Certainly not the Democrats in our federal government right now. The Republicans control both chambers and the White House. If anyone were inclined to enact an immediate fix to these atrocities, they could do it. The key words here are “inclined to”, which they are not. Instead, they defend it with the bible. THE BIBLE! No part of our government is EVER supposed to be governed by the fucking Christian bible, let alone cruel actions taken by said government. Next up on blame I am placing on the right, if they are seeking asylum, let them do it. Don’t claim that you have no knowledge of the bottlenecks at the “official” entry points. If *I* could find evidence that this is a problem, surely the intelligence elements within the Border Patrol are aware too. This falls under the category of “don’t be a dick”. And lastly, these are the people in power who can decide to keep families together. Sure, there will be people who abuse it. But guess what, there are people who abuse the self check-out lane at the grocery store. And we still have self check –outs. Make it work.

However, I am not solely furious at the right for their callous disregard for the seriousness of what is happening with these children. I also have a pretty big bone to pick with the left. First off, leave the fuck off the “1500 missing children”. They are NOT missing. They were unaccompanied minors who were placed with relatives or someone else deemed responsible for them. They went on their happy way and when the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) decided to make a cursory effort to check on them (literally a single phone call to the number left when the kids were picked up) 1500 of them never called back. Gee, can you guess why they might not have called back? Additionally, the ORR WAS NO LONGER RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE KIDS IN ANY WAY. So stop it! You weaken the outrage of the actual evils going on. And watch it with the pictures of kids in cages. First, some of those pictures are several years old. Second, at least one of those photos was staged for use at a rally. And third, while the conditions the children are being housed in is atrocious (can ANYONE tell us why the staff are not allowed to touch/physically comfort these terrified, wretched little people?) they aren’t in dog cages. You again lose people to hyperbole. Is it not bad enough that they are in an abandoned Walmart? That truly seems bad enough to me.

I want this to be resolved. I want this country to live up to the ideals it was founded on. I want people to JUST BE BETTER. Fucking get on that.

It’s the Gift That Counts

Last week, I heard that 46% of people did not plan on getting their significant other a gift for Valentine’s Day. Fortunately, Jim was not among that group. That’s because gifts gift2are VERY important to me. Some women (on a TV program…) were discussing it saying how they didn’t really want anything – inferring they were better people because of it. That’s all well and good, and I do know that there are people who genuinely don’t care about gifts. But I am not one of them. Sadly, I spent 22 years with someone who simply refused to accommodate my preferences.

In that relationship, I started out saying that I’d behave as he preferred for holidays by *not* getting him anything as long as he responded in kind by behaving like *I* wanted (gifts and attention.). That didn’t work. So I moved to “you need to get me 3 gifts a year – birthday, anniversary, and Christmas, and you can give them any time you want.” That didn’t work either. I eventually started buying my own gifts at Christmas so I would have something to unwrap in the morning. The worst however, was a birthday celebrated at my parent’s house. After they gave me their presents, unwrapped in front of the entire family, my (soon-to-be) ex took the boys out to buy me a gift from them. He purchased the exact same thing I had just unwrapped. Evan tried to tell him I had one but he was ignored. Because it was “from the boys”, I exclaimed that I loved it when I opened it, and my mom quietly returned hers. What an idiot.

As you might guess, one of my “love languages” is giving and receiving gifts. I know that people think it’s a particularly shallow one, but it’s really not. Gift giving to me means listening and meeting needs. My mother is a terrific gift giver. I remember when I got my first “real” job mid-year and said I should have a real briefcase (ack! it *was* the 80s.) gift1Come Christmas, what was under the tree? You bet, a gorgeous leather briefcase. Many of you have seen this thing when Evan started carrying it to co-op. ( o_0!? ) My sisters and I have developed a similar ability to unearth and present wonderful gifts to each other. We like to show up at family gatherings, small gifts in hand to surprise and delight each other.  To me it is meaningful attention paid to who they are and I extend that gift giving prowess to the people who mean the most to me.

At Christmas time, I read a blog a woman wrote describing her experiences with receiving gifts. She had grown up in the foster system and for her, getting any presents at all meant receiving necessities – underwear, school supplies, toiletries. The first Christmas she spent with her future husband’s family  baffled, then saddened her. She got a kid’s lunchbox, a walking cane, and a football helmet. Seeing she was completely at a lost, they explained to her that they were gag gifts, arguing that it was “the thought that counts.” In her blog she went on to describe how these gags gifts were the epitome of privilege in her eyes. Not only did the gifts not reflect her needs, or even her interests, they were completely useless expenditures. Something only those for whom money is no object can enjoy. I then extrapolated the idea that “it’s the thought that counts” is also an expression of privilege, at least the way I experienced it. My ex was so completely unable to meet my gift receiving needs that eventually all he ever did was “think about” maybe getting something that I did or didn’t need. Even when there was a gift, it was never on time, or desired. When I received the third pair of identical earrings, I got the courage to tell him (I had to show him the other two pair!) and ask that he return them for something else. Paradoxically, he came home with a duplicate of a necklace he had already given me. When he took that back, he didn’t offer a replacement gift.

I am a great gift picker and have often been the recipient of great gifts.  They make me feel loved and understood.  But because of that, I am often disappointed, interpreting it as inattention. Let’s hope Jim continues to do better.

Show Me Some Money

I have alluded to some financial difficulties on both Facebook and this blog. My friends have wondered why I’ve turned down road trips, concerts, and lunch dates. I have been cagey about it, but I need to talk about it because having to keep it to myself is a burden I can no longer bear. I’m overwhelmed with the weight of it and figured maybe my anxiety would lessen if I wasn’t pretending that everything was fine.

People in “polite society” don’t talk about money, and I have internalized that quite strongly. My mom would never answer the “household income” section on anything (and so I don’t either.) So strong was this position that my father prevented me from applying for any kind of college scholarship because it required salary information. It would be especially improper to talk about money troubles. But that’s what I have – money troubles.

My income comes from the support I get from my ex.  He lost his job in May. Unbeknownst to me, he left the Capitol Police quite a while ago and had gotten laid off from his “new” civilian job. When he told me, he asked that I not tell the kids, not tell my friends, not tell my parents. And I didn’t. It fell right in line with what I was taught all along – don’t discuss money. It also meant that the money coming in wouldn’t even cover my mortgage. I had been doing OK pre-lay-off because I am a good money manager. In fact, my superpower is “living within my means.” My motivation was that homeschooling the boys was so important to me that I would find a way. And I did. But the cutback has now depleted my savings in a way I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t think it would last this long and I didn’t think I would have so many bizarrely large expenses in the months since he lost his job.

So here we go: $1700 in car repairs, $1300 in unreimbursed (but covered) medical costs, $3400 in non-covered elective surgery (that was too late to cancel), $7500 HVAC replacement, $900 in mid-sized appliances that broke, as well as lawyers fees, property taxes, and income tax that will be due soon. That’s a lot. Remember that Atlantic article  that said half of Americans would have a hard time covering a $400 emergency? I’ve had to cover expenses 37x that! So as you might imagine, I am struggling to keep up. And just Sunday…my hot water heater blew. The upside is that it only caused a small flood, rather than the large flood it could have. So it will only be $1300 for the new heater, not more to fix a flood.

I am struggling financially right now, but I am trying not to be embarrassed. I didn’t actually do anything to get here other than leave a failed marriage (and even if I hadn’t, the lay-off would have still devastated our finances…) But I am scared and anxious. As it has in the past year, talking about it more openly has sometimes helped. Maybe it will again.

Exercise: Next Phase

The beginning of January always brings lots of new people to the gym. Perhaps they are long time members who simply feel motivated by the turning of the year to get in and use their membership. Maybe they are new members ready to turn their lives around and get healthy long term. Maybe not. I have seen these crowds come and go three times at this particular gym and I even shared a wink and a nod with the manager a few days after January 1st. I still go five or six days a week.

I do have some new stuff going on in my workout though. The gym I belong to allows me to visit other locations, so I make it a habit to go to the one that is nearest my day’s activities. I went to the one in Woodbridge when Evan was taking classes down there, and now I am using one closer to the Alexandria campus a couple of times a week. I remembered someone had told me they were making some major changes, but when I walked in I was astonished. They had upgraded the “Black Card” area to a separate suite and added an entirely separate section of workout gear! I’ve been to seven different Plant Fitnesses and they are all pretty generic. This was not. It looks very much like something at Jim’s gym. I’m so happy that I will be able to use kettlebells, do box jumps, and band assisted chin-ups now. There’s even a battle rope. But don’t think I’m ever going to use that — I think they look silly…..

gym 2

The next change that I’ve made is that I’ve actually added cardio back into my routine. When I started working out in earnest several years back, I was trying to consistently lift weights and do cardio. I HATED doing the cardio. I started to dread going to the gym because as much as I liked to lift, god I hated those cardio machines. It got to be where I would sometimes have a “really good excuse” to not go to the gym. But that was mostly to avoid cardio. Then Jim said if I didn’t want to do cardio, then stop doing cardio. It was a revelation to me. Almost immediately I started loving going to the gym again. I have been only lifting weights for about a year-and-a-half but I am now at a point where I need to do a little bit extra so I have decided to try spending 15 minutes on the treadmill each time. Surprisingly, I don’t despise it nearly as much as before. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m in much better shape now.

gym 1


Despite the fact that I chided the January exercises enthusiasts above, a major accomplishment over the Christmas holidays was to convince my mother to join a gym. On Christmas Eve, I invited her to come to my gym with me and work out. We used some free weights, I taught her some simple exercises, and she really enjoyed some of the machines. Within a week of returning home she had checked out two different gyms and joined the one that suited her best. The next time I talked to her she was in a dressing room trying on a snazzy new outfit she could wear to the gym. Talk about adorable!

So now I’ve added cardio to my routine and my personal trainer (i.e. Jim) is working on some new splits to incorporate the new apparatus. It’s actually possible I might have a “beach body” this summer. But I’d still need to get a cute new outfit to be as cool as my mom.