Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

The Appointment

The Appointment*

What if, on the first sunny day,
on your way to work, a colorful bird
sweeps in front of you down a 
street you’ve never heard of.

You might pause and smile,
a sweet beginning to your day.

Or you might step into that street
and realize there are many ways to work.

You might sense the bird knows some-
thing you don’t and wander after.

You might hesitate when the bird
turns down an alley. For now
there is tension: Is what the
bird knows worth being late?

You might go another block or two,
thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
of all your plans.

The bird circles back for you
and you must decide which
appointment you were
born to keep.

— Mark Nepo  (from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen)

I’m surprised at  how many people think the life of a full-time artist is purely idyllic. In their minds, we do nothing but sit around all day, paintbrush, camera or keyboard in hand, allowing the sweet breeze of creative inspiration to carry us along as money pours in the door. (Though they do think, privately, that we charge a bit *too* much for our painting, print or poem.)

An acquaintance once said, “It’s like being retired, isn’t it? You only work when you want to.” Well, yes. As long as I want to work long hours. LONG hours. I’m a one-woman shop, the cash flow is variable, and it’s hard! I’ll admit, we artists sometimes spend sleepless nights worrying about the basics of life – housing, health insurance, food. Things my acquaintance, with her government job, doesn’t experience or understand.

The solution is obvious, right? Go get a *real* job. Practically speaking, no one should choose art as a profession. And that’s why most talented people do take other paths, consigning their artistic expressions to hobby status. I applaud them. I often envy them. In fact, I used to BE them.

For years, I worked in corporate America. Lucrative professional positions. Job security and great benefits. But then my husband died. I was torn from my comfortable world, torn from myself. When I finally found my way back and stuffed myself into the hole that was me, I must have crawled in backwards, because things looked very different. I tried to go back to what I’d been, but the path – and the person – was gone.

So here I am.

I’m an artist because I can’t not be. It’s the only song in my ears. I’ve kept the appointment I was meant to keep, and my life is filled with love and beauty.  

But it’s NOT like being retired.

* My thanks to  fellow artist, Cher Odum, for sharing the poem. It explains we few – we eccentric few – we eccentric, inspired weird few.

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Masque!

My kombucha is happy. Very happy. My starter has been busily making babies, and today I realized that almost half my jar was filled with SCOBY*! That’s a little too much of a good thing, so I lifted it out and separated each layer, leaving only one in the jar.

Despite repeated offers, I haven’t gotten any takers for free starter. I hate to waste a perfectly good organism (O-R-G-A-N-I-S-M). What should I do with this bowl of rubbery rounds? (It’s not getting any better, is it? You guys have gutter minds. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, then I didn’t mention anything. At all.)

In earlier research, I’d read that SCOBY makes a reasonable calamari substitute. So I took a little experimental bite. Yeah, no. But another purported use was as a face masque. That sounded more promising, so I tried it.

kombucha facial

Not bad, huh?

Here’s my recipe:

  1. Take the SCOBY.
  2. Put it on your face. (Yep. Just slap it on. I had a lot, so I covered my face AND my neck.)
  3. Wait 15-30 minutes. (I rinsed mine before using it, to lower the residual acidity.)
  4. Remove.

That’s it. I didn’t look in the mirror while wearing it, because I’m sure I would have screamed. Instead, I laid back on my bed and enjoyed a TED talk. Then I removed the SCOBY, and ran to the mirror.

Holy cow! My skin looked GREAT! Plump, peachy, plus my ever-present pores were almost invisible. That’s a win.  It turns out, SCOBY increases circulation on the surface of the skin, which rejuvenates the cells. Because it’s acidic, it also works as a mild peel, sloughing dead cells. FYI, I followed this up with a 15 minute honey mask to soothe my skin.

I also noticed it had a marked tightening effect. Women *of a certain age* start to suffer from slight skin sag. This treatment tightened my face and neck right up! Now if I could only apply it to my memory…

PS: I experimented with my kombucha recipe today. I used Earl Grey tea, then added a little coconut and fresh strawberry to the boiling mixture. I strained it all out when I put the cooled concoction into the jar. I’ll be eager to see how it tastes next week. I hope it’s good. Fingers crossed!

* SCOBY – an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. AKA ‘culture’, ‘mother’, ‘starter’

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Be Boring, Part Two

eggLast post, I talked about the importance of creating a set pattern of meals and snacks. Today, I want to share my current routine.

Cherie’s Diet Routine

1) Pre-breakfast snack: 2-3 bites of active culture, fat-free yogurt. This feeds my gut flora, and starts my digestion off right!

Coffee. Lots of coffee. With a little skim milk. Don’t talk to me about health benefits vs. health costs. I need my coffee.

2) Breakfast: an egg and half a banana. My tummy can be touchy in the morning, and an egg always goes down easy. Bananas are potassium rich, which is good for the heart, skeletal and muscle systems. Potatoes, beans, dried fruit, tomatoes and yogurt are also great sources of potassium.

3) Mid-morning snack: 1 tablespoon unsalted sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon raw cashews (or almonds), 2 dried figs.

4) Lunch: 2 oz of protein (OK, I do have some variety here), seasonal fresh fruit, a cup of cooked veges. Sometimes I add a slice of whole grain bread (i.e, a sandwich.)

5) Mid-afternoon snack: salad greens with lemon juice, 1 tablespoon nuts/seeds, 1 tablespoon dried fruit.

6) Dinner – ADVENTURE! Now I’m feeling like a bit of variety. Quinoa or fish? Steak or lamb? Or perhaps grilled zucchini topped with pepper-jack cheese? A baked potato with broccoli? I love me some variety now!

&) Evening snack: a small glass of wine. I try not to eat anything after 7 pm, because it’s healthy to go to bed a little hungry.

This routine works for several reasons:

  •  I love nuts and dried fruit. A lot. They are good for me, and it feels like a treat every time I ‘get’ to have some.
  • Because I change my fresh fruits seasonally,I’m always excited about them.
  •  I happen to like my vegetables well-cooked (I drink the water they’re steamed in, so I retain the vitamins) so that’s how I eat them. I don’t have to eat them raw, no matter how many others do – it’s OK to have preferences! Even those with picky tastebuds can find ways to succeed. We all know what a healthy diet looks like (and if you don’t, here’s a book that makes it easy to understand: Nutrition Made Simple)
  •  I’m busy, and it’s easy. I don’t have to spend much time on preparation. I don’t have to think. I can fall into it, rather than fight uphill.

I’ve found that my regimen changes naturally. I was on an almond kick for the longest time. Now, it’s cashews. Come autumn, it will likely become filberts or walnuts. You notice, I don’t really have to *think* about it. Same with dried fruit. If Trader Joe’s doesn’t have figs, I substitute prunes. Or dates. Or raisins. My routine continues unchanged – a tablespoon of what’s in my cupboard.

The important thing is to be sure it really IS there, otherwise my need for crunch may lead me to potato chips, my craving for sweet to candy or donuts. I do live in the land of Voodoo Donuts, after all!

So, be boring. You have my permission. (Picture me waving my hand in divine dispensation.) Make a diet routine – one that you LIKE. It’s oh-so-much-easier to stick with a healthy lifestyle if you do!

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Be Boring, Part One

green and red healthy foodThere are so many healthy food options! If you’re like me, it can be overwhelming to coordinate three meals plus three snacks (or so) every day. Pretty soon, it’s too much work, and we give up.

A while back, I read a bit of advice that really helped:

“Eat the same breakfast and lunch every day. Choose the same snacks. Vary only your dinner.”

On the surface, that seems like a recipe (pun intended) for failure. If we get bored with our food, we’re unlikely to stick with a diet, right?

Turns out, that’s not the case. We humans are creatures of habit – including what we eat. And in our busy lives, what we really want is NOT HAVE TO THINK about it! That’s why diet plans that provide all the food – often at exorbitant prices – are so popular.

But we can don’t have to turn control of our diet over to a corporation. We can do it for ourselves by making it easy!

Here’s how:

Step One. Find your ‘golden foods’ – those things that delight you AND are good for you. Make a list. What do you like to eat? Are you an oatmeal and fruit fan? Eat it. Every morning. It’s good for you.

Step Two. Pay attention to your nutritional needs (and weight-loss goals) and choose foods accordingly. Oatmeal is a good breakfast. It’s not a good breakfast, snack AND lunch item. Nutritionally, you need variety. Add protein, vegetable, more fruit, another complex carbo, and a little fat into the mix.

How about half a nut butter sandwich (doesn’t HAVE to be peanut butter)? Or tuna mixed with yogurt and apple (and a little horseradish mustard for zing)? Look for variety. Find yummy, healthy, EASY foods – then stick to them.

Step Three. Write it out. Post it on your fridge, your computer, wherever you’ll see it at a glance. Add your *new* staples to the shopping list. Make sure these foods are always available in your kitchen.

Voila! Done.

Now you have a diet routine. And routine is GOOD!

In my next post, I’ll finish up this discussion and share my current food regimen.

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It’s a Gut Feeling

gutWe feel less satisfied when we regularly eat a high-fat diet.  It means that over time, we have to eat more and MORE to get our endorphin high.  It’s been thought that our tastebuds were responsible, that these were the organs that developed a ‘tolerance’.

But recent research indicates this is not the case. Turns out, it’s a gut feeling. Yep, it’s our stomach that decides when we’re satiated.  And when we routinely eat high-fat foods, it becomes desensitized, requiring ever-greater quantities before it will release the ‘all full and happy’ hormone.

The good news is, this research also showed that if we STOP eating a high fat diet, our gut will reset itself. We’ll return to a normal dopamine response, which leads to ingestion of fewer calories, which leads to weight loss. Woo-hoo!

Here’s the article: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/37068/title/Why-One-Cream-Cake-Leads-to-Another/

 

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Now is Always the Right Time

comparisonObesity isn’t healthy – we all know that.

I knew it contributed to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. But I didn’t realize it also affects memory. Mood. The ability to conceive. To breathe. Obesity not only affects quantity of life, it significantly affects quality, too, and not for the better.

I better understood WHY obesity has the effect it does when I looked at this image. OMG. You can SEE the effect extra weight has on the human body. It distorts it. Damages it. Wow – I had no idea.

Well, that’s depressing.

But there’s good news. According to the Harvard School of Public Medicine, losing even 5-10% of body weight offers “meaningful health benefits to people who are obese, EVEN IF THEY NEVER ACHIEVE THEIR IDEAL WEIGHT.” (Emphasis mine.) This is true no matter what age people are when they begin to lose weight.

That means it’s never too late. Now is always the right time to improve my health. I can’t change the past, but I can choose my future. I choose a healthy one!

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Hodge Podge

Today’s post is a hodgepodge of unrelated bits I’ve been meaning to share for a couple of weeks now. Short and sweet – here they are!

No retouching

No retouching

1) Remember the frown remedy I shared earlier? I thought you’d like to see the update. Honey & sports tape really works!

Time to remove some SCOBY! Anyone need starter?

Time to remove some SCOBY! Anyone need starter?

2) Kombucha’s made ALL the difference for me. I have noticeably more energy, and noticeably less appetite. Everything I’ve read states its chock-full of probiotics, and it’s ridiculously easy to make! I don’t know if it’s responsible for the redistribution of weight that I’ve been experiencing (tummy and hips are shrinking, while weight remains fairly static), but I’m not messing with a good thing. Love me some kombucha! Get Kombucha starter HERE (cheap!) Also, I highly recommend Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. He explains how to make kombucha and MANY other fermented foods.

 

From my favorite boutique, http://twillclothing.com/

From my favorite boutique, http://twillclothing.com/

3) Sometimes bribes work.

This dress has hung in my bedroom since I purchased it two months ago. I knew it would look great on me once I lost a bit of weight, so I bought it, then put it where I would see it EVERY time I entered the room.

As you can see, it’s a summer dress, so if I was going to enjoy it this year, I needed to remain dedicated to my exercise and diet plan. Many times I wandered into the bedroom, forbidden food in my hand, saw the dress, and put the food away.

I’m pleased to announce that I wore the dress this weekend! I felt very pretty, though I still have some ‘redistributing’ to go before it looks PERFECT. Putting my *reward* where I could see it all the time was a good ploy for me.

Now we all know, Cherie can be bribed. 🙂

In my next post, I’ll be talking about the medical effects of obesity. It’s pretty sobering. As a woman approaching her third ‘time trimester’, I am oh-so-aware that how I treat my body NOW will hugely affect my future quality – and quantity – of life.

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Back to *Normal*

wilson 06July was a whirlwind month of family, weddings and celebrations. Now everyone has returned home and my life is back to normal.

Wait. Normal? What does *normal* look like? I have to stop and think. It turns out, I have a short memory for such things. 🙂 Normal, for now, includes:

Exercise. Bike riding. Walking. Yoga. Dancing.I didn’t engage in ANY of these activities in July, so now they *feel* like drudgery, not fun. Sigh. Time to rebuild the memory muscles, so I can rebuild the physical muscles.

Diet. I lost a couple of pounds, despite being too busy to use my Lose-It app or even think of counting calories. The ‘reset’ I gave myself with the extremely lo-cal diet in June obviously helped. My psyche just doesn’t require as much food input to feel satisfied.

Altar. Spirituality is very important to me, but like the other disciplines, it went missing while the celebration ensued.

– – – – –

I’m not going chastize myself for failing to maintain my healthy habits, but I will take time to examine the past few weeks, and strategize for future success.

Today, I’ll start with Mariel Hemingway’s gentle Yoga Now video, and a two-mile walk to the library and back. I’ll sit at my altar and meditate. I’ll open my Lose-It app and get back to it. I still have weight to lose, and a lot of toning of physical and spiritual muscles to accomplish.

Onward!

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