Seeking My Best Self

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

Wake-Up Call

mikeMy baby brother (he’s only fifty-one) called me Sunday before last. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get together tomorrow,” he said. “I think I’m having a silent migraine. I have tunnel vision and I just can’t seem to keep my balance. I’m so fuzzy-headed, I’m having to really concentrate to talk.”

“Those could also be stroke symptoms, Mike,” I replied. “Maybe you should go get that checked out.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. If they don’t go away in a day or two, I’ll see a doctor.”

On Monday, he was in the ER. He was admitted and spent four days in the hospital. He did, indeed, have a stroke, and in addition, he was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes.

The doctors had good news and bad news. The good news is, he’s likely to make a complete recovery. The bad news is, without significant lifestyle changes, he has a good chance of recurrence.

So I’m staying with him for a while so his wife can go back to work. I’m cooking for us all, and helping Mike with therapy and exercise. The diet is familiar – the one I’ve been imperfectly trying to implement over the past year-and-a-half. I’m not missing the mark now, though. This was a wake-up call for us all.

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Blog Disruption

_DSC1409In the past three weeks, I haven’t lost weight. Despite regular exercise, my shape is largely unchanged. Panic time, right? NO. I’ve been doing the work I needed to do – my mental and spiritual selves are transformed. They are leaner, stronger, tougher.

I’m rediscovering discipline, rising early each morning,  exercising, and then going to the studio to work and write. My routine isn’t perfect (yet.) For example, I’m good about coming to the studio right after exercising each day. (Good job, Cherie!) However, my nutritional supplements are at home. By the time I get home in the evening, I’ve forgotten all about them.

The solution is obvious: bring the supplements to the studio. And I will. I’m just surprised how many adjustments are necessary for ‘routine’ to become routine.

Moving my main computer from home to studio caused a ****blog disruption**** (Avert your eyes, children.) It’s taken three weeks to find my way back. Yeesh! On the other hand, I have been writing. I’m finishing the final stories for my flash fiction book, and consulting with artist Cher Odum for illustrations.

My next project, a full length novel, is pushing its way impatiently to my forebrain. In fact, the protagonist whispers in my ear constantly, giving me his perspective on the world, on politics, on religion. It’s disconcerting – and very, very interesting.

I’ve written and given the homily for Wednesday night Eucharist for the past three weeks. I’ll be on a two-week rotation now. The tradition for Wednesday nights is to discuss the lives of saints. Delving into their spiritual perspectives has been inspirational – and occasionally outraging. Did you know the current mainstream belief that we are hopeless sinners that Christ came to ‘save’ by dying a horrific death was ramrodded into canon by one man, who bullied and persecuted anyone who had a different perspective?

Grrrrr. Sorry, I’m getting religious AND political, and this is supposed to be a personal improvement blog. But. Grrrrrr. Just grrrrr.

The point is, I’m engaged. I’m active physically, mentally and spiritually, and it feels good.

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caminoI’ve been exercising. Regularly. Inspired by Kristin (see previous article) I’ve kept at it. My friend, Miriam Haugen, has joined me, too! We’re both noticing increased strength and endurance. And my Wii isn’t yipping at me anymore. Hurray for stuffing a sock in the figurative mouth of an inanimate device!

I’m taking my vitamins, minerals, etc. I can tell when I forget (which I do a lot) because my energy flags.

So it turns out that doing the right things make you feel better. Who knew?

I’ve been working on my insides, too. Being honest with myself about what I want – and DON’T want – in my life. I have journeys ahead of me, both literal and figurative (the map is a *hint*.) It’s going to be an interesting year.

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Back to the Gym

gym maui0152Doesn’t she look sweet? Nice?

Don’t believe it. Kristin’s my personal trainer while I’m here in Maui, and she’s wicked hard on me.

A personal trainer? Maui? Whaaa….? I know. It’s a surprise to me, too.

I quit going to gyms years ago because I couldn’t stand the steroid egos and butt floss. I’m at a fitness center this week only because the owners of The Gym Maui brought me here to Kihei to photograph their facility and their people. It’s a tough business, being flown to exotic locations, but I’m a trooper. And it turns out, now I’m a convert. This place is SO DIFFERENT from what I remembered back in the 90’s – it’s clean (no sweaty sock smell), friendly, and egos are kept firmly in check.

I’m going to look at local gyms when I get home. Me. In a gym. Hah! It’s the end of the world as we know it….

Meanwhile, Kristin has given me exercises I can do at home. Don’t be fooled by the lack of equipment. This workout got my heart rate up, and I definitely felt it the next day!

If you’re going to try this, be sure to consult a fitness specialist first. YOUR FORM NEEDS TO BE CORRECT. Back injuries put a crimp in any exercise program. 🙂

Kristin’s Workout for Chubby, Out-Of-Shape Women

(No, she didn’t call it this, and I’m sure she’d be horrified. But if I don’t mock myself, who will? Oh, put your hands down.)

Three reps of:

  1. Squats. (Really, REALLY important to get instruction the first time. These are easy to do wrong.) 15x.
  2. Tricep dips (using a bench, step or chair.) 15x.
  3. Step-ups. 10-15x each side.

When we’d finished the first rep, I thought, “OK, that was a nice workout.” Then she asked me to repeat it. And again. By the time I huffed my way to a finish, I thought, “OK, now THAT was a nice workout.” Then we moved on to floor work. Oh, dear.

Three reps of:

  1. Negative push-ups. (For those of us who are too weak to complete a push-up. You lower yourself slowly to the floor, then get on your knees, rise to correct position, and try again.) 10x.
  2. Triangle push-ups. (Put your hands together to form a triangle, and then pulse, short up-and-downs.) 10x.
  3. Try regular pushups AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible. I can do exactly zero right now.)

Three reps of:

  1. Crunches 15-20x.
  2. Crunches with feet elevated 15x20x.
  3. Alternating superman (lay on stomach, lift alternating arms and legs.) 15x.
  4. Plank (I thought, “Oh, good. I’ve got this one down.” As soon as she saw that, she added:) with alternating leg lifts.

Collapse and whimper.


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Bad Cholesterol!


The effects of high LDL cholesterol

No medical insurance = no medical care. I hadn’t had a medical exam in five years, but thanks to Bryan’s military service we finally have an affordable option (I think everyone should have the same option, but that’s a rant for another blog post)  so I visited my doctor for a complete check-up.

Most things look great. But my bad cholesterol is too high. My doctor says, “Lose 20 pounds. Avoid animal fat.” And, she wants to put me on a cholesterol blocker.

I don’t trust western medicine. It seems that one pill leads to another and yet another as the side effects pile up. I did some research. The most commonly prescribed drugs are statins, which are very effective at lowering bad cholesterol. They also create a life-long dependency, and they come with side effects such as liver damage, muscle breakdown, diabetes, and neurological side effects such as memory loss and confusion.

No, thank you. What are my other options?

Naturopathic medicine is out. Their supposed efficacy isn’t borne out in objective studies. Acupuncture, on the other hand, has gained respect in the medical community, as clinical testing shows positive results for many ailments. But it doesn’t seem like acupuncture could have any effect on cholesterol. Or could it?

I did a little internet research. Acupuncturists claim that their practice can lower LDL levels, and they refer to several independent studies. It seems that acupuncture has positive effects on the liver, which is responsible for processing (manufacturing?) HDL and LDL. In addition, acupuncture assists with weight loss and stress management, which are two major contributors to high cholesterol.

That’s worth pursuing. I’m going to find an acupuncturist, and I’ll report my experience.

In addition, it’s time for a few diet changes. As you know, I already cook from scratch and avoid fast food. But I love me some butter, cheese, and animal fat (a nice, juicy steak. yum!) These are now OFF my food list entirely.

I created a list of foods to eat regularly. Many are already part of my diet, and some I need to eat more often. They include:

  • fruits, especially apples and oranges
  • vegetables
  • oatmeal and other whole grains
  • beans, including soybean products
  • garlic & onions
  • avocados
  • salmon and other sea fish (shellfish is a NO-NO)
  • seeds & nuts, especially walnuts
  • green tea
  • omega-3 rich foods (I eat enriched eggs. Yes, eggs are OK. One a day.)
  • shitake & oyster mushrooms
  • red yeast rice
  • hawthorne berry tea

Acupuncture sites and the Mayo Clinic emphasized that weight loss, exercise and stress reduction are hugely important. I already know all of this. Why is it so hard to implement? That’s the million-dollar question. To find the answer, I’m going to keep an ‘attitude’ journal. I’m not going to beat myself up for under-exercising and over-eating. But I am going to make myself write about it. If I choose to sit instead of dance, I’m going to write down why. If I choose to eat a bowlful of sunflower seeds (rather than a handful) I’m going to write down why. Let’s see what emerges. If I’m brave enough, I might even share what I find.

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Work in Progress

orangeMy kombucha molded. I can’t help feeling it’s symbolic of my whole ‘healthy me’ kick. True confession time: I’ve fallen off the bandwagon. I’m afraid to get on the scale, because I know I’ve gained weight. I’m not exercising – well, unless 10 minutes every week or two counts. My focus has been on other things, which is fine, but I really need to be able to focus on those other things without losing the vision for my physical, emotional and spiritual self. Bottom line, I’m disappointed in me. I know I can do better.

Deep breath. Now I’m going to reframe everything I just said. Here goes.

When I moved from my house a year-and-a-half ago, I sorted through the boxes in my basement. (You know the boxes I’m talking about. THOSE boxes. The stacks and stacks and STACKS of boxes that accumulate over a lifetime. The ‘I’ll get to this later’ boxes. The ‘oh, I can’t bear to get rid of it though I don’t know what I’ll ever do with it’ boxes. The ‘I don’t want to deal with it, and out of sight is out of mind’ boxes. Yeah, those.) I reviewed, reorganized, and let loose the myriad items that no longer served me.

Fast forward to the past few weeks, where I’ve been sorting boxes that have accumulated in the basement of my life. This time, I’ve reassessed what I do and why. I’ve reorganized my time. I’ve given myself permission to quit focusing on that which I felt I ‘had’ to do or was ‘supposed’ to do. As a result, my life is larger. My vision is clearer. And I’ve acted on that vision.

I’m becoming more realistic about my health goals. Bryan and I were watching Orange is the New Black last night. I looked at the leading actress, Taylor Schilling, who happened to be naked at the time, and said, “Wow. Look at that flat tummy and firm everything.” And Bryan responded, “Yes, and it’s a full-time profession to look like that. She has to spend at least four hours in the gym every day to maintain it.”

Right. (And by the way, I’m married to the best man EVER. I’m just sayin’.)

I don’t have that time. Wait. That’s not true. I absolutely do have that time. I have exactly the same amount of hours available to me every day as she does (Twenty-four, last I checked.) It’s just that, for me, spending hours in a gym doesn’t interest me. And that means I need to readjust my ideas. Quit making ‘flat tummy, firm everything’ my goal. I can’t reach that goal, because I don’t really want it, not enough to discipline myself to do it. That means it’s really not that important. To continue the analogy, I can get rid of the contents of that particular box.

What IS that important to me is writing and photographing, using my images and my words to enrich the world. What IS that important is speaking to individuals and to groups, encouraging them until I see the SPARK that tells me their fire is lit. What IS that important is being a conduit of the Divine into the world through word, sacrament, and image.

Wait. This isn’t new. I’ve already sorted this stuff. Where is that box? Oh. It’s here, under my nose, where it’s been all along.  In it is my candidacy for the Episcopal priesthood. So I’ve re-engaged the process. There is ongoing discernment needed (by me and by others) and that takes a lot of ROOM to unfold. I’m glad I’ve created the space. I did it partly by refocusing my business vision, which meant engaging others to pick up the pieces I needed to let loose.

That’s not easy for me. I am a CONTROL FREAK extraordinaire. What if they don’t do it *right*?

The answer came as I was driving home from church. “It is better for things to be done in a messy, sloppy, joyful way than to have flawless results and a miserable, rigid attitude. Besides, how are you doing at getting it all done?”

Fair enough.

So. The past two years have been about clearing my external space. The last two months have been about clearing my internal space. I’d love to think I’m done and ready to move forward without further delay. But we all know how that works. We are ever and always a work in progress. So, I don’t need to worry about ‘doing better’. I just need to keep on doing.


In Search of Peggy Porschen’s Marshmallow Puff Recipe

marshmallow puffsEvery morning, as my eyes first open, I reach out and grab my tablet, that I might review what important events have transpired whilst I slumbered.

A cup of coffee usually appears concurrent with the tablet. Have I mentioned just how much I love my husband? Not only does he bring me coffee in bed each morning, but he doesn’t even TRY to converse with me until the first cup has disappeared.

I begin by viewing the most vital pages: Facebook. Twitter. Path. Instagram. Tumblr. A couple of online comics that I follow. Pinterest.

Pinterest was my downfall this morning. As I scrolled through, virtuously repinning autumn-themed quinoa recipes, my eyes stopped – dead – on a beautiful pastel photo. The caption: Peggy Porschen’s Marshmallow Puff Recipe.

Squirrel!  Marshmallows, homemade or not, do not belong in my diet regimen, which I renewed just this week. You see, I kind of ditched diet and exercise – and writing – during the past month, due to moving…and moving…and moving. When I had time to think about that, which was rarely, I wondered if I should be discouraged about my inability to maintain an optimal health regimen during my hyper-busy times, which is probably when I need it most.

After a few microseconds of deep reflection, I always came to the same conclusion: fuck it. It made me tired just to consider worrying about…whatever it was I was worrying about. What was I worrying about?

On a TOTALLY unrelated topic, have I mentioned I’ll be 56 in less than a week? Ah, demon menopause, you robber of thoughts.

However, an upside of menopause is what I call the fuck-it effect. “What was I thinking? Fuck it. Glass of wine, please.” Not only can I now say ‘fuck it’ (because I no longer have young children for whom to model non-profane speech) but I can mean it.

Marshmallow Puffs. I looked at them. Pretty, perfect pastel mounds of deliciousness, one floating daintily in the coffee.

Diet be damned. I clicked on the link. And came to a page that was NOT marshmallow puffs. Why do people have difficulty understanding that when they see something they like on a blog, they have to click on the particular post if they wish to link to it? Otherwise, future clickers are treated to the latest blog post, not the pertinent one. This is serious. World peace may be threatened, Deep breath. OK then. Plan B: google Peggy Porschen Marshmallow Puff Recipe, and find the original link.

I started down the results list. One link took me to the same adorable image, with a ‘click here for recipe’ button that looped you back to the current page. No recipe. Just the photo. I clicked it several times, because I hadn’t finished that first cup of coffee, and therefore thought that perhaps I COULD yield a different result if I clicked smartly enough.

Finally, I clicked another link. Expired. Panic began to set in. I NEEDED that marshmallow recipe!

I finally found it on a UK website. All measurements in metric. Moment of truth. Did I really want the marshmallows badly enough to do the conversions?

Fuck it. Turns out, what I really want is a tablespoon of sunflower seeds and another cup of coffee.

PS: So it turns out Peggy Porschen is a thing. Her boutique baking books (nice alliteration, huh?) are quite popular. Here’s one: Boutique Baking: Delectable Cakes, Cookies and Teatime Treats

PPS: The recipe is here: Peggy Porschen’s Marshmallow Puffs .You’ll have to do your own conversions. I’m busy slurping quinoa squash soup.

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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.


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Another Voice, Same Refrain

“What did you expect – a name of something that you can eat or drink and the next day you’re fit?”

I loved this post by fellow blogger, Eduart (who lives in Albania!): The Solution on Losing Weight Is…

Thanks, Eduart!

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Update (New Pics, too)

I figured it was time for an update on the great Cherie slim-down and health-up. (Be sure to check out the pics below to see my progress.)

I’ve been pretty faithful about my caloric intake. With the help of the Lose-It app, I’ve kept my total below 1000 calories most days, below 1100 all days. Three things have resulted, all very good.

First – I’m not willing to eat anything that isn’t AMAZING. I’m not wasting a single mouthful on food that is empty, either of taste or nutrition. I don’t have that many mouthfuls coming to me, so I’m going to make EACH ONE COUNT.

Second – I’m eager to exercise! An hour of exercise equals two hundred additional calories that I can add to my daily total. Two hundred glorious, precious, delicious units of heat.*

Third – my energy levels are much higher. I’m more productive. I’ll admit, I’ve added at least 20 minutes of rest time to each afternoon, because I’m pooped after exercising. But a nap is a good thing!

The scale STILL isn’t budging from the initial ten pound weight loss. But my waistline is. And the size of my thighs. The firmness of my butt. The difference is noticeable. I’m feeling better and looking more like my old self. Onward and downward!

* A calorie is defined as the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree centigrade.


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