Just What the Dr. Ordered

In my last post, I talked about shutting people out because I feel sometimes like I’m unworthy of their time, like I don’t have anything to offer in return for their support, and like I’m just plain damn unlikeable. Well, a friend from my literal childhood (we’ve known each other since we were 15 and 17, or maybe earlier) called last week and said, “I really want to see you before I go back to the other side of the world”. This is not someone I’ve had regular contact with over the years, but she’s always held a special place in my heart, even though she went and got educated and moved away. I sat on her text for a couple of days, being the bad friend that I can be, unsure about taking a night off from parenting, a night off from studying, a night off from mature adult responsibilities. But then I said yes.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how it would go. As someone who thinks of myself as fairly intelligent, and someone who keeps my “bless his heart” disdain for stupid people pretty out in the open (it’s a flaw; I’m working on acceptance), I am intimidated by very few people, but this friend intimidates the hell out of me! She has always been one of the smartest people I know, and over the years she’s gained the credentials to back it up. On the other hand, college dropout over here, going to community college in my late 30’s trying to finally achieve the educational potential I know I’m meant for. In any case, it went fantastic. Better than I could have ever expected.

There was no judgment, no looking-down-upon (not that I expected it, but still, we don’t exactly align politically so there’s always a fear that those conversations will be off-putting), just good, free-flowing conversation while we ate, drank, and walked our way among some downtown hotspots (seriously, we walked over 2 miles). During one point, we were “those girls”, the ones crying and hugging in a loud and noisy bar, because we were filling each other’s buckets with love and support (and lots of sarcasm). She told me that she had always looked up to me, something that surprised the hell out of me, frankly. Because even though I’m the older friend, I have always looked up to her. We shared secrets, and hopes, and crappy things from our past that we hope to move on from.

And she gave me the greatest gift: she told me that she knew she could talk about things with me that she didn’t discuss with other people, because I am “candid and honest without being an asshole”. What a wonderful, thrilling complement. What a great thing that I can take and hold on to as proof that I *do* have value to other people, that I *do* have good qualities, and that I *can* make a difference.

Sometimes it takes someone else to convince you that you are not a shitty person after all, and sometimes that can come from the most surprising source (even after years of other people trying to tell you that). Oh, and she also told me that I am one of the funniest people she has ever known. Chalk one up to my Jester archetype. I might give you terrible advice, but I will, without fail, make you laugh.

It was exactly what I needed after the past few months (years? a couple of decades?) of being mired in the dark sides of my psyche, trying to cling to any bits of light I could find. It’s a slow process, but I’m ready to feel “good” again. Or at least, “Good enough”.

So much to say…

And yet, I still struggle sometimes. With so much. How to put “pen” to “paper” (I’m still an old-fashioned writer…with a literal pen and paper the thoughts flow so freely). How to stop myself from snacking. How to not have a panic attack any time I meet with my doc. How to stop self-destructive behaviours.

Let’s pause there…that’s really the root of it all, right?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “who” I am…I hide behind sarcasm and humor way too much. I think I’m tough. I don’t like being called “sweet” or “a princess” (really, really detest that). I revel in the attention of others, which is something I’m not always proud of about myself. I get involved in other people’s drama way too easily. I’m nosy. I’m a notorious eavesdropper. And I proclaim loudly, to anyone who will listen, what a “fucking mess” I am. Why? Why do I do this? Is it so when I share the mistakes I’ve made and the regrets that I have, they aren’t as shocked or disgusted by my actions? Is it so that when they get to know the me below the surface, they’re so pleasantly surprised that I care about people?

I think I label myself as selfish so often, that I forget how deeply I really do care about people. In the past couple of months, I’ve been really having a hard time liking myself, and it’s caused me to shut people out that I shouldn’t. I left a group of friends that I’ve been a part of since we were pregnant with our first babies. I turned a very good friend down when she reached out because she recognized how much I was hurting and offered to come and spend the day with me. I’ve avoided calling my “person”, who lives halfway across the world and understands me almost better than I understand myself some days. I’ve shut out my family, just choosing not to discuss these feelings with anyone. I feel, a lot of times, like I am unworthy of their time, attention, or love.

But then I surprise myself. I have another friend who is really struggling with many things: new motherhood, adjusting to a new normal, having to shoulder more than she expected alone…and I stepped up. She hasn’t needed me yet, but she knows the offer is there, and I’m willing to help.

So I’m still here on this journey. I’ll probably always be a work in progress. But maybe I can let just a little more of the goodness that I recognize deep down inside to bubble up to the surface more often. And maybe I can tamp down a little more of the “proud bitch” shell. And maybe one day I’ll recognize that it’s okay to accept that other people love me, even when they know me, warts and all.

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*This post brought to you by the bottom of the pool. I swam laps Wednesday for the first time in over a year. It was not easy. But it felt like home. I hope to make it a weekly occurrence. Also, I’ve lost 12 pounds and I’m carrying a 4.0 this semester. So other things are going OK, too.

Guys, can we not?

90shair

Everything old is new again.

My hair is a mess. It hasn’t been trimmed in way too long, and after this summer the ends are frizzy, it’s HEAVY (I have super thick, wavy hair), it’s coarse, and I’ve found more than a couple of gray hairs this summer. Not cool. I need change.

While searching for hairstyles, I came across not only several new iterations of “The Rachel”, but also discovered that mini buns, scrunchies, and even those tiny butterfly clips are also back in style. I know now exactly how my mom’s generation felt when we liked to wear our “flares”…a mix of jealousy that these silly hairstyles look semi-attractive on young females and also a little “oh, bless your heart”. Because…no.

It’s not as cute as you think it is, I promise.

I’m much less interested in hippie flower child style coming back. I want to see 40’s and 50’s style come back. Flare skirts and victory rolls. Trim dresses with low heels and structured handbags (Ladylike Taylor Swift had this going on until she did that weird platinum-blond, trashy choker goth lipstick look). This is the style I dream of, although of course I wear the loose flow-y crap because it’s comfortable.

Let’s be honest, I dream of the real 90’s: yoga pants and sports bras. First thing that happens when I get home!

BTW, I’m going for a lob. Basically the same haircut I always get with some minor variation. (I’m not as cool/edgy as these girls. Mine will probably be more like “low maintenance mom lob”.)wavy-lob-hairstyles-with-highlights

I’ll update with before/afters when I’m done, maybe. Mostly I’m just happy for a scalp massage, a glass of wine, and no more frizzy ends.

Hopefully it will motivate me to do what I really need to be setting appointments for: a new anti-depressant with my Primary Doc and an eye appt. But those are boring, and they don’t give me scalp massages. Or wine.

What the do what now?

venus

I must take a moment to address something that has frankly been bugging the mess out of me for the past couple of weeks.

It’s the sudden influx of Veganism on my Facebook page, by several friends who have recently watched the Netflix documentary “What the Health”. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. If not, can I join you under the rock?

Now, I’m not arguing against going Vegan, or introducing more plant-based foods into your diet. That is not an issue. You do you, and I will be the first to admit that my family needs to eat more plants. We’re working on it. (In fact, dinner tonight is a vegan roasted veggie, chickpea, and turmeric rice bowl!) My favorite article that I read in my research advocates a more plant-heavy diet for health reasons. However, I am shocked at the sheer number of my friends-list (and their friends) that use both this film and the team’s previous film “Cowspiracy” to back up their veganism. As I watched it (with my admittedly cynical eyes), red flags went shooting up everywhere. I was on my phone looking for their sources within minutes of the credits, and again the next day.

So, if you are interested, I’ve gathered some interesting pieces debunking some of the claims made in both films below. I was careful to find sources with expertise in the area of food health and environmentalism, with sources that run the gamut from a Vegan Liberal Socialist to Registered Dietician to NGO Scientist to Paleo expert biologist. I just want you to be aware that if a film is using scare tactics and incendiary claims to support it’s theories, then it is probably too good (or too damning) to be true. And that lobbyists and propaganda exist in EVERY corner of life, and their job is to influence your decision making to align with their agenda. Go vegan because you truly feel it’s the best route for your health. Go vegan if YOU feel better eating a plant-based diet. Just don’t go vegan because 5 vegans made a movie that claim the world is ending because “cows”.

Danny Chivers, Socialist nutjob, but still.

Greenpeace’s response to Cowspiracy’s Insinuations

Union of Concerned Scientists (Actual Science NGO)

Robb Wolf, Paleo Advocate and Research Biologist

Stacey Mattinson, BS and MS Nutrition, RDN, LD (My fave)

As a native North Carolinian, I also feel that I need to address a particularly flameworthy claim made by What the Health regarding pig farmers in NC. The claim is that pig farmers intentionally targeted poor and primarily African American neighborhoods in Eastern NC so as to prevent literal “hogwash” from our cushy white people’s yards. Now, while I don’t discredit the research that shows that the waste lagoons in NC are harmful to humans and the environment, I want to point out a few things that the film leaves out.

First, the 4000 open waste lagoons still in operation are from before 1997. No new waste lagoons have been permitted since 20 years ago the state passed a law disallowing new construction for any hog farm using this as a form of waste disposal. Do we all wish the hog farmers would start using new methods at the farms with existing lagoons? Of course. But the fact of the matter is that Eastern NC is one of the poorest areas of the country. The extra expense in converting their methods would both put the few smaller family farms we have in NC out of business, eliminating much-needed jobs (especially migrant worker program jobs) as well as make the price of pork products skyrocket in an area where families depend on cheap proteins to feed their families. I’m not saying there aren’t solutions, but I am saying that we all have to research and weigh all of the facts in an issue instead of blindly accepting the first opinion that seems plausible enough.

Second, I want to point out a missing timeline about the growth of the Hog Farm industry in NC. Hog farming is a fairly new, replacement industry in Eastern NC. In the 80’s and 90’s, as tobacco farming became no longer financially viable, former tobacco farmers either turned to raising livestock themselves or rented their unused land out to local hog farmers who were outgrowing their own space. So, while I fully agree that the practice disparagingly affects African Americans, I bristle at the filmmakers’ claims that this was an intentional positioning to target African American communities. That is a huge leap, and a socially irresponsible one to make. But, this is the same guy who insinuated that Greenpeace was being paid off by animal producer lobbyists with literally ZERO proof, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising.

If you want to see some terrific investigative work on the rise of hog farming in NC and the damage it’s causing, this is a fantastic article. Whole Hog – Pulled Apart

I guess I just want anyone who reads this to go into their future documentary-viewing with both eyes wide open. Like the internet, you can’t trust everything you read or see. There is a big difference between cherry-picking “facts” from studies that support the theories you’ve already developed, which is what a documentary filmmaker being funded by a Vegan activism group would do…or producing an actual research-based study with a control group, and drawing conclusions after the data has been complied, which is what Scientists do.

Trust the Scientists. Unless you still believe that Jenny McCarthy was right about vaccines causing autism. Because clearly if you haven’t debunked that for yourself yet, then you are an idiot and actual science doesn’t matter.

 

Recipe Tuesday: Italian Sausage, Bean, and Egg Bake

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This recipe came to me just yesterday, so it’s hot off the press! Sitting at my desk at work at 2PM, trying to think of what to cook to get back into the swing of meal planning and Weight Watchers after vacations and busy summer funtime, and I thought about the can of garbanzo beans sitting in my pantry and what I could possibly do with it. Funny that I ended up not even using it, which goes to show the incredible versatility of this dish. Experiment with what you have, and make it to your family’s preference. (For instance, I meant to include diced onion but found I didn’t have any when I arrived home.)

I knew I wouldn’t be home until almost 6:30PM, and I knew I wanted to go have a porch-sit with my best friend, who is leaving to go back to Japan tomorrow. So I knew the kids need to be fed and in bed by 8PM! Luckily, we had some leftover Italian sausage from a recipe we made this weekend. I decided this would make a great “almost meatless” Monday dinner for my family. It was a HUGE hit (and even better for lunch the next day). I’m so full from the hearty meal, which clocks in at only 7 WW SmartPoints. I included nutrition info at the bottom.*

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped or minced depending on preference)

1/2 lb bulk Italian pork sausage

1 can Great Northern Beans (also called cannellini or white kidney), rinsed and drained

1 cup roughly chopped Spinach, kale, arugula, or combo of greens

1 cup crushed tomatoes

5 eggs (reserve one for your leftovers)

Optional: warm crusty bread! (Adds 2 Smart Points) Grated parmesan (adds 2 SP as well)

Begin by heating a little oil in your pan on medium heat. Normally I would recommend a trusty Lodge Cast Iron skillet for this meal, but the acid in the tomatoes creates a bad reaction with cast iron, so I used my large saute` pan.

Add your garlic to the pan, stir, and let it simmer for a few minutes (add onions too if you are using them, or any other aromatic veggies). Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Add the sausage and break it up with your spoon/spatula so that it cooks evenly. Once it’s almost completely browned (about 3-5 minutes), add the greenery. Stir and let cook for 1-2 minutes as greens begin to wilt.

Add tomato sauce, stir, and let simmer to cook down about 5 minutes.

Add beans, stir. I like to break the beans up as I stir just a bit, but that’s personal preference. Some people like to try to keep their beans whole. Since they’re already cooked, if you want to keep them whole, wait until just before you are ready to stick the pan in the oven to add and stir.

Crack your eggs one at the time over your dish, spacing evenly. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can also poach them separately to top your dish with later. I personally completely screwed up my eggs last night, so I’ll keep trying to get my perfectly pan-poached eggs right in this dish. Put the whole pan in the oven, and it should take about 7 minutes for your eggs to set. Hopefully you still have some runny yolk!

After this, it’s easy. You should have a delicious ragu-like texture in your pan…use a large spoon to dish up 4 servings. The eggs make a terrific guide of how “big” a serving you need. Serve with crusty bread. Top with grated parmesan. Eat and enjoy! You should have just enough bean leftovers to dish yourself up a lunch for tomorrow. I just topped mine with the egg in the morning, microwaved it at lunch, and it was possibly even better than the night before. I cannot wait to experiment with this dish and try other veggies and combos.

All that filling flavor, and it only clocks in at the following per serving:

258 Calories, 14g Fat (3g Sat), 14g Carbs, 4g Fiber, 18g Protein, 614mg Sodium, and 211mg Cholesterol

*I am no dietician or nutrition expert. I cannot vouch for my numbers here except to say that I used a calculator to the best of my abilities. Here is the link if you want to learn how, or do it with your own ingredients. Tufts Meal Calculator Guide

 

 

 

“Kitchen Sink” Recipe Tuesday: Black Bean Salad with Avocado and Shrimp

Black beans are a terrific food for anyone’s diet, but especially beneficial to those of us trying to lose weight healthfully. Black Beans are Good!black-beans-nutrition-image-2

A black bean salad without corn is a travesty, right? It’s corn season in NC, after all. Well, I made this salad back on Father’s Day and we didn’t have corn. (Or, I forgot to grill it first so we had corn but it sat in my fridge neglected during the making of this dish.)

The original side dish I made did not have avocado or shrimp, so the next morning I diced an avocado and threw that, some little salad shrimp (not the best but in a pinch it does OK) and extra lime juice in and I had my healthy lunch ready.

Now, because my recipes are always based on “what’s on hand”, feel free to omit or add any veggies you wish. All veggies were diced very small for this dish, and I used the pre-minced garlic that you can find in a jar in the vegetable aisle. I also have a toddler, and a picky-ish 7 year old, so my veggies are small mostly for their benefit. No harm in a rough chop if you like crunchy raw veggies.

1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of “extra” veggies, small diced: radish, celery, onion, garlic, carrots, red bell pepper, poblano peppers were the “original”

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

1/4 cup chopped herbs: cilantro and/or parsley are great

1/2 T olive oil

1/4 lime juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

This is basically a no-effort recipe if you are decently comfortable with a knife. It’s a chop, dress, and toss kind of dish. I really have no instructions, other than to try it. If you are going to add corn, I highly recommend grilling it first…it will add a nice smoky sweetness. You can also add a little smoked paprika to this. Enjoy with your next burger night, and replace your Fries with sweet potato wedges for a healthy, filling, satisfying meal!

 

Powering Through

yogajoes

Yoga is an “easy” workout, right?

No.

I’ve done yoga a few times, including super high-energy Buti Yoga (google it, it’s amazing) and for the most part, been able to get it done without looking like a complete idiot. I grew up twirling baton, dancing, and doing winterguard so I’ve always had great flexibility and balance.

But, you know, gaining 100 pounds or so changes things.

I can still touch my toes, I can still put my nose to my knees (even if my belly is squished uncomfortably between the two and my boobs are literally smothering my chin), and I’m still surprisingly flexible “for a fat chick”. But trust me when I say, I’m not doing a split anytime soon. And the biggest change I’ve noticed is my lack of cardio ability. As in, completely nonexistent. Part of the reason I want to change my body is not because I’m embarrassed at how I look (I do get those feelings sometimes, but honestly, ain’t nobody got time for that)…it’s because I have 7 and 2 year old little boys who want to run around the yard and wrestle with me and toss baseballs and footballs at my face, and I NEED to be able to do those things with them without feeling like I’m going to pass out face down in the grass.

I know that exercise has to be a component of any weight loss plan, especially when it involves improving your cardiovascular health. But y’all, I live in NC. And it’s July. Just walking outside in the 90 degree heat with 90 degree humidity is enough to make this body (and face) sweaty and out of breath. To people who say, “just start walking every night”, I just say:

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So, that brings me to my birthday money. Due to some very generous family members, I get a mini-windfall (to me, that’s pretty much anything over $50 meant to spend on myself) and I get excited each year planning what I want to buy with it. This year, I spent the first $20 on a series of Yoga classes at my community center. As I’ve said, I’m not a complete Yoga novice. I’ve taken a class here and there, and took a wonderful pre-natal Yoga class during my second pregnancy that I highly recommend to any pregnant lady, especially one hoping to have a natural or VBAC birth. So I got some moves. And I am Christian in faith, but can appreciate the way that the meditation components of yoga connect me to myself and shut the other stresses of the world out for a little bit.

But yesterday’s class made me realize just how much damage I have done to my body over the past few years. I can do a downward dog, but pretty much everything else we did, especially as we got into the “flow”, I had to modify or take frequent breaks. And this was not a hard class. There were 3 of us who were young 30’s to middle age, and 3 who were closer to 50’s+ retirees. It sucks to be the biggest person, at the back of the class, unable to hold a position or even complete a flow while everyone else seemed to be doing fine. I don’t get embarrassed easily, but for a moment yesterday morning, it broke me. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, my clothes in disarray and exposing my mid-section, and the tears just came to the surface. I actually thought of just running out mid-practice, and I did step away to get some water and wipe my face.

But then I came back. And I pushed through it, and I focused on the feeling that I was doing nothing but making my body stronger, one little pose at the time. By the end of the class, when we had time to lie there and connect with our minds and push the rest away, I felt calmed. I felt victorious. And I felt like I could continue to make little steps towards finding the body I am supposed to have instead of the one I’ve created for myself through negativity.

All the cliches are true: you don’t gain the weight overnight, so you can’t lose it overnight. It takes hard work, perseverance, dedication, and celebrating little victories. Today, I will reward myself with a new shirt that makes me feel good, instead of food. And tomorrow, I will take a little more of my birthday money and buy a 15-visit pass to my local pool, and MAKE the time to get back to doing my first exercise love at least once a week: swimming.