Monday, February 27, 2012

Lent: the plank in my own eye

I don't think I've ever mentioned here that Dean and I were separated for a year once.  It was when Nell was three, so we've now been together since the separation longer than we were together before it.  We spent many, many hours in marriage counseling and we both learned much, and we continue to learn much.  Marriage is hard.

But back then, there was a definite turning point for me when I decided it was time to move back in.  I was (am) very good at analyzing other people's faults.  Oh, Lord, am I good at it.  I've got this brain that likes to analyze whatever it can find to analyze, and picking out poor Dean's faults used to be one of its favorite activities.  There were some legitimate problems, I wasn't just making things up, but I arrived at our first counseling session loaded for bear.  I launched into a list of every single way he had failed as a husband.

I, on the other hand, had not done any of those things, so in my mind I was the innocent victim.  One of several lightbulb moments for me came when I was in a solo session with our marriage counselor and was once again virtuously declaiming all my righteous anger.  At some point I said something to the effect of "He doesn't have to put up with anything like that from me!"  To which she gently replied, "Well, he has to put up with living with someone who is constantly critical of him, and always looking for the ways he screws up."

Which was more or less like a bombshell, because DUH, but it had honestly never occurred to me.  I wanted to keep on spluttering about how truly awful his faults were, but what she said was just so patently, obviously true that it took all the wind out of my sails.  I was ignoring his willingness to work on our problems, his dedication to marriage counseling and fixing what he could, and instead concentrating on a continuous mental rundown of all the ways he didn't meet my standards.

I've worked very hard on this since, just as Dean has worked very hard on his end of things.  I'm learning to remember the whole person, and not just let my brain go into analytical mode-- and not just with Dean but with everyone I love. 

There's a post coming on how I felt about growing up with Jesus as practically a member of our household, so I won't start on that here, but I'll just tell you one story, one that I am definitely keeping.  One of my two or three favorite Jesus moments comes when he's talking to the rich young ruler (Mark 10.17-23).  The guy is enthusiastic and has good intentions, but he's hung up on being wealthy and powerful.  He asks Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to be saved?"

Jesus tells him that he must keep the laws and the commandments (the Jewish laws and commandments, almost all the followers of Jesus in the Gospels are Jewish), and the guy says that he does all that and he has since he was a child.  He was probably hoping for a pat on the head, the sycophantic response he must have become used to as a wealthy man: "You're awesome, man, just keep doing what you do!"  You know that he's going to get a put-down, because that's not the way it works if you follow Jesus.

But instead of the expected put-down, the story continues:  "And Jesus looked at him and loved him."

Which just blows me away.  Jesus didn't roll his eyes at the guy's faults; he didn't refuse to talk to him because he was asking a dumb question.  Jesus looked at him and loved him.  And then he also gave him an impossible task:  "One thing you lack," Jesus said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."  It's a great story, and there are a number of other directions you could go here, but I'll just say briefly that I think the guy's mistake wasn't in not selling everything he had, it was in walking away.

But that's not what this post is about-- my main point is that difference in attitude between my hyper-critical-ness and Jesus's love and acceptance.  That's the attitude I want, that willingness to look at someone and just love them.  Most people, underneath the facade, have a quivering, tender heart.  It's easy to forget that. 

You may have noticed that I took this post down, edited it and put it back up again.  It would be a long story to explain why, but to keep it brief I'll just say that I had a bad moment of reminding myself of one of my least favorite aspects of my dad's personality; and what made it far, far worse was that I didn't even notice I was doing it until several hours after I posted this.  When I came back to edit it tonight, it wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered-- I've only edited it slightly.

It occurred to me as I was driving back from U-Town this afternoon that maybe I need to recognize that the unconditional love that Jesus shows toward the rich young ruler would apply to me, too.  I tend to see it as a moral example, and forget that if I stood before Jesus with my messy, panicky self, he would look at me and love me, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent: reboot

You know, that last post just isn't right.  I took it down, and I will edit it and put it back up next week.  I've been trying to eliminate the negatives and only talk about the positive, but doing it that way feels dishonest.  So I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to change it.  I'll think about it for a few days, plus we've got a bunch of stuff going on this weekend, and be back next week.  Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent: the art of cherry-picking

Early on, in my mid-twenties when I was first struggling with leaving behind the faith of my childhood, I occasionally tried to talk to people who were older and wiser, and whose opinions I respected.  I discovered this wasn't this best way to figure out what I needed to figure out, but it didn't change the way I feel about them.  They are still older and wiser than me, and I still respect them and their opinions. I've just chosen a different path.  I rarely talk about my beliefs with these people anymore, although I still listen to them and learn, re-writing things in my head to suit my current way of thinking.

Anyway.  One of those times, I talked to a much-beloved uncle who is about as conservative as anyone I know.  I don't remember what topic we were discussing, but I must have said something to the effect of I-still-believe-this-but-I-can't-believe-that.  And he responded that you can't cherry pick which beliefs you want and leave behind the ones you don't.  In his mind, Christianity is a piece of whole cloth-- seamless, like Jesus's robe. 

He didn't mean that there are no problematic passages or thorny theological issues-- on the contrary, he is probably far more aware of those than I am (he is a seminary graduate, although he decided to go into teaching rather than the pastorate).  He meant that if you've made the choice to be a Christian, you're in it for the whole thing, not just the parts of it you like and that make you feel good. 

And I understand his point, and in some ways I think it's a good one.  Kathleen Norris makes a similar-but-different point in her excellent book Amazing Grace.  She says that it's silly to sit in church and speak certain lines of the creeds while remaining silent on others (which is exactly what I was doing at the time).  Her point was not that you should blindly accept all the doctrines of the church, but that you should acknowledge the ones that bug you, let yourself rub up against them, argue them, take them head-on.  Claim them, as it were, instead of dumping them, or trying to pretend they don't exist.  In doing so, in stretching your mind to try to understand the thought behind the theology, you may uncover some surprising insights.  It's a method I've used frequently since.

But there are also some things that need to be said on the other side.  First of all, Christianity is not as monolithic as my uncle would like to believe.  If it's made out of whole cloth, who's cloth are we talking about?  Catholics? Presbyterians? United Church of Christ? Church of Religious Science?  On just about any item of faith, if you delve deeply enough, there are a range of opinions, and not just between denominations-- even within churches.  One of the most interesting discussions I've ever heard was in a small group at our church where the issue of pre-destination vs. free will came up.  What exactly does it mean? Every person in that room would have said without hesitation that they are Christian, and yet the range of opinions was wide.

Which leads to my further point that faith is a choice, and even conservative Christians have to make (sometimes) difficult decisions about what they believe and what they don't. Sometimes believers (of all stripes, not just Evangelicals) short-cut those difficult decisions by just mouthing the creeds they've been taught and not thinking the issues through.  But that doesn't mean the difficulties aren't there.

So all of that is just to say:  When I talk about finding the parts of Christianity that I want to keep, it's not something I take lightly.  I'm not just choosing the feel-good bits and ignoring the difficulties (I hope).  I'm talking about trying to winnow through the things that are habit, the things that people believe just because that's the way they were raised, the way it's always been done, and sift through to something that feels more essential.  For me, that has involved cobbling together a set of beliefs that come not just from Christianity but from all sorts of sources.  If it's cherry-picking, it's thoughtful cherry-picking.

I just read a blog entry by one of my extended family members who is still extremely Evangelical.  That whole mindset can still hook me right back in.  Not that I believe it again, but it's so familiar, like a pair of slippers that mold perfectly to your feet.  It's still hard sometimes, even after all these years.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jane Austen and the Sermon on the Mount

I have two almost completely written posts from the last few days trying to figure out what I want to say, and I'm not getting anywhere.  They're about what I warned you was coming a couple of weeks ago-- time to dive back in to the faith of my childhood.  The last time I did this, I was analyzing what was wrong, what drove me crazy, why I left.  I'm good at that.  It comes naturally.

This time I'm trying to figure out what's worth keeping.  That does not come naturally.  I was burned, badly burned, and I don't want to think about the positives.  I want to keep being cynical, snide, and bitter. (even though I keep going to church. It's weird.)  Also-- and probably more to the point-- I don't want my readers to think I'm a religious fanatic.  But you know what?  I need to do this.

So if religious stuff bores you to tears, feel free to tune out.  Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) is this week, so after this one I'll put "Lent" in the title somewhere for this topic so you'll be able to tell. 

So... back up to last spring, which is when this started (that's how long I've been putting this off).  I took that seminar on Jane Austen where we read all of her novels, some juvenilia, and some of her letters.  The prompt for our seminar paper was a quotation on Austen from a famous critic that was something like:  Austen was the first major writer to present secular morality, a morality that is based not on religious tenets, but on what is socially acceptable.  "Austen's fiction," continued the prompt, "seems to constitute as much of a departure, as a continuance, of Christian ethics."  Agree or disagree, using examples from her work, in 15-20 pages.

The question fascinated me.  I wish I'd had a couple of months to work on it.  (to which you could respond, and rightly so, that I did have a couple of months, if I'd started as soon as he gave us the prompt, but I had a few other things to do at that point, which I started to list but that would get me way off track.)  First of all, it pissed me off that some critic thinks he gets to decide whether or not Austen is Christian.  Austen gets to decide that (or speaking from certain theological standpoints, I guess God would get to decide that, but whatever, not the critic anyway).  and Austen clearly considered herself to be Christian.  Read her letters, the prayers she wrote for family devotions, the things that other people said about her.  Just because what she believed doesn't match up with what some critic considers to be Christianity doesn't make her not Christian.

Obviously I have a personal stake here, because I still consider myself to be a Christian, but my beliefs are not the standard ones.  if I were to write a list of things I believe (my own statement of faith), probably most Christians, even members of my family, would say that I am not Christian.  So when someone sets themselves up as the arbiter of what is and is not Christianity, my back is already up before we've even started.

But I've run into the problem of inserting my own beliefs into academic papers before (see this post).  It doesn't work.  So even though I started with the point that Austen considered herself to be a Christian, I still had to figure out some way of defining Christianity that would be acceptable academically, and then show whether or not Austen matched up.  I started out looking at Anglican creeds (Austen's father and closest brother were Anglican clergymen).  But creeds are too abstract for what I needed. 

So I ended up at the Sermon on the Mount, which is a sermon Jesus preached outlining his ideas about moral behavior (although it seems likely that it was actually a collection of his teachings, and not just a single lecture).  Some version of it appears in all four of the gospels, so it is pretty much the standard statement of Jesus' ideas about morality.

(The paper becomes mostly irrelevant at this point, but just in case you're interested, I thought I made a pretty good case that in her novels, there are many examples of Christian morality as it is presented in the Sermon on the Mount.  For example, Jesus says, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them," (Matthew 6.1) and Mr. Darcy does his best to save Lydia without letting anyone know about it.)  

But what surprised me, since I hadn't read the sermon on the mount in years, was how much of my own ideas about morality come from it.  And one of the things that turned me off about Evangelical Christianity is how little they follow it.  I had a bunch of examples here, but I just deleted them, because this wasn't going to be about analyzing the negatives, remember?  It's about what's worth keeping. 

So first on my list of things worth saving would be the sermon on the mount.  It seems to me that one of the main points of the sermon on the mount is that what looks like winning isn't always winning; the person who looks big and important and powerful is not worth any more than the homeless guy under the bridge; looking all holy and righteous in public is pointless if you're not practicing what you preach in the small, private moments that really count.  It's not a description of the way the "real" world is; it's a way of thinking and seeing that prompts you to look past the glitter and the trappings of power and see the human heart underneath the facade.  and those are ideas worth thinking about.

And it's taking all I can do to not launch into an analysis of the parts of the sermon on the mount that are problematic (like, when does 'turning the other cheek' become 'enabling an abuser'?) but that's not my point at the moment.  maybe we can discuss that another time.  and p.s.:  I only described as much of my JA paper as I needed to set this up, so it doesn't sound like a very convincing argument.  We can argue discuss further in the comments if any of you made it this far and are so inclined.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Riffday: pop, scheduling, and boxes

I realized the other day that I never updated you on my January goals at the end of January.  Not much changed-- the menu planning was a no-go, but I did make it through the entire month without drinking a diet Dr. Pepper (caffeine free or otherwise).  And since that's the only soft drink I ever drink, that means I had no soft drinks for the entire month.  It was harder than I thought it would be.  On February 1st, I had not one but two DDPs.  But since then, I've noticed a definite decrease in how often I want one.  I've had about one a week, which seems reasonable to me.  So I'm glad I did that one, it was worth it.

My February goals were going to be to start exercising by 9 a.m. (on days that I'm exercising), and to wait to get on the internet until after 4 p.m.  Then we moved on January 28th, and there was no way to maintain any schedule at all.  So I'm going to pick those back up, and will probably keep them into March, because those are good ones for me.  On the days I'm home alone, I can putter around in the morning until suddenly it's 11 a.m. and I haven't even started exercising, let alone getting ready to go out and about.  And on some days that's fine, but I think in general I'd like to get an earlier start.  I doubt I have to explain the point of waiting till 4 to get on the internet.  Otherwise I waste way too much time just poking around, and then I do it again in the evening anyway.

The unpacking continues.  I've discovered that I am not good at it.  I open a box, and then I start ruminating about where the things should go.  Then I decide on a spot, but first it has to be cleared out (a bunch of things were just shoved in random spots in the first couple of days), and then the shelf needs to be cleaned, which reminds me that I forgot to wipe down the mirror in the closet, and the back of the toilet in the bathroom where they were drywalling, and then I have to go to Target to see if there is some sort of shelf organizer that will enable me to fit two shelves worth of stuff into the space of one, and before you know it, I've spent the afternoon unpacking one box.

Dean, on the other hand, is an unpacking god.  He was out of town last week (caught a ton of very big fish, by the way), and then he had to work Monday and Tuesday.  But he had the day off Wednesday and in one day he did about three times more unpacking than I had managed all last week.  It was astonishing.  We now have access to our dining room table again-- which is in its very own room.  We lost all those other rooms I told you about but we gained a dining room!  first time we've ever had one.  And our bedroom is almost box free.  I walked back in at the end of the afternoon and gaped.  How did he do that in one day?

On the other hand, I realized Wednesday that the freshly painted shelves in our closet were going to get white dust all over my clothes, so I went out and got shelf liner (normally I am not a big fan of shelf liner), cut it to fit, figured out that it didn't quite fit and had to decide whether to cut it again, or wrap the excess over the edge and tape it in place, which would look really nice because then the edge of the shelf would be covered.  And then I had to decide which clothes went on shelves and which ones should hang up, and which ones could just go straight to the Salvo.  And by mid-afternoon, I had unloaded one box.  It was a big one, though.

You're wondering why he puts up with me, right?  I know.  Sometimes I'm mystified myself.  I think I'm kind of entertaining, at least.

Tomorrow some friends are coming over to help me figure out where our furniture should go.  It didn't occur to me until I after I invited them that the house isn't nearly in any condition for having people over.  Fortunately they will understand.  And at least we now have.... TA DA.... fully functioning bathroom.  The plumber came this afternoon and installed the faucet in the sink.  There are no towel bars and the toilet paper is just sitting on the back of the toilet, but those are details.  There is a working shower, toilet, and sink.  Yay.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

four-letter word: the beck book

I wanted to give my blog address to a friend this week, but then I stopped.  Wait!  I can't give it to her this week while I'm blogging about dietingShe'll think that's what this blog is about.  She won't realize that in the eight years I've been blogging, before this week there were exactly six posts with the 4LetterWord label.  So I'm going to try to finish this up quickly and move on.  Because as you might have predicted if you've been around for other times that I've typed elaborate setup posts, now I'm getting bored with it and I just want to stop.  Blecch.

Partly because the more I read this Beck book, the more I realize I don't want to "think like a thin person."  Or at least, what she describes as thinking like a thin person.  She assumes that all thin people think alike, for one thing-- but in my experience, there are people who are thin because they have great genes (i.e., they eat whatever they want and they're still thin); there are people who are thin because they deprive themselves and are therefore (imo) unhealthy; and there are people who are thin because they're healthy.  (She doesn't acknowledge that you can be healthy and be anything other than thin.  In fact, she doesn't even talk about being healthy, she just assumes that being thin is a valid goal in and of itself.)

Realistically I'd like to be in that third category, and if I were 30, I think I'd have a pretty good shot at it.  But I'm 50, and I'm built exactly like my mom.  I'm not going to be a skinny 75-year-old, if I'm lucky enough to live that long.  I think I can be leaner than I am now, but that's probably as good as it's going to get.  Because I'm not going to starve myself.  Life's too short to starve, and I love food.  Good, healthy food, in reasonable portion sizes, with the occasional splurge thrown in when I need it.  that's the plan.

This is not meant to be different than the previous two posts; it's the same attitude.  I'm just saying it again, because I found the Beck book and started reading it again today and it pissed me off.  I don't think I find her approach particularly helpful.

Except sometimes it is helpful (*admits grudgingly* *sigh* damn it).  So, here you go: the things she says in an introductory chapter about the eight characteristics that lead to weight loss failure.  I'm rephrasing, because part of what makes me mad about her ideas is the way she phrases them. 

Of course she's not the first person to notice that people with unhealthy eating habits often eat when they're not hungry (characteristic #1).  But what I found helpful is that she proposes the idea of investigating this:  explore the difference between being hungry and the desire to eat.  My take:  I'm willing to try this.  In the past, I could never let myself get too hungry, because low blood sugar was an almost sure-fire trigger for a migraine.  But not so much anymore.  I could probably play around this a little, try letting myself get hungry and see what happens.  If I let myself live with being hungry for 20 or 30 minutes, get a drink of water, distract myself, does the feeling go away?  I could try this.

But I'm not sure how it will work, because of  characteristic #2:  people with unhealthy eating habits have a low tolerance for hunger.  Yup, that's me.  You don't want to be around me when I'm hungry.  I get grumpy and miserable-- I'm fairly hypoglocemic, or at least I used to be, so (in the past at least) mild hunger pains quickly moved to jittery, finger-nail chewing desperation.  I get frantic.  And I would often get a migraine.  I may have to read more about this one to see what she says to do about this, since she claims that she has "many techniques" to deal with this.

Characteristic #3:  You like the feeling of being full.   Well, maybe.  I think the problem is more that I like the taste of the food than that I like the feeling of being full.  This one (in her description which I'm not repeating here) is the most snobby about how pathetic non-thin people are.  It practically made me grind my teeth, so we'll just move on.

Characteristic #4:  You fool yourself about how much you eat.  I don't think so.  I'm pretty aware of how much I eat, because I can drown myself in guilt about it if I let myself.  The examples she gave for this one didn't seem like things that I have a problem with, except for one-- thinking if you stray from your desired menu, "Well, I already screwed up so I might as well blow it for the whole day."  I don't do this so much with food as I do with caffeine-- you already know I avoid caffeine, but if for some reason I've had some during the morning, I usually decide that since I've already had it, I might as well just have as much caffeine as I want that day.  That's actually one helpful thing that this book has done for me-- I read this about three weeks ago, and already recognizing that as a bogus thought has helped me out 2 or 3 times.

Characteristic #5:  You comfort yourself with food.  Yes, I do.  But only occasionally; I'm much better about this than I was a few months ago.  I don't think I do this often enough to be a problem.  I think having a gooey treat at the end of a truly horrendous day is actually a pretty good coping strategy, as long as it's not something you do all the time.

#6  You feel helpless and hopeless when you gain weight.  When thin people gain weight, she says, they don't see it as a catastrophe.  They have confidence that if they watch what they eat for a few days and increase their exercise, the scales will go back down.  I'm not sure I agree with this.  I've known thin people who were terrified of gaining weight.  Which is why this "the way thin people think" schtick is more than a little suspect --being thin doesn't automatically equate to mental and emotional health.  But the idea of not panicking over minor fluctuations in weight is a good one.

#7 You focus on issues of unfairness: i.e., it's not fair that some people can eat whatever they want and I can't.  This one didn't resonate for me at all. I might occasionally unconsciously be affected by this, but I can't think of a time I've "focused" on it, or made a decision to eat or not eat because of it.

#8  You stop dieting once you lose weight, rather than continuing to eat healthy food in healthy amounts.  I'm not there yet so I don't know if this will be a problem for me.  But since I'm in this to become more healthy, it's at least a point that makes sense. 

So that's the (very) quick overview.  Like I said, there are a few of her points that interest me, so I'm going to read those chapters.  But I have my doubts about the system overall.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

four-letter word: healthy? what is that?

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the hard things we sometimes have to do to be healthy, or clear our clutter, or finish a project, or whatever.  That post has generated more traffic than any other one I've written in the eight years I've been blogging.  None of the newcomers have commented, so I'm not sure what the attraction is-- are they agreeing? finding it inspiring? pointing it out as an example of the kind of thinking that leads to capitalist materialist world dominance? who knows.

But I'm feeling the need to explain myself a little better, from both sides of the thin-ness issue, because it's a fairly contentious one around the web.  On the one hand, you have the socially-acceptable opinion that thin is good, thin is healthy, thin is desirable, everyone should be thin.  But there is growing evidence that "fat" is not always the cause of poor health (correlation is not the same thing as cause), and-- especially for certain body types-- being over the limits of BMI or physician-waiting-room charts is not necessarily unhealthy. 

I think you can go too far either way-- 'I only eat 800 calories a day but I'm a size zero! it's so worth it!' on the one hand, 'unbridled splurging until you can't get out of your chair' on the other.  It's clear to me that our society is overly-obsessed with thin-ness.  I have no desire to participate in that.  I want a middle ground between I-can-only-have-two-bites-of-food-for-lunch, and I-just-ate-that-entire-bag-of-whole-grain-baked-tortilla-chips. 

For me, with my body type and the active life our family leads, I'm unhealthier than I want to be, and that is in large part due to the 25 pounds I've gained in the past ten years (including ten during my first year back at school last year).  And more important than that (to me), my cholesterol is way too high (since I already wrote an entire post about that, I'll skip it here).

So I'm trying to ignore the larger controversy, which I can feel practically pressing down on my head as people read that last post, and just navigate my way to my own version of healthy.  It will probably not be the same as your version of healthy.  That's one thing that is becoming clear not only to me but to medical science-- at one time the fact that some particular treatment worked for 80% of white males meant that it became standard treatment for everyone.  But now there is much higher recognition that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.  There is no single version of healthy.

Ha.  I still haven't made it to the Beck diet.  Another setup post.  You're going to be so disappointed when I finally get there because it's not all that interesting.

Oh! and Happy Valentine's Day!  If you don't have a sweetheart, I'm adopting you for the day.  Go for a walk, enjoy some fresh air, and know that I am grateful you stopped by today to read my drivel.

Monday, February 13, 2012

four-letter word: more than you wanted to know

Okay, sorry for the delay, but I had the migraine from hell on Friday and it dribbled over into Saturday.  But even feeling peaky, I managed to take MadMax out for his first driving lesson Saturday night.  We went to the community college parking lot (lighted, and no one there on Saturday night, so lots of wide open space).  Did the two-minute overview to locate the gas pedal, brakes, gear shift, odometer, and let him go.  He did just fine.  My car has all-wheel-drive, which  makes for somewhat tricky turning for a newbie-- I didn't think about that, or we would have used Dean's car which is front wheel drive.  But it was a successful first time out.

Because:  he started driver's ed today.  How does this happen?  One minute, they're having non-stop nerf dart gun wars in the basement and cackling like loons, and then the next time you turn around, they refuse to do anything that doesn't involve sitting sullenly in front of a screen and they're DRIVING.  *shakes head* *feels old*

However, that's not today's topic.  I said I would talk about the book I'm reading (or was reading before I  misplaced it in the move), The Beck Diet Solution.  Julie has been reading Allen Carr, and when I was reading about that on Amazon, the Beck book kept popping up in the recommendations.  I figured since she was reading Carr, I would try a different one just for variety, and plus the Beck book has 103 out of 133 5-star reviews (5 stars is Amazon's highest rating)(does anyone not know that?  I'm such an Amazon addict that I can't imagine not knowing that, but I'm explaining it anyway because I'm helpful like that.)

So you're probably already shaking your head with disgust because we've already established that I don't diet, none of us likes diets, we thumb our noses at our society's obsession with thin-ness, we cheekily turn a blind eye to all that garbage.  But, the Beck diet "solution" isn't that kind of diet-- there are no food recommendations anywhere in the book, and no rules about what you can or can't eat.  The point is to change the way you think about food.

So I figured what the heck, it can't hurt to read it.  (Don't go buy it yet-- I have at least two and possibly three posts planned about it, so wait till you read them to see what you think.  It's an unusual book.  I'm only about a third of the way through it, and already it has both given me excellent, ummmm, food for thought, and also thoroughly pissed me off.)

The first strike against it is the subtitle:  "Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person."  It almost kept me from ordering the book.  What the heck?  It sounds like promoting thin-ness for the sake of thin-ness, like every thin person is smarter than someone who isn't thin; no matter what thin person you find, they will have enviable mental habits which you will want to emulate.  Which sounds like an express ticket to anorexia or bulimia, if you ask me.  I don't want to be thin at any cost, I want to feel more in charge of my eating.  And I want my cholesterol numbers to come down so I don't have to take drugs.

But the description of the book sounded more interesting than that, so I ordered it, and I'll tell you about it.  After you slog your way though this setup post.

Like many people who have gradually gained weight through their adult life, I look at pictures of myself ten years ago -- when I was horrified that I weighed 145-- and I think, wow, I looked great.  Not tiny and not a size 6, but healthy and happy.  Why didn't I know I looked great back then?  which is a whole nother topic.

Beck's point, and she does have one, is that it's not just that thin people eat less than people who are heavier, it's that they think differently about food.  I hadn't ever really thought about this.  I have relatively healthy tastes -- I don't mind eating vegetables (as long as they're not overcooked), I like salad, I love fruit, I like whole grain bread and pasta and brown rice.  I almost never eat packaged foods like Twinkies and CheezWhiz and ChipsAhoy. I get the late afternoon urge for something sweet, but usually a couple of Rolos handles it.  I don't have dessert every night.

So I didn't think I needed to think differently about food, I just thought I needed to eat less food.  As I've said before, I have a hard time stopping eating once I've started.  I tend to just keep going until it's gone.  I'm often over-stuffed, even when I've eaten healthy food.  But since ten years ago I weighed *coughs* *sneezes large number* pounds less and I was for the most part eating exactly the same as I do now, it hadn't occurred to me that I needed to think differently about food.  I just thought my metabolism had slowed, so the pounds were packing on.

So she's got me thinking about this.  (I'll save exactly how she wants us to think differently for the next couple of posts.)  I'm not entirely convinced, as you'll see.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

four-letter word: the February update

The four-letter word is diet, and it's a four-letter word because I can't diet.  If anything has been proved to me over the past month or two, it's that diets don't work for me.  So... moving on.

But I'm still fitting in my clothes better, and feeling better, and (although I haven't weighed myself in the last couple of weeks) I think I've lost a few pounds.  I think I've figured out why.  You remember I joined Fitocracy at the beginning of the year as a way to track my workouts.  Now that I've been there for awhile, I feel like I should put "workouts" in quotations marks, because my piddly little attempts at exercise are pathetic compared to what many of these people do.

But you know, I'm fifty, not 24, and what I'm doing is working for me, so to hell with it.  I just keep doing my little thing.  At least I'm consistent.

Anyway.  The other thing I am is crafty.  I'm an expert at figuring out how to work the system.  So as I've tried various exercises that I've seen online somewhere, or in a magazine, or whatever, I've "tracked" them on Fitocracy and figured out how to maximize my points.  I don't cheat-- I never log something I didn't do (well, except one time by accident)-- but I don't feel bad about choosing activities that maximize points and minimize time and effort. This morning, I spent about 35 minutes on my workout (20 minutes yoga and 15 minutes floor exercises) and it was 225 points.  My standard yoga and abs routine when I first started was about 105.

But what the heck do you know--  There's a reason those exercises are worth more points.  I can feel myself getting stronger and more resilient as I do the exercises that earn more points-- and not just a subtle change, but a big change.  My body is starting to feel entirely different.  I'm very psyched about this.  (and in case you're interested, the exercises with more points are lunges, planks and side planks).   

And then, even though I haven't been dieting at all other than trying not to over-indulge, I've started to notice that my clothes fit better.  I think I might actually be losing weight.  (I'll let you know next week, I wanted to wait awhile before weighing myself again, because if it's bad news, it depresses me.)  I read somewhere (comments at ReFab?) that muscle burns calories faster than other types of tissue, so maybe this is actually working.  Or maybe I still weigh the same and I'm just toning up.  Who knows.  It feels good, I'll take it.

Which is a good thing, because I'm too embarrassed to do the treadmill with a house full of construction workers.  I haven't done it since we moved in.

The continuing saga of the shower:  when the tile guy got here, he discovered that the flange around the edge of the fiberglass pan sloped down (funneling water away from the drain) instead of up (toward the drain).  We had to special order the pan because of the dimensions of the shower, so he called the plumber, who called the company, who said the pan is defective and they're sending us another one.  Which will get here ON THE TWENTIETH.  No I am not making that up.


I had originally intended to talk about what I learned from the Beck Diet book, but this went on longer than I expected.  Maybe I will do that tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2012

the new john

Well, I was going to write something interesting (I'm sure it would have been interesting), but I sat down and started reading through all of your blogs and used up all my time.  But I am not sorry because dang I love reading all your blogs.  Excuse me while I exude sparkly warm girlfriend feelings. 

So here is our main news, and the rest will have to wait:  we now have TWO, count them, one....two!! functioning toilets at our house.  Woo-hoo!  Especially appreciated since the one that was working before was in our bedroom, which meant that every construction worker who spent more than a half day here came up to use it.  I am happy.  I will even give you a picture, even though there is nothing fancy about this toilet. 

OK, when I went to take the commode photo off the SD card, I remembered there were pictures there from the other day, too, so you get three.  This turned out not to be such a lame post after all.

Here is what we see when we walk out of our bedroom (from the landing at the top of the stairs):

The dark beam across the top third is what we had to add to support the roof, which was starting to sag.  Visibly.

Remember the other day when I told you it was hard to take pictures of the things that are cool about this house?  Well, the things that are cool about this house are almost all outside the house, and they don't photograph well through the windows, as you can see in that picture.  I had completely forgotten that after I took that one I went out on the deck and took an unobstructed picture, so here is that one, too (you'll note we don't have much snow this year, much to the chagrin of MadMax, who is mad for skiing at the moment).

and voila, the new toilet:

hey! you wanted pictures! :-)

Saturday, February 04, 2012


This is one of those weeks that you look back and can't quite believe you survived.  Thank goodness a girlfriend invited us over for a Mexican themed dinner and I suspect there will be margaritas.  I never drink more than one, but as you all know, that's enough to get me giggly and that is definitely what I need tonight.

Anyway.  Before that happens, I will tell you about my week.  Monday was the second week of my only class this semester.  I think I told you I decided to drop back to part time this semester, so I have one class and 3 credits of thesis hours.  The class is called "Whales and Shaggy Dogs," and we will be reading many (long) novels that comment in an ironic way on the fact that they are novels-- meta-novels, I think you could call them, although he hasn't used that term.  I like the professor and the reading list is interesting, but a bit of a challenge.  LOTS of pages to read this semester.  First up, Tristram Shandy, which I read 25 years ago but remember almost nothing about.

Every other Thursday I'll drive down to talk to my thesis advisor.  I'm feeling OK about it at the moment.  My goal is to get my research done the first half of the semester, and have the first draft of the written part of my thesis done by the end of the semester (which only has to be about 35-40 pages since it's a two-part project, part of it will be an addition to our website).  It seems do-able to me, and it's also something that interests me, so it looks like it could be a great semester, and doesn't feel nearly as overwhelming as last semester.

OK, I got out of order there.  Back to Tuesday, when the nice man from Lowe's came and installed the dishwasher.  Still no washer and dryer (I'm headed to the laundromat later today), but at least we have a dishwasher now.  The construction guys are still here, so we can't really put anything in the garage or the furnace room (which has about 5x8 ft of storage).  So the unpacking is going depressingly slowly.  I'm about half done with the kitchen.  I wish you could all come over for dinner because there is WAY too much food in this house.  We had a pantry at the other house, and none here, so we will have to eat many meals before everything will fit.

I think once the backlog of food is gone I won't miss having a pantry.  When I was at the grocery store, I could never remember what was in there, so I just kept buying more stuff, and the stuff in the pantry just backed up.  It doesn't work for someone as absent-minded as me.  I think we will do better to have just a few staples on hand.

Dean left on the 6 a.m. flight this morning for a week of deep sea fishing with his dad.  So this week it will be MadMax and me plus all the boxes that need to be unpacked and the construction crew.  But they are done with all the major stuff, so it should go just fine.  They have to finish drywalling in the garage, and the tile guy is (finally) coming on Monday to do our shower, and then the plumber will come. 

I just looked back and it appears I've never told you the saga of our shower.  Not that it's very interesting.  Originally we were going to have a full-tile shower with a glass block outer wall.  It was my favorite thing we were doing and it was going to be gorgeous (and expensive.  Dean was not all that excited about it.)  But then the structural engineer came out and said that the house would fall in if we did that.  So we had to scale back (literally) to just tile on the walls, fiberglass pan, and regular glass door.  Damn.  The upside is that it is way less expensive now, which is good because the engineer also told us about all the beams and joists we needed so that the house wouldn't blow over in a windstorm.  It's entirely possible that we should have just razed the house and started over, but too late now. 

First half of this was written last night, finished this morning.  I know I promised you interesting posts.  I think they are still coming but this house thing is so unsettling that it's hard to get anything done, even just the basics.