Finally learning


This is the vegan quiche I make but with no crust. From Connoisseurus Veg:

A surprising thing happened between last Wednesday and this Wednesday. I’ve been working with a nutritionist for a couple months thanks to a program through work. I started at about the same time I started training for my half-marathon. At our first meeting we went through my goals and efforts I’ve made before in terms of weight management. I explained that I don’t want to make any changes I can’t maintain. I don’t want to measure food. I don’t want to count calories. I’ve already eliminated a lot of the food pyramid just by being vegan and I want to figure out how to be a healthier vegan in hopes that will also adjust my weight. I’m not aiming to lose 40 lbs. I just want to lose the excess I’ve been carrying around…maybe 10 or 15? But I’m feeling happy with myself generally and I’m willing to take small steps. We came up with a general plan and one of those step was to weigh myself each week and update her with the number. I like to be held accountable in this way.

I’ve been doing that every week for a few months. The number would go up a pound, down a pound. Up two pounds, down a pound. In the meantime, I was running, doing core exercises and taking dance classes. I was flummoxed that the weight wasn’t dropping but also not dwelling on it a great deal. I knew that I ate a lot of bread. I snacked on cookies. I ate my vegan ice cream. It’s not as if I was limiting myself in some great way, so maybe I shouldn’t be flummoxed about the scale. In the meantime, my clothes were fitting a touch better. That was progress.

At the second meeting, the nutritionist took my measurements in order to have more than one method of tracking change in my body since the scale wasn’t doing much. Shortly after this meeting, I had my yearly visit with my nurse practitioner, where I learned my triglycerides had dropped by over 55 points and my weight by 5 lbs. All the other numbers were normal, too. I took this as a terrific development and more important than scale numbers, considering the scale is vanity more than anything else. The numbers for what’s going on inside my body are certainly more important than the number on the scale.

I met with the nutritionist last week. The scale had gone up a pound, I believe. I had kept a very general food diary the week before, at her request, and I was to bring that with me when we met. Looking through my food diary, it was clear why I was having trouble with the scale. I had french fries twice that week. And a vegan pizza. And some tortilla chips with refried beans. And bagels almost every morning with avocado. She took my measurements and I had lost an inch on my waist and hips, which was great news and explained why my clothes were fitting better. She went through and circled all the places where I had eaten refined carbs (anything made with flour). There were many. Nearly every day. She said, I bet if you cut out refined carbs, you’ll see the scale change. I had a million questions. I’m going to lunch today and was planning to get a sandwich. What if I get it in a spinach wrap? She informed me that wraps—particularly wraps from restaurants—are some of the worst forms of bread you can eat because of how they are made and the ingredients that keep them “edible” for a long time at restaurants. Okay, what about breakfast. I eat bagels because I like savory breakfasts. I have a vegan quiche I make with potatoes and leeks but it has a crust. It that bad? She suggested making it without the crust. Okay. Good idea. I told her that part of my struggle is I don’t prepare foods for the week so I’ll get home and just snack on something salty. We came up with a plan for that.

The following day I had a bagel for breakfast like usual but I cooked lentils, potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker overnight and had that for lunch. During the day I snacked on olives and artichoke hearts and nuts. One night, I made my crustless quiche along with some steamed veggies and my vegan broccoli and cheeze soup. I was eating SO MUCH food all week. Quiche and an apple with peanut butter for breakfast. Artichoke hearts for a mid-morning snack. Lentils, a bowl of soup AND a salad of tomatoes/artichoke hearts/olives. A banana for an afternoon snack. Maybe some more lentils in the evening (I LOVE my lentils/potatoes/carrots). Every day was like this. Some of my colleagues who are trying to lose weight were cutting calories by eating small amounts of food. I was eating so much. I felt slightly self-conscious at lunch, sitting at my computer surrounded by bowls of food.

I woke on Wednesday morning to do my weekly weigh in and the number on the scale dropped by 4 lbs. It’s a digital scale and it’s known to show different numbers based on its location, so I moved it repeatedly, thinking it couldn’t be right, but the number did not change. 4 pounds simply by cutting down (not even eliminating because we know how I feel about eliminating) refined carbs. I don’t expect that kind of a weight drop each week because my appetite changes from day to day, too, and there was at least one day when I ran last week and then had an apple and peanut butter for dinner because I wasn’t that hungry. That doesn’t happen terribly often…more common is me eating all day long. But knowing that such a change is possible even while eating a lot of food is heartening.


Running while…not a strong-looking man?


The ever phallic town monument at sunset.

As much as I love fall (my favorite season!), it has some drawbacks. One is that it gets darker earlier. Last night, I got home from work just before five, ate a vegan cheese pizza and then waited for about an hour before getting ready to run. I knew that if I ate something, I’d have to wait a while before leaving, and during the summer, when it’s daylight until 9pm, that’s no big deal. As I sat in the sunroom with Spence and it got darker outside (hastened along by the fact that it was overcast), he said, “I thought you were going to go running?”

“I am,” I said. “I can’t go now because I’ll probably throw up the food I just ate.”

“Well, I don’t like you going running when it’s dark.”

I told him I’d have to keep in mind that the season is changing and maybe go right after work, rather than coming home for dinner first. I told him my path and what time I should be expected home.

I left the house, walked to the end of the street and headed to the downtown area. One of the reasons I feel reasonably comfortable with this route is precisely because there are people and houses and activity. As I made my way through a stretch of street, I moved from the sidewalk to the road because there were walkers in front of me. I passed an elderly lady and then I saw a group of young punks (in their 20s, I’d say) up ahead, so I stayed on the street. When I ran passed them, one said “Hi,” and I responded in kind, and another said, “Go back to the woods!” Now, I don’t even know what this means. I told Spence it reminds me of the riddle, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? This version is, if someone tries to insult you, and you don’t understand the insult, have they actually insulted you? Regardless, it was clear they were not part of the welcoming committee.

I continued my run, turning up a stretch of road that has fewer homes but a bit of traffic and a sidewalk to stay on. I had in mind my where I needed to get to in order to reach two miles, before turning around. But as I headed that way, I saw two guys crossing the street, coming over to the sidewalk. Normally I would have just continued running past them, but something about the way they carried themselves, they way they were dressed (shaved heads and one was wearing a wife beater, I think…), and that fact that one group of guys I’d passed had already been obnoxious, I thought, you know what, self? This is as good a place as any to turnaround. So I ran up to a light pole and touched it (to make it seem like that was my goal and that I wasn’t randomly turning around from these guys in mid-run), and altered my path a bit.

When I got home, I told Spence what had happened and he was quickly pissed off. We live in a town where our town’s state representative recently withdrew from her reelection campaign because of racists threats she was receiving (she’s African-American). In one of the stories I read about that situation, it was noted that Vermont is 96% white, or something incredible. He told me he doesn’t like me running at night and he also doesn’t want me running in the country.

This, of course, is a problem, because I have a 12-mile route to run on Sunday morning and it definitely goes into country territory. I tell you, 12 miles is a hard distance to map in this town without incorporating countryside. I actually look forward to these runs because it is so cool and quiet. Hardly a person around. When I told Spence that I can’t avoid the country when running long distances and that I didn’t think it would be a problem, he asked me something along the lines of What if you run past a group of Nazis when you’re out in a remote area? Remember, this state is 96% white.

A bit extreme, but I get his point. The fact is, I’ve been quite privileged to have few problems when I’m out and about, and that probably leads to bit of complacency, or a feeling of it won’t happen to me.

But there’s also not a lot to do about the situation if I want to keep running. I have a traveler’s size mace spray arriving today, so that will make me a bit more confident when I’m out alone. I thought back to the self-defense course I took with Cyd to see if I could remember some of the moves they suggested. But that assumes one attacker—I hadn’t really thought about two or more attackers until I saw the two guys coming down the sidewalk when I decided to change my path. I always assumed I could take one person (and that may be assuming too much), but more than one…?

It’s a dark place to go for such an enjoyable activity. And I particularly enjoy running alone. I guess it’s just a matter of staying alert and being as prepared as possible (while assuming the best of people).

Meandering thoughts


Sacred spaces and critters.

I keep coming up with blog ideas and putting them aside, so this one post is going to cover a few thoughts/ideas that have been percolating.

First, I’ve started a hip-hop dance class and this one goes all year. I was going to take tap again but it was scheduled for a day that I can’t attend regularly. Already hip-hop feels like a better fit. Moving the entire body to a beat is much easier for me than moving just my heels and toes. There is the possibility of a recital at the end of the year. The coach said most adult class coaches leave it up to the members—sometimes the members are self-aware enough to know that, No, this dancing should not be seen in public. We’ll see how things go as the year progresses. The idea of a recital for an adult hip-hop group seems patently ridiculous to me but if we look like we could be part of Beyonce’s dance team, then I’m happy to show that off. Maybe.

I subscribe to Lenny Letter but I trash most of their newsletters without reading them simply because I get so much mail. However this article called “I’m Over the Milestone 40th-Birthday Trip” caught my eye and it was a good read. The author had wanted to go on a milestone trip for her 40th but she’d lost her job and she and her husband kept making plans and then looking at the bank account and rethinking their plans. She decided to hold off on the trip because she’d be too busy thinking about money to enjoy it. Instead she invested in therapy to help her work through some things. The countries she wants to visit will still be there for future, non-milestone birthdays.

The story got me thinking about travel…big trips. I don’t do many of them. I haven’t been overseas in years. This is mostly due to money and the cost of travel/accommodations/boarding the dogs & guinea pigs. But I also feel pretty content traveling in my region and traveling home to see my mom. I love driving and even the very easy drive to Ohio on the turnpike through NY state is relaxing and interesting.

As I age, I try harder to find the sacred in every day. To make every day sacred. I try not to mentally segment my day too much…I want to enjoy my work life and my personal life with similar gusto. Because these things are not separate—they are life and they are time. This is why I always wanted to find a profession I loved—so much of our time is taken with work, I didn’t want it to be taken with work that I didn’t enjoy, or that I looked forward to escaping. I’ve been fortunate in finding that kind of work situation a couple of times in my life including now.

I’m trying to apply the same philosophy to travel. Simply because the trip is local doesn’t mean it can’t be as grand as visiting the Taj Mahal. Because this world is full of interesting sights/sounds/people/critters/events. It’s the practice of seeing the sacred and the unusual and the interesting in the sights one sees everyday.

I also find myself more and more interested in animal rescue, which would make traveling ever more difficult. Already with two dogs and two guinea pigs we find it expensive to board them all. It would only get worse with more animals. But my animals bring me such joy and delight…am I willing to limit long distance/international travel for more animal time? I don’t know. Sometimes I think so. But sometimes I think not.

I’m also trying to create sacred spaces in my evenings/weekends by regularly disconnecting from social media. At one point I thought I could only do that on vacations, but recently I realized, No, I could also do that when I’m away from the office. I’ve turned our bedroom into a device-free zone. I have a book light and an analog alarm clock so I leave my phone in the kitchen when I head to bed. I’ve been tuning out Facebook on the weekends. Once Friday night arrives, I make a vow not to look at Facebook again until the next time I go to work. Since I manage Facebook for my employer, I will respond to messages/comments on the work page, but, fortunately, that uses a separate app, so I don’t need to look at my personal FB, and I don’t need to look at the work page unless I get an alert that someone has messaged. I do still respond to Messenger if a friend reaches out and I’ll occasionally post to Instagram—Instagram is so much less a time suck for me than Facebook. But I’m really trying to take control and manage my social media exposure because sometimes it feels like over-exposure. It’s a lot of fun at the right dosage. I found this lovely quote from the writer Kahlil Gibran and thought it resonated with my efforts:

“Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.”

People ruining beautiful things is a bit of an overstatement for my purposes, but I see great beauty in living happily and quietly and disconnecting from the hum of online conversations. I should do it more often.

Old dog, new tricks

I’m supposed to be at tap class tonight but I’ve opted to stay in. I’m not feeling my best—at work it was all I could do to keep my eyes open—and judging by my intense sugar cravings (I’m about to make some vegan cupcake batter to eat by the spoonful), I’m guessing it’s hormonal. I have at least one day a month where I just want to sleep and eat and feel blah. I keep track on the calendar and it looks like it’s about this time.

I’m also feeling blue about mom. She just got out of the hospital on Monday. She was in for over three weeks. She’s happy to be home, but I worry about her. Especially now that my brother, who has been Superman in this situation, is getting ready to return to his life in Arizona, after extending his stay by a week. He sent me a text today assuring me that mom is becoming mom again, and I hope he’s right. It feels weird to not be there and helping her, but that’s how it’s been through most of her medical problems. I’ve always been there for a chunk of time, but never the entire time.

And I’m a single dog parent for the next week and a half, and that’s pretty exhausting. I feel fortunate that Spence works from home because so much of the dog care/house care falls on him. I don’t mow. I don’t take out the compost (most of the time). I don’t take out the trash. Hell, I don’t even make the coffee. He does so much. (And it’s not that I can’t do these things, thank you very much. He does them so I don’t even have to think about them.) When he’s gone, everything feels a bit chaotic and I’m constantly having to drive back to the house before I do other things in order to let the dogs out. (For example, I had a meeting in Lanesboro yesterday. I had to drive to Bennington to Williamstown (20 minutes), drive to Lanesboro from Bennington (35 minutes) and drive back (35 minutes). Typically, there isn’t that much back and forth because Spence is home. Plus I enjoy his company. But it’s good for him to get a break too.

But on to the old dogs, new tricks headline. Tap dancing is hard. And of course it is. Just because people make it look easy doesn’t mean it is. But what I mean is my 42-year-old body and brain cannot get shit together. I’ve learned one dance move (the Shirley Temple), which I can perform adequately, but I still have a hard time doing it quickly. Last week, I recorded a new step the teacher wanted me to learn. After I felt I had the Shirley Temple down, I decided to move on to the next move. I set the iPad on the counter in the kitchen and watched the instructor’s feet and I’ll tell you what, I could not mimic what she was doing. I could actually feel my brain struggling to understand…I could feel it trying to send the signals to me feet, and I could not get it. It was maddening. I could hear the beats and see the movement and could not replicate it. It includes just a little hop on my left foot and that hop was impossible for me to incorporate, which threw everything off. Then I realized this is what they mean when they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Like, my poor old brain/feet cannot comprehend this act that I’m trying to do that I’ve never before done in my life. Ever. There is no muscle memory, like there is for my classmates who danced when they were younger. We are starting from scratch together, me, my brain and my feet and it is a challenge.

I realize this is also why they say you should do new things as you get older…I can feel the synapses firing , feel new neural pathways forming as I watch the dance video over and over in an effort to do the same dance steps. It is humbling.

It’s also fun. When my brother and I were texting about my running efforts and I made a comment about my time not being as fast as I’d like, he said, the last time I checked, you weren’t making money off of this. It’s a good reminder to not be overly focused on certain outcomes, but to just keep getting out there and moving. I’ll apply it to dance, too. I’m unlikely to be as graceful and skillful as Gregory Hines, but it’s good to keep the body moving in news ways.