a girl and her boy

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Category Archives: struggles/challenges

Food Blues and Temper Tantrums

As you may have gathered from the last several weeks, I’ve undergone some changes in eating habits and food prep. It’s been hard. The author of The Gluten-Free Bible wrote that going gluten-free is, in a sense, a process of mourning. She’s got that right.

Cooking is something I’ve always enjoyed. I prided myself on cooking so much in high school that people often gave me cookbooks on gift-giving occasions. Learning new ways of preparing healthy meals and favorite goodies that are gluten-free has been a major challenge, especially so when the boy and his voracious appetite eats up most of the safe food in the house like last weekend. That ended badly.

I was already frustrated and tired from reworking recipes and finding new and creative ways of cooking lean meat and veggies while going through the grain-free part of the voyage. Then, come Saturday night, I realized after waking from an impromptu nap late in the day that there wasn’t anything that was safe for me to eat in the house.

Gabe often goes in to the office on the weekend to work on various personal projects for his professional advancement and such was the case on this particular evening. When he got home at around 7:30, I started whining about how hungry I was, how late it was for grocery shopping and cooking, and the challenge of finding gluten-free, grain-free, onion-free, and seafood-free food in the city.

Got that? Four big food no-no’s. It was hard enough when it was just the onion and seafood allergy. Now add gluten intolerance. It’s a nightmare!

Always ready to solve my problems, Gabe opened his laptop and researched places we can go. He found a Vietnamese restaurant in Harvard Square that looked good for dinner. We scurried out into the cold rainy evening to catch the T. On the way out to Cambridge, he told me his plan. I nearly cried.

One of the things I’m working on is being brave with trying new foods and cuisines. I grew up in a home where money and food was in short supply and it was a big deal to waste food. I learned quickly to eat only stuff I knew I liked because I’d be responsible for finishing everything on my plate no matter what. It discouraged exploration. That and my folks were not the best of cooks and the food was often over spiced, over or under cooked, and of a limited menu.

I had never eaten Vietnamese cuisine before and there was no way I wanted to struggle through making sure it was onion, gluten, grain, and seafood free only to find out I didn’t like it. That would make a bad night worse.

As we approached the Charles/MGH stop, we decide to bend the grain-free guidelines a bit and go to Flatbread in Somerville. Flatbread is an all-natural and organic pizza restaurant. The pizzas are cooked in an open wood clay hearth, the kitchen is open, and they list all the farms that their stuff comes from on a chalkboard. And best of all, they have gluten-free pizza crust. It’s awesome. It’s delicious. It’s awesomely delicious.

We arrived in Somerville and picked our path through the crowd and around the big puddles and snow banks. I held on desperately to my smile and tried hard to keep up my end of the conversation, but I was too lost in hunger, frustration over my new eating challenges, and anxiety over the normal problems of ordering food with a plethora of food allergies to be successful.

The Somerville Flatbread location shares an open building with a bowling alley. Over the crashing pins and dropped balls, we put our names down on the list for a table and learned that it would be an hour and forty-five minutes. It was already 8 pm.

Back out on the street, in the middle of Somerville, facing a two hour wait for food and looking up and down a busy main street with what seemed like twenty or more purveyors of fine food with nothing safe for me to eat, I melted down. A feet stomping in rain puddles, fist pumping, sobbing, thoughts racing temper tantrum ensued.

Gabe offered to try and find another place for us to eat, or for us to go home and relax, but that didn’t really solve the problem. My problem was that it’s now incredibly hard to eat out without a lot of preparation and that I need to be assured that I’ll always have something reasonable to eat at home, and I was famished. As the rain poured and collected in growing puddles, we discussed the issue when I’d come down some and found solutions.

Back at Flatbread for dinner that night and I enjoyed a gluten-free personal pizza with the backdrop of a rare winter thunder and lightening storm.

Life has been so much easier on the home front since folding the grains back in and learning some tips and tricks to cooking and shopping gluten-free. Let’s hope it gets easier on the dining front soon with new coping strategies.

And with that, I’m off to do some menu planning and grocery shopping.

 

 

The Power of Intentions – Make Your Life Happen!

“Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment… this day… is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day… each moment of this day… a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity.” Dan Custer.

I seem to have something to learn about the power of intentions and positive thinking as the universe has put opportunity after opportunity to think about it, engage in it, and learn from it in my path lately. The quotation at the beginning of this post was in my email inbox one morning earlier this week. On Sunday at church, the message was about harnessing your power and the power of the Universe to set and achieve intentions, and the chapter in my manual on writing just happens to be talking about intentions and goals as well. Okay, Universe, here we go.

I have made much progress in life. I’m very happy with where I am and what’s in my life, in general. I have two postsecondary degrees in areas I am passionate about. I have a comfortable home and plenty of possessions to keep me entertained, progressing, and developing. I have health, youth, and energy to make big things happen. I’ve overcome some huge obstacles and learned many lessons about love, forgiveness, and faith.

Life isn’t over yet, and won’t be for many years if I have it my way, which means there is plenty left to learn and achieve. (I tell Gabe often that I want to live to be 120. He says that with technology and health advancements that it’s quite possible.)

After doing some financial planning with Gabe, I turned the page in the notebook to a fresh sheet and wrote down in concrete terms the things I am going to do in life. That’s right, no “maybe” or “someday” or “it would be nice if I could.” It’s all about “I will.”

Here is what I intend:

I will be financially independent and responsible.

This one is huge for me. I grew up in a family where money was always an issue. There was never enough of it and it was often misused. When I went off to college, having no real concept of how money worked, I got myself into credit card debt and constantly lived beyond my meager means. It took a long time and many hard lessons before I got myself out of debt, stabilized my finances, and learned how to manage money effectively. While teaching, I did very well to support myself and my former husband on my salary and somehow managed to save enough to live on for the first six months or so of living in Salem when I ventured out on my own after the separation. Now I’m in a financially stable committed relationship, but I wake up worrying at night about what would happen if something happened to Gabe, or if there were an even bigger economic upset. I am actively working on getting myself and our relationship set up so that we are individually, and as a couple, financially stable. I want to know that no matter what happens that we are going to be okay.

I will be professionally successful and secure in a teaching/editing/publishing position.

I want it and I’m working for it. It’ll happen.

I will obtain and maintain good health.

I reworded my usual goals because they were too narrow and I found myself constricted and limited. I have learned that if I focus my goals too much and organize things too well, then I “rebel” and don’t do it. I need flexibility and freedom to achieve goals, especially health related.

One big change I’ve made to work towards a lifetime of good health and physical strength is my “minimum” rule: it doesn’t matter what it is or how much, but I must do something physical every day. I can go on a long walk. I can do few sets of crunches and push-ups. I can go to the gym and lift weights. The goal is to move my body every day. This way of thinking has helped me get up and move every day for the last 19 days. I’m close to the 21-days to form a habit!

Beyond that, I have some very specific running goals for the next 24 months. I had to put off my races this past year because of the health situation, but now that I’m on the mend, it’s training time again. So, my general goals as I haven’t set up a training schedule or found races yet is to run a handful of 5k races this spring and summer, and by fall run a 10k race. Then over the next fall and winter, pump it up to half-marathon distance for the late spring or early summer next year and keep pushing for my first marathon in the fall/winter of 2012. That gives me, I hope, a decent amount of time to build up miles and strength for a marathon. Running-readers, what do you think? Prior to the illness, I ran 4-6 miles a day 3 to 4 times a week and long runs of 7-10 miles at my best. Since then, I’ve managed to get in 7-12 miles a week. Not much, I know, but it’s been something.

 

I miss running outside! I can't wait until it warms up.

As far as food goes, I’ve had so many different ideas on how to achieve health through food and it’s brought me to extreme decisions in the past. My new and best idea yet: moderation! Oldies are the goodies. I do fairly well getting in a fair number of fruits in a day, and I’m getting better with veggies. I’ve been a whole grain person for years now and had a period where I thought I wanted to dump them from the diet completely. Then I had to go off them on doctor’s orders for a few weeks. Now that I’m healthier and feeling good without the dairy and gluten, and thinking long and hard about my needs, what I want, and about world health trends, I’ve decided to keep them. That’s for me. Everyone makes their own decisions based on their needs and how their body responds. Do the best by your own body, folks! Treat it well!

I’m also going to start yoga! Woo-hoo! I got a great deal on 7 classes in Cambridge through Yelp. I can’t wait to have a yoga booty.

I will live a long and happy life.

This whole post is about intentions. I intend to be happy every day to the best of my ability. I’m choosing it. The long part, well, I’m hoping that by a positive attitude, a fulfilling and invigorating career, and a healthy lifestyle, that comes with some luck.

I will write and publish at least one novel.

I’ve been tapping away at the keyboard for at least 30 minutes each day on a new novel idea this year. I don’t know how good it is, but it’s progressing. You gotta write a novel to publish a novel. The best writing is rewriting and revision. It’ll come.

* * * * *

So what about you? What are your intentions? What are you going to make happen with your life?

Happy Thursday, folks!

Frustration has replaced Elation.

Who knew that something so simple and pleasure-filled as making chocolate chip cookies would stress me out so much now that I’m doing the gluten-free thing? I haven’t been able to get a single one of the last three batches to come out right and I’m ready to jump out the window. I won’t though; I’ll have a nice glass of red instead.

In January, I had a conversation with my gastroenterologist over the phone that brought my world down around my ears:  no grains, in addition to no gluten. What? How am I supposed to live without oatmeal on the cold winter mornings? I questioned the Universe.  What am I supposed to do with all my bread making supplies? What am I supposed to do with my love of baking cookies? Luckily, a few weeks later, I had another conversation and he explained what he meant:  no grains, including gluten, for a few weeks while my insides heal from the damages. I’ll always be gluten free from now on, but I can eat whole grains again. Phew. That’s something I can deal with. I’ve been without grains in any form for five weeks and feel better than ever, so I decided to start rolling them back in a little at a time. Starting with the cookies.

They are crushing me right now.

Normally, my chocolate chip cookies are picture-perfect:  round, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, 2-1/2 to 3 inches across, and an even golden color. These ones are about 3-1/2 to four inches across, flat, and dark. What is a girl to do?

I’m using the classic Toll House cookie recipe that I memorized when I was seven:  2 sticks butter, 3/4 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2-1/4 cups flour, and a package of chocolate chips. Now, instead of the wheat flour, I’m using a blend of potato starch, tapioca flour, and brown rice flour as my all-purpose. Does it really make that big a difference? Who knew?

This photo is by "Soy Free Cook" on AllRecipes. This is what my cookies normally look like.

When I found this flour mix, the book said I could use it cup for cup in place of regular flour. Have any of you readers experience with gluten-free baking? What do you do? I am going out of my mind for some safe chocolate chip cookies.

Heeeelp! Please!


 

P. S. I have a picture of my hideous cookies but the wireless Internet isn’t working with me right now. I’ll update the post tomorrow (or later tonight) when I have a better connection with the photo.

Real quick…

So, I made my “big” post of the day this morning, but I wanted to share a few experiences and thoughts from the day.

career thoughts

I’ve been working steadily on updating my teaching portfolio and resume for the coming school year. I’m really excited to step back into a classroom! While I’m hoping and praying for a teaching position this fall, I’m also looking at the Boston Teacher Residency program, a part of the Urban Teacher Residency national program. Gabe loves living in a city, and I don’t mind it, so I think going into a program that specializes in urban education, and provides dual licensure in SPED or ESL is on deck. Plus, in this economy, it would be foolish to put all my hopes on a regular classroom position. I’m looking into alternative routes to restarting my career. The program is a 3-year commitment. Through this program, I would earn the following:

  • Master’s degree from UMass Boston (MA #2 on deck?)
  • MA Initial Teacher License and dual licensure in SPED or ESL (this would be sweet!)
  • $11,800 stipend for living expenses (currently earning $0)
  • AmeriCorps Education Award for those eligible (need to figure out what this is)

I already have a MA degree, but getting a stipend, a dual licensure, networking in the Boston schools, and forgiveness of one-third of the program for each year I work in the system after would be well worth the time. I’m going to attend an information session at the beginning of February to learn more.

Alternately, I’m thinking about the Teach for America program. I know some people who have completed that program with great success following.

What do you think?


health thoughts

Stupid cold germs! Gabe was sick all last week with a cold and today it caught up with me. I didn’t notice it until about an hour ago when I woke up from an impromptu nap with a congested chest and nose. The last time I got viral/germ sick, I had to take a z-pack and get chest x-rays. Got to love asthma and allergies during cold season; every cold could be a knock-down drag out fight for health.

Further, I fell off the grain-free path today. I had a handful of gluten-free grain chips. Boy am I feeling it! My abdomen hates me right now. What better motivation to stay on the straight-and-narrow is there?

Other than the cold and abdominal discomfort, all is well. I’m going back to tweaking resumes and online teaching positions database profiles. I use School Spring and Teachers-Teachers, in addition to scouring Craigslist, Monster, and individual district/school websites. Do you teach? Are you applying for positions? What national or local databases do you use?

This Year's Theme: Reclaiming the Past and Simplifying.

I’ve been mellowing out some this year and have reclaimed much of the past that I, at one point, wanted to leave behind. A few weeks ago I wrote about reclaiming my family name. Well, today, I reclaimed my previous blog, The Life of a Busy Little Bee, in the form of importing all those old posts to this space, and will be deleting it. The archives expanded by about 300 posts in just a few minutes. I also decided to simplify and I imported the posts from the health blog I started and have deleted it. Really, I can barely keep up with one, let alone two blogs! 🙂

I’ll get around to updating tags and categories eventually.

Happy reading!

New Food Adventure


So, I just got a phone call and the conversation essentially went like this (creative license used liberally to condense):

Doc: “Full results are in. Grains are irritating your system. Stop eating them.”
Me: “Um, do you mean going gluten free?”
Doc: “Nope. Stop eating all grains, today if possible.”

Whelp, I guess it’s time I embrace this whole “no grain” thing. Good thing I was planning on having a salad for lunch and not a sandwich on that expensive gluten-free bread I bought this weekend.

On to a new food adventure.

Now what to do with that gluten-free but grain-filled banana bread sitting on my counter calling my name?

Phew. It's finally done.

Wow. There is nothing quite like having an undiagnosed abdominal condition as I’ve previously described and then getting the stomach flu.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

I’m better now. Finally. I’ve been nursing myself back to health with fruit smoothies and blended veggie soups and lots of books and movies. Nothing much to report as far as play and other stuff. But soon!

Already missed a day.

Crumb. I missed posting yesterday. But, I was sicker than I’d been in a while yesterday. I was running errands in Boston and had to call Gabe to come and get me because I could barely breath or move because of the waves of nausea, the vomiting, and the intense pain I was in. When I got home, I collapsed on the bed and the tears fell out of my eyes silently because chest heaving sobbing like I wanted to do would have hurt my abdomen too much.

So, I think I may have an excuse, though I am very disappointed that I am a day down already on January 5. Later in the day I’ll have a “real” post for the blog.

*Edit:  Wrote about this crumby day on my health blog.

Truth-telling: the Story Behind the Blog

Every journey has a back story, a compulsion for pursuing it. Here’s mine.

My mom had weight loss surgery two weeks ago; she had her stomach stapled. She spent the last two years preparing mentally and physically for it. For as long as I can remember, she’s been big. It’s the family culture. The women, and some of the men, on both sides get big and fast. My brother is big. My sisters are big. My aunts, uncles, and some of my older cousins are big. I love them all and I’m not saying this to be mean or to poke fun, I’m just being honest and telling the whole story. I genuinely hope to connect with them all on this journey and share the inspiration and struggle.

I was pretty normal sized all through high school and early college. Then I hit a period of intense stress and conflict and got big myself. I was living in an upperclassmen apartment style complex on campus and the only time people were around was when they were eating and I didn’t want to be alone. So I ate with them. I gained 4o pounds in about 2 months. I went from 140 to 180. My clothes didn’t fit. I started hiding myself from the world in embarrassment, and I failed most of my classes that semester.

It took me two years of sensible eating and moderate exercise to work the weight off. It took even longer for me to reconfigure my self-image. I continued to think of myself as this awkward overweight girl with nothing worthwhile to hold anyone’s interest. I thought I was boring, frumpy, and not worth the time for social engagements. This damaged a lot of relationships, most importantly, the one I have with myself. I still struggle with this perception. I’m working on it.

Close to two years ago now, I knew that the romantic relationship I was in wasn’t working and it was stressing me out. This time, instead of eating out of emotional need, I went the other way and starved myself. I ate about 500 calories every 2-3 days and that was it. I was manic. I was not eating. I was exercising heavily. I talked fast and moved even faster. It was scary but I felt on top of the world and in control. I lost my winter weight, and slid down to the lowest weight I had been in my adult life.

Now here I am, I’m back in therapy for childhood experiences and a mood disorder, berating myself for gaining weight again, currently at 166, and oscillating between periods of starvation and binging.

It’s time I grabbed the reins and halted this runaway life, habits, and perceptions. That’s where this blog comes in. I tried for years to keep a food and exercise journal in a notebook. Each time I ended up ripping out the pages and tossing the discarded notebook in a drawer. I can’t do that with a blog and I need the accountability for real change.

And that’s what I hope to really accomplish here. Real change for a lifetime. More than that, I want to be real about the struggles of coping with a deeply embedded mood disorder and it’s effects on health, both eating and exercise; I want to be real about life and everything that goes along with it. I want to provide a friend in the quest to live healthier, happier lives that will improve day by day. I want to give hope, an honest accounting of the day-to-day challenges, the insights and knowledge I will gain through this public project and from the resources I seek out to help along the way. This is about confronting the truth of who I am and the perceptions and habits that have landed me here in this uncomfortable place, and the greater truth of how our society and family histories contribute. This is about facing forward and making one small step, one day at a time.

I welcome you on this journey.

So mote it be.

Holiday Attitude Adjustment

Like many people, the holidays stress me out. They remind me of the terrible things in my past that I just don’t want to remember. I woke up this morning just wanting it to be sometime in mid-January. Each year I look to holiday decorations and making cold-weather gifts to perk me up, but it’s just not working as well as I need it to this year. So, I’m stepping it up. It’s time for a holiday attitude adjustment.

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