Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sea (or, Thank God for the Internet)

Many years ago I had an audio cassette recording of ocean sounds called "The Sea", produced by The Nature Recordings Reference Series. I LOVED that recording! I played it every night as I was going to sleep, and it helped my hyper mind calm down and unwind, helping me cut my usual 45 minutes to fall asleep into a much more reasonable 15 or 20.

Of course, as often happens, good things don't last. I can't exactly remember what brought about the demise of my beloved tape, but I certainly got my money's worth. I have tried many other nature recordings over the years, but nothing was quite as peaceful and relaxing as "The Sea."

So it was to my great delight that as I was going through some of my stored-away craft items I found the cassette tape box and insert for "The Sea." Enough years have passed, and the internet has exploded with tremendous power for finding things, so I decided to give it a shot.

To Google I went, which led me to Amazon, which provided me with a seller! And not just a seller, but a CD seller. O Joy! No more risk of ribbon destruction! I can get a digital copy and put it on my iPod and lull myself to sleep with my beloved ocean sounds once more.

I just found it, and just ordered it. I hope the seller doesn't delay (a used item from a third-party source, of course--"The Sea" is long-since unavailable). I'm looking forward to my ocean dreams again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last of Lost

Last night, the season finale of Lost aired. I've been following this show since the beginning. As an avid reader, I am fully aware that all good stories must have an ending, and I am very glad that the creators of Lost got to schedule the ending of their show so they could pace out their ending. That doesn't make me any less reluctant to end a story, though, so it's no surprise that today is somewhat a day of grieving and mourning for me.

I'm not going to debate whether that ending was well-paced, or whether it was the best series finale of all time. There are plenty of other blogs and websites that will go there. For what it's worth, I was not entirely sure how I felt immediately after watching the episode, but having a day to reflect on and process my thoughts, the show definitely won me over, and I feel Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse really pulled off an amazing feat.

I know that the debates will go on for several more weeks, with bloggers and critics debating the strengths and weaknesses of the episode, as well as the series. For me, the loss is more personal.

Lost hit the airwaves a few months after my divorce. I was living with my sister, and continued to do so until early last year. Lost was a joint viewing experience for us. Even after I moved out, we would text or IM during the commercial breaks, asking and answering questions, commiserating or cheering for the scenes we had just seen.

The day after an episode was a glut of online reading and theorizing. I was a fan of spoilers (though I avoided them for the series finale), so I would feed her some spoilers at her request. We would rehash shows and debate what it all meant. The hiatus only slowed this by about half, as we both looked forward to each new season with great anticipation.

So now all of the new shows are over, the story has been told, and barring the few special extras on the upcoming DVD release, we have received all of the answers that we're going to get. Everything else is left up to our imagination. I'm sure people will continue to discuss and debate this, though in ever dwindling numbers.

Like all good stories, I was held captive. I waited for each new installment, and trusted the authors to get through whatever rough patches there were. I knew that I would like the end, because I had so enjoyed everything that led up to it. I am grateful for the story that they gave me.

They also gave me something that I hadn't looked for, something which the end of the show can't take away from me: the experience with my sister, six years of a common interest that kept us talking and speculating and sharing a story that resonated with us both. Thank you, Lost, for telling your tale, and allowing me to add an unexpected chapter to my own story.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Diet: Truth and Lies

I'm back to my "diet" again. I don't like calling it a "diet" because it's really just my new way of eating. But since I'm losing weight, "diet" seems appropriate. I have made some modifications based on a new book I read (Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.) It is still a low-carbohydrate/higher fat lifestyle, but he incorporates a lot of other facets of your life. Also, I don't feel as guilt-ridden for "off" days as I did with Atkins. Sisson takes a more realistic approach--aim for perfect adherence, and you should reach 80%, which is still significant success.

I got off track for a while at the end of the year. I had planned to be good, to stick with it regardless of the temptation. But we got to Thanksgiving and I got a little off there, then each day it was easy to just go a little overboard. Not horrendously so, but enough to keep me from losing weight. I lied and told myself that I'd get back on board after Christmas, but then New Years came, and I had a temporary job and was commuting for a few weeks, and that made it hard to get back in the swing of things. Then it was Valentine's Day, and my dear, sweet boyfriend bought me TWO POUNDS of my favorite Sees Candy. TWO POUNDS!! Custom...all butterscotch squares. Who can say no to butterscotch squares? I can't!

I lied to myself about the candy. I told myself I would only eat one piece each day, and that way it wouldn't have much of an impact. HA! It was gone in 4 days. So I have to acknowledge that, at least for now, I am an addict. I cannot have sugary things in the house, because I cannot stop at one bite.

The good news is that I really didn't do too badly (besides the candy snarf). I had lost about 15 pounds before Thanksgiving, and between then and mid-February, I regained 3 of them. But since I got back on track, I have dropped another 9. I've lost enough now that my clothes are really not fitting well. I don't have money to purchase more, so I need to figure out a creative solution. Of course, that's the kind of problem I'm glad to have--not the "no money" problem, but the "clothes too loose to wear" one.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holidays and holy days

So Christmas is past for another year. Now that I'm older, it doesn't have the same excitement it used to have. Don't get me wrong...I love to receive presents, and I got some cool stuff this year. And I love to give presents...if I can find something unique that speaks to me of a specific loved one, then I squirm with anticipation while they open it. But even just buying ordinary things is fine, because I know that they are appreciative people.

But when I was a kid, gifts were magical. We were not well-off, so Christmas and birthdays were hotly anticipated events, chances to tap into wishes and dreams that you normally put on hold, kept hidden inside because you knew it could never come to pass. But twice a year, you had a chance to keep your hopes up, because maybe, just maybe this time you would get your hopes fulfilled. It happened sometimes. Not always, but enough to keep you dreaming inside.

My sister's birthday is on Christmas day, so her two days collided. I always felt bad for her, because she had to go for a whole year to wait, and then had to share the spotlight with a holiday. It was almost the same for some of the rest of us...my mom's birthday was around Thanksgiving, and my brother and I are 2 years/1 day apart, so we always shared a birthday celebration. But that's really nothing compared to sharing your birthday the Holy of Holies like my sister did.

So mom always made a special effort to split the day in two. First half would be Christmas, with all of our frenzied rush to open gifts and play with toys and run around like lunatics. Then the second half was birthday--a cake just for her, gifts wrapped in birthday paper, the whole thing.

But now we're adults. Mom passed too many years ago, and things aren't the same. Her joy at watching her kids grow got transferred to watching her grandkids, though they hardly have any memory of her. There's no "need" to keep up the tradition, but there's no need to stop it, either. So this Christmas I coordinated with my other siblings and we arranged all of the party info without my birthday sis having to do any of the work. We brought food and drinks, we brought birthday-wrapped gifts for her and her son (whose birthday is two days later, so now they're sharing a party!), and the holiday became a holy day.

Not necessarily holy in a religious sense, but it was set apart, unique. There is a reverence that is exclusive to those who have known and loved one another as long as we have. Faults are known, but not held against. Laughter is deeper because the jokes have a long history. Tears can be shed without shame, because they come from the same well we all have long drawn from.

Then again, maybe that is the religious sense--to know and be known, no pretense or artifice, and to be loved through and through. I'm no theologian, but I know this was a holy day, and it had nothing to do with the cultural trappings of the holiday. I am blessed.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Hug me

I have a Facebook account so I can keep in touch a little more frequently with family and friends. It's a really great resource, and I am happy to get to hear what's going on in the lives of people that matter to me. Normally, I'd have to wait till Christmas get-togethers for some of these updates.

However, there is one aspect of Facebook that I'm struggling with. That is the hug/heart issue. This is probably not as much of an issue for guys, but I'm a girl, so I guess it's assumed that I would be grateful to get a hug or a heart. Isn't that a feminine thing to do? All warm and fuzzy and showing your appreciation.

I hate it. It's just does not ring true for me. People that I don't hug in real life send me hugs. Hearts made out of flowers? Please. I guess I'm not a good representative of womankind, because it's really hard for me to tolerate.

So far I just cautiously ignore them. But I have one friend who hasn't caught on and continues to send them. I am not sure how to handle it...do I e-mail and tell her "Thanks, but no thanks"? Do I block the application? (That's what I did with Farmville requests--what a relief!) Do I continue to ignore them? I don't see her very often, maybe 2 or 3 times a year, so I don't have much of a chance to say anything to her. I've only had a profile there for a couple of months.

I'm not completely anti-social. I'm nice to people, I respond to their posts, and in person I inquire after their children and families and remember what matters to them.

But online--wow, it just doesn't feel right to pretend that those cutesy little hugs and hearts mean anything to me. My sister has a friend who was sending her a heart-a-day for a while; I teased her pretty mercilessly over it. I guess it's kind of like Christmas cards--it can become an obligation rather than a treat. "Oh, Mary sent me one so I have to send one back."

Maybe that's the root of it--I hate feeling obligated to respond to someone else's efforts to be friendly in a way that feels untrue to my personality. I don't reach out and hug my friends every time I see them, so why would I do that online? I don't send cards or flowers on a whim (my closest real-life analogy for those hearts.) Wouldn't in seem disingenuous to do that online?

On the other hand, maybe I just suck at being a friend to women. Thank God for men!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Special Delivery

I'm hanging out at my brother's house again today. Why, you ask? Let me tell you...

I was here yesterday to sign for a package. He often has to travel for work, and many times I have stayed to dog-sit for him. This time, his girlfriend was going to dog-sit, but she had to work during the day, and he has a package being delivered that required a signature. (A Christmas gift for one of his kids, but shhh! Don't tell!)

I got to his house at 8:45 a.m., just shortly after he left for the airport. No problem, just hang out with the dog, the day is mine. I've had deliveries before--they usually show up around 10 or 11 a.m., so I figure I'll get home later that afternoon.

So I wait. And I wait. I read all the graphic novels I've brought with me (which are really his, loaned to me). I play with the dog, I play on the computer. Talk to my boyfriend as he gets ready for work. And I wait.

At 4 p.m., I decide maybe I'll just kick back on the recliner and nap a bit. Dog at my feet, blanket on my cold toes, I nap off and on, waking every time I hear a car driving past, looking out the window to see if it's the delivery driver.

My brother texts--any news? Nope.

My boyfriend texts--where are you? Waiting.

My brother texts again--well? Nope. Got a tracking number? Can you verify that it went out for delivery today? Not with him, unfortunately. He lets me off the hook, but I know he won't be home for several days, and he'd feel better if he knew it was signed for. So I stay.

8 p.m., no package. My boyfriend decides to drive out and hang out with me--I'm going to spend the night and be here again for the next day, hoping to catch the delivery guy. In the meantime, I have a package back at the apartment that didn't get delivered because I wasn't home. D'oh!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Down, down, down

So after reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, I decided that I had found the answer I was looking for. It was not the amount of calories that I needed to concern myself with as much as it was the source of the calories. Knowing that I am a carbohydrate junkie, I knew that it would be difficult to apply the evidence to my own lifestyle.
The book doesn't specify a specific diet to follow, it just presents the overwhelming evidence showing that obese people can get their weight under control by severely restricting carbohydrate intake. Reading the types of diets that the various researchers had applied in their studies and found successful at weight loss for obese people, I decided that I needed to start some type of low-carbohydrate diet and see for myself.
The best known diet (at least where I'm at) is Atkins. I know a few people who have used the Atkins plan and lost weight, but none of them had as much to lose as I do. Still, it was the best known and best supported plan in my area, so that's what I started.
It has been exactly four weeks, and I have lost 14 pounds. I know that the first week was mostly water weight, which is fine--I have a tendency to bloat anyhow, so it was nice to actually see my ankles again. However, I know that I am now losing fat. I can see the results in my body, how my clothes fit, how my body feels.
I do not go hungry on this plan, and I mostly don't feel "cheated". Of course, as a life-long sugar addict, it is a challenge, especially with Halloween just behind me. But seeing the numbers on the scale consistently reducing is a strong motivator. Feeling my clothes loosen is a constant reminder of my goal. I discussed it with my sister and she started Atkins around the same time. She's down over 7 pounds, though she's not quite as strict with her regimen as I am--she still eats nuts, for example, which I am holding out on till I am nearer to my goal. (She doesn't have as much to lose as I do, so her flexibility makes sense.)
The main struggle is much more of a mental issue than any physical side effects. I do not physically crave the sweets and breads that I used to enjoy, but I emotionally miss them. That sounds pathetic when it's stated so bluntly, but it is true. I was used to eating whatever I wanted that tasted good to me. Now, I still eat things that taste good (Hello, Cream Cheese!), but I purposely avoid certain items that, while very tasty, have not been very good for my health and well-being.
It helps a little to know that every time I don't eat the sourdough bread that I love, that I'm actually choosing something better for me: normalizing my blood sugar and reducing my weight. Still, it would be easier if my boyfriend was on this journey with me. He needs to lose weight, but he has not yet decided to take the plunge, so his meals still contain foods that I am avoiding. It can be hard to be around him at meal time, so I mostly keep my eyes on my plate, or at home I'll do a puzzle or read so I'm not distracted by the roasted potatoes and sweet corn. And chocolate is banished...I don't have the willpower to not eat it when it's here.
Maybe in time, the emotional craving and dependence will lessen as I adapt to my new eating habits. That is my hope. To anyone struggling with their weight and feeling hopeless, please consider reading Good Calories, Bad Calories. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to absorb all the evidence contained therein--it is revolutionary in light of our culture's obsession with the low-fat, low-calorie, high-intensity workout "solution" to the problem. I am exercising no more than I was before, and the weight is coming off steadily, without being hungry or buying specialty foods or mixes or concoctions.