My Whole 30 Journey (Week 4)

A little late in coming, most probably because Week 4 wasn’t so compliant.  So here it is.

October 22-25 remain on plan.  We aren’t having sugar, dairy, grain, or alcohol.  No fake stuff. And it is getting very hard.  Boring.  Time consuming.  Labor intensive.  I’m really, really am ready for this to be done.

October 26: Today we embark on our mini-vacation which involves New England Fall colors, road tripping, hiking, seafood, and quaint Bed and Breakfasts.  Can we stay onImage may contain: tree, sky, plant, cloud, grass, outdoor and nature Whole 30?  When we finally have lunch at 3pm I decide that being a total food nazi is silly, and order a delicious coconut curry chicken soup, and a brochette of seared scallops and shrimp, which comes with a side of perfectly sauteed julienned veggies.  So far, so good, no major goofs. Oh, but the fries that come with it.  Yes, I could’ve said “leave them off,”  but I didn’t, and I enjoyed every last one.  No ketchup, just a dash of malt vinegar.

Later a sugar-free light cafe mocha at Starbucks doesn’t seem so bad, but it really feels like a decadent treat. We skip dinner, and nosh on fruit and nuts. With 4.4 miles today I’m not terribly guilty.

October 27:  It’s a touring and walking day.  The Inn has “continental breakfast” which is basically carbs and coffee.  There is NOTHING Whole 30 here.  I settle for an instant flavored oatmeal packet, and a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter.  I do resist the danish, scones, pastries and bagels.  When we break for our midday meal, I’ve already decided it’ll be fresh-caught lobster, a side salad with Oil and vinegar.  This is all pretty legal, methinks.  Compared to Hubby’s choice of seafood pot pie with an enormous flaky pastry crust, and the creamy clam chowder.  But with 7 pounds lost, he’s entitled.  After 5 rugged rock-scrambling miles, we pick up grocery provisions for a light evening repas in our room.

October 28:  Repeat the carby breakfast.  Our next stop has an iconic breakfast Image may contain: foodrestaurant, so all bets are off now.  Waffles with authentic maple syrup (small dribbles), eggs, bacon, hash browns– delish and worth it.  This is my first real infusion of sugar and serious carbs, and frankly my body is unfazed and pretty happy.  This is our main meal of the day, we clock another 4.5 miles, including hills, and nosh on snacks of fruit and veggies for dinner.

October 29: So, here’s the carby “Inn” breakfast again.  Ugh.  Half a bagel, cream cheese, and oatmeal.  By noon my belly is very, very unhappy.  Here’s my proof that gluten (and possibly dairy-cheese) is decidedly  NOT my friend. Regardless, by the time we make it to our very late lunch/meal du jour (at a decidedly unimpressive hole in the wall), I immediately regret my order before it’s completely out of my mouth: chicken parm with ziti pasta and very average tomato sauce.  I immediately box 2/3 of the plate, and what chicken I do eat is after scraping off the breading.  The ziti isn’t so good either.  Done, done, done with gluten!  The leftover languishes in our mini fridge to never again be eaten. Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, house, outdoor and nature

October 30: It’s quite a disappointment that we really have found no other very impressive eateries.  We have a big breakfast, and then later stop at some Applebys-type place where I order beef vegetable soup that is horrible, and a side salad.  I think this is the day I do have bad gas station snacks like a Coke and Cheese puffs.  Here’s to absolutely being off Whole 30.  In spite of rain, we do have some lovely views.

October 31:  It’s our departure day and I’ve given up trying to find a decent place to eat.  So many of the establishments here in the north woods are shut down for the season.  Serendipity lands us at a nice little breakfast place at a quaint inn, with a menu a mile long.  It totally was possible to order something within Whole 30 boundaries.  I feel quite virtuous for turning down that “free” sticky bun, and I order the child’s breakfast with a little of everything.  Including French Toast.  Before boarding the plane we grab Wendys (disgusting) and I eat the Jr. patty, and 2 chicken strips to go for a nosh  while we travel.  Should we be proud we didn’t eat Halloween candy?

This last pretty pathetic week of Whole 30 was a wash, but I remained completely cognizant of what I was doing.  When I stepped on the scale upon getting home I saw that I’d not lost a single pound.  For a fleeting moment about 2 weeks into this I saw a small reduction, but it came right back.  SJ, on the other hand, had about 8 pounds come off. Ugh.

Health: I had marginal benefits, but nothing earth shattering.  Tummy distress has subsided but occasionally returns (even when on strict W30).  Sleep was a bit better.  Energy levels same, and inflammation was not any better (if anything I had more RA flares).

I suppose I’m glad I tried, even if I officially only made it about 25 days, and imperfectly at that.  I will never be the Whole30 poster child. The “reward” pizza slice, and glazed donut weren’t such a big deal (I don’t eat these things with any regularity anyway).  We’ve been eating whatever this past week, with a slight nod to still trying to stick to the spirit of not eating junk or fake food.  I think it made us mindful.  It was a relief to go to the store and not read labels.  I now know what it’ll say, and yes, I’ll go for the walls and more natural ingredients as much as possible (always have).  And, well, I’m willing to have a little sugar and nitrates for a few slices of bacon, sliced turkey, or ham now and then; I’m not overly concerned that the chickens who laid the eggs were happy and running free– not for $5-6 a dozen (I know, I know, that’s only about 50 cents an egg, but when you can get eggs for 15 cents that taste essentially the same…).  Coffee with creamer (lo fat and SF) and stevia (I’ve reduced it to 2-3 drops, half what I used to have) is so worth it. I need to get back to regular old water after my Crystal light drink mix and Coke binging. Dairy hasn’t made a huge come back; I guess I really didn’t miss the yogurt and cheese so much.  Those couple of glasses of wine were great, and oh, the Polish pierogies were pretty awesome, as was rice and beans.  Talk about carbs…Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, grass, outdoor and nature

Maybe I’ll do this again in the future.  Maybe I’ll be a little more disciplined and not eat as much fruit, potatoes, “pretend desserts,” or other things that obviously didn’t help with weight loss.

But for now the elusive holy grail of weight loss remains my challenge.

Pulling out my Medifast stash again…  And glad for cooler temps, stretchy yoga pants, and big shirts and sweaters.

 

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The Reality of Our Retirement

(I may have misnamed this post; but it’s one of those “rants” which shows that into every marriage–even the good and enduring ones–comes challenges, even when all seems to be smooth sailing.  The “day after” lessons are in green).

It’s a beautiful sunny, crisp fall Saturday.  We have nowhere to be, nothing demanding IMG_4043our time.

Bliss.

I roll out of bed and pad to the living room.  He’s on the couch having his morning nap.  The cat meows to be picked up and cuddled for exactly 45 seconds (the only time this crazy cat wants to be handled, and often these days the only connection I get with a living thing).  We mutter a few banalities, and I go for my morning coffee.  It’s an easy morning.  I offer to fry up some bacon so we can have a proper breakfast.  He plays an installment of his favorite sitcom, which while I agree is funny, isn’t exactly my taste.  In the name of “togetherness” I watch with him and indulgently laugh when I’m supposed to, so he can turn to me and say, “See, you think it’s funny too.”  We sit as far apart as is possible in our small apartment living room. At this point we have not touched.  Not kissed.  Not connected in any way beside quick monosyllabic, utilitarian phrases.

In passing I brush and fondle his crotch.  He shrinks.  I playfully grind into him from behind.  He chuckles.  It reminds him of a friend’s bawdy joke, one I’ve heard before, one he’ll regale me with again.  Humor deflects so much for him.

And that’s all.

“It’s a beautiful day… we should find something to do outside, a nice walk, enjoy this gorgeous weather,” I finally say. I think maybe he grunts.  He definitely doesn’t take up the suggestion.

I ask him about our upcoming trip to New England.  I’ve done all the travel agent plans to get us there and lodged.  He now gets the tour guide stuff.  What did he have in mind?  Should I bring my serious hiking boots?  He consults his notes and gives me his proposed itinerary; he stands and shows me a map—is he really trying NOT to touch me?.  The place next to me on the couch is wide open, but he deigns to address my question from the chair across from me, well enough out of reach to risk human touch.

“Are you going to yoga today?”

“No, I’ve gone 4 days this week, Saturdays are more crowded, so I’ll stick with weekdays.”

And silence.

I know that I should just lean into and enjoy this laid-back life, and be appreciative for serendipity and absence of pressures or have-tos.  Nearly all our days are ours to do with as we please.  Few demands.

(And I should just be direct and say that I’m looking forward to spending the day together, with him).

Thirty minutes later he asks “So, what do you have planned today?”

What?

I pause for a moment.  I guess this means he’s got his day planned out, and I’d better figure out my own plans.

(Ah, the misguided art of silent communication and reading into things…)

Now, it is perfectly fine for us to have separate plans. We aren’t joined at the hip, after all.  We are not joined much at all these days. The other day he decided to go into the city, to work on genealogy research.  I’m delighted he has a new hobby.  Over the past 30 days, he’s been away for 14.  I am totally chill with that, I have several old friends in town, have enjoyed dinner and movies and hanging out;  had two lovely visits from dear friends from out-of-town.  No lack of things to do, places to go, people to see.  Just enough busy-ness in my schedule to volunteer and work very part-time. I have all the work I could want if I chose to take it.  Stories that need to be developed, finished, edited, revised, published.  Solitude enjoyed.

I admit to a tad bit of ire at his banal question about what I have planned for the day.  Uhm, I guess I presumed we’d do something together, especially since I did already suggest something. Oh, that, and we’ve not done much together in the past 2 weeks.

I take a deep breath as he seems to be gathering up his gym bag, and apparently is headed off to swim and workout—and whatever.  “Oh, I’ll just make some plans of my own.”  Yes, my tone is a bit passive aggressive.  But seriously, do I need to spell out what an idiot you are?  I cringe inwardly a little at my snarky thought.

He hems and haws a bit. Now determined that I don’t “need” him, I go to change into my yoga clothes and brush my teeth; I just missed the 10:30 class, but I’m determined to go to 12:15.  By the time I’m done changing he’s left.  So let me plan this day for myself. I call my two girlfriends; both seem to have plans already underway, and why not?  It’s a gorgeous day!  Both say they’ll try to call me later; I try to give them a pass and tell them to enjoy their day.  I look at the clock and consider that for the next hour he’s gone, I’ll get in a little writing therapy.  I start to pack my backpack for a serendipitous day of my own: water, snack, Bible study materials.  He walks back in about 15 minutes later.  Hmmm.  Was the pool closed, I wonder?  I quickly shut down my computer and throw it into my pack.  Plan B… I’ll go to the coffee shop, sit outside and write until Yoga time.

“Hey, I’m sorry… What do you want to do?” he begins.  At least I think he said sorry.  It didn’t seem that sincere.

(I cut him off, because unfortunately I’m on a completely different trajectory now, and determined not to veer from it).

“Hey, no worries.  I get it. We both get to have our own plans and that is cool. Because, you see, when I tried to ask you about doing something together, you totally ignored me, and then went on to asking me what plans I’d made for myself today.  So, what am I to think?  You must have your own day planned out, and it doesn’t include me.  Therefore, I’ve made plans for myself, so I’ll just catch you later!  Have a good day.”

And with that I’m out the door.

OK, yes, I’m a little mad.  Not about time apart.  Once again it’s about his lack of thoughtfulness, and his inability to make a plan, make a decision, be a partner, pursue—or choose to be with me.  When he got home after his week away, he made sure to bed me once (check).  It was nice, enjoyable.  And in that soft, connected moment, I reminded him that we need to continue working on our intimate connections—kisses and hugs need to happen every day, and consist of more than a peck.  I put it into practice the next day and lie atop him for a snuggle as he reclines on the couch.  He chuckles.  No more. I listen attentively to his repeated stories, his complaints about his family, about his time away.  I resist revealing to him the intense annoyance I feel when he acts like a clown and pretends to trip into my boobs with a comedic grab. This is pretty much the extent of our physicality, him acting like a buffoon, a 12-year old silly boy.  Humor.  Teasing.  That is not romantic, not sensual, not erotic, nor arousing or remotely grown up; and it really isn’t funny at all, when that’s all it is.  It’s a turn off. Try as I may to laugh along to make him feel good, to encourage him to move beyond these juvenile expressions of intimacy, and yes, even try to approach him in the same teasing manner, it’s hard to avoid feeling I am more the brunt of his jokes than the object of his affection or desire.

You’d think after 25 years we’d have figured this out. What our love languages are, how to “speak” them.  I do my utmost to give my attention, quality time, words of encouragement, acts of service.  Retreating into hermit/lone ranger behavior isn’t an option he gets in a marriage, ESPECIALLY when he just had 14 days away in which to indulge this. He’s an introvert, this I know.  For different reasons, we do need our time alone.  The difference is, it takes a lasso—no, maybe it’s a noose—to pull him back to the reality that he IS married to someone, and has some responsibility to be a partner. And the love language of that someone is physical touch and closeness, romance.

(I realize that we need to make ourselves a schedule, and discuss a middle ground for our expectations.  Like, these are the days I’d like to be alone doing my own thing, and these are the days we do things together).

IMG_4042I’ll be out for the day.  It IS a gorgeous day, too lovely to be missed.  The insanely bright sunlight with a hint of autumn in the breeze; the trees deciding whether to turn colors. The local coffee shop is relaxing at an outdoor chair; yoga is tranquil; the local park sublime.  I ponder where I’d like to lunch, where I can sit outside. And I realize that by the time I return home, he’ll perhaps be contrite and apologetic, maybe making herculean efforts to be the husband he needs to be, forgot to be, but seemingly has to force himself to be.  It doesn’t come naturally.

It never does come naturally, and each time we go through this cycle of disinterest-distance-disenchantment, and desperate attempts to repair, it gets more and more wearisome.  Intimacy, affection, connection… these are not givens in this marriage.

(We have read in one of our marriage books that this is called “The Crazy Cycle” so it’s nothing new… we just need to learn how to manage it).

What comes naturally?  He takes care of me.  Duty means a lot to him. When I have to go to the ER, he takes me.   When I’m unwell, he’s sympathetic. He takes care of the bills, he cleans the kitchen after I cook his meals, and frequently compliments my culinary skills.  He feels guilty when I start housecleaning around him, and sometimes chips in. He doesn’t cuss or yell.  He sometimes listens to me, and acts like he’s interested.  He enjoys watching Jeopardy with me, and asking me to help with the crossword clues he can’t get.  He likes to laugh at what he considers “clever humor.”  He stays in shape and takes care of his health.  Every week or so, he wants low-key, tender sex (with me).  Sometimes not.  He is a nice, non-aggressive person, who really enjoys introverted activities like reading.  He respects me… like a cherished cousin.

(And, while these are all excellent and praise-worthy things, the truth that seems to get buried time and again is that my love language of physical touch and closeness involves more aggression, thrill, romance, and hot pursuit—it’s so very hard to keep repeating this and to feel not heard).

And I tell myself, that’s a lot more than what many have.  I need to just be grateful and not expect too much more.  I have friends my age who don’t have any of this.  The last time they had sex may have been months, even years.  Some don’t have anyone to complain about.

I think about our week ahead; I have my own commitments on the calendar, and quite possibly will spend one evening with a friend.  We have theatre tickets.  And then we’re off for 5 days in New England (note to self—get book on tape for long drives; bring lots to read; anything to avoid the agony of interaction).  And we will somehow continue to co-exist into the future…  good days and bad days, ups and downs.img_4045.png

(Introspectively and retrospectively, I realize this is much to do with tempering my high expectations, and not setting myself up for disappointments.  It is also about trying to become more selfless than selfish—our lesson at church today).  I should stop selfishly wanting MY way, and just think about how to be selfless and think about him. All tall orders).

I can’t help be feel a bit sad that for the next 20-30 years (is it “God willing” or “God Forbid?”), “tempering expectations” means I need to continue to build my temporary fortresses around my passionate, romantic heart, check the expectations, and appreciate what I have. Praying that God shows me how to do this without bitterness, and to seek a grateful heart.

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My Whole 30 Journey (Week 3)

October 15: Another very easy day as we have breakfast of grain-free “oatmeal,” then for lunch we nosh on a plate of the only sliced lunch meats I’ve found that are compliant (from Trader Joes: a Parma salami and Applegate herb turkey breast), grapes, apple, nuts. Dinner is Chicken Stew.

October 16: BFF leaves after our breakfast of leftover spinach frittata, avocado, fruit and try sweet potato “toast”; Lunch after yoga for me is small cup of chicken-veggie soup, turkey slices with homemade mayo and apple; Dinner: I later prepare an easy sheet pan dinner for visiting friend: 4 chicken thighs, pre-cut cubbed butternut squash; halved brussels sprouts (toss all in olive oil, add seasonings.  I love Zatar (a middle-eastern spice mix), in addition to S&P; I always sprinkle chicken with paprika as it nicely browns). Bake all together in roasting pan at 375 for 30-40 minutes or until veggies are done. My friend is raving over it.  This definitely is the simplest of meals that wows everyone.

October 18-21: In summary, I’m following the plan.  There were a few days where 3-4 stevia drops hit my coffee. Belly pain is back, albeit mildly, and I’ve had diarrhea.  I sort of link it to the delicious crunchy seed crackers I frequently nibble on when I need the salt and crunch… even though it’s only 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks for an entire batch (cookie sheet size), I suppose that’s enough for the laxative effect (physllium is what is given as a “natural laxative” but it also works as a great “binding” ingredient for the seed crackers).  A few highlights:

Trader Joe’s Roast Tenderloin of Beef is very good and handy.  At $10 it’s worth the convenience for 4 servings.  Trader Joe’s horseradish has no extra bad ingredients, and is the most potent I’ve ever had (talk about clearing sinuses).

Spaghetti squash with legal (and expensive ) Whole Foods Italian sausage, homemade sauce (labor intensive), is yummy.

To fill an urge for comfort food that are filling (and because SJ is commenting on needing a protein-packed meal), I look up recipes for paleo meatloaf and paleo mashed potatoes (which claim to be W30 compliant), and even whip up a W30 ketchup.  Meatloaf just isn’t the same without Lipton’s Onion Soup mix for me, but it’s ok.

The desire for sweet tastes never leaves.  I fill it with fruit—raw, and concoctions of legal ingredients that approximate a “dessert” even though W30 frowns on this.  Sliced baked cinnamon apples with the sweetness of chopped dates, raisins, and some walnuts.  Adding to this a dollop of refrigerated heavy coconut cream is delicious and almost like whipped cream or ice cream.   Freeze-dried fruit (pricey) is a very interesting texture—it actually crunches. I’m assuming the fruit is what is stalling out my weight loss… indeed, this week the scale is yo-yoing a bit too much, and the losing trend is over. For remaining so good, this is disappointing. To add insult to injury,  SJ is telling me the pounds are “melting off” for him.  And he’s eaten cereal.

This program is labor intensive.  You spend a lot of time with planning, shopping (reading labels), and you spend top dollar.  A measly 10 slices of sugar-free bacon is about $6.99.  Yes, enjoy that 70 cent a slice bacon. Sugar-free/preservative-free sliced meats also are in the $6-7 range for about 6 oz. Time is needed to concoct the recipes, because so little prepared food is compliant.

Do I feel better?  Kinda Sorta.  Nothing drastic like increased energy.  I think I am sleeping better.  Intestinally, the jury is still out.  I’m sort of grumpy about the limited beverage choices and although I drink the water, it is boring even when dressed up with lemon or other fruit.  I congratulate myself on 90+% compliance, resisting temptations.  The coffee shop today made an almond milk latte that was too delicious and I suspect it must’ve had some sugar. My Peruvian roasted chicken and plantains—well, a Diet Coke just was unavoidable (my first Diet Coke in 21 days).

I’m looking forward to finishing the program.  I hope that I see some more pounds gone by the time the next eleven days of deprivation are over. If not, it’s back to Medifast because I just can’t continue on with this excess weight.

 

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My Whole 30 Journey (week 2)

WEEK 2

October 8:  It’s a baking day. In South Africa this eating style is called “Banting,” this paleo-esque diet. The Real Meal Revolution book was introduced to me by a SA friend. My two favorite recipes from the book appear W30 compliant; nutty seed crackers (delicious crunchy crackers made purely with seeds and water– psyllium husks make it doughy enough to bake; and nut granola, which as its name implies is nuts toasted in coconut oil and spices. Since the nut granola usually was a garnish for yogurt or oatmeal (and rarely, to dress up ice cream), I’m not quite sure its use now… I’m sure I’ll find a way.

Dinner: Roasted Za’atar chicken breasts (bone in and with skin, cuz it’s juicier) with lots of veggies–Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, red potato– cuz roasted veggies are so flavorful. This is an easy meal cuz you just toss ingredients in olive oil and Za’atar spices (most inexpensively found in middle eastern stores, online for a bit more; or you can make your own if you can find the ingredients; sumac lends it the exotic touch).  You can use other spices like Italian or Herbes de Province.  Roast together in one pan 40 minutes. Served with half a sliced pear. We eat the last of our pumpkin custard; oh wait, I just happened to have half a can of coconut milk leftover so add 2 eggs, a couple mashed dates, and half can pumpkin, pp spices — blend in bullet, voila, 4 mini custards. Top with nut granola.

October 9: Breakfast: two fried eggs, hash brown patty (baked from frozen and possibly not legal, because it tastes so good… white potatoes have always felt “wrong” on a diet) and a slice of amazing pineapple that tastes like candy (also not good… my body needs to not want this sweet taste).  Lunch- my fav chicken salad with HB eggs and homemade Mayo, chopped veggies, pumpkin seeds, and a few grapes sliced super tiny. Delish on 3 seed crackers, and I’m full and happy!!!
Movies: ahhhh!! Have to resist hot buttered popcorn smells, but proud that I did (even though my companions were indulging!). Larabar and seed crackers in purse, smuggled in a kombucha. Coffee after was black. I hate black coffee.  Dinner Cuban picadillo hash, grilled plantains (bananas since I don’t have) and pineapple slice; green salad with W30 Mayo-based dressing. This is a dish that begs black beans and rice… was so hungry I didn’t miss so much.

October 10:   This morning black coffee or with Nutpods was not cutting it. I used a few drops of “illegal” stevia extract. This has been so intolerable, the plain coffee. It’s one thing to sugar up my diet with teaspoons upon teaspoons of pure sugar (aka a real Coke). It’s another to just enjoy coffee that tastes good in the morning. Nutpods does little more than just change the color of the coffee (and sometimes seems to separate into an oily mess on top of the coffee).  Breakfast: Spinach/pepper/potato scrambled eggs.  Getting tired of this.  Lunch: finished off yesterday’s chicken salad, and unsweetened grapefruit slices.  A couple hours later succumb to the call of the “Key Lime Pie” Larabar.  It is delicious. Somewhere in the back of my head “Delicious=Bad.” Dinner: Friday’s left-over stew. Snacks at Bible study are tempting, I have a few grapes and one Trader Joe’s chili mango slice—before checking ingredients and seeing it has added sugar.

October 11: Hubby out of town. Challenge for “if no one sees it, it’s not really cheating.” Breakfast:  Eggs for breakfast are getting very old, so I try a version of this “Grain Free Oatmeal” recipe adding a few tweaks of my own (stuff already in fridge: a tablespoon of pumpkin puree, coconut milk, some of my nut granola, and one egg for a protein boost… I microwave the concoction 1:30, and find it really good and satisfying.  I return to coffee, no sweetner today, and it’s not as objectionable. Today’ goal will be eating more veggies, and avoiding snacks (especially after dinner).  More shopping at Trader Joe’s for Whole 30 compliant foods (including turkey and ham slices!!!  This is a major coup, to find these without added sugars and chemicals).  Dinner is a hearty chicken crock pot stew which will provide several meals this week.  Try tapioca flour in place of cornstarch for thickening and it works great (learned a new cooking term: “slurry,” which means a mix of a flour with water to thicken a soup, stew, etc.)

Today I just couldn’t resist a piece of my favorite sugar-free (chemical laden) gum because dragon breath just wasn’t cutting it with a client.  Yes, burning fat does stink up your breath.

October 12:  Hallelujah!  I feel I’ve found the holy grail of breakfast—grain-free “oatmeal” is delicious and a great alternative to eggs every day (I put one egg in my mix of chopped apples, one date, a few tablespoons each of coconut milk pumpkin, coconut and slivered almonds; dash of pumpkin spice mix; 2 minutes in the microwave results in a creamy-custardy deliciously filling concoction.  Lunch (out): Great compliant salad with lots of greens and grilled chicken; Dinner:  chicken salad with homemade mayo for evening snack.

Noted: The past couple of nights have been good and restful sleep, without the help of Ambien.

October 13:  Found a recipe for W30 pork sausage.  It was pretty good, but in spite of all the seasonings I added, it wasn’t like the “real deal.” Big protein breakfast, not too hungry rest of day.  Today I put a few drops of stevia in coffee to enjoy, thus making it a “cheat day.”  This evening I’ll see what looks good.  My friend arrives today for the weekend, and she’s the one who is willing to adapt to whatever crazy diet I’m on.  I will miss wine and snacks, but we will enjoy each other’s company most.  I’ve prepared lots of reheatable meals that are W30.  Just thought how I’ve now gone more than 2 weeks without cheese; today’s the first day I really miss it.  We end up having reheated butternut squash soup (made paleo with coconut milk and other veggies, it’s good but quite sweet).

I’ve noticed in recent days some return of belly issues—slight cramping and loose bowels.  Not sure if it was the extremely cruciferous salad yesterday; that it was “restaurant food;” or, i don’t want to face it– is it the few drops of stevia?

October 14:   Everything for my girls’ weekend is super planned-out, but easy, as my friend Lynn wants to experience a Whole30 eating experience. Prepare breakfast of veggie-loaded spinach frittata with enough for another day. Late lunch is a picnic of veggie sticks, chicken salad, seed crackers, apple, Larabar “treats” (bad—not supposed to have “treats”). As we road-trip today, I do crave a Coke or some other beverage but water, but resist.  I also can’t resist a piece of SF gum because breath stinks. I must congratulate myself more often rather than chastise.  On most normal road trips I’d buy some bad packaged snacks, and I resist this time even when at a store and confronted with these.  At home, a light meal of leftover Cuban Picadillo.

Our weekend together is a success for staying on Whole 30, as I introduce a few “recipes” to her.

Week Two Reflections: 

I should start with the “good” before I complain.  I have lost another few pounds (illegally weighing myself– but this just is a non-negotiable for me, I need the reinforcement of the scale) so perhaps from my highest, most bloated number 14 days ago this makes about 5 lbs lost (but I’m thinking more like 3-4)? For me, it’s not fast loss, but it’s loss with healthy “real” foods and some deprivation (without starvation).  No outright bad packaged foods and no glaring cheats.  A bit of longing for pizza, donuts–the latter I rarely indulge in (sadly I pass donut shops as well as other restaurants in my daily walks, and yes I need a different route).   I have reduced cravings for salty and sweet snacks and junk and managed to race through the cookie or baked goods aisle without “noticing.”  I am also sleeping better.

I’ve been on a variety of diets over the years.  Among them are Weight Watchers, Adkins, South Beach, Mayo Clinic, “Banting,” and Medifast.  Each had it attributes and drawbacks, most were ketogenic/paleo/protein types.  Weight Watchers always was a sane eating plan, but there was so much cheat factor for me because there were too many choices and opportunities to negotiate with myself. When WW changed their rules every few years, I grew disenchanted.  Medifast was the one that helped me lose a massive amount of weight; yet after 75 pounds, I neglected to follow their transition and maintenance programs, which would have likely helped me to move on to healthier choices rather than return to the poorer habits (and I see they have updated their plans to give more options, like “fast loss” and “slow and steady.”  I’ve got to wonder if others have had the same regain issues that I have; in all fairness, Medifast was created by Johns Hopkins’ doctors to help morbidly obese patients lose dangerous weight fast before surgery).  Medifast “helped” me because the choices were easy and clear;  5 of my 6 meals were their packaged products (technically not “real food,” mostly “add water,” and very soy-based).  But I felt full, and the gluten-free aspects were helpful for my body; I got refined sugar out of my body but not sweet tastes as they have fake sugar. I hated not having fruit.  I believe there was something to eating smaller “meals” every 2-3 hours was helpful for my metabolism.

As I go through Whole 30, I have the sense that I am truly “feeding” and “healing” my body.  I’ve taken away chemicals and harmful foods; I’m healing my gut (I hope–this last week has seen a return of a few small belly discomforts, and some small RA flares).  It’s teaching me to reach for more natural options, to read ingredients, and not to be lulled into thinking everything is healthy just because packaging tells me it is.

Will I forever give up my favorite guilty pleasures like Utz Special Dark Pretzels or Barbeque potato chips, or Tasty Kakes Peanut Butter Kandykakes (the only time I want to have milk)?  Chocolate? Lovely cheeses? Yogurt? Occasional ice cream?  Fake sweetners?  I doubt it, but hopefully  I will use these as very occasional treats rather than staples, and more often reach for “real foods.” I prefer the concept of eating healthy, ethically produced real food, no additives, and am more educated than ever about how difficult these are becoming to find and afford.

W30 says: Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. (and goes on to comparing “hard” as cancer, childbirth, and death of a parent). It’s hard to argue, but to me it’s an apples and oranges comparison.  I hate black coffee, so I’m faced with a dilemma.  I don’t want to give up my coffee… (OK, beyond caffeine, it has a “laxative effect” for me and keeps me regular) and I don’t want it black.  I have been putting a few drops of Stevia in it, half of what I’d normally do, but no dairy, so I suppose I’m not contributing to my gut healing… I’m mustering the motivation to this coming week to resist stevia.  I may need to just go to herbal teas, which I can manage without sweetner… yet that proposes some caffeine withdrawal which I’m not looking forward to.

Their site says: “Whole30 is, at its heart, an elimination diet.  Just a small amount of any of these inflammatory foods could break the healing cycle; promoting cravings, messing with blood sugar, disrupting the integrity of your digestive tract, and firing up the immune system.  One bite of pizza, one spoonful of ice cream, one lick of the batter in the 30-day period and you’ve broken the reset button, requiring you to start over again on Day 1.  It’s only 30 days.”

This strict program can be a set-up for failure among the less strong of us.  Nearly every single day a small, tiny choice has come my way (eating a piece of SF gum for stinky breath; coffee with stevia; wanting a sweet taste after a meal, even if I’ve not done any refined sugars and only “natural” sugars from dates (high sugar) or other fruits).  To claim total “defeat” isn’t helpful.  I’d say I’ve been 90% compliant.  But for this program that’s not enough, only 100% compliance counts–and I do understand what they’re all about and can’t argue it.  I’ll continue and see if I truly can get sweet tastes out of my life, and finish this 30 days of less-than-perfect compliance out with more compliance.  That will be my personal achievement, even if 90%.

For me, in spite of not meeting the strictest of requirements, I feel it’s been a success.  I wish I could be as disciplined as they require for “success”: eliminating all dairy, grains, sugar, artificial sweetners, legumes, alcohol, additives carregeenan, MSG, sulfites, treats, and stepping on the scale.  But even a 90% has been beneficial for me.

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My Whole 30 Journey

(I considered creating a blog page just to detail this attempt at following the Whole 30 Program(R); but truthfully, it was just too much trouble.  So here is my log with my impressions, successes, and challenges during this 30 day plan.  I do not represent the perfectly compliant follower of this plan, so don’t look to me for advice.  If you have no interest in reading a log about my attempts to complete this month-long challenge, skip!)

MY WHOLE 30 LOG

Pre-plan

Not sure what convinced me to try this plan, because it is super restrictive. Oh yeah, how about nearly 3 months of misery in my gut? Not to mention I could not stop gaining weight (5 years ago I lost 75 lbs, and felt wonderful. Since then, 30 lbs have crept back). It was starting to become a pound a month; no diet or deprivation seemed to work. But this truly came to a head mid-July. I was plagued by a UTI that just wouldn’t go away. Followed by the antibiotic macrobid, and then the horrible Cipro. Cipro is an over-prescribed, broad-spectrum drug, with horrendous life-altering side affects and I avoid it like the plague (google “Cipro toxicity” or “floxin/fluroquinolone poisoning”). Sometimes in your UTI suffering you make desperate choices.

I now realize that 3 months of misery was in fact the Cipro annihilating my good gut flora– to the extent that it hurt to just sit down, ride in a car, enjoy my husband, and involved an emergency room visit for excruciating upper abdomen pains. After a CT scan, blood work, Gastro ER doc report, and a follow up with a Uro-gynecologist and fears I had some form of cancer or bladder mesh erosion, I was pronounced “ok.” No medical professional even considered for a minute blaming Cipro or bad intestinal health.

Not to belabor this, but from hours of research I realized my entire digestive tract was damaged. The best advice given from an essential oils friend was to take LIVE probiotics (found in fridge section of health food stores). Within a couple of days my 3-month saga of pains subsided.

This was a wake up call. I needed to feed my body with good, healthy, natural foods, and heal it. Whole 30 fits that description. This really isn’t gimmicky or a fad-diet. It’s rather normal.

I’d already known the benefits of trying a gluten-restricted diet. Even my Upper Respiratory allergy issues improved when I restricted gluten. I love veggies and fruits, try to cook healthy meals, but sugar and crunchy, salty snack foods was my real addiction. My first successful diet (75 lbs in 5 months on Medifast– yes, that’s fast but very gratifying) forbade fruits because of sugar, so I have always been very selective to pick the lowest sugar fruits like berries.

I was game to eliminating sugar, dairy, grains, and all fake/unpronounceable additives for 30 days, and instead eat clean, single-ingredient natural foods.

Here’s my journey!

September 28-30: asked hubby if he’d like to join me in this 30-day eating challenge, starting October 1. He says yes. I promptly start cleaning out all the forbidden foods remaining in our cupboard or fridge by binge-eating: chips, crackers, breads, pasta, microwave butter popcorn, Tasty Kakes, chocolate, cheese, Halo Top ice cream. Finish the “healthy 80-calorie greek yogurt.” Kill the open bottle of wine. Although I’d already been weaning off my twice a week Diet Coke, I had my last ones in these days. I’m eating like a condemned woman.

Shop Whole Foods and Mom’s for acceptable shelf items like ghee, coconut aminos, LaCroix waters, and kombucha. Will be sourcing as many organic and unprocessed fruits, veggies, and meats as possible (organic, non-GMO, and clean/ethically raised is recommended– hey, isn’t this what we basically called “FOOD” 40-50 years ago?). Panic about an upcoming trip and find Epic meat bars and certain Lara Bars are Whole30 compliant (always check ingredients for sugars etc; these are “emergency food” with “legal” ingredients, and not recommended too often; but isn’t it utterly amazing you rarely can find a packaged food with 3 ingredients or less? Lara bars are exceptional in this way). Research, research, research (Whole30.com). Print pages of FREE helpful guidelines, shopping lists, and put in a binder.  Screen shot a few pages for ready reference on my phone.

October 1: Hubby and I embark on our W30 journey. Black coffee is UGH (I’m a stevia and low-sugar flavored Coffee Mate gal). Dinner is zucchini “noodles” with a meat sauce made from scratch: veggies, herbs, simple tomatoes and paste; plus a salad with avocado, walnuts, strawberries S&P, oil/vinegar. Dessert is strawberries.

October 2: I leave 4:45 am for my 4-day trip. Packed refillable Nalgene water bottle, apple, tangerine, Epic and Lara bars. Have “Mr. T’s” Bloody Mary mix on plane, only to find out later it’s completely NOT W30 compliant (neither is innocuous sounding Dasani lime water– both have high-fructose and sugar along with other unpronounceables). By 3:30pm I’m starving and have head ache. Hubby texts: “Was dizzy this morning. Had my appointment w doc. Really low blood pressure. Probably from diet. Still a little blurry. Made my cod dish – not bad. Miss you.” (Note: his BP was 107/70– his norm is 140/90).
IMG_3974Dad’s senior-living dining room thankfully has a big salad bar and plain meat and veggie options on buffet.

October 3: hotel breakfast has hard boiled eggs and basic fruit. I took the turkey sausage knowing full well it probably was not compliant and full of bad additives. Patting myself on the back I avoided waffles, pastries, muffins, bagels, yogurts, cereals.  Paltry salad IMG_3976lunch at Dad’s club. Stop at store to buy compliant kombucha, freeze-dried fruit, Lara bars at Walmart. Later for my dinner (Dad has his left-over Reuben and an early night) I’m combing the aisles of local grocery and finding NOTHING. Eventually settle for the healthiest frozen meal I can find, a salad and fruit. Find one brand of sliced turkey without sugar or additives. I consider this a coup, since most options involved fast food, Chinese, pizza or tacos.

October 4:  stay as compliant as possible with hotel breakfast bar (I know the bacon isn’t the compliant kind, but who resists bacon???). Black coffee results in less temptation for 2nd and 3rd cups (but REALLY looking forward to the W30-compliant Nutpods coffee creamer I’ve ordered) Lunch: plain burger patty and simple salad (scrape off cheese and croutons but not before brother notices). Dinner: Dad wants to treat me to a “nice restaurant dinner” and suggests the Italian place. Nothing on that menu is W30. I suggest the other restaurant and have filet steak, sweet potato with no toppings, asparagus and salad (while breathing in the aroma of Dad’s yummy BBQ ribs). A feast and I couldn’t finish!!! Dad now has at least two meals in leftovers boxes between his and mine.

October 5:  Hotel breakfast bar, same as yesterday. Proud of my travel-food prep today: in my backpack I have my compliant turkey slices; carrot sticks, banana and an apple for lunch (too much fruit but better than alternatives). At about 3pm at 35,000 ft. I resist the airplane pretzels and have fully researched the compliant beverage options (I ask for IMG_3979seltzer and OJ–having asked flight attendant before take off to look at ingredients on OJ).  Have also figured out an herbal tea bag in my Nalgene’s cool water lends it a nice subtle flavor. Also packed are oven-roasted almonds, Orange, Epic and Lara bars– I won’t land until 7pm and don’t want to be ravenous and tempted to cheat (and with the 3 hour delay, I’m not home until 10).

According to W30, ANY “cheat” puts you back to day one, and this is understandable but rather sad. I know these first days had a few things that would not be 100% compliant, but I think in spirit I did the best I could with a lot of uncontrolled factors that come with travel. Possibly sugar detox is happening.

October 6 – Now at home I can have better control (I hope). On the run this morning so a HB egg and some grapefruit. Did the big shopping today for healthy stuff, planned a menu, did a lot of prep. Lunch scrambled eggs with a touch of onion, spinach and potato. I wonder if Ore-Ida hash browns are legal? No bad ingredients listed… Nutpods hazelnut “creamer” is ok but not great. I mostly miss my stevia sweetness in coffee.

Tonight’s crockpot veggie-packed beef stew was a little disappointing; the beef was tough; without Lipton’s Onion soup mix it was missing flavor. Threw in a diced turnip, a first. Ground up the remaining stew meat for leftovers.

Also roasted beets today (another first– always used jarred), sliced for salads and pickled an few as well.  Homemade Mayo is excellent and quite easy to make.

Oh– and why is arrowroot so expensive? $7 for a small spice jar size?? Need a cornstarch replacement for thickening sauces and stews.

The redeeming part of today was the pumpkin custard   which was amazing but probably qualifies as SWYPO (“sex with your pants on,” aka an “almost cheat” because technically I guess it’s a dessert-y thing). Still, it felt virtuous because there was no sugar, dairy or gluten; it purports to be W30 compliant (more about these boasts later). It’ll be a breakfast alternative when the eggs get old.

A pitcher of Raspberry Zinger iced tea, and LaCroix flavored waters provide more appealing beverage choices.

October 7:  spinach onion frittata with a handful of OreIda frozen potato cubes. Cooked up 6 pieces of the pricey sugar-free bacon, intending to have leftovers. We each had 3. So IMG_4001delish (W30 is right to caution that bacon can be abused; good thing the “legal” kind is so expensive, won’t be buying often). Tomatoes, avocado garnish, 6 grapes. For lunch I coat thin turkey cutlets with almond-coconut flour and seasonings and cook in coconut oil. Slice over raw spinach with 2 sliced strawberries, several pecans, dribbles of Italian dressing made from W30 Mayo. Satisfying. Mid afternoon I’m hungry so a small hand of mixed nuts, and a Larabar. Dinner out with friends (we requested a steakhouse): 4oz filet, plain baked potato (asked for drawn butter vs regular– isn’t this close to “clarified?) and asparagus. Later at home we have a small serving of pumpkin custard. Are we feeding our “sugar dragon” with this? Always have craved “something sweet” after a meal; so, how is it different than if we ate the component ingredients of this custard?  Also, can’t resist stepping on the scale so broke that “rule.” I just need that motivation any time I’m restricting food. Small reductions are motivating.

Reflection on Week One:  It’s officially one week on Whole30 and the jury is still out for me. The more I read up about this plan, the more Nazi-like I find it (as each day an illegal choice comes along). And, I accept it’s ONLY 30 days, AND you can eat delicious REAL food.   Whole30 requires a TON of careful label-reading as you shop, lots of prep and cooking to have control over ingredients and what you’re putting in your body (which is why I chose October, it was a month I knew I had more time).  But forget about any concoction that reminds you of dessert or sugar, which feeds your “sugar dragon,” or qualifies as “Sex with your pants on (SWYPO).” Sure, fruit is “legal,” but in small portions and with meals so you’re not pouring sugar into your bloodstream (which apparently disturbs the good things this plan does for your body, especially weight loss). Of course W30 doesn’t want to demonize IMG_3999healthy fruit in reasonable portions (and even opines it is “optional”). But what disturbs me is that W30 says I can’t mix “legal” ingredients like coconut milk, fruit, and OJ into a smoothie. Or, eggs, coconut milk, banana, and pumpkin into a yummy custard– because these things are “desserts” or “treats,” and the point of Whole30 is to get out of this need/mentality.  I despise black coffee, and the Nutpods “creamer” really doesn’t cut it.  One side of me agrees that’s good and for 30 days I should be able to; the other side (the side that enjoys life and food) says this is too harsh, and decidedly not fun. Gotta start focusing on all the good points.

Learning to make sure my purse is always stocked with emergency snacks: Epic! Bar, Larabar, nuts. All of these things are considered “last resort” options but better than going on a desperate fast food binge while out.

I “illegally” have weighed myself, which is something I just need to do. And the news is good, so I stay motivated.

IMG_2931

The “good” I take away from week one: I’m pretty much off sugar; I’m down a couple pounds; I managed to stay with it even when traveling and it wasn’t easy to find foods; my GI system feels better; my water intake is up; I haven’t had one packaged salty or sweet snack food or drink in a week (aside from legal Epic and Lara bars); and I’m not consuming lots of chemical additives.

Now on to Week 2.  Eggs for breakfast is getting old.

 

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Hospitality

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Our door is always open. Drinks can be ready in minutes, and the kitchen is a place of problem solving, peace and love. Anyone who needs to chat is welcome anytime.

There may be laundry to be folded and housework to be done, but it can wait! I have food in the fridge and tea in the cupboard, listening ears, shoulders to cry on and love to share.

We will always be available… you are always welcome!!

This is an old value that is being lost to technology…a text, Facetime, or emoji is not the equivalent of making time for those we love or care about!

Could at least one friend please copy and re-post (not share)? We are trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening, you are never really alone.

A friend posted this today on Facebook.  Except for the part that exhorts one to copy and paste, I loved it.  (I don’t like being “expected” to copy something… at least they said “please”).

In the past, this friend practiced the art of hospitality when I was single, alone, and living in a foreign country.  I started out as a “stranger;” we are now close friends.  I watched hospitality4their kids grow up, and am friends with them still.  Invites for day trips to family beach outings were frequent.  Once when I was dealing with an excruciating unexplained pain, her surgeon husband himself transported me to the hospital and saw I received good care.  Throughout my Foreign Service career, home hospitality was central for most (having full-time housekeepers of course made that easier).  In most third world countries, there are few places to gather in public, so dinners and hospitality2parties abounded and were the way people socialized.  People would sit around someone’s patio or living room until the wee hours of the night enjoying conversation, good food, drinks, and company.

Hospitality is becoming a dying “art” and that makes me sad. I am grateful I was raised this way and had my time overseas understanding what hospitality looks like.  It was never a burden and more often a privilege.  Growing up, invitations to dinner were routinely extended by my parents.  Mother could whip something together, always ensuring there was double the food needed so guests never refrained from seconds.  We kids were pressed into service serving guests drinks and snacks;  setting the table and cleaning up; as bell hop; and other general welcoming duties.  We loved it. We always had a guest room at the ready; and if there were more guests than rooms, my brother and I were expected to give up our rooms.  I never recall being upset by this displacement; perhaps it was fun to sleep on the couch or in a sleeping bag in the family hospitality6room.  I’d like to think it was the joy of having guests.

As SJ and I searched for a new home, I always envision it filled with family and friends. I love to entertain and cook, and I love having good people around me.  We will have a nice open concept living area and kitchen, with lots of counter space over which to linger (we’ve always found folks gravitate towards the kitchen (the “hearth”), and it’s always been the center of our home).  There are bedrooms and baths enough for all our kids, and future grandkids.hospitality7

Through the years, I’ve enjoyed extending hospitality.  For new friends, SJ and I often invited people over to dinner at our home; we hosted church community groups, studies and gatherings.  We welcomed our children’s friends, and made it a fun hang-out during the teen years when having them closer to home gave us peace of mind.  Those who happened to be in our home at meal time were offered a place at the table.  We routinely extended invitations for a place to stay.  For my close circle of college friends, I’ve always loved hosting them at my home.  First when I was single in a one-bedroom apartment; and later in the large home I shared with my hubby.  Recently I’m back to the apartment (two bedroom) with plenty of room for guests.  Fun hospitalityGirl’s weekends are back, now that we all live closer.  A pack of late 50-somethings sit around, eat, and happily yack for hours on end.

But what’s interesting to me, is that many people seemed uncomfortable or even embarrassed after the first or second invite.  Hubby counseled me that I had to pull back a bit, because most people felt awkward that they could not/would not reciprocate. This baffled me and made me very sad, as truly I didn’t care that much what others did, or if they reciprocated.  Even now that we live in a wonderful area for tourism and have extended invites widely, few have taken us up; a couple actually chose hotels and meeting at restaurants.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn or say I’m special… because hospitality selfishly makes me happy.  It’s just that I don’t get how it’s changed.  I don’t think we smell bad; and I know these people like us.  Even accepting old-fashioned hospitality is on the decline.

I’ve several cousins in town.  We’ve been here for about 18 months and yet to have an invite.  I’ve extended invites multiple invites.  There are many excuses and some apologies (some legit for those with busy schedules, families and younger kids).   Hubby IMG_4241has urged me to pull back.  It has made me sad.  To my favorite cousin’s remark during a phone call: “we will work harder to get together,” I said “It better be soon, because in about 7 months we’ll have moved.”  (In all fairness, this particular lovely cousin with half dozen kids and a hectic lifestyle invited our family to their home when we in town over holidays some years back, and showed lovely hospitality).

I recently had the chance to visit my 30-something niece, who I don’t get to see much anymore.  She recently purchased her first home, and I knew she was rightly proud of it.  I decided that while I was in her town, I’d make an effort to go visit her and tell her what a wonderful home she had (of course we all want to hear this; our first home is especially special, be it ever so humble).  Now, she has the misfortune to live next door to some very tough looking alleged drug dealers.  And she has two large pitbulls who terrify me (and hopefully the drug dealers).  She politely exiled them into the backyard during my visit.  She had earlier given me the idea that she had to be somewhere that afternoon, so my visit would be short, 30 minutes max.

The visit ended up more than an hour as we caught up and enjoyed reconnecting.  She gave me the 10-minute house tour, as she told me of all of her plans to “finish” or complete renovations or organizing.  I praised and complimented her home and her fix-ups (ignoring the lived-in state, which I never feel should be held against anyone or Image result for pit bull attackcreate a barrier to invitiations).  We then stood either in her kitchen or living room, and talked.  At no time during my visit did she offer me a seat, or a refreshment.  At one point she opened the back door to show off her “fur babies.”  The dogs are not trained, and they went wild with the presence of a stranger.  One aggressively tore through the screen door and into the house, and immediately for me (a person who has been attacked by a dog in the past).  It jumped on me, wove between my legs, and acted aggressive and wild.  When I attempted to muster my courage and speak calmly to the dog, or pet it, it nipped and grew more agitated. I tried the command voice, “SIT!” to no avail.  I was completely unnerved.  For several minutes my niece only shouted wildly at the dog to stop; the dog didn’t listen.  Panic was setting in for me as my efforts to seem unfazed and accepting of her “fur baby” were wearing thin.  The dog didn’t have a collar to grab to lead off.  I finally said, “I need to go to a room away from the dog, because I am very freaked out right now.”   The dog merely followed me.  Eventually she pulled it off and away…  (To her credit my niece apologized and expressed understanding of my fear (in response to my apologies for freaking out and that I held nothing against her precious dogs), and admitted she hadn’t trained them properly for company. I tried to get my Chippyracing heart to slow down and smile sympathetically).

[Contrast this to an old friend’s family who prided themselves on well-trained dogs; although their collie was large—I know, and a more gentle breed—I loved that dog and felt comfortable around it, well, until it would stick it’s long probing nose somewhere I didn’t like.  But there was a time that people would be horrified if their pet distressed a guest; the guest came first.  We will shut our cat into a room if we have anyone visiting who is discomforted by cats.]

What are we teaching this generation about hospitality, which really is akin to “otherness?”  I fear not much.  I can only pray that my own kids, once in a position to have their own places and extend hospitality, will have something to look back on and model.

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“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

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Not Attracted to Your Husband?

I did some research on this topic, because I will be honest with you, it happens to the best of us.

“I love my husband but I don’t feel attracted to him…” this apparently is a plight shared by many women, young and old, across the globe.

I am in a marriage that came back from the grave.  We married in our mid-late 30s, immediately added 3 kids to the mix, and things just spiraled downhill for the next 15 years as we struggled to cohabitate “for the sake of the kids.”  One of us had an exciting and experimental sexual past; the other perhaps didn’t.  As Christians we wanted to forgive the sins of the past, and move forward together in our marriage and future together. We believed that Marriage was a covenant for life.  It just wasn’t always simple.

Then a miracle happened and I don’t know how to explain it other than I worked on ME and MY attitude (it’s all in the “Our Story” tab). I lost weight and felt better (aka, sexier, desirable, healthier); gave an honest ultimatum (let’s not stay together and continue to make each other miserable; if we can’t change for each other, let’s move on…); got honest with him about what I liked sexually, deciding not to act like an inexperienced virgin who just spread her legs in the dark for 60 seconds and pretended it was OK.

For the past 4-5 years we have worked hard on improving our marriage, our respect, our intimacy, our commitment, our love.  We’re still pretty new at this.

And, quite frankly, very little of it comes “naturally.”  It requires superhuman effort and sometimes we are quite lazy.  So easy to default to lazy.  Just like leading the proverbial horse to water, you just can’t lead every man to a hot sex life. Trust me, I’ve tried.  And at times I just accept that this problem “is about me, and not him.” I must reflect on the many great things about him.

Closing in on the end of my 50s, with 25 years of marriage under our belt, it gets no less Image result for sexual disinterestconfusing and perplexing.  There are things (books, movies, memories) that can get me hot and bothered and aroused; yet sex with hubby is rarely more than just a loving, connecting, physical bond, with little sexual pleasure for me.  As we age, our bodies start doing strange things, and emit strange odors.  That dreaded sense of loss of attraction looms menacingly.  Hubby is a man who values health and hygiene (in case anyone suggests diet is a culprit), and keeps himself in good physical shape.  He is also a man who can go weeks without sex and seem not fazed.  I find that recently my husband’s body odor turns me off (it’s so hard to describe—even though he’s washed, and he eats healthily, he puts off “eau de old man.”)  His breath isn’t the nicest, even though he’s fastidious about dental care, with just-brushed his teeth.  I realize that for 25 years, he apparently has thought kissing involved wet licking and lots of heavy tongue thrusting—not a turn-on for me.  His ejaculate burns me at times.  I’ve never known him to own fingernail clippers or a file (I think he’s a secret nail bitter) and ragged, scratchy fingernails do not mix well with tender lady parts; not to mention I’m easily prone to UTIs, and any hint of bacteria can lead to weeks of terrible pain.  Consequently intimate touch scares me a little.  And yes, I’ve tried to be honest about all of this with him in the nicest way I can, to the point of suggesting a manicure, and introducing pure essential oils.

Now, I’m sure he has his own list of turn-offs about me; he’s just too much of a gentleman to mention them. I struggle with weight.  I have frequent “flare ups” of conditions that Image result for sexual disinterestmake sex difficult.  It’s quite embarrassing to admit but extra push-down pressure in the area can also push out other unpleasantness.  Often that gassy fear just stifles any desire to just “let go” with an orgasm (which requires the use of a vibe).  Still, I exercise regularly (yoga is my thing… and there is no more sexy exercise IMHO…), try to be very attentive to his sexual pleasure, try to keep weight down (a struggle recently), dress nicely, fix my hair and make up– oh, and try to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

There are some who might say, “hey, by the time you hit 60 and beyond, sex isn’t so important anymore, it’s the history you share together and the companionship.”  Perhaps this is true… but there is this part of me that still very much likes erotic and sensual experiences, and these seem few and far between these days.  I love him, and I’d love to find the key to our “mojo.”

So I did some Googling.  Because frankly I was amazed and perplexed at how my increasingly frigid body could become highly aroused by watching Fifty Shades of Grey, in ways that sex with hubby rarely does.  Some might say, “stop watching that filth.”  It’s hard for me to bridge this gap in my sexuality—the gal that still desires (and is aroused for)  hot, erotic sex; and the mature lady who loves her hubby but can’t get off with him.

Here are some of my take-aways from the research (I’m not giving attribution as it’s too much work… but I don’t claim authorship except for a few added notes of my own):

  1. There are few fates more hollow and numbing than a lifetime of chaste cohabitation with someone you probably wouldn’t choose as roommate, let along spouse, if you had it to do over again.  (Yeesh, it’s tough when you hit the roommate times… been there, done that!   Chaste cohabitation though is sad to contemplate)
  2. When a woman decides she doesn’t want the husband she still loves even to kiss her  (I’ve mentioned the breath thing… no clue how to remedy since he otherwise does all the right things…)
  3. Can sexual passion ‘last a lifetime’?  Very rarely. It’s usually replaced by a deeper love and warm companionship, shared habits and humour which are the bread and butter of a good life. Physicality may be expressed more often in cuddles than the rampaging sex of youth — but touch remains important.  (Yes, touch is important.  Hubby knows exactly the type of (rougher) touch I crave… but it’s rarely served up in his repertoire.  Reminding starts to feel like nagging… or worse, pathetic begging)
  4. Couples find different ways of dealing with getting older and changing needs.  (Still looking for this elusive secret.  I know I love him to the end… and it’s more than a feeling).
  5. If there is anything worse than the assumption that we all have a divine right to happiness, it is surely the belief that we all need to feel sexually fulfilled all the time.  This is the message of a heavily sexualized society.  (Yup.  How do I change that?)
  6. Sometimes I think of sex as a savage dog snapping at our heels that would be better off put down. Enjoyable it may be, but it causes so much unhappiness. (That’s a pretty extreme paradox… I suppose that given the choice to kill sex or have it be unhappy… I’d still choose sex).
  7. Ask for God to reveal all these things to you—what’s so great and attractive about Image result for as long as we both shall liveyour husband, how to take care of your bodies better, what will make your spine tingle, how to see your husband the way only a sexy, loving wife can. (this falls under the category of “pray for your marriage and even sex.”  I’ve not felt much responsiveness from prayer for this, but I will pray without ceasing).
  8. Let me ask, would you still work at a job that hasn’t paid you in three years? Well that’s the last time your wife had an orgasm during sex. (I think he tries, or wants to try.  He doesn’t view sex as his “right” and he wants me to enjoy it.  The fact is, he can’t make me orgasm, and that is hard on both of us).
  9. In the beginning… you enjoyed being in each other’s company and you naturally responded to one another sexually. In those early years, there wasn’t much else to bolster your affection . . . no shared history, no bank of fun memories to reminisce about, and no legacy of weathering the storms of life together. God, in his grace, wired our brains to be drawn to young love with powerful neurochemicals that caused you to find great joy in your relationship. However, those chemicals representing physical attraction and sexual excitement were never intended to last indefinitely. (sadly, I don’t know that we really ever had the “natural sexual pull,” which always was a bitter pill to swallow.  We’ve had to work at this, always. A complication was that I was a naughty girl who liked bad men; he was a nice guy who liked good girls.  It’s insane how we ended up together).
  10. Believe it or not, there is a study that proves those long looks can actually increase attraction. See how long the two of you can gaze into each other’s eyes without laughing or talking. This can be awkward and the time can feel long but I dare you to find out if it rekindles the fire of attraction. (He’s full of humor.  Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes juvenile or prejudiced, sometimes demeaning.  Because of the mixed humor, I have struggled to express appreciation for his humor, a trait I know he is proud of.  I feel like this exercise would be doomed to failure; a similar exercise is holding a hug for 20 seconds or longer, twice a day.  It’s insane, but this is a challenge… He doesn’t naturally gravitate to this; I have learned to shut off the expectation for it.)
  11. Someone making you laugh, being clever, sharing hobbies and interests, and being kind and compassionate are all things that might make you feel attracted to someone.  (Quite frankly, it is his kindness, compassion, patience, intelligence, and trustworthiness that keep me with him and loving him.  He possesses numerous Image result for as long as we both shall livequality traits that are rarely all found in one individual; and traits that outlive the purely physical ones.  He will take care of me (and has).  He is a “GOOD MAN” and that is always better than a “SEXY MAN” if you have to choose. Still, I am selfish.  I’d like both, please…)

 

One thing that I know in spite of the occasional dissatisfaction: I will be here until death do us part, good, bad, ugly and not-sexy.  The good far outweighs the bad and I just need to keep focusing on that good, with God’s help, every day.  Just keep loving, even when you don’t feel it.

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New Chapters

What are the chapters of our lives?

For some it might look like childhood (0-12), teen (13-18), young adult (19-34?), middle aged (35-50?), and retired.  Of course each of these can be further subdivided and age ranges are average and can widely vary.

Now, each of these first four stages of life may represent 10-15 years each, give or take.  The younger you are on this continuum, the more you are eager to move on to the next stage.  Of course the definitions of the latter two seem to be in constant flux.

“Adulting” is a long stretch of time.  The time you begin to live self-sufficiently, photo(19)working, and paying your bills, until retirement, can involve many years and many long hours in the workplace.  During these years we may marry, have children, advance in a career, and find ourselves on a hamster wheel.  Soon after entering these adult years, we may initially yearn for the easier, simpler times of dependency on our parents over the benefits of independence; but as we age, those golden years of retirement start looking very tempting– that is if we have saved and planned to make retirement a financial reality.

[If you are in the earlier stages of “adulting,” the best advice I can give you is: 1) have a budget and always pay yourself first–aka save money from each paycheck for your future; better yet, start an IRA or other retirement savings plan, and don’t touch it!  2) Establish credit, but don’t run up your debt!  3) Live within your means (once again, this where a budget is necessary; if you want a new car, an exotic trip, or a designer bag, budget for it and try to limit debt in your life to mortgage and car payment), and 4) stay humble by helping those less fortunate–this would include a line in your budget for donating or tithing.  Act Justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.]  

These days, that last chapter can be the longest of all.  Another moving target, over the years it could start as young as 50 and as late as you please.  The definition is murkier as well.  In the US, the average age of retirement is currently 63 (one year after Social Security retirement can be taken).  Since the average death rate in the US now stands at approximately 79, that gives the average American about 16 years in retirement.  In many cases it can be longer.

My father retired at 55.  I mean, completely retired.  He had some hobbies like golf, boating, and fishing, and he enjoyed tinkering around the house.  But he left the world for all intents and purposes and created a new world, with my mother at his side. Dad was never one to put anyone before his own needs, and that included Mother.  Exercise, eating healthy, or drinking in moderation wasn’t even a consideration– it’s taken its toll on his health. Charity and volunteer work were never part of his life.  He was always consumed with making sure he got what was due him.  My mother died 7 years ago, and Dad realized too late he hadn’t appreciated what he had; his health and mental acuity has declined.  He is a recluse.  For 30 years, dad did nothing that didn’t accrue benefit to himself.  He was always frugal and he has always been concerned about his money.  Money, amassing and hording it was a priority.  And he is a very unhappy person.

He inadvertently taught me a valuable lesson.

SJ also retired at 55.  I was just a few years older than that.  Fortunately we’ve always been the type to stay busy with volunteer work and in our church.  Money is necessary, and we made sure to save it and invest it (SJ is wonderful at this) so that we could pay for our kids’ college, give to God and charity, take care of our own needs, and have a nest egg that could take us through this final chapter of our lives.  But money for the sake of money, or the identification of “rich” or “conspicuous consumption” has never been our thing.  We believe that all we have is from God, and the belief that we should work hard and not expect hand-outs.  We don’t pray for money or riches (prosperity Gospel), nor do we love money; we pray for good health, good relationships, protection for ourselves and others, and the means to live life with as few concerns and stress as possible (knowing full well that God will regularly bring trials into our lives, which we should count as “all joy” in that it strengthens and matures us).

11034949_10152774512718581_350318555215379373_oWe are among the youngest “retirees” that we know; we actually don’t much like referring to ourselves that way (it tends to illicit judgment of a sort; perhaps it’s envy for some).  We purposely decided at the beginning of this retirement chapter to return to the city in which I used to live, to spend two years enjoying this area.  It’s been a blast.  We’ve enjoyed history and beautiful sights; we’ve gotten involved in some volunteer activities and in our church.  I’ve done a little part time work.  We’ve been able to travel, near and far.  We take care of elderly parents from afar.  And now, it’s time for a new adventure: we have found where we want to build our “forever home” on earth.  Mountains, lake, rivers, seasons, proximity to airports.  Away from the busy hustle-bustle of bigger city life.  Our kids are on their own now.  We do hope that we will get to be part of their adult lives, and future grandchildren, but right now they are in that stage of breaking ties and starting their own lives.  Parents are extraneous (until your car needs work and you can’t afford it…).

But there’s a determination that this chapter won’t be sedate or a downhill coast for us.  If anything I’d love it to be the best chapter yet.

life-should-not-be-a-journey-to-the-grave-hunter-thompson

We still have a few months before we settle into our new locale and find our plan, purpose, and passion: ways to give back to the community, involvement in a new church.  New friends. Entertaining old friends who will hopefully visit.  Activities to do together (I’m looking forward to kayaking, dream of having another small sailboat; skiing with a senior pass would be pretty radical, continuing yoga; he loves the many wooded trails for running and hiking, a place to work out, and the presence of a small university).  There’s the continuing challenging to continue to learn to live contentedly together in such close proximity, to find our separate interests, and appreciate each other.  If there’s a little passion sprinkled in, so much the better (interestingly, as we age we need to be very intentional about this).  We need to appreciate the gift of these extra years (we have seen way too many friends our age and younger succumb to cancer and other diseases).  Live or die… these are the options.  We need to chose to live big.

Love your chapter, make the most of it.  There’s no going back, no do-overs.

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25 Years

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Here we are, 25 years together.  It’s a momentous occasion to be married two decades and a half. We are in a minority, supposedly only 33% of couples make it to 25 years.

We’ve beat the odds.  Go figure.

I’m not bragging or self-inflated about this milestone.  It happened in spite of me, in spite of us, and by the Grace of God.  I’m stunned, amazed and extremely grateful.  I don’t know that I deserve this blessing.

I’ve often written here that marriage is hard work, sometimes harder than what you think worth it.  There can be sad times, lonely times, apart times.  Times when you look at that person and wonder what were you two thinking?

We’ve had a lot of bumpy roads over these past 25 years, but by the grace of God we’ve avoided the major ditches that can ruin a marriage: there has been no infidelity, no alcohol or substance abuse, no porn.  At the end of the day, we toughed through the difficult times, some ugly times, and gratefully came out on the other side—perhaps a bit battered and beaten up, a bit numb, a bit wary. But when we look back and see these as times of firing, refining, growth and perhaps even discipline, we realize that God could bring good out of bad, if we let Him and acknowledged this as a possibility (“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4)

I won’t lie to you.  There are still moments and days when we are fed up with each other, Image result for if you saw the size of the blessing coming you would understand the magnitude meaningtired of the same old same old.  Little things bubble up, frustrations arise.  We both can be stinkers.  Distance sometimes happens.  The desperate human thoughts of, “how can I live the rest of my life with this person?” do crop up.

There are also the days when we count the blessings.  Our general health, our kids, our families, our amazing life together.  None of this is perfect, but even with the little warts and hiccups, we still know how blessed we are.

We are learning every day that in the process of being obedient, we both have to acknowledge something incredible: our emotions eventually catch up to our obedience to remain in a covenant relationship made before God. “Though the joy may have left for a few days, a few weeks, and once or twice, for a season, it came back. Deeper, richer and more abundant than we ever expected.” (from https://careynieuwhof.com/20-honest-insights-on-how-to-make-it-to-25-years-in-marriage)

It’s perhaps hard to distill it down to one thing.  Love certainly is the glib answer (with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a good measuring stick).  Our tongue can really get us in trouble, so this one maxim seems to cover a lot:

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” James 1:19

Maybe in this way, we can pray to be “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Psalms 148:8

We have some major landmarks that accompany this 25th celebration:

  • One daughter is getting married in a few weeks, to a man we have prayed for as a Related imagespouse.  They are covenanting to have a Christ-centered and God-honoring marriage.  Both are sold out to the Lord (that is such “Christian-speak:” what it essentially means is that unlike myself and her father, this young couple knows they want to put Christ at the lead and center of their lives from day one forward.  It took a while for SJ and I to get there).  I have confidence that despite their young ages, the inevitable pitfalls, and growing up they have to do, they will see their 25th mark—and they have every potential to celebrate 80 years together.
  • The other two kids are transitioning to adulthood with transfer of car titles, paying their own rents and utilities, moving off our insurance, and our financial support.  Yes, we do get the occasional “wow, my car needs $600 worth of work…” and we attempt to work out a plan where they feel some pinch in the decision to accept our loan (our payoff terms are better than a bank’s, but not too lenient).
  • We just put money down to build our “forever home.”  That was a big landmark decision marking our 25th.  A huge and exciting step forward together with the hopes that what we picked out, and what we’re committing ourselves financially to, is the right place for us.  As long as I can see mountains and have four seasons, I reason that I can be happy in a place.  Yet I know that more than that, as long as he is there to catch me, I will be content.

Grateful for 25 years.  And trying ever so hard to be grateful for today, one day at a time.  Reminding myself that SJ also needs to hear me express this gratitude daily.

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Armchair Activists

Something horrible and reprehensible happened in a state I just happen to live in right now (albeit over 100 miles from my front door).  Some terrible people (some from other states) did some terrible things.  They happen to bear a physical resemblance to me.  They also claim associations like me.  They are identified as people of privilege (like me) who as such, can supposedly have no possible clue about the evils of bigotry, hatred, and racism.

Violence and hatred are bad things.  Most reasonable adults and Americans can get on board with that.  I deplore and denounce what happened.  I also know that in this fallen world, it will happen again, in another state, another city, by perhaps another race or class of people.  Ugliness is an equal opportunity employer among the human race.  Satan sees to that.

So what am I going to do about it?  Many seem to think spinning more hatred, vilification, and dissent on social media is an appropriate way to address the issue.  Related image

I just see Satan gleefully rubbing his hands together as he watches the sparring, the self-righteous accusations, the character assassinations, the tearing down.

The rants on Facebook are back.  Articles, comments, personal testimonies (“I have black, gay, tall, short… friends…”), renouncement (“This is why I don’t want to be a Christian”); and dares (“If you don’t agree with me you’re a scum bag and I’ll unfriend you.”). They dissolve into personal attacks and slurs, strangers judging strangers.  Cussing them out.  Calling them stupid.  Some posts may be well meaning, but they are armchair activists.  Just like me right now—sitting in our comfy chairs blasting out our views.  SNL did a spot-on sketch about this:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/thank-you-scott/3498997?snl=1

I seriously don’t want to rant here.  I make the mistake of looking at my Facebook first thing in the morning, and I get sucked in to reading the ugly back and forth rhetoric that Related imageaccuses any one of a different view immediately suspect of being part of the hatred and vilification that happened.  God forbid you say you live in Virginia– Oh, you are one of those….  I want to say authentic Christians don’t act hatefully, but I know there are plenty who claim Christianity and do horrible things.  I want to say not all white people think or act that way: but I realize some do.  I want to say a lot of things, which will just stir the pot.

But I’ll limit myself to this: instead of sanctimoniously throwing up a comment on Facebook, Twitter, or a Blog like this, please be damned sure that you are actually living what you write. 

And maybe a little more “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” (and yes, I see the irony in this post).

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