Before, After, And A New Challenge



Now that I’ve gotten myself through the renovation, it’s time for another challenge.  Yes, it’s done except for one drawer that should be delivered today if the road conditions are okay after yesterday’s five inches of snow.  As you can see I’ve attached before and after pics of the master bath. The new tub  is fabulous for a nice soak on cold winter days. While I like to read or listen to books on tape as I soak, Bill plays his harmonica filling the house with wonderful, bluesy music.

While all of the hammering, sawing, and chaos was happening, I found myself diving for comfort food to sooth my nerves.  Since I’m gluten free and avoiding most grains, there were no cakes, cookies, and and I had no kitchen to make my usual treats made with almond flour. So I packed in the dark chocolate bars, ate things like ice cream when we went out to eat, which I usually refrain from, and generally experienced almost constant sugar cravings and crashes.



Yes, I’m a sugarholic. Like a good portion of the rest of us in this country, I love sweets.  Once I’m on a sugar kick there is no stopping me.  If I bring home a pint of ice-cream it probably wouldn’t make it until day two.  If there is a chocolate bar sitting somewhere in the vicinity it won’t last long either. Anything that is sweet is my comfort. Especially when I’m stressed.

The rest of my diet is great.  I long ago gave up soda, chips, most processed foods. I haven’t bought a bag of refined sugar sugar in years, using honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup for cooking. But sugar is sugar. I eat small portions of meat and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit.  Berries are the best, along with clementines, and in the summer peaches, cherries and grapes.  All organic if possible.   I’ve tried being vegetarian, but found I need animal protein to keep my energy up and my immune system in good shape.

Last week I had a hard day when there was nothing sweet in the house to munch on.   I was craving sugar all day long. I was jittery, anxious, and couldn’t concentrate.  I’ve been through it before and the only thing that can fix it is to omit sugar from my diet and be very patient, because it takes time to get over the hump. I made a promise to myself to stop buying the ice-cream, dark chocolate bars, and anything else that would continue to keep me needing a fix. I piled on the fruit instead. Apples, grapefruit, bananas, berries, fresh or dried. I felt better but was still craving anything that would deliver a dose of sugar quickly.

Over two weeks ago my daughter, Lisa, who suffers from the same addiction to sugar, decided to go on a 21 day sugar detox program. I’ve been following her progress and been impressed with how she is doing.  She has just under a week left to go and I’m looking forward to seeing what she will do once she is done.  Will her need for sugar come back if she adds a piece of chocolate back in once in a while?  Or will she continue to keep tabs on herself and continue to live without the cravings?

I don’t know the answer to that, but she is has so inspired me that I’ve decided to give it a try myself.  This coming Sunday will be day number one for me.  I have a dinner party and a lunch to get through this week with friends, but once day one rolls around, that’s it for sugar for the next 21 days. In the meantime I’m testing recipes for snacks that I can have and cutting back on the amount of sweet stuff now to prepare myself.  I haven’t bought a bar of chocolate in week and haven’t had ice-cream in a while.  I just made a batch of Banola, from the recipes that go along with the program. It’s good and very satisfying.  It’s granola made with a variety of nuts, seeds, cinnamon, vanilla, and just barely ripe bananas as a sweetener. There are no grains or sugar in it. I’ll eat it out of the jar for a snack or add it to plain yogurt at breakfast with some cut up green apple.  Last night we tried the Shrimp Pad Thai with zucchini noodles. So delicious. Those added to my own stash of grain and sugar free recipes should keep me happy for the next three weeks.

I think the hardest part for me will be giving up all of the fruit I’ve been eating. Green apples, green-tipped bananas and grapefruit are the only fruits I’m allowed to have during the detox period. But I’ve found that most anything worth doing isn’t terribly easy at first.  It’s just another thing to try to keep myself healthy and feeling good.

Wish me luck!  I’ll be posting posting on my Facebook page about my progress from time to time. I’m looking forward to seeing how I do after the 21 days are up.

Oh, my writing is coming along well.  I’ll be going to a writing conference in May and hope to have a manuscript to bring along for critique.

Reno Week #1

The living room.

The living room.

The week that was went by in a flash … but it also seemed to take a year to pass.  I don’t quite know how to explain that but that’s how it was.  The hard wood flooring is being put in now and should be finished by Friday morning.  The hall and powder room where the laundry room will be located has now been gutted and work proceeds there.

All in all it was a pretty good week. I managed to do everything but work on my memoir.  Even though my studio is in another building it’s hard for me to focus.  The dogs are jumpy from all the noise and the poor cat doesn’t quite know what to do with herself.  All of us except Sweet Lilli, the cat are staying at a nearby Residence Inn, but even there the dogs aren’t themselves.  They are very much creatures of habit and all of the turmoil is intruding into the quiet security they are used to. It’s the same for both Bill and I but we’re the humans and are supposed to be resilient. We try and are encouraged every day by the progress that is being made.  I can already say that the new floor in the kitchen, though only partially laid, is going to be gorgeous and will make a huge difference in the amount of time I spend cooking.

My biggest hangup has been eating and cooking. I’m gluten-free and am trying go mostly Paleo, meaning no grains whatsoever.  I am also a cook-it-from-scratch kind of person and the limited kitchen arrangements in our room have been a problem until yesterday when we moved into a room with a real stove with four burners and an oven.  It’s still tiny and cramped but I don’t plan on making anything that is complicated. So I think we’re good until our kitchen here is done.

I could go into a rant or have a pity party and cry about how hard all of this is, but it wouldn’t help. Yesterday I finally made friends with the idea that this is going to be a time of getting little serious writing done and having untold interruptions no matter what I’m trying to do. Unlike several people I know who went to Europe while their homes were being renovated, I find it helpful to check in on what is happening in order to keep from being surprised at the end of the day.

As I watch the rest of the world, the work being done here and the great people who are doing it, I find myself being grateful that this interruption in my life is as small as it is. It is nothing in comparison to what the single dad who is supervising this job goes through every day, for his daughters, three and six years old. I’m grateful for the cooking space I do have that is inside a warm building and the choices available to me when it comes to what to eat.

Kitchen floor in process.

Kitchen floor in process.

I’m grateful for everything I have and for a huge amount of stuff that I don’t have. Sure I’m somewhat stressed. Who wouldn’t be?  Life is what it is, but I happen to be one of the most fortunate citizens on this planet.  Suffering is an option but for the moment I am choosing to live mindfully and simply notice what is happening around me and what is going through my head. The only thing I can change is the way I perceive what is going on and I’m especially grateful that I’m able to do just that.

What stresses are happening in your life and how are you keeping it from turning your life upside down?

Letting Go

Perogies while being prepared.

Things Change.  One minute the sun is shining, the next it’s raining cats and dogs. I might be really sad at noon, and then find myself happy and laughing hysterically by four o’clock. When I have a day that makes me want to shoot myself in the head, the next day I may be filled with uncontrollable excitement to get on with my life. None of us ever knows from one minute to the next what is before us.  The past is done, never to return.  The future hasn’t happened yet, so how can we truly plan what we will be doing next? Changes are constant. They can be large or small, altering our lives in many ways. Some are good. Others bring on excruciating pain and suffering.  The one thing that never changes, is the need to let go of whatever we are clinging to, so that we can ride the waves toward new beginnings.  It can be hard. So very hard.  Especially when we are dealing with major loss.

Right now, there are lots of changes happening in my life, and lots of things I need to let go of.  Though there is nothing terribly earth shattering, they’re bothersome and sometimes sad.  For one thing, I’m aging.  Nothing works quite the way it used to.  I can no longer wiggle my ears or do fifty jumping jacks all in a row. It’s to be expected, of course, but I’m loving my later years for my ability to be more honest and to say what I need to say without embarrassing myself.

Just a little over three weeks ago, I decided to go gluten-free.  I’m feeling absolutely terrific.  All of my aches and pains are gone, food cravings are a thing of the past, my energy levels have risen to new heights, and I’m slowly losing weight … about a pound a week.  It’s miraculous and I love every minute of discovering the new me.  What’s to complain about?

I think of Christmas and the traditional foods we’ve always enjoyed in the past.  Like the perogies, forever my favorite holiday food, since the beginning of time.  Little packages of pasta, filled with a variety of fillings, like sauerkraut, mushrooms, or potato and cheese, are to die for.  We smother them with caramelized onions and sour cream, and spend our time eating them in food heaven.  But no more.  I do take solace in their sweet memory and know I’ll probably come up with something that tastes similar but doesn’t use pasta.

Seven weeks ago we adopted an adorable little terrier.  As of three days ago, he is no longer with us. We had to return him to the shelter because he began beating up our old guy, Sam.  He also turned out to be destructive, shredding a new chair cover, chewing on the woodwork, and then a table.  Sam was not hurt too badly the last time Terry started a fight, but everyone, including the trainer, the vet and Terry’s former foster mom, agreed that things could take a very bad turn if we didn’t do something. The amount of training he would need was something we couldn’t commit to. And my first concern was for Sam, who was already coming to us for protection, whenever Terry would get too rowdy.

We’re feeling pretty glum at this point and despite his problems, all of us, including Sam, miss the dickens out of him.  He was a very sweet little guy most of the time.  I’d recently discovered his love for water, when visiting with a neighbor. He’d stepped down onto the first step in her pool and spent the next ten minutes just sitting in the shallow water with a huge grin on his face. I promised myself I’d get him a small toddler’s pool for next summer, but then the last and most injurious fight took place.  I spent the last day he was with us in tears, hugging him and wishing for a fairytale ending, in which he suddenly sees the error of his ways and straightens himself out.  But the true fairytale will happen when he finds a new forever home, where he is the one and only kingpin, preferably with a few kids, whom he adores, and a large space to run in.  There has already been some interest in him from others looking for a small dog and I’m feeling it could happen very soon.

My Mom

My biggest letting go for now, will happen in a week or so when I take my mother’s ashes up to Long Island, to scatter them in the places where she was truly happy.  Some of her ashes are already buried next to my Dad in New Hampshire and some are under the Smoke Tree, we planted in her honor, here in Virginia.  She was not all that happy in New England, and after we, as a family, moved to Vermont, she went back to the Island often, spending her time staying in a small cottage, and visiting friends and relatives.  When she died in 2007, I was not able to plan a funeral or a memorial for her.  I was spent from years of being her caretaker.  I was also very angry with her, unable to find a middle ground where I would be ready and able to let her go with forgiveness and love.  Though it’s taken a while, I’m ready now.  I do miss her terribly and often find myself wanting to call her, to let her in on any exciting news I have to share.  It’s funny, but I do think she knows it all anyway and is up there, sitting on the edge of a cloud, still trying to run the show.

I don’t know how I’ll feel once I finally commit Mom to the earth and sea. Lately, I’ve felt a few second thoughts creep in, suggesting that maybe it would be better if she stayed in the closet where I’ve kept her all this time. But the thing is, I know I need to set her free, so that I can move on with my own life.  Mom’s hold on me began to die this past June, when we had to put her cat, Cleo, to sleep. That calico kitty was my last living connection to Mom. With her, I learned to forgive Mom and myself for the pain we caused each other.  Now it’s time to set myself free as well. I wish to go on living a glorious, rich life, and to enjoy every moment as they arise, without regret of any kind.

 What kinds of changes are going on in your life?  What do you need to let go of?

Kickin’ Granny Out Of Her Chair

My Cross Trainer, Zelda. I bought her second hand five years ago and she’s saved me a fortune in fitness membership fees. I spend time with her when the weather is too hot, too cold, raining heavily or snowing. I have no excuses if I can’t get to the gym.

I’ve been noticing an increase in my aches and pains as summer has progressed.  One reason might be that I move less in the summertime.  I can’t stand the heat and humidity and have much less energy during July and August, when I typically spend more time sitting around and complaining about the weather, than I do moving.  My favorite place to be is outdoors, but the hottest months find me inside my air-conditioned home.  And though I’m grateful to have it, I feel guilty using it because it uses too many natural resources. I always feel much better physically and emotionally in the great outdoors, than I do when I spend my time in an artificially cooled environment, but when it’s really hot, I need it.

Another reason for my sore shoulders, creaky back and stiff hips might be that I’m getting older.  I’ll be seventy in November.  I hear from other aging people, including a few health care providers, that aches and pains are just a sign of  old age.  “Get used to it,” they  tell me. “It’s the way it’s going to be from now on.”  Others, who are older and more active than I am, tell me, “The more you move, the better you feel.”

I personally believe in the “the more, the better” theory, as in, “Use it or lose it.”  I  know that I can work through many of my aches and pains by walking, swimming or using my cross trainer on a regular basis.  And I know that if I spend too much time sitting around, I feel stiffer and in more pain.

I’ve also been told by my massage therapist and my Pilates teacher that my pain could be connected to old trauma that I’m working through as I write my memoir. They both know I’ve been struggling through some aspects of the writing and if I tell them I’m in pain, they’ll ask me what I’m writing about. Nine times out of ten, it is usually something terribly dark. When I’m working through those difficult passages my back and hip pain does seem to get worse.  I push through it, however, hoping that once I’ve finished the writing, I’ll be feeling much better.  In the meantime, I’m taking breaks from writing every hour or so to stretch the tension out of my body. It really helps.

I very much dislike the image that often appears in my head when I put the words, grandmother and aging together.  In the picture, I see an old white-haired lady, sitting in a rocking chair, on her front porch, watching the rest of the world go by.  That is not what I want for myself so I’m going to do my very best to make my last days anything but that.

I’m kickin’ myself out of my chair.  There will be no rocker for me.  There will be more stretching, which I’ve let go a bit over the summer because I wasn’t losing my “winter belly” fast enough.  I spent way too much time worried about my image in the mirror, rather than paying attention to what my body was trying to tell me.  All those times she yelling, “Stretch,” I wasn’t listening.

To make sure that all is well, I’ve recently had my yearly physical, a mammogram, a bone scan and had my teeth cleaned.  No cavities!  I met with my Oncologist last week and she once again declared that I am cancer free. I had my eyes checked as well and they are fine.  My glasses need only a tiny tweak, so I’ll  keep using the old ones till I can’t see anymore.  I’m happy and feeling great emotionally. Getting my story down on paper has been healing for me and sometimes I wish I’d been ready to do it a long time ago.

To stay as healthy as I can, my plan is to continue my exercise routine, but ramp it up a bit.  Gentle Yoga twice a week. Pilates once a week.  In between I walk what I call the “Big Hill” as often as I can and use my cross trainer, when the weather is too hot or nasty. I’ve just gotten myself a membership at one of the city’s pools and hope to add a swim session at least twice a week.  I’ll try one of their water aerobics classes to start.

I think I’ve lost most of my winter belly, now that fall is on it’s way, but intend to be more mindful about the amount food I’m ingesting.  And it’s time to think about foods that don’t make me feel so good. I very much enjoy a mostly plant-based diet, have recently cut out most of the dairy I was consuming and have now decided to go gluten-free.

I just finished reading, Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD, and found it mind-blowing. We need to get used to the idea that over time, through hybridizing, we’ve come up with a new kind of wheat that is not good for us.  It may be more drought resistant and produce more grain per acre, but our bodies are telling many of us that they don’t like it.  Several people I know who have stopped consuming wheat have told me that their aches and pains are gone. Many also claim an almost instant loss in weight, which sounds great.  Two days ago I jumped off the cliff. I haven’t had gluten in three days and I’m feeling terrific.  My energy levels have been good and my back pain is  gone … at least for the moment.  I’m convinced I need to leave wheat behind.

Sugar has always been my worst enemy, but I seem to have it under control at the moment.  If I need to sweeten something I’ll use a natural product like raw honey or maple syrup. They’re still sugar, but at least they aren’t highly processed. I do not like stevia, which for some does the trick. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to give sugar up entirely, but at this moment I seem to be handling using less well.

I do not consider that I am on a diet.  I simply know that leaving some foods off the table and out of my belly, makes me feel a lot better.  I am overweight and losing some of that fat stored around my belly would be a good thing.

My biggest inspiration is my daughter, Lisa, who through diet change and exercise, has lost a huge amount of weight and recently finished her first Triathlon. She’s now an assistant running coach at her daughter’s (Zoe) school. And she will be leading The Wild Woman’s Wellness Tribe, next spring. Click here for more information.

My other inspiration is a woman I heard about while visiting Yellowstone National Park one winter. In her mid-eighties, she went snowshoeing every winter morning, as she had most of her life.  One morning she didn’t return.  Her family found her out on the trail, laying in the snow, with a smile on her face.  She died moving and engaged in something that she’d enjoyed doing all of her life.  That sounds like a pretty good way to go if you ask me!

I’ll likely slip and slide along the way, cheating from time to time. I’m in no way perfect and when I walk by Ben and Jerry’s, I may just have to stop by occasionally for one of my favorite treats:  Peanut Butter-Banana Frozen Greek Yogurt.  It can’t hurt once in a while, as long as I keep moderation in mind.