In Which I Choose to Make No Sense (but feel good while doing so)

I haven’t been writing as much lately and I’m not sure why. Sometimes I write to put down how fully I’m appreciating the little things in my life (like yogurt popsicles and goat’s cheese with my breakfast), but other times I just can’t write things down because I am too in awe of my world and the life I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy. There are some moments in my day where I am simply dumbstruck (difficult imagine, right?) by where I live, the people I live with, and how much I have ahead of me to enjoy.

That’s not to say I don’t have days that aren’t fraught with anxiety, because I am a fairly anxious person by nature, but it’s not the same. I find myself feeling a teensy bit more confident, less abrasive to myself (and hopefully others – I can have that kind of personality at times), and slowly becoming “grown-up” me. It’s weird. I feel like I’m meta growing up. Like, growing up in how I grow up.

Yeah. Wow. This is getting super ramble-y.

I guess my point is that I think I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been just going through life, enjoying it, unable and unwilling to take the time to write some of it down. I suppose if something earth shattering had occurred I would have been better about writing, but things have been moving along as usual. Which is good.

I’ve been blogging for over a year now (not all on here, obviously), and while I have no intention of giving it up, I can sense a slow down (but maybe when school is done in a few weeks it’ll pick back up – I can never tell what I’m going to do). As I write I can feel a few blog posts boiling in my brain, so there will be more, I just have to remember to write the ideas down and then actually follow through!

Well, here’s to completely nonsensical, rambling posts – every blog needs one (or many).

My Pursuit of Happiness

It’s nearly nine o’clock at night on a Sunday and I’m exhausted. But it’s one of those pleasant exhausted feelings – that sort of mentally blissed out way of being.

For two days I’ve been stuffed full of every kind of information about birth, women, and the feelings they so strongly feel (both physical and mental during birth) during the amazing even that we so simply call birth.

After talking and listening and doing like I haven’t in over a year (the last time I sat in a college classroom), I feel a strength and readiness to begin to pursue more strongly a dream I had been keeping at an arms length. There is so, so much I still want to learn and to see, some things I need to think about, and my future, as it stands now, seems fuzzy and unsure, but it’s all good. It’s like the future ahead of me is hard to make out because it’s clouded or foggy, but so bright it will take just a bit for my eyes to fully focus.

Let me come out of the vagueness of above and give it to you straight. I spend this weekend learning the beginnings of what I need to know to properly attend a woman as a doula (a labor support professional – a person who helps a woman through labor and birth). The workshop I attended this weekend is one step towards becoming a certified doula through the organization DONA. I have a few more steps to tackle, but one of the largest is attending three births.

And this is where I say that if you are in Maine (or know me personally) and would be interested in having a doula attend your birth, my services will FREE while I remain uncertified, because I am training. This does NOT mean I will be any less effective than a certified doula. If you or someone you know is interested, please contact me (either comment below with a way to contact you OR contact me via Facebook (if you know me in real life).

I also have a couple of other workshops left to attend and some reading to do, but I’m thrilled this workshop is what I did first. It has given me a confidence and thrill to see what I could be doing not just as a hobby, but as a job. I do not yet know where this path will lead, if it’s a minor detour or the beginning of a lifelong journey, but it is exciting and beautiful all the same.

I know I’m starting to sound like one of those goofy New Age people (and maybe I’m slowly morphing into someone like that), but sometimes those over the top cliches are what best describe what you’re experiencing.

I’m just happy.

And I wanted you to know.

This year hit me with a bit of a crisis. I had spent nearly five years earning a degree that I had suddenly thought to myself, “What if I never use this?” It’s a scary thought, in some ways, freeing in others. While I covet the chance to have my own classroom, to plan units, to guide students through one year of their teenage lives, I am also open to the idea that may not be my path, at least not yet or in the way I had initially thought.

What’s more, there’s grad school. I’m going. At some point. I just don’t know where or how or for what. I have a list saved in Evernote on my iPad listing all the possible programs I’d like to check out, ranging from straight up education to library science to creative writing (and everything in between, it feels). I just don’t know what will be right for me, because, as a friend at work pointed out, what you get your Masters’ in sort of determines what you do for, like, ever. That’s a bit of a heavy decision.

So, I haven’t quite known what to do with myself at the moment. I’ve been going after a goal nonstop for years now, and with that initial goal crossed off my list (graduating with a bachelors’ degree), I feel lost without something else to work towards. I needed, more desperately than I realized, I think, something to work on. And I think I’ve found it.

This weekend I’m attending a doula training course. A doula, in case you were wondering, is a labor support professional, a woman who helps laboring women have the best, most fulfilling birth possible, regardless of circumstances. She is an advocate, an advice giver, a go-between for the parents and caregivers, and, in many ways, a birth partner, helping to physically and emotionally support the laboring woman in the most amazing event of her life.

I could get into the what’s and why’s in my decision to pursue becoming a certified doula, but I don’t want to – it’s complicated and long-winded and I seriously doubt anyone wants to read my explanation. But I will say that I am utterly thrilled that I have given myself this opportunity. Maybe the most exciting thing about being an adult is that I can choose to do this. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m making a really great decision for myself entirely on my own. I didn’t consult anyone – I just did it.

This is, I think, the first step into creating a future of which I have dreamed.

Big, big news on the weight-loss front: I am down thirty-five pounds. I am muy, muy impressed with myself, if I do say so.

My current weight, which I’m choosing to not disclose here (at least not right now), is the lowest it’s been since I got pregnant with E., nearly five years ago, and I’m only about twenty-four pounds away from my high school weight (which was more than it ought to have been, but I have to say I looked pretty cute). My final goal weight is still another sixty-four pounds away (I’m trying to not think too hard about that part – sixty-four seems like a lot). While it occasionally feels discouraging and sort of impossible to reach my goals (I’d like to lose another twenty-five pounds by July), I am encouraged by the fact that I have in fact gotten this far, which is awesome, something I never thought I’d be able to do.

So, what have I been doing? Anything different from the last I posted about weight-loss? A couple of things:

1.) Finding things to motivate me when I’m feeling down and out. Looking at those pairs of shorts I fit perfectly into now. Flipping through Self magazine, which simultaneously provides me with simple recipes, good workouts, and a little bit of healthy guilt. Remembering that I want to have the most healthy body I possibly can this summer so getting pregnant and staying that way is as easy as possible.

2.) Turning parts of this into a hobby. I’ve started to take up running. Yes, running. I’ve always thought runners were the coolest, what with their jogging and saying, “Yeah, I’m going for a run.” And the sweet kicks and iPod bands. I’ve realized that this is possibly one of the only sports I can participate in as an adult and alone (I’m not much of a team person), and in order for my healthy lifestyle to continue, I’ve found that investing myself in a related hobby is one of the best ways to do go forth.

3.) Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt. So, I’m still doing Weight Watchers (though I’m not always completely faithful to my points), but I’ve found a few things that make keeping under my points so much easier. Number one: Greek yogurt (as described above). I loooooooove sour cream. Like, I can eat it plain straight from the container. Plain Greek yogurt has a very similar taste and texture, and when you through a dollop of that on top of pierogies, with salsa, or on some chili, the difference is barely detectable. I’ll also mix it with a bit of feta, lemon juice, and dill and it’s perfect with cucumbers. Best part? Two tablespoons is ZERO points with Weight Watchers. While I don’t like it as just regular yogurt (even with fruit mixed in), it’s wonderful in savory dishes.

4.) Continuing with the food, here are two dishes I’ve been making consistently that are low-cal and totally yummy:

Turkey Chili
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 can pinto beans
1 pepper, cut up
1 onion, cut up
1 can stewed tomatoes, drained
Cumin
Red pepper powder
Salt and pepper

There really aren’t directions on how to cook this (and add or remove spices at your discretion). Basically, throw it all in a skillet and cook until the veggies are tender and the turkey is cooked all the way through. This makes several servings. The hubs doesn’t like ground turkey, so I’ll serve some to E. and I, leave some for lunch the next day, then freeze the rest.

Parm Pasta
1/2 – 1 cup pasta of your choice (I like whole grain or the veggie pasta)
Frozen spinach (as much as you feel like eating), cooked
2 Tbsp. fresh parmesan (if not freshly grated yourself, at least avoid the stuff that comes in the can in the pasta section – get something that need refrigeration)
Teensy bit of butter or oil
Juice from a lemon wedge
Salt and pepper to taste

Again, this is basically a cook as you like it and then toss it all together meal. Add to the ingredients based on who’s eating (this is, like, a one person deal). But, I’m telling you, between the fresh lemon and cheese and a little bit of color from the spinach, this pasta rivals anything with a sauce.

Food, I will say, remains my biggest issue. While my eating has gotten a lot better, there are still many days of weakness. Exercise, thankfully, remains the same, or is getting better (I am looking to register for a 5K in August, so now I have even more motivation to continue to work out. Losing weight has made exercise easier. My stamina is better, I feel stronger, and I can do more. That alone, even if I wasn’t looking better, which I am, would be enough reason to continue with what I’ve been doing.

I hope those others out there who are on their own weight-loss journeys continue. It’s a long, hard slog, but with positive motivations, some stick-to-it-iveness, we can all reach our final, healthy destinations.

We’re on our second day back from April vacation and it’s amazing how quickly it feels like vacation never happened. My house is a mess again, I’m thoroughly exhausted (though, we were so busy during break that I really didn’t get those wonderful, rest-filled days (anyone with a four-year-old can understand how this is possible), and my mood is fairly foul lately.

Getting back to work and feeling this way almost makes me wonder if there was any point in going on April break (for me, anyway – I’m thinking selfishly, I know) to begin with. It’s funny how vacations can become just as tiresome as the time you spend during your usual schedule. I find myself wondering what I could have done differently. I mean, yes, I was busy (I sort of had to be), but I did work some relaxation/fun in there as well. I read…a lot. I discovered my new love, Gotye (totally, totally obsessed with his music…and him). We visited family, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and E. even took a little “swim” during one the warmer days last week.

I don’t know…I suppose I need to, I don’t, write more. Why this comes to mind isn’t clear. I just feel better when I’m writing consistently (and I don’t necessarily mean on here – I have other things going on, you know). Creating, thinking, lovingly crafting sentences, carefully choosing words. It feels so good.

I suppose that now I have a charger for my iPad (part of the reasons posts have been so scarce lately) I’ll have more opportunity to write…to write anything.

No vacations from writing for me.

E.’s birthday is coming up in exactly one week and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that she will be four years old. It seems unbelievable to me that this little bundle of beautiful that I brought home after 42 weeks of gestation has morphed into this person who walks and talks and thinks such amazing thoughts.

But she has.

And amidst the planning of birthday parties, the gift ideas, and hopes for her upcoming fourth year, I’m realizing that the year she is leaving behind hasn’t just been a time of extreme growth for her, but for me, as well.

I think it’s rare for us to stop and realize how we’re in the process of growing and changing. It happens so subtly that it’s easy to sort of glide through it and then, maybe a few years down the road realize, “Wow, I’m totally different.” But sometimes we catch ourselves in the middle of a massive mental rewiring and can sit in awe of the change of which we are capable.

While there are so many things I want to work on in my life (as we all should), I am very proud of the person I’m becoming. The decisions I make are more thought out, better research, more clearly understood. I’m less impulsive, can control myself (anger, eating habits, for one), and have a better understanding of who I am. I know that 24 is young and that I have many more years of self-discovery to come (all of which I look forward to), but after years of feeling a little wobbly and a little in-between, it is incredibly reassuring to know that you do change and that growing up isn’t so bad.

Parenting from the Inside Out by psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel and early childhood expert Mary Hartzell attempts to tackle the age old fear of “becoming your parents.” Through gaining a more concrete understanding of yourself as a person and building a “coherent” story of your past, Siegel and Hartzell claim you can better communicate with and parent your children (without leaving the nasty emotional scars your own parents supposedly left you). The book focuses largely on the concepts of attachment (and those who practice attachment parenting may already have an idea of the neuroscience behind this or will be pleased to have the science for why attachment parenting is a good idea presented to them), making interpersonal connections with your child, and how you can facilitate emotional and empathetic growth in your child.

The book feels as though it is largely intended for parents who do, perhaps, have a genuine fear of repeating the mistakes of their parents. The few examples given in the book to illustrate concepts often feature parents whose childhoods include abusive or distant mothers or alcoholic fathers, and have since grown up, had their own children, and now are having difficult times attaching themselves to their children. For those of us who had really very good childhoods (though my parents would be the first to admit they weren’t perfect – but they did a good job, as far as I’m concerned), it might feel hard to understand why we might have difficulties as parents, as we lack the traumatic beginnings.

What I particularly liked about the book were the more or less scientific explanations regarding brain function in both children and adults, giving me a better sense of why we act the way we do. I also liked the examples that showed alternatives in how to communicate with your child, which I’ve started to employ with my own daughter. For the most part I agreed with the concepts the book presents, like acknowledging your child’s emotions and experiences in the world (which could vary from your own) is an important thing to do and encourages positive emotional growth. I also thought it was nice that there were “inside out exercises” at the end of each chapter, which gave you an opportunity to explore the concepts talked about in each chapter and how they apply to your life.

What I particularly disliked about the book amounts to a bit more than what I like, unfortunately. I did not think it was particularly well written or organized. I think a lot of the information was presented in a confusing way and was, frankly, a bit boring. If I’m going to spend my time reading this book when I have a lot of other things to do as a busy parent, at least make it a bit more entertaining. I also felt that while I don’t mind technical explanations of things (what with all the jargon, regardless of how well they define it), I also need lots of good examples to back it up. I needed to see what they were talking about in action, and there were very, very, very few examples. The book would be so much more powerful if I had a more solid concept of what exactly was being discussed. I also think examples would make working with the “inside out exercises” mentioned above a bit easier to do. And finally, along with the exercises at the end of each chapter there were the “Spotlight on Science” articles, which I thought were totally redundant and boring. They were basically a tangent on a particular scientific aspect of a concept discussed in that chapter. After getting through a chapter I really had no interest in delving further into a concept.

Overall, the book did have some helpful points, and I am curious to read another book I have featuring Daniel Siegel, despite my feelings regarding this particular book. I think this book would be most helpful for someone who has had a difficult upbringing and would like to shed light not just on their parenting but also on their own past as well and how to reconcile the two.

Rating: * * * (out of five)

I tend to get obsessive. I latch on to an idea and can’t seem to let go until I’ve exhausted every aspect of the idea (and if it’s inexhaustible, well, then we’ve got a problem). Lately I’ve got a few things I feel like I just need to write about, because I am completely obsessed.

1.) Vermont. I about a upcoming family vacation (the first out of state) to Vermont this summer. Well, this afternoon we finally reserved a campsite at a state park on Lake Champlain for two nights in August. Holycrapiamsofreakingexcitedimightpuke!!!!! I’ve started complying lists of things I want to do and places I want to go. The trip is 20.5 weeks away (you know I’m serious when I pull out the decimals), but I’ve already started putting together a supplies list. Granted, that in and of itself isn’t so unusual (I’m a super organized camper, otherwise I’d go insane), but doing it five months ahead of time is a little wacky, even for me. Must be the crazy summer-like weather we’ve been having in Maine.

2.) Whole and real foods. I’m still learning what exactly qualifies as “whole” or “real” (or if those two concepts are the same or even related), but the gist is, I’m starting to get a little obsessive about the food we eat. I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that I’m watching how much and nutritious the food is that I am eating, and I’ve always tried to be conscious of what E. eats. Now, however, that I’m not obsessing as much over delicious chocolate cake or cheesy potatoes, my food fixation has shifted to how exactly nutritious and healthy and safe our food actually is.

3.) Women’s (my own, specifically) health. Between exploring the options available to pregnant women when it comes to their care, learning how to track my cycles (something all women, in my opinion, should be taught), and all the craziness that has been in the news lately regarding birth control, Planned Parenthood, and politicians and some members of the government deciding they need to stick their noses where they don’t belong, I’ve found myself becoming extremely passionate about women’s healthcare and access to services for and information about their bodies and how to properly take care of themselves. It has become so ridiculously empowering to know so much about my body, what I can do, without the help of anyone or device or medication, to decide whether or not I want to get pregnant, maintain reproductive health, and just have this intimate knowledge of my whole self.

4.) Babies. I have full-blown baby fever (example here, and please check out the comments area, my cousin Kate offers up some great information). We are so, so ready to have another and the summer (one more reason I can’t wait this next season!) can’t come soon enough.

5.) Above all, I cannot get over my family. I am more in love than ever. There has been so much growth between my husband and I in our relationship. I feel more and more ownership in role as a mother and the love I have for E. is one of the most overwhelming feeling in the world. I am getting my hands on lots of literature, lots of ideas, and doing lots of thinking to help expand and secure my role and abilities as a mother and wife. I take such tremendous pride in who I am in my family that I can’t help but obsess a bit over it.

What are your obsessions or can’t get enough of?

Recently I wrote how I have lost twenty-four pounds since the beginning of January. I am by NO MEANS a weight-loss guru, expert, advice-giver person or anything like that. BUT I have, maybe, found a few things that have helped me immensely over the last couple of months, and I’m more than willing to share them here. I would like to note, before I share, that these are things that have been working for a person who is going, slowly, from a total couch potato/overeater/binge eater to a relatively healthy, lighter person. I’m not sharing tricks that have helped a kind of overweight person lose ten pounds. This is just the beginning of a longer shift in my lifestyle.

With all that said, here is what I’ve been doing:

1.) Weight-Watchers. I have not been as faithful in my following of points (I tend to lose track around supper time – or just simply don’t track what I eat for supper some nights), but I do try to record everything I eat, including that candy kiss I picked up in the ELL room before lunch at work. Weight-Watchers has given me a better sense of what I should be eating and how much. Even on the days I’m not recording as well as I could I’m still eating far less than I had before. The best thing this program has done is give me perspective on what I’m putting into my mouth.

2.) A nutritionist. I started seeing a nutritionist back at the end of January and she is completely amazing. With her help, I’ve started putting how I relate to food into a healthier place. I’ve gained a little more control over my life when it comes to meals. She’s helped me get the hubs more on board with my eating and weight-loss efforts. She’s made me feel good about what I’m doing, even when I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job. If you have access to a nutritionist, I strongly recommend seeing one – it’s like a therapist for your relationship with food.

3.) Tea. Drinking something warm fills you up. I’ve found that if I keep a variety of yummy teas on had (citrus-y with spices tend to be my favorites), it makes it easier to turn to a steaming cup to help fill my belly in the evening. I’ve also found that if I make my tea time “special”, it’s more likely to be satisfying. How do I make it “special”? Well, I usually settle down in our living room (which is always quiet after E. goes to bed) with a book or magazine and slowly drink and savor my tea (and the alone time). The combination of the tasty tea and revitalizing time alone is just as satisfying a chocolate bar. Really. (In January I would have scoffed at this, but now I completely buy into it).

4.) DO NOT DENY YOURSELF. Dude. If you want chocolate, eat it. Seriously. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t, occasionally give into temptation. I mean, yes, there was a time (two weeks ago) where I wanted chocolate every day in large quantities. Now that I’ve changed my eating habits and have worked hard to keep up with them as much as I can, my cravings for chocolate (and other tasty treats) have died down considerably. Do I still have a hard time? Yes. But I’m not buying a bag of Reese’s and downing them in one sitting. That is huge for me.

5.) See the forest, not the trees. If you beat yourself up over how well each and every day goes you’ll never move forward. I still struggle with this. If I perceive myself as “failing” at my eating or exercising on a particular day, I can get really depressed and start to drag myself down, which leaves me vulnerable for falling back into a cycle of binging or serious overeating. Not cool. I have to remind myself that to not focus on one day (or even one part of a day, because more often than not, most of my day goes well in these areas), but on the overall effort. Am I eating better than I was? Yes. Am I exercising more than I was? Yes. Are both of these things becoming easier to do? Yes! Okay, so, overall, am I being successful? Absolutely!!

This is what has been working for me, and I hope it will continue to do so. I do worry about potentially hitting a plateau, but I also try to remind myself that I cannot worry about things that haven’t happened yet. At this point, all I can do is push myself harder and move forward.

Have you had some weight-loss success? What has helped you?

Last spring I lost about seventeen pounds. For whatever reason (a reason I should probably discuss with a therapist), I gained all of that weight back. In the midst of that weight regain, I sort of forgot that I was putting the weight back on and bought two pairs of shorts in a size smaller than what I was wearing, thinking they would fit – I didn’t even bother trying them on.

One pair did fit…for about a week. The other didn’t even come up past my butt. A wee bit discouraging, to say the least, and all this non-fitting probably helped me spiral back out of control with my eating and total lack of exercise.

I recently hit the really incredible weight-loss milestone of twenty pounds gone (it’s actually more like twenty-four now…with only 76 left to go). With that momentum behind me, I decided to take a leap and try on those pairs of shorts.

Wouldn’t you know it – they fit!! Well, mostly they fit. Both were a little tight, so I set them aside, leaving both, along with a skirt that fit, but not quite right, on the bannister in our upstairs hallway, right where I walk out every morning and exercise. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying them on from time to time to see how they fit, and each time they feel just a bit more comfy and look just a bit better.

Finally, this weekend, the first pair, which are a bit longer with cargo pockets, fit just right enough that I wore them out (yes, in March, because wouldn’t know in Maine this year mid March is the new late June?). The second pair, adorable and just a tad bit too short, are still teetering on the edge of fitting just right and being a bit snug. I’m going to wait to wear those until it’s actually summer time, when I’ve lost more late and hopefully my legs are a bit more toned up.

I am really, really excited to have progressed this far since January. I’m learning to look more at the big picture than fret over individual days (erm, like today…) and to take pride in what I’ve been able to do, besides shed the pounds. I’m less driven by my “need” to eat. That desire and then relief I used to feel when I let myself binge no longer sits on my shoulder. Exercise is becoming easier and more fun (and addicting!). Cravings I once had have started to dissipate. I’ve become almost as vain as I was in high school (which is pretty hard to do).

There is still a long way to go before I will be satisfied and feel as though I am at a healthy weight for me, but for the first time ever I feel as though that goal weight off in the distance is truly attainable.