Monday, January 30, 2012

And the deer watched me pee

See, I knew that would make you want to read this! ;D  I had the best weekend! It was totally spontaneous; one of my sudden Mad Schemes. All of a sudden, the weather warmed, roads cleared, and I realized there was no school on Friday. Suddenly, going North to help my lovely sister and her wonderful husband move into their Own Home became a possibility worthy of consideration!

We gathered all necessary information and input, and made our plans. Friday morning, we decided it was a "go." In Star Trek terms, "4 of 4" (younger daughter) decided to stay home and rest, using the three day weekend to catch up on things that needed doing. But "3 of 4" (younger son) was on-board for my Scheme. My Scheme wasn't really Mad, more of a carefully calculated balance of risk/vs/reward, but to those who prefer long plans made in good weather, it all seemed very Sudden and a little bit Crazy. We quickly packed up, making sure we had plenty of food and water, and good amounts of cold weather gear, just in case. I was raised in a family that takes safety preparations seriously for winter travel. For our potential safety, and for the peace of mind of all who love us, we were well-prepared. I also made promises and assurances, to get an early start, to be extremely wise and careful, and I told everyone that if we encountered conditions that were truly dangerous, we would simply turn around and come home. Planned, prepared, packed, promised, and with a full tank of gas, we headed out.

It was a simply beautiful day for a drive! The sun was shining and the roads were clear for much of the way. My awesome traveling companion is compiling hours of driving experience toward getting his license, so this trip was a great opportunity for him. We had a plan for which part I would drive, and when he would take over. Of course, the part he drove turned out to have the only remotely hazardous road conditions of the whole trip! He got to deal with the packed/glazed icy snow, with a deer crossing the road in the midst of it, and he handled it calmly and smoothly, with a steady hand on the wheel. No abrupt braking; no swerving. I was very impressed! He handled it all perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger for the drive. I don't think I've ever made that trip in January, so I got to see a whole new face of our standard route. Along one of my favorite parts, river ice had recently broken up. There were large slabs of ice jacked up on boulders, or jumbled in rugged heaps on gravel bars. Some parts of the river were still frozen over. It was impressive and beautiful.

I saw elk! Because I was a passenger, I got to scan the hills, looking for wildlife. Suddenly, as I glanced up one ridge, I saw elk! I'm still not sure exactly "who" they were, as it was a brief glimpse. It was either a currently antlerless bull, with a very young cow nearby, or (more likely) a mature cow with this year's calf. Either way, it was such a treat! Where we live now, elk sightings are rare. To spy any has become a special event.

On Saturday, after a good night's rest, we joined the work crew. There weren't many of us, but we all worked well together. The tall, strong son I brought along was of genuine and valued help. We worked for over eleven hours! We got all the big, heavy furniture moved, as well as many heavy boxes of books, and other various cherished posessions. There is still work to do, to make the move complete, but we pushed through the most daunting part.

It was also like a little miracle, getting to see and spend time with my family this time of year! Due to weather and road conditions, I don't usually get to see them from about October until March or April, or sometimes not till June. I got to work all day with my wonderful mom and her wonderful hubby, and my dear sister and her dear husband, and my dear Son. Friday and Saturday nights, we spent with my loving dad and kind stepmom. It was just wonderful, a surprising and joyful treat, to see all of them. 

My husband's one most serious request, in discussing the trip, was that I please please please make absolutely certain to get an early start on Sunday. I am given to late starts and long weary trips; to arriving safely but very late at night. For years, I have adopted a "Whatever it takes to get there" philosophy of travel. But I am very tired of driving at night. And he very much wants me safe. Also, Awesome Son "3 of 4" needed to be home at a good time, to be well rested for school the next day.

We left my hometown in good time Sunday morning. As we were driving through the awesome scenery on our way north, we had made a plan that Sunday would be our time to stop and take pictures. Through the long, scenic river valley, we stopped multiple times, to hike up and down the shoulder of the road, getting the best angle and light. It was beautiful! Sheets of ice over basalt bluffs, with hanging clusters and fangs of icicles. Little waterfalls rushing down between margins of glossy, distorted ice. Then we got to where the river was still wearing its blanket of ice, and looked for a good place to pull off.

Here is where the deer come in: This part of our trip, especially during winter when state parks are closed, is very bare of bathroom facilities. There is a long four-hour stretch between actual public bathrooms this time of year. Given the amount of iced tea I was drinking, to combat tiredness, and how we had prolonged the drive with our photography fun, I had reached the point of truly desperate bathroom need. Finally I just couldn't take it any longer. We found a good pullout to take pictures of the river ice, and my kind son stayed in the car while I found a secluded spot. Down the shoulder of the road, in a huddle of bushes, I found what I needed. As I conducted my important business, relieving my poor tortured bladder, I looked up to see a group of four or five deer just across the small river, staring at me in puzzled interest. It's a little unnerving to pee while being closely watched by a family of deer. But I was desperate and had no other options. :)

We got great pictures of the ice there, then drove on down the road, stopping at a couple more places with good angles, dramatic scenes and beautiful light. At one place, we decided to see if the ice were safe for walking-on. There, the river is broad and shallow, so there would be no surprisingly strong currents under the ice to thin it unexpectedly. Son the BoyScout carefully tested the stability and strength of the ice before we put a toe onto it, and continued to check every bit before we walked on it. It was thick and completely stable. We were able to walk clear out over the middle of the river, which was so much fun! I've never gotten to do that before. Out past the middle of the river, he was able to determine that the ice was almost a foot thick! We got some great pictures, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

After that, we got down to business and drove on down the road. There was much beautiful and enticing scenery, but we decided our photo shoot must end and we'd just have to enjoy it as we drove by. Due to our explorations and photo-dawdling, and some hazardously windy conditions we encountered toward the end of our drive, the trip took three hours longer than usual! The last hundred miles was a very slow hundred miles, but it was necessary. Learning Driver "3 of 4" was driving at that point. First, we had mile upon mile of stout headwind to deal with, so he took it slowly. Then, as we began to wind our way around the lake shore, the wind kept switching from head-on, to a strong cross-wind, pushing us toward the lake, on the narrow, winding, shoulder-less road! He took that long stretch slowly and carefully. It could have been hair raising, but due to the careful wisdom he showed, it wasn't too stressful.

Usually, that long last stretch is an endless trial of befuddled deer and suicidal jackrabbits. As we were already driving after dark, with a young driver, and troublesome wind conditions, I prayed the animals would all stay home...and they did! In that whole long stretch of back country, we saw one fat mouse, which scurried off the road, and one loose cow, feeding placidly in the ditch. That was a tremendous relief!

It was a truly wonderful weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the time with this dear son. We got to be of real and deeply appreciated help to our dear people. We got to spend time with them during a stretch of the year that is usually empty of visits. He got about seven more hours of driving added to his total. We had a lot of fun together, and got some really cool and beautiful photos.

We helped with the Move!
I saw elk!
And the deer watched me pee. ;)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Negative Feedback Thing: Why I Think It Happened

That has been a big puzzle to me. It was so shocking and so hurtful. I was feeling so healthy, and so good about myself, that I was completely unprepared for negative comments. "You're so thin! Are you sure you're okay?" Not complimentary. But it also wasn't that "I'm so jealous, I'm going to tear you down" passive-aggressive thing, either. These comments were from dear friends who love and care about me.

I think I understand it now.

Most people here, in the town where we've lived for almost seventeen years, have never known me at my right, healthy weight. Almost everyone I know here has only known me overweight. Because I'm tall, and carry my weight well, they didn't realize how overweight I was. My health said differently.

My husband, wonderful, supportive, kind man that he is, never once in all those years made me feel fat. He never made a comment on the extra weight. Not ever. He was so concerned when we found out all the potentially serious health problems I was having. It was scary. When I started eating right, feeling better, and losing the extra weight, he was so happy for me. He was my greatest cheerleader. He didn't think I looked too thin at the end of it, because he actually knew me before. He knew that was the "real" me. It's the same size I was a few months after giving birth to our first child.

In addition to the part where almost nobody here knew what I really looked like when I was healthy, I lost the weight pretty fast. I didn't do anything crazy. I cut out refined white sugar and refined starches to begin with. When I found out the long list of foods I was reacting to (this explained the constant generalized nausea!), my diet got more restricted. I was eating plenty of food, but it was vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, meat.  It took months to lose that fifty pounds. I was losing at a healthy rate- a pound or two a week.

But I didn't exercise. I think that's the other big part of why people had so much concern over how I looked. Though I was eating well, I wasn't exercising. I lost the weight, but I didn't build muscle mass, so I looked skinny, not fit.

Also, I changed clothes sizes so fast, and I didn't have the money to replace my whole wardrobe every month or two, there were times when my clothes looked really baggy. I think that was also part of what worried people. At even a pound and a half a week, that makes ten pounds every month and a half or so. Ten pounds is a full clothing size for me. I would buy a few clothes that fit, but within two months they were too big. It really was a healthy rate of loss, but I think it seemed very fast to other people.

I am trying to really take a lesson from that whole experience. This time around, I am incorporating exercise into my plan, so that I will not only lose the weight, but be healthy, strong, and fit as well.

First Step...

I love certain analogies. One I use often is that of dominoes. I have to figure out which domino needs to be the first to fall, before I can start.

First domino: Sleep!

I have been desperately sleep-deprived for yeeears! Not insomniac. I have no trouble falling asleep. I have trouble going to bed. It started when our four children were small, and I rarely had a moment's peace...for years. I started staying up late to enjoy the quiet and the chance to do things I enjoy, like reading. They're not little anymore. The youngest is in eighth grade, so I now have time during the day to enjoy the quiet, and to do the things I enjoy. But I've still been staying up terribly late. It became an ingrained bad habit.

I have given a great deal of thought to the "whys" and "wherefores" of my sleep habits, and how to change them. After a great deal of pondering, I feel I've come up with a workable solution.

Factor 1: the two teenagers still at home have to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Until everyone has gone to roost, my brain stays on-duty. I need at least a little time people-free, with no chance that someone will need to tell me one more story about their day or ask me to do something for them, before my brain will gear down and relax.

Factor 2: I know that my judgment shuts down around 10pm. If I'm not pointed in the right direction by ten, all bets are off as far as sleep is concerned. If the wee darlings will go to bed by nine-thirty, then I still have a brain and am still able to make good choices. If they're still up at ten, there's a fairly good chance I'll be cleaning the kitchen at 1 am, or zoned out on facebook till two. If they go to bed, my brain revs down, I remember things to write down for the next day, and I still have enough brain left to not start a movie or turn on the computer.

Factor 3: No computer at night. It just doesn't work. I used to wait till everyone was in bed, then turn on the computer to check emails and cruise around facebook. No more. I cannot be online at night. I realized that I have a static time slot in the morning. After husband Lee leaves for work, there is an hour where I can't really get started on anything, because the kids are getting ready for school. That has now become my computer time.

Factor 4: Just do it! Easy sometimes, a challenge other times. But simple and straightforward. Just go to bed!

Since figuring this all out, and putting the pieces into place (deep thanks to the children for going along with it!), I have now gotten adequate rest for the past week. Eight hours would be ideal, but isn't actually practical for my life. I'm getting around seven hours a night, which is a dramatic improvement for me.

I think the reason I floundered already this year is that, even though I thought I started out slow, I was still trying  to make too many changes at once. Back to square one, moving forward with careful baby steps.

Fresh Starts All Around

So many people are using this new year as a launching pad for healthy changes in their lives. It really helps knowing there are so many of us doing this. I love fresh starts: new day, new week, new year. I love clean slates and do-overs and the chance to make better choices this time around.

I am in need of a fresh start. When we got answers to the great mystery of my poor health (two years ago?), I was so motivated! I completely changed my diet, lost that fifty pound burden of extra weight, got my brain back, and felt great.

But I'm not there anymore. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened. Partly, it got hard to maintain that rigidly limited food world over the long haul. It was especially difficult anytime I left the house- for baby showers, bridal showers, church potlucks, lunch with friends, eating on the road while out of town.

One of the most difficult parts of eating right is those situations where everyone is celebrating with something like a beautiful cake. It was hard enough not partaking. It was even harder, knowing that if I didn't have a piece, I'd hurt the feelings of the person who made it. I try very hard not to hurt people's feelings in general, and it's very tricky to avoid at times like that. For example: at a wedding reception, where there was a whole array of beautiful desserts, made by someone I respect and care about, the bride's mother...and where there wasn't a big would be so obvious if I didn't have any. And feelings were already a little tender, because so few people came to celebrate the wedding of this family's beautiful daughter.

It is also very difficult, being the person who always says, "Sorry, I can't have any," because after a while some people start to see you as picky or selfish. I don't actually enjoy having a big public "thing" about why I don't eat things, every time I'm in that sort of situation. I got tired of explaining, and defending my choices. I got tired of people arguing with me about what I could/couldn't eat. Very very tired.

I was also very surprised at the negative feedback I got when I lost all that weight. Surprised, and hurt. Here I was, finally eating a whole and healthy diet, finally returned to my "real" weight and size, and my husband was about the only person telling me I looked great. It wasn't jealousy over my weight loss, or mean-spiritedness. The comments came from people who really care about me. They were concerned that I got so thin.

On top of the deep and widespread frustration of trying to eat my limited, healthy way in a world thick with unhealthy foods, getting such constant, well-meaning but negative feedback from so many people was more than I could take. It hurt. It shocked me. It was discouraging. I was feeling so good, and so proud of myself, and so full of energy, but being confronted constantly with such negative feedback knocked my feet out from under me.

I gave up.

For about the past year, I have turned my back on almost all of the healthy changes I had made. I have pigged out on real pizza, eaten real ice cream, polished off bags of Lindor truffles. I have gone to potlucks and eaten those cheesy casseroles, and the desserts! I have gotten little sleep. I stopped taking all the nutritional supplements that helped me so much.

And I feel it.

Of the fifty pounds I lost, I have gained back about thirty-five. I feel tired and sluggish. My memory is affected. I have little energy, little motivation, and struggle to carry through on simple things. Just like the bad old days.

But no more. As we move into this new year, I hunger for change!

I made a good start. I figured out what are the most critical changes to make, and I started slowly. We're not even through January, and I have already floundered, but I am taking another fresh start. I'm applying everything I've learned, about healthy eating, and about myself.