Thursday, April 29, 2010

My history with food

I probably think (and write) too much about food. I never meant to turn this blog into such an eating-focused venture, but the poll I did recently indicated you crazy kids like that kind of stuff, so I will keep on. Plus, food is important. I like it and I value it.

I’m not sure I’ve ever discussed this on my blog, but in my teens and early 20s, I had some problems with food. I never had a full-blown eating disorder, thankfully, but I had several years of what experts now call disordered eating. I say this not to elicit sympathy or claim some kind of bizarre bragging rights, but rather for some background. I think my outlook on eating has a lot to do with my past issues regarding food.

For those of you who don’t know, I did my undergrad at an all-women’s college (not a “girls’ school,” haters). It was a loving, open environment that encouraged discourse and success, but, as you can imagine, it also had a high incidence of eating disorders. I think my senior year, our student body was estimated to have twice the national average rate of anorexia, bulimia and EDNOS. It was fairly common to speculate about who threw up dinner, and it was sadly common for such gossip to be based on fact.

I don’t blame my college for this problem; rather, it was a result of the kinds of students it attracted (overwhelming upper- to upper-middle-class and white). It was also easy for stress to get the better part of any student, and sadly many young women deal with stressors through food issues. I wouldn’t say I struggled through college at all, but my course load was always demanding, as was the pressure to be as thin and perfect as the other 20-year-olds around me. In my Oklahoma high school, the number of perfectly toned and bronzed classmates was minimal; in Southern California, it was overwhelming. My pasty curviness no longer seemed ideal, and I had no idea how to deal with it.

I tried exercising like everyone else, but nothing seemed to change. I know looking back that my diet was largely to blame. At the time, I knew I needed to eat better. I read online about counting calories and protein and fat grams. I learned that a serving of grains is about the size of your fist, and one of meat is roughly equivalent to a deck of cards. I became convinced that The Zone would help me. One week, I decided to drink four cups of green tea a day to boost my metabolism – until the day my GERD rebelled and I threw up for an hour.

The summer I was 19, we got terrible news. My stepmother lost her battle with lung cancer. My dad was left a widower, my brother and sister were motherless, and I had no idea how I was supposed to feel. I still had my mother, but I felt the loss deeply, deeper than most people expected or realized. I mostly distracted myself with friends and my summer job at a day camp, but the following semester, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, including in my own skin.

Controlling my weight nearly obsessed me for those four months. Between papers and crying fits, I uploaded every morsel I ate into an online program and tried to go to the gym regularly. All the time, I couldn’t stop buying the cans of Pepsi, the Taco Bell tacos or the jumbo Milky Way bars. After a while, I realized that I could even them out calorie-wise by eating far less real food. Lunches became green salads and maybe a boiled egg. My weight fluctuated within a 10-pound range thanks to sporadic adherence to an exercise plan and my bizarre eating habits. My body was never deprived or near underweight, but this wasn’t healthy. I knew it then, and I feel it even more resolutely now.

The following semester, I took a plane ride to Italy for a semester study. I had been dreaming about it since I was 15 and just returning from my first trip there. In previous months, I considered calling the whole thing off (as I had considered transferring to a local), but ultimately good sense won out. In many ways, I had a rough semester there, too. I never made any good American friends. I refused to try very hard, since the vast majority was there to party, not to study or have a real cultural experience. At the same time, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I made a close friend in my Italian roommate and fell briefly in love with one of her friends. I spent most of the time around Italian people, not over-privileged Americans. I discovered wine and zucchini and spaghetti carbonara. I walked miles and miles each week. Though I was nearly broke, I traveled and ate delicious food. I was happy and never wanted to leave. Six months after my arrival, I returned to Oklahoma with tears in my eyes, a broken heart, and 10 extra pounds.

Though it made me overweight for the first and only time in my life, I still view those six months as crucial in my changing attitude towards food. Meals with friends were truly an event. Ingredients were fresh and local. I didn’t want to be seen as uncultured, so I ate pretty much whatever was in front of me. I even ate wild boar (cinghiale) twice in Tuscany. I tried to enjoy fish, but it never happened. Though I’d grown up considering only corn, potatoes and raw broccoli as vegetables worth eating, Italy taught me to open my mind. In many ways, I have Italy to thank for who I am now.

I spent the summer mending a broken heart and trying to find myself again. In October, I quit eating meat just because I wanted to. Though I spent most of my final year in college with the same problems I had four years before, things were transforming. I rarely counted calories any more, and I let myself have dessert when I wanted. I got into a regular exercise routine. An intense, unreciprocated crush made it difficult for me to see myself accurately for a time, but by the time graduation rolled around, I was healing. Within months of returning to Oklahoma, I lost five pounds and have never regained them. I blame happiness.

One thing I’ve realized from the pattern I’m glad to say I’ve left behind is that I enjoy thinking about food. Reading about it, planning out meals and looking forward to dining out are important to me. Trying to abandon this part of me would not help get past the disordered eating of my college years. Instead, I’ve learned to embrace the foods that give me strength, energy, and happiness. I never deprive myself of nutrition. I’d still like to lose five pounds, but I intend to do so through exercise, not a diet. My diet is the food choices I make every day, not some pseudo scientist’s magical cure. Usually it is heavy on the veggies, always meat-free, and increasingly devoid of animal products. I won’t encourage everyone to eat the way I do, but it works for me. It keeps me focused on treating my body with respect and love. That should always be the ultimate goal. Various religions treat the body as a temple. No matter what tenets you hold, this message should not escape you. Your body is in many ways the physical manifestation of your spirit. Treat it with the dignity you deserve.

And falling madly and passionately in love with someone who thinks you are perfect and beautiful just the way you are doesn’t hurt either.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random Dozen

My taller half’s mother always does the Random Dozen on her blog, so I decided to participate. Here are 12 more things you never needed to know about me!

1. Have you ever been so lost that you were really afraid?
Oh yes. My junior year of high school, I was a member of Youth Leadership Tulsa. I turned 16 on a Sunday, got my driver’s license on Monday, and drove myself to our monthly event on Wednesday. It was on the other side of the world (i.e. in Broken Arrow, a suburb to the southeast), so I relied on directions from one of the organizers. Unfortunately, the exit I was supposed to take was closed for construction, and I had no idea where I was going. Over an hour, three towns and several thousand tears later, I found my way. I vowed never to drive in Broken Arrow again. Ask me how long that lasted!

2. Have you ever been to an island?
I’ve been to Sicily, Coronado Island (off San Diego), and the UK – that counts, right?

3. Are you more of a thinker or feeler?
I’m both, though my Myers-Briggs score puts me as a feeler (I’m an ENFP). At work, though, I’m highly analytical, and I like to think that I’m pragmatic.

4. Do you tend to see issues or situations in life as black and white or shades of gray?
Shades of grey, and shades of Grey. ;) I think it’s good to see things this way, though it does make one indecisive.

5. If you were stuck on an island, what book would you hope to have with you (Let's pretend the Bible is already there, so you can't say that.)
If it happened today, I’d like to have The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir, because I’m looking forward to reading it.

6. What are you most afraid of?

7. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?
I like to think life just gets better every day, so I’d take the present and future over the past.

8. Pretend I'm looking at a scrapbook page about you. There are three spaces for you to drop in individual pictures. What are those pictures of, and why did you select them?
I have three photographs that would be perfect: one of me as a baby making a silly face, one of my mother and me in Italy, and one of me and my taller half. I’m still silly, I love traveling and Italy in particular, and my boyfriend and my mom are my two closest friends.

9. If you were re-doing your wedding, what would you do differently? (If you're single, tell me one thing you would do if you were planning a wedding OR huge party.)
I’m as yet unmarried, so it wouldn’t be a redo. I do hope to make my wedding inexpensive and totally us. I’m not very traditional, so my guests should expect vegetarian food and no big white dress.

10. Tell me one thing you know/believe about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a release and a relief.

11. You're waiting in a doctor's office. What is your favorite way to pass that time?
I read a magazine and/or listen to my iPod.

12. If there were a clone of you in a parallel universe what is one way you hope she/he would be the same as you and one way you hope she/he would be better?
I hope she would also be committed to volunteer work and serving her community. I hope she wouldn’t have had the food issues I did as a younger woman.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do you kombucha?

I’m not cool. I’m usually in bed by 10, even on weekends. I was briefly a cheerleader in high school, yes, but I was also captain of the academic team and valedictorian. In college, I never hooked up with a stranger or got less than a B+ in a class.

So, like I said, not cool at all. If I discover something “new,” it’s likely been all the rage for months, at least. The item of the moment for me is kombucha. I’ve been reading about it forever online, but I did not encounter it myself until Saturday at the Cherry Street Farmers Market. The lovely chef from Pure Raw CafĂ© now makes the fermented tea herself and sells it locally. According to the blogosphere, kombucha is imbued with magical powers that will make you grow five inches taller, improve your IQ by 30 points and cause a flock of angels to follow you around singing dreamy ballads of love and happiness.

Well, that may be going a bit far, but I’ve read that kombucha improves your mood, your hair, your stomach ailments, and your mental clarity. It also reportedly removes heavy metals from your system and helps ward off the ickies thanks to probiotics and antioxidants. And some of you think it’s delicious. When offered a free sample, how could I say no? I’ll be honest: my first sip was interesting. I dare say I even liked it in all its apple-cider-vinegar-flavored glory. I was feeling spunky that day (I blame the tie-dyed skirt), so I bought a bottle. Shall it cure all my ills? That’s the goal.

I tried kombucha again on Sunday, and my taste buds rebelled. This tastes like apple cider vinegar, you freak!, they said to me, lovingly. They’re right. It tasted like it Saturday and every day since then. I’m not sure why I found it pleasant one day and eye-watering the next. But luckily, I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I’m keeping with it, at least until the bottle is empty. It’s an experiment, I’m telling myself. I’ll never know if it will make me prettier and able to fly unless I drink it. (Did I mention the bottle had an Alice in Wonderland-inspired “Drink Me” tag? Have I learned nothing from that cautionary tale?)

Honestly, I do feel a little energy boost every time I choke down a couple of ounces of the stuff. I haven’t had any acid reflux this week, which sadly I experience regularly. The jury’s still out on the rest of its promises, but I will keep chugging along and taking note. And any way, just saying I own a bottle of kombucha (locally produced at that) must earn me some cool points, eh?

Do any of you drink and – gasp! – enjoy kombucha? Am I doing it wrong?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Creative weekend

It's a lovely Sunday evening, the perfect end to a perfectly delightful weekend. Here are the highlights of my hippie-fied three days off from work:

  • Taking my pooch to the farmers market, where I bought radishes, watercress (guess who's making tea sandwiches!), asparagus, salad greens, a raw vegan brownie, and locally made kombucha.
  • Later taking the fur ball to the herb show in Jenks, where I bought Amish-made apple butter, a new cherry tomato plant to replace the one I murdered, some of Stephanie's Fabulous (chocolate-peanut butter) Fudge, and a 10-minute chair massage.
  • Going to a TOMS Style Your Sole party at my elementary school whose board I'm on. Check out my handiwork:
And here they are on my pigeon feet:

Have I mentioned before I'm into trees these days? I'm no artist, but I do love drawing my trees.
  • Back to Saturday. The fun continued with a trip to Gardner's (where I bought two more books on British history), a massive salad at Jason's Deli, and a viewing of A Prophet at the Circle Cinema. As long as we're admitting things, I did all of the above while wearing a beautiful tie-dyed skirt. I intend to reach full hippie-dom in the next half decade or so.
  • And then came Sunday and a batiking session with my madre. Here is my piece halfway through:
Here's Mom hard at work (I told her I'd use the "thin lens):

And a close-up of one section of her scarf:

And this, my friends, is some hot wax action:

Cali-freakin-ente. I'll make sure to share the finished product with you all.

Well, it's time to remove this facial mask (the term "She-Hulk" was used) and walk on my dog. Happy Sunday, one and all!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day in the life of this blogger

6:10 a.m. Realize the obnoxious radio DJ is beckoning me to awaken. But it’s dark, and I don’t wanna. I hit snooze for my love.

6:13 a.m. OK, fine, I must get up. I’m still not convinced it’s really after 6:00 since it’s dark. Unfortunately, I can’t see the time on the clock, so I get up. Into the shower I go. Afterwards, I put in my contacts.

6:35 a.m. Time to make breakfast. I blend frozen strawberries, frozen peaches, a banana and some water for my smoothie. I also toast some bread from Whole Foods that I call “birdseed bread” and top it with a lovely dollop of peanut butter.

6:53 a.m. After I clean my dishes, it’s time to get ready for work. This involves taking my vitamins, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, putting on moisturizer and make-up, and doing something to my hair.

7:12 a.m. Out the door on time. Woo hoo!

7:29 a.m. I arrive at work and walk up the stairs to the fourth floor. It’s time to have my morning tea. Today is Choice’s Irish Breakfast.

7:40 a.m. I catch up on email and read blogs. I alternate between feeling awake and asleep.

8:30 a.m. I get the bright idea to record what I’ve been up to today, even though nobody asked. You can blame the Voracious Vegan, one of my favorite bloggers, for her post.

8:34 a.m. Time to get some work done since I’ve been here an hour already. On the agenda is editing some grant narratives I’m working on, creating two online applications, and sorting through some old email. Meanwhile, I guzzle 27 ounces of water.

10 a.m. Coffee break. I drink coffee every morning at this time. It’s one part ritual, one part desperate desire to stave off hunger as long as possible. Sadly, nobody made coffee this morning, so instead of making it myself, I steep some of Allegro’s Happy Tummy tea (mint and ginger) and refill my Klean Kanteen.

10:03 a.m. Awaiting my tea to finish steeping, I flip open my employee handbook to see if I can get my company to pay for Spanish classes. Verdict: I don’t think so, according to the manual, but I email my HR person just to check.

10:20 a.m. Time for a book break. Current read: The Challenge of Anne Boleyn by Hester W. Chapman.

10:56 a.m. Meet with my boss briefly and then respond to some more emails. Try not to think about my growling stomach.

11:15 a.m. Dive back into my book.

12:01 p.m. Email from my taller half asks if I knew about a Dar Williams concert (!!) in Springfield, MO this summer. No, I did not.

12:05 p.m. Time for lunch, blessedly. On the menu is Amy’s black bean vegetable soup. Usually I prepare something to bring each week, but we were too busy this weekend. Whilst enjoying it, I do a little research on Springfield.

12:28 p.m. Head out to get my oil changed and then to the library. I return two books (Princesses and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) and get four more (Avalon, My Lady Suffolk, A Passage to India and The Scarlet Lion).

1:22 p.m. Get back to my desk and start checking emails again. Refill my water bottle, then dive back into my book. I want to finish it tomorrow.

2:05 p.m. Suddenly fearing I may fall asleep, I close my office door to make some phone calls for a work project.

2:29 p.m. Now it’s time for a yoga break. Today’s routine: Yoga Download’s Episode 24a: Moon Salutations Flow #1.

2:55 p.m. Yoga is done, so I get back to dealing with emails and reading.

3:40 p.m. It’s time for me to take tea. Yes, I’ve begun referring to my afternoon snack as teatime. You can blame all the British history I've been reading. This week, it’s a honey crisp apple and Harney & Sons’ White Christmas tea (white tea with vanilla and almond). Meanwhile, I contemplate what to bring for lunches next week. I’m thinking foul medames (Egyptian fava beans), baba ghanoush, whole-wheat pita and some kind of fruit.

4:30 p.m. Refill water bottle halfway. Make some quick corrections to a document I created and then try to hammer out 25 more pages of reading before I leave.

5:30 p.m. Time to mosey and try to avoid road rage.

5:47 p.m. Arrive at my apartment complex. First stop by the office to pick up a package (batik supplies!), then go in my apartment to leash up my dog. Walk on the dog.

6:01 p.m. Start making dinner. Tonight I'm enjoying whole wheat spaghetti with sauteed zucchini and arugula (the latter from my garden), raw garlic, black pepper, crushed red pepper and nutritional yeast. Words cannot describe the deliciousness. Afterwards, I have two pieces of peanut butter blondies from the above-mentioned Vegan Cookie book.

6:45 p.m. Depart for a board meeting with my 18-oz Klean Kanteen full of water.

7:12 p.m. Meeting actually starts. We have the lofty goal of being done by 8:30.

10:29 p.m. Meeting actually ends. I am dead. Have I mentioned I'm not a night person?

10:43 p.m. Arrive home, sit with my taller half for a few minutes, and then head to bed.

11:00 p.m. Enter dreamland.

So that was my Tuesday. I'll have a garden update to share soon!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Garden Week #5

Some day soon I will again post about something other than my garden. Today is not such an occasion. What can I say? I'm excited! Away we go . . .

First up is my main container. Not much has changed, but the basil is finally starting to recover.

Now let's talk about the blueberry plant. As a whole, it looks the same. But look what it's now covered with:

Blossoms! Beautiful unbloomed blossoms. I love them.

The potato awesomeness continues. Watch them grow!

And now for the slightly tragic part. I kinda-sorta completely forgot about my tomatoes and marigolds, which means they did not get the proper amount of (read: any) water. Oops! I transplanted them into their new home anyway. Look at the patheticness:

The good news is that they are recovering after a vigorous watering. So is everything else that looks droopy in these pictures. I rearranged the complete patio set-up. I like:

Today I got home to find a note on my door from the complex folks telling me I needed to remove the "metal cans" on my porch to help keep the apartment complex "looking beautiful." Since my neighbor has a cardboard cut-out of Smokey the Bear on his porch and another had a plastic snowman hanging from a noose for more than a year, I called to complain. The management just said they "didn't know" what was in the containers, so they assumed they were junk. Nevermind that I live on the first floor and a one-second glimpse into them would have revealed beautiful flora. All is now settled, though, and my plants are here to stay, until I forget to water all of them.

I hope the weather is beautiful wherever you are!

About Me

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Tulsa, OK, United States
Hello! Welcome to my blog, which I run in conjunction with my Etsy shop, Here, I'll track things I'm working on, do reviews and interviews, and offer advice and information. Thanks for stopping by!

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