Goodbye to a virtual friend

One of the very first (non-family, non-friend) followers of Going Forward, and by far my most prolific commenter ever, is a woman named Ruth Rainwater, a fellow WordPress blogger at A New Beginning. She found me through Freshly Pressed, and ever after was generous about liking and commenting not only on my posts, but also on my business’s Facebook page. We corresponded a few times about blogging and other topics.

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One of Ruth’s posts from September 2014.

Ruth was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 2013, and published her last blog post on Christmas Day last year; she fought a hard battle and things turned sharply for the worse around that time. I have been checking her blog every week in hopes that she would write again, but finally confirmed that she has passed. The word “Remembering” now appears over her name on her Facebook page.

time-to-say-good-bye

She and I never met, of course, and I know next to nothing about her except what she blogged about. I don’t even know what she looks like because she never posted photos of herself. But she was a faithful virtual friend to me, to my blog and to my business, and I am grateful to have found a place in the circle of her attention. It’s nice to know that my words reached out and touched a stranger, somebody who was willing to faithfully interact with and tirelessly encourage me. She was a graceful, prolific, good-humored writer. I have been missing her name in my Inbox, and am sorry I won’t ever see it again.

New year, same old me

I’ve been living with myself long enough now to know at least one thing for sure: I suck at keeping resolutions. Especially those that involve weight loss and/or dieting and/or exercise. So let’s just dispense with the “new year, new me” nonsense forthwith because that is not happening.

new-year-new-me

However.

I do have some plans for 2015, a few modest ambitions that may redound to my greater good if executed properly. A little determination, a little luck, a lot of persistence, and possibly by this time next year I’ll be able to pat myself on the back for all I’ve accomplished.

On the professional front, my single goal for the year is to grow my existing revenue streams and develop new ones. Business Management 101, in other words. I figure I need between 6 and 10 new steady clients to keep me in the black. I know that doesn’t sound like very many, but real estate photography is kind of a big-ticket item. The key word here is steady; I need clients who can consistently give me three or four jobs a month. I have some ideas about how to find them. We’ll see how it goes.

On the personal front, I am leaning toward leaving Weight Watchers soon because it makes no sense for me to pay $42 a month and not follow their plan. I don’t have a backup plan, though, and I don’t like what I’m seeing in the mirror lately.

watching-my-figure

On the domestic front, I gave myself a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated for Christmas and my plans mostly involve cooking: using my new KitchenAid stand mixer, developing my knife skills to the point that I can make a decent tournée, learning how to make the five “mother sauces” of classic French cuisine (Béchamel, Espagnole, Hollandaise, tomate and velouté), and perhaps figuring out how to make decent beef and chicken stock (I’m not interested in ever making veal or fish stock). I would also like to try making bread, although for some reason the whole yeast thing kind of intimidates me. I definitely plan to keep getting my CSA box every week and sharing it with my neighbors because the only thing I enjoy more than eating is feeding other people—which is really saying something, considering how much I do love to eat. 😉

If I were going to make a resolution, it might be to figure out how to balance my passion for cooking with my desire to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. I’ve heard rumors that such a thing is possible, but I remain skeptical.

never_trust_a_skinny_cook

And finally, on the spiritual front, I plan to appreciate my life, exactly as it is right now, and remember that every day is a gift. As my boy dog ages into his teens and my parents pass the midpoint of their 70s, I realize that we don’t have all the time in the world ahead of us anymore. No one does, of course. This world and this life deserve my attention and my appreciation minute by minute and day by day. That’s the only way to make the passing years mean anything at all.

 

Turning the page

We here at Going Forward (meaning: me) are pleased to be finally turning the page over from 2014, leaving behind us a difficult year stuck in the doldrums, so to speak, with high hopes for fair winds and following seas to support all our efforts in the coming year.

One thing I’ve been remiss in over the past 12 months is my blogging, and I hope to be better about that. I will tell you that I’ve been having my share of struggles, large and small, but I won’t tell you all the details because, you know, the internet. My focus on surviving and resolving those struggles has taken up a lot of my time and emotional energy, leaving little left over to talk about it all here. 

I completed my certification as a nursing assistant in February, and decided not to pursue any job opportunities in that field for several reasons. I have found the knowledge I gained very helpful in assisting my parents, however, and that is the whole reason I took the course so I consider the time well spent.

My weight has been bobbing up and down all year, gradually trending upward. I pay a handsome fee to participate in Weight Watchers each month, but can’t seem to motivate myself to follow the program. Not sure what I’m going to do about that, although I think my options are, essentially, to fish or cut bait. I’ve determined that part of why I am not feeling so great right now physically is my higher weight, and that I definitely feel better when I am about 20 lbs. lighter. It’s just a matter of finding the mojo to get myself there.

My darling doggies are, as ever, the lights of my life. Rudy had a tumor on his foot this summer that required the removal of a toe, but he’s fully recovered from that now as if nothing ever happened. Reggie has maintained perfect health and excellent behavior all year, and I’m very pleased with and proud of both of them.

My parents have been holding pretty steady, with a few mishaps here and there but generally okay. I had hoped my mother would be walking on her own again by last spring, but she took a fall in her garage a few months ago that has slowed her way down and it looks like the wheelchair might be here to stay.

On the business front, I branched out from product photography into real estate photography over the summer, and got a crash course in how to light a room properly (which is much trickier than you might think). This endeavor proved profitable and allowed me to acquire a bunch of new photography equipment, including lenses and lights, that have expanded my repertoire considerably. I hope to substantially increase this service in 2015.

At home, I have invested considerable time and treasure in my cooking practice, and that has been tremendously rewarding for me emotionally. I have been creating my own recipes and riffing with confidence on others’ recipes to create dishes that delight me—and as we know, I am a huge fan of my own cooking. 😉 I spent 10 days with my folks over Christmas and cooked many meals for them that they immensely enjoyed as well, so I seem to be doing it right! I recently finished reading Michael Pollan’s book Cooked, and gifted it to my mom and my brother-in-law for Christmas. My sister and mom have read it and they both say that it has changed their lives. I had the same reaction. Highly recommended.

Like 2013, 2014 ended on an unexpected, expensive and stressful note. In 2013, it was Rudy’s mysterious illness over Christmas vacation, and the keying damage to my car while I was visiting my parents. This year, we hit a deer on our way to my parents’ house, which disabled my car with a busted radiator but fortunately did no harm to us. The accident occurred roughly midway between my house and theirs, so I had to leave my car in the nearest town for 10 days to be repaired and got to drive a brand-new rented Hyundai Santa Fe in the meantime, which was actually a rather nice consolation. When we came through to retrieve my car on our way back to our home this week, the icy roads and snowy weather were so treacherous that we had to stay overnight there. I have never seen such horrendous driving conditions in 12 years of going back and forth over that road, and have never in 30 years of driving hit a deer. I am hoping my deer-strike clock will now reset and I’ll have another 30 years of no trouble!

And so we begin another fresh year. I am really hopeful that the hard times are behind me and I am so very ready to move forward on so many fronts. Rev the engine, pop the clutch, let’s blow this popsicle stand!

Happy New Year, everyone, and best wishes to all of you for a healthy and happy 2015!

the-time-is-now-lets-do-this

Silly Facebook games

Two status updates recently seen on Facebook:

traffic-ticket-status

underwear-status

After I commented on one of these posts that perhaps their page had been hacked by their kids, I received this message:

awareness-game

I won’t feel bad if anyone calls me a spoil sport, because I’m ruining the game for everyone who reads this, and because I’m not going to play (or should I say, be a victim?). I have two reasons for this.

First, while there is a legit “Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign” page on FB, this particular game apparently is not put out by them. And when you think about it, saying one used one’s “boobs” to get out of a traffic ticket is really not respectful messaging for this particular cause. Even if it were, how is this “girls-only” subterfuge in social media effective in raising awareness? Is there anyone still out there who hasn’t heard of breast cancer by now?

Second, even if one wished to play the game regardless of its creator or purpose, I know how I felt after reading these oversharing statements ostensibly authored by people I know and like, and I would still feel that way if I hadn’t commented and they hadn’t let me in on it. I would not want any of my FB friends to feel that same way about me, especially all those lurkers who read everything and comment on nothing (you know who you are!). I also would not want anyone to take any such statement from me seriously, and surely someone would (but they wouldn’t comment and get the clue so who knows what conclusions they would draw). People poo-poo the idea that anyone takes FB seriously, but they do. I do. So I am not inclined to post a lie and hope everyone just thinks it’s a joke.

Breast cancer is not a joke. Breast cancer awareness games on Facebook are neither helpful nor funny, particularly to people who are living with that terrible disease. I don’t blame anyone for participating but I wish they would stop for a moment and ask themselves, “what good will this actually do?” before they play along.

Here are some facts about breast cancer, so I can at least say that I have done my part to honor the spirit of the game.

Infographic by Lauryn Vermass

Infographic by Lauryn Vermaas

Visit the National Breast Cancer FoundationBreastCancer.org, the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen to learn about ways you can help fight breast cancer, keep yourself healthy, and support those who have it.

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Pain management

This summer has been a bit challenging for me on the physical front. Every morning, I wake up hurting in numerous and various ways, almost always for reasons I cannot immediately identify. I’ve lived long enough to have first-hand experience with all the usual flavors of pain: overuse, injury, illness, repetitive strain, I’m-coming-down-with-something, and, ahem, overindulgence. But the way my body feels lately has no obvious connection to any of these.

I’ve always been strong, if not also fit/conditioned. I’m a trouper, always have been, and I get stuff done. I am not ill, as far as I know, so when I tell people I am in chronic low-grade pain that makes me not want to do much anymore, sympathy is pretty thin on the ground.

One of my friends told me the reason I feel bad is my “lifestyle,” meaning the one where I work from home—doing housework, yard work, and pet care every day, among other things—instead of, say, getting up at the crack of dawn five days a week and commuting to a cubicle where I sit in front of a computer for eight hours. She stopped short of calling me a lazy bum, which I certainly appreciated, but her implication was clear.* Apparently she believes that all I do all day is recline on the divan and eat bon-bons, or whatever passes for near-criminal indolence in 2014.

you-mock-my-pain-animated

I have had low-grade pain in my lower back for so long I can barely remember what it feels like to bend down and touch my toes without hurting (although, for the record, I have always been able to touch my toes without bending my knees). Bending and stooping repetitively is agonizing for me, yet that’s what I have to do when I clean house, mow the lawn, do laundry, make the bed, all that stuff. I huff and groan a lot. Lately, I’m noticing some pain in my hands that surely cannot be caused by keyboarding, mousing or clicking a camera shutter. My grandmother had terrible arthritis in her hands. Is that in my genes? I worry.

Yesterday I laid down on the yoga mat after breakfast and starting cataloging aloud all the places on my body that hurt as I went through my stretching routine. I cried along the way, not so much from the pain itself but from frustration at how it saps my energy and thereby limits my life, and from fear of where it might go. Is something actually wrong? Will it get worse? Am I going to be okay? I worry.

life-is-pain-animated

I figure, right this minute, there are probably three major culprits: PMS, overuse (weekend yard work), and neglecting my yoga just a little too long. Ordinary aging may or may not have anything to do with it as well.

I felt better after stretching yesterday, and even better after stretching today. I have not been doing yoga lately because I guess I somehow got it in my head that I don’t “really” do yoga—I just stretch and do a few simple yoga poses such as Downward Dog. My sister does “real” yoga, the kind that makes me sweat copiously and ache all over the next day when I try to do it with her. The moves she does build strength and flexibility. The moves I do just maintain my muscles in their normal state rather than bunched up tightly and tender to the touch.

I’m going to try to get back to doing my little 20-minute routine every day because it’s the only exercise I’ve ever done that actually makes me feel better rather than worse—which is probably a big part of why I don’t see it as “real” exercise. Ever since I was forced to run laps in P.E. as a kid, I have associated exercise with physical pain, both during and after. When I wake up in the morning hurting in a dozen different places, the last thing I would ever want to do is make it worse by exercising. So my yoga is the perfect thing: not really exercise, not really painful, generally beneficial.

It’s time to get back on the mat.

130924-funny-yoga-position

Comic by Louise Wei, Panda & Polar Bear.

 


* Most people seem to believe that “working from home” is not really working and that a person who owns a home-based business doesn’t actually have a job, so I can’t hold that against my friend. I don’t bother to argue with anyone who thinks that anymore. They can think whatever they like about my job, my life, my “lifestyle” and how I spend my time because they really don’t know the first thing about any of it.

 

Trying new things

My weight loss journey has entered the hard phase, where nothing is going as I would like for it to, particularly the number on the scale. I’ve been actively, even somewhat feverishly, experimenting over the past several weeks with different foods and eating schedules and so forth to try to find a way that I can both lose weight and be happy.

I know what doesn’t make me happy:

  • Feeling hungry, ever, even for a short period of time. I get very cranky.
  • Eating “diet” food, such as fat-free and sugar-free foods that SHOULD contain fat and/or sugar (milk, cheese, salad dressing, etc.).
  • Eating high-carb, high-sugar foods, such as cookies, which give me tachycardia for an hour and a fuzzy head all day.

I also have learned, through trial and mostly error, a few things that are helpful.

  • Rice is a really diet-busting food, for me. So is pasta. Both cause nearly instant weight gain, and neither delivers any real satisfaction.
  • Exercise, even the low-intensity little bit that I do, is essential. Neither the dogs nor I have benefited from skipping our walks.
  • Eating meals while I’m fixing them, standing at the stove or counter, is not really in my best interests.
  • I can’t control what I don’t track, and careful measuring works better than guessing every time.
  • Three substantial and balanced meals a day eaten at regular intervals works better for me than several small meals and snacks scattered haphazardly around the clock.
  • Trying to think of something to eat at the end of the day and then having to cook it when I’m hungry leads to bad choices (see first bullet point in list above). Prepping a variety of healthy foods in large quantities at the start of the week makes it easy to put together a good meal quickly.

In addition to trying to find the right balance of when and where and how much to eat, there is the fundamental question of WHAT to eat. I am seeking the Holy Grail of healthy, simple, inexpensive food that tastes fantastic and is good for me (meaning, won’t bust my diet). So far, I have found two recipes that show tremendous promise, and am actively seeking new ones as well as developing my own.

First, chia seeds. These are kind of a trendy thing now, and I’m not usually a fan of trends, but now I’ve tried them and I think they are actually really great. They look like poppy seeds, and have the quality of creating their own gelatin when wet. A one-ounce (28 gram) serving of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams of dietary fiber, 5 milligrams of sodium, 18% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, 27% phosphorus and 30% manganese. Whether they’ll help you lose weight is still an open question, but they make a delicious and filling small meal or snack. You can get them in most supermarkets, sometimes in the bulk food section.

chia-pudding

Coconut Mango Chia Pudding from The Peach Kitchen.

There are a thousand variations on the basic chia pudding recipe, all of which can be found on Pinterest, I’m sure. My recipe is very simple:

1/2 c milk (you can use regular, 2%, skim, almond, coconut or soy; I use almond)
2 Tbs chia seeds
1 Tbs agave syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
1 tsp unsweetened coconut

Mix well and refrigerate overnight in a covered container. Serve topped with any fresh fruit.

You’ll be picking the seeds out of your teeth for an hour and the slick texture can take some getting used to, but I really like this recipe, which tastes great both before and after the pudding “sets.” You can, of course, adapt it with any ingredients you like. My version adds up to 5 Weight Watcher points.

The second great thing I’ve discovered is sofrito, which is a salsa-like flavor base used in Latin American cooking much the same way that mirepoix is used in French cooking. Everyone has a unique recipe and you can buy it bottled as well (Goya is one brand I’ve seen), but making it from scratch is a snap, especially when you have all the ingredients already prepped in the fridge.

cooked-sofrito

Cooked sofrito (unpuréed) from The Chef Within.

My recipe for this is pretty simple, too:

2-3 Tbs olive oil
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 c white or yellow onion, diced
1 c green bell pepper, diced
8-10 peppadew peppers, roughly chopped
2 c tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

Sauté the garlic and onions in the oil over medium heat for a few minutes until onions are translucent before adding the rest of the ingredients. Cook, stirring, for about 5-7 more minutes until tomatoes soften and mixture turns orange. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, or other seasonings to taste if you want to use it as-is, or leave the seasonings out altogether and use as a flavor base in other dishes.

Purée in food processor to desired level of smoothness. Makes about a quart.

I mix this stuff with rice and beans, put it on scrambled eggs, pour it over grilled chicken, even use it as a sandwich spread. I’ve made it with a bunch of cilantro added to the food processor (not cooked), and that was pretty good, too, but I don’t always have cilantro on hand and it’s still plenty good without it. The best part is, it’s all vegetables (which have no point value in WW) but it tastes fantastic! The fat content in a quarter-cup serving is hardly worth worrying about, and it’s a healthy fat anyway, so I don’t worry about it.

My guiding principle right now is that I want to eat what I like and like what I eat, every day, so having a recipe for a delicious, healthy, low-point snack, as well as a recipe for a delicious, healthy, versatile condiment that makes everything it touches taste better, has been very helpful to me in getting a handle on my eating plan so that I can, I hope, start turning things around. It’s been so frustrating to keep crossing and recrossing the same ground, never going beyond the familiar old boundaries and not (yet) able to make peace with my body so that I can finally lose this weight and keep it off.

i-have-not-failed

 

 

The change of life

Recent evidence suggests that my on-board egg factory either already has ceased or will soon cease production after dropping more than 400 payloads down the hatch. Which means that, among other things, all symptoms of unstable hormonal activity in my body will soon cease as well (I hope—Gott im Himmel, I hope!).

nightsweats

Knowhuttahmean, girls?

I am finally passing through the gates of the change of life, leaving my procreative potential behind forever. The maiden who never became a mother has now become a … crone.

lucy-ick-animated

Well, shoot, that’s neither a pretty word nor a pretty idea. But it beats the alternative:

tombstone

Heh. Not yet.

I read all the time in the women’s magazines how single women of reproductive age who haven’t taken that option are pestered constantly by friends, family and strangers to explain why they haven’t. Funnily enough, almost nobody has ever put that inquiry to me. If they have, my answer is this: I would want any child of mine to be born in wedlock to his or her two biological parents who love each other and who can together provide a stable, loving home for that child. Because I have never been able to provide that, I have not had children. (Note: I don’t care what reproductive choices other women make, which are none of my business.)

The biggest deal breaker, of course, was not having the partner and fellow bioparent, otherwise known as the father, with whom to create and rear that child. There was a young man, once, back in high school, whom I envisioned in this role, but he was never interested in playing the part. I haven’t met anyone since who might have replaced him. I’ve had relationships, of course, but no permanent romantic partner. I have no excuses, apologies or complaints to offer for this state of affairs (or lack thereof). It is what it is. This is the life I’ve made and the path I’ve chosen. A partner and child(ren) were simply not part of the plan this time around.

The other deal breaker, entirely apart from circumstances, was always knowing that I don’t have the energy to play the short game of raising children to get through the days nor the patience and foresight to play the long game to get through the years, so I am not mourning the passing of my fertility and my potential to send forth my own little arrows into the future. My sister has two children, and I see them as my arrows almost as much as hers. They are the entire next generation of our immediate family, in fact. I know I could not have raised them one tiny fraction as well as my sister has, so I’m glad they are her kids in that respect. I think I’m a  good auntie, though, and they know I love them just slightly less than their mother does.

When my grandmother was my age, she had two adult children who had graduated college and married, two children in college, a second-grader at home, and her first grandchild (my brother). When my mother was my age, she had one adult child, one college student, and one teenager at home. I think our family represents a larger trend in more ways than one. My grandmother had a high-school education and five living children out of seven or eight pregnancies. My mother had a nursing degree and three children. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and no children. They say the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to reproduce. I never made a conscious choice to pursue my education or my career over partnership and family; it just happened that way.

Then, too, I always suspected it would. When that first early love of mine came to nothing, I really couldn’t see a partner in my future ever again. It always seemed to me that no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I looked for it or how hard I tried to make it happen with this person or that person, I just knew that no, this was not going to happen for me. They say there’s a lid for every pot, but I have seen that this is not true and I have finally stopped expecting it for myself.

I struggled against that realization for a long time because human beings are not made to be alone and not meant to be lonely. But some time in the past decade, without my noticing when it left, the intensity of my desire to be coupled has faded away to nearly nothing. I am still sometimes lonely in my heart, I will admit, but I am rarely lonely in the daily rounds of my life. I’m good at living alone and I enjoy it. I like having my own space my own way and making my own rules. Being single is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Being with the wrong person might be, though.

So instead of waiting for or dreaming about or feeling abandoned by love, I try to love myself and my life and everything and everyone in it with courage and commitment and integrity, just as I would a partner and child(ren), not holding back on living while I wait for The One to show up and flip my “on” switch so as to finally allow me to be the best potential version of myself.

When you’re younger, you have time to play that game, and perhaps a biological clock spurring you on as well. But once you pass through the gate, you start to realize that all you are is all you have and that all you are is enough.

i-have-done-love