My favorite day

Unbelievably, even to me, Monday has become my favorite day of the week.

I have Weight Watchers to thank for that, and a few other things.

Today is my weigh-in day, and I’ve been looking forward to it. I had a terrific week and it paid off on the scale: I lost 5 of the 6 pounds I gained over my Christmas vacation, so it was a very good day, indeed. But even on Mondays that are not nearly so stellar on the scale, I look forward to the meeting because it’s a great group of people who entertain and inspire me in equal measure. They have good stories and good ideas and good energy.

When I mentioned this to them tonight, and said how much I appreciate all of them, the group leader asked “does anyone remember when Lisa first started coming to this meeting?” Someone immediately piped up, “yeah, she sat all the way in the back and didn’t say a word.” I’m quite the chatty girl in meetings now. I’ve never been good in groups because I never felt that I fit in anywhere before, but I seem to fit in with this group. It’s a great feeling.

WW is working really well for me, and I am getting exactly the results I want from it. I don’t mean to brag about this because I suspect I’m just temporarily “in the bubble” where things are clicking. I know how it is with long-term weight loss and maintenance—some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug. It won’t always be as easy as it is right now, so I am really appreciating this phase while it lasts. The plateaus and steps back and other really unfun parts lie ahead of me. But at the moment, I’m on the right side of things and it all seems possible.

My little victories this week: starting the 30-day plank challenge, working up to 10 squats and 10 walking lunges while waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning, walking my dogs every day in spite of the cold, and keeping my discretionary point use to a bare minimum (I have a certain number of food points to eat each day, and another number of points I can use throughout the week, but I’m just sticking with my daily points for now). I am not hungry, and I’m not craving anything other than the healthy food I have in the house.

It’s nice to not feel that I am at war with or at the mercy of my body for a change. It actually kind of feels like we’re on the same team, in fact. And that makes every day a good day.

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Challenges

It’s good to have goals to start the new year, so I was thinking perhaps this would be just the one for me.

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I think I totally have what it takes to rock this!

happy-hour-nap

Haha, no.

Instead, I am doing, for real, the 30-Day Plank Challenge. Here is the schedule in seconds and minutes rather than just seconds for those of us who are somewhat clock challenged under pressure. (Click on the image to view a larger, printable version.)

plank-challenge

Already did my 20 seconds today and lived to tell you about it. How hard can this be, right? (Wait, didn’t I just say that yesterday with regard to something else I know absolutely nothing about? Hmm.)

Anyway, I do know that this is one small thing I can do every day that will help make me stronger. I also started doing some range-of-motion exercises, deep knee bends, calf raises and walking lunges in the kitchen while waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning. It’s only a few minutes’ worth of exercise, really not much in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it’s something, which is more than nothing. I can already feel those lunges in my hamstrings tonight, in fact.

I’ve been doing a basic yoga stretching routine along with a Rodney Yee DVD in the mornings for so long now that I have his routine memorized, so I picked up a different “Yoga for Beginners” DVD at the bookstore tonight that has both a morning and evening routine, neither of which looks like it will kill me. If I were to start with a 10-minute kettlebell cardio workout, it might not kill me outright (or maybe it would…) but for sure I would be too sore to move for the next three days and would never go back to it.

I really want more activity in my day beyond just walking with the dogs, but I don’t want all the aches and pains that go with it because, at least for me, nothing is so demotivating and even demoralizing as physical pain. I like to start off real easy and taper down from there. Baby steps—20 seconds today, 30 seconds tomorrow. I can do this.

Fear no food

I turned a corner in my kitchen and in my heart tonight with regard to food, and the medium of my healing was a bowl of soup.

Here’s how it happened.

I was craving a simple potato for dinner and I happen to have a bag of Yukon Golds on hand for Thanksgiving. I was going to just boil one up and mash it with a pat of butter, but then I thought I’d make some kind of gravy to go over the top instead.

Since I recently made a super-easy and tasty cream of chicken soup, I thought that would be perfect. All you do is melt a couple of tablespoons of butter, add a spoonful of flour, cook until golden, then slowly stir in a cup of 1 part milk or half-and-half and 3 parts chicken broth and keep stirring until it is smooth and thickened. So easy!

But then I decided my soup needed a little more texture and body, so I finely chopped one small portobello mushroom and a small wedge of sweet onion, sautéed them in a spoonful of butter, and added a splash of Marsala wine to finish them off. Meanwhile, I cut up one medium-sized potato into chunks and boiled it until it was soft, then mashed it roughly with a fork.

Put all that together, season with sage, thyme and Krazy Salt, and it was one of the best soups I have ever tasted: richly flavored and incredibly satisfying. Next time, I might puree the potato with a bit of chicken stock before adding so it’s smooth, or maybe run the entire batch through the blender before serving, but I liked the slightly chunky texture of it tonight. Even better, it still added up to only 9 WW points per serving (it made about two one-cup servings), which was well within my daily limit—and I still have another delicious bowl to look forward to for lunch tomorrow.

Food and cooking are great metaphors for so many things, self-care being merely one of the more obvious. How we nourish ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually determines the state of our health.

So the corner I have turned here is thinking that really great food has to be complicated or difficult, or that it requires me to follow a recipe written by a pro, or that I can’t make something delicious and nourishing just out of my own imagination. I feel like a “real” cook tonight for the first time in my life, even though I’ve been cooking for myself for years and years. In turn, I feel liberated to do what I want to do, to make what I want to make, and to be who I am, both in my kitchen and in my own life.

cooking-with-abandon

That’s kind of a big deal. Never underestimate the power of soup!

The magic of the mouse

I had dinner with a good friend of mine last night, and she filled me in on her plans for Christmas that are so cool and so fun and so exciting, I want to tell you all about them!

She and her husband have two kids, a preschooler and a toddler. For the past several months, both kids have been periodically asking, “when are we going to Mickey’s house?” meaning Disneyland. They are both big, big fans of the mouse.

So what my friend and her family are going to do on Christmas morning this year is get up early and open their presents (which might include a Mickey-themed item or two), then have breakfast (which might be Mickey-shaped pancakes), while the parents gently and subtly cue the kids until one or the other of them asks for the thousandth time, “when are we going to Mickey’s house?”

And then Mom and Dad are going to exchange a triumphant glance over the tops of their children’s heads before gleefully asking, “how about right now? Go get packed, we’re going today!” And at 2:00 that afternoon, the whole family will board a plane headed to Anaheim and visit with Mickey for a week.

mickey-christmas

I tell you what, I think that’s such a cool plan, I’m as stoked about it as if I were one of their kids. What could be better for a young child than to have a long-delayed dream instantly manifest one day? That is parenting at its finest, and my hat is off to my friend and her husband for planning this wonderful surprise and gift for their family.

Since I (ahem) won’t be going along, I might instead catch an early showing of the movie “Saving Mr. Banks,” opening Dec. 20, which stars Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. It looks like a delightful tour de force from two of the finest actors on the screen today. So, you know, that’s almost as good as a surprise trip to Disneyland on Christmas morning. Almost. 😉

Take a look at the trailer. I bet you’ll want to see this movie, too.

“She freaking made it”

Hooray and congratulations to endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, who today achieved her life-long dream and a place in the history books by becoming the first person ever to swim without a shark cage from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida. It took her 53 hours to cross 110 miles of open ocean against stinging jellyfish, strong currents, sun and wind, and her own 64-year-old body.

Diana Nyad's route from shore to shore, from her website.

Diana Nyad’s route from shore to shore, from her website.

What an achievement.

I wrote about Nyad’s last attempt at this crossing in 2012, which was her fourth try, and was convinced at that time that she was not going to make another run at it. After reading more about her and her life, though, including her first attempt in 1978, I guess I should have realized she would either do this thing or literally die trying. She is the very embodiment of the word “competitor.”

In fact, upon her arrival on the Florida beach, she looked pretty close to death. Clearly this crossing took everything she had.

I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. And three is, it looks like a solitary sport but it’s a team.
~ Diana Nyad, 2 September 2013

At an age when most people are ready to retire, Nyad has zealously pressed on in pursuit of her dreams while at the same time always encouraging others to pursue theirs. She’s a shining example of determination, courage, commitment and perseverance against all odds.

She told the Los Angeles Times in 2011, “I don’t want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given my days everything in me to make them worthwhile.” One hopes she now can look back on her days and say yes, they were worthwhile.

But I wouldn’t count her out to go chasing some other record just as soon as she recovers from this one. ONWARD!

Mid-Lent check-in

So, you remember that I was going to take a new approach to observing Lent this year? Well, we’re about halfway through the season now, so it’s time to check in and see how things are going with our efforts to be inclusive, creative and embracing.

I haven’t kept a log of my activities because that seems kind of overweening, but I can say I’ve done a few things these past weeks with a specific intention to reach out, connect and be kind to others. Such as:

  • Baked cookies and took them over to a neighbor who was entertaining a friend of hers with three young children who were more than pleased to help me eat them.
  • Sent some pastries and a gift card to another neighbor who was in the last few days of her pregnancy and having a hard time getting out of the house to have fun (the baby is now a couple of weeks old and quite a cutie).
  • Took the dogs to visit my former neighbors, who lost their own miniature Schnauzer a few years ago and can’t bear to get another one. They sure did love each having one of mine on their laps for part of an afternoon, though, and the dogs loved it, too.
  • Finally worked out a lot of old stuff with an old friend by email, hopefully advancing our friendship into a brighter new day.

While I wish I could say I’ve been really committed and devoted to this practice, the truth is that I am not like that with much of anything that isn’t mandatory, so, no. But I do keep it in mind, and try each day to do something good for myself, such as exercising or listening to music or adding a few dollars to my Mad Money fund; as well as something good for somebody else, such as making a call or sending an email or baking cookies.

I tend to be pretty exclusive in my dealings, and I’m trying to widen my circles a tad. I also take care of things in my current circle–I call my folks and my sister regularly, I keep up with my friends by email and Facebook, I talk to my plants (especially my poor bamboo), and I lavish affection on my dogs. I try to pay attention to and appreciate all my blessings every day.

Self-renewal is not about big one-time gestures and life-changing makeovers. It’s about daily choices, small things, consistently done with love.

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To love at all is to be vulnerable

Immediately post-Valentine’s Day, this graphic is just too perfect. Click the image to see the full-size version at Zen Pencils.

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Our love, or our lack of it … will in the end be an expression of ourselves: of who we think we are, of what we want to be, of what we think we are here for. ~ Thomas Merton

We accept the love we think we deserve. ~ Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

You get what you settle for. ~ Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise