Food for thought

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You might have heard of the latest “diet” – called the Intermittent Fast, where you eat within an 8 hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours.  It made the news some time back and, now that I’ve done some research on the concept, I’ll admit to being intrigued enough to give it a try.

I’m of a certain age and somewhere between my thirties and the current day, my hard won ballet body has vanished.  It was there for the longest time … a lifetime of ballet, and good genes, had produced a nice lean profile.  Weight loss was effortless.  Being a bit on the tall side also helped disguise any bit of weight gain.

Then … the thirties came and went, the forties made their way by, and I entered the outskirts of fifty-land.  Where was my lean ballet body?  When did it slip away and how could it have gone unnoticed?  Whereas before, I had a waist, I now resembled SpongeBob Squarepants.  Okay, I may exaggerate a little, but you get the gist.

I launched into power yoga, I tried running (hated it), tried vegan (too much work), limiting calories … pilates … nothing I tried had any effect, or if it did … I was putting on weight!  Now, everyone will say at a certain age, women’s bodies will change.  Fine.  I can accept that … to a point.  But, when I can no longer wear my kilt skirt (which cost upwards of $300) I draw the line.

Something must be done.

Enter the concept of Intermittent Fasting.  It’s about as simple as it can be, and isn’t really a “diet” as much as it is a lifestyle.  Fasting has been proven to have many health benefits.  It’s thought to give your body time to digest the food you do eat, so you’re less bloaty.  Some reports I’ve read indicate it is thought to lower your insulin levels and help you burn fat because you consuming fewer calories than you’re expending.  There are many MANY articles so I won’t go into detail here – you are free to research the topic as you wish.

I like the concept because I’m lazy when it comes to cooking, living alone can have that effect.  Plus, as weird as it sounds, I’m bored with food.  It’s become just another chore.  I hate having to make time for it, make a mess in the kitchen or pop something frozen into the microwave, for only one person.  Often I just forget or don’t get hungry.  But is this reflected in the bathroom scale?  NO!  grrrrrr.  It seems the opposite.  Instead of shedding pounds, my body is holding onto them like it’s a lifeboat situation!

Clearly, a lifestyle change is required.  Exercise would be a good idea, but I hate it.  Being winter doesn’t help … it is too cold and dark to want to schlep down to the gym or go for a bike ride.

So, I was intrigued by the idea of the partial fast.  Since I tend to skip meals anyway, packing the few meals I do eat into a specific timeframe seems ideal.  I’ll eat between the hours of eleven and 7:00, and fast after until eleven the next day.  Breakfast has never been that big in my life, so missing it shouldn’t be too upsetting.

All I have to do is wean myself off the Starbucks Doubleshot Expressos.  Here goes operation “get my waist back”.  Maybe I’ll be motivated to start an exercise class …

Maybe one lifestyle change at a time …

Memory Lane

I’m sitting here listening to “The Partridge Family Greatest Hits”.  A real blast from the past.  I got so silly with nostalgia, I went and ordered the complete series on DVD.  You know, there are some real dialogue gems in those episodes, especially between Danny and … well, anyone, but especially Ruben, the manager.  Sure the episodes are cotton candy when compared to sitcoms today, but that’s part of their charm.  They are simple but not simplistic … sweet but not sugary.  And the music!  How refreshing to be able to understand what’s being sung!  And the tunes are catchy as well.  I think David Cassidy was the only one doing any real singing, the other actors were dubbed – and how many kids the age of the youngest boy can realistically play the drums?  Plus, I have trouble believing Danny could manage a regular size bass guitar.  Still … with all the obvious flaws and dreadful 70’s fashions, it’s a show that never gets old, not for me anyway.  It may not burn any calories, but taking a stroll down that memory lane sure burns away the blues.

Come on, get happy!

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Diving into the crypto-currency pool …

It’s not like me. To take cold hard cash and, whoosh … drop it into a volatile and unregulated market. Cash in the bank = good, taking the same cash and basically throwing it at the wall hoping something will stick = stupid! So what happened? Why did I leap before I looked?

Well, as I said in an earlier blog, sometimes if you look too hard before you leap – you never leap. You never take a chance, you never “pays your nickel and takes your chances”. I knew one thing for sure … if I didn’t give this a try, I would regret it.

So, I did it. Took a nice chuck of change, enough to play with but not so much I’d throw myself off a cliff if it went bust, rolled the die, spun the roulette wheel and …

Well, true to form (it would seem), the moment I buy into something … the value drops. Bitcoin, which had been shooting into the stratosphere stopped and began a slow decent back to earth. After I bought in, of course.

Think long term … what goes down might go back up again (hopefully and soon!) so, don’t obsess about it. I took a portion of my fraction of a bitcoin and diversified, or tried to. I’m not techno-savy when it comes to buying or selling, and don’t understand market, margin, and other terms. So, on top of entering the wild west of finance, I’m doing it with little to no understanding of what I’m doing.

This isn’t like me at all. I like to know what’s what, the rules, the format, the structure. Entering the crypto-currency market would be akin to dropping myself into a strange city, where I don’t speak the language, without a map.

Yet, here I am … for better or worse, to sink or swim, throwing that spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks!

Culture shock

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Not arriving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  That wasn’t the culture shock … it was returning back to Northern Virginia … to the United States … to the land of plenty.  A veteran of the Haiti ministry, Genevieve, gave me this first hand observation and she was right.  While this wasn’t my first trip to an impoverished country, it was my first trip to Haiti and to a situation far removed from my daily life.

Electricity.  Safe drinking water.  Running water.  Toilets.  Convenience stores.  Infrastructure.  Good roads.  Trash collection.  So much more … we have such an abundance of stuff above and beyond the  basic structure of life.  We take it for granted, we forget it’s there.

We passed people walking, riding horses or donkeys, people packed 3 or 4 on motorbikes, crammed a dozen or so into brightly painted trucks.  They balanced large buckets or bags on their head, some hands free, some steadied with one hand while holding the hand of a small child.

As we traveled further and further from Port-au-Prince, the shacks and huts thinned out.  Fewer vehicles jostled and jockeyed for progress on crowded dusty and garbage filled streets.  There was still a great deal of garbage and trash … and the road was still in fairly good condition, with a few washouts and boulders.  The countryside has been largely deforested … valued trees being cut down for cooking or turning into charcoal.  Here and there in the distance, a think spiral of smoke rose up.  Quarries shaved into the hillsides.  Footpaths crisscrossed into the distance.

This trip was a yearly visit by the Haitian ministry at St.Timothy’s Episcopal church in Herndon Virginia.  We support a church and school in Chapateau which is barely more than a collection of huts and shacks on the side of a mountain centered around the church and school.  There are no roads.  To get to Chapateau, one must travel by boat from Cange, and then up a steep and winding footpath.  It’s rough going but the people there do it because they have no choice.

Where we stayed in Cange, electricity came and went.  Sometimes there was running water, but often there wasn’t.  We learned quickly to adapt, to plug in when the power was on – to take showers when the water flowed.  But, we never once even thought of complaining … we were too humbled to even consider it.

I realize this piece is a little chaotic … it jumps around, like my thoughts and feelings.  I think about the kids who laughed and giggled as I took pictures of the chickens running through the schoolyard, of the young people who knew where we came from and how much we had, of how hard their lives were and how uncertain their futures.  As I sit here in my air-conditioned living room, everything I need either readily at hand or a click away … it’s mentally dizzying.  One emotion barely forms when another shoves it aside.

Haitians are people, just like us.  They want what we want – education for their children, a good job for themselves, respect, acknowledgment, to be happy and productive.  We have so much in common, more so than can be counted as differences.

For more information, go to the following site:  Haitian ministry

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Instant family … two days later

So far, we’re all still alive!  The girls have eaten regular meals (albeit it from restaurants), and thanks to the farmer’s market, we have a quiche for this evening.  At the moment, the girls are spending the afternoon hanging out with some of the other exchange students.  I took advantage of the alone time to doze on the sofa while watching football.

They are very nice young ladies, pleasant and very interested in learning more about the real America.  This part, I’m anxiously eager to show them.  I want them to meet lots of “your average American” … from the venders at the farmer’s market to parishioners at church to people in the neighborhood.  I want the girls to see we’re all individuals, we’re not lockstep in line with the latest moronic presidential tweet.  Granted, I only know one trump supporter, but the world sees enough of the world presented through his myopic eyesight.  I want Luisa and Christina to meet real people, as many as possible, and to find out we all want the same things in life … to be happy, to prosper, to help others and – above all – peace.

Tomorrow we’re going to carve pumpkins and visit a nearby plantation.  Their presentation of life on a plantation has a special emphasis on the lives of the slaves and is very educational.

During the week, the girls will alternate between attending a local high school and taking trips into DC with the rest of their group.  We’ll finish out the visit with Homecoming weekend at the High School, with a parade, pep rally, football game and a dance.  That’s about as Americana as it gets!  Go Team!!

From 0 to teenagers in 60 seconds …

I’m getting ready to host two German high school students for a couple of weeks.  The girls, ages 15 and 17, arrive this evening and I’ve spent the day (so far) running around trying to get ready.   Trouble is, I don’t know how to get ready for teenagers!

Since I’m single, and have no children, this is unknown territory.  Sure, I’ve been around kids, I have three nieces and they’re all quite nice … but then I don’t live with them.  I don’t know the ins and outs of having teenage girls in the house.  What do they eat?  What do they do for fun?  Will they find me a boring old lady?

I’m used to fending for myself and that’s a full time job.  It’s one I arguably struggle with. Eating regular meals?  Ha!  For dinner the other night I had, in this order, ice cream, potato chips, and finally – a ham sandwich.  And now, I’m supposed to keep two teenagers fed for two weeks!

Not just that … I’ll have to get them up in the morning!  Pack lunches and drive them to school!  It’s a coin toss some mornings to get myself up and out the door!  This is going to be quite an adventure.

Stay tuned!

A perfect Saturday

After listening to the absolute best radio program, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me” on NPR, I’m now ensconced on the sofa, watching that greatest of fall traditions, college football.  Granted, I’d be a little happier if FSU had stopped NC State on 4th and goal … thus setting the early score at 10-0 in favor the Wolfpack.

This is what I wait all summer for.  That moment when Chief Osceola rides out on Renegade, the horse rearing up to paw at the air, and thundering down as Osceola rams the flaming spear into midfield.

Goosebumps.

I yell enthusiastically, startling the dog who relocated to his bed in the kitchen.

My family is a big on watching sports, football, baseball, tennis … but, perhaps surprisingly, it’s the women who are parked in front of the television, remote control in hand and flipping between games.  Dad will watch but more often is happier to be in his workshop refinishing a table or turning a block of wood into a bowl through the magic of the lathe.

Do I just like bucking the trend?  Knocking holes in the stereotypical male fanbase?  Well, maybe a little – but it’s more than that.  It’s the (Woooo!  Sorry … FSU just landed a stunning pass for a first and goal) excitement of college rivalries … of ages old traditions. There’s a country music song I love about as much as I love college football – “The boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney.  Here are the lyrics, but google it and watch the video.  I dare you to deny the lump in your throat and the tear that comes to your eye.

When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass
I’m back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standing in the huddle, listening to the call
Fans going crazy for the boys of fall
They didn’t let just anybody in that club
Took every ounce of heart and sweat and blood
To get to wear those game-day jerseys down the hall
The kings of the school, man, we’re the boys of fall
Well it’s turn to face the stars and stripes
It’s fighting back them butterflies
It’s call it in the air, alright
Yes sir, we want the ball
And it’s knocking heads and talking trash
It’s slinging mud and dirt and grass
It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall
In little towns like mine, that’s all they’ve got
Newspaper clippings fill the coffee shops
The old men will always think they know it all
Young girls will dream about the boys of fall
Well it’s turn and face the stars and stripes
It’s fighting back them butterflies
It’s call it in the air, alright
Yes sir, we want the ball
And it’s knocking heads and talking trash
It’s slinging mud and dirt and grass
It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall
Well it’s turn and face the stars and stripes
It’s fighting back them butterflies
It’s call it in the air, alright
Yes sir, we want the ball
And it’s knocking heads and talking trash
It’s slinging mud and dirt and grass
It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all
The boys of fall
And FSU just scored!  Way to go, boys of fall!

My fear of flying …

Mine was never so bad as to cause me to avoid flying, but I would break out into a sweat just thinking about booking a flight!  Somehow, I was convinced my getting on the plane meant certain disaster, and – yes – I researched the odds of accidents and knew I was in more danger getting to the airport than being in the air.

Then one day, something miraculous happened … coming back from a Christmas trip to London with my parents, an angel who was on earth working at the British Airways counter, offered us seats in business class.

Picture it … you leisurely board first.  And with ample room to move around, and fewer people to dodge, you effortlessly find room for that carry-on luggage.  You ease into a nice roomy seat, and before you’ve had time to locate the emergency exits, a smiling flight attendant is offering you a glass of champagne.  It’s amazing how patient one can be after a bit of bubbly.  I didn’t care how long the plane took to get in the air as long as the legroom and champagne lasted.

And the delightful surprises kept coming!  Real food!  Real china plates with real metal silverware.  Real glassware and linen napkins.  I don’t eat so civilized at home!  Even the snacks were real – no piffy little bags of pretzels.

It was sublime … and I never wanted the flight to end.  It was the best part of the whole vacation, but – as with every highpoint – there’s a flip side.  The offer has never been repeated.  Now, I see the curtain from the other side and sigh wistfully.  Now, I know what I’m missing.

Now I’ve gone from a fear of flying to a fear of flying coach.

After the haircut…

Well … I did it.  After decades of long hair, and the battle cry, “I’ll die first” (a little dramatic, granted) whenever anyone asked me about the subject …

I cut my hair.

Eleven and a half inches.

Gone.

With a few snips, my old life fell away and the new me looked back from the mirror.  A little dizzy with adrenaline and slightly breathless.  Maybe I over-react about things … but this wasn’t a simple or straightforward thing.  It was an outward sign of an inward (and ongoing) metamorphosis.  The last thing that had this big a change on my life was getting Lasik surgery.  After a lifetime of being chained to glasses … with recorded vision of 20/400 … chained was how I felt.  20/400, by the way, uncorrected is considered legally blind.

So getting surgery was akin to being liberated from a tight and restricting cocoon.  Life was divided into WG and AL … with glasses and after Lasik.  There was such liberation and freedom, I felt the whole world must have felt the emotional impact it had on me.  Lots of people are happy with glasses, and I wore them for almost 40 years.  They were a huge part of my identity.  I was the girl with long hair and glasses.

Bye Bye glasses.  And I felt a subtle shift in myself.

Many years (decades) later, bye bye hair.  And another subtle shift … where will this one lead?

The hair by the way, was shipped off to “Locks of Love”.  Who will it help?  I’ll never know, but that’s the way of change.  Like ripples in water, you never know what shores the expanding ripples will touch.

 

The science of taking a chance

Are we talking coin toss here?  Heads door A, tails door B?  That 50/50 kind of chance that’s taught in Statistics 101?  What do I mean by taking a chance?

Taking a chance, for me at least, depends on a seemingly impossible combination of down in the weeds analysis and leap before you look abandon.  I can slice and dice the facts until the cows come home, weigh the pros and cons, imagine path A vs B … and after all that, blindly make the jump.

We take chances every day, sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity, sometimes before we know what’s happening.

The summer 2011 provided all three at once.

I was face with the chance to move to Virginia where I’d been offered a job.  At the time, I was between contracts and therefore unemployed so it was a pretty one sided chance.  Even so, I hesitated.  This was going to mean change.  Big change.  This chance meant having to sell my house in Florida, pack up everything I owned, and say goodbye to everyone and everything I knew.  To leave the place where I’d lived and worked for 25 years for the big unknown.

This chance meant leaving all that was known and familiar.

It was simple and complicated at the same time.

To me it was as straightforward as being employed and the location was inconsequential.  Simultaneously, it was unimaginable.  Relocating was of such magnitude it was impossible to comprehend.

One website states the average US citizen moves approximately 11 times in their life.  At 50, I was long overdue and ought to have been on my 5th or 6th move.  Instead, this would be only my second.  I had lived in a total of two houses, my parents and my own – not counting endless college dorm rooms and cramped little apartments.  My nerves were focused on how I would do in my new job, not my new living situation.  It was simply too big to wrap my head around.

I said “yes” before the reality of my choice could set in.  I didn’t flip a coin, make up a list of pros and cons, or even sleep on it.

Maybe our decisions are better left to play out as they happen.   If we could truly comprehend the magnitude of the chances we’re faced with, would we take them?

Sometimes, after weighting all the facts and analyzing all possible outcomes, we just have to listen to our gut – say a prayer – and take a chance.