Friday, November 21, 2014

November Chase the Stars 5k!

Can you believe it's that time again? We're almost done with the whole series! After this race, there is only one left in December and then that brings this whole race series to a close! Sorry I'm running behind with the posts, but I've been under the weather and planning for a birthday party tomorrow for my son who is turning 14! So, without further ado, here we go!

This is the official bib for those who would like one! Just click on it so it's full size and save or print it!

Still want to join in today? You can! Just sign up on the original post or by joining the Facebook group and letting me know by leaving a comment here or there, go do your 5k (run, walk, crawl...) and then post your results here (or there!)

The rules are simple:

  • You can run, walk, crawl, or any combination of those three, but those are your only options. 
  • You can do the 5k anytime in the 48 hours (but it needs to be in one go, not added up over the weekend or day.)
  • It MUST be done on either the Saturday or the Sunday, races done on Friday or Monday do not count for the 5k. 
  • You need to keep track of how long it took you, not because you are in competition with anyone, but because you WILL BE in later races with yourself. 
  • After you have completed your 5k and posted the results here (along with a link to any blog post you may have posted, but that's not necessary if you don't have one or don't want to) you are more than welcome to the "medal" that's below. You can display it on your website, or simply print it out to tack up on your wall, whatever you like!

When you are finished please leave me a comment about how well you did!

Here are the finisher's medals:

Large medal

Medium medal

Small Medal

There are no prizes this month. Everything is just crazy with the holidays, and no sponsors. Next month there will be!

I hope everyone has a great 5k! Let me know how it went!
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tea For One

I have officially given up on chamomile tea. I wanted to like it. I've tried for many years to like it. I loved reading about various characters in all sorts of books snuggling up with a cup of chamomile tea, and it seemed so elegant and comforting... but I can't get past the fact that it smells and tastes like mold to me.

I just can't do it. I have failed in tea-land.

It turns out I am one of those shallow tea types. Instead of appreciating a strong cup of black tea, or chamomile... I like the fruity, spicy, probably doesn't even qualify as real tea - tea. I like chai, blueberry, and apple spice (which apparently has a small amount of chamomile, but has enough cinnamon in it to choke a horse, so it's ok.) Half the teas I drink don't even have actual tea in them. In fact, if they have a strong tea flavor I tend not to like them at all. Although, I do like a glass of iced tea in the summer (unsweetened, no lemon.)

I used to try and drink green tea for the health benefits, and then I ended up with a severe stomach flu and I haven't been able to drink it since. Actually, another flu ended my love affair with curry, and yet another with blue cheese dressing (although I suspect that last one to actually be food poisoning.) Isn't it funny how getting sick once can put you off something permanently? Although, I have to wonder if I just wasn't that attached to those things to begin with. I can't imagine what kind of flu would ever put me off chocolate, for example.

Why am I obsessed with tea today? Because I'm sick, and have been for a week now. It's a cold. Or the flu (upper respiratory) or something. Whatever it is, I'm totally fatigued, my house is a mess, I find it hard to even go take a shower, and getting out for an hour on Monday just about did me in. I haven't exercised. I'm just exhausted. And whiny, apparently. Very whiny.

So, I went out and felt like a criminal purchasing a box of Sudafed (the good stuff, where they have to register your ID and you have to sign for it and everything.) Which doesn't really help. Nothing does. So I thought about how all my characters in various books when they're sick or sad have a cup of chamomile tea and it makes everything better, and I decided to try it once more.

Nope. Nopenopenope. That stuff is just nasty. The only thing I can figure is that it must make them feel like their life is better than they thought because it tastes so bad that it's a relief to stop drinking it!

I went through the rest of my cupboard and even found a tea for colds (echinacea tea?) and I thought that was a great idea! Right up until I had brewed a cup and was about to take a sip when I flipped over the box and saw it expired in 2000. I have a 14 year old box of tea (actually, if it expired in 2000, I probably bought it much earlier than that!) Now, I don't know what happens to herbs and stuff over 14 years, but I'm thinking that with my luck it would have all turned to arsenic or anthrax or something. So, I dumped it and just went to bed.

So, do you like tea? What kind? And how do you take your tea? I was brought up drinking it straight, but then my parents moved to England and I was introduced to the whole cream and sugar phenomenon and haven't looked back since (and with the added calories, this is probably why I have given it up for the most part!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Tear-Down

Do you feel that people criticize one another more than they used to?

I have to preface this with the undeniable fact that I am overly sensitive and I have a wickedly sharp memory. So, not only do I take rude comments more harshly than most would (apparently), I also remember everything. That can lead to a false perception of censure and cruelty where perhaps none (or not as much) had been intended, not to mention not letting anything "expire" as is normal. That's my disclaimer.

Still, this is who I am and I haven't changed since I was very young. I paid attention back when I was a teenager too, maybe even more than I do now because I was that scared teenage girl. I simply don't recall people being this awful and critical about others as they are now.

I attended my daughter's school play by myself, and I was squashed into a row near the back between two separate groups. I knew no one there. So, I kept my mouth zipped, gave up smiling at people after a few fruitless and uncomfortable minutes (I've mentioned before that people act like you're threatening to rob them if you smile at them and they don't know you well here) and retreated to my phone. However, as someone who pays attention no matter what I'm messing with on my phone, my ears stayed open and what I heard just saddens me.

I overheard many comments about people I didn't know.  NONE of the comments were positive. Some mentioned a girl's weight and how she had "gotten so huge since we last saw her." Another commented on someone else's dress. Another mentioned something personal about someone else and then proceeded to rip that person to shreds.

Now, a couple things stand out about all of this: these were adults talking, and that they didn't care who heard. If I had been five rows away I would have heard what they had to say. I know, because the people five rows away were engaging in similar conversation. Nothing was off limits. Someone's weight, what they were wearing, what someone had heard about someone else, family tragedies, financial issues someone had heard about... everything was a target and these people were shooting away without a care for who overheard them. This was more than good old fashioned gossip. This was a sort of hate-ranting activity, and it was a free-for-all.

I would say about 90% of the comments I heard were voiced by women towards another female (teen or adult, it varied.) 100% of the comments were negative, and often cruel. Not one person spoke up, defended, or tried to offer a counter perspective.

Now, we've all seen this sort of behavior online. The internet allows people to don their masks, detach from any thoughts about a real person being on the other end of the keyboard, and to vomit vitriol towards anyone they want without repercussion. I think those of us who grew up without the internet and then watched it take over can vouch for being completely astonished at that particular turn of events (even if we probably should have seen it coming.) I suppose that answers the old psychology question of "If you were in a room with the person you hated the most and you could beat them up and be assured of never being caught or suffering any repercussions, would you?" It used to be a theoretical discussion on what level consequence plays into our actions compared with personal moral code.

Anyway, in my opinion people do seem more cruel and apt to criticize than they used to 10, 20, 30 years ago. Maybe they always thought these things, but I think they were mostly only spoken or expressed behind closed doors with a trustworthy ear to listen. One could argue that if people have always felt this way, then keeping it "politely" to ourselves was actually an act of dishonesty.  And yet... ignorance is bliss, isn't it? Dancing along through the tulips while everyone secretly thinks you are awful is preferable to knowing they hate you and hiding out at home, or having to go out and feel bad about things while trying to enjoy the tulips anyway.

I can't decide if it's the age of the internet and everyone suddenly having their own soapbox from which to express their opinions evolving into actual social situations in real life... or if people just got meaner. But when exactly did we all start trying to tear everyone down all the time?

A friend of mine proclaimed all this tearing down of people all over (she lives in another state, so I know it's not just here) as the age of brutal honesty. She actually thinks it's great because you don't have to wonder what someone thinks of you, and if they felt like tearing you down they were going to do it one way or another, and at least you could hear it and be aware of it instead of blindsided. She feels that my desire to live in ignorance is burying my head in the sand, but the alternative for me is feeling like everyone hates me all the time. I want people to be honest with me, but I think there is a difference between a kind and honest conversation that involves bringing up a problem, rather than trying to rip someone apart and make them feel bad. She says the difference is just window dressing, but the soul of the sentiment is the same. I suppose the greater problem in my mind is that these criticisms are often ones that the complainer doesn't want addressed; they simply want the target to feel bad about them. The end goal isn't correction, it's pain. That, to me, isn't honesty... it's cruelty.

So, where do you stand? Do you feel people are more critical than they used to be? Or perhaps just more verbal, and they were always this critical? Do you feel that voicing these criticisms is a good step towards living honestly and openly, or that it's harmful? Does presentation matter when it comes to voicing something that can hurt someone else? What do you think?
Thursday, November 13, 2014

Feeling... er... Good?

I have lots of little tidbits to share, but first a whine: I'm sick. Wah. I blame my children, and I have the theory that I'll never be sick again once they go to college. As my friends with older college-age children put it "You'll be broke, but healthy."

Ok, whine over.

Oh wait, I have another whine: I used to be good at video games. No, really! I was Pac-man champion on my block! I beat all those Atari games (and they just started over again from zero, which was really disappointing) and I was an avid player up until I had children. Somehow, my video-gameness has all been sucked out of me.

I tried playing a game with my son this week, and I couldn't stay alive for more than a minute. Actually, I could, if I spent my time hiding and avoiding the bad guys, which sort of defeated the purpose of the game entirely. I tried feebly protesting to my son that I used to be the best! My husband would refuse to play any fighting type of games with me (mortal combat, anyone?) because I'd win every time! My son just nodded at me like he was placating a 90-year-old woman. I expected him to tell me to be a good girl and eat my pudding. *sigh*

On Monday, I finally got into the orthopedic doctor's office and see the assistant after waiting for six weeks (it would have been February if I had held out for a doctor.) I was leery of that, because I had planned on pleading for the steroid shot in my foot, and I wasn't sure if an assistant could (or should) do that. So, with an uncertain yet thoroughly thought out plan for begging, I headed off to my appointment.

Have you ever thought ahead to a doctor's appointment for so long that by the time you get there you have already had several pretend arguments and are on the defensive? No? Just me. Right, well... moving on.

The first thing they did was to take x-rays of my foot. I have to tell you I have fabulous looking bones. *snort* OK, I don't know anything about x-rays. The best I can do is apply my vast knowledge gained through many seasons of ER and Grey's Anatomy (which practically makes me a radiologist, right?) Basically, unless there is a major break which is so clearly obvious that even a Muppet can make it out, it all looks the same to me. I did have a nice spur on the bottom of my heel bone that looked like a pretty big crochet hook.

What I learned about plantar fasciitis my first go-round seven years ago is that having a crochet hook-thingy on the bottom of your foot means... nothing. Tons of people have it, it's just a stupid thing that shows up and looks really concerning, but likely has nothing to do with the problem. You probably have one too!

OK, be honest, how many of you are contemplating pressing along your heel to check for a crochet hook? You can't feel it, just so you know.

Anyway, to get to the finish line here, I went over things with the assistant and she agreed that we're at the shot-point. No argument. I was both elated that we were on the same page without my having to use any of my well thought out arguments, and disappointed I had spent so much time on thinking them out in the first place.

It turns out that the assistant does give the cortisone injections, so I spent about five minutes with her digging in around my heel with a big needle. The worst part was actually her telling me "I have to go in from the side, and I plan on going all the way until I touch the bone and then..." NO! Seriously?! I can watch programs of real surgery on television, and handle all sorts of injuries in person without batting an eye. I think if I had to do it all over again I might have even gone to medical school... but don't tell me what you're going to do in my foot! Nonononono!

It's been a couple days, and I'm already getting some relief. If this works like last time, it'll take a month or more to get it all healed (heeled *snicker*) and me back to some sort of normal activity. So, really, being down with the plague right now is pretty good timing over all! I'm glad I got this done, even given the risks, and I hope I have the same sort of success I had with it last time.

In other news, I finished another deadline painting actually ahead of schedule, so I'm pretty chuffed with myself:

"Forward" 8x10 inches, acrylic painting on canvas panel. Up for auction November 24th, on facebook.

And now I'm painting holiday stuff! OH!!! And I put up one of my Christmas trees! Oh, yes I did! For me, this is late. Normally I decorate November 1st, and we haven't this year because of showing the house. But my kids are depressed, and let's face it; who in their right mind is looking for a house this close to the holidays? They aren't. My other thought is that if they are, maybe they'd like to get the holiday-idea of how it would look.

Unfortunately, my decorating is a bit over the top. So, I'm a bit stumped trying to figure out what I can put up and what needs to stay boxed until I can act like a lunatic in my own house without chasing any potential buyers off. It's a trickier line than you would think.

Oh, AND! I managed to get my new weight-set thingy put together! Although, I almost had a nervous breakdown when I saw that the instructions had NO WORDS, and this was on the first page:

I think my first thought was "I hate everyone."

Still, I am amazed and proud to report that with the help of my son (and his friend for some of it, who thought the whole thing was hilarious), we took this:

and made this:

So, really, I'm feeling pretty positive about things. I got my foot situation dealt with. I managed to face down all sorts of scary house disasters last week all by myself (that I mentioned in that previous post.) I put together the type of project I would have dumped on my engineer husband. I put up some holiday decor. I've finished some major paintings and now I get to play around for a short while with fun holiday ones.

So, even though I'm sick and have the chills? I'm feeling pretty darn good!
Monday, November 10, 2014

Fake Out

Do you eat "fake food"? I've recently heard a lot of debate about "fake" food vs "real" food, and it has given me a lot of food for thought (pun intended, I just couldn't help myself.)

In its simplest form, the debate is over diet foods and natural foods. What are these diet foods? Anything fat-free, sugar-free, or mimicking something else. Some examples of fake foods compared with real foods would be:

Sweeteners (even the "natural" ones like stevia or monks fruit) / Sugar
Turkey Bacon / Actual Bacon
Light Bread / Regular Bread
Powdered, Sugar Free Creamer / Cream
Butter Spray, Margarine / Butter

The list is actually pretty extensive. I bet you could add all sorts of foods to the list this moment if I asked. Even junk food has its own version of junkier-foods. Light ice cream? Baked chips? Diet soda?

I don't think anyone debates that we as human beings need to be consuming less calories for the most part. More, many of the foods available are considerably more calorically dense than we ever imagined possible 100 years ago. We got better at making our food worse, and then offering it on an expanded scale (another pun, gosh it's a sickness at this point!)

I have two friends who have specific opinions that best illustrate the debate over "fake" food;

Susan (not her real name, because she'd murder me if I used it) believes that if you can't afford (in calories) to eat the natural version of the food, you simply shouldn't be eating it. Food is a lot like shopping, and if you haven't got the money in your account, then you haven't any business buying a fashion designer's outrageously expensive purse. The same goes with food; if you haven't got the calories to spend without sending you into dietary debt, you shouldn't be eating it in the first place. Now, that doesn't mean you can't buy the smaller version, so you don't have to live without ever having walked on the expensive side. But you know your spending limits, and you never take more than you can afford. 

Basically, Susan is a purist. She eats real butter, full fat cream and milk, there is fat in her cooking (even the "OMG! You will have a heart attack if you eat that! NO ONE cooks with that anymore! Are you crazy?!" fat) and everything is full throttle taste and experience. She drinks wine, coffee, and eats whatever she wants, but she would never ever waste her time on some sort of cheap imitation like fat-free yogurt. 

Now, the media has brainwashed most of us to think of Susan as 300 lbs if she's eating like this, right? Not so! Susan may just be the thinnest (but healthy) person I know. I do not believe it's her metabolism either. I see how much she eats, and the secret to her dietary success is that she has small (realistic, given the food type) portions. Her foods are rich but balanced, and full of healthy carbs like grains, fruits and vegetables as well as proteins and naturally occurring fats. There isn't some sort of forced deprivation here, there is a choice about what kind of food she is going to eat, and how much. She has whatever she wants, but she makes sure it's really worth it and only what she can calorically afford (frankly, she doesn't count calories either, just knows when something is rich and cuts the portion accordingly. She comes from another culture where this is just the way it is. She also always picks small plates for her meals.) If she wants a slice of full-on, I-can-die-now-chocolate cheesecake? She has one. A small one, and maybe her dinner is a lot smaller. Susan is all real food, all the time. "Faking it" isn't worth it, and volume could never replace full flavor (not to mention; chemicals in the diet foods!)

Then we have Heather (not her real name either.) Heather loves all those same foods Susan does, but she tries to make them "healthier" by replacing higher fat ingredients with lower ones. Butter spray instead of butter. Fat-free wherever fat-free can be plugged in. She drinks coffee and soda, and likes lots of sweeteners in her food because she likes it sweet but doesn't want to blow her calories. She likes sugar-free ice cream, and creamers. Diet pizza, diet chips, diet-whatever you can think of when she goes for an indulgence.

Heather's reasoning is that she shouldn't have to change the way she eats or what she eats since she's mostly pretty darn healthy, just the version of what she eats. She loves soda, so why is diet-soda such a bad compromise? She loves the taste of butter, and by switching to that butter spray she can save hundreds of calories. Light ice cream means she can have a bigger bowl. Light bread means she can have a whole sandwich instead of half of one, because diet bread is literally half the calories.

Heather is also thin and healthy. She exercises, she has lots of fruits and vegetables too... although she watches the carbs like a hawk and abhors the fat in "regular" foods because it amps up the calories so significantly. Heather does track calories and keeps things on the straight and narrow. 

Heather's viewpoint is that she is healthy. She has to watch things closely, and maybe make a lot of substitutions, but in the end she gets to eat what she wants to... just different versions of it. Hey, but it's a full serving like everyone else! After all, who said that bread had to be made with all that extra fat in it? If they can make bread without it, up the fiber and lower the calories by half, who can argue with that? Who would want to? Isn't that the better choice, and advancement in food preparation? And sweeteners, well Heather likes things sweet. VERY sweet. So, if Heather is using a lot of stevia or even splenda, what's the big deal? It'd be a far worse choice to choose the real sugar, wouldn't it?

Both women have great lab results on their blood work, they're both healthy and fit. Both women get lots of healthy foods in daily. So, we're literally looking at two very different strategies to achieve the same result.

I have to admit, I'm a bit split. I've been thinking about this for a while (it's hard not to when you see both people now and then.) 

On one hand, I think Heather has a point in that no one said that food had to be made a certain way. Cutting out unhealthy fats and upping fiber while allowing you to have two pieces of bread instead of one makes a lot of sense to me. I literally can't argue with that.

Yet, Susan has a point too. I've tasted her food (she is actually in the food business) and it's flat-out amazing. It's the way gourmet cooking was meant to be. When you see those pictures of food on the television, this is what you imagine them tasting like. It's that good. More, I have noticed when I eat the full-on versions, I get fuller faster and stay that way longer. I like that I'm not wondering about the chemicals in my food to fake a flavor or add in the feel of fat when there isn't any. It's basically honest food.

So, if Heather is using those products responsibly, is hers the better way? She gets a full portion and belly, gets her fake sweets and fake fats (or non-fats), and has healthy results.

Or is Susan better because she's using foods that are closer to "natural"? Are they really rich? Yes. If people ate normal "American" servings of this food, would they be unhealthy? Yes. But, if Susan is portion controlling her intake, and never worries over putting chemicals in her food or making substitutions, and is healthy as can be because she also uses the food she chooses correctly... well, is her way better than Heather's?

Portion control is key in both instances of course, because if it's not used then either way is a disaster, but let's assume that's a foregone conclusion that you would use it. Which method is your preferred way to live? Which do you think is better?

I think I currently live like Heather, but yearn to live like Susan. I think the missing key for me is being HAPPY with the small servings, and being able to figure out how small they need to be on the fly. Yet, my little calorie-counting-heart is a bit daunted. I haven't quite sat down to work out what a full-on version of something I would normally have would be in calories (and more), and how much less of it I would have to eat. I don't think it's out of laziness either, I think it's out of fear. 

I think I'm actually afraid to give up the fat-free sugar-free creamer I use in my skim milk (something else to give up) along with monks fruit to make hot chocolate when I'm just dying for some. I can have a huge cup for under 200 calories where the "honest" version would be closer to 500 calories at that size, or a doll's teacup if I tried to equal it out in portions.  I think I'm afraid to put real sugar into my oatmeal. I think I'm afraid to have a real slice of bread instead of two diet slices (and this is just an example, because I think the only time I ever even eat bread now is when I'm having something special, and then the bread needs to be crusty and lovely, like a good sourdough, and that doesn't come in diet. So, I pretty much avoid all bread and pastas, although I do have quinoa, oats, and barley.)

I grew up in the 80's. I was born in 1975, but I don't really remember the 1970's. Instead, I remember neon colored spandex and that first red-colored Nutrasweet gum-ball. The first sweetener that wasn't Saccharine! I remember my mother going on and on about it like it was the holy grail of the dieting world! True, the other artificial sweetener promised cancer, and yet the dieters still used it because sugar meant that they would get fat. That little red gum-ball ushered in the cancer-free sugar-free craze, which was then followed by the fat-free craze, which then got married and had little sugar-free-fat-free babies all over grocery aisles everywhere. 

All of that just sounds crazy when you read it, but while there's always been someone banging the drum that these artificial things will kill us all, have they? Have they really? Or did we all just start eating more of everything because we thought we could and then we caused ourselves more health problems than we could have ever imagined if the stupid "free" crazes had never started to begin with? Does that then make the low-fat sugar-free products the problem, or us?

Some science has shown that people eat way more of the "free" versions of food than the normal ones. Other theories and studies talk about the "brain accountant" that we've totally messed up with the "free" foods. The theory is that this accountant tastes food in your mouth and does a calculation on how many calories it can expect based on taste and chewing (this is one of the reasons they say you should never chew and spit out food as a dietary strategy, gross I know, but apparently it causes the calculations to get messed up and you can actually gain weight in the long run. Long story, but you can look it up for yourself.) With trick-foods like calorie-free sweeteners, and fat-free items, your brain learns to expect far fewer calories than eons of biological programming has allowed for, and basically, things get all messed up. Theories, again, but I can take their point, whether or not I believe the rest of it.

We also had a cost argument, and the results are that it all became a wash. Whole foods can be more expensive, but you end up eating less so they have a higher yield per meal. Diet foods, well you often need to buy more of them because they allow for bigger portions which means a smaller yield. (Of course, I think it's worth bringing up my pet peeve that the most affordable option is the absolute trash that is sold in the stores. I can buy a microwave dinner with 1,200 calories in it and nothing of value for $1, or I can get ONE apple. The reason goes to politics, farm subsidies - the wrong farms, and more. It's not worth debating, I'm only bringing it up because it makes me so angry. Being fat used to be seen as a symbol of affluence because they could afford to eat. Now, thin and healthy is in because it's all about being able to afford the healthy foods that are out of reach for so many.)

So where do you stand? Where do you want to stand? What do you think? How do you eat now? How do you wish you ate? Thoughts?

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I just had my first dump-and-run-delivery! My weight-set that I ordered finally showed up. I was even home when it did... but there were no doorbell rings, no knocks at the door. Nope! Instead, as I was coming down the stairs, I noticed boxes on my front porch. Odd.

I opened the door to get the two boxes, and then realized that I couldn't lift them off the porch. That's when I noticed a third and larger box leaning against my garage. The two smaller boxes on my porch were full of actual weights, and the machine part was hanging out at my garage, and the delivery guy had dumped them and BOLTED! He was probably terrified I'd ask him to put them somewhere specific, but come on! Wuss.

Well, since I couldn't lift them off the porch, maybe the delivery guy wasn't a total wuss. We'll just go with "chicken" then. I wouldn't have expected him to put it anywhere special anyway, I just think it was a bit of a scaredy-cat move on his part.

Anyway, so there I was with boxes I couldn't lift off my porch. I ended up waiting for my son to get home so we could buddy-system lift the boxes! That's when he reminded me we have a dolly for this sort of thing. Oh. Uh, right. Of course I know that! *ahem*

Now I just have to put it together. In one of the reviews, a guy said it took him seven hours to assemble the thing. If the guy was mechanically stunted like me, that's going to make for a long day. If he's not, that means it'll take me a couple days. But I can't wait! I get to get back to normal lifting for me, and even if I can't run (my appointment is on Monday with the orthopedic person) I know I'll feel so much better regardless!

In other news, I also had a scare with our heater/boiler. As the kids were getting ready for school we heard this noise. I assumed it was the animals, but then I realized that every living being was in the same room with me. Not good. We heard it again, and I realized it was coming from the basement. Then again. In the utility room. I never saw anything, but once I was close enough, I realized I was hearing electrical arcing. Not sparking, which has a milder sound, but actual arcing like someone playing with a Tesla coil! 

Which is scary as heck, when you're not playing around in a science lab. Just sayin'. 

I freaked out and practically leaped across the room to the breakers and flipped the boiler's switch (in my mind it was a beautiful leap like something out of the Nutcracker. In reality, it was probably a lot more embarrassing.) The compartment was full of smoke that smelled like an electrical fire. I grabbed the extinguisher just in case, only to find it "empty" according to the gauge (I guess they lose pressure over time - so go check your extinguishers! Seriously, go do it, I'll wait.) 

I called the repairman, and proceeded to stress out until he showed up. The repairman went to the boiler, listened to what I told him, then flipped the switch back on and... 


Seriously, what the heck!?! Nothing? 

I started babbling like an idiot, explaining what I heard, the smoke, the sounds, everything. He finally said "I can't find anything wrong, but I believe you. I don't think you're one of those types to call someone out just to have someone to talk to."  (Uh, people do that? Seems like a pretty expensive notion to receive visitors, but NO, I AM NOT THAT KIND OF PERSON! FIRE, dagnabbit! SMOKE! I am NOT imagining things!) So, the solution was that I run the heater during the day listening for the sound again so we can figure it out, and flip the breaker at night so we don't die in a house fire. Nice, right? 

He left, and I went out to the hardware store and bought new fire extinguishers. For the record, a woman in a hardware store buying a bunch of fire extinguishers is apparently cause for making as many jokes as possible along the lines of "Learning to cook, are we?" (bite me.) Once I got back home, I took the basement extinguisher down to the utility room and realized I was actually pretty ticked off. So, I flipped the breaker on and sat down to stare at the stupid boiler. Because staring down an inanimate object makes total sense. I just really didn't want to wait for a fire to happen, and if I had to use my evil-mom-glare, then so be it!

I didn't expect that to actually work, but you know what? It DID! I was sitting there, making up new and even more inventive curse words, when suddenly I heard a sputter and saw fire! Well, an itty-bitty, just past a spark, sort of flame.  I SAW the stupid thing! HA! I WIN! Well, sorta. 

I flipped the breaker back off, called the repair people who thought I was totally insane babbling about how I saw the sparks, and I knew where the problem was, and YAY! I mean, boo for part failures, but YAY for not having to risk dying in a house fire to figure this out! YAY, dagnabbit, YAY!!!

The woman thought I was crazy, but sent the guy back. He looked less than impressed when he pulled back into my driveway. I excitedly told him what I saw (he raised an eyebrow at me when I said I was sitting here staring at it. Yeah. I have no life. Got it.) He flipped the breaker skeptically, but luckily the thing flamed up and started smoking immediately! I am NOT crazy! HA! 

Long story shortened to now; it's fixed, everything is fabulous, and I have heat. Which is good, since it's supposed to snow tomorrow. (Yay!)

Lastly, in other-other news, I finally finished my Queen of Hearts for my Alice series:

"Queen of Hearts" 16x20" acrylic on fine stretched canvas (original sold), The flamingos and the queen's gold effects and hair and eyes are all iridescent, which change in the light. It's pretty cool, actually!

You have no idea how much of a relief it is to finally be done with her. For some reason, she became a bit of an exercise in torture. But now that I am done, I'm going to paint happy holiday things before I have to buckle down and get back on track (I've been commissioned to do a White Queen too, along with several others.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My Pretend Me

Those of you who have stuck around a while know that I'm sort of in limbo and I really stink at it. I'm all geared up to move to North Carolina, but not moving because the real estate market is dead in Vermont. So, my business is sort of on a semi-hold, and my family is split between the two states, which means I'm rocking (not) the whole single-mom thing too. It's been depressingly eye-opening, if I'm being honest.

I have come to realize that I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to my life. Not of everything... but, well, if it's going to affect me then I want the power to affect whatever it is. I'm really not handling limbo well, and that combined with an ongoing injury to my foot (plantar fasciitis) and being unable to run, I'm a disaster. I'd like to think if I could just hit my running and other exercise hard, the rest would fall into place, but deep down I think I know that's a fairy tale. I have multiple things I need to fix to in order to feel good about stuff. Or maybe it's that I need to feel good about stuff to fix things? Another fairy tale. I know.

So, here's the thing; I don't like me like this. I have a really hard time liking me at my best, so bobbing like a buoy in my worst is not doing me any favors. I truly do struggle with self-worth in a major way. People dismiss that almost immediately every time I have ever said it, but it's the absolute truth. If you could see me on the inside, well it'd just be a big, ugly, tar-black bubbling mess of ick. I try reasonably hard not to portray that on the outside though.

When I gradated college in 2008 (I went back to school to get my degree in business, as art wasn't doing much for me and I had this idea that I'd go and be normal. No more of this stupid art stuff that no one takes seriously!) I graduated summa cum laude, and I did it taking 21 credit hours each semester, with a seven and nine-year-old at home, driving an hour one way to school and then back again five days a week, and still sort of running my art business (but mostly having it on pause.)
At 33 years old, I was the old lady in the classes that baffled the young students. I was also so exhausted that I worried about dozing off at the wheel.

I got to go on stage and be "honored" with a professor speaking about me briefly. In his speech, my professor called me a "Renaissance Woman" and that has stuck with me.
This was the ceremony where they briefly talked about me.

His point? That I had a lot going on. Marriage, children, business, school, career potential... A million things to take care of, and magically they were all getting done. I was flattered, truly.

Yet, the truth is that what we present to everyone on the surface isn't a fair representation of what's really going on. Behind the scenes is filled with broken dishes and dropped appointments and not enough sleep and upset kids... But I wanted to be that amazing person he talked about, so I tried.

For a long time, I thought trying was a mistake. After all, NO ONE is super-woman. It simply can't be done, and it's silly to think that it can all by ourselves. Thinking that allowed me to not feel as bad when I screwed up with one thing or completely forgot another. Now that I'm in limbo and my reaction to that has been to crawl into my cave like a wounded animal and not do all of those things if I don't have to, I realize there was something valuable to such a high misconception and expectation of myself - it made me try.

There are a lot of articles out there about how seeing pictures all the time on social media of all our friends smiling all the time and hearing about all their achievements depresses us because we think our lives don't measure up. But what if you only what to measure up to your own life?

I've decided that not trying is a huge mistake. I may not be able to control everything, but I also know that who I am now is not who I want to be. I also know the whole "fake it until you make it" adage holds a great deal of power. So, I'm sitting here, in limbo, and realizing it's worth asking myself who do I want to be? Who do I wish I was? Who is my pretend me?

I think the first thing to do is to list everything that would be awesome, no matter how outlandish (in no particular order) - this is my pretend me:

  • produces paintings quickly, and well
  • has marketing totally under control
  • keeps the house spotless
  • always has free time for the kids
  • takes care of any problems that come up immediately, and without stressing over them
  • exercises without issue
  • takes extra walks
  • eats no junk food and is at goal weight
  • gets enough sleep
  • has friends
  • has places to be and things to do that are fun - i.e. has a life
  • has a magical unicorn that grants wishes and lets me fly (just checking to see if you're awake)
  • likes herself and her life
  • is able to fix everything (like the boiler, or the house filter, or an electrical issue, etc)
  • LIKES doing the stuff like cleaning and fixing and dealing with people
  • the body of a 20 year old (and no aches and pains!)

I could go on, but that's a good list to start with. The next step is to get real. To figure out what is impossible, what might not be possible but is worth reaching for, and what is absolutely possible even if it may be hard to accomplish. This time, in order by the list above:

  • Production and speed are not indicative of quality or success. However, showing up and putting in more scheduled hours would help, and perhaps create the illusion of producing faster
  • Yeah, this you just have to do. This means making a marketing plan, breaking it in pieces, and creating some sort of hit-list in order to accomplish an out-reach into the market. Little steps still lead to long journeys and a well established path.
  • Spotless? *snort* Not possible. However, enforcing nightly upkeep would certainly work towards the illusion.
  • Also just not always possible. However, scheduling time that is free of work, or personal pursuits (like sneaking off to read a few chapters) and is reserved just for them is a step in the right direction and totally doable!
  • I'm a stress-ridden person. I'm not sure how to not be when something goes wrong. Taking care of problems when they come up IS something I already do (mostly because I stress so badly over them, I want them gone.) Perhaps this is more about learning to calm down than it is to magically handle everything?
  • Get up and just do it. Every day. You used to, you can again.
  • Extra walks would be great if I could walk. I'm seeing a doctor to try and get help. Yet even before this issue, I didn't make time for extra walks. This is likely something I need to schedule in order to make happen. It's doable, but now we're pushing the time envelope; what gets put on hold or missed?
  • Here I feel honestly split. The first part is that while I might want to look like I never eat anything bad for me, the truth is that I won't give it all up. I want to have my cake. I don't need it every day, and I'd really like to get back to only having unhealthy food options once a week. That is something I have been struggling with. Because of that, and portion sizes of even the healthy stuff, I am not at goal weight. I am a good 40 lbs away from it. But if I "pretend" to be that perfect person six days a week, I know I can be NOT perfect on that one and be at goal weight because I have done that before. So, my real question to myself is "Why isn't it worth it now? Why haven't you done it if you already have all the answers?" I think I've fallen into anti-coping, and perhaps a bit of depression. Changing the behavior is as simple as engaging in a different one, even if it is a battle every single step of the way. So, doable is reasonable about it, and if I get myself to knock off the whining thought processes.
  • I think this one might honestly not be realistic. I go to bed once I get everything in the house settled and I'm up early to exercise because it's the only time I can. So, without adding extra hours into the day, I don't know what to do. 
  • Another unrealistic one. I don't have any here, and people are generally hostile. Plus, I'm moving states. I don't know when, but perhaps this is a goal for when I move.
  • Perhaps another that will have to wait until I move. I'm looking into classes here, but the truth is that there are almost none (except those an hour away), and the ones that are offered I could teach, or I'm simply honestly not interested in.
  • I still want that unicorn!
  • I think this is a process. I think doing the things I need to do might make this possible, but it's an end-game sort of goal. Worthy, but not something I can check off a list.
  • Let's be honest here; I come from a long line of people who mess mechanical things up. My dad has severed the power and phone lines so many times, it's not funny anymore. Perhaps I should admit defeat and instead compile a list of who to call when something blows up.
  • I'm never going to like cleaning, or fixing things, or dealing with people who are hard to deal with... but maybe I can make some of it more fun (blasting music while I clean... blasting music at the rude people? OK, no, maybe that would be bad.)
  • Bwahahahaa! Yeah, I bet we all wish that. You get what you get, make the best of it. That's the only positive option any person on this earth has, even those 20-year-old perfect types.

I not only want to present an amazing life, I actually want to have one. I think it's a process to build ourselves up. We have to know what we want, whether what we want is actually good for us, and to make sure we take steps each day towards those wants. After all, the only way to get there is to make ourselves chase after it. No one is going to do it for us, they're busy trying to figure out what THEY want!

So, who do you want to be? What's your pretend you, and what's realistic about those things? Surprisingly, I think I found out while writing this that more of my pretend me is actually possible. Hard, but not impossible to achieve. I really am kind of surprised by that! I'm going to start working hard on making my pretend me the real me... after all, what else am I going to do? This? This is not working, so it's time to do something else!