Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Glutton and Guilt-Free Diet!

As I prepare for company, I am thinking about possible menu options.  Mind you, my company will only be visiting me for a few hours, and so likely I will get but one chance to wow them with my cooking.  I am smiling as I write this, as I gave up all culinary arts this last year, so preparing anything will be done with great trepidation. I will try to solicit my daughter to do food preparation for the one meal that they will be with me. It will be easier that way. Her culinary skills far surpass my own, though I once considered myself a good cook but not now!  What happened to dissolve my skills and confidence, I wondered?

I think it  began a very long time ago...Having a tendency to put on weight from the time I was very young, my mother worked hard to keep me on a balanced diet. She used to tell the story of taking me when I was just a little girl, to Downtown Omaha to go shopping at Macy's Department Store, which always included eating lunch out and she learned to order nothing but mashed potatoes and gravy for me! What is balanced about that you ask?... Likely her checkbook! She was not a stupid woman and when that is all I would eat off my plate, why pay for more? You can laugh now...but this is how one thing led to another until I gave up cooking!

When not eating out, my mom tried to raise me to eat well balanced meals that would include a serving of meat, vegetables and potato/rice or noodles, and a small portion of pudding or canned fruit, that came only if I ate what was on my plate. This even included liver, albeit with ketchup in my case. Often our meals were casseroles that contained some sort of protein mixed with pasta or rice, in which case we would each get a serving along with a salad. My dad insisted that we eat well to avoid having high costly doctor bills. We also exercised well, as we walked back and forth to school everyday and almost everywhere else for that matter!

My mother learned to watch her own weight issues, though in growing up, she was the "string bean" of the family and she loved to tell us about how she was built like a stick and couldn't gain weight if she tried! She managed her weight well, and she taught me to do the same, or so I thought...

She kept apples or plums on hand for our snacks and if we complained about being hungry, peanut butter and crackers was typically our option.  We always had carrots or celery on hand as well, and the usual candy in the house was horehound or anise hard candies. If you have ever had horehound or anise candy, you will know that pigging out on it isn't a temptation and frequently a taste would be more than sufficient to make me run for the trash can, though I did eventually develop a acquired taste for anise!

I am certain that my cousin Susan will be aghast at reading this blog, for when she and her sisters along with my uncle and aunt, who was my mother's sister, came to visit, she will remember our freezer being filled with frozen candy bars, popsicles, ice cream bars, and cakes...all generously served. Nothing was too good for company and we ourselves would love it when they finally arrived and we could feast with them!

My dear mother, God rest her soul was no miser when it came to sweets and what she had, she shared. I remember Mrs. See's chocolates being sent to us every Christmas by my aunt and my mother treasured it as much as we did. In fact she made up rules about not wasting the more unusual and unpopular fruit-filled sorts of pieces. If we bit into a piece and didn't like it, we were to put the other half back in the box and they became "bonus" pieces and could be taken as a second piece.

I also have fond memories of her buying bags of corn candy, and generously dividing the whole bag between us kids and herself, and then she pretended to be a chicken and would peck her corn candy. Her chicken act was so amusing that we would feed her part of our piles of candy corn as well. She was a smart mom to be sure!

She taught me that sugar equaled love, and so special cakes to celebrate birthdays or holidays always had plenty of frosting, too much for those with delicate taste. Any food treats in the house would soon be gone. I soon learned to cook and loved to bake!

So what caused my culinary interests to dwindle down to nothing? Gaining weight and trying to lose it, was, I think, the initial reason for my cooking decline, though later it became my illness that necessitated special elimination diets. I was likely one of the first to discover the harmful effects of being a yo-yo dieter.  I wanted a nice figure and I tried all the fad diets of my day to keep it: low calorie diets; quick weight-loss diets of hamburgers/ green beans and boiled eggs; Shacklee protein soup and diet drinks substituted for meals; Nutrasystem; Weight Watchers, new and old programs and eventually even Over-eaters Anonymous.

It seems I have tried them all and have successfully lost hundreds of pounds in my life time, and though I knew all the secrets of keeping weight off and read every diet book, used every imaginable "counter" and even had a little plastic pig that oinked when my refrigerator door was opened, it was all to no avail. I gained my weight back and more with every diet!  Sound familiar? Now, of course there is evidence that yo-yo dieting damages the weight set points in your body and is definitely NOT the way to maintain a healthy weight!

Everyone knows that exercise and life style changes in eating habits are needed to keep weight off which is easier said than done, especially when my life filled up with family responsibilities, work and chronic illness. Not being well made it very hard, if not impossible to exercise and brought with it special elimination diets,including: fat-free, gluten-free, milk-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free, alcohol and fermented foods-free, and am now on a vitamin D- free/ anti-anti-inflammatory foods-free diet, with still more specific restrictions!

I learned to cook using substitutions for every ingredient, until I could boast that I was able to cook without oil, sugar, eggs, milk, and wheat. I have a whole shelf unit in the kitchen with both regular and special cookbooks alike, though such cooking involves conversions and translating every recipe into another to accommodate what my doctors thought best. Though most tasted good enough, it always involved special ingredients and a ton of work, when my illness made me too tired just thinking about cooking!  

I learned how to figure out how many calories were needed to lose my weight in a healthy fashion and how to count carbs, and "rate my plate".   I even trained to become a diabetic nurse educator while at one of my jobs and knew how to subtract fiber counts from the total carb count, and how to factor in sugar substitutes as well, though I had long since eliminated them due to their toxicity in my system. I believed that teachers teach best if they live what they teach and so I followed a diabetic diet myself, with some eliminations as well and worked to keep my exercise regular each week. Since my balance and ankle stability weren't good enough to make walking safe, I took up lap swimming and loved it, though now, I am sadly not tolerating exercise during this phase of my treatment.

Come to find out, our immunity starts in our digestive systems. and so treatment for any chronic illness begins with a nutritious diet, but after I eliminated sugar, wheat, milk and caffeine, along with Vitamin D, I still showed food sensitivities.  That is when, in frustration, I threw in the towel and decided to join the rest of the world and rejected ultra strict and unsustainable diets unless I know for sure that I really can't tolerate something.  I call this guilt-free eating.

By staying out of the kitchen and keeping meals and snacks simple, quick and easy and sticking to "real food" versus "artificial" (except for fudgesicles), drinking lots of water and focusing on sewing and not eating, I seem to do better. I am still gluten-free, Vitamin D- free (mostly), alcohol and soda-free and I keep a daily journal of what I eat, the times that I take my medicine along with any symptoms I experience so I can see what does and doesn't work for me.This is challenge enough without beating myself up about being too scrupulous.

Portion control is the basis of every diet and I have every tool of knowledge imaginable as to how to measure out correct portions, but it was our grocery cashier asking my daughter how she liked the "glutton-free" mixes my daughter was buying, that triggered the other part of my present diet.  She had misread "gluten" as "glutton"!  After a good laugh, we decided that we will try to live glutton-free!

So what to feed my guests when they eat with me? You know what they say about "When in Rome...". My guests will likely get a taste of our new Glutton and Guilt-Free diet, and the menu will likely include my everyday restrictions and I will provide enough that they can take it or leave it, according to their preferences!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Pause to Refect and be Thankful

This week I wrote to one of my long distance craft friends, only to find out that she died a month ago. She had been fighting Leukemia but only a week or so before she died, I had gotten a progress report from her that she seemed, once again, to be ahead of it and beating it back, or so she thought. She was a positive person and I never thought for a minute that she wouldn't beat the odds. It hit me hard that none of us are guaranteed another year, month, week or even day! I had already been sensing my own impermanence and this brought me to an abrupt stop as I sat down to write my condolences to her husband.

I had been in the middle of cleaning out my 3 x 5 note card files that I had kept before I became computer literate. They were my earlier way of storing bits of treasured knowledge, that I then filed by categories. It was one of the ways I used to keep myself organized and keep my multi-tasked brain going in all directions and not lose any important thought that out of sight, might be out of mind forever. It was more fluid, it seemed, than my old zipped day-books, that I had used to take notes in before...that literally, if lost, meant a wild search to find, for it was like losing one's mind.  I am so grateful now that computers can hold what my brain cannot, though I must confess that, being a person who kept a journal all of my life, I still like paper and pen and am still dependent on an old fashioned do-list to keep me focused and on task each day, for I can easily "get lost" simply moving from room to room.

I can see now the relationship between my anxiety about my immortality and my need to clean and organize. I feel more "in control" of my life, when "my affairs are in order" and I had to laugh at the thought that while feeling a sense of accomplishment over all that I clean or sew, this focus is so superficial and downright folly when seen in this perspective.

Indeed sitting before me on little 3 x 5 cards was documentation of a life deliberately thought out and micro-managed. It proved what I have always felt: life is challenging in the extreme. Stretcher meals and budgets, temporary jobs to fit the day and needs of our ever changing family with flexible schedules and demands--each day a contest.  Fortunately my 3 x 5 cards were not just things to do, but thoughts and goals of all kinds, from spiritual to mere dates and deadlines, and then I remembered, almost as clear as if it were yesterday, sitting in a physiology class in college and raising my hand to ask a question of my professor.  This was not unusual. In fact he could almost count on me asking a question at every lecture. Knowing me too well,  as he called on me, he said, "Miss Campen.....but before you ask your question, I would just like to say that I hope your whole education doesn't all fit in a nutshell!"... He was spot on, as my question always had to do with taking an horrendously complex subject and trying to have him summarize it and fit it into "a nutshell" to help my brain make sense of it.

Perhaps I am still working at trying to simplify a life that is too big for my head to wrap itself around and wanting it to be put into "a nutshell" or a 3 x 5 index card, where it can be easily digested, acted upon and made to fit into my comfortable little world, where I am safe and secure, and there is no death, and no problems that are unmanageable or too hard to figure out without  help. I miss my mom and dad, for they were right up there next to God Himself when it came to answers...Mmm...and how appropriate it is that I am living at a place that I now refer to as "Little House".

I hear political pundits discuss opinions regarding how this administration is or isn't dealing with the world's reality, and am comforted to know that perhaps I am not alone in having certain preconceived ideas of how the world should be as I contain my thinking to fit within walls that I have carefully constructed!...My Little House is indeed a very little house, within a very big world, that I can't fathom, much less control.

I wish my friend God's speed in moving to her next dwelling place in heaven...and love the scripture verse that has to do with God preparing a place for us in heaven, where there are many mansions and a room for each of us.

I rationalize about the smallness of my thinking after all there is nothing wrong with "doing small things with great love", as Mother Teresa said so well. We indeed occupy a tiny space in this world, but have an important part to play in the lives of those around us. I will miss my friend and the ways that her life touched me, and I will work hard to not over-think and ponder upon the great mystery of life and death.  I will accept what is and move on and simply take joy in doing what I can do today, never mind that I have too many quilts and pincushions planned and even cut out!

I may or may not get as many days as Grandma Moses to get them all done, and no matter if the directions I leave with each pre-cut quilt will be sewed by another per my directions. I can only concern myself with today and try to live it as best as I can!

I am grateful for the life that I have had, and will continue living in faith that there will be many more days to come, lest I go into overdrive to try to take even more control over what isn't mine to control. Life isn't a race, but a marathon, no matter how short or long the distance. However many days I have, I will treasure each of them, One only has to watch Teresa Caputo on Long Island Medium to know that this life is not the only one we shall have!

I am taking it on faith and promise that there is another life to come, though I will very much miss my Little House with my little studio with my carefully stored stash of materials yet to be sewed. As my dad was dying, he and my mom would joke about her writing him a check so he could take all that he had earned with him. I shall need a large van when I move to heaven and I can hear myself arguing with St. Peter about my stash needing to come with me! I have indeed been very blessed, though more by special people, like my friend that have loved and put up with me, despite my baggage! I treasure all those that have enriched my life, and are now gone from my sight, making me realize that it won't be long before I join them! Life is good, no matter its impermanence!

(This blog is dedicated to my dear friend, Marti.  You will be greatly missed!)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Progress Continues...Junk or Priceless Treasures?

Bits of space and floor are now showing!
Progress continues on the Steve N. Garage and Kitchen Drapery Project, though I have added still more windows and curtains to be washed and pressed before his visit on October 11th. I have a strong aversion to cleaning and so I am not going to waste a visit from a friend to become a big incentive to do what I otherwise procrastinate doing.
Organizing and sorting has been no small job!

Soon, more pegboard up and equipment hung on walls!

Today I was to sort through boxes of my stored "junk" that made it to the garage when our storage sheds collapsed a few years ago under the weight of too much snow, and ran across The Scarecrow Doll from the Wizard of Oz.  In one of my last office nursing jobs, I was teased about being scatter-brained and forgetful.  This is not a good trait for a nurse to have, but per my style,  I learned in my family of origin, if I am to be ridiculed about anything, I will "make fun of myself and run with it". It is a defense mechanism I perfected when I was young.  It hurts less to be in control and beat others to the punch line, or so I used to think.

Gifts given to me, The Scarecrow of Little Brain, but getting wiser all the time!
Being less than clear-brained and seeing others noticing what couldn't be hidden, I took to singing the song, If I Only had a Brain. Taking on the persona of The Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, I made fun of myself.

Its effect soon rippled through this private doctor's office.  Our aide, in search of a home became our Dorothy, needing to wear and click her red shoes together to find her a new home.  Our secretary in the office was the person that had to "get hard to collect on past due payments".  She became our Tin Man in need of a heart while doing her job as many saw her as quite heartless. Then there was our nurse leader who trembled at the thought of taking difficult messages between patients and doctors.  She needed all the courage she could muster, like the famous Scared-y-Cat Lion. We all had our weaknesses, and soon we were given gifts collectively by the other staff that represented our individual issues. Mine were as shown above, the doll and the plaque that read, Wisdom.

I didn't come to know until later how spot on I was that I needed clearness of thought, for I had much "brain fog" caused by Chronic Lyme Disease, and only three years ago suffered a stroke and at the time brain scans noted several brain lesions caused by my what was later diagnosed as Chronic Lyme Disease. These tests documented  what had been issues for me that were beyond my control in the years previous.. Fortunately my stroke's damage was only temporary, except to my psyche that now lives in fear of having a more serious one.

Finding my Scarecrow Doll, given to me by this office staff, served as a bittersweet reminder of the issues that I have had to deal with both physically and mentally, no matter how ineffective I might have done so.. I have suffered from a chronic infection that affects my brain. We all have issues that we have to deal with and though ridicule is not good, humor helps. The late Joan Rivers reminded us all that "anything we can joke about, we can deal with", and her life was proof of that! Should we all realize that our individual differences are likely there for a reason and whether we understand them or not, we have to deal with who and what we are.

The rest of this story still pains me....I went on to be fired from this job.  The backbiting that ensued in this office took its effect on us all. I was accused of being lazy.  A new schedule had meant not being at my desk and so my desk didn't just appear to be unoccupied-- it had been for days, though by a design that wasn't mine, and my naps in an exam room during my unpaid lunch hour were desperately needed to do the extra long ten to twelve hour work days that my body didn't tolerate. My at-home time in those days included caring for my declining mother as well as my family.  I was anything but lazy and I let my doctor bosses know it in no uncertain terms!

I had never been one to "talk back" and I regretted this "loss of control of my tongue". I have since realized that my final words were "straight and honest".  I was NOT lazy, but VERY hardworking and the work days were not just too hard for me, they were illegally too long for the staff but not the doctors and being misjudged, and treated with prejudice that stemmed from "talk behind my back", it was truly time for me to move on. I still would like to think that my loss was less than their's, though the betrayal of what I thought were good friends was most painful and truly the job market seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire for me.

The life lessons I learned from this were good, however, and remain with me always: judging others needs to be done with careful consideration of all the facts, not rumors; backbiting is never OK and neither is abuse from those in authority. Respect for oneself is critical and there was wisdom in my spontaneous defense, though I didn't think so at the time as it was less than eloquent and clear. Unfairness is hurtful and damaging, and it was truly time to leave, no matter the inconvenience to me.  Kindness is always appropriate in dealing with others, as we don't know their serious underlying issues. Giving more thought before I speak, no-matter-what-the-circumstances continues to be a lesson I need to work on. I of course I am not perfect, and my memory continues to be weak and so my Scarecrow Wizard of Oz Doll along with my Wizard of Oz Wisdom sign will now be prominently displayed to remind me that some experiences and lessons are just too valuable to be thrown away!

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Winner is....

The Winner of this month's Common Thread Give-Away Drawing is Wendy Greenspan. Congratulations to Wendy!! She will be receiving Veronica's book, Kiss the Moon!

To all those who did not win this month, please continue to visit all of us Common Thread artists at our respective sites as we will continue to have a free give-away drawing every month.  It is our way of thanking you for continuing to follow our blogs.

The Common Thread Artists besides myself are: Maria Wulf @ Full Moon Fiber Arts; Jon Katz @ Bedlam Farm; Kim Gifford @ Pugs and Pics; and Rachel Barlow@ Picking My Battles.  Their sites are located on the right side of my blog and can be easily accessed by simply clicking on these sites. Veronica Hallissey's From an Upper Floor is also listed among them, as she is a frequent guest artist, and a wonderful poet. Nancy Bariluk-Smith's Spinning Glass Studio has moved to Maine, but she is still creating wonderful jewelry, not to be missed!

A big thanks to all of our readers!