Saturday, May 31, 2014

Apocalyptic thoughts

Since the recent news of the increasing rapid shrinking of the polar ice caps, I've been struggling more often with apocalyptic thoughts. As a child of the Cold War, end-of-the-world thinking isn't new to me. Duck-and-cover drills in sixth grade under our desks in practice for the big bomb (even as a kid I knew that wasn't going to do any good), trips to the wrestling sub-basement in the fall of 1962 as a junior in high school during the Cuban missile crisis. My thoughts then were tinged with fear, fear that I would die, that my family would die, that I'd never get to do the things in my life I wanted to do.

My recent apocalyptic thoughts are tinged not with fear but with deep grief. Grief that we are on a irreversible course now (and have been for longer than we care to think) that is destroying the beauty of our one world. "Air that's too angry to breathe, water our children can't drink." Kenny Loggins, "Conviction of the Heart"

I just read Timothy Egan's masterful book, The Worst Hard Thing, about the Dust Bowl. But of course, it's not just about the Dust Bowl. It's about greed, and misguided advice, and political bull-shit and posturing that leads to economic and environmental disaster. Sound familiar? Think Amazon rainforest, fracking, off-shore drilling, Fukushima.

I've lived a long and comfortable life by any human standards. My grief is much less for me at this time. There may well be enough comfort in the world for my next 20 years. But what about for my nephews, now in their early 20s? And their kids if they have them? And all the kids who should be entitled to a world that's as livable as my world has been?

Last week we had a minor water scare in Portland  (had to boil water for a day due to contamination) and greed and self-protection were rampant in the stores, people buying all the bottled water they could get their hands on. Maybe some of them shared it. Most I suspect hoarded it. Our individualistic, me and mine first mentality, both very human and very American, is not going to help us in the crises that are coming. As Einstein said, we can't get out of the problem using the same mindset that got us into it.

Sitting in sadness today.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Travelling with plan food has become a routine

Yesterday I had a long teaching day and today I leave for the coast for two nights. I'm teaching a writing workshop at Sitka Art and Ecology Center. Yesterday morning, I quickly planned out my food for the trip.

Fresh juice, made last night with greens from my friend Melanie's garden. Frozen fruit to put in the cooler for smoothie. Some Party Hearty gluten-free black bread from Happy Camper bakery and my organic peanut butter. Nutribullet in the insulated food bag. Two breakfasts done.

Dinner I'll eat out tonight and tomorrow night. The coast is always good for a crab or shrimp louie.

 Lunches: I've some veggie soup from the last batch, leftover kale salad, and some tuna. Then I'll go by Whole Foods this morning and get a big box of salad from the salad bar. Bottle of safe dressing. I'm set.

Oh and snacks: a couple of Kind bars, some almonds, a couple of apples. Done.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Witnessing vs. fixing

One of my closest friends has a husband in serious health decline. He's been debilitated for some years now and she has been an active caregiver all of her retirement. She has a lot of friends and they're good about staying in touch and they all ask how her husband is doing and when she reports on it, they give her advice.

In our money program support group, we're asked to practice witnessing. Witnessing the celebrations of group members as they move towards their goals, witnessing their challenges and setbacks, witnessing their commitments. We've taken a pledge not to offer advice unless it's specifically asked for, including not making suggestions veiled as questions: "Have you tried...what would happen if..."

Instead, we're encouraged to ask real questions: "Tell me more. How are you doing with that? Is there anything more you'd like to say about that?" And we're encouraged to appreciate the other person's efforts, not fix them.

I'm wondering how all my relationships would be if I witnessed more and advised less.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Being a slave to our concerns is like being in debt to them. When we're in debt, we have no real freedom in our hearts. The more we pay off our debts, the more lighthearted we'll feel. In the same way, if we can let go of our various worries and cares, peace will arise in our hearts. 

—Ajaan Lee, “Sowing the Seeds of Freedom”

Monday, May 26, 2014

Creative work from my recent trip

Here's a prompt I wrote about my trip to the Palouse in Eastern Washington with my photographer brother-in-law David Cobb ( I took the photo as well.

Palouse Concert
She went back a second time, taking the car keys as he slept that afternoon. He’d have warned her off it: “The light will be too flat. You won’t get anything good.” But she wanted to be there alone, and mid-day she thought she might have a chance.

She used the elaborate gazetteer he always carried in the car. Page by page of topographic maps but more importantly all the little roads. And there were signs out to Steptoe.

She passed no one once she moved into the park. No cars in the lower lot, no hikers on the road, and no one at the summit. Just as she’d hoped. The wind was warm and strong. She unzipped her jacket and left it in the car.

The clouds were thin and high, not gray, not white. The sky was quiet behind them. The land, the Palouse, spread out all around her. From this height, not quite a patchwork as he claimed. More of an abstract. In the light haze, the sharp edges of the fields blurred and smudged, the striations of the tilled but unplanted soil appearing as shadows, not lines.

The civilized marks were blurred too. The barn a brush stroke of red, the lone grain elevator a square of white. She took it all in and then settled on the one bench, where she had sat and watched the sunrise while he set up the tripod and the mega-lens.

She closed her eyes. She hadn’t come back to see it again. She’d come back to hear it again. The viewpoint was bordered in several places by sturdy metal posts. They were rounded and hollow and they had holes in each side, perhaps for bars or a chain or a rope. The holes aligned and the wind, finding a place to play, sang through them. The tone was sweet rather than ghostly. Perhaps the angle of the wind, the size of the holes. She knew none of the harmonics, only knew she wanted to bathe in that sound. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A good argument from Scientific American

What if we all just stopped trying to lose weight?

By focusing on weight, we may be missing the broader picture of what it means to be healthy.
Brian Mattson is not the picture of health. Few would look at him and say: “There’s a healthy fellow.” But that’s a shame, because Mattson is a pretty healthy guy. In fact, by a number of measures, he’s healthier than most Americans.
Mattson walks every day, on average exceeding the CDC recommendations for daily aerobic physical activity. Less than half (48%) of Americans meet this benchmark. Mattson also eats about three servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Estimates of the average American fruit and vegetable consumption range from one and a half, to three servings a day. The target should be 5 to 13 servings, or at least “half your plate” according to latest USDA dietary guidelines.
Sure, Mattson is the first to admit it’s not perfect, but compared to his situation five years ago, he’s doing quite well, and the changes he’s made in his life have become habits that he’s been able to maintain over years.
Brian took his first steps towards healthier living in 2009, when the wellness organization Blue Zones initiated a pilot project in his home town of Albert Lea, Minnesota. As part of the program he took a life expectancy assessment, the results of which had him on the road to dying young–in his 50s. This wake up call got him walking every day and eating more vegetables. The walking group he joined also got him out into the community, interacting with people, and even resuming his involvement in the local theater. These simple things extended his estimated life expectancy by 20 years. He didn’t start a restrictive diet. He didn’t join his local gym’s extreme weight loss challenge. And that’s probably a good thing, because the weight-loss industry has yielded poor results.
Mattson told me on the phone that since we met last year, he’s lost 20 pounds, averaging a pound of weight loss per month. Not because he was trying to lose weight, but merely as a side effect of the healthy habits he developed. The habits were encouraged by changes instituted in Albert Lea as part of Blue Zones’ efforts to emulate the healthiest and happiest communities in the world. The book The Blue Zones, points out that dieting and exercise are not common in these long-living communities. I asked author and Blue Zones CEO Dan Buettner why weight loss was not a primary focus of his organization’s efforts:
“To see your weight go down isn’t an answer for a happy life. People we’ve seen in the Blue Zones not only live a long time, but they’re also in the top quintile of the happiest places in the world. It turns out most of what makes us feel truly genuinely happy is also good for our health. I’d just as soon lead with quality of life and leave the weight-loss as a happy byproduct.
Sure, Albert Lea collectively shaved about two tons [of body weight] among the [participants], but that’s not what we set out to do. We set out to get them more connected socially, to change their environment to make walking easier, and to make fruits and vegetables more available, and eating them more socially acceptable and a common part of daily life.”
I asked Brian Mattson how he thinks things would have turned out if he had started with a weight loss goal, rather than his modest eating and walking goals.
“I don’t think I would have done it.” He said. “It’s the same as the 10 or 12 other times in my life I’d tried to lose weight. I’d last about a week and a half and then give up and gain it all back. Now I’m taking small things each time, and I’m not killing myself doing it. A pound a month doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a consistent pound a month.”
A meta-analysis published late last year suggested that obesity in and of itself is a risk factor for heart attacks and early death. The ensuing media coverage shouted “you can’t be fit and fat!” Another study published this January seemed to respond: “yes you can!”
In light of this, a brief thought experiment:
Assuming the you-can’t-be-fat-and-fit study is accurate (it didn’t actually take into account fitness among other issues), the risk for cardiovascular events and/or death was 24% higher in metabolically healthy overweight folks compared to metabolically healthy normal weight folks.
Compare that with a 2003 Danish cohort study that found a 29% reduction in risk of death from adopting regular moderate physical activity, and another more recent cohort study describing a 53% higher mortality rate among non-fruit and vegetable eaters, versus those getting their 5-a-day.
Why do we obsessively focus on a very-hard-to-affect risk factor (body weight) that yields no better results than easier-to-adopt habits, that provide clear health benefits? If you were an inactive person who eats a poor diet and suffers from obesity and were presented with these numbers, knowing that dieting and sustained weight-loss are very difficult and usually unsuccessful, what would you do?
Everywhere we go, from the mouths of our peers, on every magazine rack, Internet ad, and weight-loss reality show, we get the message: you need to lose weight. You are too fat. Maybe it’s time to retire this line of thinking.  Maybe it’s time to go for a walk, or eat some asparagus, just because those are good, pleasurable things to do, and will make our lives better, whatever our weight.
Brian Mattson’s story should help us rethink what health looks like. If we decide that health looks like chiseled abs, toned arms and  yoga pants, we’re leaving a lot of people behind. When our health ideal comes in the form of a cover model on Shape, no one will ever be healthy, and if we can’t be healthy, what’s the point? It’s a recipe for defeat.
I’ve heard it rightly argued that we should refrain from judging someone’s health based on appearance. For all we know, that overweight woman we see on the street might be exercising every day, eating better and may have already lost a lot of weight, and just “isn’t there yet.” I would take it further and argue that if those habits are now a part of her life, she’s already made it.
If we were to shift the conversation towards a culture of health–one that values healthy eating and regular physical activity as ends unto themselves, we may be happily surprised to find that not only are we living longer, happier lives, with less disease and fewer health costs, but also, we may need to drop a collective pant size or two. Or not. Either way, we’re better off.
Post Script:
This reads as if health outcomes were entirely dependent upon what individuals consciously choose or choose not to do. Most of the literature indicates that a vast number of complex environmental factors have far more to do with our health outcomes than our personal choices. However, the choices we make certainly come into play, and this post explores a new way to approach those choices and how we talk about them.
Photos courtesy of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.
Patrick MustainAbout the Author: Patrick Mustain is a Communications Manager at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. He is interested in how environmental factors (built, social, media, economic, etc.) affect health behaviors and outcomes, especially those places where media and public health intersect. You can find more of his work at his website,

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spaciousness helps too

Tuesday I was scheduled to leave on a mini-vacation at 3 in the afternoon. I had a big project to finish, a bunch of little things to get completed, including making a crockpot soup so that the veggies wouldn't go bad, some laundry, emails, house tidying for the cat sitter. The usual. It was all possible between 6 am and 2 pm unless there were interruptions and there were several, and I got more and more tense about how I was going to get it all done, and I started eating to calm myself down.

Then about 11:30 Melanie, my traveling companion, called and needed to rearrange our schedule. There was a crisis with her hospice patient (she's a volunteer) and she needed to stay in town tonight. Of course, I said yes. Of course I could go early in the morning instead, and suddenly I could relax and finish the project and think about the emails before I sent them off and not worry about the packing until this evening and maybe go outside and be in the beautiful afternoon for a half hour with a cup of tea like a leisurely person. I stopped random eating too.

That's what I really want to be: a leisurely person.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Engaging work

I was talking with a good friend last night about relationships, work, and food (what most women talk about) and I was mentioning how I never think about food while I am playing in the studio. Sometimes I'll take tea with me or a snack and I never drink it or eat it. It just doesn't occur to me. I don't get hungry, no matter how long it's been since a meal or a snack.

Maybe this is really the definition of "engaging work" for me. I am so caught up, so curious, so satisfied, that everything quiets down inside me so I can focus. And this happens whether I'm having a successful (love that painting) day or a challenging (arghhhh) day in the studio. Maybe it's because I'm relaxed there, maybe it's because I'm involved. But I love it.

And I want that to be happening more and more in my day. And it's something that feels okay to be greedy about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Care of the Soul

From the introduction to Thomas More's book: "Fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, and relief from symptom]s are all gifts of the soul."

I want all of that!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Still in the sugar loop

There isn't any easy philosophical way to confess this. I'm deeply caught in the sugar loop again, abstaining for a few days, then moving from zero to f--k it in a nanosecond and eating whatever I want, which is mostly a lot of sweets, for as long as I feel like it.

The one big change this time is that I'm not in any denial. I'm not pretending this is temporary (I can't know that), I'm not feeling ashamed (this is how my addiction plays out). Once I start in again, it is very hard to stop. I wish it weren't. I wish it were easy to eat four cupcakes and say, "oh well, tomorrow will be a sugar-free day." But that's the denial talking, because chances are it won't be a sugar-free day until I'm sick and tired of feeling this way.

The pleasure I get from sugar is still reliable. I wish it weren't. I wish it made me really sick so I didn't have to rely on logic and discipline and waiting for inspiration to try to get beyond it.

The only good news is that I'm not discouraged by this. It is what is and it doesn't have to be what will be. Praying for the willingness to be willing to start over again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Still cooking

I haven't talked about cooking much lately but I'm still at it. I juice about every 5th day, making a quart and a half at a time. I have settled into a regular juice of carrots, 1 apple, several cucumbers, a head of romaine (the most nutritious of the lettuces) and kale, plus one or two other things: cabbage, fennel, parsley, celery) for flavoring. Sometimes I also juice cooked beets and a lime or a lemon. Then I make a smoothie with juice and a banana and a lot of baby spinach and a variety of other fruits, which almost always includes some kind of organic berry. I drink about 3 cups of smoothing throughout the morning.

My latest chicken bake was chicken thighs (boneless, skinless), thinly sliced yellow potato, zucchini rounds, chopped celery, some shredded kale, a jar of marinated artichokes, and a jar of black olives with the juice from the 'chokes and a cup of chicken broth and garlic and some seasonings. A really good one!

Last soup: a can of organic pumpkin, a jar of Trader Joe's marsala simmer sauce, big butternut squash cubes, leftover green salad (no dressing), shredded cabbage, diced onion, yellow pepper, zucchini rounds, and a cup of chicken broth. Crock pot for 3 hours.

I still love this way of cooking and eating.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Realizing I need better transitions

On Friday, due to a spam glitch, the second part of a big work project didn't arrive. I didn't think to check spam as I've emailed with this client dozens of times without a problem so I just assumed he was still working on it. It wasn't until about 4 pm that I got concerned, tried to reach him without success (he'd left for the day), and then checked spam. The bad news was that I lost 6 hours I could have spent on the project on Friday, which I had to make up yesterday. But the good news was that Friday, a day when I felt pretty burnt out by the short heat wave we had and six long working days in a row, because a spacious day when I got a number of small things done at my leisure.

I have trouble building leisure into my schedule. It's not that I don't know how to goof off and have fun. I do and there are a lot of things I enjoy but I'm realizing that I don't shift into leisure quickly or easily. Work for me is like a moving walkway. I get going faster and faster and then I fall off.

I've heard it recommended to take a 10-minute break every hour and read in a novel or listen to music or take a walk. But that short a time frame just doesn't work for me. All I'm thinking about is the work I'm going back to and that antsy feeling isn't the hallmark of successful relaxation for me.

I think this is true for a lot of us. It's why we come home and drink or eat. We're looking for a big transition from the bigness of work and its absorption. I don't drink anymore and I don't want to use food that way (although most days I do). I'm needing some better big transitions.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Creating spaciousness around me

I do know what one of the answers is to changing my environment. It's spaciousness of time. That's one of the main differences between the ease of retreat life and the non-ease of my regular life. It's not stressful for me to have a lot to do, but it's definitely stressful for me to have too many things to juggle and not enough time to do them in a considerate and thoughtful way. I think that's true for most of us, and we don't change it. We just say yes to more obligations and more opportunities and fill up our calendars and reel from exhaustion or burnout.

When you're a freelancer, work becomes one of those obligation/opportunity time-fillers because the work isn't steady. It arrives in a feast or famine way and we operate out of scarcity too much of the time. But I have had plenty of work now for years and I still come from that scarcity place without stopping to think whether it's real or not.

So I've come up with a plan to resolve this. I'm going to establish a number of hours to work each month and as I accept projects, I'll guesstimate the number of hours it'll take and deduct it from the total and when I reach zero, I can't take any more projects that month. I'm quite excited about this way to measure and arrange things. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The problem with discipline to modify behavior

Had a great talk this morning with an old and very dear friend about our personal environments and what we can do to change them so as to support healthier eating and stronger well-being. I think the number one factor for me is in how I use my time, an issue that recurs in this blog because I don't seem to solve it.
Without a shift to a more spacious time environment, I pretty much have to rely on discipline to support any modifications in my behavior and discipline doesn't hold up in the long run.

I have a lot of discipline at my disposal. In fact, I think my friends would say that I'm highly disciplined. I get to the gym 3-4 times a week almost without exception. I walk most other days. I meet my deadlines for work, I'm punctual for appointments, I keep my word. I've written in a journal every day for over 20 years.

But discipline is just a tool to get us to routine, to momentum, so that the habit is so well-ingrained that we don't even question it. That's true for me of journal writing, just something I do every day and I don't feel very good if I don't do it. The same with exercise. I've been exercising steadily since 1980 and if I go two or three days without a good walk or a trip to the gym, I go into a kind of physical discomfort like withdrawal.

But discipline is an insufficient tool for abstinence of any kind. If it had worked, I would not have needed a treatment center stay or AA all these years. And it won't work in the long run with food either. Something else has to happen, for me anyway.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A poem about cat obsessions

Ac-cord-ing to Nellie

Nellie is having an affair
The object of her obsession
The hairdryer cord
That hangs down in a tangle
From the bathroom counter

She walks in casually
Doesn’t seem to notice
Then as if pulled by a magnet
Or Fate
She’s in front of it
Paw cautiously proffered
She barely grazes it
But it starts its dance
And it’s a snake
And she bats harder
And the snake jumps
And she does too
Like an electrified kitten

And it settles back down
Against the cabinet door
And she turns away
Throwing a glance
Not of alarm
But of invitation
And sometimes what she sees
Is alluring
And the game gets another turn
And sometimes she’s satisfied for now

The hairdryer isn’t new
And neither is Nellie
This game has gone on for 12 years
I can’t know if she knows
It’s a game
Or if it is a snake
But we are alike in this
For I have my own tangled cords
Of fear and attraction
My own imaginary dangers to flirt with
Year after year

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Food, retreat, and observations Part II

In looking at the summary of my observations in the last blog, I see again what I already know but don't seem to find a way to do much about. That spaciousness in my schedule, full engagement in what I'm doing, and the company of people I enjoy have a big impact on my appetite and eating behaviors.

These discoveries align with what Dr. Lustig says in Fat Chance about the need to attend to our environment in order to make significant changes in our eating patterns. And I think spaciousness has to come first. Without it, I won't find the quiet and reflective place to figure out the other two.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Food and the retreat environment Part I

I learn and relearn good things about myself when I go on retreat. This time I did a lot of observing of myself around food. I haven't gotten off sugar completely but I've had some abstinent days and reined myself in (teaching myself to think and decide about all food I eat each time I eat). Here are my observations.

At home:

  • I eat my meals mostly alone, with one or two exceptions a week.
  • I fix my own food and often eat similar things a few days in a row. 
  • At lunch, I read while I eat. 
  • At dinner, I watch a movie.
  • I spend about 10 minutes eating a meal.
  • I go to the gym (3x week) and walk (2-3x week) on a schedule.
  • I walk alone, sometimes with music, sometimes not.
  • I work until 7 most nights, watch TV or read in the evenings.
  • I occasionally get to the studio.
  • I write 45-60 minutes a day most days, but that's all the time I can spend. 
  • I am doing things I don't mind doing between meals.
  • I have a pressured and driven sense of time. 
  • I snack a lot and wander into the kitchen looking for treats. 

On retreat:

  • I eat lunch and dinner with others.
  • I only prepare two of 13 meals; somebody else does the rest.
  • We chat at lunch and sometimes stay at the table for 30-45 minutes.
  • We spend a long time over dinner, often continuing discussions from our pre-dinner circle. 
  • I walk more often and walk with someone else and talk about things.
  • I walk when I feel like it or when someone asks me to walk with them.
  • I play cards and interact with other people in the evenings.
  • I don't do art work usually but if I do, I do it with others.
  • I can write all day if I want to.  
  • I have a spacious schedule.
  • I am doing things I love between meals.
  • I forget about food between meals.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Post-retreat letdown

Every quarter I go on retreat. Actually, it's more like going to camp. I get together with women friends, who are also creatives, and we rent a place for a week or 10 days to spend together. Typically we are silent until lunch and between lunch and dinner so that we can work on our various projects: writing, painting, reading, resting, communing with nature, sleeping. We share meals and play games and talk in the evenings.

Because I live alone, these retreats are an important part of my social life and a chance to be in community and when I come home, it's a mixed blessing. I'm almost always ready for more solitude, as I thrive on it. But I also miss the loving friendship and seeing good friends every day rather than a couple of times a month. There's also a high that comes from these intense experiences of creativity all day long and the deep conversations we have so I often experience a post-retreat letdown.

It's day 3 since I returned and I'm pretty down today. It's a passing experience, of course, and probably tomorrow I'll be fine. But I miss the spaciousness of the experience and the proximity of the gorgeous beach at Cape Lookout State Park.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The great Van Morrison

"If my heart could do my thinking
And my head begin to feel
I could look upon the world anew
And know what's truly real."

From Poetic Champions Compose

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The key to transforming your relationship with money

At our money program webinar last Thursday, our financial literacy coach announced the bottom-line secret to transformation around money. You can earn more money, she said, and that's great. You can save more money and that's great too. And you can pay attention to your investments and invest wisely. But if you don't transform how and what you spend, none of the rest of it matters.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Taking on your drainers

I've written about drainers before but not for a while. Drainers are those little and big projects in your home or office that drain your energy every time you see them or think of them.

Here are some of my current drainers:

My ceilings need repainting. It's been 12 years and they're dingy.
One of my bookcases and my bedframe need repainting. It's been more than 20 years.
My computer cords have become an unsightly mess that offends me when I walk in the room.
I have a couple of stains on the office carpet from a leaky pen that I just haven't cleaned up.
My basement storage space is out of control.
I got half-way through setting up my art website and got distracted with other things. It needs finishing.
Likewise, my paintings got half-inventoried and I met a snag and stopped.

In many ways, drainers are like debt. It's hard to create something new when old stuff is incomplete. Decades ago, a financial advisor told me to pay off all credit card before I started saving. The small interest you earn on savings, he said, is nothing compared to the interest it's costing you to carry card debt.

Similarly, the energy it's costing me with drainers isn't worth it. So I've taken on completing one drainer a month. April was carpet cleaning month. I took my four most trodden rugs to the a local company that does a great job. Not cheap but this will extend the life of these rugs I love. May is going to be a busy editing month so I'm going to choose the cord mess and the office carpet stains as my drainers of the month.

What drainers might you take on?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Project lighten up

My Soul Strippers group took on a conversation about lightening up. Here are some of the ideas I came up with for me:

Clean out my closet and get rid of all the someday-I'll-wear-this clothes.
Return all unread books that belong to someone else.
Find a better kitchen garbage and recycling setup.
Figure out a better litter box solution.
Get rid of anything I don't love or use.
Get my ceilings painted a fresh light color.
Don't eat after 7 pm.
Get my brass lamp refinished.
Don't work for money in the morning. Just don't.
Read an hour a day for pleasure or just sit.
Solve my tangled cords issue.
Eat less, walk more, move more
Get a manicure. Call Madge.
Do my PT exercises most days.
Take care of all my drainers, one a month.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thought for the day

You eliminate an enormous amount of suffering by concentrating on the suffering that is actually present instead of creating more with your thinking. It is the difference between discomfort and torment.

—Larry Rosenberg, “When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Bites”

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keeping track the Vicki Robin way

Decades ago, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez wrote a book called Your Money or Your Life. It was among the earliest of the frugal living books and because it focused on living outside the grid on very little money and I was keen on becoming a college professor inside the grid, I read it, put it down, and forgot about it. Now the book's been updated and is assigned reading for the money program I'm in. I'm enjoying reading it as it seems really relevant to me now. As I wrote earlier in the week, I'm ready to be in this conversation.

Robin also encourages the reader to keep track of all your money: what comes in and what goes out. But her tracking system is much more detailed than the one I set up for the money group and I think it would be helpful for me to expand my categories. For instance, she doesn't have one food category. She has many:

Groceries for meals at home
Groceries for meals for others (entertaining)
Groceries for work (lunch)
Snacks at home
Snacks out
Meals out (tax deductible)
Meals out (not tax deductible)

Not every delineated category is probably useful for me. I'm not sure it matters to my spending to have two categories for flowers: indoors and potted plants for the porch. But food is a different story. If I looked at all these categories honestly, I'd see where my enormous food bills are coming from. And I might not use her categories. I might make ones of my own. Something like this:

Vegetables and fruit
Deli foods
Packaged foods

I have a feeling this would be eye-opening for me. And maybe a step into rigorous honesty that I need to take.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Changing your environment Part II

As I said in the last post, I changed most of my life in the early years of my sobriety. My 10-year addictive relationship with the man I thought I'd be with forever twindled through 10 sober months before he made the commitment I'd pleaded for to a woman 23 years his junior. I found a new tenure-track teaching job but after 4 years I couldn't do the politics and the pettiness anymore. I moved back home to Oregon, both to be with family and to live someplace fresh and clean, me and the environment. I started a new career and built a business, I got creativity into my life and started painting and writing seriously. I stayed out of romantic relationships. It was easier and I believe healthier for me that way.

I have a really good life. I have a great apartment, great friends, the studio I've always dreamed of, books that I'm writing and publishing. Good challenges, lots of rewards. I'm not a big fish but I'm a pretty happy fish. And I still struggle with addiction. To sugar. To overeating. To overworking. To over-consuming in general.

So I've begun asking. Is this an environment that will support me in further healing from addiction? And the answer is coming back perhaps not quite. I'm not sure where this inquiry is going to take me. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

20 years in one place

On June 1, 1994, I officially took possession of my Portland life. I moved home to the Northwest after 7 terrible years in Virginia, 4 much better years in Pennsylvania. I came home ostensibly to help in the care of my ailing mother, but I really came home to find myself.

I'd been sober five years by then, and I was clear I was done with college teaching. The politics, the stresses, the loneliness of a, to me, alien culture was more than I could do. I needed my culture, Portland, my family, and a really fresh start.

I had no specific dream of a new life. I didn't know how I would make a living, just knew I could make one. I had no idea that a childhood dream, that of being a writer, would manifest itself. I had no idea that a dream I had never dared dream, that of being an artist, would also manifest. I came back to Portland open to possibility and they showed up big time.

Supporting that life has been a wonderful apartment. Before I moved into the Ash St. complex, I'd never lived any place longer than six years. When I was a child, we moved often. As an adult, I did too. But then I settled down, settled in. I found the right place, I found the right life. I am so grateful.

Environment vs. behavior Part I

One of the more resonating ideas in Lustig's Fat Chance book is that behavior modification doesn't work all that well. We can change our behaviors: we can eat less, put the fork down between bites, sip water every other mouthful, knit or crochet in front of the TV, go for a long walk every day. But those behaviors alone aren't enough to make major changes in our health or our weight.

The key, he believes, is in changing our environment. Easy enough to do, you may say. I'll just clean out my cupboards of all the sugar or all the booze or cut up all my credit cards. And that's a good start. But it's only a start.

AA has known this principle for a long time. One of the first lectures I was sober enough to pay attention to in the treatment center was called "Change your playgrounds, change your playmates." If you want to stay sober, you don't go to bars or keggers or cocktail parties. You don't hang out with the same people you drank with, because they're probably going to go on drinking or hanging out Baskin Robbins or going by Sees Candy for that free sample.

But I know from my own experience that changing your environment can mean a lot more than that. It can mean getting out of a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. I had to. It can mean changing careers. I did that too. It can mean moving to a new location where you've never been drunk. That helped me. And now I'm seeing that there's more.