Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Peace with food

One of the biggest gifts of the Bright Line Eating program is the profound peace that comes from eating this way. When I'm embroiled in my addiction to sugar, the relief I get from the cravings when I eat are short-lived and then there are soon more cravings and it becomes a perpetual cycle of anxiety. I also get consumed with worry about my health and with guilt and shame about my inability to do what I know is best and to take good care of myself.

Now I have a structure that works for me. I write down each night what I'm going to eat for the three meals the next day. I look at my calendar and plan the time for each of those meals. Then I eat them and I live my life in-between. I get hungry between meals sometimes but I don't eat until my next meal. I've been doing this now for 2.5 months and it is so much simpler than eating all day and worrying about it. I don't worry about food now. May I have the courage and strength to just do this from now on.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living in sufficiency Part 1

In the Dave Ellis money program that I participated in the past two years, the key idea was to stop living in scarcity and move as firmly as possibly into living in sufficiency. Scarcity is a cultural underpinning in our society: never enough time, never enough money, never enough stuff. We consume time and money and stuff as if this will somehow save us from worry, from anxiety, from fear. It doesn't though, and most of us consume more instead of looking in a different direction for comfort and soothing.

I don't have, as far as I can tell, a shopping addiction. But since I stopped eating compulsively in mid-October, my desire to buy stuff has increased. Fortunately, this whetted appetite for stuff came at a time when I had a long dry spell in my paid work as an editor. With not much coming in, I needed to scale way back on what was going out. So my impulse didn't result in a lot of purchases and that helped me see what was going on. 

There were a few things I needed and I bought them. But I sat through the ready response, the instant impluse to react to news of a new great book or something appealing in a catalog. I just let them pass. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was not. But I kept telling myself, "You already have enough."


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Clearing psychic space or eliminating the shoulds

A couple of friends and I meet once a month in a group we call Soul Strippers. Sometimes we do art together and chat. Sometimes we have very profound conversations. This past Saturday we had one of those conversations.

It started with the Dave Ellis exercise I mentioned a couple of posts back, sorting out what worked in 2015 and what didn't. Out of sharing our lists, we got to talking about incompletions that felt like obligations, like "shoulds."

Shoulds live in the land of not happening. "I should exercise" is not happening as exercise. That would be "I am exercising." "I should stop watching so much TV." This also is not happening. That would be "I'm watching less TV."

So we looked at our lists of what didn't work last year and separated out the efforts we made that didn't come to completion (I tried to sell my book and didn't) and those that never got to effort (I should market my books). We could celebrate the former and contemplate the latter. Do I want to carry the same shoulds into 2016? What will be different? What will move me to action when I haven't been in action before?

Our group agreed to inquire about this over the next month and come back and report our findings. What shoulds are hanging out in your psychic space? 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Evie, Josie, and the return of equilibrium to my household

The kitten Josie is coming up on three and a half months with us. She seems quite at home here. She wants to wrestle with Sammy and occasionally she can get Frannie to chase her or vice versa. Even Evie is hissing at her less.

And Evie is making progress too. The cold, wet weather has been really helpful in my attempts to get her to come inside at least some of the time and most of the nights.

I'll have to admit I've played the hunger card. I asked my neighbor and good friend Melanie to stop feeding Evie out on her front porch. Evie was very upset with this and read Melanie the riot act for about two weeks but she did start coming up to eat on our porch instead. And then I stopped putting food outside at all. At first it would take her a full five minutes to get up the courage to come in and eat. But she did and now she comes several times a day to eat and be petted. She wants back out very quickly but that's okay and almost every night she comes about 9:30 and I let her in and she eats and stays in until the morning. Forming habits in the brain and body are slow work.

I'm just hoping that she is getting so used to this that when my catsitter is here, Evie will follow the same routine.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Completing 2015

Last week, I watched a great online class with one of my favorite teachers, Dave Ellis, as part of his Falling Awake series. He asked us to make a list of all the things that had worked for us in 2015 and all the things that hadn't. A list of things to celebrate and a list of things to contemplate.

The celebrations were easy:  Wrote 300 poems, closing in on the first draft of a new novel, took some needed time off, adopted a new kitten, found the food plan, new close friends, among quite a few others.

The contemplations were more difficult: the novel I didn't sell, the extra weight I gained in the spring and summer when I gave up trying to make moderation work for me, the money I didn't make when work dried up, the ideas, hopes, projects that never went anywhere.

He had a visual analogy that was powerful for me. He hosts these webinars from his office and behind him are shelves that are usually full of photos and momentos. But for this class, he had cleared them completely. Now, he said, he was considering what to put on those shelves for 2016. Did he want to carry any of his celebrations forward? Likewise did he want to carry any of the incompletions or failures from 2015 forward with him, did he want to release them or renew his efforts with them?

I found this a very interesting way to look at wrapping up one year and contemplating the next. Most of the things that didn't work for me aren't worth hanging on to. What incompletions can you let go of?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My results from 9 weeks of eating the Bright Line way

Nine weeks ago today, I started a boot camp program from Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson and Bright Line Eating. If you've read my blog for a while, you know this isn't my first weight loss rodeo. When I got sober in 1989, it was a relief to learn that candy and sweets of all sorts were not only condoned in recovery, they were encouraged and so I set off in a great addiction substitution: giving up alcohol and embracing sweets. I didn't know that I was already a sugar addict and processed flour addict.

Bright Line Eating addresses the addict's issues with food because Thompson is herself a recovering alcoholic and drug addict as well as a sugar and flour addict. She speaks with authority because she speaks from experience. This was very appealing to me. And her background in the 12 steps meant we have some of the same language and philosophy.

So here are my results after 63 days:

  1. I have abstained totally from sugar and other sweeteners, both artificial and natural.
  2. I have abstained totally from all flours and processed grains. 
  3. I have not had a single, solitary snack. Instead, I have eaten three meals a day and nothing in-between. 
I have given up sugar several times before but always in the guise of treats. This program removes all sweeteners. I have been gluten-free before but never abstinent from all flours including corn meal and nut flours. Before this program, I can't remember the last day that I was snack-free.

I have lost 35.6 pounds and 21 inches. I have eaten three healthy meals that include a crapton of vegetables. I have weighed and measured my food. I have written down the night before what I am going to eat the next day.

Can I live like this forever? I don't know. Can I do it today? Yes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Scale by Helen Mort (I love this poem)

Scale

By Helen Mort
 
My weight is
four whippets,

two Chinese gymnasts,
half a shot-putter.

It can be measured
in bags of sugar, jam jars,

enough feathers for sixty pillows,
or a flock of dead birds

but some days it’s more
than the house, the span

of Blair Athol Road.
I’m the Crooked Spire

warping itself,
doubled up over town.

I measure myself against
the sky in its winter coat,

peat traces in water, air
locked in the radiators at night,

against my own held breath,
or your unfinished sentences,

your hand on my back
like a passenger

touching the dashboard
when a driver brakes,

as if they could slow things down.
I measure myself against

love — heavier, lighter
than both of us.

Source: Poetry (December 2015).

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why I'm not holding my annual holiday openhouse this year

It's the first Sunday of December and for many of the last 40 years, I've held a holiday open house from 2-5 pm on this day. In most of the first of those decades, I was a graduate student and an active alcoholic and I made mulled wine and whiskeyed eggnog from scratch and invited people to bring their favorite Christmas cookies. I delighted the students in the classes I taught by bringing the leftover cookies to class. I continued to do that until the homemade cookies stopped coming and people brought storebought cookies and cakes and candy. Then I widened the food request to any kind of finger foods.

The first couple of years I was sober, I didn't hold the openhouse. I was afraid people would expect the mulled wine and the eggnog and I wasn't going to make it. But after I got more solid in my sobriety, I made mulled apple cider and started holding the open house again. Because of the huge influx of sugary foods that came, I eventually declared the event sugar-free and the food got much more interesting.

Since I've been in Portland, I've held this event most years. It's always been a delight whether 20 people show up or 60 do. But this year, I'm more food-free than ever (although people think it sounds restricted). I've found an eating plan that really works for me because it addresses the issues of food and sugar addiction, which are an unfortunate part of my journey. I don't eat sugar or other sweeteners, I don't eat flour or processed foods, and I don't eat between meals. I am solid in my commitment to this and yet not yet solid in my habits. So the idea of having a lot of food in my house that I don't eat and a lot of people in my house eating those foods at non-meal time seems not the best idea to me.

At the holidays, we often throw all caution to the wind where food is concerned and I appreciate the generosity and hospitality that a groaning board implies but this year, I'm committed elsewhere.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Celebrating the return of my neck

Sometimes when you're on a weight loss plan, it's the little things that mean the most. After all, a few ounces down on the scale isn't a lot to celebrate when you've got a fair amount to lose. Other consequences of the big efforts you make to change your eating and a multitude of subsequent habits can be far more rewarding.

Here are some of those rewards;

5. The occasional swelling in my feet and ankles has completely disappeared. I thought that was an age problem. Apparently not so.
4. Back and hip issues are much reduced. Maybe they aren't age-related eitehr.
3. Stamina is steadily improving.
2. There's been an almost a total reduction in anxiety.
1. I have a neck again that is considerably slimmer than my head. I had not paid any attention to its disappearance some years back but its reappearance has been a real delight.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Found this wonderful quote on FB

 From Laura McBride, who is unknown to me but much appreciated.

"It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holding the food (and alcohol) conundrum

There are a number of paradoxes that are involved in recovery from any kind of addiction. I learned the first one in the alcohol treatment center in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1989. That we live our recovery one day at a time, always focussed on today. At the same time, we don't ever drink again. So we must learn to hold this conundrum of only for today and every day from now on. In my early days this angered me. While I appreciated that I had to focus on getting through the day each day, one day at a time seemed like BS. There wasn't ever going to be a tomorrow when I could drink.

In some ways, I find myself with the same conundrum in Bright Line eating. There is a strong focus on staying within the bright lines just for today, not to worry about tomorrow and the long future ahead. Plan your food for the next day, stick with your plan. Plan your food again, stick with the plan. At the same time, I know that I am building habits that can carry me into that long-term future. Because there is no tomorrow when I can safely have a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream. For me as a proven addict, who always ends up right back in the jackpot of weight and bingeing, that isn't going to happen. Moderation with sweet foods is just not going to happen for me.

I still have choices. I can choose the misery again. It's always available. but I sure hope I don't.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finding a way to give back to recovery

As part of the money course I took recently, we created a philanthropy plan. One part of my plan involves giving 30 of my original paintings to the Letty Owings House here in Portland.
 
Since 1987, Letty Owings has provided residential drug and alcohol treatment in a six-month program to women who have infants or young children. It is one of only a handful of treatment centers in the country where the women can have their kids with them during treatment. These women are mostly young, uneducated, and  homeless or street sex workers. The Letty Owings house is warm and friendly but very shabby. So I am delighted to be putting my colorful art on the walls of the residents’ rooms.
 
My current challenge is to raise about $4,000 for the framing. I'm invetigating online frame shops and local framers as well who might discount me for this project. 
 
If you feel moved to support this project, I’d love a donation (check to 1932 SE Ash, Portland 97214) and I’ll send you a tax receipt from Letty Owings. And if this project doesn’t sing for you, then that’s fine too. Many thanks for your consideration. 
 
PS Feel free to share this post with others who might be interested.
 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Saying goodbye to the second food addiction stepchild: The anesthetic

Giving up the Party in My Mouth is hard enough. But in order to fully embrace recovery from food addiction, I have to give up what is perhaps most important about my relationship with overeating sweets and carbs and fat carbs and salty carbs and sweet fat: the numbing experience.

Sugar and fat have been my remedy for anxiety, boredom, restlessness, grief, anger, tedium, disengagement, abandonment, fear--you name it--for over 60 years. When I got sober and gave up the anesthetic of alcohol, I went right back to sugar and fat. They weren't quite as effective as alcohol but it was a useful substitution. And for the last 25 years, with some pauses for dieting, I've had a pharmacy for numbing my feelings in my pantry and freezer that was reliable and foolproof.

Now I've stepped into a program that asks me to give up sugar/any sweeteners and all kinds of flour; this just about cuts out everything that was in that pharmacy. So in embracing this program, I have to embrace being fully awake. Of course, that's the point of life: living it, experiencing it, showing up. And I've learned to do a lot of that since I got sober from alcohol. But now being sober from food is taking it to a whole other level. More grief and some real fear.    

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Saying goodbye to the stepchildren of sugar and food addiction Part I

As I come to the end of the fourth week of Bright Line eating, I'm doing a fair amount of grieving. Just as with my journey in recovery from alcoholism, I'm having to change a lot of tangential things to create a solid program of recovery from sugar and flour addiction. 

One long-term side effect of my addiction is what I call the Party in My Mouth. I am addicted to eating lots and lots of things that give me great gustatory pleasure and I have a long list of favorites: ice cream, hot doughnuts, ice cream, clam dip and potato chips, ice cream sandwiches, great chocolate, ice cream sundaes, caramels, ice cream bars, gum drops, pie with ice cream, cake with ice cream, cookies with whipped cream, chips and nacho cheese, pudding with whipped cream, ice cream. 

I've known for some time that food has been the primary (and solitary) form of entertainment for me. I recognized that fully two weeks ago on a late Friday afternoon when I had no plans for the evening and a strong desire to go to the store and stock up on the above mentioned party foods. But embracing a plan that calls for lean proteins, fruit, and a crapton of vegetables with no sugar, no flour, and almost nothing processed means that my Tasting Party days are behind me. 

Don't get me wrong. Real food tastes very good but it's not the same experience. And grieving those old experiences seems right. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

A question to ask every day

We recently had the last weekend workshop and the last webinar of the money program I've been involved in for two years. It was a wonderful experience and a lot has changed for me around money and my relationship with it. And one of the most profound things for me happened at that last workshop.

Dave Ellis, one of the facilitators, showed us a framed quote that he has on his office wall, an idea that he says guides his days and his life. It's a question that deeply resonated with me.What is the best use of this life of such good fortune?

The question encompasses purpose and gratitude, appreciation and awareness, possibility and a call to action. And if I modify it a little (what is the best use of this day in this life of such good fortune), it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. It keeps me looking for small ways to be of service. The question has helped me find a new daily guide: Kindness in all things.

How might this question be of use to you?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Poem #296

The old woman stood near the corner
of 82nd and Stark
on the sidewalk
of the salon that advertises
tintes y cortes
She was tall and too thin
a too-big trenchcoat
pulled snug around her waist
an umbrella
and a sign
Hungry
Please help

I was in the wrong lane
and the light turned green
I went on through
the intersection
but I couldn't leave
it like that
so I changed lanes
and circled back.

I got out a 20
and as I rounded the corner
she moved along the sidewalk
towards the salon
and I thought I'd missed her
but the light was red
and she came back
towards the street.

I put out my hand
and she said,
I had to check the time.
It's getting late
And she took the 20
and her eyes widened
and she said
That's very generous of you
and I said
It's 5:15
for lack of anything else to say
and she thanked me again
and I repeated
It's 5:15
and I hope she heard
You're welcome
and I drove on
wondering how
this woman with her straight back
and carefully brushed hair
came to be begging
on an October Saturday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

More on figuring out what I'm committed to

At the final workshop for our money course, we did an exercise called Cleaning out the Closet. The first part was making a list of our promises and commitments and seeing which ones were languishing for lack of attention. We were then asked to put those in three "piles": no longer of interest (Goodwill pile), maybe in the future (back of the closet pile), and ready to go forward (hang in the front of the closet).

For the second part of the exercise, we were asked to refresh our current list of commitments and then work with a partner. The partner pretended to be an alien who was observing a human's activities. The alien listened while the human recounted a typical day's activities and the alien wrote them down. At the end of the exercise, we got to look at our daily activities and if they aligned with our commitments. In other words, was our time going to what we were committed to?

I was glad to see some big yes answers as I am writing and painting most days. But watching TV all evening doesn't forward much for me so I'm taking a look at reducing that amount and doing something I'm more committed to some evenings. 


Friday, October 30, 2015

Figuring out what I am committed to

This morning I'm debating whether to nudge a potential client one more time. She was referred by a mutual friend who is supporting her in getting her book out in the world. We had an initial conversation in August and two phone calls since then, on my instigation. She says she's eager and determined but nothing happens.

When I ran across this quote on Facebook recently, I thought of her: When something is important, we find a way. When it isn't important, we find an excuse. She says she wants to complete the book, our mutual friend also says she does, but she has a lot of excuses: travel, house remodelling, the list goes on. These other things are the important ones and she has every right to have them be so.

I'm certainly not immune from this. I've gotten good at pretending some things are important to me but if I judge by my actions, they're not because I don't move forward on them. They're shoulds or want to's, not priorities. I'm slowly learning the difference in how they feel in my body.

I am going to nudge her one last time because I said I would. And then it's up to her.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Creating a 3-meal life

I haven't had a 3-meal life since I learned to feed myself. Snacking has been akin to breathing for me. As a skinny child, I was hungry all the time, as a growing adolescent, even more so. I began developing my addiction to sugar and flour at about age 10 when I would come home from school and eat 4-6 piees of buttered toast with jam or cinnamon and sugar. By 5th grade I was snacking at my school desk--those old wonderful desks where you lifted the lid and the teacher couldn't see what you were doing.

I must have suffered from some sort of food insecurity because I always had snacks with me. Nuts, candy, cheese, half a sandwich. I needed it to be safe, I guess. I've always eaten at work, in the library in college, in my dorm room, in the break room, in the car. In some of the worst of my addiction, I ate during the night--getting up for bowls of ice cream to tide me over till breakfast.

I prided myself on being a most flexible meal companion. Need to eat dinner early? No problem. I can snack later. Need to eat late? I can snack before. I fully embraced six small meals a day as license to graze, although that wasn't really what I was doing. I was eating all day long.

For the last two weeks, I've eaten three meals a day. Period. No snacks. It's astounding to me that I have been able to do this. The first few days were very hard. My inner kids were screaming at me. I was off sugar, off flour, and off snacks. As the days have gone by, it's gotten easier and Friday night. at a conference, I went 7 hours between lunch and dinner. I didn't faint, I didn't die. I had been told I'd get hungry and it would pass. It did. I more than survived. I was totally okay.

I also am learning to ask for what I need for this 3-meal life. No early dinner for me. No late dinner for me. If I have a lunch date, I eat 5 hours before and 5 hours after. It's going to be a very different life. 



Friday, October 23, 2015

Saying it and accepting it are two different things

I've known I was a sugar addict for a long time. I ate a lot of sugar as a kid--most of my allowance went there--and I've medicated with sweets and baked goods for almost sixty years. But saying it to myself and others and really accepting that this addiction is just as lethal as alcohol is a different experience.

If you've read this blog long enough, you know I've been off sugar before, once for three years. I've also been off sugar and wheat before, once for 9 months. But neither time did I see it as a permanent decision, a vital decision, a life-or-death decision. Never was I willing to equate it with the seriousness of alcohol.

In the last several weeks, I've heard three women on separate occasions say they were sugar addicts as they took another bite of a scone or piece of chocolate bar. Maybe it's become cute to say that. But I don't think they really mean it. I didn't really mean it. And now I do. I don't want to. I don't want to be a sugar addict with uncontrollable cravings, weight gain, health issues, but I am.

Addiction is progressive. Those two candy bars from decades ago have turned into more ice cream bars in an afternoon than I want to admit. My appetite for sugar and fat and flour are as irrational and incomprehensible as my ability to consume four bottles of wine in a typical day of the old drinking life.

I'm on Day 11 of Bright Line Eating. I don't know if I can stick with it forever, but I sure hope so. The alternative is not so good.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Chronicles of Josie, continued

Josie has been with us for almost six weeks now. She has about doubled in size (although she remains a very small cat) and she is out and about most of the time. She sleeps mostly on the bed, instead of in the dresser. She romps and wrestles with Mr. Sam and plays chase games with Frannie, the alpha.  She is pretty confident and very clear about when it's okay to pet her and when she doesn't want it. I love that she has good boundaries and I'm sure I can learn a lot from her.

Last night she was tossing toys around in the office and flipped over the soft cat bed on the floor. So she settled in to nap on the flip side of the bed. Here she is in all of her yawning regalness.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Trust and deductive reasoning

One of the webinars recently in the money program I'm involved in was on trust: deciding to generate trust with others rather than waiting for evidence that people are trustworthy. Our assignment was to observe our relationship with trust.

Not long after the webinar, I had an altercation with a client/friend over money and I watched myself not generate trust with her but rather take offense at how she handled the problem and want her to prove to me that I could trust her again. It wasn't until the whole event was over that I realized how not generating trust, not radiating trust to her, made the whole thing so much more difficult for both of us.

And in my thinking about all this, I saw how generating trust is like deductive reasoning: you start out with a premise (people are trustworthy) and seek examples of how that is true: we generate that truth. I, on the other hand, treat it like inductive reasoning: look for evidence before I can accept the premise. On me, inductive has a hard edge: a "show me" feel. Deductive seems an easier, softer way to go.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Poem #294

Trust is stripping down
to underwear
and letting a friend
record your vital stats
and take pictures
of you back, front, and side
Never mind that you'll change
never mind that you'll be
less and less
in the weeks ahead
It's now that the phone sees
that your friend sees
the solace lying
in her willingness to strip down too
and let you see what
she's been carrying around.

Jill Kelly October 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Once more with commitment

Last week, I signed up for Susan Peirce Thompson's Bright Line Eating boot camp. I need some serious support to get off sugar again. I need structure, I need commitment, I need help.

I debated doing it--yet another program, yet another food plan. What would make this different? Perhaps the fact that Thompson's success started in a 12-step program and she talks that language and has that orientation. It's a language and orientation that are familiar to me. That have been successful for me with alcohol for a very long time. Maybe it's her compelling arguments about the addictive nature of sugar and flour for some of us. Mostly it's such clear knowing that my way is not working, not even a little.

The boot camp is 8 weeks and multiple options to stay connected to the program after that. I'm hoping for a different relationship with food and with myself. Here goes!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Re-living trepidation

On Wednesday, I made a decision to sign up for a radical food plan. I'd done a lot of research on it and what was on offer made sense. My hesitations, I realized, were not about the cost of the program or its rigorous nature but whether I could be willing to change, really change, and stay with it.

In many ways, this parallels, or echoes, my experience in Sept 1989 when I made the decision to go into an alcohol treatment program for 28 days. I had come to the end of my ability to cope with that aspect of my life and I wanted freedom. At the same time, I was terrified of the changes that would be required to attain that freedom. I was stepping off into the unknown.

Now as I prepare to take the same kind of action (giving up sugar and flour and eating on a schedule with a defined plan), I feel the same trepidation. I'm consoled by the all the good things that have come to me in the past 26 years and by the promise of freedom. But I'm still nervous. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A knowing that shifts so much

Last week my spiritual director told me about some studies she'd read on will power, discipline, self-restraint. That our daily supply is limited. So if we have things we have to do that we don't want to--and they require will power to do them, then we use it up. No problem, right?

Well, let's say you're staying off sugar and you have to go to the dentist, which you hate. It takes all your will power to sit in the dental chair for an hour. When you come home, it's no big surprise that you eat two big cookies. Or let's say you go to dinner with your in-laws, whom you don't care all that much for. You sit there all through dinner not saying much so you can keep your temper but you eat two big pieces of dessert.

This makes so much sense to me. It explains why newcomers to AA who smoke are encouraged to continue to smoke for the first year or two. It takes too much will power to give up both addictions at once. It explains why when I have a tedious project for work and I make myself sit there and get it done, I find it hard to keep my resolve not to eat sugar.

My challenge is to make sure I don't have too many things each day that require self-restraint.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Thoughts for the Future, Part III

 One last thought on reducing our consumption of resources. One of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases are the beef, pork, and dairy industries. A few cows in a pasture are not the problem. Factory farms are. They pollute, they use huge amounts of resources, and the animals live cramped, tortured lives in terrible conditions. Our obsession with cheap hamburgers and cheap ham and cheap milk are killing the planet and causing terrible suffering. Many ways we eat and shop can help. 
  • Eat a lot less meat. 
  • Buy local meat that is humanely raised. Know your supplier. 
  • Buy organic and locally grown foods.
  • Avoid processed foods that require a lot of resources to manufacture. 
  • Grow some of your own food.
  • Eat low on the food chain — at least one meat-free meal a day — since 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. 
Food writer Michael Pollan sums it up well: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Maybe we can eat for the future, not just for the moment. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Is overeating immoral?

Poem 275

A lightening bolt
of realization
crept on me
one day last week
And I saw the wider impact
of my current untamed demon
The resources used up
to feed my endless hunger
in a way
that will never work
This is my version
of the cruise ship
the flight to Thailand
the gas-guzzling SUV
My contribution no different
and I felt something
shift in me
A vow, a commitment
to consciousness
in a new way
And I left the ice cream
and the cookies
for another
and came on home.

Jill Kelly
September 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thoughts for the Future, Part II

Did you know that buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. We can slow that by keeping stuff out of landfills by composting kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycling paper, plastic, metal and glass. We can let store managers and manufacturers know we want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.

Most of the changes we can make are going to be hard. We are used to such convenience, such luxury. It's hard to make simpler choices. And we won't know if our sacrifices will come to anything. Does it really matter if I take long showers? Idle my car for 10 minutes waiting for a train to go by? Run my air conditoner all the time in the summer at whatever temperature I want? Buy fruit from Chile all winter?

But what if there's a chance that 10 or 15 years of those decisions can make a difference for some child or animal yet to be born to have enough food or clean water or breathable air? Is that worth it?

What I'm arguing for is consciousness, real consciousness in all these choices. For myself and for others.
 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Poem #280

My sweet black girl
stands in the doorway
wanting, dreading, turning away
She eats from the
just-in-case bowl
on the terrace
then joins me on the swing
presses up against me
rumbles at my caresses
We're still friends
still close
but the silver kitten inside
is more than she can handle

Jill Kelly
September 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The coming of Josie, Part I



I admit it. I'm a cat lady. I don't know yet about the "crazy" part of that label. I may not be the best judge of that. But I do love cats and wish I could rescue them all. A few weeks ago, I accompanied my friend Pam to the humane society where she got two charmers: Bubba and Jolene. Of course, that set off my own yearning but I knew the timing wasn't quite right although I was thinking about it.

Two weeks ago, I went back to visit a tuxedo girl who'd already been there for a month. I knew what I was doing. I wanted my beloved Nellie girl back and hoped that this girl might be enough the same to fill the bill. She didn't. She had come from an investigation of abuse and needed a home with adult humans and no other pets. But then I met Josie, a tiny silver tabby, and I lost my heart to this little girl.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Thoughts for the Future, Part I

I've been thinking a lot about the future. Not mine, but the planet's, and by extension, humanity's. Things aren't looking so good for us. A lot of terribleness is already in motion: the melting ice caps, the droughts, the storms, the fires. Mother Earth may be doing a deep cleansing that we cannot fathom. But I am most intrigued about the ways that we can make a difference, that we can actually do something about this. We may not be able to stop it but we can slow it if we are willing. The question is are we willing?

One of the biggest contributions we make individually to the crisis is air travel and cruise ships. These two choices use huge amounts of resources and pollute heavily. Although I'm not retired, many of my age mates are and they are travelling a lot all over the world. Flight after flight after flight. Cruise after cruise. Because they can afford it. Sadly, the planet cannot afford it. And in essence, what they are doing when they fly or cruise is using up resources that could be saved for future generations, including resources that might make the lives of their own grandchildren and greatgrandchildren more comfortable. I know they don't think about it that way. But it is true. I gave up my own plans for big travel years ago when I became conscious of the carbon footprint issue. I still fly once in a while but not far and not often.

Can we sacrifice our desires to see the world in order to save the world, at least for a bit longer? I don't know. But it's worth talking about.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

These words from Leo really hit home with me

Posted: 07 Sep 2015 11:59 AM PDT
By Leo Babauta
We all want to do so much: take on every request that people email us, complete our neverending list of tasks and projects, help everyone, travel everywhere, learn a ton of new skills, read every book and watch every good film, be the perfect partner and parent and friend …
And yet, we can’t possibly do it all.
There isn’t enough time in the day, nor do we have the attention bandwidth to devote to everything. Even if we were perfectly disciplined, we couldn’t possibly get to even half of what we want to do. Just as with eating, where our eyes are bigger than our stomachs … our hopes are bigger than our actual bandwidths.
So I say, give up on trying to do it all. Simplify. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t try to have the most perfect life you can create.
Instead, make your days count.
How do you do that? Here are some ideas:
  • Pay attention. When you eat a good meal, it’s wasted if you don’t actually pay attention to it and are reading on your phone instead. It’s an amazing meal only if you really savor it. In this way, if we savor each moment, they really matter.
  • Curate your days. Put only the best things in each day — don’t just let any junk into it. If you are going to read, be choosy, don’t just click on things because you run across them. When you’re going to choose your tasks, choose the important ones, not just the little busywork tasks. If you’re going to say yes to someone, make sure it’s worthy of being in your life. Would you pay $100 to say yes to this request? Would you pay $20 to read the things on your reading list for an hour? If not, it’s probably not worth it.
  • Be ruthless. You need to filter out the things trying to overwhelm your life. More things try to get into your attention bandwidth than you can possibly handle. So filter them out: say no to most requests, don’t make it your job to respond to everything, don’t just read everything possible, don’t have the firehose of social media always on, turn off your phone for awhile. Each day, take a step back and think about what you want to fit in it.
  • Be satisfied. We always want to do more, be more, experience more. And so, we’re never satisfied with the little we actually can do and experience. Instead, we can learn to be happy with what we’ve chosen to do, knowing that we let go of the rest for a reason. We can be grateful for what’s actually in front of us, for the experience we are given, rather than always wanting the greener grass that someone else is experiencing.
  • Be OK with imperfection. Even if you filter and curate, you’ll never create the “perfect” day or the “perfect” life. You’ll never be “perfect.” Those ideals don’t exist in reality. In this messy life, the reality is that what we experience will never fit with an ideal, and will always be imperfect. We can either accept that, or be dissatisfied. I suggest we accept imperfection, and be OK with what we are, and the messiness that finds its way into our lives.
  • Realize that we’re not really in control. The first few items on this list might give you the idea that you can control your life by simplifying … but the reality is that your day will never go as planned. You can try, but there will always be the unexpected, the unplanned. That’s just how things go. If we want to be in control, and things don’t go our way, it’s frustrating. If instead we realize we’re not really in control, but just experiencing what comes at us, we can learn to appreciate that experience as it comes, whatever it is.
I realize that some of the things on this list seem contradictory. And they are. That’s because these ideas are meant to remind us to be mindful of what we’re holding on to, and practice letting go.
Each idea can be practiced at different times, and we’ll see that we’ve been holding onto something: our distractions, our ideas of perfection, our desire to be more, our desire to say yes to everyone, our hope that we’ll get to the end of our task list or email inbox, our desire for control or simplicity or doing everything. None of these things is essential to life — they can all be let go of, and we can accept the reality that is exposed when we let go.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I learned at Camp Innerkid

I went back to work on Sept 1 after three weeks off work, something I hadn't done in more than 25 years. I didn't travel or have great adventures. I stayed home and was with myself. Oh, I had lunch with friends and went to the gym and my 12-Step meetings and did all my normal routines, but I spent a lot of quiet time with myself. Here's some of what I learned.

1. I can do nothing, literally nothing, for longer periods of time than I ever imagined without going crazy.
2. I do not have to work in order to feel good about myself.
3. Idle afternoons were greatly enhanced by a lot of ice cream, something I suspected and now know to be true. The ice cream was usually followed by a nap (aka sugar coma). Therefore, work and overeating are not necessarily linked. Afternoons and overeating seem to be the combination.
4. I revived my old interest in going to the movies in the afternoon (I saw Trainwreck, Inside Out, Love and Mercy, and Amy). I went with friends and by myself.
5. I read a lot, five or six books, and with great pleasure.
6. I wrote on my novel quite a lot.
7. I loved coloring but the joy in it wore off after a couple of weeks.
8. August didn't turn out to be a great month to do it because our weather was so hot that being outside was not a pleasure except in the very early mornings and my art studio was an oven.

I will do this again. Probably next year. But not in August.

Monday, August 31, 2015

My $215 scatalogical failure

For most of the summer, I've had a cat poop problem. As most of you know, I have three cats. I have a big cat box in my bathroom, which is cleaned daily. My cats are inside/outside cats, about 50/50. Only Frannie is willing to use the litterbox exclusively though Evie will do so if she finds herself in the house too long. Sammy won't. He just won't.

My second landlord has discontinued the first landlord's practice of mulching the shrub beds and my cats, my neighbor's cats, other neighborhood cats, and the occasional passing dog with an inconsiderate owner have taken to using the beds. In the heat of this summer, it stinks. And it particularly stinks under the windows of the petless couple in the front apartment so I've been diligent about cleaning up after Sammy but I am tired of cleaning up for the neighborhood.

Several online locations recommended bark mulch as a solution, saying the cats wouldn't put their paws on it because of splinters. I asked my landlord about it and he said go ahead. He didn't offer to pay however. So I bought 13 bags of mulch and hired a friend to clean the beds out and spread the mulch. They look so much better.

And the cats are still pooping in the beds. If you have ideas, I'm all ears!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A great quote

William Hutchinson Murray (1913-1996), from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

An ugly brush with sadism

I do my best to keep most of these posts pretty positive but I feel a need today to express both my outrage and deep grief. Yesterday on Facebook, a friend posted a desperately distressing video called 30 Seconds in the Life of Sara. Sara is/was a cow in a factory farm. This is not a video about the horrible conditons these animals live in. It is a video about sadistic cruelty and brutality to these animals. I only watched about six seconds and I turned it off because I couldn't bear it. A white man (shown only from the shoulders down) punches the calf in the head several times, stuffs a rope down her throat, and then strangles her with it. I stopped watching at this point because I was sobbing and close to throwing up.

Cruelty to animals is incomprehensible to me. Dog fights, cock fights, torturing cats and dogs, beating and starving horses. How is it that we have raised this man in the video to be someone who does that? Who is so powerless, so full of hate and rage, that he will torture a defenseless creature and still have his job and perhaps have his behavior condoned and even applauded by his fellow workers.

I wept off and on all day yesterday and today. And for the first time in decades, I thought yesterday about suicide, questioning whether I could continue to live in a world that lets this brutality, this sadism happen. This and all the  terrible things that humans, mostly men, do to women, children, babies, and other men. It was a fleeting thought, but sometimes it is just too much to bear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Disney/Pixar's Inside Out

Yesterday my good friend Sue and I took our inner kids to see Inside Out, a dazzling animation about feelings and memories. Personifications of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust run the Headquarters and help a young child maintain her core memories and deal with her feelings.

A lot of the film is hilarious and clever and the visualizations of these attributes are wonderful, both because they are spot on and because they give us something to see when we experience those feelings. I would love to have seen this as a child and, that notwithstanding, I learned a lot that is helpful for me.

Anger always gets his way, Disgust is haughty and exremely well dressed, and Fear is the laughable coward, but Sadness is the ugly duckling, the most unwanted character, who in the end saves the family. A really important message for me and maybe others.

If you have some issues with your feelings, you might enjoy it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Unwelcome fellow campers at Camp Innerkid

Some unpleasant changes here at camp. On Sunday, the camp director closed the little store. She'd seen that I'd been way overcharging my account on candy and ice cream bars. Then on Monday, a new load of campers showed up.

First, off the bus was Bonnie Boredom. She weighs about 500 pounds and came lumbering into the cabin, throwing that weight around. She sat on me most of the afternoon and everything that had been so much fun the week before, she sneered at. Coloring? for fools! Reading? Who cares! Writing a poem!? For sissies! The only thing she was interested in was napping. Oh, and did I mention she complained and complained about the heat.

My other new bunkmate for a couple of days was Rhonda Restless. She took the top bunk and kept jiggling her legs and flopping around on the mattress so that Bonnie and I could hardly nap. As soon as lights went out the first night, she dragged out a suitcase that had her private stash of desserts. I've done my best not to break into that stash.

Yesterday afternoon, Bonnie and Rhonda took a hike (after I told them to) and I was able to settle down again. I've asked the director to ban them from camp. Hope she listens.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rolling with change

I've received two pieces of information this past week that have rattled my stability cage a bit. Both of them have helped me remember to consider change as a good thing instead of something to rale against.

I got a letter from the manager of our studio co-operative saying that as he had suspected, our building is going up for sale (the original owner died some years ago and left it to his sister. She died at age 96 last March). The historic building (it was a commercial laundry for about 65 years) has been an artists' coop since 1977 but in today's hot real estate market, it will go to a commercial developer for condos or apartments most likely. I've loved having my studio there. It's 9 blocks from my apartment and affordable. We have another 7 months but the loss of it is coming.

I also got an email saying that my steadiest client has hired an in-house editing manager. She will be organizing things, which we freelancers have needed, but she will also be doing reports and finding ways to cut back on the time we spend on the reports. The rub is that we're paid by the hour so that will diminish our income as well as make fewer reports available to us contractors.

In each of these cases, I thought about getting upset and then just let it go. I want to be somebody who embraces change, even the ones I don't want, rather than fighting them or complaining about them. I read a lovely thought today: Shift from thinking that things happen to you to thinking that things happen for you.

I'm curious to see what gifts these two big changes are going to bring.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A poem that moved me at the Hood River Plein Air Writers Gathering



What Remains
By Sarah Sullivan, inspired by Mt. Hood Winery


A cooper made the oak wine barrels. The wood came from Washington. The grapes came from the west field near the stream. The water came from Mt. Hood down the river into the irrigation ditch. This year the water is rationed and the grapes will be smaller.

In the soil are stones from as far as Idaho that came in the floods 12,000 years ago. Imagine a torrent of water 10 times the combined flow of all of the rivers in the entire world. Incomprehensible, like the tree becoming a vessel and the glacier making its way into wine.

We worry about the water and the mountain. We know the glaciers are receding and the summers are going to be more like this one. Unbearably hot. Fires everywhere.

Still, in the fall the geese will fly in long, loud V’s over the vineyard. The deer will gather under the apple trees, and a few of the salmon will make their way back upstream through the warming water.

Try to remember the exact place where we came into being.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Adventures at Camp Innerkid Day 2

Hello Mudda
Hello Fadda

Here I am at
Camp Innerkida

I arrived at camp (aka home) after spending the night up the Gorge at my sister's. We'd been to a gathering of Plein Air Writers at the Columbia Center for the Arts, where we writers read our poems. It was a very nice evening but I was exhausted from four solid work days and presenting at the Willamette Writers conference. (Note to Camp Director 2016: Don't put anything on the calendar when you're taking a month off).

I stopped for groceries and then spent the rest of the day moving as slowly and thoughtfully as I could. I started reading a new novel, I colored for a while, I watched a lecture on High Renaissance Mass music in the Great Courses series I'm doing on understanding classical music. I took a nap. I watched a lecture on madrigals. I read, I wrote in my journal. In some ways it was like camp. Relaxed, easy-going. But I missed there being other campers. Other folks doing the same kind of something or nothing. It's a good knowing.

Today I'm doing more of the same although I did get gas, got my car washed, and went to Trade3r Joe's. The morning's adventures. My friend Barbara Joy said I might feel wonky and out of sorts at first. There's a little of that for sure and quite a bit of "at loose ends." That will pass, I'm sure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

a way into productivity

I always love the kindess and gentleness of Leo's posts. This is not exception.



Posted: 07 Aug 2015 11:25 AM PDT
By Leo Babauta
While I’m not a fan of trying to be disciplined every moment of the day, there’s no doubt most of us could use a little more discipline in our lives.
We procrastinate, we waste time with online distractions, we go an entire day without getting done what we really wanted to get done.
How do we overcome this?
With training. Practice small, effective habits, and practice some more. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at skills if you don’t repeatedly, deliberately practice.
If you want to get good at these skills, don’t worry about not being motivated. Just enjoy the joy of practicing something that you can get good at. It’s amazing when you’re learning something new, and that wonderful feeling is what can motivate you.
What should you practice? Three simple skills that can be turned into habits with repeated practice.

The 3 Small Discipline Habits

The habits that work for me are all about talking to myself:
  1. Tell yourself, “This is what I’m going to do next.”. Instead of having a long to-do list of things you want to do today, have just one thing you want to do right now. Instead of saying you’re going to do this important task sometime, say you’re going to do it right now. Instead of allowing yourself to randomly open websites that give you distraction, deliberately figure out what you want to work on next. Pick one thing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but try for things that are important in your life.
  2. Ask yourself, “What is the smallest step I can do?”. Most of us look at something on our (mental or digital or paper) list and subconsciously think, “That’s too hard.” So we put it off. But that’s because we’re thinking about an entire project, which has many tasks. You can’t do a project right now, you can only do a task. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write that paper that’s due,” you should say, “I’m going to write 3 things in the outline of the paper.” If the smallest task stills seems too hard, say you’re just going to do 5 minutes of that small task right now. Or just two minutes. Make it ridiculously easy.
  3. Ask yourself, “What is stopping me from focusing on that small step?. Even if you figured out a task to focus on, and you’ve broken it into the smallest step, there will still be distractions or resistance. If you’re not immediately doing the smallest step of the next task, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you? Can you resolve this issue, close all browser tabs, shut off your phone, ask co-workers or roommates or family members to give you 30 minutes of focused time? Can you ask for help, get some accountability? The easiest solution is usually to close all distractions. Then get moving on the smallest step.
Once you’ve done that, repeat this process two more times, taking a few minutes’ break between each round. Then take 20 minutes off as a reward. That’s your training session. If you can do several training sessions a day, you’ll get good at this in no time.