I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Someone needs to write this cookbook

A short, concise plea to the Cookbook-Writing Powers That Be: Please, for the love of God, someone needs to write a book/cookbook entitled "What Do I Feed My Vegetarian Daughter?" or "Help! My Kid Is a Vegetarian! What Do I Cook?" or "HOLY GOD, There's A Vegetarian Visiting My Home". After much research in this area, I have to tell you that this is a) a market that is dying for something to fill it and b) a market that has yet to be filled by anyone who has any sympathy for the simple parents who are so baffled by this conundrum.

My poor mom, after years of cheerfully going her Midwestern way and cooking what she knew how to cook, is baffled about what to feed my sister the vegetarian. She has not yet been told about me and my no-food-with-legs diet, because I'm afraid that it might put her completely over the edge and into despair over what she can possibly cook for holidays anymore. I mean, it was a big step up this year when she had the great idea to stock Gardenburger products, so my sister wasn't faint with hunger over the entire holiday.

I had the great idea of buying her a vegetarian cookbook for her birthday, something with some simple recipes, using ingredients that did not have to be purchased at a specialty store, that she could make when she had the Visiting Vegetarians to deal with. So confident was I that there must be a product to fill this niche that I Googled the phrase "vegetarian daughter cookbook" and was baffled when nothing came up besides posts on vegetarian message boards discussing how to raise small children on a vegetarian diet-- posts in which the parents were also vegetarians. I eventually spent hours on end combing through cookbooks at Amazon and settled on a Betty Crocker vegetarian cookbook, trusting that ol' Betty would be kind enough not to send my mother screaming into the night by making her buy tempeh or seitan. (Thus far, it seems to be a success.)

The thing is, this is far from an uncommon situation. Everyone I know who's a vegetarian is a) octo-lacto (and occasionally sea-food-o and, in moments of dark temptation, bacon-o), b) from a traditionally omnivorous family, and c) resigned to spending every Thanksgiving and Christmas eating cheese sandwiches and selective side dishes. (This does not count online buddies, for the moment.) Many are the tales I have heard of mothers who just throw up their hands in despair and say, "Well, I guess you can eat the side dishes; I'm not cooking two dinners." A few Christmases back, my Hub felt so sorry for my sister that he took over my mother's kitchen and threw together a special vegetarian soup just for her, out of ingredients found in my mother's cupboard-- a move which cemented him as an okay guy in my sister's books.

I have no statistics on this, but I know that this is far from uncommon. My guess would be that most vegetarians have omnivorous parents, and that the parents are baffled. Why has nobody written a book on the subject?

And no, I can't write one myself. I'm still trying to figure out what to eat, for pity's sake. Half the reason I was hoping to find a good cookbook that would suit my mother was that I was hoping to be able to get a second copy for myself. Why, why, WHY is this so hard?

I think I may need to create some kind of challenge: the "tasty vegetarian food in 10 ingredients or less" challenge that has a basic "pantry" list, outside of which you could not venture. Hrm. What do you guys think?

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In which I realize that I went two weeks without posting

Um. Oops.

I will compensate by discussing what I've been up to of late, in the no-cable era of my life: Writing. A lot. Well, a lot by my standards, because I've been talking about and babblesheeting a book idea since 2002 and have not actually got the damn thing written, so anything is an improvement. I took inspiration from two sources: the lovely Dietgirl, who buckled down this year on writing her own book, and another friend of mine who actually finished her own first book last year. DG made the connection between "lard-busting" and writing by recognizing the similarity between the despair-filled feeling she had pre-busting and her current feeling about writing.

Once I'd calmed the hell down, I realised with a clunk that I've been here before! I felt exactly as I had at the start of my lard-busting journey. Hopeless, powerless, desperate, cranky, trapped. Just like we all bloody know dieting is simply calories in calories out, I know writing is a matter of picking up a pen - yet I've been feeling paralysed. People gave me sound advice, told me what's worked for them - yet to me it sounded complicated and impossible. I was looking at university courses, retreats, self-help books... the equivalent of a last ditch crash diet or miracle pill. I was looking everywhere else for the answers except within...

Just like with the fat, there will be no writing epiphany. There is no Great Moment - just a moment when you start doing something about it. And if you can string together lots of little moments, that's when you start to get somewhere.

It's moments like that where I start to wonder if either a) DG has pried open my head and is tossing the contents onto the screen for all to look at, or b) we all share some kind of wacky ultrabrain and each of us only gets to express X amount of our shared feelings/thoughts in a coherent way, and DG got that bit. Either way, it made me go EGAD.

The other genius in my life is my friend T., who gave me the following advice: a daily word quota. And to start small. Since my main problem has always been stressing over the quality of the thing, I've never gotten anywhere; focusing on the number of words, though, is somehow making it possible for me to be okay with the sub-par shite flowing from my fingertips as I re-learn everything I used to know. This week (counting part of this weekend) I've been following a 500-words-per-day quota, and after a false start I've actually been keeping to it. Forward motion is occurring. I may eventually raise the bar, but right now I'm not pushing: at 500 words a day, I'll still eventually have a book written, and I don't want to risk pushing myself too hard and freaking out again.

I do have a tendency to freak out. This goes badly along with my problem with beginnings-- not limited to writing, certainly-- in which I forget that I'll have time to get better at this, and have time to edit and re-do. My friends have all been coaxing me for years to just write and not worry about what comes out, but I always freaked out because I didn't know what I was supposed to be writing about, specifically, and so I'd end up with the first part of a first chapter that led absolutely nowhere near where the book was supposed to start.

Which is where DG's brilliant post came in. She broke down her method for success thusly:

  • I had a plan.

  • I was committed to changing my current habits.

  • I made myself accountable.

  • I made the task my number one priority.

  • I broke a large and overwhelming task into wee chunks. Baby steps!

  • I figured out what worked best for me.

  • I had a clear belief that I could do it.

  • I made a firm commitment to see it through, no matter how long it took.

AHA. What I needed was to apply the same tactics that I'd used with success in other areas: planning things out, breaking each part of the plan down into another thoroughly-planned baby step, and to relax and trust in the power of my own learning curve. I do get better at things, and I have seen this in action, and wallowing about in my current amateur state was not going to improve matters. There are two parts to every successful venture in my life: first looking ahead and scouting out any obvious pitfalls and scouting around them and planning, so as to minimize the fuckups, and then going forth and doing and fucking up anyway, but mostly in ways I had not forseen, and learning from that and continuing on. The key (which I am still so, so bad at) is to get from the first stage to the second. There's this panicky little voice in my head that assures me that if I plan enough, then I can avoid all possible fuckups, and I end up frozen at the point of entry, unable to proceed forward, because the sad fact is that there is no way to avoid fucking up at some point.

The thing I have to remember is this: If I do not fuck up, I do not learn. By definition, if I'm able to figure out all the possible problems in advance, then I'm still at the same level at the end of the process as I was at the beginning. I cannot get growth by sitting and thinking ahead; I only get growth by doing, and risking the fuck-ups.

The other part of that is that hey, fucking up isn't really that bad. If you're exploring brand-new territory, even if others have been there before and it's just that you haven't, then the only way you'll get the hang of the territory is by walking down all those dead ends and heading north when you meant to go south and getting stuck in the wrong lane and missing the turn. These things happen, and no amount of planning is going to make it possible to avoid them, and no amount of cursing yourself will make it possible to avoid mistakes in the future.

I got myself boxed in, at some point in my development, and started being so scared of making mistakes that I ended up not trying a lot of things out of a fear that I wouldn't be good at them. I wanted to be that brilliant girl who did everything well the first time she tried it, and if I couldn't be that girl, I was absolutely crushed. There's a certain amount of panic inherent in perfectionism, this fear of getting caught doing something wrong, so absolutely everything must be done correctly. And, really, if I look back at my life, that has never got me results. Short-term, sure, but I get fewer of those results because it takes so much oomph and drive and focus to achieve them, and in-between I just collapse and can't even get close to wanting to go through that shit again. All the things that I've achieved long-term, though, have been things that I give myself a certain amount of leeway on.

Enough. The only way to learn how to write a book is going to be to write a book, and so I gotta write. I'm doing the same thing as I did last time (oy, that was a long time ago): I have a general outline with a sort of fuzzy end, and in order to get myself started I worked out how the first chapter should go, and then got even more detailed about the first little section. Sometimes I won't need that much ahead-of-time frazzling, but at the beginning, I do-- and the funniest thing of all is that, if history is any indication, I'll end up completely re-writing the beginning anyway so it doesn't matter. And nonetheless I can't get started unless I go through that process. Go figure.

On a somewhat different note, I've thought back and figured out that the times in my life when I got the most writing accomplished were the times when I had no access-- or very limited access-- to cable TV. I'd like to think that I can get writing done with the TV on, or that I have the self-control to turn the TV off and just go to another room and write, but apparently that doesn't happen. Apparently what I need is to have that crutch pulled out from under me, so that if I want to do something besides going to work and eating and sleeping, I'll have to actually do stuff rather than sitting and letting the entertainment come to me. And with the doing stuff part of my normal life, writing on a regular basis isn't such a big step.

Anyway. Enough babbling. I'll check in more often, I promise!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Push it to the limit

My Hub, who is not a singer, has taken to doing dancy performances of some song involving the words "push it to the limit" (I might recognize it, were I in any way confident that the tune he's using has a relationship to the tune of the actual song) when I'm on the exercise bike. He's such an adorable dork.

He is, by the way, losing weight. Five pounds, last time he checked. To his great surprise, in spite of changing his diet not at all, exercise is enough for him at this point. (Which is what I've been telling him for years, but whatever.) His gut is shrinking, he informs me, and he has to wear a belt to keep his pants up. I'm so proud.

He decided to figure out how to use some Textured Vegetable Protein chunks, and did experiments. He did something with taco seasoning, and browned it (it browns!... well, I guess it would, it's protein after all) and came up with some awesome taco "meat". Genius. However, then I got horrible gas pain that made me want to die, so in the future TVP experiments will also involve Beano.

With TVP and tofu running cheaper than meat, and now that he's decided that he doesn't hate either one, he's declaring the genius of my "save money, eat vegetarian" plan. Yay!

He misses meat, it seems; he is too cheap to buy himself red meat, so his total meat consumption this month has been pepperoni, chicken tenders from Trader Joe's-- frozen individually in one of those big plastic bags-- fish fillets from Trader Joe's-- also frozen individually in one of those big plastic bags. The thing about the fish fillets and the chicken tenders is that he doesn't have to bother thawing them; they're thin enough to toss directly into the pan. No red meat in the house, however, and this weekend he started to noisily miss it.

So we go out for dinner, and I was expecting him to get beef, beef, and more beef, and be noisily happy that he didn't have to eat anything vegetarian. He did indeed order a hamburger, but before that point he was drooling over a few of the vegetarian sandwiches on the menu. I love this man. Unrepentant carnivore, but he also doesn't really care what something is made of, as long as it's tasty, so any tasty vegetarian fare goes into his mental "things that are great to eat" file, mixed right in with everything else, not in a sub-category. And now he's figuring out how to cook TVP. I am keeping him, big time.

My pants fit a bit better. Nothing huge, but the scary muffin top/camel toe thing has receded, and I am able to fit (not well) into my skinny pants, albeit with the scary muffin top/camel toe thing. Hey, it's progress. Slow progress, but I'll take what I can get.

My knee decided that it hated me, though, and I had to press my Hub into service to haul the laundry up from the laundry room (three floors, poor boy) because going up and down the stairs just murdered me. I iced it, and stretched it, and it got better. Still kind of scary.

Sadly, now that we're feeling like we ought to go jogging again, it has abruptly become FREAKING HOT out. Boooo. I'm scanning ahead for a break in the weather so we can test this out again, dammit.

And that's all I got right now.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Mr. Yay vs. Mr. Yuk

(Am I the only one whose mother put Mr. Yuk stickers all over everything when I was a kid? No idea. Follow the link if you are one of those who has no idea what I'm talking about. Anyway...)

I figured something out last night: I approach new things differently depending on how much I like them.

Yeah, I know, duh, but I hadn't worked that one through all the way before. If I'm iffy on how much I like something, or even don't like it at all, then I go very, very slowly, testing my way and only grudgingly admitting that I may at some point move on to the next level. If I like something a lot, I am impatient, and look at everything as a small step on the way to something larger, and I'm pretty much bouncing all over the place because I want more, more, more.

Thing is, I have often treated weight loss and healthy living as if they were option B, when I just want MORE MORE MORE, and the sad fact of the matter is that I have been treating it that way based on my opinion of the end result, not on my opinion of the process. I am very much in favor of being in shape and fitting into my skinny clothes: that idea gets a big thumbs-up from me. The actual doing, though, I'm less enthusiastic about. It does pain me to say that, but denial of the fact just leaves me open to getting clobbered whenever I need comfort and I just do not want to do something that I don't like that much.

I can do stuff that I'm iffy on, or really not thrilled about, and learn to love them. I have done it with many foods; I've done it with many hobbies. I just take a different approach, a slower approach, and treat it as though each baby-step might be the last. It's like my head is threatening this new thing, telling it to behave or so help me I am going no further, no thank you.

Once upon a time I was puzzling over how to treat these baby steps each as an end to themselves, instead of mentally jumping ahead to the end. I think that admitting that I've had a sort of split opinion about weight loss-- liking the results very very much but sort of "ehh" on the process-- might be the key to that. It's a thought.

On that note, there are more baby steps afoot. I've given up soda (yup, even diet), alcohol, and chips for the month. Soda because it's more costly than water, not as good for me, and because it sort of acts as an enabler for mindless eating; alcohol because it's much more costly than water, definitely not good for me, and not only acts as an enabler for mindless eating but, if I get drunk and there's pizza around, God help us all because I will eat half the pizza and then be bloated and ill and drunk. Chips because they cost money and are the subject of much mindless eating. Really, if I want the crunchy, I'll make popcorn.

I'm also off coffee, but that's because I am trying to catch up on my sleep deficit and I'm avoiding the caffeine. I slept for ten hours straight on both Thursday night and Friday night, and I'm making it a priority to schedule nine hours of in-bed time every night this week. I am tired of being tired, you know?

My Hub continues in his deep love for the exercise bike. He went for a solid hour on it the other day, while playing a video game. An hour. He was huffing and puffing and sweating like mad, but he noticed that he was doing better than he had been. Remember that we've only had this thing for a week as of today, so he's had only seven sessions on it. A noticable difference in cardio in seven days. Not bad!

I'm still chugging along, and my legs are getting stronger; I've got enough oomph going now to start challenging myself. Hooray!

I'm tentatively scheduling the return of Hub-and-me jogging for Memorial Day. Everything I've read indicates that while jogging is better for weight loss, biking is better for improving cardio, and so we're currently figuring that if we can improve our cardio this month, then by June we ought to be able to try jogging again without dying. (Hopefully it will have stopped raining all the damn time by that point, too.)

My Hub has made it his mission in life to use everything in the produce box every week. I'd suggested that maybe we ought to give up the produce box for a while, and he flatly rejected that because he really, really likes the organic produce, he likes the variety, and he likes that little store. I never saw this one coming, but it's just another one of the wonderful things about my Hub putting his whole health thing together.

That's the other thing, and I need to remember it: my Hub is going at this slowly, and suspiciously, and once he has something tackled he keeps at it. Since I'm back at square one, I ought to do the same thing-- and hopefully we can keep moving on slowly together, evolving a healthy lifestyle between the two of us. Pretty cool.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Eeeeeasing back in

I'd just like to report a momentous occasion:

For the first time in months, when I got hungry at work my mental response was not "ooh, an excuse to get a candy bar" but "hrm, I should go downstairs and get a banana."

It's happening. Slowly but surely, it's all coming back. Thank GOD. Trying to get back into gear is exactly the same as getting into gear in the first place; it's just that the dumbkopf gland in the back of my head fervently believes that since I learned all this stuff already, I should be able to do it all again all at once. Nope!

I can, however, commit to wearing a pedometer every day. And then to getting to 10,000 steps every day. And then to drinking my daily dose of water. And then to eating granola and yogurt for breakfast instead of a bagel. And then to using the exercise bike every morning (and occasionally, while playing Katamari Damacy on the PS2). And then, to making better home-cooked dinners and buying proper groceries again.

It's hard. I hate to admit it, but I really got out of practice for a while there, and I haven't done anything hardcore since November. My Hub has a weakness for pizza, and when we got down to the last dregs of our pantry and freezer and were exhausted from packing, pizza seemed like a really good idea.

I did keep a few things going; we still walked across the Loop every morning and every evening, and we always took the stairs instead of the escalators, and I never went back to drinking full-sugar soda, and I haven't had any meat but seafood for months now. Small victories, but I'll take what I can get at this point.

I'm not measuring. I'm not counting. I'm not tracking. Strangely, this makes my Hub more likely to engage in making healthy food; I suspect because he's not under pressure to avoid making mistakes. It helps, too, that he's still exercising regurlarly, in order to-- as he puts it-- "be less tubby, or at least a tubby guy with great cardio."

And now, I have to go get that banana that's calling to me. Hunger is a harsh mistress.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hooray, we have an exercise bike!

Never, never, never order from Sears. I'm not saying that they're unfriendly or incompetent, but it's like doing business with a third-world country where half the time, the technology doesn't work.

That said, after many trials and tribulations, we now have the bike. The hilarious part here is that my Hub has taken to it like a duck to water, and is currently experimenting with biking while playing a game on his X-Box. So far, it appears to be working fine. He jumped on the thing right after he ate a big calzone last night, and after pushing himself through a half-hour workout he spent the rest of the night with nasty digestive issues. Lo and behold, experience has now taught him something that never sank in when I told him about it before. Poor guy.

I got some time on the bike this morning, which was just fine with me. So far, so good. I like it. It's utterly silent-- the mild whirring sound of the pedals cutting through the air is pretty much the only sound-- and it doesn't hurt my butt. I'm not sure if the hand-held heart-rate monitor works very well; I'm thinking that tomorrow I'll compare & contrast with the chest-strap heart-rate monitor.

Oh, and I hear that recumbant bikes are good for developing a firm booty. Booyah.

I just can't say enough good things about wearing a pedometer. Really, I can't. It is the perfect first step to easing back into a healthy lifestyle. Just knowing I have it on makes me more prone to walking more, and once that's in place I start feeling more prone to eating better, and things start working again.

I saw some pictures of myself from last month. Oy. I need a haircut in the worst way, and would definitely look better if I fit properly in my clothes. I'm too cheap to buy new clothes, so... yup, diet and exercise.

And now, I must make dinner, since my Hub is being good and exercising.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Back in the saddle again

First of all, for all the people who raved about Fage's Total 0% yogurt: I love you. I love you dearly, deeply, and truly. I love you almost as much as I love this yogurt, which is the best. thing. ever.

No, seriously. Our Trader Joe's just started carrying it, and I am the happiest little panda bear on the planet. I made a new batch of granola last night (the first in the new apartment; hrm, I seem to need to work on figuring out the oven) and had granola and yogurt for breakfast. This seems to have set me up for a lovely day. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful stuff.

It's taken all week, but I seem to have eased myself back into a good mindset. I have my pedometer on, I've taken to making the full round of the office every time I go to the bathroom or go to fill up my water bottle-- which is often, because I'm sucking down water like mad again-- and since my pitiful low of not even 3,000 steps on Tuesday, I'm back up to over (sometimes well over) 10,000 steps.

My rib is feeling better; not perfect, but not bad. My Hub said, on Tuesday, that he was really looking forward to me healing up so we could go jogging again, and to my surprise, so was I. I like jogging with my Hub for the same reason that I like walking places with my Hub: it's more fun to enjoy the scenery when there's someone to whom I can point out things.

Sears is testing my patience, because now they're delaying our new exercise bike by another week. I would swear that this is the absolute last time that I buy a large appliance of some kind from Sears, but the wretched thing about the matter is that they have the cheapest decent-quality stuff in the area, so we're kind of screwed there.

My Hub and I have gotten ourselves addicted to watching what he refers to as "MEN FIGHTING!": mixed martial-arts competition on TV. He used to do a lot of judo, and this has him interested in it again. For the first time, I'm genuinely fascinated by the idea. Might go check out the classes they have up at the judo school a few blocks north; they've got a "beginning judo for women" class that I've been eyeing.

I think that the past month's work got me set up to have a less stressful lifestyle, in a weird way; the apartment is so beautiful that we find ourselves cleaning it on a very regular basis in order to "live up" to it, we're getting laundry done much more often now that we have a laundry room just downstairs, and no more cable TV (thank GOD). A large amount of auditory and visual clutter has been dropped from my life, and we're actually saving money from what we were paying for the old nasty place. And the horrible fighting that my Hub and I were doing back when I was trying to convince him to move turns out to have been worth it; he's so happy and delighted with the new place that he actually told me that I was right, and that this was a great idea, and that he's glad we moved. Woo!

It's really amazing what a change in environment can do for ya. The whole place just feels very zen. (My Hub, in fact, has a tiny zen garden with little rocks and white sand, that he puts patterns into with a tiny rake.) I just feel good.

That said, there's no more putting off getting my ass back into its proper shape so that I can wear my summer clothes, because I still haven't lost the 20 lbs or so that came on during the depression, and I'm officially tired of them. I am also officially tired of not being able to jog very far anymore; I dreamed last night that I was running, and it was awesome. I want to do that again.

The point being: I'm back.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In which our heroine starts over

Well, the state of the Meg is not so great at the moment, because in moving our possessions I managed to fall down the stairs and give myself three big bruises, on my thigh, my back, and my wrist. I keep forgetting about the bruises on the wrist and thigh, but by God the one on my back hurts like mad, because it's right on the rib and the rib itself seems to be a bit injured. Not broken, but definitely banged up.

So the good news is that we're moved in, all unpacked, and really happy with the new place. The bad news is that I'm too sore to do much in the way of exercise, and we're still struggling to get the kitchen re-stocked so the food situation has kind of gone up and down.

I said I'd start over once we got settled, though, and by golly I am doing so. There are a few inherent good things about the new place where exercise is concerned: it's on the third floor, which means more stairs every day, and it's further from the El, which means more walking every day. And as an added bonus, we don't have cable TV and don't plan on getting it, which means that we've dropped from watching four or five hours of TV every night to maybe one (downloaded or on DVD), and we end up getting to bed a lot earlier because there's nothing to distract us from the fact that we're feeling tired.

Oh, and there's a full-length mirror in the hallway. ACK. I have a vast ability to lie to myself, but a full-length mirror goes a long way toward dissolving the credibiilty of those lies.

I have been wearing my pedometer every day this week, although today is the first day I'm going to make it to the 10,000 mark. I am slowly turning this thing around. I have to, because I am seriously tired of my pants feeling tight.

It's been raining a lot lately, so we haven't got much morning jogging in. We have an exercise bike ordered from Sears, which is impossible for me to check on because the Sears.com website is possibly the worst website in the world; it's only up about two days every week, and not for all of either of those days. It's supposed to be available to pick up at some point this week. This may be a giant lie. This is the last time I buy something from Sears that needs to be ordered, I tell you true, because sometime since my childhood they have become sort of shoddy about this stuff. Perhaps it happened around the time that they stopped putting out the catalogue. Hrm.

I have been so tired, folks, SO TIRED. I think my body is still taking revenge on me for the spotty sleep I got before and right after the move. Or maybe it's allergies. Not sure, but man, I've been spending this whole week feeling like I was about to fall asleep at my desk.

Anyway, that's it at the moment. I'm alive, I love my apartment like mad, and the great tugboat of my health quest is turning around to go the correct direction.

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