9/17/14

Weighty Wednesday -- Insight

Ask anyone who has been on Weight Watchers and gained lifetime what the most pivotal part of the process was, and I bet a large majority will pipe up that it's the meetings.

Over a year ago, I gained lifetime status. I had gotten to my goal weight and maintained it up to a point, but then there were the inevitable fluctuations.

But then something happened last November and I simply stopped caring. Oh, I still went to the meetings and watched my weight continue to escalate. I had the tools to fix this. I had the support of my fellow WW members. I had the support of my leader.

I was missing a key support person in the support of my weight loss.

ME.

If I didn't care enough to make the change, nothing anyone else said, or cheered, or did would make a damn bit of difference. I had hit the wall of apathy, and I had no clue how to get out of it.

Until yesterday.

My friends, I will tell you that the meetings are all important, but it isn't the materials presented to us as much as it is the other people sharing their insights that make the biggest impact on us.

The one person who profoundly affected me was Nina (pronounced Nine-A). She made one comment that struck a cord and made me realize where, and WHY, I managed to go wrong. I can't quote it, since I had so many errands and didn't get a chance to write it down, but to paraphrase,

"If we don't care enough to make the effort to lose weight, then we see this attitude showing up in our other behaviors."
 
And I thought to myself, "Holy crap! That's it!"
 
I didn't stop to thank Nina after the meeting because I was afraid that I'd burst into tears, but I have to thank her next week. Her comment was exactly what I needed. She provided me with insight that I hadn't realized.
 
After I got home, I started putting a timeline together, along with looking at my weight loss graph. And though the dates are rough, the curve of my weight gain was directly related to my inability to write. Almost two years ago, I had lost the need to write. There were numerous reasons: a falling out with my cover artist, the gazillion rejections that eventually, and ultimately, say "You're a failure.", and the stagnation of the story I really wanted to write, but wasn't able to find the words.
 
Now, this didn't mean that I didn't write, I did, but I wasn't really writing the story that I NEEDED to write.
 
Fast forward a year and twenty pounds heavier, two weeks ago I started writing the story that stalled. Part of the reason was to give my friend, Meg something to read while recovering from chemotherapy. She's been a staunch supporter of mine for a long time and she loves these characters as much as I do.
 
Writing about this story and these characters has made me happy again. And when one is happy, one doesn't rely on food to satisfy some deep need.
 
Now, this doesn't mean all my dreams will come true and the weight will simply melt off. Heck no! It will still be a challenge to make those food choices, but with Nina's insight, I suspect I know how I managed to fall down that hill into self-absorbed depression.
 
And now that I'm back in the game, I think the support of my WW friends will truly help me get back on the right path and continue this weight loss journey.
 
Later, Peeps!

9/15/14

Picture of Love


Picture of Love


 

The other day my daughter and I were talking about the difference between lust and love. I have to admit that this was a tough conversation to have with my 13-year-old daughter, but I want to be as open with her about these touchy topics as I can.  I didn't go into great detail, because I didn't need to get my point across.
 
Lust is instant attraction, and it can turn into love, but more times than not, the flame of lust simply flickers out when one partner leaves the other behind to fight the heartache of loss as (s)he tries to figure out what went wrong.

I didn’t explain it to her in this way, but as I thought about this topic on my morning walk, I solidified an example that makes perfect sense to me.
 
Lust is fast-moving, quickly ignited bonfire. It encompasses both parties to in its fiery embrace. Lust without friendship, commitment, honesty and trust will soon burn low, the embers only kept alive if someone tends to it. Many times only one person is interested in keeping this fire alive, and soon even those embers turn to ash and blow away in the wind.

Lust is the “What do I get out of this relationship?

Lust is all about ego, the self-centered id.

Love might start out as lust, burning brightly with each discovery of different aspects of the other person. The fire might not burn as brightly or as quickly, but it also isn’t consumed in the fierce flames. Love’s fire can turn dim if no one is tending the relationship, if the couple allows distrust and others to invade their space. Even if the embers have died down, there is always the small hope, the faint flicker of flame as one tends the fire of the relationship, feeding it until it burns brightly again.

The fire of love must be tended to constantly. Each partner must be responsible to help keep the fire alive. But when adversity hits, the partners must support each other to get through the hard times. When tough times hit, wouldn’t you want to be walking next to your best friend?

Love is the “What can I do to make my partner happy?

The high divorce rate is a sad statement of the current society. So many people jump into marriage when they really aren’t mature enough to realize that the true meaning of marriage is making the other person happy.

This is where many people fail in marriage, love, and life. When the going gets tough, then bail. What they fail to realize is how much closer they can become if they provide a united front to the world. Bailing out of a relationship when hard times hit is the coward’s way out. If that is how you treat the people you love, I hate to think of how you would treat others.

So what does the picture of love look like?
How about this?

Photo taken, and used with permission, by Emory Bryant, News on 6

This gentleman made this sidecar for his wife, who is wheelchair bound, so they could enjoy riding together.  That, my friends, is what love looks like.

If this isn’t the picture of what love looks like to you, then how about this:



Love isn’t fleeting. It isn’t selfish. It’s all about giving of yourself, but it can’t only go one direction. True love—and yes, I keep hearing the Bishop in The Princess Bride saying, “Twue Wuv”—must be reciprocated.
I don't know about you, but the thought of aging with my sweetheart simply makes me happy.
 
Food for thought, my friends.
 
Later, Peeps!

9/12/14

Foodie Friday--Pesto Bechamel Pasta

When the weather starts cooling down, I tend to cook more in the kitchen. And most of the items I cook could be termed 'comfort food', which usually translates into creamy, carb-loaded concoctions.
The other day, I looked in the fridge and saw store-bought pesto and some leftover chicken (seasoned with fajita seasoning and grilled few days ago).

Now, pesto can be an overpowering thing since basil is the number one ingredient, along with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and some brands add parmesan cheese and/or pine nuts or almonds. The brand I picked up this time was in the refrigerated section and was far less garlic-y than the brand in the hard goods aisle. I personally don't like the pesto that's this strong, so I will find ways to dilute the intensity.

So my idea was to make a chicken, pesto, pasta thing. And then I remembered my Chicken Lasagna recipe. I had to make a few changes, because the sauce was just a hair too thin for the pound of noodles that I cooked--I added about three large spoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese, which was about 3/4 cup.

Here's the recipe:

Pesto B├ęchamel Pasta

4 Tbls. butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup basil pesto
leftover chicken--sliced
salt
pepper

Place pot of water with salt for the pasta on stove, on high, as you begin to make the b├ęchamel sauce. Cook pasta al dente according to pasta directions.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir, cooking for about 2 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer about 2-4 minutes. Add pesto, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning. Add chicken.

If the sauce is finished before pasta, place a lid on it to keep warm.

Drain pasta. Add to sauce mixture. Fold pasta into mixture. If sauce is too thin, add grated parmesan cheese until desired thickness.

Serve with side of green salad.

Tips & Tricks:
  • taste your pesto before you add it. Some brands are loaded with garlic or salt, and you don't want to over season your meal
  • the roux will seem chunky after the flour is added, just keep stirring so it doesn't burn. Turn down heat just a little to help keep it from burning
  • I use skim milk, but if you want a richer sauce use whole milk. If you don't have whole milk (I don't), add a little cream in place of some of the milk. Instead of 3 cups of milk, use 2 cups of skim milk and one cup of cream
  • season intelligently. If you don't like nutmeg, don't add nutmeg. If your pesto is salty, then don't add salt until after you mix in the pesto to see if you need to add any salt.  
  • I use a whisk instead of a spoon to stir, since whisks break up lumps.
  • I didn't have fettuccine noodles, so I used some trumpets. The shapes are fun, but they took a little longer to cook than thinner noodles.
  • The sauce was too thin for these noodles, so I added a couple large spoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese to help thicken it slightly.
And this is another recipe that my family demolished in less than 24 hours.

Enjoy!

9/10/14

Weighty Wednesday-- The Biggest Loser

I periodically tune into The Biggest Loser, but I don't routinely watch the entire season.

I'm excited for the people who have made the decision to drop weight. More power to them, but television also tends to skip over some of the very important factors that play into this show.

True, we see controversy. Heck, that's why so many of these 'reality' shows do so well when you put differing personalities into the same room and lock the door (Survivor, Big Brother). But what the audience sees on Biggest Loser are the intense workouts these contestants do.

This show is just not realistic for the average person trying to lose weight. For one, who really has eight to ten hours in their day to work out. That is how those people get those huge drops in the number on the scales. Think about it, it's a full-time job to work out on that show. The only people I know who work out that much have some sort of funding in the form of sponsorships, or are independently wealthy, or they own a gym, or happen to be a trainer to the stars . . . or manage to get a gig on The Biggest Loser.

I know the show has doctors monitoring the contestants. Some of them have to be monitored closely due to their health issues and the consequences of that much exercise on their systems--heart, lungs, and pancreas (considering most of them are teetering on the edge of diabetes).

But the part I wish they would share with the viewing audience is conveniently left off camera.

The nutritional aspect of the challenge of losing that much weight without destroying their muscles and their kidneys in the process.

The quantity of food these people are consuming changes when they start losing large amounts of weight. I want to see the nutrition classes where the chef teaches the contestant how to lean up a meal without losing the flavor. Or how much is too much. Or how many meals should these people eat. Three big meals is unrealistic, since they would be barfing up their food as soon as they started exercising.

Who cooks those meals? How do they learn to do it themselves?

It's all fine and dandy to tout "It's a life style change.", but what happens when they get back home and their a McDonalds calling their name? Or they start hitting the drive-thru at Starbucks? Or they simply don't have time to exercise due to trying to earn a living?

What really happens off camera after they go home?

What happened to the contestants from the first two or three seasons? Where are they now? Have they managed to maintain their weight loss, or did they succumb to the realities of their life.

What do you all think? Am I just spitting into the wind? Or do you think they need to start showing some of the food parts of this show?

Later, Peeps!

9/4/14

Weighty Wednesday--Fit Bit Scales

Through an odd string of incidences my BIL had a second set of Fitbit Scales, so he gave it to us since he knew we were a Fitbit family.

It is a VERY nice gift!
There are two features that make this scale better than the digital scale we had been using.

1) the round area showing the digital numbers backlights when you get on the scale. I LOVE this feature! I prefer to weigh first thing in the morning and it tends to be dark when I get up, so I would have to use a flashlight to see the number.

2) this scale knows who you are. When the scale is set up your information from your Fitbit is linked to the scale, which means every time you step on the scale and it records your information, it sends that information to your Fitbit stats page.

If you set a weight goal (I did), it will tell you how many pounds to go, and it also gives you a calculated BMI (NOT a number I was happy to look at!). All this information is at the touch of the computer when you look up your sleep patterns, number of steps, number of miles and how many of those steps were truly active.

All-in-all this scale is a very nice and handy tool to have in the bathroom. But the key to any weight-loss tool is to actually use it.

I think I will since I tend to be a very visual person. The graph is exactly what I need to keep me focused!

Later, Peeps!

8/29/14

How to Drive This Analytical Writer Crazy

I'll start by mentioning that I wasn't born with a pen in hand, writing as soon as I took a breath of air. So many authors claim to start out this way--tongue in cheek, I hope--but none the less, many writers have been writing in some form or another since they learned to write.

It seems as if they were born with a creative bent to their minds.

Creativity comes hard for me--and I'm sure many authors will react by saying that it isn't easy for them either, but they manage to overcome their obstacles.

Well, my writing passion has been hidden for years as my mind has more of an analytical edge to it versus a creative edge. I have always been fond of the sciences, which tend to be black, white, and even various shades of grey. I have a Bachelor's of SCIENCE degree in Medical Technology, in fact I was about three hours shy of getting a minor in CHEMISTRY.

See? There is nothing in that last paragraph that suggests ARTS or CREATIVITY. I love math and science. I love logical and linear thinking. I love everything that makes sense . . .

Writing and the arts is SUBJECTIVE, which means I might love something, but you might not like the same thing that I love. For example: I love reading Rick Riodan and J.K.Rowlings, I can't get my daughter to even crack open one of their books. She loved the Hunger Games and Divergent series, I don't care enough to even learn the author's names, much less read the books.

Subjective. See?

So how does a person with an analytical thought process get into the writing biz?

Beats the heck out of me, but for some odd reason I want to write and share my stories.

Here's the problem:

Analytical people want to find the elusive answer to the perfect story. There is no perfect story. We tend to forget that everyone has an opinion as we strive to perfect our product.

While writing is a creative endeavor, the basis of the writing process is an analytical one. You need to know the mechanics of grammar, sentence structure, character arcs, story arcs, chapter cliffhangers, what makes a reader keep on reading, blah, blah, blah.

But even various publishing houses have different 'styles'. Some houses will ALWAYS use the serial comma, while other publishing houses don't. I've also seen a distressing trend of not placing a comma in a statement that addresses an individual. For example: "Put a damn comma in there (comma) Margaret!" I don't know if it's writers being lazy or simply an oversight, but I really have an issue with this. Then again, I love commas. Commas are the little 'breathers' in a sentence as they give the reader a teeny-tiny break in a sentence.

Anyway, back to driving me crazy.

A few months ago, I mentioned that I finaled in RWA's Daphne contest. Actually, one nice aspect of this contest is that when you final, you do NOT get to see the first round judges scores or comments until after the winners are announced. So it wasn't until months later when I found out that I was placed fourth out of five finalists.

Okay. I'm good. And then I got my scores from the first round of judging. . . .

I have to admit that this is the part that usually tears me up as I wonder why certain aspects of the story didn't appeal to the judges.

Out of a possible 123 points, I got a 116, 119, 120 --excellent scores, good comments, and I totally understand why I was marked off in the relationship category since the hero wasn't even introduced--and then I had an 86. WTF?!

Well, okay, they just didn't get into the story which was reflected by the comments. I understand. Trust me, six months ago, I would have tried to find some way to 'fix' this and justify her comments. I would have tried to make everyone happy.

But in a creativity-type endeavor like writing, it just isn't going to happen. The judge might love reading paranormal stories, but she didn't love reading my story . . . but three other judges did like the story.

And then I went on vacation and didn't think about anything else other than having fun at Walt Disney World and Universal Florida. When I got home I had an email from the contest coordinator who had the final judge's comments.

Deep breath. I opened the email.

And their conflicting comments would have caused me to yank my hair out if I hadn't finally decided that the only real person I have to please is myself.

Agent's comments:

This is a fun story and the writing is solid. My concern is that the world-building is too complex and slows the story. The market has shifted away from stories with lots of world building.
Which echoed the concerns the low scoring judge wrote.

Editor's comments:

Great writing. However, it's a little confusing at times. Author could spend a little more time world-building, to make the story easier to follow. Nice voice!

They both seemed to like  my writing--Yahoo!  But . . . Less world-building? More world-building?

What's an analytical writer to do with this conflicting advice?? This is the stuff that totally drives me bonkers!

It's taken me fourteen years to get to this point, but I finally feel confident enough with my writing that I will simply do what works for MY STORY. And no, I won't add more world-building or remove world-building.

I'm doing what needs to be done to tell my story.

And that is how this analytical writer has decided to keep her sanity.

Later, Peeps!



8/18/14

Coloring Outside the Lines

As I've grown older, I've realized that I have a need to color outside the lines. This is totally against my normal tendency to follow the rules by doing stuff in an orderly and logical manner.

But I don't have a choice any longer--I have to color outside the lines on my eyebrows and lips.

Yes, my friends, I have started wearing make-up again. It's been about ten years, or longer, since I actively wore make-up. Oh, I would wear it on the occasions when it was called for, but for the most part I would go au natural.

Trust me, I don't have a problem with not wearing make-up, but I feel that I need to be a good example for my daughter in regards to the fact that make-up is to enhance your inner beauty, not cover up the ugliness lurking beneath the surface.

Well, but then reality hit me in the face . . . literally.

So, the other day, my daughter was complaining that she had a round face (she doesn't, it's oval) and no cheek bones (well, she is a young teenager). She looked at my face and stated that she was jealous because I have cheekbones.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that the reason I now have cheekbones is because my cheek skin has now sagged into my jowls.

One of the harsh reality signs of aging.

When I was younger, all I needed to do was throw on a bit of colored lip gloss and some mascara and I was good to go. Not so any longer.

Time has taken it's toll on my face in the form of disappearing lips and non-existent eyebrows, and I have found the need to 'color' outside the lines.

So what to do?

I do have an eyebrow pencil that I love. It's a Clinique super fine liner in light brown. I use it to color the bottom of the eyebrow hairs that I have left while it fills in the 'empty' spots, and then I smudge it inward to give it a more natural look.

And for all you girls out there who want to pluck your eyebrows--DON'T!! Eventually, the hairs will stop growing and you will be stuck with bald patches.

Just saying.

Oh, I'm not saying don't get rid of the odd hairs that are in weird spots or are wonky, crazy hairs, but don't go nuts and thin them out. I was never one to over pluck my eyebrows, but nature has managed to take care in the long run.

Lips are another problem. Somewhere between my early 40's and my early 50's, my lips just . . . disappeared!

Along with the newly discovered cheekbones caused by hanging jowls, my lips have thinned into nothingness. I don't think it's because I purse them in disapproval all the time, but hey, you never know. I also have lines that start on my lips and shoot their way onto my face, like I'm a smoker, but I'm not. I finally decided that it's due to sipping coffee and drinking from straws.

Don't believe me? Then watch your lips as you do either one of these tasks and see if you are gaining lines.

RE: the lip issue. In the past, I used to use a lip pencil to outline my mouth. As I had pale lips I didn't stop there, but would color my entire lip with the darker color, and then us a lipstick or gloss over the lips.
Sorry, but the color didn't transfer. I'm assuming it's because of the way the file was set up so the consumer could look at the various 'shades'.


Now, they have various products that are "long last" type things. I've purchased a few. Most of them I don't like because they are sticky and simply feel gross--a couple of Revlon products. The one that I like the most (and have purchased at least five different shades) is Cover Girl Lip Stain. It's light weight and once dry (I will also 'seal' it with a loose powder) it holds pretty well. It will start to fade in the center first, but for the most part it works well.


The coloring outside the lines part has to do with the border of my lip to my face. Instead of coloring inside the lip line area, I now color just outside the lip area to actually give myself some lips!

Yes, it's one of those harsh reality life lessons one keeps learning as we grow older.

So I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little bit of rebel in all this, and I think I'll keep coloring outside the lines in other areas of my life as well!

Later, Peeps!