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Asian Steamed Shrimp

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1 pound raw shrimp
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1 T raw sugar
1 t Truvia
2 T orange champagne vinegar
1 T Tonkatsu sauce
cilantro
fresh spinach
fresh pea pods
fresh mushrooms

mix soy, ginger, garlic, sugar, Truvia, vinegar and tonkatsu sauce. Heat in microwave or saucepan until sugar disolves. reserve 1/3 of liquid.

Layer shrimp on bottom of steamer and vegetables on top rack of steamer. Pour liquid over both layers. Steam for 5-8 minutes. Serve over rice and pour extra liquid over mixture. Let the feast begin.

Where’s My Four-Leaf Clover?

I’m not fond of January. It began the year our twins died. I know it is an over generalization to say bad things happen at this time of year. I’ve also experienced enough distance from that death to understand that anniversaries, hell even impending anniversaries, are hard, fucking hard. But it still seems like bad crap crops up in January, and I’m always happy to flip the calendar page.

This month I had the distraction of going to Tucson to play nursemaid with my mom when she had her bunion surgery. That worked, and I thought I was going to be able to use that surgery to check off the obligatory bad shit of January.

Then my dad called.

He was scheduled for surgery today, and it didn’t go well. Now he’s headed for more; serious shit of the same variety that my grandpa ended up dying from. Life sucks sometimes. I want to be optimistic, really I do, but I also want to bury my head in a bag of Fritos and forget about it.

Instead of turning to food, I’m here trying to release what’s eating me before I gobble it up. I’m not sure it will work, but at least for the moment, I’ve pressed pause, and I guess for that I’m grateful.

I wish life wasn’t so hard.

My dad used to say to me when I was a kid, “Wish in one hand and shit in the other. See which one gets fullest the fastest.” That brings a smile.

I love my dad. I’m blessed that we have a really good relationship, and there is no unfinished business. While I hope that I have many more years with him, I’m lucky to know that he is forever in my corner.

And The Award Goes To…

Me. I’m proud of me today. I wanted to eat a house, multiple times actually. Had it been covered in chocolate I might have surrendered, but as of 8:30 p.m., my house is still standing as are my neighbors’.

It’s been tough, but I keep circling back to my goals of 2012 that I posted earlier in the week. I do believe that it is worth the effort to take care of my body and soul, and I am convinced that sugar will be my life-long enemy. I’m not always sure about the beauty or the strength things I jotted down, but I think those goals are at least worth working toward.

As I sat in my office today at 1:30 p.m. with absolutely fucking nothing crossed off my to-do list, I tried to convince myself that a sweet treat from down the street would alleviate stress and increase my productivity. Hell, the walk to buy this bit of yummiliciousness would actually be good for me, and if I got something with nuts or dark chocolate, those ingredients have been proven to contain things like omega 3s and flavonoids.

Stop.

I chewed some gum, munched on raw veggies and gave myself permission to go in an hour if I still wanted the sugar that in my world resembles crack. Tick. Tick. Tick.

I still wanted the fix, but I asked myself what I really needed? No stress. Was a brownie or biscotti or cookie going to rid me of stress? Damn. I stuck a fresh piece of gum in my mouth and later snacked on a boiled egg when I knew I was really hungry.

I revisited another a brief moment when I walked through the door this evening. The house was quiet and would be for hours since my guys went skiing. I’ve accomplished some of my best binge eating when I was alone. Woo hoo, let the party in my mouth begin. I passed the calendar on my way to the snack cabinet. I saw the stars lining each day of the New Year; little awards recognized my effort at taking better care of myself. I wanted another star…so, here I sit writing about my feelings instead of eating them.

May I have two stars, please?

Agree for Change

I’ve been wrestling with 2012 goals. I hate to call them resolutions, which are meant to be broken like diets and bad habits.

Instead I choose to think what I want to improve upon. This year I want to focus on the positive and re-write negative self-talk and behavior that have been weighing me down in more ways than one.

For at least six months a copy of The Four Agreements has laid atop the end table next to where I scribble in my journal. I’ve read the book multiple times, even writing about it here, but lately it seems to call me. So, every morning, I pull out the book and read a few pages trying to absorb some of the message: be impeccable with your word; don’t take things personally; don’t make assumptions and always do your best.

Recently, I picked up The Fifth Agreement. Be skeptical, but learn to listen. It’s taking me a while to finish the book because it seems appropriate to savor the words like a hot cup of tea with just the right amount of honey and lemon. What is beginning to crystalize is the need to really shift my paradigm of me. I’m tired of being my biggest critic.

As I thought about this and what I hoped to achieve in 2012, invariably my thoughts meandered to the time I wasted in 2011 with my yo-yo diet mentality. Instead of trying to push the negative thoughts into the shadows, I shone a light brightly, feverishly writing every nasty thought about my weight escapades I could muster. It was quite a list – embarrassing and maddening and disappointing.

Then for every negative thought, I created a positive statement to be rewritten repeatedly until it lodges into my brain. Whether rudimentary or revolutionary, the idea is not mine. The exercise came from The Artist’s Way. I’ll spare you the ranting portion, but here are the resulting positive statements:

I am beautiful inside and out.
I will limit exposure to sugar.
Taking care of my being is worth the effort.
I am strong and will achieve weight loss goals of one pound per week.

The first one really makes me squirm. I even hesitated a moment before I typed it here, but the exercise made me realize how negative I’ve become toward myself, illuminating how I’ve struggled over the last year.

In The Fifth Agreement, I’m discovering how to question the “truth” I’ve told myself, and I think I might be ready to rewrite these destructive messages in change for something more affirmative. I’m sure there will be detours, life is full of them, but acknowledging the negative and making a choice to focus on the positive has to impact the journey. Doesn’t it?

Treats Gone Bad


I detoxed yesterday. Ate a healthy breakfast; packed healthy lunch; munched on healthy snacks.

I left work early because I had gone in early originally planning to take Russell to a doctor’s appointment, but Lyle called to tell me he had it covered. I felt pretty good until I walked into the house and kicked off my shoes in the quiet space. Cue the music.

There on the counter was a Christmas tin of yummilicous.

I can’t even use the excuse that I wasn’t expecting it when I arrived home because it had been taunting me for two days with only minimal collateral damage. But now there were no witnesses, and I would actually be doing everyone a favor by eating the items with nuts. (Lyle and Russell like nuts, but not in their cookies). I told myself I would eat just one. Poof. Gone were the two small brownies, some kind of cracker cookie, a chocolate rolled thingy, a chocolate version of a wedding cake and a macaroon (no nuts, but I really like coconut macaroons).

Thankfully, there wasn’t a huge platter of treats to mistreat.

I had to get out of the house. I remembered an errand. Good thinking except I almost stopped at the bakery for a fondant dipped cookie. Oops, close call, but it was just the thought I needed to acknowledge. Instead of turning on the internal garbage disposal and devouring everything around me, I pushed pause. Wooo Hooo.

As poor of a choice as I made, I didn’t beat myself up (or make it worse), but I also realized I didn’t want to keep mistreating myself, and that was a better treat than the one I had devoured just a few hours earlier.

Pass the Kleenex and Neti Pot

Starve a cold? Feed a Fever? Eat a box of Goldfish crackers?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I feel like crap, and yesterday I munched as if food held the key to curing the common cold. Coupled with the fact that nary a vegetable has passed my lips in the past two days, I’m bloated like a Snoopy float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Last night, even though I still felt like crap, I threw some chicken breasts and redskin potatoes in the oven. I also managed to sauté most of the remaining Brussels sprouts that had been taunting me every time I opened (and quickly closed) the veggie crisper. I finished off the meal with some fresh pomegranate seeds. Yum.

I had hoped that would clear all the snot clogging up my head, but no luck. I still feel crappy this morning. I even got up and showered convinced I could talk myself out of being sick as I got ready for work.

As I dragged my not-so-happy ass around the bathroom after I got out of the shower, I realized I didn’t have the energy to even find my socks, let alone pull them over my piggies. I needed to come up with a new plan, which involved more Zycam. I can’t even take good cold medicine. Nyquil and the like make my skin crawl.

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I hate calling in sick at work. It makes me feel like such a slacker. I wonder whether I am I sick enough to stay home resorting to questioning if I would want to be around anyone else with similar symptoms… ahh, no.

Given the fact that Russell and Lyle gave me this early snotty Christmas gift, it is safe to say that I wouldn’t want a larger version of this and I’d run for the mile-long return line if given the opportunity. So, instead of grabbing my slacks and blazer out of the closet, I pulled out sweats and a T-shirt, and here I am. Here’s hoping that I learned yesterday that munching on salty snacks does nothing to alleviate the sniffles.

Anyone have any great home remedies to share?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Today instead of looking at things as stupid or marvelous, I searched for beauty in simplicity.

At lunch, I trekked off to Pilates. It’s always a good workout, but also centers me in ways that a spin class can’t touch.

As I thought about stupid vs. marvelous and twisted into one of the seated moves, I caught my reflection in the mirror that stretched the length of the wall. I saw a beautiful woman – not fat, garish or any of the other negative terms I often attach to my body, but someone sitting up tall taking care of her body and soul.

I have to admit there was a moment when I wondered if the Y had placed mirrors along this wall that were meant to flatter. I glanced at the woman next to me, but her reflection looked no different than what I saw in the flesh. Instead of chastising myself for thinking the likeness was not the real me, I thought about what that woman brought to my world as if we were two separate beings.

For just a moment, I looked at her in the mirror and saw me – strong, independent and yes, beautiful. I wondered why I didn’t let myself cohabitate with this woman more often, and yet wondered what might happen if I talked to her on occasion.

It’s been a long time since I looked at my reflection and saw the real person. After first losing 100 pounds, the mirror image looked strange, foreign, unreal. From time to time reality and reflection converged, but quickly splintered leaving me squirming for answers.

When I was at my heaviest, I knew I was overweight, but I never thought I was THAT big, and when I was at my thinnest, I always compared myself with large farm animals. How can I find some peace in all of this?

As I talked to my counselor last week, she asked if I had been overweight all my life. I quickly said yes, but then realized it might not be an accurate statement. I can look at old photos, and remember thinking I was fat, really fat, but the faded Polaroids don’t reflect that either. There were certainly times when my weight fluctuated as a kid, but now I wonder how much of this mindset centered on reality.

I do need to take charge of my recent fluctuation. It scares the hell out of me, and I never want to go back to the woman hiding beneath an invisibility cloak, but today I saw something else, something worthwhile, something simply beautiful.

How closely does your reflection in the mirror match the image in your mind?

Stupid or Marvelous

I wonder at times if other people find life as challenging as I seem to make it for myself. Everything operates relatively smooth and peaceful for a while and then KABOOM. The whole thing shatters leaving me to pick up the little shards scattered across what used to be a well-defined path.

Does life need to be difficult? I know it can be hard, really hard, but I’m not talking about life-altering detours that I’ve encountered, just day-to-day stupid shit. I feel too old to be struggling with crap.

I felt particularly stressed this week, under deadlines that seemed too big with unexpected transitions that mocked me as I tried to create a new Plan B on the fly.

Well-established habits like exercise vanished, replaced with taunting brownies. I succumbed convinced that sugar, cocoa and butter would calm and help me regroup. Nope.

Thankfully, my mental mechanic intervened before the sugar took me down a swirling funnel toward a vat of chocolate quicksand. She stopped me when I tried to talk about my “stupid” actions, thoughts, fears. Instead she pointed out strength, resolve, capabilities, and told me I needed to practice positive self-talk.

I know she’s probably right, and suppose it’s worth a shot given the brownie didn’t work worth shit. This week instead of turning to the brownie, I’ve committed to tell myself how marvelous I am while I channel a little Billy Crystal.

I’ll let you know how it goes. What are some of the positive things you tell yourself?

Step Back, Move Forward

I felt myself get a little whacky this morning. It’s not entirely surprising. It happens when exercise declines and sugar rockets.

What did seem new though was the fact I recognized I was standing at the precipice, and I actually wanted to step back. It seemed enough to teeter for just a bit feeling no compunction to throw my arms up and lean into the crumbling edge.

Choice. I tell my son all the time that he has the choice of how he is going to view life, choosing to look for the bad or good in any situation. It’s hard to watch him navigate these teen years, and at times I secretly would love to control his thoughts and behavior. However, when I step back myself and choose to commune with the positive, I also realize how little I truly can control.

Much of my life I tried to control and compartmentalize what I saw as the pieces of my life – weight, body image, family, work, friends, the overall search for perfection. However, I may be on the verge of accepting the interconnectedness of it all. The way I treat my body does affect the way I see myself, which in turn blankets the way I interact with all the people in my life. Seems stupid simple, but it still hasn’t stopped me from pushing against the idea.

I have no control over much of what surrounds me, damn. I can, however, regulate my behavior and reactions and outlook on life. When I’m in this space, it seems absurd I would try to focus energy in any other way.

I saw this when I lost 100 pounds. I learned that the weight was not about the food (unless it’s a pan of brownies sitting on my counter at 2 a.m.). I ate for a lot of reasons other than hunger using the weight to insulate myself from life. It was a sad existence, and I never want to return to that place.

As I teetered this morning, there was a moment that I wanted to wallow in the fact that some of those pounds found their way back, far too many to ignore. It’s time to select a different path because the one I’ve been traveling has been taking me in a big fucking circle. I know the science, an easy equation of in vs. out, and now I feel good that I’m choosing to connect with me.

The Last Supper?

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Okay, so maybe the Last Supper flares with drama, but I have a feeling this may be the last caprese salad of the season. My tomatoes and basil are fading fast. Oh, how I dread to see them go.

If you still have access to these fresh ingredients, don’t miss out.

Tomatoes
Basil
Fresh mozzarella
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Slice up all the ingredients and serve on a large plate. For an added zing, place the tomatoes on a bed of spicy greens. Drizzle with vinegar and oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and guard your plate.

New Eats

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Okay, so I know this isn’t a very appealing photo. A half-eaten meal isn’t going to thrill anyone, but I started scarfing it down and then realized I might want to share what I made.

I bought beets in Pearl Market today. I cut off the green tops and sauteed them in a little olive oil, garlic, onion powder, red chipotle powder, smoked paprika, toasted onion powder, salt and pepper. I feared that the greens would be too strong or bitter since they looked pretty big and tough. Man, was I wrong – yummo. In another pot, we added the sliced beets and tossed in a can of mandarin orange slices (without added sugar). We simmered until tender. We means I need to give my hubby credit for the beet/orange concoction since he tried it once before. Again, yummo. Coupled with a grilled chicken breast, and it was a bona fide feast.

I will say the men in the house skipped the greens and opted for a chicken sandwich, complete with white bread and bacon, but I didn’t covet their plates or the clogged arteries in the making.

Fall is a perfect time to try some new veggies. What are your favorites?

Pause the Slippage

I want to eat a house right now. I nearly ate one last night, and it gave me horrible indigestion all night long. I’d like to avoid the re-run this evening so I’m hoping that pushing pause for just a few minutes to post a blog entry might help.

Part of the problem is I spent some time over the weekend traveling and eating too much sugar, which always wreaks havoc so I’m trying to detox a little. Gum usually helps; of course I have none. I’m sucking on a lollipop trying to constantly remind myself not to bite into it, invariably busting up one of my fillings.

I had a pretty good day with food and exercise so the evening cravings threw off my mojo. I ate reasonably and took a spin class at lunchtime. I also noticed today that I didn’t get extraordinarily freaked out in the locker room. I didn’t even contemplate taking two towels into the shower with me, and I stood naked in front of my locker without feeling major heart palpitations. Shit, if things keep going this well, I might be able to bend over in all my glory and not give a rat’s ass, or stand in front of the make-up mirror next to Naked Woman to compare saggy hooters. Nah, that will never happen.

At any rate, I think I have my head screwed back on and the house might be safe for one more night. What helps you press pause to gain control when you feel slippage?

Step Off the Train

Vacation has been sweet. It’s taken several days to truly decompress. There were no big vacation trips, just time with my mom, which has been delightful even though my son managed to give her a kick ass cold shortly after she arrived.

Lazy mornings and empty agendas fill our days. It’s been exactly what I needed, and it’s provided time to breathe, think, readjust.

I hopped off the crazy train of must dos and gave myself a chance to reflect on what has been happening in my mind and soul. I wrote yesterday that I felt a little squirmy, and the wiggles are still present, but confidence seems to percolate beneath the surface too.

I can’t help but turn thoughts toward my attitudes about weight and food and body image and how they mingle and blend and haunt. A hundred pounds ago, I may have eluded myself to believe that the weight was about food, but I’m acutely aware now, it is not quite that simple. I wonder if the small amount of weight that I’ve struggled with for the past year serves more as a reminder that I haven’t been quite ready to embrace the fact that I’m good enough just the way I am. I, just me as I stand today, am good and right with the world. It causes my stomach to flip even as I type the words.

When I yo-yo, it provides constant admonishment that I haven’t quite arrived and tells me that I haven’t got things quite right, and perhaps I will never get where I need to be. But, I’m tired of playing that tape – it’s a load of shit – and I think it keeps me from reaching other goals I may have.

This particular struggle serves no purpose except to keep me stuck in an uncreative, tentative place. It seems obvious to me as I sit in my jammies spending some of my vacation with myself and my thoughts, but I need to find a way to capture and hold onto this awareness when I reenter the real world. Everyone gets anxious or outright whack-a-doodle, but some seem better at pulling it together before implosion, which for me generally comes at the same time grab for my own detonator otherwise known as triple chocolate lava cake. Where exactly would food for thought fit?

Controlled Chaos

Geez, what a crazy week. I’ve been crunching against deadlines, working late, coordinating teenage taxi schedules and trying to figure out when to fit in exercise. Most of my week has been energizing, challenging (in a good way) and fun, but I’m ready for a break.

I have managed to keep up on exercise, but I’ve had to sneak in some quick morning bouts with my stationary bike, which is as enticing as eating a congealed hunk of liver and onions left in the fridge for a week. I’ve totally missed yoga and Pilates at the Y this week and lead-like knots beneath the surface of my skin along my neck and shoulders are proof enough that I need to squeeze it in tomorrow. I didn’t realize how much relaxation I received from both those activities.

Tomorrow, I’m committed to a noon-time yoga class – I have to start the weekend in a good place. Food has been chanting at me as I whiz from place to place trying to remember that breathing is not optional. I’ve been able to ignore the noise and interference, well mostly, but I know from experience I have to be in a strong place for the weekend if I hope to make good food choices.

I wonder what it is about the weekend that I think I deserve to take a break from healthy eating. The week is seven days long. Shouldn’t my eating habits reflect that reality without question?

I think it may be about unwinding after a long week. How do you relax and kick back after an intense week?

2011 Resolutions – Be Like a Beagle

I caught a cold while I was in Florida last week. It didn’t seem nearly as annoying when the bright rays of sunshine warmed my soul and the salty gulf breeze lifted me from the doldrums of winter. Back in Ohio, I’m sniffly, a little too grumpy and more inclined to comfort myself with food as I snuggle in waiting for spring.

It got me thinking this morning about what I hope will come of 2011. I can’t say that I’m all that disappointed to let 2010 go here in a few days. There was a lot to be thankful for, but even with an incurable case of optimism, I readily admit that much of the year was pretty damn challenging. It leaves me wondering or perhaps hoping if some of it will be alleviated once I turn the page on the calendar.

I am, however, pragmatic enough to realize that I will likely be presented with many more challenges in the coming year and beyond. Perhaps it’s an age thing as much as I hate to admit it. Even as my posse discussed the official end of the bad run, another potential heartache looms with my father-in-law. Life is hard much of the time, and you get through it the best you can.

Spending time with my dad last week reminded me that we all are getting older as minutes are marked by the second hand on the clock whirling by entirely too fast. Fight it, accept it and hopefully embrace it before it’s too late, which made me recall a little nugget that my that my mom shared several years ago as I struggled with body image – today is as good as it’s ever going to be.

It sounds kind of negative at first glance, but upon inspection, it can be inspiring. I take it to be an affirmation of grabbing onto all that is positive. Sure, there are challenges, sadness and profound loss, but today and tomorrow if we are lucky enough to see them, can present joy and camaraderie with those close to us if we choose that to be so.

In that vein, I’ve been thinking about what I want for the coming year. My top 10 list started out with a weight loss goal – of course, but I hope the list also gives me a place to recharge should I sway, which is bound to happen from time to time in the coming months. So, here goes:

1. Lose five pounds in steady increments until my pants are once again loose and comfy.
2. Exercise four days a week and walk 10,000 steps per day.
3. Keep a written food journal – commit to it for at least three months.
4. Focus on healthy behaviors.
5. Practice a brief meditation every day.
6. Give of myself in a way that helps others who are less fortunate.
7. Express daily affirmations toward myself and my family.
8. Put aside savings every month for a trip to Italy.
9. Lead by example.
10. When struggling, look to my beagle for clues – sleep when tired, eat when hungry, chase butterflies when bored and wag my tail even when it’s cold outside.

Write it down, tuck it away or share it here…What is it that you would like to accomplish in the coming year. I think I’ll get a head start today.

No Mulligans Today

It’s been a tough week. Tuesday, God, was it only three days ago, my mom called with horrible news. I was reaching for my phone before it even rang as I was walking into the grocery store to buy bananas, milk and bread, staples in most American households.

“Where are you,” she said.

That was enough. I knew.

“Call me when you get home, someplace safe,” she said, voice cracking.

I turned around and headed back to my car and tucked myself into the soundproof shell to listen to her give me the details that I sensed before the words spilled from her lips. Paul, my stepdad, her husband for the last 20 plus years, died.

This man, to think of him now or any other time, brings a smile to my face. He was kind and generous and caring to us all over the years, especially to my mom.

He and I didn’t begin our journey on a rosy path, far from it. I was in my late teens when Mom and Paul found each other, and I literally didn’t speak to him for almost a year. He let that be o.k. and gave me the space I needed to come to terms with the fact that he was going to be part of my mom’s life for the long haul. Utter disdain turned into tolerating his existence, but he was patient requiring nothing of me. I learned it was impossible not to like him, but little did I know how I much I would grow to love him over the years.

Thankfully, it didn’t take a lifetime for me to see how good he was to my mom, and slowly I realized that he and I might have something to share. He grew up through a harsh and unfair childhood and saw the relationship that I had with my mom as something special that he didn’t want to disturb.

Over the years we became family to each other as well. There was a connection there, strong and enduring, and I’m blessed to have had the experienced. While mom and I would talk for hours and hours, he would walk through the room wondering in amazement how we could chat so long without ever repeating a single thought. But I know he liked to see that, too.

Mom and Paul moved to Arizona about 10 years ago. By necessity visits became more infrequent and the phone lines played a more significant role, and sometimes I would call just to check in with him. We would banter back and forth about Arizona winters and Indiana tomatoes, I would ask about his golf game, and when life brought challenges we would talk about those too. I always felt privileged that he trusted me enough to share his inner thoughts even when he let them out so infrequently to others.

We have no guarantees in life. When we wake, we really have no idea what day may bring. Today may indeed bare nothing in resemblance of yesterday. What I do have is the knowledge that I am surrounded with people who I love deeply and who reciprocate that bond. But even knowing this, at times when life feels too hectic, too big, too messy, I sometimes find myself focusing on stupid shit that holds very little significance in the grand scheme.

I hate that death is what often reminds me of my blessings. Given the fact that my mom genetically implanted a terminal case of the silver lining, I suppose that I am grateful for the fact that I do understand the fragility of life and try to conduct myself in ways that leaves no unfinished business. I had that with Paul.

I recall my last visit when he and I traipsed out in the desert for a morning walk. The break of day was filled with cool February temperatures as the sun turned the sky a hundred shades of pink with morning rays peaking over the mountains. We kicked up critters that darted and flew across our path as they looked ahead at their day. Much of the time was spent walking in silence interspersed with sarcastic banter that we both enjoyed, but there was good conversation too. It was a great morning and a perfect memory. I’m holding tight to that today.

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