April: reading and feeding

April books

For much of April, my focus was on eating healthy and caring for my body.  I’ve encountered some examples lately of what I don’t want to end up like, which gave me the motivation to get myself in gear and lose (hopefully) 30 pounds by the end of summer.

Motivation comes every so often and if I don’t have that, I really can’t psych myself up for spending so much time focusing on what I eat.  Of course, then I end up snacking on junk (I blame Girl Scout cookies just as much as my lack of will power) and not caring about it.  You may remember I was doing Weight Watchers for awhile about a year ago and was successful on that.  This time, similarly, I am counting calories with an app called LoseIt that I heard a nutritionist recommend on the morning news.  It’s not the program so much as my mindset that matters.  Once I decide I am doing something, it’s going to happen.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve changed up my diet.  I am eating 1,000 calories a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but the way I’ve spread it out, I am perfectly satisfied.  Passover didn’t affect me at all because I don’t need the bread anyway.

Most days, I have 1/2 cup oatmeal for breakfast with cinnamon and pure coconut sugar (92 calories).  Then I have a chocolate EAS shake (100) mid morning.  If I’m still hungry, I have a greek yogurt (80).

Lunch is a large salad I make each day at Whole Foods.  Lots of raw veggies, 4 oz of grilled chicken, 2 tbsp parmesan, and 2 tbsp lite dressing (240).  Dinner varies, but generally I’ve been making veggie stir fry/steamed veggies with a small amount of chicken, or some derivative of that.  Tonight we are having steamed spirals of zucchini and meat sauce made with antibiotic-free lean beef and a sauce that’s mostly tomato paste.  Whole Foods makes it simple when Mr. B is traveling because it’s easy to make a salad for one person or get something that’s prepared fresh.  Also, I’m trying out a new healthy single-serving boxed meal delivery place called Freshly.  And the key at bedtime is to NOT munch on M&Ms while reading my book.  I moved them to the kitchen so that one small handful is all I get.  🙂

Before all of that, after I walk Sweet Girl to school in the morning, I walk the .7 mile loop around her school and the park and fields that adjoin it.  Walking to and from there plus 4 laps around is 3 miles, which almost completes my daily goal of 10,000 steps.  That’s quite an accomplishment before breakfast!  Then I drink a couple glasses of water (a few drops of this flavoring that I discovered at the hotel spa when we were in Colorado makes a huge difference and has led me to drink much more water in the past few months) and 2 apple cider vinegar pills.  (The Food Babe suggests waking up to warm water with either that or lemon and cayenne, but since I don’t like the taste of either, this was the next best option and it has the cayenne in it as well.)

So far, I am 6.5 pounds lighter and I feel incredibly better and healthier.  Before starting, I’d been feeling very weighted-down and I had zero energy.  Now I am on the move.  (I like parking far from the store so I can get in extra steps!) It could be mental, but knowing that I am not putting as many chemicals into my body feels great.

* * * * *

Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre by Tracy Chevalier

Stories by 20 women authors (Tracy Chevalier, Francine Prose, Tessa Hadley,Emma Donoghue, Audrey Niffenegger, and others) that inspiration from the famous line in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.  Generally, they were engaging stories about romance and marriage, though I didn’t particularly enjoy the collection.

A Paris Apartment: A Novel by Michelle Gable

April is a furniture appraiser sent to Paris to value what’s inside an apartment that’s been shut for decades.  She reads the journals of a very bold and lively demimondaine (sort of an upper-class courtesan).  In Paris, April finds personal meaning in the stories, as well as the time to work through some very personal issues of her own.

I thought it was fun and interesting to learn about what life was like in Paris at a different time.  I didn’t think that April was a very strong character and didn’t particularly agree with many of her choices.  I found the book flat at times, but kept going and it resolved in a satisfactory way.

The Food Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days! by Vani Hari

“EVERY BITE OF FOOD that passes through our lips and every glass of water we drink are potential sources of toxic chemicals, including pesticide residue, preservatives, artificial flavors and colorings, addicting sugars and fats, genetically modified organisms, and more.”

Scientists blame chemical-filled food for the dramatic rise in obesity, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, dementia, mental illness, etc.  Hari’s mission is to educate people about the ingredients in their food and teach them how to live an organic, additive-free, healthy lifestyle.

Learning about what is in most of what we eat has been shocking for me.  I still can’t believe “big food” doesn’t care that what we are eating is killing us.  Just GMOs alone should be illegal.  Why would we knowingly eat artificial ingredients extracted from bacteria, viruses, insects, and animals? Ew.

Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren: Finding Calm in the Chaos of the School Years by Sarah Napthali

“How, as mothers of schoolchildren, can we bring our best selves to the task of mothering so that we are not at the mercy of daily frustrations, fears and anxieties? How can we rise above habitual reactions of irritability, stress and impatience? And what are the most reliable sources of contentment for us?”

I really liked Napthali’s book on adjusting to becoming a mother and caring for ourselves.  This one addresses the different challenges of raising school-aged children like time pressure, our response to stress, boredom from the repetitive nature of everyday life, making friends, and much more toward living a balanced life.  Highly recommend.

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist

This book is a quick read and it’s hilarious.  25-year-old Sundquist realizes he’s never had a girlfriend so he tracks down his old crushes and asks why it never worked out with them.  He learns about his own preconceived limits and Very honest and very real about how tough it is to be in high school with the social pressures and awkwardness.  I’d recommend it for anyone in my generation.

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Where I’ve been

In my 6+ years blogging, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a lack of things to share here.  Until now.  You may have wondered why I haven’t been posting the past 2 weeks.  As much as I feel I owe you a post every Monday and Thursday, I seriously doubt you’d appreciate just a random quotation… because I don’t truly have anything to say.

Every day life has been sort of low key lately.  The flowers are blooming happily in the garden, we are reading our way through Harriet the Spy at bedtime, Sweet Girl has 4 more weeks of first grade. In case you’re wondering, here’s what I’ve been up to.

READING a ton.

Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren by Sarah Napthali, A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable, We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist, The Food Babe Way (see below), and a few chick lit quickies.

puzzle

PUZZLES

I have wonderful memories of spending winter vacations with my family doing big puzzles and watching movies.  I don’t know what’s calling me to these now, but I like the time to sit still and think while my mind is busy with something tactile.  It’s similar to creating art.  I pulled a card table into the living room so I can still be with the family.

veggies

NUTRITION/EXERCISE

I am making a real attempt to lose some weight and feel healthier.  I’d like to be more light on my feet again.  So I am walking 30 minutes every morning, taking 10,000 steps a day, and eating more fruits/veggies and less meat and chocolate.

I’ve been reading The Food Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days! by Vani Hari about the crazy things in our food. I am changing to organic, additive-free, hormone-free food and drink where I can. No more microwave meals loaded with salt and preservatives.  No more soda.  I can’t BELIEVE some of the chemical poisons in what we eat… processed sugars, sugar alcohols, emulsifiers, stabilizers, carrageenan, natural and artificial flavors – poison, dyes and colorings (many of which are potential carcinogens), artificial sweeteners, growth hormones and antibiotics, and genetically engineered syrups.  Many of these are banned in every country except the good ol’ U S of A.

I am just at the beginning of learning about this, but I already feel better and cleaner.  It takes a lot of time to plan, shop for, and put together our meals, which is the main reason I didn’t want to make the effort, but that’s time well spent.

OTHER

And then, you know… life.  Renewing my drivers license, going to a few board meetings, volunteering at school, helping some friends whose house flooded again, getting ready for Passover, general stuff.  I seem to be going to a grocery store at least once a day.

What’s been happening with you? Do tell!

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Dear Lady Jane: on your heart’s true value

Dear Lady JaneDear Lady Jane,

When you ask to borrow my phone, I know it’s to watch a You Tube video.  I have about 50 educational apps on there but you usually bypass those.  You like the DIY craft videos, the Nerdy Nummies blindfold taste challenges, tours of people’s purses or rooms, as well as the ones where people open Shopkins or other toys and play with them.  Often, you are so absorbed that I could offer you a week off of school and you wouldn’t respond.

Sometimes you will show me something in a video that you’d like me to get for you.  The urgency in your voice! We have begun giving you a small allowance so that you could buy your own overpriced plastic, perhaps learning in the process that a tiny, mass-produced object is not worth 4 weeks of saving.  Yet so far, they are worth it to you.

It is so simple to learn of something, quickly look it up on Amazon from a phone, and tap that little “one click” purchase button.  Voila! 2 days later it’s in our house.  I admit, I have not been a good example for you.  The difference is that I’m buying cat litter or a new doorbell, not something fun, because (unlike you) I’d rather stay home and not go to the store.

I just “straightened up” your playroom and your bedroom (Tell me, what kid has TWO rooms??) and ended up with three full trash bags of what I call “junk” to recycle.  Slips of paper from playing school or bank ages ago.  Toys from the Chickfila kids meals.  Pens without ink.  Yet another keychain.  A halfway-done craft.  None of these items would be ok with you to discard had I asked you, so I do these sweeps when you are in school.  It keeps me sane and you don’t seem to notice.

I also collected a box of items to give away.  Some of it was something you just had to have in the moment while at a store or yes, watching one of those videos.  To think I used to be so vulnerable to your enthusiasm for them! I’ll have to hide this box in the garage until I take it to a donation center because you are very attached to everything.  I don’t know if it’s related to the topic of this letter or if it’s a developmental/security thing.

It’s easy to be struck by a shiny new object and think we “need” it.  Happens to me and daddy all the time! It’s a normal thing to covet something we don’t really need.  The difference between us and you is that we (sometimes) have self-control.  That’s what this letter is about.

Your confidence has overflowed into a sassy swagger and you think you’ve got it all under control.  You know how you want to wear your hair.  You like certain kinds of clothes and shoes.  You are totally fine with a mess of stuff all over your bed and desk and floor and closet. There’s very little I can do to influence this stuff, though I do try.  Probably the same mother-daughter struggle across all time, right? Thank goodness I still have 10 years to shape your moral compass because you are definitely not ready to be released into the world on your own just yet!

I have been struggling to teach you responsibility and this letter is partly about that.  I mainly want to talk to you about the concept of the separation of your external world and your internal world.  I want you to learn self-control, building in a delay before coveting absolutely every new object you see.  Given, it’s probably a rare 7-year-old who appreciates what they have and realizes they need nothing else.  I know you’ve heard about wants vs. needs in school and I know that conceptually, you get it.  Real life application is another story completely.  Hence, those birthday party goody bags full of microscopic hair combs and silly putty that sit around your closet or playroom for years.

The only person who truly knows what goes on inside of you is you.  If you would actually stare out the car window at the clouds instead of instantly wanting to be entertained… if you would take a few deep breaths and appreciate the air in your lungs… If you would listen to your thoughts and your heart… if you would ponder how you could be better in some small way… you would come to know your internal world.

The external world? Everything else.  It comes to you through your beautiful brown eyes.  The YouTube videos and every object you learn of there, your interactions with your friends, your life at school, our dinner conversations – all part of your external world.  You can’t truly control these things.  The only thing you can control is yourself.

Of course, I can’t really know if you consider things like this.  I know you are extroverted and you like to stay moving.  You have a lot to say and do and you don’t like to sit still.  But what would happen if you did?

You can manage your responses to those You Tube videos.  I would love for you to watch something and say to yourself, “I don’t need that.  It’s really cool and maybe I’ll get it some day, but for now, I have enough.” I KNOW! It’s hard and I’m expecting far too much from you right now.  That’s why I haven’t told you any of this for real yet.  I’m still in the “modeling” and “thinking out loud” stage of teaching.

It can be a real struggle to decipher the difference between a real desire and an impulse.  I know we don’t help by giving you so much.  Let’s say you really could have every Shopkins toy out there… then what? I haven’t actually seen you play with these things beyond opening the packaging.  If you want to show me that you value these toys, take care to put them on a shelf.  Take them out every so often to play with them.  Leaving them under the kitchen table to get stepped on only tells me that you covet the latest and greatest but don’t truly know the value of anything.

How can I teach you that you already have everything you need? You have 2 whole rooms in our beautiful and safe home! Let’s get some perspective.  We have so much abundance in food, clothing, and entertainment that we have choices!  You can take food in your lunchbox but not even eat it all.

When we are in the craft and stationary aisle of Target, you can barely move.  Your eyes get large and you start touching everything.  It’s funny to me sometimes but mostly I feel sorrow.  I’m powerless to control your eagerness to attain things for yourself.  These things won’t make you any happier or more fulfilled, but you want them so much.  I say no.  We leave, both of us upset in some way.  I know that no matter how many notebooks or pens you have already at home, you are still going to want another.  And I understand.  I do.  I’m a sucker for those pretty things too.  But I realize that I don’t need them.  I can keep walking, grateful for everything I already have and that I’ve been provided for in more than enough ways.

I value my alone and quiet time because I tap into that internal world and reflect.  I think about whether I treated a person compassionately or if maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to judge.  I think about decisions I need to make.  I open myself to listening to my heart.  It’s nothing woo woo, but I think it does make me a better human being.  I’m sure of it.

I wish for you that you will develop that inner world for yourself.  Then perhaps you will learn to decipher between “nice to have” and “necessary” and be abundantly grateful for all you’ve been given.

I love you always,

Mommy xoxo

P.S. BTW, I will always buy you any book or any vegetable you want.  🙂

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March reading

March books

From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives by Jeffrey E. Garten

Globalization is nothing new.  Garten points out that it began 60,000 years ago when 150,000 people left Africa and migrated all over the world, spreading goods, ideas, and cultures.

There are lots of books about globalization in terms of war, trade, and migration, but this book looks at it from the perspective of a few individuals.  This book is a deep dive into the stories of 10 people who made the world more interconnected, beginning in the 12th century.

If we don’t focus on critical individuals, we leave out the difference that men and women make when they select one course of action over another. We forfeit the ability to measure contemporary leaders against those who came before them. It would be as if we were studying a war without delving into the motivations, the decisions, the triumphs, and the failures of the top generals. In fact, it is the rich combination of impersonal circumstances and human action that makes digging into world history so compelling.

In From Silk to Silicon I selected nine men and one woman who met several criteria. First, they had to be transformational leaders. Put it this way: they had to virtually change the world… They changed the prevailing paradigm of how society was organized. They raised the hopes of broad swaths of civilization. They opened highways on which many others could travel…  “first movers,” those who initiated or were in on the ground floor of a powerful, fundamental trend or movement that had an outsize impact on the world… My subjects also had to be “doers” and not just thinkers, people who rolled up their sleeves and made something of global significance happen.

I highly recommend this one, even if you just delve into one chapter (they are rather lengthy).  It reads like a story and you’ll be eager for more.

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is a linguistic autobiography.  Lahiri, whose 4 novels I have read and loved, departs from all she knows of English and takes up a life-long love of Italian, moving to Rome and writing only in Italian.  This lyrical collection by a Pulitzer Prize winner of her reflections from that year grew from observations she jotted down in the back of a notebook.  Her intimate thoughts and insights on language and her love story with Italian makes this worth reading.

That said, I found it repetitive in parts.  She says the same thing, that language is a metaphor for belonging, in many different ways… all beautiful, but still making the same point.  This book should probably be a long essay somewhere.

Why, as an adult, as a writer, am I interested in this new relationship with imperfection? What does it offer me? I would say a stunning clarity, a more profound self-awareness.  Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity.  It stimulates.  The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.

And one more favorite paragraph:

Those who don’t belong to any specific place can’t, in fact, return anywhere.  The concepts of exile and return imply a point of origin, a homeland.  Without a homeland and without a true mother tongue, I wander the world, even at my desk.  In the end I realize that it wasn’t a true exile: far from it.  I am exiled even from the definition of exile.

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel: A Novel by Katherine Reay

An English major with a youth spent in foster care uses the words of her favorite books rather than learn and express what she herself feels.  She has been hiding behind the words of 19th century romance writers like Jane Austen.  The novel consists of letters to an anonymous benefactor, Mr. Knightly.  This is a quick, light-hearted read about belonging, love, and finding oneself.  Nothing earth-shattering, but still a good story.

But I wouldn’t trade all this either. Through it, I found a new character. Me. She’s bold and fairly feisty, with serious timidity issues at times. Every step she takes forward, she glances back and even retreats. But she’s got courage. I think she’ll make it. I don’t know when she’ll be free to run—figuratively, that is. Physically she runs plenty, and that’s where she gets her courage. I hope to like this new character.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

This is a rather silly fairytale retelling of the latest royal romance and I won’t judge it for being shallow because I expected that anyway.  Though rather slow-going, the book was entertaining and funny.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Stranded on Mars, everyone thinks you’re dead, and you’re in a desperate fight against time and the elements to stay alive.  A castaway story for the new millennium,” this engrossing story is a classic man-versus-nature battle for survival.  I could not put this book down… it’s so good! Not that I would ever find myself alone on Mars, but I would NEVER think of the amazing solutions that this guy did! I decided not to watch the movie version because I prefer the picture in my head.  As usual.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin 

The words you can’t find, you borrow. We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in these books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels… We are not quite short stories… In the end, we are collected works.

I will read any book about books and bookstores.  This one was sort of predictable, but a fun read.

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Kindness always wins

My friend Linda asked her Facebook friends to describe kindness in one word.  She got almost 50 responses, with words like generosity, concern, and gentleness.  There were even some creative ones — puppy-like and empathagenerous were my faves.  

Linda sent me the link and asked me to come up with a visual way to display all of the responses.  This is what I did.

IMG_0351

 

 

First I sketched it on canvas.  Then I started scraping on paint.canvas1

canvas2

Finding everyone’s words in magazines took FOREVER, but was fun.  I decided to arrange them into a blooming flower.  I’m semi-happy with it.  The mounted print is in my Etsy shop.

Kindness square-001

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Love is the bridge

Rumi ocean

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