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Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of you a happy day. May you be nourished with the love of family and friends. 

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Kindness Even More Necessary

Half-way through the month of kindness and all around me I see images of terrorist attacks.  Paris, Beirut . . . many horrific acts, many deaths, many different cities.  These beget retaliation and the bombings start.

On the one hand, I am bolstered by the acts of solidarity, the outpouring of support and prayers for the affected cities, the wounded, the dead.  Then I’m saddened, heartsick really, to see anti-Muslim sentiment spread because the vast majority of the terrorists are Muslim.  Several of my friends are Muslim.  Do not blame the people of the faith.  Blame the violent extremists, the jihadis, who claim they commit these horrendous murders in the name of Islam.  I heard today that several states are refusing to take refugees from the Middle-East because they fear that jihadis will sneak into this country posed as refugees.   A woman who is a friend agrees with this stance because, she said, “How do we know?”  Terrorism is getting us to the point where we turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Right now, today, I am convinced that we need more kindness in our everyday lives.  Thousands of miles from Paris, here on our island chain, we are still affected by the killings.  Is there a single person anywhere who hasn’t looked around their community at least once and wondered if the same actions could happen where they live?  All of us need the simple acts of kindness offered in a smile, extra patience, a warm hug, a pat on the back either literal or figurative, a hand reached out to offer simple assistance.

Each act of kindness is an affirmation.  There is still a great deal of good all around us.  Evil has not won.

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Month of Deliberate Kindness

For the last few years, I’ve declared November as a personal month of gratitude.  Each day, I posted in social media something for which I was thankful.  A few of my friends picked up the effort and did the same.

I believe that cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps not only me, but also those around me.  It’s good for me to notice, acknowledge and state things that I appreciate in my life.  So, every day, not just in November, I send thanks out into the universe.

A couple of days ago, I started thinking about kindness.  Occasionally, a kindness meme would pop up on a Facebook page, or I’d run across a quote somewhere.  More and more, thoughts about being kind arose and I started to believe that there was a message for me in this somewhere.   I imagined what it would be like, how it would feel to look for opportunities to be kind.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I live life as a bitch, running roughshod over people with no regard for their feelings and circumstances.  I believe that, overall, I am a kind and thoughtful person.  I’m not perfect – far from it.  I can be that bitch sometimes, but my preference is to be good and kind.  I think that’s a good way to live.

However, I also think that it’s good to go beyond what is hopefully the norm.  To be kinder than usual, if you will.  I bet doing so on a daily basis can and will create an amazing energy.  Really, what could be better than doing something nice and kind for someone else and bringing a little extra light to their day?

That’s what I want to do so I am officially declaring November as a Month of Deliberate Kindness.  Every day, I’m going to be aware and look for opportunities to do a kind act for someone else, more than a single act for a single person if I can manifest them.  I’d like to invite you to do the same.  Let’s see what we can accomplish in a month and how it feels.  The acts don’t have to be huge, they only need to be thoughtful.

In September, when my Pyxi was so sick and then when she died, so many people reached out to me in kindness.  I know how those actions helped.  So, I’m kicking off the month with a self-made meme honoring my Pyxi and going out of my way to be a little kinder.

Acts of Kindness

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Saying Goodbye and Cutting Myself Some Slack

With deep sadness, Nat and I said goodbye to Pyxi this morning.  I knew in my heart yesterday that there was no more that we could do for her to help her condition turn around.  She was refusing food and water, getting weaker, and her little damaged kidneys were progressively losing ability to function.  It has always been my position that when a beloved dog reached such a point, I would not force them to hang on because I couldn’t suck it up and say goodbye.

I consulted with both of her veterinarians.  We all agreed that no more could be done to make her well and decided to help her go peacefully before she worsened and began to suffer.  I’d read somewhere that it was helpful to the companion dog if he/she saw the other dog’s body after death.  I didn’t want to leave with Pyxi, return without her, and have him go around looking for her and wondering where she was.  Our primary vet and staff were wonderful. We made her comfortable, kept stroking her, and she went peacefully and quickly.  She was ready.

Obviously, I am incredibly sad.  I took the day off from work so Nat and I could just have quiet time at home and I would not require any more of myself than I could emotionally give.  The outpouring of love and support in the form of condolence comments, text messages, and phone calls from friends and family has been amazing.

Last night, knowing what was coming was difficult and I worked on accepting what I couldn’t change and reaching for serenity.  I have to admit that I veered from my food plan somewhat.  My emotions were in waves… sadness would well up, crest with tears, and then recede to a sort of numbness.  Looking back on the hours, in those numb moments, it felt like I was incapable of mindfulness.  So that’s when I would eat off my plan.  I ate the rest of a sweet potato that I had originally cooked, hoping to tempt Pyxi’s appetite.  A little while later, I thought some sort of protein would be good, so I spread some of my home made ricotta on a piece of whole wheat toast.  About an hour after that, I wondered if maybe Pyxi would nibble on even a tiny piece of bacon.  (Bacon was a favorite treat.  I don’t feed my dogs much “people” food, or any food that is very fatty.  But when I cook a little bacon, I give each a couple of bites, knowing that the small bits wouldn’t hurt.)  So, I cooked a couple of pieces, but Pyxi wasn’t interested.  So I gave Nat half a slice, and ate the other slice and a half.  It was tough for me to make the move to go to bed.  I think this is because I knew it was our last night.  I moved between sitting on the couch with her on my lap and stretching out on the floor next to the dog bed that she favored, just stroking her head.  Since I was still up, I crunched a couple of small handfuls of cocoa-dusted almonds.

So… half a sweet potato; piece of whole wheat toast with ricotta; slice and a half of bacon; a couple handfuls of almonds.  That my friends, constituted a binge for me last night.  On a bright spot, although I thought about doing it at least a dozen times, I did not get in the car and drive to the corner store for ice cream and candy.  I had flashes of wanting to, but I discovered that taking off my bra when I got home was a good deterrent.  I was too tired to redress myself and there was no way on this green planet that I would go braless – even while grieving, even just to the convenience store.

I’ve been sharing with friends about my previous realization that not stuffing my emotions with excess food is a big part of the reason why I’ve been so emotionally wrecked and not coping as well with her illness as I feel I usually do with crises.  I talked about this some more with a couple of friends who called to check on me.  One told me that while I think I’ve been a mess, from what anybody else saw I was doing a darned good job of caring for Pyxi regardless.  So, all in all, I was still coping.  Another good friend, after hearing me talk a little glumly about not sticking to my plan and using food last night, listened to my list of food and said, “Oh yeah.  Like that’s a bad fall off of the wagon.”

Her words and tone, with the smile in her voice, caught my attention and I got the point that she didn’t say which was, I surmised, “Give yourself a break.”

Both of these conversations were reminders to not beat myself up because I don’t deserve it, and to keep things in perspective.   Indeed, to give myself a break.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Nat and I are going to snuggle on the couch and take a little nap.   I have an evening rowing class scheduled.  Right now, I believe I’m going to keep the appointment.  The workout will feel good.  If it doesn’t feel right to me when the time comes, I can always change my mind and won’t beat myself up about it if I do.   It’s a rough, upsetting day.  I deserve to treat myself with kindness and consideration, no matter what.

Thank you all for being here for me during these difficult times.  Your comments and support have helped.

Rest in peace, my sweet, special, feisty, Pyxi-girl.  Nat and I love and miss you, but we are grateful that you are at ease.

Pyxi Apr 7, 2007 - Sept 25, 2015  Love you,  baby girl.

Apr 7, 2007 – Sept 25, 2015 Love you, baby girl.



Care Team

A quick post tonight because I’m exhausted.  The last two days have had ups and downs but we’re doing okay.

I’m still on track with my program as far as my food.  Even though I wanted to weigh myself last night and also this morning, I’ve honored my commitment and won’t weigh until tomorrow morning.  I rowed yesterday and am scheduled for class tomorrow.

Pyxi has also had her ups and downs.  The vets (Yes, now seen by another excellent vet) have both said that there is still hope and a possibility that we can turn this around.  While her kidneys won’t repair, dogs can sustain with good quality of life on kidneys that don’t work 100%.  We need to get her nausea and stomach acid under control so that she can hold down nutrition  and be interested in drinking.  If we can do that and do other things to support her kidneys, she could rally.

So…. we are throwing everything we have at this condition.  She’s getting Sub-Q fluids when she needs them.  Today she got an injection of medication to fight the nausea.  We had a consultation with one of the other terrific vets in town who does acupuncture.  Pyxi was terrific on the table and hopefully the treatment will assist the various organs and other parts of her body to function more efficiently.

She isn’t in pain. While the tummy troubles aren’t pleasant, they aren’t creating constant discomfort.  We just need to get her retaining the nutrients to fuel her body.  We’ll continue monitoring, do another session of acupuncture next week and we’re also looking into Chinese herbs.

As we were driving home from the second appointment, I thought about how many people are on Pyxi’s care team.  Team Pyxi has two great vets and their techs, me, my friends, family and co-workers.  Everybody is supporting her in some way and everything helps.

They’re supporting me too in a myriad of ways.  They understand that I’m stressed and get upset sometimes.  They take time to listen, to offer help.  The vets are using their knowledge, experience, and willingness to consult with each other.

My post tonight acknowledges the need I have for a care team.  As much as I love to think of myself as self-reliant and able to take care of myself, which are not bad qualities, I don’t have to go through life all alone without assistance and support.  All of us need support, even if the ways in which we need may be different.

I have a great care team.  Friends, family, co-workers offer support, help and understanding.  Some who might not understand my issues are still willing to listen if I need to share and they can be sounding boards without judging me or trying to “fix” me.   The women I go to for acupuncture, massage, esthetician/nail service, even hair are part of the care team because the help me feel good.  I’m going to count the trainers at rowing, too.

You’re part of my care team too.  You are part of  this place that I come to  where I can share, vent, process what’s going on, etc.  Your support is felt and it matters.

Thank you, Everyone.

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Talking to Myself

Throughout the day, I have a lot of conversations with myself about food, or more specifically, about my food choices.  I’m beginning to realize how often I talk myself into making bad choices.  It is obvious to me that in those mental conversations, I can influence my behavior either way.

Even when I’m doing well, as I have for the last several days, I still have the internal chats arise — usually when I’m stressed, short on time, something’s happened that’s made me cranky, I’m tired, etc.  All of the vulnerable times open up the conversation.  A few days ago, I told you about being face to plate with a large red velvet cake and withstanding the temptation.  Trust me, I went back and forth about it a few times, but the positive program choice prevailed.

Last night, I almost got thrown off course.  I’d decided in the morning that I was ready for some lean chicken as a protein for dinner and planned to get a cooked rotisserie chicken at the supermarket on the way home from work.  Thinking even further ahead, I also wanted to pick up some onions and more carrots so that on Sunday, I could use the chicken carcass and vegetables to make some stock.  I needed a couple of other things to get me through the weekend, too.

The best laid plans went a tad awry when I got to the store around 5:15 and discovered that the only prepared/cooked chickens left were either the barbecue or maple-bourbon varieties.  (Side note: While I love the maple-bourbon combo on, say, ribs, I think I would find it disgusting on poultry.  I’m not fond of barbecue sauce on chicken either.)  I asked the guys behind the counter about more chicken and discovered that it wouldn’t be ready for another 45 minutes.

Ack! I was already hungry for dinner.  I couldn’t wait that long at the store because I needed to get home and let Nat and Pyxi out in the yard.  I could have picked up the fried chicken tenders that were sitting there all ready, or some of the pre-cooked pork roast but, darn it, I’d planned!  I’d committed.  I’d gone so far as writing down my meal in the morning.

The chatter of my own mental process was considerable and annoying.  Finally I took a deep breath and let the calmer, sensible side of me take over.  I decided that staying with my plan was more important than a little inconvenience.  I drove home to let out the dogs, staved off the hunger with a couple of pieces of celery, and went back to the store a little later to get the chicken and other items that I wanted.

This morning, the plan was to go to Tai Chi class, come home for my mid-morning snack, and then go to the massage therapist for some body work.  Well, I was delayed leaving class and didn’t have time to go home for the snack.  I knew that I needed to eat and drink something before the massage or I’d be starving, and possibly light-headed, by the time we finished the session.

There are a lot of places to go and get something to eat between where I was and my destination.  Lots of places with lots of easy, but unhealthy choices.  In my mind chatter I considered numerous possibilities, all of them poor.  Then I remembered that I also had to pass the only Health Food store in town.  Instead of going to a convenience store for a chocolate bar or almost-as-bad-but-masquerading-as-healthy protein bar, I went to the health food store and got a raw, no-sugar added-veggie & fruit juice and a package of organic walnuts.  Even though they were not the foods that I’d previously planned for that morning snack, they were the best possible option given the circumstances.  So, I gave myself a pass and counted it as a win.  Yes, I had to have another talk with myself to get to that point, but it worked.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound all crazy.  I haven’t reached the point where I walk down the street and talk out loud, after all.  I don’t blurt things out verbally in public places.  Communicating with myself is part of my process, and it’s proven to be a useful tool when I use it to successfully stay on track.  Granted, there are times when the chat goes more along the lines of, “#*$& it, I need a cookie”, but the goal is to not give into those urges too often.

As of today, I’m on Day 6 of reclaiming my recovery and if I sometimes need to talk to myself to stay on track, I’ll use it like I will every other available tool.


Healthy snack suggestion:  A lonnnng time ago, I talked about baking kale chips for a healthy, crunchy snack.  A few days ago, a friend shared on Facebook that she’d made her kale chips in the microwave. I just had to try doing this today.   You see, I love kale chips when they first come out of the oven.  Unfortunately, after they’ve been in an air-tight container a while, they tend to get a little chewy.  I decided that if the microwave technique worked, I would always be able to make snack-sized portions in a snap.

I am thrilled with the results and it was so easy.  Just take clean, dry kale (stems removed) and toss it in a little bit of olive oil and salt or other seasonings.  Spread it on a microwave-safe plate and put it in the microwave oven for 3-5 minutes, depending on the wattage of your appliance.  Mine took 4 1/2 minutes.  I checked them and retossed about half way through.  The finished chips were crisp and tasty!


4-7-8 Breathing

Weeks, or maybe even a couple of months ago, I first heard about 4-7-8 breathing.  An author I’m friends with talked about using the technique to help her with stress-induced insomnia.  I saw her post about it on Facebook a few times and that motivated me to investigate on the internet.

I’m not prone to insomnia when I first go to bed.  Truth be told, I’m so brain tired by 10-10:30 most nights, I fall asleep on the couch.  There are some nights when I look at the clock and wonder if 9 p.m. is too early to go to bed.

The sleep interruption affects me when I’m dealing with stressful stuff during the day, or have something bothering me and happen to wake up in the middle of the night.  Even if I just wake up for a quick trip to the restroom, if the stressful situation comes to mind, I can’t get rid of it.  I will think about it and think about it non-stop.  Sometimes the same phrase, sentence or conversation just repeats like a thought-hamster on a wheel.  I believe this might be something called “inefficient worrying”.  Honestly, when it happens, it does not accomplish anything positive.  I’m not working through the issue or resolving anything.  I’m just repeating thoughts, creating more stress, and depriving myself of much needed recuperation and sleep.

When I looked into 4-7-8 breathing, I found articles that described it as being helpful for reducing stress and anxiety.  I found a video of Dr. Andrew Weil talking about and demonstrating the technique which, if I correctly remember, originated in yoga practice.  It seemed easy enough so the very next time I experienced that middle-of-the-night hamster-thinking, I tried it for myself.  It worked!  I remember doing it three times and that’s all.

After that first night, I tried it again the next time I couldn’t fall back asleep and achieved the same result.  As I’ve whined about discussed several times, I’ve been experiencing a fair amount of extra stress in recent weeks, so I’ve had ample opportunity to demonstrate that, for me, the 4-7-8 technique isn’t a fluke.

I’ve done some additional investigation into it and have seen some suggest that it might be able to help me with some of my compulsive eating disorder.  For example, if I can be aware enough to do some 4-7-8 breathing when the urge to eat compulsively hits, or even if I’m still wound up when I sit down to a meal, the technique might help me settle before I reach for food.

Every day, I practice the technique at least twice a day, as Dr. Weil suggests. I’d like to develop it as a great and consistent tool.  It would be great if I could train myself to engage in this as a natural reflex.  Actually, I believe that with practice, I can do just that.  Any tool is a good one in this journey.

Do any of you do any kind of meditation or breathing technique?  Have you heard of 4-7-8 breathing and, if so, does it work for you?  I’d love to hear what things you’ve tried and found useful.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about it, this link will take you to the place on Dr. Weil’s site where it’s described.  From there you can also click a link to watch the video of his demonstration.


Routine Change

I’m four days into the new program. So far it’s going pretty well. I’ve dropped some of the weight I gained. I’m doing the exercise routines. No lie, some of the exercises challenge me. In each routine, there is a woman doing the modified version of each exercise so that you can still benefit even if you aren’t quite up to the peppy, totally toned, I’m-an-absolute-fitness-beast level. Today, my body really felt the effort, particularly in my abs. Since I had to stop Zumba to protect my knee, I haven’t been crunching those abs and they made their discomfort known.

I do the full version of each exercise that I can handle. There are some, like jumping jacks or frog jacks, that I can’t do right now. So I do the modified version with good results. In today’s routine, I finally hit an exercise that I can’t do at all, even when modified. Called a Surrender, it requires quickly kneeling and getting up. I just can’t manage that motion smoothly enough to derive any benefit, even if I force myself to struggle through and do a quarter of the reps. It really bummed me out but I tried to put it out of my mind and substituted squats instead. Squats probably work a different set of muscles but at least they kept me moving.

On the set of the workout routine hangs a chalkboard sign that reminds us every effort is one day at a time, one pound at a time. Love it in all its 12 Stepness. Back at the beginning of the journey, thinking of having to lose more than 200 pounds overwhelmed me. Breaking it down to one pound at a time really helped.

The leader of the program said something today that also resonated. As we sweat together through the different exercises (I might not do them all great but I give them my all, moving up my heart rate and working up a real sweat.), she reminded us that the exercise is just part of the program. We have to follow the good, nutritional eating plan. In a nutshell, the message was to not put in all the hard, physical work and then blow it in the kitchen.

That thought stayed with me throughout the day. A short time ago, I had a thought on how I can offer the best protection to my own efforts and set myself up for the greatest success. I’m going to try changing my routine.

Right now, the most challenging time for me food-wise is at night. I eat a healthy dinner, drink a cup of tea and should be done for a couple of hours until it’s time for my final fruit as a snack. Should be done, but instead I’m frequently beset by the compulsive desire to eat something else or something more. I’m not hungry. I don’t need more to eat. These are false needs fueled by the eating disorder. Yet, I frequently fall into the trap. Maybe it’s only a few pistachios or a tablespoon of peanut butter, but the quantities don’t matter as much as giving into the behavior.

I do my workouts in the morning. After 30 minutes of pushing my body to go harder, stronger and faster, followed by a 15 minute or so dog walk, all I want to do is drink my protein drink and get ready for work. I have no desire to pick up anything else.

So, I wonder if working out at night will make a difference to my eating desires. If I spend 30 minutes working my muscles and elevating my heart rate so that sweat pours down my face and soaks through my clothes, will the energy and great feeling of accomplish counteract the compulsion to eat off of my food plan? Will it be easier to battle the urges?

I don’t know, but I’m prepared to find out, starting tomorrow. I’ll let you know if changing my routine helps.

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Eating on Vacation

We’ve been eating wonderful meals while on vacation. It’s a large group of people gathered here in the property we rent on the Cape. Last night, 29 people sat down to dinner. We cook and eat as a community. Someone takes responsibility for the main part of the meal and other people pick up utensils to chop, mix or plate as needed. Our sous chef skills are put to work.

I confess that I’ve had more fresh bread in the recent days than I usually eat in a month, but it’s delicious. A friend who works for a natural food distributor also brought down many pounds of Amish butter. If you ever have Amish butter, you will never want to go back to store bought again. It’s that great.

There’s an organic farm across the road so each meal includes fresh, amazing produce. We’ve had kale salads, tomatoes that were picked a few hours before consumption, and corn of the most delicate sweetness.

I made my famous brownies yesterday for dessert. When I flew up I smuggled a few dozen key limes in my suitcase and a couple of days ago treated the crowd to key lime pies.

I refuse to think of how much weight I’ll gain in the course of the week. The food is too good and the company too grand. There is a wonderful sense of community to preparing, eating and enjoying the time together.

In our defense, we take walks every day. Yesterday, I also went paddle boarding again. So, while we do spend a lot of time sitting, eating and talking, we still get ourselves in motion.

Vacation is not the time to obsess about being perfect on a food plan. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I will recommit when I return and go back to being restrictive on my carb and dessert intake.

Today is for celebrating, breaking bread together and enjoying vacation meals together.

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Mary Does Disney

The last time I visited Disney World theme parks was in 1997. While still weighing more than 300 pounds, I was no where near my heaviest weight ever. I was a lot younger, had more energy, and my knee had not yet begun to really weaken. My friends and I had a great time.

A year later, after my Mom got sick, I’d put on about 35 pounds. I went to a theme park in Texas with a friend, got into the car for an old roller coaster and was too fat for the bar to come down securely, That pretty much ended any plans of going to a theme park ever again.

Since weight loss surgery, a trip to Disney has been on the Promise List. I have a conference starting today in St. Augustine and decided to come up a day early with a slight jog inland to Orlando for a Disney Day. I bought a one day park hopper pass and started with an 8 a.m. arrival to Animal Kingdom. Just going through a turnstyle without an issue is a mental relief. Climbing into a ride with a bar or a seatbelt and not giving the slightest, worried thought as to whether I’ll fit is a miracle.

I had a lot of fun. I didn’t do every ride that I wanted but caught different shows and attractions. I managed to hit all four parks at some point. According to my FitBit, I walked more than 14 miles, or 33,000 plus steps. Needless to say I was exhausted by day’s end. I confess that my body was sore and I treated my knee and ankle to an ice pack before going to sleep.

Unfortunately, my eating wasn’t stellar. I received some sad news about a foster dog that I care about while I was eating lunch. I was shocked to see that I’d eaten the entire sandwich completely mindless to what I was consuming. I so need to keep working on this! My mind blanked about my food as I was swept up in the emotion. I ate some other junk later in the day but I have to think that the day-long physical exertion will balance it all out.

Today I’m giving my body a day off to let it recover and I’ve begun the day with a mindfully-eaten, healthy breakfast. There were many yummy, off-plan choices that I could have made, as well as some overly abundant but healthier options. I actually spoke to the servers about the large quantity of food on the offered breakfast platters and asked if we could customize something smaller in portions. To my pleasure, they agreed and worked with me.

So, check Disney off of the Promise List. I’ve shown that I can do theme parks again and am looking forward to returning in the future. Booyah!



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