The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Surprise January 3, 2014

This week has felt surreal, and on top of the sorrow my family’s currently working through, other little mishaps have been taking place. My toilet has broken (plastic parts and hard water do not mix), my drains have plugged up, my windows have been stuck, the doors to the coop must be coaxed to close and lastly, we had to kill Lefty Lucy after the flock tore into her mercilessly one night and left her near dead. The poor hen had recovered fairly well in the kitchen over the past week. so I returned her to her roost one night to find her covered in blood and far worse only the next morning. When I realized how the flock had treated her as a compromised bird (she retained a limp after an injury last week) I knew what had to be done. She did not face a life of any quality, so it was time to put her down. When I told my mom that I was simply keeping her comfortable until she was able to die, she remarked ‘kinda like your dad’. Yeah, I guess. So our friend neighbor Zac came over with his axe, and obliged us by chopping off her head on a nearby stump. Elihu tossed her out to the edge of the woods, and by the next morning she was gone.

Plus there’s this strange new twitch in the middle finger of my right hand. I’ve been feeling some tension – for no reason I can even figure – in my right shoulder lately, and I surmise that it’s related. Some nerve thing. Just a few months ago I’d experienced some ongoing and very annoying electrical tingling feelings in my left hand, and also a few in my left foot – but that was an easy self-diagnosis. Years ago I broke my neck – C6 and C7 (which later fused, giving me a C13!) as well as my left shoulder. I just figured time and gravity had come to roost and were now compressing on my nerves. I’d figured that being structural, the only fix would be yoga and a general improvement of my overall fitness. I went to an acupuncturist with few hopes, but after four visits the annoying electrical feeling was completely gone. Completely. And so, while it’s yet another unforeseen expense of life, I must find a way to carve something out of my budget to have a few more sessions. I have never in my life had any bad experience – or major injury – to my right side, so I can’t imagine what in hell is ultimately responsible for it. But a moment’s reflection and I needn’t look much further for reasons, because I realize that it is true: I am getting old. Well, at least older. And now a physical body of evidence is beginning to show itself. Crap. I still can’t believe I’m here. That I now know what it is to have a parent die. That I now know what it is to have aches and pains for no good reason. Crap.

Santa was good to Elihu this year, bringing him an Ergo electric bass and amp (hours logged on it already) and a couple of battling robotic spiders, but more surprisingly, Santa was good to me too, and brought me a Wii fit board (love the used game place – next-to-nothing prices for year-old products) and a Wii fit game. He musta known my health needed a little rescuing. Hopefully, in spite of a heavier work load and mom duties ongoing, I’ll be able to spend a little time with my cyber coach. I have plans to join Weight Watchers with mom, too. While it might be frustrating that I’m here again, this year I mean to do more than the Band-Aid approach to weight loss (and fitness). I’ve done the Atkins thing a few times now, and while it always works, it never feels right. I can’t help but feel it’s counter-intuitive to see an apple as an enemy. I will, however, take with me the conservative approach to eating carbohydrates. That is the beneficial ‘take-away’ from those experiences. I’m not a carb craver, so that’s not so hard for me. What I do find exceptionally challenging is simply eating less. Ich. More honestly speaking, what I find challenging is the challenge.

Now yet another challenge… I just received an email that had my body flushed with cold. I thought that I’d just been through all the extremes I could handle in losing my father this past week, but this was horrible in a new way. I hated this feeling, and what’s more, I hated that there was no good outcome from it that I could see. No relief, no ultimate fix, no happy ending. Elihu’s beloved teacher at the Waldorf School was leaving after the end of fifth grade. How many times had we thanked God to have found her? How many times had we exclaimed that she was the best thing ever to have happened to Elihu? How many times had Elihu himself told us how much he loved her, how he loved her way of teaching, of being? So many times we’ve thought how lucky we were, how amazingly lucky… This news has me wanting to cry, but I feel cried out. I feel the dull throbbing in my right shoulder and begin to feel like things are all pressing in on me. I’m almost scared, but more than that, I feel defeated. My son has been a joyful child due much in part to his teacher. How will my son remain joyful now? I know that whomever replaces her will be a gift too, I know that. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a Waldorf teacher that’s not pretty spectacular. But still. I sit with this new information for a bit. How will I tell my son? I know he’ll cry. His heart will break at this news, I just know it. I look outside at the mounds of new, white snow. It’s a gray, snow-covered morning. Beautiful, serene, unaware that all this human drama continues on…

Yesterday we removed the ornaments from the tree. It had begun to dry so terribly that many were now falling off. One ornament, the one that we’d gotten just after I learned I was pregnant (the ornament was made in Italy, and so was Elihu) had fallen to the floor, but interestingly had not broken. I heard it fall, and was rather amazed to see the delicate glass globe in the middle of the floor, intact. I had been given a second chance, now it was time to remove them before they all fell and broke. Good thing I had no time to anticipate the taking down of the tree, what with all this nostalgia and sentiment flying around these days it woulda been hard on my heart. Even so, it was a poignant afternoon yesterday as ancient and sad Christmas music played and years of memories, in the form of ornaments, were each recounted and packed away. I kept torturing myself by thinking that I’d put the tree up while dad was here, and now I was taking it down after he had died. He was here, now he’s not. This gorgeous tree was here and beautiful one day, simply gone the next. After about an hour of recorders, lutes and lots of D minor Elihu called from his room and asked if we couldn’t have something ‘less sad’. That kid always keeps me level, I swear. Time and place for everything. Yeah, I suppose you’re right kid, enough of the sad.

But now this. I was ready for the empty living room, I knew dad was going. And even the bird, I knew we’d have to do her in. But Elihu’s teacher? I had no preparation for this. I gotta keep it together, I’ve got to expect that surprise, wonderful, yet-unseen outcome. Life is full of surprises for which we can never fully prepare. I hear that Elihu’s up now. When to tell him? Fist we’ll have breakfast, tend to the chickens and fill the table feeder outside our window. Even there we have our little surprises – just a few days ago we were visited by a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker for the very first time in our five years here. So there are some good surprises to be had too. I know that. I’m ready for just about anything to happen next, I guess.

So go ahead, life, bring it on. Surprise me.

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Post Script: Careful what you ask for… Moments after I wrote this post, when I went out to the coop I found Lefty’s ‘twin’ sister, Righty, lying dead (identical and petite white leghorns, each had a comb that hung over on a different side, hcnce the names Righty Tighty and Lefty Loosey). Looked like she’d died recently. A victim, like her sister, of hen-pecking. She was featherless on one wing and covered in blood. When I picked her up by her legs and turned to check the boxes for eggs, goose Max started violently pecking at her. Many times I’d seen him take a bite at a bird’s back end, but it was never more than a territorial nip. This was strange and different behavior. I scolded him soundly then walked out with the dead hen. I walked her out to the edge of the woods where we’d left her sister. I kissed her cheek and told her how sorry I was. Then I left her. What a nice surprise that’ll be for a hungry fox.

When I got inside I found Elihu talking on his new IPad (left by Santa in Illinois) to his father and sister in England. Soon after he was playing his bass for her. And just now when I peeked in again, I saw Elihu explaining to her how he wove his silly bands into jewelry. Wow. Here in our little country home was an open window into another home halfway across the globe – and in real time, too. Call me old-fashioned, buy I still marvel at technology. My mind is still blown to think that my first cell phone was the size of a brick and got too hot to touch within minutes, and here my kid is chatting away without a second thought to the visual image of his dad and sister, thousands of miles away. (A bit mind-blowing too is the fact that my son has a sister his own age. Even though I’m at peace with it, and understand she’s an important part of Elihu’s family, I still can’t quite integrate that into my thinking.) Yup, surprises are everywhere.

A final Post Script: Surprise! My comments feature on this particular post has become disabled somehow, and in spite of my best efforts to reverse this, I cannot figure it out. Never happened before…

 

Atkins Winds Down June 2, 2013

When I started on my weight loss campaign back in February, I’d hoped to use this forum as a substitute for the famous Weight Watchers weigh-in. I had enjoyed some good successes on Weight Watchers in the past, and I attributed it mainly to the element of witness that it provided. (I realize this is perhaps the ‘down’ side of WW for many; I can remember my mother herself complaining bitterly about it.) Personally, I needed it. I needed the accountability. Weight Watchers online? Not so much. Why? No accountability! Hey – if it’s one thing overweight folks usually have a problem with – it’s the truth! Sneaking something here, downplaying the significance of repeatedly over-sized portions, justifying it all in the name of comfort, or some such reasonable excuse…. Isn’t this one of the reasons we’re there to begin with? Doing in online means weighing yourself at home – rounding up a half pound cuz your scale isn’t accurate enough – rounding down cuz you just know the scale can’t be right… I can even see one giving up before too long if going it alone. I know I can’t be entirely right about this – but even so, I think some will know what I mean. Anyway, doing it on my own is not for me. I like the weigh in. Only I was clever – speaking of evading the whole truth, did you notice? – I never actually mentioned my weight. Only the amounts I lost. Ha!

Since I’d also had success once upon a time with Atkins (just how many diets have I been on? you may wonder), and knew it to be more ‘fun’ than WW (lots of salt and fat), I thought I’d go the no carb, low carb route this time. Plus, in my experience, I’ve made progress faster with Dr. Atkins’ method. The down side of this trendy diet is, however, that if you go right back to your pre-Atkins life as usual, it’s likely you’ll find all that weight back on your frame after a while. This time, I have taken a different tack. I don’t intend to live a carb-free life, but in that I certainly don’t need all that quick energy – and in that carbs are far more prevalent than they ought to be in our grab-and-go culture, I’m simply opting not to go looking for them. First, I don’t eat fast food. I don’t prepare rice or pasta at home. Don’t eat bread, pancakes or bagels. In ongoing, everyday life, that is. But I am not going to avoid them to the point of being a lifelong carb martyr! Forget it! When life presents its little moments – like eggs benedict one Sunday out of many, or a rare dinner out – I am not going to whine about carb counts. But in terms of everyday life – it actually works out well. I must admit, that it is a little pricier to eat so many vegetables and so much meat, but in that I no longer make wine a regular part of my life (carbs), the money I saved there goes into the food budget. Ich, there’s never a perfect plan. Ya just gotta figure out what’s really important. If I have to cut back on something else in my world so that I can maintain a size 10, that’s ok.

Years ago, when I’d hear people complain about the inevitable weight gain that came with aging, I’d thought they were idiots. Yes, there was a time when I worked out seven days a week, when I race walked miles every day, when I just knew that would never be my story. I was way too aware for that. But now, as my life has changed, as my time thins out and I must settle for a to-do list half done, now that I am no longer one person in the world, I have had to – finally – accept that there might be a bit of truth to this change-of-life-weight idea. Sure, I suppose one could keep it up, but as I’ve said before, you can’t do it all, and if you’re to keep some things in your life, other things have to go. If my weight is to go up, this is a good time I suppose. My body has changed over the past five years, and it’s got me crying uncle. My thighs have that crazy crinkly skin that looks all dried out in spite of being perfectly moisturized. My hands have been transformed by arthritis. The silver on my head has found its way to other parts of my body, and regular readers may remember that my neck is no longer behaving as it once did. So I suppose it figures that my weight too might settle into a new groove. It certainly seems to have. While in years past I’ve lost as much as 55 pounds on a diet (the post-baby, WW success) and have always, always been good at knocking off ten pounds as needed here and there – I just cannot seem to budge past the weight I am now. Maybe I go down a pound, up a pound, but here I hover.

For years I remember 123 being my resting adult weight. I can also remember in those days becoming extremely upset if I should migrate up one single pound. On my 5’4″ frame I do know that it’s possible to see the effects of weight gain or loss fairly quickly, but in my younger days I had absolutely no perspective. Man, when I think back on the emotional energy I gave to that shit, it makes me shake my head. If only I could tell myself back then not to worry so deeply. Not to tie up my emotional health like that… But I realize my frame of reference was different. All things in their time and place, I guess. Some time in my early thirties my base weight snuck up to 126, where it stayed for a few more years (that’s what I weighed when I got pregnant. It jumped to 188 just before I had the kid!!). Post-baby WW loss my ‘resting’ weight landed at about 135. In the wake of my move to New York and separation from my husband, naturally I went back up again. Topped off at around 163 pounds some time last year. That was deflating. Or inflating, as it were.

I’ve landed at 140. A hundred and thirty-nine on a good day, 141 on a not-as-good one. I’m pretty sure I could bust it down to 135 again, maybe even 130, and I might give it a go in the future, but for now I’m not in high diet gear. There have been so many parties lately – my mother’s retirement, birthday parties, end of school events – not to mention fresh fruit. Seems crazy that such a healthy carb as fruit should be such a no-no, but it is. So when cherries hit the stores recently, I knew my full-on Atkins thing was going on hold. I refuse to feel that eating fresh fruit is bad. Sheesh. I do understand the theory and the science, but at the end of the day, a cherry’s simply got to be better for you than a cheddar cheese stick, ya know?

So fellow dieters, I can report success, albeit on a different ‘scale’ (!) as at one time in my life. While I’m not a fan of the overly-used phrase ‘to be comfortable in one’s own skin’, it does describe the phenomenon that’s taken place in my life these days. Probably a combination of physical age, of experience and shifting priorities. I do enjoy feeling good in clothes again, but I also realize that the look I’m sporting would have been entirely unacceptable to my twenty-something self. But I’m not twenty-something. It’s taken me awhile to get it, much less to make peace with it, but I’m much further along in the process than just a year ago. I complained once in a recent post that I don’t know what the hell happened to my forties. Now I think I have a good idea – I raised a child from baby to young boy, I learned what it was to live life on my own, and I became acquainted with a new body. As long as I can continue to understand that I am not who I was two decades ago, and as long as I can adjust my expectations accordingly, I think I can proclaim that this most recent dieting chapter has been a success.

Post Script: While on the subject of numbers, we’ve just reached 23,000 visitors to this blog! I remember when Elihu and I jumped up and down and danced around the house for joy when we reached 1000. Ah numbers, we’re so attached to them, huh? But this number is truly significant because it helps to remind us that we’re not alone and that we have friends somewhere out there in the world. Hello to all of you, and thanks for being with us! We send you all our love and gratitude…

 

Atkins, Six Weeks In March 4, 2013

Could it be only six weeks? My immediate impressions are thus: I feel like I’ve been on this ridiculous, low carb diet for years (yes, it gets very boring), and secondly? I am pretty happy with my success. So onward I go…

I have lost ten – maybe even eleven – pounds so far. My scale’s not terribly accurate, nor can I quite see the needle from five feet above. Several people have told me this week that they can see a difference in my face. These unsolicited remarks have given me just the bit of evidence and morale-boosting I needed. That, plus the ability to finally get into, zip up and actually wear a pair of my ‘in between jeans’ (from my collection of not quite fat, yet not quite skinny clothes). I’m wearin’ em now, in fact. And I’m sitting in them too – that, for me, is the true test of whether I’m truly in the next size down or not. Yup, last night I was finally able to zip up three new pairs of pants that I haven’t been able to even consider wearing since shortly after I moved here, four and a half years ago. One might then go on to question the fashionable relevance of these garments in 2013, but not to worry. It’s all kind of era-neutral stuff that will work just fine. I think.

What might not work fine a month down the road are my bras. Whoda thunk? I guess I never really and truly believed that I’d get smaller again – I’ve just been doing the old ‘fake it til you make it’ thing these past few weeks. Now that there’s proof that I just might get into the old ‘skinny’ clothes after all – I’ve got a few things to address. I don’t need to run out and spend money I don’t have just yet – I’m still doing fine in my old undertogs. But they are a decade or more old (buying things for me virtually came to a stop when Elihu was born). Regardless of weight, my spirit seems to crave a few nice, new underthings. All part of this chrysalis thing. Slow and steady…

Although I really miss crunchy, salty snacks and some good, hard-core sweet stuff now and again, I’ve learned something pretty amazing for me: a very tiny amount of the craved foot can really hit the spot. ! Just two potato chips, for example. I know, I know! You don’t believe me! Hell, I wouldn’t believe me! But just a bite or two sates me, calms me. It reminds me of the flavor and crunch. And just two dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds can take the edge off a sweet craving. In eating less of these foods, when I do have them, they’re much ‘punchier’; saltier, sweeter somehow… Plus now that my goal seems closer, it’s easier still to keep it to just a quick taste. Course I can then enjoy a burger pattie for supper, so that takes the sting off. Yeah, for as boring as this Atkins thing is, it does make dieting so so much easier. And in the future, when I disembark from this carb-less routine, I will be so much more aware of what I eat. Much more aware of gratuitous eating and empty calories.

All of those carbs are going to taste so much better ten more pounds from now, I just know it. And hopefully, I’ll be able to enjoy my life just fine with fewer of em.

 

Atkins Three Weeks In February 4, 2013

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 10:01 am
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Hoo boy. Feeling a bit disappointed, and frankly, a little ashamed to admit I can’t tell any appreciable difference in my weight this week from last. It seems I’ve dropped a single pound, but on my cheapo scale I really can’t be sure. Anyway, it’s kinda hard to see the exact line from five feet up. Probably should invest in a digital scale – but that’s a luxury I don’t really need. I’ll be able to see well enough when that needle passes the next milestone. While I was feeling a heavy dose of self pity this morning, I’m regrouping again and taking heart. Hey, at least I’m not going up anymore. I gotta remind myself that I’ve learned a lot about food in general, and how to spot those ubiquitous carbs. I’ve become sensitive to quantity and portion size too, and all of this is good. And if nothing else, I’ve got an audience for my process, so I’m a bit more motivated to report success.

The difference this week? I strayed from the diet a couple of times. After the ‘helicopter kiosk at the mall’ incident I allowed myself one comforting sip of Orange Crush and a bite of pita bread. I know, that doesn’t sound bad, but again… the Atkins ‘experts’ warn that a bite – even a taste – of something sweet or carb-laden can throw your body back into a glucose-burning machine just like that. To recap: the idea of this diet is to transform your body from a sugar burning engine to a protein and fat burning engine. Apparently, your body jumps at the carbs cuz they’re easier, quicker energy. Makes sense. But man, staying the course is not easy. Atkins fans like to say how great the selections are, how full you feel, etc, etc… but in the bigger picture it’s really kind of a drag. But I remind myself that it’s a good time of year to restrict my diet like this. Not a lot going on, and with winter still here it’s the perfect time to do the metamorphosis/chrysalis thing. So onward I go.

I also broke down and took some cold medicine this week – a handful of times. I’m nearly two weeks from the worst part of it, but my cold still lingers and the amount of mucus I’m producing is downright annoying. Sleeping was harder than usual too. Had to do something. I also made one rather landmark transgression: I had a very small glass of wine. And I mean small. But again, probably enough to mess with the pure induction ketosis thing. (I was at a friend’s art gallery opening and having a wonderful time meeting people and chatting. I figured the quality of life thing superceded the diet in that moment. I’m still not overly concerned. Hey – two and a half weeks without a drink is HUGE for me.) 

Boy my confidence is a tenuous and fragile thing. This morning I was absolutely crestfallen. But now after collecting my thoughts on paper, my spirits are renewed. What I’ve managed to do – and the temptations I’ve managed to resist – are tiny successes. And tiny is something. While I may never again have the tiny body I did when in my twenties, I am nonetheless happy to be just a bit tinier than I was three weeks ago.

 

Atkins Two Weeks In January 28, 2013

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 9:47 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, it’s working. If by no other reason I can tell by the funky taste in my mouth. The score? Lost two pounds this week. Not exactly what I’d expected. “Don’t lose hope” Elihu tells me, “you’ve lost one guinea fowl!”. Dear boy. There are so many stories of people losing gobs of weight during the ‘induction phase’, which are the first two weeks of the diet (during which you eat no more than 20 grams of carbs in a day). I experienced some pretty dramatic weight loss myself during induction, some eleven years ago. Although I’d hoped for similar results, I have a couple of ideas as to why things didn’t turn out the same this time…

First is portion size. I remember all this chatter about how ‘you can eat as much meat and cheese as you want on Atkins!’ – so I’ve pretty much done that. But hey, this is a diet, and the idea is still to use more fuel than you take in – so why push it? But I know I did – having three eggs when the diet recommends two, upping the steak size just a skich… Maybe that’s why I was never hungry! So this next week I’ll be a bit better regarding portions. Then there’s the bourbon chicken from the mall’s Famous Cajun joint. One bite in and I knew it was not what I should be ingesting. Both the chicken and the green beans were kinda sweet and glazed. I had a feeling they’d be out, but in that it was my big meal for the day and we weren’t due to be home for hours, I ate it. So that mighta stopped or slowed my induction process. Atkins folks say that just one bite of a sugary food – even a taste – can switch your body back into a carb-burning machine just like that. Sounds a bit much, but I can’t know for sure. Then there’s exercise. The folks at Atkins also say that exercise is a non-negotiable. Yeeps. 

Not that it’s had anything to do with my diet, but I’ve been sick for the past few days too. Fever and the usual suspects made sleeping difficult. Usually I’d have taken some Nyquil, but this time it was out, too much sugar and alcohol. Last night was long, but thankfully it’s over. Elihu and I are both taking a day off from school today. I just wish I could make myself some tea and toast. Man, who knew cutting out carbs would be such a bummer? Ah, but instead of thinking about what I don’t have, I need to concentrate instead on what I do have: heavy cream in my tea… This is one of the handful of tiny incentives that keep me going. That, and the idea of losing twenty pounds – or four guinea fowl, whichever. !