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No-packaged foods September (postmortem)

September 30, 2014

Last year in September, we had Sugar Awareness Week around our house. I figured a rough guide of how much added sugars is okay in a day (about 4 servings was my figure), made up a chart of choices, and tried it out.

…we’re not looking to make their lives miserable or tedious; we want to educate them about sugar and get them eating healthier, in a way that’s easy to understand and sustain.

That went really well, and had a good overall effect on the kids’ food education.IMG_2175.JPG

This year, sincerely coincidentally, I got concerned about our eating habits again. This time (what with my all my running, and reading about “vegetarian, plant-based meals”), it’s about packaged foods. I drink way too much diet soda. The boys revel in packaged chips, candies, cookies, hot dogs, and more. Crunchy hippie food seems better, in general: fewer preservatives, less weird stuff (like odd emulsifiers and artificial or high fructose sweeteners), and so on.

So I proposed…er, actually, I mandated No-packaged foods September. Not the catchiest title, but I’m a DBA, not a PR machine. For the last month, we’ve been avoiding almost all packaged foods, just as one might avoid a political argument at work.  By “packaged foods”, I don’t mean anything that comes from a store…we’re not self-sustaining farmers, here. But we basically only bought ingredients. Things like milk, bread, eggs, flour, butter, cheese, that sort of thing. Even peanut butter was okay, as we get the kind that has this ingredient list: “Peanuts, salt”.  And of course chocolate. I’m not making the kids go completely without chocolate.

Oh yeah, I tried the kids on shredded wheat cereal, because “Ingredients: Wheat.” That went over okay, but they quickly switched back to other breakfast foods.  The school has a “no nut” policy, which makes things a little difficult (no PB&J!)…so I tried them on sunflower seed butter, and they love that.  Oh yeah, and we’ve all become sort of addicted to home mixed trail mix. My favorite is a good mix of almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, and dried California apricots. Eric can even bring no-nut trail mix to school (sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, and chocolate chips). He loves it.

We didn’t go 100%…we made the occasional exception (like the weekend trip to Top Pot Doughnuts), and certain things were unreasonable. E.g., “Yes, we can make crackers. No, I don’t have time to make crackers today, after working and shopping and cooking three meals and cleaning up and making bread…I’ll buy the freaking crackers.”  Again, we’re trying to make a change, not to be completely inflexible. We did make our own meals, bread, pasta, soups, desserts, etc etc.  It’s been kind of a delicious month. But then, it usually is around here.

The month draws to a close. I will keep on pushing the non packaged foods. But I’ll also let the kids pick out some cereal for tomorrow, and Kraft mac n cheese. They’ve missed some things, and that’s okay.

-J

Things I’d like to remind myself:

How to Save Their Marriage

September 24, 2014

Spoilers: This is not directed at my friends and family, because we already went through this and came out healthy. Sean and I are fine. This is for several sets of friends having bad times. (Weirdly, it never rains relationship trouble, but it pours.)

We hate to see friends and family unhappy. We hate it when people split up, whether that’s a friendship or a relationship or a full on marriage. It’s hard on everyone, because things get awkward and weird and everything changes, and the people involved are unhappy. It’s most especially hard on kids, if kids there are. (Talk to me about this sometime; I’m a child of divorce, divorced myself, married to a divorced man who is a child of divorce, and so on it goes.)  Divorce is HARD.

When I was separating from my first husband – we had been a sort of romantic dream team for those around us, apparently…deeply in love, never arguing, building a life and dreams – no one could understand why. Many friends and family members tried to support our marriage. Things couldn’t be THAT bad, could they? Surely you can work on this? Surely if you try, go to counseling, do something, things will get better?  Have you read this book? How about that one? What does HE think? We’re here to help you with your marriage!

Dearest family and friends of those touched by divorce: Stop it. Stop supporting the marriage.

You quite frankly don’t know enough about the marriage to support it. You don’t know the counseling we may have been to, because for whatever reason I don’t feel like outlining my every counseling session, and what happened in them, with you. You don’t know the sexual problems we might have had for years, because we don’t really talk about that stuff, and I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or shame my partner or myself. You don’t know about the long, long months of miscommunication, of trying yet again, of feeling the hurt or the shame or the misery or the anger. You. Don’t. Know.

Where do you draw the line? Should we get more counseling if he hits me? After all, maybe things will get better. Should we work on things if he hasn’t touched me in years, hasn’t acted like a partner in forever and a half? Is there a book I can read to make HIM understand that calling me a worthless cow isn’t supportable for a long-term relationship?*

So, stop it. Your best bet here is to support the person you love. Be open. Talk through what they want to talk about, paying more attention to what they say, what they ask, than the things you want to tell them. Stop shaming a man for leaving to want a better life. (Feel free to shame him if he doesn’t take responsibility for his kids.) Stop shaming a woman for leaving to want a better life. (Feel free to shame her if, kids, etc.)  Stop SHAMING them. They’re ashamed enough already, because they know divorce is hard, and it hurts others too. I know, I do. I know.

I have so much more to say. So much more I want you to know. But those are really the important parts. Stop trying to save the marriage. It’s not your damn job, and you have no idea if it SHOULD be saved. Support your friend/loved one, because he or she is in a tough, tough time.

Comments are open.

-Jen

 

*None of these are real life examples of me or of mine. This is on purpose. My divorce, and his, and hers, and theirs and the other ones, aren’t your business to save.

Running on hippie food

September 15, 2014

2014-09-15 10.00.13Yesterday I ate waffles and cheeseburgers. Today I’m eating oatmeal with flaxseed meal, dried fruit, nuts and pumpkin seeds; snacking a bit on edamame; and washing it down with mint tea and chia Kombucha. I tell you this because I want you to know I’m well-rounded (no pun intended there). I want to assure you that I’m not a 100% crunchy hippie that’s going to try to make you eat carob and rub hemp on your eyelids (or whatever). Or if I do, we can at least go get an Oreo milkshake after.

You see, I read books and get excited about things. I read a book several months ago, and got so excited about running that I’ve been suiting up no less than twice a week (usually 3-4 times) since then, even through my France vacation.  I just now finished reading Eat and Run, by ultrarunner Scott Jurek. So now I’m excited again about vegetarian, plant-based meals*.

But I’m a bacon cheeseburger kind of girl, at least part of the time. I’m a waffles and eggs, pizza and beer, by-gum steak and chicken kind of girl. I imagine, though, that I can totally do that part time. After all, I don’t eat bacon at EVERY meal.  What’s more, I’ve gotten here gradually – “here” being a place quite a long way away from my childhood, where you were lucky to get me to eat a carrot. Where one could quite easily list the kinds of things I would eat on a notecard. (“Cereal, bread, pizza, hamburger, fries, potatoes…”)

I’m quite serious when I say I really enjoy good food now. We can make a salad that’d knock your knickers off. We’ve got mushroom risotto that people pine after. Sean’s (can be) veggie curry…well, it’s not decent to speak of in mixed company. It’s that good.

So I’m gradually moving from a place of eating out of boxes, to one where fresh stuff is, like, GOOD. I eat it and feel good. I’m sure part of that comes from small amounts of Vitamin Smug (“Well done, Me…we’ve really eaten the old health food now!”), but some of that feeling is real, too.  The strategy is – get this – to mostly eat things I already like. Crazy, right? Thus, the oatmeal and fruit and nuts. I fucking love that shit, it’s so very very good.

Edamame? No, I’ve never really eaten it. But I figure I’ll try it, add it to the repertoire if it doesn’t suck. And so far, it seems to not suck.

Next up: Cooking a few things from our own recipes, from Scott’s book, and from the Meat Free Monday cookbook…vegetarian stuff like

  • Refried beans (oh yum)
  • Guacamole (oh crap, so yum)
  • Veggie chili (OH MY GOSH)
  • Tomato soup (I’m about to weep joyous tears)
  • Roast squash (….no words…)

and so on and on.

I guess I’m just going to focus on the good stuff, is all.

-J

 

*I’m making that distinction because Scott’s recipes don’t include dairy or eggs.

Running in wavy lines

September 9, 2014

I’m looking for a marathon, and at some point, an ultra. So I went looking around online today, and found an endurance running event in Grapevine Texas with 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour challenges.  The website isn’t terribly clear, but it looks like you pick your event, and then do 2 mile loops for that amount of time.

While on the one hand, it’s an interesting challenge…can you run or walk for a full day? Two? Three?  On the other hand, kill me in the eye with a sharpened marathon medal.

A part of me feels horrified to contemplate hours of staring at the same loop, running and quite literally getting nowhere at all.  Part of the joy of running, for me, is the huge satisfaction of looking around (at hour 1, or 3, or whatever) and going “MAN, I sure am a huge number of steps away from where I started! Under my own power, I have made it far enough that normal folk wouldn’t even consider BIKING this far!”

I want to see new things. I want to get somewhere using no machine. I don’t want to see how many times I can spin in a little circle, and say, “Gee, if I’d been going in a straight line I’d be in the Rockies by now!”  Numbers mean a lot, but they mean a lot less than, “What’s around the next corner?”

Differences

September 6, 2014

I’m watching the boys in Kenpo class with Dad, and the differences are evident.

They’re both thrilled with what they’re learning, of course. It’s a good class. And the time with Dad is simply invaluable. They’ll remember these classes for the rest of their lives.

While there’s a slight difference that comes of their ages, the really big difference shows in the face. Eric’s face is amused, interested, placid, and pained by turns. Ben’s face is only interested, amused, or vicious. While Eric’s eyes flick to Dad on every technique, Ben’s stay firmly on his opponent (Eric). Ben isn’t mean in class, but he MEANS this stuff. Eric sees the technique; Ben sees the target.

IMG_1922.JPG

R2 reviews the troops

August 15, 2014

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UPDATE 3: FOUND… What it’s like when someone goes missing (thank you for helping)

August 5, 2014

Here’s the quick version: friend Curtiss Cox was last seen Monday, August 4 at 6:00am in Mansfield, Texas. He was driving a blue PT Cruiser, license plate beginning LS*-***. We need help fining him, because this is way, way out of character.

Update 3: Curtiss has been found safe!

This is the point where the story quickly becomes uninteresting, because when a missing person is found safe, we just get “Oh thank goodness”. The rest of the story is the family’s business…not mine, and not yours, and not anybody’s but theirs.

I am so, so glad that there is nothing newsworthy to report. Many missing persons aren’t found so quickly, or worse, are actually subject to one of those worst case scenarios we immediately imagine. Thanks so SO much, everybody who read, retweeted, and offered help during this time.


 

Update 2, Friday: the addition of http://findcurtisscox.com/

Curtiss’s family has put up a website, http://findcurtisscox.com/, as a support center for this effort. The site has a printable poster for people to hang out and about, as well as an update center, photos, and a guestbook to leave Curtiss positive messages.

Update 1, Thursday: Curtiss’ family posted additional information.

Thanks to all for your love and support it is helping to keep us positive and upbeat in a very difficult situation.

From Tuesday: 

I’m just the friend, so what’s today been like?

Tense.

Weirdly, I keep thinking of 9/11, and I know just why. When something weird or bad happens, the immediate response is to want to DO SOMETHING. When 9/11 happened, everyone wanted to DO SOMETHING. I saw Facebook posts where people were baking patriotic cakes…they didn’t know what else to do. Blood banks were flooded (ha, and ew) with people wanting to donate.  So, when Curtiss’ wife, my friend, called and told me, I said “What can I do?” “Come over.”  Done. So done.

And I brought food. For some reasons, catastrophes nearly always mean food. That’s reputedly a woman thing, but I don’t know for sure.  I also brought kids, to distract their kids. This plan worked famously.

What are some of the rules of a missing persons event? Far as I can tell, it’s these:

What are the rules for being part of the support crew? These:

  • There’s not a guidebook.
  • Be helpful, and not be a burden. (That means not bugging the primary sufferer for updates. Bug one of the friends, kay?)
  • This is not a good time to talk about all the horror stories you’ve heard/read/been through. Now is the time for steadfast, cautious optimism.
  • Bring food. Food’s always good.
  • Gauge how much the contact wants to think about this. Sometimes you’re there to distract, and sometimes you’re there to say
    “Hey, has anybody tried this?”
  • DO stuff that needs doing. Sometimes it’s calling hospitals, sometimes it’s making lunch, or freeing the contact from having to make decisions.

A day like this is a day of waiting, of doing puzzles, of thinking of things to try and trying them. It’s a day of watching Facebook and your text message stream like you’re waiting for a job offer.

Please help us find Curtiss. We just want to know he’s okay.  [He was found safe on Aug 8.] Nobody needs more than one of these days.

-Jen

*Yes, I’m writing a “please help us” story in the guise of a human interest story, because I want readers. I want Curtiss found.

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