Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Day in Pictures

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I teach. The pay sucks, the benefits (as a teacher at a university, as opposed to, say, a public school) are minimal and my own personal commute is pretty ridiculous.

One bright spot, however, is our faculty spending account. Every year, we get a certain amount to spend on "professional development." While the administration has gone all Ebenezer Scrooge on technology purchases (as though having access to a computer doesn't contribute to the teaching effectiveness of the faculty), they are simply delighted to send us to professional development workshops. Which is how I wound up spending a week last summer at the Omega Institute, taking a Spanish Immersion class.

The class absolutely blew, which was shocking considering the fact that I'd loved every class I'd ever taken at Omega up till that point. The rest of the class agreed with me, and when we went en masse to complain we were each given a free R&R weekend as compensation.

I just came back from mine.

R&R at Omega is lovely. No schedules, nowhere you have to be, no one you have to answer to. I timed it so as to be there the same weekend as a colleague who was taking an actual workshop and who I love to pieces, and it wound up being the perfect combination of alone time and friend time.

I arrived late Friday and enjoyed dinner and some quiet knitting time with my audiobook (Scott Sigler's Nocturnal) in the Ram Das Library. When I started feeling sleepy, I headed back over to my single dorm room for a little spinning out on the front deck, then settled in for a good night's sleep.

I woke at 6:45am, no alarm, no kids jumping all over me demanding breakfast, nothing but soft light coming in around the edges of the windowshades and a desperate need to pee. Breakfast with my friend, then knitting in the organic vegetable and flower garden, followed by a group reiki session and more knitting, this time in a comfy hammock down by the lake. I went to lunch only when the first drops of rain started to fall,rousting me from my spot under the trees.

I spent Saturday afternoon knitting, drinking tea and browsing the shelves in the Omega shop for small gifts for the girls and DH. After dinner -- all vegetarian, organic, locally-sourced and absolutely delicious food, as always -- the evening found me again at the library, knitting, then back at my room, spinning.

Sunday, my last day, was cloudy, but I still woke to the gentle morning light at around 6:45am. I spent the entire morning except for meals down at the lake, swinging in a hammock and putting the finishing touches on the socks I'd been working on all weekend. By the time I left after lunch, just ahead of an approaching storm, I'd been thoroughly rested, relaxed and pampered.

Here's what I have to show for it:

First and foremost, Mom's socks. She picked the yarn out last Christmas -- a colorway so totally unlike her that at first I thought she was joking. But for some strange reason, my plain-vanilla mom wants some funky rainbow socks, so who am I to argue? I just put them up to block tonight, and once the ends are woven in I'll tuck them away for this year's Christmas present. Score one for me for being ahead of the game!

Four ounces of Crown Mountain Farms Targhee singles in the Woodstock colorway, from their 2010 Fiber Club. This was an absolute breeze to spin and felt like it took no time at all. I didn't get crazy about setting up a control card or being super-duper careful to make all the singles exactly the same grist; I just let it flow, and it was so much fun I didn't want to stop. I actually spun up the second bobbin here at home in just the couple of days since I've been back, a true feat since I rarely get much spinning time around the house. I'm planning to spin up another 4 ounce bump of CMF, this one a lovely Polwarth in various purple tones, also from this year's Fiber Club. At the end of it all, I plan to 4-ply the singles to get what I hope will be a nice, lofty worsted-weight yarn.

And finally, this. My latest podiobook, Nocturnal. DH loves Scott Sigler, but I got totally turned off from him when I tried to listen to Infected, which is gory, to say the least. Nocturnal is pretty gory as well, but for some reason I got completely hooked into the story. As a kid, I was always a sci-fi/fantasy/horror junkie, so I think I'm just returning to my roots. I listened to what must have been something like 30+ hours of audio during a single weekend, and I didn't want the story to end. I absolutely love audiobooks and podiobooks. My latest pick is a classic: Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

And all this productivity has allowed me to get started on yet another shawl: a Blue Curacao in Misti Alpaca Worsted. So far, nearly a dozen rows in, it looks like this:

Not incredibly impressive, I know. But just you wait. This shawl is gonna be a knockout.

Now if only I had another weekend of alone time to work on it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hold the Mayo...and the Dessert

Sugar makes me crazy. Not crazy like my toddlers get crazy when they have one too many spoonfuls of sprinkles on their ice-cream sundaes. No, this is a slower, more insidious crazy. The kind of crazy that you know is taking over, but still you keep going with it because, well, that's what the crazy is, after all...crazy.

Now, you have to understand something about me. I grew up in a house with two parents who grew up during the height of the Great Depression. They ate mayonnaise sandwiches and made tomato soup out of ketchup and re-used teabags when they were kids. Let no one ever tell you that growing up poor doesn't do something to the way you look at food as an adult.

What it did to my parents was make them what they considered a healthy meal. If it was filling and home-cooked (my mother never did and never has prepared a meal out of a box), it was nutritious. Which is why I spent my childhood fervently believing that a big ol' piece of apple pie , warmed up just enough to melt a slice of American cheese on top and served with a nice, tall glass of whole milk was a perfectly acceptable breakfast. As both my parents attested, it had all four food groups: fruit, grain, dairy and -- since pie crust is made with lard, yanno -- meat. Bill Cosby does a famous bit about how as a father he fed his kids chocolate cake for breakfast because it covered all the food groups. Well, in my house, it was no joke. All our food was home-cooked from the best of the full-fat, high-calorie foods around. None of us ever thought anything of it.

We were also a family of late-night eaters. Oh, we had our meals early and like clockwork. Since Dad worked nights, Mom got up at the crack of dawn to get breakfast on the table by 6am, when he got home. We had dinner together every night at 5pm exactly, never any earlier (except for Sundays, when "dinner" was served between 2 and 3) and certainly never any later. But eating that early means you tend to get hungry again right around 9 or so, and that's when Mom would bring out the cookie jar. Or the frozen Sara Lee. Or the ice cream. You get the drift.

It didn't hurt that Mom was naturally skinny. When she got married at 22, she weighed 99 pounds and had a 22 inch waist. As a kid, she was under doctors orders to drink a milkshake every day to put some weight on her. Naturally skinny my dad was not, and I definitely take after him in the metabolism department. Thanks, Dad.

So, junk food and eating late at night have always been the bane of my existence. For a long time, I didn't even realize that this was a problem. I was teaching crazy hours at a bunch of different colleges, getting home at 10pm or later, and either picking up fast food on the way or raiding the fridge for whatever I could grab. So what if I ate it at midnight -- dinner was dinner, right?

Wrong. Of course, wrong. You know it's wrong. It took me years to figure out it's wrong. And, boy, is it hard to change something so hardwired.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to lose close to 50 pounds. I'd put on weight before I got married, then kept on weight after each of my girls was born, and quite frankly, I was sick and tired of seeing a fat, middle-aged lady in the mirror every time I looked. If I'm going to be middle-aged, dammit I'm at least going to be svelte. I don't have to be skinny. I just don't want to be fat.

I did well for the first part of the year. I lost a solid 15 pounds. Then, the bad habits started creeping back in. For one thing, I started eating late at night again. I'd been really good about eating dinner, brushing my teeth and not eating again until breakfast. I'm not sure when that all fell apart -- maybe when I started postponing brushing my teeth until bedtime, giving myself a whole 4 hours or so of eating time after dinner? -- but I soon found myself snacking away at night with my naturally-thin husband. (A man, I might add, so naturally thin that he actually loses weight when he doesn't exercise. What the hell's with that?) And so , while I managed to keep off the 15 pounds I'd lost, I certainly didn't lose any more.

I also realized that I'd gotten the sugar crazies again. The sugar crazies start when I exceed a certain amount of sugar intake -- what that amount is exactly, I have no idea, and maybe I'm just fooling myself by thinking that there even is an "acceptable" amount for me -- and fall into a cycle of eating sweets because I crave them and then craving them more so I eat more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I realized I'd hit that point. Not only because I found myself sneaking the kids' chocolate-chip cookies and raiding their stash of leftover Halloween candy when they were asleep, but also because I was getting violent headaches.

Every. Day.

So, I quit. Today was Day 2 of no sugar for me, and Day 2 is always the hardest. Day 1 is tough because the cravings are the worst, but since it's Day 1 I'm also always full of motivation: I can do this. I can do this. Boo-yah! On Day 1 I'm also full of Cheetos or some other salty snack since I realize there's only so much I can cut out at once without going head-scratching nail-biting nuts. Yesterday I ate an entire bag -- that's six full servings for those of you counting -- of Brand-X cheese puffs because that's all the Rite-Aid in Grand Central Station was selling. But, at least I didn't eat any sugar.

Today, I felt the sugar cravings starting to subside, but I also felt the boo-yah subside as well. Now it's more like a "boo." I found myself opening the fridge just to see what was in there and wondering if a glass of chocolate milk before bed would be a good idea.

And so, I logged on. And here I am.

And I didn't eat any sugar again tonight. And as soon as I post this, I'm heading to the bathroom to brush my teeth and get to bed. Because the hardest part of this won't be getting through tonight or tomorrow night or even the next. The hardest part will be getting through every single moment when my default mode is to eat badly when I should be eating well or not at all.

At least I don't have to eat mayonnaise sandwiches.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Bad News/Good News

I'm typically a "bad news first" kind of person, mainly on the theory that getting the bad news over with first allows for an uplift when the good news comes after.

The bad news, then, is that the Dorothy loom that I had so very much fun using is, simply put, killing my hands. The carpal tunnel that I struggled with earlier this summer is slowly creeping back, and the Dorothy with its side levers (and the force required to make them move) just makes my wrist ache. I can't even switch off hands because the levers are side levers -- all on one side, the right. I'm bummed because I really, really like weaving on a multi-harness loom, and I know the friend who lent me this Dorothy would give me a decent deal on buying it. Sigh.

The good news, though, is that now I know I really, really like weaving on a multi-harness loom; I just have to find one that is a good ergonomic fit for me. Another friend has a Schacht table loom with front levers, and she's going to let me try it out. Of course, I might just have to bite the bullet and get a floor loom that I can work with my feet to avoid the whole carpal-tunnel issue entirely. But, yanno, I'm willing to make the sacrifice. It's the least I can do for my health.

As a result, the warp I set up for some cotton dishtowels will have to sit until my hands feel better. In the meantime, I'm direct-warping my Beka RH with some leftover Tilli Tomas 100% silk to make a brown-and-bone plaid scarf. My first plaid, and of my own design, too...wish me luck!

Sunday, August 01, 2010