Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Moment of Transparency (Guest blog post by my daughter Sierra)

Today, October 27, 2016, is my daughter Sierra's golden birthday; she is turning 27 on the 27th. Today's blog post is written by her.

Moment of transparency right here: 

The past few weeks I have had feelings of intense sadness. There is no reason for these feelings, as I know I'm exactly where I need to be. 

I kept wondering why... why am I feeling this way? I kept looking outward... I love my job. I get to work with my best friend, and such entertaining, silly people every day. 

I get to see my dad every day. He always tells me he loves me, and gives me the most incredible bear hugs I've ever had! 

I have been going to the gym regularly. I feel great physically and I'm in good health! 

So why? Why do I feel so low when everything seems to be going so well? 

It wasn't until I realized I wasn't giving enough attention and gratitude for these things every day that THAT was the reason. And not just every day, but every moment of every day. 

Today I practiced saying, "thank you" for everything in my life. My car, my cat, my friends, my health, my opportunity, my breaths, my hands, etc... my heart feels full and I'm smiling again. 

So when you're feeling so low that you just want to cry... try saying a simple thank you. To EVERYTHING in your life. For everything is contributing to a positive in your life's journey! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Got Everything?

When you pack for a trip, are you a list maker, or do you just kind of throw things together? My husband and I each have our own way of preparing. He is a lister, I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of girl. I do have an ESSENTIAL list (meds, phone, charger, credit card, ID) somewhere, but I don't often refer to it. The differences between us usually cause some last minute stress, but luckily, one of us helps the other of us remember the necessities.

"Does it frustrate you when I ask you to make sure you have packed everything you need?" my husband asked me one time while we were on our way to the airport.

"Well, yes, it does. I've been traveling across the country by myself since I was 18. I think I can manage to remember the things I need," I said.

Flashback to a couple weeks ago. The sun wasn't up yet, and we were heading out the door for O'Hare once again. "Do you have everything you need?" Chuck asked.

Sigh. "Would you like me to show my license to you?"

"That would be nice, if you don't mind."

I may have rolled my eyes, ever so slightly, as I pulled my license out of my mini-purse.

"Thank you," he said. "Do you have everything else you need?"

My hand was on the doorknob. I took a deep breath. "Pretty sure I'm ready to go. Are you ready?"

"Are you sure you're sure?" he asked. Seriously, my patience was wearing a little thin.

"I have everything. Let's go."

"You're going to be gone a week. I will be sad if I don't get to talk to you while you're gone."

I wasn't getting it. He was taking this a little far. And then I saw where his eyes were focused. On the table. On my iPhone on the table.

I had to laugh. I like to think I'm so independent, and can do everything myself, but sometimes, I have to admit that Chuck is just watching out for me, and wanting to be helpful. No, as it turns out, I didn't have everything, and apparently, I do need a little help. Lucky for me, Chuck is here to ask the important questions. 

As long as I have Chuck, I'm pretty sure I'll always have everything I ever need.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Putting Things Back

When we got married right before Christmas in 2014, Chuck encouraged me to make his house our home. He knew there would be changes, and for the most part, he has been happy with them. 

There are some things we each do differently, which don't cause any big problems. As long as I am willing to maintain things the way I like them, he has pretty much given me carte blanche to decorate the house to my liking. Chuck prefers a more austere practical approach to housekeeping, while I love dressing things up with holiday knick-knacks, decorative pillows, and pretty table cloths. He likes to keep things simple, so while I'm away, I make sure to leave the house the way he likes it. 

There is a routine I follow before I leave town, out of respect to him. I wash the table cloth, and put it away, leaving the table easier to wipe off after a meal. The toaster gets to stay out on the counter, instead of being hidden in the cabinet, and I put away my Brita water pitcher so there's more room for his blue Powerades on the top shelf of the fridge. The bran cereal gets moved to the top of the fridge, convenient for my tall husband to grab when he makes his own breakfast. I unplug the coffee maker, since it won't get used for the week. I leave his blanket and pillows out on the couch so when he has his early morning headaches, he can relax without having to drag things out each day. 

When I make our bed the morning I'm flying out of Chicago, I remove the frou-frou pillows, and fold the comforter at the foot of the bed, knowing he will only use the top sheet, and maybe the fleece blanket, if it gets really chilly. 

Now that I'm back home, I'm restoring the house to its homier state. Candles are burning. I've covered the table with one of my favorite tablecloths, and decorated it with a seasonal centerpiece, which happens to be vase full of candy corn and some cheerful mums. The cereal boxes and bread are hidden away in the cupboards. 

The bed is made, complete with the comforter and the shams. 

All of the blankets have been folded and put away that were scattered on the couches. My coffeemaker has already made a pot of coffee, and my Brita pitcher is full of cold water in the fridge. 

I'm not the only one who makes things nice around here, though. Ever since my first day here in Chicagoland two years ago, Chuck has been so good about one important thing. He makes a special point to make sure the toilet seats are down. What a thoughtful man!

Yep, I'm back. It was a wonderful visit in Utah with my kids, and it is very good to be home with my Handsome again. I couldn't be happier if I tried.  

A Day to Celebrate!

After a whirlwind week with my kids in Utah, I'm back in Chicagoland. I've done my yoga. My walk took me down to the river and back home. Laundry is going, the bed is made, and I'm rocking out to Wilson Phillips as I eat my quinoa, yogurt and blueberries. It's a great day already.

Today is a big day of celebrations in our family. It is my youngest's birthday. Bridger is 19 today. Hard to believe. We celebrated with dinners out, and German Chocolate cake while I was with the kids last week. Today I posted an earlier blog post in honor of Bridger, entitled "Celebrating This Boy."

Today is also the second anniversary of the day I met Chuck in person. We met, face-to-face for the first time, at the Asheville airport in North Carolina.

Great Smokey Mountains, 2014

One look at him across the airport lobby, and I just knew meeting this stranger was going to be one of my best decisions ever. My first words to him were, "You are perfect." He truly is perfect for me, just what I've always needed, and I didn't even know I could dare hope existed. HE'S REAL! So very, very real. I am the luckiest woman ever because I realize just what a treasure I have.

This is what Chuck had to say about the day we met:
"I drove all over those mountains looking for you that day, and am so glad that I was able to find you. What a wonderful trip and a wonderful two years. Magical. Thanks for choosing me, for taking the time to explore the mountains with me and for saying yes at the end of the week. You are wonderful and perfect for me. I love you."

Next week, we will get to revisit the Smokies, where we fell in love, and Chuck asked me to marry him. I love how romantic he is, and am looking forward to our future. There is no one with whom I would rather grow old. If the last two years are any indication, t's going to be a blast!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Here's My Sign

Saturday morning we had an early start. We had a two and a half hour drive to Wisconsin for A Gathering of Rogues and Ruffians, a fun little Renaissance Faire in New Glarus. Chuck was driving his Toyota, and we were listening to classical music, while I did what I do when we are on the road.
I love signs; all sorts! (Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth)

One of the hazards of being in a car with me is I read aloud signs I see, without any rhyme or reason to them. I love words, and cleverly coined phrases. Sometimes I read signs just to hear how they sound on my tongue. Other times I applaud the copy writers for coming up with advertising that informs, as well as entertains. Often, Chuck doesn't always know how to respond to my random outbursts; he's uncertain if I'm awkwardly starting a conversation, or if I'm just reading billboards along the interstate. 

During our early morning drive, as is often the case, a sign on the back of a semi caught my eye, and this time, rather than read the sign out loud, or give any context to what I'd read, I just started asking questions. 

"What difference would it make to some trucking company if people want to burn paper logs? Are they bad for the environment? I would think recycling a product one more time would be somewhat beneficial."

You are probably as confused as Chuck was about my questions, without having seen the sign. Chuck just looked at me with a puzzled expression. I decided to give him a few hints about my current topic of conversation.

"Well, the back of the truck had a sign on it that said, 'NO MORE PAPER LOGS.' We used to make our own paper logs when I was a kid, and burn them for fire starter in our wood stove. What's the big deal with paper logs these days? And why do you think that particular company is taking a stand against them?"

A smile spread across my husband's face. "I don't think that's the kind of paper logs they're talking about, Honey. Trucking companies aren't taking a stand on what people burn for fuel." He let that sink in for a sec. "Truckers can log their miles electronically now, instead of with paper logs, so they are probably advertising that they are up-to-date with technology."

A dim light in the recesses of my brain began to glow. 

I don't know how he puts up with me sometimes, but he does. Here's my sign...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Change of Plans? No Problemo

What do you do when your mother-in-law calls last minute to invite you over to dinner so your husband can spend the evening with his brother who has just arrived from Tennessee? If you're me, you happily accept the invitation, and figure out the details later. 

When I hung up the phone, I surveyed the kitchen. The meatloaf was ready to pop in the oven. The potatoes were simmering on the stove. A loaf of bread was rising on the counter. I'm nothing, if not flexible. Most of the stuff could easily be warmed up the next day, so I went ahead and finished cooking the meatloaf, and whipped up the mashed potatoes. But what about that bread?

The dough was already a week old. I had just formed the third and last loaf of bread from the dough that had been sitting in the fridge in a covered bowl. Once I placed it on the silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet, I just let it rise for 40 minutes. The only thing is, when I got the phone call, it only needed to rise a little longer, and then it would be time to bake it. But there wouldn't be enough time to bake the bread before I needed to leave to meet Chuck and his family in the next town over. Ugh. What to do?

I remembered what David Leite had said on his blog, Leite's Culinaria, about the 5 Minute Artisan Bread recipe: "Relax. It's bread dough, not a newborn baby." 

Trusting his words, I loosely covered the dough with plastic wrap, and shoved the cookie sheet in the refrigerator, where it sat while Chuck and I enjoyed a lovely meal with his family, and it stayed there overnight while we slept. We were glad we made the decision to join them, and postpone our own dinner at home.

The next morning, the boule (pronounced BOOL, which means ball) seemed a little on the flat side, and it had definitely spread out on the pan. I hardly dared hope the bread would be salvageable, but it was worth a try. I let it sit on the counter while the oven preheated to 450 degrees, and then I crossed my fingers, and popped it in to bake.

VOILA! It turned out beautifully. You guys, this ARTISAN BREAD is amazing. I can't say enough good about this bread recipe. It's simple, it's fuss-free, and it is delicious. In my humble opinion, this is a five-star recipe for busy people who love homemade bread. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October, October

What's NOT to love about October? Besides being the first full month of autumn, it is packed with birthdays: Chuck's, two of our kids', our sister-in-law's, and so many friends'. Today's pictures feature some autumnal scenery, and my very favorite people born in October, with some of my favorite October quotes.

Chuck's birthday is this week. We've been celebrating the last two weeks, with special gifts and little surprises, but on his actual birthday, we get to have dinner and birthday cake with our Illinois kids. Being with our kids is always the best part of family celebrations. It is such a special day. Happy October 7th Birthday, dear everybody!

The weather has cooled considerably. I've worn sweaters a couple days, and my jeans are finally getting pulled out of the closet to see the light of day. I love being able to run the house fan at night without making the house feel damp. When I leave early in the morning for my walks, I enjoy the brisk temperatures, and knowing I'm not going to be drenched with sweat and humidity before I reach the end of our block.

My favorite tree at the Rotary Park is glowing with orange. It always seems to turn colors before any of the other trees. When I go for my morning walks, there are more and more leaves on the ground.

We've been noticing a difference in not only the flora, but the fauna. While I've been missing the lightning bugs, I haven't had any mosquito bites for over a week now. The murmurations of starlings make me smile. The way they create patterns that swirl and change as if they were one amazes me. I love hearing the honking geese overhead, and would just appreciate it if all of the geese would get the memo that it's time to migrate. I swear the people of Saint Charles must be feeding the geese too well in the summer; the birds never want to leave. (I will spare you the grossness of why I wish they wouldn't winter here in our parks.) 

My birthday is next month, so I've kind of loved this autumnal season of celebration since I was little. Having had two babies of my own in the fall just solidified my love of autumn. We get to wish Sierra and Bridger each a happy birthday!

Photo of my sweet girl taken last October in La Jolla, California
What a sweet month October is. I hope time will slow down just a bit so I can savor every single day of it. 

The Donut and Pepsi Challenge

Making peace with food means I have to realize there are no BAD foods. No food is off-limits any more. I had gotten pretty good at eliminating a particular food group FOR A PERIOD OF TIME while on a diet, but once I reached my goal weight, or faced a tough emotional time, all bets were off, and I would consume way too much of whatever it was I'd been denying myself. 

Back when Dylan was in high school, he was starting his interest in bodybuilding, and I was following Bill Phillips' Body for Life program. We were both focusing on proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs, and we were lifting weights. We occasionally indulged in things we loved that may not have been that nutritious on free days or cheat days, as they were called. 

The one food we both stayed away from was donuts. We had convinced ourselves that donuts were BAD. They were so unhealthy, and we didn't even want to want them. I remember Dylan telling me that he just envisioned himself eating a donut, and all of the grease sticking to the roof of his mouth, and it made him feel sick to eat it. He convinced me to think of them in this unappetizing way, and except for our family vacations at Myrtle Beach where Krispy Kremes were a family tradition, I pretty much stayed away from donuts. 

A few days ago, I decided to challenge my approach to donuts. I used to love donuts when I was younger. Was I lying to myself about not liking them any more?I wanted to know if I had been missing anything by not eating donuts for years at a time. I couldn't find a Krispy Kreme store near us in Illinois, so I went to Dunkin Donuts. I asked for a custard-filled, chocolate-frosted donut. They don't have them. WHAT? Ugh. Where's a Krispy Kreme when you need one? 

So I settled for a double chocolate donut. Yes, I SETTLED. I should have just left until I could find what I was looking for, but I didn't. I ordered a chocolate donut with chocolate icing. I took it out of the bag. I smelled it. Huh. Nothing too tempting yet. I took a bite. I could feel the grease on my tongue and roof of my mouth. That was familiar, and not very pleasant. I ate a couple more bites. Then I just ate the chocolate frosting, and I threw the cake part away. Donuts really aren't my thing. And now I know. I'm not avoiding them because I can't have them; I just don't enjoy them any more. 

Diet sodas had been a staple in my life since high school. I would drink anything diet: 7Up, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Coke, A&W Cream just had to be sugar-free. The guilt I have been feeling over artificial sweeteners has been growing over the last year. Those chemicals can't be good for me. I typically guzzled a quart of iced soft drink in a matter of minutes. And then I would be sad the cup was empty. Did I get refills? If they were free and available, you bet I did. 

Last week when I went grocery shopping, I wanted to pick up some regular soda, just to try it. I found the perfect solution... 7.5 ounce cans of Pepsi, with real sugar; not laden with high-fructose corn syrup. After I got home, I put a can of Pepsi on ice in the freezer to chill. A half hour later, I popped the top of my mini can of soda, and took a sip. I savored the sweet drink in my mouth. It was tasty. I felt the soda bubble over my tongue. I loved the sweetness of it. When I was done, I was done. I didn't reach for another one, or two, or three to get my soda fix. I was simply done. 

The second Pepsi I drank a couple days later, I actually sipped over a few hours' time; before I went out on errands, after I got home, and later that afternoon. Who knew I could "nurse a drink?" I'd never tried it. Huh! I'm kind of proud to say that of the eight cans of soda I bought four days ago, I still have six left. That is progress, folks. 

So, donuts failed my pleasure test. Pepsi passed. I will keep experimenting with foods. 

My next goal is incorporating unfamiliar vegetables and fruits in my meals. Chuck will be thrilled. I think I will try kale, rutabagas, artichokes, and parsnips. I've never cooked any of them, but have vague memories of kind of liking them when I tried them long ago.

In case you're wondering, I don't think I've gotten any leaner or smaller these last three weeks of experimentation, but on the other hand, my jeans haven't gotten any tighter, so there's that. I have to admit to having some trepidation about letting go of the diet mentality, fearing that my weight would spiral out of control once I gave up on dieting. I don't think that is going to be the case. The biggest plus is I am not on an emotional roller coaster about watching the scales, because I don't look at them at all, and I no longer beat myself up about my food choices. There is something to be said for making peace with food. It is good for the soul. And I'm hoping in the long run, it will be good for my body, too. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

An Adventure in Eating

Lately, I've been having adventures with intuitive eating. Adventures, you say? Yes, adventures. When I first read the book Intuitive Eating, and saw the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating, I had assumed this would be a linear process, but I'm discovering that for me, anyway, I am finding that some things come easily, and others are more challenging. 

I like to start with the easy stuff first, so I tackled the first three, rejecting diet mentality, honoring hunger, and making peace with food, and skipped down to number nine, exercising. Working on 4 out of 10 seemed reasonable because they were the easiest ones for me. The last six will be works in progress for a long time, I'm thinking.

Rejecting diet mentality meant releasing my fixation on "diet foods and drinks." I am realizing that sugar-free and low-fat do NOT equal nutritious, low-cal, or satisfying. Some of us are slow learners. It's taken me nearly a half a century to understand some of this stuff.

I'm loving my subway art about being intentional as I begin this adventure!

Two weeks ago, my adventure continued with a simple purchase. I bought my first package of REGULAR pudding. Did you know Jello makes Red Velvet and Caramel pudding now? Oh, my heck. These taste so good. I don't know how many calories I was saving "back in the day" by eating sugar-free pudding, but I don't think 100 calories per serving for the regular stuff is breaking the bank, so to speak,  and it tasted great. There was no funny aftertaste from artificial sweeteners. 

I'm easing from fat-free to low-fat foods, especially with dairy products. I eat a lot of cottage cheese, and drink quite a bit of milk. I enjoy the low-fat milk so much more, but still like almond/coconut milk, too. I drink whichever one I want, or what's in the fridge. When the only cottage cheese in the fridge was Chuck's 4% fat variety, I didn't panic. I ate it. And declared it good. Being adventurous is kind of fun.

Honoring my hunger has been an interesting experience. Do you want to know how often I have actually felt hungry this summer? It was so rare because I seemed to be in binge mode so often. I have really had to force myself to WAIT until I was hungry. When my tummy grumbled, or my head started to hurt, I realized I might have waited too long. I feel like I am making a little progress there. 

When I am hungry, I eat. When I wake up, if I'm hungry, I don't make myself wait three hours for Chuck to have his breakfast. I eat a little something with my coffee, and that feels good. 

I'm still not always "honoring my health" with gentle nutrition (Love the term gentle nutrition which is part of honoring health, number 10 in the line-up), but since that's all the way at the bottom of the list, I try to not be too hard on myself, and figure that will come. I am really looking forward to getting comfortable with nourishing myself while observing all of the other principles of intuitive eating. 

The adventures continue. Wait until you hear about my Donut and Pepsi Challenge. And YOGA. WHAT? I know. I'm learning so much about myself; things I never trusted myself to do, I am realizing I can do them. It's okay to eat normal food, and even admit it to other people. I don't have to eat in my car, or stand over the kitchen sink, and eat it before anyone notices. Workouts are not just about sweating and breathing hard to burn more calories. There is value in stretching and walking, just because. (Although I admit there is more sweating and breathing hard in yoga than I first realized.)

Today for breakfast, I made an omelet. It consisted of spinach, sweet red and yellow peppers, a sprinkling of corn, a few slices of fried potatoes, and grated Swiss cheese. Chuck said I should become a food photographer because my food is so pretty and colorful. My plate also featured a slice of homemade artisan bread. Be still, my heart. I'm allowing myself to eat all sorts of food. Without guilt. Sigh. 

Food is so much less of an enemy these days. Making friends with food really does feel adventurous to me. And that feels GOOD.

If you are unfamiliar with the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, I'm going to include the link to her website HERE, and jot down the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating here:

1. Reject the Diet Mentality.

2. Honor Your Hunger.

3. Make Peace with Food.

4. Challenge the Food Police.

5. Respect Your Fullness.

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food.

8. Respect Your Body.

9. Exercise--Feel the Difference.

10 Honor Your Health.