February–Full Circle

Those of you who have been here a long time might remember that back in the summer of 2011, a couple we met in Harrisville, Michigan captured our imagination:

(Me back then).

(Beanie and Megan back then).

That summer, Megan and Corey–both recent college graduates at the time–lived aboard for more than 4 months and sailed the Lakes, before ending the summer with a wedding aboard on Grand Traverse Bay.  While we ended that season early after running aground, we followed their adventures for a number of years.  After proceeding to a honeymoon in Thailand, their adventures were followed by a newlywed settling-down time, followed by another summer of cruising, followed by a new baby, followed by…wait for it…a motor home and a move from Michigan to Texas!

They moved to Austin, which is a few hour away from Houston, but we have been following their blog and waiting for the time to be right for a meet-up.  And that happened this weekend.  We spent our Valentine’s day having a lovely get-together with Megan, Corey, and their 6-month-0ld son, Danforth.  

Beanie by our new table.

Beanie by our new table.

Picnic on the island!

Picnic on the island!

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Us, now!

Us, now!

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Tall bike ride!

Tall bike ride!

I hope you spent this wonderful February weekend in the company of friends and family as well!

Putting an End to the Hate!

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As many of you know, I have a lot of experience trying to lose weight.  I’ve tried every fad diet imaginable.  I’ve failed to lose weight on Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, calorie counting, low-fat, low-carb, South Beach, paleo, and the Perfect Health Diet.  I’ve binged after starving myself, and I’ve failed at “intuitive eating.”

I overate when I was stressed, and I overate when I was happy.  I’ve overeaten after skipping meals to make up for a binge the day before.  I’ve overeaten and made numerous trips to Goodwill to buy larger clothes.  I’ve looked in the mirror and hated what I’ve seen, which contributed to my not joining a gym the first 6 months we lived here.  I rung in the new year weighing 6 pounds less than my full-term pregnancy weight.

So when I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose 35 pounds, I knew I had to do something different.  All of my efforts at using willpower and muscling myself had failed, so I needed to move beyond the “tough self-love” mentality.  And I would have to invent a program myself, because there is nothing out there that takes this approach.

What is out there?  After my friend, Lois, referred to an “expert” recommending punishing yourself by eating a can of dog food, if you don’t stick to your diet, I did some research.  Sadly, I found that punishment is strongly recommended by the diet gurus.  Here is an example of the thinking behind the “willpower and discipline” approach.

Of course, this self-hate based mentality has had a backlash.  Many people advocate loving your body as it is, and not worrying about diet and exercise.  The Healthy at Any Size movement does make some excellent points.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I disagree with both of these approaches.  First off, why would willpower ever be necessary?  Just using muscle ignores the reasons that I have for overeating.  And self-hatred and beating up on yourself triggers the fight-or-flight response, which drowns your brain in stress hormones.  And guess what those stress hormones do?  Yup, they make you want to eat more.  Here is an article about stress and weight gain.

But I also wasn’t ready to just eat whatever I wanted.  I know there are health risks involved with being overweight.  Heart disease and diabetes run in my  family, and I do know that my blood sugar already runs high when I don’t stay on top of it.  I know that my energy level is lower when I am overweight, and I experience a lot more muscle and joint soreness when I am carrying extra weight.  Loving my body as it is means that giving it the care it needs to return to health.

So, based on that premise, I have invented my own diet plan, which I will share with you now.  It’s a completely different approach, based on self-love and understanding.  Of course, I am not a registered nutritionist or doctor, and this is not meant as a substitute for medical advice from one of these professionals.

My weight-loss approach is based on the following ideas:

1.  Weight gain is a symptom and not the cause. Being at an unhealthy weight is not natural for my body.  It is a sign that things are out of balance.  In my case, it is likely the result of years of being bathed in stress hormones.

2.  For that reason, my focus is healing rather than punishment.  Rather than just cutting calories and watching the numbers on the scale, I am focusing on healing my body from those years of stress.  And so I eat a nutrient-rich diet full of protein, fruits, and vegetables.  My focus is on loving and restoring.  I make sure I eat enough calories, and I determined the amount I need using numerous calorie calculators found on Google.

3.  I treat exercise like physical therapy.  I did a great job sticking with an exercise regimen when I went to PT for a shoulder injury.   And that was because the focus of my routine was healing, not punishment.  I took it easy when I experienced pain, I rested when I needed to, and I measured progress in months, not days.  I am taking the same approach at the gym.  I am no longer ashamed of modifying when I need to, taking short rests, and really listening to my body.  With this approach, motivation has followed–I am easily able to go 6 days a week.

4.  I eat for my mind.  Eating a high-protein diet with some healthy carbs and lots of water helps to stabilize my mind.  And when my mind is calm, I overeat less.  I make sure that my protein amounts are in the double-digits everytime I eat–and that means breakfast, one or two snacks, lunch, dinner, and possibly a bedtime snack.  I only drink coffee in the morning, then switch to chamomile tea if I need a warm beverage, and I consume very little alcohol.  Listen to your body and mind, and feed them what they need.

5.  I focus inwardly when I want to overeat.  There is a reason I’m wanting that snack, so I’m curious with my mind about it.  What need is unfulfilled, that I am trying to meet with that candy bar?  This is a time when I am gently curious with my mind, and compassionate.

6.  I use relaxation strategies.  Yoga is a major part of my workout routine, as well as mini-breaks throughout the day.  Keeping the body calm helps prevent stress hormones from being released.

7.  I avoid all approaches based on rewards and punishments.  This is difficult, because it is so ingrained in our culture.  I am not using “accountability” as a strategy, for example.  Having someone else tell me to keep going, is just enlisting help to muscle myself.  I used to participate in the “Greatest Loser Challenge” at work, but I can see how this was just a way of muscling and punishing myself.

So this is my strategy, which I have implemented for one week so far.  And the results?  I will eventually stop weighing in, because weight is no longer my focus.   But for now, the scale is a useful tool, because I will naturally lose weight if I am truly healing.  If I gain weight, that means I am not meeting my body’s needs for healing in some fashion.  And so far that is not the case, as I have already lost 3 pounds.

Time for Some Resolutions!

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That’s right.  I’m rocking it old school this year and making resolutions.

For the past two years, I’ve chosen a one-word theme, in lieu of resolutions.  Two years ago, it was “love.”  At that time I was just learning to accept love from those around me, and my mind was beginning to entertain the notion that I might be deserving of it. 2013 turned out to be a year of big changes, and I learned about love in so many different ways.  In fact, love has continued to be my guiding light, and it really could be my one-word theme every year.

My word for 2014 was “surrender,” and this was also very appropriate for the year.  In accepting myself as I am and in accepting life as it is, I’ve been able to grow more than I ever knew I could.  Surrender is really just an extension of love.

And so love will be my focus once again, but I will be making some concrete goals to guide me through this journey to love.  In 2012 I made 5 resolutions.  While I wasn’t perfect in meeting these goals, they did lead us closer to creating the lifestyle we wanted.

At that time, my goals were to eat less poison, get off the grid completely, generate one plastic shopping bag of garbage per month, put together a 12-piece wardrobe for myself, and have Christmas shopping done by January 1.  Some of these goals can be elaborated upon to help me meet my goals now, some of them are not irrelevant, and some are things I will work on later.

These are my resolutions for 2015:

1.  Lose 35 pounds.  Weight-loss had eluded me for years, but this will be the year I make it happen.  I’ve learned that willpower is a limited tool that can be counter-productive in the end, so I will be relying on other strategies.  I will work on staying organized with my meal planning and food preparation–and this includes delegating and using convenience foods (such as pre-made salads) when life gets in the way.  I will also look deeply when I am wanting to snack, so that I can learn to address the emotional need that is leading me to overeat.   I will join the gym that is walking distance from the marina, and begin attending classes there 3 times a week, eventually moving up to 5.

2.  Amass $10,000 in savings.  Living on Breaking Tradition is great, but we will eventually want something with a more comfortable layout.  Our plan is to save up for a center cockpit boat, which we will live on until we are ready to cruise full-time.  Then we will need something faster and more practical for long runs (our dream is to get a cruising catamaran!).  I don’t have a great history with money management, due to disorganization, feeling mentally overwhelmed, and fear of knowing our true financial situation.  There is less pressure now, so I am going to take baby-steps to get more comfortable in this area.

3.  Develop small income sources outside of my job.  If we’re going to cruise full time, we will need income.  We won’t need as much money as I make now, but we will need something.  So I will be experimenting with ways to make money through my writing.  I’m piloting an e-course and will try self-publishing, simplicity coaching, and other creative ideas.

4.  Spend structured time with Beanie.  My happiest memories have been of outings and art projects with her.  I actually joined Pinterest, so that I can find more potential activities!  My ultimate goal is to do an activity with her everyday, but we’ll start with 3 times a week.

5.  Do something social once a month.  I’ve always felt like establishing community was important, but the truth is that I’m kind of shy about actually getting together with people IRL.  So this year, I’m going to do something with a friend–have them over for dinner, go out or coffee, etc. once a month, at the very least.

January is an excellent time to start new habits, and I will be updating you on my progress on each of these goals, at least once a month.

May this be a new year where we all learn to love ourselves better!

New Year’s Eve 2015

New Year’s Eve has always been a significant holiday for Rob and me.

We met at a roller skating party when it “turned” 1995, back when we were both 16.  We started dating exclusively that night, and Rob proposed at midnight at Y2K.

We consider New Year’s to be our “real” anniversary, and this year we’ve been together for 20 years!

So what better way to spend this anniversary, than at a Yogi Bear campground?  This  park was closer and less expensive, so it was less fancy than the one we visited for Thanksgiving.  But I still had visions of us sitting around the fire, sipping bubbly, while we welcomed 2015.

What I hadn’t counted on were temperatures in the 30’s.  We were so glad that our cabin was heated!  Nevertheless, we did bundle up and have a good time!

Beanie was the only brave soul who watched the outdoor movie, which ironically was “Ice Age.”

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But the main event involved the Nintendo WiiU we had received when we checked our mail on the way there.  It was hard to pull Beanie away!

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We did get her out to play in the kid “habitat,” as we called it.  There was a family reunion in the park, so there were plenty of kids to play with.  Nobody lasted very long though!

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A visit to the game room was in order…

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And lots of coffee to keep us warm!

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Beanie found some dried worm snacks at the camp store and insisted that she wanted some.  Rob cautioned her that they really were worms, and Beanie’s response was, “But they’re dead!”

And she did seem to enjoy them.

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Her costumes came along…

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We tried having a fire, but it was so damp that it wouldn’t stay lit.  We ended up microwaving hot dogs and s’mores.

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While Beanie was outside, I moved the clock an hour head, and then another.It was getting close.  Time to break out the sparkling cider!

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Get ready…

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Happy new year!

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And, satisfied with herself for staying up until midnight, Beanie headed to bed.  Two hours later, Rob and I broke out the champagne and welcomed 2015 properly.

May this be a year of adventures for all of us!

Christmas on Breaking Tradition

This year “Breaking Tradition” was the theme of our Christmas.

First off, we made kind of a spontaneous decision not to travel up north.  We made this choice for various reasons, and we will be making the trip in the summer.  This year, it was time to do something different.

So we were on our own for the holidays.  This the first time in our marriage that we haven’t visited relatives for Christmas, and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t depressing.  Drawing on our success from Thanksgiving, we created a holiday experience that was uniquely…us!

We wanted a real tree, but none of them were small enough.  So we bought the last artificial one at Family Dollar.

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The stockings were hung over the settee with care…

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Beanie got some “Reindeer food” from school, so she spread it over the bow to help Santa’s reindeer find us.

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Notice the low tide.  Boarding was difficult, even with the ladder.

Beanie awoke at 5 a.m. (yes we were up already, because we were so excited!) and chattered to us about the thudding sound she heard when the reindeer landed on the boat, and the sleigh bells.  (For those who don’t know, Santa comes through the hatch when he delivers presents to boats).  Finally, at 6, we let her open her presents.

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She had to open the big one first…

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Because her stocking was filled with homemade mixes!

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My present came in a cardboard box with “Apple” written in faux-Cyrillic.

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I had lost my beloved iPod to the depths of Clear Lake back in October.  Rob found a broken one of e-bay and repaired it to like-new condition.

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Beanie has wanted a Hide Away pet, and we found a new one at the ICM thrift store.  That’s also where we found the Easy Bake Oven, for $4.

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A shave kit for Rob.  I also got him a Maggard razor, but couldn’t find where I’d hidden it!  He found it later, stashed in the bathroom.

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And a pipe rack, with a few pipes…

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Beanie enjoyed her numerous e-bay and thrift store finds.

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Back when we lived in Michigan, Beanie had a suitcase filled with costumes.  Since she was outgrowing them, they got left behind during the move, and Beanie has asked about it many times.  So I stocked up on 90% off costumes after Halloween, and found a suitcase at Goodwill.

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After opening presents, we headed over to my parents’ apartment (they were in Michigan, so we were house-sitting) to enjoy some hors d’voures.

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And yes, Beanie’s Easy Bake Oven and costumes came along!

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Every year that Rob and I have been together, we have made a cookie house.  We began by making them from scratch.  Then, after we got married, we started buying kits.  Now we buy a kit and hot glue it together!  Here’s this year’s creation, which is mainly Beanie’s vision:

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So that was our Christmas!  Spending it on the boat got us thinking about our future and our plans, which still include eventually cruising full-time.  And while that is at least a few years down the road, we have started brainstorming ways to make that possible.  In that spirit, I have begun experimenting with various projects to use my writing to help support us.

As I try new projects, I will, unfortunately, be spending less time with you here.  But fear not–Journey to Ithaca will continue until the day we leave port.  (I already have my last post planned out, but that will be quite a few years from now!)

As far as immediate plans are concerned, our winter break is far from over.  Tonight, Beanie and I will visit the zoo and look at the Christmas lights (here’s hoping that it warms up and doesn’t rain!).  And tomorrow we’re heading to Houston’s Jellystone Park to celebrate New Year’s.  This campground is cheaper than the one at Canyon Lake, but our accommodations will be much more rustic.  I will be posting pictures.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well!  I will meet up with you in 2015.

 

 

Breaking Through the Loneliness

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I am willing to wager that you have a secret.

Your secret is a story–or many stories–that culminate in a shameful “truth” about yourself and who you think you are.  You go through life hoping that nobody discovers this truth.  It would all fall apart if everyone figured out who you “really” are.

Or maybe you’re trying to bend reality, to make the most out of a difficult situation.  Maybe if you can be strong, brave, and inspiring, then you won’t come across as hurt, damaged, and unstable.

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Am I right?  Because if I am, then I have another secret to share.  Everybody has the same secret that you have.  And it’s all an illusion.  Every last bit of it.

I used to sit in loneliness, trying to hide “who I really was.”  I had a history of fear, of sadness, of anxiety, and of desperation.  Caught in the fog of perceived unworthiness, I did not understand why I had the thoughts I had, why I acted the way I acted, and why I made myself both distant and clingy in my relationships.  

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Fear leads to more fear, and we become convinced that we are alone in our experience.  We don’t talk about it, because we fear judgment.  We are certain that we are defective, that something is wrong with us.

But the more people I’ve talked to, the more I’ve realized that this seemingly private journey through fear is the journey of all humanity.  We all have a “story.”  We have all had experiences that have left us feeling confused and broken.  Many–and I’d venture to say most–of us at some point in time have been given labels, to try and describe fear’s manifestations in our lives.

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And yet those labels are not who we really are.  The story of how we came to feel broken, is not our real story.  We don’t need to be courageous or inspiring.  There is nothing we need to overcome.

Our journey through the confusion of fear and the fog of unworthiness does not separate us from the rest of humanity, it connects us.  We are not alone in our quest to understand and to see reality–everyone is on the same journey.

So take a moment today to see beyond the loneliness.

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Our Unconventional Thanksgiving

In 2009, we did Thanksgiving on our own.

My family had their festivities earlier, and Rob’s parents were staying in Florida.  So we went to the home up north, where we always had the feast, and tried our best to prepare one of our own.

The spread was beautiful, albeit smaller than what we were used to, but something about it was still incredibly depressing.  Because it wasn’t the food that made Thanksgiving what it was.  It was the fun of having everyone there, and all the memories of the goofiness from the past.

So you can imagine how I felt when I realized we would be doing Thanksgiving on our own this year.

A little research, though, and a little willingness to continue to break from tradition, helped us to create a new tradition.  We found a Yogi Bear campground in the San Antonio area, where we could rent a cabin, take Beanie to numerous Thanksgiving activities, and even attend a potluck feast at the end of our stay.

This would be our first trip out of Houston, other than the drives up to Michigan.  We were excited about the prospect of spending a week in a small house, with real beds, a full-sized kitchen, and our own bathroom.  And getting out of the city would be fun too.

So, over the river and through to woods, to Canyon Lake we went!

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To spend a week at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park!

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We love to pack light on most trips, when we’re taking the long drive to Michigan and bouncing around from here to there.  But we carried the majority of our earthly possessions with us this time.  We were staying in one place for a week, and we wanted to get the most out of our luxurious, spacious get-away.

Here’s our cabin:

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Rob brought his tall bike along.

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And, sure enough, we enjoyed snuggling up in real beds!

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I did our Thanksgiving cooking in a real kitchen.

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There were plenty of fun activities to keep the Bean occupied.  She got up bright and early to meet Yogi Bear…

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Took lots of nature walks…

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Visited the playground and game room…

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Frequented the jumping pillow across from our cabin…

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Took a “hey hey” ride in the afternoon…

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And many at night!

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S’more after the hay ride…

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And a visit from a friend…

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Beanie’s favorite activity by far, however, was arts and crafts.

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With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

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All in all, it was a great new tradition, and anything but depressing.  We loved our week away, and were also very happy to return home.

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How was your Thankgiving week?