Sunday, November 26, 2006

How do you eat healthier?

I wish life were like a Monopoly game, but instead of the Get Out of Jail Free cards, I could find a Get Out of Fat Free card. For quite some time now, maybe forever, I have been talking about and attempting to--never with much lasting success and only once or twice in my lifetime with any real effort and results--eating healthier. I really can't stand the thought of going on a diet. Seriously, when I think about it, I immediately feel the need to binge as if someone is trying to starve me. I used to be able to starve myself for days at a time. Yes, I know starving is not healthy, but now, just the thought of it makes me feel deprived and desperately hungry.

I didn't really overeat on Thanksgiving and had only some fruit salad for something sweet, no pie or cake. At some point, though, I looked at my plate and realized that it was all meat and starches. No one had brought anything green--broccoli rice casserole doesn't count since the broccoli is negligible, coming only from cream of broccoli soup. In the midst of the Thanksgiving chatter, I starting thinking that I really have no idea how to change my eating habits and eat healthier.

I can say to myself and to Valerie, my partner in eating crimes, that I have to limit my eating of Mexican food to one day per week. I can say that I'm going to the grocery store tomorrow and buy healthier foods--vegetables and fruits. I can acknowledge that I need to eat out less and cook more and more healthy foods. I can even cook, but I can't seem to do it regularly enough. I have been taking fruit with me to work everyday for a while now, and I don't drink Cokes nearly as much as I used to. I seldom have more than one liter at a time in my house, and I rarely drink anything other than water at work. I can say all the right things and do some of the right things, but I still can't figure out how to make it become a habit or even do it long enough to see any real positive effect on my body.

Besides eating better, I know that I have to find a way to make myself get my ass home early enough to walk ever day. I love to walk for exercise. Really, I do. So why do I stay late at work so much that I know I won't do it when I get home? Why do I sit on my ass when I do get home early and not walk? What is wrong with me?

I'm sure there is some book out there that I could read for help, but as much as I LOVE to read, I just know that I won't be able to read a book about dieting or eating healthier. I had signed up for this three or four week healthier lifestyle program at my church a while back, and I was really looking forward to the class. Unfortunately, the doctor leading the class had to have surgery, and the class was postponed indefinitely. Hopefully, it will be reschedule soon after the first of the year, but I can't keep procrastinating with my health.

So, how do you eat healthier?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Belated Thanksgiving

I had been thinking all week that I would post a message detailing the people and things that I am thankful for. In the past, recent and not so recent, I have had a difficult time articulating what I am thankful for, but I still wanted to post something about it. At church on Sunday, we had the opportunity to go to the front, light a candle, and speak thanks. At least one of the participants' thanksgiving brought tears to my eyes. I kept trying to think of something to say so I could participate, but nothing came to mind. I am rather selfish and self-involved, but I am grateful for people and things in my life. Why can't I articulate my thanks?

I could always say I am thankful for friends and family, which would be true, but everyone says that. I guess my problem is that I want to say something meaningful, clever, insightful--see, selfish and self-involved. In situations like this, I'm sure that simple and sincere is best, but the writer/show-off/smart ass, refuses simple. The result of my refusal is silence. Silence connotes lack, but there is no lack of people and things for which I am grateful.

Sitting around my brother's house yesterday, I realized how truly grateful I am for my family. I have four siblings, who love me no matter how superior or bitchy I act to them. They always forgive and forget my offenses as I do theirs. Perhaps most importantly, they will not hesitate to tell me when I'm being superior or bitchy, and they will make me angry, but the anger is never very long lasting. They want the best for me, and I want the same for them. I have ten nieces and nephews. I have two great-nephews and one great-niece--two more great-nieces are expected, one in a week or so and another in March. I love watching them grow up, even when they make mistakes. I find it surprisingly exciting that my nieces are now mommies. We drew names for Christmas presents yesterday. Economically, drawing names is best when you have such a large family, but I was kind of sad that I won't be shopping for all of the children, especially the babies. I might just have to buy them all something anyway. I'm not very good about keeping up with birthdays, so maybe I will buy each a book and say it's a late birthday present. :-)

I am also grateful for all my friends. All is a relative word--I really don't have that many good friends, but the few that I have are wonderful. I am grateful for them even when they don't get along with each other, even when I feel pulled by two allegiances. They are each important for a different, but equally important, reason. I can't imagine my life without Susy, Valerie, Lois, or Penny. In addition, I have several friends at work that I will truly miss when I leave my current position, which will be no later than May.

I am also thankful for the following things:

  • that Valerie changed my blog title banner--she is the best blog designer ever!
  • that I have had the opportunity to affect some children's lives in a positive way as a teacher.
  • that I can read and enjoy great literature.
  • that I am able to pursue a change in profession via the Internet.
  • that I live in a democratic country where votes do count and sometimes I am part of the majority.
  • that I have a job, even if it's one that I no longer want to have.
  • that I live in a city where I can go to museums, the theatre, and other cultural events whenever I desire.
  • that I get to see the Astros play as much as I can afford. :-)
  • that the Cowboys are 7-4 right now and seem to be playoff bound.
  • that I became a Unitarian Universalist.

I am sure that I could keep this list going if I tried, but I need to shut down and meet my sister and her family for lunch before I head back to H-town from my East Texas hometown. Thank you for reading this far and not admitting boredom. Later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On Beauty - Finished

I finished reading On Beauty by Zadie Smith a couple of nights ago. I really enjoyed this book. It's been a while since I read White Teeth, but I remember thinking that even Smith's most absurd characters work as real people. I think the characters in this novel were even more believable to me. Could it be they are more familiar to me because they are American and in for the most part? Maybe.

Smith certainly has a way with words. Duh! Could I be more obvious? :-) Anyway, one of my favorite passages in the book is the description of Zora at the beginning of the second part of the novel. I love Smith's description of Zora, the wannabe academic daughter of the professor, which opens the second part of the novel:
"Last year, when Zora was a freshman, sophomores had seemed altogether a different kind of human: so very definite in their tastes and opinions, in their loves and ideas. Zora woke up this morning hopeful that a transformation of this kind might have visited her in the night, but, finding it hadn't, she did what girls generally do when they don't feel the part: she dressed it instead. How successful this had been she couldn't say. Now she stopped to examine herself in the window of Lorelie's, a campy fifty hairdressers on the corner of Houghton and Maine. She tried to put herself in her peers' shoes. She asked herself the extremely difficult question: What would I think of me? She had been gunning for something like 'bohemian intellectual; fearless; graceful; brave and bold'. She was wearing a long boho skirt in a deep green, a white cotton blouse with an eccentric ruff at the neck, a think brown suede belt of Kiki's from the days when her mother could still wear belts, a pair of clumpy shoes and a kind of hat. What kind of hat? A man's hat, of green felt, that looked like a fedora, a little, but was not one. This was not what she had meant when she left the house. This was not it at all."

I have lived this scene more than once in my life. Smith is so good at creating humor, even satire, that doesn't bite hard or cross the line into parody. I knowingly laugh at Zora's attempt to "look the part," but there's no ridicule in the description so I don't take offense. (I'm probably not making much sense here. I'm not very articulate tonight.)

Another sentence that I loved: "It was the shady groves of dictionaries that Jack fell in love, bowed his head in awe and thrilled at an unlikely tale, for example, the bizarre etymology of the intransitive verb 'ramble.'" (Did I misquote? I will check this when I return from Thanksgiving and update if I did.) I love the idea of a "shady groves of dictionaries"--a beautiful garden of words.

My only problem with the book was the Levi's street dialogue. It didn't sound like the young African American boys that I teach. Of course, the boys that I teach didn't grow up in a college town or with a professor for a father. Still, I felt his use of street lingo a bit too forced. I'm not sure if this is a misstep by Smith or if it is indicative of Levi's desire to be the street kid despite being very middle class.

There's a scene late in the book where two young men end up in tears when they see the reality of their lives. Jerome is saddened by his realization that his father had had sex with his first love, and Carl is upset by his realization that his first love, rap, has bought him a ticket into academia, but the ticket doesn't allow full admission and comes with strings attached. The juxtaposition of the sensitive intellectual and the streetwise rapper standing in the freezing cold, crying, is quite effective.

I really liked the ending of this book. Power has shifted, but there are no real winners or losers. The book is essentially about a family, and in the end the family is still there. Although much has changed and some relationships are strained, the family does not desert one another. Don't get me wrong the ending is not touchy-feely, but it is a satisfying resolution.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Challenge? What challenge?

I'm sure that I have already lost the Procrastinators National Posting Month blogging challenge. I only blogged three times last week, one short of the required four, and I have only posted once this week before tonight. I might be able to post two more this week, but I'm sure someone else will win that lovely down pillow. :-( Valerie will probably win it, but maybe she will let me borrow it sometime.

Also, I have not finished reading On Beauty, so I am way behind on the From the Stacks challenge. I had hoped to be reading a new novel and a new short story book by now, but I have been so busy with work and grad school that I haven't had time to read this week. I wish I could figure out a way to stay awake for a few days, then I might be able to get caught up enough to free up some time for reading. Next week, I will not have to work--Thanksgiving break!--and I am going to do as much reading as I can.

Enough whining. I really do have something to blog about tonight.

Recently I completed my reading of Our Kind, which is a novel in stories. These linked stories tell about a group of women, who came of age and married in the 50s. These women followed all the rules of society, until society changed on them and husbands divorced them.

I love this quote from the book that is quoted on the back cover of the paperback: "We could do any damn thing we liked . . . unfettered as we were, and we would, we knew, just as soon as we thought what." The women populating this book do figure out lots of things to do. They try to be good feminists, self-sufficient and independent, and sometimes they are successful. Howver, they never quite reach hero status, yet as a reader, I kept hoping one of them would. They end up being just a bit sad but not pathetic.

Perhaps because I came of age in the late 70s/early 80s, I am fascinated with stories about women experiencing the changes that occurred as a result of the rise of feminism. I like to read about women finding an active place in the world. The women in Our Kind, for the most part, didn't want to join the fight for women's rights. Yet, late in their lives, they find themselves unmarried, divorced, and widowed, so they become independent women by default.

As I was finishing this book, I kept thinking of the word ephemeral. My mental pictures as I read seemed to be blurry around the edges as if the picture was disolving. I'm not sure what this means, but I do think women like those in the book were fleeting. Times changed and women like them no longer exist.

Because I borrowed this book and didn't buy it, I didn't mark many passages in it. Two that I did mark seem to speak volumes about the women in this book as well as about many people that I know.

The final story tells the of Viv, who had plans to go to grad school until a proposal of marriage puts a halt to her plans. In the story, she is sitting in the office of two female professors, trying to figure out how to tell them that she had decided not to pursue grad school. She chickens out and tells them that she is sure that she can go back to grad school after she is married. The two professors do not believe her, and Viv really doesn't believe herself although she can't admit her doubt to herself. As she leaves the offices, she thinks, "Deferred . . . A year or two of waiting; then she would show them what a woman could do." Sadly, Viv never returns to grad school--life gets in the way. The title of this story is "The Beginning of the End," an apt title for the ending story in the book and for a story about the end of a drem.

In the same story, Viv thinks this as she is reflecting on her late life experience in a ficiton writing class: "The few times we speak of true things it is almost unbearable, and so we do not, mostly preferring to laugh." There's something sad about this statement, especially in the context of the story, "The Beginning of the End." (Too bad, I'm too sleepy to elaborate on this thought.)

Maybe I will write more about this sentence later. Now, I have to go to bed before I fall asleep sitting up on the couch.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Blogging in bed

I brought my computer to bed thinking that I would post a blog before I went to sleep, but I think I'm too tired now. I had planned to blog about the most recent of episode of Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me, the NPR news quiz show--more evidence of my nerdiness, not that even an occasional reader of this blog needs more evidence. I had also planned to blog about my reading of Our Kind.

I'm falling asleep now, so I will have to blog about both of these things later. For now, I can only say good night.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Night

My faith in the American people (not Texans though) has been bolstered. I still feel like my blue votes in Texas are futile for the most part, but at least some blue votes counted today and counted big across the nation. I have stayed up way too late, watching too much election coverage and not doing enough class work.

However, I'm glad that I stayed up this late and got to see Harold Ford Jr.'s concession speech. His concession speech was very dignified and effective. He rose above the nastiness of the campaign against him. I never saw the commercial that was criticized as being racist, but I'm sure that race had something to do with his loss--Tennessee, the South, you know the drill.

As a woman, I am very excited about Nancy Pelosi being the first woman Speaker of the House. It is about time. Now, we have to get a woman into the White House.

Now, I better turn off the television and get some sleep. Later.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two Challenges and a Product Review

Challenge 1: I am always envious of book bloggers who actually have time to participate in challenges. I would have liked to have participated in the Carl's R.I.P. Challenge, but I just can't read that much during the school now that I am teaching and going to grad school. Of course, as soon as one challenge ends another begins. Last night, I came across a challenge that I might be able to do. Michelle at Overdue Books has a issued a From the Stack Winter Challenge:

If you are anything like me your stack of purchased to-be-read books is teetering over. So for this challenge we would be reading 5 books that we have already purchased, have been meaning to get to, have been sitting on the nightstand and haven't read before. No going out and buying new books. No getting sidetracked by the lure of the holiday bookstore displays.

The bonus would be that we would finally get tosome of those titles (you know you picked them for a reason!) and we wouldn't be spending any extra money over the holidays.

The time frame would be Nov. 1st until Jan. 30 and there will be some small, fun prizes awarded to random participants and/or those with clever review posts. There will be one random drawing for a prize to those who submit their list of books in the comment section by Nov. 15th but feel free to join any time. There will be another random drawing for those who submit five reviews by Jan. 30 for a small gift certificate to Amazon.

I might actually be able to read 5 books by the end of January since I will have a week off work for Thanksgiving and two weeks for Christmas. Here are six books. I will do my best to read five of them, but I'm not sure which five yet. Also, I have to finish On Beauty before I can start any of these. I have about 100 pages left to read, I think.

§ Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Kathering Anne Porter. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about Alice McDermott's NPR commentary about this novel. I went to Half Price Books to look for it but had no luck. Yesterday, I went to Bookstop to look for it and found it in a book of Porter's collected works. I was reminded of a book of her collected works that I bought so very long ago as an undergrad for a class that I eventually dropped. I came home and found it on my shelf.

§ The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. I blogged recently about buying this book. I just feel that Murdoch is someone that I should have read.

§ Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I had been wanting to read before he won the Nobel Prize and bought this book the week before the prize was announced.

§ The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. I've had this on my to-read list since it won the Booker Prize in 2004. It's been on my to-read stack for about a year now.

§ Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood. She's one of my two favorite authors. When I saw this book in the bookstore last week, I couldn't resist.

§ The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I had heard some good things about this book before it was shortlisted for the Booker this year. After it was shortlisted, I picked it up at the bookstore.

Honestly, I'm such a slow reader and so busy with work and grad school that I will be lucky if I read three books, but I am still going to attempt this challenge.

Challenge 2: Any challenge for procrastinators piques my interest. My middle name is Procrastination. South Austin/Brooklyn Kid issued this challenge for those of us who know we aren't disciplined enough to blog on a daily basis as part of National Blog Posting Month:

I have decided that I will start my own procrastinators NaBloPoMo which consists of blogging almost everyday during the remaining month of November and a few days in December.

My contest runs from November 4 to December 4 and only requires participants to try their very best to write at least 4 days a week. If you write more than four days a week you get personally generated awesomeness points. If you post more than once in a single day you get to take a day off. Yes, this post officially announces the start of Procrastinators National Posting Month (otherwise known as ProNap Month).

If you'd like to join let me know. If three or more people sign-up I will post links to everyone's blog. (Deadline for sign-up is November 10 - you will have 2/3 of the "month" upon which to muse.) At the end of the "month" I will gather a team of esteemed procrastinators and, through a randomly generated choice of criteria, we will judge the best poster. The winner will be rewarded with a new down pillow (or an allergen-free equivalent).

I posted twice yesterday and once today, so I am already working this challenge. Of course, tomorrow I have to work, and I have a major project due in my cataloging class on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if I can meet the challenge of posting 4 times per week. I am not sure I even post four times per week in the summer. I guess only time will tell.

Product review: A while back, I bought some of those plastic crock pot liners. I used one for the first time tonight. I don't know it the liner just leaked or if I poked a hole or tow in it when I was checking to see if the chicken was done, but there was a small amount of marinade in the bottom of the crock pot. However, cleaning that small amount out of the crock pot was so much easier and faster than it would have been without the liner. I give the liners a thumbs up. I will definitely use one every time I use my crock pot now.

I guess I have run on long enough now. I need to go to bed at a decent time tonight although I have a hard time doing that on Sundays. I tend to stay up late, attempting to put off the inevitable: going to work tomorrow.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A new generation

I have two brothers and two sisters. My siblings have a total of eight children and two step-children. Four of my nieces have a total of four children with two more on the way. One niece has a four-year-old, but all the rest are recent arrivals. I have been to more baby showers in the last year than I had been to in the previous ten years together. I've been surprisingly excited by all these births. Usually, I try not to be excited about babies because the excitement reminds me of how much I would like to have a child, even at the old age of 42. However, bemoaning missed opportunities only depresses me, and I don't have time to be depressed these days.

I don't want to harp on anything negative today. I'm just going to post some photos. They are both so cute! Enjoy!

Well I can't figure out how to put them at the bottom of the post. Damn! So I created a post of the photos and posted it first. So if you scroll down a bit, you'll see the photos I'm talking about in this post.

Baby Photos