Am I Not a Geek? (Musings on Pop Culture’s Place in Nerd Life)

photo credit: Christopher Jones December 2015

Life is unpredictable.

Even when making deliberate decisions, the side effects cannot be predicted. Few things I’ve ever done have been more deliberate than the decision Chris and I made both individually and together to undertake the drastic dietary changes we embarked on in early September 2016. I have one other example of a deliberate choice big enough to truly change my life, but that’s a post for another time…

It’s no secret at this point, both of us have lost a bunch of weight, these physical changes have been the tip of the iceberg. I have questioned myself at a fundamental level when it comes to who I am and what I’m about as a result.  It has not always been easy to stay on track and to make the sacrifices of discomfort and hunger. I was often tired. I was sometimes emotionally overwhelmed, but pushed through because nothing gentle had yielded results in the past and my long term health was at risk.

I had no idea as the pounds came off, my intellectual appetite would change as well.

I cannot speak for Chris’ experience of this except for what he shared with me. He expressed some concern about loosing some of the geek identity that is so much a part of our lives, both individually and as a couple. We had a Klingon wedding – twice – for crying out loud. Our walls are covered with geeky artwork and autographs from sci-fi and cartoon greats. We have geek cred like crazy.

By the time Chris had mentioned the issue, I had already thought about how difficult it was for me to get interested in watching television and pondered the implications. For both Chris and I, keeping up with or watching new shows or even old favorites became less important. I didn’t care what was going on in the DC television universe or that it’s no longer possible to watch weekly on Hulu as we have in previous seasons, figuring I’ll eventually see it on my own schedule. We have even stopped watching the wonderfully done Victoria on a weekly basis on PBS.

We saw the important geek movies released during the time period. Doctor Strange (twice), Fantastical Beasts & Where to Find Them, Rouge One, Lego Batman. Enjoyable entertainment, for sure, but not the intense experiences I’ve had with other films in the last few years with Deadpool being the most extreme example of anticipating a film being a major part of my life. I will always look back fondly at what reading Deadpool comics prior to the release date and the film’s brilliant marketing for giving me something both fun and irreverent to look forward to over the winter of 2016/2017 when I needed that exact thing. As thrilled as I was to get the Batman movie we deserve this winter, the experience wasn’t the same and likely never will be. Deadpool was the perfect anti-hero to show up at an imperfect time.

It’s not as if I’ve turned my back on my love for spaceships, dragons, and heroes in capes. I’m still inspired by the stories and I still think in pop culture references. In times of crisis, I’m going to read A Wrinkle in Time or watch Indiana Jones movies because they remind me of who I am and what I believe. Fiction, especially fantasy and it’s modern descendant science fiction, made me who I am. But at least for now, I don’t need my precious fictional universes front and center to mask what I was missing from real life action – primarily me driving the narrative. Those worlds are my heart’s home but I don’t have to spend all my free time there.

With my attention split between figuring out what to eat within the strict guidelines of our diet and strengthening myself mentally with mindful meditation and earnest study of stoic philosophy to help me bear the stain I was putting myself under, I didn’t have room for much else.

With the extra time gained by not spending nights and weekends binge watching old shows and movies for hours upon hours, together or separately, Chris and I listened to audiobooks and podcasts, the vast majority of them in the realm of self-improvement, efficiency, and other similar topics. (Special shout out to Tim Ferriss for being our Oparh.) I read more non-fiction than fiction, including thousands of recipes which either fit our limits or could be modified. I worked in a few memoirs, notably Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking and Debbie Reynold’s Unsinkable. Real life examples resonated with me, especially those ladies who accomplished much in the face of so many challenges.

What I began leaning on primarily for mental and emotional support was both mindful meditation and stoic philosophy. I discovered meditation originally in early 2014, learning from the book Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Sometime later that same year, I heard about stoic philosophy on an episode of Dr. Drew’s podcast with author Ryan Holiday. I listened to the episode twice back-to-back and read Ryan’s book The Obstacle is the Way immediately. I so identified with stoic ideals. I love, too, that it is a philosophy and not a religion. It is important to me to live in a way which is no less ethical regardless religious or supernatural truth as I may see it as all mankind should live to the same moral standards.

Prior to the great potato fast of September 2016, I had signed up for the Headspace meditation app in order to renew a daily practice. I was a couple months into the program before the dietary changes – currently 294 days consecutively. As we started the fast, I began reading back through The Obstacle is the Way. As fate would provide, I discovered through a Facebook friend, Stoic Week put on by Modern Stoicism which happened to fall in mid-October. Both the Stoic Week activities and the active Facebook group have been a delightful learning experience. I have studied more about the individual philosophers as well as the practical applications of philosophy. Marcus Aurelius became an early favorite, in part because he wrote reminders to himself on how to behave rather than to teach others. I can imagine this powerful and wise Roman Emperor who was ahead of his time morally if not perfect by modern standards struggling with himself as I struggle each time a passage resonates with me.

It is impossible to say for sure, but I cannot imagine having endured a two week mono-diet of plain potatoes and the following months of saying no to everything about American food culture in favor of whole plants without both mindfulness and philosophy to lessen the misery factor. I know it was a good choice for my long term health, but it was hard.

I had to decide as in the last couple months as the reality of my physical transformation kicked in – around 170 pounds at this writing and 25 pounds from my rather arbitrary scale goal – what else I am. Once I am “done” and have established what food and workouts will be to meet the next challenge of two years maintaining the loss, I will have freed up some of the mental and physical bandwidth I’ve been using on changing my body. I also have a wealth of newfound confidence. To paraphrase one of my long time virtual mentors Adam Carolla, you learn to do things by doing things, sometimes even if they aren’t exactly the same things.

I do want to write more. I don’t know exactly what that will mean and I’m okay with that. My writing has always been wiser than I am. If I sit down to the keyboard on a regular basis, I’ll figure it out.

I proved to myself blogging is something I care about when in January I broke my WordPress installation. I am still in the process of restoring the posts, a few at a time as it is tedious work, but I was not apathetic as my poor posting track record would indicate. I have plans to post about food, because who doesn’t love food? I have so many ideas about how to eat wholesome food without breaking the budget or spending all day in the kitchen.  I always plan on more old fashion analog arts and crafts especially sewing with posts about my projects.  I would like to write thoughtful pieces about the books I read, less review and more discussions like I enjoy reading. I don’t know what else, but as long as it’s something, I’m okay with that.

Part of the reason I dreamed up the name “Nerdbliss” is how flexible it is as a brand. No matter what I do, I do it nerdy because I am passionate, curious, and exuberant. I don’t know how to do things halfway. I love adding to my bank of both experiences and knowledge. At the time, it was more what I hoped my life would be about and now I’m much closer to the ideal.

One of the things that is happening with me and Nerdbliss is a growth into a podcast. Chris wanted to start one and asked if I’d be okay with him using the name. It took me some thinking to decide as long as it was a separate entity from my blog, I was more than okay with it. I have even been roped into participating as on air talent as well as applying my humble WordPress experience. Our first episode is up with a couple more in the can. Feel free to check it out at NerdblissPod.com. We want to cover a broad range of topics both traditionally geeky and passions outside of stereotypical geek culture. I hope, like this blog, not for wild popularity but that it will find it’s audience however small.

So yes, I’m still a geek. I’m growing and incorporating the best ideas I find into who I am. If that isn’t the whole purpose of nerd-life, I don’t know what is. It’s a toss up on wither I’m going to talk your ears off about Seneca or Spock, but rest assured, it’s all the same to me.

Stuff Poblanos with What’s on Hand and Top with Chili Sauce

I made stuffed poblanos last weekend with filling comprised of several items from our regular cooking rotation and a basic chili sauce for topping. I’ve managed to misplace the recipe I used for the method, but since I modified to omit items I didn’t have on hand, I’m safe enough to share one or two similar recipes. It is the method, time and temperature that matter.

The guts can be anything. In this case, I wanted refried pintos, black beans and brown rice, plus some veggies.

I’ve been using a slow cooker recipe for black beans since nearly the beginning of our diet when it became clear the salt in canned beans was going to be a problem. I’ve changed a few details, but the formula hasn’t steered me wrong even with other types of beans with or without seasonings. I do 1.5 pounds of beans and 8 cups of water. Works great!

This particular batch, I did in my pressure cooker. I got a six quart and and eight quart for Christmas (Amazon wish list FTW!) The user manual makes the thing seem if they are likely to explode and should be handled behind those plexiglass panels with glove-holes to avoid exposure when doing science experiments. Cutting 4 – 5 hours on high in the crockpot down to about less than an hour seems worth the risk.

Refried beans were my first try, but it was literally mashing up pintos that were chilling in the fridge for a couple days. We make big batches of most things to enjoy the left overs. Beans especially since they take a long time to cook from dried.

I attempted mashing in the pan with serving fork but soon got tired of it. I got out the mashing attachment for my sweet Breville All In One Processing Station.

Any veggies could be anything. The original recipe I’d used but can’t seem to locate featured zucchini and summer squash, but to me this is the kind of thing you pick favorites or – better still – use whatever is about to go bad. In this outing, I used mushrooms, orange bell pepper and red onion. I’d found on my first batch of stuffed poblanos that I didn’t use enough filling. These, I planned to over stuff.

The worst part of the whole operation is cutting and gutting the peppers. I slit them further this time and it wasn’t so bad. Forget a spoon and use your fingers for getting the seeds. I used rubber gloves, not strictly necessary for the poblanos but a must for the chili peppers I was going to cut later.

Side note: Silicon baking pads have been vital in avoiding oil. Granted, cooking spray wouldn’t been the end of the world, but why use it when these babies keep everything non-stick? We got a set at Costco around the holidays for $15.

I put my veggies in first, refried beans and a spoonful of rice next before stuffing them to the gills with black beans. Pop the little beauties in the oven at 450 degrees for 45 – 55 minutes.

The red sauce was a big hit the first time I made it. It’s from that missing recipe and called for chili peppers in adobo sauce, but there we go with salty canned goods again. So improv to the rescue!

I found a recipe to make your own chili peppers in adobo after my first batch, but I haven’t done it yet. With these type of flavors, it’s hard to end up with something that tastes bad, ya know?

I stock up on no-salt added tomato products whenever I find them on sale. Publix seems to rotate the brand they offer buy one get one free and I’m more than willing to take advantage.

My version of chili sauce:

  • 28 ounce can no-salt added crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 4 – 5 chili peppers seeded and chopped
  • 1  tablespoon of dried chopped onion.
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced or powder)
Gloves recommended or wash hands with a tablespoon of baking soda afterward.

Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan, simmer for a while (15 – 30 minutes) to blend the flavors, remove from heat, hit it with a stick blender until smooth. Easy-peasy.

The leftover sauce goes perfectly on the leftover fillings. Why even cook if it’s only going to feed you once?

Masterpiece Theater: Victoria


British historical costume drama featuring not one but two Doctor Who related actors? I am powerless to resist.

Recently departed Doctor Who companion and Impossible Girl Clara played by Jenna Louise Coleman is Queen Victoria. I can’t help but love this as Clara is known to have been deposited all over time and space for the purpose of assisting the Doctor. No reason she can’t be Victoria. My headcanon has no problem mixing history and science fiction.

Eve Myles is the Queen’s senior dresser Mrs. Jenkins. Have you have seen a more disapproving expression?

photo: radiotimes

She played Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, of course, but also played a maid named Gwyneth in the Charles Dickens’ episode of Doctor Who. It does make one wonder.

Three episodes of the series have aired so far on PBS Masterpiece Theater of sixteen total listed as two seasons on IMDB. I am loving the cast and rich details in the set design and costumes. The Britishness of it all! The conversations consisting entirely of what is between the lines.

So far, I have resisted the temptation to read up on the Queen and her court as curious as I am. Better, I think, to wait until I’ve watched the series to enjoy the narrative to sort fact from fiction.

I’ll dig for more information at some point because it’s me. I will try to wait to scratch the itch because I prefer not to have spoilers. I’ll want to know historical details and how many of the household staff are real historical figures. I’m aware of Victoria as a general figure but not the details. I often come to an interest in a period or person in history based on a fictional account or a docudrama.

Forget the dates and facts; Give me the story.

As it happens, the series which has me making appointment TV arrangements over the digital antenna rather than catching a show later on the internet has a companion novel as well as a beautiful companion book. The pictures in the “look inside” sample alone make me want a physical copy rather than a Kindle edition. Something to set in your lap with a cup of tea on the table beside you on a rainy day and dream of velvet dresses and lace collars.

Mathematical Anomaly on Weight Loss Journey

As of today, I have lost both 63.2 pounds and 108.2 pounds, but not 163.2 pounds.

A riddle for the ages, but I’ll explain.

I started my current regiment on September 8, 2016 at a weight of 245 pounds. My highest know weight taken at doctor’s office sometime in 2009 was in the 290s. I don’t know exactly how much, because who wants to think about it when you are resigned to being too heavy because you don’t see another option? Please remember, I’m 4 feet 9 inches tall. Your mental picture should adjust a bit to shorter and more round like a fun-house mirror.

It means something to me that despite my struggles with weight fluctuations since I originally went from 290+ to 217 in August of 2010, I never went all the way back to 290 pounds. (Pro-tip: Get rid of clothes that are too big; Give yourself no where to go without admitting defeat.) I’ve already beaten the odds which say the vast majority of dieters regain what they lost within 2 years. I consider myself to have a leg up in this leg of the journey where the real goal isn’t the losing but the maintaining a healthy weight, reversing and preventing disease, and building my fitness levels. Deep down, I don’t consider “thin” one of my major goals. But excess weight is a health risk, especially when you have the underlying health challenges I do. Weight is also easy to measure.

As of this morning, I weigh 181.8 pounds.

While I don’t advocate for BMI as a measure of health as it only takes height and weight into account, it can be a useful comparison tool. I’m currently 39.2 on the BMI chart. At 290, I was 62.8. At 245, 53.

My goal, because it helps to have one, is 145 pounds. I picked it rather arbitrarily as I don’t have any concept of what my adult body at a normal weight would be like. Plus, it’s half of my highest known weight. It’s entirely possible I’ll won’t consider myself finished at that point, but I suspect it will be time to start working out in earnest

I was around the size I am now (weight unknown) in high school. I am not as muscular in my legs as I was back then when I walked everywhere, but I’m okay with that as part of the plan is *not* exercising in order to avoid bringing up a desire for more food. Since it’s impossible to outrun your mouth, this has proven an effective strategy. Have I lost muscle? No doubt. But what I lost was marbled with fat like a fine cut of steak. Once I reach my goal, I’ll be working to rebuild lean muscles as well as firm and tone which should be easier without the excess me. I have some unorthodox goals but being tasty when grilled is not one of them. Sorry, you are going to have to stick me in the slow cooker with some barbecue sauce.

I have begun in the last few weeks to take walks again. There was a period a few years back when Chris had to drop me off an hour and a half before my shift started so I got in the habit of walking three miles in the morning before work and usually a mile on my lunch. I got to where I was consistently hitting 20 minutes per mile and sometime squeaking out a bit faster. I got addicted to the feeling of that third mile when adrenaline starts pumping hard. I’m not pushing hard these days as my endurance and stamina aren’t what they once were, but it still feels good to put my headphones on and move.

Accomplishments matter. Less to impress others than to convince myself I’m capable. Being able to say I’ve lost 100 pounds and am a mere 37 pounds from my goal is a big deal well beyond the realm of the scale.

Veggies and Brown Rice

I love recipes, I do.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time surfing vegan and Paleo food blogs as well as browsing cookbooks. Saving whole plant food ideas on Pinterest is a hobby level occupation. Even before making a drastic change to my diet, I loved watching Good Eats or reading recipes. Food is essential. Cooking is a basic life skill worth mastering and, if you can, enjoying.

Yet a large percentage of our meals aren’t elaborate. A large part of our diet success is how the limitations (especially the no salt, no oil, no sugar directive which is so important) make restaurants and prepared foods off limits. It’s also made for culinary streamlining. I seldom cook one meal’s worth of food. More dishes are 2 – 4 ingredients than anything. Easy to prepare, inexpensive and good as leftovers is the trifecta for getting in the rotation.

Yesterday’s midday “breakfast” is pictures above. At this point while still working to lose weight, we don’t typically eat in the morning. I’ve joked calling it “fasting” makes it sound better than talking about not eating until later in the day or allowing yourself to become hungry because that’s when the body burns stored calories.

At first, I was avoiding too many whole grains and potatoes, but I have not observed any adverse impact on the scale when I partake. Brown rice has quickly become a staple. At just over 200 calories a cup and with tons of filling fiber, if anything, it keeps me satisfied. We’ve also found that Chris is able to avoid gout flair ups with eating grains and potatoes.

This particular brown rice was seasoned with garlic powder at the ratio of one teaspoon per cup of uncooked rice and cook to the directions on the package. Brown rice takes a bit longer – 45 minutes instead of 30 – to cook than white but otherwise it’s the same method. It’s flavorful enough to be interesting but plain enough to pair with any other dish or add another flavoring on the table. Sometimes I do plain or add ginger as well as garlic. My serving got a hit of Tabasco before I got down to eating.

The veggie mix is Costco’s frozen stir fry blend, plus a pound bag of Costco frozen broccoli. I never think there is enough broccoli. I think we pay around $7 for the four pound bags and it’s great quality stuff. Yes, there is a difference. Buy yourself a cheap bag of store brand frozen broccoli and enjoy all those weird end pieces that are more white than green and I’ll be over here with my bright green tiny trees.

One thing I always get questions about our diet is how can you cook things without oil? I admit, it seems weird when nearly every recipe starts with oil or butter in a pan. Granted, it adds flavor and sometimes adds to the texture of a finished dish, but it’s not required. I start with a little water in the bottom of my pan for things like cooking aromatics or this vegetable blend. I’ve also used vinegar to add some moisture to the pan for things like onions and mushrooms.

In this case, I added the coconut vinegar to the pan once everything was thawed and well on it’s way to done. It’s a mild one and brings a little flavor the the party. We got the vinegar as well as several other flavors (the spicy one is wildly popular in our house) at Saigon Market of Greenville. Watch the labels because some will have salt or excess sugar, but otherwise vinegar is your friend.

A giant pile of veggies, including green peas and string beans which are legumes, and whole grain rice is a nutritionally sound meal. Ready in under an hour. Eating healthy is *so* hard.

Happy eating!

Diet Advice From a Juggler:
What I’m Eating to Lose Weight

As a side effect of dropping 60 pounds in 4 1/2 months, I’m forever asked about what I’m eating, not eating, doing, not doing. My husband has lost more than twice the number of pounds and gets at least as many questions as well as peanut gallery commentary.

Totally understandable. Who wouldn’t be curious?

And I often say I love the opportunity to talk about what we’re doing without being one of those insufferable people who won’t shut up about their special diet.

Short answer: Whole plants, omitting fruit, nuts and seeds, not because they are bad but because they are more densely caloric than other plant foods and will be added back in once our target weights are achieved. We eat vegetables, legumes, whole grains and mushrooms. For seasoning: spices, herbs, vinegar, nutritional yeast, cocoa powder. Coffee, teas of any kind. (Hello fruity herbal teas! Love you!)

No animal products. No added salt, oil or sugar. No processed grains. Nothing artificial.

The hardest thing to get out of one’s diet is salt. If you think you don’t eat much because you don’t use a salt shaker at the table, you are wrong. It’s in everything packaged or prepared. Eating out is impossible. I gave away so much canned food and seasoning blends full of sodium. We buy no salt added canned tomatoes but otherwise nothing in a can works. Had to learn to cook from dried beans. Frozen veggies are a blessing and of course the produce section is safe even if Costco puts it right by the bakery. We do make a concession for Tabasco as the salt content is modest and you earn it with the heat.

What I do run into is the need to provide reference material  for those who ask with the underlying hope of finding a plan they’ll be able to use.

When my answer starts with “Do you know who Penn Jillette is?” it can go a couple different ways, but usually ends with “I’ll send you links to some information.” Penn was the emotional heart of the change we’d first flirted with in 2013 after seeing a bunch of documentaries about plant based eating. I am going to provide a bunch of links at the bottom of this post for anyone who might be curious.

Back then, we didn’t take it extreme enough, mostly by still using salt and oil. The weight simply didn’t come off for me. While I can personally attest to what we’ve undertaken as not being easy – starting with a two week mono-diet of nothing but potatoes – it has allowed me to overcome the impossible catch-22 of insulin resistance where being overweight exacerbates trouble regulating blood sugar but the condition makes it nearly impossible to shed the weight.

I’ve done the research, heard what doctors and scientists have to say, but it took a man who went to clown college and taught himself fire eating from a pamphlet to convince me I was crazy enough to do it. The only major difference between our plan and Penn’s is he gave up caffeine years ago and I partake for everyone’s benefit.

Resources covering the why & how of whole plant based eating:

Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales  by Penn Jillette – I recommend the audio book. Penn is a performer and hearing him in his own words about his journey is going to have an impact. Word of warning: NSFW or the easily offended. It’s not a diet book, but a first person chronicle of a guy who almost died due to uncontrollable blood pressure doing a crazy thing to live. 

CalorieLab breakdown of Penn’s diet – I love Presto! but it isn’t meant to be a diet book for others to follow, so there’s not a list of do’s and don’t’s like we’ve come to expect. For those who don’t want to read the book, this will give you what you need to know. For those that do read the book, it’s a perfect crib sheet for implementing the plan.

Safe for work and still packs the emotional punch, this Big Think video is an ideal Cliffnotes version of what Presto! provides in a family friendly way

Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (alternatively, although I haven’t read it myself: Dr. Fuhrman’s book The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes) – The science as well the diet we’ll eventually spend the rest of our lives on for both maintaining weight and good health. 

Ray Cronise’s blog and Penn’s Sunday School episode: More an honorable mention than anything, “Cray Ray” is the former NASA scientist who once took Penn up in the vomit comet (and let him get naked in Zero G) and was the brains behind Penn’s weight loss. Cronise was, last I knew, still working on a deeply scientific book Our Broken Plate.

Forks Over Knives: I’ve linked to the documentary (it’s on Netflix, too), but check out the website. Lots of recipes and information.

Hungry for Change: Another great documentary (Netflix and Hulu) about the science behind a whole plant based diet. 

My personal Pinterest board for recipes which either fit or can be modified to fit (currently pushing 700 items):



How I Broke My Blog
(Or Didn’t Appreciate It
Til It Was Gone)

Long story short, I updated by WordPress version over the New Years weekend and *poof* the whole site was gone. I didn’t get a fix from GoDaddy until today, mostly due to my lack of follow up. It involved upgrading the type of hosting I was using which meant transferring servers. My famous last words, always: How hard can it be?

I learned a few things in the process but all from not succeeding in transferring my backup files, so I’m rebuilding from spare parts. For the second time as a blogger, I’ve used the Wayback Machine to rescue content. From my previous blog, I pulled the reading lists from before 2010. I had knowingly pulled the plug on the domain but realized later even with the posts I’d had sent to my email over the years, I wanted a few other things. I should make a donation to this wonderful resource.

Today, I wasn’t even planning to change the theme. Now, anything dated before today is transferred. I was terribly upset at the idea of loosing everything. Maybe my blog isn’t anything to anyone else, but it’s something to me.

Sure, I only posted a handful of times in 2016, but I renewed my domain and paid hosting. Money talks, right? I’ve never blogged consistently like I did years ago when it was possible for a humble personal blogger to make a couple hundred dollars a month with a modest amount of traffic and semi-ethical paid links targeted at SEO optimization and some sponsored content.

It was partly the cash, but partly the community. Both dried up. Blogging used to be the way to make and maintain online friendships. I was never great or a run away success, but I still can’t bring myself to let my domain and hosting go. I always say how allowing social media to hold all our content is foolish, but I don’t take the time to post. It’s so convenient to use Facebook or Twitter.

I do tend to write blog posts around my birthday as well as around the first of the year. Despite myself, I get reflective. It was my New Years post that had me logging to break the darn thing.

Since I’ve made so many life changes in the last few months – dietary, obviously – I am thinking about writing here more regularly. Not because I have everything figured out, because I don’t, and since I was a kid writing is how I figure things out.

As I always say, we’ll see what happens on my little corner of the web, but if you are feeling nostalgic yourself, take a trip to the Wayback Machine for yourself.

Happy New Year’s from My Kitchen

 


Since I first moved to South Carolina in 2010, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying traditional Southern New Year’s Day meals prepared by my mother-in-law. Black-eyed peas, collared greens, cornbread and the most wonderful pork chops you can imagine.

This year, since Chris and I are back on our restrictive weight loss plan after several holiday indulgences, I decided it was up to me to prepare some kin of the good-luck meal to fit our limits. Neither of us believe in superstitious luck bringing, but do believe in the benefits of traditions. We believe in making your own luck and healthy eating is a big part of the luck we’ve made in the last few months. I’d like to write more about our dietary choices here on my blog rather than simply being insufferable on social media, but I will not go into extreme detail in this particular post.

Behold, black-eyed peas prepared with no salt, oil or animal products. Greens, well, didn’t get to the grocery store for collards to cook. Fresh kale and spinach seem just as lucky, right? It’s doubly lucky to go through the Costco sized bags before they get funky and slimy. Greens and beans are the foundation of our plan, so it’s as fitting as it is likely sacrilegious to my hardcore Southern friends. Your meals today are certainly better tasting, but I only just got the scale to read the same as Christmas Eve morning, so I’ll have to pass on the butter and bacon for today. No disrespect to your ancestors intended.

Not pictured is the pot of brown rice. I didn’t plan for corn to go with the meal to symbolically stand in for cornbread. Since it’s a whole grain with so many uses, corn is a staple in our kitchen. Corn on the cob, air popped popcorn, homemade corn tortillas (we bought a press) are all permissible and only scratch the surface of corn’s potential. Popcorn later in the evening is likely, if not corn on the cob, while we watch the new Sherlock special on PBS.

Happy (and Healthy) New Year!

Time is What You Make It

The internet is a buzz with hate for 2016. It was a challenging year for our household personally as well as the world at large on the political and cultural fronts. I started early with spending December and January soothing myself with Deadpool comics. I didn’t even bother to add a page on the blog to track my reading for the year that later gets abandoned (Is it laziness or tradition at this point? I don’t know.)

I remained in a funk for a long time, simply getting myself to the next event to look forward to on the calendar. The Deadpool movie in February, my brother meeting us in Atlanta for Treklanta in April, Kate driving out for a visit before Memorial day and ConCarolinas afterward. One foot in front of the other, because what else do you do?

At some point, I became restless with a steady diet of work, junk food and sofa-sitting until bedtime. I started meditating again over the summer. I also completed a prescribed course of physical therapy for shoulder pain and have used the exercises daily take the edge off a problem which had become increasingly worse.

When Chris decided to give the diet plan Penn Jillette lost 100 pounds in 90 days on as detailed in his book Presto. We started after DragonCon, on September 8th. To date, I’ve lost 52 pounds and Chris has lost 100. We had some planned “off diet” meals over the holidays so the rate of loss had slowed down since Thanksgiving, but we are incredibly motivated by our success.

There is one more leg to the stool I’ve built in the back half of the year.

By happenstance, a Facebook friend who I’ve never met in person, posted about Stoic Week. I’d learned about Stoicism and begun to adopt the thinking as a underlying principle after reading The Obstacle is the Way, but I have recommitted and refocused to practicing stoic living. I am looking forward to starting 2017 with The Daily Stoic as a devotional practice.

I’ve always considered the calendar rather arbitrary, especially deciding something magical happens between 11:59 pm, December 31st and 12:00 am, January 1st. Both stoicism and mindfulness cultivate a focus on the present with stoicism calling for virtuous action and mindfulness proving the peace of mind to carry out that action. Self-determination as well as acceptance of things beyond our control. This is what I wish for myself in 2017 as well as for others.

MAROON CORSET TOP (BETTER LATE POSTED THAN NEVER POSTED)

I originally finished this project in January, uploaded the pictures, and created the draft for this post. I intended to post. Something about January and August that makes me think of blogging. January is the “clean slate” effect the New Year brings. August 17th is my birthday so I’m contemplating the existential things in the dog days of summer. Who am I? What progress have I made? Where am I headed? And the biggest question of all: Why have I paid hosting for a blog and not published in eight months?

I am always torn between by impulse for privacy and the desire to be known and understood with a generous side of not feeling like I or my work is ever good enough. I don’t say this as a play for pity or bait for complements. I am not unique in my feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. I know my strengths and my stumbling blocks. I struggle with physical and mental health with sometimes nothing left after doing what has to be done vis-à-vis the requirements work and life. Yet I feel like I should push myself harder.

I’m sure it’s difficult for most people to understand why the pictures of my little sewing project musings on my well being. Yet my brain makes the connection between a perceived failure (both in quality of what I made and not posting sooner) and every single unsolved problem in my life, past, present and future. Not useful, but welcome to depression/anxiety thinking.

So as a small symbol of defiance, I’m posting. I’m not happy with how the pictures turned out on this project. I didn’t iron it again before putting it back on my dressmakers dummy. I didn’t take the time to get a good shot of myself wearing it. Funny thing is this garment is only a mock-up for a version of it made from a small piece of fabric left over from a skirt made from thrift store pants. I finally finished the “real” project a few weeks ago, but that is a post for another day.