Archive for February, 2008

Fitness, week 3

For shame–I’m writing this during dissertation time.  I am sickly at the moment–am I detoxing because of my recent lifestyle changes? or just have yet another seasonal virus?–and it took me the better part of two hours to get through a 15-page, reasonably readable essay on a topic that is interesting to me.  There may have been a nap involved.  At any rate, before I get back to some dissertation busywork, which is what I do when I am sick or burned out (read any fascinating books on the Eiffel Tower?  let me know!), here’s this week’s update:

90 minutes cardio on the bike.  For each 30-minute session my heart rate has been at aerobic level for at least 20 minutes.

1 free-weight session.  That night I developed a sore throat and by the next morning I had a fever, too, and now I have a cough, so I am suspending sessions until next week.  But I was sore the next day (and how! on top of achy) which means I was doing something right.

Eating is good; as I mentioned in the post below, I’m moving toward a kind-of vegan, dairy-as-condiment type of diet.  I’m finding it tasty, fulfilling, and at least health-wise, guiltless.

What an enormous privilege it is to have the time and the means to be preoccupied with food choices and exercise.


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Butternut squash: just as fun to climb as it is to eat

Our menu was getting stale so for fun I made some new vegan recipes this week–and YUM, and oh my delicious, and heavens I feel light and nourished. I love milk and eggs and cheese, passionately, but if I had to I would not be an entirely miserable vegan.

Because my personality gives me no choice but to obsess over whatever issue happens to fall into my lap, I’ve been spending lots of time with Monsieur Google and goveg.com and I’m tossing around some ideas. On the one hand I am well aware of the abuses of the dairy industry, animal and environmental. And I’ve been reading some pretty compelling health claims for excising dairy from one’s diet, including dramatic reduction in risks for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (I have a family history for two out of the three) and respiratory problems (with which I am plagued). As a skeptic I am trying to figure out where this information is coming from (pretty miniscule studies from entities with which I am not familiar) and weighing it against big dairy industry-sponsored claims (drink three glasses a day plus cheese and you’ll never have a broken hip!).

(Sidenote: still doing very well without fish)

Here’s where I think I am at the moment: I am done with eating flesh. Even if it has been procured ethically (which for me means that the animal has been permitted to graze and move about freely, and has been slaughtered quickly and with as little fear and pain as possible), I have lost the taste for it and I am also still committed to reminding myself every day that the world food supply would be better off if we ate mostly grains instead of giving them to animals to make less food. But dairy is interesting for me–I don’t have a problem with using the produce of animals who are treated well, either. I love the way Emmie is raising chickens for eggs for her family, especially how she is teaching her children where their food comes from. I think, though, that the benefits of dairy have been exaggerated, and that my body would be better served by using it as an occasional supplement to a plant-rich diet. I would love to say that I will only buy free range and whatnot, but I am a student married to a student with a child making it on a low-wage job and student loans. I will keep up my daily habit of yogurt, because those health claims I can really get behind, particularly during antibiotic season.

Back to veganism. North says this over on Twisty’s site:

As I see it, the standard animal rights line is based on the idea that we should not confine and kill animals because, first, to constrain another creature’s life and instincts is wrong; and second, that killing is per se wrong.Which is fine, but I do actually think there’s a positive ethical argument for killing and eating animals – it just comes from an ecological perspective rather than a legal/rights perspective. On a small farm, animals and their manure cycle nutrients to keep the soil fertile; pastured chickens clear bugs out and produce eggs; and you can do all kinds of things to have animals doing what’s natural and healthy for them, and at the same time maintaining the farm as an ecosystem. You can’t really do that without animals.

At the same time, big vegetable/grain farms like the ones where a lot of vegan protein is produced can be really devastating to the ecosystems around them and to individual animals, especially anything groundnesting that gets crushed by a plow. Plus, a big field of a single plant is very vulnerable to pests, so you need to use pesticides or intensive weeding; and vegetable farming is usually much more intensive as a land use than animal farming, so you end up with more erosion, etc.

Any farm is an ecosystem: the question is whether the nutrients and assets (like soil) stay in the farm and get recycled or whether they get leached out. Humanely raised meat is a restoration of a basic kind of decency in our relationship with animals, but it doesn’t take care of the biggest ethical issue with it, since killing kind of seems wrong any way you slice it. But small farms, where the animals are an integral part of the sustainability of the farm, create living ecosystems that also sustain humans, rather than scorched earth that only sustains humans. I’d rather buy from Daryl and the Fishers and the Meadow Run farmers than from EdenSoy.

There’s not really a ‘do no harm’ choice here, is all I’m saying. And choosing to eat meat can be an active ethical choice, rather than a compromise.

In my conversations with Attic Man he has pointed out that no matter what your food choices, you simply cannot remove yourself from the chain of abuses unless you only eat what you grow yourself. North mentions environmental concerns, but there are human rights ones as well, like the use of pesticides and the treatment of itinerant workers. Like all his siblings (notably LSULady, who recently reminded us of the tremendous job-producing benefits of the meat industry) Attic Man is not apt to fall into ideological ruts and I am grateful to him for pointing this one out to me.

Goodness. How do we eat anything?

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Pregnant and Scared?

My friend Shannon has a great post up about the realities (good and bad) of adoption.  Please read it!  And please know that you are stronger than you think.  Becoming a mother is one of the most amazing things that can happen to you, even when your circumstances are tough.  You are not alone.

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Fitness, Week 2, 2 days late!

90 minutes cardio on the bike.

I have a confession to make.  Last week I got on the scale THREE TIMES.  As long as it is sitting in the bathroom by my feet I am going to step on it.  It’s in the way-above cabinet in the bathroom now, the one you have to stand on the toilet to get to.  But removing the scale is a tiny, tiny cosmetic change at this point.  I’m having a really hard time getting away from body-image issues.  I look at the loose skin on my stretch-marked belly and my chunky thighs and all I want is a slender, taut body.   I am having a hard time seeing myself as beautiful NOW.  This is going to be a long road, possibly something I contend with my whole life.

Food-wise, things are going very well.  I’m making good choices–a yogurt/fruit smoothie every morning, more veggies overall, almost 100% whole grains and very little refined sugar–but not restricting myself on weekends and special occasions.  I opted out of a donut at a work training the other day and didn’t feel sad or deprived.  It helped that that morning I’d had a smoothie and two of my homemade, whole-wheat blueberry muffins.

Moving slowly, steadily toward a more healthy life…

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how much to wish for

We have this pen that a friend of mine from Women for Peace left when she came over to talk about PR.  It says, “The devil laughs when you pray for prosperity.”

A few minutes ago Attic Man was looking for his gym shorts so he could work out.  I offered that it was probably in the dirty laundry downstairs and he replied, “someday I’d like to have more than one pair of gym shorts.”  “When you’re a lawyer, dear,” I answered.

I’m a person ideally committed to simplicity and the idea that as long as you’re fed, clothed and loved, you have enough.  But then there’s a big, big part of me that is starting to maybe kind of sort of let myself think theoretically about the fact that in two and a half years, barring out-of-the-ordinary tragedies, I will be a professor married to a lawyer.  Even if we have jobs at the bottom of the totem pole in our respective fields, we will be living a far more comfortable life than we are now, or at least will have the opportunity to do so, even with our student loan debt.  And I am starting to think about how nice it would be to have a vacuum cleaner that picked up ALL the dog hair, a full-sized dishwasher, more than two wearable pairs of pants.  A house that we own, so if it’s crappy we can fix it instead of waiting for the landlord to never fix it.

How much is it alright to wish for?  How can I do both, be satisfied and look forward to a more materially stable life?

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Fifteen Months


Why is it that when YOUR kid starts doing something normal, something that all kids do around that age, it feels like this amazing, spectacular accomplishment, like it is an astounding feat of humanity?  Because that’s how I feel every single time the Snapper does something new.  Now the new things come daily: using a spoon and fork (correctly); pretending to talk on an old cellphone held up to his ear, complete with jibberish followed by, “bye, bye!”; using a comb (correctly); hugging and patting his doll (“aww, Snapper!  you’re such a good father!  look at you holding your baby!”); grabbing my neck with both hands and pulling me in for a slimy kiss…He is incredible, this kid, my kid. He was just a baby!  Just a few months ago!  I want to run to the computer and tell you all of it like it was worthy of the evening news.  But then I want to gather it up into my heart and keep it a secret, too.  Like this morning when I was changing him, and he was fussy, and he grabbed my neck, pulled me down, and turned his head to the side to give me his neck.  I kissed and kissed him and he laughed and laughed.  I came up, he pulled me down, this time turning his head the other way.  Kiss, kiss, giggle, giggle.  These are the things I wanted when I dreamed of parenthood.  They’re the things I guess I thought would never come, irrationally, during the first sleepless six weeks.  And yet they’re coming faster than I can count them.  Every day closer to his full self, every day also closer to his death, the one I’m supposed to keep at bay for as long as I can–every day closer to goodbye.  This is the best and most painful thing I’ve ever done.  I’m glad I’m doing it.

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Two days working at the group home.  Two days dissertating.  Two days of homemaking and childcare.

One day called “Family Day” for me to be exhausted and for Attic Man, who has been caring for the Snapper all weekend, to race to school to catch up on work.

I can’t tell whether it’s ‘balanced’ or crazy, this radical, constant role-switching.  The group home is two very long days in a row, but the other days are mixed up–one buried in books and writing with kisses at the door, one in pajamas until midmorning frantically trying to catch up on laundry and dishes, one back to the books, one morning at home followed by an afternoon at work.  There are no transitions.  I put on a hat and set off running.

Two times I am really, really tired: Thursday night, after we’ve all been away from home for 11 hours, and Sunday, after my two long shifts.  Sunday is the bad one–I just can’t be needed any more, but there is a child and two dogs who have missed me, so that isn’t an option.  I feel grateful for my life on dissertation days and to a certain extent on homemaking days, and for moments at the group home.  I do not feel grateful when the exhaustion that has nipped at my heels all week finally catches up with me.  I cry, pick fights, get despondent.


We tried something new yesterday that confirms to me that we have now entered the “chopped liver” phase of parenting which I believe is supposed to last until the child turns 35 or even 40.  I have noticed that on daycare days our midday nurse is getting shorter and shorter, and that while morning drop-off goes quite well, pre-nap midday drop off does not.  The Snapper is also taking soy milk well now.  So I thought that although it has been a nice interlude for me and a chance to reconnect, it might no longer be worth it for the boy.  So yesterday I dropped him off at 8 and didn’t return until 5.  His teachers reported that he drank two whole sippy cups full of soy milk, and didn’t cry before or after his nap for the first time since starting daycare.  He was happy to see me but didn’t act like I’d been gone for decades.  I am happy for him but sad for me.  We’re almost certainly entering a time of increased weaning, as we’ve never gone this long in the daytime without nursing (as for pumping, if I’m going to put up with the time loss and inconvenience I might as well nurse him–and no way can I pump enough to equal two sippy cups at this stage).  I don’t think he’s ready to fully wean, thank goodness.  I hope he continues to nurse for a good long time.

At any rate I think this all means that he is nicely attached and emotionally doing quite well.  This makes me pleased and proud as a parent, of course, but also a little sad that he doesn’t need me as much.  I will probably be getting over this soon.  I am already moving in that direction, especially since my productivity increased noticeably yesterday.



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