LJNDawson

Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the category “The Body”

A Year of Living Quantitatively

I’m a big believer in the unquantifiable. When you’re a metadata geek, you know that a lot gets lost in the process of quantification.

But that’s not to say quantification doesn’t have value. A healthy person needs both data and memory/experience/emotion. And even the unquantifiable can be duly noted, described, and stored.

I am taking this year to live mindfully. Of course, it’s me, so there’s loads of apps involved, which quantify everything and create data that can be analyzed. And for the stuff that can’t be analyzed? This is why God invented journals, Marie Kondo, and yoga.

If I were to write my New Year’s Resolutions in a traditional way, it would be as follows:

  • Lose the 8 pounds I gained after blowing out my knee and acknowledging my depression/anxiety
  • Pay off remaining debt and enhance savings plan
  • Learn krav maga
  • Advanced yoga 4 days a week
  • Walk 5 miles a day

But doing all that crap means you need a TON of support. And it’s not fair to burden other people with that responsibility. This is why we have apps. My go-tos for this process (which I’ve been using for a few months leading up to the new year so I know I can stick with them) are Habitica, MyFitnessPal, and Mint.

Habitica is the Master App. It’s a sort of role-playing game where you rack up “coins” and level-up for everything you achieve. I have “habits” like “Eat produce” – when I choose an unhealthy snack instead, I have to click the “minus” button and I lose points; it incentivizes me to stick to the plan. I have “dailies” like “make bed” or “yoga” or “clean apartment” – these can be scheduled so they are only applicable for certain days. When I check those off, I earn points. And then there are “to-do’s”, which is where I put my work goals, my financial goals, and my health tasks (“get bloodwork done”). I am currently at Level 58, with an absolute warehouse of equipment and mounts.

Many of my friends know me as a diehard Fitbit aficianado. And I continue to think it is incredibly effective. But over the summer, during a super-awful period at work, I decided that being paid for the super-awful meant I could treat myself – and I did. To an Apple Watch. Which I absolutely love. But it threw off my health game. I had to get used to new software, a new interface. I finally have, and I use MyFitnessPal because Fitbit doesn’t have an Apple Watch app, and I refuse to wear two wristbands. (I love data, but that would just be insane.) I have gotten the hang of MyFitnessPal and you will pry my watch from my cold, dead wrist.

And then there’s Mint. It’s no substitute for immediate and direct access to your bank account, but in terms of describing your spending habits, it’s indispensable. I’ve always liked Quicken, but the data entry is horrid. Mint removes the data entry element, and replaces it with a time delay. Between directly accessing my account every morning when I wake up (thanks, Habitica!) and Mint, I have more insight on my finances than I ever have before in my life.

My life is not all mechanically-operated, however. I travel a lot for work – there are plenty of opportunities to put the apps on “pause” and immerse myself in other cultures, if I want. And I’ve asked Habitica to ensure that I journal every night. This is where the unquantifiable goes – my feelings, my crap. My journaling is in no way an accurate portrait of me – any more than my stats are. But it ensures that the unquantifiable has a home.

Speaking of home – yes, over the holidays I Kondo-ed my apartment. I purchased her book at the Amazon Store in Seattle just for a lark. I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot to get rid of – I had just moved! I left a lot at Bernardo’s! What’s to purge?

Turns out, 9 bags of trash, a huge bin of clothing and shoes, and 9 boxes of books. Salvation Army is coming tomorrow for the clothing, shoes, and books (I know, I know, but Goodwill isn’t on Staten Island).

So we’ll see where this leads. So far, what I’ve learned in 2016 is that a high-protein breakfast, a high-protein lunch with LOADS of raw veggies, and a high-protein dinner help slay the reflux dragon. Stress makes my eyelids twitch, so if my eyes are twitching it means I’m anxious (I know, reverse-engineering, who knew). Making my bed and knitting every day is critical (and thank you, Chris, for your lovely gift; I am making a gorgeous snood).

We’ll see where all this leads. Day-to-day, there’s certainly plenty of data being generated.

 

Everyday Self-Care

So I have a cold.

I have two lovely friends and I love their theories. Rachel thinks that my stress levels are dropping, so the indulgence of a cold is now allowable. Pam thinks that the reason I was a whirling dervish this past weekend is because my body knew the cold was coming on, and I laid in all the infrastructure to take care of myself easily and ahead of time.

I’ll take one of each, please.

I dosed myself with cold meds last night and today. I was able to take a walk (knee much better!) and buy a cell-signal-booster thing at Radio Shack. In this sort-of-basement apartment, my signal is lousy, and I got clearance from IT to purchase this thing. Tomorrow will be about actually installing it.

And I went back to yoga for the first time in about a month. Tuesdays and Thursdays are “gentle yoga” days at the local Y. It was the perfect challenge for my knee – not too intense, just enough to strengthen. On the way back to my apartment, I saw this:

Peacocks in the tree

Two peacocks (probably a cock and a hen) in a tree. The Y is across the street from the Staten Island Zoo. The peacocks’ mating cries are the soundtrack to our yoga sessions in the spring.

I came home and iced my knee, and made myself a lovely dinner: a flatbread with the last of the pears from Bernardo’s backyard, and some Wensleydale with apricots melted on. And some of the spinach I cooked on Sunday.

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With some Trebbiano, it is DIVINE.

Learning How To Be

One thing I have discovered about being A Person Who Lives Alone is that…figuring out meals is extremely weird.

You’re only feeding yourself. But you don’t want to eat crap, you don’t want to serve your body badly. You want to be kind, you want things to taste good, and when you’re only cooking for one (and you are accustomed to cooking for many), this can be a little challenging.

This is why I have not beat myself up over tossing out leftovers I’m sick of looking at. But I do take notice.

I am also a small person. My appetite, as I get older, has diminished to a ridiculous level. I think of the pictures of Agatha Christie that I used to goggle at as a teenager. As a young woman, slender; as a middle-aged woman, robust and stout; as an old woman, slender again. You just don’t eat as many calories after a certain point.

Obviously I do what I’ve always done (Hermione-style!) and FIND BOOKS ON THE SUBJECT. But also, just in living, I am discovering things. Vegetables are good marinated and they keep a long time and they retain vitamins. If you find yourself with too many eggs, make ice cream because at least you can freeze it. One Seamless meal usually equals 2 regular meals, and possibly 3. OF COURSE YOU CAN’T EAT A WHOLE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN BY YOURSELF, YOU CRAZY WOMAN, so freeze whatever you’re done with, and make a good broth later. What goes in a salad? (I still haven’t figured that one out for myself.)

Living outside of someone else’s expectations of How Things Should Be is unnerving. But of course every day is an object lesson in that.

Head, Shoulders, Knees – oh, wait

I usually try to get in 3 miles a day walking in either Clove Lakes Park or Snug Harbor. In addition to the 2 miles per day running errands/doing housework/living, it adds up and keeps my weight down and my spirits up.

I appear to have re-injured myself last week, though. In 2004, I took a tumble on an icy East Coast ski slope and tore my ACL. The shock was immediate; I couldn’t walk, I had to be transported down the hill by a stretcher-sled, I was in the ER immediately while shaking.

This was a bit different. I wear sturdy shoes for my long walks. They are a bit heavy. It seems that the lower half of my right leg went one way and the upper half went the opposite way, and my knee caught the brunt of it. Already weakened (despite reparative surgery), it seems to have gradually given up the ghost. By Saturday night, I was wakeful, feeling it swell up as I slept. By this morning, I knew I had to go to the emergency room.

Thankfully, it is a holiday weekend and people seem to be having emergencies elsewhere. I was in and out in record time – X-Ray, splint (oh, how familiar), and- instead of crutches – a cane. So it’s not as serious as it was in 2004. With luck I won’t need surgery.

Bernardo, God love him, drove me to the hospital and back. He made me a wonderful lunch at his place, and drove me back to my apartment. I rested all afternoon, watching the rest of Miranda. I fixed myself a nice dinner of rotisserie chicken, creamy polenta, and English peas, with a lovely Indaba sauvignon blanc.

Fortunately, I had placed orders at both Peapod and FreshDirect, so I have PLENTY of food. I’m well-fixed for kombucha and seltzer and wine, caviar, cheese, bread (I know). So this convalescence won’t be half-bad. The splint is marvelous; with the cane, I can manage to get around fairly well without much pain. The shock has worn off (there’s always shock when you have internal bleeding, which this was, apparently), and I’ll have a nice bath with my bath bombs, and go to bed early.

Cleanliness Is Next to…Asthma

For much of my adult life, I’ve had a cleaning person. My theory has always been: (a) leave it to the professionals (b) it eliminates a source of argument between couples. Even when I lived on my own in Brooklyn, I had a lovely person coming to make off with my dirt. Because it wasn’t just my dirt – I had two kids and a demanding job, and I needed help.

My job is still demanding. But my kids no longer live with me. And I have a massive dust allergy.

Bernardo has a cleaning person as well. When I moved out, the room where I spent most of my time was…largely made of dust, apparently. Once all my things were moved, there were several enormous mounds of dust behind and under things. She is great, but obviously I need to take matters into my own hands.

So I resolved to clean every week, and tonight was when it started. I Swiffer-dusted every horizontal surface from doorjambs to venetian blinds; vacuumed windowsills, upholstery, and my mattress in addition to the floors; wiped down everything wipe-able in the kitchen and bathroom; Swiffer-mopped the wood and tile floors; Windexed all glass surfaces that I could reach (outside panes of windows not so much). I showed this space no mercy. And it took approximately 90 minutes. I learned from the best: this guy. He cleans deep and he cleans fast. (No, I don’t wear the apron. And, as an asthmatic, I swear by Swiffer rather than cloth rags. But thanks to following him for five years back when my big girl was tiny and my little girl was not even a notion, I know my way around an apartment as far as cleaning goes.)

And I love my Dyson. It’s a stick vacuum, with about 20 minutes worth of vacuuming life per charge, but with this tiny place, I only need about 15 minutes for it to do everything I need it to do. It gets EVERYTHING off the ground, the furniture, the windowsills.

As of this evening, I institute a No Shoes Allowed rule. I’m probably the only one coming here except for Bernardo and the UPS guy. But that’s okay. My home, my lungs, my rules.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley

I had all kinds of intentions this morning. And nearly none of them happened.

Instead, I was hit with a bout of reflux. I recovered in time for yoga, but came home to make some soothing polenta, followed by a dish of watermelon. I got no pictures hung. I got no floors vacuumed. When I had energy again, I hiked to the strip mall with TJ Maxx and Michael’s, and picked up some Stuff On My List.

Then I went to the house, and met up with Joanna (B’s ex, Gina’s mom, and my friend). We wound up having a lovely conversation that wove in and out of everybody else’s needs. I drove her to the ferry, and then came back for a dinner of barbecued chicken and a corn salad, and then Bernardo drove me to my apartment. I’m wiped from this day; not sure why. But I know I’m going to curl up with Miss Fisher and go to sleep early, and we’ll see where we are tomorrow with those intentions.

Bruises

I bruise like an overripe peach. Thanks to this move, I am covered with them – little ones on my legs and the inside of my arms, a HUGE one on my upper left arm near my shoulder. I wear these like badges. Full-contact moving, as Brian O’Leary says. I seem to do everything full-contact.

I’m nearly done. I think I’ll finish most of it tomorrow. And then Bernardo and I will have to figure out our new routine – when I’ll be over for dinner; when we’ll have nights to ourselves. But we did this in Brooklyn for many years. I think we’ll be okay.

So onward. Bernardo came over tonight to do some emergency repairs on my windows. Things are all open now, and I can breathe better. Me and my bruises will be going to yoga soon. And I can’t wait.

A Foodie’s Hell

I love cream.

I love cheese – all cheese. I love eggs. I love full-fat everything.

I recently discovered that I have a cholesterol level of 352.

So I have to recalibrate. I’m told to stay away from the things I love, as well as most red meats, potatoes, and refined flour (so no white pasta). So basically, I can’t eat most of what Bernardo cooks – pizza, lasagne, steak, etc. I can’t even eat too much of the so-called “good fats” – olive oil, avocado. I just have way too much fat overall in my diet.

Which suddenly means I’m cooking for myself again (which is fine – I love cooking), and it’s all different from what Bernardo and Gina are eating. (Yeah, I had a little cry right before dinner last night while they were having Porterhouse steak and roasted potatoes, and I was having a Morningstar Farm fake-chicken thing.)

Yesterday I did a big shop and realized that – aside from the occasional chicken breast or lean pork – I’m essentially looking at a pescatarian lifestyle. And given that fish doesn’t really travel well into the office, I’m looking at it mostly being a vegetarian lifestyle.

Today I did what I used to do years ago on a Saturday – cooked for the week.

I made black bean soup, with parsnips and onions and fat-free chicken stock and a TINY amount of sunflower oil. It’s nice and sweet. I thickened it by using an immersion blender to mash up the beans and release their starch.

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Years ago, I was a vegetarian – I lasted about 10 years before the practicality of having little kids and little time intervened. But I’m familiar with vegetarian brands – I really like Morningstar Farms (though I’m aware that they’re fairly salty – which is probably why I like them). I made a ragout with MF “Crumbles” – basically flavored texturized vegetable protein. I used some tomatoes that I’d put up in August (Jersey-grown tomatoes do get a bit watery in the can, so I had to use some tomato paste to thicken it). This came out surprisingly well.

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I also made a braised tofu dish with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and honey. Again, the MINUTEST quantity of sunflower oil, mostly just to keep the tofu from sticking during the searing process. I used to make this years and years ago.

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And I made a sort of chicken-and-parsnip casserole, with oregano, garlic, and lemon.

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And I roasted an acorn squash.

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So I should be all set to come home from work, heat something up quickly, and sit down with Bernardo and Gina. We were joking last night that Gina wouldn’t even be jealous of my food because none of it is anything she likes.

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Now, I have lost 25 pounds since June 9, mostly just through walking and monitoring my caloric intake. With this new way of living, it looks like I’m about to lose a load more – not intentionally, but just because I’m having to give up rich foods. Due to reflux, I’m also eating several tiny meals in a day – so I’m eating all the time, more or less. But it’s whole grains, nonfat yogurts, vegetable proteins or low/nonfat meats (turkey breast, chicken breast, fish), fruits and vegetables. Instead of seltzer, I’m drinking water infused with ginger and citrus peel. Instead of drinking so much caffeinated tea (basically, it was all day every day till 5 p.m.), I’m drinking more ginger/lemon tea. (Yeah, ginger’s kind of my best friend right now.)

Proof of Providential forces: a farmer’s market just opened up next door to my office.

 

Pinhole Breathing

My new ENT tells me that I have “silent reflux”. This is reflux with no symptoms except…asthma.

Not that the allergy shots were a waste – I have been feeling better. But I’ve plateaued. So the allergist sent me across the hall to the ENT, and he…stuck a camera UP MY NOSE and INTO MY SINUS CAVITY and DOWN MY THROAT.

There is something very wrong about an object going IN a passage where you’re used to things coming OUT. You want to kind of stop and say, “No, see, you’re doing this wrong, let me show you” – but of course in the case of these teeny cameras on strings, it’s not wrong. It just FEELS wrong. (Oh, it feels so very, very wrong.)

At any rate, he was able to see the inflammation. I am to avoid all the things I normally avoid (except coffee – he said I could have a cup of coffee), and take prescription Prilosec before bed. When I told him I’d felt like I was breathing through a pinhole, he said that actually, my larynx was swelling up and pressing against my esophagus and so, indeed, that sensation was in fact accurate.

Tonight Bernardo and Gina are going to Gina’s mom’s house for dinner – I am going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill because it’s horrid outside, and then come home and have a pasta and knit and pickle my tomatoes and watch Big Bang Theory (which reminds me so much of high school and the nerds I hung out with).

What I’m reading: The Italian Secretary (on paper! Scandal!)

What I’m listening to: Silence. Blissful silence, and the wind, and critters scritching around my gutters.

Nights Like This

Tonight I left work and went across the street to the gym and did an amazing cardio workout. Just the bike – but stupendous…I finally got through 14 miles in 45 minutes. (Yes, well, hip injury. It was exciting for me, personally.) In a state of bliss I drove home, to find Bernardo and one of his BFFs, Charlie, greeting me as I pulled up against the curb. They were going to rack the wine a final time, and begin bottling.

But they needed fuel. Bernardo had put up some flounder in crazy water, with sauteed spinach. So we had a bit of the 2012 before dinner – it is coming along deliciously – and sat down. Fish in crazy water is substantial enough to warrant a red wine, and Charlie brought us a robust California cabernet. And in the middle of dinner, the doorbell rang – it was our neighbor Rich, six weeks post-knee-surgery, come to see what the wine-bottling was all about.

We persuaded Rich to have a little fish, and then the men disappeared downstairs. As I was nestling into the couch with my laptop, I heard the sound of pool balls being smacked into pockets. Eventually, this turned into the sound of wine being bottled.

A beautiful night to come home to. Friends, food, wine, and the lingering endorphins of an amazing workout.

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