So, it’s been several months since I’ve done this (JUNE???), so let’s see if I remember how.
Okay, so I mentioned previously that work had been stressful for most of October (hahaha understatement), so I spent most of November recovering from that and realizing that, once again, I was a mess. I had gained weight again, I had new/worsening symptoms for my IBS, and I (re)discovered just how much debt I’m in. (And the latter two happened at the end of the month.)
Anyway, I was lamenting to my mom about my weight gain and how I don’t understand how it keeps happening because I know I need to manage my weight better to help control my IBS, and I know what to do, and I know how to do it, yet I am always surprised that when I don’t track my food or I make it to the gym less often, I gain weight and then have to start all over again. I mean, you honestly would think I have learned by now.
And my mom said simply, “Because it’s not your default to take care of yourself in that way.”
My friend suggested I write about why I chose to use gratitude as my theme for the challenge. “Do a deeper dive,” she said, “and explain why it means so much to you.”
It wasn’t that long ago that I spent most of my time focusing on what I didn’t have or how I wished my life were different. And because I was a student at the school of Oprah, I would suggest people do gratitude journals and such because she said they worked even though I didn’t really know why.
In the past few years, I have learned that gratitude is an important part of my life because, much like acceptance, it keeps me focused on the present and helps me to shift my thinking so that I see all that is good and right around me–even when it feels like everything is going wrong.
Gratitude as I practice it is, in short, keeping the focus on what I do have and what is going right in my life instead of focusing on what’s missing or wrong.
For example, one time I ran over the curb and blew my tire. This was not a good thing that happened. It was inconvenient, I don’t actually know how to change a tire, I knew it would cost money to repair/get a new tire, etc.
However, in that same day, I found a lot to be grateful for:
1. The blowout happened at the grocery store, which worked out perfectly because I had to pee so bad. Soooo bad. Like, I didn’t even care that much that the tire was blown out at first because I had to pee.
2. I bought what I needed from the grocery store and, as I was checking out, the cashier asked how my day was going, and I told her not great because of the blowout. I hadn’t even noticed, but standing in front of me at line were my friend and her husband. “Do you need help?” they asked.
3. My friend’s husband changed my tire. While he was working on it, a guy from a restaurant who ran to the store to get syrup saw my friend’s husband changing the tire and gave him some tool thing that made it easier. (Also, two or three other people asked if he/we needed help.)
4. I, of course, had no money to buy a new tire. I went to Sears and because I had such good credit, I was able to get a store card to put the tires on (all of my tires actually needed to be replaced). Not only were they having a special on the tires, but I was able to get them with 0% interest for 18-24 months.
Now, old me would have bitched about the fact that my tire blew and now I had this new bill. New me was able to see all of the good things that happened to me that day even while I was dealing with something that was a hassle.
Here is another, more personal, example of gratitude working in my life:
I hate Father’s Day. (I also hate Mother’s Day, but for different reasons, but that’s a discussion for a different time.) I mostly hate it because my (step)dad and I did not have the best relationship while I was growing up, and my biological father is an absentee deadbeat. There are other reasons for my dislike of it, but you get the gist.
One particular Father’s Day, I was feeling especially resentful and angry that the day existed. But I had learned to try gratitude as a countermeasure for those feelings. So rather than revel in my rightness at how I was done so wrong by these men, I got out pen and paper and started writing a list of all of the good things my (step)dad had done for me.
After I wrote the list, I felt so much better and I was so much less angry. In fact, I appreciated my dad and all that he had done for me. I acknowledged that he wasn’t perfect, but he also wasn’t all terrible either.
In less than thirty minutes, my whole attitude had changed–and all because I practiced gratitude.
I wasn’t planning to do the A to Z Challenge this year. But ever since the election, things have been rough. The news has been terrible. It feels like the world is falling apart. Or at least that’s how it feels when I watch the news or I’m on Twitter. And that may be so. However, every day, all around me, small miracles are happening if I pay attention to them. And that’s why I chose gratitude as my theme for the challenge. Because I wanted to spend the month of April focusing on all that is good around me to counteract the large scale attention that all that is bad attracts.
For the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, my theme is gratitude. Every day, I am going to post about something I am grateful for. Tune in Monday to see what I pick for H.
I am grateful for acceptance because it lets me look at a problem full on and see what my options are for solving it.
I am grateful for acceptance because it keeps me from indulging in the what-ifs and should-have-beens.
Acceptance keeps me in the present.
Yesterday, after I balanced my checkbook and used the envelope system to allocate money for gas and food, I had to accept the fact that I had no disposable income.
This was after I finally accepted (again) that I have a lot of debt and need to live within my means.
Accepting that I had no disposable income meant that I couldn’t go see either Hidden Figures or Get Out, or do, well, anything else extra really. Before I would have been depressed or sad. But now I can say, “This is your situation right now. If you want more any disposable income, you know what you need to do.”
It also meant I had to fully face that I had <$20 for groceries for the next two weeks. And that I should have budgeted before I made a quick run to the grocery store. See, if I had budgeted before, I might have changed what I bought. But I didn’t. So I had to accept that I couldn’t change that decision because it was in the past. I could only focus on what to do next. And because I know using my credit card to buy food won’t help me get out of debt, I had to accept that I was not going to use that as an option.
When my mom reminded me that Farm Share was going to be in our town, I knew it was something I could do to solve my problem about getting food for the next two weeks. I had to accept that I needed help getting food and that help was available.
Acceptance allows me to ask for help, something I used to be unwilling to do.
Acceptance allows me to make the changes I need to live the life I want.
I am grateful for acceptance.
For the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, my theme is gratitude. Every day, I am going to post about something I am grateful for. Tune in tomorrow to see what I pick for B.
The more satisfied you are when eating, the less you will think about food when you are not hungry–you will no longer be on the prowl.
I’m going to give a little background for why, exactly, I read this book just to give an idea of why it impacted me so much. I don’t normally get this personal on the blog, so bear with me.
I was doing a lot of compulsive, emotional eating and, when I stopped doing that, I realized that I had a lot of fear around food—about eating the right food or about eating too much or not enough. In fact, I felt like I was constantly undereating and misjudging how much food I needed. I would pack what I thought was a good lunch only to get to work and realize that one small porkchop and one sweet potato were somehow, surprisingly, not enough to get me through the rest of the day. And that was happening more often than I would like. In my quest not to overeat, I had gone a little bit too much the other way and was at a loss for how to make sure I was getting enough food.
Tracking my food (through all the various means) makes me crazy and kind of obsessive, so I knew I needed a professional. Hence, I contacted a dietitian.
(Note: I read the second edition of the book. There’s a new third edition available.)
Let me say up front that I had heard the phrase “intuitive eating” before, but it never occurred to me that there might be a book on it or that it had a basis in anything other than some idea of what/how people should eat. I mean, it just sounds like the sort of thing that makes sense. Of course I need to eat intuitively! So I would say that and not really understand what it meant.
Basically, the point of intuitive eating is that you stop relying on external cues for hunger/fullness, and you start learning and listening to your body’s cues for hunger/fullness. It moves everything from your head (i.e., I should/shouldn’t eat x, y, z) to your actual body.
In other words, stop dieting. But they don’t just say “stop dieting.” They also give research that shows the effects of dieting on physical and mental health. And they show you exactly how intuitive eating works and how to start doing it.
(They also don’t refer to sweets as “junk food” but instead as “play food.” Junk = bad, see? Ah, the power of language.)
So how did this book change my life?
I have stopped having guilt around when/how I eat. (Although I never thought of food as “good” or “bad,” I kept feeling bad if I got hungry before a certain amount of time.)
My relationship to the gym has completely changed. Because—just like with food—if I move the focus to how exercising makes my body feel instead of the fact that I should be doing it, then I can focus on doing it because I want to. For example, I recently added in resistance training with the weight machines again because I remembered that I liked how strong I felt when I did it–and not because that’s what you’re supposed to do to lose weight (which is why I did it in the past). I have stopped thinking so much about losing weight and more about what makes me feel good.
I am still working with the dietitian to recognize my hunger cues and to learn how to tell I’ve had enough food for the activities I have scheduled for any given day. (None of these methods include counting calories.)
Some other thoughts:
My mom has diabetes and wants to read this book, so I was thinking about how this book would apply to her situation. I think the general principle is the same even with the restrictions diabetes (or another health condition) brings. Because if I know a food makes me feel physically bad when I eat it, then I figure out either how I can have that food without it making me feel physically bad or I find something else I want to eat. (Geneen Roth tried to make this point in Women Food and God, but she used a lot of foofy language to do so.)
Also, if someone has a serious eating disorder, the book offers lots of resources for finding help and support.
In conclusion: I recommend the book, definitely. The book is super accessible, easy to read, and, most importantly, practical.
Then I mentioned the part about being ignored for my age and put in a word for teenagers everywhere.
“It happens a lot, Mrs. Gladstone. Our money is just as good as an adult’s, sometimes we’ve had to work longer and harder for it. Kids deserve respect when they go into a store.”
I recently reread Hope Was Here (HWH) and Rules of the Road (ROTR), both by Joan Bauer. Hope Was Here because I wanted to read a feel-good book and Rules of the Road because the book specifically mentions Al-Anon, and, well, that’s the kind of mood I was in. To be honest, though, I had forgotten I read Rules of the Road before (though it felt really familiar) until I went to rate it on Goodreads and saw that I’d already given it a rating. Okay, then!
In brief: HWH is an allegory about the positive impact teens can have on politics, while ROTR is about a girl (Jenna) who becomes an elderly woman’s personal driver after Jenna’s alcoholic father comes back into her life. They’re both good books with relatable main characters. They are also unrelentingly positive (even though both deal with heavy issues), which I really appreciate because I can get overwhelmed by reading too many super heavy books. Mainly, though, I want to talk about how Bauer features teenagers and work in both of these novels.
Jenna (ROTR) and Hope (HWH) both have jobs, and both girls enjoy and take pride in their work. The most surprising factor, though, is that neither of them have particularly glamorous jobs. Hope is a diner waitress, and Jenna sells shoes. Both jobs are in the customer service sector and are typically equated with low pay and grunt work. These are also the types of jobs I think of kids taking because they can’t get anything else and then, you know, complaining about the jobs. (Remember in High School Musical 2 when the kids all just wanted/needed summer jobs, got jobs, and then immediately talked about how much they hated working? Yeah, like that.) Not so with Jenna and Hope. They are both extremely good at their jobs and know it.
Jenna: “I am a shoe professional” (pg. 1).
Hope: “It was my fourteenth birthday, and I took to waitressing like a hungry trucker tackles a T-bone. That job was the biggest birthday present I’d ever gotten” (pg. 2).
So not only are both girls customer service aficionados (they want and can make their customers happy), but their characters are defined by the work they do and how good they are at it. The very first nuggets of character development the reader gets is all about the jobs the girls do and how well they do them.
Bauer’s message is clear: Do not underestimate teenagers, and do not think they are lazy or selfish or looking for a short cut.
These girls work hard for their money, and–more importantly–they want to be taken seriously, so they are. They have to prove themselves again and again (to customers and other employees), and each time, they deliver. Because they are serious about their work and they care about it.
That’s not all, though. Both girls get their skills (waitressing and salesmanship) from an absentee parent. Hope’s mom is a terrible mother but an excellent waitress, and almost everything Hope knows about being a waitress, she learned from her mother. Jenna’s father is an alcoholic who couldn’t keep a sales job because of his drinking, but when he was sober and working, he delivered every time. So the girls get the best parts of their parents and maintain a connection to them while still acknowledging that their parents aren’t that great at being parents. So even though their parents are not good, they do give the girls something useful: skills that allow them to take care of themselves.
I think this is an excellent way to show that almost everyone has some good in them without having to make it about the parents. Bauer doesn’t spend a lot of time having to explain that although the parents screwed up, at least the kids have good skills. The characters are able to acknowledge it, the reader is able to understand it, and the narrative doesn’t slow down or become preachy. It’s really smart writing and character development.
I enjoy Bauer’s work for a lot of reasons, but that she doesn’t underestimate teenagers and highlights that they’re hard workers are a couple of the main ones.
Addie from HWH is totally my people.
Jenna drives a Cadillac all summer. A Cadillac is totally my dream car. (I want an SRX. That is the dream.)
I love that Jenna has attended Al-Anon meetings, but I wish Bauer had included some scenes of her actually attending the meetings or talking to someone in the program (though I do understand that wouldn’t have really fit the narrative). I also wonder why no mention of Alateen is made.
Old people are the best, and they feature heavily in both novels (moreso in ROTR). Teens + old people = my favorite combo, for real.
I love that you can see Jenna’s red hair blowing in the wind on the ROTR cover. So cute!
I just decided that life was like a farmer standing in a field and a kid racing down the road on a Kawasaki, arguing about whether the fence posts are rushing by or standing still. Each thinking the other is crazy or blind or both, neither willing to give up until the other sees the light.
I decided to read The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde because it’s about an alcoholic teenager who actually goes to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. A lot of books mention teen drinking, but few that I’ve read talk about treatment. Or, if they do, they don’t name the treatment program. So I was particularly interested in a kid who goes to AA and not just “rehab” (not that there’s anything wrong with rehab, of course).
Brief summary, avoiding major spoilers: Thirteen-year-old Cynnie has an alcoholic mom. She hates that her mom drinks and doesn’t take care of Cynnie or her little brother, Bill, who has Down’s Syndrome. One day, the pain gets to be too much for Cynnie and she does what her mom does when the pain is too much: she has a beer. And it’s all downhill from there. Cynnie is then forced to attend AA meetings after getting into a lot of trouble.
When I first started this book, I didn’t think I was going to like it. I found the writing too simplistic, and Cynnie is a really young thirteen. However, I realized that (a) all 13-year-olds do not talk and think like my daughter and (b) part of Cynthia’s character is that she avoids thinking a lot. She doesn’t really read or care that much about school. She just hangs out with a couple of the neighborhood boys and tries to avoid her mom.
I don’t mean to imply that Cynnie isn’t intelligent or that she doesn’t think deeply about things because that’s not true. The quote I pulled about the fence posts is from early in the book, for example. She thinks a lot; she just doesn’t use a lot of complex language to do so. Her voice is also pretty immediate, and I could imagine a 13-year-old kid telling a story the way she does: “I did this and this. My mom did that. I was mad so I did this. Then I went to my room and threw things,” etc. I mean, if a kid isn’t trying to feel her feelings, she’s not going to have a whole lot to say about them.
But that’s a big reason of why I didn’t think the book would have staying power. I was wary that the author was going to keep things simple and kind of on the surface.
And then Cynnie starts drinking. And I was just so worried about her, and I wanted her to not drink and find another way and to get help. And I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen to her and to make sure she was going to be okay. Because she’s just a kid who got caught up drinking and is in pain and needs help. And she’s so sad and I don’t want her to be sad.
And then! Then she has to go to AA and I’m hopeful! But it’s not easy for her, and I want to see how she pulls through and if she commits to sobriety and overcomes her struggles with sobriety. Also, I want her to believe in herself the way that I do.
So I kept reading, and I was invested in the narrative–not just how the author was going to portray a teen alcoholic in a treatment program.
As for how AA is handled, I think the program is presented in a straightforward and accessible way. Hyde doesn’t do any info dumps or long drawn out exposition of how the program works. Everything is presented through Cynnie’s experience in and with the program. Sometimes she asks questions, sometimes she explains something she’s learned, but the story is never preachy and never says AA is something any one person has to do. Hyde just shows how this character experiences AA and how it affects her life. AA is also not presented as some magic cure-all. Sobriety takes work, and the narrative shows how difficult maintaining sobriety can be, no matter how far along in the program someone is.
I know I spent a lot of time talking about Cynnie and AA, but that’s because most of the story focuses on those two things. The other characters that populate the narrative are not given that much page time, but they’re all fully realized and memorable. I understand the relationships and motivations of all of them.
I think this book would be good for teens who know someone who attends AA or who may need AA themselves because it really demystifies how the whole thing works and isn’t preachy or didactic at all.
My only complaint is that there’s no mention of Al-Anon or Alateen made at all. Even one line saying when she’s ready, Cynnie might want to consider Al-Anon/Alateen since her mom is an alcoholic would have been nice.