Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Christmas Then and Now

Two years ago I spent Christmas with my family in Texas.  I weighed in at 312 lbs and was sad and not in a good place with my body or my weight.  This year I went again, weighing 182.2 lbs and oh, what a difference!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone I saw told me how beautiful I was, asked me how I did it, didn’t I feel wonderful, was it hard, what could I eat, etc.  And I found I had a hard time knowing what/how to respond, other than to say “thank you.”

I’m in a good place now, a stable place.  I’m proud of my accomplishments, because they are considerable and have been life-changing.  I’ve lost 130 lbs and enjoy shopping for clothes and finding things that both fit and flatter.  My belly and upper arms are annoying because of all the extra skin, but I’m having medically necessary plastic surgery in March to have those areas trimmed (at last I think we’re doing the arms; it depends on insurance).

Back in 2008 I said: “I don’t want to diet. I want to eat sensibly in moderation, to enjoy a variety of food, to ease the stress on my knees, to be comfortable in my body and with myself.  That may be mutually exclusive.  All I can do is try and take things one small step at a time.”

That pretty much describes where I am now.  Emotionally I’m in a very calm place.  I haven’t really found the weight loss to be hard this time, not since I heard the “click” that said “It’s time now” and took it one step at a time.

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Snow for Winter

Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter.  It’s not unusual for us to already have snow by now but honestly, Mother Nature, you outdid yourself this time.  My area only got about a foot of snow, though other places in the state ranged from 0-26″ — but at least we are prepared for snow here.  We know how to drive, we have adequate plows and sanders, people understand you go out and shovel as soon as the snow stops if not several times while it’s happening, just to get it gone ASAP to make for safer walking and driving.

The DC area, and my friends in Virginia (waves to Lori) took a wallop with this storm, which hit at such a terrible time for those shopping and/or traveling for the holidays.  Frances had her flight cancelled and rescheduled for today after a 3 hour wait on hold.  Thousands of travelers will end up stranded because, as we all know, snow and airport closures in one part of the country have a domino effect everywhere.

Last year it was my turn, spending 3 days to go from CT to TX after not one but two storms that came one day apart.  I told my family then that I loved them but that I wasn’t going to do that again this year.  I meant it, and I’m keeping my word – and happy to do so.   I love my family a lot but in these days of overcrowded stressed skies, why push it?

So I’m thrilled that this year I  have family up near me and I’ll have company for Christmas — my football-playing nephew who gets only Christmas Day off.  It’s his first time to not be with his family in Texas and I know he was homesick for family over Thanksgiving.  Weather permitting (and it’s definitely a factor in any plans), he’ll drive down on Christmas Eve after they finish team meetings and spend the night with me.  I have the inflatable bed and a tree and will be cooking him a home-cooked meal, even if I won’t be able to eat most of it.

It’s funny the things that people really miss and that make them feel at home.  We’re having a crockpot turkey breast, my mom’s sweet potato casserole with oranges, his mom’s cornbread dressing, and by request, green bean casserole.  He offered to help me make it so it would be easier, obviously not knowing it’s one of the world’s easiest dishes.  Dessert will be a pumpkin ice cream pie, also a kind of family tradition.  I’m also making a sour cream coffee cake for breakfast (his) and for him to take back with him to share with his roommate.  He couldn’t believe I knew how to make Grandma’s coffee cake, though I pointed out to him I’d been making it longer than he’s been alive.

What’s ironic is that I don’t think I’ll be able to eat much of anything.  I’m going to the doctor for a fill in my lapband today, which means a day or two of liquids only, followed by mushies, and only then by soft foods.  I’ve had some instances of stuck food or just the sensation of it, and frankly am not that interested in eating solid anything.  So the appointment comes at a good time to check in, make sure I know what I’m supposed to be doing instead of making something up out of a lack of direction.

I had a nice visit to NYC last week to spend part of a day with Our Frances.  We did our traditional visit to Chinatown for Qi Dong massages (omg, they are to die for if your body is tied in knots), followed by walking around and being lured into a backroom to check out knock off purses.  Honestly, what’s a trip to Chinatown without knock off purses?  We each bought one 🙂  Then it was on to Little Italy for lunch (a bowl of minestrone for me) and quick subway hop to the Union Square Christmas Fair.  I love going but a lot of the booths look the same now that I’ve been several times.  It’s still fun to be outside listening to Christmas music and being part of the crowds checking out the booths.

I hope you and yours are safe and warm today, not stranded by the side of the road in a snowbank or without power in frigid weather.  I hope you either can stay home or have safe passage on roads to get where you’re going.  Remember – it’s winter now!


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Honey, I’m Home

Christmas Stockings Handmade by MeDid you miss me?  I’ve been in Texas for a week, spending Christmas with the family.  The plan was to travel one day, visit five days, and fly home on day seven.  That was the plan.  The reality worked out a bit differently.

I left home last Monday, climbing over banks of concrete-like snow and black ice in 14 degree temps.  Trust me, roller suitcases aren’t their best under these conditions.  I swapped out my snow boots for clogs and stashed the boots in the car, knowing I wouldn’t need them in Houston.  Roads were clear and the sun was shining, but on the way to the airport, I spotted about 4 vehicles off the road stuck in piles of snow.

My on-time 1:30 flight started getting delayed and delayed until they quietly started transferring us to another flight at 3:30 – which was only big enough because they swapped out equipment and sent a jet instead of one of those little mosquito-sized planes.  We boarded but then sat on the runway for an hour before departing for Newark.  Which meant that everyone on board was stewing over possible/probably/definitely missed connections.

I missed mine and ran like crazy to the next one, only to find there were 40 people waiting for standby, some of whom had been there since Friday when the first wave of snow/ice came through our region (the second storm was two days later on Sunday).  The reality is that whenever airlines cancel flights due to weather conditions, there simply is no way for passengers to rebook on other flights because there are fewer planes and the ones that fly hold fewer passengers because they’re smaller.  Add in holiday crowds and you have a lot of unhappy travelers in crowded airports.

My friend Jen wrote some time back about her experience buying an airline club pass while traveling.  I remembered her experience and decided to do the same.  That $45 for a day made a huge difference in my sanity.  I got someone to help me look at flight options immediately and not after a 3-hour wait in line with surly agents and unhappy travelers.  There was free wine and snacks, comfy chairs, free wifi, lots of power outlets, privacy, a sense of humanity.  I would do it again in a heart beat.

First real option was to be high on the standby list for the 5:30am flight the next morning, after spending the night in the airport (area hotels were booked already with other stranded travelers).  The club wasn’t open all night so I hung out by the gate with other poor standby hopefuls.  Unfortunately, there were 45 of us and only a few options so I went back to the club – where they took pity on me, thanks to a note written on my receipt by an agent the night before.

The problem was that all flights to Houston for three days were booked solid.  There were some options in First Class, and that was how I was flying, since it’s more comfortable – and because I figured someone would take better care of me if anything happened to my flights.  Good Idea, Grasshopper.  I ended up booking a confirmed seat on Christmas Eve afternoon, found a room in a local hotel (people having left for the airport freeing up room), and crashed early.  Got clean, good sleep, real food (heavy on the protein), and watched TV.

My final outbound travel day was crowded and there were lots of standby passengers still, but I had a real ticket in my hot little hand and was happy to finally be on my way.  My bag was already there (I guess there is no standby status for suitcases) and my nephew met me – tho I needed help climbing up into his truck.  We short non-athletic types with bad knees usually stick with shorter vehicles.

It’s funny but I knew that something was going to be wrong with flights, just not which direction.  I packed stuff in the carry-on bag that I’ve never really taken on board before, including power cords for everything, extra underwear in a baggie, and meds for 3 days.  Not to mention my new iTouch which proved to be a godsend with its built in wifi access to the web for browsing, email, and Twitter.  Since I didn’t travel with a computer for a change, having this little pocket device kept me sane.

Now I’m home and have a million things to catch up on, but mostly have a cat attached to me with velcro.  I think she missed me – and I know I missed her.


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On my way

ElfThe sun is out, I’m checked into my flight, the house is clean (okay, cat fur is vacuumed up), and I’m packed.  Of course, I still have to get dressed but I’m delaying as long as possible since I prefer being comfy in a robe and slippers.  The dishwasher is running one last load that I can empty out before leaving.

Because I’m going to visit family, I know I can find shampoo, hair dryers, lotions and the like so don’t need to bring those with me.  Thanks to weather.com, I know that temps will mostly be in the 60-70 range, which means no heavy sweaters.  Usually I overpack and bring almost everything I can fit into in hopes some of it will work.  This time I’m being more realistic and as a result, the suitcase actually is a bit roomy.  Yayyy.

The trick is that it’s about 16 degrees here right now, and I need to bundle up and wear snow boots and stuff to get to my car through the frozen concrete snow piles with black ice on top.  I’m a little worried about getting more than one thing at a time to the car while keeping my balance, so will bring the car to the building instead and hope no one else needs to get by (the plowed section isn’t very wide).  When I get to Hartford, I’ll change from boots to clogs and leave the boots behind.  I know I won’t need them in Houston and refuse to go through security wearing boots!

I’ll check in when I can but know I’ll be busy with family and activities almost non-stop while in Houston.  Know that I cherish my blogging friends and wish you all the best for a Merry Christmas / Happy Hannukah / Blessed Yule.  Enjoy yourself, wherever you are and however you choose to spend the season.

Ho Ho Ho!


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Watching the Weather

funny-pictures-upset-lion-snowWhen you travel in winter months, and especially if you live in the Northeast, you watch the weather forecast like a hawk.  Multiply that with extra stress when the travel plans are for holiday travel.  I refuse to mess with it for Thanksgiving, which is just one day plus football, crammed into a narrow window of time.  Christmas is also just one day but then there’s Christmas Eve and extra days for visiting, parties, caroling, shopping, decorating, etc., so that makes this my holiday of choice for travel, though I admit that I’m not always upset when it doesn’t happen.

Today I’m sitting warm and cozy in my house with the kitty, watching the snow fall and blow outside.  The weather guys are all excited about the first big storm of the season and you never know when they start babbling if things are real or exaggerated out of enthusiasm for a Weather Event.  Since I’m a winter weather driving wimpette, I opted to take a personal day and stay off the roads entirely after running errands first thing this morning – and they could have been deferred had the snow started earlier.

After the storm today/tonight finishes up, we have a little break on Saturday and then another storm roars through on Sunday.  This is the one that has me worried.  Oh, I’m not traveling anywhere on Sunday and can stay warm and dry except for maybe some shoveling out behind my car (which lives in a carport).  But Monday I’m off to Texas for a week with the family and I don’t trust the weather to make this work without delays and snags.  Take heavy holiday traveling, add in weather delays and cancellations, mix with fewer planes, and you have crowded, uncomfortable flights and grouchy people.

I can’t help but remember news stories a few years ago about horrible winter storms snarling flights over Christmas, leaving people to spend days in airports trying to get to destinations.  I don’t anticipate that but it’s hard to block out the possibility.  At what point does it make more sense to say, yanno what?  Just send me home instead.

The kitty knows that something is up and has been wanting to sit on me more often today. Usually she wants to just sit nearby but not today.  I’m wondering if she’s planning to sneak into my suitcase.  Which reminds me that I need to do laundry tomorrow to be sure everything I’m taking is clean, dry and ready to pack — which means that I need to know what I plan to take in the first place.  Guess I’d best get cracking.


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Beginning to Look Like Christmas

Christmas Music JukeboxMaybe it was the fruitcake baking that got me into the Christmas spirit.  No, actually it was Pandora Radio‘s holiday genre stations — folk holiday, jazz holiday, rock holiday, etc.  If you haven’t joined the Pandora band wagon, do it today – lots of music you never heard of but love when you hear.  About two weeks ago I started to hum and then burst into little bits of Christmas carols while  at the computer, then in the car, then puttering around the house.   Out shopping, I find my eyes meeting those of other shoppers as we sing along with the piped in music, and we smile.

Since I’m traveling for Christmas this year, I decided not to put a tree up.  There’s sadness in that, because I love my ornaments and the stories they tell me about people and places from years past.  But it just doesn’t make sense to put up a tree for 2 weeks only to go away for a week – and I don’t want to leave it up when I’m gone to be a temptation for the kitty to cause havoc.

But I do have other Christmas things and today I dragged them out of my green and red plastic storage bins (color coded so I remember that’s where the Christmas stuff lives off-season).  I didn’t go crazy, those days are past.  But I have my large gourd-Santa that came from the Arts Festival in Park City, UT years ago.  My Spanish nativity scene bought in my college days, with the fuzzy sheep that are losing legs, shepherds with broken arms, and kind of nicked kings.  At 34 years old, they are a beloved part of my holiday.

Then there is a small gate with fake snow and greenery that’s a prop between some of my Byer’s Choice carolers.  I have four – 2 parents and 2 kids, representing my family of origin – but only put up the kids this year.   A red sleigh stands ready to hold Christmas cards, with a ceramic snowman sitting next to it, a gift from a Boston colleague years ago.  On the dining table are a red placemat with a glass bowl holding red and silver ornaments.  My door is decorated with a quilted stocking featuring a Santa face – just in case visitors don’t know what season we’re in.

The only Christmasy thing in the kitchen is a stained glass Christmas tree with presents underneath, standing on the window sill to catch the light that mostly I won’t see because I’m at work during the day.  But still, it’s tradition.  So is sending out cards, even though the number I’m sending now is very pared down.  I’ve weeded out some people from my distant past this year but there are still people I only really communicate with at Christmas – tho by including blog, Flickr and FaceBook information, the chances are good that even that small number will decrease by next year.

One thing I’m not doing is really shopping for presents and that feels just fine.  I’m not really finding anyone getting into presents as much this year, but then, most of us either are single or have older children.  There’s a peace in not getting frantic about it.


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Looking for Really Good Fruitcake?

FruitcakeWhen I was a child, my North Carolina grandmother used to make us a fruitcake every year using pecans from the tree in her yard (among many other things).  It would arrive in a round metal tin, wrapped inside in an old cotton kitchen towel that had been saturated in bourbon.  Needless to say, it was tasty.  I’m pretty sure she used those candied fruits but I don’t remember them being those radioactively bright colors that we see in the stores now in the produce aisle.

Grandmama’s fruitcake was dark, dense and very moist, not to mention boozy, and it reminded me of the fruitcake that Queenie and Buddy made in Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory.  That fruitcake does not exist in the store; you have to make it.

Last year, in a quest to find fruitcake that tasted like my memory of fruitcake, I actually bought one online from some monks who bake and sell them for income.  Contrary to the testimonials, not to mention the price, the taste didn’t do anything for me and I ended up throwing it out rather than eat inferior fruitcake.

Some friends and I were chatting on Twitter this week about fruitcake and someone posted a link to Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake which has more ingredients than anything else I’ve ever made in my life.  I love Alton, though, and the quantity of dried fruits and rum appealed to me.  So yesterday on the way home from work, I stocked up on a ton of things from dried cherries to apple juice to brandy and rum, and made the recipe.

Oh. My. God.  It smelled amazing.  The batter on the edges of the bowl tasted amazing. Although it’s supposed to sit for a few days/weeks for flavors to meld properly, I couldn’t help myself and cut a small slice – and almost moaned in ecstasy.  THIS is fruitcake, my friends: dense, moist, rich with plump flavored fruit, and with the wonderful zing of the brandy and rum used in and on the cake.

So if you are a fruitcake lover – and yes, I do know that many of you are reading this and thinking that I am crazy – you need to try Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake recipe.  I made it exactly as written, only substituting ground spices for the whole allspice berries and whole cloves.  I don’t have a 10″ loaf pan but there was so much batter that I easily made 2 smaller loaf pans (8.5″, I think) which were ready in 42 min. instead of the hour needed for the recipe as written.

Even if you don’t want to make it yourself, do go read the recipe.  Yummmmm.  I’m even going to make another batch, baste with brandy as called for in the recipe, and taking to Texas for Christmas.