Managing Expectations



We all have our idea of happy holiday is. I can only speak to the Christian and secular ones because that is my experience, but I am sure when Hanukkah and Kwanza come around there are expectations and rituals in the minds of all who observe and celebrate.

I enjoy decorating for Christmas. It is an obsession of mine. I surround myself with red, green, silver, gold, and an inordinate amount of glitter. My poor husband finds glitter in places a man should never find glitter…like his ears…geez. My funny friend came over to have dinner for Thanksgiving and said, “Wow, it looks like Santa threw up in here.” It’s true, and this year I couldn’t even afford a tree. I just decorated every other surface. I love shiny things during the rest of the year but during those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my apartment looks positively sparkling.

If I didn’t have those decorations would I be disappointed? Would it wreck my Christmas spirit? It really would disappoint me. I feel like these decorations really get me in the mood for Christmas. The glittery trees and deer make me think of showering my family with gifts, and the snow globe nativity makes me think about giving thanks to the Lord. I don’t need those things to do any of it, but it helps. It makes me joyous. I think it is important but not everything.

My perfect Thanksgiving and Christmas includes family. Traditionally for Christmas or Thanksgiving I break bread surrounded by family – gobs of it. I have two brothers and a sister, aunts and uncles, a Grandma who is splendid. For the past, *ehem* years and years, I have not been without family for Thanksgiving, until this year. This year my hubby and I were going to be celebrating alone. I will be honest- I was feeling sort of down about it. I love my hubby but holidays always mean big family to me. I was determined to make it special but I was down. We had decided to break our meat embargo and really go crazy by having a meat I miss most – BBQ ribs. I made my finest potato salad, zucchini a gratin, and asparagus. Then we invited a very lovely friend! The delightful Alice Isak brought the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever tasted and pumpkin pie. We ate until we were stuffed, talked for hours, laughed, learned things, and no one felt deprived at all. I am a little closer to my hubby and my dinner guest.  It was just as epic as every other Thanksgiving. While I missed the family I usually spent the Thanksgiving with (some I didn’t even get to Skype or talk to and that was sad) I was touched and felt loved by the people who did include me in their holiday.

Alice has been teaching me something and I think I finally get it. Holidays and big days like birthdays can mean or can be celebrated in a new way. It doesn’t make the old way less precious or thoughtful. It doesn’t down play where you have been or where you are going, but it does make it just as special. If this year you are lacking what normally makes your holiday special, whichever holiday it is, look around and think about another way you can celebrate.  Too often, I have found myself clinging to traditions of the past and ruining days in my present. I will not do that anymore. When faced with a holiday without what you have normally had, I hope my friends and family reading this will create new traditions or will take another look at the holiday in a different way. Don’t ruin it for yourself: embrace new experiences, new friends, and new traditions.

Ill Prepared for Vegetarianism?

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Being a vegetarian is hard. I went “cold turkey” so to speak on the meat products. Right now there is absolutely no meat in my freezer. We went out with a bang. I made a delicious meal last night of fried chicken, mashed cauliflower, gravy, and some corn from a farm nearby. That was about as healthy as I could make my last home style meal.

Today is a new day though and I have to craft a meal without the crutch of meat as a main protein source. I have been looking up recipes for three hours. I made the mistake of buying a lot of vegetables that I like but not a lot that makes a cohesive meal. I have a lot of veggies to snack on like carrots, red peppers, and hummus. There is also grapes. I ordered groceries from a new delivery service and they had an amazing selection of produce that really had me excited. I also got some things I thought I might need like tahini, vanilla, and almond flour. I also had to replace a lot of my spices. I felt like I would need those in the coming weeks. I felt like I had bought out the whole store, but maybe that was only my wallet.

So lesson learned, next time I will look up good recipes and then make out my grocery order specifically off the recipes. Certain recipes are just in your blood because you have eaten them your entire life. I could not tell you how much this is frustrating me. I must tell you that my Dad hates vegetables to the point where it is almost like he is allergic to them. So I wasn’t raised on a veggie heavy diet. The extent of that cooking included a can of veggies opened into a pot and warmed on a stove. Don’t get me wrong, Mom did what she could. She grew fresh tomatoes and cooked healthy in every other way, but we were a meat and potatoes household.

Keeping healthy in my site line.
Keeping healthy in my sight line.

The point is I don’t have any experience making veggies the main event. Right now I am going through recipes to see what I can make with what I already have. I have found a recipe for peanut sauce pasta tonight, but I am sure I will be struggling just as much in the future. I am checking out some books from the library, but I am really excited that I found something today. I have to be better about the pressure I put on myself. I was watching The Closer the other day and one of the detectives is an alcoholic. He said that you don’t have to think about giving up alcohol forever, just think about giving it up today. I am heavily thinking about eating healthy today.  I found a recipe for today and even tomorrow. I am feeling encouraged. We are doing leftovers for next day so I got lunch too. Between that and my walks, I am doing great!

Well it is not War but it is a Start: Phase 1

Picture proof of my Tuesday walk and sweaty, shiny forehead after finally ducking into the air conditioned library.

Husband and I had a meeting. We have set initial goals and decided we will set a new goal every month. First goal we set – we decided we are going to do something for our bodies every day: walking, yoga, or weights. This is the thing we have to do. In Brad’s case, he has to walk a mile to work every day, but he is going to try and go a block here or there out of the way, and he will be adding yoga and weights. I will be trying to walk every other day, yoga every day, and weights three times a week. (Husband and I are looking for dumbbells and resistance bands. I have to say it is the most inconvenient thing I have shopped for. The bad part is somehow getting them to our apartment. I know that we can use the gym in the building but I am sorry it smells like sweaty feet and old newspaper. I don’t really feel I am ready to walk fifty pounds of weights home from a store. The closest store to my house is only about a half a mile but still, I don’t think my back can take that. A weight set with shipping, whew! I am still looking, and crossing my fingers for a Labor Day sale.)

Second goal – We will not have ANY soda. At all. Tea, coffee, and water are all acceptable libations. Soda is so over. It is totally passe’ to be tugging around a Styrofoam 72 ounce cup of sugar water.  We are through with the empty calories, and the fact that any of the soda you drink with or without sugar negatively affects your bones.  I have heard it has been said, it is like pissing out your calcium. We will not even partake of soda that comes a part of a meal. No more value meals.

Which brings me to goal three – no more fast food. Admittedly, we have curtailed most of this only because fast food in Philadelphia requires walking to get to it, but there is still delivery. The delivery here, a lot of time isn’t that good. They sell the same pizza crust/chicken fingers/French fries/ etc. at many of the restaurants. Eating this fake crap is just not even worth it. If we are eating out, or even delivery it is gonna have to be the good stuff. The criteria is easy to distinguish. If you have eaten essentially good food, you’ll notice that you naturally eat slower because you want to actually enjoy the taste. It is made with things that you can pronounce and it is slightly more expensive. Giving up fast food, will make it so we can enjoy these slower food/healthy food options.

Earlier that day…more walking and more sweating. One of the benefits of Philly walks is the beautiful architectural details like this door.

Basically goal four is only real food. If I can’t pronounce it, and don’t recognize it – it cannot go in my mouth. Simple.

Basically we are becoming food snobs but in a good way. We are on the search for better, more flavorful, nurturing food. No more crap.

I am sharing my goals with everyone on my blog and in my family too. I am calling everyone to help me. Help me by telling me the little things you do to make this fight for a healthy body easier. Let’s create a healthy culture.

My Dad had a heart attack this Friday. He is alive. Thank you Lord.

The Face of Heart Disease. This could be our motivation to fight it, as if life and death wasn’t enough.

When I say things like that I always feel like I am not inside my head. Heart Attack seems like an abstract concept. Dad’s heart was blocked in two valves, one 100% and the other 95%. This is not the first time in my life in which I felt the world had stopped moving. Sometimes that is all you can do, stop your world, breathe, pray, clean until the grout in your shower is sparkling white and your walls are no longer dusty, cry, and then start the process all over again. One of the other times I have gone through this process was when I got the call about my Mom’s heart attack a couple of years ago.

We are in a panic as a family. Our patriarch doesn’t understand why all the fuss guys? I am fine now?

I won’t even write my response here…I am sure you can imagine that a tear soaked, worn out, angry Danielle bit her tongue from saying. What I will say to you is that it is frustrating when someone you love is flippant about their health. I mean it is one thing to try and fail, but it is entirely other to deny the problem so you don’t have to try. It is scary. I know, but everyone is scared.

Now is the time to be brave everyone. All of us wanting to have a healthy life, and wanting to make ourselves better. Now is the time to be brave, to want things that we never thought we would have.

How many people have denied themselves love because they did not believe they could get it? How many people have been denied jobs or promotions because they didn’t ask for it? I believe it is the same thing with health. So much of the health industry is so seemingly unattainably.

When we think about words like Diabetes or Heart Disease they can seem like impossible monoliths rising out of our bodies, impossible to overcome.  Face to face with death, we can either fight or die. While this doesn’t seem like life or death, while we might not be overwhelmed on the surface, down below subconsciously it is devastating. These diagnosis’s can feel like Voldemort is coming after you, and you can fight back, but first you have to kill all the horcruxes first.

I think those horcruxes are the emotions we feel about these diseases: dread, fear, anger, and trepidation. These things can freeze me in my tracks where I won’t do anything for days, weeks, years. I believe this happens to everyone.

How can we work through those quickly so that we can get to real fight? How can we put aside all the horrible fears? How can we work through the regret because with these diseases sometimes we feel that we deserve this? We don’t. How do we not just sit in our rooms laying on our bellies crying with dread? I don’t know. I’ve cried until I can’t cry anymore. Now, I am faking it until I make it. I am fighting the war without killing all the horcruxes first.

I am just going to figure it out as I go. I am going to start by doing something for my body every day. This is the real war. Whether we know it or not, we are at war in this country. We are at war with poor health. We should be treat poor health this way. I am going to treat this like a battle against the grave because I feel like it is. I feel like if I don’t change my ways I am going to die. I am worried about the ones I love, because if they don’t change their ways…

I can’t sit idly back on my couch anymore. I want to save my family. I can’t make them change their ways, but I can at the VERY LEAST walk the talk. I am going to war. I am storming the castle. Who’s with me?

What can help?

When the pain comes flooding in, even tranquil places like this in my mind don't help.
When the pain comes flooding in, even tranquil places like this in my mind don’t help.

I keep reading articles about chronic pain on Facebook that start…things only someone with chronic pain would know. These lists are meant to make us feel not alone. Some are also meant to help our loved ones know what we are going through. I find some comfort in that but am slightly disturbed that they don’t understand it already. This ignorance of the plight of us chronic pain sufferers stems from several issues, the worst of which is that no one believes suffering unless they can see it especially if the one suffering has a vagina. The least worse reason is that most of us suffer in the silence of our homes. For me it is because I am embarrassed. I don’t like being so weak. I don’t want people to know I can’t handle things. It doesn’t really matter why someone doesn’t believe I am in pain. In fact, it doesn’t really matter how anyone feels or thinks about my pain…it exists to me and I guess that is all that is really relevant.

It is awful coming to terms with the fact that I will be intermittently in pain for the rest of my life and there isn’t anything I can do about it.

The thing that most of those lists don’t stipulate is that this realization comes smacking me on the face over and over. There are periods, days, where I am gloriously pain free. Then I blessedly forget about my pain. I have to employ this blissful denial or I would enjoy none of my days. Then inevitably the pain returns and I am shattered with the realization once again.

It is the dashing of hope that is demoralizing, and it doesn’t just happen after a period of good days. I selfishly and stupidly allow myself to hope for no pain in the mist of the painful days too.

Yesterday I cried several times because of the pain I was going through before I broke down and took a pain pill. In the midst of the subsequent chill that descended upon me, I had hope it was over this time. I was even so bold to make plans for today: a Walgreens trip, a library trip, and coffee with a friend. Reading this I am sure you can imagine that I again woke up with pain. I will once again put off my library and cancel plans with my very patient friend.

I am tired of being patient. I am angry and disappointed once again. I can not express how angry I am. This anger is further confused and inflamed by the pain. Unless I medicate to wipe out the pain I can’t stop being angry and sobbingly feeling sorry for myself. This is compounding exponentially by the fact that I hate myself for feeling sorry for myself. The emotional component of chronic pain makes it all worse. Not only that but stress makes fibromyalgia pain worse so it doesn’t just add insult to injury but also further injury.

What can anyone say to this? What is the solution? There isn’t one. That is the futility of it all. I keep doing my yoga to minimize the occurrence of pain, which has been the only thing to help so far, but I know from my Grandma and Mom that it will never go away. What is the point of these lists for people like me, how can it really help? How can anyone else help even if they did believe me? I don’t have the answer for those questions. I wish I did. I can only ask them. Right now, I guess I just needed to get out my frustrations with its futility. Will it help to just be heard? I guess I can only see.

Getting Inspired

I am so excited! I can finally do this...tucking the tummy in!!!
I am so excited! I can finally do this…tucking the tummy in!!!

Have you ever been around people that inspire you? I am sure everyone has. Certain people inspire me in different ways. My life is filled with these type of people. I know a smorgasbord of people reaching beyond what life has given them. My Dad once told me that I should find someone smarter than me and then follow them around. I think this is probably true about everything. I feel it is important that I always challenge myself because I need that or I will get bored and depressed.

I hang out with great minds who are constantly reading and talking about literature. We have meetings over coffee or breakfast and talk for hours about the books they’ve read and the social implications. I have friends who are politically charged, keeping up on the latest news, and love discussing their views. Some of them are activists and writers for a cause. I read and research to keep up with all of these people. They are most of the time smarter and more focused than I am and I love that. Their intensity infuses me and that stimulates me to strive to be smarter and go deeper in creativity. I can’t possibly explain how much I love it. It gets me so excited.

I don’t think I have ever had a health inspiration. I know that sounds horrible but it would be like having a pole vaulting inspiration but I have never pole vaulted before. How can you be inspired if you haven’t really done something before? Before when my lady friends got together and talked about stuff they were eating, or exercising they were doing I would simply ignore the conversation or change it. The avoidance was both out of embarrassment and because I didn’t want to do anything about it.

I know now that is a real sign that change will never come. If I don’t want to talk about how I plan to eat healthier, or how someone else has changed their eating habits, I am surely not going to actually put those changes into practice. That is a dangerous way to be. I have found it to be detrimental in my life to avoid my inspirational friends in any way, because if I am doing that I am ashamed of something…

Because I have avoided the topic for years I had to go back to grade school level knowledge for fitness and health. I had to relearn everything. I now feel like I am at a high school level on those topics. I am starting to really want influences in my life who are striving to be better at fitness and health. I am just now getting to the point where I don’t feel bad when someone else is an expert. I realize I am becoming pretty good at the eating healthy and doing my yoga. I am very excited about that. My husband and I are actually becoming a little snotty about our food, saying variations of that meal needed vegetables, I wonder if this has anything resembling food it in it, and is this organic?

I am in no way saying we are experts, but I feel we are ready to sit at the table and discuss exercise and food without being embarrassed and that is something I am proud of. When people brought up these issues before I would do everything in my power to avoid the conversation. Now I can at least sit in the room without avoidance or embarrassment.

So now I am looking up to my brother Patrick who walks about an hour every night. My best friend Christine walks in the mornings, sometimes does yoga, and quit drinking which she enjoyed. My other brother Matthew and my sister-in-law Lori are taking their health in their own hands. They both have lost weight by exercising, gardening, and cooking healthy meals. My brothers grew up in the same home I did, and they are reaching for better. That is inspiration. My mom even helped me finally figure out the tree pose I’ve been working on. (She has been telling me for years to suck in my abs, I finally listened. I was finally able to listen.) Talking about the best foods to heal the body, recipes to make good food, the best form for yoga poses and the best way to get energy: this is starting to make me happy, and I think that’s a good sign.

My Cousin

Handsome, right?
Handsome, right?

I keep wondering what I can do to never regret the way I treated another human again. I have lost a lot of people in my life. Dad, two Grandmas, many friends and now a cousin. I love all my cousins, but Josh was different in the way that he was my age and we were very close. Growing up I saw Josh sometimes more than my own brother. I spent afternoons after school at his house roaming around large expanses of land. We rode horses and mini motor cycles and our play areas included broken down cars. Once we were part of a pre-rodeo festivities. We spent most of the time outside playing, but we were like siblings antagonistic. He called me Onion because I had a slight smelly problem. I called him Joshua potato-tot-toona-fish-casserole. I wasn’t as good at the insults.

When we moved onto junior high and high school. We became super close. We were both socially oblivious and hard working. He got me into the job we both held throughout high school. We both scooped ice cream at Braums. Every payday we would meet and buy each other breakfast. During these Saturday morning talks we hypothesized our future, advised each other on our love lives, and confessed our fears. Both of us were part of middle class families, the oldest with pressure to succeed. No one put more pressure on us than ourselves. We both felt like we didn’t want to stay in the small town we were born into, and we didn’t. Some of those Saturday talks were strategy sessions on how to get out.

I talked to him about boys. He talked to me about girls. We both dated a lot. He dated many of my girlfriends but none of them stuck because no one stays with the nice guy in high school. Josh was the type of guy who was the sweetest guy you would ever meet, but in high school it didn’t translate to long term. He would often say, “Oh yeah, I have another friend, great!” Eventually he developed a sort of curmudgeonly exterior, but he loved and deeply. Not many people understood how deep.

While he was “cute,” he didn’t really grown into hunk territory until he became one of the American heroes. After graduation, he joined the US Army and tested in the top ten percent. He went on to become an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expert and lead teams in Afghanistan and Iraq. His LinkedIn profile reads like the beginning of a war movie. I don’t really know what half of it means. All I know is the men who served with him sounded impressed with him when I talked to them at his funeral. That to me says something. Heroes were impressed with my cousin.

We grew apart. I haven’t talked to him in fifteen years. I regret it. I can’t make excuses. I always felt like Josh and I would retire back in Enid and play cards and bullshit into the evening. Now I will never have the chance to catch up with my cousin. I can’t believe and will never understand the things he has been through or accomplished. All I can feel is surprise, regret, and sadness.

Perhaps this is indulgent talk for a blog about health, but I want the world to know what this warrior meant to me. The funeral was a lovely tribute to a soldier who gave his life to the military, someone who lived for the mission. I want to tell everyone I know that he was my friend. He was a life line in a tumultuous time for me. He was a kindred spirit, and my soul longs to hear him say my name one more time because he could make me feel loved by just saying my name. While to America he was the true embodiment of a hero, and his fellow soldiers called him an EOD god, I just really miss the guy I grew up with and loved.