Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Experience with Art Therapy

Today's lesson: it's nice to be (60 years-396 days) old and still have new experiences. When I got up this morning, my first thought was, "I've got to clean out the lint trap in the washing machine," (a first! and I did, but never mind,) and my second thought was, "I need to make a self-portrait!" Ha!

I was going to post about the second round of Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing Workshops after all five sessions finished but I can't wait.

Saturday, I was tired. Sunday I felt better and did a bit of housework. I missed the first session of this round traipsing around Abel Tasman, so Jade gave me a make-up session on Monday, but I was tired of being tired, again, and disgruntled because after loosing some weight, I thought I was supposed to be energized, more consistent, not this off/on thing. and productive. But I was ready and keen for the session.

The theme was "Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language"; I have a tenuous relationship with my creativity and was astounded to hear myself likened it to a cat! As you know, to say I don't like cats is to put it mildly; it's a snobbish, unrequited love, always on her terms; I know she's been around when I see the food disappear or evidence left in the litter box. Or it comes home whenever she likes to brush against my leg and meow annoyingly. So unlike a dog's happy, straight-forward love. Slightly disturbed but unphased, I did a blind drawing, not looking even when changing colors, "feeling the motions, textures, (and something else,)" and not drawing with intent.
A2 with water-soluble crayons. I like the movement of my arms when I draw curves and circles, it feels natural; but because I'd been thinking about weaving since Saturday, I intentionally added a plain weave look, (actually basket weave, but it's A2 and I wanted it visible.) Ooops. Afterwards I was to look for, (and my memory gets vague,) shapes, symbols, or anything that mean something to me, and I found none. But I felt rattled; it's too frantic, and somehow that threatened my equilibrium, as if I would loose my hard-earned calm over one drawing after all these years. After the session I was agitated and did some backgrounds in my sketchbook which turned out alarmingly vivid.
This is the self-portrait I did today. A2, water-soluble crayons, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and medium that gives body to the paint. This is me this week, feeling a bit bipolar with a small b. Yellow green appears to be my happy color these days; the hair contains gesso so the color and texture are flat. The darkest blue contains gloss varnish so one eye looks wet, and the right half of the lip contains the medium so the red paint is thick. I can't remember if I used brushes, but I used fingers, palms, wet paper towels and plastic spoons to manipulate the crayon and spread the paint.

My notes say: "Art Therapy was supposed to calm me, wasn't it? This is the opposite. I'm surprised with what came out of me; have I been suppressing all this, what? At least I'm doing something; better than just feeling exhausted."

The two parts are not totally separate, so I have a bit of chaos in the calm half, and vice versa. But I managed to include some calm in the chaotic half on the edges, because at least I know when I feel frantic.

After our second group session today, I asked Jade what to make of all "this"; I told her I didn't know what I wanted to ask/know, or how I wanted her to help me. She said, (if memory serves, and I paraphrase,) in art therapy, we look for meanings/symbols, in shapes, colors, our behavior/reaction (?), which matter to the maker. We also talked about planning and intention in art vs. this almost self-generating art, especially in comparison to weaving. And that I can still stun myself. Although I would still like the chill/calm as my default mood, you know.
Today's theme was "Honoring Our Journey - Heroe's/Heroine's Journey" and we painted however we saw our journey/s.  A2, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and body-giving medium.

  • My happy colors are yellow-green with gesso; the paint is flat because when I'm happiest, most content, I feel calm and sometimes don't even talk. All my efforts are to get me to this Shangri-La. It has some bright yellow highlights, depicting heightened-happy. I'm not sure what the darker green means but I was aware there are subdued or even hard-won-happys. 
  • Red is the more passionate path to happy and it's glossy. 
  • The dark colors coming up from the bottom are hardships, but because my hardships are not really "real" hardships by any measure, it's not black but Payne's Gray. Bottom right corner is pretty solid, but the paint is thinner; some other parts are more built up but there are plenty of white gaps because I recognize the lightness (?) of my hardships. 
  • The patchy, built-up sandy parts are me working towards calmness. The same color, but flat, containing gesso, at top left is the calm I've learned/earned in the past 15 years. 
  • White is the calm I hope I've always had. It's mixed with navy blue below, which is my regular effort; not too hard, not too easy. White and navy overlap and are mixed in places because there has always been an optimistic me who believed things will turn out right in the end. There is a small area of Payne's Gray next to the navy blue, but a little bit of "hardship" doesn't stop me. 
I see my destination addiction in this. I'm always going forward, seldom looking back, so "now" is in front of the picture, where I am, and Shangri-La is where I want to reach/arrive. No matter where I am in life, this seems to be my constant view of life. Just like the top piece from nine years ago!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hanging with Mrs & Dr Cady

So they finally came; their trip has been in the making since 2007 (?), but like many of us, they spent a decade caring for parents but finally my Philosophy Professor from college and the fab Mrs visited Nelson this week. I thought I last saw him in late '81 but he reminded me I visited him in '85 when I was last in Minnesota; I met the fab Mrs only once in Sept/Oct '77 at their house with a bunch of other Intro to Phil kids, but the fabulousness of the Mrs was, instantly we felt we knew her at least as well as the Professor. We had dinner on Monday in Mapua; a wee tour of town on Tuesday; much walking on Abel Tasman in the scorching sun and searing heat on Wednesday, (yes, it was outdoors;) and another tour of the region culminating in a wee picnic, us eating while standing in the cool wind, on Rabbit Island on Friday. Not many students have a chance to give a fraction of the gift back to their teachers, and we enjoyed their company way more, but here we are.
Abel Tasman National Park; I had a hard time keeping up with their pace.
A named beach on the walking track, (don't remember which,) sitting on a driftwood, having a snack. Oh, dear, where is the evidence of my recent weight loss? "The road IS long... With many a winding turn..."
I wore clothes, under the blue shirt, which my niece, then six, told me I shouldn't be caught dead seen in public, so I'm hiding. But of course Ben caught me; it was too hot to wear anything else. Yikes. Don't tell Mom I posted this.
We call this my hobo/basement weaver look.
On Friday I was mindful of the incident of the bad T-shirt so I wore a respectable Japanese one, but it being on the short side I couldn't raise my hands. Which I sometimes forgot. But they were taken by the loveliness of Rabbit Island so I'm going to go with, "They didn't notice." The fab Mrs asked if I were still trying to impress the Professor, and though that wasn't the case, I felt strangely stunted, immature, and as clueless and intellectually inadequate to handle growing up as when I was not quite 24. And as always.
I must get some pics with Ben in them off of their camera.

I don't know what I expected; I wanted them to have a lovely time, (there's in the country for a wee while,) and I wanted to be a good host. I'm so used to Japanese visitors who like complete itinerary setup and be accompanied everywhere and I still haven't learned when/how to pull back.

We had a few slaps on our faces as to how little we know Nelson now; after living here a decade and the petrol prices shot up in '06 I became reluctant to have the ritual weekend drive so we discontinued inspecting the region. Not only are there new roads or/or new names, new tourist attractions, (many being multiples of the same kind,) but also the old familiars have changed ownership, and sadly a few disappeared or changed the nature of their operation. The saddest is when they grow to big and loose the small town touches. We took more than a few detours wasting precious fossil fuel, but it's also rekindled our interest and Ben's set on reinvestigating Nelson and maybe reinvigorating Nelson Daily Photo. At least we can tell you about a few eateries we "discovered", including where you can get cherry- or kiwi-flavored ice cream/frozen yogurt; usually they only have various berries and bananas. That we know of.

I didn't speculate on how my relationship with the Professor might change; will we be nostalgic about my student days; would I reboot my life from the time I was not quite 24; or will we just carry on? We had communicated often enough after I graduated I knew a little about their kids, the all-important grandkids and the cabin. We may have learned more about them, their private lives, (how well do we know our professors' lives outside classroom unless you knew them beforehand or hung around afterwards, right?) but also in a strange way, even though we spoke little about my weaving, (the fab Mrs and I flew from one subject to another to another too quickly to stay on one,) I had a kind of a reboot and now I very eager to get back to weaving, and continue, (and of course improve) my mixed media. The Professor has this radiant smile that makes anyone think they can try again, harder and better.

I'm still struggling with how much to stay informed vs weaning myself off of politics, (we have a general election in late September, too,) and I talked about it a lot. Politics make me pessimistic and negative. I was also made keenly aware, again, of how small my life has become, how hard I've worked to make it so to concentrate on my making, but annoyingly self-absorbed I am! I don't apologize for living deep inside my head; it also helps to keep quiet the voices, but at the same time I wonder if I should aim for a different balance about now, so I can be a happier 60-year-old in 401 days. Seeing/talking to/mingling with Ruby&Ken, Lloyd, Stella&Thomas, Jay, Andrea, Pat, Esther&Jake, JB&Ali and their friends, and D&B in 44 short days make me wonder.

Ben's smaller body coped well; in five days he had three slices of pizza, some bread and a cookie once, beer and crackers twice, and ice cream three times, but his numbers stayed steady and weight the same! The blood sugar started a gradual incline only this weekend, because he hasn't been on his machine much since the start of his cold the week before. No we know his body can handle a bit of carbo as long as we control the intake and he continues the same exercise regime.

Life is good. There is a chance we'll reconnect with the Professor and the fab Mrs once more before they sail back to the North Island; Ben asked yesterday when he should plan to take another day off work. :-D

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Daily Drama and Art Therapy

Oh, the Drama 
(Scroll down for the less dramatic Art Therapy part.)
Just when I thought we were getting the hang of our new diet and I started thinking of either weaving or weeding, Ben came down with a bad cold, which would have had him down and out for seven full days had he not been working from home every day, in spite of our Medieval, (or what I ccall' "Mid-Evil",) Internet connection, while I contemplated what else he could slather on the sides of his raw nose. Usually I put it down to him working in a school with some colleagues with school-age children, (a.k.a. incubators of germs with less protection than hospitals,) I also contemplated bodies reacting to change in diet and his rather sudden increase of supplement-intake, some by Doc Karl's prescription, the rest by his recommendation. Ahyhoo, Ben need a letter from Karl stating he's been legitimately sick, and got two additional supplements for a wee while. However, as of this afternoon he's lost 8kg, so he doesn't have to go on 5:2 or any other special diet but just keep eating the kind of things we've been eating, in probably the current portion. Lucky duck!

We had a wonderful dinner at neighbor B&D's last night, with JB & Ali as well. We've liked B&D ever since they moved in next door... what... eight years ago? ten years ago? and felt tempted to have them over, but you know, there is that mess at ours, and my role as the "recluse", so we hadn't; I took up every chance to chat with them over the fence, though, and a few plants/fruits have crossed our fences over the years. We are semi-seriously discussing dog-sharing.

My philosophy prof Dr C, (who insists my calling him by any other name but Dr,) and Mrs C will land on South Island tomorrow, for which I should be cleaning the house instead of blogging, just in case, but here we are. The last he saw me I was not quite 24; apparently I was that young once.

Art Therapy
And now for the part that was supposed to be more dramatic but turned out, at least for me, ever-so calming. I don't know what I expected, (OK, a flash/bang revelation and an instant/painless transformation,) but I had been curious about Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing workshops after seeing photos from her Sydney versions. She held her first on-line version so I jumped on the opportunity, joining two lovely Aussies.

Most sessions we discussed our preceding week; additional thought we might have had about what we made; basic themes/elements for the week; then made "art" based on those themes/elements; reflected/observed/opined on them; and finished with maybe a little meditation/relaxing exercise.

When I was looking at the Sydney workshop photos, I kept thinking, "Oh, I would design them better and make them prettier," but I learned the different modes of "making" quickly. At least in my case, after learning/thinking about the themes, the making part was an act of expressing/symbolizing those ideas/concepts/feelings, not working towards a preconceived visual piece. I think this is super easy for weavers to distinguish. And from my experience in the figure drawing, I was able to dive right into the making, with no other thought than just getting started. If I were a little less cynical, I'd say it was almost hypnotic.

I could talk about my end piece at length, and some of it was what I thought as I painted/glued/smeared a color or stitched on a bead, but I couldn't tell whether/where/if Weaver Meg entered in "Megsplaining" as I do with weaving.

One thing that surprised me was, because I'm usually slow and am seldom finished in the allotted time, I expected to want to pretty up the pieces after each session. But all of these end pieces were of a specific time, in the company of these specific women, and of a specific mindset, and after class, except to draw/glue/stitch on whatever pieces I already had in hand/mind, I didn't feel compelled to improve them cosmetically. They were complete. I'm sure the experience would have been just as special, Jade is skilled as an art therapist/coach and has a wonderfully soothing voice, but I also owe a lot to the other participants in creating a low-keyed, inspirational environment.

I often associate reds/pinks with good/hot/too emotional, orange/yellow/gold with wonderful/brilliant highlights, blue with cool/calm/well-thought-out, and black with not good/tunnel/end, but I was surprised how often green crept in, and this I give credit to my green threads and paints for enabling me to use them as mixing colors. (I don't usually like greens and browns, but find lime green and olive green especially versatile.) Without even further ado, some pics.
Week 1. Me, Here, Now, a mandala. Water soluble crayons, A2.
Week 2. Public Face/Private Face, a mask. Home made newspaper papier mâché, acrylic paint, about 25cm in diameter. It was suggested we buy papier mâché masks, but I wanted something rounder with a flatter nose so I attempted to make one. (Actually two.) The glue didn't dry completely so I couldn't put on a small nose and after class it started disintegrating, but I'm happy with these symbolic (?) incidents. This is my private face, on which I spent much longer, paying attention to details.
My public face, which, working at home and not socializing much, didn't require much detail nor thought; I really don't think about it any more.
Week 3. Self Care and the Nervous System - Four dimensions of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Water soluble crayons, A2.
Week 4. Cycles and Three Stages of Women - Maiden, Mother, Crone. Collage, A2. I've been thinking about "Goddesses" for some time and been looking at a lot of Goddess- and White-Witch-related artworks, reflecting on these feminine labels for some months. Not straight-forward for a kid who dismissed friends in play group at age 3, telling them Santas were just parents. There was never any unexplainables in my life until we visited Culloden Battlefield on our honeymoon, (couldn't see much in the fog,) when I suddenly became more open to ghosts first; then I even began to covet some mystery since I saw Gormenghast, read Harry Potter and Discworld, and delved further into Nick Bantock's art. The Brits do them well, don't they? There are Japanese myths/folklore, too, but I find them darker/scarier so I am more drawn to the more delightful of the European non-humans coexisting with us muggles. But I digress. I liked that Jade's Crones are not dried-up, discarded, invisible middle-aged women, but wiser, almost secretive and still full of juice. I'm going to read a little bit about them.
Week 5. Celebration and Gratitude. Fabric, threads, wool yarn, beads, about 26cm tall. I've wanted to make dolls most of my life and collected books on doll-making but The Perfectionist always interfered. so this is the first one I've ever made. I named her Mo, after my somewhat-White-Witch friend Maureen. Mo's superpower is flying; she can fly at low altitude, at a reasonable speed, for a short period, which is all she needs. I want to make more, perhaps periodically.

Round II of Jade's workshop starts this week.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hectic but Calm

Last Tuesday Ben had the long awaited blood test. Tuesday evening, I had the honor/horror of outlining the contents of my previous post to a... a... a mathematician. JB, Ali, their friends and friends' friend, (a weaver!), Ben and I went out to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. This eatery has been there forever but for some reason we'd never tried it and, boy, were we glad we did. Slightly costlier than our usual haunts, but they do cheaper lunches, and plenty choices without carbohydrate, or we can just decline rice. Oh, the fresh veg and flavorful herbs!

Friday at the end of the day Ben had his fateful appointment with Doc Karl. I had hoped we'd get another month's reprieve/parole for the diabetes medication but wasn't so confident about cholesterol meds. It turned out, Ben's hemoglobin A1c/HbA1c/glycohemoglobin value, (average blood glucose for the three months up to testing,) was 48. In December this number was 65; one is put on medication in New Zealand above 55, deemed diabetic above 46, prediabetic above 40. And of course Karl wants it below 40 when Ben is tested again in May. But considering the ease we've had in the change of diet, increase in Ben's exercising/walking, his weight loss, (OK, could be more, but still 6kg with no pain, first 4kg within days,) our shrinking portion sizes without even trying, we think it's doablet. (Even I lost some weight, although my weight always fluctuates, so the loss is between 2 and 4.5kg, but I am approaching the lightest I've been in 22 years. That includes the couple of years when I went to the gym three and four times a week and was measured all over every month.)

I've been reading more about the Fast/"intermittent" fasting/5:2 diet; on two days a week of our choosing we eat quarter of the calories of other five days, not fast completely, and on those five days we will eat what we've come to call Doc Karl's version of the Blood Sugar diet foods, (no carb and much fewer fruits than in the book,) which I think is based more on the ketogenic diet, but if it gets too complicated I'll loose my cool so I'm sticking mostly to Dr Mosley's rules with Karl's proviso. Ben prefer this to eight interminable weeks of 800 calories per day, and I agree.

Ben's cholesterol also went down, so no brain-boiling meds, but Karl would still like to see the good HDL go up, so we're helping matters along with a bit of Omega 3 supplement for a while. But that's all we need to do for the next three months. Ben just might eliminate all symptoms of diabetes. I can't tell the difference between being cured of diabetes, a term I hesitate to use, vs. not having any symptoms, and he'll have to be mindful for the rest of his life because of his family medical background, but hey, if we can eat relatively normally and stay healthy with no threats of blindness, bypass surgeries or amputations, we're all in.

Even Doc Karl seemed a little different; be it because the numbers are good, because Ben's a bloke, or because I finally got on board Intermittent Fasting he recommended me 30 months ago when we first met, I thought he was chummier. I did look into it,I swear, after getting over the word, "fasting", but I could have had to eat only a subset of what we used to eat because there was no way Ben would give up carbohydrate, (rice, Japanese noodles, and hash browns!) if he weren't on parole, and frankly thinking of possibly cooking different things for myself was onerous.

In case you hadn't noticed, I've calmed down because Ben has stopped resisting/negotiating; his numbers were way better than we both expected; no meds; we've both gotten used to the foods we can eat and started experimenting anew; we taste more flavors in foods we thought we knew well; and for myself, because we eat/cook in smaller amounts I'm more careful and I have a higher hit, errr, success rate in making yummy dishes, and after Friday I can concentrate on my weight loss, which is monumental compared to Ben's. He's already made the upper threshold of where he wants to be; me, I'll get back to you around Christmas for an interim report. I've even had some head space to do some mixed media last week. Truth to tell, when Ben went back to work in January, I had hoped to get back on the loom, but the new diet was harder to get my head around, (and of course once we got our heads around, it's another, "What was all that fuss about?",) but I can finally see myself weaving again soon.
I swear, these guys have become OK. I had my first since my student days last weekend, but they're not as soul-crushing as I remembered. Previously we only bought half bunches of celery and had a hard time using them all up before they turned soft and brown, but this full bunch is going to disappear in two days.
Esther and Jake came bearing gift on yesterday; plums from their tree! It's called elephant heart plums, and they chose relatively unripe ones for us so they don't all go bad at once.
Today I took the ripest one-third and did my variation of the slow-roasted pasta sauce today. So intense and flavorful, I'll probably do some more so we can enjoy the fruits for a long time this coming fall/winter.
The previously "normal" amount of food we bought, even veg, is too much so we're buying a lot less but more varieties at once. Except tomatoes; we both grab fresh whole tomatoes when we're hungry for fruits. We feel OK to spend some money on fancy vinegars, infused oils, and organics. I have a problem with coconut products because of deforestation, but Ben caught on to the many benefits for diabetics so we got this. In this particular case, however, I wanted him to get the white-lidded non-organic version, but, well, it was his choice. Doesn't the pink lid alarm you, though? To me it looks like super-instant drain-cleaner or rodent-poison container. Oh, dear.

Also on Friday I ran into Jay from the old Red Gallery at Volume and we had coffee and parted promising to do it again very soon. I regained one of my important mentors. I also had lunch with Suter/Plum Esther and Tapestry Weaver Pat to introduce them to each other. I was late because I went back to Volume after coffee to buy one book, and by then the two looked like they'd known each other a long time. I'm quite sure Jean is long back from Christmas in Australia, so I must get together with her, too. Today I got a call from Andrea who is working in two art places in town; when I left my job at the Polytechnic, it took me six months to get back out again so I was going to give her until April, but she has been out and about and I'm sure we'll see each other soon. This weekend, JB, Ali, and we are invited to our neighbors'; he's a writer and she's a painter.

We are having the coolest and comparatively moist "hottest summer ever" and, though summer doesn't end until March, I'm am feeling more upbeat. Life is looking up, we have nice friends, and how can I not mention, food is delicious.

EDIT: If you or your loved ones have Type II Diabetes, especially if the patient is under 50 or was diagnosed within the last eight years, it may be worth looking into and discussing with your doctor either/both of these diets. (Blood Sugar does target diabetics and prediabetics; 5:2, the older diet, I think initially targeted weight loss, although I know less about the latter.) I don't know Atkins; these diets are low/no carb, but not high fat, just some fats allowed.  (I have read about cases where these diets worked on Type I, but that's a whole new ball game I'm unwilling to touch with a ten-foot barge pole, :-D)

Diabetes New Zealand still advocates eating a variety of wholegrains as was the case 14 years and a week ago when Ben was diagnosed. At first we followed every one of their points obediently, ate pasta and good grains, and Ben ate "small amounts, often," so he was never too hungry. And what Doc Karl, Ben, and I agreed was we wasted 14 years on misinformation. And I am so glad Ben changed doctors.

Now, this is the tricky bit and I'm retelling what we learned from Doc Karl; "fasting" in this context allows one's stored fat to burn, therefore reducing/eliminating the fats inside your organs (and elsewhere); for diabetes, pancreas and liver being most crucial in allowing pancreas to control insulin properly. Then it's the cholesterol inside veins that lead to heart diseases, blindness, and even limp amputation. This goes against what we heard about breakfast being the most important and/or don't skip lunch because you'll be hungrier, or Ben having to graze, but all we can say is with these diets we didn't get hungry after the firsts couple of days. We eat breakfast and supper, and Ben munches on nuts and a fruit or a tomato around lunch time and/or late afternoon, while I might eat a little leftovers, celery, or skip altogether. We decided to put our trust in Karal and Mosley for now. It's this fasting bit that we urge you to discuss with your doctor as depending on where the patient is with diabetes, medication or insulin, and/or other conditions, this could be a very bad idea in your case.

Carbohydrate is sugar. Grain is sugar-plus. Fruits, with their wonderful fibers, vitamins, cute faces and sensational colors, flavors, and smells, do contain a lot of sugar. Sugar, unless used by the body, turns into fats and accumulate. This is why exercise, or just walking, is important, Meg. (Also fats increase the chance of age-related head problems; I don't know if they can be grouped as dementia any more but you know what I mean; that's the one that scares me the most.) My reading taught me this several years ago and I had the nerve to tell off more than one health professional. When I baked bread, I mixed half a dozen types of grains, but the bulky stuff was mostly seeds and nuts. And finally, my bread-baking days are over. About ten days ago I ceremoniously poured my sourdough down the drain. If I see a totally grain-free and edible bread, I'll just beg some off of Andrea; otherwise, keeping sourdough as a pet was too tempting.

I would usually not recommend any diet; I hate diets; I don't believe in most; and have laughed them off most of my adult life. I thought they were for patient, determined, admirable people, not me. I have had weight/obesity problem since childhood, but the last 10-15 years I just couldn't be bothered and had resigned to die fat. What I can tell you is, in our limited experience of the last three months, we were not hungry and our portions decreased without trying, but Ben's numbers improved and lost some weight.

To clarify, we have had hankerings: I've wanted to have sponge cake and/or chocolate fish, but I never touched the choc I look at every day in the pantry. Ben wanted rice badly, and we cooked rice once, three kind of brown/black/red variety, about half the regular amount, washed the sticky bits afterwards, and ate half of that over three days and stuck the other half in the freezer. It's still there. We cooked the last of our new potato babies and mashed, and again, we ate that over three to four occasions. We make kumura (sweet potato) mash, using one potato each time, and eat it over three to four meals. We even ate sticky Japanese rice cake for breakfast on Friday, but cut it up so we had two small pieces with seaweed rather than feel sad about having only one.

There is another option. Doc Karl is also keen on the new (??) ketogenic diet coming out of the US. There is still not enough info except online here, and supplements, etc., have not arrived but he thinks the science looks good; I don't know how this is related to Mosley's 5:2, either, but they are related. The name to google in this case is Dr/Prof (??) Longo. I'd be interested to know what you find out ifi you do, but for now, we're sticking to Mosley as we've already started and we don't need anything special, just regular food.

Sorry this got a bit long, but I do want to communicate good news, especially if it's easy. :-D

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bean Counting

How many g of cooked Borlotti has the same calories as 5oz dry green lentils?

When Doc Karl suggested looking into Blood Sugar Diet and 5:2 Intermittent Fasting, we jumped on Blood Sugar Diet not just because we already had the book, but what food-lover wants to contemplate fasting, right? We thought the companion recipe book would help me plan, so we ordered: a book written by UK authors, based on a UK study from a UK outlet, and I so looked forward to it. Except, when it arrived, it was the US Edition. I didn't check where it was published. 

I'm fine with "sometimes" cookbooks in imperial and I have tons of American cookbooks. But this I intended to consult every day, with many substitution; I was so irritated I even sent a (guilty) email of complaint, and they said if I paid the postage to return, they'll refund. I was tempted, but the postage might have cost more than the book, and more importantly, I was eager to jump into the recipes, not to mention it was my error. So after a few days of tireless, impassioned moaning, I got over myself and started reading. Last week I was going to cook one meal a day from the book to get us closer to the 800 calories/day program. 

I studied the dinners and picked a chicken recipes, (Ben's fav), one for which we had all the ingredients, except mushrooms. (Fine, eggplants with a bit of dried Shiitake will do.) Tuesday afternoon, I started to gather the ingredients and couldn't find lentils. W always have plenty of dry beans and it just so happens I cooked Borlotti on Monday. Because we eat small amounts of beans with almost every meal now, I don't flavor it when I cook and add spices/herbs/condiment if necessary.  

I'm not bad at math, and I like ratios, but boy, this one got me flustered, and I tried at three different times, walking away and doing something else in between, but I couldn't fire it out. That websites don't agree on the calories, (as much as double!) didn't bother me as much as my inability to find the numbers.  

So I ordered the UK edition. And cooked lasagna with eggplants in place of pasta. And it was excruciatingly tasty. 

This is where I wanted to end the post. On discovering the same man also wrote books about 5:2 fasting, (and the possibility of combining the two diets,) I order the intro book and the recipe book from the same source. Except I didn't; I ticked not the recipe book but the Diet book and the Diet&Exercise book, and guess what, American editions, again. We started looking into "fasting" because we are allowed 500 (for women)/600 (for men) calories on the two days/week we "fast"; rest of the time we're allowed whatever our size/lifestyle allows. I'm fine for now reading the theories and how-to's but I might have to get the recipe book/s in metric.
I doodled over my notes on Friday. Even the camera picked up icky colors.

Happy celery sticks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I'm SO Sick of Thinking about Food. And News.

Not to be confused with being sick of food, but still, it's something I never thought I'd say publicly, but I so am.

The thought of this diet, doing it properly, agitates me. All I needed to do in the last seven days was to pick four to six recipes, make a shopping list, and for us try the 800-or-thereabouts-calories/day for the weekend, but I've felt this underlying fury/indignation/rage towards studying the recipes. It's been like the weeks (and months) before I do my tax returns; I know once I get down to it I'll need a day, two max, and will wonder what all the fuss was about, but for now I'm in the throes of fussing.

I feel like we're cooking all the time, (we do cook more preparing small side dishes to add texture and color to our meals,) washing dishes, (cooking utensils and lots of small containers for above,) and are spending far too much time in the kitchen, (we've often cooked together, but now also checking FB, etc., together. Ben likes it there.)

There's no doubt we're eating better; we are following the "what" part of the diet strictly: protein and lots of veg in every meal, virtually no carbs, and a lot fewer fruits. It's also lead rather naturally to decrease in portions, but still nowhere near 800 calories/day. The recipes state per serving calorie, so I only need to add two or three numbers per day. So short of someone cooking for us from the books, it cannot be made easier.

Ben does try to negotiate the details, because the books do allow for them; their default scheme is 800 calories/day for 8 weeks, but if we want to go slower, say, 1000 calories, stay on course for perhaps 10-12 weeks. Some of their own recipes even include small amounts of carbo! Their after/non-diet recommended calorie is roughly 1600 depending on one's size, lifestyle, etc. But here lies our conundrum. We went to a Japanese website, we did, and calculated the recommended daily calorie intake based on our respective heights; Ben needs a little over 1300 and I, 1100. So compromises don't do us much good, merely, it's just less naughtier than before. I periodically declare to Ben in exasperation he is on parole now, but I do project a whole lot of my own laziness on him.

Anyway, I can't wait to get on track and look back and tell how how silly I have been "back then".
Supper a week ago Friday, one of my "I so don't want to cook" nights. Having healthy side dishes help.

* * * * *

There is no doubt a lot of my anger is in proportion to the news I consume. Early last week I watched vids of the inauguration/CIA speeches, the first press conference, and few online commentary, just trying to stay informed. Then I worked on mixed media and had Al Jazeera, the only 24-hour news channel on my telly, but I like their depth, completely absent from NZ news, in the background. By midweek, I was engrossed, unable to think of much else. Towards the end of the week, I tried to recall how I weaned myself off of news in 2001/02, when there were far less/fewer resources available to me; I can't remember except it happened suddenly one day, after my morbid fascination with W's parlance and penchant for cos-play turned into dread and the world crumbling seemed not as dire as getting away from him. And back then, we honestly believed it wouldn't happen here, unaware NZ's right was already shopping around for campaign/policy consultants in DC.

So American politics matter to me. I hear some folks in the US don't understand why did folks around the world march last weekend. As St Meryl said, bad/daring attitudes/statements from "leaders" normalize/spread. Head Dickheads of places like NZ and Japan deliver gift-wrapped unpopular changes in hopes of some tiny future favors, even a photo op, or at least lack of recrimination. Ideas and policies are just as easily exported as music and fashion, if they benefit those with the power to act on them.

With this many rapid changes, I don't think I can turn away just yet; my desire to stay awake is stronger than my own piece of mind for now. Though easing up is an option.

But life is not all bad; this post is getting too long so I'll post in another what else I've been doing.
Portrait-every-day turned a bit introspective (??) and  German Expressionist this week. LOL.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016/17 Part IV

So, what of 2016/17? Well, 2016 was so blah I don't remember long stretches after Mom's exhibition.  (That was pretty special.) I did weave some in the first half, I did a lot of paper stuff in the second, I didn't garden much.

For 2017, the top priority is Ben's diabetes, our diet and health; if my weight comes down as well, great. (I've been thinking what I call "premature" aging, especially the multitudinous forgetting, is connected to my weight.) If not, I'll have to have a separate plan. (Exercising more helps. Just saying.)

I want to get back into the garden and try to make it nice for once. We're now progressing towards the end of summer, (March/April?) and I'm so looking forward to the cool season even though the task is monumental, again, and come spring it'll get too hot and sunny and hay-fevery and I'll have to give up for a weedy summer, again, but cool season gardening is now on mental calendar. Besides, the hellebore seeds I bought from the Northern hemisphere took a year and a half to germinate but have been ready to go into into the ground. So I'd love a early, cool, and long autumn/winter, and a late, rainy spring, please. If I can clean the house thoroughly and declutter, in small doses, it'll be so good for my mental health but I need Ben's help and... it's a long shot coordinating when we get motivated. (Ruby is threatening to come see me again; she, who was trained as a landscape architect. Her first question when we met was how my garden is doing, which told me, crikey, she reads my blog!!)

I can't go to Japan this Feb because friends are visiting Nelson, among them my philosophy professor from college, whom I last saw, we established, in Dec '81/Jan '82. I love Feb in Japan because it's so cold and sometime it snows and outdoor places aren't crowded. For Japan. This year, if I can manage, I might go in November because it's cool enough, some years, and big art exhibitions happen around then. It'd be nice if Ben and I could travel somewhere together, even just to Wellington, but the November earthquake has put paid to that for now. Either trip will invigorate my making mojo.

Yes, the making. I'm not stopping the mixed media and Letter Journals. These are fun, reasonably challenging but not soul-crushingly, which is why I find them accessible. And collaboration is good. Here are some recent pics:
A rather bright background on my Letter Journal for potentially three others to add on. I tend to cover the entire spread to make a color field for backgrounds, (usually with fewer hues and less saturated pieces,) but leaving gaps or just pasting a few shapes would work, too.
A finished spread; Tess worked on it up to twice, me, up to three times. I discovered one key to working in layers is not to cover completely the previous; I sometimes collage big or too much to obscure them; worse yet, apply colors over the entire spread tidily, leaving no gaps. It's good to unite the hue/value variation, but especially with a dark wash, it obscures/obliterates interest. I'm kicking myself for having ruined one of the nicest spreads that way, after two layers of successful wash.

I am the worst person to commit to something-everyday projects; I consider it a major achievement if I last a week, and some years I don't even remember I forgot. This year, I thought it would be nice if I drew a lot of face/portrait, and I've been trying to do one a night. If I forget, do two the next day, or do seven on the weekend, just because I like looking at them later. Although I forgot on Jan 2, yeah, I have done 21 so far.

By copying, I don't mean "copying" like aspiring artists do carefully, but just having an image in front of me. My efforts include crude line drawings, some colored, some in with outrageous colors, but most often with my non-dominant hand or blind contours. Many don't take five minutes.
I first copied portraits by van Gogh, of course, but also Gauguin's earlier French, Matisse, Modigliani, and Chagall's circus acrobats. Then I really got into German Expressionist woodcuts for a while, (I know I'll go back to them,) but because I want to eventually draw in my own "style", I've done a few of Congressman John Lewis and I intend to do several more until I can get the shape of his head/face right and, oh, his eyes. It doesn't bother me that I don't do it well, but it'd be nice to see some kind of an improvement, or better yet, an ease with which I take on drawing.
I am learning to see better in fits and starts. My greatest discovery is what a superb draftsman Matisse was/is. I sensed it when I tried to copy a couple of his simplest drawings in Brisbane, but I didn't have the vocabulary to express it. He express so much with the slightest twist of a line, and he's been the hardest to copy to get to the essence of the portraits. All very steep learning cliffs.

And weaving. I hope to get back to it, but I'm not pushing it. Meeting Ruby has been a big incentive, but all in good time. As I always say, I would like to surprise myself, to make something that doesn't look like things I've woven before. Bright and multi-colors are still popular at the Suter; I still like monochrome and analogous. Still, it's a undeservedly cushy life. And with that said, my 2017 can start properly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016/17 Part III - Diabetes in the 14th Year - Long

Ben was diagnosed with diabetes on February 5, 2003. Diabetes is a progressive illness, and I always understood it to mean, "It will get worse." Around the time he's turned 50 it started to mean: what he did and how he ate back in 2003 are, 14 years later, not good enough to keep the numbers down. Plus we have been plenty complacent; my bad I trusted what he said, too; I was tired of nagging after the 10th anniversary.

Long story shorter, his numbers were so that his doc, (my old,) wanted to put Ben on diabetes and cholesterol meds. Ben's the kind of guy who prefers to suffer rather than take pain meds for a splitting headache. (His dentist told Ben he has an unusually high tolerance for pain, and we're fixing problems over two years which already presented problems in 2003 for which we had to run into a dental practice in Elgin, Scotland.) It's hard to get information from this doc, even when we ask gazillion question, so Ben negotiated and got only on cholesterol meds and an reprieve of three months to get tested again, and reassess the diabetes med. (Not to mention the head nurse who gave him the annual diabetes check knew little about diabetes but treated us like idiots.) This was on the first day of his month-long holiday.

New Zealand's diabetes policies changed in the last decade; when he was diagnosed frequent checking of blood-sugar levels by the patient was encouraged, but now they prefer to put folks on medication early, relying on HbA1c, (average blood sugar of three months leading to a test,) which is checked only annually. But as the patient and wife of a patient, that's too chancy so we've been buying test strips ourselves, (may not be so common in NZ,) and also not exactly following the officially recommended diet, but cutting way back on carbohydrate and filling up on veg. Coincidentally Ben won a Fitbit from the Diabetes organization not long ago, and the data/record appearing/kept on his laptop intrigues so much he started exercising. Quite a lot.

The doc had to change his cholesterol meds three times but the side effects were bad, (one night he told me his brain was boiling!) he took himself off. He exercised day and night and we checked blood sugar several times a day. We read more about diabetes, talked about food, cooked healthily and ate well. But in retrospect I think he was a little depressed, caught unawares, (while I thought, he could have been on meds a few years ago,) he thought a lot and didn't do much else.

On the very last day of holiday, he switched to my doc and we made an extra long appointment. Karl prefers to, if possible, solve problems with foods/nutrients and he wanted us to research one of two diets, ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, both of which burn accumulated fat and lighten the load on the kidney and pancreas, among other organs. The latter is what he recommended me two years ago when I switched to Karl, but I I couldn't do it while cooking for Ben as well. He also gave Ben another cholesterol med, (to which Ben reacted badly, so he took himself off.) But the sane news is, Ben's on a one month parole, to be tested early Feb and we'll go from there.

The last two weeks we've been reading even more, while following the kitogenic Blood Sugar Diet loosely, because I already had the book. (I got it a while ago meaning to go ask Karl if this would work for me, because this I could do with Ben after I convinced him he needed it.) It allows protein and veg except potatoes, some full fat cheese, milk, and yogurt, but very little fruits and no carbohydrate. And we love it because the science makes so much sense to us, and because protein is allowed, Ben got over his initial resistance. And it's not a hard diet to follow; eat less energy so stored fat is used.

Ben's lost 4kg, his body is better-toned, he is motivated, and his numbers have been consistently better than anything in the last, at least, four to six years. Me? I may have lost 500g. Or not. It's like when I reacted to chicken and had nothing but water for seven days and gained 500g, or when we went gluten-free and Ben quickly lost a few kilos while I did not. My gym staff said I was an enigma, but I fill up faster, eat less, and don't get cravings.) I'm looking forward to his Feb numbers.

Karl's very knowledgeable and it's hard to take in everything he says, but I did take notes and got the important bits. It annoys me Ben remembered bits just listening, but it's great he is taking this seriously. Additionally, we got one supplement each, Ben's got new shoes and those sporty sandals, and both of us, Swiss ball cushions. And we're recording everything that goes into our mouths in... prepare to laugh... matching notebooks!
At Saturday lunch at the Suter with JB and Ali, Ben shot his food with his phone, and it dawned on me I could do the same with mine rather than try to memorize and write at home.

No gardening, no big clean up of any room, no long drives, no movies in the cinema, one lunch in town in a whole month of holiday. We didn't even ring JB and Ali in spite of my warning before the holiday started. All life is good; it's good to reassess periodically. And if you're curious, eggs are good again, and salt may not be as bad as previously thought. And caffeine isn't great.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Call Me Sentimental

Two days after I met Ruby and Ken, I went back to Nicola's and sat at the same table and ate the same Ceviche and basked in the glow of the memory. Ben and I had such a good time with JB and Ali on Saturday, even though we never rang them in the month Ben was home, we will probably get together a couple of more times this summer. And the former student I met for morning coffee, she told me it had been six years since they came to our house; her 3-year-old baby with much bijou had turned into a 9-year-old who could monopolize a conversation and go on a "find the picture" hunt by herself at the Suter, while grownups blah-blahed. Big Sister who starts middle school in Feb is a little more pensive, and prefers to address me in Japanese even when I speak to her in English. And I've been spending a lot of time at Volume; Stella and Thomas are a couple who enjoy working together and every time I see them I miss Ben, even though he's busy earning a living not one kilometer away as I ... er.... shoot the breeze and eat ice cream with Stella and Thomas. And Lloyd reminded me to not leave it so long before I visited him again.

I've been learning the difference between introvert vs shy; I was surprised some years ago when an Internet friend called me outright an introvert when, at least online, I thought I was a try-hard life of the party. According to what I've found online, I am (or have become?) an introvert, although by no means shy. Put me in front of a hundred people and ask me to talk about something I know and no problem, but before and after, give me a few days to get rid of the words out of my head.

And so we return to the tenuous relationship between anxiety/depression and withdrawal. Weaving is slow and I need all the time. Mixed media is fiddly and I need space. I have an extremely needy garden. I don't have a lot of money to spend eating out. I spend long hours in my PJ/work clothes. I read. I was the only kid for 7 years and I've learned to entertain myself early on and I like it. I'm fat and in summer I sweat and I'm embarrassed. And I am a homebody. And, you know, I don't drive so in Nelson I have to coordinate my act with Ben and/or walk 18 minutes to the hourly bus. But I think the worst part is I spend so much time questioning, "Why did I say that?" or "Why couldn't I have been kinder?" or "Why couldn't I have thought before I spoke?" or "Why did I talk so much?" So it's easier not to create these opportunities.

"They" say people, especially those with depression, should not isolate them/ourselves. I think interactions are meant to (re)position ourselves in our environment, locating our position on the map and (re)confirming where North is. I know some people don't need maps because they can organize the environment to suit them. I know some people who don't care where they are on the map or which direction they are facing. Some, like me, worry so much about the size, color and style of buildings, angles and width and right-of-way of/on roads, and even though north is clearly signposted, we cannot proceed because we worry about walking with the wrong footwear or with too big/small steps. So I'd rather sit in the middle of a white sheet of paper and concentrate on what's inside me rather than outside.

I know it's all about balance and I thought going into town as little as I can get away with was suited me very well, but now I'm not really sure. I do love good company, and adore learning. So the wondering/wandering continues.
Stella and Thomas' bikes outside their Volume bookshop.

No plans to leave home for the whole week! Grin.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016/17 Part II

Due to strange-headedness, vertigo, bad sitting arrangements and world news addiction, I've done no gardening this spring and summer; (in places the weeds were thigh-high but the summer wind and dryness killed some of the surface stuff last week,) no weaving, but some van Gogh reading and mixed media. I'm enjoying mixed media because they are immediate, but have started to struggle, too, because I've developed "intent" in some cases, and like weaving, I see much technical weakness that hinders my expression. I love building from scratch, especially collages with my painted paper, so I'm not coveting products, but the work takes more time. Like the way weavers used to talk on each other's blogs and offline, (perhaps some of you still do?) I so enjoy the frequent communication in group, both technical and mundane.
Oh, the "not weaving" part. The multi-colored cashmere warp was straight-forward and painless, until I eventually got to wash them. OMG! Even though this time I made sure I used only 100% and not the silk/cashmere mix, and even though this product's shinkage differ depending on the color, there is no denying this is bad. After some time in purgatory, (both me and them,) the weaver's need for income won over integrity, and Husband was asked to deliver them to the Suter. And I tried not to think about them and I wasn't going to show them to you here.

In July, when the temporary Suter was closing and the whole lot moving to their old/new home, I went to say a temporary "bye" to Andrea, who said in the kindest, mildest way of joking, (I think, but didn't ask,) if I were still in a guild I'd be outski pronto. While I had hoped, to be honest, the color combos and softness/weight/hand still had some appeal to non-weavers. So I withdrew them.

I wasn't disappointed. I don't mind anything Andrea says; I often ask for her critique. It wasn't a sudden loss of confidence; I'm used my technical weaknesses. The feeling, which wasn't strong or at the forefront but perhaps always there, was, how many years/warps do I have to weave to get better, and/or have I passed my prime, didn't know it, and henceforth I'm going to weave rubbish only. Is/was my efforts worthwhile? I didn't think any of this, but the feeling gestated on its on.

I didn't make a conscious decision to stop weaving; I only threw myself into mixed media. I haven't even washed the five pieces I wove between April and July and I have a long-awaited warp for two commission pieces on the loom. Every week we Skyped Mom asked me if I'm giving up weaving and the honest answer was, I didn't know. And I was fine with that. And for a time I totally lost interest in textiles.

But then I met people and went to arty places and life looked like a little while ago and twice since August I saw textile-y dreams and the Suter sold two pieces in one month, so my thinking is heading back towards weaving. Plus, the next couple of months is going to be hot and my basement is cool. But I'll never apologize for the time and energy I spent on mixed media, and I'll never stop, even if it doesn't contribute to any un/subconscious design skills.