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.