Wednesday, January 25, 2017

This is What Democracy Looks Like

*Warning: This is a long and photo-heavy post*

This past Saturday, January 21st, I participated in the Women’s March on Washington.  I did so for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is far beyond time for me as an adult to stand up for what I believe in.  I have had a tugging and pulling at my heart and soul over that last 15 years or so that I often tamped down because it felt overwhelming to be a participant.  But what I have come to realize is that while in my own immediate circle, I may be equal and there might not be prejudices, we are far from truly overcoming those things.

The fact is over all, women are not equal – we still make less than men for doing the same work – and that includes CEOs, doctors, athletes, and tech – areas where you’d assume the playing ground is level. I know and have experienced personally being paid less than a male subordinate. Yes, I have been paid less than a person working for ME.  When I found out and questioned it, I was told it was because he was a young man with a family and needed to make more.  At the time, I was a single parent, not even receiving child support because my ex-husband left the country.  Let that sink in.

Men continue to debate the rights we should have over our own bodies, including if we should have free or inexpensive access to birth control, gynecological appointments and even prenatal care. Nor do we have paid (or sometimes unpaid) maternity leave as a rule.

As a runner, I have to be careful when I run in the dark – because if I suffered violence at the hands of an evil person, it would be considered “my fault.” I must also be careful that the running clothes I wear are not considered too provocative.   Even when I am covered neck to toe I am often subjected to being catcalled and objectified.

Women are constantly being told they are too old, too fat, too unattractive, to dress like a lady and make sure we have the correct designer clothing and accessories.

Now, imagine all of this plus being an immigrant woman, gay woman, transgendered woman, or woman of color. 

I marched.

My personal trip to DC actually was a 24 hour adventure, 14 hours of which were spent on a bus.

We left from a mall parking lot at 1:30 in the morning on Saturday and arrived in DC at 8:30.  

My amigos for the day

Immediately upon exiting our bus, we all started walking towards the metro then quickly decided it was probably going to be too packed.  We decided then to walk to the starting point which was about 2 miles away – it was a literal sea of bodies on both sides of the street. Right from the beginning we saw so many clever signs and expressions of what people were feeling.

We walked through the Capital Hill neighborhood and were cheered by the residents along the way.  Every single yard in that neighborhood had signs with Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes which were just all the more appropriate that day.

Look closely and you'll see the lady on the right is holding up her walker.  Love.

The Connecticut group was having a pre-rally at the Museum of the American Indian and we went looking for that but never found it because even before the official program began, there were people as far as the eye could see. 

Suddenly we heard a roar and figured the official program was beginning but couldn’t hear anything and so began to shuffle around trying to figure out where it was and how close we could get.  We were not successful and it became apparent that this crowd was much, much larger than the organizers had expected.  Everything, including the porta-potties were overwhelmed by the end of the day. We couldn’t even watch it on our phones because there was absolutely no service of any kind.

A friend asked me if I was disappointed about not hearing the speakers and I honestly answered no as I knew I could probably YouTube the entire program once I was home (and I have done that).  But also I wasn’t disappointed because wherever you were in the crowd, there were mini celebrations of various causes going on and it felt like a sisterhood of humankind.

About an hour before the schedule March time, the crowds really began to swell and suddenly my friends and I were so surrounded that we literally could not move one inch.  It was like a slight pressing in that kept getting tighter. One of the ladies I was with is fairly short – maybe 5’2” and I took one look at her face and knew I had to figure out how to get us into more open space – if that was even possible.  I actually have claustrophobia myself but I think my brain switched into survival mode and didn’t allow me to panic.

I got one of the other ladies, who was a bit taller than me to lead the way and we formed a human chain holding on to each other and began to inch our way toward the mall area that is surrounded by the Smithsonian museums.  It took us approximately an hour and 15 minutes to get a quarter of a mile!  And that was when we knew once and for all, we were at a history making event.

Finally out where we had some room.  Our favorite shirt on a man.
"This is what a feminist looks like"
What you can't see is how muscley this guy was!

At this point (1:30) most of us had been wide awake since 4:00 am.  Two of us who drink coffee hadn’t had any and had splitting headaches and we all were feeling like we just wanted to sit down for a minute.  The speakers were still going strong and the march was nowhere near started (plus we were hearing they might not let us actually march because the crowds were bigger than the march route) so we decided to see if we could find a place to sit and have some lunch.  I took the group to a street near the mall where I know there were lots of restaurants and we began to go into each one only to be told from a 45 minute wait to they weren’t accepting any more walk-ins.  We finally decided to just put our name in and wait and much to our surprise 10 minutes later we were seated.  (We think others who had put their names on the list just left which moved us up quickly).

This was a much needed break and we enjoyed bathrooms with running water, a lovely lunch, and simply exhaling for a minute.

Once lunch was done we walked back towards the mall to see what was going on and were delighted to find that the march had started and we jumped right in and walked towards the White House singing and laughing and chanting along the way. We kept thinking that we'd run into someone one of us knew, but never did.  Little Helen was there with her husband and sister-in-law but I never saw her!

As we neared the White House, we noticed the reviewing stands that had been put up for the inaugural parade were still up but instead of being empty, that day they were filled to the brim with supporters.

It was truly an amazing, life-changing experience – even though they did shut the route down and wouldn’t let us anywhere near the White House - we knew we were part of the beginning of a movement.  It was overwhelming being a part of a group of half a million people – all ages, colors, sizes, genders, races and ethnicities who are committed to upholding the guiding principles of our nation as well as our more modern principles of inclusivity.  In this huge, diverse group where we were all crushed together, as we made our voices heard, we did not see anything but kindness.  I was delighted to read the next day that not one single arrest was made.

You don’t have to agree with me and whether you do or not, I marched for you too.  Because THIS is what democracy looks like and I can't keep quiet.

This song was sung by women who had never met each other, and practiced via Skype. Alma Harel, a filmmaker happened to walk right into the group and capture it for us all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Ten Things that Have Changed

1. Debby's post got me thinking about how I've gone back to whole foods, all natural, full-fat style eating.  I credit my experimentation with Paleo-style eating for this.  I found out I could eat nuts, avocado, and even full-fat cheese and the world wouldn't come to an end, nor would I immediately gain a bunch of weight.  I believe this is because I'm ultimately more satisfied with a little of certain things than I ever was with a lot of "diety" foods.

2. I no longer run 1200-1500 miles a year. The years that I quit racing I've seen that go right down to between 800-900 miles a year. I still love to run, but I've accepted that I'm going to run shorter distances and enjoy it rather than be in constant "training for my next race" mode, therefore I don't need to run so much.

3. I've stopped being so all or nothing in various areas of my life.  For example, all through the holidays I enjoyed many treats, both of the sugary type and the adult beverage type.  There was a time come January 2nd I would have made myself stop everything all at once therefore creating a monster to live with.  This year, I decided to attack it in increments:  January 2nd I stopped the daily glass of wine. January 9th (well really January 6th when I grocery shopped) I started working on better balance to my meals - you know making sure there's a protein AND a vegetable on my plate. The next step will be to cut my portions back a bit to see if I can get some more weight off.  I actually think this approach works better for me than trying to do it all at once - and it doesn't feel so punishing.

4. After literally spending 50-ish years of my life attending church (often going several times a week), when Mr. Helen's work schedule changed and he started working on Sundays, I tapered off of all the church going then eventually quit going altogether for the most part.  This might sound terrible to some but I actually don't miss "church." When I feel in need of spirituality, I find a way to have that - and I occasionally go to a church service but without feeling like I "have to" be there.

5.  I no longer say yes to things just because it's a family member asking.  If I don't want to do/participate/attend, I'm just saying no and finding I'm happier for it.

6. I no longer feel like I need a full face of makeup and hair done to go out and run an errand.  I often throw on yoga pants, a jacket, and a hat and go get it done.  Some of this has come about because I have to do the makeup/hair thing every day for work and sometimes I just want a break.  The rest of it has come about because...

7. I no longer give a crap about what people think about me/my looks/my ideas/my politics, etc., etc.  This is a huge freedom that has been given to me in mid-life.

8. I'm discovering I no longer have the need to be right.  For all my growing up years my mother would say, "If you're right, you don't have to prove yourself right."  It's only now that I'm actually understanding that.

9. Even though I'm quite assertive, in the past decade or so, I've learned to hold my tongue. It's just not necessary to say every single thing I'm thinking, even if it might deserve to be said! Along these lines I'm really understanding that the way people act often has to do with things I have no idea is going on in their lives.  So, first compassion, then assertive honesty if things get out of control.

10. I don't feel the need to be attached at the hip to Mr. Helen.  While I very much value our time together and don't have a problem saying it if I feel we've been neglecting our relationship, I don't need to be with him every free minute.  I guess that's maturing in a relationship.

What about you?  Tell me something(s) that have changed for you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year Tuesday Ten

1. I had the loveliest New Year's weekend.  Lori and her husband came to Connecticut to celebrate the end of her old job and Mr. Helen and I got to spend some time with them.  The four of us went out to eat on Friday evening and when I tell you the two men talked like old friends who'd known each other for many years, I'm telling the truth!  Lori and I both were fairly shocked.  And this is really sad, but the only photo I took that evening was of my food, even though I had the best intentions of having someone shoot a picture of all four of us.  Oh well, enjoy this picture of my Drunken Noodles.

2. While John went off to tend to some business on Saturday, Lori and I spent the day together exploring Mystic.  Mystic is fairly well known as a tourist area, but I rarely go, except maybe to a restaurant.  So, it was super fun to me to spend the day walking around the shops and having lunch with Lori.  We had lunch at a place called Bleu Squid which specializes in gourmet grilled cheese and CUPCAKES!  Which Lori loves and is why I suggested it.  And of course, we ended the afternoon with a Latte.  It was a wonderful day and once again I was reminded why women need other women to spend time with.

A four cheese grilled cheese with applewood smoked bacon and tomato - delicious!

We tried to take our photo with Mystic Seaport in the background but it was blowing our hair the wrong way so like true women, we turned around.  Also, I am incapable of handling "selfies" so Lori had to master this shot lol!

4. Because I'd been fighting an awful cold/flu of some sort for several days, we made plans to stay home for New Year's Eve. I made a seafood dinner for us and enjoyed a glass of Prosecco atop the cute beverage napkins Little Helen had given me as a stocking stuffer,

5.  We tried desperately to stay awake until midnight by eating later and having dessert even later than usual. We enjoyed two of these yummy cupcakes.

We actually made it to about 11 then decided to go to bed and watch the rest of New Year's Rockin' Eve - not a good idea as by 11:30 we both had fallen sound asleep.  I must have woken up at some point and been annoyed by the TV noise because it was off in the morning.

6. New Year's Day I slept in until 8 o'clock!  And woke up feeling like death warmed over.  So I took an Aleve Cold and Flu, had some coffee while waiting for it to kick in a then went out to run the last run of the Runner's World Streak I'd started on Christmas Day. The goal was to run at least 1 mile every single day between Thanksgiving and New Years - 39 days in all.  35 of those days I ran outside and 4 of the days I ran on my treadmill due to pouring rain, an ice/snow/rain storm, and two mornings where it was all black ice on the roads. I ran 122 miles in all - averaging a little over 3 miles a day. I'm proud of myself for sticking to this challenge, which became especially challenging after my brother died. But, I was thinking this morning, because I tend to stick with things once I start them, this challenge really kept me moving during a time when I probably would have quit exercising at all for a while.   I decided to run 2.17 miles for 2017 and also because I really was not feeling well. I was happy with the run considering how yucky I felt.

7.  When I got home, Mr. Helen and I started taking down all the Christmas decorations.  This ended up being quite comical - he was tired by the time we got finished and kept saying he couldn't believe how long it took.  I told him that he'd been spoiled because I generally did this by myself and that's why I would say it took the whole day.  He promised to help me from now on.

8.  We had our Hoppin' John, cornbread, and Mr. Helen's super delicious pan fried chicken for dinner. This is sort of a traditional meal for us though the meat changes from year to year. I make the black-eyed peas in the crockpot. For several years I've used this recipe from Plain Chicken - easy because I use leftover Christmas ham, and the beans come out so delicious!

9.  As usual, I did quite a bit of reflecting on New Year's Day as I putted around. Like I said before, 2016 had it's ups - me doing the Army 10 Miler after 6 years of not racing, and of course ending the year by getting to meet Lori!  There were also downs - my thyroid getting out of whack and stalling any progress I'd made on weight loss, falling just before my race, the lack of a proper vacation.  Of course it all got put into perspective by the worst down of all when Joe died.

10. I usually weigh myself on New Year's day, and if you remember last year when I posted about this, I had gained 7.2 lbs. and I had the thought that if I could just lose 2.2 ounces a week, I'd have that off by New Year's Day of 2017.  As I tried to decide what to do about it, I came up with the $5 bet between Mr. Helen and me that went swimmingly until the above-mentioned thyroid malfunction, followed by my brother's going downhill to death.  Honestly, I didn't care what I ate meaning, while I had never "dieted", I had always worked on putting together nutrionally sound meals, and for the last couple of months of 2016, I just didn't give a crap.

I had reset my zero scale when I started the $5 bet because while I knew things would fluctuate from week to week, I wanted to see at the end of the year, what I'd managed.  While I hadn't looked before and had let Mr. Helen take the pictures and either pay me or not, I wanted to know now.

That is a net loss of 17.8 pounds!  So I lost my 7.2 plus more all without dieting, which is the most exciting thing of all.  Mr. Helen said I had gotten up to 26 pounds lost before my thyroid went nuts - but I'm not letting that get me down.  In fact I feel encouraged that once my levels are good again, I will be able to lose that and more as I seem to have figured out a way to eat that is comfortable for me.  And for the first time in years, I'm not obsessing over food - just enjoying it as it comes.

All in all a good start to 2017.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Out with the Old

I usually wouldn't post on New Year's Day but I prepped about 90% of this one prior to today so I didn't actually have to sit down on my extra day off and write a post.

Here's a bit of catch up from our holidays.

I was once again totally spoiled by my gifts this year.  Among other things, Mr. Helen got me Angel shower gel and lotion.

Some less expensive Asics shoes that I will use for walking and workouts other than running.

And these super cute galoshes, which I have been wanting for a long, long time.  I've already gotten to wear them since when everyone else was getting the big snowstorm last week, we had pouring rain.

Little Helen and husband gave me this gorgeous Le Crueset Tea Kettle and matching dishtowels so I can get a new color scheme going in the kitchen!  She actually will enjoy this a lot as she only drinks good tea.

I also received some new running things - this hat and gloves by a company called Trail Heads.  The hat is reflective so that's good for my early morning winter runs, and the gloves are the warmest gloves I've ever owned.  If you have trouble keeping your hands warm, consider these gloves.  I wore them on a 20 degree day for a 3 mile run and about 1/2 mile from my house I took them off because my hands were sweating!

They also completely shocked me by giving me a new Garmin!  They got me the Garmin 235 which I am loving.  My old Garmin had gotten to the point where I had to charge it every two days, and just the day before Christmas another piece of the strap broke.

This Garmin does the usual Forerunner stuff - GPS tracks your runs, but also has features that I've been enjoying outside of running.. Depending on the options chosen, it acts as a watch, counts your steps, calories burned, you can see text messages/alerts, check the weather, etc. If you download the app to your phone, you can see all the data, plus a map of your run, if you run outside. It will also track runs done indoors, although the one time I tried that it didn't pick up my cadence well.  Maybe I did something wrong. These are all shots from mine one day last week. I don't know if I'll keep wearing all day like I have been but I'm having fun with it for now!

We got our first ever fake tree this year.  Mr. Helen has been wanting to try that for a couple years now, and I found an unlit one at Target for 50% off and decided to buy it.  We wanted unlit because we like to put both white and colored lights on our tree. Then I got a great deal on LED lights on Black Friday - only $4.88 for a string of 150 at Home Depot.  It was the only thing I went out for that day.  I think it turned out pretty, even though it took a bit to get used to it not being a real tree.

Little Helen brought me these two gorgeous ornaments from a Christmas market she went to while on a business trip to Chicago.  They're from Germany and are handpainted.  They looked just gorgeous on the tree.

We also did outside decorations and were lucky enough to get one quick snowstorm to show them off.  Of course it had melted within 24 hours but I was happy to get this picture!

There was an Ugly Sweater gathering at my job.  This is the first year we've done that and it was fun. I'm sort of in the middle and have on the white sweatshirt with the big Christmas Tree (it lit up) and on my left as you look at this photo is the winner.  She took a regular winter sweater and pinned Christmas Tree decorations to it. Hilarious!

I managed to find time to make a couple kinds of cookies this year. I did the family cut out sugar cookie and made one of the mittens a Hanukkah mitten for my son-in-law.  I also made Sandies because they're MY favorite.  Then I made Mud Puddles for the Ugly Sweater thing at work, and I finished off by making Mini Pecan Pies to have a bite of something sweet after our Christmas dinner.
Everyone had their fill and on December 27th when Mr. Helen went back to work, all the leftover cookies went with him!

On Christmas Eve, Little Helen and husband went to my sister-in-law's for her annual lasagna get together. As usual, Mr. Helen had to work until 5:30 so we stayed home and shared a charcuterie platter as our dinner. I put proscuitto, salami, Manchego cheese, Boursin spread, smoked almonds, olives, and cornichons on the platter.  Served with these homemade Parmesan Thyme crackers that I make every Christmas, and some store bought crackers.

Then on Christmas Day, I made the Pioneer Woman's Cowboy Quiche for breakfast - everyone was ready and hungry by 10:00 when we were done with gifts. I also did my traditional champagne cocktail "Rudolph's Nose" even though Little Helen and I were the only one's drinking it.  Shown here in one of the beautiful Twelve Days of Christmas Champagne Flutes I'm blessed to own.

Even though I talk about changing things up, everyone always wants the same meal so we had Roast Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Sauce, spiral ham, Lighthouse Inn Potatoes (named after an inn where I live that always served them - made with cream and butter so not for the faint hearted), roasted brussels sprouts, blueberry salad, and my mom's famous potato rolls. Plus those mini pecan pies for dessert.  Little Helen said she was proud of me for making the sprouts so that we had one green thing since it seems like holiday food concentrates on carbs and protein.  I was too busy eating to remember to take a photo of my plate but trust when I say it was all good.

Even in the midst of grief, it really was a very lovely holiday, but now I'm ready to be done with the old and bring on the new. Happy New Year friends, may you find peace, joy, and love - and any other thing you need in 2017.