Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Girls Don't Cry

I certainly don't.

I was once taking a facebook questionnaire and it asked "When was the last time you cried?" I had to dig deeply to remember it had been a couple of months, and the reason I shed tears (literally two or three) was sheer exhaustion after a long workday plus the realization that I had several hours of baking ahead of me. Even while I watched the marriage die, I rarely cried -- a couple of times for show to try to pull emotion from my ex. When that didn't work, I'd just stop. That easy.

But a couple of weeks ago, I opened the floodgates and have been fighting back the tears since. As of late, I'm not quite the Ms. Merry Sunshine that I've previously impressed upon you. All these hats I wear...as a mother, a partner, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a student and a general cog in this society are getting a bit heavy, the stack tilting to the side from lack of balance and I fear they're all about to crash to the ground and make quite a mess.

I love all of the parts of me. Each comes with its own set of joys, sorrows, responsibilities and rewards. But their combined mass seems to be growing and I'm not sure how I will manage. And now the tight rein I keep on my emotions has slipped and my eyes have been leaking as a result. This is odd. A little cathartic, but mostly odd...and embarrassing...and wet.

I'm sure this is good for me. I know there's a chemical this-and-that that happens and it's a great way to relieve tension and whatnot, but I'd really just rather have someone hand me a piece of paper with the solutions to all of my challenges. And a box of tissues. And maybe some type of stabilizing device for all of those hats.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Fairy Tale

My passion for fitness is eluding me. I still work out...just not as often, not for as long and with almost no zest. This bothers me greatly. My list of excuses includes I don't have the time to spare, my school schedule cramps my exercise class schedule, I'm tired, gas is too expensive to get to the gym, it's too cold, it's too hot, I don't have any clean shorts and the cat ate my running shoes.

But none of these excuses give me that runner's high (my favorite from the workout euphoria collection), and, well, I'm not certain because I need a new battery for the bathroom scale, but I'm pretty sure I'm not dropping any pounds. So yesterday, a school-less, kid-less, nice-ish morning, I decided to slip on my shoes (okay, I'll admit, the cat didn't destroy them) and head out for a run. As always, the first 200 yards were great, followed by a mile of suffering (I can give you physiological reasons for this now) and then onto the rest of my run. But my body kept nagging at me, whispering, "You haven't done this in awhile. Take it easy. Please?!" Apparently Tina Turner was singing too loudly for me to hear that until I was nearly three miles from home.

So I turned around to make my way home. I was shocked to see that though the entire first half of my run was uphill, so was the return. Same road. A mystery of physics if ever there were one. I walked more than I liked, but when I finally found Casa del Mar, I was glad to have hit the road again.

But my feet weren't.

My Adidas have logged more than a few months and miles since they first rescued me from my last pair of broken down running shoes. And they are going to have to deal with my abuse awhile longer (as will my feet)...unless of course, the shoe fairy comes in the night. And it would be great if she brought along the utility bill fairy, the food fairy, and my all time favorite, the cleaning fairy.

I wonder what I should put under my pillow...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Betrayed!

I keep an edge of "buyer-beware" about myself for the most part...especially when it comes to food. I know that the labeling tends to exaggerate claims of healthfulness or fabulosity. And I believe that it's the consumer's job to know the facts and to make decisions based on knowledge and experience.

Where is she going with this?

The spelt flour! When The Poet told me that his aunt had bought me a package of spelt flour, I was quietly appreciative, thinking that spelt was a wild form of wheat, and though it has less than its domesticated counterpart, it still contained gluten. When I next saw The Poet and I was given said flour, it was marked "For Wheat or Gluten Allergies" so I just figured I had confused it with one of many other grains available from my friendly natural grocer. And I was stoked to have a new flour at my disposal.

Saturday morning we gleefully enjoyed maple blueberry muffins. They were hearty and wheaty just like I love. And Saturday night, I was whining to Audrey that I felt "gluten bumps" developing -- a telltale sign that someone had snuck wheat into my food. I figured there were trace amounts in some chips or crackers (and I was irritated that I hadn't caught it on the labeling). Sunday morning...spelt pancakes. They were fabulous. Rave reviews from the whole crew and I enjoyed more than a few topped with freshly made blueberry sauce. And Sunday evening...more gluten bumps. A bit later, Big Sis made a comment on my facebook picture of a Svelte Spelt Flour Flower, saying, "You can't have spelt, can you?"

And I put all of the pieces together.

A quick google search told me what I thought I previously knew but dismissed based on packaging. Spelt is a wild wheat, and though it contains less gluten than its domestic counterpart, it is not safe for celiacs or those sensitive to gluten.

I guess, "For Wheat or Gluten Allergies" means that it will cause them.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Muffins, Part II

It has been a stretch for me to fall back in love with baking. It had been such an important part of my life and a big piece of my identity. After arguing with the dermatologist that I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten because I was a baker -- you know, the good kind with a grain mill -- after I pushed my luck by continuing to make and devour wheat bread -- after my face reacted in the ugliest of ways, after all of the fussing, I more or less hung my head low and threw in the [dish] towel.

I reluctantly researched my new lifestyle and learned that gluten-free baking is no joke. To mimic the results of wheat flour, typically three or four flours are used, as well as binders...and even then...well...maybe it would maybe be kinda sorta be like what I knew and loved.

I tried collecting the various ingredients for this and that recipe, but when I would finally convince myself to delve into the big, scary world of GF baking, I would inevitably be missing an ingredient or two. So I just didn't.

Then this happened. Lovely people made me lovely muffins. It wasn't scary for them. They just did it. And that gave me the encouragement I needed to dig my heels into this new world of mine. I collected a few more flours (seriously, I probably have a dozen kinds or more), did more research and just dove in.

Guess what...not so terrifying! Granted, I make a bigger mess when I bake now. Potato flour is really fine and leaves dust everywhere. And I tend to make more trips to the basement where I keep my vast array of baking supplies (exercise!) but it's really quite tolerable...maybe even enjoyable. I'm tickled with each kitchen victory. Yes...I have a couple of failures under my belt (the kids are quick to point to those), and will inevitably rack up more on my journey, but the successes are soooo sweet.

Today I tried a new flour. One of The Poet's aunts (who has not yet met me), gifted me a beautiful package of spelt flour. She was in Arkansas with her sisters (one of whom is The Poet's mother) and came across this locally milled gem. A care package was sent this way and today I gave it a run. The label suggested it could be used 1:1 for wheat flour, so I did just that. And the blueberry maple muffins were a beautiful success.

So more love, more baking and more happiness. I've reinvented myself more than once in the recent past. And as hesitant as I was to embrace my new baking identity, and as difficult as I made it out to be, turns out this is as easy as pie.

Pie, huh? Alright...I'll give it a go!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Daily Grind

Now and then I have a day when I'm really happy to have a cappuccino maker. I have a feeling that every day for the rest of this semester is going to be one of those days.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forever**

Wow. You guys are paying attention.

I didn't expect any response to my last post. I thought it might be just uncomfortable enough that everyone would pretend they didn't see it. But the reaction was so far the opposite of that...two online comments, a personal email (to me as well as to The Poet) and three phone follow-ups. (Sure, some bloggers have thousands of readers and generate ad revenues, but...) I've got friends. The good kind.

Upon closer inspection (of me) it looks like there are more parts of understanding how to be in a loving relationship that I didn't even know that I didn't know. Like that conflict doesn't spell out the end of all things good and pure. My favorite way of dealing with conflict has always been to ignore it. I mean, what's better than that? To just pretend nothing bad ever happened and let it go away. AWESOME, I tell you! You should try it sometime.

Or not.

I wasn't in counseling long...eight, maybe ten sessions...and I'm pretty sure I accepted the ultimate demise of my marriage and stopped seeing her before we covered my inability to face potential conflict. So I went on my merry way, got divorced, and before I knew it, found myself smack-dab in the middle of a real relationship -- with no real relationship skills in my arsenal! Well...I am fiercely loyal (good dog) and I can bake a cherry pie, but I'm pretty sure those aren't going to get me terribly far (though they did once get me far, terribly).

So last week, throughout the ebb and flow of our strife, I forced myself to communicate. I had to share my feelings, understand his, be open to compromise, look within myself, apologize, be patient, and most of all, continue to love. I knew this deserved my very best. The Poet is a magnificent person with more love to give than anyone I have ever known. His spirit is pure and he has a kindness about him that is honorable. Plus, he's darn good-looking and dances with me when our song plays.

The Poet and I finally saw each other on Monday. It had been a full week since our gazes last met. Seven days of chemistry tests, his sick child, money woes, an appearing ex-, and numerous other pieces of life that beat one down. And when he opened his door and welcomed me back into his home, I melted. Our eyes fixed upon one another and we shared a long embrace, understanding there will always be work to do, but more importantly, we will always have each other.

So just as quickly as I put a little maybe-asterisk beside our "forever," I will now take it off. With all of the beauty he and I have shared, all of the amazing signs pointing us in the same direction and all of the impromptu dances, there's nothing that could convince me that we are not meant to be together. Forever**.

** I really mean it this time.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Lot.

That's what's been up with me. A lot.

School. Love. Kids. Life. Food. Money. Joy. Sorrow. Less exercise than I prefer. And no gluten.

I don't think I'll try to hit all of these subjects this morning (it has been a long hiatus, after all), but a couple of things are front-and-center at this very minute and I have to get some thought out of my academically enhanced cranium and out there into the ether.

First off, and this would relate to Life and Joy and Kids (and I suppose Money), today marks one year since Concert Katrina and I boldly picked up more than our fair share of furniture and kitchenware and moved them into Casa del Mar. I'm sure I've mentioned this before...I love this house. I love what it is. I love what it symbolizes. I love its energy. I love what it has done for me. I love the promise it holds. But I will not make a big to-do today about this. I understand that the joy I feel when I realize that I've been on my own for a year is not shared by my children. Though the last 12 months have been the most amazing of my life, my Three Little Diggs have not had it quite as easy. They've been plucked from a fairly simple life of life with Mom and Dad (though surely they sensed the miserable tension between us for quite some time). They have had to move from house to house each week. They've had to learn to be diplomats between parents. They've had to watch their mom date a different man. They've had to pick up new responsibilities. They have become children of divorce. And as easy as it is for me to say that it happens all the time and children are resilient, I personally have no way of knowing what they're really going through. All of this makes today's milestone no less sweet. It just will keep my celebration a quiet one.

School. School. School. Oh how I absolutely love school. This semester brings chemistry, physiology and human resource management. Okay, I could do without the HRM, but it's easy...whatever. Physiology is being taught by a dolt so I'm having to figure it out on my own. Chem...I completely dig. I don't know if my adoration for chem is so strong that it makes the whole semester tolerable or if I just love what I'm doing because of where I'm going, but I really am elated to be on this journey. Two years from now I'll be interning and before you know it, a certified dietitian. The future is so good.

Love. Joy. Sorrow. It's been six months since The Poet and I met. Three since we took it up a notch. It has been a beautiful something to experience. Except for when it isn't. Because it is a relationship. My journey through divorce was a long and arduous one. But I don't often remember that. I don't care to re-read the blog posts where I was a sniveling, whiny, weak girl who couldn't convince her husband to stay together for the kids. Once I'd gone to counseling and realized that we might all come out winners if we let it go, I could almost giggle about the failure of my marriage. When someone would ask me, "why did you get a divorce?" I'd joke back, "I ruined his life" or "He left because I took exercise away from him" (these were both accusations that were made against me in the long process, but hardly the whole of the reason). Fact is, I'm not the bee's knees. I am amply flawed. Now, don't go freaking out here. I know this is the first time you've encountered such a statement from me and it's a lot to take in all at once, but hear me out. I'm pretty selfish. I am a control freak. I'm pretty sure I'm right almost all of the time. I definitely know how to do it (whatever it is) better. And I certainly know what's best for you more than you do. So as we travel down the road of falling in love (and what a fabulous something-to-do it is) and we get to some of the harder parts of meshing families and souls, and we each dig through what made us ourselves and what makes us us, it turns out that maybe, just maybe, I'm partially to blame for the failure of my marriage. Maybe I don't know how to behave in a healthy relationship. Maybe I'm not ready for the give and take of a healthy partnership. Maybe all of the growing I've done in the last year is pretty much external and I now need to look to the inside. Maybe I'm a mess...a fun mess, but a mess nonetheless. There's a long story behind what I'm trying not to delve into...I will tell it if the time becomes right...but for now I will merely say that I have some work to do on me. Though The Poet and I have previously spoken quite freely of a "forever" aspect of us, it seems a little more tentative these days. I know I love him. I know that what we have shared thus far has been beautiful. But I also am learning that when holding someone's heart in your hands, careful attention is required. Each of us came in with damage from our previous relationships. He knew what his was, clearly spelled it out and asked for my mindfulness to that matter. I listened, made my own interpretation and continued living my life just as I pleased. And I hurt him. I broke a trust. No, I didn't cheat, but I masked a truth and I'll leave it at that. As for my own damage I bring to the table...I'm not even sure what it is. But I now know it's down there. I think it's time I dig through all of the happy-happy-joy-joy that I piled on top of it and see if there's a way to get to the bottom of who I am, so that I can become a better partner...someday. Whether The Poet and I make it, I don't know right now. In addition to our own fragile hearts, we have involved four little souls in our adventure, so careful handling is required in any case.

Now, the cute, quippy Jennifer might skip right to I-haven't-exercised-as-much-as-I-like-lately, but I think I've said more than enough for now. Growing has been a theme here on my mountain, I suppose. And it only makes sense that I'd eventually have to delve a bit deeper. Hmmmm. Once again, I'm curious who and where I'll be in a month...or year. Good thing I like surprises.