Monday, April 26, 2010

An addition

to ControverSunday I thought you moms trying to get kids to eat something other than mac & cheese might enjoy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Food, Glorious Food!

Today's ControverSunday Offerings!

I have food issues. I blame my mother. I'm hoping that someday, when I have a kid, she not only won't blame me for her food issues, she actually won't have any! (Wishful thinking, I know!)

Growing up, my mother put a huge emphasis on looks. I was taller than average and just plain bigger than average. It didn't help that all of my friends were smaller, petite, and delicate little things so that by comparison I was gargantuan. Looking back at pictures of myself I see that I was not fat-- I was very average sized-- but my friends were all arms and legs and twiggy like. This led to a LOT of self-loathing, especially when one considers that my mother was constantly putting me on a diet to get down to my impossible-to-achieve "ideal" weight.

My mother wasn't the only one-- my entire family would do things like taking cookies away from me, or not allowing me to eat between meals (even though my siblings were allowed free reign of the kitchen.) My dad once offered me $1000 to lose 50lbs in 4 months. In spite of eating practically nothing for those four months and working out 2-3 hours a day I only lost about 10lbs and gained a whole heap of self-loathing in the process.

My senior year of high-school I (accidentally) became anorexic. How could such a thing happen? Well, it had to do with my weird class schedule and the fact that the cafeteria wasn't open during any of my free hours. I only went to school from 7am-10:30am that year and then I spent the rest of the school day at a "high potential" program in the city. This meant that I would often go the entire day without eating anything until dinner and even that might only be a couple cookies and an apple.

I dropped 40lbs in 2 months and it was AWESOME. I suddenly became popular! Kids who had never wanted me in their "cool" group suddenly invited me to everything. I got the lead in the school play! Guys were telling me I was hot!...

Once I'd realized this was happening I decided to keep up the anorexia stuff a little longer. ONly, I found that was a lot harder than I thought it would be when I didn't have an insane schedule physically keeping me from eating. And so I turned to bulimia instead-- something I probably wouldn't have done had I not gotten so much societal approval because I lost a few pounds. I mean, *I* knew I hadn't changed inwardly, but somehow society found me SO much more acceptable and worthwhile when I was in a lower weight range. Shocker, I know.

Well, I fluctuated in college by quite a few pounds-- ranging from 170 (my low weight-- because I'm tall-ish, I actually look really good at this weight) to about 210, but mostly staying in the lower range. But I stayed in the lower range using a variety of unhealthy methods that I'll skim over here.

Then, I got out of college and couldn't find a job for a long time, and became stuck in a series of dead end jobs that caused me so uch stress I actually ended up in the hospital. During this time my weight shot up to 250lbs, which made me even MORE depressed, and which only made my family harp on me more.

In my family food=emotions. I'm sure this isn't too different from most families. So, with the usual cycle of good food vs. bad food, fad diets, body loathing, family & cultural pressure, feelings of worthlessness, binging/purging/more binging... I've had more than my fair share of food/body issues. (For me, food issues ARE body issues.)

Fortunately, about 3 years ago I started seeing a therapist. I am certainly not "cured" of my food issues...I still have bouts of binging... but it's MUCH MUCH MUCH less frequent than before. At the moment I actually have a massive amount of candy and ice cream in my house (2 of my favorite binge foods.) I just cleared out some stuff and I ended up throwing away a TON of Halloween/Christmas/Valentine's day candy. I also threw out about 2 cartons of ice cream that had been in the freezer so long they'd gotten that layer of frost on them. In the past this would NEVER have happened... (due in no small part to the fact that in my mother's estimation throwing away food is a sin.)

My weight is still much higher than I'd like it to be (though Jedi tells me about 300 times a day how hot he thinks I am, I still have a great deal of trouble believing it.) My weight no longer fluctuates the way that it did though and for all that I'm not denying myself any foods I find that I'm not gaining weight because I stop when I'm satisfied. Sometimes I'm satisfied with only a spoonful of ice-cream. In the past I wouldn't have been "satisfied" if I hadn't eaten the entire container.

What's the change? I think I got to the point where I realized my mother's issues are HER issues and I don't need to take them on. I also realized that I need to stop waiting for myself to be at a lower weight in order for me to start living my life. But the biggest thing is that I STOPPED CARING about food. What I eat or DON'T eat is no longer the center of my life.

Oh! The HOURS, DAYS, YEARS....!!! I spent worrying about what I should eat! What a WASTE! If only I could have that time and energy back, just think about what I might accomplish! And so I decided that I wasn't going to let food have power over my life. I was going to eat what I enjoy (in moderation) and fuck the rest. If people have an issue with me at my currently high--but not life-impeding--weight ... well, that says more about them than me.

I don't have a child yet, but I have thought long and hard about how to approach the "food issue" when I do.

I used to nanny for a family-- the mother of which is a writer who has actually written on food issues (and has been quoted extensively in the mommy-blogosphere this week on this very topic actually) and while I thought she was a little nutty in some respects (which is why I won't link to her blog at this point, but email me if you like and I'll point you in her direction.) I thought her approach to food was very sensible and I decided I would emulate it if/when I have children.

The rule at her house is this-- There is no food that is "off limits," -- but she makes sure that the CHOICES that are in the house are of the mostly-healthy variety. Additionally, food is never to be used as a reward or punishment.

How does this work in practice? Well... let's say that dinner is Turkey, carrots, brussel sprouts, rolls, and cupcakes. The children are NOT required to eat all their brussel sprouts or turkey or whatever in order to get the cupcake. They can eat as much or as little of everything that is for dinner. (However, they don't get to say-- "I want mac & cheese instead!") If all they want for dinner is the cupcake? Well, then, that's what they have for dinner. (She does, however, try to make it so that if dessert is a cupcake one day, the next day dessert is fruit or a yogurt... to balance it out.)

I said to my mother that this is what I would (hypothetically) do with my child as well, (I said this to her as she was force feeding my nephew a peanut butter & jelly sandwich --- which he "had" to finish before he could have his oreos... as though the PB&J is somehow vastly nutritionally superior. Ugh. I believe this only turns off a child's naturally self-regulating appetite and teaches them to eat past their fullness as well as teaching them that some foods are more desirable than others and more 'rewarding.' Bad, bad, bad all around! Yes, I'm judging!)

She responded by saying that this would NEVER work and that a child raised like that would be eating only chocolate and cupcakes. You can't give kids the choice! She said. WRONG, I believe.

And I've seen it in practice! This family I nannied for? All the kids were very normal healthy weights. I saw the kids on multiple occasions ask for an unhealthy treat only to lose interest in it a few moments later. I SWEAR to you that more than one time I had one of the kids ask for a donut... that kid would take two bites... and then ask for some carrots in the next breath.

The trouble with this method is how to enforce it when you're at someone else's house. My mother has already said she would force my kids to clean their plates before dessert (to which I replied, "Too bad you won't see your grandkids then!") But they will be at other people's houses at times and those people will have other rules. I don't think that's a MAJOR issue, but I do worry that those houses with other values will feed my kids Mt.Dew and Cheetos for dinner and then the moms will sit at the dinner table drinking slim-fast. Not a good message.

The other trouble with this is how to stop the ingrained script in my head (that sounds a lot like my mother's voice!) Even though I KNOW I want to use the above method at one point when I was babysitting my nieces I did the dreaded, "Do as I say or you'll go to bed with no supper!" speech! Eegads! Talk about using food as reward/punishment! How to stop that auto-reflex when I'm mad is something I really need to work on!

So, in conclusion, while I have no child-raising experience, I sure as hell have a lot of food issue/body issue experience, and I don't want my future child to go through that pain. This method seems to be the best one I've found to avoid replicating the issues my mother saddled me with.

Of course, that just means that my hypothetical future kid will end up with a whole host of OTHER issues... but that's a different post for a different day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

So... you remember that little discussion/fight Jedi & I had a few weeks back?

Yeah... well... it's still sort of going on. Things are still good between us, don't get me wrong... but this is an issue.

It's now been 3.5 weeks since we had a "come-to-God" kind of talk about Jedi's need to actually START his homework assignments (nevermind FINISH them...) and how this is coming between us. In that time has he actually completed any of his assignments? NO. He's read about 2 chapters of Moby Dick, but that's it.

I'm royally pissed off. He knows I'm royally pissed off. He acts all contrite. And then I feel terrible.

The truth is that Jedi has a very gentle spirit. He is kind, and generous, and completely devoid of malice. When we argue and I make him feel bad, he gives me such a wounded look that I feel like I'm killing a mockingbird.

He needs to be pushed. He won't get anywhere or do anything (school/career wise) if he isn't. But he also doesn't like the hard truth-- which is that he's not failing because he lacks the ability he's failing because he lacks the willpower.

THIS is why we're having a long engagement. Because I need to be with someone who gets going when the going gets tough. I do NOT want to be with someone who just QUITS when the going gets tough.

A big part of the problem is that he has no clue what he wants to do, what he likes to do, what his interests are... etc. Yeah, sure-- he likes me, and he likes video games. Neither of those will make a career.

I've been looking at various programs in our state that seem like they might be good fits for him, but he just lacks any enthusiasm for any of them. I don't know how to help him and the more I nag him about this the more I feel like I'm killing his spirit.

I DON'T want to do that! (Obviously!)

I came across a program in Respiratory Therapy that looks like it might be a good option. Careers in that field make great pay and have really flexible schedules and it's a 2-year program. He actually seems somewhat interested. I'm hooking him up with a friend of a friend who works as a Respiratory Therapist now to discuss what the day-to-day aspects of the job entail. Hopefully that will sell him on this.

One thing about this particular program is that it would mean I'd be supporting him for the next 2 years... (Housing, electricity, etc.) which is basically what I'm doing now, so not that much of a change. But he wouldn't be able to contribute towards rent, and probably just barely make ends meet. The payoff would be worth it though if he loved his job.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will all work out for the best.

I haven't heard back from the scholarship for the Norway/Australia program. IF I don't get that scholarship I don't think I'll go. It just doesn't make financial sense.

I feel like I just have to trust that everything will work out for the best.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Looking for a Sign

I have been very happily agonizing over "What to do!? What to do!?" since receiving my acceptance to the Master's program (described below.)

(Part of this happiness is due, in no small part, to the possibility of saying, "Take this job and..." every time I'm frustrated at work these days. That fantasy keeps me going!)

I still haven't come to any decisions. There's a scholarship I applied for, and if I got it, I would certainly go. I've been speaking with Alumni of the program though and based on their feedback it sounds like the program is a bit of a logistical nightmare (what with being based in two continents at the antipodes) and in particular the Norway component is CRAZY expensive. (One alumnus told me, "Be prepared to pay $7 for a cup of coffee.") That cost, combined with the the apparent disorganization and lack of clear direction (which makes it sound a lot like the program I'm CURRENTLY finishing... Hmmm... perhaps ALL master's programs are like this, and I simply wasn't aware of it!? Thoughts?) are making this seem like a less appealing option.

On the other hand... TRAVEL! Lots of fun travel!!! How exciting would it be!? Perhaps I could make good friends in Australia who would invite me to "summer" with them every year, no? Oh, the possibilities! And I do think (even if the program is terribly disorganized, etc.) it could only help, and not harm, my resume.

But... oh, the cost...!

I've been talking it over with Jedi. He's leaving the decision up to me. There are a lot of logistics where he's concerned though since I'd have to subsidize his life if he continued to live in my condo (which, frankly, would only make sense, since I'd basically have to pay the same amount I'd be subsidizing him in rental fees for a storage unit for my stuff. And he can take care of my dog...) As i said, he's being very supportive... but...

Last night he was talking in his sleep (or he was being very sneaky and PRETENDING to talk in his sleep) and he said, "Please don't leave me." Not clear whether he actually was talking about Norway/Australia... (or, well, even ME to be exact)... but I have a feeling he was. I know that if I did leave though, he would survive (and I actually think it would be good for him as he's not really lived on his own), he would grow stronger, and we would be fine.

If I had the money to spare I would totally do this. If I have to borrow the money? I'm not sure it's worth it.

Today is my birthday. I bought a lottery ticket.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The road not taken...


Ok, internet friends! I have a DILEMMA!

I just found out yesterday that I was accepted into a program that is for a Masters of International Diplomacy that is jointly in Australia and Norway (5 months in Norway, 5 months in Australia), and specializing in Peace and Conflict studies.

It is an AMAZING opportunity, yes?! I applied for it totally on a whim. I didn't think they'd ACTUALLY accept me!!! (Fools that they are! Bwahaha!)

The details on the logistics of the program are all a little fuzzy right now because the "official" letter hasn't arrived, they just sent me word via email.

So.... there are 2 big questions about this...
#1) How do I pay for it?!? (and is it WORTH the money!?) (It doesn't look like Australia has a financial aid system set up through the university the way that they do in the US.)
#2) What do I do with Jedi?

So, for #1)... I had told myself that if I got a scholarship I applied for at the same time as the program (which I don't know if I've gotten or not, but I'm assuming NOT since there was no mention of it in the email) I would DEFINITELY go. (Duh.) However, if I DIDN'T get the scholarship, I totally wouldn't go.


Now that I've actually been ACCEPTED I'm rethinking that whole "not going" thing. But the money is still the issue.

I should add that I've been fortunate enough to study at 3 different universities and not paid more than nominal fees for any of it because of scholarships that I received. Given the quick turn around time (the program starts in August) I don't know that I would have time to secure any other sources of funding other than perhaps a student loan. All told, I'm guessing $50,000 in debt-- between tuition, living expenses (AND FLIGHTS!)...

I'm looking into deferring for a year so that I can secure more funding-- I don't know if that's an option.

(Additionally, I have a mortgage! Gotta figure out what to do with my place! Tragically, Jedi would not be able to afford to live there on his own unless I was able to contribute around $400/month to his living expenses!)

So... yeah... I feel in a BIG quandary about this.

Would I go if money wasn't an issue? HELL YES. Does that mean I should go if money IS an issue? ... I'm not sure. I will have a masters (almost-- in June!) already (and from an Ivy.) Is this worth the additional investment? Don't know. Is it worth it in terms of life experience? Most definitely.

I do not want to live an unlived life!

As for Jedi...

Well, he's Jedi. So, he's being wonderfully supportive and proud of me even though he's all sad-face because he doesn't want me to be gone for so long.

I understand that. I'd miss him terribly. But.... This is ONLY for 10 months. A drop in the bucket in terms of a lifetime.

He wants to come with me... Um... Yeah... I can't really see that working. WHAT would he do in Australia & Norway!? I don't think he'd be allowed to work on a tourist visa. And he's got school to finish HERE! (and he's got his own bills to pay as well.)

One of my mentors thinks I should bring Jedi with me anyway... My mom is all "You don't want to lose him now that you found a good one..." (Um, thanks mom. If 10 months apart meant that I lost him, perhaps that would be a sign we shouldn't be together?!)

I want to be respectful of his feelings, but in this particular instance I think that being apart would be worth it in the long run. Have I mentioned that Jedi plans to be a stay at home dad? (I'm on board with this plan, as he is the most caring person i've ever met... But that means I'll need to earn BEAUCOUP BUCKS.) I think that having this degree would give me a leg up in job hunts... it's certainly an unusual thing, I think, to say-- I have a degree from France, from Ireland, from the US, from Australia and from Norway. I would think that would make someone looking at my resume take a second look.

On the other hand... (and I can hear Npapaya in my head...) WHAT do I hope to accomplish with this degree? What is my career plan?

The truth is, I don't know.

I think Npapaya (Who is a fabulously wise woman and mentor in addition to being a great friend) would say that if I don't know I probably shouldn't be doing it.

But... But... But... I WANNA do it!

I've thought about going into government work... maybe living overseas... working in an embassy. (Doesn't everyone?!?) I mean, I've also thought about working in the theater... working in Higher Ed... Becoming an author... becoming a therapist.... so it's not like I've narrowed down my life plan or anything. But. Well.


If I didn't do this, would I spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been? Probably.

But is it $50,000 worth of Amazing....?

That, dear friends, is the question.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A little more motivation, please!

We're already 7 days into April and I haven't posted anything!? Bad me! Bad me!

It's even more terrible when you consider the fact that I visit many blogs (probably the blogs of many of you reading this!) and I'm terribly impatient with the posting schedules and check back to see if there's anything new almost hourly! (On the other hand, I doubt that I have such a rabid following... mostly the one or two of you out there and the others that I see in person practically daily. Ahem. Dreams of internet glory down in flames!)

Part of the reason for my sporadic posting has been ... my thesis! Not that there has been much ACTUAL work mind you... but there has been a LOT of . Why not procrastinate on my blog? Well, that would be because if I'm going to be doing any typing I feel guilty when it's not PRODUCTIVE typing... especially when I'm behind.

But guess what interweb friends! I'm still (somewhat) behind... but I have COMPLETED MY THESIS!

(You may feel free to send me gifts!)

Ok, ok, I just completed the (very) rough first draft... but DAMN! Does that feel good! 112 pages done and written! (Did I mention that I wrote all of that in just four days? Um... don't tell my advisor!)

So, revisions galore this month, but I'm not (terribly) worried about that. Final copy due May 15th, and then... GRADUATION! PHEW! I will be glad to have this under my belt, behind me, and moving on.

I finished the thesis on Monday night. Both Jedi & I took Monday off for the holiday, but ended up turning it into a working day instead.

As I mentioned, Jedi is not doing too well in his classes... HOWEVER, he was not TOTALLY forthright in saying that he got an "F." Yes, he CURRENTLY has an "F," but that's because he's not turned a damned thing in!!! However, there is still the possibility he could turn this around and get a "C" or something... If he contacts his prof and arranges to ACTUALLY DO SOME OF THE ASSIGNMENTS.


So. That's what HE was supposed to be doing on Monday while I was finishing my thesis. Is that what happened?


Now, I'm not saying he didn't do work... I'm just saying that he procrastinated and didn't get nearly as much done as he could have gotten done.


I think this is a case of letting little birdies leave the nest and fly or fall on their own.

The problem is that I've signed on to be with him for that flight or fall.

School is DEFINITELY not his "thing." He's going to school (associate's) to be a teacher, but we all know that's not going to happen-- Not that he won't finish his associate's, I mean, but that being a teacher would NOT be a good fit career-wise for him.

But what DOES he want to do? That's the problem. He has no idea.

Ok, he's 23. It's understandable, which is why I'm trying to be understanding. When I was 23 my life was aimless and I was freaked out about it too and didn't know what to do.

He's only got 3 more terms to finish before he gets his Associate's. There's NO reason he can't/shouldn't finish. He wants to go on to get a Bachelor's, but I don't know how well he'd do and he doesn't even know what he'd want to study.


Npapaya asked me how I would feel if he decided all he wanted to do was work at Home Depot, and be a general clerk, and that was enough for him. I thought long and hard about it, I really did.

I can't say I would be THRILLED, but at the same time I want him to find something he's passionate about. If he decided he was passionate about helping people pick out tile, and he couldn't wait to get to work every day to do that, and he just loved mixing paint colors, and that fulfilled him...???? Well, I guess I could get behind that. I just want him to find something he loves to do... (Besides me, I mean. Ahem. Thank you, Ladies and Gentleman! I'll be here nightly, feel free to tip.)

Now, you may say to me... But Hypatia! You've told us that your job is soul-sucking and thankless! Isn't this a double standard?

Well, no. I would say, this isn't my dream job, but it's a job that's helping me to work toward that dream. And in the meantime? It pays the bills and offers me opportunities to travel and study (for free). Jedi's job at the moment is just a soul-sucking, thankless, and DEAD END job.

I want more for him... but he needs to want it for himself more that I want it for him-- And that's not something I can do on his behalf.