Sunday, March 29, 2009

DIET is a four-letter word

The Anchorage Daily News Sunday section had an article today about a local woman who had participated in the TV reality show "World Biggest Loser" -- for non-TV people, like myself who have never seen this show, let me explain: This is a TV show where participants compete for a grand cash price, and subject themselves to a grueling regiment of crash-dieting and exercising in front of TV audiences until they meet their goals (some get "eliminated" along the way). I was dismayed at what this poor woman had gone through, and how she's still struggling with her weight and self-image 2 years later (and a baby) -- it just all sounded so unhealthy, in ways even creepy and sinister!

Americans seem obsessed with dieting to lose weight. Even though 90-95% of all diets fail, that doesn't keep them from trying, dreaming of looking like those models in the magazines.
Most people who diet will gain back the weight they lost, often surpassing it. Then they try another diet & repeat the cycle. This phenomenon of Yo-Yo-dieting is probably is worse than simply staying at the previous weight while reasonably active.

I have to admit right here that I am one of those lucky people who has never counted calories or carbs. I'm certainly not skinny (heavy-boned German with hefty boobs), and would never be picked for a bathing suit commercial, but luckily I've never been HUGE. I credit lucky genes for the largest part, and simply being fairly active. But the middle-age spread is catching up with me, and I could certainly use to shed a few pounds and tighten up the flab around the midriff ... But I'm determined to approach improving my weight&health without crazy dieting schemes.

Obviously being overweight is not healthy -- it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, yada-yada-yada. Enough already -- we already KNOW that! But then why can we not manage to keep our bodies healthy?

America is facing a weight/health crisis DESPITE the fact that we've been told for some 35 years that being overweight increases health risks, and that we ought to eat less saturated fats. So we buy products touting health claims of "Low fat", "reduced cholesterol" etc., and are still getting fatter and fatter. What gives?

Seems like we've been replacing saturated fats with the wrong kinds of fats, and we're filling up on empty calories. And our portion sizes (even our plate sizes) are bigger -- we're indeed eating significantly more calories than before we started the "lower fat diet". And we're less active than ever before. No wonder Americans (and many Western countries are heading the same direction) are getting fatter, and so are the kids: Childhood obesity is becoming a serious problem.
There are more and more overweight children, and our society seems not to know how to help them. Just telling the kids to "eat less and exercise more" is not cutting it -- adults are not exactly good role models in that department! How do you expect kids to get off the couch & onto their bikes if the adults drive everywhere in their cars, and think of the world as way too dangerous a place to step outside your front door?

Maybe this TV-watching kid is watching the documentary Supersize Me? Maybe he's already given up? In the kid's defense, genetics do play a role too, and he's probably not exactly inherited skinny genes -- but still, it's so sad to see him embarking so young on a lifetime of health problems!

QUESTION: Do we eat to live, or live to eat?

The problem with our Western diet is that we've lost touch with real food. Our ancestors would barely recognize what's on the shelves of our stores: long lists of ingredients, many of which we can hardly even pronounce. In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan advises us to eat what our ancestors would recognize as food -- that is stay away from highly processed food stuffs, and eat real food, preferably grown locally, without heavy inputs of industrial agriculture (chemicals, fertilizers, etc.) -- his description of what goes on in feedlots might make you want to puke & forgo meat altogether!
I still maintain that humans are omnivores, and eating meat is a natural part of our biology, but we're certainly not meant to eat the huge amounts of animal proteins, or the amounts of refined simple carbohydrates (white flour and sugar) that have become standard in the so-called Western Diet.
Michael Pollan's book is fascinating, and I like his 7 simple words to guide us:

Here are two other books I read last year that dealt with some of the more psychological aspects of the problems people have with eating and weight control: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, and Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch -- different approaches, but both very valid looks at the WHY: what goes on when we overeat, and how can we change that?
I learned a lot from both of these books. Sometimes we just eat unconsciously, or for emotional reasons. We've learned to ignore clues our own body/mind gives us about hunger or fullness. One interesting experiment that Wansick's team did was the "bottomless" bowl of soup: the bowl was being re-filled from below, and people kept on eating and eating, unaware that they were eating WAY more than usual. The comment when asked how they liked the soup was something like "That soup was really filling" -- yeah, they ate what, 4 or 5 bowls?!? But they thought they were eating their normal amounts!
The principles of eating more intuitively are also very helpful, whether you're just trying to get to a healthier weight and lifestyle, or struggling with major food issues such as eating disorders:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Feel your Fullness
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
7. Cope with your Emotions without using Food
8. Respect your Body
9. Exercise -- feel the Difference
10. Honor your Health -- Gentle Nutrition

One of the "aha" moments for me was how they explained that denying yourself certain foods (chocolate, for example) will end up making you crave that food, setting yourself up for a failure (in a "weak" moment you "cheat", then end up eating a whole box of chocolates, and feel like a total failure, your image of yourself is that you "failed" to control yourself, spiraling into further depression over food...) Instead, go ahead and give yourself permission -- if there are no "forbidden" foods, then these foods will lose that power over you, and you'll find yourself not craving it... This is such a gentler approach, and I think could really help people who are struggling with unrealistic expectations of diets and body image.

Another book I picked up recently is by Mark Bittman: Food Matters, where he advocates more "conscious eating" by eating less meat, more local produce, and reducing amount of highly-processed food -- for our health, AND for the health of our planet.
He mentions that he lost extra weight and saw a marked improvement in his health just by making these simple changes -- cutting out meat and processed food out of 2 of his 3 daily meals. Bittman writes that for him it worked well to eat "Vegan until 6pm", something it turns out also resonated with my husband, who is happily eating his veggies for lunch these days. I do wish he'd ask some whole wheat grains to that, because he he just gets so darn hungry when he gets home for dinner (I bet he'd do fine with Ramadan, where you have to wait until sundown to eat)! He has replaced his formerly high-carb midnight snack with fruit, a step in the right direction. Poor guy, he just gets so "peckish"...

For myself and my family, I'm just aiming for a greater awareness of healthy eating in our daily lives. Since we started buying our produce in CSA boxes and I started a blog (Borealkitchen) to guide me in cooking with all that produce -- well, I've noticed that my pants are sitting looser on my waist -- darn it, they won't stay up!

I think the biggest factor in eating healthier is that with more vegetables around, I eat less of other foods. I'm realizing just how easy it is to pick up processed foods -- they are everywhere! When I'm in the grocery store I try to make sure I don't shop hungry, and try to stay on the perimeter rather than in the middle isles where all the food comes in boxes. After all my reading I realize that they're full of empty calories ("refined" grains, which means the fiber and kernels are removed -- needing "enrichment" to put the nutrients back in!), and the long shelf-life was "bought" by replacing healthy (unstable) fats with unhealthy (hydrogenated) fats.

Does that mean no more OREOS for the kids' snacks?
I'm not trying out for the Ogre-mom of the Year award, but yes, I buy far less of that stuff , and try to get around to making healthier homemade treats more often instead.
It's not easy to keep our household supplied with "healthy" yet appealing snacks for the ever-hungry hordes that descend on the kitchen every few hours -- but somehow homemade baked goods or bananas with organic peanut butter is winning, and neither kid is starving or complaining too loudly. (And I have to add that both kids are thin as rails -- but so were hubby and I at their ages, the inevitable bulge around the middle did not set in until around 40!)

So I try to shop, cook and feed us healthy meals, keeping an even-keeled perspective (I see little point in getting into a religious fervor over food). I just want to stay healthy, balanced & make peace with food -- it's what keeps us alive and healthy, and we may as well enjoy it too.

Ashfall from Redoubt Volcano

Yesterday evening the ash started falling on our house and truck, and the air had a distinctly sulfury smell -- it wasn't much ash: officially only a "trace" amount. The snow turned gray, and we could feel the granules of ash under our feet as we stepped out on the deck. The first picture
was taken right after blowing at the ash on our friend's truck (also notice all the ash piled up above the windshield wiper) -- turns out if you use your wipers your windshield can get pretty scratched up...

From the National Weather Service last night:



Friday, March 27, 2009

Celebrating Eldest's Achievement

Eldest, my daughter, has been selected to receive a 2009 Student of Achievement Award, sponsored by the Montana State University Women’s Center and honors "students who have made outstanding contributions to their community". Yesterday was the reception, and I sure wish I could have been there, beaming with pride over this lovely young woman I gave birth to nearly 22 years ago!

The professor who nominated her, describes her as "strong, outgoing and caring deeply about the world and where it is going."

Here are some excerpts of Eldest's own words from the essay she was asked to write about herself. What I especially admire (and I think the committee must have felt similarly) is her honesty and realism.

When I was young, I did not really think about how I would impact the greater world. My vision of the future was that I would probably end up a lot like my mom and dad... and thought that with my extreme genius, I would single-handedly save the planet. When I started college, I discovered that I was no genius, and had to work in order to achieve limited success... My saving-the-planet-as-an-engineer goal morphed into being part of saving humanity and I joined Engineers Without Borders.

As my workload increased, my own personal life fell to pieces. I destroyed a few relationships, rarely saw the few friends who still put up with me, was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder, and saw my GPA suffer. The harder I struggled to regain control of my life, the worse it seemed to get. I finally accepted that I was no superwoman, learned to work with and even celebrate my shortcomings, and allowed my expectations of myself to be more flexible. I also took a good, hard look at my priorities, including school, myself, family, friends, and the rest of the world.I realized that attempts to save the world were a moot point if I could not even maintain healthy relationships and take care of myself. My new save-the-world goal was downsized to the simple but powerful,“I want to be a good person."

After I changed my approach to life and grew up some more, I started taking better care of myself, became more effective in school, and actually became a contributing, beneficial member in the relationships I was able to salvage. Today, I focus on the small effects of my day-to-day life on the world, and even if I cannot afford to drive a Prius and buy local and organic, I can pick up litter on my way home, be lest wasteful, lend an ear to a troubled soul, be a fiercely devoted friend, and offer strength for those who feel lost. My vision of the future is to continue in this path, with daily choices for responsibility, kindness, strength, empathy, honesty, and integrity. In order to meet my one simple goal, the work I do must be meaningful beyond just my employer. I will judge the quality of my work not just by my job description, but its impact on the world. For instance, I cannot single-handedly stop oil production or urban sprawl, but the difference between myself and someone who doesn’t care doing the same job for such “evil empires” will be the context of the greater effectiveness of our work. Our methods or designs will both be effective for the need at hand, but I will do my best to make sure that my work is effective on a larger scale too- environmentally, socially, and culturally.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Volcano Update

It's a fairly normal Friday around here, but here's an update on Mt.Redoubt from the Alaska Volcano Observatory:

A large eruption of Redoubt volcano occurred at 09:24 AKDT (17:24 UTC) this morning. National Weather Service reports the cloud height to be at least 65,000 ft above sea level and pilot reports indicated a plume height of 60,000 ft. Since this event, a few smaller events have occurred but these did not generate plumes above about 20,000 feet.

The eruption at 9:24 AKDT also produced a lahar in the Drift River valley that was detected by seismic instruments.

An ashfall advisory is in effect until 4 PM for the western Kenai Peninsula. High level ash (above 30,000 feet) is forecast to pass over Anchorage, but is not expected to produce ash fall.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Red Lantern is In

The 2009 Iditarod Race is officially over. The last musher into Nome receives the traditional Red Lantern, and early this morning a rookie from Michigan, Timothy Hunt, arrived after 15 days, 14 hours, 6 minutes and 22 seconds.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is over 1000 miles long (but some would argue not as tough as the Yukon Quest from Canada to Fairbanks) commemorates the 1920 Diphteria Serum Run in 1920. The race is officially considered ended with the traditional gesture of blowing out the Widow’s Lamp, signifying that all mushers and their teams were safely in. This tradition dates back from the old roadhouse days (not unlike a pilot landing safely and closing his flight plan).

By the way, the 2009 Iditarod Race was won by Lance Mackey on March 18th, with second place taken by 2009 Yukon Quest winner Sebastian Schnuelle.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mt. Redoubt volcano erupts

Last night, Mt.Redoubt volcano erupted, and again tonight. Don't worry about us -- it's far enough away(about 100 miles) that the main thing that might happen is that the ash starts blowing this way, and then we can't go to work or school, or use our computers!
The biggest concern is for airplanes -- volcano ash is terrible for engines! I have a jar of volcano ash collected in Anchorage from when Mt.Spurr erupted in 1992: it is a fine gritty sand, quite dark.

Read more at the Alaska Volcano Observatorywebsite, including webcam pictures. The picture I'm posting now is from the last major eruption, which was around 20 years ago -- this time around there's not been as much ash as in this picture.

The National Weather Service website makes daily ashfall predictions. For now, the Anchorage area is not predicted to receive any ash, but the Susitna valley North from here has an ashfall advisory in effect at the moment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Men, Women & COMPUTERS

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

'House' for instance, is feminine: 'la casa.'

'Pencil,' however, is masculine: 'el lapiz.'

A student asked, 'What gender is 'computer'?'

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether computer' should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men's group decided that 'computer' should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computadora'), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.


The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be Masculine ('el computador'), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won.

Credit for this goes to Anonymous (I got this as an email forward from California)!

Monday, March 16, 2009

St. Patrick, greens, and Omega-3s

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!
Hope you're planning a nice GREEN meal. And I'm not talking about green food coloring in your beer or mashed potatoes, I'm talking about serving leafy greens.

We KNOW that greens are incredibly good for us, but admit it, most of us don't eat enough greens! Besides the obvious benefits of fibers, vitamins and iron, antitoxins and phytochemicals, there are the Omega-3 fatty acids, which we've been hearing about more and more in recent years. Yet somehow our western (American) diet has largely selected against Omega-3. Why is that?

It wasn't until the 1980's that scientists learned the importance of Omega-3 (If you want to read about why Omega-3 are good for us, while Omega-6 are not, I recommend Susan Allport's book The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We can do to Replace them). Scientists think now that maybe what matters most is the ratio of Omega-3's to Omega-6 (in other words, getting enough Omega-3 in relation to Omega-6 may matter more than absolute amounts of Omega-3s).

So where do these Omega-dudes hide?

Our western diet depends heavily on seeds, primarily on wheat, corn and soy. Seeds are full of Omega-6. Where do you get your Omega-3? You guessed it, leafy greens (and the wild ones are especially good sources). Omega-3's are part of the photosynthetic process -- ergo, they hide in greens and algae! Seafood is a good source of Omega-3's also, but really, fish just get theirs from seaweed and algae. Green plants is where it's at!

I loved Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. Pollan tells of how nutritionism and "Food Science" have messed up repeatedly-- the more they've tried to reduce food into nutrient components, the less healthy our diet has become! They've been telling us for years to eat a lower fat diet, and we've gotten fatter and fatter. For example, first butter was deemed bad, was replaced by margarine and hydrogenated oils, and then it turns out those are worse than the butter! Ooops. More recently nutritionists have discovered the health benefits of Omega-3, yet because Omega-3 is not very stable, plant geneticists have actually been breeding against it (because we wanted food with long shelf-lives)..! OOOOPS again.

My personal pledge is to serve more GREENS.
Let there be something green on our plates every day -- make every day St. Patrick's Day!

Spinach to the rescue!!!
Go over to my other blog Borealkitchen to find recipes.
For something GREEN, here is just a small teaser of ideas that make use of generous quantities of frozen spinach (always handy to have in your freezer) -- in other words, these dishes are good places to hide large quantities of the dreaded "Spinat"!

Lasagna, pizza, calzones, quiche
Soups (esp. blended soups which have a greenish color already)
Homemade spinach pasta (yumm!)
Omelettes, "Green Eggs and Ham"
Brownies (Honeypiehorse's trick: just blend the spinach first and replace part of the butter called for, and don't breathe a word! )

I therefore propose a toast to St. Patty, whom I nominate as the patron saint of green vegetables and Omega-3's:
May you ble
ss us with lots of greens in the coming year!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Questions from an inquiring young mind

You now how LONG drives can make you think about all kinds of things? We just drove to Fairbanks (350 miles) and back, driving through a lot of beautiful wide empty spaces, but also along some rather rural & poor Alaska. Quite frankly, some of the homesteads you see along the Parks Highway are hovels: delapidated trailers, plywood shacks, big collections of defunct vehicles, all covered in snow.

Youngest was taking that all in, together with the prolific McCain-Palin signs, and was wondering: "Where we live, a lot of really rich people are Republicans. But then why do poor people vote Republican?"
"Good question", the Prof and I answered, "Conservative Alaskans often vote for Republicans because they're against abortion, gay marriage, etc."

"But the Republican Party is, like, the 'Party of Greed' -- they're always promising tax cuts for the rich! Why don't more poor people vote Democratic? Especially after all the economic mess that the Republicans got us into? At least Obama is trying to make things better!"

How I wish I knew ....

Later, in Fairbanks, near the University where our friends teach and live, Youngest noticed the abundance of Obama signs.

"Mom, I have a theory. The people around the university are more educated, right? So maybe educated people just spend more time thinking about what the Republicans and Democrats are really saying and doing?"

All I can say is: Go girl! You just keep on THINKING, questioning, analyzing...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Interview with my daughters

I have 2 lovely daughters, Eldest and Youngest, who are 10 years apart in age.

Using a set of questions circulating on Facebook, I interviewed both about me, their MOM (which we joke sometimes stands for "Mean Old Mom"):

1. What is something mom always says to you?
Eldest (age 21): "Hi Sweetie"
Youngest (age 11): "Hi Pumpkin"

2. What makes mom happy?
Eldest: Getting some
thing done- the house clean, the other sock knit, the quilt top pieced together
NPR and coffee in bed.
Youngest: When she doesn't have to cook breakfast or dinner, like on the weekend.

3. What makes mom sad?

Eldest: Septic systems, seeing lack of love in the world. I would say carrots that are lethal to fingers, but she's got the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know. It's more like the inconvenience of them that makes her sad.
Youngest: When my brother and I argue and fight.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Eldest: Silly things like . . . me not know.
Youngest: When she speaks a whole bunch of German.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
Eldest: Totally Bodacious- big boobs, long legs. Damnit, why didn't I get those genes?
Youngest: Maybe a good big sister, but also a bit of a trickster.

6. How old is your mom?
Both: 49!

7. How tall is your mom?
Eldest:: 5'9"? 5'10"?
Youngest: 5'8"? She's a head taller than I am, and I'm 5 feet tall!

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Eldest: Quilting, knitting, baking for her girlfriend get-togethers.
Youngest: Mop the kitchen floor (NOT)! Cuddle with the fam while listening to Papa read a chapter.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
Eldest: Live life. When I was at home- Mom would teach nature programs, run errands, and shuttle the children without
driver's licenses.
Youngest: Blog!

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Eldest: Developing an ecology-for-kindergardeners curriculum that somehow rid the world of all evils when her students
are grown up.
Youngest: Being a good cook.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Eldest: Doing stuff (you are not very good at not doing stuff). Specifically: PARENTING, cooking, handicrafts, connecting people to the natural world, talking politics, being relaxed at parties.
Youngest: Knitting.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
Eldest: Not doing stuff. Chilling out before parties. Anticipating the sheer volume of German pancakes to make.
Youngest: Keeping the house clean.

13. What does your mom do for a job?
Eldest: Teaches nature-stuff at the nature-center, and administrative stuff too now. Runs the family as a volunteer posit
ion. (Blogger's Editorial note: I totally get a kick out of that last one! If that's a volunteer position, does that mean I could resign and take on a new hobby?)
Youngest: Teaches kids about nature stuff.

14.What is your mom's favorite food?
Eldest: Ventaglio and latte, most things not from this continent.... spaetzle, that corn and beef casserole, cardamom cake, vegetables that her family won't eat, strawberries.
Youngest: Salads, and of course, coffee.

15.What makes you proud of your mom?
Eldest: You're a wonderful woman, a wonderful mom, and a wonderful wife. You're an excellent role model.
Youngest: Makes sure we improve ourselves.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Eldest: The mom from For Better Or Worse or else the human in Get Fuzzy.
Youngest: The mom in Calvin & Hobbes. And maybe Jon in Garfield (not because he's stupid, but in how he's responsible in making sure people don't eat too much food). Mom won't let us snack right before or after dinner!

17. What do you and your mom do together?
Eldest: Chit chat, cook.
Youngest: Bake and craft.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
Eldest: A lot of ways- hatred of water wasting, inability to sit still and wait, love kids, food, girl-crushes on Barbara Kingsolver, caring about the world (society, humanity, and planet), distaste for TV.
Youngest: We're both girls, and we have the same blue eyes, but I have freckles.

19. How are you and your mom different?
Eldest: Music tastes, stubbornness (I think mine will wear off with age), shopping, exercising, and cooking styles, body types (I still look like a body builder--- just a pudgy one now)
Youngest: I have freckles and a tint of red color in my hair, and mom's is getting gray! And our taste of music is different.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
Eldest: How much she's put up from me and still doesn't hang up the phone when she hears my voice.
Youngest: She cuddles with me. She'll squish spiders on the ceiling in my room. She'll let me use her laptop when she's not blogging. She's funny...

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
Eldest (her father and I are divorced): ummm..... the fact that she's not married to him anymore? That they were able to have a functional divorce and co-parenting arrangement?
Youngest (her father and I are married happily): To sleep on his shoulder. And he cooks mean omelettes for breakfast on weekends. And he's really funny!

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
Eldest: There's probably some trail or deck on Rodak trail or whatever, where the trees frame the water just right, un
derneath the mountains, and when she looks at it, all is well and good in the world. I bet also the sauna after working out at the gym and her favorite bookstore, Tidal Wave, and maybe the refrigerated section of Fred Meyers when she has hot flashes. Plus, as 5-yr old Marius said about his mom: the bed.
Youngest: Germany, and anyplace sunny and warm, like Utah. Here at home her favorite place is in bed with her laptop, blogging! (Editor's note: busted!)
Credit: Paintings by Mary Cassatt

Friday, March 6, 2009

confessions of a pathological (or pathetic?) Hausfrau

I am not a good Hausfrau, and for a German, that's really saying something! I think I'm a good wife & mother, decent cook, and keep the house reasonably presentable -- hey, at least it's not a pigsty!
Sometimes I dream of living in a clean & orderly house that always looks inviting, "gemuetlich" -- you know, like in the magazine pictures (warm colors, freshly fluffed pillows, shiny wood floors bathed in sunshine), but alas, I just somehow can't really get my head around the "Good Housekeeping"! Hey, that would mean I'd have to spend my time actually keeping house, and I admit, I hate doing housework.

I sometimes wish that together with all the other German traits I inherited, I'd have ended up with the Hausfrau gene, but it must be recessive!

I try, honestly I try.
I probably own more self-help books on organizing than Martha Stewart, and spend more time reading these books than I actually spend on actual organizing.

Much of my lack of getting housework done is that there are so many more things I'd rather do.... And I also admit that I have a problem with TOO Much Stuff : "One (wo)man's trash is another (wo)man's treasure" as the old saying goes -- I still haven't figured out what all I may still need/want to do with the stuff (variously known as clutter, junk, memories, potential crafting materials, treasures -- you get the idea!).

Luckily this is not a pathological problem -- rest assured (there are no roaches, and the house is not so full of stuff to be a fire hazard). When push comes to shove, I can and do whirl through the house and straighten things out before guests come (luckily I don't suffer overly from CHAOS: Can't Have Anybody Over Syndrome). Rather, I manage to keep the most public areas reasonably clean: kitchen & bathrooms are usually presentable, and I even manage to keep the entryway and living/dining rooms looking decent most of the time, but woe to anyone who has to deal with the clutter on my desk or nightstand, the sewing room, or find something in the garage or the many "junk" drawers & corners.

It's not even that I'm all that lazy: I'm just too BUSY. I'm reasonably hard-working, and I seem to always be busy with SOMETHING. In some ways, my problem is that I'm too creative: I want to create something, and cleaning seems so, well, uncreative!

I love to solve problems, so I can get all excited about a new organizing system, spend hours designing it, sorting all the stuff that will go into the new storage, and then never actually follow through and PUT IT ALL AWAY. It's like I lose the "Umph" somewhere along the line, and I go and start a new project, or work in my garden, or start a new quilt, or cook a new recipe, or check on my compost (worm bin), or blog about it...

That sounds a bit ADD, doesn't? But I don't think I suffered from ADD during my academic life (I did quite well, actually) -- my focusing problem seems to be restricted to just the housework. Is there a term for that -- perhaps Housework-Attention Deficit Disorder?

I don't mean to make fun of ADD. In fact, I recently read a book by Lynn Weiss, called Attention Deficit Disorder In Adults: A different Way of Thinking. I found it very interesting: eye-opening in fact. Her thesis is that we all have different brainstyles, some more "linear", while others (ADD) focus more on the "big picture" (patterns, relationships), but that neither is inherently better. In fact, it nearly seems like an East-West dichotomy! The author asks people to stop thinking of ADD as a "disability", and embrace who they are and understand how their brain works, as to find ways of better negotiating life's many challenges...
I'm now reading another book by her about creativity -- again there are common themes where creative people tend to have a far less linear brainstyle. Author Lynn Weiss actually jokes about linear people having CDD Creativity Deficit Disorder.

So back to my bad housekeeping dilemma -- I'm finding that I need to learn to accept how/what works for me, and put my brainstyle to good use at home. I'm very linear in some aspects of my life when I have to (science, finances, etc), but when it comes to home & creativity, I find that I'm wanting to take it all in as a big picture -- but maybe I forget that it would help to break things into smaller pieces if I ever want to get anything done!

The question I ask myself is this: how important is it to have that "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval? I'll probably never live in a magazine-picture-perfect home (only in my dreams), but I would enjoy less clutter -- it's easier to be creative and happy when I'm not having to rummage through too much junk.
One of my fantasies is to "magically" get to start over with a clean and empty house, and force myself only to move in with what I truly need or wanted to keep (there's no rush: I could take my time), and then not have to worry about what happens to the rest of the stuff -- because if I were in charge of taking the stuff to the dump or Goodwill, I'm afraid I'd probably end up returning with half of it "just in case"... pathetic, isn't?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And the LEMONADE winner is....

This blog has just received the LEMONADE blogger award! It's given to blogs that show great attitude and/or gratitude. I take that to be along the line of "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" -- but one must wonder about the attitude part -- was it the fact that I actually used 'language' on my blog for the first time recently? (I didn't think anybody was reading that far...)

Anyway, thank you, RunningL8 from MountainPulse for nominating me. It's an honor!

And now I get to turn around and bestow the LEMONADE Award to 5 bloggers of my choosing.
Drumroll -- and the winners are:

1. Honeypiehorse -- her blog Our Feet are the Same is full of wonderful vignettes of her life as an American living in Bavaria.
2. Dustybee -- her blog Well Seasoned Woman is hilarious and wise. She writes from a fishing town in Southeast Alaska.
3. Cabindweller -- her blog FieryBlazingHandbasket does such a wonderful job of depicting life and issues in interior Alaska, managing to make me homesick for Fairbanks even at -50 degrees!
3. Becky -- her blog On Top of the World is a funny account of young mom living in Wasilla, Alaska.
5.GreenMountainMom (Patty from Vermont) -- her Blog200 is full of wonderful insights on life, the universe, and everything...

Here are the rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.