Friday, December 31, 2010

Health, wealth, and happiness to you and yours in the new year.

     The title comes from a traditional Polish Christmas toast.  I learned of it from the family of a former boyfriend, but I liked it instantly.  The inclusion of happiness makes me smile, as it tends to be so undervalued by society at large.

     2010 was not a very good year to me, my husband, or several other people I know.  Personal issues, relationships, job issues and a poor economy has led to a lot of challenges in my inner circle.  For me, the year involved moving away from a place I liked and a job I loved to live in a room in someone else's house with Thoth and our three cats and not being able to find work.  The business I tried to start over a year ago had to get put on hold, as I have no room to work properly.  The reason we moved was because Thoth was having a hard time finding a job where we lived; he was on unemployment for about a year with the exception of a few temp jobs.  It wasn't that he wasn't trying, it was truly a lack of opportunity.  He was having a difficult time dealing with it emotionally, his unemployment was about to run out, and we didn't know if he would be able to get another extension.  And my job was garnering less hours due to a year of horrible weather; so I left it behind so that we could move 150 miles and he could find work.  Call it a year of compromise and waiting.

     Unfortunately, the person we moved in with first turned out to not be such a good friend; we moved again and found a situation which was more tolerable, but still involved living in a room in someone else's house.  Thoth was able to find long-term temp work in short order, but that recently ended, and we're left not quite knowing what to do again.  Furthermore, it turned out that he *was* approved for his extension, and if we had stayed where we were I could have had enough work to keep us afloat.  Sigh.

     I could regret the move, and in a way I do... but there are a lot of useful experiences we wouldn't have had if we had stayed.  Fantastic people we wouldn't have gotten to know, false friends we wouldn't have seen in their true forms, growth in our relationship, and growth along the poly path even if we aren't all the way there yet.

     Part of trying to live in a more positive state is to see difficulties not as terrible static events, but challenges to overcome.  It's usually through those challenges that we learn the most about ourselves and find the most opportunity for growth.  In a way, people are like those trees that require a forest fire to open the seed pods; without those disasters, our minds won't readily open to new growth and new ideas.  To be honest, I am sometimes absolutely terrible at framing things in a positive manner.  There are times when I am absolutely sure that the worst imaginable scenario will happen, and that I will never realize my dreams and goals.  But when I really think about it, life tends to throw situations at me (and in fact, all of us) which seem horrible at first, but end up not being all that bad at the end.  Often we end up even at worst.  The trick is to frame things in a positive light when we can.  We can't control what outside influences do, but we *can* control our reactions to them.  

     And so, rather than focus on all that, I think a rundown of what I hope to find in the new year is in order.

-I want for Thoth and I to have our own space again.  
-I want to have a sewing room, or at least a decent sized corner to dedicate to sewing, so that I can get serious about my business.
-I want to find part-time work which is rewarding in nature, interesting enough to hold my interest, and steady enough to support me while I grow my business and in the lean times.
-I want to communicate my feelings with more precision and less blame of outside sources.
-I want to feel more secure in my relationship(s) and work to own my actions in such.
-I want to delve into gluten-free baking with the full force of my culinary talents.
-I want to start writing recipes for the food I create and sharing them.
-I want to be more emotionally available for the people I love, and work on telling them that I feel that way.
-I want to remain open to adding additional relationships to my life, and for Thoth to do the same.  
-I want to be able to afford a more natural diet for my cats, and better ensure their health.
-I want to have the ability to do more fun things, and spend less time worrying.

     I'm sure there are plenty of other things I do and will wish for, but I think this is a healthy list of goals to begin with.  I wish everyone else a lovely holiday season and a rewarding and happy year to come.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I once had intelligent things to say here...

but I was distracted... by an internet argument, no less.

     I'm not entirely sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the internet makes people feel a lot more comfortable spouting baseless opinions on things they don't really know.  Perhaps they do the same in real life, and I'm just better at tuning them out; the printed (or typed) word does stick to my brain better.  Either way, I'll never understand why it is that many people don't bother to learn anything about the subject of discussion before checking to see if their opinions have any basis in fact.

     I was going to write about my more concrete goals for the future, but that will have to wait for another day. 


     Oh, and marmalade mixed with ginger, salt, pepper, and apple cider vinegar makes an excellent glaze for a ham.  I'm considering perfecting the ratios and making an actual recipe out of my Christmas Day experiment.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Post Six: In which Jeni gets out of a mental rut.

     I'm a person of probabilities more than possibilities.  I prefer thinking about the amazing things which are likely to happen, the dreams I can reach, the goals which can be completed.  It's harder to be let down that way, and so it's emotionally safer.  I *like* possibilities, I think it's important to have dreams, but it's an exercise I often avoid.

     A few days ago, I was inspired by a friend who lives in the realm of possibilities to think about what I would want for the world if I were to disregard probabilities.  So I made a list.

-I would like to see everyone's basic needs met, the world over.  I want everyone to live in the top of the pyramid that is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  This would make the rest of the things on my list a lot more possible.

-I want to encourage everyone to see happiness as a virtue and a goal worthy of pursuit.  I want people to recognize that living for others is only good if it is a conscious decision and leads to one's own happiness.  Living for one's own happiness isn't entirely selfish, though selfishness is overly criticized anyway.  Being happy in oneself allows a person to bring more joy to others, to be a better friend and confidant, to be less emotionally dependent, and frankly the people who love us will prefer to see us happy.

-I want to promote everyone taking responsibility for their own actions and feelings.  Realizing that we can't run away from the things we've done, and that our feelings are in our own hands is difficult.  It makes us responsible for something which is so much easier to pawn off on other people or situations.  It gives us the power to change our situations, our outlooks, our reactions.  It may not be the easy path, but it's certainly the more rewarding.

-I wish to advocate the acceptance of ourselves and others, while recognizing that there are always things about ourselves that we can (and should) improve.  We should all recognize that we have different strengths to build upon and challenges to face.  On a cognitive level, regarding our bodies, our emotional differences, different forms of creativity, and practical talents, to name a few.  We are different from each other, and that is a good thing.  It takes all types to properly run this thing we call civilization, and we do much better by accepting our strengths and recognizing but working on our weaknesses.  

-I will promote healthy relationships, which are beneficial for all parties involved, and in which no one must subsume their own personalities or wishes.

-I will advocate the patronage of small businesses, local shops, and local farms whenever possible.  This is part of a larger desire for people to belong to small communities, where they feel like they are a part of the whole, not just individuals who happen to live in a place.  Buying goods and food which comes from closer to home is better for the environment, better for our bodies, and makes us feel more connected.

-I wish to be a proponent of choice in all things.  We should all be able to choose who we love, what we do for a living, what kind of life we want to lead.  We should all also recognize the choices we make every day.  We decide how we are going to react to the things that happen in our lives.  We decide to do the things we do, and we even make the decision to get stuck sometimes, like I did recently.

     These are all things I have wanted for some time, but now I have framed them as actions, not just wishes.  I have decided again to be more aware of the decisions I'm making, the feelings I'm choosing to have, and the actions I'm performing.  With a renewed sense of purpose and power, I go on.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Even if thirty is over the hill, I'm still not about to put it in neutral.

     I recently turned 30.  

     I know that to much of our society, that particular multiple of ten is supposed to bring marked changes to one's life... and I kind of hope it does.  I'm not going to suddenly become serious about relationships, like some bad romance; I've been serious (and yet not) about relationships as long as I've been having them.  And I'm not going to start having children, or feeling my biological clock ticking, only to either meet "the right guy" who makes me want to have children, or come to the realization that my life is already complete and that I can adopt, anyway.  My life is not your movie-typical story.  Neither are the lives of most of the people I know, either.  In fact, I find myself wondering where those standards come from, and if they still apply.  If they ever really did.

     I remember my father turning thirty.  It's odd enough for me to think of him having a (nearly) six-year old child at the same age I am now, but life was much different then than it was just a few years later.  My mother made him a cake, with black frosting and ghost decorations... it said "over the hill" and was a joke about how old he was getting.  Looking back, I wish they could have seen then how their lives were still just beginning.  Within two years, they would be separated.  My mother would be struggling with her prescription medication addiction, and my father would be burdened with taking care of an overly intelligent (but depressed and obstinate) daughter, alone, who he never really wanted in the first place.  He did the best he could, until my stepmother came along... but that's another story altogether.  

     The first half of my twenties were heavily influenced by trying to get away from my younger years... trying to ignore their existence, and trying to be my own person.  The second half involved a lot of self-discovery, acknowledgment of those younger years, and managing to incorporate the two into a whole person who is much more comfortable with herself.  My thirties are beginning with a base of liking who I am, while recognizing that there are always things that can use improvement, and that it doesn't make me a bad person.  All of the things I've heretofore written about are things which I have become more comfortable with in myself over the past several years.  Gone are the days of feeling guilty for who I am. 

     I will still love the things I love now.  I have made friendships which will likely last the rest of my life, no matter where we end up.  I will continue to love road trips, exploring the world around me, and learning all I can.  I will continue to love love itself.  Armed with this knowledge, I face this next decade with hope and determination, not mourning for the fleeting youth and hardship I leave behind.  I really do hope that things change, for the better, and I think they will.  This year, I had the first real birthday party since my childhood.  It was a fantastic beginning to the years to come.

     Onward, to the future we go!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gluten Intolerance and Me. And Possibly You, Too.

     "What does it mean to be gluten intolerant?" you might wonder.  Well... it means that I have an autoimmune disorder, which causes my body to attack itself and the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.  (The bad gluten is not in oats, but most oats are cross-contaminated, so it's best to stay away from them.)  Consuming gluten if one is gluten intolerant leads to intestinal discomfort and possibly headaches in the short term, and damaged intestines, reduced nutrient absorption, and a greatly increased risk of cancer.  For me, and a small portion of gluten intolerant people, the condition also comes with a lovely rash called Dermatitis Herpetiformis.  

     Being gluten intolerant means that I can't have most commercially-available bread, obviously, because I can't have wheat.  Consider this for a moment.  I cannot eat bread.  Which means that I can't go to a restaurant and order a sandwich... or make a sandwich if I'm hungry and want something quick and filling.  I can't have a slice with my soup, if I can even eat the soup.  Many soups are thickened with wheat flour.  Barley and rye are a little less common, but there is still a noticeable effect on my diet.  Did you know that malt flavoring is made from barley? So, no Whoppers, no malted milkshakes, no malt vinegar, no malt beverages.  No beer, not that I ever drank it... but I did like to cook with it, and now I can't kiss my husband if he's recently been drinking beer.

     Gluten intolerance means that when I do find gluten free substitutes for products I pay much more for them.  There are gluten free breads available, mostly in health food or co-op type stores, but they generally cost around five dollars a loaf, come in smaller loaves than standard bread, and don't taste very good.  There are some that I like, but a loaf of bread has turned into a decadent treat for me.

     Because I cook, it's not difficult to find food to eat.  And there are even places where I can go out and not have to worry too much about coming into contact with gluten.  Asian food is great for this, as long as there's no soy sauce involved, because most soy sauce includes wheat.  Pho, most Thai food, and sushi rolls (but not California rolls, as surimi is injected with wheat protein) are all okay.  So is some Mexican food, and nearly all Indian food.  I can generally go to a diner and have an omelette... although IHOP adds pancake batter to their eggs to make them fluffier, so I have to specifically ask for shelled eggs.

     Gluten intolerance has also been linked to several conditions, such as ADHD, schizophrenia, migraines, and arthritis.  There's increasing evidence that many of us are just not made to process modern grains, even if we don't show the typical signs of gluten intolerance.  The biggest argument I get for not trying to eliminate gluten is that it's difficult... but it's not as difficult as ADHD or intestinal cancer.  And if everyone who would benefit from a wheat-free diet did so, we could change the world.  Someday, it wouldn't be so difficult to eat gluten free.
There are many articles like this out there, for more information: