Friday, February 27, 2009

Sweating My Prayers

The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.
-Robert Frost

Finally I returned to the Dipsea Trail today after a two week respite. I did not stop training, but did miss the stairs that still have me up at night wondering why I am committing to this self torture. Today I was again reminded of the euphoric feelings associated with pushing yourself beyond what you thought possible and surviving to bask in the glow.

It was good for me to get out. It has been raining for most of the week and, while I have been busy and social, I have not actually gotten out of the house much. I have been overly introspective and have been drowning in the intensity of my own thoughts.

As I started out this morning, the rain catching droplets in my hair, I felt freer that I had in days. Running gets me out of my head; I run till I can't think anymore. Being physical balances me as nothing else can. At no other time is my mind as clear as it is after being wiped clean by the sheer force of my exhalations echoing my inhalations. Sometimes I actually feel I am running from my thoughts, running as fast as I can, knowing the strength of my legs can outlast my moods and my mind delivering me from their mire.

Today I got a babysitter, headed for the hills, and ran like hell. My thoughts caught back up with me, but they are softer now, and feel much freer. Running to your very end is the perfect antidote to overthinking.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A man is but the product of his thoughts - what he thinks, he becomes.
-Mahatma Ghandi

I have been thinking a lot about the question I posed to myself yesterday. Of course I would rather be anything but a hermit, but it is difficult to maintain your focus when you are in social situations.

Last night I picked up an old religious magazine I used to read a lot when I was younger, called "Science of Mind." I just felt down and needed some grounding. Leafing through the pages and re-absorbing the attitude of positive focus and release of worry, I realized how far I was from this way of being, a way of being I relied upon as a foundation for much of my life.

I realized the question I had posed to myself was not the right question, rather the real question was why was I focusing on the negative, or what I perceived to be the negative, and consequently creating more of it--actually creating a problem when there really isn't one. Most of the time it is within my power to eat sensibly and moderately. On the occasion that I am social, so what? I believe in living life and wouldn't be true if I denied myself. That is not what is causing me to keep the weight on, my focus on it is what is keeping the weight on.

As I dusted off my old positive thinking manuals, my old self was dusted off as well, one that I had been missing for a long time. It is interesting how you need to be reminded of certain things every day. Every day I need to remind myself to think on the brighter side, to be who I want to be instead of strive to be who I want to be, to DO what I want to do instead of wish for it, to move forward in belief, not doubt.

This may seem a far fetched realization but it makes sense to me. I was focusing on what wasn't working instead of what is and what can. I truly believe that what you focus on grows, that attention is everything. Attention is power.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dieting Dilemmas

I eat merely to put food out of my mind
-N.F. Simpson

So one of my very best girlfriends came to visit me this weekend and we had grand times discussing life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. G is one of my oldest and dearest friends and, although we appear very different on the outside, we are secretly the same person. Or not so secretly.

In any case, we also share a birthday in common--practically--hers is a day before mine. Over the weekend we discussed our general unhappiness at the extra weight that seems to creep more and more easily onto female bodies as they round the bend from the twenties into the thirties.

So we decided to make a pact to lose 10 lbs by our birthdays in early April. Starting Sunday. As in two days ago. We decided to keep food journals and aim at a certain number of calories and fat grams. And to exercise smarter by varying our routines since we both already exercise very regularly.

It is much harder than I had anticipated. Sunday was alright but yesterday I hosted a dinner party for my much loved friend and former colleague T. I compensated earlier in the day keeping calories and fat to a minimum knowing that I would be eating a richer dinner. I thought ahead and told myself I could have smallish portions of the appetizers, dinner, dessert, and wine.

But you know how it goes. I ended up eating and drinking more than the allotted amount and had great fun and enjoyed it all. I figure that I will eat lightly today as well to compensate for last night.

I just have a hard time limiting myself at dinner parties and social gatherings because it's fun and I love food and wine and conversation. I get into it and completely forget the rules I have carefully laid for myself.

I find when I am alone and cooking just for myself and for my Babou I naturally eat moderately and healthfully and start to lose weight. But as soon as I am cooking for My Old Man or for guests or going out then it all goes out the window. It seems I have a hard time being social and eating normally.

I wonder, do I have to be a hermit to lose weight? (I feel very Carrie Bradshaw.) To be continued...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Transient thoughts

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
-Annie Dillard

Ahh...finally home again! Babou, Loco O and I got back from our road trip Friday afternoon and have been settling in and having friends over much of the weekend. It is so good to be home and get back to a routine for a bit before we go back to visit the Old Man again. All this traveling takes a toll on me sometimes. I keep waiting somehow for my life to even out to begin taking things seriously, like my diet, writing, and running. But I have to realize these things have to be portable because my life is portable and this is the way we live.

It keeps one flexible for sure. I realize that I just have to think about it a bit. Trying to write on the road was much easier with a laptop but still difficult as the places I stayed didn't have internet access. So much of the time it proved too inconvenient to post. So I didn't, but I think next time I will still write and then post when I have the chance. No excuses.

Also, I ate way too much and ate out more than was necessary. Sometimes it was unavoidable, but much of the time it wasn't. My Old Man's place has a kitchen and I could have cooked more. The reservation he is staying on has really great local produce and I should have taken more advantage of that. Next time I will make myself lunches to eat on the road so as to avoid the fast food slippery slope.

Keeping up with running was hard. I kept up the minimum but with all the time in the car it was really hard. And now it is raining so much that I can't go running with Babou at all and am having to do these horridly cheesy aerobics tapes and hop up and down in my living room! My daughter looks confused, my dog scared!

But, overall, I am so glad I went on this trip. I had a great time for Valentine's Day, got to see both Sophia Katrina and Practical Sis and play with their little ones. ElleBee and I got to check out my alma mater and Cal Poly and practiced driving! I got to meet Jenn at Juggling life AND Yo from Write on Yo! Very cool! And I love road trips, who am I kidding?

I just realize more and more that this is my life and that it is not changing and that I do like it, I like that I get to go places and do different things, I have always loved traveling. But I do realize that it is harder with an entourage than alone and that I can no longer wait until "Monday" to start my diet and exercise goals. That life starts now and doesn't stop. THis is my life and I have to do what I love and is important to me everyday rain to shine traveling or not. Every day presents itself as an opportunity and challenge and I just have to do the best I have with what I've got and be consistent. These are my thoughts and goals this wintry Monday morning.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Kiss that told Forever

And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
-Kahlil Gibran

It all started with a kiss. An amazing kiss. A kiss that lasted A Very Long Time. Close to an hour. Maybe more. Really. In the span of that kiss Mr. Jo and I shared our pasts, our present, and our future.

The kiss delineated our lives into "before" and "after." It created a third entity that would live to guide our lives together, holding us as one through good times and bad. Our love was so strong it created a spirit of its own, a guardian spirit, a silent witness and helpful hand.

You see, Mr. Jo and I went the through our 20's together, went through the growing pains of finding our individual paths, our path together, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle. Our relationship was not an easy one, although it is now. We had a lot of trouble along the way. But love was always there to bridge the gaps, to mend our hearts, helping us love freely again. Love was always there, a silent witness with plans of its own, a life of its own. It held us tight, always reminding us.

Over the years, Mr. Jo and my love has worn us smooth, softened our rough edges, melded our lives together. Mr. Jo has taught me to relax and enjoy life, to take things one day at a time, that a little finesse goes a long way, to trust life and, most of all, how to love.

Since I started my blog, have been trying to find the perfect name for my husband. I know he does not exactly appreciate being called "Mr. Jo," but I just haven't been able to find the right title, that perfect name that encapsulates who he is and what he means to me. But I knew it would come to me.

And it did. Mr. Jo's new name came to me in my middle of the night musings and is perfect, perfect, perfect. So, without further ado, I am very pleased to introduce you to My Old Man.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Mother, New Baby, New World

There is no other closeness in human life like the closeness between a mother and her baby.
-Susan Cheever

I am continually amazed by my dear sister, aptly named "Practical Sis." I arrived late afternoon yesterday to find her serene as ever, one and a half year old and two month old surrounding her. Her home beautifully arranged, no laundry awaiting my eager help, her body looking as though it had not just given birth to a baby whose future as a linebacker looks certain. How does she do it?

It is a mystery, that is all I can say. This woman was born under a sign of equilibrium and boy does it show. I am proud of her beyond words. I held her newest little one while she took a shower today, and I was in tears at what a sweet and interested little person she has brought into the world. He smiled and gawed at me and I giggled and cried and gooed at him. Very embarrassing, I am glad Practical Sis was in the shower so she could not see what a Sentimental Sappy Sis I am. I told the little one what a great choice he had made in choosing his mother and father, what a fine life he will live, under the loving guidance of two of the most balanced and calm people I have ever met.

And, if he ever needs some spice, he can most certainly come to visit his auntie Jo anytime he wants to see how the other half lives. I will probably be in the backyard trying to sow a lawn while talking on the phone wearing perhaps high-ish heels as the mood struck me before I could change into sensible gardening clothes. Happens to me all the time. Last spring I chopped down a tree in a strapless dress and sandals because the mood had struck and I had to do it right then! That's the kind of woman I am unfortunately so you can imagine how inspired I am when I am around Practical Sis. I am inspired to slow down. To take my time. To relax and enjoy life. And to have another baby! (Yes, I did say that.)

The cousins are having fun too!

Maybe a little too much! Whoops!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Road Trip

In America there are two classes of travel - first class, and with children.
-Robert Benchley

I used to love road trips. I'd throw my little bag of necessities in the back seat, throw on the music as loud as possible, and off I would go! I loved driving. Back then I smoked and there was absolutely nothing as freeing as driving down some freeway to some destination contemplating life and having a cigarette. I know, I know, bad BAD Jo, but it's true and I am not sorry to say it.

Much has changed now and the allure of road tripping has lost its lustre. I now travel with a two year old and wiley dog, neither of which care for sitting still. I still have my music, although not blaring any longer. And I have now been a nonsmoker for years. My bag has turned to bags. My car has gotten bigger and still I seem to fill it every time.

The good news is, however, is that road tripping for me is now much more about the destination. I still love the traveling part, but I am much more excited to get there! See new places. New people. This trip is filled with that. I get to meet my NEW nephew and goo and gaw to my hearts content--stay tuned for pictures tomorrow!

I also get to hopefully meet a cherished fellow blogger who has given me a huge Valentine's day boost and who has Mr. Jo's ultimate regard and admiration, Yo. THANK YOU! Check out the link and you can see me win! And I get to visit with sisters and parents and more nieces including our dear Elle Bee. And the road all ends with Mr. Jo who is conveniently located in the nexis of the gatherings working on a job nearby.

And the best part of all? Since I now have a laptop computer that I LOVE I can take you all with me! Ready? You'll have to take you own car though, as mine is already full!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Falling

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

I woke up this morning with a jolt, it hitting me that I have said (out loud, mind you) that I am preparing for an athletic feat involving scaling not one, but several mountains, and that I am not only trying to survive it, but race it!

This morning, the part of me that enjoys more...shall we say...hedonistic activities...caught word of my commitment and said WTF? You're going to WHAT?

I don't know why it took so long for this other part of me to realize my plans, maybe she was a bit in denial. But she is no longer and she is on a mission to abort this little dream of mine.

She knows all my weak spots and makes big digs regarding the facts that I am not particularly athletic and have never raced. Ever. How hard it will be to train with a wildcard 2-year-old and husband gone half the time. She knows how to get to me. She taunts me, plays with my mind, beckons with wine and chocolates, a cozy couch, and food TV.

But the more motivated, healthy, enthusiastic, perhaps a bit annoyingly bouncy and tiger-ish part of me has weaponry of its own. Everything I have ever done that I have been proud of I didn't think I could do. I was scared of it. I didn't know how to do it. But every time I realized if I just jumped in and did it rather than over-think it, I could do it.

My philosophy thus far is that all you need to have is the courage to begin, to throw yourself over that edge, over that cliff of disbelief. Once you are falling, you can figure out the rest. The courage is in beginning.

I know this philosophy is not for everyone. It is kind of extreme. I am kind of extreme. I have spent quite a lot of my life throwing myself over cliffs, so to speak, knowing that once I had begun, I could figure out the rest. But it is a working philosophy and can be applied to all kinds of things. Mostly it requires a lot of faith and the courage to jump.

Today my alter ego made herself known, made her arguments, enticed me with her charms. But even she knows I am already gone; I am already in free fall.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Biodynamic: The New Organic?

Benziger Family Winery, Glen Ellen, CA.

Biodynamics, its advocates assert, maximizes the personality of a given plot of earth. Like a homeopathic doctor, a Biodynamic farmer analyzes the land and determines what is out of balance. The aim is to turn the land into a self-sustaining, self-regulating habitat.
-Peg Melnik

Biodynamic is a word that is getting more and more play lately. I first learned about Biodynamic farming practices while I was working at the wine magazine. It was becoming increasingly popular and had a somewhat cult following among certain groups of winemakers and grape growers. The idea that one could reach beyond organic and create an even more eco-friendly growing environment was, and is, appealing to many environmentally-minded farmers.

A mix of alchemy, astrology, and deep ecology, Biodynamic practices were conceived by Rudolf Steiner, a prominent theosophist of the early 1900's. Rudolf Steiner is also well known the founder of the Waldorf schools. Prompted by local farmers concerned with the effects of conventional agriculture on soil quality, Steiner gave a series of eight lectures in 1924 that would become the foundation for the Biodynamic movement.

Since that first series of lectures, the use of Biodynamic practices has flourished worldwide. The Demeter Association of biodynamic farmers was created in 1928, and holds the standards by which biodynamic practices are measured. It's international counterpart, Demeter International, acts as an overarching association providing consistent global standards for Biodynamic practices.

While the efficacy of Biodynamic farms have been questioned when compared to organic or conventional farming methods, those who adhere to its philosophy seem to have an almost religious conviction regarding its worth and merit.

Biodynamic farming methods hold a deep regard for the overall ecological health of a farm. Land is treated as its own ecological niche, allowing all its parts to play a role in the fulfillment of its production. Herbs are homeopathically prepared to facilitate compost preparation, mixtures must be prepared in specific ways and mixed in one direction or another for specified turns, all to create subtle beneficial energy shifts.

Alchemy and astrology play important roles in biodynamic farming, and perhaps this is where people start looking askance. But, as any Farmers Almanac will remind you, most farmers have relied on astrology since the dawn of its beginning. It is perhaps the first true tool used by farmers to mitigate the uncertainty of crop production.

The special focus on the subtleties of plant energies and their environment, including the cosmos, was, and is, very ahead of its time. Although the efficacy of its practices in terms of yield are unclear, perhaps it is the scientific field that has yet to develop the right study by which to measure its efficacy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Painful Epiphanies

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
-Kahlil Gibran

I had my second training session this Sunday. I decided I could go a little faster, push myself a little harder, and I took a third of the stairs two at a time. By the time I got to the top, I was close to throwing up. My legs shaky, my mind numb from the pain.

I pushed through it and tried to run through the breaks from the stairs. I tried to run after the stairs. I could not. Those first two at a time taken stairs had left their indelible mark.

I was not strong enough.

How am I going to run this race without making a fool of myself when I can't even take one flight of the 672-odd steps fast?

The answer to this question is a lesson I have never learned and is crucial for the next phase of my life: to grow naturally a little at a time. A seed does not bear fruit the first day it is planted. Likewise, I will not be strong enough to run all of the Dipsea stairs the second time I train. I will get stronger a little at a time. Naturally.

I had this epiphany a few days later. And, while I am more committed to this race than ever, I am scared. But in that fear of pain, of growing, of trusting myself and my body, of trusting the process of all life and growth, there is great wisdom to be had. I know I am growing in more ways than just physically, through the pain of exertion, I know that I am growing in understanding.

PS--On a much funner note, Yo is having a very fun giveaway! Check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Mary Alice interview

Mary Alice recently got interviewed on her post and offered to extend the invitation to any willing readers. Mary Alice always asks good questions so of course I was game...and just like that I got some fun questions in my email..let me know if any of you would like to be is mine:

1.You are a wonderful and inspired cook.  When did you realize how much you enjoy it?  What event solidified your passion?

I think I realized how much I enjoyed it when I started planning dinners for friends and family--shortly after I moved out and into my own place (with roommates). I think the thing I love best about cooking is creating an ambiance, creating a vibe with food, flowers, music, candles, and guests. I love that. It doesn't have to be fancy to be wonderful.

No real event solidified my passion, but working in good restaurants through college definitely instilled an appreciation of food and wine. I loved the ritual and care of good food and the whole dining experience. To this day, serving has been one of my funnest jobs (if that's a word).

When I first moved to Santa Barbara to go to school, I ended up moving in with the sous chef at the restaurant where I worked. He lived with another sous chef from a different restaurant in area. I learned a lot about food from him (the one from my retaurant, Eric) and I also learned a lot about both food and wine from the chef of the restaurant. They were both very generous to offer me little tips and it was always fun cooking with Eric at home. Or just eating his food!
2. In your perfect world, how would your garden be any bigger than what you have now? If so, what would you grow that you don’t currently?

Oh man that is a loaded question! I would have such a bigger garden in my perfect world. I imagine fields of lavender, herb gardens, much more fruit than I have currently--trees, berries, and melons. I would really love to get more into herbs and have a garden devoted to their cultivation. I am fascinated by their lore, their signatures, the energy and essences they impart. They are truly magical beings that I would like to get to know better.

I would also have vineyards and make my own wine! Ooooh yeah!
3. What is a lesson you hope to impart to your daughter, that our mother imparted to us?

That having less is a less a burden and more a chance to be creative. She taught me to really create things, make things, do the best with what I've got. As our Brother Shoe says "Live below your means." Most importantly and in the same vein, she taught me that class has to do with education and being a cultured person. That is a huge lesson I want to impart in Babou.
4. You have done a lot of traveling. What country did you feel most at home in?

Greece, for sure. Everyone is so friendly and open, they even wave goodbye backwards, summoning your return as they say farewell! The water is clear and refreshing; not so suffocating as it is in more tropical places where it offers little relief. The food is amazing, every ingredient is the best it can be, all the food seems to be showing off how good it is...simply, naturally, phenomenally delicious! I have never seen tomatoes so pleased to be tomatoes--it's like they are screaming "look at me, I am a TOMATO! Woohoo!" Seriously.
5. What is something that you are going to eliminate from your life in the next year?

Worrying. I think it is the biggest waste of time there could possibly be...ever. Looking back on my life I realize how little worry ever did for me. Life works out. You've just got to point yourself in the right direction, work hard at what you love, and life will work out for you. No worry required.
So...if you would like to be interviewed, here is what we do as per Mary Alice:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.