Monday, August 31, 2015

The Weight - week two of this round

Okay.  Well.  I have done a few good things this week.

I tried to eat when I was hungry - not when it was time to eat, but when my body told me it needed food.  And smaller portions.

I stopped with the sweets.  Even with, eating chocolate and grilled cheese sandwiches is not a way to lose weight.  So I cut out the chocolate, ice cream ... anything that we would consider dessert or candy.  See, before, I figured that I could eat a little bit of this stuff and still lose weight as long as I kept my numbers in balance (calories in, calories out), but the truth is that once I had some, I would have  a little more.  My cravings would then cause me to eat a lot more of it.   And, surprise!  I suddenly was eating almost as many calories in sweets as other things.

So for me ... cold turkey.  The only way I can manage.  I haven't cut sugar out altogether.  I'll still eat instant oatmeal - and yogurt - and sauces with sugar.  But no sugary drinks, no chocolate, no pop, no ice cream (etc.).

Oddly enough (even though I preach this a lot to people I still don't realize it until I do again) my mood has been much more balanced without the sugar.  Funny that.  The wild swings I was having have gone away.

And last night, for the first time in a really long time, I slept without any drugs.  I slept from 11 until 7 with only one wake up and I didn't have to read or watch TV or anything to get back to sleep.  I was awake for maybe 10 minutes (not 2 hours).  Huzzah!  I'm not presuming that this will continue, but it was really, really nice.

Now, last week I said I was 149 pounds.  Really, I've seen the scale up as high as 151 in the past couple of weeks.  This morning I was under 145.  I'm not saying I lost 4 pounds this week - I'm sure I didn't, but there is a natural up and down of about 4 pounds and I'm at the lower end of it (with some weight lost, I'm sure).  So I'm very happy about this.

Normally, I would give myself permission to eat more sweets.  Not happening this time.  I might allow myself a little more food at a meal, but no desserts!!

So, yay!  Like most weight loss endeavours, mine has started off well.  Let's hope I can continue.  I did have one hell of a craving for sweets yesterday, but I managed to not give in.

For me, having one rule (no sweets) is a lot easier than trying to balance a bunch of different things.  Just the way my brain works - less to remember.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to the Issue of Weight

Three years ago I weighed 147 pounds.  And I wasn't happy about it because I was heavier than I'd been in 5 years.  That was September 7, 2012.

And here I sit today, August 26, 2015, weighing 149 pounds.  Argh.

So I go public again because I want to lose 10 pounds.  And I don't seem to be able to do it without being accountable to someone.

Hello someone ...  anyone who reads this.  You are to whom I am making myself accountable.  Don't worry, you don't have to do anything.  I just have to imagine that you are there.

Weight has been an issue for me non-stop for 3 years.  It's gone up, it's gone down, I've felt bad about myself pretty much the whole time because I never hit a goal.  My process is obviously not working for me, but here I go again, doing the same thing, in the same way and hoping it will work this time.  Insanity according to Einstein.  He might be right.

I am using  The great thing about this site is that it keeps track of calories in and calories out.  The bad thing is that it gives me permission.  If I haven't reached my calorie goals for the day, I allow myself to eat more.  So I'm going to try not to do that this time.

And I am trying to avoid processed sugar as well.  Especially chocolate.

I have to eat better and at the same time eat fewer calories.  You see, over the summer we moved, and I have been working a lot since November (a lot for me, anyhow).  So things have been pretty stressful and I've been eating a lot - including a lot of sugar and chocolate and caffein.  I've not been working on, and I feel bad about that.  I haven't seen enough of my son or my husband, and the cats haven't had enough of my attention.  I also haven't been exercising enough.  Haven't been doing yoga enough, haven't started meditating, which I promised myself I would.

Aside from gaining weight, my mood has been bad.  Having just cut out sugar for a few days, I'm already feeling better.  On top of that (and if you're at all squeamish, you might not want to read this part ... seriously, skip to the next paragraph) I've been having a real problem with diarrhea.  All my life I've had an irritable bowel but for a while now it's been really bad.  The doctor is going to send me to a specialist, but this morning I think I figured it out - the sleeping pills I've been taking (for the insomnia problems I've been having due to the added anxiety and stress this summer) might be the culprit.

So I stop the sleeping pills (hope I can sleep), cut out sugar, cut out all caffein and start exercising regularly again - while telling all of you about it so that I may actually stick to it.

It's a lot to tackle at once - especially since the stress of working is still there.  But I can do it.  Or at least part of it.  Or one of the things.

Wish me luck.  Send me good vibes.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Depression meds - why they are scary and why they are necessary

I know someone who is going through a particularly rough time with anxiety and depression right now.  She has, with the help of a friend, taken the huge step of seeking medical help.  That is a really, really big step for anyone.  No one wants to admit they are having these problems or that they need help, so when they go to a doctor, that's HUGE!!

But she doesn't want to take any medication.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  NO ONE wants to take depression medication.  It feels like failure - like you just don't have the strength to deal with it yourself.  And it's scary - because this is a medication that affects your mood and potentially your personality.

Well, let me make this clear - with the new medications out there, they don't change your personality. Except for the good (make you less depressed, less mean, less anxious, less clingy).  But they don't change who you are.  There can be side effects, but they tend to be minor - each one is different and affects each person differently - so if you do go on medication you need to be monitored and make sure that it is working for you.  You might have to try a couple to find the one that works best for you.

The side effects from the medications are generally well worth the benefits.  Odds are if you are going through a life event that is triggering the depression, that you won't be on the medication for long - maybe 6 months or a year (which, from the perspective of someone who has been off and on medication for 20 years seems like a short time).  It just helps you get over the hump - to get to a point where you can deal with it on your own.  If you have a chemical imbalance, then you may have to be on them long term like I am.  But from personal experience, I can tell you that taking the right medication is life-altering in a very good way.

Depression is a life-threatening disease - like heart disease or diabetes.  Although you can add exercise and a good diet to your routine to help mitigate the problems, if the disease is too far advanced you need meds - and no one would question someone taking medication after a heart attack or taking insulin if they have severe diabetes.  Same with depression.  If not treated, it can be a fatal disease.  

So, please, if you need medication, take it - even for a short time.  Until you do, you won't realize how bad it has been for you and everyone around you dealing with this illness.

And if you need to reach out to family and friends, do that, too.  It can also save your life.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Home Made Wagon Wheels turned S'Mores - back to reducing plastic

So I've been working a lot more than usual lately.  I didn't start my own tomatoes this year (which I've done for the past 7), and because we then decided to move to a larger house, I didn't plant a garden (a few potatoes are all we have - and a whole lot of weeds).  We've been buying snacks wrapped in plastic for school and home use.  I've also bought single-serving yogurts and pudding.  I haven't been thinking about the amount of plastic we are throwing out.

And seriously - I noticed the extra in our garbage and recycling.  There's lots more waste.

And then I saw this:

Now, this little 2-minute clip didn't send me back into nature-loving plastic-hating mode.  A lot of things had been building up and the recycling basket was bothering me.  I had noticed that we were getting lax, but this short film was the proverbial straw.

The box of 40 Wagon Wheels that we bought at Costco was the second-to-last straw.  So when I was at the grocery store yesterday I bought the ingredients to try making my own Wagon Wheels as school snacks.  Although loaded with sugar, if you look at the ingredients, the home-made variety shouldn't be as bad as the pre-packaged ones.  And my husband and son like their sweets - as do I.  I've tried to steer us away from them, but it doesn't really work.

Anyhow, I bought Graham crackers, marshmallows and a big bag of chocolate chips.  To the latter, my husband thought "Oh ... Honey ... NO!" - I hadn't told him my plans yet (I have a rather pushy chocolate addiction).

I started off the adventure melting some of the chocolate chips.  Melting chocolate can be tricky.  Melt in a double boiler (I use a bowl inside a pot).  If any moisture gets into it, it can turn clumpy and dry.  If that happens, add a little coconut oil or butter - something with an oil content - and add small amounts until it becomes liquid again.

Then I broke the Graham crackers into 4 rectangles (the Honey Maid ones are scored that way), put 3/4 of a marshmallow on top (I put a half a marshmallow - cut in half length-wise - and then a half of a half to mostly cover the cracker 1/4), placed the marshmallows on the crackers under a 400 degree broiler and watched closely until the marshmallows had a lovely golden hue - be careful if you try it, it really doesn't take long - maybe 30 or 60 seconds.

After that, I tried coating in chocolate to get the whole Wagon Wheel effect.  Well, that was tasty, but it added too much chocolate and made a huge mess.  So I decided to go for the S'More effect instead. After all - same ingredients, really.

And that worked very well:

Making these I have a tiny bit more control over what my family eats - and although it's not a plastic free snack (the graham crackers have plastic sleeves, the marshmallows come in a bag and so do the chocolate chips), it is less plastic and less packaging in general (I hope - although I have some doubts) - and the plastic bags this stuff comes in will go to recycling where the individual wrappers on the Wagon Wheels end up in the garbage.  I've wrapped them in parchment paper.  Some are in the freezer and some in the fridge.  I don't know how long they will last before they are gone, but I'm going to try to save them as school snacks.

Now, if I get organized, I could probably find all of these ingredients at a bulk store and could take my own containers.  Which I might start to do again.  It won't be more convenient, but are my convenience and my child's consumption of sugar more important then our planet?  I think that's a rhetorical question (or at least I hope it is).

We've been told for years that convenience is the way to go.  What it does is allows us to make more money so we can buy more stuff that makes life convenient so we can make more money and buy more stuff.  Believe me ... I'm part of that cycle.  I enjoy my work, I like buying stuff, and I appreciate things that are easy.  And doing the easy, convenient things is really easy and convenient.  But not for our planet - not for the ecosystem we rely on for our existence.  So ... back to doing the more labour-intensive stuff that maybe takes a bit of a load off the planet.  I hope.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Postcards #47 - Dick's journey across Canada Continued.

We already know that Dick (Richard Grant) got killed at Vimy Ridge, but I still have three more postcards that he wrote (and that, obviously, pre-date his death).  The first one listed here really should have been shared in the last post about him, as it is from the Rocky Mountains.  It is a "General View of New Grade Reduction Loops and Spiral Tunnels, Field, Canadian Rockies."

Oddly enough, I just drove through Field on Sunday with my family, and I mentioned the Spiral Tunnels in this past post.  But to re-cap, the spiral tunnels are train tunnels that loop around inside a mountain.  That way the grade could be lower than it would be on the surface, and it wouldn't be as dangerous for the trains and their crews.  In the first 6 km west of the Kicking Horse Pass summit, the Kicking Horse River drops 350m (1,150 ft), creating a 7 km long stretch of track with a 4.5% gradient called the Big Hill (a good 2.5% steeper than most modern railways).  The Big Hill was used (temporarily) from the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 for nearly 25 years until the Spiral Tunnels were completed in 1909 (only 6 years before Dick went through them on the train).  When dealing with the topography of the Rocky Mountains, sometimes you have to get creative - and these designers certainly did.  The tunnels still garner a lot of attention and have their own official stop with information panels explaining them.  You can read all about them here.

On the back of this postcard, Dick writes what is possibly the most poignant of all the messages to date.  Not because of what he wrote, but of what he was facing afterward:

"9th (or 8th) Nov 1915 On the train.  We are on our way to Berlin every one happy  Dick"

The second-to-last postcard from Dick to Jack is from the R.M.S. Missanabie, the ship he sailed the Atlantic on.  She was 520 feet long, 64 feet wide, had a depth of 41 feet and a gross tonnage of 13,000 (as noted on the front of the postcard - although another site stated 12,469 gt).  Built in 1914, the Missanabie was conscripted into use by the army and was torpedoed and sunk in 1918 off the coast of Kinsale, Ireland - in the same general area as the Lusitania 3 years before.

This one is post-marked Quebec City, but was posted from the ship.  The back reads:  "this is our boat we have got started all right.  started ___ on the 13th with a black crow on board.  we had the crow on our train so we are all right give my love to everyone and kiss Gladys for me  Dick."  Gladys was my then one-year-old grandmother.

It makes me rather sad to read these postcards now - knowing that Dick never came home, that he died in a nasty battle, that my grandmother never knew him, that he was lost to his family.  Just sad.  And that this hero was nearly lost to history's ravages (as were so, so many of them) is sad as well.

Read Next Postcard Post

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Postcards #46 - the awesome power of the Internet

I had an amazing history day Monday.

Two complete strangers contacted me through this blog to share information!  How cool is that?  Thanks to those two men I now have more pieces to fit into my puzzle!

One of them, out of the blue, sent a photograph of the Woodpark Asylum.  If you remember, my great-great-grandmother (Helen Steele, nee McKenzie) worked there as I mentioned in this earlier blog post.

Thank you to Neil Gray (who contacted me and shared the picture) and to Russell at Turriff Printing Services whose pamphlet the photo was in and who got back to me when I asked if he knew where it came from (he did not).  The source of the photo is unknown at this time.  As it turns out, Neil works for the company responsible for The Ladysbridge Village development.  They now own the property and the buildings and are converting them into housing - nice looking housing.

In this photo (which is of the same series as the one I shared in that previous post) you'll see Ladysbridge Asylum, and I've circled the Woodpark building here (sorry it's black and hard to see - top centre):

In this photo, it is the building to the right of the picture in the little patch of woods:

What I had read was that it was about a mile distant.  I think it's closer.  

The other person who contacted me is a long lost relative.  He is the grandson of the child my great-grandmother stayed in Scotland to care for before coming to Canada (read about it here).  His grandmother, Peggy Black, is the reason I exist at all.  If she hadn't been in need of motherly care, my great-grandmother would have died on the Titanic.  

To my knowledge, our family had lost touch with her - apparently after she was married, because they knew her married name.  But here is her grandson (with all the research in hand, I might say) passing along photos and information to me.  Bless him.  Here's a photo of Peggy and her husband Bill Black.

I certainly see a family resemblance.

So not only am I learning about my family history, I feel like the family is being slowly brought back together as well.  How blessed am I?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Irene - the Glamazon meets Mickey on her 90th birthday

I've been doing some research for the Royal Alberta Museum.  They are in the process of building a brand new museum and populating it with new displays.  I've been doing some of the research for the displays, looking for the photographs that will help illustrate some of them.  I've been totally blessed to do something that I LOVE to do, and to get paid for it as well.  How lucky am I?

In the process of doing this research, I learned about and got to talk to a fascinating woman, Irene Jewell.  I wrote about her very briefly in this earlier blog post.  When I started the research, I only knew that Irene was a burlesque dancer who was born in Alberta and who performed at the 1959 Calgary Stampede.  She was rather famous due to her height of 6 feet 8 inches.  But I've learned more ...

Irene Jewell was born Irene Siewert on February 26, 1925 in Alberta - on a homestead north of Edmonton.  She graduated high school in Sangudo.  Her parents were not short, but she far outgrew them, continuing to grow well into her 20s.  As a girl she wanted to be a singer and dancer, but didn't have access to the training she would require.  So she became Ricki Covette - "The Glamazon" - the world's tallest burlesque dancer:

Throughout the 50s, 60s (and maybe the 70s?) she wowed them with her performances.  She was always very professional and in charge of her own career.  She made herself the success she was.  She  performed on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and was even on the Gypsy Rose Lee show!

In 1959, she was hired by Royal American Shows - a travelling show out of Tampa, Florida, that brought the Midway to the Calgary Stampede from the 1930s to the 1970s.  So that year she was a performer on the Stampede midway.

She even worked Bourbon Street in New Orleans:

After the world's first sex-change operation happened in 1957, people started to accuse Irene of being a man - this was too much for her and she left burlesque to become a real estate agent.  After some time, she told me, she also worked as a bookkeeper to a man named Chuck Mitchell - who played the title role in the movie "Porky's".  She worked for him, I believe, until he died - she mentioned having to put him into several retirement homes before he found one that would stand for his unique crassness.

At some point (I'm not quite sure when), she met Stuart Jewell.  Stuart was a cinematographer who worked for 7 years for Walt Disney.  He worked several Disney films including the Oscar-winner "The Living Desert" (1953).  He also worked on creating time-lapse photography - being at least one of the cinematographers responsible for the time-lapse footage of Disneyland being built.  They travelled around the world continuing with his photography, but he was no longer working for Disney and nature movies were going out of favour.

When I started doing this research, I told a friend of mine (who happens to do Burlesque in Calgary currently) about Ricki Covette.  She was fascinated and wanted to know more.  The following day, she told me about this article she had found about Irene - and that she was still alive.  The article was talking generally about her life, but also about the fact that she had donated some of her possessions to the Smithsonian Museum.

So I Googled and found an address I thought might work and I sent Irene a letter explaining the research I was doing.  I thought nothing more of it.  These things don't always work, and I'd done my part of contact her, if she didn't get back to me, that would be the end of it.  But a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from Irene.  And we chatted for quite a while.  She told me about Stuart and her life, burlesque, real estate, Chuck ... and how she is still concerned about keeping her weight down (!).  And then I asked her where Costa Mesa, CA (where she lives) is located.  And she mentioned it was in Orange County.

Well, my family has a bit of an addiction to Disneyland, and it's in Orange County, so as a point of reference, I mentioned it and asked if she liked Disneyland.  Well, she had never been there!!  She said she had an opening day ticket from Disneyland (not really sure if it's quite that old, but maybe) and that she was going to take it there on her 90th birthday (about a month later) and see if they would let her in.

Our conversation ended and I mulled over all of the information I had just received.  What a fascinating woman - and what an adventure she had lived.  Even at almost 90 years old, she was still as lively as ever.  She had a nurse and a "wonderful boyfriend" and seemed to still be living a very full life.  Someone to aspire to - if I live that long, I hope I am in the shape she is in!

Later that day, a bolt of lightning hit me (you know those thoughts that are just too brilliant to have come from your own mind? - yeah, one of those).  My husband had recently hired Doug Lipp of G. Douglas Lipp and Associates to come to Edmonton and do some training with some employees here.  My hubby had also been to the Disney Institute to take similar training a few years ago.  He knew people associated with Disney!!  So I asked him to send out an e-mail to a couple of people and see if anyone would be interested in asking if Irene could get in and maybe they could use it for some publicity.

Well, Doug Lipp's wife, Pam, took the bull by the horns and got in touch with the people she knows at Disneyland.  Nothing happened for a couple of weeks.  I sent her several e-mails pestering to see if Irene was going to get to go to Disneyland.  I was a little obsessed - but so was Pam.  And Pam came through - she arranged for a friend of hers, Joanne, who was the 1982 Disneyland Ambassador and who has a silver pass to the park to take Irene!  It was going to happen.

About a week away from Irene's 90th birthday, The Disneyland Public Relations and Fan Club Departments got involved, set up tickets for everyone (so Joanne didn't have to use hers) and an interview (with Erin Glover) and photo shoot.

So on Thursday, February 26th, Irene Jewell's 90th birthday, Pam Lipp (who bought a plane ticket to get down there), Joanne Duner, Irene, and her wonderful boyfriend (I think - still haven't confirmed that -it's either her beau or her nurse, but it looks like her beau) spent a beautiful sunny day at Disneyland.  They enjoyed Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion attractions.  The Dapper Dans even sang her Happy Birthday:


Strangers from Canada and the U.S., all Disney fans, fell in love with Irene's story and pulled together (some at personal expense) to make her 90th birthday a very special one.

Irene ... I hope you had a wonderful day with some great memories.  And I hope you get to go back again sometime.

Pam sent me these photos that night - I know she took at least one of them, but the rest were taken by a photographer - you can see him and an interviewer in two of the photos. She really was a Disney Princess for the day.

Irene getting her "1st Visit" and "Happy Birthday" buttons at the same time - wonder if this is the first time it's happened on someone's 90th birthday?  Probably not, but maybe for an ex-burlesque dancer!

In front of the Candy Store.

The Dapper Dans sang Happy Birthday to her.

Irene handing over her vintage ticket.

Irene loving Goofy!  (from left to right are Pam, the beau (nurse?), Irene, Goofy and Joanne.

Irene being interviewed by Erin Glover.

Irene in the shade out front.

The photographer grabbing one of her in the sun with her shades.

Riding "It's a Small World" (I haven't found out what other attractions they went on).

The gang watching the Tea Cups - this one they didn't ride.


Please check out my postcard series starting here.