November 18, 2011

Roses and thorns

I've been writing a lot less in general, but this week I was extra silent. To be honest, this has been a pretty exhausting week mentally.

I had my first observation by my new coordinator on Wednesday, which was mildly stressful - I typically enjoy getting observed, but since this was my first time at this new university, I guess I was just extra nervous. It was also interesting, I suppose, because my coordinator doesn't speak a word of French. I think that somehow made me more nervous; since it's introductory French, even someone who doesn't speak a word of the language should still be able to understand most of what I am trying to communicate. I think it went well, though - we'll meet to discuss after the Thanksgiving break. She did say afterwards that she enjoyed the class and that she loves my French accent, if that counts for anything!

Another thing that made this week stressful was a discussion I had with one of my students, who was discussing the lecturer who previously held my position at this university, and some specifics on why she was let go from the job. Without getting into too many details of the situation, I guess there was a tragic incident involving one of our students, and her relationship with the young man (professionally) was called into question.

It had me thinking a lot about the students I work with, and about people in general. How you never really know someone's story, so you ought to treat everyone fairly and with respect. It reminded me of a kid I taught back in Chicago. To be totally honest, I couldn't stand him - he was incredibly annoying and a bit of a smart aleck. But the kid adored me and my class - at the end of the school year, he even gave me a copy of a film he told me repeatedly that I should watch (but that I never really sought out on my own). In the second semester of teaching him, he missed two weeks of class at a time; he later came to my office with documentation because he had spent some time in the hospital. This was a very boisterous, very social kid that I would not have imagined to have issues with stress, anxiety, and depression. And since then, I guess I've taken extra care in observing student behaviors, in making sure everyone feels welcome and comfortable in my classroom, that I don't show preferences or treat any student differently than anyone else.

With that weighing pretty heavily on my heart, I've also been feeling a little down because it's my birthday this weekend. I guess that deserves a post of its own, though, so I'll expand upon that on Sunday with whatever recipe I dream up.

Weight is down two more pounds this week, to 196. I'm glad to be losing, but not celebrating anything just yet. My new eating plan seems to be working - but the real test will be continued loss and dropping into the 180s. I've figured out how to turn a good day into a string of good days, and those become an overall good week. Now: to practice stringing together good weeks.

I still owe you my thoughts on my plateau after conversations I had in Chicago. Soon, I promise.

November 14, 2011

Fire Up: Week Nine

My positive picture for the week:

I ran five miles yesterday for my half marathon training - my longest distance since I left Chicago. As much as I love short and fast runs, there's something really relaxing and enjoyable about taking it easy and running for a long time. Claire, my healthy living idol and Do Life twin soul back in Chicago, posted a brilliant quote on her blog a while ago that hits it perfectly for me, I think:
I knew aerobic exercise was a powerful antidepressant, but I hadn't realized it could be so profoundly mood stabilizing and - I hate to use the word - meditative. If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them.

Christopher McDougall, "Born to Run"
I'm not quite at four hours yet, but I know the feeling, and I love it.

What have you done this week towards your goals?

(1) I weighed in before I left for Chicago at 198. Came home 200. Last Friday, I was back to 198. My 185 goal will not be met, but as long as I continue to make progress in the right direction, I will feel okay about this.
(2) After dinner eating has not been an issue in a few weeks - that I am certainly pleased about.
(5) I completed another 101-in-1001 goal: #98, make a wish at 11:11 on November 11, 2011.

I was out riding my bike when it happened. I'm not typically a wisher, but with all those elevens, it felt appropriate, and I cast my wish out at just the right time. Can't say what I wished for because then it won't come true, but I can already see gears in motion, and I'm feeling very hopeful.

What have you done to make yourself feel fabulous?

I started eating differently. I don't want to get too into it until I make significant progress, but I just feel amazing. I was 200 pounds last Monday and am down to 196 as of yesterday morning. Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Mixing things up is just what I needed, I think - I've been at a plateau for far too long, and for a smart person, I've certainly been ignoring the obvious in terms of what needs to happen.

Something I'm proud of:

Full jars of peanut butter are still a few steps away, but I'm at a point where I can keep the single-serve containers in the house again. I had some on a banana after my run yesterday morning, and it suddenly dawned on me that the container of peanut butter only has 250 calories if I eat the whole thing. Just take a scoop out, spread it on the banana, and save the rest for later. Totally simple, but a necessary lightbulb moment.

Mark my words: I'm gonna do well at this long-term.

What is the most positive thing you've taken away from this challenge?

Strengthening my stick-to-it-ive-ness. I'm not going to make the most important goal I set for myself, but I'm far from throwing in the towel.

It's your last week, the run to the finish, what is your priority?

Keep eating well, keep moving, keep getting enough sleep, keep drinking enough water, keep saving money, keep being positive.

Desert Island, you can take 1 person, 1 famous person, and 3 items besides food and water. Who and What do you take?

1 - My little brother, because I miss him so much these days. Chicago and Connecticut were far enough apart, but now we're on opposite coasts, and it's tough.
2 - Julia Child, if she were alive. Her book "My Life in France" completely changed my life. So inspirational!
3 - notebooks/pens for documenting everything, a Scrabble board, and my running gear :)

November 13, 2011

Pumpkin black bean chili

It's finally starting to look and feel like autumn in central California, and not a moment too soon. It's still relatively warm compared to what I'm used to, between Connecticut and Chicago. But the leaves are changing and starting to fall just in time for my birthday next Sunday, so that's good enough for me. It's funny, as a kid, I always wanted a pool party for my birthday, but seeing as my birthday is in the end of November, that just wasn't possible. I don't think I'll be swimming on my birthday, but it's technically an option, and that's so strange to me.

It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Atwood:
As for my birth month, a detail of much interest to poets, obsessed as they are with symbolic systems of all kinds: I was not pleased, during my childhood, to have been born in November, as there wasn't much inspiration for birthday party motifs. February children got hearts, May ones flowers, but what was there for me? A cake surrounded by withered leaves? November was a drab, dark and wet month, lacking even snow; its only noteworthy festival was Remembrance Day. But in adult life I discovered that November was, astrologically speaking, the month of sex, death and regeneration, and that November First was the Day of the Dead. It still wouldn't have been much good for birthday parties, but it was just fine for poetry, which tends to revolve a good deal around sex and death, with regeneration optional.
So brilliant.

One of the odd things about the late onset autumn is that it's felt a little strange eating typical fall foods. I don't crave soups because it's still warm - it still feels like sandwich and salad season. So with the current chilly weather, I've taken advantage and made some soups for loading up my freezer.

Exhibit A:

Pumpkin black bean chili. Delicious, nutritious, simple, and cheap. My four favorite things!

1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup of canned or frozen corn
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin purée
28 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup of vegetable broth
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 tbsp. paprika
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
In a 6-8 quart pot over medium heat, cook onions in water until translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, but not overly browned. Add all spices and stir. Add vegetable broth and let simmer for 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce hear and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This was amazingly delicious, with a nice subtle pumpkin flavor (I made it a week or so ago, and ate one of my frozen containers last night - the pumpkin definitely was more pronounced in the leftovers). With the ingredients I used, it made six big servings for 195 calories each. I also made my dad's cornbread to go with it - which I also cut into six pieces and froze in individual bags, to take out with the chili as needed.

Cornbread à la corn
1 box corn muffin mix (we use Jiffy brand)
1 14 oz. can creamed corn
Cook muffin mix according to instructions on the package, substituting creamed corn for milk and egg.

It's as easy as that! 185 calories for a good sized piece (in the picture above, that's one slice broken into two pieces!). I've also made it with canned pumpkin and a shake of cinnamon instead of creamed corn, and it was quite good.

What about you? How do you like your chili? What foods scream 'autumn' to you?