Monday, May 13, 2013

Learning to Love My Stomach

For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that weight and body image have been lifelong areas of growth and exploration for me. I spent the first 30 years of my life trying to lose weight. More recently, I’ve shifted to trying to appreciate and love my body just as it is. I haven’t talked about these issues publicly much, but depending on how this goes, I may post about food and body image again in the future.

I had an email exchange with a friend the other day in which we were commiserating about a shared shame of our stomach areas. Oh, the stomach - in my case, that is. For others, it’s their thighs, or their back, or their wrinkles. Almost every woman I know has a body part or feature that they cannot imagine ever coming to terms with, let alone appreciating, unless said feature changes dramatically or goes away altogether. I imagine this is true for many men, too, though I haven’t spoken with men about these issues as candidly as I have with women. And for my gender-queer and transgendered friends out there: I’d love to talk to you more about these issues!

When I told my friend that I had made progress around my tummy issues lately, she asked, “How did you do that?” And I was momentarily stumped. It’s been such a long process that I can hardly remember all of the twists, turns, and moments of awareness that have helped me make shifts. But, I really wanted to email her back with something better than, “Gee, I’m not sure.”

Once I thought about it, I came up with a few insights that have helped me to embrace my body, belly and all. In sharing these insights, I’m certainly not suggesting that they will, or should, work for anyone else. We’re each on our own journey, and I believe we’re right where we need to be on that journey. If these thoughts happen to resonate with you, great! If not, no sweat – it’s a beautiful thing that we’re all so different in body and mind. J

At times when I haven’t been able to appreciate the beauty of my body, I’ve at least been able to appreciate its functionality and its sensory capabilities. My body has taken me on hikes, it has danced, it feels pleasure, it tells me when I'm in danger... I try to thank it whenever I'm in a place of gratitude.

Another moment of insight arrived via the amazing Anne Cuthbert. I did a 3-month teleseminar program with Anne , during which she suggested that I do the following: "Imagine that your stomach is the sexiest thing about you, and that everyone who looks at you thinks, 'Oh wow, look at that beautiful, sexy stomach!" At first I thought it was bizarre, and I thought there was no way I would ever be able to do that... but, I figured I may as well try it. For a week I walked around letting my belly hang out and thinking, "Yeah, that's right. I have the sexiest belly around. You know you want it!" It still felt a little ridiculous... yet, in time, I started thinking, "Huh. There actually might be quite a few people out there who think my body is sexy just as it is. I’m not going to contradict them!" I’m shocked that there are now some days when I look in the mirror and legitimately believe that my stomach is sexy. Who knew this was possible?!?!?

That's me!
I also try to appreciate my body as a testament to the life I have lived and the struggles and challenges I’ve faced. Within my body (including my stomach) is the story of how much I have endured and overcome. It says that I am strong, that I am resilient, that I have hope.

Finally, I fervently wish that every woman could feel beautiful and loved in her current body, and I'm frustrated and saddened by the way our culture shames women's (and men’s) bodies. I almost think of it as an act of rebellion, and of solidarity with women everywhere, to challenge the dominant culture and say, "That's right - I love my body as it is, even though it does not fit into your idea of what it should look like. For the sake of myself and women everywhere, I refuse to let you tell me my body needs to change. Accept it or move on. Your issues are not mine to take on."

With all that said... there are still days when I look in the mirror and wish I could make my stomach smaller. But I'm more kind to myself now than I have been in the past. Again, I share all this not to prescribe what’s right for others, but with the intention of spreading awareness about these issues – and with the hope that someone will read this and know that they are not alone on this journey.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Maui, Part 2

This is part 2 in a much-belated series about our Hawaiian vacation...

Since it was still early in our trip (Day two! We felt like we'd already been in Hawaii for a week!), Dylan+painkillers could still walk without much pain... so, off we went on a hike. We started out by leaving the daylight behind and entering into a dense, dark bamboo forest.


Dylan felt like he was stepping into another world. He especially enjoyed the off-the-map detours into the heart of the forest (don't try that at home, kids). 

We were rewarded at the end of the hike by the sight of a towering, hurts-your-neck-to-look-at-it, waterfall. Naturally, I had to try some jump shots at the base. Unfortunately, our timing was off on every single shot, resulting in gems such as this one:

Rest assured, folks, this was not an attempt to out-Pamela Ms. Anderson. This is my wind-up to the ensuing jump, which, as you can see, was not captured by anyone.

By the time we made it back from our hike, we were pretty exhausted. We headed back to our little hippie haven, where we were greeted by the best Bailey replacement we could have hoped for: Stripes!

He was a pretty busy cat, being the Master of His Own Domain and the only pettable creature for miles around, but he wasn't too busy to snuggle up with us in our cabin that night.

(We promise, Bailey, it's not that we stopped loving you... It's just that we were so far away from each other, and you weren't around when we really needing some feline company. It only happened once, we swear, and it won't happen again.)

Why does blogging take so freaking long? Hopefully more to come on our NOVEMBER Hawaii vacation soon...

Friday, May 3, 2013

สวัสดี - That's how you say "hello" in Thai!

One of the biggest perks of my current job is that I get two months off in the summer. Unlike Dylan, who will get two months off every single year for the rest of his life, I have a limited window of opportunity here, so I'm taking full advantage of my good fortune. And I am going to Thailand! And Vietnam!! For five weeks!!!

I depart on June 2nd (but don't arrive at my destination until June 4th - that's gonna be rough) and I return on July 10th. Historically I've followed my mother's tradition of packing at 3:00 am the night before leaving, but this time I'm planning ahead and happily spending my weekends preparing for my journey. Behold my goodies!

Clockwise from top left, clockwise: rehydration salts, money belt, antibiotics, universal adapter, first aid kit, travel guide, and neck pillow.

I also made the very adult decision to purchase travel insurance through this company. For $132 (which amounts to $3.38 per day) I'm covered for anything bad that could ever happen to me while I'm away. Baggage delay? Covered. Flight canceled? No sweat. Need a $500,000 medical evac? No problem. Not that I want to dwell on the possibilities, but it feels pretty good to have that assurance.

Who, you ask, will watch Bailey while I'm away? Why, Dylan will, of course!

 (Boo, trying to eat my birthday chocolate)

That's right - I'm traveling solo this time around. Still not sure why I chose to take my first solo trip to a place where I not only do not speak the language but also cannot READ anything. And for over a month! I'm hoping to meet some fellow solo travelers along the way, and I'm also looking forward to developing comfort with solitude.

We'll see how it goes. I'll try to keep folks updated via bogging during my travels (anyone have a used tablet I can take off their hands?). For now, I'm having fun letting my imagination run wild with dreams of Thai basil, beaches, massages, temples, jungles, and adventures as yet unknown!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Grown Up Vacation: MAUI!

At the ripe old age of 30 (32 for Dylan) we finally got our act together and managed to save up for a grown-up vacation (no scholarships or parental subsidies involved!). After a one-stop flight from Portland, we landed in the tropical paradise of Maui and promptly headed out... in our convertible!

The convertible was entirely Dylan's idea. Back in Portland, during the planning phase, I told him, "Sure we can rent one if you find it for $250 for the entire week"--assured, of course, that this was an impossible feat. Five minutes later, I heard Dylan exclaim on the phone, "We'll take it!" It turned out to be the shittiest convertible on earth--with mirrors that didn't move and visors that were falling off, but we had the wind in our hair and the sunshine on our faces, so we didn't care much. Who needs visors, anyway, when you have a sexy convertible hat (purchased especially for the trip)!

We started our week in paradise by driving the twisty, winding road to Hana, filled with waterfalls and gorgeous views of the coastline. ("The pavement was very beautiful," adds Dylan, who couldn't really look at anything else while he was driving). We made the mistake of not arriving at our final destination while it was still daylight - and braved a terrifying drive in the dark on a cliff-edged road, with oncoming local drivers who clearly had no fear of death. We arrived at our "resort" at night and were warned not to step on any toads on the way to our rustic, private cabin. The toads got lucky. We headed straight to our cabin and tucked in under a pretty-but-annoying mosquito net.

We were pretty pumped when we woke up the next morning to discover this sunrise view right outside our door!

The most spectacular part of this post thus far (for those of you who know me), is the word sunrise. Yes, that's right, I arose, entirely of my own volition, at an hour that I normally consider "the middle of the night," and I even managed to crack out a smile for the camera. Clearly, I had a time zone change on my side.

We then walked around the property--several acres of beautifully landscaped grounds dotted with private cabins--and found the communal kitchen, where several aging hippies had congregated. They ate chia seeds and vegan lasagna, talked about the energy healing they had just had done, and lectured us about how to compost pineapple.

We bonded the next day with a couple from San Francisco who also did not like vegan lasagna, and felt much better about ourselves.

Given the early hour, we made a beeline for the road and beat the crowds to the Seven Sacred Pools (aka, O'heo Gulch), which we had nearly entirely to ourselves.

This picture does not do any justice to the magnificent pools, which cascade into one another before finally flowing into the crashing ocean waves. Good thing we went early - a few hours later it was crawling with tourists. On our way back we ran into a giant banyan tree, which is well known for its climbing and limbo-ing properties:

"It's like the earth is sprouting up to support the tree," says Dylan, who marveled at this unique medley of earth and plant. (***Warning: Pretending to be a koala bear while clinging to a banyan tree root may result in giant, painful, long-lasting, purple bruises on your inner thighs.)

(To be continued...)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring is in the Air!

After a leisurely Saturday breakfast of eggs and soldiers (soft-boiled eggs and toast, a tradition I picked up while honeymooning in Ireland), I peeked out the window and noticed that all the clouds were... GONE?!?!? Hmmm. I had been planning on recovering from my harrowing week by lounging around on the couch all day, but this rare gem (a warm, cloudless Saturday in Portland) was a little too rare to pass up. Drive out to the coast, I thought? No, I wouldn't make it past Beaverton, since half of Oregon would have had the same brilliant idea. Glancing around my living room, I took inspiration in my birthday present from Dylan. Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Pepper (above).

Pepper is a Schwinn beauty, so named for her "salt-and-pepper" coloring, the "S" on her seat that looks like it belongs on a salt shaker, and her feisty spirit. Pepper is a looker. She turns heads and garners comments from total strangers along the lines of, "Nice Cadillac ya' have there!" She even gets me compliments! I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Nice seat!" and "Look at that coloring!" Sometimes people even get really inappropriate and say things like, "Now doesn't that look like a comfortable ride." Sheesh.

But I digress. After spotting Pepper sadly tucked away in our living room corner, I decided it was time to take her out for a springtime jaunt. We squeezed into Emmy Lou (my car) and drove half an hour out to Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is indeed an island, though unusual in that it is surrounded by two rivers. It can be accessed via this bridge:

Sauvie Island is yet another reason I love living in Portland. It's so close, and so charming! It boasts a quaint countryside, featuring farms and livestock,

beautifully symmetrical rows of (some sort of) produce,

and photographic opportunities aplenty (especially for those with fancy cameras, unlike my point-and-shoot--but hey, it held up pretty well!).

You can even see Mt. Hood in the background!!!! (Sigh.) Indeed, it was such a beautiful day that it seemed every living creature had made its way out to Sauvie Island to play.

This horse was rolling around in the warm dirt. I was tempted to join in.
I like to think that we made a connection, as he later on stopped by to say hello (then again, I suppose it could have been the fistfuls of grass in my hand that attracted his attention).
Cows lounged lazily in the shade,

except for this guy, who apparently fancied himself Ferdinand the Bull:

Photographers were out in full force,

as were cyclists:

All of the cyclists who passed me were friendly enough, but I'm pretty sure they were either snickering with derision or overcome with waves of nostalgia as they witnessed my blatant lack of spandex:

Twelve miles into my ride (that is to say, at the end of it), I figured I had earned myself a picnic lunch consisting of an apple, cheddar-with-chives and turkey on a baguette, and the tasiest water for miles around:

Special thanks to Tee for the phenomenal water bottle, which kept me well-hydrated.

(Ahhh, that's more like it)
I wrapped up my adventure by driving out to the Sauvie Island beaches, where I didn't pay for a parking pass and, mercifully, did not get a parking ticket. Rumor has it that tucked away between these wholesome, family-friendly beaches there is a nude beach. I've yet to find it.


And that's all, folks. You're always welcome to join me and Pepper on a leisurely ride!


P.S. I have not-so-secret fantasies about living in a tiny little house like this one, in a semi-remote place like Sauvie Island, where I can bake bread every weekend, sow my imaginary garden, and tend to my three chickens, Isabelle, Betsy, and Fluffers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Raise a Glass to the Irish!

Here's to you, Dave and Rachel, bearers of sweet nectar from the gods! I'm talking about Irish mead, also known as honey wine. Dylan and I received a jug of this divine stuff as a wedding gift, and we finally broke it open for our 2011 St. Patty's Day dinner. Little did we know the delight that was in store for us. Witness the progression:

Mmmm! Oh, this is rather tasty stuff!
OMG, it's AMAZING. Dylan, you'll have to wrestle this from my cold, dead body!
Aaaaarghhhhh!!! Yummm m m m m mmuuuummmm!

Daaaaavvveee.... Damn you, Dave.

  Erin go Braugh!