Day 1 of Me Made May 2017

I woke up this morning and completely forgot it was May. As in #MeMadeMay. Sorry for the inelegant photo of my first day of the me-made pledge, but it was the best I could do on short notice. (Hey, you can only see a little of the toilet, so not a total selfie fail.)IMG_20170430_220955

This jacket is “Bolero Style Jacket” from the Japanese sewing book Happy Homemade Sew Chic by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I changed the pattern a bit to work well with this crazy border print knit fabric I had. I lengthened the body of the jacket and the sleeves, and I added a clasp at the front. I’m wearing a RTW top and pants.

I  don’t have enough seasonally appropriate me-made clothing to wear an item every day all month, but I have ramped up my participation steadily during the past couple of years. I’ll push myself by pledging to wear me-made items five days out of seven in a week.

I, Diane of Distaff Blog, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May’17. I endeavor to wear me-made clothes five days out of each week for the duration of May.

Who else is in?

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Plant a Tree

I bought a tree yesterday. An Eastern redbud, variety “Carolina Sweetheart,” with red variegated leaves and dark pink flowers.

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We went to a fancy garden center to get it. Few places scream “distaff side” more than a fancy garden center. Farming is  a man’s world. The garden is where the gals go.

We no sooner arrived than the extras from Central Casting appeared: The skinny old WASP-y woman in khakis and tennis shoes, the tummy pooch from mothering 3 or 4 children, broad-brimmed hat shading her face, deeply lined from too much sun and too many cigarettes in her youth. The Earth Mother in jangling bracelets, who let it be known to all within earshot that she drove up from New Jersey that morning because she just had to have such and whatnot. The 30-something French-manicured mom who wants to rip out every living thing from her newly purchased property that she hates and replace it with other living things that she loves, for now.

Some male employees took them around, showing off the plants and listening to these women’s garden glories. The message was plain on these men’s faces, under their hipster beards: “Whatever you want, lady.”

I fled to the ornamental tree section and browsed the redbuds. A young woman who worked at the garden center asked if I needed help. She was maybe 5’2″ with dark hair clubbed into a short ponytail under a floppy sun hat. She wore black-framed glasses and sturdy boots and dirty jeans. Under the V-neck of her T-shirt I glimpsed part of a tattoo of a magnolia blossom (I knew it was a magnolia because under the blossom, “magnolia grandiflora” skated across in script). I also glimpsed a nest of curly auburn armpit hair.

We got to talking, and guess what? She lives a couple blocks away from me. She rides her bike to work in the garden center – at least an hour’s ride up some steep hills. She was funny and knowledgeable and confident. In short, I wanted to be her.

OK, not her exactly. She’s probably half my age, for starters, and no way do I want to be in my 20s again. But her life as I glimpsed it and assumed it to be appealed to me. How nice it would be, to do what I love on my own terms? I don’t know if I’d stop shaving my pits, but I’d love to wear my handmade clothes, eat my fill from my garden, write and just be, on my own terms, more often than I do today.

What’s stopping me? Fear of poverty, I can tell you that. I’ve always been driven to earn money and achieve more and more in my career. That’s brought me to a big job at a big company in a big city, living in a big house with big bills to pay. Has it brought happiness? Not really. I enjoy this life, for sure. But part me of always wonders what it would be like without it all.

When I was in my 20s I tried the bohemian life, but bolted for convention quickly. You marry, buy a house, get your first “real” job. Maybe you have a kid or two. You may want to go back to a simpler time, but you also need to be a grown-up, so you keep going.

Someone with a better sense of humor than mine once said: “If everyone actually did what they wanted to do when they were young, the world would have way too many ballerinas and not nearly enough garbagemen.”

True enough. So I will plant my tree, inhale its floral scent in spring, sit under its shade in summer, collect its autumn leaves, gaze at its naked limbs in winter, and think about what might have been.

Funkytown

I’ve been in a funk for the past week. I was on a business trip to India, which was exhausting and exciting and fun and scary all at the same time. When I got home I dealt with jet lag for a couple of days. But there’s some other kind of lag going on still.

Since I was gone for a week, it seems like everyone has been making up for it by being on my ass about everything. The house needed cleaning. My husband’s needy and whiny. Stuff piled up at work. Bills needed paying. Even the damn dog is like, “Pet me! Pet me NOW!”

All I want is to sit somewhere, quietly and alone, and just not have to deal with anything. I actually had a fantasy of just getting a hotel room so I could sit in it and be quiet for a while with nothing to do, no place to go, no one expecting anything of me.

Of course I didn’t do that…

And because I am pretty out of sorts I am making it worse for myself by hauling around resentment. I struggle to ask people for what I need. I just go along, silently, tired and annoyed, one day after the other.

I finally chose to take a week off in a couple of weeks. This little vacation is meant to get my garden in, and I will definitely do some gardening that week. But mostly I look forward to a few days when I don’t really HAVE to do anything. I will do what I want, as much as possible.

I need to frame this vacation to my husband, or I risk him taking over. Whenever I have some time off, errands always pop up. Or he comes home early from work. Or friends want to get together. Or I have to wait around the house all day for FedEx or the chimney cleaning guy or some such nuisance.

I told my husband Friday that I am taking off a week in May. I am run down, I said. I need some time to just relax and get a break from work. I really don’t want to be bothered with anything, OK?

OK. We’ll see.

Dealing with a Hungry Day

Even after years of (mostly) maintaining a big weight loss, I sometimes still have hungry days. You know, those days when you are truly hungry all day and you can’t do anything about it. Actually, you CAN do something about it. You can just stuff your face with whatever and accept the consequences. Or you can fight through it and be miserable all day.

Yesterday, I chose option #2. Here’s how I got through it, with only a little misery. (This is a detailed run-down of the day, maybe TMI for you but important for me to remember what I did and why.)

I was hungry when I got up. I am often hungry when I get up, but since I had a good protein-packed dinner (restaurant meal of mixed grill of 3 ounces each steak and chicken, plus 3 shrimp, a big tossed salad, a half a sweet potato and some brown bread), I was a bit surprised at the hunger pangs. I always plan ahead and build in enough time before I leave for my 6 a.m. train to cook and eat a good breakfast, usually an egg sandwich and some fruit or plain Greek yogurt with sliced almonds and fruit. Yesterday I was tripped up by bad outfit planning and I needed to iron a pair of pants at the last minute. No time to eat, so I grabbed a package of Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars to have on the train.

A word about Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars: They’re better than nothing, better than a pastry or fast-food breakfast. But that’s about all I’ll say. Some liken them to “eating peanut butter cookies for breakfast.” Not quite that bad, but still, there are three kinds of sugar in them (cane syrup, raisin paste and honey). Nutrition info here if you like gory details.

With Kind bars, I make a little deal with myself. I eat them in a pinch, and I agree when I eat them that I will be hungry a couple hours later and will just tough it out until lunchtime. That is, I won’t eat these bars for breakfast on the go, and then eat a second breakfast when I get to the office like some white-collar Hobbit.

Right on schedule, I was hungry at 9 a.m. I had packed my lunch the night before, including some grapes for an afternoon snack. I tried my usual ways of coping. I had some water. I had some hot herbal tea. I tried to concentrate on work. At 9:45 I broke down and ate the grapes. So I considered myself in a deficit.

Lunch could not come fast enough. I had a glass of water and tried to immerse myself in work until 11:30. Then I heated up what I thought would be a pretty filling, protein-packed lunch – 3 ounces each of leftover chicken and steak, plus 1/2 a sweet potato and 1 cup of green beans with olive oil.

I was hungry again at 3. This was getting ridiculous. I mean, the morning I could see because of some dubious choices, but that was a big lunch. I had more herbal tea. I took a 15-minute walk outside to get some air and distract myself. By 4 p.m. I had a headache, which is the usual outcome of being hungry all day, but I knew if I took something for it, I’d have an upset stomach. My back-up plan – the grapes – were gone. I grabbed an apple from the office fridge. This was not my apple, but it had been hanging around in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I stole it. Yes, I am that person. (I replaced it today.)

At 4:30 I left work for home. The apple made no difference. I had to decide: do I eat something caloric but guaranteed to fill me up, or do I tough it out? I told myself: I’m tough. I can take it.

I got home at 7, ravenous and with a brain-splitting headache. My husband prepares dinner Thursdays. He bought a rotisserie chicken from Costco – no veggies, no salad, no sides, no nothing. So I quickly steamed some asparagus, tossed with olive oil, and defrosted 1-cup chunk of homemade macaroni and cheese. I gobbled down almost half a chicken, half a pound of asparagus and half the mac and drank two big glasses of water. I still felt hungry, but at this point I knew my brain and my body had not caught up, so I waited. The headache subsided but did not go away completely.

I wrote down all my food for the day and was a couple calories shy of my daily intake plan. I also hit my exercise goal (walking 10,000 steps).

At 9, still feeling hungry, I had another choice to make: do I tough it out or eat something else to try yet again to stop the hungries? If I tough it out, I risk insomnia and a worse headache. If I eat something, it might work, it might not. There’s no guarantee the hunger will end, but maybe my brain will finally realize I have had plenty to eat. If I say “the heck with it” and pig out, I won’t feel hungry anymore, but I also might sleep poorly and will feel pretty lousy tomorrow just the same.

At this point, I was feeling desperate. So I ate a small piece of leftover frozen pizza that had been in the fridge since the weekend. I was over my calories for the day by about 200. I brushed my teeth and went to bed. It was 9:30.

I woke up this morning, very hungry again, with a splitting headache again. I am in for a second day of this torture. It’s almost lunchtime, my head hurts, and I am very hungry, despite a good breakfast.

I am telling this story not to get your sympathy or to just vent about how hard weight loss and maintenance are. I am just trying to show what happens, some days, when you do the best you can and you feel like nothing goes right.

I was in a hole from the minute I woke up. I tried to fill the hole as best I could. I made a lot of great choices and a few not-so-great ones. The simple act of eating – the most basic bodily function that most of us enjoy and many of us take for granted – utterly exhausted me. I don’t feel defeated, but I do feel humbled and angry. Even after years at the weight-loss maintenance game, I get down sometimes.

 

 

Why I Am on Strike Today

Today is International Women’s Day. In recognition of the day, in the US, activists have called for a general strike by all women. The strike means:

  • No work, either paid (a job) or unpaid (housework, caregiving)
  • Don’t spend any money
  • Wear red in solidarity

I am doing all these things today. Why? Let me lay out my reasons:

  • I don’t like being taken for granted.
  • I want my voice heard about inequalities in the workplace and in the home.
  • I want to demonstrate that women are a big part of the economy.
  • I want to continue the momentum from the Women’s March in January.

Many women I know are on board and many women are not. Here are some common criticisms and my responses:

Q: How nice for you that you can take a day off from work with no penalty. Doesn’t this “strike” smack of privilege?

A: Yeah, it does smack of privilege. So what? I am able to take off a day from work without taking a hit to my bank account or imperiling my job. I am fortunate. I am speaking for those who cannot.

Q: You’re not in a union. You like your job and you’re well-paid. Why take out your political frustrations on your employer?

A: Even if you are well paid and well treated at your workplace, you can bet that others are not. Some women at your workplace are paid less than men for doing the same work. Some women didn’t get promotions or plum assignments or other opportunities because they’re women, a mother to young children, pregnant, or caregiver for someone. Some women at your workplace have to deal with sexism, bias, hostility and harassment. You are affected by these things even if you don’t personally deal with them every day. Speak for those who cannot, those who are silenced by trauma and fear.

Q: Why take this out on people who need you, like your husband, kids or parents?

A: Don’t tolerate emotional blackmail. If your husband has to cook and do the dishes, he’ll live. If he does not “get” the purpose of the strike, you have bigger problems in your marriage to worry about. You’d be surprised what your kids can do on their own if they have to. Any child over the age of 3 or 4 can dress themselves, feed themselves, use the toilet and other basic tasks. Your kid may be dressed weird or may have cereal for dinner, or their hair may be messy or their teeth poorly brushed, but again, for one day, they’ll live. Older children can help younger ones. If you’re truly the caregiver for someone helpless – an infant, an elderly parent – then of course it’s not right to let them suffer. Get your husband, brother or son to do whatever they can. You do what must be done but no more.

Q: Doesn’t the “no spending money” hurt woman-owned businesses too?

A: Of course. Some strikers have decreed it’s OK to spend money on a woman-owned business, but I disagree. No business is going to go under because women don’t spend money there for one day. It’s about demonstrating our economic power. Often, businesses that cater to women – the hair salon, the boutique, the yoga studio – are really owned by men anyway. Be sure you know who owns the businesses you frequent! Some friends and I came up with a list of women-owned businesses in our city, and we pledged to use these businesses whenever possible.

Q: Wear red? Really?

A: OK, I think the whole “wear this” directive is kinda juvenile, but I suck it up and do it because it’s part of the visual statement we need to make. One of the reasons the Women’s March was such a success was because all the pink pussyhats  made a major statement. I would prefer that we stuck with pink, but whatever. I have my red sweater on.

Q: So, basically, you’re just going to be lazy for the day, right?

A: Yes and no. I am taking some “me” time today to work on a sewing project. I did a good workout at home this morning. I will enjoy a glass of wine tonight when my husband makes dinner and cleans up. But I am also taking action, including writing this blog, and going to a demonstration later today. Do whatever you want! You’ve earned it!

 

 

Too Cool for 8174

When I was younger and overweight, I wanted a black leather motorcycle jacket,  but I could not find anything in the stores that fit me. So, I had one custom-made at a small leather shop run by immigrants from one of those Eastern European countries where the women use magenta hair dye.

When I lost the weight, the jacket no longer fit, so with a heavy heart I donated it to Goodwill.

Now today, I have developed the sewing skills to make one on my own. So when I got the itch for a new jacket – this time in red ultrasuede – I thought I could do it.

Ta da!

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This is Simplicity 8174, a “Mimi G Style” jacket. I think it’s the best of the current crop of moto and bomber jacket patterns out there, especially if you have a curvy figure. It has nice RTW features, such as shoulder vents in the back, tab-and-button details (I used silver metal studs) and zippered pockets.

Its asymmetrical design features a zipper  in the princess seam, so you need to sew one side of the jacket and then the other. This seemed inefficient to me, but I learned my lesson when I accidentally sewed on the shoulder yoke, forgetting that the zipper needed to go in first.

I made a few adjustments, and one I wish I had made. This has a rather high bust, at least for a woman looking at the back end of 40. So I wish I had moved down the bust point an inch. I also widened the bicep a tiny bit and made my usual forward shoulder adjustment.

I lined the jacket with silk charmeuse left over from a failed dress project. I had to piece the lining together a bit to get it to work, but I don’t think it’s that noticeable.

My husband likes it – partly because he thinks I now need a motorcycle to go with it!

Why Can’t I Get It Together?

I have been trying to lose 10 pounds for 6 months now. Instead of losing, I gained 5. Why can’t I get it together?

I have kept off over 50 pounds for several years now, so I know perfectly well how to do this. I just cannot get into a groove. I will lose a few pounds and then slack off, for so reason I can fathom.

OK.

Maybe I can fathom a few reasons. Boredom, complacency, laziness, denial. Sometimes, I don’t care all that much. And then I have to squeeze into clothes that fit well 15 pounds ago, and I get so mad at myself. I am just so damn SICK of it all.

You see, I got me what’s called “a bad attitude.”

I was reminded last night of what’s the matter with me. I got my hair done and then went out to dinner with my husband. My hairdresser used to be overweight and unhealthy – smoking, drinking – and then she shaped up. She is very fit and slim and talks constantly about her various exercise, eating and cooking routines. All I can think of when she talks is “what a bore.” As I was paying at the desk, she left for her evening workout, dressed in athletic gear, looking great. And all I could think was, “I don’t want to have to work that hard to stay in shape.”

We went for dinner at an Asian noodle shop that my husband has raved about. I was in such a foul mood – pretentious hipster place, very crowded with college students, Genesee Cream Ale on tap, for chrissakes. I ordered the lightest thing on the menu – a chicken-based pho with veggies – and ate maybe half of it. Washed it down with several glasses of water. Thought, as I was eating it, “You’re going to be bloated AF tomorrow from the salt in this.”

And I am, so I guess I know a bit about what I am doing.