While you were out…

Been an exceptionally long time since I have posted a blog, I hope you have missed me almost as much as I have, because I have missed me as well as missing you, my readers. I am currently balancing two jobs, one of them is seasonal and I am still looking forward to the first of my second paychecks but the additional 22 hours a week are already in full swing.

Also I am proud to report my garden is growing  even better this season. Check out the pre and post transplant pictures. Sadly my marigolds are pathetic and I will be replanting my greens and probably bringing it inside, due to my own watering malfunction it looks like my collards are dead and my arugula is as well. I mulched thoroughly as our weather is so unpredictable and that is supposed to help. My fall crops are melons, watermelon and cantalope; zucchini; cucumbers; and four different kinds of baking pumpkins. Fingers crossed for a bumper crop. Hey, last season was my first “crop” ever in Arizona! It entailed 1 edible cantalope, 1 edible winter squash, loads of arugula and loads of collards. Onward and upward with BrownThumb Homesteading!

I am also learning to knit lace. My goal is a faroese shawl for two special realtives for Christmas out of hand died silk. No pics because, well, they may read this. So that is happening as well.

And there is some professional writing happening as well. And somewhere in all this I am still working with my two wonderful young male patients, trying to train to do a Sprint Triathlon again, absorbing and processing a rather insistent round of losses in my life, perfecting new vegan recipes, learning to read spanish  (want to read poems and literature, still kind of Dick and Jane level) and of course reading for pleasure and seeing friends and family.

These are not meant as excuses, more like a reminder to myself that I do still need to just “BE”, and this blog is part of that.  As rare as comments are it seems sometimes I am talking to myself more than anyone else, but my hit log reminds me others do come and peruse. For the record I read blogs regularly as well and rarely comment, usually they are so well written that I feel I have nothing to say.

But here is my challenge to you, leave a comment here with a link to your blog and I will come and comment there as well.  And tomorrow I will be posting about some of the blogs I regularly read.

For today I now leave you with a funny story and some pics of my fall garden.

Funny Story with a choose your own ending.

I was busily typing away at my laptop when I decided to demonstrate why one should not drink coffee near their computer. The blinds were partially open and the sliding glass door open to the screen as it was early enough in the morning to catch a wee bit of cross breeze. As the coffee swarmed towards my laptop, I realized the only absorbent material readily available was the towel I was wrapped in which I was currently wrapped…..my dilemna: save my computer or save my dignity ( and the sanity of any poor neighbor who might be in eye shot).  You decide, which was more important to me…..              😉

Namaste friends.

Yes, Virginia, I still believe in Santa Claus: A Birthday inspired restatement of purpose.

“He exists as certainly as love and devotion and generosity, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” Frances Pharcellus Church in the most reprinted editorial ever from Sept 21, 1987 edition of  the New York Sun.

I do believe in Santa Clause, and fairies and heroes.

I believe in the basic “goodness” of others, sometimes I even believe in the basic goodness of myself.  There is no belief involved, but sure sound knowledge, that as I focus outward and am more concerned with what I can give than what I can get, I am happiest. Fear is made up of False evidence appearing real, Ego run rampant, Avarice instead of gratitude, and Resentment. I do not choose to live in fear. Today I would rather live on faith, for all impossibilities there’s hope.

Faith has done right by me and my life is made up of many miracles, some small some large.

I also know that when my life is spent balancing good health and a quick mind on the point of spirit (meaning equal time spent developing all three) that I am healthiest and most productive. To only feed the mind and spirit and not care for the body with healthy foods and exercise  leads to fatigue, weak muscles, aches and pains….basically being fat and lazy. To care for the body and feed the mind but neglect the spirit leads to disillusionment, jaded perceptions, then anger and bitterness or hopelessness and despair. To practice a spiritual path and care for the body but neglect the mind and only feed it the junk food of novels, television and pop culture creates a person without the ability think for themselves, an individual without purpose, led easily by Big Brother. We are what we “eat”, and that includes all the ways we consume and digest, mentally, physically and spiritually. I have tried all forms of imbalance in my life, and fallen flat on my face each time as surely as I would plopping on a 3-legged stool with one cracked leg.

Today, I choose to challenge my mind with new tasks daily. Now when I still had children at home, just keeping up with them and figuring out how to provide for us and maybe create a little structure with the house and food pretty much covered the nimble mind bit, but now I do it through Netflix’ing documentaries; playing word games; reading math and science nonfiction works that stretch my understanding; reading the Weekly Christian Science Monitor (don’t let the “Christian” in the title fool you, it is THE most unbiased writing on this side of the ocean), National Geographic and Mental Floss; listening to classics, rock concept albums, jazz, BBC world news and audio books in my car instead of the latest pop music. I must learn five new things a day, sometimes that just means a new skill for an old talent, like how to knit cables finally or socks that match. Doesn’t mean I don’t do the pop culture things as well, I love “Big Bang Theory” and “Community”, Debbi Macomber novels, Adele, and “People” magazine (I read it in the checkout line!), I just balance the “junk food” in with real mental nourishment to keep me sharp and growing.

I nourish my spirit by meditating daily.  One third of  my reading choices are picked to provide nourishment for my soul. I actively seek out opportunities to do random acts of kindness. I review my day and keep a gratitude journal, and now as a new assignment I will also be writing five times during the day I showed good judgement, compassion or discipline. Today I also build my spirit by blogging, journaling and reading other peoples blogs, by setting goals and thinking before making choices to see if they reflect my goals, and sometimes by making the uncomfortable choices or voicing the unpopular opinion.  I do not want to be a part of the banality of evil observed by Hannah Arendt. “It’s easy enough to judge soldiers at Abu Ghraib or bystanders during WW II who failed to find their courage when unconscionable things were happening before their eyes. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge or even realize how often we avoid making uncomfortable choices in the course of our daily lives by attributing the small injustices that momentarily grate at our consciences to the system, or the circumstances, or our superiors. Or how rarely we bother to ask what role our own passivity and acquiescence may play in enabling unconscionable things to be done in our name.” an excerpt from “Beautiful Souls” be Eyal Press.

Keeping my body healthy, well that’s pretty easy when I really DO want to do more triathlons; in fact keeping the outside healthy is a popular theme in our society, it’s the inside we are encouraged to neglect,  because mindless drones separated from conscience are easy to enslave and rule.

Yup, reality is that we are a heavily classed society in a world riddled with an addiction to cruelty, violence and immediate gratification of whims. It is also true that many of the people with the money and power seek only to maintain their own aspirations for more and we without bread are told if we are good and serve well then we get to eat their leftover cake.

But you know what, I look at the bigger picture and I change the world a little bit each day when I change me. That which I give energy to grows stronger, and I do believe in Santa Clause and all he represents.

I do not expect my mission statement will look like others or that the tasks that balance me will mirror other’s tasks, but I do know from observation that when an individual neglects the inside for the outside, or the outside for the inside that they are unhappy and unhealthy. I also know from observation that those who balance care of their mind and body on a practice of compassion (spirit) seem to bounce back happy from even the heaviest wave of trouble.

So there you have it. That is my mission statement for the next half of my life written on my 50+ birthday, OK started on my birthday but finished and posted a couple days later, I plan to continue believing in Santa Clause, dancing with fairies and daily prepping for the time I am needed to be a hero.

What’s your mission statement?


A train, a train, would you, could you rise early to train?

I haven’t been sleeping well, a combination of nightmares and physical pain, both of which do improve when I am more physically active. However, both of which make it take a much greater force of will to actually get up early and be active.  I will be honest, I have been slacking, with only a couple walks a week of any length greater than a mile, swimming once or twice a week and my bike sits untouched all month in the garage.

I wanted to roll over this morning and dwell on what I cannot change; those guests I inevitably invite to every pity party. I assume you know what I mean, it seems most everyone I know have a few regretful fact friends we keep around to justify doing those things we know are not good for us. Mine are the usual suspects. Their first names are “It’s not fair”, “If I only had the money,” “Nobody else,” and “Everybody else.” Their last names change.

This morning when they all showed up at my bedside pointing out when if I could afford massages and chiropractic care again then I could train, how if I just had a different set of medical realities then being active would make sense,  that nobody else understands how hard it is for me, and everybody else has it easier than me, I listened for a minute.

Then I reminded them that with or without the pain relief of massage and chiropractic care (Backfit does work better than anything else I have ever tried) that moving itself was therapy and something I could choose to do and was choosing to do; that whatever the medical reality, appropriate activity is sensible and necessary to get better (I also remembered when just walking to the bathroom holding my healing abdomen was my activity with PT and RT push, push, pushing the walking).

As to nobody understanding, “Get over yourself,” I said, “True no one has been in this exact pair of sneakers but you are hardly the first or last to hurt when they wake up, want perspective go read razzzberries.blogspot.com again, or how about that son you train with who still has a non-union of his broken lower leg.”

Only one unwelcome guest remained in the room, “Everybody else thinks you’re not cut out for this, they’re tired of you pretending to be an athlete, tired of hearing you talk about it and you are  slowing the whole training group down.” Just for a moment, he had me, see my ego is more susceptible to negative suggestion than inflation, but then the absurdity set in and I started to laugh.

“”Everybody’ doesn’t care one way or the other about whether I do another triathlon or not, it wasn’t their goal, its mine. You Mr. Everybody’s Opinion are just the silliest fragment of ego and I guarantee you that I am small and weak and have no such power as to mess up anyone else’s anything or warrant that much attention, so be gone.”

And the last hovering excuse was banished, so I got up, did my meditation, am dressed for swimming and am leaving now for the house of two of the somebodies that do care and inspire me to keep working, my son and DIL.

And I promise, my bike will be turning its wheels by this time next week.

Post script on today’s training.

I went from 500 meters accomplished in 25 meter lengths with brief breaks to 500 meters accomplished in 50 meter laps with brief rests. Woot!



Delicious and Nutritious breakfast porridge recipe and my protein powder preference quandry

A healthy day begins with a healthy breakfast. I know this not only from the plethora of pointed press I have been force fed or voluntarily consumed about nutrition, but also from personal experience. In fact, this is perhaps the only nutrition fact that has remained consistent in my 50+ years of trying to eat right and eat well.

In my life of battling unwanted weight gain and episodes of malaise, general joint pain and depression, as well as acknowledged opportunities to find healthy options during life altering illness, I have seen the rise and fall and rise again of low carb, low fat, low sugar, liquid food substitutes, calorie counting, and cabbage (or other single healthy food) heavy diets. I have been taught four food groups, food pyramids, glycemic index, inflammation ratings (IF), and ONQI ratings, and the latest (and I think at this time greatest) ANDI score; and through them all the need for a good breakfast was always clearly stated regardless of how that “good” was defined.

Personal experience also reinforces the belief that breakfast makes everything better. I am more energetic, able to cope with pain, frustration and the good things in daily life with a nutritious breakfast. So what does a good breakfast look like for me?

I  find myself less likely to make poor food choices later in the day if I start my day with at least 14 grams of protien, a bit of fiber, and coffee. (Getting enough carbs is never an issue for me.)Ok, maybe the coffee just wakes me up enough to make my breakfast, but I can’t imagine breakfast without it.  Since I am training to compete again in a triathlon, weight loss is a priority for me as well and I restrict my daily calories to 1800. (If I ever doubt the benefit of 1800 calories a day, I just carry my dogs 35 pound bag of food around for a few minutes and I am again convinced that the best thing I can do for my knees, hips, feet and race times is shave another 35 pound off the old body. My doctors are in complete agreement on this fact as well. At 5’5″ I am currently weighing in at 218 lbs, definitely obese by medical standards.)

A side note here for those who privately express horror at my telling my actual honest weight, I think lying about it is even funnier. I mean look at me, this is obviously my weight. Yes my weight makes me uncomfortable, therefore I am doing something about it. Lying about my weight would change nothing. However, telling the truth motivates me to face and change that which makes me uncomfortable.

Anyway  porridge and smoothies are my two favorite breakfasts.  One fast, one more preparation intense, they both include the protien I need and the flavor I crave as well as other important nutrients.

Quinoa Porridge, 30 minute prep/cook time. 3 servings

2 cups filtered water, or 1 cup filtered water and 1 cup organic apple cider

1 cup quinoa (I like Trader Joe’s Red)

2/3 cup dried fruit (I like it with dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried blueberries, or chopped prunes)

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

healthy dash of nutmeg, or cinnamon or cardamom (only use one and experiment with fruit and spice combinations. I like cardamom with cranberries, nutmeg with prunes and cinnamon with cherries and for cranberries and tart cherries I use apple juice)

1/2 cup soy, rice or almond milk

Place everything but the fruit and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to slow simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Stir in dried fruit and milk choice and recover and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off heat and leave for 10 minutes to finish absorbing fluids.

I eat one serving right away and  place the other two servings in containers in the fridge. They are delicious reheated or cold with a bit of creamer over them like rice pudding.

As to my smoothie, my recipe is very usual and completely basic. I throw a cup of frozen organic berries in my blender, add 1/2 cup of filtered water, 1/2 cup organic vanilla soy milk and a scoop protein powder and blend. If I feel like mixing it up I will add 1/2 banana and 1 T of flax meal. Smoothies are easy and fast, but they are the source of my greatest diet dilemma at the moment.

I am in a complete quandry, my favorite protein powder is whey based. I love Aria’s vanilla protein powder; the cost, taste, texture, and what it puts into my diet (the hard-to-get-enough B-vitamins, calcium, and iron) and what it leaves out (artificial ingredients); but what I am struggling with is that protein powders have a large manufacturing, shipping and container carbon footprint and the basis for this powder is also whey, hence NOT vegan, hence even BIGGER carbon footprint.  I love Aria, but feel it doesn’t fit my big picture of ethical living .

I am slowly working my way through trying vegan alternatives, so far the “not gonna do it at all” contenders are Trader Joe’s Soy Protein powder, Alive and MRM’s vegan protein powder. Sadly, I had a vegan protein powder that I  really, really liked from Spouts (store brand) that was discontinued about 2 years ago. Right now Aria is on my shelf while I muster the courage to bring home a hemp one to try (courage is necessary because finances and personal philosophy require me to actually finish the can of protien even when its sand box grainy (TJ’s)or tastes waaaay to “healthy” (MRM) or weedlike (Alive).

It all comes back to the same question, the needs of the one over the needs of the many. Where do my needs for nutrition, convenience and enjoyment end and my need to leave my circle a little better tended for my having been here begin, or better yet how do I make the two mesh well? So that is my protein powder problem and my blog for today.

I am tagging it for Sally Frye folowers as this porridge recipe would be very apropos for the Rennaissance, although it would not be served for breakfast but be a supper or nursery dish. Also my quinoa use and my struggle with the politics of protein powder speak to the key elements of my training and my homesteading/living green goals so going to those readers also.  I hope all of you enjoy.

I can’t believe its almost May, 2012. I must be off the cyber verse now, because I have a Puppy Shower to prepare for and many errends to run.

Namaste, friends.

Jo Crowfae


Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe

Back in the water this morning, first time in 6 months, I went with the goal of at least putting my face in the water, and best case scenario completing a length or two without a kickboard.  I far exceeded my own expectations. The water was cold  on my feet and even colder on my shins and thighs but then the windy day made staying out of the water worse than diving in, so in I went.

I borrowed Dawn’s kickboard as mine is lost somewhere in the interim off training and I did my first length swimming head waaaay above water and psyching myself off for face in the water breathing on the back length.  Fear fought back and the excuse wheel spun but I learned last year that the best way to push past my “face in water” phobia is to just do it, so I did. I turned, kicked off and face went in the water, breathed out all that useful air and panicked. No breathing back in that time. Kick, kick, kick, face in again and this time turn my head and take a breath. So far, so good.

Three laps with kick-board done my DIL had to get out of the pool so I pushed forward and asked her to take my kick-board to the far end of the pool, which meant I had to swim for it.

I created the need to swim and so I did. One length without pausing was a good three weeks into last years training but I nailed it first time in the pool, then back with kick-board; one full lap with kick-board. Then Phil took it where I needed to “fetch” it, so I again swam to other end and kick-boarded it back.

Time to go for broke, I was going to swim there and back again; I caved 3/4 of the way on the back again and I touched my toes down at one point because the phobia just needed to make sure the bottom of the pool was still there, but only touched and finished swimming.

So now I am at five kick-board laps and two full swim laps. Two more kick-board laps, one more swim lap, one more kick-board lap, and a final full swim lap means I completed 8 laps with my kickboard and 4 swim laps, that’s 600 meters or .37 miles.

After which I walked almost three miles.

It was fun. I am sore tonight and fully aware of how de-conditioned I am cardio-vascularly speaking but I am proud of myself. I showed up, I did me best, and I amazed  myself!

And that is the beginning of this years “try”athlon training!

Now gentle readers, go out there and amaze yourselves as well.  There are so many little ways to exceed your own expectations of yourself today.


Unbelievable how hard a little discipline can be, and to what am I listening?

My training blogs are probably my most self-serving blogs of all. Why are they self-serving? Isn’t trying to lose weight and get fit a national obsession and therefore sharing how I am achieving broadly useful?

Although I do hope that another non-athlete, someday stumbles across my blog the same way I stumbled across others writings and are inspired to realize they can have fun if they get off the couch and out of their comfort zone (James Owen (in the inspiring sense) and Jayne Williams (in the athlete who looks more like me sense) were the two primary writer’s who helped me get started and keep going last year, but the real reason I keep training blogs is that it keeps me accountable. Telling others what I am going to do, and then honestly reporting whether I have done it or not, is the support my weak self-control needs to make it through the tough choices. Getting fit is not easy, it goes against my very nature, at least until it becomes second nature.

Last night was a perfect example. I am back in the habit of television grazing at night. Aware of the obstacle coming up in the course of my first night back into healthier behavior, I closed out my “MyFitness” as soon as I finished my last bite of dinner.  I also reminded myself that I intended to blog today about how well that first day of training went.

See, it went like this, wander out to the kitchen to check on dogs or watering or phone charging, hand on fridge door thinking of See’s chocolates I got for Easter (most awesome gift from the family I serve), then “Wait,” my brain says to my appetite, “You have no reason to be hungry, in fact you aren’t hungry I can tell, AND you closed out your calories for the day AND you have to blog tomorrow, you really want to blog about how you screwed up the very first day!” I remove my hand from the fridge and get a glass of water. I even actually resort to a glass of calorie free flavored water on the third trip which seemed to help quiet my candy craving for the rest of the night.

I drank a lot of water last night.

But I did meet my exercise goals, and I did meet my calorie goals. Today is a sit-up, push-up, stretch and roll day (yes, it is true, my calves and glutes are slightly sore today but not horrible) and I will walk 3 miles today as well . But that is all later, off to deal with some other self-care responsibilities. So on to the final question…

What am I listening to….? Well I have been crooning along with my old buddy Doris Day, housecleaning to Leo Kotke, and being moved by Jason Isbell and the 400 (all of course courtesy of my friends at Hoodlum Records who are about to have the best vinyl sale EVAR! for Record Store day April 21.  Go check out the list at http://www.hoodlumsmusic.com/blog/ )

Funny thing though, that when I really need to de-focus from pain, discomfort, or the inner whine of the excuse wheel I find my motivation not in music but Podcasts and Audiobooks. So what did I listen to yesterday? I am running and listening to a marathon of all the DML podcasts http://www.thelondonbroilshow.com/dml/ from I-tunes. My AZRF friends will know these guys as “The London Broil”, they are just intelligent enough and silly and funny enough to hold my interest indefinitely. I am back up to episode 10 (they just put out episode 23) and I have to say, I would totally go with the adult size Big Wheel, how about you?

Back in the saddle (or running shoes) again.

Last October I managed to complete a sprint triathlon, a big accomplishment for me. This time last year I had never taken a swimming lesson or ridden a bike, I weighed 247 pounds and I couldn’t run a full city block without getting breathless.  At the time of the race I was 207 lbs and managed to complete the Sprint, my times sucked, but I finished.

I kept at the training with less intensity for another couple months but the pool we had used was unheated and an injury I had sustained two weeks before the race needed healing and some long term medical issues resurfaced which threw my finances into complete disarray so I had to stop the chiro care and couldn’t sign up for a race and I had two more deaths of people close to me which triggered some demotivating depression…and…and..and…..

Bottom line is I started freely spinning my excuse wheel. Stuff happens to everyone, some good, some bad; usually it becomes good or bad by whatever we choose to label it.  I just chose to suddenly call my circumstances bad and use life as an excuse to quit doing what made me feel healthier and happier; I pretty much quit entirely all my “try”athlete adventures. Simultaneously I started eating food I know doesn’t benefit my system, at times that truly were bad for me, in amounts guaranteed to make me ill and fat, and to complete my downhill slide I pretty much quit regular meditation in the mornings.

So here I am today. I am back up to 220 or thereabouts, if I weigh less it is only because I have lost muscle mass. My finances are still in horrible shape and I don’t have a complete plan on how to fix them so definitely do not have money for a trainer anymore or Backfit appointments (the chiropractic office whose massages and adjustments took my pain down form a constant 5 or more to sometimes gone), and I don’t have the money to sign up for any races. I could remain in the place where my excuse wheel is spinning freely in all the things I don’t have, can’t do, etc. or I could use Spring as a motivation to do what works.


I got up this morning and went for a run. I am restarting a beginner program for the swimming, biking and running and using My Fitness Pal to track my nutrition and calories.

Discipline does not require any resources I do not already have within me and I know from experience discipline (like all muscles) gets stronger with use!

Fear of failure, pain, and well, looking stupid, didn’t stop me last year and its not going to stop me this year either.

Even if its just a one person timed event by a friend or maybe a family thing with my sons and DIL, I will complete a my size “trY”athlon in 2012. I will swim 10 laps, bike 10 miles and run a 5k, together, at the same time. That’s me goal.

And now I have a concrete goal, I will actually start training. Let me rephrase that, I started training.

That is where I failed myself before, once I finished the race meeting my current goal, I left the next goal too nebulous and soon it was easy to ignore. Most things in my life are like that. Stay tuned for some ramblings on how I hope to fix the other broken places in my life.

So this SOFT athlete is back at it again.

Namaste my friends, and lets all keep moving….