Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas . . .


I confess, I'm an early decorator  :-D

One of my former husbands used to get so irritated with me - I had to beg and plead to decorate early.  He was pretty inflexible . . .  I'm not married to him anymore.  ;-)

This year, in keeping with my theme of divestiture (three bags of stuff went yesterday to the Second Chance Shop), I realized that it was finally time for me to go through some of the Christmas stuff again.  I did this about 8 years ago and divested alot of my mom's Christmas stuff.  I always have a bag going for the Second Chance Shop, and I also just donated three boxes of fiber and knitting and weaving yarns (off to the West Coast yesterday), and I have a HUGE bag of yarn from my stash that I'm donating through church to a women's collective.   I'm really on a roll here.

But I digress!!   Back to Christmas!!

I love Christmas, and I love decorating for it, but this year, I'm going a little more low-key.  No big tree (just the little one that was my mom's - it's so perfect in the sunroom), and only a few strategically placed Christmas items.

And my old Dickens Village is going to make someone VERY happy at the Second Chance Shop.  I started this probably close to 30 years ago - I didn't get very far (although there is more than I remember . . .  :-D).   My cousins fostered it for years when they had their B&B - it was a great entryway decoration for them.  I think I put it up once or twice when I lived in California, but it has remained boxed up for at least a decade.  I have neither the room nor the inclination to fool with it anymore, and so . . .

XMas Donation

I have a pretty hefty donation to make  :-)  That rug is a 5x8, so that give you an idea of how much there is  :-D  I didn't go through all the ornaments.  Yet.   But there is time.  I won't be able to get back to the Second Chance Shop until December 1st.

Is there a charity resale shop near you?  Do you have some things that you don't want any longer but are still in good shape?  It takes a little time, but you could make someone very happy, and just think of all the energy you would be releasing by letting go of things that no longer serve you  :-)

Wheeeeee!   I LOVE Christmas!!!!!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weight Watchers - ActiveLink

I decided to blog about this today to share my experience with Weight Watchers' new "activity monitor," ActiveLink.  This device is a joint venture between WW and Philips. 

This is a long post.  Here's the short version:

BUYER BEWARE - you must be sure that you understand what this device is and what it does and does not do.  You must be sure this device is what you want, because once you buy it - once you break the seal on the box - you cannot return it and you cannot sell it/transfer it to anyone else.  Once you pony up the bucks to buy the thing, you must then pay a monthly $5 fee to access the service.  You cannot get your money back.

Here's the rest of the story . . .

I know that some have had a great experience with ActiveLink, but mine was very poor, and my experience with WW's customer "service" was a joke. 

But - let me start with the positive - I did like the size of the device and that it could be worn under my clothing unobtrusively, unlike my otherwise awesome Omron pedometer which always made me look like a geek and made an unsightly bulge at what's left of my menopausal waist.  I also liked that it was waterproof and I could wear it in the pool.  I liked that it was a joint venture withi Philips because years ago I worked for a division of Philips and they were great people  :-)  What I really liked, though, was the idea of it tracking my activity all day long!

That's key - AL was sold to me as a TRACKER.  A device that would track my activity points and automatically enter them in my online eTools tracker.  To be fair, it does automatically add any Activity Points one earns directly into the eTools tracker.

But it's not a tracker - it's an activity monitor - a tool to get you to move more. 

You have to wear it for 8 days when you get it to set a "baseline," and here is where it gets confusing:  WW says that your baseline is set based SOLELY on your age, weight, height and gender.  Philips says that the amount of activity you do during the assessment period has a direct correlation to the baseline that it set for you.

I used mine for about 11 weeks.  I bought it the day it was released in my former meeting room and activated it as soon as I got home that night.  I was instructed to wear it daily, and to not change up my exercise or normal daily routine.  Once it was activated, I lost access to the Activity Tracker that is part of my eTools online tracker - both the big tab and the smaller calculator tab over on the left sidebar of the tracker.  The sidebar calculator just disappeared, and the large tracker became linked with ActiveLink.  Those things mean that you can no longer calculate your own activity.

I figured it didn't matter because ActiveLink was going to be calculating all that for me anyway . . .

The eight days of the assessment were weird because I'm one of those people who actually eats her Activity Points - I use them before I use my 49 Weekly Points - and now I had no real way to track them.  But it was only eight days, so I didn't get too worried about it.

Finally, my baseline was set and I was really excited to not have to think about calculating my activity points anymore, or even entering my "active steps" from my pedometer every day.  I am a pretty active person.  Those of you who know me in person know that.  I mean really - my friends and family know not to call me after 9 p.m. because I have to go to bed to get up to work out at 5 in the morning.  I already work out as much as I can given the constraints of having to have a job to pay the bills and living my busy life.  All ActiveLink did was constantly tell me to move more.  And I found that on days when I should have earned at least 3 or 4 Activity Points, I wasn't earning any. 

As mentioned, I am usually up around 5 a.m. to either lift weights with my trainer at the club (2x week), or walk for about 40 minutes on the treadmill in the basement (3-4x week).  I walk from my house to the train (7 minutes) and I walk across the Loop from the train to my office (15 minutes) five days a week.  I often walk somewhere at lunchtime.  Chicago is a walker's paradise  :-)

As the weeks went by, I became increasingly frustrated with ActiveLink.  The only day I got 4 Activity Points was the day I was with my friend Tammy, The Proverbial Knitter, et al., at Silver Dollar City in Missouri, where we walked pretty much non-stop (including some fierce Ozark hills) from 10 a.m. when the park opened 'til about 3:30 or 4 p.m. when we collapsed into the car to go home.  I'm not kidding.  That was a 6-7 Activity Point day for sure . . . but no, I got 4.

So, since it's not possible for me to walk every day for 6 hours (hell, if it was, I'd be on The Biggest Loser instead of working at a job I love), I rarely got any Activity Points.  Initially, I'd connect it to my computer every day, excited to see how many Activity Points I would get, and for the first week I thought, "well, maybe I don't move as much as I thought."  But after weeks of being electronically told daily that I had failed to reach my baseline or reaching it but not getting past it enough to earn even 1 Activity Point - even on days where I KNEW I had earned at least 3 or 4 - I rang Philips, and they said to do the assessment again but "don't move around at all."


They were also VERY clear that the amount of activity done during the assessment phase was directly involved in setting the baseline (I was more confused than ever by that assertion, since it was directly opposite of what Weight Watchers says).  So, another eight days of assessment with me taking off the ActiveLink anytime I worked out.  I ended up with a very low baseline (which seems to me to be clear evidence that the activity done during the assessment phase does, indeed, have bearing on how the baseline is set - but, you know, I'm not a scientist so I could be wrong).  Once the assessment phase was over again, I gave it another week - a week where I was regularly well over 100% of my new baseline, and still I wasn't receiving any Activity Points. 

I called WW customer "service" and had them shut it off.  That was on October 18th.  They told me that my ActiveLine was cancelled, but that they has "taken a payment" on October 13th and that my online tracker was linked with ActiveLink until November 27th.  Really??????  SIX WEEKS out they take a payment and hold my tracker hostage???  I didn't even ask for my 5 bucks back, I just wanted access to my online eTools Activity Tracker that I already PAY for every month as part of my monthly pass. !!!!!

I was told a supervisor would call me back.  Yeah, right.  No one ever did.

So, I wrote a letter to WW CEO, David Kirchoff, who has a pretty good blog, BTW - hey, the guy has Brene Brown's TEDx speech from 2010 in his most recent post - that's pretty awesome stuff! I wrote thinking that written communication might be more effective.  Um . . . not so much.  I never heard back from anyone.

I was resigned to wait out the six weeks, but I wasn't happy.  And then, yesterday, I read on one of the message boards that another member who had a poor ActiveLink experience had succeeded in getting his Activity Tracker restored! 

I got right on the horn.  First I called WW again, and - once again - they were no help whatsoever, telling me that no, I had to wait until November 27th, that it was not possible to unlink my online tracker from ActiveLink when I already knew that it WAS possible.  Then, while sitting on hold forever with them, I got the bright idea to call Philips.  Talk about Customer Service.  :-)  They transferred me to their billing department and I had my online tracker restored in MINUTES.  Only wish I had thought to call them four weeks ago . . .

Everything does happen for a reason, however - and in the meantime, I figured out the Heart Rate Monitor that I bought at least two years ago  :-D  I got new batteries for it, changed them up in both the chest strap and the watch, wore it to my workout on Thursday and burned 300 calories.  Doesn't sound like a lot, but to me, that equates to 3 Activity Points.  Conventional wisdom says about 80 calories is an ActivityPoint, but I am conservative when calculating activity.  On the calculator I always choose "low" for my perceived exertion in order to not overestimate how many Activity Points I'm earning.

What I still can't figure out:  (1) If my baseline was calculated based solely on my age, weight, height and gender, then why on earth did I have to have an 8-day assessment period?  I mean, if those are the only criteria for setting a baseline, shouldn't you just be able to enter that info and go right out of the gate?  and (2) Why is WW customer service so poor?

What I think is likely:  From what I'm reading on the WW message boards, ActiveLink seems to work well for people who are runners - they rack up the ActivityPoints pretty quickly.  For those of us who move when we can, as much as we can, but perhaps are limited by having lives and/or injuries (elliptical and swimming - even when "named" as recommended on the ActiveLink site don't track very well at all), ActiveLink is pretty much an exercise in daily failure, which for me anyway, is exceptionally de-motivating.

What I do know for sure (thanks Oprah :-D):  (1) Thanks to Philips, I have my tracker back  :-)   I'm a happy gal!  (2) I really needed to write this all down and get it off my chest - and hopefully help someone else who might be in the same situation; and (3) In my heart of hearts I think Weight Watchers is awesome.  I KNOW it works when you work the program.  I just wish they could get their technology together a little better (I can enter my OWN weight into my online tracker, thank you very much, and I can calculate my OWN activity :-) ).

p.s.  I do love me some gadget . . . I just bought a FitBit One.  Early Christmas!! Can hardly wait for it to arrive!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anti-Inflammatory . . .

It's been an interesting week, Chez A :-)

I have to tell you that I thought it was going to be a lot harder to avoid sugar and highly processed foods/bread.  Of course it's only been a week, but still - after a thorough cleaning out of the cupboards, and a trip to Whole Foods and the Jewel, things are going pretty well.

The scale is moving (again - it's the first week) and I am engaging in better living through chemistry, but the combination of the anti-inflammatory drug and the absence of sugar, in particular, I think, is really making a difference in how I feel. 

I feel really good, which is a pretty far cry from a week and a half ago. 

That this could make such a difference so quickly, is amazing.  What's even more interesting to me, is that I think that my skin looks better and the bags and circles under my eyes do not seem to me to be as pronounced as they have been.  (Yay!)

It's been challenging to figure out what to eat every morning - oatmeal doesn't really stick with me I've discovered.  I don't want to eat eggs every day, so this morning, I have some pork chops in the oven.  :-D 

I've been relying on Amy's Soups for most lunches - but today, I'm having shrimp sushi  :-)  and tomorrow I'm meeting a friend at a restaurant (which will likely entail a plain burger and whatever the vegetable of the day is).  You have to change it up once in awhile  :-)

Tomorrow I head into week two of this new way of caring for myself.  Yay Me!!!!!
In other news of the day . . . Entrelac 01
I took a class taught by Judy Chan.  It was sponsored by the Windy City Knitting Guild on Sunday.  Entrelac in the Round.  The colors are not true on this photos - those orange bits in the middle are actually a soft coral/pink.  I'm stuck at this point - somehow the next row wouldn't start properly and I kept ending up with the wrong number of stitches, so I stopped and will pick it up again at some point this weekend. 

Thanksgiving is upon us . . . It's that time of year . . . (the quality isn't great, sorry.)


Saturday, November 10, 2012


OK Guys, I tried taking off the word verification, and have gotten constant spam.  So I'm putting it back on.  Sorry.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wow . . .

I always seem to miss the November challenge where you blog every day for the entire month.  Maybe next year - or maybe February, when it's often dreary and we all need a pick-me-up.

I updated my Stats page today.  It's crappy.  But there it is - the clear evidence of my losing (or should I say gaining) struggle all summer and fall long.  But you know what?  That's in the past.  I'm here, now.  And I know more about what's going on in my body now.  And I have hope and know that I can take  - let me relanguage that - am taking the steps I believe to be necessary to move forward.  So, I decided I had better update that page  :-)

Yesterday, as witnessed by my last post, I went through all the cupboards looking for things with sugar in them.  Holy Christ.  It's EVERYWHERE.  Who puts sugar AND HFC in garlic and herb breadcrumbs?!  Progresso does (and that makes me really sad because they don't do that with their soups so much).

Three full bags out to the trash and a fourth started of items full of sugar and/or opened and/or expired.  And three full bags of items not opened and not expired that can go to a local food pantry.


And I'm learning and moving forward.  First changes are removing sugar and breads/highly processed foods, and cutting back as I am able on dairy and red meat.  I'll do the best I can, taking things one day at a time.

I read the runes for myself yesterday and it was such an awesome and positive reading.  For those of you who don't know, the Runes are an ancient oracle of the self.  They are not a fortune-telling device, rather a way to look within - and it's been my experience that "the stones always know" whatever it is that I need to be looking at and working with on any particular issue. 

The Situation as it Is was Kano, the rune of Opening, Fire, a Torch - which puts me at the beginning - opening - bringing the light into an area that once was dark. 


The Challenge to be Worked Through was Raido the rune of a Journey, Communication and Union and Reunion (Reversed) - which urges me to look at my relationship to myself - the challenges of keeping good humor (and I'm not talking about ice cream ;-D), disruptions, obstacles, and the like - with union and reunion at the core and coming out the other side.


The Situation as it can Evolve was Fehu, the rune of Possessions, Nourishment and Cattle.  Fehu is about fulfillment, ambitions satisfied, love fulfilled and rewards received - and a reminder to be mindful, especially in times of good fortune and success.


As I look within, I see the path to myself - it's there - never wavering - just waiting for me to pick myself up, and take the first steps toward my future.  I see my spirit, glimmering in the dust, waiting for me to pick it back up, dust it gently off and place it back on my shoulder.  We never fall all the way away - the pieces are always there to be picked up and reassembled.  Sometimes as they were before, and sometimes in an entirely new configuration.

Kuan Yin - the Eastern Goddess of Compassion - watches over me on this journey, reminding me to be gentle with myself as I move back onto the path.  And to be gentle with my spirit as I seek to cleanse my body of that which hurts it.

And the Celtic Cat - the animal of Guardianship, Detachment and Sensuality is there, reminding me that I have the right to know and judge important issues for myself in my own time.  Clearly that time is now.

And could I travel without an angel or two as a companions?  No, I think not.  The Archangel Micheal comes along with me, surrounding me with Eternal Love.  And my daily companion on the journey is the Angel of Inspiration.  How fitting is that?

Wow . . .

Here I go  - breakfast was some Swiss Chard sauted in a small amount of garlic-infused olive oil, in a flat omelette with some feta cheese.  I'm going to stink, but I got greens and protein in, and there was no sugar and the only processed thing was the cheese (and I'll be looking for a different brand next time  :-) ).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Holy Shit.  EVERYTHING has sugar in it . . .

I'm on the third trash bag of things emptied from the cabinets (and I've got one bag of things that can go to the food pantry).

Guess I'm going to be shopping the perimeter of the Jewel and a lot more at Sunrise. 

Moving Forward . . .

I know that some of you are as disappointed as I am happy this morning with the results of our Presidential election.  Because it's no secret that I'm very happy with the outcome of the election.  However, I wrote this to multiple friends of mine this morning, and thought I would share it here: 

"It is my great hope that both parties will work together for the next four years instead of fighting and blocking as they both have for the past four. That we can be good and close friends when we are so very different from each other is very clear evidence that it's possible."

I'm moving forward in another area today, too.  My last post was sad.  Thank you for your support  :-)

There is an update.

I do have an appointment on Thursday with my podiatrist, but due to so many bizarre things happening to me in such short order over the weekend, my own doctor saw me on Monday.  He thinks the ocular migraine was another one-off.  And, although I had an x-ray to be sure, the general consensus is that my foot is not fractured, rather, the joints of my foot are inflamed.

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation.  Asthma is inflammation.  My sore tailbone was diagnosed as inflammation.  My very sore left knee likely has bursitis (which is, you guessed it, inflammation).  He checked all my joints - and shoulder and elbows also have it to some degree as well.

I've been educating myself further ever since my appointment on Monday, and inflammation of the type I seem to have is very often caused by what we eat.  I few years ago I experienced sore joints after eating too much sugar . . . and I even wrote about it earlier this year. I can't run away from it any longer.

I didn't pay very good attention, I guess, but all the reading I've done in just the past two days is pretty clear.  And I did a little experimenting with foods yesterday afternoon and last night to see how I might feel today - and it's so obviously clear by this morning that I'm going to have to make some major changes in my lifestyle in terms of what I eat, as I am in more pain again today in all problem areas, even with taking my anti-inflammatory as directed by the doc.

Books are ordered, some foods are headed out of my kitchen in the trash, and I'm looking at processing the change that is before me.  One of the things I learned from Joan Anderson, is that we all must process the grief that is partner to change.

What I am facing is huge for me.

Big Changes.

I believe I must change what I eat - if I don't, I will likely be in some kind of pain for the rest of my life.  If the tradeoff for eating my Friday cherry danish is that I'm in pain, I'm not willing to do that anymore.  I'm going to have to give up a way of eating that - although it tastes good - is no longer serving me.  And yes, it seems ridiculous to think that one would grieve for a sweet roll, but it's not just sweet rolls - it's majorly processed foods.  It's the sugar in my tea.  It's bread (at least for awhile).  It's candy.  It's cupcakes.  It's bacon (I almost forgot that makes me hurt).  It's likely most dairy.  It's likely most red meat.

Plenty of people have far worse things happen to them, though.  It's not like I'm diabetic or have heart disease or high blood pressure.

It could be a lot worse.  Seriously.  I walked away from cigarettes.  Once I realized that chocolate was making me sick, I walked away from it.  I walked away from drinking diet pop.  All of these things I did cold turkey.  And oh yeah, I can't eat turkey (poultry) anymore either.  I know how to take care of myself and I know that I will be able to walk away from the things that are likely causing this flood of inflammation throughout my body.   And once I learn to manage my stress levels better, I think I'll be in like Flynn.

Keep a good thought for me, OK? because drinking my tea without sugar is going to be bizarre :-)

Even so, there is good news in all this.  Yes, really  :-)  You didn't think I could stay down in the dumps forever, did you?  Miss Positive Energy?

First, the good news is that I don't have arthritis.  The doc was very clear about that.  Inflammation and arthritis are often mentioned in the same breath, but having inflammation does not necessary mean that one has arthritis.  This is actually REALLY good news.  My mom had three different kinds of arthritis and my grandmother also had it.  A number of my cousins have it and they are younger than I am.  I would like to avoid it, thank you very much.

Second, the good news is that by following an anti-inflammatory way of eating, I think I'm going to be bone thin pretty quickly . . . :-D 

So here we go, the country and me, moving forward together . . .

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm Falling Apart . . .

I wrangled a Saturday event where I was on my feet most of the day on a hard floor.  It went very well, but it's clear to me now that I'm not a kid any longer.

How do I know this? 

Because I appear to be falling apart.

I had to ice my lower back twice on Saturday after the event, and my feet really hurt.

To paraphrase the late, great Bettie Davis: "This getting older is not for sissies." (And if you don't know who Bettie Davis was, you need to watch some classic films.  Start with All About Eve.)

My left foot is OK, but my right foot?  Well, I sat around all day yesterday in my jams and had to cancel my standing gym appointment with my friend, C; and now, I have the surgical shoe on again because although it's not bruised looking, it seems a little swollen and it's throbbing on the outside and on top, and my middle (had roast beef), ring (had none) and little (cried Whee Whee Wheee, all the way home) toes feel odd.  I am staying home today to see if I can get in to the podiatrist out here because mine's only in on Thursdays in the city.  I think that my foot is not OK this time.

It has occurred to me that I might be too fat for my feet.  I feel sad when I think that because I've struggled so mightily this year and gotten pretty much nowhere in this regard . . .

Then, on Sunday morning, I had an ocular migraine again.  I had one in 2008.  And now I've had another.  They are very bizarre and unnerving.  Only one eye, sort of like an after image when you've looked at something too long.  It looks like a jaggedy ripped hole with flashing marquee lights around it, and when you try to look at, it moves over to the right (it's my right eye).  Lasts about 15 minutes or so and everything where it is is distorted.  I did just take my blood pressure (with the machine), and it's 127/82, which is actually kind of high for me.

So, I have calls and appointments to make today, I guess . . . and I've got an email in to my main regular doctor alerting him of everything.  Guess I'll be using up my FSA account after all this year.

In other news of the day - I'm in full-on divest mode.  If you're looking for some yarn, please visit my destash page on Ravelry.  There are sweater quantities.  There is Wollmeise.  There might be more on there soon.

And, I've sold my Lendrum Saxony spinning wheel.

First, I sold the Louet Victoria earlier this year to Christa - well, actually, she fostered it for awhile until she decided if she wanted it or not.  She did  :-)  So, she paid me for that in September.  And I realized last week that I haven't been using my Saxony wheel lately - and then I really thought about it and realized I haven't spun on it in at least a year, maybe longer. 

I thought about it longer.  I had moved it into my office this summer when Jupiter was with me so he didn't accidentally knock it over, and after I realized I hadn't actually spun on it in a year, I also realized that every time I see it in my office my thought is not "gee, I should move that and spin on it again," it's "geez, that thing's huge and I should move it out of here - it's really taking up a lot of space."

Yeah - pretty big clue there, huh?

So, it's sold, and I'm taking it to its new home on Saturday, which means I'll have a nice trip to The Fold in the bargain, and my cousin ME might make the drive with me  :-)  Of course if my foot is really damaged and I end up with something other than the surgical shoe, I might have to beg her to drive me there.

I'm back down to one wheel, and really, it's my wheel of choice.  My folding Lendrum.  It's all I need  :-)  That's the place I seem to be in lately.  I'm very blessed to have pretty much everything I could ever want, and I think I fell into the "Oooo, Shiny!"  trap.  I'm not a magpie - I don't truly need every little thing I see.  I am reminded of my stepson when he was little - he was with me and my now ex-husband for a holiday (I was a Holiday Stepmom back then), and we were at the grocery store.  He was very clear with me that he NEEDED a toy sword.   :-D  (We went home without the sword.)

I have more yarn than I could ever knit up in probably two lifetimes.  I passed SABLE (Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy) a few years ago.  It's uncomfortable now - kinda like my body.  There's just too much of both . . .

I've already sold a lot of yarn and it's packaged up to mail today, so hopefully I can drive myself over to the PO (which is mercifully close) on my way to the podiatrist (assuming I can get in).

I have bags for the Second Chance Shop, and I'm going through the closets again - because, really, now the clothes I was keeping because they were going to fit soon are not going to fit soon, and by the time they do fit soon, they will be woefully dated and out of style.  So, I'm piling the stuff up in the living room (assuming I can walk around much in the coming days) and I'm going to keep moving forward.