Category Archives: Musings

Thoughts on food and weight

The other night I was telling Josh about a friend who was struggling to lose weight, who had expressed frustration at reducing calories and still gaining weight. Josh and I got talking about the various things both of us have learned about weight loss in the last year, and I realized some of this might be useful insight to pass along. I don’t in any way claim to be an expert, these are just things I learned that worked for me. To me they now seem common sense, but given how messed up many of our relationships to food, exercise, and our bodies are, maybe some of this can be helpful to someone else.

A note: I’m gonna throw it all out there and use real numbers. Shocking, I know. But I’m doing this for two reasons:

1. Women need to get better at being honest about this, and not being bitches to each other about it. If I’m heavy I don’t feel good about myself so I’m ashamed to say how much I weigh. But if I lose weight I’m reluctant to say a number because other women get snarky about it. Can we knock it off?

2. One of my main points is that numbers are relative. 150 lbs. on my frame is too much. 150 lbs. on someone else is perfect. This is all about what’s right for you, not what some vague standard of “health” or “thin” is.

I started putting on weight in 2009, when I left an active, on-my-feet retail job for a desk job (and quit smoking at the same time.) At my heaviest I was 155 lbs, and I was miserable with it for several years. I not only had to buy all new clothes, I decided that I’d never fit into my size 4 jeans again so I gave it all to goodwill. I was pretty miserable with my size but not able to find the motivation to do something about it.

Something finally tipped the balance last summer, and the weight started coming off. I managed to keep steady through the holidays, and I’ve actually lost more weight through this winter – the jacket my mom gave me for Christmas is too big now.

I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last 9 months. I’m now at 125, which is perfect. I not only fit into my wedding dress again, it’s a touch big. Any more would be too thin. Plus, I love that my dog and I are the same weight.

Again, I’m not an expert. I’m not a health guru. I smoke and drink and eat bacon whenever I get a chance. Every single one of these “rules” has an exception. But I do think it points to an overall philosophy that is useful.

So, without further ado, here are the things I’ve learned:

1. This is so important – EAT REAL FOOD. 

Cut out the processed crap. None of it is actually food and all of it will hurt you. It can take time to get yourself off processed food – it took me years. But when you realize how bad that stuff makes you feel it gets easier. I used to have to wean myself off fast food after every tech week. I would crave it for days after. Now I can’t imagine wanting to eat at McDonalds.

1a. When I say “eat real food,” I also mean the full version of things. Anything that has the word “lite” or “diet” in it is not good for you. Eat butter. Eat cream. Don’t go for the low-fat option. None of these things are inherently bad for you, it’s just all about moderation. If something is “lite” it has been processed. Butter is ok. Just don’t eat a whole stick of it in one sitting.

1b. Stop drinking soda. ESPECIALLY diet soda.

That shit is evil. Seriously. I know so many people who are addicted to Diet Coke. It is not good for you. I don’t know anyone who drinks Diet Coke in moderation. All you are doing is consuming unnecessary calories that don’t hydrate you and probably will give you cancer. Drink water. Don’t buy soda at the grocery store, and skip the “meal” when you eat out. Just ask for a cup for water. You’ll save yourself a ton of money. Which means you’ll have more money for beer.

2. Learn how to cook. 

Again, this is something that started years ago, and didn’t come easily. But if you learn to love food, real food; good fresh in-season not-processed food, your life will be so much better. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Baby steps. Stop buying Ragu. Buy a can of tomato sauce, an onion, garlic, and some fresh herbs instead. Figure that out before you move on. I think a lot of people are afraid of cooking because they try too much at once. I used to be utterly hopeless in the kitchen. I’m not any more. Teach yourself. You’re smart. There is so much pleasure to be had from food and eating, I don’t get why anyone would want to eat crap when they can have the real thing.

2a. This isn’t as much about weight loss, but stop limiting what you are willing to eat. I have very little tolerance for people who cut out entire food groups because they don’t like them. I used to hate olives. I kept trying them until they started tasting good. Now I love them. Same with sushi. And green peppers. Often people don’t like a particular food because they had a bad version of it. There is a huge difference between a frozen olive on a pizza and a fresh kalamata. This is why good, fresh, real food is important.

2b. In Season first, Local second, Organic third

I’ve pretty much stopped eating tomatoes unless it’s July, August, or September. I avoid asparagus unless it’s that magical three weeks in May. There’s nothing better than a grilled beet on an early fall day. Our food should be cyclical, and the unnatural expectation that we should be able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, is messed up. Don’t get me wrong, I drink more coffee than God, and I love a good banana or mango. But if there is something that is grown in this state in a particular season, I would much rather binge on it when it’s available than have the mediocre version flown in from Mexico all year round. Once you’ve had a good, Minnesota-grown, fresh off the vine heirloom tomato, the mealy, sad things you can get at the grocery store just don’t seem the same.

3. Portion control

My eyes are ALWAYS bigger than my stomach. I also eat fast, so I tend to keep eating before my stomach can realize it’s full and tell me. Now, I do cut my burger in half. Or just put less on my plate. Slow down, give your stomach time to catch up with your brain. You’ll realize you don’t need to eat as much as you think you do.

4. Be ok feeling hungry

I am a snacker, and if there’s food around I’ll eat it. I had to train myself that just because my stomach grumbles, it doesn’t mean I need to instantly satisfy it. Josh and I both have this weakness, so this is our solution: we don’t tempt ourselves. We know that if there is snack food in our house, we will eat it mindlessly. So we simply don’t buy it. No chips, no pretzels, no crackers. No one forces you to buy things at the grocery store. Use your brain instead of your stomach.

5. Buy a scale. Step on it every day.

This isn’t about what the number is, it’s about gaining an understanding of the cycles of your body. Weight is not a linear thing – our bodies naturally fluctuate throughout the day and across time. As a woman, my weight changes depending on where in my monthly cycle I am. Stepping on the scale every day helps me keep track of this. Also, when you know where you are it’s easier to control it. These days I find it a lot better to realize I’ve hit a lazy patch and correct it before 3 pounds turns into 15.

6. Be active

I hate exercise. I despise the idea of a gym membership. Some people can do it, but I know it’s not for me. But any movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking is better than standing. Etc. If you want to lose weight you MUST get your heart rate up sometimes. You don’t have to go jogging every day. But you have to do SOMETHING. I started riding my bike more last year – again, I do this only as transportation, not as exercise. This winter I decided to keep riding to work. My office is barely a mile from my house, there isn’t a good bus, walking takes too long and driving would be expensive and stupid. Biking is the option that makes most sense. I do believe that a lot of my weight loss this winter has to do with the fact that I stayed on my bike. But it’s not like I was hardcore about it. I rode less than a mile there and back three times a week. That’s it. It is barely far enough to get my heart rate going, but it made a difference. A big one.

7. Don’t diet

Diets are not healthy. Diets are about achieving unrealistic results on unrealistic timescales that aren’t sustainable. Change your life, change your habits. Realize that it will take time. Realize that your first goal should be changing bad habits, not losing weight. Losing weight sustainably takes time. But if you make small steps to change your habits, you will lose weight without realizing it. 

8. Own it

Feel good about yourself. As I mentioned earlier, women can be horrible to each other about our bodies. I have found myself being bashful about my success because other women react negatively because they don’t feel good about themselves. And that’s not healthy for anyone. I am in better shape than I have ever been and I feel good about it. I have learned to look people in the eye when they ask and say “Yes, I have lost weight. And I feel great. Thank you for noticing.” There is nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself.

Ultimately, I think the way our culture has created this idea that being healthy means denying yourself things is really messed up. I rarely deny myself anything. Given, I’m lucky that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I definitely have a bacon-mayonnaise-cheese-whiskey tooth. If I want a piece of cheesecake, I eat a piece of cheesecake. I make sure it’s the best damn cheesecake I can get. The more I’ve gotten processed food out of my diet, the more I’ve come to appreciate real food and to realize that it’s not about how much you do or don’t allow yourself to have, it’s about quality and appreciation. Eat real food. Eat good food. THAT’S what being healthy is all about.


Family

Given the proposed constitutional amendment in MN, I really feel the need to tell a story…

It’s a story that a lot of you have heard, but a lot of you haven’t. It is something that we haven’t hidden, but also have been fairly politic about who we tell it to.

The more I hear about the gay marriage debate, and more I hear about people who seek to impose a narrow definition of “family” upon the rest of us, the more I feel the need to shout our story from the rooftops.

It should not be a secret. It is a beautiful story about how four people came together to create one amazing family…

Josh and I were married on Midsummer in 2008. We honeymooned in Spain, and not long after we returned home, we got a call from our friends Molly and Emer inviting us to dinner. I had gone to college with Emer, though I graduated the year before Molly started at Grinnell. They were good friends who we enjoyed spending time with, when time allowed.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner on Molly and Emer’s porch, telling tales of our travels in Spain and generally catching up. After we had finished eating, Emer topped off our wine glasses, and gave Molly a significant look.

“There’s something we’d like to ask you.” Emer said.

Molly and Emer began to talk about their desire to start a family, and how they had been approaching that challenge as a lesbian couple. They were really hoping that they could find a donor that they knew, so they would not have to go through the overly-medicalized process of using a sperm bank.

Then, they nervously got to the point: Would we, Josh specifically, be willing to father their child?

This request was not a total surprise – I had known that Molly and Emer were hoping to start a family soon, and I had once, a few months ago, casually mentioned the idea to Josh. At the time I had no idea they were considering asking us. I knew that they were starting the process of looking for donors, and they were hoping to find someone they knew. I thought that since Josh and I did not want to have children of our own, maybe we would be able to help someone else become parents. I remember mentioning it to Josh as an aside one night – “Hey, I know Molly and Emer are starting to think about having kids, do you think that is something you might be interested in helping them out with someday?” I hadn’t thought about it since then.

That night at dinner, Molly and Emer told us about their hopes for their future family. Josh considered it, and told them that he needed some time to think about it.

For the next few weeks, I tried really hard not to push Josh about it. I knew that as his spouse it was a significant decision that involved both of us, but in reality the decision had to be his. I was all for it, but I knew that he had to reach his own decision. This was something that would happen to us as a couple, but really I was just a bystander, a supportive person in something very significant that wasn’t actually happening to me.

After some time thinking it through, Josh reached his decision: Yes. Yes we would help Molly and Emer start the family they so desperately desired.

We started talking about logistics. We wanted to keep things friendly, and not too awkward, but we also realized that we were starting down a path that held a lot of huge unknowns. The four of us sat down one night and drew up a contract. Molly and Emer wanted to make sure that no matter what, the child would be fully theirs, and that neither Josh nor I had any legal claim to him. Josh and I wanted to make sure that we could not be held liable for any medical complications or outcomes related to the pregnancy. Really, we came up with a lot of legal-sounding stuff that covered what we considered to be all the eventualities of pregnancy, labor, birth, and child-rearing. We all wanted to make sure we considered every possibility – what happens if Molly miscarries? If she develops complications in the pregnancy? What if something should happen to either of the child’s mothers – at any point in his life? Do Josh and I have any say in how they raise him? In how they educate him? What if they decide to move to another state? What if, god forbid, both Molly and Emer are killed? Are Josh and I considered guardians? Can we have any claim to anything that happens in the life of the child? Can Molly and Emer blame us if anything goes wrong?

Looking back now, the detail of our contract seems a bit excessive, but I’m glad we went through with it. We had no idea what this experience would be like, and we were smart enough to know that there were a lot of unknowns that we might have to deal with. We had a lawyer friend look over our contract, we all signed it, and we were ready to go.

This was the point when all attempts to pretend it wasn’t awkward went out the window. When your husband is trying to impregnate another woman, you kind of just have to embrace the awkward. We did decide to do the whole process ourselves, with no formal medical intervention. Molly charted, and Josh showed up at their house on the appropriate days. A receptacle was left in the bathroom. You all can imagine the rest.

After a couple of months, Molly was getting tired of tracking her cycles so closely, and we were all starting to get burned out. She decided to not do all the tests, to take it easy, and just use basic female intuition to guess when she was ovulating. Of course, that was the month that worked.

Molly was pregnant.

We were thrilled. We were overjoyed. We started trying to figure out how to navigate this new phase – how to be happy for our friends, and involved in the process, but not too overbearing. This was the point where it became Molly and Emer’s pregnancy, but it was still ours, too.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Josh so out of sorts – those of you who know him know he is a person who is very sure of himself, but this was something totally new for him. He was so worried that something would go wrong – not that it would be his fault, but that this thing we had decided to do would result in harm to people we loved. It was a new kind of stress.

The months went by. We helped host a shower, we did what we could. Finally the day came when Molly went into labor. It was a long one. No complications beyond time, which took the birth from home to the hospital after over 48 hours. On July 26, Jasper was born.

And so a new family was started. We visited Jasper and his happy, excited, tired moms the day after he was born. He was a very big baby, which must have been Josh’s fault because Molly is a very small woman. Everyone at the hospital was awesome, and no one flinched at having two moms in the delivery room, or not putting a father’s name on the birth certificate.

Of course, the actual birth of Jasper brought us into the next step of our journey – Josh was absolved of certain legal responsibilities because his name wasn’t on the birth certificate, but one of Jasper’s actual parents had no legal rights regarding him. We knew this would be part of the process, but it was still frustrating to have to deal with.

As the non-biological same-sex parent of the child, Emer would have to apply to adopt her own son. This required court filings, and affidavits and witness statements testifying to her fitness as a parent. Josh went to the family court hearing for the adoption to witness on Emer, Molly, and Jasper’s behalf. He came home later that day telling how awesome the judge was – as a family court judge, she usually had to deal with custody disputes and other nasty things that happen to families, and had been genuinely happy to have a case where two people so obviously deserved to get what they were asking for. For the judge, it was a welcome change to not be facilitating pulling families apart, but to be knitting one together.

At some point not long after Jasper was born, Emer’s dad sent us a card. He thanked us for helping all of them redefine what “family” meant. Reading that card still brings tears to my eyes.

We had no idea what we were getting into when we decided to do this, but I can truly say it is one of the best things I have ever done. It strikes an especially meaningful chord for me, because I myself was adopted as a baby. I really know nothing about my biological parents, but I do know that the people who raised me are all the family I have, and I am one of them. My parents are devout Catholics who chose adoption when having children of their own wasn’t an option. My mother is a woman who attended the wedding of my brother’s college roommate, (who was marrying his longtime partner,) in a wheelchair. Nathan’s parents wouldn’t come, and my mother declared that – despite the fact that she had just had a hip replacement a few weeks before – she would be there, because every groom needs a mother at his wedding. My parents taught me that family is what you make it, not what you are given, or what the bible or the government tells you it should be.

Jasper just turned three. He loves trucks of all kinds, is a voracious reader, and is one of the cutest damn kids I’ve ever known. He has my husband’s nose, and his mother’s eyes. We are hoping to give him a sibling someday. Molly and Emer are amazing parents, and I am so proud that I was able to help them build their family.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this – Molly and Emer have just as much right to decide TO have children as Josh and I have NOT to. Their family is amazing, and watching them raise their child is inspiring. They are a family, and it is right. Jasper is growing up in a world where some of his friends have one mom, or one dad, or a mom and dad, or two of both. He has no idea that any of those combinations might be wrong, because they aren’t. All he knows is that he loves his Mamma Molly, and he loves his Mama Emer, but he also loves it when Uncle Josh comes over. Because Uncle Josh never gets tired of playing trucks with him.

And that’s alright.


A letter to some senators

Dear Senators,

Last week, I helped convince a friend of mine that he should move to Minnesota. He had two job offers he was deciding between, and I was very vocal about my belief that Minnesota was the place he should choose to live.  My friend is an incredibly intelligent and accomplished person, who has been offered a post-doctorate research fellow position at the University of Minnesota.  He will be an asset to the University and to the community when he lives here.  I convinced him to come here by telling him what an amazing place Minnesota is – how vibrant our cities are, how beautiful our wilderness is, how open and welcoming Minnesotans are.  I told him that even though I grew up here, I chose to live here as an adult because I believe so strongly in how great this place is.

The problem is, now you have made me a liar.

Because this past Wednesday, your vote on the Gay Marriage Amendment told my friend that in fact, he was not welcome in Minnesota.

Because he is gay.

Were my friend to live in Minnesota, he would have a mortgage.  He would pay property taxes.  He would buy gas and groceries, and eat at local restaurants and shop at local businesses and attend local cultural events.  He would be a contributing member to the great communities we have built in this state.

But your vote has told him that you don’t want his property taxes, his sales tax, his contribution to increasing the intellectual capital of our community and to making our great University even better.  You have told him that even if he does live here, and have that job and mortgage and pay his taxes, he is still less of a citizen than the other 90% of us.  You have told him this simply because you do not approve of who he may choose to go on a date with some day.

Marriage does not need protection.  Marriage is not in danger.  There is not one shred of evidence that allowing same-sex couples the same civil rights as heterosexual couples in any way harms marriage. 

However, our economy does need protection.  So do our jobs and our communities and our small business owners.  We have elected you to help solve these real problems, which real people are suffering with every day.  Minnesota deserves better.

Minnesota needs people like my friend to live here.  My friend is good enough for Minnesota.  I just hope we can be good enough for him.

Sincerely,
Liz Neerland
Minneapolis


Crazy Idea #67

I used to joke that when I was done with stage managing I would go into wedding planning, because they are basically the same thing.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe it might not be a bad idea.

I would only be interested in planning weddings for people who know they want a unique event, but don’t want to get sucked into the behemoth that is the wedding industry in this country. I would only want to plan weddings for people who want weddings like mine was – a unique reflection of the couple, with an emphasis on the marriage not the wedding, where every detail exists because the couple want it, not because it’s “supposed” to happen.

I even have a slogan – “Uncommon weddings for uncommon people.”

We have some friends who got married quietly at the courthouse earlier this year. They will be having the “make the family happy” reception at Nimbus Theatre this summer. I’ve offered to help plan, so maybe this is the dry run for my other new business.


Things I have learned while building a theater #1

I have learned that applying for a zoning change with the city is not something that anyone should have to figure out on their own, and that I should maybe go into business helping people do it, because it sucks. (Props must go out to Shanna, our City Planner, for dealing with my incessant emails.)

I have learned that painting an open-truss ceiling is a massive pain in the ass, even if you are 120 miles away while it’s being painted.

I have learned that while Dry Fall paint sounds really cool, it’s actually just code for “Hahahahahahaha!!! Now you will find pockets of paint dust in your space for the next ten years!!”

I have learned that most set designs in this town probably, technically, do not conform to fire code and are therefore illegal. (Shhhhh. I won’t tell if you won’t.)

I have learned that there are a whole lot of awesome people who are willing to help us in a lot of different ways.

I have learned that a lot of this process is just luck in timing, and that I owe a huge thanks to the U of M for cleaning out their storage room just when I needed risers.

I have learned that my dog can devour a 1-inch dowel or piece of pine 1x in about three seconds. He is also a huge wimp who is afraid of walking on platforms unless it’s the only way to get around to you.

I have learned that I am not the only person who is really excited about this space, and that is really exciting.


Open for Business

Thanks to everyone who came by yesterday.  It’s fun to keep hitting “refresh” on my dashboard and watch the page hits go up.  Oh, the things you spend time on when unemployed!

 

Some of you may have read yesterday’s post and thought, “Ok, Liz is over 30 and making jokes about hiking.  But what can she actually DO?”  So I thought I’d share the type of things I would be happy to get paid to do.  My perfect world scenario includes working for myself, so for now I’m focusing on freelance and contract work.

 

Things Liz Can Do:

Plan your event – fundraiser, party, concert, opening, wedding, etc.  I am good at logistics, details, and keeping it all in order.  I am good at handling deadlines.  Depending on the type of event, I have knowledge of staging and audio-visual systems and equipment, and know who to rent from and who to hire.

 

Manage your project – I used to be a stage manager, so I know how to balance all aspects of a project and make sure everyone involved knows what is going on.  I am comfortable working with all levels of staff, and with media communications, politicians, and other big-wigs.  I can handle your budget, your personnel, your time line, and your needs to make sure the project is finished to your satisfaction.

 

Write your grant or raise your funds – To be honest, development isn’t what I want to do all the time, but I have written successful grants and fund raising letters, so I can help you with yours.  I am happy to pass on writing samples if the above statement wasn’t enough of a ringing endorsement of my talent and commitment.

 

Write, shoot, edit, or produce your video – I am not a filmmaker or an aspiring film director.  I do know how to use several different kinds of camera, how to set up lighting, how to run your shoot, and I can edit it all when we’re done.  I know Final Cut Pro, Logic, Soundtrack Pro, LiveType, and Camtasia.  I have access to Avid and am willing to learn if necessary.

 

Run your theater company – I’ve run mine for almost ten years.  We’re opening a new space.  I am learning how to do that as we go.  But I have a lot of other knowledge gained from my years of running my organization, and I am happy to advise or consult as necessary on yours.

 

Lots of things! – I may not have listed every possibility here, but I am smart and I think well on my feet.  I am open to new experiences and I learn quickly.  Let me know if you hear of something that might be a good fit!


Finding new paths after 30

Apologies, this post has no photos of puppies.

Giving credit where credit’s due – My mother thinks I should expand this blog, and keep the stuff about dogs, keep doing more food, but also talk about other things like theater, lifestyle, and…finding new paths after 30.

I will be honest, my first thought was “Are you kidding? How cheesy! Who wants to read that?”

But, as always, in some way or another, mom is right.

I am not interested in making this blog some sort of inspirational-find-your-true-calling-I-hope-Oprah-discovers-me thing. But I do think there’s value in talking about my current situation to a bigger audience than my husband, best friend, and dog. (The cats don’t listen. I try, but they just walk away.) Maybe this will help me actually find work. Maybe it will be self-indulgent and my two-dozen readers will ignore any post that isn’t titled “This post has dog pictures in it!” Maybe it will be interesting to talk about where I am, and find out who else is there and what people think.

The truth is that I have no idea what I’m doing or what I should do. I got laid off from a job that I wasn’t particularly excited about anyway, but it was employment and now I don’t have that. I can tell you a whole lot of things that I know I don’t want to do, but I’m not so sure about the things I do want to do. The thought of writing cover letters scares me to death. I’ve never had to market myself to potential employers – I got my gigs at Jeune Lune and the Fringe straight out of college, that naturally built into the AV freelancing I did for a while, and when I left the bookstore I went straight into something that was basically made up for me. Some of my most tangible skills are things I’ve gained from nimbus, not from any employer.

So here I am. Over 30. Trying to find a new path. And trying not to be too cheesy in the process.

And so, dear readers, I will keep you posted on my various thoughts and frustrations of my path-finding expedition. Please let me know your thoughts, or observations on your own experiences.

And don’t worry, there still will be plenty of Kubla photos to distract us along the way.