Sunday, February 12, 2012
After a rough autumn-into-winter, things are looking up. Had a basically wonderful holiday vacation with the whole family, with time in the sun, so that was nice. January still WAY too calm: I feel like I've been marking time for over a year now, waiting for SOMETHING to excite me again, and allow me to use my mind again. Hubby's surgery and recuperation, in addition to my own physical troubles, left me reeling, and feeling WAY too sorry for myself. Not a productive way to be, and not the way I like to handle things, but I felt like I was turning in circles.
Well, my life has just gotten interesting again! I applied, and was accepted to, an art school that holds its classes online. The concept is to give a classical art education to students around the world, and I have to say, if I was skeptical before beginning, I'm quickly becoming a believer...
I've always loved art: drawing and painting and anything to do with color. I even contemplated going to art school instead of a liberal arts college when I left high school, but I felt that I didn't have the talent, or the fire in my belly, that was necessary to fully bloom at that time. I still think I made the right decision (especially since it brought me to the life I have now, which is pretty darn good!).
But after having had careers in accounting/finance, teaching English, and stay-at-home motherhood, it was time for a change. I lose interest in a career when I feel like I've learned all I want to learn, and boredom isn't something I look for in a job, or in any activity. And I have to add that I know how incredibly blessed I am to have the options I have: to work or not, to do an activity or not, and not have to worry about bringing in a paycheck. I appreciate the freedom I have to explore new interests, but then the "dilemma" becomes: with all the choice I have, what do I do? It's harder than you might think...
Anyway, I figured it was time to look at my options to do art, but I wasn't ready to become an amateur painter in a local expatriate art group. And not knowing enough Dutch to participate in schools here was also a hindrance. I want to learn the principles of good art, the classical principles that started with the Greeks and Romans, were rediscovered by the Renaissance artists, and still continue today. Not that I don't like "modern" art, but to break the rules, you have to KNOW the rules, you know?
So back to this online art school*: it gives a classical art education, starting from the basics, in 30 months of full-time study. As a beginner, I have about 27 hours per week of online classes (lectures, streaming video, slides, demonstrations), and then 10-15 hours per week of homework to hand in. The workload is heavy, but I'm enjoying every minute of it. And although the classes are held in Texas, they can be watched on demand, which works for me since some of the lessons are in the early morning hours Dutch time!
I've found a new passion, and it's amazing how it has energized me in my exercise and my eating as well: the couple of pounds I've gained since the holidays are now coming off, since I'm not mindlessly nibbling. Much too busy!
And one last tidbit: I finally found a way to try out yoga, since classes never worked due to physical impediments. I've signed up for private lessons, and after the first class with the teacher (a lovely woman!), I slept like a baby and felt like my whole body had been stretched and pulled in all directions, in a good way, of course! She was able to help me modify poses so they were attainable, and it was amazing.
I'm coming out of hibernation, and it feels good!
*If anyone's interested in my art school, the website is:
The focus is on concept art, but they give the same classical foundation to everyone, and you specialize after the first year; I'll be majoring in Drawing/Painting myself.
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Yes, I know, Sparkies...it has been a VERY long time! Not that I've forgotten about Project ME!!, but had some bumps and bruises along the way. To catch you up...
Had a lovely summer vacation with my family in France, and I was sad to see it end, especially since it meant I wouldn't be seeing my girls until probably Christmas vacation (both in Montreal, both relatively successful and happy). Plus the fact that I found myself at loose ends was a little tough: no big plans on the horizon for the new school year, which always gets me panicky. No classes to take, no work, no big projects...all I could see was a big, fat void. The comedown wasn't pretty, I can tell you!
However, my empty calendar turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My husband had taken a big fall while kite-surfing with my son back in May. Other than a broken rib and lots of bruises, we thought all was okay. We were wrong. When he started running again in August, he had some weird pains and tingling in his hands and legs, so was sent for x-rays and an MRI, which showed that he had a fractured dislocated cervical vertebra due to the fall, and he was very lucky that his symptoms were not worse. He was scheduled for immediate surgery, to stabilize his vertebra with rods and screws, and has spent the last two months recuperating.
The surgery was a success, but my husband has been an athlete since his early teens. Which means he has no experience with the aches and pains of bodily dysfunction, and his fitness level dropping drastically. He panicked at every twinge and every cramp, and I've had to be very patient and teach him what I learned about dealing with disability at a very early age.
I don't envy him the pain and the suffering he went through post-op. But in one respect, it's been wonderful: he finally understands some of what I go through on a daily basis because of chronic diseases which affect what I can do physically, and which sap my energy. He had, up until recently, been convinced that will power and discipline could overcome just about any condition; now he understands that this is not always the case. Not that I shouldn't try to have more willpower and discipline, but that sometimes, it's just not enough. It's taken him almost 25 years, but now he's had a taste of my reality, and he's not likely to forget it anytime soon...
Now he's back driving and at work, and I'm happy that the prognosis is good for the future. He should be able to attain his former fitness level in less than a year. And while he's frustrated he can't run yet (and he's not a happy camper when he can't run!), he's learning to be calmer and more patient without running as a release. Not easy, but doable.
As for me, I had my own physical scare right around the time of his operation: woke up one morning, and my right knee (the one I always have problems with) was cramped and swollen. Couldn't completely straighten it, and couldn't walk more than 10 minutes without pain, in addition to it being very unstable. I felt like it was going to give out on me the little I did walk. Needless to say, I wasn't comfortable walking on my own with the fear of falling, so became trapped at home for far too long. The orthopedist six months ago had said I'd need a new knee in five - ten years, but this seemed to have happened too quickly, and I got very depressed. It was a lovely pity party at my house for most of the autumn, between my husband and me!
Well things are looking up, since I saw the rheumatologist this past Monday. She said it sounded like a tendon problem, and a cortisone shot might be enough to reduce the swelling and give me back my mobility. It's been two days, but I'm seeing a huge improvement: the swelling has gone down, and I can walk around the house with less discomfort. I'm waiting a few days before taking a "real" walk, but I'm cautiously optimistic!
And, in other news, I'll be starting some art courses in February...over the internet! I couldn't find high-level courses here in The Hague in English, so researched and found courses which are streamed live over the internet (and can be viewed at other times, if the streaming times are not convenient). The courses have gotten good reviews, so I'm going to try them, and see how it goes. Finally something I can be excited about, something for my mind to go with the work on my body...
Which is coming along nicely. I still haven't lost any more weight, but I also haven't gained. And considering the ups and downs of the last couple of months, I'm pretty proud of myself. My personal trainer has been wonderful at working with my knee issues, helping me strengthen the muscles around my knee to support my funky joints, and keep me on the path to fitness. I'm now hoping to add walking back into the mix, and get my cardio going again.
So there you have it. Never got completely off the path of Project ME!!, but had some challenges to deal with and resolve. I'm now hoping to start the New Year with a fresh attitude, and be stronger than ever.
Wish me luck!
Monday, July 18, 2011
I know, I know...I am beyond blessed! As part of my 50th birthday celebration one of my gifts to myself (with hubby's support) is a two week stay in a Paris apartment. Half by myself, half with family members passing through (daughter, husband, sister, and two nieces). Not all at the same time, but just enough to visit all the spots I haven't seen in ages, some not since we lived in Paris from 1993 - 1996. My son was born there, and he is now 17, so gives you some idea of how long it's been...
I loved Paris when we lived there, and I fought hard to stay. But it didn't work out with hubby's job, so we moved on, but it's always held a special place in my heart. We pass through every year, no matter where we are living, to spend at least two weeks at my in-laws summer home off the west coast of France (another idyllic spot), but don't usually have much time to spend in Paris: between planes, trains and metro, it's usually a mad dash to make our connections. So staying for two weeks, before heading out for the vacation with the rest of the family, feels lazy and luxurious, even if I'm sure I'll be walking the length and width of the city in 14 days, trying not to miss anything. It's nice to finally reach a point where I appreciate any time I spend there, but don't feel the strong desire to live there anymore. With dear son leaving next year, I have the feeling I'll be able to spend quality time in Paris, and anywhere else I'd like to wander, much more often in the future. And this is a good thing...
Now just have to stick to my healthy eating; the exercise will take care of itself. It's hard to be in Paris and NOT walk all day and night. So my plan is to allow myself one of everything I've missed: one baguette with salted butter from Brittany, one pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), one crepe with butter and sugar, one round of goat cheese...you get the idea. Thank goodness it is easy to get wonderful fruits and vegetables in France in the summer: everything is bright and beautiful and bursting with flavor, and since I'll have a kitchen, I can make myself simple meals on nights I'd rather not go back out, or eat alone in a restaurant. Sounds like a plan!
I'll have internet, so will be on and off Sparkpeople. I've been neglected this blog, since nothing much of interest has been happening, but I feel like I'm starting to move forward again, finally. More on that in my next installment!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Nothing big or exciting to report in my little corner of the world. Life here is pretty calm, which is a good thing, I know! But don't get me wrong, things are happening...
Hubby had a little accident kite-surfing a few weeks ago (I can't remember if I wrote about it) which gave us all a good scare: he was knocked unconscious by the force of the wind dumping him on the sand from a good ways up. He was testing the wind with my son on the beach before heading out to water, and the wind came up so fast it took them both by surprise. He is fine, just ended up with a cracked rib and a black eye, but he was incredibly lucky, since it could have been so much worse. Shook me up a bit, too: he's so athletic and fit, sometimes I forget he's actually human and vulnerable!
Son is passing end of the year exams, which are a very big deal in the French-system school he goes to: this year, he only has two exams, sort of a taste of the end-of-schools exams next year, his last, where he is tested in every subject. I think he'll be happy when they are over later today...
As for me: ever feel like you're in the eye of the storm? That a whole lot of "stuff" is happening around you, and you are trying to stay calm, not just for yourself, but to be a point of stability for those you love? My hubby's accident was just the tip of the iceberg; I've also got a friend who has cancer, a friend whose husband has cancer, a daughter who is dealing with anxiety, two sisters who are going through some difficult times (and that's all I'm going to say about THAT!), my best friend who is living through a whirlwind, all of this happening in North America...and here I am in Europe, going about my life, trying very hard to be the port in a storm, the place where those I care about can come (or call!)and find some measure of peace.
Of course, staying peaceful myself is sometimes a challenge, since I tend to want to make everything better, which we all know is not always possible. Although I HAVE learned, through experience and lots of work with my therapist, that self-preservation is key: I'm no good to anyone else if I don't take care of myself. I read in a fellow Sparkie's blog post (forgive me, I can't remember who it was!), that you have to put on your own oxygen mask before those of your children...well, the idea is the same. To care for others, you have to care for yourself first, something I was starting to forget the last couple of weeks.
I had started turning, as I usually do, back to the food for emotional relief, for comfort, for a small hit of "mouth happiness". Now I knew exactly what I was doing: there was no bingeing, no crazed raids on the refrigerator...I knew that some snacks of white carbs and chocolate would give me exactly the endorphin rush I was craving so desperately. And they did: my old friends were there to help out in a time of need.
So what's the problem with this picture? Well, it went on for a little too long, and started crowding out the other food, the "good" food, that my body has kind of come to depend on. The foods which don't give me an endorphin rush, but DO keep my moods steady and my physical health intact. And my body proceeded to teach me yet another lesson (since I obviously was starting to forget some things!) about taking care of myself: I got my first sinus infection in over a year.
Proceeded to feel miserable for about three to four days (had somehow actually forgotten how rotten it feels to be sick), but went back to my healthy eating, and lots of fluids and sleeping and vitamins...and managed to beat the sickness back where it came from. I don't think it was a full-fledged sinusitis, since it left so quickly, but I recognized the beginning signs, and definitely didn't like them, I can tell you! Fatigue, headache, pounding pressure in my head, and the tightness in my chest that signals an asthma "event" is just waiting to explode.
Warning taken! But isn't it amazing how quickly we forget, and how easy it is to go for the quick fix? Which, as we all know, and I knew but chose to ignore, is not a fix at all?
Lesson learned...for the umpteenth time. Not the first and definitely not the last, but I came out of the struggle intact and ready to re-engage in my healthy plan. So all's well, right? I'm hoping to continue to stay calm in the middle of my personal storm front; wish me luck!
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Hard to believe it's been a full year since I made the decision to take my life, and my health, into a higher gear. I've learned so much about myself that it's hard to even describe, but some of the details will clarify the matter, for myself and others:
1: I am eating so much healthier than before, with vegetables and protein being the stars of my food plan, rather than the carbs and sweets of the years before.
2: I am exercising a minimum of 3 - 4 times a week, most weeks even more. I cannot remember the last time I was this consistent with my activity level. Um, maybe during a six-month period when I was first out of college? Maybe? That was a LONG time ago, so it was about time!
3: I am accepting personality traits in myself that I don't particularly like, but I've learned to work around. Like hating vegetables...I just eat the damn daily salad, and get on with life! And hating weight training: I pay the personal trainer, and then feel guilty if I don't go, so I go. Gotta do what works, and not wait for my personality to get with the program...
4: I might not always enjoy the actual DOING of healthy things (eating veggies, doing weight training), but I for sure LOVE all the non-weight-loss related results. Things like not getting horribly sick every month, and having much more energy, and my moods being more stable. It's worth dealing with my own whining to have a renewal of good health. I had almost forgotten what being healthy was like...
5: I am losing weight: it's at a snail's pace, but it is coming off. And anything that goes in the opposite direction of gaining weight, even if it's just maintaining, is a GOOD thing!
6: I am learning the tools, both physical and emotional, to handle the stresses in my life. Now I'm not talking the major stresses, like death or divorce (although it has seemed to happen all around me, to people I love, this year), but the daily, routine stresses of hubby, and kids, and house, and living in a foreign culture that is sometimes not as easy to handle as I would like. I am mentally stronger since I have been taking care of myself, and that is valuable to me.
7: And last, I am finally learning that I have to find my own way. Following a food plan, or an exercise plan, without adapting for my body and my life, is a recipe for failure, so I try things until I find what works for ME.
And I guess, when all is said and done, that is the most important lesson I've learned from Project ME!! What works for others might work for me, and it might not, but it's a learning process and it never stops. We are each on our own path, and will make different choices, and we have to find the choices that work for us. I'm still learning, and that's okay.
Thanks for reading!
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