dieting, food

Everything I Love is High in Calories: A Lament

For years, my weight was rising, and all my subtle attempts to reverse the trend seemed fruitless. My husband’s low carb dieting plan would result in him dropping twenty pounds by Friday. Not so for me. He suggested I do a calorie counting plan, which I resisted. It’s too hard. It’s too inconvenient. It’s not really sustainable. I had plenty of excuses. Eventually, I gave in, and this is what I discovered.

Everything I love is high in calories. Everything. Seriously, this is tragic.

See, I knew fried foods and fatty foods would be high in calories. What I mistakenly thought, was that carbs were low in calories. I thought meats being high in protein would be high in calories, where as basic white rice would be low in calories. So not true. And so not fair.

I could have guessed the sweet fried donuts would be high in calories, but I hadn’t realized that eating two donuts for breakfast was nearly half of my allotted calories for an entire day. (about 300-350 calories each). WHAT? And my favorite, a single orange scone from Panera- 540 calories. Basically, if I ate one scone at each of my three meals in a day and nothing else, I would exceed my daily calorie intake by over 100 calories. Just steal all of my joy would you.


Here is a list of the most basic carb staples, not even the best:
a cup of white rice- 242 calories
a cup of pasta- 221 calories
a plain bagel -290 calories

People this is what I eat for joy. Give me chicken baked in cream of chicken soup, served over rice and hold the chicken. I just want the high calorie cream sauce over my mound of rice.

French bread, Italian bread, naan, tortillas, cornbread, Hawaiian rolls, chapati, soft pretzels, johnny cakes: I’m an equal opportunity lover of the breads of the world. Some of these I will make from scratch. I have a tortilla press. Sometimes I even make tortilla chips from scratch. I don’t even want to know how many calories they are.

bread -navajo


bread- indian

bread monkey

Let’s talk a minute about fried dough. I have made my own Native American/Navajo Fried bread, and it’s amazing. Grandmom’s mashed potato doughnuts are a Fat Tuesday tradition. I’ve made funnel cakes and once burned my hand something awful while making mandazi. And while we’re frying things, can we discuss fried Oreos and cannolis? I’ve not personally made either, but they are the foods dreams are made of.


And if we’re looking more at a solid dinner food, we have empanadas and Samosas. Potatoes in all their fried glory could have their own entry. (French fries, potato chips, home fries, tater tots, potato pancakes need I go on?)

OH! Why can you take a tasty food and cook it in the essence of a vegetable (okay, the oil, but same thing) and suddenly you get an even more delicious food that is suddenly magically bad for you? This seems like black magic.

And sugar. Sugar is a vegetable. What’s with all the calories? Green beans aren’t high in calories. Why not. Because they are’t delicious.  This is so unfair.

Let me share with you one of the best high carbs, high fat foods. It makes life worth living. This recipe was passed down from my grandmother to my father to me. It came someone incomplete, so I added a few words to make it more readable.


Anita Bloodgood Wagg’s Mashed Potato Doughnuts

5 cups sifted flour
7 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups warm mashed potatoes
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs well beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ Tbs. melted butter
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup milk

Sift flour with baking powder. (set aside) In a mixing bowl, beat together the potatoes, salt, eggs, sugar, and butter. Add nutmeg. Add milk and stir. Slowly add flour and stir just until blended. Chill. Place about 1/3 of the dough on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle lightly with flour and roll to 3/8 on an inch thick. Dough should be stiff enough to handle. Cut into doughnut shape. Fry in 375 degree oil. Drain on paper towels.
Optional: Put either powder sugar or cinnamon sugar in a paper bag. Drop doughnuts in one at a time, fold bag down and shake to coat.

Go in peace and eat the tasty foods that make life worth living.



Adulting, family, parenting teens

No Tears Guide to Helping Your Teenager Clean Their Room (Just kidding. You’ll still cry.)

clutter 2

Step 1: Give notice- This step not only gives your child fair warning that the day of reckoning is coming, but is also gives you time to stock up on garbage bags, chocolate, and ear plugs. You might want to psych yourself up for this by watching a few episodes of hoarders. Do they have a teen edition? Someone should do that.

Step 2: Clear the Calendar- The general rule of a construction project is to anticipate the job lasting twice as long as the initial estimate. You, however, are not working with professional contractors; you are working with a hostile teen. Triple the amount of time it would take you to do the task alone. Haha, just kidding. Multiply it by 10.

Step 3: Prepare the staging area- Prepare space in your house to lay out all of the items from you teen’s room. Everything is coming out. Everything! So the goal is to be able to spread it out. Yes, your home will look terrible for a few days, so don’t plan to have your boss over for dinner. (See step 2.)


Step 4: Empty- This seems like a simple task. You carry the items out and then your put them down in the staging area. Shockingly, this is a difficult concept to grasp for the adolescent mind. Be prepared to answer questions like, “Does that include….” and “Am I finished, yet?” which for the adult mind seem illogical if one is asking them while standing in a room full of things. My rule is that only large furniture or things fastened to the wall remain. (Dresser drawers come out, dresser remains.)

Step 5: Scrub- If your teen is like mine, this is a good time for the annual washing of the sheets. Pull large furniture away from the walls. Chances are you will find more “stuff” behind these heavy items. It is also time to introduce them to cleaning products so they can scrub the floors and maybe the walls and baseboards.


Step 6: Sort-  Items are either trash, donate, or keep. Every paper, book, pair of shoes, and toy is individually classified. This takes the longest time. I know after you see how long “Empty” takes, you will believe in purgatory, but trust me, the end result is worth the pain.

Step 7: Guided Re-entry- Like with rockets, the re-entry method matters or you might have a disaster on your hands. Consider putting a chair just inside your child’s room and asking them what is coming in, and where they are going to put it. You are the gate keeper. Live it! Perhaps sip on a cold beverage and nibble on some chocolate while you inspect. “No, you are not bringing that dirty ____________ back in this room. It’s disgusting.” “Why do you need 3 basket balls?” “You don’t need more storage, you need less things.”

Step 8: Removal- Ideally, your house is now cluttered with bags of trash to be taken to the curb and bags and boxes of donations for charity. Unless ordinances prohibit this, take the trash to the curb now or at least anything good that trash pickers might thank you for. Take your teen with you to the donation center to help lug their items inside. No point in you pulling out your back because they decided to hold onto every toy they have ever owned. Don’t just put it in the trunk of your car to live for the next 6 months. The job isn’t over until you slam the trunk at the charity of your choice.

Step 9:  Revel- Your child will assure you that you did nothing, and they in fact cleaned their entire room “without your help.” This might be true, but supervising the cleaning is far more stressful and a whole lot more work than doing the job yourself. So snap a few pictures and go watch a movie. You deserve it!

kenya 1

family, history

Looking Back: Genealogy and Family History

I suppose you could say that I am my family’s historian. Much to my husbands chagrin, I have boxes and boxes of photos, newspaper clippings, and documents of various sorts collected over 4 generations. When it gets too much, I sort through them, weeding out a few items but keeping the vast majority of items intact. I know I don’t really need the name plate from my great grandfather’s office door, but I can’t seem to part with it either. For some reason, it seems disrespectful to discard the treasures of those who have gone before us.


This summer, I began sorting through papers collected from my mother’s home after her passing in 2015. I needed to reclaim my sunroom, so I promised myself I would sort through one box a day until the job was complete. What I found were photographs from the turn of the century. I was staring at the faces of  my great grandparents, people even my own parents and grandfather had never met. My grandmother, an only child, was orphaned in 1925 at the age of sixteen. Using the internet, I was able to find the exact location of the store they owned, and print out newspaper advertisements from 1903 to include with the photos. Among the other treasures were report cards from my father’s less than stellar academic career along with evidence that his brilliant mind was clearly not being captured by the classroom setting.

These documents from family history might not change the world as we know it, but as a history teacher, I can not help but think that in years to come, these treasures that for me connect me to my relatives who have passed in, will one day be the primary sources that historians might use to piece together the past. Will they one day read the letters and postcards referencing presidential elections, terrible wars, the moon landing, and so much more. Will they gather the printed pages from the internet that I attached to photos from the early 20th century? These are the real items that give history it’s humanity. These boxes in attics and basements are where real life stories are held. They are more than memories, they are artifacts.



So, I will keep sorting and researching, and trying to put this giant family puzzle together. I will both recall and imagine as I open each new box. This is more than just my family, this is my past. This is our past. It reminds us that life’s problems and joys are nothing new. It tells us that marriages occurred and babies were born and losses happened in every generation. It proves that wars come and go and businesses open and close, fashions change but love does not. It is the record of our collective memory as a people and the specific memories of a family. It’s worth keeping. img_2661.jpg

Adulting, family, parenting teens

Mom’s Tips for Packing Up Your Childhood

It seems like a lifetime ago that I held this tiny baby girl of mine in my arms for the very first time. For her, it really was a lifetime ago. It has been a lifetime fraught with yearnings for more freedom and a burning desire to grow into herself. Tomorrow, this girl, this woman, will walk out the door and start directing her own life. She is packing up stuffed animals, clothes, and the mementos that hold the memories of her childhood. She has lived in this house since she was three. This week, she is making the decisions of what things it is time to throw away, what things she must bring, and what things are going into storage.

I have done this task a dozen times in my life. I have packed away my childhood in cardboard boxes and folded the flaps down on memories I wasn’t quire ready to discard. It is a far more emotional task than a physical one. It is a tad surreal sitting in the next room watching it all transpire.

So here are my tips for packing up and moving on:

  1. Clothes: If you haven’t worn it in a year, you don’t love it, or it doesn’t fit right, toss it. A few trips to Goodwill will save you a ton of time packing and unpacking, not to mention cluttering up your new space with clothes that are merely a decoration in your closet. This is the perfect time to purge your wardrobe. Socks that don’t have a mate, accessories that are out of date, and shoes you only bought for that special event don’t need to make the move with you.
  2. Junk: You probably have junk drawers or boxes of things that are random pieces, broken items, and things you forgot you had. Be ruthless in tossing these things out. If you haven’t found the missing piece or repaired that item since 2012, you aren’t going to do it after you move. If you forgot you even owned it, or you haven’t used it in years, you either need to donate it or chuck it.
  3. Books are heavy. Pack them in small boxes. Crazy as it sounds, go to a liquor store and ask for boxes they are going to recylce. They are the perfect size for books. You might look like a lush, but your back with thank you. Make the same hard choices with books. Do you need to own a copy of a book that you can pick up at the library any time you want to read it? Unless you love this one and re-read it or it holds some sentimental value, donate it to the library and borrow a copy when you want it. I love books and our house is full of them, but you don’t want to move a ton of books that you are never going to read.
  4. Mementoes are some of the hardest things to part with. Sometimes it is worth packing them up to look through later, but less is more. You are more likely to look through a photo album of your life than a photo album of a weekend in Vermont. Pick 3-5 pictures of a vacation, 2-3 of a special event, and make a single book. Store the rest digitally so you have them if you ever want to see them, but don’t carry around all the prints. And if you only have them in print form, try scanning them so you can store them digitally. Concert tickets and the like can often fit nicely in a photo album. If you are holding on to other items try to limit yourself to a single box. Photos of treasured toys and other items are easier to store than a toy you will likely never play with again.
  5. Style: Moving to a new place gives you the chance to go for a new style or look. It might be a good time to donate the dozens of stuffed animals or your figurine collection. Maybe you want to take pictures of your childhood posters and then throw them away. Replace them with a nice piece of art. If you can’t choose what to keep, you could get a large frame with easy slide clips on the back and place several posters all in the same frame. You can rotate them out or just feel happy knowing that you haven’t let go of those memories just yet. Consider new, more grown up bedding.
  6. Online Shopping: Order these things online and have them delivered to your new place on move. Amazon 2 day delivery ordered 2 days before your move means you don’t have to carry it. Win. Consider throwing into that order some pantry essentials, kitchen basics, toiletries, and that extra lamp or fan. We once had furniture repaired/reupholstered, and we had the company pick the furniture up at our old place and drop it off at the new one.

It is hard to let go of all the things we have collected over the years, over a lifetime. It’s hard to decide what we will keep and what we will let go of. It’s hard to grow up, and it’s hard to watch your kids grow up. I too am letting go, but I don’t get to decide what pieces I get to keep. I had my chance to head out on my own, pack up and leave my parents behind. As the parent, not it’s my turn. I have let go of control. It’s my job to wait and see what parts of her she lets me hold on to. Will she come home for Christmas? Will she call on my birthday or stop by on hers? Will she ever be home for a weekend or drop buy to run a load of laundry? We we ever all sit around the breakfast table again? I don’t know. I hope so.


I Started a Diet This Week. Here’s What I Lost:

Like many middle aged women, my body weight has begun the slow ascent up the number line, which seems to be the complete opposite direction my bank account moves. Being just under 5’2″ and having been skinny as a rail throughout childhood, the idea I wear clothes with an L on the tag, still seems foreign to me despite this having been my reality for quite awhile now. With my aging joints and pained feet as motivators,  and spurred on by a number on the scale higher than one I had ever seen peeking out past my toes, I embarked on this journey of sadness.

saladI turned to the advice of friends and the only diet I have ever tried that made a dent in my weight. Yes, I am resurrecting the 90’s Christian diet sensation: The Weigh Down Diet. In conjunction with this seemingly palatable “eat what you want” plan, I decided to add an app tracker that allows me to enter what I eat, and it does the work of calculating my calories. I figure, it would be nice to see where my calories are going (I mean in addition to my thighs) so I can make better choices.

Here are the 3 simple rules:

  1. Do not eat anything unless you are hungry. True hunger is identified by a stomach that growls. (This means no in-between snacking or consuming caloric drinks between meals. It also bans zero calorie sweeteners.)
  2. Stop eating when you are full. This means cutting your portion sizes down significantly. If my memory serves me correctly (and let’s be honest, I read this book in 1998, and I can’t remember what movie I watched last week), that is about the size of your fist. The minute you feel a lump in the area of your stomach, you are done.
  3. Record everything you eat in your calorie tracker and record your weight (weekly) in order to see the results.

I started this diet 4 days ago. Let me tell you what I have lost so far:

  1.  Joy. I have had a headache since Tuesday. I haven’t cut back on caffeine, and it doesn’t go away when I eat, so I doubt is it blood sugar. I think it is the withdrawal effects of joy.
  2. Productivity. I feel hungry all the time. I occasionally accomplish something merely as a task to distract me from my stomach. I can’t even recall my life before this diet started. How can one be expected to think about cleaning and work when their mind is being held hostage by its own starvation.
  3. Sanity. I am thinking like a crazy person.
    Me: I’m hungry. How long has it been since I ate?
    Other me: It’s been 15 minutes. You’re not hungry. Your stomach didn’t growl. That’s just your brain wanting food.
    Me: Yes, That desire my brain has, it’s called hunger. Give me food.
    Other me: This feeling will pass. You’re just snacking on your thighs right now. You’ll thank me later.
    Me:  I hate you. This is stupid.
    (Continue on ad infinitum for 6 hours until stomach growls. Repeat.)
  4. Weight.  I have lost 3 pounds. I now assume joy weights approximately 2 1/2 pounds.

It takes time to get used to a new diet and for your body to find a new normal. I suspect this new normal will be one of sadness.  I’ll let you know how it goes.



social justice

Speak Out on Our Immigration Policy

Typically,  I post on my blog once a week. This week, I decided that I could either spend time writing a post or spend my time writing my congressional representatives. I chose the later. I hope you chose to do the same.

It doesn’t take very long to share your thoughts. You don’t need to understand all the details of the immigration debate. You just need to let them know what you are thinking. For me, I don’t want to hear about politics and the historic nature of a specific law when it comes to snatching children from their parents. I am appalled, and I want them to know.

Here is how to find and contact your representatives. I used email, but you can call or use old fashioned snail mail.

House of Representatives:


President Trump*

It’s worth the time.

* Don’t even get me started on my feeling regarding President Trump’s automatic response to my email. I’m not sure that President Trump’s approach toward’s illegal immigrant fathers is exactly admirable.



Laughing Is the Best Medicine


In 2013 When our 14 year old son was visiting Kenya and preparing to fly home alone using the unaccompanied minors program, the international terminal at the Nairobi airport burnt down. Jay and I were reading the news late at night on our phones while we lay in bed. When we checked British Airlines to learn of any updates and read the part that mentioned their “luxury lounge,” we lost it. It was one of the best laughs we have ever had. I laughed until tears ran down my cheeks and my sides hurt.

Now don’t get me wrong, we were also concerned that this would impact his return flight just a few days later, and we pondered all the possible outcomes. But there is something comforting about getting bad news while you’re in bed. Our harried, frantic lives have been put on hold. It’s just the two of you. It seems like all the stress just melts away and you are just left with the one person who you can conquer the world with. Jay and I have a reputation for laughing in bed. It is not uncommon for the kids to ask us in the morning what we were laughing about the night before. Typically, it is something stupid like the time that I told Jay he smelled nice and then realized it was actually my own hands I had just washed in a new soap. Sometimes it’s really stupid because we are tired and slap happy.

For us,  one of the best times to talk is those moments before sleep takes over. Jay, who is a chipper morning person, know enough than to start a conversation with his wife in the hostile hours of morning light. Getting ready to go to work or while I’m making dinner are also not great times. We chat about how our day went and the practical day-to-day schedules and plans at dinner or in the evening, but bedtime is when we often talk about the hard things or the humorous. I like the later better.


As a couple, don’t just find the best time for you; make those times. Go beyond the daily need to have communication and reserve those times for the want to have conversations.  Maybe you are both morning people (unnatural as that is) and you enjoy chatting over breakfast. Maybe it’s Saturday morning while the kids sleep-in (teens!) or Tuesday nights while they are at soccer practice. Maybe you take a stroll through your neighborhood twice a week after work or  just sit on your back patio after dinner drinking tea while the kids play in the yard.  Take those moments not to settle the carpool schedule for the week, but to laugh over what happened in the office kitchen. Reminisce about your first date and plan that vacation you’re going to take when your house is finally paid off. Laugh at each other good-naturedly. Dream. Look for the humor in that disaster of a work day, or in the not so stellar parent teacher conference you just had. (True story: This year, I knew the end of the year conference wasn’t going to be all about how superb a student our child was, so Jay and I created bingo cards with key phrases we rightly anticipated hearing and distributed them to the teachers at the start of the conference.) Sometimes the humor is hiding in the chaos just waiting to be discovered. Trust me, it’s worth searching for.

Being a couple who makes laughter a habit adds a protective layer over your relationship during the hard times. Trust me, I know.  Maybe it’s true that the family that prays together stays together, but the couple who can literally grin and bear are more likely to get through those hard times with an honest smile on their faces.

Who wants their marriage to just survive when it can thrive?