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This Is Not A Lifestyle Blog.

A tiny hand making tiny cupcakes, probably the most you’ll see of my kids on this blog.

I’ve been thinking about how to focus this blog, find a niche. Then, the other day, I was on Twitter and I noticed the description I’d given of myself: Mom, Wife, Writer, Knitter, Cooker, Reader, Eater. Hmm, it seems my problem may be solved. I don’t want to use this space to talk about my kids (much) because I’m very protective of their privacy. My husband has expressed numerous times he doesn’t want to come up in my writing. That leaves: Writing, Knitting, Cooking, Reading and Eating. I can write about those things!

Immediately after I decided this would be my focus, I thought, “Oh crap. Does that mean I’m writing a lifestyle blog?” I don’t know, you tell me, does it? I’m not trying to be Martha Stewart. I can’t really give advice to anyone. Does anyone want to read about my take on any of these things? Do I care? Nah.

So, look forward to: A total re-design of this blog. A total re-design of my other website (katekastelein.com) My reviews of books, discussion of the writing life, knitting and food talk! I may from time to time post my grad school annotations of books I’m reading. It is my hope to bring a little light into the world and perhaps inspire others to enjoy some books or food or yarn.

Three cheers for finding a focus! It only took me 8 years!

The Weight

Except for the jaunty mustache, this is an excellent portrayal of me. I found it on Creative Commons via Leevclarke

I should be preparing for my 2nd MFA residency right now. You might envision me poring over books, furiously typing away on my computer, and you’d be correct. Those are things I need to do. But I am a 39-year-old married mother of 2 that is preparing for 10 days of no at home time except for sleeping. So for me, preparing means: making sure laundry is done, planning for meals and shopping for them, making sure family calendar is up to date and transportation to and from violin and dance and school is arranged for, clean the cat box. I realize typing this you probably think my husband is a jerk who doesn’t help me out. This is not true. He would do these things. But I do it instead. Because I am their mother. Because of the weight.

You see, no matter how many fun, pinteresty memes you see that tell you to follow your dreams! Go for the gold! Do it now or you never will! Those don’t apply to middle-aged mothers who spend tens of thousands of dollars and 30 hours a week on a Master’s degree. Especially an art degree. Not to mention the twice yearly residencies. I am stealing from my children. I am stealing money that could be saved for their college accounts. I am stealing time that their mother should be spending with them.  And no matter what thing it is you want to do for yourself, if you have children, our society will tell you – no. You are not supposed to do that anymore. You are not you. You are a mother. Your life is not about you.

I spent 8 years as a full-time stay at home mother. Then two more as a stay-at-home mother/student. Now I am a working mother and student. Don’t get me wrong, I got shit for being a stay at home mother. ‘Must be nice to not have to work.’ ‘I don’t understand what you do all day.’ ‘Hey, why don’t you watch my kids too?’ .  I know first hand, that no matter what choices you make as a mom, someone is going to give you hell for it.  But even with this knowledge, I feel the weight.

Last residency, my daughter cried when I left one morning, about half way through. She’s 10. She’s not a baby. I’m not even a full-time resident. I’m commuting. This time, my son has already requested I sleep in his room when I get home.  I love these babies of mine, and have obviously raised clingy little beasts.

Why am I doing it? Because I have always wanted to. Because it’s the thing  I will regret not doing.

Why didn’t I do it when I was younger, before I had kids? Because it wasn’t time. Because I had to veer far off the path over and over, so I could get pushed back on, before I finally said, “Yes. It’s true. This is the thing. The thing I’m supposed to do.”

Why am I writing a depressing post about it? Because, I try very hard to keep a good front all the time. Because I need to sort it out and let people know, especially mothers, that if you choose a path that doesn’t put your kids first, even if you put them first in all other aspects of your life, you will feel that weight. But instead of letting it push me down, I will carry it. It will make me stronger.

I Will Achieve Some of My Goals!

Still nearly my constant view.

Remember when I turned 30 and freaked out and started a blog, the  30 list? No? Well read that link, it’s all explained there. When I look at the list, I cringe. It was a terrible list. However, it started a new tradition and every year I make a new list of goals, although now I call it my Unreasonable Goals. At first I tried to match the number of goals to my age, then I got lazy and kept it to 30. Now I am nearly 39. It’s time to freak out. I mean, freak out more than I’m normally freaking out. I’m jacking the list back up to 39. Will I achieve all my goals? Probably not. Looking back over the years, I think at my best I run at about 50% achievement. That’s awesome. I’ll take it. My new motto: I will achieve some of the goals!

Looking back, many of my goals stay the same from year to year: Read X amount of books, Knit X things. Many times goals rolled over from year to year.  One first year a goal was, “Take one class at UMA”. I didn’t that year. I didn’t the year after that. Or the next. Finally, in 2014 I bit the bullet and re-nrolled at USM. Last year I not only finished college but applied for and now am enrolled in grad school. I wanted to have my MFA by the time I hit 40, but I’m OK with 41. Things I did that were not on my list? Have another child. Move. Both amazing things.

This year the list has a lot of writing goals, and a separate writing spreadsheet (I was inspired by one of my professors, Theodora Goss, she has very ambitious writing goals and an equally ambitious spreadsheet). As usual I will post the list here, and hopefully it will automatically update when I update it. I will also do a little recap of 2016 goals in another post.

I’m also happy to report that my daughter is doing her own list this year! She is doing a spreadsheet with 11 goals. When I asked her if she wanted help figuring out how to add sums and percentages she said, “Uh, no. I learned how like last year.” Thank God. Now she can help me figure out the graphing part.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at at the end of 2016. Looking at 2017 with a big list of things I want to do.

 

Fear of Falling

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve started an MFA program in creative writing, which has been my dream for about 10 years. I couldn’t believe I got in, and now I’m scared to death about what that means. I am occasionally gripped with the same kind of terror I experience at the top of a tall building. The view is beautiful and exciting, but it makes me feel shakey and pukey. Will I have the time to do it justice? Is it a bad idea for my family, with so much time dedicated to school over the next two years? The other students I’ve seen in the handbook are much more experienced than I am, or at least better at writing bios. I don’t know if I can do this, but I have to. For one, I just took out a loan so I can. For two, if I don’t , I’ll never know, and fear of not knowing is worse than the fear of doing.

Here is the Jessie Spano Caffeine Pill Freakout, which is basically how I feel all the time. (Not the drugs part obv)

 

 

Quality of Life

A few months ago I posted about some health issues that caused me to make a major shift in my diet. If you don’t feel like reading the post, the short version is, due to chronic digestive health issues I started an extremely limited diet. I basically was restricted to meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, yogurt I made myself, and a couple of hard cheeses. No grains at all. None. Don’t even ask , “could you eat?” the answer is no. I stayed hardcore on this diet for 9 months. 9. I  lost 30 lbs. and I started to go slowly insane.

If you look up the diet I was on, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you will read over and over, “Demands extreme, fanatical adherence” . You make ALL food yourself, you do not eat out. You do not eat any – this includes condiments – packaged food.  Early on I joined a FB group for people on this diet. It was supposed to be a place to be supportive and share tips, foods etc.  Occasionally people would share prepared foods that were ‘legal’ on the diet. I took the time to e-mail Raye’s of Maine Mustard to see if their yellow mustard was compliant. That simply means contains no additives other than what’s on the label etc etc. They very nicely emailed me back and assured me that their foods contain only what is on the label and only pure spices, which have no additives. I shared this with the group and was immediately shot down because 1. The company didn’t supply the answer to me through the mail on their letterhead and 2. Because companies cannot be trusted to change their formula at anytime. I ended up leaving the group.

The level of attention I paid to my food, and then to any possible reactions my body might have from any food at anytime started to lead to what I think is an extremely disordered way of thinking. Was my headache from my toddler screaming in my ear or had I been contaminated by a rogue gluten molecule? I had to stock my pantry with foods I could eat that were pretty expensive and got snappish with my kids when they ate my snacks. I had to plan out every meal, and it was even worse when we wanted to go on any sort of outing. I started adding in illegals pretty early on, and by illegals I just mean foods that may not be OK, for example getting a 5 Guys burger on lettuce.

A culmination of events this past December put me in a deep funk, and I realized that even though this diet had helped me, it was in no way sustainable for me if I wanted to be a happy person. That’s the simplest way to put it. What happened was this, I started a new job, and was invited to a catered Christmas party. After agonizing for days about what to do, I simply said I couldn’t go. I work for a really great place and they would have been more than accommodating, but I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t send them an email of diet restrictions that was more strict than the one Gwenyth Paltrow is currently being ripped apart for adhering to. Already invites to go out to eat with friends or to their houses had dried up. I didn’t feel like inviting anyone over because it ended up with me making a million different versions of food, much of what I couldn’t eat. Every single phone call I had in relation to getting together with people included, “So, what can you eat?” and resulted in me bringing my own food. My daughter has a keen interest in cooking and baking, and I wasn’t able to try anything she cooked. My family wants to travel, and I couldn’t see myself taking my yogurt maker with me to California, or reading out a list of what I was allowed to eat and making a huge scene everywhere we went. I had enough, I couldn’t take it anymore and tossed the whole diet out the window.

Will I gain weight? Yup, already have. Will I end up with another Colitis flare up? Who knows. You know what else causes Colitis, besides the classic “no one has any idea”? Stress. And this diet was adding so much stress to my life, I think that it is definitely possible that the pros and cons were about 50/50. If I end up sacrificing my social life, quality time with my family, and travel, paired with an unholy obsession with food as well as analyzing every twinge, pang and sniffle, for healthier guts and prescription medication free life, is that an even trade? I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. Right now, I’m eating what I want. Trying not to go too wild with pasta, and continuing to eat healthy amounts of yogurt and other foods that aid gut health. Will I end up back at the doctors? I don’t know. I might have anyway. Right now, I have decided that it’s a quality of life decision, and mine was suffering just as much with the diet as it was with the drugs.

I do not disparage anyone who undertakes this massive change of life for their health. Many people do it and find great success. They are stronger people than I, and I applaud them. But for me, right now, it’s just not in the cards.

New Year Surge

Honestly, I think we need to start each month with resolutions, reevaluating our goals and resetting. Like so many, I do so well for the first few weeks of January. Looking back, because I do love metrics, I’ve noticed I make the most blog posts in January, work out the most, knit more. Some of this MIGHT be due to the fact it’s winter in Maine, but I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure that it has more to do with simply being conscious of my goals. So yeah, more keeping to the goals this year. I’m thinking a monthly check-in at least. I will even put it on my calendar. That means it’s for real.

I am having a hard time settling down. I have a pile of unread magazines dating back about 3 months. I have a queue of unwatched TV shows a mile long. I have a yoga mat that I haven’t been on in so long, when I unrolled it yesterday a matchbox car flew out of it. Apparently it’s been repurposed as a garage. I know, poor me. In the bigger scheme of things, not being able to enjoy entertaining and relaxing things is a pretty bourgeois problem.

I know, right?


But stick with me for just a minute. Since November, we bought a new house and moved, found a renter and cleaned out our old house (where we lived for 15 years) I started a new job – AND I finished my last class, a capstone in the Humanities and got my degree. That’s a lot of things for a lady to pile on in one month. Not to mention the holidays, which I hosted here in my new home, yes both Thanksgiving and Christmas, because I’m an insane control freak, because I love hosting and my new home is perfect for parties. But now, now I can’t calm my ass down. We are moved. The holidays are over. The degree is done. Whenever I sit down to relax, I feel like I should be doing something else. Example: Yesterday when I fired up the first day of Yoga Camp via Yoga With Adrienne (you should do it, she’s the best) I hopped up during the first minute – which was sitting on the mat and centering – so I could turn on the oven and preheat it for dinner. I can’t even sit still for a minute. I suppose it will get easier. I suppose of been on both fight AND flight for two months.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at today. I’m healthy and happy and apparently fidgety. Oh, in other news, I noticed on my website metrics that someone found this site by googling ‘gross girls in yoga pants’, so there’s that.

It’s Hard To Be That Guy.

I’ve been sick. As many of you know I have Ulcerative Colitis, and it’s been in remission for many years. In February, I started getting a pain in my side that wouldn’t go away, and went to my doctor looking for answers. Instead of seeing my regular doctor I saw one newer to the practice, who although I have a history of UC insisted that wasn’t the problem. Long story short, after ending up in the ER at Midcoast hooked to a morphine IV, having 6 blood tests and a CT scan ( right before I had the radioactive dye shot into my vein the tech said to me, “This might make you feel like you peed your pants, which is totally normal. Oh, also, this kills about 1 in 100,000 people instantly.) That was pretty awesome. Obviously I didn’t die. Guess what, they diagnosed me with UC, which I ALREADY KNEW I HAD. Then the ER doc puts me on a course of extremely rugged antibiotics, even though I protested pretty loudly about it. I had to take Cipro and Flagyl, together. Cipro, in case you didn’t know, is what they give people for Anthrax poisoning. Oh also, side effect of Cipro – it can cause sudden rupturing of tendons and is known as a ‘black box’ prescription. After about 4 days on those, I had crippling anxiety (another known side effect) as well as terrible diarrhea. When I finally called my regular doctor, she was so mad about all that had happened and immediately told me to stop taking the antibiotics and prescribed for me the very low-side effect meds that I’ve taken in the past for this disease. They worked, but this time, I did get a side effect from them, tinnitus, which has not resolved yet. And it’s been 3 months. Why am I telling you all of this? To get to this part; so I can stop this disease and the unending train of drugs and doctors, I am now on a very strict diet.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was developed specifically for people with IBD, Chron’s Disease, UC, and interestingly, Autism. On this diet I can eat; meat, eggs, veggies, fruit, nuts, honey, and certain kinds of dairy. That’s it. No grains. No sugar. No additives. I make nearly everything myself. I quit drinking coffee. In fact I don’t have caffeine at all anymore. It’s incredibly challenging, and there are very few doctors that will tell you to go on a diet to fix your gut problems, even though there are thousands of people who have successfully gotten off medication and back to a normal life after eating this way. What’s hard is all the food and diet hate. I can feel people rolling their eyes at me when I explain that I don’t eat all this stuff. They assume I’m ‘Paleo’ and it’s just some part of a dieting fad. It’s not. After being on this diet for 4 weeks, I was able to stop making my medication entirely. It’s been almost 3 months now, and I am 95% symptom free. You have to understand. This is a disease that most doctors will tell you, you will NEVER get over. You will NEVER be symptom free, you will ALWAYS be on drugs for it. Drugs ranging from mild to drugs that they use for chemotherapy.

It’s hard to be that guy. It’s hard to ask every single time when you are getting ready to eat what’s in it. It’s hard to tell your family and friends your limited diet, it makes me feel like an asshole. It really does. No I’m sorry, I can’t have that. Or that. Or that. Does this have grain in it? Nope can’t have that either. Want to meet for a coffee? Nope. I’m sure it will get easier, and I will get a tougher skin. I’m sure my not caring attitude will kick in, why should I care what anyone else thinks about what I’m eating? I shouldn’t, but it’s hard not to. So, what I ask is, next time you hear someone asking what’s in something, or refusing food because it has ingredients they don’t eat, reserve your judgement. You have no idea what their deal is.