On October 30th 2012, the day after the storm and our first day without power, Jack, Hannah, and I went for an afternoon walk, assessing the damage to our neighborhood. Uprooted trees pulled up chunks of sidewalk and completely blocked the roads- one on our street, just a few houses away, but we encountered many more in our walk. Some trees had landed on cars or houses, although most landed between two houses or on the road. Plenty of houses needed roof repairs, though the overall damage clearly could have been a lot worse.
When it got dark that evening, it seemed way too dark in the house. We turned on battery-powered lanterns downstairs in my Mom’s part of the house, and lit candles upstairs, but nothing seemed to dispel the gloom. It was too dark to read and our eyes were straining uncomfortably when playing board games. Hannah and I decided to go for a walk. while Leah and Jack continued playing games with their Bubbie (grandma.)
That walk was magical. Our eyes quickly adapted to the dark, and the lighting felt natural, not dismal. We had to watch out for debris on the sidewalk, but there was very little traffic because most roads were still impassable. It felt more like a walk in the country than a walk in the suburbs. We didn’t get blinded by headlights from vehicles or floodlights from people’s porches. We passed houses that were gently lit within from candles and lamps; there was no harsh light anywhere. I don’t even think we passed any generators that first night.
When we returned home, eyes adapted to the moonlight, the candlelit interior was plenty bright. We played a few games of Boggle by candlelight and then went to bed, feeling much more relaxed than we normally did on evenings full of computer screens and artificial light.
It’s unfortunate that our experience wasn’t repeated on subsequent nights. We did go for walks, but clear roads meant we encountered numerous headlights. Many of our neighbors regained power days before we did, so we dealt with harsh exterior lights that ruined our night vision before returning home to candlelight. That one moonlit walk was an isolated, magical moment.
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, my family was without electricity for 9 days and 9 VERY long nights. Thanks to the gas crisis that hit Long Island, I wasn’t able to drive beyond the library or the two closest supermarkets during this time either. It’s almost like we lost over a week of our lives, as “normal things” such as school and my usual errands were completely on hold. On the other hand, we created memories to last a lifetime. When else would the entire family have played games together by lamplight, or gone for a moonlit walk, free of light pollution, in our suburban town?
When we were without power, I started taking lots of walks. There wasn’t much else to do! For the first 8 powerless days, I went for at least one walk a day, averaging 2-3 miles a day towards the end of the week. The 8th day was windy and snowy, since the nor’easter was coming through, and it wasn’t safe to walk outside. Unbelievably, that’s also the day that workmen from Texas finally restored our power- during the storm itself! It was pitch black outside- but only 5:50 PM, when power was restored. Two hours later, trees fell over the power lines in our backyard, but miraculously we still have power! I don’t quite trust that we’ll KEEP the power back, and won’t fully restock my freezer until the power lines are repaired. I expect that will take several weeks since LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) needs to restore power to other homes first.
After a week of “not doing much after dark” I cleaned out the freezer and did several loads of laundry before bed on Wednesday. Then I cleaned out the fridge, scrubbed the kitchen floor, did more laundry, and shoveled snow on Thursday. By Friday I “crashed” and my Fibromyalgia flared up again. Chronic low back pain, which was nearly gone last week, is back with a vengeance. I’ve been taking prescription pain medications for the past 3 days- something I hadn’t needed since starting BTD.
I have electricity in my home, gas in my car, and schools have resumed normal sessions, but things don’t “feel normal” quite yet. I’m worried about the power lines in my backyard. My heart hurts for friends on the south shore of LI who have been displaced from their homes. I’m feeling physically and mentally worn out.
Things have been pretty busy lately with all the Jewish holidays, and then trying to get into a routine with the kids and school. Leah is nearly 18 and pretty much does her own thing; I simply need to keep the house well stocked with healthy foods for her to prepare for herself. 12th grade is turning out to be far less stressful than 11th grade was. Meanwhile, Hannah is in 11th grade this year, is taking 2 AP classes and has a part-time job. Jack, my 10 year old, is having a hard time adjusting to the increased workload of middle school. Both of the younger two are having trouble with time management. I’m trying to keep everybody well fed and get them to bed on time, but I’m not always successful.
I also want to encourage everybody to exercise, but I’m having the most trouble with that one. If I let my son ride his bike before homework, will the homework be finished early enough to get him to bed on time? If he does his homework first, will it be too dark outside when he’s done? The middle school is only 1/3 mile from our house, and I wish he’d walk to and from school daily. He won’t walk there on purpose, but I don’t stress if he dawdles a bit in the morning and misses the bus.
Hannah seems to be finding ways to be more active. Her high school is a large building, and she probably walks a mile every day through those halls. Occasionally she’ll walk the 1.5 miles home. More often she’ll walk to or from a friend’s house after school. About once a week she’ll do some yard work- cutting down branches, weeding, and bagging up the cuttings. She always wants company outside, and it’s usually my job to hold open the bags while she fills them. In the past 2 months or so, she’s definitely firmed up and started to slim down. I’m not sure if the scale yet reflects these changes, but she’s dropped about one dress size since the summer- and without a formal exercise routine.
Getting myself to exercise is often my biggest struggle. The one time I went for a 20 minute walk during the school day, I felt great! I just have to find the time and energy to actually do it regularly. It’s just far too easy to find excuses not to: I just showered and I don’t want to go for a walk with wet hair. I have something cooking that might burn if I leave the house. It’s too hot/cold/rainy outside. I’m feeling too tired. Never mind that I own a few exercise videos and a treadmill, which can be used in my pajamas, in any weather, and I can hear the kitchen timer while using them. I need to actually clear away the clutter before using either one, and it just hasn't happened yet.
There is one thing I've managed to be consistent about for the past month or so. I was having HORRIBLE lower back pain in one specific area. Somebody suggested Active-Isolated-Stretching, and I took out a book from the library about it. After doing all the exercises a few times, I selected the 6 that seemed to target the muscles causing me the most trouble. Besides stretching the tight muscles causing the pain, these also provide a gentle workout for other muscles in my legs and torso. I’ve been doing the recommended 10 reps each morning, plus 5-10 reps each night. It only takes about 5 minutes each time.
My lower back pain has improved, but it’s not yet completely gone. I’ve been fairly consistent with the exercises; I’ve skipped it a handful of times, only to have the pain get worse. The pain is keeping me honest- without it, I’m sure I would have abandoned this exercise routine.
So, I’ve been doing this simple routine for about 10 minutes a day for the past month, even during the crazy busy holidays. The other day, I noticed that my thighs and buttocks are much firmer than they used to be. I think my abdominal muscles may have firmed up as well, but it’s hard to tell under the layer of fat. I forgot to wear bike shorts under my skirt when I took that 20 minute walk on Monday, and I did NOT have the expected problems with my thighs rubbing together and irritating the skin. All this firmness from 10 minutes a day? Wow!
This is incredibly encouraging. I can easily imagine the benefits I’d get from a regular walking routine.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is almost upon us. This holiday is celebrated with special prayers and the blowing of the Shofar (ram’s horn) in the synagogue. Equally important are the observances that take place at home, around the dinner table. Blessings are made over wine and bread, like we do on Shabbos. But we also eat a number of symbolic foods.
Apples are dipped into honey to represent our wish for a sweet new year. Pomegranate, with its many small seeds, symbolizes the numerous blessings we hope to receive in the coming year, along with the good deeds we hope to perform. Carrots are cut into circles to represent coins, to show our hope for prosperity in the coming year. Many other symbolic foods are used, many of them puns in Hebrew or Yiddish. The foods used vary, as some add in new symbols that are puns in English, while others use puns from other languages. A new one we started a few years ago is to eat raisins with celery for “a raise in salary.”
We’re supposed to eat lots of sweet foods and no bitter ones. Many traditional Rosh Hashana recipes use lots of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve developed healthier, more compliant versions of these foods. I make a honey cake that uses only honey for sweetness, not a mixture of honey and white sugar, and it uses rice flour instead of wheat. My daughters may or may not also make one with spelt flour.
As an O nonnie, many of my “sweet” food choices are limited. I’m fine with the sweeter vegetables, but I’m not supposed to have apples or honey. I’m sure I could make a “honey cake” using just molasses and agave, and dip pears in agave to symbolize a sweet new year, but I don’t plan to do either one. I’ll have one or two apple slices each night of Rosh Hashana, and eat the honey cake made with real honey. I will serve pomegranates to my type B son, even though they’re an avoid for him. The holiday symbols are important to me, and we only have a few bites of each one.
Over the summer, I didn’t worry too much about my 10 year old son’s diet. I let him go to sleep away camp and eat whatever they served at camp, even though I know it means non-compliant foods and way too much sugar. I also didn’t send him with elderberry or cod liver oil, two supplements that have helped him stay healthy, and because I thought it would be too much of an inconvenience for him. I regret that now, and plan to send him to camp with elderberry and cod liver oil capsules next year.
He got pneumonia while at camp, and ended up on antibiotics. Had he started getting sick at home, I would have increased his supplements, made sure he was compliant and completely sugar-free, and emphasized fruits and vegetables in his diet. This is only the third time in his life he’s ever been on antibiotics- normally I’m able to treat him naturally before it reaches this point.
When he came home, I vowed to make him eat healthy and get his little body back on track. That proved to be much more challenging than I’d anticipated, in part because our refrigerator broke, and in part because I was out of practice. All summer I’d had only one or two of the kids home, and I even had some days completely to myself. Getting back into the routine of cooking for all 3 of them was much harder than I’d expected.
So now he’s been home from camp for 3 weeks, and back to school for half a week. I’m not doing so well on getting him to eat fruits, veggies, and meats; he’d be quite happy to live on grains (preferably refined) and dairy products. He still has that cough and his endurance is much lower than it should be. He’s still carrying around extra fat on his body, as confirmed by the pediatrician. He gained much more weight this past year than he should have; based on how many inches he grew. It’s hard to get him to exercise when he’s not feeling well, and I’m afraid to push him too far. He got out of the habit of being active when he broke his arm in June, and I’m not sure how to get him back on track.
I’d like to be able to say that I put my kids on the BTD and they’re glowing examples of health. The reality is much more complex than that. I know what I’m supposed to do: offer lots of fruits, veggies, and compliant protein sources, and let him fill up on grains only after he’s eaten reasonable amounts of other foods, and encourage physical activity. But actually implementing this plan hasn’t been so easy.