Journey to Genkijima

This is going to be a personal post but I hope it still benefits those reading it.

I’ve been overweight since I was roughly ten years old.  It started getting out of control in college when I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted.  However, I was getting exercise through Kendo and lots of walking, so it didn’t get too bad.

When I eventually got my first car, a few years later, the weight really started to pile on.  Add to that a couple of incredibly stressful jobs that involved lots of sitting and being yelled at over the phone and it got even worse.  Now, I’ve always had the most atrocious sweet tooth you could imagine and also a really good nose for bargains, so that combination didn’t help at all.

I tried, various times, to lose weight.  Once I tried Atkins and lost ten pounds rather quickly – but that was an expensive diet and so it didn’t last long.  Plus the fruit cravings were terrible.  I swear I could smell a mango from the produce section as soon as I entered the grocery store.  Another time I did Paleo and that worked great but was too expensive, and also I broke a tooth so all those veggies were out for a while.  I’ve tried shakes, tried fasting (a little bit) tried just restricting my calories without logging.  For a while I lived in Nevada in a tent and ate lots of beans and rice and very little else, and lost a bunch of weight.  I managed to keep it off for a while too but then money issues continued and more stressful work and I gained it again.

My biggest issues were the fact that exercise is super, SUPER boring, which I have little tolerance for, walking is rough during hot Arizona summers, and my life was seemingly consumed by stress and long commutes.

Well.  I got a better job, and more money started coming in, but I still gained because all the cool, nice people I work with LOVE to cook and they just LOVE potlucks, and of course the candy bowl, and it’s still kind of hard to walk while at work.  I had little motivation.

At the beginning of this year a “Biggest Loser” competition came around, with a $400 prize, and that was enough to make me really, really want to win.  I figured a three month period of aggressive weight loss would be enough to get some good habits started.  In December I’d finally gotten a weight set and started seriously trying to become stronger, because I wanted to be more self sufficient, and let’s be honest, also wanted some moderately buff arms.  I began to see results.

On January 6 I started logging my calories with a goal of 12-1500 calories a day.  Just existing in a sedentary state I burn 2200 calories so this could give me a solid two pound loss every week, and I intended to maximize this with what muscle gain I could manage and with plenty of movement.  However, I didn’t want to blog about it on here till I was well begun on my journey.  Because I really, REALLY hate to be a stereotype.

As of this writing I’ve been on plan with no lapses for 26 days.  I’ve lost about 13 pounds.  I feel more energetic, I fit better behind the wheel of my car, my waistbands are looser, my watch slides around more, and I’m stronger.  I’ve recently started making my cardio days my lower calorie (12-1300 calories) and making sure that I get at least 100 grams of protein per day.  No food groups are forbidden though I minimize processed starch or sugar.  I weight train three times a week with stretching and bodyweight stuff like squats on my rest days, and I walk 4-6 days a week, trying for about a mile.  Mostly it’s laps inside my  building where there’s air conditioning.  I love weight training, it makes me feel really good and I don’t have to do it for hours.

Here’s the really interesting thing.  One of the hardest things about pretty much every diet I’ve ever tried has been the cravings.  But I just realized today that I have actually had very nearly NO cravings or excessive hunger even though I’ve probably cut my daily calorie intake in half (at least.)   And I have cravings all the time when I eat what I want, when I want!  I haven’t even looked longingly at the candy bowl.  I’ve had chocolate twice (2 squares of ultra dark) and sugarless gum maybe three times, oh and I think three cough drops.  In 26 days.

I don’t want to go back.  I feel so good.  I snack all the time, but maintain portion control and always keep it healthy, and I know for a FACT that over the long term I’ll hit my numbers as long as I stay on plan.  I don’t deprive myself.  Since my weakness is freshly baked bread, when I bake some I’ll have ONE slice of it, log it, and leave it alone for the rest of the week.  If I want rice I’ll have a cup of it or less.  Knowing that nothing is totally forbidden has kept me from wanting most of it.

I’ve gained some muscle, and lost fat at the same time, because I keep my protein high and lift heavy.  No puny five pound weights for me.  At the moment I’m doing sixty pound weighted squats, twenty five pound kettlebell swings, and thirty pound dumbbell rows, plus a bunch of other stuff including exercise bands.  Plus lots of countertop pushups, because I’m still too heavy to do proper pushups.

I have a goal of converting 95 pounds of fat into carbon dioxide and water, and I’m thirteen pounds along.  Now we get to Genkijima.  That will bring me down to about 150 pounds, when I should be 130 ideally, but that extra 20 pounds of weight will hopefully be mostly muscle.

Since I haven’t been slim in so long, I have been doing a lot of thinking about all the things I’ll be able to do when I don’t have a small person’s worth of weight draped over my frame.  I started calling it the Land of Slim, but realized that was a pretty lame name.  So I picked “Genkijima.”  “Genki” is a japanese word roughly translated to mean “energetic health.”  A person who is “Genki” isn’t just healthy, but they are cheerful and have an upbeat outlook on life.  “Jima” means “Island.”  Tomorrow I’m going to buy a big piece of posterboard and draw a map of the land between where I started and this mystical island. with little spots I can color in for every pound lost.

Genkijima may be a place I’ve never visited in adult life, but I know the way.

jumping off the head
What it kinda feels like to begin this journey….

 

I tried the Rotten Zombie Skittles…

…and they weren’t that bad!

If you haven’t seen them, these are Skittles with various evocatively named flavors, mostly delicious, but a few of them are purported to be flavored like “rotten zombie.”

Most people who have written about them think they are absolutely horrible, and the company says that different palates may experience them differently.

I liked them.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I have a taste for well aged human flesh.  To my palate anyway, when tasted with an open mind, I found the flavor of these Skittles to be rather like spiced hamburger.  It was like hamburger with paprika, a hint of garlic and perhaps cinnamon, the kind of thing you might have with spaghetti.   The main oddity was that it was still sweet, because it was still a Skittle.  So maybe even mincemeat?

Anyway, if I had a wild imagination and was thinking of zombies, and it were closer to Halloween, they might be grosser tasting.

You may be wondering why in the world I would want to try Skittles that promised to have a gross flavor hidden among them.

Well, curiosity killed the cat – but satisfaction brought her back.

So when my coworker handed me this fun size bag of Skittles though, emblazoned with the legend “produced with genetic engineering,” I realized that the flavor couldn’t be too gross.  After all, this is a product meant to be safely eaten without having anyone sue the company for attempted poisoning.

Just like the Every Flavor Beans that Jelly Belly makes, the flavors are nasty but don’t really taste entirely like the originals.  Quick example, and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of:  I ate plenty of grass as a kid.  Lawn grass, beach grass, you name it.  I chose relatively clean sources and long blades, I chewed grass and made whistles from it too.  The grass jelly bean doesn’t taste like anything like the real green plant matter, and I should know.  Therefore, I’m pretty sure that imagination has a pretty large part to play here.

So I ate the Skittles and lived.  My taste buds could be worn out I suppose, and there is that caveat from the company about differing palates, but it really wasn’t that bad!

If you love cats and things with wings…

I’ve been having fun posting about Horse Isle 3!  So I wanted to share a little about another game I enjoy, which is Felisfire.  I won’t be writing a guide for it but it’s a great game and has quite a unique charm.

Felisfire is cool because of its science fiction overtones, and it’s great for people who like cats and also like breeding games.

The premise is interesting.  You’re a scientist who has gone to the planet Felisfire to help colonize it but also study the indigenous wildlife.  Your ship, the VoidHawk (one of the coolest ship names I’ve ever heard, by the way) regularly makes trips back and forth to Terra to get supplies and send back specimens.  In the meantime, you are engaged in studying the colorful native creatures, called xenofelinoids, in your lab.

Gameplay involves item collection, feeding and caring for the cats, watching for interactions between different cats (usually to see if they have decided to breed or not), exploring the world, and doing other things like participating in world events and playing minigames.  Speaking of breeding, one of the things I like about the system is that you don’t just pick one cat and say “here, you breed with that cat,” and then get kits a few days later.  You need to wait for them to have enough interactions to decide they like each other.  Sure, there are items that will encourage them but it’s not an instant gratification type thing and honestly, seems really appropriate for felines.  Anyone who’s had cats knows that they usually do things when they choose to, in their own time!

There are many different kinds of xenofelinoids, and most have wings.  Though there are many more kinds than this, here are examples of what some of the different cats look like in my own Nest:

There are endless combinations and patterns to be found or bred in the game and some can be quite beautiful.  It’s also fun to see what other players come up with.  As you can see, through genetic tweaking in the labs of Felisfire, you can come up with color combinations that go from the realistic to the marvelous.

Felisfire has been in Beta quite a while but is going to go Live soon after all the bookkeeping and final tweaks are done.  Players get to keep their assets, their cats, items and so forth, so it won’t be a full reset.  If you are interested in checking out the game then feel free to join me by clicking on the button at the bottom.  Let me know you joined and I’ll be happy to answer questions and guide you around.

Another thing I like about FelisFire (and a requirement in the games that I’ll spend time in) is that it’s free to play.  You can get perks by spending a little money though, and that supports the staff.  It’s run by a small company, not a huge entertainment conglomerate, another attribute I love in my games.  It also doesn’t need a really fast computer to run because it doesn’t use animation.

In future, and if there is interest, I might write about the other games I enjoy, such as Aywas, LioDen, and the wonderful and quirky Improbable Island.

If you are interested in checking out FelisFire, it can be found at felisfire.com.  When signing up if you are asked who referred you, I’m Rohvannyc, ID number 10761!

The second and third days of Obon

Note: One of the more difficult things to do is to pin down exactly when this festival actually is.  Some parts of the country list it as “August 15.”  Others list it as “July 15.”  The difference comes from whether or not you follow the old Lunar calendar.

Now, I started these entries with the idea that one of the festival dates was August 15 in the Tokyo area, which logically should mean the last day of Obon would be on the 17th.  But Japan Talk lists it as ending on August 15!

So here I am, a little late to the party, but there are other years and perhaps one day I’ll get to celebrate the festival in Japan itself.

On the second day of Obon, the party really gets started.  There is dancing and drumming and good food and games.  It’s a colorful, summery event.

Per this article from the Huffington Post:

“The second day of Obon is spent celebrating the spirits’ homecoming. Towns build stages in the center, where dancers perform the Bon Odori, or traditional Obon dance. Although this dance varies regionally, it’s usually accompanied by traditional Japanese drums. Along the stage, booths of Japanese treats, games, and shops provide a festival-like atmosphere. Since Obon occurs in summer, many attendees wear traditional yukatas (light-weight kimonos).”

Sounds like fun to me!

For another perspective, and lots of great pictures, here’s an article from Japan Talk:

https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/obon

Also, here’s a wonderful blog called Just One Cookbook, and the dedicated page for summer festival foods!  The instructions are great, so maybe you’ll want to try one soon.

https://www.justonecookbook.com/japanese-summer-festival-foods/

The last day of Obon

This is the day when the famous floating of the lanterns happens.  In many parts of Japan this now happens in ponds with no outlet, rather than on the rivers.  This is done for environmental reasons, but in the places where lanterns are floated down the rivers, it’s a truly beautiful sight.  See the two articles above for more details.

As the lanterns float away, spirits of beloved family members are bid a fond farewell, until the next year.

The first day of Obon

Obon, the Japanese festival of Souls, is one that I try to do a better job of observing every year.  It contains a lot of meaning that resonates with me and that only increases as more of my loved ones pass from the mortal realm.  This is a solemn but joyous festival that marks a time when beloved spirits are able to reunite with their families.

Three friends of mine have moved on this year, one I enjoyed talking to and worked with, one I was inspired by, and one who I loved as my own daughter.  So in my own way of honoring the Obon tradition, I will be posting links to good articles about it and making my own suggestions of ways to celebrate it.

Other names for Obon are the Ghost Festival and the Lantern Festival.

I have a couple of links with more information and will continue to post more.  I hope you enjoy them!

My first article comes from the Huffington Post contributor section and gives a good overview of what is done on each day.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/celebrating-obon_b_5991ab53e4b0ed1f464c0c88

In the days before Obon, the house is cleaned, flowers are arranged for beloved dead, lanterns are bought or made, and figurines are made out of eggplants, cucumbers, and disposable chopsticks.  Four disposable chopsticks are stuck into a cucumber to make a horse to symbolize the spirits coming quickly to the home, and the same is done with an eggplant to make a cow to symbolize the spirits leaving slowly.  I find this tradition very cute and a little funny.

From Haikugirl's blog.PNG
Borrowed from Haikugirl’s blog, click to go there

Here’s a short article about the horses and cows:

Obon – horses and cows?

From the Huffington Post article:

The first day of Obon is spent welcoming ancestral spirits home. Families place offerings of fruit, rice, green tea, sake and lotus-shaped sweets at the graves or family altars. Paper lanterns are hung round the house to help guide the spirits home. Some families carry lanterns from the graves back to their homes.

 

Some ideas about how to celebrate the first day of Obon:

Check out Youtube videos and articles about the festival

Visit a grave of someone you care about, and bring flowers

Light candles or lanterns and put them in the window

Hang paper lanterns

Tell happy stories about people who are gone

Display photos of people who have passed away, so you can see them and smile

As we near Obon, her presence remains

Katzenworld recently featured a tribute to Nezumi, Honored Eternal Webmistress of this blog, and Queen of my heart.   When in flesh, she was a delightful calico girl who was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

Her ashes lie in a smooth, polished black box with he name on it, with her pawprint and a picture near.

And yet, her spirit isn’t gone.  Her spiritual father, Orion, of whom I have also written, still walks on the bed even though he left his flesh behind nearly ten years ago.

As for Nezumi, our other cat Shinji will sometimes stare at the empty air – or at the shelf where her ashes are kept.

Every once in a while I’ll feel her fur against my ankles or see an orange, black and white shadow flit by.

Neither has left me, and they both have my eternal loyalty, as I (apparently do) and it makes me feel peaceful.

I used to wonder if ghosts existed – I began to doubt it seriously – and then it was proven to me by my own cat-friends.  They made their presence impossible to ignore and they show themselves to both my spouse and I.  They are neither harmful nor destructive, and they come and go as they please.  Our bond is far from broken!  I personally think cats make great ghosts – mine did as they pleased when they were alive, so why not do the same once freed of their flesh?

I told Nezumi as that she could go or stay as she pleased, and that I would love her unceasingly.  It was the last thing she heard me say.

I still miss her – but I’m so glad she, and Orion, still choose to visit me.

So that’s why she’s Eternal Webmistress, the same way that Tama, the Japanese train stationmistress who just happened to be a calico, became Eternal Stationmistress upon her death.

In Japan, some celebrate Obon, (the festival of the dead) in mid-July, and some in mid-August, but in either case it’s a joyous chance to reunite with beloved family members who have passed from mortal life.  It’s not a somber occasion but a time to celebrate and have fun.  So I think often of my two well-loved cats as that festival nears.

When it comes time, I’ll light two lanterns for them and watch them floating in the pool and meditate on the fact that we are more than our bodies, we are luminous beings, not just crude matter.

 

floating lanterns.jpg

The passing of Nezumi

Our longtime site mascot, Nezumi, has passed from the mortal realm.

In other stories about her, I’ve told how she found us as a tiny injured kitten who was driven away by her mother.  I’ve told how she grew into a fine figure of a queen cat, nurtured by the loyal Orion.  I’ve also told of how we lost Orion and how she carried on with us.  She even wrote a few blog entries on this site.  She was a wonderful girl, a staunch family member, often hilarious, and always lovable.  Lately, her health has been failing and we’ve finally lost our final battle.

It started a few months ago when she started becoming even pickier than usual and we thought there was a problem with her mouth.  She started drooling and rubbing her mouth on things, so it made sense.  We also wondered if she had a hairball that wouldn’t come up.

The vet found a mass near her intestines, but since it wasn’t blocking anything we thought she might be okay.  Perhaps the mass would be benign, perhaps we could encourage her to eat, perhaps we could control the swelling with steroids and find out it was just IBD.  We did blood work, got good news on her organ function.

We got a bit of a reprieve – for a time she seemed to be getting better.  Then she took a turn for the worse.  Back to the vet.  The news was bad.  So we changed our strategy and just focused on keeping her comfortable.  A couple weeks passed.  Her normal meow changed to a little squawk, she lost her coordination, but she still loved attention and would ask to be picked up so she could be near us.  I still saw a soul behind her eyes.  Normally so gentle, she covered my arms with inadvertent scratches and I find now that I want to rub ink into them so I can wear them forever.  Her sweet face and personality created instant love from the first moment I saw her as a tiny waiflike kitten.

That was why it was so hard to have to schedule her end – however, we both agreed that she should go when she still had some dignity left, instead of us selfishly trying to eke the last drops of life out until she passed away in pain and terror.  I also scheduled an appointment with a crematorium for shortly after her last vet visit.

I had to take a Benadryl last night so I could sleep, and still sat up petting her.  My tears were a river that has still not run dry.  In the morning I gave her some brushing, which she loves, and offered her broth for breakfast – which she wouldn’t touch.  She kept patting me and looking into my eyes.   When it was time we took her to our vet.  The assistant laid her on a blue and white Southwestern blanket to make her comfortable.  The vet gave her one more exam to make sure nothing had improved, and then we said goodbye.  Shortly after, Nezumi was gone.  I felt a cool wind blow through me, around that time, though for the life of me I can’t remember exactly when.

The people at Tucson Pet Cemetery were very kind.  The office lady was quiet yet compassionate, neither adding nor detracting from our grief.  The office cat, a fat, bob-tailed Cymric cat, offered cuddles, headbonks, and purring.  She went over the options with us, not trying to upsell but just responding to our questions.   We placed Nezumi on a sort of table under a window, in a shaded room with comfortable chairs so we could say our final farewells.

I find that as sad as this all was, I couldn’t ask for a better end myself.  I hope that when the time for my end comes, I can meet it in peace, with my family around me.  We’ll make a place in the yard for her ashes and set up a cat statue in her memory.  I know that she’s beyond all pain now, and I hope she’s met up with Orion so he can show her the ropes of being a spirit being.

For now, we’ll comfort Shinji as he’s an only cat, yet again.  He’s seen a lot of people die and so we want to be gentle with him.

 

when I feel you’re gone,

my heart pours out misogi

waterfall of tears.

 

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