Confessions of a Maya Angelou Flunkee

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.      –Maya Angelou

Yeah, except that I don’t.

  • A stitch in time saves time.
    • The button that came off my duvet cover this weekend isn’t back on the duvet. Are you kidding?! It’s on my nightstand where it will stay until it gets lost forever.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    • I buy apples all the time and a few days later, I throw those same apples into my compost pile when I take my fast food containers to the trash can.
  • Haste makes waste.
    • In my case, haste makes waist – I can down a pint of Phish Food with frightening efficiency.
  • Well done is better than well said.
    • I talk about eating right and exercising all the time; but, where some people are healthy by following the 80/20 rule, it’s a banner day if I’m 50/50.

Since I have not been able to go to work, I don’t have a set time when I have to be up most days, which means that I can get up really early and enjoy the day! Um, we’ve met at least virtually, right? Yeah. So, no. I am sleeping late, then napping later – no early to rise for me, Poor Richard! I don’t have a schedule or routine which, it turns out, is super bad for my adulting efforts. So maybe I need a roommate or chaperone (whatever).

I got one. My sister has lived with me for the past 18 months or so which is both a good thing and a really bad thing. We keep each other on track with a lot of stuff; but, we both struggle with adulting on some of the same issues. We don’t fold clothes or put them away. We don’t dust. We don’t wash dishes. We don’t clean out the refrigerator. There are lots of things we’re just really not very good at. I don’t want you to think that my house looks like an episode of Hoarders, it doesn’t; however, if you walk into my kitchen and can see the top of my table, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m expecting guests. When I say that we don’t do those things, what I really mean is that we don’t do them willingly. We do them, but there’s a lot of pouting and foot dragging that goes on.

I see people and I know people who never have a pile of clothes sitting around waiting to be folded. There’s never a dirty dish in the sink. The brightware in their bathrooms is always sparkling. I am not one of these people. It’s not rocket science on being one either, is it? I mean, if you take clothes out of the dryer, fold them and put them away. Wash the dirty dishes and put them away right when you’re done with them. I don’t need an algorithm to figure out how to do it. I know how. I know better. I just don’t do it. I flunk Maya Angelou.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about how you don’t get a Gold Star just for doing the minimum. Yet, I have to admit that when I go to bed knowing that there are no clothes to be folded and put away, that the floors have been vacuumed and that there are no dishes in the sink, I feel like I should get a gold star. I feel like I’ve done something note-worthy. It’s not particularly note-worthy in the larger scheme of things; but, these days, when my universe has been limited largely to my own home for months, I really don’t care about the larger scheme of things. I don’t. These days, I’m trying to motivate myself to rejoin the human race. I’m WAY behind the curve now that I’ve been sidelined for so long; so, sometimes, the only step I make in the direction of a reunion with humanity is putting away the dishes. Maybe you’d say that doesn’t merit a gold star; but, right now, I say it does. And I’m going to take it.

 

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Drowning in Disability Depression

If you’ve read my blog over the last year, you may know that I’ve been struggling with foot issues. July 2016 I began to experience extraordinary left ankle and foot pain. I’d been suffering with plantar fasciitis in that foot for several months; but, this was something else, something worse. Several nights I left work literally in tears, hobbling like Quasimodo on a bender. Let me put it in perspective for you on my pain scale:

  • 10 – childbirth
  • 9 – folded meniscus
  • 8.92 – this foot and ankle pain, hence the “extraordinary” adjective

Resized_20170411_115300I began consulting an orthopedist which has been a very expensive proposition, both in terms of bills and in lost wages. I’ve had stress fractures in the foot as a result of a  fibrous calcaneonavicular coalition in there. I’ve worn a walking cast/boot for so long that the rubber at the ankle is beginning to tear. I’ve been in a hard cast twice and I’ve been unable to work since the end of December. A little over a month ago, I had surgery to remove the tarsal coalition in my left foot. What that means in practical terms is that the doctor drilled a hole in the middle of my foot to allow the bones that were previously improperly connected to each other to move freely – that’s actually my x-ray with the shiny new hole in it.  As of today, I’m still in the orthopedic boot. I hope that changes when I see the doctor on the 22nd.

This foot problem has impacted every area of my life and I hate it. Walking with crutches or using a knee scooter is such a hassle and because I couldn’t walk without them for so long, I stopped going places. Because I didn’t go anywhere, I wore my pajamas most of the time. Because I wore my pajamas most of the time, I felt like a slug. Because I felt like a slug, I got depressed. Because I got depressed, I ate more. Because I ate more and couldn’t walk, I gained even more weight.

My skin feels greasy. My hair looks like crap. I’m enormous….again. I feel ugly nearly all of the time. And I feel so ugly all the time that when I get dressed, I can’t tell if I hate what I see in the mirror because it’s an I-feel-ugly-because-I-feel-fat thing or because it’s a genuine WTF are you wearing thing. I would ask my sister (who is my roommate) but since I left her favorite stuffed monkey Zip outside and the dogs chewed him up when I was four, I can’t completely trust that she wouldn’t let me walk out looking like Holy Hell Barbie just to pay me back.

As you know, I have battled depression since my early twenties – sometimes the battle is a raging internal conflict, sometimes there is an uneasy peace. These past months have been a constant, intense onslaught due to pain, immobility cause by the pain, frustration caused by the immobility, and anger caused by the frustration. Throw a little self-loathing in there and you get a pretty good idea of where I am today.

Normally, I try to end my posts on a positive note – you know, since I’m the Positive Thinking Blog Goddess and all – but, y’all, I just don’t have it right now. The combat has exhausted me and although I am able to get my head above water from time to time. I feel like I’m drowning.

Maybe this is overshare. Maybe you don’t want to know all of this. Maybe you don’t care. But, maybe you do. Maybe you’re drowning, too.

Maybe you know where the life buoys are?

 

 

Choosing to Love

 

“Love stinks.” – The J. Geils Band.

Basic survival instincts send an animal away from something that causes pain. We flee fire. Dogs cower from raised hands. We are programmed to avoid pain; however, in the case of love, we actively seek out something which can cause us tremendous pain. Why?

You might make the argument that we risk the pain of losing friendship because the benefits from the friendship make the risk worth it. The sense of community and the support of friends increases a person’s chances of survival and even quality of life. But pets? Cats? Dogs? What do we get from them?

I was upset when Blu disappeared; but, I was gutted when my sister found his body under the house. This is the second of my feral colony that has chosen to die at my house rather than wandering off, as animals so often do. The White Queen died at my back door and is buried in the back yard. Sunday, Blu joined her in the little feral cemetery. I cried all day over this cat I’d never even petted. Why? Why was I so upset?

Three of the kittens of the feral colony are in my house (Wallace, Link, and Lucy); but, the colony was much larger than that. At one time, there were 14 of them. Of the eleven who lived outside, only The White Queen let me pick her up, pet her and brush her – she loved a good brushing! Twin lets me pet her from time to time, but only with one hand and only scratches around the head and neck. The others observe a strictly No Touch policy. But I continue to feed them, talk to them and, yes, love them. Why? It’s not like they give me anything.

Or do they?

MANY years ago, before I realized that he was Jerry Springer without the folding chairs, I watched Dr. Phil’s show. A broken clock is right twice a day and even the doctor was right at least this once: we engage in behaviors because there is some kind of payout in it for us. After I’d fed the ferals for a few months, the man I was seeing told me that I was going to have to stop feeding them – they were just costing me money. (He was right, it was a little tough on my budget; so, I rearranged some things. I continued to feed them, but he’s not around anymore. Draw your own conclusion.) It’s a real honor to me when these feral animals allow me to approach, verbalize to me, or even just blink slowly at me acknowledging that I am not a threat. After much contemplation, I think that my payout is that they trust me. And, in trusting me, they somehow validate me. The trust they give makes me want to be the kind of person who deserves it. Like Helen Hunt to Jack Nicholson, the cats make me want to be a better (hu)man.

Maybe that’s the payout for love – that it makes us want to be better. It makes us become people we like more. It makes us worthier in our own eyes. In the end, though, as I sit here with a dog at my feet and cat hair on my shirt, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t matter Why we love. It only matters That we do.

 

 

A Bellyful of Mortality

See those flowers? I bought them as a treat for myself. Normally, I eat my emotions. This weekend was kind of a tough one and I didn’t want to dive into the Ben and Jerry’s; so, I bought the flowers to lift my spirit. If looking at them doesn’t work, I’ll be having them with ranch dressing later.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a friend stepped outside of his home to smoke a cigar. Five men he didn’t know were standing there. He suggested that they leave. They shot him twice. My friend is a retired Air Force officer and pilot. He is a war veteran. He is a bona fide  American hero and these thugs shot him. He is hurting and has quite a bit of rehab to do; but, he should recover just fine. He’ll have no income and a ton of hospital bills because those jackasses; but, he should recover.

Saturday afternoon, I began to smell death around my house. By Sunday morning, it was unmistakable. My sister went under the house and found one of my feral kitties – Blu – had curled up in an area the ferals use as a den in bad weather, and died. Blu had been missing a couple of weeks ago. He was limping when he reappeared; however, because he did not allow touching, I had no way to know how badly he was injured. After showing up for three mealtimes, he disappeared again. As I said, my sister found and buried him Sunday morning.

Sunday lunch was spent with a friend who has metastasized breast cancer. She has one of the greatest survival stories I’ve ever heard. To escape childhood sexual abuse, she literally ran away and joined the circus – well, carnival. She traveled with the carnival and it saved her life. She hasn’t had an easy time of it by anyone’s measure; but, she is a kind woman with an amazing spirit. She’s dealt with some pretty horrible things in her life and here she has another one.

Injury, death and illness. It was an awful lot of mortality for this empath to handle in 24 hours. My mind is awhirl with thoughts of love and motivation. As a professor,  Robert Pirsig (author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) literally drove himself insane trying to define the idea of quality. I’ve felt a little bit like that today trying to define the idea of love and divine the motivations behind our love for people and things.

I can easily tell you why I love my son – he’s funny, with a kind soul. He’s nobody’s fool and knows how to draw boundaries for himself. He’s intelligent, curious and articulate. But, I didn’t know that he was any of those things the night when, as an infant of only maybe three months old, he began fretting in his sleep. His diaper had leaked, leaving his pajamas and sheets wet. Now, the truth is that he was so little, I could have changed his diaper and his clothes, put him at the dry end of the crib and he’d have been fine. But. I didn’t do that. I changed his sheets, too, so that his whole area would be clean, dry and comfortable for the rest of the night. Why? Because I loved him. I didn’t really even know him; but, I loved him. I had chosen to make that Love commitment to him, plus there was all the biology going on encouraging me to nurture him, ensuring the continuation of the species.

I say that like it’s a given, don’t I, that mothers will love and care for their babies? But we know that’s not always true. It wasn’t true in ancient Rome where brothel babies were routinely killed and disposed off in the sewage system and it’s not true now when babies are killed and hidden under couches. The Love commitment -or perhaps, I could more accurately call it the urge to nurture doesn’t always happen. I’m less interested in why it doesn’t occur than in why it does.

The loss of something we love hurts. We know that it’s going to hurt long before it does. Most of us have a biological imperative to mate. We are compelled to find a partner. Many of us are also compelled to reproduce. The species wants to continue; so, we many of us are programmed to have and care for babies. I can objectively understand the biological urge to do those things that overrides any desire to avoid the pain of losing that mate or a child. But what about friends and pets? Why do we risk that pain?

Why do we choose to love?

Brew up some coffee or steep some tea tomorrow morning and we’ll talk some more about it.

 

That’s Entertainment

When my son was little, there were several shows he wanted to watch that I wouldn’t allow: Clarissa Explains It All, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and Everybody Loves Raymond, to name three.

Clarissa was banned because she was a smart-assed (pardon me) tweenager who knew everything about everything while her parents were clueless morons. Um, I’m pretty sure that a natural part of the maturing process from toddler through teen into adult is believing that your parents don’t know anything. From where I was sitting, my son was going to come to this conclusion and might possibly develop the attitude that often accompanies this belief on his own with no help from Clarissa, the Disney Channel or anybody else. My days as the Slayer-of-Monsters-Keeper-of-Fruit-Rollups-Knowledge Goddess were numbered from the time his cord was cut. I was not about to let some sitcom writer with a stunted sense of humor cut those days even further. Forget it! Clarissa got the boot!

Courage and Raymond were punted for a different reason; but, it was the same reason for both shows. Those people were MEAN! Eustace was a horrible human being and, clearly, NOBODY loved Raymond. I have always believed that your home ought to be a safe place – a place where you can feel free to be who you are without fear of judgement, denigration or, as seen in these shows, outright bullying. I don’t know about you; but, I don’t hang out with mean people if I don’t have to and I don’t care who they are. Mean neighbors? Across the fence, thanks. Mean co-workers? See you at the water cooler….in passing. Mean relatives? Across the room at a family reunion is close enough. I figure I have like 20 energy points to use every day. Mean people suck up my energy points and what do I get out of it? Nothing.

Which brings me back to TV, movies and other forms of entertainment. Those mean people suck up my energy, too. Life is too full of REAL issues, REAL negativity and REAL challenges for me to spend all my energy points dealing with pretend ones. I noticed this weekend that I was spending far too many of my energy points on Facebook.

The amount of bigotry and ignorance that I see spreading there unabated gives me a rash. Seriously. People forward the dumbest things without bothering to check validity – like the one I saw this week purporting that Christian children were being forced to practice Muslim prayer. Those children were practicing a tornado drill! Um Fact Checker, Party of None? sigh.

Once upon a time, the greatest fear of nearly every kid I knew was “looking stupid.” Now is seems that the greatest fear is bad lighting – everyone wants the cameras rolling whether they look like an idiot or not. Fact checking is for sissies and fortune favors the BOLD, even if the bold are addlepated.

Social media used to be a form of entertainment for me. Now, too often it reminds me of Isaac Asimov’s remarks in the January 21, 1980, Newsweek article “A Cult of Ignorance” –

The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

It’s not.

This current culture of rampant, willful ignorance! Holocaust Centers? Land mass between New Orleans and Mobile? Slave ship immigrants? I just can’t handle it anymore! It puts my energy points in the negative every day (plus that nasty rash); so, to all these forms of “entertainment,” I quote the immortal Ice Cube:

“Bye, Felicia.”

 

It’s All in Your Perspective

I didn’t write yesterday because I was dealing with a crisis. A crisis, I tell you! There was a crime at my house! The perpetrator was the cutie pictured above.

Many of you, I’m sure, have read the humorous account of this family’s Poohpocalypse when their Roomba ran over their dog’s poop and spread it all. over. everywhere. I also read the post and giggled. How funny! Right?

Well, it wasn’t funny yesterday.

The Roomba my sister and niece gave me for Christmas wasted no time in becoming a valued and beloved member of our household. With four cats and two dogs (I know, I know) living in my 1200 square foot house, I needed to vacuum daily or all the hair on the floor looks like a small shaggy pony has exploded in the living room. I said the I needed to vacuum daily – not that I did.  It was just kind a pain in the butt to deal with; so, I dealt with in the most adult way possible – I wore house shoes all the time. Grit doesn’t count if I can’t feel it.

All that changed when the Roomba (which I named Jeeves) joined the household. He runs every morning at 1:30 AM, ensuring grit-free floors when I wake. I LOVE that! Sometimes he gets caught on things and I find him in the hall or in the bathroom – no biggie.

Except Wednesday.

He got trapped on a loose piece of carpeting at my sister’s door. The reason he got stuck was that he was the victim of Stella’s poop. He had run over it in the kitchen and had spread it all. over. the. house.

Y’all. That was just a whole new level of nasty. And the urge to just pitch it was strong, I’m not going to lie. But, first, I love Jeeves, and , two, Jeeves was not inexpensive. I had to clean him. Can you believe this? I could not find a single video to tell me how to take the bot apart enough to clean it! I found lots of stories on other people who had a Poopapalooza; but, nothing on how people fixed it. So, I just figured it out by myself – wearing hazmat gear, of course – gear that I also wore while bleaching my kitchen and mopping my floors with vinegar.

I will be posting a video to YouTube sometime in the near future to help others clean their poopy Roombas. And I hope I never have to do it again.

 

 

The Wheel

…and why reinventing it is unnecessary.

I am an idiot. Let me just start with that.

The past several months I’ve tried all kinds of different strategies, tricks and ridiculous things to get this weight off again. And, guess what. None of those strategies, tricks or ridiculous things worked. Why? Because I was listening to other people – diet “experts.” See all those diet books in photo at the top? Those are my books. I own them. Those aren’t even all the ones I’ve read. Those are just the ones I own. (Some of them are recipe books, but they contain meal plans or advice on how to build them. Since I’ve used them like diet books, I’m counting them as diet books.) And I’m going to run it down for you. For losing weight, the ONLY two that have had advice that worked for me are Sybil Ferguson’s The Diet Center Program and Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet.  Years ago, I used Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book, which was also helpful; but, not in the long term.

I lost about 60 pounds using the Diet Center Program when I was in college. When I lost weight successfully five years ago, that’s pretty  much what I used then, as well. Rather than keeping a paper food diary, though, I used the LoseIt app. Since I lost 94 pounds, I’d say it was a good combination. Wouldn’t you? So, why in the world, when I decided to get back on track, did I try these other methods?!

The only answer that makes sense to me is that I’m just thick-headed.

Even though I know that only hard work and diligence will make me leaner and fitter, I still buy into the hype and marketing. I still want to believe that there is a Magic Pill or a Get Thin quick fix.  There’s not. There’s just not. Even a whole food, plant based diet may make me healthier; but, unless I stay away from starchy carbs and excess oils, it’s not going to make me leaner.

So, for the last 30 days, I have successfully logged all my food intake, and I mean every morsel. I’ve been weighing and measuring my food again to make sure I know exactly how much I’m eating. Because I had a cast on my foot when I started this, I did not weigh in and I haven’t weighed now. But, in those 30 days, I’ve lost at least two inches around my ribs and at least an inch from around my waist. And that is just from watching what I’m eating and from watching WHEN I eat it.

Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet added some practical advice to The Diet Center Program. Erin (who has never had a weight problem herself; but, who writes with the empathy of someone who really gets it) advocates watching WHEN you’re eating certain foods. As a result, I plan my meals better. If I’m going to have toast, a sandwich, or potatoes, I make sure that in addition to eating a controlled portion, I eat that portion before 3 PM. No starchy foods after 3. (Well, except when my sister and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. I totally chowed on the popcorn. But it’s DISNEY!)

Erin also advocates a periodic cheat meal – not a cheat day, a cheat meal. The idea of a whole day of eating whatever I want scares me from the perspective of a sugar addict; so, I allow myself just the one cheat meal each week, and I usually plan it for several days. I count the calories for that meal in my food diary; but, I eat whatever I want. I’ve had three cheat meals now. I truly ate whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted; however, I’m noticing that I don’t want to blow it out quite so hard. Next week, I’ll still eat whatever I want; but, I’m going to control the portion on it. I believe that I can get the same enjoyment out of that meal without consuming quite so many calories.

I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made in the last 30 days – neither my bra nor my shorts are cutting me in half, and I can bend over to tie my shoes without huffing and puffing.I still have a long way to go; but, I’m finally on track and have been on track long enough that I feel comfortable sharing it with you. I had to throw out all the “great, new ideas” and get back to what I know worked (with a tweak or two). I was failing because I was trying to reinvent the wheel.

Now, I’m rolling along just fine.