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.

 

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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.

Minute. Hour. Day.

I don’t know if we’ve discussed this; but, I’m a Mississippi State fan. #TrueMaroon My parents both graduated from State, where they actually met at a dance. They were introduced at that dance by an MSU cheerleader, as a matter of fact. My sister and I both graduated from State, as well. My sister worked there for many years and my mother taught there for a few semesters. We. Bleed. Maroon.

So, you know that I was ecstatic when the Mississippi State Women’s basketball team was in the Final Four, even though I’m really not much of a basketball fan. I was delirious and hoarse when they won their game against legendary UConn. I was as proud for those young women as I was disappointed for them when they lost the title game to South Carolina. Even with the loss, they have a great deal to be proud of, not least of which how they comported themselves.

After the victory over UConn, I read a quote from the MSU Coach Vic Schaefer. He told his team,

“Win the minute. Win the hour. Win the day.”

I love that on so many levels.

I stopped writing for a long time because I concluded that, basically, I was full of crap. I was telling you about all the things I was going to to, things I was starting; but, things I didn’t follow up on. (More on that tomorrow.) I had all these ideas and thinking that I could force things to work and, I could, for a day or two. Then I failed. Just like I have a million times before. Just like all of us have a million times before.

I was looking at the whole task to be done and easily becoming overwhelmed. I was following the advice of some people who have NEVER had a weight problem; but, who have all these ideas on how to lose weight. I wasn’t listening to myself. I wasn’t doing the things that I know work. I was confusing myself with data and garbage, and getting lost in the process. I lost focus.

When I read that quote, its elegance struck me. How simple! How profound! How perfect! And it doesn’t matter if you’re talking playing basketball, dieting, working, parenting, healing an injury or living. Get the small things right and the big things take care of themselves.

Win the minute. Win the hour. Win the day. 

I need to embroider this on a pillow.

(dis)Courage

You don’t hear from me in forever, I write three weeks, then I disappear again. I know. But, really, it’s just like me. Last time we talked, I was super excited that I had gone on a couple of walks with Ellie and that my foot felt fine. Progress!

Except that it wasn’t.

After the third walk, I began to experience significant pain again. Thankfully, no swelling, but I could not walk without limping, not even to just do normal things like walk around the house and maybe do something really crazy like go to the grocery store. I cannot walk a mile and a half without pain and that makes me want to just sit down in the middle of the floor and cry.

If you’ve known me long, you know that I have always said – with clear self-awareness – that I am no Caroline Ingalls. I would have been a horrible frontiersman. The Oregon Trail started in Missouri and ran about 2000 miles to either California or Oregon, depending on your paradise of choice. The average trip lasted four and a half to five months. Ummmmmm. I’m really more of a Boeing-type girl than a covered wagon one. I’d have probably been turning around at the Kansas state line. I just don’t have the patience for that. Zen? Not so much.

I’m more frustrated that I can even say at my injury. I have place to go, things to do, and people to see. I don’t have time for all of this nonsense. Yet, I cannot wish it better. Staying off of it completely didn’t heal it. Using it only sparingly hasn’t healed it. And my weight loss is going much slower than I’d like; so, I don’t have the confidence that even getting all the extra weight off is going to heal it.

Temptation is strong and I hear the sirens’ call from the frozen cashew milk. The Girl Scouts at the grocery store entrance are singing me straight into the rocks with their prepubescent calls of “Thin Mints! Tagalongs (kryptonite)!” I have been really having a hard time. Finally, yesterday, I bought myself a treat – a bouquet of flowers.

purple-bouquetKroger had bouquets containing lisianthus, one of my favorites. These blooms were deep purple and were paired with ornamental cabbage for a really striking arrangement – one that I find myself staring at, enjoying it tremendously, and not adding one calorie to my diet. I think I just added another weapon to my craving-fighting arsenal.

Now if I could just figure out something for this frustration…..

 

Progress!

I’m super excited! On Saturday and again yesterday, I went for a walk with my dog Ellie (pictured above modeling her adorable Tennessee flag collar, which you can find here). We walked about a mile and a quarter each time at about two mph – strolling, really – and neither my foot nor my ankle hurt the following days!

The doctor called my injury an “overuse” injury, which makes perfect sense. What also makes sense is that I cannot go from sitting around letting it heal straight back to walking seven miles a shift; so, I’m going to get to that number gradually. I’ll rest the foot again today before walking again tomorrow. I can work up to that distance walking on alternating days. It feels really good to out and walking, plus Ellie loves it. When we approached the park, she started whining and wagging her tail like crazy. During The Great Reduction, I walked there with her and our late Labrador Trey frequently.

I’m thrilled to feel like I’m making some progress for a change! I just have to remember to take it slowly.