July 31, 2012
Plateau, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 31
God uses difficult people, like sandpaper, to rub off the rough edges. Learning to be good to people who are not being good to you develops character in you. Joel Osteen
I’d been away from therapy for a few weeks due to an over-stress, mini-meltdown, expense-increase, prospects-slim, uncooperative-medical-professionals, avalanche-eruption. I was going low again, but most of the immediate issues resolved in one way or another, positively, or not. Some I fought through and some I let ride.
Through the upheaval and erosion, I have now achieved a nice plateau – staying where I am, made it through another yearly review, swimming and elliptical with regularity, cooking, porching. There’s even some socializing in limited amounts. Ok, very limited amounts. There’s still more turtling than socializing but less turtling than just a short while ago. I’m even starting to consider long overdue phone call conversations - shocking, no?
Of course, on the heels of my up-timistic self-report comes strategically placed, designed to be therapeutic question:
How did you cope as a child? How did I cope? I don’t know. I don’t think I did. I just kept to myself and…oh. I see.
For me –it was radio and books, then records and books, then cassettes and books, then cd’s and books, then a music career and a writing obsession, and suddenly I’m an adult with the exact same coping skills I honed and used and honed and used as a child, adolescent, young adult, married adult, widowed adult, and alas... a little past middle-aged on the road-to-nowhere-yet, adult. Nowhere seems like a good enough direction when you can’t decide which one to go in anymore.
In the meantime, though, there is the reality of my history of disappearance. I could go places in books and music; places I could disappear into. Places that wouldn’t get me in trouble – unless I had to share the stereo. I got around that by recording to cassette and retreating to my room, where I dreamed of things I would do, and ended up doing some.
I also ended up disappearing a lot - especially from uncomfortable situations, ones where things weren’t working out the best for me. I’ve dropped out of a lot of places, and lives. And while coping mechanisms are good for regrouping and rethinking, they aren’t meant for complete avoidance. Eventually you have to get back to where you were and deal with life, life changes, and how your life has affected others.
Once again facebook is a strange blessing. I’m surprised by the number of people who have let me back in, even if I am only in the floating fringe. They’re in mine, I’m in theirs. What we get, or will get, out of that sort of relationship is unclear. I wish sometimes my fringe area would dial in for better closeness. But that would require un-retreating and un-coping, which is unsettling. Neither one can be accomplished from a plateau.
Still, for the moment, my plateau is a very nice place to be; far from the depths I didn’t like, level with sunrises and sunsets, and considering looking up, if only to gauge the climb.
July 24, 2012
Sugar Snap, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 30
Day 6 of Sparkspeople Sugar Challenge was a major turning point.
Suddenly, I really needed, craved, desired and obsessed about something sweet to the point of being overwhelmed, but still rational. Reluctant to buy a box of cookies (too easy to over-indulge), a tray of brownies (also, too easy to over-indulge), a cake (let’s not be ridiculous) or anything that would send my budget into orbit, I settled on an alternative I was sure I could handle.
Cupcakes – made from cake mi xwith 12 ounces of diet soda instead of oil and eggs. Only 99 cents a box, and easily created into individual servings I could include in my daily log, within my limits. I have always been one of those people who have no problem eating one of anything. Usually, it’s just a taste I’m after, anyway. When the Saturday night batch was finished, I ate one warm, fresh, spongy cake. They were so moist and tasty - no icing was needed, at all. I hadn’t bought any icing, either, so that was a bit of semi-reasonable pre-planned avoidance.
After an appropriate cooling time, I easily placed the other eleven in the Tupperware cake tray with lid, designed just for the purpose of keeping baked goods fresh in between servings. Just like that, the sugar monster was satisfied, and the budget was no worse for wear-and-tear. I prided myself on having achieved acute awareness of my limits, and from experience, knew in all likelihood, the remaining cupcakes would be a week old before I even came close to finishing them. I’d probably have to throw some away, but sometimes moderation makes the most sense in the long-run.
Sunday morning something snapped: I woke up a little later than I would have liked due to super snooze button slapping. Pre-shower, I grabbed some Motrin for my headache and went into the kitchen to find something to wash it down with. Out of milk and juice and without a fresh pitcher of tea, I decided a cupcake would do the trick. Of course, it would be silly to just have one bite and leave the rest, so I finished it. Showered and dressed, I realized I’d be gone until well after Noon, so I fortified quickly with another cupcake. After sitting down to tie my shoes and gathering up my purse, it occurred to me that the last cupcake tasted so good, I simply had to have another. To my credit, it’s not like I grabbed and de-robed three cupcakes, plated them and couched it. I only ate one at a time and went back each time for another, so that sort of counts as exercise, right?
Make no mistake, I totally realized how ridiculous what I had just done was. So, upon returning from church and the grocery store where I purchased only fresh fruits and vegetables, I made a very lovely salad and added a Boca Chik’n patty for protein. I also decided to kick it up another notch and went above and beyond my most recent usual 25 minutes of programmed elliptical time by firmly typing in a new goal: 26. Please, take a deep breath and stop laughing. This is a very legitimate way of slightly increasing your exercise limits without letting your brain or body know. Because I’ve done this before and know it works. You will eventually find yourself easily treading somewhere between 45 -50 minutes each session, eventually.
Somewhere between tired and buzzy, I decided to wait out the high headache and lay low. After my nap, I was, well… hungry. Apparently, my Zombie Apocalypse weakness is cake, and yes, I had three more cupcakes. Again, to my credit, I only ate one at a time and went back each time for another so that sort of counts as exercise, right? About an hour later, I started getting hungry for dinner. When faced with the choice of baking chicken breasts for 45 minutes or, you guessed it…. By this time I was sort of giddy-stupid and self-belligerent. I figured WTFN and completed my ridiculous ricochet sugar-snap by having two more cupcakes in a bowl with the last of the leftover mint brownie and golden oreo ice creams. And, then, because I was on an obvious sugar overload, I balanced it out nicely with an unmeasured amount of salty, hull-less popcorn. The only good news in this monumental monstrosity of a diet ditching day, was that I did manage to insert eight (or more) full glasses of unsweetened iced tea. Which also means, that for the first time in a very, very, very long time - I actually reached my minimum recommend liquid intake goals.
I’m determined to get back on track. Having learned a tremendous deal about sugar highs and sugar lows and sugar snaps, I considered shocking myself back into reasonableness by taking my blood sugar… just to see how bad it was. I decided to give myself at least two days of re-good riddance-ing again to sugar before I did that, though. I can surely be good for two days now that I’m all caked-out.
Except someone just announced a Wendy’s run. To my credit, I immediately said no.
But am considering running down the hall with my order….
July 16, 2012
First 5, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 29
My bathing suit is fitting better, or slightly worse, depending on the point of view. It was a tad snug at the end of May, or maybe I just wasn’t used to the confining feel, and it really fit fine. Neither really matters, because now, it’s a little loose. I’ve tied the shoulder straps in top knots, to raise up neckline, hoping to keep my diminishing cleavage where it should be, especially while I’m swimming.
Whatever I’m doing is working, sort of. As referenced above, my shirts are now loose, and my seasonal pants fit, as opposed to not fitting well, which was where my summer wardrobe started. The scale argues, though. It should be amusing, but it’s not, that six weeks’ worth of daily exercise and strict adherence to consuming all the calories, carbs, fat and protein it has been dictated that I need, has debited me only 2.7 pounds.
So, unnaturally, I jumped at the chance to ramp up my efforts with the Sparkspeople Sugar Challenge. The intention is to observe, then modify sugar intake. The first five days went well. I excluded sugar from my coffee and tea. Read all the labels of everything in my minimal pantry, fridge, and freezer. With the exception of canned tuna and frozen veggies, nearly everything had some sort of sugar, in some sort of form. I really had no idea there were so many forms. Some of these forms excel in masquerading as seemingly innocuous ingredients. Some of which, are worse for you than the real, straight, white-stuff.
Some labeling code words for “sugar” designed to distract: Agave nectar, Agave syrup, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Brown rice syrup, Brown sugar, Buttered syrup, Cane sugar, Cane juice, Cane juice crystals, Carob syrup, Confectioner’s sugar, Corn syrup, High fructose corn syrup, Corn sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup solids, Crystalized fructose, Date sugar, Dextran, Dextrose, Diatase, Diastatic malt, Evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Glucose, Glucose solids, Golden sugar, Golden syrup, Grape sugar, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Malt, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Maple syrup, Molasses, Raw sugar, Refiner's syrup, Sorghum syrup, Sucanat, Sucrose, Sugar, Turbinado sugar, Yellow sugar.
The first five days were a complete immersion in observation and modification as I tried to decide on a course of action. It was a little stupefying trying to delete sugar in it’s entirely, in one fell swoop. I ended up not giving up salad dressing, salsa or the packaged yogurts and fruit cups I had already invested in. The thrift gene apparently runs strong in me. I could not (would not) throw away perfectly good food which I had purchased within my new budget. But, I have since decided the plan is to further eliminate those items, as well, eventually. When my sugar enhanced stock is depleted, it will not be re-upped.
July 09, 2012
Common Senseless, ME Newsletter, Vol. 5, Issue 28
I'm thinking of starting a Common Sense Bank: Folks can call me anytime, and I absolutely do mean anytime, especially between 10 PM and 5 AM when most un-common-sense incidents occur. Yeah, I’ll almost always answer the phone, because I’m awake anyway, and will accordingly advise how to approach any problem with common sense - for a fee of course. Case in point:
I arrived at the pool ready for my nightly oasis to wash away the ridiculousness of the day. As I’m staking out my chair, I notice something in the water, and that nobody else is in the water. There are three guys and a girl in the hot tub, and there are two guys throwing a football over the pool, but no one is in it. I don’t wear my glasses to swim so in my limited squinty eye-sight, the floating thing seems to be a chipmunk. I scoot around to the other side of the deck where I can get a closer look and discover it is not a rodent, but rather a deceased baby duck. It looks as if his neck is broken, and he is definitely dead and bloated.
First common sense thought I have is to grab the strainer and skim him out. However, the strainer isn’t anywhere obvious, and I realize I and another swimmer-with-intent are curiously alone with the situation now. I decide to call maintenance to alert them of the problem.
Me: Hello, Maintenance Answering Service? I'm calling to report there's a dead duck in the pool.
Answering Svc: A dead duck? Well, I suppose I can take that message or you can call back tomorrow.
Me: (I pause because I’m momentarily stumped by the suggestion I call back tomorrow.) Um, please take the message, it’s important. Thanks.
So, the two of us are now debating the dead duck. If we can find a way to scoop it out, without getting into the water ourselves, and then we both leave the pool area, no one will be aware that it was ever there, which will lead to others possibly swimming in dead duck water. If we leave the little guy in there, contamination multiplies, and I’m thinking that would become a health department issue. Mama duck has flown in by now. Swooping low a few times and then braving the water. She keeps putting her billed snout in the water and scooping up and blowing water out of her nose rather violently.
Out of nowhere, a youngster cannonballs into the shallow end of the pool. I didn’t hear him coming and there is no one else with him. I jump up and explain to the little thrasher that he should probably get out of the pool right now, due to the dead duck. That elicits a blood-curdling scream, more thrashing about to get out of the pool, and when he finally achieves that, he heads out, presumably home. I no longer see the duckling and surmise that waves have moved him into one of the intake ports. To confirm, I remove the cover and peer in, and there he is. In the process of putting the cover back in place an adult apparently in charge of the thrasher stomps in with two other kids. “I don’t see any duck,” he says to me. I explain about the thrashing and the waves and the port. So, the brilliant I’m-hoping-he’s-not-the-father tells the three children to go play in too-nuclear-for-even-me hot tub. The hot tub. Again, I am stumped by the stupidity, but he already seems belligerent and me suggesting his children might have their skin burned or boiled off seems like a bad idea. Instead, I try the answering service, again.
Me: I called earlier about the dead duck in the pool. I really think you should call someone tonight.
Answering Svc: A dead duck? That's not on the list of approved emergencies I'm authorized to call about.
Me: I imagine it's not, however...
I proceed to outline why it's not a good idea to let dead duck muck in a community pool overnight, and explain the unaccompanied child factor and mention the health department might be interested in this.
The answering services agrees to make the call.
I then spend the next 20 minutes encouraging more unaccompanied minors not to use the pool. Pool rules state children must be accompanied by parent. Oh, and there's no diving or jumping into the pool, either. I can only attribute this lack-of-common-sense to a faulty gene pool.
What sort of parent sends their child to a known un-life-guarded pool without supervision? So, maybe, their apt overlooks the pool so they think they can keep an eye on them. However, if something goes wrong, they won’t be poolside to drag their unresponsive child out of the water. I, or some other sucker with common sense, would be left do it for them. Because most likely, even though these are not our kids, we’re paying attention because feel a little responsible for their welfare, which would probably end up getting sued for something.
Two young ladies who reminded me of my village days in NYC shuffle in, so I intercept them with my now standard warning about not getting into the water with a dead duck. “Yuck!" one of them exclaims, as they proceed to wander to the far side of the pool, plop down on the edge and dangle their legs in the water while playing with the circulation jets. Ok, so they don’t remind me of me as a teenager, especially after one of them squeals, “Oh, look! I can see the dead duck from here!” Amid all this, there were in fact two very respectful children who appreciated my advice – strangely they were the same ones who couldn’t figure out how to get out of the way of swimmers in the swim lane on a previous night. I will admit they had a rather apprehensive look when I approached them as they were de-shorting and de-shoeing. However, they thanked me very much, put their shoes and shorts back on and left.
I follow their suit and leave this group of people with unfounded high hopes that they can competently pass the information on to others. Two more teenage girls giggled in as I was headed out, and I believe they were appropriately horrified by my news. But then, again, I thought the other two girls were horrified, too, and look what happened there.
On the way back to my expensive apartment (nope, not over that, yet) maintenance returns my call, and informs me that there should be enough chemicals in the pool to make it still ok for swimming. I don’t go there but I’m thinking, sure, but if a part floats around and some kid plays with it or eats it or its bloated body bursts in the circulation bay and it now spewing dead duck pieces all over, when the circulation jets are turned off overnight and the brew steeps and breeds bacteria… maybe I worry too much. Or maybe nobody else worries enough.
July 02, 2012
Porch Resignation, ME Newsletter, Vol, 5, Issue 27
I spent evenings after every disappointing rental property tour with an alcoholic beverage in hand, slouched in a lawn chair on semi-secluded my porch, with blurred vision and warring with myself over containment or non-containment of tears. The wine tact was part pondering self-pity, part, “I don’t really want to move all these bottles… again.”
I even was sadly happy to discover I qualified for low income housing. In a well-kept subdivision, at the end of an industrial park, the units were actually among the nicest I’d seen, but they would require either driving in the dark (because it’s Michigan and that’s how it is here 75% of the year) or taking a community provided shuttle to a bus which would take me to the Ann Arbor Transit Authority bus hub where I could catch another bus that would drop me two blocks from my office in the snow, rain, wind, heat, whatever.
I am apparently quite spoiled, fatalistic, and know myself well enough to know that the prospect of waiting in the snow, three times every morning, and the combined estimated hour and ten minutes most people who use the combined shuttle/bus service report it takes to get into campus, seemed like an unlikely scenario for me to engage in. Never mind, the return trip. So, I enlisted the help of a friend, drove out there just before dusk and waited for night to come. It’s been over two years since I attempted night driving, and I was nervous. I did drive us all the back to my current apartment. Only one verbal criticism occurred. I was stopping too far in advance of stop signs and traffic signals. I considered that to be much better than going past them, no doubt. Still, when I took my hands off the steering wheel; they were shaking. When I unbuckled my seatbelt, first looking down and then looking up, I was lightheaded. When I stepped out of the car, I knew I was going to throw-up. I made it upstairs without my friend’s offered help, and headed straight for the bathroom. It occurred to me later that I may have just forgotten to breathe deeply enough. Still, I thought I didn’t do that badly. I was thinking that if I drove the route enough times in the daylight, I could probably swing the nighttime by familiarity. I mentioned that to my test drive co-pilot. The fact that it took her longer than five seconds to form a response clued me in. I really hadn’t done that well, and, no, my night vision hasn’t gotten any better.
So, one more trying-to-stay-dry-eyed, porch evening later, I realized I truly was out of options. I’d been everywhere. It was time to give up, give in to the inevitable penny pinching, and stop worrying about moving.
So, on a Friday, after work, when I am notoriously in a bad mood anyway, I take my cranky self into the office of my newest enemy and sign a damn lease, one whole week before my extra week grace period is up. The very nice front desker who kindly completed my references for the few apartments I considered, tells me that they are sorry to see me go. When I grumpily announce that I am staying, I get a cheerful response, “I’m very glad!” Without hesitation I snark back, “At least that makes one of us.” In an effort to save the conversation from sliding downhill, the again cheerful response is “You always have a smile when you come in.” And, again, I snark back, “Yeah, for YOU.” They know it’s not their fault and they know what I am not so silently inferring, and I know I have put them in the unfair position of having to ignore my vent.
Two days later, an almost perfect opportunity presents itself. I call the office, immediately apologizing for being snarky and the gracious person at the other ends says, “Oh, I knew you weren’t annoyed at me.” Then I ask the thousands of dollars question, “So, is there a back-out grace period on the lease?” After a few seconds of expected silence, the answer, as expected is, “No, there isn’t, sorry.” Another night on the porch follows, and I decide I like my porch. A lot.
The next day, it occurs to me to ask if there is a waiting list. Because I am only responsible for rent until someone else rents it, and if someone else wants to live in my current community badly enough to pay the fee to be added to a waiting list… then, maybe…. But, in the end, I decided, no. I had already painfully resigned myself to another huge disappointment. So, now it’s official. I’m not looking. For anything, anymore, ever, or at least not until next spring when I imagine this whole scenario will repeat itself again. Or not.