Book Three, Chapter One

A lot of people have been saying that Tim and I have started a new chapter in our lives but, frankly, given further thought, I think we’re starting a new book.  After many, many, many years of planning, hoping and working on it, we have FINALLY, bought a HOUSE.  A House!!!  A real House, that’s OURS.  No capricious landlords, no leases expiring, no living at the whims or wills of others.  A home of our own.

Yes, it will be sad to leave Forts Ferry.  When we moved in here, we never thought we’d leave.  We had planned on buying the place when it was available.  However, after 4 years here, we realized that it is too big for us, too much space and too much of that space is unmanageable.  So we did something we never (in a million years) thought we’d do.  We bought a raised ranch in the suburbs.  This picture was taken when the house was first put on the market (and then taken off), but it’s better than any pictures I got.

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The house has everything we wanted, including a really deep back yard.  Our neighbors are a little close, but, it’s the suburbs.  A good privacy fence will fix that.  No problems.

It’s in crappy shape.  Fundamentally it is very sound.  A new roof, great bones.  But, it was a foreclosure, and hadn’t been updated (mostly) since the ’70s (when it was built).  Some newer appliances in the kitchen…the furnace was replaced in the 80’s or 90’s, but that’s about it.

Oh, and the previous owners (doesn’t that sound better than tenants?) had weird decorating taste.  You’ll see what I mean.

There’s a big tree in the front yard:

 

I know everyone has been anxious to see what it looks like.  Let’s go inside.

The house is an odd Raised Ranch.  Instead of entering into a mid-level, with stairs up and down, we enter on the bottom level.  This is the front room.  Notice the lovely faux brick with black mortar?  And the uber-liscous wood paneling?  We have plans for that.

16 Carol Ann Dr, Albany, New York 12205

We go upstairs, and get our first glimpse of the living and dining rooms through the wrought iron rail.  (Again this picture was taken from the listing, that’s not our TV.  But you get the picture  (pun intended).

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And a view of the stairwell taken from the Living Room.

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That’s all I have the energy to post today.  More later, or tomorrow.

 

 

Process vs. Product & Yoga

Today started with a conversation (in my head) about Process vs. Product.  I even started a conversation on Facebook about it.  The resulting discussion was interesting.  I got to know a lot more about how my friends view the subject as relating to knitting, spinning and crafting.  I loved reading all the responses.

In my Morning Pages, I found myself writing about how I am not, at all, process oriented.  I like measurable goals.  I like finishing projects.  Even when spinning, while I may not know what the yarn I am spinning will grow up to be, I am creating a product – the yarn.  My knitting is even more goal oriented, which is why when I have a long term project, like a sweater, on the needles, I also am working on other, smaller projects.

I’m into immediate gratification.  I like making jewelry, because in a short period of time, I can have a necklace or a pair of earrings.  Maybe not in one day, but certainly within a couple of days.  I’m not really good at process oriented tasks.  I hate treadmill and biking on the trainer.  I don’t get anywhere.  I also don’t like walking for the sake of exercising because, again, I don’t get anywhere.  Contrast this with my life in the city, when I walked, far distances, for the sake of transporting myself from one place to another.  Sometimes it was faster to walk, sometimes I walked because I felt like it.  But still, there was always the goal of getting somewhere.

Maybe that’s part of why I feel so frustrated these days.  I’m not really going anywhere.  I don’t have any short-term goals. I have long term goals.  If I keep plugging away, maybe I’ll finish the novel in this lifetime.  I’d like to finish, at least a first draft, in the next few months.  It’s hard for me to keep an eye on the finishes project when it’s such a long haul.  75,000-100,00 words (in an order that makes sense) is really hard to do (for me, at least).

Which brings me to yoga.  Yoga is, intrinsically, a process.  It’s not about the goal, there’s nowhere to get.  Which is, I think, why I have so much difficulty getting to the mat each day.  However, it’s also something that I’m drawn back to again, and again, and again.

So today, I got myself to the mat.

As you all know, if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve been in a bad fibromyalgia flare-up for months.  I’ve been increasingly limited in what I can do.  Even sitting for long stretches of time is agonizing.  Like now, actually.  But, I know from past experience that yoga, done daily, will eventually make me feel better.  So this this what happened:

I decided that I needed to do pain-free yoga.

This is probably not shocking to any of you, that yoga can be (and should be) a pain-free experience.  However, I’ve never done it that way.  I’ve always stretched ’til it hurt.  I wanted to accomplish something.  I wanted to get flexible…fast.  And I’ve always gotten fed up and quit…for months (or years) at a time.

I borrowed some of this and some of that from all the teachers that I’ve had over the years.  I started with some easy stretches.  I took it to my previous discomfort level, then backed it off, so I was comfortable.  The goal was to be moving, mindfully, not trying to accomplish anything.  It was nice.  I ended with 3 1/2 sun-salutations (no floor work, just mountain, backbend, forward bend, forward bend extension, etc).  I felt refreshed.

Then I remembered that Savasana is necessary for the body to integrate the session.  As I lay on the mat, my mind went into a Yoga Nidra –  deep, step by step awareness.  My knowledge of human anatomy serves me well, because as I focused, sequentially, on part of my body, I was able to visualize them.  Using a technique I learned by listening to and reading Jon Kabat-Zinn, as I finished (let’s say an entire leg), I let it slip out of my consciousness.  Eventually, I was left, just as consciousness and breath.  For the first time in months, I was completely pain-free.  Just awareness and breath.  It was lovely.

I’d like to say that this lack of pain lasted through my return to regular, waking consciousness…but it didn’t.  I got stiff and sore fairly quickly.  But what has remained with me is the knowledge that every time I want to, I can return to that state.  Now, THAT is enough to bring me back to the mat on a daily basis.   Process….indeed.

I’m interested in comments, especially from people who have an established yoga practice.  I’m curious as to how this relates to your experience.  Of course,  I am also interested in those who do any kind of hand-work, and whether they are move invested in process or product.

 

 

 

Catch-22s and Drinking The Kool-Aid (Part 1)

I love mixing metaphors.  Don’t you?

Catch-22 ”

A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.

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This pretty much sums up life with Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a multi-sympton syndrome characterized by widespread pain (pain in all 4 quadrants of the body); 11 of 18 common tender points (mapped points that respond painfully to mild to moderate pressure); fatigue and cognitive dfficulties (memory or concentration problems);   exaggerated neurological response to painful stimuli;  elevated amounts of Substance P (the pain neurotransmitter) in Cerebral Spinal Fluid, and many others.

Sometimes, this makes life a living hell.

Imagine, upon awakening, your first conscious thought is that some part of your body (hips, neck, legs) hurts.  A LOT.  Now, try getting out of bed.  Overnight, all the muscles you used during the day, have stiffened up and are painful to move.  Yes, I mean all of them.  So, you start your day by convincing yourself that once you get up and moving, you’ll feel better.  And generally, the stiffness abates, but the pain may or may not.

You have breakfast and start taking your meds.  I take Lyrica twice a day and it helps…some.  It doesn’t take the pain away, but it makes it more manageable.  Without it, my pain levels are at a constant 8/10 (with 10 being reserved for broken bones and tooth abscesses).  Some days I add Skelaxin, a muscle relaxer, and frequently 800 mg of ibuprofen.  This brings my pain levels down to my normal cruising level of 5/10.  On a really good day, I’m at 4 or 3.  I have no memory of a daily constant pain level of less than 3.  Something always hurts, but I can manage it.

If the ibuprofen doesn’t bring me under 6.5, I reach for the oxycodone.  Frequently 2.5mg brings me into a manageable range.  Sometimes I take another 2.5.

The problem with taking more than 2.5 mg, is that it makes me drowsy.  Drowsy is not good.  Drowsy is not the way I want to live my life.  Some days I have no choice.

Then there’s other problem.  Fatigue.  My brain seems to be wired weirdly.  Sometimes I seem to get confused between fatigue and pain.I first realized this when I was living in Florida from 1998-2000. I was working at a job in a “sick” building.  While I was working there, they were re-doing their HVAC system, and all the ceilings were off in the hallways.  The mold exposure was fierce, and after an ear/sinus infection that led to a perforated eardrum (due to allergies), I quit the job, but was never the same.  When I’d get home from work, I’d be completely exhausted.  And my shoulders hurt.  After a couple of ibuprofen, not only would the pain go away, but I would perk up.

Now, 15 years later, when I’m in severe pain, I seem to translate it to fatigue.  Tim knows  this and, if I’m really dragging, he’ll suggest pain meds.  Invariably, within 20-45 minutes, I perk right up.

Some say that pain is draining, and saps energy.  But I discussed this with my rheumatologist, and she agrees.  There seems to be something in the way Fibro patients are wired that confuses these two signals.

Now here’s the Catch-22 (you knew I’d get back here).  Pain begets pain.  There’s a neurotransmitter called Substance P.  Without a lot of information on neurochemistry, let’s say that Substance P is the means with which the Central Nervous System (CNS) sends pain stimuli from one nerve cell to the other.  Stress or injury signals the production of Substance P.  An elevated amount of Substance P in the cerebral-spinal fluid, signals the nerve cells to produce even more pain receptors which, in turn, send higher pain signals to the brain to produce more Substance P.

Some medical circles believe that this is the root of Fibromyalgia, and a lot of the research going on these days is focused on this.

But what does this mean for me?  It means that more pain I’m in, the more pain I’m in.  It means that in order to stop a flare-up, I need to properly manage the pain.  If this means opiates, then so be it.  I hate it.  But I do it.  Crazy oxycodone induced dreams and all.  If I don’t get the pain managed, the flare-up spins out of control, until I have to take action.  I’ve learned that early intervention is key to pain management.  No pain=no pain.

Unfortunately, here’s where we come to another Catch-22.  Pain and stiffness can be alleviated by mild to moderate exercise.  However, cross the line and overdo it, and you can send yourself into a flare-up.

This is one I’ve been grappling with for 15 years.  How do I know when I’ve overdone it? Not until it’s too late.  Since the pain doesn’t set in for a few hours, I feel fine when I’m doing something.  Take yesterday’s yard work.  I spent an hour and a half cleaning out a flower bed.  This was about 1:00pm  At 6:00pm, I felt tired.  By 9:00pm I was in whimpering agony.  Today, I’m stiff and sore, and medicated.

My pre-Fibro self, would either do some light work today, and get back in the garden tomorrow.  I know, from my bodybuilder days, that is the way to build muscle and get stronger.  I know from my distance cycling days, that’s how to build endurance (train every other day).  So, I’m taking today off.  But what about tomorrow.  I know, from previous experience, that I’m going to hurt tomorrow too.  Do I push through it and do another flower bed?  Do I take a second day off?  What if it rains on day 3 & 4?  Then I’m not back in the garden until Monday.  After 5 days off, I’m as good as starting from scratch again.  No one has been able to give me an answer to this question.  Not my doctor, not physical therapists.  They just don’t know.

One source says that people with Fibro should exercise at 50% of their capacity.  And just how do I know what 50% is?  How do I know when I get there?  No one seems to be able to answer that question either.

A Tale Of Two Kitties

In 1994 I struck out on my own.  I left an unsatisfactory marriage, the apartment we’d lived in for 14 years, and began working in a new profession.  In other words, I changed everything.  All.  At.  Once.

Yes, I really shook it up.  In tarot terms, it was my Tower year.  Everything exploded and came back together in a brand new way.  It was exciting and terrifying and, I never regretted a single decision.

I built a life I loved.  I got an apartment on the edge of a trendy, fun, neighborhood.  For the first time in my life, I was free to decorate an apartment to reflect who I was, without compromise.  Thinking about it now, that’s how I lived, for a few years anyway – without compromise.  I was my truest, most authentic, self.  And I loved my life.

There was heartbreak, for sure.  Minutes after being single-ish, I entered into a relationship that could only end in disaster.  It did.  On my 35th birthday, plunging me into the deepest depression I’d experienced to that point.  I got help.  It got better.

One of the things that made it so much better was the 9 month old Catalescent I’d adopted.  Morgan became my baby and my partner.  She was the most social cat I’d ever met, and grew into 12 pounds of kitty-love, which she poured over every one she met.

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On her fourth day of living with me, she tentatively crawled into bed, snuggled up next to me and there she slept for the rest of her life.  She had a way of tucking herself against me, pushing, so that when she relaxed she made the maximum contact of her body and mine.  She had a gentle purr that was more felt than heard, and that vibration put me to sleep every night.

In time, I met Tim, and he moved in.  At first she was appalled that he took over her side of the bed, and she wasn’t sure about this whole situation, but that didn’t last long.  She accepted him into her colony, and he became hers, as she was mine.

A few months after that, we adopted Kali.  A scrappy kitten who was too much kitten, at 16 weeks old, and not enough cat, for the person to whom she’d been given as a gift.  We took her in.  

I remember the very first time she met Morgan.  This scrappy little kitten sauntered out of her carrier, looked at the very full-grown Morgan, arched her back and hissed.  It was hilarious.  Morgan’s response?  She lifted one paw, and whacked the little one on the head.  This continued for 4 days.  Morgan would hiss, Kali would hiss back, Morgan would whack her upside the head.  Kali wasn’t stupid.  After a scant 4 days, she figured out that when Morgan hissed at her, if she just sat down and was quiet, Morgan would stop.

It was as if Morgan threw her paws up in the air, and with a very resigned expression, knocked Kali down, held down with one paw across her throat, and bathed her from nose to tail.  Kali was now hers, as was Tim, as they were all mine.  That was the dominance order in our family (at least according to Morgan).

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Kali and Tim bonded the way Morgan and I had.  Kali would crawl on his chest every night and look at him with her translucent green eyes with adoration.  It was as if he hung the moon and all the stars just for her.  And did it every night.

When Tim had his car accident and was in the hospital and rehab for 3 weeks, she walked around bereft.  She meowed, she looked for him, she took to sleeping in his closet on his laundry bag, on top of his dirty clothes.  I couldn’t bring myself to wash them, because she needed to be in his scent.

We moved to Florida.  Tim and I and both cats in the cab of a U–haul for 3 days.  The girls were troopers.  We’d let them out in the motel, they’d run around all night, and back in their crates in the morning.

They loved Florida.  They loved to sit in the screened in patio, on the two chairs we’d bought for ourselves, and watch the world go by from the safety of their screen.  I, however, hated it there, and 2 years later, we packed up and moved back up north.  Again, my two little troopers made the journey to Schenectady.

We moved 4 years after that, and 4 years after that and 2 years after that.  Each time, they were curious and adjusted.  They made friends with our friends, watched the birds in the feeders we’d set up for their enjoyment (CAT-TV on 2 different channels).

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The years passed.  Where do they go?

In July of 2011, Morgan got sick.  We didn’t know what was wrong with her, and suspected many things, but it turned out to be cancer.  For a year we did everything we could to make her comfortable, ensuring her quality of life, but in July 2012, we couldn’t do it any longer.  Morgan was ready to go, and we let her.  It was one of the saddest days of my life, but I knew it was her time.

I felt like a hole had been ripped out of my chest.  A huge, gaping, raw hole.  My constant companion of 18 years was gone.  And it didn’t seem possible.  Or right.  This was a big wrongness to my world.  There still is.

There was a big wrongness in Kali’s world too.  She started acting out in ways she’d never done before.  The super fastidious cat, who would have gladly changed her own litter (but that’s another story) stopped using her litter box.  She went on antidepressants.  They didn’t do anything but make her sleepy.  We tried anti-anxiety meds, which did help.  But a part of the Kali we knew and adored was gone.

She rejected Tim completely.  Would not stay in his lap, would not let him hold her.  She was inconsolable.  She would let me hold her, briefly.  Our  morning “pet and purr” (I would pet, she would purr) sessions were about mourning Morgan.  She would  cling to me, and I would cry.  She would purr and nuzzle her face into my elbow.  And then she would go back to her basket, where she would stay, only coming out for bodily functions and food.

Last week, she developed trouble breathing.  We brought her to the vet, who diagnosed Pleural Effusion.  Her chest was filing with fluid, and not allowing her expand her lungs.  We had him drain them, and her breathing went back to normal.   Now to see how long it would take before the fluid built back up.  Maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a few days.  She got 24 hours.

On Wednesday, we brought her back to the doctor.  He listened and heard the same thing I’d heard.  She couldn’t breathe.  Her chest was filled with fluid again.  There was nothing we could do.  She was suffering and terrified, literally gasping for air.

We did the only thing we could do.  We ended it for her.

eu·tha·na·sia [yoo-thuh-ney-zhuh,] 

noun

Also called mercy killing. the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.

I cling to this definition.  I know it was a mercy.  I know it was the right thing to do.  I would do it again.  It’s part of the contract I make with a pet when I adopt them, that I will never let them suffer if there is anything I can do about it.

Kali is not suffering, she would have.  Left to her own devices, she wouldn’t have made it to today.

Kali’s passing brings me right back to Morgan’s passing.  That hole that had scabbed over is right back where it was last July.  I miss both my girls, both for themselves, and for the way of life they represented.  My last thread of connection to the life I’d built, by myself, on the fringe of the trendy neighborhood (which has become so trendy as to be unaffordable).

And so it is the end of an era.  I will mourn, I will grieve, I will move forward, but never move on.

 

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Terrorism and Tragedy

I was reading a post on Facebook by my friend Julia, and I started to reply. But, it turned into something much longer. Here it is:

I haven’t posted anything about the tragedy in Boston yesterday, because, frankly, I didn’t know what to say. That I’m saddened? Of course I am. That I’m horrified? That too. But I have intentionally stayed away from the TV news media. I got just enough information, on line, where I could control the amount of input, to know what was going on.

I refuse to buy into the media hype. We all know that tragedy boosts ratings. I refuse to be part of it. Underneath the reporters “horror”, there is also glee that something so newsworthy happened. That disgusts me, and I can’t watch it.

Yes, right now my sister and brother-in-law are visiting Israel. They had to register with the State Department, so if anything big happens, they can be notified and pulled out. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be on a bus, or in a museum, or at a holy site that one side or the other decides to bomb that day. It’s a reality of living in that part of the world. We Americans, are fairly insulated against that. Which is why, I suppose, 9/11 hit us so hard; why Oklahoma City and the Atlanta Olympics and Boston, yesterday, hit so hard. We believe that we are immune from these attacks, and the sad reality is, we’re not

I believe that what we’re getting is a dose of reality.  Real reality, as opposed to those reality TV shows, which aren’t reality at all.  Maybe we all need to read the news instead of watching the Real Housewives of Wherever.  Maybe we need to realize that we are just as vulnerable as the rest of the world to terror attacks, and that we need to pay attention to what’s going on in the world, not just on our own continent.  Maybe we need to join the global community, and seek ways to put an end to the violence.

My part in that is getting information, not entertainment.  If we, as a society, can stop feeding the  media hype machine, maybe the media will start giving us news instead of hype.  Maybe then, we can get on with the real business of making this planet a livable place.

Maybe.

 

Appalled and Angry….Miss Representation

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Last night, I went to a screening of Miss Representation.  Again.  This is the second time I’ve seen it.  I expected to be much less appalled, much less motivated, but I was not.  I was just as appalled, maybe even more than the first time.  I left very depressed.  To my eyes, the world is just so broken in so many ways, and I feel that any small difference I can make is like a teardrop in the Pacific Ocean.  However, I also know that with enough teardrops, we can affect change.

This morning, a friend asked me what I took away from the evening.  In other words, “What Can We Do?”  That’s a huge question, and deserves a bigger answer than I could give on Facebook.

The problem of sexism in the media is so huge, there isn’t one single thing we can do.  We need to do everything, and we need to do it all the time.  But as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, here are my thoughts:

We need to raise awareness.  Start by seeing the movie.  Then continue the conversation.  Talk to your daughters, talk to your sons.  Watch advertising with your children.  Ask them what scantily clad women with large breasts have to do with selling beer?  Cars?  Toilet bowl cleaner?  Show them how different products are skewed to different demographics.  Ask them to think about why that is.

Take some time and go through so-called fashion magazines with your daughters.  Explain to them why, within 3 minutes of thumbing through one of these magazines, they’re self-esteem drops.  Show them how each advertisment, each article, is designed to make them feel bad about themselves, to show them how they don’t measure up, and that they’re supposed to be feel bad, so they buy a product that promises to bring them closer to the ideal.

Stop buying products made by companies that promote sexism in their advertising.  Women have 80% of the buying power in this country.  In most families, women do 90% of the shopping.  Put your dollars where your principles lie.  I’m not just talking about stores that promote your ideals, but the actual products.  Do some research.  If you don’t like Victoria’s Secret’s message to and about women, then don’t buy anything made or sold by Limited Brands – Victoria’s Secret, Victoria’s Secret PINK, Bath and Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel.

Insist that your school district change its curriculum.  Bring the Miss Representation curriculum into the schools.   It includes the feature film as well as customized footage and lessons for the following age groups: University, High School, Middle School, 4th-5th, K-3rd.

But mostly, examine yourself.  Shine the light into every corner of yourself. Look to see how you’ve assimilated the message that you can’t be _________ because you’re a woman.

I had an interesting conversation on the way home from the screening.  I said, “I would love to volunteer and do some mentoring, but what am I actually showing anyone?  I’m middle-aged, not outstandingly successful by society’s standards.  I’m fat and have health problems.  I’m more an example of what not to do, than I am of what to do.”

My husband said, “You drank the Kool-aid.”

I thought about it for a minute, and agreed.  “I drank the Kool-Aid while insisting that I wasn’t drinking it.”

If I, an ardent feminist, a speaker for equal rights regardless of gender, color, religion or sexual orientation, can self-doubt myself into inaction because I don’t measure up to the media’s idea of what I should be, than what chance do younger women, who don’t have the depth of experience that middle-age brings, or the support of role models interjecting a different way to think, have?

As I said, the problem is huge.  The message is insidious.  But there are steps to take, and  ultimately, each step will bring us closer to the goal of equality for all people.

Comments and discussion are welcome here, and on my Facebook page.

A Visit To The Doctor

I just got back from an appointment with my internist.  It was just supposed to be a routine follow-up, but as it turned out I caught a cold from one of the contractors working on the bathroom.  The cold has been settling in my chest, and since I have asthma, it’s always a trouble spot.

Tim was listening to me breathe last night, even using my inhaler to the maximum, and said he didn’t like the way it sounded.  I didn’t like the way it felt or sounded.  Turns out my O2 saturation level is low (94) and I’m wheezing deep in my lungs.  Bronchitis!  Treated with 5 days of Prednisone.

Turns out I have a love hate relationship with steroids.  I like that I will be breathing better within 24 hours.  I like that I will have a tremendous energy boost.  I like that it takes away many of my joint and muscle pain.  I don’t like that it raises my blood sugar and makes me put on weight.

I have two things going on in my head right now.  The first is why I have so much trouble admitting that I’m sick and need to rest and take care of myself.  The only reason I’m writing this, right now, is that I feel too guilty putting my jammies back on and crawling back into bed (which is what I feel like doing).  For some reason, unless I’m running a fever and really can’t move, resting when I’m sick is somehow akin to heresy.  it doesn’t matter that I’m wheezing.  That I’m having trouble breathing, and that I don’t have enough oxygen in my bloodstream to support huge amounts of movement.  I will sit at the computer playing solitaire, rather than climb back into bed with a cat and a book.

I remember, 30 years agao, when I had a cold and a cough.  I kept going to work, swigging Robitussin from the bottle, taking antihistamines and decongestants, but going to work every day.  After a few weeks, the cough wasn’t getting better.  Only when I was hacking my lungs out, and suddenly felt like someone had clamped an iron band around my chest, did I go to the doctor.  Said doctor gave one listen, and diagnosed pneumonia without even needing a chest x-ray.  That ended me flat on my back with high doses of antibiotics, codeine and alcohol based cough medicine, and a variety of other things.  I remember the cough medicine.  1 teaspoon and I had 15 minutes to find a horizontal position before I was asleep for 4 hours.  Which was, by the way, the doctor’s intent.

So, this unwillingness to take to my bed unless I’m on death’s door is not a new phenomenon.

Does anyone else experience this?  Does anyone else think they’re being a baby or a wimp if they actually rest out a cold, virus, etc.  What about bronchitis?

Please leave me your comments and insights in the comments area.

 

Missed Meals

Looking at me, one can (and I have) say that I’ve never missed a meal.

Sounds funny and, on one hand, it’s true.  I haven’t missed many.  Truth be told, I’ve even doubled up on some.  However, as I was eating breakfast (gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread with cream cheese),  I thought about how many meals, thousands of them, I’ve really missed because I wasn’t paying attention.

It’s true.  Now that I’ve learned to eat when I’m hungry and pay attention, looking for that tiny sign that I’ve had enough, I’ve really zeroed in on the tastes and textures of what I’m eating.  I’ve experienced the explosive goodness of that very first bite, when my taste bud flare into full attention and I’m immersed in the burst of flavors as they are sensed in my mouth.  Then there’s the texture:  the crunch of toast, the smoothness of cream cheese and the chewy goodness of raisins.

In all the years of distracted eating, watching TV, reading a book, thumbing through a magazine, and even having emotionally charged conversations, I’ve missed all of this.  I’ve shoveled in food because I was starving; automatically moving fork from plate to mouth, not really noticing the nuances that make up the act of eating.

I’ve fallen in love with food again.

This afternoon, for lunch, I ate the second half of last night’s dinner.  Guacamole and chips were an almost religious experience.  The combination of crunchy and creamy with the flavor of avocado and onion and cilantro was overwhelmingly delicious.  The burrito bowl had just the right amount of heat from the tomatillo salsa, the fajita veggies were crunchy and flavorful, the brown rice was grounding and the steak was tasty.  And I experienced all of it, both as a whole, and as separate components.

Honestly, I’ve never experienced food this way.

Half of it was sufficient for dinner last night.  The other half was sufficient for lunch.  And instead of thinking, “Oh, this isn’t enough to fill me up,” surprisingly (to me , at least), it was.  Extremely, completely.  And there’s still some left-over guacaomle for a snack later.

Instead of feeling deprived, of thinking I didn’t get enough, I’m excited that there are left-overs, and I can experience it again later, when I’m hungry again.

I will be hungry later.  Of course, I will.  We all get hungry a few hours after we eat.   And when I’m hungry, I will eat again.  Maybe I’ll finish the guacamole.  Maybe I’ll have something else.  But the point is, that I didn’t have to finish what was in front of me because of the fear that I would never have it again.

I have no idea where this fear came from.  Maybe because my mother was very fair about portioning things out.  Maybe because she believed a little of something really expensive, was better than not having it all.  But unlimited amounts weren’t in the budget.  Maybe I never got enough of what I wanted, and never knew if I would have it again.

It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that I can now be an adult in my own body.  I can make my own decisions about food, and I can satisfy my own needs.  The freedom in that is indescribable.  It goes along with the decision that I’m never going to diet again.  I’m never again going to put someone’s ideas of what I should be eating ahead of my own body’s need.

I will be hungry for salad again.  When the weather warms up, I will crave salads and greens.  I will want grilled salmon and chicken.  I know I will want that.  But now, when it’s cold and blustery, I want what’s warm and filling.  I’m going with that.  And I’m paying close attention.  I’m looking for that feeling of “enough”.

I’ve discovered that “enough” occurs way sooner than I want it to.  This has led me to slow down.  To savor each forkful, each mouthful.  To pay attention and be present with my food.  To continue to reassure myself that leftovers are good.  That they will be there later.  That I can get more any time I want to.  This is a lesson i will have to keep repeating to myself until I really get it.  Until I trust myself to take care of myself.  Because that’s what it is really all about.

Comments and discussion is always welcome,

Harriet

A New Focus

When I first set up this blog, I didn’t intend it to be about my cats.   I know, we all my love my cats (well, most of us), and while they are cute, and endlessly fascinating, but…

That said, I do want to write about the things that are going on.  The real things.  Some of you might be uncomfortable, and some of you will enjoy reading it.  Some people will inspired, at least I hope so.

I know I am venturing out of my comfort zone.  But that’s what life is about.  I am reminding of one of my favorite sayings. “A ship is safe in the harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.”  Actually, that’s a paraphrase and there is dispute as to the original author.  That notwithstanding, I still the metaphor.

So, here goes.

Most of you know that I have had a weight issue for all of my adult life.  I’ve been fat, I’ve been thin, I’ve been able to maintain my ideal weight for about 15 minutes at a time.  Most of the time, I’m either dieting and losing, or not dieting and gaining.  Now,  I’m getting off the ride.

For the last 20 years or so, I’ve been following the works of Geneen Roth.  I read her second book first, Breaking Free of Compulsive Eating; followed by her first book, Feeding the Hungry Heart.

Ms. Roth (although I feel I know her well enough to call her Geneen) supports the notion that all diets, having set up a cycle of deprivation, will ultimately fail.  My life has born that out.  For every diet I’ve ever been on, while they’ve all worked, and I’ve lost weight, I have also gained all that weight back, and much more.  So I’m not dieting any more.  EVER!!

I’m done.

I’ve gotten to the point where the mere thought of a diet that either limits the amount of food, the number of calories, or cuts out a food group (carbs, fat, etc) strikes the terror of deprivation into my heart.

I know I am not alone.  

What she suggests, instead, is following simple eating guidelines, and paying attention.  Yes, paying attention to the food, to the taste, the smell, the texture.  And paying attention to your body’s response to that food.

  • Eat when you are hungry.
  • Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
  • Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
  • Eat what your body wants.
  • Eat until you are satisfied.
  • Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  • Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

This might sound like an invitation to binge, but it’s just the opposite.

When I know, and keep telling myself, that I can have what I want, whenever I am hungry, I no longer have the need to overeat.  More about that in later posts, but that’s all the back-story I’m going to tell.  If you’re interested, read Geneen’s books.  They’re great and affirming (as to punishing and depriving).

So, where does this leave me?

Last weekend, I made the decision to stop dieting.  And to get serious about The Work.   So, I took out my copy of one of her later books, Women, Food and God, and started reading.  I reviewed the Eating Guidelines, and began working with them.  The first being, Eat When You Are Hungry.

That sounds simple, but is it?  Really?

The first thing I had to do was get hungry.  Really hungry.  Not ready-to-chew-my-arm-off-hungry, but also not I-think-I’ll-get-something-to-eat-hungry.   I had to wait until my stomach signaled, HUNGRY!  NOW!   And I had to be ready to feed myself.  And feed myself whatever I wanted to eat.  Knowing that this wouldn’t be a snack before a real meal, or that I had to eat dinner before I could get the cookie I really wanted.  But to sit down and eat.

That’s the other thing.  Sitting down…and eating.  Not mindlessly nibbling cookies while I watched TV, or read (my personal favorite) or having a conversation with someone else, or thinking about the list of things I needed to do.  Just eating.  This was so much harder than I thought it would be.  It was hard, but also empowering.  I got to taste my food.  Really taste it.  Really feel the texture of it in my mouth.  It was such a sensual experience.  When I think of all the meals I’ve had, all the food I’ve consumed, that I was never really present for….well…that’s in the past.

I also discovered, that if I pay attention to the sensations in my body, and I start when I’m hungry, I can also feel satisfied well before I am stuffed.  That’s a distinction that I’ve lost over the years.

Yesterday, after three or four days of paying attention to everything I’ve eaten (and I mean everything), and when my mind wanders, bringing it back to the sensation of taste, texture, smell and stomach feel, I realized that there is a point where my body relaxes, when I let go in a deep sigh.  I am no longer hungry.  A few bites after that, I’m satisfied.

The shocker is that this happens about 1/3 of the way through what I had been previously eating.  Interesting.  Something to notice, not to judge.

The entire point of this is not judging.  Not punishing myself for past actions.  Not heaping tons of criticism on myself.  Just noticing.  Going, “Aha!” and taking this insight with me as I keep moving through The Work.

As always, comments and discussion are invited.

 

Enter Rhiannon

Rhiannon!

Rhiannon!

 

Sometime in September (I don’t remember the exact date),  I realized I needed a kitten.  At first, I thought I wanted a slightly older cat, about a year old, and we tried that.  Lilith was wonderful with people, but horrible with Kali.  After a week, during which she basically pinned Kali to her basket, and wouldn’t let her move without being charged, we returned her.  It was sad, but a grieving Kali was my first priority.

Then, I got a call to come down and look at 2 black kittens.  So I did.  The black kittens wanted nothing at all to do with me, but there was this little orange tabby, who kept trying to get my attention.  I was focused on the black ones, but the orange one just wanted me to pick her up.  Eventually, she won me over when I went to pet her and she gave my whole hand a bath and then suckled on my finger.  Okay, I said.  Wrap her up.

 

Here’s Tim with her fresh out of the box!

Welcome home!!

 

And speaking of boxes.  She was always on the move, hence the blurry photo.

R 05 months box

 

The clearest pictures are when she was sleeping.

 

R 05 months sleeping

5 months old. Out of steam.

 

She’s the first cat I’ve ever owned that liked to sleep with her arms stretched out from the elbow.  Like my white sox?

 

R 06 months 1

6 months old. Mama’s lap is the best place to sleep.

 

From the moment she came home, all she wanted to do was sleep with Kali (who was having none of that!).  So, she took to climbing into Kali’s basket whenever she’d vacate it.  The first few times, Kali walked around, meowing, refusing to join her, but wanting her basket back.  Ultimately, Kali decided that it was her basket, and she didn’t care if Rhiannon was in it.  She’d sit on Rhiannon if she had to.  So she did.

 

R 06 months and kali working it out

Why is she sitting on me? I just want to snuggle.

 

Eventually, they worked it out.   As you can see, Kali is less than pleased, but Rhiannon’s happy.

 

R 06 months and kali sleeping

6 months old, sleeping with a grumpy Kali

 

Because she’s a kitten, she did all sorts of cute things.  Like hanging out in shopping bags.

 

R 06 months bag

6 months old in a Chipotle bag

And sleeping under the knitting (while it is being knitted)

 

7 months old, already leaving the yarn alone, while Mama knits.

7 months old, already leaving the yarn alone, while Mama knits.

 

And finding crazy positions to sleep in.

6 months old. Fast asleep, draped over Mama's leg.  Is this comfortable?

Fast asleep, draped over Mama’s leg. Is this comfortable?

One day I heard a crash of plastic in the laundry room.  I figured whatever it was, I’d get to it when I got to it.  A few minutes later, I heard plaintive meowing.  Rhiannon had jumped into the laundry basket, and managed  to flip it over, so it was wedged against the wall.  Tim’s comment:  “The cat-traps are working.”

8 months. TRAPPED!!

 

She learned to pose for the camera!

8 Months.  Is this my good side, Aunt Debbie?

8 Months. Is this my good side, Aunt Debbie?

 

 

Or is this my better side?

Or is this my better side?

 

And finally, at 11 months, some shots I took last week:

 

11 Months.  Time for your close-up

11 Months. Time for your close-up

 

11 Months.  Asleep on Mama's lap....again.

11 Months. Asleep on Mama’s lap….again.

 

Hope you were able to handle the cuteness.

 

By the way, comments left are the blog are always welcome.  They’re the way I know I’m not just speaking into the ether.  thanks for reading.

From my little corner of cyberspace,

Harriet

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