Tuesday, July 29, 2014

banana pudding

The scab is on my right index finger, just above and slightly left of the knuckle that joins my finger to my hand. I've absolutely no idea how I wounded myself. Probably at work. But I see it all day as I type and wash and cook and gesture. It's within my range of vision almost always. So I reflect on scabs and the miraculous automatic healing that happens without much effort on our parts. Aren't we fortunate to be in bodies that have so much automation?

It's kind of creepy, too, to think about all of the things that are happening in our bodies without any input from us. The hair growing. The skin sloughing. The cells dividing. The blood moving. The digesting of food and drink. The neurons firing. The breathing! If all of that (and more) wasn't automated, we really wouldn't have time for anything else. We'd spend all of our waking hours just maintaining our bodies.

I read somewhere that our entire body's processes, including the desire to eat and drink specific things, may all be in service to organisms that live inside our bodies. Our cells may simply be the obedient army that follows the commands of the life forms in our guts. Isn't that an odd thought? Do I want a cheeseburger because I'm hungry and delight in the combined flavor of beef, cheese, ketchup and bread? OR do I want a cheeseburger because those organisms inside me demand to have one? And is it me that doesn't want mustard? Or is it them?

As a Southerner living in the southwestern desert, I am amazed to find myself surrounded by people who can not make a decent banana pudding. Early on in my time in Arizona, I attended a potluck and was shocked to find a three pound can of banana pudding on the dessert table. I was so taken aback that I dashed to the women's room to call my best friend in Georgia. "JANE," I whispered urgently when she answered. "You will not BELIEVE what is on the dessert table at this potluck I'm attending." I told her about the canned pudding. She was shocked as well. "You should leave immediately," she urged, "These people are not to be trusted." I didn't leave. I stayed. In fact, 12 years later, I'm still here! But on that day, I didn't eat much from the large collection of deli containers and TO GO boxes from various fast food establishments. I felt like I had landed on a distant planet and I suppose, in a way, I had.

I pictured a native of Arizona suddenly transported to Georgia and arriving at a potluck with her deli container of whatever and a three pound can of pudding. Lord have mercy, she could live in that Georgia town for six decades and she would always be remembered for that. "Do ya'll remember when Sally first moved here from Phoenix and she brought store bought chicken and a can of pudding to that first potluck? Bless her heart." And of course that native from Arizona would wonder why nobody there could make a decent salsa.

But maybe those controlling organisms in our guts are to blame for what we bring to a potluck. Maybe Southern organisms, like the ones in my belly, don't want preservatives and yellow dye #3. Maybe my organisms demand real bananas and real vanilla wafers. I could pretend to myself that this means my Southern gut organisms are more evolved, or have better taste than the Arizona natives around me. But it could just mean that my critters haven't adjusted to environmental changes as quickly. Who knows?

I suddenly feel the urge to make some banana pudding and then eat it. Or do I?

Monday, July 28, 2014

fitbit II

Well, here we are a month later. I am easily getting my 10,000 steps per day. In the Arizona heat, some planning was absolutely vital to my success. Luckily, Priscilla, my recently adopted chiweenie, is an early bird. She starts her energetic rousting process between 4 and 5 each morning. She usually succeeds in getting me out the door by 5. We walk the entire circumference of the complex, which is just under 1500 steps. Sometimes we go a bit further in order to achieve the REAL goal of our walk. (Dog owners will know what this is. People who don't like dogs will NOT want to read about it.)

If I am working that day, I can count on 4000-5000 steps at work. At the library, I spend a good deal of time sitting at the front desk. But I often walk with customers to various sections of the library to help them look for something or to help with a computer. (I find it comical that I am helping anyone with a computer.) When I'm in the book drop, there are many, many walks from the book drop slot to the check-in computer. When I look back at my daily steps, I can see that my total number is really determined by my time in the book drop. I also volunteer to carry donations to the back room. Heck, I volunteer for anything that involves adding steps to my daily count! (And I still absolutely LOVE working at the library! It's the perfect post-retirement job for me.)

The rest of my steps I can easily add in with remaining walks with Priscilla and normal walking within my home. The real challenge is on days that I'm NOT working. On those days, I resort to walking inside my small apartment, which feels absolutely ridiculous, but works! I've counted during a walk through my space and it adds up to 180 steps. This means that I just need to calculate how many trips are needed to get to my goal and pace myself to get there. It is boring. But my other option is to go over to the little workout room on the property and walk on the treadmill. At least at home I can walk during TV commercials. Or I can turn on some great music and walk through three songs (or whatever.) I'm rather fond of John Phillips Sousa for marching about my house.

The best news over the last month is that I've lost 32 pounds since I started working on it in early May. I didn't get my Fitbit until June 26th, but I'm glad I got it when I did, because my weight loss had definitely plateaued. Walking those steps has allowed me to add more carbs to my daily calorie intake. I also do some beginner Yoga stretches and some other specific exercises to help my muscle growth.

Fatty McPhatty (introduced to you two posts ago) was very helpful in pointing out that I certainly deserved a pig out day when I hit 175 pounds (down from 203.) For once, I let Fatty have her way. My sweetheart and I went downtown to the Phoenix Market and enjoyed some delicious food off the various food trucks that gather there on Wednesday nights. Music was good. Food was good. Company was good. Although I'm blessed to have a partner who loves me and my body no matter its size, I feel better each day and he can't argue with that.

I'm now at 171. My goal is 140. Feeling confident and healthier than in years! I even pulled some pants out of my closet that I haven't worn since 2008. I originally bought them for my trip to Tahiti and I have pictures of myself wearing them. I wondered, how much further do I have to go before I can wear these? I tried them on. They fit!!! They're even a little loose in the hips. Amazing.

So far I've avoided spending money on new clothes. If I can shop my own closet, why buy clothes that I might be too small for in another month? But at some point, I will run out of old things. I remember donating things I thought I would never fit in to again. Oh well! Forward march!!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

fitbit

I blame David Sedaris. His recent post about his Fitbit, combined with the recent start of my determination to be healthier as I age, catapulted me into purchasing my own Fitbit. The box arrived yesterday just as I was leaving for work. I didn't have time to go back to my computer and set up my account, but I still strapped that puppy on, just to get used to wearing it.

This morning, when I took my walk, I was dismayed to find that I had walked less than a mile and logged only a little over 1500 steps. The goal is 10,000 steps per day. With the summer heat here in Arizona, this is going to take some thought. I can't just pace within the confines of my small home. I know because I tried. No, I'm going to have to walk further in the morning. And I'm going to have to ... no, I can't face it yet!

I'll think about it tomorrow.

Friday, June 20, 2014

ms. cat

For the last five years, I've been picturing a slightly older, much fitter version of myself. In my mind, I see her as trim and energetic. She has all natural (gray) hair, usually in a short but feminine cut. Her eyes are bright and full of life. She is warm and loving. I call her Ms. Cat. I've often thought about what I needed to do to become that woman. It is simple, really. Exercise and eat a healthier diet. Simple?

About six weeks ago, something clicked in me and I just decided to do it. I started walking most mornings and doing some beginner Yoga in the afternoons/evenings. I've dropped over 20 pounds. This morning, at the conclusion of my morning walk, I SPRINTED up four flights of stairs to my front door. What??? Who is this? Well, she resembles that woman in my imagination! I look more like Ms. Cat every day.

While I've been going through this process, I've noticed a very angry voice in my head. I'm going to call her Fatty McPhatty. She is in a constant struggle to try to assert herself over the will of Ms. Cat. On my twenty minute ride home from work, she calls out in a loud sing-song voice EVERY fast food establishment I pass. "BURGER KING!", she shouts and sends a few pictures of menu items through my brain. With each one I pass, she sounds more desperate. "ARBY'S", Fatty McPhatty sings out and sends me a visual of some curly fries. I keep driving. "TACO BELL", she shrieks, and I picture the perfect combination of items. As I drive past, Fatty lets out a mournful howl, "Nooooooo!!!"

This morning, as I walked the long way around the entire complex, Fatty McPhatty helpfully pointed out each shortcut that would get me back home without walking quite as far. "If you turn here," she would suggest, "you can skip the back part and get straight to your door." When I walked past the turn, she crossed her arms in front of her chest and slumped to the ground in a raging pout. I picked her up and carried her! Ms. Cat doesn't mind carrying a little extra weight when she's burning her way through something physical.

I wrote out an affirmation and taped it to my bathroom mirror. When I see it, it spurs me to do something good for myself, whether it is choosing nutritious meals or doing something physical. I chose it because it is the opposite of how I have ever thought of myself. Never once, in all my years, did I ever describe myself this way. But Ms. Cat knew better. (She is older and wiser than I am today.) My affirmation says:

I AM AN ATHLETE


It's interesting how powerful words can be. I'm actually starting to believe it! I suspect this process is different for every person who makes up their mind to change a bad habit. But any time I feel weak, I remind myself that I successfully quit smoking almost 30 years ago. If I can do that, I can do anything! Well, at least Ms. Cat can!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

cherry pie

Fate is a beast. The world seems to separate everyone into categories that, at first glance, reek of the stink of unfairness. Losers feel that everything goes wrong, no matter what they do. Champions feel that nothing can ever go wrong and even bad situations morph into wins for them. Losers wait for the other shoe to drop. Champions know that victory is just around the corner. Fate maintains a Mona Lisa smile and continues to direct traffic, often without paying careful attention, but usually managing to do the job with few operational errors.

But if you're a Loser, take heart. Because every now and then, Fate takes a break, perhaps to sample that cherry pie that's been cooling on the window sill. Fate is a sucker for cherry pie. And in that moment, when Fate is distracted, Losers can become Champions. But don't just wait for it to happen, passively accepting Fate's assignment of your category. No, go bake a cherry pie instead. For there is nothing quite as tempting as a cherry pie. Make sure you have a can of whipped cream standing by, just to make the temptation that much stronger. Can you control Fate? Maybe you can. It never hurts to try. And Champions always try.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

we're all human

I made a mistake at work today. Had I not taken immediate action to mitigate the error, the situation could have caused me great embarrassment. Luckily, I was able to get my supervisor on the phone immediately and together, we fixed what I had done. She was very kind to me and even disclosed that she had made the same mistake a year or so ago.

My luck did not hold out for the on site supervisor. (We'll call her Amy, for the purposes of this blog entry.) I explained to Amy what had happened and how I had quickly fixed the issue. Instead of praising me for my quick action, she launched into a tirade about how "common sense" should have prevented the mistake. In full listening view of five co-workers, Amy ridiculed me and even invited one co-worker to join her in a conversation about how easily the mistake could have been avoided and how she did not understand why this "keeps happening." Apparently, I and my immediate supervisor are not the only two people who have made this mistake. The other co-worker joined in, agreeing that it just didn't make sense. I smiled and said, with a very sarcastic tone, "Well, I want to thank you both for making me feel so much better about this." Then I returned to my work station.

The other employees consoled me and told me that this particular woman quite often ridicules people when they make mistakes, so I shouldn't take it personally. I assured them that I didn't take it personally and I told the truth about that. I felt bad about my error, but Amy's failed leadership so outweighed my small mistake that I almost forgot what I had done!

Throughout the day, I interacted with Amy in a very respectful way. (She never apologized.) When HER boss and I were working on a project at a later hour, I had an opportunity to express my displeasure at Amy's behavior. I chose to remain silent. I thought it better to say nothing. When MY supervisor arrived later in the day, I had another opportunity to express my displeasure at Amy's behavior. I chose to remain silent again.

I've learned over the years that when a person lacks integrity or is dishonest, they will eventually hang themselves. You don't really have to DO anything. You just carry yourself in a professional and ethical way and wait. Time will typically provide a just response to the person in question. Over the years, I have seen many people receive their comeuppance with no help from me at all. Patience. Be the audience and watch fate roll out what it will.

Obviously, if someone is breaking the law or doing real harm, one must act. But simple bitchy or bastardly day-to-day behavior often results in the correct outcome with no further action on anyone's part. It's as if there is an imbalance in nature that just auto-corrects. At least that's how it has often felt to me. As one co-worker said to me, "She's been trying to get promoted for years and just can't figure out why it hasn't happened. THIS is why! People are very aware of this horrible mean streak she has."

And there you have it. Fate delivers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

recovery

In 2008, I bought a new laptop. Unfortunately for me, it came with the Vista operating system, which I rapidly learned to hate. It was constantly freezing and simply drove me crazy. One day in mid-2010, I became frustrated with it and slapped my laptop closed with a little too much force. I hesitated to open it and check the screen, but thought I better look right away. I opened it and took a peek. Yep, I had cracked the screen. Well, I thought, in for a penny - in for a pound. So I stood up, took the laptop and dropped it on the floor as hard as I could. Then I jumped up and down on it about 25 times. It felt so good!!!!

After I finished giggling, I grabbed my purse and drove over to Best Buy to get a new laptop. I was a happy woman that night! Later, it hit me that I had quite a bit of writing on the hard drive of the demolished laptop. But I didn't feel very motivated about figuring out how to extract the files. So when I moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia in 2012, I still had the old laptop with me. And when I moved from Georgia to Arizona in 2013, I will had the old laptop with me.

Yesterday, the "new" laptop (purchased in 2010) died. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but the screen turned a lovely maroon shade and no amount of Ctrl/Alt/Del would restart the sucker. I even turned it completely off, left it a while and came back. Nope. So off I went to Best Buy again. While I was there, I asked about my old hard drive and my old OLD hard drive. The salesman sold me a hard drive case that I could plug into my new machine in order to download the data off the old hard drives.

I certainly didn't get the job done without a few starts and stops, but I'm proud to say that I recovered all of my old writing from BOTH hard drives. It felt so good! So, last night and this morning, I read through some of my older stuff. I've made a commitment to myself to try to finish some things. I'm great at starting, but not so great at finishing. I have 7 months left in 2014. I'm going to finish something!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

the proust questionnaire

Every so often, I like to challenge myself to answer the Proust Questionnaire. My answers tell me whether I am brave or not. More truth in my answers means I am brave. Hedged or incomplete answers, or outright lies, tell me that I am cowardly. This is an exercise for me more than for you. In fact, I suggest you do the same on your blog, or on your computer, or in your journal. If you write fiction, the questions can also serve to develop a character. Have fun!
  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    Sitting in the dappled shade on a reserved lounger in The Sanctuary, a private section available for rent on most Princess cruise ships. The ship is either sailing or docked in a lovely location. I am being waited on hand and foot. I alternately read and doze. Occasionally, I deign to put on clothes and join friends or family or complete strangers in the dining room for a sumptuous meal.
  2. What is your greatest fear?
    Dying alone. If I allow myself to fully explore this fear, I'm able to conjure up the discovery of my body, days after my death. Then I expand the horror to include my sisters discovering the contents of one particular drawer in my bedroom.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
    My ongoing failure to exercise. I'm fatter than I would like to be, but keep hoping I will simply wake up one morning with the body I feel I ought to have.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
    Rudeness to service personnel or customer service individuals AND rudeness from those same people.
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
    Any woman who has claimed her own personal power.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
    Watching television or reading while housework remains unfinished.
  7. What is your current state of mind?
    Slightly worried.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
    Virginity.
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
    For entertainment purposes, I often embellish the telling of events that actually happened.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
    See question 3. I'm also now sporting my mother's double chin.
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
    Any religious person who invests a great deal of energy into trying to force everyone to comply with their particular religious beliefs.
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
    The ability to focus on the needs of others.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
    The ability to run her own life without concern for what others may think.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
    Have I told you about the time ...
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
    My previous partner, now a good friend. We've known each other since 1975.
  16. When and where were you happiest?
    Lying on my belly on the sail of a huge catamaran as it sailed around the Bora Bora lagoon at sunset, peering down into the water, listening to the steel band play and occasionally sipping at whatever rum concoction someone handed me.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
    The ability to FINISH at least one novel or short story. I'm a fantastic starter, though!
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    I would be less critical of others.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
    My 27 year-old son sees people as people. He makes friends from all walks of life, every hue and every ethnicity. I believe I had a hand in that and I am very proud of this achievement, particularly since I raised him in rural Georgia!
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
    A gingko tree.
  21. Where would you most like to live?
    Montreat, North Carolina.
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
    A numbered print of The Forgiving Father by Frank Wesley.
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
    Hating any group of people based solely on their belonging to that particular group.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?
    Editor.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
    The speed at which I can be reminded of a story which I will need to tell at that very moment OR the speed at which I can be reminded of a song which I will need to sing at that very moment.
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
    Their willingness to listen to my stories (and tell their own) and the ease with which (most of them) sing along when I burst into song.
  27. Who are your favorite writers?
    Anne Tyler, Edith Wharton, Nevada Barr, Marilyn French, Pat Conroy, William Faulkner, Dana Stabenow, Jonathan Kozol, Studs Terkel, Ruth Rendell ... the list goes on.
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
    I have two. Mira in The Women's Room. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
    The suffragettes.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
    My father and his father for their integrity and huge hearts. People who live on the margins and maintain open hearts and authenticity.
  31. What are your favorite words/names?
    Samuel, koi, sakura, whisk, petrichor, and so many others.
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
    Mean people.
  33. What is your greatest regret?
    Many years ago, I sent someone out into the world because I felt he needed more world experience. I expected him to return to me, wiser and better equipped to handle a lifetime of love with me. He married the next woman he met.
  34. How would you like to die?
    Instantly, with as little fuss as possible.
  35. What is your motto?
    Never put a raisin where a chocolate chip could go.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

special dark torture

I grew up as the youngest of four children. Every Christmas morning, five stockings (four kids plus Mom) were carefully displayed in five distinct locations in the living room. Any loot located in or next to the stocking with your name on it was yours. The stocking contained apples, oranges, tangerines, assorted unshelled nuts, Hershey's Kisses and Hershey's assorted miniature chocolates. Mother would have carefully counted the assorted chocolates to make sure that we each got the same number of each type: Mr. Goodbar, Milk Chocolate, Special Dark and Krackel.

All of the fruit in our stockings went into a huge ceramic bowl on the dining room table. All of the nuts went into a wooden nut bowl which also contained a nutcracker and a pick. But the miniature chocolates were left as individual property.

Now I loved the Krackel and I liked the Milk Chocolate. And I would eat a Mr. Goodbar in a pinch. But I hated the Special Dark. Everyone knew this. As soon as we opened our stockings, I started trying to trade with my siblings to try to get Krackels before they ate them. My brother traded right away. But my oldest sister refused. She knew if she waited, that I would blow through my Krackels and Milk Chocolates and would then be desperate. This would put her in a position to offer a 2 for 1 deal. She would give me one Krackel in exchange for two Special Darks. I would howl in protest, but I would eventually take the deal. Sometimes my Mother would take pity on me and trade me for my Special Darks.

Only recently did it occur to me that Mother could have prevented the whole thing by simply giving the Special Darks to the people who actually liked them. Sigh. Her treachery knew no bounds.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

dimple

I regret not washing my hair this morning. The police photo is probably going to be on the front page of every tabloid and online in multiple iterations. Comparisons will probably be made with that Nick Nolte booking picture. My face will forever appear in every "ten worst celebrity booking photos" line-up. There's no telling what my make-up looks like by now. I wonder if I ask nicely, will they let me just pop into a toilet and freshen up a bit? Probably not. And asking might earn me a response I won't like. My annual income is probably 500 times the salary these men and women earn. There's bound to be resentment.

This police car stinks. The predominant smell is urine - old urine. Maybe the drunk people pee in the car without even realizing that they're doing it. Or maybe people just get scared. I'm so stressed that I couldn't produce pee right now if the cop held a gun to my head. The cage bars separating this space from the front seat look really sturdy. I wonder how many times someone has beat their head against those bars. I could do that right now. But knowing my luck, someone would take a picture of me with their camera phone.

I'd like to know what the hell they're doing out there. The longer it takes for us to get down to the police station, the more likely the paparazzi will be waiting when I come out. I wonder if it's too late at night to arrange a decoy. A few minutes ago, an officer opened the front door and sat down in the driver's seat. He asked me a couple of questions and I answered them, thinking that doing so might speed up the process and get us moving towards the police station. Then it dawned on me that they had read me my rights upstairs when they first arrested me. Everything I was saying could be used against me. I told the officer that I didn't want to say anything else until I spoke with my attorney. He turned and looked at me with total disgust. Then he got back out of the car and slammed the door.

WHY WHY WHY did I agree to do this little errand for Simon? I should have said no. But there's something about that smile and those sparkling blue eyes and that damned dimple. He can make me do things. I had no idea I was doing anything illegal, but I did ask him why he needed me to do it. Why couldn't he go? He said he didn't want to be seen going into Jack Johnson's office because of the lawsuit. That actually made sense to me at the time. And now, here I sit, in this stinky squad car, waiting for the slowest police officers in the fucking universe.