Saturday, October 14, 2017

Adam Ruins the Suburbs: a review

This video clip is an EXCELLENT short explanation of a complex social problem: systemic racism in American housing and public education.

As a white person who has lived the majority of my life in suburban Kansas City, from 1977 to today, what's most fascinating to me is the trend of white gentrification occurring in some areas of downtown Kansas City while the suburban neighborhood where I live has evolved into a diverse community of Whites, Latinos, African-Americans, and lots of interracial families. When I was a kid, it was the opposite: mostly white kids lived in the suburbs and mostly non-white folks lived in downtown Kansas City.

I love seeing the mix of diverse kids at my daughter's suburban public school. It's so different than my public school experience in the 70s and 80s where my first encounter with a black kid at school was in sixth grade. 1982.

When my friend invited me for a sleepover at her apartment, I met her mom, who was just as white as my own mother. I asked where her father was, and all she said was that she never knew him and her mom wouldn't talk about him. So this black friend of mine, turns out, is actually biracial, and she didn't grow up around her black family or experience living in a black community. In fact, she was kinda racist. Or, maybe not racist, but self-loathing. She would make comments about how she wished she had pretty, straight blonde hair like me. For the record: I did not have blonde hair in sixth grade. It was brown. Not even "dishwater blonde" as my mom described my hair when I was younger. But for some reason my friend insisted that I had blonde hair. I didn't care. I'd say things like, "I don't know what's the big deal about my hair. Your hair is pretty, too" but she never seemed to hear me. I realize now that it was my white privilege that allowed me to not "know what's the big deal about my hair." Actually, I even knew then. I was telling what my mom would call a "white lie" meaning that I was lying, yes, but only to protect someone's feelings from getting hurt. White lie. What a stupid term. How woven into the fabric of our daily lives is systemic racism.

My friend and I lost touch after my family moved to another suburb and I switched schools. We ran into each other four years later, when we were sophomores in high school. 1986. My friend pulled out her wallet and showed me a picture of a brown-headed, smiling toddler.

"That's my daughter. She's almost three. Her daddy's really nice to me. And, look! She has blonde hair!"

I was horrified. I didn't know what to say. Almost three? So, my friend had a baby when she was thirteen? Can a thirteen year old consent to sex? All I knew is that whenever someone who seemed to me to be too young to have a child would get pregnant, my mom would say, "Well, Mary was young when she had Jesus. That's how it was back in those days."

Back in those days? You mean now.

Those days. Not so long ago.

Our society is as imperfect as it is ever-evolving. My daughter is going to school with and growing up around kids from all kinds of cultures within our mainstream society. It's the best education I can give her. Demographics show that some of my white neighbors have decided to move out south or west, or to downtown Kansas City. In reports where they are asked why, they inevitbly say so they can live in "a better neighborhood."

A better neighborhood? What on earth do you think they mean by that?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World peace on a porcelain throne

I've been feeling shitty for almost a week. Doc ran a bunch of tests. I got the results today. I have an "acute diarrhea illness". There is nothing cute about it. When I say I've been feeling shitty, I mean that literally.

Cause, unknown. Might have picked up a bug. Might be my body's reaction to world events.

Hopefully it's the bug. My white blood cells stand a better chance of fighting off infection than I stand a chance of negotiating world peace. Especially while sitting on my porcelain throne.

Anyhoo, Doc recommends:
Eating lots of yogurt, but no other dairy.
Drinking lots of water and caffeine-free tea.
In addition to avoiding dairy, staying away from spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.

All my favorites, basically. I'm not complaining, though. After just one day of following her advice, I'm already feeling a bit better.

Could be I'm feeling cheerier from the good results of my blood work. Since I was there anyway she decided it was time for my annual metabolic tests. As a fat girl, I get nervous whenever a health care provider wants to assess my health. As a Health at Every Size advocate, I get excited for the results, which I can use to assure myself I'm not delusional.

Got good results today, so I'm proud to say that this fat girl is healthy. At least once I'm over this not-at-all-cute diarrhea illness that's going around.

Blood Pressure: 122/76
Pulse: 63
A1C: 5.8%
Cholesterol: 162
Triglycerides: 98

But you know what? Bragging about my metabolic test results is lame. It's the inner anorexic girl inside me, cheering me on when I'm healthy, but ignoring me when I'm sick. That's no way to treat a human being. Who cares what my blood pressure is? Does that make me a better fat person than a fat person with high blood pressure? I'm still trying to appease the disbelievers. The people who think my blog posts are just wishful thinking. This Ambiguous Life, renamed Fat Chick Rationalizing.

Why do I care so much what they think?

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Science Explains Why Your Lab Is Always Hungry

Here's a headline that got my attention: Science Explains Why Your Lab Is Always Hungry

Our sweet Sawyer Puppy--who is in Dog Heaven now after a good long life of swimming at the lake, hunting baby squirrels in the back yard, and playing with her fur siblings in our living room--was half beagle and half lab. We called her a "blab". Dang, that girl could eat. I've never known a dog with such a voracious appetite. I'd feed her at the same time I'd feed our other dog, Earl, a Great Pyrenees-mix. I'd set Earl's bowl down first, then Sawyer's, and by the time I took two steps toward the sink to wash my hands, Sawyer would be by my side, staring up with a look on her face that said, "More?" Her bowl would be empty in the time it took Earl to nibble one or two bits of kibble. Sawyer gave meaning to the term "wolf down her food." She loved to chew--bones, peanut butter Kongs, wooden dining room chair legs--but when it came time for dinner there was no chewing involved. More like inhaling.

Sawyer was pretty tubby, but it never slowed her down. She got a little arthritis in her old age, as many dogs (and people) of all sizes do, but she loved to swim and chase squirrels in her last few days as much as she did in her first. Here's the last video I have of her swimming at the lake.

I, too, am pretty tubby, but it doesn't slow me down, either. Sometimes my big boobs and fat belly literally get in the way when I'm attempting to do some physical feat. I'm a storytime librarian, so I do a lot of up and down, bottom-on-the-floor to back-on-our-feet-and-dancing moves at work. I'm not as agile as most of the kids. I'm also old enough to be their grandmother. It might take me a few seconds longer to get up off the floor than it does a three-year-old, but that doesn't stop me. I had to wear two sports bras at a time to keep my girls from smacking me in the face when I coached third grade girls basketball. Probably the worst way my big boobs get in the way is this: sometimes when I'm asleep, I roll over and one of my boobs rests on my neck in a way that causes me to snore. It's not so bad I need a CPAP, or a breast reduction. It's mostly just comical to open my eyes, my husband elbowing me awake, and finding a boob trying to suffocate me. "Death by big boob asphyxiation," I imagine my obituary will read.

My big belly is a different story. I'm not quite as comfortable with it yet. I haven't learned to live with a big belly for as long as I've lived with big boobs. In my teens and twenties, I was one of those fat chicks who still had an hourglass figure like some of my thinner counterparts, just a bigger vessel. Or, saddlebag thighs, depending of whether you thought I was hot or gross. At the time, I thought I was gross. Now I look back at old photos and I'm all, "Wow! Hey, Hottie!" Too bad me-now can't go back in time and tell me-then to quit wasting time worrying about my appearance. There are far too many wrongs to right in the world to spend time worrying if your butt looks cottage cheesy in that skirt.
My big belly sprouted after I gave birth to my daughter. Dude, seriously. I still have maternity pants that fit me and my daughter is in sixth grade. I don't blame my daughter for my big belly. In fact, I kinda like it when we're relaxing after a busy day at work and school, and she rests her head upon my big belly as we talk and laugh together.

What I don't like about my big belly is this: it sometimes throws me off balance. Like, after my daughter lifts her head from my belly and gets off the couch to say, go feed the pets, and it's time for me to say, go to the bathroom, sometimes I have to make a couple of attempts to heave myself up off the couch. Sometimes I have to kinda rock back and forth a bit to propel myself forward. Like a pregnant lady. Like a forty-six year old pregnant lady. Yikes!

There are a lot of pregnant ladies that come into the library for storytime with their older children. I wear my big belly in solidarity with them. Girl, I understand how your back hurts. I get that you have to pack an extra pair of panties in your purse for those times after a big sneeze makes you wet your pants like your toddler because your big belly keeps pushing on your bladder. I like to think that those extra few seconds it takes me to transition from the floor to my feet during storytime helps the pregnant moms keep from feeling embarrassed.

It's funny that lots of women get a bigger belly both during and after pregnancy. I think it's Mother Nature's way of preparing us for that turtle-stuck-on-its-back feeling we'll experience during our child's formative years when we have no clue what we're doing.

Go ahead and laugh. It is funny. It doesn't mean you should lecture me about healthy eating and exercise, or concern troll me on Facebook, or make fat phobic comments behind my back. I'm fat. Big deal. Treat me with dignity and respect, like everyone else.

Back to the headline about labs and their big appetites. Science Explains Why Your Lab Is Always Hungry

From the article: "Common genetic variants affecting the POMC gene are associated with human body weight and there are even some rare obese people who lack a very similar part of the POMC gene to the one that is missing in the dogs."

I'm no scientist, but I think what this article is saying is that I'm part Labrador. It makes sense. My maternal great-grandfather is from Nova Scotia. Isn't that by Labrador Island? I love to swim. And, I tend to knock things over with my behind when I get excited. That's just on my mom's side. When I was in second grade, we were doing a report on where our ancestors came from. I asked where my dad's side of the family comes from and Mom said, "Wales." My immediate thought was, "Oh, that explains why everyone in Dad's family is so fat. We're from whales."

Science can teach us a lot about hunger, and human diversity. But only a sense of humor, humility, and humanity can make us good people who love and respect each other regardless of how fat or how thin we are.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Americans eventually get around to doing the right thing: the NFL finally takes a knee

I'm swelling with pride today, after seeing the majority of two NFL teams #takeaknee and link arms during our national anthem despite the fact that

1) I hate football

and

2) I'm disgusted that it took over a year for other NFL players and owners to get on board with Colin Kaepernick's brave, peaceful protest that began last year and has left him unemployed this year.

Fitting that this protest is in London, since I immediately thought of the famous quote from Prime Minister Winston Churchill:


Friday, September 22, 2017

Selfish rant: When your day off is not *your* day off.

Damnit! It's my day off. I was gonna enjoy a little "me" time today, but I just got a call from Dad. He's back in the hospital. He fell, again, while running errands at his bank.

He's fine. Incredibly. Especially for a 90-year-old man. No broken bones. Just banged up. I'm on my way to pick him up and make sure he gets home safely.

The other day Dad called me to report that his car wouldn't start. He wanted me to have my husband Will leave work, drive thirty minutes to Dad's house, and check on it.

Me: "Hey, Dad, let's troubleshoot over the phone before we bother Will. Have you gotten gas lately?"

Dad: "Yeah, just yesterday."

Me: "OK. I want you to go out and unscrew your gas cap, screw it back on til it clicks, and then try to start your car again."

Ten minutes later...

Dad: "Hey, Becky! It started right up. I didn't know you could fix cars!"

Evidently I can do a lot of things I never thought I could do. Like take care of my dad.

When I was a teen, my dad gave me a laminated quarter and told me to put it in my wallet, in case I ever found myself out somewhere "drunk and stranded or something" so I could give him a call. This was back in the day when there were payphones all over the city and all you needed was a quarter to make a call. This was also back in the day when Dad and I regularly screamed at each other, slammed doors in each others faces, and generally tried to stay as far away from each other as possible. So, even back then, it warmed my heart that Dad was thinking of my safety. We might not like each other much, but, in spite of ourselves, we care about each other.

Now it's Dad who calls me for help. It's so weird. If you live long enough, you become someone you never thought you'd be. Dad has grown a teeny tiny bit less angry and selfish over the years. I have grown a teeny tiny bit less angry and impatient over the years. I'll never enjoy hanging out with my dad. He's a pain in my ass. We disagree on nearly everything from politics to religion to what is considered to be "good" music. But, he's my dad. And I'm my father's daughter. And, together, after all the struggles, we just might figure out not just how to care for each other, but why in the hell we do.

Ordinary People: a rare movie that is even better than the book

Ordinary PeopleOrdinary People by Judith Guest
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don't get me wrong: this is a good book. Definitely worth your time if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, and/or if you're a fan of Anne Tyler, Anne Lamott, John Irving, or Alison Bechdel. But, this is one of those rare times when I actually like the movie better than the book. Not because the book is crappy, but because the movie is sublime. Directed by Robert Redford, featuring four outstanding actors--Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton, and Judd Hirsch, "Ordinary People" is one of my favorite movies of all time. Judd Hirsch is the best fictional shrink, evah. I'm convinced that if I'd had Judd Hirsch as a therapist when I was a teen, my mental health struggles would have lessened far earlier than they did in reality.

View all my reviews

Dog Is My Co-Pilot: book review

Dog is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest FriendshipDog is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship by Claudia Kawczynska
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a huge fan of both Alice Walker and dogs, I knew I'd love this book. I usually check out books from the public library, but this book is so special I bought a copy for my home library. Unfortunately my two puppies discovered it on a low book shelf and devoured it. They give it five stars. I give it four. Too bad Goodreads doesn't allow 4.5 ratings. The fact that I'm keeping a puppy-chewed book instead of throwing it away with all the other material possessions my fur babies have ruined shows how great this book is. And, perhaps, how bad my lovely beasts are.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 16, 2017

My Body Is Good Enough

I was four when I got a tonsillectomy
I was four when I began to "put on weight"
I was, also, sexually abused when I was four
I remember hungering for some sort of comfort
My body is good
At finding ways to calm my anxious brain

I was sent to Weight Watchers in third grade
I was diagnosed with anorexia in fifth grade
My body survived a self-induced famine
Famine lowers your metabolism
My body is good
At attempting to prevent itself from devouring itself

In seventh grade I was told by a doctor that I needed to lose twenty pounds
In seventh grade I was 5'3" and weighed 150 pounds
In fifth grade I was 5'3" and weighed 79 pounds
In fifth grade my psychologist and my parents threatened to hospitalize me
If I didn't stop starving myself and gain weight
My body is good
At being a yo-yo

I was twenty-three when I got out of my latest bad relationship
I was twenty-three when I started living life for myself
I stopped drinking pop every day
I limited junk food to special occasions
(Some special occasions are when life is shitty)
My body is good
At treating itself

In my late twenties I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome
And told I'd have trouble conceiving when I was ready to become a mother
At thirty-five, I gave birth to an unbelievably beautiful baby
After six months of fertility treatment
My body is good
At creating life, with a little help

At thirty-six I knew I was getting old
"Of advanced maternal age" is the medical term
If I wanted a big family, I couldn't wait too long
At thirty-six I went back to the fertility doctor
And asked for a little help to get pregnant again
He told me to come back when I lost twenty pounds
I told him to fuck off
I told him my husband and I would conceive without his help
My body is good
At believing in the power of love

At thirty-seven I conceived without fertility treatment
We did it! We did it! We did it!
My husband's body and my body, together, are good
At making miracles

At thirty-seven I had a miscarriage
I never conceived again
My body is good
At grieving

A couple of years after I had a miscarriage
I got a newsletter from my fertility doctor's office
It had a big, celebratory article in it
About how my fertility doctor himself was recovering
He was only in his fifties, fit and slim, and yet he had a heart attack
His body is good
At recovering from heart surgery
My brain is good
At what the Germans call "schadenfreude"

At forty I read a book by Dr. Linda Bacon
An ironic name for a health practicioner
The book, Health at Every Size, changed my mind
The philosophy, Health at Every Size, saved my life
My body is good
At eating primarily plants, moving in pleasurable ways, and loving itself

My body is forty-six now
My body is healthier than ever
I love my husband more than ever
Our beautiful daughter never ceases to amaze me
I have the best job in the world, singing and dancing and reading stories with little kids
My body is good
At living life to its fullest

I am fat
Who knows why
I am healthy
Despite what the diet industry says
I am happy
My body is good
At celebrating both the struggles and the victories in this life

I am fat
Who knows why
I deserve love, and respect, and care
Regardless of the answer to the question of, "Why?"
My body is good
Enough




Friday, September 15, 2017

My Good Doctor

My good doctor quit practicing last year to pursue some other career aspiration, and I've been avoiding finding a new doc ever since. I've been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder by my former, good doc, due to the sexual abuse I survived as a young child, and also because of the horrifying experience of being sent to Weight Watchers in third grade, which resulted in my diagnosis of anorexia nervosa by fifth grade. I also think one of my PTSD triggers is getting examined by some of the shitty, fat phobic doctors I've seen over the years. Which is why I loved my former, good doc. She treated me as a whole, complex person and not just a number on the scale, and I'm the healthiest I've ever been because of her care.

And now she's gone. I feel like she broke up with me, and I have to say, I'm a little bitter. Sure, I'm happy for her that she's on the journey to fulfilling life long dreams, but what about meeeeee? Here I am all awkwardly searching for THE ONE, like a new divorcee on Match.com. I'm back in the game, ready for a new good doctor, but suspicious of them all.

Six months ago I had a brief little rebound. A quick visit with one of the physicians assistants from the practice to get my psych meds refilled, and it went OK, but there was certainly nothing earth shattering about it. It was just a fling. She wasn't shitty at all. But we weren't ready to commit, she, being a physician's assistant, and me needing someone my insurance would approve as a primary care physician.

Now, after suffering with what seems to be either poison ivy or eczema since June, I finally scheduled an appointment with a new doc in the same practice. I was nervous about meeting her, as I always am when I am being examined by a new doc. As a recovered anorexic who is now fat, and a Health at Every Size advocate, my experiences with some shitty fat phobic docs, like abusive ex boyfriends and girlfriends, plus, having heard countless tales from other fat, Health at Every Size advocates about their shitty exes--doctors who took one look at the number on the scale and wanted to treat them for a so-called weight problem rather than performing the diagnostic tests they would perform on someone whose number on the scale is lower--has made me mighty twitchy whenever I find myself on a new examination table.

But, to my great relief and surprise, this new doc I saw today is good. Yes, I do have a bad case of poison ivy, and yes, I can have a prescription for it without having to dwell on the number on the scale. My worries, subsided. There's hope out there, folks! Not all docs are shitty and yes, I deserve to be treated with the respect and the care we all deserve, regardless of our size.

You know, stress is harmful to our bodies. I look forward to the day when all doctors are good doctors like mine, docs who understand that it's not the number on the scale that's harming us fat people, but it's the way some shitty people in power want to use it to oppress us that is. If you have a shitty, fat phobic doctor, get out of that relationship, gurrl, as quick as you can.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Grateful Witness

I just scheduled our eleven-year old daughter Katie's last appointment with her therapist. She's made such an improvement this year that he sees no reason for her to continue cognitive therapy on a regular basis. I feel like we need some sort of graduation ceremony to celebrate.

It's been an enlightening journey. My own mental health care as a child was pretty shitty. I never graduated from therapy. I'm a therapy drop out. I'd go for a bit and then I quit going after I felt like it was unhelpful or pointless. I tried several therapists for over three decades, but I never felt like I was getting the help I needed. 


Seven years ago, after much self-help reading (Dr. Harriet Lerner's books are the best, but all in all Dr. Linda Bacon's book, Health at Every Size, saved my life) and introspective, expressive blogging, I quit seeing my latest in a long line of therapists. Not because she thought I was ready to go it alone, but because I couldn't justify paying her thousands of dollars when I felt more relief from expressing myself on my free blogger account.


Still, I've never had the feeling of closure from therapy that my daughter is about to experience. I'm so happy for her. And a tad jeal--no, not jealous. Wistful. But mostly, immensely proud.


It's not perfect, but our society's treatment of people with mental illness has improved an incredible amount in my lifetime. Surely my daughter's journey will be filled with ups and downs, but her sights will hopefully always stay focused forward. I remain, as always, a grateful witness.