Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Holley Mangold

I haven't been paying attention to the Olympics.  I avoid competition.  I think it's because I'm so competitive myself.  Oh you thought I was one of those drum-circle sitting earth mamas who embraces the strengths and accepts the weaknesses of all God's children?  Hell no.  Just play a game of Scattergories with me and see for yourself.

I try to stay away from competition the way a new member of Alcoholics Anonymous must avoid all contact with her liquid vice, even if she's just a spectator and not the one drinking it.

But this headline about US lifter Holley Mangold caught my attention.  She's large and in charge and on a mission to improve our body images by setting an example herself.  She weighs 340 pounds and she's proud of her body.  She should be.  She's in the freaking Olympics!  I pat myself on the back for going on my little fifteen minute walks on my breaks at work.  Big whoop.  I can barely lift my fifty pound kid let alone the five hundred pounds Mangold lifts.

But see - that's the problem.  It's not competition that gets ugly.  It's comparison.  So I'm not an Olympic athlete?  I exercise.  I eat healthy foods.  So what if I'll never win a gold medal for taking care of my body.

It's great to have Olympic athletes encouraging kids to feel better about their own bodies and to promote Health at Every Size® in this way.  But we also need more everyday role models for kids to see that you don't have to be skinny to be healthy and you don't have to be exceptional to have a talent for taking care of yourself.


So it looks like President Obama's white mother might have been descended from the first black slave in America, John Punch.

According to Ancestry.com's press release

“Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related,” said Ancestry.com genealogist Joseph Shumway. “John Punch was more than likely the genesis of legalized slavery in America.  But after centuries of suffering, the Civil War, and decades of civil rights efforts, his 11th great-grandson became the leader of the free world and the ultimate realization of the American Dream.”

I'm fascinated with genealogy and physical anthropology and, more so as I'm settling into middle age, American history.  I love Finding Your Roots on PBS.  President Obama should go on that show.  Get his ratings up right before the election.  Although it is PBS.  His opponents would accuse him of supporting public broadcasting, a socialist institution.

So this story of President Obama's heritage interests me.  But I think it's funny how we categorize people.  We call President Obama our first African American president.  But he's also European American on his mom's side.  And African American.  Why don't we call him our first biracial president?  

Or why bother with race anyway?  It's an outdated, divisive, inaccurate social construct.  

If you're a fan of the Bible, then you believe we're all related to Adam and Eve.  If you're a fan of science, you understand that we all evolve from Mitochondrial Eve.  If we all can trace our ancestry to one woman who lived in Africa 200,000 years ago, that means all citizens of the United States are African American, no matter what color our skin.

Why don't we just call ourselves Earthlings?  Maybe because Earthling sounds like science fiction jargon.  We need a new word.  A good word to describe us, humans who inhabit the planet.  Who come from Eve, Biblical and/or Mitochondrial.  Evelings.  That's it.  That's what we are.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting Screwed Shopping for School Supplies

Only I could make such a big deal out of buying school supplies.  It's that time of year.  If I don't hurry and make up my mind which company I want to buy them from, I'm afraid Katie will be the one weird kid who shows up at school with a scrambled mess of last year's supplies--broken crayons, dried up glue sticks--and off-brand products we buy off some guy on the street.

Actually there is no guy on the street selling school supplies.  There should be.  I'd love to see some hippie selling earth-friendly, fair-trade swag out of the back of his VW Bus parked in front of Katie's school.

But because I live in the conservative Midwest, in the suburbs no less, my options are limited to big box stores like Walmart, Kmart, and Target, or local grocers like Price Chopper or Hy-Vee.  I refuse to shop at Walmart.  Haven't since their temporary guard Jdimytai Damour got trampled during Black Friday years ago.  Kmart's OK.  My mom used to work for them when I was a kid, actually.  I was the spoiled kid on the block whose mom was constantly bringing home toys that were the Blue Light Special of the day.  But it's no Target, which is my favorite of the three box stores.  I guess I could try places like Family Dollar or Dollar General, but the few times I've been inside those stores I've left feeling like I needed a Silkwood shower to get rid of whatever toxic chemicals leached into my skin while looking over all the cheap trinkets made in China.

I am not a power shopper.  I'm a paranoid shopper.

I'm leaning toward buying Katie's school supplies at Target this year.  They were on my naughty list last year when they made a political contribution to "MN Forward, a group supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, a vocal gay marriage opponent."  But now that they're making amends by creating an ad for their same-sex wedding registry, featuring same-sex wedding cards, and selling Pride T-shirts with part of the proceeds of the sales going to an LGBT advocacy group, I'm ready to make up.

I wonder if "make up" shopping is as good as "make up" sex?  I can just see myself running into the store for the first time in a year, my Bride of Frankenstein hair from its lack of inexpensive but good quality Target hair care products standing on end, blocking access for other shoppers as I ravage the school supply shelves.

But I don't know.  Even though Target is on my nice list again, maybe I should still buy Katie's school supplies at one of the more locally owned grocers to support our community?  But if I learned anything growing up with Glen Burton, my father, the retired accountant and all-around cheap ass, it is that you never buy anything but food at a grocery store or else you're getting screwed.

I feel like I'm getting screwed either way.  Cheap and politically progressive but big corporation?  Or, expensive and probably more politically moderate or conservative but more locally owned?  If only I weren't both a frugal shopper and a politically-minded one.  

What I'll most likely end up doing is what I did last year: Ask Will to do it.  Then it's on him and I can continue basking in my blissful indecision.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

John Green: Hitler and Sex

One of the funniest and most thought-provoking things I've seen recently.  John Green is a genius.  Stay on YouTube, John Green!

HubbleSite Images

Hubble's humbling reminder that we are but golden specks of stardust floating along a vast universe.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Being Chicken and Waffling: My Thoughts on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

I've been trying to ignore the news of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.  It's depressing me.  I've been in a crabby mood since first reading about it.  I've done a great job of faking pleasantness; I had to work today.  But really, I just feel sad.

I know what my problem is.  I need to write.  That's always what my problem is.  So here goes.  Instead of being chicken and waffling, I'm going to share my thoughts on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

Mike Huckabee's campaign to get people to voice their support of Chick-fil-A makes me sad.  What if back when it was illegal for black people to marry white people my friends and loved ones made plans to gather at a restaurant that came out in vocal support of racial purity to show their appreciation and support?  I think I'd feel the way I feel now.  Sad.  And alone.  Like some kind of fucked up weirdo who thinks consenting adults should be able to have a legal contract and declare their love for each other like all other consenting adults, no matter what color, what gender.  With marriage, we're all grownups here.  Why does my country still feel like a schoolyard with bullies in charge of the game?  And I'm way out in left field, wiping the mix of dusty tears and sweat from my cheeks, sick of playing the game.


I feel better now.  Will just got home from the grocery store.  He's making chicken tacos.  I have the best husband.  He is so right for me.  He gets me.  Like when I rant to him about how I don't understand not wanting all adults to have the right to have what we have if they want it.  I'm going on and on and on.  Rosacea flaring.  Getting in the way of his trying to put away the perishables and get dinner started.  Waving my arms in the air and making Katie laugh at me and ask, "What's that mean?" at my every other word.  This is how my calm, cool, magnificent husband responds to my rant:

"You know what I think?"

"What?"  Katie and I say at the same time, excited.  When Will talks, which is not that often, it's usually important.

"I think Jesus wasn't chicken."

"Yes!"  I shout out and slap his hand.  "Those are my thoughts exactly!"

Will wipes out a skillet I hadn't quite gotten all the way clean, tossing some crumbs into the trash can and says, "Yeah, Jesus was about going against what everybody else was saying." 

There's my courage. 

I don't remember reading about Jesus asking the apostles to gather together to support the fight against the right for people to love each other.  The quote I remember most of His is to "love your neighbor as yourself".  If I am deserving of marriage to another adult with whom I share mutual romantic love, why isn't my neighbor?

Jesus wants us to love each other.  It's as simple as that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fat Piggies

A friend gave us the book Piggies by Audrey and Don Wood at our baby shower a couple months before Katie was born.  It's been one of her favorites for six years.  Even if Katie couldn't read it to herself now, she's long had it memorized.  But this morning she asked me to read it to her and I obliged, taking every opportunity I can get to lie next to her in bed and read together, fully aware in a few more years she won't want to be babied in this way.

She stopped me after I read the first page, "I've got two fat little piggies."

"That's not a nice word," Katie stated, flatly.

"What's not a nice word?"  I asked.

"Fat."  Katie gave me a look like, come on, Mom, we've been over this before.

She's right, kind of.  Last week I overheard her making a comment about someone's fat belly.  Her tone was no more judgmental than if she were commenting on someone's red hair or blue eyes.  But I had to explain to her that some people don't like their fat bellies and they might think she's making fun of them.  

I knew this concept was confusing to Katie since she's grown up with Will and me.  We're both much more at ease with fat than most Americans are.  I've gone out of my way to show Katie that I'm proud of my body the way it is so I can set an example of a healthy body image for her to emulate.  But Katie does live in our culture and I can't shield her from it, so while I want to teach her that I'm OK with my tummy pudge, it's my job to also help her understand that just because we feel that way about our bodies doesn't mean others agree with us.  I'd hate for her to hurt someone's feelings out of ignorance of mainstream society's rules.

But as we laid together in her bed reading the book, I realized this lesson is not going to be learned in one or two discussions.  

"Well, 'fat' is a tricky word, Sweetie."  I began.  How can I explain this to her?  "I don't think fat is bad, but many people in our community think it is."

"They are wrong."  Katie stated.  Her need for rigid definitions and black-and-white-thinking, normal for her age, is tough for me.  I used to drive my philosophy instructors at the community college crazy with my penchant for ethical relativism.  In my dialectical behavior therapy I learned to hold two seemingly opposing views, for example, "I am fat" and "I am beautiful" inside my head and let them duke it out.  I do ambiguity quite well, but I've had forty-one years of practice.  It's harder for a six year old to understand.

"Well, they're not wrong so much as they just think differently than we do."  These are the same words I told her last Christmas when she wondered why not all of our neighbors had Christmas lights up and I explained that not everyone celebrates Christmas.

"Why not?!"  She asked, astounded.

"Not everyone believes in Jesus or Santa or exchanging gifts..."

She interrupted me to set me straight, "They are wrong!" 

"Well, they're not wrong so much as they just think differently than we do."

Back in bed with Piggies, I continued, "Some people think fat is bad.  I don't.  I used to think fat is bad.  I spent lots of years thinking I was unhealthy and ugly because I'm fat."

"But you're beautiful, Mama!"  Katie corrected me.

"Well, thank you, Sweetie, but not everything thinks I am.  Some people don't like fat people.  Lots of people don't.  And many of those same people feel bad about the fat they carry on their own bodies.  So just to be safe, it's best not to make any comments about the fat on people's bodies in case they feel bad about it.  It's also not a good idea to make comments about how skinny some people's bodies are because they might feel bad about it.  Really, just try to keep your thoughts about other people's bodies to yourself as best you can.  Or talk to me and daddy about it.  But other people are sensitive about their bodies and it's rude to talk about things that might embarrass them."

Katie didn't say anything, so I went back to the book.

"Let's start over.  'I've got two fat little piggies...'"

Katie stopped me from turning the page by putting her finger on the word "fat".  She gave me a sly smile and whispered, "We like fat," giggling like the time I told her it was OK to say the word "shitty" around me and Dad but saying that word at school would get her into trouble.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cast No Stones

File:Daniel hopfer 04.jpg
Altar tabernacle with the adulterous woman from Daniel Hopfer (etching)

I've been praying a lot more than usual lately.  Lots of illness and stress and need for relief among many of my family and friends lately.  So I figured I should say, "Thank you, Jesus" for showing me a path to peace.  Here's one of my favorite passages from the Bible.

7:53 And every man went unto his own house.
8:1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
8:2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
8:4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Step Stool Baby Doll Bed

Katie is resourceful with her abundance of baby dolls and their lack of beds.

"I Smell Rain"

The thunder woke me just now, in the middle of the night.  I got up to let the cat inside.  Yep, the rain started coming down.  Just a few hours earlier Katie had heard some distant thunder and got excited.  We ran outside onto the back patio and looked up at the sky.  A few light grey clouds, but no rain.  The sun was still shining.  

I looked back down and said, "Looks like no rain, Punk.  Maybe that thunder is from a rainstorm that is passing us by?"

Her hand on her forehead shading her eyes, they're still piercing like her daddy's.  She's getting a distinct brow bone like Will has.  It makes them appear more intense than perhaps they intend.

"I smell rain, Mama," Katie argued.

I breathed in, obviously flaring my nostrils to show her I was checking out the scent, but it was so faint I wouldn't have noticed it if Katie hadn't mentioned it.  As I'm aging I notice my sense of smell is not as keen as it was when I was six years old.  Or do we just forget to pay attention to life as we get older and become overwhelmed by busyness?

We went to bed early.  Katie's sleeping still.  Through the thunderstorm.  I want to wake her so she can get excited again, so she can see she was right about her rain prediction, but if Heaven's booms won't jolt her back into consciousness she must be tired, so I won't.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mitt Romney Knows Communities Help Businesses Thrive

"Lets also cheer the parents, coaches, and communities!"  --Mitt Romney

Look!  Mitt Romney joins President Obama in knowing that human beings are interconnected and that communities help businesses thrive.  This video clip is a great analysis of the whole "You didn't build that" brouhaha.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Cousin Secrets

Will ran to the store.  Everyone else from the birthday party had left.  I was busy giving Katie's four-year-old twin cousins a bath.  Katie and her eight year old cousin J were horsing around in the living room, relishing their lack of adult supervision.

Not that they needed it.  J is wise beyond his years.

Their gymnastics halted.  Katie evidently didn't realize I could hear them.  She said, in a quiet voice, "I want to tell you a secret, J."

"OK."  J said.  I couldn't see him but I know he shrugged his shoulders the way he does when he says OK.

"Sometimes I still sleep with my mommy and daddy at night."  Katie's voice was still quiet and very serious for someone who just turned six that day.

"Why is that a secret?" J asked, sounding slightly annoyed that the secret wasn't very juicy.

"Because," Katie paused.  I wondered myself how she would answer this question.  What's the big deal?  I slept in bed with my sisters until I was twelve.

"Because," she continued.  "Other kids sleep in their own beds."

"That's OK." J reassured Katie.  "Kids your age have nightmares and get scared a lot and they need their moms and dads.  When you're a big kid like me you will feel fine in your own bed."

Eight years old and he's already more empathetic than many grownups I know.  I love that kid.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writer, Heal Thyself

I've been experimenting with substances to alleviate the periodic symptoms of anxiety I experience.  Since finding out I have PTSD, I've become better at recognizing my own sort of seismic-escape behavior pattern before an impending panic attack.  Now that I'm getting good at predicting an episode, I'm interested in the myriad ways there are to deal with one.  

While researching the herbal supplement kava on my favorite doctor's website, I found this article from Dr. Weil about "therapeutic journaling" or "expressive writing":  

Writing to Ease Stress?

Dr. Weil's big on spontaneous healing but I bet he didn't know his dispassionate, well-researched document could bring about spontaneous crying.  Halfway through, when it got to this part, my cheeks got wet:

"Another study, from the University of Iowa published in the August, 2002, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found that a group of students assigned to write about their emotions and their attempts to understand and make sense of a traumatic event became more aware of the positive fallout of the event – such as improved relationships, greater personal strength, spiritual development and an increased appreciation for life."

The funny thing about being an emotional basketcase is that tears don't necessarily signal sadness.  I've got happy tears like Bob Ross had happy trees.  These tears that rolled down my cheeks came from relief.

It's been a stressful couple of years.  Ah, why bother putting on my Pollyanna face?  It's been a stressful life.  My brother, who I both adored and abhorred, died last year of alcohol-induced liver failure.  His death triggered a looking-back on our relationship that felt like a shot to my gut.  He abused me and he saved me.  Now he's dead.  I'm alive.  I'm writing.    

To learn ways to cope with Pat's death, a therapist recommended I try dialectical behavior therapy which I found to be effective to some degree, but ultimately I'm not a joiner and I began to feel as if the group therapy was becoming more of a hindrance to my health than a help.  In my urge to empathize with the other therapees, I would often leave group feeling physically sick from having borne so much of other people's burdens.

Or maybe it's not that I'm too empathetic but too narcissistic.  Nah, DBT is about the middle way.  I don't have to make claims on myself that swing from empathetic to narcissistic.  How about this?   Introspective.  

I tried a bit of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing with my therapist, the idea being that recalling traumatic life experiences while having these electrode looking things stuck to your head, forcing you to process your memories on both sides of your brain would bring about healing.  Or something like that.  It didn't seem to do anything for me.  Perhaps because I couldn't stop thinking, "I have a vibrator on my head." And then I'd get paranoid that my therapist could somehow tell I was making jokes inside my head instead of paying attention to the healing process.

After leaving a session, as I walked down the sunny sidewalk with the beautiful blue sky above me whether I cared to pay attention to it or not, this thought came to me:  If processing traumatic memories using both sides of your brain is a healing method for post-traumatic stress disorder, why couldn't typing be?  Writing on a keyboard requires internalizing dialogue, formulating ideas, and expressing them with both hands, stimulating both sides of your brain.  Why couldn't blogging to strangers for free be the mode of transportation rather than paying a stranger a hundred bucks to give my brain a little bilateral tap?  

Writer, heal thyself.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

This Mom Says, "Thanks Ibuprofen!"

We had a lot of fun at Katie's two other birthday parties this weekend.  [Insert "spoiled only child" thoughts here].  

Thanks to everyone who bounced with us at Pump It Up inflatables party place Friday.  Thank God when I fell backwards from the top of the giant slide I did not land on any small children.  And thanks to my friends there who laughed with me as I struggled to get out of the awkward position I landed in, which took my mind off the pain.  I believe the yoga position is called Mommy Buns Gone Wrong.  

Also, thanks to our friends who joined us in our front yard for the Slip N Slide party Saturday.  After jarring my forty-one year old skeleton all weekend long for my six year old's amusement (and it was fun for me too, I admit) this photo nicely sums up why the biggest thank you of the weekend goes out to the inventors of ibuprofen.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Snacks

At this time six years ago I was in agony.  I do not exaggerate.  I mean I do, but there's no need for extraneous storytelling this time.  I'm still fully flummoxed by the events of Katie's birth.  At the time I hadn't been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, so it hadn't occurred to me to prepare not just for an eight pound mass passing through my vagina, but to pass such a mass while in the throes of a nineteen and a half our panic attack.  If I had known myself better when I had Katie, I would have asked for anti-anxiety drugs.  And I would have hired a doula.

Anyhoo, that was six years ago.  So much has changed.

I thought parenting would be about handing down wisdom to my life apprentice.  Our relationship is actually much more reciprocal.  I learn just as much from Katie as she does from me.  Like how nice it is to live in the moment and not worry too much about the past or the future.

I got a good Katie Quote tonight.  I asked her, on the eve of her birth, what she thinks will be different about being six than being five.

Without taking a moment to ponder the question, Katie reported, "I'll get more snacks."  

"Why will you get more snacks when you're six than when you're five?"  I asked, trying not to smile too much or she'd think I was making fun of her.  She's been very sensitive and moody lately.  A couple of times recently I've thought I was just teasing her but my words turned to tears on her cheeks.  

"Because my tummy will be bigger when I'm six.  Everything will be bigger since I'm still growing.  So I'll get more snacks to fill my bigger tummy!"

Of course.  Sometimes the answers to life's big questions are just that.  More snacks.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alison Bechdel Interview: Are You My Mother?

The reason there's still dirty dishes in my sink?  I've been listening to this Alison Bechdel interview.  Here's twenty-six minutes well spent:

Exploring Family History in Words and Pictures

An interview with Alison Bechdel.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Fat

image source: Wikipedia

I'm thrilled to read Dr. Andrew Weil is finally jumping on the Health at Every Size® bandwagon.  I was just talking about this in my "Measuring Life" post the other day.  At the end of Dr. Weil's post he tells us the bad news: "only slightly less than one quarter of the obese participants were metabolically healthy."

I think Dr. Weil is implying that there's still some correlation to fat people being unhealthy since so many of us are not metabolically healthy, which he describes as "having normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and C-reactive protein."  To me, the fact that so few obese people have good numbers tells us that fat people are discouraged from participating in healthy activities.

While visiting my mom in Nebraska recently, we were discussing how exercise might help with blood circulation and improve the edema that gives her fits.  I asked her why she doesn't like to go for walks around her neighborhood.  What she said stunned me at first, and then I just felt sad.

"People will think, 'What's that fat old lady doing out there exercising?'"

To my mom, and I'm afraid to many others in the heavy-set crowd, health is an entitlement only thin people deserve.

But that way of thinking is unhealthy.  Fat people, thin people, short people, tall people, all people deserve health.  A fat person should not feel so embarrassed by her body that she's ashamed to move it in front of other people.

Thanks to Dr. Linda Bacon for starting the HAES® movement, and for people like Dr. Weil, opening our minds to the idea that health is achievable at all sizes.

Celebrity President

When I was in my twenties one of the bars I liked to frequent had volunteers at the door offering to swab your mouth to give you an on-the-spot HIV test.  What a fantastic idea, I thought.  No more slinking into your doctor's office and having to admit you'd been a bad boy or a bad girl and needed a test to see what your punishment was going to be: death or survivor's guilt.  People could take charge of their health in a more accepting atmosphere.  

The results of a positive HIV test are no longer a death sentence with advances in the antiretroviral treatment available today.  We've progressed further with the actual tests now too: you can easily test yourself at home.  I like this quote from the New York Times article:

"The availability of an H.I.V. test as easy to use as a home-pregnancy kit is yet another step in the normalization of a disease that was once seen as a mark of shame and a death sentence."

I wonder why there was so much stigma attached to having HIV?  Perhaps the way it was reported in the media and not-talked about by our politicians had something to do with it.

Here's the May 11, 1982 New York Times report of the disease before there was even a name for it.  Even though the article states that it "has developed among some heterosexual women and bisexual and heterosexual men" and "researchers call it A.I.D., for acquired immunodeficiency disease, or GRID, for gay-related immunodeficiency" the author continues using the term GRID over A.I.D. throughout the rest of the report.  Why?  Perhaps for the same reason the author chose to use this quote toward the end of his piece, "Dr. Lawrence D. Mass, a New York City physician, said that 'gay people whose life style consists of anonymous sexual encounters are going to have to do some serious rethinking.'"

So heterosexual women and men need not think about transmission of the disease?  It's just a slutty gay problem.  That's how we want to end our report on this mysterious new disease?

People blame sexual promiscuity for spreading HIV, but judgment of such behavior has contributed to the epidemic too.  If we had less biased journalists reporting about it, and fewer doctors willing to insert their prejudices into the process of finding a cure, perhaps it wouldn't have taken thirty years for the FDA to approve a pill that can help prevent the disease in healthy uninfected people.  

But it wasn't just media bias and doctors looking for their fifteen minutes of fame that slowed down the process.  If we'd had a president who mentioned the disease more during his eight year administration, greater awareness, more education, more funding for research could have led to fewer deaths.  If only Elizabeth Taylor had been our celebrity president rather than Ronald Reagan.  People make fun of the celebrity-activist.  As the great Trey Parker once said: "George Bush doesn't know what's going on.  Michael Moore does not know what's going on.  And Alec Baldwin definitely does not know what's going on.  Basically, this shit is gigantically complicated."

And it's true.  But when Elizabeth Taylor  spoke openly about the epidemic, at least someone was talking about a problem The Great Communicator was not.  Because this shit is gigantically complicated.  And the more voices willing to discuss the problem, the more solutions are found.

Thinking about this, I was reminded of a button I saw at the mall when I was about fourteen, back when Elizabeth Taylor was first speaking about the epidemic.  The button had a picture of Albert Einstein on it, and it said, "Minds are like parachutes.  They only function when open."  So naturally I attributed this quote to Einstein.

In my quick internet search just now, I find the quote is attributed to Thomas R. Dewar, one of the sons in the family whisky business.

I don't know if it was the peddler of critical thinking or the peddler of booze who actually said it.  I don't really care either way.  I'm just glad it got said.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Measuring Life

image retrieved from here

I weigh a lot.

It's true.  Don't tsk tsk me and try to convince me otherwise.  If you start arguing with me you'll just convince me either you don't deal well with reality or you think weighing a lot is such a bad thing that it's your duty to cushion the blow when I admit such a thing.

It's ok, really.  I have plenty of cushion and there is no blow.  Making the simple statement "I weigh a lot" is stating a fact, not forming an opinion.  Put me on a scale and you'll see for yourself.

If I were to use my quill, say, sometime between the 6th and 19th centuries, to jot down in my diary the same statement, "I weigh a lot" it would hold a different connotation.  Scare food.  Harder work.  Fat signified affluence.  And when my peasant ancestors looked upon a fat woman it was most likely not with disgust but envy or lust.  Come to think of it, I doubt if I would have been literate since I come from peasant stock so I wouldn't have kept a diary anyway.

image retrieved from here

But now I sit at my laptop sharing thoughts with anyone with an internet connection.  When I write, "I weigh a lot" my assumption is you'll assume I mean, "My body is hideous."  And you would have been right two years ago.  Who am I kidding?  You would have been right two seconds ago - the intrusive thoughts are hard to starve.

So let me clarify.  I weigh a lot and I'm OK with that.  Saying I weigh a lot is like saying I'm short, I'm a brunette, or I'm geeky.  It's an observation, not a judgment.  Words are so tricky and easily misunderstood.

So is medical information.  Partially because the medical establishment is constantly changing what they tell us  leads to good health.  When I was in third grade I was sent to Weight Watchers.  I hated it.  I eventually developed anorexia nervosa and continued for decades with various degrees of disordered eating running the full spectrum from anorexia to binge eating.  I spent decades with a scale next to my bed and a tape measure on my night stand.  In third grade I was told drinking Tab would make me less fat and therefore more healthy.  Back then, in the late Seventies, we were told that carbs were the enemy.  I had dreams of zombie potatoes pulling themselves from the earth to chase my fat ass.

As the decades passed I'd catch headlines assuring me if I ate a low-fat diet of rice cakes and low-fat cookies I'd lose weight and therefore be healthier.  More decades passed and The Atkins Diet and The South Beach Diet became popular.  I have an aversion to weight-loss programs in general from my traumatic experiences as a kid at Weight Watchers, but I still listened to the theories: carbs make you fat, fat makes you fat, no THESE kinds of carbs make you fat, no THESE kinds of fats make you fat.

Then, a couple of years ago, I read Health at Every Size® by Dr. Linda Bacon.  Bacon never tasted so good.  Guess what?  The diet industry has been funding many of these studies that claim being fat makes a person unhealthy.  As it turns out, health can be achieved at any size--short, tall, fat, thin, and everything in between. Dr. Bacon suggests this: eat a variety of foods, primarily plants, and move your body in pleasurable ways.  It's that simple.

I've been following Dr. Ironically Named's advice since I finished the book and, cliches be damned, it changed my life.  I've never felt healthier, mentally or physically.

Which brings me to my last checkup.  As soon as I left the doctor's office I was excited to run home and blog about my numbers.  Look how low my cholesterol is: 165.  Look how high my good cholesterol is: 50.  Look how low my nonfasting glucose is: 108.  Look how low my blood pressure is: 106/64.  Nevermind the number on the scale that was putting my wide ass into the morbidly obese category on the BMI chart.  Remember, a number on a scale is not indicative to a person's health.  Dr. Bacon told me so.

By the time I'd made the drive home, I lost interest in blogging about the topic.  Who cares about these numbers?  I'm the only one obsessed with them.  When Will went for a checkup a few months after Katie was born--the only time he's been to the doctor his entire adult life and only then because Katie's doctor insisted we both get flu shots since Katie was too young--his doctor was impressed with his overall health.  The doctor himself double-checked Will's blood pressure to make sure the nurse had not written down the wrong numbers, they were so low.  The only thing he said Will had to watch was that his triglycerides were high.  He recommended tweaking his diet (less refined sugar) and taking a daily fish oil pill.

That was nearly six years ago.  I've been nagging Will to go back and have his triglycerides rechecked, but he refuses.  "I'm fine.  I feel better than ever.  Quit worrying!  We're all going to die some day and there's not a lot more I'm going to change about my habits to improve my health so why spend your life worrying?"

Will actually never said that last line.  He's a man of few words so I often fill in the blanks with what I think he thinks after he's done talking.

I wish I were more like Will at times like these.  I wish I didn't get so caught up measuring life.  If the measurement on the scale, the one I ignore, is an inaccurate reflection of my overall health, then maybe my other numbers, the ones I like to brag about, are pretty meaningless in the whole scheme of things too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ganondorf Loves Julio Iglesias

Katie has been obsessed with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for many months now.  She no longer plays the game.  Will and she finished it together on his Nintendo 64 at the beginning of summer.

Did I mention to you that Will loves this YouTube channel?

Now Katie just acts out elaborate stories involving the characters in the game.  Kinda like fan fiction for first graders.

So tonight I came upon this scene.

I asked Katie why this giant plastic container was upturned with her Julio Iglesias CD on top.  This is what she told me:

Katie: "It's a trap for Ganondorf."
Me: "How so?"
Katie: "Well, Ganondorf really loves the classics."
Me: "Huh?"
Katie, pointing to the title of the CD: "He loves the classics."
Me: "Oh!  He loves 'Romantic Classics'?"
Katie: "Yes, Ganondorf loves the romantic classics.  So I put that there to trap him so when he comes to look at it I can turn it over and trap him!"

I am here to report that it works.  Later I found Katie sitting on top of the container keeping Ganondorf inside.

Anyone else got an evil villain problem?  Need to borrow our Julio Iglesias CD?

Katie's Rainbow Cake

Aunt Jenny did a fantastic job recreating Katie's drawing for her birthday rainbow cake.  Check it out!

Here's Katie's drawing.

And here's what my wonderful sister did.

And she made a separate cake for Katie to decorate herself, which she did.

Thanks, Aunt Jenny!  You made Katie's early birthday extra special.  

Is Mitt Romney's Chair Bitch Brandt from "The Big Lebowski"?

Is it just me or is Mitt Romney's chair bitch Brandt from "The Big Lebowski"?

image retrieved from here

Friday, July 13, 2012

Minimalist Toys = Maximum Imagination

This morning I found these two Zhu Zhu Pets hiding inside a box of too-small clothes awaiting hand-me-downing to Katie's cousins.  Last night I heard Katie tucking them in bed, but I was in the other room so I didn't see where they were.  The Zhu Zhu Pets are a nomadic tribe.  You never know where they're going to camp at night.  Sometimes it's Daddy's shoe.  Sometimes it's the soap dish in the bathroom.  Sometimes it's next to your pillow so when you awaken you shoot right out of bed to greet the day.  Coffee?  No, thanks!  I'm good.  I've got musophobic anxiety!

When people ask me what kinds of toys Katie wants for her upcoming birthday, I don't know what to say.  Looks like a cardboard Costco box and some old clothes are her current favorite toys.  So I don't know what she wants, but I can tell you I could use some Xanax.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writer's High

I've long said that Dr. Harriet Lerner is my favorite psychologist.  Not my personal therapist, but one whose books have helped me immensely.  She's the author of one of my all-time favorite books The Dance of Anger.  My friends speak of their favorite actors, their favorite chefs, their favorite singers, their favorite bartenders, but no one else I know has a favorite psychologist.

When I was seventeen I had my friend David drive me to my psychotherapist.  The whole thing felt very grown up because I'd made the appointment without the knowledge of my parents.  That therapist was the one who recommended I read The Dance of Anger.  The first therapist I saw was when I stopped eating and my medical doctor referred me to Tri-State Mental Health where I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.  I was eleven.  My parents were involved then and the whole experience fattened me up but left me squirmy.  I wanted it to end as soon as possible.  Sitting in that room with my parents, who didn't get along, was so stifling I began eating again just to make the sessions stop.

I began experiencing anxiety and depression when I was about four.  I didn't like to talk about it too much.  I didn't want to worry my mother, who was prone to depression herself.  I didn't want her to have to go back to the hospital where I had heard tales that she received electroshock therapy--twice--in the Sixties, before I was born, when she was still married to her adulterous husband, before she married my dad.

So I learned to dissociate.  To binge eat or starve myself til I felt lightheaded and outside of my body and away from the pit of emptiness I carried inside.  I also drew pictures.  Tons and tons of pictures.  Elaborate plots and never ending stories and sequels and do-overs.  Then I moved on to Barbies.  They were like puppets to my friends' and my elaborate plays.  DIY play therapy.  When I was in my early teens I put away my play things but I could not stop storytelling.

I began to write.  I took a writer's workshop class in ninth grade.  My teacher told me I had a lot of talent but I lacked discipline.  I reminded her of her college friend who ended up waiting tables and never published a thing.  I think this was some kind of English teacher's version of Scared Straight!

It didn't work, of course.  I'm still undisciplined.  I don't seem to have it in me to write about publishable topics.  And yet I still write.  I can't seem to help it.  It's like running.  If I go a day without partaking I feel like crap.  Writer's high.

But sometimes I feel as if I'm writing in place.  It's not going anywhere.  I post my thoughts.  Sometimes people comment, but often not.  And that's that.  I don't feel like I'm getting enough feedback.  The nice thing about selling a book, I suppose since I've never sold one, is the validation that comes from earning royalties. If someone pays to read your stuff, they must think it's worthwhile.  Unpaid blogging on the internet feels like I'm calling out my thoughts through an intergalactic megaphone while I sit out under the stars alone.

Which is scary, but not disadvantageous.  It's both social and introspective.  It reminds me of what Dr. Lerner said at a lecture I attended years ago.  She said whenever she's talking to a group of public school kids she likes to pass around her diary from when she was their age so they can see how writers are real people too.  When asked why having people read her diary doesn't embarrass her, Dr. Lerner shared this beautiful wisdom:

"When you reach fifty, your life is no longer embarrassing, because you realize that everyone's life is embarrassing."

I feel that way now, about this blog.  When my brother died and I turned forty, something clicked and I realized there's no shame in truth telling, an idea that germinated when I first read Dr. Lerner's books nearly twenty-five years ago.

I Jinxed Katie's Health Streak

Aww, poor Katie is sick.  While she's napping, I'm reading about the etymology of the word "jinx."  As in, I should not have been bragging about how my kid rarely gets sick because now, of course, she's sick.

Just a little lethargy and intestinal goo.  Nothing major.  But still.  Poor kid.

So while she rests I search the Wikipedia article for the word jinx and I discover this:  "These birds get their English name from their ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When disturbed at the nest, they use this snake-like head twisting and hissing as a threat display. This odd behaviour led to their use in witchcraft, hence to put a "jinx" on someone."

I'm actually not superstitious.  Crap.  I should not have announced that to the world because now something ominous is going to happen to me.  No really, I'm just a Wordy.  Loves me some interesting verbiage.   

(crosses fingers behind back)

There Is a Progressive Tide at My Community Center Pool

Usually it's just Katie and me swimming together, but last night she made a new friend at our suburban community center pool.

Girl with a high-pitched British accent: "How old is your daughter?"
Me: "She's five."
Girl, without taking a breath between words: "IamfivetooandIneedsomeonetoplaywithsoyourdaughtercanswimwithme!"
Me: "Sure."

So I hung back and watched them.

Katie: "What's your name?"
Girl: "Bara'ah."
Katie: "What?"
Bara'ah: "Bara'ah."
Katie: "Bara-HA?"
Bara'ah: "No.  It's very hard to say.  It's Bara'ah."
Katie: "Bara-HA?"
Bara'ah: "No!  Bara'ah!"
Katie: "Bara-HA?"
Bara'ah: "No.  No!  It's hard to say.  We are from Libya.  It's Bara'ah."

I had done about two hundred underwater leg-kicks by the time this initial conversation ended and they gave up and headed to the lazy river.

I'd seen Bara'ah's mother there once before.  She seems pretty young.  But maybe her youthfulness is a personality trait and not an indication of chronological age.  She runs up the steps to the big slide and plugs her nose but can't contain her smile enough to close her mouth as she plunges into the bottom of the pool.  She cavorts with a man I assume is her husband.  She has obvious fun.  She's not one of those moms who likes to sit on the lounge chairs to the side of the pool, talking or texting while the kids are out having fun, out of their hair.  She's there to swim and slide and splash and smile.  She reminds me of myself.  

The difference is she's wearing a full-body swim suit and a swim hijab.  And I am not.  My swim suit is pretty typically midwestern American momish.  

Not quite turn of the 20th century one-piece, but definitely more modest than what many of my peers wear today.  Still, it covers so little of my body that this is the one time of the year my husband gets to enjoy the effect of my daily leg and bikini area shaving.

TMI?  Yeah, I'm an American.  We're a people prone to the overshare.

American.  It means what anymore?  Ten years ago I had never seen a woman wearing traditional Muslim garb at the local swimming pool.  Just a bunch of fake blonde hair and waxed bodies draped in immodest swim wear.

Last night when I saw Bara'ah's mother frolicking about the pool with her family, expressing no self-consciousness, I caught myself coveting her full-body suit.  I love to swim but I hate showing my body in public.  I'm much less concerned about what strangers think of my body than I was when I was younger, but since it's a community center pool, there's a big chance your boss will show up.  Soon you'll find yourself standing there exposing your lumpy white thighs by the froggy slide, shop-talking with someone who also attended the mandatory training session  from HR about workplace harassment.  It's just awkward.  

So yeah, I'm all for bringing more burkinis to the community centers of Main Street USA.

I'm really proud to be an American right now.  Sure, there's plenty I'm ticked at our government about, namely bombing innocent people around the world and catering to the wealthiest among us at home, but I'm happy to see where we as a people are moving socially.  There is a progressive tide at the community center pool, at least.

What I love about how much my community has evolved these past ten years is that swimming alongside Bara'ah's mother in her full-body suit, and me in my one-piece traditional American swim suit, there was what appeared to be a blue-haired granny in a bikini.  Not the old-fashioned blue-haired old lady type granny, although that could have made it even cooler, but a woman who looked to be about sixty who was there with a young child who looked like her grandkid, and she was wearing a very world-weary tummy-revealing  black two-piece as she was rocking the bleached-blonde-turned-punk-rock-blue 'do that looked perfectly normal next to the tattoos that covered her body.

And the coolest thing of all: none of us seemed out of place.  I love it.  All women should be allowed to decide whether or not they prefer full coverage, medium coverage, or flaunt-it coverage when they're enjoying themselves at the community center pool.

Rainbow Cake, Please

I asked Katie what kind of birthday cake she would like my sister to make her.  Here is what she said:
Katie: "Can she trace it?"
Me: "I think so.  Why?  Are you going to draw it for her?"
Katie: "Yes!  It doesn't have to be perfect but it has to have a rainbow and two clouds on both sides of the rainbow and the clouds are white."
Me: "That's really specific.  What if Aunt Jenny doesn't have time to do all that?  What if she just has time to make you a cake and frost it?"
Katie: "That's fine.  But if she only has, like, three colors for the rainbow she can just make her own.  Did you know what?  Red and white make pink!"
Me: "Oh, yes.  But if she can just make a cake and frost it then what kind do you want.  What flavor?"
Katie: "Strawberry cake with white icing!"

So just in case she has time, here is the picture Katie drew so Aunt Jenny can trace it onto her cake:

Katie: "Just like this, only the clouds are white."
Me: "Why didn't you make the clouds white, then?"
Katie: "Because white crayon doesn't show on white paper, Mom!"

Don't Pick Up Your Toys, Please

I woke up one morning and found these guys like this. 

My first thought was to blame the Zhu Zhu Pets.  Those little critters are mischievous.  I'm always catching them out of the side of my eye.  They freak me the fuck out is what they do.  No one with severe musophobia should allow their child to keep presents like this that well-intentioned loved ones give them.

But it wasn't the little rats.  When I asked Katie what it was about, she explained the crime scene like this:

"We were using the gun to shoot the werewolf that was attacking BoBo puppy."

I must have winced or something.  She gave me a much too-mature eye roll and said, "It's just a fake gun, though, Mom. It's a WATER gun."

Well, so there.

I don't believe in making Katie always pick up her toys.  My friends who have been through the maze of toys in my house will be unfazed by this statement.  

My mom used to let me keep my Barbies out all summer long so I wouldn't have to waste time setting up each day and could just take up the story where we had left off the previous day.  I think Mom read an article in Ladies' Home Journal or McCalls or something that mentioned some study that shows kids who engage in lots of unstructured play grow up to be more creative thinkers than do other kids. She took that to mean messes are good.  She also put my baby crib in the middle of the room because she read that babies whose cribs are in a corner or against a wall tend to be less creative than babies who have more open space surrounding them.

I think because I was rarely made to pick up my toys it feels natural to be this way with Katie too.  Sure, several times I've questioned my sanity.  Usually right after I just about broke my leg trying to get from her bedroom door to her dresser to dump in her undies--never folded, just tossed.  Mom read that kids whose underwear are neatly folded inside the draw are boring and humorless.  Something like that.

But I'm not concerned with enabling Katie's creativity.  The kid needs no help from me.  I don't want her to pick up her toys simply because when I later stumble upon them, I get to see a little piece of the inner workings of that crazy creative kids's imagination.  

As long as I don't literally stumble on them and destroy the set. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

me and my mom by Katie

I love mom.  I love dad.  I love my dogs and my cat.  I love Bacca.  I love me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are My Filthy Pets Keeping My Kid Healthy?

I wonder if this study I read about in the Los Angeles Times is true?

It seems that way in our house.  Katie has never taken antibiotics.  Ever.  Not that I'm opposed to conventional medicine.  I mean, I'm into the idea of doing as much preventatively as you can, but if your baby has an ear infection, have the doc order your poor kid some drugs, please.  But Katie's never needed anything harsher than a children's acetaminophen, and rarely even that.  The first time she ever had a fever she was over a year old.  I called an after-hours nurses' hotline to ask for advice on what I should do.  The nurse on the other end sounded shocked at my maternal incompetence.  How could I not know what to do with a sick kid?  

My husband rarely gets sick either.  I've known him for over ten years and he's been sick twice.  I, on the other hand, sniffle if the wind blows.  So I've been attributing Katie's good health to Will's good genes, but now I think maybe she gets it from me.  From my lazy housekeeping and my bleeding-heart animal loving.  A couple of days before we came home from the hospital after my C-Section, Will brought home one of the blankets Katie had been wrapped up in so our three dogs and two cats could sniff her before they met her.

We're down to two dogs and one cat now since our furry loved ones are getting old and teaching our child about the life-and-death-cycle.  They're good for that too.

And they make excellent night-time companions.  Right now our dog Sawyer is spooning Katie in bed.  And here I was worried it's been too long since I last gave Sawyer a bath.  Is all that who-knows-what-that-smell-is that Sawyer was rolling around in ecstatically earlier today good for my child's health?