Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Treat Overload (Warning: This one is rambly!)

Ever since I started really trying to listen to my body regarding food and life in general, things have been very, very different than they were for the majority of my lifetime.  For instance, take the holidays and all of the wonderful treats that come with them as an example.  I remember when I was young and the holidays were a time for the most obvious manifestations of my growing Love-Hate relationship with food.

You see, all of those foods that I loved and only got once a year were everywhere, but more often than not I would end up sneaking treats and trying to eat them when no one was looking because I didn't want anyone to know how much I was actually eating.  I was embarrassed about enjoying food.  It was shameful that I might like fudge or my family's famous apple pie or my aunt's amazing gingerbread men.

Looking back I find myself shaking my head and asking "Why?".  Why would the world make enjoying things like that something to be guilty about rather than a happy experience?

Because I was fat.  Fat people don't "need" all of those things.  Fat people should subsist on celery sticks, salads made with no dressing except a touch of plain vinegar, and maybe a dried out, overcooked broiled chicken breast.  That's what fat people should eat according to the fat-shaming society that we live in.  They should CERTAINLY never be allowed to eat something that has "no nutritional value!" and just enjoy it.

So I sneaked cookies and treats and slices of banana bread and made ostentatious shows of eating the broccoli and baby carrots off of the vegetable tray when people were looking at me.

Not any more!  Nowadays I let myself enjoy whatever it is that I am eating, and I do it in public view no less!  I know, right?  THE HORROR!!!!  *LOL*

The irony is now that I've allowed myself to have such items in the open, without fear and without shame, I actually want less of them.  We got a lot of sweet treats as presents from people this year, and it is lovely that we are so loved and cared for.  But wow...FLOOD O' SUGAR!  Anyway, the thing is that back when I was ashamed of enjoying my food, it would probably all be gone by now.  I would have binged on it when no one was looking, and then pretended that it wasn't me who ate it all.  Now I'm taking my time, enjoying what I have, and finding myself craving vegetables and salad alongside the truffles and baked goods.

It is a refreshing change for me.  I don't feel the need to hide, so I don't feel the need to binge.

The lesson for me (and maybe for others, though everyone has to find their own way of looking at things), is that the only thing to avoid when it comes to my eating habits is shame.  Shame creates so many negative consequences and literally feeds on itself.  Letting go of the shame allowed me to let go of the need to hoard and hide and binge, not tasting the food that I ate because I was eating it so quickly or so absorbed in making sure that no one saw me eating it.  Now I can savor my food, whether it is a Godiva truffle or an apple cranberry walnut salad.

As for the baked goods, well, I put a pile of them into the freezer today because there's no way we're going to get them all eaten before they go bad.  We'll pull them out a little at a time to enjoy them.  Openly.  Proudly.  Happily.  And by taking our time with them we can re-experience the joy of having people who care about us enough to send us such lovely gifts.  I think that is the best part of all.  I'm not ashamed to enjoy the love and caring that comes in the form of these once-a-year treats.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Goals for the new year

Tonight is Samhain, which is known as Halloween to the majority of people.  It is a night for costumes, candy, and laughter, but what most don't know is that it is also a time for reflection, endings and beginnings.  Tonight is the night when the Wheel begins another turn, ending one year and beginning another.

I've done a lot of reflecting this year, and made a lot of realizations.  Those are not what I am writing about right now, though.  This blog entry is about the future, the coming year and what I look to achieve in that time span.  This blog entry is a list that I am making for myself, a list of ideas, things that I would like to achieve.  Will I achieve them all?  Probably not.  I'm not being self-defeatist by saying that, I just know that this is going to be a long list, and there probably will never be enough time or money to complete all of the entries in the space of one year, but this will give me a starting point and where I go from here is my own choice.

Things I would like to achieve in the coming year

  • Get at least 3 more short stories published
  • Get my first novel written and ready to start submissions
  • Continue my daily calisthenics and work up to 100 crunches, 100 wall pushups, and 50 squats
  • Read 100 books
  • Have my first Fat Lady Foods booth at a Farmers Market
  • Adopt at least one, and as many as three, children
  • Compete in my first 5k
  • Learn to crochet
  • Make my first quilt
  • Go back and visit Sterling Renaissance Festival
  • Take a vacation somewhere we've never been before
  • Redecorate the dining room (paint, new curtains, buffet, etc)
  • Get the mirror back up on the wall in the half bath
  • Complete the front landscaping
  • Get the gutters done on the house
  • Get caught up on photo processing
  • Start really taking photos again
  • Learn the basics of drawing
  • Re-learn calligraphy
  • Have a garden in which I actually manage to grow something other than weeds
  • Love
  • Be loved

There are probably more things, and as I think of them I may come back and add them.

Here's to goals, and to working toward achieving them!

What goals do you have?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Same Words - Different Meaning

There is a church near my home that has a tendency to put very right-wing, ultra-conservative sayings on the big board out front.  You know, the one that most churches use to say things like "Services at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m." and "Special Guest Speaker this week.  Welcome Dr. So-and-So from Such-and-Such Religious Institution" or quotes from the Bible that pertain to whatever the subject is going to be for the weekly sermon on Sunday.  This particular church puts up things like "Shutdown is necessary. Jesus" because apparently they have a direct line to Jesus and he told them that the shutdown of the American government was a necessary thing.  Or something.

This week's message, however, seems to have missed its intended mark.  The words that they put up there undoubtedly mean one thing to them, but mean something completely different to me.  They meant for their board this week to issue a warning to us all about how America is losing its moral center, and about how it is a slippery slope and soon we'll all be writhing in the depths of hell because we're sliding at a faster clip every day.

I read the words and found myself saying, "I certainly hope so."

What did the board say?

"What you accept today will be normal tomorrow."

You see, it is my fervent desire that things we accept today become so normal tomorrow that people wonder why there was ever such a fuss made to begin with.  I would love for someone to say, "You mean people were upset that homosexuals and lesbians wanted to marry the people that they love?  Whatever for?  That seems close-minded and an archaic way of thinking." 

I desperately hope that someday a young girl says, "Mom, you'll never guess what we learned in history class today!  Do you believe that there were actually State governments that voted to try and restrict, and even abolish, the rights of women to choose what happens to their own bodies??  Did people really used to think that way??"

I would rejoice if I could hear, "Yeah, my grandfather says he won't vote for her for President because she's a woman.  Do you believe that?  What's that got to do with how well she'll run the country?  I don't get old people...I really don't."

I would love for us to accept all of these things so that they truly do become normal tomorrow.  It is a dream that there comes a day when normal includes open-mindedness, judging people by their actions rather than their appearance, and a clear delineation between personal moral choices (religious-based or not) and government mandated freedom to MAKE those choices without legal repercussions from those who disagree based on their own personal moral code.

The church in question tends to leave their boards up for a week or two at a time.  I hope that this one stays up longer, because for the first time in a long time I have smiled every time I drive past their building and their sign.  For the first time in a long, long time I haven't driven past and ended up grumbling or wincing when I see what they have posted there.  I know that their intentions and the results are very different, but that's all right, because we finally agree on something.

"What you accept today will be normal tomorrow."

Words to live by.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Oppression Olympics

Being fat in modern America is hard, there's no doubt about it.  Complete strangers take it on themselves to judge, to give unasked for advice, and to even do things like throw things out of their car windows at you and shout insults when you are out taking a walk.  There are people who try to raise their voices and spread the message that this behaviour is wrong, and who try to make the point that no one has the right to judge someone else based on appearance.  Sometimes, however, these people who are trying to make the world better get so caught up in their own fight, that they forget about the many other fights that are happening at the same time.  They even forget that it cuts both ways, and if you say that someone shouldn't judge you for being fat, you shouldn't judge them for being thin.

They forget and say something thoughtless ("Eat a sammich!" immediately comes to mind).  The thin person, and others like them, then get (rightfully) angry over being judged, and they launch a counterattack.

The next thing you know, we've gotten all of the other groups involved.  Women and men arguing over sexism from both sides, LGBT's and straights shouting about the definition of love, people of varying skin tones and ethnic backgrounds each trying to one-up the next on the horrible things done to their people over the eons of recorded history, and so on.  This doesn't even scratch the surface of all of the groups out there who feel that they have an axe to grind.  It doesn't make a judgment on whether they are right or wrong.  What it DOES do, however, is become The Oppression Olympics.

It is so easy to believe that our own causes are the most important ones in the world, because to us they ARE the most important causes.  But it is imperative that we do not forget that other causes are equally as important to other people, and the fact that we are fighting for our cause does NOT diminish other causes or their validity.  My desire for the world to stop assuming that people who look like I do are something that should be eliminated and made war on does not negate the desire of a person who is recovering from anorexia to not have people tell her to "put some meat on your bones".  It does not negate the fact that a black man wearing a hoodie can't walk in certain neighborhoods without the police being called.  It does not negate the right of a female cosplayer to feel safe at a convention.  It does not negate the right of my friend, Matthew, to marry the man he loves.

None of the causes eclipses the other.  Acknowledging them does not mean that I have to renounce my own cause.

I firmly believe that one of the greatest problems keeping the wonderful diversity of humanity from coming to full fruition of its potential is because so much time and energy is spent by the representatives of all these causes in fighting one another rather than putting that energy to good use and working together to spread the simple message that we ALL have the potential for greatness, whether we are fat, skinny, black, white, red, yellow, or purple with pink spots.  We ALL have the potential to achieve humanity's peak together, whether we are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, straight, geeks, jocks, nerds, male, female, hermaphroditic, or asexual.

I have my own causes.  They are things that I believe are worth fighting for, and that I spend time and effort on because they are important to me.  They are probably different from your causes, though some may overlap.  I do my causes no good when I dismiss or try to one-up other causes, saying things like, "Yes, well that is bad, but it is WORSE for fat people because...".  No, it isn't worse.  It is different.  It isn't worse to have someone remove something from a fat person's grocery cart while telling them that they don't need it than it is to have someone walk up to a thin person with a loaded plate and tell them to eat the whole thing because they're too skinny.  Neither of those is worse.  Neither of those should be tolerated.

We aren't in The Oppression Olympics.  It is not our place to prove to other people who are fighting their own battles why OUR battle is more important.  What we need to be doing is banding together, sharing strategies, and supporting one another in our fights.  Because while I am just plain unable to devote equal amounts of time and effort to every cause out there, I CAN fight my own fights and offer encouragement to others who are fighting their own fights.  I can pass along opportunities for them to take advantage of, and information they may not have seen.  I can work to form support networks and alliances with other activists, because while our individual focus is independent of one another, our power when our voices are joined is immeasureable.

In order for us to achieve that power, though, we have to STOP fighting one another. We all have to stop trying to compete in The Oppression Olympics and start cheerleading one another.

After all, if we don't understand what it is like, then who will?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Relationships with Food

I was just going through my e-mail and I came across my daily reminder to click for charity.  You know the one, where you just click once a day and advertisers give money to various charities including animal rights, autism research, world hunger and so on.  They always have little inspirational stories on each page, to help encourage people to remember why they are taking five minutes out of their day to click on several pages.  What caught my eye today was the inspirational story on the diabetes research page.  Actually, it was a fragment of a sentence on that page, and the author was talking about how horrible it is when carbs aren't comforting, sugar is scary and so on.  This really made me stop and think about the many relationships that we have with food.

Food is such a basic need in our lives.  If we don't have it, we die.  That's a pretty simple, straightforward relationship, I think.  We could just leave it at that, and life would probably be a lot easier for so many people.  But, of course, we're human beings and we can never really be satisfied with keeping things simple, right?

So what happens?  Food becomes "comfort" or "decadence".  Different types of foods take on different meanings, like "good" or "bad", "healthy" or "unhealthy".  We start applying moral values and judgments to food and the people who eat it.  The fat man shouldn't eat a cheeseburger.  The skinny woman should eat a pork chop.

Eventually these judgments shift from the food to the people themselves.  Obviously that fat woman is a slob, stupid, and lazy.  It is apparent to the world that the skinny man is weak, a wimp, and a wuss.  The muscular guy over there obviously eats "right" and exercises.  The toned and slender woman is no doubt conceited and consumed completely by how she looks, with as much depth as a mud puddle. 

All of these judgments and they all originate from food and our dysfunctional relationships with it.

So today I give you a challenge, Dear Readers.  My challenge to you is to take a good, long, hard look at your relationships with food.  Do you use the words "good" and "bad" in association with things that you eat?  Do you see a fat person ordering a dessert and automatically judge them negatively for it?  Do you see a slender person eating a salad and automatically judge them for it in either a positive or negative way?  How do you approach food in your life? 

I'm not saying that we shouldn't take pleasure from food.  Goodness knows that I happily take pleasure in a scoop of quality ice cream, a fresh spinach salad with vinaigrette, or a plate of homemade macaroni and cheese.  But what I AM saying is that I am fully aware of how I associate these things with pleasure and I strive to enjoy them for what they are:  appealing tastes and textures.  I am still working on removing the judgments from my food, though I am getting better at it, and instead just applying actual descriptors to what is in front of me.  Words like "good", "bad", "healthy", "unhealthy", "reward", "naughty" all are slowly being expunged from my food vocabulary and being replaced with "satisfying", "creamy", "rich", "fresh", "tasty", and "just what I wanted right now".

Take a stab at letting go of the old relationships and starting some new ones.  The majority of you reading this are living in places where a huge variety of food is literally at your fingertips.  Enjoy that variety in all of its glory, and let yourself do so.  I think that you'll be surprised at how it changes your life.   Because a lessening of judgment is never a bad thing. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Celebrate diversity, don't sneer at it

A friend recently posted a picture of a t-shirt on Facebook.  The shirt rather snarkily compared the quality of life in one State to the quality of life in another.  I have to say that this kind of thing is really a hot button for me.

I've been a long-term resident in two different States: Texas and New York.  Each State is the victim of amazing amounts of stereotyping, which frustrates me to no end because I have found that each of those States is ever so much more than those doing the stereotyping would have us believe.

New York is the victim of New York City-itis.  Apparently the entire world thinks that the whole 54,556 square miles of New York State is covered in skyscrapers, neon lights, and homeless people.  The people who believe this have obviously never been to New York.  They haven't seen the miles of orchards where apples and cherries hang heavily from the trees, bending the branches so low that you can pick them without a ladder.  They haven't bitten into an apple pulled freshly off the branch and polished on their sleeves.  They haven't felt the juice run down their chins as the sweetness fills their mouths and the scent fills their noses.  These same people haven't looked over the acres of vineyards as they sipped a sweet New York Riesling and nibbled on sharp New York cheddar cheese.  The people who believe that all there is to New York is Broadway and bohemians have never climbed in the Adirondack Mountains, slept in a cabin to awake early in the morning to mists and birds twittering sleepily.  They haven't fished for trout in the streams, or sat in a deer blind watching the graceful beauty of a doe bending her head for a drink from that same running water.  These people have never experienced the awe of staring out over Lake Ontario, or the fear of being caught in a sudden squall on a body of water the size of a small sea.  To them, all that New York will ever be is concrete, glass, and subways.  Those things exist in New York, but they are not ALL that New York was or will ever be.

These same people think of Texas and believe that it consists of nothing but herds of longhorns being rounded up by grizzled men wearing chaps and cowboy hats.  To them the entirety of Texas' 268,820 square miles is made up of tumbleweeds, desert and hay-chewing hicks.  They don't know or believe that Texas is home to some of the top names in aeronautics, computer technology and film-making.  The arts have a home in this State, with Dallas having the largest urban arts district in the United States.  There are multiple opera companies, theatre companies and performing arts companies throughout the state.  The music scene in Austin, Texas is well-known, but amazing new music is being made everywhere from the smallest town to the biggest city.  The museums in Texas are vastly diverse, ranging from the traditional to the quirky.  And the food...oh my goodness!  The same people who believe that all there is to Texas is rattlesnakes and miles of endless nothing have never explored the amazing diversity of cuisines available in this State.  Some of the top chefs in the world live and work here, and are proud to do so because they can draw inspiration from so many sources that it can almost be overwhelming at times.  So I feel sorry for the people who have never had the good fortune to wander the halls of the Dallas Museum of Art, feeling the tears well up when they stand in front of "Water Lilies" by Monet.  They have never stood in wonder, realizing that the metal module in front of them took Astronauts Gene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Jack Schmitt to the moon and back as part of the Apollo 17 mission.  Those people will probably not ever savor the perfect mole sauce at a hole-in-the-wall authentic Mexican restaurant or the perfect bowl of Pho at the small, local Vietnamese place right down the road.  They'll never move from club to club in Austin, hearing the future stars of the music world.  They will never understand how much they are missing by not walking the fence line, feeling the wind tugging against their clothing and the grit of the dust as it lightly sands the skin.  Because while that is not all of what Texas is, it IS an important part of the State's past and present.

These are my homes.  These two States share space in my heart, and to see them minimized into caricatures by anyone (even people who live there) breaks that heart because I know how much more there is to both places than the stereotypers would have us believe. 

The thing is, that is how it is for every location in the world.  There is always so much more than the casual observer can ever guess.  We do ourselves a disservice by dismissing places other than our own and by distilling them down to minimalistic, unrealistic cartoons of what they really are.  The people who live in these places know the truth, they know that Maine is more than lobster, Florida is more than Disney World, California is more than Hollywood, and Washington State is more than rain.  Africa has more than safaris, China is greater than just a Wall, and Japan has more to offer than sushi.  Yes, places become known for specific things because those things are an important PART of their identity, but we have to remember that those symbols are just a part of the whole, and in no way present a full picture of all there is to be offered to us by visiting or even living there.

So do yourselves a favor, and the next time that you find yourself making one of those snarky, dismissive comparisons or assumptions, stop and remember that the only limitations being spotlighted when you do so are your own.  The only lack of depth that exists in regards to wherever or whatever you are sneering at is your own lack of depth and your own lack of understanding.  The insult isn't to the people who live in those places, and the only ignorance on display is your own.

I am proud to be a daughter of New York, and an adopted daughter of Texas.  Both States are full of infinitely wondrous diversity.  Both States are full of people I am proud to know and love.  Both States have helped shape and mold me and how I see the world.  Both States are my homes, and I am blessed to have lived there.  I do honor to them, not by putting down other places, but by sharing the wonder of my homes with other people, then by letting them share the wonder of their homes with me.  I'll tell you this, I have yet to find a place in this country, or in this world, that doesn't truly contain a wonder of its own.  I don't think that I ever will.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are you angry yet?

Today Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 2 into law.  This Bill makes abortion after 20 weeks illegal with no exceptions.  It also makes it almost impossible for the vast majority of women's clinics in the State to afford to remain open.  This means that the majority of low-income women in Texas will lose access to their health care.  I'm not talking about abortions, I'm talking about things like well-woman visits, pre-natal care, and screenings for various forms of cancer.  So not only will women be forced to have babies that they may not be able to afford (financially, emotionally, etc.), but they will have to do so without basic medical care.

Are you angry yet? 

On the heels of this, three Texas State Legislators have now introduced House Bill 59.  This bill not only bans abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat (which can happen as early as six weeks, which is before many women even realize that they are pregnant), but requires that the doctor do what is necessary to determine if there is a fetal heartbeat present, which means that they will be performing trans-vaginal ultrasounds as that is often the only way to detect a fetal heartbeat that early.  That is, in my opinion, government mandated rape.

Are you angry yet? 

Texas is an "Abstinence Works" State, which is statistically a lie as Texas rates third in the country for underage pregnancies (ages 15 to 19).  Our birth rate in that age range is 63.1 births per 1,000 which is well above the national rate of 41.5 births per 1,000.  Our young girls have a greater chance of getting pregnant as shown by Texas' teen pregnancy rate of 88 per 1,000 as opposed to the national rate of 70 per 1,000.  Texas also has the "honor" of being 12th in the country when it comes to teen cases of HIV.  All of this is possible because while Texas ALLOWS sex education, it does not require such classes.  The schools that do have sex education are required to teach abstinence over other forms of prevention.  Per the Texas State Educational Code the curriculum must:

  • present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age;
  • devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior;
  • emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity, if used consistently and correctly, is the only method that is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity;
  • direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, STDs, and infection with HIV or AIDS; and
  • teach contraception and condom use in terms of human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates, if instruction on contraception and condoms is included in curriculum content. (See SIECUS page and links therein for more information.)
So what this means is that we are lying to our children and then wondering why it isn't working.

Are you angry yet? 

And then, to top everything off, the State Legislature claims to be doing this to protect womens' health.  One would think, though, that if they were so concerned about the health of their citizens, they wouldn't be cutting health care costs with their current slash and burn policies.  In the past eight years the Governor and his lackies in the Legislature have cut hundreds of thousands of low-income Texans from government-sponsored insurance plans such as Medicaid and The Children's Health Insurance Program.  That doesn't even bring into play the fact that over 6.5 million Texas citizens are working full-time jobs and yet have NO health insurance at all.  Tell me again where this shows a concern for Texas citizens and their health?  Because from here it looks more like an attack on our health instead.

Are you angry yet? 

This wave of extremism is taking the country by storm and this storm will leave death and destruction in its wake.  I'm not just talking about theoretical death, but real death, as in the deaths of women who are so desperate that they will do anything to end a pregnancy.  I'm talking about the deaths of the women who don't get adequate pre-natal care and die from pregnancy complications.  I'm talking about the deaths of young men and women who don't fully understand their options when it comes to protecting themselves from HIV and sexually transmitted diseases along with protecting from unwanted pregnancy.  This wave of extremism which is designed specifically for punishing women who are sexually active will destroy lives and the people who are promulgating it not only don't care, but will celebrate the fates of the "wanton and loose women" who are their victims.

Are you angry yet? 

The time for sitting to the side and talking is over.  It is time to act.  We have to take our country back from this overly vocal minority and pull it back to the center.  Extremists on both sides are screaming so loudly that the rest of us are being drowned out, and the only way to end that is to get louder.  We can get louder by protesting, but we can also get louder by using the ballot box.  It is time to take our government back and to put an end to this rampant extremism.  It is time to reclaim our city governments, our State governments, and our national government.

Are you angry yet?  Whether you are a man or a woman, you should be very angry by this point.  And you should do something about it.

Vote.  Register others to vote.  Write your representatives and make your voices heard.  DO something, don't just sit back and make Tweets or Facebook posts about your outrage.  Step up and take a stand.  The time is now, the person is you.  Get angry and use that anger to change the world.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thoughts from inside the barbed wire wall

For a long, long time I was a very bitter, hateful person. There were reasons for it, reasons that I consider to be valid in terms of understanding why my reactions to the world became what they were. I never really grasped the concept that I could be anything else because every time I had tried I ended up getting hurt. When you get hurt enough you create ways to deal with it and to prevent it from happening again. Those ways become habit, and those habits become ingrained so deeply that changing them...changing who we are and the face that we present to the world is a long, arduous process that will be filled with setbacks and reversions to "safe" behaviours under stress.

Over the past several years I have made a decided effort to change who I am and the face that I present to the world. I have tried very hard to alter the path that my thoughts automatically take when things happen, and to create different outcomes to situations that are triggering.

I have not always been successful.

I do, however, believe that I have made progress on this goal. I believe that I have become more willing to actually believe that people can be true friends, and that not everyone is out to use me until it suits them to forget about me or to actively throw me aside. I still have times when I doubt even my closest friends, but those times are getting shorter and less severe. I believe that this is good and that it means that in time I actually will wholeheartedly believe that there are people who love me without reservation. The barbed wire battlements are slowly being taken down.

Someone recently said to me that they were tired of walking on eggshells around me all of the time, and that I am just too negative a person. I have to admit that my first reaction was anger and hurt. My second reaction was also hurt, but of a different kind. I went from "How dare you say that to me??" to "Is that really the face that I'm still presenting to the world?" and it has led to another round of self-examination.

Yes, I am still quick to assume that someone is doing something to hurt me on purpose. While I would like for that thought process to finally go away forever, there is still work to be done to shake off the lessons that were taught to me by my peers as I grew up. (You would think that at 46 years old I would be free of what happened to me in my school years, wouldn't you?) But as I re-assess where I am and how I got here, I find that I think I've become a much more positive person in the past few years. It has taken a lot of hard work, and has involved the suppression of a lot of knee-jerk responses (again, not ALWAYS successfully, but better!).

I also admit that there are a select few who see more of the negativity than most, because they are (or in this case, were) people that I feel safe about venting to in order to get the feelings out of my system rather than letting them remain in place where they can poison future thoughts / emotions. That can't be easy for those folks, and I appreciate those who understand and support my need to have safe places to vent my spleen, so to speak, without holding it against me.

In the end, if that is still the face that I actually present to the world, then I have a lot more work to do. But if it isn't, and if it is just that others are still seeing the "old me" out of habit reinforced by my weak moments of relapse, then there is little that I can do to change their perceptions. I can only continue trying to become a better me and hope that someday perception and reality join in letting the world see the positive me that has hidden inside these barbed wire walls for so long.

I don't really know. All that I know is that right now I think I'm a better me than I used to be and that there is still work to be done.

I'm a better me, but still not the best me. Always a work in progress I guess.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hidden Strength

I was reading today's Dances With Fat blog, and she said something that really resonated with me.

"I think that fat people, whether or not they consider themselves fat activists, are truly underestimated.  In the face of a tremendous amount of bullying and stigma, in the face of the government recruiting our friends, families, and employers to fight a war against us, in spite of the intense oppression that tries its best to crush us, that we keep living our lives is a testament to our incredible strength."

That says a lot, and it hit home for me.  You see, Dear Readers, I have finally started to realize just how strong I am.  I have been taught all of my life that my weight is a sign of weakness.  The world has told me repeatedly that I am weak-willed because I allow myself to eat food.  Never mind that I would starve to death if I didn't, that doesn't matter.  What matters is that it is visibly obvious that I not only eat too much but I make "bad" food choices.  If that weren't the case, the thinking goes, then I wouldn't be fat.  (I actually love fruits and vegetables to the point where The Husbeast complains about how many I make at mealtimes, but even if I didn't that doesn't give anyone the right to judge me or my eating habits.)

The world has told me for all of my life that I should be ashamed of myself, ashamed of my body, ashamed of the "mental failings" that allowed me to become this way.  I'm told on a regular basis that I should have enough willpower to force my body into the mold that the world would prefer to see, even if that forcing causes me physical, mental and emotional damage.

The world has said, "We don't want to see your weakness.  We want you to hide it, like we all hide ours."

But I'm not weak.  I'm incredibly strong when you think about it.  Every day... every day...I have hundreds of messages thrown at me about how I am sub-human, not worthy of sharing space with the "normal" people of the world.  Every day I am told that I am less of a human being because my body takes up more space.  EVERY DAY.

Yet despite that repeated bludgeoning, I live my life.  I go to the store, I hang out with my friends, I dare to be seen.  I have even had the temerity to perform at Renaissance Faires and in theatrical productions!  I interact with people as though I have the right to exist! *gasp*

In the face of constantly being told that it would be best for the world in general if I were either to disappear, hide in my house until I lose weight, or just go away altogether, I dare to exist and to enjoy my existence!  What a travesty!

The real travesty is that it has taken me 46 years to learn that the fact that I do these things, the fact that I not only exist but allow myself to experience all that life offers to the best of my ability DESPITE being fat, that fact is NOT weakness.  That is strength.

I am strong.

Every fat person who goes about their lives in the manner that they prefer is strong.

Every fat person who gets out of bed in the morning and doesn't allow the constant deluge of negative messages to force them to cease to be is strong.

Like Pat Benetar says, "We are strong." and for us, it isn't love, but life that is the battlefield, folks, and it is about time that we realize that and use that strength to tell the world exactly where it can go.  It is time that we yoke that strength and live the lives that we make for ourselves, no matter what other people think about it.  In the end, we can win this battle and this war and win the right to exist without the constant judgment.

We're not weak, we are strong, our strength is just hidden.  It is time for it to come out of hiding. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Trials and Tribulations of Travel

It isn't easy to live a life of Health at Every Size in our world.  Loving your body as it is and appreciating all that it does for you is a never-ending process made harder by the constant barrage of messages from the outside that you're not good enough, that you're less of a human being because you have more body than others.  It is made harder when you face life events that would be enjoyable to most people but turn out to be filled with stress and apprehension.

We are hoping to go to Disney World this Fall.  My parents live in the area and both work for The Mouse.  Friends of ours are going, and have been wanting us to join them on one of their trips for the past three or four years.  Normally we wouldn't think of planning something like this due to my lack of employment for the past 15 months, but my parents have offered to assist because they want to see us too.  So we're figuring out PTO for the Husbeast and so on. 

All of this should be filled with joyful anticipation, right?  We're going to see my parents!  We're going to the Happiest Place on Earth with good friends who are major Disneyphiles, just like we are!  These are good things!

And then it comes time to start planning flights.


When you're fat there are a lot of added stressors when you're figuring out trips that involve flying.

  • Will we be able to get seats that are on the side of the aisle that only has two seats instead of three so that we don't end up squishing someone else?  Because my hips are big and the Husbeast has very wide shoulders.
  • If not, should we go ahead and just buy that 3rd seat?  Yeah, that gets expensive and will add to the costs of the trip, but at least we won't spend the entire trip feeling guilty that we're accidently in someone else's space.
  • Is buying that 3rd seat less expensive than just upgrading to Business / First Class?
  • WHY is Business / First Class so freaking expensive?  They don't get there any sooner than the rest of us!!!
 I find myself looking at other options. 
  • Can we drive?  No, that takes much too long and puts too much wear and tear on things like the car and our relationship (believe me, we've driven long trips before and the two of us crammed into the car for three days without breaks other than sleeping is a BAD idea!).  
  • Can we take a train?  Again, that takes nearly as much time as driving, and it costs as much as flying Business / First Class.  I wish that it were an option, because I would dearly love to travel by train just for the experience of it, but so far it isn't economically feasible.  Then there's the fact that in order to get from Dallas to Orlando we have to take a train to Chicago, then another train to Washington DC and THEN a train to Orlando.
  • Can we take a bus?  You would be surprised at just how much bus tickets cost, and yet again it takes more time than the Husbeast can spare from work.
This is all for a relatively short trip within the borders of our own country.  If we think about traveling outside of the United States, then even MORE issues come into play, like how long we'll be sitting in one place and how comfortable the seats are for an 8+ hour flight.  I can manage to live with the bruises on my hips from a two or three hour flight, but if I had to try and squeeze into a Coach-class seat for eight or more hours, I would be in severe pain and probably not be able to walk very well once we landed.

It is at moments like these when I am at my weakest.  I find myself struggling to maintain my love of my body, and TLV (The Little Voice) inside my head starts whispering all of those negative things about being fat. 

"If you weren't fat, then you could travel wherever and whenever you liked without worrying about these kinds of things."

"If you weren't fat, then you wouldn't see people get that panicked look on their face when you board a plane and they realize there's an empty seat next to them, nor the relieved looks when you sit down somewhere away from them."

"If you weren't fat, you could travel more.  You've always dreamed of traveling more, to places like Australia and Great Britain and Japan.  But even if you flew there without dying from being squished into those little airplane seats, most of those countries don't have furniture that accomodates people as fat as you."

And then it morphs into things like:

"You should just stay at home and hide in your house.  No one wants to put up with your Fatty McFatness anyway." and other thoughts that society has thrown at me for my entire life.  All of which can spin me deep into a downward spiral that it takes days to fight my way back out of and into a healthy state of mind again.

I find myself thinking about trying to lose weight, knowing how unsuccessful I've been at it in the past, knowing how the statistics show that it is about as likely for me to lose weight and keep it off as it is for me to be elected President of the United States.  But still, TLV whispers that maybe the statistics are wrong in MY case, and maybe I'll be the exception, and don't I owe it to myself to try again?

In the end it comes down to the fact that in order to go and enjoy the company of our friends and family in a place that we love to visit, I'm going to have to book those airplane seats, and deal with the horrid anxiety that goes along with airplane travel.  I'll have to deal with the looks, and the comments, and the potential semi-hidden sneers when I ask for a seat-belt extender.  It will temporarily take away from the joy of my trip.  I know this because I've lived through it many times before.  All that I can do is get through those moments and make sure to enjoy the positive things that much more, and to do so while trying to shut down the tapes in my head that repeat society's messages to my fat self.

I have to admit, though, it would be nice to take a trip for once and just enjoy it all of the way from planning to the return home.  It makes me sad that I will never experience that carefree kind of travel, and that others will never have that either.  It makes me sad that this particular blog won't have my usual happy, positive ending.  I wish that it would, but right now I can't find it.

Why?  Because we're fat and traveling while fat is almost a crime.  We aren't allowed to have lives, to have fun, to enjoy life.  We should be hiding in our homes until we're slender enough for public acceptance.

I guess I'll start looking at flights now.  There's no time like the present to ratchet up the battle against self-hatred.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

So, I have a question for you...

Dear Faithful Readers, I have a question that I would like to put out there for everyone to stop and seriously think about.  It is a question that, at first glance, seems to be easily answered.  However, if we stop and really ponder it, I find that the answer is not so easy for me to come up with after all.

"Lys?  You have intrigued us." I hear you say (I hope! *grin*), "Whatever is this question that you have to ask?"

Well, Dear Readers, the question is thus:

"Do we, as members of society, have a responsibility to those around us to choose healthy behaviours?"

As I said, at first glance the answer seems easy.  Yes!  Right?  I will bet that your first response was to instinctually say "yes" to the question.  You probably flashed through thoughts of friends and family who want us all to stay around as long as possible.  Then you may have had thoughts of the high cost of health care, and how being as healthy as possible supposedly cuts those, aiding the economy and our own personal finances. 

It is understandable that all of these things would pass through your minds, because these are the messages that we get pushed on our consciousness and subconscious every day.  We are told that we have a responsibility to eat "right", to exercise, to look young, to look slender, to be beautiful / handsome, to have no belly except for a six-pack.  We're told we should smell nice, have beautifully styled hair, wear fashionable clothes, and moisturize our skin into softness.  Wear sunscreen!  Avoid sweets!  Brush your teeth!  We have to have minty fresh, blindingly white smiles!

Over and over these thoughts are crammed down our throats.  Over and over the drumbeat sounds.  But I would ask that you take a moment and shut out the pounding of societal pressures and really THINK about what I am asking.

Are we responsible to anyone other than ourselves when it comes to making choices about our health?

My answer is "No.  We are not."

Hang on!  Hang on!  I hear the protests from here.  Let me give you my reasoning, and explain my position.  I hope that you will give it a fair hearing and perhaps even allow it to give you an alternative way of looking at health and responsibility.

I have thought long and hard about this after having similar questions posed to me by other bloggers in their writings, and it was a struggle.  First I had to get past the automatic response that I was so used to, and had even used to try and get The Husbeast to adopt healthier behaviours. 

"I want you around for a long time.  If you love me and want to spend your life with me, why not eat better / exercise / insert other "healthy" behaviours here so that we will have more of that time together?"

You would think that it would be incumbent upon a partner or loved one to want to have the "best" life possible, right?  But who is to define what a "best" life is?  To someone who absolutely detests exercise or vegetables, is it their obligation to routinely do something that they hate just because someone else wants them to?  Do I have the right to demand that of someone else?  The reasons for the demand don't really matter, what matters is that I am trying to impose my will, my belief in the PROPER way to live on someone else.  How is that any different than telling someone else that their religion is wrong or that their choice of life partner is wrong?

Telling someone that they should not eat that piece of cake, or that they shouldn't smoke that cigarette, or that they shouldn't have that beer because those behaviours aren't healthy is not my right nor my responsibility.  It is their right and their responsibility to decide for themselves whether those behaviours are something that they wish to pursue or not.  (And before we get dragged off-course, there is a difference between these examples and things such as driving while intoxicated, in which there is actually a chance that someone other than the person in question will be physically harmed by the responsible person's actions.)

Does the Mayor of New York actually have the right to tell people that they cannot buy a soda larger than 16 ounces?  Who is he to decide what "healthy" behaviours to legislate and which ones to leave alone?  Is that any different than requiring, by law, that every citizen run at least 2 miles per day?

If The Husbeast decides that it is important to him to make himself eat vegetables more often in an attempt to have a healthier diet, then it is awesome that he is willing to make that sacrifice in order to spend more time with me, but if he just doesn't want to what good does it do for me to nag him and do my best to make him feel guilty over it?  Then he either gives in just to shut me up, and resents me the entire time...or he goes all stubborn and decides to avoid vegetables even more than before just to prove his point that he won't be pushed around.

Then there's the "cost to society" argument.  Do I owe it to society to adopt as many healthy behaviours as possible?  Why?  Does that mean that equal pressure should be put on people who are fat, people who smoke, people who drink, people who don't exercise (no matter WHAT size they are), people who engage in dangerous sports, people who drive cars, people who ride motorcycles, people who drink sodas, people who enjoy a doughnut now and then, people who go paleo, people who go vegetarian, people who only eat raw foods?   Every one of those things has been shown to have drawbacks in some way or another.  How do we, as a society, decide which so-called "healthy" behaviours are the right ones?

When do we start regulating every aspect of our lives?  Do we send someone to Sleep Prison if they get less than the recommended 8 hours per night?

As I thought more and more about it, I came to realize that I owe no one and no one owes me.  It is completely my decision whether I sit in my recliner or go walk around the block.  It is completely my decision whether I monitor my blood sugars or ignore them.  It is completely my decision whether I eat a salad or a steak.  I resent anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.  So what right have I to tell them otherwise?  Even The Husbeast has the right to decide for himself what he eats and whether he exercises or not.  (Don't let him know I said that. *snerk*  JUST KIDDING! It really is his decision!)

We have so many societal pressures put on us every day.  So many times we're told directly or indirectly that we're just not good enough.  How often do we put that pressure on others without realizing it?  How often do we say things like, "You should eat this food instead of that one because it is healthier for you." or "You should work out more, it would make you feel better."  We do so out of concern most of the time, out of honest caring for the wellbeing of our friends and loved ones, and that is an admirable motive.  But the next time you find yourself about to make one of those remarks, stop and think first.  Is what you're going to say really any of your business?  Or are you doing what is known in a lot of circles as "concern trolling"?  Is it really any different than walking up to someone's grocery cart and pulling food out of it while saying, "You don't need to eat that."?

Not really.  You may think that it is, but the only difference is in degree of intrusiveness.  It isn't that different at all.

Another thought that I will leave you with is this:  For some of us, that kind of comment only serves to kick in our stubborn streak.  The more someone tells me that I should eat a certain way, do a certain exercise, even read a certain book or see a certain movie, the more likely that I will refuse to do so because I absolutely detest being told what to do.  I'm a semi-mature adult, and can make my own decisions and live with my own consequences just fine, thank you.

And when it comes down to consequences, the only person who really has to live with the consequences of my health decisions is myself.  No one else HAS to do so.  The Husbeast may choose to do so, because he loves me, but he has the option and right to choose to leave at any time.  I have the same option and right in regards to him and his choices.  Neither of us OWES anything to anyone or society at large.

Those are my thoughts.  You, as always, have the option to think about them or not, to consider them or to walk away.  That's the beauty of self-determination.  I hope, however, that you will at least consider them a bit and that they will give you something to think about.  It never hurts to re-assess our assumptions, and the assumption that we owe "good health habits" to society is a very pervasive one.

Thank you for reading. I hope that it was enjoyable and that maybe, just maybe, someone somewhere got something out of it. :)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sleep is overrated, right?

Have you ever had one of those nights where you know that you should go to bed but you find yourself still awake hours after the first time you tell yourself "I should go to bed."?

Yeah, this is one of those.

Somehow when it comes to getting enough sleep I turn into a stubborn two year old who protests going to bed even as their eyes droop and they fight back yawns.  The difference is that at my age I should really know better.

Logically I know that I have to be awake and functioning in approximately 4.5 hours and on the road in 5 hours, but even knowing this information hasn't gotten me to bed yet.

Part of it, I think, is the fact that when I'm left alone and have no obligations I am quite naturally a night owl.  I am totally at my best when I go to bed around 5 a.m. and wake up around noon.  I need less sleep, and the sleep that I get is more refreshing than when I make myself go to bed at 10 or 11 at night and get up at 6 or 7 a.m.

Why?  I have no idea.  I just know that my body thinks that sunrise is a wonderful thing as long as you haven't been to bed yet, and that morning was made to be slept through.  Breakfast should be lunch, and lunch should be dinner, and dinner should be eaten around 10 p.m. or so.  Or later.

Unfortunately the rest of the world does not seem to share my body's beliefs, and so I am forced to regularly make myself go against my nature and go to bed at what other people consider a "reasonable" time, and get up at oh-god-thirty.  The only thing worse than that is when you have to do it and then deal with the dreaded Morning Person on top of it all.

You know the type, right?  They bounce out of bed as soon as the merest hint of light appears on the horizon, and cheerfully start chattering away at you like they don't have a care in the world.  They ENJOY morning!  I will admit that I have had fantasies of what I would like to do to them as I burrowed deeper under my blankets and pulled my pillow over my head, determinedly ignoring them for as long as possible.  Luckily for the Morning People of the world, I have not given in to those impulses.  Yet.  There was one time, however, when a full 64 ounce Gatorade bottle was only kept from being launched at someone because there was an innocent bystander who was ALSO trying to ignore the Morning Person and the bystander was between us.  I didn't want to miss (my aim is bad at that time of day) and hit her by accident.  If I had been more sure of my aim, though, it would have been a different story.

Take my warning, Morning People.  Be aware that the Night Owl that you are insisting on talking to brightly to is probably envisioning you with a gag in your mouth or some other alternative.  Don't push it.  Just back away slowly and stay away until they have either taken in enough caffeine or Vitamin B Complex to put on a facade of social normalcy, or until it is 11 a.m. at the earliest.  Noon would be even better.  Why take chances?

As for me, right now I am going to head to bed.  I don't want to go to bed.  I'm working really hard to ignore the book sitting next to my computer because I would love to stay up longer and read some more of it.  If I did that, though, I would end up not going to bed at all, and that would make life really difficult later in the day.

So sleep well when you can, and if you can, and if you can't just remember that you are NOT alone.  There are other Night Owls out there, and we empathize!!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Purpose of Life

I passed a sign today that said, "The purpose of life is to have a life of purpose." and while it sounds good to begin with, the more I examined that statement, the less I find that I agree with it.

Don't get me wrong, I think that having purpose in your life is an important thing, and that humanity loses its center when there is no purpose, both on an individual basis and a group basis.  There is a reason that the World War II generation is so often held up to us as a positive example, because they had purpose as individuals and as a society.  They used that purpose to forge themselves into an amazing force for great (and mostly good, with some glaring exceptions) changes in the world.

But overall, do I think that having a life of purpose is THE reason we are alive?  I'm not so sure of that.

You see, as I think about it more and more, I find that I believe our purpose in life is to live..  Not just to exist, or to go about our day to day routine in monotonous regularity without thinking about it, but to really and truly LIVE.  I think that we have a responsibility to ourselves to truly do our best to be fully in each moment.  I believe that we do ourselves a disfavour by letting so many moments pass without investing ourselves in them. 

It isn't easy to fully experience every moment.  Goodness knows I'm no expert at it.  I have way too many moments in my life that slip past me without me realizing it.  Time goes on its wibbly wobbly, timey wimey way and before I know it the day has passed and evening has come and I have let hours slip away without giving them the attention that they deserve.

How many times have you driven home from work, your mind on things like what you have to get done the next day and what you are going to make for dinner, only to find that you are pulling into the garage with little to no recollection of the actual drive there?  Have you ever looked up and realized that you were halfway to where you wanted to go, but had no recollection of driving the first half of the route?  I have done that often, and it startles me every time.

As a result of my realization I have been making a concerted effort to be more present in my life.  I try not to wish that time would pass more quickly so that I can get to some special moment because I honestly feel that every moment has its own glimmer of special if we can find it.  That is not to say that it is wrong to look forward to things, or to remember other things fondly, but rather that I want to experience each moment that I have, and to experience it fully and completely.  I may still look forward to a special moment, or even dread a moment that is coming up, but I do not want that anticipation to drown out the experiences that I have before the anticipated time arrives.

I wonder how it would change our lives and our worlds if we all spent more time in The Now, really letting each moment shine on its own, than we currently do.  I think about how perhaps there would be fewer accidents, fewer misunderstandings, and fewer hurt feelings or mis-spoken words.  I can't be sure, but I would like to think so, anyway.

For now, I encourage you to allow yourself to live in the moment more often.  Be aware of the future and of what has gone past, but give the weight of your attention to the moment and all that it encompassees.  I think that you will find it interesting, and that you will find that it gets easier as you go and hopefully, sometime soon, we will start to see the positive results of that effort.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Contentment Times Three

Some people are cat people and some people are dog people, and then there are those of us who are both.  Now, currently I fall into the cat people category because we haven't got a dog.  At first we were reluctant to get one because we were away so much between Faire and Screams and work and everything else.  When I started having more time at home we decided that it would be best to wait because Jasmine, our 13 year old cat, has been tolerant of us bringing home other kitties, but we think that a puppy would push her past her limits.  So no doggies for now.  But there will be a dog or dogs in our future, as well as cats.  I'm a firm believer in cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

Cats are amazing.  They really are.  There's just something about them that can make your day instantly better when they curl up next to you (or on you) and start purring.

I am currently in a state of Kitty Contentment Times Three.  I have one cat in my lap, one curled up in Shado's recliner near me, and one curled up in the office chair across the room.  They're all happily napping, occasionally stretching and mrrrring, and just sharing space with me.

Triple Kitty Contentment is a happy state of mind.  I woke up this morning with The Destructor curled up between my knees, Cobweb The Magnificent against my side, and Her Imperial Majesty Jasmine The Southern Belle curled up against Cobweb and my hip.  Do you know how hard it is to get up out of bed when you have three cats comfortably nestled against you?

I know that there are those of you wondering why I'm maundering on about cats without any sort of point.  It is hard to explain, really.  All that I can tell you is that my life is made easier by my four-footed little furballs.  Yes, they add chores in terms of things like scooping kitty litter, washing and filling food and water dishes, extra cleaning to get the stray fur off furniture and carpets.  And they add extra expenses for food, litter, vet visits and the like.  I know.  But they also add some undefined, unexplainable wonderfulness.  It is like their contentment is contagious, and when they're feeling it, they radiate it outwards into the world and make life just a little mellower.

Everyone needs something in their life that makes them pause and take a deep breath and just enjoy life now and then.  Right now for me that something is my cats.  I'm so very lucky that they have consented to live here and be spoiled rotten.  I honestly can't imagine my life without them.  I just know that having them around makes me ...yup...content. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Milestone: Thin Mints

Sometimes it is hard to see my own life clearly.  I make changes and then don't notice the results happening because they happen so gradually.  And then something happens that really brings home that changes have happened, and are continuing to occur. 

I've blogged about a couple of those milestones already:  discovering that my once-ever-present love of frosted strawberry toaster pastries has gone by the wayside, and the startling realization that I no longer enjoyed the taste of raspberry and coconut covered, cream-filled yellow cake pastries.  It caught me off-guard both times, when I found out that things I used to have to restrain myself from gorging on were no longer acceptable to my taste buds or my body as a whole.

Well, I've hit another milestone today.  Luckily, not one of complete aversion because it really would have made me sad to lose this food altogether, but one of moderation.

I don't know about in your neck of the woods, Dear Readers, but where I currently reside it is that dreaded and yet so very desired time of the year:  Girl Scout Cookie Season.  You know how it works, right?  Those little Pushers get out there with their bright, innocent smiles and the piles upon piles of cheerfully colored boxes containing chocolate, coconut, peanut butter, mint, lemon, and other delicious ingredients, and they entice you.  They cajole, they encourage...Nay!  They BLATANTLY PUSH those boxes of temptation at you, knowing that you can only resist for so long before you purchase piles of them.  And as you hand over your cash, your check, your credit card, they smile and reinforce your self-justification by talking about how the money is going to support such a good cause!

Then you get home and you look at the boxes and wince, knowing that you seriously overpaid, but deep in your heart you don't care because they are so full of tasty yumminess (and the money really DOES go to a good cause!).

If it isn't bad enough that you can't go to a grocery store or large retailer without having to pass tables manned by the Little Green Predators, they send their Minions out into the world.  Parents, loving aunts and uncles, friends of the family, all armed with The Sheet of Doom!  You know the one, right?  The order form with photos of the various cookies lovingly photographed and depicted, teasing you with glistening chocolate and powdered sugar.  They shove the sheet at you, talking about how Little Sally is only FIVE boxes away from winning the Troop's top seller award, and if you bought just one box, you could help her reach that goal.  They do this knowing that NO ONE can buy just one box of Girl Scout cookies.  I think there's actually a law against it somewhere.  And so you fork over even more money, and before you know it you have a freezer and cupboards full of boxes, taunting you silently, telling you that they KNOW you will open them with the intention of eating just one or two, and before you know it the whole box will be gone.

(BTW, Girl Scout Cookie makers, don't think that we, the General Public, have NOT noticed that the boxes are getting smaller but the price isn't!  Just sayin'...)

We did our civic duty, and ordered *mumble* boxes of cookies from one of our local Scouts.  They arrived, and have been sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  We've actually both done really well about inhaling them, and only one box of Samoas fell victim to a serious snack attack.  The other boxes either haven't been opened yet, or the two that were opened were eaten pretty gradually.  But the big test remained.  You see, the Thin Mints were still sealed in their pretty green boxes.  Until today.

I approached them with mingled anticipation and trepidation.  I know from past experience that Thin Mints are my Achilles Heel.  I can show restraint with other cookies, but Thin Mints?  Oh lovely Thin Mints...they CALL to me, and much like the sailors of old, I have found myself unable to resist their siren song.

But I opened the box.  The familiar and much-loved mingled scent of chocolate and mint rose, wafting to my nostrils like a delicate perfume.  I pulled out the cellophane-wrapped tube o' cookies and carefully opened it (You don't want to have it split and have the cookies go flying!  That would be a travesty and sacrilege!) and selected the first cookie.  I knew it was a true Girl Scout Thin Mint because it promptly stuck to the second cookie in the package, refusing to come unstuck.  Oh no!  I was forced to eat them both or not at all!  I suppose, Dear Readers, that you can readily determine the choice I made in light of this development.

I bit into them, tasting the chocolate and the mint, and allowed myself to truly enjoy the crunchy lightness of the cookie along with the creamy smoothness of the chocolate outside.  The mint was just the right amount, refreshing and cool, lightening the richness of the chocolate.  I ate another, and another (two...stuck together again).  And then it happened.


My body said "enough".

And I listened.

As you know if you've been following this blog at all, I have been working slowly on making healthier choices in my diet.  I have been incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, working on lowering my meat consumption and finding alternate protein sources, lightening the amount of starches...especially white ones...and making sure that when I use fats, I use ones that taste good and make sure that they are used in reasonable quantities.  (Yes, that includes real butter.  I love butter.  I will never give up my butter, but I don't have to as it is completely healthy in moderate amounts.)

I didn't think that it was making that much difference in my tastes.  I mean, I noticed that I can more readily taste artificial ingredients after months of eating as many organic whole foods as was feasible, and we definitely use a LOT less salt in our house than most people, but overall I kind of just didn't notice how much my eating habits had changed.

Until I found myself twisting the cellophane closed and putting the tube o' cookies back into the bright green box after only eating five Thin Mints.

It really does make a difference.  When you make changes, small changes a little at a time, it adds up.  I know that we hear it all of the time and most people just kind of discount it as something everyone says but no one does.  I have done that same sort of discounting in the past, but I know better.  It has been proven to me three times over at this point.  I am making changes, small changes, and they are working.  This is the most encouraging thing that has happened to me in a while, and it happened in the midst of a lot of discouraging things.  I find myself revitalized a little because now I know that I have accomplished some goals without even realizing it, and if I can accomplish those goals, then there are other goals that I have thought were out of reach but now have been made aware just how achievable they can be.

So, Dear Readers, when you get discouraged and think that nothing you do matters and that life will continue as it always has no matter what you try, I ask you to come back here and read The Story of The Thin Mints and allow yourself to believe.  If I can do it, if I can make changes and have them produce results in my life, then you can too.  They don't have to be changes in your eating habits, they can be any kind of positive changes.  Give them a try, know that you won't be perfect at them, give yourself permission to take two steps forward and one step back KNOWING that still puts you one step further than you were when you started.

You can do it.

We'll do it together.

What do you say?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Presenting an Image

Have you ever interacted with someone who represents a business and had them be rude?  Not only rude, but intentionally mean-spirited?  I just had that happen to me today, and quite frankly, I don't understand it. 

I requested information from someone, the circumstances aren't important, and got an e-mail back that completely shocked me into open-jawed surprise.  That was quickly followed by fury, which I supressed long enough to send a polite reply back ending the conversation. 

The tone and words that were used in the e-mail were extremely insulting, and it frustrates me.  If anyone who worked for me ever replied to a simple request for information in such a manner, there would be a Come to Lys talk in the offing.  Even if the request were something that the recipient felt was outside of their duties or overly demanding, it is incumbent upon any representative of a business to present themselves in a professional manner. 

I do not feel that my request was over the top.  As a matter of fact, had the reply been put in more polite terms, I would probably have been quite happy to discuss the terms of further business which would have resulted in me giving said company money.  But as it stands right now, not only will they not get my money at this juncture, they will never get business from myself or my company.  Nor will I ever encourage anyone I know to do business with this particular branch of the company, at least until the person in question is no longer responsible for dealing with potential customers.  I won't bad-mouth them or spread the details of the incident because that is between myself and them, but I will not go out of my way to do anything positive for them either.

So, folks, remember this when you're having a bad day at work.  Yes, it is easy to slip and take it out on the person who calls or e-mails with just one more question than you can handle for the day, but stop and think before you do so.  You aren't just representing yourself, you are representing your company.  You don't know who the person is that you are talking to, and you don't know who they may know or do business with.  Word of mouth is an amazing and horrible thing.  If you do things right, it can get you a lot of business that you might not have gotten otherwise.  If you do things wrong, it can hurt you in the end.

You also don't know what the other person is dealing with in their day already.  If they are having a good day, well, you just killed that.  If they are already having a bad day, you have just made it worse.  Is that really the kind of effect that you want to have on other people?  Is it the kind of reputation that you want to achieve?  Personally, I want people to be comfortable contacting me, knowing that if I CAN help, I will, and if I can't I will let them know in a reasonable and polite manner as to why and what, exactly, I can do instead.

I am going to try to let this go now, because it isn't worth the anger that it has caused.  But the disappointment will remain with me and color any future interactions I have with this particular company.  Since there is a history pre-dating this incident, that will be a hard thing, but since I am now aware of how things stand, I can gauge future interactions accordingly.

Remember, it just isn't worth a moment of irritation.  The consequences may be further reaching than you realize.  Even if they aren't, and it is just confined to one person, is that really how you want others thinking of you?  Really?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Say It Now

One of the hazards of having a large group of friends and acquaintances is that there are much higher chances of having someone die on any given day.  Our many overlapping circles have had several losses over the past few months, and it takes its toll on the people left behind.

What it also does, at least in my case, is make me wonder.  You see, life goes on.  It isn't easy, and depending on how close you are to the departed it can be hard just to make yourself get up and face the next day, or the day after that and so on.  But eventually, even for the closest of friends / family, life does go on.  There is always that gaping hole shaped like the one that you lost, but the ache eventually dulls even if it doesn't fully go away.  And life goes on.

When it happens, though, it is common in this day and age of social media for people to express their sorrow and grief by talking about the one that they have lost.  You see walls and walls of friends and family discussing how much the person meant to them, and talking about events in their shared pasts.  It is beautiful and allows for a shared mourning, and I don't ever want anyone to think that I'm putting down those who do such things, especially since I have done so myself.

But it really does make me wonder.  Why don't we say these things when people are still around to hear them?  There is so much negativity in the world, and we could all make the world a brighter place if we said these kinds of things to the people we love while they were still around to appreciate the words and the emotions behind them.  It isn't necessary to make huge, emotional outpourings a constant thing, but rather why don't we simply make sure that the people in our lives know how much we value them?

I have tried to make a conscious effort to tell people what they mean to me more often, but I still do not manage to do it often enough.  I am striving to get better at it.  My goal is that when I finally leave this world I want everyone I have in my life, everyone that I care about, to know just how much they mean to me.

Imagine what it would be like if we all did that?

So my challenge to you, Dear Readers, is that you start making it known to the people around you how much they mean to you.  You can make the effort with large gestures or small ones, but it is important that the effort be made.  Tell your family and your friends that you love them.  Do it constantly.  Let there be no doubt about it.  Just as importantly, tell them why.  Let them know what it is that you love about them.   If they make you laugh, if they are always looking out for others, if they knit a mean sweater or bake a completely decadent cake, then tell them so.  Don't think that you'll tell them later, because you never know if later will actually ever come.

Remember, most of us wonder what others will say when we're gone.  Wouldn't it be better to say it to us while we're still here to appreciate it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Plague, Take Three

This is a warning:  I'm going to whine a little, and yes I would like some cheese with that, please!  Also, be aware that I am on cold medication and have lost half of my brain in the form of this may be slightly incoherent.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!! (Imagine a little skull and crossbones here, just for effect.)

I have The Plague again.  This is the THIRD time since Christmas that I have been sick, and I'm tired of it! (See what I did there?  Sick?  And tired? MWAH!  I crack myself up sometimes!)  But seriously, I have over 100 items on my To Do list, and I'm currently huddled in the recliner with a blanket over me and a cat lapwarmer curled up between my knees.  I SHOULD be doing things.  I have plenty of things to do, and I think of more every day.  And you would think that I would enjoy being in a recliner with a blanket and a lap-kitty, but even things you enjoy get old after a while.  This is the third time in two months, and I am mentally done with it!

Have you ever noticed that when you're sick, everyone has the perfect cure?  The thing that always works for them, and that they don't hesitate to throw out there?  Of course, there are two amusing parts to this for me:

1.  Most of the advice contradicts itself.  Person A will say to do something, and Person B will say that you should do the exact opposite.  It would be kind of amusing if I weren't in the middle of expelling the entire contents of my skull into mountains of tissues.

2.  If you remind people of their advice to you when THEY get sick, they don't want to hear it.  Of course, I generally don't want advice from others when I'm sick either, so I can get that in an odd sort of way.  Because really, when I'm sick I want sympathy, soft tissues, orange juice mixed with real ginger ale, and chicken noodle soup.

I don't really like chicken noodle soup outside of when I'm sick.  I mean, it is all right and everything, but it isn't something that I reach for as a matter of course.  But there is something about a really good chicken noodle soup that hits the spot when you're not feeling well.  But it has to be good soup, with a rich, homemade stock and lots of veggies, and the long, stringly noodles (not the short, fat ones).  Oh, and chunks of real chicken.  I'm talking about good amounts of chicken here, not the occasional tiny scrap.  It can't be some gourmet version of chicken soup, or some adulterated version. Basic chicken noodle soup is what I'm talking about, with carrots and celery and onions and maybe, just maybe a few peas or even some corn and green beans, but nothing else.  No fancy, schmancy versions with crazy ingredients that you only see used on The Food Network (tm), just a basic bowl of yummy goodness.

With crackers.  They are a must.  I'm more flexible on the cracker front, and am willing for it to be any number of types of crackers.  But don't mess with my chicken noodle soup!

So if you love me and you want to bring me something when I'm sick, bring me a small pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.  Or some orange juice and real ginger ale.  At least until I start getting better.  I can tell I'm getting better because I will start craving scrambled eggs.  Don't ask me, I don't know.  I just know that whenever I'm sick, I've reached the turning point and am on my way toward being well when the craving for plain scrambled eggs with salt and pepper and a little extra butter to finish them comes along.  I know that is odd, but that is how it works.

For right now, though, I'm still in the Soup Phase of The Plague (Round Three).  I live and die by my soft Kleenex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Emergen-C and Advil Gelcaps.

And my recliner.

And my blanket.

And my lap-kitty.

Thank goodness for all of them, because without them I would be a little ball of misery.

Now all that I need is some chicken noodle soup!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


The Husbeast and I spent this weekend at ConDFW.  ConDFW is a writers' convention here in Dallas that is mostly focused on Fantasy and Science Fiction writers, but in recent years has begun to draw other kinds of writers in as well. 

I love this convention.  For all of the other conventions that I volunteer at, visit, and have been on panels for, ConDFW has a very special place in my heart.  One reason is that it is at ConDFW that our good friend Rhonda Eudaly Simpson introduced us to Selina Rosen of Yard Dog Press, and Selina eventually became the publisher who published my first paid work, and my Husbeast's first piece of paid work.  So there are warm, fond memories of this Con.

The second reason that I love this one is that it is well and truly a writer's convention.  Some conventions have a writer's track amongst the many other tracks, but this one centers itself about writing and selling fictional works of either short story or novel length.  The panelists are writers and publishers, the attendees are writers, publishers, aspiring writers and aspiring publishers.  All of the panels have important information for someone, though every panel isn't for everyone.  It is hands-down the most INFORMATIVE convention that we go to every year.

Lastly, I love this convention because it re-kindles my creative juices.  It helps fire up my urge to put words together to form stories, and to send those stories out into the world to be enjoyed by others.  I know that there are those who say, "If you're a REAL writer, you just can't NOT write."  Um...yeah.  Those are the same people who are either so wildly successful already that they've forgotten what it is like to have to fit writing in with the whole "paying the bills" thing, or they are the people who write without any intent to ever submit.  Quite frankly, while I love writing and I love sharing my writing, some days it really just is hard to fit that block of time into the day between everything else. 

There is housework to be done, dishes to be washed, grocery shopping to do, dinner to be made.  I have to work on my jam business, I have to work on continuing to apply for day jobs since I got laid off.  I have projects that I'm working on that aren't writing but still need attention (a fan film movie shoot, crafting, The Great Reorganization, and so on).  And sadly, I have more hobbies than time as well, including photography, singing, hand-sewing / beading, faire, learning to crochet, knitting, learning to quilt, embroidery / cross-stitch, reading, and so on).  Oh yeah, and then there are folks like friends and The Husbeast who oddly enough want to spend time with me now and then.

So I love to write, I find time to write when I can, and I hope to get more sales over time.  But it is easy to lose steam once in a while.  ConDFW builds that steam back up for me.  I come out of the convention with ideas for new stories, techniques that will make my existing stories better, and contacts / resources that will allow me to expand my skills and my contacts (equally important things in the writing world!).

Sadly, however, it appeared that attendance was down at the Con again this year.  I hope that it doesn't cause enough issues that they decide they can't continue, because this convention truly is my touchstone, my way back to excitement and enthusiasm when the world has been wearing me down.  If it does end, then I will find other ways to fan the flames of my writing passion when I need to, but I will always miss ConDFW if it isn't around.  So cross your fingers for me in the hopes that they manage to swing another year, and that they manage to increase next year's numbers and continue on for many years to come.

And next year, if there is a ConDFW and if you love to write, I promise you that you will be greatly served by attending, even if you have to move Heaven and Earth to get there!

Thank you, ConDFW!  It was a wonderful weekend, as always!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The anniversary no one wants to celebrate

I was looking at my online calendar today and I realized that in exactly five days I will have been unemployed for one entire year.  Talk about the anniversary that no one wants to celebrate!  I can't think of a faster way to take a relatively decent day and drive it into the ground.  As I made that realization all of the cheerfulness of an enjoyable weekend ran out and depression set in.

I'm really good at what I do.  I know that it isn't generally socially acceptable to toot your own horn, but I really am one of the best administrative assistants out there.  I'm organized, reliable, and can juggle multiple crises at the same time and generally get positive results from all of them.

So why can't I find a job?

Am I asking too much money?  I guess it is silly to expect that someone with over 20 years of administrative experience, including six as the assistant to the CEO of a company actually get paid more than $9 per hour.  Yeah, I actually saw a job listing where they wanted an Office Manager and listed some pretty high level job skills...and offered $9 per hour.  That is not acceptable.  Out of my paltry six interviews in the space of twelve months I actually got one tentative offer for a position where they offered $12 per hour for an Office Manager job that was intended to run the office AND be the person in charge when the company's owner went out of town, which he said he did frequently.  I countered with $14, which is a LOT lower than what I was making, but if there were bonuses (which there supposedly were) and raises, I could start a little low for now.

He said no.  For all of the things he wanted someone to do, he couldn't bring himself to pay $14 per hour.  He didn't come back and offer again.  Apparently he found someone who would do the job for that little.  I presume that he got what he paid for.

Am I just out of touch with what employers want?  By replying to their questions with the information that I prefer a job where I am told what they want and then left to accomplish that goal, am I shooting myself in the foot?  Have companies actually reached the point they've apparently been striving for?  Big Industry Lobbyists have managed to coerce our so-called representatives into passing laws that have turned education in our country into a laughingstock, turning out drones who know how to mark little boxes but can't think their way out of those self-same boxes.  Is that all that companies want these days?  People who have to be given each instruction one at a time, no independent thinking or problem solving allowed?  No wonder we're falling further and further behind the rest of the world in almost every area.

I'm tired.  I'm depressed.  I feel useless.  I started a company and in my optimistic moments I still hope that this will be my way out of the corporate grind, but then moments like this hit and I see a stupid dream that will only serve to pull money out of our household budget even faster than if I hadn't started it.  Jars of jam sitting on shelves may look pretty, but they don't pay the bills.

No decisions right now.  I'm definitely not in the mindset to make any kind of decision.  I just...feel weighed down.  Like there's no way to make things come out right in the end.  I've been crying off and on for about two hours now.  Not sure how much longer it will continue.  It will pass, I hope, but right now...right now it isn't good.

I feel useless.

Happy anniversary, unemployment.  Happy anniversary.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolved: To have the best year yet

We all know the routine, right?  On New Year's Eve we go out with friends, have a party, make drunken resolutions at the top of our lungs that we know (and everyone around us knows) aren't going to be kept longer than a week or two at most.  Then we move on into the year and continue with our lives as usual.

So this year I decided to make one resolution, and to set goals and expectations for myself that will help me achieve that resolution.  My resolution?  To make this the best year I've had yet in my life.  This won't be easy to do, mind you, because I've had some pretty darned good years!  But this will be the best one yet, because I'm the only person who can do what needs to be done to make this come true.

I have goals and expectations for myself that will move this resolution forward. 

  • I'm going to move more.  I'm not happy with how I feel when I move right now, so this will have to change.  The only way to change it is by moving more.
  • I'm going to continue eating more whole foods and having fewer processed foods in the house.  The husbeast and I have made great strides in this already, but there is always room for improvement.
  • I am going to work on goals that have been put off in recent years.  This is going to be my year to wrap up loose ends.  We all have those chains dragging behind us in a very Marley-esque fashion, the things that we started and never finished or intended to do and never did.  Well, this is my year to address those things.  Some of them are private, and few people other than myself will ever know that I dealt with them.  Some are more public, and everyone will know when they happen.  But happen they will and they will happen this year.
I know that a lot of people choose "lose weight" as a resolution.  They have their reasons, and if they are comfortable with those reasons, well, then that is their choice.  It isn't my place to tell them that they are right or wrong.  What I will tell you is this:  choose goals that will make you happy.  Make your goals things that will result in you growing in some way, goals that will lead to a happier, more fulfilled self.

And when you are choosing those goals, don't listen to what the media or outside sources say you should do.  Take a few moments as the old year ends and the new one begins, sit quietly, and really LISTEN to the voice deep in your soul.  Not The Little Voice (TLV) that I've talked about before, not the voice that tells you everything that is wrong with you, but rather your Heart Voice.  Let it speak to you and tell you what will truly fill a place in your heart, mind, and soul, and then take the time to plan out how to achieve that goal.  Even if it seems unattainable, or impossible, let yourself believe in it.  We can achieve amazing things when we let ourselves believe.

If you believe, and strive, and work on your goal moment by moment then by this time next year I hope that you join me in saying, "2013 was the BEST year yet!  Now to make 2014 even BETTER!"

Happy New Year, everyone!  Now go and believe!!!!

2013: Goals and Expectations

It is the beginning of a new Gregorian calendar year, and it is traditional to name your resolutions at this time of year.  Of course, it is also traditional to break those resolutions before the month is out.  So I'm not going to make any resolutions this year.  I am, however, putting some goals and expectations for myself out there in the belief that this will give me a measure of self-accountability.

So, in 2013 I have the following goals and expectations:

  • I will move more.  I am not happy with how I feel when I move right now and the only way to fix that is to start moving more.  I have friends who get together to exercise and someday wouldn't mind being able to join them, but I think they're full up with people at the moment, so I will start on my own and should an opportunity arise to join them, I will be more able to do so than I am right now.  I am not going to be more specific than this regarding how much I move, because if I am and I miss that EXACT goal one week / day / whatever, then I will give it all up.  So for now, movement itself is the goal.
  • Our meals will continue to become healthier.  We have made great strides in this, and I am going to move further down that path.  Whole foods, fewer quickly digested carbohydrates, more complex carbs, and a focus on making our meat portions smaller while getting additional proteins from other sources.
  • I will focus more on my business.  I have been splitting my focus and letting myself get distracted but if I truly want to be successful then I have to turn my gaze and energies fully on what it takes to achieve that success.  I would like to pay myself my first official paycheck before the end of the year.  It doesn't have to be much, but I want to reach that level of achievement.
  • In 2012 I started The Great Reorganization so that we could purge the house of all of the extra "stuff" that was cluttering our lives, and so that we could make room for children in our lives.  We have let that sit on the back burner for too long.  2013 will be the year of Moving Forward.  We will move forward with the rest of the purge, and we will move forward with adoption plans.  I have allowed myself to be too comfortable with where we are, rather than pushing toward where we want to be, and that will end.  It is time to continue into the next part of our lives.
These are my goals.  I am scared of some of them, and excited about some of them.  Life will change as a result of all of them, but change is what keeps us growing and learning.  And I'm ready for some changes.