Thursday, June 16, 2016

Becoming Visible, Introverts, and Dogs

It's funny. When I first got my dog, I had been living in my townhouse for about 20 months. In that time, I had one conversation with my neighbor to the west. A few hellos from the neighbor to the east. That's about it. The first day I brought my dog home, I had her in the front yard, and suddenly, I exist! A neighbor a few units down, ran out with her dog and introduced themselves. A neighbor at the end of the court came over to meet the new dog on the block. The family with two small children came over to meet and pet the new doggy (while the Mom not so subtly mentioned how much of the dog there was to love.)

Well, in hindsight, they weren't really meeting me, but rather, meeting my dog.

Ruby's Happy Place 
Nothing brings people together like a dog. Will I walk up to a complete stranger and start talking? Nope. Will I walk up to a complete stranger and start talking about how cute/big/small/furry/well behaved their dog is? You betcha. And vice-versa. I can sit on a park bench in a crowded park and people would walk past and not give me second glance.  I could probably pose naked on a park bench and still people would walk past and not see me. But sit my cute little (big) doggy next to me, all she has to do is make eye contact while wiggling her butt and people will stop and chat and want to pet her, and yes, they even talk to me.

Becoming Visible
Is it because most humans like their pets more than they like people? (I confess, I like my dog more than I like some people.) Do animals give us an immediate "safe zone" to be in while meeting other people? Is it just something in common?

Some friends Ruby made at the forest preserve
I feel like my dog has made me human again. A visible human. There are some weekends, when I am by myself, I doubt I would even leave the house if it weren't for my dog needing to go out. I have to make a conscious decision to get in my car and take her to a public park, just so I can interact with other human beings, or at least their dogs.

Such is the life of an introvert.

What do you think? Does your dog make you more social?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

It's not MY problem!

This. Attitude. Drives me crazy.

"It's not MY problem! Why should *I* have to (fill in the blank)?"

I am an observer of humans on this planet. My daughter might call me a stalker. I prefer "noticer" or "overhearer" (yes, I just made that word up.) So many opportunities present themselves to me, to overhear. And think about. I'm also an over thinker.

Shhh. I'm stalk uh, noticing something... 
This morning I was sitting in a waiting room, waiting and reading and overhearing.

"OMG I had to pay my property taxes! I hate that I have to come up with all that money twice a year."

"I know! It sucks! I hate paying the taxes. I hate having to pay for the school system. My children don't even go to school here anymore. And the library! Why should I have to pay for the library when I never even use the library? It's such a waste of my money."

"Right? My kids are grown too. But I still have to come up with $6000 every six months to pay for stuff I no longer use."

(By the way, if your property taxes are $12,000 a year, you should be pretty damn grateful that you are living in a really big house in an excellent neighborhood with a great school system.)

Also, one of the women chose to not have her property taxes rolled into her mortgage. And then complains that she has to "come up with the money." The other woman thought of a hundred things she'd rather do with the money, like put it towards that vacation home up north. That's why she decided to rent instead of own a home. (Guess what? You're still paying taxes, it's just part of your rent!)

So here's the thing. I know that nobody happily skips to the bank every 6 months to joyfully surrender thousands of dollars to pay their taxes. But we all do it. Why?

Because we live in a COMMUNITY, that's why. Our nation was founded based on a taxation system. That local property tax money goes towards keeping our roads maintained (which I'm betting they use daily.) It pays for their parks and open spaces (the ones they walk their dogs in.) And it goes towards libraries (which consist of much more than just books.) It goes towards police and fire departments (which you bet your ass they'd use if their house was burning down.) It goes towards social services, and yes, it goes towards schools (that their children have already gone through!)

When you decide to live in a community, it's your duty to support that community while you live there. If you don't want to pay a lot of taxes, move to an isolated area that has shitty schools and shitty roads and you have to wait 30 minutes for a fire truck to put out your fire. Oh wait, you don't want your kids to go to shitty schools? You don't want to wait half an hour for an ambulance or fire truck? You want to live in an area that has an excellent school district for YOUR child? You want to live in a large $400K home? Then pay up.

I suppose it's your choice to live in an area with an excellent school district while your child attends school, and a great library system while your child is eligible for story time. THEN when you no longer need these services, you can abandon the community that supported you and go live on a mountain. But remember... when you fall and break your hip...

You see, it is your problem. And my problem. Because we live in a society with other people. And our schools need money to pay for teachers to teach everyone's children. Not just yours. You are paying for your future, the children who come after your children leave the system. Your grandchildren, your neighbor's children, the children who will take care of you when you are old. You better make sure they get a good education! 

Can you imagine a world where everyone is in it for themselves and don't give a shit about anyone else? (Yes, I can almost imagine it... I know people who think that would make America great again.) I'm not even talking about people living in poverty, or the homeless (although yes, your tax dollars are putting homeless children through school and probably feeding them lunch too. They are human, they deserve an education as much as your child does.)

I paid for this sidewalk and street, you can't use it.
I am simply talking about people who choose (and are able to) live in an upper-middle class neighborhood, who have already used resources to their advantage, but complain about paying "for other people."

I paid for this park, you can't walk your dog here. 
Guess what? To me, YOU are "other people." And I will pay for the library so we can both enjoy free concerts on Tuesday nights and story time for your grandchildren. And I will pay for the fire department to send out a truck when you burn your toast and start a fire. And I will pay for schools to provide an excellent education for ALL our children, so people will want to move here and help me with my tax burden.

You see, we are all connected. We are all in this life together. We are one. Yes, even you.










Sunday, May 29, 2016

On Being a Failure... Part Two (A weight loss story)

So I wrote Part One of "On Being a Failure" about three months ago, even though I just published it yesterday. 

Because that's another thing I frequently fail at... keeping up with blogging, LOL.



As I left off in Part One, I mentioned a "brain-based diet" or way of eating that has been proved successful by science." The free videos got me all excited. I love brain based stuff. The brain fascinates me. Unfortunately, I found they wanted $1000 to join the club (okay, really $997.00) but still... can you say Red Flag?

[Side Note: I am really tired of these super nice people pretending to be concerned about a very vulnerable population, feeding them hope, promising them love, support, caring, compassion... then hitting them with a $997.00 (or only three easy payments of $333.00!) solution. The interest in this program was insane. Thousands of people signed up, but for ease, let's just say two thousand people signed up. At $1000 a piece, that's two million dollars to the program owner. Run the program a couple times a year... and well, you get the idea. Why does this make me so angry? I am not against making money. Shit, I wish I could think of something as brilliant. I just think that this has a little bit of "preying on the vulnerable" vibe to it. Feeding hope to the obese, the unhappy, the unhealthy, the ones who hate themselves, the ones who desperately need help and would do just about anything. People like me.]

So, we scrapped that idea.  But I took the info from the free videos and applied them loosely to my way of eating. Basically the gist of it is to Plan Everything. If you sit down in the morning and plan exactly what you are going to eat throughout the day, you are taking the stress off your brain to make hundreds of decisions throughout the day about what you're gonna eat. That makes total sense. You're eliminating stuff like:


Brain: Hey Body, what are we gonna eat for breakfast? Eggs and bacon? Cereal? English Muffins with PB&J? Waffles? Protein shake?  Maybe stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Should we make a lunch to bring to work? Maybe someone will ask us to lunch? Or should we make a run to the Taco Bell? Maybe we should grab a Lean Cuisine to microwave. Those candy bars in the vending machine sure look good. What should we have for dinner? Do I need to take anything out of the freezer? Tacos? But what if we go to Taco Bell for lunch? Maybe I'll make hamburgers. But then I have to stop on the way home for buns. Should I make Chicken Teriyaki? Fish? It's gonna be hot today. We should get some FroYo for dessert. Or maybe... 

Dear Brain...
Yeah, shut the hell up, Brain. Plan all your meals and snacks for the day, make (or at least plan) all your lunches for the week, and you won't have this constant dialogue in your head.

You're welcome. Feel free to send me $997.00 for this secret. Leave a comment asking for my paypal address.

I digress. How do I apply this to my life now? I plan a weekly menu, what we are going to have for dinner each day of the week. Believe it or not, it has saved me quite a bit of money at the grocery store because I know exactly what I need for the week, along with the school lunch staples and the rotating breakfast menu.  (And some of you know how much I hate grocery shopping!)

I work from home, so lunches usually consist of the previous night's leftovers. Or I will mentally tell myself at the start of the day, what I will have for lunch. Now I know what to take out of the freezer in the morning, for the nightly meal. (I used to be Queen of "Shit! I forgot to defrost something for dinner, let's go to Noodles and pick something up.")

So how has this helped me to lose weight? The beginning of February is when I started logging all my meals into an app called "MyFitnessPal" which is also linked to other apps like my FitBit and MapMyWalk, to log exercise.  (As of today, I have logged in for 119 days in a row - can I hear a woot!?) Planning my meals has been a huge help in logging my meals. It only takes me a few minutes a day to input the data, especially since the app keeps track of 'frequent' and 'recent' meals. I told the app my goals and it sets an amount of calories per day to stick to, to reach my goals. Great, right? My calorie "bank" is 1470 cal a day. Easy Peasy. Most days I am 200 calories under that without really trying. I don't feel like I am "restricted" or deprived in any way. It's a lifestyle change, I still go out to lunch with friends and a few times a month, out to dinner with my daughter. I make good choices, check the restaurant/calorie menu beforehand and relax and enjoy myself.

It took a couple weeks at the beginning of February for my body to get used to the program. Then I pretty consistently lost a pound a week. For the first time ever, without radical stress dieting, I lost weight with a healthy plan. (Can I get another woot!?)

I lost 12 lbs so far. Don't get me wrong. I am really proud of that. But no one, including me, can tell that I lost anything. Probably because I have at least another 50-60 lbs to go. As far as I can tell, it came off of my boobs and my calves, because my super expensive DDD bras are a little baggy, and I could recently zip up my boots without sweating and swearing.

But this is my Brain in May:

OH MY GOD. We are starving! We have to do everything we can to prevent Body from losing more weight! Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse! There might be a food shortage! Fat! Don't you dare move off of Ass! Rolls! You stay right there, front and center! Thighs! Stay thick!


Hey Brain...
(Brain is a jerk sometimes.)

Yeah, despite 1200 calories, and walking 1-2 miles a day, I have come to a standstill. I have tweaked my diet, eliminating more stuff, eating out less. My chiro/wellness doc felt sorry for me and divulged his "$1000 secret" to me for free. (What is it with $1000 secrets? Women pay him that much to attend a seminar where he explains the research behind this secret. It is guaranteed to accelerate weight loss to the tune of 4-8 lbs a week. It has worked for countless women, including "the Hollywood stars" he counsels... me? Nada.) I'd tell you the secret, but you'd have to send me $1000 first.

I tried this "secret" for 2 weeks. (It is NOT a pill or supplement, just a tweak in nutrition.) Dr. said I should have lost at least 4-6 lbs. My metabolism should have been on fire. Two weeks is all I could stand. This tweak had me feeling BLAH the first six hours of my day. It did not increase my energy as promised, instead made me drag myself through the day. Plus, it had me eating more of something I was trying to eat less of, although my calorie intake remained the same, it was a big FAIL.

Am I gonna give up? Not on your my life! Because it's MY life we're talking about. This meat-suit has to last a bit longer, I got things to do. My goal is still health, and I know I have a long way to go. I just don't know what the next step is, how to kick Fat off Ass. Sometimes I just feel broken. I don't know if I will ever reach my goals, but quitting isn't an option.



That's one thing I've been successful at, not quitting.





















Saturday, May 28, 2016

On Being a Failure... Part One (A Weight Loss Story)

My Greatest Success is Failing. 

Oh, I've failed in a lot of things... but it's never stopped me from trying again. I've failed to live up to the expectations of people. It's not always a bad thing to fail in this way, sometimes it leads you down new, happier paths. I've also failed in that I expect others to live up to my expectations, with the result of always being disappointed.

Japanese Proverb
But let's not get all deep and moody and philosophy-ish. There's plenty of stories about that stuff. I want to talk about every-day-life failure. For me, that would be my failure to lose weight. 

I'm not talking about "I want to look good in a pair of size 8 jeans" type of weight loss. (Although...) 

I'm talking about "If you don't lose weight, there's a bigger chance of cancer recurrence, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, GERD, arthritis, and a host of other diseases caused by obesity" type of weight loss. The serious shit. 

Some failures (like being a wife) make you give up and choose a new path. But this failure, the attempt to lose weight, makes me feel like Thomas Edison when he said "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

In the past 30 years I've found about 1000 ways that didn't work. But yet... I can't give up, it's just not in me. I've had so many setbacks and issues, and I've wanted to say "F*ck It" so many times (and sometimes I do... for a week or a month) but I always try, try again. And fail again. 


I can't blame it all on the cancer... I've always been on the "heavy" side during my adult life. After I moved back to Illinois after living in Arizona for 9 years, I had a job that was so stressful, the only way I could breathe was to run. After work every day I would go to the park across the street and run a mile around the track, just to force myself to breathe deeply. Then I could go home. A bonus was my pants started to hang off me and I lost about 30 lbs. I felt good. (My coworkers noticed. My then-husband asked why I needed new clothes.) 

My chronic plantar fasciitis and heel spurs in both feet barely allow me to walk the dog without pain, so I can't run anymore.

I gained it all back when I got pregnant. After the baby 15 years ago, is when I made it into the unhealthy category. (Although is was cool when I dropped 10lbs in about an hour!) Then life for 10 years, then came the cancer. 

Actually, after I was diagnosed and before I started treatment was the first and only time I managed to lose about 10 lbs in about two months, without running. I called it the "Shit I Have Cancer and I'm Really Stressed" diet. When my Endocrinologist saw I had lost weight, she congratulated me and told me to keep doing what I was doing. 

W.T.F. 

Chemotherapy, stress, steroids, stress, hormone suppressing drugs, stress, menopause = barely holding on for dear life. I recently had a physical exam and blood test, and it came back borderline high for cholesterol and triglycerides. The doctor wanted to put me on Statins right away (I am a drug-resistor. That's another story.) I told her no. I wanted to try to lose weight (again) and see if that made a difference. 

Clearly, I need help. I was a freakin' genius in the "fail-to-do-it-myself" department. Maybe if I could get help from a Nutritionist or Dietitian? My health insurance refuses to pay because I don't have diabetes. Cancer, Hypothyroidism, GERD, High Cholesterol, Food Allergies, and General Obesity are not enough for me to get help. They pay for cancer treatment, Synthroid, acid blockers, and Statins, and even obesity surgery, but not counseling with a Nutritionist. Go figure. 

So I'm on my own. Again. 

I don't believe in cutting out food groups, although I have tried "gluten free" and "wheat-free" diets in the past. The result was "not a bit of difference and not an ounce of weight loss." That failure led to the success in cutting out white flour, rice, and sugar, and as a result, a lot of empty carbs in general. My Radiation Oncologist suggested I cut out ALL carbs for a month, then stick with under 30g of carbs a day. That would probably work, but I would also want to kill myself (and you) in the process. Food allergies don't help... NO raw fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, or soy protein. 


In the past two years I've made a lot of changes, I don't eat processed "boxed" foods anymore, frozen or otherwise. One of the advantages of living on my own, I can make meals that actually have taste. My daughter and I make everything from scratch, from pancakes and waffles, to birthday cakes, to tortillas for our tacos. I buy organic foods whenever possible. I've cut way down on sugar and I don't drink pop/soda anymore. I don't have cookies or sweets laying around. I've cut out chemicals, preservatives, food dyes, etc. 

Three weeks ago, I started counting calories again. (Note: This was actually written the third week of February, so I started counting/logging Feb 1st.) I measure all my food and log everything into an app called "MyFitnessPal" and stay under 1400 calories a day. No results worth mentioning.


In my recent research into healthy eating, I came across an eating "program" based on science and how the brain works. It's not a diet, it's a way to train your brain. I'm a huge nerd when it comes to learning how the brain works, so this really got me excited. 

But I'm going to tell you about it tomorrow, so come back.





"We learn from failure, not from success." Bram Stoker

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Oscars, and why you should hate yourself.


I've only had the Television on for ten minutes and already I'm being told what a failure I am. To be honest, I rarely watch network TV, and even rarely in the morning.  For some reason, I ended up turning on some "Morning TV" and first thing I hear is...

I should be dressing up and going to Oscar Parties. That's what the "cool" people do. 

I have never even watched the Oscars (or any award show) all the way through. I've been channel surfing and stopped for ten minutes to watch a certain performance, but... BORING. I am NOT the type to idolize movie stars. They are just people. As my dad would say "They all put their pants on one leg at a time." I think it's shameful that some famous people make millions of dollars to "act" for our entertainment, while there are people truly struggling, working their asses off to feed their family.

A party I can admire (from afar). A fundraiser for Center on Halsted, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community center in Chicago. Last year, $65,000 was raised for their many programs and services.

I'm not saying that entertainment isn't important, I love to relax and watch Supernatural or Dr. Who as much as the next Freak. It just bugs me that some "stars" make as much money per episode than teachers make in five years of work. But that's another story, another rant for another day.

Back to my failures...

So, there is a store in Downtown Chicago, where you can "rent" fancy, multi-thousand dollar dresses for a mere $50 to $500 for four days. Awesome! Perfect for those Oscar Parties I've never been to. Because...

You can't wear the same dress twice! 

Oh Sarah Jessica. How you disappoint us by wearing the same dress twice.

God forbid someone sees your picture on Social Media and you are wearing the same dress as in another picture! Or someone recognizes the dress from the last party you were at! Oh the horrors! The shame! The humiliation! Thank god there are websites that focus on this lack of good judgement. Thank god there are places where you can rent thousand dollar dresses for just hundreds of dollars for a few days! 

I should be envious of the starlets and the dresses they wear. I should want to be just like them! 

We should ALL aspire to look like this.
They are perfect. Their hair is perfectly styled. Their makeup is perfectly applied. Their dresses are perfectly hung on their perfectly shaped bodies. All regular women should all aspire to be just like them! And if a "Star" has the gall to show a flaw? If they have a wardrobe malfunction? Wearing the wrong shoes with their dress? Have the wrong hairstyle or earrings or clutch? Some cellulite on their thighs, or laugh lines or thin lips or wrinkles on their forehead?

Oh Jennifer. How could you?

Thank goodness there are "Fashion Police" to show us the errors of their ways! We as a society need to call them out and shame them for their indiscretion. Shame them for offending us with their humanity. Thank god for photoshop and eye bleach! 



Well, that's all the failure I can take for one day. Until lunchtime at least. I do have something more serious to talk about, more but that's for next time. Later Gator.











Sunday, February 21, 2016

Back to the Mothership

Yesterday it was almost 60F degrees out on February 20th. I swear, it was Mother Nature's way of telling us to hang on, Spring is coming! Of course I packed up the dog and my little art journal (just in case) and headed over to the closest Forest Preserve/big park. We both needed to get out of the house and into the sunshine for a little walk. My back patio is still in the shade for a few more months.


Ruby had a VERY muddy walk, sometimes sloshing through an inch of water over the gravel trail. Her fur hanging down off her belly was soaked and muddy. Then there was the squirrel she HAD to chase through a couple inches of soggy mud, dragging me behind her.

So we HAD to sit on a bench in the sunshine (and on pavement) so she could dry off before getting into my car. Because guess who forgot a towel? We sat for about an hour in the sun. I had a lot of stuff to do at home, but I swear I couldn't move off that bench.

We people watched. We lake watched. The lake was defrosting, visible tracks in the ice were turning into sloshy shorelines. I watched as a parent sat and LET her children play on the soggy cracking ice.


I sat on the bench and watched people strolling by. Mostly middle aged couples walking hand in hand, talking quietly, or in comfortable silence. A young couple, he with a big blanket, she with an old fashioned picnic basket, talking about kayaking. Another young couple pushing a stroller with a very young baby in it. They were tired looking, she was a larger girl, who looked determined in her leggings and athletic shoes, to get some exercise. And he tenderly put his arm around her and leaned into her in such a sweet loving gesture, it brought tears to my eyes. He clearly loved her, just the way she was.

I want to be loved like that.

Observing, watching people walking by, I have never felt so disconnected from the world. Normally getting out and being in public makes me feel the opposite, like I am part of humanity. But yesterday it was different. I wasn't part of the world, I was looking at it as an observer, like an alien, taking notes in my head for when I report back to the Mothership. It was weird. It made me sad. Lonely.


I think maybe if I wasn't tethered to my 68 lb dog by a leash, I would have floated away, right then and there. And *poof* disappear among the clouds.

It's back to normal today, a "real-feel" of 35F degrees. Back to February.

Till next time...




Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Timeline of Life... so far.

This is what 50 looks like. In my own skin, bare-naked face and un-filtered. In my before-life there was no way in hell I would post a picture of myself sans-makeup and un-photoshopped. This is the good thing about being 50, you stop caring so much about how other people judge you. (I imagine it just gets better at 60 and 70...)

Bare faced, scarred and natural.

Twenty years ago, I couldn't even imagine turning 50. 

Ten years ago, it still seemed so far away, but I still had time to live in the "before" and enjoy my life with my toddler and my husband. 

Eight years ago, when my oldest sister turned 50, I was all "ohmygod I can't believe she's so old!" (Haha. Love you Sis!)

Four and a half years ago, I wasn't sure I was going to make it to 50. Being diagnosed with cancer will do that to you. You start thinking about living and dying, and you start to feel grateful for each day you are given on this beautiful earth. 

No words.

Exactly four years ago today, I sat in the bathroom with a razor and shaved my head bald and bawled for all the changes I was about to go through.

Tried on a mohawk before taking it all off.

Three years ago I was busy looking at real estate in Maine, vacation properties, investments, summer homes to look at during our next vacation the following June. My husband finally convinced me that our dream could be a reality, we could retire to Mt. Desert Island and run our little business together, and enjoy "the way life was meant to be." 

The future was so bright...

Two years ago I was unpacking boxes in the 'new-to-me' home I moved into with my daughter, all my hopes and dreams and goals for the future shot to hell and shattered with one word. 

Celia's new bed.

One year ago I stopped crying. I bought my house. I traded in the marital car for something I chose for myself. I did a lot of soul searching and dreaming up new dreams. I made plans to do things I never had the opportunity to do before. I started to enjoy life again. 

Sign of the Times.

It's been a long road, this road to 50. It's been riddled with potholes and stoplights, u-turns and bridges over troubled waters. But I'm here. I made it. 

This is me, today. I have no idea what the future will bring. I try to let go of the heaviness and uncertainty, or else it will consume me. 

Smirk. 



I try to be grateful for the things I DO have. Like my own home, my amazing daughter, my new dog. I have some pretty darn good friends, near and far. I enjoy cooking foods I want to eat, going places I want to go to, planning road trips and vacations to places I've never been. I no longer walk on eggshells, I am a whole person again. I am a survivor, I am strong. I'll see you in ten years. 

Well, really, I'll see you tomorrow.