Untitled Poem

Write write write.
Right.

Stop the madness
Stop the transference

Worry keeps you busy but
gets you nowhere

know where

Exorcise the ghosts by
inviting them in

make them comfortable
a bit of tea
sweet treats

Sugar’s the weapon
That’s it

Sugar free, worry free, demon free

Nothing’s free

Little joys…

Soak in the sun but
block it out

Benefits with a price of life

That’s everything

exchange a little life for living each day

Clock is ticking
fast
and slow

Too fast for ghosts
but they keep up anyway

Mind over matter?
Does an apparition have mass?
Matter?

It doesn’t matter anymore

Except to me

What you think is irrelevant
Don’t should all over me

My battle.

Book Riot’s From Zero to Well-Read in 100 Books: I Failed Huckleberry Finn

I love Book Riot; when they published From Zero to Well-Read in 100 Books, I felt up to the challenge.

Never mind that my TBR pile already has more than 100 books awaiting attention. I decided to read my way through this list with the only rule being I would have to re-read anything on it I haven’t opened in the past 5 years.  The list is alphabetical and I started with the first one: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Huck wasn’t part of my scholastic curriculum.  His buddy Tom made two appearances.  I thought this would be easy.  Fooled, yet again.

My first problem was the phonetically spelled dialect.  Allow me to clarify: I understand why it’s there. I do not have a problem with this technique being in existence.  I do not mind reading through it occasionally.  I simply cannot focus well enough for a main character’s dialogue to require code breaking.  By the time I get to the end of Jim’s statement, I need to go back to the beginning to remember what he started to say and why.  It’s distracting, disheartening and I closed the book after 200 pages or so.  It’s hard to love to read and have issues that prevent me from enjoying it.

Discussing my dislike of phonetics and dialects at the dinner table was a mistake. (A little background, perhaps again: I’m the only liberal arts minded person in this house.  My husband has a PhD in Applied Math; his mind is scientifically oriented.  About two years ago,  my stepson decided school is useless.  He completed high school via a part time alternative learning program and pretended to be interested in college for about a year.   He has an interest in computer science and programming but no desire (or maybe courage) to take the steps to make this interest a career.)  My roles as sole liberal arts major and perceived grammar snob took center stage over my thoughtfully prepared dinner. To explain the conversation simply, and in no way fully, my husband reminded me that “proper grammar” was arbitrarily deemed the standard by a group of white elitists and dictates who is considered educated and worthy of being included in business/society/(insert any institution here). Though I haven’t researched it,  just living in a very white society tells me he’s not wrong.  My stepson claims we have spell check, grammar check and auto-correct so we do not need to learn proper grammar. I’ll save his assessment for another post after I stop banging my head against the desk… and wall… and (insert dull, strong object here).  I made a mess of defending myself against grammatical snobbery while simultaneously reinforcing my designation. We went in circles around grammar, education, elitism, prejudgement, politics and I forget what else.

By participating in all these extra discussions, I lost my chance to explain what I meant.  My panic disorder has robbed me of the concentration to read unusually written dialogue. It’s another facet of my life I fear I’ll never get back.

My other problem is probably another post waiting in the wings. I was reading Huck when Florida declared George Zimmerman not guilty. My introspection on the state of our judicial system, perceptions and injustice sent me into a hole of depression so deep that the casualness of the N word in Huck made me cry. I still can’t gather my words well enough to discuss this well enough for posting. It’s too important to try with a scrambled brain.

I was fighting through to read Huck. I decided I can’t right. I need to pick my battles and joining Jim and him on their raft will have to wait a little longer.

I’m going to continue reading Book Riot’s list, though perhaps not in order. There are a few named that correspond to my TBR pile… and I think it’ll take me much longer than the hypothetical 4 years mentioned. I need to accept that.

Question for those who have finished Huck Finn:  Does anyone else think Huck’s entire story is just another one of his easily concocted lies?   I think he and Jim never set foot on that raft……

Baby Steps

So one would THINK summer would make healthy eating easier— an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling with minimal fats, long days of sunlight to get your exercising done…  July has been a healthy goal roller coaster with too many parties hosted by fabulous cooks and hot days where walking to the fridge for something cold has been difficult.

I learned something though. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cheeseburger or hot dog or ice cream.   It may make my goals take longer to reach but I don’t want a life of missing out on anything fun or yummy.  I refuse to “punish” myself for a little bit of indulgence.   I still struggle with moderation. I probably always will. But, if that’s how I’m put together, that’s how I have to live.

I’ll learn to adjust.

I’ll learn to adapt.

I’ll learn to enjoy myself without feeling guilty and knowing I haven’t  blown it by just taking some time off to enjoy life.

I want to apply this to my writing.

I haven’t updated this blog since February.  I’ve started 6 posts but always walked away from it. I’ve decided I need to express myself in small doses here.  This may be a bit of an experiment.  You will not read many of the emotional topics I wish to discuss all the time.  You’ll get these little thoughts that was bound for Facebook and was transferred here in today’s attempt to stand up to my demons.

I have been silenced and have silenced myself for too long. I’m going to put it out there regardless of my scrambled brain and anxieties.

At least today. 🙂

A Closed Open Road

Over the past year and a half, I’ve lived with an anxiety disorder that’s been both a blessing and curse.  These are more than “just panic attacks” many people say I have to “work through”.  Chunks of my time disappear through dissociation. Falls are a regular part of my day. Conversations are confusing and frustrating for both me and any party involved.  Some of what triggers these events are manageable;  others are random, making it feel impossible to categorize and concur.   I’m being treated with psychotherapy and medication.  The process is long, slow and depressing.

Depressing.

That adds a whole new element to my world.

When anxiety moves from the emotional realm to the physical, there are a number of compromises.  I was very good at the job I can no longer hold.  A book can take me weeks to finish instead of two or three days.  The most difficult compromise is my lack of independence.  I shouldn’t drive—I never know when I might black out.  For the first time in 25 years, I’m not working—I need to rely on my husband to support me.  I don’t go anywhere alone.  I Miss my Independence.  I Miss getting in the car and visiting a friend on a whim.  I Miss buying myself a treat because I put in long, hard hours and can spend my money as I wish.  My husband is wonderful.  He’ll take me wherever, whenever I want and he tries not to knock his head against the wall as he reminds me I don’t have to “ask” before a purchase.

But it’s different than being in control… than living independently.

Why should this be such an issue?  On the surface, I have a very easy life. My husband makes a good enough salary to support us.  Beyond that, he trusts me.  He knows I won’t go on a spending spree on a whim. He knows if I could work, I would.  He is understanding when I have days where I can’t do much more than the basics needed to live.  He doesn’t take my contributions to our home for granted.  He doesn’t blame me for needing a long time to heal. (Yes, he has a brother.  He’s married too.)

Have you noticed anything about my very easy life?

It’s very, very tiny. 

I love my husband.  I’m grateful every single day for him.  But I do have friends other than him.  I have fabulous friends.  I don’t see them. I don’t have a “girls’ night out”.  Why?  I don’t have the freedom to go without arranging for a ride.   It’s difficult to set up a play date for me.  We don’t live too far away from each other but I have to inconvenience someone to take 2 hours out of their time to drive me.   How fair is that? To anyone?

Public transportation isn’t the answer.  1) It exists as a very limited resource in my literal neck of the woods. 2) If it did and I had a major attack while riding, I’d end up in the ER.  (Yes, these attacks can be bad enough to scare someone into calling 911.)  

So… I end up isolating myself.  Friends have called.  I have nothing in the way of news to tell them and our conversations end up dying out.   My anxiety twists my perception of reality and I’m afraid to call them.  It’s a pattern.  I see it.  I don’t know how to break it.

Where’s the blessing?   I know I have the unconditional love of my family and friends.  Not having to support myself affords me ample time to heal. I’m learning more about myself than I ever have before.

And although my progress feels painfully slow, I know this is only temporary. 

To be continued….

The Big Fat Truth

I’m a pretty woman.

My hair is thick, wavy, dark and glossy. My eyes are also dark and bright. I have a complexion that rarely needs make up, hands the art directors at a former job photographed for mock-ups and I inherited my grandmother’s incredible smile.

According to the CDC’s online BMI calculator, I am twice the woman I should be.

Be that as it may, my doctors are routinely baffled all my health indicators (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, etc.) say I’m in very good health. Polite society will say, “That’s great!” with the usual caveats of how my weight will eventually affect my health.

Impolite society, which makes up at least 98% of the total, assume I’m lazy and indulge in sweets and junk food.  These assumptions are incorrect, but I will not waste precious time explaining myself. I refuse to defend my past behavior and will only focus on what is ahead.

Aside from being pretty and incredibly overweight, I’m very intelligent. I’m aware my weight will affect my health.  I’ve decided to be more vigilant with what is on my plate, as well as how much of it is there.  My tendency is to over-think, over-analyze and over-do to the point of burnout. Many attempts at weight loss have been derailed by this. I’ve decided on joining Weight Watchers. The plan allows me to obsess in a good way– creative meals, encouragement from the message boards and challenges to increase my activity.

Yes, this is for my health… but I won’t lie.  Anyone on a weight loss journey will say “it’s for my health” and, yes, that is usually true.  But, we want to look good too.  Period. Can anyone really tell me it’s only “about health” when you put a size on you haven’t worn since your age was in the single digits? If you honestly can, I bow to you.  You’re a better person than me.

Enter now a guilty pleasure of mine: women’s magazines. I love them.  I have subscriptions to Redbook and Real Simple.  I routinely grab friends’ discarded copies of Women’s Day, Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens. (Albeit the latter should be called “Better Homes and Gardens Than You’ll Ever Have Regardless of How Many Articles You Read”.)  Every single one of these magazines has articles on healthy living– exercise, recipes, emotional issues, doctors’ Q&As.  They also discuss the importance of self-esteem and how to love yourself despite social pressures to look like a celebrity or forever young or any of the other bull shit out there leading to a discouraged sigh (at best) at your own reflection.

These magazines are also the masters of contradiction.

I was decluttering a corner last night and came across a pillaged copy of Woman’s Day: Feel Great Fast (Thank you, Dr. Oz), Same Job MORE MONEY (How to beg for a raise without seeming to beg), 10 Minute Tummy Tighteners (Yeah).   Of course, I decided this issue would be my evening read.

There was a fabulous article entitled Love Your Body (and your flaws too!).  (The print version is in the May 2012 issue.) According to LinkedIn, the author, Stacey Colino, has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Art History and a Master’s in Journalism.  The mini-bio at the end of the article says she’s an award-winning health and psychology writer– please note I’m not concerned with her credentials to write about health and psychology.  The article has some fantastic stuff.  Truly.  (Go read it!)  What lost me was turning the page and finding an incredibly preposterous ad for a diet pill.  Preposterous?  Yes.  I read through it twice to be sure it wasn’t a parody.  It all but said it was the most dangerous diet pill on the market– but you’ll get results!!

I understand the concept of marketing. I know why peanut butter is next to jelly in the grocery store. Infomercials are on in the middle of the night for impulsive buyers. (At 3am, yes, the Perfect Tortilla Pan looks like the answer to all of your culinary conundrums and doldrums.  No! Don’t buy it!) But don’t place an ad for a diet pill in the middle of an article that reads– right under the title— “So what if you’re not a size 4? There’s beauty in every inch of you. Make peace with your looks and embrace your shape.”  (Note: These lines do not appear on the online version.  I’m quoting directly from the physical publication.)

Some may find it funny; others will say it’s good marketing.  I find it counterproductive toward the message of the article.  Love yourself— but if you can’t, here’s a pill to help.

Generally, I don’t pay much attention to the ads in a magazine. I glance at them but go right on to the “good stuff”.  (Market research groups never call me.)  I decided to flip through and look for the weight loss miracle ads.  The total: four full page ads and one promotion.  Also found: five ads for anti-aging products and one promotion.  (And, truth be told, the ad for thick cut bacon just opposite the “Lighten Up Dinner”  feature made me laugh.)

I’m not slamming Woman’s Day. I’m simply tired of the mixed messages. Which is it?  Love yourself or get thin quick?  Embrace your body or fix it with all these products?  Maybe the message is “we’ll all love you more if you looked like you took care of yourself”.

I’m not saying anything new here. The war for a positive body image model has been going on for decades.  But listen to me for a just a moment…

I want to lose weight so I’ll be healthier.  I want to look prettier than I already am. This starts with having self-esteem. It’s not the end result.  Self-esteem doesn’t come in pill form.  It doesn’t come with a single digit dress size. It shouldn’t deteriorate from looking down and seeing your belly instead of your toes. Taking care of myself is acknowledging that I’m worth the effort of exercise, learning portion control and making healthier choices.

After working for a marketing company, I held a job at an employment agency owned by a man who had retired from advertising. He told me how L’Oréal’s slogan “Because I’m worth it” came to be.  It was the end result of a woman’s therapy session. I don’t remember all the details of the story, but this bit of trivia has stuck with me. Which is a better act to prove you’re worth losing weight: changing your lifestyle or taking a pill? The latter is far easier (if it works), but the former is saying you’re worthy of being healthy.

I’m worthy of being healthy.  I’m worthy of looking good. A pill won’t change my habits. (Nor will an ad lead to cancelling a subscription.)
I’m worth the effort.

Are you?

Political Versus Personal

I’m a walking contradiction; a hypocrite to my own values. My personal beliefs are incredibly conservative: abortion is wrong, immigrants who come here through unapproved channels should go back and follow the current rules and I think there are more than a few recipients of public aid who abuse the system.

All that being said, politically I support the candidate who is pro-choice, actively protects “illegal” immigrants and pledges to increase funding for social services.

Why?

That answer is simple for me.  My personal beliefs shouldn’t limit the rights of the person next to me. The word personal is defined by Dictionary.com as:

1. of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private: a personal opinion.
2. relating to, directed to, or intended for a particular person: a personal favor; one’s personal life; a letter marked “Personal.”
3. intended for use by one person: a personal car.
 
My beliefs are mine.  They do not need to be yours. I don’t believe in abortion; I won’t have one. If you feel you need one, then you should be free to do so. (Disclaimer: I have not been in the situation where I have had to consider one, so I actually only think I know what I’d do.) I don’t understand why the pro-choice versus pro-life is a debate. It’s a personal choice. Our actions are our own, so why do others’ political and religious beliefs need to dictate them?
 

The immigrants I’ve met who came or stayed here using “unapproved” methods– sneaking in, staying after a visa expired– are not here to take advantage of our socials services programs or “take our jobs”.  They would rather live here with the fear of deportation and send whatever money they can back to the family left behind than be subjected to the abject poverty or under the corrupted government of their countries of origin. As a decent human being, I want these people to be safe and have an opportunity for a better life. I worked for an employment agency for over a decade. My geographical reach for employing people was approximately a 50-mile radius. This is what I’ve experienced: Immigrants aren’t “taking job from Americans”.  They are the majority of those applying for low level jobs. They accept them with sheer joy and (most of them) show up every single day. I’ve had a few non-immigrant applicants for these jobs.  Everyone single one of them demanded far above the posted salary without a shred of applicable experience and most would not accept the position with the pay range offered. Some would walk out. Some would begrudgingly accept the job, mutter a sarcastic thanks and then disappear several weeks later. (So raise the salary you say?  I would have loved to– the more money my placements made, the better for me and my employer. Agencies rarely get to dictate the pay. That is a problem that must be fixed within companies. That’s also a much larger discussion for another post.) Every so often I’d get an application from a laid off worker or someone who has experienced another life-changing event who needed something to get back on his or her feet. They would accept whatever I had to offer and commit to the length of the assignment. The long and short of it is, I didn’t see immigrants taking jobs from more qualified non-immigrant applicants.  I saw them take the ones no one else wanted.   Is there a problem in other geographical areas where immigrant workers get jobs because they would work for less money?  Most likely. I cannot speak from direct experience on this, so I will not. As I said, that’s a topic for another post– one that will mention the jobs being sent overseas. (Though, let me say I’d love to see harsher penalties for people who sell forged social security cards, employment authorization cards and permanent resident cards. Most of them are so obviously fake I’ve told the holder to return to the supplier and demand a refund.)

Social services were created because there are people in our society who need help and we’ve moved away from providing help to them on our own. Instead of cutting funding because of the percentage of recipients who abuse it, add to the funding for new case workers who can help properly allocate aid to those in need. We rally and make financial contributions of truly staggering amounts of money for political campaigns and natural disasters, but we can’t deal with losing the few dollars from our paychecks to provide our literal neighbors with heat, food and medical care? 
 
My problem: where is the line between keeping my personal beliefs truly for my own life and saying others should do the same? Is it by saying “this is my opinion” and not force others to believe the same?
 
Freedom of speech means we will not be prosecuted for stating our opinions.  But why force that opinion as law by which others should live? Am I forcing my opinion on anyone when I say “live your life as you see fit and I will live mine as I do”?   How we vote affect other people’s lives; how we feel should affect our own. I hear politicians screaming from the roof tops about morals and family values. Treating others with dignity and respect is moral. Providing us with information so we can make educated decisions for ourselves is moral. Forcing someone to live by another’s will is not moral.
 
So where is the resolution to this?  I know we need some laws that limit our freedoms– taxes being mandatory for running our municipal services, making companies accountable for unfair hiring practices (yes, a company is an entity, but it is run by people), disallowing yelling fire in a crowded theater….  Do we need a few more decades of evolution before we treat each other fairly enough that personal choice of anything isn’t controversial?
 

Before you comment, please, really think about what you are about to say. Your argument against anything in this post may very well prove my point. Giving me “official statistics” of issues I’ve mentioned will not help. Research both conservative and liberal organizations from where the number comes. They range drastically on the bias of what is trying to be proved.

I am struggling to keep religion and spirituality out of this and stick to the basic idea of just being respectful of others.  I know some of you will want to argue a religiously based counter-opinion.  My answer to that is the same: live your life by the laws of your religion and I’ll live by the laws of mine. Let me remind you of statements from four major religions:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”

“What is hateful to yourself do not do to your fellow-man.”

“Believers, guard your own souls. The person who has gone astray cannot hurt you if you are rightly guided.”

“An’ it harm none, Do what ye will.”

I started this post by saying I’m a hypocrite of my own values. Through writing and editing, I see I am true to my most important value: live and let live.

Blessed be.

 

A Time to Transform

25.6 miles away from my home…. 14.3 miles from the place i called home for 13 years… is Newtown, CT.  I don’t have young children (my youngest stepchild is 18) but I have plenty of friends with children under eight years old, with six of them either living in or close to Newtown.

I feel as I did days after 9/11, where nothing I do feels important or necessary.  Why am I cooking for a birthday celebration when there are 26 people who will never blow out candles again and their families will mark that day with tears and memories?  Why am I writing a new Yule ritual to celebrate the return of Sun and Life to the world when 20 children had their life ended by madness?

My heart aches and my brain screams… but there’s nothing out there that will listen or help.

I’ve read many posts about reactions to the tragedy in Newtown. There are two that stand out:  Kimberly Brock’s I WONDER AS I WANDER and a comment by Kenneth on Jason Pitzl-Waters’ Prayers in the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy post.

Ms. Brock is an author and mother whose post doesn’t mention a word about gun control, mental health or even the town’s name.  It’s about faith, courage and standing together. I know I’m simplifying her sentiments, but I believe each reader will come away with something different. I read it and felt that as alone and uncertain as I feel, there are others willing to share.  It helps to hold your neighbor’s in our global community, even virtually.

The comment by a gentleman named Kenneth in the latter post is a snap back to reality.  I’m a firm believer in “you sleep in the bed you make”.  You can complain and lament all you want, but, when push comes to shove, you’re the only one who can make a difference in your own situation. He says:

“…we tell ourselves that mass shootings are just random acts of faceless evil or some nebulous force of nature. It’s a natural cause of death for children, the way diphtheria was 200 years ago. We consider it normal for kindergartners to be drilled in how to respond in a firefight. Praying to the gods for relief in this instance [is] an insult to them. It is like praying for relief from hunger after refusing to plant crops. The gods are happy to help when we do our best and need a little nudge to get over the top. They’re not there to bail us out of our own collective willful stupidity.”

One of the reasons why I loved Ms. Brock’s post so much is because it wasn’t political in any sense, and I’m struggling to keep with that here.  Kenneth’s comment isn’t really political, but most is certainly a blow to our culture. I believe he’s right.  Whoever your Divinity is, I’m willing to bet He/She/They hear our prayers and say “A miracle isn’t going to fix this problem. The miracle will be your own cultural changes. Get working on that and we’ll help you with the strength to transform.”

Combining the ideas from both writers, we need to come together as a community, support each other but do more than expressing our wishes and intentions. We have to do something.  The first thing to do is define what “something” is. We also need to remember in defining “something”, we’re not just expressing our desired result.  Let’s all step it up a bit.  We need to put aside our political and religious convictions and look at this logically. We need to be mindful of everyone’s rights and be willing to compromise.

Compromise is difficult but such a small price to pay to avoid funerals, isn’t it?

I know this blog isn’t updated often or with anything very profound. I know I do not have a strong readership. However, if any one chooses to leave a comment, I will ask you to be respectful toward each other.  You needn’t agree, but I will not tolerate attacks.

Blessed be, one and all.