Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fear of Tights

I'm slightly amused that anyone would be fearful of wearing tights...except that I'm fearful of taking two bags of books to the library to donate.

A word of reassurance: they're more comfortable, warmer and less revealing than pantyhose.  If the patterns are too much (and I find most of them to be too much: who needs lace on her legs, for goodness' sake?), the plain tights in basic black, nude, white or brown ought not to cause undue concern about calling attention to one's body.  In fact, because they cover up the inroads of age, I, for one, feel much less exposed in tights.

And a p.s.: I got a Chadwick's catalogue in the mail yesterday and flipped it open this morning to find the only patterned tights I really love: ribbed, which were missing from the last great find and which make me feel school girlish.  They also have chevron-patterned sheer tights, which is as close to second place as I can go.

The ribs (up to 2X/3X)  come in black, "garnet," charcoal and chocolate, so I guess you could make a barbecue of this AND have dessert.  Why do clothing colors come with food names?


The weather vacillates between warm, cool and downright chilly here.  It's impossible to dress.  Luckily, I had a lovely nervous breakdown yesterday and didn't need to.  My moods are as variable as the temperatures -- or were yesterday, when it took a straight plummet.  I feel the courage of a new day, however, so nothing I say is fact until it happens.  Fresh coffee calls me...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Trending in Francieland

After years of needing sweat pants and crappy t-shirts, I have to dress up.  This fall, it's four times a week.  It is astonishing to me that I could probably go through fall quarter -- 48 classes -- and not completely repeat the same outfit.  (Today is Wear Denim for Breast Cancer Research Day at school: yee-haw!)

Still, some things need refurbishing and I thought, for those of you in plus sizes or agoraphobic enough to avoid malls, I'd pass along two useful links.

For the best selection of tights, Woman Within. They've got vine patterns, diamonds, sweater tights, lace and -- oh! things I would never wear, "floral metallic tights".

Still, the colors are great -- cinnamon, grape, cranberry, chardonnay, charcoal.  You can cook and eat these tights for dinner!

Bras ranging from 32 - 58, cups from AA to N (I have a large chest circumferance but a B cup: not always an easy find), Lady Grace.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rules 1, 2 and 63

I've been thinking about a couple of important ways to keep myself centered, proud, useful, loving and sane.  I think they're worth sharing.

1) Pay it forward.  When I was a graduate student at NYU and living at the St. Mary's Residence for Working Women (i.e., my worst nightmare, cheek-by-jowl with nuns), on a budget of $700 a month that had to cover everything except tuition, one of my professors from Cornell sent me $250.  It was a fortune and it saved my ass.  In coming to the end a difficult year, I've been able to help a few people out both financially and with my time/knowledge.  It hasn't been much.  I no more expect to be paid than I repaid my former teacher.  I understand now why he did it and I think such gifts carry not only a small morsel to distract the wolf from the door, but a karmic morsel as one.  That which is freely given and freely taken holds a glimmer of what we all want: freedom.

2) When a dog asks for a belly rub, make it twelve times as long as you think you have time for.  The one exception is first thing upon waking when peeing is urgent.

3) Never go to a friend's stoop sale when you have given said friend "clever" gifts in the past.

A brief post.  I began the fall quarter today by getting completely lost.  Bad address, bad Mapquest -- I don't know.  But in the heavy air between rains, I saw a part of Wall Street that made me feel I was back in Prague again.  It's easy to forget that the steel-and-glass cauldron of evil is also the oldest part of New York and, therefore, the tiniest.

And there is a new batch of roses in bloom.  They flourish in June and make another appearance in September.  In ways, I will always be a Montanan when it comes to seasons.

I promised Dr. It's-Never-a-Cigar I would try to take time to myself this quarter rather than getting worn out by academic details.  We decided that I would continue to pursue what I began in my week off: decluttering and editing a friend's novel.  I did not get rid of anything today or put anything away.  I came home to wait for the cable company to install a new cable box, a task which in itself is an accomplishment for one who was too deer-in-the-headlights to schedule the call last quarter.  I had to clutter up my apartment in order for him to do that voodoo that he do so well, moving junk off the TV hunk and pulling out the bags of clothes stored behind it.

Needless to say, Cable Man, despite calling at 4.30 to say he was on his way, did not show up.

So now I have three big bags of clothes mauling my room and have not yet made a new appointment.  I suppose I have to put them back but I'll still be overwhelmed with the plastic Brownie Scout and eyeglass sprays and whatnot.

So here's my question.  If I actually made more of a mess, did the half-bag of dog hair and grit that I swept up from behind the TV mountain count as decluttering???

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Waking Up

One of the reasons I don't blog as often as maybe I should is that once in a while I write something -- like "Fred" -- that I want to hang like a Picasso lithograph in a millionaire's living room.  However, I am in desperate need of shaking off some difficult years so today I'm going to tell you what I've seen and the conversations I've had.  It's a rare opportunity because I'm substitute dog-walking & out for three or four hours...

In other words, I want to document a day in order to wake up from my ongoing stupor.


8.20 a.m.  Daisy eats a half a powdered sugar doughnut on Love Lane that someone didn't pick up.
8.50 a.m.  Recycling day is tomorrow.  Unwanted furniture is starting to line the curbs.  Tuesday is the day Brooklyn Heights collectively outgrows Ikea.
8.55 a.m.  Long talk with dishy doorman.  He has a hard, hard body.  The squirrel he rescued and was tending in the outside lobby of the veddy exclusive building he works for had run away.  "Probably to die," I said.  "Animals are like that."  He told me that "in the country I come from," they have all these saying about donkeys because when a donkey is dying, it will break chains and knock down fencing to get out and go off to die in private.  "Remember Solomon in the Bible?" he asked.  I nodded.  "He has a donkey's jaw.  Think about that.  Why not another animal's jaw?"  His "country" is Romania so we talked about the Roman Empire and how he can understand about 20% of the janitor's Spanish and the fall of Communism.  I liked it.
9.10 a.m.  A hoary man sits down backwards on a bench outside Harry Chapin Playground and begins to do sit-ups using the backrest to keep his knees from lifting.  First thought: Innovative.  Second thought: I would never have the nerve.
9.25 a.m. A frisky young malamute mix decides to eat my hair, wash my neck and pierce my ears.  "I can give you his leash and he's yours," his frustrated owner said.  Later I saw that she had her notebook out on a picnic table and was working, her dogs wandering quietly around and under the table.  First thought: Daisy would jump up on the table and sit on a computer in the dog run.
9.30 a.m.  Honey Bear, part Australian cattle dog and a notorious herder, got humped and herded by a Pyrenean mix.  The owner took Pyre to task but I was laughing and laughing at the well-deserved comeuppance.
9.38 a.m.  For no real reason, the thought occurs to me that, today, I am close to my inner serial killer.
9.40 a.m.  The first pumpkins of the year, on a stoop on Willow Street.
9.45 a.m.  Ran into the former nanny at Zeke's house, pushing a wise and somber three-year-old and tugging two toy dogs behind her.  She still sees the kids at Zeke's house and told me how the youngest has grown up in the years since Zeke was put down.  "Why don't you take me out for sushi?" he asks her every time they se each other.  He must be...four?
9.55 a.m.  Hunky Doorman walks part of the way with me and Honey Bear and tells me he now takes his coffee half-cappuccino/half-vanilla.  I tell him I used regular canned coffee but dump about a tablespoon of cinnamon in before brewing it.  A short conversation about the virtues of spices and the use of them to kill oneself by eating too much ensues.
9.57 a.m.  An elderly gentleman has brought a folding chair outside to read his newspaper in the sun.  This pleases me.

3.35 p.m.  Honey Bear, Daisy and I are about to turn onto Pierrepoint Street but first pause to let a woman with a double-decker stroller go by.  Inside are two enchanting Kate Greenaway tots, one about three, the other possibly 18 months old.  Blonde as Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  "Hitler would approve," I murmur to Daisy.
3.40 p.m.  The golden retriever barks up a storm when I step out of the elevator but it's all show.  She won't get off the bed, merely rolling over on her back for a belly rub.  I seduce her with a cookie.
3.42 p.m.  The Not Quite As Hunky Doorman tells me I don't have to leave Hunser and Daisy leashed to the fence so far from the building entrance.  I tell him I was walking the golden when the brouhaha began over dogs and elevators in that building.  It's a CEO sort of building and the owner of the ground floor apartment on the south side is, as Not Quite says, a bay-itch.  She demanded that no dogs be leashed outside her window because of the pee.  (A dog won't pee in a spot it can't get away from, but never mind.)  Then she complained about dogs in the elevator.  (She lives on the ground floor, but never mind.)  "So," I summarized, "I figure it's best to keep the dogs as far away as possible."  It's my last day filling in for Mike so the point is moot.  Still, he tells me the bay-itch complains all the time about the ice cream truck outside the Promenade Playground across from her aparmtent.
3.46 p.m.  The rag and bottle pickers are out, going through trash to find whatever they can resell.  Remind me not to throw out a shirt in a bag that has bills and stuff in it.
3.55 p.m.  We meet Hudson, a black English Lab.  Black Labs practically make me lactate and Hudson is a perfect specimen, not as fat as a lot of English Labs, with a perfect otter tail.  His owner is throwing balls for him but he takes time to wink conspiratorially at Daisy.
4.10 p.m.  I look up to see a large family hanging over the fence of the dog run.  The dog run is the local zoo -- the fence is often lined with people watching the free play of the dogs.  This family is dressed to the nines.  Out-of-town Jehovah's Witnesses who have come to marvel at their organization's HQ in Brooklyn Heights.  I'm glad Daisy jumps up on the water fountain to drink rather than trying to nose Hudson away from the dog pan that is at the foot of the fountain.  They point and laugh and I think about how they've been hearing the party line all day as they looked at printing presses and whatnot.  They need a little comic relief.
4.13 p.m.  Honey Bear decides Hudson needs to be corralled from his wanton ways of chasing a ball.  She nips his butt.  Hudson.  Doesn't.  Like.  It. 
4.25 p.m.  The wind shaking the lime trees on Willow Street makes me think of Flathead Lake, which makes me think of a comment my shrink, Dr. It's Never a Cigar, did not pick up on.  "If I was rich I'd be sitting on a beach at Flathead," I said in response to something.  "It's the only place I am truly myself."  I thought about that as he tried to drag some Totem and Taboo truth out of me.  It was too simple a statement.  I feel myself when I'm traveling, especially abroad.  And when I'm writing.  I should write a book cataloging people's various authentic selves, I think.  I would call it The Wind on Willow.

9.15 p.m.  Daisy grins broadly when we walk out the front door.  Recycling night!  All those bags to either rip open (I had to prize a bag of fried chicken out her mouth from Monday's garbage) or pee on.  My girlie-girl: lifts her leg especially for plastic.
9.16 p.m.  We're expecting a mini-heat wave but I wish I had a sweater on.
9.17 p.m. No, we are NOT going down Love Lane to find more powdered sugar doughnuts.
9.18 p.m.  What do you mean, you forgot the cookies??????
9.21 p.m. The blast of grilling beef at Heights Cafe hits us.  My stomach growls.
9.28 p.m.  Am I even hungry for dinner?  What would be good?  Ham and cheese roll-ups?  Yogurt.  I'll have yogurt.
9.29 p.m. Three boxes of Milk Bones fall on top of me and bounce into my basket.  What I do for love.
9.31 p.m.  I didn't bring enough money with me & have to pay by debit, which is not what I planned on doing.  Visa can wait another day.
9.35 p.m.  Theseus is tried up outside Starbucks so we go over to say hello.  Another black English Lab but as hyper as a popcorn machine.  Daisy takes advantage of the diversion to try to crawl into a trash can.  There are big black bags of garbage outside Pick-a-Bagel.  Montague Street the night before trash pick-up is Daisy's heaven.  It could only be topped if I had a Sanitation Services guy for a sleep-over boyfriend.
9.45 p.m.  Despite barking at a man with a CVS bag and a Pomeranian we make it home, but only before Daisy looks at me with the Cookie Question after the Pomeranian squabble.  No way.  "Do you want love?"  And yes, she does, going between my legs in the Tunnel of Love that reassures her everything is OK.

I'm having yogurt, oats and a banana for dinner.  My father is tucked in with his beep-beep channel hopping between National Geographic and a Rocky Marciano marathon.  I soaked my feet before shaving them tonight (no, I am NOT a hobbit) and did something to the plunger that drains the bathtub.  Tomorrow's second move is already mapped out: call the super.


What if I'd gotten cereal and pastry tonight, or ice cream?  Would it have effaced a day of conversations and mental photography?  Which is really me -- the sugar freak or the walking blogger?  Somehow it's a question that matters very much.

But not quite now.

And so to bed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I call my father most nights to read him the "funnies," his expression for the television schedule.  He lost his 90% of his vision about ten years ago and while he still cooks and does his laundry, he's dependent on other people for such niceties.  His housekeeper in Arizona is wonderful and my brother as faithful as molasses, but when I'm with him I come in for heavy duty reading -- he wants to look up something in Merck?  You ask the English major rather than the Costa Rican or my rather unschooled brother.  I read him the best of the catalogues, the grocery store aisles, eBay, the Missoula obituaries, liner notes from his CDs, the contents of his desk.  Whether I'm with him or not, most days I end up reading to my father.

He's trying out assisted living in Missoula for some six months just now.  The food, he says, ranges from awful to very good.  He eats dinner at an assigned table of taciturn men.  He spends his evenings with football or baseball or one of the science channels, and he spends his days listening to books from the Library for the Blind.  Losing his vision turned him from a sort of free-thinking Republican into a raving progressive because one of the first subscriptions he got was The Nation and he discovered he likes spending an hour or two waking up with NPR.

He's about to have a girlfriend back in Arizona.  My brother called me a few days before Mother's Day to ask me to take care of Dad's command that we send flowers to -- we'll call her Lois.  I called Dad because flowers are a personal thing and read him the website.  He wanted red roses.  I told him that women regard red roses from a man as a love token.  "That's fine.  Send her three dozen on Mother's Day." 

Mother's Day I refused to do.  She is not his mother.  She is not the mother of his children.  She has sons in the Phoenix area who would most likely give her flowers so Daddy's gesture would be lost.  I sent them on the Thursday after Mother's Day.

My father has never picked up the phone and called me but he calls Lois each Sunday.

I think this is fine.  She's an old friend; her husband was one of my father's lab partners in medical school.  There's a best man/maid of honor thing in there somewhere.  She's small and pretty like my mom but possibly, in some ways, more of a lady where Mom had a touch of the dame.  When we had a small get-together in Sun City after Mom died, it was Lois I turned to.  She has so much joint-history, you see.

One of the godmothers of my gray mood has been a consciousness that on Wednesday the 29th, it will be a year and a day since my mother died.  I miss her a lot.  I had new author photos taken and one of them is really gorgeous.  I feel sad that she's the only person for whom I would have made a print, framed it and sent it to.  Daddy would appreciate it but he couldn't see it.  The sense of a safe haven left with my mom because she always wanted to hear about my deepest thoughts and feelings.  That's not how my father operates and that's fine, too.  I couldn't talk about Sibelius or 15th century England with my mother.

I called Dad tonight with the wonderful news that there is boxing on TV and a couple of college football games until then.  He said he'd been watching football and then 60 Minutes because he was resting up from his big day yesterday.

His big day had gone right over my head.  Actually, I think it went over his head as well until today when everyone in the complex had something to say.  It seems they had a dance yesterday.  Dad put in an appearance because he didn't want to disappoint the recreation director.  Said director pulled him out on the floor for the rhumba.  "It's been twenty years since I danced," he said.  "I didn't think I knew how any more."

One of my favorite phrases from the movies is Woody Allen's aunt in Annie Hall confiding to his kid-self that once upon a time she "was quite the lively dance-ah."  My parents courted on dance floors.  They collected Glenn Miller 78s.  As a kid, I remember how much I loved/hated their dancing club nights.  I loved them because I hung out on the bed in their room and watched them put on their formal clothes.  The smell of face powder and Channel No. 5 and a waxy kiss goodbye are physical sensations even on this warm Sunday night ten days before the first anniversary of my mother's death.  I hated dancing club nights because my brothers were "babysitting" me.  I never knew what that would entail except that I would either be used, hurt or told to get lost.

In the mysteries of a marriage, my parents were a united force when it came to dancing.  I saw them dance once, in a taverna in Rome when I was twenty.  The band struck up "In the Mood" and they were there, swinging and moving to the rhythm in such a circle of knowledge of how to dance to that music that the other dancers fell back and watched in admiration.

I was drunk as a boiled owl that night but I remember the people parting like a curtain and seeing my mom and dad at it.

Lois is passionate about dancing.

So my father allowed the rec director to pull him into one rhumba and history was made.  She didn't know what she was doing but all the steps were buried memories in his 92-year-old body.  Ladies were lining up to dance with him.  "When I finally got to sit down, I was sweating," he told me with surprise.  And today, ladies were still lining up to compliment him and ask that he save a dance for them the next time.  And Daddy is thinking he will start going to tea dances in Sun City.

He lost his Ginger but he's got a long career ahead of him.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Where have I been for the last 36 days?

In a gray funk.  Not a black one but not a clear blue sky one either.

Doing everything I can to escape myself & my responsibilities.  I owe amends to self & to dawg, & to everyone with whom I've had scant contact with.  I simply haven't wanted to speak.  Last Saturday I mostly sat looking at some random office plants very blankly while my therapist tried to find a way into my non-working brain.  For this I paid seventy dollars.

It's been a bitterly hot summer.  I began teaching two months ago after not working in nine years and not teaching in twelve.  I spend 210 minutes, back to back, trying to explain commas.  I'm exhausted by the time I get home.

Friends have been asking if I like teaching.  Yes, of course.  I like bringing disparate parties together to focus on what is impossible (commas, for instance, are impossible) and to laugh together.  It's a performance, another word my therapist likes to bandy about.  Why a performance?  Well, Dr. A-Cigar-Is-Never-A-Cigar, I have to be high energy to get them to maybe pay attention to commas.  Why not be yourself?  That would be staring at...what?  There is nothing in my sleek, squeeky-new classroom to stare at.  My self is not a self I like very much lately.  They don't pay me the pitiful bucks to come in & be blank.

Yes, but do you like it, B & D press further. 

What is "it"?  My students are interesting.  About half are international students, adding English and the cachet of studying marketing or business in New York City to their resumes.  They come from Norway, Paraguay, Nigeria, Kosovo, Korea, China.  They have studied hard to be able to take college classes in English & their study of language has paid off in sharpening their brains.  The other half are more motley, many of them condemned by Creole street talk & bad New York City schools to constitutional blobbiness.  It's not so much they that can't think outside the box as that they can't think.  Their brains are in danger of atrophy & this makes me terribly sad, adding to my desire to atrophy by self-will.

The despair of 45 papers is beyond words.

It's even beyond ice cream.

I feel sick with dumb Facebook games, ice cream and a winter gray when it's 95-degrees outside.

There are brighter notes but they are spectator sports for me.  Friends have included me in their lives but it is not what I would call being alive myself.  Perhaps fall & a different, more diffused class schedule will help.  Maybe a new flavor of Ben & Jerry's.  Maybe having finally traced fragments of my life on the foggy window of this blog.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

As Open Letter to Maxwell House Coffee

Dear Max:

I appreciate your efforts to provide the freshest possible coffee in the most number of flavors and strengths that you can.  Snobs may turn up their noses at you in favor of Sumatra beans they roast themselves, but I am not a snob and I take great pleasure in the two cups a day I drink of your coffee (or whatever brand is on sale).

I was especially delighted when, shopping at CVS this morning for hair dye and other accoutrements that are the bare minimum of catching a man, I discovered a two-for-the-price-of-one on you 11-ounce can.  I snatched them up, was bossed shamelessly around  by the new self-service check out CVS has installed (I only needed a human clerk to bail me out once), and came home to empty both cans into the big Chockful-o'-Nuts can that was running dangerously low.

Thankfully, that CoN can was so big that, for once, I could knock out all the coffee that usually get sticks under the protruding rim of the opening that, by the end of the year, wastes at least one cup of joe and earns Kraft some million extra dollars.

[Mental note: Keep the CoN can when I run out of coffee the next time.]

Upon finishing this task, however, I was faced with an unsolvable dilemma.

I had already placed the tin "vacuum tops" and the plastic lids in the recycling bag for metal, glass and plastic, but I was stuck with two containers, the sides and bottom of which are made of cardboard.  However, your heavy waxed cardboard is reinforced by a steel band at the top (with the wasteful lip) and the bottom.

Do these containers belong in the metal/plastic/glass recycling or in the paper recycling?  If I go by mass, I believe the heavier steel would dictate that the containers follow their lids, but if I approach the problem by area, then clearly they belong with the toilet paper rolls and Steuben Glass catalogues -- or the oatmeal container I had also just emptied into its bigger parent box.

Having, by serendipity, stored both coffee and oats in one five-minute period, I am led to wonder if you have taken a look at Pepsi's traditional packaging of Quaker Oats?  They, too, come in a cylindrical cardboard box, although less enforced against the flavor-sucking humidity of CVS's air conditioned shelves.  However, instead of having steel reinforcing rims that rob the consumer of one bowl of porridge a year, Quaker and other generic store brands trust that their oats will not fly apart in the hands of the consumer or stick together in the way they might if we, the consumers, lived in, say, Saigon.

As Kermit-the-Frog said so eloquently, "It ain't easy being green," but, by following the Pepsi Company's lead, it could be less time-consuming.  The lid and the sealed top go into the glass/plastic/metal recycling and the container into the paper recycling.  No thought is required.

I know that asking you to change your packaging concept is probably futile, but could you at least provide wording on your containers regarding which recycling bin they belong in?  I've got the wasted grounds covered but have now lost twenty minutes of valuable farming time (the cherries are ripe on Farm Town!) to pondering this question.

Yours sincerely,

Frances Kuffel

Friday, July 30, 2010

In Which I Become Professor Kuffel

I had an incomplete fantasy that I would never have to work for The Man again. 

We all have to work for The Man.  The only question is whether we can keep The Man at arm's length.

I could see my last advance money dwindling.  Angry Fat Girls -- soon to be retitled Eating Ice Cream with My Dog and Other Adventures in Fatland: A True Story of Food, Friendship and Losing Weight...Again -- bombed so badly that we're hoping for a miracle with the paperback.  As much as I try to look at the bright side (I'll have a Marley and Me look-alike: maybe it will be a sell-alike too!), my next advance is more than an 85% reduction.  I have plans that require money.  Paying off my debt.  Figuring out the third act of my life.  Yogurt.

So I got me an adjunct job teaching freshman composition to business students.  They are a fascinating lot.  The international students have some problems with English and the homegrown students have more problems with English.  We have nothing in common, coming as we do from all four corners of the globe, so I'm giving them a lesson in American history as seen through the lens of New York in the years between 1890 - 1910.  Their faces are mostly glazed over like Dunkin' Donuts but I rattle on, asking questions like, "Was the United States, a hundred years ago, an imperialist country?" (We'd just fought the Spanish American War and taken possession of The Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands.)  Or, "Is capitalism still the driving force of the U.S. economy?"  Or, "What has the long-lasting effect of the Ladies' Garment Workers' Union been?"

A molecule at a time I pull an answer out of them.  I tell them they can never use the word "just" in an essay they turn in to me again.  I snap when someone has not stopped texting after I've already asked him/her to stop three minutes earlier.  I have them doing daily presentations on their favorite aspect of popular culture and now know more about Korean boy bands and the Panamanian equivalent of Elvis Costello than I ever thought I'd need to know.  For 105 minutes, less 15 for presentations, I jabber on about commas, run-on sentences and the semiotics of Dreamland.  I'm terrified of that moment of silence when I run out of things to do and say so I over-prepare, which puts us behind schedule and exhausts me before I've set foot in the class each Tuesday morning.

I love it and I hate it.

But it could, of my department head's observation yesterday pans out, put me in a position to apply for Real Jobs.  You know, with, like, medical insurance and retirement and sabbaticals and a little house and yard for Daisy in Blow Hole, Oklahoma.

All of which is to say that I don't know what the hell I'm doing except that this weekend I'm doing only what has to be accomplished to get my kids thinking enough to begin working on a persuasive essay.  I have a date tonight with a Croatian named Bob and -- why did I PROPOSE this? -- a bowling date (I sprained my elbow when a friend, who was drunk, stumbled and I tried to break his fall) tomorrow night with a man twenty years my junior which makes me, my students inform me, a "cougar".  I will not color my hair for tonight because I'm tired and don't feel like it.  He'll be lucky if I take a shower.  Dates are not my life.  Words are, and they are precious because they're being spent on 420 minutes of standing at the head of classrooms each week.  I mostly don't want to talk because I'm weary with talking.  And I want to write but wonder if I have enough words.

So I thought I'd experiment here.

Now I'm going to go check my rye crop over on Farmville.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Trending in Francieland

Since when does any sane person eat ALL the dressing that comes with their salads?  How many calories should a dieter's menu be?  Is the "health" community desperate for fodder?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Devotion of the Nine Tuesdays

Today my world is a little smaller, a little lonelier, a little bereft of solace.

I have many cousins of whom I am fond but M. rather stands alone.  When I was three years old, she showed me the Man in the Moon.  I remember this lesson very distinctly.  We were hanging around the swing set in her family's sloping backyard.  She is seven years older than I and she knew about the Man in the Moon.

We fell out of touch, more or less, over the years, but one of the amazing thing about being in my 50s and having said goodbye to all of my aunts and uncles, is that some of the cousins are croneying.  Their kids are older or have left home.  We are the ones who know the family stories and are, therefore, the family we have left from the Before.  We don't have the energy to insist on identical politics or old envies or intellectual parities.  I've even found myself becoming friendly(ish) with people from high school.

And I hated high school.

M. wrote me out of the blue one day when I'd whined on about one or another of my depressions in this blog.  She told me she understood, that it was real, that one of her kids suffers from it too.  We began to discuss the family we are both adopted into.  She has kept a benevolent eye on me through my blog and Facebook.  She continually wishes me well.  Every day I know she wishes me well and would listen to me or attend to what I throw out there on the Web.

Except today.  Today she is in surgery, recovery, sleeping deeply.  I'm glad that the sisters went in together.  For a long time, that family of siblings was all each other had.  Nobody is alone today.

I went to Mass this morning as I promised M. I would.  At nine o'clock, I could picture M. and her sister, P., as they were prepped for the surgery that would transfer P's kidney to M.  Two cousins are in mortal danger and both of them are of faiths that are antithetical to the Catholic Church, and yet M. said my attendance that morning would mean more to her than she could say.  I joked that it should -- it's an eight a.m. Mass -- but I  made a promise that needed keeping.

I had no idea that my parish is in the middle of a novena to St. Anthony.  I went to St. Anthony's school and that persistent image of him has stuck -- with the infant Jesus, with the lily.  Just like the Man in the Moon, I suppose.  St. Anthony was a Franciscan, a gentle order.  He was a gentle man.  So much of Catholicism involves blood and martyrs and conversion, but St. Anthony was a parochial friar who preached and healed and calmed.  It's fitting that he is the patron saint of horses: P. is a fine horsewoman.  It's fitting that he is also the patron saint of letters: this is a love letter to M., to let her know how much of I've been thinking and praying for her today.

The list of places and things he is a patron of is so long that we could all find ourselves in there.

The Franciscans recently sent me this prayer to St. Anthony and I like it so much that it sits in front of my keyboard:

"Holy St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and take hold of my hand.

"Assure me that I am not alone.  You are known to possess miraculous powers and to be ready to speak for those in trouble.

"Loving and Gentle St. Anthony, reach down from heaven I implore you and assist me in my hour of need.  Obtain for me [your request].

"Dearest St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and guide me with thy strength.  Plead for me in my needs.  And teach me to be humbly thankful as you were for all the bountiful blessings I am to receive.


I like that prayer a lot.  I like the idea that St. Anthony is reaching down to take my hand, M's hand, P's hand.  I like the idea that he walked across heaven this morning to talk to God or Jesus about my cousins' welfare.  I like that it ends on a note of promise.  M's religion is as vastly different from mine as two Christian faiths can be, but I think that there is enormous power in turning to one's roots for intercession.

And so I did, only to find myself lighting two candles at the shrine to St. Anthony, touching his feet, and crossing my lips.

Now it's up to him.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trending in Francieland Now...

Jersey Moms scare me. So do their followers. Prepare to be horrified in a hundred ways from this Reuter's article:

I commented: 

"It's not fair to bring in suppositions about whether the public pays for her food or her medical bills.  I think Laura was right in asking why she craves this much attention.  Does she have a narcisstic disorder?

I can kind of understand weighing 600 pounds and deciding to accept oneself.  No one just balloons up to that weight and I'm sure she's tried diets and fasts and found them ineffective.  (FYI: 95% of the time they ARE ineffective).  But aiming to weight 400 more?  Glorying in her success on the fringe of fetishes?  Gorging on the food that's not only making her fat but is, in itself, dangerous?

"She lives 40 miles from NYC but she certainly couldn't get up the steps of the Metropolitan or stand in line at the Empire State Building.  She'll see Hawaii from a car. 

"And that's what makes me sad.

"What makes me mad is her and her fiancee's notion of curves.  I've weighed over half of what she weighs and I guarantee you I had NO CURVES.  I was one large mass, square shaped.  What she has are bulges and flaps.  And they're lying to themselves to think there is no difference between the two concepts."


Now let's make fun of thin people striving for Jersey Mom Perfection:

Who's the scariest of all?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

HEllo. My NAME is JERemy. How MAY I help you?

I've met a Max, a Peter and now a Jeremy, all in the same sing-song voice of the Subcontinent.  My Master Card is issued by a Nevada bank and yet each time I call, it is a "Frank" or a "Sam" or a "Jason" who answers.  I know these are not their real names because I know my call has been routed to India.  I know that because the agents' English is too crude to communicate anything tricky to.  My prescriptions, for instance.  I order them from Vancouver, B.C. but they ship either from the U.K. or Australia.  This means I have to call Master Card and warn them that a foreign charge is about to occur and that I made it.  Who knew that involving three countries could cause so much non-understanding?  Three times in a row they have refused the charge.  I call again and tell Leslie or Sarah that I called seventy-two hours ago and confirmed the charge.  Promises are made, then broken.  Finally, my Canadian pharmacy put the script through in India, where the charge is passed as though I were putting an envelope in the collection basket.

I've paid about half my credit card debt off in the last year and Master Card is the Mother of All Credit Card debts.  When I opened my statement this month, I noticed a $90 charge for credit card and identity coverage.  I'm sure it's a wonderful concept but hello -- that's almost a hundred dollars a month, which is twelve hundred dollars a year in additional charges.  I have credit cards whose spending limit is less than that.

All I want to do is pay that bastard off.  I told Jeremy to remove the charge which I hadn't approved in the first place and he began reading from a script.  I cut across him, "Just take it off and unenroll me."  He switched to another script in which it was all my fault: I'm carrying a high balance and that's why my identity is more expensive.

(Shouldn't I be less expensive, since a fraudulent me would reach my credit limit sooner?  A zero-balance only means Master Card would have to chase down or eat $10,000 in charges rather than $4,000, a significant savings to them.)

I cut across Jeremy again.  "Just.  Take.  It.  Off."  He tried again and I stopped him by telling him I know he has to read this script ("I'm not reading...") but the point is that I want to reduce my balance, not pay another hundred dollars just to stay in the same place.  He tried one more time but I started shaking in fury, something I communicated without swearing or yelling.  The way he pouted when he said he was unenrolling me and removing the charge was meant to shame me, as though his year-old-son would be going to bed hungry that night because of my evil.

Americans complain vociferously about our jobs being exported to Asia, where they are done sooner, cheaper and, in some cases, better.  But here is a job that needs to be brought back to our shores.  "Sam" and "Carrie" do not understand that I can order about two hundred dollars' goods from Canada but it might be shipped from England or maybe from some place else.  They can't even understand me when I call to say I'll be in Czech Republic next week.

Dear Direct Merchants:  My money is, like, really sensitive shit to me.  So is the Wellbutrin your agents are blocking.  Could you please move your 1-800 center to an American state in need of job opportunities?   The Rust Belt is yours or maybe Mississippi.  Montana is good -- very little accent, low per capita income, cheap rents, and the weather is, um, cool most of the year.

Except when it's not.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Trending in Francieland, right now...

What about the Japanese restaurant owner who has such a strict policy regarding uneaten food that she will ban you from her restaurant for not finishing your dinner?

Forced binging, or a new concept in Eating Green?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Yesterday was a bad day.  So far, today is better.  My stomach doesn't have a knot in it, I haven't had to cut up a klonopin, I've proceeded in a logical path through both personal things and work things.  It feels as though there is time to do enough.

My reminder to myself, at least twice an hour, is that if I don't go off my food plan and no dog or human is injured directly by my actions, failure is impossible.  Disappointments, yes.  Crises, judging by yesterday, unfortunately certain.  But I have only two things I can fail at.

This reminding has been singularly helpful.

I came home yesterday afternoon clutching myself with the need to get to the bathroom twelve minutes earlier.  My stomach was in an uproar.  It can take a while to adjust to my food plan, with all its salads and fiber, and it's not always my timing.  I had plans to meet a friend to see Twila Tharp's Come Fly with Me and had about an hour to get ready.  I showered.  As I was trying to decide on something to wear, my phone rang.  It was my agent.

She had news I was expecting: my publisher is offering eight-five percent less for my next book than it did for Angry Fat Girls.  If it wasn't for being a really good writer, they would not be offering me a contract at all.  I already knew this.

But I had a melt-down.  It wasn't the money, it was my agent's badgering about what I should do next, in terms of Sex and the Pity, my novel, making a living, moving away from New York.  I was gasping for breath and for words as she rushed on with ideas -- movetoMontana, proctorbookclubs, writethreesamplechaptersandanoutlineofSPandsubmititelsewhere.  These are not tenable ideas and having to reject them, one by one, made me feel I was being horribly negative and sullen.  I felt trapped.  I felt...

...exactly how I felt in my last job, when Alix would call me into her office with an itemized list of everything I was doing wrong or not at all and would then demand to know what I was going to do to fix it.  I never had words for her in those moments.  I needed time to figure out what to do or felt a "yes" was a sufficient answer when what she enjoyed was watching me twist at the end of my employment string.

My agent wasn't doing that.  She was probably trying to give me options and probably trying to assuage her own disappointment by giving me a sense of future.  But it felt just like sitting in that floor-to-ceiling windowed office, twenty-nine floors above Central Park, being nipped and badgered by the gnats of failure.

This used to be my business.  I understand my agent's position and I understand my publisher's position. When I was an agent, I used to tell writers not to think they could work in their pajamas.  I've gotten a seven-year free ride in my jammies.  It's coming to an end.  I didn't need my agent to point that out.

But the sense of being ambushed was horrible.  I canceled the theater because I knew there was a good chance I'd cry through the musical comedy.  I though desperate things.  Then I took off my fancy duds, put on my shorts and laid down with Daisy and the telephone.  I called my best friend and she was outraged for me when I had no energy to be outraged for myself.  I tried to call my editor to clarify a couple of things but she was gone.  Mostly thought, I laid there with Daisy's paws on my shoulder, holding me, and let my mind go blank. When I got up, forty-five minutes later, I thought about having spent many years as an adjunct writing professor, the couple of articles I want to submit, the fact that, unlike most dog walkers, I'm available at night and on Sundays.  I can squeak through this year if need be.  I can take actions.  I can trust that I'll be OK, just as I've hit this financial impasse before and lived through it.

My therapist, Dr. Sometimes-It's-Not-Just-a-Cigar, calls it post delayed stress.  I'm embarrassed by it.  Soldiers can have PDS.  Abuse victims.  Not someone who cowered in fear and muteness through two years of a bad boss.

And yet, there I was, Alix-ized. 

Somehow the quiet time both calmed me and presented an opportunity to me.  I will accept their offer but I will also tell my agent how I felt in the conversation.  I will not discuss what I'm doing to make a living with her.  I'm not sure I can even discuss this book with her because she has not found any humor in what I've done, a fact I brought up as a significant factor in staying with my publisher.

The biggest opportunity that fifteen minutes and forty-five minutes of recovery offered, however, was to see that it's really true that I if I don't eat and dogs and people are uninjured under my watch, I can't fail.  Sometimes I miss the lesson in being abstinent but yesterday I was able to get to a point at which I saw that exchange as information.  Given certain circumstances and a certain mode of address, I flash back.  When I feel my life is pulled out from under my decision-making, I flash back.  Flashbacks definitely make me want to run to sugar but they do so because A) that's my default setting, and B) flashbacks are uncomfortable. 

But it passed.  And I knew my boundaries had been crossed and I knew that to dither about accepting the offer and looking for the next financial chapter in my life would only make my feeling of being out-of-control worse.  No one promised me I could live in my jammies but what I choose to do when I get dressed has to be my decision.  And I cannot allow anyone, ever again, to have the power over me that Alix did. 

She had it because she had my job.  I've put in seven years of being my job.  Maybe it's time to simply get a job.  Not be it, not be under the yoke of it.  Just a job.  Because really?  I can't fail.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm Not in Kansas Right Now

Dear Ones --

I don't expect everyone to approve at what's going on at my other blog.  That's why I started a separate blog that is age-restricted.  The question has arisen concerning whether the actions of yesterday's post are self-empowering and I think it's certainly a question that deserves thought and discussion.

All journeys begin somewhere.

I'm fifty-three years-old and never-married.  I've had a few boyfriends and many heartbreaks.  My heart is still leaking, in fact, from something in my recent past that did not come to fruition, and it has had a thud after my encounters over the last week: in many important ways, the thuddee actually gets me.  That's a powerful turn-on.


Consider, now, that I have been fat for something like forty-six years.  I was the butt of a lot of teasing up until I went to university.  Then I became the Best Friend, the Fag Hag, the voyeur of what my thin, pretty/handsome friends were experiencing.  I listened and sympathized.  I listened and wished.  I listened and grew fatter.

I passed through the chapters of my thinnitude under the stress of either gaining a new body and new horizons, or saying goodbye thereto.  I spent much of the time in my romantic relationships wondering if I could really be loved, if my battle scars were at least forgivable, or if I could compensate for them in some way.  I spent so much time in my head that I couldn't feel my body except when I was out and about, mostly in the gym or on my own, walking the city in black cashmere trousers or a short black skirt.  Then I felt tall and in possession of a secret: you don't know what I really am...

I was Beauty and Beast when I was thin.  As I gained weight I felt more and more that I was the Beast alone.

In these last seven years, it has been a surprise to me that men found me either attractive or fuckable.  That perhaps one man fell in love with me for a bit and that a couple of other men fell in like is astonishing.

It shouldn't be.  I'm not ugly.  I'm funny, smart, giving.  They even found me sexy, although that has never been something I felt.

Until the last few weeks.

What has changed?  I'm really abstinent for the first time in more than six months.  I've been through a great deal of grief and estrangement.  I'm not working as hard as I should be in my twelve-step program but I have done some deep digging in my stepwork and in throwuppy.  My old feelings of being the butt of jokes and excuses, of needing to be invisible, are shriveling a little bit as I take them out of the closet and place them in the light of the room for two pairs of eyes.  I'm slow to pick up on having boundaries crossed or argued about, but at least I remember, now, when my therapist points instances out.  I'm becoming more sensitive to them and more protective.

I don't know if I've lost weight or not, although a friend noticed that I was looking "healthier" and my food plan is so predictable that it would be difficult not to lose weight.  Not knowing has thrown me back on my day count and my body.  Because I'm also pretty disenfranchised from my size, I can't tell much from the way my clothes fit.  This pretty much leaves me only how and what my body is feeling.  It has a knot of anxiety in its stomach.  Its neck is sore.  There is a twinge in its left shoulder.  And it's randy.

There is also a brain in this body -- a mind.  And a heart and a pleasure center.  I may not be ready for a boyfriend or a boyfriend may not be ready for me, but for a change I'm relying on those other bits to tell me when a situation, a man, a sexual liaison, is not right for me.  And I'm walking out, shrugging my shoulders, taking pleasure in a cold drink and the searing acridity of a cigarette, relishing my messy Cave and my dog.   She is always glad to see me and manipulate me in our seven-year dance of often opposing desires.

So yeah, it feels good to say, "You're not the right one."  And it feels good to seek a Right One, despite, right now,  the sexual emphasis on seeking.  I missed out on so much in the years when boyz wanted girlz to be fresh and skinny, and in the years when I didn't trust myself.

It is empowering to trust my instincts.  It's bloody empowering to have instincts after the cloister of grief.  It's empowering to read or hear that a man I could like thinks I have a lovely body.

And it's most empowering of all to write, to write the journey.  It's only a journey; the destination is a place everyone recognizes.  Love.  Home.  Friendship.  Maybe health insurance.

But it's my journey, for better or worse.  I'm being careful.  And I'm shrugging my shoulders when that's what I feel like doing.  And I'm glad I know these things.  Somebody in my future will appreciate the self-acceptance I'm being tutored in, the joy, the frontiers of my self that I'm defining and learning to defend.

All journeys end somewhere, and the somewhere is always [re]new.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frances Is Trending...

Click on the title to read new post at Assholes in the Headlights

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Plague Year

The anniversary of the morning my mother fell and injured her hip is in twelve days.  From that day on, she was never the same and in a sense, it marks the death of her as part of my home family.  I want the day to go by and to put the last twelve months behind me.  There have been wonderful things in this year -- going to Prague, going to the Pacific Northwest, meeting a lot of people on Facebook -- but there has also been a lack of energy to write, sadness, bad depression, family schism, and a bit of a broken heart.  Add to all that, weight gain and increasing social anxiety.  It hasn't been pretty.

In making some choices to speak up and claim parts of myself, I've lost a couple of friends. Just recently, another seems to have rebuffed me, although I haven't tried to find out why.  For the most part, I've probably been a distant friend this year, absorbed in family events and trauma, sunk in a wordless place when I was confined to quarters for two months, traveling, watching Angry Fat Girls tank, and getting abstinent, which always makes me go underground with civilians.  If my illusiveness has caused more rupture in my friendships, I'm sorry.  But it was, on the whole, a year in which I had to put the oxygen mask on myself first.

For the last five weeks I've struggled against my anxiety to get anything done.  While I was in relapse, I had occasional hard work days because if I didn't do something, I'd feel so miserable that I'd want to die.  Without sugar, I've been feeling what's going on.  Not much is happening in my life to blog about because that's what I've been doing: feeling.  Therapy has been like boot camp and I joked on Facebook one day that I think I need a therapist to talk to about therapy.  There and in my step work, I'm facing some demons.  There are days when I just go to bed after crying through an assignment or therapy session.

All of this is by way of saying I'm sorry to anyone and everyone who reads this and who has felt slighted by me.  I've been curled up in a very tight ball.  My life is about to blasted open if we come to an agreement with Berkley about the next book.  I'm going to have to go on about a hundred first dates and write about them.  Am I ready?  I don't know.  You can find out by going to my new blog, "Assholes in the Headlights," which I should have started yesterday.

My blogs: sheesh.  I blog about food/addiction/depression at Psychology Today, snarky dating experienced at Headlights, about publishing on my website, and about my other stuff here.  I feel fragmented but somehow, also, that any other blog needed to wait until I could write this.

So I'll see you around the Web, and I'll see you in Starbucks.  I'll be the large woman having a stilted conversation about what the guy opposite me does for a living.

And I'll try to come up with events to report here on as regular a basis as possible.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Life: A Novel

Chapter One

Of all the flowers of all the seasons, I am obsessed with photographing tulips. We have a complicated relationship, the tulips and I. I love how they catch and hold the sun -- or the rain -- like votives or canthoros, the fonts of holy water that are just inside the door of Catholic Churches and hearken back to the need to be clean before God.

I believe tulips are clean before God.

They are also notorious Jezebels, however, showing off their sex to the world without any of the rose's folderol of petticoats and skirts or the profusion of pubic pollen that a peony hides behind. The tulip is proud and available.

Except at night, when she closes up against the cold. Perhaps she has harbored the sunlight and she clenches it for warmth. She is, in any case, smarter than those dumbbell daffodils and narcissi that glow hopelessly and virginally twenty-four hours a day.

And finally, there is her history, reaching back to the Middle Ages and the mountains of China where she was a weedy thing until she was brought to Constantinople, where she became the empress of flowers and sought after by the Czechs and the Dutch for any price. The tulip broke the guild system in Holland because there was no guild for flower-cultivators. Anyone with access to a little property could cultivate the tulip. And the stripes of the tulip that became so prized? They are cause by a virus.

The tulip doesn't smell like the bearded iris and lilacs I love so much, or have as long a season as roses. But it is a flower of a thousand shapes, colors, lights, viruses and miles.

Chapter Two

The WASPs are upon us. There should be a joke about how various faiths advertise activities at their churches and temples -- Lutherans using colored paper taped to light poles, Unitarians satisfied to advertise on their big information board, Catholics with that great smelling blue mimeo ink...

Grace Church has had a number of events lately and their congregants are involved in even more. They are the Pillars of Brooklyn Heights, some old money or old families, many families because of their pre-school. And so the signs around the `hood right now -- for organ concerts and the annual Brooklyn Height House Tour (a.k.a. You Are Poorer Than You Know) -- are laminated and tied to the iron fences with wide pastel satin ribbons. Worse yet, they are tied to the fences of the congregation. If God decided to smite everyone but the Episcopalians, He'd know right where the smiting should take place.

It makes me feel sorry for the Grace members who live in apartment buildings that don't have fences. Perhaps they tape the literature to their door.

Just in case.

Chapter Three
High Anxiety

This is what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder that borders on agoraphobia: the knot in my stomach begins around 9 a.m. I argue with it, reassuring it that Nothing Will Happen Out There, that No One Is Going to Find Out. The knot takes on more mass until, at 9:20, I am shaking and sweating and rooted to the chair at my computer. I turn to one of a half dozen games, hoping my anxiety will forget to fold over on itself in order to take on more anxiety buds. By 9:30 I realize I am not going to conquer it with Monopoly. A half Klonopin is needed. If only I could get out of my chair. Get. Up.

Five minutes of this and I go into the kitchen and shakily cut a pill. I brush my teeth. I dither at this and that, waiting for the twenty-minute softening of my muscles. I take a deep breath, arm myself with cigarettes and go out to do what I need to do. Then I come home and have diarrhea before worrying about my next task or errand, bargaining toilet paper for Kleenex and instant coffee for Maxwell House on late Sunday afternoon when the store is mobbed with working people laying in the week's supplies, whether my rent check will take another day to clear and relieve me of going to the bank, if I really have to take the trash to the basement.

It's exhausting. And by the time I manage to do the outside thing, I've spent all my energy on propelling myself out that chances are slim I'm going to do anything but go back to Monopoly.

Chapter Four
Dr. Sometimes-It's-Just-a-Cigar

I quite like my new therapist of the last six months or so. He's kind of a cherub and he's good at pointing out when I've been scammed by someone, which is one of the things I'm in there to learn. I sit on a couch overlooking downtown Brooklyn (which is not a great view) and tell him about, oh, my anxiety.

We've had some spots of absurdity, however, that I've never encountered with another shrink.

For instance, I sent out about 250 Christmas cards. They were identical, a picture of Christmas lights tangled in razor wire with a mournful verse from Shakespeare's Sonnets inside. I've seen the card in various homes because the recipients like it. I got compliments on it. Dr. Cigar, however, announced in our first session in the new year that We Needed to Talk About It.

What, he wanted to know, was I trying to tell him with that picture and verse? Well, gee, Dr. C., it was the Christmas after my mom and my favorite aunt died, after a ruckus in my family. I wasn't feeling very cheerful. Also? It's one of the best pictures I've ever taken. And I sent it to two hundred and fifty people.

That was our last session until March when my ankle and the weather decided I'd been held hostage long enough. Of my ankle, he opined, "It's possible you wanted it to happen."

Umm, h'mm. Well. No. I'm quite capable of staying in the house 24/7 without the aid of a cast and a blizzard. Although if I'd known about the Vicodin, I might have stubbed my toe.

Each time I think I've gotten my story across, Dr. C. comes up with or returns to another of these Freudian fault lines. This last Saturday, I was telling him about how I tried to tell someone an important thing. He found my way of saying it rather... sideways. Just like the Christmas card.

Thank heavens he doesn't see my typos.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trending Thursday, April 29

Tomorrow is the end of National Poetry Month. This is year The Academy of American Poets celebrated with a "put a poem in your pocket month". Write or type out a small poem and give it to someone or leave it somewhere quirky and auspicious. If you can, take a photo of it.

So here is my contribution to April...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 26, 2010:

Frances is trending:

"Lost Pounds Lead to Burst Fantasy" on msnbc. Here's my response:

The C.D.C. and other government institutions have declared a "war on obesity". I would propose an accord with maintaining. It is harder for a formerly obese person to maintain weight loss than it is to lose that weight.

Sadly, once obese, always obese. The deprived fat cells of a formerly obese person never go away; they hang out screaming to be filled up again. As well, I argue, no one becomes obese out of simple laziness or even genetics. Gain = pain. Part of the way many people deal with pain is by eating. A four-year-old doesn't go out and score crack and she probably doesn't think, "I'll go burn this off with a brisk walk around the block." She reaches for what is available -- food. Probably sugar and fat loaded food. That sugar increases both serotonin and the dopamine in the brain in EXACTLY the same way cocaine and morphine do. It makes that tot feel happier and calmer.

If this affect on the brain was grown in Mexico and came in powdered form, it would be illegal.

More significantly, however, is that that kid -- and all the adults battling the bulge -- probably have a deficit of both those brain chemicals that keep them emotionally balanced. Deprived of that, even with the help of anti-depressants, and past the excitement of watching the numbers drop off, when the going gets tough, most formerly obese people are going to eat because it restores that sleepy, satisfied downer that makes real life so much easier to take.

The reason I argue for an official pact with maintenance is that it's not only the last frontier (90% of all dieters will gain back their weight, and something like 95% of the regainers gain more) but it's applicable to everybody.

Maintaining 240 pounds is an incredible feat -- as difficult and praise-worthy as maintaining 130 pounds. It can only be done through old-fashioned methods (which include surgery, the success of which depends on the patient's adherence to a strict food plan) and maybe, for the 240-pound person, that breathing space of "hurrah! I haven't gained weight!" will allow for mental adjustments. From there, a slight tweaking will result in weight loss.

But who can blame the fat person for thinking life will be different? First readers scold the obese for bringing the insurance industry to its knees (which is nonsense) and then readers scorn the disappointments of all those government and media promises not coming true. Shame on you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Get to Have Friends...

...until you change the terms.

That, it would seem, is the theme of the week. It hurts, even when I've made the changes out of self-protection or against my better wisdom.

There are all kinds of ways to lose friends, after all.

Actually, I've lost three friends in the last several months and it should have been a warning of what was already too late: being pals with people you employ or work for.

In the case of A, I asked for an accounting of several hundred dollars I was paying out and got anger and vague answers to my questions. Again, the warning was there when I had, months earlier, put a down payment on the work I would be asking for and suggested starting on something already in place only to be met with friendly silence until my freelancer's regular job wasn't producing the rent. I figured we'd get the project done sooner or later but I got angrier over the claim that accounting for time is impossible until I took my freelancer's inventory* and pretty much made it impossible to be met with anything more than fury.

It happened again last week. After factoring in the need for time to write, my still-fragile ankle (I spent some days in Arizona in sandals. I'm really not ready for sandals.), the temperament of the dog, and the fact that my other steady gig will be moving in June, I decided I would have a somewhat better shot at serenity if I didn't walk that dog for a couple of months. It was one of those brain-waves that sometimes hit in an awkward but correct instant. I wish I'd had it a couple of weeks ago but keeping their interim dog-walker on is probably a good thing for the walker and not the embarrassment ("What will I say to X?" the owner dithered about the walker who had been with them pretty much since December 20th, when I left for Christmas) that my decision was portrayed back to me.

I received a terse email this morning saying that they had changed some plans and would not need me to board the dog in a couple of months. I wrote back that it was fine and "are you angry with me?"

So far no answer.

I had -- how to put this? -- laid down some boundaries that protected my wallet, my body, my time and my serenity**. I'm a nervous wreck when I walk that dog, who has bloodied me several times by entering into battle with other dogs, and who has tried to bloody several humans, not all of whom are over four feet tall.

These are all good reasons, objectively speaking. I would have hoped that A didn't want to rip me off, and B would have simply respected my time and health. Nonetheless, I'm two friends down.

& then there's the ol' When Harry Met Sally crisis. I don't really need to tell the story with that introduction, do I??? The gag here is a day of quarrelsome emails that were based on the fact that I have a dumb crush & Harry does not. Harry felt the best way to deal with my crush was to disavow having inspired it.

No problem there, Harry. I fought it like the flu.

But I still had a crush. And that crush makes certain things really painful. Harry couldn't seem to get past his innocence and I fell into a sink-hole of explaining my explanations. I wondered whether, after all this sturm und drang, I should terminate the flawship. I was angry about trying to save his innocence but still get to claim my feelings. That turned into having my inventory taken (do you feel better now, A?).

  1. I was angry as an attempt at dealing with my feelings.
  2. I was threatening Harry as a sorry attempt to make him feel the way I did.
  3. I am constitutionally bitter and rigid.
  4. Miscellaneous stuff I can't recall because I deleted those emails for good.

The first two were patently incorrect. I was angry at the endless exchange and the claim that because Harry had not promoted my crush, my crush was therefore insignificant. I didn't threaten; I wondered out loud.

As for numbers three and four...I don't know. I don't have an outside perspective on myself. I am in ways, and probably not in other ways. I wonder if the split of these adjectives and their opposites are true of everyone?

I felt like a small pile of ugly dust when I finally begged that the exchange stop.

Here's the amazing thing, though, about me and about serendipity. Having cried myself into a sinus headache, I got a Twitter from someone I'd exchanged a few tweets with. How was I, she asked, and then, email me what's going on. Her perspective helped and I made a new cyber friend out of it.

And later I thought about two things that happened the last time I saw Harry. We'd fallen asleep. He woke me up coming out of a bad dream, moaning to talk himself up to consciousness. Later I woke him up -- laughing in my sleep. And I sneezed once and he laughed because my sneeze actually does come out as an achoo. "It's part of my adorability factor," I retorted.

So I'm left pondering, can I be friends with someone I had a crush on (Harry pretty much tortured the active part of it out of me, as though I'm no longer contagious), who couldn't sit still while I worked through feelings I was honest about, and finds me bitter and rigid (a combination I would run from in someone else).

And who wouldn't find laughing in her sleep and achooing charming as hell? I do, at any rate.

So I'm down three friends, up one, and I like two teeny things about myself that I hadn't even known about before. Who's winning? Who's hurting?

* In twelve step parlance, taking someone else's inventory -- i.e., telling that person what is wrong with him or her -- is a crime punishable by righteous indignation.

** As in, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Long Time, No Blog

The Sprain took two months in a walking boot-cast to heal. It wasn't pretty but after six days in regular shoes I guess it was inevitable. The weather locked me in & my lack of options locked me in. I shut down in order to survive myself. The only things I was interested in were farm games on Facebook, chick lit novels & dessert. I had to hire a walker for Daisy for several weeks. Do you know how wrong that felt?

My ankle hurts a little today but I guess that's inevitable as well. As soon as I began to be more mobile, even in the boot, I began to pursue errands that had piled up. Today I walked all over Montague Street & environs, getting my hair cut & going to the bank & picking up a prescription. I wore shoes that weren't bad for my still-swollen foot but weren't as supportive as the others I've opted for. I find myself tired this evening, too tired to attack cleaning the top of my desk or looking for some software that's gone missing (which has entailed cleaning where no man -- but all the dog hair -- has gone before). I'm writing a dull blog at the plaint of a friend. I'm afraid my words are few.

For the duration of the Sprain, I depended mostly on my cell phone because my portable phone didn't work & my back up old-fashioned phone threatened to trip me & has no capacity for storing numbers. This meant I didn't make many calls either. Finally, today, I went to Radio Shack with the two-year warranty I'd for once taken out on it. The manager opened up the receiver and reconnected the battery.

Can you say stupid?

It's been that kind of winter. Telephonically challenged. I misplaced the software for my new camera & even though I couldn't go voyaging for snow photos & even though I wouldn't admit it to myself, it was like another language gone missing. The Radio Shack manager also suggested I go to the Canon website & simply download the software.

Score two for stupid.

But in my mobile state, I'm itchy to...I don't know what the verb is. Live? Join my species? I love my Canon but it's a big hulking thing so I bought an Olympus that was on sale and will fit in a pocket. It will be good to start speaking & conversing in images again.

We won't talk about my weight although I may be more gloomy about it than the reality. My therapist said he didn't see a change in my body.

My therapist also edged around the possibility of hospitalizing me for depression. That scared the shit out of me. I worked very hard to rise above that need. Laundry one day, bed the next -- for a week or so I vacillated between getting dressed & staying in bed with Daisy, who has been a real trooper through this. In retrospect, which is really only two weeks or so, it seems as though my "accomplishments" included laundry, doing the dishes, taking a shower. I will remember this winter as the Sprain but I won't remember much of what I did beyond raising vegetables on Farmville & the grit in bed that the dog & I collaborated on because I had to wear the boot all the time. Oh, & Vicodin. That was nice.

Life is going from zero to sixty now. I'm seeing Riverdance tomorrow night. Friends from Seattle are in town for the next few days. I leave for Seattle & Portland to do book stuff on Wednesday. Somehow or another the publisher of Berkley has handed off the form & price of my next book(s) to me & my editor. My agent called earlier to tell me to make an appointment with my editor to figure it out but a day of errands left me too tired to really understand what the hell this means. It hurts my feelings that Angry Fat Girls has had such a lousy run of it, that even my fucking hometown newspaper hasn't reviewed it. It's a more important book than Passing for Thin because it is NOT a fairy tale & the hope it offers is the hope each of us has to find in our own truths.

For a couple of difficult months, my truth has been a small dark ghetto. I didn't have hope. I barely had endurance. But endurance had to be enough.