Saturday, December 15, 2012

Adoption Day

So for anyone who isn't adopted, or who is less hyper-navel-gazing as I am, birthdays for an adopted child can be a little weird.

The only story of my birth is that my parents got a call on the evening of the12th of December saying there was a baby girl available for adoption.  They had adopted two boys and had been waiting for a girl.  They said yes and Mom opened up all her Christmas cards to add my name.  And there was a scramble for baby stuff because they hadn't saved everything from Jim's infancy.

I was lying in the bath this morning thinking that it was 7.30 a.m. in Missoula.  Fifty-six years ago this morning my parents picked me up from the hospital and brought me home.  It was a school day and they would be going to court the next morning to make it all legal, so they didn't tell my brothers, who were in first and third grades, that a baby was coming that morning.  Mom was keeping her fingers crossed that I wouldn't wake up when Jim and Dick came home for lunch because she didn't want them going back to school with a story to tell before it was official, but I did and Jim's grew round (I'm guessing) as he asked, "Is that a baby?"

Which, I think, is what Thumper said upon seeing Bambi.

I'd love to start calling you Thumper, Bro, but would have to kill you if you started calling me Bambi in return.

I don't remember if the boys tattled.  My father told me last Christmas, which was that in 1956, when a baby was born who was being given up for adoption, it was swept away immediately, before the birth mother could see it.

I know that her name was or is Ann[e] Taylor and I have joked that I should get a discount.  She was supposedly a student at the University of Montana but I know from one of my brothers' searches that the annuals did not reveal his mother.  Who knows if she gave her real name?

I only know this much of my birth and the subsequent days.

The rest I have to intuit and guess at.  My birth certificate reveals that the delivering doctors was one of my father's partners at the time which probably accounts for the immediate inside scoop of my availability.  Kind of like medical inside trading, I guess.  My godparents were the other branch of his medical practice.  Trip, who delivered me, was a close family friend.  How strange it is to think of that now, all those times at the lake and dinner parties and working with Dad making bullets and shotgun shells and he knew who my birth mother was.  What she looked like.  If she was silly or heartbroken or smart or funny.  If it was an easy birth.  If she had requested a Catholic family.

And how strange it is that one chromosome made me a Kuffel rather than a Smith or a Kelly or whatever.  Not only would I not be who I am if I'd been born a boy, I wouldn't have the parents I did/do.

My father is tight as a modern o-ring on a space shuttle about his years of practicing medicine.  He'll tell stories sometimes but never with a name attached and not many tales at that.  Having been in general practice transiting to anesthesia, which he got a bigger crash course in in Korea, then one of two anesthesiologists in the state for a while, he has some cool stories and I used to call a trip to the mall Doc Country because of all the people who'd come up to him to say the babies he'd delivered were now parents themselves.

But I think it is probable, despite his saying otherwise, that he checked out Ann[e] Taylor and Baby Girl Number Something.  He once admitted she was Irish.

Or did I just want that information so much that he gave it to me to stop my questions.

Someone once thought I had Native American blood.  My mother was appalled.  "You're German," she said shortly.  But I hung on for the sake and literary/religious history of my Black Irish features.

Who knows?

And how strange that for three days I had a phantom name -- my paternal grandmother's and mother's -- that a few people -- my parents, some nurses, Dad's partners -- may have known but which was not official, probably not used in the hospital.

Where did my birth mother recover from giving birth?  If it was in the obstetrics department, did she hear me crying?  Did it make her breasts hurt?

Did the nurses give the motherless baby some extra cuddling?

I have learned that those are critical days, from the moment of birth on.  I missed the first two most important days of my life, that time of extreme bonding.

When I asked my mother how long it takes to bond -- to physically feel your baby crying -- as an adoptive mother, she said, as shortly as she said I was German, ...oh hell.  Now I don't remember.  Eighteen hours?  Thirty-six?  Something like that.  It was reassuring, her fast as fast response and the short time it took her to own her babies.

So those are the questions and the facts that some adopted children spin in the week of their birthday.  And it is a week as we look back on unknown events, from birth (and often on our birth mother's delivery) to the next transfer, whatever that means and wherever it was to.

What adopted children feel in that week....well, that depends on the kind of person each of us is.  An over-thinking depressive has some blank-to-black days in that week, kind of mirroring baby and birth mother, maybe.

I'm always glad when the 15th rolls around.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Somewhat guiltily, I am fine.  Our cable went out for a few hours and another tree came down this hurricane, but my neighborhood is fine.

My poor city -- oof.  It sounds like 9/11: no traffic, no subways, no planes.  Sirens.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tropical Storm Sandy & Shameless Promotion

Tropical Storm Sandy is coming.

I have a new hobby or job -- I'm not sure which -- doing some social media consulting for a book that has more common sense about food in it than any I've read, Pam Peeke's The Hunger Fix.  Please feel free, everyone, to give me ideas and help in how to promote the book more deeply in the `net scape.

I have to go to the store and get some real food in the house -- God, how I dread walking out of the Bat Cave.  But I thought I'd run this recipe by you.  It has a four-HF rating from the doc herself ("I love the recipe") and it has a zing from the lemon and olives that I wait for with each bite.  It's from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, btw.

It will be good to chop on Monday.  Cooking is one of the most satisfying things I can do, you see.  And if there's anything I need, it's a feeling of satisfaction.

If I ever get to give a dinner party again, this will probably be a starter course.


Moroccan Stew

1½ cups chopped onions
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups cubed potatoes (I often omit because I don’t always have a carb at night)
2 cups chopped green beans (canned or frozen are fine)
3 cups cubed fresh tomatoes (canned will do in a pinch)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 red bell peppers, chopped
3 13-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained & halved (reserve the brine)
½ cup pitted black olives (use good Greek olives)
pinch of saffron 

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste

SautĂ© the onions & garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add the thyme, green beans, bell peppers, and tomatoes, & cook on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Ad the vegetable stock & the brine from the artichokes & simmer, covered, until the vegetable are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the halved artichokes, black olives, & a pinch of saffron.  Continue to simmer gently for another 5 – 10 minutes.  Add the lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Smack Down, Smack Back

Friends and I were sharing some hilarity on Facebook during the presidential debate last night and enjoying some special glee when Obama retorted to Romney's proposal to add an additional (unasked for) $2 trillion on the military that, "We have these things called air craft carriers, where planes land on `em."  I posted, "We have this thing called ELECTRICITY, Governor" to the general chuckles of my lefty pals who were snickering with me.

I posted on a public place so of course my comments are open to criticism.  But boy, was I stunned to find this response this morning:

Yeah. It's made from coal & oil. A whopping 12% from "green" sources. Divorce Pakistan? Nah, divorce O'blahblah. Building the military makes jobs. You remember what a job is, right? Not as adjunct, but with benefits & tenure. The cave as you call it must not have good reception. The dogs can't make political discussions. Might want to go grab a bite to eat somewhere that has cable TV. O'blahblah repeated almost verbatim everything Romney said. Oh, and by the way, on the military--Marines still use bayonets. Looks like your boy's rhetoric smacked down, allright. O'blahblah was petulant--almost childish. He smacked himself by being out of touch with the practice of the men he's supposed to be "in command" of. Romney at 52%, O'blahblah at 45%. Rasmussen. History dictates that no candidate up by more than 50% this late in Oct has ever lost. *little shrugs* Hm! BTW, does walking dogs require taxes be filed, or would that make you one of the 47% Miiittenns was talking about? I like the name "Mittens." It fits: Simple, straightforward, strong, warm and effective.

I don't know this writer except that we both play Cityville together.  My profile page has seen lots of political controversy in the last few months and I know I've argued with this writer more than once -- but I don't think I attacked her personally.  A dear friend from childhood is a well-informed neo-con with whom I take umbrage on a regular basis but she is also interested in the peanut butter cookie recipe I used to make my father's birthday present.  She refers to instances from her life in her argument as I do mine.  The ire behind this response, however, is seething.

We are all seething.

This is the zeitgeist and I feel I need to respond to her and other conservatives who look at me and shake their heads at the enemy.

Yes, Virginia, I have cable.  I work and I pay taxes, to the tune of 33% a year.  I do not have children so the taxes I pay toward education do not directly benefit me.  I own nothing so I have no tax loop holes.  I do not receive food stamps or medicaid.  I also pay sales taxes, taxes on my cable connection and cell phone, electricity and air flights.  Et cetera.

I'm not part of the 47% but I'm a taker because I have collected unemployment twice in my life and worker's compensation once.  I also use traffic lights, subways, streets, libraries, PBS, NPR, Homeland screening at airports, etc.  I went to a public high school, a public university and a private graduate school that receives prodigious federal funding.  

refuse to be shamed by the fact that I work in nontraditional jobs that require a degree of personal enterprise and complete self-discipline (i.e., if I don't walk a dog, it doesn't get walked by someone else and I don't get paid: I'm not claiming to be the world's most disciplined person by far!)

I've written two books that have, I believe, helped people understand their relationships with/around food better and reassured them that they are not alone, not freaks, not even very weird.  I may have even helped a lot of people.  I'm proud of that.

Polls are polls.  If Romney wins it doesn't mean he's the better man.  It doesn't make me a loser if I back a loser.  It just means a LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE.

Medicare and Medicaid will be left to individual state governments, many of which have such records of grift and nepotism that no one will protect the recipients.  Those recipients include my father, by the way, who is 95, self-made and a veteran.  

But, hey -- you can always go to the emergency room, right?  That drives medical care up higher and only the person obviously at death's door is going to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.  An ER will not screen for cervical cancer, say, or take a routine chest x-ray.  From my personal experience, an ER will look for the simplest explanation -- ulcer -- when the problem is a 36-pound ovarian cyst.  (And I had insurance then.)

I do not worship Barack Obama but I would martyr myself to comprehensive health care.  It's simply the right thing to do -- extend a hand to everyone because we CAN.  If we can run two wars, we can provide health care.  My taxes pay for all sorts of things that neither help nor I believe in.  Get over it.

And if you want evidence, look at life expectancies and happiness indexes of European countries with national health care.  Socialist?  Who cares?!  People are healthier (the Dutch are even taller) and happier where the central government provides essential services and safety nets.

An enlarged military, history also tells us (see Germany in the late 19th century), means two things: it will go looking for a fight and high profits for industrialists.

You can't cut taxes, add $2 trillion to the military and balance the budget.  It.  Can.  Not.  Be.  Done.

Trickle-down doesn't.  I live in a neighborhood of true trickle-downers.  It trickles down in imported cars, imported marbles, gold bathroom fixtures, real estate in swank weekend towns, trips to Turkey, kids in private schools and Armani.

Do you know how long it takes for that to trickle down to Nebraska?

This is the most important election I have voted in because it's life and death.  We either make our people healthier and more secure or we throw the deck of health cards in the air and watch what happens.  We either take a sane military approach to the Middle East or your grandson dies in Iran.  We are either grateful for the actual progress that is being made in the economy or we believe in political roulette. 

I hate it that an election has come down to a moral perception of the world but the fact is that all evidence points toward the contempt someone lucky and suited for a job-with-benefits has for everyone who doesn't and how life-threatening that is this year.

And by the way?  Even the Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch of Fox News, noted that Romney agreed with Obama's foreign agenda.  Obama didn't repeat Romney -- Romney conceded to Obama.

So really, don't assume, OK?  And if you want to truly claim that you don't rely on the federal government, get off the highways, home school your kids, find out if those drugs you take for high blood pressure were invented with federal grants, don't let your kids go to ANY college and sit in your back yard and rot.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Now Trending in Francieland

I will write here soon -- I promise!  Right now, I'm dissecting my 12-Step program over at Psychology Today.  Check out today's post, "Doing the Two-Step with the Twelve Steps".

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Please Update Your Blog"

So wroteth a Facebook acquaintance and I found myself in agreement.  Lately I've come to Car on the Hill with agendas (which I had to look up because it seems as though the word should have a Latinate ending -- but it doesn't).  I still have one but I think I can do it in tandem with "What Fat Women Want" over at Psychology Today.

I am thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins and how some of them -- greed, pride, avarice -- have sort of become virtues.  What, then, are the Seven Deadly Sins for the 21st century?

The first -- but not necessarily the greatest or the worst of the New Deadly Sins -- on my mind is Shame.

It it is of particular pertinence to Car because it's one of the reasons I've kept my posts either general or political.  While I was working on the book formerly known as Sex and the Pity (now referred to as Love Sick, but it needs a subtitle), I didn't want to tip my hand. While I was teaching I didn't want to draw my classes into this part of my life.  While I was depressed, I couldn't write, didn't want students or faculty to know or, also God forbid, affect my chances of getting a grown-up teaching position for which I had submitted many applications. Ditto eating, admitting disappointments, et cetera and so forth.

And a lot of those reasons revolve around shame. 
My Microsoft dictionary defines it as "a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace".  The fourth meaning is "a great disappointment".

There is, of course, much that looks familiar in that paragraph.  What feels alien about it, however, are the words "painful," "strong," and "great".  Because I rely on my Car readers to sort of identify with me, I'm going out on a limb by saying that those big adjectives are mostly negated by sheer familiarity.  Shame should also have the adjective "perpetual" or "chronic" added somewhere to its definition because it takes an unusual blip on my emotional radar to become aware of how much shame I live in.  If, for instance, I laugh too loudly or ask for help or make no plans to see anyone besides family when I go back to my hometown, I may feel a sharper twinge of an emotion that is my second skin, but ordinarily my painful, strong, great emotional state is mostly a sinking nervousness at the idea that I have to leave the house or wake up in the morning or pick up the telephone.

So far almost everything I've written could go on my Psychology Today blog where I might earn a teeny royalty some day but I've confessed enough here to make it Car-appropriate.  Let me be even more specific.

I hide.  I sneak around my very small world beyond the Bat Cave trying to be both invisible and very big -- very big by telling jokes, saying please and thank you, telling amusing stories, apologizing for being in the way.  For invisibility I rely on side streets, waiting until dusk, turning off my emotions, wearing oversize clothes, and staying inside as much as possible.

I had a run of abstinence this summer that did not seem to produce weight loss and I fear with good reason that I may now be as big as I was when I began to lose weight lo! those many years ago.  As a dog-walker, I do not dress up.  As someone in debt, I no longer have my eyebrows, hair, nails, etc. done.  I feel tremendous shame -- embarrassment, disgrace, disappointment, in that order -- over what I look like.

Next Wednesday I fly to Seattle to stay with friends I've come to conclusion are obligated to like me anyway.  The following week, I go on to Missoula where I will once again not see old friends.  It's the end of a tiring summer -- I wrote some 30,000 words (some of which have been knocked down, causing me more shame) and walked a lot of dogs in 100-degree heat.  I have failed my own dog and find myself unable to get back up on the novel bandwagon after my agent rightfully nixed the 120 pages I gave her.

The other thing about the definition of shame is that it needs the word "compound" in it.  Shame inflates itself.  If I can walk Hoadie for an hour a day, why don't I walk Daisy?  (Because I can't stand leaving my house unless I have to.)   I know I have the bones of a story, the talent to write it and all the time anyone could ask for, but I'm frozen with fear that I can't make the final leap into a new chapter one.  Why?  I'm afraid of failure and afraid of my sloth, one of the traditional Seven Deadlies. 

And in between all of this, I am teetering, yet again, on the border of depression when my life has no meaning and all I want is to go back to sleep.  I am terrified of another bout.

Any good news in here?

I think so.  I think there are some major sins beyond shame that are making themselves apparent: fear, frozenness, a certain kind of weakness that manifests as giving in too easily and for which I need a better word.

Which is, at least, a project I can work on teasing out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Gift

I have been walking a Jack Russel mix this summer because his owner is heavily occupied in taking care of his wife, who is in hospice care for late stage cancer.  His dog had never had a dog walker before so I report to Mr. Smith (the names here are changed) his various achievements and events.  Hoping to amuse Mr. Smith and, perhaps, his grieving family, I wrote the following.  It seems to have succeeded in adding something sweet to a most trying and sad time.  I'm up to my eyeballs in dogs and deadlines, so I thought I would post this for you.

The Adventures of Hody
A Friend

I came to know Hody in the heat waves of July, 2012.  His Male Human calls him a Jack Russell but conversations with other interested parties leave me thinking he is part border collie as well.  Consider his coloring: it is the border collie’s white with black splotches and freckles, like an exceedingly good portion of Oreos ice cream.  And his ears do not stand at constant attention as he walks, which a terrier’s do.  On the other hand, his demeanor is all terrier.  He is determined, quick, stubborn and larky.  Then, too, he is as huge as a Jack Russell and as playful.

In fact, most of Hody’s day is marvelous play or delicious naps.  In his profession of playing and napping, he has proven himself an ambassador, comedienne, man of medicine, gourmand, hurdle racer and lover.

My acquaintance with Hody is mostly in the context of out-of-doors.  He makes a fierce noise when I pick him up, sometimes for joy and sometimes because he likes to pretend I am a robber and should be warned sternly away from his home.  His Male Human prefers to put him in his halter because Hody is so soft and glossy to the touch.  When I perform this maneuver, I place the halter on the floor, then pick up his paws and place them inside, praying he doesn’t decide to dance in the seconds it takes to click the halter closed.  Then we snap on the leash and out we go, in a stately manner, as far as the threshold of the building, when he bolts into the broader space of the sidewalk.

Sometimes he has a bodyguard or two waiting for him.  He is thrilled to see who is waiting and bolts over so that they can perform their Maypole dance of butt-sniffing.  My own dog, Daisy, is always one of his regiment of protectors and they see each other at least once a day.  Still, they have to inspect each other’s orifices in case one of them is really a cat or a squirrel that is in Daisy or Hody disguise.

With the leashes untangled, the time has come to make a most crucial decision: where should Hody pee first?  Recycling bags (from which odors are neither absorbed nor washed away) are ideal, but so are the fringes of grass and ivy poking out of fences and tree railings.  The only thing that is better than recycling is recycling with another dog’s piddle on it.  It is an ecstasy of ownership.  This place is mine, Hody grins as he trots off the next stop, his black ears bobbing like a baby’s hands waving.

But I forget myself.  There is one thing that exceeds even peeing on pee on recycling.  That is peeing over his bodyguards’ pee on recycling.  When Daisy and Gertie escort Hody out into the world, I have to pause a long time for this business because Gertie must co-sign each of Daisy’s signatures and then Hody trumps them both.  They get in line behind Daisy and are quite impatient to prove themselves as worthy a gusher as Daisy.  What the black and yellow Labradors produce in quantity, however, Hody exceeds in frequency.  Sometimes he teases me by sniffing so seriously at a spot that I’m sure and event will occur, only to shrug his little terrier shoulders and continue his bob-bob-bobbing along down the street.

“Hod,” I say when he is, near the end of a walk, as I confess I call it, shooting blanks.  “You’re yanking my chain.”

“Walker,” he says back, “there are only two important things in life: what is in front of your nose and that you leave as much behind in this world as you find.  And if all you can do is go through the motions of giving yourself away, that’s enough.”

“Did you acquire your knowledge of philosophy at Harvard?” I asked him recently, but he only grinned and climbed a stoop to be adored by a man watering the geraniums in his window box.

Because I live nearby and have a dog as well as walking other dogs, I have a large acquaintance in the neighborhood that Hody has been delighted to share.  He is now a notorious Lothario, having no use for boys but a healthy desire to get to know any girl he meets.  He is especially fond of Sophie, a mix of hound and some other beautiful race, who appears (but is not, in reality) to be about three times as big as Hody.  She bows to him and he crouches to her, then pounces so that they meet in an embrace of rapture, his legs hugging her waist as hers rest momentarily on his shoulders.  After this greeting, it is time to get serious again.  There is another Maypole dance and then Hody mounts her.

“That’s my boy!” his Human Male crowed when I told him of Hody’s dalliances.  “A true Smith.”

A few days later, I extolled Hody’s exploits to his Human Female Family Member.  “Oh, no,” she lamented in horror.  “What will people think of the Smiths?”

I looked at Hody, who wagged his upright tail complete agreement with his Human Male’s pride, which is only proper for a dog of great heart.

In this way, Hody has become acquainted with Grace, a bull dog, Talullah, a Bassett-Rottweiler mix, Sandy, a golden retriever, Lucy, a gray poodle, and numerous flings.  So far he has shown no interest in his bodyguards but this is perhaps professional discretion on his part.

I have introduced him to Schuyler as well.  Schuyler is a whippet who is used to being picked on.  He is so fast that other dogs chase and chase him and sometimes, when Schuyler decides to rest, those dogs gnaw on him as a piece of prey.  Schuyler is, therefore, a suitable young man for Hody to play with because he dodges behind his Human’s legs while Hody snarls and lunges, then comes out to bow when Hody gives up on his objections.

They can play this game forever.

Hody’s only true enemy is a German shepherd.  He does not like that German shepherd at all.  I have a rule about the dogs Hody dislikes and I am forced to remind him of it at least once every other day: if the dog is too big to eat in one sitting, he must desist from attacking.  His Humans do not have refrigeration space for a German shepherd, you see.

In his role as ambassador, Hody has welcomed Spanish, Italian and Dutch visitors to these American shores, as well as tourists from Out There Where There Are Yards.  Many visitors come to his Promenade in order to photograph the fence that keeps us from falling into the fascinating but frustratingly forbidden rushing cars below.  Daisy patrols the benches in advance, making sure there are no crackers or hamburgers in Hody’s way, and Hody follows, looking for a hand and listening of the kick-kick sound that dogs know Humans think is Dog Talk.  Ears are good, butt is best, and in this heat wave it is always pleasant to sit under in shade under the bench in order to beg to be released from the persecution and sadism he receives from me.

There is a last piece of business Hody must perform outdoors.  We will not delve deeply into it but suffice it to say that it is very exciting when it involves leaping over a tree railing, pacing around and around the tree so that my arms are wrapped around the trunk trying to keep hold of his leash, and then, when I am either dizzy or holding the leash in the crook of my little finger, enjoying the sweet relief we all prefer not to speak of.

Because life is never dull, going home is as much a joyful profession as going out for a walk.  Sometimes the Human with the Cookies in His Right Pocket is outside the apartment building door!  Sometimes the Human with Suzie is there and they to sing together.  But at the very least there is cooler air inside, followed by a welcome home cookie and the laughter of his very own Human Man who is ready with his Almost a Rabbit that must be killed after so much marking up the neighborhood and teasing of the Human Walker.  The Human Man tosses the many-tailed Almost Rabbit and Hody bounds off to retrieve it, shaking it and breaking its Almost Rabbit neck, growling menacingly in case the Almost Rabbit should decide to fight back.  Hody can kill Almost Rabbits for hours but at some point even Hody –
            – must –

That, of course, is most comfortably done in bed, and in a proper bed, with lots of
pillows and cool sheets and warm blankets and Human Adoration.  A pillow is a nice extra mattress but every dog knows that the best place to rest one’s head is on a Human Limb (although it is very comforting to snuggle deep against a Human’s side as well.).  Part of the joy of Hody’s nearly perfect life (German shepherds and not being able to jump up and drink from water fountains like Daisy) is that his Human Woman is always ready to be a headrest.  When you are as big as Hody, and as abused by a Walker, you need the warmth and tenderness of a Human in order to restore your acuity for hunting, and this the Human Woman provides as she pursues her own dreams of fresh fields, splashy puddles, Real Rabbits and the occasional snow.  Each sleeps better for the other until it is time to eat or hunt or claim the streets again for his own.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Question of the Day...

Who are your favorite bloggers these days?  Most particularly, who's writing well about diet, health, cooking, body image, women's issues & books?

(For once this is Not About Me!)


Monday, June 11, 2012

Now Trending

Click & I might get a tiny royalty which will help Daisy & me move West, away from New York City.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

After the Rain...

comes oppressive tropical heat & humidity.  The dog walker's question is always what X season is going to be like.  If this summer is like today, I think I will turn choleric orange of irritation and restlessness.

A friend and I were just talking about the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, sampling two sets of adjectives any 12-stepper knows: "happy, joyous and free" and "restless, irritable and discontent".  We agreed that we're stuck on ad in the latter.  I'm writing this post, once again, in some effort to have done something writerly with a day that feels, with an hour of it to go, wasted and certainly itchy with wishing for anything except reality.

I just came back from walking dogs and had sundry thoughts out on the muggy streets.  They are mostly empty except for tourists, and the tourists were oohing and ahhing and saying they'd want to live in the Heights.  One young girl said, "I'll buy you a place."  The dogs and I happened to be walking toward the mansion where Turman Capote rented the garden apartment and wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood.  It just sold for $12 million and I was ever so tempted, if only lassitude and ennui hadn't gagged me, to tell them what it would cost to live here.  What a snotty thing to even think but how perfect for someone who has an ungreedy landlord and lives in a Bat Cave.  I can't afford to live here. 

The smell of the climbing roses on 70 Willow was almost solid in the thick air.

I remembered the two summers I was both thinnest and employed by the nastiest woman I've ever met.  I would trek off to Starbucks with a manuscript (these were the days of being an agent) and read in their air conditioning, then go to Saturday night Mass and wander around in a cloud of discontent.  I was thin -- I was making a good living -- I was funny, had great clothes, and was nice and I was wandering around the neighborhood wishing I had a boyfriend or any friend, mystified that I did not.  I felt I deserved one after losing so much weight.  In fact I felt owed all over the place -- the pretty clothes that I couldn't really afford, the shiny new job working for Satan, weekly manicures, a big social life, and having a facial and massage once a month.  I didn't seethe with this sense of entitlement; I was disappointed.  I was disappointed because I didn't feel I deserved any of that stuff.

Eventually I would drop my manuscript off at home and go have dinner by myself.  Alone but among other people.

I was shaking my head at the memory tonight.  I'm almost a month abstinent and commented to my sponsor that I don't feel I've lost weight.  If I put a battery in my scale, I would kneeling in prayer before it every day, so I can only go on how clothes fit and comments, the latter of which which usually fuck me up.  Better to rely on clothes because a shirt that fits is an 8-hour satisfaction but doesn't lead either to complacency, self-consciousness or boasting.  I did that the first time around.  If a decade of struggle and depression have taught me anything, it's that I have a fragile and manic-depressive ego.  I hope I haven't jinxed myself even by writing about being abstinent.

I think I was wishing I was thin tonight.  For a moment it promised an answer to my restlessness.  For once I stepped back into those days of being thin on a three-day weekend when one tends to feel more an outsider than usual and I knew it would not make me happy.  Cooler, more energetic: yes.  But happy or hopeful: not a chance.

In a sense, then, big deal if I have or haven't lost weight.  And so what if I am such a toxic brew of cravings, disappointment, perspiration, loneliness, self-pity, irritability and bitterness.  I don't have much else to do and I did not speak to the gregarious out-of-towners.  I'm tempted to end this by saying I have the air conditioner on and sugar-free lemonade powder in the kitchen, so life isn't really so bad.

But you know?  Sometimes life sucks. And the sole positive thing I can say about that is that if you think life is sucky because you're fatter/older/poorer/lonelier, it was probably sucky when you were thinner/younger/richer/engaged.  At the same time, however, if you feel like it's all a bunch of waiting for nothing, you're neither wrong nor alone.

P.S.  I was also thinking about words that should be banned from the language.  "Scent" is one of them, ergo the roses smelled -- "odor" is almost as bad.  Same for feral, creosote and bespoke.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Petty Complaint Department

One among thousands of problems I face every day is the dreaded short space of time between one true obligation and another.  As I begin to write this, I have forty minutes before 1) leaving my house, 2) going out in the rain, 3) meeting a friend to) get on the A train and 4) see First Position.*  What do I do in the meantime that will have some meaning?  I’m showered & in non-dog clothes so I don’t want to clean.  If I got going on the revision of Sex and the Pity in the next thirty-seven minutes it could be damaging to leave it.  I am sick unto death of computer games.  There are numerous small things I could do – transfer money and pay a bill, put earrings away, clean my desk – but there is every chance that by the time I get back and walk dogs, I will be psychically exhausted.**  I’d like to do, or at least begin something, that counts toward my real self...whatever that is.

As I was being scalded in the shower, adjusting the hot and cold water knobs which are, for some reason, reversed in my bathtub, waiting for the “water-saving” shower head that was foisted upon us all by law a few years ago, my eye caught a note on the cream rinse bottle.  “Turn off the tap,” it touted, while conditioning your hair.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I thought.  I am the very victim of male thinking right now.  The “water-saving shower head” takes forever to adjust to a tolerable temperature, thereby wasting water.  It takes at least twice as long to rinse my hair under it as it would under a hard spray, and if I’m, say, coloring my hair, it takes about five times longer.  If I had one finger to shower in cold water, I’m sure it would water, but in the ordinary course of things, it’s a waste of both time and water.

And now I’m told to turn off the tap while I condition my hair.

First off, does anyone really condition her hair?  If she does condition her hair, would she spend five minutes slathered under the stuff without doing something else in the shower?  Surely she’d take that time to shave her legs or loofa her back.  What kind of idiot just stands there?

If I were to turn off my tap, it would take three minutes of fiddling with the hot and cold to find a tolerable temperature. 

And does anyone really shampoo twice?

I am being admittedly sexist when I say that it took a man to think this stuff up.  A bald man.

And who at Maxwell House wants to take credit for the design of their coffee cans?  They have base and rim of metal but the tube is made of cardboard.  The crime in this design is twofold. 

First, the rim juts out so that it’s nearly impossible to shake the last coffee grounds into either the new can or the pot.  I know, I know: there’s not many grounds left so what’s the big deal? 

The big deal is Anne Frank.  She could – and would – have collected those grounds until she could make her papa a weak cup of coffee after dinner on the first day of Chanukah.  I resent my right to thrift and apocalyptic generosity being thwarted.

Second, how do you recycle said coffee container?  I am a slave to recycling, always fussing at it downstairs where my busy neighbors dump wine bottles in the baskets clearly marked paper and their newspapers in those clearly marked plastics.  For whatever reason, New York City recycling wants milk and orange juice cartons in with the soda bottles, but this is graphically clear as well.

So I looked at this coffee container and estimated it was more cardboard by square inch than it was aluminum and duly tossed it in the paper recycling.  When I saw the bags outside, it had been moved to metals and plastics.  Would it be too much to ask Mayor Bloomberg to pronounce upon where such mixed messages belong?  Or might Maxwell House take a look at oatmeal packaging which is all cardboard except for the recyclable plastic lid?

The above ate up the time I had before leaving for the movie.  Twenty-four hours later, I have combed through the private information I store in a big coffee can (a CafĂ© Bustello can, made entirely of aluminum) by my desk and cannot find a recent letter from World Financial Capital Bank.  (I keep everything with account numbers to burn in a friend’s fireplace.)

A month or so ago, I opened a bill that I expected would either be about $90 or $7.50, depending on whether the company had received the items I returned.  Instead it was more than $150, with a second charge marked “bath” after it.  Bath?  I’ve ordered nothing for the bath.  I went online and this bath charge was not among the purchasing history that went back some months.  I called my credit card.

A nice woman took my information and said there would be an investigation into the bath order.  In the meantime, they had received my return and that had been deducted from my account.  She couldn’t access my order history so I could only tell her that this bath-thing didn’t appear.

A few weeks passed and I received a letter from the World Financial Capital Bank, which seems to own every merchandise card out there.  How could I have not saved this?  My students fresh off the boat from Gabon could have written a more understandable business letter.  At least one boner included something along the grammatical lines of, “You are responsible for any other charges, Due on your remaining balance.”  Then, from what I could puzzle out, the letter went on to say that the bath charge had been removed not because there had been a mistake but because the package had been returned as non-deliverable.

Funny thing, I’m here in the Bat Cave for about 20 hours a day.

This was my latest but not my only run-in with WFCB because this winter I had received a yearly fee bill for a card I thought I had closed, do not possess and had never called to open.  I called, explained to the person that I wanted the account closed and the fee removed.  He kindly said it was taken care of. 

A month passed.  A bill came from the same company came, now twice the amount because the yearly fee had collected both interest and a late fee.  I called once again and was assured it would, now, be taken care of.

This month they asked me for Daisy and my Barbie collection.  I called once again, this time to find out that Capital One had taken over that particular credit card.  I explained yet again and have been assured that, this time, the charges have been removed. 

The ironies are rife.  They had, in fact, closed my account upon my initial request but had not gone through the rest of the motions they assured me were to follow.  Someone out there, they thought, was either rich, lazy or dumb enough to send in Busy Gal Barbie and a yellow Labrador to an account that doesn’t exist.  Credit card companies are as bad as Zimbabwe email scammers.

The next irony is that I got a letter from my Discover card sharply reducing my credit limit.  I use that card for big purchases and emergencies; there’s never much activity on it.  At first I thought, oh so what.  Upon re-reading the letter, however, I saw that their reasons were late fees and nonpayment.  My pride was injured.

A big shout-out to Discover, the only credit card whose operatives not only identify themselves by name but by location.  We went through the problems, which I had to explain in exactly this detail, the representative put me on hold for less than a minute and then came back with a reinstated credit limit.  We laughed about the situation and I once again praised Discover for being the most co-operative credit card company I have dealt with.

But thanks to WFBC, my credit rating is probably about 200 right now. 

It’s bad enough to be a day late because I couldn’t haul my ass out of bed – it’s bad enough not to have the wherewithal to shower every day – it’s bad enough that I pick the yucky deli container someone didn’t rinse out of the paper recycling – but I’ve been hopping mad at the illogic behind what I do manage to do.

* I am s-l-o-w-l-y emerging from this long, long semi-death that includes incredible social anxiety.  Each of the above is an impossibility.  I already feel like throwing up.

** Psychic versus emotional exhaustion.  Topic for another post.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Apology to ED + Everyone Else

Is it the food or is it the depression?

I've had enough days away from food to be able to say yes to both.  It's strange waking up & not regretting what I ate the day before but that's not enough to keep me from going back to bed, back to sleep, back to non-caloric oblivion.

Is it the results of the food or depression?

Again, probably yes to both.  My body hurts in ways it hasn't for 14 years.  I'm detoxing.  But while I see no point in binging, I see no point in anything else either.

Most days -- it seems to be running at 3:1 -- I feel like an elephant in a collapsed circus tent.  How hard would it be to bathe?  Too hard.  Do the dishes?  Too hard.

So I go back to bed.

Is it depression?

Yes.  I wake up exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open for what must be done in the morning.  I forget things -- keys, filling out deposit slips, phone calls, transferring funds, paying bills (I have some nice late fees this month when my one purpose in life is to pay off debt: good show).  I swing between days of being hungry but with no desire to eat -- it seems like such an awful lot of trouble -- and days of having little appetite at all.  Walking to the grocery store and interacting with clerks requires a nap just thinking about it.

But the food, the weight and the depression are my three ring circus.  I can write this only because the food is down and because I caught an extra 5 hours' sleep this morning - afternoon.

I think I bottomed out when I realized that eating a pizza quite literally made me pass out.  When I came out of the coma, I threw out the left-over pizza only to pick it out of the trash the next time I woke up.

It can't help my depression to have that fresh in my mind.

Thursday morning I woke up, abstinent, with few dog obligations and a lunch date with you.  I swam out of bed, had some coffee, sleep-walked Daisy and fell back into bed.  It had been two days since I'd last bathed or brushed my teeth.  I don't remember the last time I washed my hair.  I slept deeply until 4 o'clock that afternoon.  I was too limp to turn on my computer and figure out where you were staying to call and cancel. I'd left my phone off the charger and my cell phone was dead as well because maintenance is not high on my list.  I couldn't call until the next day.

When people ask how overeating hurts anyone besides oneself, remember this post.  It murders energy.  It plays roller coaster with self-esteem.  And then, if one is prone, as I am prone, to depression, I can't show up even for apologies.  My dog needs much more walking and play time.  It contributes to my inability to call my 94-year-old father.  It s-t-re-t-c-h-e-s my response time to paying clients and friends depending on me.  I have nothing to say and thinking is an activity best not engaged in.

And the only thing that will help me out of it is medication, abstinence from sugar and flour, and twelve steps.  I trust the elephant handlers and circus guys will get me out of the tent.

I want to say I've hated myself or hated being myself but hate is an emotion I don't have the energy for.  I simply wait.  For the odd "good" day, for more better days, for my body not to hurt so much, for my interests to return.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I don't want to think about how long it's been since I posted a real blog here but I was just saying to myself, as I had a cigarette as the ultimate delay tactic before I brushed my teeth, which was on my list of things to do, "I bet I have a thousand things I should do."  I thought it would be kind of fun to see if that's true.

Because when my brain is buzzing, I tend to freeze up & get absolutely nothing done at all.

And because I am so easily overwhelmed, I have to break big chores into small ones, so this adds to the list.  I don't clean house, I clean a shelf, for instance.

Let me also begin by noting what I have actually done of practical use in the six hours I've been up & what is not negotiable in the next six hours:

  • Walked two dogs.
  • Not eaten.
  • Done a phone Stepford meeting.
  • rolled $3 in pennies during said-meeting.
  • brushed my teeth.
  • I have another three dogs to walk.

Now for the bad news.  I wonder if this will be good for me or bad.

  1. shower
  2. floss my teeth
  3. put some things away in the high cupboards in my kitchen
  4. cold water laundry
  5. warm water laundry
  6. hot water laundry
  7. whites/bleach laundry
  8. see if my TV/cable is working
  9. try to figure out why the VCR portion of my DVD/VCR machine doesn't work
  10. find out how to download the lost registration & software for the camera I bought 28 months ago that I infinitely prefer to the camera I'm using
  11. watch the Netflix Emma series on my desk
  12. call the IRS & find out why I'm paying penalties as well as interest on back taxes which the IRS deducts my payments for
  13. having cleared the laundry out of the bathroom, clean the bathroom.
  14. collect all the bits of jewelry, pair them up & put them away
  15. change the sheets
  16. shave the callouses on my feet
  17. get a pedicure
  18. start farmette box (long story: remind me to tell it when I've finished this list)
  19. clean out kitchen cabinets & put all the flatware in place
  20. go to the damn grocery store
  21. go to the post office
  22. go to Capital One & pay bill
  23. photograph some shoes I don't wear & list on eBay
  24. leave feedback on eBay
  25. scan family records & photos for family members
  26. take pictures on Columbia Heights of the flower I admired
  27. cull Adobe album & delete unwanted photos
  28. finish editing photos from Prague
  29. look up plane reservations to Montana for grade school reunion
  30. can I afford to be off work for a week?
  31. figure out how to use my American Airlines miles before they expire
  32. put books away in proper places
  33. dust books
  34. sweep under bookcases
  35. read Silas Marner
  36. find a video of Ballanchine's Don Quixote
  37. get password straightened out with AWP
  38. look at job listings on AWP & MLA
  39. edit ED's chapters
  40. come up with phony French lesson for novel
  41. delete the scene I wrote yesterday
  42. take stuff to the dry cleaners
  43. return call to B (since Christmas)
  44. return call to A (since Christmas)
  45. write S a note
  46. figure out how to work my iPod docking station
  47. clean & dust my desk
  48. find case for Xmas carol cassette & put away Xmas music
  49. blog
  50. decide what first book is being used in novel & do some research
  51. call G. & set up French conversation lessons
  52. put away heaviest winter clothes
  53. sew buttons on coats
  54. move desk flush with wall
  55. file
  56. send out CV for adjunct jobs
  57. write C. a note
  58. put fallen stuff back on bulletin board
  59. make CD for K.
  60. make CD for Dad
  61. write my sponsor
  62. pair up socks
  63. write new scene in novel
  64. read the half a short story I wrote in January & try to figure out where it went wrong
  65. read fragments/unfinished short stories & type them into computer
  66. write magazine proposals on adoption, Mrs. Schweitzer
  67. see if I can speak to someone about curriculum at School of American Ballet
  68. take stuff to Housing Works
  69. start a daily journal
  70. listen to meditation CD
  71. write poems about fat boys, tulips
  72. dust & clean framed photos
  73. start the Shakespeare reading circle I want to do
  74. ask G&A if I can come to dinner on Sunday night when I have no dogs
  75. write out most used recipes & file in box so I don't have to run from computer to kitchen
  76. throw out last quarter's essays
  77. burn bills
  78. brush Daisy
  79. take Daisy to play bally
  80. find Stepford materials & arrange on chest
  81. go through clothes to donate, sell or throw out
  82. cancel prescription at CVS
  83. order prescription from Canada
  84. make coffee date w/ A.
  85. cancel Hulu
  86. proofread novel
  87. change from flannel to cotton sheets
  88. go through drawers in corner
  89. find slides to be transferred to DVD
  90. copy photos for R, T, L, the Ms
  91. write C2.
  92. dust dolls
  93. put magazines in basket
  94. order new shorts
  95. put CDs away
  96. put movies away
  97. find itch-free stuff in bathroom
  98. shave my legs
  99. read K's play
  100. read G's novel
  101. make dinner
  102. vacuum window grates & spider webs
  103. clean windows
  104. update money earned
  105. update calendar
  106. throw out beaten up dog toys
  107. make will
  108. step work for sponsor
  109. charge Kindle & cell phone
  110. say the rosary
  111. put odor eaters in dog-walking shoes
  112. put all the book bags on the floor away -- or better yet, cull a bunch out before putting away
  113. pull out chests of drawers & sweep
  114. get vacuum cleaner bags
  115. rent floor steamer
  116. get new sports bras
  117. research & write essay on Alcott, Elliot & C. Bronte
  118. read Don Quixote
  119. go through Writer's Chronicles for short story contests
  120. get rid of old taxes & put the last couple of years in bigger box; store
  121. write Psychology Today blog
  122. open L's Xmas gift from 2010
  123. get ticket for School of American Ballet Theater workshop
  124. buy new fan for summer; throw out the broken ones
  125. list all Ellen Gilchrist books in order of publication & note which I've read
  126. ditto Angela Thurkell
  127. find other kibble dish
  128. take TV tray out to recyling
  129. get another filing box for school stuff
  130. lather up with hand lotion & wear gloves to sleep in
  131. put away last of Xmas ornaments
  132. copy photos for J & B
  133.  walk Hudson...
  134. take Daisy to vet
  135. go to Stepford meeting
  136. listen to L'elisir D'Amore
  137. how much would it cost to rent a storage unit & how complicated would it be?
  138. write donations to World Services & Spirit Animal Sanctuary
  139. post my disaster-discovery cookie on All Recipes
  140. read the Times
  141. call Dept. of Health for nicotine patch
  142. find something to eat
  143. open boxes that came in mail
  144. clean refrigerator
  145. eat some fruit
  146. stop playing games when done eating
  147. recycle boxes that came in mail
  148. read R's book
  149. read B's book
  150. say no to book clubs
  151. empty out letter holders & throw away
  152. put books I'm selling on Amazon out of the way (back of desk?)
  153. write P.
  154. write J & N
  155. make date w/ E
  156. clean fingernails & trim
  157. put out cassettes & VHS tapes on cool dry day
  158. get batteries in watches
  159. put away winter shoes
  160. wear warmer clothes tonight
  161. make date to go to botanical garden
  162. throw out stretchy sentimental thing that's all stretched out
  163. take out garbage
  164. get new flip-flops
  165. drink some water
  166. make brief novel notes to hang up & refer to
  167. bing! how to bring Hartwell/Harry into novel! -- write it
  168. make list of all dog client phone #s
  169. call J.
  170. find video of Mozartina
  171. go to bank
  172. put away wallets
  173. put away purses & backpacks
  174. find rosary book
  175. what is that black plastic bag way up in kitchen shelves?
  176. put change away
  177. open mail
  178. finish New York Magazine
  179. call L.  Does she have my rocking chair?
  180. throw out those Rocket Dog shoes
  181. get batteries in watches
  182. dust penguin head
  183. put up recycling signs in basement
  184. outline Emma
  185. outline novel
  186. email C4 for M's address & ask abt baptismal gown
  187. find a great box
  188. should I make May Day cookies for people who didn't get Easter cookies?
  189. start Commit Art page on Facebook
  190. email SJ about photo session
  191. wash all those dusty dishes that are getting discolored
  192. walk down to Blyn Bridge Park
  193. put all reference books needed for projects on chest
  194. cross off Western Washington U. from application list & DON'T GET DEPRESSED
  195. take Prozac

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Letter from the Left

Dear You-All-Know-Who-You-Are:

Please join me in something approximating actual discourse.

In regards to a young woman's testimony that her health plan does not cover contraception, Rush Limbaugh said the following: "What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex -- what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute," Limbaugh said. "She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."

The day after, he scoffed that if women want prescription coverage for contraception, they owe it to him as a tax payer to broadcast their sex lives on the Internet.

I have become embroiled in this fire storm because I am appalled at the gleefully fact-free nature of Mr. Limbaugh's attack and the resulting mud-slinging from both sides.

Could we establish what the issues are and what the facts are?

Let's start with facts.

  • Sandra Fluke must pay for Georgetown University's insurance plan which is underwritten by United Health Care.  This fact has two aspects: 1) Fluke does not have a choice of health plans, and 2) she is the payer, not Rush Limbaugh and not the public.
  • Ms. Fluke did not discuss her own sex life.  She spoke as a duly chosen figurehead for Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice.  No one knows how much sex Ms. Fluke is -- or is not -- having.
  • Her statement was backed up by surveys of her classmates, 94% of whom think the insurance plan they pay for should cover contraception.
  • Much of her statement concerned women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome.  Despite the very real pain and consequences of this illness, students were interrogated by UHC and Georgetown officials.  In many cases, they were denied care any way.
In reaction to this rather tepid, read statement, Mr. Limbaugh painted a picture of Ms. Fluke as a prostitute and a waster of tax dollars.


Of course Sandra Fluke's statement yanks all of our chains.  Contraception is the logical prevention of abortion and abortion is one of the dividing issues in our national social climate.

And of course how each of us feels about the legitimacy of abortion usually influences what social commentators we listen to, what churches we attend, whom we vote for.

But this issue is not abortion.  The issue is that females paying into religious institutions' health plan do not receive prescription coverage for contraception.

And Mr. Limbaugh has equated that issue with promiscuity, tainted it with the brush of tax payers' rights and gilded it with salacious voyeurism.  Which leads to a second issue: is a woman who needs contraception a whore? 

It is those equations and the misinformation that Mr. Mimbaugh promoted to his claimed 20 million listeners a week that I am protesting. 

I would politely ask that this discussion be limited to what Ms. Fluke actually said and to consider the calumny that Mr. Limbaugh passed on as truth.

Then, maybe, we will learn how to argue articulately and productively about abortion, contraception, the left, the right, Sean Hannity, Viagra, aspirin, Bill Maher, the Food Stamp President, papal encyclicals and abortion on their own terms.