Wednesday, January 25, 2012

House Update January 2012

We've been concentrating on getting the kitchen cabinets completed, and the shelves are finally done. The stovepipe's in place, and the vent hood is almost ready to install. We still need to make the cabinet facings, drawers, and doors, but the hardwood's been ordered to start that. But we can use the shelves to spread our stuff out. My Christmas present, a Kitchen Aid, in unpacked and in use. Estimated completion date -- early spring.

In the den we've installed extra windows and put primer over all the walls so it looks like a room and not a dark cave. We've started laying out both the pantry and one of the built-ins. We still have to finish of those and put down flooring. Estimated completion date -- late spring.

The handyman finished putting up the trim in our bedroom, the kitchen, and the hall. He also did enough of the living and dining room that we can start moving in our furniture. When we can afford movers, that is. He took a bite out of the budget.

We painted a shed in the color scheme we're thinking of. It's okay, but needs work. It'll be a while before we can afford exterior house painting anyway.

The herb garden is going good. The tender perennials are all down for the winter, but they look like they might return come spring. The bee balm went down, but it's coming back. Everything else just slowed growing but haven't stopped.

Last year's vegetable patch was too wet. Next year we'll try it in a drier place, but I worry about how much sun it'll get.

No plants died except for a juniper that had been planted too close to its neighbors by the previous owners. The junipers on either side are so big I doubt it'll be missed once the stump is removed.

We found some old bird feeders in the back. I need to get them cleaned and out where my junior birdwatchers can see them.

I'm supposed to have some roses coming in the mail in a few weeks. I hope they do well and the deer don't eat them all. They nibbled on both the rose and the fig tree earlier, and deer have to be mighty hungry to eat fig leaves. The deer population is exploding faster than the hunters can kill them. At the rate it's growing not even a widespread cull may make a dent in their numbers. Nobody wants to think about the kind of ecological damage that will cause.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Past vs. Present

I don't talk about my childhood much. It wasn't a happy time, and the further I get away from it the happier I become. I would rather not think about it, but that option hasn't been available lately.

Most of you probably already know that I was abused as a child, and that I have chronic depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result. I first became aware that I was what I now recognize as clinically depressed while thinking about my upcoming fourth birthday. I can't remember back to a time when I didn't have these conditions which plays havoc with my sense of normalcy.

The suicide planning started around ten. Every night when I went to bed I reviewed my options for killing myself. Every night I came to the conclusion that I couldn't be absolutely sure they would work. Then I went over my list of reasons for living. I joked to myself that the first one was finishing whatever book I was reading at the time. One night that was the only thing on the list.

I still haven't written David Brin that thank-you letter.

The runaway planning started in my teens and followed the same routine. I had no backup, no resources, and no illusions about my ability to survive on the streets. I always came back to the same conclusion -- tough it out, get a scholarship, and get out.

I say this not to garner sympathy, but perspective. You need to understand the significance of my next statement.

I was the lucky one.

I just came away with a chronic depression, PTSD, and suicidal tendencies. My little sister came away with anorexia nervosa and a slew of addictions.

One difference between us was in how we responded to our adopted* mother. Mom was a big factor in making our childhood Hell.

(*The first thing my husband-to-be said to me after meeting her was, "Thank God you told me you were adopted. If I thought you were blood kin to that woman I'd head for the hills.")

Mom was a former schoolyard bully who never emotionally matured past the age of 13. The best way I know to describe her is to describe her funeral. There were no flowers. A lot of people came to the viewing just to look in the coffin. The preacher's eulogy (no one else spoke) was a masterpiece of it's genre -- "She always had strong ideas about Heaven. I'm sure she's learned a lot since then," and "When her Sunday School class heard she was in the hospital a fight broke out among the ladies over who would go see her." Even at that the back row was ducking for cover, afraid the Lord would strike him down for lying from the pulpit on her behalf. (I always wonder why people pay good money to see black comedy. Don't they have families?) No one will repeat what she said about me and my family on her deathbed. All they'll say is to go on with my life and think no more about "that evil, selfish witch".

I got real mad at that last bit. It would have done me a world of good if somebody had had the nerve to call her that to my face back when I was a child trying to understand why the center of my universe, her, was so off-kilter.

Because if adults who didn't live with her reacted that way, then you can imagine what life with her was like for her children.

I first concluded that it was my fault and I should do everything I could to please her, but that only made things worse. Resentment was Mom's default state, so if you succeeded at anything in an attempt to please her she resented you for that success, unless she could use it against someone else. This is a woman who bragged about standing up and cheering when she heard the news of JFK's assassination. And RFK. And MLK. She never spoke an uncatty compliment except through gritted teeth.

My fallback position was to reject everything. I rebelled against everything, including the stereotypical forms of rebellion which looked like traps set up by TPTB to ensnare those who tried to escape.

Sis tried to please her longer.

Mom hated herself of course. She took that hate out on everyone else for every excuse that she ever heard. She hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics, Hispanics, et al, but most of all she hated women. She was the biggest misogynist I've ever met. She made white Southern men of the 1970s look like die-hard feminists in comparison.

Of course she hounded us to be extreme versions of stereotypical femininity: dumb, charming, graceful, completely self-negating and yet somehow accomplished. And skinny. Preferably skinnier than Twiggy.

I tried to be skinny for her sake, but I'm a) an endomorph, and b) a pragmatist. Skinny is not in my DNA. Neither is tilting at windmills. So I sat out to be a healthy, curvy girl.

That wasn't good enough for Mom of course, and I got an earful of abuse over it on every occasion. I did what worked; I labeled everything she said as garbage and rejected it. But I still heard it.

Sis is an ectomorph. It didn't take her long to develop full-blown anorexia nervosa. She got skinny enough for Mom to use her to berate me about my weight, but somehow that was never skinny enough.

(After one too many remarks from Mom about how "healthy" Sis looked in comparison to me I said, "She's two years younger than me and looks ten years older! People who knew us as children keep getting us mixed up. You can see ever bone she has; she has fur on her arms, sunken eyes, and cauliflower ears. The next stage is for her teeth to fall out!"

"Oh, she's got a good dentist. He'll take care of her teeth. You should get a good insurance plan like she has."

See what I mean about black comedy? Why do people pay for it when lines like that are for free?)

When I reached adulthood I had a lot of health issues to work on, starting (obviously) with mental health. After 25 years I've got most of the mental ones in line at least. I've accepted that they're chronic conditions, can recognize the symptoms, and know how to avoid the triggers. I've buried a lot of ghosts and come to terms with a lot that happened. That's the hardest work I've ever done in my life. I think I can safely say it's harder than many people ever attempt.

When it came to my physical health I encountered two stumbling blocks. One was the extraordinary amount of misinformation, much of it from "official" sources, about women's health issues. Sometimes it seems like as much as 99% of what our culture thinks is true about health, especially women's health, is actually false. Coming from a background involving mental illness, a field long subjected to all sorts of snake oil, only exacerbated this awareness. I doubt I need to go into detail; other people have ranted about this issue before and this post rambles enough already.

All that misinformation only got distilled and concentrated by the second stumbling block, Mom. Whenever she got the chance she did it in person, but now that she's gone her mental construct lives on in the back of my head ready to nag 24/7. This means that on those occasions when I have tried to diet I have to deal with her ghost nagging me about it. Dieting feels like I'm giving in to her, following down my sister's path of self-destruction, being sucked into one of Mom's many traps, negating all the hard work I've done to become my own person and losing myself in her hateful image issues. That sets off my well-honed anti-Mom response, overwhelming fury at whatever load of crap she was pushing this time, and I act out my rage by -- breaking my diet.

Hey, that response literally kept me out of the insane asylum. But right now it's doing nothing for my weight.

That's not to say I ignored my diet. I relabeled it. I practiced healthy eating with a menu high in protein, fresh fruit and veggies, and low in pre-packaged food. I ate only at regular, pre-planned intervals. I hardly ever ate out. I exercised -- for stamina and to control my depression. As long as I didn't think about it as weight control or do anything overtly associated with weight control (weighing often, counting calories, and so forth) I was all right. While I never got skinny I never had any health problems either.

That worked until I reached middle age and Baby #4 came along. Between taking care of him and dealing with that nonsense I had to deal with recently I gained a lot of weight. While pulling a tantrum-throwing toddler off something he shouldn't have been climbing on I injured my knee. Having to repeat that act on a regular basis hasn't helped it heal.

There's a lot of areas where I can debate anti-fat bias in medicine, but joints are not one of them. It's lose the weight or lose the knee.

Actually taking weight off comes up against some difficult physiological realities. My body type holds on to weight the hardest. Simple portion control won't do the job, I'll actually have to count calories. As far as exercise goes, a few years ago I exercised every day for two years in a balanced routine of stretching, cardio and strength training. It converted the fat into muscle so while I shrank two dress sizes I didn't lose an ounce. That would strengthen the muscles of the knee, but it's not the muscles that are the problem. That means more overt weight-loss activity than I've been successful with before, and that gets triggery.

Exercise at this point in time comes up against some practical problems. With three kids constantly underfoot it's extremely difficult to find the time, and I'm almost always exhausted. I have no TV to play my exercise DVDs. The space in front of the computer to exercise in is taken up with building supplies for the remodeling we're doing. It'll be three months before that's available, up to a year before we're ready for the TV. I did get a Wii this Christmas (an older model you can hook a dance mat up to), but it's in the closet for now.

There's no local exercise classes. We spoke to the PE instructors at the local community college about non-credit night classes, but there's no telling when or even if that will come to anything. The nearest classes are over an hour's drive away, and I have small children and no day care. That's also the problem with walking outside. So I'm dodging construction material in our unfinished den dancing and doing yoga to music CDs. Still, it's hard to stay motivated.

And then there's that damn trigger. I've been slowly working on this for a month now, easing my way into setting up an exercise area, cutting back on portion size, and starting to examine my diet, and it's already making me fretful. To my surprise I haven't done anything to give the trigger a good whack yet, but it's still there.

So here's the question, is there a place online where women gather together to motivate themselves to lose weight in a pro-feminist manner, without descending into language that self-loathing, anti-fat and anti-woman? I've measured my bones and my skeleton, with no meat on it whatsoever, is a size 14. That's as skinny as I can get unless some dress manufacturer cooks the numbers (Which has been known to happen, but that's a separate rant.) I'm never going to be a size 8. I'm always going to be what our society considers plus sized, I'm always going to look "fat" to ignorant eyes, and I'm okay with that. I just want to improve my health. But if I have to listen to other people carry on in stereotypical "dieting" language, I'm going to lose my cool.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Third-World Muslims Are Smarter Than Ric Santorum

Ric Santorum doesn't believe birth control should be used under any circumstances, even to prevent the death of the mother (except when it's his wife). Contrast his attitude with that of conservative Muslim clerics in one of the world's poorest and least educated countries, Senegal.

Guardian UK:

On the poor outskirts of Dakar, Senegal, we sat before six imams in an airy mosque. They are holy men, respected community leaders, and, lately, birth control champions. "Family spacing," they called it, as they cheerfully explained why Islam supports it. "What's good for a woman is good for her family, and for her society. We want healthy societies."

Voice of America:

...more and more, families are seeking contraception to space or limit births despite the associated taboos in the country, which is more than 90 percent Muslim.

"Some people say Islam is against family planning, but life is getting more and more difficult," said Mamy Diop.

Historically, the only acceptable application of family planning has been birth spacing for the health of the mother and the child. But religious leaders increasingly are invoking the Quran's message of financial responsibility.

"Islam has discussed this," said Imam Niasse. "If resources are limited and the family size is too large, there will be problems for the family. We are already living a situation of scarcity and we should talk openly. We have many children here, but what kind of children do we have?"

'nuff said.

Translation, Please

Yesterday while talking about linguistic differences between Republicans and Democrats I received a bizarre email that's so deep into Republican-speak I can't make heads or tails of it; and I'm 45 years old, born just one year past the end of the Baby Boom. To me it looks like there's so many false assumptions here it's hard to know where to start on it (Who under 50 can afford to live in a big fancy house?) but apparently it resonated with the person who sent it on. All I can tell is that there's a boatload of resentment present, and a lot of, "You damn kids get off my lawn!" Oh, and apparently they kinda forgot to give their own children a decent education along the way. They acknowledge that, then turn around and blame the kids.

Can anyone tell me what this is supposed to be saying?

They like to refer to us as senior citizens, old fogies, geezers, and in some cases dinosaurs. Some of us are "Baby Boomers" getting ready to retire. Others have been retired for some time. We walk a little slower these days and our eyes and hearing are not what they once were. We have worked hard, raised our children, worshiped our God and grown old together. Yes, we are the ones some refer to as being over the hill, and that is probably true. But before writing us off completely, there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration.

In school we studied English, history, math, and science which enabled us to lead America into the technological age. Most of us remember what outhouses were, many of us with firsthand experience. We remember the days of telephone party-lines, 25 cent gasoline, and milk and ice being delivered to our homes. For those of you who don't know what an icebox is, today they are electric and referred to as refrigerators. A few even remember when cars were started with a crank. Yes, we lived those days.

We are probably considered old fashioned and out-dated by many. But there are a few things you need to remember before completely writing us off. We won World War II, fought in Korea and Viet Nam. We can quote The Pledge of Allegiance, and know where to place our hand while doing so. We wore the uniform of our country with pride and lost many friends on the battlefield. We didn't fight for the Socialist States of America, we fought for the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." We wore different uniforms but carried the same flag. We know the words to the Star Spangled Banner, America ,and America the Beautiful by heart, and you may even see some tears running down our cheeks as we sing. We have lived what many of you have only read about in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize to anyone for America.

Yes, we are old and slow these days but rest assured, we have at least one good fight left in us. We have loved this country, fought for it, and died for it, and now we are going to save it. It is our country and nobody is going to take it away from us. We took oaths to defend America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that is an oath we plan to keep. There are those who want to destroy this land we love but, like our founders, there is no way we are going to remain silent.

It was mostly the young people of this nation who elected Obama and the Democratic Congress. You fell for the "Hope and Change" which in reality was nothing but "Hype and Lies." You have tasted socialism and seen evil face to face, and have found you don't like it after all. You make a lot of noise, but most are all too interested in their careers or "Climbing the Social Ladder" to be involved in such mundane things as patriotism and voting. Many of those who fell for the "Great Lie" in 2008 are now having buyer's remorse. With all the education we gave you, you didn't have sense enough to see through the lies and instead drank the 'Kool-Aid.' Now you're paying the price and complaining about it. No jobs, lost mortgages, higher taxes, and less freedom. This is what you voted for and this is what you got. We entrusted you with the Torch of Liberty and you traded it for a paycheck and a fancy house.

Well, don't worry youngsters, the Grey-Haired Brigade is here, and in 2012 we are going to take back our nation. We may drive a little slower than you would like but we get where we're going, and in 2012 we're going to the polls by the millions. This land does not belong to the man in the White House nor to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It belongs to "We the People" and "We the People" plan to reclaim our land and our freedom. We hope this time you will do a better job of preserving it and passing it along to our grandchildren. So the next time you have the chance to say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand up, put your hand over your heart, honor our country, and thank God for the old geezers of the "Grey-Haired Brigade."

Author, Anon. Grey-Haired Brigade Member

This is spot on. I may color my hair but IĆ¢€™m still a Gray-Haired Geezer signing on. I will circulate this to other Gray-Haired Geezers all over this once great county. Can you feel the ground shaking??? It's not an earthquake, it is a STAMPEDE.
Have a Blessed Day

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ric Santorum Disses All Married Couples, Straight As Well As Gay

Ric Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate who is not afraid to admit in front of a national audience that he doesn't understand the difference between a dog, a child, and an adult, or between a parental relationship and a marital relationship, has said some incredibly offensive things about gay married couples. So offensive, in fact, that it's possible many people have missed his other offensive statements against straight married couples.

Ric Santorum opposes birth control even when used by married couples because it is "disrespectful" of women and families and so "hurts" women and society. Think about it. If a particular straight married couple honestly decide that they would make terrible parents and choose not to have babies and not to inflict their complete lack of interest in children or child-rearing on the next generation, Santorum thinks they are being "disrespectful" of children and families. Really.

More commonly, if a married couple who want to have children choose to delay pregnancy for a few years in order to increase their own maturity and/or achieve a more stable financial base for their family, Santorum thinks they are "disrespectful" of women and families. Honest.

Or if a married couple with children decide to limit the number they have so they can spend more time parenting the offspring they've already got, Santorum believes they are "disrespectful".

It's worth noting that the reason birth control was sought after in the first place was to prevent married women from dying in childbirth after their uterus ruptured from too many pregnancies, a horrible but common occurrence 100 years ago. Santorum apparently thinks dying in childbirth is more "respectful" to women than living to care for the children they already have (or doing whatever else they choose to live for).

Of course without birth control more married women would die in childbirth and leave behind more orphaned children, significantly raising the number of single parent households in America. Their surviving children would suffer all the problems associated with being brought up in a single parent family; but hey, they would belong to "respectful" single parent families! Better be brought up in a "respectful" single parent family where the mother died trying to give birth than to be raised by two loving parents who "disrespected" the mother by not risking her health.

So to all the gay people upset about what Santorum has said about gay couples, You Are Not Alone. Santorum doesn't just hate all gay married couples. He hates all married couples, period. There's only one thing you can say about a man who tries to win the Presidency of a country where over 90% of people marry with such an attitude. Jesus, what a moron.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Trombone Warning

I'm feeling an urge to talk about my childhood family relationships, something I normally strenuously avoid because I was an abused child. That was 25 years ago, and I've long since worked through most of my issues. Most of them. But there's still some barriers inside my head. I'm running into a few triggers these days that are starting to interfere with my life, and I really don't see any way past them but to write them out of my head and look at them on paper (or monitor in this day and age) and invite outsider opinions. One of the triggers turned up in Harry Potter of all things, another involves my health. So be warned, the waah-waah trombone will be playing shortly.