Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm ready, how about you?

Sure feels like a good day to turn over a new leaf, start a new page, wipe the slate clean, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, I know it’s the last day of 2008, not January One, but heck. We’ll get a head start on the rest of the pack.

I’m already regretting my decision not to run any races next year. PQ posted a photo of her Indy medal and I want one! It’s tentatively on the schedule for 2010. I was listening to music in the car last night mentally figuring out which tunes were the right beat for my running pace. She’s Having a Baby by Dave Wakeling was one surprising fit.

I informed my husband that I was definitely planning to run a full marathon in 2011, for my 60th birthday. I think he turned three shades of white. He was hoping my taking a year off would quell the urge to run more long-distance races. Hah! This is working just like depriving me of food: if sugar’s on the forbidden list, I want it even more.

He and I have walked outside the past three days during some unseasonably balmy weather. Today? I doubt we’ll be out there. Winter is roaring back with whipping winds and temperatures back down in the 40s (with overnight temps in the teens – brrr!).

If 2009 is anything like 2008, I might jump off a bridge. My father had more than his share of serious illnesses (and called us yesterday with this news: “The culture came back; I have MRSA.” But it’s still 2008, so it doesn’t get counted for next year!), my husband’s mother was hospitalized twice and my best friend died. I watched our retirement account shrink as my waistline grew, and I didn’t set a PR in Richmond. The good stuff? Three healthy baby boys, born May 12 and thriving.

I need to actively search for the good stuff, every day, and I think I’ll resurrect Project 365, with that as a loose theme. While I always tried to take interesting photos, by mid-March I was just going through the motions. Perhaps having a purpose will help me stick with it in 2009. (And I’m not going to make myself post a new photo every day, since I know alreadyrightnow that I won’t be at my computer from January 2 until January 12.)

Happy New Year’s Eve. I’m not the party-going type; I’m turning into my grandmother, who never missed a year-end ball drop at Times Square via television. Actually I’m worse than my grandmother: I think I’ve gone to bed early every year since the calendar switched from 1999 to 2000.

Because, really, it’s just another day. But so full of promise. A good night’s sleep is a great way to get a good start.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A day at a time

If I thought about all the things I need to do in the next few days I’d probably just go back to bed. The only way to manage is to do what needs to be done in the next half an hour, and then the next and then the next.

I’ll be going back to Indiana on Friday, this time for my friend’s funeral. She lost the fight Saturday night, but we who are left comfort ourselves knowing she wouldn’t have wanted to live as she had the past few months.

Nancy and I “met” online 10 years ago, through a weight-loss list for followers of the Atkins plan. A series of conversations revealed we had much more in common than extra body weight, and our friendship was forged over our knitting needles.

Her diagnosis (cancer of the pancreas) came last January, a week after her husband retired from his pediatric practice. She did everything she and her doctors could think of. In September she was declared free of cancer. I still remember taking that joyful phone call.

A month later, she called to say the cancer had returned, there was nothing more medicine could do for her and she might have six months to live. She wanted seven, so she could meet her adopted granddaughter, who is due to arrive from China in the late spring.

She got two.

How cruelly ironic that this elegant, witty, wonderful woman battled her weight for the past 40 years, only to end up on a feeding tube, unable to eat solid food unless it had been pulverized in a blender and served with a spoon.

I’m sure going to miss her.

So. This week I get ready to travel again, from West Virginia to northern Indiana and then to Tennessee for a week. By the time I get back home, January will be nearly half gone.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Clean for a day

It’s over.

The food orgy that typically accompanies Christmas is, finally, over. And since my husband and I didn’t decorate our home or exchange gifts this year, the food orgy was Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we went to church and then to an open house with, um, lots of food. I spent the better part of Christmas Eve day and Christmas morning preparing and cooking, um, lots of food. My husband’s mother joined us for our Christmas meal at 2 p.m., where we ate, um, lots of food.

After the last crumb of pecan torte had been whisked away at about 3:30 p.m., I declared a day of fasting. I didn’t want to look at, think about or, God forbid, eat food for 24 hours.

I went 26 – and actually felt hungry as I was preparing a simple stir-fry of leftover pork and vegetables with rice.

I now feel normal – not stuffed, as I have for the past, oh, who knows how many days? I’m ready for normal all the time. And since we don’t party on New Year’s Eve, I think I’m well on my way.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Rule: Never leave home without your knitting

The meeting I help facilitate at the prison ran a little late last night. We had a gratitude meeting, in which everyone in the room got to say who she was and what she was thankful for. Last year the group was smaller and everyone’s gratitude fit into an hour. This year? Well, I’m thankful that more inmates have found our meeting, and I hope we volunteers help them as much as they help us.

At any rate, I left the compound at about 8:15 – five minutes after the local authorities closed the only bridge to the main road I need to take to get home. Four cars had skidded into the guardrail, a testament to the dangerous road conditions, and a salt truck was “on the way.”

I finally started for home at 10:05. That, my friends, is one hour and 50 minutes of knitting time. If one had had one’s knitting. Triplet Sweater #3, however, was sitting beside the computer at home, where I’d been working on the ribbing while reading e-mail earlier yesterday afternoon.
What to do, what to do? I’d just come from an AA meeting, so I was feeling pretty good, but boredom was settling in quickly. I had my iPod with me, but I recently dropped it and broke the screen and, while I can still listen to music, it’s difficult to see the last column of cards in a Solitaire game and impossible to play Scrabble.

I also had my cell phone, so after I called my husband I talked with my son and texted a friend. Even though the nighttime minutes were ‘free,’ there’s only so much one can say, especially on my antique cell that likes to drop calls as often as it likes to stay connected.

Obviously I made it home, and without incident. I learned that a major highway near us was closed for quite a long time, after more than a dozen cars were involved in accidents.

And I learned to always, always pack my knitting.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12,000 miles

My out-of-state and/or unplanned trips in 2008 took me 12,000 miles out of my way. Give or take a mile or two.

Good thing gas didn’t cost $4/gallon for too many weeks.

(I bet you thought that title was how many miles I ran this year, right? Heh.)

Really, though, all of those miles were necessary, and I would have paid the price of fuel no matter how high it went.

My husband retired a year ago. We had a couple good months with one pleasure trip we’d planned while he was still working. After that, between his mother, my father and, more recently, my good friend in Indiana, we’ve been praying hard for someone to recover from illness and injury.

Now we know what people mean when they say ‘retirement wasn’t what we expected.’

When you flub a shot in a friendly game of golf, you can take a mulligan – a do-over. I think I want to take a mulligan for 2008.

Friday, December 19, 2008

It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming

Christmas, that is.

Christians around the world are hurrying and scurrying this week to finish shopping, wrapping and mailing Christmas gifts and cards. As the old saying goes, Christmas comes but once a year. And it’s always the same date.

I’m “behinder” this year than I’ve ever been, I think. I made my Christmas cards this year, and they’re still not assembled. Our families are scattered over four states; half the gifts had to be mailed. I finally made it to the post office yesterday. Let’s hope everyone else was more efficient than I.

We’re heading north today to visit the triplets (and their parents; once grandchildren come, children are suddenly less important. Good thing they know that!). I’m repeating the knitting performance I did for their baby shower – I mailed their blankets a couple weeks after the party. Only one of their sweaters is complete. One is nearly so. One has only two sleeves.


In my defense, I’ve been on the road a lot this year, especially lately. You can’t – or shouldn’t – knit and drive if you’re the driver. I’ve lost a lot of knitting time sitting behind the wheel of my car.

But still … I’ve known Christmas was coming for a year now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Riddle me this, Batman

When I applied for health insurance last spring, I was quoted Price X for the monthly premium. I completed the application, was approved and got the first statement – for X+$75. When I called to find out why the premium was so much higher than they’d originally quoted, they said it was because I was taking Wellbutrin, an antidepressant.

They said after I’d been off the drug for six months, they would reduce the premium. So I called my doctor, asked him to make a note that I was taking myself off it and now, six months later, it’s time to file for a rate review.

I have no problem jumping through their hoops to get a $75/month raise. What I question is this:

Why is it more cost-efficient for the insurance company for the patient to not take a beneficial (and cheap) drug? Seems to me if the doctor and the patient agree that the drug could be helpful (in my case, Wellbutrin also suppresses appetite), there would be more risk to the insurer by not taking it. Surely obesity and depression are health issues that should be treated, rather than ignored.

But that’s just me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I could have told them that

Princeton University’s Bart Hoebel, Ph.D., has been studying sugar addiction, concluding that sugar works on the brains of rats as morphine and heroin do.

I’ve previously been sugar-free, once for as long as five years. Each successive time I’ve tried to cut it out completely, I’ve not been able to. That alone leads me to believe in the addictive qualities of C12H22O11.

When I quit using sugar before, I quickly and easily dropped 30 pounds. I haven’t duplicated that success on any successive attempt. I think if I saw some pounds vanish, I might be able to continue eating a sugar-free diet. Since I don’t, I figure ‘what’s the use?’ and continue on my merry – and sweet – way.

My sugar consumption is limited to candy and cookies. When I eat pie or drink soda, it’s always the sugar-free variety. My Coffee-Mate Hazelnut Creamer has no added sugar. Sugar-free candy has a laxative effect on me, so my candy bars are the Real Stuff.

It’s not like I’m chowing down on Milky Ways all day long, either. I can go for weeks at a time without chocolate and then suddenly the craving will hit me as if I were an addict, jonesing for a hit.

Thank goodness I don’t have a $500/day habit.

If Dr. Hoebel wants to expand his research to humans, he should give me a call.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An inspiring holiday activity

For the past four or five years, I’ve been invited to judge a Christmas decorating contest at Alderson Federal Prison Camp. Each of the eight 125-bed housing units is issued a small budget for supplies, which the inmates supplement with cardboard, poster paint, natural materials and found objects to transform their living spaces into a winter wonderland. The winning unit gets a pizza party.

Today’s the day.

In addition to decorating, they write and perform a skit based on each year’s theme (provided by the warden). Guaranteed tears.

In spite of the many challenges I’ve dealt with this year, I have much for which to be thankful. These women remind me every Tuesday night (when I go there to volunteer), and at Christmas – an especially difficult time for them – they manage to pull out all the stops and express extreme gratitude for their lives. Most of them are grateful to be locked up, instead of on the streets, as they recognize this “time out” as an opportunity to work on themselves and change their behaviors.

Anyway … it’s time to go. Have a good Monday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where I'm supposed to be

I know I'm where I'm supposed to be, really I do. But I must admit I'm looking forward to the time when I'm supposed to be home, because then all my family members and friends will be well!

I got a phone call as I was driving to Indiana and learned that my friend had been evaluated by hospice and they determined that her level of care was greater than an unskilled caregiver could safely and comfortably provide. My husband is a doctor, but all that means is that I can ask intelligent questions when I'm talking to a health-care professional.

So my friend has been in respite care all week and my responsibilities are taking care of her sweet little Bishon and visiting her as much as I want. I think I've been useful in at least one feeding tube situation at hospice.

It's been a good visit, with equal parts laughter and tears.

And plenty of food, unfortunately. What I've learned about myself this year is that when stress levels are as high as they can get, I don't eat anything. But when they're at the current level – I'd say a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 – anything goes, the carbier the better.

Ah, well. This, too, shall pass.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heading out again

I’m heading out for another short road trip, this time going north to Indiana to visit a dear friend who is quite seriously ill. Not sure if I’ll have the time or inclination to blog while I’m with her. Right now I plan to be home next weekend; that plan is subject to change, depending on her condition and if I’m still needed there.

I hope all your holiday preparations are going smoothly, that you’re finding bargain prices on the perfect gifts, that the parties are fun and you don’t worry too much about the food.

Life is short. Enjoy it while you can.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good luck and have fun

Wendy, Jess and Adam are running half-marathons this weekend. I hope they all have a great time, stay safe and meet their goals.

While I’m at it, I’ll wish myself good luck and a good time for today, as I’ll be spending this afternoon going over the river (and the mountains) and through the woods to visit part of my family for Christmas.

Sometimes it does take a bit of luck to make the drive. Frequently there are solar-powered signs warning drivers of HIGH WINDS AHEAD, or DANGEROUS FOG.

If you’re traveling this weekend, be sure to buckle your seat belt, drive within the speed limit, watch out for the other guy and NO TEXTING WHILE DRIVING!

Don’t I sound like a public service announcement? Heh.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Three squares

In prison they call it three hots, but since my breakfast is usually cold cereal, three squares is more descriptive.

Yes, I’ve finally reverted to my youth and picked up the three-meals-a-day habit again. Before my dad got sick, I usually ate one real meal daily – dinner – and grazed my way through the pantry from about 11 a.m. until bedtime. Dinner was served because my husband likes it; I certainly wasn’t hungry for it.

The grazing material was pretty healthful, but obviously wasn’t what my body needed. Yogurt, trail mix, low-fat cheese, fruit – all part of a balanced diet, but I never felt satisfied and was always looking for something else.

My dad (who is going home today – hooray!) got three calorie-controlled, sugar-free, low-sodium meals a day in the hospital, and he lost weight the whole time he was there. He’s so convinced that this is the right thing to do that he’s going to request menu plans before he leaves today, so he and his wife can continue doing the same thing at home. (He also requested – and it was approved – outpatient physical therapy. I’m so proud of him!)

Daddy didn’t raise no dummy. Without consciously deciding to, I’ve been eating three wholesome meals each day since I got home. I brush and floss immediately after dinner, and don’t snack in the evening. I’ve walked 11 miles on the treadmill in the last four days. This regimen has now resulted in a 3.5-pound loss. Since Sunday!

I have some challenges coming up – more travel (and probably no blogging) next week and, of course, Christmas and New Year’s. But once success smacks you in the face, you really don’t want to fight back. If three squares and a daily walk is what I need, then I’ll do it – gladly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mystery solved

Thank you, Greenmama, for identifying the friendly sea bird I met last week. Or was it the week before last? Time flies when you spend most of it in a hospital. The beach is at Indiatlantic, Florida, across the intercoastal from Melbourne and south of Cape Canaveral. I was astonished to see people sunbathing and surfing, as if it were the middle of summer. I assumed they were on vacation and were determined to show off a tan when they returned home, no matter how cold it was in the sunny south.

Thank you, too, to those of you who have left good wishes for me and my dad. I love comments – who among us doesn’t? – and feel I need to do some ’splainin’ about why I comment so seldom on your blogs.

Commenting, for me, is a s-l-o-w process. As a member of the dial-up-to-log-on set, nothing happens in a hurry on the internet, and getting a comment window to pop up is an agonizingly tedious process. Please assume that every time you publish a post, Debbi has left a supportive and enlightening comment, sure to brighten your day and ease your burdens. Because that’s what I’d like to do, but if I did I’d be parked in front of the computer all day.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve eaten wisely, walked seven miles (on the treadmill) and lost two pounds. I’ve said previously that my dad has been a wonderful example for me of how I don’t want to age. Saying ain’t doing.

He’s on a calorie-controlled, sugar-free, low-sodium diet, which sounds absolutely awful but it certainly works. (He’s lost about 75 pounds since June. Granted, a lot of it is fluid, but the number on the scale still looks pretty sweet, whether it’s fat or fluid that’s being shed.) If he can do it, so can I.

And if I don’t, I know what lies ahead for me.