Making Home

It’s a little chill this morning; there is enough wind to sway the oleanders and plum trees outside. It’s still quiet; the mockingbirds have settled into the work of hatching and feeding the babies born of the love song competition that wound up about a week ago, and there is no morning rush hour nor school drop-off on a Sunday morning as I sit here with a mug of tea and a pbj, surrounded by pieces of the crumb quilt I plan to work on this morning.

Bryan and I have lived in this building almost nine years now. That is the longest time I’ve lived in one place, and it’s only in the last several months that I have felt solidly rooted in it. When I was a child, my father sold real estate, selling tract houses and pulling up roots every Fall when the last houses of the school-year rush had passed escrow. We would move during the Christmas break, so there would be yet another new place (or two) to occupy for a while, another classroom in which to be the new kid through the Spring. I made friends the same way I made art in those years, with all the skill and care I had, knowing they would disappear into the past like my ephemeral art into the trash when we moved. Things stabilized somewhat when my mother took her Social Security settlement and bought a trailer in the park where my grandmother lived; she lived there until she died, and I with her most of that time. Nothing but the memory of those times remains to me, I think, but a first birthday card and a photo of me in the fourth grade. My sister has a few more  bits, but she’s off into the past as well now, so eh. It’s done.

After my mother’s death, the peregrinations began again. I was talked into buying a house for a day and got out of that, then there were a series of rooms, a couple of studios, then back to rooms in others’ homes until I went to work in Rancho Cordova, where I could afford a one-bedroom apartment and no furniture as long as my call center jobs lasted, then couch surfing first in Sacramento, across Texas and Oklahoma until I got back here to Sacramento. I was fairly savage by then; after I’d found and rented our first apartment in this building, I told Bryan I wouldn’t move again unless he could find us another place that either of us could afford alone if something happened to the other one. Eight years later, we’re still here in what is probably the cheapest two bedroom apartment in town, and we’re gathering the things we need to make it more comfortable for the long haul. I still have friends I made more than two decades ago. I’m not uncomfortable having them in. It’s been a long time coming, but this is home.

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You Do What You Can Do, Pt 2

There are certainly days like that, but this is not one of them. A few days ago I decided to stop fighting sleep. I’ve had a chronic problem with afternoon fatigue hitting as early as late morning (before lunch), and I’ve tried all kinds of advice from various doctors, with no good result. I’m done with the cycle of fighting the fatigue that ends with me up until midnight (or after) and waking at dawn, still tired. If I have to sleep, then I have to sleep, and if that means I go to bed in the late afternoon or early evening and get up in the wee hours of the morning after seven or eight hours’ sleep, then I’m ahead by an hour or two of rest I’d not get otherwise. Conventionality fails yet again.

I decided to go back on the diet again, too. I may have put on a few pounds in the last several months, but summer is a good time of year to do this, and I’ve found I really can get out and walk again without all the old aches and pains, so there’s another use for those cool hours between dawn and OMG-it’s-hot! in the morning. I’ve mostly used them for doing gigs on Mechanical Turk. Mturk doesn’t pay well enough to live on, but it’s worth a couple hours of my day to bulk up the finances while I have breakfast. The rest of the time, I’m better off working around here and walking a few blocks while the mockingbirds fill the morning quiet with song. The honeysuckle is blooming in response to the first real heat of Spring, so it won’t be long ’til the roses shut down for the summer and the rosemary puts on its darker green summer coat, but for now it’s a pretty day, and there’s stuff to be done.

 

Day 223: You Do What You Can Do, Part 1

My last post was 82 days ago, early in the day my sister walked out of my life. I didn’t see precisely that coming, but I have to agree with her that we’re both probably better off. We got a lot of important things done over the years, but the last three or so became increasingly pressurized after I went into therapy for a few months after a friend’s death. It was then I found out how much she hates me and blames me for bad things in our lives, but we struggled on, as I was her payee for Social Security., and we got her custody of her grandson last Fall. That accomplished, things went downhill fairly quickly, and just over eight years since I came to live with her from Oklahoma, she said enough. I’m no longer her payee; once that was done, she and her daughter blocked me on Facebook, so for all intents and purposes, we’re dead to one another. I wish her well.

Since then, I’ve given matters a lot of thought. I’m 59 now; physically, I’m about where I was eight years ago, plus or minus some parts, and since the parting I’ve been more emotionally stable and balanced than I’ve been in more than a decade, if not longer. I’m creating things again, mostly home comforts from my thinned out stash and cooking; I belong to some upcycling groups, which are supportive and interesting, and I’m looking more deeply into how best to weather the changes in our world, both politically and environmentally. I’ve put the diet on pause, though I am still wearing the smaller clothes, and I’ll get back on it in five days, when I get paid, if not sooner, because I like the results.

 

Day 140: Taking Stock

The latest weigh-in marked another six pounds off.  I am disappointed that it was not more, but I was only mildly surprised. The weather has turned chilly, and I’ve been sloppy about tracking all the minutiae of what I eat and when. I am bored sick with the diet and with writing about it. Mind, the benefits are marvelous.   27 pounds is enough that I’ve had to buy new pants and such because the old ones won’t stay up, and while I still have a limited walking range before the body’s protests are too much, I am able to move much more freely.

I am also resting well. I went to bed when I was reasonably tired, but not nodding off, last night about 8:30, and I slept eight solid hours. That almost never happens, but I think I have it figured out. I was full of vegetables, thoroughly hydrated, and I wasn’t dead tired and hurting when I went to bed, so I could sleep soundly in the dark well before sunrise and woke rested, without pain a little after 4:30 this morning.

So, after a weekend to think, eat meat and think more, I’m ready to start changing things up. I’m not getting as much benefit from exercise, as I’m not moving around so much mass, and I’m getting more efficient in what I do, so it takes less time to do a given amount of work or distance walked. What I can do is change the challenges — set walking patterns for, say, a half hour at a time — and accept the limited calories I’ll burn doing housework. There is only so much to do, and deeper de-clutter requires some organization on my part, as I’m down to my actual crafting materials and I need to get to work with them. More on that later.

Day 104: Regrouping

It’s 2 weeks since the last post. Three weeks from the last weight check, so by my calculations, I’ve shed another six pounds, more or less, and I’m down to about 263 now. My average intake is down to just 1250 calories, my eating spikes less, and not much over 2000 calories when it does, so on the weight loss side, I’m hitting my goals and probably doing better than that because I’m tired of logging every minute of motion.

So yesterday I took a break. I was nauseous — a daily morning problem nowadays — and the morning 20 oz mug of water didn’t help. A second mug and a protein bar made matters worse, and by the time I was done shopping with my sister I was on the verge of dry heaves, so I decided to say fuck it, get my cramping innards fed and watered so I could think, and see what I was doing wrong. Another mug of water helped, but I still was seriously uncomfortable. Bryan, Ken and Ken’s mom wanted to go to coffee, so I went with them. A large cup of the local Java City’s house coffee and a delicious almond croissant helped, but when I got home I started tanking up on water, which made me feel better. Since I’d decided on a break day, I’d bought a cheap packet of imported cookies at Grocery Outlet to go with the water.  I admit I ate most of the packet over the course of the day, but they were a waste of money and calories consumed. Lesson learned; go for the Pepperidge Farm if you’re not hurting for calories.

The problems I’m having with dry mouth, digestive distress and even general discomforts seem to be a matter of hydration.  I drink about three quarts of water a day, not counting soda and coffee; according to a Web MD article I found, a human needs between half an ounce to an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day in a temperate climate. At my last weigh-in rate, that’s 14 to 38 cups, or roughly five to nine quarts, per day. Staying in the 17+ cup range has been hard since the weather turned cooler and humid, but that’s not enough to keep me hydrated and regular. So now I am working on my fourth mug of water since I got up about four hours ago with many more to follow. Getting my digestive tract back in order hurts as it goes back to work, but I am feeling a bit better already. Onward!

Day 90: Three months In

Between one thing and another, I forgot to mention that I did finally hit the two-pound-a-week average as of Monday last.  I now weigh 21 pounds less than I did when I started, and I lost eight between the September and October weigh-ins. The new jeans are already loosening up, and I’m getting more sleep if I go to bed early. Being a fifth of the way to my goal still has me mightily pleased with myself, though it’s getting a lot easier as I go. I still have My Fitness Pal open most of the time on my notebook, but I’m not as obsessive about the process as I was in the beginning, or even a month ago, now that I average two pounds lost per week.  I’ve started carrying a piece of paper to note start and finish times when I work instead of setting a stopwatch on my cellphone. At the beginning, every damned minute counted because I was starting from way too close to zero; I’m still short-winded, but I’m not struggling with sustained cleanup runs, and the chronic pains from inactivity are fading out as the post-activity needles take their place. I’m okay with that.

Figuring food is also a lot easier, too. The things I usually eat accumulate on My Fitness Pal, so logging is simple, and the measuring cups are close at hand, so it’s not a big deal to assemble a salad or whatever and log it for the calorie content. I’ve even started posting recipes with serving sizes, so I don’t have to remember all the stuff that went into the pea soup or the details of a crock of pulled pork.

I’ve found, too, that we eat cheaper, now that I’m taking in about half the calories I did three months ago. We eat better, with more fresh veg and fruit, and less fat, but the overall volume is less, and we don’t spend the money we used to on sweets or ordering in. I’m not sure I actually cook more, but a head of romaine is cheaper than a loaf of good bread, and chef salads are about as fast as a sandwich once the lettuce is torn up and the cheese sliced or shredded. I find I do have to watch how much we buy, though, and re-package meat for the freezer more often, because we don’t eat whole packages of anything quickly anymore. That’s coming together pretty well; I forget fresh bananas now and then, and I ended up making croutons and bread crumbs from half a pack of rolls that we skipped over a couple weeks ago, but it’s getting cool enough to make a meatloaf one of these nights soon, so it’s no loss in the long run.

Day 89: Housecleaning

The fires here in California are dreadful; I’m awaiting word on a family member in Santa Rosa. I’m reasonably sure he’s in a safe area after chatting with a representative from the SRPD, but the waiting is bad, and it’s worse on his mom, who has seen the videos I avoided. I scan the news for useful information I can pass on to others or otherwise help where I can from here, but all in all, it’s not much that I can do, and the horror is overwhelming if I let myself consider it too long.

So life goes on.  Bryan tells me of the latest political disasters now and then; it’s a different kind of devastation incoming from Washington DC, and it is relentless as those elected to lead abandon our people to the natural disasters and actively seek to destroy what solace remains in our country. There’s not a lot I can do about those, either.

About all I can do is to modify myself and my living conditions here at home; I diet and re-work the house as much as I can, putting such order as I can in place. The trash bin I bought last week was delivered today; it’s crimson plastic, and with that addition, the kitchen towels and the new red throw rug are beginning to tie together visually, rather than existing as isolated bright splashes against the beige, black and steel that are there now. The rust towels Bryan washed yesterday put life back into the bathroom that the light colored towels can’t. I fixed the skirt on his rocker yesterday. Today I’m purging the last of the SCA and fantasy garb, tossing cartons of scraps and failed projects into the dumpster and shedding illusions — and disillusionment — as I go. I wonder sometimes if I am lacking something that others possess in being able to do this, but so far it works well for me, and over time I find my baseline distress and bitterness are less.

Note: if you like the header illustration, you can find it here.

Day 81: Nope, Not a Diet Post

It’s been more than three weeks since my last post.  I’ve lost another four pounds, as of a week ago, so I’m still on track, but the violence of weather and of humanity, and the callous dismissal of both by those in power here in the US, overwhelm me.  I lack words for the sorrow and horror I feel at the devastation of Harvey, Irma, and most of all, Maria. The slaughter in Las Vegas pales by comparison, and it is more than enough by itself. Yet it is the blatant disregard, the chiding contempt coming from the walking filth living in the White House that leaves me sick with outrage.

Still, I go through the necessary motions, shopping, cooking, eating as close to the limits I set myself for this venture as I can, though the obsession has ebbed with the development of skill at figuring calories and portion size on the fly. I eat out with friends, noting after that my strategies need to change here and there to enjoy what I eat and to eat only enough of it.  I work on stuff here, another box of clothes or bedding or art supplies organized, shared or trashed. Bryan started a new D&D campaign, his first in months, so we and some friends shared an adventure far away from our present reality for a few hours. That was best and happiest of all, though tiring for him.

And so life goes on.

Day 59: Back on Track

I didn’t even count last night’s bout with the Chinese food we ordered in until this afternoon.  Yesterday’s diary up to that point was 137 calories under the limit; by the time I’d done with the sides, the lo mein and picking the meat and pineapple out of the sweet and sour pork last night, I was 1326 net calories over and in no condition to start working it off.  To add insult to injury, I felt like shit this morning, too, for similar reasons; I don’t do well short of sleep, and I was up late with things to be seen to and up early this morning.  On the upside, I was still satiated from last night, so I had my morning coffee and made a pot of the vegan pea soup first thing.  A half cup of that and the coffee carried me into mid-afternoon, though I’ve got a cup of black seedless grapes at hand to munch on until sometime around sundown.  That leaves about three cups of pea soup between me and the 1,000-calorie gross minimum on MyFitnessPal.  It’s going to take some doing to work off the take-out, but I want my two pounds this week free and clear.

Realistically, the big clamshells would be fine once in awhile if I were limited to one of those for the day, starting early in the day or early afternoon, say after a morning of coffee and housecleaning, or after walking down to pick it up at the restaurant.  As it is, it’s more practical to make “Asian” food at home, where I can control ingredients, and burn calories as I go, and to confine the deliveries mostly to pizza, which is lower in calories and less compulsive.  However I sort this out, it will be sorted shortly.  For now, there’s a rack of dishes to wash and a kitchen floor to mop up.  Life goes on.

Day 57: Break Day

Yesterday, Day 56, was a Friday.  My Fridays usually come in two flavors: cook for the weekend day, and Bryan’s Vampire Night.  Yesterday was BVN, and for me it was heavily spiced with unspent outrage from Day 55’s doctor encounter, so I worked off 771 calories in a little more than two hours of break-neck cleaning, aerobic paper scanning (two boxes at knee height, one for input, one out, bend/retrieve, start scan, bend deep, hit the save button, bend left, bend right, feed in another page, drop the first into the out box, run around doing other stuff during the next scan, get another sheet, repeat) and cooking up a stir-fry and rice for our lunch.  I was laughing and goofing by the time I was done, and the aftermath in the afternoon and quiet evening gave me time to think.  Bryan is a good sport about being my sounding board, and I gave a lot of thought to a situation he predicted would hit me at least once in this process, that I would hit a point at which I would ask myself why I’m doing this.  I’ve hit that once or twice already, but after talking to others and, so far as I can tell, being only partially understood, I figure a mission statement of sorts is in order.

We live in an uncertain world, one that is becoming more so daily.  As I write, Hurricane Irma is setting new records for ferocity and, no doubt, U.S. records for property damages.  I dread imagining the human suffering and loss in the southern U.S., to say nothing of the greater, ongoing catastrophes happening in Asia and elsewhere.  The West has different, growing problems, but in the turmoil of living poor in California and my own difficulties of various sorts, I’ve allowed myself to become dependent and nearly helpless in this increasingly uncertain world.  Twenty years ago, I used to walk for miles; a block or two without pausing to stop for breath is beyond me right now.  Two or three hours of vigorous house cleaning is about all I can do on a good day; after that I am exhausted and struggling stupidly to do whatever else remains to be done before I fall asleep wherever I am, in public or private.  To remain so helpless is intolerable to me.

Even less tolerable is the prospect of stomach surgery.  I already know that if I cannot control the impulses that push me to load my stomach with calorie-dense food when I am in distress, I would cause myself harm the first time one of those binges struck after surgery.  On the other side of it, if I can control the impulses, I don’t need the surgery;  it’s just a matter of time.  My weight loss goal is roughly the same as a realistic and somewhat conservative estimate of the results I might expect to achieve with surgery — I went into it in some detail here — but steadily over the course of one to two years instead of six to nine months of training and another six to nine months of crash weight loss from medically-induced starvation that would require another surgery to get my stomach back to something like normal, assuming I could get the reversal.  That’s more uncertainty than I can rationally contemplate for myself.

And, after two months, I am seeing results.  I’m thirteen pounds lighter; the tightness and cramping in my chest has stopped; and I’m able to work nonstop for an hour or so at a time, take a breather and come back to do it again.  The funny part is, my stomach capacity has actually shrunk as well.  Bryan and I ordered in Chinese food dinners today because fuck cooking, and I have been hungry for broccoli beef since the last time we ordered in.  I took the time to measure out a cup of broccoli beef and a half cup each of the lo mein and fried rice that came with it; combined with a packet of foil-wrapped chicken and two egg rolls, it was too much food by the time I was done.  It was also less than half the dinner meal, so I will be eating lo mein and fried rice for days.