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 106: Morning Ponder, and a Question

I wake up most mornings sometime around dawn; today it was about 5:30, so it will be awhile yet before the eastern sky lightens. I woke to the usual biological calls — fluids and backache — and dreaming of Dubya.  It’s a sad state of affairs when that old war criminal can rehabilitate his image by calling out 45’s self-centered inhumanity and helping to raise money for disaster relief. Still, it does help, and that’s all to the good.

On to the Question.

Why are you reading this? I’m frankly curious as to why someone takes the time to read and ‘like’ one of my posts.  I’ve had very few comments. I put notices to my Facebook wall when I write another post, with the same result. Are you as bored as I am?  Drop me a note and let me know.

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 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 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.

Day 48: Fuck This.

I’ve been at this for almost seven weeks now.  I am more active, and I am losing weight.  It shows in the shorts falling off my hips, in the slippers I could barely put on sliding on comfortably this week.  It shows in not having to adjust myself to find a comfortable position to sleep in — and sleeping with less intense pain when I wake. I can walk farther, with less difficulty, and on an active day I can burn off 600 extra calories.

I cannot maintain an average of 1200 net calories a day.  My eating has become erratic, with days of eating less than 1000 net calories, thanks to exercise or sleeping off a flare, broken up by days when I eat closer to 2500 or more, usually as I cycle into an aching, foggy-headed flare. I can counter some of this with food choices — eating my fill on salad instead of buttered bread reduces the overall calorie load and fills me up — but despite the intellectual focus and determination, the helpful milestones and assurance that this will continue to accrue benefits, my body recognizes this process as starvation. I take vitamins and minerals; I exercise and keep my macronutrients in pretty good balance; I drink plenty of water and get rest, but my body grumbles nervously about Winter coming, and how hot pea soup really needs that slice of sweet, heavy bread slathered in soft butter to be just perfect before bed.

Fuck that.

Day 31: After Charlottesville

9:00am

I’ve been up since 4:30, getting myself awake enough to cook in the blessed cool while it’s dark outside. I’m feeling the fade already, but I have a pot of pea soup done and a pan of chicken thighs in the oven. My roommate and I may both be exhausted from the events of the weekend, but we will be able to eat something besides sweets and pizza. That much I can do.

9:00pm

Watching the events in Charlottesville from afar, I felt, and still feel, helpless, which slides into useless if I don’t determine to not let it eat me entirely. I’m not losing weight because of some abstraction, some attempt to emulate some perky woman half my age. I’m working as I can to try to be more able to affect the world around me again instead of sitting at home in helpless rage watching my country tear itself apart. I don’t know if the pushing myself to work, to argue, support, and comfort where I can while I get the body able to do more will make a difference in the long term or not — in my grimmer moments I doubt it — but it’s what I can do.

Day Nine: Fast Forward

I don’t only drink coffee at midnight, but it’s my favorite time to do so.  This morning it was a tall s’mores frappacino Bryan and our friend Ken brought home from Starbucks.  Bryan had to go to bed after he finished his coffee — wise man — but Ken and I sat up laughing until 5:00, at which point I was stupid tired.  He headed for home, and I went to sleep until I woke up at 9:00 feeling far better than I had for several days.  Memo to self:  add more coffee and laughter to my life.