There is too much news for an update, and I am too sick to do more than talk about how sick I am (but you should see my swollen nodes, it’s a freakshow in here, seriously); and to grouse, in the crotchety fashion of the bedridden.  Normally, I am Pollyanna as hell, and the morale officer for many minor armies, but my illness and fatigue prompt me to write about how sick and tired I am.  I rant here that I may smile silently at the nuttiness on my FB f-list.  Besides, this un-blog exists for me to vent my spleen; it’s right there on the label.

Irking me lately, and to varying degrees:

Michael Jackson fans.  It might just be the luck of the draw, but the adulation is peaking (I hope we’ve passed the peak, but I’ve been hoping that and it just keeps growing) in certain of my circles.  For the record, I loved the Jackson 5 as a kid, and loved Michael’s solo work through the disco years and the pop years.  Things changed, as did Michael.  I don’t care about the weird personal habits, and I feel sad his isolation prevented him from getting help for his Peter Pan syndrome, but his wrongness about little kids crossed the line forever.  People getting hysterical for the child-Michael or the young-adult-Michael might have been normal fanboy behavior at the time, but I don’t understand the current degree of mania for a guy who hasn’t cut a decent track for three hundred years or so.

The extreme degree of beyond-Beatles mania, instead of pity or disdain, for a mentally ill / physically broken / drug-and-surgery-addicted pervert gets under my skin.

Joe Paterno fans.  The desperate defenders of heroes make me sad for about a nanosecond, thinking that they are suffering the loss of a dear illusion.  Denial is the first stage of any paradigm shift, and I’m still waiting for a bunch of people to get beyond it.  I know so many people, however, who never moved beyond it with the Catholic church’s protection of child molesters (even some deeply lapsed Catholics I know believe the entire thing is hoax to get money) that I know there is no guarantee Joe Pa’s followers will ever admit that, when a trusted friend calls you with an eyewitness account of the sexual assault of a child, the main sort of acceptable response is, “Have you called the cops yet?  I have their number right here,” rather than, “Let me handle this.  I will bring it to the attention of school administrators who have a huge stake in covering it up.”

Every time I read a Penn Stater or abuse denier or Joe fan ranting about how this whole thing is a buncha BeeEss by lesser men (that is a quote) to tear a god down to their level, a handful of my brain cells leap out of my ear, screaming all the way down.

Early Christmas foes.  Like most people, I have been jarred and scarred by Christmas music playing while I shop for Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving decor.  (I’m not a holiday freak, but I have a major weakness for dried wheat, corn, and gourds.  Don’t ask me why.  I certainly wasn’t brought up this way.)  But the bitching about it has gone to an entirely new extreme this year.  Though I don’t want to tangle with people on this, I wish they would remember:  WE ARE IN A DEPRESSION.  Tune them out, but wish them well; some people will be getting by on part-time retail jobs in the coming weeks.

Many retailers rely on the money earned during the Christmas shopping season to sustain them through the rest of the year. Given how rotten the economy is, it’s a wonder “Jingle Bells” hasn’t been made the official theme song of Labor Day.

Snark, generally; grammar snark particularly.  I love the English language, and the intricacies of grammar and semantics fascinate me.  And while snark can be hilarious, and merited when used against the oafs (oaves? ha) of the world, I am appalled when someone openly sneers at someone else.  Especially for poor language use!  You wouldn’t (I hope you wouldn’t) sneer at a poor person’s shoddy clothes; why do some think it acceptable to sneer at a poverty of language skill?  I always feel like intervening.  No one’s grammar is without flaw, not even Her Royal Highness, and believe me, Sister, you are not the Queen of England.  Publicly snotting people, especially for offenses against manners rather than ethics, is unacceptable.  I am a girl who wants to know if I am showing the ass, and invite my friends to correct me at all times.  But doing so ungently and without an invitation is simply a way to score points for yourself at the cost of humiliating another.  Yes, it grinds my gears when people make gross errors, but grace is more important than grammar.

Which brings me to my last bark for now:  shit disturbers.  Spreaders of dissent.  Those who mock and whisper and divide.  And, worst of all, those who do so by lying.  The truth is usually sufficiently bad, but tell a lie often, and stick to it, and it will become the accepted version, the conventional wisdom.  I’m against that.  Know the truth, and know your position on it, but don’t pretend your opinion is fact.  And don’t spread lies.  I shouldn’t have to insist, but I must.

Part of being a fan of the truth is not giving front page, above-the-fold coverage to lies.  But once again, I have found out that I have missed out on interesting friendship, one that might have been important, because of deliberate lies told to me by someone I (used to) trust.  This predates my decision to stop taking even dear friends’ statements as fact, keeping in mind that there is more than one perspective to every story.  Beyond that, I don’t know what lesson to learn from the experience.  The first few times it happened hammered things home quite nicely, but even ten years after I cut this person out of my life, I’m discovering damage wrought quietly while we were, supposedly, still the best of friends.  Sorry for the pronouns without referents, it’s a rotten way to write, but any details would be too many.  (See the first sentence in the paragraph.)  But this new discovery is burning me, so it has to be mentioned.

The short form:  I have no time for whispers.  Don’t say anything to me about another person unless you’d say it with her standing next to me to hear it herself. Believe me, I’d do the same for you.

Here endeth the rant. 

Self-love without self-respect is play money.

How much does that Participant Ribbon mean to you?   If you earn it, you know it’s real.  It doesn’t matter because someone gave you a ribbon, it matters because you achieved your goal.  (The corollary:  since attaining the objective is its own reward, don’t work toward a goal that doesn’t matter to you.)

I see a lot of people with incredibly high self-esteem and almost zero self-respect.  Many of them don’t miss it (too busy basking in the love,) but the system is out of balance and falls apart in times of crisis.  T’ain’t healthy, in my opinion, much less practical.


My metheglin is delicious!  Very dry, quite carbonated, mildly spicy, strongly and most beautifully fragrant, and (apparently) highly alcoholic.

I racked it to two single-gallon tertiaries, with bubblers, and the dividend to a pretty jug with a wire stopper.  When I noticed the gallons had been bubbling again, I figured they were still fermenting and not just autolyzing; which meant the stoppered bottled needed relief before turning into a glass grenade.  It made a champagne-loud pop, released some haze, and I poured a measure to taste.  Scrumptious!


No matter how brief the visit, or how welcome the guests, I’m always exhausted after they leave.  There’s no good reason for it.  As much as I try to keep the house tidy, it’s in a very laid-back way, and stress only kicks in after they’ve gone, the sheets have been laundered, and all has been restored to its former glory.  Whence this agita?

Diet failure, in part.  Catering to this group’s dietary preferences means Mexican food and lots of beer.  Waffles with syrup for breakfast.  Constant snacking.  Enough caffeine to kill a lesser man.  In short, the AZ/NM meal plan that caused me to balloon to such an ungainly size.  This carb and cheese glut didn’t just make me feel polluted, but it actually brought back the misery I felt when I first moved to Phoenix.   I hadn’t realized it until I started to type it all onto the page.  (Behold the power of blogging!  If that’s what we’re calling it now.)

So here are the lessons learned from this fail:

Even on holiday, I don’t have to eat what other people are eating.  Yes, it will sting to spend a day and a half cooking food I won’t get to eat, but the math hasn’t changed just because the calendar has.  My body does not need ranchero beans, spicy Cuban black beans, cumin rice, posole, tons of cheese, tortillas, or any manifestation of corn in all its splendor.  It does not need chips, dips, chains, or whips (whipped cream, anyway.)  It certainly does not need schooners of high-grade beer, be it domestic, foreign, or homebrew.  I can grill marinated vegetables and delicate bits of chicken.  I can drink club soda with bitters, or iced tea with lemon.  I can crunch on raw veggies and dilled string beans and all manner of pickles.  I am not a bad host for not sharing food I put on the table for my guests.  They can help themselves to my veggies.  I simply can’t share their starch bombs.

Holidays, be they calendar or self-made, must not be celebrated by toxic excess in food intake.  Sybaritic pleasures need not (should not!) revolve around the table.  One may be a gourmand without being a glutton.  It’s hard to cook a leg of lamb for two, or roast a good mix of winter vegetables, but I can do lamb shanks and a single vegetable instead.  Parsnips for two can be done.  Love will find a way.

Bad moods may be avoided or ameliorated with a large glass of water, a hot cup of tea, and a brisk walk in cool air.  It’s over 80F here and now, which is far too warm for me to be engaging in physical activity, but it’s never too hot for tea.  The ritual is as important as the restorative properties.  During my hairy-scary college days, tea saw me through, in part because I endowed the process with this power.  It’s good to create my own lever, my own reset button, and that this button be harmless and legal.  (But even with coffee, I’ll stick to decaf, or half-caf on a wild day.  Given the effect it has on my moods, I can’t imagine what I’d be like on meth.  It doesn’t bear contemplation, really.)

And last but not least:  refreshers and reminders, lest I forget the useful tools I’ve acquired, or let them fall by the wayside.  (My foray into kendo was brief, but should come in handy:  ichi!  ni!  more focus!)  Learning new tricks is wonderful, but I need to cleave unto those that are not new.  If I can keep those few facts in mind, I’ll be fine.


There are two calorie limits in my life right now:  the lose-weight point, and the break-even point.  Exceeding the break-even point means weight gain.  I try to stop eating as soon as I’ve reached-but-not-crossed the horizon of lose-weight.  The middle ground between losing weight and gaining it may sound unnecessary (just make the lose-weight line the only line, then don’t cross it! ) but it allows me some room for indulgence without making me cavalier about the process.  (Uh-oh!  I’ve crossed the Rubicon!  Hey Honey, the day is lost, so you start slicing cheese and cold cuts, and I’ll start popping corks!)  — No.  That buffer zone, so antithetical to our Western duality default (Black and White, Good and Evil, Rowan and Martin) is both a meaningful designation and an utterly practical one; the amber light between the green and red.  Not Stop, not Go, but Exercise Caution.

If I overindulge, I can now draw the line at break-even, because I’ve had a chance to slow to a stop.  This allows me time to remember my goal rather than getting caught up in a panic-crave and a crisis of will power.  Panic does not lead me to good decisions on the food front.  If I can buy myself time to think, and that middle zone affords me that time, I can remember that working hard to lose weight, then gaining some back, works against what I want so much.  Like scrimping and saving for a new house, and splurging on a big toy or trinket that eats half your savings.

Lesson:  Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was sacked in one.

So:  after overindulging on Sunday (over the line from active weight loss, short of certain weight gain) I decided to eat lightly yesterday.  My hope was that a day of greater control would reinforce my training (arf!) and get me back on track.  Again, I nursed a pot of fully caffeinated java all day (over ice, after the first hot cups of the morning) and used an iceberg-rich salad to counter my craving for quantity at lunch.  My energy was good all day, however attributable to caffeine, but my daily calorie total was <500.

Conventional wisdom says my organs will be shutting down any minute now.  Should I be scared?

Here’s the thing:  I can’t just trit-trot to the doctor whenever I have a question or need guidance or reassurance.  It’s educational, but it’s not medically necessary, and my insurance carrier (on which I rely) is a stickler for treatment that is needed for something specific.  They are not eager to pay a hundred bucks for me to make random queries for my general education.  At my last visit, back in January, Dr. T said that excess weight was a greater threat than anything, and given my activity level, food was of more a psychological benefit than a physical need.  Cut calories, cut carbs, and get moving!

For now, anyway, exercise is mostly postponed.  It makes me ravenous!  Stretching, a little dance, and the occasional walk are all I can do right now without getting deranged and coaxing Honey into chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and there goes my diet, so how do you feel about BBQ ribs for dinner?

But this brings me to my crisis.

I missed my weight goal by a half-pound this week.  I am at a crossroads.  If I focus on that half-pound, it feels like a return to my highschool headcase, eating half of one meal each day instead of three, counting my Cheerios, and weighing myself constantly.  This is tempting, since I looked good in clothes, if not so hot out of them.

If I set goals and ignore them (or worse, rationalize — I started my period yesterday, it’s probably just bloat, tra-la!) then what’s the purpose of setting goals at all?  Not taking them seriously (i.e., not suffering if I fail) undermines goal-setting as a tool.

And yet: suffering leads to feeling helpless, hapless, let’s-choke-on-a-cannoli-and-get-it-over-with hopeless.

Is this the Western duality again?  Virtue or vice?  Sinner or saint?  Anorexic or glutton?  — I reject it.

I want the middle path, even though it’s uncertain; even though balance requires strength I may not have (but want to cultivate); even though extremism is security and centrism could send me veering off in either direction at any time.  I want a life of lagom, sufficiency, neither too much nor too little.  A Goldilocks life:  just right.

Transformers exceeded my very low expectations.  Visual bonuses:  gorgeous cars, my sweet home Chicago, and a beautiful leading lady (the kind who, in the immortal words of Gordon Cole, “makes you wish you knew a little French.”)  The offices and architecture were also lovely.  Comic relief from Dr. Ken, John Malkovich, Alan Tudyk, and John Turturro helped.  Sound track and effects were thrilling, not overwhelming, with beautiful separation.  The race-tainted jive of the earlier work was replaced with wisecracking aliens of the MIB/Bug Guy variety.  And the voice casting for bots was really nice, with big names like Hugo Weaving and Leonard Nimoy, and old favorites like Frank Welker and James Remar.  The best surprise was the plot, which actually made sense, and was plausible and intriguing.  It’s not Tolstoy, nor was meant to be; but it did what it set out to do, and did it well.  It avoided the pitfalls that would have weakened it.  I only gave it a “meh” in my previous post because I’m not a maniac for the genre.

For comedy, I’m a maniac.  I can put up with a lot of dreck, and I can watch and re-watch comedies even though I know every line.  But there are some sub-categories of comedies I can’t deal with at all.  My curse is that I can’t turn off a comedy, no matter how much I hate it.  I have to stick it out, to the bitter end, hoping for that payoff or punchline or last laugh…and the movies that don’t deliver are odious to me.  They are my enemies for life.  I’m not saying they are bad, mind you; I can recognize quality even in movies that I loathe.  Technically, if it has a happy ending, it’s a comedy.  But I want a laugh riot, and not all movies deliver.

Worst of all, for me, is a movie that is touching.   If I wanted a movie to make me cry, I’d watch Angels in America.  All the laughs in the world are not worth the misery if you have told me what I’m getting is a comedy.  The best and worst director for me is Judd Apatow.  Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and The Critic, have nearly endless repeat watchability for me.  I laugh every time.  A couple of others (Superbad, The 40 Year Old Virgin) are borderline — lots of yuks, but enough painful moments to create a significant approach-avoidance conflict.  As we head toward the “I Thought This Was A Comedy Why Am I Crying Hell No I Don’t Want You Touching Me There” territory, we have Knocked Up, Get Him to the Greek, and now:  Bridesmaids.

In Bridesmaids, the main character is an obnoxious loser whose best friend has been cultivating a flawless replacement bestie along with a rich fiancee.  Things continue to go horribly wrong for our loathesome heroine, and she continues to screw up in ever more awful ways.  She manages to lose her job, alienate her wonderful new boyfriend, and go stark, staring nuts as the movie progresses.  The loony girl, Melissa McCarthy, jumps in to her rescue, and stands in as the new best friend long enough to get the loser back on her feet so she can get her “real” best friend back, at which time she is promptly forgotten.  The  implausible ending involves dumping her fuck buddy, making friends with the bestie who replaced her, returning to Friend #1 with her with her original best friend, becoming girlfriend to her boyfriend, and starting up a new business even though she is dead broke and failed at it once.  Then Wilson Phillips comes out and and sings their tired single, now a Classic Oldie, while all the ladies spaz out and hit air drums out of time to the music.

Kristen Wiig proved she can carry a movie; she did a great job at the dramatic parts as well as the comedy.  Maya Rudolph is amazingly talented and she was completely wasted here.  (They also didn’t mention, write in, or refer to her pregnancy, which often is pertinent to weddings, dress fittings, etc.)  The supporting cast was excellent, and Melissa McCarthy stole the show.  But the script!  All that pain, stress, and general agita was not worth the few paltry laughs.  That poor woman hit bottom and bounced, and mugging for the camera during valiant attempts not to go under and give up does not a comedy make.  Anyone who thinks watching people suffer is hilaaarious should have his head checked.  Even if you feel empathy for the characters and are moved by their plights, do you enjoy having a director try to make you cry?  I don’t.  So this movie might be great for some, but not for me.

Honey’s squire will arrive on Friday, wife in tow, and we spent much of the weekend running errands in preparation.  That aside, I backsweetened my mead and racked it to tertiary.   Indulged a bit at Sephora and BPAL.  Hennaed my roots.  Got a mad notion to go in a new direction with my large collage, then stalled, changed my mind, and set it all aside before frustrated vapor lock set in.  Had a fabulous spa pedi, the kind that ends with hugging your nail tech and remembering her kids’ birthdays.  Watched two movies that were completely meh.  Caught up on some nonfiction. There is a lot more to do (and I’m doing it, I’m doing it!  Jeez, Ma!)

But food and my relationship with it is eating  my head, in good ways and bad.

Saturday was fine, and I ate very lightly, knowing that Honey would be busting out snacks for the movie.  My plan was to save dinner for the movie, to eat a real meal while he snacked, and to have one beer with him.  But while Bridesmaids had a few good moments, it’s the kind of comedy I really loathe, and to try to boost my experience, I had another beer, more cheese, and half of Honey’s microwave popcorn, and he does not go for that Smart Pop! business, oh no.

The next morning, I was dreading the weigh-in and food-log catch up.  The good news:  no psychologically damaging degree of bloat, and my calories did not exceed maintenance level or head into “gain” territory.  The bad news is that I’m trying to lose weight, not maintain my current level, and stopping the process of losing slows the process just like braking on the freeway.  Getting up to speed again takes a while.  Big-picture bad news is that relying on comestibles as an irreplaceable part of my entertainment experience endows them with too much significance, damn it.

Is there a way for me to eat properly?  And what would be best for me?  When I was a bachelor, I skipped meals, never ate breakfast, and went to restaurants frequently — but I almost never ate junk food or fast food or soda or candy.  I cooked for myself, but in bachelor style.  This meant making a big pot of soup, for example, and reheating it for meals until the pot was empty or I could no longer face the sight of it.  Cooking for someone else means trying to make tasty meals with a lot of variety, and let’s just say that my training in tastiness involves a lot of butter.  (And pasta, bread, meat, sauce, gravy, cheese, and other things that add to life.)  There is very little overlap in our preferences and restrictions.  Eating out of that wee slice of the dietary Venn diagram has done us no good.  How to adjust?

Goals:  eat less and eat it slowly; do NOT try to match him bite for bite.  Do NOT try to please him with treats; the way to a man’s funeral is through his stomach.  If I know temptation is coming, have my own meal ready that is tasty, slow to eat, calorie-cheap and bulk-rich.  Chilled celery with a dab of neuchatel or hummus.  Cauliflower with yogurt Ranch.  Hot and sour soup (no meat or tofu.)  Mustard-only deviled eggs with lots of paprika and big garlic dills.  Smoked fish on Finn Crisp, Kavle, or some other paper-thin knekkebrød.  Water-packed tuna with lemon juice and cracked black pepper.

And remember the tricks:  things like crumbled boiled egg yolk and sun-dried tomatoes add richness without oil, particularly to salad dressing.  A dab of anchovy paste or a teaspoon of real bacon bits add a lot of flavor for minimal calories.   And calories count, but carbs matter too.  If you want to eat more than a tablespoon of food, legumes are not for you, Sedentary Girl!  And don’t even think about pasta.   There is no amount of exercise, short of marathon running or full-time bricklaying, that justifies pasta.   Don’t lie to yourself.  Get over it.  Forget it and drive on.

So, yeesh.  Normally I drink decaf or weak half-caf, since I drink coffee all day, but I had proper coffee on Sunday — eight scoops of fresh-ground high octane, and most of the pot to myself.  I skipped breakfast, had a nasty-but-filling diet shake for lunch, and had raw cabbage and tomatoes for dinner.   Being stressed about the indulgences of the night before didn’t hurt (MAKE FEAR WORK FOR YOU! ALL EMOTIONS MUST PULL THEIR WEIGHT AROUND HERE!) but it was the unusual caffeine intake and the running around that kept me free from hunger all day.  I think it was also the fact that I had eaten more than usual, later than usual, the night before; my body was still full, and I’m listening to it more, rather than only imposing my will upon it (for better or worse.)  I just wasn’t hungry.

I MUST NOT EAT IF I AM NOT HUNGRY.  Conventional wisdom has insisted that meals be on time and never skipped, NEVER!, or your body will start breaking down your muscles and organs for protein.  Frankly, I have a hard time believing that skipping one meal causes a fat person’s body to go into starvation mode, but I read it everywhere, all the time.  Perhaps it’s true for those who are already thin, but that’s not me.  And I’m just over five feet tall.  Everything I read says that if I consume less than half what it takes to maintain my fat body (minimum 1400 or so cals per day) my body will stop burning fat and start eating muscle.  Why would it do that?  Eating when I’m not hungry seems so counterintuitive; I just can’t do it.  Eating for reasons other than true hunger is what got me into this mess!

I just don’t think I’ll ever stop being fat if I consume calories based on calculations by people who don’t know me and my situation.

Another issue:  for my food log and weight tracking, I use FitDay.  Except for it logging me out after five minutes of inactivity, I love it.  But I would never, ever trust any textbook calorie count for a dish (ingredients yes; dish, no.  How do they know how I make curry?)  I made an experimental low-cal version of alu saag, created a custom food entry based on the ingredients (onion, potato, spinach, garlic, fat-free broth, lots of spices, a little oil,) and divided the total calories by the number of portions.  Leftover portions, with lots more FF broth, made good soup.  And if I make it again, the same way, I don’t have to go through the trouble of recalculating everything.  So there is another great tool just lying around, quick to hand.

Another bonus:  I successfully avoided temptation at the farmer’s market on Sunday.  It was lush with the grape harvest and end-of-season stone fruits, but it’s all candy to me, and I’d rather have ice cream, which is just as verboten. The ripest grape tomatoes ever were a treat, and very affordable, calorie-wise.  (I did buy some nectarines, peaches, berries, and lotus honey for next weekend’s company, but they are untouched.)  Honey had a luscious blackberry galette, but said no to the Acme bread and spinach bolani and tzatziki (unusual for him), and the only prepared food I brought home was fresh sauerkraut, which I had for dinner.  The Bay Area may be famous for its sourdough, but my weakness is a tender, well-browned farmhouse white, or the beautiful challah from the Marsee Bakery back in Portland.  Good thing neither of them is here!

Fears: age (it’s harder to lose weight now that I’m perimenopausal); inactivity (walking/running/jogging is now a scheduled event rather than a frequent-through-the-day ADL); hormones (my PMS has kicked in, and I am craving a blood-rare ribeye, charred on the outside; a jumbo prawn cocktail, heavy on the horseradish; a stack of dark golden pommes frites; a thick piece of toasted bread, glistening with garlic butter; two bottles of fat-assed cabernet; and enough thick-sliced fried mushrooms to choke a hobbit.  I would step on granny’s neck for this meal, and you know I love granny.  But a five foot tall person doesn’t get to eat meals extensive enough to require semicolon separation of the list.  Once or twice per year, maybe, and only a bite of each.  I’ll think about it once I’m no longer fat, maybe on my birthday, %$#@^!&, et cetera.)

[Speaking of that:  losing weight seems to be having a physical benefit in terms of hormones.  Like a lot of women, I tend to hypervigilance in analyzing my self / moods / health, and I think I can tell the difference between good cheer that I’m making progress and an enlivened physical being.  Is it simply eating less?  Has my body been trammeled by a more-or-less constant state of digestive torpor?  No idea.  But it feels good.]

[Another aside:  lots of exercises demand that you tighten your abdominals to create the proper form, and yesterday, for the first time in ages, I sucked in my stomach and it moved.  A hollow was created.  I still have gut galore, and a sagging inner tube — but it’s no longer a high, tight, rigid inner tube.  Good news?]

That brings me to my last and greatest fear:  sagging skin.  Back in Oregon, a friend lost over a hundred pounds (very, very slowly) and became very muscular, but had skin so loose that she had to pull it aside for me to see her six-pack.  I have to lose about the same amount of weight, I’m doing it more quickly, I’m not weight training, I’m ten years older than she was when she lost it, and I’m half a foot shorter — am I doomed to the same loose skin, or worse?   I hope to start grad school next spring, and I won’t have money for plastic surgery until I’m fifty, at least.  I’m petrified of general anaesthesia, since my sole surgery (which took fifteen minutes and went off flawlessly) led to me nearly dying while in recovery due to a bad reaction to the drugs.  Almost as scary is that the sagging skin would certainly depress me enough to turn back to old habits.  Can’t look good, losing weight didn’t remove the bulges, so why bother?

My waist is super short, and I have a large ribcage and boxy hips.  For most of my adult life, I had a flat tummy, and relied on it and my dent (where other people have waistlines, I have a sharp dent) to look good in jeans and chinos, always with a shirt tucked in.  If I have a pannicular bulge, I will look sloppy, and I hate that.  All the dieting in the world can’t gift me with a long, narrow waist, but can I have a flat tummy again? It it possible?

And since I’m on the TMI bent, let’s talk tits.  The first place I lose weight is the balcony, and my nipples are pointing straight down; it’s horrifying!  This, as much as the tummy, convinces me that a something-plasty is in my future, no matter how scary or life-threatening.  I don’t want to replace this huge udder with untested upholstery foam, or leak-ready saline, but can I get my perky little teacups back?  Plastic surgeons say anything is possible, and there is a world-class board certified genius just down the road, but I fear the scarring.  One of my long-ago clients had zero scarring after major chest surgery thanks to a special diet, perfect care (vitamins, hydration, no sun/smoking/drinking, regular sweaty workouts, etc.), and, I think, good luck in genetics.  Are similar results possible for me?

Either way, I’m currently fueled by a combination of fear, vanity, and stubbornness.  And while I’m no optimist (not at all!) I have a deeply positive mental attitude, which helps.  I love life and the living of it.  If I had the kind of freedom from desire and all-around wa that would allow me to be motivated solely by good health, again:  I wouldn’t have gotten myself into this hole.  I just need to learn to have my joy and not eat it, too.



in response to his piece in The Telegraph, “Roman Polanski: fugitive director admits rape woman ‘double victim’

Dear Mr. Hough,

In your article, you refer to Polanski’s drugging and raping a minor as “child sex.”   I understand the need for non-repetitive references, but there is a greater need for accuracy.  “Child sex” refers to sexual experimentation between children, not the sexual assault of a minor by a man old enough to be her father.

Please also keep in mind that Polanski admitted, unpressed, that he drugged, raped, and sodomized a child, knowing she was of middle-school age, and did so at the time of his arrest.  We’ve known he is an admitted rapist for many, many years.  A more interesting story might be about the people, especially celebrities, who have defended him staunchly.  Some of them were misled by the false (now disproved) accusation of judicial misconduct.  Some have the Gallic attitude about rape, and think what he did is no big deal.  Some think that because the child was not a virgin, and because her mother pimped her out, that her repeatedly saying “no” (before she was drugged) makes it okay.  Some are moved by the tragedies in Polanski’s past, or by his great talent as a director, to excuse his excesses.

I would really like to know if it was escaping the Nazis, being married to Sharon Tate, or making Chinatown that gave him a free pass to drug a child, sodomize her, rape her, and then flee justice and act the wounded victim all these years.  Was any one of those things sufficient, or would two have done it?  Or did he have to hit that Trifecta before the world cooed over a rapist?  Kate Winslet being so delighted to work with him, so awed to be in his presence, colors my image of her.  I would really like to see an interview that asks her how she justifies working with him, and lauding him, knowing what we know, what the world knows.

But if you do write about Polanski again, or others of his ilk, please remember:  he was convicted of rape, and confessed to rape.  He may be referred to as a “convicted rapist” or a “confessed rapist.”  But “child sex” is two kiddies playing doctor under the stairs.  If you don’t know the difference, you shouldn’t be writing for the news.

 Thank you for your attention to this matter.

This is not a highlight reel from my week.   This is an unconsidered burst from the mental Kalashnikov.

Diet:  calorie control works, damn it! Works, I say!  Faster-than-conventionally-mandated weight loss is not for everyone, but I think I have a good chance of success in long-term maintenance.  I spent a vast chunk of my life not overeating.  Long periods were spent eating a LOT, but that was when I played hard, didn’t eat garbage, and wasn’t eating constantly.  I suspect my machine may work best on a glut-starve-refuel cycle.  So long as I restore my pre-obesity eating/activity behavior after losing the weight, I don’t anticipate backsliding.

Besides, I’ll have access to the wardrobe I’ve toted through four states and haven’t been able to wear for ten years.  My zebra-stripe Bongos make me happy, my pink fringed flapper dress makes me happy, and looking good in jeans again will make me very happy.  Happy enough to stop after a handful of potato chips, save beer and wine for special occasions, and take immediate measures if the waistbands get tight.  (At least I’m not susceptible to soda and sweets.  Sugar addicts I’ve known make it sound worse than kicking Schedule I narcotics.  Perhaps all white drugs have similar properties.) (Mmm, sympathetic magic; why not try alchemy while I’m at it?)

Losing five pounds in a week is also a hell of a boost.  I’m down 14# overall and have another 16# to go before my visit home next month.  I hope I hit that target.  That would bring me to the weight I was at my last visit.  It would wreck my head if I went home, feeling psyched about my weight loss, and my family only saw me heavier than I was four years ago.  They will be shocked, appalled, and worried, no matter how firmly I explain that this is an improvement.  And they will do what they have always done:  kill the fatted calf and load my plate.  I only go home twice per decade.  Flatly refusing my mother’s steaks, ribs, bacon, and fried potatoes will not be an option.  But hearing her tell me how worried she is about my weight while she cuts me a large slice of pie will carbonate my brain. It’s sad that I’ll only be there for a few days, but my scale will thank me for it.

Family:  my family are salt-of-the-earth farmers.  I was brought up in a four-generation household of hardworking, teetotalling Norwegian stoics.  They are not comfortable expressing encouragement, despite how easy it is for them to voice expectations.  It looks harsh from the outside, but really, it’s like Yoda:  Do, or Do Not; There Is No “Try.”  They are a hardy bunch, and I owe them my hard-assed work ethic, which has arguably done more for me than cheerleading would have.  They also gifted me with outstanding cholesterol despite overconsumption of meat and bacon, butter and lard.   Tusen takk, mor og bestemor og oldemor!

Another incentive:  the SCA.  Honey hasn’t had time to play in years, and even if he did, it chafes him to play if he can’t fight.  The helm he ordered (and paid for) two years ago still hasn’t been delivered.  But incentive to attend a non-fighting event, contrary to his workaholic tendencies, is here:  at least one, and possibly two people we like are being elevated at 12th Night Coronation in January.  This event is sort of like prom, and people wear their finest clothes.  I’m completely torn.  It’s incentive to lose weight, but it’s also incentive to sew!  And anything I make had better fit!

It’s all I can do not to start drafting patterns and cutting — not that I’m any great shakes as a seamstress.  I’m trying to channel that eagerness into dieting.  Being surrounded by razor-sharp dressers swathed in pearls and brocades while you are wearing something that looks like a homemade Halloween costume is not good for morale.  Morbid obesity also does not often contribute to sartorial elegance, at least not for me.  I’m so short that I look like a poorly upholstered pouffe.  I can run in stiletto heels, but I can’t spend a day on foot-high chopines.  They will just have to deal with some late-period Persian, that’s all.  Take it and like it, people!

SCA:  one of the things I value about the SCA is that, all the other business aside, it has given me a chance to learn about the chivalric virtues.  Not gallantry, not dance-class manners, but actual virtues.  This thrills me, in very large part, because I think girls are deprived of a lot of cultural conditioning toward virtues.  We are bombarded with anti-vice propaganda, and virtue in girls is often defined, not by what they do, but by what they don’t do:  she doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t run around with boys; she’s a GOOD GIRL.  This leads some girls to duplicity (false front of “virtue” covering a multitude of sins,) double standards (girls who take liberties reserved for boys are BAD GIRLS,) or defiance (“SCREW THIS IN SPADES,” in my case, “I’ll do as I please, and suffer the consequences.”)  There aren’t many books or movies showing girls learning about, or being obliged to display, good sportsmanship, courage, prowess, grace, self-discipline, respect, or other valuable traits.  We often see them in the context of sports, war, and business, which are historically not woman-heavy tales.  I’ve always been able to identify with male characters (I was a tomboy who primped, if that makes sense) but boys never seem to try, or have to try, to identify with central female characters.  It wasn’t called Hermione Granger and the Sorcerer’s Stone, after all.

So, having been informed by popular culture, school rules, social mores, and the aforementioned (deeply religious) farmers, I was given to understand that ladies keep their virtue in their underwear, and could lose it all through sex, a physical activity I did not, as a farm girl, associate with any virtue as such.  I didn’t buy it.  My idea of being a lady was basically being a gent:  be gracious to everyone, not based on any judgement of whether he or she deserves it, but because a gracious person behaves as such to all.  Stand firm, if you are convicted, and stay courteous even in disagreement.  Be open to the facts, especially when they contradict your current position.  Treat high and low people the same.  Be patient at all times.  That said, when the time comes to act, don’t hesitate.  Help people when you can.  Don’t carry grudges.   The one thing we all have in common is that we’re going to die one day.  Keep that in mind, and don’t sweat the details.  Enjoy each day as if it were your last.

This sort of thing is very pragmatic and simple.  A system of values beyond that, and developed in part to temper the warrior class to disciplined self-control intrigued me.  It reinforced my own experiences:  good manners are lovely, the very grease of society, but they are not in any way proof of a good heart, loyalty, self-sacrifice, or other behavior that is valuable to survival on evolved terms.  Some of the most valiant people I know have crude senses of humor and lack in courtesy.  Some of the most gallant, hand-kissing, door-opening, flowery speakers I know are snarky bitches. (Full disclosure:  some of my best friends are bitches, but not the evil, backstabbing kind.  Not anymore.)  But I would rather be friends with someone who has my back in a dark alley, who would split his last sandwich with the smelliest bum, who would jump in front of a train to save an enemy or a friend or a stranger, than be friends with a mannerly scoundrel.

Good manners are important, don’t get me wrong; I think they are essential, in fact.  But I have known evil people in candy coatings, and I think it’s important to emphasize the difference between acting like a good guy and actually being a good guy.  The best is a marriage of the two:  good deeds, and good manners.  That’s something worth striving for. Only knights may display chivalry, but the virtues are something we can all learn.  And I may not have been to an event in ages, or worn garb, or done a funny dance, but the virtues apply to my every day life as well as Society events.

There is some criminal verbosity here, and I have too much yet to do to try to revise this (the faster I type, the less chance I have to do mental editing, and my typing gets faster every day) so I’ll skip the rest of my meanderings and cut straight to the end.

Dream: I fell asleep the other night, thinking about a story I was writing, and I dreamed that in this post-apocalyptic universe, a strange electromagnetic cataclysm had given people power that amplified traits they had cultivated in their previous lives.  Dancers were tied to the elements:  hula dancers had influence over water, flamenco dancers and tangoists affected fire elements, and the family of belly dancers and body dancers were like Antaeus:  so long as they were touching earth, they had all its power.

(In the way dreams work, I knew instantly that these abilities had become hereditary, just as the dancing techniques themselves were passed from parents to children.  Breeding outside one’s element had been taboo for some time but was on the verge of becoming accepted — and with it, new breeds of element-dancers.  Some children had all the power of both lines, but breeding with other crosses caused everyone’s power to fade over time, as the new world peaked and began to spiral back to destruction.)

The problem came when people realized the cataclysm itself had been caused by a Balinese dancer.  Their arm poses, sculpting the air, were always limited to the traditional list of numbered positions; any other moves were proscribed.  An old dancer, who didn’t want to die without perfecting a new pose that she had polished in secret for many years, accidentally stumbled upon the right combination of motions and pauses to dissolve the world as we knew it — not so much hitting the “game over” pose so much as “begin new game.”  It was only through the intervention of the governing body of aboriginal dancers, who influence all the elements, that the Balinese air dancers were not punished.  (The original Balinese dancer who called down annihilation and change was consumed in the process, of course.)  There was more and more.  If it sticks with me, I may try to flesh it out. But I had to write it down before it got away.

Right now I have the hiccups.  Nothing makes me want to shoot myself like hiccups.  One reason:  I like my coffee hot enough to scald, and when I have the hiccups, I don’t drink it, I wear it.  (My friends don’t call me Hot Pants for nothing.)  Not an auspicious beginning to the week.  Good think I’m not superstitious, other than when I feel like it.  (Touch wood, heh.)

The weekend started well:  last Friday I did all the laundry and ironing for the following week, and more than the usual maintenance housekeeping.  Running errands on Saturday was kept to a minimum.  Three movies were watched, and while two of them were terrible (and the other one sad,) the sitting together on the couch part was much appreciated.  The Emmys had some nice moments, too, but I bailed very early and did odd things while Honey decompressed.  (We both often succumb to Sunday Night Anxiety in anticipation of the week to come.)

Best of all, I managed to have a Cheat Day on my diet that did include junk food, but did NOT exceed my maximum calorie limit.  The dieting has been working well lately.  I had a satori that changed my outlook.

The backstory on all this:  portion control became a problem for me some time ago.  It’s true that I am an emotional eater, and have historically self-medicated with food.  (This came from my grandmother, who came up during the Depression:  unhappy girls get cookies to cheer them up, happy girls get cookies to celebrate, and we do not waste anything, food most of all.)  Food is a pleasure to prepare and consume.  It’s a reliable distraction from boredom and a soother of nerves. But quantity hasn’t always been am issue.

I went many long years without excess food, distracting myself with new men rather than old recipes, but I became happily monogamous a decade ago.  (No regrets on that score, but the hunt, with its emphasis on visual appraisal, kept me on an adrenaline high that was inimical to heavy eating, and the constant positive feedback of appreciative glances made dietary discipline easy.)  We also moved to a state where I was miserable, and I learned how to enjoy beer. Perfect storm!

Staying home with my honey, cooking big meals for him, and drinking a sort of alcoholic bread gravy was a big change from walking miles each day as part of my commute, dancing like a fiend three nights each week, and partaking only of choice and dainty viands (how I miss the roasted shiitake and kale with tamari from the City Market!)  Good hot coffee and TEA DAMMIT TEA used to be my meds, releasing my tension and hitting my reset button.  Living in Phoenix meant quality Mexican food and not walking ANYWHERE.  Market vegetables were wilted, filthy, and bug-ridden.  Months of triple-digit temperatures made hot beverages a joke.  Ice-cold beer and G&Ts were always in the medicine chest.

In a year, I nearly doubled my weight.  Some people use retail therapy after a hard day, overspending on unneeded things to work out their ya-yas, maxing out high-rate credit cards and spending as much to service the debt as to repay it.  I did that with food:  overeating food that was not necessary, maxing out my weight, and consistently eating in a way that maintained that excess without whittling it down.

So:  my satori.  When it comes to cash, I am Frugal Frannie.  I don’t have an emotional need to spend what’s in my pocket.  Why should I do that with food?  The idea of racking up high-interest debt to purchase unneeded junk is appalling to me.  Overconsumption of food creates the same burden, the same debt.  So I need to approach weight loss as I would paying off a maxed-out high-interest credit card, spending the minimum on basics and nothing on extras.  Rent, utilities, and other real needs correspond to pared-down calorie and basic nutrition requirements, but the entertainment budget, whether dollars or calories, has been 86’d until I’m out of the hole.

Here is what is working for me right now:

Reduced calories.  Some folks say that calorie counting is a bad way to lose weight, but to me, it’s counting my change.  Saving pennies turns them into dollars, and cutting calories adds up to lost pounds.  The reverse is true:  hidden fees can nickle and dime you to death, and even a few extra calories will cause weight gain.

Screw conventional wisdom, which says anything less than 1200 calories per day is dangerous to your health.  Among other flaws in their calculations, they assume all women are of average height, 64.5″, and base their math on that.  I am 61.75 inches tall, and even when I was at my fighting weight and doing aerobics thrice weekly,  I gained weight if I ate more than 1100 calories per day.  The results speak for themselves.  Are you going to believe math based on flawed assumptions, or your scale?

Purveyors of conventional wisdom also tend to be slender/healthy, which means their lives are bent on health maintenance rather than weight loss.  The perpetually overweight people who buy the CW are heartbroken because they do as they’re told and, FOR SOME REASON, can’t seem to lose weight.  I do not crave membership in either group.

Reduced carbs.  My activity level is good for my mechanical self, but the paltry calories I burn are insufficient to require extra food consumption; my machine’s battery certainly does not need to be charged with carbs.  If I ever become a racehorse, I’ll consider eating grain again, but for the foreseeable future, my sandwiches will have no bread.  Most of my ancestors lived on little oily fishes and big greasy ruminants (and the yogurt therefrom.)  Berries are fine, but to my body chemistry, tree fruit is just candy with vitamins:  a treat, not a regular feature.

Meal control.  Mandatory breakfast, large lunch, small dinner. Most meals are a lot of water, vegetables, some protein, and little of anything else.  Good thing I love salad and stir fry and clear soups.

Rule breaking must be within the rules. If I absolutely need some salty crunch, I will eat a pickle, or crack some sunflower seeds.  If I am feeling truly hungry and deprived, a boiled egg with curry powder or lots of paprika will fix it.  If I would dearly love a cocktail, a spritzer with bitters (or even an ounce of an amari) takes care of it.  And any rule breaking must not exceed the daily allowance, period.

Food journaling.  Every damn thing that goes in the pie hole, including vitamins, water, and breath mints, must be documented and parsed for its cost and contribution.

Thinking before I eat (patient self-assessment before reaching for food.)  In addition to the money=food satori, I’ve also realized that I eat when I’m thirsty; a glass of water solves the problem.  I eat when I’m too warm (spicy food makes me pop a sweat) and again, water fixes it.  I eat when my energy drops; a single minute of energetic activity primes the pump again (even lying down and getting up again three times will do the trick.)  I eat when I feel blue; listening to a cheerful song boosts my mood (singing it myself doesn’t work; I need the snares, strings, horns, and hi-hats.)  I eat when I’m bored, or to enrich other activities (reading, watching TV, etc.) — coffee, tea, and seltzer with bitters must replace snackage.  And caffeine must be a treat, not the norm.  It makes my face red.

So far, this is working.  I’ve lost ten pounds.  I will not stop.


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