Thursday, February 26, 2009

Focusing on the Needs of Others (Instead of Our Own)

Tungiasis--Am I Glad to Know What It Is or Not?

A friend of mine called my attention to WebMD's Senior Medical Writer, Dan Denoon, who has spent the last week in Haiti doing public service. He's traveled with an obstetrician, an electrician, and a photographer. He's a writer. Some combo, huh?

He's posted a few blogs about his experience, and they are amazingly powerful. I urge you to read them.

He posts first before his trip. His opening words are pregnant with expectation--The person writing this post will be changing over the course of the coming week. Can't you just feel his unspoken concerns about what will face him, his ability to deliver? I'll be sharing with you what happens when someone from outside that world tries to make himself useful.

His first post from Haiti In Another World marks his transition starting with the airport and a security guard's unspoken agreement to look the other way about their duffle bag of medical supplies in exchange for a few baby acetaminophen. He describes the drastic contrasts between Mardi Gras in the city and the sobering conditions along country roadsides.

Next, in his post People Everywhere, Water Not, Dan describes a watering hole that has the surreal quality that I've only experienced from watching movies. In our world, we do very little for our extended families. . . there folks carry their families' empty buckets for hours to reach water--uphill on the return trip. I was appreciating Dan's prose all along, but this is where he got me:

People will sleep all night at the spring, hoping their bottles will fill by morning. Then they'll trudge home --
most with just a single bottle for their families.
Some of the children at the spring had their heads shaved, and bore patterns of little scars on their scalp.
Ringworm, Dr. Leo said. If you hardly have enough water to drink, bathing is not a priority. Of course, cattle share the stream, and people bathe along with them.

They also bring their families clothes to wash, and dry them on the bushes high up the side of the hill. All this being said,
the people we met were in high spirits. They laughed at our pathetic efforts at Creole, and joyfully helped hand us across the slippery rocks to look into the wellhead.
Eyes were bright with intelligence, humor was everywhere, and despair was nowhere evident. If you don't believe that resilience is a human quality, you haven't been to Haiti.

Wow, what a slap to put my life in perspective. When it's called to my attention the situations and conditions that some people live through EVERY DAY, it can at least momentarily jolt me out of my self pity. My focus on such minutia. I know the distraction won't last long. . . our own pain is always the most palpable and magnified. . . but it's a welcomed distraction, despite the sting of breathtaking awareness . I have no desire to mimic Dan's altruistic actions, but I admire him for them. I'm inspired by his compassion.

It's in Dan's next post A Death and a Life where the climax appropriately happens half way through his trip. It's amazing the kind of medical assistance Dan is able to give. And here is the full story of the tungiasis. I couldn't help myself I had to go search for a picture. If you are squeamish don't follow the link. Dan's kind-heartedly shed tears touched me deeply. I will forever remember his experience--everytime I see a Tootsie Pop.

In Dan's next post. . . A Big Country, One Doctor he asks the thought provoking question . Give a local boy a dollar, and have you helped his family - or made him a beggar?

In Rain, Mud, & Water, he writes: It rained last night, turning the dust into an unbelievably sticky mud that clings to everything. It's sticky and gummy when wet, and dries into concrete. The country of dryness and drowning. . .

From his most recent post, Time to Leave Grand Bois, it sounds like Dan is on his way home. . . truly a changed man. Read his words, I believe, they'll have an impact on you as well.

Committed to Starbucks

I admit that I am addicted to Starbucks. I love them. I love how the staff knows me by name and talks to me. I love how they know what I like. I go there at least 2 times a day.

My love affair with their coffee started when a company I used to work for started using Starbucks coffee for our "percolators"--the free coffee in the office. At first I thought it was too strong. But once you get used to it, you can't go back to a less bold coffee.

I didn't get committed to their store until this job, where we have a Starbucks in the lower level of our building. I can walk to it without having to go outside on rainy or cold days. On nice, sunny days, I can step outside and walk less than 100 yards to it and see flowers along the way.

It has a wonderful covered seating area outside.

I also love Starbucks music. I like the music they play in the stores. I loved it when they gave away free songs every day last year for a while (now it's only once a week). I buy a lot of the CDs they sell in the stores. They are usually $12.95 and they introduce me to more recent artists than I would usually know about--like KT Tunstall. Starbucks is where I discovered her.

And I like the quotes on the Starbucks cups. It wasn't until yesterday, when I was searching online for a quote that was on my cup the day before, which I threw away forgetting I wanted the quote, when I realized the quotes on their cups were a bit controversial.

I found links that called them "religious." I never thought of them that way. Some called them "atheistic." Whatever. . . .

I did find one really funny quote in all this. . . someone said something along these lines I heard Starbucks is going to start putting religious quotes on their cups. The first one should be, Jesus, this coffee is expensive!

Anyway, I couldn't find the quote from the other day that I wanted to post. . . it was about being tolerant of other cultures. But today's quote is also very good and applicable to my current state of mind:

The Way I See It #76
The irony of commitment is that
it's deeply liberating--in work, in
play, in love. The act frees you
from the tyranny of your internal
critic, from the fear that likes to
dress itself up and parade around
as rational hesitation. To commit is
to remove your head as the barrier
to your life.
Anne Morriss
Starbucks customer from NYC. She describes herself as an "organization builder, restless American citizen, optimist."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Applying Dog Training to Dieting

I've been thinking that a bit about how helpful it might be for me to apply what I'm learning in dog training to dieting.

Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, says the key to dog training is 1. Exercise 2. Discipline 3. Affection--in that order. Misbehaved dogs often need more exercise. They are bored and restless and have more energy than they know what to do with. Dogs without boundaries don't know what's expected of them. Dogs that only get affection all the time are spoiled and unpleasant for most people to be around.

I'm thinking I should apply these things to my life. Sometimes I think I need more affection and TLC, but it is often my self pity that drives me to the couch and keeps me there. A bit of exercise first and discipline and no treats until I've done something to deserve them would probably make me a more contented person.

The other thing I'm learning in dog training is that you have to let puppy learn to get through feelings of frustration. Our trainer Wendy encouraged us to pick up Yeats and hold her until she struggled and keep holding her til she settled to teach her to live through frustration. Hiding a treat in toy Kong and letting her figure out how to get it out does the same thing.

I imagine if I force myself to live through the moments of frustration instead of feeding them I'd probably learn a lot about myself AND save a few calories!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Good Essay--Cinderella Is Overrated

If you want to read a great essay, go check out Cinderella is Overrated by Robyn of Robynn's Ravings; her essay is posted on Red Pine Mountain, as the winner of a contest. It's good writing, funny, and spot on in terms of some weight loss issues so many of us face.

Here's a little slice--a question she asks in the essay, If you take an egg and put a bathing suit on it or an evening gown, doesn't it still look like an egg? Is either outfit going to flatter me?

Here are some other of my favorite bits of Robynn's essay:

Diet and exercise. Really? I thought dieting WAS exercise. I exercise self-discipline. I exercise self-control. I RUN off at the mouth about how long this diet is taking and how miserable I am. I JUMP to the conclusion it's never going to work. I THROW myself around in fits of hysteria. All of this makes me break a sweat and, if that isn't exercise then really, I give up.

And. . . those two extremes - devastation over my plight and laughing at how ridiculous I am - would sum up where I am in my head most of the time.

Check it out.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Puppy Yeats Update

Puppy Yeats is now 10 1/2 weeks old. She's a Golden Doodle--her dame was a standard poodle and her sire a golden retriever. It's funny how now there is a "Golden Doodle" -- 15 years ago or so she would have been called simply a mix or a mutt. Now the breed is in high demand and a bit costly because of their friendly smarts, low allergy potential and low shed. These pictures are actually 2 weeks old--my niece took them during her first meeting with Yeats. Since then, she's also met my mom, stepdaughter, son-in-law, 2 of our granddaughters, and my sister! 7-year-old granddaughter "Pete" said she felt like part of the family now.

Hubby named her for the poet WB Yeats, so if you're not up on your poets, it's pronounced "Yates" not like "Yeets" as she gets called by the unknowing.

Hubby is very good with her since they are together all day. Sometimes he is like a new mom--dying to get back in civilization and to take a leisurely shower without the "baby" crying.

She is doing very well with crate training. We took out the divider in it to give her more stretching room. She sometimes will sleep through until 6:30 or so, but often wakes us around 5 for an "outing." Luckily, she does her business really quickly once outside.

She is not very good on the leash and we joke that she turns into "Cujo" dog--grabbing it and shaking her head and growling at us. We try to be patient. We have had fence folks come out to give us quotes, but I still want to be able to make her mannerly enough for good walks. Our dog trainer Wendy (of Atlanta's PupsinProgress) helps us--she's great at helping us be realistic about what a puppy can do. It's not at all like the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, who comes in cures in 15 min. It's a lot of repetition.

She's really getting bigger--much bigger than when we saw her online, when we selected her, when we brought her home, and after her first week with us.
I call this one "All Teeth"--not nipping/mouthing is something she seems to be slowest about learning! As our 2 year old granddaughter "Lulu" said when she met her last weekend--"Yeats wants to eat me and carry me around."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Driving from the Backseat

So have you ever had that dream where you're driving from the backseat? You can't really brake, and you're awkwardly leaning over the front seat, and you cut corners really wide?

They say this is a sign of feeling out of control or like you are not the director/driver of your own life.

I had this dream the most often when I was in Junior High & High School , when I was still living with my mom. I really did not like being a teen so much. My mom lived off and on with a man I didn't like at all for most of my teen years and she made poor decisions and my sister was a bit out of control. I felt so relieved when I left home and the decisions made--and their consequences--were mine. I didn't realize how completely trapped I had felt--what choices do you really have as a teen at home?--until I had more resources to direct my own path instead of being whipped around by the decisions of others.

Sometimes now though I think I ACT like I am driving from the backseat of the car. I act like I don't have control or can't make decisions. But it's not my mom driving my life; it's work.

For the past several weeks (hell, probably months), I've worked late most nights and worked at least some most weekends. And everything else has gone by the wayside. (I admit focusing on the new puppy hasn't helped.)

For instance, I had forgotten until 2 days ago how good vegetables taste. Night before last was the first healthy meal hubby & I made together (sauteed zucchini, sliced tomatoes with a bit of blue cheese & balsamic vinegar, and mushroom soup garnished with sauteed mushrooms) since I don't know when. I like these colored things called vegetables.

Our laundry keeps piling up in huge overstuffed baskets of clean (on the right) and dirty (on the left) that never seem to get emptied.

We suddenly have clutter in every nook and cranny of the house. (House cleaners don't "do" clutter.)

My gym clothes have been tossed in the trunk instead of the back seat.

I don't remember the last time I saw my personal trainer.

Two of my friends--one really, really important one--have written me e-mails that I haven't responded to.

I don't know when I last updated my Ipod.

I haven't even opened the Photoshop Elements I got for Christmas. I haven't downloaded the correct software for making it easy to pull photos off my camera (a gift from last May!).

We've missed at least one symphony completely because we never wrote on our calendar when our season tickets were for.

You get the picture.

So I'm trying to take back control. I decided I would bite the bullet and put in some extra hours to get ahead a bit at work. . . so I could start tomorrow's work today so tomorrow I could actually be done with the daily deadlines before 7--then I could go home, eat, open the computer to work on the next tomorrow's deadlines instead of staying at work to finish today's deadlines. Of course, everyone giving me the things with deadlines doesn't always cooperate . . . sneaking things in due tomorrow after 9PM tonight. . .

And that feeling out of control is a huge trigger for me. . . a trigger to throw in the towel on everything important to me.

Like today. Yesterday was the first time in eons that I actually logged my food on my daily menu (see the top right). I did OK. I was doing OK today. . . at least comparatively. .. then I go to this 4:45 meeting that is really just a political meeting--something I need to be seen at. . . and they have snacks and I scarf down both a bag of chips and package of shortbread. I must like this feeling of being in the pothole. I must like dragging my tailpipe behind me everywhere I go. . . coming across loud and unkempt and all around poor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Idosyncrasies & Idioms

So, I'm still talking about being in the doctor's office with my Mom on Monday. You are probably thinking I don't get out much. (Right now, with this crazy work schedule, you'd be right.)

But you know how you have the moments where you just happen to key into people around you and they just seem so interesting? You get to be this voyeur on so many lives. . .


Here's the first case: When I got upstairs (I dropped my mom off at the door before I parked) I could hear someone talking really loudly--to my mom of course. I couldn't follow what was happening in her story. But Mom filled me in later. Turns out that she was on her cell phone when Mom came in. And then she hung up and put her hand in her head and started shaking. Mom thought she was crying, so being the soft hearted woman she is, she went over and put her hand on the woman's shoulder and asked if she could help. Turns out the woman was laughing! She was laughing about a story her husband had called to tell her that demonstrated (once again, I gathered!) how stupid the people were who worked with him at the quarry. She told my mom it was hard job and it was outside so for those reasons, the job pulled in a lot of stupid people. Ironic, I thought since her husband worked there!

First case, part b: The same woman showed back up when Mom was checking out. I got a closer look at her then because she asked me for directions. One pupil was dilated and one wasn't. Mom told me in the car how the woman was teacher and had had a cornea transplant and where she lived and how she was blind in one eye. So much info in such a short time--that's the South (and my mom!) for ya!

Second Case: Then, while I was sitting waiting for Mom, this group came in very loudly. There were 4 adults. Have you noticed before how sometimes people go to the doctor's office in large groups? I see this a lot. Anyway, one of the their ensemble was a younger man in a wheelchair. He was being very rowdy--pushing back hard back in the chair with his back. He had some kind of spasticity problem--like CP. He didn't seem verbal. He settled down--they all did at the end of a row. (It was a very large--double room size--waiting room and very crowded.)

Third Case: This older man, looking quite spry, came in with his wife and another younger woman. For some reason, the wife wanted to sit next to this other woman (requiring her to move her belongings) even though there were other seats. The man got his wife seated, then proceeded to move across the aisle to sit instead by the foursome--the trio with the guy in a wheelchair).

Third Cases Meets Second Case: The older man turned and loudly said to the young man in the chair--How ya doing? The mother answered. .. He's upset; he thinks if he's in the doctor's office that he's going to get a shot. He doesn't realize yet that we are here for his dad who's back there with the doctor already. I'm not sure if the older man said anything back. But he kind of quickly then moved back to sit next to his wife and started up conversation with another woman. She told him she was there with her father. He asked how old he was, she said 73. He said, Ah! A young man. . .

I don't know why these things delight me. . . there is no point to my telling you. Just filling you in on the slice of life. . . witness to a world of idiosyncrasies.

If you fell asleep, perhaps you'll be more stimulated by the idioms. . .


I've been thinking a bit on two particular idioms and how they don't work for me.

Rejected Idiom #1: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
I do not believe in letting sleeping does lie. If I did, then:
First of all, I wouldn't be able to start and restart trying to lose weight and be healthier. And what choice do I have but to try try again? I have to rouse that lazy puppy called initiative and self-respect up and re-energize and try again.
Second, if I believed in letting sleeping dogs lie, I'd miss all the good cuddle time with Puppy Yeats. She is still in that mouth this and bite that stage so the best way to get calm snuggle time with her is to--yep! pick her up when she's asleep and let her re-settle on me! Nice. . .

Rejected Idiom #2: You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike
You may not forget exactly but it ain't easy if you've been off one for a while. You start off shaky and you feel awkward and on embarrassingly on display. You don't know how to stop easily, turns are challenging, and you find yourself wishing for some set of written guidelines for how to get off gracefully when your feet don't touch the ground. . . Then there's the whole holy cow this is exercise part, the tired legs, the sore butt. . . And did I mention the gearshifts. . . the security of the pant's leg? All these things are a puzzle (especially if your last bike had a banana seat and a bell!).

I find this idiom being the perfect metaphor for getting back to trying to eat right and exercise. You don't forget how exactly, it's just that you no longer call yourself a biker. Those other people on the bikes (eating healthfully and exercising) feel sort of alien to you, and you are embarrassed to let them see you and share in their talk of the sport. You know the rules of eating, but you feel shaky starting off, and the first turn (new situation) makes you nervous and a bit jerky. God forbid you face an event that feels like a figure 8! And at first you can only imagine yourself doing this for very short distances, on flat ground, in private, with no speed bumps. You long for the old comforts (banana seat) but you know that's in the past and you need to embrace the present. And you can't get sidelined by the paraphernalia (the streamers, the gloves, the helmets, the baskets--the new shoes, the new recipes, the new measuring devices)--you just have to use the basic tools and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE 'til you're speeding away in your dreams and it all feels natural and light and the wind is in your face. . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Even Exchanges: My Mom's Perspective

Yesterday I took my mom to the eye doctor. She has macular degeneration and she was getting her eyes dilated. She was seeing a specialist who happened to be nearer to my house than hers, 45 min away. She expressed concern on the phone about being able to see to drive to get home with her eyes dilated which is when I said either I or Hubby would take her. Then she started resisting. So I started insisting that we would do it.

Whenever I see my mom she usually has something for me. Any kind of something from food (which makes hubby mad) to newspaper clippings or some item from the house she wants to get rid of. Here was yesterday's load. It took 3 bags to bring it in. I hope I don't leave anything out:

  1. 2 books by Jon Katz, an author I introduced her to, one of the books is about dog training
  2. a "chilly willy" for Puppy Yeats--it's a cloth ice cream that you wet and freeze for teething puppies to chew on
  3. an empty Valentine's day tin box
  4. an "on sale" plastic heart shaped box with a Snoopy key ring attached to the top, filled with Whitman peanut butter cups
  5. an "on sale" ceramic Valentine's day dessert size plate
  6. an "on sale" ceramic Valentine's day mug to match the plate
  7. the receipt from the jeweler's for a ring she bought years ago and gave to me years ago
  8. the letter Hubby wrote to her when we moved away from Alabama and back to MA--almost 6 years ago (don't know why this was tucked in; Hubby discovered it)
  9. a big apple fritter for me and Hubby to share
  10. 2 tomatoes from her local farmer's market
  11. a new pink dish towel
  12. a blue tote bag from navy federal
  13. a pair of exercise cropped pants she found "on sale" in my size
  14. a pink shirt that she thought would look pretty on me and that she'd worn to church the previous day but thought was probably a bit big on her (she couldn't give me pants without a shirt, could she?)
  15. a box filled with felt and instructions to make your own finger puppets for one of our "grands"
  16. a Santa Claus book for one of our grands
  17. a tiny little--about 1.5 inches high--card stock tote with XOXO on it, filled with Valentine candy sweethearts--regifted from someone who gave it to her at the senior center

At the doctor's office, the nurse called me back as Mom was checking out to tell me that the doctor wanted me to know that it was OK for Mom to drive herself from now on and to let her try it. They said distance vision should be OK with her eyes dilated. I said thanks for letting me know.

Then I took Mom to a late lunch. She wanted to pay; or at least leave a tip. I said no. She didn't believe me when I said there was no charge for parking at the doctor's.

This is my mom. I don't need her to pay me for taking her to the doctor when I'm concerned for her safety. And I don't really mind having to put in some extra time at work to be able to handle it (she didn't know this until after she plagued me). And I don't want her to feel bad when she needs or just wants my help. My aunt--my mom's sister--wrote in my Christmas card--"thanks for loving your mom." I laughed loudly when I read it. I don't need thanks for loving my mom--warts and all. She loves me warts and all--and she knows about more of my warts than most people. And I certainly don't need her to do a hunt and gather of items to "pay" me for my time or willingness or whatever. . . but I admit I like their assorted charms. And she knows it. And for mom, all those little gathering of eclectic items comes easier than a hug. Hugging is just not her style.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Puppy Yeats First Week Home

Our golden doodle puppy Yeats has been home 1 week and 1 day. Here she is coming home in the car.

During that time, she has learned many things. Almost in this order:
  • How to sleep on me
  • Where her food & water dish are
  • How to pick up a ball

  • How to move with a collar & leash on

  • How to play, play, play with her "unstuffed" flat squirrel

  • How to climb the 3 brick steps to the back door
  • Respond to "come on"
  • How to wait before she eats

      • How to climb the stairs to the bedroom
      • She already knew "sit" but she does it more when asked to for discipline no
      • Stop doing something when we clap or say no (mostly)
      • How to wait at the door before she comes in
      • How to fetch the ball (Unlike our last dog who ran as the ball rolled, Yeats waits until the ball stops and then runs. Hubby says that's the retriever in her. She returns it like the kids in Family Circus--picks up the ball in the kitchen by the sink, goes around the island, over the rungs of the chair, around the table, and over to me)
      • How to sleep in the crate at night without crying first (cries when she goes down for naps still)
      • How to bark

      • How to grab her leash and thrash her head and exasperate the crap out of us while doing it
      • How to steal my slippers
      • How to go to the back door and stand or sit on the rug to tell us she needs to go out

      Oh, duh, I left out steal my heart (and even Hubby's)

      Can you tell from her snout how much she's grown??