Hey, it was Monday.
I lost 3 pounds this first week.
BUT, I also found out what those weekly points are for, and they are indeed for getting into trouble. Like when you eat lunch, and then go to a baby shower and eat lunch AGAIN and have an apricot bellini because why wouldn't you.
Or, when you do a mini-sprint triathlon and go to breakfast for your traditional post-race breakfast.
I did not know it was possible to have a 36-point breakfast. Although I am not too sure about those french toast points, they seem excessive. Right?
Overall, this has been pretty easy though (so far). I feel full most of the time - really full after a 36-point french toast breakfast, let me tell you - and the tracking really hasn't been that hard to do. My only complaint (other than the wine thing - why can't wine be zero points instead of dumb old vegetables?) is the points seem a little inconsistent. That french toast for example - anywhere from 3 points (french toast sticks "fast food") to 11 points for 2 slices.
So, there's some effort in figuring the best way to calculate your meal. We had a small baguette at dinner last night. One "piece" is 5 points, but no info on what exactly a piece is. So, I weighed the baguette, estimated the number of pieces we normally cut, and adjusted the calculation to ounces. Worked great (although you can't always changed the serving size like that, most of the time you can).
On to week two!
I seem to be suffering from a "thickening of the waist" lately, and it's irritating. I put myself squarely in the "active" category of people - I run a few miles a week, walk, garden, bike when it's nice. I don't have an unhealthy diet (I mean, could it be better? Sure. But it's not awful. I don't even eat ice cream every night, even though I really really want to.). But my pants don't fit, and I don't like it. What gives?
There is actually a name for this phenomenon in older women. It's called the "post-meno belly." Lovely. But a study by the Mayo Clinic in 2013 showed that we are all basically doomed (ok, not really maybe) because the changes in estrogen levels mean "post-menopausal women burned less fat than their pre-menopausal colleagues. These changes mean that their cells are not only storing more fat, but are also less willing to part with it." LESS WILLING TO PART WITH IT JESUS. That's just great. You can read all about it here.
My two running buddies are struggling as well and decided to take action by joining Weight Watchers. I was a little late to the party, but signed up Sunday for the online version (50% OFF!) - and yes, there's an app for that.
If you have never done Weight Watchers - and I have not - it's based on points. A little quiz at the beginning about age, height, weight and goal triggers an algorithm (one presumes) that calculates how many food/drink points you get each day, plus an extra allotment of weekly points that seem designed to get you in trouble. I could be wrong about that, though.
The whole thing is pretty simple, and the points database seems to be extensive. I plugged in Seeds of Change (I like their rice and grain mixes) and a ton of them were listed (at ridiculous point levels). And if you really want to know the difference between farmed salmon and wild-caught, it's WW points. Farmed is more points.
My breakfast was a nice healthy 5 points:
Which means, to my way of thinking, I had points to burn at dinner, baby.
Wine is a pathetic 5 oz pour and racks up 4 points. So, this is gonna be HARD people.
But I've lost almost 2 lbs since Sunday. And I only dipped into those weekly "oops" points on the first day, when I went one point over on my daily total.
Inspired by the “40 Bags in 40 Days” decluttering project. That I did not participate in.
My mom passed away in 2008, dad in 2009. They lived in the same 1950s ranch-style house from 1960 until their passing. They were both 75. Which means they were both born in the early 1930s. Which means they were “Depression Babies” which means they had a little trouble throwing stuff out.
OK, they had a LOT of trouble throwing stuff out. Although to be fair, this was mostly a Mom Problem and Dad picked his battles. Fighting the accumulation of stuff was not one of them.
And those 1950s ranch homes, man, they had BASEMENTS. Like really huge, obstruction-free basements, perfect for keeping stuff. Very much stuff. Forever.
To compound the problem, mom thought stuff had value. All the stuff. I threatened that I would be renting a dumpster when they were both gone – and wouldn’t it be better if they went through some things and made their own decisions? But no. And I did indeed rent a dumpster in the end.
One of my favorite examples is the Tupperware Discovery. I had a “girlfriend weekend” at the house, and a couple of local friends came by to help sort through things ahead of the estate auction. We discovered two Rubbermaid “totes” – those large plastic bins you can fit a small child in. One was filled with plastic food storage containers, 50 or more, assorted sizes and shapes, no lids. The matching tote was filled with hundreds of lids, assorted sizes and shapes, no containers. And none of them went together.
Yes, my mother was sure that she would be able to pair these strays up. A eureka moment would occur when she would match a container with a lid, possibly saving an entire $3 in buying a new one.
Hundreds of Penn State football buttons – packaged in sets, in those sandwich bags with the twist ties. Two YEARS worth of paper plates, napkins and cups, and I know this because I took the stuff home and it took 2 years to use it all. Keys – dozens of them – unmarked. Which I actually did not throw out at first, in the clutches of some very deep-seated, irrational conviction that they might be keys to SOMETHING IMPORTANT.
And of course, the multiple Ziploc bags full of pens, pencils, crayons and markers. What is it about this kind of thing that compels you to start going through the pens before catching yourself and wondering what the hell you are doing?
I decided to ask my children – now almost 25 and 21 – what they did, and didn’t, want to see saved for that time in the hopefully distant future when they too would experience the unique joy of cleaning out the parental abode.
Those who have read other things I have written know that I have a Wordy Child, and a Not-So-Wordy-Child. Surprisingly, the not-so-wordy one responded first with a plea to never throw out BearBear, his beloved stuffed animal from baby- and childhood. And in his Never Want To See It Again category: KidzBop CDs. Remember those? They were so truly terrible, and apparently he has incurred some permanent scarring associated with cheery renditions of popular hits like “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and every Taylor Swift song, ever. They are on CD 34 now! And it’s a touring act as well, God help us.
Wordy Child sent several batches of text messages, roughly the equivalent of the term papers I am sure they want me to throw out.
“Well, Dad probably has hundreds of Pioneer hats throughout the house and garage. The fruit cellar alone will be a huge pain in the ass because it's not like I'm going to bring 10 bottles of ketchup back to NYC with me.”
A side note about my husband, whom we love dearly of course. He works for Pioneer Dupont, an agricultural seed company, and yes we do indeed have many many boxes of caps. Also, he is a bargain hunter. A coupon user. A seeker of deals. Very fond of BOGOs (buy-one-get-one). Even fonder of sale-pricing, plus coupon doubling, plus a BOGO, AND A REBATE OFFER if he can manage it. Multiple bottles of ketchup are the least of it…his stash of shampoo will outlast the hair on his head.
Not wanting to deal with the basement storage areas seemed to really get them going - “We could instruct the caterer at your funeral to cook using the entire cow that is in the freezer. And we'll have to give a bottle of wine to every guest because while I would love all that wine...I’m not sure it would be worth packing it all up.” So yeah, when you get the sad sad news, you will all want to pretend you are devastated, and show up at this bash, no kidding. Wine not your thing? Let me tell you about hubby’s beer supply…
In the toy department, Duplos were at the receiving end of some extremely harsh commentary. “I just described Duplos as ‘shitty Legos’ to someone asking about construction toys,” said one kid. “Duplos are indeed trash. Every kid on the block knows that,” said the other. Poor Duplos. I have no idea what they did to deserve such vitriol. On the other hand, I guess I can get rid of them all.
They both expressed an interest in any electronics, but only if they were updated. “No outdated tech!” which includes pretty much all the “storage media.” And for those of you are simply not hip to speakin’ the geek – CDs, DVDs, flash drives… Just when you’ve managed to get the VHS onto DVD – you better move it to the cloud now or forget about it. They aren’t keeping it. I don’t even know what to tell you about all the archival boxes full of photos and papers. Maybe start burning it all now.
They also both qualified their answers, saying “Depends on where I am at in life” and also, space. They want all the books. The “cool” furniture. The art. The Mini Cooper named Hovis.
No one wants that Ziploc bag of pencils.
I finally pulled the plug on my local print newspaper subscription.
I'm not going cold-turkey - I am keeping a digital subscription, at least for a little while, even though the price-point is ridiculous at $9.99/month. I think that's what I am paying for my digital subscription to the Washington Post.
<insert rant about how most of the media world is seeing a surge in subscription rates, because suddenly the importance of multiple news sources, and the critical role journalists play in the check-and-balance of power and the search for truth, is getting a little attention and that should not just apply to the national scene. We need the local coverage - and LOCAL IS NOT LANSING AND DETROIT>
And to be honest, all my reasons for subscribing to the local paper at all have been gradually worn away. I'm active in my community, serving on local boards and committees, so I want to keep up on the local news. And although current owner Gannett introduced USA Today sections and articles we don't care about into the paper a while back, it's only recently that what little local news they bothered to cover essentially disappeared.
There was a recent "editor's note" - that of course I cannot find online anywhere now - that blatantly stated (in 8-point type, so if you are over age 45 you may have missed it) that the only local news we'd be reading going forward would be "in depth" articles. The day-to-day and "breaking news" would only be available online.
I am reasonably certain Gannett's idea of day-to-day local news and my idea are radically different.
And if you are going to try canceling or changing your subscription at home, kids, let me tell you, it ain't easy. First of all, you can't do it online. You have to call. In my case, the seriously nasally robot lady could not find my account, because it was tied to my old phone number (and had I known they were looking for my old number, my call would have been much shorter) - and it turns out you can't change your phone number online, because there is no place to do that.
You also cannot transfer your print subscription to your new digital subscription. So whatever credit you might have on your account will be "sent back to your checking" whatever the hell that means. You basically have to start all over...although I have been assured that my login, to access the digital subscription, will remain the same. Somehow I think I will be quite surprised if that turns out to be the case.
No, you cannot have both. And put down that cell phone. Who do you think you are, thinking you can have a phone AND health insurance?
Our current administration, to the surprise of absolutely no one, seems to think that having basic healthcare coverage requires sacrifice.
I’d like to go on the record here with my opinion that this is fucking ridiculous.
Some members of Congress – yeah, Jason Chaffetz, that would be you – suggested that the peasants might have to make CHOICES like giving up a new iPhone in order to afford a health insurance premium.
Even coming from a position of privilege, which I fully admit to and am grateful for at all times…What. The. Fuck. When is the last time this dude paid for either one?
Since my husband will hit the Magic Medicare Age of 65 before I will, I checked into getting coverage where I work part-time. I am fortunate to work for a non-profit organization that A) offers health coverage despite having just 13 employees, and B) covers part-time employees on a pro-rated basis.
To cover just myself, the premium would be about $864/month. I would pay $432/month – my employer pays the other half, THANK YOU. But what if I had to pay the whole thing?
Giving up a new iPhone covers 75% of ONE MONTH of premiums. LESS THAN ONE MONTH YOU MORONS.
The average monthly car payment is $479 according to some sources. That would leave me with no transportation to get to work to pay for the health insurance. And the rent. And the utilities. And food.
But this is about SACRIFICE. For the PRIVILEGE of BASIC HEALTH COVERAGE. And those work-from-home deals are all over the place! I mean, really, no one should be unemployed! Kroger is always hiring and they are just down the road and you can ride a bike. So, no car!
$385 to go. I could give up my cell phone plan! Because – no iPhone, right? Having a cellphone is a luxury, and not a basic “given” in today’s world, right? The average monthly cost for that is $73, according to JD Powers. But I need some kind of phone – what if I need to call 911 because I fainted from the lack of food because I have no car to get to my job? It looks like a landline is $25/month. I’m ahead $48.
You know, people are always trotting out that tired latte-a-day metaphor. You know the one – “if people just gave up their Starbucks habit, we could <feed the world, save the planet, pay for that new road, whatever>.” $384 is…96 Starbucks double tall caramel macchiatos. That’s a lot of coffee…but OK. After all, I must make sacrifices if I want BASIC HEALTHCARE COVERAGE THAT EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE, and fancy coffee is totally frivolous and not something for the ordinary masses, so let’s pretend I go to Starbucks every single day, that’s $120.
$217 to go on the monthly premium. Hmm.
I could turn down the heat 3 degrees and save an estimated 3% on my energy bills. That I can’t pay because I have no car to get to work…but you’re tired of hearing about that. That gives me about $6 in savings each month.
Get rid of cable. It’s all crap anyway and it’s $95/month and another LUXURY that people who need health insurance, and are stupid enough to work somewhere where it isn’t offered, can’t afford and certainly do not deserve. I can probably sell the TV for a couple hundred bucks, but we won’t factor that in. Don’t tell anyone about that windfall though, OK?
My wine budget has been running a little high lately. Probably $116, right? That’s 19.333 bottles of the really good $6 stuff. That’s 120.81 four ounce glasses – or about 60 real-life glasses, which is 2 glasses of wine a day. Who needs it? <I need it says frantic little tiny voice in my head>
I CAN DO THIS. I can afford basic health care coverage if:
I can somehow keep my job without being able to actually drive to it
No cell phone
THAT WORKED OUT JUST FINE DIDN’T IT. COME SEE ME NOW bwahahahaha. I’M FINE.
And where can I get some.
I am trying to get through a transcript from the Washington Post of President Trump's...press conference? asshole theater? cluster fuck? ...today and there is just not enough wine in the fucking world to help me make sense of it.
I think my eyes are bleeding.
Oh, did I mention there would be expletives? Because there fucking will be. An endless supply. I'll try to be creative, but fuck.
I mean, who needs crossword puzzles to stave off dementia when you can read the lunatic ravings of a certifiable batshit crazy individual and make a pathetic attempt to find context, at least, because you are never going to find a fucking thing that makes any sense at all, or that is remotely Presidential, or factual, or even plausible, or even...I dunno, normal? And I say that as someone who was raised with an enormous fucking range of what constituted normal.
"Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars." I am sure Trump has never purchased any of the usual complement of recreational drugs (unless Viagra is a recreational drug now? Maybe?). I am equally sure the man has not purchased his own candy in decades. And I am also reasonably certain that unless you are buying fair trade organic dark chocolate made by elves and packaged by virgins, your regular-grade meth costs more.
AND WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS EVEN MEAN. "We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It it's disaster. I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people that our representatives are representing." Fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there? I DO tend to wonder that about alleys filled with people but, seriously? WTF.
And we are all supposed to be Republicans now?
"Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it." "No, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence." At the SAME PRESS CONFERENCE OR FACSIMILE THEREOF WHICH IS IT YOU STUPID STUPIDHEAD THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT THINGS OMG AND LYING TO PENCE IS THE LEAST OF IT.
Also, I will be abusing the shit out of ALL CAPS so forewarned is forearmed or something.
"Russia is fake news. Russia — this is fake news put out by the media. The real news is the fact that people, probably from the Obama administration because they're there, because we have our new people going in place, right now." I CAN"T EVEN...WHUT.
"QUESTION: If I may follow up on some of the questions that have taken place so far here, sir —
TRUMP: Well, that's — well, you know, we do have other people. You do have other people, and your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people that are waiting.
QUESTION: It's pretty good right now, actually.
TRUMP: Okay, go ahead, John."
YOUR RATINGS AREN'T GOOD. Yes they are. OK THEN.
I'm sorry. I said I would be creative with the swearing, but what the actual fuck is going on here.
And then "Well the leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it, and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake." Okay, so the leaks are real, because they are real and they are real because you reported on them but the news is fake. I NEED TO SMOKE MORE DOPE TO FIND ENLIGHTENMENT AND MEANING IN THESE WORDS. <I said the news is fake so it must indeed be true, and the leaks are wrong and illegal and pay attention to the leaks except not Wikileaks when they are about Hillary and do NOT pay attention to the Putin behind the curtain, I mean OZ, I mean... I dunno what I mean my brain is small and I cannot pay attention this long and facts make me break out in a rash and my English is bad and I could not pass my own extreme vetting if I even knew what that was going to be> MAYBE DROPPING ACID WOULD BE GOOD. Do people still do that?
This is just a teeny tiny peepee bit of what was said by Our Fearless Leader today - and I DO apologize but you really need to read or watch this yourself because it is EPIC in its incomprehensibility and all-around WTF-ery.
He cannot speak in complete sentences. He cannot answer simple questions. He is firm in his belief that whatever he says is true, simply because it comes out of his mouth - even when it is provably (easily! daily!) false.
If he was your kid, he would be in timeout forever. If he was in any grade, K-12, he would be in the principal's office, daily, and failing almost all his classes. He would be the bully on the playground. He would be the kid you would not allow your kid to play with. He would kick your dog. His manipulation is transparent, and yet people fall for it.
He doesn't even fucking lie well.
This dickhead is our President.
And I need more candy.
That’s the word that is staying with me the day after the Women’s March. Also, pink pussy hats.*
I was in the Lansing on Saturday with an estimated 7,999 other people. Many of my friends were in Ann Arbor (estimated 10,000 people), and Washington DC (estimated 500,000 people) and many other locations across the country and the world. The guesstimates are 1.5 million here in the USA, possibly over 2 million worldwide. Even if it was half that – that’s pretty impressive.
In Lansing, the Capitol lawn was densely packed, with open space on the south and east sides, which was mostly because it was a muddy swamp with treacherous footing. South Capitol Avenue itself, and the sidewalks on both sides, were packed, as were the surrounding sidewalks on Ottawa and Allegan. Michigan Avenue sported a steady stream of people making their way to the Capitol throughout the afternoon.
I am a bit of a news and political junkie ("No. Really?" many of you may be saying, while rolling your eyes) but I don’t consider myself an activist. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. So I’ve been telling everyone that the fact that I felt compelled to attend one of the marches should tell you something about my level of concern.
I think I can speak for at least some women, and state that I am not in a constant state of anger. After all, real life goes on, and my reality is that I am a middle-aged, middle-class, educated white woman and my day-to-day life likely won’t see a significant impact by this potential about-face in social progress. Well, except for the health care part – very much entwined with the woman parts (ha) - but that requires an entire separate post, later.
I am, however, mortified. Daily. And I am aghast at the stream of exaggerated rhetoric, flat-out lies and nationalistic fervor that continue to flow from this new administration. This isn’t campaign-speak. This is the real thing now, and it’s appalling.
So, I marched.
Because our current president is on record on how delighted he was that his celebrity permitted sexual assault.
Because our current president is on record behaving in a way that would result in very, very long time-outs of he was one of our kids.
Because our current president is on record mocking the looks, weight, clothing, hair style, and age of women everywhere.
Because our current president is on record mocking people with disabilities.
Because our current president is on record wanting to close our borders and deport minorities.
Because our current president is on record painting the media as “dishonest” and telling them what they should and should not report on.
So, I marched.
Regardless of your politics, your news sources, and what you think our President means or doesn’t mean – as if he requires some kind of interpreter - the fact is, the man currently occupying the highest office of our beloved US of A is on the record threatening, disparaging and otherwise being dismissive of women, minorities, differently-abled, intellectual rigor, and science. He is on record either exaggerating or lying and trying like hell to make us all believe that he is the only one who can interpret his actions, and the world, for us.
Because he is on record, doing and saying all of the things I listed – and more. And he doesn’t want us to see it, and believe it.
Well, no. I refuse to fall in line.
So, I marched.
*For those who have been living in a media blackout – and I can’t really blame you – the pink pussy hats are a not-so-subtle play on Trump’s comments about being able to grab women by the pussy, because as a celebrity they would “let him.” Of the estimated 8000 attendees in Lansing, there were easily 4000 pink pussy hats, as varied as the women and men who were wearing them.
For more photos of the march in Lansing, and some favorite signs, go here
Everyone is probably doing these today, but so what. Some of the Women's March scene in Lansing today - I am sure I will have some of my own words about it later.
A fun thing I wrote for work (www.hrwc.org)!
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Science. Humor. Bad Cartooning.
We have a very large whiteboard in the conference room at HRWC, and the holidays prompted some doodling across its vast expanse. Suddenly, the Huron River was populated with all sorts of creatures having some winter fun, skating away…you know, like they do.
The scientists loved it – mostly. Just a few quibbles, really, and what struck me was that the concerns were NOT that the scene included Santa and his reindeer, a snowman, and that all the watershed animals were on skates. Oh, no. That was all fine! The two issues were:
- the crayfish was skating forward and not backward as nature intended
- there was a bear in the scene, and there are no bears in the watershed
The ensuing conversation, while amusing (the 2011 black bear sighting at Hudson Mills was submitted, and rejected, as evidence as it seems he/she was “just passing through”), showed the depth and breadth of scientific inquiry that is the norm at HRWC. We take a good hard look at everything, and that is to the advantage of the river, the watershed and all the creatures in it.
You just can’t get away with fake news at HRWC. A skating bear on the Huron is going to get fact-checked in all directions. A crayfish with forward momentum is simply not right, and all the scientists on staff are going to let you know this (nicely, of course!), and then you are going to get to examine the crayfish poster (yes, we have a crayfish poster!) for information, and the conversation spirals off into what are common to the watershed (virile, northern clearwater and others) and can you eat them like crawdads (yes) and what kind of crayfish are crawdads anyway (red swamp crayfish – invasive to Michigan).
And when you have that level of examination over a cartoon crayfish, you can imagine what happens here on the more serious issues. Impacts of 1,4 dioxane on aquatic life? We are searching globally for the latest science. PAH content of “synthetic” coal tar sealants? We’re on it.
Because that’s how we do things here.
A little background - I somehow contracted a case of pinkeye (I know, that is NOT where you thought this post was going, did you? But give me a minute here.). This meant I was at the local Rite Aid to pick up prescription eye drops. I got the usual "20 minute wait" advice, and I don't know about your Rite Aid, but my Rite Aid has a 1:2 ratio on time, so 20=40.
Forty minutes is way too much time to hang out in a Rite Aid. You wander around and start to LOOK at stuff. Like the "diagnostics" aisle.
At first, I glanced down the aisle and thought, "Oh diagnostics, that's all the testing kits," and then I looked again and thought "Huh, pregnancy tests are diagnostics now. How...clinical." and then I REALLY looked, and started to laugh. Out loud, in the Rite Aid.
I am unsure what, exactly, is being diagnosed by using personal lubricant. Or the condoms on the shelves below.
But wait! It gets even better!
Climax Control SPRAY.
I am now standing in the "diagnostics" aisle in the local Rite Aid, laughing so hard I thought the goopy pinkeye would morph into a monster eyeball and fall right out of my head. WTF.
I mean, if you ever thought the condom-wrassling pause was a romance-stealer, can you imagine? And it's a spray, and...I have to go find a tissue, my nose is running because, laughing OMG.
Right. Where was I? And it's $80, man! And I don't understand what this even is. Some kind of super glue? So, I did what anyone would do, and I turned to the Internet.
Promescent allows you to adjust the sensitivity of some nerves while maintaining next-to-normal sensitivity. It puts you in control, so you have a say when that almighty orgasm comes. Of course, science would say an erect penis is usually a sensitive penis. But in the bedroom, it’s all about giving a guy some extra help, and taking a tiny bit of the edge off, so to speak.
I'll wait until you can manage to get past the "almighty orgasm" part.
A bit more searching on their website and yeah, basically, you are spraying lidocaine on your dick. Seriously. But apparently, not TOO much lidocaine, because...well, equipment failure.
Bringing Promescent – our patented lidocaine topical spray – into your sex life allows you and your partner to make love longer. The key is all in the experimenting. A great thing about Promescent is that it lets you and your partner play around with how many sprays you need to use, so you can find your perfect dosage...The short waiting period after application makes a great opportunity for some foreplay.
Experimentation! How fun! With a spray. Presumably in bed, in close quarters with another person, and possibly a cat at the foot of the bed. NOTHING COULD GO WRONG HERE.
For those interested in the Orgasm Gap, "Let's Talk Size" ("History has always insisted bigger is better, but hey, look what happened to the Titanic" Yes, that IS a quote.), and other snippets (ha, sorry) of information, the website is here.
Clearly, I should not be allowed that much time in Rite Aid. But if you ever need a soul-cleansing laughing jag, don't discount the potential to be found in the aisles of your local drugstore. Especially right before Election Day.
Sugar Britton, the beloved second-grade teacher for both my boys, passed away this week. She had that effective teacher combination of sympathetic and sweet with a hefty dose of not-putting-up-with-that-nonsense. She was a large, grandmotherly, comfortable woman who had probably been described as "grandmotherly" way before she had her own grandkids. Both my guys loved her, and she taught, guided and nurtured them well.
At some school function, she must have provided sloppy joes, and I recall one of the guys - maybe both - coming home and announcing "Mrs. Britton makes the best sloppy joes!" and of course, I asked for her recipe.
It makes 100 sloppy joes. Mrs. Britton was not messing around, man.
I had to make use of all my second-grade math skills to whittle this down to a more family-friendly size, which I offer here. Thanks, Sugar. You were the best.
- 3 lbs ground beef
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 6 TBS brown sugar
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 3 TBS yellow mustard
In skillet, cook the meat and the onions until meat is browned; drain liquid. Add soup, paste, mustard and brown sugar. Simmer 1 hour.
My mother died in 2008, at age 75, of aplastic anemia, a blood disease more commonly found in employees at industrial solvent facilities than in someone who was an R.N. and a stay-at-home mom.
Part of the leukemia family, aplastic anemia is when your bone marrow simply stops producing new blood cells. All of them. Treatment is limited, and the most effective option, a bone marrow transplant, is not performed on patients older than 65.
Both my parents struggled through a nasty flu in 2007, and my mom just couldn’t shake the fatigue and loss of appetite afterwards. After many months of testing, she finally got the aplastic anemia diagnosis. “This would make more sense if I had worked at American Aniline,” she complained, referring to a local chemical plant that had closed in the 1970s. But it never did make sense; like most cancers, there was nothing you could point to, or, more importantly, blame.
My parents moved to a very small town in rural central Pennsylvania in 1960, a few months after I was born. Our town, a mill town, had a church, fire hall, post office, general store and an elementary school. Everything else was 7 miles away, and still very small-town. No big-box stores, no malls, very small (but adequate) hospital.
Her diagnosis meant an initial round of chemo-like treatment and blood transfusions. The specialists, better medical care and facilities were 40 miles away. As the disease progressed, my parents proceeded to drive weekly to these appointments. My father – recently diagnosed with COPD – did all the driving. As mom no longer had the energy to go to movies or shopping, nor the appetite to go out to eat, and the risk of infection grew, he learned all the scenic routes between home and hospital, to give them more time out of the house. And in central Pennsylvania, there is plenty of scenic going on.
He later put these drives – thousands of miles when it was all said and done - very high on his list of favorite things they did together, despite the circumstances.
One thing they apparently did not talk much about was dying.
My mother was an intelligent, well-read, take-charge, opinionated, organized woman. In our circle of friends and relatives, she was the one who organized meals and household help when people were impacted by death, injury or illness. During the periodic floods we had the in the area, she did all the wash of affected friends and dragged us out to help shovel river mud out of living rooms. She just dealt with reality and figured out how to move everyone through to the best outcome.
But she couldn’t deal with this. She refused to discuss prognosis, care plans, hospice and funeral arrangements, even when it became apparent that this was the route it all would take. My dad asked. I asked. I am sure my brothers and some of her close friends asked. We were rebuffed, redirected or met with a silence so enormous you could almost see her inability to imagine or frame the reality of her illness and decline in any way that she could handle.
But then morphine happened.
After several hospitalizations for infections, it was clear that hospice would need to be arranged. Unlike most people, she did not want to go home. So we moved her to a hospice facility that was part of the hospital. The staff was excellent. They recognized that mom was scared and anxious – and who wouldn’t be – and recommended a small, daily morphine dose in additional to the anti-anxiety medication the hospital had already been giving her.
My mom on morphine. Hoo boy. She talked. And she talked and she talked and she talked and she talked.
I stayed up two nights in a row, holding her hand, while she talked. “Apparently we’re having a slumber party,” I said to one of the nurses. Only about 30% of what she said made any sense at all, but if I dozed off in the chair, she would tug at my hand. At one point I actually told her to shut up, thinking I don’t care how guilty I will feel if this is the last thing I ever say to her – but she said “No.” And kept talking.
After night two, the nurses took pity on me and started giving “Chatty Cathy” - the nurses were calling her that, not me (and no, her name isn’t Cathy either) – “something to help her sleep.”
When my brothers arrived (at the time one was in L.A. and the other in New Orleans), we started taking shifts. We would sit by her bed, chat about what we were up to, what my kids were up to, what would we have for dinner. She suggested an Italian place, described the food in a way that made us all crave Italian food…only to find out the place did not exist. Perhaps it was a place in my parents’ hometown? Dad had never heard of it either. Many of the conversations went that way.
We would order take out (from a local Italian place that DID exist) and sit in the tiny hospice kitchen, and laugh about whatever odd or funny thing she had said. And we would discuss what happens next, but there wasn’t much to discuss. We didn’t know what mom wanted.
Then my youngest brother and I were at her bedside one day and she said, out of the blue, “Maybe you can have a party.”
We both looked at her and then at each other. She continued, “You know, when I’m gone. You could have a party. Invite the Nelsons.” The Nelsons were long-time family friends – good friends, but an odd choice in this context – and my brother and I struggled not to laugh.
“No church service,” she said, in a voice that, while whispery and a little addled, encouraged no disagreement. “Those are always so depressing.”
“And a band,” she said after a slight pause.
At this point my brother and I did that little snorty thing, when you are trying not to laugh but can’t help it, and you could pretend it was a cough if you had to.
We waited for some elaboration. Mom dozed off. My brother and I struggled with the giggles. He whispered across the bed to me “Do you think she means a marching band?” More snort laughing.
A few days later, she encouraged us all to go back to our homes. We did. Less than a week later, she passed away peacefully with my father at her side.
He chose to have her cremated. And we had a party. The Nelsons were there. And we had a band.
And it's an Epic Fail.
If you subscribe to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus, you may have gotten a postcard recently about upcoming "premium editions." You can see the postcard, and my email to customer service, in a previous blog post.
The postcard lets us know that Gannett has "listened" when we supposedly asked for "more content relevant to (our) area." Their solution is to add four "premium editions" - an "exclusive, special Sunday premium section on popular local topics" - to the subscription, and charge $1 each for them.
Essentially, this is a subscription rate increase disguised as a premium. "But you'll get more news!" they seem to be saying, "More local content!" - conveniently overlooking the concept that a local paper is supposed to be providing local content...and also conveniently overlooking informing subscribers that this so-called premium has no opt-out.
That's right. You can't say you don't want these "premium editions."
Want a sneak preview of those upcoming "premium editions"? (and yes, I am going to use quotation marks every. single. time. I use those words) Here you go:
- March: Michigan Great Sports Moments
- April: National Parks 100th anniversary commemorative
- September: Great Lakes
- December: Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary commemorative
THAT is Gannett's definition of a "exclusive, special Sunday premium section on popular local topics," people. Seriously.
And they wonder why no one subscribes anymore. And they wonder why communities flock to small, independent online news sites, like the various patch.coms (Dexter and others), and The Livingston Post.
Plenty of people have already bemoaned the decline of print journalism, or even any kind of journalism at all (recently, the Huffington Post proudly declared that they do not pay their bloggers, because paying for writer product somehow makes it less honest). Small community papers, through no fault of their own, get gobbled up by the news conglomerates, and become less of a news outlet and more of a revenue stream for the parent company.
None of which is in the control of the Livingston Daily Press & Argus. But when the "boss" doesn't give a damn about quality content, then it becomes increasing difficult to be bothered to provide it at the local level. And you get opinion pieces, like today's editorial, "Senators Ignoring Constitution," making it into print.
What a mess. I can't provide a link, because the Livingston Daily Editorial Board didn't post it online, but I did document some of the more offensive grammatical and proofreading errors in a Storify post. Thankfully, someone seemed to have figured out the "their vs. they're" confusion towards the end, but come on. Every other paragraph sounds like it was written by an intern - an intern who should be gently redirected to a different line of work.
I wish I could say that today's editorial was an aberration, but it's not; there's no reason to believe that the content of the new "premium editions" is going to be any better. These "premium editions" are hardly premium, they are definitely not local, and no, Gannett, I did not ask for this. What I did ask for was more actual local news, written as if someone cared about it, with enough skill to get the message across without tripping up a reader with awkward sentence structure, poor grammar, and apparently no proofreading whatsoever.
My email conversation with customer service (God bless 'em, to have to deal with me on a Sunday morning) was long - 8 emails in all I think - in which I asked each time "Can I cancel my subscription to just these "premium editions?" (and yes, I used "premium editions" every. single. time.) After several responses in which the answer was "I'll credit your account, but I can't stop you from getting the editions" - hey, I'm up to all four upcoming issues for free now, nothing like not having to pay for something you don't want! I love America. - I finally got the answer to the question I actually asked: No. You can't opt out of the "premium editions."
I'm tempted to ask how the National Parks and Pear Harbor constitute a special section "on popular local topics," but I feel a little sorry for the Sunday customer service team, so I think I'll wait until tomorrow.
I received this postcard today. Needless to say, I was a mite irritated at the overall assumption that I should be thrilled to pay extra for local coverage in my local paper. So, I wrote to Customer Service:
I just received a postcard about the special "Sunday Premium Edition" of the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.
Apparently, I've "asked for more content relevant to my area" - and it's true I, personally, have grumbled often on social media and in conversation about the lack of actual local coverage, the increasing use of stock Gannett pieces, and the inclusion of USA Today articles and entire sections, as if USA Today was a paper that anyone actually reads outside waiting areas, airports or hotel rooms. But it's not like anyone from Gannett actually asked for my opinion.
My subscription - and it goes on to list what is currently included - will now "include an exclusive, special Sunday premium section on popular local topics four times per year." Except the subscription rate for this "premium edition" will be $1 each, and will be added to my bill. So, really, you are simply increasing my subscription rate to cover the occasional local content that I should be getting from my local paper every day. Right?
The detail that is lacking is whether I can opt out of this "premium edition" and how. Because until I see just what constitutes "popular local topics" - and whether anything remotely relevant, well-researched and decently written is included in what is likely just a new advertising-revenue stream and vehicle for extending the life of Gannett pieces from elsewhere - I may not want this "premium."
I know, I know. It's just $4/year. But you know what? If this rate increase had been simply that - a rate increase - I would have just shrugged my shoulders and thought "OK." But your postcard couched this rate increase as some kind of special deal, an opportunity to pay extra! for local content, a rate increase that will actually give me MORE news. You know, that local stuff. That should already be covered by the local paper.
I checked online and didn't see any information on how to manage my subscription for this upcoming "premium" - so if you could let me know what my options are, I'd really appreciate it.
I'll let you know what they say!
You know, like you do.
And yes, he has his own Facebook page.
Ah, the joys of social media. I like it - mostly. My friends and relatives are both local and scattered, and Facebook - and to a lesser extent, Twitter - are handy ways to stay in touch.
I consider myself to be a very tolerant person. Except when you are ignorant, and then I draw the line.
Both friends and relatives are an diverse bunch in terms of age, interests, economic status, political and social stances. Among the more politically and socially conservative, face-to-face, we tend to agree to disagree after a few intelligent and civilized forays into the discourse. We move on to more immediate and directly impactful subjects - family, travel, music, food. On social media, the status updates also lean more toward family, travel, humor, and, of course, cats.
But occasionally, something happens out in the world that results in my removing someone from my newsfeed. I want to say at this point that I have rarely, if ever, "un-friended" or blocked someone. I simply edit my newsfeed in Facebook as I see fit (or mute on Twitter).
The first time I did this, it was regarding Facebook games. I got tired of wiggling around Facebook's manipulations that kept forcing me to see invitations and updates for games my friends were playing, even after I would "hide" those posts and their ilk. So, my "friends" that were playing Candy Crush all day, every day, to the apparent exclusion of all other activity - gone. Removed from my newsfeed. Rude, cruel - maybe. But life is short, people.
There were other instances. A few evangelical Christians found their way in, and then right back out of my feed. I have no problems with anyone thanking their gods and/or saviors for health, happiness, and a winning lottery ticket. But the preaching? No. Had a couple folks all up in arms about a woman being featured on our currency, because we haven't had a woman president, so how could a woman be allowed on a $10 bill?
Like, what do you even say to that? You don't. You curate those people right out of your social media feeds.
And now we have Paris. And Beirut. And Russia. And pick a spot, any spot, in the Middle East. I live in a state with a governor who seems to think he has the ability and the authority to restrict the movement of legal immigrants - who haven't even arrived yet - based on their country of origin and nothing else. And I have people in my social media feeds who think it's OK to repost dangerous, ignorant quotes, comments and memes from such pillars of society as Ted Nugent, or simply random conservative sites that I just know they haven't bothered to actually read. They are just reposting whatever stupid, reactionary, popular post of the day they have come across.
And that is ignorant. It ignores the reality that all three of the "major" religions are steeped in violence, and yet not every adherent of those religions acts on those religious "directives," nor are such actions encouraged by the mainstream clergy. It ignores the reality that the majority of people fleeing Syria and other repressive regimes are doing so to find safety and some measure of security and stability. It ignores the reality that there is nothing - nothing! - that will guarantee that a terrorist will not slip through the various security measures in place throughout the world, and ignite death and destruction here in the United States and elsewhere. It ignores the reality of history, which shows without doubt that terrorists are not a new thing, and are not exclusively "other" - other beliefs, other skin color, other country.
So, a few of you may be leaving my social media feeds very soon. And a few of you may be muttering about free speech. Yes, you can say almost anything you want, but you are not protected from the consequences, and I am not forced to agree or even listen - especially in my own space. Also, I suggest you check the language of the First Amendment. It's probably not what you think it is.
I consider myself to be a very tolerant person. Except when you are ignorant, and then I draw the line.
“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” – Winnie The Pooh
Pooh Bear, he knows. My husband and I were grinning for two hours, from beginning to end of our first hot air balloon ride. And really, we still grinning.
A bucket list item for both of us, this trip also coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary. And although we did not have any inflated expectations (come on, it had to be said!), what few preconceived notions we had were pretty much...burst.
OK, not really.
I thought I would need a jacket. It’s cooler at higher altitudes, right? Didn’t think about the propane burner, and the very small space shared with two large men.
We both thought the ride would be bumpier, but there’s more turbulence on your average domestic airline flight than we experienced on this ride. Heck, my drive into work is rougher.
We also both envisioned a large landing area – you know, BIG, like a field, or open park space. We landed in the cul-de-sac of a subdivision. Much the delight of the residents – and the 6 kids who got a short tethered ride as a result.
Our pilot was Scott Lorenz of Westwind Balloon Company, which typically takes off near Kensington Metropark and Island State Recreation Area near Milford, MI. We met him at a park-and-ride lot, along with three other balloon companies. After sending up two trial balloons to test the wind direction – both of which went in opposite directions, leading all the pilots to shrug and say “OK, whatever” – we drove over to Island State Rec, which has thoughtfully provided a possibly-unofficial balloon “docking” area for just this activity.
After helping lay out and inflate the balloon with a huge fan, we climbed in the basket, and with a few shots of the burner – up, up and away we went (yes, in a beautiful balloon, just like the song, you old geezers you).
Wow. We could see the Detroit skyline, that’s how clear it was…and the view of the Huron River and Kent Lake was amazing. My photos don’t remotely capture the real thing. Picturesque also seems like an inadequate word for the view of our companion balloons, splashes of color against a gorgeous backdrop of Island Lake Rec Area and Kensington Metropark, the Huron glistening below them.
We flew for about 45 minutes in a remote kind of quiet that was interrupted only by the bursts from the propane burner to keep us aloft at about 500-1000 feet, and occasional conversation on what we were seeing.
Scott started scanning for a landing spot and decided – much to our surprise - on a cul-de-sac in a small subdivision. His crew captain, Gary, had already spotted us and was waiting for specifics on where we were going to end up. By the time we touched down, several dads and assorted kids had already gathered, and Scott piled the kids into the basket for a short tethered lift.
After deflating and packing up the balloon, it was time for the post-ballooning champagne – a tradition started with the earliest French ballooning flights. Upon seeing the smoke-belching balloons landing in their fields, residents were inclined to get out the pitchforks and stab the “demons” into submission. The French being…well, French…the problem was solved by offering champagne upon landing.
Champagne is almost always a good idea, isn’t it? And a perfect ending to a ballooning adventure.
Costco just sent me their summer savings booklet for June, and it happens to include not one, but several options in one-year food storage supplies.
You know, for the End of the World As We Know It. The Zombie Apocalypse. The Octopus Apocalypse. Vladimir Putin. FIFA. Something That Obama Did. Pick one.
My favorite one is actually called The ARK. Yes, really. Over 14,000 servings in 36 buckets. It comes on a pallet. Here are some excerpts of what the company has to say:
- We can’t always know what the future will bring. Being prepared is one of the oldest and wisest principles known to man. Whether it’s job loss, illness or injury, food shortages, or natural disaster it pays to Live Life Ready®.
- This incredible food kit has nearly 33 pounds of compact just-add-water meals. That’s a lot of food!
- From a large variety of great tasting recipes to top-of-the-line packaging, including the patented Gamma Seal® lid, this food kit has it all.
- Each of the recipes has been selected for versatility when cooking. Add Chef’s Banquet freeze-dried fruits or vegetables to mix things up.
- To really pack in the value all meals are individually packaged in large re-sealable metalite pouches. Then the bulk pouches are packaged in a heavy-duty 7-gallon plastic container and then sealed with The Gamma Seal® lid.
That one is $3,499.99. Just add water.
For $1,199.99 you can get a six month food, fuel and water collection from Shelf Reliance (get it? Self-reliance, Shelf-reliance?). Except it doesn't actually include water, just the "H2O Reserve 20pk to use for water storage. The H2O Reserve™ allows you to have 20 five-gallon reserves located in all of the important places like the garage, basement, bedrooms, kitchen, etc. This supply comes with 2 (two) Aquamira® Water Treatment Kits! This treatment solution kills odor-causing bacteria and enhances the taste of stored water with no aftertaste. These kits combine will treat up to 120 gallons of clean, drinkable water."
So, 100 gallons of your own water, stashed around the house, and supply of tablets to treat that water so it doesn't taste bad. Note that the treatment kits just kill the "odor-causing bacteria," not the bacteria that might actually kill you. How useful! Also, I checked ready.gov, and a couple of survival websites and guess what? One person probably needs 175 gallons of water for a six-month stint in the basement of a blown-out factory with no potable water. Maybe less - until you factor in all the "just add water" recipes.
This one has 6200 servings. For six months. For one person. I know you are doing the math here, scratching your head and thinking "But didn't the one year kit from ARK have over 14,000 servings for a year?" Yeah, it did. Mountain House has a one-year, one-person set up that offers 3,986 servings (for $4,499.99). Nutristore has a 4-person one-year food supply of 32,500 servings, which works out to 8,125 servings per person, per year.
Looks like even at the end of the world, we'll have to read the labels.
I read this piece on May 6, 2015 at Mommologues: Musings on Motherhood, a benefit event at the Howell Opera House for LA CASA, the local domestic violence shelter/organization. To roars of laughter - this post is not as depressing as the title indicates, honest!
I got a text message from my oldest son. Actually, I get a lot of text messages from both my sons – ages 18 and 22 - because that is how you communicate with the youth of today, and they (the children and the text messages) are often hilarious (intentionally or not)…but this particular one made me laugh. And it also made me think.
"Just saw a commercial for "a place for mom" and while I'm of course willing to call them and find a nice home for you to degrade in, I would much rather prefer you go out with a bang like a skydiving accident or you buy a hang glider and fly into a volcano or something :) just so you know. But no pressure if you just want to grow old and play bingo."
I of course replied that I was so happy he was thinking of me. And in addition to the laugh, it prompted a bit of a brain spasm – how DID I want to “go out?”
You read about how you should have all these end-of-life conversations with your loved ones. Long term care insurance, living wills, assisted living facilities toured and all picked out…and the conversation with your children about what you think you want, what they think they can provide. Because it’s good to know if they are going to draw the line at changing your diapers, or if it will be much earlier in the so-called “degrading” process and they are going to refuse to join you at 11 AM for the Denny’s senior lunch special.
I am crossing A Place for Mom off the list – no offense and I’ve heard they are lovely places, but among other things I am disturbed by the lack of A Place for Dad - what about Dad, is there A Place for Dad, and is it across the street or something? This naturally led to - “Isn’t it funny that the kids assume he isn’t in the picture..."
And although I am sure this is not quite what all those experts had in mind, I asked both of the children – what, exactly, do you envision me doing in my old age? Will you take care of me in my decreptitude and how?
Because proper mothering requires embarrassing your kids and putting them on the spot every now and then, right?
The oldest replied:
“If you don’t go out with a bang I imagine you having a small shack on an island somewhere with a garden and you just read books outside on your lawn or beach while your chickens roam around the estate.”
I WANT THAT. Especially the small island shack that is, somehow, an estate. But the whole idea sounds perfect. Sun, beach, chickens, my ereader with 50 Shades of Grey, Senior Moment Edition (where Christian hoists a blindfolded Anastasia to the ceiling of the Red Room and then wanders off and forgets her) in super-sized typeface.
If I don’t go out with a bang, that is, which is clearly his preference. Then he continues, because this is my wordy child:
“And you are there and in the end everything is white, like when Frodo wakes up in the Gondor at the end of Lord of the Rings.”
Nerd children are the best, aren’t they?
“Super bright, a gentle breeze, all white curtains and sheets…and then one day you’ll just die but it will be the most peaceful thing ever and you’ll be so at one with your existence you won’t need any help as you degrade.”
“So it’s that or the volcano.”
Youngest son initially replied “I don’t know what you’re asking.”
This is NOT my wordy child. So, as I often do with this one, I waited. A few hours later: “But I like Vonn’s Lord of the Rings scenario.”
NERD CHILDREN. I am 2-for-2 in that department.
I waited some more. Three days later… yeah this is the kid – when they find my decomposing body in the basement because I tripped over a cat on my way to get a another bottle of wine - who will be quoted in the paper “Yeah, I guess it’s been a while since we heard from her.” Anyway, I get this:
“Well I see you chillin’ in Italy with a ton of cats just hangin’ around with a nice little courtyard (dad may or may not be around idk) and you'd die from having a large cat sleeping on your chest causing your lungs to collapse in your sleep. Or something.”
Disturbingly specific. Note to self: no more large cats as pets. But notice that Dad has finally made it into a scenario here, although quite tentatively.
“I'd gladly come to Italy to help you out for a while if I can.”
Well, yeah. Italy.
“I think it'd be cool to just take you and all your old friends and stuff you in your own personal old people house with butlers and maids and what not. Ask Vonn for the money for this project though.”
You know, what’s not to like here? Sitting in a sunny Italian courtyard, sipping a nice Chianti, cat in my lap – stuffed in an old people house funded by the older brother.
It’s interesting that actually, in Italy, an assisted living facility is considered a residence of last resort. Single senior citizens in Italy have been known to advertise themselves as “up for adoption” – and they get adopted by families, presumably in exchange for grandmotherly tasks. Knitting, a little gardening, reading 50 Shades of Gray, Assisted Living edition (where Christian Gray ties a blindfolded Anastasia to her wheelchair, hoists her to the ceiling of the dining room…and wanders off to find some tapioca and forgets about her).
Actually, the hang gliding into a volcano is sounding like a pretty exciting option… and Vesuvius is just down the road.