Monday, July 04, 2011
For the past 3 weeks my sister and I have been dealing with end of life issues around my dad. She is the primary caregiver - I jokingly call myself the non-custodial daughter. We each bring special gifts to the table - her's are more visible, more practical, though I think of myself as a pragmatic sort of person. It's just that she's the one who lives there and I come in from out of town - but I have an intuitiveness that picks up on things that someone who's been dealing with an overwhelming number of burdensome facts might miss. Together we have juggled the care of two elderly, difficult, demanding and beloved parents with ease and grace and much success.
Of course, nobody ever did anything with Daddy that didn't carry with it the threat of his ungovernable temper and as he's aged, his hold on language and fury has not abated a whit - only his physical abilities have diminished. Remember - this is the same daddy who disinherited me last September, tearing my picture out of the family calender and banning me from his sight forever. He forgot about that after a while and thankfully, I know it didn't matter what he said. It was the ravings of an old terrified man. It hurt a little while and then went away. Most of the time when he throws his tantrums I just laugh at him and say too bad. We're not the ones in a wheel chair and besides, our turn will come when our kids boss us around. Right now, it's just his turn.
Now, though, things have sunk pretty low. He went into hospital 2 weeks ago with a kidney infection - then his heart began to fail - then a lung infection - I've been up to see him every day this weekend. We called in the far-away sisters who are arriving today. My son has been with me all week and has made even more trips to see his grandfather and another grandchild got in last night.
Ours is not a cozy cuddly family. One sister won't speak to another. A third sister never sees me without complaining 'mother loved you best'. I doubt all of us could gather anywhere other than a neutral location like a restaurant - or a funeral home. It's too bad. It's also the way it is.
Sister and I went to the funeral home yesterday to pick out things like prayer cards and flowers - all the things that we'd really rather not have to decide later, when we're weeping. And we got an itinerary so we know what the next steps are. And the price. It feels good to not have to worry about those things.
So. Now we are waiting. And I am driving a lot and trying to decide if I want to drive back over to the city today and witness the tension between siblings. And participate in it, if I'm honest. There's a part of me that would like to see all my sisters and hug them and feel warmth and remember. And there's a part that asks myself "what makes you think that would happen?". What I really think is that I'd have to drive 75 miles to get to the hospital, then miles around the city to visit one sister and then miles more to visit the others. I haven't decided yet. It may be that I'll do the ostrich thing and bury myself down here, in the safe little cocoon of home.
and the food thing? How am I eating through these endless hours in a car, eating at restaurants, sitting in hospital rooms? Not too badly, actually. I've been going a little overboard with the ice cream at night. Mr. Ice Cream Box and I have a longstanding relationship and usually we treat each other with great respect. It's only when a visiting son brings in Karl's Frozen Custard, all the way from Fredericksburg, that my careful portion control goes out the window. I don't like most full fat ice cream. It's too rich for me. but Karl's .... well. Well. that's an entirely different matter. If you are from Virginia, you know this.
I haven't officially weighed in with the WW guys in 2 weeks because I had work commitments last Tuesday, but the home scale is encouraging. Actually, it's been complimentary. To stay within my weekly food budget I need only eat a normal day's worth of healthy food and the kitchen is loaded with the best white peaches I've ever eaten - from Crozet, Virginia, not 50 miles away, and as sweet as sugar.
So that is where I have been this crowded and challenging month. I hadn't intended to stay silent so long but time whizzed by and now it's July. Hangin' in there, down on the farm.
Thursday, June 09, 2011
March 17, 2000 - June 7 2011
In the country you may not know every dog who lives along your road, but you always recognize a stranger. Sometimes a neighbor has gotten a new dog, but often what you see is that great rural tragedy, the dropped off dog. In honor of the dignity of my wonderful Priss, I won't go into what I think of the low-life scum that abandons a dog on my road but will confine myself to explaining that half way along the 3 mile stretch of tar, at the end of which, I live, there is a creek that is a tacit boundary of responsibility for dealing with downed trees, dead animals and dropped off dogs. If there is an issue on our side of the creek, we, and our closest neighbors, take care of it, calling out men with trucks and shovels and chain saws. On the other side of the creek, the responsibility falls on the folks who live closer to the big highway. It's just a shared duty divvied up by geography.
In the spring of 2000 ... March, to be exact ... I was driving home one day and just before I reached the dividing creek I looked out the window and on a gentle slope lay a little dog, head high, perky face, surrounded by 4 puppies. As I turned my head, she turned hers and our eyes met. Between us passed the arc of love that sometimes sparks across a distance, piercing deep into the heart. Her little soul whispered to mine “I'm yours. You are mine”.
With gritted teeth and clenching fingers I turned my head and drove on, muttering “I already have 2 dogs. You are not my responsibility. You are on the wrong side of the creek”. Have you ever thrust away love? Is there a moment in time you can remember when you turned your back on it? Rejected it? It is something you never forget. You'll think about it and obsess about it and wonder about it. I can't remember what I thought about that little dog later – if I contemplated going back to find her. I just don't know. What I do know is that 3 days later a man drove up to the house and said “did you know there is a mother dog and her 4 puppies at your mailbox?”
I knew then. I knew who the little dog was. I knew that she had come to me because we were meant to be. Mind now – my mailbox is half a mile from my house – and 2 miles from where I saw that little dog. The man was from Canada, come down to buy a sailboat from BD, with all the complications of an international sale, with currency exchanges and such. The boat wasn't even at our house, but at a marina in another county and they had to drive off to see it. It was a work day for me but they drove out first. At the time we had the most vivid black lab, Ike: a dog with more personality than you could fit in an entire circus of dogs. He always escorted BD off the farm but I followed shortly behind. At the mailbox there was Ike, beside himself with joy and fascination as he capered and pranced about the little dog. She responded in kind, actually flirting with him and letting him sniff her puppies.
What a beautiful little dog she was, too. Thirty-five pounds of thick silky fur, still puffed out with her winter down. Her face was pointed, her ears stood up in expectation, and her eyes were the most orange shade of brown I have ever seen. There was some shepherd in her dna; you could tell by the way the down fur was so white even though the top coat was brown – so she had that greenish cast you sometimes see in a German shepherd. And by now, by hook or by crook, I knew she was going to stay with me. How BD was going to be convinced, I wasn't sure, but by golly, this was one dog who was here to stay.
About that time, my farmer neighbor drove by and made a joking comment. I don't remember what he said, but I remember recognizing that he was thinking “thank goodness it's not my problem.” I understood – I'd said the same 3 days earlier. Besides, love was already gushing over me as I stroked and petted this little creature. Who cares what other people think? What I also did was scoop the puppies up and take them deeper into our own property, down by Jacob's Gut where they could get water to drink and be safe from cars. And be a little closer to my house without being too obvious to a certain someone who was already preoccupied with Other Things.
It was late when I got home, dark and pouring rain. The headlights picked out little furry puppies as I turned at my mailbox, but there was no little green dog with orange eyes. I piled the puppies into the car and brought them up to the house. No way was I going to leave them out in that storm – we have a dog house in the front yard. They could spend the night there. The surprise when I actually got to my house was that capering around in the rain was Ike and his inamorata. Already they wouldn't be parted. I was a little surprised that she'd abandon her puppies to go off with Ike – but I was also glad.
Mr. SoftHeart, Mr. TenderHearted, muttered a feeble complaint about stray dogs, but he really was tied up with negotiations with the Canadian fellow and, in fact, stayed so the rest of the weekend. Some other words about 'talking about it on Sunday' were probably spoken. What I remember was thinking that if I just lay low, things would work out.
And they did. I was working in the garden all that weekend, March 17, 18 and 19, according to BD's diary. I had a young boy helping me and I tried hard to pawn off one of the puppies onto his family, but the father absolutely refused. They were cute little fluff balls, but they were also, obviously, no-breed curs with only pet value. Most folk around here are looking for dogs who can do double duty, either hunting or herding or guarding. All weekend long, Ike and my dainty prissy little new love capered about, frisky, happy, flirty. On Sunday, a neighbor came up with his friendly black lab to give him a long country walk and the little mother nearly bit his nose off for even looking like he'd smell her puppies. Obviously she was a fierce protective mother – except when it came to Ike, where she knew her true destiny lay. In fact, time came when we began to call her Ike's Wife.
And so. There was a long walk with my wonderful husband, oh man of enormous heart, where we hashed out the future. He had all the good arguments for not keeping such a dog – a stray, an adult, probably with heart worms, with her personality already formed, bad habits already in place, who knew what her history was, a cur, a traveler, a burdensome family of puppies. The same arguments that had flashed through my own mind in the brief moment of first seeing her. In the end, of course, love prevailed. “What are you going to call her?” he asked me and I replied “Priss, because she is so dainty and almost prissy”.
And that is who she became. Our little green dog with orange eyes. Miss Priss. Ike's Wife. Sleek, stubborn, independent, she became dog #3 in our household. She was unpredictable. She would bolt the moment she was let out of a car and refuse to come when called, so that eventually we wouldn't take her anywhere except on long walks about the property. Even then, walks with Priss involved her dashing off into the woods, or across the fields, only to circle back to us when we were on the way home. When we went swimming, she'd disappear into the field behind the swimming beach and often didn't catch up with us till we were in the middle of the creek paddling home. She had a way of begging that involved pawing you and the curvature of her claws always made her gesture dangerous – lethal if you were in the river swimming with her. We treated her with more gentleness than we've ever given any of our dogs – no rough play with her – because it was obvious that she'd had some pretty serious trauma in her early years. There was a bit of buckshot just below the skin over her hip. She quailed at gunshot or even the sight of a gun or the sound of it being loaded. Thunder sent her, not just indoors, but under my bed. We got so we knew if a summer storm was on the way because we'd hear the screen door slam shut and she'd come dashing into the house, up to us, seeking comfort.
Her devotion to Ike remained strong and she mimicked some of his gestures. He would always plunge his whole face into water whenever he drank and she did too. Only last Sunday BD and I remarked on how she was still drinking like Ike – and we said simultaneously “Ike's Wife”. Ike had a fanatic's passion for chasing balls and when the apples ripened and fell from the tree, Priss would get an apple, run up to Ike and toss her head, letting the ball fly, so he could chase it.
That was our Priss. BD found homes for all 4 of her puppies. We had 3 dogs. A year later we found baby puppy Socks on Our Side of the Creek and we had 4 dogs. Then Ike died. Then Topsy. Jack came to live with us in 2005. Each time a dog would leave us our broken hearts grieved. Each time a new dog would come to us our swelling hearts would rejoice. We are dog people and we give dogs a special, country life full of smells and tastes and space, with warm fires in the winter and cool cement floors in the summer.
A few years ago Priss developed a limp that made her squeal when she put weight on her front paw. Concerned that it might be a dislocated shoulder I dropped her off at the vets on my way to work. Later that day the vet called me, angrier than I thought it possible for such a gentle spoken man to be. The fury in his voice was palpable, it oozed down the phone line to drip into my ear and pool on my desk. “Do you know your dog's been shot?” the venomous voice demanded.
Shocked, I tried to figure out how I could have transported Priss all the way from my house to town without noticing any blood anywhere. “Impossible. I know I would have noticed if she had been bleeding” I remonstrated.
“Not now. This is an old wound.” came back the gritted answer, and how well I remember the sensation of muscles relaxing. I hadn't noticed how tense I'd become with his first question. “Oh yes. I know. There's a little buckshot just below the skin of her hip” I explained.
“No. She's been shot. With a hollow nosed bullet. Her neck and shoulder are full of shrapnel. She's peppered with it. There's nothing I can do.”
I reeled then. I'd have sat down if I hadn't already been sitting. Evidently, the early years of Priss' life had been harder than I'd realized. I called BD, who drove into town, looked at the X-rays, talked things over with the doctor and then took her home. We treated her with a little buffered aspirin, but when she began chasing and wrestling with Jack again, we stopped.
It was autumn when this happened and shortly thereafter Priss got a cocklebur wrapped up in the thick fur around her neck, forming a lump about an inch long and half an inch thick. In the evening I sat with her between my legs, gently working the burr out when suddenly the top of that lump just lifted up like the lid on a trashcan and out of it rose a piece of metal! A fragment of that bullet had formed a cyst and worked its way out of her body! I kept that tiny thing for years, along with a natural pearl I'd found in an oyster one Christmas – but it was lost last winter in a fit of cleaning up after the holidays.
In the past 18 months Priss seemed to have aged a lot. She couldn't jump up into the big bed. She grew a little deaf. She stayed curled up beneath her favorite bush by the front door. Her face grew grey. She still ran fast and hard across the fields and through the woods. She still walked 3 miles for every mile I walked. And on Sunday we took her for a nice long walk down the New Path. I had a library function that afternoon and came home around dinnertime. BD usually feeds the dogs and it was a hot afternoon, so I never noticed, and thus, never asked, about Priss. I figured she was in the cool beneath her bush out front.
But Monday morning she wasn't there waiting to come in for her biscuit. This was not like her and I was a little concerned, though not unduly – because, after all, we live in the country. All sorts of interesting things, smells, sounds, can tempt a dog away from the front door. When I got home, though, I asked Himself if he'd seen her and, at first he said yes, but after a moment's thought he said he hadn't seen her all day. We looked around the yard, and in the hideyholes that our dogs retreat to if they're upset about something – but no Priss. Tuesday morning she still wasn't in her spot by the front door and while I was at work BD went searching for her.
And he found her. Lying in Jacob's Gut – on the north side, where she likes to stop for a drink when we take long walks, out to the mile point or even beyond to Robert's Landing. Her back half was paralyzed and she had obviously been there some time. My darling man picked her up and gently placed her on the road while he went back to get the truck. When he got her home he fed her and she ate and drank but she was still immobile. He took her down to the clinic and dear Dr.L gave him the bad news. I hurried over to be in on the conference. Was it cancer? A slipped disc? Was there anything that could be done? An MRI? Surgery? Almost 3 days in paralysis already? Minimal to no chance of recovery? A wheeled cart strapped to her waist? Diapers?
Each word was a bullet into my own heart. My Priss – so wild. So independent. So generous to have loved us and trusted us after such a rocky start? Poked and prodded and cut and strapped by strangers? She had had a life of good doggness. I wasn't about to rob her of the dignity of a gentle ending. And neither was the softer, kinder, more tender half of this marriage. Instead, we loved our Priss all the way to the end – without a tear or a sad sound in our voices, until she had fallen into her final deep sleep. And then we could sob and we are sobbing still. But we aren't regretting a thing. Only savoring the grief that must come with love. Even my sadness feels - almost good – because it is so very right.
Oh Priss. I love you. I loved you the moment I saw you. I loved you for 11 wonderful years. I will love you as long as I live. Wait for me up ahead and we'll take a walk down heaven's country lane once again.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
As I told you in my last blog - I've been following the new Weight Watcher's Points Plus plan since March and so far I've dropped 9 lbs after flirting with the extra 3 christmas lbs I put on at the end of 2010 - up one week, down the next.
I joined WW in 2003 and took off almost 40 lbs as I learned a number of staggering truths about my eating habits. Oh - I already knew that a bag of M&M's was going to load on the lbs and a that butter doesn't come from cows, but is rather, the sweat of the devil. What I learned from the WW guys first time around was what 4 oz of meat looks like - and baby it's not much. And that if planed it out carefully, there was room for a stack-0-pancakes with syrup on an otherwise healthy diet, but not very often.
In fact, once I figured out just what "that much syrup" cost me in points/calories/however you measure your food - I pretty much lost interest in pancakes. Even though it's the Sunday Breakfast in our house. I do the cooking so it's not too hard to make my particular favorite, which is a Parmesan (high quality) cheese omelette.
So. Portion control was the powerful lesson I learned from WW the first time around. I already liked healthy food - I just ate too much of it. And living that close to - even over - the edge meant that a party with birthday cake - a wedding with bacon wrapped scallops - a bar-b-cue with potato salad - would sneak on another pound or so and my regular habits didn't whittle it off again.
So what happened? Ah. Well. Life happened, of course. With family crises and boredom and oh just all those things that DO happen. And then, any plan you get to know really well, you learn how to sabotage - and for me it was with the (s)wheat things - the 2 point bars that WW manufactures and other flour based foods that I finally gave in to. Honest and true - I seriously love grain products - whether they're sweet ones or savory ones. It just got easier and easier to eat wheat/rice/quinoa/amaranth/oat/barley you name it any grain!!! - than to eat the other stuff. Or worse, in addition to the other stuff. Given the opportunity to step into a kitchen and pick a single thing - it was always more likely to be a grain product. Then, guilltily I would think "Oh - I need some protein" or "oops. better add some vegetables" - this on top of a stomach bloated with delicious whole grains. Oh - and then, well, a little glass of wine with dinner.....
You see how it was. Gram by gram I tolerated the weight till suddenly I was wearing at a size 16 once again and wondering if I ought to try that 18. And the evil one whispered in my ear "You're almost 60. Who cares what you weigh?"
yeah. That too.
But of course, I do. And more than that - I hate how uncomfortable I am in the summer when the double chin sweats against my neck. And I hate it when I hide behind the children in the family reunion photographs. Yeah - those are the true irritations of being overweight when you're 'almost 60'.
So here I am back at the WW meeting and what do you know - they gave me just the tool I was looking for. I am a closet math girl - too lazy and slap dash to be a real mathematician, I still absolutely love what you can do with math. I love strategic planning. I love budgets. I'm really really REALLY good at living within almost any sized budget and maximizing the delights and treats I can purchase with my cleverly budgeted funds. I look on numbers the exact same way I look at a box of crayons - and see limitless possibilities. So here comes WW re-calculating the numbers for us, giving us more points to work with, upping all the grain based points (even their own snack foods) and taking away the points on fruits and vegetables. Better than that, they go and give us a little calculator! Well. they don't give it to you - you have to pay for it - but it's cheap and it's cool and it keeps track of what I've eaten with absolutely no possibility of going back and changing things.
So that is where I am with the new WW program. Cutting back (but not out) the grain products, enjoying the fruits and vegetables, having fun with my cousin, who's doing this with me, and playing with the cute little calculator toy. I can see progress on the scales and am able to wear some of the clothes I'd plumped out of over the past few years. It's all good.
I'm aware, also, that the time may come when I'll figure out how to sabotage this plan too - but maybe this time I'll have a different attitude. Bad juju could wham into my life - no reason to think bad stuff doesn't happen in the lives of thin people as well as the fluffy ones - but that doesn't have to be the motivator for a date with the hostess twinkee box. I am certainly not going to worry about it. It's just a little factoid I have filed away - knowledge brings power that temptation can take advantage of.
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the healthy eating and looking forward to a single chin!
Hope you find your own motivator and cool toys to play with on your journey into good health.
Friday, May 27, 2011
It seems as if I have time for one long serious bit of writing in the early mornings: an important email, a post to my personal blog Likethequeen2 likethequeen2.blogspot.com or musings about my weight loss journey here. Since that particularly journey didn't seem to be going anywhere this winter, I haven't been tempted to prose much about it. Now, though, I feel I ought to catch you all up on where I have been and what is happening so - here goes!
I have a dear cousin who has shared with me the foibles, battles, failures and triumphs of weight issues for almost 40 years. This past Christmas we were both closer to the loosing end than the winner's mark and as a Christmas present I offered to pay 2 months gym membership or 2 months at Weight Watcher's - and if she chose WW I would also go with her to meetings. It wasn't till March that she was ready to choose and she picked WW. We used to go to meetings in another little town nearby - I even made it to my goal and to their lifetime status!! But as life and bad habits slowly layered onto my body, so did those pesky 20-25 lbs. I continued to attend meetings for a long time but there came a day when it seemed to me that I was giving them money for something I wasn't buying. Weight Watchers is a very sound program, but as any long time weight managing adult knows - every system can be circumvented. Though I liked the people at the meeting, I also don't like throwing good money away. It became an honesty issue for me ... and ever so slightly ... a location issue because the place they met was awfully moldy and had a heating system that drowned out the leader.
My own doctor's office (both m.d.'s) strongly urge the South Beach diet for their patients and I certainly looked into it - but everything about SB depressed me, from the voice of the doctor reading the audio book to the miserably strict regimen for beginners. I k now - one is not required to start at the strictest first 2 weeks - one could leap over stage I and II and follow their maintenance recommendations and lose slowly and easily. somehow - I was too blue after reading the first half of the book to give the second half a fair chance.
So - about the time WW came up with their new plan (looks so much like south beach maintenance ... or the Edgar Casey Alkalizing program I can hardly tell them apart) H and I started attending meetings at lunchtime in our own little town. Much easier to do than staying out nights, held at the meeting room of my own gym, so even more convenient. And of course, I'm taking along a buddy.
I don't know why things clicked this time - though I admit, I love the little hand held calculator as a daily tracking tool. I love it that pretty much all fruits and vegetables are points free. I love it that they've upped the points of all their snack products. It used to be that when a banana was worth 2 points and one of their candy bars was also worth 2 points .. well, heck. I'd choose the candy bar. Now that I'm choosing between a 0 point banana and a 2 point candy bar .. easy peasy, huh?
The main thing I've done, besides watching portion control, has been to scale back the amount of flour products I consume. I seriously bread but since they upped the points for an average slice of bread I find it easier to eat fewer slices. Of course, we're rolling into the fresh garden produce season - our local farmer's market held its first day last Saturday and boy did I stock up. Salads are a daily offering at Chez Bess. I've made it through a long vacation, 3 receptions with "heavy" hors d'oeuvres, 2 graduation parties, a Kentucky Derby party (with mint juleps), a wedding, 2 birthday parties and a funeral over the past 2 months and the weight is still slowly coming off.
I have to give WW credit for finding a combination of tools and tricks that is working for me, but I also give myself some credit for working with WW. It feels good to see the downward movement. It feels great to go shopping in the attic for "new" clothes. I like the new program a lot - certainly enough to shell out the $10 a meeting it is costing me. The 9 lb weight loss since Christmas is an added incentive.
So - Just wanted y'all to know where I was. In a good place. Here is hoping each of you is finding that sweet spot too.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Got to wear it yesterday!
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