Monday, December 03, 2012
It all started when I made the decision switch from peanut butter to cream cheese on my whole grain, low fat waffle. I made the move because, after all, cream cheese has less calories and peanut butter. A day later, I noticed a weird rash developing around my elbows on the back of my knees. At first, I wrote it off to being heat rash from running in and out of the gym and not being very dry. However, the rash persisted, and it was driving me crazy.
My doctor told me she was 90% sure that I had some sort of reaction to what I was eating. She sent me, to an allergist. Let me say right off, that I really appreciated the allergist’s common sense approach to dealing with this issue. He told me that I had two options: I could go through a series of painful tests that would determine what foods I might have sensitivities or allergies to or I could begin a food elimination diet. He gave me some literature to read and suggested a hierarchy of food sensitivities in the order they most occur. They are as follows: dairy, red meat, sugar, and gluten. He suggested I begin by eliminating dairy from my diet and monitoring the reactions. I walked out of his office thinking “No problem!” That, I found out, was easier said than done. I was not aware of how many things that went in my mouth actually contained a dairy product and to add to my pain and suffering I never realized just how much I would miss cheese! I am originally from the state of Wisconsin, you know, “the Dairy State.” I had this image of the state fathers driving me to the state line in pointing towards Illinois banishing me and allowing me never to return. I would no longer be a Cheese Head.
I have been at this elimination diet for a week now, and the rashes have disappeared and a pleasant byproduct is that I feel significantly better. I will tell you, however, that it’s been a bit of an adventure finding things I can eat that won’t produce a negative reaction. Saturday evening I took a bite of a piece of peanut butter pie Katie had made and was itching all over in about 15 minutes. So a new and exciting journey begins and I really hope it’s dairy, LOL, because I don’t want to have to get rid of anything else.
Monday, November 26, 2012
It all started when Tim walked in the door Thursday morning. “You cut your hair!!” Katie exclaimed. “And you trimmed your beard.” “I’m seeing someone on Saturday,” he responded. “You have a date?” I asked. They all looked at me like I’d said something wrong. Back in the day, Joan and I met, we dated, we got engaged and then we got married. I realize I’ve compressed a time line. Katie, Maggie, my nieces and a nephew sat down and began to explain this phenomenon to me in that tone you use when you are trying to potty train a two year old.
Apparently people don’t just date anymore. First they “talk to one another.” I’m not sure how long talking lasts but if everything goes right they start to “see each other.” This conjured a vision of people walking around with blindfolds on until the right moment. My insecurities led me to wonder what would happen if they didn’t like what they saw? After you see one another for a prescribed period of time (No one could tell me how long this period of time was. They said “You just know.”) you begin to “date.” Dating leads to that wonderful Facebook status called “Being In A Relationship.” I’ve never been sure what to say or do when I get someone’s status update saying they are “In a relationship.” Do I send a gift? Should I get my suit cleaned? (Do they even wear suits anymore?) Thank goodness for the little thumbs-up-like-icon. I just hit that and wish them well. Being In A Relationship is sort of tricky. It can go on and on or it can end, which means you are single once again and everyone sends you sad, yet supportive messages or it can evolve into becoming “significant others.” I figure if you reach this point the term is redundant. I mean, if you invested that much of yourself shouldn’t it be significant? Does the world need to know the distinction? By this point my head was throbbing. We were only getting started.
We went into the subsets. Once you were a significant other you could tack on “partner” or “domestic partner,” Domestic partners shared a residence and the chores and duties and all the other exciting stuff that goes along with managing a household. “Partners,” maintained their own residence or not because some people don’t like the term “domestic.” During this stage of a relationship you can announce on Facebook that you are “engaged” or single depending how the partnership works out or you can just remain partners.
You can also decide you don’t really want to commit totally to a relationship but you still enjoy certain aspects of one another’s company. That’s when you become “friends with benefits.” It means that you “hook up” on occasion simple to enjoy certain pleasures without any real commitment other than showering afterwards. (Didn’t I put that diplomatically?) You are allowed to have more than one “friends with benefits.” Usually you don’t put this on Facebook because some people look at it as being a bit tawdry. While you can introduce someone as a partner, a significant other or a fiancé it is bad form to introduce someone as being a “friend with benefits.”
Sometime when I wake up in the middle of the night and play with my regrets I wish I was young again. After this discussion on Thanksgiving I’m glad I’m where I’m at. I’d need a score card to keep track of my life and mostly I learned next time, not to ask.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Watching someone die is not romantic. Paint all the portraits of angels and Jesus welcoming you home with outstretched arms and a glowing smile you want, I've never met anyone who raised their hand and said "I'll give up my seat here on good old planet earth, no problem." No matter how prepared we are, no matter what our notion of an after life is when the moment presents itself we are hard wired to survive. I watched my father go through that process for three days as he struggled to stay alive. The day before he died he reached up, removed his oxygen mask and pulled me towards him.
We were never close. Some of it had to do with geography and the rest of it with the notion that I was the antithesis of everything he believed in. I never fell into line with his other three children. He wasnt around when I was growing up. He was working three jobs. I was led to believe we were barley surviving. When he died he left my mother slightly over seven figures to live on. He told my youngest sister that he had to work so hard so he'd have money to retire with. He was 87 at the time. My dad never hugged me. My dad never told me he loved me. I cant tell you I loved my dad. I respected him. I never knew him or why he was so distant. A number of people told me its because he grew up during the Depression. I dont buy it. I had friends whose parents came from the same genreration and were warm and affectionate. Mostly, I was told what I didnt do right.
He reached up and pulled me close to him. Its the first time he touched me that I could remember. "I've led a good life, but God it's went by so fast." In his eyes I saw fear and regret and believe it or not I was at a loss for words.
The next few days saw me standing in a corner watching him die and trying somewhere inside of me to find something to latch on to. I couldnt. I just stared.
My brother Joe looked up and said. "He's not breathing." It was over, just like that. They'd sedated him a few hours earlier. He slipped away and left me with so many unanswered questions. They are all holding hands and praying and I'm just staring. I didnt know the man.
Where the happy ending?
I have lived my life believing that something good and positive can come out of anything if you look long enough and hard enough. I'm not sure how much time remains for me in. I do know that it wont be wasted. I call my kids at least once a week just to chat. Periodically they get emails simply saying its been awhile since I told you I loved you. They grin and ask Joan if I'm terminally ill. We've gone to see Rogewr Waters, baseball games and plays together. In February we get to see The Who.
Life is a lot of "Monkey see monkey do." I'm my dad in many ways. I'm not real comfortable sharing my feelings with the kids all the time. I'll find myself tearing up. My youngest calls me "Emo Boy." There is stuff I wish I'd done different. So when I get a chance, I share part of me. I accept them for where they are in their lives and as much as possible encourage them. I want them to know they are loved In many ways I'm haunted by that look of sadness in my dads eyes and for that I am most grateful and thankful for this day and all the others that remain for me.
This blog didnt start out this way, LOL. It just sorta went there.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
That darned old scale!!! Just when we think we have it all figured out and we can predict its every movement, every bob and weave; from clear out of nowhere it throws a curve ball, high and tight. Sometimes we stand and stare at it, often with a modicum of contempt, daring it to inch higher. We become angry. Some of us have even been known to hurl epithets at the darned thing and threaten to throw it out the window. How dare it show us gaining weight?
When I was really young I never really grasped the concept of the first commandment: “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.” None of my friends had altars with four headed dragons who spouted fire. None of their parents dressed in tribal robes, shaking shrunken heads on the front lawn!!! It had no meaning. Then, I met The Scale. I weigh on Saturday morning. I have a hard time sleeping Friday night. I start reviewing everything that went into my mouth the previous week and even some foods I simply lusted after in my mind and heart. Will the scale know? I always position it in the exact same place and wear the same clothes and weigh in at almost exactly the same time each week. After all a controlled environment works best, correct? I approach the scale with reverence and respect. As I enter its holy sanctuary I’ve often wondered if I should have candles burning. My lower lip trembles as I ascend the steps one at a time. Is it me or does the scale glow? Is it me, or do I hear a faint rumbling and a low deep chuckle? That can’t be lightening outside the bathroom window is it? There is that moment, as the scale cycles though, that all of time stands still. I look down waiting, heart in my throat. Then it renders its verdict. Maybe that choir in the hallway is singing “O Happy Day,” or is that the sound of a funeral dirge moving closer and closer that I hear? My existence hinges on that digital readout. My self-esteem hangs on that weekly evaluation.
Maybe you’re laughing right now. “Oh John,” you say. “You have such a way with words but you’re exaggerating.” Really, I’m exaggerating? Query me this dearest ones. If that’s the case and I’m following some flight of frenzy why is it we have those insidious little weight tickers? Why do we define ourselves as having lost or having gained? Why are the most popular blogs on any weight loss sites the ones that have the good old “Before and After” pictures or the details of how someone lost a ton of weight? What about the healthy people who aren’t stick thin? We live in a world that emphasizes what should be rather than what is. Are you happy, are you healthy, are you adopting different nutritional strategies? Are you bouncing to the gym or in the family room and down the street more than you used to? Then my friend, you are a success. You are move your “is” towards your “should be.” Did you ever stop to think that such a large number of amazing, wonderful and loving, caring people converge on the same web site each day by chance? Scale be damned, you’re amazing and you grow more amazing each day and I am glad you are part of my life even if it’s only in a virtual fashion.
I wrote this blog to support my Spark Friend JENNYBOYKIN. She’s going through the same stuff you and I do and she’s a bit discouraged. I feel all of these things from time to time and I’ll hazard a guess so do you. The good news is we are here to love and support each other and to me, that is worth a lot.
I had a 1.4 pound gain last week. You still love me don’t ya?
Thursday, November 15, 2012
I heard Tara Brach read this poem the other day during her weekly podcast. It reminded me so much of the picture adjacent to it. Joans Uncle Bill would sit on that bench after work and stare out at Lake Michigan and relax. We visited one summer and he and I sat there, saying nothing to each other for a long, long time. As I looked at the lake, it almost reached out and rocked me into a very gentle and warm peacefulness. Joan walked down the hill and told us it was time for dinner. I told her I found Nirvana and that I was going to stay there forever.
A few years later, after Uncle Bill had passed, Joan went back to visit her aunt during the late winter. She snapped this photo for me.
Through the wonders of Powerpoint I was able to marry the poignant poem and the picture and because you are so dear to me I thought I'd share it with you.
If the words of the poem arent clear to you they are as follow:
The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost.
Wherever you are is called here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
“I have made this place around you.”
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying “Here.”
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are.
You must let it find you.
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