I didn’t fully appreciate how spiritually free I am as an American woman until I set foot on an El Al plane.
“Do you speak Hebrew?” the fretting woman in front of me asked.
“No, not really.”
“It’s okay, I speak English,” she hurriedly replied, obviously looking for a friendly face. “These Orthodox,” she motioned to the people sitting next to her, “they don’t like sitting next to women.”
“Well, that’s their problem.” My response was pointed, matter-of-fact, American.
She smiled as if a light bulb went off in her head. “You’re right!” Her expression grew cloudy. “But what if I take off my sweater? They won’t like that I expose my shoulders with my tank top.”
Again, I simply replied, “That’s their problem.”
She smiled, empowered. Removing her sweater, she took her seat and stood her ground.
And at that moment I thanked God I was raised in pluralistic America, and realized, oddly enough, that the Holy Land was giving me my first chance to practice the biblical feminism I’ve preached.
Israel is a Western nation in that women have equal rights by law. Israel is also a confluence of religious and ethnic cultural attitudes, not all of which are friendly to women. Two days into our trip to Jerusalem, a family member who also happens to be a retired journalist explained the latest story to hit the nightly news. A man accused of spousal abuse was released to return home. Later that evening, police found his wife had been shot dead. The husband confessed to the murder. Apparently, domestic violence and death is a relatively small but significant problem in Israel. When I asked my former journalist why, he pointed to the influence of Middle Eastern (both Arabic and radical Islamic) patriarchal culture as the primary source.
Yet, even religious Jews in Israel (and around the world), despite their insular nature, are far from immune to sexual abuse. Sex scandals among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) show up frequently on the evening news. In this case it’s not the Arab/Muslim influence, but perverted behaviors that arise from rabbinic abuse of biblical teachings. How do you expect a man to relate to a woman sexually when he’s not even allowed to look her in the eye?
Vacations can be wonderful experiences, but all too often they start out at an airport, which can be one of the most frustrating, uncomfortable, and stressful places on earth. Here’s the top ten ways to make your airline travel a good experience. Or at least not a nightmare.
10. Pack a small refreshment bag for the end of the flight.
Purchase the wisp toothbrushes that come with toothpaste already installed. Buy a packet of facial wipes. Take a last visit to the bathroom before landing to wash up, brush your teeth, comb your hair and prepare for your day. No matter how tired you are or how long the flight, the refreshment of a small amount of grooming helps energize you and get you ready to face your journey’s destination. Just avoid changing clothes. It never turns out well unless you’re David Spade in Tommy Boy…
“You need to have a good mood. Good family, good children, good work, and then you’ll be happy,” he added. “You need to be a sociable person. I love and respect all people. After what happened to me, I don’t only value my own life more, but I deeply value the lives of all human beings. It’s very important to have good company and good friends. I view everything with optimism, it’s very important.”
As a grandchild of a survivor, I’ve always had a special interest in Holocaust studies. I have read many memoirs and attended numerous classes on the subject. But, from the very first class in a small Israeli school in the suburbs of Afula, to the courses I attended in a large North American university — I had always felt that something I had learned from my Grandfather was missing from these lectures.
For years, I had trouble pinning down that missing piece. It frightens me that my grandfather’s gift may have been lost all together: No one would have known that there once lived a man named Srulik Ackerman, who challenged our understanding of human nature, and with that, could bring hope in even the darkest of times.
…after just a few minutes with my Grandpa you would see the mystery that had perplexed me for so many years. The first thing that would strike you would be his wide, welcoming smile. Grandpa smiled and laughed more than anyone I knew. He took every opportunity to tell jokes and bring joy to others. Without a doubt, Grandpa was the happiest person that I had ever met.
How was that possible? I spent two years writing his memoir, hoping to discover his secret. But, even after the book was complete, I still had no idea what gave him such unparalleled resilience.
So, I decided to ask him directly. “How do stay happy on a daily basis?” I asked during one of our conversations.
Do yourself and your kids a favor: Get to know a Holocaust survivor so you, too, and your children can understand how a human being can survive and thrive in the face of death. There aren’t many survivors left, but there are countless resources through which you can interact with their thoughts and experiences. Tomorrow, the United States Holocaust Museum is sponsoring a Google+ Hangout with Holocaust survivors specifically geared towards school-aged children. Take advantage of this opportunity to get to know the real “secret” to happiness.
And don’t forget to thank them for sharing it.
“It just comes down to love. I mean, if you love your child then you should do anything in the world for your child. And it’s as simple and as pure as that.”
This is not parental love. This is misguided, tragic indulgence. It’s as simple and pure as that. Parental love prepares a child for adulthood–momentary happiness has little to do with it.
Parental love sees beyond what a child currently wants, or thinks he wants, and gives him what he needs. What this child needs is unconditional love and a chance for his brain to mature and his body to fully develop.
It’s far beyond the comprehension of a child to see himself as an adult. To a child of nine, eighteen is a lifetime away. Neither Keat nor his parents can fathom what his life will be like as an adult. The physical and mental consequences of a chemically altered body through puberty cannot be fully understood and weighed.
What if Keat had Body Integrity Identity Disorder? The same feelings of being born wrong exist. A person with this disorder believes he or she would be happier without the appendages they were born with. Would these parents still be good parents by indulging this disorder with amputation before puberty?
From The Boston Globe:
“They were making the white-knuckled trip from Connecticut because 14-year-old Justina wasn’t eating and was having trouble walking. Just six weeks earlier, the girl had drawn applause at a holiday ice-skating show near her home in West Hartford, performing spins, spirals, and waltz jumps.
But now Justina’s speech was slurred, and she was having so much trouble swallowing that her mother was worried her daughter might choke to death.
Justina had been sick on and off for several years. A team of respected doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston had been treating her for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders that affect how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles and heart.”
At the advice of her specialist Dr. Mark Korson, Justina was taken to Children’s Hospital, rather than Tufts Medical Center where she had standing appointments and ongoing care. Korson wanted her seen by the gastroenterologist that had treated Justina for some time, until he left Tufts to practice at Children’s.
Much to her parent’s dismay, Justina was never allowed to see the doctor, in spite of the fact he knew her case well. Instead, she was assigned a new team of doctors.
Within three days her diagnosis was completely disregarded and her parents were informed that the new team was withdrawing their daughter from her medications. In spite of the fact Justina was physically deteriorating, the Children’s Hospital doctors believed Justina’s problems were psychiatric in nature.
When Justina’s parents objected, they were met with a letter demanding acceptance of the new diagnosis and treatment. The letter also forbid the parents any outside consultation, transfer to a different hospital or even a second opinion.
When Justina’s father arrived he was more than a little upset:
“We have standing appointments for her at Tufts,” he said. “Enough is enough. We want her discharged.”
[Justina's father] assumed it was their right as Justina’s parents to remove their daughter and take her to the hospital of their choice. But behind the scenes, Children’s had contacted the state’s child protection agency to discuss filing “medical child abuse” charges, as doctors grew suspicious that the parents were harming Justina by interfering with her medical care and pushing for unnecessary treatments.
When it became obvious that Justina’s parents were not going to comply, but rather looked for ways to transfer her, the hospital placed a “minder” in her room around the clock to monitor the parents.
Filing charges allowed the hospital to get an emergency order to strip away all parental authority and protection. Justina’s parents were then escorted out of the hospital by security.
Justina has spent over a year in the hospital, locked away on a psychiatric ward, beyond the reach of her parents. Once Justina was locked behind the doors of a psychiatric unit, parental visits became more and more restricted.
As a ward of the state, there was basically no supervision of her care– and the hospital bill is allowed to spiral out of control. One can only imagine what it costs to live in a hospital for a year.
As troubling as this family’s plight is, what’s more worrisome is the fact that this is not an anomaly. Within 18 months this hospital was involved with at least five different cases the Globe could find,where a disagreement over a medical diagnosis resulted in parents losing custody of their sick children.
“It happens often enough that the pediatrician who until recently ran the child protection teams at both Children’s and Massachusetts General Hospital said she and others in her field have a name for this aggressive legal-medical maneuver. They call it a ‘parent-ectomy.’”
The Blaze reports that Massachusetts State Reps. Marc Lombard and Jim Lyons have begun circulating a resolution in hopes of persuading the Department of Children and Families to start the process of reuniting Justina with her parents.
“Parent-Ectomy” is a profound abuse of children, parents and moral authority.
Can you think of a more immoral abuse of power than a hospital that will use the legal system as a weapon to capture and steal sick children away from their parents until every last dime is squeezed out?
Photo taken from Justice for Justine
Last fall Bret Baier from Fox News interviewed author and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer about his best-selling book, Things that Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics. They discussed Krauthammer’s spinal cord injury that paralyzed him in his twenties while he was a medical student at Harvard. Krauthammer said,
“I made one promise to myself on day one. I was not going to let it alter my life except in ways where were, sort of, having to do with gravity. I’m not going to defy gravity and I’m not going to walk and I’m not going to water ski again. That’s fine. So that you know. But on the big things in life, the direction of my life, what I was going to do, that wouldn’t change at all.”
Krauthammer told Baier that he never entertained the possibility that he would walk again. He accepted his fate and focused on accomplishing his goals in life regardless of his disabilities. Despite overwhelming hardships, Krauthammer managed to graduate from medical school with his class and went on to a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He ran into some unexpected problems, however, during his psychiatry residency, when all residents were required to attend “group therapy” once a week. Krauthammer refused to attend. “I thought, it’s a pointless exercise. So I was called into the chief’s office after about seven weeks of non-appearance.” Krauthammer explained that he was there to give therapy, not receive it. “The chief of residency told Krauthammer he was in denial. “And I said, ‘Of course I’m in denial! Denial is the greatest of all defense mechanisms. I could be a professor of denial. I’m an expert at denial!’ Krauthammer said. The chief “was not amused.”
Krauthammer completed the required therapy, though he mostly refused to participate in the sessions:
“I’m not a big therapy guy…I don’t like to talk about myself…I’m not a touchy — I’m not a feely guy. That’s probably why I quit psychiatry. If you’re not into feelings and emotions and all the backstory then you ought to be doing something else.”
Week 1 — Something’s Got To Give
As part of my “taking it easier” with my blog, over at According To Hoyt, I’ve been running ‘blasts from the past’ – i.e. posts a year or more old at least a day a week. (For instance on Tuesday I posted Jean Pierre Squirrel, from February 2011.)
The interesting thing going through the blog is seeing how many days I curtailed posting or posted briefer or weirder because I was ill.
Now I was aware of having been in indifferent health for the last ten years or so. It’s nothing really bad or spectacularly interesting, which is part of the issue, because if it were, I could take time off and not feel guilty. I confess I have found myself at various occasions fantasizing about a stay in the hospital. Which is stupid, because no one rests in the hospital. (What I need, of course, is a stay in a remote cottage for a few days. Even if I’m writing.) And I knew that my health got much worse in the last year. 2013 was the pits, at least since August or so. But it is not unusual for me to spend every third week “down.” – Usually with an ear infection or a throat thingy or some kind of stomach bug.
My friends have said for years that this is because I don’t listen to my body’s signals to slow down or stop, so it has to bring me to a complete stop by making me too sick to work.
This is part of the reason Charlie Martin and I (in collaboration) are doing a series on taming the work monster. Part of it is that I have way too much to do, and part of it is that it’s really hard to compartmentalize things when you work from home. Eventually when we sell the house and move, we’d like to get a place where the office is a distinct area. It was pretty much all of the attic in our last house, which meant if I came downstairs for dinner (which I did) I didn’t go up again. But now my office is half of the bedroom (and before someone imagines me cramped in a corner, the bedroom runs the full front of the house. We just couldn’t figure out what to do with a room that size. We don’t sleep that much.) This is convenient in terms of my getting up really early to work, or of my going to bed way after my husband, because I’m right there… It’s also contributing to a 24/7 work schedule, because I can think “Oh, I should write about that” and roll out of bed, and do so. There is no “I have to be dressed, as the sons might be roaming the house” and there isn’t (as in the other house) “the attic will be cold.”
Spoiler alert for the December and January episodes below!
Many shows on TV offer viewers an escape from reality — shows featuring highbrow families living in ornate castles or series’ where immaculately dressed crime investigators pick their way around gruesome crime scenes in stiletto heels. And there’s always the option to tune in to a scripted “reality” show that bears no resemblance to reality.
NBC’s Parenthood is no such escapist fare. Now in its fifth season, the series tells the story of the Braverman family of Berkeley, California — Zeke and Camille, their four children and assorted grandchildren. The show alternates between funny, quirky, awkward, poignant, and brutally honest. Kristina Braverman’s battle with breast cancer last season was incredibly raw and painful, but laced with enough humor to make it bearable. (Monica Potter, who plays Kristina, was absolutely robbed of a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Series by Jacqueline Bisset.) The show deals sensitively (and at the same time humorously) with a range of life issues common to many families: teenage rebellion, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, marital strains, childbirth, problems at school, the empty nest. Parenthood does it in a way that makes viewers say, “I could totally see someone in my family doing that.”
Perhaps the most acclaimed story line of the series surrounds Max Braverman and his struggles with Asperger’s syndrome. When the show debuted in 2010, actor Max Burkholder played 8-year-old Max Braverman, who had not yet been diagnosed with Asperger’s. Burkholder has brilliantly “grown up” with his character, who is now a high school student. If you know a family that has been touched with an autism spectrum disorder, you’ll see them in this family, even if the details are not exactly the same — fear, frustration, exhaustion, giftedness, surprises, and social isolation are all common issues for these families.
Jason Katims, the show’s creator, has a son on the autism spectrum, so the scenes reflect the realities of life with a child who sees the world on a completely different plane than the rest of us. Katmis told Mari-Jane Williams at the Washington Post that he wasn’t sure they would be able to do the story line justice. He also had concerns about his son’s privacy, but he said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Katmis explained that he wanted to convey both the challenges and the triumphs of life with a child like Max:
It’s not only the challenges but also the unexpected beauty of it, and we definitely felt it was important to explore that. It really makes you focus on what’s important. You just want them to have friends and be happy and be in a place where they are seen and heard. That’s what you should want for any kid. As parents you really share the triumphs, even when they’re just small moments, even when they’re things that nobody else would even notice. Those moments, when they happen, of him being successful, or progressing, or showing love, I feel like they are much more cherished moments.
Someone once said that a good epic starts in the middle. (Actually it was Horace, it was in his Ars Poetica around 13BC, and he made the distinction between something that started ab ovo, “from the egg”, or in medias res, “in the middle of things”, but then inserting a lengthy side bar with references to Classical Latin in a diet column might seem erudite but really would be sort of pretentious and silly, don’t you think?)
In any case, we’re starting in the middle of this story. Tomorrow, 5 January 2014, I’m starting the fifth (and sixth, more on this later) of my 13 week experiments in changing and improving my health and my life. The first one started in November 2012, more than a year ago, motivated by the most reasonable of things: I don’t want to die. I most especially don’t want to die young, and I felt like both of my parents had.
I have reasons to be concerned. I’ve had problems with my weight since I was six, and at the time I started this I was around 300 lbs, I was well along into type II diabetes, and I had severe sleep apnea that was manifesting in something close to narcolepsy. I live in a two-story house and I was finding that I was pre-planning trips up and down the stairs because they wore me out.
Now, a year later, I’ve made some significant changes. I’m around 265 lbs, my blood sugar is much improved, and I run up and down the stairs with wild abandon and cups of hot coffee. But I’m not done yet. I want to lose more weight, and I’ve got some new challenges in my life, with a new job and a certain feeling that I have more to do.
So it’s a week until my next 13 Weeks experiment, and I’m trying to get my head in order around what to do next, so I’m going to write about it to you folks.
There were some interesting comments last week, the most interesting being, essentially, “don’t think so much, just relax, get out and do stuff.”
Which, well, that’s easy for you to say. But let’s resort to some somewhat discredited pop-psych here: I’m an INTJ/INTP on Myers Briggs, I’m fairly high up the Asperger’s scale, I’ve lost a lot of time and energy to severe depression, and yes, for me this is kinda grade school. I want, even this late in life, to make some things work that frankly most people figure out early.
If you haven’t grown up by 50, you don’t have to.
Now, this has hardly been all bad. From childhood the two things I really wanted to do are work with computers and write, and by golly, that’s what I’ve done, and I haven’t done badly at it despite some of the other challenges: I’ve got around a dozen patents, I’ve done some significant work in software architectures, I’ve written at this point hundreds of articles for actual cash money, including supporting myself entirely through writing for months at a time. But I don’t see any reason to stop; there are still things that would make my life better — and of course there are things to do so I not only make life better but I’m alive to enjoy it.
On Wednesday, Piers Morgan continued his anti-gun crusade, interviewing Neil Heslin, whose son Jess Lewis was tragically killed in the Newtown shooting, and also author and Pastor Rick Warren, whose son committed suicide in April after a long struggle with mental illness.
Warren was there, purportedly, to pitch his new book, The Daniel Plan, which focuses on weight loss and healthy eating. However, Morgan couldn’t resist trying to pull Warren, whose son killed himself last April with a gun he purchased on the internet, onto his ban-the-guns-bandwagon, asking him to react to the release of the 911 tapes from the Sandy Hook massacre.
Morgan asked, “We’ve seen so many incidents since then — the naval yard shooting and the Virginia senator, Creigh Deeds, and so on. A lot of incidents come back, it seems, to this lethal cocktail of mental illness and the ready availability of guns. No one seems to be tackling this. How do we get to grips with this?”
Warren, conceding that there are almost as many guns as people in the United states, said he couldn’t foresee a future where guns could be taken from law-abiding citizens. “First of all, the Constitution allows them to have it.” Warren then turned the conversation to the issue of mental illness, saying that we should focus on what we could do to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. “I don’t care whether you’re conservative or you’re liberal or anywhere in between…everyone’s going to agree. Guns do not belong in the hand of mentally ill people,” Warren said.
Undeterred, Morgan tried a second time to enlist Warren in his anti-gun movement:
What does it say, though, that a great country like America, the greatest superpower of the world, that here we are a year after twenty elementary school children were literally blown to pieces in their classrooms, and the president stood there a few days later and literally said, “I will take action,” and here we are a year later and absolutely nothing has been done. Nothing. No background checks brought in. No ban on assault weapons. No ban on high capacity magazines.
“Nobody in Washington has done anything to try and prevent this happening again. What does that tell you about the state of the debate about all this?” Morgan demanded of Warren.
Warren again deflected and for a second time turned the discussion to the problem of mental illness.
From the recently released report by the Connecticut state attorney’s office in Danbury on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School:
[Nancy Lanza] was concerned about him and said that he hadn’t gone anywhere in three months and would only communicate with her by e-mail, though they were living in the same house. … The mother did the shooter’s laundry on a daily basis as the shooter often changed clothing during the day. She was not allowed in the shooter’s room, however, even to clean. No one was allowed in his room. The shooter disliked birthdays, Christmas and holidays. He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree. The mother explained it by saying that shooter had no emotions or feelings. The mother also got rid of a cat because the shooter did not want it in the house.
When I read this, my first inclination was to think that it was a case of bad parenting — Adam Lanza, who shot and killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was obviously a kid in need of discipline. There was clearly a breakdown in the authority structure in the home. My husband and I would not have tolerated our children dictating what we were “allowed” to do in our own home. Indeed, we probably would have had to suppress our laughter if they had ever attempted to launch such a coup d’état. When one of our sons went through a bedroom door-slamming phase, out came the screwdriver and down came the bedroom door until he understood that there would be no door-slamming while he was living under our roof. If one of our kids had ever tried to use the silent treatment as a weapon he would have been met with the loss of privileges and electronics — the car, the computer, the internet, the cell phone.
It seems like these behaviors would be easy enough to solve with a little tough love, right?
Except that Adam Lanza wasn’t like my kids.
A good friend of mine had a heart attack the other day. She did everything right — went to the ER right away when she had the first mild angina, she’d been taking care of herself with exercise and controlling her weight. In other words, pretty much the opposite of what my mother did two years ago.
It turned out to be mild, and she was given a stent and is rehabbing now. There were, however, two things that very possibly contributed: her blood sugar was elevated into “pre-diabetic” ranges and had been for years, and her blood lipids, cholesterol and the like, were pretty elevated.
So, now as well as doing the cardiac rehab routine of mild exercise, she’s starting to manage her blood sugar, and she’s on a statin drug for the lipids.
So we were talking about it this morning and she said something that struck a chord.
I bet you will identify with how much I cringe at the word diabetic. It is so associated with not taking care of yourself because of the media.
That really struck me, because I have noticed the same thing: I’ve found it very difficult to come out and say “I am a diabetic.”
Movies and fiction about people who recover from alcoholism pr drugs usually have this dramatic, climactic scene where, after hitting bottom in some dramatic and more or less disgusting way, the main character has the “moment of clarity” and stands up in a meeting and says “I am an alcoholic.” (Two great examples, by the way, are an under-appreciated Michael Keaton film Clean and Sober, and the Matthew Scudder books by Lawrence Block.) It’s an important moment in recovery because it marks the point at which you are — at the risk of sounding like I live in Boulder — taking ownership of the problem. Your wife isn’t driving you to drink, if it’s genetic it’s still your problem, and however you got there, that’s where you are now and you have to deal with it.
It’s also really hard to say because of the social stigma: socially, we see drunks as morally flawed. Same thing with obesity, with depression, and with drug addiction. Theodore Dalrymple has an instructive, if in my opinion mistaken, piece on this in PJM, where he questions whether we’d think of having “Arthritics Anonymous” where someone stands up and says “I am arthritic.”
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to cook? If I haven’t, I’d be really surprised. I say it often. In fact, I’ve said it so often, that at one point, my husband fired me from cooking for the family.
It’s true. Although he did do it nicely. He offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. “You keep the kitchen clean” he said, and then promised, “I’ll do all the cooking.” What fool wouldn’t jump on that? Especially since, at the time, we had four young children and I owned and ran a small business.
Mistakenly, I took his offer as a sign of his love and appreciation. When I excitedly thanked him with a kiss on the cheek, the truth fell out: “I’m just tired of the [expletive] you’ve been feeding us.”
He was right — it was bad. My motto at the time, “If I can’t nuke it, or pick it up in a hit-an-run, we don’t eat it.” When asked, what do you want for dinner? My children would call out names of their favorite restaurants rather than actual food.
His cooking and my cleaning arrangement only lasted until I closed my business to take care of our growing family full time. Once back on my own, and without the means or excuses for eating out all the time, I began complaining again — this time to the neighbor.
She didn’t offer me the same deal.
However, she did make me her pet project. Her new goal in life: Teach me to cook and love it. She only partially succeeded. Much to my family’s delight, she taught me how to cook venison, make homemade pizza and twice baked potatoes. But most of all, she showed me the happy faces of my children around a dinner table.
After expressing my sentiments on cooking to a recent houseguest, she looked at me in total disbelief. In fact, if she wasn’t such a lady, she might have called me a liar.
She may be right, and I just really didn’t notice the change. Preparing food for my family has taken on a completely different meaning now. It has become a life saving medicine for my husband, and a new way for me to see God’s provisional hand in every area of our lives. Taking extra pains to be sure we have meals that are as rich in nutrients as they are in flavor has become a small pleasure.
In this week’s reading of Jordan S. Rubin’s The Maker’s Diet I realized why what we eat, and eating together, actually brought joy to a drudgery I hated. The author has a scientific explanation:
We all have a “second brain” in our gut that controls more than we think.
There is a story in the Jatakas about the time a mad elephant, released by the Buddha’s enemies, charged down the street toward the Buddha. People are screaming and running, the elephant is tearing up shopkeepers’ displays and smashing things, and Buddha’s disciple Ananda tried to drag him out of the way. Buddha said “Relax, Ananda, I got this,” and stood in the elephant’s path. The elephant was used to people screaming and running, and here’s this guy in an orange bath sheet just smiling at him. Uncertain, confused, the elephant — his name is Nalagiri, by the way — Nalagiri hesitated, and the Buddha walked closer, confidently, like the king of mahouts. He gestured, and Nalagiri knelt, his madness gone, and presented his head to be scratched.
You might as well remember Nalagiri, he’s one of my favorite characters and I’m sure he’ll be back again.
One of the first things that attracted me to Buddhism was that it treats animals as first-class citizens. I’m one of those people who never met an animal he didn’t like (although I’m a little jittery about spiders) and I never really got why the pastor said my dog didn’t have a soul but the obnoxious kid sitting behind me in Sunday School did. I had also learned, even at eleven, that someone who treated animals badly usually didn’t treat people very well either. But it wasn’t until much later — really, it wasn’t until the months after 9/11 — that I understood how important that feeling toward animals is.
I been contemplatin’.
That’s a fiction character talking — I don’t know much about him, frankly he just popped into my head right now, but he’s an older man, unschooled but wise, from the South, wearing faded denim overalls that weren’t faded when he bought them. I can’t really see his face yet.
He popped up when I thought of what to write today on my continuing efforts with diet and exercise. Which turned out to be as much about my mind as my middle. Like him, I been contemplatin’ — where I am and what I’m doing and in particular what to say today about diets and such.
After a couple of promising weeks, it’s clear that either I’m still on my plateau or, if you like, that my plateau broke and I immediately hit another one, about 3-5 pounds down. This is frustrating. I haven’t done the hard-core slow-carb diet, and the wimpy version I’ve been doing hasn’t led to a lot of weight loss. Nor has doing the tabata etc.
Still, my blood sugar is stable, if a touch too high, but I’m not having the hypoglycemic episodes, and that’s good. Some combination of things — Pomodoro Technique, a new boss at the day job who actually listens to me instead of telling me to sit down and shut up, the new columns — has got me writing more than I really ever had, and every day of that I learn more about how to write through little blocks and struggles. And I have lost a good solid 30 pounds and I’m clearly keeping it off.
And you know, a year ago I was contemplatin’ too. My mother had died the previous January, just a couple days before her 77th birthday, and she was 20 when I was born. I was looking at my 57th birthday and realizing she’d died at 77 and my father had died not long after his 69th birthday and I didn’t like the way that subtraction worked out. And I’d lost a lot of time to my long struggle with depression, that kept taking me out of the fight to do what I really wanted, and had reduced me to doing what I needed to do to get by, to survive.
The study had sixty people with an average age of 73 and no signs of dementia drink two cups of cocoa a day and measured changes in the blood flow to their brains.
Their findings: Eighteen of the 60 test subjects who had impaired blood flow to their brains at the beginning of the study experienced an 8.3 percent improvement by test’s end. Those with normal blood flow at the outset of the experiment did not see any improved blood flow.
Yes, I know there have been problems with some of these studies in the past, and the methodology isn’t always right, but come on! With people living longer and longer, dementia has become the specter that haunts us all and that – if we live long enough – will come for almost every one of us.
My grandmother used to say “May G-d give me my wits to the hour of my death.”
If hot cocoa improves my chances of that prayer coming true, I know what I’ll be doing. Of course, due to the low-carb lifestyle, I’m restricted to no sugar cocoa, but I don’t let that stop me!
I know that a cup of cocoa once a week or so keeps my mood up, but now I’ll have to increase the intake to keep my memory up.
Two cups of cocoa a day. It’s medicinal!
image courtesy shutterstock / Alliance
One of my running themes in these 13 Weeks columns has been that I knew I wanted to be more fit, and knew exercise would help me with my blood sugar as well, but that I found it hard to fit it into my schedule. It’s not that I don’t like the exercise, but the recommendations I hear for five or six hours of exercise a week just don’t seem workable. Add in time to get ready and time to shower and all, and it’s an investment of 10 hours a week or more. That’s 20 tomatoes a week, and if I had another 20 tomatoes a week I’d write more.
Yes, it’s all tomatoes all the time in the Martin household.
(For those of you who came in late, I wrote on Wednesday about my use of the Pomodoro Technique, and how it has helped me as a writer, and I mentioned that I’d found it also helpful integrating exercise into my time. If you want to go read that article, go ahead, we’ll wait for you.)
There is a growing body of research, though, that shows lengthy exercise sessions aren’t actually necessary to get the health benefits of exercise. In a paper entitled “Physiological adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training in health and disease” Dr Martin Gibala and others at McMaster University studied the effects of short intense bursts of exercise compared to longer aerobic exercise and found that a program of 4 intense 30 second bursts of exercise 3 times a week was about as effective as lower intensity training taking several hours a week. Regular 13 Weeks readers may remember me talking about the Tabata protocol, in which training sessions of 20 seconds of all-out effort are interspersed with 10 second breaks; this is very similar.
So, I had this idea: when I’m writing, and my 25 minute Pomodoro time runs out, I take my 5 minute break by doing a Tabata session, usually with my exercise bike but sometimes with kettle bells. (In fact, the tomato just rang. Back in 5 minutes.)
Okay, I’m back. I’ve bought a collection of timed music for Tabata sessions. This video shows an example of several people doing Tabata sessions to music from tabatasongs.com, one of my favorite sources.
I start one of these songs playing on my Roku box from my Amazon cloud player and get on the exercise bike. I go like hell for 20 seconds, then pedal slowly for ten, and repeat seven more times.
When I get off the bike, I can barely stand — I’m peddling much faster than I could on a real bike, I’d fall over. It takes a minute or two to recover, so I imagine my five minute breaks are more like six or seven minutes. But I’m trying to write for three tomatoes every morning, so I’m getting either two or three sessions every morning as well.
I’ve been doing this for a couple of week only, so it’s hard to say how much real effect it’s having as far as fitness goes, and impossible to say how much effect it’s having on the diabetes yet, but5 there is one effect I can already see: my mood on a morning when I’ve actually done my three tomatoes and two tabatas is much better; I fee awake and I feel like I’ve done something. I can take a shower and go to the office. On the weekends I try to do 5 tomatoes and four tabatas.
Obviously, like all good research, the conclusion is that more study is needed, but I’ve got to say, this actually seems to work well.
This was a week of lapses. It happened by accident. Monday was a carb day, because there were plans to go out as a group. Tuesday was not meant to be a carb day, but I went to an Indian buffet and the rice just called my name. One of my favorite dishes in the world is rice with dal (lentils) and raita (yogurt with cucumers and spices), and not only does the rice add something to the flavor, it’s damn near impossible to eat dal and raita without rice to hold it.
Wednesday was just flat out cravings. I Wanted French Fries. I Wanted Chocolate.
So I ate them. Sue me.
By Thursday I was over it, and feeling a little puffy, so I’m back on the low-and-slow plan, eating not many grams of carbs and making those all slow carbs. (White rice, really any grain, is not a slow carb.) I had the usual 5 lb swing from the carbs, but now the swings are starting from lows of 267 or so. And today I’m really over it, as I’ve got some kind of stomach flu; I haven’t eaten anything permanently (so to speak) since yesterday, so I’m kinda sticking to tea and, well, tea. Nothing else is of much interest.
I was talking with a good friend about my columns, though. She had looked at the meal pictures I’d run and commented that I didn’t seem to get much variety. This sort of surprised me, as I don’t think of it that way. Oh, I eat a very stereotypical breakfast, but doesn’t everyone? And I eat things that I can easily stick in the George Foreman Grill, because that’s easy and I like broiled or grilled meat. At lunch, I go to any one of a dozen restaurants, although I tend to get the same things every time at each restaurant — tandoori chicken at the Indian restaurant, buffalo wings and salad at Chili’s, big salads with tuna at Mad Greens.
It’s actually getting close to nine months since I had that first epiphany — that I wasn’t that much younger, really, than my parents had been when they died, and that I didn’t want to die young. Hell, I don’t want to die at all, and as the old joke goes, I’ll either be immortal or die trying.
Of course, if you’ve been following this column and my 13 Weeks Facebook page, you already know that what I’ve done has been to structure things in 13 week experiments; over time, I’ve begun to see it as:
- Observe something that I want to change, like weight or blood sugar.
- Propose a treatment — diet, exercise, drugs, or whatever — to change that thing, and define how I’ll measure my progress.
- Perform the treatment for a fixed length of time. For a variety of reasons, I settled on 13 weeks.
- At the end of that time, evaluate the results, and either pivot to a new treatment, or persevere in the old one.
Low-carb diet worked for a while; now I’m on a slightly higher-carb “slow-carb” diet that has turned out to be reasonably effective, in that I’ve resumed losing about a pound a week. It’s also done a lot toward controlling my blood sugar and type-2 diabetes, and I’ve now lost something close to 40 lbs since October, as well as improving my already-good cholesterol.
All in all, it hasn’t been spectacular — I’m not going to get an informercial out of it — but it’s been pretty good.
I’ve also been writing essentially a diary on the Facebook page and in these columns, looking back, I’ve learned something from them.
Dieting is hard.
Have you ever held a grudge against someone to the point where it caused you emotional, or even physical anguish? Do you, at this moment, find it hard to forgive or just let go of the pain that someone you trusted once caused you? In this five-minute video, with UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Marmer, you can learn the three types of forgiveness (exoneration, forbearance, and release). Rather than adopting the somewhat simplistic adage, “Forgive and forget,” learn from a professional therapist how to deal with a particularly bitter type of pain–the one that comes when a person you trust, or even love, hurts you.
Glenn Reynolds recently linked Althouse reporting on an interview with Patti Smith. The interviewer said the house smelled of cats, and every surface was covered in plastic. This led me to getting lost in the comments with people making all sorts of suggestions, the most prominent of which was “get rid of the cats.”
As someone similarly afflicted and unable to take that step because I take my Chinese Obligations seriously, I thought I’d write this for anyone having similar issues.
So, this is “What I saw at the cat-pee wars — or how to deal with your cats marking territory when you don’t want to get rid of the little monsters.” (Without having to cover your entire house in plastic, which is apparently Patti Smith’s solution.)
Besides being a writer, I am a (crazy) cat lady. The two often go together, and the field, particularly science fiction and fantasy, is full of crazy cat ladies and gentlemen.
I’d like to place the blame for this on Robert A. Heinlein who not only was owned by several cats, but who also wrote about cats and thereby instilled an early love for the critters along with a love for futuristic fiction. However, truth be told, if you expand it to the field of all fiction writers, the fault for the cat mania would be Hemingway’s and his polydactyl and avowedly freely-spraying cats.
Needless to say if you are having a problem with your cats scent marking or peeing out of place, the very first thing to do – if you haven’t – is to have the males neutered.
My male indoor cats have always been neutered at a relatively early age. Notwithstanding which, we have had marking problems with both the old firm – i.e. our first batch of cats — Pixel, Randy, Petronius and DT and the new firm – the new batch of four (my husband won’t let me have more than four at one time) – Miranda, Euclid, D’Artagnan and Havelock.
In both cases, the marking seemed to originate in a rivalry between two alpha male cats, to whom neutering did not seem to make much difference.
With our first batch of cats, the culprits were Pixel – a marmalade boy who looked like the perfect stuffed animal, and who, in fact, was too smart for his own good – and Petronius, big and black and probably part Bombay.
It’s hard to know if this video is a Spinal Tap style farce, or a freakish collection freeloaders glorifying the retrogression of human progress. They are living as humans in the west lived in the 18th Century, except without the work ethic.
They get free food, produce little, lounge around in tents, pee into hay bales, dumpster dive for food and beg. We know them here in the United States as hobos, bums and the people under the bridge.
One woman says “it wasn’t really a conscious decision” to live like this – how could it be!?
But they’ve adopted the “Eco” label. Eco-This, Eco-That, which buys good press for what is otherwise a shameful waste of time and talent. Their “Eco-village” dispenses with one of the most important human inventions to aid good health: sewage systems. The village represents an environmentalist crusader’s dream – humanity reduced to low impact animals with minimalists footprints. A side benefit, according to one Eco-Hobo, is a “peaceful solution to the problem of humanity.”
Sure it is.
h/t to the Man on the Nag.
Week 8 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
A few days ago, PJ Lifestyle ran an excerpt from Leonard Mosely’s book Disney’s World, in which Walt Disney, in a letter to his partner Ub Iwerks, expressed his frustration with the his first sound cartoon, the now-iconic Steamboat Willie.
He’s pretty depressed. he doesn’t like Hollywood, he doesn’t like being away from home, and he’s losing confidence in the still-unfinished film. You can see why, when he was having trouble selling the idea, and animation is a frustrating process anyway. This was in the days of the most primitive hand-drawn animation, where every frame of the film had to be hand drawn on clear acetate, with tiny changes from frame to frame. Twenty-four times for each second of film. In this 7 minute 23 second film, that’s something like 10,600 frames. He was tired, and he was bored, and he had trouble seeing any progress.
Why did this strike me, he asked rhetorically? Well, it reminds me of my ongoing glucose/bodyfat/weight project. Here I am, eight weeks into my second season, 147 days since I first started tracking this, and it’s a little frustrating and hard. I’ve been less diligent about the exercise, and I do find myself missing things I used to eat. Like chocolate. And pasta. And bread. And while I have lost some weight, it’s slow and the day to day variations make it hard to see. It’s like Disney must have felt — another 24 frames, another day’s work, and what did he have? Another lousy second of film. That no one wanted to distribute. He was past the initial excitement and into the slog.
Right now, this project feels much the same. I’m actually losing weight, and I can see changes — more muscle coming back to my arms, and to put it bluntly, my boobs are smaller. I’ve lost six inches around my waist, and I can feel that every time I put on a pair of pants that were in the back of the closet because I hadn’t been able to wear them. But at the same time, the progress is a little slow and hard to see, and it’s a little hard to explain why it should matter to anyone — especially me.
But then I got thinking, and a little Excel-fu got me this. Here’s my actual weight, charted over the last sixty days, with a trend line. This is very much like the other charts I’ve been posting.
Trend line is down. This is good. It’s not down very fast, and the added muscle certainly explains that — but also notice that individuual weights vary pretty wildly around that trend line. So here’s another chart.