Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Friday, May 20, 2016

'Nother Mini-Post: Kitten!

Well, I came home from work yesterday and lo and behold, we have a kitten.  Joan picked her up from the side of the road and took her straight to a vet. She checked out OK. Unless we start seeing a lot of signs around the nabe for a lost kitten, we seem to have a new family member.  No name yet, although we're kicking a couple around. The older cats are hating on her right now, so everybody has to be supervised 24/7 (or else kitten has to be closed in a room by herself, which isn't a great solution).  She likes to play at 2 am and eats like a horse (or a kitten, in this case).   More details (and a name) to follow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini-Post: Damn, I Got Old Quick.

In case anybody wants to know what it's like to jump back into the pool after a month away and a lot of that resting in bed, the answer is, IT SUCKS. I feel like I've gone back in time to the month I started with the swim team way back in '07.  I get extremely tired, I take hits from my inhaler because I get so winded and I actually get out of the water with sore shoulders and arms.  Last Sunday I swam 1800, my longest distance since I started back.  Yeah.  1800.  When I was turning in like 3200 at least once a week and training up to 5000.  If that 5000 meter race were really in July, as originally scheduled, I'd be screwed. The rumor now is that it's going to be in September.  I'd like to say September is no problem and I'll be back to fighting form in nothing flat, but then I also said I'd be over this pneumonia thing in a week and that didn't exactly work out, so I'm hesitant for my brain to start writing checks my body may not be able to cash.

So I realized today that I've gotta do what I've been putting off doing.  I gotta go back to the gym and start lifting weights again.  I'm no Arnold Schwartzenbarfer, but I used to lift weights and it helped my swimming a lot.  I gotta build up those wing muscles.  Luckily there is an LA Fitness right down the street from my office, and if I actually leave on time I should be able to squeeze in a good 30-45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  Again, that's leave ON TIME, not whenever I get to a logical stopping point.  I could feasibly work all day and all night for weeks and I'd never get all the stuff done that I'm supposed to do.  But I do keep us two steps ahead of the next crisis, and sometimes that's all you can ask for.  Especially in a law firm.

In other news, I'm going to turn 47 in a couple of weeks here.  This means I'm no longer in my middle forties; I am now in my late forties.  Joan, who just turned 57, is probably laughing at me right now, but the other day it occurred to me that I'm probably past the mystical halfway point, unless I plan on living to be 96.  Yep. Half my life is already in the can and I'm working on the second half.

So what am I gonna do for the second half, you ask.  Well, let's see. I think I'm going to hang around with family and friends as much as possible, share big laughs and small stories, and be as unserious as possible.  I'm planning on a little more meditation and a little less anxiety.  Less sugar, for sure, more fruits and vegetables.  Less wasted time on the news (I'm not supposed to watch the news; it upsets me).  More trips to Austin.  Fewer doctor's appointments.  And who knows, maybe I'll write something.  Else.  Something else.

By the way, it's Mental Health Awareness Month.  So be aware.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

That Convention, And Sugar, and Stuff.

Apologies for the greater-than-usual space between blog posts here, everybody, but I've been really sick. I mean about as sick as I've ever been in my whole life, not counting the time I was in the hospital for a week with abscessed tonsils, and definitely sicker than I've been in at least ten years.  It started out as a bad cold that I picked up at the convention.  After a week it still wasn't gone, so I saw a doc-in-the-box because I couldn't get in to my Regular Doc. That happens sometimes.  They examined me (poke, prod) and did an X-ray (inconclusive) and decided that I had the beginnings of pneumonia.  So off I went to the pharm to get antibiotics, which then proved their worth by doing absolutely nothing.  Well, I was maybe feeling incrementally better, but I wonder how much of that was popping ibuprofen to keep the fever down and guzzling cough syrup and nebulizer fluid so I could breathe.  And yes, I did keep going to work, mostly, though I took a few of the worst days off.  I sort of had to.  It's a small firm and if I ain't here, stuff don't get done. (I had this horrible feeling we'd end up going to trial, but that didn't happen, thankfully.  Me in a suit at the plaintiff's table coughing up Lung McNuggets every five minutes would have just made a great impression on the jury, I'm sure.)

Then my ears and throat went south on me. Both ears swelled up so I couldn't hear, and my voice got so distorted I could either speak in a whisper or AT A SHOUT but nothing in between.  So back I went to the doc (the Regular Doc, this time) and he said, "Well, whatever they gave you isn't working, let's give you something else." And some prednisone, which I completely hate because it wreaks all possible badness on you, from making your face break out and your nails split to making you gain five pounds because you're hungry all the time. But, it also lets you breathe, and let's face it, breathing is kind of a good thing.  And I'm pleased to report that the Something Else has finally started to work. Meaning, one of my ears has opened up, I have a voice at a more reasonable volume and the coughing has pretty much stopped, except for occasional rattles.

But I am still pretty sick. So, I'm still not Doing Anything.  Anything I don't have to do, I mean.  Just going to work and then going home and resting.  I've been staying in bed all weekend, too.  I haven't been to my meditation group or OA meetings in three weeks, and I'm gonna miss all of this week, as well.  I haven't been in the pool since I think April 8 (Joan's mom's birthday; always a memorable date even if she's not with us anymore).  I hired a guy to do the lawn, which I can't afford, but I also can't push a lawn mower around and at the rate it keeps raining around here, the entire house could disappear under the lawn if I let it go more than a week.  You don't wanna see what the interior of the house looks like, either, though I've kept up with the laundry and the dishes pretty well.  When one of us is sick, the slack just don't get picked up.  It's like somebody hit "pause" in early April and the tape just hasn't really gotten rolling yet.

So for anybody who's missed me, that's where I've been.  If I'm breathing all right I'm going to try to get back in the pool this Saturday, which coincidentally is the last Baylor Saturday swim until fall.  Forget the long distance stuff for now.  I mean really, forget it.  I have fond hopes of making it to 1200 meters my first time out. Realistically it'll be June before I can knock off 2000 meters, and if the 5000 meter race were in July, like it usually is, I'd be pretty worried right about now.  But it's not. Rumor has it they're kicking it to September because the water was so warm last year that some people got sick (hey, it's an outdoor pool, and it's summer in Texas).  Rumor also has it that they're canceling the whole thing. Now that last part would suck, but I am but a minion in the swimmer heirarchy and not in charge of things like scheduling. If they do cancel it, though, I will find some other race to swim in, even if it's not as long.  There's a great one in June, that I won't be ready for, but you have to raise like $500 just to start anyway and it's for cancer research, which is not my favorite charity.  Cancer research gets plenty of money.  Women of color, torture survivors, underprivileged kids and cooperatives that foster economic development by way of providing farm animals to needy families, not so much.

But anyway.  Back before I got sick, I went to this convention.  This was Overeaters Anonymous Dallas's annual convention, and I was also on the planning committee (though, as they say, I was not on the results committee).  It was pretty well attended; about 130 people, not counting the streams of small children that came and went from the conference room next to us and kept shouting stuff for Jesus.  (Really, they were better mannered than most groups of conventioneers, but they were kind of loud.)  I ran around handing out serenity coins and was in a skit and so forth and suchlike. And I might have actually learned something, which, you have to admit, doesn't happen every day.

The main speaker was what we would call a "Big Book thumper."  If you're not familiar with AA parlance, the Big Book is the blue book called "Alcoholics Anonymous" that was first published in the 1930s and is still pretty much upheld as the single most important work in the literature of addiction and recovery.  OA is based on AA so it follows the same principles, the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions and all of that.  If you wanna know more about this stuff and the history of and so on, check out any of the videos on this page or this article.  Anyway, in the Big Book, there's a paragraph right before it lists the Twelve Steps that reads something like, "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path."  (And just for the record, I love that 1930s parlance.  "Rarely have we seen a person fail..." Doesn't that sound better than "You won't screw this up if..."?)  And the speaker was reading this section to make a point about something or other, which completely escapes me now, but one word of it stood out in my head in great big letters with glossy highlighting and multiple exclamation points.

The word in question was, "thoroughly." The thought I had at the time was, "I ain't doin' this right."

I mean, we know I'm addicted to sugar.  (And if you didn't know that, now you do, so you can be included in the great royal We.)  That's not a secret.  If you're addicted to anything, you're not going to recover unless you get rid of the stuff.  With alcohol, this is simple, if not exactly easy.  Look at the ingredients.  If it says, "Contains alcohol," you don't drink/eat it. Simple.  With sugar, though--Sugar is ubiquitous.  There's lots of it around, too.  It's in everything from the bread you buy at the store to ketchup (yes, ketchup actually contains enough sugar that the American Diabetes Association recommends you phase it the hell out of your diet, or at least your kids' diet.  No foolin'.).  Peanut butter has 3 grams of sugar in it per serving, unless you're buying the "natural" kind, like we do.  Even stuff that tells you it has "no added sugar" probably still has plenty of sugar, in the forms of corn syrup, fructose, galactose and so on (because our government lets food manufacturers list these separately with food ingredients like they aren't really sugars, which they are). So it's probably impossible to entirely get rid of added sugar in your diet.  However, just because it's impossible to be perfect doesn't mean you can't try really hard to get rid of as much of it as possible, and when I took a look at how hard I was trying, the answer was basically, "Not very."

I mean, yes, I don't eat most junk foods anymore, and I try to stay away from stuff that's made to be sweet, like cakes and cookies and things like that.  But there were loopholes.  I'd somehow convinced myself that frozen yogurt, for example, had less sugar than ice cream and was therefore okay to eat. (Which it does, but not much less, and it varies by type and flavor, so it's really not a good guideline at all.)  There were two other foods I couldn't seem to stop eating, either.  Chocolate and breakfast cereal.  Yeah, breakfast cereal doesn't really seem to be a big deal, but if you stop and look at the package labels, a lot of breakfast cereals have a heck of a lot of sugar in them.  And chocolate--well, it's chocolate. Even the bitter varieties that I was eating to ward off menstrual cramps (which did work, actually, though the success kind of came and went) still have plenty of sugar in them.  I get a serious, mad rush from added sugar.  If I snarf down something with a lot of sugar in it, especially on an empty stomach, something happens to me that's very much like what I imagine cocaine would be like.  I could never afford cocaine to test this theory, though.

So I came back from this convention pretty well convinced that I had to get rid of as much sugar as possible. And then I got really sick, and I ate whatever was there because I didn't have the energy to cook, so I'm kind of just starting now.  I've been able to quit the frozen yogurt (partially because it's expensive; I mean like $5 a fix--that's almost as much as a dime bag of heroin).  I've been able to quit the breakfast cereal, because Joan buys the groceries and I told her to quit buying it and she did and we ran out and now there isn't any.  I'm not sure about the bitter chocolate, though I made it through this last menstrual cycle without munching on any of the stuff.  But I'm pretty optimistic I can pop ibuprofens instead of bitter chocolate and the world won't end.

So now it's time to look at all the little things.  Read labels.  Check ingredients.  Figure out ways to get the amount of added sugar down to as little as possible.  I think I'm going to have to start making my own bread again, for one thing, because I know how much sugar I put in bread when I make it (very little) and I know how much is in the loaves you buy at the store (lots).  Oh, that's just heartbreaking, being forced to make my own bread (I love making bread, though I don't actually eat that much of it).  I'm making breakfast smoothies with tofu instead of plain yogurt, because plain yogurt actually has 8 to 10 grams of added sugar in it (yogurt! Plain yogurt!) whereas tofu has none whatever (and it's cheaper, too).  You have to blend it longer, but that's okay.  I will be eating a lot of fruit.  I love fruit, it's sweet, and because there's all that fiber and nutrition and stuff in it, it doesn't hit my brain like a cocaine rush. I can happily eat fruit instead of sugary things.  Well, mostly happily.  Well, sometimes grudgingly.

But I'm gonna do it.  What's more, I'm gonna do all that other stuff, like call people (I hate calling people; maybe I'll just text people) and work on the Steps and all that. I think Joan would call this "drinking the Kool-Aid," but hey, I'm a nicer person without the sugar.  I'm like actually sponsoring somebody now, which means I have to be responsible and set a good example.  Bleah.  Today I managed a 15-minute walk at lunchtime.  And I'm getting right back into the pool.  As soon as I can breathe, that is.