Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tide nor time tarrieth no woman

"So now does your heart pitter pat with a patriotic sound when you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?"

My life has become weirdly accelerated.

Days, weeks, months evaporate into the magnetosphere.

Today marks 30 months since my last day working in corporate America.

How is that even possible? Time has moved at warp speed.

I hardly know where to begin because so much is going on.

Maybe I should start by prioritizing the things that are important right now.

1. Continuing to work at my art. If it wasn't 35 degrees (and "feels like 27 degrees) right now, I'd be making beads. I'm over-the-moon excited because Beads of Courage has asked me to make 100 more sets of Team Bead pairs and suggested that they will want more after that. I'm so happy because they love my beads and I love making pairs.

2. Volunteering with Sugar Land Animal Services. Yes, I've gone back since the cat-bite incident. It has mostly been OK. The first time was awkward but since then things feel more or less normal. I only have one cat out at a time, which is less fun for the cats, especially the playful ones, which is most of them. I try to make up for it with one-on-one attention, but honestly most of them are more interested in stretching, scratching and exploring than being groomed or petted.

3. Working out aka walking on the treadmill. I'm now shooting for four times a week and will be satisfied if I make it three times. Until now I was shooting for every day and probably averaging five times a week. My back has been hurting a lot, so I'm pacing myself a little more. I'm also in maintenance mode for now, as opposed to training mode. It doesn't look like we will make it to LeConte Lodge this year, although I'm not completely ruling it out. We will most likely make it to Great Smoky Mountain National Park in May or June and I will be calling to see if there are any cancellations once our plans are set.

4. Spend time with Neil. This would be my first priority if it was within my control. Given that he is a workaholic and has taken off about one day per fortnight, it appears to be one of those things I cannot change. I do spend as much time with him as possible when he is at home, but when he is at home he has an endless list of things to do, from catching up on his online interests to keeping up with house stuff to packing for his next business trip (The Netherlands and Italy in February, in case you are wondering).

And let's not forget the mindless TV watching. Star Trek re-runs (on the all-Star-Trek-all-the-time-re-run channel). Gilligan's Island and Hawaii Five-0 re-runs (yes, truth). We do watch some tube together, PBS programs mostly, also Buying Hawaii and Hawaii Life (who knows why). I try to sit with him while he watches his junk and read, but either the sound track is distracting or Neil won't stop talking, filling me in on background details about the actors and plots. Most nights he falls asleep watching, which puts him in a bad mood (and makes me feel like he is angry at me). He berates himself for it, but he runs his machine at a ridiculous RPM rate all day and he's flat out exhausted. I do understand.

So, those are my four priorities but they are far from being all the things going on in my life ATM.

I'm taking another class at Glassell. I wasn't planning to attend this semester, but Glassell ran an Amazon Local deal offering vouchers for classes for $239. Tuition for these classes ordinarily is $600. I could buy (and did buy) two vouchers, good for the Spring and Fall 2014 semesters. I didn't read the fine print carefully enough, because it turns out the vouchers are good only for certain basic classes. That makes sense - Glassell is hoping to hook in new students who will want to continue at full price.

It worked out for me anyway, since the class I most wanted to take was Beginning Digital Photography. My second voucher is for 2-D design, and I'd misread the terms to mean any 2-D design class, which would have included Collage and Assemblage, another keen interest of mine. Turns out the voucher only is for the Beginning 2-D Design class, so that is what I will be taking next. From the making-lemonade standpoint, one of the teachers of the 2-D Design class also teaches the Collage class, so if that class times works with my schedule, I can assess whether I want to pursue Collage later.

My photography class meets on Thursday afternoons. We started last week with a review of the course schedule and no homework assignment. The time sucker so far for me has been the inordinate amount of research I did into which digital camera to buy, which included hours on the internet, four separate camera store visits and a series of electronic conversations, first with a photo instructor on Lampwork Etc. and this past week with my class instructor. I feel like I need to take the course first to comprehend what features I most would value in a digital camera. Since that isn't really an option, insofar as there will be homework to do following the second class, I had to bite the bullet.

I was pretty sure I wanted a relatively compact mirrorless digital rather than a clunky D-SLR. I'm glad my instructor was open-minded and encouraging about my camera choice, because what I encountered when consulting "experts" was that most were surprising misinformed as well as biased. Expert number one pushed me hard toward Canon and Nikon D-SLRs and told me Sony was discontinuing its line of NEX mirrorless cameras. (Sony only was discontinuing the "NEX" branding and calling the camera line "Apha" going forward.) Expert number two was Sony-all-the-way, and told me Nikon was getting out of the mirrorless digital medium. (In a January 2014 AP story, Nikon confirmed that it remained committed to the format.)

My camera considerations ran the gamut from "get the expensive one with all the potential options" to "go with something basic and upgrade later if you love it." After much anguishing over the decision, I landed on an older model of the Nikon 1 with two lenses, primarily because the price was essentially the same as the best price I could find on the better lens. I sacrificed a viewfinder and a couple of megapixels.

My philosophy is that, since the lenses interchange among all the Nikon 1 models, if I love it (it being both the camera and digital photography) I can keep the better lens, upgrade the camera and sell the original camera with the kit lens. The minor fly in that ointment was that the camera I got only came in red for that attractive price, so I may wind up with a white or silver (or pink or khaki) camera with a red lens. Which might actually be kind of cool.

So I'm set for the class or at least I will be once the camera arrives. I hope that will be by the time the first homework assignment is due. It will be close but I'm optimistic.

Now that the camera die has been cast, the photo class is unlikely to be my biggest educational time consumer in the upcoming months. That's because I'm taking another class. Believe it or not, I'm taking an online class at my Alma Mater, Colgate University. The class is "The Advent of the Atomic Bomb" and I'm both incredibly excited and frightfully overwhelmed by the opportunity.

The course is (self) described as a collaborative effort between current students and alumni volunteers to explore the science, history, politics, and ethical questions surrounding the Manhattan Project. The format is similar to a conventional Massive Open Online Course or “MOOC” - an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web, per Wikipedia. (Did you know that you can take free courses designed for interactive study via the web provided by MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, UT and a host of other respected international institutions? I didn't.)

In the Colgate course however, only students currently enrolled at the brick-and-mortar campus in Hamilton, NY, and Colgate alumni may participate, leading the instructor (Karen Harpp) to quip "maybe we should call it a “SPOC”, Selective Private Online Course?"

Luckily for me the class isn't following a traditional course format for alumni. From the website.
There are no exams, and you won’t be graded (ok, yes, there are exams and other requirements for the current students, because they are taking this for credit, but you as alumni have done your time in that regard already!). Instead, we are providing opportunities for intellectual interaction with students, focused on the course material. We are trying to construct a venue for extended, sophisticated conversations and connections with an intellectual purpose.
The class is structured with various mechanisms for interaction between alumni and students, including these.
a) online discussions with topics that change weekly, permitting us to delve more deeply into the complex issues in the course than is possible in the limited classroom time;

b) a timeline project, in which students and alumni collaborate to construct a comprehensive database of historical events related to the atomic bombs;

c) a “real-time” project to re-enact the events from Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the dropping of the bombs in 1945, carried out on Twitter;

d) a communal wiki, designed to become a repository for anecdotes, reminiscences, and stories from alumni and students; and

e) the possibility of videoconferences among a small number of students and alumni, to solidify connections and talk (almost) face-to-face.
The meat of the course consists of video presentations by Harpp and her collaborator, Retired US Air Force Colonel Scott Willey, and a textbook, The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. I just received my copy from amazon. The book weighs 2 lbs. 6.5 oz. In paperback.

Col. Willey, by the way, has been working with docents at the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and has been instrumental in restoration efforts of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb over Japan.

It's all a bit like drinking from a fire hose. I'm already behind, mostly because of technical difficulties accessing the "courseware" and time constraints (my interminable mantra), but as an alumni participant I'm allowed to participate as wonted, from engaging as fully as if I was a currently enrolled, paying student, to as little as watching a few videos or joining in an occasional online conversation.

Of course I want to do it all. I'll be putting Inspector Morse aside to watch course videos, which this week includes the movie Gallipoli. Last night I muscled my way to finishing the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, so that I can delve into the Rhodes book. Interestingly it was the Bryson book that had me pondering nuclear fission (and my ignorance about the culminating events of WWII) at the exact time when the Colgate opportunity presented itself.

I'm disappointed today that my first discussion contribution, that I stayed up past midnight last night to write, did not post. And stupidly, I did not copy it before I left that computer window (it appeared to have posted). Live and learn. Although it was relatively short, I labored over it.

I'll probably try to reconstruct it as the discussion topic is open for a few more days. It is the first week's topic and we've now moved into week two. In some respects, that makes it easier for me to post in week one. I'm conflicted because I dearly want to jump right in, yet I'm aware of my naivete (i.e., "lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment") with regard to both the subject matter and any scholarly discipline.

It's going to be an interesting ride. You know I will keep you posted.

By the way, harkening back to time-sucking, this post took me roughly four hours to draft (and I've still to polish it). It doesn't help that my computer is dragging, dallying, unhurried, dillydallying, languid, poky, lagging, sluggish, poking, crawling, snail-paced, dawdling, dilatory, creeping, laggard, and in fact, just about every antonym of warp speed that you'd care to name.

I'll be buying a new computer next. I wonder how long it will take me to decide on one?!


I always knew that you would take yourself far from home
As soon as, as far as you could go
By the quarter-inch cut of your hair and the Army-issue green
For the past eight weeks I can tell where you've been

So now you are one of the brave few
It's awful sad we need boys like you
I hope the day never comes for "here's your live round son
Stock and barrel, safety, trigger, here's your gun"

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
There was soldiers blue blood streaming inside your veins
There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
You won't meet it with your gun taking aim

For I don't mean to argue, they've made a decent boy of you
And I don't mean to spoil your homecoming
But baby brother, you should expect me to

So now does your heart pitter pat with a patriotic sound
When you see the stripes of Old Glory waving?

Well I knew, I could see, it was all cut and dried to me
There was soldier's blue blood streaming inside your veins
There is a world outside of this room and when you meet it promise me
You won't meet it with your gun taking aim

And I don't mean to hurt you by saying this again
They're so good at making soldiers but they're not as good at making men."

(Natalie Merchant, Gun Shy from In My Tribe)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Disney on No Dollars a Day

"You have nowhere to go, you are where you belong, you can live the life you dream."

I believe I've become a born-again fitness fanatic.

If you consider walking on a treadmill for an hour at three mph and a three degree angle (net elevation gain 800-some odd feet) to be a workout, then I work out most days, and on the days I don't I try to get in as much real life walking as possible.

Today I walked around the pond instead. I did the shorter loop and then the longer loop (but not the longest loop) and it took me most of an hour, so that is all good. It's a perfect day and I feel like I benefit from the fresh air and sunshine. The community fitness center is small and the windows are sealed and I'm breathing gym air.

The sky was an incredible shade of sapphire.


The black glass of the lake reflected some of the intense blue of the sky.

I had my annual physical shortly after getting home from Yellowstone Park last August. While at the park my new normal sleeplessness did not affect me. At home I'd have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. While at the park I slept like a very relaxed cat.

I mentioned this to my doctor and she asked if I'd been outdoors a lot at the park. Of course. I was outdoors pretty much every daylight hour. And I slept. I won't go as far as to say I have some form of seasonal affective disorder, but I will say I'm pretty sure that sunshine and vitamins and lungfuls of clean air are somnia-friendly.

I'm born-again because my life has followed a pattern vis–√†–vis exercise programs. For the first 25 years or so I was as inertial as can be. I took yoga and bowling and ice skating for my college PE requirements. In my mid-twenties I took up jogging, a gateway form of fitness that led to jazzercise, aerobics and low-impact aerobics for the next 25 years or so. Then I lost steam. I became more or less a couch potato. I still took the stairs, walked sporadically, hiked when I could (and suffered the crippling knee pain of the out-of-shape).

And I know you'll find this hard to believe, but I lost my lithe figure. It took a while longer for my brain to catch up. In my mind I was still willowy. But there's no denying it when your jeans just won't zip. No, they didn't shrink suddenly. I wasn't exactly in denial, but it's true your metabolism slows in your mid-life years. And it's all about self-acceptance, loving yourself as you are, right?

Besides, I ate a reasonably healthy, low-fat diet. No fried foods, very little meat, skim milk, no soda pop. I'm not much of a snacker, I eat when I'm hungry and often just breakfast and dinner. I keep my sweet tooth on a short leash. Still my weight would not stabilize. When I weighed what I'd weighed when I was nine months pregnant, I took action.

Action meant exercise. I started a year ago. I walked every day and when it got hot I started walking on the treadmill at the fitness center. I walked and watched British crime drama on my iPad. I avoid the scale because this is more about how I feel and look, and how my clothes fit. So when I saw my doctor in August I was pleased that I was 15 lbs. down. I had to weigh a package the other day that was more than my five lb. postal scale limit, so I weighed it by weighing myself - with the package and then without it. I'm four bags of flour down now.

I feel better, I sleep better, it's all good. Preach.

Neil and I got back on Sunday from a quickie trip to Orlando. Most years we go in January for the FUN show, the Florida numismatic show, which is always one of the biggest coin shows, probably because Florida has the right demographic for coin collectors, i.e., men older than a certain age. I spend most of my time at the show reading in the convention center lobby, or the suite provided for legacy members by the world's largest collectibles auction house. Neil naturally is a legacy member.

I did buy two pretty darn nice silver rings, one set with garnets and one with pink coral, even though I've forsworn accumulating more stuff. But after walking around on the bourse for a couple of hours, I just wanted a little memento. Two mementos. I'm just sorry it wasn't three.

The rest of the trip was a little game Neil and I play called Disney on No Dollars a Day. As much as I love the parks, there is plenty to do at WDW at no cost if you are easily amused, like we are. And of course, it's not really No Dollars, silly. We do stay at a hotel (not a Disney one this time), and we do rent a car, and we have to eat anyway.

We arrived Thursday and after some $4 eggs and pancakes at Denny's we went to the coin show so that Neil could view the lots he was preparing to bid on. He spent some time on this. I read. And grabbed some snacks from the suite. We checked in to the Hampton and kicked back for a while, until it was time to go to our first character dinner.

Well, Neil thought he had booked a buffet character dinner. He wanted to surprise me, so he didn't tell me where. I love surprises - the kind when someone hands you a wrapped box or flowers and says, surprise. Knowing ahead of time that I'm going to be surprised, not so much. I finally weaseled out a hint, just enough info to convince me that there were no character dinners that met the criteria. Fine.

It turned out to be a dinner at Kidani Village at the African Kingdom Lodge. We love visiting the lodge and seeing the giraffes and zebras and wildebeests on the mocked up veldt with the invisible electric fences.


It was dark though, and a bit cool outside, so we went right on to dinner at Sanaa, boasting African cooking with Indian flavors. Neil put his fists up to his ears. I said what are you doing? He said, I'm Mickey Mouse, I'm your dinner character. Then he said, I probably shouldn't book reservations very late at night.

We had a appetizer of naan and chutneys and a lovely meal - spicy chicken and mahi for Neil, vegetable dahl and paneer masala for me - and split a bread pudding, also spicy, for dessert.

On Friday it was back to the coin show, where Neil walked the bourse and I bought my rings. The auction was at 2 p.m. and I hung out in an area with chairs and tables in front of the convention center, enjoying the temperate weather. For weeks now, Neil has been stressing because this auction had so many coins of interest (to him) and he knew they'd be auctioned at a fast and furious pace, since all were quarter eagles (gold $2.50 pieces). So much to agonize over. Do you bid to win right away, or do you save your bullets for your favorite coins and perhaps miss out on winning anything?

Predictably, Neil went in with a spreadsheet and a detailed bidding strategy. It was over faster than I expected and when I saw Neil coming out, I tried to read his demeanor. My impression was dejected, but I'd not put it past Neil to play act dejected before boasting victory. Still I said, it didn't go well, did it? I was right, he'd only won one coin of five in the live auction, plus one more that he'd placed on online bid on.

The coin he won was his last choice of the five, so he spent some time second guessing himself and beating himself up. I talked him down. Honestly, this whole auction has been almost a thorn in my side. Before the lot viewing, there'd been something like 19 coins of interest (to Neil). At some point I asked him not to tell me the prices. Ignorance is bliss, and it's his money. But as much as he joneses for retirement, it would mean a different approach to coin collecting that I don't think he's ready to contemplate. And that's slightly annoying.

We have ratty furniture and no landscaping, and yes I know, coins are an investment, and it's his money. I get to go one some interesting trips as a fringe benefit. So I won't complain (much) but I don't need the details needling me.

After that we were done with coins for the duration. Yippie ki-yay. (Did I really just type that?)

Back to the hotel for another kick-back and then we headed to Downtown Disney. We picked up pizzas-to-go at Wolfgang Puck Express, then drove over to the Polynesian resort. We told the security guard we were there for dinner and it wasn't a lie (technically). We found a nice table at the far end of the swimming pool, where it transitions to the beach, and ate our pizzas while we watched the fireworks display over Cinderella's castle. Contentment.


We goofed around the hotel for a while (no gift shop ever left behind) and called it a night.

Saturday was our only full and open day in Orlando, tarnished just slightly by knowing that our flight home boarded at 6:40 a.m. on Sunday. We pulled out all the No Dollars a Day stops.

We started out at the Art of Animation resort (starting at $105 per night, excluding tax), the newest of the "value" Disney hotels (starting at $85 per night, excluding tax). I love new hotels. It opened in late 2012 but we've never made our plans far enough in advance to get a reservation. At 11 in the morning it was a hive of activity. The line at check-in went on forever. The concession area was teaming with people. The pool was jam-packed and to my dismay, it was fenced and required a room key for access.

Part of the No Dollars a Day plan is the fact that you could, if you wanted to swim, wear a swimsuit under your clothing, grab a towel from the towel wagon and plop down on a chaise. Not that Neil and I would dream of swimming, but I like the idea as an option in the best seller I visualize writing. I hope this isn't some new Disney trend of locking down the resort pools.

We walked around the grounds a bit, getting away from the crowd. There's a bridge to the Pop Century over Hourglass Lake that no one uses or possibly has ever used. Neil figures it cost three million dollars to build. It would make a beautiful picnic spot, if one hadn't had a hot Hampton breakfast fairly recently.


After that, we decided to visit a "moderate" Disney resort (starting at $167 per night, excluding tax), so we pulled the Coronado Springs resort out of a hat. We loved it. The check-in area was peaceful and gracious. The colors - teal and cinnamon - were soothing. The lake that the hotel encircles was scenic and tranquil.


Neil got a caffè mocha and I got one of the best, if not the best, iced mocha smoothies that I've ever had, all the more enjoyable for the price, $3.89. Whipped cream? Hell to the yes! We took a stroll around the lake and had an above-average gift shop experience when the ceramic animals and vases in the display case turned out to be a bargain $9.95.

Did I mention we loved it? Did I mention I want to stay there next year (maybe)? Did I mention the rooms for two go up to $261 per night if you want a lake view? You also can blow $1,020 per night (excluding tax) on a suite that sleeps six, if you want to bring four close friends.

Our DoNDaD tour continued with a stop at the Saratoga Springs resort. We got a bandaid and some sploogey cooling gel for Neil's blistered toe, walked around a bit and took a boat ride to the treehouse villas. There and back again. I love all the free Disney transportation. (We didn't ride the monorail this trip, but it definitely will be in the book.)


From there we headed to the resort area loop that includes the Swan and Dolphin (no free parking), the Boardwalk, Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts. High cotton. I have to say, I loved all the fairy tale colors. And the flowers.


This time our characterless dinner was a sumptuous seafood buffet at the Beach Club. We wandered around on the beach side first, then dined on seafood bisque, calamari salad, fried clams, steamed shrimp, salads, side dishes and desserts to die for.

After dinner we people-watched from the second floor balcony for a while before heading back for an early night before an early flight home.

I've been home for two days and I've made beads twice. Muses must love Walt Disney World too.


There's a time that comes once every morning
When you choose the kind of day you will have
It comes in with the sun and you know you've begun
To live the life you dream
You can light all your candles to the dawn
And surrender yourself to the sunrise
You can make it wrong you can make it right
You can live the life you dream

Pray to Buddha, pray to Krishna, pray to Jesus
Or the shadow of the devil on your wall
Anyone you call will come

The night comes to you dressed in darkness
Descends on your body like a blessing
You can lie in its arms it will heal your heart
You can life the life you dream
You can wake in this vale of tears
You can laugh like a child again
You can make it right you can make it wrong
You can live the life you dream

What you see and you believe is not the answer
To anything that matters very much
Anything you touch is gone

In the valleys you look for the mountains
In the mountains you search for the rivers
You have nowhere to go you are where you belong
You can live the life you dream
If you call him your master will find you
Seven bars on the door will not hold him
Seven fires burning bright only give him delight
You can live the life you dream

All your treasure buys you nothing but the moment
All your poverty has cost you everything
Love will teach your dream to sing

Judy Collins

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Laughing last

"I only wanted to catch your attention, but you overlooked me somehow."

Wouldn't you know it. I finally feel inspired to torch again and it's 37 degrees here in Sugar Land at half past noon.

Yesterday morning I ramped up the kiln. The temperature seemed promising although threatening to drop off in the afternoon. But as soon as I opened the garage door, chilly winds blew around and I felt them in my bones.

I've let myself get bone cold torching recently and not only is it difficult for me to get warm again afterward, it's a creativity killer.

When I still had a day job and the only time to torch was whatever time I could carve out, I'd just bundle up and endure. Layers, vest, coat, hat, fingerless gloves, a space heater at my feet, the garage door cracked open just a foot for return air. I pushed myself through the misery. It was all I had.

Now I can tell myself it will warm up again in a few days and the glass still will be there. It's not like I don't have other things to do.

I've stayed busy, photographing beads, listing new items, packing what I've sold, selling some of the glass I don't use. I'm reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and after a slow start, it's almost gripping. I slogged through Bryson's book, At Home (A Short History of Private Life) and found it tedious, but I'm enjoying this one.

I haven't been back to Animal Services yet. My last cat bite scab came off yesterday, but the bite scar is still quite obvious. My goal right now is to go back next week and see how it goes. I've been doing three miles on the treadmill most days and walking around the lake with Neil on most other days. I'm into Season Five of Inspector Morse. I have another deadline coming up for a Glass Bead Evolution article.

Funny, I just googled Glass Bead Evolution to get the link. Google thoughtfully suggested that I Shop for Glass Bead Evolution on Google and one of my bead sets popped up on the right.

I'm suspicious of Google. After I searched for (and bought) a vacuum cleaner, Facebook started showing me vacuum cleaner ads. For the exact brand I ordered. I did a search for "why people overeat" because I'm worried about a family member, and Facebook showed me ads for Weight Watchers.

My bead set might have had a legitimate reason to pop up though. I name my beads sets, after song lyrics, because I listen to iTunes while I'm on the computer and I'm lazy that way. I named this particular bead set Edge of Evolution (props to Alanis Morissette). So it may actually be that others searching for Glass Bead Evolution, the magazine, see my bead set too. I'd be curious to know.

I might have to start naming my bead sets for predictable searches that have glass and bead and something else in the search terms.

I found some interesting insights into the reasons people overeat.

According to Web MD, fat, salt, sugar, and brain chemistry are among the forces driving overeating. It's an addictive behavior akin to alcohol or drug abuse or gambling. Understanding this is the first step to changing it.

In susceptible people, consuming junk food stimulates endorphins that calm them down and make them feel good. Like with other addictive substances, tolerance builds and escalation of junk food intake is needed to maintain the feelings.

"Diets don't work, we've known this for years. Obesity has nothing to do with food," proclaims a 2013 article in the Huffington Post. When a person emotionally overeats, he or she is trying to fulfill unmet needs. The person starts building relationships with favorite foods. The article compares this to the way children in our culture are offered
cookies and sweets to kids to make them feel better.

A website called Best Health cites four reasons for overindulgence - habit, lack of awareness, eating too quickly, and what I see as the most serious reason, eating as a result of fatigue or depression. Sweet foods such as chocolate cause your body to release hormones which can lift mood. Sugars especially are processed by the body very rapidly and create immediate reward responses.

I found the most comprehensive - and most discouraging - acumen about overeating in an article published in Psychology Today in 2012. "Like any addictive substance, food is often used to cover over or subdue emotional pain. It is used to numb us or soothe us," the article started out. "Many of us eat for reasons other than to nourish our bodies or even to enjoy one of life’s pleasures."

But why? The article explains that a person struggling with an emotional emptiness may have trouble distinguishing real feelings of hunger from a desire to fill herself up.

Further paraphrasing the article, people with eating disorders disregard their own values and goals in relation to health, looks, and lifestyle. They use food to punish themselves, or to gain a sense of control. Instead of using it to fuel their bodies, they use food to fuel a cycle of self-hatred and self-protection. To challenge an unhealthy relationship with food, a person must deal with an internal enemy.

I think it was this chapter summary from an ersatz publication titled "Mind over Fat" (a book not to be found on Amazon or similar commercial media venues) that made the deepest impression on me. Because, you know, if you read it on the web, then it must be the truth. Still some of it had the ring of truth, a harsh flat note in this case.

The article or chapter postulates that overeating actually serves some helpful function for the individual. The example given is of someone who has had a traumatic relationship experience. If creating an overweight body reduces the person's attractiveness, this serves as a (subconscious) form of protection from advances by the opposite sex.

Also, asserts the article, an individual's appearance can actually be seen as a barometer of self-esteem. An overweight person is displaying to the world how she or he really feels inside. An unhealthy exterior reflects a troubled self-image, in essence saying, see how much I dislike myself, how needy I am, how I must rely on overeating to derive any sense of pleasure.

OK, this may be an extreme position. How much credence can you really put in an article that has "FATPAPER" in its URL? Or in an author who writes, "In referring to overweight conditions as fat or fatness, no disrespect to the individual is intended."

Still, I do agree with the premise that the roots of overeating are deep and stem from how a person feels about themselves. Overeating is not merely about consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat-laden foods, or enjoying them enough to give society's weight paradigm the proverbial finger. And society certainly judges the overweight. I am judgmental about it myself. Yes, mostly I am concerned about health but part of me is disturbed about appearance and image. If I value my own well-being enough to practice self-control, to work out and make sensible diet choices, why won't this family member, this person I love, do the same?

And I am locked in silence because no one can ever tell anyone anything. When it comes to our bodies, we are the only ones who can decide how we want to manage their care and feeding. I know that. I know that saying something holds the risk of a backlash, of deliberate defiance by the information recipient, just to prove who is really running that show.

Besides, this family member is quite bright, gifted if you believe the labels, and knows all this without my having to make the speech. All I can do is watch and role model and hope. And love and accept. And do nothing more. When you witness someone you love sabotaging their own health and damaging their own body, doing nothing always is harder than doing something.

Speaking of doing nothing, I posted the last chapter in my memoir of the events of 2001 and 2002, that time when I fell into the abyss of love and loss and crawled and clawed my way back to the surface. If you stayed with me, you know I started the story on August 13 and continued it through 35 posts (is that truly possible?), taking a short break only for three posts in October when my mom was shutting down and shuffling off.

Over four and a half months I retraced the story of those 16 roller-coaster months of my life, meeting Marty, loving him, losing him, grieving him, grieving him ad nauseam, letting go, moving on, making peace with the past and opening myself up to the rest of my life. I've said what I needed to say and I'm glad and you're no doubt gladder.

There is an amusing little epilogue to the story that I can't resist adding before I close the book. It's a Facebook story. I joined Facebook in January 2008. That is to say, I set up a page but did nothing with it. I used a nickname instead of my real name, added no friends, posted no photos, made no comments, shared nothing. Basically I forgot about it. It must have been late 2008 when I got a friend request from Marty.

Facebook was just starting to go viral among adults then. I only know the approximate timing of Marty's request because it was then I actually gave my page a reality makeover, added a few friends, tweaked my privacy settings, updated my profile and posted my first pictures.

I thought about not accepting Marty's request. I was married to Neil then, happier than I'd ever been and not accepting would have given me satisfaction of a sort. But I was curious about what he could possibly want to say to me. And I didn't mind allowing him a glimpse of my radiant happiness, my enchanted life, my handsome husband, my flourishing children, my mansion on a hill. In your face brother. How do you like me now?

So after I gussied up my page a bit, I accepted his friend request.

The story is that there is no story. For the two whole weeks we were Facebook friends, Marty said nothing to me personally. In retrospect, I'm sure he didn't deliberately seek my "friendship." My email address was probably still somewhere on his computer and Facebook no doubt thoughtfully offered to befriend all his email contacts. More than likely, he didn't even know he'd sent me the request, but I suspect he figured it out after the fact. It's a suspicion based on nothing. I updated my relationship status to "married," he updated his to "in a relationship." Big deal.

I read enough on Facebook to conclude that he hadn't changed. He was still funny, still a flirt, still downing martinis like there was no tomorrow, still madly in love with himself. And apparently he still had nothing to say to me. So after a couple of weeks I "unfriended" him. And that was so much more satisfying than simply not accepting his request would have been.

In some small symbolic way, it was as though, in the end, I'd been given the choice to leave him. And I'd taken it.


"I was always the crazy one
I broke into the stadium
And I wrote your number on the 50 yard line
You were always the perfect one
And the valedictorian
So under your number
I wrote "call for a good time"

I only wanted to catch your attention
But you overlooked me somehow
Besides you had too many boyfriends to mention
And I played my guitar too loud.

How do you like me now?

How do you like me now,
Now that I'm on my way?
Do you still think I'm crazy
Standing here today?
I couldn't make you love me
But I always dreamed about
Living in your radio
How do you like me now?

When I took off to Tennessee
I heard that you made fun of me
Never imagined I'd make it this far
Then you married into money girl
Aint it a cruel and funny world?
He took your dreams and tore them apart

He never comes home
And you're always alone
And your kids hear you crying down the hall
Alarm clock starts ringing
Who could that be singing
Its me baby, with your wake up call

How do you like me now?

How do you like me now,
Now that I'm on my way?
Do you still think I'm crazy
Standing here today?
I couldn't make you love me
But I always dreamed about
Living in your radio
How do you like me now?

Tell me baby
I will preach on."

(Toby Keith)