Monthly Archives: February 2010

High Class Problems

I can’t seem to get my ass in gear to complete some fairly simply assignments from my book editor. Yes I’m busier than ever with my caseload at work and now I’m training for a fall marathon three or four times a week.  The running helps me in too many ways to name and is a cure for insomnia.  Plus, please start the violins here or just play a fucking crescendo from the saddest symphony ever, I do all of the shopping and cooking at my house.  Nevermind that Fred does all the cleaning up and deals with the cat litter and trash.

I’m pretty sure if I just won the Colorado Lottery, no, it would have to be the multi-state Powerball, I could finish the rewrites of my book a lot more quickly, in between twice-weekly massages, directing a staff of nice, bright people I hired as part of my philanthropic organization, planning healthy, amazing meals with my gluten-free expert  personal chef, Pietro and writing a witty blog about achieving balance in the midst of instant, enormous wealth.

But at the moment God seems to have a different plan for me, although I keep buying lottery tickets every week.

I met with my high school counselor in the spring of 1980 near the end of my junior year.  For some reason my then-stepmother attended this session with me.  The counselor was tired, overwhelmed and did not seem nearly as delighted with me as I was.  My stepmother had an annoying habit of telling me I would not amount to much and this was my opportunity to prove to her my future was unbelievably bright.  As is often the case, things did not unfold according to my plan.

I began with a concise summation of my excellent, clearly achievable goals:  eventually I would be a full-time, best-selling writer living in a cabin outside of Crested Butte, working the winters as a ski patrolwoman to stave off cabin fever.  To achieve that, I would go to college and medical school, have a brilliant, lucrative career as a neurosurgeon and retire at about 40.  Then I would retreat to my cabin, my writing and my ski patrolling.  I added I had a Plan B, which was, if medicine didn’t suit me, I would become a lawyer, have an equally brilliant and lucrative career (I wasn’t sure what lawyers did so I didn’t elaborate), retire at 40 as planned and write those bestselling novels in my cabin outside of Crested Butte.  I noticed the counselor didn’t seem to pay attention and hurriedly glanced through my file.  He had no superlatives to toss in my direction and instead said in a tired voice,  “You should try to get into community college somewhere to get an associate’s degree in something so you won’t make minimum wage for the rest of your life.  Your grades are OK but don’t show you are particularly talented in anything, or more importantly, focused on any one area.  These disciplinary issues don’t help you at all.  Stop mouthing off.  You excel at nothing, you have no activities listed, no volunteer work and no community involvement.  Colleges are not going to be interested in you, plus, as your mother (I interrupted him to say, “Stepmother!”) said, there’s no money to pay for higher education.”  My stepmother nodded in agreement, looking relieved.  I, meanwhile, was stunned.  I figured Ivy League schools would fight over me once I applied and maybe a scholarship-laden bidding war would quickly ensue.  

As we left, my stepmother told me I would have to live at home with her and the Colonel, work full-time for minimum wage and attend community college.  She reiterated, as she had since I met her in 9th grade, that my financial salvation lay in marrying well.

When I called my real mother, who was in the middle of her cancer treatment doing the Gerson Therapy near Tecate, Mexico, she exploded, “Fuck them, that’s your father’s sexist bullshit permeating this whole bullshit scene!  Don’t listen to another word from Mary or that fucking so-called counselor!”  She made me feel instantly better and we made plans for me to come out there for the summer to help her with her 8 fresh fruit and vegetable juices per day, including raw calves’ liver juice, her laetrile, B-12 shots, organic meals of steamed veggies and brown rice and her endless coffee enemas.  She said, “Ree, this college trip will come together and don’t let the bozos get you down.”

For my senior year I took three AP courses where I got As, volunteered with at-risk kids at a YoungLife camp even though I was faking my Christian affiliation, joined French Club and about 10 other clubs and wrote incredibly bad but often-published poetry for the school’s literary magazine (it helped being a co-editor).  I mouthed off at my teachers less too.  I was wait-listed at Dartmouth and eventually got in but was about $20,000 per year short on tuition and expenses.  But then came the letter from Pacific University, the “safety” school with the nice brochure of a rolling, green campus filled with giant trees and young, happy white people, with a few Hawaiians thrown in for diversity.  A full academic scholarship with conditions, most of which I met during my years there.  So I am grateful for P.U.

Today I want to be able to write that I am grateful all the time for every little thing and all the obvious big things that have led me to this perfect moment on a beautiful Sunday morning.  But I’m trying not to flat-out lie these days.  And rumor has it the truth shall set me free.

Still, if I write a Gratitude List, I get a sliver of perspective for a few moments.  I wish I knew how to make the gratitude I feel when I look at the list last but I don’t.  That I have a really nice roof over my head, food in the larder, a good job, functioning wheels, a host of friends and family that love me, plus that wonderful husband and that I have an editor for my book escapes me too often.  My sense of entitlement can permeate everything like a cloud of pesticide fog and it is just as poisonous.

So today, at least after the U.S. kicks Canadian ass in Olympic hockey, I will do ONE thing on my book and write down a gratitude list, maybe not in that order.

And I’ll also go out and buy a few lottery tickets for Wednesday night’s drawing.

 

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Sugar, Hair Bands and Bears

Last night Fred called me while I was driving home from work and said, excitedly, “I’m walking the dog near the golf course and I see bear tracks!”

“Farquar (pet name), get the hell out of there, it’s probably really hungry if it woke up this early!”

Then, as we used to say on the radio, all I heard was dead air.  Finally, “What are you talking about, why would I be afraid?”

“Because of the bear!”

“What bear?” He said slowly in a patient, Now-Marie kind of voice.

“You said you saw bear tracks.”

“No, I said bare tracks; someone is running barefoot in the snow!”

“Oh, um, cool.  Did you see him or her?”

“No, but the tracks show feet and clearly deliniated toes, human ones that is.”

“Get out.  Hey, look closer for me, is there any pattern or design imprinted in the tracks?”

“Yep.”

“Then those aren’t bare feet, those are Vibram Five-Finger foot glove coverings and I ordered some for my birthday, they should be here in March.”

“Well the tracks make it look like someone’s running barefoot in the snow.”

“OK, do we need anything from Whole Foods besides salad and chicken?”

Sometimes I wonder if the way Fred and I communicate is always like this.  Hit and miss, but mostly on my part.  But I think the misunderstanding could be because I quit sugar cold turkey on Sunday and I also took my coffee intake down from about 10 cups a day plus or minus a few shots of espresso to 1 or 2 cups a day without the espresso.  My 3-day headache from sugar and caffeine withdrawal is nearly gone now.  It may have been exacerbated though by my stylish head band that is constricting my cranium and causing a problem in the lobe responsible for communication.

You might be thinking I could simply choose to wear something stylish that does not attempt to painfully re-shape my cranium.  Further, because I am past the end of puberty, my epiphyseal cartilage cells stopped duplicating some time ago and the entire cartilage was, albeit slowly, replaced by bone, leaving only a thin epiphyseal line.  Thus any attempt to manipulate the now immovable bones that make up my skull, even with a very stylish but cruelly designed head band, is not only excruciating but futile.  Sort of like my running career, but I digress.

I can also simply choose not to eat things with sugar in them.  But as devoted as I am to looking stylishly professional, I do not have any withdrawal symptoms if I am on, say, vacation and choosing to not wear my fantastic professional wardrobe and accessories.  I do; however, go through severe (even for a drama queen) withdrawals when I stop eating sugar, which I decide to do every once  in a while, like on Sunday.

Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., author of Lick The Sugar Habit, (get it, get it?), states on Dr. Mercola’s website (www.mercola.com and don’t believe everything you read on that website because he’s always selling something, even his mostly good information), “In addition to throwing off the body’s homeostasis, excess sugar may result in a number of other significant consequences.  The following is a listing of some of sugar’s metabolic consequences from a variety of medical journals and other scientific publications.”

So here is the daunting, dare I say, slightly hysterical, list of the annoying things this Dr. Nancy Appleton states about sugar in her article:

  1. Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.1,2
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium. 3,4,5,6
  3. Sugar can cause can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.7,8
  4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.9,10,11,12
  5. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.13
  6. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.14,15,16,17,18,19,20
  7. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.21,22
  8. Sugar can weaken eyesight.23
  9. Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.24,25,26,27,28
  10. Sugar can cause premature aging.29
  11. Sugar can lead to alcoholism.30
  12. Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.31,32,33
  13. Sugar contributes to obesity.34
  14. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis.35,36,37
  15. Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)38
  16. Sugar can cause gallstones.39
  17. Sugar can cause appendicitis.40
  18. Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.41
  19. Sugar can cause varicose veins.42
  20. Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.43
  21. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.44
  22. Sugar can cause a decrease in your insulin sensitivity thereby causing an abnormally high insulin levels and eventually diabetes.45,46,47
  23. Sugar can lower your Vitamin E levels.48
  24. Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.49
  25. Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.50
  26. High sugar intake increases advanced glycation end products (AGEs)(Sugar molecules attaching to and thereby damaging proteins in the body).51
  27. Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.52
  28. Sugar causes food allergies.53
  29. Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.54
  30. Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.55
  31. Sugar can cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.56,57
  32. Sugar can impair the structure of your DNA.58
  33. Sugar can change the structure of protein and cause a permanent alteration of the way the proteins act in your body.59,60
  34. Sugar can make your skin age by changing the structure of collagen.61
  35. Sugar can cause cataracts and nearsightedness.62,63
  36. Sugar can cause emphysema.64
  37. High sugar intake can impair the physiological homeostasis of many systems in your body.65
  38. Sugar lowers the ability of enzymes to function.66
  39. Sugar intake is higher in people with Parkinson’s disease.67
  40. Sugar can increase the size of your liver by making your liver cells divide and it can increase the amount of liver fat.68,69
  41. Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney such as the formation of kidney stones.70,71
  42. Sugar can damage your pancreas.72
  43. Sugar can increase your body’s fluid retention.73
  44. Sugar is enemy #1 of your bowel movement.74
  45. Sugar can compromise the lining of your capillaries.75
  46. Sugar can make your tendons more brittle.76
  47. Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.77
  48. Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children’s grades and cause learning disorders.78,79
  49. Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves which can alter your mind’s ability to think clearly.80
  50. Sugar can cause depression.81
  51. Sugar can increase your risk of gout.82
  52. Sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.83
  53. Sugar can cause hormonal imbalances such as: increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone.84,85,86,87
  54. Sugar can lead to dizziness.88
  55. Diets high in sugar will increase free radicals and oxidative stress.89
  56. High sucrose diets of subjects with peripheral vascular disease significantly increases platelet adhesion.90
  57. High sugar consumption of pregnant adolescents can lead to substantial decrease in gestation duration and is associated with a twofold increased risk for delivering a small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infant.91,92
  58. Sugar is an addictive substance.93
  59. Sugar can be intoxicating, similar to alcohol.94
  60. Sugar given to premature babies can affect the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.95
  61. Decrease in sugar intake can increase emotional stability.96
  62. Your body changes sugar into 2 to 5 times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch.97
  63. The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects.98
  64. Sugar can worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).99
  65. Sugar adversely affects urinary electrolyte composition.100
  66. Sugar can slow down the ability of your adrenal glands to function.101
  67. Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.102
  68. I.V.s (intravenous feedings) of sugar water can cut off oxygen to your brain.103
  69. Sugar increases your risk of polio.104
  70. High sugar intake can cause epileptic seizures.105
  71. Sugar causes high blood pressure in obese people.106
  72. In intensive care units: Limiting sugar saves lives.107
  73. Sugar may induce cell death.108
  74. In juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a 44 percent drop in antisocial behavior.109
  75. Sugar dehydrates newborns.110
  76. Sugar can cause gum disease.111

And for you sticklers, all 111 footnotes can be found at Dr. Mercola’s website if you’re interested (I’m clearly not or I would have cut and pasted them here).

Other than those 76 things, sugar is awesome and makes stuff taste really good.  I remain a big fan, but cautiously so, like being a fan of cruel but fashionable hair bands, not the kind from the Eighties like Whitesnake, but the kind that keep your hair out of your eyes while making you look neat and professional.  So just for today, for these 24 hours, I am sugar and hair band free.

Photo below should serve to caution those who think 3 year olds and chocolate are a great mix.

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Survival

I was scanning old photos from some crumbling family albums at Kinko’s/FedEx last weekend when I came across this one.  In my mother’s cheerful handwriting on the back of the photo it simply says, “Michael, age 10 1/2 months.”  Now I know it was 1961 and things were different but this seems like a precarious place for an infant, even 50 years ago.

Survival is a noun that means the act of staying alive or in existence, especially after facing life-threatening danger.  Synonyms include existence, endurance, being, subsistence and persistence.  Antonyms include death.

I don’t know that my childhood was more dangerous than anyone else’s, except maybe the Beaver on Leave It To Beaver.  But Beaver was not real.  I sometimes wanted a mother who vacuumed in high heels and had warm cookies waiting for us when we came home from school.  Instead we got Mom who chain-smoked joints and ranted about the military industrial complex and French Intensive organic farming.  And we all survived her although she did not survive us.

I survived a lot of things.  Multiple vaccinations by well-meaning Air Force doctors and nurses before flying to Japan in 1967 and again before going to the Philippines in 1972, skiing without helmets from about 1966 to about 5 years ago, car accidents, good and bad jobs, traveling around Europe with only a train pass, a backpack and $243 for 6 weeks in 1983, working almost full-time in college and full-time in law school, my mother’s illnesses and death, The Grateful Dead and so much more.  On one trip in Europe and Morocco at age 21, in 1984 I survived a train derailment in Portugual.  I camped alone in the West Elk Wilderness starting at age 13, hitchhiked all over Gunnison County and from Crested Butte to Aspen as a young teen, getting mugged by a bunch of high school kids on a Manhattan subway one Christmas Eve, being jumped by 5 guys in Central Park in broad daylight (fought my way out of that one until they miraculously gave up), getting dysentery in a remote part of Corfu while camping in an olive grove, having my wallet, passport and other papers stolen on the subway in Paris, having my apartment burgled in Manhattan, having our house burn down in Crested Butte in 1972, skiing off a cliff and crashing into a tree (pre-helmet days) and ending up hanging from a different tree by 1 ski about 15 feet off the ground, getting swept out to sea off Long Island (had to get rescued by boat), getting stung by jellyfish in the South China Sea, etc.

And of course I lived through a lot of easier moments.  But even the hard moments don’t seem remarkable because everyone goes through hard stuff.  I heard someone say today, “The good news was that I was 8 feet from the fairway, the bad news was that it wasn’t the right fairway.”  That’s me much of the time.  And to just keep playing instead of sitting there pissed off at myself for, as our last president said, “misunderestimating” the lie of the ball.  The point is to keep playing with some humility and some humor.  And humility is definitely not for sissies.  Neither is survival.

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Marital Advice

About eleven and a half years ago, on the morning of my one and only wedding so far, my dad pulled me aside.  He said, “I want to tell you something Ree.”  I sat down with a cup of coffee, hoping, at 35, this would not be a somewhat overdue discussion of how babies were made.

“Whatever happens, don’t have any kids.  No one wants to date a divorced woman with kids.”

This from the man who was bringing a married woman as his date to the ceremony and reception that day.  A man who previously married two divorced women with kids, although one was my mother and that was his second marriage to her.  The first marriage to her was when she was an unmarried woman with a baby.  His baby.

But this was not atypical advice from him so I tucked his nugget of wisdom away and proceeded as best I could with my lawfully wedded life.

The day was wonderful, except for a few, minor flaws, like when I bit into my cornish game hen and realized it was stuffed with something so putrid it might be actionable.  Rather than vomit on my gown, I swallowed the rising bile in my throat and felt grateful some guests chose the salmon.  Then, in front of dear Father Jim Koenigsfeld, an old friend asked where “so-and-so” was sitting.  I told her, “I put all of the most blatent adulterers at the same table.”  Father Jim choked a little on his salmon and smiled.  I asserted defensively that grouping the adulterers was good planning.

One  of the more spectacular moments occurred during the traditional hurling of the bouquet.  My dad’s married 60-something date, who looked like she’d stuffed herself into a prom dress a few sizes too small, elbowed my willowy cousins and other unmarried friends out of the way to tackle the flying flowers like Burt Reynolds in the last scene from The Longest Yard.  My nine-year old niece barely made it out the melee unscathed.  It was another precious moment captured for the ages in a savage looking photograph.  And none of us ever saw her again, not even my dad.

It’s been weeks since my last blog post because I’ve been sick, too busy at my pesky day job and clearly overwhelmed by the first wave of editorial feedback on my book.  My cold came over me and I could not just let myself rest like a normal person.  I kept plugging away at my career because that’s what I do.  Plus a looming trial sucked the life out of me.  Now the trial is just a day and a half away.  Litigators should never get sick.  Because the cold morphed into a sinus infection, it was suggested I try a Neti Pot, which I did once long ago.  Since that experience, self-administered water boarding, is frowned by the International Court of Justice at the Hague, I happily gave it up.  The Neti Pot now rests on a shelf, posing quietly like any other conversational piece of pottery, it’s dark past as an instrument of torture hidden from the outside world.

The comments from my editor were excellent, encouraging and will make the book much better.  Still, in these last few phlegmy weeks I can’t seem to get back into the book.  Most likely I can blame my resistance on my aversion to the Neti Pot and really, anything associated with Dick Cheney.

But once my trial is over on Friday, I plan the following:

1.  Barefoot running outside, not just on the treadmill;

2.  Putting together a really good slideshow for my husband’s 60th birthday party;

3.  Following through on all of the suggestions my editor gave me regarding my book;

4.  Posting more frequently on my blog so I don’t lose my 4 subscribers;

5.  Being nicer to my husband since, when he picked up my prescription for antibiotics last night, he also picked up a dozen red roses for no reason at all;

6.  Being grateful to my parents, both of them, for their nutty advice and their flawed love;

7.  Getting to sleep earlier since I can’t change my wake up time, at least during the week; and

8.  Never getting sick again.

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