Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Beginnings - or is it starting over?

Almost immediately after I posted my last blog, my car broke down again.  I stepped on the clutch pedal and "SNAP", just like the last time.  Only this time, the pedal did not come back up.  It was stuck to the floor and I was unable to shift at all.  Fortunately, it happened right outside my apartment and the repair shop is at the gas station across the street.  So I pushed it in and called them the next day to tell them what happened. They called me a little later to tell me that this time was the clutch cable and not anything that they fixed in January.  So it wasn't covered by warranty and I would now have to pay another 130.00.
I set the thought aside because I was leaving for a weekend trip with friends to attend the wedding of two other friends.  Lori and BC have been together for a couple of years.  And they are so perfect together.  I knew Lori only briefly before she started dating BC, so I had nothing to compare it too.  But whenever I have seen them together, they are always respectful, loving and kind to each other.
Off I went for a weekend adventure.  I had a fabulous time, in spite of my worries about money - how would I pay for the car repairs?  I didn't think about how much I was eating or drinking.  I danced and sang and talked and walked.  I soaked up the sun and huddled under blankets to keep away the cold.
My phone had no service and so I had no email, Facebook, or text messages, until Sunday. It was rather freeing to be able to ignore the real world.
But now the real world is back with a bang.  And I'm not very happy here.  Money worked out okay.  I didn't have to over extend myself, which is a good thing.  But I am still too close to the edge!
Today is supposed to be that weird day in which you show appreciation to your admin at work.  Which is what I am.  And apparently I am not appreciated.  It's not enough that I have to motivate myself to do the drudgery that is my job, it really pisses me off when I find that all my efforts are wasted as no one really notices or cares what I do anyway.  Until I don't do it of course.   So I'm feeling a little abused and ignored.
As if that wasn't enough to depress me - I saw pictures of myself from the wedding. I am HUGE!  I can't keep up this way.  Something has to change now.  Clearly little steps are not making a difference here.  Time to get aggressive and get back into shape.  I have tried my whole adult life to avoid food issues and rating my self worth by my body image, but this time I have to be honest.  I am heavier than I have ever been in my life.  Heavier than I was at 9 months pregnant with my 8lb 15oz. Bridgete.  I have about 5 things in my closet I can still wear.
So I'm stopping the sugar, giving up the carbs, no more wine or any alcohol.  And every single day I will walk, stretch, yoga, Pilates, something to shed the pounds and find the body that I can feel good about.  Do I expect to be able to all this immediately?  No.  But I did go 40 days without wine....and almost 20 days without bread.  I ought to be able to start, one by one, taking on the toxic foods and behaviors that have led me here.  Wish me luck.  If you don't hear from me, you'll know I lost it and drank and ate everything in my home. And because my life loves irony, I'll probably choke on a peanut m&m. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lent is over - now what?

Sunday was the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.  I had a lovely white Bordeaux last night with some extra sharp Cheddar cheese and it was quite lovely.  I made it through the 40 days and here I am.
Am I different?  Maybe.  I know that I am feeling the need to comment on certain things...things I usually close my mouth about and trust that people who know better than I do will do the right thing.
My country is in a mess.  Our government is divisive and would rather engage in pointing fingers at the other side than getting serious and really trying to fix things. People are so overwhelmed with information that they can't be sure who is telling the truth or what will help.  Every paycheck I have less and less discretionary money as the basics in my world are costing more and more. I work for a quasi government agency, so the general public thinks I'm overpaid and have better benefits than they do.  I may have better benefits, I will give them that.  But they aren't free.  I pay a portion of my premium.   My out of pocket has increased.  My co pay on prescriptions has increased and that's just my health care. I haven't had a raise, not even a COLA in 3 years.  Food is more expensive.  Gasoline is more expensive. Any day now, I expect my rent to go up - and then I'll have to move.  Because I just can't do more.
There are a lot of reasons for the current economic state.  You can look it all up.  The Mortgage bubble, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, the Bush tax cuts, the Clinton tax increases, NAFTA, China, Medicare, Social Security, Boomers, children of boomers, Me generations, You generations...yours mine ours....So here's my take on it.
30 years ago, a man named Ronald Reagan was elected President.  He promised to bring a new morning to America. He built his economic policy based on the Chicago School of Economics and a guy named Milton Friedman.  It was called supply side economics. This was kind of how it was supposed to work.  Give people more control over their money.  Take less in taxes and people will use that surplus to buy more goods, but they will also contribute more to non-profit organizations that support the causes they care about.  The government wouldn't have to worry about better schools, better hospitals and health care, better assistance programs for the poor. Corporations would support their communities with the vast amounts of money they would now have - and jobs - well jobs would be everywhere!  And unions wouldn't be around anymore because those altruistic employers would take care of their employees - because at heart we all want to do the right thing. 
30 years later, I think it's safe to say that those policies have failed. Investment and job creation has not happened. Prosperity is still for a few and those few are even farther away from the rest of us.  The gap between the have and the have nots is as wide as I can ever remember it being.  And those at the top are so out of touch with the rest of us, they can't even imagine the things we have to cope with.
Just look at a few celebrity blogs like Gwyneth Paltrow.  She's out there telling young mom's it's possible to be just like her - all you need is a chef, a trainer, a nanny and good genes.  Does she honestly even hear herself when she says things like ‎"Pumpkin soup, grilled market vegetables. It’s good. I get my chef to cook it."

I know there are good people out there, people who do invest their time and their money in making a better world for all, not just for some or for those like them.  I know that times are tough for small businesses.  And I know that everyone is looking for a little relief.  But I think it's time to look at some hard facts.  
The poor DO pay takes and the rich DO NOT bear the burden.
No one lives tax free.  Even if you don't pay income tax because you simply don't earn more than $9350 ( 18,700 for married couples) - there are still taxes; alcohol tax, gas tax, sales tax, property tax, etc.  As for the wealthy, while the top 10 percent do pay a 38% tax rate, income tax is not the entire tax burden.  Social Security, Medicare and unemployment are mostly paid by the rest of us.  As for income tax, the wealthy have loopholes, tax shelters, and manage to look broke on paper - they actually pay little or no income tax.
Is it any surprise that since Reagan, the rich are the only ones who have gotten richer?  Since 1980, the average income in America has increased 1%.  Those at the top?  Their income has nearly doubled.
Corporations?  Well, they're people too.  Corporate profits are up, but thanks to loopholes and tax breaks, their taxes are down nearly 23% since 2000. And the tax breaks there have not created jobs.  In fact they have destroyed them.  Imagine you're a corporation.  You have a profit which you can reinvest in your company or you can hand it out in bonuses to your execs and dividends to your stockholders.  If you tax rate is 23% less than it was last year, then why would you try to reduce your profits by reinvesting?
Quite simply - our government has failed us.  They have failed to create a smarter tax system and failed to develop smarter spending policies.  The average America works longer hours and have fewer benefits for their work than most other countries.  While those countries arguable have higher tax rates than we do, they also get more from their taxes.  They have national health care systems.  Retirees are not unfairly burdened.  Education is low cost or free and does not drive the next generation into debt before they are even employed.
It's time to develop a system in this country that benefits the majority, reduces risk due to illness or job loss, and provides universal health care.
I want our government to stop debating about who or what caused it and get serious about fixing it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lent - Day 38

I can't believe my 40 days are nearly over.  My wine merchant is so glad to know I'll be back soon.  Actually, not too soon.  I have 6 beautiful wines that she has picked out for me just waiting to be sipped and savored. 
It's been a very interesting week.  After my family weekend, there has been a lot of family activity.  It all started because my oldest brother Jim wanted one of us girls to do a mtDNA test.  He and my sister Nancy have some notion that there is a Native American Indian somewhere in the family blood line.  They are a bit disappointed that I am only finding English and German ancestry.  So I have sent for a kit and will be testing.  I don't expect to find anything terribly surprising - but if there is one thing I've learned with my family history work it's that there are plenty of surprises.
Last week on NBC's WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?, Ashley Judd found out that she was related to one of the original Mayflower Pilgrims - William Brewster.  I was distracted during the program because I had the distinct feeling that I had seen that name in my own family history.  I knew that through my grandmother Allie Spooner, I had a connection to the early Americans, and to Plymouth Mass.  So I pulled up my family tree on my computer and searched for the name William Brewster.  There he was!  It turned out that his half-sister, Prudence married a man named Richard Peck, and their daughter Ann was married to John James Spooner.  They had two sons, William and Thomas who came over to Plymouth as indentured servants in 1638 - 18 years after the Mayflower.  I am descended from William's line - and it's very clear descent because it's all sons until my grandmother Allie. 
Also this week, I may have found a long lost cousin.  Actually, she's probably no longer living - she was a child of my Uncle Bob's first marriage and was always just a rumor until I stumbled on a name in a census and that led to a birth record.  I'm waiting to see if some of her living relatives can confirm this for me.  Or if she even knew who her real father was.  (My Uncle was an alcoholic and a bit of a rascal in his young years.  He was my father's oldest brother and all this happened long before my parents even met.) 
There is another, more recent discovery that still has me a bit stunned.  I'm not ready to share it quite yet.  I want to verify my line a bit.  I'm looking way back into my English line now - back to about 1312 to be exact.  If it proves to be true, it may be a bit of a shocker!  I'll keep you informed. ;-)
And we'll see who I think I am!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lent - Day 34

I know I’ve missed a few days – okay more than a few.  But I have a perfectly good reason.  My sisters were in town!  My sisters Judie and Nancy are 15 and 13 years older than I am, respectively.  Judie and I developed our relationship as adults because she had moved out to college, marriage, real life, by the time I was a person with thoughts and vocabulary.  Nancy was a surrogate mother to me.  I went on her dates with her and when she got married, I spent most of my school vacations and weekends with her and her family.  Her daughter Nancy is only 5 years younger than I am.  That’s a smaller gap than there is between myself and any of my siblings.
Anyway – Nancy drove up from Southern Oregon with her daughter Nikki and our brother’s daughter Maggie.  Judie drove in from McMinnville and we spent Thursday night and all of Friday together – eating, talking, laughing – lots of laughing. 
My niece Nikki has a great wit and a wonderful gift for story telling.  We think that they should develop a Bluetooth where Nikki can be in your ear, eavesdropping on your conversations and telling you what to say.  Her wit is quick and fabulous.  She always has the right answer for everything.
I could tell you some of the things she has done, but I want to save them for my own book, like the time she was trying to pay a traffic ticket…oops…there I go.
Judie went back home on Friday and Saturday morning, I spent with the other girls at Saturday Market.  Portland Saturday Market is at least 30 years old.  I moved here 30 years ago and it was happening then.  The market is a large area under the Burnside Bridge where artisans and crafts persons set up their booths and sell their things.  The food carts are what you usually find at these places, burritos, gyros, Vietnamese sandwiches and the always yummy elephant ears.  (large doughy goodies with cinnamon and sugar on them)
Needless to say, I failed to keep away from bread this weekend.  I am still wine free.  Bread is the staff of life apparently for us Watt girls.  Nikki has had to go gluten free and it has been very hard on her.  I do need to do a yeast fast – I will try to be good for the rest of Lent – which is down to the last two weeks now. 
Sunday, I took my step-daughter Jennifer out to dinner for her birthday.  April is a huge birthday month for me.  I have several friends with birthdays.  My father’s birthday was April 8 – the day we were all together.  We drank a coffee in his honor.  I love you Daddy.  Yesterday, April 11 was my beautiful daughter’s birthday.  My angel.  My pride and joy.  My best friend.  My brown-eyed Bridgete.  I love you too!  And today is Jennifer’s actual birthday.  She 10 years minus one day older than Bridgete.  Knowing what my sisters mean to me at this time in my life, I am overjoyed that Bridgete and Jennifer have built a friendship.  I know it will last them long after I am gone – but that is a long time from now!
So I have been blessed to spend the last several days in the presence of love and family that fills my heart with joy.  I know some fabulous ladies!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lent - Days 26 & 27

Yesterday was another fasting day for me.  This was a tougher one because I was more physically active yesterday than I am on the average work day.  First of all, when I was ready to go to work, the sun was up and the sky was light and it wasn't raining.  So for the first time in a long time, I walked the mile from my apartment to my workplace.  That felt great.  I miss my walks in the winter.  It's not that I'm a fair weather walker - but I have to cross Highway 99 on my walk to work.  And even with reflective wear, I've nearly been hit in the dark winter mornings.  So I have to settle for a bus ride.  I'm thrilled to know that spring may at last be pushing in and I can start walking again.
I was teaching yesterday - one of my favorite things at my job.  I wasn't hired to do this, but I developed this curriculum for the agency because bus drivers and mechanics and rail operators can't advance in the agency without some basic computer skills.  The classes are free to them and I cover basic office applications. I always have one or two people who are afraid to even touch a keyboard or a mouse and one or two manager/supervisor types just looking to get a refresher on their skills.   Yesterday morning was one of my favorites - PowerPoint.  I don't use it in my job, so it's my time to play.  And I enjoy seeing other people express their inner creativity.  Just getting to experiment with animations, sounds, and drawing tools gets them to relax and without realizing it, they've learned to mouse, to cut and paste, to format and to open, close and save files.
So I was on my feet all day and then I walked home.  Again, it wasn't raining and the sun was trying to shine!   By the time I got home, my feet hurt, my back hurt and my stomach was in an uproar!!   I downed about a quart of water, rested a bit and then I broke down and ate some strawberries that were about to go bad.
Semi successful fasting.   Today, I'm a little upset with myself that I couldn't hold out a few more hours.  And I'm more than a little cranky.  Not sure if I like this disquiet that is being stirred to life in me.  I'm trying to believe that it has purpose, that there is a greater lesson to be learned.  But right now, I feel like a huge failure - in just about every area of my life.  Strange how I can't let myself off the hook, how I can't have a wonderful day in which I helped about a dozen people feel better about who they are and what they can achieve, but I can't let myself have a small moment of pride about it. Why can't I embrace what is good in me and let the rest be?  Why do I always see where I fell short instead of where I succeeded beyond my own and others expectations?  Will I ever be able to celebrate who I am, who I was meant to be?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lent - Day 24 & 25

So I almost made it to Saturday morning.  Technically - I did make it.  But I was taking out the garbage on Friday evening and I had one very ripe banana left.  I had to choose - toss out the banana or eat it.  I ate it.  And it was the best tasting banana I've ever had!  It was sweet and wonderful and even though I felt very guilty - I knew God would understand.

Saturday morning's breakfast was terrific.  I love my Saturday group.  They are such a wonderful group of ladies and I always enjoy my time with them.  The food was so tasty and satisfying as well.  I didn't overeat and felt perfectly sated with the amount of food I had.

The rest of my weekend was kind of up and down.  My temper was pretty edgy, probably a hang on from being hungry.  It's rather difficult to be balanced emotionally when you're hungry.  And your brain doesn't work too well either.

So the upshot is, I spent a lot of time in reflection, both during and after my fast.  I'll be fasting again tomorrow.  I'm teaching tomorrow so it's an easy time to fast.  I usually don't have time to eat when I teach anyway.  And I'll focus on my liquids and then just spend tomorrow evening in meditation and reflection.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lent - Days 22 & 23

So I've been without food since Wednesday evening.  Last thing I ate was a Caesar Salad at Pub Quiz.  It's about 45 hours later and I can almost taste that salad.  I'm so hungry. 
Yesterday was much easier.  I drank tea and water and some juice last night, but I didn't really feel hungry until this morning.  I was actually a little uncomfortable this morning and my coffee made me a little sick.  So I switched to tea and that has been it.
I was smelling everyone's lunch today.  Usually I don't notice when other people are eating around me in cubeland.  But I was very aware today.  Even now, I can hear someone munching on cookies or chips or something - and I want to go steal one.
Has this been successful in a spiritual sense then?  I think so.  I'm very tuned in to myself right now - to how I'm feeling, what I'm hearing, smelling, seeing.  It's a very heightened experience. 
I wonder how this will feel tonight - when I'm at home and there is food around me, but I don't choose to eat it.  This is really tough.