I Am That Girl Now

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Let's see, where do I start?

I've been on Zoloft for a week now. As of tomorrow, I switch up from the little 25 mg pills to the real-sized 50 mg pills. Wheee.

My brain feels clearer and I'm not quite as tired all the time, which is a definite bonus. I'm already experiencing spurts of motivation. I'm much less inclined to binge. These are all good things.

On the other side, this occasionally devolves into hyperactivity, a state in which, if I am surprised with an unexpected obligation or bad news, can swiftly become a full-blown anxiety session. In which case I have to take another pill to sedate myself. Which is nice, except then I'm knocked down for the next day. Thus far it seems to be following a three-day pattern: I have one great, fabulous day, then I have a hyper day and end up all anxious, have to take a pill, and then the next day I'm tired and vulnerable and weird... and then the next day I'm just fine again. We're riding it out so far, since this is exactly what my doctor figured would happen the first few weeks on Zoloft. If things don't settle, then we'll see what other options are in store.

Today I am hyper. I am also experiencing nervous tummy, which means that I don't want to eat at all. And I get to go test-drive the therapist today. Twitch, twitch, twitch.

Drugs are weird. Very weird.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I'm just so, so so tired.

Day 4 of Pretty Much Functioning Meg, through, which is okay. Besides weeping all over my doctor on Tuesday, I've pretty much pulled it together in terms of not being an obvious wreck. I'm not saying it won't come back, but at the moment I'm not bawling all over people or whatever.

I'm just... there. Ever dive so far underwater, so fast, that for a weird minute there your buoyancy and gravity's pull exactly cancel each other out, and you get absolutely no clear feel for which way is up and which is down? Kinda like that for me right now, only my concepts of "like" and "dislike" are just not applying. It's not that I can't taste food, I just don't really have a feeling of liking them or disliking them. Everything else is the same way. I find myself having to sort things out according to what I ought to do, how I ought to respond, rather than feeling any sort of actual imperative. I'm responding like I'm a substitute teacher for myself, obediently following a lesson plan written by someone else; I'm doing what the usual person would do in these circumstances, without a clear sense of why.

In short, I'm pretty much back where I was before Hurricane Katrina. I think, inasmuch as I can, that it's all part of the same thing, and that the post-Katrina weepy breakdown part was mostly because I got slapped out of my coma. The only difference is now I'm aware that things just ain't right, whereas before I figured I was tired, I was sick, I was just feeling lazy... now I'm thinking that it must, must be something else. I don't think I'm supposed to be this disconnected from things, and yet I've been this way with greater and greater frequency, for longer and longer patches, for quite some time.

Looking back at last year, I had a pretty good first half of the year, on and off, and then started coming apart at the seams around July. The weird paralysis at work, the binge eating, not particularly taking pleasure in anything, only making decisions about the wedding when I had to. By Christmas I was losing my mind with stress over the wedding. After New Year's I managed to wrench myself into getting back on the straight and narrow where food was concerned, and out of pure panic managed to force myself to get things done.

I was better during the honeymoon. Not perfect, but a lot less of a basket case than I had been. I had a good month or so, there, and then by May things were falling to bits again. Managed to scrape things together and had a pretty good June, but things have been on a swift downward slope since July.

And this isn't even looking back before I started dieting-- if I do, though, there's still a pattern of months of grey, periods of blackness, occasional weeks or months of near normalcy, and then... bleah. This may be normal for me, but this just isn't normal. I don't think I'm supposed to be getting through life on sheer got-to and ought-to. I remember that I've felt, on many occasions this past year, that my life has turned into a massive to-do list, with no real desire to accomplish any of it. Just a series of obligations. And the thing is, much of that stuff should be things I want to do-- going to the library, or hanging out with friends, or singing in the choir-- but it's all ended up just being something on the list.

My sister, when I told her about what the doctor said, told me that stubbornly-functioning depressed people make up a fair percentage of the Midwest. I believe it; there's this general sense that if you're able to get through the day, no matter what amount of effort you have to throw at it, then you're okay. But... it's like the difference between 3.5 mph on the treadmill with a 10% incline and 3.5 mph on the treadmill with no incline-- same speed, completely different universes in terms of the effort involved. Life should not all be uphill, head down, plodding hopelessly for lack of anything better to do.

It's day 2 on the Zoloft. Just the wee green starter pills thus far. I have read up on the side effects and I have to admit, there's an even chance that I wouldn't notice side effects occurring if they thwapped me upside the head. I've always been removed from reality to a certain extent, but lately it's just totally fucked.

I have an appointment with a therapist on Tuesday. We'll see how that goes.

The good news is that I went directly to our HR manager yesterday and told her what was going on, and it looks like therapy visits are 50% covered, and the prescriptions are covered the same as any other prescriptions. Also, state law apparently says that they have to let me go to therapy appointments. (Rock on, Illinois.) She's doing research and pulling information for me, so we'll hopefully have the insurance stuff all figured out before Tuesday.

My Hub is being a jewel. A gem. A sweet lovely boy. Very, very supportive; I'm not sure what to do with all the support. He keeps telling me how proud he is that I'm doing this, and how brave I am. Sweet boy. He's paranoid, however, that the therapist will convince me that my problem is him. Considering my problems were around for years before I met him, I doubt that I could be convinced that this is the case.

Lord, I wish I felt better. I wish I felt, period. I remember these periods of time when I was up and energetic and getting stuff done and feeling pretty good, and I hope that's what I'm like when I'm normal again. I liked that girl a lot.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's official

My doctor thinks I'm clinically depressed. We're going to try out Zoloft for a while as a first shot; if this doesn't help, we're going to look at other possibilities. I also have the number of a therapist lady I'm supposed to call, to talk through my many, many issues.

No real question that I've been experiencing a full-blown depressive episode the past three or four weeks. The real question is what's going on behind that, the stuff that's been keeping me at 60% most of the time.

My doctor asked about my history, and I told her about my two years of deep, dark, occasionally suicidal depression back in college. In retrospect, I should have expected that she'd be surprised that in spite of all that, I still graduated... but really, it never occurred to me before that not graduating was any kind of an option. (Hell, considering my family's expectations, getting more than one B in a semester was unthinkable.) Apparently I'm a very stubborn, strong-willed woman. Shocking, I know.

So. That's the story. I'll keep y'all updated. Thanks for all the words of support; you have no idea how much it's meant to have other people out there assuring me that I'm not making this shit up and not overreacting. ::hugs::

Cut for length-- click to read more.

So, today is the doctor's appointment.

What's bizarre about me is that for any illness I will invariably have fewer symptoms on the day of a doctor's appointment than on the days leading up to it. It's embarrassing. It makes me feel like I'm doing this illegitimately, that I must not be as screwed up as I thought I was when I made the appointment, that I was wrong and shouldn't be taking up the doctor's time. Sigh.

Which is to say, I had a good day on Friday from sheer force of will, and got a huge project accomplished at work in the nick of time, as then I had to write up my self-review on Monday. Both these things were things I had been dreading horribly over the past few months and still hadn't managed to make headway on; I just got paralyzed. Friday morning, I spent my whole jogging time talking myself into being capable of getting that fucking project done because it had to get done, dammit, and then I had to do the same thing yesterday morning.

I collapsed utterly on Saturday, was dragged out with one of my friends who makes too much eye contact and talks a great deal at a loud volume, we took the friend back to the apartment with us (in spite of the fact that I had been trying desperately to send my Hub subliminal hints that I really, really needed some down time), and I had to keep hiding in the bathroom every hour or so in order to cry, I was so desperate. I was so scattered, I couldn't find the words or conversational pattern to use that would let me say, "Look, I love having you here, but I have to take a nap because my mental pressure is about to make my head blow up." My Hub was determined to have that friend stay as long as possible, because we almost never see her, and so I had the added bonus guilt of being a truly horrible friend because here on this one chance I had to see this person, I was merely tolerating her presence instead of enjoying it, and in fact desperately wanted her out of the house. When she left, I collapsed, I cried, my Hub was confused, we quarrelled, and then I briefly fell asleep. I felt better when I got up, and we managed to kiss and make up before we had to get ready to go to a birthday party.

I managed to make it until about 10:30 PM at the birthday party, and enjoyed myself and the company of my friends. My old college friends and my Hub are really starting to get along and socialize in a companionable way, which is just awesome. Still, we had to duck out at a scandalously early time of the evening, and then promptly fall asleep when we got home.

Sunday: I had tons of responsibilities at church and utterly could not under any circumstances skip it or arrive late. Dragged myself out of bed, dragged myself to church, was overwhelmed, wept in mid-service, nearly fled, collected myself, managed to finish things out and then scurry home, where I went back to bed. The nap put me back to rights a little bit, and then I got a phone call about a friend's family crisis and had to snap myself into shape so that I could be a source of comfort and calm and so I could help take care of things.

Yesterday, I managed to keep myself up throughout the day and complete my self-review. I've been keeping a Word file of my accomplishments over the year, so I stuffed most of them in there and I'm hoping that my occasional month-long stints of being incapable of keeping up with the day-to-day tasks will be unnoticed in the face of my occasional days of sheer brilliance and innovation. Sleight-of-hand, baby. I was already slumping by the time we headed home, barely made it through the errands we had to do, and was looking forward to getting to collapse... and then my Hub discovered that his general feeling of crappiness all day was actually due to a fever. The boy is sick! CRAP.

I can tell that I'm already cutting corners in order to keep myself together enough to support everyone else this week. Bad food choices are the least of these. I'm managing to keep exercising in the morning, but it's always one of those "oh, God, please no, please not morning, I can't do this" things that I just have to slog through and survive. I'm going to pay for this big time, I think. Hell, I already am. Ah, the things I do to fuel myself.

On the up side, my boss is letting the fact that I'll be gone today slide under the table (the "shhh, don't tell anyone and you won't have to take time off" thing... bizarre that I'm more scrupulously honest about this shit than my boss is), and so after my appointment I'm going to go run an errand and go home. So that's good.

Also, I'm utterly delighted by the fact that my Hub, who has previously had no interest in puzzles, will lean over my shoulder when I'm doing the crossword puzzle or sudoku puzzle in the paper, and help. He's getting better at it, too, and since his brain works differently than mine does, we come at these things from different angles. Add another hobby we're developing in common to the short list: walking tours, professional wrestling, cooking, and now puzzles. I had this horrible paranoia back when we were engaged that I had to find us more things that we could do together, or else doom and gloom would occur, and I panicked over it and kept trying to shove us into things... so the fact that these things are developing on their own makes me feel good about the state of our marriage. It seems to indicate that we're sort of growing into each other, instead of ending up as sort of glorified roommates. I've seen a number of marriages where the couple has nothing in common, activity-wise, and they never hang out together, and they either a) fall to pieces, or b) end up like my parents (a relationship which I swear I will never understand, but seems to be long-lasting in spite of its unwieldy and illogical nature).

It also tickles me that these are mostly long-lasting, very basic hobbies. Walking tours are something we'll still be able to do for years, with strollers and then small kids on those scooters-on-a-stick things (kid gets tired, parent rolls it along with the handle: genius!), all the way up until we're those old retired folks walking slowly, pointing and exclaiming at everything. Cooking? Basic, and it's an evolve-able hobby, too. Puzzles are eternal, and will help keep our brains flexible.

I talked to my sister for about an hour last night, and when I mentioned that I was going to see the doctor about possible depression, she said, "Yeah." After a moment, she followed that up with, "There's really no polite way of saying this, but I'd been wondering for a while if you were all right and maybe needed something like that. You've seemed... off." That's two out of three of the three folks who know me best who've confirmed my gut feeling that something's gone wrong in my head.

Oh, I need a nap. Can't do that; am at work. Alas.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well, that would explain it

You know, I've been looking at the symptoms of depression. And, yeah. I hate admitting this, but it would explain a lot. A lot.

There seems to be an either itchy/distracted or a slow-motion thing that's paired with a lack of drive and oomph and energy. Trouble concentrating, but not from excess energy-- like a lack of it. I've got that; hell, I've had that for... seriously, I can't remember not having that. I get spells when I'm not like that, but it's the exception rather than the rule. "Little pleasure or interest in doing things" has described me for more than a year. More than two, really.

Oh, and there's something on the checklist about feeling like a failure or have let people down-- yeah, I get that constantly. And the appetite problems are pretty typical. And the sleeping problems.

It happens for months at a time and then I get these days or weeks that are just-- you know, different, better, where I've got all this vigor and energy and oomph and concentration and drive and I absolutely clobber the world, and I start to catch up and get ahead and then... it just goes away.

I'm starting to think that this feeling I've had for years now, that I'm having to work like crazy just to get myself to halfway normal, might not just be my imagination. And I mean years, I mean since I was in college. Considering that I'm about to turn 30, that's not good.

It's entirely possible that the shit that hit me back in college never lifted all the time. Like it knocked me down to 40% of normal, and with work and determination I got the general level back up to something like 60%, with occasional jumps up into the 80s and 90s... but most of the time I'm still down at 60%. And then something big will come along in the middle of one of my slumpier periods, like Katrina (gads, I'm pitiful, I wasn't even there or really affected, it just seriously threw me), and I'll get slammed back down to 40%, barely functioning, stressed to the gills, and hopeless and miserable on top of it.

It's just starting to occur to me that maybe functioning at 80% shouldn't be so fucking hard. That I don't actually suck-- that I'm not actually the lazy fucker I feel doomed to be because I just can't manage to get it together for very long. That anything I've managed to accomplish in spite of being perpetually distracted and tired and weird is a testament to the amount of sheer willpower I have at my disposal, that I've got a hell of a lot of brute determination.

I think. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself again, and I'm really just as useless as I feel, and I'm doomed to never finish any of the things I think of. It just doesn't feel like that. It feels like I'm not operating at my potential. It feels like all the weird things I've been documenting and complaining about over the course of the past few years might have a common cause.

God, I hope so. I don't know how to take this if it's not. It would be like I was trying to run a huge computer with a tiny processor; so much possible, not enough to make it go. Perpetual frustration. I don't want to have "not living up to her potential" on my report card for my whole life.

Cut for length-- click to read more.


I feel like crap. I may be sick again. Joy.

In other news, I have an appointment to speak with my doctor about my ongoing emotional wiggitude. I'm just going to lay it all out, including how I don't know what the hell to do because we don't have insurance that pays for any head-shrinking. I will probably cry. I'm doing a lot of that lately. I just want somebody to take care of me, is all; I just want to feel normal again instead of disconnected and tired and stressed and sad and foggy.

Depression is like geology. The edges stretch out further than I can see, and if I think about it I start to wonder how much of what I'm like, these days, has been formed by this thing. It feels like I've been this way forever and just manage to forget, here and again.

Oh, so tired. Gotta go home.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Putting my money where my tender heart is, not where my fat ass is

I've been stripped of my crusty outer shell of late, or at least what passes for a crusty outer shell in a softy like me. I am developing a plan to keep my head in perspective and maybe shake myself out of my stupid wanna-binge mode.

Payday is tomorrow. I am going to take $40 out of the bank, $20 worth of $1 bills and $20 worth of $5 bills. In my head, I am assigning this cash to church offering and to hand out to the homeless people that we pass on our way to and from work. Usually binges happen due to having cash around, but in this case the cash is for charity. Sure, I could spend that money on a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips, but on the other hand, I could give somebody the means to have a meal that they desperately need. Perspective. Serious perspective. I've been damn near crying every time I have to pass by a homeless person without giving something (usually I don't have cash on me, because it's dangerous when I'm in wanna-binge mode)... I want to be able to do something.

I mean, seriously, there's a point at which I just have to admit that this sort of stupid eating disorder is a luxury. I have the chance to indulge it because I make enough money to do so, not because I really need to. Perspective. Need is not being able to afford food, not having an ice cream craving.

I read something recently (and I honestly don't remember where) regarding the disintegration of the sense of need. I don't feel like I'm controlled by the commercials on television; I don't buy most of that stuff. And yet, if I look at myself, I can sense that there's this disgruntled feeling inside me, this feeling of if I had enough money, I could buy good stuff, I could have that, or something that I like better that costs about the same. I'm not sure how to explain it, but even if I'm not buying this junk, the collective force of the commericals makes me feel left out, somehow, that my attempts at frugality are making me live a life less interesting. The commercials, the look of the homes on TV, the reality make-over shows for homes where you see what can be done when people with less limited budgets buy you things... it just all combines to form that vague feeling of discontent. I always thought I wasn't affected by those commercials, but it turns out I've been lying to myself.

I know that contentment is not something that come with money; I know it's possible to be content with less and horribly discontented with more. I want, very much, to be able to be contented at the level of income we're at, and in fact to be contented on less, so we can give more to charity and throw more at our savings accounts and the student loan. (Granted, our financial advisor keeps telling me that the student loan is good debt, and I understand that in theory, but in practice when there's this giant thing racking up enough interest every year to make us have to push hard to get any of the principal paid off at all... it just drives me crazy.) More than those reasons, though, is the feeling that I just want to be able to be content-- that I lack that ability now and I want it. I'm stuck somewhere between contentment and ambition, in a weird, unfocused, twitchy, discontented place, and I don't like it.

I've managed to beat most of my girly "needs" into submission; I'm back to living sans makeup (I continue to buy top-shelf skin-care stuff, though, because if I'm going without makeup I am DAMN well going to have a clear complexion), haven't bought clothes in months, and have eased back from the "ooh, jewelry! shoes! pretty/useless/cute things!" precipice. I'm okay with that, now. For a while it was murder, but I'm okay now. I'm back to hitting the library for my books instead of Amazon.com, and I've managed to switch our household to Kool-Ade instead of soda. My Hub is baking most of his sweet treats these days, rather than buying them or going out for them. (BAKING! I'm so proud of him.) I'm going to get some appliance timers in order to bring a halt to his habit of leaving the a/c unit on when we're not even in the damn apartment, because, seriously, our electric bill just has to go down. Learning to use less shampoo. Homemade microwave popcorn instead of store-bought. I'm trying to wean us down to eating out a lot less, and buying fewer groceries.

Thing is, this is a pain in the ass. Not so much on the actual getting used to certain things, but on learning to avoid things that prompt me (I hesitate to say "make me") feel bad about living frugally. TV is a big one. I love it-- and things like the History Channel and the Discovery Channel make me think that I'm getting something out of it, allowing me to neatly ignore the fact that we also watch a lot of cartoons and wrestling and other bullshit. TV keeps us tucked in our apartment with mind-numbing noise going on, usually leaving us sitting on our butts. We don't need TV, and I'm pretty sure if I was living by myself I would have, by this point, started experiments to see how I could cut down. With my media-addicted Hub around, though, it's a whole different story.

I don't even know what my point is, here. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I want to walk places and do things, now that the weather is cooling down again, but I don't know what's doing and what's not, anymore. I've managed to work myself into a big ball of confusion. Argh.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Well, it's up.

The first post is finally up on It's All About The Ass. Sorry that took so long.

For the record: nobody offended me. You're fine. I just got really worried about what this could turn into, and the fact that days and days kept going by with the debate still raging in the comments was something that took me completely off-guard. My ranting about the way political debate happens in this country was more a reaction to outside forces than to anything that was posted here. I shut everything down on those posts because I hadn't expected there to be such a big response, and I was unprepared for it; I've seen downward spirals occur elsewhere and I'd rather set up a whole new blog to discuss these matters-- with ground rules set from the get-go-- rather than run the risk of de-railing the original purpose of this blog. If I'd had my brain on straight, I would have done this before posting about Katrina; as it is, you all have my sincere apology for my clumsy handling of the whole thing.

I didn't want to have a political blog, but I'm going to try. If I start talking about professional wrestling or go completely fangirl over Veronica Mars this fall, please, somebody remind me to stop hijacking my own damn blog and stick to the subject.


I seem to have more people popping up from all over. As a way of re-dedicating this blog to the weight-loss/maintenance thing, let's have an introduction party in the comments: everybody say HI and where you're from. I don't need to know specifics, but I love seeing the wide range of folks out there, so wave, y'all!

Hrm, let's see. I keep doing yoga, so there's that; I feel like I'm covering the trifecta of cardio, strength, and flexibility. YAY.

Granted, I'm so inflexible these days that I keep cramping up during yoga, and my knee is bothering me again during lower-body strength training (lunges, grr). I have faith that these things will work themselves out; I'm nothing if not a hopeless optimist. A practical optimist, though; I'm not going to flail blindly around assuming that they'll work out without me doing anything about them. I've been wrapping my knee for lunges, and I'm making notes on other exercises to switch to; I'm also making sure to stretch out the contracted muscles from some of those yoga poses. As per usual, this may not work, but what the hell, I'm giving it a shot, and if it doesn't work, I'll try something else.

My Hub remains the independent Meg Mood Barometer. When I announced that I was going to make a habit of doing 20 minutes of yoga every day upon getting home from work, he was deeply relieved. "Good," he said, "because you get in a much better headspace when you do yoga regularly." I opened my mouth to get defensive about it, then closed my mouth again because, yeah, he's right. It's entirely too easy for me to disassociate myself from my body, and yoga is one of the few things that forces me to be a whole mind-and-body pair, not just a brain rattling around in a container.

It's occurred to me that my brain disassociated from my body a long, long time ago, and that may be the root of all this-- well, at least part of it. I learned to read when I was very, very tiny, so literally I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't spending much of my spare time either a) curled up with a book or b) making up my own stories, which at first were acted out with great vim and vigor with my sister and other playmates, either with ourselves as the actors or with our Barbie dolls as stand-ins. I liked stories. Everything else was kind of... faded. Unimportant. It took serious jolts to get me out of that mode (and still does, sadly) and get me to pay attention to the outside world.

I was a space cadet in high school, only halfway interacting with the rest of the world and otherwise writing my own highly dramatic version of events inside my head, which bore little resemblance to what was going on. When startled out of my dreamworld by things that didn't go as I'd thought they would, I'd react with fear and nausea and general freak-out. When I got to college, I think I was still reacting to things like that; it's just that the concerns of the real world became much more pressing and so it was very hard to retreat to my wooly mental cocoon. That's when the binging started, and in retrospect I think that's part of the reason why. I wanted my wooly mental cocoon back, and food overdosing was the fastest way to get there.

I didn't drink too much (okay, occasionally; it WAS college), start smoking, or start doing drugs, but to be perfectly honest that's because I realized very early on that I was better off not knowing how those things would affect me. I was reasonably sure that they'd be even more effective at taking me away from my own head and relieving my anxiety, but I was aware of the health and life dangers of those things, and aware of my own tendencies toward addict behaviors, so... no. Food, though...

I don't like being in my own head when it becomes an uncomfortable place. I have all sorts of free-floating anxiety (my Hub describes me, generously, as "tightly wound") that can just utterly paralyze me into a complete lack of movement. I do well (remarkably well, sometimes) as long as I'm working in my own happy little headspace, but if anything jolts me out of that-- BOOM. I'm pretty certain that I'd benefit greatly from Cognative-Behavioral Therapy, but (oh, yay) our medical plan doesn't cover any head-health problems and so I'd either have to pay out of pocket, which isn't an option for us at the moment, or... well, go without and see what I can do on my own.

I'm not well. I don't like this. Consider this a placeholder for a very long rant about what is and is not covered under our medical plan; I checked out of curiosity to see what they cover re: weight problems and lo, pretty much nothing. If you weigh twice the "average weight" for your height, they'll put you through one course of treatment (what that treatment is, nobody says; this worries me) and then you're on your own, bucko. Anyone weighing less than that can go to hell. The NUMBER ONE THING that most people can do to change their health for the better, and insurance does NOTHING. I'm going to fume now. An ounce of prevention... yeah, well. Grr.

The point, back when I was babbling before, is that yoga helps. A bit. And what the hell, every little bit counts.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hello, friends!

I was working on the first post for It's All About The Ass, the new political side o' my blogworld, but I got distracted by actual work. Oops. It'll be up soon.

The good news is that a friend of mine, after listening to me berate myself for the umpteenth time about how I really, really needed to start getting yoga into my schedule on a regular basis, set up a "tag" system. My exercise in the mornings is a given, but now I have to make sure that I do my wee bit of yoga in the evenings, first thing when I get home, so that I can "tag" her and then it's her turn in the morning to go bike riding. Apparently, since it's getting darker in the mornings now, she's going to look into getting a membership at the local gym-- something that she wouldn't have probably bothered with, without the "tag" game.

Holy cow. A friend of mine, doing exercise. The world may soon spin off its axis.

So, hooray, I have been doing yoga every evening for about five days now. Which is really, really good, because in the months since I was doing yoga three days a week I have really, really lost a lot of ground. Sigh.

Food has... not been good. It's been a bad couple of weeks, and I'm trying to drag my ass back on the wagon. The problem being that I'm trying like crazy to get our food budget under control, trying to go more with beans and rice and frozen veggies and trying to buy meat on sale, trying to convince my Hub to stay home for dinner on nights that he really just wants to go out.

The financial planner is convinced that we have more money than I think we have, and somewhere in there we got coaxed into getting disability insurance and opening Roth IRAs, both of which are things we needed, but... pete's sake, I have enough problems meeting the budget with the things we have in it now; add in another $300/month and my stress levels just do not go down. We have to do this; we need it, and frankly there's no reason in hell we should be spending so much per month on groceries and eating out. It just means more scrimping and saving and a long session in which we go over the budget with a fine-toothed comb to see what in the hell is going on.

The good news, I guess, is that we don't own a car... so it could be worse.

Speaking of walking, we walked all the way from our place to the zero point of the Chicago grid, downtown-- State and Madison. This, incidentally, is seven miles; our previous record for walking was about four and a half miles. Not bad. We're thinking of taking an extra set of clothes to work at some point-- with comfy shoes, of course-- and hiking home. It would have to be budgeted for, though, 'cause we'd need to eat dinner along the way.

Countdown to Serenity: two weeks, five days. Four, if you don't count today. Three, if you don't count September 30th. I like "two weeks, three days" much better, so there it will stay.

Do me a favor, everyone who doesn't already know Firefly: go rent or borrow the DVD set. It's less than a full season. It's a phenomenal show. I didn't get it when I saw the first few episodes on TV-- what I thought were the first few episodes, because apparently FOX decided at the last minute that their (PHENOMENAL) pilot episode wasn't what they wanted. Proof positive that FOX has some lunatics in charge, because when I finally saw that real pilot episode, it made a lot more sense and caught me right in the heart and gut. Got me cold.

Anyway. Need to call my folks. I'm trying to get everything back to normal, so I'll get back on tomorrow... and get that first post up at the Ass, too.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Friday, September 09, 2005

And now we see why I didn't want to get into the political debate on a food & exercise blog

::blows whistle::

Okay, everybody: OUT OF THE POOL. Anyone else posts comments in either of my political posts and I will take them the righteous fuck down. Got it? If you have more to say, take out space on your own blog. I will not host it here anymore.

I may end up making a secondary blog for political purposes, but if I do, there are going to be some serious rules there. I firmly believe that there are no problems that cannot be solved, or at least dealt with in order to minimize the damage, but I also believe that over the past ten or fifteen years the concept of civilized debate has gone out the window and the entire concept of "debate" has started to be translated as an image of monkeys throwing poop at each other and shrieking incomprehensibly, each side trying to drown the other out. I'm not saying that's what has happened here, but I've seen it a lot, in a great many places, and communication doesn't happen. Nobody changes their minds, they just learn to hate each other more. It's awful.

If and when I make a new blog for political stuff, you guys will be the first to know, but I'm going to say even before I make up a name for it that everyone will be welcome. There are enough exclusionary political blogs out there, places where people of roughly the same views can congregate and congratulate themselves on how clever they are to have come up with the Right Way Of Thinking, and smite themselves on the head with despair on how the Other Side Just Doesn't Get It. Yeah, that's fun. It's so much fun, it's what every human pastime evolves into; taking sides, fighting until being right becomes more important than getting anything done, and then splintering into groups so that everyone can go on thinking they are right, until of course the inevitable further splintering of each group occurs. Think I'm wrong? Look at religion. Look at online fandoms. Look at political parties. Look at movements. Hell, look at friendships and marriages. Human beings have a definite talent for squabbling, and a definite preference for it. It's more comfortable for us to use our differences to smash each other over the head than to work to discover our similarities and deal with the uncomfortable process of having to look over our differences with the possibility that the other side might have a better thing going than our side.

I'm a realist, or I try to be. I adore being right as much as anyone else does, but what I like even better than that is the satisfaction of good construction. A plan is great, but when it doesn't work (and after I get over mourning the fact that it didn't work), it's time to take things apart, look at them, and figure out what went wrong. That requires the ability to divorce your self from your plan, and to not feel personally offended when someone points out the problems. It also requires the ability to see what parts worked and what didn't, and what two good things just didn't work well together (olives are great, and strawberry jelly is fantastic, but in no way shape or fashion should they ever live on a sandwich together). That's hard. All too often, the question of "what the hell happened?" is answered with "it's your fault, because you suck!" instead of "the plan went wrong here."

I watch a lot of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, and about half of their shows are on engineering disasters or disasters, period. There are two kinds of disasters, from what I can tell. One is the kind where people didn't know that something would be a risk, and didn't plan to deal with it. The other is the kind where people knew something would be a risk, but they had other priorities that made them more likely to see the risk as something they could deal with. The night before the Challenger explosion, there was a huge argument between NASA and the engineers from the company that had built the rocket boosters. The engineers firmly believed that if the shuttle launched, the cold temperatures would make the O-rings too cold and brittle to deal with the pressure of the liquid fuel. NASA was on a schedule, on a budget, and ultimately cared more about keeping the program moving than about a risk that couldn't be proven.

In the 1990s, a study was run on the risks to the shuttles, specifically regarding the heat-resistant tiles on the bottom. The studies showed that what was probably the greatest risk to the tiles was part of the frozen-solid foam breaking off the solid fuel container hooked to the bottom and striking the shuttle. NASA looked at the study and didn't bother doing anything about it. For ten years, the risk was ignored, and then Columbia proved that any risk was too high.

On another tangent, it's worth noting that one of the things that the Roman Emperor Claudius did right was to set up a bureacracy that worked like clockwork without much interference from the Emperor or ruling class, so that no matter who was in charge over the next few centuries, the aqueducts still got dredged out, the streets still got cleaned, the money still went to the correct places, and the army was still the best in the ancient world. Considering that the (very possibly) worst Emperor ever came right after him-- Nero-- that was a pretty good move on his part.

The problems given to us by living in the physical world are many. What continues to astonish me is how we manage to make those problems significantly worse by refusing to learn from our own mistakes. That's bad science, it's bad life practice, and it's bad government. When there is a crisis, put an independent investigation on it, and let the chips fall where they may. Whoever is at fault, then they are at fault. I don't give a rat's ass which party takes the most damage, because I'm a human being first, then a citizen of the world, then an American, then a Democrat. Party loyalty is a nice thing when you can afford it, but when it comes to saving lives, my humanity counts more, and as you can see that rates a few levels above party affiliation. When it comes to making sure our government works for, and takes care of, the people, instead of the other way around, that matters more to me than party affiliation.

No comments on this one, lest the political discussion continue. I'll set up a better forum for it, but in the meantime, we're done here.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Friday, September 02, 2005

But first, I will attempt to say things about food and exercise.

Let's see. I like fruit. It's glorious weather to run outside, so I'm going to do so tomorrow morning. I'm exceedingly fond of string cheese. And, underneath the layer of fluff, I actually have muscles. My hamstrings have a nice curve to them that I've never seen before. There's a dent on the outside side of each thigh where the quad ends and hamstring begins. I just this morning discovered that my shoulder muscles have come along to the point where, when I flex my biceps, you can see a nice clean diagonal shadow-line where my shoulder muscle laps over my bicep. Also, in a highly disturbing discovery, I have figured out how to flex my pec muscles and made the mistake of trying it out while watching myself, nude, in the mirror. (Don't try this at home, kids. Boobs should not have a life of their own.)

Okay, that's all I've got. I'm sorry to do this two days in a row, but I'm losing my mind on this one.

What the hell is this line that officials are spouting, that "nobody ever expected the levee to break" in New Orleans? I keep seeing this. I'm boggled. I expected the levee to break. That was the only part I actually understood about the hurricane situation: I'd seen about eight different news reports beforehand on the danger of flooding if the storm surge topped the levee or if the levee broke under the stress. I have an elementary grasp of physics and water pressure, and how water will flow to the lowest point possible. It's not like I do this for a living, but I had a pretty good grasp of the situation for a former music major sitting on her ass in front of a computer in Chicago. Call me crazy, but I always kind of assumed that the people in charge of these sorts of things would have a far better grasp of them than I do.

Computer models predicted disaster-- an article on MSN.com. Hell, even Tim Russert says the same thing: But the fact is that, when there was no evacuation and no pre-positioning of supplies within the city, that led to the current situation.

President George W. Bush said the other day that no one expected the levees to break.

Well, with all respect, study after study, including FEMA's own tabletop exercises last year, all included the breaking or the giving of the levees. Everyone who had studied the issue knew that with a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm, that was a very strong likelihood.

I keep hearing more about what happened leading up to this thing, the complete lack of prep work, and my mind is just boggled. Completely boggled. The mayor didn't do anything. The governor asked the people of Louisiana to "pray the hurricane down to a category 2," which is all well and good, but frankly I would like to think that public officials have a better plan in mind than "pray that you don't get killed, folks, because otherwise we're screwed."

Want more? Okay. A National Geographic article from 2004. TWO-THOUSAND FOUR. Last year. Amazingly, in spite of it being a whole year before this tragedy, they've described it pretty much point for point. This is the worst-case scenario we heard about all week as they prepared for the storm.

FEMA rehearsed for this thing in 2004, calling it "Hurricane Pam". They knew, then, that they were screwed. Still: nothing. I cannot bloody believe this.

It gets worse. Read Left Turn editor Jordan Flaherty's account of being a New Orleans refugee (from personal experience!). The horror story doesn't end when people get out of the hellhole that was once one of our nation's most graceful and beloved cities. It just keeps going.

I am just wracked with rage, and helpless to feel much else. I've donated. My company is part of the effort to organize certain well-needed items for the rescue effort, and I'm proud of that, but it's not my department. I'm praying, but I'm having to intersperse prayers to help contain my rage with prayers for the hurricane victims and the aid workers striving to rescue them. Maybe it's tacky to start screaming for accountability at this point, but my God, when is the right time? If I bottle this up for later, I may explode in the meantime.

Sometimes when we come together in a tragedy, we Americans do so in a righteous fury. I think this may end up being one of those times. We were told, we were promised, that the reason for all the things that were being done to us over the past four years was for our own security-- so that the big bad men couldn't get us anymore. Currently I could give a rat's ass about the specifics of that sort of thing. I would much rather have a government that knows how to plan for and respond to a crisis. I don't ever want to be somewhere where this sort of thing could happen and find out, afterward, that my government hadn't done anything to mitigate the disaster.

I think I have to go cry now. Hopefully I can manage on-topic babbling tomorrow.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I just don't know what to say.

It seems so petty and ridiculous to worry about weight-loss issues or health or food or exercise right now, in the face of pretty much having a major U.S. city drop into the ocean, that I've been concentrating on just being able to maintain my actions. Talking about them seemed-- and still does-- like a step over the line. So even though I promised a long time ago that I would keep this blog focused on health, food, exercise, and things related, and that I would try to sidestep doing (unrelated) political rants, I'm taking a break from that policy today.

I'm just stunned.

It's not so much the destruction that's boggling me as what it has revealed to me about the nature of hurricane evacuation. See, I grew up in Kansas. No hurricanes. Leaving town to flee a disaster is a concept foreign to me, although it is strongly drilled into my head that being prepared to get into the basement with any irreplaceables (better, into a hidey-hole with a concrete cap and a steel door with six contact points, as the Texas Tech Wind Sciences Department advises) any time a tornado comes within twenty miles. What little I've known about pre-hurricane evacuation is what I've historically seen on TV and in news articles, and the people they interview who leave never mention the cost of it, and the people they interview who are staying are always the die-hard rah-rah No Stupid Hurricane Is Gonna Tell Me What To Do boneheads, who never mention economic circumstances as a reason to stay. Perhaps I'm stupid, or ignorant, or just blissfully self-involved, but it never in a million years occurred to me to think about the financial ramifications of fleeing a storm.

First of all, there's the question of where one would go. If you don't have friends or relatives within a decent driving range, you apparently either have to sleep in your car or find a motel. I am told (now, after I've made an ass of myself among my friends who've lived in the South) that it's common practice for hotels and motels in the refugee zone to jack up their prices in response to the demand, as if fleeing from a hurricane is the same thing as wanting to attend Mardi Gras or the Superbowl. Even at normal prices, I find that staying at a hotel is something I'd have to budget for; since saving money is apparently a concept foreign to middle-class America (and impossible to manage for the lower class), I doubt that many people have a hurricane fund set up for the possibility that they'd have to stay out of town for a few days once or twice a summer.

Then there's the question of how to transport yourself out of town. Again, this is a situation that disproportionately favors everyone above a certain economic level; not only do you have to own a car, you have to be able to fuel it-- and under normal gas prices these days, that's a stretch, and again, price-gouging is common in the path of hurricane refugees. For those who don't have a car, you'd have to be able to afford a bus ticket-- oh, but wait, Greyhound stopped running busses out of New Orleans days before Katrina hit. So did the airlines, which left many tourists high and dry (although an article in a Chicago paper indicates that some well-off folk from Chi-town who were dropping their kid off for college at Tulane punted by hiring a limo to get out of town).

In short, unless you have a very good network of friends and family who can tote you out and let you crash on a couch somewhere, you must make this much money (imagine me holding my hand up at neck level) to indulge in the luxury of fleeing the storm. Also, you must be relatively young and healthy; if you're old and it's hard for you to get around, or if you are in a nursing home or a hospital, you're stuck. It's a marvel to me that the South keeps rejecting Darwinism, because they're living it. Only the strong (and the rich) survive. If you don't have the resources to make it out yourself, apparently you deserve what you get.

I always wondered why people stayed. Now I know. Only about 5% of them are the jackasses interviewed ahead of the storm by CNN or The Weather Channel, partaking of some kind of my-balls-are-bigger-than-yours contest and boasting that no storm can phase them. The other 95% just can't afford it, or might, might be able to afford it but can't take the chance that they'd be wasting money that they might otherwise be able to use for health care and food and clothing. Son of a bitch.

In Mississippi, which boasts the highest poverty rate in the nation, people are furious that they were abandoned to the wrath of the storm. Yeah, I'm with them on this one; I'd be pissed, too. In retrospect, what the hell is wrong with us that we don't have a system set up to accommodate this, that we force people to have to make these sorts of decisions, these sorts of desperate gambles? That's just wrong.

I'm seriously boggled here. I had no idea. I'm really dismayed at the lack of preparation, I'm horrified that the Army Corps of Engineers (who appear to have been almost single-handedly holding things together in normal times) had their funding cut again, and again, and again. I'm amazed at the sheer goodness of people that's coming out now-- the swift organization of websites where people can volunteer housing for refugees, the fundraising, the sharing of information-- but this is a clear case where an ounce of preparation would've been worth a ton of mop-up work after the fact. If there had been some network available (and widely publicized) for people to find a way out of the path of the storm and flooding, and to find shelter, the numbers of dead and injured and trapped down in Louisiana and Mississippi might be much lower right now. I'm not going to get into the question of whose place it is to develop that system, but seriously, this is one of those cases where decidedly not talking about the lower classes has directly led to the lower classes getting royally screwed.

Running to the basement to escape a tornado is easy, and cheap. Running away from a hurricane is complicated and costly. This sucks. This really, really sucks.

Cut for length-- click to read more.