Friday, May 08, 2020

Weak Lungs

Yesterday I went out and did a bit more than my normal in terms of erranding...Met up with Jacinda at Upinngil to hand off masks and look at flour, dropped the Prius off for spring tire swapping, then decided - while waiting for my tire swap, and since I had a mask on already anyway - to walk to Dollar General (who I know has cheap dried beans), and to Aubuchon because we have no hoe (and no idea where the damn thing went), and I needed a length of stovepipe to make a squirrel baffle for my bird feeder post ala Grampa Dan (we used to have matching ones back in the day that he engineered and we built separately). I saw a lot of people unmasked outside, and a lot with masks in their cars. Now, if you put the masks on the people out for a walk, and told the people in their cars that they don't need them while driving...but I digress.
I went into Cumberlands (touch free!) and peed but bought nothing, because buying is touching and consuming and I have no interest in consuming anything I didn't make myself yet. The surreal "new normal" was simultaneously off-putting and comforting, with doors held wide open and caution tape roped up and an employee serving drinks across a barricade of wheeled Rubbermaid carts instead of the usual melee. The long lines of cars at both Dunkin' Donuts on Federal confirmed my decision to give up coffee - which at 8 weeks "clean" is a nice pat on the back. The last thing I need right now is caffeine withdrawal when the coffee market collapses. I've had that. It wasn't pretty. Tea it is.
At Dollar General I was surprised to see all the dried beans gone but 8 pounds, and I bought them all. People were respectfully distant, employees look fearfully at customers which leads me to believe they get a lot of shit in the course of a day. Why not - after all they're essential(expendable) workers.
At Aubuchon there were 4 employees at registers because although it was only Wednesday this is Random Sunday in May weekend coming up, and that always stimulates the buying up of anything floral or bird or garden related. There's not a lot, let me tell you. No giant racks of plants. All I needed was a hoe and stove pipe, as physically distant and as quickly as possible, thank you very much.
So I got what I needed - one garden variety garden hoe, and one 6"x24" galvanized stove pipe section, and headed for the check-out.
The floors are marked with 6' spacing, which some people understand and others do not. How obtuse you need to be to not see a giant blue X marked every 6' with giant blue arrows indicating direction of traffic flow is beyond me. Situational awareness is dead.
After I checked out and was heading for the door, I overheard a blue-collar redneck type turn to his equally blue-collar redneck buddy and say "I don't know why I have to wear this. I mean, it isn't protecting me, you know? I mean. It's isn't."
And I snapped back "NO. It's protecting ME." and walked out the door into the sun, not waiting for a reply.
They just don't get it. And as I was walking back to Tire Warehouse I got to thinking about how and why they don't get it...and there's so many layers of why and so much information floating around that's misleading and conflicting...and I ...I just want people to understand. I know - I could just feel it - that when I walked away part of what went through his white male macho head was "Who the fuck are you??"
So, for you, sir, let me try and explain who I am:
I am your mother. I am your children's mother. I am your grandmother, your children's grandmother, your wife's mother, your beloved Auntie who you need to visit more but never have time because of the kids and the wife and work and all the excuses.
I am your kid's teacher, the receptionist at your utility company who cuts you a break on the bill because you're out of work. I am the doctor who tells you to stop eating crap and get some exercise, and the lady at the bank who deposits your unemployment check when the ATM stops working.
I am the nurse who will set up the iPad so you can see your wife and kids in the ICU if you "get it bad".
We are unable, it seems, to see past ourselves. This has been a failing of our culture for decades, this failure to teach responsibility to others. I know I failed with my own kids, and it looks like everyone else did as well. I recently stated that White Jesus had become a convenient wrap to hide our insecurity and fear and paranoia. I stand by that.
My parents used to worry about my "weak lungs". My father worried that he'd passed pulmonary HTN onto me (there are early indications that it's true). I've got auto-immune disease and an abnormally low white count with no diagnosis behind it other than "...some more auto-immune things, and we will know which one when more symptoms develop". I've got unresolved issues with a family member that I hope to resolve at least a little before I die. (Mommy loves you, you rotten little hedgehog/porcupine/turtle thing).
I'm not working because the actions and movements of other people are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not going to the museum because the actions of other staff and volunteers are unknown to me and out of my control. I'm not seeing or spending time with my grandchildren because their movements and those of their parents are out of my control and...not known to me. All of these people are like this guy at Aubuchon - "Why? Why do I have to wear this thing? Why do I have to stand 6 feet away? This is AMERIKA, GOD DAMN IT, and it's my RIGHT to kill other people with a virus I don't know I am carrying!"
I shop for food once every two to three weeks, and with Misfits Market (hallelujah! organic produce at my door! use code COOKWME-KH3CIF for 25% of your first box!) that may be eliminated, so I'll pretty much be here. I limit my interactions with the world as much as possible. We don't order take out because I don't know if the people prepping the food are masked, gloved, and disease free. I've had to cancel progress on repairing a badly injured wrist for the foreseeable future.
So when I get angry about people not staying home, and people protesting...it's because I'm scared.
I'm scared that I will get it and end up on a vent drowning in my own secretions because someone out there didn't wash their hands, and thought wearing a mask was unfair to them personally. I'm scared that I won't see my kids or grandkids again in person to talk or hug or say I'm sorry or I am not sorry or come here so I can slap you. I'm scared that this is my new normal, and even when the rest of you are out and about I'll be here waiting for some magical herd immunity number that never comes, or that comes at a cost I don't want to pay - like the lives of the people I love. That is the biggest fear.
I’m also angry. I’m angry because the science is really clear on how these pandemics start, on how our treatment of animals used to feed us creates the perfect environment for the development of killer diseases, and yet in our greed for the flesh of other living things and corporate greed for selling them to us, we do nothing to change that. The answers are so easy that they've been deemed "too easy", and are therefore discarded.
Frustrated feelings today. I dislike the word "can't" because of it's negativity and limiting effect on individuals. I choose to say "I choose to" or "I choose not to".
So...
I choose not to go to work. I choose not to go to the museum. I choose not to see my grandchildren in person. I choose not to walk the 3.5 mile loop I've walked (or run) a thousand times before. I choose not to go out, get take out, shop more than is necessary.
The reasons for why I choose those things is where I get caught up; self-absorbed and self-pitying.
Choice implies desire.
I don't want to choose these things. Presented with options, I'm choosing the ones that best ensure my survival, or keep me safe. Safety isn't a thing that usually factors into my choices on a personal level. I've never been this intimated by an unseen thing. I'm taking it seriously, I've ordered inhalers, I'm eating every antioxidant that gets near my face, I'm actively strengthening respiratory accessory muscles, I'm doing deep breathing...
And all this when for all intents and purposes I'm HEALTHY. If you met me on the street or if you know me well...I may look paranoid, extreme, overly cautious...because nothing about me in person says "Oooo, high risk..."
So all this talk about re-opening...who's looking out for the people who look healthy, aren't necessarily - but don't have my privilege? The people who will be fired if they choose to put their life ahead of a dollar?
I know a lot of people who are high risk who are going on business as usual...I don't have that gene. I'm not one for running into burning buildings. I've got things I want to do. Survive is at the top of the list. But man is it hard to stick to that plan.
I've never been particularly good at sacrifice. That's not why I'm still here. I'm here because I'm selfish, and a survivor, from my follicles to my toe nails. Right now survival means shrinking my life to this tiny fragment of "normal". The longer this goes on the more guilty and heartsick I feel. I'm like...a strange sort of conscientious objector, choosing to stay home while other people better and braver than I risk death in my place. And it is HARD, man. Really hard. Because the thing that could take me out - I mean for real take me out - is a tiny thing no one can see. I don't know if the guy before me at the gas pump left it behind. I don't know if a patient's family got sick of quarantine and went visiting then licked a door knob I may later touch without knowing. I don't know if that unmasked kid at the Home Depot was partying with friends all weekend before offering to help me load lumber into my Prius. So yeah, some of that is "living in fear", but if everyone believed science and took this shit seriously...I could relax, have less fear, and more reasonably assumption that people CARE about my life - about anyone's life beyond their own - enough to wash their hands and put on a fucking mask. And who am I? Go back up and read the list. I am anyone. I am everyone. I am you, you are me, we are all ONE. Jesus tried to tell them that, but their heads are way too far up their asses to see it.
It knocks your cavalier socks right off, reading descriptions of COVID-19 deaths, and knowing...what you know. Fearlessness, it turns out, has limits. So fuck yeah I am scared. If I wasn't I would be a fool. God - whatever that is - gave me a brain and I use it without apology.
Today....I'm grateful for paint and pencils, and produce.

Also, don't worry about Murder Wasps. They've been in the US for a few years now. It isn't great news, but it also was just a smoke screen some PR person probably threw out there to grab the media (squirrel!).

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

So today will hopefully be the end of foraging for a while - like a month. The fact that everyone on earth has suddenly apparently switched to soymilk? Y'all are seriously killing my plan.
As a nurse, shopping is changed but manageable. Watching other people, however...I want to give the whole world an inservice. Instead I'll just tell you what I do.
I'm leaving here and plan to hit maybe 3 stores (only if I'm unsuccessful with the first two, really people, just leave me some Westsoy original organic Unsweetened).
I've got 3 masks and 3 sets of gloves. Overkill? Maybe. But to avoid cross contamination I'll take it. No phone. No coffee cup. No food or beverage until I'm back here. No purse. No dangling or loose clothing. No jewelry except simple earrings and my stainless steel wedding band. I wear close fitting clothes and a zip front sweater with two zippered front pockets. One sweater pocket is clean (masks, gloves - the gloves are overkill but they remind my nurse brain to focus). The other is dirty (anything I'll need to touch more than once - credit card, car key, ID). Back left pocket is hand sanitizer. Back right is doc bronner's in case I get lucky enough to find a sink someplace where I don't need to touch a door handle.
Then here's how it rolls :
Dress in clean clothes. Wash hands and face thoroughly with soapy water. Make note to not touch face, ears or neck again until I'm home. Drive to shopping location. Zip sweater - it will stay zipped until after my last stop. Put on a mask and a pair of gloves from clean pocket. Get out of car. Wipe cart if wipes present. Shop. Avoid touching anything except the minimum. Check out, preferably self. Remove card from dirty pocket, pay, return to car. Unlock car with key from dirty pocket. Load stuff into car. Remove dirty gloves turning them inside out and place in tidy pile IN CAR NOT ON THE GROUND, PEOPLE. Remove mask. Sanitize hands thoroughly.
Drive to next location. Sanitize again for fun. Mask and glove from clean pocket. Repeat shop above.
If all goes to plan I'm done now. I may need a third stop. So let's say I've done all three stops. I have, if needed, used a rest room and washed thoroughly with soapy water. Now I'm back at my car, final errands done. Car is loaded. Last time, remove gloves and turn inside out and add to glove pile. Remove mask and add to mask pile.Remove credit card, ID and car key from dirty pocket. Remove zippered sweater being careful not to touch face. Turn sweater wrong side out while removing. Do not shake sweater out. Fold and place next to mask and glove pile. Sanitize hands, key, and cards  thoroughly. Put cleaned cards and key in back pocket. Wipe sanitizer and soap bottles with sanitizer.
Get in car. Drive home. Open trunk. Gather groceries etc and place on porch out of the way of traffic. Wipe down anything solid with 1:9 bleach and water to be hyper-paranoid. Set aside to dry. Throw away bags etc. Sanitize hands.
Return to car and gather sweater and masks in right hand. Enter house with left hand on door knob and stop at laundry room. Place sweater and masks in washer. Strip and place clothes in washer. Squeal and squat down when you remember that window faces the neighbor. Waddle in squatted position to bathroom to avoid scarring neighbors for life and to ensure continued free compost. Shower with warm soapy water.
Dry off. Take deep breath and sing little ditty about cells being happy and well and remind yourself that this too shall pass, and that you did your best. Make tea because you haven't had anything to eat or drink since you left home.
(Also basically insert "do not touch face" between like every sentence...🙄)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

For Mary Alice

How I have been doing my masks

Cut fabric:

For personal use, one piece 8”x12”
OR
For dust cover for N-95, one piece 8x13”
THEN
1.25” WOF (width of fabric) strips to equal 72-74” when finished (so, as an example, if fabric is 18” wide, cut 4 strips 1.25” wide x WOF for 72" total length).



(This is important - if your fabric has direction, be sure it's going the right way, or your foxes will be sideways. Ask Gene how he knows)

Begin by preparing strips for ties. 
Stitch strips together on the diagonal as shown to reduce bulk. 
Trim at joins, then press in approximately 0.25” on either side to create binding. 

Cut into two 36-37” long strips. Set aside.
Prepare Mask body:
Turn and press under about 0.25” on both short (8”) sides of 8x12” fabric. 
Fold fabric in half with wrong sides together and turned and pressed edges matching. Top stitch across 8” side of mask to close. 
Stop needle 1/8” from corner. Pivot. Stitch about 3/4” then create first pleat, stitching it down and pausing with needle down to pin opposing pleat. 

Repeat pleat formation 2 or 3 additional times for a total of 3 or 4 pleats, each about 1/4”-3/8”. 
Pivot needle again and stitch across 8” width of mask. 
Pivot a final time and stitch along second pleated side. 

Press pleats into place.
(*NOTE - you may wish to create and press pleats prior to top stitching; if so just pin along 8” side, create your pleats and press, then return to machine to top stitch.)

Fold pressed tie strips in half along long edge being sure to fold end under about 1/2” to avoid raw edges. 


Stitch until approximately 2” from middle of tie (shown by pin above). 
Place mask into tie as binding and stitch, then continue down long edge of tie to end, folding end under. 

Repeat for second tie. Put on mask and take selfie. 
The end.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nothing Says "Global Pandemic" Like Insomnia


** I am not a physician and this blog is NOT intended to replace the advice of a physician, nor am I qualified to diagnose or treat disease, or prescribe medication. This blog suggests over the counter and non-invasive interventions that may help ease the symptoms associated with illness. In the event of severe illness, contact your physician and ask for advice and support. ** 

So here's a thing - the next best thing to a pandemic is getting a cold during one when the symptoms of the virus causing said pandemic can act like...a fucking cold. It's AMAZING how quickly your reason and logic vanish, like mist. Poof. Enter paranoia and the desire to really quickly train your spouse in some old school nursing stuff that went out around the time they discovered that a syringe full of Penicillin could save the world. But I digress.

It occurred to me yesterday that we have become so mentally immune to the effects of disease thanks to medication, vaccines, and our healthcare system (may we be truly grateful) that we have forgotten that for millennia, up until the very recent past, we existed without the benefit of antibiotics and vaccinations - and some of us even survived. OK so maybe sometimes the numbers were not so good. But we did learn some things from our time of slightly more primitive medicine, and some of those things can still be applied today.

First, prevention. Prevention in the age of germ theory is critical. How do we prevent the spread of disease? By following some pretty simple steps.

  • Avoid contact with people outside of your immediate circle. Stay 10 feet away from others when you must encounter them. Use barriers (gloves, doggie poop bags, used grocery bags, your sleeve, although it's not as good as the other stuff because I can throw a poop bag in the trash and never touch the outside of it) as a barrier between yourself and any solid surfaces you must touch, like door knobs or faucets or gas pumps. 
  • WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. I cannot stress this enough. Viruses and bacteria despise soap and water. If you must go out into the public sphere for food or medicine, avoid touching surfaces and do not touch your face. Even at home, wash your hands correctly and often.
  • Remove your clothing and shower when you get home, and use sanitizing wipes to clean surfaces you had contact with. If you don't have any wipes, 10ml of bleach to a liter of water (that's 1/4 cup bleach to 2-1/2 cups water) is perfect for solid surfaces. Isopropyl alcohol works also. Peroxide, which has been my favorite, works as well but for this particular virus appears to require a 6 minute contact time, or that's the latest estimate. So 1/4 cup of bleach in 2-1/2 cups of water it is, just bear in mind that not all surfaces can tolerate bleach, which is where the isopropyl alcohol or peroxide come in.
  • Quarantine yourself from family members who are showing signs of illness if you are compromised or at high risk
  • Stay well hydrated. As long as you are well, this can be your regular water and tea routine - avoid coffee, alcohol, sodas, or any other beverage that causes dehydration. If you get sick and are not drinking or eating, switch to electrolyte replacement solutions and MAKE YOURSELF DRINK. 
  • Get outside, walk, get sun and fresh air, breathe big, get some rest, nap, take baths, meditate, pray, whatever, in general ***free*** self-care for body and mind and spirit. Read Eckhart Tolle, follow Oprah, etc etc etc. 
OK so you've done everything you can, barricaded yourself in your home, bought out all the elbow noodles and tomato soup cans that were left, fought a little old lady for the last tin of Spam and roll of TP (you really didn't need the TP - you have old t-shirts and know how to wash things, but I digress) - or maybe you have a large stash of dried beans and rice and an instant pot (that may just be us...), and now you have the sniffles.

Or maybe not the sniffles. Or maybe you don't know what you have but you have something. This is the time when, if you're us, you panic, freak out, re-write your wills and then at 3am one of you remembers all these things we USED to do before antibiotics and modern hospitals were a thing, and that person writes them down in a bulleted list, as follows (right after you drop a note in your patient portal to update your physician on your current symptoms and condition):
  • Although the evidence is entirely anecdotal at this point, I personally will not use ibuprofen to treat fever or aches and pains if my symptoms look at all like this illness. In fact I've pretty much taken all the ibuprofen and hidden it away for the time being. Maybe someday I will find out that this is bunk, but there's enough of rumor circulating to make it worth caution when there are other things I can take. I use acetaminophen or aspirin, and I take them alternately every 4 hours, so aspirin, then 4 hours later acetaminophen, and so on. If my symptoms become severe this could be switched up as follows (schedule is for example only) 8am aspirin, 10 am acetaminophen, noon aspirin, 2pm acetaminophen and so on - that way I am alternating the medications and taking them each every four hours. I make no promises that my stomach or liver will thank me for this schedule, and it would only be appropriate in the event of severe symptoms, like - for me - a sustained fever over 103.
  • Stay hydrated! This is where may begin to I switch to a calorie free (if I am still eating but struggling) electrolyte replacer. These are available in stores or online (I like powdered single packet forms which can just sit on the shelf forever in case of need). 
  • BREATHE. Oxygen saves lives. In hospitals after surgery at-risk patients are given this marvelous "breathing machine" as my father called it. It is really called an inspiratory spirometer, and it measures your ability to inhale when healthy (your baseline), which then becomes your goal during your (usually post operative) recovery. Now, chances are you do not have an inspiratory spirometer handy - bonus if you do - grab it and do 10 deep reps four or five times a day, more if you think of it because more won't hurt - but you can still learn to breathe deeply. To wit: Ujjayi Pranayama and also Ujjayi Pranayama but 20 minutes of it.
  • Eat! This can be as simple as rice cooked into Congee or Jook using chicken stock and ginger and garlic - or vegetable stock (or just water and tamari and sesame oil if you are me). Look, at the end of the day, whole cultures have survived on rice and not much else for long periods of time, and we're talking here about a week, not the rest of my life. Plus rice gruel is just damn satisfying when I'm ill.
So I've done all that and my symptoms are worsening. My chest feels tight, and like it's filling up with fluid. What will I do? First, call my doctor and report my symptoms and ask for advice. If my doctor feels like I can still be managed at home, there are some old-school tricks I can use to increase my breathing capacity and comfort. If these fail to bring relief, then it't time - at least in my house - to go to the hospital. 
  • Chest physiotherapy. For this I may want help if I can get it, although there is self-percussion, or I can easily direct my loved one/housemate/caregiver to a link, preferably before I need it. Possibly we had a discussion here yesterday morning involving this very thing. Right after we updated the wills and initialed all the changes and prepared to send them to the lawyer - that's right, I WROTE YOU ALL OUT! EVERYTHING GOES TO MY CATS! but again, I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, CPT. This is a method of moving mucous out of the lungs and is often used in conjunction with:
  • Postural Drainage. In a facility there are lovely beds that incline and tilt to get your body into a comfortable position. At home, I can use pillows, or well-padded stool or chair. The objective is to find a position where fluid can - and this is gross - move ideally out of your lungs and create room for oxygen. When I feel the urge to cough, I can sit up and cough out whatever's there, then return to the PD position and wait for more crap. I may need to move through positions to find the one that works best. 
If none of these things are bringing relief, call the doctor and head for the hospital. In the current climate, don't bring anything you don't absolutely need. Write important contact and insurance numbers on a piece of paper, but leave your wallet and phone at home. 

That's it man. That's my home treatment plan. Now it's in writing and I can refer people to it, and you can read it and know what I'm planning to do if I NEED to. Maybe I won't. But if I do, we have a plan - and I do love a plan!

Now I am going to go watch a nice movie and crochet multiple versions of The Child, and later I plan to nap. I will take my elderberry syrup (maybe as a shrub with 1 T apple cider vinegar and seltzer for kicks) and add turmeric, ginger and garlic to my breakfast lunch and dinner. Oh! I forgot my favorite intervention! And an old one and one that has some evidence to support its efficacy! 

GET OUTSIDE. Sit on a porch. Breathe in fresh air. Spend the whole flipping day out there if you can. Open windows if the temperature is right. Sit in the sun. Go for a walk even if it's just in your yard.

And know that this, like all crises and crazies, will pass. Even if the entire world gets shaken up and unbalanced, change is a normal and natural part of the cycle of existence. Right now, in this exact moment, what problems do you have? THIS moment. None? None. Take a breath, be grateful for it, and move to the next one. That's all we can do. 

Namaste. 

** I am not a physician and this blog is NOT intended to replace the advice of a physician, nor am I qualified to diagnose or treat disease, or prescribe medication. This blog suggests over the counter and non-invasive interventions that may help ease the symptoms associated with illness. In the event of severe illness, contact your physician and ask for advice and support. ** 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The One I Should Have Written a Long Time Ago



(Alternate title: Dear Elsa)

Every morning since August 26, 2016 I get out of bed and put on my mask of pretense and presence. I smile (sometimes, although frankly that’s usually a hell of a lot of work and I really should be given an exemption). I go about my business, engage in the little chores that make up daily life. Some days I am more successful at this than others. Underneath that mask…
Now, if this was a television commercial this is where I would announce that I need a very expensive medication for my obscure orphan disease, but life is not television and this is not a commercial.

I mostly wish to ever loving fuck it was.

In August of 2016 I learned about a phenomenon called “parental estrangement” when my adult daughter stopped speaking to me. This is what it is called, I am reliably assured by my mental health professional, when a person’s adult child, for no apparent reason, stops talking to them. After a fair amount of research (because I live for that kind of thing, right?) I have determined that it’s occurring more and more frequently today (meaning millennials) than ever before. After a fair amount of therapy, I have determined that this isn’t “my fault”, I was not a “bad mother” and I didn’t “cause” this. The guilt, let me tell you, is overwhelming at first. 

I exist, ever since, in a sort of twilight space. She is not dead. She just isn’t here. Every day, every hour, almost every minute there is an awareness of her. 

“If you see her, slap her in the head for me.”

“If you see her, please ask her to call.”

“If you see her…don’t say anything because you will scare her further into her rabbit hole and then there will be no way back and I will never see her or hear from her again and then I will, absolutely and without hesitation, die.”

Oh wait. 

No I won’t. Because I am still alive now and I haven’t heard from her in nearly four years, so clearly I won’t die.

I will just think I will. Which I already do. So yeah.

Just slap her in the head. And tell her to call.

Like I said, every minute of every hour of every day. Endless and relentless. There would be only one thing worse than this. And I hope “this” has some remission before “that” happens. 

My mother used to have these nightmares about me and she would tell me about them in glowing detail and I can remember thinking “Jesus this woman is nuts. I mean, really. I am a grown adult and perfectly safe, and nothing is wrong and she needs to just chill.”

I have greater appreciation for my mother since August 26, 2016. 

The reasons for this estrangement are still unclear, which I am reliably assured is not at all uncommon. There are whole online support groups dedicated to parental estrangement. Sometimes I read posts from other mothers and I think “Hell, I wouldn’t call you either. You’re fucking nuts.” Then I remember. That’s a mother. Nuts or not, that’s a mother. And her little selfish shit of a child should give her ONE fucking call, use their fucking words, and STOP TORMENTING THAT CRAZY WOMAN. I mean she’s already nuts. That kid is gonna push her over the edge!

I haven’t posted this here for a bunch of reasons. I suspect my utter failure to respect my daughter’s privacy at a very sensitive time played into her decision to flake. Now, to me this is not an unforgivable offense, but to her…well. I get it now. I would have yelled at my mother and called her onto the carpet. My daughter is not me, and she will not do that. Instead? Retreat within. Think…armadillo. Turtle. Hedgehog.

But at this point, it’s been almost four years, I am silently being chewed up from inside with not knowing, I need to get this out, and therefore…if you see her, please slap her in the head for me. And tell her to call her mother.

This delightful (she said with snark) situation has put me in an awkward position on so many levels, especially here at home. First, it has utterly destroyed any real creative energy. Initially I wasn’t sure if this was just the whole death of my parents and moving around the country all at the same time thing, or if it was the absent kid thing. I mean, everything is a struggle. Writing, quilting, knitting. I even decided to buy myself some watercolors hoping the life would come back into my brain with a different medium. It has not. Second, it has caused me to hate people with children, children, mothers, and anyone who talks about the privacy of adult children. I have decided that adult children are not entitled to privacy. They are entitled to send mother’s day cards, birthdays gifts, and call at least once a week, but I would settle for once a month. And that is ALL they are entitled to. Third, there’s the thing that comes into a space when people ask how your kid is and you have to make all these choices. Do I tell the truth? Do I lie and quickly change the subject? “Oh, she’s doing great! How’s *fill in the blank with any other topic*?” Do I lie outright and make something up? “Oh, her? She’s sailing the world on a small boat and hopes to become the first woman to discover the undiscovered continent that was lost while simultaneously garnering accolades and a DPhil from Oxford in English Literature. And her hobbies include rock-climbing, youth advocacy, and injustice activism.” 

I go with the first. My answers to the inevitable questions are as short and as calm as they can be. The number of shocked and astonished people is reassuring. Clearly, I am not the only person who thought I was the last person this could happen to.   

Then there is the fourth level - the horse on the dining room table in some settings, or the one some people just bluntly drag into the center of the floor and begin flogging: The gigantic million dollar “Why?”. This one may be my favorite. It’s followed by a fairly predictable host of responses from the individual doing the asking. 1.) “WELL YOU NEED TO GO AFTER HER AND MAKE HER STOP. THIS IS RIDICULOUS.” 2.)  “What happened? What did you do? Where is she? What is she doing? That must be awful. How do you manage? I would die. Oh my God. What happened??”. 3.) (this is my favorite!) “Well. Just LET ME TELL YOU. If MY daughter did this to ME I would NOT tolerate it! I simply would not. I absolutely would go after her and MAKE her talk to me. I would call the National Guard. The police. I would demand satisfaction!”

My response to this (internally) is as follows: Well good on you, nutter. Have fun with that. She’s an adult. But you go. You do you. Let me know how that works out for you. I’ll testify at your stalking hearing, promise. 

Well. Just let me tell you this while I am thinking of it. I have aged faster than a sitting president. That “what should I do, am I doing the wrong thing? Am I doing the right thing? Should I do anything? Should I do nothing?” thing? Holy shit. Awful. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Gray, wrinkles, the works. I should have been brunette into my 60’s like my mother. Not gonna happen, friends. Not gonna happen. 

Holidays: “Seriously? You want me to show up and smile and nod and act like life is all fine when inside I am slowing being eaten up by this caustic mix of maternal guilt and anger?”

Other people’s family events to which I am generously invited: “You want me to sit here and watch you and your kids smile and laugh and make dinner and throw bags of salt into my bleeding wounds while I sit over here and try not to throw up or cry?”

My own family’s events: “Just no.”

I have hesitated to write this for nearly four years for a host of reasons. Not wanting to out the kid. Embarrassment. Reluctance to answer all the questions from all the people I my life who still do not know. 

But fuck it. If this is the new normal, then it is the new normal. And therefore it is a part of my existence and experience that needs to be written down, because that it what I do. And not writing it down hasn’t done me any good at all. In fact it’s chewed me up so badly I am a veritable hamburger of emotions and thoughts most of the time. 

Now do me a favor? Go call your mother. Even just a text will do. Bonus points if you use a full sentence. And if you see my kid? Slap her in the head (I mean not really, don’t get arrested or anything, you can just use your eyes to do this if you are a mother, you have that skill) and tell her to call. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Certifiable

Something has to change. MelissaKnits, and Eats Plants and Rants About it, and Does Yoga and Hikes in the Woods and Probably Very Soon will Kayak...

Today I finished my Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition through eCornell. I posted my last response on an optional activity just now, and wanted to share it here. I can become exuberant about a topic, believing I have found the new best thing, preaching to anyone who will listen, only to discover that maybe I didn't have all the information and maybe am not quite 100% right. It has taken me a long time to come to accept those missteps and misadventures as parts of a process - a path - that I trust will always lead me in the right direction - and they do - and in truth that path only enlightens me in deeper ways that allow me to see things as others do, which only gives me more tools to help them come to different and deeper understanding themselves. We learn from failing. I wish I knew then what I knew now, so that I could go back in time and rear my kids in this lifestyle - but maybe you can, and maybe you can learn from our story. For now, for me and for Gene, that path has placed us firmly in the whole food plant based camp, with a life goal of being fully vegan as we wear out and use up our animal clothing. This lifestyle seems to bring together all the aspects of the things that I hold nearest and dearest to my little heart - social justice, environmental justice, an end to cruel farming practices, a reduction in diseases of affluence and preventable death and disease...and it is so profoundly simple at the core that it boggles my mind. During the weeks of this course I have been exposed to reliable, data-driven evidence that our current eating habits (including the over-valuing of meat and dairy and the near absence of whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains) are, literally, killing us - and this information is neither novel nor unknown to the institutions and individuals that drive our food machine - and it is a big, dangerous, scary machine at that. 

This is our story, today:


I would not trade this process, although it has taken me nearly three decades to get here, for anything. I have gone through a lot of “phases” - vegetarian, pescatarian, low carb, grass fed, rearing and killing my own chickens for meat and eggs, home cow-milk dairying all in an attempt to find health and wellness, get my husband’s cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure in check, and stave off what I saw as the inevitable in myself - every woman in my family has died, so far, from hearth disease or cancer, and most younger than necessary. And while that process took time that I could consider “wasted”, it has left me with a profound sense of gratitude. I have a very rich  understanding of the complexity and confusion that even the best intentioned among us faces when trying to decipher and decode nutritional reality from the fairy tales spun around us by corporate agri-business giants, food scientists, our own government, and lobbyists.
click me, read me, love me
We have been Plant Based for 336 days, and Whole Food Plant Based for most of that time, probably around 300 days. Initially in order to ease the transition for my husband I used some “fake meat” products, mostly taco meat type crumbles and fake chicken strips. He also initially struggled with the absence of oil, and would wander into the kitchen during prep time asking if I needed to add some. He read package instructions and tried to correct me - “but the package says to use vegetable oil.”… I used these moments to begin to retrain his thinking around food preparation citing Drs Campbell and Dr Esselstyn, and encouraged him to take a more active role in cooking. It helped that my work schedule shifted to evenings, leaving him at home with a recipe to prepare for my return home in the late evening…this was a radical departure from our traditional roles, and it was good for both of us on many levels. Involve everyone in the household by sharing responsibility for meal prep and planning - it breeds a natural interest! 

By the time we made the change to plant based eating we had been in process for about a year, experimenting with various vegetarian meals, and were already consuming much more variety in veg than the average American, but most of that was roasted with a little oil. After reading “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” the oil went out the door. Still his desire to make the change for his health was at odds with his palate and I had a hard time eliminating the fake meat products. Then one day, about a month into our process, I pointed out the relative cost of legumes (canned even) and fake meat during a grocery shopping trip. He was shocked to discover exactly how much money was going toward those processed and refined substitutes. He agreed to give legumes a try, and after a couple weeks of adjustment he was “converted”. He now even has “favorite” legumes and grains! Take opportunities to effect change and educate whenever and wherever they present themselves - if saving money is what gets someone to make a change for the better, roll with it!

We (humans) tend to fetishize food and apply a “live to eat” philosophy to our consumption rather than eating to live. A lot of money has been spent developing foods and flavors that addict us. I’ve spent hours trying to create big thrills in the kitchen before finally realizing that instead of trying to beat them at their own game? I just needed to play a different game altogether. I have gradually removed the fussy, multi-step vegan recipes that had me trapped in the kitchen and replaced them with large containers of pre-cooked and prepped grains, legumes, fruit and veg. These can be quickly tossed in bowls and topped with some simple, fast oil-free sauces and dressings. That means that after 32 years of playing “home chef”, endlessly tied to the kitchen trying to please everyone, I get a break - I get to be free, more or less, from the daily grind of appeasing. 

The responsibility of preparation of the bulk of our meals - or the components of them - still falls predominantly on me. But gradually there has been a shift in that as well. It is important that my husband know what I do in the kitchen and why, so that he can replicate it in my absence and explain and share with others just how simple this lifestyle is after the initial adjustment phase. His weight loss and increased health were so profound and so obvious that he’s faced a lot of inquiry. He’s become a strong advocate for this lifestyle which piqued his interest. As a side benefit he has a glimpse into what I have been doing for the last nearly 30 years of our marriage on a daily basis in the kitchen. Our household labor has been divided neatly along traditional heteronormative gender roles for much of our marriage. That needs to change. Last time I checked there were two adults living here, and both of us have thumbs! 

We recently had one of those spousal heart to heart talks in which I asked him to openly share just how committed he was to this lifestyle. If, I asked, I died tomorrow, would he be at McDonald’s by evening? He says he will not. He says that this lifestyle has become important to him not just for health reasons, but for environmental and animal welfare reasons as well. Looking at our grandchildren he knows that he wants to be here for them for as long as possible, and knows too that he wants them to have clean air, clean water, clean soil that grows clean and healthy food. He wants them to live life, and someday join us in not eating death - not exploiting other animals by subjecting them to the horrific factory farm nightmare we relegate them to now. What began as an experiment for his physical health has become a way of life, a vision for the future, a mission that neither of us can imagine giving up. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Green Things

Sometimes I feel like one - like a hearty little green plant - endlessly growing regardless of substrate or rainfall, sometimes a little brown, sometimes struggling with fungus gnats, or root rot, but overall endlessly growing - like it or not. Call me kudzu. Unstoppable. Take your glyphosate and shove it.
I finish my eCornell Plant Based Nutrition certificate in a couple more weeks. I don't know what the direction is with this, but the concept of Lifestyle Medicine keeps cropping up. If that personality test thinks I should be a drill sergeant, and I am "stuck" as a nurse by education and circumstance, and I feel like an advocate down to my toes, and I need a "thing" that pulls together all the things that I care about - environmental issues, social justice and advocacy, health and wellness, and all the things nearest and dearest to my little heart, then...really Lifestyle Wellness Coach pops to the top. Heal the planet, heal your body, heal the babies, heal the world.
Eat plants. Move your body. Be mindful. And I can help you do all of that. One step at a time.
I was up this morning at 5:20. Not by choice, but by cat. Sometimes this makes me want to live cat-free. But today I was grateful - even if it took a little effort on my part to become so. Thank you, cats, for quiet space to meditate and do yoga before a busy day of errands and hiking. We have been putting off registering the cars here, waiting for some tax paper from NC that just never showed up. And there was banking that needed two signatures, and filing some paper at the registry of deeds.
But once that was done, we went to Superfresh! Organic Cafe in Brattleboro for lunch, then headed into the woods in Wendell State Forest. We are participating in the New England Trails Hike 50 Challenge this year, in part to ensure that we get out, and in part because I am a patch whore. I am hoping for 100 miles by the end of the season. This trail encompasses parts of the Metacomet Monadnock trail which we hiked extensively in the 1990's to early 2000's. It is odd for Mr. W to have a weekday free, but today he had one. And I think we maxed it out.
The hiking was beautiful, if chilly and less than sunny. It is nice to be back in native air, and surrounded by native flora and fauna. A little strange - we saw a couple of woodpeckers, but no other wildlife. Not a deer, bear, squirrel. Not a bird other than the woodpeckers. Two mosquitoes. That was it. I don't think we have ever been out and seen nothing - not even a scat. 
We have been listening to the Food Revolution Summit which we learned about last year and gained a huge amount of knowledge from. Each day they broadcast three interviews at 11am, 12pm and 1pm eastern standard time, then are available for 21 hours as replays on demand. Give it a look and a listen. I have learned a lot, and found a lot of things to think about and research. Plus? recipes! I made Heart Beet Hummus the other day. Delicious. Of course...you can't really do much wrong with hummus. But maybe that is just me.