Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Only Failure is Not Trying (or some other inspirational crap)

At least this person is using their treadmill. (Image via)
Remember, that one time in October, when I was all fit to be fit, and signed up for a 5K? Yeah, well.... today is the Phoenix 5K Virtual Half-Marathon.  (Cue the gasps of unrequited expectations.)

I was stoked when I signed up for this race. The thought of participating in a half marathon, even a virtual one, was a challenge I felt ready to take on. It goes toward my future goals of participating in other events like the Color Run and the Dirty Girl Mud Run. I honestly had every intention of using the 9 weeks between signing up and race day to ramp up my endurance, C25K style, to enable me to actually get my ass up early, get on that m*f*n treadmill the morning of the Phoenix 5K, and walk that 3.1 miles to proudly earn that shiny, glittery red medal. And then I didn't. I just stopped. I got lazy. I lost my renewed ambition and motivation.

I ain't mad at myself because that doesn't serve any purpose. I could give myself that medal for keeping up with the daily litterbox cleaning, or staying out of debt this holiday season... but I won't. I'm going to keep that little medal in my desk drawer, patiently waiting the day that I actually do walk 3.1 consecutive miles on my treadmill. And, I know that the spirit of the Phoenix 5K (as documented in the event details and rules) was to provide motivation for the winter months, and the December 30th date was only a suggestion while each entrant is welcome to complete it whenever they choose... so there's still time.

At least the animals still benefit from the portion of my entrance fee that was donated to the ASPCA.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ho, Ho, Ho...What's on Your Christmas List This Year, Little Girl?

Ho, ho, holy shit! (Image via)
It's no secret among those who know me that I can be a generous person. When I'm in a good financial place, buying gifts for my loved ones is something I truly enjoy. It's also no secret that my penny-pinching/spendthrift balance is quite skewed. For example, I have no guilt or second thoughts about buying the best grain-free, organic food for my pets, nor do I feel frivolous spending $35 a week on Door to Door Organics produce delivery; however, I balk at turning the thermostat above 56°F in the winter, even if that means I have to purchase clothing for the dogs. I know, it really doesn't even out.

Anyway...if you have someone like me in your life and have been searching for that perfect gift and coming up empty, read on for stellar gift ideas for that fat, frugal, misanthropic forty year old single woman in your life. (Wow, that string of adjectives doesn't sound nearly as attractive as it did in my head.)

Image via
The Crazy Cat Lady Starter Pack

Every single woman of forty and beyond is obviously a potential crazy cat lady. Perhaps all they need is that little nudge over the edge into acceptance of their fate. You can provide that free-fall for them! Kittens are nice, but preferably a batch of six more more adult cats, none of which get along. This brings spice to the cat lady's life. Optional, but not necessary, you can include at least one cat that refuses to use the litter box. (Not pictured: four hundred boxes of lint rollers, lifetime supply of Nature's Miracle Just for Cats, the name and number of a therapist with abundant patience and a good sense of humor)

The "I've Given Up on Meeting my Soulmate" Shoe Collection

A shoe for every season, every occasion. And don't forget to include a nice variety of compression stockings, because those varicose veins can be a real son of a bitch sometimes.

All-Season "Loungers"

She'll want to be comfortable while binge-watching Melrose Place on Hulu. The variety of fabric weights and sleeve length kills two birds with one cat, the change of seasons and the change of her seasons. (Loud, tropical prints optional, but encouraged. See also: mumu, caftan, tent dress)

Image via

The Wine of the Month Club

Blubbering through the final moments of Asses to Ashes (will Lexi ever find a man? are Peter and Amanda really dead?), she's going to need a full-bodied merlot to help get her through the daunting task of finding a new series to obsessively watch next. (Not pictured: economy size bottle of store-brand Ibuprofen) And speaking of what to watch...

Image via

Party of Five: The Entire Series

When she just can't move on from the nineties, she'll find comfort in the trials, tribulations, and exploits of the Salingers. All six seasons are available on Amazon Instant. (See also: Felicity, Ally McBeal, Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson's Creek)

I hope you've enjoyed my satirical look into my own life. Alright, alright, so I don't drink...but a stereotype is a stereotype, you know? Oh, and it's all in fun, please do not send me a box of cats.
Happy Holidays, y'all!

Body Positivity and Self Love (or, Caution, Rant Ahead)

I've had it with the general notion that body positivity and self love are synonymous with people saying "everyone should be fat." HAD IT! Casually scrolling through my social media, as I often do, I see a post with a photograph of a heart (the actual organ, not the familial representation of love) marbled with viscous body fat. The caption read, "This is the heart of an obese person.. Remember folks, this is what happens when you get fat. Fat tissue builds up around the heart and clogs/chokes it. Fat is not beautiful, it is not to be glorified," and the original poster added, "Obesity is not beautiful, stop glorifying fat people."


Nothing like a little self-loathing to start your day, oh one-time friend who liked/shared that particular tidbit of shade and ugliness. Whether you're fat or not, most everyone has a friend or family member who is. Someone who you probably care deeply about. If that person has been able to arrive at a place where they can love themselves as they are, let them. If they post selfies and positive proclamations of loving who they are at this very moment in time - despite not fitting into the societal and media-driven ideals of what a human body should look like - why would you not want to support the hell out of that? You don't even have to like they way they look, or agree with their lifestyle. It's not about that! It's about supporting a fellow human's right to be happy in their own skin.

In all my activity within the online body love and self acceptance communities, it is truly rare to stumble upon a person who promotes their own body type and lifestyle choices in the "I am right, you are wrong" fashion. I've yet to read a non-satirical blog post or tweet that demands, "EVERYONE SHOULD BE *fill in the blank with a physically descriptive term*, IT'S SUPER AWESOME!" From my experience (personal and through reading other body positive blogs), fat people who have finally accepted themselves, and decided to stop hating the only body they will ever have (non-existentially speaking), have no agenda other than to be happy. Not to mention that body positivity and self love encompass so much more than the fat community...every level and nuance of the myriad shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, genders, sexualities..."body" and "self" have very little to do with your literal physical presence.

If I post a picture of myself wearing an outfit that doesn't hide my size, I am not "glorifying obesity;" I probably think I look super cute and wanted to share with you. On the flip side, if I share that I've been exercising or making healthy food choices, I am not condemning obesity or even promoting my behavior. Social media is called S-O-C-I-A-L media for a reason...for me, it sometimes becomes my digital journal. I'm not pushing my lifestyle on anyone. If you think my round-faced selfies are gross, un-follow me. If you're offended when I share a picture of or an article or blog post about a fat person doing regular human things without being shamed or humiliated, click "un-like." Because we probably have very little, if anything, in common.

Because I am enough. That means that I love myself and my body, and saying that does NOT mean that I think being fat is awesome or healthy, or that everyone should get fat. I can love myself in spite of (or because of) the choices that brought me to my current size and shape. And that is none of anyone's business but my own.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Frugal Diva

I'm becoming one of *those* people. You know who I'm talking about. The ones who dress their dogs.

It started out innocent enough. As the Wisco weather chills out, my inner frugal diva emerges as the battle of wills ensues... to see how long I can hold out before turning the heat on for the first time of the season.

As the thermostat flutters near 50°F, my little delicate Olimar gave me puppy dog eyes as he dramatically started shivering.
I broke down and bought him a nice royal blue sweater with baby blue trim. It did the trick and kept him toasty; alas, it was too snug. His gangly legs and tiny tummy don't quite match his big, manly barrel-like chest. The sweater was so snug in his little armpits that his baby skin got irritated.

In the interim, Indigo would frequently side-eye her little adopted brother, huffing with envy. So, naturally, I ordered a sweater for her. She loves it.

With Indigo snuggley warm in her charcoal and fuchsia sweater, it was Oli's turn to be envious (but with the chills).

The dizzying array of canine apparel at PetSmart was overwhelming. Holiday sweaters, polar fleece hoodies, vinyl raincoats, flannel pajamas, graphic tees....oh my! I must stop before the amount I spend on dog clothing exceeds the money I save by freezing my ass off in my own house this winter. One sweater and one sweatshirt each will HAVE to be sufficient.

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Frustration

That's not the finger I'd use. (Image via.)
I've come to fear this time of year. Open Enrollment used to mean very little to me. Although I've worked in the health insurance industry for 15 years, the annual review and selection of my own personal benefits never elicited more than a passing thought; except for recent years.

People can blame "Obamacare" (a colloquial term used for the seemingly never ending legislative regulations dictated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just Affordable Care Act), and say that the decline in the quality and availability of healthcare being experienced in tandem with an increase in cost for the same is the result of government intervention. But, in reality, it has little to directly do with it. Of course it's a factor that insurers are required to pay 100% of expenses now deemed "preventive care," a list that grows larger every year. But it certainly isn't the only factor.

Insurers have been hocking what they refer to as "consumer driven health insurance" for years now. This moniker sounds great, but it is misleading. Are we really "consumers" when it comes to our own healthcare? I don't think there is anything wrong with shopping around when you have the luxury of time on your side. Looking for a new doctor? Ask around, get recommendations, find a convenient location...but when asking your friends and family for the name of a great doctor, do you find yourself asking, "How much is an office visit?"

Gone are the days of the benefit-rich, low deductible health insurance plans. Hey, remember co-pays? Ah, fond memories...the real health insurance plans. These "consumer driven" plans have high annual deductibles and even higher annual out of pocket expense maximums. This is intended to give the subscriber pause to stop and think, do I need to see the doctor for this? Do I need this test that my doctor is asking me go get? Let's bring this back down to reality. Seeking medical care can be scary in and of itself without having to question your doctor. You are supposed to trust your doctor. Of course there are unsavory people in the medical field; there are billions of dollars lost annually by health care fraud, waste, and abuse (another reason why the cost of healthcare - and insurance - keep going up).

It's so disheartening when your adult child would rather struggle through an injury, hoping the back pain isn't serious, rather than make an appointment to see the doctor for fear of the resulting bill. The United States has the highest healthcare costs in the world. I know that I live in a state that ranks in the top 20 of the country's highest healthcare costs (according to the data in this 2009 study). It wasn't too long before our annual open enrollment began that I found myself googling "socialized medicine" to see what it was all about. And it turns out that, generally in these countries, you pay for your healthcare through your taxes (and only through your taxes). You don't get a bill in the mail from the hospital after you go to the emergency room, let alone a bill from the lab, imaging center, radiologist, and emergency physician that treated you. In those countries, healthcare is a basic human right, not a luxury. My maximum out of pocket through my health insurance this year is more than I paid for rent in the entire year of 2010. Let that sink in for a minute. I would have to incur $15,600 in medical expenses, of which I would have to pay $5,200 of, before my insurance would pay 100% of covered expenses for the remainder of the calendar year.

When you see the figures of the insane amounts of money earned by the big national health insurance companies and their top executives, it really makes you wonder why the costs keep rising if there is so much profit to be spread around? Having access to healthcare should not be in lieu of savings, or food on the table in some cases. To put a personal spin on it, I had outpatient cardiac surgery in 2007 (an electrophysiology study with multiple catheter ablations). I checked in at the front desk at 5 a.m. for my procedure scheduled for 9 a.m. that morning. The procedure went mostly as planned (there was a blood pressure incident, I recall the nurse quietly shouting that my BP was something like 28/17) and I was released the next morning after overnight monitoring. I received a bill - from the hospital alone, for the use of the surgical suite, supplies, medications, and the observation bed - for over $71,000. That doesn't even include the bill from the surgeon, the assistant surgeon, and the anesthesiologist. I was "fortunate" to have health insurance; however, between my deductible and out of pocket, I was still on the hook for almost $4,000. How do you justify that? It was a procedure I needed to correct the accessory pathways in my heart, to stop the frequent and often lengthy episodes of tachycardia in order to prevent possible cardiac arrest - or death. Should I have been grateful that my life only cost $4,000? Should I have been overjoyed when the hospital said that they would allow me to pay that in 12 monthly installments? I have to believe that the answer to both of those questions is, "no." And don't even get  me started on the $42,000 bill I received for less than 12 hours of care surrounding an outpatient pelvic surgery in 2011.

We shouldn't have to risk going bankrupt in order to get medical care when it's needed. And why should the cost of "insurance" keep rising in the face of obscene industry profits? Is it really still fair to call it insurance when the cost burden falling to the individual is so high? If we are paying a couple thousand dollars just for the insurance, and then we have to pay another $2,500 every year in deductible alone...what if you only need as much healthcare as it costs to meet your deductible? Other than those "preventive services" that your insurance is required to pay for at 100%, you aren't getting any benefit. In a year like that, you are not only paying for all of your own medical care, you are paying for insurance that is giving you zero benefits. How is that legal?

I'm now googling "places to live in the UK." Sashay away, US healthcare.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mondays are a Real M*F*R Sometimes

Mondays are great, aren’t they?

My 5am alarm vibrates against my wrist. I get out of bed and start to make my way to the bathroom (without my glasses….pretty typical) so I can do my morning business, grab my treadmilling gear, and take it back to my room so I can get dressed to huff and puff and sweat to an episode of Grace& Frankie. As I pass the closed door of the boy’s room, I see the light on and I hear him talking to himself…and the conversation doesn’t sound pleasant. I knock, enter, and ask what’s going on. I immediately smell Nature’s Miracle, and before I could ask, he tells me that Oli peed on the floor, while he was at the gym. I ask him what he’s doing and I squint (without my glasses on,
I have the vision of an aged mole in bright sunlight) and kind of make out that he’s sitting on his bed with some papers in front of him. Oh yeah…the medical history questionnaire he has to complete to take with him for his physical – today. You know, the packet of forms that I printed out for him five days ago. The same packet of forms that I asked him, no less than a dozen times this weekend, to not wait ‘til the last minute to fill out. And, of course, he doesn’t “get” them; they don’t make any sense and they’re dumb, so dumb. This is most likely because he hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep and he’s already annoyed from a series of events this early morning that were beyond his control. So I get my glasses from my room (I can SEE!), go back into his room, and sit down to help. And he’s being particularly short-tempered and snippy, which doesn’t make it easy to help him.

We get through the paperwork and by that time, the small bit of motivation I’d had to walk on the treadmill dwindled and dried up like a sad little cherry tomato that fell behind the kitchen table, forgotten about until the cat drags it out to play with. I look at my watch (which also happens to be my FitBit…irony, part 1) and I see that – if I wanted – I could lie back down for an hour and a half.

I lay down in bed, reset my alarm for 7am, pull up the covers, and shut my eyes. Cue Georgeanne. Georgeanne is one of my cats. She is almost 17 years old and had developed a love of singing at inappropriate times (the experts refer to it as “excessive vocalization,” and it can mean a lot of different things, medically speaking). Of course she decides to shout it out just as I decide I’d like to catch a few more zzzzz, of course. I yell at her a few times to shut up, which sometimes works. After the fourth chorus, I decide to just get up and do the damn treadmill anyway. I grab my glasses (again) and disconnect my phone from the charger…and see that it’s 6:58. Well, there goes that idea.

I navigate my morning commute across the hall and power on my work computer. I typically do this in stages as I’m preparing to start my work day at 7:30 a.m. This allows the old girl (the computer, not me) to boot up, and I don’t have to sit there staring at it while it chugs along. I pop back into the office after five or so minutes to log on (a dual-step process), and then I go let the dogs out. I peek into the office around 7:15 and see that the computer is still only at the “Welcome” start-up screen. That’s odd. I remember that there was a program update over the weekend that I neglected to stay connected to the network for, and I supposed that it could be bogging things down (note that I am not an IT person so that is probably not even a thing that could happen). I finally have my breakfast together and sit down at my work desk at 7:28 a.m. The dual 17” monitors are still welcoming me while spinning its little blue ring; so let out a heavy sigh, roll my eyes, and call the Help Desk.

Working for a huge corporate conglomerate, you can never be too sure what you’re going to get when you call the Help Desk. I really prefer to either report a tech issue online, or use their handy Live Chat feature. Since I couldn’t even get to my desktop, let alone connect to the network, I had no choice but to call. After a brief recording describing the top system outage, I was informed by a friendly-sounding woman (another automated voice) that my expected wait time is 201 minutes. Folks…that is not a type-o…two-hundred-and-one minutes. That’s about 3 hours and 21 minutes, if you're counting. Well, that’s not very helpful, Help Desk Robot Woman. As I sit on hold, I hear the magical sounds of the computer finally getting over itself, and I land on my desktop around 7:45 a.m. Things then seemed to be running, albeit slowly, so I threw caution to the wind and hung up the phone, knowing I’d lose my place in the long hold queue. What the hell…I live a life of danger; I run with scissors.

As I’m going through my email, viewing my daily calendar, and trying to organize my day, I see Olimar out of the corner of my eye sitting in the middle of the office, ears hanging low, and he’s shaking. That can only mean a handful of things:
  • He’s just had a bath, and he’s chilly.
  • He just got in trouble and has been scolded.
  • He has to pee.
  • He’s about to toss his doggie cookies. 

My knees creak and my thigh muscles threaten to seize up as I squat down to clean up the large pile of his barely-digested serving of breakfast kibble. I start to wonder if I can afford to quit my job, sell my house and car, and just backpack across the country. (I recently watched Reese Witherspoon in Wild, which is a really great movie.) It seemed like a good idea in the moment. Maybe just one of those tiny houses, somewhere off the grid….but with Wi-Fi.

Alright, back to work. I find out from a couple of co-workers that the start-up issue is something that others are experiencing, too. There is an open case for it on the Help Desk’s home page, and it encourages you to add your workstation to the ticket if you’re
experiencing the issues. So I clicked on the simple, one-click button to add myself to the ticket. Then I clicked on the button to confirm that, yes, I wished to add myself to the ticket. And then I got a pop-up message that there was an error with my request, and I should call the Help Desk to report it. The irony was strong this morning. I tried to keep my good humor about me as I went on with my work day. The struggle was real.

So this is 40? That got me to thinking, with today’s life expectancy, what is considered the top of “the hill?” You know, as in just before you’re considered “over the hill.” I know it’s typically when you turn 50, but seriously, who’s living to 100 these days? I’m just wondering because “over the hill” sounds great! I mean, doesn’t that colloquialism mean that once you reach that point in your life everything is so easy and carefree and joyous, like a basket of kittens and hundred dollar bills? “Over the hill,” because the journey down the hill is much easier than the climb up the hill. Right? That’s what that means, right? Why is everyone laughing?
Images viaviavia. and via.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Open Letter to the Fat Haters

You may have already seen or heard about the YouTube video that portrays itself as an open letter to fat people. It’s already gotten a lot of attention in social media, so I won’t link to it or even mention the title or name of the YouTuber that posted it. If you haven’t seen it, you aren’t missing out. And although the original poster has since taken it down (claiming YouTube removed it, but that’s since been disproven), it has been reposted anonymously…so it’s out there if you really feel you must see it. I’ll provide a short synopsis here, and I will attempt provide it in the spirit in which it was originally intended in this not-so-verbatim recount:

A young woman sporting blonde hair with a hot pink stripe, a dark colored top (or dress, you can’t really see her in full), and glam-style makeup introduces herself, and lets you know right off the bat that she isn’t happy about having to share her world with fat people.

She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t real. That fat people made it up, using hashtags like #BodyPositive, #FatAcceptance, and #BodyLove so they can stay fat and be proud of being so gross. She tells the world that fat shaming isn’t a thing, unless you also allow such promotional hashtags as #TeamSmoker and #HeroinLove.

She recounts an experience she had at an airport, when she had to wait longer than she should have because a family of fat people was given the privilege of line jumping to the front…because they couldn’t breathe or stand because they were so fat. She not only called out the fat parents, for being disgusting (such as sweating Crisco), she also called out the fat child. And she went on to call out that fat child for invading her space when seated next to her on the plane; explaining that she had to literally hold this child’s fat away from her body or it would have been all over her.

She explains at a few different moments during the 6ish minute video that she isn’t talking about the fat people who have medical conditions that render them fat. She also makes a differentiation between people who are a little overweight, with some “cushion for the pushin’,” from the “really big, fat” people. She’s only addressing the fat people that are fat by choice…and she’s only doing so because she is selfish and wants those people around longer. She’s doing this, and saying these things, because fat people need to be told the truth; and she cares about the health of fat people. Because if you’re fat (and you aren’t fat because of a medical condition), you’re sick and you’re going to die soon. She diagnoses all fat people (who aren’t fat by medical disease) as having heart disease and diabetes, and all fat people will lose a foot to their diabetes…before they die young.

In this video, she advocates for everyone to “call out fat people for their bullshit” in order to save their lives. I am a fat woman. She negates any feelings I may have about her opinions by saying that there is no such thing as fat shaming. Now, I have my own feelings and beliefs about shaming, the word itself, and the actions that are referred to as shaming…

As an aside to the main character of this story (the video), my perception, of late, has been that the word shaming has been overused to the point of not meaning anything. It’s become the boy who cried wolf. Not that the actions aren’t still there; they are. But, much like the words “abuse” and “hate”, shame is being affixed to any behavior a person experiences that makes them slightly uncomfortable or doesn’t agree 100% with their own personal opinions. It’s the new “bullying.” This is not what shaming is. If someone doesn’t like the color of my hair, or the cut of my dress, and they decide to tell me so, I’m not being shamed. Ok, maybe the person who feels the need to share things like that isn’t being very nice or polite (if I didn’t ask for their opinion), but that doesn’t make them hateful, or abusive, provided that there is no malice or harmful intent in the delivery. My mother once told me, after seeing a picture of me in an outfit I felt pretty cute in, that I looked like a marshmallow and should never wear that particular shirt ever again. Did I feel bad? Sure. Were my feelings hurt? For a moment or two, yes. Did she say it to be malicious or to shame me? No; of course not. (I never did wear that top again…)

Back to the main topic…

Watching that video was my first exposure to this person, the original poster. She apparently sells herself as something of a comedienne, and from what I gather from things I’ve read on social media, she has had her funny moments but she is known for her “no-holds-barred” attitude when it comes to things she doesn’t like – including people she doesn’t like. I suppose in some world, you could consider her video satire. Satire, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is a way of using humor to show someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.; humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. In my opinion, the only person who looked foolish or weak was her. Her diatribe showed that it is she who has the bad quality of hate in her heart, and the weakness to insist on spewing it to the masses. But, because humor is in the ear of the listener/eye of the beholder, I’m sure that some people did find it funny. Just like some people find racial slurs, the use of the word “retard,” and playing “spin the kitty” with a stainless steel bowl on a linoleum floor “funny.” However, there are a lot of people who didn’t find her video funny, or even satirical for that matter. I am one of those people.

The reasons why I didn’t find humor in her rant may differ from the reasons of others. I find faux-concern the worst form of condescension. Don’t tell me that you’re concerned for my health; bitch, you don’t know me. Why would you give a shit about my health? Just like the family on the airplane in her story. She didn’t know them personally, so why would she have a stake in their health and well-being? She doesn’t. She was inconvenienced so she decided to make it about their health (*ahem*, let’s be honest, their appearance). I wonder if it had been a family of athletically built Catholics (totally making this up for illustrative purposes here…) who insisted on being seated first because of their religious beliefs, and if the child was invading her personal space with his bulging biceps, would she have written a rant about religious people, or muscular people? I can’t answer that, so I’ll leave it for you all to ponder.

The darker side of these things, like her video, can happen because YouTube (and any social media for that matter) is available to virtually anyone with access to the internet. This includes people who may already have extremely low self-esteem. Not to mention that “fat” is a very fluid term; it means something different to every single person. How many teenage girls (maybe even yourself, when you were younger…or even now) love their body? When I was 16, I weighed 121 pounds, and I thought I was fat, because that was my perception at the time. So, if someone who is already feeling awful about the way their body looks, and perhaps doesn’t have the self-confidence to ignore skewed messages like that video, they may decide to take unhealthy measures to stop being “fat.” I wonder how she would feel if she discovered that someone developed an eating disorder as a direct result of watching her video. Would she be glad that they were losing weight, regardless of the method? Or if her video was viewed by someone already at their lowest; and that was the final thing that pushed them over the edge to commit suicide. Would she be thankful that there was one less fatty in the world?

In my own version of fat acceptance and body love, I am not asking anyone to be fat, advocating obesity or unhealthy choices, or for everyone to love the way my body looks. All I ask is that I be granted the same respect and human rights as anyone else. I believe that is the basis for all fat acceptance and body love activism. Not to “make the world fat” or force people to say that fat bodies are beautiful and should be revered. As a fat woman, I am very aware of the health concerns that can result from being fat. I see my doctor annually, and the results of those visits are the business of me and my doctor alone. I do not owe an explanation of my health to anyone, nor do I feel compelled to provide one. And if I choose to practice body love by way of increased activity and healthy choices at the supermarket, a lifestyle change that may or may not result in weight loss, those are choices I make to love the only body I'll every have. Just like I do not require anyone else to comment on my current shape/ability/weight/lifestyle, I do not require anyone’s congratulations, commendations, or high-fives if I lose weight or make healthy choices.

Get this….my body is my business. Not anyone else’s. My choices do not impact your life nor do they infringe on your choices and beliefs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother (or substitute any other unconditionally loved family member or friend), then don’t say it to a complete stranger (or an entire cross-section of complete strangers).

Image via

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not an End; It's a Continuation

Careful....feelings and incredibly personal life accounts are ahead.

Self harm comes in many, many packages. And I’ve engaged in more than one of them. It’s been years since I’ve engaged in the most typical form of self harm…self injury.
From my early teens, I made the ill-informed choice to deal with depression and anxiety by physically harming myself. Cutting, burning. It went in phases; I’d sometimes go years without using that as a coping mechanism. It reared its ugly head once again in my twenties. During the most difficult and challenging time in my almost 40 years, I was the most depressed I’d ever been. I was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder type II, with psychotic features (aural and visual hallucinations).

Over the course of five years, I was hospitalized several times, on three separate medical leaves from work that totaled close to a year when added together, and was thrust into a year long custody battle with my ex-husband. There were a couple of times where I really thought it was over for me; somehow I came out on the other side with a few scars (see “before” pic below…there are many more than that) but still alive. I’ve been medication free, shaken the bipolar diagnosis, and other than a recent and difficult bout of depression and anxiety brought on by a job that was crushing me, I’ve never felt more emotionally healthy. (I was able to move into a different position with my employer, that I am absolutely in love with, and that’s all it took.)

I also consider the way I’ve been living my life, and the unhealthy choices I’ve been making, a form of self harm. Repeatedly losing weight and subsequently putting it back on, and more. Finding comfort and friendship in food and excessive sleep, also harmful in my grand scheme of life. Knowing how much better I physically feel and how much more energy I have when I make the choice to put nourishing food in my body and to get up and move my body, yet falling back into old habits…leaving me physically exhausted and lethargic…self harm in my definition of the term.

After almost 2 months of living an overall healthy and active life, I slid backward over the last 10 days. I’d gone back to not wanting to get out of bed until the last possible minute before walking across the hall to my home office. I found myself, once again, taking unintentional sitting up couch naps after eating a carby, greasy dinner. It’s time to face the facts that feeling this way is not worth the 15 minutes of overindulgence or hour and a half of extra sleep. It’s time to put that semicolon in my life. The marked segue between the similar thoughts of living and FUCKING LIVING!

If you’re not already familiar with Project Semicolon, it’s worth a look. Every time I want to skip the early rise to treadmill, or switch the banana nice cream for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I’m going to take a small pause, look down at my forearm, and remember. Remember where I’ve been, and where that had my life headed. And I’ll not expect perfection; that’s impossible,  a set up for a feeling of failure, and the urge to “go back” and give up. No. I want to FUCKING LIVE, for myself. So I can do the things I want to do. To be able to dance at my son’s future wedding without feeling self conscious or getting winded. To book a flight to anywhere. To finally go for a fucking run, gods I want to be a runner. I want to do the Color Run. I want to do the Dirty Girl Mud Run. That’s what this semicolon represents to me. My mark. My reminder that I’ve chosen not to end, but to continue.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Eating Disorders and Other Fun Things about Being Fat

This sign serves as your warning that this post is wordy, and touches on topics I said I wouldn't talk about here! (image via)

Any website or literature dedicated to eating disorders worth anything will tell you the ABCs of eating disorders. A is for anorexia. B is for bulimia. C is for compulsive overeating (clinically called Binge Eating Disorder, but then the trinity of eating disorders couldn't be cutified with the adorable "ABC" reference if it was called by its clinical name, could it?). I felt like some kind of bizarro-world cheerleader just then. Of all those disorders, the one that tends to get the least attention... in the media, in studies, in Lifetime original movies... is binge eating disorder. Of the three, it is the one that can seem the least like an actual "problem", even to those who suffer from it. But it's time for me face the facts, it's still an eating disorder. And its long lasting effects are just as life threatening as those that come from the other two disorders. It is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, being characterized as "just a weight problem." Even as a doctor can look you in the eye and use the words "develop a better relationship with food," it makes your soul die a little when their next words include "weight loss surgery." Recognizing that someone may be suffering from binge eating disorder - AN EATING DISORDER FULLY DEFINIED AND RECOGNIZED IN THE DSM-V - and recommending that they simply "work on healthier eating habits," "get more exercise," or have their digestive system surgically altered to completely force a change in the way their body handles food and nutrition is something I can only liken to telling an alcoholic to "just drink a little" or advising someone with anorexia to "have a burger." It's one thing to try and overlook a seemingly well-meaning friend or family member completely missing the mark in in their inability to understand the complexities and deep rooted self-loathing that drives an eating disorder. But when your doctor minimizes one of these should-be obvious mental illnesses (I seriously HATE using that term, seriously, but I have committed to calling a spade a spade today) with a treatment plan of Weight Watchers, joining a gym, and offering to prescribe Meridia, that is borderline malpractice in my opinion.

I will only allow myself a short tirade on the topic of weight loss surgery today. I think weight loss surgery, such as the Lap Band, gastric sleeve, and Roux En Y traditional permanent alteration of one's gastric system can definitely be a helpful tool for someone who clinically qualifies for it…AND WANTS IT. But it should be viewed as just that, a tool. It also is important to find a team who will require the potential surgical candidate to go through the full gamut of diagnostic interviews and tests to ensure they are physically and mentally a good candidate for this method of treatment. Having surgery to essentially force your body into a new way of eating and digesting can help you lose weight but it can also be psychologically devastating if you have a skewed relationship with food.

Imagine that every day, for twenty five years, you woke up in the morning and before you did anything else, you used your fingernails to gently scratch your ankles. Sure, sometimes you got carried away and drew a little blood, but come on, it's fine. And doing this is has become ingrained habit, I mean, you can't imagine NOT starting your day like that...or doing it again four or five more times each day. In fact, most times, you don't even think about it; it just happens.  Then your doctor tells you that, for your health, you have to stop. You try, you really do, you give it 110% effort... but you always seem to slip back into old ways. So your doctor schedules you for surgery to remove your fingernails. You go through a few weeks of pre-surgical counseling and you're able to tell everyone what you know they need to hear to make this surgery happen, because you've been convinced that this is it... this is your golden ticket. The day comes and you finally have that surgery that's going to be your miracle cure. You wake up from the anesthesia groggy and a little sore but optimistic about your future.  Then, you realize that the pain you're feeling isn't just post-operative, recovery pain, it's because you're trying to scratch your ankles with your bloody, bandaged, fingernail - less fingers and oh mY GAWD THIS F*N HURTS! And that's just beginning. Every morning, you forget, and go through the painful reminder of unconsciously going in for that scratch and being rudely jarred back to reality by that pain. Then, eventually, the pain subsides only to be replaced by emptiness when you absent-mindedly scratch and nothing happens. There's no more satisfaction or enjoyment or pacification. Now there's irritation, anger, resentment.  Why did you consent to, no, want that surgery? What were you thinking? So you get to that point where you can get through the day without scratching at your ankles. It's an hour to hour (hell, sometimes minute to minute) struggle but you can manage to get through your day without doing it. But you think about it all the time. You want to but you don't. You feel a profound sense of loss and start to feel depressed. Your doctor commends you on how great your ankles look and how you're on the path to a healthier you. Then the idea pops in your head that you don't need fingernails to scratch your ankles; you can use a tool. Hell, monkeys can learn to use tools. So, through trial and error, you slowly discover the best utensil to scratch. It may have taken a few years, but you find yourself exactly back where you were before the surgery, except now you have no fingernails.

I find this a good analogy particularly because of that last part. Not that all weight loss surgery patients regress and gain the weight back but it's possible and more common than you might think. Whether it's through eating small amounts too often or finding ways to eat the same, unhealthy foods that you've always craved (or both), without the proper and continuous support of the medical team for your physical and mental well-being, it is all too easy to render your surgery completely useless. It's also more physically dangerous to rebound gain after weight loss surgery. Compound that with the fact that you may or may not have also had cosmetic surgery to re-sculpt your slimmed down body, and now you're fat again. Add on the financial aspect, because your insurance not only denied coverage for the surgery to remove the excess skin, calling it not medically necessary, they also refused to cover the weight loss surgery, deeming it cosmetic. So, here you are, fat again and deep in debt from financing all that surgery. I mean no disrespect or shade toward anyone who's had weight loss surgery; I think you have incredible strength and bravery...I'm not sure I could do it, even if my insurance would cover it.

OK, so I guess that wasn't as short as I had intended. Sorry about that.… moving on.

It's also important to mention that it is very common for eating disorders to "cross-over;" meaning, people who suffer from one often find themselves suffering from one or both of the others. To be real about it, I have had past episodes that would clinically qualify as bulimia. Having a psychological fear of throwing up, no, I have never induced vomiting, but only because that was too scary for me. But I have abused laxatives and diuretics. Purposely taking three times the recommended dose of an over the counter laxative after eating a Big Mac value meal, an entire pizza, bag of Tositos with cheese dip, pint of Ben and Jerry's, and half a package of cookies definitely meets the diagnostic definition of bulimia. Where I can count the number of times I have done that without taking off my shoes, the mind-set is still there, bubbling under the surface. I have also had the passing thought, "God, I wish I could just stop eating." Yes, I have wished for anorexia. And, yes, I also understand how damaged that is.

This is where I struggle the most with the recent body love movement. I want to love my body enough to stop abusing it. Abusing it by living to eat rather than eating to live. That's another cliché that makes me cringe but I really can't put it in better terms. So much of the rhetoric and treatment for eating disorders focuses on finding your triggers and "mindful eating." I can assure you, when I'm eating, everything else is already tuned out. Because I love food. I love the way it tastes. The way the combination of smoky charbroiled meat coupled with mild, tangy cheese, crisp lettuce, and creamy mayonnaise can create the perfect cheeseburger. Or the dense, softness of yellow cake shrouded in the balanced sweetness of buttercream frosting with just a tiny hint of fine, granular sugar crunch. Let me repeat that...I love food. When there is just no "underlying trauma" causing you to binge, where do you go with that? How do you "fix" that? When you find it impossible most times to not eat that entire pizza or cake because it just tastes SO F*N GOOD, how do you stop?

I have had my experiences with most aspects of mental health care (again, I'll visit that another time) and can unequivocally say that therapy is not helpful for me, group nor individual. I've had brief stints as an inpatient, gone through structured intensive outpatient programs, participated in support groups, women's therapy groups, and a combination of years of one on one therapy. Mind you, none of that was specifically to treat my eating disorder (probably because it's taken me years to realize I have one and, at the time, my "mental health team" had labeled me with other maladies that trumped my fat). None of it worked to helped me.

During all of this one on one therapy, sometimes weekly, sometimes every two weeks, I stuck with one therapist for two years, accomplishing nothing. I finally moved on to a new one after realizing that my therapy sessions were nothing more than a 50 minute coffee break for both of us. It only took 9 months with the new therapist to get to the same place. There were others sprinkled in between that I just couldn't click with. I did whatever they asked of me. If they wanted me to journal, I journaled. If they wanted lists, I made lists. If they gave me worksheets and goal exercises, I completed them and brought them next visit. It always ended up feeling like chatting with a girlfriend. They spoke of their personal lives, I could never tell if they were doing that as a method of trying to "connect" with me, or if they were aware that I wasn't reaping any clinical benefit but they didn't know how to tell me that "our time was up," permanently.  As much as we mutually tried to keep it clinical, it just never felt that way. In the structure of the outpatient program, it was the same but different. I did all the work and activities... the worksheets, the art therapy, the group participation... and walked away everyday feeling no different. It was just never something that I found helpful.  That leaves me asking myself, why would it be any different for the eating disorder?
I've done Weight Watchers a handful of times beginning when I was a teenager. My least favorite part was always the group discussion. I never found it helpful and always wanted it to be over before it started. I've tried online weight loss support sites. They stick for a while but then I get bored and irritated with the whole social aspect of it.  Now I want to clarify, I am not comparing weight loss support with clinical support to treat an eating disorder. I am merely presenting the fact that other forms of group support weren't helpful to me either. That is, until I found Tumblr.

There’s just something about it. Maybe it’s the perfect mix of photos, silliness, motivational quotes, heart-felt admissions, and what seems like the genuine support of my newfound Tumblr friends. It’s something that I know I don’t have to do, but I am compelled to visit each day. I’ve taken to sharing screen shots of my FitBit activity and LoseIt! daily food log. I also occasionally snap and share photos of the produce I use to make juice along with the results, as well as some of the healthier food I’ve been preparing for myself. I had forgotten what a great cook I can be. More than anything else, it gives me just enough of a feeling of being accountable to want to continue. Even if it’s sharing how I totally abandoned healthy choices for a weekend in favor of delivery and baked goods.

I know this blog isn’t about my weight, or my health related lifestyle changes. And it’s so hard for me not to write on here as much as I'd like to. As much as I love Tumblr, it really isn’t a venue for long, wordy posts like I put here. I also don’t want to alienate any of the people who look forward to reading my stuff on here. So I will stick to my promise to not turn Big Funny Girl into Look What I Ate Today or My Daily Workout. If it occasionally slips in…kind of the way it did a bit here, I’m sorry. This new healthy outlook has become a big part of my life, it’s hard not to talk about it! I'll try and post the funny goods here a bit more often.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Neverending Story (List)

No, no, no...not that one! (image via)
It's the never ending LIST! Perhaps I should have titled this post, "Things I've Learned in the Two Years I've Owned a Home." And really, it's just the one thing. The list never ends. Even as you cross something off, feeling wonderfully accomplished at having completed it, you immediately think of three or more NEW things to add to the list.

The list was born as the closing was drawing near, around May of 2013. Topping the list was to finish the patio room. The patio slab off the back of the house (the kitchen, to be exact) is about 14 square feet and one of the previous owners decided to frame it up and make it an indoor patio...kind of. They finished the framing, and did a pretty good job. The electrician that I hired to put the electrical outlets in that room said something like, "[the framing] was done to ensure it would withstand a nuclear blast." Oh, yeah....check that off the list...power outlets in the patio room. The concrete slab that serves as the floor is uneven and has several deep cracks that weep as the heavy winter snow melts in the springtime. All we did in there was toss a couple of area rugs down and hastily staple gunned some insulation between the wall studs and ceiling beams. I did get a couple of estimates on doing a sub-floor, flooring (most likely laminate), and drywall for the walls and ceiling. The quotes were all around $3,500. Moving that to the bottom of the list.

Another big ticket item on the list from the beginning is a new refrigerator. The house came with all the kitchen appliances, although the flipper went second hand to cut corners (like I have found to be the case in many areas of the house). The fridge is adequately sized but has a huge gash on the inside back wall and the door seal is pretty shabby; you have to push the door once it's closed to make sure it's sealed, and it probably runs more than it should. Still on the list.

Then, a couple of months into homeownership, we adopted a rescue dog from the Wisconsin Humane Society. Now a fence was at the top of the list. My optimistic side told me that the boy and his friends could do it, while the pessimistic side was rolling her eyes and saying, "Yeah, alright, if you don't mind a shoddy looking fence that takes months  of nagging and arguments to finish." After two years of saving and having to spend my savings on other things and saving some more, and a little help from Dad, I am ecstatic to report that the fence is up and the dogs (yes, we added a second dog about a year ago...glutton for punishment that I am) seem to be oblivious to their new-found cable-free existence. *sigh* At least it looks nice. Cross the fence off the list.

That leaves the two big ticket items - finish the patio room and new fridge - along with an ever changing catalog of other, less costly items and projects.

Of course, now that the fence is up, I have the landscaping itch. Retaining walls and river rocks and ground cover and accent lighting, OH MY! That shit adds up, too. I find myself looking over that mental list and I have come to the realization that it will never end. There will always be something more to do or to want when you own a home. I just have to consider myself lucky that the flipper did much of the big stuff (or it was already done shortly before he flipped it) so I hopefully won't have to add roof, siding, windows, hot water heater, A/C, or furnace on my list in the near future. Most of my list is wants, really the only true need is that damn new fridge.

I'm working on it...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Family is a Fluid Word

This is my son (not the furry one), commonly referred to around here as "the boy." And that is his tattoo. You can't see the whole thing, but it reads, "Family is Forever." That got me to thinking about family, and what that word means. I think it can mean different things to different people.

The other day, I read an article about how so many of the cliches and proverbs we all throw around these days have actually been bastardized from their original phrasing. This often results in a complete 180 of the original intent of the quote. For example:

Blood is thicker than water.

This is one that people just love to toss out there when they feel like a family member is treating them unfairly. The actual quote (as adapted from a German proverb) is "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." This literally means the exact opposite of what people generally think it means when they spout the old "blood is thicker" crap. The original intent of the statement was that the bonds made by choice, as in friends and companions (covenant), is much stronger and more meaningful than those thrust upon you by birth (womb).

I think the original meaning is much more accurate. I love my family. But I also love my friends. I chose my friends for a reason, because I like them and I enjoy having them in my life. Sometimes family...not so much, but that's another story. The people that are your family by blood (or marriage, as in steps and in-laws) are in your life be default; it wasn't your choice. Under best case circumstance, you will always love those people and care about them deeply. You may not always agree or get along, but hopefully when things arise, they can be settled and your relationship can return to its former glory.

But I'm here to say that it doesn't make you a bad person if you make a choice to distance yourself from someone, blood relative or otherwise, if they aren't a positive influence in your life. If someone is consistently making personal choices that make you sad or disappointed or angry...I say cut 'em loose. Alright, maybe not right away. People make mistakes, have lapses in judgement. It happens to everyone. And when it does, if you're on the receiving end of the fallout and hard feelings, speak the f* up and tell that person how you feel. It then falls to them to react. Sometimes it takes time, but if that person genuinely cares about you and feels that you are an important piece of their life, they will reflect upon what you've had to say and take action to make sure it doesn't happen again (or at least talk it out in an attempt to explain the why's and why not's).

If you never say anything, nothing will ever change.

The moral of my story here is that family is what it is to you. No one else has the right to define that term for you.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

I'm a Wingman

Ok, so I'm a wingwoman. I didn't know this until a couple of weeks ago. The boy and I were out and about, gettin' it done. Our list was brief but pointed.

  • Sally Beauty - hair color
  • Pet Supplies Plus - dog food, canned cat food (of course, the obligatory dog treats)
  • Olive Garden - well, what else do you go to OG for??
  • Pick N' Save - food
  • Sports Authority - man panties (which is what I call the boy's compression shorts)
We were at the pet store, heading toward the checkout (where we always fall for the colorful display of over-priced, unnecessary dog cookies) when I heard the boy mumble under his breath, "Wow, she's beautiful." I can't say if he actually intended for anyone to hear, or if he even knew he said it out loud. I glanced around and knew he must've been talking about the checker whose line we were about to enter.

As we waited, we were our usual entertaining selves. We chatted about one thing or the other and when he couldn't remember something I was talking about, I loudly proclaimed, "I really wish you would stop using drugs." He immediately turned a very satisfying shade of fuchsia. Then we laughed, assuring the on-lookers that it was all in fun. When it was our turn at the register, our banter continued, as it usually does. It caught the attention of the cashier, who immediately sided with me in whatever "tiff" the boy and I were engaging in. She used some of his favorite verbiage, when he challenged her as to why he was being ganged up on, as she replied that she always sides with the girl when a guy's "coming at her reckless". The boy and I stole a brief glance at one another and he couldn't stifle the smirk.

As we concluded our business, we got in the Civic and the boy looked deflated. He mentioned how he should go back in there and get her number...but, alas, he felt too shy. I suggested that he pen her a quick hello along with his number on a piece of paper. He thought that sounded safer but still felt he wouldn't be able to get up enough nerve to do it and said, in jest, that I should take the note and give it to her on his behalf. I immediately agreed.

As a side bar here, I must mention that I felt doing this was only paying it forward. You see, my mom did this exact thing for me when I was in high school. I had such a crush on the service counter guy at the grocery store we frequented and she obliged my wish and delivered to him a note I had written. We had one date. He picked me up in his black Toyota MR2 and we went to go see Navy Seals.

Anyway....he scrawled his note (thank goodness I always carry a pen in my purse), handed it to me (I did not read it), and I headed back into the store. As soon as she finished with the customer she was serving, I stepped up to the back of the checkout area, apologized, and asked if I could ask her a quick question. She turned around, all smiles, and said absolutely. I handed her the boy's note and said, "This is from my son, he was too embarrassed to bring it in himself." She opened it, started reading, cracked a huge smile, blushed a bit, and replied, "Oh my god, that is soooo cute! I will text him later!" I smiled and exited the store, got back in the Civic and recounted the brief tale.

We finished our errands and as we dined on pseudo-Italian "cuisine" at The Olive Garden, the boy received a text from her, just as she said she would. He was elated...and they've been seeing each other here and there ever since. Will it become a "thing"? Who knows. But it does appear as though this will now just be something he comes to expect from, the wingwoman.

The best part of the story is, once they started getting to know one another, she confessed that she was particularly surprised by his note because she thought that he and I were.....wait for it.....A COUPLE! Oh my gawd.....I know that we have occasionally been mistaken for friends or brother and sister.....but dating??? I'm sure he was much more horrified than I was to hear that.