Friday, February 29, 2008

More Good News!

Blogging from the Seattle airport now, at a chi-chi little place with a cheese plate and a glass of wine, and that feels just about right right now. I went to visit mom early this morning, on my way out. It was just about the hardest thing ever to leave with that tube still down her throat. Her nose itched, and I was there to scratch it. But then I left, and who would help her with that? She couldn't talk, because of the tube down her throat, helping her to breathe. She tried spelling something to me, but either I was too lame to read the letters, or she was too drugged up to make normal letters for me, but I couldn't read them. We squeezed hands, and she cried a bit, and I cried more, and I felt like the biggest turd on earth for leaving her there like that. I'm tearing up here and now, thinking about it. It SUCKED.

The night shift ended at about the time I had to get to the airport, so the kind nurse who was caring for her overnight drove me to the airport (near her house)...I gotta say, folks in Alaska are nicer than folks in California, by about 10 1/2 miles. I was so so sad to leave, and it was nice to have a taste of kindness on my way out. I only cried twice on the airplane about leaving her like that. I'm going to blame it all on Alaska Airlines, because when I originally changed my flight from last Saturday, I wanted to fly home tomorrow, but they didn't have any flights available. So if they had, I could have stayed long enough...

TO SEE HER WITHOUT HER TUBE!!! I landed in Seattle, and called first thing, and her wonderful day nurse Deb told me that they took the tube out, that she was much more comfortable now, that she had talked some, and was now sleeping comfortably. YAY! Oh mom, you show them that they shouldn't scare the hell out of your kids, your mom, your family and friends, by telling us that you could be under for a MONTH, with undertones of "well, at first we thought if we did the surgery she might be under FOREVER..." which made us think, Oh, crap, was THIS a bad idea...But you showed them not to mess with Maya's Granny, because you KICK ASS, and you're awake and talking, and will be up and about sooner than anyone dares to hope.

Go, Mom, GO!

With much love, and a ton of relief, J

(Cross posted at Thinking About...)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blogging from ICU

Mom is doing better today than anyone expected, which just goes to prove that she's strong and determined, even when knocked out cold. They woke her up for just a few minutes today, and she was breathing on her own for a bit, so they feel confident that they will be able to remove the breathing tube in a day or two. I've been in here, talking to her and rubbing lotion on her wintery feet, and I think she can hear me. She opens her eyes once in awhile. I know she's not completely awake, as they said they don't like to do that with the tube down her throat, and I'm sure she won't remember that I was here, but I also think she knows I'm here now, and that's a good thing. She and I are both doing SO much better today. Thank you all for your good wishes and prayers. They have helped a lot.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Good News/Bad News

Good News:
The surgery went very well. Mom got 5 bypasses, her heart seems to be tolerating and enjoying them. She got two units of blood, which she is also tolerating well. Her labwork since the surgery all came back looking great. That's a relief.

Bad News:
Mom's lungs aren't in great shape. The doctor said she might be able to come off of the ventilator tomorrow, which would be great. He also cautioned, however, that it's entirely possible that she won't be able to come off the ventilator (tube down her throat helping her to breathe) for several days, a week, even a month. And they'll keep her unconscious until she is off the ventilator, so I don't know how long before she'll be awake again. I'm sure hoping for tomorrow. I want to see her awake before I leave for California, which is Friday. I hate the idea of leaving here here, alone and asleep. But I can't stay, not knowing how much longer she'll be asleep. We did talk about this beforehand, and she agrees. That helps, but not as much as you might think.

At one point during the surgery, someone came out to tell me the progress, and they said that her lungs didn't look great. A bit later, I was talking to Richard on the phone, and he said, "I wonder if that could have anything to do with the heater in her apartment..." Crap. I had forgotten about that damn heater. A few years ago, she had a heater die in her apartment, slowly and without much noise or was quietly, slowly filling her apartment with soot. It happened so gradually that she didn't realize anything was going on, until one day she looked up and realized her walls were gray. Great. So after the surgery (not before, when they might have wanted to know this information, but it didn't occur to any of us that it could be important), I told the surgeon about the heater and the soot in her apartment. He said it's impossible to know what damage that may have done, but it could have done the same damage as decades of smoking. Wonderful. So yeah, she's doing well. But I've been crying, and I'm worried, and I wish I knew whether all of this worry was for nothing, or if this is just the beginning.

Blech. Sorry, I wish I had more good news. I want good news. I'm going to try to focus on the good news that I do have, which is that her heart is doing well, and her body is getting more good oxygen and blood than it has gotten in a long time, and that will help it to be strong and heal. That's where I have to focus, I think.

(cross-posted at Thinking About...)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Surgery update

Surgery is scheduled for first thing Wednesday morning. Maya's Granny did an awesome job of prepping for it, getting her lungs ready, moving and preparing. I'm so proud of her determination to take this opportunity to turn her health around. Her honesty when talking to the doctors here has only helped them to understand all of her own issues and desires. She is going to get physical and occupational therapy after this surgery that she should have had after her hysterectomy a few years ago, but didn't receive because her insurance ran out right after the surgery. She is sad about leaving Juneau, but looking forward to the freedom of living somewhere where the streets aren't icy and dangerous, and she can enjoy long walks and yummy California produce. Spending time with her beloved 'little mama', her Aunt who shares her birthday, and her 'baby' brother, Forrest. And, of course, seeing that wonderful girl, Maya, who made her a Granny to begin with. :)

I'll keep you up to date when I can. I do know that many of her good friends, esp her online friends, are coming here to follow her progress. Just to let you know, I'll be leaving Alaska on Friday, having spent two weeks here and needing to get back to my job and my family. I'm miserable at the idea of leaving her alone here, and I wish I could afford to stay with her while she recuperates. With me will go the computer, as she will be moving rooms a few times as her recovery progresses, and we don't want to see it go missing in the transitions, and the hospital safes are not large enough to hold it. So you won't hear from her for awhile, probably not until she is in California, which may be a few weeks. I will come back here from time to time and let you know her progress, but leave most of it to her to tell in her own time, as this is her blog, not mine, and it should show her voice, not mine. Thank you all for the support you have shown to her, and to me. You have no idea how much it helps.


UPDATE: One of the surgical team members came in a few minutes ago, and said that surgery started at just before 9 a.m. Alaska time, which is 10:00 Pacific time. It will be hours before we know more, but thus far all is going well. :) I probably won't update again until she's completely finished, which will be 3-5 more hours, I think.

Mom was downright chipper about the whole thing this morning, looking forward to a new chapter in her life, whatever the hell she has to do to get there, including bypass surgery. I think that attitude will take her far in her recovery and future.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Moving On


So there. It's said. I'm not going back to the apartment that I've loved so much. Or to my Hooligans. My books will probably be in storage for quite awhile until I'm able to live on my own again. Life is going to be different and I don't know how or when. But I suspect it will be an adventure. New things to discover. Being able to take a walk without worrying that I might fall on the ice. Days of sunshine and bright skies.

I really do love California. It's just different than Alaska. But, cheerful Charlie that I am, I'll focus on the produce and the closeness of family and the sunshine. The closeness of friends.

So Sunday night I almost picked a fight with my new night nurse over the blood pressure cuff. When I got here, one nurse was able to take my blood pressure with one cuff in a new position. That the reason my arm has hurt so much was that I am short between the shoulder and elbow and the broader cuffs are also too long. So, for a week I've been having relatively pain free blood pressure tests. Then tonight, Kittie decided that she doesn't buy into that theory and she is going to do it her way.

Part of me recognizes that she is wanting to take care of my health. Part of me feels the standard dismissal of a woman's report of her own body that medical science throws at us. Should I be fighting for my own reality? Allowing her to take care of me?

Is it worth a major battle? Is it part of an ongoing pattern that just feels like, "If you're going to be that fat, you can just suffer the pain, and that'll teach you!"

Too much time on my hands, not enough intellectual grist to chew on! (J's note - I know mom wishes she could go on the internet right now...)

I wake in the morning and there is a white board at my feet. It tells me the day and date, where to find Julie, and the name of the nurse today. Kitty is taking readings and telling me all is getting better. I'm used to being checked on in the mornings by a cat who is concerned by my health. This is a very nice Kitty. A good way to start my day. "You," Kitty tells me, "should write all this down."

"I am," I tell her. A woman can be forgiven for the blood pressure cuff if she recognizes talent when she sees it.

The nurses and doctors have the recliner thing to wrestle with every day. (J's note - there is a recliner in the room, and a nurse early on showed Richard how to work it. It's not intuitive, and I have since given training to two other nurses on how it works. It's stupid that they haven't been shown, because, as I said, it's not intuitive, which a recliner certainly SHOULD be.) It shouldn't be that hard to open. It makes me mad how hard that is for them to do. Why hasn't anyone taught the staff of this hospital how to open the chair without injuring themselves? Why isn't the chair designed better? It shouldn't be that people who are trying to help you are being hurt!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Notes from the Hospital

6:45 a.m.

The first day I was here, my brother the infamous Forrest, called me and told me he was "Rich the Stich" from the Haight Ashbury and a whole bunch of the 'old gang' were cheering for me to make it. And he thought it was funny that I would think someone from 1963 would know that I'd had a heart attack. "How," he wanted to know, did I think Rich had found out?
"Julie posted it on my blog."
"People read your blog?"

So, on Saturday evening when Forrest called claiming to be a perfectly respectable black man looking for his sister, I didn't fall for it! I'm just lucky that I didn't tell him that he didn't do a very good black man! And when he actually did call late, he didn't think it was nearly as hilarious as I did. But,in my James Thurber loving mind, yesterday will always be the day Forrest pretended to be a black person.

Richard went back to Juneau on Thursday. My surgery was too far out for him to be able to be here than and take time off to bring me home. (J's has been pushed back until Wednesday at the earliest). Poor Julie, feeling so sad when Richard left her alone!

Poor Richard, to have to go to Juneau and close out my apartment. To have to decide which of my stuff to send to California, and which not. To have to find new homes for my Hooligans! To deal with banks and all the other business which I won't be able to pick up again for awhile.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Well, fudge.

8:00 a.m.

Someone stole my clipboard. Well, no. It's their clipboard, but it feels like "someone stole my clipboard." And now I want to write truly breathless prose. And the clipboard is gone.

But Dawn knew where it was, and so now nothing can hold me down. I shall write a masterpiece among the "almost had a heart attack but refused to die" genre. I will be famous. People will date things from this date, February 23, 2008 - the day Joycelyn woke up and it seemed like people were swarmed over her and taking readings and giving pills and deciding she should pee more, that she had been good so she could have a new mask. I am, the therapist says, entitled to a new mask every three months! Well, damn it, why didn't anyone tell me earlier?

Why, I wonder, did I think I wasn't allowed coffee? It is such a pleasure - and I wonder how much I've been missing due to the impression that I'm doing well to get by with this?

Until yesterday, the world seemed to revolve around a quiet, perhaps contemplative sort of genteelness that was the way "our" folk get sick - in a ladylike manner, not asking too much of anyone. Actually, having 'good' medical care provided over a faint protest of "Oh, this isn't necessary. Surely not this much. I just want to go out to breakfast and buy some cat food. No need for all this fuss. Well, that shot which makes the upset stomach go away. That would do. No need for Richard to get shoved into the end of a jet and flown to Anchorage alongside his poor helpless mother's body with a damned tube stuck down its throat." Yes, that kind of too genteel to-find-myself-HERE sort of thing.

But what I notice, today, is that this hospital wing doesn't end at my room. When Dawn isn't with me, she is with someone else! Her life consists of things beyond my blood pressure and volume of urine and meds and did the doctor come and see me? I'll bet she leaves here at night and people love her. And there are other patients in those other rooms! Who knew?

Do you know how I know it's Jenny on the phone? Am I already doing something that means I can't talk to her? Then it's Jenny. If I'm alone and lonely and would give my right arm for a call from Jenny? Then I can bet it's someone I've already talked to!

1:05 p.m.

Yesterday was a foggy in and out type of day. Mostly the world was my world - it didn't go much beyond my toes or include much that wasn't me. I remember thinking in the afternoon that they had brought a black child to the person in the next room - wondered why no one had sent me one? And when I walked past there to the shower, I remember thinking that they must be using that room for an emergency simulation, and wondering where the Coast Guard had found an entire multi-generational black family for their drill?

Thank you, Little OO

J here. I just wanted you to know that mom has received your emails and your beautiful flowers, and that she is very touched, and is enjoying the flowers greatly, and your kind words mean so much to her.

I'll let you know as soon as I can how the surgery goes. :) Until then, you'll probably be hearing more from mom, as she has a lot to say right now. That will drop off drastically, as I have to leave on Friday to go home, and she won't have a way to get online for awhile. And right after surgery, I'm sure she won't have much to say, either. But I'll keep you up to date until then. :)


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


This is J again. Mom came through the angiogram well. She did not enjoy it at all. Looks like she will need bypass surgery, probably on Friday, but that's just a guess, as I haven't talked to her surgeon about it yet.

Will keep you up to date as I know more.

UPDATE: It's Thursday noonish...looking like surgery will be early next week, probably Monday. I'll keep you all informed as I learn more. ~ J

Things I've Learned From This Experience

  • The tea is stronger if you actually put the bag in the hot water.
  • A catheter that lets you sleep without having to get up multiple times in the night to pee has much to recommend it.
  • Good friends are a blessing beyond price. Those who make sure you're ok, and those that send flowers.
  • You feel a little foolish when you read a list of symptoms and you had them all.
  • It's possible for a cheerful, optimistic person to feel cheerful and optimistic, and still be depressed.
  • If you bother to mention the last name of an old high school buddy, your mother might know who you're talking about.
  • If your body isn't acting at all like it usually does, you might pay attention to that.
  • The King's youngest daughter was right - food without salt is a little dull.
  • Myth Busters is as much fun in the middle of the night as it is at noon.
  • Hospitals aren't nearly as restful as you'd think.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Can't keep MG from Blogging

Hi again, J here. My mom may be laid up in a hospital bed with no access to a computer, and she may be on pain meds, but she still thinks of her blog, and of the blog fodder to get out of this experience. ;) So, she hand-wrote this post, and I'm in the 'family area' of the hospital where I can use Richard's computer without fear of interfering with heart monitoring equipment, and I'll transcribe her story thus far.
On Thursday, I was in a great deal of pain in my left arm, which has been happening a lot lately. But, as I'll explain as I go, as per usual I was mostly ignoring it. That's partly because I'm a colonial descendant and so my ethnic programming is to keep a stiff upper lip and not complain, and partly because I can be damned stupid at times.

My landlady was over, not fixing the sink (fixing things that should have worked but didn't), and could tell that I was really hurting. But I took a Percoset and 3 Ibuprofin and by bed time it was better. I was trying to figure out what could be causing soft muscle pain and decided to chart the various factors I knew, so I could find out. Barometric pressure - it had been up and down for the last three days, pretty much with my pain level. Whether I was using my heating pad. A number of other things, but these two seemed to trade(? mom's handwriting...). "Perhaps," I decided, "I had managed to keep a minor injury inflamed with too much heat.

Friday, I got up and the apartment was cold. It turned out that someone had turned the fuel off at the tank. I called my landlady and told her how cold I was, and that the pain was worse than the day before. She called at about 4:30 to tell me that she had discovered the problem and would be over (she lives two doors away) to turn on the pilot light by 5:30. She wasn't there, nor was she answering her phone, and I was in agony. I called Richard to come, but he was at work and couldn't get away, so he sent Kathy.

The pilot light wouldn't light and the pain got worse and I didn't dare use the heating pad for fear things would get even worse. When my landlady finally came over at 7:30, Kathy was still struggling to get the pilot lit, and I was in truly horrible pain. No explanation from the landlady. They never did get the downstairs pilot lit, but the landlady managed to get the upstairs one working, and off they went.

At 9pm, the pilot was still lit, but no heat. I called the landlady and asked if she could bring me the space heater she used when she was heating the pipes to keep them from freezing. She sent her son-in-law, who checked the heater and TURNED IT ON, and by 9:30 the upstairs was getting warm and my pain was dropping. But he still couldn't light the downstairs pilot light, so I stayed upstairs in the heat, even though all I'd had to eat that day was half of a peanut butter sandwich. So, Saturday I published my pre-written blog post, got dressed and fed the cats, and headed out to meet the Saturday Morning Breakfast Club. Though I felt nauseous, I figured the reason was hunger. When my friend Christine came to pick me up, the first thing she said was, "Shall I take you to Bartlett (the local hospital) or to breakfast?"

Which is how I arrived at the Sandpiper Cafe, and having forgotten to put in my partial plate (you know, the teeth at the top left of my face), and with a grocery list that said only, "cat food, garbage bags, sandwich bags". (J's does her shopping on Sat, and never without a full list, so this is unusual. She also doesn't usually leave the house without her teeth. ;) )

Christine and Harold tended me while I drank ginger tea and ate four spoons of oatmeal, and apparently while I was in the bathroom, decided that although Harold had to go home to care for his dad, Christine was not leaving me alone at the A&P. Somewhere between the table and Christine's car, I regained whatever semblance of sanity I had, and asked if I could go to Bartlett now. And that's how I ended up in Bartlett at 9:30a.m. with consumptive heart failure and being medivacted with Richard by my side to Anchorage. Turns out that pain in my left arm? Angina.

I'm not sure how long it's been going on, but it turns out that when you can't breathe well, you don't think well. I've been getting worse and worse and scolding myself for being lazy for quite awhile now.

Julie flew up immediately, so poor Richard didn't have to do this alone. We won't know what treatment I'm going to need until Wednesday, because I have to be able to lay flat on my back for over an hour for the test, and there is still liquid in my lungs preventing that. So, Richard and Julie are in Anchorage taking care of me, and Kathy is in Juneau, caring for the Hooligans and helping me out in many other ways.

By the way, I still don't have my front teeth in.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where's Granny?

Hello loyal may have noticed that my mom hasn't posted in a few days (well, technically yesterday). She is in the hospital for a few tests and perhaps a procedure, but asked me to let you know that she's OK, and will be back to her bloggy self asap.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Minnesota Starvation Study

Yesterday I talked about the Minnesota Starvation Study done in the 1940s by Ancel Benjamin Keys, Ph.D., which examined the results of starvation on a group of 40 healthy young men, as discussed by Sandy Szwarc, of Junkfood Science in her post, How we've come to believe that obesity is caused by overeating. In that post, I looked at some of the physical effects of starvation/dieting and examined my own dieting experience with what Dr. Keys discovered. Today I want to look at the psychological effects.
But the psychological changes that were brought on by dieting, even among these robust men with only moderate calorie restrictions, were the most profound and unexpected. So much so that Dr. Keys called it “semistarvation neurosis.” The men became nervous, anxious, apathetic, withdrawn, impatient, self-critical with distorted body images and even feeling overweight, moody, emotional and depressed. A few even mutilated themselves, one chopping off three fingers in stress. They lost their ambition and feelings of adequacy, and their cultural and academic interests narrowed. They neglected their appearance, became loners and their social and family relationships suffered. They lost their senses of humor, love and compassion. Instead, they became obsessed with food, thinking, talking and reading about it constantly; developed weird eating rituals; began hoarding things; consumed vast amounts of coffee and tea; and chewed gum incessantly (as many as 40 packages a day). Binge eating episodes also became a problem as some of the men were unable to continue to restrict their eating in their hunger.

The act of restricting food and the constant hunger “made food the most important thing in one’s life,” said one of the participants. “Food became the one central and only thing really in one’s life. And life is pretty dull if that’s the only thing. I mean, if you went to a movie, you weren’t particularly interested in the love scenes, but you noticed every time they ate and what they ate.”

These experiences are familiar to those who’ve spent their lives dieting. In fact, many of the symptoms once thought to be primary features of anorexia nervosa are actually normal biological responses of undernutrition and restrictive eating, said David M. Garner, PhD., director of River Centre Clinic in Sylvania, Ohio, in Psychoeducational principles in the treatment of eating disorders (NY: Guilford Press, 1997). It was actually Dr. Keys’ research that first evidenced the role of dieting in increasing risks for eating disorders.

The extreme physical and mental effects Dr. Keys observed led to his famous quote: “Starved people cannot be taught democracy. To talk about the will of the people when you aren’t feeding them is perfect hogwash.” This was also what led early feminist activists to see dieting and weight concerns as a way to keep women preoccupied with food, filled with guilt and self-hatred, more easily influenced by others, and too mentally and physically exhausted to succeed professionally and politically.
Think about these results for a moment. And then think about them again. And then think about the degree to which the government is involved in promoting the idea that we are in the midst of an "obesity epidemic." And the concern of governments all over the world with childhood obesity.

Today's political landscape requires that we be informed and capable of critical thinking. Remembering that the subjects Dr. Keys worked with were on 1,600 calories a day and that most reducing diets are 1,200 calories or less a day. That once the calorie restriction part of the study was complete, the subjects naturally ate 4,000 calories a day and that when dieters find themselves eating over 2,000 calories a day they panic about the "binge" eating they are doing and try to put themselves back on their diets. That the Minnesota study subjects wanted to regain the weight they had lost and dieters do NOT. How many dieters ever get back to a state of psychological health? How many are ever really capable of their best critical thinking and deepest thought? How many are in a state to pay close attention to what the government is doing?

At the very least, this national obsession with weight is reducing not our waistlines but our vigilance. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, and I don't think that anyone is purposely seeing if they can get us to starve ourselves into a state of apathy about the direction our government is going. But isn't it convenient for them?

And I do believe that the diet industry, which brings in over $66 billion a year, lobbies strongly for obesity measures from the government to increase their profits. And I also believe that if anyone is aware of the rest of this, if they know just how uncritical dieting makes the populace, it doesn't bother them in the least.

Recruitment poster courtesy Sandy Szwarc, Junkfood Science

Friday, February 15, 2008

Minnesota Starvation Study

Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science posted How we've come to believe that obesity is caused by overeating on February 7. This is a review of the historic Minnesota Starvation Study by Ancel Benjamin Keys, Ph.D., of starvation and its aftereffects. During World War II, it was evident that the millions of people in Europe who were being starved would need knowledgeable care when the war was over. Dr. Keys recruited young men who were conscientious objectors, healthy both physically and psychologically, to undergo three months of starvation on 1600 calories a day (substantially more than most dieters live on) meant to reproduce the diets of people in war-torn countries, for three months. Out of the hundreds of volunteers, he chose 40. Healthy young men, who were willing to starve so that others could be fed. The men were followed through a full year of recovery.

Among the things discovered when the men were allowed to eat as their bodies dictated after the starvation segment of the study:
  • It was not possible for them to recover on 2,000 calories a day.
  • For up to six months, they ate up to 4,000 calories a day.
  • They regained every pound lost, plus 10%.
  • The regained weight was more fat and less muscle than the weight they had lost.
  • Eventually, they stopped gaining and naturally returned to their original weight.
  • "Overeating" was evident only as long as the men were below their normal weight.
Considering these facts puts the diets I've been on and the rebound eating I've done in an entirely different light. In the first place, I don't think that a single one of the over 35 diets I've been on was as high as 1600 calories a day! The first diet my mother put me on was 900 a day. Of course it was only for 9 days, but still -- 900 calories. I was once put on an herb tea fast by a doctor, that had no calories a day for whatever length of time it took to lose 60 pounds. It was rare for a diet to be as much as 1,000 calories a day. Eventually my metabolism had adjusted to dieting starvation to such an extent that I couldn't lose weight on anything more than 800.

Until I totally stopped dieting, I only twice went more than six months without going back to dieting to re-lose the weight I was regaining. The first time was when I was 16 and went to live with my great-aunt, and spent two years eating normally; the second was for eight years in my late 30s and early 40s. In both cases, my weight stayed steady. I ate what I wanted and did not gain anything in that time. Those were the only times between the age of 12, when I began to diet, and the age of 58, when I gave it up for good, when my weight wasn't yo-yoing. The only times when whatever I took out of the closet and put on would fit the way it had the last time I'd worn it. I did not balloon out of sight.

I never allowed myself to eat 4,000 calories a day on a constant basis. Rebounding did include what I considered "binges" of about 3,000 calories a day, but the part I thought of as the diet was usually followed by gritting my teeth and holding my eating to about 2,000 calories a day. Once, a doctor "helped" me to diet and maintain my weight loss by adding 100 calories a day each week until I reached the point where I was beginning to gain weight, at which point I was supposed to have discovered my life-long maintenance calorie needs. I don't remember what that was, I don't think I ever got to that point before I lost my will power and broke out, and then, of course, went on another diet.

Although I knew that my first diet was only for nine days, before too many years had passed, I was dieting toward a goal weight, and had no idea how long it was going to take. And, each diet took longer. Three months was as nothing.

Every time I ate more than I thought I should, or gained any weight back, I felt guilty. I hated my lack of will power. I cursed the raging health of my body that was trying to get me out of starvation and get me safe. The normal, healthy need for calories to rebuild what I had starved off was seen as perverse and proof that I was a bad person. By me and by others, like my mother, my doctor, and society at large. The fact that my body fought for health and put that weight back on me was seen by all of us as proof that I was a bad person.

By the time I had stopped dieting, I was twice the weight that I had been when I started. My body has probably lost any hope of ever figuring out what I would have weighed had I not dieted and getting me back there.

And, of course, the world and I believed that I had been overeating. Hell, when I ate more than 1,200 calories a day I thought I had been overeating. That there was something fundamentally wrong with my moral fiber.

If you have ever dieted, how do these facts add up in light of your experience? If you have ever known anyone who has dieted, how do you see their experience now?

Recruitment poster courtesy Sandy Szwarc, Junkfood Science

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Spine!

The House Dems have done it! Today they showed they have spines in two actions: first they approved contemt citations for Bolton and Miers.for refusing to produce documents and testify in the US Attorney firing case. Then, as The Washington Post posted Bush, GOP Rebuke House Democrats on Surveillance Bill on its on-line edition 6:30 p.m., ET,. they recessed for the week, allowing the Protect Americans Act, the current FISA bill to expire, resisting the pressure from the GOP and President Bush to add telecom immunity to their version of the new bill.

House Democrats left Washington today for a week-long recess without taking action on a terrorist surveillance bill set to expire Friday night, drawing theatrical protests from congressional Republicans and a sharp rebuke from President Bush

Democrats are refusing to budge, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that while key committee chairmen would stay in Washington to keep working on the issue, the rest of the House would be going home today.

"the chamber will go into symbolic "pro forma" sessions rather than adjourn for the week. Senate Democrats have used similar sessions to prevent Bush from making controversial executive branch nominations during that chamber's recesses.

Since the Senate passed its own version of the surveillance law Tuesday, House Democrats have engaged in a fierce internal debate over how to proceed. They have become stuck on the question of whether to provide immunity to telecommunications companies that provided help to the government in surveillance operations.

Hill Republicans and Bush want the House to simply pass the Senate bill, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday his chamber is "not a lap dog of the president or the United States Senate any more than they are of us."

And Pelosi reiterated that point today and accused Bush of "fearmongering" on the issue.

"President Bush tells the American people he has nothing to offer but fear," she said.


House Democrats are getting support for their decision from across the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sent Bush a letter today saying that Democrats "stand ready to negotiate a final bill,"

"I regret your reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws," Reid wrote. "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way to provide our intelligence professionals with all needed tools while respecting the privacy of law-abiding Americans."
The President has said that if this bill wasn't passed by Friday, the country would be defenseless against terrorists. And yet, he is the one who has stated that he will veto it if it is sent to him without retroactive immunity for the telecoms. That sounds, in my opinion, like either he is, once again, playing the fear card and trying to bully Congress into doing what he wants them to do or it is Bush who is willing to leave the American people unprotected. Either he knows very well that all current surveillance can go on for one year even without a new law and that the original 1978 FISA bill gives him all of the power he needs for lawful surveillance or he is more interested in protecting the telecom companies that helped him break the law and ignore the Fourth Amendment than in protecting the citizens of this country.

Once again, the eternal conundrum I face about Bush. Is he stupid or evil? And which is the more frightening prospect?

Image courtesy of

Long Stem Rosette

A present for Valentine's Day.

Explanation: The Rosette Nebula (aka NGC 2237) is not the only cosmic cloud of gas and dust to evoke the imagery of flowers. But it is the one most often suggested as a suitable astronomy image for Valentine's Day. Of the many excellent Rosette Nebula pictures submitted to APOD editors, this view seemed most appropriate, with a long stem of glowing hydrogen gas in the region included in the composition. At the edge of a large molecular cloud in Monoceros, some 5,000 light years away, the petals of this rose are actually a stellar nursery whose lovely, symmetric shape is sculpted by the winds and radiation from its central cluster of hot young stars. The stars in the energetic cluster, cataloged as NGC 2244, are only a few million years old, while the central cavity in the Rosette Nebula is about 50 light-years in diameter. Happy Valentine's Day!
Credit & Copyright: Adam Block (Caelum Observatory) and Tim Puckett

Two more posts today.


I love Jeremy. He is so funny. And touching. There is simply something so coltish about teen aged boys. So worthy of admiration and yet in need of protecting. Just the best of the best.

Teen aged girls, too. They are so close to being adults, but not yet. So close to being children, but no longer. They make me go all protective and want to cheer them on at the same time.

What Comes After Snow

Photo by Brian Wallace | Juneau Empire

And here we see what happens when you get lots of snow and then it gets warm and starts to rain. Deep puddles all over town. See the lovely snow? Color by car exhaust.

Water up to your floor boards and ugly snow. What a lovely city we seem to be today.

When I lived in Fairbanks, teaching Montessori,I wrote a song that I taught to my class. I posted it last March, but here it is again.

Springtime in Alaska
I love filthy, dirty snow.
I love to watch it melt and go.
I love icky, cruddy mud;
It's spring!

Snow melts in gray brown rivulets,
Exposing the butts of cigarettes,
Snow goes, here comes all the crud;
It's spring!

Mittens, hats, and scarves come off,
As our winter clothes we doff.
We've been wearing them a while;
It's spring!

Birds are hanging out in pairs,
It's time to go wake up the bears,
Courtship is suddenly in style;
It's spring!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

FISA - One More Chance

There still is time to do something about the FISA bill in its House version. I received an action alert from Credo Mobile requesting that I sign their petition to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to hold on the immunity issue in Conference with the Senate. Here is the link.
The Senate has rolled over and given Bush, Cheney and the big telecom companies exactly what they wanted -- immunity from prosecution for their wiretapping crimes. Now it's up to the House of Representatives to strip those provisions out of the bill.

Please take action on this issue using the link below:

Image courtesy The Beatles

FISA, Again

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast has posted The Bill And Capitol Hill Mine Disaster about the Senate's passage of the FISA bill, including telecom immunity. I had started a post myself, but after reading hers, there is nothing I could say that would be better than what she said.
Here are your 19 traitors (18, if you automatically expected Lieberman to side with his Butt Buddy George, 20 if you expected Hillary to miss another vote). Pay careful attention if any of these clowns represent your state and remember them the next time they're up for re-election.

Bayh (D-IN)
Carper (D-DE)
Conrad (D-ND)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD) Perhaps Tim never completely recovered from his brain hemorrhage.
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA) After Hurricane Katrina 2½ years ago, I can perfectly understand why Proud Mary would want to discharge her debt of gratitude to Lame Duck George.
Lieberman (ID-CT) There’s a fucking shock to my system.
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO) This one really hurts. The progressives of Missouri just voted her in and she pulls this shit.
Mikulski (D-MD) Another newcomer Democrat who stabbed us in the spine they don’t have.
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE) The Nelson Brothers strike again.
Pryor (D-AR)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Webb (D-VA) This one really hurts perhaps most of all. I was really beginning to think this former Republican piece of shit was for real.

Take those 19 Nays to strip immunity, turn them into Yeas, throw in a Yea from No Show Hillary and you have a 51-48 vote to complement the current House version that also does not grant immunity. Lindsey Graham, it ought to be noted, also did not vote. Why aren't we capable of hard-line party votes when it counts like the GOP?
And there you see why I find both parties repugnant. In addition to these Democrats who voted for telecom immunity, all of the Republicans did as well.

However, the following Democrats voted for the people and the Constitution.
YEAs ---31
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Casey (D-PA)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Tester (D-MT)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

If any of these Senators are yours, be sure to let them know that you appreciate their courage in standing for the Constitution they have sworn to protect. I've called each of the Democrats today and to thank or express my disappointment. I also called Stevens and Murkowski, the Senators from Alaska, not that their votes surprised me in the least.

E-mails are also good. Go to to find your own* Senators' phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

* As well as any others you might want to contact.

Graphic courtesy Tolles, Washington Post, 2006.

Men of The Sea

The effects of cold weather are just amazing. Look at the ice on this boat. Can you imagine going out on the sea in conditions that would lead to something like this? No, I can't either. The people who do this impress the hell out of me. Just so we can eat cod! Good stuff, cod.
Erik Auger, a crewman aboard the fishing vessel Carlynn, uses a sledgehammer to break ice off the wheel house Monday at Aurora Basin boat harbor. Ice nearly two feet thick built up on the vessel as it fished for gray cod in Frederick Sound after a cold snap hit Southeast Alaska. Today's weather forecast calls for rain and a high temperature.

By Brian Wallace | Juneau Empire
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And Again, Weather

Here is Harris Harbor, very well snowed in. This picture was taken from the Juneau side, looks southwest to Douglas Island, with Admiralty Island in the far background.

So far this year the total snow fall is average, however we had less than normal through January and the first ten days of February have brought three more inches than the standard for the full month.

Yahoo sever weather alert says,

Doesn't that sound exciting? There are plans for my living room roof to be cleared, yet again, tomorrow. That will make three times in two weeks. The rest of my apartment has a pitched roof, but the living room is flat. And we don't really want it to collapse. At least I don't have to have bilge pumps!

By Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Monday, February 11, 2008

Canada Goose

My friend Gawilli, over at Back in the Day, posted the other day on Canada Geese who have decided to be year round residents of Indiana and who are now so numerous that they have become a nuisance.
It isn’t unusual to see them haunting the parking lots in search of leavin’s from a populace that can’t seem to get the trash in the can. At times they are aggressive and have even been known to attack and nip those in close range.
Which reminded me of one day, when I was living in California and returned to my car in time to witness a very prospersous appearing gentleman, with silver hair and a suit that had to have cost $1,000 being forbidden entry to his BMW by a large, aggressive, Canada goose. The poor man had no idea how to deal with this, and was helplessly waving at the large bird and saying, "Shoo, goosey. Shoo, goosey. Please shoo, goosey."

Since we all live in such urban landscapes, we tend to forget such things as that geese are really aggressive birds. Some farmers have had watch geese, and they are as good at it as dogs ever were. Those necks are strong, the beaks are sharp, and they do not take to strangers. Very territorial birds, geese.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fire & Ice

Ice coat: Volunteer Capital City Fire and Rescue firefighter Sam Russell stands covered in ice as he puts out "hot spots" Saturday at Fisherman's Bend.

Test, Alan Suderman, photo Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Click to enlarge.

I saw this in the paper this morning and it reminded me of my friend Bobby, who retired from the Fairbanks Fire Department as Battalion Chief. When he was with the FFD, they wrote a book called "Fairbanks Through The Smoke." There is one story from the 40s about fighting fires when the temperatures are below zero, and coming home with turnouts so frozen that the firefighters had to chip the ice off themselves and then lay down on the floor and have their wives pull them off of them -- it just wasn't possible to bend enough to do it themselves. It is amazing that people will do something like that. It shows just how incredible human beings can be and elicits my admiration.

Paper Trained

This morning as I was going down my external stairs on my way out to breakfast, I was watching the lab across the street come outside to do her morning business. There is snow everywhere, some of it quite deep*. The poor dog was trying to find a place where she could squat without sinking up to her waist in cold, white stuff. And she reminded me of a puppy I knew in Fairbanks. She was adopted after the first snow of the fall. At first, of course, she was paper trained. Eventually she was old enough to go outside and it wasn't until spring that anyone realized that she had thought the snow was a big piece of newspaper. It wasn't until there was very little snow left, just a few patches under the birch tree in the back yard, that it became obvious that she thought she had to use the snow. As it melted and she could find less and less space, she became more and more anxious. Finally all of the snow was gone. She crossed her legs valiantly, but eventually she had to squat somewhere. You could see her concern that she was going to get in trouble and her relief when she didn't.

In the fall, when the snow came back, she was so happy. All of her life, I've been told, if there was snow, she would use it.

* The family car in her driveway has snow halfway up the tires and the roof is sporting a 12" blanket of white.

Photo courtesy

Saturday, February 09, 2008

by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

I love Jeremy, the teen hero of Zits. He is such a teen! Ackward physically and socially. Trying to be grown up, still needing his parents, confused by the changes happening to him and horrified that someone will find out that he isn't as cool as he wants to appear. This series was run a week or so ago, and I had to share it with you.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Winter Continues

I thought you might like an update on our local weather. So, here is something from the Juneau Empire photo by Brian Wallace.
LOCAL Juneau Empire An avalanche slides down Mount Roberts on Wednesday above Thane Road. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities fired several avalanche-control shots with a 105-millimeter howitzer at the sites above the road.
And, from Yahoo, a severe weather alert:


Not My Job

For anyone who would like to go directly to Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald's appearance on Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me and listen to him tell the tale of the "big-assed" spider as well as the rest of his very funny appearance on the Not My Job segment, just follow the link.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I love ravens. They are so bright. And bold. And funny. Eagles are elegant and dignified and lovely. But raven gots cheek. And I loves cheek. Ravens are raucous. And I loves raucous. Raven is said, in this part of the country, to have brought the sun and stars and water and all good things after he created the world. I don't know about that part of it, but he certainly brought humor and fun.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Clearing the way

A tug boat breaks up and pushes ice Monday in Gastineau Channel near Channel Drive. The crew of the tug cleared the ice for the Northland Services barge service. More cold weather is on the way, with highs in the teens forecasted for today and Thursday.
The thing about this photo is that the Gastineau Channel is sea water. Do you have any idea how cold it has to be for there to be ice floating on top of salt water? The Channel is entered by various creeks and the creek water is freezing on top of the ocean water as it hits.

Do click and enlarge this photo.

Photo: Brian Wallace. Text: Juneau Empire

No, The Cold Didn't Interfere With The Turnout

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Big turnout: A portion of the standing-room-only crowd awaits the start of the Democratic caucus Tuesday at Centennial Hall.

Local Weather

I thought you might like to see a couple of pictures from Tuesday's newspaper of the local snowfall.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Larry Buzzell points out the size of the snow berm Monday in front of his Riverside Drive home. Some Riverside Drive residents say they are tired of the city leaving giant berms of snow in the street blocking their driveways.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Kevin Nye clears snow Monday under the watchful eye of a bronze brown bear sculpture in front of the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Juneau received about 7 inches of snow in 24 hours, and a heavy snow warning was issued for Monday night

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I first heard about NPR's Wait, Wait. . .Don't Tell Me from Julie. She downloads it to her Ipod and listens to it while she walks the dog. She says that sometimes she laughs out loud and hopes other people walking along don't think she's nuts.

I thought about that as I was listening to The August 11, 2007 broadcast. The guest was Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, of Animal Planet's "Emergency Vets: Interns" and he reported the following bit of nonsense. I have seldom laughed so hard in my life. It was so unexpected and told in such a droll voice. Follow the link and listen for yourself. Picture Julie walking Genevieve and the reactions other pedestrians might have to her reaction.

Dr. Fitzgerald reported that a man brought him a tarantula, and although he knows that a good vet isn't afraid of a patient, big spiders creep him out since they move funny, and it is worse when they have hair. He avoided the temptation to demand a phone book and squash the thing, but he was uncomfortable with it. When he asked what was wrong with the spider, he was told that he wasn't acting like himself -- he hadn't eaten for a couple of weeks and one of his legs had fallen off. Fitzgerald said that in his experience, when a spider's legs started to fall off, it was pretty sick. He referred the man to the Museum of Natural History to see Dr. Lick.

Before long, he got a call from Dr. Lick, "Did you send me this man with the big-assed spider? And did you tell him that in your experience when their legs start to fall off they are pretty sick? Well, if you had taken the time to examine him, you would have seen that he was, in fact, dead."

Image courtesy of

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Meme for A Monday

Bridget Magnus over at Short Woman tagged me to do the following meme:

So here’s the rules of the Meme:
1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

Since my computer is surrounded by books,* I reached out at random with my eyes closed and got How To Talk To Birds and other uncommon ways of enjoying nature the year round, by Richard C. Davis. And I found:

"I don't believe it's an urge to kill or even possess but to know and absorb the beauty of the animal. If a deer were to stand still so that a hunter might admire it in a way a botanist might admire a flower, there might be little deer-killing. Most hunters aren't bloodthirsty or even vain of their reputations as hunters."

* there is a shelf of books I haven't read yet above the monitor, another taking up the window seat, and a bookcase behind me.

And I'm going to tag:
Deja Pseu at Une femme d'un certain age
Cuppa at Brown Betty Brew
Chancy at
Driftwood Inspiration
and Autumn's Mom

Image courtesy John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Venus and Jupiter in Morning Skies

I find myself busy with burst pipes under the kitchen sink and lots of water to mop up. So, instead of writing anything, here is a lovely picture to reward you for visiting. And reassure Julie that I'm fine.

Explanation: These two celestial beacons shining brightly in the east before sunrise are actually children of the Sun, the planets Venus and Jupiter. The second and third brightest objects in the sky at Night after the Moon, Venus and Jupiter appeared separated by about 2 degrees when this picture was taken on January 30th, but closed to within nearly half a degree early yesterday morning. In the serene foreground is the shoreline along the Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay, an important bird and wildlife refuge in the southeastern Caspian Sea. Over the next two days, early morning risers around the globe will be able to enjoy a close pairing of Venus and Jupiter with an old crescent Moon.
From Astronomy Picture of the Day: NASA
Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN) Click to enlarge.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hearts of Celery

I've mentioned that I'm a touch compulsive about this and that. That shows up in putting groceries away in a number of ways, one of which is to clean and cut up vegetables before I put them in the crisper. When Richard and Julie were little, they knew that there would always be a container of cut up snacks in the crisper: celery, carrots, radishes, green onions, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, cabbage. Whatever their little hearts might desire. The only thing I never cut up ahead of time was bell peppers, since they get slimy on the cut surface. At the same time, I would save parts of the vegies that would go in soup, such as celery leaves and scallion greens, in the freezer and clean the greens that came attached to kohlrabi for steaming. And, since I was being so virtuous and preparing the vegetables, I got to eat the celery heart*, my very favorite part of the entire lot, while I was cleaning and cutting.

When Julie was in high school, she took over putting the groceries away, which included the vegetable prep. I would go into the crisper to get a snack, and there wouldn't be any celery heart, but of course I accepted that now that Julie was doing the work, Julie got the reward.

I think Julie had been cleaning the celery on a weekly basis for well over a year before I walked into the kitchen and saw her run the celery heart down the disposal. That's when I discovered that Julie doesn't like celery and since she had never seen those luscious, pale green little stalks or the small section of the heart in the drawer, she thought that they weren't edible. For well over a year, the best part of the celery had been going down the disposal. It broke my heart. It still does.

* Just looking at the picture of those tender stalks makes my mouth water. Luckily I'm going to shopping right after breakfast, and I can get some.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Smokeyville Towers

I mentioned that Julie and Richard had all sorts of construction toys when they were little. There were the standards, like Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs and Legos and Erector sets and various other block sets and building things I've since forgotten.

They had a huge Lego set, the largest sold at the time, which never looked like this because I'm a little compulsive and I would go in and sort the blocks by color into the little compartments. I didn't expect them to keep them that way, but it pleased me when they opened the box to see everything laid out in order. Like my thread board. Like Sheldon cleaning Penny's apartment.

One of my favorites was the Crystal Climbers. They were so pretty, with their transparent colored pieces.

Julie and Richard would get out all of their construction toys and make these wonderful play scapes across my living room. A Lincoln Log fort, a Crystal Climber castle. Highways of Hot Wheel tracks. Industrial centers of Erector sets. State fairs of Tinker Toys.

A final touch that they added, were dozens of Pringle cans. Since I seldom bought potato chips*, they canvassed the neighborhood, asking people who bought Pringles to save the cans for them.These were added to the project to create "Smokeyville Towers".****

* When I moved out of that house, my mother and sister helped me pack, doing some of it while I was at work. The kids had decided that they didn't need as many Pringles cans, and were throwing out some of them. My mother called me at the office to tell me that I was never going to be thin** if I ate that many potato chips! And when I told Forrest about it, he told me that was what I could expect if I let Mama know anything about my business***.

** Once, when the kids mentioned to her that I had taken them out for banana splits (I, honest to God, had a cup of coffee! Being "good"!), she told me I would never get thin eating banana splits! I hadn't had one in over a decade, but as soon as I left her house I went right out and scarfed one down!

*** I had been so foolish because this was the first time I had lived in the same town as Mama in the ten years since I was 16.

**** Named after Smokey Bear, Julie's true and constant companion since she was 15 months old. She still has a Smokey and the tattered remains of a Smokey that her dog Samantha chewed up.

Photos courtesy:
Tinker Toys,;
Lincoln Logs,
Legos and Crystal Climbers, Family Resource Network