What’s in a Name? ~ by…someone

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

So says Juliet, upon discovering her true love’s despised moniker, and perhaps it rings true.  After all, it is our character that truly defines us.  Isn’t it?  We could be called practically anything, but it is our actions ~ how we choose to conduct ourselves ~ that really matters.

Why then would I find myself hopelessly bereft over the notion that I might be in danger of forever losing my name?

This occurred to me earlier this week, on the heels of yet another call from yet another healthcare provider calling me “Kathryn.”  Only doctors, police, the DMV and IRS call me Kathryn.  Well, and my dad, who calls me by my full name, sometimes, and that’s okay, because he’s my dad.  I have never been Kathryn.  Aside from the first day they called role and I corrected them, even teachers didn’t call me Kathryn.  I was Kay when I was little, then Katie, and, ultimately, Kate.  Everyone back home called me Kate, up until I started college.  Except my dad. His nickname for me (when he wasn’t calling me by my full name) was Sam.  But then, being an adolescent girl, I got, well, you know, adolescent, I guess, I demanded he stop calling me that, because it was NOT MY NAME!

And so, he did.

But then, I felt kind of rotten about it.

So, I told him that, when I grew up to be a famous author, I would use it as my pen name.

Obviously, you can see the odds of me being a famous author are quite high.  Did you note the wry wit?  The affable charm?  The effortless prose?  It’s inevitable.

Then, I went on my merry way, being a Katie, and then a Kate.

I did all kinds of things.  Strange, awkward things, really, because I was, not surprisingly,  as strange and awkward a teenager and young adult as I am a full-grown human.  Also not surprisingly, I have not yet become a famous author.

What did happen was I went to school.  Well, everyone goes to school, I suppose.  Well, not everyone; but most everyone in the U.S. who falls above a certain tax bracket, anyway, after a certain point in history (after which I was most definitely born) has some kind of education, and so, I did go to school.  I even almost finished high school.  Wow.  What I meant was I went to college.  Junior college first, and, in fact, I liked it so well, I went for a very long time.  It’s either that, or I wasn’t very good at it, and I had to spend a lot of time working out the kinks.  Whatever the case may be, during my seven illustrious years in junior college, I pursued acting.  I did quite a lot of acting at school, and even outside of school.  Since, during that time, I found I wasn’t getting any closer to becoming a famous author, but I was acting quite a lot, I decided to use Sam as my stage name.

The thing is, when you do a lot of theatre, it tends to lead to more theatre, which leads to more theatre, which leads to more theatre…and, well, pretty soon, most of the people you know are people you met doing ~ guess what ~ theatre!  So, pretty soon, I had a lot of new friends, all of whom were calling me “Sam.”  I was having a grand time, making friends, doing shows, going to parties, trying to remember to do my homework because ~ whoops! ~ that’s what I went to college for!  It really was great fun. Some of the best years of my life, to be sure.  I made some of the best friends I have ever had during those years, and I have even managed to keep in touch with some of them.  I learned so much.  I landed an incredibly important (to me and my future) job that ended up shaping my career, completely changing the path I thought I wanted to take in life and helping me find the direction I had lacked.  There were so many great things I accomplished as Sam.

But it was always great to go home to where the people who had known me and loved me since I was a little girl still called me Kate, because, somewhere in there ~ strikes breast ~ I will always still be Kate, too.  You see, I like Kate, and I never meant to lose her entirely.

When I transferred to Arizona State University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Education, I got a job at a childcare center to help pay rent and bills.  I used the name Kate at work, and Sam with friends.  When we moved to California, I initially used Kate when I was teaching and at places like the children’s school and our church, and   Sam friends, but I found, as the children got older, it got confusing.  It probably wasn’t confusing for the kids yet, but it was confusing for me, and for others around us, and I worried it would be confusing for them.  What would happen when someone asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” and they gave a different answer than the name by which that person knew me, or the name they had on record?  It was too much to expect a kid to remember.  It was too much to expect me to remember.  Now, what name did I tell THESE people?  And so, gradually, I just became Sam.

Looking back, now, I don’t know why I became Sam, and not Kate.  At the time, perhaps, it felt comfortable, because I was used to it.  It hadn’t been long since my college days.  Maybe I longed for the days of rehearsals and greenroom chatter and late nights at Denny’s.  Maybe I just wanted to be different, because I was still young, and kind of ornery.

But now…

Well, now…

Now, I think, with the advent of social media, we don’t talk on the telephone as much as we used to.  So I don’t hear the voices of my family and friends back home as often as I once did.  They don’t hear mine, either, because I don’t call, and I should.  I mean, I think I should.  They might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, dear God ~ now she’s going to call me!”  I like hearing people’s voices.  Unfortunately, I think our lives have all evolved in ways that don’t allow for telephone conversations often.  I fear…or, no, not fear, exactly, but suspect…I strongly suspect we are all now hardwired in to social media communication, which is a wonderful convenience, and I am thrilled to have it, but I do miss the voices.  I miss hearing them say my name.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, and, perhaps, a little bit self-centered.  I can accept that.  I have lived a very other-centered life as a wife, mother and teacher, so, on this point, I can be the tiniest bit self-centered. I think it’s been a little bit too long since my last trip back to Maryland, and I want to hear people say my name the way they have said it since I was a little girl.  People like my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my childhood best friends.

Then, of course, there are the ones that will never say it again: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Fran, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dody, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim, Uncle Joe, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Kay, Uncle Tony, Aunt Dee…  I haven’t even named them all.  I could never name them all.  It’s too hard.  I feel bad.  I keep thinking of people I need to go back and add. Geez.  That’s a lot of people.  And it’s probably still not everyone. What do you do about them?  I can still hear them, clear as a bell, in my mind, so, sometimes, that’s what I do.  I just close my eyes and listen.

What occurred to me recently, I think, is this notion that I am losing my name.  That, if I don’t hear it ~ if fewer and fewer people are calling me Kate, and no one out here in California calls me Kate ~ I will just gradually stop being Kate.  I felt like Alice, walking through the forest with my arms looped lazily around a fawn, both of us blissfully unaware of who we are, because we’ve lost our names.  As if somehow I will simply cease to be Kate altogether, when I know well and good that all the Samming in the world couldn’t un-Kate me.  I mean, let’s face it: once a Kate, always a Kate.  Am I right?

In the end, I might have to take exception with Juliet’s opinion on names.  While I don’t think our names necessarily define us, I have to admit, there is something decidedly “Kate” about me, and there always has been.  After much consideration, I am not ready to completely divest myself of my Kateness.  I suspect, like Shakespeare’s Kate, I have and will be called “plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst,” and I can live with that.

I’m not asking any of you to change anything.  If you call me Sam, continue to call me Sam.  If you call me Kate, call me Kate.

And, you know, if either of us ever has a minute, we should probably call each other.

Cold Hands, Warm…muscles? by Sam

One day last week, while I was making dinner, my hands suddenly turned bright red and felt as if I had poured bleach all over them. Thinking I must have come in contact with some allergen, I immediately stopped what I was doing, and thoroughly washed my hands. The redness and irritation greatly subsided in 15-20 minutes, but my hands remained irritated, and the skin was peeling, as if I’d had a severe sunburn. Over the next few days, the symptoms recurred, so I contacted my PCP via email, including a photograph of the initial reaction. I supposed there were three possibilities:
a) the CRPS was spreading to other parts of my body (rare, but not unheard of)
b) these symptoms, ‘though not like any I’d experienced with it in the past, might be related to Raynaud’s (to be fair, the symptoms were not exactly like CRPS, either, but it does involve both redness and burning pain)
c) this was something entirely new and unrelated to any of my previously existing conditions
     We played phone tag for a few days until I finally got a call from a nurse on Monday of this week. My doctor felt it was most likely that the symptoms were, in fact, a more extreme manifestation of Raynaud’s than I’d experienced in the past, and that, as my symptoms seemed to be getting more severe, it might be time to consider medication.  Hence, I was referred to a rheumatologist. That appointment occurred on Thursday of this week.
     As luck would have it, the medications used to control symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease are blood pressure meds; and, because my blood pressure is low, my doctor doesn’t want me to take them.  You see, unfortunately, they could cause my blood pressure to drop even lower, and this could result in dizziness and falling. Falling has already been rather a chronic problem for me, and it has been deemed an unnecessary risk, as has dangerously low blood pressure.
     So, I have been given recommendations to step up my efforts to stay warm. These include things that might seem obvious, like using hot water bottles and heated gloves/socks/blankets, warming creams, taking warm showers when I come in from being outside, making sure to keep my hands and feet covered and protected, even when I don’t feel cold, and keeping my core warm. They also include things that might seem a little less obvious, like increasing my salt intake, in hopes of raising my blood pressure, and building muscle mass. The challenge, here, my rheumatologist pointed out, will be striking a balance in which I work out to build muscle mass, but am careful not to accidentally lose weight. This will involve adding protein-dense calories to my diet, which means adding food to my diet.  (I know.  This doesn’t seem like brain surgery.  Stick with me.  It’s trickier than it seems.)  I started working on this as soon as I got home on Thursday. I immediately baked a loaf of peanut butter bread, replacing part of the flour with almond flour.  Then I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with it.  I figured, that way, at least I am getting lots of protein (and lots of calories ~ yay!)  Because that working out and not accidentally losing weight thing?  Believe it or not, that really is a challenge.
     I know. This all sounds sort of stupid. But…food is hard.  I mean, I have had food issues for a long time.  First and foremost, there are the lingering eating-disorder-related issues, which will always linger; but, on a more basic level, there are all of the food allergies and sensitivities.  I am allergic to milk protein (and elderberries, and echinacea, which don’t come up much, so that’s okay, really.  Oh, and shellfish ~ which never comes up, because I’m vegetarian, but does somewhat complicate eating at restaurants, or buying some prepared foods).  I also have IBS, and, while it seems to be fairly mild most of the time, it can rear its ugly head at any moment, and, at those times, it is triggered by: eggs, white/refined carbs (so, any bread, pasta, or baked goods made with that, white bread, white rice ~ basically, I do better with whole grains and more fiber in my diet), and fried foods.  Then, there are times when I think it is triggered by food.  Oh, also, stress.  It is also triggered by stress.  Then, add to that the fact that I am on a medication that makes it hard for me to keep on weight, even when I am not working out.  So, now, I am trying to eat the right things that won’t trigger my IBS, so I can be sure not to lose weight while doing PT, so my CRPS won’t flare up, so I can then work out enough to build muscle mass to try to keep myself warm ~ but not so much that I accidentally work off any of the extra peanut butter I ate.
     Because then, maybe I will be buff enough to haul in some firewood and build a big fire, and then we will all be warm.  By “we,” of course, I mean me, and all of my fingers.  And my toes. My toes are also cold, but I don’t see them often, because they are very far away, and usually inside several pairs of socks. I miss my toes.
     Ah.  But we have a gas fireplace.  So, forget about that firewood.  I’ll use my muscles to lift more peanut butter sandwiches, instead.
     On Friday, I didn’t manage to do much working out, but I ate pretty well.  I mentioned this to Hallie, adding my concern that, if I keep doing this, I won’t build any muscle, and all that extra protein will just be converted to fat.  “Well…fat will keep you warm,” Hallie responded, quite correctly.  And, so, I guess we’re good.  Because, the truth is, fat will keep me warm, and I really, really need to stay warm.  Nevertheless, I have always dreamed of being sort of buff.  Warm, and buff.  It sounds kind of dreamy.

     I guess I’ll keep working on the muscle-building thing.  To be perfectly honest, I was already working on that.  Which sort of makes me wonder if I should feel a little bit insulted at the implication that I need to build muscle mass.  Except…well, I really do need to build muscle mass, and I know it.

I guess I needed a New Years Resolution or two, anyway.  Y’all watch: by 2018, I’m gonna be stronger than I’ve ever been.  And warmer, too.

To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

New Year’s Eve Eve -by Sam

As I find myself looking back on the past year, I can’t help but think, “It’s been a rough one;” and the thing is, I’ve been here before. It’s starting to feel like I say this to myself at the end of a lot of years. You might be thinking, Oh, that must be a chronic illness thing. Some of you might be thinking (and some might be irritated about it), Is this about all of the famous people who have died this year? Is it about politics?

You know what, it’s not.

Well, or, maybe…maybe those things are all a little bit harder to take because everything is a little harder to take because there’s just always this underlying…well. Things have been difficult for our little family, dear friends and readers. The thing is, see, I don’t…well, this goes back to that complicated part of my last post, in which I talked about how I don’t talk about all of my business, because it’s not solely my business. So, I can’t just put it all out here for the world to see. In fact, I can’t put it all out anywhere, so, I am just kind of alone with it, and that’s very, very difficult for me. But I guess it’s normal, too.

What I mean is, you know, life’s not always a bowl of cherries. Or, well, maybe it is. But, maybe, sometimes, it’s not just a bowl. Maybe, sometimes, it’s a huge, steamy, rotten, mess of moldy cherries somebody bought a really long time ago, and no one ate, and they’ve been fucking sitting in your favourite chair for so long that they’ve started to decompose. Then, one day, you come home, sick and exhausted, and overwhelmed, unable to work, and in debt, and thinking, good god, if one more thing happens, it will put me over the edge!…and you flop down in that chair just as the phone rings to tell you that someone, somewhere needs you to come, immediately, to do something, or else the world will collapse, because, really, you’re supposed to be a superhero. And your coffee spills all over your lap, causing a chemical reaction with the rotten, moldy cherries, making their effect seemingly permanent.

So, now, everywhere you go, for the next two or three years (at least ~ jury’s out. This could be permanent) the rotten cherry funk is in your clothes, your skin, the very fiber of your being, maybe even your soul. It’s still in the chair, too, so other people in the household are going to be exposed, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s terrible stuff. It makes everyone miserable, and no one knows why, and no one knows how to talk about it, because no one even really knows what it is.  It is just so incredibly awful, so unexpected, so utterly preposterous.

And people can tell something is wrong, so they ask.

They keep asking.
“How are you?”
“Are you okay?”
“How’s the family?”

And, you know, society has these conventions, so you have to say,
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
“We’re fine. “
“We’re great.”
“Everything’s good.”

But you know you’re not fooling anyone. You’re a lousy liar. You always have been, and you always will be.

To further complicate things, in the meantime, all of the normal, everyday things that happen in life keep happening around you and your moldy-ass cherries; and, you know, they’re totally normal things. Things that involve other people, but actually aren’t a huge problem. They’re little things, normal things, easy things that might be sort of challenging or, you know, require an adjustment in the way you think or do things; but they aren’t a big deal. They aren’t bad. They aren’t cause for strife or anguish or concern. It’s just that, sometimes, these people, who don’t know about your moldy cherry situation, they just don’t get that, and they think it’s all about them. Maybe we all think it’s all about us, all of the time. I guess that’s just the way humans are made.

And then, if you’re super lucky, you get not-a-diagnosis (which has nothing to do with the cherry situation, by the way, but conveniently occurs right on top of it), and they say to you, “Just keep on this band-aid*, and don’t take it off! I mean…we really don’t think you’ll bleed* profusely if you do, but DON’T TAKE IT OFF….just in case.” So you tell them, “Hey, you know, that’s…um…great and all, but…uh…I’d really like to know why I am having these symptoms.” And they tell you that what you can do, if you really want a diagnosis, is take off the band-aid, hook yourself up to a monitor for a few days that will cost roughly 8-gazillion bucks* and hope you bleed a lot during that time, so they can record it and figure out what’s happening. “Uh…” you say, “That sounds sort of…um…expensive…and dangerous…” They confirm that this is true, and so, you decide to keep your band-aid and lack of diagnosis, so, when people ask you what particular health problem you are having, you can now, officially, say, “Fuck if I know, man.”

So.

When I say it has been a hard year, I mean it has been a hard year. I mean it on a very personal level. I can’t say I don’t want to talk about it. I want so very much to talk about it. I mean, come on, guys, I’m a talker. It’s just, well, I can’t, because you’re not my therapist. I say I am alone with my problems, but the truth is I can go talk to a therapist, and so, at least there is a place where I can unload all of this bullshit, so I don’t have to unload it all on my family and friends, and that is good, I guess.   I mean, it’s expensive, and I will always have trouble spending money, because, no matter how much money we make, and no matter how many times I am told not to feel guilty about my current inability to work outside the home, I will always be made the way I am. It’s hard for me to spend money ~ especially money I did not earn. Also, I would rather talk to friends. Or even strangers that, you know, I’m not paying to listen to me. It just feels more natural, somehow. Therapy has never felt natural to me. I guess that’s just me. Also, it’s expensive. Did I mention that it is expensive? I’m kind of a cheapskate, in case you have forgotten.

Anyway…

I sat down and wrote this up today for two reasons:

One) I plan this year to get back to writing, and this seemed like a logical place to start. I can start journaling. Honestly, as I sit here writing, I don’t even know if I plan to share this with the world. I am writing this in a Word doc on my MacBook Air, and it may never see the light of day. If you are reading it, we will know what decision I made. Hopefully, writing this way will lead to other writing. Who knows? Maybe I will take a class. God knows I could use a little more class. (Ha. See? I’m funny)

Two) I need to get back to being me this year. I am not able to carry the weight of knowing I have this secret funk lurking in my life; and, even ‘though I cannot share details about it, I think just sharing the fact that there was a Thing, and it was Bad, might help. Just so people know that I actually have been dealing with something. You know, because I know people must have been wondering. I feel like I haven’t been true to myself. Like I have been presenting a façade to the world, and I don’t do that well. So, I guess this is me, very vaguely, coming clean. ish. sorta.

I know that, if I share this, people will, most likely, start all kinds of wild speculations about what The Thing was. Can I ask you a huge favour? Don’t. Please. Just…stop it. If it was your business, it would have happened to you. I know that’s a tall order. But, you know, it’s also a respect for privacy thing. I’m asking. I would do the same for you.

So, I guess, in a way, this is me, getting a jump on my New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m off to a decent start, really, if you count yesterday. I talked to my mom and dad, and my cousin, Alice, very briefly, on the phone. Left a message for one of my very best friends (will call another today). Texted back and forth with my big brother (because we are just so cool and modern like that), and set up a time to call and talk (we penciled each other in ~ I’m having my people call his people ~ we are ever so Important). Talked on the phone with my big sister, while going for a walk around the neighbourhood, thereby killing two birds with one stone (my least favourite idiom ~ so gruesome!). I also cleaned the bathrooms, dust-mopped all the hard floors, did some laundry, tidied up the house, worked in the yard a little, emptied the rain barrel (just in time for today’s rain), made a nice dinner, did my physical therapy, practiced banjo, and baked the last of the froggers. Then, I took a hot bath with Epsom salts, because some of that was a lot of work, and sat down to watch an episode of Major Crimes with Shane. I even worked a little bit on a ruffle scarf while watching.

This morning, I awoke to find the rain has come to wash away the dregs of 2016, and not a second too soon. So, today, I’ll balance the checkbook, and make sure all of the bills are paid. I might even make a pot of soup. Seems appropriate for a rainy Southern California day.

Wishing you all peace at the end of this year, whether or not it has been a rough one for you; and wishing us all a bright and beautiful New Year. I think we all deserve it.

 

*For clarification purposes: the terms “bleeding,” “band-aid,” and “8-gazillion dollars” are as analogous in this piece as cherries. I am not bleeding. Well, not at the moment. Give me time. I am very accident-prone. I do have a chronic health problem that requires constant medication. I would rather not be specific.  It’s a thing I do.

I Ate a Sandwich – by Sam

The other day, I was out shopping, running some errands, picking up dry-cleaning, and I realized, at about 11-ish, that I hadn’t eaten more than the sample of cranberry bread and coffee at the grocery store.  So, I decided to stop and grab a sandwich at a nearby sandwich shop.  It’s funny, I think, that it was a sandwich.  By “funny” I mean, “coincidental,” or, perhaps, “unintentionally ironic,” because, you see, I am periodically told that I need to “eat a sandwich.”  Really.  This comment usually comes from rude strangers who have decided that, for some reason, it’s okay to make comments about my weight or my body because I am thin.  It’s okay, they think, to tell me that I “look anorexic,” that I need to “get a little meat on my bones,” that they “prefer women with curves” or even to ask me if I think I look attractive like that, or what example I think I am setting for my children.  Yes, these are all comments that have actually been made directly to me by strangers.  Once, a few years ago, I had a guy at a bar tell me that I was so skinny I looked like a Cancer patient, after I turned down an advance from him.  At that point, I was probably actually sick, but really?  Because, a second ago, you were interested.

What’s even weirder to me is when friends say things like this to me.  It happens.  I understand when they express concern.  They tell me I am getting too thin. They ask if I am okay.  I get that.  I mean, that’s cause for concern.  Some of them know my history.  I’m an eating disorder survivor.  So, yeah, okay, that’s reasonable.   Even if I they didn’t know that, seeing someone lose weight…well, I guess it can look unhealthy at a certain point.  They know my health, in general, is an issue.  I can see why it would worry them.  It’s still hard, when it happens, but it’s reasonable.  But that “sandwich” line?  That’s gotta go.

The problem is, right now ~ and, as it turns out, maybe for a long time ~ I have to be on a particular medication.  I have to be on it. I don’t really want to go in to detail about what’s going on, but it’s nothing terribly earth-shattering.  The end result is that I have to take medication daily, which solves the problem, and the only caveat is it affects my weight.  It has caused me to lose weight.  It increases my appetite, which is awesome, but it does make it difficult for me to gain weight, which is not great.  However, under the circumstances, I can’t worry about that.  So, I guess I should take this opportunity to assure those close to me that I am not relapsing into my eating disorder.  I’m actually doing quite well, and eating better than I have in years.  I feel pretty great.  But I am very thin.  I’m sorry.  I know that might look frightening to some of you, particularly those who have known me for a long time.  I know it might be hard to understand.  I am going to ask you to try.  To trust me.  I’m doing okay.

I will ask my friends to please avoid the “eat a sandwich” line.  Maybe you think, by saying something like that, you are keeping it light, but still addressing the issue?  It’s really just kind of mean.  That just doesn’t need to be said.  Frankly, sandwiches aren’t my favourite, food is a bit of an issue for me, my weight is always going to be a sensitive subject, and I am very self-conscious about it.  Besides which, it’s just not the kind of thing on which people need to comment.  Aren’t people taught not to make personal comments anymore?

As for the strangers who make those kinds of comments to anyone: stop.  Just stop.  Whether you are saying these things in person or online: stop it.  Why do you think you get to do this?  Who cares what you like?  Keep it to yourself.  You’ll tell me you have a right to your opinion, and sure you do, but here’s the thing: that person you’re talking about might be very thin for any number of reasons.  Maybe they actually are anorexic.  Did you ever stop to consider that?  Why is that term thrown around like an insult?  You know, its an actual illness.  It’s not a choice people make because they are trying to be cool, or they think it’s beautiful.  Maybe they’re just naturally thin, in which case, who do you think you are telling them how they should look, and that they are setting a bad example, or that they are unattractive, just because they look the way they do?  Maybe they have some kind of health problem that causes them to be very thin.  What if that person you just said looks like a Cancer patient actually IS a Cancer patient?  Aren’t you a freakin’ rockstar, now?  I mean, whatever happened to “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

This brings me back to the sandwich shop.  I was really very hungry, so I ordered my sandwich, with all the toppings I wanted, and the guy behind the counter asked me what size I wanted.  I had no idea.  I just thought they had the one size.  He explained that they had three sizes: 7″, 10.5″ and 14″.  I chose the 10.5″ sandwich.  He paused.  I waited for him to ring up my order.

“Um,” he said, finally, “Are you sure?  That’s about as big as this bag.”

He was looking down at me from behind the counter, showing me the bag, so I could fully  understand the gravity of my decision.  I was sure.  I wanted a really big sandwich.  For godssake, I can measure.  I mean, I’ve been using standard 12″ rulers since grammar school.  I buy 12″ subs all the time.  I can guess roughly how large a 10.5″ sandwich is! Now, I’ll be honest, I had a lot of errands to run, and I didn’t really plan to eat the whole thing all in one sitting, but, while he stood there judging me and my sandwich, I didn’t see any reason to explain that to him, so I just said, “Yes.  Ten and a half inches.  Please.”

“Okay,” he said, still sounding skeptical.  It kind of pissed me off.

You guys, I can’t win for losing.  I’ve got people telling me to “eat a sandwich,” and people telling me I couldn’t possibly eat THAT sandwich.  If a larger person comes in and orders the small sandwich, does he say, “Oh, I think you’re gonna need a bigger sandwich, buddy,” or does he judge them in another way, and offer them the lettuce wrap?

I guess I’ll never know.  I sat outside and unwrapped my sandwich.  A guy who looked exactly like George Lucas walked by.  I like to think it was George Lucas.  I mean, not many guys look exactly like George Lucas.  I ate 5.25″ of sandwich, then wrapped up the rest to eat during my errands.  It was a very good sandwich.  A very large, very good sandwich, even though I was a little pissed off about the guy’s attitude.  I ate it.  And I am still thin.  I still have only very minimal curves.  And I still don’t give a rat’s ass what some stranger prefers.

Worth 1,000 Words ~ by Sam

My, it’s been ages since anyone has posted here, hasn’t it?  It would be impossible for me to try to summarize everything that has been happening, so I had this crazy idea.  What if I just gave you a peek at this past week?

There were a number of significant events I feel I should mention.  We drove out and watched a bit of the Perseid meteor shower.  The kids went back to school.  Shane has been trying to build this computer, and I have been trying to get back to exercising.  We snuck in a date night.  I have been working on some projects.  Justice received the news that she had been accepted to her Major!  (Congratualtions, again, kiddo ~ we never had any doubt). Kaia very unexpectedly had her braces removed!

One day, while talking with my mom, I realized that, as of July 19th, 2016, my dad is ~ and this is HUGE, you guys ~ my dad is OFFICIALLY CANCER-FREE!!  That means his last chemo-treatment was July 19th, 2011, and he has been Cancer-free for 5 years ~ 5 years Cancer-free=officially Cancer-free, so this is cause for much celebration.  After I got off the phone, I lit a candle at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church, and left some roses with the Holy Family in the crying chapel there, because they listened to a lot of my prayers during those five years.

So, without further ado, here are lots of pictures from this latest week of my life.SerenadingTheMoon

And Shane brought me silk flowers, so they won’t ever wilt.

Photo on 8-18-16 at 8.39 PM

So, that was my week.  As you can see, It was pretty exciting.  First week of school down!  Can’t see what the next week has in store for us!  Here’s to an excellent year.

Disorderly Conduct ~ by Sam

Let’s talk about our obsession with weight loss.  I don’t mean MY obsession with weight loss, which is, on most days, a thing of the past.  I mean ours, as a culture.  I mean, let’s talk about the messages we send, especially to women and girls, about body image, weight, and the constant need to count calories, exercise, reduce, reduce, reduce!

Based on the ads seen in magazines, television and the internet, heard on the radio, and emblazoned on the sides of public transit vehicles, billboards and bus stops, the spam emails I receive on a daily basis, and the “suggestions” that pop up on my Pinterest and other online accounts, we, as a culture are all, presumably, obsessed with the idea of losing weight and achieving the elusive “ideal body.”  If we believe the ads, we can assume it’s all we ever think about:  “How can I get through this Holiday without gaining weight?  How can I cut the calories in my favourite dishes, so I can still eat them, but not gain weight?  How can I lose those extra pounds I put on over the Holiday?  What exercises can I do to sculpt my abs, lift my bum, tone my thighs?  What should I wear to look my best?  How can I use makeup to achieve a flawless, chiseled look?”  If we aren’t careful, the ads go to work on our fragile psyches and, in a twisted example of self-fulfilling prophesy, we become those body-image obsessed creatures to whom the advertisements speak.

And it all leaves me thinking, “When will this stop?  How can we learn to just be healthy, and to see the beauty each of us already, naturally, exudes?”

I am inundated on a daily basis with messages striving to convince me that I am not thin enough, not toned enough, not pretty enough, not sexy enough, just…not enough.  It’s not a hard sell for me, because my ego is still pretty fragile in the body image department.  When I see these topics popping up as “suggestions,” based on my internet habits, I have to wonder, “Why?”  Is it because I search health and fitness topics?   Recipes?  Special diets (not weight-loss diets, but vegetarian, dairy-free, anti-inflammation…)?  Is it assumed the only way anyone would want to improve their overall health would be by losing weight?  Do we only strive to improve our health in an effort to look “good enough” in the eyes of others?

Some people reading this might be thinking to themselves, “Why would all that stuff bother you?  It doesn’t even apply to you ~ you’re thin!”  It’s true, I am.  I am also an eating disorder survivor, which, again, is a bit like being a recovering addict.  I think I will always be in recovery.  There will always be a switch in my brain, just waiting to be flipped to trigger those disordered thoughts and behaviours.  And I can’t be the only one.  Do we all have that switch, and is it merely a matter of waiting to see whether or not it is flipped?  Let’s pause for a moment to consider how being inundated with those messages affects children growing up in our society.

I’m not saying the advertisement industry is responsible for my eating disorder.  There is so much more to it than that.  But think, for a moment, about being a young girl, and being inundated with images of seemingly “perfect” female bodies.  Imagine (if it has not been your experience ~ which, if you live in the U.S. and are exposed to the media, I am willing to bet it has been) being fed subliminal messages your entire life about what it means to be beautiful, and that you will never measure up.  Because that’s the message we are sent, constantly: “You aren’t thin enough.  You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t toned enough. You just aren’t good enough”  We are constantly spoonfed this idea that we must need to “improve” our appearance, which, just by its very nature, has a tendency to convince us that we must.  That we aren’t there yet.  And, see, we will never be “there,” because, if we are ~ if we attain that “ideal” ~ they have nothing left to sell us.  We are their market.  “Buy our product, so you, too, can be perfect!”

Does this happen to little boys?  I think it must, to some degree, and I certainly see it happening to men, too, but there does seem to be a tremendous focus on body image in marketing to girls and women.  I don’t want to discount the male experience of the same images and messages.  I know it’s there.  I can only speak from my own experience, however, and it occurs to me, as I write this, that all of us have a narrow view of the world that is specific to our own experience.  So let’s not say this is just a problem for girls and women.  Let’s say, “people.”  Because, even ads that seem to be targeted at girls and women are having a negative affect on the ideas men and boys have about fitness, attractiveness, and what is and is not a realistic goal. Then there are all the ads targeted at men in which the models are svelte, chiseled (probably, also, with a photoshop assist).  It’s all sending the same, negative message.

But then, companies making ads exist to sell a product or service.  They want us to buy into their ideal body image myth, so we will buy their goods and services.  I get that.  But, why can’t the ads reflect something closer to reality?  I see some companies moving in that direction, and that’s a good thing.  But how do we turn off those negative responses inside ourselves.  How do we strike that delicate balance between being healthy and responsible in the choices we make about food and fitness, and being obsessed?  How do we learn to look in the mirror and see the beauty that’s there, no matter who we are?

I’m not saying no one ever needs to think about fitness or weight loss, because those can be healthy goals.  I just want to know how to keep that negative body image and self-destructive behaviour switch in my own brain firmly in the “off” position while outside forces constantly threaten to switch it “on” again.  More importantly: How do we keep it from ever turning on in our youth?  I’ve got a pretty firm handle on how to beat an eating disorder, I guess, even if it remains, for me, a daily battle; but how can we change the messages we send, particularly (but not only) to children, so that switch never flips on in the first place?  Maybe by placing the focus more on our intrinsic self-worth, our intellect, strength, ingenuity, talent, humour, kindness ~ all of that great value with which each and every one of us is born.  Our uniqueness.  Our ability to overcome adversity.  Our silliness.  Everything it is that makes us who we are.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?  If we all learned to base our self-worth on who we are, inside, rather than how we look, would our whole world view change?  I know there are people out there who do this already, and I so admire them.  How do we, as a culture, make that standard our norm?

I don’t think there is any escape from the idealized, artificial, manufactured “perfect” that is being sold to us, but I think there is hope in the way we deal with it, the things we say to our children and youth, to each other, even to ourselves.  I think it is important to start a positive monologue inside ourselves, reiterating that we are, in fact, good enough.  We’re strong.  We’re beautiful.  We are better than “good enough,” and we always have been.  I think if we can change the way we talk about (and to) ourselves, maybe, just maybe, we will change the way we see ourselves ~ and maybe, with that small change, will come a change in the way others see us, and, ultimately, in the way they see themselves.

So, yes, strive to be healthy.  Do make responsible choices about food and fitness.  But start our knowing that you are already perfect, and beautiful, just as you are.