Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Bad Does It Have to Get?

In the 1700s, James Lind came up with the theory that adding a ration of fruit to sailors' diets could eradicate scurvy, a disease that had killed millions (it dates back to B.C.). Tens of thousands during this era were dying during sea battles and campaigns from this disease alone. Captain Cook's ship remained scurvy-free throughout its 3-year voyage (1768-71) in the South Seas with a ration of lemon juice and sauerkraut for his men. Still, the Admiralty didn’t believe such a fatal disease could be cured so easily. They wanted an elixir, preferably one with a complicated name and many ingredients. (Who doesn't?) Lind died on February 14, 1794--the year a naval squadron finally put his theory to test, thereby fully vindicating him. But another ten years passed before it became standard daily issue in the navy.

I have had these little red marks on my right hand--only my right hand--for a couple of months. And they haven't itched or even hurt necessarily unless I brush up against something, and then it feels like I have slivers stuck in my fingers. Not really pleasant and not horribly unpleasant, so I haven't done anything about them, figuring they'd just go away eventually.

But they've gotten worse the last couple of weeks, gotten painful, and since even annoyances are worth getting rid of, I finally looked into the problem last week. I finally decided, after reading a hundred or so posts on a chat page, that the marks were caused by either (a) cold weather (thus the reason they're only on my right hand; if it's a circulation issue, my right hand is farther from my heart than my left) or (b) too much sugar in my diet.

I love sugar. I'm worse than my kids, honestly. It goes beyond chocolate. I'll eat crap sugar: Airheads and Laffy Taffies and Nerds. At least dark chocolate can offer me a speck or two of anti-oxidants. Smarties? Not so smart. I know that.

But I cut it out. Not all the way out. I'm not that faithful. I've still been eating my cinnamon-toffee almonds from Nutty Guys. I had a few bites of cake Wednesday night. I stole a piece of my son's Valentine's candy last night (though he denies the candy was his, because then he'd have to tell me who gave it to him, all of which is a post for another time). But I cut way way down.

And my hand is SO much better after only five days of making this one little change in lifestyle. And it was easy--so easy that I wasn't sure it would be enough. But I was feeling desperate enough.

I didn't mean for this to be a medical post. I've just been thinking about how human nature so often holds us in place--in bad relationships, bad health, bad financial situations, bad jobs--all because we're unwilling to make a change until that place gets so bad we'll try anything. And why is this? Is it stubbornness? Laziness? Pride? Exhaustion? Fear? Anger? Denial?

Sure, making a change so I can have full use of my right hand again isn't the biggest accomplishment--or the most necessary--of my life. But I know I've stayed in situations for all of the above reasons more than once. I've known a little citrus might be the solution but I've still said, "Nope. Not big enough. Not important enough. Bring me the magic elixir, and then we'll talk."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Someone . . .

My friend Brigid Kemmerer is sponsoring a contest for stories of your worst Valentine's Day ever. So if you happen to be here on my blog before 5 a.m. tomorrow morning (the 15th), head over to hers and tell her aalllll about it.

I was going to tell her my story, but then I thought, "Hey, I'm happily married, and since my worst Valentine's Day involved my husband, who is wonderfully good and kind to me (not to mention patient), how much can I really capitalize on my so-called sob story? I have it good."

I will say, however, that my disappointment that particular Valentine's Day was over failed expectations. And, okay, so I know that's what the very definition of disappointment is: you expect something and things don't work out that way and--ta-dah--disappointment. Really, when you think about it (and it doesn't require heavy thinking by any means), all unhappiness in general derives from failed expectations.

And Valentine's Day is the perfect time for many to reflect on those failed expectations: "I thought I'd have someone to share today with."

Or "I have someone to share today with. I expected that to be enough."

My three sisters and I decided this past Christmas to make our gifts for or only spend a small amount of money on each other. We're all old enough (well old enough) now and with families of our own--old enough and independent enough, that is--that token gifts are "enough." We don't "need" and we don't "expect" the extraneous array of . . . stuff.

My oldest sister gave me a beautiful handmade scarf. She didn't make it, but someone did, and it's beautiful: lots of bright colors, and even when I don't wear it, I have it laying across a chair because just looking at it makes me happy. My older sister made me felt mittens and a felt hat with a felted daisy on it. She's ridiculously talented with her creations. I can't even call them "crafts" or what she does a "hobby," because she does so much and does it all so well that, cheesy as it sounds, she's an artist. My younger sister, who has the best sense of style of anyone I know (though AngryBaker kicks some serious fashion tush too), gave me a short-sleeved sweater and a long-sleeved t-shirt to wear underneath it. Any great outfits I wear were either hers originally or contain pieces she gave me as gifts. I have her to thank for getting me out of the 90s.

It was a nice Christmas.

Oh . . . what did I give them? I hand stitched felt ornaments and made them wooden bracelets, each with a quote that reminded me specifically of them. And then I made myself one:

"Love Someone Who Doesn't Deserve It."

It's easy to love someone who does deserve it--like my sisters . . . and my brothers and my parents and my husband and kids and other family members and friends. But to let go of the expectations you demand of others--sometimes those you thought it would be easy to love or think it should be easy to love--is, well, just a lot less fun. But it's also very liberating because it takes away the burden of failed expectations: unhappiness.

I'm wearing my bracelet as I type this. It's Valentine's Day after all. And I do a much better job of loving my husband on a daily basis than I do of loving that neighbor who yelled at my son the other day.

Besides, who of us really deserves the love we have in our lives?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mindless Wonderings/Wanderings

I've felt like crap most of today. Not looking for sympathy here--just surprised at myself. I don't get sick often. In fact, I rather revel in my usual health and ability to repel even the most aggressive bugs. And what I'm feeling isn't "sick" so much as "in pain." But this isn't about my medical symptoms and my refusal to go to the doctor until I have to be carried there.

I was clicking around my toolbar--hopping from Dictionary to Chicago Manual of Style to Hulu--and I decided I'm curious: What's in your toolbar?

Here's my list (because I know you're dying to know, and if you're not, don't tell me you're not, because remember? I'm in pain already. So, okay, maybe I'm looking for a little sympathy, or at least enough for you to not openly mock me.):

Gmail--I'm on gmail almost always. I sometimes miss writing longhand and give it a shot, but then my hand cramps up and I remember why USPS is having troubles these days.
Yahoo!--My news page.
Facebook--I don't spend hours on this, but I do check in regularly just to see what old and distant friends are up to. I saw the movie, by the way. I thought it was really good but not Oscar worthy. Actually, I can't remember the last time I saw an Oscar-worthy movie.
Google--I'm there more than I'm on gmail or Facebook. Who isn't?
Thesaurus--It's an editor's friend.
Dictionary--See Thesaurus.
All Recipes--I've gotten rid of most of my cookbooks over the last few years. The ones I hold on to I hold on to for sentimental reasons. (Can someone be sentimental about a cookbook?)
My blog--I go here to check out my blog roll, which I think I need to add to, by the way, because I'm not wasting nearly enough time stalking strangers.
Twitter--I should really delete that one since it's been months since I've tweeted. Spending time there depressed me, made me anxious and uptight. It felt too TOO much like stalking, and I found that 140 characters is just enough for people to succinctly gripe and kvetch and mock (none of which I ever do, of course).
Amazon--Yes, I love independents. Two of my brothers own independents, one of which (the independent, not the brother) used to be my parents'. But I also have a little crush on Amazon.
Calculator--Hm. I guess it's just easier than looking for a physical one.
New York Times--I think my husband put this one on. I need to remove it since I never look at it.
Wunderground--Because I need to know just how much snow Chicago is going to get before spring finally shows up. And then I need to know how much rain to expect. And then just how hot it's going to get before fall rolls around. And then how long I have until the whole snow and cold thing starts up again.
Chicago Manual of Style--Again, it's an editor thing.
Chicago Tribune--Ron, stop adding to my toolbar.
PowerSchool--This is how I gather the info necessary to nag my kids about their grades. Poor things. And I'm so glad my parents didn't have this when I was in school.
Hulu--I won't even mention his name again, as I know you're sick of hearing it.

Gee that was fun. ~sigh~ And really: what's your toolbar like? Because once I get rid of a few of these, I'll have some room for more time-wasting sites to entertain me (which kind of contradicts the "time-wasting" descriptor . . . kind of) while I tell myself I'm feeling better and better all the time.

Off to Hulu now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Take It down a Notch

My kitchen is a mess and it's distracting me a little bit. I usually can't get anything done in the morning before it's clean, but I'm trying to get my bearings again here after a week of being more or less housebound "thanks" to the blizzard (seems a little silly to me to call what we had here a blizzard, but who am I to argue with meteorology?) and a sick five-year-old who's been housebound with me. He's back at school today, as are two of my other three kids. The oldest is upstairs with a stomach ache. Ah, germs... How I resent you.

Where was I? Distraction. 'Kay. So I can't stop thinking about last night's episode of "Glee." (It's better to think about that than the Super Bowl; I'll just say so I can get it said that the Packers earned the win. They did. They played a better game with a better quarterback and a better offense. My black and gold is put away, salt-free, no tears shed.)

"Glee." It means happy. Joyful. And, I realized after however many weeks of not watching it (I only watch reruns of "The Office," "Buffy," "Angel," and "Firefly"), it means yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.

I've worked really hard the last year or so at subduing the yeller in me. She isn't very attractive, and she sounds like a crazed banshee (as opposed to the sane ones). That's no one you want to introduce your children to. I don't like her very much, and she's completely ineffective. So we had a chat, and I told her she wasn't welcome around here anymore. She still tries to sneak her way in, but I'm a good fighter.

And with all of my kids in school all day now (except when germs sneak in through those same cracks the banshee tries to squeeze through, perhaps), I'm used to quiet days. I don't listen to a lot of music when I'm home alone because (1) I can't concentrate on my editing when I'm humming along with Jim Croce and (2) I'm prone to feeling really lonely when I listen to music, regardless of the song style. So I live a quiet little existence here from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Then chaos erupts when the kids pour in through the front door. And it's a nice little chaos. It's good to have them home, hear their happy voices, see their happy little faces.

For a few hours.

Come dinner time, I'm holding my head, my elbows propped on the table, begging them to please, just, shhhh, don't yell, I'm right here, yes, you can have more milk, here, just, shhhh, please keep your voice down, stop yelling, holy cow.

So it struck me pretty hard last night how LOUD everyone on "Glee" is. Sue's yelling (and I love Sue!). The football team is yelling. Rachel is yelling. Coach Beast, Will, Fin. They're loud and scowling and grumpy and . . . I didn't like it. It made me uncomfortable. Maybe 9:30 p.m. is just too late to watch the show. Maybe it was WAY past my noise-tolerance time.

glee season 2 episode 8 Glee Season 2 Episode 8: Download and Torrent
But, darn, we're a yelling society aren't we? When did this start? Is each generation, as my husband suggested, used to raising its voices to be heard over the previous generation's voices? Is the debate culture getting to us? The need to interrupt each other in Bill O'Reilly fashion? With common politeness comes reasonable decibel levels. Throw out politeness and we all end up, sooner or later, with ruptured eardrums.

Go ahead. Pay attention to the TV shows you watch this week, whether it's reality TV or news programs or sitcoms or dramas. And then tell me people aren't yelling way way WAY more than they did in the good old days of "Three Is Company" and "Fantasy Island" and "The Love Boat."

Now I can clean my kitchen. In silence.