Play Time

They say that a person enters their second childhood when they hit old age, but anybody who looks in my bedroom would think I’ve either never left childhood, or I’m prematurely old.

I have a collection of at least a hundred stuffed animals.  Besides the ones I sleep with (a teddy bear, a siberian tiger, a bunny rabbit, and a wolf) I have two short bookcases full of stuffed animals as well as a 8 foot long shelf full of stuffed animals.  I also have toys, My Little Pony and assorted MLP accessories, coloring books and crayons and markers, Magnetix building materials, Dolls and clothing, Hot Wheels and tracks, and recently I picked up a book of paper dolls and clothing for them.

Yes, I really do play with all my toys.

Besides the toys, I go to parks and swing on the swings, slide down the slides.  We have an indoor play center that has go carts, an 18 hole miniature golf course, laser tag, interactive mech warrior games and more that Conall and I go to frequently.

We’ve found that playing, honest to goodness playing (not just doing something active because we should), helps us to de-stress better than anything else.  Whether it’s racing our Hot Wheels (yes, he has his also) or getting into a good laser tag game (on the same side) and destroying the other team, just doing something that has no redeeming value does wonders for us.  Playing feeds my soul.

Besides actual playing, I have other things that feed my soul and help me relax.  All of the crafts I do.  Cooking and baking (and I so can’t wait til the new oven gets here).  Even, to some extent, sewing.  Although it’s the bane of my existence, when I’ve finished a new article of clothing for our reenactment group, I’m very happy and satisfied.  Okay, it’s not necessarily relaxing when I’m making it, but when I’m in it, knowing that I’ve made it (and knowing how much I’ve struggled to make it) gives me a good feeling.

What do you do for play?  What activities helps you to relax, or even challenges you, but in doing so, feeds your soul?  And would you admit to the world that you sleep with a teddy bear (if you do, that is)? 🙂


I Have No Words

To express the horror and grief I feel about the death of somebody I’ve never met.  Never even heard of until today, as I was surfing the internet.  Y’all might have heard of this story, but this is the first I heard of it.

Back on November 29, in the UK, a man by the name of Barry Baker suffered from chest pains and called emergency services.  While he was on the phone with the emergency operator, he collapsed.  The phone line stayed open, so the operator was able to hear what came next.  Allegedly, when the EMT’s came into his house, the first thing they noticed was the mess.  Some news reports say they (the EMT’s) were joking about the mess Mr. Baker’s house was in. 

A police source said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying “words to the effect that he was not worth saving”.

I just cannot understand how two people could play god like that.  How two people could decide, just because a man’s house was messy (and it was, there are pictures showing just how messy it was if you want to google it), just because he was disabled, that “it was not worth bothering to try to carry out resuscitation to try to save him” (also from the above link).

The fact that he was fat, the fact he was physically disabled and walked with canes following a hip replacement surgery, the possible fact that he was mentally disabled (I’ve only seen one place that said that) is all irrelevant.

He was a human being in need of medical help, and people who were trained to help him allegedly decided he wasn’t worth helping.

I look at this story and I think of my Uncle, who was born with Downs Syndrome.  My Uncle is now 62.  My Uncle is also fat.  His weight gain came as a direct result of treatment for an overactive thyroid (they burned some of his thyroid away, which saved him from dying of starvation, even though he was eating as much as my Grandmother could force him to), but anybody looking at him wouldn’t know that.  They’d only see a fat, disabled man. 

Now, my Grandmother is still alive, and should she die before my Uncle, his welfare and care are taken care of.  He gets the house and sufficient moneys to pay utilities and food set up in trust for him in her will, and anybody in the family (and there’s four of us who said we’d do it) who lives with him gets to stay in the house rent free.  So he will be cared for.   My other Uncles and myself will make sure he’s cared for and that he gets to stay in his home.  And caring for him also means we will demand he be treated with respect. 

The difference between my Uncle and this man is that my Uncle would have people advocating for him. 

I know this isn’t the usual Friday post.  But this is something that needs to be seen all over the world.   People, no matter what their houses look like, no matter what their size, shape, bank account, ability or disability, deserve respect and compassion.  From everybody, really, but especially from the people who are hired to give quality medical care.

Barry Baker died because, allegedly, two people decided he just wasn’t worth the bother.

And this is what you get when you create a division of people which is “not us.”  All of the “us” (for whatever definition of “us” you use — rich, thin, intelligent, neat, clean, young, whatever) get to live and have compassion and respect.  All of the “not us” don’t.  It’s wrong, for any definition of “us” and “not us”.

Barry Baker was a human being who deserved a lot better than he received.  I hope the courts in the UK make the harshest example of the men who decided he wasn’t worth saving that they can.

“All Animals are Equal but Some Animals are More Equal than Others.”

After a couple of days of looking at different stores, MiL finally found an oven today.  It’s a convection oven, with a ceramic/glass top.  It’s got way more bells and whistles than I’ll probably ever use, but MiL’s niece convinced her to go with the convection, saying it’ll help the resale value of the house.   It just might at that.

One thing that got to me, though, during this whole process, was how people treated MiL.  My MiL is an elderly woman (nearing 80), who has physical disabilities and limitations as well as just being “old”.  On top of the physical effects of a stroke she had over ten years ago which partially paralyzed her left side (she can walk short distances, but that leg is weaker than her right leg, and she can move her arm but grasping and fine motor control in her hand are beyond her capabilities), she has been diagnosed with Lupus since the 1960s. 

Yes, she knows how lucky she was she had a doctor who believed in lupus back in the 1960s.

Sometimes, she has lupus flairs that make her other disabilities worse (the pain from the lupus can cripple her at times).  And there are times when she has these “weird” red marks show up on her face or hands for no reason.  Unfortunately, she’s in a lupus flair and has been for a while.  And unfortunately, she’s got the weird red marks on her face right now.

Going into stores, I was the one being talked to, and MiL (who either used the complimentary cart provided by the store, or was pushed in her wheelchair by me) was completely ignored.  Even though I specifically told the salespeople I wasn’t the one to talk to.  When I was finally able to get the salespeople to talk to MiL, they just assumed, because she’s old and disabled, that she had no money.  In two of the place we went to, the only oven they offered her was the bottom line oven (which, for a “slide in” is still a bunch).  When she asked for more options, she was told other ovens would be way too expensive for her.  Of course, the salesperson didn’t ask her what her price range was, just assumed they knew what she wanted because of her looks.

I have a problem with this.  I have a major problem with anybody who is minimized just because of how they look.  It so happens that MiL, while not rich by any standards, is comfortable and could easily afford twice the amount on a new oven than what she was being offered.  I mean, she wants to replace her existing counters with granite, not a cheep replacement at all.

At the first place we went to yesterday, I had to keep redirecting the the kid to talk to her (okay, he was probably an adult, but he looked like a kid to me, does that mean I’m getting old).  And by “keep” I mean every single thing he said.  Every question he asked.  He’d ask me a question, and I’d say, “You’ll have to ask MiL, as it’s her oven she needs to replace.”  When she’d ask a question, he’d answer me as if I asked.  It was frustrating to MiL, and to me as well.

The second place was a little better.  After being told twice that the oven was for MiL, and that she knew what she wanted, the older gentleman who was helping us did finally talk to her.  But then he also offered her the exact same oven as the first place offered.  She asked if there were any other options, ovens with more features, so he offered her the exact same oven as his previous oven, only in bisque, not white as she said she wanted, and was going to discount the bisque one $300 for her.  What she wanted was to see a range of features on different ovens so she could decide what one she liked the best, and how much she was willing to pay to get the options she wanted.

What she got was the salesperson assuming she just wanted cheaper.

Today we went to another store.  The difference was immediate.  The store didn’t have complimentary carts, so I got MiL’s wheelchair out of her car and wheeled her in.  We were greeted in the appliance section by a salesperson, who greeted both of us, not just me.  When MiL started talking about what we needed and what she wanted, he listened to her.  He tried to draw me into the decision once or twice (not ignoring MiL, but feeling me out to see if I was going to be part of the decision making process) and when I made it clear that, while I’ll be the one cooking and baking with the oven, the decision was all MiL’s, he proceeded from there.

The end result of him treating her like a human being, listening to what she wanted, and finding a couple of ovens with most of the features she wanted in a variety of price ranges got him a sale. 

It amazes me to see the hierarchy of how people are viewed in this society.  As a woman, I have been marginalized when I was trying to buy a car.  My then husband and the salesman started talking about the car “the little lady” wanted, and they forgot to include “the little lady” in on the conversation.  They didn’t realize I wasn’t involved until they were at the door of the building, ready to fill out the paperwork, and I was still standing by the car, not with them.  Obviously, that salesman didn’t get the commission that day.  As a fat person, I’ve been marginalized in too many ways to recount in this post (which is already getting wordy).

But as an able bodied fat young-looking woman, pushing an old woman in a wheelchair, I rank higher than she does.  Even when they are told repeatedly that I was not the one making the decision, they needed to talk with MiL, they would rather talk to me instead of her.  Knowing how much OMGOBESITY!!!111!!! is denigrated in society, it makes me realize how much more being unfortunate enough to live past 30 is denigrated. 

In two weeks I get to learn to cook with a stove an oven the type of which I’ve never used before.  I’ve no clue how convection ovens bake and cook verses regular ovens, but I’ll learn.  The important thing is MiL got the oven she wanted, and, today at least, got the respect she deserves for just being a person.

Learning how to eat

One of the things that always amazes me is that I don’t really know how to eat.  Or maybe, the more correct term would be I don’t really know how to taste.  Or maybe the most correct idea is that I don’t know what really satisfies me.  Let me use an example of the hot chocolate I made on Friday night.

Normally, I make hot chocolate from scratch.  My ingredients are:  2% milk, sugar, Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, a little bit of cinamon.  This makes a good hot chocolate, don’t get me wrong.  But it’s not rich.  I can drink a whole mug of this and not have a problem.  The hot chocolate I made Friday night had whole milk, heavy cream, Ghiridelli 60% bittersweet chocolate, and a little bit of cinnamon.  The original recipe said it made 6 servings, so I made 1/2 recipe and had three servings (one for Conall, MiL, and me).  It was so rich and satisfying, I couldn’t finish my serving.

And a serving was only about 5 ounces (about a half the amount of my normal mug). 

NOT that I’m counting calories (because believe me, I’m not) but for comparison of the two hot chocolates I just did it.  The hot chocolate on Friday night was about 1/3 fewer calories than the chocolate I usually make and drink (if I drank the whole serving which I didn’t).  And yet, I was much more satisfied with what I made Friday night than my usual drink.

One of the things that gets to me about intuitive eating is that I don’t really know what I want.  I’ve eaten low calorie/low flavor fake-food for a very long time.   It’s like the saying, “I don’t even know the questions to ask,” where taste and satisfaction in food is concerned, I don’t know what questions to ask.

When I get a craving for or want a pop tart (for instance) is it because it is comfort food from when I lived with my grandparents, or is it because I really want a danish from the local bakery but don’t really know that’s what I want because I’ve hardly ever had a real, fresh made danish with real ingredients (butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, etc)?  I know I want my homemade yogurt more than the store bought yogurt (the stuff I make has whole milk, which I buy in half gallon containers and use all up to make a batch, and no preservatives or additives).  Is that because whole milk and no artificial flavors is just that much more satisfying?

You would think I’d get used to this by now, but it still surprises me.   A small handful of Triscuits (TM) with some good quality swiss cheese satisfies and fills me up so much better than twice as many saltines and american cheese food. 

I’ve often heard it said of French Food (the cuisine that is notorious for full fat sauces filled with butter and heavy cream and rich cheeses and more), that the reason the French don’t have an “obesity epidemic”* is because they don’t eat a lot, even though what they eat is so rich.    Maybe it’s that they don’t eat a lot becausewhat they eat is so rich.  It’s filling in smaller portions, it hits a mind/body satisfied level a lot faster than foods we eat that are trying to fool us into thinking we are satisfied.

I don’t know, I’m just rambling here. 

As far as not knowing what satisfies me, or know knowing how to taste, my eyes were opened up on Friday.  Even though I’ve not been keeping myself away from certain foods, I’ve not actually been looking for those foods either.  I wonder what real macaroni and cheese would taste like if I give myself permission to make a morney sauce out of whole milk and high fat cheddar cheese, instead of using a box.  I wonder if it would be as eye opening as the hot chocolate was.

And I wonder how I learn what questions to ask, to really know what it is my body is wanting at any given moment.  Do I really want the box mac and cheese because I really want it?  Or do I want it because I don’t know something out there might be more satisfying? 

I think this week, since I’m having to do stove top cooking anyway, I might make a morney sauce and make mac and cheese that way.  I won’t be able to bake it with bread crumbs on top, but I think it’ll be okay anyway.

*I absolutely do not believe there is an obesity epidemic either in the US or anywhere in the world.  I know the statistics can be skewed, and have been skewed where obesity levels in the US are concerned.  I just wrote it that way because that’s how I’ve heard it said in the past.

Easy stove top cooking?

Yesterday, while making meatloaf and potatoes, the oven decided it needed to retire.  It just stopped working.  Luckily, even though the meat had been in the oven  for 45 minutes, it was barely warm, and I was able to make “hamburger meatloaf” for dinner by turning the barely warm meatloaf into patties and frying them on the stove (which still works).  The potatoes I put in the microwave, and while they didn’t come out crisp like I like them, they were at least done and edible by the time the hamburger meatloaf was done.

After a lot of talking about it, and MiL talking to three different people (including me), it was decided to take the element to an appliance repair shop and see if it was the heating element.  We did that today, and the element was good.  So, the only other thing it could be was the controller or thermostat.  MiL had the original book from the oven (which amazes me, the oven is 16 years old), and the woman at the appliance repair shop looked it up.  Of course, this is a part they no longer make.

So, we have to buy a new oven.  Not a big deal, but as we live in MiL’s house, this is going to be something that’s going to take a while to buy (because MiL has to go to every single store which sells ovens and look at all the ovens to find the one she wants).  So, I’m looking at trying to create healthy dinners using only a microwave, stove top, and crock pot, without getting burned out on the same thing (ie, chicken in frying pan, pork chops in frying pan, steak in frying pan). 

I have a lot of food blogs I go to, and I’m  registered at the Food Network and find recipes there all the time, but was wondering what types of recipes you all have that taste good, aren’t too spicy (because MiL has acid reflux/some sort of unidentifiable achy stomach problem and spicy foods make her stomach hurt worse)?  We are all omnivores here, and MiL’s idea of a veggie is that it always has to be dressed (no naked veggies!), and they are a side dish only, and fish is out because MiL has a severe fish allergy.

Yeah, trying to find variety with those limitations is difficult, that’s why I’m asking you all for suggestions! 🙂

Speaking of food, tonight I made this awesome hot chocolate recipe.  I made a half a batch, as it was only for my husband and me, and used Ghiridelli 60% bittersweet chocolate.  It was SO good and SO rich.  I couldn’t finish my cup of chocolate, so Conall finished it for me.  If you like chocolate, you might want to try this.  My hot chocolate didn’t come out as thick as the picture on that blog did, but it was absolutely the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.


One lesson my parents taught me, and that I learned well, in my childhood was that I’m not worthy of forgiveness.  I’m not worthy of anybody forgiving me, even myself.  Part of this was the expectation of perfection.  I was never perfect (who in this world is).  I always made mistakes.  And worse, I was always “getting in trouble.” 

“Getting in trouble” meant not only the initial punishment but after punishments as well.  The initial punishment was always a beating.  Sometimes only by one of them, sometimes by both.  One memorable time had the two of them trading places for about 10 different times.  Finally, on the eleventh time, they asked me who I wanted to “spank” me that time.  I realized at that point that they had been taking turns, and that it was Mom’s turn to “spank” me, so I said, “Mom.”  She asked why, did she not “spank” as hard as her husband?  My response was completely truthful (and almost got me beat again), “No, you actually hit harder than he does, but you’ve been taking turns and he spanked me last, so it’s your turn now.”

Hey, she asked, right?  If she didn’t want the truth (and I would have been beat for a lie if she found out it was a lie) she should never have asked.

Anyway, the after punishments would go on for weeks or months.  One time, I had to write “I will not prevaricate.”  Doesn’t sound to bad, does it?  Except, I had to do it from September until almost Christmas.  At first, I was allowed to sit at the table and write my lines.  Then one day in October he decided to toy with me and asked me if I was tired of sitting at the dining room table all the time writing.  I said I was, thinking I was finally done with the after punishment.  No.  He told me since I was tired of sitting at the dining room table, I could now stand at the dining room table and write.  By the time I was really done with that after punishment, I’d written over 100,000 lines.

Of course, the whole time I was in after punishments, I was told how terrible I was for doing whatever it was that had gotten me punished (and some of the things were as simple as forgetting to take out the garbage or make the milk or not getting straight A’s on my report card).  And when I was finally allowed off of whatever the after punishment was, I was still not forgiven.  

They would let me know just how bad I was, and how I didn’t deserve forgiveness.  And when I got in trouble the next time (not if, but when), I was reminded of all the times before when I’d gotten in trouble.  I was told that since I was constantly in trouble I didn’t deserve forgiveness.  It was a vicious cycle, really.  Get in trouble, get punished, get told how terrible I was and how I didn’t deserve forgiveness, get the after punishment, finally get off trouble, get in trouble again and told how that proved I wasn’t good enough for forgiveness.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, as you might expect, one thing that has been really difficult for me is learning to forgive myself.   Forgiveness just wasn’t something that was in my vocabulary for a very long time.  I made a mistake?  I had to suffer for it, and if other people around me didn’t make me suffer, then I would make myself suffer by being miserable, by constantly reminding myself (and others) what scum I was. 

Needless to say, this didn’t help my self esteem, constantly telling myself how terrible I was.

Self forgiveness is something that goes hand in hand with self esteem.  As long as I hold a mistake (small or large) over my own head, I continue to beat myself up for it.  I call myself names like stupid, and scum, and worse.  I reinforce those feeling of inadequacy, of being less than human, of not being worthy of anything good, when I don’t forgive myself.

A few weeks ago, I wrote I was getting back on the horse with self-esteem in my own life.  That my self esteem had taken a bit of a hit recently.  What happened was that I ran a camping event for my local group.  It was a financial success, but not a success by my definition of the term success.  

My definition of a successful event is that when things go wrong (as they always will), if the paying guests don’t see the problems, then the event is a success.  The event I organized had guests seeing some of the things that went wrong.  Actually, just one thing that went wrong, but for me, it was enough.

As the organizer, the buck stops here.  Yes, I had people advising me and some of the advise wasn’t completely on target.  My assistant organizer didn’t do what he was supposed to do, which left me doing his job as well as mine.  There were other problems, places where I made mistakes.  Finally, on the main day of the event, I became deathly ill with heat stroke and had to be rushed to the hospital.

I castigated myself ten ways to Sunday about that whole situation.  I apologized profusely to the leaders of my group for “failing” (and had them tell me that if this was a failure, then they wanted me to fail more).   I’ve refused all opportunities to organize another event since then. 

And all this because I couldn’t forgive myself for the mistakes I made and for being human.  It has been six months since that event.  Everybody else has moved on but me.  I’m miserable, expecting to hear how I’ll never be allowed to organize another event as long as I live (or remain in this group).  I’m expecting the leaders of this group to treat me like the parents did.  To give me the cold shoulder.  To not want to be near me.

They haven’t forgiven me because they see nothing to forgive.  Yes, there were a few problems, but people had a lot of fun, and the event made the money we wanted and needed it to make.  Only I haven’t forgiven myself.

Getting back on the horse isn’t easy. 

Step one was figuring out I’d fallen off.  That I’m okay, just as I am.

Step two is forgiving myself for my mistakes, real or imagined.  If I’m okay, just as I am, then there’s no reason for me to continue to punish myself.  There is no reason for me to be walking on eggshells waiting for people to ridicule me.  There is no reason for me not to forgive myself. 

And if it’s okay to forgive myself, then it’s okay to like myself.  Which helps the self esteem to grow.

Just like self castigation can be a downward spiral, self esteem can be an upward spiral.

Russian comments?

I keep getting comments, in Russian, for one of my posts.  I’ve been deleting them because I don’t speak or read Russian.

Yes, I do try to have babelfish or some other online translator translate, but for the most part, a LOT gets lost in the translation.

Anybody else having a flurry of non-english comments on your english language blog?  Cuz this is totally mystifying me.