Fit or Fat – Part two of Weight Loss Season and I have Something to Say!

My first 18 years were the formative years of my fitness… I was indeed a chubby kid after about 8-1/2.  My Mom first tried to help me lose weight on our own but, she was as clueless as I about what to feed me.  Obviously I was chubbing up on the same food that she and the rest of the family were eating and they weren’t having problems.  As I said in yesterday’s blog entry, she finally reached the conclusion that somehow my metabolism was slower than hers, my Dad’s and my brother’s.

Easter 1960 - me at the ripe old age of 8-1/2 - a short 50 years ago. Note the chubby cheeks - I was less than 18 months away from my first menses. The curly perm didn't help either.

The sad thing was that no one gave me the tools to be “fit”.  My mother couldn’t – she didn’t understand.  She was naturally thin, she was naturally energetic – she mowed her own lawn until she was 70.  She jumped off of a 30 foot high platform in the middle of her brother’s East Texas woods on a rope swing at 73 and at 74, one year before she died, she went parasailing.  My father, a salesman, worked hard, ate pie and coffee for lunch and when he gained 10 pounds he cut the sugar out of his coffee – he also died at 54 so I am feeling lucky since I’m now 58, I made it 4 years longer than he did – and counting.  My brother was an athlete and even now, at 53, he’s maybe 20 pounds over weight but nothing close to “fat”.

All through high school I had to take physical education (PE) classes – wearing those vile uniforms with the pleated shirt and bloomer drawers.  ugh.  And then they wanted us to play softball or basketball or volleyball  – awful having to take something like a bat or your hand and hit the ball or put the ball in a hoop hung on the wall.  Even worse, calisthenics – jumping jacks and lunges – squats and crunches – double ugh.  One year they offered archery for 3 weeks.  I loved it but they never offered it again — who knows why — probably too dangerous.  Dance? Again it was fun but short-lived – three weeks max during the coldest months because, well there was also basketball that we could play inside and the PE teachers weren’t really dancers.  Swimming? I could swim but I was afraid of the water – they, of course wanted us to swim long laps, competing against each other, in an Olympic sized pool that went from 4 feet to 15 feet — along about 6 feet, I would start to tense up because I could see the bottom of the pool dropping away below me — terror!!!  By 10 feet, I couldn’t get to the side of the pool fast enough – thought I was going to drown. Tennis? OK but I still had the hand-eye coordination problem I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with the astigmatism I had in my right eye, that, though corrected aesthetically, caused depth perception problems.

Flash forward to now.  Well, actually about 4 months ago.  Almost exactly 40 years since the night I lay in bed in deep heart pain over my agonizingly thin body. I was feeling my body.  The convex belly that I had to poke through to even feel the barest tips of the hip bone – the sheath of fat over my ribs – the ribs are still there – but well padded.  I thought about the night so long ago when I had decided to become this.  Not exactly, but had just decided to give up the 500 calorie diet and the amphetamines.  I lay there wondering “I wonder what it is like to be fit?”  I wonder.

After I gave up the prescribed drugs, I needed to eat more food – without the tools to get fit – in spite of trying to teach myself how to eat properly and even sporadically exercising – mostly the hated calisthenics – I gained weight.  For a while I looked “normal” but then by the time I was in my mid twenties, I was “heavy” and by the time I was in my early 30s, I was “fat” and by the time I was in my late 30s, I was “obese”.

About 13 years ago, I started taking water aerobics classes.  As exercises go, water aerobics is pure magic.  If “they” back “then” had only combined the hated calisthenics with the fear-inducing swimming, “they” might have taught me to be fit.  It combines the benefits of calisthenics with the ease of being in the water and eliminates the fear factor of swimming because you can either touch the bottom or use a flotation device.  I actually love it.   I became so enamored of water aerobics I took classes in teaching it, although my fear of teaching it because I am “still” fat keeps me from teaching.  I have worked up WA routines using dance moves, sports moves, and of course, calisthenics.

After a while, 12 years or so ago, I calculated that I had lost approximately 20 pounds of body fat in a relatively short period of time – about 3 months. “Weight” lost was not 20 pounds because I’d gained muscle mass, but I was on a road to “fitness”.  And then (here comes an excuse) my beloved Mom died.  Gone.  Left the planet. This set me back so far it was astounding.  All the comfort eating came back in a rush and I didn’t have to sneak eat because I lived by myself so all the food was mine.

Since then, sporadically, I have done my water aerobics thing.  I still love it and, up until August of last year, my spouse and I were regular visitors at the indoor therapy pool near our home.  Did I say I love water aerobics?  Well I’ll say it again.  I do… but I also love being in water.  It is so incredibly relaxing.

The pool we use has a couple of different jetted areas – the standard “hot tub” but also a jetted area of the swimming pool where extra hard jets of water come out.  Sometimes I arrange myself where the water just beats hard against my shoulders – massaging all the tension and stress away – other times I float in the bubbles a distance away from the jets – feet hooked into the side rails of the pool – like floating in a glass of champagne. It becomes almost a sensory deprivation kind of relaxation – except there is the sensory stimulation of the bubbles and the lovely sound of rushing water.

This morning, we are planning our first trip back to the pool.  Funds have been so short for so long and we were unable to afford the fees until now – now we’re just making it happen – choosing fitness over something else – it really isn’t much money for both of us – and we received a little Christmas money from our family, so it is the perfect use.  Pool time.

Today.  January 4, 2011. I choose to be fit. The beginning is the return to the pool.  After that – better food choices. No silly diets, no has-been stars trying to convince me that their diet plan that got them back into a bikini is the right one – I don’t need or want to wear a bikini again.  I am not planning on a flat stomach – and certainly not a concave stomach.  I don’t really even care if I never change dress sizes again . . . I just want to be fit.

I allow my image of me as a fat, overeating, sneak eater – that my former doctor so casually created for me during my formative years – I allow her the formal death that she deserves.  She really doesn’t exist – then or now.  She was created in that tension-filled, sterile exam room that smelled of antiseptic.

1/8/2011

This was hard to write and I have removed the parts that I “can’t stand” – sorry.  If you read the parts I edited out, thanks.

© 2011

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It is Weight-loss Season, and I Have Something to Say . . . Part 1

Back when I was a nearly anorexic girl of 18, now over 40 years ago, one night as I was trying to go to sleep – see I had a doctor back then, that thought that the way to keep a prone-to-fat girl slim was to give her amphetamines – anyway, I was laying there – feeling my hip bones, poking toward the ceiling – my stomach concave – my ribs, countable and feeling … horrified.

Today, occasionally, I think of the fashion models and wonder if they ever lay in bed at night feeling their hip bones, ribs and concave stomachs and I wonder… do they feel the way I felt that night?  Horrified?

I was horrified. I didn’t have a “flat stomach” that all the various diet drinks, gyms, and magazines “encouraged” me to have.  I had a concave stomach.  CONCAVE.

Best I can tell, no one tells you that you should have a concave stomach, pointy hip-bones and countable ribs.  Back then, the doctor wanted to get my weight in line with the then current insurance chart.

See, I was a fat pre-teen.  I gained weight just prior to puberty (which was at 10 years old)  – prior to that I had been a skinny kid – so much so that my doting Mom worried I was too thin.  She was “too thin” all her life and knew how hurtful that was to a young girl – of the 1930s and 1940s anyway.

You tell me - are these two "too thin"? Maybe in 1956... and that's the problem!

But then her too-thin child became fat – quickly.

She took me to my pediatrician.  This was the first visit to him since I’d hit puberty and he told her that he would no longer treat me.  I needed an “adult” doctor.  So she took me to the doctor she believed in – the doctor who had saved her life from breast cancer.  She took me to her doctor and told him she believed there to be something wrong with me – that I gained the weight so quickly and she was worried there was something wrong – that my metabolism was slow, was it glands? hormones?

Now, doctors in the 1960s – even more than doctors now, if you can believe it – believed they were smarter, faster, better than the average person and I suppose that in many ways the docs then were “smarter” than the average person – we now have the internet to look up our symptoms and read about our ailments – doctors hate that, but do seem to tolerate it somewhat better because they somehow acknowledge that all this information can help them diagnose a person.  Back in the 1960s though, medical information was a closely held secret, making doctors like wizards doing magic.  Trying to “help” the doctor diagnose someone – yourself – your kid – was not acceptable.

So the doctor told my mother “Yes, there’s something wrong: she’s fat because she eats too much.”  My mother had the audacity to argue with him.  She was a feisty one.  She’d argue with anyone.  She shot back at him, “No she doesn’t.  She doesn’t eat any differently than I do or than my husband or my son … none of the three of us are fat … she eats the same food we do but she has a different metabolism … she gains weight, we don’t.  Why is that?”  She thought she had him there – and she probably did, but he retorts, “She sneak eats.”  Mom: “She does not.” Doc: “You overfeed her – you give her cake and candy and Kool-aid.” Mom: “I do not.  We have healthy fruit and vegetable choices for snacks, I don’t bake or buy trash food. And as for Kool-aid, it is not in my house. We have fruit juice or milk.”

Please bear in mind that this little “adult” drama is being played out in front of my 12-year-old eyes and it was not an argument my mother was going to win.

To review:  I had just been called a fat, overeating, sneak eater by the supreme authority figure of most people’s lives – a doctor.

His solution to my overeating/sneak eating was to put me on a 500 calorie diet (yes, five hundred) and give me an Rx for little black-and-white amphetamines and threw in a 5 mg Valium Rx as well.  Gawd.  All this happened between the 6th and 7th grade.  The beginning of the summer of 1965, I was on the following diet:

  • 1/2 grapefruit or 1 orange for breakfast
  • 1 bowl of soup for lunch (this amounted to about 1/2 can of soup)
  • 4 oz of meat, 2-2oz servings of vegetables and 1 cup of lettuce (no dressing) for dinner
  • Snack:  unsweetened iced tea

I was not allowed to eat bananas, milk or any type of bread products.  I had to limit my fluid intake. I also could not have any added salt to my food. I was actually lucky if the above amount of food actually totalled up to 500 calories.  I don’t know about you, but ANYONE would lose weight QUICKLY on the above diet.

At first, I lost so much weight that we thought the little yellow pill (Valium) he’d given me was a diuretic.  Then my Mom asked the pharmacist what it was and he told her it was a tranquilizer.  When she asked the doc about this, he said “It is so she can sleep.”  That summer I went to Girl Scout Day Camp (in South Texas 100 degree heat) and summer school and my parents moved to a new house and at 12, I had my own set of duties during that move as well as household chores. Thanks, I could sleep just fine – with so little food, I was exhausted.

One of my aunts was so impressed with the weight loss, she went to the same doctor and he put her on the same diet, only her amphetamines were triple the strength of mine – after all – she was an adult.  Sheesh.

That summer, my aunt and I lost weight together – I lost about 40 pounds – she lost 75 pounds.  We both looked like walking skeletons.  But remember, this was 1965 – the heyday of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.

Twiggy (from the Wikipedia entry) doesn't look great here - she looks tired and hungry - just like me and my aunt Marlene. But we all could wear tiny clothes!

For the next 6 years, I was able to maintain the weight loss – I could actually eat some more food but I took my amphetamines every morning so that, instead of food energy I had drug energy.  By the time I was 18 I had also become the sneak eater that my doctor had originally accused me of.  But I was SKINNY!

On my way to my Senior Prom with my date, Dennis, in my Vogue Pattern, Givenchy-designed gown handmade by my mother in about a week because Dennis was a procrastinator. Check out those collar bones!

The gown was tiny – I still have it – sizes then were different than they are now – this would probably be somewhere around a size 2 or maybe 4 now.  I haven’t gotten it out to measure it.  At the time it was an 11.  In the above picture of my Mom in 1956, she wore a size 12 — but those were in the days when Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16.

So back to that night in 1971, when I was laying in bed, feeling my bones, my concave stomach, I thought, “Enough.  I am not going through this any more – I am not starving or taking pills.  I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”  And that was that.  By the end of that year, I’d gained about 20 pounds – went from 115 in the May prom picture to about 135 in December – I am 5’6″ tall, so 135 wasn’t bad – Somewhere in there “they” changed the clothing sizing and we went to the “new sizing” and my size 11 became a size 9 so when I gained that 20 pounds I was actually still wearing a size 11.  Go figure.  Thanks New Sizing!  But that is a whole other blog entry!

There’s much more to this story, and I will tell it in part 2, but now, since we’re over 1300 words… I’ll just say – watch for Part 2.

© 2011

The Top o’ the Ticket in 2012

I’m having fun this afternoon.  I just clicked into the Huffington Post’s Election 2012 page and came up with a whole bunch of articles about who what when and how (sorry about the lack of a “w” there!) President Obama will be challenged in a bid for reelection in 2012.

One of the articles presented this very interesting portrait of Sarah Palin looking (to some I guess) “presidential”.  Frankly, I think she looks worried.  It’s a great suit by the way – but the flag pin is a bit big – not so much for the actual collar of the suit, but just IMHO because I think the size of the flag pin signifies the size of one’s (Republican) intention to take over the US – but that is just me – so put me and not all 8 of my readers on a watch list somewhere.

There is another article that says that one Republican strategist doesn’t think she’s electable.  Eh – maybe – personally, I hope not for all the reasons I wasn’t wild about her in the first place – she isn’t qualified – ‘course when did that ever stop anyone from running for anything – I would add to that the simple fact that for some reason, she just couldn’t fulfill her obligation of being Governor of Alaska.  What does that say to you that you spend lots of money (presumably not only yours but OPM as well) and then, once you have achieved what for many has been the pinnacle of their political careers, you bail? Call me crazy but what if she does become POTUS and decides she doesn’t like it and that the offer of a reality TV show – let’s call it Ex-POTUS – seduces her away from the job.  Hey, maybe it would turn out to be a favor, especially if she had a compromise-but-great VP choice – say Mike Huckabee or Bobby Jindal, but does anyone really want to go down that road – as Nixon showed us, “abdications” are so messy?  So, here I am an avowed Liberal Libertarian agreeing with the likes of Sig Rogich and Karl Rove – as for Christie Todd Whitman – she’s right – Palin might energize the base but the base doesn’t get anyone on either side elected. 

“Bases” are just about 30% of the voters on either side of the middle line – the other 40% are the ones that swing the election right or left. 

I am going out on a limb here, albeit not a very dangerous one, and saying that there’s no way to call the 2012 election from here at the end of 2010.  Why? Well, because the 2010 election is just over and the newly-elected haven’t even had their chance to fail – and they will.  We are in a wholly new place with TPTB.  We the people are giving them (TPTB) about 10 minutes to do it right (figuratively of course) and then we are moving on.  Our tolerance for inaction, inability and failure to follow through is becoming very short lived and, should the newly-elected not do what they came to do in, say approximately 270 days from taking office, We the People will be back on a “fire the bastards” band wagon.

Gone are the days of the 1990s when We the People allowed the opposition an entire presidential cycle to screw up. 

© 2010

Naomi Wolf Scared Me Again

Do you remember the old War On Drugs PSA that said “this is your brain… this is your brain on drugs” and there was something about a frying pan and an egg frying?

That was what I was reminded of when I read Naomi Wolf’s most recent piece in the Huffington Post.  She scared me two years ago – that was my brain – now she’s scared me again – that is my brain on the drug of complacency.

We have to snap out of it NOW.  Otherwise, we will find ourselves living scared constantly.

Several things in the past few weeks have sent up red flags if you are paying attention.  None of this stuff “started” here – but it all will finish We the People if We don’t wake up.

Several weeks back we had the scan and grope by the TSA begin in earnest.  This did offend people.  BUT the mainstream media went out and found plenty of people to stand up in front of a camera for their 10 seconds of fame and say “Oh if it keeps planes from blowing up, I’m for it.”  Does anyone not think this is the modern day equivalent of Hitler keeping the trains running on time?

Earlier this week there was the announcement that Walmart would be running PSAs on behalf of the Homeland Security asking you to report “anything” suspicious.  Other little hotspots in the news on the ‘net have included a woman whose child was asked questions about her blogging activities by Child Protective Services.

I am feeling the Fascist state approaching here – unless of course you want to consider that it is already here.  Websites shut down, watch lists formed –

Just so you don’t have to go back and re-read it, I am going to list Wolf’s ten steps to a Fascist State here.  If you failed to react to them then, perhaps you will now.

The ten steps:

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.

terrorism? Wikileaks? North Korea? Iran? Take your pick.

2. Create a gulag

run a Google search on domestic detention camps – much of the stuff was written in the past 4 years but as recently as July 2010 there was an article in a blog on internment camps hiring – see it here.

3. Develop a thug caste (Blackwater USA)

Remember Blackwater?  Well it changed its name to Xe.  Rebranding always works right?  Who would think “Blackwater” with a name like Xe.  Let’s just call it Xe – The thug caste formerly known as Blackwater.

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

Big Brother is everywhere – never forget it.

5. Harass citizens’ groups

Even the Tea Partiers have been listed by TPTB, taking down license plates and photographing people at the rallies.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

Let’s see – how about the radio personality who was detained for hours in a Florida airport because she refused body scanning and pat down?  Just for a start.

7. Target key individuals

When you begin to see “big names” targeted for their activisim, begin to worry – Who?  Oh don’t you remember when Ted Kennedy was placed on the No-Fly list – guess he finally got off the list since his passing.

8. Control the press

Remember you’re reading blogs for news now – don’t depend on MSM for anything but happy talk.

9. Dissent equals treason

One word:  Wikileaks

10. Suspend the rule of law

President Bush suspended Habeas Corpus in 2006 – President Obama may – or may not have reinstated it with his actions regarding the Guantanamo detainees.  Regardless of the status of Habeas Corpus in 2010, the fact that the President of the USofA has a pen that can sign off on any Executive Order he can dream up is enough to keep you awake at night.  Whether it will be this President or the next one remains to be seen.

What is needed RIGHT NOW is for the people of these United States to realize that freedom is theirs if they can keep it and to keep it we must work for it.

Your reading list:

Declaration of Independence

Constitution of the United States

Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for Revolutionaries, Naomi Wolf

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Naomi Wolf

© 2010

In a Perfect World…

In a perfect world, especially one we left behind a couple of years ago, one believes in important political “stuff” and continues to believe that “stuff” until one dies.  This is the “My Daddy was a Democrat, my Daddy’s Daddy was a Democrat and my Daddy’s Daddy’s Daddy was a Democrat” line of thinking.

I was that.  My family had always been Democrats.  My parents were invited to the Inauguration of Lyndon Johnson because of their hard work campaigning, donating and generally being “good Democrats”.  I was, at one time a Democratic Precinct Chair in Houston – fifteen years, until I moved from Houston to Kansas.  I was proud of my service then and I am still proud of that service.  I worked well with my Republican counterpart – we made sure that, according to the rules, each party was represented equally when the polls opened their doors every single time there was an election – big or small – National or Local – we were there – donuts and coffee in one hand – poll lists in the other  – figuratively, of course.

If you have ever read any of my previous posts, particularly those before the Presidential election, you may well and rightly assume that I was a Democrat during that election.  I am also proud of that – I believed in what we accomplished – the election of the right person for President.

And today?  Well.  I am sad.  I believe that someone somewhere along the way from then – 2008 – to now – 2010 – someone hijacked the President I believed I elected.  I know there are those who would say that he wasn’t hijacked – this was who he was all along.  Maybe. Maybe you are right.  In one sense, that really doesn’t matter – what matters is that right here, right now, he is doing some things that most of us – We the People – don’t want him and the rest of the government to do – and more importantly, some of those really important promises made when talking about Change We Can Believe In, didn’t happen.

Oh change happened all right.  Change that has caused a huge problem in the financial world, the economic world, and at my front door.  But it is NOT the Change I thought I was signing up for way back in 2008.

I wanted something different – a better version of the USofA – an upheld Constitution – honoring our Declaration of Independence – honesty in government – jobs.  Not billions in cash printed and handed out to corporations and institutions deemed “too big to fail”.

I have big news for all the Minions out there — we’re all “too big to fail” even the minimum wage earners – why? because if We the People don’t have jobs, and thereby earn money, we don’t spend money and then, after a while, no one has a job – we’ve all failed.

The shock of all this is that I used to believe that our President and our Congress and our Supreme Court could and, more importantly, would do something right and for US – We The People –  and now I don’t.  I am not sure we can recover from this.  The shock is too great.

Many still say that 9/11 was a wake-up call for America.  That we came out of our long sleep and realized that “they” were out to get “US”.  Perhaps for The Powers that Be, it was – I mean – TPTB took us to war over it.  But for the rest of We the People – well – we went back to sleep – hopeful that TPTB would take care of things as they always have – and they did.  Only now that we are awakening once more, we are seeing that TPTB’s new clothes are, well, not there. We are beginning to understand that the way “they” take care of things are not the way we WANT them to take care of things.  Unfortunately, along the way, they took away some of those inalienable rights that our Declaration of Independence talks about -abrogated rights afforded by our Constitution.  Many of the liberties we assumed were ours are going, going or gone.  We could make a list of the ones most important to us – like the right not to be touched in public by a uniformed person wearing latex gloves – or better – the right not to have our minor children touched in public by unformed persons wearing latex gloves.  Everyone in that little scenario is a victim.  Us, the kids, and even the uniformed person (remember, our ire at their action creates a hostile work environment for them – and if you think they’ll make a difference by refusing to grope us, well there are others to step into their jobs after they are fired for not doing their job – personally I’d rather have the person who doesn’t want to be searching me or my kid doing the searching over the one who does want to do it.)

So now what?

I have more to say – you knew I would – but for now, I will refer you back to a couple of articles I wrote when that Other President was in charge and things seemed so scary:

Naomi Wolf Scared Me

and

Habeas Corpus

Years ago, in a political science class I took, at night, at University of Houston, the professor required a particular book of us called The People Shall Judge it was a good book – the fact that I still remember a textbook used so long ago just speaks to that – but more importantly, every time she would finish a discussion of some right of the government to govern us – We The People – she would say, “Who shall judge?” then pause for dramatic affect and finish with, “The people shall judge.”

Let us remember that We The People have freedom only when we work to keep it.

© 2010

Coming to the End of the Good Life

See, over the past year and a half my spouse and I have been going through a whole bunch of stuff.  Mostly bad stuff, but as anyone who has gone through bad stuff knows, good stuff comes from bad stuff.  We’ve had a few good things happen.  I’ll write about those later, I promise.

Anyway, today I read a sad (please use an ironic tone here) story about a guy who inherited $14 million 10 years ago, netted about $10 million and then proceeded to spend all of it such that today, instead of having the lifestyle he was born to, now teaches a class in wine making at a community college for $51K a year in a small Kansas town.  You can read his whole silly sad story on Yahoo Finance – I’m not providing a link because I don’t want to give them a trackback.

Anyway, I decided this deserved a whole blog entry all of itself.

Coming to the End of the Good Life

For about 10 years, my spouse and I lived an OK life… sometimes we were both employed sometimes only one of us but in all, we were OK – roof over our head and food in the pantry.  In 2008 I became temporarily disabled and didn’t work for several months while my husband settled in to a great job at KU that we assumed he would retire from in a few years.  Neither of us had been particularly careful about jobs and retirement planning and that is our fault and certainly we accept full responsibility for that.  Somehow we thought we’d live for ever and be healthy doing it.  Silly us.

The end of our “good life” came after a vacation in 2009.  My spouse (if you read NoCiproPlease) contracted an infection in his leg and, after months of antibiotic infusion therapy, was over the infection but permanently disabled with chronic pain and peripherial neuropathy.  Although I’d retrained myself by getting an insurance license, I lost that job because of my need to care for my husband – “lost” no – let’s call a spade a spade here and use the proper terminology.  I was fired.

Many of you know that I have what I call 2.5 degrees – a BA, MA and I am ABD (all but dissertation) for a PhD.  I will most likely explain about that “quitting  the PhD thing” in another blog entry but for now let me just say that I did the math, figured out that at my advanced age a PhD would do me little good and gave up – ok there I said it –  there is more to it than that but that is what most people will remember so we’ll go with it.

What all this education does for me is make me over-educated for most jobs and under educated for others.  At this point in my life there is no perfect fit for me of a job, working for someone else, with retirement and health benefits.  The heart wringing thing about that statement is that I have been railing against that fact for over a year now.  I have to accept it and move on.

The only problem with “moving on” is that I still have bills to pay and a family to support.  Yes my spouse has a modest disability payment and yes Social Security will eventually kick in – we hope – but until then we are living off the disability payment, paying 1/3 of it out for insurance for my husband (I gave my insurance up because it was simply unaffordable) and still trying to keep the utilities on and food in the pantry.  But for the help of friends and especially my husband’s parents, we’d be homeless, either under a bridge, or in a family member’s basement.  I think it is the threat of living in his basement that keeps my father-in-law offering help as much as he can.

There are many rubs to this situation … some are (in no particular order):

  • My parents-in-law are rapidly coming to the end of their retirement nest egg – down to shells just about… and will no longer be able to help.
  • It is humiliating being over 50 years old to be in this financial situation – not to mention jobless.  No one wants to hire an over-qualified, over-educated, over-aged woman for anything – not even a job she did do when she only had a high school diploma (perhaps even especially not for such a job!)
  • It is even more humiliating to have to ask for help, not just from family and friends, but also from strangers – in my case, a food bank.  I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for the food bank and the people at the food bank.  They were gentle and understanding of my tears the first time I went –

One of the things that struck home with me in the Yahoo Finance story was that the subject of the story was working at a community college not very far away from where I live in Kansas.  Now, not only had this gentleman spent his inheritance moving his family from California (where his father had made his millions and he had run the family winery) to Great Britain but then came back to the US (because of the piss-poor economy in GB), bought a lake house in upstate New York, another house in Vermont and then proceeded to spend over $5 million renovating those homes while living in a different house and taking a job teaching English at a local community college.

As irony would have it, I interviewed for a job (not his) at the college where he is currently teaching one class of seven students how to make wine.  They are, according to the article, paying him $51K a year to do that and manage the college vineyard.  Now the job I applied for (albeit 3 years ago) was in the theatre department at the main campus some 120 miles from where I live in a tiny town in NE Kansas – this is important because I would have had to move me and my family to that town.  The job entailed teaching six classes of theatre (in a one-person department) of approximately 30 full-time students, plus produce, direct and design 5-6 shows a year, take one of those shows to ACT (a national competition), maintain the department’s lighting and construction equipment, AND manage the theatre which is used by the community for all kinds of meetings and other activities. The best I could figure in the three hour long interview was that, if I was lucky, I’d be able to limit my hours to somewhere around 200 a week (7 days a week) – all for $31,000 a year.

Am I bitter?  You betcha.  I have been out of work in Kansas for 2 of the last 3 years and all with 3 (so ok 2.5) degrees and no prospects. I get angry every time I hear a college advertise that life is better with a degree!  Right.  As my friends from the state next door say, “Show me!”

Do I begrudge this guy his job? Sure. I know PhDs working as clerks at Borders.  Eastern Kansas is pretty hard hit by unemployment — especially in the two big “university towns” of Manhattan and Lawrence – Wamego (the town he works in) is basically a “suburb” of Manhattan – close enough to be part of the action and far enough away to avoid student ghettos. These towns have lots of over-educated people (of which I am one). Jobs for people with degrees have hundreds of people applying for them. Jobs for people without degrees have thousands of people applying for them (people both with and without degrees). As a Kansan, I have a great big ole steaming, smelly pile of resentment against some guy who inherits a tidy sum, spends it stupidly, packs up from the California, then Great Britian and then New York and moves to a place where a $200K house is better than the $600K house he left behind, and snags a job that many of my fellow Kansans would be pleased to have in order to save their mortgaged-to-the-hilt, $125K house and continue to send their kid to the state-supported university nearby.  There are a few people living the high life here but they are not working for a state-supported university (well anymore anyway).

Am I a heartless cold bitch? No, not really … but in this case, I don’t care if anyone thinks I am. I’d be happy with a $20K job and I can’t get one because I am one of those over-educated thousands applying for jobs that I could have had with my high school diploma – the best I can do is freelance occasionally, write and keep up hope.  I do care about people who have had a legitimate fall from whatever their “affluence” was – I know people who were “OK” in their trailer park lives (and I am NOT being snide here – I know people who live in trailer parks!), working, paying bills, feeding their families until the bottom fell out and now, we are all the same.  Poverty is the great equalizer.

If you really want to know what life is like when one – how does the New York Times writer so cleverly put it? — “fall[s] from affluence” visit your local food bank and talk to the well-dressed people in line. We still have our “good” clothes from the days when we were working and could afford to buy them – we haven’t needed to go to the clothing banks – yet –

Also – a special, heart-felt thank you to the lovely people who do volunteer at the food banks – especially the ones who gently hold the newest visitor who cried, because for the first time in her life, instead of giving food to the food bank, she received food from the food bank.

I hope, fervently, that the light at the end of the tunnel is not the speeding train of global economic collapse and an ensuing Dark Ages – We all need to remember if it could happen to the Romans I could happen to us.

© 2010

She’s Baaak! And with more Scary Stuff about your First Amendment Rights

Hey and Long time no Type, eh?

I cannot and won’t begin to tell you why I’ve been off my blog for so long.  Just suffice to say, I’ve been busy.  But today.  Yes, today,  I hooked into the You-Tube front page and there, first vid on the list, was this:

I had to get out my soap box and dust it off once more.  I have, for a while now, become more and more dissatisfied with the man I backed so staunchly for President.  I was, during the previous administration and election cycle scared by Naomi Wolf.  This time, I am scared by Anderson Cooper (and yes I do know what can of worms that opens up on comments!).

Let us not forget on this Independence Day eve, that freedom isn’t free, it isn’t a gift and it isn’t always going to be there.  Freedom is something we have to fight for, protect and be ever vigilant on behalf of.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, freedom is ours “if we can keep it”.  Right now we aren’t doing such a good job.

© 2010