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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Saving Uncle Will

I'm going to depart from my usual blog format here to tell the story of my Uncle Will. 

Uncle Will has been homeless for the last decade or so.  The reasons are the usual ones - depression, bad decisions, drugs, bad luck.  They don't really matter that much. 

Uncle Will was a teenager when I was a little girl.  There is something about an uncle that is still a kid during the years when you were a kid.  He was doing cool teenage boy things.  Sometimes he and his friends would play with my sister and I.  One of their favorite games was to hog-tie  (that's what they called it) us to a chair or hog-tie each other to a chair and see if they could escape.  I remember it as being really fun.  I'm sure I was just thrilled to be included.  I also remember them taking me to "ice skate" on frozen mud puddles. 

Uncle Will pretty much always lived with my grandma.  He never moved out and was on his own.  He had lots of labor type jobs, including working for my dad for a number of years.  When my sister grew up and got married, her husband and Uncle Will were friends.  We all sort of ran in the same social group for a time. 

The walls in Uncle Will's bedroom at my grandma's house were elaborately painted with murals of dragons and monsters.  He also had lots and lots of cats and kittens. 

My grandma's husband (Virgil) was awful to Will.  He called him names and made snotty asides about him under his breath.  He mostly complained about Will being lazy and smoking pot.  He usually made those comments as he refilled his glass of booze at 11:00 in the morning before going to hang out with the neighbor all day.  I guess the irony of Virgil mooching off of my grandma as much as Will mooched off of her was lost on Virgil.

My grandpa also wasn't always very nice to his son.  He didn't like that his ex-wife, my grandma, let Will live at home and didn't force him to work all of the time.  Grandpa respected hard-working men who pulled themselves up by their boot-straps.  He didn't respect Will all that much, and I suspect he felt that if Will had lived with him after he and Grandma divorced, he could have beat the lazy out of him.  I'm sure he tried whenever he had a chance.

There are "issues" that have glided along in the background of our family.  Issues with depression.  Issues of inappropriate sexual behavior. Substance abuse.  Physical violence.  At times Will was both the victim and the perpetrator of these behaviors. 

Will's life was pretty stable while my grandma was alive.  She protected him and took care of him.  Even when he stole her debit card and drained her checking account.  Even when he was arrested.  Even when he went to rehab.  When Grandma died, everyone decided Will should keep living in her house.  It was paid for.  All he had to do was cover the utilities and property taxes.  The power was off after a few weeks.  The house was seized for non-payment of taxes within a few months.  Will became homeless.

At first he lived in his truck and then in a little RV my mom bought him.  But he lost both of those to parking fines.  He was jailed for vagrancy.  My mom moved to Eugene and after a while, Will moved there too.

Large sums of money came Will's way, but they never stuck around.  There was $19,000 when Grandpa died in 2004, then $23,000 in 2007.  When he got that last check, he was living in my mom's backyard.  He blew through the money in about two months, partying with some homeless friends.  My mom actually moved away from that house to make a break from him and his friends.

A few years ago, Will started living with another man, Mark.  They lived in a tent.  A short time later, I ran into an old friend who told me that Uncle Will had had a relationship with a different man back in Washington before he'd moved to Eugene.


This made some sense.  Grandpa would have killed, literally put him to death, had he known his son was gay.   Virgil wouldn't have handled it much better.  Is it any wonder that Will struggled with depression and drugs?

Will and Mark have gotten by.  Someone buys their food stamps so they have money for cigarettes.  They have 14 cats at their camp site. 

Last Fall Uncle Will had a stroke.  He's 54.  He spent some time in the hospital and then they sent him to a nursing home.  After a few weeks, he was sent back to the hospital with some alarming symptoms.  Lesions  all over the place, thrush in his mouth and throat.


At one point they were talking about putting him on hospice.  But Uncle Will rebounded.  They started him on anti-viral drugs.  The lesions healed.  The thrush was treated.  He was able to go back to the nursing home.  He got better.

Uncle Will didn't like the nursing home much.  I work as a property manager and have worked with the HIV Alliance before and I knew they have programs for rental assistance. We got Will on the program.  An apartment opened up that met their criteria.

Will and Mark moved into their new place last week.  Another tenant had left behind some furniture so we put that in there for them.  When Will walked through the first time, he had to wipe the tears from his eyes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Unsocial Media

So, I've given up Facebook, at least for now.  I was on for a few minutes each day on 2/8 & 2/9 and not at all since 2/10.  It wasn't hard to give up, actually, but I do miss it (sort of).

I sit at a desk 90% of my work day so I would typically have Facebook open for perusing all day long.  Then in the evening and on weekends, I would check in periodically to see what people were up to.  I have a couple hundred friends, mostly relatives and people that I know irl.  I have lots of cousins and I really enjoy seeing their pictures and hearing about their lives.  We don't really speak on the phone so this is our main connection.  I see them once a year or once every few years. 

A few months ago I began feeling really stressed out about politics and social issues that mean a lot to me, but leave me feeling helpless.  In December I started unfollowing all of the political sites and many of the pages.  Going back several years, I have unfollowed friends and facebook friends who post nasty political things or other things I found offensive.  But as the presidential campaign season heats up, I began feeling irritated and stressed out by people whose opinions I generally agree with.  They would say nasty, critical things or disparage a candidate in a way I found very offensive, even if I didn't support that particular candidate.  Memes went around with nasty images and I just thought ENOUGH!  I'm tired of the sexism thinly veiled as political support.  I'm tired of the end-of-the-world thinking.  Things aren't actually going to hell in a hand basket, and they probably won't, no matter who wins or loses.

Remember when politics were taboo and practically no one talked about them?  I miss those days and I miss my Facebook friends (sort of), but I'm not planning to go back until after the election, if then.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

You're doing it wrong

My local newspaper runs a weekly syndicated health column written by a famous TV doctor.  I'm not going to name him because I do not wish to give him any publicity.  I'm also not going to link the article, but reading it really got me fired up.

The gist of the article was that the USDA has new dietary guidelines and the author doesn't think they go far enough.  Now I don't really have a big opinion on the USDA and its guidelines, but I am tired of reading and hearing ridiculous things about health and fitness.  Spoiler alert: whatever you're currently doing and eating, you're doing it wrong.

Then at the gym, I was thumbing through People magazine while elipticaling and I came across an article where some celebrity I'd never heard of listed everything she ate in a day and then two experts came in and described everything that was wrong with all of the things she was eating.  Spoiler alert: all her choices were wrong ("The tofu for lunch?  A great choice, unless it's fried." FUCK OFF!).

The newspaper article by the famous TV doctor said the USDA says we're supposed to eat 2 1/2 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruits, but famous doc says we should actually cover half of each plate full of food we eat with fruit or vegetables.  Not to be nit-picky, but I don't think "half a plate" is a standard unit of measurement.  Also, who the hell is doing THAT?  Um, nobody.  Even the USDA recommendation of NINE servings of fruits and vegetables (I think that's how the 2 1/2 cups + one cup formula works out).  Seriously people.  Quit suggesting stupid things.  No one is consistently eating NINE servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  That's ridiculous.

The article goes on to say that the USDA says eggs are okay, but the TV doc says NOPE!  He says we can eat egg whites and egg substitutes, but no yolks and no eggs at all when you also eat pork or read meat that week..  I say TV doc can kiss my ass!  Oh. My. God.  Didn't we settle this whole good egg/bad egg controversy years ago?  

Next TV doc says that even though the USDA says up to 2,000 mg per day of sodium is okay, HE knows best!  He also doesn't say how much he thinks is okay, but if we only eat fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods, we won't get that much sodium.

I read the USDA research on this subject recently and apparently there is no upward limit of sodium for most people that causes problems, unless they have high blood pressure or other health issues known to be caused or affected by an excess of sodium.  Also, too little sodium can be a real problem for some people (my grandfather was hospitalized for low sodium).  Now, I certainly agree that avoiding processed foods is a good thing to do, but why does TV doc feel he needs to arbitrarily create a food rule here? 

Next TV doc takes on the USDA recommendation to limit sugar to 10% or less of a person's daily caloric intake.  This is probably the food issue that I have the hardest time with.  I love sugar.  I eat it every day.  I probably eat 20% of my daily calories in various sugars.  But let's keep that in perspective.  I eat about 1,400 calories a day.  10% of that is only 140 calories. 

I have beat myself up about the sugar issue for a long time, which might be why I got so pissed off about this article.  I have come to grips with my diet and here's why:

* I am not overweight.

* I am very healthy (all of my numbers are PERFECT - cholesterol, blood sugar, EVERYTHING).

* I have no medical problems.  

Clearly what I am doing is working for me!  So why would I change?

As long as I can remember, I have doubted myself about practically everything, but especially my food choices.  I am beyond tired of living that life!  I have internalized so much criticism over my life, but I've also had a few people comment on my food choices in real life.  I've had more than one boyfriend say things.  I've also heard it from medical professionals.

But things are different now.  Six years ago, I took control of my life.  I rejected the messages that I couldn't trust myself with my food choices.  I rejected the messages that I couldn't eat whatever I wanted and still be thin.  And it is working!  So I won't be letting TV doc OR the USDA in my head.  I will continue to enjoy my diet of all foods in moderation.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kicking ass, taking names...

Sometimes I write post titles that have very little to do with what I intend to say.  This is one of those times.  Sadly, I have done no ass kicking, nor name taking.

But I do feel like I have taken steps to get back to where I want to be.  To re-cap, I had surgery last February and was very sick for several weeks.  During that time, I lost 20 lbs.  I didn't need to lose the weight, but I wasn't sad about it.  I maintained the loss after I recovered for about six months, but in about August I started re-gaining.

I didn't really change anything that I was doing.  Maybe it just took that long for my body to heal completely.  Between August and a couple of weeks ago, I gained about 16 lbs. 

More than five years ago, I lost 110 lbs.  I have maintained that loss for that long, but my weight has fluctuated some in those years.  Back when I was obese, I thought that once I got to my goal weight I wouldn't have to worry about my weight again.  Since then I have learned that it is something I have to work on every day and I will have to continue to do so for the rest of life. 

The thing that I find especially frustrating is that I have experienced weight gains even though I am doing all the right things.  I make good food choices.  I use MFP to track my food.  I exercise like a mo fo.  I drink water.  I weigh myself regularly.  Back in my obesity days, I would either be following some really rigid diet or I would be eating whatever I wanted without regard for calories, fat, protein, etc.  When I went on a diet, it would be easy to make changes because there were lots of things I was doing wrong.  But now the tweaks I make are much more subtle.

I have been eating dessert pretty much every night.  I've also been drinking (relatively) high-calorie coffee drinks every work day.  My meals have been very good and healthy, but those two areas were clearly becoming a problem.  In the last two weeks I have been eating a lower calorie dessert most nights (a tablespoon of cookie butter on a rice cake).  I've also been having a protein drink for lunch on the days I'm having coffee so I'm ending the day at 1,200 - 1,300 calories or so.  I've lost three pounds.  I think I would like to lose three more so that I weigh 160.  I've had a few days where I ate more than that (including today), but I am mostly staying around those numbers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January Blahs

The weather in Eugene, Oregon is CRAP.  Days of rain and cold and wind.  It is wet and gross.  I haven't seen the sun in weeks.  It hasn't been cold enough to snow, except for a light dusting on January 2nd.

My plan was to win that 1.5 billion power ball jackpot and move somewhere warm and sunny, but THAT didn't happen.

I continue to exercise outdoors, despite the bad weather.  I was looking at my rain pants today and they are covered with dried dirt.  I have to wear them pretty much every time I go out.  I think I wore them three times (maybe five?) all last year and I haven't started exercising more or anything.  Yes, I am complaining that the drought is over.  Fucking, el niƱo.

I am shaking up my calorie goals again because I just can't seem to get it right.

And what's up with celebrities dropping dead all over the place?

I'm already thoroughly over the elections.

But overall, things are good.