Memories: Ideal Weight

It’s holiday season, which is always a stressful time and made more stressful for people who are trying to lose weight.  With Thanksgiving past, I am seeing the annual parade of posts about “hitting the gym” and “getting back on the horse.”

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Picture of my new skirt

This is hard for me.  I am overweight.  Technically, I am “obese” although I don’t feel obese.

I’m not unhappy (per say) with my size.  I would like to lose some weight, but at the same time, I am pretty happy with general shape, etc. Part of my “want to lose weight” is health.  There are some numbers which are less than ideal and I would like to get them idealized again.

What makes this hardest is I know what it takes to get/keep my ideal weight.  I’ve been there.  When I graduated from college, I weighed 142lbs.  This is right about “perfect” (according to the drs) for my height.   I didn’t diet to get there, but I had managed to have a lifestyle that allowed me to exercise a lot.  And by “managed” I mean “forcefully included” exercise.

206612_503273350592_1266_n.jpgYou see, my senior year of college I spent a semester in Japan. When I got home, I weighed the “perfect” weight.  And I won’t lie – I did enjoy that size/ weight.  I felt like I could wear anything, do anything, be anything.

But it was at least partly due to my commute to/from school.  It was 2 miles to and from school – 4 miles a day that I had to walk or bike.  That’s above and beyond any walking AT school or if I wanted to go anywhere else.  I didn’t mind the commute.  It worked and I could do it.

Here’s the problem.  Even when I lived 2 miles from the train station in Atlanta – those weren’t 2 miles I could safely walk.  And it wasn’t pedestrians that terrified me.  It was drivers.  At least 1/3 of the walk to the train station didn’t have sidewalks and that made it unsafe. Beyond unsafe. No sidewalks in Japan? No big deal, cars went slow through there because there was so much foot traffic. Here in Atlanta? Pshaw- good luck sucker!

I have struggled ever since to find as much exercise to fit into my schedule.  In some ways it’s worse being overweight now because I do know what it looks and feels like to be the “right” weight – I just can’t figure out how to get there.  I have a ~30-40 minute commute (~12 miles) to work right now.  That isn’t horrible – it’s pretty much the same time I used to spend walking/biking to/from school in Japan.  So I know I can easily do 30 minutes of exercise twice a day.  But on top of my already 30-40 minutes of commute?  That means I really have to budget an hour “each way.”  And Americans don’t have the same acceptance of “shit, it’s 95 degrees outside, of course you’re sweaty” that Japanese culture had.

As I listen to the complaints, I don’t have answers to my friends who are frustrated with their weight. When I look back at the pictures of my time in Japan, sometimes I am frustrated – how do I make that lifestyle more accessible?  How do I add that into my routine in the states?

Life Memories: Systemic Sexism

So this entire post comes with history. A LOT of history.  There are stories within stories here and I can’t fully explore them in a single post.  So, I’ll skip some bits here and jump straight into the pieces you need (well, I’ll try, it’s hard to unpack all the inter-tangled pieces). All the best stories are complicated.

I started playing tabletop RPGs around end-of-middle-school when my older brother wanted to try this new book GURPS.  Yes, I learned on GURPS.  It has made me a weird gamer ever since because I don’t particularly like D&D or Pathfinder… classes frustrate me.  When I was in high school I started gaming with his guy-friends (most of them in college) with a Wheel of Time game.  When my brother “disappeared” into the military, I kept going.

We met every first Saturday of the month about noon and gamed until 5-7pm, went to dinner and hung out.  So from the time I was 16/17 until about 29, I saw these guys at least once a month for hours. Some of them had known me before gaming. Some of them I ended up working at jobs with. They were family.

Sometime in college we started the weirdest, goofiest, craziest Star Wars campaign (we totally broke West End games yo!).  We probably played that campaign close to 7-8 years.  We had multiple stories and each of us ended up with 2 characters so we could run multiple plots simultaneously (I did use the word broken, right?).  It was so much fun and I was loyal – I made that Saturday my guys’ day.

Then we let a new guys join the group.  He wasn’t new-new.  He’d been on the fringes of my awareness for years  -gamers always tend to circle the same people.  We’ll call him “Ted” for this story.  So Ted had met my friends in college, hadn’t ever really gotten into gaming ’cause you know Georgia Tech is hard and family business and he had a life.  But now he wanted in, so we made room at the “table” and he built up a pair of characters (now a requirement).  Now, Ted was vegetarian (by religion) and this made our after-game dinner choices change.  Whereas BBQ and burger joints had been common – they had to get nix’ed pretty much entirely.  Whatever, I am not actually that picky an eater.

I do however have a food sensitivity.  I can’t eat peppers.  They make me rather violently ill.  Anything stronger than a jalepeano generally makes me vomit.  Much like someone lactos intolerant, you don’t want me around when I try to eat even bell peppers. So places like Mexican restaurants are -at best- risky.

Well Ted thought Mexican was the best choice for the group. Constantly. No matter how many months in a row I reminded the group that this would not work for me. And it hurt. At the time I couldn’t explain entirely why it hurt so much.  I mean, obviously Ted is an asshole who can’t think beyond his OWN needs. That was actually a pretty well acknowledged truth. You combine this with a few other sexist remarks and painful moments and this group I loved & cherished was becoming more and more difficult to convince myself to be around every month.

Then came the catalyst weekend.  It had been a fairly emotionally charged game and I had felt like every time I spoke up, my character’s ideas (ie mine) were being shot down.  I was emotionally tired. The dinner conversation came up and immediately Ted suggested Mexican. I brought up my allergy and suggested Olive Garden (pasta is perfectly safe for a vegetarian). He said he didn’t want pasta or salad. And suggested a different Mexican place.

I wish I could say I had tossed out BBQ and when Ted complained I lashed into him (as I fully believe he deserved) that if he couldn’t respect my allergy I didn’t have to respect his choice.  I didn’t.  I was tired and after a little more round-robin I caved.

I ordered as carefully as I could, but it was a Saturday night. I’m sure the restaurant had pans of pepper-dishes next to pans of non-peppery dishes and cross-contamination is a thing.  I spent half the night in my bathroom wishing I had just skipped dinner entirely.  I spent half the night wishing I never would have to see Ted again. I spent days emotionally recovering from…. I couldn’t even say what.

It took me longer than it should have, but I wrote an email to the defacto “leader” (the GM) of the group.  I explained I was frustrated and hurt.  It wasn’t perfect – hell, I was a bit emotional – but I was blunt and said “I won’t put myself into a situation again where I will be sick. ”

I walked away from the game. I walked away feeling like “the bad guy.”  I walked away feeling guilty because I know I hurt my friend’s feelings when I explained this truth: my friends didn’t stand up to Ted and left me to stand against him alone. Over and over. Their silence; their complicity in his sexism…. hurt.

The food thing was actually a pretty minor confrontation between myself and Ted. We had already had one where he literally had told me to sit down, shut up, and let “the men” play their game.  And I mean that literally as literally not figuratively.  And that time one of the guys did stand up to Ted and tell him he was in the wrong. But they never noticed how many times he talked over me. How many times he dismissed my ideas.  The tiny pricks over and over and again and again. Subtle and constant but each one individually small enough to dismiss.

But this is systemic sexism I wanted to get to in this post:

When I (the sole woman of the group) brought up a medical concern it was treated as equally valid as a life choice (of a man) when it came to food decisions.

Say that to yourself three times.  His choice (albeit religious) was given equality with my getting violently ill.  Granted, my illness isn’t something flashy like peanuts or fish cause. Still… mull this over in your mind.

And the guys didn’t fully understand.  More than one used the word “sensitive” when they asked and I explained that it was “him or me” in the group. Not even my brother (who totally supported my decision – had been listening to me for months complain as we carpooled) entirely understood it. Oh, he understood it in theory and he did/does support it – but he didn’t understand why it hurt as much as it did. I doubt he’s ever experienced it, and never over and over and over.

And yet, every woman I’ve told this to nods and shares her “Ted” experience.  That hashtag about women telling their stories…. yeah, this is one of mine.

This still hurts.  It’s been more than 2 years and I have teared up writing about this.  I have stopped twice, walked away, and came back to writing; because it still is painful to remember this decision to walk away from a group of 15 years.  Friends who I might talk to at a Christmas party or the like now, but I don’t get to see every month.

I have tried to hang out with them once; they planned a random board-game day.  And after about 2 hours of dealing with underhanded barbs from Ted (seriously, the man does not even realize how much he (A) interrupts me and (B) constantly puts down women in general) I was sick of it. Ted makes my skin crawl with the heeby-jeebies and I barely trust him not to cross the line when other men are around to hold him in check. It’s exhausting (and far from “fun”) to be in that kind of tension for very long.

Now, when they plan board game days I just ignore the email chain. Well, I just don’t respond. I always read them.

Life Memories: Hunting Season

When I was kid (like eight maybe nine) my best friend came over and we watched Bambi.  She had never seen it and I was shocked.  How did someone make it to this age without seeing this Disney classic.  So I fixed this oversight in her upbringing like a good friend should and would (and did!).

Her dad tried to say we could never see each other ever again.

The problem was this: her dad worked for the GA parks and hunted. He had never wanted her to see Bambi and was (apparently) furious at my intrusion on this choice. I never thought of Bambi as an actively anti-hunting movie, but I get it – it does make it seem like the hunters are evil.  I mean – they are evil “from a certain point of view” (5 points to whoever can place that quote!).

A deal was struck between the mothers (I assume it was the mothers, my mother broke the “price” to me) for us to keep being friends I had to understand hunting.

Ok, so I’m making it sound like this guy was terrifying and I was terrified.  This was my best friend and in case you couldn’t tell (here, just… here) I don’t use that term lightly.  My friendship had been in jeopardy. I had never been treated as the bad guy before. I was a good girl and a good friend and… so yeah, I was upset and almost 30 years later I still remember the shock of thinking something I thought was innocent could be seen as wrong. Like wrongly wrong-wrong.

So he made us both sit down in his den and he explained hunting from his perspective. This was an awesome lesson in perspective.

Anyway, so we had to sit on the carpet in there while he explained why hunting isn’t evil.  I don’t remember the details, but I remember walking away with a few impressions.  The first was that my friend’s father could get really intense about this. The second was that hunting is not only not-evil but can be highly beneficial.

Here is something of how I remember this conversation going:

You see, when people move into an area they tend to chase out predators like wolves, bears, even coyotes.  We don’t like those around because they threaten our pets and even our children – much less when we kept chickens or goats or the like.  So we chase out these big predators. We try to chase out foxes, but they’re a different problem.  Foxes don’t hunt deer.

You see, we just chased out everything that will hunt deer. You see this in Bambi actually. You don’t see bears or wolves, just people threaten deer. So the deer can have all their babies safely.  About the only thing that threatens them is cars.  We’ve all seen a pack of deer run out across the road.

So what happens when all the deer grow up and they begin to have their own babies?  Well, eventually there just isn’t enough food.  So then the deer start starving. Or they start spreading diseases – some of which can just species like rabies. Deer with rabies can do a lot of damage too – they aren’t small animals and if they get into someone’s yard… pets, children, houses – yeah, it’s a scary picture.

It’s part of the job of park rangers to monitor the population of deer – and decide how many can be hunted or should be hunted every year.  Controlling that population – keeping it to the same levels predators would is very important [aside: this conversation was pre-reintroducing wolves to yellowstone. Since then some fascinating research imparts how important apex predators are across the flora & fauna of an area: video here].

Without hunters we’d have a lot more deer getting hit by cars. We’d see a lot more rabies (more pets being infected). We’d have more issues with ticks and fleas and diseases they can pass between humans and deer…

Overall, hunting for trophies might not be good – and hunting already endangered species can be evil – but deer hunting itself can be a positive thing. It helps both the people in the area and the animals. They don’t starve or die of terrible diseases.

….

I’m sure he told us more. I have certainly carried this conversation/lesson throughout my life.  Hell, I probably tell this story every year as deer hunting season opens. Someone will talk about the “evils” of hunting and I’ll explain this information to them. Usually very similarly to how it’s explained here.

So throughout high school during the winter when I’d go over to her house, I’d get served venison on a semi-regular basis.  I never went hunting, but I also never held hunting against my friend or her family (I even support their choice to bring delicious venison home!).  I am, at the end of the day, grateful that I was exposed to this young enough that I didn’t ever become self-righteous or judgmental about hunting deer.  Now, you hunt elephants or something like that and only keep some kind of trophy I’ll help come up with the creative and nasty punishments….. but that’s a different post.  Today’s post is about supporting the people who are braving the cold and ticks to hunt for their supper.

 

Politics: “Top Talent” Scarcity

In my corporate 9-5 job there is a lot of discussion about finding & retaining “top talent” and how “skilled professionals” are scarce. These are sometimes extremely difficult conversations for me to engage in.  Sometimes, after one of these I have to go to the bathroom and sit in a stall for a few minutes (ok, that was only once when the leaders talked about how “people without college degrees” aren’t worth looking at….)

It’s hard because it breaks my heart.

But, I also know that what was 150 years ago “skilled” (i.e. a machinist) was 50 years ago “unskilled” (i.e. factory workers).  We are in that painful point of a technical revolution that we saw in the mid fifteenth/sixteenth centuries (1600s/1700s) and the late 1800s.

Right now our “unskilled” workers are fighting over EVERY job-  and those jobs are being decimated.  There are almost 2 million jobs that the BLS lists for truck drivers. If those are replaced by autonomous driving vehicles – what happens to those drivers?  The retail industry IS collapsing (#thanksOBAMA) and malls are closing right and left (left and right?)   There are (per the BLS again) almost 5 million jobs in retail.  If that’s even cut by 1/3-1/2… ouch!  That’s 2-2.5 million people who may or may not have other marketable skills.

I just talked about 7 million jobs, about 2% of the total US population, but this automation is happening all over the place.  Skills that 20 years ago were standard aren’t any more and skills that people needed 50 years ago…. well they are totally gone (phone operators anyone?)

I have hope because this isn’t the first technological revolution and the definition of “unskilled” has changed before.  What was “skilled” became commonplace and became “unskilled” – but we don’t know what those skills are. 150 years ago you’d be fine even if you couldn’t read and write.  50 years ago that was considered a minimum & “unskilled” still meant “literate.” But what are the skills today? Writing Java? Typing? Trig? Electrical systems something-something?

As difficult as I think the next 20-50 years will be, if we can avoid killing ourselves I think we can redefine “skilled” and “unskilled” labor again so that the people that are struggling now (or at least their kids/grandkids) find their spot(s) in society.  They might become what plumbers are today (100 years ago THEY were the expert/specialists!) – yes, licensed & learned but NOT “specialists” anymore. Not like we treat programmers. Now we consider the learning required for a plumber to be accessible – whereas programmers we’re still figuring out how it even really works.

I hope that makes sense.  100 years ago you had to spend 10 years just figuring out how to plumb. Now it’s like 2 years of school & 2 years of “apprenticeship” (if they even call it that).  Whereas a programmer…. well a lot of them aren’t trusted to lead a new dev team for 10 years…. sound familiar yet?  We haven’t gotten programming down to 2 years – and even worse there is like a bajillion differences without standards. We’re in the Wild, Wild West of computing.  So it’s “skilled” labor right now.

There are roles that WERE skilled and are STILL skilled: surgeons, architects, engineers. I suspect we’ll continue to add to that list as we develop, but it’s hard for jobs to stay on that list forever.  I kind of hope mine does….

Life Memories: Paper Anniversary

Last spring I ran away with the man I’m in love with and got married.

God that is still a lot of a fun to say.  This year, I took the week of our anniversary as vacation. It was very good, especially because I can’t remember the last time I took a full week of just vacation.  Not moving or packing or because I was sick….

It was kind of glorious.  And spending about $200 on books was pretty awesome too.  My list of books getting recovered from the storage-unit-mold-disaster is slowly coming around.  The books that are left were always going to be the hardest ones to find: out of print or role-playing books (which even if not “hard to find” are “damn expensive”)

He also took my calligraphy exam paper from my semester in Japan to get it framed in a gorgeous black-bamboo frame. He managed to filch it during our move last fall and I just haven’t known where it is for the past four months or so (we still have a lot of boxes).  Sneaky man. Fortunately, year 2 will be the “cotton” anniversary and I already have an idea of what I can get for him next year (or make if I can be sneaky enough).

 

Memories: Poor Little Mousey….

Poor little mousey.
Dead little mousey.
Mousey with no head.
I only wanted to play…

I grew up with this snippet of a poem.  I don’t even remember any more of it.  The problem of course is when mousey still has a head.  When mousey is scared witless.  When mousey is trying to hide under your dresser and the kitty REALLY thinks its a fun toy.  When Genkii REALLY is trying to grab mousey to take to Mommy.  Who is happily asleep in bed.

Yes, I woke up one morning at 7am, and Genkii had found a mouse. I was living in my parents’ basement while unemployed and although this was unusual – well mice have the reputation for getting into places they don’t belong for well-deserved reasons.

Genkii had gotten the mouse to my bedroom. I have no idea how. Did he already catch it once? Was it luck that it ran to this room? (I looked later – it’s “exit” was NOT along these walls)

It  was trying desperately to find a “Safe” place.  He caught it at one point and looked up at me.  I know my cat.  He was trying to get it up to mommy.  Fortunately, the thing was squirming like…. well… like a mouse caught by a cat.  It got out of his mouth and dashed beneath furniture.

I had already grabbed my cell phone and called my parents upstairs. They brought down a broom, a dustpan, and a little trashcan. Dad caught the mouse in the trashcan and they took it for release outside. Somewhere far enough away it can’t get back inside (hopefully). I grew up with hunting cats, so this was exactly the procedure I expected (and wanted).

If I had been up, about, and dressed I would have been more OK with these events. In-and-of themselves I don’t mind mice too much.  It really is the fact that Genkii wanted to bring it TO MY BED that made me unhappy. He didn’t (and doesn’t) know how to kill. Do you know how much I would scream like a total girl if I woke up to a mouse running on my face? I’d rather never find out.

When I moved out of my parents basement a few months later, I found a dead mouse in the bottom of a box a few feet from where the cat food was. The mouse was the saddest remains I’ve ever seen – it hadn’t been caught (so to speak) by my cats. It had starved to death.

I love my cat, but he is never going to be a great hunter. He gets confounded by moths and butterflies. But he does love his Mommy and would gladly give them all to me…

Life Memories: Milk

In 2008 I was fired from my first out-of-college job.  She short version is that it was a family owned/run business and I wasn’t family.  This was at the beginning of September.

In case you don’t remember, September is sort of when several banks declared bankruptcy. And I was asking for unemployment with almost 1/2 a million other people.  I never went to the unemployment office and spent less than 3 hours there. I took a book and waited to wait.

I had a little savings, but I found out in October that I had been denied. My ex-boss had claimed he fired me with cause.  Apparently, I was supposed to magically “know” he wasn’t happy with… my existing? Anywho, the appeals process got started but my money was running low and I didn’t have the rent beyond Nov. And job hunting… well, it wasn’t going well.

I had an interview with a large TV company for an internship. Paid, no benefits but it would be an income. I was working with a staffing agent and when he called to tell me I didn’t get it, he informed me the person who got it eight years as an office manager.  To my one year as an “administrative assistant.”  I was devastated. I knew I had to make some really hard choices.

Taking out the amount for rent in a few days, I had about $10 left.  I had to come up with food for the next few weeks with $10.  So I bought rice and beans (literally). Peanut butter & bread. I bought a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. I bought a gallon of milk.

I get to the cashier and the milk pushing me to $12. I had been worried about it. I asked the cashier to put it back, I wouldn’t be able to have milk for my cereal. A voice behind me stopped me. Someone passed three dollars to the cashier. A woman in line behind me passed over three dollars so I could have milk. I think she said, “Put that milk back on.” but I don’t really remember.

I have no idea what that woman thought was going on in my life. I don’t know if I thanked her. I was shocked and grateful. I know by the time I was opening my car door I was in tears. I know I sobbed the whole way to my apartment. That symbol of self-sufficiency that I was going to have to leave.

A gallon of milk reminded me that I wasn’t self-sufficient. I didn’t get there alone. Everywhere I go in life, I have had help from my community: my friends, my family, my church. And so I should look around and see my community. Not just the people I talk to, but the bigger community around me.

A random woman once bought me milk. She didn’t know me. We never spoke again. I was in her community that day and she cared for me.

Now, I seek to care for my community in turn.