Thursday, September 01, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

There is a story going around the internet about a police officer in New Mexico who was caught by a survelliance camera having sex with a woman on the hood of his squad car, while he is in uniform, in broad daylight. No, I'm not going to link with it. And my reaction is not what you might expect.

It's not the cop's behavior that is shocking to me. Let's face it...a lot of what used to happen only in the dark now happens in the light. Combine that fact with the increasing number of cameras aimed at all of us out there in the world, and we have the kind of documentation no other great civilization had available as they fell. Lucky us.

What bothers me is how a local television news broadcast handled the story. They got the tip. They worked the story. They sued to get the pictures using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). So far so good, I guess. Although the FOIA is one of those laws that has been stretched so far beyond it's original intent...but I digress.

Once the news program had the photos, they figured it still wasn't much of a story unless they could show them. And they did! On the NEWS! But even that wasn't good enough. No. Somehow, these people thought the story wasn't complete without reaction from the public. So they printed up a bunch of 8x10s and went out into the street and showed them to people to get their reactions on camera!

I'm sorry. I don't care how much the world has changed. If a man came up to me while I was eating at an outdoor cafe and said he wanted to show me a picture of people having sex, I would probably hit him over the head with my handbag! (Picture Ruth Buzzi's character Gladys but with a much bigger purse.) I wonder if anyone the reporter approached had that kind of reaction. If so, those clips obviously ended up on the digital version of the "cutting room floor".

Lest we think that these "journalists" have no ethics whatsoever, they made it a point to note that they had not shown the picture on their earlier newscast because "children are awake at that hour". Oh, and they blurred the woman's face in the picture. How noble of them.

Seriously. Is this what they teach in journalism school?

Yes, traditional journalism is dying. But it's not just because of the internet and 24-hour cable news stations. It's also because what is now considered "news" is worth only as much as how many people click on the link or stay on the channel.

And we eat it up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The days are long, but the years are short

Time is a funny thing. In actuality time is constant. It moves in one direction, and always at the same pace. (No heckling from the quantum mechanics gallery, please.)

The measurement of time here on Earth is constant too, with just a few exceptions. Every day has 24 hours (give or take a few microseconds), every year has 365 days (unless it is one of those pesky leap years). But a human being's perception of the passage of time depends on their age, what they are doing, and the direction in which they are looking.
Consider a student starting their first day of a new school year. To them, the last few months seemed to go by in seconds, and the next nine months is an eternity. a one-year-old, one year is an entire lifetime!
Like most work days, I've got a general idea what is ahead of me...a few meetings, some housework, maybe running errands during my lunch break. My day will seem to go by either quickly or slowly depending on the type of work I'm doing, and how much I happen to be enjoying it.
But always in my mind today will be Daniel, and the day our life together ended ten years ago.
Actually, I don't think about that day much anymore...just when the date on the calendar reminds me. For those of you who don't know the story, I wrote about it here in 2004.
The first week after he died was an eternity, but the ten years since then have gone by in a flash. Daniel's dad has passed away. I am still extremely close to my "Michigan family". And I'm still living one long day at a time.

And that's the way it is supposed to be.

Friday, September 10, 2010


From Running on Faith:
We're results-oriented people. We don't care about the process; we just want the product. Instead of working out and eating healthy food and losing weight gradually to enhance health and quality of life, millions of people take diet pills and have liposuction to lose pounds. They simply don't have the patience. They don't understand that who you become as you progress toward your goal is the real reward.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Every choice matters

Milestone birthdays are naturally a time to reflect on your life. And in case I wasn't doing so already, God thought it would be fitting to have the homilist preach on the meaning of life on my 50th birthday.

Father Frank told us about Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. This is a profoundly serious subject and it was a long sermon, but the idea is as simple as this - the meaning of life is found in every single moment; not in our circumstances but in how we choose to react to our circumstances.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. ~Viktor Frankl
I've written before about the meaning of life, and I stand by my assertion that it is found in our relationships. This meshes perfectly with Frankl's theory because our relationships are built or destroyed by the choices we make every single moment.

Just think about everything you did and everyone you interacted with yesterday. From the time you woke up until the time you fell asleep again, you had literally hundreds of opportunities to make choices that define the meaning of your life.

How did you react to the little things? Did you say "excuse me" to the strangers you bumped (or who bumped you) while walking in a crowd? Did you slow down or change lanes to let another car ease into traffic? Did you say "thank you" with a smile to the person who made your coffee?

How about the more important things? Did you choose to tell the truth when a lie seemed easier? Did you fulfill a commitment that you really, really wish you hadn't made? Were you a friend when a friend needed you? Did you forgive when it was asked of you? Did you deal honestly in your personal and professional life? (By the can't really separate the two.) Were you faithful?

My life - where I am right now - is the sum total of the choices I have made for fifty years. My relationships are what they are because of the choices I have made. Some broken relationships can never be repaired. As much as I would like to, I cannot go back and make different choices.

All any of us can do is go forward with the knowledge that every choice matters, even when it seems trivial. Because the choices we make in each moment collectively define who we are.

So go out there and make good choices today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Post-war disarmament

After a war ends, it's time to get rid of your offensive weapons, while holding on to only those defensive weapons that serve you best in a time of peace.

So as I packed up the last of my diet books to bring to the resale shop, I wondered just how many of these things I've read in the last 40 years. Seems like thousands, but it's probably in the hundreds. And I'm not alone.

Search the word "diet" in the Books section of today, and the number of results returned is 55,625. Search the word "baseball" and the number of results returned is 29,391. So much for baseball being our national pastime.

I browsed the list for a while, and among the titles I recognized as having read were The Beck Diet Solution, Atkins, The South Beach Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, The Core Balance Diet, The 3-Hour Diet, The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet, Sugar Busters, The Weigh Down Diet, Joy's Life Diet, The Writing Diet, Never Say Diet (Hobbs), Never-Say-Diet (Simmons), The Zone Diet, Good Calories Bad Calories, The Easy GL Diet, The Paleo Diet, The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan, The Eat Clean Diet, Master Your Metabolism, The Martini Diet, Eat Right 4 Your Type, The Metabolic Typing Diet, The Sonoma Diet, What Would Jesus Eat, The Glycemic Load Diet. Lots of these titles are actually series of books, journals and recordings. And I know there are more that I've read - books on food combining, vegetarianism, raw food.

And as I browsed I found some books on diets that I am very, very glad I never tried - The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Lemon Juice Diet, The Hay Diet (I sure hope that refers to the author), The Clothesline Diet (huh?), The Alli Diet Plan (never read the book but did read the side effects on the drug package at the store, and it only took two words to make me drop it - "anal leakage").

How is it possible that we have an obesity epidemic when so much attention is paid to dieting? According to one of the few books I am keeping, dieting is not the solution. Dieting is the problem.

Dieting: The Number One Cause of Weight Gain

Up to 83 percent of those who start formal weight loss programs drop out because: (1) they can't stop eating; (2) they can't lose weight; or (3) they continue to gain weight while sticking to their diet plan! More than 60 percent of all dieters are neither overweight nor overeaters to begin with. But after enough dieting attempts, dieters progressively gain more weight and are apt to become overeaters. Those who are already compulsive eaters know that they tend to lose all control after a monitored fast or more gradually lose control after less extreme diets. More than 95 percent of dieters gain back any weight they lose within two years after a diet. But many have gained more than they ever lost to begin with. It is typical for dieters to become progressively heavier than they ever would have been had they never dieted. Has rebound weight gain set off a panic that propelled you into more dieting, more rebound weight gain or, eventually, into an eating disorder?

(from The Diet Cure by Julia Ross)

The only way you can win this war is to stop fighting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My post-war recovery begins

So the diet war is over. I declared an end to hostilities on Saturday morning. I neither won nor lost. I just decided I was tired of war and stopped fighting.

Later that same day I informed my trainer I would no longer let him weigh and measure me. We had been doing this almost every month for over two years. When he brought up the subject, I simply said "nope, we're not going to do that anymore". We will measure my fitness improvements in other ways. Let's say one of the terms of my peace treaty was now established.

On Sunday, I had a delayed euphoric reaction. I found myself literally dancing in my seat while driving to church. If anyone on Higgins Road saw me bopping up and down and side to side, and wondered what I was dancing to, it was to "ABC" by the Jackson Five. I was experiencing the overwhelming joy of living in a peaceful world after decades of war. Of course I felt like dancing!

It was going to be a fun day...our church picnic. It's always a good time - lots of fun but also lots of work. And the food - the delicious fattening food - that in years past would be stubbornly resisted for a time then completely succumbed to, causing massive guilt.

This year was different. I did eat a lot...more than my hunger called for. Over the course of the day I ate kielbasa and kapusta and potato dumplings and a cheeseburger and ice cream, and washed it all down with two kinds of beer. The weather was rainy, then sunny then oppressively humid. By the end of the day we were all exhausted. But it was a great day.

On Monday morning, instead of waking up with dread wondering how much weight I must have gained and thinking I need to start another diet and oh man I got up too late to hit the gym, my first thought was "eggs and apples". Yes, I thought of food, but in an entirely different context than I would during wartime. When I went to sleep the previous night I was doing a mental review of what was in the frig cause I knew I had to go grocery shopping. Lucky me...I had leftovers from the picnic so all I needed was some fresh raw food and some eggs, cause I love me some eggs for breakfast.

And that's how "normal" eaters generally think. They think of food as fuel and something to be enjoyed. When you're fighting the diet wars, food can sometimes be your worst enemy and other times be your best friend. Sometimes it's a weapon and sometimes it's medicine. When you are at war, food is never just "food".

When a war ends, and you get past that dancing-in-the-streets surge of happiness, you then have a period of recovery before you can get back to "normal" (or more likely your new "normal"). You never quite know how long recovery will take. It depends on how long and damaging the war was.

My war lasted almost forty years. The damage it caused to my physical, mental and emotional health is not easy to quantify. My physical recovery actually started when I walked into that gym two years ago.

As for the rest, I'll just have to see.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The war is over

In a few weeks (God willing) I'll hit the big 5-0. It's one of those milestones that makes me think back over my life...what I've done and haven't done, how I got to be the person I am today. And it makes me sad to realize that I have spent most of my life at war with my body. Almost every memory is tainted by my battle with weight.

When I look through my photo album, it's like there is an invisible three-digit caption under every picture of me. Junior Prom (185). Pat's wedding (165). My wedding (285). Staff photo 1983 (180). Staff photo 1985 (280). Mackinac Island with Daniel and Dad (330). Those captions should be more like Junior Prom (nice dress). Pat's wedding (I caught the bouquet). My wedding (love the hair). Staff photo 1983 (hate the hair). Staff photo 1985 (hate the uniform). Mackinac Island with Daniel and Dad (freezing on the ferry).

Dieting and weight - I'm tired of thinking about it. I'm tired of talking about it. I'm tired of my weight being the first thing I think about every morning and the last thing I think about every night. I'm tired of having shelves filled with diet books. I'm tired of hoping that the next book, web site or miracle food will be the answer. I'm tired of dreading measurement day at the gym. I'm tired of wearing old clothes because I don't want to buy anything new if I need a bigger size. I'm tired of putting things off until I lose x number of pounds. I'm tired of counting calories, fat grams and points. I'm tired of thinking that seven almonds is good but seventeen is bad. I'm tired of feeling like a sinner if I eat ice cream.

I refuse to spend the rest of my life letting a scale or a tape measure or the label on my jeans dictate how I feel.

So I'm done with dieting. From now on I will eat when I'm physically hungry and stop when I'm near full. I'll eat what I want, but pay attention to how my body reacts. I will occasionally eat too much, but not feel guilty about it. I'll eat more fresh food and less processed food. I'll train and take classes at the gym because it makes me feel good to move. I'll walk and jog and swim because it's fun.

From now on, I will honor my body instead of treating it like an enemy to be conquered.

Today, I put down my weapons and declare peace.