Caretakers

My cousin called me last night to tell me her grandfather had died. He was my great-uncle, and he had been in poor health for several years, but still it was a blow to everyone. My cousin had been primary caretaker for both her grandparents, as well as her mother and mother-in-law, so they could stay in their home. Her brother does nothing.

My sister-in-law is battling her mother over care of her father, who has dementia and falls down all the time. He is staying in their home without any extra help. Her brother does nothing.

My cousin is helping her mother (my great-aunt) care for my great-uncle, who has advanced dementia and still lives at home. Her brother does nothing.

Anyone see a pattern here?

Caring for the sick and elderly is the biggest distaff deal of all. Women’s work. The kind of essential but unpleasant, tiring and depressing work women do all over the world, often for free, or at best, poorly paid.

Why won’t men step up? Why don’t women make them help out?

I don’t have an answer to these questions. Men are stepping up more when it comes to child care. Every father my age or younger I know has changed diapers countless times; my father never did. So that’s progress. But when it comes to care of the elderly or ill, no dice.

If anyone has suggestions, I’d appreciate it.

What a pleasant surprise!

Every year, my relatives give me food for Christmas. They know I’ve lost and (mostly) kept off a ton of weight, and yet they always give me a pile of crap for Christmas.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a typical example from December 2012, after I lost 65 pounds.

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There’s a bag of licorice, a tagine and cookbook, a book about wine & cheese, a bottle of wine, wine bottle stoppers, a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card, a pound of coffee and a gift card to a restaurant.

After a few years of this, I tried the tactic of “asking for what you want.” We started using this website called Elfster to manage our family Secret Santa drawing, so I liberally filled out my profile with likes and dislikes. The people in this gift exchange are family, so presumably they know what I like and don’t like, but hey, no one’s a mind-reader, right?

I told my family I like the outdoors (hiking, biking, kayaking), gardening, sewing and reading.  I like handcrafted things. I like natural fiber clothing. I like art glass. I like adventures and new experiences. I also noted explicitly: “I do not like gifts of food or cooking equipment or kitchen stuff. I work hard to maintain my weight, and I already have a ton of kitchen things, thanks.”

This year, guess what I got?

Drumroll…..

A “lobster” gift basket, including plastic lobster plates, plastic butter dishes, vinyl lobster bibs, lobster crackers, a lobster motif coffee mug, lobster shears, lobster-shaped candy, and a rubber lobster (which I gave to the dog to destroy). Also wine glasses. Also a gift certificate to a fish market, where  I can buy a live lobster to cook at home (although I would have to schlep it home in a 3-hour car drive).

Sigh.

Yes, I realize I sound like a baby complaining about it all. It’s not the gift that upsets me really. It’s the realization that my family doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to know me. They’d rather just think of “old me.”

Why Hanker to Sweat with Strangers?

I went to Pilates last night for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had been going 1-2 times a week for years, but lately, like so many other health pursuits, I’ve lapsed a bit.

What is it about an exercise class? Why hanker to sweat with strangers? And why is it almost all women in these classes?

I pondered these things as I went through the shake-inducing classical Pilates workout last night. If you don’t know what Pilates is like, it’s kind of like if a yoga expert and a ballet dancer and a drill sergeant had a child (yeah, that’s three parents, but work with me here) and made a profession out of torturing everyone around them. But in a nice way.

At the recommendation of a friend, I started with Pilates about 3 years ago. Yoga didn’t do it for me; I can’t get into the whole “spiritual” component of it. Pilates, on the other hand, was scientific. Worth a shot.

I thought I was going to throw up my first mat class session. That’s how hard you work your core. I laughed at my inability to do a lot of these moves, while I marveled at the lithe young women  who could do them easily. The trainers were mostly dancers and a few had studied medicine of some kind. Unlike personal trainers, who seem to think that yelling and shame will get you to your goals, the Pilates instructors were kind. They understood the body’s quirks and struggles. They helped. I got better.

After 6 months of regular classes, I figured out how to do the basic moves with the precision of a Rockette and started working on more advanced moves. I didn’t need to attend the classes at $16 a pop anymore and could probably have done the workouts at home, maybe with a video class for company. Yet I still went to the classes.

I had hoped to make friends, but I made none. The classes were mostly college students with the occasional woman a generation older than me. I did belong after a while though. While I was still no dancer, I was competent and earned praise on occasion. So I kept it up. I got hooked into the small but exciting local dance scene and saw some great performances. An injury (unrelated to Pilates) took me out of Pilates for about a year. When I returned, everyone welcomed me back. What a nice feeling!

So I guess that’s why I go to these classes. I belong, in all my imperfect glory.

165

I stepped on the scale this morning. 165 pounds. I can’t believe it, and yet I can.

In 2010 I started on a diet, for the nth time in my life. I was furious and disgusted with myself. I swore, again for the nth time, that this time was “for real” and I would not give up until I got to my goal of 140 pounds. I joined Weight Watchers online, started a blog, followed the program and got busy.

And you know what? I almost got there. It was easy some days, hard other days, and I was not able to get to 140. In about 2 years was able to get to 150, so I called it a “win” and set about maintaining. I bought nice clothes, changed my habits and enjoyed the “new” me.

Right away I learned that if weight loss is hard, weight loss maintenance is a bitch. A grind. A slow drip from a faucet that requires constant maintenance and attention. And if you do everything right, you know what you get? A brief reprieve from the dreary drips.

The damn faucet leaks some days more than others, and on really blessed days, it doesn’t drip at all. But then it started dripping more and was harder to turn off. So I put up with a few drips. A small price to pay for my sanity, right? That’s how 150 pounds became 155 pounds became 160 pounds became 165 pounds.

How does this happen? I mean, I know how to eat, how to exercise, how to deal with boredom and stress without stuffing my face. But I was not prepared for one big problem. I was not prepared for loneliness. For I have been going it alone for about 6 months, and when I go it alone, I get into trouble.

I credit much of my success in 2010-2012 to a blog I kept on WeightWatchers.com. I started it to be accountable to myself and to remember what it was like to lose the weight and struggle and win. I made some good friends there, enjoyed the daily ritual of writing, learned from people and shared my ideas. It really worked for me.

I drifted away from Weight Watchers because I didn’t think I needed it anymore, I ran out of things to say, then the program changed and I could not cope with the new program. Finally, I cut ties for good when they stopped hosting blogs – the main thing I needed to keep going.

I planned to start a new blog immediately, and yet I didn’t. Why? Laziness, boredom, worry about sharing in an untested environment, excuse excuse excuse. I joined LoseIt to keep tracking my food and exercise. At the time I had 7 pounds to lose – to get back to 150. Now I have twice as much weight to lose  and nothing to lose by blogging again.

So here I am. Thanks for reading.

The Distaff Side

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

A racehorse’s power and stamina comes from its bloodline. Before you decide it’s worth the risk to inhale the scent of stale urine and dodge past unshaven old men at the racetrack to put down $2 at the crowded betting window, you want to know: Who was the horse’s sire? For horse racing is a boy’s game, and the best bet is often on a champion male bloodline.

Racehorses have mothers too, of course, or “dams” as they say in the business. The female bloodline is called “the distaff side.” Important, yes, but not as important. Second best, to be sure.

The older I get, the more I feel the pull of life’s distaff side, those second-best female pursuits that are not quite as important, not quite worth it.

I say, own it.

I am starting this blog to explore the distaff side of my life, in career, home, family, health, in ways of thinking and doing and being. Thanks for reading.