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Standard-issue New Year's Post, 2013

Other than my cat (who takes it all in but offers little in the way of feedback), the last person I spoke to in 2012 was my son Wally.
Wally was released from prison shortly before Thanksgiving; he, his father Doug, and numerous friends and cousins continue to join me in "giving thanks" for this. He appears to have come out relatively unscathed (except for a prison tattoo on his leg, in the shape of the Nike "swoosh" -- that's my boy...). He got his old job back at the restaurant almost immediately, and is also doing some landscaping in his spare time. While he still has to attend 12-step meetings, that is about the only thing he does at the halfway house where he's living. He shares a dorm with 6 other guys and finds being there unpleasantly reminiscent of his time behind bars. It's clear that some people will never entirely escape the cycle of crime, imprisonment, release and re-offense. Wally wants to distance himself from that phase of his life. I hear a different tone when he talks about his life now. There's less of the false self-assurance and breeziness that I used to detect; he's more willing to say he doesn't know, isn't sure, needs to wait and see. While I can't be there with him, we stay in close contact via cell phone and social media. I'm fairly optimistic that I'll get to see him sometime this year.

Shortly after Christmas, I got a wake-up call with regard to the type 2 diabetes that I was diagnosed with about 4 years ago. I've tested glucose, taken meds, attempted to modify my diet. But all of these efforts have been halfhearted at best, and that's because I didn't want to concede that I had this disorder. I didn't want to be one of "those" people -- my ex-husband's uncles and aunts who all had diabetes and seemed to go on endlessly whining about it. I took the meds -- most days. I convinced myself that because I like fruits, vegetables and "healthy" foods, that somehow counteracted the gallon of neapolitan ice cream that I bought for a party, brought home from the party and proceeded to consume on my own for the next couple of weeks, along with the standard cookies, cakes, candies and other holiday confections. Exercise, as always, was a very rare occurrence. And so, I woke up with parched throat and blurred vision my first day back at work after a 4-day weekend, and heeded the insistent inner voice that told me I needed to test my glucose right away.


A good reading would be somewhere between 75 and 110.  400 is the lower end of the "very high" range, where you find people having strokes, heart attacks and kidney failure.

Ding. It took four years, but I finally woke the hell up!

While readings over 300 crop up here and there, it's the first one of the day that the experts say matters the most. Mine has been hovering in the 250-260 range ever since last Wednesday. No more blurred vision, and the nighttime dry throat is mostly gone. So is most of the junk food in the house.  All I have to do now is start exercising...

Food has become a greater area of focus. Due to finances and location of my workplace, the standard lunch option for me has been frozen meals. Those are actually the easiest to monitor, since the portions tend to be small and the nutritional stats are right there in a little box. Most of them now include the Weight Watchers Points score as well, which, as a veteran of the program, I can decipher and use.

Last Friday my newfound passion for nutrition caused me to have a meltdown in the workplace. Two co-workers were planning what to do for lunch and mentioned a local "greasy spoon" establishment that offers an array of basic grilled items. I know they offer a grilled chicken sandwich, and I just happened to have a few extra bucks on me. So I ordered the sandwich and veggie hash browns, then sat back and waited semi-patiently for Jerry to return with the food. I could taste that sandwich -- lettuce, tomato, a packet of portion-controlled mayo, the moderately seasoned chicken breast -- oh, yeah. I was overjoyed when Jerry came through the door. Four of us had ordered and I waited until everyone else had retrieved their lunch from the bag. There was something wrong with mine, and I could see it from several feet away. A grilled chicken sandwich comes on an untoasted bun, not dark, soggy bread. Upon examining it, my fears were confirmed: They'd given me a chicken melt, and HAM on the hash browns, just to add insult to injury. It was like some unknown person far away was saying "Screw you and your fancy-ass healthy diet, lady. You'll eat like the rest of us and you'll like it."

Well, I didn't like it. "I can't eat this!" I wailed. "Does anybody want it?"

John, who is my favorite co-worker and a saint, immediately stepped up and said he'd take it. He asked how much he owed me and I said "Oh, forget it!" I gave him the plate and stormed into the break room, still holding the packet with the plastic knife, fork, napkin and salt packet. I opened the freezer, pulled out one of my Lean Cuisines, tossed the utensil packet into the freezer, slammed the door and basically scared the hell out of everybody in there, including our senior mechanic, who hastily offered to let me go ahead of him at the microwave. "No, it's okay," I shrieked. "You go ahead. I'm going to just go in the bathroom and scream!" I went in the bathroom but didn't make a sound; I just stood in the corner, gripping my head between my elbows and taking lots of deep breaths.

That  helped. After a couple of minutes I went back to the breakroom, where Griff was assembling his lunch. Griff's wife Joy is well-known as someone you don't want to mess with, ever -- just that morning he had relayed the story of how she had "run off" the repo man who had tried to take back her brother's Corvette. Yeah.  "Do you think your wife would like to go down to that restaurant near the interstate and beat somebody up?" I asked him. "Oh, she'd like that very much," he said. "Good," I replied, still upset to be talking loudly.  "I just blew seven bucks on a pile of shit!"

I was finally getting my appetite back, and as I was nuking my nutrionally appropriate steamed chicken marinara, John came in quietly, gave me seven dollars and told me the meal was delicious and he appreciated not having to go out on a cold day and figure out lunch. As I was eating, he told me about a girl he'd dated long ago, who got so upset when McDonald's put pickles on her burger, against her explicit request, that she drove back around the restaurant and proceeded to throw pickles at the drive-thru window, while hollering curses at the frightened employees.

A woman after my own heart!

The story had me laughing and I finally got over my anguish. And the next day I went out to an eatery close to home and got the sandwich I'd wanted the day before. In the intervening hours it occurred to me that maybe the cook heard "grilled chicken sandwich" and thought of it in terms of "grilled cheese sandwich," where you take all the ingredients, put them between two slices of bread and grill the whole thing. In other words, a grilled chicken sandwich, rather than a grilled chicken sandwich.

Or something.

2012 had some very good moments. As a liberal of a certain age, I have found it especially gratifying to get confirmation that I'm neither alone nor crazy. Anyone who lived through the Reagan and Bush years probably had occasion to wonder. Clinton's presidency was a very ambivalent time -- there was so much noise from Limbaugh, who just seemed to be getting up a full head of steam, and Clinton didn't help much with his self-confessed shenanigans. While now, he's almost attained "elder statesman" status, he didn't come off as especially trustworthy or reliable when he occupied the White House.  The Tea Party and other right-wing nutjobs can wear themselves out trying to paint Barack Obama as [fill in whatever silly label they've attempted to stick on him; I've heard 'em all and can't be bothered to repeat], he calmly holds his head high and gets on with the job. He's had a few "B minus" moments here and there, such as the first 2012 debate against Romney, but all in all, he's more than fulfilled the role he took on 4 years ago. I'm proud of him and over the moon about Hillary Clinton who has taken the lemons of losing the Democratic primaries and transformed them into some awesome on-the-job lemonade. I'm optimistic about her recovery from the concussion and the blood clot; hopes she gets a chance to rest a bit and then gets back into campaign mode. It would be a thrill to help her get elected.

There were profound changes at work and at church. On balance, all the changes were for the better.

Usually, I start new years with the nagging fear that nothing within me is going to change. But many things did this time, and this time around I feel equipped with what I need to keep the changes going in a positive direction.


I'm so glad to hear that your son is making measured steps to get his life back together. I read optimism in your words and the feeling that he is on the right path.
I wish you strength and willpower to keep your diabetes under control. It must be a continual struggle and certainly not helped when someone messes up your lunch order so badly! They're just lucky you didn't have a jar full of pickles on you!

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