It’s Not Where You Start…

It’s Not Where You Start It’s Where You Finish is not only the title of a great song it perfectly describes my life now.

It has been a crazy week.  Getting ready to move has many of its problems, but throw in a holiday and a Covid scare and you get quite the mess.

Last weekend I got a call from someone I had been hanging out with the previous Saturday that they had tested positive for Covid.  It would be a far stretch that I would have caught it from this person but the possibility was there so I went and bought a home Covid test.

Have you done a home test for Covid?  My understanding is that the home test for negatives ranges in the accuracy of the high 90s.  It seems they are less accurate for positive results.  The procedure for self-testing is a little hard.  There is a card that has to remain flat on the table the whole time.  Then you put 6 drops of reagent in a hole in the card.  Then with a long cotton swab, you swab out both your nostrils for 15 seconds each.  Then you slip the swab into a lower hole pushing it into the hole that has the reagent.  You then close the card and seal it and wait 15 minutes.  If a line appears in the lower half of the window of the card you are positive.  If it remains clear you are negative.  That’s it.  The kit comes with two tests.  I did them both and both came back negative. YEA!

Because Thanksgiving came less than ten days from my exposure it was prudent to stay home for the holiday.  There is no point in risking other people’s health until you are sure you’re not carrying.  At ten days out I took the second test and confirmed being clean.  Yea for modern science.

I don’t recommend spending Thanksgiving alone.  I wasn’t all alone, my housemate and I had breakfast together and I tried to make it festive.  We had fried eggs, Taylor Pork Roll, Buttered Toast, and Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls.  It was nice.  I wouldn’t see my housemate for dinner as she was working.  It was the last holiday we will spend together as housemates as my move has arrived.  I ordered Thanksgiving Dinner from a local diner and enjoyed it.  It’s not the same eating by yourself but the tastes were there and I had memories of Thanksgiving’s past and there will be more to come.

Friday it was time to organize as much as I could.  I have two rooms in the house that I live in now, an office and a bedroom.  I can cram a lot in a small space and it all had to be packed.  Statues and pictures and toys and ceramics and all other kinds of stuff went into box after box. 

Cleaning out the two closets were particularly interesting as I found stuff I thought I had lost buried under piles of other things.  Looking back it became a bit of a treasure hunt as both closets contained some wonderful items long-buried but now coming back into play.  I was Indiana Jones in my own house.

Right now the living room is filled with packed boxes waiting for Saturday when the movers come.  But that’s not all.

On Friday the movers will come and finish my packing.  Because of my disability what I could do the last time I moved I cannot do now.  My legs are in pain a lot and so are my feet.  I have an extensive library and the last time I moved I brought all the books and all the shelves over to the house myself.  I can’t do that now.  It’s just not possible, so the movers will come on Friday and pack the books up and my clothes, another item I moved in the past, and my large electronic devices.  They will be in charge of safely packing my stuff and then moving it the next day.

One of the things that this move has forced me to realize is my limitations.  I’m heading for 61 years old and my body doesn’t work like it used to.  Some things need to be changed, things that are in my power, and I intend to make those changes.  Still, there are other things that I have no control over like severe arthritis in my knees and feet and the neuropathy in my legs.  These are things whose influence will lesson as I take off weight but they will still be a part of me.  The pain will lessen but will not go away completely.  If I can get enough weight off my knees will be replaced and that will make some difference in my life.

I think the thing to keep in mind here is not that I have all these issues but that all the obstacles the issues have presented can be overcome.  With the help of family and friends, a very difficult move is made so much easier.  My niece and her husband were a tremendous help.  Yesterday my housemate, Lorraine, helped me clear out the bedroom closet. My legs being what they are I could not have done it without her help. My cousin John has come over every Tuesday and carted stuff over to the apartment for the last three weeks and is happy to help more if I need it.  My friends Rob and Gary have supplied boxes and support and Rob will be my wingman on Friday watching the guys as they pack and making sure the boxes are labeled correctly.  My sisters have also been a big help.  Even from Tennessee my sister Susan and her husband Kirk have given me encouragement and solid advice.  My sister Trish has helped with all the financial details and the stuff I didn’t know anything about as I never signed a lease before. My friend Manny has always been there for me for more than forty years. Though we are separated by miles he has been my greatest encouragement. A true Barnabus. A name meaning “Son of encouragement”   Lastly, my friend Bill has given me his whole Saturday to help me unpack and settle in. I’m very grateful to those I’ve mentioned as well as those I haven’t.

Moving is a great adventure and as the song says, it’s not where you start it’s where you finish and I’m going to finish on top.

Weight Loss

The weight loss journey will officially begin on December 6th, 2021.  That is the Monday after I move into my new apartment.  I chose that day because between now and then eating will be catch as catch can while I move to my new home starting on the 16th of this month.  Things are happening fast.

The first step in my weight loss journey has been accomplished.  I saw my primary care physician this past week to see what his recommendations would be and to see if he would be part of holding me to whatever I do.

He was great about the whole thing.  First, he asked if I would be interested in weight loss surgery?  He got a resounding no on that thought.  I went to a surgeon once, for a consultation on weight loss surgery and it scared me.  Weight loss surgery is a big deal.  It involves sewing up part of your stomach to make it smaller so you won’t eat as much.  That’s all well and good, but because of the surgery, there are certain food that you can no longer eat and those foods could kill you.  That seemed extreme to me.  The other part that has to be taken into consideration is the reasons I overeat.  My food issues are not hunger but sadness and depression or high levels of anxiety or other emotional factors.  Sewing up my stomach will not alter those and so it’s not an answer for me.

My doctor then discussed the new fasting diet.  This diet consists of eating dinner and then fasting for 18 hours after that so basically no food from 6 pm to 12 pm.  Then eating during those 6 hours after the noon hour. This might work but we did not discuss what to eat during those 6 hours.  I could do a lot of damage in that short period.  I need to do an internet search to see exactly how this diet is supposed to work.

The next thing we discussed is how I had lost weight in the past.  This was easy.  I always used Slim Fast.  Two shakes a day and a salad with meat on it, usually chicken.  I have lost a lot of weight doing this at different periods in my life.  The problem is I always gained it back.  I also would do half an hour of aerobic exercise every day.  This was done with a stationary bike, My legs and feet being how they are this is no longer possible.  There are, however, YouTube videos for seated exercises that I could do now that my television will be in my living room.

After a lengthy discussion, we decided that the Slimfast route was probably the best way to go with my doctor actively monitoring me.  He had me set up three appointments before I left the office each in the early day of January, February, and March so he can track my progress.  Ultimately, he will have my back, but it will be tough getting thru the Christmas season this year.  The words no thank you are going to have to be a big part of my vocabulary and my own favorite Christmas treats are going to need to be forgotten this year.

Food for me is a security blanket and it is as much a part of me as Linus’ attachment to that blue blanket.  It’s not all food, of course, it’s the food that is the absolute worst food for you.  I am addicted to McDonald’s.  If I’m having a bad day or am in a general bad temper a McDonald’s triple cheeseburger, medium fries, a Hi-C Orange drink and an apple pie is essential to my survival.  If it’s a really bad day I will buy two triple cheeseburgers.  I don’t eat to live, I live to eat and it is slowly and methodically killing me.

One truth is clear, there are no fat old people.  My grandmother, my aunt, and my dad all lived well into their 90s.  My father is still alive and though he has some old age issues, he is in generally good health.  My mother God Rest Her Soul died at 80 but she had complications from surgery and what age she may have lived to is pretty much undetermined.  I’d like to live a good long life, but it won’t happen if I stay at this weight.

I have to go through a radical lifestyle change and stick to it regardless of the mental consequences that lifestyle may have.  I have to find a way to live without McDonald’s and find other ways to comfort myself other than food.

I’m not blaming my behavior with food on anyone else but me.  Still looking at my early childhood I was sort of conditioned to enjoy high-fat content food.  I think many of us born as part of the baby boom generation were.  I am the youngest of four kids.  There is a five-year gap between my closest sister and myself.  That means that right after I was born my brother and sisters were all in school.  Leaving me home alone with mom for five whole years.  Back then mom liked to eat.  She was an amazing cook and baker, so if a pie went into the oven there would be scraps of pie crust dough rolled out and buttered and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and then rolled up and baked just for me.  There would be homemade frosting bowls to lick and sometimes an open-faced sandwich made with mayonnaise and relish as an after-lunch snack.  My mother made amazing dinners every night and there was rarely a night that dessert was not part of the meal.  These were my formative years and I loved them.

Mom changed.  I don’t remember when, but it may have been about the time my sisters got married.  She had put on more than a few pounds and she wanted to get them off and she did.  She joined Weight Watchers and a ladies-only gym and she achieved her goals.  She went back and forth with gaining and losing for a few years but eventually dropped ten pounds below her goal weight and never gained again.  She kept a good healthy diet for the rest of her life.  That’s not to say that she didn’t enjoy occasional or even regular treats.  She and my father would split a pizza every Saturday night after Mass and enjoyed a bottle of wine with it while watching Lawrence Welk on PBS.  Desserts were regulated to Sundays and holidays and she rarely snacked on anything more than fruit.   I can’t imagine the amount of emotional strength it took to accomplish what she did, but I’m about to find out.

I did try Weight Watcher some time ago and adhering to their program I did not lose a pound.  I also tried Noom and though it initially worked well eventually, no matter what I did I couldn’t lose another pound.  After that, I gave up.  It seemed hopeless and I drowned my sorrows in eating everything I could get my hands on and then I turned sixty.

Sixty is a magical number.  It speaks.  It even yells.  Do you what it says?  “No matter what you don’t have much time left on earth.  Even if I live to be one hundred I am past the halfway point.  I’m not young anymore.  I’m not ancient either, but I’m not young.  If I want to see a change in my life now is time and this is the moment.

So, here’s the plan.  Slimfast and some fruit in the morning.  Slimfast for Lunch.   A salad with roasted chicken pieces for dinner and that will be it.  I will allow myself one dessert on Sundays and Holidays but that’s it.  I have a set of free-standing pedals I can put on a tabletop and use my arms and hands to do some aerobic exercise.  I can also use YouTube sitting-down workouts as I will have plenty of space in my new living room. As I mentioned earlier.  All of this will begin on December 6th.  A lot has to happen between now and then.  But I believe that this is possible.  Join me in believing.

Change Two

I’m taking another break from my usual cultural pieces to write again about change. As I previously stated change is not something that is usually welcomed but a lot of the time it produces the best in us and the best for us.  I think this is one of those times in my life.

Since I last wrote about change the great apartment hunt has begun and concluded. Eventually, I found a very nice two-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of an older elevator building. It has a nice-sized living room, and the bedrooms are just enough. One of those bedrooms will be my office. Surprisingly there are also two bathrooms.  One is a full bath with a tub and shower. The other is a vanity a toilet and a shower stall.  There are also plenty of closets so I doubt I will need the storage locker I get in the basement.

The apartment hunt was an emotional roller coaster. I don’t know if any of you are in the market for an apartment but the market for apartments is just as tough as the market for real estate. Since Covid struck the real estate market has been insane. People are buying up houses almost as soon as they hit the market. I have been told that people who were confirmed city dwellers now want to get out of the cities, and folks that were already out of the city are moving further out because of all the city dwellers moving into the suburbs closest to the city. Now I don’t know if that is true, but it does seem that way.

Covid has also affected apartment living. First, if people can’t find homes in the suburbs, they are taking the apartments and I was also told that some folks that have bought homes found that they can’t handle the mortgage and end up in apartments.  So there is both a rush on single homes and apartments.

But wait! It gets a bit more complicated, and this is where it affected me. When Covid began to hit hard the Trump administration allowed renters that could not pay their rent to stay in their apartments. It seemed a good idea at the time. Businesses were closed and folks were out of work. Most people can’t save a lot these days, and those who do it usually aren’t saving much. On top of that, the 600 dollars a week benefit was given to workers who lost their jobs during Covid. At 600 a week some were making more than when they worked plus they were getting the standard unemployment benefit on top of that.  These things made people reluctant to go back to work and now businesses around the county are looking for workers.

All of this has made apartment owners and management businesses very wary of all folks that come looking for an apartment. For me, there was the added issue of the fact that I needed a handicapped-accessible building due to the neuropathy in my legs. Most buildings were designed 20 to 30 years ago with no thought to the handicapped. These were buildings I needed to look at as the newer buildings that made everything handicapped accessible are charging rent well over 2000 dollars a month. That is way out of my league. All of that to say my choices were few. In fact, in all of Delaware county where I reside, I found only three after looking at several 100 possibilities.

The first was a lovely 3rd-floor one-bedroom apartment with a balcony. The rent seemed reasonable but as we talked more and more to the agent, we found that there were a ton of fees that raised the reasonable amount to unreasonable.  The second one I found was attached to the side of a house. I didn’t overly much like the area, but the street seemed quiet, and the apartment was great.  This too was a one-bedroom apartment.  The living room and bedroom were both very nice sized and it had its own laundry room. It even had its own driveway. The woman that owned the house and the apartment was quite particular about who she wanted in there and a disabled person living on disability was not her idea of a good tenant. She never even let me see the inside. That was all kind of a blow, and I began to get very discouraged about the search.

For a few days, I gave up. I looked at no apartments at all. To me, it seemed that there was just no place that I could find that would work for me and would accept me. Depression set in and I began to wonder if I was going to live my life in a box. After a couple of days of this, I finally decided to look in Swarthmore. Swarthmore is just a few miles from me and is the home of Swarthmore College a very prestigious school so in some ways it’s a college town but not a rowdy college town.  My godparents live there and so I have spent a lot of time in Swarthmore but never thought about living there.

It took a little while to find one that seemed as if it might work.  It had a great, almost Tolkien name, so I made the call. This one worked out but not without a whole lot of hoops that had to be jumped through. I had to show bank statements to show I could pay the rent. Some apartments want proof of three to twelve months’ rent in the bank before they will even allow you to look at the place. Then a credit score of at least 750 and of course a criminal background check. Hoop after hoop after hoop. It was driving me a little crazy. Eventually, all the Ts were crossed and the Is dotted. I Had a new home.

Of course, that’s just the first part.  Now the fun begins. I have friends that are bringing me boxes but this is getting hard.  5 years ago when I first moved I was able to get all the boxes I needed myself.  I then boxed up my belongings and took car full after car full to the place I was moving.  I only used movers for the big stuff.  Now with the neuropathy in my legs and arthritis in my knees, most of that is not possible.  I’m walking with a cane now so gathering empty boxes and getting them to the car is difficult.  I can pack boxes but, unless they are light I can’t move the box very far.  My boxes will be heavy as I have a lot of books.

I hate not being able to do things for myself.  This is a huge change for me and it takes a lot of getting used to.  It is making me a more humble person and maybe that’s a lesson I need to learn.  I am at a stage in life where I truly need help and it’s not wrong to need help.  Every time someone helps me I am confident that God in Heaven is happy with them as I am grateful to them.  After all, Jesus said, “What you did for the least of these you have done for me.”

This coming Wednesday another change will begin to take place.  I go to my doctor’s office to discuss some sort of plan to get this weight off my body.  I have my mental health care provider working with me too.  I have a feeling I will need to get a bit obsessive-compulsive to achieve what I need to do, but that’s alright.  It’s good when a mental issue can be used in your favor.

I make light of the seriousness of my weight situation. I shouldn’t do that.  I can’t seem to keep gaining and I don’t want to.  Some of it may have to deal with the meds I’m taking but some of it is because I eat when I’m sad and lately I’ve been sad a lot.  Covid has taken away many things that I loved deeply.  Going to the movies, to theaters and concerts has all become just a little frightening.  Covid seems to be everywhere and nowhere.  You think you’re safe and then find a friend you had lunch with last week has come down with it.  You get tested and hope for the best.  So far I have been kept safe from the illness, but none of us are safe from its social effects.

I’m also sad because my life is changing again.  I know I’m going to love the new apartment, but I’m going to miss the neighbors that are here.  I haven’t gotten to know many of them well, I wasn’t here long enough, but the few that I have gotten to know even a very little I liked and wanted to know more.  That time is over now and I regret it.

I’m sad too because I will be leaving behind the area I grew up in.  I still love this area.  Knowing the stores and the people that run them.  Having three supermarkets just blocks from each other and knowing almost for sure that I will be able to find almost anything I need in my own backyard.  I won’t have that backyard anymore and it’s sad.

I don’t like saying goodbye.  I never have.  Saying goodbye always seems so permanent.  You make plans to see friends that you’ve left and you promise to keep in touch but that rarely happens and when you do finally see each other again the time has passed and people changed and the bond that was there can be very hard to find again.

Now, I have some friends that this will never happen.  Manny J, Jim R, Kevin S, Eric K, Tim G, Mary R, Brad F, and Saundra F, Tammy D, Jeff B, Carrie O, Nick R.and others when we pick up the phone it’s like we just saw each other yesterday.  Most of these people don’t live nearby so it is our hearts that bind us together and keep the relationship alive.  I love these folks a lot and am very grateful they are in my life.

GRATEFUL!  It just struck me.  The best way to manage change is to be grateful for the change.  Grateful for a new apartment and the chance to meet new neighbors and have new experiences.  Grateful for the people we have known and are no longer part of our lives but their influence still lingers.  Grateful for the folks we have lost either thru death or other ways that people grow apart.  Those people added depth and color to our lives and so whether they are here or not they are part of us.

This is the month for gratefulness.  That gratefulness can be shown first to God and then to all the people in our lives that brought something special.  And, you know, there isn’t one person in our lives that didn’t bring something special.  There is not one event in our lives good or bad that didn’t have a purpose or a meaning.  Everything in our lives we designed by God to show us he is here and he loves us and so for that alone change has to mean being grateful.

Life is change.   Sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s beautiful, but most of the time it’s both.

  • Lana Lang Smallville