What’s that I smell?

About three years ago, I wrote a review of a toilet seat on Amazon.com.  I reviewed it because I have an opinion about everything, and I’m a writer.  It’s that or op ed, right?  Reviews are less stressful, or were until tonight when I got an email saying that there’d been a new comment on the review.  This happens.  From time-to-time people will ask questions about something I’ve written, or something they thought I might have failed to note.  But this one was different.

“It seems like you work for Bemis. Your review is long winded and you keep bringing up the name. Most consumers don’t do that. There are people that get paid to leave product reviews and yours sure seems like it. The BBB is investigating this issue right now.”

My first response, after the hysterical laughter, was that I can’t wait to be investigated by the Better Business Bureau over a toilet seat.  I mean seriously, here’s a toilet seat review that someone is so torqued about that s/he’s writing the Better Business Bureau and asking for an investigation based on a long-winded (oh burn!) review and the fact that I mention the name Bemis a lot.

Well I plead guilty on the long-winded part.  I didn’t feel really good about leaving a review that said: “This is a good seat.  I like this seat.  I like to sit on this seat and do my business.”   However this mentioning the name too much has me stumped.  What was I supposed to call the thing, George?

I posted the link on Facebook to the vast amusement of my friends who are putting in their orders for free toilet seats because of course the truth is that I wrote a review three years ago and Bemis has paid me with a new toilet seat every week since then.  I’m using them as picture frames and cutting boards.  Haute couture cannot be far down the road for me and my seats.

I actually get a kick out of thinking that there’s someone out there who is so invested in this toilet seat review and who has so much time on his/her hands, that s/he can demand an investigation into possible malfeasance over a toilet seat.  There are worse ways to spend your Monday nights, y’know.  There’s a little part of me that would love to see this turn into one of those famously crazy Amazon review threads where random strangers post bizarre comments.  If you feel so moved (pun intended) knock yourself out.

 

English: Antalya ( Turkey ). Toilet seat used ...
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Review: The Blood Sugar Solution, by Mark Hyman, MD

Let me cut right to the chase: Do I think this book is worth buying? Yes. With reservations. Before I get to them, though, let me tell you why this is such a valuable resource. Dr. Hyman understands that there are a myriad of factors that affect both our weight and our overall health. One of the things I find most helpful about this book is the focus on environmental factors such as pollution, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in our food. Taken a step or two further he has nothing good to say about heavily processed food, and while there are processed foods that I genuinely enjoy like Nutella (which I will no longer eat because it contains palm oil, which is a whole other issue) I recognize they’re not good for me, and I try to avoid anything that falls into this category. Fair enough, I say, it’s relatively simple to cut much of the processed food out of your diet. You just have to make smarter choices and work a little harder.

It’s also relatively easy to buy foods that are organic, rBGH-free, free of high fructose corn syrup and so forth (non-GMO foods are harder.) Relatively easy. Not simple, and certainly not cheap. If you make a commitment to avoiding these things, it takes some homework, and rebudgeting. But doing these two things are good starts.

Taking supplements because our diets will probably never provide the level of nutrients many of us need, that’s a good start too. Again, quality supplements aren’t cheap, and by now you’re beginning to see that good health is a bigger commitment than you might imagine. It’s not just about eating less and jogging for an hour each morning. Far from it. It’s about making the choices I’ve mentioned, and as Dr. Hyman points out, it’s about advocating for change in every aspect of life that affects our health. Big business isn’t going to worry about whether we’re fat and miserable, they’re just going to keep shoveling cheap, sugary, salty food at us and watching their bottom line. Industry isn’t going to clean up the air and water voluntarily because it costs them money. So part of taking control of your health is becoming an advocate for everyone’s health.

Exercise is another important part of Dr. Hyman’s program, and I can testify to the effectiveness of even a little exercise. It has improved my blood glucose dramatically and put a big dent in my depression. We have to move to be healthy. I hate to say it because I’m sedentary by nature, but there it is. We have to move.

Where I tend to disagree with Dr. Hyman is in the way he’s structured his program. Now I have no argument with the idea that cutting out whole food groups will help pinpoint whether you have a problem with them. That’s just common sense. What I do have a problem with is that you start the program by cutting out all sugar, including the so-called “healthy” sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia and all artificial ones; all gluten, all other flour products, even gluten free ones, all dairy, all processed foods, all grain, all starchy vegetables and all fruit except for 1/2 cup of berries a day. In fact, he says you should start by throwing out everything in these categories, just dump it. I say, I’m sorry, but who — apart from someone in a blind panic about his or her health problems — has the money to do that, not to mention the will power to wake up one morning knowing that you’re going to spend at least six weeks eating virtually nothing but lean meat or fish, legumes and leafy vegetables? I can’t. I can’t afford it and I sure know that I’d maybe last two days on a regimen like that before I’d be running out for a burger or some cookies. To me it’s like setting yourself up for failure and self-flagellation.

You do start adding foods back into your diet once you’ve… I guess de-toxed is the word. Not that I necessarily buy into detoxification diets, but hey, whatever, right? You add them in and you pay attention to how you feel as you do. And that makes a lot of sense in terms of discovering where your problems lie, if any — there are group of questionnaires at the beginning of the book to help pinpoint where some of your problems may lie, and no matter what your score, Dr. Hyman says you need his plan. Well yeah; why would he say you don’t right? So so you might well ask what is the point of all those questions? But I think they’re valuable because they can show you where you really may be having problems. Sensibly, to me anyway, that’s the place to start. By all means work the program, but work it in a targeted manner. There’s so much in it that’s good that you have to start feeling better if you do even part of what he recommends. If you can do it all, then wow! Go you! You’re a star. But for most of us, that’s simply not going to happen no matter how much we may want to do it.

Bottom line: This is a commonsense plan save for the fact that he doesn’t seem to accept that human spirits are always willing, but the flesh is very, very weak in most cases. It’s certainly a plan that’s worth working with, but if you find it overwhelming, you’d be better off working at it slowly than giving up on it entirely.

Talk to me people!

English: There are no symbols that represent s...

It’s your turn.  Let me explain:  I was just looking at the cover of a friend’s new novel, and thinking about the different components of a book,  novel, short story… whatever.  Those things are all part and parcel of what a publisher does.  We write/read, the publisher does much of the rest of the work.  So what I’m curious about is what publishers you all like and/or respect.  Which ones are your go-to publishers?

Authors, tell me where your publishers have really gone the extra mile for you, the ones where the editing process is solid, the cover art never disappoints, the marketing is vigorous, and the communication between press and author is outstanding.

Readers, tell me which publishers publish the things you just LOVE to read.  Tell me why, tell me what those things are.  Talk about subject matter, art, price… whatever you think has pulled you in and made you a loyal customer.

What I don’t really want is a kvetch session.  We’ve all had bad experiences and this really isn’t the place to air them, k?  I want to think positively about this.  Remember, this is my year of Yes, so c’mon and show your favorite publishers some love.

P.S. I’m not adverse to a bit of kvetching in general, and if you know of any good forum where authors talk freely about the downside of publication and the people involved, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it.  It’s all part of knowing who is out there and what they can do for us, IMO.  It’s just that I don’t really want a lot of mud-slinging around here right now.  Thnx.

The Pantry Project Continues

It’s February now, and I’ve moved to phase two of the Pantry Project which is about not buying  anything that won’t be used within a week or two.  I’m not always successful at that, but I’m getting better at saying, “No, I don’t need those things.  I have plenty of other stuff to use up first.” which really is the point.

I managed (finally) to get my kitchen rearranged, no small feat, let me tell you since while it looks as if I have ample cabinet space, the truth is that one is virtually inaccessible without a step ladder and grabby stick and two more have lost a substantial amount of space to the duct from the range hood/microwave.  Why they didn’t run it straight up through the top of the cabinets and then out is beyond me, but then this house is a study in bizarre choices and awkward construction.  The housemate and I refer to it as “a benevolent Hill House.” Yet another cabinet is ginormous, but most of the space is inaccessible because the door is located at the far end.  (I use it for baking sheets and rarely used small appliances.)

The Pantry Project

In any event, I did want to share an end-of-project photo to prove that I actually did finish.  To the left is my pantry.  It’s all open and I’d prefer if it had doors, but I can’t afford that right now.  Maybe one day I’ll learn how to make doors, or be able to afford to have them made (It’d probably be a custom job since the niche was constructed for me when we re-did the back exit.)  I love having all the packaged food here because that’s my kitchen desk to the right, and while I sit there, I can look at the shelves and think about what I might fix for any given meal.

Everything that doesn’t go in the fridge or the seasoning cabinet is here.  As you see, there’s a LOT of stuff, though two of the six shelves hold mostly baking items which I consider to be (in general) a bit different from cans of soup and boxes of pasta.  Kitty food also takes up a big chunk of space.

Since I’ve started baking two or three loaves of bread a week, I’m going through flour and yeast at a good clip, also dry milk, honey and millet.  I’m also using up the mixes I’ve had in my cabinets for way too long.  So far I’ve made Bob’s Red Mill rye bread (a clear winner; soft crumb, slightly sweet, good sandwich bread) King Arthur Flour sweet almond bread (dry and surprisingly not as tasty as I’d have hoped) and one other KAF bread mix which I can’t recall, in part because it ended up being a complete failure.  I also made gingerbread and chocolate cake, and I’m finally down to two mixes: One more chocolate cake and a KAF brioche mix.

I made a curry the other night from a mix I got through the Amazon Vine program (Briefly, if you’re a member, they send you free stuff, you evaluate it and write a review.)  It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, but I used it to get rid of one package of ground beef that had been sitting around here for way too long.   If you’re sharp-eyed, you’ll see that I have about five or six more boxes of Indian food mixes sitting on the shelf.

Tonight’s supper will be saffron risotto and chard with ginger.  If I can arse myself to fix some lentils to go with them that’ll be great, otherwise I’ll just let it go.  What I really want is an Italian beef sandwich from Marco’s.

 

OMG RWA WTF?

The SVG Facepalm v2.0

If you haven’t already heard, the Romance Writers Ink chapter of the RWA (Romance Writers of America) are hosting a writing contest, and yay, go them, contests are a good thing, right?  But if you check the rules, you’ll find that they specifically state: “MTM will no longer accept same-sex entries in any category.”  Since I don’t identify as a romance writer even through I write them or as a gay/lesbian writer even though I write m/m and f/f as well as m/f relationships, I don’t have a horse in this race in terms of genre.  But I am offended on behalf of every writer of gay or lesbian romance.  I’m damn offended on behalf of those writers who I consider friends.

You might say “So what?  They’re a chapter of a group that you don’t really have a lot of interest in.  What’s the big?  Gay romance is big, it’s hot, it’s happening.  So what if they want to be prissy little princesses about it?”   But the point isn’t the contest, not really, not for me.  It isn’t even really about the organization, though I think that if they’re going to eliminate a big hunk of the human race from their romance arena, they really should be honest about it and call themselves “The Heterosexual Romance Writers of America.”  Then both readers and writers could make an informed choice: Support bigots or support inclusiveness?  This contest should be about creativity, not about ghettoizing consenting adults.  (I sure hope nobody out there is getting ready to ask me: “Oh really?  You want them to accept stories about necrophiliacs, puppy fuckers or baby rapers?” because I will ask you what part of “consenting adults” you’re simply not understanding.)  I don’t have a stake in the contest, but I do have one in human decency.

How big an explosion do you  think you’d have heard if they’d written: MTM will no longer accept mixed-race entries in any category. or: MTM will no longer accept entries about non-whites in any category. or:  MTM will no longer accept entries with disabled characters in any category.?  But somehow the RWA seems to think it’s different when it comes to same-sex love and romance, and I don’t get that because  you can write a novel about how the hero rapes the heroine and she falls in love with him, and they are totally down with that.  But two guys falling in love and wanting to be together forever?  Two women going through hell to be together?  Nope, sorry, queers need not apply.  What’s wrong with this picture?  What’s wrong with people who think that sort of bigotry is okay?

It’s not.

If you want to read more about this, try:

And if you want to add your name to a petition stating that the RWA shouldn’t be in the business of discrimination, you can find it here.

 

Mom 1915-2007

Blue-Mom3-12707Five years ago today I lost my mother.  On the 27th of January of that year, I made this drawing of her as I sat by her bedside.  At the end, she rarely even opened her eyes, so she always seemed to be asleep.  That was funny because when she was still at home, she told me that she hated sleeping, and I remember writing a poem about it.  I have no idea where it is now, and the only bit of it I recall was the line how she would meet Death, sitting up in a chair, refusing to close her eyes.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, could I?

She had suffered from a peculiar form of dementia for years.  Lewy-body dementia, it’s called.  You can look it up; it’s not an attractive disease.  I’m only now beginning to realize how long she’d been ill, and I find it disconcerting that we could have gone so many years without actually realizing that what was happening to her actually had a name, a diagnosis.  It wasn’t just Mom getting old and difficult.  It wasn’t just the diabetic retinopathy affecting her vision.  It wasn’t just age-related incontinence on a grand scale, or persistent allergies or an essential tremor, or any of a hundred other little indignities that this fucking disease visited on her.  (I still, to this day, wish it was a person so I could peel it like a grape and roll it in salt before I stabbed it to death.  That’s the level of anger I still feel over what it did to her.)

The dementia was so demanding, so draining that until I realized that my father didn’t have a clue how to use the ice dispenser on the door of the freezer, something he’d used every day for years, I didn’t realize that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s.  That’s how much of my time and attention Lewy-body dementia demanded.  I short-changed him because I couldn’t not focus on her.  I spent fifteen years watching her die of this.  Fifteen years that I knew about.  It was churning away in her brain even before I became a caregiver.

I remember that there were days when she seemed fine, when the only sign that there was something wrong was that she couldn’t remember things too well.  And sometimes I’d tell her a joke, usually the same one because she never remembered that I’d told it to her.  I’d say, “Mom, do you know why cats lick their own butts?” and she’d say, “No, I don’t.  Why?”  And I’d say, “Because they can.”  And every damn time she’d giggle a little and say, “Oh, you!”  Every time.  It got funnier with each telling.

What wasn’t funny were the middle-of-the-night hallucinations, the tantrums, the spite and the anger.  What wasn’t funny was the day she said to me, “I’m losing my mind, aren’t I?”  And I lied.  I lied and kept on lying because I couldn’t ever say to my mother, “Yes, you’re losing your mind.  You’re going to end up sitting and staring until you finally just stop.”  I swear to you that if I could have stood between her and this thing that was eating her up I’d have done it.  I couldn’t.

I did what I could to make things better.  I brought her a tray of snow when she couldn’t go out, and watched her build a little snowman.  When she could go out, I pushed her around the block in her wheelchair.  Later, when she was in the nursing home, I brought her ice cream and took her  out to sit in the sun.  Most of the time she closed her eyes and didn’t speak.  When she did talk, it was about the distant past.  She thought I was her mother.
One day I sat down with her at the nursing home — this was after I’d started taking anti-depressants and had begun decompressing — and apologized to her.  I had no hope of her understanding anything I was talking about.  She could rarely concentrate on what she was hearing, much less comprehend the meaning.  I told her that I was sorry I’d been short-tempered, and mean, that I hadn’t understood things, that I hurt her feelings and said things that I didn’t mean.  The whole time I was talking she was looking around aimlessly as if she saw things that I couldn’t.  I very nearly stopped because it seemed so pointless, but I pressed on because it had to be said. It was the right thing to do.  When I finished she looked right at me which she hadn’t done in… probably months, and said, “Thank you for that.”  And then she was gone again, lost in that odd, narrow world she inhabited.

 

The day she died, I’d come to the nursing home for one of those meetings they ask you to attend where they tell you what they’re doing and how the resident is responding, and honestly I knew it would be the last time I’d see her, but I didn’t say so.  Then I went to her room and sat down with her.  She was restless; I hadn’t seen her that active in years.  I held her hand and talked to her.  I talked for a long time and I said a lot of things that I needed to say to her.  Not apologies this time, other stuff.  She stopped moving around and she looked at me.  I don’t know what she was seeing, but she grew calmer.  And then she closed her eyes.

I left the room to go have a little cry, and while I was gone she died.

Mom was beautiful.  She didn’t deserve the end she got, but none of us have a choice about that.   She was the finest woman I ever knew, and I will miss her every day of my life.

If there’s someone you love, tell them.  Whenever you can, as often as you can.  You think there’ll be time; you think tomorrow is soon enough.  It’s not.  It’s a lifetime of tomorrows, all of them missing the things that make today special.

 

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