Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nutrisystem- 6 Weeks Down

I don't want to turn this into a diet blog by having two weight-related posts in a row but that's just what's on my mind right now. I am one of those people who has been making excuses about my weight gain for years. I was an athlete throughout most of my life so when the pounds started piling on I couldn't admit that the weight gain was my fault. Looking back on things now I definitely see where I went wrong.

When I graduated from high school I weighed 145 lbs and wore a size 10 (I'm 5'6"). I ran indoor and outdoor track all four years and also played on lacrosse, soccer and field hockey teams. I did intense cardio every day for a couple hours a day so I ate whatever I wanted. My uncle nicknamed me Mikey (like the kid from the Life commercials) because if anyone couldn't finish their food they would pass it down to me and I would take care of it for them.

When I went off to college I continued running and started taking karate. I also participated on a few intermural sports teams. I didn't have a lot of muscle in high school so I got injured a lot.
In college, they stressed doing strength training in addition to cardio to prevent injuries. When I left college 5 years later I was 20 lbs heavier but I had packed on a lot of muscle in addition to the party weight and was a healthy size 12. I had continued working out 2+ hours a day throughout college so weight gain wasn't really an issue for me.

I did a year of graduate school and hated it. I started my first real job as an engineer after leaving grad school. I was working long hours and going to happy hour almost every night. Luckily, I was still running and doing karate so the weight gain wasn't significant. I also rescued Chale, my German Shepherd, a year after I started working so that added even more cardio to my life. I left this job after 5 years because it was killing my soul. I weighed 175 lbs when I quit and could still fit into most of my size 12 clothes. I did notice that while the scale hadn't gone up too much my body fat percentage was now in the obese range. I guess replacing salad with beer wasn't a great idea.

So I got a new job and moved to Syracuse in 2005. The position that I filled had been vacant for a while so I had to work long hours to get everything in order. I was traveling a lot and eating out all the time. I had never had a corporate account before so I loved being able to buy whatever I wanted while I was traveling. I let myself indulge in appetizers, desserts, expensive wine and large entrees. I was in a friend's wedding that year and we had ordered the dresses before I moved to Syracuse. I was surprised to find that I had gained 10 lbs in 5 months. I needed help from two other bridesmaids to get into my size 12 dress. I hate all of the pictures from that wedding because I look like I'm about to rip a seam!!

At the end of 2005 I started a long distance relationship with the man who is now my husband. We took turns flying back and forth to visit each other every six weeks. Of course I wasn't working out as much because of all the traveling and we were eating out all the time...
By the end of a year of this traveling I had put on another 15 lbs. Luckily he moved to New York at that point or I don't know how big I would have become!!

For the next couple of years I fluctuated between 195-201 lbs. Between planning a wedding and getting married, remodeling our house and the death of a couple of close relatives my eating habits were completely destroyed. I went to the doctor because I couldn't understand why I had gained so much weight when I was such an active person. If I would have taken a serious look at how much I was working out and eating then compared to my old healthy habits I would have known that I was the problem. Luckily all of my test results were normal but I was warned that if I didn't lose weight diabetes, thyroid problems and all of the other diseases that have plagued other members of my family would be in my future.

Apparently, it didn't matter if there were lapses in my diet and exercise habits when I was in my 20's because my metabolism was still kicking butt. But the combination of turning thirty and slacking on all my healthy habits at the same time completely destroyed my metabolism. I started working out 2+ hours a day like I had in the past but wasn't losing any weight. When I sat down to count my calories for a few weeks I realized that I was taking in 3500-4000 calories a day. So even with the rebirth of all my old fitness habits I was going to maintain my weight because I was eating as much as I was burning.

In May I was 210 lbs at my annual physical. This was a shock. This was my highest weight yet. All of test results were still in the normal range but my body fat was close to 50%. I was told that if I didn't change my diet I would probably continue to gain 5-10 lbs a year and inevitably develop type 2 diabetes. I felt pretty disgusted with myself at this point. So I researched all the weight loss programs and signed up for Nutrisystem. I started the program on 5/22/09.

I follow the Nutrisystem plan 5 days a week and eat whatever I want 2 days a week. My average calories are 1700-2100 during my 5 good days. When I lost 5 lbs in the first week I knew I had found the right plan. After 4 weeks I had lost 10 lbs and all my size 16 clothes were loose on me. I traveled for work during 2 of the past 5 weeks but made sure that I saved my cheat days for when I was traveling. If I needed more than 2 cheat days, I made sure that I worked out extra in the morning before I headed out for my meetings. While I didn't lose any weight during the two weeks that I was traveling, I didn't gain any weight either and that is just awesome.

My husband is almost a foot taller than me so he can pretty much eat whatever he wants and still stay thin. He is eating Lean Cuisine meals for lunch and dinner to help me stick to the program. He is also eating all the other foods that he was eating before (i.e. he'll have a turkey bacon Swiss as an after dinner snack) so not much of a sacrifice for him but I appreciate the effort. He has managed to lose a few pounds as well so obviously those little changes are making a difference for him.

I have my 6 week weigh in on Friday and hope to be 190-something for the first time in a while. I'm not sure what my overall weight loss goal is. I just want to be healthier and less flabby. I'm guessing my ideal weight is some where in the 145-165 range but I don't know if its realistic for me to every be that small again. I'd love to be 175-185. I think that's an attainable goal. Ideally before the fall when I have to try on bridesmaid's dresses for the next two weddings that I'm in...I'm pretty self conscious so I'm not sure about the whole posting before/after pics but we'll see.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Size Matters

Plus-Sized ModelImage by pCka via Flickr

So my question is: If the average American woman is a size 12-14 then why are those clothes in the plus size section? Why are there 20 stores in the mall that cater to 2% of the population? Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, The Limited, etc all have extremely narrow cut clothes that are completely mis-sized.

I have a really good friend from college named Mary. She has a perfect body. In a normal store she would be a size 8. She's very healthy and works out all the time but is definitely not skinny. I remember going to these stores with her and her having to buy clothes marked size 12 and 14. That does wonders for my self esteem. Thanks a lot.

Or how about America's Next Top Model? I have only caught a few episodes over the years but there always seems to be a "plus sized" model in the group. A "plus sized" model actual won the competition a couple years ago. When I saw the picture of the girl who won it was clear that she was no plus size model. I did a little Internet research and found that she is a size 8 in the real world but in the world of high fashion the sample size that they make to fit her body would actually be a size 14 so they can label her a plus size model. Well that's screwed up. Why don't all the designers use the same mannequins so that I can walk into a store and pick up a pair of pants in my size and know they're going to fit? Why did I have to try on a clothes 2-3 sizes above my normal clothing size when I shop in certain stores? I know the number inside the clothes shouldn't matter but I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.

I had a huge complex about it when I was younger because I went from a skinny size 3 to a curvy size 8 from the ages of 9-14. This bothered me a lot more when I was younger because the constant message from mass media is that all these actresses have amazing bodies that every girl should strive for. Also, it didn't help that some of my class mates who blossomed later than I did started calling me fat around this time. Kids will say anything to take the attention away from themselves to mask their insecurities but you don't know that when you're a kid. I definitely wasn't fat but that sort of thing stays with you.

Have you ever seen Eva Longoria or Jennifer Lopez next to a normal sized human being? I have seen them both on Oprah who I estimate to be about a size 16 and she looks gigantic next to them. Suddenly J.Lo isn't so booty-licious when you realize that she doesn't really have much of a booty on her size 2 frame. But the filmmakers and photographers are so good at staging that they make these people look normal. They create a completely fictional image of someone that most people can never hope to achieve.

What annoys me the most is when they have size 4 models in plus sized catalogs. The clothes are completely ill fitting and hanging off the models. Why does Roman's think I want to see a woman 1/3 my size modeling a dress I'm going to buy? What does that skinny bleep show me about how that dress is going to fit the curves of my body? Do you think that having someone skinny modeling the clothes is going to make them more attractive to the plus sized community? I have never bought a single article of clothing from any catalog that doesn't have models that are the same size as the clothing they sell. I love Lane Bryant and Torrid because they recognize who their target audience is and make sure people that their models look like their customers.

Admittedly, I am at the lower end of the plus size range so I can typically find clothes that fit me in "regular stores". But a lot of times the buttons on those shirts pull or the sleeves are too tight on the dresses etc. because they just took the size 4 and made it bigger and didn't account for anyone who wasn't shaped like a rectangle.

I propose that we call all these skinny models what they are: Undersized, Below Average, Freaks of Nature, Hungry. I could go on for days. I'm average and I love it and my husband loves it to. I don't think there will ever be a day when most of the people in magazines and catalogs look like me but that doesn't mean it doesn't get to me sometimes. I'm happy that my self esteem has blossomed as I've gotten older but I hate that millions of little girls are going to continue to go through what I went through just because the mainstream media is run by a bunch of idiots who are pushing the message that beauty only comes in one size.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Collie Down the Street

When I first moved to this neighborhood 4 years ago my dog Chale befriended a rough Collie named Lincoln. Lincoln was playing in his front yard with his owner's while I was walking Chale. They were about the same size, age and temperament so I thought they were a good match. It seemed like every time I walked Chale, Lincoln was outside. Lincoln belongs to an old, retired couple. They were frequently working in the yard and doing other activities outside so I didn't think there was anything strange about Lincoln being outside with them a lot.

It didn't take long until our first encounter with Lincoln "unattended". He was just roaming around his front yard with no owner's insight. When Chale and I walked by he started to follow us. I yelled at Lincoln to stay/stop/whatever commands I thought he might know but he continued to follow us. Eventually I started yelling for the owner's to come outside because Lincoln was crossing the street and I didn't want him to get hit by a car. Luckily Lincoln stopped following us once we broke into a jog and had gone several houses past his house.

The Lincoln sightings started to become a daily occurrence. I found myself changing our walk patterns to try and avoid their house but it is nearly impossible because of how close we live to each other. Lincoln became more possessive of his yard every time we walked by and would bark and growl at Chale and I. Chale is a 110 lb German Shepherd. He is a very nice dog but he is every bit the alpha male and very protective of me. So of course Chale challenges Lincoln with his own barking and growling. Now its to the point that even when Lincoln isn't in the yard, Chale barks and growls at the house.

I don't think it's because they're an older couple because I see tons of older people walking and playing with their dogs. The are very nice people but definitely not giving their high energy dog what he needs to be balanced and healthy. Sometimes they are sitting on the porch or in the backyard when Lincoln is running loose. For the most part, he listens to them when they tell him to stay but they are often not close enough to intervene.

I would like to say that this is the exception to the other dog owners in the neighborhood but we have several other off leash offenders (an Akita, a Maltese, a Pointer, a Standard Poodle and two German Shepherds to be specific). These are not dogs with an electric fence (I will cover that terrible situation in an another blog). These are dogs that are completely free whenever they are out and generally without any human chaperon.

I can't count the number of times that I have had to yell commands at other peoples dogs and practically run home to avoid these dogs. I don't want to get into a situation where Chale, myself or another dog could be injured but I fear it will come to that eventually. I live in the suburbs, not in the country, so I'm not sure why people think it's safe for their dogs to roam around the neighborhood. There is a lot of vehicle traffic in my neighborhood and I am grateful that no one's dog has been hit by a car yet. I think that these people are lazy and shouldn't own dogs.

Letting your dog roam free does not replace being walked or spending other quality time with humans. I feel sorry for these dogs but I don't know what I can do to solve the problem. Even if I take the time to give each of them a crash course in dog ownership and explain to them what is wrong with what they're doing I don't think it would make a difference. I would be the bitch in the neighborhood and their dogs would continue to run loose.

For now I'll stick to walking Chale at 5 am and 10 pm when I can because there aren't as many people out and I'll invest in some re-training to get rid of this new reactive behavior that he's developed against other dogs. My husband and I tried to walk Chale at 7 pm tonight and were reminded why that was such a bad idea. Sigh.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P Michael Jackson

What a depressing week it's been. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and now Michael Jackson. For the most part I have only heard positive tributes to Ed and Farrah but I have heard a steady stream of negative comments towards Michael Jackson.

I understand that Michael seriously tarnished his legacy during the second half of his career. The plastic surgeries, the skin lightening, hanging his baby out the window, the financial problems, the surgical mask and of course, the child molestation charges. I don't think we should forget the bad things that he has done but I don't think the time to recount them is on the day that he died.

I remember being really excited whenever a new Michael Jackson video was going to come out when I was a kid because they were always extremely creative. He perfected the art of the "mini-movie" music video. Thriller, Moonwalker, Remember the Times, Smooth Criminal were some of my favorites. His unique dance moves made the videos even more entertaining. I'll admit, I tried to moonwalk and all but broke my ankle but it was fun to try and music we could listen to and dance to as a family.

When the Jackson Story aired on TV in the mid-90's I was mortified at the abusive background that all the Jackson children had to endure. The movie made it seem like Michael experienced the most abuse because he was the most talented and the youngest boy. I don't know if this is true or not. I suspect all of the Jackson's are screwed up because of their childhood but the rest of them seem to be less troubled than Michael.

I'm not making excuses. I believe that there was some illegal behavior between Michael and underage children that any non-famous person would have gone to jail for. I wish the cases would have gone to trial so we could get all the facts. But they didn't which leads us all to speculate. It always concerns me when families take cash settlements from the people that they accuse of abusing them. If anyone that I love were molested I would do everything in my power to make sure that person spent as much time as possible in jail. There would be no sum of money large enough to let the person who abused someone I love walk free and possibly go on to abuse other innocent people.

I'm not going to remember Michael Jackson as a saint. I think the people who proclaim that Michael must be innocent and still dress in a red leather jacket with one white glove need to seek professional help. But I can acknowledge that he made a significant contribution to pop music and that his influence on current artists is undeniable if you've ever seen Justin Timberlake, Jamiriqui or Usher perform.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gay Marriage

Let me just start by saying that I have gay friends and family members. I have been exposed to gay people all my life and don't view them any differently than other people. For the people who say they don't know any gay people I would challenge that. It's probably that you don't know any openly gay people. I have heard that approximately 1 out of 5 people are gay. That doesn't mean that 1/5 of people are living a gay lifestyle. Many people choose to repress their feelings and live a heterosexual life or lead a double life on the "down low". Religion, family and friends and public persona are all factors that contribute to one's comfort level of living an openly gay life.

I don't think a person can stop being gay any more than I can stop being black. I think that you can choose to squash those feelings but that doesn't mean that you are no longer gay. There are a handful of priests who have come out and said that they are gay. These are men that will be celibate their entire lives but they were courageous enough to admit that their attraction is to men and not women. I love that. I wish I had that kind of courage.

I was raised Catholic and my husband's family is Mormon (the guilt would be overwhelming if either of us still practiced these religions). Both religions teach that you get married in order to have children. Children without marriage and marriage without children are both frowned upon. Birth control, abortion and homosexuality are all no-nos. I think its fine for a group to say "Within our own little sub-culture, we don't want people who don't live up to our moral ideals". But its not okay to try to extend their influence on the population at large.

This is supposed to be a country where you are free to practice any religion that you want but also a country where religion is completely separate from politics. Obviously that is not the case. Large sums of money come from various religious groups to politicians when certain topics are on the ballot. Religion has secured itself as a prime supporter for conservative candidates. These candidates then turn around and appeal to that segment of the population, no matter what percentage of the total population they represent because they have deep pockets. I don't agree with many of the rituals that I have seen in church or some people's ignorant interpretations of the bible in order to suit their own agendas. But I don't surround myself with these people and can easily avoid them in my daily life. I don't need to carry around a sign stating that these people are wrong and going to hell becuse they don't share my beliefs. I am capable of living my life to its fullest without having the rest of the world think exactly the same as I do.

What I don't understand is the highly vocal protestors that call themselves Christian, Mormon, etc. as they carry around signs with homophobic slurs and scream hateful things at innocent people. If you really beleive that God is watching us and judging all the bad people then let Him do that. Whatever happened to "Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house, Love thy neighbor, etc? If homosexuality is so evil that God is going to send them to hell when they die than why do you need to say anything? Why do you feel that you are in a position of authority to try and push your dogma on others? You are not teaching people about your religion. You are not showing compassion for your fellow man. You are using religion as an excuse for your bigotry.

Everyone in this country should have the same rights. I don't care if a man and woman live together for 10 years and never get married. That couple should have the same rights and my husband and I if they sign a piece of paper that says they are committed to each other. They same rights should be extended to same sex couples. Any two people in a long term committed relationship should get all the benefits that come with it. You can have a marriage between two ideas or two corporations, etc. Why have people decided that the word marriage is strictly the definition of man plus woman. There are several different definitions of marriage in the dictionary, why have we decided to define it so narrowly in this country? It is dissapointing that we are supposed to be the leader of hte free world but our social policies are severely lacking.

How will it hurt you or your family if a gay couple is allowed to have the same rights as you are? Gay people aren't having sex in the streets any more than heterosexual people are. By pretending that gay people are morally corrupt and gonig to ruin the lives of young children isn't going to make gay people dissapear. Just because you don't talk about it doens't mean that it goes away. Heterosexuality isn't taught in schools. It is the school's job to make sure that no one feels left out. Childrens' books with gay people in them don't teach children how to be gay and more than having an Asian couple in a book teaches children to be Asian. They teach children that everyone is born different and there is no reason to discriminate against someone because they are different. Different does not equal wrong.

If your child is gay and feels that they will not be accepted by you if they follow their heart and live a gay lifestyle then you are responsible for whatever happens to that child in the future. Gay children have a significantly higher rate of suicide and drpession than hetero children. Whether it is your child or not you can't honestly believe that being dead is better than bieng gay.

It wasn't so long ago it when it would have been illegal for me to vote because I am a black woman. My husband and I would not have been allowed to get marrid because he is a white man. Various groups argued that the bible teaches that women are inferior to men and that black people are different from white people. At that time, civil rights opponents twised bible verses around to support their bigotry. A lot of people died on both sides of these arguments. When we look back on these times in history we are ashamed at how ignorant our ancestors were and do not question that these policies were ignorant. I hope that we can one day say the same thing about gay marriage and other basic civil rights that are currently denied to homosexuals in this country.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trailers Gone Wild

I love watching movies. My husband and I go to the movie theater almost every week. We have an unlimited Netflix membership and our DVR is often full to capacity because we tape more movies than we can watch. One of the best parts about going to the movies is seeing all the trailers for upcoming releases. In the past few years the trailers have become spoilers for the movies they are promoting.

The last comedy I saw was "The Hangover". While it was a pretty good movie all of the funny parts were shown during the trailer and during the nonstop commercials for the movie leading up to its release. It was hard to really get into the movie because I knew what was going to happen. Whatever happened to the cryptic trailers that didn't tell you anything about the movie? I can understand wanting to drum up a little interest but you don't have to show the entire movie. It would have been amazing if Mike Tyson suddenly showed up on screen and no one knew he was going to be in the movie. But everyone knew and there was only polite laughter and not the huge response the film makers would have gotten otherwise. It's not a cameo if you promote the crap out of it in the trailer and during every commercial break.

Luckily, I watch a lot of independent and foreign films that don't get a lot of press in the mainstream media. I usually hear about these movies while listening to NPR or reading Time Magazine. When I see these movies I get the full movie experience. Sometimes I know little more than the basic plot of these movies. I am happy that Amelie, Little Miss Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire (and several others) were all movies that I saw based on NPR interviews and that I never saw a trailer or interview on Good Morning America about it until after I had seen the movies. I didn't really know what I was getting myself into in any of these cases but I was very happy with all three choices.

In addition to the movie trailers, I'm annoyed with television programs showing you a summary of the entire show immediately before the show comes on and at every commercial break. Seriously, stop it. I want to watch the show. I rarely watch live TV any more because I have to sing songs and put my fingers in my ears at every commercial break to avoid getting the entire plot of the 30 minute show. The DVR and the ability to skip all the commercials has saved my sanity but it still bugs me.

I don't understand the logic of all of these over previewing. Was there a demand for this? Who made the decision to give the milk away for free even though everyone was still buying cows? Grrr...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Remembering Daddy

My father was diagnosed with MS when I was 1 year old. He had been sick for many years before his diagnosis. While the diagnosis was depressing, it was a relief after various specialists had found nothing wrong with him and psychiatrist's had reported that it was all psychosomatic. He was able to work full time for about 5 years after that from what I remember. By that time he was almost completely blind, wheelchair bound and his speech had become slurred.

Instead of wallowing in self pity, my father took this time to become more active in my life. He always volunteered to be a chaperon on my school field trips. I distinctly remember my father telling stories to my class to keep us all quiet while we were waiting to leave. Because he couldn't see, he made up stories with a central character named Oscar. Looking back on things now I think the Oscar stories were partly based on experiences from his childhood and partly his fantastic imagination of things he wished he could experience. I attended a small private school so all the families knew each other. My father became something of a local celebrity. The teachers always counted on him to come on field trips and keep the class entertained during down moments. At that time he was able to get around with a cane or walker so getting him on and off the school bus wasn't that difficult.

As I got older and my father's disease progressed, he was no longer able to come on school trips but he still came to all my school plays and events. One of my favorite memories was going to the YMCA with my father for his aquatic therapy. When he was in the water his joints worked and he could walk for short distances. It filled him with so much joy. We went twice a week and it was one of the happiest times in my life.

My brother was born when I was 5. Unfortunately by the time he was 3 my father's illness had progressed to the point that he was no longer able to be as active as he had been with me. I was sad knowing that my brother would never have the experiences that I had. I did my best to do for my brother what my father had done for me but I know it wasn't the same.

My father was always a very devout Catholic. He went to Catholic school from nursery school through college. When it became difficult for him to go to mass, the Fathers would come to our house once a week for communion. I always struggled with Catholicism but I was very devoted to my father. I would read him passages from the Daily Word every morning before I went to school. When I got older and started going through my father's books I realized that he was fascinated with eastern religions, in particular Hinduism and the idea of reincarnation. I had always though that reincarnation must exist because it wouldn't be fair for people to suffer horrible tragedies in one life and never get the opportunity experience true happiness. Finding those books helped me understand my father's upbeat attitude. Yes, he strictly adhered to Catholic beliefs and truly felt that there was a reason that God had dealt him such a difficult life, but, at the same time, he found hope in reincarnation and the possibility of having another chance to lead a different life.

When I was 21 my father died from complications from MS. The hospital called the house just after 11 pm on Wednesday June 18, 1998. Father's Day was that Sunday. The gift and the card I had sent him from college arrived three days after he died. I was at peace when he died because I knew that his suffering had ended and that his new life might be reborn some time in the future. Every Father's Day has a special meaning for me since it is also the anniversary of my father's death. Sometimes I cry as I pour through old photo albums and books of his. Other times I dance and act silly because he would of loved that. But I always honor him and remember all the joy that he brought to me life. It wasn't always easy having a disabled father but I am proud that it was my life. I love you Daddy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Insomniac Cafe

I have never been much of a sleeper. Even as a child, I had problems sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. I think I can blame half of it on situations that I have been placed in and the other half on bad genes.

My father was diagnosed with MS when I was 1 year old. At a very young age I realized that this disease was going to kill him at an early age. We had nurses in our house all the time and made several scheduled and emergency visits to the hospital. As his disease progressed, he became more dependent on my mother and I to take care of him. I remember several times when my mother woke me up in the middle of the night to call 911 or to wake my brother up so we could go to the hospital. Eventually, I became paranoid that I was going to wake up one morning and find my father dead. So pushing these thoughts out of my head so I could sleep became increasingly difficult over the years. I started keeping a journal when I was 5 which helped me cope with the stresses of having a chronically ill father and all that came along with it but it didn't alleviate my sleep problems.

I was always a hyperactive child. Maybe if my parents had enrolled me in more activities I would have had an outlet for my energy and started to sleep. But my mother worked full time and had to deal with the stress of raising my brother and I and having a chronically ill husband so she just didn't notice. I had tons of books, a TV and a phone in my room and enough toys to keep my occupied all night while my parents slept. My brother and my mother attended therapy religiously for most of my childhood so I'm not sure why professional help was never sought out for my sleeping problems. I suspect that because my insomnia didn't lead to serious behavior problems, like my brother had, she didn't feel it was that big of a deal.

Very early on my lack of sleep helped me develop a strange cult following. At every sleep over, camping trip, school trip, I was the last one asleep and the first one awake. I liked this attention a lot because I was very insecure and wanted everyone to like me. I found myself obsessing over maintaining this trend. I don't think I intentionally didn't sleep but by worrying about maintaining this image I definitely made the problem worse.

By the time I went away to college at 18, I was a severe insomniac. Sometimes I would struggle to get 2 hours of a sleep a night. My mother got me these herbal sleeping pills that she heard were very effective but they didn't work for me. I went from the minimum recommended dose of 2 pills per night to an unhealthy 8 pills a night and still couldn't sleep. My insomnia allowed me to be very active in sports and clubs in college in addition to carrying my major and two minors and partying every night. It was probably the most unhealthy time of my life.

In 2001 I became a homeowner for the first time, one year after I got my first real job after college. Within 2 weeks I had adopted a wonderful German shepherd from the local Humane Society. The Humane Society suspected that Chale (pronounced like Charlie without the R) had been thrown out by a local breeder because of his obvious hip displaysia. He was 45 pounds and about nine months old when they picked him up as a stray. I grew up with a German shepherd (Rin Tin Tin, I know not original) who lived to the ripe old age of 12. He had hip displaysia and still managed to live a full and wonderful life so I knew Chale wouldn't be that much of a challenge.

Three years later my wonderful dog and I had settled into a nice routine. He was a healthy 85 lbs and the frequent target of rough play from my 6 year old tabby cat Tiger. One morning when I was walking Chale he started having a seizure. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and put on medication. Occasionally I would come home from work and find evidence that he had a seizure while I was gone. I felt very guilty when I left the house because I feared he might be dead when I got home. Very quickly I noticed a pattern with his seizures and was able to anticipate when they would happen within a few days of the actual date.

He usually had seizures very early in the morning or late at night. The seizures were very loud and woke me up violently whenever they happened. I would get up several times a night whenever Chale rolled over or did the normal things a dog does at night because I was terrified that he was having a seizure. Luckily, I have been blessed with having "dog people" as bosses at work and they allowed me to use my sick time to stay home with Chale on particularly difficult days. I can't count the number of times I fell asleep next to him on his dog bed or in the corner of the room on the floor. I usually passed out from exhaustion and woke up dazed and not completely sure how I ended up where I was.

Through years of trial and error and trying several traditional and alternative treatments, I am happy to say that Chale has been seizure free for over a year now. But that hasn't helped my sleep deprivation problems. I still jump out of bed every time he moves. My husband (who joined our crazy household in 2006) is very good at telling me "He's okay.", "He's just dreaming"; etc. when I jump out of bed but I can't undo these nervous habits that I have developed.

I have turned Chale into a bit of an insomniac as well. He is so used to getting up early with me that he gets up in the middle of the night expecting to watch a movie or go outside because that is what we had done for years when he was really sick. This morning I got the "doggy stare" at 2:45 am. Chale (now a thick 110 lbs due to the seizure medicine) is sitting at my feet as I click away like we have done on so many other mornings. Unlike him I don't get to sleep on the couch all day to make up for the interruption in sleep.

As I have gotten older I learned that my mother cannot sleep without the TV. The only way she can push all the stressful thoughts out of her head is to fill it with All in the Family re-runs until she passes out. I have also learned that my mother's side of the family has a history of metabolic disorders that can cause sleep problems. I have been tested for everything and haven't been diagnosed with anything that requires medical treatment. I have been told that I have a couple of "syndromes", which have no treatment but have many of the same symptoms as the full blown diseases that they could develop into as I get older. This, of course is no consolation to me.

I have not given up hope and will continue to try different alternative treatments that I have read about in magazines and on the Internet but I suspect that I will suffer from these problems for another 33 years.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Happened to Dan Patrick?

I have been an avid fan of Dan Patrick for as long as I can remember. I listen to his radio show daily. I loved him on Sportscenter and in various other ESPN appearances that he made in commercials and at sporting events. When he announced that he was leaving ESPN in 2008 I was worried that we would be losing a great radio and TV personality.

By the end of 2008, we found out that Dan was going to have a column in Sports Illustrated and a new radio show on a different network. ESPN has their own sports magazine which is very popular but it definitely does not have the readership or the prestige of Sports Illustrated. I could understand his desire to move into a different direction after almost 18 years of working for ESPN.

Unfortunately, the Sports Illustrated column is just a cliff notes version of a popular interview from the past week of Dan's radio show. There is no new material and no actual journalism. It is disappointing and I hope that in the future he actually starts writing a column. I suspect that he has the knowledge and ability to write a column but that he has found that it is easier to just regurgitate old information.

Initially I didn't notice a difference in Dan's new radio show. The show featured the same regular guests and jokes that we were used to hearing on the ESPN radio show. But the tone of the show quickly turned from fun-loving and entertaining to bitter and unprofessional.

I don't know if there is some behind the scenes drama that lead to Dan leaving ESPN. He made the decision to leave, they did not push him out, but maybe there were extenuating circumstances that the general public is not aware of that made it unbearable for him to continue working at ESPN. Whatever the reason, his constant attacks on ESPN personalities reduce his credibility.

Dan critiques every major interview and every personnel change that occurs at ESPN. He has appointed himself as the judge for all that ESPN does and tries to push his opinions as facts and not the blatant, generally unfounded criticism that is really is. I don't care about his opinion of Peter Gammond's interview with Alex Rodriguez. I don't want to hear about how ESPN didn't train Emmitt Smith properly to be an on air personality. On a daily basis he mocks ESPN personalities and uncovers "secrets" about what he witnessed while he was there that he claims are still going on and make ESPN a horrible place. Get a therapist Dan and get over it. There have been days when I had to turn off your show because the constant ESPN bashing is not what I tuned in for. Talk about sports. I get it, ESPN is the center of the sports universe so it is impossible not to mention them at all. But the personal attacks are getting old.

The worst part is the listeners who are pandering to Dan's ESPN bashing. It's like the listeners feel like they are Dan's buddies and bash ESPN in e-mails and phone calls to Dan's radio show to try to endear themselves to him. It's pitiful. Dan used to be insightful and entertaining but now he sounds like a jilted lover. You decided to leave Dan, they didn't fire you, why are you so bitter. Do you think that the constant criticism of ESPN makes your show more relevant? You come across as sad and insecure and that reduces the credibility of your show.

A lot of media personalities got their start on ESPN and have now moved on to different avenues. It is fun to see the old ESPN commercials and interviews that feature these personalities. If it weren't for ESPN many of these people wouldn't be where they are now; it was the springboard for their careers. ESPN is not going to remove these pieces from their archives because the people are no longer employed by ESPN. I'm sure when you work for ESPN you sign a contract that states that ESPN owns every interview, commercial, etc. that you appeared in while working for the network. So why do you need to mention every single time that you appear on ESPN on your new radio show and obsess over it for the entire show? You worked there for 18 years. Do you really think they are going to erase everything that you touched during that time because you are no longer there? You're not that important Dan.

The best part of all of this is that ESPN isn't responding to your taunts. If you break a story or get an interview on your show ESPN gives you credit for that and then moves on to discuss the story. There are no snarky remarks or cheap shots taken at you. Because really your just another source like any other media personality.

You claim that ESPN does not allow many of their experts/personalities to appear on your show because they are bitter about you leaving. The reality is that until your show stops being an ESPN-bashing show who would want to come on your show? Would you accept a dinner invitation from someone who hated your wife and talked about how much he hated her constantly? Of course not.

There are moments when he sounds like the old Dan. In these moments, the show is sublime entertainment for even the most casual sports fan. But these moments are coming less frequently. I challenge Dan and his cast to go an entire show without making disparaging remarks to ESPN. I encourage him to make the most of his new career and stop obsessing about the past. I really don't want to listen to Colin Cowherd but lately you haven't left me any other options.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Black American not African American

In my June 7, 2009 Sunday paper there was an article about interracial couples. I was excited to see this article because I myself am in an interracial marriage. But I was disappointed by the way that the author described the people in the article. I wrote a letter to the editor, expressing my views but the paper chose not to publish it. I figured that they had received so many responses that they opted for one more articulate than mine. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I went to the website for the newspaper and found that several other people had the same opinion that I had but the newspaper chose not to publish their thoughts either. On one hand, I can understand the newspaper choosing not to publish my letter in the print version of the newspaper since the same view had already been expressed online. But, on the other hand, most of the people in my area read the print version of the paper and will never see those comments. The newspaper's decision not to publish my letter was cowardly if it was done to prevent conflict.

So for my own satisfaction, my letter is attached below:

While Ngoc Huynh's article “Three generations, three stories” was well-intentioned, it perpetuates a inaccurate label that has become the norm in this county: All black people are African American. When he describes the two Caucasians, he identifies that they are of Dutch and French descent and Italian, Irish, Polish and Canadian Mohawk descent but the black people are just listed as African American.
An African American is a person who emigrated from Africa and moved to America. The Lost Boys of Sudan are African Americans. There are many African Americans who live in this country who are not black. When you fill out a job application the choices aren't Polish, Irish, Italian, etc. They are Caucasian and African American Why not Caucasian and black? The color of a person's skin might provide some insight into where a person is from but it doesn't define their entire make up. Unless a person is Native American, their ancestors emigrated to this country which defines most Americans.
I don't understand the necessity to marginalize an entire group of people as less American simply because of the color of their skin. When I go to other countries no one ever asks me if I'm from Africa. I have been mistaken for German and Spanish, among other nationalities, while traveling outside of the US and it is a refreshing change. In this country, I would be considered less American than an immigrant from Egypt because my skin is darker than theirs. My ancestors were of German, African and American Indian descent from what I have uncovered from my family tree so far and I honor all of them. My skin is brown so in this country I am just African American. This label denies my rich cultural history and reduces me to less American than my Caucasian counterparts.

The original article can be found at www.syracuse.com/cny