31 July 2007


Let’s just get this out of the way: I really, really, really, really want a cigarette.

Yes, I am still wearing a nicotine patch. No, there are no cigarettes within a mile of my current position. No, I will not go to the little store and buy some. No, I will not be crabby with Mr. Wren just because I want a cigarette and can’t have one. But ohhhh how I’d like to be crabby. Almost as much as I’d like a cigarette.

I’ll wear a patch for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to not smoke. But for now, to calm my nerves, I’ll light a stick of incense. Nag Champa. Reminds me of some parties I went to way back in the day, when we smoked tobacco and other substances with reckless abandon. I was immortal back then. Now I know better.

There. The sweet smoke curls up into the warm air, almost like cigarette smoke but not. A little Ravi Shankar on the stereo and the illusion is almost complete.

I’ve stopped smoking before this, once for two whole years before I was overcome by stress and a lack of willpower and started again, thinking “just one. I can smoke just one and not smoke more.” Wrong. But this is the first time I’ve stopped smoking while also dieting. It means I can’t substitute snacks for smokes. This is good for stopping the weight gain, but totally maddening mentally. So I’ve been forced to do other things instead, like clean the house. Toothbrush the corners. I’m learning to cook Indian cuisine. I can’t sit in one spot for long, you see, or I start growing teeth and longing for a smoke and the mysterious quiet that steals over me with the first lungful.

On the bright side, I’m losing weight – 25 pounds since mid-April. (Applause is encouraged.) I’m safety-pinning my drawers to keep them from falling down. It’s possible that I’ll have a waist again before long. I’m seeing traces of the slender, long neck I once had and my cheekbones are hinting at a full return. My eyes look bigger and I’ve lost at least one soft chin. When I can feel my hipbones through my skin, no longer amply padded over, I’ll know I’m done.

There’s a ways to go yet. While I’d like to shed all the extra poundage I gained during 15 years of work behind a desk, lots of good eating and little exercise all at once, I know it’s better to do it slowly. Make it permanent. I’m told it means a change of lifestyle if I mean to spend the second half of my time on Earth slim, strong and healthy. Well, I’m changing. There are moments when I’m kicking and screaming into the change, but I’m doing it all the same.

Mr. Wren and I are walking every morning now. Some days it’s two miles, some days three. We're both disastrously out of shape, so we’re taking it slow and easy. Trying to make it pleasant. We go down the mountain a ways to the El Dorado Trail, which is perfect for walkers, bikers, joggers and equestrians. The trail is paved, well off the main highway and meanders gently uphill through chaparral, oak woods and sugar pine forest. Each day I gimp around after the walk. Each day I remind myself that I’m in flux, that my body is relearning how to use up the calories I eat, that my metabolism, which was practically asleep, is waking up, yawning, stretching and looking around. Saying to itself “Holy shit. When did I turn 50?!

Patience. Patience. Patience.

All this is to explain the scarcity of posts these last few months. Change means relearning to concentrate and write without the benefit of a cigarette burning away in the ashtray next to my elbow. It means learning all over again to be creative without the calming effect of nicotine or of nibbly food. I’ll do it. I hope, in the meantime that you’ll bear with me and stop by now and then. I promise you I will write. I will post. And before long, I’ll be back to posting every other day or so. Maybe more.


The photo above was taken on the El Dorado Trail in Placerville two mornings ago at about 7 a.m.

05 July 2007

Car pooling for Kevlar

You know, I’ve been wondering what I can do to support the soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm not happy that they’ve been forced to go to war, but I’m grateful for their selfless service and I want them all home, alive, as soon as possible.

Not being a yellow-ribbon-magnetic-bumper-sticker person, and not having anyone in my immediate family serving in the military at the moment, it’s sort of a conundrum knowing what to do. Sure, there are lots of organizations helping soldiers and their families which I’m sure would be pleased to take my money, but I’ve already given to a number of them, and my resources are not unlimited.

I'm relieved to announce to that President Bush has been giving this issue a lot of thought lately, too. According to Tim Grieve at Salon.com:

In a Fourth of July speech at Martinsburg, W.Va., Wednesday, George W. Bush asked Americans to find a way to show their gratitude to the U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There are many ways for our fellow citizens to say thanks to the men and women who wear the uniform and their families," the president said. "You can send a care package. You can reach out to a military family in your neighborhood with a mom or dad on the front lines; you can ask somebody, 'What can I do to help you? What do you need?' You can car pool. You can be on bended knee and pray for a soldier and their families."

Most of his suggestions I already thought of, except the praying one, since I figure that’s a waste of time. But ... “You can car pool?”

How in the -- oh, I get it! If I car pool on a regular basis, then I’ll save a few gallons of gasoline, which is made from oil, which we’re starting to run out of and anyway, burning it is destroying the planet, so using less oil during my next trip to town by car pooling will help conserve it and if all of us do this, then we won’t use so much and more oil can be used in Kevlar production, which is what body armor is made of and more body armor can be made for the soldiers to wear and maybe they’ll only get their arms and legs blown off by roadside bombs rather than taking shrapnel to the heart or lungs or guts, which would be more likely to kill them quickly, but if they just get their limbs blown off, then at least they’re still alive and they’ll be able to make good use of the new plastic artificial arms, hands, legs and feet which, because we have more oil, which is needed to make plastics, we’ll be able to produce for them.

What a really good idea, George.

04 July 2007

A president in name only

Keith Olbermann commented last night about the Bush presidency and the state of our nation on the eve of Independence Day:

Olbermann is a fine speech writer and an inspiring orator, and I'm glad and grateful that he's not afraid to speak the words most of the citizens of this country are thinking. People like him are (were?) vital to our democracy.

But I've learned over the last six long years that Bush, Cheney and the current administration don't pay the slightest bit of attention to the people of this nation. Olbermann's words should shame these dishonest men deeply, but you and I know they don't. This administration has no honor and no respect for the people they have sworn to serve.

What a terrible thing they've done to America. It's Independence Day, but it's more clear than ever that the American dream that came alive that day in 1776 is dying -- and in fact, may have breathed its last yesterday when Bush commuted the just and fair prison sentence of his henchman Lewis Libby.

I find nothing to celebrate this year.

Tip o’the hat to The Carpetbagger Report for posting the video and transcript.