Monday, May 21, 2018

Health and Money

It seems that if I'm not sharing news stories on social media, my social media ends up being all about health and money.

Health and money... money and health.  Trying to make ends meet on Social Security.  Trying to get the medical tests scheduled.  Struggling with medical bills that should have been/are/ might be covered by insurance.  Dealing with pain, blood sugar drops, anemia, migraines...

And yet these are the two issues most on my mind these days, and the issues that make me feel so isolated.  I don't socialize as much.  I have no money to go places, and the free places? Well, with the way I've been feeling, being anywhere too long, or sometimes just leaving the apartment is out of the question.  I haven't even gotten the dog to the dog park in days.

Things aren't DIRE.  My rent and utilities (in fact all my bills) are up to date.  I have food in the apartment, probably enough to last until my social security arrives.  What I don't have is money for the iron formula my doctor wants me to take, and money to get a couple pairs of pants (I only have two).  I'm not dying anytime soon that I know of.  I'm pretty sick most nights, and that makes me tired and gives me grief with pain and migraines during the day, but it's not like chronic illness is something new to me... and that I don't expect an increasing share of bad days as I age.

But what this all does is isolate me, and makes me feel even more like an outsider, someone who doesn't belong. 

Here in Petaluma, people have or come from money.  People have much higher incomes, and those who don't have family members (or ex-husbands) who are well heeled and pay for their apartments and give them spending money.  It's hard to explain, "No, I don't have $5, not even in my bank accounts, so I won't be going to senior bingo", or to exercise class, or to any of the other things around here that "just" cost $5.  I gave my last $5 to the senior center.  That day I saw the lawyer and went to a Middle Eastern dance exercise class.  Obviously one of those things they let me in free for.

I don't have people over here. I have limited seating.  My futon is just about it, that and two wooden chairs, and a slipcover chair that currently doesn't have a slipcover on it.  I need to replace the futon mattress (or the futon with a couch!) and get the cover for the chair, then I can invite a few people over.  Of course, it's hard to meet people to invite over when I don't get out much.

Now I'm not one of those seniors with overflowing apartments, with all the walls covered and everything stacked and packed throughout the apartment.  I believe in minimalism.  The one neighbor who came into my apartment looked around for a comfortable place to sit, and said "well, this is nice.  I suppose this is all you really need" but couldn't sit in the too low chair, and was too uncomfortable on the lumpy futon.  My walls are pretty bare right now (at least until I get some frames for some of my prints and photographs) and I do want to get some painting done, but there is hardly room on my little table for my printer AND my little folding easel. 

I know things will get better with time.  I have some medical tests coming up next week that will hopefully give me some answers. I have a financial plan which has allowed me to steadily increase my credit rating and pay off the car repairs, vet bills, and cost of my eyeglasses from last year, and I've got a shopping list of lower cost but still fairly nice things on Amazon.com that I can use to at least make my apartment more manageable.  But so far it's been some of those little things (toasters and the second hand smoothie machine that doesn't smoothie anything, the desk chair from the rummage sale, the spring coat...) that has kept me with less money in my pocket to do some of the things I want to do socially. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Where were you in '62?


This weekend is Petaluma's salute to American Graffiti, which was filmed, in part, right here in Petaluma.


(click image to enlarge)
Map from Cruisin' the Boulevard Inc. 
This afternoon the celebration kicked off in the parking lot of the shopping center next door to the apartments, with a speech by the mayor and viewing of classic cars which would, tomorrow morning, be cruising through downtown Petaluma.

Of course I meandered over to take a look.  Many of the classic cars were from years after 1962, including some really nice Mustangs and some Camaros (I favor the former over the latter) and some reproductions (including the police car) and some of the actual cars and props from the movie.

the mayor kicks things off, and announces scholarship winners

this year's t-shirts and other memorabilia for sale


line from the movie, written and signed by Candy Clark, who played "Debbie"

"That's almost a motorcycle, and I just LOVE motorcycles!"

There is simply no way for me to have photographed all the cars.  In addition to those in the reserved spaces, there were many classic cars scattered throughout the parking lot.  Apparently, this was the biggest Petaluma's Salute to American Graffiti yet.

Here's a taste:

these cars were actually outside the main area, there were way more cars than reserve spaces!


inside the reserve area, you can see the booths in the background.



and there was one vehicle... obviously NOT a classic, which took advantage of a spot in front of three grocery stores... advertising ANOTHER grocery store:


There were also silent auctions and other fundraisers going on during this, some to buy AEDs (emergency defibrillators), and some to support the Petaluma High School auto shop program.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mothers (to)Day

When I was a young mother, holidays and birthdays were planned far in advance, and celebrated to the fullest.  I doubt that when my daughter was 2 that she understood that spending $2000 on Christmas presents and clothing and food and the tree was an outrageous amount for the 1980s.  I'm not sure my son understood that the ponies I'd rented for his birthday one year didn't arrive because of the wet weather.  I've hired clowns, baked for days and sometimes weeks before holidays, made my own Easter Chocolate Rabbits (and painted them in detail with dyed white chocolate) and no matter how poor we were (there was a year I cut up my towels to make teddy bears, cut up my clothing to make dolls, and bought a dowel to make a hobby horse) that every effort was made to make that day special, to make my kids aware that they were the center of my attention, and that this was all for THEM.

By the time they became teens, a lot of that fell by the wayside, and I would step aside and let them celebrate with their friends more.  They weren't as interested in spending the time with mom, and I was disappointed in some regards, but in others, happy, because this was the kind of independence that healthy kids develop:  they start to fledge.

I think that's where Mother's Day comes in, because the mom is left back at the nest, in most cases, when the youngsters fledge.  Her work isn't done until they leave the nest for good.  So she's still sticking around to support her babies until she knows they can handle it on their own.  Now with birds, they take off one day and there's no looking back. With humans, that varies to some degree.

I am not so old yet as to be feeble, but I'm not a young chick anymore. I think my kids still picture me as that fighting single mom who managed to buy them a house, who drove them cross country with few possessions to start a new life, who always managed somehow.  Oh, they know on a rational level that there's nothing superhuman about me, but they still expect, on some level, superhuman results.  I think they think I'm out here, a thousand miles away, adventuring.  And yeah, to some degree I do that... I mean, I keep LIVING, not merely surviving, the best I can.  But on most days I have to deal with chronic pain,  I have to wonder "is this new tumor cancer this time around?", I have to struggle with keeping food on the table and a roof over my head.  Life isn't all whale-watching boats and hikes in National Parks.

I am not Super Mom.

So on days like today, when I haven't seen any of my kids in about two years, when it's a day celebrating motherhood, I try to make that day as special for me as I made holidays for them.  Today I'd planned special meals for myself from breakfast to my evening treat of dipped strawberries and red wine.  I planned on making it a housework-free day.  I planned to just spend the day celebrating motherhood.

But to be honest, I'm just not feeling it.

My apartment is in the front of the building, near guest parking.  Today I'll have a front row seat to the same events that played out at Easter, only magnified:  cars rolling up and unloading men and women with flower and balloon arrangements to see their parents, some with grandchildren in tow.  Elderly (a little older than me) women in their Sunday best being lead out to cars by their grown sons for a Mothers Day Brunch.  This place is a hive of activity on holidays.  Then there are a few of us, the women like me, who remain behind, alone.  And while being alone is tough on a day to day basis, on birthdays and holidays it can feel like a gut-punch.

Maybe I expect too much.  I don't expect ponies and clowns.  And I can't say exactly what it is I want, what I need from today.  I just didn't want it to be something more than the little joy of knowing the laundry machines would be open for use because everyone else was out celebrating.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Oh, Sonoma!

There is a bit of backstory to today's trip, part of which involves getting lost coming home from Vacaville a week ago, and part of which involves a medical appointment. But I'm going to skip the details today, and go right to the photos, mostly because I'm tired and anemic and I have a whole lot to say about the General, about the Bear Flag Revolt, and about living history museums and amazing rangers and docents, which I just don't have the energy to get into right now. So, do what I'm doing. Enjoy just a few of the 6 dozen photos I took today:


a corner of the rose garden in the town square.  It also holds a seating area. The square has a number of fountains, two ponds, a playground, an amphitheater, and the city hall, and every inch of it is amazingly beautiful.  Unlike many town squares, this one was very much in use, families playing, tourists taking photos with the flowers and fountains, and elderly people sitting and just enjoying the afternoon weather. 

The Bear Flag Monument in the town square. You can make out the playground and the amphitheater behind it.  California was it's own nation for 25 days as a result of the Bear Flag Revolt. 

The barracks.  This is on the property of General Vellejo, who owned the rancho which is now Petaluma Adobe State Park.  The general lived in Sonoma, and retired to a newer house in the "back" of the park (I didn't get there today) and the day to day operation of the rancho in Petaluma was left to his hirelings.

a caretta in the courtyard.  I pretty much end up photographing every caretta I see.  I haven't figured out why.

a very old reproduction of the original Bear Flag.  The one intact original flag known (story goes there were four made) was sent to San Francisco to the museum for safe keeping decades ago, where it subsequently was destroyed in a fire as a result of the Great Earthquake.

The Mission.  The LAST mission on the mission trail, and the only one to be built under Mexican (as opposed to Spanish) rule, and an important barrier to the southward spread of the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been working it's way down from what is now Alaska.

Across the street from the mission is the old gold-rush era saloon. It's closed and used for storage.  The building belongs to the park system, but since it hasn't been retrofitted to meet earthquake standards, it can't be opened to the public.

The mission chapel.  The chapel itself has been reworked a number of times, and contains elements from Spanish, Mexican, Miwok design.

California wild poppies. They're EVERYWHERE.  These are in front of the mission.

I'm guessing this is where the Bear Flag was actually raised.  There's a huge timber flag poll a couple feet from this marker, which sits across the street from the barracks. 

I hope, at some point, to revisit some of this and tell some of the history and describe better some of the points of interest in Sonoma.  I look forward to visiting there again.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

They Way-Back Machine

Looking through my online history in the graphics I've stored for previous websites, I realize I spent well over a decade posting on a site almost exclusively about weight loss, and that site had a HUGE number of followers (as well as the associated Facebook page).  Looking back, part of me understands, because it IS a struggle for some of us.  On the other hand, I worry that women in general have become obsessive about their worries about physical shape, weight, and appearance.

It's something I'm guilty of as well. I'd like to say it's all about health, but there were risks I was willing to take in order to be "thin"... or at least thinnER.  Back in those days, it wasn't unusual for me to head to the gym early in the morning for a NIA class, followed by a stretch and tone, followed by circuit training, then off to the pool for an hour of cardio and an hour of strength in the warm water (92°) pool.  I'd come back often in the evening for Tai Chi.  In retrospect, 6 hours a day was a lot of time spent exercising.  Back then it was pretty much my life.


The blog itself went through a number of transformations. It started as Weight1Day, where I'd already lost several pounds after moving out of what was essentially a food desert, and found that whole foods were more filling, delicious, and apparently healthy.  I started cutting out some of the snack foods from my life, but not with deprivation. The idea was if I wanted some sort of snack food, I could have it... in 24 hours... if I still wanted it.  Generally I didn't.  Wait one day became weight1day. 

After that, I wanted something more focused on goal than the method of the diet, especially when I started hitting the gym, so I went to Fabulous@40.  Of course, aging changed that eventually.

A few years in I stalled (about 100lbs down) and ended up going to get gastric bypass, after which I lost another nearly 100lbs before I started passing out from hypoglycemia.  It's important to note here that I wasn't down to some skinny-mini proportions.  I was, at that point, still considered "obese".  At that point I also ran my first 5K.  And blogging about the health issues associated with massive weight loss just started bogging me down.  And of course the readers didn't want to hear about the bad stuff that can happen, they just wanted to see the before and during shots.  Because I never got down to my goal weight (missed it by 10 lbs) and because I never even ASSUMED I'd get out of the "obese" range, I always considered my photos "before" and "during"... I knew back then that health, weight loss, and fitness were going to be an ongoing struggle.


I'm still struggling with weight, but also issues related to the weight loss and my surgery:  hypoglycemia, and anemia, which I probably had before, but has been dangerously increased by my weight loss surgery, and other stomach issues which keep me awake many nights, leading to additional pain, fatigue, and a few ER visits. 

But the big thing I've had to let go of over the last little more than a decade is the idea that at some point I was going to have the body I wanted: petite but curvy, the sexy 20-something body I never had.  Let me tell you, there comes a point when you've gone BEYOND fabulous@50 and know that you're NOT going to publish fabulous@60 when you KNOW that there's no going back and getting that 20-something body without major surgical intervention.

After passing the half decade mark in half century, I learned the difference between focusing on fantasy and focusing on potential, and launched a new website.


and I found very quickly that I was writing to an audience of less than a half dozen, rather than the few thousand followers I had at my heyday at Fab50. 

In the last couple years, I've noticed a shift, however.  More people are embracing their bodies (I was initially revolted by "fat acceptance", but have had a shift in thinking) and a small group of older women are embracing their grays and wrinkles.

In some ways I'm part of that.  I've stopped dyeing my hair.  I don't wear a lot of makeup.  I joke that I'm at that age where I'm not fooling anyone anymore, but it's more than that.  Every day I have to struggle to reconcile the old lady I see in the mirror with the 20 something disco queen inside.  It's hard to give up on a dream.

Today I welcome the gray, but resent the "goose neck".  The one thing I can change easily is the one thing I don't feel a need to change. The things I can't change are the very things that vex me.  I suppose, in some respects, that hasn't changed much since I started Weight1Day, talking about health, but secretly longing for a "bikini body".  I would like to say I'm "aging gracefully", but I sometimes feel like I'm being dragged into age kicking and screaming. It's a process. But I'm not going to make a whole web page about it.




Sunday, May 6, 2018

Settling in, settling down, settling for...

I haven't gone to a lot of the places and events I've put on my calendar.  I'm in another bout of active night-sicks, as I've come to call it.  I do have a new referral for a new surgeon, so that will help.  Mostly now I'm concentrating a lot on getting the apartment the way I want it.  Figuring out what I need (and what I don't need) and making spaces for all the things I want to do. 

Yesterday I went to a benefit rummage sale.  I finally got a knife set and block (something I've been wanting for years, but not willing to pay for, but I got this great brand-new set, still wrapped and in the box, for $4) and a chair for my desk/ painting area, which, unfortunately, is still a 4ft folding table with so much stuff on it I have no room to paint, which has prompted me to put an inexpensive L-shaped desk on my Amazon Wish List.   I also picked up a lovely two tier red wire basket to put fruits and veggies in on my counter, only to find that my cabinets are about 2 inches too low for this thing to fit.  Now I'm trying to decide if I can use it for something else, or if I should donate it back somewhere.

I also picked up a really nice paper shredder (one that would have cost nearly $100 new) for $4, and spent a while yesterday shredding all the papers and old records I'd been storing up to take to be shredded "some day". 

Exciting, yeah?

But that's pretty much my life right now.  Oh, and drama with the LA DPSS over my SNAP benefits.  I had a phone interview for recertification (so my paperwork could be transferred up here) and the caseworker never called.  I spent two days trying to get in touch with her, calling the service line as well as her phone, and she never called back. Supervisors told me this was handled and she'd call...  but nothing... until yesterday when I got a letter saying that "because I'd failed to keep my interview..."  So it looks like more drama during the week, which I'd pretty much set aside to deal with health issues, and have doctor appointments scheduled during.

Because of medi-cal issues (medicaid) I'm financially short this month, since premiums are coming out of my Social Security check.  Plans to get a county park pass have been scratched for the time being, which means my plans to see the beautiful Sonoma wildflowers at Helen Putnam park, and doing some birding at Shollenberger Park are also out of the question.  And I'm scrapping goat cuddling this weekend in order to go to the food bank,  and some events in Petaluma (including the Great Chili Cookoff)  next weekend to go to the COTS rummage sale, assuming I have anything left.

So I suppose, in honor of Mother's Day, even though I'm not mothering, I'm still getting domestic work done... settling in, and setting up for better days ahead.  There will be other years for spring flowers.  There will be other chili cook offs, and other days to cuddle goats. This month I'm working on health and home. It'd make for some pretty dull blogging, but this is RL.