Lumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc (or Why Policies Can Suck It) – Part 3


Josephine Rae Born 8.16.11

Part 3:  Dopey

It occurred to me while planning this post that I may start out talking about my experience in the hospital and migrate to a conversation about depression.

Do not be alarmed.

I’m actually dreading this story.  You see, I haven’t allowed myself to revisit it for fear of that evil bastard, self-pity, to rear its head.  I think the moral is an important one though, so here is my third rant in the series:

When my daughter was born, she was a healthy 8 lb. 14 oz baby.  Not bad, right?  To us, she looked like a skinny little slip of a thing compared to my firstborn who tipped the scales at 10 lbs. 1 oz.  I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t fed her enough or that my constant Benadryl or coffee habit had diminished her potential for Amazonian greatness.  Still, for five days early, nearly 9 lbs isn’t a bad birthweight.

Once in my hospital room, my nurse suggested I try to feed the sleeping baby.  I asked if I should wake her to do so and she gave a non-committal reply to “just try.”  I gave it a half-hearted effort because little Jellybean was completely cashed. Being born is hard!  Sadly, the next time the nurse came in, she informed me that my daughter’s blood sugar had gone below the hospital’s threshold for normal and that she had to go to the NICU.

I was incredulous.  I asked if I could just feed her and have the sugars tested again.  It seemed like a reasonable and logical approach.  (Before you dismiss my unprofessional medical opinion, when her sister, Ginormica, was born, the nurses sagely put a bottle of formula in Daddy’s hand and a tube taped to his finger so she could feed straight away.  This happened a few times before my milk came in and we were none the wiser about HER risk for low blood sugar.  The nurses simply mitigated it.)

This time, however, Dopey, as she will be henceforth referred to, mistakenly informed me that she “had” to take my daughter away but that I could visit her in the NICU to feed her whenever I wanted.  My daughter was then taken to the Intensive Care Unit for Newborns and put on monitors for her heart rate and blood oxygen levels.  She wasn’t given any formula.  She wasn’t put on a IV.

And she didn’t come back to my room for FIFTEEN HOURS.

There are several problems with this:

  1. Newborns should be with their mothers unless there is a serious medical risk that would prevent their proximity.
  2. The NICU was full of desperately sick babies on oxygen under dim lights and parents who look gutted by fear and desperation.
  3. I had just been sawed open like a magic trick except with actual blood – which regularly made its way to the NICU floor in macabre puddles when I arrived to nurse my newborn in hopes of springing her.
  4. Hospital policy increased the minimum blood sugar level requirement for my daughter to be released from the NICU above the level that got her locked up but didn’t apply any policy for regular feedings or timing of testing.  The nurses simply took her blood sugar on a schedule whether she’d been fed recently or not.  Three sufficient test readings were required to be released and if one reading dropped below the threshold, the testing started over from zero.  Talk about stacking the deck…

In hindsight, I should have fought harder to keep my daughter with me.

I should have told Dopey that she can suck it but she cannot take my daughter away.

I should have asked for the Floor manager, a Patient liaison, my OB, a Peditrician – ANYONE with sense enough to say, “let’s not overreact or follow the letter but distort the spirit of this new policy – this is a big, healthy baby who needs to eat.  Let’s feed her and see what happens” instead of “let’s take away this newborn because we have a new policy and I want to be a good rule follower.”

Anyone who knows me at all can tell you what I think of rule-followers.

I should have fought harder to exert my will in the interest of my and  my daughter’s well-being.  I should have asked more questions and challenged authority and raised a stink that would have put Dopey in hasty retreat.

I can hardly believe I dithered and fumbled and followed.  I blame the hormones; it’s the only logical explanation for behavior that is so wholly foreign to me.

To add insult to injury, Dopey actually wheeled the empty basinet back into my room after she delivered my daughter to the NICU saying, “I’m just going to leave this here.  You’re a C-section so you’re here for four days… she might be back by then.”

I can tell you now, though I wouldn’t have admitted it for fear of being committed, that I almost broke that day.  There was a moment when the world went unanimated and a crushing excess of emotion swirled up inside me.  My vision went black around the ridges and I choked on the air I was trying to breathe.  In that moment I feared that the me that is fun and outgoing and light-hearted would retreat permanently – into the recesses where fantasy and nightmares reside, where there is a running dialogue of self-loathing and paranoia and helplessness – into the lead-lined box of depression.

This story gets complicated because when I retell it, I feel a sense of injustice rising up like bile in my throat.  I was cheated.  Even worse, so was my daughter.  I don’t care that I had to get out of my hospital bed with a burning incision and stabbing abdominal pain, gushes of blood everytime I went vertical, and the annoying catheter bag that never seemed to be emptied in order to be wheeled to the NICU during my daughter’s incarceration.

I care that my newborn wasn’t in my arms or at arms-length for FIFTEEN OF HER FIRST TWENTY-FOUR HOURS.

I don’t forgive that nurse for her carelessness or callousness.

I don’t forgive the hospital for creating a policy that ignores the mother in the mother-baby equation in order to cover their proverbial ass or to charge insurance companies for something that can’t be refused – intensive care for a newborn baby as an offset for the increasing squeeze on their maternal care fees.

But I escaped with my daughter in tow.  My healthy, fat baby hardly left my arms for two weeks after that.  And when my husband mentioned that I might
have attachment issues that need to be discussed with a professional, I reluctantly let him hold his daughter… for a minute.

I don’t know why the dark water didn’t suck me under this time.  I remain guarded that it still might.  I can only point to this – that I mentally steer myself toward what I have, instead of what I haven’t.  The feeling of being cheated (and outrage at people’s moral bankruptcy) tamped down much of my pregnancy and new motherhood joy three years ago.  I didn’t compartmentalize the negativity of a toxic environment and it took me two years to rebound.  Now, I reign my mind into the here and now and wriggle back into its comforting softness to fill up the whole space so there isn’t room for any ‘what ifs’ or ‘whys?’ to suck the air out of my happy.

And I do it every day, over and over.  And I breathe.  And I cuddle my beautiful child and know that she is 1/3 of what matters to me most.

And that’s enough.

But my mistrust of healthcare and its policies aimed at maximum profit grows.  How about you?

Lumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc (Or Why Policies can Suck It) – Part 2

Part 2:  Sneezy

In her first 2 years of life, my darling daughter, Calamity Jayne, had more than 20 ear infections.  It seems that every time she caught a cold, she got an ear infection.  And she caught a lot of colds.

I feel totally cheated by this injustice.

I nursed her for nine months – throwing caution and modesty to the wind by pumping in offices, airports, and hotel rooms.  I took nursing-lunches in our car when my uber-understanding hub drove down to my office to afford me baby time during my post-partum battle.

Yet my bub was a snotty, sneezy mess for much of her young life.  She had several ear infections that lasted months because the antibiotics we used to treat her didn’t cure the infection.

Pediatricians we saw offered little advice.

Instead, we were reassured that “kids get sick.”  I admit, I was comforted that this wasn’t my ‘fault.’  As a first-time parent, I was fairly convinced that I was doing it wrong.  (And by “it” I mean everything.)

We saw plenty of pediatricians.  This wasn’t a situation where one doctor was responsible for our inability to prevent or treat her ear infections.  Our Chicago practice has more than a dozen doctors on staff.  We love being able to get an appointment at any time and having the diversity of experience, thought, and treatment that all those doctors provide.  Our St. Louis practice was smaller but seemed wholly competent in their
treatment and fairly advanced in their technology and organization.

We thought we were doing everything we could.  And our doctors agreed.

Earlier this year, we saw a doctor at our Chicago practice in her 50s.  She took quite a long time with us (a rarity among all sick-care providers) and reviewed CJ’s charts all the way back to her birth.  She was really shocked at the volume of infections and the frequency with which we returned to the office.

She raised the red-flag.

She told us she suspected that the antibiotic courses we’d been given our daughter (non-penicillin because of an allergy) weren’t strong enough to kill the underlying sinus infection.  So, although the ear cleared with the single round, the sinus infection raged on and then landed right back in the ear(s).

This made sense.

She put us on back-to-back rounds of antibiotics.  Until the cough was gone (that pesky post-nasal drip from my childhood seems to have been inherited by Big Red), we kept re-upping the antibiotics.

Finally, after three rounds, the child was cough-free, sniffles free and ear pain free.

Around this time, my sage sister-in-law also raised the issue that no child this age should be doing so many rounds of antibiotics.  Drugs, as they say, are bad, mmkay?  Well, not ALL bad, but certainly this was a disproportionate amount of unnatural toxins for the itty-body of a toddler.  That, and she might just develop immunity to the only strain of antibiotics she can take leaving her susceptible to horrible sickness that most people would, well, sneeze at.

My sis also recommended that we see a specialist.  An Otolaryngologist.  So we got a recommendation, made an appointment, and saw a specialist.

The specialist asked us why we had waited so long to get our daughter seen.

Instead of “kids get sick,” we were told that CJ was having far too many infections and could absolutely benefit from getting grommets inserted to help with drainage.  We were also encouraged to hear that the surgery might improve her mood and manner considerably.

Earaches suck.
Calamity might very well be acting out because of her constant discomfort.


Like any parent of a toddler wants to enjoy additional fits and general obnoxiousness just for giggles!

I hated the idea of putting my precious little baby girl under anesthesia, and my growing belly was wrecking havoc on my logic and emotional stability, but I didn’t see how I could justify not giving my daughter some relief.

So we had the surgery.

And I cried buckets when she went in and buckets more when she came out.

But she’s been ear pain free ever since… for six months.  And that’s a miracle.

So, my hub and I have asked ourselves… what did take so long?  Why didn’t we know to see a specialist and get the ear tubes done after the first six, ten, twelve, fifteen, etc. infections/ rounds of antibiotics?

Sadly and cynically, it seems the clear answer would be because our pediatricians don’t get paid if we stop coming to see them for ear infections.  And was the surgery necessary?  How can we know for certain?  But we do know that the Otolaryngologist wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t absolutely endorse her speciality.

Medicine for profit is bullshit.

It makes a mess of patient care and breeds mistrust.

I want to respect and trust medical professionals.  I want to know that they have my and my family’s HEALTH in their best interest – NOT what procedures are billable, NOT what drugs they are incentivized to promote, NOT what the insurance company covers at a higher percentage.

I don’t trust any of this is happening.

Medicine is enough of a guessing game without making patients wonder if they’re actually getting their doctor’s best recommendation or the best priced one?

The system is broken and it is making us broke.

Lumpy, Sneezy, Dopey and Doc (Or Why Policies can Suck It) – Part 1

Part 1:  Lumpy

Earlier this year, I found a lump in my breast.

Since I’m not a regular self-examiner, I found it because it itched.  It was huge.

The timing of this discovery coincided with a) a report about breast cancer during pregnancy in older women and b) finishing a book where the heroine’s best friend dies from breast cancer leaving two young daughters.

What went through my head was

Or something along those lines.

What’s worse is I forgot to mention it to my OB.  For a month.

When I finally did, she suggested I get it checked. (um, yes.)

So I had an ultrasound done by a  radiology technician.  The doctor never came in, never introduced himself, never called me with results.  The results did not indicate cancer (evidently cancer shows up on film like bright white alien life) but because it was so big the radiologist wanted me to have a biopsy.  He never mentioned that to me.  Instead, my OB followed up with him, heard that a biopsy was the way to go and relayed that info to me.

So I called several oncology offices for a biopsy.

No office would schedule a biopsy without an exam appointment first, which meant not only the delay of getting the original appointment (two weeks) but also the delay of the follow up appointment (unknown time) and double the appointment with a specialist appointment (what am I made of money?).

Being five months pregnant at the time, I lost my mind.  I literally scream-cried at several people.  I’m not proud of this but it is what it is.  I had reached the point where logic and rationality left and hormones took over.

My OB and her reassuringly competent nurse took over.  They got me a few names and told me what I needed to say to get the right appointment.  The exam/biopsy by the first doctor who would see me was nothing short of violating.  I don’t know if what he did was normal or not but it was mortifying and I felt abused and disgusted for weeks.  Those biopsy results were “inconclusive” so I was told I needed to go through the process again.  I would have rather “died” but since that was actually on the table, I decided I’d better suck it up and get a second opinion.

I chose a doctor via my hospital network rather than revisit the site of the ‘attack.’

That experience was SIGNIFICANTLY better – sterile, clinical and very very public.  Rather than one dude in an office exam room, I had two doctors, a radiologist, and three nurses in the room with gloves, gowns and masks.  Two nurses were hands-on comforting at all times.  The doctors were slow and careful in their practice and talked to me about my family and in particular my unborn daughter the whole time, sharing anecdotes about their own families and offering kind, reassuring commentary.

They definitively concluded that the lump was normal breast tissue – likely a duct that went haywire under hormonal showers and would
either go away on its own or be a benign part of my breast until I wanted it removed in a simple surgical procedure.

Here’s the kicker:  my sister-in-law, a nurse in Australia, suggested that exact diagnosis when I first discovered the lump.

Maybe this was a case of CYA.  Maybe our litigious society mandates that doctors ignore Ockham’s Razor and pull as many levers as possible in our complicated and expensive sick-care system.

I have an estimated 47 separate bills from this experience – from the doctors, the hospitals, the labs, the radiologists, the techs, the
offices, the insurance company, etc.  Everyone billed me separately with terms and codes I couldn’t possibly understand.  I tried calling a few times to determine what exactly I was paying for and why more wasn’t covered by my insurance but I quite frankly gave up.

It was exhausting and confusing.  I’m pretty sure that is intentional.

Whatever the case, the system is broken and is making me broke.

Chips, Dips, Chains and Whips

(Republished with permission (from me to me) from the Your Fitness Mate post 5/7/10)

That’s a classic line from “Weird Science” where hottie Kellie LeBrock talks tough with Gary’s parents.

It’s also highly descriptive of the problem with most parties…  calorie-packed bowls of fatty deliciousness and piles of the saltiest, snackiest crackers, chips and breads you’ll ever see.  The only way to avoid them is to chain yourself to the chair or stay home.

Unless you know how to cheat properly.

First things first, STOP using Mayo and Sour Cream.  For crying out loud… you are just asking for a heart-attack.

If you can season properly (a skill ANYONE can learn), you can skip the fatty, heavy bases of most dips, and just use yogurt.
The problem you’ll find is that fat-free plain yogurt has the wrong consistency.  Easy fix = strain it!  (Coffee filters will work too.)

Our good friends at Yoplait have also just launched a greek yogurt with extra protein.  Love them!

Another fun little trick is to use cottage cheese or beans (garbanzo, edamame, white) as the base and to mix in flavorful additions.

My weakness is the Spicy Crab dip from Straubs. Those people are the devil with how they tempt me to eat rich, fatty foods! Now don’t misunderstand me, much of their ready-made offering is fine in moderation and always delicious. My typical choices, however, are not.

I’ve figured out how to make a delicious Crab dip that is a pretty good rival:

Skinny Crab Dip:
1 can crab meat
1 cup small curd lowfat cottage cheese
1 garlic clove
1 TBS of Thai sweet chili sauce
(or if you’re super-hardcore, 1 packet of stevia, 1tsp sriracha, and red pepper flakes)

Mix up until consistent in color throughout.  Serve with celery for the lowest of low-cal options or whole wheat crackers/pita triangles.  I’ve also had it as an openfaced sandwich for lunch (toast the bread).  Either way – it’s darn good.

Another surprising winner is Edamame Hummus.  The following is a knockoff from Robust in Webster.  It isn’t quite as good as theirs but I bet I saved a few calories.

Skinny Green Hummus:
1 bag of frozen SHELLED edamame (thawed)
1-3 garlic clove(s)
Sesame Oil
lemon juice
fish sauce
fresh cracked pepper

This dish requires a food processor.  I got my Cuisinart mini at Sur la Table but any will do.
Add all thawed edamame, garlic and 1tsp of sesame oil at a time until consistency is something like good mashed potatoes.  The lemon juice and fish sauce will make a big impact with very little so be sparing.  I would estimate 1-2 tsp of each should suffice but this is to YOUR taste, not mine.  Fish sauce is very salty so the less you can use, the better your skin will look the next day.  I like cracked pepper on top as a garnish.  You’ll be surprised how people love this.  It is excellent with crudite as well as crackers or pita.

The tsp or TBS you use of premade sauces (bbq, sweet-chili, etc.) won’t derail your efforts to be healthy when combined with a bean or yogurt based dip.  You can also use horseradish and spicy brown mustard which are very low in calories to liven up a bland dip.

Finally, those handy premade packets of spices (hidden valley ranch and knorrs vegetable) that we love to use so much are almost always full of sodium.  You can get the same impact on taste without the harmful side-effects by using sea salt and spices.  Sea salt has the added benefits of magnesium and calcium (Yay bones!).  Get in the habit of looking at the labels of pre-made food stuffs.  If you can’t replicate the ingredients at home (because they are chockabock full of things like methylchloroisothiazolinone or disodium EDTA sodium nitrate) do you really want to be eating them?  or have your family eat them?

One final thought:  if you’re used to eating salty, fatty food, your tastebuds are about as dead as a smoker’s.  As you wean yourself off this crap, your tongue will become more discerning for the subtleties of flavor in dishes.  You won’t need as much of anything because you’ll appreciate everthing more.

Now, where’s the party?!?!?!


Note from Schugarmama:  If I ever pretend that my mom’s opinions don’t matter to me, smack me.  Schugarmama’s mama mentioned my work on the Fitness Mate blog recently and said how much she missed reading my tips & recipes.  Since the business (and the blog) are essentially defunct, I thought I might just transfer a few of the posts to my current project.  Being fit, healthy, and still enjoying good foodies are definitely part of the ‘sweet life.’

Mommy Hours

Warning:  This isn’t one of those “deep thoughts” posts that I fancy myself to have been creating.

It just occurred to me last night as I was flipping through a ridiculous number of channels, procrastinating any housework that might be piled up on my bedroom floor or on the dining room table, and wrestling with the couch pillows for a comfortable position – I really want to go shopping.

It almost didn’t matter where.

But since I loathe sacrificing the 5-8p portion of my day to anything other than Peanut-time, I don’t often go out after work.  As any of you familiar with toddlers knows, taking them with you can be like navigating Forest’s box of chocolates – if half of those chocolates were poisonous.  With gravel and razorblades in them.  And combustible.

I would really like to go out after I put Calamity Jayne to sleep.

How great would it be if retail outfits picked one day a week to be open until 11p?  They could open late that day, I don’t care.  But give me a couple of hours where I can shop for shoes (because they’re the only thing that isn’t obnoxiously oversized now), or kids clothes, or household goods, or arts & crafts, or… well, like I said.  I’d shop for anything.

It got me thinking… maybe I’m just a dummy without a clue.  Maybe stores are already DOING this and I’m just living in the dark and wasting some valuable shopping opportunities.  So I checked.

Here, in all their glory, are the shopping hours of some of my favorite time-killing, money-sucking, halls of commerce:

  • Target – Open until 11p M-F  (WHO KNEW?!?!?!?!)
  • Kohls – Open until 10p T-Sa (Not too shabby.)
  • Marshall’s & TJ Maxx– Open until 9:30 M-Sa (I think they can do better.)
  • DSW – Open until 9p M-Sa
  • Home Depot – Varies by store but many are Open until 10p M-Sa and SOME are open until Midnight.  (I feel a new project coming on…I can do it.  They can help.)
  • Home Goods – Open until 9:30p M-Sa (Cue choir of angels!)
  • Michael’s Crafts – Open until 9p M-Sa

World Market, Pottery Barn, JoAnn Fabrics and Z Gallerie didn’t list their hours.  I suppose they want me to call the store and find out?  Fat chance, suckers. 

I know many of my mum friends shop online, and until recently saved themselves the considerable retail tax of cities like Chicago (10% WHAT?!?!?!?!).  However, as someone who works from home and works online, I get very little joy from shopping online.  Unless there is a store I can’t visit (The Company Store, Ballard Designs, etc.) or I get massive savings & convenience thrown my way ( &, I really don’t see the point.  I know, I know… I WORK in online advertising.  I’m SUPPOSED to be all “ecommercy” and stuff.  Suck it.  I’m not.  Advertise to me – promote your sales – and make it easy for me to shop you however I want… not however YOU want.  That’s how you get my business.  Everyone knows that no self-respecting W25-54 with kids in the household will click on your ad.  Unless maybe there’s a coupon code.  Please don’t get me started on this.  I have nothing nice to say.

But I’ve gone off-topic…

I don’t know if the later store hours discovery is good news or bad (I fear my spending may go up considerably), but I want to thank these stores for being considerate enough to employ staff and keep their doors open into the night.  Maybe I won’t be shopping late every night but now I at least have the option of giving my girl(s) all my attention during their waking hours and still having some mommy-time doing projects, or dressing up our home and our selves.

Ok mamas and shoppahs, what are YOUR favorite late night or odd-hour shops?  Do you get the same thrill picking out stuff online as you do in-store?  Teach me your ways.  I’m about to go plastic.

Hooray for Retail!

If this is Schugar, why does it leave a bad taste in my mouth?

I’ve been rereading some of my posts to see how closely my project is aligning with my mission.  It seems that I talk very little about this “schugar” I claim as my own.  Money is a funny thing in my world.  It is very personal and usually painful to discuss.  Some of this is residual inheritance that I haven’t cured and some of this is my own wackadoo creation. 

This past week I finished Michael Lewis’ The Big Short and watched Too Big To Fail  on HBO.  If you’ve a strong stomach and enough mistrust for rich people to want to study them like lab rats, I recommend both.  The WSJ reviewed the latter as more aptly titled “Too Boring To Watch” but if you approach it as documentary-like viewing, you’ll be fine. 

I do agree with Mark Gongloff (the reviewer) on two things – I wish the characters had been more developed and more “real” people had been included.  Don’t misunderstand me, the characters were all actual people – but I hardly count the ex-Chairman of Goldman-Sachs as representative of the rest of us, even if he tries masking his shady background with a bit of public service.

Now here’s where I endure a little painful confession:  Before I read the incredibly compelling Lewis book, I really didn’t understand that Wall Street was like Vegas without the strippers. 

A couple of important things to note: 

  • everything I know about Vegas is 2nd hand or from the movies
  • I’ve had a 401K and separate stock portfolio since my late 20s
  • investing, saving, and money management were not among the lessons taught in my childhood home

One thing at a time.

The third bullet, my financial upbringing, warrants its very own post.  I just have to consider how to tactfully discuss in print.

I’ve never been to Vegas because it appeals to me the same way that a Pride parade, Jersey Shore, or the actual Mardi Gras do – not at all.  I support others’ right to enjoy them but I find them vulgar and tacky.  I actually enjoy gambling.  I like to play cards – blackjack and hold ’em.  I usually play the pokies when in Oz.  I’ve even won a bit of money at cruise ship gambling which purchased a pair of diamond earrings.  It’s a pasttime, a source of entertainment, and I can’t possible imagine throwing money on a felt table expecting to “hit the jackpot.”  That, my friends, is sucker behavior in my world.  Nothing comes for nothing.  At least, not for real people like us.

Yet, I have regularly invested my little pennies in a retirement fund because “it is the responsible thing to do.”  I thought that my investments into individual stocks (companies I support directly or believe in conceptually) and in mutual funds were my “vote” (put your money where your mouth is) for their success.  By supporting their stock I was saying to the company, I think you’re worth saving please keep up the good work.  Except, that’s just a teeny weeny part of investing.  There are masses of jackholes who are betting – literally gambling – with their own and other’s money AGAINST companies.  So instead, they are saying – and usually with much more significant sums than my 15% – ‘we bet you suck it big time. ‘ 

The book(s) and the movie that startled me out of my naive investment cloud told the story of how massive deregulation, minimal oversight, bribes, incompetence, greed, marketing, and widespread sucker behavior allowed a whole lot of people and companies to bet that we’d all ‘suck it big time.’  And anyone who didn’t bet that, lost their asses.

The thing about the financial industry that blows my mind – no matter what happens in the market, someone is making money.  It just isn’t usually you or me.

So what is our alternative to investing?  Pensions are all but dead.  Social Security will be insolvent when I’m 52.  My parents, your parents, and pretty much everyone over the age of 60 will bankrupt us when they run out of retirement funds and have no healthcare.  At 38, and the bread-winner for my family, I’m pacing so far behind my personal savings that I will work until I’m dead.  And I’m way ahead of the average woman.

Do you know the financial statistics for women?  They ain’t good, honey.  Pretend for a minute that women make as much as men for the same work (they generally don’t) and that earning less over a career equates to a smaller pension/social security payout.  About half of us are out of the workforce at least part of our foundation or earning years because of children.  Even if we work full-time throughout, our earning power is impacted by our breeder status through job-changes, missed promotions, under-utilization/employment.

Now consider this – 50% of marriages end in divorce in this country and 70% of married women are widowed at some point.  Please TELL me you aren’t counting on a man to take care of you.  Even if he is the most kick-arse, generous and loving man…  you are responsible for your own financial health.  To believe otherwise is sucker behavior, my friends.

Try these statistics on for size:

  • women live seven years longer than men, on average
  • over 70% of the US elderly poor are women
  • one year after divorce, the average mid-life woman remains single with an average income of $11,300
  • women have higher healthcare expenses
  • over 58% of boomer women have less than $10K saved in some form of retirement

(Some of these statistics come from the slightly outdated and heavily dog-eared WOW! Quick Facts on Women 2007 edition I keep by my desk.)

Scared yet? 

Now think about the absurdly insulated jackholes in charge of our stock market who make money whether your stocks go up or go down – who are betting against your mortgage, your life insurance, and your employer.  Who are handing over big campaign contributions to other jackholes to make sure they don’t get hampered by any pesky rules of engagement. 

I change my mind – Wall Street is like Vegas meets UFC, without the strippers or the blood. 

And these people have my money.

Holy fuck.

Happy is as Happy does.

Last February, I posted a note on the Fitness Mate blog about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.   

At the time, I was still struggling with my “Schugar” v. “Mama” drama.  I wasn’t convinced I’d made a good move to my hometown.  There were a 100 challenges in the finance department.  So setting up a project for myself was exactly the right medicine.

In January of this year, I wrote about the business of getting on with BEING happy instead of looking so damn hard for it.  So obviously this is a theme I like.  I hope I’m not getting into the broken record realm of blog posts.

I don’t buy into the whole “this is my lot in life” mentality.  I don’t think there is a master plan into which you fit.  I don’t think your struggles are your destiny and that there is some great reward for the poor suckers who suffer through.  The Beatitudes are a bum rap to keep the oppressed from changing their station.  It’s a lot like the promise of 7,000 virgins for Jihad martyrs.  And I call ‘Bullshit’.

Everyone deals with a bag of shit at some time in her life.

Some of us experience it early and some of us experience it often.  Dr. Phil has made a fairly successful career pointing out the obvious to people who don’t learn from their mistakes and who wonder why they continually experience the same shit.

The real insight is that only one person in this world is responsible for your happiness.  YOU.

You either make it or you don’t.

You either live it or you don’t.

You either spread it or you don’t.

Nothing anyone can do or say can interfere with your happiness unless you allow it.  That’s the wicked great thing about the incredible complexity of the human mind and spirit.

I’ve lost friends who couldn’t celebrate my happiness with me but chose to spend their time and focus on mourning their perceived missing pieces.  The revelations came harshly but once you’ve seen selfishness  you can’t unsee it.  As with most hindsight, I was able to recognize the signs of pathological Takers only after I’d said goodbye to them.

I’ve heard people complain about having to plan their own happiness, be it weekend activities, trips, dinner parties, birthdays.  Their thinking is why doesn’t someone ELSE do this for me?  My question back is ‘why would you ever put someone else in the driver’s seat of your happiness?

I often repeat a favorite Einstein maxim “There are two ways of living:  as if nothing were a miracle or as if everything is one” and once was rewarded for the statement by being called the anti-Christ.  This was a pretty clear indicator of an unhappy person.

I find that statement a renewed inspiration every time I hear, read or repeat it.  It is so hopeful and grateful a sentiment.

If you’re mourning the loss of Oprah this week, you’ve probably attempted some kind of gratitude exercise during your devotion to the big O.  But isn’t there some irony involved in being taught/reminded to be grateful by a woman who has more money than our Treasury department?   Of course Oprah is grateful, she could buy the Louisiana Purchase and still have change for a West Wing full of Jimmy Choos. 

No, the idea of looking at life as full of miracles is much humbler.  Much simpler. 

Looking at life as full of miracles requires you to part with your baggage. 

Unhappy people are carrying around the belief that they were somehow short-changed.  That their suffering is somehow more significant or mournful than that of others.  The most unhappy people seek out that suffering so that they can justify their own pity party and invite others to join them.

I love love love the question “Who would you be without your story?” as posed by the clever Byron Katie in her books.

I think many of us get so used to the backstory we’ve been told or have been telling ourselves that we forget to rewrite it when it loses shape, no longer fits, or hurts.  As adults we may not grow in physical shape but our personality, spirit, and mind certainly do.  Are you still wearing the story from your youth?  Your 30s?  Your darkest moments?  I hate to tell you, but that is SO five minutes ago.

The most obnoxious sap of happiness are people who project their pain onto you.  You know who I’m talking about.  YOU are the cause of their loneliness, their tears, their absolute desolation.  You have my permission to politely tell them to Fuck Off.

If someone’s happiness is tied to you (and they aren’t a minor) then they have some serious emotional and psychological issues that need to be addressed.  This is not your issue.  It is theirs.

No one has the right to use emotional blackmail to suck you into a vortex of their misery.  No one has the right to antagonize, patronize, or use passive aggression to manipulate you into enabling their story.

Not even your family.

DNA is not a life-sentence.  Happiness means that it is not by obligation that we socialize, but by choice. 

I wish as much happiness as you can find for yourself this weekend. 

If you don’t have a plan for finding some happy, make one.

If your happiness will be magnified by the presence of others, invite them along.

If you aren’t sure what to do next, do happy.

Reluctant Capitalist, Unapologetic Feminist, Fire-Breather.

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