Monday, December 13, 2010

Better to Light One Candle: Love Trumps All at Elizabeth Edwards' Funeral

I am so inspired and my seemingly ever-imperiled faith in my fellow human beings is so recharged by what happened outside the church at Elizabeth Edwards' funeral.  In short, love overpowered hate.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Love eclipses hate...

In my last blog, I discussed how a hate group planned to "protest" outside of Elizabeth Edwards' funeral and how I hoped that would not impact the mourners.  I'm heartened to report that the haters were outnumbered by loving, brave, caring, respectful people and that love trumped hate.  The mourners were allowed to mourn (and celebrate Elizabeth's life) in peace.  From all accounts of what went on inside the church, it was a very loving, peaceful, healing, beautiful service.

The whole thing reminds me of what I personally experienced on September 11, 2001.  My faith in not only human beings but in God could have been shattered when the planes shattered the twin towers.  That there is such evil in this world is, and certainly was then for me, very challenging to one's faith.  To have hate come crashing in from the clear blue sky with such violence and kill so many innocent people is something that can explode one's faith in the good in people and in God him/her/itself.  I was in real danger of that happening, but something saved my faith in human beings, in goodness, and by extension in God that day.

What saved me is that I work at a blood bank.  Within what seemed like minutes of the second plane crashing into the twin towers, there was a long line of people stretching out the doors, and it just kept growing and growing.  It seemed like the whole world spontaneously, without being asked, just showed up at the door to donate blood.  I work on the second floor and there is an open overlook into the first floor lobby and the main entrance.  I just stood there with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, wanting to run down there and hug each person in line and say thank you.  Thank you for choosing to take this good, loving action in this shocking moment of hate and evil seeming to overpower all that is good.  Thank you because you didn't let the shock paralyze you.  Thank you because you are not only doing something great by donating blood, you are doing something great by lining up, hundreds strong, showing that actually good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, and when evil and hate rear up and try to roar, love and goodness can stand up quietly yet even more powerfully and overpower that ugly roar with the quiet light of decency.  Thank you for demonstrating, today of all days, when we all so need to see it, that love really is more powerful than hate, and good really is much stronger than evil.

I feel the same way about what unfolded at the Edwards funeral.  A few haters showed up, wanting to intoxicate the event with their poison.  But many, many more good, decent, loving people showed up, vaccinating the proceedings with love.

Yes, there is evil, hate and violence in the world.  But no, it will never triumph over good, love and respect in the end.  Not if we don't let it.  Not if we stand up.  Not if we, instead of cursing the darkness, choose instead to light one candle.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hateful "Church" Plans to Protest Elizabeth Edwards' Funeral: At what point does free speech become harassment?

I am horrified to hear that the profoundly hateful, sick Westboro Baptist Church plans to "protest" Elizabeth Edwards' funeral:

Westboro Baptist Church to Protest Edwards Funeral

I pray that their presence will not in any way impact Elizabeth Edwards' youngest two children. I hasten to add that, of course, I also pray that it doesn't impact her adult daughter, Cate, or any of the mourners.  It's just that, upon learning of this horrible prospect, my first thoughts were of the two young children, Emma Claire and Jack.  I am especially concerned for them and I hope it doesn't affect even one tiny aspect of the experience for them. This should be a day that helps them process their grief and makes them feel surrounded by love, comfort and family. I don't want hate or ugliness to even touch them, they've been through enough.

Of course, none of us wants to see hate or violence touch any child, ever, but for the possibility of it to happen on the day of their mother's funeral seems especially egregious and awful.

I am one of the staunchest defenders of the constitution and civil rights that you will ever come across.  I am so grateful that we live in a free country, but to me, free speech ends at the point at which it becomes harassment.  If these people get too close to the church and hurl hateful attacks at the mourners, they would be engaging in harassment, not free speech, wouldn't they?  I mean, if they have to stay a certain distance back from the funeral venue and from the mourners, then I can see and must concede that tolerating them is the price we pay for free speech (even speech that most of us find abhorrent). But surely there is some law that would prevent them from verbally attacking mourners--including children--at a funeral?

I defend the right of everyone to engage in free speech, including speech that I find offensive and repugnant, because if they don't have the right to say what they want, I don't have the right to say what I want.  However, at what point does free speech morph into harassment?  When does a peaceful protest become a verbally violent attack?  I think the point at which people disrupt mourners, including young children who have just lost their mother, attempting to enter and/or leave a funeral, by spewing hateful verbal attacks at them could conceivably be such a point.  I think this "protest" just might fall outside the wide embrace of constitutional protection, as the rights of the mourners to gather peacefully, without being harassed, in order to grieve need to be protected, too.

If these hateful, sick people want to "protest" a certain distance away from the church, then I don't see how it can be stopped, frankly.  However, surely there is some minimum distance they can be legally kept back from the funeral venue and/or from the mourners, isn't there?  If not, there should be.  There is free speech and then there is disruptive harassment.  Where is the line?

I am going to pray very hard that their actions do not impact the Edwards family, particularly the two youngest children, in the slightest. If they do, I think it's a crime, literally...or it should be. It's harassment, it's stalking, it's something. Maybe John Edwards, an outstanding attorney, could make it a new cause of his to find some legal way to stop these folks from doing this at any future funerals, or if not stop them altogether, at least keep them from getting too close to the venue or the mourners.*  Freedom of speech is a precious right, but the rights of mourners to attend a funeral in peace must also be respected and protected.

* Edited to add:  I have learned that there is a current Supreme Court case (Snyder v. Phelps) pending regarding a past funeral protest by this "church" and whether it constituted free speech or harassment:

Washington Post article on Snyder v. Phelps

MSNBC.com article discusses Snyder v. Phelps

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Not a lot of hype, no commercialism, just being grateful for the simple gifts in life: our loved ones, the wonderful bounty of nature, and all of our blessings. It’s about finding and celebrating the sacred in the seemingly ordinary: family, friends, home, hearth and a wholesome meal harvested from the good earth. So simple, yet so sacred.

There’s a saying that I used to think was so odd and meaningless, but in recent years I’ve realized it is very deep and profound: “You’ve got to take the good with the bad.” I used to hear people say that and I’d think, “You've got to take the good with the bad?  What does that even mean?” Well, now, upon years of pondering it in my peppermint way, I know what it really means:  there is always good and bad in our lives, so don’t let the bad stuff paralyze you and keep you from appreciating and enjoying the good stuff. A younger me used to think, I can’t be happy because I have A, B, and C bad stuff going on, so I can’t enjoy D, E and F good stuff that is also in the mix. How sad. Now I finally understand that, even with the inevitable bad stuff going on in your life at any given time, ya gots to make room for the good stuff, let it in, revel in it, appreciate it, and enjoy it! You've got to carpe diem!  Don’t wait for the bad stuff to clear out, or you be waiting a lifetime. Grab hold of the good stuff and appreciate the hell out of it!

This year, like every year, sure, I have my share of difficulties and challenges, sad things and bad things, and I hasten to add that it is healthy to give them their fair share of energy and attention. However, perspective is the key.  Thanksgiving is a day for focusing on all we have to be grateful for, and grounding ourselves deeply in that gratitude. As a matter of fact, every day, I thank God for all the blessings I’m grateful for, and even for the challenges given to me, as those can be, and usually are, blessings, too—even our losses contain gifts for us to open and learn from.  I think it is important for my spiritual and emotional health, and I suspect for my physical health as well, to make every day a mini-Thanksgiving.

People who choose to focus on what they are grateful for are so much happier and healthier than those who focus on everything wrong in their lives. Mind you, I’m not saying we should ignore or sweep aside the “bad” things, or our feelings about them. In fact, I strongly believe it is imperative for our health to allow all our feelings to flow freely in and out like the ocean tides, and that feelings are to be acknowledged, accepted and respected, not judged and controlled (which is why I can’t STAND people like one infuriating Wayne Dyer or books like “The Secret”, as apparently, according to them, we are supposed to squash down all feelings and thoughts other than those involving flowers and rainbows, and if anything negative happens to us in our lives, it's our fault because we allowed “negative” feelings or thoughts in...don’t even get me started—rant-worthy blog unto itself ALERT!).  I think that all feelings are okay and are there for a reason, so don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't feel something that you feel.  It is how we choose to act on our feelings that counts. That said, on Thanksgiving and, really, every day, the healthiest approach is to stay firmly grounded in gratitude, for even in our darkest days, there is usually something to be grateful for, some light to acknowledge, fix our gaze upon and trust to lead us on, even when darkness seems to surround us. The very act of choosing to focus on the light and not the dark adds to the light. As the saying goes, “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

This year, I’m most thankful that my 86-year-old mom is here with me in this world and that we will be together on Thanksgiving. That's the most sacred blessing of all to me.  We are invited to her cousin’s house for Thanksgiving, which is another thing I’m grateful for, as when I moved to Florida, I had no family here--zero. Now I have my mom and her cousin, so my familial cup runneth over.  It will be me, my Mom, her cousin, and one of her cousin’s daughters for Thanksgiving. I don’t have to cook the whole meal (yet another thing to be grateful for!), just “Page 26”, as we call it in my family, a DELICIOUS spinach-artichoke-cheese casserole side dish that my mom and I have every year. I’m also planning to bring cranberry relish and some sort of beverage. My mom’s cousin is making the turkey, veggies, and apparently there will be a pie (made by either the cousin or her daughter), but I’ll stay away from that on account of that I know wheat is not my friend (yet ANOTHER thing to be grateful for—my knowledge about what foods to eat to keep me healthy).  If there is any stuffing, I'll stay away from that, too.  I love stuffing, but it's a wheat-laden affair and wheat is my nemesis.  I love health more than I love stuffing.  Anyway, having spent more than a few Thanksgivings since moving to Florida with no family at all, I’m really looking forward to this foursome. Most years since my mom moved down here, it’s just been the two of us, which is lovely, but there will be something very special about getting together with extended family. I really appreciate it.

I’m also extremely grateful for my health, which I was scared about this time last year after my very first ever routine EKG during a physical resulted in me being diagnosed with left-bundle branch block (LBBB), an electrical conduction prob in my heart that results in a dyssynchronous heartbeat. After the primary care doctor used language that scared me to death and ended up NOT being the case for me (thank God, and I do!!!), such as “enlarged” and “hypertrophic” heart, and sent me to a cardiologist, who had me undergo further testing, it turns out that I’m basically healthy as a horse, other than the LBBB, as nothing else scary is present with it (no enlarged heart, no hypertrophic heart, no evidence of a heart attack, no heart disease, no nothing—thank God!), which is unusual, and is DEFINITELY something to be grateful for every day, especially on Thanksgiving. Also on the grateful-for-health front, I’ve lost about 81 lbs since I started the GenoType Diet two years ago Thanksgiving Day, so I am extremely grateful for that, as I've blogged about several times and no doubt will many more. I feel very empowered by knowing what foods to eat to keep myself in biochemical balance and at a healthy weight. Wow.  And of course, I'm so blessed to have the means and access to keep my kitchen stocked with those healthy foods.  Speaking of means...

In this horrible economy, I’ve got a job. Now, I could choose to focus on the many and varied BAD things about my job, but the bottom line is that it is, in fact, a JOB. Enough said. I’ve also got a house. Again, I could choose to focus on the fact that it is a termite-ridden pile of disintegrating sticks, but, hey, it’s MY termite-ridden pile of disintegrating sticks, dang it! And it’s on MY tiny bit of land, in a wonderful neighborhood (trust me: again, I’m choosing to AC-centuate the positive when I say that *tee heee*), in a beautiful city, in the greatest country in the world...even though said country is currently circling the drain—but you never know, maybe we’ll get it together before actually getting sucked down the drain, so THAT is what I'm choosing to focus on, on Thanksgiving.

As far as “Black Friday”, a day when many Americans choose to go thing-crazy to what I consider a ridiculous and severely pathological degree, I will instead be with a new friend of mine, whom I met at the dog park, doing something that involves no shopping, no consumerism (gasp!), and which continues the Thanksgiving theme of enjoying the simple, sacred things in life:  we will be taking four dogs (my dog, her two dogs, and a visiting dog she is dog-sitting), to a gorgeous county park called Fort De Soto Park, which has a spectacular dog park and also a dog beach. Instead of a black Friday, we will have a bright Friday, full of shimmering blue-green water, sky, nature and enjoying our “furkids”.  It doesn't get any better than that.

In short, I know we all have troubles, woes, and assorted and sundry losses, sadness and painful challenges in our lives. Yet, no matter how bad things are, surely we can all look around at our beautiful world, take a deep breath, and realize the miracle of being alive, can’t we? I’m grateful for this dazzling world/nature, my mom, my pets (who are like my children—heck, they are my children), my health, and all the gifts I've been given—including challenges and losses, for sometimes they are the greatest gifts of all, even though they sure don’t seem/feel like it when we are experiencing them. I pray that I will be a respectful human being and use all my blessings to do good in this world. I pray these things every day. On Thanksgiving Day, I try to stretch that prayer into the entire day, living my gratitude, appreciation, and intention to be respectful and do good. If I and all of us could stretch that Thanksgiving spirit out even further, into a lifetime of intentionally focusing on being and acting grateful for creation/nature and being a part of it, and being respectful and doing good, think of how we could heal our world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I've Gone to the Dogs!

Newsflash: dogs are wonderful! You read that correctly: dogs, in fact, are wonderful!  Apparently, most of you out there already know this, but I’ve only recently become absolutely convinced of its veracity, and with this amazing revelation, a whole new, delightful world has opened up to me.

I began to suspect the unlikely wonderfulness of dogs during the 12+ years that I had my dear dog, Jamie, who passed away in December. Oh, I knew she was wonderful, that I realized from the moment I first laid eyes on her as she walked into my neighbor's living room with her hello-will-you-be-my-friend-and-play-with-me-I'm-up-for-anything-if-it-makes-you-happy-I-know-we-just-met-but-you're-the-human-for-me-and-I'm-the-dog-for-you-so-can-I-come-home-with-you expression, came right up to me, put her head on my lap, and gazed up at me with her friendly, guileless, deep brown eyes, just as my neighbor said matter-of-factly "She's going to the shelter on Saturday, I just can't deal with her."  I think I knew right then that I was going to adopt her, even though I didn't know I knew it, but I know for sure I knew right then that she was a deeply loving, wonderful being.  Yet I concluded that was probably just she and couldn’t be the case with all or most other dogs. Surely most other dogs were still suspect. What do I mean, “still suspect”? I mean, even though dear Jamie helped me get through my fear of dogs and progress to the point at which I could be around most of them and remain relaxed, I still believed that you could never fully trust a dog (except for Jamie, of course), as they could turn on you in an instant and shred you from stem to stern.

This fear I had (mercifully, it is past tense now) of dogs dates back to my earliest childhood. I don’t know if it was inherent to me as an individual, or if something(s) happened that started it all, but the bottom line is that, as a child, I was terrified of dogs. I’m not talking the normal, healthy fear that one feels when being charged by a snarling Doberman (which happened to me fairly recently and, trust me, fear was the healthy, normal response to that sitch), I’m talking abject terror, of the bordering-on-phobic-if-not-actually-phobic variety, of ALL dogs, and it didn’t matter if they were a snarling Doberman or a yapping miniature schnauzer named “Princess” (who I’ll get to), I was absolutely terrified of the lot of ‘em.

I was a very sensitive little tyke (some things never change—INFJ ALERT!) and I loved cats, yet that same sensitivity to everything around me probably led to my fear of dogs. Dogs were nothing like cats, first of all. Dogs were ferocious-seeming things that chased me, barked at me very menacingly, tried to jump on me and even to knock me down. I was absolutely convinced that they all wanted to kill me. I know I was chased home from elementary school a time or two by one or, I seem to remember, two German Shepherds of the ferociously barking and snarling variety...at least, at the time, it seemed to little 4 or 5-year-old me that they were ferociously barking and snarling. Perhaps they actually really were “trying to make friends” with me, as adults kept telling me dogs were doing every time I FREAKED OUT upon encountering the creatures. Yet, in the case of those German Shepherds (I’m sure it was two...or, one who was so scary that he just seemed like two!), I think they meant business. They meant to be menacing and mission accomplished! From then on, my long-suffering mom had to walk me to and from school, to protect me from any and all rogue dogs. I refused to walk to school unescorted, embarrassing though it was, even for a kindergartner, to have your mom walk you to school. Better to be embarrassed than to be shredded by a German Shepherd.

My little BFF, who lived in the same block as I did, had a little miniature schnauzer named “Princess” (told you we’d get to her). Now, I mean, how terrifying can a miniature schnauzer named “Princess” be? Yet I would NOT set foot in their house until Princess was either safely secured either in their back yard or relegated to the basement for the duration of my visit, poor little pooch. And if, for some reason, she did get let up into the house and commence barking at me, I would summarily FREAK OUT (to the tune of climbing up on a kitchen chair and becoming hysterical, not necessarily in that order) until someone would once again secure the terrifying beast. Poor Princess.

Adults would always try to calm me down and tell me “he just wants to make friends with you” or, my personal favorite statement, “he can sense your fear and that’s why he’s acting that way”. Um, if dogs are so great, reasoned little I, and so nice, friendly and loving, then if he can sense my fear, why is he MOVING IN FOR THE KILL versus going out of his way to reassure me that he is a gentle, sweet doggy? I didn’t believe a word they said.

My mom or dad had to accompany me trick-or-treating, to “protect me from dogs”. One of them would have to go up to the door and, if the poor opener thereof had a dog, explain to them apologetically that their kid was a high-strung little case study and would they mind securing the dog before she would walk onto their property? At that point, the person would usually try to assure mom or dad and/or me (by calling out to me at my post in the middle of the street) “Oh, he’s friendly!”, etc., etc., etc., yada, yada, yada, yeah, yeah, yeah: get him away from the door or I’m outta here, what part of that do people not get?

There was ONE dog, when I was a child, whom I did not fear. He was the gentlest, most loving Golden Retriever imaginable, named Luke. I will never forget Luke. His extraordinary gentle spirit (which I now know isn’t so extraordinary after all, it is wonderfully typical of so many dogs), combined with the fact that the adults in that house really were excellent at reassuring me and encouraging me to go ahead, pet him, we have a hold of him and won’t let him go unless and until you say it is okay, led to me being okay with Luke. I wasn’t afraid of Luke. Our families even went camping together several times, Luke included, and I loved it and him. But Luke was the one exception in my entire childhood (other than this little, ill-fated toy poodle we had for a short time, named Shadow, but poor Shadow is a sad saga unto herself—with a happy ending, though, for her, as my mom ended up making a command decision to give her away to a good home—and so we’ll just give her an honorable mention here and move quickly on, or else we’ll get bogged down in the entire spectrum of dysfunction going on in my family when I was a child and how it impacted that poor little dog...yeah, let’s move on or risk the total paralysis of this blog entry).

Right up into adulthood I kept my extreme fear of dogs, although thankfully I did get a little better as I grew up. I got to the point that, if a dog’s person told me the dog was okay, I would usually trust that (to a point) and at least be able to be around the dog. This was major progress for the little kid who needed an escort to school and trick-or-treating, and for little Princess the schnauzer to be locked away every time she went to her house to play.

I remember once, in college up in Vermont, my boyfriend, Mike, and I were out walking on a totally deserted, unpaved road for some reason, and we passed a farmhouse. In fact, now that I think about it, we may have even wandered onto a private road belonging to that farmhouse, which could explain the behavior of this, like, pack of seemingly crazed dogs that rushed at us from the farmhouse and stood there barking, snarling and looking extremely vicious to my untrained eye. I remember thinking, okay, so this is how it all ends. I grabbed Mike’s arm so tightly that I no doubt cut off his circulation. Next thing I knew, Mike issued forth one word and one word only to the dogs: “STOP.”

That’s all he said, just: “STOP.” And you know what? I’ll be damned if those dogs didn’t all immediately stop barking, sit down and just look up at Mike as if to say “Okay, we’ve stopped. What’s your next instruction?” I was dumbfounded.

I just continued standing there, frozen in place, with my vice grip on his arm. He then said to me very quietly, while keeping his eyes on the dogs, “We’re going to leave now, just turn around slowly and walk away with me.” I’ll be further damned for all eternity if we didn’t simply just turn and walk away, and those dogs didn’t make a single move to follow us. Finally, when we got a fair distance away, I said incredulously to Mike, “How did you do that? They understood what you said! How did you do that?” He said, “You just have to tell them firmly. They respond to your tone of voice.” I never forgot that. I wasn’t quite sure what the lesson was until recently, as I just thought Mike was this incredible dog whisperer. I didn’t call it that, on account of referring to anyone as a “whisperer” of anything didn’t come about, far as I know, until that movie “The Horse Whisperer”, and this was pre that (yes, I’m old, what of it?), but I thought, okay, Mike has A GIFT. Little did I know that anyone can do that and, indeed, Mike was right: it is all in the tone of voice, as well as your body language. Dogs take their cues from us. Oh sure, there is the occasional dog who is intent on shredding you no matter what, but what I’ve learned to my amazement is, those dogs, just like those type of people, are the exception and not the rule. Most dogs are closer to the gentle, loving Luke of my childhood than they are to the Doberman who recently chased me on my walk and WOULD have killed me, I’m convinced, had his owner not called him off at the last possible second (I had already hurtled myself into a two-lane main artery road at that point, deciding that being flattened by an SUV or two would be preferable to being ripped apart by one of the Hounds of the Baskervilles).

It turns out that, just like with people, there are good dogs and not-so-nice dogs and, just like with people, the not-so-nice ones almost always start out as good ones, too, but get hurt by how they are raised. The vast majority are: GOOD!!! Granted, it isn’t like with cats, because ALL cats are not only good, but divine, enlightened, and one with the universe. No other species can live up to that, except perhaps for trees, but they aren’t cuddly. Dogs are just like us, they are all individuals. The revelation to me is that most of them—the vast, vast, vast majority—do NOT want to tear me to shreds. In fact, most of them are very loving, smart, fun-filled, hilarious, affectionate, AWESOME beings and I have wasted a lot of time being afraid of them, when I could have been ENJOYING them. Instead of avoiding dogs, I could have been sharing my life with them all this time, and how much richer I would have been for it.

This has been confirmed to me since I adopted my second dog, Hurley. First Jamie was wonderful, and now Hurley, where does it end? Turns out, it doesn’t! Turns out, while dogs aren’t, as a group, as enlightened as cats, they are a boatload of loving FUN and you can take them places and do stuff with them and they are playful and silly and sweet as all get out and, basically, they are just like us, only way less likely to destroy the whole earth (although goodness knows what they could get up to if they had opposable thumbs).

I plan to make up for lost time now that I really KNOW for certain that wonderful dogs aren’t the exception to the rule, they ARE the rule! How great is it to live in the same world they inhabit? For example, Hurley has a little BFF from the dog park circuit, named Bella (turns out that “Bella” is the in name right now for dogs, as evidenced by the fact that you can’t go to any dog park in my city without there being at least one Bella in it) and Bella recently (Friday!) got a new sister, named Clara. Bella and Clara’s “pet mom” and I plan play dates at the dog parks all the time for these little guys. It is at least as much fun for us humans as it is for the dogs. I wasted so much time being afraid of dogs, and here it turns out that interacting with them is one of the greatest joys of life. Who knew? I’m glad I know now. They have so much to teach those who let them in.

My dear Jamie
1996 - 2009


Hurley, my sweet little canine son, at the dog park

And a few more of Hurley, at the dog park...that black dog with him in two of the shots is not his aforementioned BFF/dog park buddy extraordinaire, Bella (I wish I had a pic of them to post doing their signature schtick of tugging on a stick together, which I guess you could call their "stick schtick" *tee HEEEE*), he is a dog who is not one of the "regulars" at the park, and he is doing Hurley's favorite thing:  chasing him, YAY!





Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Carb Monsta Whisperer in the Hizzoouuuse: an update to my last blog entry

I come to you today able to report gratefully that my food sobriety is strong, even after being challenged last week. What’s really both Murphy's Law-worthy and blog-worthy is that, just as I was trying so single-mindedly to shore up my food sobriety on Thursday and Friday after the organic Halloween candy binge of Wednesday, something happened through no choice of my own that undermined my efforts and challenged my biochemical balance/brain chemistry even more.

In retrospect, it wasn't the apocalypse, but at the time, I thought:  "Oh nooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO way, that didn't happen!  That could be the sugary straw that breaks the carb monsta's peacefulness, and here I am doing my best to reassure him by making good choices!  Tell me this didn't happen!"  Well, it did really happen, but to my surprise and great relief, even it didn't break the carb monsta's peacefulness after all.  His peaceful state is a lot stronger and more resilient now than I realized before the events of last week.  I'm not the only one who has changed, whose epigenetic reset button has been pushed by the GenoType Diet, my little carb monsta has changed, too.  I'm a lot stronger in my biochemical balance and we're both a lot calmer and more resilient, and we've developed a mutual respect and healthy, more effective ways to communicate with each other, now that we've gotten to know each other.  Even an accidental two-pronged infusion of "naturally milled organic sugar" on top of the already-blogged-about Halloween candy binge didn't work my carb monsta into a lather, bless him.  What am I on about?  Try labels that look almost identical leading me unknowingly down a sugary path!

Here's what went down:  immediately after work on Thursday (the day after the previously-blogged about candy calamity), I rushed to the health food store and enthusiastically stocked up on fabulous food choices...or so I thought.  Turns out, though, that horror of horrors, I accidentally bought “French Vanilla” yogurt instead of plain, and I ended up making my homemade yogurt-feta salad dressing with that sugar-laden nightmare for two nights running (Thursday and Friday) before I clued in. By then, to my horror, I had already consumed all that additional sugar on top of my previously blogged about episode last Wednesday!  I mean, just as I was starting to relax and believe that I was going to be okay, food sobriety-wise, I got psyched out anew, big time, when I realized what I’d done and proceeded to scrutinize the label, which launched me directly to a horrified and re-scared state without passing “Go” and most assuredly without collecting 200 dollars.  It was now THREE totally atypical infusions of sugar, over three consecutive nights, instead of just one.  And the last two infusions, when I accidentally ate that yogurt, were cane sugar, baby!

In the entire history of my existence, I have never accidentally bought French Vanilla yogurt instead of plain!!! French Vanilla?  Oh, the humanity!  I was so preoccupied, apparently, with selecting the “cream on top” versus the “smoothy and creamy”, that I accidentally wandered into The Vanilla Zone without realizing it. They should have some sort of warning alarm go off! Anyway, so here I made this chi-laden, gorgeous salad for dinner on Thursday, with a mixture of greens, some black grapes, turkey, fresh basil, and what SHOULD have been a kicked-up, fabulous edition of my dressing, complete with organic oregano, garlic, a smidge of lime, olive oil, sea salt, etc., but when I tasted it, I thought: “Something is off—hmmm, I don’t think I like these grapes, I’m going back to the red ones, these black ones are so SWEET and also ODD tasting!” Well, the grapes were wrongly accused! It was the yogurt that was SO sweet, and the “organic natural vanilla flavor” that was, of course, totally out of place in a savory salad dressing and making the entire thing taste downright WEIRD—eeeew!  I didn't realize this until ingesting it AGAIN on Thursday, as both Wednesday and Thursday I had salad for dinner, only on Thursday, I had grape tomatoes in it instead of grapes, so the French Vanilla yogurt in the dressing really stood out clearly in an unpleasant way and there was nothing else even remotely sweet in the salad that could have been the culprit.  It was then that it hit me:  FRENCH VANILLA YOGURT!

Did you know that Stonyfield Farms Organic French Vanilla Yogurt contains a whopping 30 grams of sugar per cup? 30 grams! I was horrified to contemplate that I may have had about half a cup on both Thursday and Friday in my homemade dressing, so let’s estimate that I unwittingly consumed 15 grams of “naturally milled organic sugar” on both of those days, days in which I wanted my diet to be optimal so that I could counter the effects of my organic Halloween candy binge. What are the odds?

Now, I should stop and clear something up for the record right here, in case there are folks reading this who don’t know me from the Blood Type and GenoType Diet community and thus don’t know that I’m NOT—repeat, NOT—neurotic about my diet.*  I am strict on the few things I really need to be strict on (wheat and corn-syrup, to give the two prime examples), plus I also happen to be strict about not consuming any junk ingredients, but other than that, if I eat what we call an "avoid" food for my type here or there in the name of variety and joie de vivre, YAY, so be it.  I wanted to state that because I fear that some reading my last blog and then this one might think: hold on, first she freaks out about eating some organic, corn-syrup-free, all natural, wholesome candy and now she is flipping out anew over organic yogurt? Holy cow, this chick is beyond orthorexic (a pejorative word I hate, as some try to apply it to anyone who follows any diet, even if they happen to be following a healthy, wonderful, abundant diet for very good, healthy reasons...self-appointed "experts" trying to make healthy peeps feel like they have some sort of "disease" really irk me, and anyway if one tries to eat healthy, organic food in this junk-infused food supply, one HAS to seem a little neurotic, yet it is actually the mainstream food supply that is sick, not those of us trying to choose a healthy  alternative diet to it...but I digress, see a previous blog of mine called "My Diet is a Delight, not Deprivation: On Lightening Up and Living a Little for more on that)!  So let me say that NORMALLY, had I accidentally bought a yogurt laden to the gills (not that yogurt has gills, but you get my point) with sugar and consumed some of same for two nights running, I would not be thrilled about it, but I'd think, okay, so I'm out a few bucks for that yogurt, but no big.  While I don't typically eat foods with added sugar, I also don't think the occasional bit of pure sugar, in this case, organic, naturally milled sugar, is going to hurt me.  However, in the CONTEXT of me very atypically sugaring out already last week, and thus really needing to be as optimal as possible in my diet choices for the next few days following said sugaring out, in order to counter it and reinforce my food sobriety/biochemical balance, the fact that instead I bombarded my brain chemistry with yet more SUGAR really freaked me out, I must say.  This is because, as you know if you read my previous blog, I was already scared about getting thrown out of food sobriety, which is indeed an exquisitely delicate balancing act for me.  I was just calming down and realizing that I was okay, when I realized that I'd been unwittingly dosing myself with yet more sugar for two nights running.  Fear factor!

But you know what?  The learning experience/teachable moments just keep on a'comin', as that was last Thursday and Friday, here we are the following Wednesday and, apparently, I'm STILL okay!  The last thing I want to do, as it is very unhealthy for any "addict", is to get cocky and think, WOW, I can push the envelope and get away with it.  So that is NOT the take-home message.  But I am profoundly grateful, amazed and thrilled to learn from the events of last week that I am not only strong in my food sobriety, my state of biochemical balance, I'm stronger than I even realized, AND I'm way more resilient now than I was before having almost two years of doing the GenoType Diet under my belt.  I still have and know the importance of maintaining a healthy humbleness.  At the same time, though, I have a new confidence that I think is also healthy.  I am actually glad that the events of last week happened, as this experience has shown me evidence that I don't need to live with quite so much fear of getting thrown off track.  Homey don't fly off that track as easily as she used to, number one.  Number two, if she does go careening over the edge, she can get back.  Last week showed me that.  It was the first time I got really scared about my food sobriety, my biochemical balance, in almost two years.  The fear is a good thing, it helped me clearly know my priorities and focus on executing the good choices I now know how to make.  But it's also a very good thing to realize now that maybe I don't need to walk around with quite so much fear.  A little is good, but I'm beginning to jettison the rest and, in it's place, a beautiful, welcome new confidence is taking root.

Granted, had I ingested some really potent "avoid" trigger foods for me, such as GMO corn-syrup and/or wheat instead of organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup and organic rice syrup (in the Yummy Earth candies), and organic naturally milled sugar (in the yogurt), I very well might have been thrown all the way out of my food sobriety and into the briar patch.  So, again, I'm staying humble, as all I can really conclude from last week is that, even with three straight evenings of consuming added sugars of the wholesome variety (but they are still added sugars and thus a challenge to my even-keel status, as opposed to the more-slowly absorbed natural sugars found in whole fruits and veggies, and the whole grains I eat such as brown basmati rice and the occasional fabu quinoa dish), my food sobriety stayed strong.  We don't know what would happen if I were to rip into a bag of potato chips, down some Doritos, or order me up a big sub sandwich on a wheat sub roll.  And, if I have anything to say about it, we won't ever find out.  What is more likely to happen, though, is that we all, despite our best efforts, will at various and sundry points in time ingest some HIDDEN avoids/reactive/trigger ingredients in food when we go out to eat, or we eat in other social situations, a.k.a., when we ourselves do not prepare our food and know exactly what goes into it.  When my family is in town each summer for a few weeks, I go through this angst, but even through the last two summer visits (during my two summers on the GenoType Diet), I've come sailing through absolutely fine.

I think that, barring me being locked in a fast food restaurant for a week and forced to eat nothing but junk food, I'm going to be okay!  My food sobriety now, to paraphrase a great line from one of my very favorite TV shows of all time, Seinfeld,"is real and it's spectacular!"

* As evidenced by the fact that I'm not even technically (or any other way) supposed to have feta or yogurt on my particular type's diet...yet I do routinely make this dressing which contains feta and plain yogurt...that's how I roll!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Food Sobriety is an Exquisitely Delicate Balancing Act

I gave myself quite a scare last evening.

First, a little history: on November 27th, it will be two years that I’ve been doing stunningly well on the GenoType Diet. It is about so much more than weight loss for me, it is all about the totality of my health, yet weight loss is a very important component of that for me, as I started at 238 pounds. I’m now at about 157 pounds, which is below my original goal of 165, and I’m now trying to hit 148, and then I’ll reassess again. I may be done with the weight loss portion of my journey at that point, as I’ll then be at the tippy-top of what the “experts” (if one considers NIH the experts, as I’m going by their BMI calculator) consider a healthy weight for someone my height. That said, I’m THRILLED to be where I am, 81 pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest, and if I never lose another speck, I can handle that, as long as I don’t gain the weight back.

Gaining the weight back is my not-so-secret terror. I don’t think I will, but I’m scared I will. Intellectually, I know that I’ve come a long way and that I now have the tools I need in terms of knowledge, experience and insight, to not only keep myself on the right track, in a state of what I call “food sobriety” (feeling in balance, steady and centered, with no cravings or desire to eat things that aren't good for me) most of the time, but very importantly also to get myself back on track if I slide off the axis of balance. Emotionally, however, since I'm keenly aware of how easy it is to slip off track, out of food sobriety, and into that dreaded place of imbalance and feeling out of control with food, I have a fear that it could happen and I somehow wouldn’t be able to find my way back to that place of balance. It wouldn’t be the first time that I lost weight, only to gain it all back plus more. This time feels different in so many ways, and I’ve never lost this much weight before, but I’ll say it again: the fear of it all coming back is real and ever-present. I try to be aware of it, and counter it with telling myself it is different this time, I’m different, I’ve learned and grown. I’ve changed. And those self reminders do get through and help, as they ring true. Yet does the fear go away? Never.

I think a little realistic fear, to the tune of knowing that it (slipping off balance, out of food sobriety, and feeling out of control around food) can happen and happen fairly easily, is actually a healthy thing.  I also think, though, that I'm starting to learn something empowering, important, and equally as true:  if and when I do slip out of dietary balance, out of food sobriety, it doesn't have to be for long, and it certainly doesn't have to be permanent!  I can't stop it from ever happening, but I CAN get back in balance, back into food sobriety, fairly quickly and reliably.  This is profoundly empowering for me.  Being not only usually able to prevent slipping out of balance in the first place, but also to get back into balance if it happens, is the key to sustaining my weight loss and health for a lifetime.

Last night, for the first time in almost two full years, I did indeed have a “slip”, a sudden jolt out of balance. I knew it was happening while it was happening, I realized why it was happening, I of course didn’t want it to be happening, yet, in that moment, I had very little if any control over it happening, and that last bit is what scares me so. It was a brilliant reminder of just how delicate being in balance, biochemically, brain-chemistry-wise, truly is for me, even when I’ve been strong in a place of balance for almost two full years. In those two years, not only have I not been ruled by food cravings, which was once a sad reality of my life, I didn’t even have ANY cravings. With one mild exception about a year ago, when I felt shaky for one evening and ate a little bit too much (as with this time, it was around a holiday and I had some sugary trigger foods in the house that I don’t normally have around), I have felt absolutely steady, strong, calm, and in balance. I feel deeply nourished, satisfied, centered, energetic and just generally HEALTHY. Two straight years of balance.  This balance is amazing and was certainly not always the case for me.

I’m exactly like an alcoholic or drug addict in that my “sobriety”, in my case with food, is something I am aware of 24/7, deeply grateful for and appreciative of 24/7, and exquisitely aware 24/7 that I can’t take for granted. I have to protect it, be mindful of it, or it could be shot to hell with “just one drink”, to stick with the alcoholic metaphor. Of course, in my case, it isn’t a drink that could throw me out of food sobriety (although a corn-syrup-laden soda could do the trick, seriously), it is eating a trigger food.

As an important aside, my dad was an alcoholic and virtually his entire side of the family struggles with “the gene”. I myself don’t even drink because I’m too scared to find out for sure if I do or don’t have it. Why play with fire? I know what alcoholism does to an individual and to a family and it isn’t worth it to me to find out if I have the gene. I suspect that I do, as I’m a non-secretor, and Dr. Peter D’Adamo, who wrote the blood type diet (Eat Right for Your Type) and the GenoType Diet books that have been so important to my health, discusses the possible connection between non-secretors and alcoholism in several of his books (see the classic Eat Right for Your Type and also Live Right for Your Type, which goes into further detail on secretor status). When I took the test and learned that I'm a non-secretor, it just affirmed my decision not to drink.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a brilliant, insightful MD who blends her classic, impressive western medicine training with alternative influences, giving her a wonderfully wise, holistic perspective, talks about how, in her medical practice, she has observed something among her patients: those patients who are children of alcoholics are ALWAYS, without exception, either alcoholics themselves, or they are carbohydrate addicts. When I heard her say that on a PBS special a few years back, I thought, yes, that is so true.  So while I may or may not have inherited the gene for alcoholism (and, by the way, it is on my mom’s side, too--on my dad’s side of the family, it has been striking in its devastating omnipresence, but I have a risk factor for it from both sides), I very strongly believe that I have a genetic sensitivity to carbohydrates, which I believe is related to alcoholism: it could be a variation on that theme, I think.

Bottom line: more than most folks in the general population, I have a very fragile biochemical balance and I’m sensitive to certain trigger foods throwing me out of wack if I ingest them. If I am already out of wack/balance and I eat a trigger food (high-glycemic carbs, basically, particularly those from certain grains or starchy, highly-refined carbs like potato chips), God help me I’m very likely to go “on a bender”. This is why, when well-meaning people at an office party or wherever ask me “Come on, you can’t just have one piece of cake? Just a small one?”, I say, basically, no, I can’t. Because even though cake isn’t my drug of choice, it’s still a drug to me, and one piece would not be one piece. It would be one TRIGGER that sets me off like the gunshot at the start of a horse race. I’d be out of the shoot and on to “harder drugs” (ones I like, such as potato chips and dip), and faster than you can say “obesity”, I’d be completely off the rails and, my great fear is, unable to find my way back.

Wait a minute, you may be thinking, why wouldn’t you be able to find your way back to the main, lighted path? It would be RIGHT THERE if you just went off the thing, you wouldn't be anywhere near far enough away not to be able to clearly see the light and walk back to it, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, if I get off the trail, I could still see where it is and see the way back to it. But no, I might not actually be able to get back to it, because the thing with addicts is: all the knowledge, experience and insight in the world, like I was saying earlier I now possess, can’t really help you much when you are in the actual strong grip of the addiction gone active. In other words: when you most need to pull out your well-equipped tool box is when you are least able to do so. Oh, you want to. You desperately want to. But you can’t. You’re not running the show at that moment, your addiction is. And getting to that point, the point at which something or some confluence of things triggers your addiction to move from the dormant state to the ACTIVE/ON state, is the precise thing that scares me. Once I’m there, it can and historically has taken me as long as years to wrest myself free enough from the strong-arm tactics of my “carb monsta” (as I often refer to my carb addiction), grab the reigns once again and somehow get back on track. By then, historically, I have gained all my weight back plus more, and the damage is done (cue Neil Young). It’s like a bunch of drunk people in a bar tore up the joint and then, in the cold light of day, in comes the bar owner (moi) and has to pay for and clean up the utter mess left in their rampaging wake.

I have such a palpable, ever-present fear that this could happen and it is based on reality, that’s the really scary part: it isn’t illogical. I wish it were. The only thing I have going for me, and it’s a biggie, is that I really have changed.

I really have now internalized all those tools I need in such a situation—namely, in a situation in which my food sobriety is threatened by the carbohydrate addiction getting switched ACTIVE/ON--so that I don’t even have to try to wrest free enough from the carb monsta, should he rise up and assume control, to grab the tool box, I just have to know what I’m doing and put one foot in front of the other. In other words, if I were a computer, I wouldn’t need to install the “Help, Monsta Out Da Cage!” software during all the chaos of said monsta rampaging around the room smashing stuff, all I’d have to do is click on the icon because the program is already installed. This is what I need to remember to help me stay calm about the now blessedly rare times my carb monsta is roused from his usual peaceful, resting state and starts rampaging around the house like he did last night. All I have to do is click the correct program icon, and I will be safely and reliably rebooted. The gratitude I feel with that realization is beyond description.

For a normal person, one without a carbohydrate addiction or whatever you want to call my hypersensitivity to certain foods that can trigger an all out cravings/binge cycle, what actually happened last night wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t the end of the world. It was one relatively minor candy binge. What’s funny is, I’m not even a candy person and I virtually never have candy in my house. Halloween would be the ONLY time I do, and mainstream Halloween candy would NOT be something I would even touch, even if I did go on an eating binge/bender (unless it was a really bad, off the reservation one, and I had nothing but mainstream candy in the house). Indeed I didn’t touch mainstream candy, as I didn’t have mainstream candy. I unfortunately had organic, corn-syrup-free, junk-free candy. I also had several other factors have an unusual convergence that resulted in me suddenly crashing and burning in regard to my ability to make good choices. In other words, I’m human and for the first time in two years, I went a hair crazy and off the rails. And it scared the dickens outta me.

Hopefully, it was a learning experience, it scared me straight, AND, if I really can get right back on track today, which so far I am and I think I can continue to do, it may even be a positive thing in that I will know that, okay, IF I get off track, indeed I CAN get right back on track now, I don’t have to spin out so far that I can’t find my “food sobriety” again for months to years. I don’t have to gain the weight back. I don’t have to lose my balance for any significant length of time. Hopefully, this experience will teach me: if I fall off the balance beam, which even Olympians do, I know where the beam is, it’s right there, for goodness sakes, and I can get right back on. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? So obvious? Yet it has taken me so long to get here. There has been nothing simple or obvious about it for me. That balance beam, once I fall off, is now my singular focus, everything else fades to black. Just get back on the beam, PT, get back on, everything else takes a back seat to that. Taking care of yourself is Priority One, you are Priority One, pay no attention to anything the carb monsta is doing or saying to try to distract you, get. back. on. that. beam. Food sobriety is Job One, period.

Here are the five factors I’ve identified that went into my carb monsta waking up after a good, long, almost-two-year rest and fielding his wild oats last night. Me knowing what those factors are is a sure indicator that indeed I really have changed, I really do have the tools on board to, one, almost always prevent this from happening in the first place, and, two, if it happens, right the ship swiftly. If you struggle with food sobriety, too, maybe one or more of these things will resonate with your experiences and help you know what to be aware of:

1. I was sleep-deprived. My bad. This is a factor I could and should have prevented from happening. I stayed up late on Tuesday, election night, to watch the returns. Late, as in after midnight. Mind you, I have to be at work by 7:30 a.m.. Enough said.

2. I had gone too long between meals. My bad again. So far, I’m two for two in factors that I have the power to neutralize, yet didn’t. So this is a teachable moment for myself in that I need to take away the message, yet again, that I’m human, I have limits, and it is of the utmost importance that I make taking care of myself a priority. I have to be mindful of the basics, and of the truth that I deserve to make taking good care of myself a priority. The simple basics of getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising, are THE keys to balance and health for me. I have to keep them a top priority at all times. Yesterday, I didn’t arrive home to even start preparing dinner until 6:45 p.m., and I had not eaten anything since about 9:00 a.m. BAD.

3. I didn’t have good food choices ready that were either already prepared to eat or that I could prepare quickly to eat. I cannot emphasize strenuously enough how absolutely vital, how KEY, it is to my diet sobriety for me to keep good food choices at the ready. Since most of my diet is highly perishable, if I don’t get to the store approximately twice per week (which I almost always do), I tend to run out of perishable veggies and fruits. I have tons of frozen veggies and fruits, but I was so overly hungry and tired and, as my mom would phrase it, “far gone” last night, that I wanted something I could eat RIGHT NOW. So I had leftover roasted chicken, which is great, but there were no veggies with it, as I had already eaten them the night before and had planned to add more yesterday and heat the whole thing up for about 45 minutes before eating. That was before I decided instead to take my dog to the dog park directly after work, to carpe some diem in the last waning week of Daylight Savings Time. By the time I got home, there it was 6:45 p.m. and I wasn’t going to wait until 7:30 p.m. to eat, when I had gone since 9:00 a.m. without a bite. Plus...

4. I was feeling a tad under the weather. At the dog park, my throat was feeling sore and I just felt like, whoa, am I coming down with something? Or is this just the change in seasons/pressure systems/whatever? It never dawned on me until I got home that, DUH, what it mostly was (although I do think I’m fighting something off, successfully I hope), was that I was EXHAUSTED and STARVING. That’s why my head was so fuzzy and I felt so run down. Hello: I WAS run down! And I did it to myself by my CHOICES to stay up late Tuesday, to not go shopping earlier in the week, and to not defrost and/or prepare something the night before for last night. To top it all off...

5. Not only did I NOT have the right food choices at the ready, I had some bad food choices RIGHT THERE, in the form of the earlier-blogged-about organic Halloween candy. In fairness to myself, I must state for the record that I almost NEVER have candy, or anything that isn't a good choice for my diet sobriety in my house, not that candy was ever my thing, but it is certainly a trigger if I choose to indulge in it. And there it was:  organic, corn-syrup-free, fruity lollipops and hard candies and there I was with a raw, sore throat, exhausted (which results in seratonin level undoubtedly low and cortisol level undoubtedly elevated--a bad hormonal combo, blood sugar and biochemical balance-wise), fridge bare of veggies or fruit, still hungry as a roasted chicken alone just wasn’t cutting it...so FIRST I had some roasted, shelled, salted pumpkin seeds with a little dark-sesame oil, a dash of lime juice, garlic powder, sea salt and nutritional yeast added. But then I realized, omg, monsta out da cage! I went for the CANDY. And I ate way too much of it. Oh dear.

End of story, except for the good part:

The lessons of this experience are basic, important and wonderful ones.  First of all, I can’t remind myself often enough to do the basics of getting enough sleep, eating right (including the critical importance of both having good, healthy choices in the house at all times and not having trigger foods in the house at any time), and exercising, AND, furthermore, that I deserve to do those things.  I deserve to take good care of myself. Those are the lessons I relearned today, and will no doubt need to remind myself of from time to time, rebooting my priorities as necessary.  The other lesson that I’m learning anew as we speak, is that, HEY: if I do get off track, it doesn’t have to be for long!  It doesn't have to be the end of the world, food sobriety-wise!  I'm human and, while blessedly rare now, there will still be times when I get off track.  The empowering fact is, though, that I CAN reliably turn things around and I CAN do so much faster than I used to!  When the carb monsta stirs, and grabs the reigns, I usually can't stop him at that time, but I can almost always prevent it from happening and on those rare occasions when it happens, I am so grateful to be able to report to you that I've now become the carb monsta whisperer, and I can calm him back down and reclaim the reigns in record time, every time.

So how, specifically, did I calm the carb monsta back down and reclaim the reigns?  The first thing I was able to do once the carb monsta released his grip a smidge--because, obviously, in the throes of the carb monsta grabbing the reigns, I could not stop myself at the time from going for the organic candy and overeating same, as it's so true what they say about addiction being "like making love to a gorilla:  it isn't over 'til the gorilla's done"--was to GO TO BED AT 9:35 P.M. last night. I never usually go to bed that early, so this was a very good, healthy choice that I was grateful I was able to make last night. Then, this morning, I got up and took the few remaining things I did have in the fridge and did a fry-up of sweet potato, onion, and organic beef frankfurter, which I then brought to work to have from my breakfast/lunch combo (otherwise known as “brunch”, which I usually eat sometime between 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., depending). So far, we have getting some much-needed sleep and packing a homemade lunch, as tactics I used as "the carb monsta whisperer" to calm said monsta back down. Next thing I did, even though it was raining during my lunch break today, was to ask my dear co-worker, Kay, to borrow her umbrella, and to WALK ANYWAY. Damn the torpedoes, after last night, I wasn’t about to let a few raindrops stop me from getting some much needed exercise!

So far today, instead of further self-destructing after initially slipping off track, as the old PT would have done, I made better choices. I made choices that are about valuing, respecting and taking good care of myself. So I’m human, so I slipped off track once in almost two years.  That is a pretty great record for someone who is challenged by a somewhat fragile biochemical balance. I know the factors that came together and led to my fall from the balance beam, and I know the absolute priority of getting back on the beam. I also know that I don’t have to spend any time beating myself up for falling off, for not being perfect. I simply need to realize, hey, I’m human, and a pretty damn wonderful one at that. I made some less than ideal choices in this case which contributed to my slip off the balance beam. Sometimes it can happen no matter how ideal my choices are, but in this case, I made some self-destructive choices recently that led to what happened. Okay, again we come back to: I’m human. That doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up over it, which would only continue the self-destructiveness. Instead, I need to reboot. To click my little internal “Monsta out da cage!” icon and go back to square one, back to my home page, where the wallpaper should be: PT, you have to make taking care of yourself a priority, and you deserve to do so. You got off track but it’s okay. Simply reboot and reset your priorities. You’re worth it, and you know exactly what to do.

I remain humble in the knowledge that being thrown off balance, out of my food sobriety, is something that can and no doubt will happen rarely. When it does, though, I don't have to, or want to, try to man-handle the carb monsta anymore. I don't want to crack the whip and scare him back into a cage.  I don't want to be that kind of "trainer"!  Instead, I've taken the time to get to know him.  I've learned to respect him.  I've made friends with him, gained his trust, and all I have to do now when he gets upset is to comfort him, to calm him down. He's not so scary, after all, once you get to know him.  Instead of fighting him, I now try to give him what he needs.  In return, he isn't just merely locked in a cage, pent-up and seething, just looking for any opportunity to break out.  He's not in a cage at all, as he is calm and at peace, and rarely gets riled up enough to make a grab for the reigns anymore.  When he does, I have learned to try to stay calm myself, and simply coax him gently into giving me back the reigns.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Curbside Recycling FINALLY Comes to St. Petersburg, Florida: Can I get an AMEN?!!!

Color me thrilled and heartened! Curbside recycling has finally come to my beautiful city of St. Petersburg, Florida!  A few years ago, St. Petersburg received the distinction of being designated as Florida's first Green City, which I always wondered about in light of our glaring lack of curbside recycling.  Now we are finally fully deserving of that honor (though, of course, we all as individuals and communities can always strive to go even greener, as it is an ongoing process).  Previously, St. Pete had in place—and apparently this option will remain in place—a system of drop-off locations to which residents could take our recyclables, free of charge. This was much better than nothing, but not good enough. It not only required residents like me, who wish to recycle, to use fossil fuel to drive individually to the recycling site versus the more efficient use of fossil fuel for a systematic curbside pickup, let me tell you, it also required serious commitment to going green on the part of the user that goes way beyond that of your average citizen.

Since going green happens to be a deeply held value of mine, I dutifully collected my recyclables and periodically schlepped them to the site, which I must admit was fairly close to my house—within 5 miles, max, I’d guesstimate. You had to fashion your own bins, sort everything, load it all into the car, schleppe to the site, which in the case of the one closest to me, is an unpaved, VERY deep-pot-hole-laden affair that is also a busy brush collection site and usually is crowded with vehicles hauling brush and goodness knows what, and it is usually VERY HOT there and wah wah WAH: in the immortal words of Kermit the Frog: “It isn’t easy being green.” By the time I was done loading, hauling, unloading, sorting and jettisoning a load of recyclables at that site, my car’s undercarriage would be gone, I’d have heat stroke, and I’d be seriously rethinking whether just giving up on recycling, thereby surrendering to the specter of global climate change trashing the earth, would be that bad after all.

In Florida’s first designated Green City, our city government should make it as easy as possible to recycle, and I applaud them for taking this important step toward doing that by FINALLY adopting a curbside recycling program . Ideally, as is the case in some forward-thinking-and-acting communities in America, anything that is picked up for recycling should be free of charge and/or result in rewards for the recycling citizen, while anything that is put out as trash would still be charged for. Those types of curbside recycling programs provide an excellent incentive to everyone to recycle everything they possibly can. Alas, though, this is not how the program is going to unfold in my city, yet I’m still thrilled in the extreme to be able to report that we now at least HAVE a curbside recycling program in my city. I do wish they would consider amending the program that I’m about to describe in the next paragraph so that, if a resident does opt to participate in it, $33.00, an amount equivalent to the annual fee that the resident pays to the private company for the service, would be deducted from that resident’s monthly city utility bill once per year, as an incentive from the city to encourage all citizens to choose to participate. That said, $33.00 per year is a BARGAIN and I’ll take it! In fact, I’ve already jumped at the option and signed up today, as soon as I found out how to do so.

Our new curbside recycling program was recently voted on and approved by City Council, and will consist of a private company providing the service for a scant $2.75 per month, billed annually by the private company as a one-time $33.00 charge (separate from your city utility/trash pick-up bill, this will be a transaction between the resident requesting the service and the private company) to the resident requesting it. It is an optional program, so residents do not have to participate at all. I just called the private company and signed up, and boy was it almost impossible to even get through, which I think is GREAT! The first few times I called, I was put on hold for a while and then directed by an automated system to leave a message and someone would get back to me. Well, I didn’t do that, I simply called back periodically until I finally got a LIVE human being, and he confirmed that the reason it is so hard to get through is just what I hoped it was: thousands of citizens of St. Pete flooding the phone lines with pent-up demand to sign up for our long-hoped-for curbside recycling program!

Indeed it isn’t easy being green. I realize things every day that I could and should do differently in order to be greener. As I've blogged about previously, though, the important thing is not perfection (thank God, because he/she/it is the only one who is perfect), but TRYING, every day, with every choice, to behave in ways that respect our earth. In that “greening of the self” process, you become a more respectful human being in general, and when we all do that, we move to a greener, better world. I feel that signing up for this curbside recycling program is one important way for me to do that. It sends a message to my city leaders that they were right to create and approve this curbside recycling program, and that there is a huge demand for it among the people they represent. More importantly, it gets me and other folks recycling more and recycling consistently.

I’m ridiculously thrilled about this! I can’t wait to receive my recycling bin (7 to 10 business days!), fill ‘er up (as I currently have a LOT of recyclables piled up, since I don’t schleppe to the recycling site as often as I should, due to the aforementioned inherent hassles), and—thrill of thrills—place my recycling bin on the curb for pick-up the first Friday morning after receiving it.

Does anyone else get this excited about recycling, or is it just me?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why are some of my Democratic Party leaders acting meek instead of backing Meek?

First of all, I am totally disgusted with one Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, a few weeks back, destructively and inexplicably BETRAYED the Democratic voters of Florida and the Democratic Party by endorsing Independent (read: REPUBLICAN, with REPUBLICAN agenda, who changed party affiliation before the primary elections because the polls showed he wouldn't win) candidate, Charlie Crist, in the Florida race for US Senate, even though we have a perfectly great, duly nominated DEMOCRATIC candidate named Kendrick Meek, who has consistently been a leader and fought for issues Democrats care about.  RFK, Jr.:  What a turncoat!

I was fuming about that one for days, but I got over it.  Who cares about RFK, Jr. anyway?  He's coasting on name recognition, overrated, not from Florida and has no clue what he's talking about re this race.  For example, he called Crist a, quote, "champion of the environment".  WHAT?  The truth is more like Crist has been a champion for offshore oil drilling...before he recently decided to be against it.  Kendrick Meek has consistently stood against offshore oil drilling.  He's the true champion of the environment!  Windsock Charlie blows with the wind in terms of his stance on any given issue, and our environment and people cannot afford that.  Back to RFK, Jr.:  voters down here aren't really going to pay any attention to what he says, I consoled myself with thinking.

But then yesterday happened:  I started seeing news stories about someone who, unlike how I feel and think about RFK, Jr., I greatly admire and think of as a truly great Democratic leader, Bill Clinton.  I am shocked and in a state of disbelief at what allegedly happened, although to say there are conflicting reports about this is an understatement.  Apparently--emphasis on apparently, as in, I'm not sure about this but the majority of news reports I've read indicate this--he at least broached the possibility to Kendrick Meek, whom I remind you again is the DULY NOMINATED Democratic candidate, that he get out of the race , since he is running so far behind and, theoretically, if he drops out, all his support would go to the Independent, Charlie Crist.  This would, theoretically, save the day because it would stop the dreaded ultimate Tea Party candidate, Marco Rubio, who is waaaaaaaaaaaay ahead in the polls.  Yeeeeaah, just a few problems with this logic:

1.  Crist can call himself whatever he likes, he's a REPUBLICAN at heart.  True, he's more "moderate" than Rubio, but that doesn't take much!  You can be a far right-wing Republican and still be more moderate than Radcon Rubio.  Charlie Crist is a lifelong Republican.  He is also the consummate politician and he made a calculated move to run as an Independent because the polls indicated that he could not win the Republican primary against Rubio.  I don't care what the ticket says, if you prick Crist, he bleeds Republican Red.  Kendrick Meek, on the other hand, is a DEMOCRAT, with a solid, consistent, Democratic record on issues like the environment, offshore oil drilling, education, civil rights, the greening of our economy, little things like that:  you know, our entire platform.  He's our candidate, not Crist!  Crist is a Jeb Bush Republican.  Period.

2.  If Democratic leaders are worried about the Republicans taking over the Senate and throwing a tea party, instead of urging our own party's duly nominated, solid candidate to get out of the race, why not use their stature to urge CRIST to get out of the race and save the day?  If Crist gets out, at least some of his support (particularly, teachers who appreciate him vetoing a terrible Republican bill that would have decimated education in this state, which was a great thing but a calculated move on Crist's part precisely to get their votes) would go back to Meek, where it rightfully belongs (Meek has been a champion of issues important to teachers for YEARS, not just since he wanted their votes, for example, he brought forward the class size amendment that is now part of the Florida constitution).  Then we'd have an actual Democrat in the Senate and not a historically Republican windsock that blows whichever way the political winds do.

If Democtratic leaders don't think Crist would be swayed by them urging him to get out of the race, and they fear the split vote handing the election to Rubio, well, I agree, so here's an idea:  don't therefore urge our own great Democratic candidate, whom the Democratic voters of our Democratic Party nominated, to get out of the race!  That's insanity!  He's our only hope!  Instead you should enthusiastically and urgently endorse him (which Clinton has done, I hasten to add--but I'm writing this to all my Democratic leaders) and spend all your energy and time campaigning for him (again, which Bill Clinton did do, but it's what he may have urged privately that has me writing this) instead of doing turncoat, damaging things like RFK, Jr. did by endorsing Crist, or urging Meek to drop out of the race!!!  What kind of message are you sending to Democratic voters with that behavior?  Why do you want to convince us that Meek has no shot of winning?  He has EVERY shot and, indeed, the CERTAINTY of winning IF every registered Democrat goes to the polls and votes for him.  That, my dear Democratic leaders, is what you should be out there convincing the Democratic voters to do!  You should be circling the wagons!

3.  How DARE any Democratic leader urge the DULY ELECTED NOMINEE to get out of the race when there is no reason on earth for it?!!!!  This is madness!  I mean, do I see the urgency of defeating Rubio?  God, yes.  Do I see that my party leaders probably have way more influence and pull on the Democratic candidate than they do on Independent, Charlie Crist?  Yeah, I get it, I get it.  Seen in the best of all lights, they are valiantly trying to do anything necessary to defeat Rubio, thus saving our state from the kind of slash and burn destruction he inflicted on it from Tallahassee, only now it would be from Washington.  They also would prefer an Independent, not a Republican, get that Senate seat, numbers-wise.  I get their so-called logic but I also get that it is so flawed!

Most of Meek's supporters would not vote for Crist.  I would not.  If Meek dropped out, I would not vote for the candidate who basically forced him, my Democratic candidate, out of the race.  For the first time in my life, I would just not vote because there would be no choice representing me, or even representing the lesser of two evils, on the ballot.  (I already voted by mail for Meek so luckily I wouldn't even have to face that whole, epic, moral dilemma, but if I hadn't voted by mail, I do not think I could vote for Crist.)  Oh, and, by the way, if Crist goes to the Senate?  Yeah, newsflash to my party's leaders:  he's going to vote with the Republicans, not the Democrats!  You shouldn't be backing Rubio Lite, when there is a picked-by-your-voters, real live DEMOCRAT on the ticket.  Don't act meek, back Meek!

If Meek drops out, his supporters--i.e., us so-often-overlooked-by-our-own-party DEMOCRATIC BASE--would not go for Crist.  On the other hand, if Crist drops out, there will be a windfall of Democratic voters who will come home to Meek.  So, any Democratic defectors out there (a.k.a., "leaders" who would attempt to lead our candidate right out of the race):  put that in your turncoat pocket and button it.

It is Charlie Crist who should get out of the race.  He wasn't nominated by anyone but himself and all his presence is doing is handing the election to Tea Partier, Marco Rubio.

Perhaps the bigger question here is, IS FLORIDA CAPABLE OF EVER HAVING A NORMAL ELECTION?  Obviously, though, that topic requires a blog of its own.  So, sticking to my topic and wrapping 'er on up:  I'm disgusted with the confirmed action of RFK, Jr. in endorsing Crist, which was a total and uncalled for betrayal of the Democratic Party and very potentially harmful to Florida (if any Florida voters actually pay attention to RFK, Jr., which, thankfully, they probably won't).  Mind you, if there were anything wrong with our Democratic candidate and/or if RFK, Jr. differed with him on the issues and there were a good Independent alternative, maybe I could see it, but Meek is a solid, consistent, strong Democratic leader.  RFK, Jr. didn't say anything against him as a person or on the issues.  He just decided to endorse "his friend", Crist, and felt the need to throw into his statement that Meek has "no chance".  WRONG:  when Democrats vote for Democrats, Democrats win!  So he DOES have a chance, if we get out and vote!  I'm also very shocked and dismayed to hear that Bill Clinton may have privately urged Meek to drop out.  It is very important to note, however, that Clinton campaigned for Meek in my city, St. Petersburg, Florida, and at least if he did bring up Meek getting out of the race, he did it privately and he still stood up for him publicly.  What I don't get, though, is why any Democratic leader would even suggest, even entertain the notion and bring it up for discussion, that the nominee exit the race to enable a Republican in windsock clothing to win.  Crist and Rubio are both Republicans!

Crist has a new label on the ticket now, but his actions stand as those of a lifelong Republican.  Crist and Rubio both have a history of supporting offshore oil drilling, for instance, and being against gay adoption, and on and on the list goes.  It's a longer, scarier list for Rubio, but Crist is not our candidate.  Meek is.  Unlike the other candidates, Meek has a history of supporting and fighting for Democratic priorities, and thus can be be counted upon to support those priorities in the US Senate:  the environment, education, civil rights, the greening and thus health of our economy, seniors, the middle class, and the list goes on.  It's a good list.  It's a list of our Democratic values.  Remember those?  Aren't they what we should be fighting for?

So, to the leaders of my party and, more importantly, to my fellow Florida Democratic voters (because your endorsement on Tuesday is the only one that counts), please throw your support to our deserving candidate, Kendrick Meek.  If we all do this, he WILL pull off a stunning win.  THAT is how we save the day, save the future of our state, and stop Marco Rubio.

Florida Democrats, you have a choice on Tuesday:  For US Senator, contrary to what it says next to Crist's name, there are really two Republicans on the ballot.  A really scary one, and a scary one.  There is also a Democrat on the ballot.  Democratic voters put him there.  And we can also put him into the Senate.  You decide.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Horrific High-Fructose Corn Syrup Hypocrisy: An Exorcism!

I can no longer be a hypocrite on Halloween and hand out high-fructose corn syrup to wide-eyed, bewondered, innocent little children. “Trick or treat?” in our culture has really become “Trick or toxin?”, and I refuse to hand out the latter to developing children. I won’t do it, I tells ya!

In point of fact, I feel that the whole custom of trick-or-treating is an anachronistic, archaic one given that this is decidedly not Walton’s Mountain and is, in fact, 2010, a time loaded to the gills with SCARY people whose doors I wouldn’t want my child, if I had one, knocking on for any reason, let alone to request candy. Don’t get me wrong on the subject of Halloween itself: I still very much appreciate the original seasonal, harvest, autumnal celebration aspect of it, and the dressing in costume/role playing aspect of it, especially in terms of its profound value for children, as it helps the development of their imagination, empathy and risk-taking, and gives them and all of us a way to explore our deepest fears (death!) in a safe way. All that very good, healthy, wonderful stuff, however, has been eclipsed by the mean-spirited, disrespectful destructiveness that abounds on Halloween night, which I’m not even going to delve into here, and the insatiable quest for corn syrup, to which I’m about to provide a positive alternative.

I doubt very much that I could successfully stir up any sort of anti-trick-or-treating movement--although, think of it: wouldn’t it be nicer to have organized (safe!) events like parties and evening/night outdoor costume parades for the kiddies and for all of us, versus trick-or-treating, which, again, I gotta say, is a dangerous anachronism? I think so, but since I also think trick-or-treating is here to stay, no matter what I think of it, let me instead tell you about some corn-syrup-free, organic, alternative candy options I’ve discovered, purchased, and plan to dole out to the little ‘uns and to all the huge, humorless hulks who show up in no costumes at all, pillowcases open, cigarettes dangling from mouths, demanding candy...although anyone over 18 and/or sans costume deserves any corn syrup that comes their way.

Last week, I learned of three brands of alternative candy, one of which I just purchased about $20.00 dollars worth of at my local health food store and I feel very good about planning to hand it out on Halloween. Giving the aforementioned little-bitty bewondered pumpkins and witches non-toxic treats is good for one’s karma, me thinks. Just as important as not participating in the mass poisoning of our nation's little ‘uns, is the fact that, by voting with your wallet (which is the most effective way to change how corporations do business), you are powerfully freezing out Big Corn Syrup’s biggest profits of the year, and sending a clear message that we want candy without corn syrup or any toxic junk in it. Finally, as always, choosing to buy from companies that use sustainably-grown, organic ingredients is better for our planet, too. So, in the seemingly small act of choosing healthier Halloween candy, you are, in one fell swoop, helping the health of our nation's kids, sending a clear message to Big Agribiz, and helping our planet. What’s not to love?

The brand I bought (Yummy Earth) is not only free of high-fructose corn syrup, it is certified organic, which is an added bonus. I tried one piece, in the name of vetting the brand for you, my vast legion of readers, and I can honestly say it was delish. True, I haven’t had any candy in YEARS, so maybe that added to the wondrousness of it, yet I agree with the Today show host whom the company quotes on the back of the package as saying it was the “best lollipop I ever had”. They come in lollipop (on a stick) form and in lollipop drop (hard candy) form and mine was a “drop”, but it is the same candy. Lovely. I heartily recommend the Yummy Earth brand from first-hand scrutinizing and tasting. Two other brands listed below (Indie Candy and Surf Sweets) are ones that look relatively good (compared to mainstream candy, of course, not compared to, say, organic kale leaves, but candy is meant to be a special, extraordinary, and, in my opinion, rare treat for the little dears) based on the ingredients, but I haven’t tried them. Finally, I've listed Endangered Species, a great brand of chocolate that I have tried.  Here is the information I’ve gleaned on all of the above (click on each company's name to go to their web page):

Yummy Earth

As I said above, this is the brand I purchased and actually ingested one piece of, in order to “test drive” it for blogging purposes. I enthusiastically recommend it because it is not only free of corn syrup (and their citric acid is not corn-derived, it is from beets), it is gluten-free, free of chemical colors and artificial flavors, GMO-free and, best of all, is certified organic by both the USDA and the EU, and I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the lollipops/candy drops.

Indie Candy

Indie Candy offers their own line in addition to candies by other small, independent makers of allergen-free candies.  They have corn-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, allergen-free, soy-free, dairy/casein-free, nut-free, kosher, organic and vegan options, and all their products are free of artificial flavors and colors.

Surf Sweets

This brand isn’t certified organic like the Yummy Earth brand above is, but it does contain many individual organic ingredients and it’s gluten-free, corn-syrup-free (although I don't know if their "citric acid" is corn-derived) and GMO-free, so it is a relatively good, wholesome alternative to mainstream candy.

Endangered Species Chocolate

If you really want to go all out for the little ghosts and goblins, Endangered Species chocolates are expensive but excellent (I have tried their chocolates, although not the specific Halloween treats I linked above), gluten-free, corn-syrup-free, vegan and kosher.  10% of their proceeds go to wildlife conservation.

Here's to a lean, NOT mean, green Halloween!

Friday, October 22, 2010

If Everyone With a Prejudice Was Fired for Honestly Admitting It, No One Would Have a Job

I think it is a crying shame that NPR fired long-time journalist and commentator Juan Williams yesterday for honestly sharing a prejudice.  What he said was indeed expressing a prejudice, there is no doubt about that, but it is only once we all start being honest with ourselves and in our conversations about our prejudices that we can see them for what they are and work on them.  Feelings are never right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, it is how we choose to act on our feelings that counts.  Juan Williams is not a bigot, in fact, he is a champion of civil rights and fairness for all.  Every single one of us has prejudices.  Should we just never express them and hide them away in the closet?  There is a truism often quoted in 12-step programs that says "You are only as sick as your secrets."  In other words, only by being honest with ourselves and others can we be healthy, and this applies, I think, not only to individuals but to society. Pretending we aren't afraid of something, someone or some group only makes the fear grow darker and more powerful.  Acknowledging it, owning it and exploring it takes the power from fear and empowers us to choose how we act.

What Juan Williams specifically said was admitting a fear.  He didn't say the fear was fair, in fact, I think the whole point was that he was admitting a prejudice.  We would all be healthier as individuals and a nation if we searched our souls and did the same.  What he actually said is that, when he is on a plane, if he sees someone in Muslim "garb" (his word), he feels fear.  That is indeed a prejudice, as just because someone is wearing the clothing of their culture and/or their religion, it certainly doesn't mean they are a terrorist with intentions to blow up an airplane.  Juan's feeling of fear in that situation is both prejudiced and somewhat irrational.  Yet it is his feeling and feelings don't have to be fair or entirely (or even partially) rational.  I said it before but it definitely bears repeating:  feelings are feelings, it is how we choose to act on them that counts.

Juan Williams has consistently stood for civil rights, fairness and justice in his career, and he is also very honest.  Unfortunately, he was unjustly fired yesterday for just that refreshing honesty that our society so desperately needs to be healthy.  The most disgusting part to me was when the person from NPR who fired him said that his remark should be between him and "his psychiatrist".  What an ugly, ignorant, uncalled for, classless attack.  She's the one who made an inappropriate comment, an attacking, ugly comment.  Juan Williams, on the other hand, was honestly admitting a fear and prejudice, in order to further the dialog about it in our country.

From earlier blogs of mine, for example, when I came out strongly for the mosque to be built near Ground Zero, you all know I stand against discrimination, for fairness, and passionately for civil rights.  That is precisely why I do NOT have a problem with, and indeed actually applaud, anyone who can admit a prejudice.  We all have them.  Admitting a prejudiced feeling does not equate to behaving with discrimination in our actions.  It doesn't mean that person is a bigot.  Far from it!  Admitting a prejudice means that person is honest with themselves and the world, and is willing to face their fears, which is the only way to move past them to a tolerant world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Florida Democrats, SOS (Save our State): Vote for Meek!

The St. Petersburg Times, which in fairness I should state is an excellent newspaper, has inexplicably gone off the rails with a few of its “Times Recommends” endorsements for the upcoming November election. Their most unfathomable swerving into the briar patch is their endorsement of Charlie "Windsock" Crist for US Senate. I mean, OnStar, what is your emergency? Hello? St. Petersburg Times, are you there?  We’ve detected that you’ve left the clearly marked road and landed in some very treacherous territory...hello? Are you there? Are you conscious? We’re sending help, don't panic.  We're going to stay on the line with you until help arrives.  The Democratic voters will be there, en masse, ASAP to vote for Meek, as clearly you were in an altered state when you suggested that anyone do otherwise and thus hand the election to Rubio, which would ruin our state!

Much as I love the Times, in the immortal words of the Martin Short character, Ed Grimley, they are “as wrong as wrong can be” on this one. I wrote the following comment in response to their "Times Recommends" editorial endorsing Crist:

"I cannot believe the Times has endorsed Charlie 'Windsock' Crist. This guy has more positions on every issue than even he could possibly keep up with. He is exactly what we do NOT need: a quintessential politician, NOT a leader. Kendrick Meek is the ONLY progressive choice in this race. He has consistently opposed off-shore drilling, and will protect our environment, and the actual citizens of Florida, such as children, seniors, and all of us in-between. We don't need Slash-and-Burn Rubio, who was a total disaster in the state legislature, or Windsock Charlie. I'm shocked that the Times has endorsed Crist. Please, fellow Democrats, vote for Kendrick Meek. I think we all know what happens when the Democratic vote gets split: remember 2000! Don't let it happen this time. Please put sane, steady, leadership for the people and the environment in charge. Vote for Meek. I love the Times, but some of their endorsements this go around defy explanation."

It isn't looking good. Meek is far behind in the polls. Maybe Democrats will assume that he has no chance and will stay home. But, as was pointed out at the Tampa Meek rally I blogged about recently:  When Democrats vote for Democrats, DEMOCRATS WIN! So, come on, people, get your rally caps on and get to the polls or vote by mail. However you do it, just vote!  Our state is at stake here.

I'm so scared that we are going to end up with Rubio in the US Senate and that disaster area known as Rick Scott as Governor. I shouldn’t have said “we don’t need” Rubio, in my comment to the Times, because that is not a strong enough statement. I should have said “we can’t survive Rubio”. Didn’t he do enough damage as leader of the state legislature in Tallahassee? I won't even go into what he did by moving up the presidential primary election date because that would be a mega-blog unto its empassioned self.  I will emphasize instead that he slashed and burned the budget so badly that now our public school system, for example, which they promised would be unhurt by it all, is decimated, even with the infusion of federal stimulus dollars we later received. And he didn't just wreck the budget and impact the lives of Florida's citizens temporarily, oh no. By irresponsibly slashing property taxes (in a state with no state income tax, mind you), he has ensured that our state will have nowhere near enough revenue for basic things like public education for years to come.

He and the rest of his tea party peeps put themselves out there as populists, as being of and for the people, but the opposite is the truth: their policies would create an environment in which the richest few and corporations prosper, while the vast majority of people and the environment would pay the price.  We can't afford Rubio or Scott, economically or environmentally, no way, no how.

If Democrats vote for Crist, Rubio will win. Only you can prevent forest fires (the metaphorical yet devastating kind caused by Rubio’s slash and burn policies). How? By VOTING FOR MEEK. Don’t listen to the Times, don’t listen to the polls, and for goodness sake don’t listen to the misleading ads of Crist and Rubio. Listen to Peppermint Twist: vote for Meek because that is a vote for the future well-being of the people, economy and environment of Florida!