Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Personal Intentions for 2010....

I don't go much for resolutions but I can certainly relate to creating some good new intentions. Since I joined Weight Watchers last summer, I have learned a bit about the value of setting concrete goals. Prior to that, I didn't buy in much - but I do now.

So these are my personal intentions for 2010!

1) Of course, as always, to stay clean and sober.

2) To get moved into a new apartment where I will spend the year decorating and creating my very own sacred space. It will be a space where I will feel safe from intrusion and imposition.

3) Letting go of the few remaining toxic people in my life. I will no longer allow people in my life who make me feel "less than" or demeaned. I will no longer allow people to blatantly use me or take advantage of me. I will do this without being defensive or angry. After all, it is up to me to fix me, not other people. It will just become a way of life.

4) I will begin respecting myself enough that those people will no longer find me interesting. I'll stop writing the permission slips.

5) Now that I have lost the weight, I want to put more energy into personal grooming. A good haircut. Nice clothes. This isn't about vanity but self-respect.

6) I will allow faith into my life in a bit more meaningful and less guarded way. Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to protect myself and others from scams and false promises that I forget to see the light. I will let some of my natural suspicion and cynicism recede into the background, making more room for the Good Stuff.

7) I will continue tracking transient criminals. I'm good at it and it is a community service I can do willingly and freely.

8) I will create more beauty and do less "getting by" or "making do". No more accepting second best and "less than". I'm worth the good stuff.

9) I will nurture and put more energy into sustaining the community I've only begun to build. I'll be less defeatest.

10) I will create surroundings, activities and a way of life that will no longer leave me feeling ashamed and embarrassed. I never want to apologize for my life again.

So... how about you?


Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Riddance, 2009!

I am ready for 2009 to be over. Time to put it behind us and move on!

First though, we have to say 'good riddance' to certain things. Here's my partial list of what should be left behind when the calendar flips.

1) Anything with the name "Gosselin" on it,

2) Anything to do with Tiger Woods,

3) Anything to do with the long, rambling, inconclusive and vague discussion about health care reform,

4) Any more horror stories about the end of the world because there's a recession. There have been recessions for years and years. This one is no different. The economy is cyclical. Hello!

5) Snuggie commercials,

6) Any more recaps of the Casey Anthony story, all of which has been repeated endlessly,

That's just a few. How about you? What are you ready to leave behind?


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Does A Tiger Change Its Stripes? Um. Spots. Um.

I'm sick and tired of hearing about Tiger Woods! Now that we all know what he's been doing, where he's been dipping his wick and with whom, I have to weigh in on this.

Some of the gossip shows and Oprah wannabes are referring to his possible "sex addiction". I'm not buying it. He's been willing to sacrifice his family, his job, his endorsements and his integrity because....

.... he's a dawg!

And I can't say much for any woman who would have a relationship with a married man, either.

I've never bought into the idea of sex addiction. It's just another excuse for people to behave badly and pathologize it. It becomes an excuse. It's bad impulse control. The fact is that adults are expected to have control over their behavior and to make ethical, moral and sensible choices.

What do you think?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Six Hours And Counting....

Yesterday, I spent six hours with a woman who has been targeted by transient criminals.

They found her on Craigslist and were quite charming when they came to find out about the granny unit she had for rent behind her house.

The man was well-dressed and his girlfriend was very poised with her Sarah Palin smile. "Georgia" let them move in without a background check or even a reference check.

Credit checks are meaningless, particularly in this economy. I'm not in favor of credit checks but a background check is very easy and tells all the story someone might need to know before opening their home to a stranger. I gave Georgia my private information so that she can do a background check on me, given that she is sharing a lot of private financial information. That's the only way I can do anything is to have that info.

Before two months had passed, they had stolen two of her credit cards, gained access to her debit card PIN by claiming only that they wanted to help her and run errands for her. Georgia, being disabled and not capable of driving or getting around easily, allowed them to do it. These criminals know how to target vulnerable people. Georgia is 66 years old, has had a stroke and is isolated and depressed. I spent six hours with her and she is a very caring, good-natured and kind person.

After it was all done, Georgia was several thousand dollars in debt. Sarah Palin Smile had gone to Macy's, Target, Costco and assorted big box stores. She maxed out Georgia's cards. Her bank account was drained. Her mortgage was behind since the tenants weren't paying their rent and she nearly lost her house. If her ex-husband hadn't come along to rescue her, she would have lost everything.

When I got home and began researching Well Dressed and Sarah Palin Smile, I found extensive criminal histories on both. Well Dressed had an assortment of evictions with judgments for the landlords, burglary charges, drug possession and check fraud. Sarah Palin Smile has a case pending for identity theft. She goes to court on 1/13/10 for sentencing.

All of this information was readily available before they targeted Georgia. I found all of this free of charge on the Internet. I searched court records and general Google searches that led me from one place to another. Begin here if you want to check someone out. If you feel particularly ambitious, you can look through this database from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office which is the most comprehensive. Just click on "Transient Offenders".

It's unlikely that Georgia will ever recover any of her money. Transient criminals have multiple identities, live off the grid and judgments can't be collected.

The good thing is that I will be able to contact local law enforcement, specifically the detectives who specialize in financial fraud and elder abuse. More charges will be brought against Well Dressed and Sarah Palin Smile. It's a small consolation to see them get a bit more jail time when Georgia's life was left in shambles.

But at least it's something.

On January 13, I will be at the courthouse and will snap a picture of Sarah Palin Smile. I will post it on Craigslist, including her aliases and current address. Hopefully it will protect some other unsuspecting elderly landlord.

Doing this work really gives my life a lot of meaning, too. If I can protect even one or two elderly, vulnerable people, I'll call it Good.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Memory Is A Crazy Woman...

Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food. ~Austin O'Malley

Yesterday, I took my housemate to the Memory Clinic. She is being evaluated for Alzheimer's. Three different people with different skill sets gave her a lot of tests and interviewed me. There was a physician (a neurologist), a memory specialist and a social worker. The entire process took three hours. It was very thorough and I trust that she will get a solid diagnosis and a treatment plan. We won't know the outcome until next month.

This got me to thinking about memory and has resulted in several hours of Internet searches, reading everything from anecdotes to articles from neurology journals. Lots of it is over my head but still useful for a general understanding. Memory is a funny thing, something most of us lose at particular times and other events remain cemented in the forefront of our recollection, almost as though they are tattooed on our frontal lobes.

Personally, I've always had a sketchy and fluid short-term memory. It is a large dumping ground. Facts, figures, events and snippets of information, storylines of books that have impressed me, quotes, all sorts of things gather there and crop up when I want or need them. Sometimes they've gone into the ether where they can never be retrieved again. It's more like a subtle smell or a fragment of a song lyric that can't quite come to the surface.

Most of the time, I don't remember when I learned those things or how I gathered that information. It doesn't matter. Now that I'm retired, I often don't know the date or the day of the week. It simply doesn't matter.

At what point it becomes significant is what interests me. Many of the questions asked of us yesterday were obvious attempts to get a grasp on her orientation to time and place. They had her draw a few things and tested her verbal skills and understanding. She did her best and I could see her struggling.

But at what point is it pathological and when is it simply a function she doesn't need in her day-to-day life? Is it really that important that she know the day of the week or when something happened?

I came away from the experience yesterday knowing I want to protect my memory. I don't expect it to store everything for me like a super-computer. I don't expect to be able to call up every snippet of information I've ever learned without having to look it up again. (Calendars and books are good for that. They function as my memory and work perfectly well.)

As I age (and that's closer than further away), I want to make sure my mind and brain are active. It's important to not get caught up in pettiness and drama, to make sure that our capacity for memory is respected, protected and used well.

That means making a conscious effort to keep those neurons firing. I was discussing all of this with a friend last night and we both, of a similar age - my being a few years older - decided to learn Spanish. It is a good way to stimulate our brains and exercise our memories.

One of the people at the clinic yesterday, it might have been the social worker, said that people who stay active and involved in their environments, learn new things, stay socially active and interactive, are less likely to develop dementia in old age.

I'm in. This needs to be an effort that is just as conscious as eating well and exercising. Personally, I can't imagine anything worse than getting old and losing my cognitive ability. As has been said by many others thousands of times, when that happens, just shoot me.

Most of the people who read this are too young for this to be an issue - but still something worthy of keeping in mind. Remember. :)


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: Mindless Fun

Last weekend, I went to an estate sale in one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in Sacramento. (Yes, believe it or not, there are a few!) The sale is extending over two weekends. Last week, it was clothes. Today, it will be furniture and housewares. I'll be there when it opens.

The homeowner in this case is not dead. She is a doctor who was reassigned to Texas. Rather than pack up and move, she decided to sell everything. From the looks of things, she packed a suitcase and walked out the door. Someone bought her mustard yellow Mercedes and the clothes in the house could have easily filled a boutique. There were dozens of suede coats, designer dresses, pants, outfits, bathrobes. There were so many pairs of shoes that it was startling. I would guess at least 100.

On first glance, it would appear the woman has a serious shopping addiction. There were Maggie Sweet pants outfits that hadn't been removed from the cellophane packaging. Shoes that had never been worn. Designer outfits with the tags still hanging from the sleeves.

It must be nice to be able to walk away from an entire household and leave it all behind. I imagine her driving south on I-5 toward Los Angeles, I-10 toward Texas and the sense of freedom she must have been feeling.

Yard sales, estate sales and garage sales are all tremendous fun. It's a kick to go to the ATM, take out forty bucks and mindlessly shop. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Pretty housewares that are often in brand new condition. I've furnished more than one home exclusively through estate sales. There are always very good deals to be found. If I wanted to get political, which I don't, it's an excellent way to recycle things. Nothing goes to waste.

One of my shameless weaknesses is designer clothing. I might be as poor as the proverbial church mouse but refuse to dress that way. Last weekend, I bought designer outfits for ten dollars apiece. (I have to lose a few more pounds to wear them.) Two pairs of shoes. I even bought a jacket. These are things she probably paid hundreds of dollars for. I spent $43.21 and walked out with a full bag.

Today I will be looking for some of the housewares and appliances that I'm lacking for my move. I need a blender, a new microwave, an electric frying pan and a few other things. If there's some pretty flatware, I'll probably buy that. I already have a set of dishes from another estate sale... very high end. I paid $18.00.

All harmless fun!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday: No Slime Zone!

Typical of so many women of my generation, I've been taught that subjugating my will to the preference of others is a sign of kindness, a sign of selflessness which is the cornerstone of a "good woman". Women of my mother's generation got that pounded into their consciousness even more than mine. It's a hard one to let go.

A few days ago, my housemate loaded a bucket of slime on me that actually caused me to physically recoil. It wasn't about me. She didn't insult me. She was talking about her own life in such hateful, negative and angry terms that I actually walked away from her. There's a time when I would have stood there and listened, figuring it was the kindest thing to do even though it made me feel horrible.

Last Sunday I sat through a class that made me feel slimed as well. It was a very dark, cold place with heartless people. It was harsh, judgmental and punitive. I recoiled.

Yet in both cases, I grappled long and hard with my right to remove myself from those kinds of environments. How does someone walk out on a woman who probably has Alzheimer's? It feels cruel. At the same time, I know it is not my responsibility to take care of her. That is her childrens' responsibility. It is up to her family to make sure her needs are met. I've singlehandedly taken that on for several years now and I feel done. I no longer choose to have that in my life and now I believe I have the right to make that choice.

This is a woman who has consistently shown absolutely no interest in my life or well-being. She has no boundaries. She doesn't know what it means to wait for a "come in" before walking right into my rented unit. It is assumed that I am always available to her for her concerns. She has a sense of entitlement that would send anyone over the edge. I'm sick and bloody tired of humoring her. I've never given her a thorough tongue-lashing even though she deserves it because she's old and sick. It seemed too far out of the range of civility for my personal tastes.

This is part of a larger constellation of changes I have been making. Most of my life has been consumed with the needs and wants of others. First it was my parents. Then my live-in boyfriend. Then it was my ex-husband. Then it was a boss or supervisor. Now it's this woman. It's always been someone else coming first.

Now I'm ready for a new apartment. I just found it this past week. The rent is reasonable and it's in a safe location. I will choose the people who come over. I will choose who has my phone number. I will decide when I want to answer the door and no one will come in unless I let them in. I will - finally - own my own existence in a healthy way. My place will be full of plants and pretty things. It will be a happy, peaceful... perhaps even joyful.. place.

A few months ago, someone on a newscast offhandedly said, "I never got the memo that told me I was supposed to have low self-regard and take crap from people." It was a young woman, filled with the confidence of youth and accomplishment.

I thought about that for a long time. I did get the memo. The women of my generation and before got that memo. It was marked "Urgent" and was written in bold print.

I've torn it up.