My homophonic paradise.

Dear Amy: I have an in-law relative who has been deaf since childhood.

A few years ago, I learned that this person reads lips.

My problem is that they eavesdrop on private conversations by reading your lips. The masks many of us wear have helped to curb this, but with things (hopefully) going back to normal, I will once again have to cover my mouth when we are with this in-law.

It feels a bit rude to do this, but if I have something I want to share with my husband, there’s really nothing else to do.

Do you have a better solution?

— Unmasking

Unmasking: I do have a solution for you!

My solution is fairly simple: Don’t attempt to have a personal, private and exclusive conversation with your husband in front of other people. Ever.

That’s just rude!

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Save your private thoughts for when you have privacy.

When your in-law is with you, you should include this person in your conversation. (c) Ask Amy

You tell her, Ask Amy! Geez, that is rude.

I wasn’t going to blog about this letter, but last night I had a dream that made me laugh and laugh as I slept. No kidding. I guess I fell asleep thinking about this because I read it before bed. I’m half-deaf myself but can’t read lips. However, I know all about phonics from having been a reading teacher. When you say bid and pit, your mouth does the exact same thing for both words. Same with fad and vat, and sack and zag. For many and penny, there are different things going on with your nose (if you hold your nose, you can say penny but not many–try it), but they probably look like identical mouth movements. The difference in all of those involves your voice box (in your throat). So I suspect that reading lips is very, very hard and that it involves a lot of guesswork.

Anyway, I fell asleep thinking about homophonic phrases like, I scream for ice cream. Or, have some more s’mores. And I had this elaborate dream about Ariel from The Little Mermaid. It was a sequel movie in which Ariel got pregnant by her husband. And I’m thinking, has Disney ever had an animated movie with a pregnant person? No clue, but I’ve never seen one.

So, in the dream, Ariel and her husband were living in the sea. Her husband had been given the ability to breathe underwater, so she was still a mermaid. (I don’t think that’s what happens in the movie, but I haven’t seen it in ages.) And so her husband was concerned about what their baby would be! Human? Mermaid? Half-mermaid? This is too funny. So then Ariel got an ultrasound, and it was announced by the doctor, in near-perfect homophonic fashion: “It’s official! It’s a fish!”

[Facepalm.]

(If fish were called fishels, that would’ve been perfect.)

I laughed so hard that I almost woke myself, but in my semi-asleep state, I kept repeating that line over and over again in my head so I wouldn’t forget it. Some stuff is just worth remembering.

Anyway, this letter writer has a bad attitude. Geez. [Shaking my head.]

Dear Amy: I’m devastated with grief from losing my beloved dog to cancer five weeks ago. He was only five.

I have good counselors, supportive friends and family, and a loving husband, but I’m struggling a lot with depression and grief.

I’m almost 40, but have never lost anyone close to me before, and this was my first pet.

I loved that dog wholeheartedly and can’t seem to come to terms with how that sweet, innocent dog had to suffer, and how much emptier our life and home feel without him.

I know we gave our dog a wonderful life and did everything we could for him, and I know so many other people have also experienced this loss, but I’m still swimming in grief and in so much pain that I haven’t given much attention to my relationship with my husband or nurtured him during this time (though I manage to be functional with work and other activities).

My husband is also grieving, but not visibly the way I am, and he’s often in the role of consoling me.

One of his wonderful qualities is that he is patient; at the same time, he is feeling insecure about our relationship because it feels like I’m not fully there.

I can’t seem to get outside of my grief.

Do I just give myself time for this grief to run its course, or is there a way I can course correct and not make my husband feel ignored and unseen during this time?

— Sad Pet Mom

Sad: Losing a pet is a loss like no other, because we love and care for our animal companions differently than we do the humans in our lives.

Caring for an animal, especially through a long illness, is truly the essence of selfless and tender loving care.

Now is the time to apply some of that tenderness toward yourself and your husband.

Researching your question, I came upon a number of Facebook groups devoted to the loss of a pet. (Do an Internet search on “pet loss bereavement.”)

Once you join a group, you will be able to post a photo of your beloved dog and write about your experience. The humans participating in these online groups tend to be extremely kind and supportive. And scrolling through the many postings, you will know that you are not alone.

While I have never necessarily subscribed to the comforts offered by the “rainbow bridge” concept, on one of these Facebook pages I saw a collage of photos of the late, great animal lover (and all-around wonderful human) Betty White, posing with her many dog companions over the years.

Knowing that in her very long life she had experienced this tender love and loss over and over again was truly inspiring, and I found myself hoping that her dozens of animal companions were waiting for her at the other side of that mythical rainbow bridge.

I hope you will find similar comforts as you process your own grief.

Well, that’s heartbreaking. But getting past a dead pet is all about how you look at it.

I loved that dog wholeheartedly and can’t seem to come to terms with how that sweet, innocent dog had to suffer…

That’s the wrong perspective. And by “wrong” I mean that it’s not helping the letter writer. What she needs to do is remind herself that she gave Woofie a wonderful life, and that Woofie’s in Heaven thanking her (the letter writer) for having been so wonderful to her.

… and how much emptier our life and home feel without him.

Also the wrong way to look at it. Woofie brought love into the household, and Woofie’s legacy will live on forever. Focusing on the loss is just the wrong way to go about it. (By the way, I would not extrapolate what I’m saying to humans who’ve died. This is just for pets.)

I’ve lost a handful of dogs in the course of my life: Allister (when I was six, he got hit by a car and died), Treble (died of old age), Echo (died of old age), and Sammy Samson (who was eventually put down, a year after I had to relinquish him for my own safety, due to his having springer rage syndrome).

It’s a lot easier to accept when a dog dies of old age or illness than when a dog dies in an accident. And so there’s comfort to be taken that the dog lived as long as he could versus being injured. Any time you can look on the brighter side, it’s helpful. I even picture Sammy Samson frolicking in Heaven and feeling more stable there than he was on Earth. I loved my Sammy Samson, and I’m excited to be reunited with him in the afterlife. I know he meant well.

DSC00708

See how sweet he was? He couldn’t help it that he had the rage disorder, and we tried everything from supplements to training to medication, but… it was no use. I could tell, though, that he had a beautiful soul beneath it all, and that he regretted that he kept losing his temper.

So that’s what I tell myself. Sammy Samson’s in a better place. I think Woofie is, too, and the letter writer needs to focus on that. Woofie’s no longer suffering! Woofie’s surrounded by love! It’ll all be okay.

No nuance. None.

Dear Annie: I have been married for more than 24 years, and we have three wonderful daughters. My husband has always been a wonderful father and an OK husband.

However, he has always treated me with a lot of disrespect, and over the years, I always brushed it off because he was such a great dad to my daughters and because he provided everything for me.

But as we all get older, he is treating our youngest daughter in the same way as he has treated me. This is upsetting her every day, and I have told him numerous times to stop, and he just continues to do this.

I am ready to leave him, which I have told him many times, but he doesn’t believe me.

Honestly, I can’t take it anymore. I have asked him to talk to someone, but he says I have the issue. I just can’t do this life anymore. Please help! — Torn About What To Do (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Huh. I haven’t read Annie Lane’s advice yet, but I know she’ll say that his treatment of his wife and youngest daughter is not okay (as if anyone would argue with that?!).

However, he has always treated me with a lot of disrespect, and over the years, I always brushed it off because he was such a great dad to my daughters and because he provided everything for me.

This is going to require my Dr. Phil McGraw meme… “How’s that working for you?”

hows-that-working-for-you

The letter writer needs to get proactive about leaving. Her husband knows she’s all talk, so she needs to become all action.

Oh no. It just occurred to me. Annie Lane’s going to recommend couple’s counseling. [Shaking my head.] I was wondering what the easy answer would be, and that’s probably it. She’ll add that the letter writer should go solo if her husband won’t go with her.

Dear Torn: It is understandable that watching your husband mistreat your youngest daughter is going to be the last straw. Your mother bear instincts are in full force, and you can’t watch your husband hurt your daughter the way he has hurt you for all these years.

I question whether he was a great father, even if he was kind to the girls, because disrespecting their mother in front of them is not modeling good behavior and will lead them to think they deserve to be treated like that in a relationship. If he won’t go to counseling with you, then you should consult a therapist for yourself first.

Best of luck to you and your family. Hoping that your husband will be able to see how his behavior is so toxic and harmful.

Called it, called it, called it.

Dear Annie: Every year, my husband and I, having no children of our own, travel several states away to spend a few days around Christmas with my sister and her husband and their grown children and grandchildren — a total of 13 to 15 in all.

Not everyone stays at her house, but we all gather there throughout the day and eat our meals there.

Even though the kids are pretty well-behaved and people help out with the cooking and cleaning, the hostess — my sister — gets very stressed out and generally ends up mad and upset.

Every year, I think I won’t go, because of the chaos. But I always end up going because I know the time is coming when this gathering won’t be possible.

How can I adjust my thinking so I can enjoy this event more? Or should I give myself permission to stay home? — Not Really Enjoying Christmas

Oh my goodness. So lame. If she has half a brain, Annie Lane might suggest that the letter writer ask her sister (in advance) how she can help. This is like the Kindergarten level of advice giving.

Dear Not Really Enjoying Christmas: You’re not alone. Many people find the holidays stressful, and family feuds often develop. In your case, the person who is really not enjoying Christmas is the one who is hosting and doing all the work.

Instead of judging your sister’s mood, why not talk to her beforehand and see how you can help? Maybe if she has her sister by her side, her spirits will lift and she won’t end up angry and upset.

Lame. Lame. Lame. I didn’t predict the first paragraph of advice with its sympathetic “you’re not alone” crap, because when I think of saying “you’re not alone” I think of more serious problems than this one. Hmm… I’ll write a pretend letter to Annie Lane and get her pretend answer here…

Dear Annie Lane: I get horrible hangnails all the time and have to stay stocked in Band-Aids. ~Nail Problem

Dear Nail Problem: You’re not alone. Several people struggle with debilitating hangnails. It afflicts millions of people worldwide. 

You all can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes. Debilitating hangnails. [Facepalm.]

In reality, I suspect that the letter writer’s sister is a martyr. A non-martyr would ask for help, or would coordinate with others to pull off a happy Christmas. A martyr, on the other hand, acts all put-upon and then plays the victim when no one jumps in to help (as if the martyr’s family members are all mind-readers). The martyr kind of feeds on the pathos of being mad and upset, as if she (the martyr) is entitled to get upset, due to the circumstances.

Instead of judging your sister’s mood […]

Um. There’s no judgment going on with the letter writer. It’s more like the unpleasant experience of being around someone who’s throwing a tantrum. No one enjoys that… except maybe for the martyr. [Nods sagely.] It’s the letter writer’s choice, of course, but I’d let the sister rage every year and try to stay out of her line of fire. I mean, if she wanted help, she could ask for it, ideally but not necessarily beforehand.

Dear Annie: “Numb and Lost” wrote to you regarding emotional detachment as a result of trauma and challenges in their life and struggles with finding proper therapy. As a 37-year-old male who has had difficulties and consequent challenges in therapy, I can relate.

In many ways, finding good therapy is its own battle, on top of the battle presented by whatever it is that causes us to seek therapy in the first place. It’s not fair, and it can make an already difficult situation seem all the more hopeless, but persistence is key.

I recommend the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, as a starting point for anyone looking for help with their mental health. They can provide resources specific to a person’s location and situation. You can find them at NAMI.org.

Trying to find a good therapist can be a difficult journey. Take one step at a time. When you find a good one, it’s well worth it. — Persistent Waddler

Dear Persistent Waddler: You are correct that finding a good therapist can be a battle in and of itself. But it is well worth it. As Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Thank you for your letter.

Ahh, another letter writer wrote Annie Lane’s column for her. A public service announcement for NAMI, how perfect! Being a mentally ill person myself, I’ve never availed myself of their services. [Shrug.] I find it illogical to believe that any therapists they recommend would be better than all the super-lame therapists I’ve already tried. Like NAMI has the inside scoop on the identities of the only two good therapists in the USA? Snort. Yeah, right.

I disagree with the letter writer that you should be persistent in finding a good therapist. The problem is that each visit with a bad therapist can be legitimately deleterious to good mental health. Like, remember my last therapist who said my sexuality was “creepy” and that only a pedophile would ever want to sleep with me? (Apparently, I only have the nascent sexual awareness of a child.) Um. I could’ve done without that.

So I said to her, “I could read books about sex! A teenager would do that.”

And she replied, “No! A teenager would get bad information from their friends on the street.” As if she was recommending that…?

Not only that, I told her that I’d found self-worth (which I’ve struggled with my whole life) because I’d realized that I was born into a family that was massively dysfunctional; but with my presence, I’d ironed out a lot of the dysfunction and had expanded everyone’s awareness. And as a child, I’d protected my younger brother from our mother’s wrath by being my mom’s favorite “crazy toy” while my brother “played the game” and cooperated with her (which I was incapable of doing).

My therapist was horrified. “No! You can’t find worth by expecting things like that from your younger self! Try again! Start over! There’s no worth there.”

No shit. I’m not exaggerating.

It set me back. For the first time in my life, I had a budding flower of self-worth being formed, and she plucked it out and pulled off all its petals. There’s a part of me that wants to shove her into the pillory, so to speak, even though I’m generally against puritanical punishments.

I went home that day and ignored our family friend, Mr. Sullivan, because I was zoned out. It took a while to process that. I had no self-worth, and my sexuality was freaky. Nice. If I’d never sought out that therapist, I would’ve been better off in a lot of ways.

If Annie Lane had any ability to write (or think) with nuance, she’d suggest that there are other ways to help yourself than therapy. She’d realize that most people become therapists for the wrong reasons, which puts a huge taint on the profession. But instead, she’s just like, “Thanks for writing my column for me! Sure, why not champion NAMI?” Ugh.

A new all-around low for Annie Lane!

I’m hopeful today that Annie Lane can tackle the tough issues in today’s column.

Dear Annie: Recently, a friend confronted me about something that I didn’t think was a big deal: Sometimes I forget to respond to texts for a while, and then I reply and say that I just saw the message. Technically, most of the time, it’s a lie; I did see the message, and I just got sidetracked or zoned out or didn’t feel like replying until later. But I just say it to try to make the other person feel better or to smooth things over. I’m certainly not trying to be deceitful. My friend who always tells it like it is, God bless her, called me out for this behavior in front of a group of mutual friends. A few laughed and agreed that I do this. It was brought up in a joking manner, but it still ruffled my feathers a bit. Am I really in the wrong here? Is there a more tactful way to handle things when you take a while to respond to someone? — Delayed

Oh well.

This is seriously a new low. Every day, I wonder how she’s going to put together a new column. This is so easy to give advice to. Uh, technically lying is wrong in this instance, and, uh, blah blah blah. A better response than lying would be to say, Sorry I got sidetracked! Yeah, dinner this weekend sounds great!

It’s a no-brainer because honesty isn’t a problem here. Who’s going to get mad when you’re honest? People get sidetracked. Out of all the easy set-ups for Annie Lane to tackle, geez Louise, this is Advice Giving 101.

Well, let’s see what sort of slop she came up with.

Dear Delayed: Not responding to a text message right away is understandable — even healthy, as we shouldn’t be beholden to our devices 24/7. But lying about the reason for not returning a text is wrong, and it insults your friend’s intelligence. The next time you take a while to respond to a message, simply apologize (if appropriate) for not getting back to the person sooner, and leave it at that. No flimsy excuses necessary.

It’s really appalling that she has her own advice column. Maybe she can redeem herself with the next letter.

Dear Annie: For at least three years now, my neck has hurt on a daily basis. More often than not, it’s stiff, and I need to crack it to get some relief. I’ve heard that changing to a better pillow can help with neck pain. But when I went online to see what pillow I should get, I was overwhelmed by dozens of options, all claiming to have five-star reviews. Now I don’t know what to do! I’m not sure how to make a choice, considering I’m… — Neck-Deep in Options

Okay, first of all, this is a fake letter. Shut the front door. Second, this is way too easy for a respectable advice columnist to tackle. Uh, maybe ask your DOCTOR?! You know, the person you pay to treat your neck?!

I’m not yelling at the letter writer. There isn’ t a letter writer. Annie Lane made this up. Now, if she has any sense, she’ll refer this fictitious letter writer to a doctor. As for the overabundance of positive pillow reviews, no one ever writes to an advice columnist over that. Annie Lane’s offending my intelligence at this point.

Dare we see what advice she gave?

Dear Neck-Deep in Options: A new pillow might help, but what you really need is to talk to your doctor. He or she can refer you to a physical therapist who can help you protect your neck long term. You also might want to consider using a standing desk, if you work at a computer, because unless you have perfect posture, sitting at a desk all day can wreak havoc on your neck and back. As for the pillow, perhaps the doctor or physical therapist could advise you on the right kind.

Gee, I never would’ve thought of that on my own. I feel so enlightened now.

Oh, joy! She has a third letter in today’s column. She must’ve worked extra hard on her column today.

Dear Annie: “Sad in Wisconsin” — the man who wrote that when he and his wife give gifts to his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, they never express gratitude — should examine why they are giving gifts in the first place. If I see a beggar on the street, I don’t give him money because I expect a thank-you. I do it because he needs a helping hand. When I do something nice for my wife, I do it because she deserves it. Not expecting anything back when we give is a wonderful thing. — No Returns

Okay, but here in Louisville, our city is overrun with fake beggars: people who live in posh apartments and drive fancy cars that they hide around the corner before they spray themselves with eau de homeless person and write a sign with intentionally misspelled words. And then they don the wig and go to town. No, really. There have been exposés about it. I’d never give to a beggar.

I’ll bet ten to one that Annie Lane doesn’t know diddly about that.

Dear No Returns: Hear! Hear! May we all aspire toward such selflessness.

Oh, okay. Well, I disagree. An occasional missed thank you might happen, but consistently not thanking a gift-giver is bad, bad form. The issue wasn’t, why didn’t I get thanked? It was, why don’t I EVER get thanked?! It’s rude! In the absense of gratitude, why would you give anything to anyone in the first place? Geez.

I’m inspired!

The iffing (intermittent fasting) is going great for the most part. I’ve still been eating from 6:00 PM until midnight, but sometimes I go over until 12:30 because I get back from the gym at 11:00 PM and don’t have enough time to finish cooking and eating my daily foods during the end of the open window. I’m not too upset over this.

I have to say that fasting makes me a space cadet until I feed. I’ve been unfocused and rather lackluster. When I eat it feels like sweet relief. Like, Where have you been all my life, chocolate-peanut-butter oatmeal? But I’m bummed out by my general spaciness. I feel like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors:

4-little-shop-of-horrors-feed-me-1

Great, guess what’s running through my mind now? Feed me, Seymour. Feed me all night long. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You can do it! Feed me, Seymour! We performed that musical when I was in middle school. I played the part of the dentist’s terrified patient.

I’ve read online that iffing can be very beneficial, and way beyond the weight loss it enables. This website says:

Studies suggest that intermittent fasting may be effective at helping you reduce inflammation and improve conditions associated with inflammation, such as arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke (11).

Studies imply that intermittent fasting may improve your heart health and reduce the risk of heart diseases. A 2016 review showed that this type of eating pattern could reduce blood pressure, heart rate, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, which all add to the risk of cardiovascular diseases (5).

Numerous animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer. Such an effect may be the aftermath of weight loss, reduced inflammation, and insulin levels, which are caused by this eating pattern.

And a whole bunch of other stuff. That all sounds good to me, and none of the risks of iffing have happened to me: I don’t break the fast by bingeing on junk food. I eat sensibly to the tune of 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. Now, you might be thinking, Then why don’t you just count calories and spread that food over the day, Meg? 

Good question. Because I have no restraint outside of the miracle of iffing. If left to my own devices, this happens: I wake up at 10:00 or so and head straight to the local pastry shop for a bagel, a large iced cookie, and a cinammon pretzel twist. For dinner, I make chicken nuggets and tater tots–enough to cover the entire George Foreman, and we have the huge Foreman that’s roughly the size of a beach ball. For a late night snack, I go to the drugstore for cookies, chips, and ice cream. Now, just let me assure you that that adds up to wayyyy over 2,000 calories. So iffing is the only way I know of to keep myself in the 2,000-calories-a-day range.

So I must keep iffing, even though I’m starving right now. Famished. It’s an hour and twenty minutes until 6:00 PM here. Oh, but, hey, you know what? It’s probably already 6:00 PM somewhere in the world…

Meg, don’t even think about it. 

Anyway, during my open window, I eat:

  • Oatmeal with walnuts
  • Lara bars
  • Turkey sausage
  • One homemade Kodiak waffle
  • Popcorn

And I drink my lightly sweetened tea.

The benefits I’ve seen so far are:

  • It enables me to have discipline. And discipline is my word for 2022. Go me!
  • I really look forward to eating every day! Holy flip, do I look forward to it! (And this is one major reason that I don’t want to have my window at the start of the day.) And who ever thought I’d look forward to oatmeal?!
  • 6:00 comes, and it feels like the day just got easier, and it’s smooth sailing until bedtime.
  • It’s structured somehow. I generally eat twice. First at 6:00 and then when I get back from the gym at around 11:00 or so. But I also drink all the lightly sweetened tea I want during that period. (I just drink water at the gym, though. It’s easier.)
  • While I’m sitting here starving, I wonder if it’s helping my body access its fat cells for fuel. Hey, this hunger has got to be good for something!
  • I’m really impressed with myself and hopeful for weight loss.
  • I’m not hungry in bed at night, either while falling asleep or while sleeping. (Hunger can really mess up my sleep, and if I’m lying in bed feeling hungry, I’ll often get back up and seek out the nearest junk food.)

So, I’m actually doing this. I have a good feeling that I can stick with it. And that’s some sort of divine miracle because I’ve been wrestling with my lack of will power for years now. I think it’s very simple. I can’t be given free rein to eat all day, or I will. I like to eat! It’s an odd win-win because food tastes much better when you wait for it. If you eat all day, it loses its lustre.

A surprise ending! (Wait for it!)

Dear Annie: Politics took over as the main topic at our holiday dinner. I don’t mind open debate among parties with differing views, as long as those debating have logical and fact-supported positions. Our dinner usually goes smoothly, as everyone gets along and, despite differing opinions, we all can adequately defend our positions. Dinner will come and go, and all are happy.

This year, my dad’s brother joined us for dinner. He recently got divorced and was angry that he was with us and not his family. He was taking outlandish positions and making up arguments to support himself. He attacked everyone. The whole table was ignoring him, but I couldn’t help it and continued to engage. It made for an unpleasant experience for me and for all involved. What’s the best way to bury my desire to engage with someone like this? — Hoping for a Better Family Dinner (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh, good grief. I can’t wait to hear Annie Lane wax poetic about how the uncle’s behavior reflected poorly on himself more than on anyone else at dinner, and how he should be given a break because of his divorce, and how if you breathe deeply, you can convince yourself not to engage. Just bite me already. [Shaking my head.] Annie Lane shouldn’t be giving advice. She should be teaching Kindergarten.

Well, let’s rip off the Band-aid…

Dear Hoping: As Mark Twain said, “never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Try to bring that quotation to mind the next time your uncle tries dragging you down into the mud for a fight. Another strategy is counting to 10 and, if you’re still angry, counting to 20. If you’re still angry after that, try excusing yourself to the bathroom for a few minutes to regain your composure. As far as including him in future plans goes, though it’s important to support family during tough emotional times, that doesn’t mean enduring verbal abuse. Set boundaries, and don’t feel obligated to extend him an invitation to your next gathering if he can’t agree to behave in a respectful manner.

Called it, called it, called it. Lame.

Dear Annie: A while ago, you polled readers on whether or not they’d have children if they had it to do all over again. I wanted to share my story.

Oh, perfect! Someone else has come along to write Annie Lane’s column for her. Thank goodness, is all I can say.

When I was in first grade, our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said a mother and a teacher. Well, motherhood came first. Three years after I married, I started having children, two boys and two girls in five years. I enjoyed it. But there were hard times, too. The worst thing that happened was losing a child. My eldest son died of cancer in my arms when he was 17.

Now to fulfilling my first-grade dream in another way. A year after he died, I went to college and became a third-grade teacher when I graduated. I loved teaching this grade, with the children’s eagerness to learn and their love of their teachers. I taught for 20 years and retired when the new principal and state laws had us only teaching to the tests and it was no longer any fun for the students or me.

Now my three living children are grown. I have six grown grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. After my husband left me, I bought a small farm, and my living son remodeled the pathetic old house for me and bought 8 acres next to me, where he now lives.

So yes, I’m happy to have had children, and even dealing with the death of one, I still have my memories of what a special son he was — a musician, magician, poet and reader with a sense of humor. — 80-Year-Old Happy Grandmother

Oh, geez. What about the part where she worked with lepers and fed the hungry? Well, I guess we must  now endure Annie Lane’s thanking her for writing the column for her…

Dear Happy Grandmother: Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story. It sounds as if your son was a beautiful soul. May he rest in peace. I wish you and the rest of your family a blessed 2019.

Whoa. Say what?! Oh dear. Oh, I wasn’t expecting this! HA H A HA ! Uh, Annie Lane… it’s 2022. Just sayin’. See, this is what happens when you keep rerunning your columns, Annie Lane. HA HA HA! This is too funny. I really wasn’t expecting this.

I hope they had a nice 2019! 😀

I had to take a screenshot in case Creators realizes the mistake and edits it.

Screenshot (596)

It’s a sad state of affairs. Apparently she’s rerunning her columns again. Geez. Why don’t they just fire her?! Ugh!

Success!

I have amazing news.

I’ve spent the past many years since 2015 or so trying to master the art of weight loss. I’ve tried this, I’ve tried that. Nothing ever worked for me. And when I say it never worked, what I mean is that I couldn’t stick with it. But what’s happened now is that I’ve brought together everything I’ve been studying, and I’ve found a way to make it all work for me. It’s about freakin’ time, because when I set out to solve a problem, it usually doesn’t take me this long. But I suppose that the best solutions might be worth waiting for.

After iffing (doing intermittent fasting) for four hours after waking, which I think I did for a week or so (I’m bad at remembering time frames), I raised the bar to doing 18/6 iffing, meaning that I fast for eighteen hours a day (counting when I’m asleep) and eat during a six-hour window of (in my case) 6:00 PM until midnight.

Your window can be any six hours you choose. It’s possible that it would be better to have a window after waking up for metabolism purposes (according to Sonya), but that’s not how my will power works. I just can’t do that. I need to get past the no eating each day and then enjoy eating as a reward. That I can do.

It also helps me feel in control. I’ve always hated that you can’t quit food cold turkey like you can with other addictions (cigarettes, alcohol, etc.), because you need food to live, gosh darn it. But this does let me quit food cold turkey… for most of the day. I like that.

And I’ve already lost two pounds, even though I’ve only been doing the 18/6 for three or four days. I also believe that I can maintain this daily fast indefinitely. It gives me the control I need because, if left to my own devices, there will be constant daily snacking, constant trips to the local pastry shop (and it closes before 6:00 PM, so I might never go back), and constant late-night drugstore snack runs.

What I’ve been doing is eating 1,800 to 2,000 calories over time starting at 6:00 PM, when I eat a thousand calories of: oatmeal (a huge serving), two Lara bars, and two turkey sausage patties. Then I’m no longer hungry (but if I am, I eat some grilled chicken). Later, near the end of the window, I make a Kodiak waffle and some popcorn as a snack. This all adds up to 1,800 calories, unless I eat the optional grilled chicken or make cocoa, etc.

I’ve also been burning 250 calories on the gym’s treadmill every day, which could lower my caloric intake to around 1,550 calories a day. Go me! I was snowed in last night, though, so I practiced some new exercises on my total gym for lower body.

It’s even gotten easier with each passing day. The first day, I played Food Fantasy all afternoon. If you don’t believe me, just ask my dad. It’s played like this: chocolate cake! McDonald’s! Honey mustard Pringles! An ice cream sundae! You get the idea. A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.

The second day I quit feeling lightheaded (I’ve been trying to drink lots of water) and was more functional. I didn’t expect it to get easier, but it did.

So now it’s almost 1:00 PM, and I’m hungry. Oh well! Oh! But I’m going to eat some snacks later, and here’s why: I’m excited to watch some ice skating on television this evening. I’ve been looking forward to it all week. I’m not going to tell myself no junk food ever. But I do want to eat healthy more often than not and maintain the fast unless I’m having a mental health day. So, yeah. Go me!

Recycling people?

Dear Amy: I recently reconnected with a man I was engaged to, many years ago. We have not gotten together in person because we live several hours away from one another and are both in our 70s.

The problem is that he blames me for a breakup that happened 50 years ago! (His perception is incorrect, by the way.)

We do love one another and spend hours texting together.

It is a “virtual romance,” and we are happy with that, but his constant reference about how I destroyed his life gives me a debilitating migraine, and I can’t function afterward for 24 hours!

I have told him that I’m not responsible for how he lived his life after we parted, but he simply says that he’s sad, and then we move forward, only to have the same outburst (all caps, as though he is shouting) happen within the next day or two.

How can we resolve his anger management issues without breaking up again?

— Frustrated Old Lady

Frustrated: I’m not sure I can help you to help this man resolve his anger issues. That’s his job.

Is he experiencing some cognitive decline? Does he have untreated anxiety? Is he drinking when he does this? If so, he should take on the responsibility of taking care of his health.

His reasons for behaving this way are actually immaterial.

Imagine that — instead of being yelled at textually — you two were actually in the same room when he did this.

What would you do? How would you react?

I imagine that you would leave the room when he raged. And then — once you had left the room — you might reconsider being in the relationship at all, because it has become a Groundhog Day reenactment (and a biased one, at that).

Imagine further that you had a friend or family member witness one of these rages. That person would say to you, “Myrtle, this is abuse. Look at what it’s doing to you! It is damaging your health.”

Abuse does not only happen in person. It can happen online, through text, on the phone or via Zoom, FaceTime or postal mail.

I suggest that when this happens again, you respond: “I want our relationship to succeed and proceed peacefully. I completely dispute your memory of this. But regardless, I’m telling you now that if you EVER communicate with me this way again, I really will break up with you. Do you understand?”

If he responds in any way other than to acknowledge and apologize, then you should break up.

If he acknowledges and apologizes, but then reverts to his previous behavior, it’s over. (c) Ask Amy

Wow, that bites.

In general I’ve learned not to recycle relationships. There are always new people out there to connect with, so if someone was left in the past, then they probably belong there (although I’m always open-minded to see if someone’s changed, because change is always possible). It’s just that I used to believe, rather idiotically, that new relationships would never happen; that we could only hold onto past relationships and not plan on any future ones. I think I’ve been a lot happier since I ditched that belief!

When I reconnected with Mr. Wrong last summer, he accosted me for sending him a mean email four years ago, and he showed it to me. “Why did you send this back then?” he asked. “It hurt my feelings.” (Unlike the letter writer’s boyfriend, he was acting hurt, not angry.) So I looked at the email. By my rageful standards, it was on the nicer end of the continuum than you’d expect. Just basic stuff about where he could shove it; nothing too hostile or graphic or creative. However, after four years, I had no memory whatsoever of the circumstances under which I’d written it. Total blank slate in my mind.

(Now that I’ve had time to remember, I recall that our relationship in 2017 led me to listen to this hardcore Tears For Fears song called “The Devil” while sobbing hysterically and forgetting to eat, to the point that little Mr. Kitty brought me a fresh kill so I wouldn’t be hungry; and I shrieked like a lunatic and Mr. Kitty bolted to the basement, demoralized.) (It was a hard summer.)

Anyway, when we reconnected I told him that I felt bad for sending the email, which was true because I’ve tried really hard to quit being a rage machine. But as our reconnection progressed, I quickly came to see that he hadn’t changed one iota, and I also came to see that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

So I have no idea what was up with Mr. Wrong’s belated reaction to my email, but there’s nothing about the way his mind works that I understand. I attempted to separate from him, but he tried every which way to keep me around, even joining (or rejoining, rather) Sonya’s writer’s group so he could read my submissions and irritate me. But I was finally able to lose him, and good riddance. The guy’s a diabolical, scheming manipulator with no morals. Geez, Meg, don’t hold back, you foul-mouthed pirate. 

I’ve known people with a tendency to recycle relationships. After I broke up with the first guy I dated for a while, he told me he was going to go rekindle things with a former girlfriend of his, and I was like, do you need someone to play the part all the time? Ugh. It wasn’t that he’d never gotten over her. It seemed more like he was thinking, If Meg and I are breaking up, who can fill the void? Hmm… let me check my rolodex…

There’s no one from my past who I miss. I’m trying to think of who I’d want to reconnect with, and the answer is no one. But I’d keep a few things open. To be honest, I miss my cousin, Andy. However, things went badly awry between us. To recap, his wife has Munchausen’s and Munchausen’s by proxy, pertaining to their child, who’ll turn nine years old this year. Back during their baby’s first year of life, the kid was in the ER about five or six times despite not being sickly. Andy’s wife had medical training and got some sort of sick thrill from having her gall bladder removed due to self-reported symptoms but no confirming lab results. She kept posting stuff like, “I got a bad bruise. Please send me support,” and when she wound up in the hospital once over something minor, Andy asked me to send photos of my Care Bears to comfort her. All of it looked really, really bad. An aunt of Andy’s and mine was suspicious too and dropped hints about how she felt. Said aunt was later shocked that I’d correctly interpreted her cryptic hints. [Eyeroll.]

Then the baby was back in the ER with a fever of 105°. That’s right. 105°. Alarmed, I reported my cousin’s wife to CPS, and you can probably guess how well that went over. But the kid’s still alive. I don’t think anything else really matters, not even my relationship with my cousin. He hates me, but I did it for him. Because he loves his daughter more than life.

Would I be open to reconnecting with him? Interesting question. It’s food for thought. Even prior to that, his wife had her eye on me because he and I were close friends, and she took me out with some triggering social media posts. And then he made a crass joke on social media that hurt my feelings.

(My aunt, Andy’s mother, complained about having to interact with a difficult customer in her job as a pharmacy tech, and I completely get where she’s coming from; but Andy replied that she should’ve yelled after the rude person, “Hey, come back! You forgot your antipsychotics!” And yeah, he knew that I take antipsychotics. He also knew that I always send my dad to get my prescriptions because I can’t handle interacting with pharmacists.)

It’s just weird. He was the best friend I had at the time, but now I have better friends, and I might not be open to letting him back in; so I’m not even sure why I miss him. Oh well.

Relationships die. On that pleasant note…

I couldn’t disagree more!

Dear Amy: I am blessed to have retired before the age of 50.

I am now in my mid-50s, and my life is great, but my in-laws think I should go back to work.

We had a fairly okay relationship before my retirement, but now when I am around them, they tell me I am too young to retire, and this has caused a disconnect in our relationship.

I didn’t know there was an age requirement on retiring, as long as you are financially secure.

How can I respond to this?

— Enjoying Retirement

Enjoying: I suggest you respond with a version of, “Aren’t you sweet?” before transitioning your in-laws away from you as the topic of conversation. One way to do this is to ask a question, “Do you remember how old your own parents were when they retired?”

They might say, “Our folks never retired!” which would give you some insight into their backstory and point of view.

There is nothing wrong with a little disconnect between the generations, but I hope you won’t let this difference of opinion grow into anything more than that. (c) Ask Amy

Wow, that’s obnoxious. I hate Ask Amy’s advice. She seems to be calling this a difference of opinion, but I think it’s more of a lifestyle no-no along the lines of, “Why haven’t you all had kids yet?” or, “Marjorie, if you don’t marry soon, your biological clock will start ticking,” or, “Wow, you’re a real fatty! Ever heard of exercise?” or, “Aren’t you going to have that thing on your face removed?”

I think it’s similarly rude to comment on someone’s retirement status. I think it would be polite to ask if the person misses work, and that’s where I’d draw the line. If they said, “No, I’ve never been happier,” then I’d respond by expressing my happiness for them.

They might say, “Our folks never retired!” which would give you some insight into their backstory and point of view.

No, just no. There’s no justifiable backstory or point of view that really makes this okay. It’s less about the opinion of retirement age and more about expressing that opinion in a way that’s hurtful and none of your business. I.e., it’s fine to share your retirement views if it comes up in conversation, like, “Say, how old do you think we should be when we retire?” But to harass the letter writer about his or her decision to retire is another thing altogether.

I hope you won’t let this difference of opinion grow into anything more than that.

Really, Ask Amy? This person retired at 49 or younger and is now in his or her mid-fifties. Apparently the in-laws haven’t let the issue drop. I would’ve been sick of it five years ago.

I’ll probably regret this, but… let’s see what Annie Lane is up to in her infinite wisdom.

Dear Annie: My wife and I have been friends with this couple for over 10 years. We met when our kids were in grade school. We would get together with this couple regularly over the years for dinner and drinks, while the kids would stay at home.

When we go out, we would always split the bill 50/50. Fast-forward to today, their kids are always joining us for dinner and drinks. When it comes time to pay the bill, they always ask for one check and expect us to split the bill 50/50 still. We have tried to do separate checks, but they keep asking for one. How do we politely tell them we do not want to pay for their family’s food and drinks? — Paying More Than Our Fair Share

Dear Paying More: If these dinners are frequent, such as once a week, then you should tell them that dividing the check in half is not fair. But if they are only occasional get-togethers, remember that friendship shouldn’t require such precise math. If the bill really bothers you, invite them over to your house for drinks and appetizers instead. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh dear.

I agree that friendship shouldn’t require precise math. When I visit Sonya, we’re like, “Let me treat you tonight,” and, “No, you treated me last night. Let me treat you tonight,” and, “Huh. How many korunas are in a dollar?” (That last one would be me speaking.)

But the math thing doesn’t apply here because the letter writer’s friends are taking advantage. This letter writer has tried getting separate checks, and that notion has been vetoed. There’s obvious taking-advantage-of going on here.

If these dinners are frequent, such as once a week, then you should tell them that dividing the check in half is not fair.

Oh, Bahonkus, Annie Lane. The letter writer specifically asked HOW to politely tell them, not whether or not they should tell them. It was a question of, “I’m not sure how to speak up about this,” which Annie Lane failed to address.

If the bill really bothers you, invite them over to your house for drinks and appetizers instead.

If it really bothers you? It bothers me, and I don’t know these people.

What I would do, just offhand, is force the issue of separate checks. Upfront, when the server takes your order, say, “My wife and I are paying together for our meals.” If the friend tries to jump in and ixnay that, be insistent with the server and don’t buckle.

Redirection and neighbors.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boss and I recently discovered that we have similar religious and political views. Normally this would not be a problem, but he has now taken to coming by my office several times a day to talk about religion and politics, and it’s affecting my productivity.

And when I say “talk about,” what I really mean is that I listen for five minutes while he delivers a speech about what “idiots” the people on the other side are.

Today was the last straw; I came by my office on a Saturday to try to get some work done, only to find him there, wanting to talk politics.

If it were just another co-worker, I would have no problem telling them that I have work to do, but this is my boss. I don’t want to poison my relationship with him, and he does sign my reviews.

Is there some polite way to convey to a superior that I have actual work that requires my attention, without creating hurt feelings? I’m quite certain H.R. would back me up if I went to them, but I would like to avoid that. Any advice?

GENTLE READER: Are you willing to see him outside of work?

This is not a practice Miss Manners generally condones, but the request itself might be enough to alert your boss that these conversations should not be had at the office.

“I enjoy exchanging political views with you,” you may say, “but I am afraid that my pleasure in our conversations is getting in the way of my work. Would you want to discuss this over coffee? Or … oh, no. Would that be an H.R. violation? I’d better check with them, just in case.” (c) MISS MANNERS

Oh dear, this is a tough situation. I can understand not wanting to hurt my boss’s feelings or wanting to be overly assertive, like when you say something clear and straightforward that couldn’t be called aggressive, but that humiliates the recipient of your words, or that sort of thing. I’m against that level of assertion, and oftentimes there are ways around it.

But I don’t like Miss Manners’ advice. It would be disastrous to add to the problem by pretending to ask him out! Holy flip. No, no, no.

I’d do this. “I totally agree, and I hear ya. Too bad we can’t talk about this all day, ya know? Ugh. I’ve got to go through this mess on my desk and find the Peterson report, or I might not get it done today. And you’re probably busy trying to placate the Andersons.” And then I’d give a frazzled sigh.

I’m not sure her boorish boss would take the hint, but he’d probably at least go along with her redirection. Redirection–that’s the key. We were taught that when I worked at the reading center with ADHD-ridden kids. Like, the kid says, “I want to climb the walls,” and you reply, “That sounds fun! But first, let’s read this paragraph,” while putting your finger on the start of the paragraph. And you just keep doing that.

We also had goal sheets to refer to in times of greater need, like if a kid really was climbing the walls, and we’d say, “Jason, do you remember when we set this goal for you to remain focused on and on track?” Wait for an affirmative response. “Well, climbing the walls means you’re not focused on our studies. I don’t want to have to put a mark on this goal for today, because then you won’t get the whole point. Can we refocus?” It’s a nonthreatening way of getting someone to do something without being like, “Don’t you dare climb the walls, you naughty kid!” or whatever. I think that approach (to a certain extent) would work well here, too. Just redirect! There are so many ways to avoid being overly assertive.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I live in an apartment building and whenever I see someone (especially when waiting for the elevator), I say hello, good morning, good evening, etc. My parents were adamant about manners, and I was raised to greet people and acknowledge them. I do this automatically, even when I’m not aware of it.

I recently had an episode where a neighbor, who has made it apparent that he and his girlfriend don’t care for me, has asked me to stop greeting either of them whenever I see them. When I asked why, he said that I was pushing the boundaries of being a good neighbor. I’d never heard of this, and have no idea if I should respond as requested or just laugh it off (which I did when I thought of it).

As I run into them a few times a week, do you have any suggestions?

GENTLE READER: Swyize. This is Miss Manners’ alternative to the ever-popular “smize.” While the latter means to “smile with your eyes,” Miss Manners’ version means to smile without them.

You may greet your neighbors thus whenever you see them, signifying that you have heard their unneighborly request and will abide by it — but not ungrudgingly so.

It’s weird how everyone’s so different. I can understand and relate to things that were instilled in me from a young age, and how I can’t seem to break the hold. And this guy feels this way about greeting people. Then you have me, the paranoiac. It’s likely that I’d ignore his entreaties and just keep walking. I don’t really like Miss Manners’ advice here, either. People should be allowed to be unapproachable without getting the stinkeye. Geez. And Miss Manners appears to be making up words. I hope she didn’t hit the holiday nog too hard.

I had a weird experience at McDonald’s today, where I engaged in some dieting sabotage to start the new year. They handed me my food, and I checked it, and there was no sauce for the nuggets. But then the employee’s attention had been taken by the woman who’d been behind me, so I waited. And that woman who’d been in line behind me started misbehaving. She was saying, “That much money for two of them? Gee, I hope I can afford it.” And I was staring at her like, lady, don’t be nasty to the employees just because you disapprove of their prices. Not cool. 

And anyway, prior to that, when I was still waiting for my food, she approached me and said something like, “I wonder how long you’ve been waiting.” It gave me a bad feeling, like she was being a snot; and I shrugged and stepped farther away from her. That bad feeling was vindicated when she started acting up later. I got the sense she was an entitled emotional vampire, and she’d targeted me; but being paranoid, I was having none of it, and I was just like, Go bother someone else and leave me alone. 

So anyway, my point, assuming I have one, is that people should have the right to ignore or put up boundaries around strangers, including but not limited to neighbors. It’s a bad day for Miss Manners!

Generational abuse.

It’s been a weird sort of day. I was talking to my mom, and she was depressed because apparently her dad died when she was seventeen on new year’s eve. Go figure. That was news!

Both of my grandfathers died, and both of my grandmothers remarried, before I was born. I’d always been glad that I didn’t meet my maternal grandfather. I’d heard that he was an abusive drunk, and after hearing that much, I quit asking questions and thanked God that I’d dodged a bullet. I grew up with enough abuse in my life.

But today my mom said he was a very nice person when he was sane. (Apparently, I alone inherited all of his mental illnesses that he was believed to have after the fact: bipolar, schizophrenia, and on and on; but at the time, there was no understanding or treatment and you were just “weird”, as my mom put it. “Weird, in a bad way,” were her exact words, I think.)

So my mom went on and on about how he spent quality time with her and taught her to play Checkers, and it was odd, because I’d always written him off as someone I was glad not to meet.

I still wouldn’t want to meet him, though. Checkers is a fun game, but he was physically abusive, and he beat the crap out of my aunt for reasons that might have to go into my non-memoir. (Scandalous stuff.) But I’ve had enough fun forgiving my parents for being physically abusive to me. Why would I want to do it for a grandparent, too?

Well, technically, both of my grandmothers spanked me, but not to a level I’d call abusive. (This doesn’t count things I think I’ve blocked out of my memory.) (Also, to be clear, I’m 100% against spanking under any circumstances. The only exception being that you might want to slap your kid’s hand if he’s about to touch the stovetop.) But my dead grandfather could’ve been abusive to me also, because he was capable of it. I wouldn’t want to risk it, so I’m glad he died before I was born.

It’s hard living in a family where I constantly have to tolerate past abusers and accept them. But anyway, my mom said that her brother wanted to go skating that day, so their dad took him into town. Then he came back and felt unwell, so he asked my mom to take him to the doctor. But then a distant family member showed up, and he took my mom’s dad to the doctor, and he had a heart attack there and died at the age of 44, which is actually how old I am. He had a lot of stress as a farmer.

I don’t blame myself for dehumanizing him over the years. I’m more upset that he was abusive than I am that I inherited a slew of mental illnesses from him. Mental illness is okay. Abuse needs to be stamped out. I don’t care how mentally ill he was; there’s no excuse. It’s a hard dichotomy for me because my parents were both abusers, and yet I’m very close to them. I don’t think that’s wrong of me, but it does make it seem as if I condone their abuse, which I don’t; and it often makes me take my anger out on unrelated people because I’m close to my parents and don’t feel like lashing out at them (although I could if I wanted to).

I’m not sure what the point is, but with what my dad did to me, I finally realized that it can’t be forgiven because it’s unforgivable, in and of itself; and that’s on my dad, not me, so it shouldn’t be my burden to forgive the unforgivable. I mean, I don’t hold a grudge (except for when I’m triggered), but some things are truly unforgivable, and it was a relief when I realized that because then I knew that it wasn’t on me to forgive the unthinkable. I’ve been quite happier ever since.

It’s like when the Titanic sank. If you experience something like that, there’s no way back from it but forward. What I mean is, you can’t make sense of it, and you shouldn’t try too hard, no matter how many bad therapists try to get you to see it differently. I think that’s why Old Rose says in the movie, “Afterward, the seven hundred people in the boats had nothing to but wait. Wait to die, wait to live. Wait for an absolution that would never come.”

So while it’s nice to know that my grandfather was a nice person, I’m still glad I never met him. That’s because, though, as a child I was vulnerable and mistreated by a lot of people. I wouldn’t mind to meet him now, as an adult. And since I believe in the spirit world, maybe one day I’ll meet him.

Gee, aren’t there any nice people in my family? Like, non-abusers? Oh well. It’s why I refuse to have kids. There’s no other way to guarantee that the abuse stops here. However, my sister had a kid, and now she’s due to give birth to a second soon. Both my brother and I are afraid to meet her kids for fear that we’ll care about them and be unable to protect them from her. It’s easier just not knowing her kids, because then there’s no attachment. My dad promises me, though, that her kids have a huge extended paternal family that’s bound to keep my sister’s abusive tendencies in check. Here’s hoping. Oh! Happy new year!

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