Meg’s new diet!

I’m on a new diet that I think will lead to further weight loss. Sonya helped me get on this diet, and she’s such a good influence. God bless her!

Every day I eat half a bag (or so) of baby carrots dipped in a raspberry vinaigrette. (I never use much sauce, so any added-on calories would be marginal.)

I also eat apple slices dipped in caramel (same as above–according to my math, the caramel adds on around 70 calories, max).

And then I eat a bag of precooked grilled chicken for dinner. The whole bag has 315 calories, and I dip it into modest amounts of barbecue sauce. So apparently it’s all about the sauce, salad dressing, or caramel.

Backing up, for breakfast, I make oatmeal with a packet from Kodiak that has chocolate chips, a larger amount of Quaker Old Fashioned oats, and a few spoonfuls of peanut powder. And then I add a handful of walnuts after it comes out of the microwave. I assume that it has a lot of calories (maybe 400 to 600), but what the heck? It’s all healthy.

And for dessert, later in the day, I have two Lara bars… or four, if I’m feeling naughty. They still seem like a good option because of their low ingredient list: nuts, dates, and a given flavor (lemon, or coconut, or cherry, or lime, etc., etc.). I ordered some pumpkin ones for fall, but I’m waiting for them to freeze before trying them. (I only eat my Lara bars frozen. It’s a textural issue. According to Dr. Google, they don’t actually freeze, but they do get firmer.)

I’d prefer Luna bars, but their list of ingredients reads like a science experiment. Lara bars seem to be the notable exception in this regard. If I’m eating a snack bar every day, I want its ingredients to be “clean”.

I’ve had a few problems, most notably insane cravings for junk food. I’m fully aware at this point that I’ve got a food addiction. The difficulty obviously involves holding myself off of the junk food. One thing I’ve noticed is that if I’m craving junk food, it might be because I’m physically hungry. So I immediately go and eat one of the healthy foods mentioned above. For example, it’s 3:30 PM, and I just ate my bag of chicken. It helped. I’m no longer craving junk food, so I might have just been hungry. And I’m not remotely interested in losing weight via hunger. No thank you.

The carrots are filling, so when I get hungry again later (or sooner), I’ll tackle them. Baby carrots, who knew?

I’ve given up the following foods:

  • Kodiak waffles, made from their waffle mixes on my waffle iron. They talk a big talk about their good ingredients (whole grain flours, for example, I think), but the fact is that they’re still unhealthy; and they trigger me to want to go eat more junk food. That trigger effect might be because they have flour, and flour can be addictive. Not sure.
  • Popcorn made in my popper. I realize it’s a reasonably healthy indulgence, but I eat so much of it at once that I’m sure its calories add up, along with the powdered seasonings I add.

But I’m more likely to indulge in:

  • Cocoa, because it’s a low-cal indulgence that satisfies my sweet tooth. A package of coca is low in calories and sugar, and it (typically) lacks all the fat found in solid chocolate. And this time of year, you can get fun with it by adding a flavored candy cane as as stirring stick, those colorful little marshmallows, and/or Monin flavor syrups. (There are loads of good flavor syrups for cocoa: coconut, marshmallow, chocolate-chip cookie, vanilla, peppermint, caramel, etc., etc.) It’s high in sugar. I can’t exactly sit here and deny that. But I think I have good blood sugar levels, because I drink low amounts of sugar on a daily basis. I’d never have cocoa more than once a day. (c) Terri Cnudde via Pixabay:

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(I’m still brewing unsweet tea and then adding small amounts of the aforementioned Monin flavor syrups to both flavor and sweeten it. It’s got wayyy less sugar than soft drinks or sport drinks. This was the arrangement I discovered that should prevent me from getting adult-onset diabetes. I previously needed to drink two huge things of Gatorade each day, which totaled 100 grams of sugar daily. Now, each huge tumbler of tea I drink has about 18 fluid ounces of tea–which is a lot–and around 10 grams of sugar. On any given day, I might drink three tumblers. [Shrug.] But when I try to go sugar-free, I get dehydrated. And I can’t have artificial sweeteners.)

Anyway, I wish I could break the food addiction once and for all. Maybe it’s like any addiction that requires lifelong maintenance. Since I live with my dad, I’m always at the mercy of the snacks he brings home, which are usually potato chips and cookies. If the potato chips are sour cream and onion, I’m screwed. Likewise if the cookies are chocolate chip.

But I’m doing my best. I haven’t been exercising because I’m still fighting off this cold, and I think that exercising at this juncture would exhaust me. I’ve already been sleeping around the clock. I’m just conked. I’d be concerned if I wasn’t aware of the cold. But it has made its presence known with an occasional ugly cough, runny nose, and mild headache. So I sort of understand my fatigue, and I’m just waiting it out. I expect to get back to the gym soon.

My dad took my mom to her appointment today, and God bless him for it. He came home at the midpoint while she was having the procedure done, and we went to the store together to get the foods on her grocery list. He said, and I quote, “It’s a good thing you didn’t take her. You would’ve been unable to handle it. First she did this, then she did that, and then she really topped it all with this maneuver. And then, when I thought things couldn’t get worse, she proved me wrong by doing such-and-such. And that was all in the first five minutes. We were running late, but she wasn’t ready to go.” I’m being vague in the dialogue there because I was too busy shuddering to actually catch most of what he was saying. It sounded bad, though.

Ohh boy. The cold is hitting me and threatening to put me back to sleep again. Geez. I guess the fatigue feels “normal” when you’ve got active cold symptoms. As it is, the fatigue feels inconveniencing and strange. Oh well. I’m sure I’ll be better in a few days.

I hope everyone out there is having a great day!! Let me know!

Lightbulb moment!

I feel so tired and sedate, as if I’ve been taking more sedatives than normal, which I haven’t been. I’m still fighting off the cold.

Sonya got me some gorgeous artwork in Prague! It got a bit bent up on the way home, though, but I still love it! Here’s a photo!

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The frame used to house my friendship collage, hence the segmented areas, but sadly a lot of people have quit being friends with me, so I took all the photos out. Oh well. [Makes face.] (If any of you out there want to be friends again, just come and find me! My inbox is always open!) Sigh.

I’ve been sleeping all the time. I think my dad suspects that I’m “recovering” from my trip. I disagree. I can tell I have a mild cold, and I’ve had it for about a week now. (I never recover quickly.) I’m not complaining, because I’ve never known a cold to be this asymptomatic.

I think I’m off the hook for taking my mom to her medical appointment tomorrow, and thank God! Sadly, my mom now thinks I’m mad at her. In interesting news, something occurred to me earlier that you’d think I would’ve realized decades ago: I think my mother has borderline personality disorder. Gasp! Ohhhh. Moment of truth.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? People with BPD often fear abandonment, so they subconciously-on-purpose push people away in order to create said abandonment, which you’d think would be counterintuitive, but by golly, that’s what they do. If I had a nickel for every time my mom’s whined and complained about being black-balled by one or more of her three children (myself included), I’d be rich. She does push people away. And then she conveniently plays the victim of this.

She was never abandoned as a child. However, when she was growing up (as the oldest), babies were revered, but then young children were loathed. I suspect that created a unique sort of abandonment.

In further evidence: she has these shifts that seem to have more to do with whatever’s going on in her life (circumstances) and less to do with the vagaries of her brain (brain chemistry). That would be consistent with a personality disorder rather than a major mental illness (such as depression or anxiety) in which the brain chemistry is involved.

She shifts from happy (not manic, just garden-variety happiness) to being overly critical and negative, to being extremely anxious and out of control, and then back to the middle-ground state of being overly critical and negative, and then back to happy, and so on, and so forth. No matter which phase she’s in, she’s always a diehard believer in facing life’s harsh realities. And trust me when I say that that has made her a terrible mother. The worst.

Further evidence: her relationships change frequently. Who’s in her corner and who’s not in her corner can never be guessed, except randomly. She broke up with her boyfriend recently and blames herself rather accurately, I fear.

More evidence: I suspect she has a changing sense of self. Her self-esteem and her view of herself tend to shift all the time, from what I can tell.

More evidence: obviously there’s something majorly wrong with her. I don’t think she’s a narcissist, but she can be. However, by definition, a narcissist is typically always narcissistic, not just sporadically. Her strange inconsistencies would be better accounted for with a diagnosis of BPD.

I think she also has depressive personality disorder, which might be NOS (not otherwise specified), meaning I just made it up and created it myself as a free-floating personality disorder that’s not listed in the DSM. Her extreme negativity, her critical nature, and her inability to see the positive of any situation are how I’d define it. It’s different than the manifestations of depression itself, which involves the brain chemistry; in my mom’s case, it’s just that she has a really negative outlook, which presumably has nothing to do with her brain chemistry.

Quite honestly I feel bad for typing this, because it makes people with brain-chemistry depression everywhere look bad. But it’s just my mother, I assure you, who has such a horrible attitude. Most people with brain-chemistry depression want to get better, but my mom clings to her self-righteousness with the fervor of a thousand suns.

Poor Mommy. It makes me sad. Oh well.

I’m reminded of when I went on the road with her in early 2015, and she wound up holding me hostage. The whole car ride, she kept baiting me and trying to get me to bite and get upset. I kept pushing her off and not taking the bait. You’d think this was masterful of me, but it merely caused her to up her game and become threatening, so I had to run upstairs to stay safe from her. So even though I was trying to be a delightful person to get along with, she has these patterns of alienating us and then, like I said, playing the victim over it. (“Oh, alas, alas, why don’t my children dote on me more often? I’m such a loving mother!”)

It just woudn’t surprise me at this point, if I were to discover that she has BPD.

Have a wonderful, splendiferous day!

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Please address the issue of customer service people who tell everyone to “have a good one.” At numerous stores and restaurants, upon leaving, I am told to “have a good one.” I am so tempted to say, “A good what?”

What happened to, “Have a nice day”?

GENTLE READER: It was smothered by a crowd of people loudly complaining that customer service people should not wish them a nice day if they did not really mean it. (c) MISS MANNERS

Huh. You know what I hate? And this must be a regional thing, but here, the store employees all say, “Have a good rest of your day!”

Ugh.

  1. First of all, it feels forced, as if the speaker isn’t saying it spontaneously.
  2. Second, it feels ingratiating, as if the speaker is trying really, really hard to wish you a good day in a way that’s original and unique. Ugh.
  3. Third, it seems grammatically weak. I think the grammatically sound way to say it would be, “I hope the rest of your day goes well!”

As a purist, I’m in favor of wishing someone a good day. I don’t think anything needs to be added onto it.

Dear Amy: My husband and I have a disabled child, whose needs are complex. We have been blessed to find a reliable, kind and hard-working caregiver, “Shelly,” who is a wonderful fit for us.

Unfortunately, Shelly is also very creative and generous. She makes us food, clothes and items of home decor, none of which suit our needs or taste.

She eagerly expects us to eat, wear and/or prominently display her gifts, into which she obviously puts a great deal of effort.

I have tried subtly mentioning that my diet is strict or that my skin is sensitive to certain fabrics or that the knickknacks on my shelves collect dust, but to no avail.

Today, Shelly showed up with a huge, homemade holiday sculpture for our front yard.

How can I clearly discourage her generosity without hurting her feelings, which I would never, ever want to do?

— Overwhelmed in Georgia

Overwhelmed in Georgia: “Shelly” is obviously a kind and generous person, but you should set some firmer boundaries.

Sit down with her. Say, “This is awkward and hard to bring up, but I hope you understand. We are so lucky and grateful to have you with us. We value you so much. But we really cannot continue to accept any more gifts from you. Your gift to us is the wonderful care you provide, and that’s all we want or need.”

I don’t think this will necessarily stop the heaping helpings of food and gifts, but it might slow her down. Readers may want to weigh in. (c) Ask Amy

Oh my. Anytime creativity and generosity are “unfortunate”, you know something’s wrong. Sadly, Ask Amy’s advice would be impossible for me to follow. I, too, wouldn’t want to hurt Shelly’s feelings, nor would I be capable of that level of assertion. I can be assertive at times (and even aggressive!), but if it involves hurting someone’s feelings for no good reason (e.g., they haven’t hurt my feelings), then I can’t do it. It’s just not in me.

So here’s what I’d do. I’d sit Shelly down and say: “Shelly, my church is holding its Christmas bazaar soon. I spoke to the minister about you. Would you like to have a booth showcasing the things you’ve made? I’m so impressed with your talents, but I’m also upset that I often can’t use what you make for me, given my skin allergies and such. But if you could man a booth to help raise money for the church, it would be great. We need talented craftspeople like you.”

I have spoken. Take her talents and reroute them for the win-win.

Dear Annie: I was in a relationship for about 18 years. Early on, he proposed, and I declined with no intention of ever remarrying. After a little bit of cool-off time, the relationship slowly started up again despite this difference.

Over those years, some of our individual friends became mutual friends. Invitations for events were, of course, extended to us as a couple or individually with a plus one.

Over the past two years, the relationship ended. Soon after, I accepted a date with someone I loosely knew who is not local to the area where I live. This relationship quickly grew into an exclusive relationship. We are considering marriage in the near future, likely about one or two years off.

After the dissolution of the past relationship, I started getting invitations for “one,” no guest, from the now-mutual friends. My ex also gets invited. Originally, some of the statements were that there was concern that he would behave poorly if I was there with my new significant other. I have told inviters to please not extend this type of invitation to me as I do not consider it a real invitation. It’s disrespectful to my current boyfriend to expect him to be OK not being welcome to attend an event with me when my ex would be there.

Can you please weigh in on this type of invitation and how I can get people to understand this is not OK? — Moved On But Feeling the Pushback From Friends

Dear Moved On: It’s common for friends to feel caught in the middle after a breakup — especially the breakup of an 18-year relationship.

However, you’re all adults here. There’s no reason for your new boyfriend to be disinvited from social events. If your ex isn’t comfortable being around you two, he can stay home.

I would explain to your friends that your new beau is the real deal and that you see a future with him. If he’s not welcome at their dinner parties or barbecues, then they’ll be missing out on your attendance, too. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

 This letter writer is one cool customer. First, she turns down Bob’s proposal. (Let’s call him Bob, because why not?) Then, even knowing that she’d never want to marry Bob, she got back together with him and strung him along for years and years. She became friends with Bob’s friends, thus adding to her circle of friends. Then they broke up, and she got together with Andrew, the new guy. (Let’s call him Andrew.) Immediately, she knew Andrew was “the one”, so they’ve been engaged even though they’ve only known each other for a brief while. This, despite the fact that she told Bob she had no plans of ever remarrying. She was lying! She just didn’t want to marry Bob! And she couldn’t be honest about that? No! She had to claim that she doesn’t want to remarry.

And then she gets together with Andrew, and boom, they’re engaged. Because of course they are. So it becomes clear that she was flat-out lying to Bob about her plans to never remarry.

After the dissolution of the past relationship, I started getting invitations for “one,” no guest, from the now-mutual friends.

Okay, so she’s still getting invited! That speaks well of her friends, and of her relationship with said friends, whom she met through Bob.

My ex also gets invited.

Of course he does. His friendship predates the letter writer’s friendship with these people.

Originally, some of the statements were that there was concern that he would behave poorly if I was there with my new significant other.

Well, I could be overthinking this (or underthinking it), but is it possible that the friends were concerned that Bob might behave poorly if she was there with Andrew?

I have told inviters to please not extend this type of invitation to me as I do not consider it a real invitation. It’s disrespectful to my current boyfriend to expect him to be OK not being welcome to attend an event with me when my ex would be there.

Wow, she’s cold as ice. She couldn’t care less about how she led Bob on for eighteen years, dumped him like a hot potato, and then became engaged to someone she’d just met, after telling Bob she never wanted to remarry. And she doesn’t have the sensitivity to avoid social engagements for a while with Bob’s friends so that he can have a chance to come to grips? No?

Can you please weigh in on this type of invitation and how I can get people to understand this is not OK? — Moved On But Feeling the Pushback From Friends

Yeah, that pushback is there because she pretty much discarded Bob like he was yesterday’s news. I feel sorry for the guy.

After my brother and Teri broke up, it became a sad fact of life that Teri and I drifted apart. She probably wanted me to hate Philip for being a bad boyfriend, or whatever, but I have no clue what went down between them. (All I know is that both my mother and sister terrorized Teri, and for that, I feel truly sorry for her. She told me that I’m the only sane member of my family, which is ironic, given my diagnoses.)

Would I invite Teri and my brother over at the same time? Goodness gracious, no. Not in a million years. If Teri was coming over, which I wish she’d do, then I’d make sure my brother didn’t know about it.

I myself have never been in the position of breaking up with someone and then feeling agitated that all of our mutual friends were still associating with my ex. It’s just never happened to me. The closest was when I quit being friends with Kristi, my best friend (which obviously wasn’t a romantic breakup), but my brother and my aunt are both still friends with her on social media. Go figure. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t think it can be compared to having an ex-significant-other.

But I’d point out to this letter writer that she’s being insensitive, and that given the circumstances, she should be glad to get invitations sans Andrew for now. I don’t think anyone’s trying to be disrespectful toward Andrew; rather, they’re rallying around Bob while still including the letter writer. Geez.

Cue the guilt!

My parents are upset that I’m refusing to take my mom to her colonoscopy this upcoming Friday. I got this email from my mom:

Meg please
Dont say this. What have i done
I need your help. Not some stranger
Plus i will need to get food at pauls. What has happened? Help me understand.

I think my dad has it right when he says that she’s her own worst enemy. What has she done, she asks? She took me and my dad out to dinner yesterday and sucked all my energy away. I literally came home and slept for, like, twenty hours to recover. (Granted, I’ve been recovering from an oddly asymptomatic cold as well.)

I haven’t replied because there are no words. I can’t help her. But at this point, the guilt and the begging and bribery are going to intensify. My dad still hopes I’ll do it for $100 from him, plus whatever my mom pays me. I don’t have it within me to demand more, because I’d feel as though I was extorting him. (Unlike my mom, who seemingly has unlimited resources, my dad’s sort of broke.) But to be completely honest, I might consider doing it for a cool thou.

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But I’m having extreme anxiety. I keep picturing a car wreck, or us getting pulled over by the cops while I’m too braindead to interact with said cops; and so I can’t explain that my mother’s a toxic harpy whom I can’t get along with, and that’s why I ran that red light, or whatever. (And I’m sure my mom would love it if I were to be honest like that.) (Not.)

She’s engaged in some bad behaviors in the past. At one time I was supposed to pick her up from a doctor’s appointment, so I pulled the car up to the curb. She saw me there, just a few feet from where she stood; but she was pouting, and so she refused to get into the car. I just sat there, rolling my eyes. Along came a stranger who offered to open my car door for her (trust me, that’s not what she was holding out for, or I would’ve done it myself), and then we had to interact with the stranger, which destroyed me because of my paranoia, which my mother tends to multiply by about a hundredfold. So my mother emerged victorious that day.

I get it that I said I’d take her, but I have to put myself first. Come hell or high water, I won’t allow myself to be guilt-tripped, bribed, and/or cajoled into taking her. Yes, I never should’ve agreed to it in the first place. I can’t deny that.

(Note to self: when your mother acts all casual about something and asks for your help, get suspicious fast. Like, really really fast. And just say no.) 

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It’s Wednesday. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. I just have to survive until after Friday.

I’m out!

You know how you tell someone you’ll do something, and that has meaning because it’s your word, and then you go back on it?

I’m out.

I told my mom months ago that I would take her to her colonoscopy this upcoming Friday. I’m officially bailing on her. My dad’s upset, obviously. He’s going to have to spend half an hour on the phone offering my mom reassurances about whomever he finds to take her from Visiting Angels (a company that works with old people). He tried to bribe me with $100 on top of whatever my mom pays me. That was hard to turn down, not because of the money but because I hate to do this to my dad. (Somehow I don’t feel bad about doing it to my mom, though. I mean, on her end, she’s begging for me to bail on her and create drama. She wins! Go figure.)

My dad made me promise to sleep on it tonight. Hmmph. Do you know what will happen if I sleep on  it? I’ll get up just enough courage to do it, and then I’ll be digging my own grave. So even though I told him I’d sleep on it, I just now emailed my mom and told her I’m out.

I’m a huge believer in keeping my word, but I suspect my mom’s taking advantage of that, which isn’t cool. The original arrangement was that she’d take Uber or Lyft to the appointment, and I’d pick her up and take her home (for she’d be on anesthesia). Then, a few days ago, she peer-pressured me into agreeing to pick her up early in the morning and take her to the appointment. That was a mistake on her part. Whenever I’m faced with these horrifying tasks, making it worse increases the likelihood that I’ll run screaming before completing the task. Emphasis on before.

I started having anxiety about this task several days before I left Prague. Sonya was trying to talk me off the ledge. I just can’t do it. Sources of anxiety:

  • I can’t order my mom (effectively) to be quiet in the car, but I need quiet to drive safely. I’m the sort of nervous driver who can’t drive and talk.
  • I can’t handle hearing any more references to how she’s going to have to spend all day Thursday “cleaning herself out on the toilet”. On Friday, I’d have to hear the blow-by-blow of how that went, and I just can’t cope anymore.
  • Interacting with office staff and/or nurses, etc., is excruciatingly difficult due to my paranoia. Add my mother, and… ugh.
  • After her appointment, she wants to go to the fruit market. She squeezed an agreement for that out of me, too, a few days ago. Not smart of her. I get it that she needs food, but she’s never on her best behavior in stores. Add in my paranoia, and even her good behavior is hurtful to me. Ugh.

She’s been a bit of a victim lately. My sister has shunned her, so all my mom talks about is how much she misses seeing Li’l Sweets (my almost-two-year-old niece). She goes on and on about it. And it’s not just me. She went with my brother so he could buy a new car recently. (I finally got my car back!) Halfway through the car-buying process, according to my brother, my sister’s husband, Mr. Perfect, called my mom, and my mom was like, “When can I see Li’l Sweetmeats? Please bring her over behind your wife’s back! I must see her! Ohh, my life is horrible, my life is horrible… No, I’m not busy, I can talk.” And the car salesman was making faces at her, waiting for her to get off the phone, and my poor brother was squirming and doing that thing where we try to disappear.

Is the backlash I’m going to receive worth it at this point? Yes. I’m literally terrified of taking her on Friday. Terrified. I just can’t do it. I’ll have to find a way to make it up to my dad.

Anyway, to anyone out there reading this, don’t let me get roped back in. It’s not in the best interest of my mental wellbeing to be put in these situations. It’s just not. I’m not going to feel relieved until Saturday comes.

Triggered paranoia! AAUGH!

I don’t know where things went wrong, but that was incredibly stressful.

My dad and I just went out to eat with my mom, who treated us to a lovely meal at the Cheesecake Factory. It was horrible.

Usually I can articulate where things fell apart, but this time, I’m just like… uhh… what a massacre! But, like, I don’t know what went wrong.

Well, my mom was triggering my paranoia by having a conversation with the server at the start of the meal. He was explaining to me that the salad I like was unavailable, and before I could choose something else, she jumped in with, “Oh no, do you have my salad? I want this one,” and on and on and on. Now, anyone who knows me knows that it’s bad to have lengthy conversations with the servers. So while I was patiently waiting for his attention again, I shriveled up into a ball of paranoia and tried to disappear. (It didn’t work, just… in case any of your were wondering.)

After we ordered, my paranoia was “turned on” and couldn’t be turned off. Every time our poor server reappeared, I cringed and faced away from him. I’m just too painfully aware of how visible we are to servers.

But we can’t ask my mom not to have lengthy conversations with servers. It’s always gone unspoken that it’s best not to do that. That’s why she does it. She enjoys triggering me.

Behind our booth was a man seated alone, eating alone. I was convinced he was eavesdropping, so I recited my schtick about how I wish I could bust out of witness protection already and be Sarah Lancaster again. This is what I do when I’m convinced someone’s eavesdropping. My mom seemed concerned (she doesn’t know about my witness protection routine… well, she does now), and I kept glancing over my shoulder to see if he’d left yet. He finally disappeared. By that point, my paranoia was impossible to come back from.

My mom tried to help (I’m being sarcastic here) by asking my dad if he sees his diabetes doctor often enough. He didn’t hear her question. He didn’t hear anything, to get technical. [Facepalm.]

Meg’s mother: “Phil, do you see your diabetes doctor often?” 

Meg’s dad: “Yeah, I’ll have the fish and chips.” 

Meg’s mother: “No, your DIABETES DOCTOR!” 

Meg’s dad: “Oh yeah? What about her? Is she here?” 

Meg’s mother: “How often do you see her?” 

Meg’s dad: “Once a year.” 

Meg’s mother: “But… but… but… you’ll die!! You must see her more often! Don’t you care about your health? You’ll leave Meg without anyone to care for her.” She turned to me. I cringed. “Your brother had one of those horrible things happen to him recently, just like you did.” (She was referring to kidney stones, I believe.) “He said you told him to drink lots of water. Is that true?” 

Meg: “No.” I stared at her blankly. 

Meg’s mother: “Whaaaaat? He said you told him to drink lots of water!” 

Meg: “No.” (I told him to try lemonade. Perhaps my mother wanted me to expand upon that, but my mind was gone.) “No, I didn’t tell him that.” 

If I was being recalcitrant at this point, my mom was unfazed. She’s rather obtuse at times. Or, at any rate, she pretends to be. 

Meg’s mother: “Phil, if you don’t see your diabetes doctor more often, you’ll die.” 

Meg’s dad: “Becky, I can call her if things go wrong.” 

Meg’s mother: “How would you know? You never test your blood sugar.”

Meg’s dad: “I just know.” 

Meg’s mother: “Is this because your bloog sugar level has spiked in the past?” [See what she did there? She led him right into a trap. The woman’s an obscene genius.] She turned to me again. I shuddered and cowered away. “So, darling daughter, what was the best meal you ate in Prague?” 

Meg: “Uh…” And of course my mind went blank. “Oh, yeah, we went to the candy store. It was built into a rock quarry. Sonya said it was a fake quarry, but I thought it was amazing anyway. It had loads of candy. What a great place!” 

Meg’s mother: “And Sonya’s between boyfriends?” Her face withered with disapproval. 

Meg: “Okay, you can put it that way if you wish.” I shrugged. “Anyway, you should’ve seen all the candy.” 

Meg’s mother: “Well, you know what I mean. She’s single!” 

Meg: “Yeah, well, she’s divorced, but single, yes.” 

Meg’s mother: “And why did she get divorced again? Leave out no detail. I also want to know all about her finances, her retirement plan, and her parents’ level of income.” 

Meg: [Deep breath.] “Mother, she got divorced because her marriage ended.  I could be wrong, but I think that’s the reason behind most divorces. She earns money from her job and pays the bills with said money. I have no clue how well-off her parents are, but I suspect they’re doing okay. Do you want me to ask her?” 

Meg’s mother: “Darling, no, of course not! I want you to find out casually and report back.” She pinched my cheek. “Now, would my special little girl like dessert?” 

I’m just sort of blanking on what happened after that point, but it was a massacre. Ugh.

Difficult for Annie Lane to create good content!

Dear Annie: More than 65 years ago, my mother was a military wife, a German “war bride” and an orphan from the war. This means that I had no grandparents on my mother’s side of the family.

So, we always went to my father’s parents’ house on Christmas Day, but this led to some frustrations, so my mother put her foot down. She told her master sergeant spouse (my father) that she was no longer going to Grandmother’s house (his mother) on Christmas Day.

Her other son and his family lived there. Her kids were going to enjoy their toys in their own home on Christmas Day and visit later. She was tired of her kids seeing the cousins having fun all day with their toys and having to enjoy their Christmas toys later.

It worked out fine. She knew about boundaries before it became a psychological theme! — Setting Boundaries

Dear Setting Boundaries: Thank you for sharing the story of how your mother solved this problem for you and your siblings without offending your grandparents. She was ahead of her time in setting boundaries for grandparents. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

What the flip did I just read?

Oh, right, that was someone writing half of Annie Lane’s column for her. This is what Annie Lane wrote:

Dear Setting Boundaries: Thank you for sharing the story of how your mother solved this problem for you and your siblings without offending your grandparents. She was ahead of her time in setting boundaries for grandparents. 

And this is how it translates:

Dear Setting Boundaries: Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. It fills half my column and gets me off the hook for coming up with more compelling content. God bless you for it! Yeah, boundaries, or whatever, am I right? I think it sounds solid. It sounds good, right? Boundaries? 

Huh. Also, I don’t think it matters what you call it: boundaries, or whatever, but the concept most certainly isn’t new. Human nature is evolving slowly, in my opinion, and is headed in a good direction; but I seriously doubt that this ever happened:

Cavewoman Pru: I hate it when my mother-in-law stops by without sending smoke signals first. What should I do, Gunt? 

Cavewoman Gunt: Hmm… we need a word for keeping people away on our own terms. Uh…

Cavewoman Pru: But there’s no such word! Does that mean that we can’t do it, keep people away on our own terms? 

Cavewoman Gunt: I guess so. Too bad, though. I guess we’ll have to wait for someone to name the concept. [Shrugs.]

Cavewoman Pru: Oh no, she’s coming right now! AAUGH! I haven’t even cooked the mastadon yet!

Cavewoman Gunt: Is the mastadon dead, or did Brah drag it home alive? You could feed your mother-in-law to it…

[Scene ending swiftly due to violent and unwholesome content.]

My point is that boundaries probably existed before they were called boundaries. Let’s see what other content is in Annie Lane’s column for today…

Dear Annie: Nearly 50 years ago, while a high school student, I met an upperclassman who completely swept me off my feet. We clicked with each other almost immediately and loved being together as much as possible. He was leaving for college the following year, and his mother made no secret of the fact that she wanted him to leave without having a girlfriend back home.

I was a year younger, so my future was not yet set. We wanted to stay together even though he would be two states away. We felt that we could make it work during breaks and summer vacations. However, by late summer, his mother had convinced him that breaking it off with me was the best course of action.

To say the very least, I was heartbroken and mourned the loss for 10 years.

Eventually, I met a nice man, settled down and had a family. I was happy but always felt the loss, and now, almost 50 years later and a widow, I still feel the same as I did back then. Of course, he is a married man now, and I would never pursue him.

I feel that seeing a counselor about this would be considered trivial since there are so many in the world suffering right now. — Still Missing My First Love

Dear Missing My First Love: You are looking back on your youth, when things were more simplistic and you had fewer responsibilities. The reality is that you feel what you feel, and your yearning is nothing to be trivialized. Perhaps you are missing your husband, and it is much easier to miss a person you knew for a short time and didn’t share a life with. It certainly can be a lot less painful.

Talking to a counselor could be just what you need to help sort out what you really long for and what you want in your life today. Your feelings are NOT trivial.

Well, that was lame. As soon as I saw this line:

I feel that seeing a counselor about this would be considered trivial since there are so many in the world suffering right now.

I knew right away that Annie Lane had an answer to give. No, your feelings aren’t trivial! They’re valid! Absolutely see a counselor if you wish! 

Ugh. Validating people’s feelings is Advice Giving 101.

I’d give the letter writer less wishy-washy garbage about first love and more reality: if they were meant to be together, she did everything she could, whereas he obeyed the dictates of his mother. If, however, he’d fought against his mother and maintained the relationship, her entire adult life would’ve been like an eternal, bad episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Just sayin’. Sometimes we need to look at these things from a practical angle. No one suffers more than people who have meddling mothers-in-law. I’d say, given that he did nothing to hold onto her, and his mother was a meddler, that she dodged a bullet.

Nate, who’s aromantic, once pointed out to me that in the movie Titanic, Old Rose spends the whole movie narrating her relationship with Jack Dawson, which only lasted during the cruise. She wound up marrying someone else and having a whole life with him before he died of old age, I think. And yet she narrates her relationship with Jack Dawson, whom she knew however briefly, giving no credence to her late husband, with whom she shared a life.

I was stunned, because I’d never seen it that way before. But upon reflection, Old  Rose was talking about her adventures aboard the Titanic, and she wasn’t talking about her later married life. We don’t need to assume that she wasn’t equally (if not moreso) close to her later-found husband, am I right? It’s just that that wasn’t the focus of the movie. (Personally, I’d love a sequel.)

And in yesterday’s column, Annie Lane ran several letters from people who had experience with different forms of illnesses. It was great content, but she didn’t have to write any of it. Oh well.

A little fanfare never hurts!

My trip home was loads of fun! Sonya and I got a later start than planned and wound up in the world’s slowest moving line at the airport. Ugh. I was certain I was going to miss my flight. (There have been many signs throughout that the airline is understaffed: many of my flights were accessed via ladders, and we were shuttled to or from the plane in several instances.)

Sonya finally flagged down an employee and told him when my flight was. He pulled open the strap to admit me to the shorter line, reserved for people who buy the expensive tickets. I was confused and sleep-deprived, or I would’ve thanked him.

After getting through the line, Sonya and I freakin’ walked the wrong way away from security and had to backtrack. I wound up reaching my flight with four minutes to spare. Goodness gracious!

I was relieved.

The next flight was the main flight from Europe to the US. On this flight, I was seated behind an elderly lady who refused to keep her mask on. She got scolded at least four times that I witnessed, and possibly more often, like when I had my headphones on. She seemed hellbent on not being cooperative, and one male flight attendant got so mad at her that he gave her a scary lecture about ventilators and tragic death. He said he was going to do something bad to her, and that she’d lost her chances because he’d asked her repeatedly. (All true.) I wasn’t sure what he was going to do… arrest her? I was filled with schadenfreude, but an arrest never came to pass, so I assume he threatened to report her to the airline so she can’t fly with them anymore. That’s my best guess.

He finally gave up and drifted away, and not twenty minutes later, a female flight attendant walked past us and told the old lady to be sure to keep her mask up. Such moxie! That little old lady was brazenly determined to be disobedient.

During that flight I couldn’t get comfortable to save myself, and I kept trying. There was no hope for it. Worse, in my efforts at falling asleep while keeping all my stuff organized, my eyeglasses wound up gone. I paged the flight attendant, who said she couldn’t do anything to help. I’m still a bit miffed by that.

Fortunately, the two men seated next to me both got up so I could feel around. I found them under the seat in front of me and off to the side. Actually, the nice man seated next to me pointed them out, but then I had to do some gymnatics gyrations in order to nab them.

They seemed unharmed.

I then lost my paperback similarly, and I decided to just let that go. No clue where it disappeared to.

Then there was some time between flights, so I got some food and ate. I also went to the restroom, and I tried to organize my stuff, too. It was restful.

The final flight was noneventful, except that I was parched. But after they brought me a Sprite, it tasted funny, and I struggled to down it. I checked the label. It was American Sprite, as you’d expect. (I can’t have the European version because it has artificial sweeteners.) Huh.

I got off the plane and found my dad, which was nice. He was excited to see me and had gotten confused as to which flight I was supposed to have been on.

He and I found the luggage carousel, and there was no luggage. Everyone from my flight was staring at it, their gazes tired and hopeful, as it churned out the same ten suitcases and duffel bags again and again, with no one claiming any of them.

An hour passed. My dad surmised that everyone’s luggage had been rerouted to San Francisco (because why not?), and this seemed credible. I told him I agreed with him but that I was still in the first stage of grief over losing my luggage: denial. For that reason, I wanted to wait for my luggage to magically arrive instead of accepting that it was in San Francisco, or wherever.

I muttered that the airline was lucky that denial comes before anger. (Don’t cross me!)

And we waited. Rumors spread that the airline was simply being slow in putting out our luggage. Another rumor was that I was going to sue them. No clue how that rumor got started. [Eyeroll.] (Okay, I might have some idea how it came to pass.)

And then the worst thing ever happened: the carousel came to a screeching halt.

That was it. Our luggage wasn’t coming out. It had been rerouted to San Francisco. I was crushed. Everyone was. We stared at the nonmoving carousel, despondent and beyond all hope. My shoulders slouched forward. The woman next to me shot me a sympathetic look.

And then there was music. (This is an eleven-second audio clip, so consider humoring me and listening to it before reading onward.) With gusto, the carousel came to life and spat out one suitcase after another, all of them new and not yet seen.

Someone from my flight yelled, “Hey, that’s my luggage!” And everyone burst into applause and cheered, jumping up and down with ridiculous glee.

You can’t make this stuff up. Only in Louisville (where we have the Derby) would this happen.

A few minutes later my luggage appeared. “Purple incoming!” I yelled. “Yay!”

The drive home was scary. My dad insisted on driving, and his after-dark driving is terrifying. I begged him to let me drive, but he refused. I ordered him to focus on safety the whole way, so we didn’t talk. Like when he drove right past the exit sign, and I was too tense to speak up. Ugh. It was that intense. And then he got mad at me for not pointing it out, saying it was too dark for anyone to see it. Mm-hmm.

*****

Now that I’m home, I’m setting goals for November. (It’s just after 7:00 PM on Halloween as I type this.) I’ve decided to try to improve my posture and focus on fitness and healthy eating. Something amazing happened in Prague. Actually, two amazing things happened. One was that Sonya got me hooked on carrots. They’re good with a small amount of salad dressing (raspberry vinaigrette). Who knew?! The other was that I lost weight. I now officially weigh under 200 pounds, for the first time in ten years. Go me!

Also, NaNoWriMo starts at midnight. I’m going to lie down now and try to visualize my plot… well, once I come up with one. Wish me luck!

Was there ever any doubt?

Dear Annie: I have an ex-boyfriend, and our relationship has been off and on for more than eight years. He has a drug addiction problem, though he is clean for now. During those eight years, he cheated on me all the time.

He is now telling me that he has changed his life and wants me back, which is a pattern for him every time he breaks up with someone. I have taken him back before, and every time, he wants money from me. He also has me constantly doing things for him.

He makes me feel as if it is my fault if something happens to him if I refuse to take him back — that he will start doing drugs again or something else that is harmful to him. I don’t like feeling this way.

My question is, is eight years too long to start over? Can someone change their ways? I was raised to listen to my gut. And my gut is telling me that nothing has changed. — Torn (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh, cripe. Having not yet read Annie Lane’s advice, I almost don’t want to. She always picks these easy questions to field because it’s all she’s capable of. “I think you should give your an ex another chance, and give him some more money, too,” said no one ever. [Facepalm.] A trained monkey could write a better advice column than this.

Well, what the heck, let’s go there…

Dear Torn: Always listen to your gut — and your entire body. A lot of times, our body knows something is not right before our mind figures out why. This guy sounds like a loser who thrives on taking advantage of your feelings of guilt, which he creates.

Say no to him, and explain that if, over a long period of time — at least a year or two — he stays clean and sober and still wants you back, you will reconsider. But if he harms himself in the meanwhile, that’s his problem, not yours.

It’s hard to read.

Always listen to your gut — and your entire body. A lot of times, our body knows something is not right before our mind figures out why.

Right, but no one ever argues the opposite: give him another chance! Even though he’s following his obvious patterns, and you have no evidence that he’s improved, everyone deserves a millionth chance. Override your intuition, which is worthless, and be more supportive here. [Groan.]

Here’s an analogy I made up to show how easy it is to give this sort of advice:

Dear Annie: I feel the prettiest when my hair is chin-length, but I think I might want to grow it out to shoulder-length and see how it looks. What do you think? — Hairy

Dear Hairy: Your problem is quite the conundrum, but we should always  be willing to take chances in life. A life without risk is a life with nothing ventured. I urge you to grow your hair out! If you don’t like it, you can always get a trim. 

[Facepalm.] See? The (pretend) letter writer isn’t saying she wants to go from shoulder-length to chin-length, which could be risky if she doesn’t like it. Rather, she wants to grow her hair out, which carries no risk whatsoever. Geez Louise.

I really think Annie Lane is writing her own letters.

Annie Lane is up to her old tricks!

Dear Annie: I am a 45-year-old single man. I have three children: two sons from my marriage, both in their 20s, and my daughter, who is 14, from an ex-girlfriend. When my oldest son was thrown out of his mother’s home, I had him move in right away.

He got a good job, and I added him to my insurance and charged him $100 a week for rent. That was really to help out with the insurance and to teach him responsibility.

Well, after a few years, there was a nightmare one night. My son’s friends were over, and unfortunately, he had too much to drink and smoke. He blacked out and started attacking his friend’s younger brother. He started attacking me as well. After an hour of trying to calm things down, I had to call the police to have him removed for the safety of everyone in the house. Well, my son remembers that he spent the night in jail. When he got out, he came to my place and grabbed his belongings, and his mother picked him up.

This was a year ago, and since that time, neither he nor my other son will visit or even talk to me. The worst part is that they are ignoring their sister, who lives only two miles away from them. This really hurts me, and I have reached out, trying to mend fences and come to an understanding. Neither of them will respond.

When my daughter texts them, they mostly ignore her, or when they do answer, they give her a hard time. She is as ashamed of them as I am. I have even touched base and told them via text that they only have one sister and they need to be there for her, as they are her older brothers. Be mad at me, but please, be there for her.

What else can I do? My daughter visits on a regular basis, and I love our time together. I want the boys to join us, but they won’t answer any invitations. They haven’t even met the dog I adopted. Do you have any advice? I don’t want to give up, as they are my children. — Lost Dad in Massachusetts (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh, geez. I haven’t even bothered to scroll down and read Annie Lane’s advice yet, but she’s clearly up to her old tricks. The only questions she ever answers are easy ones. I can predict her exact advice here: you did what you had to do, don’t blame yourself, keep reaching out gently to your sons, and know that you’re a wonderful father. Blah-blah-blah-blah-freakin’-blah.

Shall we take a look here?

Dear Lost Dad: Your sons are not taking any responsibility for their actions. Instead of thanking you for calling the police, and hopefully helping them clean up their act, they are blaming you for the night spent in jail. It was your son who committed the assault, not you. The anger they feel might be old anger they felt toward you for the divorce or other things when they were young.

But now that they are adults, they must take responsibility for their actions. They are acting very entitled. As for your daughter, just continue to love and appreciate her. Hopefully, your son will get into treatment for his drinking, and once he is sober, he will realize that what you did was for his own good.

Continue to tell both sons how much you love them, even if they push you away.

Yeah, I think I called it. But she threw in a touch of idiocy or two. No one ever thanks their parents for having them arrested. Seriously? It would be great if the son could be civil with his dad, but let’s not get carried away here. As if he’d ever be grateful to have been arrested! Groan. At best he’ll realize it was his own fault, but he’s never going to thank his dad for it!

And… that’s today’s column! No second or third letter.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A couple who recently assumed a leadership role at my church announced that they wanted to become better acquainted with the families of the congregation. They scheduled 30-minute chats with individual families before and after church services. 

They interviewed my husband and me using a prepared script of six pages, which included questions about our marriage, our psychological states and our disabled adult child. We replied truthfully to their questions.

I felt almost as if I had gone to a physician’s office and undergone an unwarranted exam, in which we were judged, graded or evaluated. I also felt deceived since I was expecting a conversation, not a one-sided, in-depth interview.

This couple used their church status to obtain information that wasn’t their business. My relationship with my husband doesn’t involve them. My adult child’s activities are not their concern, and neither is my mental state.

The wife now approaches me after services and tries to converse about my interests or activities that were revealed during the interview. I am polite, but distant. I don’t want to make an enemy of this person.

How do I make her understand that I would prefer her to leave me alone? I am not angry with her, but I do not care to have these conversations.

GENTLE READER: If you will forgive Miss Manners for contradicting you, you are angry at having been interrogated — and understandably so. But as you willingly cooperated up to this point, the couple is going to be perplexed if you give them the cold shoulder now.

You are left with two alternatives. The first: Each time you are approached, you can apologize and explain that you cannot talk now. This is less combative, but requires you to be always on the run. The second option is to write a letter — to the couple or someone higher in the church hierarchy — clarifying that since the interview was both more formal and more personal than you had expected, you trust that any information shared will be held in the strictest confidence — like any other intimate information revealed to church personnel. (c) MISS MANNERS

Yeah. I get it that Miss Manners pointed out that he is indeed angry, but I think what he meant was that he’s trying not to hold a grudge or seek revenge. Like, he’s upset about it, but he doesn’t want to make a federal case out of it. But I sure would. [Snort.] Ugh.

It’s horrible when this sort of thing happens. It’s like when I’m on the phone with a scammer:

Scammer: We can eliminate your credit card debt, because the credit card companies have no right to charge anything over 6% interest. 

Me: Great, sign me up!

Scammer: Can I have your credit card number, please? 

Me: No, I don’t see that happening. 

Scammer: But why? I can lower your debt! 

Me: I’ve just got been playing along out of boredom. I don’t feel like being scammed today. Good effort, though. 

Scammer: [Swearing and telling me off]

Me: Thanks, bye. [Hangs up.]

Meg’s dad: [Bursts into laughter]

You do almost have to wonder if the church people are identity thieves. They may have asked questions geared toward getting answers to security questions. Like, I was answering security questions last night to rebook my upcoming flight to Saturday. One question was, what’s your favorite instrument to play? And I looked at the drop-down options and thought, hmm…. the ocarina? Really? No, surely I chose the piano. 

Because there are so many ocarina players out there, am I right? [Facepalm.]

At any rate, I think it’s good to be on the lookout for Nosy Nellies in order to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I’m not blaming the letter writer, not remotely. I think we’ve all been there, and it’s just not a good place to be. I’m an open book, but even so, I get squeamish when asked personal questions from someone I just met who seems to be nosy.

Like, one time I was seeking out a therapist. This was circa 2007. I interviewed one therapist, and she gave me a page of questions to answer for her. We’re talking tiny font, single spacing, both sides of the page. These questions were outlandish, and I didn’t want to answer any of them: Did you enjoy your first sexual experience? Are you afraid of sticky things? Have you ever been mistreated by a clown? What do you look like naked? Do you shave your pubic hair? Do you ever have the desire to engage in bestiality? All the freakin’ time. [Eyeroll.]

Actually, that reminds me. My dad had the opportunity to serve in Air Force One with the president for one ride when he was younger and in the army. He turned down the opportunity because one of the questions they asked him was if he’s interested in bestiality. He was offended by that question and passed on the chance to ride in Air Force One. Quite frankly, I don’t blame him.

So, yeah, anyway, I ran screaming from that therapist after refusing to answer the questions. Then there was another therapist I saw once—a man—who asked me if I’m promiscuous. (I should mention that I look like a schoolmarm. A spinster, if you will. An old maid.) I said no, and he was visibly disappointed. I didn’t return to his office, either.

It can be hard to put walls up against nosy people when you don’t see it coming, and when you don’t have a mental preparation for such things. If you’re the sort of person who’s uncomfortable being direct and saying, “Hey, I’m not going to answer that! Are you kidding?” then a good strategy to have on hand would be to lie outright.

*****

Now, where was I? Sonya came home and we took a walk, but it ended in urinary disaster. My bladder can’t handle the cobblestones and the fact that I’m fighting off a cold. Oh well.

Oh, right, lying. Is that what we were discussing? Okay, if you feel put on the spot, then lie. That’s my take on it.

Nosy person: So, do you have good mental health? 

You: Absolutely. The best. [Said with a straight face even if you suffer from debilitating panic attacks on a daily basis.]

Nosy person: What’s your sexual orientation?

You: I’m straight. [Said even if you’re in the closet with no intention of coming out to a gossipy church wife.] 

Obviously the best option is to tell the person off soundly, but if you’re too timid or taken by surprise, I highly recommend lying. Being evasive also works.

I had this one experience once. This is trigger-worthy regarding physical abuse. I was working at the reading center when my coworker, Rhonda, who was sort of my supervisor (in an unofficial way), asked me if I’d ever been spanked as a child. She asked in a gay and jovial voice, as though the topic was cheery and mischievous. Like, “Did your parents ever give you spankings when you were bad?” Giggle, giggle. 

I decided to hit her with some hardcore honesty because I didn’t appreciate her levity, to say nothing of her nosiness. “My parents used to beat me while I was naked,” I said.

Her face drained of color. She never raised the issue again.

But that was strategic on my part, because I was trying to send her a message or two. In good news, she seemed to get the messages.

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