You can’t teach an old dog new tricks (2/10/2016)

Much to her irritation, Mama was told by her insurance company she needed to get a checkup.

She hates being told what to do, particularly by some stranger informing her she needed to get poked and prodded for blood work and to have her insides examined.

“I’m 70 something years old and I feel fine,” she argued to me one day. “I don’t want to go to the cussed doctor.”

Hey, I don’t blame her. I don’t like going myself.

She wasn’t complaining of anything other than the regular old people stuff.

But to the doctor she went.

The doctor was surprised Mama wasn’t on a bunch of medication and told her that.

“That’s easy, I stay away from doctors,” was Mama’s reasoning. “Best way to get on a bunch of prescriptions is to go to someone who will prescribe them.”

But the doctor wasn’t satisfied – how could this 70-something year old woman not be on a bunch of meds?

So she ordered some more tests.

“I can’t eat after midnight,” she complained one afternoon.

Nothing makes you want a sandwich at 11:58 p.m. like knowing you can’t have anything after midnight.

She just knew she was going to starve between midnight and 9 a.m. when she was scheduled to have blood work drawn.

The results were unnerving.

“The doctor said I am close to being a diabetic,” Mama announced.

“Oh,” I said.

“I don’t believe that,” she huffed. “I am fine.”

This is the woman who still insists the food pyramid she was taught over 60 years ago is accurate and chided me over giving my child organic yogurt and sunflower seeds as snacks as a toddler.

“Mama, you do eat too much sugar,” I said.

She snorted at me.

“I do no such of a thing! I’ve cut way back on my Pepsi so I am barely have any sugar at all.”

“Mama, sugar is in things other than soft drinks.”
She didn’t want to hear it.

According to her, she wasn’t eating anything that tasted good as it was – she wasn’t going to give up her occasional candy bar or milkshake.

“Do you think maybe it may be you eat too much protein? Or bread?” I suggested.

She scoffed at this notion.

“You can never eat too much protein.”

“Actually…you can,” I tried to tell her.

“No, you can’t. Your body needs meat. Are you going all vegetarian on me again?”

When I announced I wasn’t going to eat anything that gave birth at age 13, my mother rolled her eyes, fired up another Virginia Slim and told me that was the craziest thing she had ever heard and was terrible for my health.

“I have omitted red meat from my diet,” I explained.

“You’re going to get rickets,” she declared.

“No, I am not. I feel fine and we don’t need as much protein as you think. You are always in fear of not getting enough protein and having excess protein is just as bad as not having enough.”

“Your grandmother was nearly 93 years old when she died and she ate fatback and biscuits every day until she died,” was Mama’s argument.

Granny did eat fatback and biscuits. She also didn’t graze like Mama did or eat as much bread as Mama.

“If you think you will have some massive protein deficiency, maybe you should try limiting your bread. I think that is a contributing factor of a lot of your problems. Celiac is hereditary….”

Mama thought I was being ridiculous.

Similar to our conversations when she smoked years ago, she was not going to listen to any of my suggestions- no matter how valid they were.

The doctors were not done. She had more tests. This time, she was told she has three hernias and would need surgery.

“I don’t want surgery. I feel fine,” Mama insisted.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I worry about her, more than she worries about me now.

“Mama, I really think if you lost some weight, it would help this,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said. “I have lost 2 pounds since I went in December.”

“That’s good, Mama,” I said. “But, I think you may need to lose more than that.”

“I don’t think I eat that bad now,” she said forlornly.

“Would you consider doing what I suggest?”

Reluctantly, she agreed. She would try. But I better not expect a whole lot.

I sent her my copy of “Wheat Belly,” to give her some insight into the way the grains are different now and tell her how maybe her eczema and other skin issues were caused by the bread.

I also sent her a few other health books.

I have had her on aloe vera juice for over a year, but I was going to get her on some other supplements, too. Surely, surely, a better way of eating would help.

When she got the book, she read a few chapters before she called me.

“I’m kind of understanding some of this,” she said. “I admit, it does make sense. But it’s hard to give up bread.”

Yeah, I kind of knew about that.

I heard her chewing on something and asked what she was snacking on. “Oh, I got the best bread earlier – it’s a cinnamon raisin swirl bread, and I toasted it with some butter and jelly.”

“Mama,” I began.


“It’s bread.”

She paused.

“Oh. Yeah, well. But it’s good for me bread. It’s got raisins. That’s a fruit. It’s fruit bread. Right?”

It’s hard to make a lot of changes, especially when it comes to what we eat. But one day, she’d get it.


The Insomniac’s Hypothesis

I am deeply envious of those who get a full night’ sleep.

Lately, I have been able to only sleep for a few hours, wake at 2 a.m. (give or take a quarter) and then lie there, tossing and turning, sleep eluding me.

I’ve taken to sleeping on the couch because Lamar is an extremely light sleeper. Or he claims to be; yet, a few years ago, when I had a 45-minute coughing fit, he didn’t even open an eye.

The worst is when you are really, really tired and you lie down, thinking how badly you need that good restful sleep. You can be so exhausted you can’t even blink. But the minute your head hits the pillow, your eyes are wide open and your mind is spinning like it’s on a hamster wheel.

Such has been my nights as of late.

As I wearily lie there, my mind tries to trick itself into slumber by thinking of the craziest things. Or perhaps the craziest thoughts come to me because of my lack of sleep.

I found a rerun of “Seinfeld” in the wee hours and was awake long enough to see Elaine’s hairstyle go through some pretty dramatic changes. I also wondered what kind of skin care she uses because she hasn’t aged at all. I spent far too long wondering about that before my mind drifted to other things.

Such as: Do dogs ever get sleep deprived? I mean, mine sleep a lot – do they ever feel like they don’t get enough sleep?

Why does Doodle like to eat my shoes? Did she have shoe envy?

Why does Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream taste so much better than other vanillas? And on that train of thought, why do the pumpkin and egg shaped Reese’s cups taste better than regular ones?

Was I the only person in the world who didn’t like pumpkin spice lattes? Or pumpkin flavored anything?

Was Facebook really going to start charging us per month, and sell all our photos?

What if Mama was right and everything in “Star Trek” would come true one day? Even worse, what if Mama was just right – about everything.

Were we out of our emergency mayonnaise? I hadn’t checked the shelf in a while. The one in the fridge may be the last one in the house.

I panic if I run out of mayo.

These are just some of the inane things running through my head as I tried to make myself fall back to sleep.

None of them worked. Instead, these random questions ricocheted through my psyche like a pinball.

I tried to remember when “Seinfeld” went off the air – it was ’90-something.

I wondered if I got a perm, if my hair would look like Elaine’s when she wore it loose and curly.

Did I have any hidden caffeine other than coffee in the morning? No.

Someone suggested it may be hormonal changes coursing through my so-young body.

At the time, I scoffed it off; at 2:30 a.m. I was wondering if that could be the case.

The dull headache of sleep deprivation began just as the realization I was not going to fall back to sleep washed over me.

“I’m just not going to fall to sleep tonight,” I muttered aloud.

Doodle lifted her head and looked at me, but was back asleep as soon as her head rested on her cushion.

I looked at the time on my phone. Another hour and 15 minutes had passed.

I played a few rounds of Candy Crush; it didn’t help.

Finally, finally, after another hour or so, I felt myself yielding to sleep. I could feel the sleep settling in as my breathing grew shallow.

Sleep, precious sleep, I was going to sleep as long as I could – it was never too terribly late, mind you, as I can’t sleep past a certain time.

And Doodle won’t let me. She’s my back up alarm clock system.

I was hoping I would feel rested when I woke up, instead of like I was a grunting, stumbling Walker in makeup.

Sweet, glorious sleep.

Just as I felt myself drifting off, it happened.

The alarm went off.

I tried to re-create the almost-sleep atmosphere, but all my attempts were futile.

I got up and pushed the “auto” button on the Mr. Coffee.

Maybe sleep would find me later. If not, I could always philosophize some more while I watched another rerun of “Seinfeld.”

For the last time, I am not angry

I hate pictures of myself, always have. My Facebook profile pic is a few years old and I am not one to agonize over the perfect selfie to share just because I want to say “Good morning!” to the world.

The worst ones, however, are those candid shots, the ones where I am in the background, unaware someone is snapping a pic.

If my grandmother was the photographer, she usually took the shot when I was shoveling in a forkful of something, mouth wide and eyes closed.

But those are almost bearable compared to the others – at least those are good for a laugh as she would proclaim, “And look, another one of Sudie with her mouth hanging wide like a garage! You can get a Buick in there!”

No, the ones I hate are the ones I am completely oblivious anything is going on and I am just sitting there.

“Who are you angry at in this photo?” Mama has asked.

“No one, I am just sitting there.”

“You look like you are going to stab someone.”

“Nope, I was perfectly happy. Just sitting there, listening.”

“Were you hungry?”

“Nope, see the plate on the table. I had just ate.”

“Did you eat gluten and were having a bad reaction? Sour tummy, maybe?”

For the love of Hello Kitty – no.

It’s just my face.

I have, and have suffered from a disorder that many women are plagued by. It’s Resting – I’m going to let you guess the next word – Face.

In other words, I look like an evil Disney queen when I am not smiling.

I was not aware there was such a thing until recently; I haven’t been clinically diagnosed – who has? – but I have symptoms of it. More importantly, others have recognized the symptoms before I realized anything was occurring.

“What’s wrong?” Cole will ask me at least 12 times a day.

“Nothing,” I reply.

“Are you angry at Daddy?”

“Why? What has he done?”

“Nothing! You just look…angry.”

I’m not. I am just sitting there at my computer, working. My face is void of the smile that makes me look like some circus clown, gaping at a monkey riding a unicycle.

Which brings me to another annoying point.

“Smile!” I am encouraged by people, some who don’t even know me, at random times, because they think I look all downtrodden and morose.

I am not nearly as macabre as I look, I just don’t go around smiling all the time.

I am not sure why, I just don’t.

And when you have this disorder, people automatically think you are angry, depressed, or on the verge of stabbing someone rather violently.

“You do look like you are about to punch someone,” Mama commented, seeing a photo with me in the background just sitting there, all RBF-ed.

“Punching someone was the furthest thing on my mind then,” I said. It was eking into my subconscious during this conversation though. “I was wondering when they were going to move on to the dang cake. I can only ooh and ahh over so many onesies at a baby shower until I am ready for the nonsense to be over with. I was told I could have the corner piece of cake with all the icing and dangit, I wanted cake.”

Cake, or more specifically, icing makes me smile. And smiling makes the obvious symptom of go away.

Because when you are smiling, even when you are thinking devious thoughts, you give the appearance of being happy, joyful and pleasant.

You know, you don’t look like you are going to pull someone’s ears over their head – as long as you smile.

Most of the time when my look is in full force I am probably doing the worst thing imaginable: Thinking.

I am not thinking sad or depressing thoughts; just thinking. Deeply, intently and more than likely, overthinking as well.

The look is evidently hereditary.

Granny never smiled and could look like she was going to shoot someone even when the old gal was not angry, which was rare. Mama may not realize it but when she was younger, she had it too.

Her post-middle-aged fluffiness has somewhat softened the effects, but she still has it.

For those that are used to a loved one having RBF, a fleeting, random smile can be alarming.

“What made you smile?” Lamar will ask.

“Someone posted the cutest puppy photo,” I respond.

I hate to break it to him; there is no cure, although scores of puppy photos and kitten videos offer a brief reprieve from the most predominant symptom.

It can be quite useful in some situations. There have been instances where people have not been very cooperative and while I was trying to come up with a solution, they misconstrued my facial response to be one of premeditated fury. It actually comes in handy then.

“You’re sure you’re not angry?” Cole will ask.

I’m not angry. I’m not upset, or mad, or any of those emotions.

I just look that way.