Sep 262008

It all started when I got pregnant. My IQ dropped by about 30 points at least, and my memory, once razor-sharp, resembled a sieve. I found this quite inconvenient and irritating but not as much as my husband. Well, once I figured out that it was because of hormones I thought I could deal with it, and surely it would all miraculously be reverted once I had the child, right? Um, not so much.

I had the child, and, as a lot of you know already, there still were hormones. breast-feeding hormones that make you not only a bit dumb, and forgetful, no, you also start to burst into tears for no apparent reason. (On the other hand I was like that when pregnant too.) Top that with serious sleep deprivation, and you end up with a woman quite different from the one I was before.

Still, a year later, breast-feeding was over, I was sleeping a bit more – not enough of course – and so I waited for myself to turn normal again. You know, with a functioning brain. One that didn’t forget everything. I felt foggy and mushy, as if I had to make do with a blunt mind. Since it clearly couldn’t be the hormones anymore, I blamed it on lack of sleep.

I already told you that I went to my doctor because I started to have my period about every three weeks which is a bit too often, and that I started to take medicine for it. Agnus castus to be precise with a helping of Vitamin B for additional help with PMS. Well, imagine my surprise when, after a while, my brain went out of its foggy, mushy state. For the first time since April 2002 I almost feel like myself again.

So it seems that indeed hormones had been making me dull, and forgetful, and put me in a low mood for six years.

It’s a bit embarrassing to be so driven by hormones. I feel that my body shouldn’t work like that. It should just function properly without me paying much attention. Please?

Notice, too, that I said “almost myself again”. I fear I will never regain all of my mind power back. And I’m a bit scared of menopause. The time when hormones will go wonky again. I feel that almost 30 years of PMS is enough.

I thought, I’d share though because there might be others out there blaming their foggy brains to lack of sleep when there might be other things responsible too.

Sep 222008

I might have had my first ever asthma attack on Saturday. But then, I might not.

My husband and I were going to mindfulness day again, and we were a bit late for the train. So we started running towards the station. Down the steps, up the steps, and along the platform. It was seven in the morning and winterly cold. So, I started running down the stairs, and halfway down I get winded and think, “That’s weird. I didn’t know I’m that unfit.” Halfway up the other stairs I started wheezing. And my legs felt heavy. And I thought I’d better stop running because I couldn’t anyway and somehow I didn’t feel that well. And then I walked as fast as I could seeing my husband running away from me towards the train, and then I started running again, and then my body did this weird thing where after each exhale it just went on exhaling spasmodically with a sound like a coughing.

I made it to the train (which then sat there right at the station for the next two minutes or so), plunged down on a seat, and went on to breathe like that for the next few minutes while thinking, “Well, that is odd. what is that? Oh, maybe I’m having an asthma attack.”

Somehow I wasn’t especially mindful for the rest of the day. I didn’t quite know what to do, or where to go but then I thought I’d better see a doctor. So, today in the morning I rang the office of one of my husband’s students who happens to be an internist, and when I told them, “I think I had an asthma attack.” they told me to come in immediately. The doctor first asked me a lot about heart conditions in my family (there are none), and I was thoroughly checked. So now I can say that as far as x-rays, ultrasound, blood tests, cardiograms, and that test where they see if your lungs work properly go, I’m perfectly healthy. While I’m happy that I didn’t have a heart attack, and that all the tests for asthma showed up negative, there still is an odd feeling to my breathing. And it feels like somebody is sitting on my chest.

So, I’m either a hypochondriac, or it’s like it often is, I go to the doctor and say that there’s something wrong, and they don’t find anything, and then I go back the next year, and they don’t find anything, and then I go back the next year, and after a few years of this finally they see that there might be something off after all. Or it might be like with my thyroid problem where I had my thyroid checked once a year for about twenty years before finding out that the only thing wrong with my thyroid is it’s unusual shape that leads doctors to think that I have a thyroid problem.

I think I won’t be running in cold weather again soon. And I think that I want to know more about allergic asthma. The doctor sent me home with, “Maybe it was an asthma attack but I didn’t find anything. If you don’t feel better in two days, come back. If you feel like you’re having an attack, come in immediately.”

At least he didn’t tell me I’m imagining it all. But then he has to take me seriously. I have been his singing teacher after all.

How was your weekend?

Sep 102008

Hello, it’s that time of the month again:


Time for the Just Post Roundtable. As every month for almost two years now Mad, Jen, and I gather posts about social justice. Our readers contribute by sending us links to what they wrote or read. Thank you for that again.

This month I’d like to use my introduction to remind you of something that I briefly mentioned back in February: the Goods 4 Girls project. Deanna Duke, the woman behind that project, describes it like this (and I’m quoting this in its entirety, sorry for the length):

You may have seen the commercials… the ones describing how girls in South Africa miss school when they have their period and how buying Tampax tampons will help them. There’s also a commercial for Always pads, with a similar message. Imagine having to use rags or newspaper, which is what many of these girls use for their periods.

Procter and Gamble (P&G) has started a program in Africa, where they are donating Always sanitary pads to girls who otherwise would miss several days of school each month due to inadequate menstrual supplies.

But what are the potential problems with donating disposable feminine hygiene products? Well, for starters, there is the environmental impact. In most of these areas, they have no solid waste programs or landfills. In other words, they burn their waste.

As such, products that have synthetic components (like sanitary pads and tampons) would be incinerated. For some schools, P&G is building incinerators near the bathrooms. But what about the pollutants emitted from burning these products? They may potentially get inhaled by the students and teachers. Any additional packaging, plastic or otherwise, would need to be disposed of in the same manner.

What would be a good alternative to help out these girls but without the environmental impact? Since most of these girls are using rags now, having a pad that is a more sophisticated (with a waterproof barrier) may be enough to allow them to participate in school and regular activities. They would still wash the pads as they normally do with the rags, but they would benefit from the extra protection.

I started Goods 4 Girls to provide the link for women wanting to donate hand-sewn menstrual pads to agencies who could provide the means to identify areas of need as well as provide the distribution to the women and girls needing the pads.

So, what can we do to help? We can

  1. donate cash
  2. for those who like to sew we can sew pads and donate those
  3. donate pads

You can find out all about donating here.

The easiest way of helping is to promote the project with the button you’re seeing in my left sidebar. You can find that, and tons of information including links to further reading (scroll down to the bottom), and tales about the distribution of the first shipments of products on the Goods 4 Girls homepage.

I won’t tell you all about it because the Just Post roundtables aren’t just about making a pretty list, they are about information. And here are the posts to read:

Anne with Yolanta
Cecileaux with Tomorrow, 40 years ago and Why neoconservatism deserved to fail
Emily with Saving the Planet for Starbucks Customers of Tomorrow
Flutter with Life is good, even when it’s crap
Girlgriot with It’s not easy being green
HerBadMother on blogher with Toss the Tylenol, Nursing Moms: This is Terrifying, Lost boy and Hide Your Hooters, The Haters Are Coming
Holly with Games for the haves and have nots
Jen with God in the house
Kittenpie with Down and Out in Riverdale
Lara with My little girl is the issue
Lisa with How a graduate marketing class saved my life
Mad with Flotsam and Take back the night
Megan with Realities
Mir Kamin on blogher with School supplies socialism makes for an angry village
Neil with The Orthodox Jewish guy outside of the supermarket
Pundit Mom with DNC on the homefront: Ellen Malcom of Emily’s list and Homeless children, don’t count on John McCain
Wrekehavoc with Stop using sex as a weapon
YTSL with Life in West Kowloon

And here are those who read:

Jul 102008


Welcome again to the Just Posts roundtable.

When last month I wrote about child poverty in the introduction to the Just Posts there were a lot of marvelous comments. I’m especially thankful to Hel for pointing out that not everyone of us is living in a “rich country”. I forget that, sometimes, in the same way that I’m not really comprehending the fact that it’s winter now, where she lives, while I’m in the middle of summer.

I knew instantly what to write about for this month’s introduction when I heard about the Expo 2008 on the radio. It’s all about water and sustainable development.

When I wrote about my guilty conscience when staying in the shower for too long, one of readers mocked me. And she is right, water is not that much of a problem where I live. It’s raining as I type this, and the water we drink comes from nearby. In past years we were advised not to give it to infants, and the town I live in helped families with newborns so that they could buy bottled water for them, but for the past years, and ever since my son has been born the water has been of good quality.

The situation in the nearby Bavarian capital is a bit different. While they have water that is pure and marvelous, and they have plenty of that, it seems a bit weird to me that that water comes from somewhere in the Alps. There are big pipelines fueling it to the city. But there isn’t a problem with the water as such. It’s good, it’s pure, and there’s plenty.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone in the world. Good water for drinking is a scarce resource and is becoming increasingly rare. Imagine living in a place where you had to chose between drinking something that makes you and your children sick, or not drinking at all. Imagine living somewhere where most of your day is spent fetching water from a place that’s hours away.

It’s sad that it always seem to come back to this these days, that there are people who have pools, and washing machines, and who take showers and baths every day, and who don’t even drink water because it’s so common, and there are people who barely have enough to survive, or even less.

I don’t know what to do about it, I know that I can’t send my unused shower water to the desert but it would be great if I could.

And now to something different, here is the list of posts that were gathered by you:
Andrea at Punk Rock Mommy with Planting the seeds of my own garden
Andrea with The burden of perfection
Averagebean with Freedom of speech?
Blog Antagonist with Speak English Me
Chani with Wellness Wednesday: take back your time
Christine Kane with Making Friends with Songs and Food
Defiant Muse with The mommy myth
Flutter with I am an omnivore
Girlgriot with Gotta do more than holla and We can, I mean WE can
Hel with Afternoon in an urban footgarden
Her Bad Mother with Joy, And Pain
Identity Theory with The weapon of rape
Indigenous people’s issues today with Five key indigenous people’s issues
Jen with Where the streets have no name and the shattered ceiling and what it means for our children
Julie with Kids and sex?
Kaliroz with indifference to me, is the epitome of evil
KC with Wheels
Mayberry Mom with 20 lousy pairs of scissors
MOMocrats with Moms need help in California family court system
Moosh in Indy with the healthcare of stereotypes
No Caption Needed with High Noon in Sadr City
The Expatriate’s Kitchen with World Refugee Day
Toddlywinks with The powerlessness of three
Tossing Pebbles in the Stream with To laugh or be outraged
Susanne with Corsets, coolness, caps, and cosmetic surgery
Suzanne Reisman on blogher with Banning the Pill Kills Women. Period. and “Third Genders” in Societies with Rigid Gender Roles
WhyMommy with Thank you, AmVets

The ones who read:

And, as always, there are Mad, and Jen the ones who started this. Please, check out what they have to say this month. And Jen will be going to BlogHer and talk about this here roundtable, how marvelous.

Jul 042008

A few days ago when my son, my husband, and I were having breakfast, the conversation turned to fainting, and from there to corsets. (What, you’re not talking about things like that at breakfast? Oh, you’re not talking at breakfast. Well, that’s the only meal we always eat together.) Let me explain: my son had been feeling a bit dizzy lately because it was very hot and humid, he has been growing fast, and so he started to ask me about feeling dizzy and fainting. My husband said that women used to faint all the time, and I said that was because of corsets. After my son had listened to my automatic lecture about the importance of drinking enough water he asked, “What’s a corset?” We tried to explain. He was puzzled, why would somebody want to wear something like that? Well, it all comes down to coolness, I said. “It’s like when you’d rather get heatstroke than wear the sun-hat you don’t like because your “cool” baseball cap is in the wash.” He wasn’t really convinced. (He wore his hat that day, though. After we had “talked it cool” by comparing it to a cowboy hat and such.)

Still, he couldn’t get over the fact that women would wear something as uncomfortable as that, something that makes you almost unable to breathe. My next thought was, “Today’s women would never do that!” But then I thought of high heels. Shoes that make your feet hurt, and your back, and your knees, and your hips, and you can’t even walk in them. And then – I thought of cosmetic surgery. And made the mistake of talking about that as well. Have you ever tried to explain to your kindergardener why some women want to put plastic bags into their body? Because they think it looks pretty?

Of course, I couldn’t really explain it to him because I don’t understand it myself. I do understand not feeling pretty, I understand not being content with the way I look (though I wish I couldn’t). But pay a fortune to have surgery that isn’t really necessary? And where do you stop, then? When you look like a Barbie doll? When you have grown so old that your heart doesn’t take it anymore?

Cosmetic surgery is on the rise, and I sense a paradigm shift that makes it more “normal”. Younger and younger women are thinking about it, and having it, even at an age where their bodies aren’t yet finished.

I’m really worried about a lifestyle where we are defined by our looks. Where we try to look like the ideal 18-year-old until we die.

I’m also very worried that something like cosmetic surgery seems to be much more available these days. Until not that long ago, in Germany, cosmetic surgery was only for people who really needed it. People with horrible scars and such. Nowadays it’s something that you just pay for. Don’t like your nose? Snip.

I’d love to be able to tell my son that people have evolved since the days of the corset but it seems they haven’t.

(And, please, don’t forget to send your links for the Just Post roundtable. My e-mail address is creativemother AT web DOT de.)

Jun 162008

First, thank you very much for your comments on my post about feeling fat. I responded to some of them, and found that maybe I should write a bit more because so many questions had come up. So, this post is about the things that worked for me in the past when attempting to change my eating habits and lose weight.

As for the question of the bathing suit I have to confess that I exaggerated for dramatic reasons, I actually own a bathing suit that fits me, and has done so through weight loss and gain for years. When I bought it in 1998 or so I weighed about 67 kilos and it fit me even in the first stages of pregnancy until I reached a weight of about 85 kilos. Right now, of course, I hope to be able to fit into my new bikini again though it will certainly be a bit tight this summer.

I have, as probably most women in the first world, a long history of weight gain and loss. I also am still suffering from an eating disorder, namely compulsive overeating, though I’m much better now and still haven’t given up on healing. In fact, that’s my word of the year for this year: healing.

I still believe that it is possible to just eat, and maintain a nice and healthy weight. I don’t believe in diets. They don’t work. I also don’t believe in any diet foods, in avoiding anything; now it’s carbs again, some years ago it was fat, and I’m just now too lazy to figure out which diet craze will have a comeback after the return of the Atkins diet (I know, it’s totally different nowadays, and it’s called low carb. Whatever.)

What I aspire is a life where food, and my looks, and the question of whether I still fit into my jeans aren’t that important. And I know that it can be done. My great role-model in this is Geneen Roth who spent deacdes on the diet-carousel, was anorexic at one point, and nowdays just eats and stays the same size.

Sadly, I’m not one of those people who read a book, get the idea, and then are changed forever. For me, everything I change has to be a practice. I stumble, I fall, I start over, I stumble, I do great, I fall,…

So, without making this into a mega-post, I just give you a list of the things I changed in the past, a list of things that worked.

  1. I learned to love exercise and to do it regularly. I don’t do much, about 15 to 30 minutes every other day. And I do something I like doing. Something that’s easy to fit into my life. Going for walks, doing yoga with a DVD, things like that.
  2. I slept more. In fact that was the change that gave me the most benefit of all. By only changing my bedtime so I got enough sleep, I lost weight. I swear. So now I only have to do that again, ahem.
  3. I ate more real food. I found that there were three main reasons for my binges: a) I was tired, b) I really was hungry but didn’t allow myself to eat something real, and so I ate snacks upon snacks, c) I craved nutrition that I wasn’t getting, like when I’m eating only cookies they will never make me feel satisfied.
  4. I sometimes stayed hungry for a bit. I was eating something like five meals a day before but then I decided that if I get hungry at 11 am, and I’m having lunch at 12, I maybe don’t need a midmorning snack.
  5. I don’t graze. Either I eat or I don’t. No shoving of tiny little things into my mouth.
  6. No food after dinner. Apart from that one piece of chocolate (it’s a big piece of chocolate, don’t worry). I might, occaasionally eat crackers in front of TV but only very occasionally, and not the whole carton.
  7. In the evening I can have either a beer or a piece of chocolate, not both. I altered this rule later so that I’m not allowed alcohol during the week because I became worried about alcoholism in my family, and also about my son seeing me drink beer or wine with every meal, every day. And yes, it does count if you do it after they sleep. I try to model the behaviors I want my son to develop. Not only becausee it’s good for him, it’s good for me too.
  8. I think about my mid-afternoon snack in advance, and buy groceries accordingly. It’s no use to think I’ll skip it, especially on teaching days. I need it, and so there has to be something for me to eat. Mostly I go with a handful or two of nuts and raisins.
  9. Drink enough water. Apart from a cup of black tea in the morning, and those weekend beers, I drink water and unsweetened herbal tea. Somebody asked me about switching to alcohol-free beer. While I occasionally drink that it a) doesn’t taste that good, b) still has much more calories than water or tea, and c) is a very un-natural thing and I try to avoid these as much as possible in food.
  10. I also stopped eating sugar last year, well, mostly and when I do I prefer brown sugar over white. But that had nothing to do with losing weight, I did it because I felt addicted to it. It messes with my feeling of whether I’m hungry or not, it makes me hyper, and I feel better when I don’t eat it. (I feel like a hypocrite typing this since I just had a lovely piece of cake, I’m sitting in a café right now. So, I have cake about once or twice a month. I do better without absolutes. I also savour every bite when I eat something like that. Last year we went out and had ice cream for my birthday. It was a very pleasant experience made more special by being the only ice cream I had all summer.)

To show you how much of a difference these tiny things make, and also the fact that I’m using my bike more often instead of the car and such, I have lost two kilos since the beginning of June. Without suffering, without battle, just like that. I know that you can’t do that always, I’m living proof for that, I’m the one who gained and gained over months despite knowing what to do.

What also helps me is realizing that ultimately it isn’t that important. I could just stay this size forever, and there’d be no harm in this. But also, my life doesn’t end because I don’t eat potato chips every day. There are more important things in life, much more important things, and that’s something I want my son to know not only because I say so but because he sees me living it.

May 312008

There are a lot of reasons to eat organic food, one of the biggest being that it’s more environment friendly, especially if it is produced locally. My own personal reason for buying and eating organic food has mainly been taste, though. The minute I bit into my first organic apple, and tasted it I just couldn’t go back. I have had people say that it’s all in my mind but when my mother took an apple out of the fruit bowl in my kitchen, bit into it and exclaimed, “That’s good! What kind of apple is this?” she didn’t know that this was an organic apple.

So, my main reason for spending just a little bit more on groceries was mostly taste, and also the fact that I like my food better when I know that there is only food in it. I tend to forget about additives when I’m at home because I always buy the same things, and don’t have to check the labels anymore. I was reminded about all the stuff that gets added to regular food though when shopping in an unfamiliar grocery store two weeks ago. I was looking for ham and salami and such and had to put back most of what had looked appealing at first glance.

Last week I went and bought a little booklet about “E numbers”. E numbers are codes for food additives in the European Union. (And I just found out that these numbers are used all over the world these days, without the E.) So when I check a food’s label there might be “E 216” listed there. Since I never know what those numbers mean I tend to stay away from all of them. In fact there are some additives that are not that bad, or downright harmless, but most of them in my little booklet are deemed unhealthy in some way.

What does that have to do with organic food? Well, currently there are 316 additives food manufacturers are allowed to use in the EU. In 1993 there were “only” 265 allowed in Germany. Their number is getting bigger and bigger. In organic food there are only 47 food additives allowed. Interestingly, when I check labels in the health food store there is never something like “E 412” listed on the label. If it’s in there it’s called guar flour.

I’m really happy that nowadays additives have to be listed on the label. I remember a time when you just didn’t know what was in there. Still, with everything labeled it is hard to shop for people with food allergies. I have a friend who can’t have anything coming from an animal, no nuts, no sulfur, and no preservatives. She has to avoid everything that’s canned or comes in a glass.

All this is doable when you’re at home and preparing your own food, even if you end up just cooking plain vegetables most of the time but you run into trouble the minute you want something more complex than a banana, when you buy bread or buns, and none of the salespersons knows if the products contain milk, eggs, or butter, and eating out can become quite the adventure.

So, in buying and eating more organically produced food I try to minimize my intake of weird chemical stuff. Like many people I started thinking about this in a more detailed way when my son started eating real food. But then, having thought about it, I couldn’t just go on eating the regular junk anymore. And, as I mentioned before, most of it doesn’t taste good anyway.

What about you? Do you know what’s in your food?

Apr 012008

Did you know that blogher recently gave “body image” it’s own category. Seems that this is an important topic for a lot of us. Of course I wanted to write a “letter to my body” then but these days I’m not writing letters much, not even birthday letters, and even less letters to people or things or parts of me that I see daily. But then there’s the question of whether we really see what we see daily, like the people in our lives. Or as Debra Waterhouse puts it:

It’s surprising the number of women who are unacquainted with their bodies from the neck down. Our mirrors are strategically placed for only blow-drying hair and applying makeup, then we quickly dress without a glance at our reflection. We know our faces intimately, but most of us wouldn’t recognize our bodies in a lineup. When a group of women were asked to identify themselves from a series of headless bodies wearing nothing but their birthday suits, only 20 per cent correctly chose their naked selves. The rest guessed wrong, choosing bodies that were bigger in size than their own! (Debra Waterhouse: “From Tired to Inspired: 8 Energizing Ways to Overcome Female Fatigue”, p 175)

It’s weird that people who are often obsessed with the way they look don’t even really know how they look. That about every single one of us secretly believes she is fat, regardless of actual size. That every single one of us has the feeling she should lose about ten pounds. It always seems to be ten pounds at least, I don’t know why. I know that in my case the number keeps getting adjusted down every time I lose weight so that I never am where I want to be. But today I’m not writing about weight loss (even if I’m thinking about it) but about our body images.

Debra Waterhouse goes on:

Whether we are familiar with our anatomy or not, what’s not surprising, unfortunately, are the negative comments we make about our bodies. It has been estimated that the average American woman makes eighteen critical comments each day about herself and spends one third of her waking hours ridiculing her physical self in some way – getting on the scale and obsessing about the number, getting dressed and grimacing at the way our clothes fit, taking inventory of our wrinkles, catching our reflection unexpectedly in a window and frowning, comparing ourselves to fashion models, measuring ourselves against other women, depriving our bodies from food and nourishment, agonizing over what we will and will not eat – the list goes on and on.

How much time did you spend criticizing your body today?

Just think about it. How much time and energy wasted.

I think that I would recognize my body. Every day I make a point of really looking at myself. From all sides. I have been working on making friends with my body for years now. It’s better to have your body for a friend, and to treat it nicely since you want him to do a lot of things for you. We are not mind alone, even if it might feel like that when we’re sitting in front of the computer communicating with invisible people through a friendly shining monitor screen.

Learning to like what I see in the mirror was hard at first. My body, of course, isn’t flawless. Nobody’s body is, by the way, and you all know it. After a while though I liked myself better. I found that I actually like big butts. Hourglass figures, strong legs. That’s not to say that I’m not working on changing the things about my body that I don’t like but I find that in the long run being free from back pain is more important than having thin ankles. And that, like in any stable relationship, I have to accept what’s possible and what not.

When I actually started thinking about something important to me every time I caught myself thinking about my appearance or weight or food that set free huge amounts of energy. It was about 2 1/2 years ago that I did that, and only a couple of weeks later I had written two songs.

Energy follows attention. Being heavier than one wants to is not a full-time occupation. No, really, not even very heavy people eat all the time.

So, I’m giving you homework this time:

  1. Step in front of the mirror, naked would be best, and say something nice about your body. Say it out loud. Repeat. (This is an exercise from one of Geneen Roth‘s books.)
  2. Think about what’s really important to you. Maybe something creative. Every time you find yourself thinking about how fat you are or how you should lose weight think about that important thing instead. Bonus points if it is something creative.
Mar 292008

I haven’t been writing about it much but actually I have been mildly depressed since August. For a few months I didn’t even realize it. Only slowly did it come to me that my bout of feeling “meh” had lasted not only weeks but months already. It’s not as if I didn’t try to snap out of it. Once or twice I even thought I was getting better.

I never know whether my mood changes because of the things I’m doing or because of some weird brain chemistry shift. Though I’d say that the way I live my life also influences my brain chemistry. It’s not as if my brain weren’t connected to the rest of me. While I do know what to do to make me feel better I have been strangely reluctant to change my behavior in any way. It was as if I threw myself wholeheartedly into the vortex. There’s this cycle of not caring for myself, not sleeping enough, eating more junk, not making music, spending too much time mindlessly surfing the internet, not doing housework… I have become even more stupid, forgetful, unreliable, and overweight than before.

It would be nice if there was a magic pill. I could go to a doctor, take it and feel happy and healthy again. But I doubt that it works that way. I’m not really clinically depressed. In fact I am a cheerful person despite the fact that life looks a bit grey all the time, and everything I do feels like pushing a big boulder uphill. Even things like doing the dishes, getting out of bed, or taking a shower.

The reason I’m writing this now is that I actually do feel a bit better. I have been getting enough sleep for almost a week now, and I have started to tackle things that have been lying around and weighing on my conscience for months now. Like reading a friend’s manuscript (I told her in September that it would take me a couple of weeks, ahem.), like starting to sew a bag that I originally planned to make in August, starting to knit something that I bought the yarn for in October. Since it has been such a long time since I cared for such a lot of things I couldn’t finish everything that I started or wanted to do since August in the past week but I made a start.

It seem that I really need structure and routines to feel good, even if that structure and routines don’t feel good when I’m in the midst of them. Like exercise. I only feel good after I have done it. Somehow I have to remember that dreading and procrastinating something often takes more of my energy than actually doing it. Maybe I should make a banner of that and post it over my piano.

So, to celebrate feeling better I’d thought I’d post a list of things that make me happy. in fact, I encourage you to do the same, whether you feel good or not, because it lifts your mood anyway.

  1. The first flowers peeking out under the snow.
  2. My son starting to spell words.
  3. My son starting to play the very first chords on the guitar.
  4. Hearing my husband play his guitar through the wall.
  5. Taking out the guitar not with the notion of, “I have to practice for work.” but just for fun, and playing around with it for a whole afternoon. (In fact I found out that I think of my two guitars as “work guitars”. When I use them I have to be efficient, and to the point. Get the most out of limited time. So I took one of my husband’s for play.)
  6. Writing blog posts again.
  7. Baking bread.
  8. Eating the bread I made.
  9. Pulling out an exercise DVD that I used to work out to three times a week, and finding that I’m not totally out of shape.
  10. Seeing my son dragging around his new bunny and playing with it.
  11. Waiting for my hibiscus to blossom.
  12. Watching my son singing along with “Sky Children“.
  13. Having no unread posts in my feed reader.
  14. Being almost able to sing again after weeks of throat problems.
  15. Not having to teach until next week.
  16. Knitting the Scheherazade-stole with exquisite Wollmeise-yarn, something I have been looking forward to since at least four months.
  17. Giving up on being perfect all at once, and instead just changing one thing at a time again.

What have you been happy about lately?

Aug 272007

This is my “How can it be the end of the month, and I haven’t written about anything social yet.”-post. Though I have to say that this month I feel like I haven’t said anything of substance, social or not. I blame it on vacation. (Also the not reading your blogs. Sorry. I’ll come and visit you after I return from Paris. Yes. Really.)

The thing that stuck in my head this month (apart from many fluffy things) was something Ewe wrote about Health Care in the US. And that mixed with numerous pleas for financial help on various blogs.

So: It’s a shame. Being sick shouldn’t make you bankrupt. Especially if you’re paying for health insurance. And then, when you actually need it – boom – you’re not “covered” and on top of serious illness comes financial debt. It seems to be better in Canada, and it certainly is better in Germany. Even in England, or so Ewe tells us. She writes:

I’ve never been without excellent, dependable health care, health care that never required more than a reasonable co-pay, and I’ve certainly needed it over the years for my multiple knee surgeries, shattered elbow, emergency appendectomy, pregnancies, etc.

I have been thinking about that phrase “reasonable co-pay” since then. I don’t quite know what reasonable means here. When I was pregnant and had a baby there was only one thing I had to pay for, and that was some kind of test that wasn’t deemed necessary but that my doctor recommended. It cost me about 40 €. Otherwise, dozens of ultrasounds, checking in with the doctor once or twice a month, a big ultrasound made by someone specialized in pre-natal diagnostics, giving birth in a hospital, the cesarean, staying in said hospital for ten days, all this cost me – nothing.

Health care in Germany is not heavenly, not by far, but I have never heard of somebody having to pay for years because he got seriously ill. People are required by law to have health insurance and employers are required to pay half of the monthly fees.

The US system leaves me with my mouth open in utter astonishment. I have a friend who moved to the US when she was pregnant with her first child. Her husband had a job at a university in Colorado. She told me that she had to enroll in classes she didn’t want to take (and pay for the courses of course) in order to have a reasonable health insurance. In Germany she would have had insurance through her husband. Like my son can have health insurance through me or my husband (it doesn’t really matter) without extra pay. When my friend had her second child in Germany she was surprised by all the test and check-ups that were done. Obviously, she didn’t have those when she was overseas.

Families like this have enough to deal with, they shouldn’t have to go fundraising so that there son can have necessary surgery. To me this appears inhumane. While people in the US are fortunate to have this medical care available, the next thing they have is to worry about the cost. In Germany all of the surgery, and most of the therapy would be paid for, just like that.

Nobody should be without “excellent, dependable health care”. My heart weeps for the people who live in countries where there is no medical care to speak of but I find it exceptionally cruel that there are people living in one of the richest countries in the world – and one that is very proud of having the best of everything – who can’t afford medical care. Or people who just have lost a loved one and then in addition to have to deal with that loss have to face bankruptcy on top of it.