27 January 2009

Weighing In

I have gone on record (here, I think) as asserting that goal-setting is of the devil. I am wrong about this, of course, but I can make a good case. For instance, I have set the same goal, renewed with vigor and the best of intentions, every January for 48 years. The goal, as you might have guessed, is to lose weight. But from those early years, when I was a normal-sized teenager needlessly torturing myself during the Twiggy Era, to the present, when I am a grandmother approximately twice the size I was on my wedding day, success in reaching the goal has eluded me.

Now, you, sensible reader, will immediately suggest that the fault is not in the process but in either the choice of (unworthy) goal or the implementation, or both. The fault in other words is not in goal-setting per se but in the plaintiff. Me. If I just did it properly, the process would work. I appreciate your point of view, which undoubtedly has great merit. I offer in response, however, my history:

Knowing that a "healthy" weight is important (let's call it a worthy goal), I have planned, promised, vowed, made charts, kept records, fasted, prayed. I own dozens of diet and exercise books, including the promising Think Yourself Thin. I have joined online programs, including but not limited to e-Diets, South Beach Online, Jillian Michaels, Fat Loss for Idiots (twice). Okay, I have not joined Weight Watchers or L.A. Weight Loss or Jenny Craig. I haven't done OptiFast. But I have counted calories, carbs, units, exchanges, whatever. Sort of. Sometimes. Not really.

Okay, so we're discovering a tiny "implementation" problem here. And, of course, I have taken suppplements, mountains of supplements—bad ones like Hydroxycut and Lipovarin and good ones like the (very expensive) Sunrider and Mannatech products. And, all right, Fen-Phen ("bad" category) actually did work, which highlights one chink in my armor—the attempt to get around the "will" part of goal-pursuing. I could say, Fen-Phen worked; goal setting didn't. Is that fair? But listen. I have experienced countless successful juice fasts and 5-day detoxes. I have existed upon cabbage soup, almonds, NuPlus, and Lean Cuisine. I have even subjected myself to that insult to human alimentation, NutriSystem. I consume handfuls of CLA, HCA, chromium, green-tea extract, 5-HTP … you don't want to know it all. This is not easy. I juice, blend, eat good carbs, and drink lots of (distilled) water. I have even tried "halving it," eating sensibly, and dividing my (much smaller) plate into thirds.

I pause here to mention one thrilling moment a few years ago when a researcher at the University of Utah (I don't know how he got my name) told me he bet I wouldn't believe him when he told me I didn't weigh enough for their gastric bypass study.

Exercise? At this very moment, my copy of Body for Life sits not three feet from my elbow. I garden (obsessively) and do my own home repairs and (minimal) housework (okay, not the windows, and Doug still does most of the floors). I move very heavy and unwieldy furniture and appliances up and down the stairs by myself. I own or have owned an obscene number of exercise machines, including an actual bicycle. I have a lifetime membership in 24-hour Fitness. I have great walking shoes and a first-rate pedometer. I know precisely how to stay in the Fat Burning Zone, and likewise and in the alternative how to "Interval Train." I LOVE upperbody workouts. Theoretically. I appreciate your thoughts here about consistency. I am consistent. Every year I weigh more. (In fairness to myself, I will admit to weighing 15 pounds less at present than I did at my all-time high in April 2004, the day I graduated from law school securely addicted to Dr. Pepper.)

As an aid to motivation, I have made myself accountable to others—friends, support groups, family members, most recently my six-year-old grandson. Who says, “I can’t imagine you will actually do this, Grandma, but it would be great if you did.” I refuse to be shamed. I refuse to be vain. And my health is fine. Is this therefore an unworthy goal? Is that the problem? Should I just settle with being the way I am? NO! Because I don’t WANT to be fat! I really, really do want to look better, have more energy, and fit into the clothes in my closet. And it really would be great if I did. So what’s in the way here?

Let us consider, in other words, the core question, as recently articulated by my five-year-old grandson: "Grandma. Why are you so fat?"

Is this simply a stress-response problem? Adrenal exhaustion? Metabolic Syndrome X? Candida albicans? Something glandular/ genetic/ hormonal/ environmental/ behavioral/ psycho-emotionalogical/ spiritual?

Actually, I know what it is. It’s a character disorder. Taking an honest look I discover that I am, simply speaking, a glutton. In days of yore that would have been a sin. I admit I am a sinner, and I need to repent, which means turning away from a way of thinking, a state of mind/being that is damning me, holding me back, but which I am loath to abandon. And here it is: I want everything.

I am a glutton for life and its splendors. If I see something I like in the marketplace, I want one in every color. At a buffet, I have to try everything. I buy too many books. Every room in my house contains too much stuff. I stay up late because I’m a glutton for the day’s experience. One more chapter in one more book, one more magazine article, one more interesting program on the History/ Science/ Discover/ Biography Channel, one more item/ person/ incident seen on such channel to find out more about (blessed Google!). And all this requires nourishment. Fuel (best if pure glucose) for the brain.

And then, once I do manage to sink into bed, I hate to get up in the morning because once I start doing it I’m a glutton for sleep. I am always late because I’m a glutton for what I’m already doing, and I don’t want to stop (I usually call this an “inertia” problem, but gluttony makes more sense today). I don’t generally seek out “social situations,” but once I get there, I’m the last to leave. I rarely make phone calls, but when someone I like calls me, I can’t hang up. When it’s my turn at the organ, the postlude is always too long. Good grief! You can see from previous entries here what happened in the first few hours of beginning again to think about my ancestors! Perhaps it's believable when I say in all honesty that during certain periods of my life (see, for example, JRCLS 2001-2004 and especially the two years following) I have accomplished too much. Way way way too much. Interspersed with periods during which I recover too much. (No, my Affective Disorder is not Bipolar, though it is Seasonal. So let's say my Sin of Gluttony, my SOG, is SAD, not BAD.)

But ever and always I think too much. I talk too much. I explain too much. I fret too much. I praise too much. I criticize too much. I gush. I plant too many roses. I give my students too much feedback and my clients too much help. At Christmastime I decorate too much. See how already I have begun to blog too much? My husband once said this: “You don’t spend money unwisely, dear. You just spend too much of it.” Guilty. A therapist once told me that my depression saved my children from the amount of attention I would otherwise see fit to inflict upon them.

Wait a minute! Here’s a clue. I don’t exactly want to cultivate depression but …

“Take a little time for yourself every day. A bubble bath, a moment’s meditation.” Why would I do such a thing? I want ALL OF THE TIME FOR MYSELF. Why open the bag of cookies or violate that candybar wrapper if you can’t have the WHOLE THING?

That's it! As an all-or-nothing sort of person, I just need to exploit the “nothing.” Be a glutton for self-deprivation. I used to do this quite well, until I learned to call it pathology. Time for renewal. Temperance is merely … too much moderation!

Okay. So you’re right. It’s not the process after all that I should scorn. It’s just a matter of setting the proper goal and then focusing upon the proper processes for reaching it. Here is how I will begin for 2009:

I hereby resolve to gluttonously deprive myself of concern about my weight. In fact, I will think obsessively about not worrying about my weight. Mostly importantly, I resolve and vow that by the end of the year I will have perfected, through persistent practice, my ability to “not eat” … too much!

Ahhhh! I feel better already.

25 January 2009

Hope for Today

This morning I chose hope in a bottle®, and I feel I must apologize somewhat for yesterday's snidery. The bottle is much smaller than the jar, but it has more words, which I failed to notice before. It looks kinda like this:
in a
exfoliating moisturizer for congested pores,
fine lines, wrinkles and rough texture
philosophy®: where there is hope there can be faith.
where there is faith, miracles can occur. science can give
us better skin. only humanity can give us better days.

Just giving credit where credit is due. (Note to the folks in the JFSB: Borrow this, slightly altered. Science can give us better ______. Only the humanities can give us better days. Okay. Here I go again. Sorry.)

It snowed again this morning, covering up the grime from our two-day melt. The ice barrier at the end of our cul-de-sac is gone, making travel in and out much easier on low-riding vehicles. And my skin feels so smooth and uncongested! A lovely day!

24 January 2009

Roll Over, Pythagorus!

I have some very bad news for the World of American Thought: Philosophy is now a registered trademark in the United States. At least in lowercase ... philosophy® ... as the villains who have done this apparently do not have access to typefaces with capital letters other than that little R in the circle.

The only legal safety at present is to make certain to capitalize the word in all uses, employing it, preferably enclosed in quotation marks, either at the beginning of a sentence or elsewhere with a face-saving “sic,” as follows:

1. “Philosophy” derives from the ancient Greek φιλοσοφία, meaning “love of wisdom.”
2. The “Philosophy” (sic) of Emmanuel Levinas is beyond me.

The same people have also trademarked “purity,” though apparently with no success to date in registering it, as it is rendered thus: puritytm. Similar restrictions have been placed upon “hope,” though only under certain circumstances. “Hope,” standing alone, is apparently safe. After all, to trademark “hope” would be … audacious!

But, beware! Both hope in a bottle® and hope in a jar® have been captured. Here’s the label copy from the latter:

philosophy®: where there is hope there can be faith. where there is faith miracles can occur. [1]

Wait a minute! Faith comes first (though it does precede the miracle). Otherwise, wow. I’ll bet some folks in Washington (D.C.) wish they could peddle that one!

At least it appears that “faith” and “miracle” are safe from trademarking for the time being, as are “charity,” "joyful," "heart," and, except in certain circumstances, “grace” (see below).

Haven't guessed yet? Here’s the label from a product called puritytm made simple (oh, if only!):

philosophy®: purity is natural. we come into this world with all the right instincts. we are innocent, and therefore perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are. our conscience is clear, our hands are clean, and the world at large is truly beautiful. it is at this time that we feel most blessed. to begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all; the daily ritual of cleansing.

Once again, wow (i.e., sheesh). Ignoring the (très moderne) lowercase offenses, the comma splices, the semicolon misuse, the as/how parallelism problem, the conceptual difficulty in "our conscience," the clichéd and pedestrian "world at large" and "truly beautiful," and the fact that the writer obviously has never been a parent, doesn’t this just … just … I can’t adequately express my thoughts here.

So I guess I’ll just go wash my face! Yes indeedy. puritytm made simple is not part of a religious (though perhaps a quasi-religious) rite; it’s a “one-step facial cleanser.” After the use of which it is recommended that you follow up with one of two miracle moisturizers. Because where there’s skin cream, there is hope, in a bottle® (for "troubled" skin) or in a jar® (for all skin types).

And while you're at it, you can can spruce up with a couple more contributions from philosophy®. You might try inner gracetm—in shampoo or shower gel—followed by one of the three fragrance graces: inner gracetm, amazing gracetm, and pure gracetm.

It would appear, then, that for the moment "grace" alone is safe (heh, heh). Just don’t use it with the traditional adjectives, else you could be hauled before a tribunal. And I suppose we should be grateful that philosophy® has so far failed to produce beautytm or truthtm. Or most importantly repentancetm.

But these are good-hearted folks. In fact, if you buy something from the charity category of philosophy® (including joyful heart, a “charity shower gel”), they will contribute to a worthy cause of their choice.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make fun of anyone …. Actually (my four-year-old grandson Aaron’s favorite word), yes, I do. For beyond all faith in skin-care miracles, beyond all promise of bottle or jar, beyond even graceful spritz or suds or charity shower gels, products don’t make people. It’s the other way around. And that, Horatio, is my “Philosophy” (sic).

[1] All italics in this post are mine, meant for emphasis, or to distinguish nonsense from my own clear prose. The boldface belongs to the villains.

By way of full disclosure, at the time of publication Mrs. Thayer owned and used the following products: puritytm made simple and hope in a bottle® (her skin being perennially troubled), as well as, more recently, hope in a jar®. She has found them all to be over priced, but otherwise excellent.

20 January 2009

Farewell, Sarah!

I found it! Great-Grandma Sarah died on 29 November 1943 at age 71. Just five years before I was born. I'm sure she was glad to get home. I also discovered that her father, Isaac Stiers Doron, was a Civil War invalid, and also that he might have been Jewish! “Doron” means “gift from God” in Hebrew, and Isaac’s father’s name was Gabriel David. Gabriel was born in Pennsylvania in 1813, and more than that we do not know. Except some of Philadelphia’s earliest settlers, arriving before 1800, were Dutch Sephardic Jews. Isaac with a father named Gabriel and a daughter named Sarah. It’s looking good here for a Jewish ancestor! Sarah Frances Doron DeWitt—Mormon Jewish Huguenot Witch. Wow. And, alas, decisively deceased.

But before I move on to other topics (this is not after all meant to be a genealogical blog), the name of the day belongs to Sarah’s ancestor Exercise (too bad it's not Exorcize) Conant, born on Christmas Eve 1637 in Salem (!), Mass. Runner-up is Sluman Everett, one of the brothers of Lucy, Mehitable, and Eliphalet, whom I mentioned last time.

One thing I can’t help but notice over and over again as I peruse the pedigrees is that most obvious difference between our time and times past: People used to have more children, and lose more children. Everybody knows this. We all have many ancestors with 8, 9, 10, 12 … I found one with 15 children, 7 of whom died before age 5. So all the while having a child every two years for 30 years, this woman lost more children than I have! And still raised more than I have. Boggles the mind. I don’t do well with loss. I’m also claustrophobic and bad with extremes in temperature. I’ve seen those tiny cabins at Winter Quarters in Nebraska. About the size of those plastic things my grandchildren play in. I’ve seen the not-quite-snug house where my mother’s great-grandparents lived in Pleasant Grove with 13 children. It’s about the size of our garage. Count your many blessings, name them one by one, is all I can say at this point. I know that we say that we have greater challenges now, what with media corruption and drugs and creeping socialism and all the temptations the children face. But I just don’t think I could live in an unheated dirt-floor log cabin with thirteen children and no indoor plumbing before the invention of, uh, hygiene …. I was saved for the latter days, all right. Because I am a wimp!

19 January 2009

A Bratt by Any Other Name

Having dealt all my life with an ungainly, made-up, parents-combo prénom, I determined to give my children ordinary, dignified names, easily spelled and understandable on first hearing and unlikely to turn into poisonous acronyms. So I mostly did that (though sometimes Katherine and Stephen have to clarify spelling), except that for some reason I called my first child Emmelyn. It turns out to be a good name for Em, a nice stage name, and I don't think she minds too much the mispronunciations, the need to make explanations, the burden of countless "phone home" jokes, her initials being ET. Her fortunate sister's initials were her nickname, KT. Their father calls them Katie-bird and Emmaline-fine. Very cute, no?

I thought I made up the name Emmelyn, with the Y looking good with Thayer, and the second E suggesting the way the name should be pronounced, and the one N preventing a "lynn" sound at the end. I had forgotten a possible influence, however. A resonance at least. Finding that picture of Grandma Sarah while putting away Christmas I felt myself being drawn back into pedigree charts after a 39-year hiatus (during which time genealogy had become Family History). Whereupon I rediscovered that my father's mother's paternal grandmother was named Lucy Emmaline Avery. Lucy married Sylvester S. Fort, whose grandfather Sybrant was married to Fytje Bratt. I should note that Fytje was also known as Sophie, and that by the time she died she had become Sophia Bratt Fort.

Sybrant descends from one Jean Le Forte, apparently born in Cher, France in 1650. Oddly, however, Jean's father, Jan Orangien Fort, seems to have been born in Puerto Rico in 1600. Jan married Marie Grande in New Amsterdam, America in 1641. So they were French or Dutch or both ... Huguenots fleeing oppression, as were most of my paternal ancestors, or else buccaneers! At any rate they certainly got around, for 17th-century folks. "Fort(e)," of course, means strong, which everybody's ancestors were.

Another French Connection is Esther Ann Hardin, my father's grandfather's maternal grandmother, born in 1827 in Québec, where our Emmaline-fine served her mission.

While I'm reveling in names, I could mention that ancestors of Lucy Emmaline Avery include Patience Fish, who married John Rathbone (unfortunately, no son named Fish Rathbone) sometime around 1730 in Rhode Island, and Lucy Everett, eldest of 10 children whose siblings included Eliphalet and Mehitable. Use those names in fiction before I do, and I’ll send Grandma Sarah to haunt you! Assuming she has actually passed on.

I would dearly love a grandchild named Brattfort Orangien Fishbone. How ‘bout you, Em & Stu? Brattfort Orangien Fishbone Freitas! BOFF. Sounds almost presidential. Or maybe just gustatorial. I should never write when I’m hungry.

Happy Birthday, Ruth Belle!

One-hundred-two years ago today, on January 19, 1897, Sarah Frances Doron gave birth to her second child, a girl they named Ruth Belle. The occasion must have been joyous, but also exceptionally poignant. Only 11 days earlier Sarah and her husband, Francis Marion DeWitt, called Frank, had lost their first child, Edna Gertrude, who was only 2½. I have five grandchildren near that age at the moment. How do people endure such loss? I don't know how Edna died, but I understand that it was a ruptured appendix that took Ruth, 19 years later. These photos are of Ruth Belle DeWitt, taken shortly before her death, and of her younger brother, my grandfather Sidney Theodore Roosevelt DeWitt, called Ted, who died of pneumonia at age 35. Frank died a few years after that, leaving Sarah, who passed on ... I still don't know when.

Frank, Sarah, Ruth, and Ted were all baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Atlantic, Iowa, in May 1912. Some of the missionaries, so the story goes, thought that 12-year-old Ted might like to correspond with a recently baptized member just his age from over in Webster City—Anna Louise Fort, called Louise, or sometimes Lula. Ted and Louise corresponded for several years, eventually met, and were married in 1920, after which they came with Ted's parents and some of Louise's family to Ogden, Utah, where their four children—Marian, Robert, Donald (my father), and Jack—were born before Ted's untimely death in 1935.

I have known this general story all my life, except I never noticed how close Ruth's birth was to Edna's death, and I never noticed until yesterday that Frank and Sarah made the journey to Salt Lake City to be endowed and have their children sealed to them in August 1917, less than a year after Ruth died and three years before they moved to Utah. The ordinance, I'm sure, was a comfort to them. Something else that I discovered only recently was that one of the missionaries involved in the Romance of Ted and Louise was Andrew Child, whose brother, John, was the upright widower farmer who—two years after Ted's death—rescued Louise and her boys (the tea leaves apparently having said yes) from Depression-Era Ogden and moved them to the farm in Clinton, where they joined John Child's eight children, the oldest the age of his new step-mother. Marian didn't move to the farm, though. She stayed in town with Grandma Sarah, who no doubt enjoyed the company.

And now they're all gone ... except Marian. It will be Aunt Marian who will know if ... I mean WHEN Sarah Frances Doron left this mortal coil. And maybe, just maybe, she can tell me what became of that crystal ball.

18 January 2009

Telltale Object

I have just realized that I am the oldest female descendant of Sarah Frances Doron in my generation. Unfortunately, however, I don't have the crystal ball. I did inherit this beautiful pot from my grandmother, Sarah's daughter-in-law. I will leave it to the reader to discern its function. (See previous post.)

Now, ponder this: All of my relatives going back three, four, five generations have verifiable death dates. All except Sarah. Make of it what you will.

16 January 2009

Genealogy. I should be doing it.

Sarah Frances Doron DeWitt

My great-grandmother was a spirit medium. I say that because it sounds more interesting than "fortune teller," which is how my father explained it. The funny story is that after she became a Latter-day Saint in 1912 she would dress up for the ward carnivals, but she wouldn't use her crystal ball, because it really worked, and she deferred to the priesthood. I have no idea whether this story is true. The other story is that two years after her only son died at age 35, his widow (my Grandma Louise) came to Sarah for advice about whether to accept a proposal of marriage from an upright widower farmer who had promised to help raise the boys. The advice was apparently had through reading tea leaves. This sounds a little bit fishy to me.
I mean, two nice Mormon ladies. Where did they get the TEA?
Here's a photo of Great-Grandma Sarah. Kinda looks like me.


The thing about blogging is that you can edit it.
Here. Do you like me?
No? Okay, I'll fix it.

I think this is true, but how would I know, really?
This is my first post.
Will I change it tomorrow?
On verra. Mahl sehen. Sans doute!