Interesting Links, October 1, 2013

Here are links I found interesting on October 1, 2013:

The Sprained Foot

Here’s how it happened and how it is three weeks later.

I didn’t blog about this when it happened. It may have been embarrassment. Or it may have been because my life got very busy for a while with house guests and day trips and life in general.

It was on Monday, August 5. I’d spent much of the day — the third or fourth day in a row — out at my future homesite in Malaga, clearing out invasive weeds along the driveway and the road in front of my house. It was hot, exhausting work, but I felt good at the end of each day. Like I was working toward a goal. (Am I the only person who feels that way while making progress on a project?)

That particular day, I’d been using a gas-powered hedge trimmer to cut weeds. I’d rented it from Home Depot. The tool did the job, but not as easily as I’d hoped. And it was a bitch to get started. I returned it that afternoon, contemplating the purchase of a chainsaw again.

On the way home — it was probably about 5 PM at the time — I stopped at the supermarket to buy groceries. Because I had so much junk in the truck I did something I very rarely do: I put the 5 or 6 grocery bags in the truck’s bed.

That was my mistake.

When I got home, I discovered that the grocery bags had shifted around in the back of the truck. So I lowered the tailgate and climbed up to gather them together. They were the usual plastic shopping bags and I grasped them by their handles with four in one hand and two in the other. I walked to the back of the truck, stood on the edge of the tailgate and crouched down with my butt about four inches off the tailgate. I put my right hand down on the tailgate and launched my feet off the back of the truck.

Keep in mind that this little jumping maneuver is something I do regularly. The distance to the ground is only about 3 feet. By crouching and launching like that, I minimize the impact of the landing. I do it all the time. I’ve never had a problem.

Except that Monday. As I launched my feet off, one of my feet — maybe my right? — got hung up on the rough surface of the spray-in bed liner. It could have been because I was tired from a full day at work, but it was more likely complacency — not thinking about what I was doing because I had done it so many times before. I didn’t make a clean jump. I realized this as I was falling and tried to recover.

I don’t know exactly how I landed, but I suspect my left foot took most of the impact on an angle. My left knee and the palms of both hands hit the gravel next. The grocery bags crashed all around me.

I immediately thought of the Tito’s vodka and Maker’s Mark bourbon what were in the bags. It would be a real shame to break the bottles of $50 worth of liquor.

But pain interrupted those thoughts. Lots of pain. I was hurting badly. I rolled over on my back and began taking inventory on body parts. One by one they checked in OK. Except my left foot. That was just registering pain.

I sat up and gathered the bags together. Neither bottle had broken. Whew!

I sat for a moment more. My left knee was bleeding but the palms of my hands were fine. That could have been worse, I thought to myself.

It was. When I tried to stand up, I realized I couldn’t put any weight on my left foot.

Oddly enough, I didn’t think much of the problem at first. After all, we’ve all gotten hurt in silly little accidents and after the initial shock wears off, everything works fine. I figured that my foot or ankle — whatever was sending those pain messages to my brain — was just whining a bit longer than usual.

In the meantime, it was hot and I was thirsty. I managed to get to my feet and sort of hop over to my RV. My porch was a bit of a challenge and I honestly don’t remember how I got up the stairs. I put down the bags of groceries and poured myself a glass of lemonade with lots of ice. I drank it all and refilled it.

My ankle was still sending those pain messages. What was up with that?

I sat down on the steps that lead up to my bedroom and pulled off my shoe. My foot seemed to explode into a swollen mass. I couldn’t move my toes.

This was not good. There was a chance, I realized, that I may have actually broken something.

I pulled out my phone and called my friend Kathryn, who lives in the orchard.

“What are you doing?” I asked once the greetings were over.

“Nothing much,” she replied. “Just hanging around, enjoying the weather.”

“Could you do me a favor?” I asked.

“Sure. What do you need?”

“Could you drive me to the hospital? I think I might have broken my ankle.”

The tone of the conversation changed immediately to once of concern and urgency. A few minutes later, Kathryn and her husband Donn were out in front of my trailer with their truck. I used a stepladder as a cane to meet them on the driveway and managed to climb aboard.

They took me to a local clinic, which they thought would be faster than a hospital. Donn fetched a wheelchair and wheeled me in. I did the paperwork at the desk. And then they waited 90 minutes with me. (I have such great friends.) Kathryn came into the examining room with me to keep me company. I was x-rayed, poked, and prodded. It was pretty obvious that the problem was in my foot — not my ankle. The verdict came from the nurse practitioner who’d been assigned to me.

“It’s not broken. It’s a sprain.”

“That’s good,” I said, relieved.

“No, it’s not,” she corrected me. “For people over 40, sprains are usually worse than breaks. They take longer to heal.”

She wrapped me up with an ace bandage, gave me a prescription for pain meds, and told me where to find crutches at 7:30 on a Monday evening. She also gave me a sheet with the standard RICE advice.

My friends took me to Fred Meyer. Kathryn went in and returned with a set of crutches. Then we went to Olive Garden for dinner (their choice). I had a terrible drink and an excellent meal, which I only ate half of. By the time I got home, it was after 9 PM. I was glad I’d remembered to put away the yogurt before leaving.

Sore Foot
The day after my mishap was spent in bed with my foot elevated. But it swelled up anyway.

In the morning, I was amazed by how bad my foot looked. I took a picture and put it on Facebook. I spent much of the day in bed, trying hard to keep my foot elevated above the level of my heart.

Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still when I have things to do? It was a miserable day.

The next day, I had things to do and I wasn’t going to let my swollen foot stop me. So I wrapped it up grabbed the crutches, and got on with my life.

Of course, during this time I was still on contract for cherry drying. I had some concern over whether I’d be physically able to fly. After all, flying a helicopter requires four limbs, preferably healthy ones. But I put those concerns to rest on Wednesday when I fired up my helicopter and flew it down to Wenatchee for some scheduled maintenance. Fortunately, my helicopter doesn’t require much pressure on the pedals.

I admit I didn’t follow the RICE advice to the letter. Although I slept — or tried to sleep — with my foot elevated on two pillows, I didn’t ice it as often as I was supposed to and I certainly didn’t rest it very much. I was on two crutches for just two days and then just one crutch for a week. After the first week or so, I realized that it looked almost normal when I got out of bed but swelled up to epic proportions within a hour of being up and around. The swelling included my foot and ankle — indeed, I had a chankle. I ditched the crutches entirely about 10 days after my mishap. That’s when I flew my helicopter to Seattle to pick up a friend and did the tourist thing around Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. It was pretty swollen that night.

I’ve turned down five invitations from friends to go hiking. You have no idea how frustrating that is.

But I’ve also been out on my boat three times. Not much walking involved there. Once, while fishing, I sat on the swimming platform and dangled my feet into the Wenatchee River. The nice, cool water was soothing.

I’m now starting week 4 of healing. I’ve found a good compromise. When I prepare to go out for the day, I wrap my foot firmly in the ace bandage, put a sock over it, and put on my good walking shoes — ironically, the same ones I was wearing when the mishap occurred. The shoe gives my foot the support it needs; it only hurts when I step on uneven surfaces. Because the flexing motion of walking also causes pain, I have a pronounced limp when I try to walk quickly. But around my home, it’s not that bad. Yesterday, when I unwrapped it, it didn’t even look very swollen.

If I behave myself and stay off the hiking trails, I’m pretty sure I’ll be 100% healed by the end of September. That’s a long time, but I just have to deal with it.

As for jumping off the back of my truck — well, I think this little incident has reminded me that I’m not 22 anymore. We’ll see if I remember this lesson in the months and years to come.

Why I Made My Tweets Private

The short explanation: I was tired of being stalked by a paranoid, neurotic, and vindictive old woman.

How To Make Your Tweets Private

Shame on you! You obviously didn’t take my Lynda.com course about Twitter where I explain how to do this. But since you were nice enough to come visit me at my blog, I’ll give you the simple steps here:

  1. Log into Twitter.com.
  2. Go to https://twitter.com/settings/account. This is the Account Settings page for your account.
  3. Turn on the Protect my Tweets check box.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
  5. Enter your password if prompted and click OK.

That’s all there is to it. From that point on, the only way someone can see your tweets is if they follow you — and they’ll have to get your approval to do so. While I don’t normally recommend doing this, it’s a good solution if you’d prefer to control who can see your tweets.

I just made my tweets private. It was the only thing I could think of to get my husband’s girlfriend — if you can use that word to refer to a 65-year-old woman — to stop stalking me on Twitter.

How It All Began

It’s been going on since at least November 2012.

Flushing Fish
I think the tweet text makes it pretty clear that the fish was already dead when I tried to flush it.

Back then, while I was cleaning my fish tank’s glass cover, I managed to get a cleaning solution in the water that killed four of the five fish in there. I removed the fish and attempted to flush them down the toilet. Unfortunately, the fish were large and they wouldn’t flush. For some reason, I thought that was funny and took a photo of it, which I shared on Twitter.

Well, my husband’s girlfriend decided that my flushing of a dead fish was evidence that I was destroying my husband’s property — namely, his “exotic” fish. (Nevermind that the fish tank was mine, purchased before marriage, and the dead fish were just tropical fresh-water fish costing about $5 each — if that.) She apparently convinced my husband and his lawyer that they needed an expedited hearing in front of the divorce judge to stop me from doing whatever it is they thought I was doing. They demanded an opportunity to inspect the house and remove his personal possessions so I would stop destroying them. She printed out 25 pages of my tweets — the vast majority of which had absolutely nothing to do with my divorce — and submitted them as “evidence” of my wrongdoing.

This is when I realized a few things:

  • My husband’s girlfriend was in charge of my husband’s side of the divorce. It all came from her; I had confirmation of that later by means I’ve promised not to disclose. My husband certainly didn’t read my tweets (or my blog) and he knew the fish were mine.
  • My husband’s girlfriend was paranoid, neurotic, and likely as delusional as my husband had become. What else could I think? She read a tweet about a fish being flushed and decided it was evidence that I was destroying my husband’s property. Seriously: WTF?
  • My husband’s lawyer was not giving them sound advice — or, if he was, they weren’t taking it. After all, if he’d read the 25 pages of tweets, he’d clearly see that there was nothing in there to indicate that I was destroying anything belonging to my husband. They’d simply look like idiots in front of the judge.

This kind of backfired on them — as so many of their court actions did. My husband was given a date and time to come to our house and retrieve any of his possessions that he was worried about. That meant moving a lot of crap out of the house that he would probably have preferred leaving right there. It also prevented him from accessing the house later, as he tried in May, because he’d already used up his only court-approved opportunity to remove possessions. Oops.

You think she’d learn her lesson. A smart person would. But no: she continued to watch my tweets and attempt to use them to harass me throughout the months the divorce process dragged on.

Show Me Your Weakness and I’ll Exploit It

I have to admit that once I knew she was reading my tweets, it was difficult not to taunt her. She had no life — that was clear — why else would she be so obsessed with what I was tweeting about? Despite my heartbreak over losing the man I’d loved for more than half my life, I had a great life and I tweeted every detail.

I didn’t work much throughout the winter and spring and I traveled a lot, making multiple trips to California, Florida, Las Vegas, and Washington. I shopped for a whole new wardrobe after losing 45 pounds the previous summer. I met new people home and away and did all kinds of things with them. When I was home, I had a steady stream of house guests in the house they supposedly couldn’t wait to get back into. They’d insisted on dragging the divorce on past the original January trial date by asking for a continuance — I made the best of the situation by having a great time while I was stuck there. I tweeted all winter and spring about my activities, making sure I mentioned every fun thing I was doing, knowing just how much it would get under her skin.

A normal person would have stopped reading the tweets. But she’s not normal. She’s obsessed. I accused her in January of living vicariously through my tweets. She read that one, too — I saw it later as “evidence” in court.

She was stuck with my sad sack husband, directing his divorce because he lacked the balls — or moral integrity — to do it himself. I was enjoying real freedom for the first time in nearly 30 years, doing whatever I wanted without having to look at his sour, disapproving face.

And, of course, I packed.

More Tweets in January

The tweets came up again in January when she attempted to get an Injunction Against Harassment on me. I fought it in court. More tweets submitted as “evidence.” I don’t even think the judge looked at them. Why should he? Pages and pages of my usual blather — those who follow me on Twitter know what I tweet about — all copied in triplicate as “exhibits” for the court. I could only imagine what those photocopies cost — law firms charge through the nose for everything!

They showed up with their lawyer. Three of them against me. I won. They had no case.

Another court action backfires on them. Another few thousand dollars wasted fighting the phantoms of her delusions.

The Ceiling Fans

Ceiling Fan Tweet
I really couldn’t resist. Note that I didn’t say here that I removed the ceiling fans; I just insinuated that I did.

When the divorce trial was finally over the other day, I admit I did send one last tweet intended for her consumption, one last thing to really piss her off. The ceiling fan tweet.

During personal property negotiations, she’d listed the ceiling fans as something I must leave behind. I still remember the discussion my lawyer’s assistant and I had about this demand. It went something like this:

Me: She thinks I’m going to take down the ceiling fans?

Her: Apparently so.

Me: Why the hell would I do that? They came with the house. What the hell am I going to do with six southwest style ceiling fans in Washington state?

Her: She’s just trying to get under your skin.

Me: All she’s doing is showing how stupid and petty she is. I don’t want the damn fans.

Of course, she also demanded the curtain rods. But in the final agreement, the curtain rods went to me. I took them, with the curtains — admittedly, mostly for spite, although the ones in the living room and guest room (which were the only ones I really wanted) will look nice in my new home. And although the ceiling fans were not on the list of the items they could keep — after all, I considered them part of the house — I didn’t take them. I just tweeted as if I might have. The ceiling fans had become a running joke with my Twitter and Facebook friends and I knew they’d enjoy the tweet.

Because my husband had refused to inspect the house with me present, it would be at least 36 hours before they could get in to see what I’d left behind. I’m sure her blood pressure was red-lining the whole time, thinking about those ceiling fans.

Sadly, she didn’t stroke out.

It’s Over. Really.

In my mind, the divorce was over. Everything was in the hands of the judge. We’d settled the personal property and I had come away with everything that was mine and the joint property that I wanted, leaving behind far more for them than I’d taken for myself. (My lawyer’s assistant thinks I gave too much away.) I had finally moved out of my house. I was back in Washington, living where I’d spent the previous five summers, working, playing, having a life.

My husband’s girlfriend, however, wasn’t finished with me yet. She just couldn’t let go. She just couldn’t stop harassing me. I guess that when you spend so many months catering to an obsession, it’s hard to call it quits.

I blogged about the latest hilarity here. No need to repeat the details in this post.

It does, however, all come down to tweets. She built her delusion about my ownership of property in Washington on her interpretation of my tweets. Apparently, plain English isn’t good enough for her. In her paranoid mind, she believes everything I’ve written contains a coded message. She reads my tweets and interprets the code she believes they contain. The result: “facts” to feed her delusions.

(A mutual friend of mine and my husband’s can’t wait to meet her. She’s an amateur psychologist and thinks she’ll have a lot of fun trying to figure her out. I’m looking forward to her report.)

Although I made it clear in a recent email to a bunch of people that I think her obsession with my tweets is evidence that she’s sick, I seriously doubt whether that’s enough to stop her from obsessing. And frankly, I don’t want every little thing I tweet about to feed her delusions and get her running to her lawyer to bother mine.

It’s over. I’m free. I shouldn’t have to deal with her crap anymore. Hell, I shouldn’t have had to deal with it in the first place — and I wouldn’t have if my husband was smart enough (or man enough) to rein her in. The only way to break her of the obsession is to take the object of her obsession away from her.

So my tweets have become private, at least for now.

Suicide, Revisited

I get it now.

Back in August, 2010, I wrote a blog post about Suicide. I had just learned that a friend of mine from years before had taken his own life at work, leaving behind a wife and four daughters. At the same time, I was struggling to write a passage in a personal memoir about another suicide that had touched my life. I was trying hard to understand it all, trying to figure out why someone would take that drastic step and end his life.

I concluded then that people who commit suicide are selfish and cowardly. I concluded that the real “victims” of suicide are the people they leave behind.

I didn’t get it then.

I get now.

It’s all about relief — getting relief from feeling so miserable that you simply can’t go on.

I’ve glimpsed this feeling a few times over the past eight months. The first time was in August, when I first realized that the man I loved and trusted for more than half my life — my best friend, in many respects — had betrayed me by cheating on me and lying to me and planning to keep me out of my only home. I had no idea what was going on at home and my imagination took off with a wide range of worst-case scenarios. I had no way to find out what the truth was. The shock and grief I was suffering made it impossible to carry on my day-to-day living without breaking down into sobs at seemingly random times. My mind was caught up in the tragedy of the situation; it wouldn’t settle down. I was absolutely miserable — I cannot imagine being more miserable than I was.

My only relief was sleep, but because my mind couldn’t rest, I could only doze fitfully, never quite getting the relief I needed. This went on for days.

When I went to see a counselor for help, at the end of our first session, she gave me the phone number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. She really thought that I might be at risk.

And that made me feel even worse.

Later, when my mind cleared a bit and I was able to look back objectively at that week in my life, I understood why some people turn to the final solution for all their problems. They just want relief.

I should mention here that this is probably also why so many people turn to drugs or alcohol. I’m a pilot and I can’t take drugs and I was on standby duty at the time so I couldn’t even drink. But if I could, I probably would have turned to either one for the relief I so desperately needed. I think a lot of people do. It’s sad; this is clearly the way so many addictions get started. The substance offers the relief a person so desperately needs. But the substance is not a permanent solution, and repetitively taking drugs or alcohol for relief will likely do more harm than good. It certainly won’t make the cause of the problem go away.

Why a person feels so miserable that they turn to suicide for relief depends on that person and what’s going on in his life. There might be psychological factors; the man who killed himself by jumping out of the tour helicopter I was flying back in 2004 had a history of problems, was on medication, and had even tried to kill himself with a knife five months before. I don’t know the details of my old friend’s situation, but I have to assume he was under a lot of stress at home — or more likely at work, where he did the deed — and perhaps had other psychological issues that came into play. For these people, suicide was the relief they so desperately needed.

In my original blog post on this topic, I said that people who committed suicide were selfish. I now don’t think that’s entirely true. I think that they’re so overwhelmed with their own misery that they simply can’t think about others. I think that when a person takes his own life, he’s only thinking about one thing: how he’ll finally make his suffering end. At that point, nothing else matters.

Suicide is a horrible thing — and it’s not the answer. Getting to the root cause of your misery and finding solutions to make things better might be more difficult than simply giving up, but it’s ultimately more worthwhile. Not just for you, but for the people who care about you.

If you’re reading this because you’ve considered suicide, do yourself a favor and get the help you need. Life is worth living; you can get past your problems and see that for yourself again.

On Weight Loss and Metabolism

It may not be scientific, but it’s what I’m seeing here.

As regular blog readers know, last summer I went on a diet and lost 45 pounds. That translated into four pants sizes (14 down to 6) and more than 20 inches (total) off my bust, waist, and hips.

I did all this in about four months — I started on June 15 and was pretty much off the diet food by October 15.

45 pounds was about 23% of my body weight. A friend, on seeing me in January for the first time in more than two years, said I was 2/3 the person I was. Not exactly accurate; I was closer to 3/4 the person I was.

My point: I lost a ton of weight in a very short time.

The Real Benefit

The benefit — other than looking great — was feeling great. I had (and still have) a ton of energy. I can walk faster, hike longer, and even climb hills without getting winded. And I have a theory about that.

When I was fat — there, I said it! — I was carrying around a lot of extra weight. My body had to adapt to carry that weight — it had to get stronger just to lift that extra weight off the ground and walk with it. When the extra weight disappeared, I still had the strength to carry it, but had nothing to carry.

Imagine being forced, every day of your life, to walk around with a backpack that gets heavier over time. After nine years, it’s 45 pounds. Because the weight was added slowly over time, your body has become accustomed to it and, although it’s not easy to carry, you can carry it because you’re used to carrying it.

Now imagine someone taking weight out of that backpack at the rate of 10+ pounds a month for four months. Your body still has the strength it needs to carry all that extra weight, but now it’s gone! How do you think you’re body’s going to react? It’s going to have all kinds of extra energy that it doesn’t need.

I’ve been putting that energy to good use since this summer by going on long hikes, getting out and about with friends, maintaining an aggressive travel schedule, and keeping active around the house, packing and moving my belongings into storage.

How Metabolism Fits In

Here’s where my theory gets a bit sketchy — mostly because I have no scientific evidence to back it up.

As we age, our metabolism slows down. I think that’s pretty much accepted as fact. Because most of us don’t reduce the amount of food we eat or eat smarter or better as we age, we gain weight. I’m pretty sure that — and normal female hormonal changes — are what caused me to pork up over the years.

After losing all that weight, I worried a lot about gaining it all back when I got off the diet — which required me to eat special food. But I certainly didn’t want to stay on the diet forever. So I weaned myself off the food and tried to eat sensibly.

Then the holidays came and I ate whatever I wanted to. And then I did some more traveling and I ate out a lot. And I spent a lot of time with friends, eating and drinking and having a grand old time.

At this point, I eat almost exactly as I did before I went on the diet. I should be gaining weight, right?

But I’m not. The weight is keeping off me.

And that’s where I think the metabolism is coming into play. I suspect that my weight loss and increased activity levels — because I now have more energy to keep active — has raised my metabolism. My body needs those calories and it burns them off.

What do you think? Does this make sense to anyone who knows about this kind of stuff?