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Monday, March 2, 2015

Todays Theme: H&R Block

This post has nothing to do with sugar.  Though I can say that this crisis did not send me to sugar.  I can also say that I owe you some posts - things have been hairy and I have eaten sugar.  I’m clean at the moment - I was turning into the Raging Lunatic Bitch and I don’t like her or the way I feel when she comes out.  Truth be told, I am using this venue in the hopes that I can get some satisfaction on a significant problem that H&R Block created in my life.
I have been using H&R Block for some years.  I had used Tax Cut, their software over the years, but living in two states and having a (minor) business made my taxes confusing, to me, and a friend of mine prepares taxes for H&R Block, so I had him do them.  Convenient, easy, affordable the first time (expensive after that, but worth it) and peace of mind.
A couple of years ago I got a bill from the IRS for taxes from 2011.  I had received payment to settle a law suit and they were billing me for $3000 in taxes that weren’t paid.  I got it on my birthday as I recall, awesome.  I totally freaked out and called my guy.  He said, bring the paperwork and come over now.  He started my 2012 taxes while his manager and I waited on hold.  A lovely woman from the IRS answered, said, oh no, that’s wrong - I can see right here that you filed correctly, you’re all set.
Totally worth the fee for having my taxes done.
In January I got a bill from the NY Department of Taxes and Finance telling me I owed $582 from 2011 along with 134.66 in penalties or interest.
I was heading out the door for a run when I read the letter.  I was totally stressing - I had that money in 2012 when it was time to pay 2011 taxes, but I don’t have it now.
So I went for a run - because I wasn’t going to be able to take care of it right then and the run would help me maintain sanity while taking care of the situation.
I called my guy who told me that it was probably wrong and he’d look into it.
Turns out it wasn’t wrong.
H&R Block’s computer had a GLITCH, put my Massachusetts tax information (I work in MA and was living in NY) in the wrong box and THUS I OWE NY $716.66.
They are covering the $134.66 because that is part of what I get for the $350 I paid for them to do my taxes.
Apparently, when I paid that $350 I wasn’t paying for their computers to work correctly and file my taxes correctly.
Because they tell me that if I had paid $35 for the Peace Of Mind Guarantee, they would cover the whole amount.
I didn’t pay that fee because I gave them everything they needed to CORRECTLY file my taxes.
And yet, they didn’t file my taxes correctly, and I’m not covered.
Because I didn’t give them an additional $35 to cover my ass in case they did my taxes INCORRECTLY.  Which clearly they did.
I left a message for the district manager on the 19th of February to discuss this and escalate my complaint.
It is now the 2d of March and I have not heard word one from anyone at H&R Block.
I also haven’t gotten a check for the penalties - which they said I would get in 10 days, and that was about a week before the 19th.
I am not calling these individuals out by name - for some reason I’m not comfortable with that.  Something I should probably look inward and question, but I’m not doing it anyway.
But I am calling out H&R Block.  I call bullshit.  Your computer messed up my numbers and now, four years later I owe money I really don’t have (new apartment that is more expensive, new car after I totaled mine in January, new cats that need to be neutered).  I had the money in 2012 when I filed for 2011 - specifically set aside to pay taxes.  I don’t have it now.
When a person has a positive service experience they tell 3 people.  When a person has a negative service experience they tell 10 people.  At least that is what I have read.  I had a bad experience with American Express when I still lived in Boston - 22 years ago - that I still talk about occasionally.  I have had nothing but great experiences with Liberty Mutual, I will never switch and I will always recommend them to anyone looking for insurance.
You can bet your ass I will be telling more than 10 people to think twice before using H&R Block.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Todays Theme: Raging Lunatic Bitch

Happy, happy, merry, merry.  Whatever you celebrate or don’t, I wish you a lovely one.
I am taking a course about food.  Food issues.  It’s inviting a great deal of self-inquiry.
Which I am finding challenging.
I’m supposed to ask my belly if it’s hungry.  And if it is then I ask what it wants.
We were invited to put everything on the table, so to speak.
I spoke of my sugar addiction and received permission to keep sugar off the table.  During that discussion we talked about the consequences of eating a very specifically limited diet, the possibility that I would go on for a period of time, possibly long, that would end in an explosive need to consume sugar and be right back where I was.  I am committed to this inquiry, I want to work my way through the layers and deal with what lies down there.  I want to create a healthy relationship with food.
Despite permission to keep sugar off the table, my addiction heard that everything was on the table, so I dabbled in sugar.
It started with my mom’s birthday cake.
The one I baked for her.  The traditional Swinchatt family birthday cake.  It was super delicious.
That same week, on Thanksgiving, I had a piece of my mom’s pumpkin pie.
After that things were quiet.
Then Christmas came.  And I, and my addiction, went a little bit nuts.
Today I threw out the final remaining Russell Stover Marshmallow Santa.  I opened the package, tore it in a couple of pieces and covered it with garbage.
Why did I do this?
I did this because I am in customer service hell.  I have been dealing with various agencies this morning, all of whom are either not listening to me, interrupting me, or contradicting things that other reps have told me.
During one of the calls I found myself asking the rep, very, VERY loudly - okay I was yelling, possibly at the top of my lungs - to let me finish my sentence.
In that moment I knew I was done.
I’m determined to get under the layers, whatever lies under my addiction, whatever it was that lead me down the path I’m on.
But I’m taking sugar off the table again.
I don’t know where my inquiries will lead me.  I am determined to create a healthy relationship with food.  Can I have a healthy relationship with food that involves sugar?  I have no idea.
Based on everything I’ve read and experienced, I’m inclined to say no.
In class we’re learning that listening to the wisdom of our belly will serve us, which is no doubt true.  I imagine that my belly, if I could hear it, would not be all about the sugar, but who knows.
But right now, my addiction is turning me into a raging lunatic bitch.  As a raging lunatic bitch I’m not very good at self-examination.  Without the self-examination I’ll never find out what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with food.  Without self-examination I’ll never get to a place where I choose not to have sugar - as opposed to being ruled by a need to avoid it.
I may never get there.  I may be living one day at a time when it comes to sugar for the rest of my life.

One thing’s certain, I’m getting rid of the raging lunatic bitch, she is really a horror show.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Todays Theme: I found me

I am 51 and 230 days, yes I just counted, and I think I finally found me.  I was out for a run and I realized that I am perfectly content in this moment.  And this one.  And this one.  And this one.
I was in Stanley Park, my beautiful new sanctuary.  I had just explored a new trail and was thinking that I need to drive over there so that I have the energy to really explore the trails - it’s three miles round trip to get there from my house and I’ve only been back to running for a few weeks.  I run without music so the experience is a symphony for the senses - colors, scents, sounds.  It’s lovely.
A few weeks back my friend Cara told me she thought I didn’t need to lose any more weight, my hour glass was fantastic.  A day or so later I sent her two pictures of me in my tights and tank, one with the tank pulled over my hips and one with it up around my waist - because it would ride up every time I pulled it down - this, I said, is why I still have weight to lose, my hips need to be small enough that my shirts don’t ride up.
This riding up applies to shirts, tanks, running tops, sweaters - everything.  My hips are a size or two larger than the my upper body.  Maybe three, I have no idea.  It makes dresses very challenging.
What in the name of I don’t have all day to read this does this have to do with finding yourself Tara?
Yeah, I’m getting there.
Today I noticed that my tops aren’t riding up.
And I didn’t struggle during the first mile.  I’m a distance runner and the beginning, before I warm up a little, is a strain.
And I was thinking about my lunch, my delicious, satisfying, filling lunch.
And I was thinking about never having margaritas again.  Tons of sugar.  It’s always been my intention to add them back in to my life experience, but I have been thinking a lot about this.  I know I am at the top of the slippery slope.  I’m not near the edge of it, but it’s not too far away.  And I’m seriously going to add a giant sugary drink into my life experience?  The idea makes me question my sanity.  So I have been allowing the idea that I may never have them again.  It makes me a little sad.
Then I think about where I am at this moment in my life.  I’m clear headed.  I’m motivated.  I’m running.  I’m planning things, not just running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.  I’m happy.  I’m getting my house set up.  Very slowly I grant you, but it’s happening.  I’m sleeping well.
And my shirts aren’t riding up my hips.
I was running down that trail this morning thinking, I am finally being the person I always believed was buried deep inside, buried under 500 pounds of sugar.
I’ll keep working, I figure it can only get better from here, but this is a really good place.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Todays Theme: Let pleasure guide your goals

I was logging todays (very short) run in my The Complete Runners Day-By-Day Log 2014 Calendar, which I have only been using since September.  I bought it last fall with high hopes for the year.  Those hopes have been realized, just nine months later than I had planned.
Yes, I have the 2015 edition at home just waiting to be filled with good stuff about my training.
Each month there is a piece before the entries start.  January’s is Surrender, February’s is Blues, etc.  I asked dad to read the last piece I wrote and while he did I thought I would read through the piece at the beginning of January.  It talks about discipline and pleasure, each has a place in setting goals.  “The next time you’ve let yourself down, pleasure should be the first thing that comes up for review.”  I love to run and I missed it when I wasn’t running, but when I tried it was painful in a negative way.  So I didn’t run, because it was awful and didn’t give me any pleasure.  Right now running is working for me, but today I went out with Rafferty (dad’s standard poodle) and I just wasn’t feeling it.  I pushed myself for two miles which is much less than I’ve been doing, but the least I could do today and still feel good about it.  Even though I wasn’t feeling it, I still feel better having done the run than if I had skipped it, or cut it even shorter.
I have a friend who hates running, but she would like to run one more half marathon, she’s even contemplating an attempt at running another marathon.  She has walked many half marathons, she walks fast.  But she’d like to run another one, just to see.  Even though she hates running she knows that completing a half, running instead of walking, would be pleasurable.  After the fact, but it will give her satisfaction.
“Goals at 50 are different than at 30.  Indulge and inhabit them.  Permit change.”  I have lots of friends who get lost in ‘back in the day.’  Back in the day, I was much faster, I could run every day, I never got injured, whatever.  For them that takes away from what they can do now.  Sometimes I wish I had discovered my love of running before I was 41.  But maybe that would mean I’d have no cartilage in my knees now and I wouldn’t be able to run. 
I have a 5k scheduled in December, I’ll be running through the Bright Nights display in Springfield.  I won’t be racing it, I’m just excited to run through the lights.  I’m heading to DC in March with a friend from high school and a friend from Lochearn Camp to run in the Rock N Roll DC half marathon.  I’m not sure where I’ll be in pacing or stamina at that point, I’m hoping to do reasonably well, but it’s not likely to be a PR, my best half time was 1:54 when I was training for a half ironman.  I’m just looking forward to this weekend that my friends and I have been talking about for two years.  I’m looking forward to a weekend in DC, haven’t been there in ages.
It doesn’t matter that I am likely to be slower than I was in the past.  I’m running again.  My goal is just to keep running.
As long as I take pleasure from it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Todays Theme: I ate brownies last night

I ate brownies last night.  I was very relieved when I woke up and, after reading The Virgin of Hopeless Causes for a few minutes, realized I ate brownies . . . in a dream.
I was reading along, had this small realization, was intensely relieved and continued reading.  I don’t remember the dream completely.  I was with someone and we were somewhere that food was out on a table, like a party.  I think I had some stuff other than brownies, but I know I ate a brownie.  It was thick and crumbly and moist and I have no idea if it was delicious or not, I don’t remember tasting it.
But I ate a brownie.
And it bummed me out.
A lot.
In my dream I thought, crap, the hypnosis is probably broken and now I’ll start gaining weight and go all the way back up to 180+.  I wish I had weighed myself right before the hypnosis, I would know exactly how much + there was.
Because that would be useful.  Queue shaking of head.
Still, I was resigned to the eating of the brownie and the slow descent down the slippery slope to continuing my life under 500 pounds of sugar.  It’s a life I’m familiar with.  It’s comfortable, in a horrifyingly uncomfortable way.
When I first started this process I had a dream that I took a big gulp of soda, realized what I had done and spit it out immediately.  I didn’t spit anything out last night.  The brownie was cooked just so, moist but crumbly, so it was breaking up as I ate it, falling off my finger tips, me holding one piece at my mouth and trying to catch others as they spilled away.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say shoving the brownie into my mouth, but it wasn’t too far distant from that.
Fortunately the friend I was with did not call me out for eating the brownie.  My dad, in the past has asked me, “are you sure you want to eat that?” or “should I put that away?” or “are you really hungry?” or “are you eating, AGAIN?”
These questions can be useful, but they can also be intensely annoying, primarily because no I don’t want to eat that or yes you should put that away or no I’m not really hungry or YES, DAMMIT I’M EATING AGAIN LEAVE ME ALONE IN MY MISERY.  My answer to dad was often something to the effect of, I’m all set thanks.  With an attitude, of course.
But this was a dream.  I don’t need to be called out in my dreams.  Because, well, seriously.
It does make me wonder if my resolve is teetering.  I don’t think it is.  I’m in Maine with dad and there is blueberry pie, Newman’s Own Hermits and pumpkin bread.  All of which are super tasty and favorites of mine.  All of which I have had no inclination to eat.
I’m enjoying the food that I’m eating more than I ever remember enjoying food, of any type, before in my life.  Last night we had scrambled eggs with chives and green onions.  Dad made them because his taste better than mine.  I don’t know why, we both cut up chives and green onions, put them in with the eggs, whisk and then cook them, but his taste better every time.  I cooked up some bacon, which came out perfect - crunchy but not too crunchy, well done but not over done - so delicious.  I also roasted some potato slices with salt and pepper, this is my carb loading for the running that I’m doing, they are really yummy.  Finally I made a salad with red leaf lettuce, carrot, cucumber, avocado and homemade vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette came out much better last night than the night before.
It was all supremely delicious and amazingly satisfying.  I could have eaten all night, just for the satisfaction I got from the food.  But I didn’t.  I ate my fill, maybe a little bit over, but not much.  Then stopped.  Just thinking about it makes me happy.
I am finding that food is tasting so much better than I ever remember and I am enjoying preparing it and eating it, which has never been particularly true before.  Food is no longer my enemy.  I can’t eat and eat and eat until I feel likely to bust.  I eat and eat and eat until I’m satisfied.
It seems that 107 days off sugar my body has adjusted and I have adjusted along with it.  I know when I am hungry and I know when I have pushed myself to the point where I HAVE TO EAT.  I don’t get there often, I am learning how to have food around that will fuel me and that I can eat in dribs and drabs.  Given my work I can’t schedule my meals when I need them so I bring food that I can eat a few bites at a time.  I make a bowl full of food - a taco salad or a broccoli slaw with ham - a few bites of either of those will get me through the 50 minutes of work I do at a time.  Until I can sit down and eat the main portion of the salad.
That is much better than unwrapping a bar of some sort that will throw off my whole system and load me up with carbs that will turn into fat.
I look forward to my meals, they are delicious and it is amazing to eat until I am satisfied and know that I won’t have to think about food until it’s time for the next meal, which I have ingredients for and look forward to preparing.
I’m not scrambling for ingredients, generally.  There are times that my preparations and life don’t line up.  Maybe I’m heading to Maine and I’ve let my stores get low so there isn’t anything mouldering in my fridge, or it was more important to go for a run (which it occasionally is).  In that case I hope I have time to get to the store and pick up ham to get me through until my lunch or dinner break at work.  More often than not it’s working out that I have food and time to make it, or time to get food - because I’m learning how to live in this new paradigm.
And I’m really happy here.
No idea where those dream brownies came from, they don’t call my name when I’m awake.
Update:  I survived Halloween candy and a HUGE bag of super fresh, delicious looking Vermont cider donuts that my lovely and generous colleague brought in on Saturday.  They smelled fantastic, I took several good sniffs, but I didn’t really want to eat them.  Continuing strong.

Todays Theme: Graciously accepting compliments

Years ago, possibly before I left Boston in 93, I gave someone a compliment.  Yes, smartass, I’ve given compliments since then, this was a particular experience - which I’ll tell you about if you just give me a chance.
Anyway I complimented someone on something.  Don’t ask the details, I can’t remember them.
What I do remember is that my compliment, whatever it was, was not graciously accepted.
And I was annoyed.  It was a sincere compliment, it should not be pooh-poohed.  But it was.
It is what we, particularly women, are trained to do.  Your hair looks lovely today.  No, I hate the way it . . .  You did a great job on . . .  Oh, that was all someone else.  Have you lost way, you look terrific.  No, I’ve gained weight and nothing fits.  What a lovely dress!  Oh, this old thing?  What a delicious meal, you are a terrific cook.  Oh, I just followed the recipe, it’s no big thing.
GAH, just say thank you for crying out loud.
I was so tweaked by this persons pooh-poohing of my compliment.  Then I thought, gee, if I feel like this when someone doesn’t graciously accept my compliment, other people must feel the same way when I don’t graciously accept their compliments of me.
GAH, in order to avoid being a complete and utter hypocrite, I better start graciously accepting other peoples compliments.
I’ll tell you it takes practice.  My, and I don’t think I’m out of line when I say “our”, natural bent is away from vanity and ego and looking like we think we’re all that, so we downplay these positive things that people point out about us, whatever they may be.
The thing is, it isn’t vanity or ego or thinking I’m all that to say thank you to a compliment.  I’m just allowing someone to think something nice about me.  I don’t have to agree.  But even if I don’t agree I don’t have to deny what they see.
The other thing is, once I got in the habit of graciously accepting a compliment, it made me feel good.
For real.
It wasn’t painful.  I didn’t feel like a fraud.  I realized that what I think makes no never mind to the situation.  Allowing someone else to say something nice about me and to graciously acknowledge it with a thank you?  It feels really good.
Try it.  You’ll see that other person smile.  They said something nice and you let them, it makes them feel good.  It’s practically a mitzvah!
Plus, they like something about you, so you get to feel good about that.
This practice has served me well in my profession.  I’m pretty good at what I do and have lots of people tell me I have great hands, healing hands, the warmest hands they’ve ever felt.  I’ve had marriage proposals - from men and women.  I’ve been invited to come live with more people than I can say.  This past weekend someone asked what they could do to entice me to move to Toronto, assuring me they could get me loads of work.
I say this not out of ego, I just do what I do and sometimes, granted most often, it lands well.  That involves a confluence of events and experiences.
The point is that years of practice in graciously accepting compliments allow me to say “thank you, I’m so pleased you enjoyed the massage” or “thank you, I’m so glad you feel better” or “thank you, it was my pleasure.”  This last one is the most frequent one, it really is my pleasure, I love what I do.
And allowing someone to appreciate it comes easily to me because of years of work to graciously accept compliments, even when I firmly believe the giver of the compliment is off their rocker.
The final thing is, my life is much better since I began this practice of graciously accepting compliments.  First of all, someone thinks I look nice - or whatever.  Awesome.  Second, the smile on their face or the general air of appreciation after a thank you without an argument about how wrong they are?  That is definitely worth the price of admission.  Making them feel good makes me feel good.  So much so that I’ve even gotten the second compliment of, “wow you are really good at accepting compliments.”  People are astonished by this.  And pleased, because they are as sincere in their compliments as I am in mine and they just want them to land well and maybe be a small bright spot in my day.  Sometimes I tell them my story - the one about getting annoyed by that anonymous person in the past and my resolution to graciously accept compliments.
You can’t go wrong with this.  Disagree all you want, but only in your head.  Let “thank you” come out of your mouth.  You’ll be amazed at how positive it is for everyone involved.
Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.  And I guarantee, all that positive?  It’ll make your life better, no way it can’t.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Todays Theme: When society agrees, think hard before you contradict

I was out for dinner with my friend Karla a few weeks ago.  We had a lovely dinner and a wonderful conversation.  At some point Karla said, “let’s go to Chocolate Springs when we’re done.  Oh, you can’t go there.”
No, it’s fine, we’ll go when we’re done.
If you’ve never been to Chocolate Springs, and you are a fan of chocolate, and you find yourself in the Berkshires, you really should go.  They have lovely chocolate and giant stuffed animals on super couches that you can snuggle with while you chat and eat chocolate.  What could be better.
That said, I had no chocolate, I just snuggled with a giant stuffed dog until a little girl came over and wanted to snuggle with the giant stuffed dog.
But before we sat down we were at the counter.  While Karla was looking I was speculating what I would have, assuming I ate chocolate.  There were some chocolate covered salted caramels that I noticed.  Chocolate covered marshmallows are a favorite, though they never seem to be as good as they should be, maybe because they aren’t melted.  Then there was a cappuccino cheesecake which looked amazing, though cheesecake can sometimes be too heavy.  Oh, wait, there it is - molasses cookie sitting next to a chocolate chip cookie.  They both looked fantastic.
Then there they were, the two things I wouldn’t be able to choose between had I actually been choosing - chocolate covered meringue and a chocolate covered gluten free chocolate chip cookie.
In reality, if I was eating sugar, I probably would have walked out with the molasses cookie, a chocolate chip cookie, a couple of chocolate covered meringues, a chocolate covered gluten free chocolate chip cookie, a few chocolate covered marshmallows and a caramel or two.
And they would have been gone by the time I left my house the next morning, if not by the time I went to bed that night.
But, that is not the point of this entry.
Karla was giving her order to her friend, as I stood by, and then he took the tiny square plate and said, I have something you’ll really enjoy.  It already had two small squares of chocolate that she had picked out.  When he came back there were two more small squares, one for Karla and one for me.  She said, “Tara doesn’t eat sugar so I’ll just have to eat hers.”  Her friend said, “oh we have some dark chocolate in the back, no sugar.”
No thank you.
“There’s no sugar, I’ll get you some, it’s really good.”
No thank you, I avoid things that look like dessert.
“Really, it’s tasty and there’s no sugar, I’ll go get you some.”
No, thank you.  I’m all set.
In the past exchanges like this have pushed me to this type of response: NO THANK YOU I HAVE TOLD YOU FIVE TIMES I DON’T WANT ANY FRIGGING . . .
People want me to eat sugar.  My friends are really supportive and will often do what Karla did, hey, let’s . . . oh wait, you can’t.  At which point I will reset the boundaries, because I’m totally okay if folks are eating sugary treats around me.  I don’t mind if they are actively and vocally enjoying it around me.  Because seriously, why eat it if you aren’t really, really enjoying it?
I don’t let people tell me it’s awful when they are clearly enjoying it.  I’m not stupid, I can see that you are really enjoying it.  And it doesn’t help me stay away from it if you are lying, it’s just unproductive.
As I described this event to Cara as we ran through the woods and commented that people want me to eat sugar and said, if I were an alcoholic you wouldn’t offer me a drink, right?
She said, but society has accepted responsibility for protecting the alcoholic.  You are breaking the societal agreement we have that sugar is okay and that we enjoy it together in celebration.
Or something like that.
I assume that when Bill W gave up alcohol, back in the day, it was just as weird and people wanted him to join them.  I don’t know that for sure, but it seems reasonable to assume.
And, like I said, when I gave it up the first time I would get frustrated with people - I TOLD YOU, I DON’T WANT ANY DAMN DESSERT.
But the exchange I noted above?  I was quiet, accepting, and very clear, no thank you, I really don’t want anything.
It was the same quiet that I felt the week before I started the hypnosis when I asked myself if I was okay with the fact that this action may mean I never eat sugar again.  Yes.  Simple, quiet, but very clear, yes.
So I’m breaking the agreement with society, the one where we all enjoy sweet things because it is a biological imperative.  And people aren’t comfortable with that.  If I asked them, they may not see it that way, but I can tell by the reaction of new people when it comes up, it just doesn’t sit well.  And my friends, my very supportive friends, even with them it’s confusing and possibly uncomfortable.
But I am clear and comfortable in my choice.  And I am clear and comfortable in the fact that I can be the only person, I’m not asking anyone to join me.  I’m happy to talk about it, share my experience and my reasoning and help someone stop with the sugar in any way that I can, but I’m not interested in imposing my choice on anyone, I just want to live my life the way I choose.
Even if I’m breaking societal agreements.