The Politics of Where to Live

This is a video about marriage equality in Mississippi, but one line in particular (starting at 1:17) was particularly striking:

I don’t know about you, but I get this all the time: “Why don’t you just move to New York, or Iowa, or Washington State?” ‘Cause it’s cold! I don’t want to live there!

That right there is an excellent example of basically my entire political philosophy. I can understand the impulse a person has to live where people agree with them politically, but that can’t be the solution to our political differences as a country. And nobody should be told (much less told repeatedly) that if they don’t like things the way they are, they should just leave.

People are more than their political beliefs. People choose to live in places for a variety of complex reasons, and telling someone who doesn’t agree with you politically (or someone who does, but lives in an area that doesn’t) that they should just pack their bags and get the heck out of Dodge entirely because of their political beliefs belittles and dismisses all the myriad reasons why they might choose to live there. To be frank, it’s a simplistic and rather childish way of looking at the world.

I know it seems easy for me to say that, since I am a liberal who moved from a red state to a blue one. But the name of my blog doesn’t just refer to the fact that I am geographically located outside of Texas. It also refers to the fact that I, as a result of living there during my most formative years, am a product of Texas. Even though I didn’t and don’t agree with many of the political actions in Texas, they shaped my beliefs. Even six years after moving away, I still identify first as a Texan.

Plus, I was following the news and forming opinions long before I was able to vote. I was there when Tom DeLay, the representative from Sugarland who eventually left D.C. in disgrace, engineered a redistricting map that pitted my incumbent Democratic representative against an incumbent Republican representative in a brand new, bright red district on purpose (the Democrat lost, as he was intended to). I was there when Rick Perry was elected with less than 40% of the vote because his opposition couldn’t agree on one of the three other candidates. I voted in elections where a whole slate of Republican judges ran unopposed (because Texas both elects its judges, and does so without even attempting non-partisanship).

So I get how frustrating it is to live in an area where most people disagree with your politics. But the answer is not for people to self-segregate into red states and blue states, ignoring all the other reasons why they might choose to live somewhere and polarizing the country even more in the process. What incentive does any politician have to listen to his or her constituents if the only real fight they ever face is in a primary?

Rather, I think the best answer is also the most uncomfortable and the least intuitive. People should live wherever they want to, politics be damned. There are a lot of fantastic reasons to live in any of the 50 states, and in any of the thousands of localities in them. Sometimes, disagreeing with the majority where you live is a lost cause, and you have to decide to either live with it or move. But sometimes, it’s worth staying and trying to change people’s minds. Sometimes that’s just the right thing to do, for the sake of the country as a whole.

Aside from all that, I’m sure lots of people could say this exact same thing, but no state is homogeneous. Texas has liberal pockets just like Oregon has conservative ones. Dismissing a whole state as unlivable because the party you don’t like wins statewide elections is also dismissing the people who live there and do agree with you. It certainly doesn’t make them want to work with you, should you ever need their help.

Progress

Just about 11 months ago, I decided to start going to the gym. It was kind of on a whim (and randomly on a Thursday), but I’d been thinking about it for awhile. There were some real obstacles that I could foresee that I was trying to plan around (and/or overcome) before attempting to turn it into a regular thing. A lot of it was totally warranted, because really, it’s not the first time I have developed what I think is a solid gym-going habit and then quit because it was too hard to make myself keep it up.

But at some point, even knowing there were going to be some things that were hard about it, I decided I’d better just go and see what I could manage. I decided to deal with those obstacles as they arose, instead of waiting around for perfect conditions that would never exist.

I’ve been thinking about this in part because today at my weekly weigh in, I surpassed my first WeightWatchers goal (losing 5% of my weight). Even better, if I go with the weight I was this time last year, I’ve lost about 8% of my weight starting weight.

I’ve also been thinking about this because we’ve gotten our first truly hot weather of the summer. We’ve had some pretty warm high temperatures before now, but they were paired with low enough lows that it wasn’t unpleasant early in the morning.

For the past few days (and probably into the weekend), though, we’ve had highs in the 90s and lows not making it below 65. It’s 8:30 p.m. right now, but because the sun is still up, it’s still 87 degrees outside. The temperature will say it’s 65ish at 5:00 tomorrow morning, but it won’t feel especially cool once I get to the fitness room with its totally anemic fan and total lack of air conditioning.

But, if you do the math, you can see that I started my gym habit at the end of July last year. So in a way, I’ve already gone through the worst weather we’re likely to get this summer, and I did it without air conditioning at home.

Of course, it’s still stinking hot.

Body Conscious

I have spent the majority of my life talking about and being talked to about my body. Some of that falls under the normal so-you’re-a-pre-pubescent-teenager types of things, which everyone gets. A lot of it, though, is about the non-age-related aspects of my appearance.

I will admit, for those who have not already realized this, that I am actually quite vain. I am well aware of the fact that I have great skin, regular features, and pretty fantastic hair that lots of people pay big bucks to imitate. I am, dare I say it, rather pretty. I have this odd quirk where, if there is a mirror within my sight, I am compelled to look at myself in it, even if I have no reason to suspect that my hair needs adjusting or I have food in my teeth.

So it’s kind of ironic, given that reality, how much time I spend consciously trying to be unconscious of what I look like in other ways (and typically, not really succeeding). I am extremely, extremely body conscious. It’s hard not to be when the subject of your shape and size comes up in every single doctor’s appointment since you were old enough to be addressed directly. When you can’t wear the same clothes as other people because you’re in a totally different clothing category. When your family is forever watching every single bite of food you put in your mouth (or if they aren’t, it feels like they are). When it feels like the whole world is silently watching you and judging you for having the temerity to be overweight.

It’s what leads me to make a confession: I went to McDonald’s for lunch today.

For most people, that wouldn’t be a confession or a cause to feel embarrassed. It might be something they aren’t especially thrilled about having done (since it’s not the healthiest choice). But millions of people eat lunch at McDonald’s every day without thinking about it hardly at all.

I, on the other hand, feel like I need to justify it by telling you that I totally do have enough points for it, and that I went to the gym this morning, and that millions of people eat there every day. I had extra soda that I brought with me, but was too embarrassed to walk from my car to my desk with a cup that clearly indicated where I ate lunch today. Because, you know, people would see me and they’d know that I was a miserable failure of a human being who doesn’t even care about my own health.

This feeling is actually one of the things I am working hard to try to change. It’s taken me a long time to convince myself that thinking that way isn’t healthy and it isn’t right (and that anyone who thinks I should feel like a bad or irresponsible person because of the food I choose to eat needs to go take a long walk off a short cliff). The food I eat may be correlated to the number on my scale, but one thing I have learned by being as body conscious as I am is that it is far from a one-to-one correlation. It is far more complex than “X, therefore Y.” So eating fast food is not a personal failure for me any more than it would be for someone who wears a size 2. Which is to say, it’s not a personal failure at all.

But on the flip side, the fact that I am, honestly, hyper-aware of my body and how it interacts with the world around me does have some positives. I realized a few times this morning that my body is capable of things now that it hasn’t always been able to manage. When I did my elliptical workout this morning. When I had to squat down to set up the washing machine to do laundry. When I had to go up and down the stairs a whole lot this morning. I don’t know if I would have noticed the difference in how I feel doing these activities if I wasn’t focused like a laser beam on this stuff. It’s really easy to not notice small, incremental changes, but I am primed to take note of them and respond to them.

It fits in with my weekly weigh in results from this morning. My weight is up a pound (which stinks), but my measurements are smaller in my hips, waist, and arms (my bust and thighs are unchanged). If I weren’t taking the trouble to weigh myself every day and measure myself once a week, I wouldn’t notice these things. But because I weigh myself daily, I know that my weight stayed pretty low all week, went up some over the weekend, and actually is lower today than it was yesterday (even if it’s still higher than it was last Monday). So I know, because I’ve been paying attention, that this is a fluctuation that may or may not have anything to do with things I actually did. And I know that it will not stay this way forever, unless I just totally abandon my workouts and my diet plans.

I choose to think of these things as mixed blessings, rather than just feeling pessimistic. It’s very easy to lament the fact that most people don’t have to be as aware of the food they choose to eat or the activity they choose to do. Most people don’t have to consider whether the stairs were easier today than they were last week, or wonder if skipping a workout really did make their weight go up. I do have to think of these things, and I probably always will. But at least I know that my weight gain is only part of the story and that I am way more awesome at stairs than I was before.

Diamond Shoes = Too Tight

So this is the second post I’ve written that can be, more or less, described as “my diamond shoes are too tight.” At least sort of. I think I need a new category, since this seems to be a trend.

In the end, it’s really more like good news that actually kind of creates bad news (even though the bad news doesn’t negate the good news). So it’s sort of silly complaining, because it’s caused by something that is definitely a good thing. But at the same time, it’s still a totally valid complaint, because I still have to deal with something that kind of sucks. Since I am totally complaining, though, I may as well make fun of myself a little bit while I’m at it.

In this case, the super awesome good news is that I am still losing weight! Yay! I am almost to my first sort of mini-goal in Weight Watchers (losing 5% of my starting weight), and unless I get totally derailed in the next week or two, I expect to pass that one soon.

However, the bad news is that my clothes freaking do not fit me anymore. And trust me, this is not a complaint-that-is-really-a-brag, because I haven’t actually changed clothing sizes. It’s just that now the clothes I own don’t fit, like at all. My pants are what’s driving me insane right now, because my thighs are more or less the same size they’ve always been (and they have always been the determining factor in what size pants I get to wear), but my waist and hips are smaller. End result: I am absolutely swimming in the waist band of all my pants, the rise is hugely too long, and the thighs still basically fit.

In other words, I look like a schlub.

The sort of braggy part of this is that I have managed to change my body shape and drop a very significant amount of weight in just about 2 months, which is awesome. And if I can continue this pace, I will be ecstatic. But the downside is that not only do my clothes not fit, it’s really not even worth getting them altered. The alterations I’d need are kind of pricey (and in the case of adjusting the rise of a pair of pants, darned near impossible to pull off even for a good tailor). So I don’t really want to spend the money on clothes that, if I am lucky, will be beyond alterations relatively quickly.

Case in point, I have a pair of pants that I bought before Christmas. The waist was too big when I bought them, so I planned to have it taken in. I didn’t get around to it until about April, and had it taken in at least an inch or two. The waist on that same pair of pants is now something like 3 inches too big. Seriously, I can tuck my shirt in without actually unfastening the pants, and they aren’t stretchy. I could potentially have them altered again, but it would cost $20, and the back pockets would be super weirdly close together. And they still wouldn’t really fit all that well, because the rise is way too long.

So, diamond shoes too tight, I’ve lost too much weight for my clothes to fit, wah wah wah. But I still have to figure out a way to look professional at work while I’m in this totally weird in between stage, and I haven’t quite gotten the answer to that yet.

I really am hoping I can lose just a little bit of width to my thighs soon, though. If I could just drop one pants size, it would be much, much easier to find pants in general, and particularly pants that have an appropriate-length rise. Taking the waist in is easy, if I can just find pants that fit me otherwise. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Cooking Extravaganza!

One of the things that, by necessity, goes with trying to lose weight is finding new ways of eating. Even before I joined WeightWatchers, at least 80% of what I ate and how I ate it was pretty much fine. The 20% that wasn’t was killing my overall diet, but it mostly boiled down to letting myself eat way more bread, desserts, and junk food than I ought to.

Of course, I love bread, desserts, and junk food, so it’s forced both my husband and I to get a little more creative in the kitchen. If I can’t look forward to what I’m eating (even if it’s not what I really want), I start wanting cookies. Or chips. Or something.

People reading this from Facebook will already have seen the link I posted to Chicken Marengo, from the host of Ten Dollar Dinners on the Food Network. It’s basically chicken cooked in a tomato, wine, beef broth sauce, but it’s really yummy. My husband added shrimp (even though it’s not in the recipe) in honor of Emperor Napoleon. From Wikipedia:

According to a popular myth, the dish was first made after Napoleon defeated the Austrian army at the Battle of Marengo at Marengo south of Turin, Italy, when his chef Dunand foraged in the town for ingredients (because the supply wagons were too distant) and created the dish from what he could gather.

So that was dinner tonight. After dinner, I made myself another recipe to take in my lunch this week. Mine was a Black Bean and Mango Quinoa Salad. I made a few changes, partly for taste and partly for ingredient availability. I added shrimp, both because I like shrimp and because I wanted a little extra protein. I didn’t rinse the black beans, because I think the sauce they come in is one of the best parts (though I did drain them, since they come in a lot of liquid). I made my pan-roasted corn that I posted about instead of just using plain corn. I skipped the turmeric because I didn’t have any, and subbed garlic powder for fresh garlic because I am lazy.

I also ended up using mango salsa instead of most of the chopped vegetable ingredients. The mango salsa was no more expensive than the individual ingredients would have been, saved me all kinds of work, and probably had better mangoes anyway. The ones we tend to have here are quite often really expensive and incredibly pitiful.

I also think it’s kind of optimistic that the author of this recipe thinks it has 6 servings, unless it’s a side dish. There’s barely any quinoa in it (I actually intend to add a bit more the next time I make it). I made it 4 servings, which will be totally fine for lunch (since I bring other things to go with it), but would be a pretty light meal all on its own.

Even so, the taste I had tonight was super delicious, and I’m looking forward to eating it for the rest of the week.