Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer


January 2012

T.V. or Not T.V.?

That is the question. It’s Saturday morning and I’m still in my pajamas. I plan on sitting curled up in a blanket with my breakfast and watching an episode of Top Chef that I recorded earlier. I’m over the moon about this plan. You see, I willingly placed myself on a T.V. hiatus this past Monday.

It all started when a friend went on a retreat. She’s eating and meditating. That’s it. There isn’t even any talking. For ten days. My friend is a server at the retreat, so for her there is some talking. But minimal.

Your first question may be the same as my mother’s. Why? But, I get it. I do. I’ve always appreciated quiet. I enjoy time with my own thoughts. I’m not saying I need ten days worth, but I get it.

Then I got my cable bill. $150. That’s just ridiculous. First, I placed a call to my cable company. Then, I placed a call to the other cable company. (There are only two as far as I know.) After about an hour, I learned I couldn’t get any less channels for any less money. Oh, and did I mention I have to have a DVR? When you go to bed as early as I do, it’s a must. To lower my bill, I’d have to get rid of cable altogether. Could I live without television? I decided to find out.

I planned to go without Monday through Friday. I would break the spell on the weekend. (Hey, I’m not a masochist.)

Monday and Tuesday were painless and I noticed two big benefits immediately. I found the extra time I’ve been looking for. According to the Nielsen Co. (the ones who do the ratings,) the average American watches at least four and a half hours of television a day. Now, I’m sure I wasn’t watching that many, but even if you’re just watching a couple – what could you do with two extra hours in the day?

I also found I ate less. If you’re like most people, you have a tendency to snack in front of the T.V. I do. I won’t even be hungry. But if the T.V.’s on, I’m shoving it in my mouth. Knowing this trigger of mine, I tried to have healthy snacks in the house. It never occurred to me to tackle the problem the other way around, but it worked. With the T.V. off, I didn’t even think about eating, cause I wasn’t hungry.

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I missed it. I really did. At first. But then I was fine, cause I got drunk. Just kidding. I didn’t get drunk. I had one or two (okay, three) glasses of wine. (Hey, it’s hard to count them when you have to drink out of a big sippy cup!) My mom had Frankie and the house was quiet. It was dinnertime. The time when I usually settle in to watch some rerun of  Friends I’ve seen a hundred times. Instead, I turned on some classical music and ate my dinner with the concept of zen eating in mind. Chewing my food slowly, savoring each bite. I felt very refined and cultured. And you know what? I ate less again.

By the end of the week, I was actually in to Great Expectations, a book, I confess, I’ve barely picked up since I blogged about it. But you also see how much I’m looking forward to my recording of Top Chef. I swear the anticipation is actually making me happy. I doubt I would’ve felt that way about it if I’d watched T.V. all week.

Maybe, the answer lies, once again, in balance. Cutting back or doing away with the mindless watching (do I really need to watch Gladiator for the sixth time?) and saving just a few programs I really look forward to. The cable company still wins in this scenario, though.Maybe I can get Mom to record a few things. Just something to think about. After the big game, of course.

Snack World

Sorry I’m a little late with this week’s posting, but Frankie and I were vacationing at Snack World (my mother’s house.) Like most vacations, this one entailed lots of relaxing, tasty treats and a general flouting of the rules.

We both enjoy Snack World immensely. Mainly for the obvious — the snacks. Like one of those old-fashioned sweet shops on Main Street, my mother keeps a colorful variety of dog treats in a see-through canister in her kitchen. Like a spoiled child, Frankie has become selective, turning up his nose at some, in hopes that the next goody pulled out of the jar will be even better.

He’s also become wise to the snack routine. In the beginning, he would paw at the side door to be let out to do his business. My mother so appreciated him letting her know when he needed to go, that he received a snack when he returned through the back door. After months of receiving treats this way, he started skipping the part where he actually went to the bathroom. It was discovered when he began pawing to get in just seconds after pawing to get out. Frankie was leaving out the side door and immediately circling around to the back door, just to get the treat.

I too, enjoy the food, though it’s challenging when I’m trying to watch my weight. Mom doesn’t keep anything fat-free or light in the house. Since I can’t cook, I often look forward to having scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich. But it’s a real grilled cheese. Not 2% cheese and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. It’s made with thick bread, tons of regular cheese and you better believe it — real butter.

Flouting the rules

A different household means different rules. Forget consistency. It doesn’t exist. But Frankie’s smart enough to keep it straight. At home, I’m the mom, the disciplinarian. But there, I’m a child too, and under my mom’s roof, Frankie lives by her rules. Which is to say, he gets away with murder. He’s allowed on the bed, to beg, and to chase the cat, just to name a few. It’s no wonder he jumps up and down in excitement whenever she comes to pick us up.

My routine disappears too. My computer isn’t there so I can’t write or send emails. Usually my power chair isn’t there either, so I can’t walk Frankie. Gone are the 4 a.m. wake-ups and we all watch a late-night movie on my mom’s big screen. If Frankie could talk, I’m sure he’d be bragging to his friends at daycare about what he does on his vacations. And it’s not even summer yet.

Write It Down!

“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.” ~ Lee Iacocca, auto executive

Before I ever moved to Jacksonville, when I was still in college, I wrote in my journal what I wanted for myself as a young adult on my own. I live alone in a great apartment by the beach. I have a job that pays all the bills, lots of friends and an orange cat. Years later, I re-read my entry. I didn’t even recall consciously wanting those things, yet I had them all, right down to the color of the cat.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Henriette Anne Klauser explains this phenomenon in her book Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want – And Getting It! By putting it on paper you declare your intent. And  that, she says, keeps the subconscious part of your brain working in the background to make it happen. You become more alert to the signs and signals that help you achieve your goal. So, I went into the Humane Society in ’92 thinking I wanted to adopt a kitten of any color, but when I saw the orange one some part of my brain went Ding! Ding! Ding!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          By writing it down, you declare yourself in the game.  Putting it on paper alerts the part of your brain known as the reticular activating system to join you in the play. ~ Henriette Anne Klauser                                                                          
                                                                                                                                                                  So write it down. Don’t just think it. In the same way that you may keep a list of things to do that day, write down what you’d like to accomplish in the longer term. A year or five years. “There is a solidity in actually committing it to paper,” says Klauser. “It is a physical thing to put it on paper…writing it down is a commitment.”


And experts say to use language in the present tense, as if it’s already so. As in, I work for myself, I have all the clients I need, or I am a successful writer. And I’m no expert, but for what it’s worth – be specific! I should have said I live on the beach, not by the beach.

Winter Weight

I just got back from the grocery store. If, at any time during the shopping I’d left my cart somewhere, I wouldn’t have been able to claim it. I wouldn’t have recognized it as my own. It was chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fat-free everything. It was the kind of cart you don’t mind bumping into neighbors with instead of praying to escape unnoticed with your king-sized Twix, bags of chips, and rolls of cookie dough. It was a January cart.

January carts are unlike any other. They’re fresh with the promise of new resolve. They’re a testament to our new healthy way of living, new eating plans, and new diets (though experts warn against calling anything a diet.) After bingeing my way from Halloween candy straight through to the last glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, I (along with most of the free world) could stand to lose a few pounds. And so, it begins. Again.

I choose Weight Watchers. Because, at the risk of sounding like the ad, it works. And also because nothing is off limits. It just “costs” more of your daily points. This works well for me. Like most people, if I’m told I can’t have something, it’s the only thing I want. Of course, some common sense is in order. I once had a friend that didn’t eat all day to save her points for alcohol at a party that night. Not the best plan.

This year, in addition to counting points, I’m watching my sugar intake. Me. Who’s been known to say there’s no such thing as too sweet or too rich. But my dad was recently told he’s borderline diabetic. And my mother is always saying I consume too much of the sweet stuff. Then, at a New Year’s Eve party, someone told me all the dangers of diabetes. It’s no joke. Cardiovascular disease, kidney and nerve damage, eye and foot problems to name a few. I do like my cakes and cookies, but I’m not an idiot. Call me crazy, but I operate on signs, nudges, and intuition. When the universe seems to be shouting a message, I listen.

So, I’m trying to choose foods lower on the glycemic index. I’m also reading labels. I read somewhere that you should avoid items with more than 6g of sugar per serving. Since I’m not The Diet Nazi, I’ve stretched that to anything in the single digits. I’ve also cleared everything “bad” out of the house. I’ve learned in the past, if it’s there, I’ll eat it. I can’t do portion control. I can’t have one piece of chocolate. If there are cookies in the house, I won’t stop until I’ve consumed the entire bag. When I was relatively new to the wheelchair, I used to have junk food in the house. I could eat a few and throw the baggie full of whatever across the room, the theory being that it was just too much effort to get from the couch into the wheelchair to pick up the bag. Now that a transfer is easier, no place is out of reach. And it’s worth the effort.

The decision was made to get serious about my weight when I recently visited a fitting room. (Where did those rolls come from?) I’ve also found myself more comfortable in items with an elastic waistband, or “spring-loaded” as a friend once substituted, having forgotten the correct word.

If you, too, have a plan to trim down in 2012, I wish you much stick-to-it-ive-ness. Here’s to February, March and April carts, too. And if all else fails, may you find the perfect pair of spring-loaded pants.

Not a Service Dog

Believe it or not, Frankie could’ve been a service dog. Well, I don’t know that he would’ve made it all the way through training or graduated, but he was accepted. He had the right temperament and personality. Or so it was determined.

Years ago, preferring to adopt a homeless animal rather than support a breeder, I began looking for an organization that trains rescue service dogs. There aren’t many. With so specialized and special a mission, apparently it’s better to know an animal’s parents and history. After much looking, I was left with one immediate option (and not a very good one.) Train Frankie. First, he would need to be evaluated in a class.

After barging in late, Frankie leading the way, I handed over the leash to the instructor. She took Frankie around to meet the other dogs, all of whom outweighed Frankie by at least 50 pounds. After passing that test (he wasn’t timid or aggressive, but invited everyone to play,) she threw metal food bowls to land near his head. Instead of being scared or nervous about the clanging bowls, Frankie checked them all for food. She called his name to make sure he knew it, pulled his tail to make sure he wouldn’t growl and gave him treats to see how food motivated he was. (I could’ve answered that one.) In the end, he was cleared for take-off. The instructor called him happy-go-lucky. I think Mom and I were just excited to get that little “service-dog-in-training” vest.

Now I laugh to think of Frankie as an assistant to the handicapped. In fact, I’ve compiled a list (by all means not exhaustive) of the things Frankie does that a service dog would never do. A service dog would never:

…chase a cat.

…bolt through the door at the slightest opening.

…use the couch to roll about and dry off dew after a walk.

…chase a leaf.

…run across the front of a moving power wheelchair to bark at another dog.

…eat ants.

…bark and growl at lizards like they’re dangerous intruders.

…bark and growl at his own reflection.

…eat cat poo.

…walk on top of tables and counters.

…eat birthday cake.

Unfazed by chocolate

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