Survival: The Broken Refrigerator Diet
HAPPY ENDING FIRST
Years and years have passed since I first wrote this Hub. I have a new life and a wonderful new husband, and moved away from the heat of Mississippi to the Poconos of Pennsylvania.
But sometimes, it is worth looking back at past challenges. I learned so much from that horrible summer, and what I learned is worth passing on to you, faithful reader!
Surviving hardship can make you stronger only if you apply the positive parts of what you learned to the life you live after the hardship passes.
Living life in the past doesn't work. But keeping knowledge from the learned lessons does work!
Meditation shows us that we can integrate new information into our brains and create new pathways in our minds to move us to a better and happier future.
So I ask you to read this article with this intention: integrate what I learned and am now sharing, especially if you are trying to get past your own hardships. Remember that you can re-wire your brain to create help yourself to a brighter future!
Jaianniah with her new husband, Wade, 2016
From a Time in My Life Long Ago
The Beginning of it All: Back to 2010
LOOKING BACK: I MADE IT THROUGH THAT LONG AGO SUMMER- SORT OF....
It is now September (2010). I have a new fridge, a sexy black affair that I will never, EVER, EVER take for granted. I learned a lot from my broken fridge- some things big, and some things small. I even learned about suffering...which is still going on, because I have no money at all...But I DO have FAITH!! Hooray!! I can thank God for my summer of the Broken Refrigerator, and the incredible heat.
I hope this tale will help you through some hard time. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you feel especially desperate. I WILL write back. It's always nice to know that not everyone in America has it easy. Not at all..
GULF OIL SPILL
THE BEGINNING: MAY 2010.
This has been a summer of Hellish heat, mishaps, and disasters large and small...
While oil spewed offshore near my home, I was slowly dragged away from the media coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill by my own personal messes. Everything that could go wrong started going wrong. My central air conditioning began to fail...(this is equivalent to the furnace going out in Minnesota in December...) I obviously live in the South, where intense heat broke out (of course!) and I began to rely more and more on my window air conditioner in my bedroom. I started to occupy the bedroom like an Anne Frank of Heat. I ate there, I did my homework there, I watched endless movies there, but could not sleep there or anywhere due to my sticky, sweaty condition.
Then the bedroom fuse started to trip every five minutes.
The problem was diagnosing why the fuse was tripping...
Was it the air conditioner? It is old...Or was it the outlet??? The wiring, maybe? I went to Lowe's and looked longingly at all the boxes of bright, shiny new air conditioners...but if it was the outlet or the wiring, buying a new air conditioner was not going to work. ....
Meanwhile, as the temps climbed in May, I started to notice an odd thing: my frozen hamburger was coming out of the fridge nicely thawed.. It wasn't long before it came out of the fridge not only thawed, but discolored and smelly and swollen...
Then, all the ice in the ice maker started to melt, and I walked right into the flood on the kitchen floor one morning. <Sigh.> But my denial system was strong. The freezer was going, but I was not really paying attention to the refrigerator portion of the unit. Then one day, I poured sour milk all over my morning cereal.
The fridge was dying a slow death. Not only was I hot, but so was my food.
I began to pray to God, sending up beseeching pleas "Please get me a new refrigerator. Please help me get the central air running better. Please send me a 10,000 BTU air conditioner for my bedroom, etc." God was turning into a Santa Claus-like figure for me..
Thus began the Broken Refrigerator Diet.
WHY DO WE SUFFER? (+ A LITTLE HISTORY)
PART TWO: WHY DO WE SUFFER?
I, by a set of wild and ill-thought-out circumstances, ended up in the Deep South, The Bible Belt, in southern Mississippi....(I grew up in Northern Illinois, comfortable in Chicago Suburbia...little did I know...) Here, there is a church every three miles. By this, you would guess that everybody is suffering pretty bad here...There is Sunday School at 9 or 10 am. Then Church Services at 10 or 11. Then, you go back to church Sunday night for more...and Wednesday night, too!
There are Christian T-Shirts for sale at my local pharmacy where I get my meds. There are those white signs in front of most of the churches, with little messages that say things like, "Jesus is THE Reason for the Season...all year!"
Please don't get me wrong. I am not trying to say this is wrong. What I am doing is trying to set the stage, so-to-speak, for what I have to say in response to this answer.
Suffering, and why we suffer, is as old a question as Adam and Eve. According to some people, we suffer because we are born sinners, and suffering is our lot because of what Eve did in picking the wrong fruit to eat...Other people say we suffer because we subconsciously attract suffering into our lives...i.e., we think the wrong things, and mystically, this sets up a vibration we send out into the Universe which the Universe answers back by sending us problems and misery. These people say if you change the vibrations you send out, the Universe responds by sending you good stuff instead of suffering...fruit baskets, lucky happenstances and money flow like honey, if only you think right...
I do not think that the answer to this is quite so easy. If suffering was really alleviated by going to church or practicing a religion, then EVERYONE would pray, go to church, and be happy. But as I walked around Wal-Mart tonight, mostly to escape the broiling heat as much as to get cat food, I saw a lot of people who didn't look to me as though they were happy, joyous, and free. Instead, they looked cooked, tired, achy, and impatient. As I stood in line, everyone agreed that because of the heat being so bad this summer, another Katrina is bound to happen...(I think that may be correct, but you can watch Al Gore's DVD and figure out that one for yourself.) So if there are all these churches, why isn't everybody smiling? Obviously, something is either missing at church, or religion is not the answer to life's troubles...or something like that.
Personally, I grew close to God for two very important reasons: He initiated contact with me, and I had a visit from Mary when I was 24.
God and I have a weird relationship...But despite that, it is good to have Him around. I like believing in God. I like praying. I like God-incidences, and they happen a lot! He says, pull into that shoe store, and I do, and the next thing I know, I am deep in conversation with my young salesgirl about the book I am writing, and she is laughing as I describe what I am writing about, and affirming, without knowing it, that I am doing what is right for me. I don't turn to God because I suffer; I turn to God because I think that my soul craves God like the desert craves water.
It is as simple as that. I think we all are "imprinted" with some sort of spiritual needs..well, most of us- I still have not figured out atheists... but I think that I just feel better when I am close to God. I still suffer, but it's nice to know that my Lord knows about it, and is sad for me, and my prayers are in His in-basket, waiting for answers.
I think humanity has a deep need for something spiritual, suffering or not.
Living in the South has made me aware of the difference between going to church and being spiritual. In the end, being spiritual and having a relationship with a Higher Power just works for most people.
Philosophers have been studying suffering for centuries. Why? Why? Why? they ask. I dunno. But when doors seem to close, all the windows fly open. (Maria Von Trapp)
I have suffered greatly since moving to Mississippi. It is not an easy place to live. But I also have grown spiritually, and am stronger for it.
Actually, the broken air conditioning and the broken refrigerator have made me think a lot about why we have to endure and suffer...Is it just part of life?
But if these things had not happened, I would not have thought about sharing this experience with you...and the benefits- like losing twenty-five pounds! Or discovering strange new ways to make dinner (mix a twelve ounce can of chicken into a package of one of those boxed helper meals (Salisbury flavor is yummy) and use dry milk in place of cold milk...add a can of mushrooms, and cook according to the package instructions...An excellent meal! All without a refrigerator!...
THE OLD FRIDGE
THE STORY CONTINUES: COPING WITHOUT A FRIDGE
I lost weight because I could not refrigerate anything much. My freezer was about 45 degrees, so things like butter and eggs kept pretty well..but milk did not, and neither did ANY meat...I had to improvise. I discovered, for example, that GARLIC makes tuna salad a whole new treat! It makes it edible! (Yes, Mayo kept okay in the freezer at 45 degrees...I bought small jars)
Other tips and ideas:
The lack of meat meant that I had to buy canned meat. I discovered that canned corned beef, once chilled and sliced, makes great sandwiches...Canned chicken is pretty bland, so be sure to add spices to what you make with it! (Be sure to try the recipe above! it's good enough to serve to a Mother-In-Law!) Again, I recommend that you experiment with garlic-especially garlic salt. If you buy a cut of beef, use it FAST. It will not keep overnight. So plan to cook it within a few hours of coming home from the store. Plan meals that will be totally consumed by your family or yourself. Leftovers must be eaten FAST. (What is it about leftovers, anyway? Why do they mold so fast??? LOL!)
If you are substituting an ice chest for my broken fridge, here are some more ideas:
1. DO NOT OPEN THE CHEST FREQUENTLY. (Duh!) Plan your openings of broken fridge or ice chest like the Invasion of D-Day. Your goal is to get everything you need out of it in one fell swoop. (I cannot believe I am writing about how to save the cold in your ice chest. This all of a sudden seems hilarious to me. Does it seem hilarious to you???)
2. Return the cold stuff to the cold compartment as quickly as you can..no letting things sit out.
3. Try DRY ICE. It costs more, but is less messy and lasts longer with these tips.
BACK TO THE STORY
As the summer went on, I got verrry clever at living with the heat. I became a night owl. I stayed up most of the night while it was cool, and went to bed about 4-6 am. I then slept to about 11 am, when the heat would drive me out of bed.
The A/C guy came, and pronounced my Central Air officially DEAD. So I had to think fast, because I have only an income of about $600 a month. Suddenly, I thought of pawn shops...wouldn't they, couldn't they, maybe they would have a/c units that people had hocked for money??? Guess what? I found a 10,000 BTU window unit that was practically brand-new for $60. Can you believe it? I paid an electrician $250 (I got a discount because I paid cash...) to not only wire a separate plug for the a/c unit in my bedroom, but to inspect all the wiring in my home. And I found out why the fuse was tripping.
You see, the window unit in the bedroom uses almost 15 amps by itself.That fuse (I found out) services not only the bedroom, but the bathroom and the living room...ceiling fans, too, were on that circuit....So, by giving the a/c its own fuse and outlet, no more fuse blowing!!! I paid for a 20 amp outlet even though the a/c unit was 15 amps, just in case a future a/c unit I bought would be 20 amp.The electrician told me the wiring and outlet were fine, and safe! Hooray!
So, when I installed the new window a/c unit in the kitchen, I was able to shut down the central air altogether!!! I have not gotten my next electric bill, but I bet it'll be a lot lower...It is, right now, $400 a month!!! That is because I had the central air running all the time, day and night.
All About Being Alone When Everything Goes Wrong...What I had to Do to Survive
I have been writing about this and that, and I realized that I was skirting the point of my article: How did I survive all of this? How did I cope? Did everything turn out okay? I need to tell you a little about myself for you to understand how I got into such a bad place...
I live all alone now...my husband left me in 2004...I thought I was going to join him in Texas after our daughter graduated from High School, but I guess I just did not see what was coming.
Yeah. As it turned out, he fell in love out there with someone else.
He postponed the inevitable, but in 2007, he finally asked for a divorce. This really hit me hard. I had had a lousy childhood...but a lot of people do. But mine was pretty bad as lousy childhoods go. I knew there was something very different and wrong with me when I was very small, and by fourth grade, I was sure- and so were all the other kids, so I got picked on. and was bullied. Why? I acted different. I was "strange". I had long crying jags, sometimes hiding in the school bathroom....I was terrified of everything and everyone. Even my own mom thought I was strange. Back then, nobody knew anything about autism. My own feelings terrified me. Sometimes, I felt such anger it seemed to boil inside of me like a volcano. Other days, my loneliness would overcome me. I was really bright, but I had no clue when it came to human interaction. The other kids hazed me and hazed me, and nobody did anything about it. I learned to fear people, and frankly, I had good reason to fear them.
Fast forward to the present [meaning 2010]. I live alone now because I am so full of fear, so afraid of rejection, so afraid of being hurt by people that I have gradually withdrawn from an active life. Losing my husband was a terrible blow, and I took it hard.
I went completely out of my mind with terror and shame and loss. I did so many nutty and wrong things that year that most of my family stopped talking to me. They have reiterated that it is permanent... [Author's Note 2016: It apparently is, as I have had no contact with almost all of them since then. I do not deserve a "life sentence" for being nutty for a year, but there you have it. There is no forgiveness in some families. I "lost" three of my four children, and all three of my sisters. Trust was broken. But fences cannot be mended without contact.]
I did one thing right in 2007: I returned to college part time. The credits have been piling up, and I may finish by next May 2011....maybe. Because when the refrigerator broke, and the air conditioning failed, and I had no money, and I had no family support, I really, really lost it. Nobody knows the hell I went through, or how much I considered suicide. I really could not see any viable future for myself as I was: I was still as messed up this summer as I was in fourth grade...despite all the counseling, nobody figured out what was really, truly wrong with me back then.
God finally intervened in my life, and He got my attention when everything started to really go bad with the house. I mean, you just do not want to be in Southern Mississippi in summer with no air conditioning, and no refrigerator, and no friends and barely any family, and an income of $600.
I took a Leave of Absence from college, and decided to just take some time to regroup.
I was living a life constantly filled at all times with terror. I could not control my moods. I was completely lost. I also have to mention here that I have a disintegrating spine, from genetics and from a car accident that destroyed my fusion in my back. I had a flesh-eating bacteria consume my right knee last year (2009) and have spent this past year enduring multiple operations to save my leg. I also suffer from chronic daily migraines...the list goes on and on.Suffice to say that I have been in great pain for a long time, have been on pain medicine for years, which has NOT helped my relations with my family. I do not think that they understand just how much pain I am in, nor do they understand my mental illness, nor has anyone put it all together into one big, bad package....But I only am telling you this so you understand why I found myself so isolated and alone this past summer.
When I admitted the terror and pain and fear to my counselor, it was like the walls inside me all fell down. I just did not care to hide the pain anymore.
It was WAY TOO BIG.
I spent all of May, June, July, and August eating the Broken Refrigerator Diet. I lost 25 pounds without any effort. But that Broken Fridge brought me to my knees.
I surrendered, and guess what? Once I admitted everything I had been feeling all my life, I finally, finally, finally, finally got some help from God. My medical conditions are not going to improve. My spine is disintegrating bit by bit.
But the best part was finding out that I that I was autistic. It explained so much! I gobbled up all the information I could. It was like being given the keys to my own inner kingdom.
I returned to school, and because of that, I was finally able to purchase a new refrigerator.
THE NEW FRIDGE
TO SUM IT ALL UP
I have learned a great deal this summer.
I am stronger than I ever thought.
That a wet washcloth, and a bowl of water, and a fan, work pretty well as substitute air conditioning. (LOL!)
I learned about patience...I had to wait a long, long time to buy a new fridge. But the time came when I finally had the money, and I went to Lowe's and picked out a beautiful new fridge, with next-day delivery.
I learned more about patience when the new fridge was delivered, and it did not fit!!!! IT HAD TO BE RETURNED>>>>CAN YOU BELIEVE MY LUCK?????
I just never thought about measuring the size of my old fridge. I needed a shorter, smaller fridge, and had to go back to Lowe's, and pick out another fridge....and wait again.
But now I have a great, Energy Star-rated fridge. I found out the old one was using $40 a month in electricity....The new one is supposed to use $57 A YEAR!!!!
I learned a whole new way of eating- small, frequent meals just work better for me...I never let myself get too hungry, and for some reason, I am still losing weight. I found out that I absolutely HATE heavy dinners. It took this summer for me to realize that I don't like to eat a lot of food at night. I just don't. And since I live alone, I can do whatever I please! Instead of feeling all lonely and alone, I now feel (just a little bit, but it is a start) free to do absolutely whatever I want to do.
I have been writing up a storm.
The shut-down of the Central Air took place on August 25th, 2010. I called the Electric company, and asked them if they could tell if I was going to save any money or not with the central air off, and the three window units on....
Absolutely!!! The usage dropped from a huge 164 KW per day down to a low day of only 30 KW!!! The women on the phone told me the bill should initially be at least $100 cheaper, maybe more, but the October Bill will definitely be less by more than half.
I think, of all the things I learned this summer, I learned that I am a survivor.
It took the Broken Refrigerator Diet to show me that.
I am praying that someday, all my broken relationships will be healed. But it is up to God now. He is running my show. Why? Because I finally realized that I cannot cope with my life all alone. I have help not only from people, but from God, too.