McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

Things I don’t understand

Home Cooked:

Why are “home cooked” or “made from scratch” considered positive attributes when advertising food. Am I the only one that has noticed that the goodness of home cooked food depends entirely on who’s at home cooking it? I can’t be only one who has ever eaten horrible food out of politeness when visiting friends.

I make an awful pie crust. It has the consistency of cardboard. So why would the fact that the one they want me to buy was made from scratch appeal to me? Give me the pie crust that was perfected in a test kitchen and found to be the most popular with focus groups. Give me the pie crust that comes out perfectly every single time. You can keep your “made from scratch” pie crust and I’ll have the “focus-group tested” pie crust and we’ll see whose taste buds are happier.

Family Owned:

Why do businesses advertise that they are “family- owned”? Why are we supposed to be drawn to choosing them over their competitors? My family’s crazy. Why would I believe yours is any better? We can barely make it through a meal. Why would I think you can function well all day at work together? None of the children grew up and had the gumption to go out and find work of their own. They all had to go to work for their parents because they couldn’t find their own job. Definitely not inspiring. Are these the people I should put my trust in to have a job professionally and competently taken care of? I’m dubious.


Where did they come from? I suspect some crazy scientist figured out how to mate a mouse with an aggressive German Shepherd. They’re too little to be a dog. They have the attitude of royalty. Why have they become so popular? I don’t get it. Their bark is shrill enough to make you wish you were deaf and it never stops. Their nails on the floor boards, like nails on a chalkboard, can drive you slowly insane. Like I said, I don’t understand it.

My neighbor’s bumper sticker:

My neighbor has a bumper sticker on his car that says, “Break Jaws not Laws”. It’s so confusing to me? Who printed up those stickers and what is the message they’re trying to convey? Should I tell him that breaking someone’s jaw is actually against the law and in fact a second degreed felony,,,possibly first degree depending on the circumstances? Every day as I walk past with my dog these questions go through my mind and I simply don’t get it. It does make me worry about my neighborhood a little bit though.

It’s not the procedure…it’s the prep!

Young people don’t think about it all. Those inching toward fifty begin to worry about it. It’s the ever-present threat of the colonoscopy. People who haven’t experienced it worry about the idea of someone putting a camera up their ass. As someone who is prepping for her seventh one, I can ease your mind. It’s not the procedure you should be worried about…it’s the prep.

You won’t even remember the procedure. You will experience no pain or discomfort. You will wake up and it will be as if nothing happened. If it wasn’t for the pictures they’re so proud to show you…you’d think it never happened.

Now, you may not even have to experience it. There is a new, non-invasive option that comes right to your home in a box with a little cartoon character on it. This option is available to those over 45 who are at average risk for colon cancer. Unfortunately, with a brother who died at the young age of thirty-nine from a very aggressive form of colon cancer, this does not describe me. I began having colonoscopies at the age of forty and have had one every three years since until my last doctor took pity on me and told me I could go five years.

Five years have now passed and it’s that time again and the prep has changed considerably. Now it begins three days before the procedure with a list of foods you are not allowed to eat. The list contains literally everything you normally eat. For a person like myself, trying to recover from an eating disorder, it’s been a bit difficult.

Every healthy food that I’ve attempted to bring into my diet in the last twenty years is on the “unallowed” list. No vegetables with skin, no fruit with seeds or skin, no dark colored food, no leafy vegetables, no whole grains. Basically, you can eat white bread and bananas and believe me, for obvious reasons, you’ll need the colonoscopy prep after a three-day diet of that.

They tell you that you can eat muffins, they’re on the okay list, but I can’t figure that out. You can’t eat blueberry muffins because they have skins and are blue; you can’t eat lemon poppyseed muffins, because they have seeds; you can’t eat corn muffins, because they have corn; you can’t eat bran muffins, because they have whole grain; so, what muffins are they referring to? Believe me during my three days of white bread and bananas I looked hard for a muffin that was allowable.

At noon today I begin a liquid diet. Nothing to analyze there. No list required. And then tonight the worst part of the prep begins. And it’s not the all-night bowel movements. Even those are secondary. The truly worst part of the colonoscopy experience is drinking the prep solution. A gallon of the most foul-tasting stuff you will ever drink. Now, they have a smaller size prep, but insurances refuse to cover it, so if you are on a budget, it’s still a gallon of foul for you. You dread it from the first moment you get the letter telling you it’s time for the procedure again.

This time, a compassionate medical assistant took pity on me and gave the smaller prep free of charge. I will get back to you with a postscript later and let you know if the smaller prep is any easier to tolerate. Think of how unexciting your life must be that getting to drink a smaller prep solution is the highlight in an otherwise uneventful life. Or don’t think about that, because who wants to read about a writer who has a more boring life than they do?

Postscript to Prep and Procedure:  The smaller prep is every bit as disgusting as the larger jug of prep. In some ways it is worse, with more bloating and pain. I will have to have this procedure at least two more times and I promise you I will never again be using a liquid prep. Apparently, a new tablet colonoscopy preparation has received approval from the FDA and is now available. Naturally, your insurance won’t cover the cost, but I say it’s worth any price. I am beginning my Colonoscopy Prep savings account today. All contributions gladly accepted.

Good Girls

I spent the last two nights binge-watching “Good Girls Revolt” on Prime. The story of a group of women who sue over their treatment at a male-dominated newsweekly in 1969-70. The series is a fictionalized adaptation of Lynn Povich’s book by the same name. The Story chronicles a sexual-discrimination lawsuit filed against Newsweek in 1970 by Povich and 45 other female staffers. (They eventually settled with Newsweek.)

I couldn’t stop watching. Even if you are not interested in this story line, it is a completely accurate portrayal of the times. If you came of age in the seventies, as I did, it was like stepping back in time. It took me back to the days of free love and Frye boots. Of men and women trying to build relationships not knowing what we wanted because it was still unclear what was possible.

It was great acting, yes, and a good story, but the main reason I couldn’t stop watching was because it was also my story. It is every woman’s story who came of age in the seventies and wanted a career.  We believed we could change the world, and we set out to do so, not realizing that the ingrained sexism of our fathers was alive and well in their sons.

In 1975 I moved to Washington, DC. Coming from a poor background, I didn’t have the quality of education of my peers, or the knowledge of how the world worked. All I had was my brain, my hard work, and my perseverance. I eventually took a job as a “researcher/administrative assistant” for a political pundit; a conservative democrat who had worked in the Johnson administration and was now the token Democrat at a conservative Republican think tank.

I spent a year researching background material and data for his newspaper column and PBS show. At the end of that time, he decided to review the data he used for the articles, bring it up to date, and publish it as a book. To that end, he told me, he was hiring a young man who had just graduated from Yale because “a young woman like myself would be bored working with all those numbers”. I quit in protest shortly after.

A year later, when the book was published, I was back in the office to meet a couple of girlfriends for lunch. My former employer saw me the hallway and ran back to his office to give me a signed copy of his book. I immediately opened it to the credit page where in one sentence he “thanked me for typing” and then spent three paragraphs enthusiastically singing the praises of the young man who had simply updated my original research. My girlfriends had to drag me into the elevator to keep me from going into his office and telling him what I thought of him. They advised me “not to burn my bridges” and then they willingly spent their lunch hour listening to me rant about the unfairness.

I am still friends with both of these women. We just yesterday were emailing about getting together to catch up.  And, I suppose they were right about not burning my bridges. I’m sure that line on my resume and that reference helped me further my career. I also suspect that his comment about my not wanting to trouble my pretty, little head with numbers (which I will never forget) is partially why I chose to eventually go into Finance and work with numbers every day.

Thirty years spent just trying to prove one chauvinist wrong. It makes me wonder every day where all of us would be now if only we had begun with equal opportunity. So, millennials, don’t write off us baby boomers quite so quickly. You may not believe us to be as “woke” as you, but we did the hard work of breaking the barriers that makes the life you lead today possible.

My morning rant

Spontaneous Sex Reversal – Is That My Hen Crowing?!

I realized as I walked my dog this morning, or she walked me, that I truly am prejudiced. I really hate city chickens. I have always preferred city life and one of the reasons is because it’s not a farm. It really bothers me that a group of people, most of whom have never been on a farm in their life, got to be responsible for making a law to allow chickens inside the city limits.

If they’d been on a farm, they would know that chickens bring rats (they feed on the coop’s food and water), and that’s one of the reasons every farm has barn cats. So now everyone has a chicken coop in their backyard and the rats have followed the food. But we’ve rounded up all he feral cats and given them homes so there is no one left to patrol the coop. The city is left with a rat infestation. And everyone acts as if they don’t know how it happened. Once the rat infestation arrives in your neighborhood, and I assure it’s already in your neighborhood if not your home, it will take months and a big pocketbook to rid yourselves of them. The horror stories abound of rats in the walls and dogs who are afraid of them.

The cities ban backyard roosters because they think the crowing will disturb neighbors, and it does, but they do this without even thinking about how they are disturbing the natural order of things. There is supposed to be Rooster in the coop. When there isn’t one, just like everywhere else in life, a pecking order gets established and the top hen that sits above all the others will often display some masculine traits such as crowing.

And so now every morning, all around the city, including next door to me, the chickens are crowing, and us city folk still haven’t figured out why. We also apparently haven’t figured out you can buy farm eggs in stores.

The Old Bulldog

My dog and I go for a walk every morning when we awake. On our usual route, depending on the time, we often meet an old bulldog. He walks slowly across the street toward us, stops just before he gets to us, and pees without lifting his leg. Then he retreats. I believe that in his mind he believes he is still young and is racing across that street to greet a friend until his body betrays him and his bladder releases without his permission.

I’m a lot like that old bulldog. Every morning I get up and take my walk, go to work, and in my mind I’m still a young, fashionable woman, looking good and feeling fine. This lasts until something happens that reminds me of my real age.

Recently my boss and I went to view office space, contemplating a move. When we got outside, he asked me what I thought of the space. I told him the interior was intriguing ,but it lacked curb appeal. He agreed and said he didn’t like the fact that a Harley parked in front. “Really, you mean I can’t ride my Harley to work?’  His response: “I have hard time picturing you on a Harley, Mac.”

Really? I’ve been on the back of many Harleys in my day… and Kawasaki 500s… and every spring when the sun first comes out and I begin to hear the motors around town I crave to hop on the back of one again and feel the wind in my hair. Just for a moment. Just a little trip around the block would be great.

It fascinates me that as soon as you get enough grey in your hair to ensure the world that you’ve lived a life, people automatically begin to assume you have done nothing of interest.  I imagine my boss thinks that I sit at home and knit at night like old ladies are supposed to. Truth be told, I do a bit of knitting, but I do a lot more of other things, and always have.

It made me wonder what people think when they meet me now. Do they simply look at my grey hair and old body and assume that I’ve lived a quiet suburban life? Because the life I have really lived is so much different than that. I have lived in multiple places, I have traveled extensively, I have loved many people, and I have experienced so much of life. Mostly, I have danced, and I will still be dancing long after the music has ended.

So, the next time you meet a grey-haired person who may be walking a bit slower than they used to, remember it means they have lived a life, and in their minds, they are still a young bulldog racing across the street to meet a friend.


See the source image

My doctor recently told me that a very large lump on my wrist (the size of a jaw breaker if anyone remembers what those are) is most likely not malignant but rather a “fatty tumor”. I think it speaks volumes about my mental health that I was far more upset about her calling something on my body “fatty” than I was relieved about not having cancer again.

I have considered myself “fat” my entire life. Oddly, it’s only now when I truly am fat that I realize for most of my life I was perfectly within normal range. For many years I was a size 8 or 10 petite. But, at the time, I still viewed myself as fat. My mother had the same issue. As an older woman, she was beyond tiny; a size 6 petite hung on her in the end. Yet she still talked about her “fat”. Her fat that no longer even existed. Rather than slimming down as I age, as my mother did, I have doubled in size. Truly, if some mad scientist knew how, we could make two humans out of me. Perhaps one could carry on under my old name (since SSA refuses to change it anyway) and Mckenzie James could go off and enjoy a new life.

After a trauma a few years ago, I began to eat to soothe myself and haven’t quit yet. Because of COVID, and everyone being isolated, it was easy not to notice as I gained and gained. Now it is as though I’ve woken up from a deep sleep and see myself for the first time in years. The necessary weight loss seems an insurmountable goal. But necessary for my health, my self-esteem, and most importantly for an old fashionista, to preserve my fashion sense. 

I have reached the point where I can no longer shop in normal department stores. I now am consigned to the “plus-size” stores. I can tell you, although they try hard to describe it differently, plus-size clothing hasn’t changed much in years. Now all 12 of the major stores can be found on the same website, carrying mostly the same over-sized moo moos sold at Woolworth’s in the fifties and sixties. Although the word muʻumuʻu means “cut off” in Hawaiian, because the dress originally lacked a yoke, that’s not how the fashion industry spells it, is it? I have long suspected designers spell it differently for obvious reasons. And who wants to wear clothing named after the sound a cow makes? No one does.

This all was driven home for me recently as I shopped for a dress to wear to a wedding and realized that retailers may have gotten it wrong with this move to plus-size models. If the idea is to sell more clothes, it isn’t working for me. When I shop, I want to believe that I’m going to look great in the clothes I buy. I know that’s no longer possible in reality, but I want to believe it for a moment. I want my illusion as I’m doling out my dollars.

Yesterday I scrolled through pages and pages of dresses worn by women my size and thought, “if that’s what I’m going to look like, why spend the money?” They’ve taken away the illusion, and illusion is what sold clothes. I guess I should thank them for saving me money because I didn’t purchase anything, and I am DEFINITELY having this fatty tumor surgically removed!

I Scream

I’ve taken to screaming in my car. I scream daily now. At the top of my lungs, for as long and as hard as I can. And then, sometimes, I feel better. Why do I scream? Because it seems as though absolutely nothing happens seamlessly anymore. Every single thing, big or small, that I attempt to accomplish becomes an enormous frustration. From the fact that the Social Security offices throughout the nation have been closed for business for over a year now, to buying a shade umbrella, nothing is simple anymore. Last year my shade umbrella blew across the yard the first week I owned it and busted into bits and pieces. So, this year I went online, I researched which umbrellas are least likely to fly away, I researched prices, and I purchased a cantilever umbrella at what I thought was a good price. I brought it home and went to set it up only to realize it was sold without a base. I went back to the store. They said, “oh yeah, we don’t sell one with it. We don’t sell one at all. Get your husband to rig something up.” Seriously? I screamed in my car. I went online and looked for the best price on a cantilever umbrella base. I purchased a water-filled umbrella base for an offset cantilever umbrella. I waited two weeks for it to arrive. On the first really hot day of Spring (86 degrees Fahrenheit) I took it outside, I set up the umbrella (no small feat as it was really heavy and, like most things would have been easier with two people). I then got out the umbrellas base, filled each of the four pieces with water, and put the base on the umbrella. Again, not as easy as it sounds with the water each of the four pieces weighing 75 to 80 pounds. I then opened the umbrella only to have it immediately break. I got in my car and screamed while driving down the road to the local convenience store!

Today I loaded the umbrella in my car and had a good scream on the way to the store where I very calmly returned it.

Screaming. It’s highly underrated. Scream in most places and people look at you weirdly or come running. Scream in places, like theatres and on airplanes and others will join in. Scream alone in your car and you can release your frustrations into the universe and disturb no one. I recommend it. Lately, I can’t get through a day without at least one good, loud, roaring scream.


Pavlov misunderstood the level of my addiction

My dog will do anything for food. Absolutely anything. So you would think that “clicker” training would work for her. However, Pavlov’s old theory where he gave food to the dogs while ringing a bell thereby conditioning the dog to expect food when the bell rang, only proved the expectation. The conditioned response was salivation. My dog will respond to the clicker and behave appropriately without a treat a few times, but you can’t fool her more than that. It might make her salivate but it will not make her heal.

Think about it. If someone gave me chocolate and rang a bell. Yes, I would do anything they wanted, but I had better be getting the chocolate. I might be forgiving the first few times the chocolate didn’t come, but after that, I would start getting frustrated, and then angry. No one wants an angry Mckenzie, or an angry dog.

I guess I’m thinking about this today because I’ve been conditioned to expect that when the stores put out their Valentine’s offerings in January Trader Joe’s will begin to stock the much coveted Dark Chocolate Mini Heart Cookies. Just one more thing to blame on the damn pandemic. The shelves are empty and they do not know when or if they will carry them again.

These cookies are so good they would make anyone salivate. I’m salivating just writing this post. But for naught. Dreamy, delicious, dark chocolate covered chocolate shortbread cookies. I honestly do not know how I will get through the winter now. Sigh…


Feeling Nostalgic for the Holiday Card

I miss holiday cards. I still get some, and I send and give them, but it’s not like it used to be. I can remember at one time having a card list that was over a hundred names long. Probably closer to two hundred. The day after Thanksgiving every year I’d spend the long weekend writing, addressing, and stamping holiday cards while I watched my favorite holiday movies. You can get a lot done during the 130 minutes of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, especially if it’s your 100th time watching, and you know every word by heart. For me, it was a peaceful and festive way to spend the weekend.

I love everything about the holiday card tradition. I look forward to picking the perfect one that matches exactly how I’m feeling that year. I enjoy figuring out what to write inside, as I always write something more than just a signature. I savor choosing the pens I’m going to write with. I like the annual updating of my contacts and verifying of addresses involved in the process which sometime means a conversation you wouldn’t otherwise have had. For years now I’ve also purchased smaller blank cards with a festive drawing or scene on the front which I us e when sending thanks for any Christmas gifts

I also enjoy getting holiday cards in my mailbox and seeing which greetings each of my friends, acquaintances and work mates have chosen: some religious, some humorous, some simply festive. I have one friend who always sends the tiniest most exquisite holiday cards. I know it’s her each year the moment I see the small envelope in my mailbox. I have another who always sends humorous, sometimes borderline lewd, greetings. I cherish each one I get.

Some years I have lined them up on the mantel, or strung them across the wall with lights, or bought special holiday card holders and displayed them in the shape of a Christmas tree or a star, or simply covered my refrigerator with them. Whatever I choose to do it brings me joy every time I see them and remember all the connections I’ve made in the world. Some people I only hear from during the holidays each year. It’s special. It’s as if we’re nodding to each saying,” I know we don’t talk much anymore, but I remember you, and I remain fond of you.”

I get a lot of holiday wishes emailed, or sent via text, now and it’s just not as meaningful. You can’t hold on to it. You can’t put it with all your others to make you smile when you see them every day. Digital greetings are a nice thought, but they feel fleeting, and they don’t have the same beauty and character that paper greetings hold. I know I’m old and the younger generations have their own ways of making and sustaining connections, but I can’t help but feel they missed out on something special when the holiday card went digital

A Very Brief Update on My Fashion Addiction

All I noticed when lining my masks up to take this picture was that many colors are missing and I clearly need more!

The fashion accessory of 2020!

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