Monday, December 29, 2008

Prepping for New Resolutions--PLEASE!!

It's almost that time. . . New Year's, the time to reflect and make resolutions. I hate New Year's. It always makes me depressed. The same blasted resolutions each year makes life seem futile.

I was reading Refuse to Regain--a post by psychologist Barbara Berkeley, called How Is Your IBM Doing? IBM is an acronym for Intake Balance Mechanism. She's using it about eating and food, mostly about sugars and starches. Of course, it's an interesting concept to apply to all of life, don't you think?

Anyhow, in her post, she talks about NOWs (never overweight people) and POWs (previously overweight people) and SAD (the Standard American Diet), but I didn't see an acronym for currently overweight people. (Afterall her site is about Refusing to Regain.) I commented on this. Surely, she wouldn't call us COWs, nor SOWs (still overweight people or struggling), so I guessed maybe just "OWs"?? That fits, I think.

She says, "Neither do I believe in many of the accepted theories about how we gain weight." Nor do I. I just, as of yet, don't have the thinner present to reckon with this. . .

So I have a few days to get ready to think about the new year. What I will and won't put on myself. Think specifically. Maybe think in only 2 week increments. . . Put more on actions than on rules. . .

Must go. . . told Dad I was going to get a shower 45 minutes ago. . .

Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Ahhhh. . . .

Another ahhhh day. I took vacation days while my dad is here for the week. We're sitting around--Dad reading a Ken Follet book; Hubby roaming aimlessly about, now playing the piano, now doing laundry, now God knows where, but not with his feet up in the room with us--he is just not a good relaxer.

Guess I need to get around and dressed. Hubby wants to go to the store. I want to get ingredients to make cassoulet one night. I love the rosemary with the white beans. . . and the garlic. We'll also splurge on Beef Wellington one night.

I'm looking forward to having some time to enjoy all my X-mas books. Hubby got lots and lots on my Wish list: a few books by This American Life writers, as well as Roy Blount, Jr., Bailey White, and Hate That Cat--a kind of sequel to Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. He read both of them aloud to me and Mom on X-mas night. Such lovely stories. And my sister read A Christmas Memory aloud to a roomful of people the weekend before for our X-mas exchange. Hubby gave me the DVD version with Patty Duke that I am looking forward to watching.

My oldest stepson's family was really great about giving me gifts from my wish list to inspire me to get back on track: Half-Assed by the Pastaqueen and a Moosewood cookbook and a pair of Thorlo walking socks!

I gave Hubby several books about walks around Atlanta, and he's committed to getting a puppy! The stipulation is we have to read the two raising puppy books first so we will know what we are doing. We are strongly leaning toward a golden doodle.

I haven't taken pictures yet, but seredipitiously 2 of our Santa ornaments fell off the tree during gift distribution. They both fell on their backs, legs and arms sprawled as though they fell into an exhausted, baby-in-the-cereal sleep.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ahhhhh. . . .

It is 11:10 AM on Christmas Eve.

For many many Christmas Eve's in the past, this was the time when my table would be set and decorated and we'd either have a few guests here for brunch or be waiting for the first ones to arrive.

I had been feeling a bit sad about the loss of this tradition. This year my office's holiday schedule felt very stingy. We get only tomorrow off--and only New Year's Day off-not the days after nor today, the day before. It was making me feel cranky and a bit persecuted--never mind that it was happening to all the rest of the people not getting the holiday either. Thankfully, I have paid vacation days.

But right now, I'm sitting with my feet up, laptop actually on lap, listening to Christmas music, with the tree lit (thought the day is now bright enough for the lights to no longer have much of the required backdrop for best viewing). And, you know what? It may not be the tradition, but right now it is feeling pretty good.

I've been sick. I need the break. I need the relief in my head from the anxiety of this crazy economic time. Is anyone else experiencing anxiety from all the layoffs and lack of shopping and mortgage issues? My overall feeling is just this impending doom and hearing over and over in my head, "what to do? what to do?" Cutting back on Starbucks isn't going to be enough. . . .

Brushing that aside. . . sweep . . . sweep. . .

Here are a few random holiday memories, feel free to share yours too!

Memory 1
I remember one Christmas in Missouri at my Grandparents' house. My sister and I had gotten walkie talkies for Christmas. It was snowing lightly. Two of my uncles took off in the neighborhood in different directions, each with a group of cousins in tow. Up hills, down hills around corners, it was like a 20-year early (more?) premonition of the cell phone commercials: "Can you hear me now?" So much giggling, for such mundane conversation over the wires. . from David St. to Leroy, to Masters Drive. . .

Memory 2
Our first Thanksgiving in Boston was my first one as an "adult," where I didn't go to my grandparents'. It made me very sad. Hubby & I awoke to a foot of snow, feeling grateful then that we'd bought a duck to cook and didn't have anywhere we needed to drive. The field across the parking lot from our apartment complex was a big plane of ice--a solid, crunchy layer on top of the snow. My sweet Katie dog was light enough to stay on top. To her delight, when I crunched through, little balls of ice cracked from the surface. One piece skated a bit away from us. . . and that was the start! Ice hockey! I'd throw an ice puck and she'd run across ice and slide, spinning tail first to catch it, then poof! Head first into a snow bank. Hubby said he could hear even the echos of my laughter from inside our apartment. We played for hours.

Memory 3
One Oct. my friend, Karen , and I took a road trip from Boston to her home in Turbyville, SC then to my mom's in Atlanta. While in Turbyville, I got a glimpse of one of her family's Christmas traditions.

All the way down 95, eating bologna sandwiches in the car because Karen was determined to stop as little as possible, she told me stories of her elderly cousins Lurleen and Dicey. Yes, their real names. I'm not sure if they were her mother's cousins or her grandmother's or maybe not even true cousins at all.

A few days into our visit--after the surreal night at Grandma Reena's who was watching Lawrence Welk when we came in, who lived across from a cotton field, and whose house was the darkest I have ever been in at night with absolutely no ambient light, we took a drive to Lurleen's and Dicey's.

As we passed the kitchen, we spoke to the cook who came in every day for them. Were we going to stay to eat fried pork chops and black eyed peas and greens for lunch? To my surprise and dismay, Karen said no. . . we didn't want to intrude. (One of the things I love most about Karen is how she intrudes into families. . . )

Dicey & I sat on Dicey's double bed, and Karen sat next to Lurleen's side on her bed, which she never left anymore, and that was directly across from Dicey's. It was one of the largest bedrooms I've ever seen. There were 2 bedrooms, but the sisters had always shared one.

We chatted about Karen's family. And she told Lurleen and Dicey stories about me--spats we'd had in the car ride down (she claimed I drove like Mr. Magoo--oblivious to the devastation I left behind me); how she'd eaten the last pieces of bologna at my house before I could say anything--even though we were leaving hubby without a car for more than week; how her niece had sucked me in with tall tales about baby chickens on their chicken farm.

After lots of laughter and some tears from both joy and sadness, Dicey asked Karen if she would be able to come back for Christmas. Karen apologetically told her no that she didn't think she could afford another visit so soon. And while we expected a sad response, instead, Dicey clapped and brightened and said, "Well then, you get your Christmas Lipstick now!"

"Oh, you're in for a treat," Karen said to me.

Bags removed from the closet had their contents poured onto Dicey's bedspread. Piles of tubes of lipstick. Every color. Every name. Every brand. Pick the one you like, Dicey tells us. Some like 'em bright, some don't. Take the one you want.

Karen tells me this is what they've always done, these 2 sisters. All year they collect lipstick. Enough lipstick for all the women in the family, all ages of females--girls and grands. Mostly all Southerners, and a few displaced ones, like Karen and now me. They can't afford more, but they want to give this. This bit of a lady's indulgence, this bit of seduction or church polish, this bit of bonding between only women.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday or Detour? Part II



(For my philosophy, read part I)

Hubby does not view this time as a holiday, rather for him, it is a big detour--and all the aggravation detours bring.
The first Christmas tree Hubby & I put up together wouldn't stay in the stand, and kept falling on his head. I guess this was a BIG sign; one that I missed!
I'm not saying he's not generous, he is--very. I'm the one who gets curmudgeonly, feeling like people don't even know what I've given them, much less appreciate the time I took, the money I spent, or the great deal of consideration I made in the purchase. I'm the one who gets sad and unattractively annoyed about the people in my life who are eternally disappointed with gifts because they think I should be able to afford so much more.
He's quite childlike in spirit and fun. He draws the cutest teeny pictures on my gift tags and signs gifts from all sorts of inventive people (the mechanics for Santa's sleigh, for instance). And he's always saying he wants to socialize more and be around more people--as well as do cultural things, like go to concerts and plays--those very things we do more of during these holidays.
Despite these efforts, the holidays fill him with angst. They are a big detour from the clean, well-lighted life he leads. For one thing, he hates the mess. He has zero patience for the clippings of gift wrapping. He obsessively insists on carefully placing each gift under the tree so it doesn't look haphazard. He gets physically anxious to have the leaf in the table any days after the leaf-requiring event.
The "holidays" also create a detour from the simple, comforting routines in our relationship: hanging out watching TV, shopping for groceries on the weekends, eating lunch out on Sun. As well as the newer things. . . me cooking dinner--carefully selecting our healthy meals; me keeping up with the laundry. He fears for my health and for the backlash he'll be a victim of after the holidays if I get all depressed about gaining weight. These are not unjustified concerns.
He worries about the money. His work slackens in Dec. & Jan. and the economy is really frightening right now. My company just laid off people and my old company in MA is completely closing its doors. And more than that, he really has an "I-hate-to-shop-on-demand, and I don't believe in this consumer-pushed gift-giving crapola" attitude. It largely comes down to being aggravated that he is culturally compelled to buy for others. My husband, the Christmas Rebel.
I admit that I let the spending go out of control. I tried this year. . . but . . .it's hard. . . But even to me, in cases where I buy from lists or feel forced to find a gift for someone I am completely uninspired to give to, it starts to feel a bit ridiculous. Why should I buy you what you want and you buy me what I want? Why not just buy it for ourselves?
Or worse, why are we just exchanging checks? Are these gestures so necessary to sustain our relationships? This year I tried to remedy some of those negative feelings by not getting so caught up in buying the exact same amount--package or money wise on people. I've tried to focus on one thing at a time, so the demands felt a little more spread out.
We've decided to go ahead and just give some people money--a huge step (cop out?) for me. They haven't seemed to help Hubby. We've often done more creative money-free things for each other, but not for the extended families. . .
The problem is, it's bigger than all this. He won't admit it, but this detour just represents the most fearful thing in this life--that time is running out. (Not so unlike ol' Ebeneezer's biggest fear, eh?)
Since the cancer, this has only been amplified. His fear seeps into me. . .the panicked eating and depression I went through during and after his treatment. He wants a straight course to get to the things he wants and any detour is panic causing because he is not sure of the path.
He doesn't have the confidence that he knows how to get there on his own--that he is talented enough. He thinks he needs me like a child thinks he needs training wheels. It's not that he just wants us to be together. . .or he would be more willing to take my holiday detour. He'd shop with me, watch TV in the room where I wrap presents, chat about menus. Instead he stays at home, blocked by the detour of the holiday, feeling abandoned as I wind through the holiday maze.
He sees this as a detour of the focus on him. A focus he is panicked about keeping. Like if he looks away--if I look away--he will disappear. He's not unhealthy. Not on his deathbed. He's just always feeling like he's sliding down the chute instead of climbing up the ladder and the game is coming to a close. And it leaves me lost.
I feel like my delight in the holidays crushes him, like that first tree. A time I want to feel closer makes him bruised. He's angry; I'm defensive.
It will be fine, I know that. . . until it resolves. . .we'll fill in with Falalalalas.
So how do you see Christmas--as a Holiday from the routine? Or a Detour from your goals or directed course?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday or Detour? Part I


OR ARE YOU LIKE THIS? If so, you're like my much beloved hubby.



I'm one of those people who likes Christmas. And Thanksgiving. Not so much New Year's. . .

I like visiting with family--at their houses or mine. I like entertaining for friends. . .figuring out the recipes, the right combo of foods that will blend and compliment each other; the right combo of complexity in recipes, some that are super simple, some that are more complex. I like deciding on how to decorate the table, using dishes that basically only get used for this season. I even like accomplishing some de-cluttering --removing that stuff that usually just sits around the rest of the year

I like setting up my collections of Santas and snowmen and birds for my Christmas tree. I can't help myself; I pick out new things to add every year.

I like the holiday music. I like hearing 18 different versions of the same Christmas song, especially if they are quite different instead of just a little different. (Who couldn't be struck by the jubilant rhythms from Black Nativity?)

One the the greatest things I've ever heard was our friend Mark singing the bass part of Handel's Messiah at the church he sings for (he's one of those HIRED singers); I was so amazed at the beauty of his voice, I nearly wept.

I love the communal holiday excuse that makes it OK to sing aloud--that everyone sings along. Once in New England, we went to RI for this outdoor Christmas festival. . . it was cold. . .but people were in Victorian costume on the sidewalks singing, ringing bells. . . just like out of Dickens. It was like a sugarplum dream come true.

I love A Christmas Carol. I own Scrooge and The Muppets' Christmas Carol and watch them both more than once a year. I watch other TV versions if I find them. It's the same with It's a Wonderful Life.

In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, every time I see the dog Max (I admit I had to look up his name) on the back of that sleigh with his tongue hanging out, I at least smile--but I'm more apt to have a hearty giggle.

I adore the music from A Charlie Brown's Christmas, even though my friend, Anma said it was the saddest, saddest music and that she always found the Peanuts specials depressing because the background behind the characters is so dark.

I love Gene Autry's Christmas music and can't get beyond thinking that a child's holidays would be bereft without it.

I get a great deal of pleasure shopping for gifts for people I love. These are the easy ones: buying for people who need a lot of things but can't afford them or who spend on others first (who usually don't need it as much )--like MY MOTHER; buying for people who appreciate anything I pick for them and who squeal with delight--just in the gift selection process I am taken back to warm and happy times--like for My SISTER. I like picking out small cute or beautiful things to surprise people who aren't expecting anything from me.

I love colored lights. During the holiday season, even a red stoplight on a midnight blue sky somehow seems more beautiful and vivid to me.

I love fat Santas.

I like Christmas shopping in a light snow, and I am heart warmed by stores that gift wrap for free.

And I love the little surprises and elegant delights that make up stocking stuffers. My favorite will always be the little bottle of White Shoulders perfume my mom gave me one of last years my parents were still together.

I consider Thanksgiving and Christmas and the time in between and until New Year's a holiday. I'm not saying I get the whole time off from work. . . but it's a holiday from my usual life. I fill in all my spare minutes with shopping online, looking at catalogs & sales papers, creating lists--people to send cards to, things to do, grocery items--wrapping gifts, decorating, and shopping. It's tiring. But I like it.

I debated this year whether I should really do these usual things or if I should toe the line and stay focused on going to the gym and the pool and planning and cooking healthy dinners. All that is new enough for me that I can't really fit it in and have a holiday. I decided I would feel worse to give up the holiday. The holidays invigorate me and cheer me. They get me ready for January--the only real winter month in Atlanta. (Thank goodness!) I need the color and songs of this holiday to make it through the bleak midwinter. And there have plenty of years where I didn't have the energy and spirit to get out of depression to feel this energized for celebrating.

I talked to PhD about it. She advised taking the holiday in chunks--not abandoning all healthy eating and behavior, but paring back on it. In the last week, with the laryngitis, I've been less than stellar at following her advice, but still. . . I felt this huge burden of anxiety leave me when we talked about it. I mean, it's either let myself have the holiday, or let myself have it with a HUGE, weighted burden of GUILT on the top of it. This year, I tried to let go of the guilt. I'll take the consequences--good and bad. Or at least I'll try to. Because after all, 'Tis the season . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Christmas Gifts to You

These are some of my favorite books. They are really for people of all ages. I often give them as gifts to people I love.

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. I've linked to my favorite illustrated version.

This is the kind of story where you know from the first paragraph that you will love it. Every word is so carefully chosen.

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
I want to write stories like this that set such scenes. And with lines that put you so in the very moment with like this last one, " . . . it [a dilapidated old baby carriage] has winter uses too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rate terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now."

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This is a story in verse. You'll fly through these little journal sketches by a boy learning about poetry for the first time as he experiments with the form himself. It's wonderful and touching. Hubby & I read it out loud together.

Another of my favorites is a story in free verse: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Here's its wonderful beginning:
As summer wheat came ripe,
so did I,
born at home, on the kitchen
Ma crouched,
barefoot, bare bottomed
over the swept

This one is just as delightful, but more work to read: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. I give this away much more selectively. It takes concentration. So the good thing is that each chapter stands alone as a thoughtful piece. I read this with a Unitarian church group--a delightful experience.

Anything by Bailey White! My favorite story is "Something Like a Husband" in Mama Makes Up Her Mind. These stories are beautifully tight in miraculously few pages. She's great to listen to as well, and she has several audio cassettes.

Zippy by Haven Kimmel--this was a gift from one of my best friends. It is laugh out loud funny. I don't think I ever finished reading the last 10 pages or so because then it would have been over. Zippy is now one of my favorite characters--right there with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, Ellen in Ellen Foster, and Frankie in Member of the Wedding.

A Bit of Holiday Spirit

Snowman in our MA home
My fav: roly poly
An attempt at homemade

More snowman in MA

I've had laryngitis--3 days with barely a whisper. I'm still hoarse, but so improved!
Last night we had my editorial team over for a party. I did lots of cooking. Turned out pretty good, I think. The best was one of the simplest: crostini (just a sliced baguette, baked until golden) with caramelized onions on top and dollop of goat cheese. Yummy.
I am so relieved to have it behind and on to the next X-mas venture. That means shopping for family (my Mom's asked me to get her a new bible. . .) and getting the package ready for Scott.
Has anyone else had trouble with Amazon? They claim they keep delivering packages to my doorstep that aren't there. (And yes, I live in a safe neighborhood.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feeling Thankful

I am feeling particularly cheerful today, so I thought I would share. I think a lot of it is afterglow after spending Thanksgiving and the weekend with our two adorable granddaughters. They are 6 and 2 and were just so much fun this visit! I don't even mind the touch of a sore throat and sniffle I have--probably from their "vewy, vewy bad coughs"--because the snuggling was so good & worth a few passing of the germs.

Plus, for lunch, I am eating leftover turkey Mexican casserole that their mother (my lovely stepdaughter) made! Yummy!

And the good thing about PMS is that on those weeks your weight goes up (last week I stayed the same weight on the scale), it usually comes down after. So this week, even though I was NOT especially diligent over the holiday--I showed a 1 lb. loss! YIPPEE! Nothing is as great as skipping the post-holiday-I-hate-myself-for-eating syndrome! It's very inspiring!

(I did do a few diligent things--like eating only half a sandwich at the Atlanta aquarium and spending a whopping $4.25 for a cup of fruit to go with it to make sure I would. . . it's very unlike me (but probably very much like MizFit) to leave half of anything on my plate!)

I have passed my goal of doing all the stair climbing to pull down the Christmas decorations. I did passably well. Perhaps not as energetic, with as many times up and down as I had hoped for, but enough to make my calves sore and to feel like I at least helped my son-in-law. (We won't ask him if he felt the same way.)

And! My house is almost completely decorated for Christmas. This is no small challenge with all the stuff I have! I've been POOPED the last 2 days getting it all up.

I am feeling especially grateful for the memories I will keep of my sweet , sweet granddaughters who helped me. Their distractions to stop and play with the Christmas village and interrogate--err I mean interview--(complete with pad & pencil to mark the responses) of the various stuffed Santas was as much of a help to me (maybe more!) than their literal help of hanging ornaments or making decisions about what to put where.

Oh, and there was also playing with the Peanuts figurines from my little skating pond by putting them in the red dress-up gloves I have that were way too big for little one's hands, but oh such a cute fit for the feet! (Think chicken "toes!")

Work beckons. . .

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Twenty Years Off

Thanks to The Grandpa via Gran for leading me to this quick little quiz that instantly took 20 years off my life without a single pill, shot, or exercise:

You Belong in Generation Y

You fit in best with people born between 1982 and 2001.

You are cooperative, flexible, and adaptable.

You know the world changes quickly, and you're eager to change with it.

You are socially responsible, forward thinking, and open minded.

I've always said my life didn't start until I was 24--when I was in graduate school, got my first car and my first apartment. I guess that's the generation I synced in with. . .
I like these ideas thought--open minded, forward thinking, ever adapting. .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Creativity Requested

I’ve lately been quite overwhelmed with concern for my cousin Scott who is 35 years old. The short story is that this past summer Scott was getting chemotherapy for testicular cancer and subsequently had 2 strokes.

Right before his cancer treatment started, his wife was laid off. After the 2nd stroke and the lack of return of Scott’s ability to talk, he lost his job. He had a morning radio show, was district manager, and was up for a promotion to regional manager—his voice was his career. The nurses couldn’t believe the tapes that his friends brought from the radio station were Scott. All he can say now is gibberish—boos, blips, peeps--no formed words.

Scott & his wife have a delightful 4-year-old daughter. Due to the intensity of Scott’s therapy schedule and limited functioning, his wife has not yet looked for new work. Plus, her mom (she’s an only child) broke her hip last month, so she is in a nursing home near them—they tend to her needs twice a day.

One thing that particularly tugs at my heart is that Scott did all the major caretaking for their daughter—bathing, soothing, entertainment, and cuddling. He was the family's main cook and housekeeper too. After the first stroke, he couldn’t make any sounds at all. They were avoiding letting his daughter see him. After a particularly bleak day for him, though, they brought her in to the hospital. His first vocalization was when he saw her, he said--like a vocal sigh-- “Aaaaahhhhhhh. . .”

Now, my aunt tells me that Scott can’t be left alone with his daughter because he can’t communicate with her to stop if she is doing something dangerous. It breaks my heart.

Equally heart breaking is the struggle Scott’s wife is going through—learning to be mother and father and “man of the house,” while feeling all the fear and anxiety that anyone would when faced with the potential loss their spouse—and when their spouse is already “lost” to them in so many ways. She’s having to face all this without being able to really communicate with the person she most relies on for help—Scott.

Scott has an amazing attitude and spirit. Like his mother--my favorite aunt who provided me and my sister a haven so many times from our strife—he is continuously optimistic. I saw him in Sept. when I was in MO for a family funeral. He was completely bald and couldn’t speak, but had magnificently communicative expressions and a big smile.

He pantomimed to me how anxious he was to get back to chemotherapy. The doctors didn’t know then that there was any connection between it and the stroke—he hadn’t had the 2nd stroke yet. He hadn’t been ricocheted back to step 1, losing the progress he’d made walking, using his arm, and learning to talk.

Now, in Nov., they do not think he will likely ever regain use of his hand & fingers. He has learned to mimic a few 2-word phrases, but he can’t use them appropriately. He doesn’t know the days of week or the month. He can’t drive. . . their lives have flipped upside down. They are hopeful, positive, but REELING. Who wouldn’t be?

As you can see, I have many, many thoughts and concerns about this. I want to do something to help, and nothing seems like enough. I don’t live near enough to make a real contribution (he’s about 7 hours away from me).

The only thing I’ve decided is rather than contribute to families or kids through my work or other charities this year, I’m going to scrape together any extra gift-giving funds to give to Scott’s family.

So I’ve been thinking about gathering together a package to send to them that will include a number of gifts. Depending on how quickly I can get this together, it may be like Advent boxes—1 for each day in Dec. up until Christmas Eve. Or it may be a 12 Days of Christmas thing—from Christmas day to Jan. 6. Or since Scott’s wife is Jewish and they usually have a "mixed" celebration, I could start it on Hanukkah, which starts on Sun. Dec. 21 and goes on for 8 days (until the 29th).

Anyhow, I think I’d like the last box to have a Visa or American Express Gift Card of at least $50 for them to use on whatever they need groceries, gas, utilities, daycare, etc. I know that’s not much, but frankly, it’s more than I usually do for them.

I want to fill the other boxes with fun things for them to do together or that will inspire them or offer them some kind of support or relaxation or get away. I’ll probably be lucky to stretch another $50 across these, so I need to be creative. That’s where you come in. . . Can you help me be creative?

Here are a few ideas I’m circling around:
  • X-mas mugs with the ingredients for cake in a cup you can make in the microwave
  • Instant hot chocolate with extra real marshmallows to put in those holiday mugs for another day
  • A CD with "I Feel Good" on it--with instructions to play and be ready to dance (Know any other upbeat songs to add to it?)
  • Some urls to look at fun things on the Internet (I will make sure they are still connected)—here’s the one I have in mind Do you know any others?

I'll need lots and lots of creative ideas that aren't too pricey to pull this off. . . please put your creative hats on and share your ideas with me.


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Possibilities of the Cornucopia

I've long found cornucopias a thing of beauty. I like seeing them filled with beautifully colored fall vegetables and fruits--or with flowers.

I think the concept of a "horn of plenty" has a generous ring to it.

So it caught my eye the other morning when I was on the elevator at work and the word cornucopia came up on the ever-playing Internet monitor on the wall near the door. (It's taken the place of people staring at floor numbers as they ride up or down.)

I learned something about cornucopias that I didn't know.

It turns out the idea of the cornucopia came from Greek mythology. When Zeus was born, his mother sent him to Crete to be cared for so he would be hidden from his father, Cronus. Cronus had a bad habit of eating his offspring. The daughters of Melisseus, king of Crete, nursed & raised Zeus. Their goat, Amalthea, provided milk for the toddler god. Zeus broke off one of the goat's horns and gave the horn the power of becoming filled with whatever its possessor desired.

It was that last line that struck me. Whatever its possessor desired. Or, as Merriam Webster's says "an inexhaustible store" of whatever you desired. . .

Wow. What would that be for me if I got to choose, I wondered? I found images of some things that came to mind--cornucopias filled with chocolate candy and overflowing with cash.

Then I started to think of less tangible things. . . self-confidence, drive, stamina, life. Would it be a waste to have it supply me with things that I already strive for--tolerance, patience, perserverence, kindness.

Instantly, I start to think things like, what's the use of me having endless life if hubby doesn't? Or if it doesn't come with good health? Can the horn supply us both?

But if it's capable of being more than self-serving, shouldn't I be asking for something more Miss USA-like--world peace? (What would it take for world peace to re-establish itself every day. . . is there a difference in an abundantly filled cornucopia of peace as one that is dwindling towards emptiness?)

One source I found definitely connected the cornucopia with food--saying it was Zeus's promise that whoever had the horn would never starve. I think of Star Trek The Next Generation--where they just ask the computer for whatever food or drink comes to mind ("Earl Grey, hot."), and it appears. Or I think of the Japanese story of Yam Gruel, where the peasant wishes for his favorite delicacy, yam gruel, every day, and he gets his wish and it lasts until just the thought of it makes him sick. (If I didn't have to spend time shopping or paying for food, what more could I be doing with my life?)

Moving beyond food once again, I think of Robin Cook's book Brain, the story of a woman who loses all sense of humanism for her desire to have continuous orgasms.

What do I desire to continuously be replenished that I would never get sick of or that would start to seem like not enough? Some desire that wouldn't take over some sense of my own independence or verve? Some fulfillment that would only make me more sustained or bolstered without making me more lazy or greedy or complacent?

I come up empty. So many possibilities that I can't decide.

If you were the possessor of the horn, what would be your desire to have it be filled with? Over and over again in an unending supply, something you'd want in an inexhaustible store? What's your quick answer? How does it change if you give it more thought?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music Requests: Share Your Favorite Exercising Tune

I'm one of those people who likes to listen to music when I exercise. Sometimes I prefer that to a buddy (sorry, Hubby). It helps me set a pace, get to the place where I can see through my "third eye" to focus, improves my mood, and in ideal situations lets me bellow along or hum. I sometimes prefer different songs for walking outside versus on the treadmill, and different ones for elliptical vs bike.

I've put a few of my old standbys at the top of my playlist on here. I admit I heard the first 2 at the gym; I'm not very good at finding newer music. They are:
  • I kissed a girl.-Katy Perry (just like the beat!)
  • Clumsy Fergie (makes me want to move my shoulder)
  • Diamond Road--Sheryl Crow (I hum along with the chorus)
  • Bring It Down to Jelly Roll--John Fogerty (It makes me want to punch my arms in time)
Would you please share with me the names and artists of your favorite exercise tunes? Don't worry about whether or not they seem like the kind of thing I'd like. . . you never know!

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Life's Challenge of 3 Dimensions

When I was in high school I was very good at math. And I really liked science. Around my sophomore year, probably from some kind of achievement test results being sold to colleges, I received in the mail a colored pamphlet from Boston University about their biomedical engineering program, with a letter suggesting I consider it as a major for college.

Boston seemed totally cool and out of reach for me (who knew that I'd end up spending so many of my adult years there?), but the real appeal was that the pamphlet described how a degree in biomedical engineering could result in a job designing prosthetics. Not just hands or legs that fill out your clothes, but ones that connected to nerves so that people could move them more naturally. I was completely enthralled.
I went off to college, declared a major in biology, and somewhere along the way (probably in that 5th year when I was tacking on all these extra courses because I didn't know what I wanted to "do" with my biology major), I signed up for a beginning engineering course. I didn't want to close any doors yet. There was still that lure of designing a prosthetic hand. . .
I think I was one of three women in the class. I had 2 main problems. The first was I wasn't neat. You had to print neatly and use your eraser well enough that no erasure lines were still visible (obviously with no holes in the paper either!). I've never been neat about anything--but that's a story for another day. The other problem, the problem of today's story, was that I've never been very good at visualizing 3 or more dimensions.

In this beginning drafting class, we went through a lot of exercises that looked like these:
Figuring out the correct answer was quite challenging for me. I improved as the class continued, but it took lots of concentration, and I certainly never made it to the head of the class.

Another clear example of my problem with 3 dimensions is that I am perpetually lost. I get turned around in the mall. I get lost going the same place I've gone a hundred times before. Everything may look familiar, but I'm not sure if it should be on my left or right to get where I'm trying to go. Or I can "see" where I'm headed, but the dots aren't connecting from where I am in the car to where I need to be.

Hubby has told me this is because I don't make visual maps in my head--I don't "see" how the roads connect. It turns out, he's right--well, it always made sense--but even in looking for the above images and Googling spatial skills, I see that mapping is part of developing such skills. (Imagine my delight at Hubby's gift of a GPS last Christmas! Unfortunately it doesn't work at the detailed level I need for the mall.)

Today I realized that I have this same dimensional challenge in terms of my identity. While I consider myself well-rounded (pun intended!), I'm pretty much a linearly focused gal. My first therapist in college told me this (I know what you're thinking! Yes! I've been in and out of therapy since college. . . and I'm actually quite sane!! It's a luxury. . . consider it like a shopping compulsion.)

He told me that I was so focused on being a good student and that my efforts & success at it gave me such positive feedback that I pretty much let everything else go by the wayside--my relationships, social life, creativity, etc. Like a Bran muffin, I was all work & no play!

Maybe I did that because the other stuff was too painful. From the time of my parents divorce when I was 11, I was always grieving the loss of my father in my life (I even married someone a lot like my father, but that's another story too!), and caught up in my sister's issues and hating my mom's boyfriend. And it's hard to be into the fashion and beauty trends and love lures that occupy the lives of so many young women when you're a really big young woman. Compared to that, studying to get As was easy.

But the story has pretty much continued as the same story, it's just that focusing on being a student morphed into focusing on being a good employee.

Work has been pretty much my life. I dream about work. I talk about work at parties. I married someone with similar work; we talk about it over dinner--and on vacation. Sometimes we even work together. My hard work has paid off for me in terms of promotions, positive attention, good salaries, and good networks.
And I've focused on my work a lot. Hubby and I have flopped roles from a lot of couples. He does the more traditional "wife" role compared to me. I focus on work, I lead the job search and the moves. He works from home. For years, he cooked dinner every night (I've JUST started doing that). Until we could afford cleaners, he did all the housework. He pays the bills, etc. etc.

It's probably not that surprising that I gained all my lost weight back when--dun dun--I got laid off from my job.

The problem is that work doesn't always, well. . . , work anymore, if you know what I mean. For one thing, maybe it's just me (is it just me?) but it seems like now that I'm over 45 it's harder to be the office star. Or maybe it has nothing to do with my age, but has a lot to do with the fact that I am no longer in an entrepreneurial environment but a corporate one--where the responsibilities are so siloed that it's hard to branch out.

But work is still so much my single dimension that it overwhelms everything-- like trying to be my new alter ego MizFit (not the blogger, but the identity behind the bracelet!). When I get busy at work--as I am now and likely will be until after the first of the year--the first thing that goes is my attention to exercise.

I can't break away from my desk for a walk or to go to the gym or train. Or at least that's what I tell myself. Even though it's just so clear that doing that would help me feel better in so many ways.

I resent that I am putting so much time into work (even though, duh, I've chosen to focus on that) that I don't do the things I need to do, like get up earlier. So I don't get up earlier to be able to fit in more, so I don't exercise, so I resent it more, and I feel bad because I'm not exercising or changing my identity, and it's this vicious cycle.

I need to--want to--branch out into a 3 dimensional person. I need to be more than just my job. I want to be an exerciser (maybe a swimmer), a cook, a wife and lover (!), at least a minimalist housekeeper, a daughter, an aunt, a crafter, a writer, a reader, a movie goer, a photographer, maybe a pet owner, an adult who knows what the electric bill ran this month and if it gets paid online how to track it instead of letting Hubby handle it all, a friend, and a blogger.

I feel like those criminals in Superman, trapped in the glass, pressing to get out as they float into space.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Get to Know Me Better

Hubby & I agree that the descriptions to these 2 quiz answers do a pretty good job describing me. I am a Bran Muffin and a Beagle! Enjoy!

You Are a Bran Muffin

Some people have accused you of being all work and no play. And that does describe you most of the time.

You are very career oriented. When you're not working making money, you're working to improve yourself.

You have very little room in your life for fluff. You want to live as good of a life as possible.

You are competitive and driven. You like to surround yourself with other motivated people.

While you are a go-getter, you are by no means self centered. Quite the opposite.

You are a caring, together, and stable friend. You are grounded enough to be there for people.

You Are a Beagle

You are good natured. You enjoy spending time with people and animals.

You have a wild, independent streak. If you're left to your own devices, you get in trouble.

You love to eat and enjoy food of all kinds. If you don't get enough physical activity, you tend to have a weight problem.

You are very stubborn. You don't like authority, and you tend to do your own thing no matter what.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sensitive Inside and Out

Sleep study #2 down. Last night I got fitted for a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine, which meant I once again had the octopus like electrode connections all over my body. So catching a quick, albeit without glasses, glance at myself in the mirror for the middle-of-the-night pee, I looked rather astronaut/martian like. (The tips of the electrodes were blue and the CPAP fit over my nose and mouth with Velcro straps around my forehead and ears.

All in all a really fun and sexy thing to do on a Friday night. . . NOT!

Still, I'm committed to treating this, so I slept OK. I think my biggest challenge will be not to have the thing irritate my skin. I have red marks today where the electrodes sat and sore spots on my ears from the Velcro.

Seeing the dermatologist was how I spent part of Thurs. I have very sensitive skin. I'm the type of person who cuts tags out because they give me a rash. I can only wear cotton bras.

I got a facial from a friend the morning of my wedding. . .rash by mid afternoon; belt buckles = rash; band-aids lead to rash. Cheap necklaces turn my neck into a massive red, raw-meat-looking zone. I can only wear sterling silver and gold earrings--not even surgical steel. I held my breath when they told me I'd get a metal plate in my wrist--picturing the red, oozy internal inflammation it would cause--but thank goodness it's titanium! That's the same pricey metal I have to get glasses made from--anything else that touches my cheeks leads to, you guessed it, rash.

I'm prone to cold sores. I'm addicted to Carmex; I carry it like a silver cross to ward off evil.

And let's not even talk about the sun. Suffice it to say my body was not meant to be tanned. I think "Be like Scarlett O'Hara, and stay creamy white" as I don a hat.

So the dermatologist said I should only put 4 things on my body (Then it went on to recommend 2 more. . .go figure):

  1. Water
  2. Dove soap (and shampoo)
  3. Vaseline
  4. Medicine he prescribes

The other 2 products he went on to recommend were:

Aquaphor (though he admitted he was just giving it to me because he had samples, and that Vaseline would do the same thing for a lot less money. I have to say, they feel the same. It's just that the Aquaphor sample is easier to fit in my pocket).

He used the Aquaphor to demonstrate how to use really greasy things--like Vaseline--to moisturize without getting greasy. Here's the trick:

  • First you get really really wet
  • Then you use just a little bit (for both hands, front and back, he squeezed out about the size of half my pinkie fingernail)
  • Rub it in really good
  • Pat (not rub) dry

He told me to use this every time I washed my hands.

So now I take my Vaseline in the shower with me and do the same thing over a much larger surface.

The other product he recommended was one I had discovered before when regular old sunscreen started giving me a rash. It's Neutrogena's Sensitive Skin sunscreen. He suggested I wear it every day because sun wrecks havoc on sensitive skin.

He also tried to encourage me to not get my hair highlighted any more and not to use liquid foundation. (I'm thinking these 2 are not going to happen.) He said loose powder--Bare Essentials--is OK. Haven't checked that out yet.

Anyhow, as you may know, dermatitis and eczema and sensitive skin are exacerbated by lack of activity. It's not what you eat he told me, it's whether or not you get a really good workout resulting in a really good sweat a couple of times a week.

One of my problem areas--my shins--is a problem for many fat people. I noticed before when I was exercising the most that they cleared up.

I am trying to feel positive about this. I saw the doctor--check 1 for something good. I like the Vaseline shower thing feels good--check 2. He was kind and not insulting in any way--check 3.

But still, the derm stuff right there in the same 48 hours with the the sleep stuff. . . it's like big whap-in-the-face reminders that fat does not do a body good. And I need to use a little mindful keening to soak that in, feel it, and grieve it, before I can rah, rah on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Advice to Friends on How to Get Physical, Part 2

Here are more things that I’ve done to try to become less of a fitness phobe. It’s a gradual change to my identity—not just my activity level. I think the 2 go hand in hand. Let me know if any of this “speaks” to you.

(See my new addition, now you can (gulp!) rate each post to let me know how I’m doing. I love the comments, but for those of you who are hesitant or in a rush, it still lets you have an anonymous vote , not to mention help me feel less in the ether all alone.)

1. Don't worry at the beginning about having to do 30 minutes. Just start and do what you can do. When you think you can't do more, go for a few more seconds. If you are walking, stay close to home (do circles or “pace”) or exercise in your house to combat the fear that you won't have the energy to get back.

2. Ignore, ignore, ignore that ubiquitously stated 15 minute mile! I walked faithfully for more than year and never achieved this. I sweated; I pushed, I lost weight, I improved. My best was like 16 point something minutes a mile. Just because you read it everywhere doesn’t make it the national average!

3. Do push yourself enough so that you sweat. Hard. (I know what you are thinking. You may be afraid. It’s OK. You’ll be OK.) It may take a while to get used to the feeling, and you probably don't believe me now, but it is in pushing yourself some where you finally will start to feel good after exercise. The ambling walk--like in the mall--is more tiresome and feels worse than a "pushing yourself" 10 minute walk. You've heard it before, but try it. Walk like you are hurrying to get to the train. Then slow down or even stop if you have to. But get used to pushing yourself a bit. It's OK if your heart beats fast. It's OK if you are out of breath/panting a bit. That's what happens to people who exercise. Doing it makes you one of them.

4. Get over your fear that if you sweat you are going to stink so you can’t sweat unless you shower. I can’t speak for men, but I’ve gone to the gym and sweated so hard that people thought I’d been swimming—and (gasp!) I didn’t stink. I’m pretty certain. I asked people I could trust to smell me! (I did!) Here’s the key thing—change shirts and your bra. Don’t wear the same sweaty bra even 2 days in a row. So you can walk at work and get sweaty and not have to take a shower. (I do blow dry my hair often—and I think that helps keep away that sour smell.)

5. Here’s a tough one. When you feel self-conscious—say something positive. Just own it and state it. (OK. I realize everyone isn’t as vocal as me. But you can say it to yourself.) Like when I go back to my desk with my make-up a little less than perfect after a workout or if the back of my hair is still damp or my cheeks are flushed, I say, “This is my afternoon look!” (I don’t say, ‘Oh, sorry I’m sweaty!). Don’t say, “I’m pathetic!” Say, “Wow! Look at me!” I am less embarrassed by people seeing how I look after exercise (they don’t have to know how MUCH activity it was to cause such reactions) than from gasping for breath from some “normal” activity—like, well, crawling under my desk to plug in something.

6. Accept it, there are those rare few people who seem to be fit and lean without exercising. They are the exception. Most fit and lean people work at it and exercise. You are not being persecuted. (Same is true with your kids. It’s not unfair that they need to exercise—all kids exercise! Some just do it more naturally than others! Kids want to move; yours may just be out of practice.)

7. Get the right shoes and socks. I love these socks: Thorlos. They are pricey, but they are worth it. They have extra cushioning in the heel and kind of “hug” your foot in the middle at the arch.

8. If you have painful areas, find ways to strengthen them or work around them. You may need professional help. I have osteoarthritis in my knees. I aggravated it after I’d lost 60 pounds and was a faithful walking by—get ready—wearing low heels in my big sprawling office complex. I saw an orthopedic doctor (I wanted more than 2 hours in his office to “see” him.) His advice was, “Go on the Internet and look for strength-training exercises you can do for your knees.” He didn’t bother to find out that I’d been a health care editor and writer for 20 years! So, I did that. And I went to gym. And it helped.

9. Recognize that you may have some aches and pains especially as you start out. This was my big revelation from breaking my wrist. My hand therapist said, “There is nothing wrong with your fingers. You are going to have to work through the pain.” Well, throw cold water in my face! What a new concept for me! But it helped me get through the aches in my knees (There IS a difference between discomfort and creaks and PAIN.). And I do allow myself to take ibuprofen.

10. Get the gear. (I love to shop!) I don’t mean go buy a super expensive machine before you’ve ever tried it. I mean, see what the other exercisers have and follow their lead. Get the water bottle. (My water bottle in the gym makes me feel like I belong. Getting one was a huge step toward my identity as a gym person.) Get the weight lifting gloves. Get the exercise bra. (Check Wal-
Mart--really--they carry lots of exercise bras for fat women--46 & up.) Get new exercise clothes that you feel comfortable and OK in instead of wearing your old stained, torn T-shirt. I don’t mean SPANDEX unless you like that . . . I just mean if you are dressing like you are a slob who doesn’t deserve to be with the others in the gym, STOP it. I bought a couple of long shirts (one pink; one gray) that don’t ride up when I left my arms over my head.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Advice to Friends on How to Get Physical, Part 1

Thanks to Dr. Barbara Berkeley of Refuse to Regain for her inspiration for this post today. On her post, she makes this request. . .

Until I was 35 years old, I never even considered exercising. My only exposure to sports was the occasional volleyball game we played in gym class. The idea of sweating was abhorrent to me. I can’t exactly tell you what happened to change all that.
So here’s the problem I need help with. Every day, day in and day
out, I see weight-loss patients who don’t want to exercise. They simply can’t imagine it. Although I suggest to them that they find exercise that they can fall in love with, they mostly wind up walking on a treadmill. Then they stop. I so much want to find the answer to this puzzle: how do I motivate people to try exercise? How do I get them to fall in love with it?
I think that the answers lie out there with you, dear readers. What would you tell a friend? What kind of program would you suggest they start? Or what did a friend tell you that finally got you to consider getting physical? This information is not trivial.
If we can figure this out together, we can make real progress in changing lives.
Suddenly I was flooded with thoughts. As I said to Barbara in my comment, “This is a heartstrung topic for me--something I've long struggled with. And it's a longing of mine to help children, in particular, who aren't active--but also adults, including myself.”

I was a kid who hated gym and physical activity. As early as first grade I remember trying to get out of recess! In second grade, I remember suffering great humiliation when the gym teacher singled me out to shoot hoops with a lighter weight volleyball instead of a basketball (he was actually trying to help me!).

I’ve never caught a ball in a glove or hit a ball with a bat. I was never in any after school teams. I never went to a school dance.

I chose my major in college because it didn’t require any PE credits!

I left my first few Weight Watchers meetings crying (when I was really young) because when they mentioned the need for activity, I would feel hopeless, like weight loss was out of my reach. I could go on and on and on . . . but you get the picture already.

So now, I am not fit. But I am getting fit. I still have never caught a ball in a glove, but I have a different appreciation for my body. And I do workouts and am more active. Mostly, I have worked on changing my identity, which of course takes time, with lasting results!

Here are a few of my tips and advice for you, my friend, based on my journey so far.

1. Don’t worry yet about needing to fall in love with exercise. If you’re like me, you’ve hated exercise for so long that someone telling you this is as alien as telling you to go find an alley rat and bring it home as a pet or go dig up bugs, cook them, and eat them. It feels that scary, gross, and foreign to you. It wouldn’t matter if all your neighbors had rats or freezers full of bugs.

2. Do start noticing and appreciating the human body more—a) yours and b) other people’s.

*** To do #2a, try this--stretch. Stretching makes me become conscious of deeply buried muscles in my body in a really cool way. And you don’t even have to get up.

Put one arm over your head and act like you are grabbing a rope. Feel the stretch in your back. Doesn't it feel good? Do it with the other arm.

Also, sit and bend at your waist. Reach out with both arms in front of you--reach and pull that imaginary rope. Doesn't it feel good to feel muscles you aren't usually conscious of?

*** To do #2b, try this. Gawk a little. You don’t have to be crude or obvious. But start taking notice of other people’s bodies. I found that not only did I not look at my own body before, but I didn’t really look at anyone else’s. The body is pretty amazing. It’s like a machine with lots of complex moving parts.

I remember going to see the play Chicago and being awestruck by how long, lean, and muscular the women’s legs were. I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Once in my gym in Boston I was staring so long at this woman who was stretching (she could sit in an invisible chair and cross one leg and hold it forever without even shaking and she could hold the pose of her legs over her head and toes touching the floor), that I let water from the cooler flow over the top of my cup onto the floor.

I watch women in the locker room smoothing lotion on their legs after
a workout. I neglect this with myself. . .

3. Do get over your critical and holier-than-thou attitude about athletes, if you have one. I did. Throughout school I thought athletes were stupid. I resented the special privileges they got. I thought they were vain and shallow. I had to work to get more tolerant. They are just people with physical interest and talent. Like I have an interest in reading and a talent in academics. Some athletes are vain, some are not. Some are nice, some are mean. Just like everyone else.

4. Don’t deprive yourself of the benefits of physical activity any longer. You deserve to feel the benefits of moving your body. So what if your flab bounces in exercise clothes? Or you don’t even have “exercise” clothes? So what if you are breathless really quickly? You deserve to be in the gym or at the pool or wherever like everyone else. And it may surprise you to realize that no one is looking at you. It may surprise you even more when they even treat you just like any other exerciser--because that's what you are. And most exercisers focus on themselves and their own results.

5. Do consider exercise especially for large people or beginners. Here are 4 things I’ve done that were pivotal for me.

*** I spent some time checking out NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. I particularly found Pat Lyons book, Great Shape, The First Fitness Guide for Large Women helpful when I was a true, sitting on the couch, exercise phobe and pre-newbie.

***I was really inspired when Oprah worked with her trainer—the first trainer Bob—Bob Greene in Make the Connection. She wasn’t fit and she pushed herself to try basically everything! And he made it clear that everyone needs to exercise at their own levels—a pushed level.

*** I’ve been a longtime fan and less consistent participant in water aerobics. It tends to attract larger people (It is highly unlikely that you will unlikely be the only fat person there in a bathing suit—and I’ve been to at least 4 gyms—public and private--in 3 states—North and South, so I’m pretty reliable.)

Not only does the water make you feel lighter, it makes you feel invisible—like you’re covered up to your shoulders! You can try moves there that you could not, would not ever do on land—like balancing on one foot. One of my favorite stretches is in the water—opposite hand reaching forward from the leg that you’ve stepped (or kicked) back—it gives a great full-body stretch. Try it you’ll like it.

***Another HUGE transition for me was going to a rehab facility fitness center instead of just a gym. I worked out with people in wheelchairs, blind swimmers, and people recovering from stroke or heart attack. We all had different needs. We all inspired each other. Some of them were athletes. I needed my doctor to write a recommendation for me (due to OA in my knees), but it was so worth it! Plus, personal trainers were a lot cheaper there!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Believing in the Expert Opinion of Others

Well, the results of my sleep study are in. According the the records created by the many electrodes, microphones, and other monitoring devices that took a highly experienced technician one full hour to place all over my body--my head, face, throat, chest, back, abdomen, and legs--I have PLMS (periodic limb movement syndrome) and sleep apnea.

I already knew I had sleep apnea. The surgeon who screwed my broken wrist back together told me that. And my husband and mother--anyone who has had to sleep near me--confirmed it by witnessing/withstanding my snoring, moaning, and gasping.

Clinical results? I stopped breathing 54.9/hour, and my oxygen intake got as low as 69%.

But the PLMS caught me by surprise--and frankly, disbelief. According to the electronic records, I have muscle movements 86.5 times an hour. The doctor (board certified in sleep medicine/pediatrics/psychiatry/neurology) told me that it was the worst case he'd seen in 15 years. Hmmmmm. How can my legs or body be moving more than once a minute without me or my husband knowing it?

I expressed my doubts (I'm no wall flower in the doctor's office!). I told Doctor that I was aware of how restless I was that night in the sleep lab. I thrashed. I accidentally pulled the wires off my legs. I tapped my foot to help me relax and go to sleep--an old standby habit from my childhood.

He basically rolled his eyes and started shaking his head "no" before I could even finish. "We can tell when you're thrashing," he said. These periodic limb movements are " rhythmic," following a pattern. A kind of muscle twitching that we may may not notice but that keep me from deep sleep.

His rationale for treating it was that unless it was addressed, I would be less compliant with the CPAP required to treat the apnea. (He was this firm about it, no "likely"s or "maybe"s.) He claimed the restlessness and lack of deep sleep the PLMs caused would make me more likely to pull off the CPAP without knowing it or wake up and be unable to get back to sleep. (And I do have symptoms that I feel strongly about getting rid of when it comes to the apnea--so I have clear incentive to be compliant.)

His treatment was to prescribe a form of dopamine--a neurotransmitter in my brain. He said (as did the pharmacist, as did the doctor I work for) that it had relatively no side effects--short or long term. And it's cheap.

Course, Hubby & I looked it up. No drug is free of potential side effects. In fact, the one right on the bottle says it could cause a change in color of sweat and urine--red, brown, or black. Wouldn't that be fun to explain in the gym?

And, I take an antidepressant now (the only drug I take) and depression is one of the potential side effects (well that and schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts. . . so point out if you notice these things, will ya??). Two drugs that play with the chemicals in my brain.

So what's my point you're wondering. . .

The point is, this is the first time really in my life that I am being prescribed drug for symptoms that I'm not conscious of. So I find myself having to rely totally on the expert opinion of someone else that a) the symptoms exist and b) they are worthy of treatment.

All kinds of people have to do this. Everyone with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for instance. These conditions lack visible symptoms. I argue with my mom all the time that she CANNOT know that her blood pressure isn't really high.

But it's a weird place to be in, none the less. And I basically believe in the medical system.

My day job is for a well known consumer health site, and I've been a health editor and manager for 20 years. I've written and edited articles about how to work with your doctor, vet your doctor, look up your own health info.

I also know many doctors personally, so I know they are human. Some are smart and some are not. Some know what they don't know, and well, others don't. They make mistakes. They get tired. They don't like some people just like I don't like some people. And it's super, super clear to me that doctors all don't come up with the same answer when faced with the same data. And the ones with the strongest opinions aren't always right.

But still. . . I typically trust doctors more than I trust my own ability to figure it out. And I still trust doctors more than alternative health folks in the natural health stores or with less formalized training. And I mostly trust my ability and my resources to check something out if it feels wrong.

Still, it's an oddity for me to trust what I don't see or feel for myself. And though some others close to me my disagree. . . I am more likely swayed by logic than emotion or an appeal to have faith.

So all this analysis of my beliefs makes me want to share one of my favorite things--This I Believe on NPR.

This I Believe is a radio program on public radio where people read the essays they've written on what they believe. I typically find them quite well written, often thought provoking, and sometimes moving. You can get free podcasts of them.

Here are links to a few that especially "speak" to me. You can read them from these links or click the "Listen Now" button, which I highly recommend. (They are short.) Hope you enjoy them too.

Learning True Tolerance, Joel Engardio
What Is the Value of a Human Life, Kenneth Feinberg
There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Barbecue, Jason Sheehan
There Is No God, Penn Jillette

[Tisha: Thank you for "back stalking" my blog and reminding me what I had decided I needed to do when I felt self-pity like I expressed in yesterday's blog. You took me back to my blogging beginnings and my application of "mindful keening," for which I am grateful. Your support and kind words mean a lot!]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Accept All TLC

I've been fighting the flu bug. I'm not dying. But I've had a sick stomach and high abdominal cramps. Seems like it should be over by now.

I decided this AM that I would 'try' Starbucks. I miss it. And, it being a lovely day, I went outside instead of through the mall to get there.

Despite the sunshine and the breeze and the pansies, along the way, I was beating myself up about how I am not--have never been--very good at pushing myself when times are low. I starting listed negative words that suit my personality: crybaby, scaredy cat, self-pitier, egomaniac with an inferiority complex.

Thank god it's a very short walk to Starbucks.

I got up to the counter and the guy (not one of the ones I know by name), said, "Hey! What's wrong with you?! You aren't your normal vibrant and cheerful self!" I told him I wasn't feeling very well today. He suggested I have tea instead--on him. Suggested green tea with lemongrass and honey.

It was like a little star rising inside me. His kind words. (I obviously don't come across as an Eeyore to everyone I meet!) His warm and generous gesture.

I'll take it. I deem that it is not self pitying to accept all TLC that is offered to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

No Cute Seasonal Weight Loss Trackers for Me

I've been looking at a lot of weight loss blogs recently. I see a lot of trackers showing progress to a commitment to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain amount of time. They are really cute trackers for the season--pumpkins & Christmas themes. But that kind of goal setting has never worked for me. I'm not sure why exactly, but here are my guesses.
  1. I've never found losing weight to be as scientific as they make it out to be. I know 3500 calories equals a pound, so I grasp that if I create a deficit of 3500 calories of what my body needs to sustain my current weight by either moving more or eating less, then it should result in weight loss. But you know, sometimes it just doesn't. Sometimes my body doesn't do what I expect it to do or what the scientists say it should. I was kind of relieved when I heard someone weighing in on the Biggest Loser that she had tracked exactly how many calories she had consumed and burned but her body didn't do what it was supposed to. I don't think they've figured out the body's exact schedule yet. So to schedule weight loss just leaves me feeling frustrated.
  2. To count ahead to how much weight I will lose puts me in the "dreaming about weight loss" mindset instead of the "making active decisions about losing weight" mindset. How many nights have I lain awake counting on my fingers how much weight I could lose by a certain time? That anticipated counting doesn't seem to move me forward. But it does work for me to count what's past--that it, it's more effective to count my steps! (A high count means the moving/achieving has already been done.) Wishing to be thinner doesn't get me anywhere.
  3. I think the whole goal by a certain date somehow makes it seem kind of competitive. And I've never been very good at competition. I don't think I could be on The Biggest Loser, for instance, because I can't stand the game playing aspect of it. This season has made that more clear for me. I'm not sure if I'd been Phil or Amy that I could have left and succeeded after having so many evil people attacking me. I'm impressed with how they were able to move on instead of letting those people sink them. (By the way, I love how Bob called Vicki Shakespearean--what a more enlightened term to describe her manipulative, cruel, purposefully painful ways than simply calling her a Bitch.)

Anyhow, I think it's great if setting those kind of goals works for people and keeps them on track. It just doesn't for me. Each week just seems to slip by, with me always counting on getting on it the next week.

What does help me is setting weekly goals that involve activity particularly--like have a goal that I'll exercise twice a day at least 2 days during the week. Setting identity rules around eating helps me too. Like I don't eat from anyone's candy dish. These kind of goals feel more within my control and help me feel more immediately successful.

If you have success setting a weight goal by a certain time, what makes it work for you? What do you tell yourself?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Difference of a Single Letter

I don't think I've been this excited waiting for something that I ordered to arrive in the mail since I collected cereal box tops and mailed them in for the special offer.

It seemed like we never collected all the boxtops we needed before the offer expired. So my most prized cereal box collectible was a record that you cut off the back of the box. A 45, no probably a 78. (Well according to the picture--imagine my delight upon finding it--it was a 33 1/3?)

It was Sugar, Sugar by The Archies. I kept it for a very long time. As I recall, it played pretty well. I can't hear the song without feeling this surge of 6-year-old pride.

Somehow, this time, though, I had managed to collect enough boxtops, so I was waiting for the arrival of a hand-held little movie projector. I vividly remember the distinctive click, click, click it made as you turned the crank to watch the movie, even though now I don't recall what that much anticipated movie was.

The next time I saw a hand-controlled movie projector like that, though, I clearly remember the story. I was at my gynecologist's office--getting my first birth control--a diaphragm. The nurse brought in the same type of little hand-held movie projector that I had ordered with box tops. It made the same click, click, click as you turned the crank to watch the movie. She told me to watch it as many times as I needed to to understand how to insert the thing.

I held it up to the light. When I turned it, click, click, click, this woman would come into view and put her leg up on chair, click, click, click. Then you could see her squeeze the diaphragm between her fingers and move her hand to insert it. You could run it forward, click, click, and backward, click, click, click, so you would see her do it all in reverse.

Your could play it fast, clickclickclickclickclick, or really slowly to make sure you got all the details. . . click. . . click. . . click. . . . . . . .click. . . . . .click. . . I think she inserted it in different positions, lying down and sitting as well as standing. I remember feeling self-conscious about the clicking, like the doctor's staff was listening to me through the door, wondering when the girl would finally "get it." Being afraid if I stopped clicking to practice inserting the thing that the nurse would come back in and surprise me mid act!

By now, you're probably wondering what the hell I've ordered . . . some brown box from some euphemistically named company.

But! It's a MizFit bracelet. I want a talisman, something to remind me of my new identity and goal.

How the one letter makes such a difference. That's what immediately drew me to it. No longer the misfit:

  • Who cried with my sister over the cruelty of the poor misfit toys in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Who felt a special connection with the song Different Is Hard from one of my favorite childhood movies--HR PuffinStuff
  • Who was already too heavy to ride on a big wheel when they came out
  • Whose mother bought polyester fake denim material to have elastic-banded pants made because I never fit into jeans
  • Who wore long-sleeved shirts underneath short-sleeved shorts in the winter time because sweaters weren't for fat little girls
  • Who sat practically on top of the blackboard because I couldn't see but felt like a freak by needing glasses
  • Who was alone in the house with my sister, still waiting for our parents to get home, when other kids were going inside for dinner
  • Who got teased over my lack of athletic ability and confidence
  • Who felt misunderstood by my neighborhood friends who weren't in "college prep" classes and who claimed they could tell I was smart just by the words I used
  • Who cred even harder when my mom tried to soothe my pained adolescent and teen self with the words, "It's lonely at the top."
  • Who was told when asking for the application to work as a waitress at Red Lobster that the uniform was a mini skirt, did I still want to apply?
  • Who always ended up sitting through the boyfriend talk, the "if only you weren't so fat. . . " chest crushing, brain numbing talk (until the last boyfriend. . . my husband)

Click to Watch WitchiPoo Singing Different Is Hard

Now, it will be MizFit. What will MizFit do? I can't wait to find out. The bracelet will be my amulet. My superpower cape. My identity bracelet of my new self. (Dare we compare it to my transformation of "becoming a woman"?!) Oh, let it arrive; let me arrive. . . here she comes. . . MIZZZ . . .