Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Write This Having Just Consumed Two Delicious Cookies

I've been thinking a lot about body image lately, mostly because I have a body and there are mirrors in many of the places I go. At home we only have the bathroom medicine cabinet mirror, and so I am sometimes surprised by what I see when I glimpse myself top to toes. What's become incredibly interesting to me lately is that mirrors in places where you're most likely to catch sight of yourself unclothed--that is, in fitting rooms--the lighting is generally terrible. If you didn't feel terrible about those extra winter pounds before you went in, you most likely will before you can manage to get your own comfortable jeans back on. At least, such was my experience in TJ Maxx today. It was a little demoralizing.

But also, it was good for me.

For the past few months, I've been a little nutritionally bankrupt. Sure, I cook healthy dinners, and I don't buy a bunch of processed crap (except M&M's, which...um...I have no excuse), but I also don't eat well during the day. Cupcakes are cupcakes, regardless of whether you made them yourself with whole wheat pastry flour or not. They're a dessert, not a meal. Yet I've been treating all sorts of treats as if they were meals, and not just sometimes. I get hungry at odd times, ravenously hungry, even, and I am often someplace where there aren't healthy options at my fingertips. I've been working out hard, but I've been ruining it for myself. Despite the lack of glaring trouble spots, there's still a huge trouble spot I'm sporting, and it's my attitude toward caring for my body by feeding it well.

Back in the spring of 2007, I was waking up hungry in the middle of the night, and I recognized that I needed to do something about that. I set about finding a plan to stabilize my blood sugar, and it worked well. I followed it strictly for the first few weeks, then made adjustments to make it fit my life a little better. I'm going to start doing that again. If, at the end of three weeks, the florescent lights of a fitting room still tell me the same story they told me today, then I'll accept that this is the body I've been given, and I'll learn to appreciate the amazing things it does for me every day. I hope that my body will look more like I know how to take care of it and less like I've packed firm muscles under a layer of marshmallow fluff, but either way, this was just the kick in the posterior that I needed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Venti Hazelnut Mocha Just Wore Off

Boy am I ever tired. My schedule has rearranged itself once again, so now I am working fairly late Friday night and then am up early on Saturday to take care of my sweet Saturday baby. It's been fine so far, but I'll admit that today the coffee wore off shockingly quickly. I'm even skipping my workout, but that's also because I recognize my tendency to overdo it, and it's really better to take a rest day when I need it (and my shoulders are screaming for a break) than to injure myself and not be able to work out at all for weeks on end.

Speaking of working out, I have decided that traditional exercise is never fun. While I really like the 30 Day Shred, it's not because I actually enjoy the workout. It's because I can't argue with the results. While I haven't lost any more weight beyond the initial two pounds that fell off in the beginning, I have suddenly lost many of my trouble spots. I'm still the same size, but firmer. I'm sure if I were better about eating healthy snacks instead of sweets, I'd have lost some pounds, but I'm really not interested in doing that right now. I might not ever be. It takes a lot of mental energy to maintain the kind of lifestyle that results in a "perfect" body, and I really can't be bothered. I don't want to be the kind of person who considers body shape important enough to set aside more worthy pursuits in order to have a bikini-ready body in February.

One of the marks our culture leaves on us, or at least on many of us, is the desire to look a certain way that is unrealistic for most people. I don't doubt that I will most likely struggle with this for my whole life, that I will have to do my best to resist the urge to compare myself to others for as long as I feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit in public. It is hard work to learn to accept the body I've been given, to know where the line is between healthy habits and vanity. The thing about appearance is that it can be a powerful motivator, and if we can learn to harness that motivation for healthy results, it can be a good thing. While the numbers on my cholesterol test are fantastic, I must admit that looking in the mirror to discover that certain areas of cellulite have disappeared is more of a tangible result for me. Ah, vanity, thank you in advance for helping prevent osteoporosis.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Judging By Our Shopping Habits, You Should Purchase Target and Home Depot Stock

I was pretty sure I should just go ahead and build a shrine to Orla Kiely in my home, but then it turned out that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Sure, I did stalk Target every single day until they got in the items I wanted, but once all was said and done, I even resisted buying some items I was sure I wanted, and I'm returning one I was undecided about. What I've got are twelve salad plates, chair cushions for the dining room, and a bunch of storage boxes. My house doesn' t look like its been taken over by Orla after all.

Well, until I put on my apron.

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Our kitchen isn't quite done, but we are already starting on bathroom renovations. Remember how our kitchen migrated into the rest of our house when we were in the thick of renovations there? The bathroom has done the same thing. Which is handy, really, because if you are eating and get something stuck in your teeth, the floss is just three steps away.

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I have now moved up to Level 3 of the 30 Day Shred, and I am here to report to you that if you are a coordinated, non-clutzy sort of individual, this workout will be awesome for you. If you're me, this workout will be awesome in about eight sessions when I get the moves down without falling over or having to stop more than once during a circuit to stare at the screen like a confused walrus.

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Speaking of renovations, I cannot do much of the heavy lifting or precision type labor in the bathroom or kitchen, so I've been working on our bedroom. Tonight I finished scraping off the painted over wallpaper, and on Sunday I get the privilege of sanding down all the plastered areas, which are many and are larger than I'd like. I am determined to get this job done; after the sanding comes the wall wash-down, after which comes caulking, after which comes paintingblah blah blah, it's finished. It feels like we are doing a LOT to the house right now, and we are, but I hold on to the hope that A) One day we will be finished, and B) Others might learn from our labors and buy a house that already has these things updated. Never trust a house with painted over wallpaper; you don't know what you'll find underneath.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Safety First! I Mean It!

On Sunday I went to traffic school. The judge at traffic court offered me a sweet deal of traffic school + court costs + no law-breaking for a year = my record remaining spotless. I didn't have to think twice to agree to that one. I guess I'll have to stop jaywalking for the year, though, and that cocaine habit I was thinking of starting up will have to wait.

The way being sentenced to traffic school goes is that the judge issues the order, the traffic school sends you a letter with half the instructions in all caps, and within five days of the date they sent you the letter, you must have either mailed or dropped off a MONEY ORDER ONLY A MONEY ORDER NO CHECKS OR CASH, MONEY ORDERS ONLY PLEASE. After receiving the letter, I thought, "Oh, great, just dropping off the money order and scheduling the class will probably be a huge headache." But I thought too soon because it was actually one of the most efficient transactions I've ever made, and the bonus was that they had a Sunday class, whereas I thought I was going to have to miss a Saturday with my precious Saturday baby to attend.

So on Sunday I showed up early for the class, grande hazelnut mocha in hand in order that I might last the four hours without nodding off. And then the class only took an hour an a half, and was interesting to boot. Seriously! For example, did you know that Princess Di would have lived if she had been wearing her seatbelt? And did you know that the reason her seat-belted bodyguard ended up in a coma was only because his head was hit by the head of the princess? TRUE STORY! He would have walked away from the car on his own two legs if he hadn't been hit in the head with the noggin of a princess. How's that for motivation to make sure everyone is buckled up before you drive?

I also learned that we would have to be in Iraq for another fifty years to equal the deaths due to traffic accidents in just one year. The instructor kept saying, "but no one gets outraged about lack of driving safety." And it's true; we don't. Or if we do, it's in the form of road rage, not in a way that would have a positive effect. There are a few simple things we could do to affect road safety, but many of us don't do them. First, we could buckle up and make sure everyone in our vehicle is buckled before we pull out of our parking spot. It's not about each person's personal choice--see above story about Princess Di injuring her bodyguard. Second, we could be more proactive about designating drivers and making sure that those who think they are okay to drive really are. I have felt embarrassed in the past about offering to drive someone home, or even insisting that they get a ride, but what's worse--possible death or possible embarassment? Third, we could be better advocates for driving training programs for teens; if a school can afford a sports program that only benefits a small percentage of their students, surely they can devote part of their budget to a program that would benefit nearly everyone. Fourth, we can all be more focused drivers. I know that my accident occurred because of a momentary lack of focus, and while it is human nature, we could probably each do a little bit better job of focusing on the road, whether it be by less fiddling with the radio or the cell phone or doing a little less daydreaming (not that I would know anything about that...*ahem*). Fifth, did I mention wearing your seat belt? I know I did, but I am beginning and ending with this because of how many lives buckling up saves. If you visit wrecked cars at the junkyard, even those with the worst damage will still have seats that are intact. In 99% of crashes, you stand a much better chance of surviving a crash if you are attached to your seat.

Buckle up, bitches.

Thank you and goodnight.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hobo Junction

I keep referring to our house as Hobo Junction, but I assure you that this is not for nothing. Disintegrating driveway, creative paint job, need of landscaping--the list is endless. And now the weather is helping add to the hobo tableau! The other night the storm blew over our birdbath, and it turns out that I cannot stand it back up properly because the part that is supposed to hold the base to the bowl has dissolved. I guess that's what I get for putting a $35 limit on my birdbath budget. Next time I'm upping it to $40.

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I cannot express to you how obsessed I am with fixing! up! our! place! I have been scraping wallpaper like mad and purchasing organizational aids. It does help that the organization items from Orla Kiely's line have been available at Target. Once the dishes come in, it will be an Orla Kiely free-for-all (er, spend-for-me?) in my shopping cart. Rumor has it that THIS weekend is THE weekend, and you'd better believe that I will mow you down if you get in the way of my mug and tray purchases. And don't even glance in the direction of the cute pear apron if you know what's good for you. That shit is MINE. Hands off, interlopers.

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Speaking of hands off, I do hope that online shoppers will keep their hands off the keys until certain items from Boden go on clearance, particularly if you wear a size 10 long. Step away from the Bow Coat in purple and Must Have Shift Dress in blue floral in particular, if you know what's good for you.

I mean, unless you're ordering it for me, in which case, might I also suggest the Grainy Leather Shopper in aqua and Sassy Jersey Dress in purple?

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With all this talk of shopping, you'd think I'd gone all consumerism crazy, but the truth is that I'm just proceeding with my plan of replacing several deteriorating items with one that will last longer and bring more enjoyment, and in turn bringing order to our house. It is much easier to keep eight pairs of trousers neatly hung than it is to keep countless pairs of trousers in varying states of disrepair hung, folded, or stuffed away. Ruminating over organization over the weekend brought the realization that I've reached my 2009 goal of having a place for everything already. How did that happen? Why didn't I notice? I suppose I was thinking that I was not done because I have yet to buy a few more plastic tubs for storage of items that are necessary but not in need daily, but those things are stacked somewhat neatly in laundry baskets, and that does constitute a home, albeit a temporary one. So...uh...go me? Way to accomplish a goal without even realizing it?

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Our eventual goal is to move to the UK, specifically to London. There's no big reason except that we like it a whole lot. Time will tell how feasible this is, but it is quite motivating on the organization and eliminating excess goods front. If you are having trouble parting with things, I suggest imagining that in a year or two you may be moving across the ocean--if you're at all like me, you'll start throwing things at your Goodwill pile all willy nilly, and soon you'll have enough to fill your car twice over. And that, as Martha says, is a good thing.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lookin' Fiiiiiiine

In half an hour I'll peel myself off the sofa, disturbing three cats in the process, in order to wash my face, put on something cute, and take some juice to a woman we call Old Lady Mary. My friend, Nicole, befriended her years ago near a dumpster, discovered she had no one to look after her, and began doing small things to help her out. In the wake of Nicole's departure of Chicago, Carrie took over and has been doing an admirable job since. I had met Old Lady Mary once with Nicole, so when Carrie was out of town and Old Lady Mary was ill, I was called upon to take her some supplies. She is suspicious of new people, but welcomed me, and then apparently spent the half hour after I left raving to Nicole on the phone about how good I looked, like a runway model. A runway model I am not, but after all that raving, I now feel compelled to look nice for a woman who keeps her urine in lidded containers until there is enough to warrant a trip to the dumpster because she is afraid to use her toilet too often. (After the Great Toilet Overflow of '99, she is terrified of having it happen again and will only allow Carrie to flush it. Today I am charged with not only taking juice, but also talking up my amazing toilet flushing capabilities so that I may someday offer a hand in that department. I have flushed toilets all around the world! My own toilet is a little strange, and not once have I had an issue flushing it! I'm practically a professional toilet flusher!)

I remember hearing David Sedaris speak on Fresh Air about his time spent in a morgue and how many people who live and die alone have their faces eaten off by their pets before anyone finds them. I am grateful that Old Lady Mary does not have any pets and that there are now three of us who know the Official Phone Call Code and can alert the necessary authorities should she not respond someday.

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Jarod and I had hoped to use our tax refund to travel this spring, but it turns out that in 2008 they did a far better job of calculating how much to withhold from his paycheck, so we can't go far on the money we'll end up getting back. We're now shooting for autumn, as seems to be our custom, and will come up with the traveling cash the old fashioned way, by saving it. How dull.

Which, really, is how life may be for awhile anyway, since in addition to saving for travel, we're also putting cash and free time into home improvement. (Sad fact: I am terribly excited about working a new storm door into our budget.) Add to that the fact that Jarod would like a new laptop and you've now created a couple of homebodies wearing worn-out, paint-splattered cargo pants during their leisure hours, with a fridge that looks pretty empty most of the time. This is not because we are not well-fed; on the contrary, we eat quite well. We're just getting really good at not buying too much and eating up what we do have. This makes fridge cleaning much easier, which means that I now have no excuse to put it off any longer.

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Is anybody out there good at dieting? While I've made dietary changes over the years and have spent time on various eating plans at times to try to improve other issues I've had (waking hungry in the night led me to try a blood sugar stabilizing diet, which worked but was super strict; adult acne led me to give up sugar for months so the inflammation would subside enough that I could use topical treatments), I have never been able to get behind an actual diet. I'd love to be about five pounds lighter, but honestly? If the 30 Day Shred and a return to bicycling in the warm weather won't do it, I'm afraid it just won't happen. I like food, and I want to enjoy eating as opposed to it being a highly regulated chore. We buy into the ideals of the slow food movement, and our consumption of highly processed foods is close to nil, but I still cook with butter. Sometimes a lot of butter, not to mention cream and maybe some goat cheese.

Obviously, if I were a vegan, I would look like Jessica Alba.

Oh, well.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Really, I Just Enjoy Oversharing

This post has been a long time coming, mostly because I decided that I would wait until this particular life experience was over before I shared it. But look at me, using the past tense so glibly; the truth is that what is going on has been going on for nearly a month now, and I'm pretty sick of the whole deal, particularly the part wherein I get blood drawn over and over and over and over again. So the post appears now; I'm not patient enough to wait any longer.

Jarod and I have always known we wanted a family, but no couple knows from the outset how their family will be built. Of course many of us assume that we will do it the straightforward way by having some unprotected sex and conceiving a child. Yet we all know in the backs of our minds, or perhaps more towards the front depending on who we are and what our history has been like, that it's not always that simple. For years I wasn't sure if I'd get married, so my plan was to fill the house with cats and eventually adopt an older child that hopefully wouldn't be allergic to cats. But then I met Jarod, we got married, and so that scenario was dumped. The one we preferred was to have one child we put together ourselves (the IKEA model) and then adopt one or two more (Target or Saks Fifth Avenue models, depending on which country we decided to adopt from, as cost varies quite a lot). We set about attempting to put together our own baby, but it wasn't as simple as we had hoped. In fact, I'd begun researching adoption options quite seriously, as we also prefer not to take extraordinary measures to conceive, knowing that we want to adopt regardless of whether or not we pass our genes on to someone small and unsuspecting. We had been, ahem, not at all careful about contraception for quite some time, and I had peed on enough sticks to be frustrated with the whole thing. Not wanting to pee on all our hard-earned money, when a certain time was later than normally decreed by Mother Nature, I blew it off, figuring holiday stress was to blame. But time wore on and finally I gave in, bought the two-pack Target brand tests, and used one of them. It showed a positive result before I had time to wash my hands.

We were surprised, but happy.

The next day, I got food poisoning, and I kind of figured that couldn't be good for anything trying to grow in my abdominal region.

Two days after that, I started spotting and felt as if I were wearing what I can only describe as a belt made of menstrual cramps. I tried to shake it off, but I knew. This one just wasn't meant to be. I'd known plenty of girls to have miscarriages, and a good many of them had never gone to the doctor about it at all, so I thought I'd just wait it out. Except...then the cramp belt started feeling heavier, and on a Sunday morning, I called the nurse hotline. Because I did not have a female parts care provider (who knew I'd need one?), the nurse, after reading something off her screen that I could have sworn came straight from a Google link, urged me to go to the ER. That was January 11, the day of the worst pelvic exam I hope to ever experience. Ladies, do yourselves a favor and get yourself a female care provider now; I don't care how good your GP is at pap smears. You will save yourself the pain of someday having an ER doctor with little finesse use a speculum the size of salad tongs on you, and you will also save yourself the agony of having to restrain from kicking him in his conveniently located face when he tells you to "Relax these muscles, these right here."

The official diagnosis was Threatened Miscarriage, but I knew it wasn't just threatened. I was so certain that I cancelled my follow up appointment and instead made an appointment with a recommended care provider for weeks later, when I assumed my body would be pretty much done with taking care of things. I figured it would be pretty easy; my uterus would do a little self-cleaning, I'd get a check-up, and we could then resume having unprotected sex in pursuit of our IKEA baby. How wrong I was.

It is now February 5, and I got a call today that I need to go back for more bloodwork on Monday. Initially, my hCG levels were rising instead of dropping, so I got to endure all sorts of new and interesting experiences. Bonus: I got to see what my ovaries look like on an ultrasound screen, which I realize is not fascinating to most of you, but I am infinitely interested in the inner workings of the body. Not so bonus: the means by which I was able to observe the inner workings of my body. (I twittered this before, but some of you ladies will know what I'm talking about when I say the word trans and ultrasound.) At this point in time, the levels are dropping, but they want to monitor me closely to make sure they return to zero. For now all this means is that I will have my blood drawn frequently until I reach that point. And while the blood draws are not a huge deal, the fact of the matter is that I'm a little sick of all this. I've read the blogs of women who have had several miscarriages, and I want all those women to know that I hold you in highest regard. If I have to do this even one more time without having a live, screaming infant, I'll throw in the towel. It's just been too much.

That said, the actual loss of the pregnancy was not so awful. I know there are a great many women who get on message boards to mourn together over their losses, but for me it simply isn't that way. I feel fortunate that we had not known about that pregnancy for long, that it was a delight to know that we could get pregnant at all. I would have loved to have had a baby to hold in my arms come August, but my heart is not broken because it didn't work out this time. This happens to a lot of women, and many women I know have come forward to share their own stories. Many, like me, count it as a natural part of life. I have been grateful for that kind of support; the last thing that I want is for anyone to feel sorry for us or to mourn as if it were already a child. I know that a lot of pro-lifers will be angered by me saying that last thing, but the truth is that we do not know if what came together as a pregnancy was developing into a baby or if there was something wrong with it that would have kept it from ever living. As much as I am against abortion at any stage, I also do not feel it is appropriate for me* to mourn a pregnancy lost at seven weeks as if it were a child. I have seen what exited my body, and it resembled nothing living or whole, for which I am grateful.

We do hope to become among the knocked-up sometime in the future. I won't ever say that we're trying because honestly? Why do you need to know if we are having a lot of sex at an optimal time of the month? I know I've overshared in many ways here, but that is something that I feel is never necessary to share with the world at large. If we are successful at assembling our IKEA baby, I will let you know. If not, you'll see an announcement of a different sort here sooner than we planned. There are a lot of beautiful babies out there; someday one of them will be ours.


*I do not presume to instruct anyone else how to grieve or how to view their own early pregnancies or losses of those pregnancies; I am simply saying that for me, what seems healthiest and best is to accept it and move on.