running a duck

I’ve composed about a half-dozen blog posts in my head over the last couple of weeks, but I can never seem to find the time to sit down and write anything out, or make it coherent. So here’s a bunch of random little things.

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Remember I said a while back that my goal was to be able to run 5 miles? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I finally did it. Let me repeat that: I RAN FIVE MILES. And I’ve done it a couple of times since then. Which is kind of amazing, given how terrible I was at running up until very recently.

I don’t know how many of y’all have seen the Running Drawing Tumblr, where the girl runs routes in various shapes on her GPS app, and most of the time they look like penises?

Well, a couple of Saturdays ago, while the kids were with Dave, I went for a run at a nearby park, got completely lost (there’s a lot of trails that sort of loop back on themselves, plus I have a crap sense of direction), and I realized when I got home that I… basically ran a duck.

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Not my intention, but I’ll take it.

I don’t know what my next goal is. I’ve started thinking about half-marathons in the back of my head, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it.

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Also on the whole fitness/exercise thing, have you heard of these Betty Rocker workouts? A couple of times a year, she does this 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Linda (@Sundry) does a good job of summarizing it here.

I was sold on it for a few reasons: I need to work on strength training, 3 workouts a week is totally manageable, and most importantly: it’s free, so if I decide I hate it and flake out, no big loss. I found a bunch of my Twitter friends are doing it as well, and that’s been kind of fun, to have people you can talk to about it, and commiserate with along the way.

Anyway, I just finished week 2, and I have no idea if I’ll make it the whole month, but… maybe? I’ll try. I mean, I’m halfway done, so I feel like I’m invested enough at this point to try to stick it out.

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Catie is on her fall break, and just finished up a week at science camp. She was so excited about it, and had such a great time, and the whole facility is set up really neat, and I just can’t say enough nice things about them.

Catie at science camp

They let her keep her lab coat, and now she’s saying that she wants to be a scientist for Halloween. This will be the first year since she was 2 that she hasn’t been a dinosaur for Halloween, so I’d say that’s pretty huge.

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Meanwhile, in my quest to encourage each of my kids to explore their own interests: Lucy has said several times that she wants to take ballet classes. So I thought, why not? She wants to wear tutus and be a girly-girl, then by all means, let’s embrace that, and let her be who she is.

I called around and found a dance studio that would let her try one free trial class. The class was called “Ballet, Tap, & Tumble,” and it was all 3 year-olds. That sounds completely awesome and hilarious, doesn’t it? I bought her a leotard and ballet shoes, and we borrowed tap shoes from a friend. She was so excited when I first told her about it.

Then, Saturday morning, when it was time for class, she freaked. She wouldn’t put on the leotard, she cried and cried. I figured she could go in her regular clothes, no big deal, maybe she’d decide to change when we got there and saw the other kids in their leotards.

She refused to go into the classroom. She clung to me like a baby rhesus monkey, and buried her face in my hip when the (very sweet) instructor came over to introduce herself. I couldn’t even get her off my lap to watch the class.

Lucy's reaction to her first ballet class. She was NOT HAVING IT.

We eventually gave up and left.

I suppose 3 is awfully young to start ballet, maybe she could try it next year and have fun with it. Or maybe she’ll never want to take dance classes, and that’s ok too.

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October seems to be a month that’s dedicated to raising awareness for a lot of various causes, and it’s a hard month for a lot of people. Like:

  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
    My mom had breast cancer, but she’s been cancer-free for 6 years now, so we no longer worry about recurrence. I had my first mammogram last year (a baseline before I had surgery), and it was normal. I know I’m very lucky.
  • October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
    I know far too many people who’ve suffered that loss. Again, I know I’m very lucky. I’ve had a grand total of two pregnancies in my entire life, and both of them resulted in healthy babies. I cannot imagine that pain.
  • October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
    Yet another instance where I know I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been in a relationship where I felt unsafe or threatened, and no man has ever hit me. And it’s another cause where I know too many people who have dealt with the issue. And I use the word people intentionally, because of course men can be victims of domestic violence too, and it’s something that isn’t talked about as much because it’s considered emasculating. I can honestly say that the man I love knows more about being on the receiving end of domestic violence than I ever will, and I hate that for his sake.

    (To clarify: not from me, obviously. I think the last time I hit someone, it was my brother, when we were in middle school.)

Point being: if any of those things apply to you, and it makes October a difficult month for you, I am very sorry, and I wish you peace.

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Just so I don’t end this post on a complete down-note: in case Lucy’s sad, pouty face up there is too heartbreaking, allow me to show you what happened a few hours later, when I wasn’t paying attention and she found my Burt’s Bees tinted chapstick on the bathroom counter.

Lucy & my lipstick

She said, “I so beautiful now! I can give you a kiss?” Then left a big ol’ purple mark on my cheek. Thanks, kiddo.

So, there. Purple chapstick’ed kisses for everyone.

outrunning fate

I don’t remember how old my mom was when she started having back problems. I guess it started when I was a teenager, but I’m fuzzy on the details.

I remember when I was in college and she called to tell me that she’d been diagnosed with scoliosis. She said she was afraid she might end up in a wheelchair, and she cried. I vividly remember standing in the bedroom of my apartment in Memphis, and feeling completely helpless, because my mom was 200 miles away, and all I wanted was to give her a hug.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years. My mom isn’t in a wheelchair, but her scoliosis has progressed, and she’s in pretty much constant pain. She uses a back brace, her back is hunched, and she has to wear a patch that gives her a low, steady dose of constant narcotic painkillers. She sees an acupuncturist regularly, which seems to help give her some occasional relief. But it’s a pretty awful way to live.

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I think I’ve mentioned here plenty of times that I was very overweight when I was young. When I was in high school, I used to go for walks at night after dinner, for exercise. (That’s the thing about Mississippi – most of the year, it’s so hot that it’s only bearable to go outside after it gets dark.) I’d usually walk 2 or 3 miles a night.

A lot of times when I went for walks, one of my parents would go with me. If it was my mom who came along, she’d complain a lot of the way that she didn’t want to go, even though she knew she needed to. She hated to exercise. (My dad never complained. He’s a golfer, walking a couple miles is nothing when you’re used to walking 18 holes.) Sometimes I’d egg my mom on to keep going, sometimes she’d take a shortcut back home rather than finish the whole route.

That’s not an indictment of my mom’s character. Plenty of people don’t enjoy exercising. I don’t think that it makes you a good or bad person one way or the other. She didn’t like to exercise, so she didn’t do it much. That’s all.

I don’t know if any of my mom’s health issues would’ve been helped if she had exercised more. Maybe if she’d had stronger core muscles, it would’ve helped to support her spine, and she wouldn’t be in as much pain now. I honestly don’t know.

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My mom and I have a lot in common. If you look at pictures of her when she was younger, we look a lot alike.

1970 - My parents with Tracy
My parents in 1970 with my sister Tracy.
Side note: my mom thought she was hideously fat when this picture was taken. If there’s any question where I get my ridiculous body dysmorphia, there you go.

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been pretty obsessive about exercise. I workout 5 days a week on average. I mostly run, although I’ll occasionally do a Jillian Michaels DVD (like the 30 Day Shred or one of those) just to mix it up and make sure I get some strength training, too.

It’s occurred to me that part of the reason exercise has become so important to me is because I’m afraid of ending up like my mom. I don’t know if I’m prone to the same health problems that she has, but I know that I absolutely do not want to end up in constant pain like she is. I don’t want to live like that.

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When I started running, my goal was to be able to run a 5K (3.1 miles). I hit that goal a couple of months ago. Now I’ve shifted it, and my goal is to be able to run 5 miles before Christmas. I don’t know where I came up with that number or why it feels significant. I guess it’s because until recently, it’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, and now it feels attainable.

A lot of my runner friends have encouraged me to do a race of some kind. Lord knows there’s plenty of options out there: 5Ks, 10Ks, full marathons, half marathons, whatever. I understand that a lot of people use them as a timeline for achieving a specific goal, and others just think races are fun. But I don’t want to do a race. I never run with other people. I don’t even run with Chris – although that’s mainly because he runs so much faster than me, he’d leave me in the dust in the first five minutes. Hell, I don’t even like passing people on the sidewalk of my street. So the idea of running with hundreds of other people makes me nervous. The thing I like about running is being able to zone out in my own head. The only person I’m competing with out there is myself.

(For what it’s worth, running also helps tremendously with my anxiety. I’ve had days where I wake up feeling shaky and panicky for no reason other than some stupid hormonal shift. If I’m running, I feel like it’s ok that my heart feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest and that I’m gasping for breath, because oh yeah, I’m running. It burns off that whole “fight or flight” thing, and by the time I get home, I’m calmer and the panicky feeling has passed. For that alone, I cannot recommend it enough.)

I don’t know what the end goal is with all this exercising that I’m doing. I don’t have any specific weight loss goal, because I’m pretty much ok with where I am now. (Although I wouldn’t mind toning up some places. I’m looking at you, upper arm flab.) I guess when I hit that “I can run 5 miles” goal, I’ll shift it out more and figure out what’s next.

The thing is, as I find myself barreling down on my 40th birthday (which, ok, that’s still a year and a half from now), and that whole “middle age” notion creeps in, my health is becoming more and more important. I feel like I need to make myself as strong as possible now, so I’ll be prepared for whatever physical challenges my body may face in the future.

So if you ever happened to wonder why I run? That’s why.

when birth control isn’t for birth control

WARNING: This post is long and rambly, and there is discussion of lady parts and sex and birth control ahead. Dad, you should just go ahead and click that little red X in the top-right corner now.

(I’m kidding. My dad knows my blog exists, but he’s read it a grand total of once, when I wrote Catie’s birth story. He said, “That was more than I wanted to know.” And he hasn’t read it since. Fair enough, Pop.)

I don’t normally talk about politics here, but my blog is my place where I sort of dump out the stuff that’s rattling around in my brain, and I admit that this whole Supreme Court Hobby Lobby thing has been taking up a lot of my brain space lately.

So, here’s my take on it, and I’m sorry this includes personal anecdotes and backstory.

After Lucy was born, my cycles were a mess. My understanding is that this is common after you have a baby, especially a second (or third or fourth) baby. I had debilitating cramps, my mood swings were crazy to the point of borderline-psychotic, and my period lasted for well over a week. It was awful.

I went to my OB/GYN to talk about my options. She said the best solution for the problems I was experiencing would be to get on one of the hormonal methods of birth control, because that generally alleviates all of these symptoms. It didn’t matter that my marriage had just broken up a couple months prior, and I was in no way even remotely sexually active, nor did I have any need whatsoever for contraceptives. Birth control was the best solution.

After going through the list, she suggested the Mirena IUD. There’s a long list of reasons why (I have digestive issues that rule out taking an oral birth control pill, I’m allergic to the adhesive in the patch, etc.), and honestly, I had a Mirena IUD between Catie and Lucy, and I liked it. So that seemed like an easy pick.

Three years later, I still don’t need my IUD as a method of contraception. I’m in a committed relationship with a man who’s had a vasectomy. I have no need for birth control, per se. And yet, I love my Mirena IUD. My cycles are super-light (I spot for a couple of days, that’s it), I have no cramps, and I might be slightly more irritable, but it’s miles better than it used to be.

And this is where the Hobby Lobby thing gets me. They don’t want to cover the IUD because they say it’s an abortifacent. And I say bullshit. Yes, in theory, it can keep a fertilized egg from implanting. But there are also women who use it for the same reason that I do, for their basic general health. Either way, it’s not my employer’s business why I have an IUD. My doctor shouldn’t need to clear it with my boss to treat me.

And really, we can argue all day whether or not “keeping a fertilized egg from implanting” counts as abortion, since that’s also the same thing that Plan B does (aka the morning-after pill, the OTHER thing Hobby Lobby now won’t cover for their employees). Personally, I say that until it has a heartbeat, it’s just a cluster of cells, not a human life. A cluster of cells with potential, sure, but it’s not the same as an actual fetus. (Also, people who confuse Plan B with RU-486/the “abortion pill” – please do your research, those are two very different things.)

Aside on Plan B: back in the 90s, a friend of mine was raped, and the next day we went to a clinic and got Plan B for her. Maybe there was a fertilized egg there, maybe there wasn’t, but in the wake of a really horrific trauma, it was reassuring for her to know that at least she didn’t have to worry about an unwanted pregnancy on top of all of the other emotional repercussions she had been dealt. I’m really glad that it exists for situations like that.

Back to the point about “birth control when it’s not a contraceptive” (man, I have a lot of thoughts on this one), my situation isn’t unique. There are a couple of million women in the U.S. who use hormonal birth control for reasons completely unrelated to contraception.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard a few recurring statements from the people who support the Hobby Lobby decision.

1. The female employees can pay for their birth control themselves.

The average IUD costs $900-1000. For most people who work in retail – even at a company like Hobby Lobby, which tends to pay their employees higher than minimum wage – that’s still a pretty sizable chunk of change. I’m not sure many people can afford that.

2. Small businesses should be able to do what they want without government interference.

To a point, I agree. But if government never interfered in private businesses, lunch counters in my home state of Mississippi would still be segregated. Government regulation is sometimes necessary in our society. It’s just a fact of life.

(If you happen to be one of the people who think the Civil Rights Act was a mistake, just… look, we’re never going to see eye to eye on anything, so don’t bother.)

3. If the employees don’t like it, they can just go work somewhere else.

Well, ok, I guess that’s legit. But this case sets a precedent for the 50 or so other pending lawsuits from corporations who don’t want to provide contraceptives to their female employees. What if you work in a specialized field, and the only place you can find employment is with a company that’s run by Catholics who object to covering all contraceptives? The Supreme Court basically just made that scenario possible.

It’s interesting to me that the people who see this as a victory for freedom of religion are the same people who would decry this decision if it went in favor of any religion other than Christianity. Say, for example, there was a company run by Muslims and they say that all of their female employees must wear a hijab. I mean, they’re just exercising their freedom of religion and if the female employees don’t like it, they’re free to go work somewhere else, right?

But if that were the case, do you think Sean Hannity and those people would be cheering this as a win for freedom of religion in this country? I find that pretty doubtful.

And look, I know I’m pretty far left politically, so this decision was bound to piss me off. And I’ve been talking about this issue with some of my friends who agree with the decision, and I’m proud of us for staying polite in our discussion on this, even when we completely disagree.

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that I’m more pro-choice now than I was before I had kids. I’ve experienced firsthand how hard being a parent is, and I realize that not everyone might be cut out for it. It’s extraordinarily hard to be a good parent, and it’s all too easy to be a shitty one.

But rather than abortions – which, honestly, nobody wants, even the most pro-choice among us – what would be ideal is if all women had access to all of the family planning tools that they needed. The easier we as a society make it for women to get contraception, the lower the abortion rate gets. And wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where every pregnancy was wanted?

As for Hobby Lobby, here, go watch John Oliver sum this up. He’s a lot funnier than I am.

the return of asthma and crappy teachers

So, this post that I wrote a couple of months ago about how Catie seems to have outgrown her asthma? Let’s just go ahead and redact that whole thing.

Since we took Catie off her daily inhaler several weeks ago, I noticed she was coughing a lot. I figured it was just sinus drainage stuff, she uses a prescription nasal spray for that sometimes. Rather than worry, I made sure Dave had an extra bottle of her nasal spray at his place so we could make sure she got it every night. I figured it was likely related to allergies and would eventually pass.

Dave mentioned last week that her cough seemed worse, and I noticed it when she was at home.

It was Dave’s weekend to have the kids, but Catie got invited to a birthday party, and the kids’ social outings tend to fall more under my umbrella. I picked her up and we went to the birthday party. (We didn’t want Lucy to feel left out, so I took her to my parents’ house while Catie and I went to the party. Getting to have her grandparents all to herself is a special treat, so she was happy with that. I pulled up in the driveway, got Lucy out of her car seat, she ran up to the house, and as soon as she saw my mom, she turned around and said, “Bye, Mommy!” Like, see ya later, dude, I’m good now.)

The birthday party was at a bounce house, and Catie had a great time jumping around with her friends.

By the time the kids were supposed to stop and have cake, Catie was coughing a lot. She didn’t want to sit down with the other kids, she was clinging to me and telling me she didn’t feel good. I got her a bottle of water, and she eventually sat while everyone sang happy birthday and ate cake, then she was back by my side.

The other kids went back to play on the bounce houses again. Catie said, “Mommy, I can’t breathe. I wanna go home.”

That set off some internal alarm in my head, and we said goodbye to the birthday girl, thanked the parents for inviting us, and got out of there. I took her home and set her up with albuterol in the nebulizer, and she was fine after a few minutes of a breathing treatment.

She went back to Dave’s for the rest of the weekend, but we’ve been texting, and her cough is still pretty rough, and she’s needed the inhaler several times. (Dave has asthma too, so he typically recognizes the symptoms faster than I do.) I called the pediatrician’s office this morning to make sure this is all documented in her chart, and to have them call in more refills of her inhaler.

So, it looks like she hasn’t outgrown her asthma after all, and that it really was her daily inhaler that was keeping her asymptomatic all this time. And hey, if that’s all she needs to manage her asthma, that’s fine, we can totally handle that.

It’s not the end of the world by any means. It sucks, but she’ll be fine.

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On a completely unrelated note: I ended up talking with a couple of the other parents from Catie’s class at the birthday party, and it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who had a bad year in first grade and who didn’t care for the teacher. It was reassuring to know that it wasn’t just us, and that other parents and their kids struggled in the exact same way that we did. I mean, it sucks for all of the kids who had a rough school year – and it’s heartbreaking to hear kids say they hate school when they’re only in first grade. But it reinforces my theory that the issue really was more with the teacher than with Catie, since our experience was not unique.

I’ve already emailed Catie’s second grade teacher and told him about some of our struggles this past year, and the challenges that Catie has been dealing with. I figure it’s good to make him an ally from the get-go. His reply was very nice, and I’m feeling optimistic that we might be able to turn this around for her.

Fingers crossed.

after the ballooning

Things I’ve learned about sinus surgery/balloon sinuplasty and other random thoughts from yesterday:

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1. You have no idea just how far back your sinus cavities go until a nurse packs your nose with numbing gauze. Chris and I took one look at the nurse’s supply tray and we were both like, “yeah, that’s not going all the way in there.” (Insert a “that’s what she said” joke here.) But it did. Equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

The doctor’s office was late getting started and we did a lot of sitting and waiting. At one point, Chris threatened to take a picture of me with my nose packed with gauze, IV in my hand, playing Candy Crush on my phone. I think the glare I gave him convinced him otherwise.

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2. I’ve gotten used to people assuming that Chris and I are married. I figure that when you’re of a certain age (like we are), and you’re obviously a couple, people just assume that you’re married. Especially if we’re out with the kids, it looks like we’re a little family unit. And that’s fine, I don’t really care what other people think. Hell, I’ve taken my kids out to do stuff with my brother Chris, and people assume he’s their dad. Until my girls address him as “Uncle Chris,” and they probably put it together. But again: I don’t care, it’s not really on my radar to worry about how other people perceive my marital status.

But I have to say, it’s kind of jarring when people call Chris my husband. It happened a few times yesterday, nurses called him that. Like, “your husband is in the waiting room,” that kind of thing. And my brain goes, “Wait, what? I don’t have a hus- ohhhh right nevermind.” I didn’t bother to correct them, because really, they’re just doing their job, and they don’t care about my relationship status. Still, it throws me a little.

Like a couple of times when we’ve gone out to eat, and Chris paid with his debit card, and the waiter has come back with the check and said, “Thanks for coming out tonight, Mr. and Mrs. [Chris’s last name].” It’s happened in reverse, too, when I paid with my card, and the waiter called him Mr. Wilkinson. It’s just… strange.

Point being: wedding rings, y’all. Check for them.

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3. The anesthesiology nurse warned me that it stings when the sleepy meds start to drip into my hand from the IV. I said, “oh yeah, I see what you mean,” and then I don’t remember anything after that. No counting down from 100, it was just lights out.

[Side note: that same nurse told me afterward that during the last part of the surgery, my heart rate went way up and I started to thrash around. I really wish she hadn’t told me that. I kind of wanted to keep the vision that I was just peacefully asleep for the whole thing. Knowing that my unconscious self was able to register pain and react to it is probably the kind of thing that will give me nightmares.]

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4. The next thing I remember was being in a wheelchair in the recovery room, crying and bleeding all over Chris. I must’ve woken up earlier, because they got me from the bed to the wheelchair after I was awake, but I don’t remember that part. And Chris said he heard me asking for him as he was walking down the hall to the recovery room, so again, I was obviously sort of conscious, but I don’t remember that at all. I just remember that my whole head hurt like hell and I couldn’t breathe. And I hate crying in front of strangers (like the medical staff who were in the room with me), but what can you do? That happened.

The ride home was pretty miserable. I moaned and whimpered the whole way.

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5. Percocet is a wonderful thing. Chris helped me get settled in bed (2 pillows to keep my head elevated, towels on top of the pillowcase in case I bled everywhere, bottle of Gatorade on the nightstand in case I got thirsty), and I slept in a lovely, comfortable, narcotic haze for a few hours.

When I woke up, we had dinner, lay on the couch, and watched TV. I cut the Percocet into one-fourths so I could space them out, keep myself pain-free, and not be completely loopy and stoned. It worked pretty well.

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6. Trying to sleep the first night after sinus surgery is pretty awful. I can’t breathe through my nose (nor am I allowed to blow my nose), so I woke up pretty much hourly. Not fun.

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7. The tools they used in the surgery shaved several layers of skin off the tip of my nose, and it’s now starting to blister. This is decidedly not awesome. I’m keeping Bacitracin ointment on it.

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8. On the upside, I’m 24 hours post-op and I’m not in any real pain at all, just general discomfort (like when you’re congested with a bad cold). I’ve switched to regular Tylenol, so that’s not so bad. I just wish I could breathe normally.

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I guess time will tell if this was all worth it. If it means that I get less frequent headaches, and I stop getting sinus infections that require antibiotics every couple of months, then it definitely will have been worthwhile. Just have to wait and see, I guess.

sticking a balloon up your nose sounds like a really bad idea

A couple of years ago, I started seeing an Ear Nose & Throat doctor for some recurring sinus issues I was having. He recommended that I get sinus surgery, but the recovery time was at least two weeks. And he told me this when Lucy was a baby and I was a full-time single mom of two kids. So I basically balked at the idea.

I saw my doctor again a couple of months ago, and he told me about a new procedure called balloon sinuplasty, which is basically the same concept (taking a Roto Rooter to your nasal passages), but less invasive and the recovery time is minimal. And it turns out my insurance covers it, too.

So I’m having it done later this week. The kids will be with Dave for a couple of nights while I sleep off the anesthesia and recuperate. I’m not anticipating any issues, but you know, when you throw the word “surgery” around, things start to sound kind of scary. Good thoughts welcome.

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The kids spent this past weekend with Dave. It occurred to me that this might have been the first time he got to be with both kids on Father’s Day in Lucy’s lifetime.

Actually, I guess that’s not true, because he was here in 2011 when she was two weeks old. But the vast majority of 2011 is kind of a blur for me. It’s weird when people tell me about something I said or did around the time Lucy was born and I have no recollection of it. (My dad mentioned something about painting Lucy’s nursery pink. I was like, “no, I never painted anything in that house.” Then I remembered that oh yeah, I did. Or maybe Dave painted it and I just decorated it with vinyl wall stickers afterward? I honestly can’t remember.) Everything from that time frame is fuzzy, like something that happened in a dream.

Anyway, the girls got to spend Father’s Day with him this year, and that’s a good thing. Lucy’s daycare class all made some kind of art project for their respective dads, and Catie made him a dragon, since she made me one for Mother’s Day and I guess felt like she needed to be fair.

"I knew Mother's Day was coming up, so I made you this dragon." I swear, 7 is my favorite age yet.

I know I’m not objective, but I do really like her dragons.

I don’t say much about Dave here, because I generally think it isn’t appropriate. But I will say that it’s been really great having him actively involved in the kids’ lives these past several months. I think it’s been good for all of us.

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I miss blogging. It’s hard because lately I feel so scrutinized. I know a couple of people are reading here, looking for any tiny detail they can use against me or Chris.

What’s the expression, it’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you? That. It seems there are some people whose entire existence is based on trying to suck the happiness out of others’ lives. Joy thieves really suck to have around.

Hopefully, this too shall pass, and eventually I won’t feel quite so censored. But for now, I have to use the “mute” button pretty heavily on a lot of my life, and I hate it.

random thoughts on diets and exercise

A few weeks ago, I’d realized that I’d gained weight. Not a significant amount. Basically, my weight varies a little from day to day, but I have a 5-pound range where I tend to hover. I noticed that the 5-pound range had shifted upward by about 3 or 4 pounds.

This seems insignificant, I know, but I’ve found that it’s a hell of a lot easier to lose 3-5 pounds than it is to lose, say, 20. So, for a couple of weeks, I cut out all processed foods – restricted myself to veggies, fruit, and meat, nothing else. (Not even any dairy, except for a splash of milk in my coffee in the morning. Because even I have limits.) And I lost the weight pretty easily by doing that. I got back to my usual weight range, and I’m pretty pleased with that.

It got me thinking about diets and exercise programs, and which ones have worked for me over the years, and which ones haven’t. And I have come up with a theory about weight loss that might be complete b.s., but it makes sense to me.

I think that in order to successfully lose weight, you have to find the delicate balance between two factors:
1. A diet that works for your body.
2. A diet that works for your brain.

See, I don’t think every diet works for every person. A couple of years ago, I tried Jenny Craig. It did nothing for me except make me hungry and grumpy and feel like crap. I know some people are very successful on those types of programs, and hey, good for them! I think something about the pre-made processed food just turns my metabolism to sludge. That’s just me and my body.

The brain part is trickier, but I think it’s why I’ve had a lot of “false starts” with diets where I planned to start some new strategy, and then completely failed. Like, I had a doctor who told me to try a liquid diet for 2 weeks. I basically white-knuckled it and barely made it to day 5 before I caved. It was a mental hang-up that I had, I couldn’t cope with it.

I know some people can’t do the diet approach works for me. I know that vigilantly checking your weight every day, and dieting the minute that you start to gain does border on being a little obsessive. I get that it wouldn’t work for everybody’s personality type. And not everyone can do the whole “eliminate all processed foods” super-restricted diet that works for me.

I don’t really know what my point is here, just that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you hit a plateau or need to quit your latest weight-loss endeavor before you hit your goal. It just means you need to keep trying different approaches until you find the one that works for your body and your brain.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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While I’m on this whole diet/exercise rant, running has been my “exercise of choice” for a pretty long time now. Over a year, I guess. I started off really slow – I used the Doctor Mama approach of “run so slowly that you would be embarrassed if anyone saw you.” (I tried various interval training programs over the years, couch-to-5K type things, but this “go sloooow” approach is the only thing I’ve found that works for me and doesn’t kill my knees.)

And for a really long time, I only ran on my treadmill in my house, because I was embarrassed about how slow and awful I was at running. All the panting! The needing to stop to blow my nose or get a gulp of water! Mortifying.

And I’ve gotten a lot better. I started running outside when the weather got nice a couple of months ago, and I’m sure I’ll be back on the treadmill when it gets too hot later this summer, but right now I just run in the morning before it gets too unbearable.

I’ve gradually increased both my speed (I’m still slow compared to most runners, I average about a 5 mph pace), and the length of my runs. I’m now running close to 3 miles, 5 days a week. No lie, I’m pretty proud of that.

I like running because I can let my mind wander. It calms my anxiety, and it helps me gather my thoughts and figure myself out. Kind of a zen thing, I guess.

Today, for some reason, I started thinking about pain. On “House of Cards,” at the very beginning of the first episode (the scene with the dog, for those of you who know what I’m talking about), Frank Underwood talks about the two types of pain – how there’s the pain that makes you stronger, and there’s pain that’s useless.

And I thought about how that applies to running. See, I don’t mind it when my legs hurt while I run, because I figure they’re getting stronger. And I’m ok when my heart is pounding and my lungs feel like they’re going to explode out of my chest, because I know I’m building up my endurance.

The one thing I can’t handle? When sweat drips into my eyes. There’s no benefit there. My eyes aren’t going to get stronger because of it. It’s just stupid and it hurts. Useless pain.

So, yeah. Maybe using the treadmill in the air-conditioning isn’t such a bad idea after all.