The view from my kitchen table

I’ve been consumed with minutia lately, so I don’t have a deep blog post for today. Most of my focus has been on my diet and exercise routine (the total lack of the latter). It doesn’t make for fascinating reading, so I will keep this brief.

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I’ve been on the Linzess for a couple of weeks now. It’s…working, definitely, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to know when a problem I was unaware I even had has been resolved.

I am also experimenting with various diet tweaks, in the hopes of getting off the Linzess. (TEN DOLLARS a pill.) I am really very tired of thinking about food. I am also over water. On the plus side, I’m down a cup of tea most mornings. Two more to go.

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Kai has, for reasons known only to 3-year-olds, chosen this week to potty-train himself. I’m guessing this is what paper-training a puppy is like, if the puppy were to poo on the floor and then run a toy bus over it a dozen times. But he’s improving. He disassembles his potty chair each time he uses it, empties it in the big potty, and then reassembles the chair. And he always lets me know when there’s a mess he can’t clean up — unlike his sister. (With her, I played “Poop or rock?” more times than I care to recall.)

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One evening recently it was actually pleasant outside, so I took the kids outside to play. The porch table and chairs were gritty with pollen, and my phone was instantly coated in green dust when I set it down. So my pipe dream of jogging once the cold spell broke is now gone. Once I get a handle on my diet, I’ll start working up a doable exercise routine. I read somewhere recently that you should strive to exercise a bit each hour rather than save it all for one big chunk; that’s most certainly the only way I’m going to fit it in right now.

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I’ve ordered a lot of things for myself recently, but the one I’m most excited about at the moment is a pair of reading glasses. Because I am old.

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I’ve not stopped looking at houses, but I think we’re going to stay put this year. Pay off some debt. Pick up some things we’ve been doing without. And do a massive amount of decluttering.

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I’m all for shoegazing and tightening my focus to the little things, the building blocks, as needed. But I’m ready to do more, bigger now. Get the garden started. Buckle down on this book while the words are still flowing. Plan a birthday party. Just get outside — I’ve spent most of my waking hours at my kitchen table as of late, and while I love how my back yard is turning out, I need a change of scenery.

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If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning

(Which was, incidentally, the quote behind my MySpace URL, back when we all had MySpace pages.)

I like to think of myself as a healthy person. Not healthyish, as I was in my 20s and early 30s. I eat a balanced diet, exercise at least sometimes, don’t smoke or drink or overdo the caffeine. I brush twice a day. (And floss!) I get roughly 7 hours of sleep (most) nights. I always, always have a beverage at hand; I drink only tea (3 cups of green tea in the mornings, ginger later on) and water, plus V-8 or milk with meals. My labs, when the doctor has occasion to take labs, are all stellar. My blood pressure is low normal. My pulse is low.  My cholesterol is enviable. Allergies aside, I’m in better shape now than I was at 20.

There’s always room for improvement, though. I’m trying to cut down on the sugar, and am working to eliminate caffeine entirely. And…I hate fruit. Have always hated fruit. My “balanced diet” has historically involved the fruit in juice form, because the texture of almost all fruit makes me make the hnnngh face. But this year, I’ve been making a point to consume two servings of fruit flesh every day. (Usually apples/applesauce or a smoothie, because hnnngh.)

Then I discovered Ezekiel English muffins and bread, and added them to the menu to ward off the afternoon snackies. Breakfast: Greek yogurt, applesauce, and almonds; on warmer mornings, a smoothie. Lunch: a sprouted grain English muffin and a glass of vegetable juice. A home-cooked, healthy dinner. I could almost hear my halo humming.

One day recently, shortly after lunch (which was at 10 a.m. because I’d been up since 4), my stomach started to hurt. Then it hurt. The pain grew worse and worse as the day wore on. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand to be touched, and all attempts at alleviating the pressure from either the entrance or exit failed. I became convinced I had appendicitis. (It’s not been that long since my dad had a ruptured appendix.) I called my parents, and Dad took me to the ER while Mom watched the kids.

Long story (as ER visits often are) short, I did not have appendicitis. I had an impacted bowel.

“But I’m regular! I eat healthy! I eat loads of fiber! I’m so hydrated my pee is clear!” I protested. The x-ray did not care.

“So she’s full of sh*t?” Dad said to the doctor. (Dad and hubs have had a field day with this.)

“I will never live this down,” I told her.

“There’s where you put on those five pounds!” my husband said to me. What a pleasant thought.

I thought that the impaction was at least a recent one. The stomach bug Anya and I had in December had, I believed, cleaned me out entirely. Not so, said my GP at my follow-up visit. Where, despite all the medication the ER gave me, my doctor told me I’m still “full of it.” (His words. At least he managed to say it without laughing.) Based on my x-rays, he’s inclined to think I have had this problem for a while. Years, maybe. I probably just brought my symptoms to a head by all the recent fiber intake.

No good deed goes unpunished.

The medication for this predicament costs over $300. A month. I found a coupon online, but it’s only good for a year’s worth of medication. So I’m determined to fix the matter with diet. (After, of course, the medication clears the current crisis. Which it is. Violently.) So I’ve been reading nutrition facts and creating menus and buying groceries. Google is now autocompleting my every search request with “fiber content.”

As an additional kick in the teeth, I looked at my electronic health record a few days after the ER visit and noted that my x-ray also showed I have kidney stones. Plural.

So on top of whatever’s going on in my colon, I guess I’m not drinking enough water, either. FFS.

I have thus challenged myself to drink 88 oz of water per day. (I’m covering my bases because I’m still breastfeeding. The jury’s still out on whether nursing moms need more water; ordinarily I’d err on the side of thirst, but I never thought I’d have kidney stones.) While making my morning tea, I fill up my water bottle. One cup of tea, 22 ounces of water. Repeat twice. Plus a bottle in the afternoon. I haven’t noticed that I pee any more frequently because of this, so apparently I need that much water. (Didn’t fix my bowel problems, unfortunately. Because that would be too easy.)

An unexpected bonus: I’m no longer craving a fourth cup of green tea. Perhaps with time, my morning H2O routine will help me decaffeinate entirely. Which was a longer-range goal, but I’ll take it sooner rather than later.

My husband, whose healthy-habits halo isn’t quite as shiny as mine, has started taking fiber supplements since my diagnosis. And my little monkey-sees are drinking more water because I am. Mama has a water bottle, babies want one, too. So at least I’m being a good example, finally.

Lies mirrors tell

You may notice a lack of goal updates lately. This is not an oversight. I’ve dialed back the goal work recently. This is why.

I’ve heard the term “body dysmorphic disorder” bandied about quite a bit, but I never thought I had it. Not until I read Lindi Ortega’s Lenny Letter and recognized myself. The way I’ve picked apart my skin, my hair, every small feature of my body since I was old enough to start noticing the way I was different from other people. So, like, age 6 or 7.

So young, you say? Yes. Which is why I am dismayed, but not shocked, to hear my daughter obsess over her lack of a six-pack. I have no idea where she heard the term; I’ve never been fixated on having a six-pack. (I just want a flat stomach. It doesn’t have to have definition.) But I did learn, finally, where she got the notion that she, at the age of 6, should have one.

384517_2858208169180_112976356_nThis is me at Anya’s age. I did not do anything special to earn those muscles. I wasn’t especially thin — no thinner than my daughter, at any rate. I just have natural abs. I still do; I can feel them in there, above the endometriosis bloat and beneath the pregnancy-loosened skin and the breastfeeding pudge. I can make them stronger, but they’re already pretty strong; after months (okay, let’s be real — years) of inactivity, I can work up to doing 100 jackknives in less than a week. I can, if no small child decides to sit upon my back while I’m down, go do a 3-minute plank right this second, in my piggie slippers. I can’t do anything about the bloat or the pudge or the floppy skin, but the core strength is still there.

My daughter got a lot of things from me. Her hair, her eyes, her long legs, her smile. But she doesn’t have those abs, and she feels she should. Just as I, at her age, thought I should have a more feminine face and blond hair and more dainty hands and an even tan. (It was the 80s. Tan was a thing.)

When I got older, I fell victim to the Stridex and Clearasil marketing that was suddenly ubiquitous. So much so that I had Clearasilled upwards of 20 chickenpox blisters before saw one on my knee and realized they weren’t the world’s ugliest pimples. (I was 12, and I never really had acne. I didn’t know any better.) I obsessed over my (clear) skin at 12. And my suddenly thick, frizzy, wavy, unruly hair. I didn’t, at least at first, give a thought to my body.

Then I did, because boobs were everywhere. Except, it would appear, on me. I was flat until my 20s, when things shifted a bit to give me a somewhat balanced figure. But I still didn’t fill out shirts. And my calves were like sticks, no matter how much I exercised. I once did so many heel raises that I had to coat myself in Ben-Gay for days just to lurch to class. I had a flat stomach, slim thighs utterly free of cellulite, and a perky butt, but I had a small chest and tiny calves, so I felt hideous. I would buy clothes in the plus-size section, trying to mask my grotesque form.

The funny thing is that back then, everyone thought I had an eating disorder. I was in fact trying to gain weight; I was just unhappy, and when I am unhappy, I can’t eat. But the criticism I received from well-meaning people trying to save me from the eating disorder I didn’t have didn’t help my self-esteem one bit.

Such has it always been. I have picked myself apart my whole life, and people have helped me do it. But the loudest, cruelest voice has always been my own. And to watch my daughter start to do the same is devastating. Even more so because I’m still doing it — only now I’m comparing myself not to others, but to my former self. I put on clothes I wore before I got pregnant with Kai and look at the fat that bulges up around my waist and across my back. I look at the splotches on my face and wish for the skin I had at 18 — pimples and all. I look at my dimpled thighs and wonder why I ever thought bigger calves were such a big deal.

It’s not just my appearance, either. My house isn’t clean enough and I’m a horrible mother and a worse wife and daughter. I don’t work hard enough, and what work I do is laughably bad. I waste my free time doing things that don’t matter instead of finishing my book or working on Anya’s blanket or taking a class.

I will never live up to who I think I should be.

The thing is, I don’t want to. Not entirely. I enjoy setting goals and meeting them. I love always having a challenge before me. I’m not sure how I would derive any sense of self-satisfaction without that. But I also wish I could just be happy with me for five minutes. For my daughter. We can’t continue to compare ourselves to my former self and find ourselves wanting.

For starters, I never thought my former self was all that great to begin with.

But I Googled Lindi Ortega photos, and I don’t see any of the stuff she’s picking herself apart for, either. She’s absolutely beautiful. So it’s entirely possible that my mirror is lying to me, too.

I don’t know how to strike a balance between constantly having some goal to work towards and being forever uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to find that balance, and soon. Because my daughter is watching.

The Year of Calm: February

Calm’s February calendar came on my radar at just the right time. The theme is cultivating compassion, something the world can always use more of. Especially me, towards myself. So I’m in.

The first two days were easy-peasy. I already tally up all of my daily gratitudes over on 43t (which will forever be 43t to me, no matter what they’re calling it these days). And as a mom of littles, I compliment daily; it’s like breathing. Today started with me complimenting my son for correctly naming (most) of the colors on our vaporizer’s nightlight. At 4 a.m. Because he’s 2.

Some of the others will be harder. I can tell you right now the odds are slim of me buying myself flowers tomorrow. But I bought myself some new bras before my last decent bra fell apart. It’s still self-love…just less Instagrammable. But the things I bought will bring me joy a lot longer than a bunch of flowers. And no amount of flowers can make up for your underwire stabbing you in the heart.

Sunday’s I can do. While there was a time I’d have found it painful, I think I can do so fairly easily. The trick is to spend that time doing something fun and fulfilling, not cleaning the house. I’ll, ah, do my best.

A lot of the things on this list appear to be geared towards single people, or at least people without kids. I can pretty much guarantee I will not find 5 minutes next Friday to lay down and listen to a song without being jumped upon as if I were a bed. So I’m going to have to make some modifications. That’s okay, though. A modified exercise still counts. It’s only the exercise you don’t do that doesn’t.

Ask me how I know.

Dear future me: Buy your own clothes

I’ve identified a major stumbling block in my thinking: I’m trying to live in the future. Again.

I caught myself on ThredUp during a lull in my morning work, favoriting shirts and dresses I can’t breastfeed in. I’ve vowed not to buy anything to fit future me, because a) present me deserves nice things, too, and b) future me may not necessarily want a turtleneck dress, even if present me would give anything to wear one.

Oh, how I miss turtlenecks.

Ahem. Anyway.

This theory can be expanded to other areas. I’ve been tying myself in knots trying to make morning meditation/yoga work with a clingy cosleeping toddler who wakes when I leave the bed and demands to nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. I’ve tried stuffed animals. Bribes. Begging. Getting up earlier. Getting up later. Including him in the yoga. Nursing while meditating. Doing yoga on the hard kitchen floor while he shakes the baby gate and wails at me.

The point is not how do I make this schedule work. The point is that I need to wait until the schedule can work. In a couple of years, he won’t want to sit on my lap and nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. He will want to watch cartoons, or play with toys, or eat solid food. He will possibly be going to school. So I should just shelve my vision of myself as a 4:30 a.m. meditating yogi and find a routine that works with my now.

What that may be, I don’t know. I’ve toyed with taking a yoga class at the local gym, which offers child care. I’ve toyed with resuming my brief cardio routine at bedtime, though it’s hard to squeeze in some nights (and Anya’s wanting to do more extracurriculars). Or dropping everything and exercising while he naps. I’ve also toyed with just stagnating physically for a couple of years, because it’s easy and the couch is comfortable.

The problem I’m having, the problem I’m always having, is the reconciliation of who I am and what I can do with who I want to be and what I want to be doing. It’s mindfulness, in other words. The same core problem I’ve had my whole life. I’m gazing at the horizon, and I need to be looking at my feet.

When he’s grown, and my arms ache to hold a baby, I won’t give a rat’s rear end if I have flat abs. And I have years ahead of me to wear turtlenecks again.

Meditation challenge, take two

My daughter said something yesterday that made me realize how desperately I need to emphasize this goal. The morning started as usual: I woke (late, because after the previous day’s toddler-driven sleep deprivation plus that night’s nightmares/anxiety attack I allowed myself to sleep in), got dressed and did my morning face/teeth/hair thing, fixed a cup of tea and started to work. Halfway through said work, Kai awakened and wanted to be nursed. Fine. We do this every day.

The problem arose when he finished nursing, but wanted to sit on my lap and twiddle. I wanted to set him down, because at that point I had roughly 2 more minutes of work to wrap up before I could take a break and get Anya off to school. He dug his heels in and refused, slapping me and screaming at me. I yelled back. We proceeded to fuss at each other for the next 20 minutes, while I tried to work with one hand and hold him off with the other. When I went to awaken Anya for school (late, now), I had no patience left; when she did her usual dawdling thing, I snapped at her.

Anya, being my insightful girl, asked me (once she was dressed and ready to go; she’s no dummy) if I’d slept okay the night before. Because she’s learned that when Mommy doesn’t get enough sleep, Mommy is cranky and low on patience. I told her that no, I hadn’t had enough sleep the night before. And that’s when I realized that nothing that had transpired that morning was actually that bad; I was just tired and headachy and lacking the resources to deal with conflict.

I apologized to Anya. Then to Kai. The morning proceeded much more smoothly after that. (Though not 100% smoothly; Kai is still nearly 3. And when he is tired, he acts out. Imagine that.)

A second example: Later in the morning I realized I had been rubbing my nose for hours. Earlier, as I was in a hurry, I used a lotion I know upsets my allergies, because (a) it works quickly and (b) it was there. I washed it off after dropping Anya at school, as I had been hacking my head off ever since I put it on, but apparently I didn’t get it all. So I scrubbed my hands and forearms, and used the nose spray (Flonase, otherwise known as my nose’s BFF) to boot. No more itchy.

This type of allergic reaction isn’t a huge deal by itself, but we’re fast approaching one of my worst allergy windows: Soggy late winter mold plus tree pollen. If I am to avoid getting a sinus infection, I need to keep a tight rein on my allergies. Which means not blowing off minor irritations like postnasal drip. It’s all cumulative.

I need to be more mindful, in other words. Little things snowball into big things — but if they are caught early enough, they can be dealt with easily and much misery can be averted. It’s a whole lot easier to grease the squeaky wheel than to replace it.

Coupled with yesterday’s thoughts on calm, I think the solution is clear: I need to meditate more. Every day. I need to make it a habit, as I’ve made brushing and flossing twice a day. (And look, I never thought I’d be a morning brusher; it took me years to train myself to floss consistently.) So I’m bringing back the meditation challenge, and I will stick with it until the meditation habit sticks. This is more important than the sugar thing (nobody cares if I kick sugar entirely if I’m a bitch), so I’m bumping that down the priority list for now.

I’m also going to track my mindfulness work so I don’t let it slide. (Yes, another goal. It’s who I am; I’m hardly going to change that now.) Simply meditating every day isn’t enough; I need to pay attention and act on what I observe. squeaksqueaksqueak

I may not have gotten the daughter I expected, but I think I got the daughter I needed. I’d do well to be more mindful of her wisdom, too.

The whys behind my goal list

“Who will free me from hurry, flurry, the feeling of a crowd pushing behind me, of being hustled and crushed? How can I regain even for a minute the feeling of ample leisure I had during my early, my creative years? Then I seldom felt fussed, or hurried. There was time for work, for play, for love, the confidence that if a task was not done at the appointed time, I easily could fit it into another hour. I used to take leisure for granted, as I did time itself.”

– Bernard Berenson, Sunset and Twilight, from the Diaries of 1947-1958

Another well-timed Moment of Happiness quote from Gretchen Rubin. I remember having so much time. I remember time dragging. I remember wishing time would hurry up. And while I won’t say I never experience that feeling these days — when I’m in the throes of an anxiety attack, for instance, or in the dentist’s chair, or one of my kids is having an epic meltdown — for the most part time whooshes by me at an alarming rate. The best I can do some days is hold on.

Which is where my goals come in. By setting the goals I do, I’m trying to maximize my time. I can see now how much time I’ve wasted, how much time I continue to waste — I wasted half an hour lollygagging in bed this morning, for instance, and as a result probably won’t get my yoga time — and I’m trying to do something about it. Because my kids won’t be little forever. Because I won’t be able-bodied forever. Because I won’t be forever.

However, I do tend to get caught up in the hows and lose track of the whys. So I wrote this post to remind myself why I am doing (or trying to do) the things I am. There is some overlap in the whys; for example, my goal to be able to run a mile is both a challenge to myself and a step in improving my overall fitness level. I want to take professional development courses both to grow my career skill set and thus increase my earning potential, and also just to learn cool stuff. And I like that — I like taking care of multiple goals at once. But the single-focus goals are also important. They’re all bricks in the structure that is the life I’m trying to create.

My whys:

  • Be fit and healthy, with sufficient energy to do the things I need to do.
  • Stress less. Yell less. Laugh more.
  • Challenge myself to keep learning and growing.
  • Keep my family healthy and happy.
  • Create a close and loving home environment.
  • Help my children learn and grow.
  • Create mementos of this time for the kids to look back on when they are grown.
  • Make our home a pleasant place to be, as it’s where I spend nearly all of my time.
  • Create routines and habits that allow me to fit everything in.
  • Stabilize our finances so we can afford the things we want and need to do.

My biggest why, of course, is my family. I want my family to be happy and loving and close. I want my kids to have a wonderful childhood. I want them to like me enough to still want to spend time with me as adults. I get along with my parents, but the rest of my family is dysfunctional as hell, so I know the alternatives and I’m trying my best to not replicate them.

(And at the same time I’m trying not to lose sight of me and what I want and need, because if I don’t take care of me I get very, very cranky.)