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Happy First Birthday, Dear Little Princess

March 5, 2014

first-photo

Hello, world. March 2013


Caitlin-Mommy-selfie

Selfie with mom, February 2014.

All I can say to Caitlin at the end of her first year is thank you.

Thank you for being patient with your mommy, who is still grieving and heartbroken. Thank you for being such an easygoing, friendly baby, who has never met a stranger. Thank you for being so delightful. Thank you for wanting to be held so much – even though sometimes I grumble about it because I want to get something else done – because I need those cuddles as much as you do. Thank you for your smile and your sassy attitude.

Thank you, dear little princess, for all the joy you brought into our lives, for being an answered prayer and a light in our darkness.

~~~

On the evening of March 4th last year, my mother and I took a brisk walk around the block in the warm spring darkness. Then she went home, and I sat up for a couple of hours watching television while Jon snoozed on the couch next to me. I’d been having irregular contractions for the past week or so, and after the walk they settled into a regular, increasingly painful rhythm.

This had happened before, but each time I’d panicked a little bit when I thought I was actually in labor, and the contractions subsided. So when I finally laid down in bed, I prayed. I said, “I’m ready, God. I’m not afraid. I’m ready to have this baby.” I expected the contractions to keep ramping up in intensity, and if I slept at all I’d wake up in the middle of the night ready to go to the hospital.

But I was wrong. I slept soundly all night long and woke up to the sun shining brightly.

So I got some coffee and sat down at the computer to play several fruitless games of Solitare before getting ready for work. I had spent a lot of time playing video games in the months since Garrett’s death, as a sort of mind-numbing comfort mechanism. But this morning I had a different reason for parking my butt in the computer chair: I’d noticed that whenever I assumed this posture, with my back straight and angled forward over the desk, my contractions would really get going. And so they did. After about half an hour, I got cleaned up and dressed and went to the office.

I tried to focus on work, but my mind definitely kept coming back to “is this it?” After so many “false starts,” I hesitated to actually say I was in labor, but this was the longest the contractions had lasted so far. I texted my mom. I texted my husband. I checked the time over and over. I got another cup of coffee. I tried to be productive. Finally I told my boss I was going home. “But it’s probably nothing,” I said, trying to be cool.

Back at home, I played a few more rounds of solitare and timed contractions. It seemed as if they were getting longer and stronger, and had been for several hours. My husband texted to say he’d leave work at lunchtime. “I’m so excited,” I texted back. “We might get to meet our baby today!”

My mom came over, bubbling with excitement. “It may still be nothing,” I said, STILL trying to be cool. I didn’t want to be the woman who went to the hospital and got sent home. I didn’t want to get everybody worked up and have a stampede of friends and family appear at my doorstep. I was feeling a bit fragile emotionally and a little scared and I didn’t want to frighten my labor away again.

Jon came home and sat down to relax a bit. My mom to ran to Hardee’s to get lunch for all of us. We watched TV and ate our burgers and fries, and finally I told Jon, “You may want to go ahead and shower.” I got my already-packed bags ready to go out the door, and put the dogs in their crates. Then I laid on our bed to re-assess the labor situation. Nothing too painful going on…oh wait. Yeah, maybe it was time to go.

My mom left to do some shopping to distract herself. Jon and I loaded up in the car and headed to the hospital. We checked in and were escorted to a small examination room, where the nurse left us so I could change out of my clothes and into a gown. For some reason, it seemed phenomenally difficult to change clothes, and I think it took me about forty-five minutes. Or maybe it just took five minutes, but in any case, by the time I sat on the bed-slash-exam table next to Jon, I was getting a little anxious and testy.

“You know,” said Jon thoughtfully. “It seems a shame to waste this semi-private room.”

I literally laughed out loud. “That’s the first time we’ve been able to use that line in its proper context.”

A few minutes later the nurse came in and checked me. I was six centimeters dilated, which meant that I was officially in labor and could move to a legitimate (and much more comfortable) birthing room.

~~~

Although I was most definitely still in labor and therefore still in pain for the next hour or so, the flurry of excitement of getting checked in distracted me, and I was able to breathe through contractions easily. They strapped me to a monitor and got a hep-lock set up, and my labor nurse (I think her name was Jennifer but I’m not 100% sure of that) went over my medical history and got everything entered into the computer.

“What’s your pain management plan?” she asked at one point.

“None.”

“None like you don’t have a plan or none like you don’t want any pain at all?”

I laughed. “None like I’m going to do it naturally.”

She laughed. “Now, see, if I had said none I would have meant no pain at all.”

After all the intake drama was done, Jon and I were left alone in the room together. I put on some music – a playlist I’d put together specifically for this day – and did my best to relax during each contraction. I remembered from my labor with Garrett that as the pain had increased I’d felt this urge to get away from it, which had made me anxious and tense, which in turn made the pain worse. So this time I reminded myself over and over that I couldn’t get away from the pain, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. I had to surrender to get through it. I even talked to Caitlin, inside my head. I told her we were going to do this together, that she knew how to get out and my body knew how to help her and we were rock stars and we were going to be totally awesome today.

So that is what I did for a couple of hours – breathe, listen to music, repeat rah-rah birth goddess mantras to myself, lather rinse repeat. Jon pretty much kept to himself, playing Angry Birds or something like it, only speaking when spoken to or doing something if/when I asked him to. (And I don’t wish to imply that he was shirking his responsibilities by doing so; this is the sort of labor support I prefer.) I was doing pretty good if I do say so myself, until transition kicked in and then I lost my everloving mind, as I have been known to do in the past. Jon says that at one point my eyes opened wider than he’d ever seen before and I think it scared him a little bit. I remember clinging to the bed rails as if I were dangling from a rain gutter on the side of a ten-story building. I no longer felt like a birth goddess rock star. I felt like my body was a runaway freight train, and Britney Spears (circa shaved-head-attacking-paparazzo-with-umbrella) was at the controls.

I paged the nurse to say that I thought we were getting close and could she please come and check me? When she did not appear IMMEDIATELY, I sent Jon out to the nurse’s station to chase her down. Then things start to get a little fuzzy because I got a little crazy. I started to hyperventilate and levitate off the bed. I thought I was going to barf. I thought I was going to lose control of all my bodily functions. I thought this was complete and total bullshit. I asked Jon to rub my back. That made me nauseous. I told him to stop touching me. I started moaning and crying and swearing. I decided I did not want to have a baby today after all and maybe I would just go home. I wondered aloud where the hell the nurse was and why no one else thought that having a baby was a big damn deal.

Finally, FINALLY Jennifer returned to check my progress, then she paged the doctor and asked for nursely backup. My doctor strolled in a few minutes later, smiling sweetly, rubbing sanitizer onto her hands and speaking in soothing tones, which just pissed me off of course. She checked me, too, as if the nurse’s assessment of the situation wasn’t enough, and said something to the effect of, “Well, let’s get ready to have this baby.”

FINALLY.

(Although I was still kind of thinking that I might just go home.)

So the nurses (Jennifer and a friend of mine who works at the hospital and had just finished helping another mama give birth) broke the bed down and spread paper sheets all over everything and got all the implements of destruction out, while my husband tried to stay out of their way and not freak me out by running around in circles screaming like a girl.

minion-freak-out

You know how it’s done.

My doctor broke my water, and turned the big scary vagina spotlight and the nurses each grabbed ahold of one of my knees and suddenly everyone was looking at me expectantly and… I didn’t have to push any more.

My contractions had slowed down and I was just lying there panting and wishing someone else could do this for me. I felt bad for a sec about being all EVERYBODY HURRY UP GET IN HERE GET IN HERE GETINHEEEERE. I also felt pretty silly because I was talking to Jesus out loud, whereas a few minutes before I’d been inventing clever and highly offensive new combinations of swear words. But eventually I got down to business and started pushing.

After an hour and a half (okay, more like three pushes) the doctor was like, “Yay! She’s almost crowning,” and I was like are you freaking kidding me shouldn’t we be done by now? Then she says, “Aw, she has a full head of soft blond hair,” and I was like I don’t freaking care lady this shit hurts. After another four hours (or whatever), I delivered the head and the nurses were like, “You’re doing great” and Jon was like, “You’re doing great,” but because no one is ever satisfied, they wanted me to push AGAIN and get the rest of the baby out. The doctor cut the umbilical cord, which was wrapped around Caitlin’s neck, and as I pushed again I think her shoulders kind of got stuck because the nurses had me put my knees up over my head and I pushed a little bit more and then I had a baby. They doctor laid Caitlin on my chest and probably said congratulations but I don’t really remember because I was exhausted and I was so in love and Jon hugged and kissed me and I told Caitlin how proud I was of her, because we were a team, we were rock stars, and we got it done. I was feeling high as a kite, and stayed pretty buoyant while getting my nether regions stitched up and clothes put back on so the grandparents could come and see the baby.

That’s the end of the interesting stuff – the rest is all blah blah blah bathtime for baby and shower for mommy, naps for everyone, phone calls to far-flung family members and photos posted on Facebook.

Speaking of pictures…

Caitlin-and-Daddy-1

In the hospital with Daddy, less than a day old.


Caitlin-and-Daddy-2

Snoozing with Daddy, eleven months and three weeks old.


itty-bitty

I die a little every time I look at this picture.
SO WIDDLE! SO CUTE!
I think she was just around a month old when this was taken.


chillin

And she still sleeps like that.


halloween

Halloween 2013.


library

At the library, summer 2013. Nerd indoctrination begins early.


caaaaaaaake

Birthday party last weekend.


little-princess

This morning. So precious.

A Day in Emily’s Life

February 28, 2014

Because I don’t overshare enough, I’m taking a cue from Jennifer today. (Don’t you love how “take a cue from so-and-so” is totally blogspeak for “stealing so-and-so’s idea?” But I digress…)

6:30 a.m. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze button. Briefly notice that husband is getting dressed for work and swearing a lot because he has no socks to wear. Apologize incoherently and promise to do laundry that day.

6:40 a.m. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:50 a.m. Repeat.

7:00 a.m. This time I just turn alarm off and go back to sleep. No, I am not proud of myself.

7:40 a.m. Finally get up because dogs are stirring and I can hear the baby fussing in her room. Let dogs out to pee, turn on Keurig and go to the bathroom.

7:46 a.m. Go into baby’s room to change her. She gives me a look of condescension as if to say, “I’m so glad you finally decided to wake up this morning, Emily. It must be nice not waking up in a puddle of your own excrement and not having to wait for someone else to rescue you.” Try to make up for my failure as a mother by tickling her and telling her she is The Cutest Baby Girl In The Whole Wide World. (Totes the truth.)

cutebaby

“I know I’m cute, Ma. Just quit the tickling and get on with the diaper change, kthx.

7:54 a.m. Put baby in front of television while I make my coffee and her bottle. Check Facebook on my phone.

8:02 a.m. Dogs are scratching at the back door, but I decide not to let them back in because I’m still annoyed by their various hijinks (eating non-food items like trash or clothing, eating non-dog-approved food items like chocolate, licking me constantly, tracking copious amounts of mud into the house, etc.) the day before.

8:04 a.m. Baby seems happy playing on the floor and watching TV, so I don’t feed her right away. Check Facebook on my phone, delete five thousand pseudo-junk emails (technically not junk since I signed up for the email list, but I never read them, so essentially they are junk to me), drink coffee.

8:16 a.m. Baby is bored and has noticed I have a bottle. So I feed her, watch the Today show, check Facebook on my phone, repost about a dozen random photos/links, drink coffee.

8:23 a.m. Realize that I’d better start getting ready for a 9:30 playdate with new mommy friend. Pat myself on the back for not waiting to get ready at 9:15.

8:25 a.m. Let dogs back in because they are barking and my neighbors probably hate me. Realize I have no clean bottles, even though I have told myself REPEATEDLY that washing the baby’s bottles BEFORE I got to bed is essential for my mornings to go smoothly.

8:26 to 8:43 a.m. Curse myself silently as I wash bottles.

cleanbottles

Why yes, I do have a spot of OCD. How did you know?

8:44 a.m. Figure that since I’m already washing dishes I should unload and reload the dishwasher.

8:45 a.m. Stop to let one of the dogs back out. Check my phone. Nothing new.

8:46 a.m. Come back to dishwasher. Realize I didn’t run it last night even though it was already full. Curse myself silently.

8:47 a.m. Start dishwasher, wash a few large dishes by hand to clear out the sink.

8:48 a.m. Stop to let another dog out and first dog back in. Notice dogs’ water bowl is empty, fill it.

8:49 a.m. Remember that husband needs clean socks. Go to bedroom to gather dirty socks.

8:50 a.m. Break to pee. Check my phone. Nothing new.

8:51 a.m. Make bed, then gather dirty socks and take them to the garage.

8:54 a.m. Open washer to put dirty socks in. Wet clothes in there. Open dryer to transfer clothes from washer. Slightly-less-wet-but-definitely-still-damp clothes in there. Turn dryer on. Make mental note to wash socks LATER.

8:55 a.m. Fill dogs’ water bowl again. Pick up pieces of the shoe/food container/dish towel/whatever that the dogs were chewing on while I was in another room.

dryersheets

Dryer sheets. Really, dogs? REALLY?

8:57 a.m. Check my phone. Realize that if I am going to be at my friend’s house by 9:30, I will have to leave by 9:15. I cannot leave by 9:15 AND take a shower. I’ve been late every other time we’ve hung out, which is kind of embarrassing, and I don’t think I smell too bad yet, so I decide to forego the shower.

8:58 a.m. Pack baby’s diaper bag (which requires retrieving bag from hook by front door, taking it into the kitchen, assembling two bottles and filling them with water, putting them in the bag, and portioning out enough formula for three bottles into my dial-a-formula container, putting that in the bag, carrying the bag into the baby’s room and packing enough diapers and wipes for a few hours, plus extra because you never know, plus a back up outfit, because once again, you never know.

9:05 a.m. Pick out an adorable outfit for the baby to wear.

9:06 p.m. Pee again.

9:07 a.m. Get dressed, applying an extra layer of deodorant and body spray.

9:08 a.m. Brush hair. Check my phone. Friend has texted to say she may not have time to shower before I come over. SCORE. Clearly I was right to assume that we have reached that level of closeness in our relationship.

9:10 a.m. Brush teeth.

9:11 a.m. Go into the kitchen to grab dog treats, holler at dogs to get in their crates, distribute treats, close and lock back door.

9:13 a.m. Consider making myself a cup of coffee to go. Decide I don’t have enough time.

9:14 a.m. Take the diaper bag and my purse out to the car and start it. Pass the baby on my way out the door, tell her, “Just a minute, sweetie,” when she lifts her arms for me to pick her up, feel like a jerk when she starts to cry.

9:16 a.m. Come back inside, baby isn’t crying anymore, decide that I’m already late and unshowered, it won’t make much difference if I make a cup of coffee to go, head towards kitchen.

9:18 a.m. Baby starts crying as I am making coffee. Shout, “Just a minute, honey.” She doesn’t believe me.

9:19 a.m. Dogs hear me shouting to the baby and start howling because they don’t understand why on earth I’d put them in their crates if I’m not leaving IMMEDIATELY.

9:20 a.m. Put cup of coffee on the table by the front door, grab baby, take her to her bedroom to put her into the adorable outfit I picked out.

9:22 a.m. Dress baby while repeating about thirteen thousand times how stinkin’ cute she is.

9:25 a.m. Turn off TV, put on my jacket, put on the baby’s jacket, grab my coffee, grab my phone, lock and close the front door.

9:27 a.m. Buckle baby into her car seat.

9:28 a.m. Get into the driver’s seat, take a sip of my coffee and put it into the cupholder.

9:29 a.m. Check my phone. Friend texted about ten minutes ago to say nevermind, she’s going to jump in the shower after all. Dammit.

9:30 a.m. Pull out of the driveway.

~~~~

You know what? The fourteen hours that complete my day are just as tedious as the first two, so I’m just going to give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

Visit friend, go to grocery store, cook, hang out with family, eat food, do more dishes. And all the while, pee, let dogs in and out of the house, and check my phone more times than I can count.

No, I do not get around to washing socks, so my husband ended up swearing as he got dressed the next morning.

And no, I do not wash the bottles before bedtime, so I ended up cursing myself silently as I washed them the next morning.

And there you go, a day in Emily’s life.

Passive Aggressive Notes That I’ve Wanted to Write Recently

February 27, 2014

Dear Mailman,

You seem like a nice guy, and I want to like you, but your spotty work ethic is a great example of why the USPS is in the crapper. It’s bad enough that I have no idea when to expect you because you appear at the most random times of day. Noon? Three o’clock? Six? I don’t know, there’s no rhyme or reason.

But that time that you stuck our incoming mail right on top of the letters I had waiting to go out? For shame. You had to realize what a bonehead move you were making, because you pushed the little “hey, Mr. Letter Carrier, there are letters waiting to be carried in here” flag on the mailbox down. But then you didn’t take my letters.

And my niece’s birthday card was late.

FOR SHAME.

No love,
Emily.

P.S. Okay, so my niece’s birthday card was late because I always send cards late, but it was an EXTRA DAY LATE because of you, and that’s just unacceptable.

~~~~

Dear Kroger,

I’m stuck doing all my shopping at your store for one reason and one reason only: Homestead Creamery Milk. Sure, I like getting free gas, and you’re very conveniently located, and your employees are really nice, et cetera. But no other grocery store sells the chocolate milk my family loves, and let’s be honest, I’m too lazy to go all over town to get my grocery shopping done. It’s bad enough I have to go to Target for pet food, for Pete’s sake. Anyway, can we talk about my wine soul mate? One of the ways you won my heart years ago was that you had Apothic Red for one, two, or even four dollars less than other chains, and I truly believed that you had my best interests at heart.

But it appears you’re all sorts of impressed with yourself since you started renovating your stores and looking all fancy. You’re charging just as much as everyone else, and that’s just sad. If all the other grocery stores jumped off a cliff, would you? I mean, WOULD YOU?

Terribly disappointed,
Emily

P.S. I have recently discovered a new red blend that costs less than $10 a bottle, and it is heavenly and it makes me sort of want to forgive you for the Apothic situation. But so help me God if you raise the price on this one, I will be forced to make empty threats. And we don’t want that, now do we? DO WE???

~~~~

Dear Target,

Let’s get real. When you label a shelf full of red-tagged items as “clearance” but you only mark those items down 15%, I get a little twitchy. That is not “clearance.” That is a “sale.” “Clearance” means you are desperate to get rid of these items and are willing to sell them at cost or even at a loss, and we all know that even at a discount of 15%, you’re still making a profit on your cheap plastic crap.

I know you’ve managed to fool the rest of the world into thinking that you’re the enlightened man’s Wal-mart, but I’m on to you, Target. I’m on to you.

Smugly,
Emily

35 Things I’ve Learned in 35 Years

February 26, 2014

I spent a lot of time on a post that doesn’t feel quite right yet, so I decided not to post it today, but I REALLY don’t want to break my seven-posts-in-seven-days promise. Since I recently turned 35, I thought I’d do one of those cutesy milestone posts I’ve seen other folks do. I just hope I can think of 35 things that are halfway interesting!

1. It is perfectly okay to not like something that everyone else likes (or seems to like) whether it is the Twilight series, fancy cheese, or Coach bags. There is nothing wrong with you. Read something else (or nothing at all!), eat Velveeta slices straight out of the plastic wrap, and buy your purses at Wal-mart. You do you.

2. A good friendship can take years to develop or just a few hours, and sometimes it’s impossible to know when you first meet someone whether he or she will be someone you come to love and trust like family. However, if after spending an evening or two with someone, you just aren’t sure how you feel about them and you’re not sure why, there is probably a reason and you probably shouldn’t push yourself to be their friend.

3. Deep inside, we are all still little kids, and when we’re upset we want to cuddle. This is why having a comfortable bed, a soft stuffed animal, and/or a pet that likes to snuggle are essentials for all adults.

4. Therapy can cost upwards of $100 an hour. A dumb old movie that makes you laugh til you cry is often free on Netflix or basic cable. In some cases, the movie is better medicine than therapy.

5. However, good therapy is nothing to be sneezed at.

6. There are probably things in your past that you are deeply ashamed of. Welcome to the human race. Make liberal use of the prescriptions of #4 and #5, but eventually, you’re going to just have to move on.

7. Just because God (or life or the universe or whatever) is teaching you a particular lesson at a certain point in time does not mean that EVERYONE YOU KNOW needs to learn that same lesson. Keep some revelations to yourself. Don’t try to cram every insight you have down everyone else’s throat.

8. Some relationships seem beyond repair. If the other person is important to you, though, never give up hope. NEVER. I’m not saying force yourself on that person, but trust that if the two of you are supposed to reconnect, you will.

9. And if you’re not, you won’t.

10. Your smile and kind words will make someone’s day today. Don’t be stingy with them!

11. Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with drinking an extra glass of wine or zoning out to video games for a few hours. Life is tough, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to bury your head in the sand for a bit.

12. If you’re burying your head in the sand all day every day, though, it may be time to check into some #5. No shame in it, but you’re missing out on the good stuff in life along with the bad, and you don’t want to do that.

13. A great way to feel better when you’re having a bad day is to take the time to encourage someone else. Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in awhile. It’ll be a pleasant surprise for him or her!

14. You’re going to be right about things WAAAAY more often than people are going to be willing to acknowledge that you’re right. Sometimes you’re just going to have to be happy with the knowledge that you’re right.

15. And you’re going to be wrong WAAAAY more often than you realize it. Sometimes you’re going to have to admit this, and it sucks.

16. It gets easier, though.

17. In a relationship, there are a million ways to betray your partner’s trust that don’t involve sex.

18. In a relationship, there are a million ways to build intimacy that don’t involve sex.

19. Don’t be fooled into thinking that good things are always easy to come by. If you’re in the right career, relationship, etc., you will likely enjoy yourself most of the time. But sometimes you’ll have to put extra effort in, and sometimes it will be painful. That doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place.

20. Some expensive things are just a rip off. Other things are totally worth the extra coin. And the difference between the two is often subjective. Pick your luxuries carefully and don’t let someone else’s idea of what something is “worth” throw you off.

21. It is almost never a good idea to quit a job by just up and leaving. Take the time to put in your two weeks’ notice and leave graciously, even if everyone you work with is a tool, because you never know who you’ll run into again later in your career.

22. This is the digital age and everything lasts forever. Don’t let someone take naked pictures of you.

23. Seriously, JUST DON’T.

24. Also, take the time to learn how to lock down your various social media profiles so that if you find yourself applying for a new job or going home to meet your sweetie’s parents, you can erase your naughty digital footprint quickly.

25. Better yet, be selective about the things you put online in the first place.

26. Puppies turn into dogs and kittens turn into cats. Part of being an adult is learning to think through the long-term consequences of your choices.

27. Part of being an adult is also being able to eat waffles and ice cream for dinner and watch trashy TV shows late at night.

28. We all have drama and baggage surrounding one holiday or another. Don’t Grinch on other people’s celebrations, though, because that’s just cruel. Pick another holiday to be your “thing” and enjoy the hell out of it.

29. Be generous, somehow, in a small way, even if you are very poor. You will be surprised how good this makes you feel.

30. If there is someone in your life that you dislike but cannot avoid, don’t be a jerk to him or her. In fact, do your best to be pleasant, because this makes YOUR life easier. Trust me.

31. Calling/texting/emailing your ex when under the influence of drugs or alcohol or gluten is NEVER a good idea.

32. Neither is shopping online when under the influence.

33. Dancing or singing karaoke when under the influence, however? Is really why we’re all on this planet together, I think. This is how we bring meaning to our otherwise dark, sad little lives.

34. Learning to laugh at yourself – in a kindhearted way, not with malice or disdain – is a valuable asset.

35. Even more valuable is learning to take yourself seriously, seeing your true worth, and refusing to let the hard knocks of life stifle your laughter.

NOT a paid advertisement for a popular weight loss company. (Though if they wanted to pay me, I would not complain.)

February 25, 2014

So right after writing a post in which I pat myself on the back for growing as a person and treating my fellow human beings with more kindness and compassion, I got into a battle of “merge chicken” today in which I squeezed out a car that was trying to get in front of me, and dammit, I HAD ALREADY BEEN NICE ONCE AND LET ANOTHER CAR IN SO BACK OFFFFFFF.

*sigh*

The complete lack of rationality in my selfishness sometimes amazes me. The fact that I am an exceptionally selfish, irrational, reckless, and filthy-mouthed person when I’m behind the wheel of a motor vehicle also amazes me. I would offer some sort of insight into human behavior at this point… or some spiritual lesson… if I had one… which I don’t… so let’s just move on!

I noticed that Jen wrote about weight loss today, and that reminded me that I needed to write a post to fulfill my seven days commitment, and that I’d been toying with the idea of writing up my thoughts about different weight loss methods, and I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t read her post until I had written my own. And since I really want to read her post, we’re going to do this quick, and we’re going to do it dirty.

As I have mentioned before, a couple of years ago I did a modified paleo-ish fast and lost about 20 lbs. in six weeks. Basically all I did was cut out bread, pasta, and sugar, and voila, off the weight came. The thing is, that kind of diet just is not sustainable for me. For one, I LOVE BREAD. I didn’t miss cheap, crappy white bread. I missed dense, chewy, yeasty, fresh bread. And I LOVE TO BAKE. I didn’t miss cheap, crappy baked goods from the grocery store. I missed baking and eating homemade chocolate chip cookies. Plus, the problem with that particular “diet” is that I didn’t do much in learning self-control, or specifically, portion control. I still let myself eat whenever I wanted to (bored, lonely, sad, scared, et cetera) I just ate different things. So when I went back to eating sugar, I ate LOTTTTTSSSS OF SUGAR.

om-nom-nom

For instance, when I celebrated my birthday last month, I baked four different cakes. FOUR. DIFFERENT. CAKES. Ahem.

Now, I have read a LOT of books about nutrition and weight loss. A LOT OF BOOKS OH MY GOODNESS. At different times in my life I was convinced that different nutritional lifestyles/ideals were The Answer To All Our ProblemsTM. Now I’m just not so sure. Every pop scientist with a book deal has “evidence” to sell his or her followers on the next big thing, and twenty years from now who knows what crazy ideas will be all the rage, and what will have fallen out of favor?

At this point in time I am not looking for The Answer To All Our ProblemsTM. I just want to lose weight so I can wear cute clothes. And I knew that no matter what “diet” I picked, I would lose weight if I stuck to the plan and tried to eat mostly things that we can all agree are good for us: lean protein, fruits and vegetables. But this time around I didn’t want to say good-bye to cake forever. I wanted a plan that let me eat cake, occasionally, in small amounts.

So first I tried counting calories via Spark People. And I have to say, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Spark People. I love the founder’s story, which you can read about in The Spark (affiliate link), I love that the site is free and that it is really all about helping people reach their goals through encouragement and fun and games and friendship. And the calorie counting thing worked pretty good for me , although I was pretty surprised by things that were high calorie (fruit! peanut butter! dear God, one of my beloved breakfast smoothies was, like, 660 calories) but at least I didn’t have to worry about whether or not something was low-fat or any of that garbage. Butter has the same amount of calories as margarine, for instance, so of course I’m going to pick butter. “Whole grain” or “whole wheat” English muffins were the same as regular, so I picked the ones that tasted better. Easy peasy.

My first week doing the calorie-counting thing, I lost 7 pounds. Second week, 2 pounds. And then a good friend came to visit for her birthday, and then it was MY birthday the following week, and how I managed to gain back just ONE pound, I do NOT know.

And though I had tried to make friends on Spark People, I just didn’t really care to get involved in the bulletin board system. I guess I felt like, eh, I have enough friends, and Facebook is MORE than enough of an internet time suck, I don’t need ANOTHER website to spend all my time on. But I knew that the community aspect of weight loss is really important – the accountability of “reporting” to a group helps a lot of people reach their goals.

For the past few years there’s been a Weight Watchers at Work group meeting at my office (where I was still technically employed even though I hadn’t been there except to visit in, oh, about a year), and I thought that might work out for me, especially since the PointsPlus system seemed a little easier than tracking calories. (Even easier is their Simple Start/Simply Filling plan, but I haven’t given that a whirl yet for reasons I shall elaborate on in a second.) But I was real hung up on the money aspect, because I wasn’t working, and it seemed wrong to pay for something I could just do for free, you know?

Mostly-unrelated-but-kind-of-related, I had been kind of bored and lonely at home, and my boss e-mailed me to say they really needed some help with a backlog of projects, and my mother-in-law retired at the beginning of the year and said she’d be willing to watch Caitlin. So I decided to go back to work a few days a week, and it’s been AWESOME, and now I’m in the office for Weight Watchers meetings, AND I have money to pay for them. WIN-WIN, BABY.

Now, the Weight Watchers PointsPlus system IS pretty easy. Every food has a PointsPlus value based on the amount fat, carbs, fiber, and protein in it (calories aren’t a concern at all) and you get a certain amount of points every day based on your age and gender and weight, plus cheat points every week. The theory is that if you don’t eat more than your allotted points, the weight should come right off, and for a lot of folks it does.

I like that most fruits and veggies are zero points, because it encourages me to fill up on healthy foods. I DON’T like that certain foods which are really good for you (whole milk, avocados, and nuts, for instance) can potentially have the same amount of points as not-so-good-for-you foods (like french fries or candy). It’s the same argument that some people have against calorie counting – not all calories are the same, and not all points are the same. I had a friend who did WW at my office and lost a fair amount of weight, but she confided in me that if she used her cheat points for alcohol rather than food she’d plateau on weight loss. Same amount of points each week, but used in different ways, you know?

And although Simple Start/Simply Filling doesn’t require ANY counting (except for cheats), you just eat as much as you like from an approved list of foods, the approved foods include skim milk and fat-free cheese, which I’m just NOT going to eat. (Aside from the taste issue, I also don’t really consider fat-free dairy products to be real food. You can do the research yourself and make up your own mind, but suffice it to say I’ve read a lot of granola-crunchy-organohippie-anti-skim-milk propaganda, and old habits die hard.)

ANYWAY. Those are the pros and the cons. For now, I’m going to stick with Weight Watchers because I LOVE the group at my work. They are funny, and fun, and interesting, and I know they will cheer me on to success. And I figure no one’s MAKING me drink skim milk, I’ll just eat full-fat dairy in moderation. And last week I lost five pounds.* So yay for me.

In summary
(Let me explain. No, is too much. Let me sum up.)
Both calorie counting and Weight Watchers worked for me. Both have challenged me to eat less food (seriously, I was eating SOOOO MUCH FOOD before, something I didn’t realize until I started actually paying attention to portion sizes and second helpings) but Weight Watchers is structured in such a way that rewards me when I make better food choices (lean protein and fruits and veggies). And though I don’t subscribe to the fat-is-bad philosophy, I have the flexibility the Weight Watchers plan to indulge occasionally in my preferred treats (real cheese, real milk, wine, beer) in moderation. It’s working for me. Not just because I’m losing weight but also because I am learning self-control, which is the number one thing I need when it comes to weight loss.

Okay, maybe it’s tied for number one. I also REALLY need to get off my butt and get fit, but that’s a subject for another time. Like maybe tomorrow.

*Both of my “first weeks” I lost a whole lotta weight, which I have heard is normal and probably mostly water weight. Hopefully, though, I will keep making progress, even if it is “slow and steady.”

Write Seven Posts in Seven Days, she said. It Will Be Fun, she said.

February 24, 2014

You know, Jen, when I hear the words “seven days,” this is what I think of:


Or this:


One is a horror movie, the other a grating ear worm. This does not bode well for my writing enthusiasm.

But since it’s been forever since I blogged, and I often feel really guilty for not blogging, and I often start posts and don’t finish them because I’m too concerned with whether or not I’m making sense or my writing is any good, and I know from experience that just sitting down and writing without really worrying about being any good actually helps you write more and write better, I figured, okay okay, I will write seven posts in seven days.

So here is –

Day One.

When last we spoke (or rather, I spoke and you listened… or you read… or maybe you just got a couple paragraphs in and decided to do something more productive with your time, like clean hair out of your bathtub drain…), I was trying to decide what sort of resolutions I wanted to tackle this year. And I decided on New Year’s Day to go on a diet. Then I posted my intention on Facebook, because once you say you’re going to do something on Facebook, well, you have to do it!

I’ve had a bit of back-and-forth success over the past two months, and I’ve lost about 13 pounds so far and am feeling really good about reaching my goal of losing a total of 80 lbs. by the end of 2014.*

If you’re a longtime reader of my blog (or if you’ve spent any time poking around in the archives), you know that for many years I passionately hated diets. For a long time I just could not diet because of what it did to my thoughts and emotions. Like most women, my self-worth is tied to how I look, but it’s also tied to how I perform, and my crippling fear of failure kept me paralyzed when contemplating trying anything new, especially something quantifiable, like dieting or weight loss.

So I just avoided it. Occasionally I would think about maaaaybe trying to lose weight but as soon as the crazy wound up I stepped waaaaay back. You might say that’s not the best way to deal with the things that scare us, and maybe you’d be right in other circumstances, but I think I did the right thing.

Here’s why.

I focused, instead, on learning (not just saying it but really getting it) that what I look like, whether I am fat or fit or physically desirable, has nothing to do with what I have to offer the world.

Absolutely NOTHING.

Really.

Beyond that radical idea, even, I realized that what I have to offer has nothing to do with what I can actually DO for someone else. I don’t have to earn anyone’s approval or love.

I started out in life as valuable, because I am a person, made in God’s image. And what I accomplish, or don’t accomplish, does not add to or subtract from my value.

Yay, right? YAY!

But beyond that, even…

I started to realize that when I am focused on what I lack I tend to compare myself to other people (women especially) and look for ways that they are “better” than me or I am “better” than then, silently passing judgement on their looks and weight and what I thought those physical characteristics said about them as a person.

And I suppose that it’s no big surprise (though I didn’t realize it until I got about halfway through writing this post) that the more accepting I became of myself, the more accepting I became of others.

And when I am kind to myself, I am able to be kinder to my family and friends. And complete strangers. People I don’t know and don’t understand and find very difficult and frustrating.

You see, that’s the thing about being harsh and unforgiving. When we hold ourselves to impossible standards, when we are unforgiving and angry with ourselves all the time, it darkens our relationships with others.

So that’s how I ended up here – finally trying to change my outside because I finally – actually – mostly like who I am on the inside.

* Before anyone asks, yes, I really do need to lose about 80 lbs. My starting weight on January 1 was 222 lbs., which makes my goal weight about 142, well within the projected “healthy” range for my height.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

December 30, 2013

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

When I chose my word for 2012, I had no idea how that year would end for me, and how devastated I would be going into 2013. Needless to say, I made no resolutions at the stroke of midnight last January 1, other than to just stay alive.

Now, today, as we close in on the end of this year, I feel like it’s time. I’m not just surviving any more. I am, thankfully, gratefully, alive and well. (Mostly.) I’m not on the brink anymore, I’m not staring into a black hole of despair that threatens to suck me in. I’m still walking around and driving to the store and going to bed at night with my least-favorite-companion, grief, but I’m used to her and she keeps her mouth shut most of the time. She’s there, I think she may always be there, but she’s fairly polite, and we co-exist (mostly) without conflict.

So.

Am I ready, then, to grow? To resolve, to set out on an adventure, to make big changes, to become something new and different?

I feel like I am.

But I’m afraid I am not.

I’m afraid to venture out too far. I’m afraid of falling flat on my face. I’m afraid of tumbling into that black hole. I’m afraid of getting too cocky and having that bitch grief knock my off my high horse.

(I am… in case you couldn’t tell… a little neurotic.)

So where was I? Yes, my one word for 2012 was NOW. And I feel like, looking back, that it was a good word. It was the right word. Because I did live, very much, in the present. I made some deliberate choices to make my life better and happier, and most of those choices had to do with letting go of the things that kept me from enjoying the life I was living at that moment. I think a lot of women have this problem – we’re so consumed with everything else that still needs to be done, or so angry about everything that isn’t done yet or was done to us in the past, that we don’t even notice our surroundings or interact with our loved ones.

So I stopped punishing my husband for not living up to my expectations (spoiler alert: I had not lived up to HIS expectations, either, but he wasn’t reminding me of it every five minutes) and I let the laundry hang out in the dryer and get wrinkly, and I forgave myself for making lots of frozen pizza and burgers instead of home-cooked, perfectly nutritious meals, and I sat down and watched TV with my family, and I read books, and I watched Garrett blow bubbles and play football in the front yard, and I generally just really enjoyed life.

And as a result, in November of 2012, I was happy. I was really, REALLY happy. I felt like life was just about as good as it could get. And when the terrible, unthinkable, awful happened, I was as ready for it as I possibly could be. No, you’re never really ready for something like that, but if it’s going to happen, it should happen when your marriage is strong, when you are full of joy and feel good about yourself in every possible way. Otherwise, that deep black hole of grief really WILL swallow you (and everyone around you) whole.

The moral of this story is that sometimes we make just the right New Year’s Resolution. Sometimes God prepares us from the things He can’t, or won’t, save us from. Sometimes we find ourselves with just the right tools for the situation we’re in. Sometimes, thankfully, we’re up a creek WITH a paddle. We may not realize it at the time – we may think, “Dear God, why is THIS happening to me? Why do you hate me?” – but as time goes by, we may begin to see the hand of God, the hand of a good and loving God, at work in our lives.

(This doesn’t mean we understand everything that God is doing… just that we know He’s still there. And He’s still making Himself useful.)

So what’s my word for 2014? I don’t know. I just know that I am looking forward to this New Year. Not because I think it will be without challenges (though, let’s be honest, I feel like I’ve paid my dues in bad karma for awhile, ‘kay?) but because I think that if I listen closely enough, I’ll hear whispers of what I need to learn and know and be and do to get ready for the challenges ahead.

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