Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Desolutions



When I knock on the outside of this afternoon, it has a hollow sound -- for years my new year plans have included a modest or not-modest list of resolutions -- things I Must Do, and the ways in which I will achieve them, which I try in earnest to do and then fail, and then re-resolve and fail again. Failure is as much a part of the resolution cycle as success is, and I am beginning to think that the approach is the problem -- that going at a fault or failing with a resolution is the wrong way to do it.

For example, let's say that one of my resolutions is to keep up with the dishes. So I write that down with my new felt-tipped black pen, and I declare that I will do dishes twice a day until it becomes like second nature to me. I do this each day for three days, and then on the fourth day I have a migraine and my 7:30pm I can barely even stand up, much less scrub and scrape congealed crap off of plates yet again, so I just don't, and then in the morning I still feel awful so I just stack the breakfast dishes on top of the dirty dinner pots, if I even stack them at all. I tell myself that as soon as I shake the headache I will catch up, and then someone calls to see if I can help them with an errand, and I have to grab a pizza for dinner, and since I didn't really use any dishes that night, why should I clean them? And so on, until they are piled up so high.

A resolution like this tries to attack the end result through a barrage of little Plans and Interventions. But as we learned from the Army Corps of Engineers, when you try to fix something by just attacking the very end result, you can end up with a big mess.

Instead, as I am learning, the process has to be different.

First, I have to actually observe myself making the mistake. For example, with the dishes, instead of taking on new resolutions, I just have to observe myself and my dishwashing habits for a week. When do I do dishes? When do I not do dishes? I leave judgment in the other room and I just watch myself. And I discover something -- I do not get behind in the dishes because I am lazy and disorganized, as I had been telling myself. There are a lot of factors that go into creating the problem. First, I have too many dishes out and available for use. When all of the cups are clean, they do not fit into the cabinets. This annoys me terribly, so I do not ever really want them to all be clean, because that means they are falling out of the cabinet every time I open it. So, instead of berating myself for not cleaning the cups, I get rid of some of the cups. Bam. Problem solved. Or at least the beginning of the problem. Then, I see that I do my biggest clean-up of the kitchen in the late afternoon, at about 3:30 or 4:00pm, right before I cook dinner, which then wrecks the kitchen again. So, even though I am doing dishes every day, I never see the kitchen actually clean. It never reflects a sense of order or success back at me -- only failure and filth. So I switch my dish-doing to the evening, after the kids are in bed. I go to sleep with a clean kitchen and then wake up to one as well. When things get dirty, I think, "My clean kitchen has gotten a little dirty; I should clean it up a little," instead of thinking, "My kitchen is always nasty and will never be clean no matter what I do."

And lastly, I realize that dish doing is a solitary act, and a little lonely, and a little boring, but at the same time I yearn for a bit of solitary alone time in my day. So instead of hating it all at 3pm, children underfoot, hungry myself, mess everywhere, I just let it go until 7:30pm. Then I plug in my headphones and clean while I listen to a favorite podcast. I don't really mind anything else that is going on. And at the end of it, the kitchen is clean, and I've learned a little more about cooking or gardening or world events, and I haven't had to speak to anyone for an hour. (If this seems strange to you, I'm an introvert, and talking to people all day, the way I have to with two young and very-verbal children, is as stressful as a day full of business presentations. Even though the questions are charming -- "What kind of factory do marshmallows come from?" or Norah's favorite, the simple, "What's this?" -- sometimes I just want a break from speaking.)

So what I end up with isn't a perfect solution -- I will still get behind on pots and pans at the end of long days, and I will never really like bending down and standing up a hundred thousand times to load and unload the dishwasher and hand-wash the rest, but it's manageable when I reduce the number of dishes and fit dish-time into my day with the mild reward of listening to a podcast.

But this is not a post about dishes. It's about the way I expect myself to do things, and the fact that it is the opposite from the way that I actually work. Basically, I need a day that has scheduled time for doing certain things -- teaching, mothering, cleaning, resting, eating -- and some wiggle room as well, for picking up slack when I get behind, or for pointedly not picking up slack when I am just too darn tired and finished with it all. Because sometimes "giving up" for an evening is more restorative than anything else.

So I refuse to resolve to do anything this year. I do not resolve to lose any weight at all, I do not resolve to have a cleaner house, I do not resolve to be more orderly in my work or more creative in the activities I do with my children or more or less of anything as a wife. Instead, I am going to do something that I have never done before at the end of a long December:

I love you just the way you are. You're good enough right now. You taught yourself everything you know about how to keep a house clean. You taught yourself how to be a happy mother and wife. You taught yourself how to teach yourself things, and now you teach other people. That's not nothing -- that's something. You're not a failure. You're a ringing success. If you don't believe me, watch your husband playing with your kids when he gets home from work. That's the stuff that matters. That might be the only thing that matters.


Happy New Year!! :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Simplicity

So this post is sort of a "cheating" post because it won't include much of my own thoughts.

The background is that with some beginning success in recovery from thyroid and adrenal fatigue problems, I am motivated to gently turn my life from its crazy frenetic pace to something more livable. If you had asked me six months ago if it would be possible for me to simplify my life at all, I probably would have laughed at you and then said something very rude, implying that my life is much busier and more important than the average person's.

Over the past few months of work on my health and happiness, I have been given the gift to see that at the root of so much of my crazy breakneck ways is simply conceit -- the belief that I am somehow set apart from normal humans, that I must always do more, achieve more, be more. It's completely ridiculous, and completely false. Realizing that snobbishness, not bad luck, is at the root of my poor health choices is very humbling, but also very true. Anyone who has known me for very long can tell you that I am this way -- that I take things on, more than I should, not for pure reasons but because I think I can do it better than anyone else. It's conceit, it's snobbishness, and it made me physically ill.

So I'm holding the idea of a slower life in my hands, turning it over and over like a smooth stone, feeling it warm up from its contact with my palms. I am growing to like it. Every once in a while that crazy voice comes back -- she sounds a bit like the Wicked Witch of the West -- and tells me that unless I do twice as much as I am now, I will sink into the mire of obscurity and sadness and drudgery; that my only hope is to do more and be more and always more than I am right now. She says that I am never enough.

If there is nothing else to inspire me to change (and certainly there is), then at least my children inspire me. I want to be present to them and to telegraph to them that they matter, not just in the big things but in the small things. I want them to have my attention more often than they hear, "In a minute, honey." Because there will always be moments when I am busy, but I have more opportunities to tune into them and into the slow life in general than I previously thought.

So I am scanning through a book about unhooking, slowing down, and simplifying, and I have come across two really fantastic quotes that I want to share. These are from Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. and Lisa M. Ross.

The first:

"A more rhythmic daily life establishes beachheads, small islands of calm and predictability in the flow of time."

I love this image! "Beachheads" makes me think of a parched, exhausted shipwreck victim, finally washing up on shore, panting, grateful, totally spent with grief and joy. And the ground is firm underneath. That is what I want to be, and what I want my home to be. The island, always there just when you can't go any further out in the big bad world.

And the second:

"We're confronted with the often simple requests of these small beings (whom we love immeasurably), and yet their pleas seem to be coming from a galaxy far away, from the planet "slow." The two- or three-year-old asking for the same story to be read again and again becomes an eight-year-old who wants to tell you the plot of a movie in such remarkable detail that the retelling will surely take longer than the movie itself. You've figured out a complicated car-pool schedule that requires split-second timing, but saves you a roundtrip or two per week. The whole enterprise grinds to a halt each morning around two laces that will not be tied, or one head of hair that cannot be brushed, or one backpack that is always -- but always -- missing something."

Wow, that's exactly it. Those two laces.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Alchemy


So I have found a magical formula, a balance of what I take in and what I do that helps me:

1) Feel healthy
2) Be productive
3) Slowly but consistently lose weight

Of course these are not conclusive results because I have only been at it for three weeks, but here it is:

1) No wheat or dairy
2) Limited concentrated sugars (I have a weakness for dark chocolate, and for honey, but I indulge within reason)
3) Limited starch
4) No caffeine at all (not even decaf coffee)
5) Thyroid medicine (T3 + T4)
6) Adrenal support herbs (licorice, et al)
7) Cortisol Manager*
8) No strenuous exercise **

*At the risk of sounding like an infomercial, this supplement has changed my life. It helps me switch off at night, but it isn't a heavy, dopey feeling. I can get up in the middle of the night to help the kids if I need to, and then I can come back to bed and go right back to sleep. Basically I feel like this is undoing the harmful parts of what happened to my sleep when I had tiny babies. I don't wake up in a panic at 2am anymore, but if I set my alarm for 5am or 6am to get up a little early, I can. And if I want to sleep until 7am or 8am, I can do that too. I feel like it's my choice how I sleep, rather than a game of roulette. And with so much good sleep, I wake up rested. I haven't been through that exhausted-yet-wide-awake torture since I started taking it.

**I know, right?? I found out the other week that when your adrenaline/cortisol situation is all whackadoo like mine is, strenuous exercise actually makes things worse -- it triggers a cortisol response, which then locks down your fat and doesn't allow your body to burn it (because the body thinks I am running from saber-tooth tigers, so it has to hold onto that fat because who knows when I will get to eat again, with all that running). Who knew, right?? It does explain why my efforts at losing weight for a wedding last year were completely unsuccessful, and why I lost five pounds over Christmas last year when I gave up exercising for a few weeks. I never put it together, though, because who would ever think that exercising less would help me burn fat?

I am actually used to the eating plan at this point, and while occasionally I have to have a "gluten free" version of an old favorite, for the most part I don't even miss bread or cake, etc. I find that I am eating a *lot* of protein... like, a *LOT* of protein. I actually feel a little guilty about it because it's such a Western thing to do, but it works? I ate two tilapia filets today for a midmorning snack, which is about 40g of protein. Wow. But it was good. I am a huge fan of fish these days.

A great advantage to the new eating plan is that when you are not eating grains at all, it can actually be challenging to get all your calories for the day. So a few times a day I will just wantonly drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on whatever I am eating, and man, I love that. I would so much rather have olive oil than bread. In fact, that's a weird development (which perhaps I commented on earlier?) -- wheat and flour seem gross to me now, like eating glue or paste. Instead I spend a lot of time craving grilled fish and zucchini, and curry. Oh, curry. I want curry all the time. The exception to these healthy-cravings is when I am very stressed. Then, I still want sweet squishy cakes and mac 'n' cheese. But the cravings pass quickly enough, and I can still hunker down on a bar of dark chocolate should the need arise.

The weight loss so far has not been shocking in itself -- just a few pounds -- but the shocking part of it for me is that it has been steady, and it has continued at its normal pace in spite of Thanksgiving. Weird, right? I will happily accept weight loss of only a half pound a week, when it keeps marching on. At this rate I'll be at my goal in a year. Since I had Norah, I haven't been able to steadily lose weight on any plan at all, and I think taking the slow road is the way to go.

So that's where I am right now -- oh, that, and neck-deep in essays to grade, catching up from a week of no childcare. It's still within possibility, though. Again, slow and steady wins the race.

(On a side note, are happy blog posts boring?? Where is the angst that drives my writing??!? I will have to dig deeper, I suppose. :D )

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Just Plain Gross

Taking a moment to myself in the midst of childhood illness, and all of the work (mostly laundry) that it entails.

THE GOOD:
Getting my adrenaline and cortisol under control has helped me face the past 4 days of cleaning up puke and other various unmentionable things without really getting too stressed. Of course I am flipping tired of it, but in general I have been able to stay pretty even-keel, including last night which was very exciting as I was finalizing my grades for three classes of students in between changing sheets and santizing everything, over and over (4 times in one day).

THE BAD:
I haven't been able to have any childcare this week, which means I do all my work (teaching 3 accelerated sections of college comp) when the kids are asleep. This throws my sleep schedule off and makes it difficult to get things done without sacrificing a lot of rest, which of course I need in order to keep my adrenaline/cortisol under control. So it feels like I am choosing between money and health, but I need money in order to be healthy, and I need health in order to be able to earn money. So there's a quandary for you. Praying that I can stay on the right side of that equation. Looking for the little things to be grateful for (this sickness: no respiratory issues) (called into my tutoring gig this week: more time to clean house, which I need) (and of course the ever-present: blessed with flexible employment).

It's a constant juggling act, and as soon as I get something handled, something else crumbles apart. I'm coming to understand that this is the constant state of motherhood -- something will always be a horrifying wreck, and something else will be an unexpected delight.

Just keeping the plates spinning and, in the immortal words of those old-timey poets,

Just hoping for no more vomit tonight...
Just hoping for no more tonight.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dear Holiday Season


Dear Holiday Season,

What's that sound you hear? It's me, humming a tune, skipping down the street through the fall leaves, whistling while I work. And you know why? Because this year, I'm going to win.

I'm going to enjoy myself. I'm going to take in the sights and sounds of the season. I am not going to rush, I am not going to worry, and I am not going to take on anything that I do not have to take on.

I am going to enjoy my family. I am going to avoid Walmart and the big box stores not out of any sort of ethical superiority but because I hate going to them. They are crowded and poorly organized, and they do not know me as a person, like the local business owners do. If I am dropping money somewhere, why not let it be somewhere I like to be? After all, if I pay Walmart money for what they do, doesn't that tell them to keep doing exactly what they are doing? Keep not cleaning the bathrooms, keep building 52 checkout lanes and only opening 3 of them, keep treating me like part of the herd of cattle? In one door, pay your money, out the other, keep it moving, please.

This year I am going to sing carols until my children plug their ears. I am going to post nostalgic status updates on Facebook until all my friends hide me from their news feeds. I am going to look at Christmas light displays while sipping cocoa, and I am going to take my time. I am going to shop off the beaten path, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it if it's the last thing I do.

Because life is short, but life is good, and I want to take all the goodness I can from you, and leave the rest of it behind.

Fa la la la la la la HA HA.

Sincerely,
Lisa

Monday, November 21, 2011

Feeeeeelings

A strange side effect of getting well and bringing balance into my life is an unexpected increase in emotions. I have a wider range of them, and they pop up at unexpected times, and much more frequently.

Insert metaphor here: It's like yesterday, I had three crayons: red, yellow, and green. Today I have the 48 pack, and then whenever I open something, more of them fall out -- the glove box, the cabinet, the cereal box.

It's weird, it's unexpected, and I'm not sure what to do with all these crayons. I'm used to being a little flat, emotionally, but now that I'm turning 3D again I have to deal with the complexities of it.

Lately I've been feeling the pokiness of life a little more directly than I have in a while. I used to feel the angst of life -- things like parking tickets, slow computers, fading friendships, inflation, missing shoes -- as a sort of general dull ache, but now I feel them like personal stabs. I wish I could turn off this new sensitivity. The smallest rejection feels huge. Logically I know I'm being ridiculous, but sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and have somebody be nice to me for a few hours without criticizing me. It's the criticism that chips away at me. The students who always need something -- and it's a good thing they do, because that's my job, and I do like it, but sometimes... -- the kids who need things, the constant complaints about who doesn't like dinner and who can't find their shirt and the million other things that I try to control for but can't, just can't, but even if I go all zen and embrace my failure on the mountaintop or whatever the heck it is you are supposed to do, the complaints still roll in like clockwork.

I am frustrated when I see other people living organized lives, and just as I've tamed some of it mine keeps trying to speed up and get more chaotic, but I have to hold it back, hold it back, quit running from the mad dog.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adrenal Budgets and Desert Walkabouts


Went back to the doctor for a follow-up appointment and discovered that I am making good progress, and that I have a measurable spike in cortisol in the evening hours. This can interfere with sleep and with weight loss, and I have a supplement that I am taking now to address this.

Overall I can say that since I began taking medication for adrenal fatigue and slow thyroid, the overall effect has been positive. The past few weeks has taught me once again how important it is to pay attention to my stress level and take care of myself by keeping it as low as I can. I had some very stressful -- good, yet stressful -- events in the past few weeks and my health definitely dipped down to correspond with that stress.

At times it is so hard to keep up with it, because there are certain things that I can't "opt out" of -- for example, if my kids need something in the middle of the night, I just have to do it -- no way to "take care of my sleep" when that is going on. What I am finding is that steady and constant effort and awareness of what I am expecting from myself and the resources that I have available to me are the keys to staying healthy.

I never really thought I did too much, because to me I feel like I only do about 2% of what I should be doing, but sometimes I hear things my friends say -- things like "I have a really busy day. I have to go to the store AND I have to go out to dinner," and I think, that is something I would do in the space of an hour, not a day. And where is all of this rushing getting me, anyway?

So the whole process is being aware of the ways in which I expect too much of myself and other people, and getting real with myself about my energy and adrenal "budgets" -- what I have to spend, what I have in savings, and what will happen if I go "into debt." It's a challenge because I did not learn these things growing up, and now must teach them to myself, and there is so much at stake.

In other news I am teaching a bit more this term, which is good, and tutoring the same hours as last term, which is good as well. I enjoy working and I like the order that it brings to my days and of course I also like contributing to the family economy with some real live dollars.

Of course I have the novel-writing bug again, but I find the actual writing to be very challenging, because I do not have a workshop group and also sometimes I end up with days or weeks where I have no time to touch my writing projects. I try not to get into writing novels because I get obsessed with them and they are all I can think about, when I have so much other work. But if I ignore it, then every 2 or 3 months I feel compelled, and I end up writing against my will, late into the night. It's like denying yourself ice cream for weeks and then cracking and eating a whole carton at once. If only there were some middle way.

My spiritual studies are continuing, and lately I have been able to relax and enjoy them rather than worrying about whether I am doing everything exactly right and in the right order. I am enjoying the "uncluttered" nature of my new practices, and the way that this lack of clutter allows me to hear the spirit more clearly. And I am experiencing something I never have before, a hunger for scripture. This might sound cheesy or weird but I literally just want to read every word that is written in the Bible to glean the knowledge of the people that came before. I have read Acts through and am working on it again. Something about it is so fresh that even in the King James formality, I feel like the events are happening right now. I had doubted at first whether I was headed in the right direction with my studies but there is a kind of quiet, calm order to my days now that I have to recognize the hand of God in it. I have always been motivated by peace and now I feel as if I am following that peace to a new destination. The road is not without its weird twists and turns and bumps, but it seems like the more I practice listening to the spirit within the din of everyday life, the louder I can hear it speaking now, whenever I stop to listen.

I could go on and on with lots of self-indulgent annoying metaphysical rambling, but I will just stop here by just saying that I found myself in a spiritual "desert," and when I stopped trying to run out of the desert, I found that God was there too, and that he brought me to the desert not to torture me and make me thirsty and sunburned, but so that I could have a little peace and quiet and he and I could converse.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Progress

So today I am craving the strangest thing -- homemade biscuits with cane syrup. Perhaps my Mississippi roots are showing through, or perhaps when I am tired I crave the simplest carbs imaginable.

Whatever the case may be, this is a post about craving. The thyroid medicine is working, though a bit less than it did at first. I am sorry to say that the initial weight loss not only reversed, but now I gained three more pounds on top of that. :( It's very disheartening but there's not much to be done about it. It could be because on this medicine, I am very hungry. And it's hard not to eat when I feel really, truly hungry. So I think I need to go back to counting calories on Livestrong, because "listening to my hunger" or whatevertheheck has just ended in me weighing more now than I did a month ago. Ugh.

I am behind in my work because of some unavoidable snafus with Norah's sitter last week, and a teacher planning day. I am finding, though, that my secret weapon is planning ahead and thinking on my feet. I didn't think ahead as well as I could have, but I am getting more in the habit and the next time something like this happens, I will be able to handle it better. Taking care of yourself and your schedule is really a full time job!

So, rather than going nuts and trying to figure everything out at once, here is the slow-playing plan:

This week, focus on finishing the grades for tomorrow, then call the doctor on Tues or Wed to see if I need to adjust meds, do a gentle workout just 2-3 times in the week, just to keep moving, and track what I eat online without really changing what I eat, to see what I'm really taking in. Then, next week, look at the food diaries and see what I can improve. After the Greek Food Festival next weekend, of course. No use in being a zealot...

Overall, a little bummed that I am feeling sluggish and bad again, but not totally hopeless about it. The middles of my days are still much better than they used to be. The evenings are difficult again, though.

Oh, and I'm supposed to bring 24 home baked cookies to school for Chris tomorrow.

HA.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Published! :)

Check out my article on Slack Lust! I am proud to be part of this month's issue!

Friday, October 14, 2011

T3 and Me

So now that it's been a full week that I have been on medication for my burned-out adrenals and my high reverse T3 count, I want to give an update:

I am taking Armour thyroid in what the ARNP calls a low dose, but it seems to work very well for me. Armour is different from Synthroid in that it contains both T4 (which Synthroid has) and straight T3, which is the biologically active form of the thyroid hormone. In other words, your body manufactures T4, but it must then convert the T4 into T3. TSH is a pituitary hormone that is involved in how much T4 your body produces, not T3. So you could have a normal TSH and T4 reading, and still have big problems because you don't have enough T3 for your body to actually use.

In my case, my body makes plenty of T4, but when it converts it, it turns some of it into T3, but also turns too much of it into Reverse T3. Reverse T3 is like those little plastic things you put into electrical outlets so that babies don't stick hairpins into them. It is biologically inactive, but it prevents real T3 from binding to receptors in cells, so it sort of "turns off" the cells to metabolic activity. This is why people with high reverse T3 feel exhausted and can't lose weight, even on low calorie diets.

So I am on Armour and Bio-Adreno (which is a bio-identical adrenal glad supplement that supports healthy adrenal function). I have also stopped eating wheat and dairy, and I don't drink caffeine anymore. I am limiting my sugar but I do eat fruit and I have had some dark chocolate and orange juice here and there. What has happened to me this week? Here are the highlights. :)

When I sleep, I feel rested. This is a really big deal for me because for several months now, when I slept, I would wake up just as tired as I felt when I went to sleep. And in the event that I got to sleep in, once every few weeks, it didn't really do me any good and just made it harder to sleep the next day. To actually wake refreshed is... it's kind of amazing. I wake up ready for the day. Not exactly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but I feel like the new day is a good thing and not just "oh geez, one more day to get through until I get to go to bed again."

When I eat, I feel nourished. I had been noticing for a while that when I ate, I felt like I wasn't really getting anything from the food. It's hard to really explain, but while I never really felt "stomach hungry," I felt "cell hungry," like my cells were crying out for something that they just weren't getting. I know it sounds crazy, but that's the best way I can think to describe it. Now, when I eat, I feel that I am really getting what I need. I am not sure the exact relation of this feeling to the medicine, but I have noticed it. I have also been craving really healthy foods, like the other day I just really needed a bunch of tofu and kale. Explain that.

My body handles food better now. It used to be that when I ate anything with grain, or with sugar, my body would just freak out. I recorded my blood sugar for a while, and I would get really, really low readings sometimes -- in the 40s and 50s. I would routinely feel awful if I didn't eat once every hour or two. I started with the medicine and was prepared for a hypoglycemic diet as well, but I have found, strangely, that I feel actually less hypoglycemic than I did before. For example, the other day I was just really feeling like I wanted a little glass of orange juice, so I thought, well, I'll just go ahead and have some. And I drank it, and I didn'thave a sugar crash 30 minutes later. That hasn't happened since I was in middle school, seriously. It was kind of amazing. I don't have to eat every 1-2 hours anymore -- I can eat every 3-4 hours instead, and I feel completely fine the whole time.

Other stranger effects. I have noticed some other more incidental effects. First, my memory is slowly getting better. It is not instantly repaired, unfortunately, but I have been recalling things that I normally would have forgotten. For example, I remembered to put a bag of paper towel rolls into the car and then actually give it to the art teachers at Chris's school. Normally I would have collected the rolls and then just never, ever remembered to give them to the school. I wish the memory recovery were more dramatic, because I really miss being mentally sharp, but it is getting better, and that's a start.

Emotionally speaking, I have a much longer fuse when it comes to getting frustrated and angry. I have had the normal challenging situations this week with my two little kidlets, and I have noticed that I have more mental space to decide how I will react -- my reactions are more thoughtful and controlled. This is really big. For example, at the store the other day C said he had to use the bathroom, and I was trying to get us to the restroom, and someone was blocking the entire aisle with their cart parked diagonally. I tried to do the polite thing but she wasn't taking the hint so I had to sort of drive all the way around her and between her and her cart, kind of like a really mundane sort of slalom. Just as I finally get around her, I hear Chris go "uh oh..." and we rushed to the restroom but he had already gone. Of course I have no extra clothes with me, nothing, but I got through the entire situation, including a broken hand dryer, a non-functioning paper towel dispenser, and a very clingy 18 month old, with very little emotional strife. It actually went very smoothly, in the context of how well your child wetting their pants in the middle of a grocery trip can really go. Chris got through it understanding that he had done everything right, and the situations just piled up to make it so he had an accident, and he recovered really quickly without being embarrassed. I didn't try to start a fight with the woman with the diagonal cart, although I was definitely irritated. It was really good to see a good outcome in a situation like that.

A strange emotional effect is that I have a wider range of emotions than I used to. It's strange. I feel a little more weepy, but not in an out of control way -- instead, if something happens and I feel like I need to cry, then I just immediately cry a couple of tears and then I'm over it for good. I guess it's more like I deal with my emotions right in the moment, rather than saving them up for weeks and then shutting down or freaking out. It's different, but it's not bad.

My memories are "waking up." This morning suddenly I started singing this old rhyme that we used to say when we were jumping rope in second grade.

She can wibble, she can wobble, she can do a split.
I bet you ten dollars you can't do this:
Close your eyes and count to ten
Open your eyes and do it again


There's a little bit more of that little blue-eyed girl back in me now, again, dancing in the double-dutch ropes, eyes shut, daring herself to get all the way to ten.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Adrenaline Junkie


I have been trying for the past 30 hours to get through a stack of drafts and give feedback. Normally this would take me about 4 hours total, but right now it is going a lot more slowly. Not relying on a jolt of adrenaline does mean that I can work at any time, but the work goes more slowly. I have to relearn how to be productive and disciplined with no rush of panic and no coffee to spur me along.

One upside of getting my stress under control showed up this morning as I was driving Chris to school. A huge pickup (quad cab, dual axles, etc) drove across Mahan Dr. and just stopped there, waiting for a chance to turn left, and I was headed right toward it. Now my former self would have cursed, honked, avoided the accident, gotten shaky, gotten a splitting headache, and then been completely exhausted and useless for the rest of the morning. Today, though, I just avoided the accident and went on my way. I was thinking, "Why do I feel strange right now?" and it was because I wasn't in that adrenaline-induced fight-or-flight state. I was just calmly driving on my way. It was weird, for real.

So back to my workload... How do I get things done without the rabid dog of panic biting at my heels?

The First Day

Just a quick update to say that the thyroid and adrenal medicine is working, that the new diet is working, that the lack of caffeine is working, that I am working! I don't feel like a busted machine anymore. Glad to start ticking again.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reduce Stress by Reducing Stress... um okay


So today I had my long-awaited follow-up appointment, and I am on a supplement to support my adrenals so that they actually might be inspired to work a little bit, and *very excitingly* a natural thyroid supplement (Armour).

I have to order the Armour, which is "dessicated porcine thyroid gland," from a small mom-n-pop pharmacy that is only open 8-5, and since my appointment wasn't until 4pm, that means I have to wait until tomorrow to get my precious medicine! And of course I forgot to ask if that pharmacy takes my insurance. So many details.

The thing is, though, in order for the T4/T3 supplementation to work in eliminating the buildup of Reverse T3 in my body, the adrenals have to be working too, and in some cases the thyroid hormone supplementation will not work at all if the adrenals don't work, and in fact can tax the adrenals further, causing worse symptoms. Of course, in this delicate feedback loop, two things are true: low adrenal function worsens thyroid function, and low thyroid function overtaxes adrenals (which makes them then burn out and underperform). So basically what I am doing now with the supplementation is sticking a wrench into this terrible machine in which the adrenal function gets worse and worse, and the thyroid produces more reverse T3, until I am eating 800 calories a day and gaining weight, and unable to stay awake during the day but unable to fall asleep at night. (It's not that bad yet, but that's where I would be headed.) There isn't really a graceful way to halt the process, you just have to pick something and improve it, which will make improving the other things easier as well.

So in an ideal world, I could flood my body with all the right supplements and wake up completely fine, but it has to be a slow and gradual process. The hardest part of this for me, I predict, will be rehabilitating the adrenals, and here's why -- when the adrenals begin to underperform, you find yourself subconsciously doing things to violently jump-start them again. For example, drinking tons of coffee. Now, I have cut coffee cold turkey for the past two weeks, and I have done well with it. I am drinking a lot of tea, though, and I will have to cut that as well. No caffeine at all. That will cause stress in itself, but it will be all right. Not looking forward to it, but I have to do it. So I think I will be tapering off of that gradually.

Overall now, in order to get any adrenal function at all, it takes a pretty big event. Thinking about this, suddenly the last puzzle piece clicks into place when I try to figure out why sometimes I literally *can't* work unless I am under a tight deadline. I hate having things to do at the last minute -- I really hate it -- but when I try to sit down and work ahead of time, I am horrifically underproductive -- it takes me an hour to grade one paper, my mind wanders, I get antsy -- whereas when I am under a tight deadline I can knock out 4 papers in an hour, for four hours in a row, with thorough feedback and consistent grading that I am proud of. But I literally can't function that way unless I am scared about missing my deadline. This is a way of artificially stimulating the adrenals! To put myself in a state of panic over a deadline, so that I finally have the energy to meet it!

It's like the heavens opened up, and a light shone, and I understood why I have such a hard time working ahead. I am addicted to adrenaline, but every time I get an adrenaline rush, I need more and more of it while at the same time my body produces less and less. I guess some people like roller coasters, and other people like leaving 20 papers to grade until 12 hours before the grades deadline. To each his own, ha ha ha.

Looking at this, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, because I know that as I wean myself off of my punishing habits, procrastination addiction, caffeine, and drill-sergeant self-talk, I am going to have a few days or a few weeks when the only way I will get anything done will be through sheer willpower. No dark coffee or exhilarating panic to spur me on -- nothing to give me that lovely hopped-up feeling that I crave, because it is the only time that I am productive at all. Instead, I have to give that up in order to regain the ability to be generally productive, at any time of the day, any day of the week. It's worth it, but I know I am staring down some pretty gnarly grading sessions for the next few weeks.

This also means that I have to drop some of my bad habits, like sleeping as long as humanly possible before stumbling out to "greet" the day -- instead, I have to be one of those people who wakes up at 5 or 6, meditates and exercises alone, and then starts the day. I have to give myself a good, even, non-panicked start. I also might have to get some child care. Ugh. I am such a stingy person, you guys. You have to pry the dollar bills out of my hand. Paying someone so that I can work just goes against everything the tightwad on my shoulder is screaming at me. I've won battles with her before, though, and I guess I can win again. Health is worth investing in! (I will repeat that to myself a hundred times over through the next few weeks...).

I will have to start doing gentle exercise every day -- a walk in the evening while Ben sits with the kids. I really like walking, and it helps me sort my brain out, if that makes sense.

When I was doing the infant thing with Chris and then with Norah, one of the most difficult parts of it was that I never had time to do that "unpacking" of the day's events that you do when you sit down with a glass of wine, or take an evening stroll, or drive alone somewhere. It was just this other person's needs literally 24 hours a day. I had no time to process any information -- my memories were like boxes of receipts with no lids in a room with the fan on -- stuff blowing everywhere, total chaos. Some of that chaos is still with me, I think.

So when I go get my little T4/T3 tablets in the morning, they won't be an instant fix. I actually have no idea what the effect will be, because every patient responds so differently to it. I am doing a cortisol test tomorrow as well to try to pin down the extent of my adrenal problems, so that the doctor will know if stronger medicine is needed for them (cortisone? I think?). After that 24-hour test, I will start the adrenal support supplement. There are going to be zillions of those tiny annoying "lifestyle changes" that are so hard to really do, but this time maybe I'll be successful because so much is on the line. What it really comes down to is taking the power of my will and instead of focusing it on Achieving More Always, focusing it on Letting Go and Chilling Out. Not in an incidental, daily, don't-cry-over-spilled-milk kind of way, but in a real, pivotal, Truth-seeking kind of way. I have to take the power of idealism and use it to take me somewhere I actually want to go.

Join me on the winding, whiny road to health! :)

Spider Boy


One of the many joys of Netflix streaming is the fact that we can share shows that we used to watch with our children who are just emerging, dewy-eyed, from the forests of infancy. And by "share" I mean "force them to watch." For example, Norah and Chris have already been subjected to approximately 586 hours of Family Ties and Wings, and although she doesn't remember it except for having a vague desire to wear bulky sweaters with stirrup pants, Norah sat with me through quite a bit of Thirtysomething when she was first born.

But one thing that both the children and the parents enjoy here in the Happy Nash household is the 1994 Spider-Man series. Chris has become obsessed. He sings the theme song, studies the episodes, and then leaps across the divide between the two couches, swinging by a thread of invisible spiderweb. Spider-Man's interests are remarkably similar to his own; for example, Spider-Man needs ice water with a straw in order to make webs, and Spider-Man leaps "kind of like a frog but it's different."

I think the Superhero thing just has a certain amount of cache, but I noticed that in this show Peter Parker also narrates... everything. ("I'm walking to the kitchen, but I don't see Aunt May. Where's Aunt May? My arms! Their turning into large purple vines! The serum! I must have taken too much of the serum...") So maybe in that preschooler brain phase of really working hard to make sense of the world (and let's face it, that's an increasingly challenging task these days), this kind of super-literal narration might make the show really accessible and even turn it into a learning experience in some ways -- the voice Peter Parker uses to narrate his own thoughts is very different from the way he speaks out loud to others, and the facial expressions are exaggerated. By pumping up the subtext, Spider-Man opens a new range of human experience and emotion in a way that an almost 4-year-old can absorb and understand.

Also, there are mutated lizards with evil mechanical robot parts. What little boy wouldn't love that?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

HypoT Update

I finally got a call from my doctor's office on Friday, and it turns I have elevated thyroid antibodies and high reverse T3. From what I know so far (which might be an incomplete picture), the high reverse T3 is related to stress-related failure in the conversion of T4 into T3, and the use of T3 by the cells, although I am sure I do not understand exactly the way it works. Basically, "Reverse T3" is a slight variation of regular T3, which is the active hormone that regulates metabolism. So the reverse T3, which is sort of a placeholder "dummy" hormone, will block the receptors and not allow the actual T3 to bind and become active. So it's like a key that doesn't work being stuck in the lock, and you might have the key that works, but you'll never get it in the lock. In normal functioning, reverse T3 is created to slow down the metabolism when necessary -- for example, famine -- but sometimes when there is a lot of extended stress, the body will just sort of chronically produce too much reverse T3, so the metabolism keeps slowing down and slowing down until you get slow, tired, overweight, and really cold (95.9 degrees at one point last week). So the treatment is to clear all the extra reverse T3, and reducing your stress response with holistic changes and medication.

The elevated antibodies indicate some kind of autoimmune response, so I am interested to see what kind of treatment might be available for that, and how much functioning thyroid I have left.

I have to wait 8 more days for my doctor's appointment, which seems like not much in comparison to all the time I have been dealing with this trouble, but it seems like forever now that I know there is a problem and maybe even a solution out there waiting for me.

What I am dealing with now is some of the same types of symptoms as always, except now I am recognizing them rather than ignoring or downplaying them, thinking there is nothing really wrong with me. I'm coming awake to the distress signals my body has been giving out for so long, that I have been ignoring because I had been told that there was nothing wrong with me.

A bit of anger is coming up as well. It's been 18 months of my life, gone and wasted it feels like. I know that's an overstatement, but I have been operating at about 60% since my daughter was born. She doesn't even know who I really am, and I barely even remember it either. I am angry because I tried to address this problem at a time when I still could have had some breastfeeding time with my daughter, and when I could have enjoyed part of her infancy, but the doctor just tested my TSH and told me I was completely fine, and to get more sleep. Hypothyroid problems disproportionately affect women, and the symptoms are often dismissed because I suppose we expect that women will be fat, tired, and puffy whenever there is something vaguely "hormonal" going on -- childbearing, menopause, PMS, whatever. Women are brushed aside, and not just me -- look it up and you will see hundreds of personal stories of women who knew that they weren't healthy but their doctors just tell them to eat less and exercise more and take some antidepressants. The patients' expressions of what they know of their own bodies are ignored. In addition to this I guess I am also mad that I didn't pursue it farther until now -- that I didn't try harder to find out what was wrong before. Doesn't it seem backward that I should have to pursue a doctor who will listen to me and not tell me I'm just supposed to be fat and tired? Doesn't it seem like a doctor should want a patient -- even a female patient -- to have a better quality of life, rather than just getting used to things sucking just a bit more than they ever did before?

A lot of sadness comes up too. Sadness for the times that I have already lost with my family, for the past year of doing as much as I could, which was always less than I wanted to. I take my kids to the playground about 3 times a year. I haven't been to the beach since 2009. I don't do anything where I might run out of energy in the middle, so I don't do much. I am so used to being tired and sluggish that it's almost the new "normal" for me. I have to really focus to identify what's "not right" about me because it's been so long.

I am kind of curious about what might emerge if I get to start some treatment. I am curious if I will be able to keep up with the housework. I am really curious about whether I will be able to lose some weight and exercise enough to build muscle and things like that. I am curious about what my brain will be able to remember when I am not dialed down anymore. Do you know that yesterday I forgot about a birthday party that I had been planning to go to for weeks? That on Friday I confirmed that I was going, but come Saturday, I just didn't remember it, at all. That kind of malfunction is humiliating and really difficult to explain to other people. And that's the kind of shit I do these days, every day. But I never know when it's coming. I buy ketchup three times in a row when I already have it. I go to the store to get hot dog things for dinner, and I buy everything... except the hot dogs. I forget to mail a check for nine days, even though it's "on my mind to do it."

For so long I have been afraid that all of this was a signal of mental illness that I just haven't shared it with anyone. I assumed that the physical symptoms were all due to me being overweight, and I focused my energy on losing weight, which came to nothing. I assumed the mental symptoms were from a combination of sleep deprivation and emerging insanity, and I was hoping for a way to get past those things as soon as I lost the weight.

While I'm waiting for the next appointment I've kind of hit a wall where I stop trying. I don't have a reason to keep acting like it's okay, so I'm done with it. I'm exhausted and forgetful and only 25 lbs down from the day I got home from the hospital, after 14 months of dieting. I can't do half of what I used to be able to do. I'm spending all my energy doing my work and doing what I can for my family.

I know this is all sounding pretty dramatic, and I'm sorry for that. I know that this problem is not very big in comparison to other problems in the world. It's kind of overwhelming right now, though, to dig through all the things I have started to believe about myself (lazy, fat, disorganized, out of shape, boring, exhausted), and to see that some or most of them might be due to a pretty simple imbalance of chemicals. I'm kind of interested to see who I might get to be.

For a little more information on some of the stuff I am talking about, here are some good links:

High Reverse T3: http://misslizzy.me/reverse-t3-rt3-and-thyroid-reshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
Adrenal Fatigue: http://misslizzy.me/adrenal-fatigue/
High Thyroid Antibodies: http://thyroid.about.com/cs/basics_starthere/a/antibody.htm

I am considering calling and trying to get an earlier appointment. I have been feeling bad for so long, I am ready to start getting better!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hypo Active

All right my lovely readers! :) An update is in order.

Still waiting on lab results for the hypothyroid business, but in the meantime, I am tracking my temperature and blood sugar levels to take to the follow up appointment.

I don't want to freak anyone out, but I might be a zombie.

My temperature (on different thermometers, so I know it isn't a thermometer problem) has averaged 96.6 for the past four days. As low as 95.9, and up to 97.3 at its highest.

95.9.

That is ridiculous.

The only explanation I can think of (besides hypothyroid) is that I am undead. I am not craving brains yet, but if I do, I'll let you know so that you can have time to run and hide from me.

Urrrghlll... RRRchhbbthbt.....

Or maybe I'm a vampire. Does that mean I have to read Twilight now, to learn more about my people? I hope not.

I have also been testing my blood sugar for signs of hypoglycemia (which is often a part of hypothyroid) and lo and behold I got several really low readings today( 55! 40!), and I was even eating very low glycemic stuff today - no sugar, no grain. On Thursday I am going to grit my teeth and do the orange juice test -- drink a glass of OJ on an empty stomach and test every 15 minutes to see what happens. I am guessing it will be kind of dire. Do not call me on Thursday morning. I do not pass out or get clammy when I have low blood sugar, but I do get really, really (really) mean.

All of this testing, with thermometers and glucose meters, makes me think how nice it would be if there were monitors for other things too, like Does This Food Really Fit My Diet or Am I Kidding Myself? or Am I Right or Wrong Right Now? We all know this scenario -- something happens and we have the opposite opinion of everyone else in the room. Or someone among our family and friends says something that seems horrifically offensive to us... but no one else notices. What if you could write it on a slip of paper, stick it in a meter, and get a readout about how out of line you are? What if it could even assign a percentage of rightness to each party?

SAMPLE SCENARIO IN WHICH THIS IMAGINARY DEVICE WOULD BE VERY USEFUL:

I am walking toward the front door of a business, carrying Norah on my hip and with two bags on my shoulder. A young man runs in front of me and goes through the door first. Rather than holding it for 2 extra seconds so that I can push it with my one free hand, he lets it slam in my face. Who is more out of line? Him for doing that, or me for getting mad about it?

IMAGINARY DEVICE SAYS: Him 15% right because he is late to work and has to make it on time. Me 85% right because my daughter is so cute. (Okay, so maybe the reasons would be a bit more scientific. But you get the idea.) I win, but not 100%.

What situations would IMAGINARY DEVICE help you out of?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Graffiti

Ruminating a little on the idea that I am probably hypothyroid, and finding it harder today to explain away the little nagging symptoms that I have been trying to ignore for over a year now. I am a hooded-sweatshirt-wearing preteen with absentee parents, a can of spray paint, and a big blank wall.

Am I exhausted, after doing nothing but driving around for three hours?

HELL YES I AM / I paint on the wall

Do my leg muscles hurt like I have run a marathon, although all I have done is drive and unload stuff from the car?

INDEED YES THEY DO / I spray, the paint dripping down from the letters

Am I angry that no other doctor or health professional even tried to find a solution to my problems, instead telling me that I am just tired because I have children, and fat because I have children, and in pain because I have children?

YES, yes, yes...

Do I wish I could have known this years ago so I could have nursed my children, remembered more of their infancies rather than drowning in exhaustion, and kept a house that I could invite people into, rather than one just full of clutter all the time?

mm hmm, yes.

I am not just tired today but I am deeply tired as a state of being, just tired of being a copy of a copy of a copy of myself, resembling the original but without the spark of life.

Putting aside the blame for the way that I feel, taking it off myself and taking the words like "lazy, slow, fat" out of my vocabulary, I feel like it's not too late to recover most of what I lost.

And now I have to wait 1-2 weeks for bloodwork to find out exactly what is wrong, and what needs to be done about it.

But hooray to have something to wait for at all! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Health Update

Just a quick update on my last post -- had a great appointment with the Integrative Medicine people. The ARNP talked with me for about ten minutes before the exam, and then she squished my neck and said, "Wow, your thyroid is really big. I can even see it, just looking at your neck."

She ordered some more bloodwork which will be back in 1-2 weeks, to find out what exactly is going on.

Very exciting! There could actually be something fixable/treatable there, rather than "general fatigue and malaise" that won't go away. Thanks to the ARNP for actually listening to me. There should be a medical school class about listening to people.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hypoglycemiathyroidchondriac

It has been a while since I reported anything for us, because we have been so dang busy! :) I have started a new job (the tutoring job I mentioned earlier) so I am working about 30-35 hours a week, which is... a lot in conjunction with the other things that I do.

I also have an appointment with an "integrative medicine" doctor this week to see if there is anything actually wrong with me -- I have been to the standard MD for my general complaints, which basically go down the list of hypothyroid and hypoglycemia symptoms, but I have tested as "normal" for both of these things when sent to the lab by the doctor. So, since I need to function a little better these days (and also because I am just generally sick of feeling bad and being tired all the time), I am going to try again and see if there is anything to be found. I am actually hoping that they will find something, because I am all out of ideas. I just know that my friends can run circles around me and many of my friends in my weight loss group has surpassed me, while I am stuck, exhausted, and still 25 lbs above my goal, where I have been for months. I am hoping for a resolution or at least for a direction to go in.

The house is a little cleaner because Ben did a lot of cleaning while I was out of town, and I have been cleaning out closets as well. So that's going well.

And Norah is walking! On purpose, and on her own. I love the little Frankenstein lurch that she does :)

That's about all I have to report here. Cross your fingers for me and the doctor, and that even if there is really nothing wrong, that I can find a way to get back to myself again. Cheers!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Clearing Clutter

I got to clear the closets today. I sat in the floor with my trash bag, my scan-this box, my shred-this box and my keep-this pile and wept and laughed over 20 years worth of collected notes, school essays, notebooks full of terrible poetry from the year I was 19. I kept some things, threw some things away but was finally able to look at it all. Some of it is terribly poignant, like the cards from old friends who I don't know anymore, who write, "I'm so glad we'll always be friends!" Then birthday cards from relatives who have passed on, "I love you" in Grandma's precious handwriting, the little folded rectangular notes friends and I used to pass to each other between classes in high school. I still remember this one spot in front of Lincoln, which I passed on my walk from R1 to... where did I go after that? Inside the main building somewhere, and out front by the gum tree my friend and I would pass each other, nearly at the same spot every day, and we would hold the notes out and exchange them and learn about the other person's day -- who called, who flirted, who said what about whom and what we wanted to be when we grew up, that day. We watched different versions of Shakespeare adaptations and compared them, poured out our hearts to each other about what made us sad and what we hoped for.

I was very happy to find a poem about paper clips that I wrote in middle school. Sounds boring but I was very proud of it at the time (and I think still a bit now). It was something on the theme of how such a tiny simple thing can change everything -- some bent metal can bring order to a terrible mess.

And on that idea, the next part of the clearing which was the most difficult, which I have been putting off for about three years and ten months, going through the bag of preemie boy clothes and picking out which few to keep and which to give to the NICU. It's a particularly sticky issue because for some reason I have very little memory of what happened after we brought Chris home from the hospital, until about Christmas of that year, two months later. But when I see the little outfits, sometimes I will have a little spark of memory and I will remember him tiny and in my arms. Some of them don't spark anything at all, and those I put away to donate. But a few stick in my memory: A sleeper, ten inches from bottom to top, which was too big for him when we brought him home. A tiny, tiny stripey onesie. Somehow sorting through them and putting some away and giving others away is one of those terrible-but-necessary things. It felt good in the way that it feels good to break up with someone wrong for you -- overall it's good, but the doing of it still rips a bit.

It's hard to think of a good way to end this, but just to say that it's amazing how something that happens so quickly can change your life forever, and that the ripples can still be felt so far out on the water, miles from where the pebble dropped.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kid Schedules

Well, that time has come again -- the time to rework the daily kid schedule to keep both of these energetic, smart, hell-hacking children occupied and engaged with the world.

Several things have shifted -- Chris has exited the terrible twos, which is a good thing, because he'll be four years old in two months. And as if on cue, Norah is stepping up to fill the tantrum void. She is already doing things like throwing herself on the floor, wailing when you (for example) don't allow her to repeatedly smack on the glass on the front of the goldfish tank at Walmart. She has a lot of energy that needs to be channeled into more than just playing in the house all morning.

It's starting to get more fall-ish, but still too hot for any kind of extended outdoor play, but it won't be long before we can start spending an hour or so on the playground every morning. I think that the kids need early morning activity, then some chill time, then lunch, then more activity, then chill time, then evening. I think I should make it a goal not to have the TV on very often during the daytime.

So, when Chris starts school on Monday, what sorts of activities can Norah and I do, to help her burn energy? I think she might be interested just in holding my hands and walking around stores, or playing on certain parts of playgrounds.

Here is a dilemma -- I love to do messy play with the kids -- flour and water, bubbles, play-dough, all that sort of thing -- but I can't even keep up with cleaning the house when we don't do those things -- how can I do those kinds of activities, which the kids need, without completely trashing my house? And I can't do them outside -- not yet.

I think the answer to many of these dilemmas is the same answer that has been there for a long time, which I have halfheartedly tried to work on, but have not succeeded because I am not putting enough effort into it: Get up earlier. I need to get up at about 5:30 so that I can pray, work, and prepare the day's activities before the beasts begin to awaken at 7:15 or so. Right now I sleep until the very last moment, and then I wake up to a headache, two hungry kids, diapers, clothes, getting Ben off to work (which doesn't require much from me, but occasionally has me searching for a coffee cup of a lost shoe)... the dust doesn't settle until after 9am, and I have to wait until naptime for a minute to myself, so that when naptime doesn't happen, I feel totally off balance for days at a time.

So, self, start getting up early... okay? Did you hear me? Ugh.

This is the mundane daily stuff that takes up some of my brainpower. Parenthood requires constant shifting to keep the balance right. There is sort of a science to it, but when it comes down to it I end up relying on instinct.

Here's to the new school year and new adventures! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vacation Lessons

Vacation was fun! We went back up to Helen, GA, and we rented a private cabin this time which was great. The kids had fun and they did a really good job traveling. In fact I think that Ben and I had more tantrums between us, while on the road, than the kids did. Blame I-75, and GA 85, 485, and 985. Those wretched roadways. Urgh. I was trying to decide if they were better or worse than the 101 and 405 out in LA, and I think they are worse, because it is as if you took the 405, shrunk it down a little, and then let loose a bunch of small-town drivers on it. At least in LA everybody drives like they are crazy. But around Atlanta it is very inconsistent. Some shiny BMWs driving 95 mph and zipping around, and some minivans with ten people and pillows hanging out the windows, crates with chickens strapped to the roof, that sort of thing.

Anyway, I enjoyed myself (due in no small part to the hot tub on the back porch of the cabin. Ben and I decided that a hot tub should be a standard feature of the American home/apartment. You could put one in the middle of my living room. I would totally take it.) and I learned some lessons as well:

1. Traveling with a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old is waaaaaaay easier than traveling with a 2 yr old and a 2 month old. Just in case you were wondering. Part of this is because Norah is old enough now to be a copycat, so when Chris is doing something, she wants to do it too. This might seem annoying on the surface (one person gets a cookie --> the other person HAS to have a cookie too...) but really it is more convenient. One of the hardest things about taking care of an infant isn't the fact of the infant care schedule itself, but the fact that the infant care schedule does not coincide with any other schedule of anything on earth, so there are always conflicting needs. With two kids copying one another, though, you have the joy of experiences like

PRETZEL TIME

From Instant Upload


and JUICE TIME

From Instant Upload


followed closely by NAP TIME

From Instant Upload


2. I really, really, fundamentally stink at relaxing. We were in GA from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, and I didn't chill out until Saturday night. And I was really working on it. (And yes, I realize how ridiculous and contradictory that sounds.) I think that having so many juggling balls in the air all the time at home puts me on constant alert -- there is always something I should be doing -- so it feels really strange and awkward to just, say, sit around and read a book. My mind keeps running to one thing or another. It was good for me to practice relaxing, and it makes me realize I need to work on it more.

I will post later with more Helen photos but for now I with leave you with a classic Nash (Griswold) family moment, filmed about an hour and a half from home, just south of Tifton. This video makes me love Ben more every time I watch it. I can't wait until we go to the Grand Canyon... ;D

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Out of the Office


Today I have been thinking about my work/home life (and they are so intertwined that they are difficult to pull apart and examine) and I am full of gratitude again for the fact that I no longer work in a conventional office.

I met many wonderful people in my office work, and I learned a lot of important things as well. But.

There is an element to office work that I can summarize as the "pieces of flair" element. If you have seen Office Space, you know what I am talking about.

And if you haven't seen it, go see it. Now.

I think that online work suits my personality because the one element of office work that I could never get a handle on was the unspoken not-allowed-to-discuss-it-but-must-perfectly-embody-it "office culture" thing. It is the same thing that has caused me problems in my friendships as well -- when there is an unspoken expectation, and it is too vulgar to actually talk about it, but it doesn't make any sense, and if you ask the wrong coworker about it, they blab to the boss... etc. As an example, one time I was taken aside and berated -- in front of a coworker -- for "doing bad phone." No one could tell me what I was actually doing wrong, but they could tell me that it wasn't right. The people calling expected something more -- some conversation -- but what could I discuss? I didn't know them. I didn't know who they were. And the higher-ups who were high enough got offended by personal conversation, but I was supposed to somehow engage them in non-personal personal conversation, all while transferring their calls as quickly as possible... no one could tell me what to say or not to say, but they knew I was not doing it right.

If this happened to me now, I would request a quick meeting with the boss and ask for some concrete suggestions. But that sort of imprecise-yet-exact requirement is very common in an environment where so much of the instruction is verbal. With online work, everything you are told to do is in writing. So you know what is expected of you, and there isn't any secret extra requirement, because there is no whispering in the break room and no "office culture" outside of what is communicated.

I am not sure if this is a strength or a weakness on my part. I think that not dealing with office politics certainly saves a lot of time, and I am not handicapped by my apparently terrible first-impression (people in professional situations tell me I come off as a snob who thinks she's better than everybody, just because I don't talk a lot when I first meet someone). I make a better impression in writing, maybe? Or maybe online we all just do our work and quit worrying about gossip.

In any case, I have not missed office work, and I like not wasting time on politics. It gives me more time to waste on Facebook. Hahaha. :D

Monday, August 1, 2011

Occam's Diet

There is a theory attributed to a 14th century friar that is now called "Occam's Razor." While there is more to it, the basic idea is that when there is a simple explanation for something, contrasted with a complicated explanation that relies on unexplained phenomena, you should put your money on the simpler option.

It's kind of liberating.

Complicated theories tossed aside, I see the evil Weight Loss Debacle (frozen... plateau... constant dieting... no results... occasional Oreos...) in simple terms -- not enough exercise, or too much food, or a combination of the two.

I get headaches when I exercise, but the weight's not going to budge unless I exercise.

So, get used to cardio and headaches.

Cuts like a knife :p

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy (Little) Nashes

I haven't done an update on the kids for a while, so I thought it would be a good time.

My little Norah is not so little anymore. She's 15 months old (almost 16 months) and incredibly full of spirit. She is "so talky," as Chris says, and she knows how to make her opinion heard, and she is never short on opinions either. She has strong tastes in food (cheese: yes; squash: no) and a growing vocabulary, including (but not limited to)

Yes
No
Mama
Daddy
Cheese
Brother
Baby
Food
What's This
A word of her own devising, which sounds like "Da!" but which means "Give me the thing I am pointing at, and make it snappy."

She also sings along with songs and quotes movies and parrots nearly anything you say, although it is hard to get her to repeat these words or phrases ever again after she utters them miraculously for the first and only time. A great example of this was two months ago when Chris walked into the kitchen holding his toy yellow Lamborghini Murcielago. Norah pointed at it and said "AMBURGEEN!" And then never, ever said it again. I suppose the thrill of making her mother look crazy is enough to encourage her to expand her vocabulary in secret, without ever displaying her knowledge to anyone else ;D

She will walk now, sometimes, with some inducement. She still prefers to crawl, and she crawls really fast. From time to time she will stand without holding onto anything, but when she needs to move quickly to steal a toy or get some cheese, she still prefers all-fours.

Chris is getting ready to turn 4 (in October), and in the past month or so his storytelling has really taken off. He tells me stories at bedtime sometimes now, instead of the other way around, and they are intricate, involving action, intrigue, and loads of imagination. I wasn't expecting such a lively imagination along with the ability to express it quite this early, but hey, I'll take it! I am constantly amazed by his powers of observation, and the way that he can size up a situation almost instantly. If he watches 5 minutes of a movie or TV show, he knows everybody's name, their relation to each other, and what they are trying to do within the plot of the movie or episode.

He also reads stories to me, not actually reading them, but memorizing the stories and telling them. He reads stories to Norah's dolls and feeds them bottles, although when they need new diapers he always brings them to me ;D

He still really likes playing with his toys from Cars (Lightning McQueen, etc.) and is going through the second or third iteration of a continuing fixation on the movie Shrek. This is mostly benign, but produces some pretty funny situations, including the scene that played out a week or two ago. There is a part of Shrek in which Shrek calls Donkey a "stubborn jackass," which, strictly speaking, is an accurate description. But not exactly the kind of thing you want your preschooler saying. Chris and Ben were play fighting and having some sort of standoff within their game, and Chris made a serious face at Ben and said "Stubborn jackets!" I love that his mind reinterpreted that phrase to something gentler. We laughed for days about that one.

Oftentimes now, Chris's pre-terrible-twos personality shines through, for an hour here or there, or sometimes (like yesterday) for an entire day. I look forward to getting to know him again without the constant public tantrums, although on days like today (end of a long week, heat index 107) I can't hold it against him if he has a tantrum or two. I'm pretty close to having one myself, and at least he has the excuse of his age.

I had a spark of an idea earlier this week to make Chris a place in the living room where he can play and be part of the action, but where Norah can't get to him and his toys. I turned our loveseat around backwards to face the wall, and it has been a hit. He keeps his most precious cars in there, and likes to play sometimes without his sisters sticky fingers reaching into his play scenarios. He seems more like Ben and more like me every day. His teacher told me something that reminded me a lot of myself the other day -- they said that when he plays in the dress-up room, the other kids dress up like firefighters, doctors, etc., but he will only wear the hard hat that goes with the builder costume, and even then, he will wear it only if he has some tools and is about to build something. This makes me smile but it doesn't surprise me -- I took myself very seriously as a little kid and I am not surprised that even his role playing has a pragmatic twist to it -- to him, the hard hat probably has a practical purpose aside from encouraging his imagination -- probably, it just seems like a smart safety precaution to take, when you are operating heavy machinery.

So often lately Ben and I spend the evening before the kids go to bed just sitting on the couch and watching them play. Their minds are expanding rapidly, and while their newly developed skills are often put to use in order to give us trouble (as in Norah's newly expanded vocabulary, which allows her to say "Mama, NO!" when I carry her down the hall to go to bed), I can't help but be proud of my sticky little smarty-pantses. They keep me hopping, they wear me out, they make me old, and they keep me young. I have my hands full for sure! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carrot Sticks


I am not a big proponent of "the good old days" propaganda, in which people gather in misty-eyed reverence to pay tribute to a glorious past that most likely didn't even happen.

But a recent crop of "breaking" news articles about how Americans are obese because they eat too many calories, and about how difficult it is to eat right when you rely on restaurant food, and how everyone is tearing their hair out to figure out a way to make a hamburger on a white bread bun and a little paper sack of fried potatoes into something healthy, gets me thinking about my childhood and the lessons I learned there about the value (or lack thereof) of restaurant food.

Imagine a trip to the beach or a long day of running errands in the old woodgrain-paneled Plymouth Volare. There would be no stops at McDonald's on the way, in part because there was no McDonald's on the hour-long drive to the public beach, but also because there was no reason to waste the money. It was general knowledge that we were not going to stop at a restaurant -- instead, we traveled with cheap and portable homemade food. PB&J on whole wheat (natural no-sugar-added PB of course), the ubiquitous carrot sticks, apples and oranges, and homemade cookies, and a cooler of iced tap water from home, with cups from home as well. For a treat, a watermelon to cut open and eat in the blowing sand, juice running down our chins. It was a meal that didn't take a whole lot of prep, and it didn't cost $25-$50 for the family to eat. Also, notably, very little saturated fat, trans fat, or HFCS. Or perhaps even none at all.

When I was younger I used to dread the homemade food, with its fiber and crunchiness, its lack of sugar, and envy my friends whose parents bought them Happy Meals as a matter of course. I envied them their Chicken McNuggets dipped in Sweet 'n' Sour Sauce, and when they brought lunches from home I coveted their prepackaged fruit snacks, juice boxes, and cans of soda.

Now it turns out I was being trained in a simple rule that Americans are in danger of forgetting, myself included at times -- that there is rarely a situation in which you have to go to a restaurant. With a little planning ahead and an economy-size jar of generic peanut butter, you can face down almost any kind of hunger.

It may not be shiny and glamorous, but neither is overspending and overeating.

Turns out my crunchy-granola no-you-may-not-have-Lucky-Charms mom may have been onto something after all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My latest post on skirts

Check out my latest post on Modestly Yours.

It's about skirts, and how awesome they are. :)

Developments

I have submitted something finally to the little local mini-paper, a reflection on local business which I am very proud of (sorry... I mean, of which I am very proud). I know it's typical to say, but I have a good feeling about this one. Although, according to my reverse psychology, I should not be aiming for good feelings, but rather for the sharp sting of rejection. ;D

The more I read about writers, the more I see common patterns of trying and trying, of failing much more often than succeeding, and of really just having to want to succeed. So perhaps with my thousand false starts I am more on the right path than I think.

I find that the ideas for things to write are closer to my fingertips than I had previously thought, and that perhaps the thing to do is just keep writing the assignments that my brain gives me, and one day someone else will want to read them, too.

All of this is to say, not much has changed except my attitude, which might be the most important thing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I can't make this stuff up...

So today I have the outline of a nice little personal experience essay about my adventures at Philmont 10 years ago, with some thoughts about how useful it has been for me as a woman to have the chance for self-reliance not just in terms of emotions, but with the physical aspects of primitive camping, backpacking, hiking, etc.

I walk to the end of the driveway to check the mail, and I see lying on the ground the weekly Eastside Chronicle, a tiny local addition to the regular paper here in town. This is the publication that I was going to send the article to, probably over the weekend when I got it revised and ready. They are literally my only hope for publication at this point because they will pretty much publish anything from anyone. Although I did send them something once, which they had requested, which took me quite a bit of time to prepare, and which they never published.

I pull the chronicle out of its plastic sleeve, and see this:




Without even reading the headline, I saw those giant shale chunks and I knew this was Mt Phillips, and I knew that the ground I was going to cover in my cute little essay had already been covered here -- had just been covered here, and yet again I was foiled in my attempts to get anything I have ever written ever in my life published in an actual paper publication. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard. Joe Smith's "how to water your garden" articles are published every week. Sally Southern's mother's pie recipes appear regularly.

[Insert rant about being frustrated at every turn here.]

So, I need you to vote. As I see it, these are my options. Please vote for what I should do next. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure blogpost. I will carefully consider the votes and then write about whatever the next step may be.

(1) Send it anyway
(2) Accept that the universe hates me and give up trying to publish anything
(3) Scrap this article but send a different article to the same publication
(4) Write the article but send it to a different publication
(5) Some combination of these
(6) Your idea: _______

Weigh in and let me know.

Cheers!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rejection Junction

Got another one today - grand total of 3. Working on a new essay to send around. I am thinking of sending it to a really local market this time. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seeking Rejections!

I have had a slow two weeks with work, which is a good thing, so I have had a chance to catch up on the housework and start thinking about writing projects and things like that. I made the claim several months ago here that I wanted to be a freelance writer, but since then I have done precious little about it. This is partially because of lack of time but also partially because of a misguided focus. Before, I was hoping to get something I wrote accepted, and so I felt the sting of rejection with each "We're sorry, but..." which would lead me to want to sit back, regroup, think carefully, and start from scratch. But I feel now that this is the wrong way to go. Instead, I should approach this like someone applying for jobs -- apply for everything I possibly can, all at once. Eventually, someone will have to call.

So I am reframing my goals. Rather than hoping to have something accepted by some particular date, I am setting the lofty (for me) goal of 25 rejections by the time I turn 31.

The guidelines:
-A response will be considered a rejection if it is stated outright (as in a rejection letter) or if a submission sits with the magazine/publisher for 4 months or more with no response at all.
-All submissions have to be sent with a genuine possibility of acceptance, no matter how remote.

Right now, here are the stats:

-2 clear rejections, one for a chapter in a nonfiction academic book relating to my thesis topic and one for a short short story. I haven't resubmitted either one but maybe now that will change. I don't know what to do with the story because I don't know if it got rejected because it is terrible or because the publication just didn't want that story at that time, or perhaps a combination of the two.

-2 things out, still up in the air -- a quick pitch to This American Life for an idea for a theme for an episode. It is really unlikely that I will hear back on that, but I had been working on the idea for over a month and just went ahead and submitted it for the heck of it, because it was an idea that wouldn't go away. The second thing is pretty much a rejection but I haven't reached the 4-month time limit nor the rejection letter yet, and that is the Query Fail which I already blogged about with great embarrassment and redness of face. (Metres. METRES!!! Aargh!)

-2 things half written and unsure where to submit them. These are the two that will be taking up my time in the next few months. I have this weird phobia while I am writing that just as I am creating a perfect article on my subject, that someone else with three times the experience, who went to private high school with the editor of the New York Times, is writing about the same thing only they are somehow including Derrida references (even though the article is about organizing your toddler's play space). As soon as the editors receive mine, probably eight days after the other author's article, the editors will sit back (they have tilty leather chairs and an office with plate glass windows overlooking Manhattan) with a brioche and espresso and rake me over the coals, and pick up the other author's article and say, "I think our choice is clear," and mine will land in the wastebasket with a metallic thud...

Or maybe that the intern who is supposed to screen the incoming queries will not like my name, or will think my idea sounds dumb even though of course the editors would LOVE it, and I will never get past that intern's desk, no matter how hard I try... my beloved piece languishing next to a balled-up post-it and some fingernail clippings... and I won't even know for sure that I am rejected until four months after I first send it... oh, hold on for a minute with me, I have to pause to cry for the imaginary fate of my future possibly-written imaginary manuscript...

I will report here my success at failure :D

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Valley

Ten years ago today I was sitting on a hillside on the far south boundary of Philmont constructing a shelter for myself out of a piece of a tent -- the rain fly, one pole, three stakes. I wrapped it around the base of an aspen tree about the circumference of my leg, laid the groundcloth down, opened my pack.

The flies were bad there during the day; over the fence, which was at the top of the hill, was a private cattle ranch and there is nothing that flies like more than some cows; the grossest thing about the flies was that when they landed, they were wet -- which left you always wondering What is making these things feel wet?

They were huge and dark black, like bumblebees without stripes. They were lazy in the heat, although this heat in the Rockies was not like the heat at home in July, which is hot and close and prehistoric. There were no cicadas here, just slow bumbling flies and then at night, mosquitoes. I devised a way of tying two bandannas around my head to hold my hair back and cover my face so that only my eyes were showing, to avoid sunburn and to keep the wet flies from bumping into me. I could see the beautiful valley and hill.

All throughout the little valley, from the top of the hill down to the bottom lay a row of fallen trees, struck by lightning in a distant storm and so their trunks were split in a corkscrew fashion with cracks formed form the sudden, instant evaporation of all their moisture at the time of lightning strike. They lay in an almost orderly fashion, one next to the other, and they made excellent balance beams for me to walk up and down as I read the only book I had with me, my Bible. I still have the same Bible I had then, worn and battered from its trip down Baldy, courtesy of a Boy Scout troop from somewhere like Illinois. I got it back and it was all in one piece but wet and battered, but by now in my valley it was dried out.

I read the stories in the Old Testament for the first time all the way through, and fascinating stories, too! Esther, Ruth, Judith. The Old Testament women were cunning and brave and I had to admit a little bloodthirsty. Thinking of our Rowdy troop, the only group to make it through with all its members, it didn't surprise me. I was probably the closest to leaving, from my constant spills on the trail to hypothermia on Baldy, but in each case my trail mates shared out whatever I needed from their packs, got me to my feet, and pushed me on. Quitting wasn't on the table.

And this was my reward. After a sweat lodge in an old canvas tent with hot rocks from the fire, water poured on top, sweating out the last of civilization from our pores, we were walked out to our solo spots, given pieces of a tent, some food, and two days with nothing to do but be by ourselves.



In my backyard right now there is a fallen tree that reminds me of those rows of lightning-struck giant silvery trunks. I ran out of film by then so I have no photos of it, but I can close my eyes and see that valley again. I can close my eyes and walk down the great fat trunks again, singing the Psalms to myself in a tune I made up just then, then look south over the fence and watch for fireworks on the night of my independence.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bootleg Ratatouille


Six days without coffee! And I am still standing. Well, right now, I am sitting, but figuratively I am standing tall.

I finally ate all of the ugly-but-delicious lentil concoction, and today I made Bootleg Ratatouille from cubed zucchini and yellow squash (crookneck and straightneck), red onion, garlic, tomato sauce, fresh herbs from mom's herb garden, and a can of rinsed black beans. Sea salt and pepper. Oh my heck, so good.

A week into my eat-constantly regimen, I can say that it definitely helps with regulating energy. I am still working out the specifics, but it seems that vegetable + whole grain + legume is a great combination for steady energy.

I am eating whenever I am hungry, but eating smaller portions than I would have before. I thought this would be kind of bad for my weight loss goals, but I have lost two pounds already! I can't really believe it. I know it will slow down later, but hey, I'll take it! That puts me back at 163 after some yo-yoing for a long time between 162 and 168. So hopefully this will push me below that 160 threshold.

Exercising just a bit, here and there. May be able to do more and more of that as I get used to the new way of eating.