Adulting

Lately I’ve been nailing this adult responsibility thing. True, sometimes it takes me a little longer than it should.

Like last month when I stared at a magazine deadline for three weeks, agonizing over when to actually write the article, then finally sat down Monday morning and wrote it in less than 20 minutes. Nailed it.

Even more impressive was the decision to stay home over Spring Break and do home improvement projects instead of taking off to Disney to sit poolside soaking up mickey mouse magic. First, we (okay, just John) took out the toilet in the kids’ bathroom. There in the pipe that leads from the floor to who knows where, we discovered a large clog of calcium deposits (translation: unflushed little boy urine) that helpfully explained why that end of the hall smells like a gas station bathroom. The brand new toilet and completely cleaned out pipe are so glorious that it took several days for us to stop cheering every time one of the kids flushed the toilet. We were also cheering because they finally learned to flush.

Next, we decided that three years is just 2 years and 360 days too long to live without a microwave. Remember that time ours died and we decided to just become pioneers? Well, lately I’ve been finding myself trying to make friends with people solely based on the daytime availability of their microwave—you know, in case I need to reheat a cup of tea or make a baked potato–so we thought it was time to replace ours. I’m just kidding: the only real use for a microwave is the little light under it.

Anyway, It was going pretty well, with me, John, Thomas and Henry all heaving the 200 pound (rough, completely made up estimate) box into the slot above the stove. Well, actually first we had to take out the old one, which resulted in the Hulk and I ripping out half the drywall. THEN we had to read the 800 page instruction manual, written in ancient Sanscrit, to figure out how to install the metal holding frame. THEN we called in the kids to help us lift it into place. THEN we discovered that we had missed a step in the instruction manual, probably when we were taking a much needed nap while reading it, and we had to uninstall the microwave, make an adjustment and then re-install it again. Everyone was really overjoyed during this entire process.

After that we took a few days off to just stare at the walls and do shots. Then on Friday morning, John installed hardwood floors in the pantry, which has been on our to-do list for about, oh, eternity.

So yeah, next year we’re totally going away for Spring Break. All this adulting already has me twitching to do something rebellious and we all know how that usually ends.

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Desire

Burgers & Shakes

Burgers & Shakes

I don’t normally make it a habit of denying myself things I want.

I’m not saying I go around demanding things like a toddler, or doing whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it. Okay, I do, sometimes.

You can imagine how tough Lent is for me. Even though I grew up Catholic, I still struggle with the act of “giving up” something I desire for an entire 40 days. Or ever.

For years I operated under the guidelines of choosing the most difficult thing I could think of to give up for Lent. So yeah, alcohol. And each year, I’d make it about 2 weeks and then I’d come up with some ridiculous reason for why it was “ok” for me to cheat. On St. Patrick’s Day, for example, it is mandatory to drink green beer. That’s church doctrine, right? (wink)

Of course, if you are Catholic, then you know all about the “Sundays are free” rule. Because Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent, it is not considered cheating to break your Lenten promise on Sunday. So normally I’d “switch” Sunday out for Friday night, and have a drink. Swapping cheat days is only advisable if you are 100% sure you are already going to heaven, just to be clear. (Just assume I’m winking after every paragraph at this point)

Anyway, this year I decided not to set myself up for failure. I’m not privy to any of those “miracle meds” that other women my age apparently get from their doctor in order to stay calm and deal with anxiety and general craziness, so I need that beer on a Friday night. Or a Tuesday. Whatever.

Instead I chose the less traumatizing “no fast food” Lenten promise. This is, of course, in addition to subscribing to Pope Francis’ suggestion that we give up “indifference toward others” for Lent. Francis knows what it’s all about. I’ll have to do an entire other post on how much I love him.

The truth is, I don’t really eat fast food unless I have a hangover, so this seemed almost too easy. Except: apparently if I can’t have something, I desire it even more. Who knew?

Oh yeah, I totally knew. Because I’m the type of person who has to fight on a daily basis with my inner rebel. Tell me what to do and I almost always have the desire to do the opposite. So even though I hardly ever want fast food normally, now that it’s off limits, guess what I want all the time?

I’ve been doing really well, though. That night we left a school function at 8pm and I was so hungry I could have eaten any manner of disgusting foods, including Taco Bell (sorry, it is a known fact that you should only run for the border if you are less than 20 years old or extremely intoxicated and unlikely to remember it later), I passed up several fast food chains and went home to eat…yogurt, probably. And every time I see a McDonald’s I have to remind myself of the sacrifices Jesus made for me just to overcome my extreme desire for a disgusting fish sandwich. I wonder how many of my former religion teachers would take pride in their part of my subconscious conversations about these fish sandwiches?

It’s unreal, this desire, that did not even exist six weeks ago. But the heart wants what it wants. And so does my stomach.

Which brings us to this morning, which is Sunday (just wanted to assure you that it’s a LEGIT cheat day), when John and I happened to be driving past the Burgers & Shakes on New Circle Road, and it just happened to be open. “It’s Sunday,” I said, right before he swerved the truck into the parking lot of the best-kept-secret burger joint in Lexington. They only take cash, but through what can only be God’s divine plan, I found a $10 bill in my coat pocket. Catholic miracle.

Anyway, in 6 more days Lent will be over and I can go back to NOT desiring fast food at all. Thinking ahead to next year: If I give up cleaning house will I suddenly want to clean the house for 40 days?

———-

side note: John does not like the idea of Sundays being “cheat days” and he specifically (and in a joking way) told me that we would keep our little Burgers & Shakes outing to ourselves. He had to know that telling me to keep it to myself would, in fact, guarantee that I would write a blog about it, post it to my Instagram and generally not be able to keep my mouth shut.

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Find Your Voice

If you know me at all, then you know I don’t usually have any trouble opening my mouth. This is great if, for example, I want to make friends with the person in line with me at the grocery (which I do all the time, even if they resist at first). It is not so great when I awkwardly stand up in the middle of a meeting and promptly forget everything I meant to say and end up delivering an incoherent rant. It’s a gift, what can I say.

A gift I share, apparently, with my precious middle child. Last week I spent an hour in the car with him, during which he talked nonstop about every mundane topic that popped into his head. At one point he said, “I talk too much, don’t I?”

“Absolutely not,” I responded immediately.

I understand the value of listening, and I try to encourage it, but I never want my child to feel like a part of their personality is a liability.

Which is why I love that our school provides an opportunity for every kid to play to their individual strengths. I’ve mentioned that our school is a The Leader in Me school before. As part of TLIM, students are encouraged to be leaders of their own lives by practicing the Seven Habits.

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And the school gives them opportunities to do this.

For some this might mean leading younger children during reading time; for others it means participating in a safety patrol group. For Henry, and his mouth, it means being part of the student Lighthouse team, where Henry and other students help generate ideas to make our school even better.

And that experience has helped Henry find his voice.

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Give this kid a microphone and he’s ready to take over the world.

As it turns out, “Find Your Voice,” just happens to be the “8th” habit from TLIM. Yeah, I know I said there are 7 Habits, but then there’s also this 8th one. Henry can explain that for you.

The other day, the principal at our school sent an email saying that the 2015 Leader in Me Symposium national theme would be, “Find Your Voice.” He was sharing this because a few years ago, Henry had been the one to point out that the 8th habit needs to be highlighted. (Read: my kid is brilliant and I’m super proud because an entire symposium is themed after his idea.)

Side note: Thanks to @PrincipalKatte, I even have the video message from Aaron Ashby, lead developer at Franklin Covey, where he thanks Henry for the idea and ensures him they will put it to good use:

So then I was reading online about the 8th Habit and I found all these great quotes, like, “Most educators don’t choose their profession because they want to prepare students for tests; they want to prepare them for life and inspire greatness.” Insert dreamy sigh. Do you see why I love this program?

It has certainly inspired Henry–he has had the opportunity to stand in front of over 200 adults and take part in a keynote speech and just the other night he was the emcee at our school’s Heritage Night. He is currently torn between wanting to become an educator and wanting to be a famous actor, in the future. Just the other day he told me that one of life goals is to host Saturday Night Live. I can see that.

In the meantime, this program, and this school, and this principal, along with these teachers, have inspired Henry to find his voice and given him confidence that impresses me on a daily basis.

…..Now just wait until May when I post the blog about Henry graduating and moving on to middle school. It will just be a blank page with the words, “sobbing” across the top.

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Automatic

Today around lunchtime I was standing in my closet, trying to talk myself into real clothes, when I heard the garage door go up. To recap: I’m the only one home, it’s the middle of the day, and the garage door just went UP. Since I already operate under the assumption that I’m a character in a Stephen King novel, my immediate reaction was bound to be fight or flight.

I went with fight.

I took off down the stairs brandishing only an iPhone as protection and ran straight to the door that leads into the garage and flung it open. That was as far as my plan went, so it was probably a good thing no one was standing here. All I found was that, yes, my garage door was now open. And it had apparently, randomly, opened itself.

I’d be more worried, but I already know the garage door hates me.

Let me explain:

For years we lived with a garage door that operated on a schedule known only to itself. In other words, most days it went up and down when I pushed the automatic door opener. Most days. On days when it was negative 100 degrees, or pouring down rain, the door did not open or shut automatically. It also seemed to have a preference for taking the day off if I was in a particular hurry, or wearing a dress and high heels.

But I learned to work around it. I became extremely adept at pulling the cord attached to the motor, jumping up to grab the metal handle and then hauling the heavy door down manually. In my car, I’d push the automatic opener in order to “reset” the motor chain so the door would go up when I returned. Maybe. Maybe it would go up, or maybe I would have to physically lift the door back up, world champion weight lifter style, preferably in high heels and pouring rain.

Then one day, last November, I had an epiphany: I could call a garage door repair company and I could pay them to FIX the damn garage door. Something that caused me stress on a regular basis–I could simply pick up the phone and solve this problem. Eureka. I decided it would be my Christmas present to myself.

In general I try to avoid calling any sort of repair person because…well, remember the cable guy we almost adopted? And then there was the dishwasher repair guy. He came back three times before I finally had to show him how to install the drain hose myself. And also, to be fair, I don’t normally need to call for repairs because John is able to fix most things. Just not garage doors possessed by demons.

So fast forward to the magic day circled in red on my calendar: new garage door installation day. I was even pleasantly surprised because the garage door guy they sent was…pleasant. The kind of pleasant where I kind of zoned out for a bit when he was showing me how to use the new outside key panel because I was busy trying to decide how I would convince him to read the entire owner’s manual to me.

He became even more attractive in retrospect, especially when my garage door went up and down quietly and reliably each and every time I pushed that button from the comfort of my car. It went on like that for months…..

Then, one day last week, about five seconds after my Twitter feed informed me that it was zero degrees outside, I stepped happily into my garage to go fetch my darling children from the bus stop. I pulled out of the garage and pushed the magic button and……nothing. My brand new garage door sat completely still, mocking me with its silence. Worse, when I pushed the button again, it did that thing it does where it kind of dances up and down, just a half a foot in either direction, hanging in limbo while I sat perplexed and forlorn in my car, dreading the inevitable moment when I would have to get out into the zero degree weather, climb over a snow drift and put the door down myself.

And garage door boy? He became infinitely less attractive when I discovered that he didn’t even install one of those handles halfway down the door that I can use to haul the 10,000 pound wooden piece of junk up and down with my little chicken arms. Instead I have to get out a step stool, and then haul it half way down perched up on the stool, then put the stool away and pull the door the rest of the way down….are you picturing this?

So yeah. I wasn’t really too upset when the door went up all by itself today, without anyone even touching the button. At least there’s something automatic about it now.

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Full Circle Crazy

I work alone, but surrounded (virtually) by a close group of colleagues who are also my good friends. These brilliant people are all just a google chat or skype message away, and we frequently call on each other to bounce off ideas or clarify points; More often than not our conversations slip seamlessly from work to life.

This morning was a great example of this, when a conversation resulted in the development of the phrase: Full Circle Crazy. Of which I am the definition.

It started because it was suggested to me that I might complain just a teeny, tiny bit too much about my health. In my head, my immediate reaction to this was, “How could that be? I only say one-quarter of my complaints out loud! In comparison to my inner turmoil I am a literal ray of sunshine!!”

Upon further reflection (which just means I was sitting here at my desk waiting for a meeting to start and avoiding real work in the meantime), I decided that perhaps I did, indeed, complain about my near death experiences too much. A simple google search (“Am I crazy if I feel like I have every single illness in the universe?”) revealed that, yes, I might be crazy. Or more accurately: a hypochondriac who feels real symptoms and actual pain. Apparently the exact term for this is: Somatization Disorder.

In the words of Jennifer Lawrence during her appearance on David Letterman (yes, I have all her quotes memorized), “What does that mean? Whatever it is, I have it!”

Additional google searches (“How can I shut down my crazy health obsession before my family disowns me?”) revealed a British author with a rather intelligent and honest article on what it’s like to feel like you are intermittently dying and also Superman. She suggested a self-help e-book, which I googled just to see if it was free. Obviously I don’t need to read it. (cough, cough)

The e-book, it turns out, was very short and had lots of bullet points or what the professional web writer in me would term, “optimization,” to lure me in and keep me skimming through the material, while also providing some valuable advice. Unfortunately for me, one the largest suggestions was this: Avoid reading, researching, or talking about medical conditions.

So, um, basically: quit half my job. (To be fair, I’ve never had a panic attack after writing one of those home stories in Kentucky Homes and Gardens)

This led me to Skype to see which one of my super supportive, but also crazy (sorry friends, we’re all in this together, High School Musical style) colleagues, would be online and interested in an in-depth discussion on the article and its implications for healthcare content strategists (which is our fancy professional title). And THAT led to a helpful discussion with Laura, where we determined that I might be crazy, but I am the very best kind of crazy (the entertaining kind) and at least I am not boring.

The resulting diagram in my head looks something like this:

Research/Discuss/Write about medical conditions ==> Self diagnose medical condition/Stew about imminent death ==> Decide to tell someone so they can plan for life after my demise ==> Based on feedback, decide that I’m just crazy ==> Distract myself: research/discuss/write about fiction instead ==> Act like a superhero ==> Remember medical writing deadline ==> Research/Discuss/Write about medical conditions

The simple solution would seem to be giving up my medical writing altogether. But there are two reasons I won’t do that: 1) I was already crazy before I started writing hospital blogs and 2) writing fiction appears to be non-profit at the moment, while writing medical content is making serious bank.

After all my diagramming and self-reflection, I was feeling confident and ready to conquer my 10 am meeting with one of the world’s top researchers in thymus gland cancer. If there’s one thing I know I don’t have, it’s thymus cancer. The doctor ended up being a really great interview–super informative and friendly, explaining about this rare form of cancer, which incidentally only affects about 1000 people in the United States each year. He went through the treatment options, the clinical trials offered, and of course we discussed the symptoms and how it’s usually diagnosed.

So yeah, I totally have thymus cancer now. At least until lunchtime, when I can distract myself.

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Clean Break

Our house is not disgustingly dirty, but if I were being honest I would say that I’m able to ignore the fact that it’s a mess about 90 percent of the time. Usually I wait until everyone is settled comfortably on a Saturday afternoon, relaxing, to notice that the house is an unacceptable disaster. Then I freak and out and all five of us clean like crazy people—or rather, normal people who are being chased with a broom by one crazy person.

The fact that I can sit here writing all day and not notice the sink full of dishes or piles of laundry is, I think, just a sign that I am highly focused on my “work.” I never, ever waste time reading, or playing on the internet, or Skyping with my favorite word nerds. Sure.

Then Tuesday night, after watching John do the dishes for about the 200th time in a row , I got it into my head that I would take the day off from writing on Wednesday and just clean my house really well. You know, to impress him and remind him that it was not a huge mistake to marry me.

Turns out my plan was way too ambitious and nearly ended in disaster.

First of all, I did not realize that cleaning the entire house (it should be noted that I never even made it upstairs, so really, just cleaning one floor of our house) is apparently the equivalent of taking the highest level spin class at the gym. You know those people who post “I maxed out at 15 minutes on my Insanity Workout of the day” on Facebook every morning? Well I maxed out at 3 minutes of mopping the hardwood floors. So there’s that.

Next, I determined that although Cate has been in charge of dusting for a few years now, she really hasn’t fully grasped the concept. I decided I needed to go old school and I actually left my house on a mission to buy some furniture polish. We haven’t owned furniture polish since 2004, but it seemed absolutely necessary in that moment, despite the fact that we still don’t actually own any ‘real’ furniture. I sprayed and sprayed that liquid miracle worker, turning my dull pseudo-furniture into shining, artificial wax-coated objects of beauty.

And, purely unintentionally, I apparently also coated some sections of the hardwood floor. More on that in a minute.

Satisfied that all the wood surfaces in the house were no longer covered in muck, I turned my attention to the lone piece of carpet left downstairs, in our family room. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this carpet before, but let’s just say it’s beautiful, soft, brand new GRAY carpet, that sometimes looks as blue as an old lady’s hair–but only in the right (wrong?) light or if you’ve had too much to drink. But hey, it’s clean.

Or at least, mostly clean, but I still needed to run the vacuum over it. And that was going so well until the vacuum started making a strange noise and then actual smoke started billowing out of it! My solution was to take the vacuum immediately out into the garage, where I exchanged bewildered looks with the construction crew working on my neighbor’s house. I like to think they wanted to ask me if I needed any help but were possibly just deterred by the fact that I was very vocally begging the vacuum cleaner to not actually burst into flames.

It seemed like a good time to quit. I mean, by this time the house was perfectly straight and mostly clean. As long as no one wanted to go upstairs, I was golden. Then the kids came home and I proceeded to make a new recipe for dinner that was deemed, “the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had in my mouth” by one family member and “not something we ever need to make again,” by another. No worries–I still had half of a very clean house and a random gorgeous dozen red roses that John brought me. To summarize: worst dinner ever, but still winning.

And then….

Thomas slipped on the freshly (accidentally, remember) furniture-polish-coated floor. He had a glass in his hand and I swear I heard it shatter, only when he finally landed the glass was still perfectly in tact, held above his head because he had purposefully saved it from hitting the ground. So the cracking noise I heard was, unfortunately, his left elbow hitting the floor.

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No time for a haircut when you’re busy slipping on Mom’s freshly cleaned floors! (wink)

At this time, we are waiting for the radiologist to call and tell us if his elbow is fractured or just deeply bruised. If he ends up needing a cast, I’ll let you know, in case you want to sign it or wish him luck co-existing with me for the next 6 years.

So yeah, the next time I get wildly ambitious about something, it’s probably not going to be about cleaning the house.

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White Noise

Let me just start by saying that if you are an animal lover you are positively going to hate this post (and probably me as well), if you read it, so just go ahead and X out now and save yourself. You can use the time you saved to cuddle with your favorite animal or like, clean the litterbox or something.

You should probably also leave now if you take things literally. Really, if that’s the case, you should have left a long time ago. How am I not driving you crazy?

So most people know that my office is located pretty much where ever I want it to be, and that normally, for convenience sake, that means the actual room in my house designated as ‘home office.’ I love my office with its red walls, the french doors with glass windowpanes, vintage “happy hour” poster and table/desk with my Daddy’s initials on the bottom (because he made it, by hand, for me).

What I do not love is having to shut the office doors when I am alone in my house. For one thing, I like to play my music from the other room when I write. It’s the perfect background noise, without being overly intrusive. For another, the office can get sort of stuffy when I shut the doors for too long.

So why on earth would I shut the doors? The answer is simple: to keep the damn cat out.

We have two cats: one, who thinks he is a dog and spends his days chasing things around and then curling up to sleep on one of the kid’s beds. He’s fine. The other cat spends her days following me around and making me seriously wonder if I’m going to hell for the ways I’ve dreamed up her untimely demise.

I know it’s irrational: but I can’t stand the noises this cat makes. Think: nails on a chalkboard.

The sound of her whining outside my office door (and peeking through the little windows), is enough to distract me from any writing at all. Door open and she immediately makes her place right smack on top of my notes, stubbornly refusing to move her entirely too large cat body. Content that she has won the closed office door battle for the day, she smugly spreads out and casually pushes anything she’s not already sitting on top of, onto the floor.

Then, she begins to purr. The sound she makes when she’s purring sets me on edge so badly that I have to wear headphones and play my music at top volume just to concentrate, even though I’m the only one here. I’m aware that the sound of a cat purring is supposed to be relaxing, but this cat purrs the way an overweight, 65 year old man snores. She sounds so congested I even took her to the vet once to ask about it. The vet (rightly) determined that I am simply intolerant. Then he hesitated to let me take the cat back home with me until I reassured him that other people in our house actually do love her.

But not even the horrible, 6 pack a day smoker purring noise is as bad as the sound this cat makes when she “cleans” her coat. Let me just get this out there: I have a serious dislike of saliva. As in: I don’t share drinks or toothbrushes with anyone and if I see someone spit on the ground I will call them out on how disgusting and nasty I find the act. (Redneck men in grocery store parking lots love it when I do this, btw.) I make only one exception to my extreme avoidance of saliva, and that of course is with John. But his spit is like angel tears, of course, so you know it’s totally fine.

Back to the cat. For some reason this particular cat feels the need to clean herself for about a thousand hours each day. Always directly in my line of vision. The sound alone is enough to make me want to puncture my own eardrums, but even with my headphones in I can ‘hear’ her licking herself in my mind. (What do you mean you want to recommend a good shrink?)

I usually flee the scene. I have been known to pick up my computer mid-sentence and run from the room, playing a game of “musical office” until the cat, of course, finds me again.  It typically takes her less than 5 minutes.

I’m getting more savy, though. Just the other day I built a “cat barricade” which keeps the cat from sitting on my side of the desk. With my headphones and a tower of cereal boxes surrounding me, I can knock out several thousand words of content, no problem.

And just think: only 5-8 years or so until Thomas takes this cat with him to his own house. But I mean, who’s counting?

Unrelated question: how long do cats normally live?

Adorable, right? You only think that because you can't HEAR her.

Adorable, right? You only think that because you can’t HEAR her.

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Thigh Gap

I have a beautiful daughter.

Not like, “I think she’s pretty and her grandparents think she’s pretty” beautiful, but like, “people have stopped me in public more than once to tell me she should be a model” beautiful. What can I say–she’s the female incarnation of her father. (side note: my 2015 blogging resolution is to work a compliment to John into every post. kidding. maybe.)

But despite being beautiful, strong and possessing a winning personality, my daughter is worried about the way she appears to others.

We do not talk about weight loss in our home. I’ve been blessed with a higher than average metabolism and I eat pretty much anything I want–as long as I can swallow! We don’t say things like, “I need to lose five pounds” or “I’m on a diet.” I serve a healthy dinner each night, but we all top it off with a big bowl of ice cream or some other dessert. I’ve never monitored how much candy or chips or anything else my kids eat, but for the most part they are all healthy eaters and all in the right place on the pediatrician’s growth chart.

So why would my perfect, healthy, thin daughter ask me if her thighs were getting too big? Why would she say to me, just yesterday, “I almost weigh 70 pounds. I can’t go over 70 pounds or I’ll be fat.”?

I’m heartbroken. And disgusted. We live in a world where it doesn’t matter if your mother projects a positive body image; it doesn’t matter if your screen time is limited to mostly PBS; it doesn’t matter if you bring a homemade packed lunch to school filled with applesauce and pbj. It doesn’t matter if you are a terrific ballet dancer with strong legs you’ve built through hours of hard work…..if someone else tells you that those same legs are fat.

I’m assuming that some of the girls at school must be talking about weight and food and what size they wear at Gymboree. And I get that it’s a normal part of going to school–encountering ideas that may not be ideal. I’m fine with that.

What I’m not fine with is raising a daughter who doesn’t understand that her value is completely unrelated to the size of her jeans. I don’t want to stumble across her Tumblr account someday in the future (don’t worry, she doesn’t have one now!) and find her blogging about thigh gaps or juice diets. I’m really not fine with having my daughter walk around thinking she’s less than anything, based on what other people might be (falsely, in this case) telling her.

And I’m fully prepared to read all the articles and absorb all the advice on how to raise a body confident teenage daughter (or son)….I just didn’t think I’d need to be doling out this advice to a nine year old.

So what did I say to miss “70 pounds, omg my thighs are huge”? I told her that I’m glad she’s still growing and I hope she’s lucky enough to weigh at least 100 pounds or more by the time she is a teenager. I showed her the growth chart online and where she falls in height and weight percentiles (exactly average). Then I made her a bowl of ice cream.

I decided not to tell her that she had the most adorable chunky thighs as a baby. It seemed counterproductive, even if it’s true.

So–give me some feedback (parents, non-parents, mothers of girls, mothers of boys, pretty much anyone except the computer tech at Best Buy is welcome to comment). I’d love to have any of your advice on how I can continue to help my child focus on the things about her body that really matter–healthy, strong, kind thoughts–so she can enjoy her ice cream and have a comeback for the next person who says her perfect little thighs are fat.

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Hangry

It’s hard to even talk about the last two weeks without sounding like the intro to some pornographic joke. So there’s your warning.

I couldn’t swallow. I mean, I could, technically, but it was just really, really difficult and it took more energy and concentration than it should have, especially since I was not, in fact, filming a swallow scene in a porn video.

It all started when I decided to be proactive about my health. Stupid. There I was, happily chugging beer, pretending there was no such thing as cardio or sit-ups and masking over any other medical symptoms with my time honored cure-all: shots of bourbon.

But then I went in for my annual check up and I remembered to mention that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and it feels like I’m choking. Also I have this lingering dry cough. “It’s probably acid reflux,” the doctor said. Next thing I knew I was scheduled for a barium swallow.

The barium swallow was gross, but not painful. They said something about food moving too slowly when I was laying down. I should prop my pillows up and not eat right before bed. Sounds like old age to me. I’m game.

Except from the day of the barium swallow until I was saved from the pits of hell yesterday morning (a span of almost exactly 2 weeks), I was no longer able to swallow properly. I went in with “maybe acid reflux” and came out with “positively going insane.”

At first it just felt like there was a permanent lump in my throat that I had to swallow around. I reverted back to eating like a toddler, existing on applesauce and yogurt because it was easier than risking choking on a bite of chicken. Soon I could feel my throat swelling after I ate, no matter what I ate. Some foods were making it worse, or at least that’s what my brain was telling me. At that point, in my poor brain’s defense, I had been hungry for days and sitting up half of every night convinced that my throat was closing completely. The end seemed imminent, despite how many times John kindly assured me that I would live to a ripe old age of crazy.

My friends all offered possible causes and solutions, ranging from stories of food allergies to dirty jokes. My sweet brother took no less than a million phone calls from me asking for medical advice. And John, well, of course he listened to me gag, panic and whine incessantly but still agreed to be my best friend forever. I think a lesser man would have bailed on day three.

After about a week I stopped feeling really hungry. I’ve always assumed I would have been the first person to die off in a concentration camp, but I started to think maybe I was underestimating myself. As long as there was no frozen ice pick gardening action, I might have been a contender. It was in this morose mood that I entered my appointment with a gastroenterologist. Everyone in the office was getting into the Christmas spirit, but I made sure to promptly crush that by forcing them to acknowledge my pitiful state.

They showed me how much they appreciated my attitude by offering to schedule me for an endoscopy at the end of January.

Closing in on a 12 pound weight loss, I (correctly) deduced that I could not go without comfortably swallowing real food for another month. It wasn’t even about all the Christmas cookies I was missing out on at that point (okay, it was a lot about that).

Then, long story short, a friend was able to get me in quickly to see another doctor and that doctor took one look at me and immediately scheduled me for an endoscopy the next morning. Several panic attacks and an awesome, tripping acid-like anesthesia experience later (there was a puppet show involved, I swear!) I am now swallowing just perfectly. I have no idea how or why and I don’t really care. They did take some biopsies or whatever, but let’s be honest, that was probably just to make me feel important.

For now, I’m busy eating everything in sight. It’s a Christmas miracle. So you know, feel free to drop your baked goods off anytime. I can pretty much toss them back three at a time now…..

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Retainer Jail

retainer

I do this thing, when I’m having a hard time sitting down and focusing on a work project: I put in my retainer. I call it “retainer jail.”

See, I basically hate wearing my retainer, because it’s uncomfortable and I can’t eat when it’s in, and I sound like a six year old who needs some pretty intensive speech therapy. But I’m supposed to wear it about 12 hours a day. I generally average about two.

If I’m way behind on projects, I put my retainer in early in the morning, and I tell myself that I can take it out as soon as I finish one writing assignment. It’s a surprisingly efficient way to meet deadlines. And for keeping teeth (somewhat) straight.

Step back in time now, and let me tell you a little story that I promise will be related to my present day:

When I was about 8 or 9 (honestly, I have no clue how old I was), my older brother had to wear a retainer. For some reason he was spared the trauma of braces, but he had this retainer….and he kept losing it. One memorable day he left it in on a table in a Cracker Barrel in South Carolina, wrapped in a napkin next to his plate. Luckily for my brother, because his life was in serious danger from my parents, the waiter found it and when my parents called they were able to have it mailed back to us. Side note: it’s possible I have made most of this story up. Something sort of like this must have happened, though, because it’s registering as a memory. But you know, feel free to edit if you were actually there.

Anyway, I think the entire thing sort of put my parents off of orthodontics for life because no one ever suggested that I get braces or wear a retainer. I was in my 30s when I started asking John if he thought my teeth were crooked (don’t ask how I was just now noticing this fact; maybe they weren’t really crooked until I had kids, who knows), and he admitted that if I wanted to get braces he would support it.

Two years later I was the proud owner of my rainbow retainer. A possession I both loved (because rainbows!!) and hated (because pain and a Cindy Brady lisp when I wear it).

Then two weeks ago, I wrapped my rainbow retainer in a napkin and put it somewhere on a surface in my house. Don’t ask me which surface. And now it’s been missing and my front tooth is slowly rebelling, moving back to its previous favorite position and mocking me every time I look in the mirror. That tooth says in a menacing whisper, “You wasted $5,000 on your braces. I’m going back to my old ways. You should consider being a haggard witch for Halloween because you will soon have a snaggle tooth.”

As you can see, that tooth is a real bitch.

Which is why this morning, when I should be putting myself in retainer jail to get some writing finished to meet these 10,000 deadlines I’m facing, instead I will be at the orthodontist, getting fitted for a new retainer. Like any irresponsible teenager I keep insisting that it wasn’t my fault that I lost it. But I think I’ve learned my lesson because the adults in the house are making me pay for it with my own spending money. And “retainer jail” has taken on a whole new meaning now that I have to literally bail myself out.

 

 

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