Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Not That I Don't Have Anything to Say...

...oh, I've got plenty of things to say. Lots of interesting and insightful and thought-provoking stuff...

But now is not the time to say some of it (the BIG stuff), and the rest of it is lying dormant in the back of my head, smushed in a pile of gelatinous brain matter somewhere between my knowledge of the process for solving for x and the one or two surviving memories of my sophomore year of college.

Anyway, sorry for the short hiatus. I'll be back once I collect my thoughts, and I am hoping that a weekend away with family will help me do just that.

Till then, hope all is well!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Message to Summer: Please Slow Down

I looked at the calendar this evening and realized that it's almost August, and suddenly, I was very sad. Living in a place where winter hangs around for months and months on end, we yearn for and look forward to a couple of months of warmer weather and longer days each year, and when Summer finally comes, we cram so much into it that it seems to fly by like a brief, wonderful dream. We want to take every opportunity that we can to enjoy each and every moment of it.

We just had a picture perfect Summer weekend. We had a baby shower this weekend in Chicago, and after the shower, we lingered in Chicago to spend more time with friends that we don't get to see as often as we'd like to. We took our kids down to the beach and watched them splash till their hearts' content in the waves. I leaned back on my elbows in the sand and let the warm air wash over me as I watched Aaron and Grace play together in the water. The weather was so perfect it was like we were vacationing in some exotic locale rather than sitting less than two hours from our home. Then, two other moms and I enjoyed a leisurely meal outdoors last evening at a lovely Mexican restaurant while our husbands watched our girls. Today, Aaron and I strolled down a sunlit, flower-filled street to find a quaint little restaurant where we could enjoy a quiet brunch while Grace was off playing at a birthday party at a playground with some friends and their little girls. When we picked Grace up from the party, we indulged her a little bit by buying her an ice cream cone from an old fashioned ice cream truck that was parked outside the playground. We drove home to Milwaukee along Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago, and marveled at the number of sailboats on Lake Michigan and observed the many beach-goers enjoying their time in the sand.

When we arrived at home tonight, we checked our garden's progress and saw that our corn has grown almost as tall as Gracie is, and our beans will soon be ready to harvest. We opened up all of our windows and as I sit here typing this, I am listening to the sounds of the city as the fresh air dances slowly around the room, filling our noses with the earthly smells of Summer. Tonight, we will fall asleep with our bedroom porch door open, sleeping in the cool summer night air and we will wake up feeling refreshed tomorrow.

Soon, we will be pulling our swimsuits and shorts and t-shirts and summer dresses out of our closets to put them in storage and we will replace with sweatshirts and sweaters and coats. The days are already getting shorter--nightfall is coming earlier each night. Soon it will be time for football and changing leaves and warm apple cider, and the rapid descent into Winter will begin. Maybe if I close my eyes and wish all my heart, Summer will slow down some and we can enjoy it a bit longer this year. I'm not quite ready to bundle up yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

'Cause I Gotta Have Faith

I have always considered myself to be a Christian. I was raised in a Lutheran home and attended Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation Classes, and even taught Sunday School and volunteered at our church as I was growing up. It was just expected that our family would attend church every Sunday, and even if we were going to be out of town over a weekend, we would attend mid-week services so we didn't miss out. My parents worked hard to instill a strong faith in me, but I never felt like it was something that was beaten into my head or forced onto me, so I didn't end up rebelling against or resenting the church like so many people do. I had a pretty traditional faith for many years.

When I got a bit older and went to college, my faith changed. I was exposed to a wide variety of views that I had never had experience with, and it seemed that many of my college professors did their best to undo--or at least disprove--the beliefs that Christians hold. I found myself asking lots of questions regarding my own beliefs, and I began to doubt some of the things that I had been taught as a child. I no longer believed that God is some larger-than-life creature who hurls thunderbolts at bad people. I had a hard time getting my mind to accept the idea of the Holy Trinity.

After college, I ran into some tough patches in my life, and I found myself going back to the faith that I had as a child and seeking refuge in the church. My beliefs in God and Jesus Christ helped me hold on during those difficult times, and I honestly think that if the church wasn't there to help me out, I would not have been able to pull myself through. My faith was stronger than ever, and I became an active member in the church once again, and I even considered (briefly) a career as a minister.

Then, after I moved back to Wisconsin from Texas, I seemed to lose some of my faith. After my ex-husband was diagnosed with cancer a second time and our marriage fell apart, I began to question the existence of God--after all, there I was, a single mother to a small child, broke and alone--I had been "good" all my life, so why was I being punished? And, I was beginning to feel too constricted by the church's beliefs. I believe that gay marriage should be allowed. I believe in allowing stem cell research. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think Jesus was a really good guy--the best--and that he wouldn't agree with chastising people for having beliefs different than his own, and for that reason, I feel that other faiths are just as valid as my own. I don't think Jesus would have opposed gay marriage--it's about creating a family, and he seemed big on the whole family thing. Those beliefs put me at odds with the church, and I found myself falling away and not attending services anymore.

Now, I am at a point in my life where I truly miss having a relationship with God and Jesus. Maybe it's the miscarriage; after having the miscarriage, I had tons of support from family and friends, but I felt like something was missing--I wasn't leaning on my faith, so part of me felt very empty. I recognize that I have a personal need to have a strong relationship with God and Jesus, but I am having trouble finding a good place in which to fulfill that need.

Aaron and I have chatted at length about religion and our family. Aaron was raised Catholic but is not practicing, and he didn't feel like he would be comfortable joining a church at this point in time. I don't have a strong desire to return to the Lutheran Church. So, after speaking with some of the other moms at Grace's day care (which is housed in a Lutheran church), I did some research and decided to give the Unitarian Church a try. Their beliefs and ideals appealed to me...their church was originally a Protestant Christian church, but has evolved into a liberal church that accepts people of all faiths (or non-faiths) and places a high importance on searching for truth while being a good steward to the world around us. One doesn't have to believe in a specific set of beliefs or recite a specific creed to be a member. People with all different lifestyles from all walks of life are welcome. I felt like this might be a place (the only place) where Aaron and I could both have our spiritual needs met while attending church as a family, which is important to me.

So, we went to a service at one of the Unitarian churches here in Milwaukee. The first service we attended was good, but I started to have some doubts about whether or not this was going to be the place for me when one of the ministers said, "The only time you'll hear the name 'Jesus Christ' mentioned in a Unitarian church is when one of the ministers trips down the stairs." It was meant as a joke and I thought that it was funny, but it gave me some insight into the culture of the church, and I didn't know how I felt about that.

I decided to give the church a couple more tries, and each week, my doubts about the church have multiplied. For instance, at many Christian churches that I have attended, children are welcomed into the worship area--in fact, at my parents' church, their pastor once told me that children's noise in church is God's noise and that children are always welcome in the sanctuary. However, at the Unitarian church, it's obvious that kids aren't welcome during worship services. Parents are encouraged to stuff their kids into the nursery, which is in a dark corner in the basement, far from the sanctuary, and keep them out of sight until church is over. The last week that we attended church, I glanced around the church and realized that with all of the young parents seated around us, Grace was the ONLY child in the whole worship area, and I got some irritated looks from other worshipers because of it. That made me very uncomfortable.

The other thing about the Unitarian Church that has bothered me is that they are accepting of all faiths, from Judaism to Islam to Buddhism to Taoism, EXCEPT for Christianity. Many of the church's members are former Christians and have some not-so-nice feelings about Christianity, and that's completely understandable, but in a church that is supposed to be open to all faiths, I have been surprised to find a blatant intolerance for Christianity. A couple of weeks ago, a Buddhist monk gave the sermon at church, and I found his words to be enlightening and uplifting, except for the fact that his sermon was full of anti-Christian sentiment. I walked out of church that day feeling more lost and confused and alienated than I did going in.

So, it's back to the drawing board. I truly don't know if there is a church out there for me. I can't seem to find a Christian church that is completely in line with my beliefs, let alone one that is accepting of other faiths. Then again, I consider myself a Christian, so I wouldn't feel at home attending services of another faith. I don't want to do what so many people do and attend a church that has mostly the same beliefs that they do, but when they don't agree with something that is said or done, they just look the other way. I don't want to be a poser. I WANT to be part of a church that I can believe in and that I support 100%. Does that church exist? I'm not so sure...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Grace and the Mighty Imagination

Each night when I put Grace to bed, we spend a little bit of time talking about how our days went and giving each other general life updates, and then we chat a bit about what's coming up the next day. A common topic of conversation each night is what Grace did that day at day care. I ask her about all of the fun projects she did, or all of the songs she learned, and I love to hear all the news regarding the field trips her class frequently takes. Thursday night, as we were running through our nightly bedtime ritual, Grace rolled over and looked at me somberly and said, "Today at school, we went to the park, and I was all alone and I was crying."


I asked Grace to tell me the whole story from start to finish, and she told me that her class was playing at the park (there's an elementary school and a large field across the street from Grace's day care, and there is a small playground on the other side of the field that her class frequents). Gracie said that when it was time to go back to day care, her teacher lined up the rest of the kids in her class, and then they went back to school without her. She said that she started to cry because she was all alone and afraid. I asked her who came back for her, and she said, "No one. I had to walk across the grass to school by myself." This meant that she also crossed the street by herself. I asked (commanded, really) her to tell me what happened one more time, and she retold the story, exactly the same as the first telling. I asked Grace if perhaps this was a dream that she had (she has vivid bad dreams every now and then), and she said flatly, "No. This was for real."

I attempted to get more information about this from Grace, but she was getting tired and soon fell asleep, so I sprinted downstairs to fill Aaron in. Of course, being the alarmist that I am, my voice was shaking and tears were filling my eyes as I told Aaron that Grace's teacher left her behind alone at the park and she had to walk all the way back to day care ALONE. She must have been terrified! Someone could have abducted her! She had to cross the street by herself! This is the worst kind of negligence!! How could they have done this to my baby?!?

Aaron attempted to calm me down a bit by reminding me that Grace does have a history of telling stories that aren't necessarily rooted in reality, and he asked me to at least consider the possibility that she wasn't really left at the park alone. Still, he was alarmed by this as well, and we agreed that Aaron needed to ask her teacher about what happened right away in the morning when he dropped Grace off at school. We agreed that if Grace had indeed been left behind at the park, we'd yank her out of that day care so quick that heads would spin, and we would also file a complaint with the board of directors of the day care as well as with the state. We also prepared ourselves for the fact that if something did happen, the teachers probably wouldn't be too forthcoming, so we might have to do some investigating. I told Aaron over and over how disappointed and shocked I was. And, I argued, the story that she told me was so detailed and vivid that I couldn't imagine she just pulled it out of thin air. Still, we have had nothing but positive experiences with Grace's day care and I found it almost unfathomable that this could happen.

I didn't sleep well at all that night. Whenever I closed my eyes, I could see Grace alone and crying and feeling afraid, and it just made me sick. I was very glad when I morning came and I knew that we would have some answers. I made Aaron rehearse with me the conversation that he was going to have with Grace's teacher and I reminded him to please call me as soon as he spoke with her. Then, I left for work, certain that I would be receiving some very bad news within an hour.

I stared at my cell phone sitting on my desk , willing it to ring, until Aaron called, and I was surprised at the tone of his voice when I answered. He sounded bright and cheery, not angry or rushed. He told me that he had a conversation with Grace's teacher, and her story was MUCH different from Grace's. Apparently, her teacher was attempting to get all of the children lined up to head back to day care and Grace was lallygagging in the distance, taking her sweet ol' time sauntering over by the rest of her class. Her teacher threatened that the class was going to leave without her, which prompted Grace to cry, and she rushed over to join the rest of her class. She was not left alone at the park, and she certainly didn't have to walk back to school by herself.

Granted, threatening a child into compliance isn't the best course of action, but we're all guilty of that (especially with a child like Grace who does things on her own timetable), so I couldn't find anything shady or overtly negligent in the teacher's version of the events that took place. I took a deep breath, thanked God that my worst fears weren't confirmed, and shook my head to think that yes, Grace DID fabricate this story. She's four--where does she come up with this stuff??

When I picked Grace up at school later that afternoon, her teacher rushed over to me and apologized several times for threatening to leave Grace at the park. She told me that she would NEVER say anything like that to Grace again, and she assured me that she keeps a close watch on ALL of her class at ALL times, and that she carefully counts the children before leaving anywhere. And, I believed her.

On the way home, I asked Grace why she told me that her teacher left her alone at the park, and I watched her in the rear view mirror as I waited for her to answer me. All that she did was smile shyly and tell me that she didn't know. I started a sermon about lying and exaggerating, but she abruptly cut me off with, "Sorry, Mama. I won't do it again."

I guess it's a good thing that my kid has such an active imagination. She amazes me sometimes with the things she comes up with. Then again, it's a little scary. What kinds of intricate tales will she be weaving when she's sixteen and coming home an hour past curfew??

It's staaaaaarting...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Do All Doctors in Milwaukee Totally Suck?

Today Grace had an eye doctor appointment. This was her six month follow-up appointment for the glasses that she got in January after discovering she was crossing her eyes and is far sighted. I was looking forward to this appointment, because I had been noticing over the past week or so that Grace has been crossing her eyes again--even with her glasses on--after a few months of not crossing them at all, and I wanted to address my concerns with the doctor. She also had random complaints of headaches and not being able to see well over the past couple of weeks. And, her lenses were getting scratched up from the regular four-year-old wear and tear, so I wanted to get those replaced as well.

I was very proud of Gracie at her appointment today as she graduated from the picture eye chart that they used with her in January and at her three month follow-up in March to the grown-up letter eye chart, and she confidently read all of the letter that she could see to the optometric assistant. I noticed a slight look of concern on the assistant's face as Grace gave the wrong answers a couple of times, and I made a mental note to ask the doctor about that. The assistant did a few other basic vision tests, and we waited to be called by the doctor.

When the doctor called us back to his exam room, the first thing that he said to me was, "She seems to be looking over her glasses instead of through her glasses." I thought to myself (and I wish to God that I had said it out loud), "Yeah, you know that. Aaron told you about that when we brought her in for her appointment in March." The doctor did some additional vision tests, and after furrowing his brow for a moment, he went to grab a booklet and explained that he wanted to do a depth perception test. He ran through the test with Grace, wrote down some notes, and then said to me, "Her vision is worsening much faster than I would expect for a child her age." He told me that he wanted to put some drops in her eyes so that he could do some additional tests, but that he anticipated that Grace would need to wear an eye patch because one of her eyes seemed significantly weaker than the other, and that she would possibly be needing surgery in a few years if things progressed further.


So, the doctor put in the drops, and Grace and I wandered across the street to Starbucks for a Caramel Light Frappuccino (for me) and some organic apple juice (for Grace) while we waited for the drops to work their magic. Thirty minutes later, Grace was back in the chair in the exam room and the doctor was figuring out what her new prescription needed to be. He told me that they needed to make the prescription for her left eye significantly stronger because that eye was getting weaker, but that her right eye's prescription wasn't changing all that much. Then, he took her current pair of glasses out to a machine to "measure them".

When the doctor returned, he immediately asked, "Where did you get these glasses?" I told them that they were purchased right there in that office back in January. Here's the rest of that exchange:

Doctor: Really?

Me: Yep.

Doctor: You're sure you didn't have them done at a Lens Crafters or something?

Me: Yep, I'm sure. Never been inside a Lens Crafters in my life.

Doctor: So you had them made here?

Me: (frustration building) Yes I did.

Doctor: Because these glasses are wrong.

Me: *silent*

So, he was telling me that the glasses that I paid out the ass for six months ago, that my daughter has BEEN WEARING EVERY WAKING MOMENT FOR SIX MONTHS are "wrong". I asked the doctor to define "wrong", and he said that the lens on the left side was the complete opposite prescription of what it should have been. The lens was supposed to be -1.00, and it was +1.00. He told me that the lens was much too weak for Grace's needs, and that explained why she was looking over her glasses. She could probably see better without the glasses than she could with them, and I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth as I thought about all of the times that I lectured Grace to "look THROUGH" her glasses, "not OVER them." This is why she was having headaches. This is why her eyes were so tired at the end of the day. I gathered my cool and asked the doctor whether or not all of this would cause Grace long-term eye damage, and I could see the wheels turning in his mind, figuring out how he could reassure me as quickly and as convincingly as he could that she would be fine.

Of course, he said, the good news is that Grace's eyes really aren't as bad as he thought and that the patch and surgery looked less likely now. I agreed that this was good news, but as I was getting angrier and angrier and the likelihood of this appointment ending well was slipping away, I told him that I wanted to get her glasses with the CORRECT prescription ordered right away so Grace didn't have to wear these pieces of crap anymore. He agreed with me, and we walked over to the optician to explain the situation.

While talking with the optician, the doctor made it clear as a bell that he had written the prescription correctly for the glasses back in January, but that someone "in the lab" screwed up the lenses when assembling the glasses. The optician held Grace's glasses up and said, "Oh yeah, I can see here that the lens is wrong." I had to bite my tongue so I didn't scream out, "WHY DID THEY LOOK RIGHT TO YOU AS YOU PUT THEM ON MY CHILD IN JANUARY?!?" We ordered the new set of lenses, the optician told me they would be available in two days, and as I grabbed Grace's glasses away from him, the optician said, "Oh, we'll keep these. We don't want her wearing these anymore."

Right. Because her wearing these glasses for two more days would make a huge difference after she's worn them for six months. How stupid of me.

The real blow came when we went to check out and make another appointment for October and the receptionist told me that she would be able to give me a total of we owe for the glasses after she ran it through our insurance. This was it for me...I was already in the red, and I totally snapped. With tears in my eyes and the volume of my voice registering just below a mild roar, I told her in no uncertain terms that we would not be paying for these new lenses since their "lab" had totally fucked up. I let her know how fed up I was with all of this and how I sincerely hoped that my child wouldn't have problems in the future due to that office's negligence. She blinked at me and told me that she'd have to run the charges past someone, and came back a few minutes later to tell me that they would pick up the tab for the new lenses. Then she scribbled our October appointment date and time on the back of a business card and handed it to me without another word.

Ok, I know the receptionist was not the person to be pissed off anger would have been better directed at the doctor, who is ultimately accountable for the whole fiasco, and at the optician, who sent Grace and me home with faulty glasses in January without bothering to check them first. But, this is what happens when you mess with my kid. I go all gangsta. Well, white middle class mom gangsta, but gangsta nonetheless.

To wrap it all up in a bow, here's what I am most angry about and what I will be addressing in a letter to the eye care office's corporate folks:

1. The incorrect lenses were put in the frames.
2. The optician didn't check the glasses to ensure the lenses were correct before sending them home with us.
3. The doctor dismissed Aaron's comment at the follow up in March that Grace had been looking over the top of her glasses instead of through them. In fact, the doctor told Aaron that was normal.
4. The doctor never verified that the glasses had the correct lenses in March, even after Aaron's comment.
5. I was never given a direct answer as to whether or not the faulty lenses that my daughter wore for six months will cause her problems in the future.
6. I'm actually wondering if even her diagnosis is correct, and you can be sure that I will be making an appointment with another provider within days to verify the diagnosis.

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that this is the second encounter that we have had with a shitty health care provider here in Milwaukee in the past couple of months (the first, of course, being my visits with the obstetrician from hell). I'm starting to wonder if Milwaukee is the place where powerless patients come to languish in a cesspool of mediocre-to-terrible health care providers.

And they better hope that those new glasses are in on Friday, or it is ON.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Update: Diet, Week One

I have been following my new diet plan for one full week now, and my goal for this week was to lose two pounds. Here is my progress...

I managed to lose one pound over the week, and I feel about the same as I did a week ago. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't lose the two pounds that I wanted to, but overall, I feel pretty good about my overall adherence to the plan. And, as Aaron pointed out, one pound lost is certainly better than a pound gained, and now I am below the 150 threshold, so I feel pretty darn good about that. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly from this week:

The Good

-I managed to get my 64 ounces of water in each day, which I had thought would be next to impossible. Sure, my visits to the bathroom became much more frequent (and I was left wondering if the weight loss that supposedly comes from drinking all of this water was actually a result of sprinting to the bathroom every hour), but I'm actually starting to find that if I don't drink tons of water, I feel thirsty and dehydrated.
-I kept snacking to a bare minimum at work and I was successful in avoiding sweets and junk food. I was very proud of myself today when a co-worker brought in a pan full of very tasty-looking bars and I didn't even try them. I did eat McDonald's one night last week, but I ordered a Happy Meal with the apple dippers instead of fries. I also made good food choices when dining out with co-workers at lunch.
-I've been using the stairs at work instead of the elevator. The first few times I scaled the four flights of stairs up to my office, I was surprised at how winded I was, but today I found that the trip up was starting to feel easier.
-I made some really good meal choices over the past week. Aaron and I made some really tasty salads and if I was still hungry afterwards, I would make a bowl of butter-free popcorn to share with Grace, or I would have another glass of water to feel fuller.

The Bad

-We did go out to Cafe Lulu one night last week, and that ALWAYS involves overeating. Still, I don't feel horrible about it because I only ate half of my entree and only drank one sangria (which is truly a feat in and of itself). However, Aaron and I split an order of Bleu Lulu chips, and I'm pretty sure that bleu cheese dressing that went with it was full fat.
-I didn't have time to get in an extended session of exercise at all last week. It was a crazy week family-wise, with the usual running around and shuttling Grace to and fro, so sadly, my goal of getting at least one good night of exercise in wasn't met. Better luck this week, I suppose.

The Ugly

-Two words: Ladies' night. I went out with two of my work colleagues who also happen to be two of my all around favorite ladies, and we ate, drank, and were merry. I totally exceeded my one drink per day limit, and when I have a few drinks, I get the munchies, so I also overate big time on Friday night. Deep fried macaroni and cheese bites, boneless buffalo chicken wings, and half of a reuben sandwich. Yummy? Yes. Bad for the waistline? You betcha.
-Two more words: Bastille Days. Aaron and I took Gracie down to Bastille Days on Saturday, and so naturally I had to get into the spirit of the festival and have a beignet. And some Cedar Crest ice cream. And a beer. And reuben rolls. And cheese fries. And a wine. And the rest of Grace's chicken fingers. For me, festivals generally equal eating copious amounts of food that is terrible for me while justifying it with, "But, Bastille Days only comes around once a year!" Yes, well, so does Mexican Fiesta. And Festa Italiana. And German Fest. And Summerfest. You get the picture.

I think the biggest thing that I learned over the past week is that it's easy to eat well and stay within the plan's guidelines during the week, when I have my work routine and I'm not dining out all the time. My problems begin on the weekend, when I don't feel like cooking or staying in, and then we decide to head out on the town. That's when the trouble starts. So, this weekend, we will be visiting friends and I am going to make a conscious effort to pay extra close attention to what I am eating (and drinking) so I can ensure that I'm not gorging myself. That will be my goal for this week--I will eat sensibly all week AND over the weekend, and I will drop two more pounds by next Monday.

Oh and as promised, here's a pic of the new hair color...I highlighted it yesterday, so it's a bit lighter today than it appears in the photo, but I think it's totally hot:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Festival Grace

Man, I love Milwaukee. One of the coolest things about Brew City is the awesome festivals that take place around the city each summer. Obviously Summerfest is the biggest and the best, but my favorites are actually the ethnic festivals. I'll take any excuse to eat ethnic food and drink exotic drinks, but it's also a lot of fun to listen to ethnic music and learn things about different cultures, and sometimes just the people-watching makes the trip worth it.

This summer, I decided early on that I wanted to attend as many festivals as possible, and I wanted to get Gracie involved. She LOVED Summerfest, and today, Aaron and I took her down to the city's French Festival, Bastille Days.

Bastille Days is one of the city's only (if not the only) festival that doesn't charge an admission fee, so it's always interesting to see the mix of people that come. Since today was such a beautiful summer day, tons of people turned out and it was so nice just strolling down the streets downtown, smelling all of the yummy food smells, listening to the sounds of various musical performances, tasting all of the scrumptious food (beignets...mmm), and watching the city come alive around us.

As we were sitting down in Cathedral Square eating our lunch, I told Grace that I was having a good time at the festival with her, and Grace said, "I love coming to these with you. It's so fun. I love to watch EVERYTHING." When I asked her if she wants to go to more festivals this summer, she exclaimed, "Oh yes! I love coming to festivals with my family." And at that moment, I fell in love with my child all over again.

Kid, you're gonna do well in this family.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yep, I Changed My Blog Layout...Again

I wasn't a big fan of the three-column format of my previous blog layout--the reading pane was too narrow and all of the scrolling was annoying to me, so I got me a new layout, and I like it.


Dyed my hair tonight AND had my eyebrows tinted today. It's been a big day for me. Thankfully, this time when I came home with darker eyebrows, Aaron did NOT look at me and say, "Your face looks different," and then proceed to go to the bar. Tonight, he told me that they look nice and gave me a kiss on the forehead. I like that reaction much better. Granted, the tint that Joey the salon boy used this time was much lighter and therefore the change was much less drastic, but it was still nice to have a positive reaction from the hubs. Not sure about the hair color yet, hair is still wet and piled under a towel, and Aaron just touched the towel with one of Grace's magic wands and simultaneously said, "Your hair is purple," so I'm a little afraid to look under the towel. Photos are forthcoming.


Today is the second full day of the new diet plan, and so far, things are going all right. My one major slip up thus far was supper tonight. Aaron suggested hitting Cafe Lulu for supper, and the self-discipline part of my brain shut down and all I could think of was sangrias and Bleu Lulu chips, so I acquiesced and the next thing I knew, we were piling in the car and heading to Lulu. The silver lining in all of this is that this was the first time that I have ever gone to Lulu and didn't devour every scrap of food on my plate, and I limited myself to one sangria, and that CERTAINLY is the first time that has happened. Progress is progress, I suppose.


Speaking of progress, yesterday at work one of my friends announced that her sister had just had a baby, and I was surprised to find that I felt honestly happy for her as I congratulated her on being a new auntie. I still felt a bit like I had been kicked in the stomach, but I didn't want to curl up on the floor and weep. Instead, I let myself feel happy instead of dwelling on my own sadness. This is good. Maybe there is some sort of serenity on the other side...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Fat Pants

Is it a bad sign when your fat pants become just pants? How about when the extra-stretchy gauchos that you only wear when extremely bloated or premenstrual (or both) become the pants you throw on with relief after spending all day squeezing yourself like a sausage into the dress pants that fit like a glove two months ago?

This is where I am at, folks. I'm back at just about the same weight I was at when Aaron and I met. That was 2005, and I had a sixteen-month-old, so I was still losing the last few pounds of my baby weight. This is 2008, and my baby is now a four-year-old. I turned in my baby weight excuse card a couple of years ago, so I can't blame this on that anymore. And, without the motivation of being in a new relationship and worrying about my new boyfriend seeing my wobbly bits if we decidenot to turn off every light in the city when we were gettin' busy, it's a lot easier to justify eating that extra slice of pizza or drinking that extra beer. I've gotten comfortable...too comfortable.

Yes, this is my fault. I lead a sedentary existence. Almost my entire work day is spent sitting on my dupa in front of my computer--the only exceptions are those brief moments when I walk to the bathroom or the kitchen or a conference room for a meeting. When I get home at night, I am up and about making dinner or doing laundry or putting things away, but when those things are done, I'm back on my butt, doing puzzles with Grace or watching TV or reading books. Much of our weekends are spent in the car, sitting again, traveling to visit family or friends or running around the city. Often I feel as though I don't have enough time to accomplish nearly all of the things I want to in a day, and priority-wise, exercising falls far below parenting and doing laundry and preparing meals and cleaning up the house and gardening. I get up at 5:30 each morning the way it is, so getting up even earlier and exercising before work seems out of the question when I'm totally exhausted as it is.

Then there's the other part of the equation--food. It's ironic...I worry so much about what goes into Grace's mouth but I don't think much about what goes into mine. I travel quite a bit, for both work and pleasure, and fast food is often too convenient to pass up. I love going to lunch with friends or going out for a girls' night, both of which always involve hitting up a favorite local eatery and eating to my heart's content. And then there are the summer festivals, the holiday weekends, the sporting events...all of which include tasty treats like brats and beer and delicious ethnic foods. The part of the brain that forces some people to pass up food in the interest of remaining trim and healthy? I don't have that mechanism...I roll my eyes at those people. And, naturally, what goes better with a good meal than a good drink? I shudder to think about how many calories I'm pouring down my gullet with each amaretto sour or Leinie's Summer Shandy.

Of course, genetics play a part in all of this as well. I do have a few skinny minnies in my family, but most of us are on the curvy side. I came to grips long ago with the fact that no matter how hard I try, I'm never, ever going to be a size 2. I probably won't ever be a size 6 or 7 either. It's just not in my genes. So I often ask myself why I should kill myself trying to attain the seemingly unattainable. What's the point?

I know that I'm not obese. I know that for my height and age, I am pretty average as far as weight goes. I know that there are many, many women (and men) that have a much, much harder time than I do losing weight, and they actually TRY. To them, I probably sound like a big whiner who should just get off my kiester and stop complaining already. But, I do also know that I am overweight and I am slowly gaining, and that is a slippery slope that is all too easy for me to tumble down. I know I am not as healthy as I should be. My BMI puts me well into the "overweight" category and if I don't watch it, I'll be back where I was seven years ago, in a dietitian's office planning out my daily menus and being lectured on my terrible eating habits.

One of my good friends recently hit a milestone in her life--she lost 100 pounds, and she didn't do it by following some fancy diet or taking pills. She ate sensibly, exercised, and kept track of her progress. I don't do well on diets and hate counting points or calories, so her method sounds pretty appealing to me. Using her as inspiration (you totally rock, Mo), I have developed a plan to (hopefully) help me get back to where I want to be:

-Call the family doctor and have blood work done. I have had thyroid disease for the past several years, and if my thyroid is out of whack, any amount of dieting or exercise that I do will be futile. I need to make sure my counts are where they should be.

-No more beer or mixed drinks, except on VERY special occasions (girls' night out does NOT count). If I want to have a drink at night, I will have ONE glass of red wine (hey--it's good for the heart). Same goes for soda, even diet soda. When I cut soda a couple of years ago, I dropped ten pounds.

-No more fast food. Period. When traveling, I will pack sensible snacks. When eating out, I will choose smaller portions or food off of the "lighter fare" menus.

-Small portion sizes at home. I will stop eating on big dinner plates and opt instead for eating off of a salad plate, and when the food on that plate is gone, I am done eating. Nighttime snacking will be limited to butter-free popcorn or something else high in fiber and low in fat and carbs. Drink 64 ounces of water per day.

-Exercise when able, even if doesn't seem like it'll make a huge difference. Instead of taking the elevator up to the office, walk up the four flights of stairs. Instead of parking in the nearest possible spot, park in the back of the lot. Take a ten-minute walk during lunch instead of surfing the net. Buy the Wii Fit game (if I can find it) and exercise after Grace goes to bed at night. Do more yard work. Opt to walk or bike instead of drive if possible. Get the family involved.

-Chart my progress and be realistic. This means weighing myself once a week and expecting to see a one to three pound loss instead of jumping on the scale twice a day and flipping out about each eight ounces that I gain. Measure success not just by weight loss, but also by the way that clothes fit and look. Blog about successes and failures to keep myself accountable. Set achievable goals and meet them.

Ok, so here is my first goal. Today is Monday July 7th. I weigh 150 pounds. Provided that my thyroid level is in the normal range, by this time next week, using the methods outlined above, I will be at or below 148 pounds, and I will be feeling a little more comfortable in my pants. (I realize that is a vague goal--I should say something like, "I won't feel the need to unbutton my pants immediately upon sitting down.")

I'm actually (shockingly) kind of excited about this. I know that it's not going to be easy, but the thought of fitting comfortably into my pants again and the prospect of feeling good about my weight again are enough to push me forward. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Importance of Being Perky

Yesterday, I completed a rite of passage. I bought my first push-up bra.

For girls like me that are well-endowed upstairs, finding a good, quality bra that offers sufficient support is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Sure, good and supportive bras are out there for us ladies with a larger-than-average rack, but you usually have to be willing to fork out some serious dough to purchase one and the bras themselves are about as attractive as my hairdo after camping in the middle of the hot, humid summer without showering for three days straight. The color selection of the bigger bras is just as bad--the only choices for bras over the size of 38D are white, black, taupe, and flesh. The one time I managed to find a coral-colored bra in MY SIZE, I snapped it up right away even though it wasn't on sale and I had to spend twice as much as I wanted to.

The thought of buying a push-up bra to further hoist up my girls has always been ridiculous to me--after all, if I pushed them up much further, I wouldn't have a neck anymore. Well, as Aaron so helpfully pointed out to me today (as I was complaining about my metabolism), I am getting a little older. Gravity is starting to work its magic and my once perky boobs are saggy...I never thought the day would come. My boobs have packed their bags and decided that they've had it with living up here. They're moving south to retire. Sad. Over the past couple of weeks and after much time spent in the mirror lamenting my breasts' slow journey south, I have been promising myself that my next bra purchase would be an undergarment that would lift the girls back up to where they were about ten years ago, no matter the cost.

Yesterday, one of my friends and I ventured across the street to the mall during our lunch break, and lo and behold, Victoria's Secret was having their semi-annual sale. I have historically been a Victoria's Secret avoider because they don't carry the bra size that I generally wear, and I think that, for the most part, their other stuff is ridiculously overpriced. But, a couple of months ago, this same friend convinced me that I should try a different bra size--one band size smaller but one cup size bigger--because I was finding that my bras were always cinched as tight as they would go but didn't offer any real support up front. So, I tried this new size and...*angels singing*...I can now enter the hallowed aisles of Victoria's Secret in search of a bra for the first time since my freshman year of college.

Anyway, back to yesterday. After some searching through the clearance bra bins at Vicki's, I found a decent looking bra (in black, but it's better than white) in my "new" size and I noticed that it had some extra padding on the underside of the cups...the famous push-up bra. Gasp. Did I dare try it? I looked down at my sad, saggy chest, gathered up my courage, looked at the price tag and noticed that with the sale price I would save 50% on this marvel of modern invention, and marched up to the counter to pay. I purchased my first push-up bra.

The bra sat in the bag at my desk at work all afternoon, and it took just about all of the restraint that I had not to pull it out and run to the bathroom to try it on to see how it looked. When I finally got home after work, I pulled my new treasure out of the bag and showed it to Aaron. He looked at it for a moment, then felt the padding on the cups and asked, "What is this?" Clearly, it was time for the two of them to be properly introduced. I ran upstairs, whipped off my shirt and crappy supportless bra, and tried my new one on. Thankfully, it was all that I thought it would be. When I inspected the state of things in the mirror, I was pleased to see that the girls had been forced back up to their pre-sag location, and, as an extra bonus, the bra is comfortable as hell. Beauty, mate.

So, I spent most of my work day today shirking my duties and thrusting my chest into the cubes of my girl friends, displaying my conversion from saggy to perky. Some of them were like, "Yeah Sara, push-up bras have been around for a while, get over it," while my true friends were, like my new bra, supportive and wonderful. Even Aaron looked at me tonight with a certain gleam in his eye and said, "Wow. They ARE perky."

My eyes are up here, buddy.