Reality Bites

Doesn’t it though?  Do you ever go on vacation and think, “If life could just be like this all the time.”  Although the vacation I just got back from? I can’t say I wish life was always like that.

My family and I went to Florida for a few days to visit my in-laws and relax and have some fun in the sun….in the Sunshine State….where the sun should be shining in April…right?  Apparently not.  Just after we landed, I was feeling so good while wearing my shades, enjoying the warmth of the sun through the car windows.  And that was it. I never saw the sun again.

My boy had a cold the entire vacation. It actually began two days before we left for Florida, and never really got better.  He was pretty good about it, but it couldn’t have *felt* that great.

The motel? Not so wonderful. Good price due to the renovations going on, but we didn’t get one of those rooms they had already renovated.  Lukewarm showers. At least the sheets were clean, we had a fridge and there was a decent pool.  My son swam one time, just before the sky turned black and it poured on us.

The visiting part was pretty great, though. My son turned 7 while we were there and it was the first time he got to spend his birthday with these grandparents, aunt and cousins.  Had a fantastic time at both Busch Gardens and Wonderworks–money well spent.   Both places were educational and loads of fun.

Most of the time we were there, we were not on a time schedule, which always makes me happy.  We tried to just live in the moment, have a good time, eat what we wanted and sleep when we could.

The night before coming home, though, I found out my mother may have broken her ankle.  Reality was going to take over the vacation before it officially ended.  I barely slept, had weird dreams, worried about my mom, and just knew that 3am was going to arrive sooner than I wanted it to.

During the flight back to Maine, I tried to hold onto a few memories to keep me in that vacation mode as long as possible.   Riding the log flume and the river rapids with my son at Busch Gardens while laughing the entire time (except when I was screaming), hanging out with the family and telling stories, enjoying a quiet moment in the stacks of a neighborhood library.

Once we were home, it was time for laundry and lunch and calling my mom.  She’s in pain. She’s confused. She’s frustrated. *I’m* frustrated.  I feel helpless, but right now there isn’t anything to do. Tomorrow will hopefully bring more answers.  After I get off the phone with her and lunch is cooking on the stove, I lean over my kitchen counter, put my head in my hands and cry.

It doesn’t last long, but it’s been building.  I’m pretty sure I’m not done yet, but I’m almost too tired to cry now, you know?

This was *not* a bad vacation. It just didn’t have all of those fantasy qualities you always hope to have.  Like sunshine.  But as I attempt to fall asleep tonight and get ready to be slapped by reality tomorrow, I’ll try to remember those great moments I *did* have.   Even something as simple, yet wonderful as this:

 

me&bri

 

Our Marathon

Boston.  It’s not just the capital of Massachusetts.  For New Englanders, Boston is “our” city.  It’s the home of the Red Sox, the Bruins, the Celtics–”our” sports teams.  When we want a bit of the city life, we drive down or take a train to Boston.  It is New England’s capital.  And the Boston Marathon?  That, in fact,  is everyone’s marathon.  It’s the one runners strive to get into, no matter where they live.  It’s a lifelong dream for many runners to finally qualify and be one of the 36,000 to actually be in THE Boston Marathon.

We all know what happened last year. I held my son in my lap and wept, as we watched the news that night.  Since I began running just 3 1/2 years ago, I’ve felt a kinship with other runners, no matter they’re age or speed.  We’ve all had good runs, good races, bad runs and bad races. We know what it’s like to get up before dawn to train and we’ve all felt pain doing something we love. It’s all kind of weird and all really good.

After the bombings, I wondered what I could do to help.  I donated to OneFund but was there something else? How can I show my support for this race and these people? I knew I wouldn’t be in Boston for the next race (it’s the day after my son’s birthday, and being in such a huge crowd is not his kind of fun).  Then my friend, Jean, posted a link about the Boston Marathon World Run on her Facebook wall.  I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, but since I haven’t been able to run much lately, I didn’t think I could do it.  Then I re-read the description a little better.  Just run or walk a mile or two or 26.2 in the days and weeks leading up to April 21, or even on that day.   It’s just to celebrate movement and making a commitment to our fitness goals.  It’s a way to be part of this community of runners who have achieved incredible things to be there, and to show our support for those that were injured last April and for the families of those that died.

I think it’s also a way for everyone to be a New Englander for a day.   We’re a bit of an odd bunch, but really good people, too.  Some of us will shake your hand and immediately welcome you into our family, and others will barely look at you if you weren’t born here.   Some of us love to eat lobster (“lobstah”), others love to hate it.  Some embrace our accent, others deny it.  But I dare say that a majority of us have a fierce pride about where we live, probably even more so if we were born here.  If we can somehow be a part of the 118th Boston Marathon, I think many of us will do it.

And no matter where you live, or if you like to run or walk or bike, I hope you will find a way to be a part of this marathon, too.  It’s not just about a race this year. It’s about being part of the *human* race and realizing that we’re all in this together.  Let’s do the best that we can and try to at least be decent to one another.   At least for one day.

And if you want–you can even borrow my accent for the day, too. :)

DSCN2124

I’m not sure if I’ll be running on Monday, but I will be wearing my new calf sleeves.

My Facebook Fast

I am no stranger to self-deprivation.  I’ve been on a variety of diets over the years (Scarsdale diet, cabbage soup diet, etc.) that not only deprived me of a vast amount of calories but also pleasure.  I rarely eat before a run and sometimes wait close to two hours before I eat after a run.  A little voice in my head continually tells me that I can burn just a few more calories before I eat that granola bar.  It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know.  In the past few months, I’ve been much better about eating and not starving myself. Trying not to *always* count calories, but eat “normally”—whatever the hell that means.

I’m also the person who will yearn for that cute jacket in the store window, but refuse to buy it. Always justifying purchases for my son and sometimes my husband, but never myself.  “It costs too much,” I’ll say. And when it goes on sale?   “I don’t need it,” I’ll say to anyone listening. But what I’m really saying in my head? “I don’t deserve it.”

This year, though, I’ve made many attempts to treat myself better.  I actually bought clothes for my vacation next week. I keep telling that bitch in my head to pipe down.  Nothing was particularly expensive.  I did, in fact, need summer clothes, and I fucking deserve to feel good and look good.

Then why give up Facebook? Everyone knows I love it.  It’s given me a chance to reconnect with a few people that I thought I’d never “see” again, it allows me to watch the children of my friends grow up (and they can watch my little guy sprout up to be a big guy), and most importantly for me, Facebook has allowed debates and conversations to take place between myself and my friends that never would have happened otherwise.  It’s created this lovely little community of people that I care about, all at my fingertips.

So….*why* did I give up Facebook?  Was it just to punish myself for buying those clothes or eating that extra lemon square?   No, I don’t think so.

Was it because I haven’t been able to run much and hate seeing everyone else run races all the time and be amazing when I’m feeling dumpy?  Believe it or not…no.  I’m still on dailymile.com and I see my friends doing what they do there.  I’m happy for people when they do awesome things.  I’m actually one of those folks, who after buying a lottery ticket, get super excited for the person who wins.  It’s never me but I can just imagine what they’re feeling, and how can you not be ecstatic for them? (If you don’t get this, it’s really ok. My husband doesn’t either.)

I think I needed a break from Facebook because of a few things. We all know FB is a major time waster. Even if you don’t play games on it (which I don’t), you could still scroll through your newsfeed for an hour to see what your friends are up to, but what else could you have done with that hour?  Work?  Spend face to face time with your kid? Read?

Yes. All of those things.

To go along with that, FB is a *huge* distraction for me. I know I don’t have to sign in to it, but just wondering what good things my friend Theresa has done this week or what amazing creations my friends Russ and Hazel have made or even what hilarious thing Sarah’s son will say today, all make me want to sign in and check on people.  It was becoming an addiction, and I do not need something that feels good and I think ultimately *is* good, to become bad for me.

But you know what really started to get to me?  All of the sarcasm and the snarky comments, some of which were my own.   Facebook started to bring out the worst in me, and no one needs that, especially  me.  I have fought the winter blues without much success this year and I need every positive thought I can get.  It’s easy to be a naysayer with everyone else, but I don’t want to be like that.  Life is just too short to be negative and ultimately unhappy.

And that’s what Facebook was making me. Unhappy. Or perhaps some of the people on my list were making me that way.   So just get rid of them! you may say.  And some I did, but others I just can’t, for various reasons.   So block them! you might say.  Perhaps. But we know that life is never quite as simple as we want it to be. Social interactions are vitally important in our work, our friendships and in our familial relationships.  Diplomacy is horribly underrated in life.  It’s necessary on so many levels, and I didn’t want to “fuck things up” so to speak.  So, like Rachel and Ross, I was on a break.

I’m back now, with a clear head and a slightly smaller friends list.  I’m sure I’ll still check Facebook every day but I have to place myself on some restrictions. I’m looking forward to seeing photos of Sonya’s new baby and Trish’s vacation pictures, but I don’t need to spend gobs of time doing quizzes or even scrolling through my news feed.   I got a lot of work done last week without having that temptation of “visiting” with my friends. I felt productive and worthy. But like everything else I fall in love with, I need to give myself a little distance and not let my affection become an infatuation.

Looking forward to “seeing” all of you again and hearing about all of the spectacular things you’ve been doing with your lives….or hearing what you made for dinner. ;)

 

Great Expectations

Whether it’s a vacation you’ve been counting down for, a day off with your kiddo, a long-distance run, or even that piece of coffee cake you’ve been salivating over, we all have high expectations and hopes about many events in our lives.  And so many of them lead to great disappointments.  But the kicker is that if we hadn’t expected anything at all, we wouldn’t be disappointed, would we?  It was Ben Franklin who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”   And most parents live and breathe “Expect the worst but hope for the best.”

And yet….I continue to have high hopes for nearly everything.  I took a day off recently to spend with my son.   We had a list of errands that we had to do, but had a bunch of fun things thrown in the day, too, like play at the Maine Discovery Museum and go out to lunch.   I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks.  Not only because I got a day off from work and had no plans to do any housework, but I just wanted a day with my kid with no time constraints. Yes, we still had to buy pants and go grocery shopping, but we could take our time at all the fun places.

I woke up that morning with a cold and was starting to feel pretty lousy, but I refused to let it get to me.  Fortunately, the first place we went to was the museum.  We had a great time. I was a little disconcerted that my son was pretending to rob the little café the kids play in (he actually took the play money from the register and ran away, cackling—then returned it a few minutes later), but otherwise the 2-hour long adventure was pretty great.   He then asked to go to McDonald’s. I had no desire to do that, but this was his day, too, so I agreed.  I hate McDonald’s for so many reasons, but selfishly, one of them is that I can only eat a salad or oatmeal from the place.   But Bri behaved well and had a good time playing with an older boy that was there, so I really couldn’t complain.  Yet while leaving, he asked for another cheeseburger.  After ordering and paying, we waited….and waited….and waited.  I was trying so hard not to fume, but I didn’t succeed.  I wasn’t that nice to the cashier and felt shitty about it.  I work with the public so I should fucking know better!  I still feel the need to apologize to the woman, and hope to track her down the next time we’re there.

Then we made the trip to the dreaded Wal-Mart to buy Briar a pair of pants.  That is all we wanted from that blasted place. One pair of pants.  And so we drove to the store and ended up  having to walk through 6-inch piles of slush and slop throughout the parking lot. Neither one of us wore our boots and our feet were soaked way before we made it to the door.  Briar whined and yelled and complained for what seemed to be an hour-long walk (it was more like 30 seconds) through the parking lot.  At first I made all those noises you’re supposed to as a parent–”I know, honey. I understand. My feet are getting wet, too. We just need to make it to the door and it will be fine.” Blah, blah, blah.  But my son just couldn’t stop ranting.  And then I lost it. I screamed at him, “JUST SHUT UP!”

Now….I hate that phrase. “Shut up.” It’s something I try not to say unless I’m laughing and playfully smacking you on the arm.  But to yell it? In anger and frustration? At my son? In the middle of a public place?

I could feel the shame and embarrassment wash over me.  I couldn’t even look up and just kept walking, pulling Briar along, and staring at the ground.  And very unlike me, I did not apologize right away.  Once we found him some pants and he tried them on, I apologized to him then. I was calm and knew it would be sincere.  “That’s ok, Mom,” he said, and reached for me and gave me a hug.

Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world.

The rest of that afternoon went by in a blur. I do remember there was a lot more smiling and laughing, and no more yelling. We even ran a race with lots of breathless giggling.  Those are the parts I hope he remembers.  I doubt it, but I can hope.

As for everything else I have high hopes for, I do try to have realistic expectations, but the mind is such an odd thing, isn’t it?  We’re taking a vacation in a few weeks to see family and absorb some much needed warmth and sunshine.  I *hope* we have a fantastic time with perfect weather (like last time) and no complaints.  But is it realistic to think that when we’re staying with family (8 of us in one house) and have less than a week to pack in a year’s worth of visiting and good times? Absolutely not.  Instead, I hope to have a couple of warm, sunny days. I hope to relax, be calm, go for a couple of runs, take a few good photos, and hear my son laugh….a lot.

I don’t think that’s unreasonable, do you?  And as for that piece of coffee cake I was salivating over?  As it baked, it made my entire house smell divine.  Yet, it didn’t taste as good as I remember when I baked it the last time. It was actually a little disappointing.  So I ate one more piece to confirm my disappointment.  And that piece tasted better.  Instead of feeling let down, sometimes you can just keep trying until you get your expected result.

So maybe if the vacation doesn’t go well, I can go on another one?

briarwhoa

Click on little Briar to see Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes music video. It’s a great song!

The Harmony of My Inconsistencies

Since I’ve lost many pounds over the past few years and am thrilled by purchasing smaller pants, I work hard on maintaining my weight.  Unfortunately, I tend to gain a few here and there, but if I ever get more than 3 pounds over my current weight, then I diligently count calories and try to increase my daily exercise.  I don’t think it’s really too high of a price to pay to be healthy and slim-like.

papaya

Tastes heavenly….and laden with calories.

Having said all that, I am fully aware of how much I annoy my friends (particularly my co-workers) and my family with all of my incessant questions–”Well, if I just eat one of the gummy bears, how many calories is that?”  I irritate myself sometimes, too!  But most of the time, I think my actions are ok. A little obsessive, but not too bad?  And then last week, I had a doctor’s appointment.  To me, having a doctor’s appointment also means visiting my local bakery or natural food store that sells gluten-free whoopie pies.  (I know, I know. I’m talking about counting calories then eating whoopie pies.  I have contradictions of the body, folks. Not always a contradiction of my heart, but often my head.)  So I stopped by the natural foods store, picked out a few gluten-free goodies and a bag of dried, sugared papaya.  Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s just like the photo here, but the papaya chunks I had were cut into long spears.  It’s delicious and deadly. You can easily fool yourself into thinking you’re eating something healthy but essentially you’re eating a big bag of candy.   BUT, I knew that and really didn’t care. I was ready for a treat.

With goodies in hand, I started to head to work, but made a quick pit stop at Tim Horton’s for a medium coffee–a double, double. (That’s 2 sugars and 2 creams. And I mean cream. Not skim milk, not 2% milk, but CREAM.)

So I headed to work with my papaya, my small but delightful gluten-free whoopie pie and my favorite coffee.  I had no intention of consuming everything on my 40 minute drive, mind you, but I wanted just a little bit of everything.  After a sugary spear of “fruit”, half a pastry and a few sips of coffee, I had this feeling of euphoria wash over me. I felt like I was on vacation at a beach resort with the sun shining down on me and the ocean breeze gently touching my face.  I felt relaxed and….quiet.  Satisfied.  Content.

Then I arrived at work and did my thing.  You know, helped people?  (Which is also quite exhausting at times.)  But I still had a bit of that inner peace I had felt earlier…until I looked up the calories of all of that orange evil I consumed (nearly 800 calories worth).  I ended the day a bit annoyed with myself, but the next day I was ready to “buckle down.”  I counted those calories and worked my butt off on the elliptical machine.  And the day after that I counted calories again and walked and lifted weights.  But….why?  Yes, I want to keep myself in check and not gain any weight. That was and still is my reasoning.  But my weight was fine. In fact, for me, it was perfect.  So I had one morning of eating anything I wanted. Big deal! ONE morning. Not even an entire day.  And yet….it was pure bliss.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this leash I’ve kept myself on? It’s starting to feel like a noose.

So, Friday night I tried to “let my hair down.”  I hung out with some of my dearest friends, and only checked the calories once on what we were eating….ok, twice. But that was all!  I still ate and drank anything and everything I wanted.  On Saturday morning I went for a run. A really good one.  And the rest of the day I, again, ate anything I wanted.   I did look at some of the calorie counts, but didn’t really care.  It felt ok, though. I didn’t eat with abandon, but I didn’t worry either.

Sunday was a slightly different story.  I started my day with what I intended to be a 45-minute elliptical workout, but ended with a 24-minute one.  My machine broke for the 2nd time in about a year. The bolt that helps move one of the “feet” snapped.  I was immediately pissed. Hunted the entire house for the extra bolt to no avail.  Frustrated, I got on my treadmill and just walked for 36 minutes. I didn’t feel like running but I wanted to do something. And once I was finished, I went upstairs and started writing down what little I ate that morning and how many calories I had just burned.  I was still angry at my machine and by then, angry at my husband for not knowing where he placed the extra bolt and at myself for not asking him about the extra bolt a year ago. And when I get angry, I just want to eat.  And because I want to rein in any of that emotional eating I often do, I felt the need to write down every little calorie I put into my mouth.

Thankfully, this little bout of angry calorie counting, aka “craziness”, only lasted until mid-afternoon. By that time I had finally given up on finding the damn bolt and resigned myself to using the treadmill for the next week….and had made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies to appease my need to bake and my need for comfort food.  I think it worked.

You know, I promised to try and love myself this year. To try and be happy with the woman I’ve become.  But I think in doing that, I have to experiment with what *does* make me happy.  Being a calorie-counting food Nazi? Doesn’t really fill me with joy. Eating gluten-free whoopie pies? Blissful. The thought of being fat again?  Terrifying.

I’m still looking for that balance between heaven and horror, but I’m willing to keep searching.  To keep trying new things and attempt to leave some old habits behind.  I can’t promise I’ll completely give up my calorie counting, but I’ll at least try to not do it every day.  This is a year of new beginnings, which includes lots of baby steps….and perhaps a bit less of that orange evil. ;)

1200 Calories–An Important Read!

A few of my friends shared this blog post by Sophieologie: 1200 Calories.  I started to read it and felt a little defensive at first.  I’m one of those calorie-counting bitches and it’s always helped me lose weight—and I tend to obsess about it when I’m doing it.  But since I’m 6’2″, I get to eat 1600 calories to lose weight (and over 2,000 calories to maintain, which is awesome).

I had never actually heard this magic number of 1200 calories. Growing up it was always 1,000 and I could never do it. As a teenager, I would try over and over and continue to fail.  I was 5’11″ at 14 years old. I’m amazed that I didn’t pass out over and over while trying those damn diets.

I digress!  The blog I’m sharing talks not only about the harms of eating too little but about how the media continues to tell women that they need to lose weight and says nothing about getting stronger.  Building muscle is a good things, folks.  Admittedly, I still try to do a lot of cardio throughout my week, but I’ve incorporated lifting weights for a while now. I don’t want to be a wimp anymore. I want to be strong.  Bring on the muscles, baby!

And read the blog when you can. It’s really good stuff.  And one of my favorite quotes from the post? “Seriously, the soda pop is the devils piss.”  Love it.

Dress in Black Day

“Why are you wearing black on Valentine’s Day?”

I’ve been asked this question at least once each year since 1994.  So let me explain.

Twenty years ago, I was living in Rohnert Park, California, with three amazing women.  I had only known them for a few weeks, but they had already become my family.  Once they introduced me to many of their friends, my family grew. On this particular night, Valentine’s Day, we held a party at our apartment.   I was single and slightly cynical and I think just pissed off that I was alone.  So to protest the commercialism and the ridiculousness of the holiday, I wore black….

….and a tradition was born.

Although I’m married now and have a son I like to buy or make valentines for, I still find the holiday pretty silly.  I continue to wear black on February 14th, but it’s not necessarily in protest anymore.  I don’t think I really care about the holiday one way or another, but now I wear black in honor of the friends I made 20 years ago and everything they taught me.

I learned how to show affection from them.  Being from New England, this was a new concept for me.   I don’t think I ever hugged any of my friends back home unless someone died or moved away. We just didn’t do that.  Yet here was a group of people who didn’t think twice about hugging me or kissing my cheek or even just sitting close to me (or on my lap).

They showed me how to love, how to take risks, how to have fun.

This group of women and men took me in and made me a part of their lives. They opened up their world to me.  They wanted to show me where they lived and what they loved to do and introduce me to new ideas, new music, new literature, and new experiences.

They made me feel like I belonged.  I had never really felt that before.  I thought I had, but  it never felt like this.  I felt not only accepted but wanted.

My friends showed me what there was to love about life.  I don’t think I ever knew before I met them.  I continue to feel grateful for ever having the chance to learn from them and to love them.

Thank you, Becky, Jo, Lea, Gary, Moriah, Sean, Memo, Matt, Yvette, Ron, and Lou.  You made, and continue to make my life better.

cow

Since I don’t have a photo of everyone together, I’m showing you this instead. You can’t see it, but everyone I met and loved in California signed this sign.