Just don’t Google it

I woke up this morning feeling happy. I had delicious dreams that made me feel warm and loved and….happy. It’s not a word I use often, especially to describe how I’m feeling, but this morning it was an apt word to use. My boy was in a good mood, he actually wanted to go to school. My walk was uneventful but felt good, and the stretching afterwards felt even better. I put on my lovely red sweater that I continuously get compliments on, looked in the mirror and thought to myself, “You look beautiful today, Holly. You really do.” I couldn’t say it out loud, but I *thought* it and I smiled my big smile.

Got to work and things were going well there, too. I was in a good mood, still happy. Had a funny discussion with my boss about all the people that call the library and ask for me. “It’s not my fault I’m so damn likeable!” I said. I just might have t-shirts made with that written on it.

And then I answered the phone. It was my doctor. I didn’t recognize her name because she got married, but I recognized her voice. Her name is Emily. I like her. She’s not an MD, but a Family Nurse Practitioner. My husband hates that I call her my doctor, but I told him he needs to let it go. This woman has my best interests at heart and we have similar philosophies when it comes to my health. So…she’s my doctor.  And she called me. At work. And she immediately started to apologize. “I made a mistake,” she said.

And that’s when I went to the backroom.

For you women out there, you know that you can have an abnormal pap smear and it be nothing. But my pap was *not* abnormal. I even got a paper in the mail saying it was good.

Yet it really wasn’t. And now a biopsy is in order.

Ok. It’s ok. I know many women have had this and everything turns out just fine.

And yet all I can think of is my doctor and her voice and how sorry she was–which I totally get that she’s freaking out because she made a mistake and what if I end up dying all because she made this mistake and maybe didn’t catch “it” in time.  (By the way, this is exactly why I am a librarian. My responsibilities typically do not deal with saving someone’s life. Sometimes a person’s happiness may be in my hands–matching the right person with the right book or movie or cd *is* important–but I am still no friggin’ doctor.)

I spent the next few minutes reassuring Emily that it was ok. (You read that right. I was reassuring her. I really am ridiculously kind sometimes.) She made a mistake. She’s fixing it now, right? She’s sending me to a gynecologist (“One I think you’ll like,” she said) and tests will be done and a biopsy will take place and most likely, all will be well.

I told my boss about the conversation after I got off the phone. I was a little freaked out but I pushed it from my mind. The rest of the day was filled with helping library patrons, saying goodbye to a family that have not only been excellent patrons but friends (hugs were in order for each of them), cataloging books, talking to a few friends and reading emails. When I got home I talked to my brother for a bit, then had a very enjoyable dinner and conversation with my son and talked briefly with my husband on the phone.

And all the while, I could hear Emily’s voice saying, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know how I missed this.”

Then what did I do? I fucking Googled it.  I looked up a few key words and what’s the first thing that came up? C’mon, you know it. CANCER, of course!  I started to read the Mayo Clinic site then just said “Stop!” I went back to Google and typed in endometrial biopsy and looked for specific information about what was happening with my body. NONE of this means I have cancer or any serious problem. It only means that my doc missed something when my test results came back, and now extra precautions are being taken to make sure I’m really ok and that this abnormal test result is truly nothing.

*deep breath in*

*deep breath out*

So…look…I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in a whole helluva lot actually. But…I’m still going to throw this out to the universe…

Don’t let this be the BEFORE.

Don’t let today be THE day. The day that ends up defining me and the rest of my life.

Let this just be another day in this chapter of my life….but not one of the last chapters.

The middle.

The middle would be good.

 

 

A few of my favorite things

Ok. I know I’m not Oprah, and I’m sorry to say that raindrops on roses are not one of my favorite things (although who can resist whiskers on kittens?). Yet if I had the resources, every person I know and love would get this:

DSCN2783

Well, all of this except the Santa dogs in the back. Although who doesn’t like a barking version of Jingle Bells?

First, the bag. I love string backpacks. I know lots of adults do not like them because they feel flimsy. But I love how light they are and although they can’t hold much, it’s still better than having a purse on your shoulder or holding a wallet you may forget. It’s great when taking walks with your family (not hikes, just walks) or when going to the beach. The one pictured just happens to be one I purchased at the Becoming an Outdoor Woman weekend. It’s extra special to me.

Parchment paper!!!  My friend, Aymie, has often raved about this handy dandy tool, and I only half listened to her and probably nodded and agreed.  But now I really get it. I used it for nearly every cookie and candy concoction I made this holiday season, and I can’t believe how much it cut down on the amount of pans I had to wash. I even reused the same paper a few times and *nothing* caught on fire.  Fantastic!

My favorite book of the year (and probably the decade), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I know most of my Facebook friends are probably sick as hell of hearing me rave about this book, but I just can’t help it. I haven’t read a book like this in a very long time, if ever. I not only enjoyed each of the 531 pages, but savored them. It’s historical fiction with a bit of mystery. The book has characters you want to see die and others you want to protect, and still others you hope really exist. It’s magical. Not magical as in fantastical, but magical as in beautiful–a beautiful story beautifully written.

A Reny’s dark chocolate bar with sea salt. This is no ordinary chocolate bar. I’m sure you’ve seen this craze in the past few year with chocolate and sea salt. But *this* bar is from Reny’s! Reny’s is a Maine department store and is truly a Maine institution. They have bargains galore, but it’s not a dirty or trashy place. It has some name brand items (like Carhartt and SmartWool), but also has Reny’s brand items–like this chocolate bar!  There is a store just a block from the library where I work and I frequent the place, looking for gluten-free items (they carry lots of gf flours) and the occasional gift. When I tried this chocolate bar, each and every square just made my taste buds tingle. Delicious and exhilarating!

Lastly, Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies.  Oh, man, do I love these. There is no flour of any kind in them, mostly just peanut butter, sugar, eggs, and candy. Easy to make, and if you love peanut butter, you just can’t go wrong with these mouth-watering yummies.

The one image not shown that was probably my favorite “thing” this year, was the amount of love and friendship I received. I know, majorly corny, right? But after having such a tough year, physically and emotionally, my friends (old ones and new ones) and my family not only helped get me through it, but they showed me that life can be pretty damn great, if only I can get out from beneath that dark cloud.

There will always be hard times and I know there are so many more tough days and months ahead, but I also know that feeling as loved as I do will help me plow through the muck to find the other side. I’m hoping for sunny days on that other side, but even just partly cloudy will do just fine. :)

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone, no matter what you celebrate–Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Empire Day, Endor Day, Pon Farr, or just life itself.

Enjoy yourselves and each other.

 

Apathy causes weight gain

pierre

This is Maurice Sendak’s Pierre. If you haven’t read this children’s book, go to your local library right now and check it out. It’s a study of how one could get eaten by a lion if one remains apathetic. Seriously. It could happen.

It’s a fact. If you don’t give a shit about anything, what’s to stop you from eating 6 peanut butter cookies at one sitting, or a handful of your kid’s Halloween candy (behind his back)? Not a damn thing.

I’ve gained 5 pounds over the past few weeks, due to my Pierre-like attitude (“I don’t care!”). I haven’t run in several weeks and have only walked a few times, and that was because I could watch Netflix on my Kindle while I walked the treadmill. I’ve only been able to wear my “fat” pants and put aside anything remotely form-fitting. I feel very squishy and doughy, yet I still can’t get my ass out of bed early enough to at least *try* to exercise.

In a way, being apathetic has been a bit liberating. I’ve eaten anything I’ve wanted and haven’t had a smidge of guilt.  Chocolate candies and mellow crème pumpkins in the afternoon? Of course! Cookies and handfuls of chocolate chips in the evening? You bet! It’s been a gluttonous ride nearly every afternoon and evening, and when morning comes I roll out of bed, sip coffee and give the finger to my exercise regiment. I dig through my closet to find anything that hides my protruding belly. I stare at myself in the full-length mirror. Then with a halfhearted shrug of my shoulders and roll of my eyes, I’m off to work.

Thankfully, though, the numbers on the scale and a visit from an old friend, may have finally snapped me out of my indifference.  My weight is typically at 165. I like this number. It makes me happy. I feel good and slim at this weight, but not weak. Over the past few weeks, I still weighed myself on most days, and I watched the numbers fluctuate and slowly rise.  Normally if I see my weight get to 168, I’d start to reign it in–watch what I ate more carefully and make sure I exercised every day.  But this past month? I didn’t do anything. I just kept eating and only moving when necessary.  Until that 170 popped up on the scale.  I saw it yesterday. I raised my eyebrows at the scale, ate well all day, then inhaled 7 cookies before I went to bed. Well, it almost worked!

But today, a friend was visiting from out of town.  A really good friend whom I’ve missed terribly. This was my one chance to see her, which meant I needed to get out of my routine and stop hiding in my home and go see her and a few of our friends. If you read my post a few months back, you know that this isn’t easy for me right now. I haven’t wanted to leave my house or be around anyone.

Yet this isn’t just anyone. These are my dear, dear friends that I’ve known for over 25 years. They’re family, or even better than family. But for a few minutes this morning, I didn’t think I’d see them. Something fell through at work and I thought I’d have to skip seeing them. And for those few minutes, I was a bit relieved. I’d have no obligations tonight, just going home and making sure my son got a shower. Nothing else.

Thankfully my boss stepped up and told me I needed to go. She was right. I did need to go. I’m so, so happy I did. Those 90 minutes rejuvenated me to the point where I didn’t even have dessert. Well…that’s not true. I did lick my friend’s whoopie pie wrapper (and no, that is *not* a sexual innuendo) and I might have eaten the rest of the gingerbread man’s body parts that were left in the cookie jar at home. But that’s all! No handfuls of chocolate chips. No Halloween candy.

And tomorrow, no flipping the bird to my treadmill. I might have to fire up the ol’ Kindle to get me on it, but hopefully this is a new beginning. I don’t want to be like Pierre anymore. I want to be that self-obsessed wench I once was. She can be annoying sometimes, I know, but I kind of like her. She has passion. And in my book, passion outweighs apathy every day of the week. But in this case, “outweighs” is a good thing. ;)

Menopause Eve

For some women, menopause is an ugly word.  I know women that felt their femininity would no longer exist as soon as their menstrual cycle ceased.  Personally, I think that’s bullshit, but I can understand the sentiment. Being a woman has a different definition for each of us, and if bleeding each month is what defines you, so be it.

Perimenopause, however, is a slightly different creature. This is the transition period, the yellow brick road *to* permanent infertility, something I’m looking forward to. (I love my child but I don’t need another.) Yet like so many other transitions (potty training, puberty, newly married), perimenopause can be a bitch.

I’ve been going through this for about a year now, but these past few months have been horrific. I know there have been other issues that have made a huge impact on me and my emotions (lack of running, family’s health problems, etc.), but the way my moods have been swinging from high to low and even lower still, reminds me of my teen years.  In other words, it’s hell.

If someone asked me if I would ever go back in time to my high school years to do something different, I’d say “Hell no!” and run from the person.  Not only was I fat and miserable back then, but I cried for no reason and the many, many times I was angry at someone or something, I ate and ate until the anger dissipated.

Fortunately, I no longer eat away my anger, but I yell or run it out. (But since I haven’t been able to run lately….well…let’s say I’ve had to apologize a lot to both my family and my co-workers.) The mood swings though….oh man, the mood swings.  Today, I had a 5-minute conversation with my husband that started with happy chatting to angry barking to calm talking and finally to tears.  That was all from me and not him. He was happily chatting, then was on alert the rest of the conversation, looking slightly baffled.  I apologized AGAIN, and told him it was going to be a rough 10 years.  A DECADE OF THIS?!?  No one will survive if this is how it’s going to be.perimenopause

Tomorrow, a trip to the drugstore is needed. Have you heard of Estroven? It’s supposed to be some kind of natural supplement that can help “reduce hormone-related irritability.”  My doctor told me to give it a try. I know folks used to use black cohosh a lot to help with this stuff, but my doc told me to stay away from it. Apparently it can cause problems with your liver, and since I had pancreatitis this summer? Yeah. Let’s be good to my internal organs, shall we?

If you’ve experienced any of this perimenopausal craziness, I’d love to hear about it and what you did to help yourself.

And if you’re emailing from a prison or a mental institution because of the result of said craziness, I’ll be happy to send you chocolate….or maybe a box of Estroven.

 

Losing Myself

It’s come to my attention that I do *not* deal with stress well.  Even when I think I’m handling everything just fine, my body tells me otherwise. For the past 4 years, running has been my stress reliever. I’ve pounded the pavement like it was littered with all of my problems and I could obliterate them with my running shoes. Once my run was done, I felt like I could handle just about anything. I was more relaxed throughout the day and slept well at night. Currently, though, my body is unable to run more than once a week. I’ve walked more miles in the past few weeks than I typically run, but it’s not the same. Walking is not as difficult, which in turn, makes it not as satisfying for me.

I used to eat away my problems, which created so many more. I’m happy to say that I don’t do that anymore, or very rarely.  I would occasionally have a drink, especially on Friday night after a particularly exhausting week.  Yet now my pancreas tells me that I can’t do that anymore either. I did a poll on Facebook to see what my friends do to relieve their stress. The answers ranged from healthy (exercise, meditation, talking to someone) to unhealthy (eating, drinking, smoking) to just plain fun (dancing, singing, fucking).

For the past few months, I think I’ve tried to deal with all of the crap in my life by reading excessively.  Living in someone else’s world for an hour or two, seemed better than living in my own. Often the fictional world was not a fun place to be (war zone, poverty-stricken home, nuclear plant explosion), yet within those pages problems were solved and lives were changed. I could read other people’s thoughts and ideas about situations similar to my own. How did Alice handle her own Alzheimer’s Disease and what did her family do to help her in Lisa Genova’s book, Still Alice? (And what will we do when my mother’s dementia advances?) What did Allison do to help cope with work, home, and family in Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down? (I found out why Percocet is *not* the answer to my problems.) All of these dilemmas and their solutions may have taken years to happen, but I got to see it all pan out in a short amount of time.  It’s a form of “instant” gratification that I need. If my own troubles cannot be resolved in a timely manner, then at least someone else’s can.

But perhaps because I’ve immersed myself so often in other people’s worlds, I’m not dealing well with my own.

At all.

I’ve lost much of my inspiration at work. I don’t care if my house is that clean. I’ve made little effort to see my friends. My body seems to be getting squishier, and I don’t even give a damn.

This isn’t me.

I love my work, yet lately I dread going.  I *hate* this feeling. I used to feel this a lot at my old job, but not as a librarian. I love what I do and I’m good at it. So why not go to the place where I’m needed and feel like I make a difference?

And not cleaning  my house? I used to have a cleaning calendar, people. Having a clean house makes me feel….I don’t know. Proud maybe? And accomplished, I think. But right now I just don’t care.

whybother

Typically I love to see my friends, particularly my Ladies in Red. But I’ve stopped trying to get together with them. I’m fortunate enough that one of them set a date with our kiddos, so I’ll be forced to go. (Thanks, Tiff.)

 

And my body? Whatever. It’ll never be what I want it to be, so why keep trying?

 

I have to stop this. I want to care again. I want to *want* to clean my house or lift weights or go to work. And my god, I really want to want to be with my friends.  I think I’ve just tried to numb myself from the stress I’ve encountered over the past month–my family’s health, my son’s well-being, our finances–much of the same types of things you’ve all had problems with.  If you can deal with all of it, why can’t I?

I *need* to stop feeling like I have the world on my shoulders,  that it’s my responsibility to take care of everyone. Trust me. I suck as a caregiver. I do. I think I’m too selfish. I like to have time to myself, to read or run or walk or dance in my kitchen. I hate when my life is completely disrupted and that little bit of time I have is taken away.

Maybe the solution is extra Vitamin D or yoga or a counselor. I know I won’t stop reading. That bit of escapism is necessary for me. But I need to stop using literature to deaden my feelings. I need to use it to enlighten me or inspire me or to just bring me joy.

And maybe all I need is talk to you more. Why pay for a therapist, when I have you? :)

 

 

 

Tic, tic, tic…..

Have you ever seen anyone that has a tic? Not a tick, the little black insect that burrows under your skin, but body tics–brief, repeated movements or noises that a person makes.  Very often tics are associated with Tourette’s Syndrome.  Do you know what I’m talking about? Sometimes it can be mildly annoying to be beside someone that is always clearing their throat or squeezing their eyes shut, or it can be fascinating to watch someone continuously shrug their shoulders or rub their head or even blow on their hands. But if you don’t understand what’s happening, it can be very unnerving to watch someone go through a series of these movements or sounds.

Now imagine that person with the tics is your child.  You don’t know why he does it, nor does he.  You hear other kids talking about him, “What’s wrong with that kid’s eyes? Why is he doing that?”  Then adults ask him directly if his eyes are tired or if needs glasses.  You watch him shrug his shoulders or say, “I don’t know,” or in one case, you feel him lean against you as he hangs his head, just not knowing how to respond anymore.

And then, you walk him into his classroom for the first day of second grade.  He’s told you he’s very excited, but also a little nervous.  “That’s all completely normal, son. I always felt the same way, too.”  Yet as the teacher greets everyone and you watch your son place his backpack in the appropriate place, you see his face.  He’s blinking….constantly.  He can’t stop.  The blinking, the scrunching of his face, it’s continuous. It’s like a loop that he just can’t get out of.  You know he’s nervous and inside, you are freaking out.  You rub his shoulders as he finds his seat, telling him he’ll have a great day and to have a good time and you’ll see him at dinner that night.  He only nods his head in reply.  Then you walk very carefully as you leave the school, trying to keep it together. You climb into your car and try to take a deep breath, but you’re already crying.  You have a blurry ride to work.

For several years, my son has had these occasional tics.  I’ve always mentioned them at his doctor’s appointments, but I wasn’t overly concerned and neither was his doctor.  I often thought it was just some bad habit he picked up somewhere. I tried to get him to *not* do whatever it was he was doing, whether it was the constant blinking, the shoulder shrug, the waving of the hands, the humming or the blowing on his hands.  Last year his teacher commented on a few of the more disruptive ones (the humming/clearing of his throat in particular), but mostly no one seemed to notice.   But this past summer, his eye blinking/tilting of his head became so obvious, that everyone mentioned it.   And after that first day of school, I just couldn’t deny it anymore.  I spent part of that morning looking up body tics in children, and what everything told me was that it appeared more in boys and in nearly 25% of the population.

Yet I really needed someone else, preferably a medical professional, to tell me that my son was really ok.  And that he would grow out of it, hopefully, and he wouldn’t be ostracized by the other kids.  That, in all honesty, was my main fear.  Kids get a helluva lot meaner the older they get. They become less tolerant of any kind of difference.  My boy is already a giant among kids his age and although he has certainly embraced his height, body tics are harder to accept.

At the doctor’s office, I told our physician what was going on. He already knew about the tics but I explained my concerns from the summer and the beginning of school.  We talked about anxiety and stress and how it can aggravate tics more.  He himself had a humming tic when he was in medical school.  We talked about transient tic disorder, which is what it appears my boy has.  Stress makes it worse, and for Bri, being tired also makes the tics increase and rotate.  (During the first week at school, when we were reading just before bedtime, he would have 4 or 5 tics in a rotation for several minutes until he could finally settle down.)  If things get worse, if the tics become so distracting to himself or to others in the classroom, then we can try medication.  But until then, if the tics are not too bad, particularly on “normal” days (not during a stressful event) then we do nothing.  We just wait it out.  And in all likelihood, the doctor said, my son would grow out of this.  It may not happen until he’s a teenager, but he still should grow out of it.

briticI will tell you that I was greatly relieved when I left that office.  I know that it’s possible my boy will always have one or more of these tics for his entire life. (In fact, my husband has a little tic that most people don’t know about because it’s pretty minor, and he usually only does it when he’s stressed out.) And it’s also possible that he could develop more verbal tics and be the beginning of Tourette’s.  I’m hoping it’s not.  But you know what? Even if it is, I hope I can help him deal with it better than I have.  I know now that I did everything wrong. Telling my kid to try to suppress these movements, makes them 10 times worse. If he did suppress them, he would get to the point where he’d nearly scream with frustration and tic even harder.  I had him take deep breaths to try to slow them down at least, but that didn’t work either.  “I just can’t help it, Mom,” he has said on many occasions. I didn’t believe him.  I really did everything wrong.

Now I’m trying to do something right.  My friend, Denise, a former special education teacher, suggested I give my boy a “line” he can say if someone asks, “What’s wrong with you?”  I told him to just say, “It’s called a tic and it’s no big deal and *nothing* is wrong with me.”

And if that doesn’t work, I also signed him for Krav Maga lessons. So that might help, too.

 

 

No more

I have something to confess.  It’s taken me a few years to finally admit this to myself.  I’ve whispered it under my breath to try it out, to hear it out loud.  I choke up when I say it because it doesn’t sound right.  But I know it *is* right.  It’s who I am now, and it’s ok. 

Here I go…

I am not

fat.

*phew* I did it! I said it!

So…are you done laughing now? Done scoffing? Telling me what a bitch I am?  If you’re done, then let me explain.

Being a fat girl and woman for 37 years, is not immediately undone when you lose weight.  I’ve talked about body dysmorphia before, when I look in the mirror I often see myself 85 pounds ago.  But now that it’s been over 4 years since I’ve lost that weight and kept it off, I’m starting to see my true reflection in the mirror more and more.  And I like what I see.  Most of the time. 

And now that I’ve admitted to the world that I am no longer a fat girl, it’s time that I cleaned off my book shelves, too. I’ve been holding on to a collection of books and journal articles about losing weight, getting fit and a bunch of inspiring photos of folks who have lost massive amounts of weight. I actually pulled the books off the shelf several weeks ago, but haven’t been able to take them from my home.  I kept thinking that I might need them again soon. I know how quickly one can gain a few pounds, but I also know how anal retentive I am, particularly about my weight. So finally, today, I decided that enough was enough. I put the books in a bag and into my car.  I’ve decided that it’s time to stop looking elsewhere for inspiration.

To the library book sale you go!!

Just look in the damn mirror, Holly. 

And that goes for you, too. Think you can’t lose those 10 or 50 pounds you’ve been complaining about?  Bullshit.  Not enough time to exercise?  Do 5 jumping jacks before you take a shower or jog in place while waiting in any line.  Don’t want to look like an idiot?  No one gives a damn what you do or what you look like, so stop thinking that they do.  Can’t run a 5K? Just put one foot in front of the other.  I promise you, it is *really* that simple. 

If you need a cheerleader, I will be there with pom poms and a bull horn, just don’t expect me to do a high kick.  And if you really want a book for extra inspiration, I’ll keep the bag in my car for a while.  Don’t make me quote Nike, ok?  You know what to do.