Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Camping deserves a longer, more detailed post than it's going to get. I just have one observation this time. It involves something I spotted as we drove out of the park: the set-up of the "camp hosts". Camp hosts are people who live at the camp for some extended period of time and provide assistance of various types to the other campers.

These particular camp hosts had a very cute screen tent enclosing their picnic table and had decorated the interior with potted plants.

Potted plants.

In the redwood forest.

It got me thinking.

The ultimate battle of Man v. Nature isn't about Man going out to conquer Nature on Nature's turf. It's the potted plant. It's Man grabbing Nature by the short hairs and cramming it into a tiny vessel and forcing it to live against its will. The plant is trying its damnedest to just die and get it over with but Man won't let it.

I wonder what kind of control issues you have when you commit to living long term in a camper in the redwood forest but feel compelled to surround yourself with potted plants.

Of course, the whole question of Man v. Nature is moot. Man is Nature. Politically, it works better for a particular POV if Man exists outside of Nature but that's just a marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, it's enjoyed some success in spite of making absolutely no sense. But the same can be said for this:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Running to Stand Still: Finale

When people find out that you run they might have any number of reactions. Here are some popular ones:
  • Why? Are you being chased by a bear/serial killer/dog/cop? Hahahahahaha!
  • That's terrible for your joints/knees/hips/ankles/boobs/reproductive organs/feet.
  • My cousin/brother/dad/neighbor/third grade teacher was a big runner until he/she got hit by a car/a bus/a bus hauling a horse trailer/lightning.
  • Well, okay, but that's still a LOT of cake for one person.
I could get indignant about these responses because, let's be honest, they're stupid and that last one is just judgmental. I like cake. It's hardly a mortal sin. Well, gluttony, but whatever. I could get indignant but I don't because before I started running I was one of those people.

I tend to be pretty skeptical in general. *Waits while people who know her make sarcastic asides* Of everything. In fact, I used to scoff, loudly, at people for going out of their way to see Niagara Falls. "Water falling down?", I'd sneer, "No thanks. None for me. Let me know when it starts falling up. Then I'll be there." Nice, huh? But, then I went and saw the falls myself because, what else, a boy I liked wanted to. As I stood there in awe of the terrifying power of water doing nothing more than falling down I said, "Okay. I get it now."

That's how it's been for me with so many things. The Capitol Building in D.C. Seeing Jon Bon Jovi from the 6th row even though I hated Bon Jovi with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. The time I got a perm against the advice of everyone. My first cigarette. My first baby. The first time I tried a really good goat cheese. You'd think I'd have learned.

About the time I stopped nursing my third child I also started having some trouble with weight creep. Nothing major but there were about 5 pounds that showed up and refused to leave. I realized fairly quickly that I had lost a major calorie burning factor with the weaning and that I was going to have to replace it with something else. It is also just a fact of life that women of a certain age will experience a gradual weight creep unless they take conscious measures to prevent it and I was pretty determined to prevent it. So I hit the gym.

For about a year I was content with riding the elliptical machine and doing some moderate strength training. I was, in fact, completely content with it right up until I wasn't which is when I switched to the treadmill.

Here's the thing, I hate walking. It takes so long to get anywhere that way. Even during a leisurely shopping outing I like to hustle between stores. I'm not sure why I'm built this way but it has been true of me for most of my life. My kids have picked up the habit of grabbing onto various bits of my clothing or my handbag and letting me drag them along in order to keep up when we're doing errands. It didn't take long for me to get sick of walking on the treadmill.

But I couldn't go back to the elliptical. I was done with it. That didn't leave a lot of options. So, I started running. That lasted about 30 seconds which was how long it took for my heart to send a signal to my brain to STOP for the love of Mike, and never, ever do that again. But about 5 minutes later I did it again with the same result. Five minutes later, same thing.

And in increments just like that I eventually ran one minute without stopping. Then 2 minutes. Then 5 minutes. One morning, two years later, I stepped out of my front door and hit the ground running and didn't stop until I got back home 13 miles later. Because, you know, I got it.

People sometimes ask me why I run. Sometimes, in the middle of a particularly challenging run I ask myself why I run. At those times it is helpful to have a list ready. Here's mine. I run to:

  • Stay thin without giving up rich/sweet foods
  • Stay healthy
  • Stay sane
  • Get some quiet
  • Get outside
  • Have a reasonable excuse for wearing stretchy pants (Well, I might run later. Might as well wear the stretchy pants.)
But the truth is that running, for me, is not just about what "I run to...". It's also about what I run from. I run to get away from the things I can't control. I run to get away from the things I should control, but don't. I run to get away from the sound of my kids voices. I run to get away from the sound of my own voice. I run to get away from the cake in the refrigerator. I run to get away from the unfinished chores and projects. I will not run in a box. I will not run with a fox. I will not...wait, what just happened?

The thing I run from most is INRTAT. Which probably belongs under the heading of "Thing I Can't Control", except that so much effort goes into controlling it that it's hard to admit that I can't. But I can't. Even with the constant surveillance and expensive medical tests. Even with the treatment: a pill that costs about $25 a day. Even with the healthy diet. Even with the running.

But I keep trying because I'm skeptical when it comes to the idea that I can't outrun it. And maybe someday I'll wake up and have to say, "Okay. I get it." But that day wasn't today. Which is why as soon as I finish this I'll be lacing up my shoes, strapping on my heart monitor, struggling to put on the watch that goes with the monitor, adjusting the settings on my iPhone to track my mileage, making sure my iPod is set to the right play list, adjusting all my wires, looking for my hat, yelling at the kids to stop messing with my hat, opting for a different hat and eventually...going for a run.

Running to Stand Still: Die Verwandlung

Because everything is better in German.

Moving forward with the story:

I don't remember exactly when I realized that my cholesterol was sky high and that it was time to lose some weight but I know it wasn't in June because that's when this picture was taken (click to enlarge...stop snickering):

I do know that by September I had already lost some weight and continued to lose steadily through the next year. It looked something like this:

I don't want to talk about the hair.

By the end of the first year I was at a weight that seemed right for me and I bought myself this spendy dress:

I have no explanation for what is going on with Rick's suit here. None.

The weight loss held. It held through the next year which included a pregnancy, a home remodel, my grandfather's death and many, many birthday cakes. Held so well that this is me a few weeks after delivering my third child:

Go ahead. Hate me. I would. But first, scroll back up and look at the before photos one more time. Or better yet:

So, yeah. Don't hate too much.

Oh. And wait one sec.

I just want to prove that my hair did eventually redeem itself.

Next time: Run, Zelda, Run! Or, Entschlossenheit und widerstandsfähigkeit.

Running to Stand Still: A Tale in Two (or Three) Parts

If you know me very well at all, one of the things you know about me is that I have bursitis in my right hip. You know this because I love to sprinkle random conversations with sentences like, "I was going to make a big dinner but then my bursitis done flared up like a bottle rocket at a trailer park on pay day." And, "This damp weather sure is aggravating my bursitis. I think I'm going to just lie down on the Davenport and watch my stories for a spell." Or, "Gee, I wish we could come but I don't want anyone there catching my bursitis so I guess we'll have to stay home and be happy instead."

I actually have a prescription for physical therapy to treat the bursitis. A prescription that is sitting right here. I'd use it but I'm afraid it would work and then I wouldn't have any more afflictions with funny, folksy sounding names for another 10 or 15 years.

I have bursitis because about three years ago I took up running. I took up running because about 12 years ago I took up getting fat. Well, that's not quite true. What really happened was that a scheduling snafu found me being newly pregnant and quitting smoking at more or less the same moment in time. Enter Ben & Jerry's and voila: fat.

When I tell this story people are doubtful. "What do you mean by fat?", they'll demand eyeing me suspiciously, "What do you consider fat? 101 pounds instead of 100?"

They must think this is somehow complimentary or funny, but it isn't. For one thing, it makes me dream about a world in which I weighed only 100 pounds and could then eat 15% of my body weight in doughnuts and still fit into my clothes. At this point I'm so distracted that the conversation really suffers and they never get to hear that at a mere 5'2" I went from a size 4 to enormously pregnant to a size I like to call 'seize avec un chausse-pied' which loosely translates into 'sixteen with a shoehorn'.

And I hung out there through another pregnancy during which I got so large that people on the streets would gawk. In one embarrassing encounter, Hayden Panettiere tried to save me from getting trapped in a fishing net until I explained that I was fine and asked her to stop clawing at my pantyhose. You can't blame her:

By way of comparison, here is what I look like at the conclusion of a subsequent gestation:

So, all that to say that no, I do not mean 101 pounds when I say I was fat. I mean closer to 200 pounds. In the first photo you see what can happen if you gain 60 pounds during a pregnancy, don't lose any weight and then get pregnant again. In the second photo you see what can happen if you find out your cholesterol levels are dangerously high, decide to do something about it and lose almost 50 pounds before getting pregnant again.

I found out that my cholesterol levels were dangerously high during a series of testing that I've been doing at what feels like 10-minute intervals since I was diagnosed with a chronic disease that I'm going to call I'm Not Ready to Talk About That (INRTAT - don't bother googling). Suffice it to say that it can kill you, but probably won't, but might, so please get tested all the time just in case. But, no, you're fine. Carry on. NOT LIKE THAT! That's better. Easy. Easy. Eeeeeeasssssyyyyy. There! No problems. Now, come back in 3 minutes and we'll check you again and remember, you're fine. You're going to be fine. Stop worrying. Geez. We'll see you in 2-minutes for that cancer scan. Have a great day!

Now, it should say something about my personality that I knew about the INRTAT long before the high cholesterol and I knew that being significantly overweight was high on the list of things to avoid with this disease (along with cast iron skillets) but hearing that I had high cholesterol was what made me nervous. What it says about my personality is that I'm very susceptible to pharmaceutical advertising and TV medical dramas and, while INRTAT has long been ignored by drug companies and soap opera writers, high cholesterol is on TV. TV. And often in that magazine that comes with the Sunday paper. It is real.

I needed to diet but I didn't know how to diet. I had been an athletic kid who became an athletic teenager who went on to become a standard issue chain-smoking, disaffected college kid who was too sad to eat. After college I discovered food again but even at my heaviest, right before I got married, I was still merely a delightfully plump size 6 and hadn't spent one minute of one day of my life thinking about losing an ounce of weight. When it was time to diet I had no clue how to proceed.

I don't remember how I figured out to keep a food journal but seeing on paper how much I was eating fixed my whistle. I wasn't educated on the topic but intuitively understood that my weekly intake should not fill one whole legal pad. I slashed my caloric intake and the pounds just started falling off. It was that easy. Eat less. Weigh less. It took some will power, to be sure, but there was no magic combination of food upon which I relied. And I did not exercise. That came later.

Eventually, I lost about 45 pounds before getting pregnant again. I gained 30 pounds during that pregnancy and lost it all within 3 months. And I dragged the husband (who as per his request, will henceforth be referred to as "Thor", although I'm only going to honor this request on the blog - got that Thor?) along with me. We went from a family that looked like this:

To this:

We didn't just get up off of that couch. We got rid of that couch altogether. And we repainted that wall. Shabby Chic. Good times. Anyway, it was about this time that I stopped nursing (Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, the one in the photo.) and started gaining weight again. I realized that I was going to have to either curtail my dessert intake or ramp up my exercise routine. That's when I started running. Which was supposed to be the whole point of this post but will now be the whole point of my next post.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hackneyed and Derivative: Now With More Gimmick!

Lots of homeschool bloggers or bloggers who homeschool or homeschoolers who blog have posted lists of pet peeves when it comes to interacting with the outside world. I don't like the idea of having a pet peeve. You know what makes me peevish? People with who nurture and nurse their annoyances.

But, I don't really have a favorite of anything. I don't even have a favorite color. So, I'm certainly not going to go through the trouble of having a favorite object of vexation.

So, instead of tending to a handful of peeves I have chosen to cultivate a Garden of Gripes with neatly ordered rows where one crop is no more important than another.

Heading into my fourth year of homeschooling I'm spending a little more time in the row where I've planted annoying questions and comments from people who don't homeschool but have a lot of curiosity about it. And by curiosity I mean opinions. Interestingly, many opinions come in question form. "Are you really going to wear those pants?" "Who voted for this jack wagon?" "Is this dinner or did a horse throw up on my plate?" They sound like questions but if you listen closely you can hear the judgement.

But if you try to get the speaker to admit to their opinion you always get a hasty assurance that such is not the case. At all. "No. I love those pants on you! Fashion be damned." "No, no. I mean, heck, Paris Hilton voted for him too and she's obviously well-informed." "What? Don't be silly. I love oatmeal. I wouldn't dream of not eating this."

So, in no particular order of importance, here is yet another list of stuff that annoys someone who can't just keep it to themselves like a regular person. I will not, however, list the comment/question/opinion. Just my internal response. It's what we in the biz like to call a "gimmick" to keep the reader interested in a topic that was exhausted 5 year ago.

  1. Do you? I wouldn't know. I've never been particularly patient. That's what this bald spot is about which should also take care of your next intrusive question. Although, maybe I am patient. I haven't slapped your fool face yet even though I've wanted to since about 5 minutes before you even showed up.
  2. I could not agree with you more. You could never do this.
  3. Do YOUR kids like THEIR school? Let me ask them. Johnny, do you like getting swirlies in the boys' bathroom during lunch recess?
  4. No, I don't have a teaching degree. I didn't flunk out of my first choice of study in college.
  5. Yes, I do worry about that. That's one of the top reasons why we homeschool.
  6. No, we're not which means I'm not morally obligated to be nice to you unlike many of my compatriots.
  7. No, these are not Bugle Boy jeans.
  8. Your admiration is misplaced and now look what you've done. The conversation has gone from painfully awkward to deeply discomfiting as I refuse to accept the mantle you keep trying to place on me. Way to go.
  9. It is a lot of work. Were we supposed to be avoiding that? I didn't know.
  10. Testing? You mean other than this conversation? No.
  11. It might have something to do with you admitting right in front of their faces that you can't get them to listen to you. Maybe? 50% of parenting is a matter of getting them to fall for your feint and you keep showing your hand. It's like you don't even want to play...ooooohhhhh.
  12. Prom? Really? I take it you didn't go? Because if you did there is no way you could place that much importance on it.
  13. Colleges now count remedial English as one of their offerings, sooooo, I'm pretty sure my kid is going to be able to get into one, but thanks for your concern.
  14. Yes, four different grade levels. Yes, I know what causes it. Well, we did just meet but if I decide to have more you'll be the first to know. Where should I try to reach you? Here? Or back in the soup aisle where you asked me if the schools were on a break?
  15. Yes, we're at your winery in Napa with three kids on a Thursday morning in September. Is there a problem with that?
  16. Until they make it illegal.