Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's been so long. I've done nothing on this blog for months and months and, truthfully, I wouldn't be writing now if I didn't have a a whopping sinus headache that won't let me sleep. I've been THINKING, yes thinking, of many things to write about over the months, but I have been so discouraged and so focussed in a completely different direction than I had expected that I didn't have the heart to put my thoughts out there.

So, let's catch up. First of all, I have not lost any weight. Fine news for a weight loss blog, you say. And you are right. My journey is not linear at all, and I really didn't expect that. When I began writing, I thought that I would see a line graph that consistently trended down -- probably not quickly, probably not easily, but down. Instead, my line graph looks like the EKG of someone who's coded. Flatline. A pound here or there -- one banner month, I lost 8 pounds and was super excited. That was the month I started taking Phentermine on the recommendation of a good friend who has lost quite a bit of weight. However, after the initial "I think this is going to work for me" happy thought, it stopped working. And I thought, "I'm not taking some drug that is not even working for me every day." And I stopped taking it and stopped weighing myself or dieting at all. I'm happy to say that I haven't gained weight, but sad to say also that I haven't lost.

All summer I struggled with incredible pain in my left leg -- pain that would wake me up at night writhing and crying. Charley horses that wouldn't go away. Throbbing, aching, hellish pain that would not let me sleep and prevented me from functioning. The doctor I was seeing who gave me the Phentermine enjoined me to walk one hour every day. I thought, "are you kidding me? I can't walk across the room. I can't go grocery shopping. I can't clean my house. I can't do anything. And you expect me to WALK for distance?" Needless to say, I didn't heed that admonition.

Over the summer, I met with friends every week for School of Community, and I remember talking to one of them who is a physical therapist. I said to her that the pain was so bad that I thought it would be better to have my leg amputated at the hip. With her encouragement and that of another dear PT friend, I actually made an appointment with an orthopedist early in the fall. I explained my history and my symptoms, and he took X-rays of my entire left side. His conclusion? There is nothing orthopedic involved -- get thee to physical therapy. When I showed my two PT friends his order for PT, they both burst out laughing -- he basically had said that I was inflamed from my hip to my ankle. Every item on the diagnosis (and the list was long) ended with "-itis". I began seeing a physical therapist, whom I love, and the work has begun.

To explain -- I was born extremely premature -- my mother's original due date was some time in May and I was born in mid-March. In 1966, that was no joke, and it's a wonder I survived. It was the only time in my life I've been underweight, in fact -- 2.25 pounds. One of the problems I had was that I was born without a hip socket on my left side. This is called "Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip". I had an operation when I was stable and strong enough to survive it to construct a socket and to pin the head of the femur into place. I was in a hard body cast until I was about 18 months old. Later, the pins were removed -- as a result I have a 12 inch scar on the front of my hip and a 6 inch one on the back.

All through my childhood, I saw the orthopedic surgeon who worked on me -- Liebe Diamond. She is an amazing woman -- please read her entry at the link above -- she is in the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. She scared the crap out of me as a child, but I am so grateful to her. She allowed me to live a pretty normal childhood. However, one result of the deformity and the surgery is that, over the years, I developed a bad habit -- it felt "normal" to me to stand, walk, climb stairs, etc., with my feet pointed slightly outward. My kneecaps also point slightly outward, not towards the front (this probably contributed to the traumatic knee dislocation I experienced last year). And, over the years, as a result of this bad habit, all the muscles on the outside of my legs -- particularly my left leg -- became so tight that they pulled my feet even more out of whack (technical medical term alert). I started to walk with a pronated gait -- thus ensuring that all the weight of my body was concentrated on a tiny little area of my left foot where the Posterior Tibial Tendon attaches. In fact, when I was diagnosed with plantar fascitis FOUR YEARS AGO (misdiagnosed, according to my physical therapist), that was the beginning of all this trouble coming home to roost. As the pain from the PTTD (PTT Dysfunction) became more pronounced, the other problems -- walking with my toes pointed outward, pronated gait -- also became more pronounced as I tried to escape the pain. As a result, the muscles on the outside of my left calf and in my ankle became so inflamed and so tight that, as the PT told me, "it feels like you have an extra tibia in your leg". The muscle is as hard as bone.

In order to fix this problem, I have been going to physical therapy three times a week since the beginning of November. There goes all my free time. I drop off Chickadee #2 at preschool, go directly to PT, spend one and a half to two hours there, being massaged, stretched, stuck with needles, having ultrasound and electricity run through the muscle, undergoing pressure point therapy, enduring ice massage and ice packs, and doing exercises, then I rush out to pick the chickadees up from school. It is exhausting and discouraging to see how much work is needed to correct this problem. But, we have to get through the point where pain prevents me from moving (I was walking as if my left leg were made of wood on many days -- not bending my knee, not flexing my ankle). After that, we can start to teach my muscles to work in the proper way. It's going to be a long haul. But I think and hope it will be worth it. Recently, I have started to experience a diminution of pain in the PTT. I've bought a brace that's supposed to help -- I was wearing it incorrectly, so I have to see tomorrow when I take the chickadees to the Maryland Science Center if a correctly worn brace is gong to help me.

So that, writ large, is what I've been working on instead of losing weight. I am hoping that fixing this problem will help me fix that problem. Pray for me!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Shape of Evil

Ever since September 11, 2001, the shape of evil for me has been those billowing clouds of pulverized concrete, metal, paper, carpet, asbestos, glass, and, God help us, human beings that whipped through the streets of lower Manhattan on a sunny and beautiful Tuesday morning. Every year, I make myself watch news footage from that date. I listen to music like Alan Jackson's Where Were You and Mozart's Requiem and cry and have skin-crawling flashbacks to the panic and sadness of that day.

I do those things because I'm trying to impose meaning, control, and reason onto a situation that is inherently nihilistic, uncontrolled, and unreasoning. Of course, the monsters who murdered almost 3,000 people in cold blood and those that financed them, and those that trained and supported them, and even those who, in their secret heart of hearts, sympathized with them, had their excuses and their rationalizations and their "reasons". It has been fashionable, since the very day when ordinary people living their ordinary lives were so brutally ripped from this world, for some of us in this country and around the world to try to "understand" the "roots of terrorism". For pete's sake, there are some who assert that these privileged sons of doctors, these engineers, and computer programmers, acted as they did because Christian nations 800 to 1000 years ago waged war to recapture cities in the Holy Land that had been conquered by Islamic armies. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Does that mean that we here in the West should wage war against Turkey to retake Constantinople (now called Istanbul)? That we should murder innocent men, women, and children to "avenge the insult" of Sultan Mehmed II's conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque --an "insult" that continued from 1453 until 1934 when the Hagia Sophia was secularized and turned into a museum? Should we murder innocent Muslim men at work because Christians cannot freely and openly worship in Saudi Arabia or because they are forbidden to enter Mecca or Medina? Should we riot because Christian converts from Islam must sometimes fear for their lives? Should we defend the principle of free speech and free expression by killing innocent Muslims because these principles are threatened by Islamic radicals who want to kill people and destroy things over movies, cartoons, or books? Should we defend equality between the sexes by bombing Riyadh? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Look, it's pretty simple. There is a perverse beauty in destruction. This struck me today as I watched footage of September 11. The images of the World Trade Center debris rolling through the canyons of Manhattan filled me with horror and fascination and a disquieting recognition that they were substantial. They looked alive. They looked hungry. They looked purposeful. And they were, as evil always is. Those privileged sons of doctors, those engineers and computer programmers, were in love with evil, in love with destruction, with desecration, with despair. Somehow, somewhere along the line, the Deceiver had convinced them that the way to Paradise was through the blood of innocents and that the power they would gain for their "cause" by the murder of innocents was more important than anything else.

They were deceived.

And I know they were deceived for a reason that might seem mundane to some. You see, I have another reason to remember September 11. It is the day that my second child was born, at four minutes after midnight. When I realized I was in labor on the evening of the 10th, two days in advance of my scheduled c-section and two weeks prior to my due date, I prayed that she would be delivered before the clock rolled over to 9-11. I didn't want to cry every year on my daughter's birthday. I didn't want that joyful day tainted with memories of evil. But God was trying to teach me something as I prayed the Hail Mary throughout the excruciatingly slow procedure, as I begged the Virgin to intercede and make Dr. T's fingers move a bit faster, to make him stop talking to the medical student he was training as my child was coming into this world.

It's taken me four years -- of crying on Chickadee #2's birthday, of feeling that something is not quite right about this day -- to get it. It's also simple, and it's this:

Perfect love
drives out all fear. (I John 4:18).

What happened on September 11 in New York, and Washington, and over the bucolic fields of Western Pennsylvania, proves that. People hurtling to their deaths or trapped above the fire line did not call their wives and mothers and sons and brothers and fathers and friends to express hatred, or anger, or division. They called to express love, concern, caring. The firemen and policemen and Port Authority employees and Emergency Responders didn't run into burning buildings out of fear and hatred, but because of love -- altruistic love -- the hardest kind of love to have because it is untainted with selfishness. People did not take to the streets and riot and call for the heads of their Muslim neighbors and friends on pikes. No one was tarred and feathered. In fact, in the weeks following the attacks, I distinctly remember my roommate and I talking about a family of Muslims who owned a convenience store just outside of our town. While neither of us was in the habit of stopping at that store, both of us independently had decided to start doing so, to make sure that we looked those people in the eye and smiled at them. So they wouldn't be afraid, so they wouldn't feel isolated or singled out.

When I look into my daughter's beautiful face, when I see her smile in delight at the
magnificent fairy cake her aunt created for her, when I hear her belt out tunes in her Ethel
Merman voice, when I receive her sticky sweet kisses and watch her eyelids fluttering as she strives to stay awake on this magical day for just one more minute, I no longer see the shape of evil, but the shape of love.

And I thank God that Dr. T's fingers were just a little slow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Italian Cure

When I was 21, I lived for a semester at the University of Dallas's Rome campus, which was in a fairly dilapidated hotel at 103 Via del Pescaccio off the "Roman Beltway". Who knew that 23 years later, I'd be living in another Beltway community, this one a lot less romantic than the environs of Via del Pescaccio, overlooking, as it did, the ruins of a villa once occupied by a mistress of Mussolini (or so we were told before we hiked up there to drink our $1.50 bottles of spumante).

I've been thinking a lot about those days lately, and it occurred to me that one thing I never worried about in Rome was food, weight, or eating. For one thing, I didn't have a scale. For another, I was poor with a capital "P". I couldn't really afford to be picky and I couldn't really afford chocolate. Things I learned to eat during my Rome semester included basalmic vinegar salad dressing, calamari, octopus, goat, and the bull's nose. I also spent my days either in the classroom reading Sophocles, Herodotus, or Shakespeare or walking through history -- walking A LOT.

Most of our meals were provided on campus. A typical day's menu might consist of:

Breakfast: coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, an apple or orange, and a "moonrock" (a type of hollow, crusty bread roll particular to Rome called a rosette, but which resembled stone after sitting on the tables day after day) with butter and jam (7 to 7:30 am)

Lunch: the biggest meal of the day, consisted of a pasta course (usually penne with tomato sauce) and a meat course (veal medallions with green beans, chicken with some vegetable, etc.), with moonrocks and fruit as desired. (1:30 to 2:00 pm)

Dinner: This meal frequently consisted of either funghi soup (cream of mushroom) or "sweatsock soup" (tortellini in broth), scrambled eggs with provolone cheese, or a salad of bitter greens dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (7:30 - 8:00 pm)

Throughout the day, we could go to the cappuccino bar on campus for coffee and biscotti if we were hungry, and we often slipped a moonrock or a piece of fruit into a pocket for later consumption.
And then, when we were out and about on a walking tour of the city, we could always slip into a "Pizza Rustica" for "mille lire di pizza margharita, per favore."

But the thing about eating in Rome was that it was all good --even if it didn't taste good (we had the worst Italian cook I've ever seen). It was good because it satisfied hunger on so many levels -- eating in the dining room of the hotel satisfied the hunger for camaraderie as well as physical hunger. Running to catch the last 906 bus into Via Boccea to get pizza because we couldn't stand one more night of Franco's sweat sock soup was a twilight adventure that satisfied our need to break free of routine. Ordering our favorite pizza from the Pizza Rustica at the bus transfer area in Largo di Boccea meant we were coming home after a four day weekend trip bunking rough on "Hotel Eurail"-- it fed our need for stability. In short, food was uncomplicated -- it satisfied hunger and provided nourishment for body, mind, and soul.

Fast forward 23 years. My current relationship with food is anything but uncomplicated. In so many ways, I feel as if I'm flailing around, looking for the magic answer -- maybe Weight Watchers, maybe Atkins, maybe Dr. Berg's liver cleanse. Maybe swimming 3 days per week, maybe join a gym. Let's walk every day, let's aspire to walk every day, let's sleep late. Let's pray the weight off, let's talk the weight off -- hell, let's blog the weight off.

When in fact, losing weight is as simple as eating fewer calories than you expend, consistently, day by day. Maybe there IS a magic answer -- maybe it's giving up and taking what I'll call "the Italian Cure" -- I'll eat for nourishment, in every sense of the word. I'll eat with joy and with a sense of cameraderie (hard to do with picky grade schooler (!!!) and preschooler (!!!!!) and husband with newly-diagnosed celiac disease!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, but still). I'll eat for adventure -- trying new things that break free of routine. I'll eat for stability, making sure that I don't consume things that spike my blood sugar and make me cranky.

The Italian Cure. I think I like it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

What is your passion?

Boy, I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I last posted anything. I can only blame end-of-the-year craziness, a chickadee who turned six (!!!!) this month, a husband who has been out of town for 3 of the last five weeks (including for our anniversary and said chickadee's birthday!), and sheer laziness on my part.

But never fear intrepid reader(s???), I'm here to tell you about a wonderful and motivating evening I just spent. I joined the lovely ladies of Momz Share for the Silver Spring Soiree this past Saturday. Hosted by the beautiful and amusing Jessica from A Parent In Silver Spring and organized by the amazingJennifer from Hip as I Wanna Be and the energetic Lara from Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom, the Silver Spring Soiree was a chance for mom bloggers from all over the Greater Washington DC area to come together to network, nosh on goodies from some incredible mompreneurs ( including Theresa of Treets and and Sarah of SouperGirl), as well as from the fabulous Done Right Catering, and to reconnect with our essential selves.

Lauree from Simply Leap led us all in an exercise designed to do just that. Imagine 60 or so slightly giddy mom bloggers, relieved to have left the demands of the laundry monster, husbands, in laws, children, work, and life in general behind for the evening, sitting (somewhat) quietly in the play room of Silver Spring's The Little Gym with their eyes closed. As they wait, a bit nervous about what is coming, Lauree's sweet voice asks:

What is your passion?

What would you do if time and money were no object?

What excites you? What gives you joy?

She asked us to come up with a word that represented all those things. There behind my eyes, FRAGMENTS FRAGMENTS FRAGMENTS.

Now, this might not mean much to you, or you might be thinking that there's something terrible going on in my life if all I can think of to represent my passions is the word "fragments". But here's the thing, I knew EXACTLY what that meant and where it came from.

T.S. Eliot.

Specifically, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins." (The Waste Land, 430), which are almost the last lines of this magnificent poem. If you haven't read it, you MUST. Oh you must.

I first encountered Eliot in Lit Trad I, the first of a series of English literature classes that all students at the University of Dallas (the absolute best Catholic university in the nation, hands down), regardless of major, must take. The Lit Trad series looks at literature generically and holistically -- Lit Trad I, for example, covered epic poetry from The Iliad to Eliot's The Waste Land. Other courses in the series looked at lyric poetry, drama. and novel. Reading Eliot at the age of 19 changed my life. It made me the person I am today. It set me on course to try to change the world through (studying and teaching) poetry, which is nice in theory but paid less than 30K per year, and only if I wanted to teach as some perpetual adjunct somewhere. The pursuit of this dream marred my twenties and sent me into a depression that was very hard to shake. But it also gave me something talismanic. In fact, when I was in graduate school at the George Washington University (maybe the most expensive, but not the best, university in the nation), I used to tell my students (who were for sure not looking at literature as anything but a stupid requirement), that one thing I wanted for them to get out of the course, maybe the ONLY thing, was something that they could take with them that would sustain them in the future -- that in a time of crisis or joy, a word of poetry, an image, a line from a play, a character they had come to love, would appear before them and help them through. I don't know whether any of my students took a talisman away from freshman English. I hope so.

What I do know is that Eliot's fragments of literature and culture and art and beauty help to sustain me in this life. They are what help me to see God in this world. They are what help me to see God in my fellow human beings. They are what led me to the road of Communion and Liberation, which is "the road toward a solution to this existential drama", as John Paul II of blessed memory said.

Any species that can create the perfect Shakespearean sonnet... When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes.... Any culture which can give rise to the magnificent David or The Burghers of Calais... any society that can birth a recluse who can impart Scout's wonder at Boo Radley's courage? That is the species, the race, the society for me. The creators of these artifacts have been touched by God. They participate in the Creation -- the original Fiat Lux. And I can be part of that. I can touch that just by having a fricking library card.

That is my passion. THAT is my passion. Literature and culture and theology and philosophy and HOPE. Now, if I could only find a way to make a living at it.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Today, I bought a new journal to record my nutrition and exercise. The one I chose has a two page spread to record all the information I want to record daily. I finally decided to take my doctor's advice and try to pay attention to the fat vs protein ratio that I am ingesting. She basically wanted me to invert the two types of nutrients. The Weight Watchers journal I was using records a number in which calories, fat, and fiber are the inputs in a proprietary algorithm that comes up with the mysterious Points value (TM). While using the new journal is going to be time consuming because I have to look up and record a number of bits of information about a food's nutrition, I think I'm going to like having more data rather than less, particularly about the fat vs. protein ratio.

I've mentioned before, I think, that I don't have any full length mirrors in the house, having taken the breaking of one during our move to a new house seven years ago as a sign that maybe I didn't need a full length mirror.

I should have replaced it.

As part of the goal setting section of the journal, there is space for a Before/After photo spread. I took a picture of myself in my underwear (and yes, this journal is being kept in a fireproof safe ringed round with adamantine chains). What a horrifying thing to see oneself in this way. I look like a balloon woman who has had been blown up by a malicious little boy giant.

Time to get that mirror. And no, you will not be seeing me do this on my blog at any time at all. What a brave woman that Jennette Fulda is -- funny too as her memoir, Half-Assed, attests.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Mama, Don't Get F-a-t, O.K.?"

Peggy Orenstein's article in this week's New York Times Magazine hit home with me. I know that my complicated, hate-hate relationship (actually, I suppose a hate-hate relationship is pretty uncomplicated actually) with my body poses many risks for my two daughters and THEIR self-perceptions. I've already mentioned that Chickadee #1 is sensitive to my weight. She's not sensitive in the same way that I'm sensitive -- when I was upset by what she said to her friend, she hastened to tell me that "I was only talking about ME, Mommy, not YOU. I was just saying that I wouldn't be fat... I wasn't saying anything about you...," in all innocence.

So, I trudge forward, hoping against hope that I will become magically motivated and not be discouraged by the plateau I've been stuck on for months. Thing is, I don't WANT to diet. I don't WANT to become obsessed by every morsel that passes my lips - that's why I really had a difficult time with Weight Watchers -- journaling takes too many brain cells that I have to devote to other responsibilities. I want to be "normal", like other people who are not dogged by this dis-ease. A few observations on those lines:

  • Today, I had to do some grocery shopping. Because I also had to deal with a broken washing machine before I left which took a lot more time on the phone than I'd anticipated, I managed to time my shopping expedition with Chickadee #2 right at lunchtime. So, before we did our shopping, we had lunch in the little grocery store cafe. I had a cold cut sub (ham and cheese on Italian, with lettuce and tomatoes) and Chickadee #2 had a slice of cheese pizza. Seated right beside us was a young girl. I noticed as I sat down that this lovely young girl was munching down, with apparent gusto, on a salad from the salad bar. As I began my lunch, I reflected that this was the difference between her and me -- she chose a salad, and nice trim figure, and I chose a sub, which probably contained the same amount of bread that this child ate in a week. My task, the only thing that is going to make positive change in my life, is to make choosing a salad from the salad bar as automatic as choosing a ham and cheese sandwich is at the moment. I also have to ensure that I don't arrive at the grocery store starving because I've only had a quarter cup of milk and 20 goldfish pass my lips by 12:30 pm.
  • I think that my perceptions of "normal" are completely abnormal. A case in point is body image. I've managed to go for the past 7+ years without a full length mirror in my home (the full length mirror I brought to my marriage shattered during our move to our present home and I haven't replaced it). Truth be told, I don't want to replace it, because I really don't want to see myself. When I pass plate glass windows, my gaze seldom travels below my shoulders and I've already discussed the discomfiting feeling working out in the gym has caused me.
  • I've been told many times that inculcating a new habit takes twenty-one days. Three weeks of going to the gym and swimming pool. Three weeks of drinking cranberry lemon juice vinegar concoctions. Three weeks of journaling. Three weeks of meal planning. Trouble is, I have been so resistant to dedicating those three weeks. They seem insurmountable. But, as I've said, I'm a great beginner.
And, in a final, and unrelated note, can I tell you how disgusted I am that the "fitness assessment" I have been being urged to do at the gym since I joined (didn't want to do it then because my knee was still in trouble) was actually just an hour long commercial for physical training sessions? I mean, I didn't need some 30 year old guy to tell me that I'm fat, okay? I actually already know that. I didn't need him to tell me that I have pretty okay strength in my arms, but need to work on my lower back, or that my balance is crappy. I also didn't actually need to be sold on training sessions. I'd be the first to sign up if I had the money, but I nearly fainted when the price chart was revealed (always the last step). 800 dollars for the "package I'd recommend for you" -- 3 sessions per week for a year. When I explained that these prices were actually much greater than my monthly discretionary spending budget (my husband and I allocate a certain amount for our "allowances" -- discretionary money that we are not accountable to one another for and which doesn't figure into the detail of our monthly budget), the very nice young 30 year old who bragged to me that he had such low body fat that he sank to the bottom of the pool like a stone) presented much "better prices", the best of which is fully one third of my monthly discretionary spending, and that for 3 half-hour sessions per month. Sigh.

Well, onward anyway!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nutrition Science with the Chickadees

Today, my real-life and blogging friend, Susan (WhyMommy of Toddler Planet) is undergoing surgery for a locally metastatic recurrence of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer she successfully battled two years ago. Susan is a fantastic person, an inspiration, and one of the most intuitive and least neurotic moms I know. She also happens to be an astrophysicist who is dedicating her life and career to promoting women in science.

In honor of Susan as she undergoes surgery and prepares to begin another course of radiation, Stimey proposed that Susan's supporters take part in a virtual science fair to show her how much she inspires us, not just as a cancer survivor, but also as a woman, mom, and scientist. So without further ado, here's a little something I like to call "Nutrition Science with the Chickadees".

Our nutrition science activities included (1) sitting on our behinds and watching (thanks hulu) two segments of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (the "making of chicken nuggets" horror and the "beef fat in the dumpster" scariness) and then discussing whether we should want to eat chicken nuggets and things that are fried and brown, (2) an inadvertent experiment that happened when a bag of McDonald's apples was, um, left too long in Mommy's purse, and (3) an experiment testing the fat content in food.

First, the chickadees watched with great interest and growing disgust as Jamie Oliver created chicken nuggets from a chicken carcass, chicken fat, stabilizers, flavorings, breadcrumbs, and oil. We discussed whether those things were good for you and why they might be or might not be. I'm happy to inform you that both girls thought chicken nuggets were disgusting, unlike the children on the program. We also watched a few minutes as Jamie poured one week's worth of chocolate milk (more sugar than soda), sloppy joes, and other disgusting cafeteria foods into a large tarp, demonstrating for parents what kinds of foods their children were being given at school. In the most horrible revelation, he had a truck empty the equivalent of all the fat the school consumed in a year into a dumpster. Blech. It makes me glad that Chickadee #1 goes to a school that doesn't serve lunch most days, leaving the onus on me to provide nutritious meals. Unfortunately, on the days that her school does serve lunch, the lunch consists of either pizza, with a choice of chips, ice cream, or apples, or hot dogs and sloppy joes, with a choice of chips, ice cream, or apples.

In the "accidental experiment", Mommy found a bag of apple slices that had been marinating in her purse for several days. When asked, Chickadee #1 said that it looked like "great big, puffed up balloon". We discussed the fact that carbon dioxide is a gas that is released when organic material, like apples, decay. Usually, we said, the gas is released into the air and you can't see or realize it but, in this case, the apples were sealed in a plastic bag, which meant that the gas couldn't escape and was trapped in the bag. That meant we could watch what happened. We tried to wait to see whether the bag would explode from the pressure of the expanding gas, but impatience won out. We pierced the bag and smelled the gas. "Yuck," was the consensus. Chickadee # 1 didn't think that it smelled like anything apple-related. I'm glad to know that they don't recognize the smell of hard cider (which was all I used to drink when I was in graduate school in Ireland).

Finally, we got to the real experiment. Here, we tested the fat content of various foods (mostly Easter leftovers - we don't have ham, potatoes drenched in butter, and cheesecake (or asparagus, for that matter) on a regular basis) by rubbing them on brown paper and holding the paper up to the light. It was a delightful experience for me as I watched the Chickadees actually do a science experiment and draw the correct conclusions. I got to explain what a hypothesis is and to teach them how to think about what they did. It was fantastic and funny, and my favorite quote was:

Mommy: "It's okay to get a little messy...."

Chickadee #1: "It IS science."

So, for your viewing pleasure, here is our whole experiment of "Nutrition Science with the Chickadees". Sorry about the "hacking up a lung like a three-pack-a-day" smoker. I've been hard hit with allergies and reactive airway disorder is acting up. I should have done the breathing fish (Chickadee #2's name for the nebulizer) before we started -- she has RAD too.

I can't get blogger to upload the video, so I'm posting it in segments on YouTube.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Leprechaun Trap, or Being Prepared

Last Monday, I took Chickadee #1 to school as normal. There was an unusual crowd of parents at the door, so she slipped through in front of me before I could walk in. Thirty seconds later, she was back, her mouth in the perfect upside-down "U" shape it gets when she is devestated and about to cry. See, we (ahem, I) had forgotten about her leprechaun trap. Right there on the class calendar for all to see -- if "all" would only look at the calendar more than once a week. We had even had an unusually long weekend because she came home from school early on Wednesday with a stomach ache, then stayed home Thursday as precaution and was off already on Friday. But we didn't do the leprechaun trap. And, aside from googling "leprechaun trap" on Wednesday (the last time before Monday that I check the calendar), I gave it not one thought. Thus, on Monday, we were unprepared.

So I did what any self-respecting neurotic mother would do. I said, "Chickadee #1 -- no crying. We're going home and making your leprechaun trap." So, off we went. The flap from a cardboard box, some aluminum foil, the pot from a fake shamrock plant I had on the front porch, the base of the pot, a jar lid, and curtain rings, some tacky glue and packing tape, and 30 minutes -- this is what you get:

One happy (at least not crying) child, one leprechaun trap, and one mommy who's left kicking herself for not only being unprepared, but also for teaching her child the wrong lesson and taking responsibility for her school work in an unhealthy way.

So what does this all have to do with weight loss and my lack of it?

Preparation. Organization. Foresight. Taking the time to do things right.

All areas where I need help, and lots of it.

The one thing that I will say for myself is that I'm a good starter -- a great auld starter, actually. The trouble lies in finishing. Today I started my combination liver cleansing/penitential to prepare for Easter two week project to follow the guidelines established by Eric Berg (The Seven Principles of Fat Burning). In some ways, I'm skeptical -- I mean, Berg IS a chiropractor, after all -- not a nutritionist or a doctor. In other ways, I'm inspired -- two of my cousins, an aunt and an uncle, and now my sister and brother in law have all gone down this path. And my cousin, the first to try this, was directed to do it by her nutritionist.

The liver cleansing/penitential phase involves eating NO animal proteins or starches (breads, potatoes, rice) for two weeks (you can add a small amount of animal protein (a few ounces) per day if not having it makes you feel faint or sick. It also involves drinking the very pleasant cocktail of spring water (6 oz), unsweetened cranberry juice (2 ounces), lemon juice (2 T), and cider vinegar (1/2 t - 1 t) THREE TIMES PER DAY. So today, I started slowly. I'm not quite ready to go the no coffee/tea route (so I've had several cups of tea today). I also made myself a spinach and egg white omelet. But for lunch I'm having black bean soup (and probably for dinner too). This is going to be interesting. And scary and difficult, but my sister put it into great perspective yesterday. She just started week 2 of this phase, and said, "I know I can do anything for two weeks. I can do this."

I can do this.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heavy Heart

Just when I was feeling pretty good about myself, and what I'm doing, this happens. Chickadee #1 had a friend over for a play date and early dinner. As the children were eating, the friend said, "Chickadee #1, I think you are going to look like your mom when you grow up." Chickadee #1 leaned over and whispered something into her friend's ear, and wouldn't tell me what she had said. I let the matter drop, but at bath time (which just started), I asked again what she had said. She hesitated to tell me until I said, "I won't be upset no matter what it was." Then my beloved daughter, my whipcracker smart, funny, talented little girl, my five year old said, "I said 'Except I won't be fat." I just replied, "Oh." and left the room. Now I'm recording the shame and sadness into the permanent (well, digital) record as I sit at my keyboard crying. How pathetic.

I guess I just have to look at this as an impetus for further, permanent change. But oh how it hurts.

And it's sad to know that while, in my imagination, I look like the person in the WHFS T-shirt, I really look the like person in the blue sleeveless number. What the heck was I thinking? Sigh.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thin Is the New Happy

In my profile, I describe myself as a weight-loss book aficionado. In fact, if one could lose weight by reading about it, I'd be Twiggy. I've always tended to mediate reality through the printed word and there is something incredibly comforting to read a memoir such as Valerie Frankel's Thin Is The New Happy and to find a fellow-traveler, someone who articulates the struggle of those who have tried, succeeded, failed, and tried again to lose weight -- whether we need to lose a significant or a negligible amount.

As I read Frankel's excellent book, I cringed where appropriate, sighed ruefully where appropriate, and even cried where appropriate. Like Frankel, I suffered under the tyranny of middle-school bullies who hated and tormented me for no decent reason at all (you know who you are). Like Frankel, I occasionally have fantasies of telling those nasty people how much they had to do with transforming a relatively happy kid into a miserable teenager whose only thought was to do as well as possible in school so that I could get a scholarship to a college FAR FAR FAR away from anyone who might know me and might remember that a particularly "endearing" sobriquet I was known by in middle school was MonagHAM. Ha ha ha ha. And, to make it all worse -- I was no chubbier than many other girls in my class and turned out to be fairly well-proportioned in high school and college.

That scarring experience resonates for me today in ways that I hardly notice any more -- but reading this book brought them into focus for me. For example, Frankel relates buying a clicker so that she can count all the instances in which she thinks badly of herself or talks unkindly to herself. She counted instances of "negative self-talking" numbering in the hundreds EACH DAY -- in fact, she calculated that she had a negative thought about her body or looks every three and a half minutes. That sounds familiar -- I can't recall the last time I looked at myself in the mirror and liked what I saw -- that's a lie -- it was the day I met my future husband. Ten years ago. Even on my wedding day I was either counting flaws or not thinking about what I looked like, just hoping that everything would go well.

Frankel also talks about the personal consultation she had with her friend, Stacy London, the style guru from What Not to Wear. Everything in Frankel's closet was chosen to hide some perceived flaw. Most of it was trashed and, armed with explicit instructions from London, Frankel bought a new wardrobe which suited her life, looks, and style. It's a secret fantasy of mine to be whisked away by the What Not to Wear team and transformed, except that I would only want to do it after losing weight and I'm too shy to go on TV. But anyone who knows me in person can see that my clothes follow a pattern -- the things I choose are mostly black, green, or brown. I like to fade into the background -- I don't want people to look at me too much. And that shows. But I am working on changing that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm Back

This'll be short, but I PROMISE to start writing again. I've been really depressed lately because of the repercussions of my knee injury in NOVEMBER. It's just been this last week where I have not been in constant pain. I guess a week of enforced immobility because of 2 massive snowstorms in a week was what I needed -- neither the chickadees nor my husband nor I had anywhere to go at all for a whole week. It was a bit... ahem... confining. But I think it really helped in my healing process.

I have news to report also -- I've lost 7 pounds, which is not a lot but, after months of stasis, seems like a mountain. I joined a gym and actually went to work out for the first time today. Previous visits were only to visit the jacuzzi. While it was humiliating to discover that I couldn't figure out how to work one of the stair step machines and evidently don't have the strength in my right leg (which is odd) to make it work properly, I did ride the recumbent bike for 15 minutes and walk on the treadmill for half an hour.

And I'm not in pain. And I feel good about myself. It helped that there was a mirror in front of me -- watching myself walking was a somewhat humiliating experience, but in the mirror, I could see the shadow of the woman I want to be -- someone who sets a goal and achieves it, no matter how flipping long it takes. Over the past several years, I've been knocked down multiple times by various issues. But, by heaven, I was back on that darned treadmill today. And I'm going swimming tomorrow. Go me.