Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me

I have a birthday in a few days. It is one of those insignificant numbers, nothing to get too worked up about. Except it comes right after a big number. And somehow the birthdays following a big birthday are even more troubling. Not only did you hit the big one, but they just keep coming.

I am not a fan of my birthday so I am not writing this to solicit well wishes. In fact, I'd prefer that my birthday be a low-key or even no-key affair. I am happy to celebrate anyone else's birthday, but my own just leaves me melancholy. It isn't about getting older, because I've been this way since my 20s. It is a condition I have dubbed PBD - Pre-Birthday Depression. It is the period of time, usually the week preceding, where I am in a funk. I spend the time reflecting on the past year of my life and brooding about all the things I didn't accomplish. All the things I didn't improve upon. The 10 pounds I didn't lose, the class on using my DSLR camera I didn't take, the household projects I didn't get to. While I am usually more of a glass-half-full kind of gal, PBD is a lens where I can only see the negative. I want to crawl into bed and eat chocolate until it passes.

This past year hasn't been easy. Last summer, while training for a marathon I injured my knee. I have never had a sports injury before and did not realize that recovery is a slow and often times not linear process. So I went from running 5 days a week and thinking about running constantly to not running at all but still thinking about running constantly. And when I when I finally was on the road to recovery I had to rebuild my mileage slowly, only to be told I had to have surgery and then needed to take more time off and then start over again rebuilding my mileage. And then I got a pinched a nerve in my back which had me out for a while. So once again I find myself starting over with running and slowly rebuilding my mileage and speed and trying not to be discouraged.

Which brings me to today. It was a beautiful day outside and I was able to go for a run - the longest run for quite some time. And at a pace that wasn't humiliating.

I was out on my run and feeling fantastic. I am killing the hills and not feeling like I need to stop. Nothing hurts. And I fly by two women who were wogging on the path (this is a half-jog, half-walk). They were easily 10 years younger than me, thin, cute and very hip in their wogging gear. I passed them on my way out and did my runner's hello smile and nod. And on the way back I did the same and one of them called out to me, and I quote, "Wow, you are really moving. I want to be you." 

I don't know if I will ever see these woggers again and I sincerely hope they continue on their path to runners because they were working hard (and they owe it to their cute outfits). But thank you woggers, with that friendly greeting you completely dispelled my PBD. I have been glowing all day and it isn't an extended runner's high. It is from knowing that regardless of the trials and tribulations of my past year I am indestructible and resilient, regardless of my age. And it isn't about what did or did not get done in the past year. It is about all the wonderful things that are ahead of me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I want my extra day

As I am sure you are aware, it is a leap year. That means we get an extra day in February. Yahoo! But wait, is it really an *extra* day in the year? The dictionary lists one of the definitions of extra as "an item which is in addition to what is usual or strictly necessary". So in other words, we do not need this day for any specific purpose. In my opinion, if a day is truly extra it should be free of anything. Since most years February 29 does not exist, we should consider it a bonus when it does show up and get the day off. Every other year we manage to make due with only 365 days so I would like to keep my 366th day all to myself when it comes around. Completely and totally off. On February 29, regardless of what day of the week it falls on, there should be no school, no work, no meetings, no appointments. My husband's smartphone will not produce anything of interest that would distract from our family time. All the stores should be closed so there can be no errands. I envision this once-every-four-years-break kind of like Christmas, but without gifts and all the family angst and huge meals. It would be a day where everything pretty much shuts down so that you have no choice but to shrug your shoulders, make a cup of tea and read your book. And since it's a random day off that only happens every four years, my kids would be so ecstatic that they wouldn't sit home and bicker and complain but join hands and sing Kumbaya. Because as long as I'm envisioning the utopia of February 29 why not go big? Everyone would be thankful for the extra day, knowing it won't come around again for a while.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Taking a bite out of life

This morning my daughter ate a piece of cardboard. She is 9 and this is not behavior you would typically expect at this age. Okay, so I won't be the least bit surprised if her brother eats cardboard at 9, or 19, but that's another issue. So why would my daughter willingly eat the piece of cardboard? Was it a dare? Was she showing off and being silly? No, she wanted to see if it was candy.

Last night my husband brought home a half dozen gourmet cupcakes from a fabulous local bakery. They were a gift from a political journalism organization trying to woo him into subscribing to their services. Each beautiful cupcake had a disc with the company's logo placed on it, about the size of a silver dollar. My daughter assumed that because they were on the tops of the cupcakes they must be edible, and therefore were candy. She could not be convinced that they were just cardboard despite our repeated assurances so she took a bite.

We are not sure why she wouldn't believe us. Did she think we wanted to keep all the candy discs for ourselves, to eat when she wasn't around? Did she think we were trying to deprive her of the candy discs because we'd just gotten back from the dentist? Who knows? The point is, she had to find out for herself whether or not they were in fact cardboard. The downside would be a mouthful of paper. The potential upside was tremendous.

And that is just one of the many reasons why I love and admire my daughter. She considers the downside but is always focused on the upside. The what if? She is not a reckless child, but she is a risk taker. And the world needs risk takers. We need people who look at the status quo and not only ask why, but just as readily ask why not? She is constantly coming up with new and creative ways of doing things. I find this exhausting - why can't we just do them the proven way? The efficient and easy way? We know the outcome. It is cardboard, not candy. But if everyone had that attitude then we'd still believe the world was flat, or that travel to space is not possible so why even try? I would be willing to bet that all the great thinkers and doers of the ages bit into some cardboard at one point in time. Maybe even more than once.

I am not a risk taker and never have been. I am way too conservative, worrying about the potential for things to go wrong. I work very hard to prevent disaster or messiness and this isn't a recent development because I'm now a mom or because I've gotten older. I spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons to ensure a positive outcome. But the drawback is I will never experience the thrill of biting into what everyone else told me was cardboard, only to discover they were wrong and it was the best candy I've ever tasted. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The best surgery ever

Shortly after the first of the year I had surgery on my knee. Was I scared? No, not in the least. I have had five other surgeries in the past 7 years, all more involved than this. By comparison, this was the equivalent of getting my teeth cleaned. At the hospital. Under anesthesia. Was there a chance that my knee condition would be worsened by the surgery? Or that I might suffer cardiac arrest why I was under? Or respiratory failure? Or paralysis? Yes, yes, yes and yes according to the pre-surgery waiver I signed. But I wasn't concerned. But I was nervous. I was nervous about what would happen to my household while I was at the hospital for the better part of the day. I was nervous about what would happen while I was confined to bed after the surgery. I had visions of a domestic apocalypse.

In preparation for the surgery I ran around like a crazy woman tying up every loose end I could think of. I caught up completely on laundry for the first time in...ever. The refrigerator and pantry were stocked. I was as ready as I would ever be. The night before the procedure I looked my husband straight in the eye, told him I loved him and then signed an affidavit stating that I would be a good patient. I would obey doctor's orders. I would not attempt to spring from my bed less than 24 hours post-op and run off to volunteer somewhere as I have been known to do in the past. I said I would take it easy and as a show of good faith (besides the affidavit) I for the following week. I didn't schedule a single meeting. I made a point of telling people that I was having surgery, not to elicit their well-wishes or promise of meals but so they knew not to email me with requests for my help that I would be unable to deny.

So I had the surgery on a Friday. My husband brought me home and I hobbled upstairs to bed. That night I had to use my crutches to get to the bathroom. The next morning I woke up and felt...fine. By the end of Saturday I was completely crutch-free and going up and down the stairs. By Sunday I was hardly limping. And by Monday I could put all my weight on the repaired leg. The outcome was everything I could have hoped for. And more.

What more, you might ask? The *more* was in the form of the affidavit I signed. The one that required me to rest. To lay in bed. Read my book. Ask people to bring me things. I used this opportunity to have my children help around the house in ways they would otherwise reject. Such as being quiet. I had my husband take the dog to the groomer, something I had been meaning to get to for a month. I asked people to do things without reproach or guilt. It was awesome.

And my fears of the domestic apocalypse? Completely unfounded. Thanks to my sister and my mother-in-law helping out by taking my children away from our house, it actually stayed cleanish. And intact. More or less.

When Monday rolled around and the kids went off to school and my husband went off to work I was alone. And my calendar was completely empty. At first it felt weird, and I admit I was a bit panicky. But I was also still exhausted from the surgery, so I took a nap. Okay, I took two naps. Make that three. With the dog at my side. It was the day there was a light snow falling and at one point the dog and I just laid on the bed while I drank a mug of cocoa and read my book.

I would love to say I spent the entire week like that, but then you would worry that perhaps they'd accidentally given me a lobotomy in addition to fixing the knee. So I admit that by Tuesday night I snuck off to a meeting and had a few other meetings throughout the rest of the week. Yes, I did not honor the affadavit but I don't think my husband ever expected I would. At least not for as long as I did. But for almost two whole days I did pretty much nothing. And I didn't feel guilty. I felt...rested.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New New Year

After giving it some thought, I have decided that I will not be starting my new year on January 1st. The first day of the generally recognized new year falls at a really inconvenient time. For starters, my house is a mess, I'm too exhausted to care, and the only thing I am resolving to do is get my children back to school. It has been a non-stop flurry of activity from Thanksgiving to Christmas, to my daughter's birthday on December 27th and then New Year's Eve and New Year's Day celebrating. I think I last sat down for more than 5 minutes right about the time the leaves started falling. Everyone is cranky and bitter because winter break is coming to an end and they have to get dressed before noon. My children are preparing to mutiny over the idea that candy will no longer be eaten at 10am. I am not ready to *start* anything, except maybe a nap.

When the Romans developed the modern calendar they started the year in March, which would work much better for me. I am even willing to consider using the Chinese New Year later this month. My old-school, hard copy18 month agenda-planner starts on September 1. But January 1st just won't do. So forgive me January 1, I refuse to recognize you as the start of the new year. I will be starting my new year on a yet-to-be-determined date. Most likely one when my house is clean, or at least doesn't look like something blew up, and I have something in our pantry besides pretzels to feed my family.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh....Christmas Tree

I am not someone who jumps out of bed the morning after Thanksgiving and starts madly decorating our home for Christmas. Since I am always the one who hosts Thanksgiving at our house I am usually the one moaning the morning after about how exhausted I am and the thought of launching into the next holiday is unfathomable. As a result, we usually delay our Christmas decorating for a week. Or more.

We are a family that still insists upon getting a real Christmas tree. When the children were younger and our tolerance for activities that involved driving far distances and cutting things was low we got our tree from the lot down the street. These were always lovely trees with plenty to choose from in the perfect height and they tied it to the roof of our van with twine so we could drive it home. The whole process took less than 30 minutes including the time it took for me to dither over which of the perfect trees was truly the most perfect-est.

Last year I decided our children were old enough and our tolerances were high enough that we were going to drive out to a Christmas tree farm and cut our own. How festive! What a family bonding experience! When we told the kids they were excited. My daughter immediately got busy finding the appropriate outfit for the occasion which consisted of a skirt and blouse, tights, black patent shoes and her faux leopard coat and hat. The rest of us felt woefully underdressed in our jeans, sweaters, parkas and boots.

We drove out to the farm and while it did take longer than our usual drive to the local lot it didn't take days to get there. Or even hours. If I recall correctly, the drive took one hour. And yet our children complained bitterly, like we had been driving since before the sun came up. For several days on end. They demanded snacks and a video. I told them we are never driving across country. Or even to New York.

Once we got to the farm we sprang from the car and took big, deep breaths of the cool, crisp pine air. There was a fire pit and a rack of hand saws. My children immediately made a beeline for the saws. Once we sorted out who was allowed to use the saws (only daddy) and who would be carrying the bamboo measuring pole (them, taking turns) we started out in search of our tree.

As I mentioned previously, we do not come rushing out of the starting gate with our decorating the day of Thanksgiving. We kind of take a few weeks to warm up to the idea and get comfortable with the fact that it is already December. As a result, when we went to the farm to get our tree we were a little on the late side. At the lot back home that isn't a problem because they keep bringing new trees to replace the stock. At the farm, once a tree has been cut down it's gone, so you have to keep walking until you find one suitable. And walking. And walking. With your children who are complaining about the cold, dressed in faux leopard coats and black patent shoes, trying to beat each other with a bamboo pole and whining that they want to carry the saw.

Finally, after much searching we found the perfect tree. Well, almost perfect. There was a sketchy side but it could face the wall and would be fine. And we were tired and hungry and cold. So the husband got to work cutting it.

A few years ago we moved to a new house with higher ceilings. Much higher ceilings. And yet we had continued to buy a tree that fit our old house's lower ceilings. But not this year! We had measured and knew exactly what size larger tree we needed. What we didn't take into consideration was this much larger tree would have a much larger trunk. And so the husband laid on the ground with the small, dull, only slightly-sharper-than-a-plastic-knife, farm provided hand saw and sawed away at the large trunk. And sawed. And sawed. And got tired and so I sawed a bit. And then we got desperate and let each kid saw for a while. And finally it was almost cut loose and I misunderstood the husband's directions for holding the tree at the correct angle and when he finally cut it through completely it fell on him.

Once he crawled out from under the tree we realized we had to drag the massive tree a million miles back through the tree farm to the parking lot. It was big. And heavy. So we began the process of getting it back to the car. We had to stop a few times to peel off layers of clothing and catch our breath. And our children continued to straggle behind beating each other with the bamboo pole and swinging the saw at each other because by this point we had lost the will to care. But eventually we got the tree back, sat by the fire pit for a few minutes and drank hot cider, paid for the tree and the attendant tied it to the roof of our car and we drove home with our glorious tree.

Once we got home we cut it down from the roof of the car and dragged it inside. We got out our Christmas tree stand that we had been using for many years. It was the fancy kind from Brookstone that practically puts the tree up itself. Or at least it would've if it had been the sized tree we had gotten in all those previous years. Not the new massive one. With the massive trunk that didn't fit in our stand.

The husband was so overcome with the spirit of the holidays that he ran out to get a new stand that would fit our tree. Okay, actually he was nagged until he ran away, and it just so happened he ran off in the direction of the store. Which was out of the larger sized stands. At this point he was done for the time being. So the tree sat outside, leaning against the house in the back yard until the next weekend when we had recovered our Christmas spirit and banished our apathy and found the right sized stand after checking two more stores.

Finally we had the tree up, the sketchy side was facing the wall, we added lights and ornaments, and it was everything we thought it would be and more. And because of that lovely experience that has been transformed in my children's minds into the best Christmas tradition ever, I am now looking forward to a repeat of the whole event this coming weekend. But at least this time we already have the stand. And we are bringing our own chain saw.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My case of almost-insomnia

A few years ago I suffered from insomnia. It was a miserable and hellish existence that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The cycle of exhaustion during the day that borders on insanity and the dread as night approaches and once again you will be faced with the inability to sleep, even though there is nothing your body craves more. Luckily for me I no longer suffer from insomnia. Instead, I suffer from almost-insomnia. My almost-insomnia started around 18 months ago, in the spring of 2010 when we switched to daylight savings time. Something about the time change, the early morning light and my aging body created a perfect storm of which I have yet to escape. 

The reason I call it almost-insomnia is because I fall asleep fine. I sleep well through the night. And then I wake up. At 5:30am. Wide awake. Did I mention it is 5:30am? I do not want to be awake at 5:30am. There is little to nothing to do at 5:30am except work at the computer. I could go running, but it is dark. I could watch television, but it is morning and technically I should be getting ready for the day. The grocery store isn't open. Target isn't open. So instead I get up and have some coffee and think longingly of all those people who have to set an alarm to rouse them out of bed at 6:30 or 7:00. This works well when I have a lot going on and tons of work to catch up on and am so busy during the daytime hours that I need the extra morning time to get it done. This totally sucks when I have nothing urgent to attend to and there is space open on my calendar to accomplish whatever needs to get done that week during normal person hours. 

The downside of the almost-insomnia is that I am exhausted by mid-afternoon. By the evening I am a zombie. If I could go to bed at 7pm maybe that wouldn't be an issue. But for some reason my kids don't want to get on this schedule. They are burning the midnight oil, staying up as late as 8:30pm most nights. They have no consideration for mommy's almost-insomnia.

And yes, I have tried altering my sleep schedule by going to bed later. All that happens is that I get less sleep because regardless of when I go to bed, I am up at 5:30am. Even when I traveled to France this past spring, took a red-eye flight there, adjusted to the time change, flew back home and...immediately reverted back to my 5:30am wake up time. 

The problem with my almost-insomnia is there is no sympathy. If I mention it to friends it sounds like I'm bragging. Saying *oh, I just automatically wake up at 5:30am* is only a few degrees away from *I try and I try and no matter what I eat I simply can't gain any weight*. No one feels sorry for you. 

The medical profession truly cares about the insomniacs. They have lots of ways they can attempt to help you including several different medication options. The almost-insomniacs get sighs and reminders that we are technically getting the recommended amount of sleep for our age, and we are sleeping through the night, and it's not like we are waking up at 3am. In other words, we need to and accept this is our lot in life.

So I continue to exist with this condition and hope that one day it will get enough recognition and appreciation that there will be telethons and charity 5k races in its honor instead of eye rolling. In the meantime I think the best I can do is plan a trip to Hawaii where there is a several hour time change and then stay for a few months until my body's clock works things out. But until then, if you ever need someone to have coffee with you at 5:30am send me a text.