This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Grace #21 Our New Home

It's quiet right now. In just another hour our little rental home will be descended upon by a team of professionals: people trained in the art of packing a truck like a 3 dimensional puzzle, driving that puzzle carefully down the road, and unpacking it in record time. Their tools of the trade are heavy blankets, furniture dollies, fantastic spatial awareness, and strong backs.

Today is moving day.

Like many new homeowners I have composed, edited, thrown out, and recreated list upon list of all the things I need for my new home. I have taken into account our current possessions, lifestyle, goals for the new house, neighborhood, and checking account. Thousands of things were evaluated, considered, and rejected. I have narrowed it down to the 5 most important things I must have for my new home:

1. Love. We must fill this house with love just as our boxes are filled with packing peanuts. If it's love that takes up all the extra space we won't have to worry about anything getting broken.

2. Peace. Wrapping peace around our lives will act just like those heavy-duty furniture blankets: it will soften all the blows, cushion the times we rub each other the wrong way, and keep our souls from getting knicked.

3. Health. Our boxes are made of triple-layer corrugated cardboard. They have packing suggestions, weight limits, and are meant to be used again and again. This really sounds a lot like my own body. I took really good care of those boxes I purchased when we moved from Toledo. I kept them dry, flat, and away from insects. I didn't let any harmful substances leak into them that would compromise their structure. Every one of those boxes served me well for this move. If I went to all that trouble for a box it seems only right that I could do at least as much for my/my family's health.

4. Faith. Sometimes when a really heavy load or multiple small loads are being carried a hand truck or furniture dolly is used. It makes maneuvering all that weight manageable. It doesn't look like that relatively small tool can move that gigantic sofa ... but it can. Faith is just like that for me: I am always amazed at what a little faith, used properly, can do. It can mend relationships, heal brain tumors, make cross-country moves work out okay, and ease a worried mind. A home filled with faith is automatically filled with hope, dreams, and miracles.

5. Gratitude. Miles and miles of tape went into making, securing, and binding our boxes. I think Gratitude is like that tape: it binds all of our good intentions, positive feelings, and productive emotions into a nice secure structure. We can remove the Gratitude, re-position it as necessary, and it will still stick us together.

I intend to fill my new home with all of these necessities. If you're surprised that I didn't mention new bedding, furniture, lighting, and decorative accessories well don't worry, I'll be sure to add all of those things as well. It's just that for right now. In the quiet. I am able to listen and hear what's really important.

And I am Grateful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

She wants an Itty Bitty Teeny Tiny Hot Pink Flowered Bikini...

My daughter's BFF just bought a new swimsuit. Sigh. Did she buy the standard Land's End Tugless Tankini with privacy liner, you may ask? Nope, she did not. Then she must have bought the LLBean Rash Guard with matching Swim shorts, you may be thinking. Sadly, no, not the rash guard and swim shorts either.

She bought a tiny little hot pink hibiscus flowered bikini with lime green trim, circa Target, 2009.

So guess what my daughter wants now? Yep, you guessed it, she wants to know when she can have a bikini. Now for the record, I am not actually against the bikini. I think there is a fairly wide spectrum of swimwear and I know we can find plenty of 2 piece suits that fall respectably within the bikini part of the spectrum but are still appropriate swimwear. I also know that to forbid the bikini is essentially to throw down the challenge: how frequently can you wear a bikini behind my back and get away with it? I know this because I was forbidden to wear a bikini. When I was 12 we visited my cousins in Kentucky. My aunt dropped us off at the pool where I immediately went into the restroom and changed from my mom's-choice-really-cute-one-piece to my cousin's friend's mom's quite-ugly-but-at-least-it-is-a-bikini abomination from the early '70s. Then when I was 14 I had babysitting money so I simply purchased my own bikinis, wore them underneath my clothes, put my one piece in my bag, was dropped off at the pool and mom was none the wiser. This went on for probably a year or so before I was "found out." My mom was mad at being lied to, mad that I went behind her back, mad that it had been going on for so long, and felt helpless because she realized that there wasn't much point in telling me I couldn't wear something I had been wearing for years.

I'm hoping to avoid that particular fight with my daughter by applying some of what I've learned from own poor behavior and from other friends' stories: I won't forbid the bikini because in forbidding it I set myself up to be lied to and my daughter to be sneaky. I also completely forfeit any say in the style of bikini because my daughter would be choosing it with her friends or (God forbid) her boyfriend and I wouldn't even know she was wearing it.

So back to the bikini issue, it's not really me that will be the great roadblock in her plans to bare her midriff. It's Steve. Steve cannot imagine any situation in which it will be okay for so much of his daughter's skin to be on display. He cannot fathom why I wouldn't be as adamant about this as he is. Well, I guess it's because I've been there. I've done that. I realize that wearing the bikini is (right now) more about fitting in with friends' cute fashions and not really (yet) about sexuality. There will definitely be a time when the swimsuit choice is all about attracting a mate, showing off what the Good Lord gave her, and trying to be mature and frankly, more than ever, that's when I want to be able to weigh in on the swimsuit choice. I recognize that there will still be times when I will be lied to. When my daughter will sneak around behind my back. When she will see just how much freedom she has or can take. I'm no fool now and I was no angel back then.

But for right now I still have her. She's still mine. She still obeys because she doesn't realize yet that she has a choice. And for these last few precious weeks, months, or years that this is true I want to cultivate as much of a my-mom-is-reasonable-and-can-be-reasoned-with relationship as I can.

'Cause I know this for sure: it's not about the swimsuit. It's never just about the swimsuit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grace #19 TiVo and Grace #20 Netflix

I admit it, I am a product of technology. I love my laptop, my cell phone, the internet (all previous Graces you may recall), and now I am here to wax poetic first about TiVo and then about its companion Netflix.

Prior to TiVo I had to watch commercials. I had to watch whatever was on at the network's convenience, rather than my convenience. I had to remember channels and schedules. I had to be aware of when new shows were starting. If I missed an episode of my favorite show then I had to wait several years for the show to go into syndication before I could see the episode I'd missed. I actually planned my daughter's activities to ensure that she could take some "down time" while watching The Berenstain Bears or Clifford the Big Red Dog. If we weren't home between 3-3:30 in the afternoon our only other option was to put in a DVD.

I was living in the dark ages, I tell you!

Now I have none of those concerns. I am blissfully unaware of what networks carry what shows. They can change their schedules weekly and it doesn't affect me. I don't have to watch reruns or commercials.

I initially resisted TiVo coming into our home. I was afraid that having it would make TV more important in our lives. I was completely wrong: the TV became dramatically less important. Knowing that our favorite shows would be available whenever we wanted to watch them enabled us to forget about the TV and do other things. And now that TiVo can stream Netflix movies directly to our TV...well my friends, it nearly brings a tear to my eye.

Netflix is the greatest invention since sliced bread. When I was at home for a day icing my foot, I watched Wedding Crashers. When I was home all week with my sick daughter we watched Beethoven and Air Bud. When Steve and I feel like watching TV and learning something we watch a documentary. Comedies, dramas, children's programming, documentaries, and musicals old and new - Netflix has them all and can stream them instantly and in (almost) perfect format directly to my home.

Hard to believe all this entertainment, freedom, technology, and convenience costs only $9.95 a month isn't it?

Life is good.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This little bowel problem "runs" in the family!

Yes, that was one of the worst puns ever used on this blog, but the truth of the statement remains: the women in my family have been plagued by irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colons, and the wicked twisties for generations. So today, when my daughter had to have us pull over at the nearest McDonald's because she couldn't wait the 12 minutes it would have taken us to get home, I understood. I've been there. Many, many times. As she emerged from McDonald's restroom pale, shaky, with chills, and embarrassed I told her that she was merely a product of her genetic heritage. I told her that it just as easily could have been me 30 years ago, begging my parents to pull over, terrified that I wouldn't make it, and trying to explain to my mostly baffled father and my amused brothers that I really couldn't wait just 10 minutes!

I carried this little problem with me for years: taking it to camp when I was 7 and I asked the counselor if I could go to the bathroom and she told me we'd all go together after dinner. Perhaps the other campers waited but I couldn't so my adorable blue/white seersucker shorts were used poorly that day. I then stuffed those shorts into my duffel, forgot about them, and only remembered a week or so later when my mom screamed when emptying my camp duffel in the laundry room. Oh yea, mom, I had a little problem during dinner one day at camp...

I brought the problem with me to high school where I handled it by simply not eating. If I was going on a date, going to a concert, going to a party I simply did not eat. I was very, very thin in high school.

Of course the problem went with me to college where, just to make things interesting, for 3 years I had about an hour commute each way to school. I was also very thin in college.

And the problem followed me into the workplace where it attacked one day after a work luncheon when I was carpooling with 3 co-workers and we had a 40 minute drive back to the office. I had broken my own rule to never eat and I was paying for it. That little incident found me huddled under an overpass in the middle of December while truckers honked and my co-workers (believing I was throwing up) took bets on whether or not I was pregnant. I never carpooled to lunch again.

I learned.

I was 32 years old before I realized I was allergic to dairy and my life completely changed. My hay fever decreased, my skin cleared up and my intestines breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time ever I was able to carpool without fear, eat without wondering if I was going to pay for it later, and not cringe upon hearing my husband shout "Road trip!" I noticed the signs early in my daughter and have been pretty successful in keeping her diet pristine, but she's getting older now, making some of her own food choices, and today that free cup of cookie dough ice cream just looked a little too tempting for her to pass it up.

She learned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Me" Time

Today is the last day for uninterrupted, at my own leisure, on my own schedule "me" time. Tomorrow school is over at 11 a.m. and my real job revs up from 11:01 a.m. on June 19 to 8:29 a.m. on August 26th. I am ready for this school year to be over. This has been a year of ups and downs, excitement and sheer terror, sadness and loss coupled with wonder and gain.

I think 4th grade is a hard year no matter if you move 800 miles and start a new school or not. I know my 4th grade experience was terrible: I was extremely awkward looking, my parents were having a lot of marital problems, my best friend Maria didn't want to be best friends anymore as she discovered her 'inner jock' and I discovered loneliness. My homeroom teacher Mrs. Gatchell had favorites and I was not among them. My math/science/gym teach Ms. Toby was scary beyond all reason. I was struggling academically, emotionally, and socially. I had absolutely no one to turn to at home but school was also a battleground of loneliness, isolation, being excluded, and feeling baffled about how it had all gone so wrong so quickly.

Needless to say I am glad that's over.

Now the dreaded 4th grade year is ending for my daughter. Our "newness" in Massachusetts is wearing off. Our closing date on our house is approaching. I am consuming a little too much sugar, exercising too little, and worrying a lot but I know it's all symptoms of stress and that too will soon end as soon as the moving truck arrives. A new kind of stress will take its place: the stress of full-time parenting. Decorating. Not enough time for myself. Too much time with the neighbors. The good kind of stress. The kind of stress on which I thrive.

Needless to say I can't wait for it to begin.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Well, she ain't Martha Stewart...

We just had house guests. Just saying those words can strike fear into hearts. Just about everybody has a fantastically funny/horrific story about house guests. I am no exception. I have a love/hate relationship with having guests to stay: on the love side I love being with family and friends. I love entertaining. I love sharing my space with those I love and who love me. I love sharing my new spot in the world. I love having casual chats, eating together, sharing unexpected laughs, and learning new things about the people in my life. On the hate side I hate my tendency to worry that everything is not perfect. I hate my struggles to let go of the Martha Stewart Entertaining Guide that runs like a ticker tape through my head as I measure my dinners up against impossible standards. I hate that I care about things that aren't important and then hate that I worry that I spent so much time caring about unimportant stuff that I missed important stuff along the way. Let's face it, I'm no Martha Stewart.

My BF Chellie and her family just left this morning. They were only with us a short time: barely 3 days. I felt like it was a really great visit. That is, I felt that way until they left, then I began to worry:
should I have stayed up later chatting instead of sticking to my routine? Why didn't I make it a priority to make Sangrias? Did I spend too much time hurrying the kids from activity to activity thus killing the natural-vacation-timeless-quality that inspires wonderful memories? Why didn't I pull my daughter out of school for 2 days, what's the big deal? Why didn't I make an apple pie like I'd originally planned? Why didn't I plan crock-pot meals so I didn't have to rush off to cook dinner? Did I spend enough one-on-one time with the kids? Why didn't we plan when we'd get together again?

Okay, (breathe), I feel better now. That's the ticker tape that starts to play for me. I don't think I'm the only one who has thoughts like these, thoughts that are a mixture of insecurity, guilt, regret, worry, and underneath it all: love. I love this family and I want their visit to be perfect. I want their visit to feel like a vacation. I want them to want to come back. I want their children to shout for joy at the prospect of spending 14 hours in a car if it means they get to stay at my house. I want Chellie's husband to beg to vacation each year in Massachusetts.

I recognize the truth in my desire to be a good hostess for my guests. I also recognize the narcissm. I want to be the hostest with the mostest. I want visits to my home to enter family lore as dream vacation destinations. I am not entirely confidant in my roles as chef, entertainment director, maitre'd, concierge, and tour guide. Really the only role in which I feel totally comfortable is that of friend. Perhaps that is the lesson I should take away from this experience: concentrate on being a good friend and let everything else fall into place.

Being a good friend...hmm...being open, honest, caring, loving, altruistic, kind, and patient. That sounds to me like everything I could ever want in a host.

So thank you for coming to my home Chel. Thank you for getting a pet sitter, packing up the house, the car, the kids, and the husband and hauling everyone 850 miles northeast. Thank you for understanding my limits as hostess and as a friend and for loving me anyway. I miss you already.

Come back soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Grace #18 Organic Mineral Makeup

There is so much discussion these days about toxins: toxins in our water bottles, our food, our clothing, our furniture, our air, our homes, and our personal care products that it is overwhelming to me sometimes. Especially with a propensity toward hypochondria, I have to remind myself that I do what I can, do the best I can to reduce my exposure, and that is all anyone can do.

So I have stainless steel water bottles, and I buy organic food when I can, and I open the windows in my car and home and I feel virtuous, a little safer, and a lot more in control of my exposure to toxins.

But most importantly, I have changed my personal care products. You know, the stuff you rub into your skin everyday: the lotions, deodorants, moisturizers, foundations, powders, and lip balms and lipsticks. The stuff that goes directly into the bloodstream through the skin, into the lymph nodes on my neck and underarms, into my mouth via my lips.

It was all toxic.

I was so surprised when I first read and understood the ingredients used in these products. I just assumed that someone had checked the safety of these products and that someone had deemed them safe because of course no one would market, produce, and distribute a product that was harmful, right? (Yes, my naivete knows no bounds, it's like I'd never heard of a cigarette, isn't it?) When I first learned of the toxic chemicals in my makeup it was a no-win situation because more natural options were not available or not available in my price range: should I not wear any makeup, which, with my skin wasn't really an option; or use the toxic stuff knowing what I was rubbing into my skin. I couldn't decide if my vanity would win out against my health concerns and it was a moral dilemma every morning. I spent several years using less makeup, or not using any foundation if it was a particularly good skin day, but I never felt good about my decisions either way.

Then, one day while browsing through Costco, a beam of fluorescent light shown down upon a new product: Physician's Formula Organic Mineral Makeup. I could even hear the faint sound of angels' trumpets over the Muzak as I picked up the product, read the ingredients, and purchased this little miracle of science and nature. It was a good day my friends, a good day.

Now my skin is glowing with good health (and mineral sheen), my conscience is clear, and my bank account is happy.

Mineral makeup: it's a good thing.

(For more information about toxins and potential toxins in your makeup go to

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grace #17 Seinfeld

I've never argued the fact that I am stuck in the late '80s/early '90s when it comes to television. I still love Seinfeld. Sure, the earlier episodes, before they found their rhythm, aren't nearly as funny as the later stuff, but I love it all anyway. I am not an aficionado. I will never win any Seinfeld Trivia Contests, nor will I ever write a fan letter. I am not that kind of fan. I am the kind of fan who, at 10:30 at night, after a really bad day, will sit down to 22 minutes (after fast-forwarding through all the commercials) of a show about nothing and will feel all of the stresses of the day start to dissolve.

I can relate all sorts of Seinfeld-ish dilemmas to my own life and they always make me smile:

Steve is Sponge-worthy.
For all race-related issues I "look to the cookie."
I frequently yada-yada the details.
My daughter is a sidler.
My dad is a close-talker.
My mom is a low-talker.
Steve buys lunch most days from a Greek version of the 'Soup Nazi'.

I was sad when the show went off the air. Life was just a little less funny for me after that. For awhile I was able to placate myself with the higher-brow humor of Boston Legal, but even that is taken from me now.

Having a sick sense of humor and very little moral conscience, I laughed uproariously at It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and am hoping for new episodes in the fall. I know that as old shows go, new shows come and replace them. I miss the old, but I'm all right.

You might even say that I'm Even Steven.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

We have a war going on in our house right now: a war between human and insect. Currently both sides have taken heavy casualties, but the humans are few (though large) and the insects are many (and not really that much smaller) so it is only a matter of time before the insects win. We can only hope we have moved out before they fully take over.

We have ants.

I don't mean just your ordinary-run-of-the-mill-picnic-ants, we have ants the size of cats roaming around here. They are big, black, and they bite. They fearlessly stroll along the counter tops, leisurely munch on the cat's food, and while they scurry away when they see Steve coming, they laugh when they see me.

You see, they know my weakness...

...I am unable to kill them. I say this with great shame, not pride. No humanitarian (insectitarian?) award for me folks because I really, really wish I could just smash the little buggers, but I can't. Every time I try to kill a bug at the last second something inside me says "you're bigger, you know better!" and I end up finding a tissue, capturing the bug, and taking it outside. I call it my catch and release program. Steve calls it stupidity. "Just smash those little buggers!" he yells at me as he watches me wrestle one into the tissue. I can't. It makes my stomach hurt to think of deliberately killing anything. Oh I admit, when one was biting me on the leg the other day, I smashed that little guy to kingdom come, but that was a reflex action, not pre-meditated murder. I'd get a lighter sentence for that one or could even claim self defense.

I keep hoping that Princess, our cat, will take over bug patrol. Not used to exerting herself any further than moving to a sunnier patch on the couch, the cat doesn't seem interested in her role as exterminator. I have no problem if the cat kills the ants, that's nature. If I kill the ants, well, that's murder. I don't like it when Steve kills the ants either, but I especially don't like it when he uses one of my shoes! It makes me feel like an accessory with the bug guts all over my soles to prove it.

Now Steve wants to bug-bomb the house. Even if I could get past the mass-murder aspect of this plan I still would refuse on the grounds that I don't wish to breathe, or have my child breathe, bug-bomb-residue-laden air. I like to suck in my pesticides the old fashioned way, through my food.

So here we are: currently at an impasse. I tell the ants that I rescue to get out, stay out, and tell their friends to stay out too. They come in greater and greater waves each day. We move in 24 days. It is a race to the finish line: who will survive the age-old battle between human and nature? I can practically hear their little antennae buzzing as they plan their attack. Up through the dirt floor in the basement. Under the ill-fitting basement door jamb. Once they hold the kitchen, they've taken the house.

I hope I have enough tissues...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Went in for a foot injury, Came out with a breast exam

I don't want to give the impression that my doctor's visit didn't go well...BUT...I did go in for the sole purpose of having a medical professional examine my foot to determine if I have a ? (still no diagnosis, but I'll get to that) pulled tendon? stress fracture? plantar fascitis? Well, we may never know exactly what ails my foot because the medical professional I saw never even looked at my foot!

I should have known that things weren't going to go well for me when, after calling 10 doctors only to be told that they weren't accepting new patients or the first appointment available was in July, this old codger had an opening in just 2 days. There are some reasons an old established doctor is accepting new patients: 1. he is a bad doctor and most of his patients die; 2. he is a bad doctor and most of his new patients don't ever come back; 3. he is a bad doctor and only very old and very desperate people will go to him (see #1); or 4. he is a bad doctor and those "in the know" know it and won't go to him.

This wasn't a young guy, or a doctor new in the area, this was an old guy who'd been practicing in Massachusetts for 40 years. All of these things should have been clues. Needless to say, I was clueless.

I get to the office early: I know the drill, I'll be filling out 3-4 pages of medical history dating back to my maternal great-great-grandmother. But wait, no medical history, no HIPAA form, just a benign little one-page (in LARGE type) sheet for name, address, and insurance info. Hmmmm, curious...

Next I go in with the nurse who asks me to completely disrobe and put on a gown open in the back. For a foot issue? I'm supposed to get completely undressed so he can look at my foot?? She informs me that the doctor won't see any new patients without having a baseline physical on them. OOOOOOOkay. I disrobe. Then she hooks up electrodes to me and gives me an EKG. She says its routine for all patients over 30. OOOOOOkay. Then she draws some blood, gets my blood pressure, and leaves the room.

In comes the doctor. He spends a very long time asking all of the detailed medical history questions that are usually asked on a form. He seems a little disappointed that I don't have any genetic abnormalities (well, medical abnormalities), and asks me why I'm there. I point to my taped and braced foot. I explain the problem. He essentially blows that off and says to keep doing what I'm doing and if it gets worse after a week or two, call his office and schedule an X-ray. Then he says he'll finish the rest of my new patient physical. He listens to my heart.

That's it. He doesn't look in my throat, my ears, my nose, ask me to follow his finger, test my reflexes or even take my temp. Just a little heart listening. He does however ask me to take down my gown so it barely covers my chest while he "feels around for awhile" for "any lumps or abnormalities." Now I'll admit, this didn't quite creep me out as much at the time as it has upon reflection. It wasn't until hours later that I realized hey, he didn't even check my throat! How dare he go straight for the medical-feel-up without even so much as a quick throat check!? And while I am no stranger to a breast exam, I haven't had one performed without a nurse in the office in probably 20 years!

I think this graduated-last-in-his-class-from-medical-school-pervert just charged my insurance company to feel me up! I think I just paid a $15 copay so some old guy could entertain himself. And again, I cannot boggle enough about this:

He never even looked at my foot!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Metaphysics at work, or just a Sprain?

I am having trouble walking on my right foot. Back in late March, while doing aerobics, I felt a little twinge in my right foot across the top of the foot from toes to ankle. I felt the twinge a couple of more times and thought it was time to get new aerobics shoes. I bought the new shoes. Still occasionally felt the twinge. Then it became an ache. Then it moved on to being a shooting pain. Finally it came to rest as a take-your-breath-away-stabbing-sensation whenever pressure was put on my right foot.

At this point most intelligent beings would go to the doctor. I don't have a Primary Care Physician yet because I haven't been sick and it just seemed like one more thing to have to do, so I opted for the internet diagnosis instead. The internet did a pretty good job. I found out I should be using the RICE Method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). If you've been following my entries, you know that I struggle with Patience, so I RICEd for a day and then went back to my usual routine. I was fine for a day. Then the shooting pain began again. I RICEd for a couple of hours. Taped up the foot. Went on with my usual routine. Then I added an ankle brace. Then crutches. Finally I decided that perhaps a medical practitioner should be involved, you know, just for a consult...

Now from a metaphysical perspective this injury would be a sign that I am having trouble moving forward. That's true: I have had some serious doubts that we'll ever get to closing on the new house. I haven't fully found my rhythm, my crowd, my group in Massachusetts. Still, I have the desire to move forward. I have the ability to move forward. I even have an affirmation about moving forward:

I understand clearly and I am willing to change with the times. I am safe.