Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grumpy Observations from the Dentist Office Waiting Room


  • Women over 40 should not wear skinny jeans.
  • Women over 50 should not wear white leggings.
  • Strike that. Women should not wear white leggings, period.
  • I wonder why the outside of the ceiling lampshade is covered with hundreds of little frog leg-looking things.
  • If my legs are close enough to someone else's to touch knees when I sit in a chair, you didn't design your waiting room thoughtfully enough.
  • For the love of God, people of the world, you need to please figure out how to turn off the clicking noise when you text message on your iPhones.
  • Having a full on phone conversation when you're sitting next to me in the waiting room is not fine, especially if you're talking with your outside voice. Go outside.
  • If you're a doctor, and you're going to spend the money on a flat screen TV for your waiting room, and a wall-mounted sound system for your waiting room, and cable TV for your waiting room, it escapes me why you would leave the Golf channel running in your waiting room every day of the week.

Untitled

Eventually I just put my headphones in and ignored the world so I could work on my story.

Sometimes I hate people. And places. And things. Basically, nouns.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lately...

Just haven't felt like posting. But things are back under control a bit. Here's what I've been up to.

Practice.

Lately I've been admiring Buddy Boy's baseball skills from our front window. I love how much more he can do every year. Hanko had tryouts a few weeks ago for baseball (so I think we'll hear soon about his team? I am so clueless about sports...) so he and E have been practicing a lot in the park and the street.

Slow walkin' and ipaddin'. #latergram

Lately I've been walking, too. And running, but not with any kind of regularity. I wish I had been better about it, but I just haven't found the way to be successful at that and everything else I have to do, yet. The picture above is from a particularly nice Sunday night I had last week with my iPad on the treadmill, though. I got a subscription to The New Yorker for Christmas, and it was such a good distraction during exercise. I had fun playing with it on the iPad version, which I finally just got to work. Sweatin' to the Smarties. Frequency of workout issues aside, I'm enjoying the solo time when it happens.

Cousins.What I would eat for dinner every night if I lived alone. #pickles #hummus #foodie #gourmetrealness

Lately I haven't seen much of my nephews, but the other night my mom and dad took all five kiddos for a Cousins Sleepover Extraordinaire. They immediately settled into some kind of Wii Tournament and then (I heard) baked cake pops and fortune cookies. E was out for the night with a friend, so I went home and ate pickles and hummus for dinner off my favorite 1970s Tupperware plate. And then I took a bath, watched two movies, and went to bed. Winning.

Snuggles. Downton Abbey. Cat Party.

Lately I've been making an event out of Sunday night's Downton Abbey episodes--last week at a get-together with friends, and this week with just me and my cats--each time with a big mug of tea. I am completely captivated by this show in a way that I know isn't quite healthy. I am not going to do well when it's over for the season... we can forget about when it is over for good. Last night was pretty upsetting, too, but it was a nice reminder for me of how cool it is that stories make us feel things really deeply. I love that. I love that I care so much about all of these fake people. Cookie and Twinkle (above) love it too. At least that's what they told me when I was sobbing into their fur.

Paper grading. #latergram

Lately I've been sticking to my schedule and getting things done. I have a school field trip coming up, and if I want to "earn" my way there (that's how I'm talking to myself about it) and enjoy myself when I'm gone rather than worry the whole time about the work I should be doing, I need to be working like a madwoman from now until February 7. I got a big start on that this weekend and I dove headfirst into a pile of approximately 200 essays. 100 timed writes and 100 multi-draft revisions, not that it really matters once you start to get into the hundreds, I think. It took me some of Friday and most of Saturday, but I did it. And it was nice to hand papers back to kids today and see the surprised looks on their faces because they just turned these in last week. No rest for the weary, though. This was one job I crossed off so I could move on to another.

Pets don't find this documentary so exciting.Sniff.

Lately I've been kind of annoyed by Hurley. He never gets enough exercise in the cold weather and he follows me around like... well, a puppy dog. But he's a sweet boy and lately I have enjoyed the company of all three of our inside furballs. (Stanley--our outside cat--swings by every few days to hiss at me and let me feed him and sometimes pick him up if I don't make eye contact.)

ps91

Lately I've felt really loved and cared about.

It's no secret I'm a fan of (okay, obsessed with) Psalm 91, but when I was scared, scared, scared waiting for results about my brain thing I was reading it again for comfort, and I fixated on this part of verse 15, to which I've never really paid much attention: I will be with him in trouble. That particular bit spoke to me last week and I kept repeating it to myself, just meditating on it. Being glad not to be alone. Trusting God to make good on that promise.

I was so comforted by the idea that there was a with as I waited. And so blessed by the people in my life who love me and who let me know so. It's a good thing to have a good family, but it's an overwhelming thing to feel the collective power of people praying for you and loving you.

What happened last week was that nothing happened. But I had to wait some time to know, and it was hard. Such is life. In the mean time, I got to trust God a little more, and I got to feel people loving me. I'm grateful for that experience.

#500aday

Lately (she wrote, as though lately was a thing and not just something that started happening this afternoon) I've been back to writing, too. I almost counted yesterday, but all I really did yesterday was take a new notebook out and number the pages, then figure out just how many pages I need to write every day between now and the end of the week if I am to get this done on time and still remain sane. So I can't quite count that, but today I made myself stay after school a while and I wrote--longhand--until I reached my assigned deadline, and then I closed the book and was done for the evening. It felt good, to come home and know I didn't have to do anything because I had already met my obligation to myself for the day. I'm hoping I can keep that up. I have a lot to do in the next week and a half.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spider Brain

Last Wednesday I had an appointment to talk migraines, specifically migraine meds. My doc sent me home with a new daily prescription, but what I didn't mention was that she also ordered an MRI for Friday afternoon.

I'm not sure why I didn't mention it. Probably didn't want to speculate much about what might be inside the ol' brain pan, and wasn't really sure how I felt about the test yet. Well, scared--that was one way I felt about it--but in terms of levels of scared, I was going to hit a new one before the weekend was out. I'm not particularly claustrophobic, but I am just phobic, and I knew the import of the test would be weighing on me enough that I wasn't going to make it through a half hour in the old MRI tube without some help. She prescribed a short-acting sedative I've taken before (for flying) and I was all set. As set as I was gonna be.

I took Friday afternoon off. I could barely concentrate all morning, but I left things in order for my sub, came home, ate a sensible lunch in front of the TV, and took my sleepy pill at just the right time. E drove me to the doctor and sat with me in the radiology waiting room. I listened to half of one song on my soundtrack playlist before a squat woman in light blue scrubs called me back to the MRI room. She didn't seem particularly interested in eye contact, which was unsettling, but it was one of the least unsettling things about the experience so I let it go.

I had carefully selected my clothes to be metal-free and comfortable, and I was dressed in soft layers, but it was very cold inside the room with the machine. Most of this was probably perception, from my fear-shivering, rather than temperature, but I think they try to move the air a lot in the room to keep the sensation that you're not stuck. I dropped my first orange earbud as I tried to roll it and jam it in my ear; it got lost somewhere in the folds of my sweater and t shirt. The tech handed me another. I thought about how she must see people afraid, often, yet she didn't seem affected or particularly nurturing. She had a certain lunch lady quality to her.

The apparatus to hold my head in place was disconcerting--a football guard of a mask that was then stuffed with additional vinyl-coated blocks to steady my face. Not that I would have moved, even if I could. The tech placed a cord into my cold hands and told me to buzz her if I needed anything. I shut my eyes, not wanting to see the room disappear as I rolled inside the small hole. I felt the table move beneath my upper arms. I felt like I couldn't relax them: a sensation that would grow old after the next fifteen minutes or so. We started the test.

I tried to go to my happy place--any happy place--but the sound was too much a machine and too disruptive. The anti-nature. I finally gave in and listened--really listened to the sounds. And then the actual MRI wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I started to liken the vibratory grunts and tones to others I'd heard at various points in my life. The rumble of the train. The dental drill during a root canal. A guitar amp. A dialup modem, stuck in the repetitive song of trying to connect. Every awful sound in my auditory vocabulary came back. But suddenly they stopped and the room was still. And I was so grateful for the silence that I didn't realize I was done. I lay there in the tube for a few minutes, then the intercom came on, a voice from Mission Control.

"Heather. I am going to need you to hold on for a few minutes while the doctor looks at the slides. Almost done, okay?"

Almost done? I thought? Cool. The waiting after that wasn't so bad, though my cold fingers were locked around the cord of the intercom I was afraid I'd accidentally press in fear. I was happy to know I was almost out and this was almost over. I could hang on a few more minutes.

With a sound like roller skates, I was yanked from the tube. "He'd like us to do one more test," the tech said. "A contrast image. I need to do an IV, and then we're going to have to do this again."

My it's-not-fair meter was reading red. No. You said I was done. My eyes were welling and I had a lumpy throat. This was not good. I used up all of my bravery to get through the test and now there was another? Nobody said anything about a second test. I kept trying to look at her, even though I couldn't turn my head. My eyes strained to try to read her face, but she wasn't making an attempt to connect with me anyway.

"Why? My doctor didn't say I'd need to have two tests. What does that mean? Does it mean something? What did you see?" I asked anyway. I know they can't tell you anything. I know it's why ultrasound technicians turn the screen away from you when they take the measurements of the fetus when you're pregnant, and I knew she wouldn't tell me what they saw when they looked inside my head right now, but I asked anyway. I was so scared.

"We saw... information in the first test," she said, carefully. "This second test helps us to see the... information better."

I understood her subtext. I stopped trying to look at her. I gave up.

The only thing worse than this would be coming back to do it again. I looked up at the beige ceiling, the insipid color someone chose for Kaiser because it evokes a sterile calm. She stuck my arm with the IV needle and I barely felt it.

I cried passive, warm tears. I let them run down my face and into my ears.

As she pulled the IV out, she must have noticed the wet spot on the paper sheet by my head.

"You okay?"

"No."

"How long have you been having headaches?"

"I don't know."

We sat in silence a few breaths, and she put me back into the tube. This time I watched the world close up. I kept my eyes open and I cried my noiseless tears into the grunts of the machine.

Finally, she yanked me down again.

As I left the room I asked her when I'd hear something. When I'd know.

"Today or tomorrow," she said. This was Friday.

I burst through the door to the waiting room and when I saw E, I burst into tears.

***

Friday passed. Nothing.

Saturday. Nothing.

Sunday. Monday. Nothing. Holiday weekend. No word.

All weekend I was worried sick. I knew the tech had seen something, as had the mysterious doctor who'd ordered the second test (a "he"--my doctor is a she). I didn't know what they'd seen, and my imagination was having a field day. There's no reason you'd want to get a better look at nothing.

The second test was for something.

By Monday, at least, I resigned myself to the fact that worry had no influence on the outcome of the result. But I was still scared.

It wasn't until 7:50 this morning, Tuesday, ten minutes before I was about to start first period, that I heard back from my doctor. An email letting me know that there were no tumors (thank God), no aneurysms (thank God), but my MRI showed that I have a 3 cm (just bigger than 1 inch) cyst in the lining of the back left side of my brain.

I have a cyst in the lining of my brain. Just the kind of news you want to get when you're about to greet 180 teenagers for the day.

I Googled and WebMDed for about ten minutes, and then I decided that wasn't a productive use of my time or energy. All I was going to do was feed my anxiety. My doctor thought that the cyst was benign, but she didn't know what (if any) role it was playing in my headaches, and what (if anything) needed to be done about it. I was waiting to hear from neurology, but based on this past weekend, I wasn't holding my breath for a speedy response.

Luckily, today has been a lot better in terms of communication. I've talked three times with my doctor, and she got back to me this evening with the best news I've had in a long, long time. She was able to get in touch with the neurologist who looked over my MRI results herself.

My cyst is called an arachnoid cyst. It's benign. It's "not causing any surrounding inflammation or compressing any other structures." It is not causing my headaches. They don't need to do anything to it or monitor it. Both doctors agree that there is nothing that they can see on my MRI that says there's anything in my brain triggering my migraines.

As my doctor said in the first two lines of her email: "Good news. It's all fine."

Thank God.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

.selfie

Photo on 1-16-13 at 7.14 PM #2
My sleepin' hat, and my sleepin' sweater. TA-DA!

Wow, today. So many things. Let me blab on about them all for a minute.

7:30 AM counseling appointment (to finally talk post-Newtown/school shooting-related anxiety with a person who knows about such things). So early, but SO helpful. I love when someone can explain to me how my brain is working... even better if said person is using diagrams and illustrations and not talking down to me. I got kind of excited and first-year-psych-student-y about her using the word "metacognition" with me. But for reals, the longer I do this (therapy), the more I feel like it's not that something's wrong with me, it's just that my adrenaline response seems to be keyed up and different than other people's. And then I don't feel so bad about being me, which means I have less anxiety in the long run.  It's a thing of beauty, really.

After doc #1 it was school again, school again, jiggity jig. The morning FLEW by and then it was time to run (read: drive) home and let Mr. Hurley Derf outside. I've been taking pity on him and his wiry-hair, skinny-ass boxer dog hiney and letting him sleep inside on his chair (that's right, Dude has a chair in our bedroom!) until my prep, when I come home to let him out. He was (as he has been for the last three days) asleep when I got there. We hung out for a while and I tossed a chicken in the crock pot with some Santa Maria seasoning and wine. I hugged m'cats. I didn't take my shoes off, though, or I wouldn't have been able to make myself go back to work.

The rest of the day was pretty good, too. I laughed my patoot off at lunch. I made some minor adjustments to seating charts in my afternoon classes that had major payoffs. Good thing, because yesterday I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to make it until June. The problems that necessitated my four mile "run it off" moment yesterday were MUCH better today. And there was much rejoicing.

After school I picked up Monkey 1 and Monkey 2 so we could go get our flu shots and I could see my regular doc about MIGRAINE MADNESS '12-'13. Sucks to be us, because Kaiser ran out of flu shots two days ago. Thanks a lot, fear-mongering news media. I'm not sure yet how that wrinkle is going to get ironed out, but I'm working on it. Maybe we'll just start wearing those paper masks everywhere (I know... so 2009).

I'm starting a daily med for the headaches tonight, so my fingers are, like, so crossed that shit in my skull calms down. I think (other than birth control pills) this is the first time I've ever been on a daily, all the time kind of medicine. If it works as well as promised, though, I'm really excited about the possibilities of my new headache-free, or at least headache-of-lower-intensity-and-frequency life.

When I asked my doctor about side effects, she said, "well, there is one thing, and you might not like it..." (oh no, don't tell me... omgomgomgomgomg. WHAT?) "the most common side effect of this medicine is weight loss."

I swear, Internet, I almost laughed out loud. I thought she was playing a trick on me. Nope. It kills migraines and it makes you thin. Um. Good thing I bit my tongue. She wasn't joking.

My response: "Oh. Huh. Well, I guess since I know about that as a possibility, I'll watch it carefully to see how it affects me. I think I'll give it a try, anyway..."

Of course this seems like it must be bad in some hidden way I just haven't learned about yet. Perhaps it makes you thin because it makes all food taste like metallic tofu or something. But until I discover that's the truth, I'm willing to soldier on and fight the good fight.





(Joking aside, I'm really hoping it cuts the headaches. Weight loss or not. I've had enough of this awful brain pain.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yeah, yeah, your state is colder.

Brewed in Percolator
View out my car window at a stop light this morning (run through Percolator)

Yeegads, it is COLD. I am not a fan.

It's a dry cold, too, which (and I have no idea if I'm alone in this... is it just me?) is miserable because my face and hands and the inside of my nose feel like they're going to crack in half and fall on the floor.

I've been sleeping in a beanie and a sweater over my PJs. I have FIVE quilt layers and a flannel sheet over me. Still cold. I'm hoping this ends soon.

BUT. I went for a run outside this afternoon. The sun was shining and it was a balmy 51 degrees. I figured the time was right. Plus, you know, I could work on my tan.

Tell me why four miles outside feels like a dream, while four miles on the treadmill (at the same "slow and steady" speed) feels like OH MY GOD I AM SURELY ABOUT TO DIE OF BOREDOM?

I don't know either. But I had a nice run. I'm loving my new audio book, Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore because it's a light read, which is just what I needed this week. Haven't written anything, don't feel like my laundry or cooking or homework are under control, but dangit if I didn't run four miles and enjoy my book this afternoon. And I saw a hawk on the grass next to the trail, which has to be some kind of futhark-lovin'-warrior-poet-Beowulf-y good sign. I'm taking it that way, at least.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Read of 2013: Required Reading

And not in a cheeky, "ZOMG, this is required reading for the entire human species" kind of way. More like the way your teacher assigns something to you, so you have to read it. As in, mine did, and so I did.

But here it is, anyway, because I'm nothing if not a good girl who follows through with stuff.


The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, was expanded from an article she wrote originally for The New Yorker. She traveled to Florida to report on a case of orchid poaching and a man named John Laroche.

Short version of my review: This was great writing, but not my thing. It would have made a great article. A 300 page book? Too much for me. Way too much.

The main gist of the book is this: Florida is weird. Orchid people are not only weird, they're obsessed. John Laroche is weird, obsessed, toothless, and alluring. Orlean spends the better part of the book following him around Florida, in and out of swamps, and in between she gives a not so brief history of the odd world of orchid growing, orchid hybridization, orchid stealing, orchid growers/stealers/showers, etc.

Here's the best thing I have to say about this book, and perhaps it's the only thing that matters: the writing is, on a sentence level, quite stunning. But after about 100 pages, I got it, you know? I didn't need or want it to keep going for so long. I didn't really care about any of it. Because basically there isn't a lot of plot, and hearing how interesting John Laroche was just got old because there was no change in his behavior. There was a lot (lot lot lot lot) of pausing to explore the many facets of the orchid world. The whole orchid world. And after one or two of these bird walks  I couldn't do it anymore. I know there are people who are gaga for this kind of minutia. I'm just not one of them. So did I admire her writing? Yes. Orlean is in a league I can't even imagine for myself. Did I like this book? Not particularly.

I don't mind reading books that are not about something I'm "in to". For crap's sake, I just finished a book about earthquakes that I really liked. But I like books that respect a wide readership, and this one didn't feel like that. I think this was written for the kind of people who live in cities (and have for their whole lives) who like to marvel at the crazy bumpkins who live in rural America. So much of it started to border on disdain or judgmental fascination that it started to put me off.

My recommendation: If you have to read it, just don't go in expecting a rip-roarin' good time. If you're into orchids (like, REALLY into them) then this is the book for you. The rest of us could probably live and die without cracking the cover and be just fine.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Mirrors

One of the best things about being married is that by sharing my living space with another person, I have to really see myself. I think if I lived alone I'd have too much freedom to let myself go in directions that aren't so awesome. It takes having to justify my opinons for me to really think about what I want. Or what I mean. Or what it is my intention to do. And as much as it can frustrate me to no end, I'm thankful for the times when I'm in a snit and E can say to me "are you kidding right now?" and actually be kind of right. It's like having a mirror that talks.

Actually, it's like having one of those magnifying, light-up mirrors, that talks. You know the kind? Fascinating. There's one in my hotel room when I go down to Palm Springs. I'll never buy one. NEVER. (Too much information about my pores and sun damage.) But I am horrified by them and drawn to those freak mirrors, equally.

Having kids is like a kind of mirror, too. As soon as something has to come out of my mouth as instruction to an impressionable young human, I have to actually decide if it's important to me or not. And seeing my own less-than desirable traits displayed in my kids? Big time motivation to change. I get convicted, as they say. I have to think about what kind of person I want them to be, and thus want to be myself. When Henry complains about feeding the dog every day after school, I know how he feels. I hate having to feed all the animals and people, sometimes. I put it off. I get lazy and I act like a bigger version of the butt he can be. I waste time. I do a lame job. It's so easy to point out to him that our dog needs his help in order to survive, so he better put up and get it over with. And then all of the sudden I feel like I complete baby for the fact that I'm not thrilled about roasting a turkey breast that night. And so it goes from there. Log in my own eye and all that.

I had a short phone conversation with K tonight while E and the kids were inside Toys R Us spending Christmas gift cards and rewards card points that were about to expire. I was about to expire, too, having just completed a full week of teaching after Christmas break on a less-full tank of calories (as I try hard to lose some mass). The four of us had been to sushi, then Old Navy, but I wasn't feeling like following my family around the store while they tried to look for whatever rare and unusual Skylanders might be shoved into the back of toy shelves behind ragged, half opened-returns.

Anyway. I called K to catch up while I sat in the car, and I starting prattling on about my day and about various opportunities to do things that have arisen since this morning. And dangit if she didn't remind me a few of the things I wrote down less than two weeks ago that I wanted to do, one of which was especially to say no to things that aren't my priority. To be honest about what I really want so I don't end up spending time doing things because I feel like I should. The other? Focusing on my writing as a career and an opportunity for (hopefully) gainful employment. And how maybe some of the things I was just blabbering through in my lazy way might not be in line with what I have been saying I want.

It's funny when you look at yourself and go, oh.

It's easy to think of goals in abstraction. Simple to say: sure, I'd like to be better at this, knock this off, do this in a year. But in terms of the real context of day-to-day life, I think it's a harder thing to see yourself. Really see how what you're doing lines up with what you want. Out of fear of not wanting to say the wrong thing, I think so many people hold back rather than being honest with us. I know I'm guilty of that too. But I think it's a really valuable thing to have a friend who can be a mirror to you. An important thing. A blessing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Today, I

Today I forgot to make lunches.
Today I ran late even though I had plenty of time.
Today I cleaned out the cat box before work. Or was that yesterday? It's all blending.
Today I wore colors that didn't match, tried to act like they all "went" and figured I'd hold it all together with confidence.
Today I curled my hair for the third day in a row because nothing gives me confidence like "cool girl" hair.
Today I hit five pounds lost, since Christmas.
Today I was lucky not to be one of the teachers who slipped on the icy walkways and fell.
Today I was ignored by my difficult students.
Today I taught lessons that were spot on.
Today I didn't let kids get away with playing stupid.
Today I taught a really bad poem, but I taught the shit out of it.
Today I drank a green monster for breakfast and ate beef and kale for lunch.
Today I decided not to go to the gym, because I can't be everything in 24 hours.
Today I was hungry all day.
Today I rocked my fourth or fifth scarf, and promptly declared it scarf week.
Today I played Sweet Brown only twice.
Today I took good care of my skin.
Today I had to have a talk with Henry about actually turning in the homework he completes.
Today I started to drive to the store, but happily drove home when K talked me out of it.
Today I cooked a turkey breast for dinner.
Today I rescheduled a dentist appointment from the second day I migrained out last week.
Today I wrote with good pens, but I still didn't manage to finish grading the Hamlet essays.
Today I went to two meetings. Ick.
Today I made the cat climb the ladder to Addie's loft bed three times.
Today I took my vitamins.
Today I thought about people in Texas.
Today I had two long phone conversations.
Today I did my makeup in the car in front of my mom's house and I took my makeup off with cold cream in the bathroom.
Today I forgot it was Thursday.
Today I wanted change.
Today I was happy to be noticed.
Today I missed my buddies.
Today I did not nap.

Something I wish I was better at: messy-cute tying my scarves.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tea for One

Might as well face it, I'm addicted to tea.

I love the quiet. I think that's why I like break so much. Lots of quiet time at home with the kids and by myself. And with the cats. And with E. And with a cup of tea.

I'm such an introvert. I like being with people, but only for very limited periods of time. Then I want to go home and be alone. I think part of my difficulty adjusting back into work after every break is that it takes me a while to shift back into a place where I'm used to being interactive with so many different faces. And smiling at them. And being pleasant to them. I feel like I have to steel myself for it and that takes a lot of energy.

I locked myself in my room on my prep period today to do some reading for my MFA, and I tried to bring a little of that quiet from break to school for an hour. I made myself a nice cup of tea, too. Tea is my crutch right now while I try to get my eating habits under control. I've been trying to drink tea (which I also like) every time I start to feel snacky. It's working okay; I'm snacking less, losing weight. Tea is a nice peaceful beverage, anyway.

At residency for my MFA program we have these little pyramid tea bags on the coffee and hot water table at breakfast and lunch, and I got completely hooked again when I was there on my afternoon cup of tea. Now that I've burned through the supply of tea bags that found their way into my purse in December, I broke out the old standard, my stash of Tazo.

I'm in that place where I'm feeling every minute pass at work. I know that will fade as soon as we all get busy enough to be distracted. I certainly have enough to do. The first few days back have been decent. And headache free. At this point that's about as nice as I could ask for.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Ah, Sweet Brown. Been a fan because of WWHL, but today my friend Leah decided we needed a new theme song for the new semester and shared the remix. Love.

Untitled

Last night was wonderful. So. damn. good. I have not been that excited to watch a live TV event in some time. Man, I missed Downton Abbey. I had that (admittedly super-nerdy and also a little bit embarrassing) West Wing-y kind of feeling, watching last night. Like I wanted to crawl into the TV and give everyone a hug and say oh, I missed you so much and I wish you were real.

Seriously, it was so great. So many story lines  so much new information. And the Dowager Countess' one-liners. And the hair. And the clothes. I die. I just DIE. So, so, so, good. 1920? You look good on Downton. Even freaking Edith looked glamorous. The whole thing... I just... sigh. Dreamy.

Anyway, Downton being on last night actually meant I didn't have the Sunday night blues, as I would normally be all about the night before going back to work at the end of my break. I was so excited about DA that I wasn't dreading the end of my weekend. I was asleep by a decent(ish) hour, I had put everything out for the next day (clothes, shoes, etc) and I had packed everyone a lunch. I wasn't even dreading my 7:20 AM dentist appointment.

And then I woke up with another damn headache somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 AM. Glorious.

Listen, I am so over these headaches. There's nothing quite so special as being awoken by the searing pain behind your eyeball, or the fact that you want to vomit in your bed. That was a special moment.

So my big plan of hitting the gym, then coming home, curling my hair, and heading to school to greet all of my friends at 8:00 AM? Not so much. I had to take my medicine and dive back under the covers for hours. The pain got better, but I was lucky to make it into my clothes to stumble out the door by 9:30. Even then I was shaky all morning from the medicine. I got a lot of work done and I'm ready for tomorrow when the students show up, but I'm tired of my life coming to a screeching halt this often for m'brain pain. Enough is enough, headaches.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

These crazy monkeys.

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Grandma gave Miss Addie Roo the game Hedbanz for Christmas, and the kids have been playing it nonstop all week. This morning they roped me and E into it, too... it got pretty goofy. Basically it's just 20 Questions... or that game you play where you stick a post-it on your forehead and have to guess what it says asking only yes or no questions. But they took great pride in selecting cards for each of us.

Henry's card said "I am a mouse." It took him the entire game just to guess that one thing. Finally we ended up having to feed him questions... he'd guessed just about every other rodent possible.

I'm not a fan of games, in general, but the monkeys love them so much that it's enough to make me want to put on my happy pants and play along. These monkeys are always so happy to do goofy things with us.

They laughed so much this morning.

What a good vacation.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Cluster

Yesterday was a migraine day. They're becoming all too regular, unfortunately. I woke up with a headache at 6:00, and by 11:00 I was wincing at the lights in my bathroom and thought I was going to lose my breakfast. I hate--HATE--that when I'm there, my only option at that point is to take the medicine and crawl into a hole for five or six hours.

So I did.

I shut the curtains and slept.
I didn't write.
I didn't read.
I didn't wash dishes.
I didn't get anything done.
I just slept. With a pillow over my face.

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This one was so bad that even with my face covered and my eyes closed, I felt like I was staring at the sun. The sound of the heater kicking on was like whistling in my ears. I lay there for about a half hour, awake and annoyed, until the sedative part of the migraine medicine (the pill that's supposed to cut the nausea) sent me deep into sleep.

And after my big nap, the headache was gone but the wooziness from the meds wasn't. So last night was a wasted night, too. I sat around, staring at the wall, the kids, my dinner. I felt heavy and slow.

This morning I was headache free, but all day today the world is too bright, too loud, too harsh.

I feel like I have a sensory bruise and everything around me is pressing it.

The screen on my phone.
The kids laughing.
The TV in the other room.
The dog and cats, running.
Silverware, against a bowl.

I'm afraid of cluster headaches. Those have been happening lately, too, so once I get one, there's a good chance I'll get more. I'm sure stress, worry... these are not things that help one avoid headaches, though.

I took some Motrin. I walked this morning, rather than my scheduled run. I made sure to stay hydrated. I avoided any food that even offers the remote chance of being a trigger. By tonight, though, I had another headache--not a migraine, at least, but the shadow of one. A headache that I've been afraid all evening might take a turn.

So far it hasn't, but I'm so annoyed that I haven't gotten anything done for two days. I'm happy I planned ahead and worked hard this past week, but I'm beyond frustrated that I've fallen behind on the schedule I set for myself.

I don't have any proof other than the headache calendar I've been keeping, but I believe 100% that these are hormonal. They're too predictable and regular. I'm ready for this to stop. Time to see the doctor again.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Goal Setting for 2013: Part II

Oops. Yesterday was a wonderful day, but it got away from me and I didn't finish these goals. I spent my morning driving the kids to school, hitting the gym, then the grocery store, then the bank. I saw Silver Linings Playbook with K, then I picked up the kids, then I took them to Sam's Club because we were out of nearly everything. After that I unpacked the car, then I cooked dinner, then I collapsed. No goals.

Most of today, I spent knocked out from my migraine medication. Good times.

(Fun side note: Yesterday was my 4 year anniversary of writing, here. Thanks to those of you who still want to read my thoughts. Writing here almost daily has pushed me to new opportunities for my writing that I never imagined, and I'm grateful for this space.)

Anyway. Here are the rest of my goals for 2013. Part II.

IV. Goals for Your Children

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1. What are ways you’d like each of your children to grow in the following areas?

a. Physically:

Addie: Addie showed a lot of interest in swimming last year, and we tried to get her into swim clinics this fall but I waited too long. I'd like to give her the chance to pursue this a little bit more. She also expressed some interest in dance again after we saw the Nutcracker together. I've been so wary of putting her in ballet because it's such a strict and harsh world (and I worry about the effect of that on her self-esteem), but I think we might be ready to look into it as an option. If we do decide to go that route, I'm glad I know what that world is like so I can watch her closely.

Henry: Buddy boy is just at the spot where he can really control his movement. I think he's going to do well in baseball this spring. Every year he seems to like it a little bit more and show a bit more skill. It's a pleasure to watch E take him out in the yard to play catch. I'm looking forward to another season.

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b. Emotionally:

Both of my kids are more confident this year. Addie's shyness is fading and our one-on-one time has strengthened our relationship. I want to continue to help her as much as possible as she starts to navigate the difficult and unavoidably awful preteen girl years. There's not much I can do to make any of that easier, but I can be a sounding board and an influence. Henry has grown out of his "guilty" phase that he was in last year and seems to be a lot more settled about his behavior choices. I want to try to reinforce positive behavior with him and continue to teach him about how to deal with making good choices and controlling frustration.

c. Relationally:

They're both much more settled with their group of friends--and I feel like they both have a nice size group of friends that are healthy for them. That hasn't always been the case since they started school. I want to encourage them to have other kids over and plan things that they can bring their friends to, with us.

d. Spiritually:

One of the best things about the kids right now is that they ask a lot of questions. It has provided us the opportunity to have some really good conversations lately. I want to continue to encourage this kind of thing, and to continue to give them honest answers, even when whatever we're talking about is awkward for me or difficult to put into words.

e. Educationally:

School continues to go well for them and they are both excelling. Addie is doing better at following through with long-term deadlines, though this is something I'd like to continue to encourage them both to improve at. I want to keep the structure we have in place after school for homework, studying, and reading. It's working... I don't want to change it.

f. Other:

In general, I'd like to make it a goal to show my kids I trust them. I want to give them clear expectations, but then I want to give them opportunities to put their decision-making into practice, without me hovering over them. This can be in small tasks or larger responsibilities. I think they're in a good place to demonstrate some independence and responsibility.

2. How will your children be educated this year? What are some resources you’d like to explore to help your children develop intellectually and academically?

Their school is still wonderful. I have no complaints. It amazes me year after year how much this school and the staff teach them. The best thing I can do is support them from home by making sure they're consistent in their routines, sleep, and study habits.

3. What are your children’s strengths? How will you help them use these well?

Addie is showing an aptitude for art lately. She's drawing all the time, and even freehand she is able to look at something and copy it really well. I want to give her supplies to continue to do this (we're thinking about some basic illustration software for the computer) and maybe look into some classes for this summer.

Henry continues to wow us with his game, puzzle, and problem-solving skills. I want to find (and encourage) some non-video ways for him to work at this, so he's not only playing games in front of a screen. Since he likes any and all games, this isn't a challenge, just something I need to plan.

4. What are your children’s weaknesses? How will you help them overcome these?

Even though she's much improved, Addie (like me) has a tendency to retreat into her room and remove herself from the family. I want to strike a balance of allowing her the alone time she needs to be happy, and also encouraging her to do things with us and others so she's not alone too much.

Henry's biggest weakness is completely controllable. If we allowed him, he'd sit in front of the Xbox or Wii all day long. So the easy fix is just setting a time limit. Thankfully, when we do this, he's fine with it. But my goal is just to be consistent about it. We don't need him thinking that's all he needs to do all day.

Source: etsy.com via Charity on Pinterest

V. Money Matters

1. What is one specific area of progress you’d like to see this year in your financial health?

Following through with the budget and goals we set last summer. We're doing well, but we need to make sure we keep checking in and keeping ourselves accountable.

2. How is your current income? In what ways can you make this increase?

Our current income is just right for what we need now. Increasing it will allow us to save more and pay down our debt faster. Working on my MFA is a big one--as a result of the units I'm earning, I'll have raises for the next two years (assuming the state doesn't make huge cuts to education, which, sadly, is kind of a lofty assumption). But I also have some writing projects in the works that could bring us some extra money, and I'm excited about that.

3. How much debt do you have? In what ways can you eliminate a sizable portion of it (or all of it) this year?

Law school will be looming over us for the next 8 years. But every year that passes is another set of payments made. Same for our mortgage and all the other debts we're paying down. Slow and steady.

4. How is your savings account? In what ways can you save more money this year?

For the first time in our lives, we saved some money last year. That's embarrassing to admit, but we were finally in a place to do it. Or we finally made ourselves do it. Probably the combination of the two. As we check in with our budget and our plan, I think we'll be able to continue to improve what we're doing.

5. What are some of your long-term financial goals? In what ways can you make progress on them this year?

Moving is a long-term financial goal, but we decided last year to push it farther out into the future. I honestly feel better about it, knowing it's not going to happen for a while. That gives us longer to work at it, and keep making smart financial decisions in the meantime.

6. Are you giving regularly? If not, in what way can you give financially this year?

Last year I said that I thought coaching was a way we could give, rather than a monetary kind of thing. after coaching multiple things, I think we both got kind of coached out. But also, I feel 100% like that's a way to give. Volunteering is no joke, and I actually feel like we gave too much of ourselves last year to this kind of thing. This year is about looking at how we can give (time, money, otherwise) without taking too much away from our family.

7. What is your plan this month for starting progress towards better financial health?

I think the best thing we can do is to continue with what we've set in place. We have a system of cash for monthly expenses, saving, and planning that's working for us.

VI. Relationships Outside the Home

1. In what specific way would you like to grow in relating to your friends this year?

I would like to strengthen my relationships in my MFA program this year. I want to make sure these are lifelong friendships, and that once I graduate I have friends from the program for emotional strength, but also so I have a group of colleagues, and we can continue to read and help improve each other's work.

2. What are some ways you can be of service to your immediate community?

My job definitely brings me into contact with my immediate community... not in a way that makes me want to be of more service to it, if we're being honest. My tendency is to not reach out to people--out of introversion, or fear, or discomfort. But I could do better with this.

3. Who are some specific people in your life that can use some encouragement? What will you do to encourage them this year?

Through my MFA program I've had the chance to meet some amazing people. And unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess, depending on how you look at it) there are a lot of people there who are dealing with their own fears and confidence issues. It seems like we're all questioning ourselves and our place in the literary world all the time. But the nature of the program means we're all weirdly open and honest with each other--definitely more so than we are with people in the rest of our lives. The good thing about that is that I have the opportunity to really help people. To really listen and make them feel heard. I want to do a better job of encouraging the people I'm in school with, because the fact is that it always lifts me up, too.

4. Who are some people in your life that you admire? What are some practical ways you can positively use their influence in your life?

Same group of people as #3: my peers in my MFA program. They inspire me with their good writing, their fearlessness, and their ability to put it all down on the page. I want to soak up as much of this as possible in the next year before we scatter to the wind.

5. Are there any damaging relationships in your life? What will you do this year to make these relationships better?

Ugh. Every single year I hate that these questions end here. I hate the negativity! Anyway, my answer is no, I don't think I'm in any damaging relationships right now. There are areas of my life that could use strengthening, but I think I'm surrounded by people who support me, and I think I'm better about choosing people to be in my life who make me a better person. But I would like to continue to cultivate healthy friendships in 2013.

And in light of this "one little word" idea for resolutions, I present you with my one-word resolution for 2013 (2011 was peace, 2012 was imagine):

love

I want to love harder, more consistently, more dependably. I want to choose to love people, even when I don't feel it. Especially when I don't feel it. I want to show my students love through how I teach them, and make an effort to connect to more of my colleagues. I want to reach out to people more who are lonely or hurting. I want to really live love when I'm spending one on one time with the people in all aspects of my life who mean so much to me. I want to love and celebrate every minute of my MFA program, and my writing, and the opportunities that have been set before me, rather than feel like they're chores. I know that word is cheesy as all get out, but I want to live a more active kind of love in practice in 2013.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Goal-Setting for 2013: Part I

In 2011 I started answering these goal-setting questions from Simple Mom. I did them last year, too. I wasn't going to answer them again because I thought I did a terrible job of following through with anything I said I would do last year. I've been avoiding reading my post, actually. Guess what? I just read it and I basically did all the stuff I said I wanted to do. Hmm. Just like the year before. So it would seem that my taking the time to set some goals is, you know, kind of important.

I'm always better when I have the things I need to do written down. I used to not be like this. I used to avoid thinking about or writing down my responsibilities because it felt like too much. But then they'd overtake and overwhelm me. I find I do better when it's all down on paper, and then I can start to attack one thing at a time.



The questions are many, though, so I'll be breaking my answers into two parts again. I'll post the second half tomorrow.


2013 GOALS

I. Personal Growth

1. What healthy character traits would you like to see developed in your life this year? What are some specific steps you can take to develop these?

This year I'd like to be more focused. I am good at setting aside time to do tasks, but when I actually sit down to do them, I have a hard time paying attention. I think this is going to come down to controlling my environment more, and putting myself in places where I'm going to be successful, rather than fail. For example, my couch isn't the best place to get work done. Comfy, yes, but there are too many lovely distractions within easy reach. I want to figure out how to set myself up to focus, and then I want to focus more.

I'd also like to be more definite and assertive about what I want. I think I spend a lot of time doing things I'm not 100% thrilled about because I'm too afraid to say no or say what it is that I really want in the first place. I want to try harder to be honest up front so I'm spending my time on things that feel more satisfying.

2. What is your plan for maintaining accountability for progressing in personal growth?

As far as being focused, I'll have lots of opportunities to practice. I have a lot of writing ahead of me in the coming year. Every day I spend writing (which is most days) is an opportunity to put this into practice. A group of friends from school started a "500 words a day" group on Facebook and it has the lovely side effect of kicking my butt into gear because I don't want to be the person who didn't post because she didn't write. So I think I'm covered as far as accountability, there. And really the only person I'm accountable to in terms of focus is me. I guess I could make it a goal to pay attention to what's working. I'm getting better at hacking my own life... this could be the next big thing.

I think the people close to me know the assertiveness is something I work on. I definitely talk to E about it as it relates to work and other responsibilities I take on. I think he's going to be instrumental in the process--he's my sounding board, and he likes to remind me that I have set this as a goal. He's a good accountabili-buddy.

3. What are some of your learning goals for this year?

This year I am going to graduate. Holy CRAP. This year. I don't want to leave school yet.

So, graduating and finishing out my program bring up some pretty substantial, very specific goals (and as I type this I can't believe it's only been two years since I used these goals to decide that I wanted to finally start applying to MFA programs in creative writing).

I have some minor, but time consuming goals: finish my required reading and write my short critical papers for winter and spring quarters. Then I have some biggies: I need to write my 20 page big critical paper and lecture by December. I need to have a manuscript (my thesis/novel) written by December, also. I need to get good grades. I need to remain in the good graces of the wonderful people who run my program. I need to attend two more residencies.

But in terms of learning goals that can't be checked off a list? I want to continue to soak up every blessed minute of school. I want to be present and focused in every moment and get as much as possible out of it because this is a privilege that comes with an expiration date. I want to continue to be bolder and take advantage of the opportunities set before me. I want to meet people and I want to be open to everything that my program has to teach me. I want to be humble, so I can really learn.

Source: etsy.com via Heather on Pinterest


4. What books would you like to read this year?

There are so many books I want to read. So many. But here are just a few:

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard E. Cytowic
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks,
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
We the Animals by Justin Torres
We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

5. Do you enjoy your job or jobs (include being a stay-at-home mother, if this pertains to you)? If so, what are your favorite things about your work? If not, what are some ways you can change this?

Hmm. I do love my job, but I feel like it's time for a change. Things I love: my students, my curriculum, the freedom to develop and teach lessons in my area of expertise. I like breaking things down to their smallest components to explain them, and I love teaching writing. I like helping people discover Shakespeare and poetry and reading for fun. I like having control over what the hours of my working life look like. I like joking with kids, and comforting them, and I like planning. I love so many things about my job.

Things I don't love: the pressure that's on school teachers now to be everything, having my job politicized, worrying about whether or not the state will adequately fund education every single year, the talk of guns in the classroom that's all over the media right now, and the direction of some of the test-driven educational trends. I will always teach. I'm just starting to look beyond the boundaries of my current schedule, and to think about what it might look like to branch out a bit. Maybe not too much; maybe just in my free time, and maybe not yet. But someday. I feel a good kind of restlessness, a yearning for something more.

II. Physical Health

1. What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for maintaining or improving your physical health?

I need to get back on the healthy train. It was too hard last year with all of my school and work responsibilities, and I had to let it go, even though I didn't really want to. I think I could pass for a healthy person, and since I'm healthier than most, I think I allow myself sometimes to feel like that's enough. It isn't. It's a slippery slope and I don't want to end up at the bottom. I want to lose a very specific amount of weight and I want to do it through regular exercise and healthy eating. I want to apply the same kind of focus and determination to this that I have been able to apply in my work, my school, my writing, and my running life. And I would like to have a running life again, actually.



2. What are some tangible, daily choices you can add to your life that will improve your health?

I can get back to drinking my beloved Green Monster smoothies for breakfast, and I can take a damn salad to school for lunch every day. I can forget about soda. I can cut back on the fast food. I can run three times a week. These decisions are not mysteries to me. But I find that it's less about whether I want to do it or not--I do--and more about the fact that sometimes I am just so wrung out from work and parenting and school that I physically can't do it. So I think the answer is that I need to sleep more. I need to protect that, because if I don't, everything else suffers.

3. In what way would you like to be physically healthier by December of this year?

I would like to lose 16.8 pounds before the end of the year. And no, I'm not going to tell you where I'm starting. And I'd like to run another half marathon, or be able to. No full marathons again until I'm out of school.

4. What is your plan this month for starting this progress towards a healthier you?

I think so far this month (well not this month, but basically since I've been home from school) I've done what I need to do. I've been eating the way I know makes a difference, and I went back to the gym. I've been walking. I've lost about 4 pounds since then, so I think I'm doing okay. I know weight isn't the only thing that matters, but I feel like it's what needs my attention at the moment.

III. Marriage & Family Life

1. What are some goals you have as a couple to strengthen your marriage?

This is all me, here, since I didn't ask E about what he'd say yet. But my goal for us this year is for us both to be better about making counseling a priority. In whatever form that takes, specifically as a preventative measure--or maintenance. So we don't wait until things get rough and we have to do damage control.

2. In what ways can you grow in intimacy with your spouse this year?

That word, intimacy, is so gross. Pass.

3. What are your plans for having regular date nights? How will you handle childcare?

Date nights are going well. We've got a good system, and a generous, volunteering babysitter. I think we can just go ahead and maintain what we've got, because it's wonderful.

4. What plans will you make to have “family meetings” together? What books would you like to read together this year?

Last year I wanted to make it a priority to eat more of our meals together; I think we did well with that. We can keep that up. One of the only things E and I are consistently, awesomely good at is making sure things come to a grinding halt if there's any family stuff that needs discussing. I think we're covered, here. I just hope we can continue to be good parents to our kids this way as they grow and change.

5. What will deliberate, regular family time look like this year?

As a unit of 4, we're doing okay with family time. I'd like to see us keep up the camping, the meals, the little trips here and there. That's all good. But I think my personal goal for this year is more one-on-one time. Me and Ad, me and Henry, E and each of the kids, etc. I think that strengthens us in a different way.

6. Do you have specific planned vacation time in mind for this year? What needs to happen to make this vacation a reality?

No specific vacations planned, other than the family coming down when I graduate in December. This time of year is hard, as I said last year, because we're done with Christmas and we haven't figured out our taxes yet. It's hard to think about being spendy right now. But I'm sure we'll do some things, and I think we've been more proactive in the past year about planning and saving. All good.

7. How is your current physical living space working for your family? Do you need to make changes to this? If so, what are they?

Last year I was really feeling the tightness of our space around us. I wanted to move so, so badly. We actually looked at houses but decided the timing wasn't right. So we're still upside down in this house, it still doesn't have an office for me or a place to write, but we made some substantial changes to the house to make it better and more suitable to what we need. We have an awesome patio cover that expands our living space into the backyard. I can't wait until it's a bit warmer and I can sit out in the yard to write... or read...

I think 2013 is about coming to terms with how lucky we are to have this space. And of letting go of the idea that we need to move soon. Our house is very nice and we're lucky to have it. I think a good goal for me is to think about how I might appreciate it more, or change some small things to make it better for all of us.

...

And, just like last year I split the list in two.  Tune in tomorrow for Part II.