Bucket List

The other day some writer friends and I were talking about bucket lists. One person wants to learn to surf, another to win a blue ribbon in the “seed art” category at the Minnesota State Fair, everyone wants to travel more and to write something amazing.

I didn’t say what was on my bucket list. I couldn’t quite bring myself to acknowledge that my unwritten list has but one thing on it, an item that, after 15 years, appears to be permanently lodged there, forever undone.

Weigh less than 200 pounds.

It is uncomfortable to write that, uncomfortable to put real numbers out there, to admit that someone else’s nightmare (Two. Hundred. Pounds) is my dream. But it is. Or it has been. I’m honestly not sure which tense to use at this point.

The last time I weighed less than 200 pounds was my junior year of college. At some point during that year, I crossed over that line and have never been able to cross back. I’ve tried diets and personal trainers and bulimia and therapy. I’ve tried to shame myself into losing weight, to bribe myself, and to deprive myself of every manner of kindness. Sometimes things moved the scale. I was 204 pounds the morning I met my husband, something achieved by long sessions with a trainer, a steady running habit and a low carb diet.

And now we’ve been married 10 years, 3 states, 5 cities, 8 houses, 2 children, and a mortgage payment. I’ve steadily gained weight throughout our marriage, with the exception of pregnancy, when I actually lost weight due to morning sickness and an aversion to sweets. Since we’ve been married, my husband took up running and dropped out of the 200 range for weight. He is fit and trim. I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, a hormonal imbalance the makes weight loss difficult but is, just for funsies, best controlled be losing weight. I wear a size 22 these days but still sometimes get tempted to buy things in a 16 or 18 for when I eventually fit into them.

A while back, I started trying to think of ways to help with some stomach issues I’ve been having. I’m prone to having what you’d politely call a “nervous tummy”. I’d call it “I get nervous and have to poop a lot and sometimes that is embarrassing but good news I always have Imodium in my purse if you need it” but that is kind of long, right?

Anyways, even though I am possibly the LEAST mindful, woo-woo person out there, I started trying to breathe differently. And when I’d feel myself getting anxious about whether or not I’d get sick or if I felt queasiness coming on, I’d start to repeat “this is my body, I’m at peace with my body” (even though the second part was a damn lie) until the rumble tummy calmed down.

It doesn’t always work, but it works more than I would have expected. But lately I’ve noticed a side effect. I’m actually feeling, well, at peace with my body.

I’m starting to believe things like that when my husband slides his hand between my legs, he isn’t noticing the size of my thighs. I don’t feel an internal sense of needing to apologize to anyone for not being sexy. Sexiness isn’t something I owe the universe.

I have a new group of friends and I don’t think they’d secretly like me better if I was thinner. I don’t feel a need to apologize or make fun of myself because of my weight.

Tonight I was eating a cookie on the porch, enjoying the smell of rain in the air and the quiet of a household asleep.

You might always be fat. You might never weigh less than 200 pounds.

The thought came suddenly to mind and my only response was “Okay.”

I might always be fat.

I might never weigh less than 200 pounds.

It feels strange for me to hold those thoughts in my head and to accept them and to still think about the fact that I’d like to go swimming tomorrow to keep training for my upcoming race. I still want to get in a bike ride this week. I still want to start Couch to 5K again.

For years and years, exercise was always connected to the bucket list item. The whole point was to lose weight. But maybe I won’t. But I can still be stronger and faster and have more cardiovascular fitness.

I have often described my weight as the biggest failure of my life. I’ve accomplished a lot in terms of my career and grad school and family. A lot of things I’ve wanted, I’ve gotten through hard work and luck and the support of people who love me. But the weight thing always hovered in the back of my mind as the evidence that maybe I really am a failure. Why couldn’t I do this one thing, the one thing I wanted more than anything else?

But I’m 36 and soon to be 37 and life is too damn short. I’m going to move “weigh 200 pounds” from my bucket list to my fuck it list. Fuck it. I am strong. I am smart. I am a good wife and mother and friend. I weigh what I weigh.

This is my body. I’m at peace with this body.

Married Up

My husband has many fine qualities, but the one that merits mention tonight is the fact that he is excellent with sick kiddos.

Ev woke up at about 10:30 tonight and came up the stairs to our bedroom, on a mission to find her daddy and get snuggles. He was starting to carry her down the stairs (the pale tan carpeted stairs. Sigh.) when she suddenly barfed (there was pepperoni involved, let us never speak of it again). While I stood there briefly stunned and useless, he was already hustling her to the shower. I did the clean up of the floors and other parts of the splash zone.

For the last year or so, I’ve been dealing with some issues with anxiety. My particular anxieties usually take the form of focusing on illness. Not big scary capital letter illness, but everyday stomach bugs, especially the thought of all of us getting sick at the same time. This started when I was back in Iowa and trying to balance work and being in grad school classes and, on some levels, made sense. I was spinning a lot of plates at the time. A wave of noro virus could knock all those plates to the ground.

Plus, at the time, we only had the one bathroom. So, that alone made the prospect of multiple stomach related illness scary.

I’m generally speaking doing better, anxiety wise. I don’t stay up nights worrying about it anymore but when the inevitable happens and a kid goes down with a stomach bug, I have to actively suppress my panic. Even now, as Ev lays sleeping on a couch covered in towels, I can feel my own stomach feel uneasy (oh the irony of having anxiety about illness that manifests itself in a nervous tummy. Well played, irrational brain and wonky digestive system).  What if I am sick? What if Miles is? What if, what if, what if.

But M. is stays in the moment. He bathes, he calms, he soothes. He doesn’t spiral into panic. His voice becomes more gentle, he moves to the living room to sleep near her. Sometimes he tells me about how sick he was as a kid and how is dad took tender care of him then. He comes by it honestly.

I plan my escape to Canada.

Please send “this was just a random one time puke” vibes to my house, okay?

Small Things/ 37 Things Update

I have recently made a series of small decisions that have made my life just a little bit happier:

– I am taking the elevator to the YMCA. I can walk to a YMCA from my work, something that takes about 5 minutes or so, which is fine. A nice walking warm up for my swim. But to check in at the Y, you have to take to go to the third floor. I had been taking the stairs in the name of virtue but then I’d be out of breath at the check in desk (I am not in good stairs shape) and I hate that. So I’ve given myself permission to take the elevator and I am 5% less reluctant to go to the gym.

– I’ve decided that I am not obligated to think about or work on my dissertation after 8PM. In fact, I shouldn’t work on it then as I am usually tired and probably not likely to be thinking innovative thoughts. The thing was that I wasn’t actually doing anything on it anyways, but now I feel free to continue doing it with no guilt. Very satisfying.

– I am not going to hold myself personally responsible for the fate of my garden. I’m going to do the best I can to take care of it but I cannot control the weather or the fact that there appears to be bugs eating one of the plants that I can’t remember what it is (basil?). I’m comforted by the fact that we will have enough lettuce for a taco salad dinner tomorrow night. This means that, no matter what else happens, we have eaten from our garden, even if it ends up being a $300 taco salad.

***********************

An update purely for my own benefit:

1. Improve our family’s net worth by $3700. This should be totally doable thanks to an extra check I’m expecting to arrive soon but making some mortgage payments.

I was very nearly done with this… and then I flooded the basement. Sigh.

2. Read three books and seven magazines.

One book down, three magazines

3. Do 37 minutes of yard clean up (blargh. I have the opposite of a green thumb but I can at least pull some weeds).

4. Swim 37 miles

I have completed 22% of this goal so far. Currently feeling very optimistic on this one!

5. Ride 370 miles on my bike

4% completed. Time to step it up.

6. Walk/run 370 miles

7. Send three friends actual paper letters

8. Have 37 days without Diet Coke, my second biggest vice.

9. Add 37 rough draft pages to my dissertation

10. Blog 37 times (this totally counts as #1. Progress!)

Almost half way done!

11. Write 37 pages of fiction (on the story that I can’t shake)

I’m 3500 words in so far and going to a writing group tonight to hopefully get me to 5000.

12. In bed before 11:37 every night between now and my birthday. I tend to stay up too late for no real good reason. More sleep is always a good idea.

I have been doing this very consistently. Good job, self.

13. Take the kids swimming at least 3 times.

1 down and it was very fun. This one will be an easy one to accomplish.

14. Play tennis with Miles at least 3 times.

15. Eat breakfast at home 37. I have a bad skipping breakfast habit.

16. Bring lunch to work 37 times. I also have a bad buying lunch habit.

17. Purge 37 pieces of clothing from my overstuffed closet/drawers. I’m not willing to commit to a capsule wardrobe yet but I have clothes ranging in sizes from 14-24 and have some things that I am sure I haven’t worn in at least a year.

18. Purge 3 pairs of shoes. This one will be harder than the clothing thing, I predict.

19. Go to the gym 37 times. We get a discount if we go 12 times in a month and I’ve never made it. C’mon self.

25% complete on this one.

20. Try 7 new dinner recipes. I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and I’d like to find a few new staple recipes.

Tried Creamy Beans tonight and they were so yummy. I have fart concerns but so far the butt trumpet has been silent. I topped mine with a large dollop of gauc and some cheese and then ate with chips. Happy tummy.

21. Have 3 dates with Mr. Monkey. Even if they are just quick ones, I need to see more of his face without kids in between us.

1 down.

22. Take 3 days off of work to work on the dissertation.

23. Submit at least 3 columns for my new gig at Inside Higher Ed.com

24. Spend 37 hours relaxing in my new hammock. Damn I love my hammock.

25. Make $37 on eBay or through my neighborhood garage sale site by selling stuff we don’t need/use. Use $37 to start savings accounts for the kids.

$17 so far

26. Make a “summer fun” to-do list to better explore our new city.

27. Take Miles to a professional ballgame.

28. Plan one-on-one time with Ev for at least 3 times.

29. Coordinate a gift exchange with some of my neighborhood friends.

30. Go hiking

31. Help Miles learn to ride without training wheels

32. Learn to sew a simple dress for Evelyn.

33. Get over my fear of plaster walls and get three pictures hung in the house.

34. Sign up for a triathlon

September 5th baby!

35. Complete the Point to LaPointe race.

36. Dye my hair a different color, just to see.

I dyed it a reddish brown. It is fine but I’m not in love.

Charleston

I feel a heaviness in my soul this week. Another mass shooting, another example that reminds me that for all of the good and well-intentioned people I know, we are, as a country, still profoundly fucked up (there really is no other phrase I could use there) about race and guns.

I often don’t feel like I am eloquent or serious enough to talk about these kind of things on this blog, but here is the truth: I am sad to my core about what happened in South Carolina this week and I despair that there is something fundamentally broken about our country.

I think about Susie Jackson, who was 87 years old. Ms. Jackson lived through the integration of schools, the legalization of interracial marriage, the end of Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement and even the election of the first Black president—and then she gets murdered by a racist at church. I frankly don’t know how any Black person can feel like they are ever safe. I don’t know what to do with the fact that my own children, who are biracial, will grow up in a culture that still breeds violent racists and worships at the alter of gun ownership.

So, I don’t know what to say today, but I’ll post these links to people who said wiser things than I have:

https://darkontheprairie.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/charleston/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/18/charleston-shooting-mental-health_n_7616460.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/18/charleston-church-shooting-gun-control-racism-killing-black-people-us

Damn it.

I was sitting at work on Monday when I got a message from Mr. Monkey asking if I had used the garden hose the day before:

“Yep! Used it to wash the camping mud off the kids’ shoes!”

“I just turned it off”

“Oh crap.”

“The carpet in the basement is wet.”

“Oh shit”

“Really wet”

“OH SHIT”

Today is Thursday, which means that it is now three days and several thousand dollars later and the basement is almost done being dried out. We still have to replace a carpet pad, reinstall baseboards, move furniture back into place and double check to make sure the walls are completely dry.

If you are about to ask the next logical question, allow me to save you time: No, insurance isn’t covering any of it.

Sigh.

This is one of my more expensive screw-ups of late and I’ve found myself struggling with a pervasive feeling of “but, wait, this isn’t FAIR….” (please read in the whiniest possible tone). We are fortunate enough that we have money in savings to cover this mess, and I get this is why we have savings in the first place, but I don’t wanna have to spend money fixing something that happened because I got distracted and left a hose on for 24 hours (which is apparently about 23.5 hours longer than is ideal). I didn’t mean to do it! I just want it to get fixed all by itself. For free.

I’m not someone who believes that everything happens for a reason or that there is a master plan that our lives our following. I think we live in a universe where sometimes things just happen but that we have a human need to try to make sense of our lives by creating stories and so finding meaning in crappy events is soothing. Things don’t suck as bad if they are a part of some narrative that ultimately leads to a happy ending where everything suddenly makes sense.

I kind of wish I believed that, but I don’t. So, damn it, I flooded the basement and it just sucks.

Stages of Planning a Family Camping Trip

Stage 1: The thought of going camping crosses my mind. I think, “hmm, that might be fun. That seems like the kind of thing a good and outdoorsy sort of mom would do.”

(I am a good mom. Outdoorsy? Hmm.)

Stage 2: Mention camping to the family. Children spastic with joy. Husband on board. Progress!

Stage 3: Begin planning. Realize that there is rather a lot of stuff required to go camping with small children. Start making multiple lists.

Stage 4: Wake in the middle of the night in a panic. Mosquitoes. Damn it. There will be mosquitoes.

Stage 5: Buy bug spray. Ignore organic all-natural spray in favor of high DEET chemical bomb formula. Decide this is find because, honestly, it isn’t like we were going to have any more babies anyways.

Stage 6: Packing, packing, packing. Also? More packing. So much stuff. Pick lettuce from garden to put on sandwich for camping outing. Feel smugness levels rise to almost unbearable levels.

Stage 7: Announce that we are leaving NO LATER than 8:30 AM. Sharp.

Stage 8: Leave the house at 9:15 AM, forget to feed kids breakfast, no ice in the cooler. Off to a blistering start!

Stage 9: Roll into campsite 45 minutes late for scheduled check in time. Set up camp. Start doing the calculations about the work-to-set-up ratio versus fun ratio and then decide that math in this circumstance does nobody any favors.

Stage 10: MUD. So much mud. All the mud. Watch the children repeatedly fall down in the mud, hear the squishing of their shoes as the walk around, realize that the one spare outfit brought for each child is probably not going to cut it. Realize that I only brought one outfit for myself, the muddy one I’m already wearing. Awesome.

Stage 11: S’mores and fire time. Spend two hours alternately trying to keep the fire going with damp wood and eagle eyeing the three year old who has decided her new favorite game is running in circles with her eyes closed. Decide three year old is not interested in living to see four.

Stage 12: Bedtime. Watch as three year old bounces around the tent like a ping pong ball. Regret the s’mores. Realize that air mattress has leak and has totally deflated. Wonder what exactly I was thinking planning this thing. Panic doom spiral of impending sleepless night starts the jungle drums in my head. Seven year old steals my pillow. Kick self for only bringing two pillows for four people. Am dumbass, etc.

Stage 13: They fell asleep! Victory in our times!

Stage 14: Wake-up and realize everything hurts. Am old. Stupid air mattress.

Stage 15: Break down camp, pick slugs out of suitcase, shake spiders out of tent, stuff bag full of mud soaked clothes.

Stage 16: Get in the car and smile as the kids declare that they can’t wait to do it again.

So, honestly, the camping was a lot of work for one night but I can’t wait to do it again, for longer the next time. I liked watching the kids come alive outside, so excited for every raccoon track they found. Also, there was this:

Miles waterfall

Like a Real Adult

Summer arrived to Minnesota yesterday. After a long and mild spring, it was suddenly and actually hot yesterday. It felt uncomfortably stuffy in my office for most of the day, which prompted me to dress on the rather casual end of the allowable dress code spectrum for today. While we don’t have a written dress code as such, there are certainly social norms within the office and my outfit today (cropped pants, sleeveless blouse, sandals) falls squarely in the “only okay if you don’t have any meetings and won’t actually see anyone” category. The outfit, plus the total lack of make-up on my face, made me glad that today was a day that I’d only be interacting with my computer.

So, of course, at 1:48pm my boss told me that I needed to fill in for her at a higher level meeting. A meeting that started at 2:00pm.

A younger, less well-prepared version of me might have panicked a bit, but- and here is the good part- no need! I went straight from her office to my desk where I powdered my face, put on a cheery red lip gloss and a coat of mascara from my desk make-up bag, and slipped on the black flats and dark denim blazer I keep in my office for just such an event.

As I took the elevator up to the top floor of my work, I considered my reflection in the mirrored walls and decided that I looked like a competent professional.

There is something so satisfying about finding yourself prepared for an unexpected situation, isn’t there? Like when a kid falls at the park and I’m the mom who has the Band-Aids in her purse or when the children start whining from hunger and I have the appropriate amount of whine killing fruit snacks in my bag.

(I am very often the mom needing the diaper at toddler swim lessons because I forgot one or who shows up at a picnic with no napkins, plates or silverware, so I take my victories where I can find them.)

This afternoon was also a nice contrast to yesterday when, at roughly the same time, I was sitting in my office feeling weird and shaky and like I was going to be sick or have a panic attack. What is wrong with me, I wondered? Then I took a sip of my third large iced coffee and realized it was after 2pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.

Panic attack? No.

Failure to feed and hydrate myself like a responsible adult? Yes.

Well. I’m not always the brightest but least I have a back-up blazer in my office to disguise that fact.

Differences

“Good night buddy”

“Mama, can’t you just stay with me tonight? Sleep in my room!”

“I can’t sweetie, I need to do some homework.”

“You should do your homework in the afternoon, like I do.”

“Well, in the afternoon I’m at work and then when I come home, I want to hang out with you.”

“How many pages do you have?”

“Pages?”

“Like workbook pages?”

“I don’t really have workbook pages. I more write things, like really long papers.”

“Like how long?”

“Maybe 150 pages?”

“That is a lot of pages.”

“Yep.”

“And then your teacher grades them?”

“Sort of.”

“Do you get stickers or stars on them?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Mama, I don’t mean to be mean, but I don’t think I like your kind of school.”

How Does My Garden Grow?

A few weeks ago Miles brought home a little pepper plant in a paper cup from school. He was so proud of this plant with it’s two tiny leaves and determined to keep it alive so we repotted it into a terracotta pot. The prospect of maybe having an actual pepper to eat at the end of the summer seemed exciting, so I decided that it was time to start my first garden.

Now, it is important to note before I continue, that we live in a house with exactly zero houseplants. I have, in my life, grown exactly zero plants and kept exactly one plant alive (a tiny rose bush that is hopefully still growing at our old house in Iowa). So, the idea of “a garden” was sort of an abstract thing about which I had very little practical knowledge.

After a very brief time on Google and a trip to Target, I came home with three plastic pots, two bags of potting soil, six packages of seeds (onions, carrots, basil, chives, lettuce and cantaloupe), and two VERY excited children who promised that they would happily eat anything we were able to grow. We planted the seeds in the big plastic pots and put them out on the enclosed porch as May in Minnesota meant we were not quite out of the frost danger zone.

For a week the kids carefully inspected the pots every single day, looking for the first sign of sprouts. And soon their inspections paid off because, behold!, sprouts soon emerged from each pot and it was time to move them outside.

Then things get a little blurry as I went a bit gardening insane and decided we needed MORE MORE MORE in the way of a garden. So now the woman who has never grown a plant has this in the backyard:

garden

The only thing missing from this picture is my newly purchased rabbit proof fence, purchased because I’ll be damned if I lose my newly planted squash, tomatoes, and flowers.

After we finished the garden Miles cheerfully exclaimed, “Just think of how much money we are going to save on vegetables!”, which is ironic because my annual vegetable budget for him is roughly $5 and because when I start adding up the cost of the garden I very quickly realize that I’m going to need to get a lot of carrots to make this a break even proposition.

So, here I am. My seeds are sown, the neighborhood rabbits are now the enemy, and I think we might be a few weeks away from our first tomato.

At this point, I am officially on edge until we get our first vegetable. I just need one. One vegetable. One $647 vegetable, that John Deere as my witness, my children had better eat.

Friday Night Light

This week was a good week: I was productive at work, Miles had a soccer game and played well, and we got a good bit of family time. But even on good weeks I often find myself sighing a happy sign when Friday night rolls around.

We have a Friday night routine that is becoming close to becoming a full-fledged tradition. Friday night means a new movie (always animated these days, but I look forward to the future and the world of the PG movie) and snack dinner, eaten in the basement during the movie. Snack dinner requires no cooking, beyond popcorn in the microwave, and features all foods that nobody will whine about. Tonight’s menu included mini blueberry muffins, watermelon spears, dill pickles, popcorn and 10 peanut butter M&Ms per child. As is fitting their respective personalities, Miles ate all of his other food first and hoarded the M&Ms until the end whereas Evelyn crammed all of hers in her mouth and then wandered away from her plate to go play with her Shopkins.

(a side note about the Shopkins: we are new to this phenomenon but Ev loves them. I’m a fan because of how creatively she plays with them but ugh, they are so small and I think we’ve already lost some. I think they may be worse than Legos in that respect).

It is raining out tonight and, I don’t know, it just feels so damn cozy to be all in together, with the smell of popcorn and the sound of Kung Fu Panda 2 (Electric Bugaloo) in the air.

Happy weekend, friends.

M