Monday, February 4, 2019

The Birthday Wish List and The Post Where I Refuse to Write About My Dad

My birthday is this week. I will be turning 42, which means that this is the year that I will have all the answers.

Someone please get the reference...

My birthday week is always complicated, simply because of the fact that my Dad happened to die a few days after my birthday. I was back home that year helping to take care of him. He actually took me out to breakfast for my birthday that last time, gave me a card where he told me that even though it was my birthday, I had given him the gift. I'd come to take care of him when he needed me most.

Deep breath.

I am not writing about him. I'm not.

There is so much about those weeks that I know is still suppressed in my memories, and if I am being completely honest, I'm not entirely sure that I ever want to really confront it at all. Maybe that whole blocking trauma thing is effective sometimes. (I kid, sort of.)

Some of it came up a while back when I was writing a piece for a caregiving book, and let's just say that it was tremendously unsettling how much I had not remembered until I made a concerted effort to remember, mostly because they were not pleasant scenes to replay in my head. I spent a lot of time crying and writing, crying some more, writing, drinking, back to crying and writing, to get that piece out.

Anyhow, the anniversary of his death is this weekend, and I am mercifully booked solid this week so I won't have much time to sit around and contemplate how I feel. I function better when I am busy. Idle time and I are mortal enemies, especially this time of the year.

We will probably take everyone bowling on Sunday morning, split a pitcher of Coors Light, and not tell the kids why we are bowling or drinking at 9am on a Sunday morning unless they've managed to figure it out.

I grew up being constantly reminded of death by my mother and grandmother and vowed I would never do that to my kids. So these anniversaries come and go without fanfare, without me allowing myself to collapse into a heap for days or weeks. I give myself a few hours to cry on a schedule, and it seems to work. That, and we go bowling and drink beer at 9am.

It doesn't need to make sense to anyone else.

Also, scheduling moments to grieve sounds ridiculous, I know...but honestly it helps. I used to try and ignore the dates on the calendar, but things would only get worse until a critical mass was reached and I would break down, become useless for a while. Planning ahead helps. I know that on this day between the hours of ____ and _____, I can wallow. But then I have to get up and get shit done.

Life tips.

Before we get to that, though, I have to celebrate another trip around the sun, whether I want to or not. That's the great thing about time, I suppose. It keeps moving forward whether we want it to or not. I know that if there was a time in my life where I urgently would like to press pause, it'd be now. My first baby is a senior in high school and thick in the whole "what do I do with my life" decision making process, and I'd love a pause button. Or maybe one that just slows time to a crawl...but not literally. That would be weird if we all had to move in slow motion.

Since no such button exists, though, I have to get older and time has to keep going. So, in no particular order, here are the things I want for my birthday this year. As you'll figure out quickly, most of them aren't actual things, certainly not physical items that I actually want. Think of it more as a suggested to-do-in-my-honor list. If you so choose.


  1. Take a Mental Health First Aid class. Or something similar. There are classes tailored specifically to adolescents, to veterans, as well. Please. Learn how to recognize people in crisis and how best to help them. (Spoiler alert! Calling 911 is often unnecessary and can be far more dangerous.)
  2. Find out about crisis mental health services in your area. Write the numbers and websites down somewhere you can access immediately, or store them in your phone. Even if you personally may not need them, someone around you might. 
  3. Donate time or money to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They save lives every single day. 
  4. Read something very far outside of your comfort zone. Read several somethings. Read authors with diverse backgrounds and differing life experiences than yours. Absorb what they write. 
  5. Unlearn the racist and sexist roots of the history you have been taught. Confront your biases. Work to do better. p.s. If it doesn't feel like work, you aren't doing it. And also, you don't get to ask or expect people to do this work for you. It's called work for a reason. 
  6. Find a new musician and fall in love with them. Listen to their entire catalog.
  7. Listen to live music as often as humanly possible. Take your kids. Encourage them not just to learn the mechanics of reading music or taking piano lessons - teach them to fall in love with music, to feel it in their bones.
  8. Support a small business. Shop local. Support artists and writers. Pay their normal prices. Do not ask for a discount.
  9. Take a book from your personal library and pass it along to someone who might like it. Donate books you are ready to part with to little libraries. Stick a dollar bill in the books if you are able. 
  10. Find a recipe for something you have always wanted to cook or bake, then make it. I am challenging myself to do this one this year. Beef wellington. This is the year I make beef wellington. 
  11. Set aside time for yourself, in whatever amounts you are able. Make yourself a priority. Do whatever you want to or need to do in that time. Do this weekly.
  12. Find the nearest body of water. Sit nearby. Listen. Close your eyes. Just be present for a few minutes.
  13. Attend a Pride celebration this year, recognizing that if you are not a member of the LGBTQA+ community that it is not FOR you, but that you are welcome. Observe. Listen. Learn. Support. 
  14. If you are holding anger or resentment or sadness, write it down. Light it on fire. (safely, of course). Seriously. It helps.
  15. Randomly leave a compliment on a friend's wall. 
  16. Point out every dog you see to someone. 
  17. Play "Cow, I win." Rules are simple. While driving, if you see a cow, say "cow, I win". That is the entire game. Adjust the item accordingly for your area. For example, if you don't have cows nearby and won't see them, you can point out UPS trucks. Whatever works.
  18. Be proud of all the things your body can do and celebrate. We get so caught up in comparison, in seeing what we cannot do...resist the urge. Celebrate what you can do.
  19. That friend you keep meaning to get together with, have coffee with, hang out with - PUT THEM IN YOUR CALENDAR. Seriously. Just pick a day and put them on it. Then stick with it. You're busy, they're busy. Don't be too busy to see them.
  20. Okay, the one thing I want that is a totally unnecessary material thing. Injured Dr. Ian Malcolm. I do not labor under any delusions that anyone will actually be able to find this particular Funko Pop. But a girl can dream, right?



Monday, January 28, 2019

Fat Girl Running...

Ah, the wonder of a provocative title.

This might be long. This might be short. That all depends on which direction this post ends up going and how many tangents I end up on, so we will just go on this little journey together and see what happens.

I wrote a post on my personal Facebook page this past weekend. It was a post that I hesitated making at all, for a whole bunch of reasons that I will get into shortly. It was one that I knew would expose me to lots and lots of criticism.

Thing is, I am already embarrassed enough about it in the first place, there really isn't a whole lot that anyone else could do or say to make me feel more ridiculous than I already do. So, there's that.

Here was the post:

Realizing that I am opening myself up to a hell of a lot of mockery and criticism here, I am celebrating the fact that TODAY, just right now, at 41 years and 354 days old, I officially ran an entire mile for the first time in my whole life without stopping.
This message was brought to you by asthma, bad knees, and about a million people who told me not to run and that I'd never be able to do this. Screw those people.


I knew basically as soon as it went up that I was going to end up writing about it, probably at length, and in all likelihood more than once because I will most certainly forget to make some point I am intending to make here.

It was not an easy post to write, because I am 100% ashamed of the fact that my body couldn't do this thing until last weekend. I have really only ever confided the fact that I couldn't run a mile to small groups of people, usually in secret online groups where I anticipate supportive comments. It's not the kind of thing that a grown ass adult admits easily.

And there are so many reasons for that. Just like there is a laundry list of reasons that I couldn't do this thing I just did until this past weekend.

I'll go over my issues first since they are a little bit easier for me to navigate without getting pissed off at society.

First, I have bad knees. I was diagnosed with chondramalacia at 5 years old, told at the time that I was the youngest person ever diagnosed with it. Whether that is true or not, I honestly don't care, I just think it's fun to think that I am some kind of medical prodigy in terms of disease. It's a condition that usually affects marathon runners in their 40s. I was 5. 

Over the years, my knees messed up a lot of things, and I cannot honestly ever say how much of that was legitimate physical impediment versus how much of it was my self-limiting brain telling my that my body couldn't do something.

I'd been told from the time I was 5 that I shouldn't run, that I shouldn't especially do anything involving quick sprints or cuts, that I shouldn't do squats of any kind...but that I was supposed to exercise because I was already a fat kid.  

Lose weight, the perpetual instruction.

But you can't do it this way or that way or whatever.

And yeah, I had doctors telling me that I was a fat kid even way back then. 

Like I said, I don't honestly know how much of it was legit in terms of my knees creating the problem, and I don't know how much of it was in my head. It didn't really end up mattering I suppose because the effect of them both was the same. I didn't do much.

I didn't run. I didn't run, even as a five year old. And because I was afraid to run as a little kid, I never got good at it. I never became coordinated. When I would try, it was sloppy, with a lot of arms involved. And slow. 

I got laughed at when I bothered trying. So I stopped.

Whenever we'd have mile run days in p.e., I'd either blame my actually hurting knees or feign injury to get out of it. I became the unofficial time keeper, perpetually holding the clipboard on the side of the track. I don't know if I could have done it then, since I was too afraid to even try.

I ended up in adaptive physical education for a few years, which was actually one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of fitness. I learned to juggle (I got up to 7 pins at one point), I learned to play poker, and I learned that I can build muscle like a goddamn professional weight lifter rapidly. We did weight training, and I realized that this body of mine was strong. Scary strong. I could bench over 200 lbs in junior high. 

I come from sturdy stock. I build muscle quickly and efficiently. But the absolute last thing I wanted to do in the middle of puberty was bulk up. I wanted to be skinny. I wanted to run. I wanted to do things my body couldn't do.

So, I did what any anxiety ridden kid with horrible self confidence would do, and developed an eating disorder (this is dark self-deprecating sarcasm here people, don't take what I am saying and apply it to other people, please).

Anorexia. I developed anorexia.

It took me a really long time to admit that is what it was. Even longer to admit that my mind still, in my 40s, drifts that way when things spiral out of control in my life.

It also isn't about food, btw. I have written a few posts about anorexia if you're inclined to read them. Here are some links.


I stopped eating just about anything that wasn't lettuce, started doing a million reps with teeny little weights to avoid bulking, and tried to run. I tried all the time. Sometimes I tried to run several times a day. I'd make it about 100 feet at the most, and end up bent over in the gutter thinking I was going to die, coughing up a lung.

I had asthma. I have asthma. The particular type of asthma I have is cough variant. I never wheezed, and since I thought (and most people still think) that wheezing = asthma, I had no reason to believe that I had an actual medical condition. 

I just decided that I was a lazy pathetic piece of shit. 

Ate even less.

Tried to run more.

Things progressively got worse until I was fainting and passing out and getting worked up for a brain tumor because of recurrent migraines. 

I didn't have cancer. I was malnourished. 

My doctor congratulated me on my weight loss. Never once asked what I was doing or why. 

I never got skinny, by the way. I was terrible at being anorexic. All the illness, none of the thinness. (Again, dark self deprecation here)

The whole maybe a brain tumor thing scared me enough to start eating again, and my weight started back up.

It was a constant, gradual, uphill process. 

Having knee surgery at 14 did not help at all. Those pesky knees. 
~~~~
Fast forward to last year. I had been doing keto with a reasonable amount of success for about 9 months when I woke up one morning and decided to run.

It's funny, I am sure, to some people. I used to muse aloud about people over 40...wonder what happens to people that suddenly makes them want to run. I'd long before then given up on the idea. It didn't make any sense to me. Until it did. 

There were and are a bunch of other things going on in my life that made running seem strangely appealing. I can't explain it really. I call it rage running. Running keeps me a little bit more grounded. Helps process things. I can run until I feel like I am going to vomit, but then I feel better afterwards. I'm a slightly less prickly cactus human when I run. 

There is no logical reason that I, as someone still overweight, still with bad knees, still with asthma (although finally diagnosed in my mid 30s and now treated) should just wake up one morning and think running was a good idea.

And truthfully, there wasn't much running happening at all for a long time. I'd jog for like 30 seconds, become convinced I was dying, then walk. I started doing a couch to 5k program for beginners, and it slowly started to suck less. I went from walking to speed walking to alternating walking with slowly jogging. It was a long ugly process. About a month ago, I started cross training on non-run days. I even started lifting again...because you know what? I'm strong and I build muscle quickly and I LIKE lifting weights and I will probably survive the apocalypse since I come from sturdy people. 

Then last weekend, I decided to give it a shot. See if I could do it. And I did. I ran a whole mile without stopping. It wasn't fast. I'm not breaking any land speed records for damn sure. But I can do it. I did it. And I will do it a whole lot more going forward.

I can do this. My body can do this.

It was a HUGE personal victory, and one of the hardest things for me to express pride about, all at once.

To be proud of myself, I had to admit how long it took me, and how much I had to overcome to do it at all.
~~~~
Now to the part about why I was reluctant to share. I'm going to do this bullet point style because there are so many reasons.
  • Our society assumes that fat people are fat because they are lazy and that thin people are that way through effort, when really there's a lot more at play. Genetics are a huge piece of it, physical problems like bad knees or asthma are huge issues, and then there are all the unseen contributors. Mental health is HUGE. 
  • Our society is exceptionally ableist in terms of fitness in particular. There are things that most people assume that most people should be able to do, and truth be told a lot of people can do them without excessive training or effort. There are a lot of people who decide to start running one day, and just.start.running. And from day one, they can run a mile. And that's great, for them. There are a million other benchmarks here with expectations placed on us, and for all of us who've never been able to do them, we get why this sucks. Add me also to the list of people who've never done a single pull-up.
  • People who are naturally athletic don't understand how hard it is to be uncoordinated around them. I was always the last kid picked for teams. I was the slow one targeted in dodgeball. Some of you out there reading this might have been the first kid picked and the one throwing at my head. I hope you sit with that knowledge long enough to really think about it.
  • Whenever I mention exercise, as a fat person, someone comes along to tell me that I'm beautiful. Umm. I wasn't fishing for compliments. And I'm talking about exercise, not my looks. And those two things aren't actually related, but thanks for feeding into that societal belief that only thinness is attractive.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone who has never struggled with weight beyond like 20 pounds, or who "overcame" that 15 lb baby weight gain, has to come offer suggestions or try and compare journeys. Nah. Apples and oranges.
  • Whenever I mention weight or exercise, someone tries to sell me something. Hard no. Don't do that.
  • I'm tremendously self conscious about my body, partially as a result of the things that people have said directly to me or indirectly about me over the years. I'm fat, not hard of hearing. I could hear that mother telling her daughter that she wasn't fat like me, so it was okay. I heard that. Exercising in public, talking about it in any public capacity is like shining a spotlight on every single one of my flaws for all the world to see.
  • I don't want to run with people. I don't want to exercise with people. I don't because I don't want anyone watching me. I am that self conscious about it.
  • I do it anyway because every time I do, someone who understands reaches out. They share their story. Sometimes they thank me for being brave enough to put it out there. 
I'm sure that I am forgetting something. I'm surer still that someone will come along to tell me how wrong I am. I know that someone WILL try to sell me something. 

I'm doing it anyway...because I know that out there in the interwebs, someone might be reading this who has tried and failed every diet known to man, who has tried to exercise and given up over and over and over again. Someone out there has weighed themselves 7 times today alone, only ever keeping track of the lowest number. Someone out there is battling eating disorders in a world that still believes they are about food. (spoiler alert, they still aren't) Someone out there is tying their shoes and wiping their tears and giving it another shot. 

And I see you. 

And I am rooting for you.

Hell, I'm rooting for us all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Random Mid-January Thoughts of a Human Cactus

Hey, look at that. First post of 2019 and it only took me 15 days...

I miss the days when I used to write all the time. I miss the days when blogging was an accessible platform for people to share their stories, to meet other writers, to find kindred spirits. Anymore, it is just a way to open yourself up to constant criticism from people who make no attempt whatsoever to actually understand who you are or why you are writing or why you are writing what you are writing. The trolls of the world have sucked the fun out of it, but if I'm being completely honest, it isn't just the trolls. Nope. It's the "friends" who show up only to criticize you, it's the family members who show up only to dispute whatever your account of the past might be, it's the people you already know and probably care about in one way or another showing you who they really are over and over and over again. That's what truly wears on a writer the most.

And that's why the vast majority of us just aren't doing this anymore.

Which makes me question the wisdom of even doing this now. Here. Today.

I know why. I need to write. I started doing this for myself. I lost my reasons there for a good long while. I found my way back to them. Avoided them a lot. And still I find myself here pecking away at the keys every so often because I need it.

Even knowing someone is going to insist that I'm wrong. Because. They. Always. Do.

Wikipedia: cactus version of me

It isn't something that I expect the non-writers of the world to understand. It's just a part of who we are, all the way down to our core being. This is how I process things. All the things. The good things, the bad things, the things that piss me off, the things that give me joy, the things that remind me of all I have lost, the things that give me hope. And yet, I have to do it in that precarious tightrope walking fashion that anyone who publishes publicly must learn. I can tell my stories, but never in their entirety, because my stories often don't just belong to me, and I don't have the agency to tell the stories that belong to other people.

Woooooo....I guess I really did need to write.

I meant to do this two days ago, with a specific topic in mind, and I will get to that specific topic in a moment...probably as a capsule Things That Piss Me Off segment here. First though, I have to write about today.

(Trigger warning for pregnancy loss)

It seems like I write this post every year, which probably isn't true. But it sure feels that way. I felt that nagging grief rise up again this morning at 3:36 a.m., the annual nighttime wake-up call that always comes on the fifteenth of January. I never have to actually make a conscious effort to remember that night nineteen years ago. My body, my subconscious, my soul does it for me. Automatically.

It was in those small hours of the night when I lost my first child.

She was dead before then, probably for at least a week or more by that point. We'd received that news from a radiologist we nicknamed Doctor Death for his official relaying of both a cancer diagnosis and what he methodically and unflinchingly called a "fetal demise", sitting in a dark ultrasound room with a screen that wasn't flickering the way it was supposed to be flickering.

I don't even know how long I sat there and cried as I felt all the hope and optimism about the future that I'd had just moments prior leave my body in deep heaving guttural sobs.

I don't want to talk about the details of what I went through in those next few days. I try to block it from my memories. Try as I can to push it away, there are still, even after all these years, times when it is all I can think about.

And today is the day that I let myself mourn. The other 364 days of the year belong to everyone and everything else, but today belongs to her.

Her name was Hannah.

I never had the chance to hold her. I never got to marvel at the color of her eyes or how the sunlight made her hair shine and sparkle like spun gold. I never got to hear her giggle for the first time, never fell asleep with her on my chest as I inhaled the scent of who she was. I never got to do those things, because she never got to be here.

Without her presence and then absence in my life, I can't say who I would be today. I know that even if I had children eventually, they wouldn't be the children I have now. I may have never changed my priorities in the way that I did. I may have stayed on that career path. I may not be physically in the place I am today.

Everything might be different.

She changed me, as certain as the DNA from every single conception remains with a mother forever. A few years ago, as I was helping another mother navigate a pregnancy loss, I mentioned that weird little scientific fact to her. They really do forever remain a part of us, even the babies we never hold. For her, it was both comfort and the confirmation that she had been seeking that this experience had indeed changed her, irrevocably and permanently.

It took me almost a decade to write about her at all. I know that my insistence on still doing it after all these years probably annoys some people. The people who say things like, "it is in the past", "you have other children", "it wasn't meant to be", "get over it already". Statistics tell us that pregnancy loss happens far more often than anyone really realizes. We just don't talk about it because it makes other people uncomfortable. We are supposed to worry about other people's comfort before our own. We are supposed to be more considerate of other people's feelings than our own. We are supposed to quiet and silence the grief inside our hearts for the benefit of others.

No.

This is a part of my life, and maybe it is a part of your life too.

And today belongs to her.

I wonder all the time who she'd be. Who she might resemble. What she would love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, now that I have cried all over this perfectly good keyboard, the post that I intended to write two days ago, but got distracted by furniture construction and other shiny things.

If you've been anywhere near social media in the past two weeks, you've probably seen them. The posts about decluttering. Minimizing. Holding all the things and asking them if they bring you joy. The arbitrary limits on the number of books one should own. The television show. The posts about people feeling like their houses are too messy to even watch the show.

Here's the thing.

If this approach works for you, and you want to do it, and you don't want to read any criticisms of it, just stop reading now. For real. Just stop reading. The rest of this post isn't for you. Besides, something needs folded. Go.

For real.

I'm not kidding.

If you like this whole movement and don't want to hear anyone question it, stop here.

Beeeeeeeeep.

....

Okay. If you're still reading this, let's move on.

Again, if you like this approach and it works for you or if it is something that you've always done your whole life or annually anyway and you think it's just a handy guide, great. I'm happy for you. Your house is probably a lot neater than mine.

If I lived alone, my house would probably be a whole lot neater than it is. But, I don't live alone. I live with a house full of people who all approach life very differently, carrying the baggage they already have from things that have happened in the past and have wide variations in how they function.

This house is never going to be "neat". It took me a long time to accept this truth, but I have made my peace with it mostly.

Now, for the criticism part.

And yeah, I have read the book. I've also read the Swedish death cleaning one and personally prefer that one for reasons that I may or may not remember to write about here eventually.

My biggest issue is that the entirety of the approach is steeped in privilege. Multilayered privilege. Like sooooooo many layers of privilege.


  • The idea that people all have the means to purchase high quality, often expensive things that will last a lifetime.
  • The reality that many people struggle to fund basic necessities.
  • The impact of not having enough money, at any point in your life, on behaviors related to possessions.
  • The idea that people all have so much excess.
  • The fact that our culture is largely disposable and many consumer products aren't easily repairable anymore.
  • Mental health issues are often tied directly to purchasing behavior, collecting, the inability to part with items or clean at all.
  • ADHD and related conditions especially with executive functioning components that can make it impossible to complete even minor tasks, so you end up starting projects (and making a huge mess to go along with it), get overwhelmed, quit, beat yourself up, repeat.
  • The reality of grief as it affects possessions.
  • The after-effects of dealing with hoarding behaviors in yourself or in other people. For the record, having lived this directly, I would absolutely make the argument that hoarding is a form of addiction.
  • The consequences of not having boundaries respected, or of having things taken from you or stolen from you, even as a child or even as a punishment.
  • The reality that women are indeed primarily responsible for managing most household stuff, apparently made glaringly obvious on the show more than once. 
  • The idea that anyone who wants to declutter or minimize has the time and ability to do so. That they are physically able. That they are mentally able. That they are financially able. That they can willingly forgo whatever else they would be doing with that time.
  • That everyone in their house is in the same place on all of the above ^^^.
So, yeah. If you've always had enough money that you could buy food and housing and random unnecessary consumer goods, if you haven't dealt with major loss or grief, with addictive behavior, with mental health conditions impacting how you view possessions, maybe it is helpful. 

Maybe. 

And even then, even if it is helpful, are you in a place where you really have the time, energy, and desire to devote to getting rid of stuff? Do you even want to get rid of it? 

My mom was a hoarder. My dad threw stuff away whenever she wasn't looking. Neither is a very healthy behavior pattern, and they both set me up for issues well into adulthood. My mother especially impacted my home, as her hoarding invaded my space. She bought and shipped things to my home constantly. She purchased items secretly for my children and gave them instructions to hide it all. 

...
Pause here for a moment. If you are a grandparent, don't do this. You are undermining the parental authority of your child, causing massive damage to their trust in you, and teaching their kids to hide things from them. DO NOT DO THIS.
...

Years of therapy for my kids later, I am STILL finding things in my house. She has been dead for years, gone from this place even longer. And I am still findings things. 

Things don't only bring me joy or utility. Some things are just things, and when your parents are both dead and you have very few connections to who they once were, you hang on to the things that bring you neither utility or joy because you just hang on to them. 

And that is okay.

You want to keep that pair of jeans you haven't fit into since the 90s? Do it.

You want to keep those black suede boots just in case they come back into style? Do it.

You want to keep full bookcases of books you loved/hated/haven't yet read. For the love of Ravenclaw, DO IT. 

Do whatever works for you, in this moment. Don't worry about what someone in a book or on tv tells you to do with your stuff.


If you're ready, when you're ready, if you are able, when you are able, then maybe she could offer you some guidelines. But don't feel bad if you can't do it now. Or if you don't want to.

In the meantime, take care of you.

The internet has a way of making us feel bad about everything these days. Sigh.

Friday, December 14, 2018

All I Want for Christmas, 2018 edition

Good morning, loyal readers. Not that I'm much of a blogger these days...

I realized this morning that I hadn't yet written my annual Christmas list, which is something that I really must do because as much as I hate it sometimes, I am a creature of habit. And writing these ridiculous lists is something I started many, many years ago when this here blog began. Back in the time of the dinosaurs.


Here, I made you a graphic. It is awful, but it's for you. I hope it brings you a mediocre, but appropriate amount of joy for a graphic that literally took me 90 seconds to make.

Don't worry, I won't force anyone to read the old crap I used to write. I don't even want to read that stuff. If you want to peruse the lists from the past few years, though, here they are for your rabbit hole reading pleasure.

2017
2016
2015
2014
2013


Seriously, though, don't go any further back than that. (Waits patiently for a comment on a 2009 post...)

Let's get to what we are here for, which is my list. Since I know that you all care. Also because I am actually four years old and still write a Christmas list.

1. I want a time machine. Especially this week. I'd like to be able to travel back in time by a few weeks and make people do the things that they were supposed to do back then so that we wouldn't be sitting in limbo for longer about a huge life thing that I'm being deliberately vague discussing. Vague enough? Good.

2. I want more hours in the day. And no, this is not some glorification of busy thing, so spare me those comments, sanctimommies of the world. I really am that busy, and not by choice. I would love nothing more than to have glorious unplugged down time with my entire family, but that just isn't the way things are working out for us right now. It's rare that we are all home at the same time anymore. Between the seven of us, we have 6 people in school at least part time, 1 full time job, about 9 part time jobs, a holiday theater show schedule, drumline practice for two kids lasting 6 hours a week (until that jumps up after NYE, right around the time I pick up another job), all while working every imaginable bingo shift to try and raise money for band trips and dues. I know that someday I will look back fondly on this time in my life, that I will long for the days when I had to put everything in my calendar on my phone so that it would send me reminders to do the 73 things I need to do today. I know. You don't need to remind me or tell me how lucky or blessed I am. I am aware. I'm also really fucking exhausted. 

3. I want people to believe victims when they tell their stories. Period. I don't want them to be doubted or questioned or disbelieved. I don't want to listen to them explain or justify what they were wearing. I don't want to extend the benefit of the doubt in every circumstance to the accused, particularly when there is a pattern of behavior. We live in a society that treats victims like shit for saying anything...so WHY would anyone make this stuff up? Easy. They wouldn't. Your whole entire false accusation narrative is in and of itself a part of toxic misogyny. 

4. I want people to understand that politics aren't politics, that politics are life...and if you are fortunate to believe that politics are just politics, that comes from whatever privileges you occupy in this society.

5. I want more tattoos. And I want my nose pierced. But I can't get any more tattoos or piercings for a while, which is fine. I don't have the cash for them anyway.

6. I want a Disney budget that won't eat into every other single aspect of what little breathing room we have. The older two kids are marching in the parade at Disneyland this spring, which is a once in a lifetime thing. They're going, and because they're going (and the big one is the drum major), I want to go too. I've already sent him on trips to places I have never been with the band, but this is his last big thing in high school, and I want to be there to see him do it. Disneyland costs a goddamn fortune though. For real. I know that there are all these people who claim that money isn't the path of happiness, but for fucks sake not having to worry about it once in a while would be life changing. I wonder all the time what it must be like to actually not have to worry about money. And then I go back to work.

7. I want the track at the gym to be empty when I want to use it, or to be populated only by people who can stay in the lanes they are supposed to stay in and who pay attention when someone is trying to pass them. I don't know which is worse - the obnoxious tweens weaving in and out of lanes, the clueless old ladies chatting with friends three wide on the track, or the guy who has to turn around and watch me run every.single.time. I pass him. Dude. What the hell. 

8. Speaking of running, I'd like to make progress faster on my pace. I've been doing this religiously for months now, and have gotten much better at it. Well, I haven't gotten better, I've slowly sucked at it less and less. Accuracy. But it would be nice to feel like I am getting better at it faster. But alas. I'll go anyway. Because right now running is saving my sanity.

9. Totally a first world thing, but I applied to sit on the parks and rec advisory board and I'm probably jinxing myself by even mentioning it, but I would like to know if I got selected. My dream is to become Leslie Knope. Yes, yes it is.

10. I'd like my middle dog child to mellow out. She's an enormous bony freak of a lab mix, and she still has at least 2 years of puppy left in her, but I'm tired. The upside is that she isn't eating the actual house anymore. And yeah, she totally did that for a while. 

11. I'd like for the people who live in my house to see all the stuff that is everywhere. You know. The stuff that only I CAN SEE, that only I PICK UP. It drives me a little more insane every day. Why did you finally snap, Kelly? The hair ties. It was the hair ties. 

12. Speaking of which, I'd like to not have to lose my mind and get all yelly to get people to help around here. Or not have to do any of those things. Like, if people could just empty the dishwasher because they walk past it and see that it needs done, or swish the toilet after they drop a nasty deuce, or move the laundry to the dryer before it starts to smell like feet, that'd be great. This wish is evidence of the fact that I am delusionally optimistic. 

13. I'd like to deal with a little less anxiety in the house. All the way around. We could all use some chill. I include myself here.

14. I'd like to actually go on an anniversary trip with the husband this year, knowing that it probably won't happen because of the wonder that is Disneyland and having 5 kids that insist on eating and outgrowing their clothes and shoes. 

15. I want an unlimited supply of protein almonds and other crazy expensive keto snack foods that I refuse to buy because of that whole Disneyland and 5 kids thing.

16. I would LOVE my wardrobe to just change sizes as I do. I don't have the cash flow to buy new pants every couple of months, even if I need them. If the dryer could actually just start shrinking stuff, that would be rad.

17. I want to be able to clean my carpet and have it stay clean for 24 hours before someone spills or pees or barfs on it. 

18. I want my inside the computer people to not be so far away. And I want to actually SEE the friends who live here way more than I do.

19. I want to make good on the plans to start a game night this year.

20. I still want world peace, an end to hunger, freedom for all, true equality and for Citizens United to be overturned. I want Ginsburg to stay on the Supreme Court forever. Someone get her some vitamins immediately. 

Happy Festivus. I got a lot of problems with you people. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

My Keto Experiment

Waves.

Hi. I don't really want to write this post, but here we are, so let's just get it over with.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Talk to your doctor. Blah, blah, blah.

I am about to roll over on a year since I started this weird keto journey, and I guess that I look different enough that people are starting to ask me what I am doing. Kicking my own ass, mostly. But we'll get there in a minute.



Back in December of 2017, I was tired of being tired. Frustrated with not ever being able to lose weight, no matter what I did. Facing a diagnosis of diabetes and looking at going on meds after struggling to keep my blood sugar down for nearly two decades. My a1c was creeping higher and higher, along with the number on the scale. I started to do battle with my pancreas a very long time ago, when I was pregnant with my oldest kid. He's 17, so that tells you just how long it has been.

I'm not the type of fat person who can legitimately claim that they were fat and healthy. I wasn't. I had high blood pressure too. I couldn't do a lot of things that involved too much exertion. Last summer at Disneyland, on top of having a bizarre allergic reaction, I dealt with blisters and some serious chub rub that made the trip hell for me. It was awful. I don't want to be that person anymore.

I also have been through my mom dying from complications of Type 2. I knew that I didn't want to end up like she did, I knew that I wanted to be able to watch not just my kids grow up, but their kids too. And I knew that something seriously had to change.

I have struggled with my weight for my whole entire life. I was the fat kid. I've always been your fat friend. And before anyone starts to angrily type a comment about how "we" aren't fat and fat is just a thing...I know. I'm aware. I've lived in this fat body for my whole life. Trust me when I tell you that the world treats fat people differently. It just does.

Anyhow, I've tried damn near every diet known to man. Even the ones with the celebrities and the ads on tv. I've exercised until I passed out. I have dealt with anorexia a few times along the way, and I know my propensity to just stop eating when life gets too complicated. I STILL fall back into these damaging patterns of behavior, even at 41 years old. I was never very good at being anorexic, though. Still fat.

Which just fed the vicious cycle of self loathing.

Hooray for having shitty self esteem.

I saw a couple of friends make progress with keto and figured what the hell? I'll give it a shot, and maybe it helps, maybe it doesn't. It was literally either this or accept my fate and go on meds.

I am also probably the most skeptical person you know. I assumed it wouldn't make a difference. Nothing else ever has.

I have done a ton of research on health and nutrition. I have had a few lectures from nutritionists. I have been told by endocrinologists to keep eating carbs, believing that I had to eat them because all these experts told me I had to. Nothing got better. It only got worse.

And really, humans are not designed to digest wheat. We aren't supposed to be eating processed foods. We just aren't. We just fell for the idea that we are. I include myself here.

The ADA still recommends that people with Type 2 diabetes eat a whole bunch of carbs, just that they use medication and/or insulin to maintain their glucose levels.

It doesn't have to be like that.

(Type 1 is a VERY different situation, requiring insulin, and which cannot be managed by limiting carbs alone. Nothing I write here should be deemed any recommendation to attempt this way of eating for someone with Type 1).

When I started it, I jumped in with both feet, committing myself to really going all in. This isn't the kind of lifestyle that you can ease yourself into exactly. In order to reach a state of ketosis, you essentially have to go cold turkey on sugar and refined carbs. And I won't lie to anyone. That first week SUCKS. Like, you're going to feel like shit. Your body is going to punish you, and it will attempt to demand that you eat the bread or sugar or whatever because you've basically become addicted to the stuff.

Once you get past those first few days, it gets better. I promise.

To cope with those initial days, and the "keto flu" that comes with them, drink a ton of water. Up your intake of electrolytes. And wait. Honestly, you've just got to ride that part out.

Once you do, though, you'll likely start to feel better within a few days. I know it sounds hokey, but I think clearer now. I am better able to regulate my emotions, less likely to be dealing with severe anxiety. I sleep a whole lot better. No longer take antacids.

When I started, I did what is usually referred to as lazy keto. I didn't make a bunch of fancy recipes. I didn't make special food. I sure didn't buy anything special. I didn't take a bunch of supplements. I didn't invest in a whole bunch of shakes. If I was out at a restaurant, I just asked for meals to be made a little differently. Sauces on the side, no bread, no croutons. Sub rice or pasta for vegetables.

I've never worried about my macros aside from keeping a running total of my net carbs. My goal is to have 20 net carbs a day or fewer. Some people can do this and get away with as much as 50 grams. My pancreas is an asshole though, so I keep them lower.

Oh, and a net carb is just total carbs minus fiber.

You will want to try and spread them out throughout the day too, because if you ate all 20 (or 50 if you're one of the lucky people), it might be enough to kick you out of ketosis.

A lot of people assume that I have changed everything about how I cook and eat, and it isn't actually true. I still make most of the same dinners for my family that I always have. I just substitute ingredients or serve the carb-dense stuff on the side instead of incorporated in the dish. For example, I still make spaghetti and homemade meatballs on a regular basis. I just eat mine with zucchini noodles or shiritaki noodles instead. I do make my own pasta/pizza sauce because nearly all commercially available sauces are full of sugar. It's literally the easiest thing, though, and tastes so much better. Crushed tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes. There.

There are some super health conscious people who will claim that you can never have fast food on keto. I'm not one of them. I have 5 kids and we are super busy people so there are times that I am nowhere near home and need to eat. I just get burgers without ketchup or the bun, with extra lettuce and tomatoes.

I keep a bag of roasted almonds in the car for snacks. Peanuts are fine too if you prefer, but more likely to cause inflammation and carry more net carbs.

I drank bulletproof coffee for a while, but stopped mostly because it was too much effort. I just drink it black now...and I drink a whole lot less of it. I used to guzzle the stuff by the gallon, and now I find that I only need one cup a day to get going.

So, then...what do I eat? I know that this is the question that a lot of people want answered. I eat food. Just food. All meats and fish, poultry and cheese will become your best friend. There are some keto people who literally live on bacon, and while I do love bacon, I cannot eat it that often. I stopped eating dairy aside from cheese and occasional Greek yogurt a long time ago and my digestive system has been so much better ever since. Eggs. I cannot tell you enough about eggs. Most people are conditioned to believe that eggs have a lot of cholesterol and therefore will raise your cholesterol levels, but that's not actually true. My cholesterol has dropped pretty significantly, and on an average day, I eat at least 2 eggs. (whole thing, not just the egg whites). All green leafy vegetables are great, tomatoes in moderation. You're going to want to avoid most root vegetables since they are starchy and full of carbs. And fruit is generally a no-go except for berries and the almighty avocado. ALL THE AVOCADOS.

I make ice cream sometimes if I really want it, from coconut milk, cocoa powder and Stevia. Peanut butter fat bombs cups from sugar free chocolate and chunky peanut butter with coconut oil. There are a million cookbooks and websites devoted to these recipes, so I won't bore you here.

My husband recently started eating keto as well, and makes killer bagels using Fathead dough (again, the interwebs are full of these recipes). They're seriously so good. Keto bread...well, it's not real bread...but it'll do. Swap out regular flour for almond flour or coconut flour, and you're going to want to make sure to grab xanthan gum for anything doughy you want to make.

I do have exogenous ketones in drink form that I use very rarely if I've had more carbs than I should. I've experimented with intermittent fasting as well, and have found that once I adjusted, I'd stay fuller longer anyway. It's weird. I can't really explain it. I do drink protein shakes now, and it took me a while to find a keto friendly mix that didn't taste like dirt. Optimum Nutrition chocolate if you're interested. Costco sells it. No need to pay some exorbitant amount of money for special keto-marketed stuff. I usually toss some powdered peanut butter in there too, with unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

For the first 9 months on this journey, I truly did keto only without adding any extra exercise. In September, for reasons that defy explanation, I started running too. But there are tons of people who have great success with this way of eating who don't do any exercise at all.

Thing is....what you put into your body is a whole lot easier to control than trying to burn it off, even if you were going to work out all the time. I don't honestly know why I started running, but I kind of love it now. (gross)

This weekend, I will hit one year with this way of eating. I can say that I will never go back. I have lost a whole bunch of weight. My cholesterol is lower. My blood pressure is normal. My a1c is too. My skin is even clearer.

It has changed my life.

Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't...but maybe you want to try too.

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