Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Holiday Overhaul

While you may know that I'm a big fan of holidays and celebrating, you may not know that certain holidays annoy me.  Or maybe I'm a grouch, too easily annoyed.  The thing is, I just don't like doing the same things everyone is supposed to do on specific days because some people decided a long time ago that we should all choose a day to do those things.  That last sentence is one of those that only makes sense in my head, isn't it?  What I mean is, I kinda hate conforming.  I don't like making resolutions on January 1st.  I don't like sharing the things for which I'm thankful on the last Thursday in November.  I don't like remembering fallen service members only on a Monday in May and November.  And I really don't like declaring my love for Charming on February 14th.  I've got a plan, though, to fix everything.  Okay, maybe not everything, but at least I can fix the "banks are closed, let's have a Bar-B-Q, drink, and send generic text messages to everyone in our phones all day" problem.

NEW YEAR'S DAY should be NEW DAY.  The first day of a new year is no more monumental than waking up to a new day.  Yeah, I get the whole thing about fresh calendar pages and having a starting point for your resolutions, but really, all that is just fluff.  If you really, truly want to change something in your life, you should do it right now.  Wednesday.  Saturday afternoon.  This very minute.  If you're always waiting for the right time to start exercising, stop eating junk food, quit smoking, keep in touch with friends, study your devotional, or get organized, you're really just doing one thing: procrastinating.  If you must, mark the day with stickers on your calendar, noisemakers, and fanfare.  The important thing is to realize that there's nothing about January 1st that makes you more resolute.  Resolve now, and do it now.

I saw this on Facebook, it's supposed to start June 1.  I will not wait until then. You shouldn't either.

VALENTINE'S DAY should be ABOLISHED.  Let's be serious.  I cannot think of a single February 14th in the life of anyone I know that was actually important to their relationship.  (Although, there was that one time I opened a gift from a boyfriend on Valentine's Day and found a diamond ring.  When my first words were, "This isn't an engagement ring, is it?" he replied, "Well, it isn't now!" I guess that could have been an important day.  But really, my response would have been the same any day of the year.)  If you love someone, they should know it.  If they don't love you back, paying for something "romantic" on a specific day of the year isn't going to change their heart.  Flowers die.  Chocolates get eaten.  Teddy bears are useless.  What's the worse that will happen?  Kids'll learn to cut heart shapes out of construction paper a bit later in life?  Couples will show their love for each other with gestures or gifts that are thoughtful, and on their own timeline?  We'll say goodbye to the glorious tradition of sending our kids to school with a shoe box with a slit cut in the top for all the cheaply made, generic message cards paid for by the parents and the ungodly amount of red-dyed candy?  I'm okay with that.  Plus, I'm sure we can find other uses for all the glitter and paper doilies we'll be saving.

I glitterally just gagged.
APRIL FOOL'S DAY should be APRIL FOOL'S MONTH.  A day just isn't enough.  The jokes are expected, now, and that takes the fun out of it.  I'm not the biggest fan of pranks, but that's only because so many people make them dangerous or mean.  I love a good, clean, "gotcha!"

MEMORIAL DAY should be THANKS & GIVING DAY.  For hundreds of years, men and women have sacrificed their lives for American liberty, to give us rich opportunities, a sense of justice, and the beautiful land on which we've built our lives.  Instead of celebrating our freedom with free time, parties, drinks, parades, and sand castles, I vote that we thank and give back to the families of our military service members.  On Memorial Day, I do see a lot of Facebook status updates showing appreciation to those who have served, but I wish the people who have sacrificed so much for us would receive a more tangible giving of thanks.  Imagine how wonderful it would be if we gave the money we spent on red, white, and blue decorations, food, parades, and party favors to the widows, widowers, and children of those who have lost their lives in military service!  If nothing else, we should all spend the day solemnly contemplating the cost of our freedom.

I didn't have a picture lined up for this section, but my search for thanksgiving + american flag images turned up some results that were...interesting.

I think you get the idea.

INDEPENDENCE DAY should be INDEPENDENCE DAY, except with more of a concentration on history.  As adults, we aren't usually required to remember dates and facts and important people from hundreds of years ago, but that doesn't mean the events and people are less historically significant.  We should remember, not for a U.S. History test or grade, but because the things that happened all those years ago made our country, and essentially, us, what and who we are.  Take some time next 4th of July to appreciate the fact that our temperatures come in Farenheit, and we aren't required to worship a Royal family or forced to drink tea, use the metric system, or call fries "chips."

LABOR DAY should be NAP DAY.  Is there anything else anyone wants to do to celebrate?  We should also use the sense of community developed in the working class on this holiday to petition as a group for siestas every afternoon.  We'll have to call our nap sessions something else, though, like Tea Time or Smart Zees.

COLUMBUS DAY should be FLORIDA DAY.  Florida is awesome, and totally under appreciated.  Plus, we're probably just a few sinkholes away from being  East Hawaii, all broken up into small islands, so there might not be much time for the rest of the country to show us how much they love our warm climate, wet air, giant cartoon mice, and oranges.  By the by, I do realize that Columbus didn't land in Florida.  The people that did, though, none of them have a Day.  I'm sticking with my decision.

VETERAN'S DAY should be JUST FOR VETERANS & THEIR FAMILIES.  The rest of us really need another holiday?  No.  Veterans and their families should be the only people off from work, buying things on sale, and partying.

THANKSGIVING DAY should be EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. Seriously.  One day is not even close to enough time to count our blessings.  If you're reading this, which I know you are, you should be grateful for your computer, tablet, smartphone, or good friend who has one of those things.  You should be grateful that you know how to read.  You can be thankful that I give such excellent advice.  You can appreciate the fact that you're alive now, when there is electricity and internet and microbrewed beer and blogs on every subject and that you aren't currently at the bottom of a sinkhole.

BLACK FRIDAY should be MELANCHOLY MONDAY and should be switched to the day after the Super Bowl.  The Black Friday sale papers are lies, the lines for shopping are sickening, and within 5 years, Amazon's drones will be delivering everything, anyway.  Football fans, however, need a day to recover from their sadness that the season is really over and to get rid of the vast amounts of wings and chips they consumed during the big game.

All the December holidays can stay as they are, at least for now.  People do need to stop complaining about Christmas becoming too commercialized, though.  I'm quite certain there isn't anyone alive that truly remembers celebrating an un-commercialized Christmas.  If folks don't want the true meaning of Christmas spoiled by materialism, they need to stop buying anything but absolute necessities starting in July.  Yes, July.  Have you not been to Walmart?


Let's change our calendars, shall we?

Favorite holiday?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Glad I Wore the Good Underpants

Remember when I wrote a lot (lot) about running and training and races?  That was cool.  For me, it was cool, anyway.  So, here's a quick (yeah, right) update on how the running and training and races are looking in my world.  (You can stop reading now, Sha.)

I have finally gotten back to running consistently.  The problem is, I'm consistently running 4-7 miles per week.  Back in the day (pre-injury last Summer, post-injury last Fall) I was easily getting in 15-20 miles per week.  Remember my mysterious calf pain?  Well, it has pretty much been explained.  I'm still planning to seek a second opinion, this time from a real doctor who specializes in sports or vascular medicine, but here's the gist of what's going on:  My legs blow.  I had (have?) a few superficial thromboses, which are basically blood clots in the smaller veins near the surface of my skin.  I also have (definitely have, not going anywhere) insufficient circulation in the right common femoral vein.
See it all the way up there?  The lady performing the venous ultrasound had to use the wand thingy and do lots of squeezes in that area to check my circulation.  Now you know why I'm glad I wore the good underpants.
I know what you're all thinking.  "Poor thing!  What did she ever do to deserve this?  It isn't fair!"  Thank you for your sympathy.  We'll get back to that in a moment.  First, let me tell you the good and the bad news.  The good news is that I don't have the dangerous deep vein thrombosis, and the back-up in blood flow (reflux, they call it) was only seen in that one spot.  The bad news is that, at least according to my PCRNPWHHADCHATTISH (primary care registered nurse practitioner who has had a different color hair all three times I've seen her- we'll call her CHATTISH for short) this is not a condition that will improve.  Ever.  The tiny blood clots they found were in the spot on my calf where I was having so much pain, which also happens to be where I have icky, bulging varicose veins. CHATTISH said that the clots will break up and go away if I use my hot compress and elevate my leg regularly, but it's also very likely that more will show up as I-you guessed it!-run.  The longer and oftener I run, the greater the occurrences of the clots will be.
Bonus!  If you look closely, you can tell which toenail on my right foot is about to fall off.   I <3 Running.
The more years that I run, the worse my veins and circulation are going to be.  Booooooo!  Now, back to your kind sympathies.  The thing is, I should've known this would happen.  The following groups of people have an increased risk of developing blood clots:
1. Smokers. 
I smoked for 10 years. (Quit almost 5 years ago!)
2. Women who have taken the pill.
3. People who are on their feet for long periods of time.
Like, say, working in restaurants and bars for 16 years.

CHATTISH said that she would not tell me to stop running.  She said that if I can handle the pain, fine.  She suggested I wear compression socks, but I need to get a pair with slightly less compression than those I currently own.  Not sure why, exactly, but the last time I wore them it felt like wasps were stinging my big toes; hurt so badly that I couldn't stand it.  

Now, on to the training and races! (That exclamation point was a lie.  This part's pretty depressing, too.)

I'm not training for anything right now.  If I were, I would be doing a terrible job of it by only running single-digit miles each week.  If I decide to keep the marathon distance as my goal, and if the pain doesn't get any worse, and if I am able to keep from getting any other injuries, I will start training in early July for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll full marathon on November 8.  It's the only race for which I'm actually registered (Thank you, Charming!) which is a pretty good feeling right now.  I started reading the second book by the +another mother runner duo, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, "Train Like a Mother."  It's practically impossible not to enjoy their writing.  
Buy it!
Their stories are so easy to relate to, funny, and inspiring, and I really like the book.  I'll admit, though, that I went into it expecting to be motivated to sign up for more races before finishing the first chapter.  Well, you know what they say about expectations.  Wait.  What do they say about expectations?  "Whatever you expect-------"  I don't remember.  Something, right?  Someone gimme a good quote.  I digress (as usual).  I've figured out that people don't always get their motivation from inspirational books.  Some people are motivated by strangers, and wanting to accomplish what so-and-so accomplished.  I know people who are motivated to register for races by the quality of the medals, shirts, goody bag.  Others, surely, are motivated by some inner drive to succeed.  Unfortunately, from where I sit (with my bulging veins and expanding waistline), all those things which used to be enough to motivate me to register and train for a race seem just to elicit sighs.  

I do have a plan, though.  +Runner's World Magazine tweeted the other day about their 40 day challenge.  Apparently, there are 40 days between Memorial Day and Independence Day (What, do these people all have calendars or something?) and the challenge is to run at least 1 mile on each of those days.  I'm not going to sign up for the challenge.  It was the timing and duration of the thing which inspired my plan.  Since I would need to start training for my third first marathon just after July 4th, and since Memorial Day occurs soon enough for me to keep it in focus, and since my last 40 day challenge (during which I abstained from Facebook) was so successful, it seems like a great time to evaluate.  I'm going to up my mileage and my cross training workouts, I'm going to eat more healthfully (Again. Still? Sometimes it's hard to tell.) and I'm going to make a decision about my near training/racing future.  If you want my advice, you'll also do some evaluating and decision making if you're in a sigh cycle like me.  Let me know how it goes!

For fun: what % of your underpants are "good"?

For the win: which toenail is hanging on by a thread?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Bliss of Being Selfish

I love the word 'selfish'- don't you?  For one thing, words with the -ish suffix are usually cool with me.  Plus, if you're really angry, like, spitting mad, and yell at someone for being selfish, it often comes out as 'shellfish' instead.  That's always funny.  Also, when you say it over and over in your head, the 'fish' part of the word stands out.  Then you can imagine yourself as a beautiful, colorful, terribly vain and self-centered fish.  The self fish.
Turns out, there was already a name for the self fish.  Betta fish are very keen on themselves. Thank you, Google!
There.  Now that we've had a proper digression, you know you're on the right blog.

Everyone in my fishbowl world just celebrated Mother's Day; my third-no, fourth-fifth!-favorite holiday.  (It's cool that we live in a country where we celebrate so much that people can have fifth favorite holidays, huh?) I was the substitute teacher for a 3rd grade class the Friday before Mother's Day, which meant that I was to help the kids work on gifts for their moms.  They were tasked with writing a few sentences from the prompt: "My Mom is my hero because..." Walking around the classroom and trying to keep all the students engaged, I noticed some trends.  Moms are nice.  Moms take care of their kids.  Moms are helpful.  I started asking the kids to think a little deeper.  "Does your mom have another job beside being your mom?"  "Yeah, she's a probation officer.  She has a gun that she never lets me see."  "So, your mom must be pretty tough and brave, then."  "Yeaaaahhh...Yeah.  Yeah!  She is tough!"  "How about your mom?  What is she good at?" "Um.  Cooking.  And, um.............She's not good at cartwheels."  "Ok.  Moving on. I see you wrote that your mom plays with you.  What do you guys play together?" "Well, she helps me practice baseball.  But really, it's just me practicing and her playing.  She's not even on a baseball team, and I am." "Does your mom work while you're at school?"  "Oh. Um. Yeah. She's a nurse."  "My mom is a doctor!" "My mom throws the best birthday parties!" "My mom is bad at cartwheels, too!" "My mom gave birth to me!" "My mom potty trained me!"

Available on Amazon. Yes, for real.

The thing is, it was pretty difficult for the kids to think of anything unique or special about their moms.  Later, I asked Rip Claw how he would have answered some questions about me.  "Can you think of anything about me that is different from other moms?" Long think break. "No."  Sigh.  "Do you know what I like to do?"  "  Wait! Yes. You like to use the computer." Siiiiiggggghhhhh.  "What about running?  Have you ever seen me run?  Read books?  Play with you and Cupcake?  Go to the park?  Do I ever make you laugh?  How about our conversations?  Our bike rides?  I like to play games.  I like to go to the beach.  I like to do crafts."  He seemed surprised, but more than that, he seemed totally disinterested.  I'm pretty sure I was about 10 years old before I ever noticed that my mom did anything other than take care of me and my siblings, so I guess I shouldn't be too upset with my 7-year-old for still thinking of himself before me.

Which led me to thinking of this post.  (We always come back around to the point eventually.)

The fact of the matter is simple: Mom is a title, not a description.  Women who have children were women way before the children came along.  Obviously, kids are going to take a while to get to the realization that their moms are actually people with thoughts and needs and wants.  Rip Claw seems genuinely shocked when I say things like, "I was so bored." or "I'm so excited about going to this concert.  (Most) moms are, in a word, selfless.  That's what their children see, and that's about all they see.  Their moms give of themselves pretty much every minute that the kids are awake.  Even for a kid as thoughtful and sweet as my son, it's difficult to see past that selflessness and realize that there is sacrifice taking place.

I'm friends with some very smart women.  We have college degrees, insight, experience, and wit.  We're driven, successful, happy, and, yes, selfless.  Well, most of the time, anyway.  We've learned that we are all better when we take some time to be selfish.  By 'better' I mean in every way.  We're better moms, better wives, better at our jobs, better at being happy.  We even look better!  Almost 5 years ago, we started talking about planning a weekend away, just us girls.  After 10 or so months of emails, travel site visiting, and conversations with our husbands preparing them for what was going to happen, the Girls' Weekend tradition was born.
I'm pretty sure moms invented the "selfie" in order to get out from behind the camera once in a while. 

Our destination qualifications are pretty simple.  We want a pool.  We want a quiet room with a full kitchen.  We don't want to have to drive very far.  We want flat surfaces on which to lie down whenever we feel so inclined (or should I say, reclined).  Last year, we found a pretty perfect spot, about an hour's drive away, but the weather was horrible.  Totally hurricaneish.  We had to stay in the room watching movies, catching up on our magazine reading, and napping for many hours.  This year, we decided to go back to the same place, and were blessed with postcard-perfect weather the entire time.

We shopped for groceries beforehand, and we each brought a typical mom amount (1-3 grocery bags full) of snacks to share.  I ate every meal on our 10th floor balcony, looking out at this view.  We spent hours in the sunshine, switching between the private beach, one of many pools on the property, and the lazy river.  We went for quiet runs in the mornings after not setting an alarm or having a child crawl into bed to wake us.  Well, some of us did.
One of our number was forced to spend her time on crutches or a wheeled knee cart.  Great conversation starter, at least!
We missed our kids.  We missed our husbands.  It's always hard, being away from our families, even though it's only for a few days.  Rip Claw was very upset before I left.  When he asked me why I would even want to go somewhere without them, though, I had what I think is a pretty good answer.  "Well, son, the job of a parent is never, never done.  You know how I'm here all the time?  I get your breakfast, pack your lunch, make your dinner, help you with your homework, wash your clothes, and give you back tickles.  I wake up if you or Cupcake cries in the middle of the night.  I bring you to football practice and teach you new things and play with you and make sure you're behaving and growing up well.  I notice if your neck is dirty or your socks are stinky.  I find your shoes.  And you know what else?  Even when you're not around, or the house is clean or the laundry is done and I'm just sitting on the computer, I am ALWAYS worrying about, thinking of, and planning to make sure you and your sister are safe and happy.  I don't get weekends off from being your mom.  I don't even get hours off.  You know how much I love you, and I am so happy that I get to be your mom, but that doesn't mean I don't need a break sometimes.  It's like when you try to figure out a difficult problem.  Sometimes, if you give your brain a break from thinking about it, even just for a few minutes, you come back refreshed and with a new view, and that helps."  Okay, so that probably isn't the exact, word-for-word transcription of what I said, but it's pretty close.  He seemed to get it.  I was worried that he would still think that I wanted a break from him, but he didn't ask again about my reasons for wanting to go.  I told him that we would be having fun, relaxing, and having lots of naps, which he seemed okay with.

I spent about 20 minutes staring at the darkened elevator shaft, watching the bright cars zoom up and down, only to be bathed in darkness again as soon as the passengers stepped out.  It was oddly beautiful.

Less odd, more beautiful.  Midway through my beach run, I sat on a chunk of coquina like this and had myself a long Think and Stare at Water break.  Utterly blissful.
Every time I would settle in on a sunny lounge chair and take a deep breath of the fresh, salty air, I got a little choked up.  I felt such overwhelming appreciation and love for Charming, for our kids, for our lives, for the fact that despite all my imperfections and shortfalls, I have a husband who loves me and takes care of things so that I can lay in the sun and relax without worries for a few days.  It was absolutely marvelous.

I hope it's obvious that I would love and appreciate my Charming and my children even if I didn't get away from them for 52 hours a year; of course I would.  But I also think it's obvious that selflessness needs to take a holiday sometimes, and the colorful, unique, fun, exhausted person inside the Mom needs to be let loose to stare at elevators, dance, sit on rocks, try whiskey, keep the balcony doors open without concern about losing a toddler, finish a book, zoom down a water slide, paint her toenails, put on lipstick, sleep late, talk about Athleta's clothes for hours, laugh until we cry, and take a post-dinner nap.

If you don't believe me about the benefits of temporary selfishness, ask any one of these brilliant ladies.

What is your favorite way to spend your "me" time?