Tuesday, September 7, 2010

High Low

I finished the half-marathon. That's 13.1 miles. Nobody is more surprised or proud than me. I went into it pretty nervous but confident that I could do it. The plan was to jog some and walk most of it. I knew it wasn't going to be fast, but worse case scenario I would walk the whole thing and still could say I did a half-marathon.

The first 5 miles were awesome. I was in high spirits, smiling, and giving high-fives to spectators. Then my right hip started to ache. When I reached mile 7, my whole right leg was throbbing. My left leg didn't start to hurt until mile 9. By mile 10 I was in some serious pain and wasn't sure if I could physically finish. At that point, it became a mental battle. I am too stubborn to do 75% of something and then just give up because my legs hurt. If I sat down, the 10 miles and messing up my legs would have been for nothing. I wanted that finisher's medal.

Somewhere around mile 12, I saw the tower at 5th Street Market, which is where the finish line was. I knew I was going to make it, and I started jogging again. I ran most of the last mile. Partly it was because I was so excited, partly it was because I wanted to be done so bad. My mom was near the finish line and cheering. That was pretty awesome. Nobody ever comes to see me do this stuff. When I turned the last corner and saw the finish line, the big clock said 3:44:14. I really wanted to get it before it turned to 3:45. I sprinted the last 500 feet or so with my eyes locked on that big clock. I made it. I found out later that my official time from the chip on my shoe was 3:42. Not bad for someone who did zero preparation.

It was obvious within minutes that I had seriously fucked up my legs. I had trouble getting to the car. I took a cold bath when I got home, did some stretching, and passed out into a long nap. When I woke up, I was unable to move anything below my belly button. That was two days ago and I'm still pretty sore, although I am looking more homo erectus today. I was feeling pretty stupid yesterday as I laid in bed with my legs propped up, trying to drain out more lactic acid. Why did I do it? I'm going to miss at least 2 days of CrossFit because of this. What was I thinking?

I was thinking, "I can't do a half-marathon. Real athletes do that. I'll embarrass myself." Lately, that's all it takes to get me to try something. And I keep discovering that I can do things. I might not be the fastest or the strongest, but I can do hard things. I'll finish eventually. I don't need to be afraid of anything. I wrote on Facebook, "I did it! I did it! I'm in horrible pain, but I finished! I did it. And I never have to do it again."

That night, as I was nursing my legs and still high off the whole day, my ex-husband called. He's going to marry the woman he cheated on me with. He wanted me to hear it from him before he put the kids on. Then he did. They were all excited because they're going to get "a new mom!" Holy shit.

I got off the phone and started sobbing. Not because I'm jealous of them. They're both miserable people who totally deserve each other. I'm just so jealous of what they have. I'm the one who wants marriage and a family. I want someone to talk about my day with and to celebrate great days with. I want someone to take care of me when I'm sick and I want to take care of him when he's sick. I want to go on family trips with the kids to interesting places. I'm a good person and I'm working hard to be even better. Why doesn't anyone want to be with me? Blah blah blah. There's no need to keep going on; you get my point.

Anyway, things are in better perspective today. I think it was poetic that the half-marathon and the wedding news came on the same day. The half-marathon reinforced my growing realization that I can do anything I choose to do. I don't need to be afraid of getting hurt, or looking foolish, or even failure. All of those things or none of those things might happen, but I'll be fine. Same with being a single mom. I'll be fine. It's hurting right now, but I keep getting stronger. Someday this whole process will be over, and I will be able to say, "I did it. And I never have to do it again."

Friday, August 27, 2010

How much is this costing me?

So counseling is not exactly what I was hoping. I've gone for a total of three sessions now. I can't decide if my problems are too mundane or if the solutions are too obvious. Either way, she's telling me stuff I already know. For example, when I tell her that I have compulsive eating behaviors, she suggests I used a structured program like Weight Watchers. Check. When I tell her that I binge when I'm stressed, she suggests that I make a list of other self-soothing techniques. Check. When I tell her why I'm stressed, my parents' and sister's health issues, she tells me that I can't control others only my own feelings about things. Check. Yeah, lady. I know all of this, but what happens when I don't stick to Weight Watchers, or I flip out about my mom's angiogram and then head straight to Burger King? I'm intelligent enough to know how I should behave, but not always able to do it.

Oh well, at least she's better than the first woman I met with. She tried to convince me that I should have never left church. It did not feel good to argue with a therapist on my own dime.

I did restart Weight Watchers this week. I had gained back 8 pounds since I fell off the wagon. That's not too bad. It could have been a lot worse actually. I'm re-recommitting. Again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I'm Living the Dream

In CrossFit, every workout has a prescribed difficulty level. When you can do a workout at that prescribed level, without having to scale anything back, it's called doing it Rx. You might hear me say something like, "I did it in 18 minutes, but not Rx." That means I used less weight for a lift or maybe a lower box for the jumps. I have a friend at the gym who says that doing a workout at Rx is "living the dream." It's that goal that all of us are reaching for. This week, I joined the small group of women at the gym who can use the Rx weights in the daily workout. I still need to scale a lot of other things, like pull-ups, box jumps, muscle ups, pretty much everything else, but when it comes to lifting, I get it done. It feels pretty great to be talented at something. I have a gift for lifting heavy things.

I met with my coach one-on-one today to discuss what my personal goals are. My attitudes about so many things have changed since starting this process. I came into the gym eight months ago with one goal: get skinny. That's not even on my list any more. First of all, I've been putting weight on, but dropping clothing sizes. I'm burning fat and gaining muscle. This has made me stop caring about the number on the scale (almost.) Second of all, I realize now that being fit is more important than how I look. The stronger I get, the better I feel about my body regardless of the size. I feel comfortable doing physical labor, more confident in my physical capabilities, and more confident in myself emotionally too. All of this is happening without getting skinny. Finally, I'm starting to think of myself as an athlete. Athletes are motivated by things other than what size their ass is.

My attitude about the work has changed as well. I am enjoying the challenge more, pushing myself more, these days. I want to be the kind of person who works hard and doesn't quit or take the easy way out. Ultimately, my goal is really about being the best person that I can be. Part of being that best person is being strong and healthy no matter what size I end up being.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Best Week Ever!

Let's start with the CrossFit games. They were held last weekend in Southern California, and streamed live all over the world via the internet. Basically it's the international competition to determine who are the fittest man and woman on the planet. I got so sucked into watching my buddy Cheryl Brost kick some serious ass that I neglected my children for two days. She ended up coming in 13th! The 13th fittest woman in the world?! And I work out with her! Crazy.

When you see someone achieve something amazing, you cannot help but be inspired to try a little harder in your own life. I ended up going to five sessions of CrossFit this week; that's a new record for me. Not only did I go more, I worked harder too. Watching the games gave me a major paradigm shift. This stuff is fun, and I'm going to go in there and kill these workouts! And I did. I performed better this week than I ever have. There was no belly-aching and no half-assed performances. I went in their with the attitude that this stuff is a piece of cake (compared to what Cheryl had done,) and I was going to tear it up. That's a pretty awesome feeling.

Today was a team workout with 3 other women. For the first time, I felt like they didn't have to carry me because I wasn't as fast or as strong. I did more than my fair share of the work, and it felt fantastic to have them say, "Good job, Jen. You really helped us on the lifts." That's a first for me too, being thanked for my effort. I helped them achieve success.

On the home front, I was determined that Griffin would be a bike rider before he turned 11 on July 26. He's been afraid of it for years. Last Sunday, I worked with him slow and steady, doing one skill at a time: first learning to take off, then making turns, breaking, etc. As an incentive, I told him I would take him to the movies any time he wanted if we rode our bikes. By the end of that first trip he was feeling comfortable, and we've been out a total of 5 times this week. The last couple of times were by Griffin's request. It's a miracle what the promise of a movie or a favorite restaurant can do. Although, my bank account is shrinking rapidly.

The weather has been spectacular, and I went sailing twice this week. I can't say enough how much I enjoy being out on the water in the sunshine. It is exhilarating. One night we were out pretty far at sunset and decided to stay out after dark. Sailing in the moonlight is a whole other level of wonderful. Next week I'm on sail duty and have to start mastering the hard stuff. It feels so... I don't know... alive to be outside and using your body in nature. It just feels gratifying.

I even volunteered for some brush clearing on my parents property this week because since getting more fit, I enjoy the feeling of physical labor. My dad and I are starting a massive tree-house project together. I'm actually looking forward to the manual aspects of carrying lumber, hammering, sawing, etc. I can't believe I just said that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Write Like Stephen King

Somebody posted a link on Facebook to a website that analyzes a writing sample and spits out which author your sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary, etc. is most like. To my infinite delight, it spit out Stephen King for me. What I call "Classic King" is my favorite author. "New King" is kind of a hack.

The year I turned 13, a movie came out called "Stand By Me;" famous around here for being filmed in Brownsville. Besides introducing me to the boy-god River Phoenix, that movie really resonated with me and what I was experiencing right then with my friends. My mom told me it was based on a short book, and she had a copy of it at home. It was actually quite a big book with four novellas collected in it. She adamantly insisted that I not read one of the other stories, "Apt Pupil." I remember her describing it as violent and evil. I devoured the other three and went in search of more.

King wrote 10 great novels before he went off the rails. He also wrote some short stories that are hit and miss, and he wrote a couple of crappy novels under the name Richard Bachman. Then by the end of the 80s, he had basically turned into a parody of himself. I picked up a new one a couple of years ago and it read like a bad King knockoff. But his Big 10 are all classics, and I used to own lovingly dog-eared paperbacks of them all. I can definitely say they made intense impressions on me during my teen years.

Both "Carrie" and "Firestarter" shaped my budding feminism. "Cujo" redefined my understanding of real monsters i.e. divorce and affairs and domestic violence. I contemplated justice, duty, and nobility with "The Dead Zone." I wouldn't call these horror novels. I've never understood how he got that label. They weren't scary or even graphically violent like horror movies. I would maybe call them fantasy, certainly thrillers, but they never evoked horror. Well, except maybe "Salem's Lot." That was a good old fashioned scary story. But even that had grand themes about facing your demons both figuratively and literally.

The two grand-daddies are "It" and "The Stand." Both of these beasts are over a thousand pages and tackle no less than the nature of man and the existence of good and evil. There is no doubt in my mind that these books formed my idea of what it means to be honorable, kind, brave, and strong. My firm belief that we are all in this life together to stand with each other in times of disaster comes from King's epic stories. Any evil can be overcome when we love and take care of each other. Also, "The Stand" introduced me to the love of my life.

Stu Redman is a factory worker from a small town in Texas. He gave up college to support his younger brother when their mother got sick. His brother repaid him by getting as far away from Texas as he could. Stuart married his sweetheart, only to have her die of cancer a short time later. When the novel starts he is alone, hanging out with guys who are clearly his intellectual inferiors, but he cares for them. He's intelligent but a good-old boy, he's tough but a romantic, and he treats everyone, including women, with the utmost respect. He's a poet-cowboy who is good with his hands and his mind. Oh yeah, and he leads the fight against the devil's army in order to save humanity! Man, did I fall hard for him! I'm still searching for Stuart, the perfect combination of masculine strength and wisdom. It was only made worse when a young Gary Sinise played him in the mini-series! sigh...

Anyway, I was thrilled to be compared to him. I like his prose for a couple of reasons. First, his style is very every-man. You can easily imagine your uncle telling one of these stories to you while your fishing or maybe whittling something. Secondly, he doesn't overly romanticize life. Well, at least Classic King didn't. Death, sex, pain, joy, violence, and fear are things that happen everyday. His characters speak very matter-of-factly about topics that are often socially taboo. That delights me. I wish real life was like that. Plus, nobody can set a mood in time and space better than Stephen King. You can see the cars passing by, hear the music playing nearby, your can hear the voices and inflections of his characters; you are entirely transported to the event. That's not so much fun for many King stories, but for me it's something that I never stop marveling at.

Oh yeah, and to this day, even though I've read everything that King wrote prior to 1990, I have never had the guts to defy my mother and read "Apt Pupil." If she thought "The Shinning" was ok for a kid, but that story wasn't... I can't even imagine how horrifying it must be.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Façade Is Starting To Crack

As parents there are moments when we are called upon to put on a good display and remain stoic in the face of disaster. We want to reassure our children that there is no reason to panic; everything is going to be alright. Last night I gave an Oscar-worthy performance. My nine-year-old daughter came to me complaining that her butt was itching. Let me be absolutely clear: nothing at all can prepare you for the sight of worms trying to escape from your child's asshole. Nothing. I was momentarily torn between screaming and vomiting. Luckily I was able to get a grip and paste a "happy" look on my face. As I calmly explained to Molly what I was seeing, she asked me, "Why are you smiling? This isn't funny." "Uh, well, it's kinda freaky and I don't want you to be scared." She responded, "It's ok, Mom. I'm not scared. You don't have to make that face." Smart kid.

Why am I telling you this story? First, I want all of you to have the image of little, white worms squiggling out of a tiny, pink rectum because I shouldn't have to suffer alone. Secondly, a worm infestation is the cherry on top of my stress cupcake. I am losing it people. I cannot take care of one more person with a medical issue.

I can't stop ruminating over the problems the other adults in my life are having. Here is what I predict is going to go down in the next five years. My father is going to require full-time care due to Alzheimer's or dementia. My mother is going to require full-time care as her mobility disappears due to diabetes and heart disease. My sister is going to require full-time care due to brain damage caused by malnutrition. Oh, and of course, any of them could also die. And who does that leave to be the responsible one? Only me. There is no husband to help. There are no other siblings to help. Just me. I am terrified.

I've noticed that I've started clenching my jaw again, a habit I haven't seen since the last couple years of my marriage. I'm having trouble sleeping. I'm eating junk food like it's medicine. Even my period is out of whack. I'm calling psychologists today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Time To Bite The Bullet

I can't deny it any longer. I need to talk to a professional. I haven't had positive experiences with psychologists in the past. Also, I have the whole "I'm not crazy, so I don't need a therapist" prejudice. But the truth is that I do need someone to talk to (and maybe I'm a little bit crazy.)

Lately I have been unable to handle the increased family stress and responsibility falling on my shoulders without turning to food. I don't know how to take care of myself any other way. Or, actually, I know there are other ways, but they don't soothe me emotionally. I've been puking more at CrossFit, and people are giving me props like, "Hey, way to push yourself." Inside I'm thinking, "Uh, I puked because I had a candy bar and a cherry coke for dinner last night." Not exactly the best fuel for pull-ups and push-ups!

In an attempt to make myself feel better about the scary things that are happening around me, I am basically sabotaging all of my hard work to get healthy. Why do I make choices that are ultimately destructive to my body? And also, eating junk feels good in the moment, but very soon after I feel guilty and have a belly ache. I keep repeating the behavior thinking it will be ok, but it never is. That is the very definition of crazy.

So it's time to talk to someone who can offer some insight. I want to find someone to challenge my perspective and coach me on better ways to deal with life. I'm also hoping that just by talking to a neutral third-party, I won't keep swallowing my stress along with all the candy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Baja Part Tres

I have the coolest kids on the planet. I know, I know. All parents say this. But mine are genuinely awesome! They are open to adventure, they are easy-going travelers, they are polite, they do what I ask, they are funny, they are kind, and they are good to each other. How many siblings can you say THAT about? I was a bit worried that being unplugged for a week was going to be a problem. It was a pointless worry. They can find creative ways to play anywhere they go.

They took to the ocean like the LaVelles that they are. (My maiden name.) We come from a rich tradition of being beach bums. Molly especially was smacked around quite a bit at first, but they both got the hang of maneuvering big waves by the end of the first day. On the second day, they were out on boogie boards. On the fourth day, Griffin worked up the courage to go out with my uncle on a real surfboard. That was amazing to see.

Griffin is a unique creature. One of his oddities is that he refuses to take instruction from a stranger. He's never been successful in any martial art/swim lesson/group class that he has tried because he "doesn't like people telling him what to do!" Pat and his son Kyle both wanted to give him some surfing lessons, but I was positive that Griffin would not go for it. What I didn't count on was the enormous gravitational pull from "cool cousin Kyle." Kyle is 23 and a pretty kick-ass surfer. He should be since Pat put him on a board at age 4! Griffin and Molly were instantly mesmerized by him. He spoke almost completely in slang. By the end of the week my kids sounded like Keanu Reeves. Griffin would stand on the beach and watch Kyle out there catching waves and you could see he was just in awe. So when Pat approached Griff about going out on a real board, he jumped at the chance.

That was my favorite moment of the trip. As I stood on the beach watching my uncle push Griffin out deeper and deeper into the bigger waves, I was overcome with what a wonderful opportunity this was for my son. Not only was he breaking out of his protective shell to try something a bit scary and difficult, but he was having this experience with part of our extended family. And it was all happening on a gorgeous beach in Mexico!! I am so grateful that I can provide these experiences to my children. My parents provided them to me, and they are my fondest memories of childhood. My parents took us out camping, swimming, exploring, and it made me who I am today.

Meanwhile, Miss Molly, who is normally quite nervous unless I am close by, practically forgot about me on this trip. First there was Aunt Barbara who very much encourages Molly's girly girl. They talk fashion and decoration without me (thank goodness.) Molly loved hanging out with her. Then there was Pickle. Yes, THE Pickle: legendary surfer chick who was moved to Baja permanently. Pickle lives in an old Airstream trailer and surfs every day. She earns money by being a caretaker for the vacation homes of Americans who only come down once or twice a year. It's a pretty sweet gig. Anyway, Pickle really caught Molly's imagination. Also, Pickle has a pack of Mexican dogs that follow her around because she feeds them. Molly fell right in with the dogs. Pretty soon Molly was talking about how she wants to decorate her trailer when she's older and what she wants her surfboard to look like. All I can say is that I'd rather her be a surfer chick than a fashion model.

I was going to write more, but I don't know what else there is to say that would be interesting to anybody. Yeah, there were a lot of insects. Insects that could eat American bugs for breakfast. BIG. And Kyle recognized a UFC fighter who was down at the beach learning to surf. Kyle geeked out and made me take a picture of them together. I think the fighter was a bit embarrassed because he really had looked like a goof out on the water. But oh well, everyone looks like an idiot when they are learning to surf. It's hard!

Also I could write a whole post about the poverty in Mexico and the asshole Americans who are moving down there and changing things and how we really could be doing more to build our neighbor up instead of exploiting her in so many ways. But I don't feel like going off on a political rant that most of you would already agree with anyway. Why preach to the choir?

However, I will end on food. I love fish. Why do I not eat more fish? Almost everyday we ate fish that we bought right off the boat. Amazing! And fresh, homemade tortillas! I could eat that combo, with some cillantro and fresh lime, every single day for the rest of my life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baja Part Dos

If I could magically extract my sister from the vacation, it would have been maybe the best trip I've ever had. The weather, the landscape, the people, the food, the place we stayed, and the surf were all perfect

Let me start with the landscape. Baja Sur is a desert. We're talking arid, dusty, cacti, and prickly brush. There are rattlesnakes and scorpions running around. I didn't think that such a harsh environment could be beautiful, but it was. There was so much variety of plants and animals. I saw things that I had never seen before, including a real, live road runner. I also saw many jackrabbits, cotton tails, brown pelicans, frigate birds, quail, and a few tough looking chipmunks. Anyway, this harsh desert is right up against the Pacific Ocean, which provides glorious respite.

Thirty-some years ago, my uncle Pat, my dad, and a couple of their friends went in together to buy ten acres of this desert right on the beach near this small village called Todos Santos. Over the years they've slowly made some improvements. They started with a well and then a water tower. There are a couple of small concrete "houses," and I put this in quotes because they would never qualify as houses in the U.S. My uncle didn't want a house; he's a firm believer in keeping the property as un-molested and wild as possible. He poured a concrete slab as a floor, made a counter with a sink for an outdoor kitchen, and threw up a couple of walls for a small indoor storage/bathroom combination. Then he put a giant palapa over the whole thing. A palapa is a palm-thatched roof (think Tahitian postcard.) It's basically an open-air shelter with a concrete floor that is cool on your feet. Throw some hammocks up and you've got the Ritz!

Now sometime around 1980, my parents moved from Southern to Northern California and they needed some money. My dad decided to sell his share of the property. He got a couple thousand bucks if memory serves. For a piece of beach in Mexico! Then a bunch of Americans discovered this little spot and started buying up the land around it. There is a whole community of ex-patriots down there now, building beautiful haciendas, driving up land prices, and the combined property (that my dad bailed on) is worth millions! Todos Santos has grown as well, while still small in population, there is now several high-end art galleries and a couple of five-star hotels to entertain the tourists. But Pat keeps his little piece as a natural desert while the mansions go up on either side and the town creeps ever closer to his preserve.

For a week we had no electricity, no phones, no hot water, and no clocks. It was fantastic. We got up at first light, used candles at night, and pretty much went to bed soon after sunset. It felt so good. You just can't be worried about things in that space. Everything moves at its own pace, its own manner. You start to notice things that you weren't paying attention to before. Instead of being sucked into Facebook for an hour, you get sucked into watching the sunset for an hour.

Pat and his wife Barbara (my step-aunt?) made me feel very welcome. I enjoyed pitching in with maintenance chores and feeling like a contributor. They invited me to come back on my own next time. And I'm seriously considering doing it. I think it would be great to be in a foreign country on my own. First, there's the obvious advantage of going where I want, when I want, without having to get the whole group moving. Secondly, I think it would be empowering to travel somewhere where I don't speak much of the language. The little spanish I did use made me feel confident that I would be ok. I don't need to be afraid. Also, I got a lot of thinking/processing done in the moments when I was alone on this trip.

One morning I got up in the dark and walked along the beach as the sun rose. A couple of nights I climbed up to the platform on the roof and watched the sunset over the water. I had more than one epiphany during the week in these quiet times, soaking in the wonder of it all. The biggest one was that I need to stop searching for someone to experience these adventures with. I invite people and they don't want to go and then sometimes I sit out myself, rather than forge on alone. That is absurd. I have one life. If nobody wants to go with me, that is their loss. I need to start forging ahead and making these experiences happen for myself. It is better to have an amazing experience alone than to not have it at all.

Up next in Baja Part Tres: bonding with my children, taming the insect legion, and meeting a cage fighter!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I just got back from a week of camping in Baja. It was an amazing, horrible, wonderful, terrifying experience. My sister, who is mentally ill, was traveling with us and ended up in the hospital. It's a very long story, and I've already told it quite a few times. Part of me is ready to move past it, part of me wants to record it so that people can witness the insanity that I have to deal with. I think I will just tell an abbreviated version here. There's no need to give every nitty gritty detail. Then I want to get on to what was fantastic about the trip.

My younger sister has a mental disorder. I'm not sure if it's manic depression or bi-polar or what. She refuses to seek treatment in any case. She deals with it, or rather avoids dealing with it, by being an alcoholic and bulimic. Both of these coping mechanisms wreak havoc with her health. My dad really wanted her to come with us on this family vacation and sort of decided not to think about the potential dangers of taking her out of the country for a week.

The first night, after we landed in Baja and got the rental car, my sister was very disoriented and didn't seem to know where she was. She couldn't answer simple questions. I thought that possibly she had taken something to deal with the anxiety of flying or perhaps she was dehydrated or had low blood sugar. I didn't pay much attention that first night. The next morning she appeared to be normal at breakfast. Again, I barely speak to her under normal circumstances, so I didn't pick up on anything. After breakfast, she went into the nearby town with my dad to get supplies for the campsite.

My dad returned a couple of hours later and was very distressed. While they were in town, my sister appeared to have some sort of breakdown. She was hallucinating, agitated, and even trying to get away from my dad. She kept talking about being dead. At one point, she took off her pants and peed in the back-seat of the rental car. My dad was ready to drive to Cabo and get on the next plane to Oregon. He tried to ask my sister some basic questions and she gave totally random answers. Like "Do you remember what happened in town?" She said, "violence and lechuga." I was thinking that maybe she was having a stroke or a brain aneurysm. I vetoed the plane idea and said we needed to find a hospital asap.

I'm going to skip over the next 4-5 hours here. My dad and I drove all over Baja Sur looking for a hospital with equipment to handle a problem of this magnitude and someone who spoke English. This turned out to be like the quest for the Holy Grail. We finally ended up in La Paz at a private hospital. Now I'm going to skip over the next 18 hours. It turned out that she had no sodium, potassium, magnesium, basically any electrolytes in her system. Without these electrolytes, your body can't send electrical signals properly, which was messing up her heart rhythms and brain function. Neat. She spent a total of 48 hours in the hospital getting pumped full of IV fluids.

When she came back to camp, she was going through detox of course. She had the shakes. She was crying one minute, yelling the next. Her feet and ankles were swollen so she couldn't walk. She was a complete mess. Plus, just so that none of us would forget, she continuously complained about how we made her miss 3 days of her vacation. I swear, if I didn't feel so horrible for my dad and how terrified he was, I would not have driven her around the countryside trying to save her ass. She better hope that she never has to ask me for help. She's gonna get a rude awakening.

The cherry on top of the whole thing was that when we flew home to Oregon, the attendant announced that they had some first class seats available if anyone wanted to upgrade. My sister jumped at the chance to get away from the rest of us. She sat up there, drinking of course, completely oblivious to the fact that she just slapped dad in the face after he'd been waiting on her hand and foot for days. She was tipsy by the time we landed.

So yeah, she generally made everyone around her miserable for the rest of the trip. One thing that I'm very clear about is that I'm not going to spend time around her any more. My parents are always trying to get us together, and I go along with it to make them happy. Not anymore. I feel bad that I'm going to do less stuff with my parents but I'm done with my sister. Enough is enough. I keep waiting for my parents to realize that they can't fix her, but it's time to stop waiting and move out of harm's way myself.

This drama has been going on with my sister for 20 years. No joke. 20 years! I'm ready to close the door. The problem is that I love my parents and she is her daughter. I know I'm going to have to help them deal with her continuing health decline and eventually death. The only question is when. How much longer can she hold it together?

Tomorrow I'll get to all the good stuff: the sun, the food, the plants, the animals, the water, and my awesome aunt and uncle.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Did I Start?

A friend of mine is sitting on the fence, about to take the plunge into fitness. She asked me this:

"Where did you find the motivation to get started? I'm feeling pretty blech-y and I don't want to keep on this way, but I'm not really wanting to give up the habits that have gotten me here. I wish someone could wave a magic wand and fix it. The prospect of all the work I need to do is mighty unappealing."

I ended up writing a long response and I thought it would be a good post. So here it is:

Wow. That's a tough question. It was a combination of things actually. The first was stepping on the scale at a doctor's appt. and having it flash 250 lbs. in my face. That's really high for a girl my height. My body was like 53% fat. I felt disgusted that I had let things get that bad. The second thing was that it coincided with being laid off. I felt like I needed a positive project that would give me something to focus on with all that spare time. Finally, I'm pretty unhappy being alone and everybody keeps telling me that you have to love yourself first. It seemed like the most obvious way to start loving myself more was to get healthy. And if I got thinner in the process, maybe that would catch some guy's eye. :)

The truth is that I had reached bottom. I was depressed and didn't feel any joy in my life or hope for the future. I knew getting healthy was one thing that I could change. And you're right, it's mighty hard work. The hardest part for me is the food. Today, I went with my mom for an angiogram and it was super stressful. She's in real trouble. My response: eat a half a carton of ice cream. :( I haven't figured out how to comfort myself without food.

The exercise part is different. Crossfit has changed my attitude toward fitness. I don't slog through hours of jogging anymore. I was forcing myself to do that, and I hated every step. Now I look forward to going to a workout. Crossfit challenges something primal, deep inside of me. I feel compelled to keep trying and do better. The biggest component for me is the group. And I hear this again and again when I meet CF people from other places. The camaraderie and esprit de corps is what keeps people coming back. You're all in it together, no matter what your fitness level is. Super athletes are pulling for me. I'm pulling for them. And there's the middle-aged lady who maybe has never exercised in her life. We're all the same, trying to achieve our own personal best.

Plus, the personal attention and motivation from a coach cannot be underestimated. My gym has a cap: no more than 10 people per coach. I happen to go very early in the morning, so it's usually just me and 1 or 2 others. My coach knows me, knows what I can do, and gives me real attention. She is teaching me to push myself a bit harder and to trust what my body can do. She also inspires me to keep going when I want to lie down.

Yes. It is expensive. My membership is $115 a month. But it's worth every penny to me. I have made real change in my perception about exercise and my capabilities. I have made strong friendships. And I have a personal trainer who cares about me and wants to see me succeed. I've cut back in other areas so that I could keep doing Crossfit. I used to spend at least that much going out to eat for lunch everyday!

There's no way to avoid the hard work. If you want to change, there's only one way to make it happen. You start.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heart Disease

My mom was diagnosed with coronary heart disease yesterday. She's having a stint inserted tomorrow. I'm really angry that I predicted this. She eats terribly, refuses to exercise, and insists that she's as "healthy as a horse." Meanwhile, she has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and oh yeah, she's recovering from CANCER. I've been saying all along that a heart attack was around the corner if she didn't get control. I hate that I was right.

I don't want to be that! What an incredible reminder of why I'm trying to get healthy. I want the best quality of life that I can achieve. I won't settle for anything less. I deserve the best.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Do I Enjoy?

A wise woman read my blog and noticed that I seem to have lots of things to complain about. She asked me if I am enjoying the journey. Or for that matter, is there anything besides food that brings me joy? She concluded that if I am not enjoying the journey then something is wrong.

These are important questions, but I think they might be unrelated or at least distinct. The first one is easy to answer, I am not enjoying this journey. However, I'm not sure that I agree with the idea that I'm supposed to. If it were enjoyable, that would signal to me that I'm not doing the real, very hard work that needs to be done. I have been asleep at the wheel for many years. It is not pleasant to look at my behaviors and ask myself the tough questions like, "Why do you fill the loneliness hole in your heart with chocolate?" It would be far more enjoyable to go back to eating fast food and sitting on the couch watching TV instead of working out.

By stopping behaviors that I logically know are bad for me, I have to experience the pain and fear that they used to cover up. I believe that being fat has been/still is a source of protection for me. Why am I alone? I'm fat. Why am I unsuccessful? I'm fat. Why do I have a hard time making friends? I'm fat. When you take this excuse away, you have to look at some unpleasant facts. There must be other reasons why I am alone and unemployed. What happens if I reach a healthy weight and I still am unhappy? What will I blame then? I will only be able to blame myself. So this is about finding out what I want, how do I get it, and what kind of life will satisfy me. Those are all tough questions that are not enjoyable to face.

The second question is not as easy to answer. There are things that bring me joy, but some are mixed with challenges. I experience pure joy when I spend time with Griffin and Molly. They are really loving, funny, cool people to be around. Griffin decided to move into the room that Molly and I were sharing, so we all sleep in the same room now. We spend many nights, after lights out, talking and laughing together. That is my favorite part of the day. Everyday.

CrossFit brings me joy AND pain. Sometimes I feel so proud that I could burst. I've come a long way in the strength department. I have muscles that I have never had in my life. Just today my mom was in a garden center and was trying to find an employee to load bags of mulch into her cart. I asked her, "Why?" She said, "Because they're so heavy!" I rolled my eyes and tossed 'em into the cart. What's 50 pounds when you can deadlift 200? Other days I'm disgusted by my performance. I am slow. My running times never improve for example. And 9 times out of 10, I'm the last one to finish, and everyone is standing around yelling at me because they've been done for 5 minutes or more already. That's embarrassing.

I enjoy the people I'm getting to know immensely. I have been alone for a long time. I don't have any friends that I socialize with in Eugene. I've met some amazing people through CrossFit and even done stuff away from the gym with them. That's huge for me. I crave people my own age to spend time with. I'm enjoying socializing with my parents. Even though we don't speak the same language, we do have things in common. Obviously my sense of humor comes from them and we laugh together a lot. It gets complicated sometimes, but overall, our relationship is better than it has been in years.

Men do not bring me any joy. They are idiots who do not see my value. It's painful and not worth talking about. I dwell on my singleness too much.

I don't like my job, but I love my two teammates. They are also single moms who are intelligent and funny people. It's been enjoyable to be on a team that has a purpose. I'm not a fan of the work itself but it's something to do. And the pay is good.

So anyway, it's not all doom and gloom, even though it may sound like that. I just tend to write about what's frustrating me, not what makes me happy. I don't process what makes me happy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I wish I had something inspirational to write today. It was not an inspirational week. I worked my ass off at the gym, where I got knocked down everyday. I ate extremely well. Alright, that might be an exaggeration, but I did eat within my calorie budget, it's just that some of those calories were ice cream. (It was low fat, no sugar added ice cream, because I AM trying to reform.) I had a good week with friends and family and work. But the results? Nada. No loss on the scale this morning.

I'm trying to be philosophical about it. Maybe it's because my period started. Maybe it's because I was so brutal to my muscles this week. Maybe it's sun spots. Who knows? It's just one week. I guess the point is really that I did the work. The results will come when they come. But I am proud that I keep trying.

I've been thinking about what it will feel like when I do reach my weight loss goal. Will I stop working out? Will I stop eating healthy foods? Nope. These are permanent changes and there will come a day when I don't even look at the scale anymore because that's not why I do it. I'll do it for the way it makes me feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The scale can't measure those things.

Wouldn't it be crazy if I just decided to stop looking at the scale now?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clawing My Way Back

I'm sitting in my new office. I am finally an official employee of the University of Oregon with a paycheck and benefits and an office with a window. I think my title is Research Associate. This is a huge relief because I haven't seen any money since March. The stress level was critically high. It's still unclear whether or not I'm going to be able to keep my car, but my CrossFit membership is safe for now.

Which brings me back to my fitness saga. I was looking over my journal where I am tracking my weight, exercise, food, etc. In the past 4 months, I've lost 9.5 pounds. Obviously, that's a significantly slower pace than what I was doing in the beginning. There were two big periods of time in there where I was completely off track, eating fast food again, and even a three week chunk where I didn't exercise because of my ruptured eardrum. It's been a depressing Spring. I feel like I undid a lot of the progress that I made in the Fall and Winter.

But the reality is that I did NOT undo that good work. For the first time, I made a different choice. I could have given up completely. That's what I've done in the past. I'd lose some weight, take up jogging, and then when things got off track, I'd throw in the towel. Not this time. I held my ground. I even kept inching forward a bit. I keep going to CrossFit, even though it feels like I'm not making any progress. That is a miraculous change for me. Half of me really wanted to quit. The other half of me was disgusted at the half of me that wanted out. I don't want to be a quitter. I want to make real change. It's just so freakin' hard some days. I still have to psych myself up to order salad instead of a cheeseburger and fries. I still have to force my body into the gym. There are days when I am still convinced that I will never be healthy, so why torture myself like this?

But clearly something, however small, is changing. I'm making new choices. I'm still down 40 lbs. I am NOT going to gain it back. I'm still attempting to get fit. I keep going to the gym even on days when I know I'm going to have to run. (These are the most depressing days for me because every step reminds me how fat I am.) I am angry and sad, but I keep doing it. Last week I counted every single calorie that I ate, and I was well within my allowance. I lost weight. This week, I'm on track to do it again. I went to the gym for two brutal workouts on Monday and Tuesday. I'm going again on Thursday and Friday. I may not be emotionally happy with how things are going, but I'm sticking with it. That itself is progress. I'm praying that the emotional satisfaction will come eventually.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fallen Off The Wagon

I've stopped posting again. I have nothing to be proud of right now. I've gone back to some self-destructive behavior lately. I've had a few things knock my self-esteem at work, with relationships, and with my fitness. I've turned to junk food for comfort because I feel like it's the only thing in my life that makes me happy. This is sinking me deeper into depression. So, yeah, there's really nothing to post about, which is why I've stopped.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What A Long Strange Trip...

Good Lord. What a week I just had. It all started last Saturday when I was picked up by two friends for a road trip to the Bay Area. I had had a bad cold earlier in the week, but by all indications I was over the worst of it. So off we went. My friends are both sports nuts and had discovered that their two favorite baseball teams would be playing the SF Giants back to back. We bought tickets to see the Cardinals on Sunday and the Phillies on Monday. The drive down was a lot of fun. We laughed a lot. But by the time we got down to Oakland, where we were staying with a friend, I was exhausted and went to bed at like 9 o'clock.

The game on Sunday was great. The Cardinals won, so one of us was happy. The weather was spectacular and we all came away with just the right amount of sunburn. But as I was sitting there, baking in the sun, I could tell things were getting worse. I wasn't sure if it was the head-cold or the heat, but I started feeling dizzy. I ended up spending the last couple innings under cover.

After the game, we met up with another friend of our host because we were shopping for sperm. The friends I was traveling with are lesbians who have been together about 7 years. They want to start a family but obviously need some male DNA. Our host had found a willing donor, so we met up at a bar to interview him. That was just about the weirdest thing I have ever been forced to participate in. I should have gone to another table because I was pretty uncomfortable with their "hey-we're-all-family-here" attitude, but I was so morbidly fascinated, I couldn't bring myself to leave. I'm not judging them at all for wanting to find a sperm donor. I believe strongly that we should all have access to the same opportunities for marriage/family/etc. I was just really weirded out by how casual they were about the whole thing. I tend to over romanticize everything though, so of course I thought it deserved a lot more weight. After the interview, they all seemed to think it was a good idea. So he came back to the house, jerked off in a cup, and was on his way. The ladies used a syringe to finish the job. All the while, there's a house full of people cracking jokes, drinking beers, and just hanging out. Surreal. But I guess a lot of kids are conceived under even less formal circumstances than that!

On Monday I woke up with a head packed with snot and a fever. It appeared that Sunday had set me back significantly. While my friends went off to explore Alcatraz and see the Phillies game, I spent the day under the covers waiting for death to finally take me. I lived through the night, and on Tuesday morning we headed back to Oregon. Once again, the drive was a lot of laughs, but I was so sick. Driving through the Siskiyou Pass was particularly bad as the force in my sinuses turned my head into a pressure cooker. By the time I got back to Eugene, something had to give. I tried to blow my nose, and with a loud pop, my eardrum ruptured.

I took a bunch of Vicodin and tried to make it through the night. By the time I got to the doctor on Wednesday, I was a mess. I was dizzy and vomiting and blood was draining out of my ear. So gross. She takes one look and says, "Oh, that's a mess." Gee, thanks doc. Anyway, it turns out that eardrums will often heal themselves without any medical intervention necessary. The bad news is it can take two months to heal. Meanwhile, I have lost hearing in that ear and my balance is bad. Luckily the nausea has gone away, so it's more irritating than anything else.

As a strange side note, I have been experiencing Griffin's world for the last few days. Griffin was born deaf in one ear; his eardrum doesn't vibrate. I'm getting a taste of what his world sounds like. It's pretty interesting because there is no stereo, so no depth to sound. Crowded spaces are particularly confusing and frustrating. We went to a restaurant and every sound hit me at the same level if that makes sense. Everything (the people at my table, the other tables, the kitchen noises) all sounded the same distance away. Although, if I had been born this way and I didn't know any other way, I'm not sure it would be frustrating at all. I tried to share some of this insight with Griffin and he didn't seem to think it was all that profound. :)

Here's hoping that life calms down and gets boring soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Today Was A Great Day

Most days are pretty good. I get up, take care of the kids, take care of myself, do some enjoyable things, some chores, and then call it a day. What takes a good day and turns it into a great day? Having a story to tell.

Today, as I was lying on the couch trying to decide if I should take a nap before or after I watched TV, a friend called and invited me sailing! He had the afternoon off and since the weather was good had decided to take the boat out. Would I like to come along? Duh!

I drove out to Fern Ridge Reservoir to meet him and learn the basics of sailing. It was awesome. The sun was out, the sky was blue, there was a breeze, and I had nowhere to be for hours. He taught me a lot of vocabulary that I can't remember at all. The only two that stuck in my mind are the boom, because if you don't pay attention it smacks you in the face, and the tiller, because that was the one thing I was in charge of. The tiller is how you steer the boat; you move it from side to side. Ok, so I'm not exactly Master and Commander yet. Maybe next time I'll get to touch the sails and rope (rigging?).

He also did an excellent job of explaining the physics of why a boat moves forward when you're sailing almost into the wind, but not directly into it, even though you instinctually think you should be going backwards because the wind is pushing against you. It had something to do with lift and creating a vacuum and the shape of airplane wings. When he was all done, I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would have been easier and infinitely more Jen-pleasing to just say, "magic."

Anyway, we sailed around the reservoir for three hours. The weather was spectacular and there's just something about being on the water. It was highly soul-nourishing. I gotta say that today was a great day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Extolling the Virtues of Sleep

Sleep is so unfairly ridiculed. Admit it, when was the last time you felt cool for going to bed early? Everyone thinks they have to stay up all night and go, go, go. Sleep does not make you weak or lazy. Sleep makes you strong and healthy.

Now everyone who knows me will say that I'm no night owl. I'm always the first one to call it a night. But lately, I've been embracing my fuddy-duddy ways to the fullest. In the past few weeks, I've been going to bed with the kids at 9:30. Amazing things have started to happen. First of all, I recover from workouts faster, my mood is great, and I don't find myself bored and looking for ice cream late at night. The best part about it is that my body has harmonized with the day. I wake up slowly as the light creeps into the room at dawn. No blaring alarm necessary. It is so peaceful and really sets the tone for the whole day. I love it.

So get some extra sleep this week and see what it can do for you. It's the best anti-stress tool out there!

Monday, April 19, 2010

“This ain’t about women’s lib. It’s about women’s libido.”

Alright, I’m trying something new. I have been swimming in film culture since before I could walk. My mother actually has a PhD in film theory, so I had a steady diet of film history and critique my whole life. If you had asked me at age 16 what I was going to be when I grew up I would have said, “The next Spielberg.” Eh, that didn’t quite work out, but I still worship at the cinema every weekend. I don’t just like to go to the movies, I love to TALK about movies. I can talk your ear off about a good movie. If I could find a way to earn a living going to the movies… well, screw education! Anyway, I’ve always wanted to have my own review show on the radio a’ la Siskel and Ebert. It was just pointed out to me that I do have a platform to talk about movies.

From now on, I’m going to post an essay about a movie every Monday, since I typically go to the movies at least once every weekend. This weekend I went twice! It will discipline me to keep up my writing and it’s a rockin’ excuse to go to the movies! So without further ado… may I present my thoughts on the feminist manifesto that is The Runaways.

Where are we at with feminism these days? I gotta say that most of what passes as female empowerment makes me laugh or puke. Sandra Bullock makes a killing playing an executive who is a man-eating bitch (that’s the only way women can be successful in business, right?) until she meets the right guy to soften her and bring her real happiness through a relationship. Ick. Feminism in Hollywood has hardly made any steps forward in the last 30 years. If anything, especially in the romantic-comedy genre, I think we’ve taken a few steps back.

The Runaways is a wholly different beast. This is a film about 5 young girls who are loud and angry. They are not concerned with being soft and pretty; nor are they concerned with making boys feel good about themselves. Their lives suck. They are surrounded by rejection from their parents, from society. They want to make something good that they can call their own. Rock and roll is their vehicle of expression. It gives them a screaming presence in the world where they can be anything and everything they want to be. Their music is raw and aggressive and quintessentially rock. The only problem? Success means becoming a commodity.

Teenage Joan Jett finds a manager and sells him on the idea of an all-girl rock band. It’s 1975 and this is unheard of. He buys it and starts to mold the girls into rock baby-goddesses. There are several moments in the film where you’re not sure if he is taking advantage of the girls unnecessarily or if exploitation is just the price of fame. They are given their dream of being international stars; however, they are not getting rich, nor gaining any control over their lives. The central feminist lesson here is that real power is not being the product but being the producer. Women need to control their own bodies for true empowerment.

Dakota Fanning is ostensibly the star of the film. Her character is the lead protagonist at least. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the acting chops to make us believe that she’s a girl filled with any passion. Cherie’s life sucks. He dad is a drunk. He mom leaves. She spends her 15-year-old nights wandering the Sunset Strip trying to find some escape. Through Cherie’s discovery, rocket to fame, and inevitable drug abuse, Dakota can’t manage more than one blank expression. I’m not sure if it was intentional or just lack of range, but her Cherie comes across as a stoned puppet, with no presence in the action. From what I’ve read about the real Cherie, I strongly doubt this was the case.

Kristen Stewart is the real star of the film. Her body is crackling with energy throughout. Without even needing the dialogue she conveys Joan’s central purpose through sheer physicality. She needs this music as a means to express all of the force and fervor bottled up inside of her. She has to get it out. There is this great scene where the manager stops the band’s rehearsal to give Cherie a tirade about what rock and roll is all about. In the background, barely in focus and with no dialogue, Joan is jumping, twitching, and popping. He body is screaming, “C’mon! Let’s go!” I gotta say, I had my doubts that the Twilight girl could do Joan Jett any justice. I was happy to be wrong.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to watch a movie about young girls with something to say besides, “Oh, why doesn’t Billy like me?” There was no romantic relationship anywhere to be seen. No, I take that back. The central relationship is between Joan and Cherie. Joan needs this pretty girl to front her band to sell the records. Cherie needs Joan’s talent to help her be legit. They are bound together as each other’s ticket out of one hell and into another. There is a lot of sexual energy between the girls. The film does not shy away from the reality that sex is a part of identity. But the girls are not fucking their way through the journey. Sex is as unremarkable and yet powerful as any other part of their personalities. It’s just not hidden in this film. It’s as much on the surface as their ambitions, fears, and dreams. This is what I call feminism, the celebration of women as unique, powerful, and fully-realized beings.

And speaking of women being the producers not the products, The Runaways is a true story, written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, based on the memoir Neon Angel by lead singer Cherie Currie.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strong Sisters

Last night I was invited to a CrossFit ladies' potluck. Normally I would hate going to something like this. When I don't know anyone, I always end up sitting in the corner watching everybody else have a good time. But I really want some female friends in Eugene and everyone I've met at the gym has been pretty great. So I decided to get over it and go. I'm so glad that I did. All of the women, and there were quite a few different 'types', were really down to earth. There were a couple of moms my age, a couple of younger girls, a couple of older, some more girly than me, some less, but all really easy-going, cool women to know. CrossFit seems to attract the bullshit-free people.

The food was really good too. Everyone brought something paleo. Mine was pork loin stuffed with apples and raisins. Kelly even made a flour-free cake out of almond meal, bananas, and magic. It was delicious and totally satisfied the psychological desire for cake. Other lessons learned: fry your chicken in bacon grease, put bacon on your deviled eggs, put real bacon in your salad, and just worship at the altar of bacon as often as possible.

Robin, who I discovered a while back is blogging her metamorphosis as well at CrossFit Foxygen, hosted the party and I'm grateful. I want to be more social and these are amazing women to call friends.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Almost 40!

No, not 40 years! 40 pounds! As of today I've lost 37 pounds. I had been stagnant for about 5 weeks, holding steady at 220. This week I recommitted myself to tracking everything that I ate and making sure that I ate enough of the right foods and not many of the wrong foods. Voila! I lost 4 pounds and broke through my plateau.

Even though I have been discouraged about my body for the last month, I've stuck with it. I don't eat grains. I have dramatically reduced dairy in my diet. And I eat meat, meat, meat. I go to CrossFit three or four days every week. I am getting leaner and stronger. Slowly, but surely!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Clever Title

This research team that I'm on is made up of 4 divorced women. 3 of us are currently single moms with children still at home. One of us is dealing with a custody battle in the court system. One of us already did it. And I potentially will be facing this in the future, if I pursue my desire to leave Oregon. We were all sitting around bitching about our ex-husbands and how we wish they would just disappear and let us raise our children alone. It's not like I wish Angus death; I just wish he would magically vanish.

Our team leader came in and started in on the father of her children. She sympathized with our feelings of frustration and anger over custody fighting and added, "I just hated my ex-husband. I really just hated him." But recently, she said, her perspective had changed. After years of fighting and hating each other, they had to sit together and watch their oldest son die of cancer. "I watched this man, that I had hated, care for our son. As our son lay there suffering, his dad soothed his face and lips with a cool washrag. And in that moment, I knew no matter how I felt about him, he was a good father."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This Chick Is A Sick Individual

This is what my hands looked like tonight after the workout. What the hell am I doing?

Today was really busy for me, but I went out of my way to go to CrossFit after dinner. I could have just taken a rest day. But I didn't want to miss it. This was my workout:

30 pull-ups
15 deadlifts with 135 lbs.
400m run
30 push-ups
15 push jerks of 75 lbs.
30 air squats
15 front squats with 45 lbs.
400m run
15 deadlifts with 135 lbs.
30 pull-ups

I actually finished the whole thing, although it took me 26 minutes. At the end I was shaking, trying to hold down vomit, and crying (just a little bit.) This is insanity right? Why am I doing this shit to myself? The most insane part? I thought it was great! People were cheering me on and talking me through the roughest spots. There was even a moment when Kelsi made me laugh in the middle of the epic suffering. What is going on here?

I'm not being facetious. I really want to understand this phenomenon. I'm punishing my body in ways I've never even thought possible. Yet, I'm enjoying it and signing up for more. Is this good for me? Is this just a new way to punish myself, but now physically instead of emotionally? I don't know. But I have this niggling feeling in the back of my brain that sane people don't act this way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Where Did The Time Go?!

Well, I signed up for that half marathon, remember? I just looked at the calendar and it's in about 3 weeks! I'm so freakin' scared!

I stopped running back in January when I joined CrossFit because my coach said I'd build back up to running eventually. I was relieved and happy to put running out of my mind. Of course, now the race is here and I haven't picked running back up again. I have been doing a ton of other stuff however and I am significantly more fit than I was back in January. Just today I was doing an Olympic lift called the power clean. I love lifting! It makes me feel like the Hulk. Well, She-Hulk. (Side trivia: She-Hulk's name is Jennifer.)

Anyway, so I'm a bit scared about how long it's going to take me jog/walk 13.1 miles. At the same time, I'm incredibly excited to do it. The Eugene Marathon, in Track Town U.S.A., is a big race with people coming from all over the country to participate. There are going to be big crowds cheering me on. I get an official number with my name on it to pin to my shirt. It feels like "real" athleticism, if that makes any sense. Not everybody does this kind of thing. I'm really proud that I'm going to be one of the rare who do.

And when it's all over, I get my medal. I'm not going to ever take it off unless it rusts in the shower.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Watch Me Tie It All Together!

Let me recap: "Lost" romantic love is bullshit. Arranged marriages might have something going for them. I'm going to try really hard to make this all come together now.

I've been thinking a lot lately that believing in that epic, destined love is my problem. It keeps me holding on to something that isn't real and being sad that I don't have it, instead of being satisfied with what I actually do have. Robert keeps telling me to hold onto hope that we might someday end up together. In the meantime, we'll just work on being friends, (which by his definition is talking every day and being emotionally dependent on each other. That sounds like more than friends to me!) But wishing that Robert would change and want to be with me is absurd. He's so scared it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. He tells me daily that he loves me but will not act on that. It's just words. What am I getting out of this? Yes, he's a great friend, maybe the best I've ever had, but is it worth the emotional wear and tear? The longer this goes on, the less faith I have that it's ever going to be anything more than talking on the phone.

On the other hand, I have someone who treats me very well, is very kind, giving, demands nothing of me, and I have a satisfying physical relationship with, but he's made it very clear that he is not in love with me and doesn't want anything to do with my family. Given his age and place in life, I wouldn't want a family with him either. It's just friends with benefits. The more time I spend with him getting physical affection and companionship, the more I feel the clinging to Robert loosening. This man makes being single less lonely. I feel like he fills a niche that makes me less desperate for that romantic love. I have a good home situation and a good job now. I'm enjoying focusing on myself and working out. My family is taking up more of my time. I don't need to feel desperate anymore. I have room to be patient.

I feel like there is somebody out there for me. I just need to let go of this idea of once-in-a-lifetime love. There's probably hundreds of men that would be a good match for me. That's what I was getting at with the whole arranged marriage thing. It's more important to me that our personalities and behavior fit well together than that thunderbolt strike of "HE'S THE ONE." It's not like what I want is so unusual. I need to just get out there socially, keep making friends, and participating in life. Someday I will meet somebody who wants the same things as me and is willing to do the work to build a life together.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Where Was I...

I know a woman who was born and raised in India. She is beautiful, intelligent, strong, and educated. She has an advanced degree and works as a physical therapist. She has 3 amazing children from a 15-year (and happily counting) marriage. That marriage was arranged. One day we had coffee together and I asked a million questions about arranged marriages. She sold me on the idea. I asked her to find me a husband... I think she might have thought I was kidding.

When she was a younger woman, she came to live in New York City for college. She told me she had a very carefree and independent life, which she liked very much. She dated American men and lived like every other young American co-ed. After some time, and graduation, had passed she felt that she was ready to start a family. She told her parents and the search was on. I'm going to paraphrase her a bit here because the conversation was a couple of years ago. "My parents know me better than anyone else. They know my personality, my desires, and my values. They wouldn't send me a man that would be a poor match. Besides, they are more like a dating service. They weed out the men that I shouldn't waste my time with, and then set up meetings with the good candidates. I get the ultimate say in who stays and who goes."

So they found her a man who was also educated in America and therefore was more open-minded about politics, and the role of women, etc. He was intelligent and level headed, which was a good pairing for her passion. But most importantly, he wanted a family as well. She knew, because of their cultural background, that he would have the same priorities and values when it came to this potential family. Also, "he made me laugh." So after a few meetings between parents and some chaperoned dates, they married. At some point after that, she fell in love with him.

I love this story. It makes complete sense to me. Romantic love is such a fickle thing. Values like family first, supporting a woman's independence, even liberal or conservative politics, these are things that tend to be permanent. You can build a life on them. If I met a man who was educated, wanted to be on the same life path as me, supported my choices, AND made me laugh, of course I would fall in love with him. If you are both willing to put in the work to be kind, affectionate, and understanding of each other, love seems inevitable. It's the day-to-day work that really determines the success of a pairing. Romantic love rarely latches onto an object that is actually a good match. How much more reasonable would it be to find a life-partner this way? I especially like the part where somebody else helps strip the chaff from the wheat. I was dead serious when I asked her to find me a nice Indian man to marry, preferably one who looks like Naveen Andrews.

Argh! I'm out of time again. I really am going somewhere with this. Check back in tomorrow for the juicy stuff: my sex life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Love and Lost

Did anybody see "Lost" this week? I'm a huge fan, but I won't waste time with all that I could say about it. There are hundreds of websites that do that already. I'm only bringing it up because a line from one of the characters has been stuck in my brain for 3 days now. I keep picking it apart in my head in that obsessive way that I over-think things. The episode was focused on destiny and the concept of soul mates. One character said something close to, "When I saw her, I felt like I had already loved her for years."

Really? Is this possible? Do soul mates really exist? I once believed in this kind of epic romantic love. Now I have lost faith. Because that's really what this concept requires, faith. But more on that in a minute.

Angus and I were kids when we fell in love. It was that exciting, urgent thing that seems like the whole universe has changed. It lasted for a few years, and we got married while still in that weird/crazy world of first love. Then it wore off. We started to see each other for who we were really going to be as adults. We had a baby, and it was becoming clear that we had different directions in mind. Another baby only widened the divide. I still loved Angus. I had seen him as a young man who was optimistic and full of life. I wanted him to be that guy again. But even though I loved him, I did not like the new Angus, who was miserable and avoiding life. It's hard to be in love with someone that you don't like.

I was 34 when I really fell in love for the first time as an adult. It was exactly like they talked about in "Lost." On our very first date, I felt immediately familiar with him, like we had been friends who could tease each other for a long time. At the end of dinner, he took a phone call and was away from the table for about 20 minutes. I was irritated but not angry. The waitress brought his credit card and the receipt back to sign and left it at the table. But not before she sat down with me and kept me company for a bit talking about how rude men could be. I looked at his signature on the card, added a HUGE tip to the receipt, and signed it. I had never done anything that bold with a stranger before. It was uncharacteristic, but I just felt like it would be ok. I meant it in a "ha ha, teach you to leave me waiting" kind of way. I was sure that he would get it and be good natured about it. He didn't say a word that night, but later confirmed that he was attracted to my spunk.

Within a couple of dates, I felt like I had known this man for years. The one problem? I was only visiting Texas for the summer and would be returning to Oregon. So I kept my feelings to myself as much as possible and tried to be realistic. I kept telling myself I would forget him when I got home. Long, long story short: I didn't. Through a series of wonderful, painful, and sometimes hilarious events, I became convinced that he was my soul mate. I was meant to be with this man. Who else could be this perfect for me?

Unfortunately, Robert is not convinced.

What happens when you find love at first sight with a guy who doesn't want it? I'll tell you what has happened for me... I have stopped believing in romantic love. Now to be fair, Robert is not the only reason I have lost faith. There have been a string of other men that I have dated since the divorce. And there's one weird thing that keeps happening: the men who are most kind and affectionate and long-term are the men who are not in love with me, I'm not in love with them, and due to life circumstances, there's no possibility of romance. We're only "dating," and I use that term loosely, because we fulfill that human need for physical affection.

Which brings me to the reason I wanted to write this post... arranged marriages. But I'm out of time today. I will finish this diatribe tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Holding Steady

My application for the PhD program at the U of O was rejected. This has turned out to be a huge relief. Although I am sad that I’m not going to be playing at that level, I was terrified by the amount of work it would require. I’m not convinced that I’m talented enough to pull that off.

This news started a long discussion with the other adults in my world about what the hell I should do next. I broached the subject of moving out of Oregon with the kids. Surprisingly, Angus did not freak out. I think he’s starting to accept the reality of the job bind that I’m in. We agreed that it would not happen for the 2010-2011 school year, but that I would look outside of the state for the 2011-2012 year.

My parents have generously asked the kids and me to stay one more school year. I think that they are doing it for themselves as much as for me. We’ve brought life back into the big house. Plus I do laundry and put dinner on the table every night at 6:00.

Meanwhile, my research job has starting rolling. I’m really enjoying it and it looks like it’s going to provide a steady part-time income for me. Once I get rid of my car payment and insurance, that should allow me to continue paying for CrossFit and have a little bit of fun money as well. I’m also reassured that there won’t be a gaping hole in my resume. Working in educational research should only make my job history stronger. Plus, I feel like I'm in the big time working on a University campus. That's helping my ego get over the PhD thing.

So for now, I’m not going anywhere. I’m content to be working part-time, devoting energy to my health, and focusing on the kids more.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sweatpants Everyday?

Ok, this is it. I can see rock bottom from here. My unemployment insurance has run out and I can no longer afford to keep my baby, the best car that I've ever had, Silvia the Grand Prix. She is so cool and powerful and I've maintained her so well... But alas, I fear that practical must trump cool. My mom has offered to give me her (shudder) minivan. I feel nauseous thinking about it. It appears that at the ripe age of 36, I must finally lay to rest my last grip on being hip and having any personality. What is next for me but to throw in the towel completely and start wearing sweatpants everyday...

Monday, April 5, 2010

We Are Family

I grew up in a big extended family. Lots of people around all the time. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and more cousins at every gathering, especially the holidays. When I was 13, my parents moved us to Oregon. About 2 years later my sister started starving herself, so my parents disappeared. I went from always being in a crowd to basically being alone all the time. Of course I dreamed of recreating that wonderful chaos of a big family for myself someday. I was sure that I would marry somebody fun, have at least 4 kids, and we'd be a big happy family, doing all kinds of fun things together. In my rush to fulfill this fantasy, I didn't pay very close attention to minor details, like make sure you pick a husband who wants what you want.

When the divorce happened, which really was a good thing since we didn't want the same things, I was sure that was the end of my dreams of a happy family. There would be no family vacations, no big Christmas dinners, and certainly no more children. Add to that crushing reality check all the other stresses of divorce and I was deep in depression for a few years. I've only recently really been finding my way out.

As the fog is clearing and I've had some space to look around, I've discovered a couple of things. And maybe the biggest surprise of all? I do have a family. Sure, it looks like there are not going to be any more babies. And it also looks like I'm doomed to be single for quite some time, but in the meanwhile I am having the big family that I always wanted. It just isn't exactly like I fantasized.

First of all, I've gotta say how cool my kids are. Now that I'm not exhausted from working and trying to keep things together as a single mom, I really have time to hang out with them and appreciate them. They're funny and smart and ridiculously well-behaved. Everywhere we go people tell me how awesome they are. And I see it too. I really like them. I know this should be "duh" but it hasn't always been for me.

Secondly, living with my mom and dad has provided that house full of energy. We have family nights with a ton of people all the time now. We invited friends over for Christmas dinner. We invited friends over to watch the Civil War game. Just last night my sister came by and all 6 of us watched "The Amazing Race" together. It was loud and boisterous. Go cowboys!

Third, I'm not afraid to do stuff with Griffin and Molly on my own any more. I used to avoid going anywhere with them for fear of how much work it would be. This trip to California proved those fears to be absurd. They are totally easy going and we had a fantastic time. It was no more work than driving down there alone. But having them along to do stuff with is way better.

Yes, I still have a reoccurring dream about that fantasy husband. He's always wearing white linen pants and cradling sleeping baby number 3 (4?) against his bare pecs. He looks strangely like a young Jason Patrick with that curly black hair... ;) But I'm not holding my breath waiting for him to arrive. I've got a great family right now. I just need to open my eyes and appreciate them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I CrossFit

A couple of weeks ago I dragged myself to CrossFit in an angry mood. I had been going for 2 months and I just wasn't losing weight fast enough. Kelsi, one of the coaches, cornered me and asked about my attitude problem. I started crying about being fat and not fit enough. She reminded me that in 8 short weeks I had made some great progress. "I know, I know!" I sobbed. "But I'm still so fat! I can't do things that the other girls can do!" She started laughing at me, in a kind way, and suggested that maybe I needed to be a bit more patient. Then she gave me the standard litany of weight-loss truths: you're gaining muscle at the same time, so you won't see big drops on the scale, losing weight in a safe and sustainable manner means only 1-2 lbs. a week, and I could achieve more rapid weight loss if I was willing to eat an extreme diet. Yeah, yeah. I know all those things. I'm doing it the right way, but it's the slow way. If I'm working this hard, I want some big results. Anyway, I wiped my face and went in for the WOD (workout of the day).

Unfortunately it was a series of heavy lifts. I am super competitive with the lifts. I don't try to keep up with anyone when we run, but if it's dead lifts, watch out. Well Cheryl was in my group. Cheryl is my height, half my weight, and it's all muscle. I did my best to keep up with her and in the process truly hurt myself. I wasn't able to workout for the rest of the week. Brilliant.

Well, that was 2 weeks ago. In the interim, I've been going regularly, doing the WODs, and trying to have a good attitude. Of course, I only lost 2 lbs. in those 2 weeks, and that's not good enough for me. Then yesterday, a miracle occurred. "Karen" came up in the rotation. Karen is 150 wall balls for time. Brutal, but a workout that I had done before. It was the first opportunity to actually measure myself against an earlier version of myself. I was ecstatic.

10 weeks ago, my very first workout on my very first day with CrossFit, I did Karen. I think I wrote about it here. It took me 19 minutes and I was blubbering through it. I was so angry and sad that I had let my body get so out of shape. Yesterday, I did Karen again. My time was 10 minutes! In 10 weeks I had shaved off 47%! Holy shit! That's unbelievable! Suddenly, being fat doesn't matter. I can do 150 wall balls in 10 minutes. My skinny-ass sister could not do that.

I am strong. I am getting stronger. I will reach my appearance goals eventually, but they are not so important to me today. I am getting fit. I am changing my body. I don't need to be patient for results, I just need to change what I am measuring. Monday, I ran a 5k. The last one was in January. I improved my time by 2 minutes. That's real progress that I can see and feel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I'm gonna start with this story because it's lighthearted. I used to play bingo sorta regularly... maybe 3-4 times a year? Ok, I wasn't one of the diehard, blue-haired ladies who are there every Friday night, but I knew what I was doing. I keep daubers in my glove box. I think that makes me a bingo player. I typically go alone because I don't know anybody else who enjoys it. I have a whole routine: the number of cards that I play, what food I'm going to order at which intermission, which special games I'll splurge on. It's like an entertainment ritual.

A couple of weeks ago I was bored on a Saturday night and decided to go drop $40 on a night of bingo. First of all, I didn't order my pre-game appetizer of goopy nachos and Pepsi. This time I just brought my bottle of water. Everything else was typical though... alone, 18 cards, and some specials. The first set had me feeling a little weird. I chalked it up to being out of practice cause it's been a while. At the first intermission, I skipped my typical meal of crispy, deep-friend corn dog, fries, and another Pepsi. (I'm going to leave that typo because I think it was a Freudian slip.) I stuck with the water. During the second part I found my mind wandering all over the place. I couldn't focus and I was having a hard time keeping up with my cards. I was bored! In the second intermission, I went without the usual hot fudge sundae. And it began to dawn on me that something was definitely wrong. I was not having fun.

Here are my conclusions... First of all, I actually think the lack of sugar, coupled with it being late at night, slowed down my brain. I think the carbs usually give me that jittery energy that lets me play 18 cards at once. So I was stressed that I couldn't keep up. Secondly, I'm not sure it's the bingo that I enjoyed in the first place. I think it was just an excuse to eat what I call "carnival food." And I don't mean that in a nasty way. Carnival food is my particular kryptonite. Real deep-fried foods like corn dogs, french fries, funnel cake, elephant ears, on and on, washed down by the sweet nectar of Pepsi (which I was drinking before water) is my idea of manna from Heaven. I seriously will go to any event where there will be fried-food vendors: home shows, auto shows, the county fair, the flea market, any sporting event, and, apparently, bingo.

This is probably going to get a big "duh" from all of you, but this night of bingo was the moment I realized that food is fun! And I don't mean enjoyable. It's a form of entertainment for me. Yes, food brings pleasure such as satisfaction, comfort, indulgence, memories, and more. But I mean food as literal entertainment: a thing that diverts or amuses or stimulates. And without the food, sitting there, stamping a sheet of numbers over and over, all alone, was really depressing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life Is Not A Sprint

Alright, I'm ready to get back to this project. Lots of things have happened in the past month. I guess I was feeling stagnant before because I was examining each individual day. When you step back for a few weeks and look at the big picture, there is momentum. I have a long list of blog posts that I want to write in the next week or so. Here's the list as it stands right now:

First, I did go to Texas for 10 days to work on my friendship with Robert. I had a weirdly self-revelatory experience playing bingo recently. Crossfit is going well even though I had a meltdown last week and accidently splattered Kelsi with a crying fit. My grad school application was rejected, which lead to a series of "what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up" internal conversations. I'm reading a new book that has me questioning all of the food politics that I thought I clearly understood. I got another tattoo. I've lost 3.5 more pounds since I last posted (Texas kinda slowed my progress for February).

So there's lots to talk about. I just need to get down to it...

I will tell you right now that I'm good, I'm happy, and I'm healthier every day. This is a slow journey that is pushing me to new levels of patience and acceptance of my own strengths and weaknesses. I know it's corny, and I'm the first one to roll my eyes, but I really do feel like I'm transforming into a better, more centered, stronger woman.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Need A Change Of Scenery

I don't know if anyone is still reading this experiment. I haven't been posting because I'm no longer feeling that initial momentum of excitement and motivation to make change happen. It turns out that real change is a slow and relatively uneventful process. I am being successful. I'm still averaging 1.5 pounds lost each week, and my fitness is improving in measurable increments. But doing the right things is becoming routine. Not easy, but not newsworthy.

I'm eating almost exclusively paleo-style now. I feel better, sleep better, and recover from workouts faster. When I do fall off the wagon and eat something loaded in sugar (say, Molly's birthday cake for example,) I pay the price with belly aches, lethargy, constipation, and acne breakouts. I do a Crossfit workout 4 times a week. I can do real box jumps now, clean and jerk 90 pounds, and I'm trying my damnedest to get to an unassisted pull-up. I'm no longer sore for 2 days afterwards. My body composition is moving in the right direction as I lose fat and gain lean muscle.

I do have setbacks. Mostly loneliness and emotional garbage knock me off course when it happens. I'm trying very hard to work on platonic relationships around me to fight my anti-social tendencies. Also, I don't have any work to put my passion into and that's got me feeling trapped in a holding pattern. I'm still waiting for the research job to get rolling or to hear back from the grad school program. I'm headed off on a trip to Texas this week to get out of my routine. I am absolutely committed to continuing with my workouts and good eating habits while away from home. I'm really hoping that this is a refreshing trip for me. I need some new energy or something to be excited about again.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I am stewing in my own impatience. Today was the due date for the doctorate program application. I'm not completely satisfied with the essay I wrote or the statement of purpose for that matter. They seem so mediocre. I have a sinking feeling that I might be out of my league in attempting to get into this program. It's a waiting game now.

As for the diet changes... it's been a struggle lately. The night I was trying to finish my essay, I was feeling particularly stressed and gorged on chocolate-chip cookies and ice cream. I'm craving starchy comfort foods like the junkie that I am. I'm discouraged that the good habits are not becoming any easier. I feel angry that I'm still forcing myself to eat veggies and feeling constantly deprived. Will I feel like this for the rest of my life?

The exercise is the only component that is going well. I've made real, measurable strides with Crossfit, and I'm feeling very proud of that. Then I turn around and beat myself up because I'm not losing weight fast enough. It's taking so freakin' long! At the rate I'm going it will take me a year and half to reach my goal. I've already been at it for 5 months! Is this really a 2 year process?

And then for whatever hormonal/seasonal/astrological reason, I'm really feeling the painful pinching in my chest due to being single. Everyone around me is in great, fulfilling partnerships. Why doesn't anybody want to be with me?

Blah, blah, blah. Trying to win the feeling sorry for myself championships, I guess.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ex-Husband Drama

Just when I think that I've moved past the drama of my marriage, I crash right into it unexpectedly. I rarely think about Angus anymore. I genuinely feel like I have forgiven him and moved on. He's not a happy person and my anger has been replaced by pity on the rare occasions when I have to interact with him.

Anyway, we're bumping into each other again because the kids want to do events where we are both participants. Angus just won't do it. He says it's too stressful to be in sustained interactions with me. I'm so frustrated that he can't get over things. Our children deserve to have two deeply, actively involved parents. I asked him to move to Eugene so that he could have more time with them/be more involved in their daily lives, and I accept that he has decided that he would rather keep his life the way it is. But I can't believe that he can't even bring himself to be at group events, etc. where he has to interact with me. Ridiculous. He's even twitchy at parent-teacher meetings!

I know there's nothing I can do about this. It really has nothing to do with me. He doesn't even know me anymore. He's dealing with a memory of me in a bad situation. I'm so different from that woman...

I wish we could move back into a working relationship for the sake of parenting two amazing children. Theoretically, I would be perfectly fine with never seeing him again. But his refusal to build a relationship upsets me. I'm bothered because I don't like it when someone that Griffin and Molly love disappoints them. And there's nothing that any of us can do about it.