Sunday, February 26, 2006

This is how a heart breaks

Have you ever felt so incredibly sad - like someone punched you in the gut? You fight to breath normally. The skin around your eyes stings from salt in your tears. This is my Saturday -- a beautiful, warm sunny blue-sky Colorado day. The hubbie and I went to the cabin to clear out the things we left for future visits. I took some pictures to remember everything about the place.

And I cried. A lot.

I recall crying like this only a couple of times in my life. Once it was at my Grandpa's funeral. I feel like he has died again. My heart races, my breath squeezed out of me. I have to say goodbye to this place and it's so incredibly hard.

On my final way out the door, I grab a wooden sign with the family name on it. There's four of these - one inside, one hanging outside by the driveway, and two at the dirt road intersections leading up to the place. This is the one I can bear to remove. Taking one of the others down is too painful. I will save this sign for the day when we can get our own place like this.

The air is crisp. The sun warm on my wet cheeks. The stiff breeze musically wind through the pine trees.

This is how a heart breaks.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's gone

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I think I’ll save some time and hit them all at once.

The family cabin is gone. Grandma rushed ahead and put it up for sale, even after the hubbie and I offered to take it over. It was gone in a day for more than what she asked for and definitely more than what we could have afforded. She’s never seemed to me to be someone so concerned about money and certainly didn’t need to be.

We are upset that we weren’t part of the discussion. I know I am not alone in this. My parents weren’t even in on the decision. My dad’s name is on the trust. He had to sign papers for the sale against his choice. This was supposed to be for all of us.

I know I am an incredibly sentimental person. This was one of the last places where my grandpa was still around. My grandparents bought the place in 1993. He died from cancer in 1995. The time in between, he spent hours rebuilding the place, making it a year-round family retreat. My grandpa’s spirit is there.

Now it’s sold.

Maybe it was better I didn’t know this when we were there before Valentine’s Day. I would have just been sad and not enjoyed the serenity, the peacefulness. There are things we have to pick up that we left there for our future visits. I will probably run up this weekend just to get it done with. The longer I wait, the harder it will be.

Acceptance is the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, I have four tough steps to get through.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You say Turin, I say Torino

I had Olympic aspirations. I was the roller skate queen of Arapahoe drive. Decked out in torn knee jeans and giant fuzzy bell pom-poms, I faithly hit my blacktop driveway whenever it was clear of snow. I skated my heart out to Abba's "The Winner Takes It All" or Neil Diamond's "America". I got my inspiration from ice skaters. Hey, I can do that triple twirl, toe-picking sowcow (not likely spelled that way and having nothing to do with farm animals). I flung myself into the air believing I was achieving that exact step. Nevermind my toe pick was actually a bright red stopper and my blades were actually wheels.

I was going for the gold.

Unfortunately, roller skating never became an Olympic sport. Eventually the white roller skates wore out. The fluffy pompoms disappeared. Abba and Neil Diamond were replaced with New Wave. Time on the blacktop turned into time somewhere else.

As I tune into the 2006 Winter Olympics, I watch the ice skaters and know somewhere inside the roller queen skates on.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wobbly bits

I think that phrase may have come from “Bridget Jones Diary.” It’s been wobbling around in my head lately. For almost a year, I've been obsessed with my wobbly bits – more so then the usual. In March 2006, I was diagnosed with high-blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I weighed in at my all time high of 235 pounds. I had joint pain and fatigue. I was winded walking across the campus where I teach. I don't know how it happened but gradually since college I had been moving less and eating not too bad, but not too good either. Coupled with the PCOS, which causes the weight gain, blood pressure, and blood sugar issues, I was losing the battle of the bulge.

Tired of feeling tired, I knew I needed to do something. I walked into a nearby commercial diet center and said, "what do I have to do to get started." The answer: a really, really strict diet, and a good chunk of money. In fact, it’s a paid version of an eating disorder. Okay, maybe that’s too harsh. But the program has a single sheet of paper listing what I can eat and when. No fruit after 6pm. Beef, cottage cheese and canned tuna can only be eaten every other day (a day between each item). I picked the program because it was advertised that is allows "real food." Yes, it does. But it's a very short list of real food. In addition, you buy "nutritional supplements" to fill in the gaps of the very short list. That’s where a lot of the program cost lies.

The program also doesn’t include exercise. It’s okay -- but they warn you it might slow your weight loss. (??!) This is true as muscle weighs more than fat. However, my goal wasn’t to just drop 90 pounds, it was also to be in better shape over all. So I also signed up with a personal trainer class at the rec center that is three blocks from my house.

At the time I started the diet program, I also started taking Metformin (a diabetes medicine) to treat the PCOS. The idea was to get to four pills a day, which was supposed to completely reverse the condition. My body really argued about the meds. I think much of my initial weight loss was more from the side effects of the meds, then the diet itself. I also went through Costco-sized bottles of pepto-bismol. I never could get past two pills in a day and finally ditched them mid-September. Some of the other treatments for the disease include diet and exercise. So I decided to stick to that route.

I lost about 50 lbs so far but hit that weight in October. Since then I have fluctuated a couple of pounds up and down but have really stayed in one place. This has been particularly frustrating. The diet center's answer is to take more of their pill supplements. Right now I take a multi-vitamin but draw the line at all the other stuff. I have similar reactions to supplements as I do to the Metformin.

One of the good things about this plan is that it is balanced. It doesn’t throw out entire food groups. I argue some are pretty limited but it has protein/starch/fruit/veggies. But I’ve also grown tired of the limited, bleak list of food and occasionally have added a few things in here and there. I know this has slowed down the weight loss but this is real life. I have learned about portions and calories. In fact, most of my “cheats” are things most people wouldn’t consider being a diet cheat. Carrots, for example, aren't allowed. Neither are bananas. Yes, these things will be "allowed" back when I hit the maintenance phase. But they have too much sugar for now. I also eat an occasional Hershey's kiss. Like I said, this is real life.

I’ve also recognized that stress plays a big part in your weight. A very busy life leads to food on the run and cooking what is easy. For me, that was refrigerated tortellini pasta. But I would eat the whole box myself with butter. Granted that was dinner after a day of maybe eggs and one other item. I wasn’t eating enough and what I was eating was storing itself and contributing to my insulin issues. It was comfort food - calming in the storm. I’ve learned that I can eat this stuff – but in balance and in portions. There's also other ways of calming stress.

Slowing down and eating away from the computer or TV has also helped. I have a hard time sitting and eating without doing something else. But watching a netflix blockbuster, I could eat a whole Chipotle burrito without noticing and then wonder why I felt like I was going to burst. Luckliy, I’ve discovered another obsession of mine (Sudoku) is something that slows me down. It works my brain and lets me eat slower. When you eat slower, you recognize when you are full. It also helps you enjoy the food more. Sometimes just a couple of bites of something you love can satisfy you just as much as eating the whole thing.

Cravings have been strange though. Last summer I craved Cheetos (the crunchy kind). This isn’t something I normally ate but I was obsessed with “cheatos”. If someone had a bag of them, I was a goner. Now I really crave one of those cheesy bites pizzas. They say cravings mean that you are missing something needed in your diet. I don’t think I am missing pepperoni but perhaps the calcium in the cheese. My diet doesn’t allow much dairy – 4 oz milk a day and 5 oz cottage cheese three times a week.

I work at home which has been both good and bad for the diet. It’s been good because I am not tempted by donuts/bagels/birthday cake and other goodies brought in by coworkers. I can make my meals fresh. The bad is that the kitchen is just down the hall from my office. I have to be sure not to have anything bad on hand.

Working at home, I keep the TV on the Travel Channel or HGTV. I see a lot of weight loss commercials. The common theme is “find the real you.” The real yous of all these folks are size sixes. I started at a size 20/22 and thought that 16 sounded pretty good. I wanted to be a size that I could walk into any store I liked and find something that fit. I wanted to fit into a "Large" so I could pick up cheap deals at Costco. I am now a size 14 ... petite. Ends up the round butt kept normal length pants and skirts higher off the ground. It's funny being considered petite but still being about 30-40 pounds of where I should be on the charts.

So while I am frustrated I’ve not lost the 90 pounds originally planned by the diet center, I have to look at the fact that I have lost 50 pounds. My blood pressure and blood sugar are back to a healthy normal. I can run around, even at 14,000 feet, and be able to breath, without my heart beating out of my chest. I can find things that fit on the clearance rack at Target and on the tables at Costco, as well as all my favorite stores.

I still have some wobbly bits. I started Jazzercise classes again (after a six year hiatus following my traumatic divorce). I would like to smooth out some of those bits (like my “belly butt” that appears with lower waist pants) but have decided that curves are pretty cool. I didn't lose the boobs, although now they’re a little lower without my belly holding them up.

I will continue the program as planned. At the same time, I will try to lighten up on myself. It's not a failure since I've accomplished all the goals but the actual number on the scale. And that’s a pretty cool thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bridge over troubled water

Found this while randomly surfing blogs:

The number one song when I was born was Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." (Okay ... water ... I am a pisces. Does this has some deeper meaning??)

When I turned 18, it was Rick Astley "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Somehow I always thought my life's theme song would be the theme from Fame.

The groundhog and the power of two

Man, that groundhog wasn’t kidding. Every February 2, when the little rodent sees his shadow, I think Duh! There are six more weeks of winter no matter how you look at it. Spring starts on March 20, 2006, at precisely 1:26 P.M. EST. That’s six weeks from February 2.

In my neck of the woods, this time of year is when the snow really starts to fall. The mountains have been walloped this year with tons of snow but down here in the front range, not so much. Our winter has been mostly wind. Lots and lots of wind. And some more wind. Did I mention the wind?

Saturday we had snow and some record low cold. It's -2 as I get ready for my 10:30 Jazzercise class. On goes my athletic socks, yoga pants and tank top. Then a warm up shirt that has long sleeves with thumb holes in the end. I top that off with a pair of sweat pants and wool socks. I add a fleece jacket. When it gets this cold, you start wearing two of everything: two gloves, two coats, two pants ... two nostrils frozen together.

When I am all bundled up to go, I feel like the “Christmas Story” kid. I also know why Minnesotans say “Uff Da.” It’s the sound you inadvertently make when you try to move around in this cold weather body armor.

Later as I am bundled into my cozy little house, I watch the cats lick the ice on the insides of the windows. I wonder if their tongues will get stuck to the metal. It’s “two” dang cold. Yet I know in a couple of months, it will be too dang hot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fun with Kennel Cough, plastic splinters, and large quantities of dish soap

I should just give up. I will never have a normal, easy life. Whenever I take some time off, something happens (usually some kind of damage to my house while I am away). We took a quiet weekend away for the two of us. Sarah-dog and Flounder went to Camp Bow Wow. When I made the reservations a couple of weeks ago, they told me their Bordatella vaccine was due and that we should probably get it beforehand since they had some kennel cough going around.

So the pups headed to vet two weeks ago for their shot.

Well, it ends up getting a Bordatella shot is a little like a flu shot. It’s going to protect the pups but not 100%. Apparently this is a more aggressive strain at CBW. Both girls are coughing and snorting. Sarah-dog thinks she needs to go outside every time she coughs and then seconds later scratches to come back in. It's made for a not-so-productive work day.

So to vet we go. I’ve now got some $60 worth of antibiotics (which are the plain old nasty tasting capsule not a nice, easy to administer beef flavored pill) and another $80 for the vet to see the pups and tell me they likely have kennel cough. I talked them out of the $140 worth of “cough suppressant” instead picking up a $7 bottle of Robitussin DM (which is okay for the pups). (I like the vet that we see but I’m beginning to think it’s awfully pricey.) Except I forgot to get a syringe (like for babies). The pups aren’t going to drink the Robitussin out of the little cup. I picked up a baby medicine syringe. What expressions on their puppy faces when I shoot a teaspoon of Robitussin down their throats. Getting the antibiotic pills into Sarah is pretty easy – she’s pretty docile. Flounder, who normally will eat anything that flies in the air, is clamping her mouth shut and tried to bite my head off. Not a happy camper. I tried rolling the pill in bread.–First one went in. Then as I gave her the second, the first one flew back out of her mouth. %#&^#%!! The blasted pills are so big, they're hard to hide inside something.

The good news is that now they’ve gotten this, they should be more immune to it in the future.

But a warning to those of you out there that board or take your dogs to the dog park or doggie daycare, the shot doesn’t make them immune right away (and doesn’t make them 100% immune). And when the doggie daycare tells you that they're having some kennel cough problems, heed that as a warning and you should probably make other arrangements. At least be sure they are updated on their vaccine – apparently the nasal version kicks in quicker than the shot (which I didn’t know before). The shot can take a couple of weeks. The nasal mist – a couple of days.

So my big babies will now have to endure some quiet time to get over their doggie colds. And I get to play traffic cop everytime they go outside to keep them from kissing their boyfriends Drake and Moby.

Not sure my week could go much worse but the day also included fun with a dozen plastic splinters in my hand (from a plastic rope holding my hanging chair), and fun with a Costco-sized bottle of dishsoap that has a mysterious leak and left about an inch deep sludge of soap in my cabinet. It’s soap, so should be easy to rinse off, Right? Well, not in large quantities. There were so many bubbles that later when I went to bed, there were bubbles coming out of the downstairs toilet. Yeah, shades of Amityville Horror —but am thinking it’s more of the minor day-to-day terror of everyday life.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The art of doing nothing

The hubbie and I took off early on Friday for the mountains. My grandma owns a cabin in Estes Park, near the south entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's an 800 sq.foot two bedroom, 1.5 bath cozy hideaway with a wrap around porch and spectacular views.

My grandparents bought the place in 1993. It was a summer cabin built around the 1920s. My grandpa, a talented woodworker, and many members of the family stripped the inside and rebuilt it to be a year-round place. There's a lot of hard work there. It’s more special because it was my grandpa's last major project before he died of cancer in 1995.

This was our second annual Valentine’s Day weekend at the cabin. We brought books, movies (and a newer VCR and DVD player to upgrade what was there) and Suduku puzzles. We spent almost the entire Saturday in PJs, taking a late day bath (in the clawfoot tub) to go out to dinner at the nearby Dunraven Inn.

The cabin is a place we’d love to bring our children – even grandchildren. It’s a peaceful place that I would love to go to every weekend. Why we haven’t gone more often ... well, we can’t bring the dogs since other folks are allergic, and while Camp Bow Wow isn’t over the top expensive, it still is an extra cost to send them to doggie camp for the weekend.

Then there is the everyday beat of a fast-paced life. Weekends around here aren’t really days off. I vowed for new year’s resolutions that I would not work weekends. Surprisingly that has stuck so far (much to the dismay of my project managers). Well, at least the not working on freelance work on the weekends. Instead, I've been doing many projects, visited my sister in Albuquerque (and helped paint her kitchen), and have been helping my grandma go through years and years of stuff as she moves from her 4000 sq foot home to a two-bedroom condo (a really cool condo but considerably smaller than the big old house).

The cabin is a place that we can catch our breath. There’s a telescope to check out local wildlife (really animals, not the neighbors) or the night’s sky. You can sit inside the big picture windows when it’s cold and just stare at the beautiful mountains in front of you. When it is warmer, you can sit outside on the wraparound porch. You can sleep for 11 hours or be up at the crack of dawn, sipping fresh brewed coffee and watching a flock of crows. You can smell the clean, crisp mountain air.

The art of doing nothing.

Now it is Monday and I am home and relaxed but only for a moment. Ends up our mountain haven, the special place my grandpa put so much work into, is going to be put up for sale in April. My grandma says she's too old (she's not) and no one else seems to find the time to go there. It's a beautiful place and too expensive for her to keep up.

The breath I caught over the weekend has been whisked away. The art of doing nothing has become the need to do something. I am angry at my family for letting this happen. I’m not angry at my grandma but angry at my parents, my aunts for not seeing this place for what it is. In the past couple of years, I couldn’t get up there because there were always folks there. I can understand and I don’t think she should be expected to cover the place herself. That's where the rest of us should be helping.

So now I am torn. There’s no way we can afford her asking price. I am considering seeing if she'll let us take over the maintenance and perhaps buy the place from her over the long term. We could conceivably go up there several times a month. She doesn't need the money - that is, she isn't desperate for it as her house will sell soon.

She won’t put it up for sale until April. Maybe that will give us time to come up with an offer or perhaps win the lottery.

Is it practical? I am a terribly sentimental person. Can it be done? Maybe.

Maybe I just need to accept it and go on. But I don’t think I can do that. But do I have a choice?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Doggie TV

[Note: it's a double bonus blog day. I am cleaning out my old laptop so I can return it to Dell and thought I would just finish this one and post it already.]

It’s a wonder I ever get any work done. It’s so amusing watching the pups play. Now that the fence is down on two sides of the yard, I have two additional players in the doggie theater.

Drake, the Rottie behind me, loves to play basketball with himself. He throws the ball in the air, passing it to himself, catches it and then noses it along the ground to the other end of the yard. Then he throws it in the air again and starts over. He’s a one-dog basketball game and he’s having a blast.

Moby, the yellow Lab next door likes to climb the hill in his yard and rest in the tall grass. I think he pretends he is a lion watching for prey. He often comes over and plays with the girls. He and Flounder will be on either end of a rope toy. They start out pulling in opposite directions but soon he will start butting up against her. Sarah-dog runs circles around them barking play-by-play reports.

In fact Sarah-dog doesn’t really play with anyone but her invisible friends. We like to call her rain dog. She runs very precise, identical circles, barking to herself in the same place. Sometimes she chases invisible squirrels.

Moby will egg her on to play and eventually she will but most of it involves trying to bite him in the nether regions. But he has a short term memory problem and will keep chasing after her to get her to play again.

I’m going to move my office into the bigger room soon. This will allow me even more long moments sipping coffee or tea and watching my doggie TV.
Work ... what work?

The stupids

Do you ever feel just socially off in public? Like the moment you leave the person you just encountered, he or she is thinking “what a doofus”? Too often that’s been my kind of day. Maybe it is because I need to get out more often? Maybe I need more human interaction in my day?

I started the day at the CPA’s. I couldn’t come up with simple words - like “W2.” My mouth opened and out came random words only starting with the first letter of the words I really intended. He must have thought I had brain damage.

After that I went to the bank. I think I tried to make a joke about the check and it went over like a barrel full of lead at Niagra Falls. Better not quit my day job.

The cashier at Safeway had a bell and a note sitting on the ledge that said “ring for service.” Dopey me. “Do I have to ring it if you are already here?” hee hee? Maybe she just didn’t have a sense of humor or just thought I was really dense. No, she said seriously, taking it away from me.

A friend who recently had a baby claimed pregnancy brain. I can’t claim that right now. Perhaps I just have “Brain Full” brain. I need a hard drive backup and archive. They say stress is the biggest cause of the stupids. I’ve got plenty of that. But perhaps it’s just my good ol’ ADD.

Hey look ... a chicken.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Where the hell did February come from?

Whoosh. January flew by. Of course it helped that I was out of town for the first part and the last part. Puxatawney Phil has seen his shadow and now for six more weeks of winter. For my neck of the woods, the snow part really only gets started this time of year. I am already seeing bulbs pop up in the gardens.

So a review on the “resolutions” thus far:

1. Travel more. -- a relaxing trip to Hawaii the beginning of year and a weekend in Albuquerque at the end of January. Check!

2. Related to that - get a passport already! - it’s in the mail, so in a month or so, it will be here. Check!

3. Go outside my comfort zone (got a hike along a cliff side 1,000 feet up scheduled in a week - there will be some sweaty palms but a gorgeous view and a 500 foot waterfall). The waterfall hike was fantastic and only really steep in some places and it was great. Plus I flew on a smaller commuter plan without hyperventilating in the small space. Check!

4. Lose some weight. Okay that one may be almost a cheat ‘cause I am already doing that but I’ll keep it up. Still losing (and grumbling). There’s many a blog entry here. Check!

5. Do the Bolder Boulder (which I’ve done before -- race walking but should go again now that I am actually in shape for it). Hmmm. Still thinking on this one. I ran through the airport last Friday because I was late and everything was backed up, except my plane leaving.

6. Play more fetch and take more walks with my babies. If the blasted weather (wind) would cooperate, this one will work a little better.

7. Try to be more patient and understanding of my husband who is on a completely different planet (yeah, him -- Mars, me -- Venus, I know, I know...). Packing six pairs of shorts for a week’s vacation may make sense on Mars (three are khaki green and three are khaki tan). Weird that he’s actually the one that overpacks ... I think this is part of the fun of marriage. He has many charming and positive things about him and I really enjoy his companionship. So this is a check!

8. Edit, edit, edit. Ebay, charity, craigslist ... boxes to the MIL ... I need breathing room. Hee hee. A funny thing happened on the way to less stuff... Grandma is moving after almost 20 years in her 4,000 sq. ft. house to a two bedroom condo. I can’t throw anything out. So while some of it is just temporarily resting at my house before it moves on, I do seem to be moving in the opposite direction. Still working on this one.

9. More projects around the house. We may be here awhile so might as well keep it from falling down! And get rid of the remaining white walls. Got more excited about this one after visiting my sister in Albuquerque and painting her kitchen. Plus decided to change my office to a bigger, airier room. Lots of plans in my head and as soon as I am actually home on a weekend, then the projects will begin.

10. Add another human to my family. We’ll see.

11. Have more days off - at least one *whole* weekend a month. Funny, so far my “off” weekends have been not working at work stuff but doing a lot of packing at Gram’s and painting at Sara’s house, as well as a bunch of other fun social events. But not much actual down time. Still it’s better to get away from this ol’ computer.

12. Learn to better schedule my time (as much as I can with crazy clients and crazy project managers). Still working on this one. So far, it seems I am just scheduling more time into less...

13. Change my hairstyle (since my sisters accused me of having the same on from third grade -- they apparently forgot the long bangs, shaved head, purple hair, blue tail eras of my locks.) This is kind of a cheat - I had my hair cut two days ago and it is definitely different. Check!

14. Organize. Everything. See #9.

15. Write more often. There are children’s books in my head involving my pets’ escapades and my sister Annie’s big box of colored pencils. There are article ideas. There’s this blog. There’s a lot to say. Working on it...

And now on to February...