The time I was of advanced maternal age

Without getting all TMI on you guys, my ladyparts have been malfunctioning a bit lately.

Nothing too alarming, but my cycle is all out of whack and I’m having some funky PMS symptoms that are either different or worse than I’ve ever had before. As Joel pointed out to me – smugly – this week, I’m terrible about making doctor’s appointments. I wasn’t always this way, but over the last decade I’ve wasted a lot of time in doctor’s offices only to learn there’s nothing to be done about my cold/flu/illness, and been given a lot of medication that either didn’t do anything at all or made me feel worse. So when it comes to lady problems, I just assume the doctor will be all “them’s the breaks!” and send me on my way.

However, after the fourth straight month of everything being ALL WRONG, I bit the bullet and set about finding a new OBGYN. I can’t even get into how frustrating that was, how I got referrals from friends for doctors that were covered by my insurance but couldn’t see me until Christmas and how I ended up at a clinic between a Dollar General and a Marshall’s. Modern healthcare, folks. The end result is that I did end up in front of a doctor (in said clinic that was like a depressing version of Keystone Cops), and the first thing she did was tell me that I am of “advanced maternal age” and that if I want to have babies it will a) be hard, b) be potentially dangerous for me and my potential offspring and c) I HAVE TO START RIGHT NOW OR ALL HOPE IS LOST.

Now.

I’d like to believe I am fairly intelligent, and I am also very Internet literate. At the first sound (several years ago) of my biological clock clanging away, I started looking into the stats behind having a baby at my age. Once Joel and Claire happened, and I realized that maybe one day I might want a child of my own, I started paying even more attention. I’ve read all the facts and figures and success stories and horror stories and forums on BabyCenter & etc. I also know that every woman is different, and there is no telling what it would be like for me. I also also know that having wacky periods isn’t great for future babymaking so, yes, I was planning to ask the doctor for advice on things to think about.

But.

Man.

I was not expecting the barrage of Very Serious Things to come flying at me. I was not expecting my entire appointment – which truly was about these weird periods and awful PMS – to become all about my fertility. I was not expecting strange advice from overly familiar nurses and weird tension about peeing in a cup to get a pregnancy test that I knew would prove false because, hello, I’ve had 10 periods in three months.

Prior to this appointment I was mildly concerned that I had missed my childbearing window. Suddenly, something that seemed like a nice-to-have now feels like a Very High Priority. “RED ALERT! Try to have babies now or perish!”

It feels so unfair that there’s all this pressure on us, when Joel and I have only had 10 months living in the same state. Now, on top of making decisions about what color to paint the bathroom we have to think about how seriously we want to consider children together. It’s our decision, of course, and we can choose to slough off the pressure and take our time. But it sucks that the pressure even exists in the first place.

P.S. For the record, Miss Claire has shown a lot of positive feelings about a new baby. For the first few months we lived in our house, she told everyone the upstairs spare bedroom was the baby’s room, and she’s asked me half a dozen times if I want to have a baby, and when I’m going to decide. I’m sure that her interest, like mine and Joel’s, is just a theory. When it comes right down to having a new baby (or not having one), my guess is that our feelings won’t be so cut and dried.

 

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REVIEW: Birchbox (the summer edition)

Lest anyone worry that I’ve given up my obsession with monthly subscription services, let me put your minds at ease and say that isn’t the case. Rather, I got a wee bit overwhelmed back in the days of the kitchen remodel and let things pile up. And since I don’t think it’s useful to anyone to simply post what I got without being able to give a truthful review of it, I’ve held back until now to give you the scoop.

Sure, I could drag this out in three posts, but that would just delay us further. Let’s face it, August is almost OVER people. I need to get this out of my queue so I’m ready for all the stuff that will show up in September! (Sigh. September means another Minneapolis winter is just around the corner, and I am SO NOT PREPARED.)

When you look at three months of Birchbox all in one place, it’s kind of amazing. Look at all these products I’ve tried! All these new brands of which I’m now aware! If there was ever any doubt about why it’s addicting to get these boxes in the mail every month, feast your eye on these fun things.

June Birchbox

This is the June Birchbox. It included:

  • Supergoop! Everyday sunscreen SPF 30. Birchbox sure does love themselves some Supergoop! products. How many times have they put it in my box? Half a dozen? I’m pretty sure I’ve given it a so-so review every time, and I didn’t even use this tube before putting it in the reject box. My skin is too weird about sunscreen.
  • Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. I’m really into the idea of a face cleanser that you slather on like a lotion and sponge off. Mostly, it’s because I’m lazy. Also, I hate making a mess in the sink with lathering and splashing. Seriously. I know it sounds crazy, but I hate it. Sadly, this cleanser didn’t work for my skin – even though it claims to work for everyone. My skin didn’t feel clean after, and half an hour after washing it felt sort of oily. I gave it a fair shake, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.
  • Harvey Prince Hello eau du parfum. I love this! I was just saying to someone that one of the things I miss most about California is my Meyer lemon tree. It produced dozens of lemons a month year-round, so I never had to buy lemons. I’d just walk outside, snag one off the tree, and be ready to go. Man, I miss that tree! This parfum has a Meyer lemon base with just a tiny hint of florals, which is perfect for me. I’m not committed to wearing a fragrance every day, but I’ve been using this on special occasions.
  • Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner. Yep, it’s another eyeliner. Straight into the reject box!
  • Davines OI All In One Milk. It’s hard to know how a haircare product will treat you with only one application. I have a lot of hair, so the sample here was only good for one go-around. I put it to the ultimate test and didn’t use anything in my hair after the shower to see how it controlled frizz and/or added shine, and I was pretty underwhelmed. My hair didn’t curl at all – which it will, with even a dime-sized dollop of my leave-in – and it was super frizzy. Maybe it could be better with repeated use?
  • Davines LOVE Lovely Smoothing Shampoo and Conditioner. These samples were big enough that I got two uses of the conditioner, and could have washed my hair with the shampoo for a couple of weeks. However, this is another of those non-foaming shampoos, which I’ve already said I don’t like.  I tried to put that bias aside and used the combo of these two products for two shampoos, and it was not good. I could barely get a comb through my hair after each time, and my hair felt like straw for the two days before the next wash. I love the branding on these products, which they sell at my salon, and have always wondered about them. I’m sad they aren’t for me.

July Birchbox

This is the July Birchbox, brought to us by Women’s Health. It included:

  • Real Chemistry Luminous 3-Minute Peel. I love getting samples like these because using them feels like having a spa day at home, but something went seriously wrong here. Admittedly, the directions say to apply to dry skin. Without thinking about it, I splashed my face in the shower, and then patted it dry before applying. I guess it was still a little damp? Maybe that’s what happened? When I began to massage in the gel, it started beading up into tiny little rubbery pellets. I kept rubbing. The pellets kept forming. And when I rinsed it off, the pellets were stuck in the fine hairs along my jawline. It was so bad I had to scrape some of them off with my fingernails, which pulled out some of those fine hairs, and it hurt. Like, really hurt! I couldn’t even get them all off with water, I had to scrub with my towel to get them to come lose. I’ve read a bunch of really glowing reviews and haven’t seen anyone with this problem, so I’m willing to admit user error. But would slightly damp skin really cause this? It was such a bad experience I threw the rest of the sample away.
  • Coastal Scents eyeshadow sampler. I almost never wear makeup, but in a former life I was part of a performance community that required exaggerated eye makeup, and Coastal Scents was my go-to brand. Their eyeshadows are high pigment and never flake. Mixed with water, I think they are every bit as powerful as MAC products (though, seriously, I know very little about makeup). I’ve recently thrown all of my stage makeup away – it was way past its six-month prime – so this little palette was a welcome hit of nostalgia. I used it for the first time on my birthday, and the colors are perfect. We’ll see if I have eyeshadow-worthy events before it gets too old to use again!
  • Beauty Protector Protect & Treat hair mask.  I received two little jars of this in my box, and had already used one – in two applications – before I took this picture. My hair felt really lovely after, soft and shiny. I just used the last bit of a different mask, and I’m very tempted to buy this one!
  • Naobay Body Radiance Lotion. The fragrance in this lotion is so delicious, a light citrus, so I really wanted to love it. However, after using it every day for a week straight, my arms (and, strangely, the insides of my knees) broke out in little bumps. They’re gone after a week back with my Aveeno Daily Moisturizer, so I feel pretty confident blaming the Naobay lotion.
  • Marcelle New-Age 8 in 1 Power Serum. Am I the only one who thinks “8 in 1″ should be hyphenated here? Anyone? It’s kind of making me crazy! I will admit that I’ve only used this serum once, and not because I didn’t like it. It’s because I also got a serum in the August box, and I also just got a full-sized bottle of Philosophy’s Time In A Bottle, which I have always wanted to try and  gets crazy-good reviews. My skin felt great after one use of the Marcelle product, though, so I’m looking forward to giving it a better shot.

August Birchbox

This is the August Birchbox. It included:

  • Neil George shampoo and conditioner. I’ve used this combo a couple of times now, and all is well. I wouldn’t say it’s been an amazing experience or anything, and I’m not going to be in the market for shampoo/conditioner for a little while, but I’m going to put these in my travel bag and be happy to have them on my next trip.
  • Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate. I’ve been giving this a try instead of the Marcelle serum from July. In the morning I’m using the Philosophy and at night I’m using this. Do I really need more than one product? Will I even be able to tell which product is making me look fabulous, should I actually look fabulous after a couple of weeks of use? I dunno. This gel does have an off-putting chemical smell, and my skin feels a little sticky until it’s totally absorbed.  I can’t see myself falling in love.
  • Benefit They’re Real! push-up liner. Okay. There is one exception to my no-eyeliner rule, and that is for liquid liner. I love a good liquid liner, and mine is about past its prime. I’m not sure I’ll get along with this one, though. I’m not very skilled at applying eyeliner, and the tip on this is a bit unwieldy. I found the size of the sample hard to hold onto. My first application did not go well, unless Sad Clown is on trend right now.
  • Dr.Jart+ BB Dis-A-Pore SPF 30. What a hilarious randomly punctuated name for a brand. The marketer in me weeps, truly. I’m not sure how I’m going to sample all these skincare products in a way that gives me any indication of their longterm benefit. I have this and the Marcelle waiting to try, and if I don’t give them at least a couple of weeks – or until the sample runs out – I don’t feel like I’m learning anything about it. I tried this once, and felt vaguely oily. It’s been hellishly humid here, though, so it’s possible I would be oily anyway. I’m putting this in line behind the Marcelle, and hoping I don’t get more competing products in September!

Whew! That’s so many things!

This month I also got rid of all the samples that either didn’t work after one/two tries or which I never used (like eyeliners). I brought it all into the office and sent an email to my female colleagues, and they snapped it all up within an hour. It was nice to be able to share!

 

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REVIEW: July StitchFix + Milestones

Today is my 39th birthday. I thought perhaps I would have a lot of thoughts about this, perhaps enough thoughts to generate an entire post. But the truth is, I’ve never really cared that much about birthdays. I mean, I like presents and special meals and attention. I took today off, got out of bed late, ordered pancakes and chicken fried steak and eggs and fried potatoes for breakfast, went for a long walk around a lake holding hands with my man, took a nap, and am now sitting on the couch with a dog at my feet and all the windows open. It’s a good day. But I don’t have a lot of stress about getting older. I might even like it!

When I logged in to start this post, I also realized that my last post was number 100. That seems significant in some way, like I should write a “things I’ve learned” post or make a goofy GIF or something. Since it’s my birthday, I think I’ll just celebrate with a glass of bubbly and cake at my fancy dinner tonight.

In lieu of any deep thoughts about getting older, I figured I would finally get around to talking about my July Stitch Fix. I skipped June so I could enjoy my summer vintage wardrobe – which is, admittedly, bigger than I had remembered – and honestly could have skipped July, but I forgot to cancel it. It was fun to see the box on the front step, and just as fun as always to dig through its contents.

At this point I can only justify buying pieces that are perfect. I have so, so many dresses. I have an entire rack of cardigans to go with them. This is pretty much all I wear in the summer so I honestly don’t need much, and I’m trying to be responsible with buying. Because of this I might have been a tad more picky about things this time around, so I only kept one piece.

 

Angie Tenessy Chevron Print Maxi Dress

Not shocking that the one piece I kept was a dress. This Angie Tenessy maxi dress is so perfect. The straps are wide enough to hide my bra straps, the waist nips in without a belt, and it’s long but doesn’t drag the floor. I love chevron stripes, and I love the green. It looks great with flats, casual sandals, and espadrilles. It can be dressed up with the right jewelry, and is insanely comfortable. I’ve already worn it twice.

Cooper and Toby refused to get out of the picture and refused to cooperate with posing. Pets!

Pomelo Spencer Striped Jersey Dress

This Pomelo Spencer dress is really cute, but has two marks against it. First, it’s really short. It’s not the kind of short that looks bad. In fact, I feel like my legs look pretty great in it! But it is the kind of short that shows my entire behind if I bend over. Second, it’s a little short-waisted and fitted in the bodice. If it shrunk even a tiny bit, I would look like a 39 year old wearing a little girl’s dress.

Pixley Dafanie Diamond Ikat Print Soft Short and Black Side Ruched V-Neck Knit Shirt

I am not a shorts girl. I haven’t worn shorts comfortably since I was a kid. I try them on every year, and last year I even bought a pair that I never wore. Still, I tried these on with hope. These little silky boxer shorts are all over the place, and I’ve been wondering if they might work for me. They don’t. These Pixley Dafanie shorts don’t look too bad in the picture, but they’re not comfortable at all. They’re actually too tight in the thighs and too short waisted.

The Pomelo Blake side-ruched shirt was another no-go. I have carefully adjusted the draping over my belly for this picture, but without such fussing the tee is tight enough that you could see my belly button.

19 Cooper Clemency Solid Tab-Sleeve Tunic

I love the color of this 19 Cooper Clemency tunic and the drape of the sleeves, but I don’t love how plain the neck is – it feels like there should be some sort of embellishment there to break up all the turquoise. It was also too tight in the hips, which has happened a couple of times now with these tunics. I simply can’t wear the ones that are straight up and down.

My August box should be arriving in the next week or so, and I’m not sure what I’m hoping for. Dresses are always welcome, but maybe it’s time to start thinking about fall? Everyone in Minneapolis keeps talking about how summer is always over, which is depressing! I want to be warm just a little while longer.

For my birthday, Joel bought me a great camera so I can start taking better pictures for this blog. Out with the camera phone, in with 20 megapixels!  I’ve still got a handful of posts to go up with photos from my Galaxy S4 or Joel’s iphone, and then we’ll give the new way a whirl.

 

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8 thoughts on 8

Claire, Huck and Cooper at age 8

This summer, all my kids are turning eight. Cooper in June, Claire in July, Huck at the end of August.

And while it might be sacrilege in some circles to equate dog birthdays with kid birthdays, my dogs WERE my kids until Claire, so I feel like I should get a pass. At least for a minute, okay? She’s growing more mature and vibrant while my sweet pups are finally starting to slow down. (Ten minutes after we snapped the picture above, though, all three of them were draggin’ their wagons on our hike.) Huck is starting to get more white on his muzzle, and Cooper hobbles around like a little old man when he first gets up from a nap. A three-mile run is getting to be too much for Huck, and a three-mile walk in the summer heat leaves Cooper panting the entire car ride home. Soon, we’ll have to ask the dog walker to ratchet down their exercise even more than he already has over the last eight months. It’s sad to think about, so I try not to.

Meanwhile, Claire is busy growing into something different, but not. She has been eight for two weeks, but sometimes when I look at her she might as well be 18. Joel was traveling this week so I didn’t see her for four days, and I swear she looks different than last time.

I hear people on the Internet like lists, so I thought I’d commemorate Claire’s 8th birthday with a list of observations:

  1. Eight has ushered in the age of secret-keeping. At some point in the middle of the last school year, Claire and her best friend started writing down secret things in an Ivy & Bean diary that we were NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. Claire carried it to school and back and wrote in it with a pencil. At a recent sleepover, she and the same friend closed the door to the TV room to do secret things, which turned out to be playing Minecraft. She has started cornering me and asking me questions about body functions – have you ever eaten so many beets that your poop was red? – and then tells Joel it’s “secret girl stuff” when he asks what we’re whispering about. She closes her door most of the time when she’s getting dressed. I am prepared any day now to learn about a secret boyfriend.
  2. I had forgotten that adult friendships and kid friendships are not that different. Which is to say: complicated. Claire has her very best friend who she will choose over all other people at any time. Sometimes, when those two are around other kids, you can see the outsiders sort of trailing along behind trying to figure out how to fit in. I’ve tried tried to talk to Claire about including everyone, but she doesn’t really see what’s happening since it’s not something she would ever do on purpose. We are presently trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Claire’s new friends in our neighborhood. For two weeks we never saw her. She would get to our house, dump her stuff, grab her scooter and off she’d go with E1 and E2.  E1 even left her a gift on our front step one day with a note about how awesome Claire was and how happy she was that they were friends. Something happened over the next couple of weeks, and we haven’t seen E1 or E2 since. Claire hasn’t asked to go over to their houses, and they aren’t scootering/biking around the neighborhood. Apparently, E1 is sort of bossy (I told you!) and never wants to play what the other girls want. But what happened to E2? Claire doesn’t want to talk about it, and seems to be hiding in the house, declining to ride her scooter on her own. We only know the other girls’ parents in passing, so how do we find out? Yesterday Claire went across the street to a different neighbor’s house and ran through the sprinkler with their kids, a 9-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. Those kids don’t seem to be allowed out of their yard without a parent in tow, but we’ll see what happens.
  3. Last year we took Claire and three friends to an amusement park for her birthday. The aforementioned bestie, the boy from next door, and a girl who I can only describe as “challenging.” It was a rough day, freezing and rainy in July, and the kids all wanted to sit by Claire, who only wanted to sit by her best friend. At one point the kids overruled Claire’s objection to a certain ride, so she bravely stepped up to the line with them and got on. It was a mistake. She HATED IT and came off in tears. (I don’t blame her at all, I hate those rides, too.) The boy next door took a bottle of water and dumped it over his head to make her smile, and in that moment he became my absolutely favorite. I just get to see him in snippets, but he has always been so sweet and careful around her, even when they’re calling each other dumb names and chasing each other around the house. They have sleepovers and play bows and arrows and he gave her a hug and a high five after her second circus performance. At her birthday party this year, it was once again the boy next door, the bestie and a third girl friend. This time, the poor boy got locked out of the bedroom, locked out of the tent, and often told he couldn’t do something because it was “girl stuff.” And, thus begins the era of boys having cooties – at least when other girls are around. I’m sure Claire will still love him when they’re all alone, but I felt really sad watching him stand outside her bedroom door waiting for them to come out and play. They have to make it through adolescence and then teenage hormones before they can just be whatever they’ll be in life. I’m rooting for that kid!
  4. Here comes the bullying! I don’t remember getting harassed at school until I got glasses in the 5th grade, but last year Claire and I had to have a chat about how it’s not nice to make fun of kids who have “funny” voices – “but he knows his voice is weird, we’re not being mean!” – and about a month ago I found her standing in the bathroom mirror, holding her bangs back and staring at her forehead. I asked if she wanted help pinning her hair back, and she said some kid told her she had a big forehead. She most certainly DID NOT want to pin her hair back, because her gigantic forehead would then be exposed. I assured her that her forehead was just fine, and assured her again and again over the following couple of weeks whenever I would catch her looking at it. It seems to have passed, but now I’m paranoid any time I find her looking in the mirror for longer than a second. Joel just wants to find that kid and punch him/her in the face.
  5. One of my favorite parts of Claire growing up is that I get to share some of my own favorite things with her. For instance, she has gotten hooked on So You Think You Can Dance, so I save the episodes until she comes over and we can watch together. We sit on the couch with popsicles or popcorn and worry about our favorites getting kicked off the show. (Claire loves Casey and Jessica, for the record.) I usually fast forward through the judges, but Claire has started demanding that we find out what Mary has to say. Last week she wished Mary was her grandmother! It’s so fun to hear her talking about the dances – “this is hip hop, right?” “will Mary like this ballroom?” The dancers are so acrobatic and flexible and strong, which I love for her to see. She’s starting to see the connection between dance and her circus training, which is also fun. We’re planning to see the SYTYCD tour when it comes through Minneapolis.
  6. While I am guilty of expanding her dance vocabulary, I don’t know where she’s getting all her other words. I’ve never thought about dumbing down my own vocabulary to talk to her, but until recently I had a lot of explaining to do. “What’s that mean?” All of a sudden she’s operating on the same level as the rest of us, pretty much, and every now and then she pulls out a word that astounds me. Recently we went on a cave tour and she already knew half the terms. She knows biological names of insects. She understands complex concepts. She may still get stumped on silent e’s when she’s reading, but her spoken vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds in six months.
  7. Speaking of words, color me officially freaked out by the lyrics in pop music. I know! Who is this person? I’ve actually changed the channel on Ed Sheeran twice in the last week. Claire may not understand the words she’s singing from the back seat, but I do. She doesn’t know who Mick Jagger is, nor does she understand his moves, but I’m not ready to have a conversation about why you need to rub Christina Aguilera the right way. At the age of nine, my best friend Chastity and I would dance around her bedroom singing “Like A Virgin” into hairbrushes. How weird was that for our moms? There’s no way I knew what a virgin was, right? Do we switch off the radio and back to Kidz Bop? I don’t know what to do!
  8. I don’t know anything about eight or any other age, but it seems like a strange transitionary phase. One day Claire is coming home with braided bracelets around her ankles that make her look like a 14-year-old surfer girl (kid is TAN) and the next day she’s conning her grandma into buying both the camper trailer and the stable for her American Girl dolls. One day she’s talking to me about the importance of getting cars off the road to preserve the environment, and the next second she’s asking me if I’d rather be a banana or a piece of spaghetti. In a pair of short eyelet shorts and a lace-backed tank top Claire looks like she should be going off to high school, not the 3rd grade. When I met Claire she was four and a half and well on her way to independence. She still had a little baby belly and baby cheeks, but she was eons beyond babyhood and nowhere near toddlerhood. She’s not a tween. What is this weird middle phase called?

Last night we were on the couch watching “the regular show,” as Claire has started calling SYTYCD, and she wrapped her arms around me and put her head on my shoulder and asked me why I have started calling her “my love.” “Is it because you love me?” she asked. The truth is, my mom sometimes calls me that, and just like “kiddo” I’ve picked up a lot of her momisms. “Yes,” I said, because that’s also true.

Half an hour later she was on the other end of the couch shoving popcorn in her face and asked if she could hold my hand. “I love you,” she said without looking at me. I squeezed her hand and fast forwarded through Tara Lipinksi, who we both agreed was a worthless guest judge. I’m not sure what age nine will bring for us, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

 

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Setback or opportunity

Five weeks ago I went to a session of Moms on the Run – a running club I joined, kept meaning to write about and never got around to – and I had a mediocre run. We were doing sprint intervals. It was 6:30PM and still in the low 80s/upper 70s and it was humid. The mosquitos were out in full force. And even though I knew it would probably be a bad idea, I brought Huck along because it had rained for three days and was finally sunny and he looked super sad.

So, mediocre run. I haven’t really adjusted to the heat yet and am allergic to mosquito bites (which means they LOVE TO EAT ME), and Huck wanted to stop and pee on everything. I was the very last person to get back to the starting line, and the running coach came to look for me, worried something had happened to me back on the trail.

I probably ran six times with MOTR, and every other run was pretty terrible. The heat was a doozy, but I also had trouble with my asthma – stupid Minnesota spring/summer and all those pollens I’m not used to – and also struggled with the mild rolling hills on the trails we ran.

However, the not-bad runs were great and motivating. I ran faster than I ever have before. On a couple of occasions I was the first back to the starting point, and one time another runner told me I was an inspiration. As someone who had to walk part of the mile for the President’s Physical Fitness test in middle school, that was a pretty cool moment.

The good runs were enough to make up for the bad ones, and I started out on the trail every time believing it would be awesome. I was convinced I could find a home with MOTR, a group of women for future happy hours and commiseration about our kids. I’ve been sort of aimless on that front since moving, and I really, really wanted it to be true.

So when I woke up on Monday morning after that last terrible run with a stabbing pain in my heel, it was a blow not only to my fitness goals but also to the baby steps I had taken to find a personal network in Minneapolis. On Wednesday, which should have been another MOTR day, I instead took a slow walk on our treadmill. The pain got even worse. I use a standing desk at work, and by that Thursday was spending 80% of my time sitting in a shared workspace. On the weekend I tried more treadmill, had more pain, and turned to Google. What I have seems like a textbook case of plantar fasciitis, and everyone I’ve talked to says it’s a real doozy. It can take forever to heal, and at least one runner I talked to says it can be managed but never really goes away.

For the last five weeks the pain in my heel has been constant, to varying degrees. Instead of running I’ve been taking a barre class, walking inclines on the treadmill and swimming. Some days I wake up limping and some days I’m fine until I sit down for any length of time and then try to walk somewhere. After two weeks it was clear I wasn’t going to be able to run the half marathon that happened on August 2, and now it’s clear that I’m going to lose the last half of my MOTR summer session.

This is not the first time I have had a setback with running. In 2001, when I was first starting to be serious about it – meaning I was registering for 5Ks and making it my main form of exercise – I stepped off a curb and suffered a bad sprain. A dozen minor sprains followed, leading me to an orthopedic surgeon who told me the problem was actually in my knee, which led to minor surgery and physical therapy. Eventually I would run my first half marathon, stopping for a block at mile nine to stretch what felt like fluid out of my knees. A few years later I was spraining my left ankle every time I stepped on a crack in the sidewalk, which led to a full ankle reconstruction and three months in a cast. I’ve had terrible blisters and lost a toenail. I have asthma. I have pain in my hips after running hills.

Basically, I should stop running before it kills me.

But I love it. Nothing else feels as empowering to me as completing a long run with enough energy left to sprint to the finish. I love that feeling of running as fast as possible to the stop and the way my heart pounds and my breath comes out in ragged puffs. I like the sweat.

I’ve called myself a runner for so long that it has become part of my self definition. And, like so many other parts of me that have been redefined over the last year, I’m trying to get to a place where I can feel healthy and happy without relying on races to make me feel whole. At first I was super dramatic, like, I WILL NEVER RUN AGAIN, but that was just the heat of the moment, I think. For the last month I have tried to do something every single day, whether it’s a barre class or a hike with Joel and the dogs or a swim or walking hills for an hour on the treadmill. I’m trying to let go of the frustration of not running, and to redefine how I get healthy and feel good about myself. I’m trying to be okay with running as a sometimes sport instead of the only sport.

I’m doing okay, but every time Joel goes out and runs I want to punch him in the face. It’s not his fault that he’s built for it, that he can not run for months and then do three miles at a 7:30 pace. But I mentioned I’m competitive, right?

I just need to get over myself and get on with it.

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Explanation of absence

The fear of starting a blog is that there is never time to blog. Since the advent of the modern Internet, I’ve tried All The Things, from a personal Geocities site back in the 90s to LiveJournal in the early 2000s. I used Myspace. I was such a devoted member of an online community dedicated to a certain TV show about a teenager fighting (and loving) vampires that I wrote a book about it. I have a Tumblr, a Twitter, a Pinterest, an Instagram and a Facebook page. I connect with people on RunKeeper. I cheered on friends in the Fitbit community until the Force recall.  I have online profiles without numbers or spaces, if you get what I’m saying.

In Internet terms, I’m an old-timer. So I know how easy it is to join/start things and then stop doing them.

At the start of this blog it was easy to update, because my life hadn’t really started firing on all cylinders and I had so many feelings about so many things. Around the start of the kitchen remodel, life got real. The good news is: I’ve figured out how to prioritize writing time, and hope to update more regularly. The bad news is: there is no bad news, really.

Here’s what’s going on in our neck of the woods:

  • The kitchen/dining remodel is 92% done. We had some leftover backsplash tile and decided to use it in the corner behind the coffee maker, so a guy is coming at some point to do that. The electrician needs to come back and put in some under-cabinet lighting (also a light in the front hallway and ceiling fans in the bedrooms). We’re putting cabinet doors on a bit of open shelving, and we need to put shelves into the cabinet under the range. We need to spackle and paint the mudroom, and we need to frame/hang some art.
  • The next big house project is to eradicate all of the grandma wallpaper that still exists, and paint. I took a whack at the wallpaper in the hallways, but still have the final layer to scrape and need to hire someone to come and take care of a hard-to-reach space over the stairs. The walls of the downstairs bathroom are still covered in paste, and we need to start in on our room and Claire’s. We are mostly agreed on paint colors, except for our own bedroom, which will probably be the last frontier.
  • Claire turned 8 on July 31. Like, whoa. I have a post in progress about that.
  • I had a very disappointing change of direction in my job, which knocked me off my game for about a week. I am mostly over it and embracing new opportunities. Last week I had meetings almost every hour of the day for five days straight, which is both exhausting and stimulating at the same time. I either slept like the dead or didn’t sleep at all. At this point, I think Real Talk about work is off-limits here, but it’s definitely contributed to my writer’s block.
  • My veggie garden is not going well. Admittedly, I didn’t do any planning and was sort of haphazard in my planting. Also, I suspect everything needs more water than I’m giving it, even though I have the best intentions to be good at it. There are critters eating my leaves and other critters digging everything up on the daily. It’s too soon to call it a failure, but there are things I need to think about before undertaking this again next year. Expect a post on that soon.
  • It’s summer in Minnesota. While it is hot as blazes sometimes and the humidity is stifling, summer is pretty great. We bought tickets to see Journey and Joan Jett at the Minnesota State Fair on Labor Day, which feels like the most Minnesota thing ever and also the most appropriate summertime activity.
  • I could have sworn I posted about a new running injury, but I just checked and its been sitting in Drafts for two weeks. Oops. The lack of running has added to some body issues I’ve been struggling with recently. I try to struggle in private, because Claire doesn’t need to hear me bitching about being fat, but recently I lost it on Joel who just wanted to take the family out for ice cream. So. Those posts are also coming.
  • A new work friend invited me over and we sewed a skirt. I haven’t sewed since home-ec, but my mother gave me my grandmother’s sewing machine, and I am very interested in learning how to use it. (Claire got a sewing machine from her grandma for her birthday, so potentially we can learn together.) My dream is to be able to make lots of novelty print skirts and 50s-style fit and flare dresses. It would also be nice to feel confident mending my massive vintage wardrobe, which always needs mending! Sewing classes seem like a perfect autumn activity.
  • Speaking of autumn, I’m going to be hosting Thanksgiving for Joel’s family. This is v. v. v. exciting. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year! I love buying all the magazines, planning the menu, creating a schedule for cooking, baking pies, the whole kit-n-caboodle. I am GIDDY with the thought of using my new double ovens. GIDDY. I will make Grandma Shirley’s pumpkin pie and my favorite cornbread stuffing, but everything else is fair game. Oh, man. I am so excited to get started!

All these things have been happening, but most recently, my number one reason for not writing is that I’m television binging. I am a binger. I can binge like very few people I know, and I love every second. I’ve binged The X-Files and The West Wing and Sports Night and Greek and Orphan Black and Signed Sealed Delivered and, strangely, The Big Bang Theory. I’ve binged shows I’ve forgotten I binged. Right now I am binging The Good Wife, which has been on my list for a while, but only recently became available back to the start On Demand. I started it on the treadmill almost two weeks ago and have already taken down season one and half of season two. I’m obsessed. I want to watch it all the time, every spare minute.

Toby loves it when I binge, because I sit in the basement with him on my lap. Joel and Claire don’t like it much at all, because I sit in the basement without them. (Joel watched about 20 minutes of one episode and walked away, so I don’t think that’s happening.) I love my family, so am doing my best to restrict my binging while they’re home, but Joel has a lot of work travel this month and I am going BINGE THE HELL OUT OF THIS SHOW.

I solemnly swear I will also blog, in between life and TV. Pinky swear.

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A bad step-parenting analogy

Being a stepmother is like coming in to produce a movie after most of the major decisions have already been made. The director has been hired, the cast has been chosen, the locations have been booked, the financing is taken care of. Your job is to make sure the movie happens on time and on budget.

You can make suggestions along the way, and some of them will even be implemented or taken into consideration. You get to make the call on some things, like which caterer to hire for craft services or which limo service to use. Some days you’re the head honcho in charge, but at the end of the day the vision is the director’s.

Yet, you love the script. The script is TOTALLY AWESOME. You may never get to work on such a great script ever again in your life, and it is life-changing. You wouldn’t give up working on this film for anything in the world.

Just. Sometimes you wish your opinions had more weight, that you could express your opinion free of worry that it would cause a ruckus higher of the food chain, that you didn’t have to think so damn much before opening your mouth.

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Progress, not progress

Last night I went to bed super stoked about sharing some in-progress updates on the kitchen, but then this morning I woke up to smart/depressingly true commentary on the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision as well as the news of another sexual harassment lawsuit out of the Silicon Valley which actually made me feel sick to my stomach due to its severity.

I am very lucky in that I have always been able to receive and afford birth control whenever I needed it, and never worked for a company that (overtly at least) tried to control my body. I’m also lucky that my own experiences with sexual harassment while working in tech companies in the Valley are reasonably tame. I will gladly take a VC not making eye contact, shaking my hand, or listening to a single word I say if it means no one is calling me a slut in front of my co-workers. But just because I have not experienced the worst of these things doesn’t mean I haven’t seen it, or known people who experienced it. I have friends who have walked through picket lines to get a pap smear at Planned Parenthood. I’ve had friends who put up with all sorts of gross, disgusting advances because they were too scared to quit their jobs.

Still. STILL. I expect better from the world in 2014. I’m not sure why. It’s not like the world, in situations like these, is trying all that hard to be better. Geez Louise, people, please pay attention and PLEASE VOTE. Sigh.

But let’s get on with the kitchen remodel, shall we? As I type, things are almost back to normal. We have a short list of things that need to be cleaned up, but I’m able to cook and clean and eat in the new space. I’m not gonna lie. It’s pretty glorious. Until late last week we were still living in limbo. Officially beaten down, we ate out for every meal but breakfast. And on the weekends, we ate out then as well. It wasn’t so much the cooking as the prepping and cleaning up. No matter how wide the bathroom vanity, it takes a toll on your soul to do the majority of your meal prep there.

Kitchen before countertops

A little over two weeks ago, the cabinets went in. We experienced this step with some trepidation. We had gotten used to the space being completely open – you know, with nothing in it – and had somehow convinced ourselves that the giant space was magically going to remain giant. Simply adding cabinets back immediately made the space feel claustrophobic. Was the island too big? Should we have left the old breakfast nook without cabinets?

Kitchen window seat

Then they put in the butcher block countertops. That made the space feel a lot more real. I am especially fond of this window seat, which has mostly been co-opted by Mr. Toberson the cat. It was at this point that we realized the blues we were considering for the paint were all wrong, and instead we started poking around the green family. The color swatch here is a minty sage, which is an awesome contrast for the dark blue tiles. It was also at this time that we learned the built-in bookshelf, sort of seen here mid-left, was less than ideal. First, none of the shelves were tall enough for 50% of my cookbooks, and second, the faux-wood-like-product they used to build sagged beneath the weight of even 50% of my collection. The sagging has since been fixed with braces, but we’re stuck with the shelf height. (Note to would-be renovators, give better directions to your designer/contractor than “put a bookshelf there.”)

Light fixture and backsplash tile

Once the countertops went in, other things started happening at a fairly quick pace. The tile backsplash/final electrical work/plumbing happened in roughly the same two-day period, though those two days were separated by some non-work days, as it typical in this sort of thing. The tile looks darker in this picture than it is, but it’s so sharp with that white grout. And I love the glass light fixture with cloth-covered wiring. It worked out exactly as I had hoped it would.

How could I forget to point out that we painted the windows white? So very, very many 12-paned windows. The redish stain (see above pic) took three coats plus touch-up to cover. It took me an entire day to do two coats on three windows, and my hand took a week to stop cramping from holding the brush. [insert comments about being old here] The white looks so good, though! It completely changed the space.

Range island in kitchen

It was torture the day the range and double oven went in, because for several days they sat there taunting me with no gas or electricity. Both of these appliances are from IKEA, about which I have mixed feelings. Of course, in my wildest dreams, I would have all pro series Viking appliances. Each time we went into a store that carried the top-of-the-line products, I lovingly ran my hands along their surfaces. But let’s face it. We’re not made of money. And when you compare the Whirlpool-manufactured IKEA appliances to others in the same price range, there’s not a whole lot of difference. One day, maybe, I’ll be able to upgrade. These are great options for now.

Also. Double oven! I have wanted one of these for my entire adult life, and now I have it. I can hardly believe it’s mine! I will make pies and turkeys every single weekend to justify the space it takes up with Joel.

Claire’s favorite part of the remodel is the bar off the center island. She is lobbying hard for us to eat every single meal there.

Kitchen renovation at 75%

From the hallway, you can get a much better sense of how everything is coming together. White cabinets, butcher block countertops, sage paint, blue-grey tiles, stainless appliances. The fabulous new Samsung refrigerator is still out of sight in the dining room, the dishwasher is still in the garage and the dining room wallpaper (WALLPAPER!) was still on order. But at this point it started to feel like a livable space again!

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Astraphobia and Lilapsophobia

I spent the first 25 years of my life living in Missouri where weather happened on a regular basis.

When I was a baby, my aunt and uncle’s house was hit by a tornado (spawning a lot of our family mythology which I won’t get into here). We did not have a basement at home, and I have a very clear memory of driving to my grandparents’ house as a young child, the sky a sickly greenish-yellow and the air strangely calm and thick out the car window as we outran a twister. In high school, it was not uncommon for the schools in my small town to close for weeks following ice storms that rendered the hilly Ozarks roads impassable by buses. I remember the crackle of breaking trees, the shattered-glass sound as the ice hit the ground. We had flash floods and crazy summer thunderstorms, real toad-stranglers.

For the last 12 years, I have lived in Berkeley, CA, and worked in San Francisco. I felt maybe half a dozen earthquakes in that time, horrible gut-wrenching seconds that were gone before I processed what was happening. But weather, real Midwestern weather, was largely missing from the equation. Rain became something I wanted to go out and run in, so soft and gentle were most of the storms. I can count on one hand the number of times I saw lightning or heard thunder. Once there was a hailstorm that accumulated on the ground for long enough that I saw school-aged children playing in it like snow. Another time I experienced the briefest of flurries in the Financial District. Mostly, we feared droughts, or complained about the fog.

I’m not sure whether it’s my age or the last decade sans intense weather, but the recent string of thunderstorms has put me on edge. Last week we had thunder/lightening several nights in a row and I barely slept. It did not help that Huck, Cooper and Kitty all demanded space in our bed during the worst of it. (My animals are 100% Californians.) But even before the animals came calling I was having nightmares about tornados. In the evenings, while normal Midwestern folk were going about their business, I was making excuses to stay home so I could get the animals to the basement if need be. When the skies grew dark and menacing during the day, I could barely get work done in the middle of checking the Doppler.

The thought of Joel and Claire and I being in separate places during a tornado makes my heart hurt. The thought of my animals being home without me during an intense storm makes me sick to my stomach. Putting this in writing makes me feel like a crazy fatalist, but just today a funnel cloud was spotted about an hour and a half south, and I felt an overwhelming urge to make an excuse to go home. Even though it’s sunny and clear outside!

Surely I’ll get used to this, right? I can’t go through the rest of my life scared of thunder and lightning!

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Words and phrases

Claire has taken to calling me “girl.”

As in “Yeah, girl, you’re probably right [someone did want our parking space]” or “Giiiiiiirl, that’s a cool skirt” or “Sure, girl, I know what you mean.” Even, to my horror, “Get it, girl.”

The first instance of “girl” was a couple of weeks ago. I would love to meet the sassy 2nd grader who started this trend, and I definitely want to be a fly on the wall when Claire and all her friends are standing around calling each other “girl.”

As I type, she’s down the street with a couple of girls – nay, “girls” – from the neighborhood. We so lucked out to have two other kids her age right on the block. I’ll call them E1 and E2. E2 seems to be the quiet one in the group, but E1 strikes me as the ringleader, very bold. I would not put it past her to have been the one to bring “girl” into our lives. I imagine them down there right now, scootering around in circles. “Girl, that’s a cute top you’re wearing.” “Giiiiiirl, I wish I had sandals like those.”

Claire’s last day of 2nd grade was Friday, and the change in her this year has been incredible. I feel like she was still a baby when she started, but now she’s this long-legged, headstrong girl who gets exasperated at her father when he asks too many questions (“Daaaa-aad, it’s going to be okay”) and talks to me like she’s on an episode of Sister, Sister.

I shudder to think what the 3rd grade will bring.

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