Monday, October 5, 2015

A fast is so slow

On Friday, October 2nd, I completed the #fastagainstslaughter sponsored by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. I have to confess that I felt a bit anxious beforehand. The last time I missed three meals in a row was when I had my foot surgery last spring, and in that case it was because of the painkillers. The pills told me, "You don't need food, you only need uuuuuuuusss!" The pills also told me to sleep a lot.

My last meal was on Thursday. I went to the gym and then had tofu scramble for dinner. It's heavy on protein and usually keeps me full for a while. On Friday, I skipped breakfast and then headed to work as usual. At work I sometimes chew gum to keep me from eating other stuff. I couldn't decide if chewing gum would be cheating or not, so I opted to go gum-free for the day. I usually also eat a granola bar mid-morning when I'm at work. On Friday, I could hear them calling me from my desk drawer. "We have nuts and choooocolate," they said. "Also, we are gluten-free." I kept the drawer closed.

I pounded water all day. I think I peed about four times before noon. It was a long day, indeed. Every time my stomach started to rumble, I just reminded myself that it wasn't about me. It was about raising awareness for the plight of animals on factory farms. At lunchtime, I did a little shopping in an attempt to occupy my brain (which loves bargains almost as much as my stomach loves food).  Many states away, my wee baby sister was also fasting (she's the one who told me about the campaign) and also did some shopping. Great minds think alike! My friends Jennifer and Leslie fasted on Friday as well.

Because I am hopelessly schedule-oriented and do almost everything on a schedule (or at least according to a to-do list that I've scrawled in my serial-killer handwriting), I was scheduled to go grocery shopping on Friday night. So, after not having dinner, I headed to the grocery store. "I'm buying everything they sell," I told my husband on my way out the door. You know how they say not to go to the grocery store hungry? Try it when you haven't eaten in 24 hours.

The first thing I saw was a display of these:

There are products on the market that are referred to as being "accidentally vegan."  Oreos are one of those products. Nabisco didn't set out to make a vegan snack, but there you have it. They are not in any way healthy, of course. Believe me, we know. Anyway, I couldn't get them in my cart fast enough. Normally I do not even buy cookies at the grocery store because I cannot be trusted with them.

Another accidentally vegan item?  These:
Oddly enough, the smaller version of Keebler Fudge Sticks are not vegan. This is probably for the best. I've had a problem with fudge sticks dating back to childhood. There were times when I actually denied buying a box of them so as not to have to explain where they had all gone. They're right up there with Girl Scout Thin Mints. The term "serving size" is so subjective, amiright?

Anyway, I bought the jumbo fudge sticks, too. "I should probably just go home," I thought. But, I persevered and finished my grocery shopping. I didn't buy anything too outlandish.

The next morning, I went to my usual Weight Watchers meeting. I didn't eat before the meeting (because that would be crazy). I figured I had gone that long without eating, so what's another hour?  When I got home, I decided that I'd probably better eat a fairly light meal so as not to overwhelm my empty insides. I ate a piece of sourdough toast with Earth Balance, a veggie sausage, and a handful of grapes. I have to say that the toast seemed like the best thing that had ever happened to me. The bread was really fresh, ya'll.

By the end of the day, life was back to normal. My co-worker gave me a butternut squash, so I roasted that (and then used it in vegan burritos the next day). I did a lot of cooking over the weekend - sometimes I make stuff ahead of time to make life a little easier during the work week.

Will I do the fast again next year? I'm sure I will. Me skipping meals for a day doesn't really do much in the scheme of things, but I think every little bit of awareness helps. I posted my photo and the corresponding hash tag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thousands of people around the world participated in the event. If it causes even one person to make the connection between the meat they buy at the grocery store and how that meat got there . . . then I think it's worthwhile. All it takes is that one little spark of awareness. And awareness can lead to compassion. I'm sure of it.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

File this under "over-sharing"

Knowing what to share (and what not to share) on my blog . . . it's a fine line sometimes. There are lots of intensely personal thoughts and events that I certainly do not share here. I'm sure I am guilty of sharing too much at times. I know my daughter wishes I'd keep more of her escapades to myself. In many ways, I consider my blog to be a chronicle of her early years. Even now, it's fun to go back to the early entries (written when she was two) and remind myself of just how fun it was to housebreak a toddler. I am capable of keeping some things to myself, though.

In this case, I couldn't decide. But, here goes.

A few days ago, a blood test confirmed what I have basically known (or at least strongly suspected) for a year. I'm in menopause. Not perimenopause or some other cousin to menopause. I'm in full-on menopause. Part of me was comfortable with the idea. Now I don't have to wonder. Part of me felt like it was just one more "fuck you" from my body. I feel like my body has been betraying me my entire life. From growing up with various auto-immune disorders and later suffering through multiple miscarriages . . . I couldn't help but feel a little indignant towards my own flesh. "Early menopause? Thanks for nothing, jack ass." Fortunately, I have experienced exactly zero symptoms that are often associated with menopause. I read that a vegan diet can be really helpful in this regard. Score one for the tofu!

My brain also veered off in another direction, though. The other day I passed a Lane Bryant and saw this message in the window (in very large letters): #plusisequal. And I thought, "Empowerment for all - that's a good thing." I read an article a while back that explored how American women have gotten larger, but fashion models have gotten progressively smaller. A size 8 or 10 model is considered plus size. Crazy. Why is there no happy medium in the world? Lately I've been hearing a lot of buzz about model Tess Holliday. The girl, simply put, is stunning. She's a size 26.

So here is where I have to confront my own baggage. I look at Tess Holliday and I think,"Beautiful!"  However, I also sort of wonder about how her knees are going to hold up over time. I know from spending the last decade at Weight Watchers that knees hate extra pounds. I've seen a lot of women who struggle mightily with this.

Then I remember that Tess Holliday's health is none of my beeswax. None. Also, she's under no obligation to be a role model. She seems very confident and rocks the tattoos like nobody's business.

Last Sunday, a good friend of mine spoke at my church. She's heavily involved in roller derby. She talked about how going vegan, participating in derby, and running long distances helped her to quit smoking, get healthy, and lose some weight. She also talked about how the roller derby world is full of small women, large women, strong women, and bad-ass women. Being part of that world helped her to reject body shaming and to feel more comfortable in her own skin.

I wish I could get in on that action. Not the roller derby action, because I can't see me doing that. I can just picture me trying to knock an opponent on her ass. I'd be like, "I'm just going to scoot you out of the way now, and I'm really sorry about this. Please don't unfriend me on Facebook or anything." No, I just want to get in on the whole self-acceptance thing. Like exactly when do I get to stop worrying about losing 15 pounds? On my deathbed? ("Sweet! I'm finally off the hook. Please add dark chocolate to my IV - stat.")

I want to be a good role model for my daughter. That's why she and I participated in a 5K and a 10K over the summer. I'm the world's worst runner but by gum, I got out there and tried. So, as tempting as it is to say, "I'm menopausal, my youth is gone, and I'm just going to let myself go," the truth is that I'm too vain to do that. Plus, staying healthy really is important, too.  I owe it to myself and to my daughter to keep an eye on my health and make sure I keep chugging along for as long as possible. After all, her dad and I are planning to do the robot at her wedding and I can't let them down.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hot Cross Buuuuuuns!

My daughter had her first clarinet lesson on Friday. On Friday evening, as she and I watched the latest episode of "Project Runway," she showed me how to put the clarinet together. I must say she assembled it very deftly. I was glad to see that she must have paid attention during the lesson she'd received at school. Then she proceeded to play "Hot Cross Buns" for me. Oh my.

After a few attempts, the dogs started to pace and act anxious. "Why don't we call it a day?" I suggested. "You have all weekend to practice."

She practiced on Saturday and again on Sunday. On Sunday evening, the dogs came to me and asked me if I could drop them off at the nearest kill shelter. "We'll take our chances," they said.

I'm glad the kid showed so much enthusiasm for practicing the clarinet over the weekend. She did it voluntarily, and she is not a child who does anything voluntarily. Plus, I could hear that she was making progress with each repetition of the song. I have to think her band instructor will be impressed at her efforts. I mean, she hot cross bunned like nobody's business.

But oh, those squeaky notes! Imagine that you're walking along, blissfully singing "Hot Cross Buns" (as one does) and that right as you're hitting the word "buns," you step on some glass in your bare feet. "Hot Cross BUUUNS!" The last word comes out in a shriek. Then, imagine that you've kidnapped a small woodland fairy who has an exceptionally high-pitched voice. Just as you are choking the life out of her (as one does), you force her to use her last breath to (rapidly) squeak out, "one a penny! two a penny! hot cross buns!" That's the best way I can describe my weekend to you.

We try to get her to practice in her bedroom (vs. the living room) as much as possible.  As P and I listened to "Hot Cross SQUEAK!" on Saturday afternoon, he finally announced, "I'm going to the liquor store - do you need anything?"

"Um, yes. Just bring me everything, I guess."

One of her friends spent the night on Saturday so we received some respite from the clarinet at that point. They were too busy playing Minecraft and whatnot. The girls apparently stayed up until 2:45 a.m. (and miraculously made it to church on time yesterday).  I guess I could have tried to force them to go to bed earlier, but they're in fifth grade. I figured they're old enough to understand the consequences of less-than-stellar decisions. After church, we took them out for lunch at Subway and then to an orchard to pick apples. Honestly, I couldn't believe they were still upright at that point.

If you'd like to come over for a visit this coming weekend, I'm sure there will be a concert for your listening pleasure. I'm sort of hoping we move on to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or something like that, because my buns cannot get much crosser.

I got a kick out of this goat standing stoically on a bridge in the goat enclosure. I imagined that he doesn't let other goats cross the bridge until they solve a riddle.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Oh, the things you can lose!

I honestly don't know how big families do it. And by "it," I mean . . . everything. When I come home from work each day, I have to check the kid's backpack to see a) what she smuggled to school that day b) if she has any homework. Then, assuming she remembered to bring her insulated lunch bag home, I have to make her lunch for the next day. I tried letting her pack her own lunch the other day but when I looked in the bag, all she had packed were some Cheezits, chocolate almond milk, and a cookie. Nice try, kid.

On a typical evening, we have to stay on top of her to do her math, do 20 minutes of reading, take a shower, and eat her dinner. Add in a couple of "pick your shoes up" and "leave the dogs alone - they're busy," too, and you've got a typical evening at our house.  I tell her that the dogs are too busy to play with her in attempt to get her to focus on her homework and whatnot.  On Tuesdays, she also has choir rehearsal.  Starting next week, she will also need to practice her clarinet.

Ah, the clarinet. She was SO excited to get her instrument.  Last Friday, I took her to a music store after work.  The guy behind the counter brought out a black case and opened it so that we could see the spiffy new clarinet. Here is how little I know about clarinets: I had no earthly idea that they come apart. When I saw the clarinet in the case, my immediate thought was that it had been mugged and dismembered in a dark alley (and then placed lovingly into little velvet compartments). My daughter immediately started pulling pieces out and admiring her new instrument.  She came perilously close to dropping one of the pieces. The music store man frowned at her, "Better not touch until you've had your first lesson," he said.

"That's right," I agreed. "No touchy."

In addition to entering a rental agreement with the music store (to the tune of $30.00 a month), I had to buy a book, a music stand, etc. If she loses the clarinet, I get to pay the music store something like $798.00.  If that actually happens, she won't see her iPad again until her children are grown.

A few days before we picked up the clarinet, I took her to see our optometrist. I had been getting annual exams for her but then the doctor said she didn't necessarily need to come in every year (unless I noticed an issue). So then I guess I lost track of how long it had been. Her last eye exam was when she was in first grade.  Over the summer, it was actually my stepmom who noticed that A was holding books and such pretty darned close to her face.  I'm not that observant, apparently. So, I decided it was about time I dragged the kid to the eye doctor.

She did not particularly want to go.  We sat in the waiting room together while I filled out paperwork.  The questions on the patient information paperwork didn't seem like they were meant for a kid. "Are you still single?" I asked her.  "And you're still not Asian as far as you know?"

She rolled her eyes. "Mo-om!"

As I was filling out the rest of the forms, she found a spinning rack of kids' eye wear and started trying on some of the frames. "Mom! Look!" She flipped her hair and put her hand on her hip, smiling as she looked through the clear glass of the designer frames. "These. Are. So. Cute." she whispered excitedly.  Then she tried on at least ten more, forcing me to look at her each time. All of a sudden, the idea of wearing glasses seemed very appealing to her.

A few minutes later, we were in the exam room.  She was given several tests. On one of them, she had to determine, visually, which of four "bumps" was raised. She flunked that test. "Crap," I thought to myself.  Dr. K gave her a bunch more tests and also played the ever-popular "Which looks better? This one or that one?" game with her.

"Do you think you need glasses?" he asked her.

"Um, I don't know," she responded.

Then he looked at me. "She could benefit from reading glasses, but  . . . speaking as a parent, I wouldn't say that they're an absolute necessity."  He then had her leave the room so that he could talk to me privately.

Basically, in a nutshell, he said that I should keep an eye on the situation. If she starts complaining of headaches and starts holding her books even closer, it might be time for some reading glasses.  He didn't want to say any of that in front of her because, sensing that she really wants glasses now that she sees how stylish some of them are, he didn't want to talk about symptoms. In other words, if she knows that headaches are a sign of needing glasses, she'll be plagued by them for the next few weeks. Dr. K did note that whether we get glasses or we don't, her eyes won't get any better or worse either way.  She may outgrow the farsightedness, too.

So, I'm still thinking about it. My main concern, honestly, is the fact that she is likely to lose them. Kinda like the clarinet.

Next month, her orthodontist is removing her braces.  In exchange, she'll get a retainer.  So, in case you aren't keeping track or are just very bad at math, that makes three expensive items she could potentially lose:  the clarinet, the glasses, and the retainer. If you add all three together, I think you could get a decent used car. Or at least a really nice moped.

I remember being in junior high and from time to time some hapless kid would accidentally throw out his retainer with his lunch tray. I recall seeing a boy digging through the garbage in the lunch room, desperately looking for the apparatus (and probably thinking, "My mom is going to kill me!")

My daughter has a terrible track record with losing stuff, so I have reason to be concerned about such things. I don't think I've ever once visited her school without finding something of hers in the lost and found. Every time I buy her a new jacket or sweater, part of me wonders if I should just drive over to the school and deposit it directly in the lost and found. Cut out the middle man, as it were.

Now . . . who would like to invite a sweet fifth grader to their home to practice the clarinet?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I can do this (I think)

My wee baby sister made me aware of an upcoming event: Word Day for Farmed Animals (#fastagainstslaughter). It's an awareness event sponsored by Farm Animal Rights Movement. The challenge is to fast for a full day on October 2nd. My sister did it last year. This year, I will join her. I have taken the pledge and if you know me . . . once I say I'm going to do something, odds are pretty good that I'll do it.  If I were you, I wouldn't call me that day because I might be a little crabby after a few hours. It'll be a challenge, for sure. The last thing I think about when I go to bed at night? What I'm going to have for breakfast the next morning. What I think about after breakfast? How soon I can have a snack. Seriously, I'm shameless. It's no wonder I have to maintain a Weight Watchers membership.

I've noticed that people seldom want to chat with me about my choice to go vegan last year (or even my adherence to a vegetarian diet for the 25 years before that). I assume it's because they already know why but don't want to be confronted with it. They don't want to hear about how factory farms operate and they don't want to hear about inhumane (and even illegal) treatment of farm animals. They don't want to hear that animals delivered to the slaughterhouse typically have not had food/water in 12 hours.  And that's okay - I'm not here to be a party pooper.  And you know what? I get it. I really do. I continued to eat dairy for years and years because I didn't really want to think about it too much and didn't want to be inconvenienced.  I'm not here to be sanctimonious. Is there anything worse than a preachy vegan? My goal, simply, is for ME to do my best to walk gently through this life, leaving behind as little destruction as possible. I can't impose my thinking on anyone else. I saw a sticker that said, "Vegan means I'm trying to suck less."  I also have a sticker on my refrigerator that says, "Eat like you give a damn." So that's what I'm trying to do - give a damn.  We all have our causes that we care about. Recently I was at a farmers' market and there was a booth there that attempted to raise awareness about how bad golf courses are for the environment. I'm sure they are, but I just can't think about one more thing . . . can't embrace one more cause. Again, we all have our thing. You know what, though? I really suspect that when it comes to caring for our planet (and the animals that live on it) . . .  that everyone can do a little something if they are so inclined. I really like the Meatless Mondays campaign. Skipping meat for one day doesn't seem so outrageous, does it? I have been amazed at all of the recipes I've learned to make in the past year and a half. Yesterday I made black bean soup for my family and they ate every single bite. And this morning I made chocolate chip pancakes (yes, vegan) that were also a hit.

I have a little confession to make. When I was a kid, I remember referring to bovines as "moo-moo cows." As in, "awwww, look at all of those moo-moo cows in that field." Because there is a slaughterhouse in the town where I live, I regularly see trucks filled with doomed animals. When I see one of the trucks, under my breath I always say, "I'm sorry, moo-moo cows." (Don't laugh!) When I see the truck that's already empty, I think, "Aw, they're already dead" because I assume they've already been dumped at their final stop. I can't do anything to stop all of that, really, but at least I can sleep at night knowing that I didn't contribute to it.

So, I will put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and fast on October 2nd. On October 3rd, I will make myself some yummy food and will feel just a little more grateful for it than usual.  Compassion: it's what's for dinner.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Making (no) sense of things

Celebrate we will
Because life is short but
sweet for certain
(Dave Matthews)

Sometimes I look at my daughter and, for just half a second, I think, "What if she . . . wasn't?" What if she simply wasn't here? My brain can't fully form the thought. I've tried, but her presence - her spirit -  is simply too big to picture a life without her. She makes me laugh so hard that my eyes water. She makes me so angry that I have to count to 10 so that I don't throw her iPad in the driveway and run over it with my car. She makes me so proud that when she's in swim class or choir rehearsal or even just playing video games at Chuck E Cheese, I secretly hope that someone will ask me "Which one is yours?" so that I can give them an incredulous look and respond, "Why, the best one. Of course." I mean, duh. Sometimes, my daughter slips and calls me, "Mama" (I'm usually just "Mom" these days) and I think my heart might explode in my chest. I can scarcely remember a time before this curly-haired dynamo ruled my days.

I won't get all pro-life-y on you here. I'm not a pro-life person but nor am I a staunchly pro-choice person. I think that when you find that you cannot have kids the old-fashioned way (and suffer four miscarriages), it certainly colors your view of such things. As such, there are times when I can't help but think about my daughter's birthmom and the hard decision she made. A decision that means that her heart will always be just a little bit broken, in a way that's not fixable. The world, though, is just a little more awesome because of her sacrifice and selflessness. This is the dichotomy of adoption - happiness and sadness all wrapped up in one story.

I think about how happy my daughter makes my parents (plus: her aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone who loves her). I think about how many friends she has and how she loves to hug everyone. She has the gift of making everyone around her feel special. I think of her fashion sense. I think of how she lies about dumb things. I think about her impossible-to-comb curls and her beautiful green eyes. I think about how she spends most of her morning singing inappropriate song lyrics and admiring herself in the mirror instead of getting ready for school. I think of all the places we've gone (the three of us, as a family) and the adventures we've had. It's good. It's all so very, very good.

A few years ago, a woman named Sam started reading my blog. I can't recall how she found it. She left comments on my blog that were funny, sharp, and insightful (and on one occasion she busted me for some clumsy wording I had used, which came across as being slightly offensive - and she was right). Eventually we connected on Facebook. She lives several states away from me and unfortunately, I've never met her in person. I like to think that if we lived near each other, we'd get along famously. (Well, until she came to realize how annoying I am.)  Yesterday, Sam's five-week-old baby died of SIDS. Amirah was a beautiful dark-haired girl who probably would have given her older brothers a run for their money in the spunk department.

What does one say? I mean, if there is one occasion when the English language fails us, it's this one. Like everyone else, I offered my condolences to Sam and her husband, though the words did not come easily. I cannot begin to imagine how they must feel. I suppose they probably feel leaden or maybe shell-shocked. Just how does a parent start to process and grieve the death of their child? I can't even offer a guess. My hope for them is that they find the strength to move forward. As parents to two young boys, there's really no other way. I hope they find a way to cherish and honor the five weeks they spent with their sweet baby girl. I'm sure they will do just that.

I know that people always want to take a lesson from everything that happens. They want to say things like, "Everything happens for a reason."  I can't imagine taking any sort of lesson from the passing of a newborn. If there is a reminder to be had, it's simply the oldie-but-goodie: take nothing for granted. Life is precious and short and sweet. And sometimes bad things happen for no reason.

Sam, I am so sorry that you will never have a chance to tell your daughter to brush her teeth or to stop dilly-dallying. Or to try to stop her from singing inappropriate song lyrics that she heard on Top 40 radio. I'm so sorry that you'll miss out on the good things and the not-so-good things that the future might have held for your daughter.

As for me . . . I will try to yell at mine a little less and to praise her a little more. And yes, never to take her for granted.

Monday, September 14, 2015

5th grade

Last week, I asked my daughter how it feels to be a fifth grader. This is her final year of elementary school, so there are six grades below her (4K through fourth) and none above. Big fish in a little pond and all that.

"It feels weird," she said. "The other day I told some Kindergartners to stop throwing stuff because they were going to hurt someone. And they actually did it! They stopped throwing stuff."

She was drunk with power, I tell you.

In additional to being at the top of the social order, fifth grade in our school district also means the introduction of band.  Kids interested in being in the school's band are invited to pick an instrument and start learning. "Mom, I want to be in band but it's really expensive. It's $54.00 for the year."  It's cute that she thinks $54 is the most she's ever cost me. She takes me for at least twice that much on an average trip to the mall.

"Give me the papers and I'll take a look," I told her.

After she went to bed that night, I reviewed the band-related paperwork. She had written down her instrument of choice (the clarinet) and had misspelled it. We're off to a great start! After giving it some thought, I decided we'd better go with a rental through one of the local music stores (vs. through the school). I'm definitely not buying a clarinet outright. My girl is not known for finishing what she starts so until she can prove to me that she's the world's most dedicated clarinet player, we're going to go the rental route.  We also have to get our hands on a required book and a music stand. Oh, and cleaning supplies because if there's another thing my kid is not known for . . . it's cleaning stuff.

Her dad is concerned because our daughter is also about to start weekly choir rehearsals. Our little songbird got into our local city choir. Aside from the time commitment, there is also a pretty significant financial commitment. I just received an email the other day letting me know that we need to buy character shoes from a dance shop. I had never even heard the term "character shoes" before. I'm excited about my daughter having this opportunity, but the emails are making me a little nervous. There are a lot of BOLD WORDS and ASAPs and DUE DATES and FORMS. I talked to a friend who has been involved with the choir for years and she made me feel a bit less apprehensive. You guys know how structured and anal-retentive I am, so if an email makes me nervous . . .

Anyway, I think that between band and choir and homework . . . the kid is gonna be busy. I know she's a big fifth grader now, but I'm not entirely sure she can handle it. Earlier this evening, she burst into tears over her math homework. Her math homework makes me cry, too, but that's a whole other story. Keeping her away from her iPad will be key. There's no way she can practice her clarinet, do 20 minutes of reading, complete her math homework, take a shower, and complain about the dinner I make for her . . . all in a single evening. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Maybe this is the year when we'll see a massive spike in "personal responsibility."

In other news, we volunteered at a fundraiser for the rescue on Saturday. I handed the kid a camera and made her the unofficial photographer for the event. She did a pretty good job, but when I got the camera back, many of the photos were either of dog butts or of herself. Kids these days, I tell  ya.