Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Being selfless is for the birds

Is it wrong to plan a trip out of town - alone - for Mother's Day? How about when you're a mother? I am seriously thinking of doing this next year. A little overnight stay somewhere. I'll pack a bottle of wine and a good book to read. Maybe I'll get crazy and book a massage for myself.

Mother's Day is tough for me every year. I don't know why I get so upset, but I have a minor breakdown every May when this particular holiday rolls around. Maybe it's the price I pay for being an adoptive mom, feeling like I never quite measure up on the momscale. My poor husband seems to know he's going to botch it and probably wishes I would go away for the weekend. This year, our daughter went camping Saturday night. She returned home Sunday afternoon. I am 99.9% sure that she'd had no inkling it was Mother's Day until she heard someone mention it. Later, while I was walking one of the dogs, she signed a card that her dad thrust in front of her and left it for me on the kitchen counter. She spent the rest of the day in her bedroom. I spent the rest of the day washing the smells-like-campfire clothes she brought back from her camping trip. I have to confess that I miss the goofy Mother's Day art projects that she made for me when she was little. I wouldn't mind having a paper plate with some rigatoni glued on it in the shape of the letters M O M.

My husband did get me some gifts. They came from the Pick-n-Save across the street: wine, flowers, and an iTunes gift card. Also, he bought me a Kermit. While I was at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, a stuffed Kermit (the kind with bendy arms and legs) fell off of a shelf in the office/guest room. The dogs chewed it up. On his watch. So, he ordered a replacement for that on eBay.

The gifts were nice. I have no complaints. What I really wanted, though, was for the day to feel different from all the other days. My days, it seems, are an endless cycle of work-cleaning-cooking-laundry. Wash, rinse, repeat. But mothers are supposed to be selfless, right? I'm not supposed to wish for something different.

A lighting fixture in our bedroom is not working properly. It's an electrical issue and God knows we can't hire an electrician. I decided to buy a floor lamp for my side of the bed so that I can, you know, see. I picked it up at Home Depot on my way home from church on Sunday. I dragged the box into the bedroom and proceeded to put the lamp together. You can probably picture what it looks like - a light fixture atop a heavy metal pole.  Pretty standard stuff. As I was looking down at the instruction sheet, the dogs ran through the room and somehow stepped on the cord, causing the pole to crash into my skull.  It hurt like I don't know what.  My husband heard me yelp and came to pull the dogs out of the room so that I could continue. It seemed like a good time for a husband-type person to say, "Hey, I'll finish putting it together. Besides, it's Mother's Day - you should be relaxing!" Honestly, that's all I really wanted . . . just to hear things like, "What can I do to help you?" or "What would you like to do today?" I wanted some sort of acknowledgement of the fact that the people in my home have clean clothes in their closets and two clean toilets in which to poop.

My expectations, I know, are too high. I know the issue lies with me and not with them. I also know that I need to say off Facebook on Mother's Day. I see all of these other moms being treated to breakfast in bed and having all of their favorite things delivered to them - from Starbucks to jewelry. And then I think, "I didn't get any special treatment - it must be a side effect of me being a terrible mother." And so on it goes. I end up feeling depressed and annoyed.  I really need to do something different next year. Maybe I will.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What do you mean, you don't want to hear about my feet?

When my plantar fasciitis was at its worst about two years ago, I did a lot of googling in attempt to figure out how I should proceed. I watched countless videos, perused medical websites, and joined a Facebook group started by fellow sufferers. I visited my podiatrist again and again. I was desperate for help.

So, just in case some other middle-aged chick is googling the same stuff I googled and happens upon my blog, I thought I should provide a bit of information about what worked for me. I am now pain-free.

First off, let me say that plantar fasciitis is no joke. Unless you live in the 17th century and are a member of some royal family who gets carried around and doesn't have to walk . . . you probably have to walk. PF makes every step a nightmare. When my pain first started, I thought maybe I had just overdone it at the gym.  I was hitting the elliptical a lot at that point. You know how it goes.  You get into your mid-40s and when something starts to hurt, the initial thought is, "Oh, I guess this will just always hurt now." You don't know what is fixable and what isn't.

I spoke with a yoga teacher at my gym and described my pain to her.  The pain was primarily in the arch of my foot, close to the heel. She confirmed that it was probably plantar fasciitis. This theory was later confirmed by my podiatrist. In addition, my body reacted to the strained fascia by laying down some extra bone on my heel, AKA "bone spurs." It looks super sexy on an x-ray, let me tell you.

So began an odyssey lasting over a year. As PF sufferers will tell you, the worst time of day is first thing in the morning. At night, we all naturally sleep with our feet somewhat extended (like a ballerina). This shortens the fascia alongside the bottom of the foot. This is why that first step is so brutal - the connective tissue on the sole is pulled taut as soon as the foot hits the floor, and that's very owie. For most people, the pain subsides somewhat after walking around for a bit.

I proceeded to try a bunch of stuff that I read about on the interwebs.

Here are the things that ultimately did not work:

1. Rolling my feet on a frozen water bottle. I did this for months. All I got was cold feet.
2. Wearing a special boot at night . The idea of the boot is that it holds the foot in a flexed position, thereby denying the fascia a chance to bunch up. My right foot was always worse so I just bought one boot (it wasn't cheap) and tried that foot. I slept with the boot on for a few nights. Mostly what I accomplished was to kick myself in the left leg with my right leg and wake up thinking, "WTF?!" every few minutes.
3. Getting cortisone injections. I did this twice, on my right foot both times. It did help to numb the pain for a day or two, but the injection itself hurts like a sumbitch and, in my opinion, isn't worth it.
4. Wearing crocs. My podiatrist recommended that I get some Crocs slides and wear them around he house. I did that for months. It didn't help. Crocs don't offer proper arch support and don't hold the leg and foot in proper alignment. And my God were they ugly.
5. Inserts in my existing shoes. My podiatrist recommended some standard orthotics inserts.  They did help somewhat, but not fully.
6. Arch support bands.  You can find these at most drug stores. They did feel kinda good (it's basically a band that wraps around your foot and provides some cushion to the sole), but I don't have any evidence suggesting that they fixed anything.
7. Standing on a step and letting my heels hang over the edge, thereby stretching my feet.

I should add that I did not invest in custom-made orthotics. I know a lot of people do go that route with some success.  Some people also have surgery to correct PF, but the idea of operating on my feet seemed unappealing at best.

What did work:

1. Investing in shoes with built-in orthotics.  I know that there are several brands that offer built-in orthotics. I invested in several pairs of Vionic shoes. Fortunately for me, they do offer several styles that are not leather. I learned that there are two main features that PF sufferers need to care about when it comes to shoes: arch support and heel cup. I bought some flip-flips, worky-type shoes that I can wear to the office, and some tennis shoes.  (Asics also makes some styles that are good for PF).
2. Babying my feet. I am almost never barefoot. At this point, it actually feels weird when I am barefoot. When I am at home, I am either wearing my Vionic flip-flops or my Vionic slippers. I had a setback last summer after I walked barefoot on the beach while visiting my dad in Ocean City. It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
3. Losing some weight. I guess this one is just common sense but if your feet hurt, it's probably better to have slight less weight smashing them into the ground (if possible).  However, I will also say that I have talked to other people at my gym who are struggling with PF and they were not even a little bit overweight. 

After six months or so without pain, I have now been able to ease back into some "normal" (AKA "cuter") shoes. However, I still make sure that the insole is cushioned (the bone spurs are still there, of course) and that I switch into my flip-flops or slippers when I get home.

The other tactic I use is to roll my feet on a golf ball almost every day. I keep a golf ball in my bathroom and roll my feet while I am getting ready for work. I really try to work the ball into any tender spots so that I can keep an eye on the situation in case it starts to get sucky again.

After wearing the Vionic shoes consistently for many months, I started to notice that I did not have any pain. Now, I will say that it can take a few wearings to get used to these shoes. In fact, the company suggests wearing them only for short periods of time in the beginning. The arch is very exaggerated and feels weird at first. In my case it was worth it to work through the initial weirdness of how they feel.

I think my main annoyance with this whole saga is that my podiatrist did not recommend Vionic shoes (or even some similar brand). PF is very common with middle-aged women so I think it was just like, "Oh, here's another one" and then they handed me a pre-printed list of the orthotic inserts.

I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from wearing cheap flip-flops or flats with no arch support. A lifetime of failing to care for my feet left me limping and in severe pain. I'm a lot more careful now. I even give myself foot massages while I'm watching TV (my family doesn't offer to do it, if you can believe that). I yelled at my dog Grover for stepping on my foot when he came bounding in from the back yard this morning. Doesn't that jerk know what I've been through?

Expensive but effective flippity-flops

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

12 (subtitle: just 365 days to go until I have a teenager in my house)

My baby, my goober, my curly girlie . . . is 12 today.  :::sniffle snifle:::

In the photo below, she is wearing a necklace that was given to her by a BOY! (I know, right?!)

In addition to hosting a birthday party for her and her friends (at an indoor trampoline park), her dad and I got her a ukulele, some new earbuds that she can step on, break, and then hide under her bed, some new sandals, and a birthday shirt. (And by "her dad and I," I mean that I bought her some stuff and then told him what I bought). Gifts have been trickling in from other family members, too.

It's been fun (and a little bit heartrending) to watch my baby girl growing into a young woman. In just six short years she'll be headed off to college. Ack! She both exasperates me and fills me with joy - pretty much on the daily. We are a typical mother-daughter pair, I suppose. We laugh at jokes together and then two minutes later I am yelling at her because she left food in her room (and is rolling her eyes in response). All par for the course, I suppose.  The other day she told me she was buying pizza for lunch at school.  I looked at the online lunch account and learned that she bought ice cream.  Two of them, in fact.  And no pizza. Why do kids bother to lie? They are SO bad at it!

Despite all the hijinks and questionable decision-making, I am so proud of my kiddo.  She has the typical amount of middle school angst, but she has such a good heart. She's the best hugger in the hemisphere. I love watching her musical talent develop, too.  She is taking lessons for the guitar and is learning the keyboard and ukulele on her own. She sings in two choirs and grabs a solo any chance she gets.

Happy 12th birthday to my sassy, doesn't-get-up-on-time, homework assignment-losing, shower singing, beautiful baby girl. I love you with everything I am.


Friday, April 28, 2017

New wheels and such

Last Saturday, I attended our city's bicycle auction, sponsored by the local police department. It's amazing how many lost/stolen bikes they end up with in a given year. Hundreds of them! I have been riding my Craigslist bike for nearly a decade, so I decided it was time to see if I could get something a bit newer. I am not a daily rider or anything like that, so I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike. Me so cheap.

I arrived at the fairgrounds just after 8 a.m. to register for the auction.  They give you an hour to look at the stuff (they also had surplus equipment and stuff like fishing poles and folding chairs). I made my way up and down rows of bikes. I kept thinking of that scene from Pee Wee's Big Adventure when he topples a whole row of motorcycles.  Whenever I saw a bike I might like, I added its number to a list I was keeping in my phone. Some of the bikes looked like they'd been run over by a semi, but there were some really nice ones, too. I had my eye on a powder blue Schwinn that appeared to be in perfect condition and another one with an aluminum frame that looked really nice, too. I also listed a few decent back-up selections.

When 9:00 rolled around, I climbed up to a spot on the bleachers. I picked a seat next to an adorable couple in hopes that they might chat with me during the long morning auction. They just seemed interesting, I guess.  They were the best dressed at the auction, that's for sure. What is it with gay men always looking cuter than the rest of us?

The first bike I wanted was number 197, so I had to sit there for an eternity first. They start with number 1, as you might imagine. Auctions are pretty entertaining, though. The auctioneer would rattle off some be-de-be-de stuff in his secret auctioneer language. When 197 (one of my back-ups) finally rolled around, I decided to hold off for 223 - the powder-blue Schwinn.  When that one hit the stage, I waited for the bidding to start and flung my auction bid card into the air. I was having a hard time following what was happening, but what I did discern was that some jackass was bidding against me.  I flung my number into the air a couple more times and then gave up when the bidding went over $100.00.  Up until that point, no bike had gone for more than around $20.  Just my luck.

The couple behind me bid high on a super fancy bike and got it.  Deep pockets on those gentlemen, I guess. Apparently they don't have a spoiled tween at home bleeding them dry. 

The aluminum-frame bike came up shortly thereafter.  Again, the bidding quickly escalated beyond what I was comfortable bidding.  The bikes are all "as is" so I was worried about spending a hundred bucks on a bike and then finding that it needs all new everything.

I climbed down from the stands and took another peek at the other bikes that had been on my list.  I decided they weren't worth waiting around for.  I was disappointed, but I left empty-handed.

Since I already had a bike rack attached to the back of my car, I thought I should take one more shot at getting my hands on a bike.  I ran a couple of errands and then stopped at a used sporting goods store. They had a couple of nice bikes that seemed like a good fit. I ended up choosing a Huffy that's in great condition. Plus, the seat was easy to adjust. A couple years ago, my husband went to the police auction and bought me a mountain bike. However, I've never been able to ride it because he wasn't able to raise the seat. Instead of casting a wider net to figure out a way to adjust the seat (I think it was just rusted in place), he ended up getting annoyed with me about the length of my legs instead. True love, that's what we have.

So, I am the proud owner of new-to-me wheels. My daughter got a new bike for Christmas and she and I are entered in a cycling event this summer. So, that was another reason why I wanted a new bike. So far I've only ridden it around the neighborhood, but I think I made a good decision.

Since Saturday was such a beautiful day, I decided to get Grover saddled up and take him to a recreation trail. We walked for several miles and had a great afternoon together. There were tons of people on the trail because the weather was so nice. Cyclists, walkers, and rollerbladers galore. Grover has decided that rollerbladers, collectively, can go suck an egg. He does not have any love for those shifty characters with wheels on their shoes.

Other than that, there hasn't been much going on lately. Tomorrow is the kid's birthday party. I think we are expected to worship her for the next week, at least (her birthday is on the 3rd). She asked for a Ukulele (which we are getting for her) and, um, a Macbook. You know, just in case we have $1300 sitting around and were hoping to part with it toute de suite. In other news, apparently I am still largely ineffective in my attempt to teach her highness how money works.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

11 and 11/12

I wrote this poem for a poetry service at church so I figured I may as well dump it here, too. It barely qualifies as a poem (more like prose), but what the heck.

11 and 11/12

“What is this?” I ask, plucking a shred of neon paper from the carpet in her bedroom.
She shrugs. She must have limber shoulders from all that shrugging, I think to myself.
“Wash your plate when you’re done with your dinner, please.” I deliver my request in a measured tone.
Later, I find that the plate has been washed but not the fork. I didn’t mention the fork, after all.
I gently inquire about some missing assignments for math and science classes.
In response, the eyes roll back so far that I sometimes wonder just how far they can go.
“I think you need a shower,” I suggest, delicately at first and then less delicately.
She agrees, but requires me to turn on the water and check the temperature for her.
For the next hour, she sings Adele songs into the showerhead and drains the city’s water reserves.

Adolescence, it seems, has replaced my Dora-watching cherub with a determined yet tentative almost-twelve-year-old.
Her face, framed by wild cascades of curls, is both the baby I cradled and the woman I will someday know.
She spends more and more time away from me now, at sleepovers and choir tours and such.
I give her some money and she’s off, never bringing me any change when she comes back.
Her burgeoning independence glistens like a newborn calf, leaving us both unsure of its boundaries.
The days are a blur of boys and classes, clubs and performances, friends that come and go.
Mascara and text messages. Tears shed over slights large and small. Jeans that cannot be worn if I picked them out.

But at night, I still must close her closet doors fully before she can go to sleep
The monster cannot open doors, you see.
I lean down to kiss her good-night and she throws her arms around my neck.
“I love you,Goober” I say.
“I love you more,” she responds.




Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Concerts

I attended two concerts in the past week. This is a rare occurrence because I'm usually too cheap to pay the scandalous "convenience" fees that always seem to come along with concert tickets. On Wednesday night, I went to see the English Beat in concert. The concert venue is over two hours away and I had to be at work the next morning, but I really wanted to go. My friend Karen agreed to go with me and even agreed to drive. This was pretty heroic of her because although she is aware of the band, she was not what you'd call a rabid fan. I appreciated her willingness to drive (and to explore some music that wasn't super familiar to her). The last time she and I went to a concert (Gossip), I drove and got a tickie on the way home.

The concert was great. A local ska band opened for them. They were a lot of fun, too, and I'd definitely enjoy seeing them live again. Shortly after their set was done, Dave Wakeling and company took the stage. The current incarnation of the Beat is basically Dave Wakeling and some other musicians that were not part of the original band. That's okay with me, though. As long as they know the songs and do them justice, I have no complaints.

The concert venue was not a large one. There were a few chairs upstairs but the main level was a standing-room only situation. I'd been there to see Fountains of Wayne a few years ago so I knew what to expect. I didn't mind standing one bit because I was too excited to sit down anyway. I had a couple of vodka cranberries on board so I even *gasp* danced a little. Being just yards away from Dave Wakeling . . . for a minute there, I felt like I was 15 again. I found myself with a huge grin on my face and I am not a naturally smiley person. I listened to the English Beat and General Public relentlessly when I was a teenager. In short, seeing him live was just what I needed in the middle of a very rough, very hard week.

A few days later, I took my daughter to see Daya live. I was only vaguely aware of Daya myself, but the concert was happening in our town and the tickets were reasonable ($25 each). On our way to the concert, I was given some pretty specific instructions about not dancing and not doing anything deemed to be embarrassing in general.

I did as I was told, and dutifully sat in my seat. This was the kid's first "real" concert so I was eager to see her reaction.  The crowd was at least three decades younger than the crowd at Wednesday's concert. There was an opening act - a singer who appeared to be about 14. That's how you know you are getting old - everyone looks 14. Daya took the stage at around 8:30. Her whole band is comprised of young women which, I think, is inspiring for a theater full of teen and pre-teen girls. In fact, her whole message is a good one for young women like my daughter.

For the encore, Daya sang "Sit Still Look Pretty," which is one of her biggest hits to date.

Oh, I don't know what you've been told
But this gal right here's gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I'm gonna be, because I wanna be
No, I don't wanna sit still, look pretty


I bought my own empowered kid a $25 tee shirt that she can't wait to wear to school tomorrow. Oh, and I didn't do anything embarrassing.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Life with the Tween

As my reader may have noticed, I'm writing fewer blog entries these days. I think the main reason that I'm less productive and prolific these days is that my daughter is getting older now. I owe it to her to respect her privacy - at least somewhat. Here's hoping she never finds all those old posts about the times she pooped herself back in the potty training days.

These days, I assume that she poops but it is not a regular topic of conversation. Instead, we mostly talk about missing assignments for school.  When questioned about missing assignments, she typically bursts into tears and blames: her teachers, the concept of time, the bus driver, and her locker.  I have to say that I won't be too sad when the school year is over.  The first year of middle school is rough, yo. In many ways, she's done great. She has made lots of friends (though they seem to vary by the day of the week - it'll be interesting to see who she invites to her birthday party next month) and has participated in a lot of activities.  She had show choir in the fall, the musical in the winter, and now the talent show in the spring. I am very proud of her. She was one of the few vocal soloists to get into the talent show when auditions were held a couple weeks ago.

Her grades are pretty good, but she struggles in science, math, and reading. The reading grade, in particular, causes me pain right down to my soul. I started teaching that kid to read before she was walking. Her teachers all assure me that she is very bright and is fully capable of handling the material. It's the homework. She was missing one particular worksheet for reading. She assured me that she did not have it and could not remember to ask for a new one. I finally emptied her entire backpack (which weighs about as much as she does) and found the worksheet at the bottom. It looked like it had been run over by the school bus (which, incidentally, she missed last week because that villainous bus driver refused to let her on, dontcha know). The kid is in an accelerated math class but again, unfinished assignments are causing problems. I need to send her to one of those new age-y schools that doesn't assign homework.

We've also fought an unrelated battle regarding the availability of vegetarian food in the cafeteria.  80 emails later, I think we have that one settled. It's a challenge, because she doesn't want to stick out or be different in any way (which is typical behavior in middle school, I think). So, she doesn't want to say, "I NEED THE VEGGIE BURGER THAT IS LISTED ON THE MENU BUT IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND."  I had to get all mama bear and wage that battle on her behalf.

Middle school romance is another interesting topic. Needless to say, my daughter is not allowed to have a boyfriend and is not allowed to "date." Her dad and I haven't set an exact age for that, but 11 is definitely not the age.  I think mid-30s would be a good time for her to interact with boys. However, that doesn't stop her from having crushes on various lads at school, which is fine.  Back in the fall, there was a boy who was head over heels for my daughter. She seemed to like him, too - at first.  I check her phone regularly and saw the texts he sent her. "Good night, my star" he wrote. There were lots of mushy gushy emojis, too. Eventually, she felt uncomfortable with the intensity of his affection. "He's just not chill about ANYthing," she told me.  She broke it off with him. More recently, she's had her eye on a different boy. This boy does seem to like her. However, his best friend also likes her and was laying it on pretty thick. She told him she didn't like him "that way." He sent back a broken-heart emoji.  My kid is breaking hearts all over the sixth grade, man.

As for me, I'm an anxiety-ridden mess as usual, but maybe I'll write about that some other time.

In the meantime, here is my songbird. This is not the song she is singing in the talent show, but I never get tired of hearing her voice. And no, I don't know why I didn't turn the phone the other way. Me not smart.