Saturday, January 30, 2010

Permanence


At Winterfest this afternoon

It occurred to me recently that my daughter is now old enough to start creating permanent memories. My first memories date back to the time I was around four. My maternal grandmother, after whom I am named, died when I was three and I have just slivers of her, like faint Polaroids that never quite developed, in my head. My middle sister was born when I was four and a half and most of my memories are pretty solid from that time on.

This past Friday night, the moon was said to be the closest, brightest full moon I'd ever see again in my lifetime. So, at around 9 p.m. I called the kid outside onto the deck, making sure she had on a pair of slippers to go with her princess nightgown. The temperatures were in the single digits. We shivered on the deck for a few brief moments, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the spectacular sky. She then ran into the house and made her daddy come and look, too. He complied but then grumbled about how it was too cold to be outside. I asked, "But what if this is the thing she remembers when she is 30? What if she says, 'Remember the time we saw the brightest moon?'"

Sometimes I find it a little depressing that she won't remember all the fun stuff we've done up to now: the road trips, the flights, the festivals. We took her to Texas when she was two and all she could remember from that trip was that we'd had eggs for breakfast one day. This is exactly the reason we have not taken her to Disney World yet. Well, that and the fact that I'd have to sell a kidney to afford it.

I suppose all we, as parents, can really hope is that our children are left with the sense that they were well-loved in the early years, even if they have no specific recollection of that time. In our case, our daughter will have plenty of photos she can use to confirm we didn't lock her in the basement for the first few years. In fact, I have over 4,000 photos on my hard drive that were taken from her birth until now. She has been on the planet fewer than 2,000 days so I'd say that's . . . pretty obnoxious. What can I say? I waited a long time for the privilege of irritating friends and family members. Thank goodness for Facebook, which allows me to annoy everyone simultaneously.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The demon I cannot slay



It’s official. I’ve lost control.

I’m not meant to be a genuinely thin person, this I know. But I’m not necessarily willing to be fat, either. I joined Weight Watchers in 2005 and hit my goal weight at the end of 2006. I continued to struggle with the same ten pounds or so for the next two years. I'd lose a little, I'd gain a little. In the fall of 2008, I decided to get a bit more disciplined with counting points and tracking what I put in my mouth. By December of that year, I was back at my goal weight. I then fought hard to maintain it for the next ten months. I was genuinely proud of myself. I knew I wasn’t cured of my compulsion to eat more than my body needs, but I thought I had it mostly under control. Then, in September of 2009, the stress in my life overtook me. Our team was cut in half at work, and I was left with an impossible workload. I gained four pounds that week. The last four weeks at my new job have left me grateful to be gainfully employed, but struggling to learn new systems, new software, new procedures. I have steadily gained weight with each passing day.

Believe it or not, I have continued to exercise pretty regularly. I bought one of those weighted hula hoops and use that sometimes at night. I go to an intensive step aerobics class every Tuesday. I now belong to the gym and hit the treadmill when I can. However, nothing can really counteract the sheer volume of calories I have been consuming.

Once my weight starts to get out of control, the voice in my head gets ever louder. "You won't ever be pretty, no matter what you do, so why not eat?" And so, I eat. It's powerful, that voice.

I have not attended a Weight Watchers meeting since early December. I kept thinking that I would get my weight back under control on my own and then go back. Clearly, my ill-conceived plan is not working. There is nothing left to do but . . . go back. And so, I shall lumber into the meeting on Saturday and hoist myself onto the scale. Perhaps I shall regain my motivation. I've done it before, I'll do it again.

On a lighter note, the longer commute to work has left me more time to catch up on podcasts and listen to music. I have over 1500 songs on my iPod and yet some days I can't seem to find anything I want to hear. Here are two songs that never fail to get my toe tapping.

Bought a sweater for his Weimeraner, too! [clap clap]





Monday, January 25, 2010

Do you wanna take a ride on his disco stick?


I picked up a new foster dog on Saturday. I was a little bit nervous about taking on a new pooch because my last foster dog, Fritz, was so easy to have around. I knew I wouldn't get that lucky again. Montana was surrendered because his owners are divorcing and selling their house. Neither spouse could take him in their respective apartments. Montana is a handsome three-year-old white Boxer (not deaf, as some whites are). He's good with kids and dogs. He's really a very nice dog.

There is one major problem with Montana, however: his ginormous testicles. He has been attempting to violate my dogs since his arrival. I've told him, "Take a cold shower! Think about baseball!" All to no avail. After a weekend we are now affectionately referring to as Humpfest 2010, I gave some serious consideration to neutering him myself. I have a basic idea of how it's done and could feel my frustration growing with each thrust of his little white hips. As he is preparing to hump one of my dogs, he does this little cha-cha-cha step where he juts his rear legs out behind him, alternating in quick succession. I called my vet clinic this morning and got him in for next Monday. Gideon is having a minor surgery the same day, so that way I can drop them both off at the same time. I hope we last that long.

In the mean time, we've got six more days to tolerate Humpy McHumperton. I remember learning in school about the Supreme Court's attempt to define obscenity. Here is the definition:

1) A thing must be prurient in nature

2) A thing must be completely devoid of scientific, political, educational, or social value

3) A thing must violate the local community standards

If it meets all three of these things, it is obscenity.

I think we are pretty close with what's been going on at our house. First, Montana attempted to make sweet love to Gideon, my male Boxer. Gideon, who generally tolerates just about anything, turned on Montana and told him where he could put his desire. This scene repeated itself several times until Montana did actually absorb the message. Gideon's actions surprised me a little because normally he is so easygoing with other dogs. As I've often said, "If Gideon doesn't like your dog, your dog's probably a dick."

Gretchen, for whatever reason, has not been as successful in thwarting Montana's advances. She's tried telling him politely, "Hey, no thanks!" She informed him that she signed one of those celibacy contracts in high school. She's tried telling him less politely. But still, he perseveres. He licks her cheek and then does the cha-cha-cha. And so on it goes. As Gretchen moves from room to room, Montana follows along behind her, humping the air as he goes. "And you thought I was bad," said my oft-neglected husband.

After giving my daughter a shower this evening, she started saying how she knows Montana's a boy because he's got a penis. "Does he ever," I thought to myself. I feared the conversation would spiral out of control from there, but she didn't ask any questions. Thank God for small miracles.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pukey McPukerton

I got THE call on Wednesday. The "your child is sick" call from school that every parent dreads. When I got the call, it was less than an hour before school would be letting out for the day, but I left as soon as I could and drove across town to retrieve her. I parked and then headed for the school office. "Hi," said the lady at the front desk. "She just threw up down there."

I walked down to my daughter's classroom. I'm not sure why she wasn't in the clinic or something, but maybe I'm just not hip to how these things work yet. When I got to the kindergarten pod, she wasn't in her classroom. The whole class was outside. I found the right door to get outside and immediately spotted the kid. She was bundled up in her snowsuit and had her backpack on, and as soon as I called her name and she turned to look at me, I could tell she felt like dump. The class's paraprofessional walked over with my daughter. "I took her to the bathroom, in case she had to go again," she said. Then she raised her hands to her mouth and attempted to pantomime something flying out of her face at a high velocity. Apparently my daughter did a number on the tile floor with the contents of her stomach. God bless the janitor, that's all I gotta say.

A wanted to be picked up so I carried her all the way back across the school and to the car. All the while I was carrying her, I was thinking, "We are breathing the same oxygen here. I will be hurling within 24 hours." I settled her into her car seat and drove her home. She said very little, which is highly unusual for her. When we got home, I de-snowsuited her and got her into some pajamas. I set her up in her bed with her portable DVD player and also handed her a bowl. And then I washed my hands in scalding hot water.

I checked on her periodically and when "Bolt" was over I said, "What would you like to watch next, baby?" And her response is how I knew she was truly sick:

"You pick something for me, Mommy." My daughter would never relinquish control over even the simplest decision in her life, so the fact that she wanted me to choose something for her told me that she was definitely down for the count. Or, that the apocalypse might be imminent.

Later, I took Gretchen to obedience class (yes, we are still doing that) and while I was gone, the kid vomited multiple times. However, she hit the bowl every time and I have to give her a lot of credit for that. I was missing the toilet right up until my teen years (you can ask my mother if you need to validate this information).

P stayed home with her on Thursday. She'd stopped puking by then, but was not eating. On Friday, we sent her back to school. She fell asleep at 6:30 p.m. on Friday evening and slept 12 hours. By Saturday, she was back to normal.

As for her parents, so far we haven't caught it. I washed my hands at least a gazillion times between Wednesday and Saturday. I didn't feel particularly great on Friday night, and when passing one of those scented "Wallflowers" in my bedroom induced a wave of nausea, I thought sure the plague had come for me, too. But, I felt fine Saturday morning and even dragged my fat ass to the gym, so there you go.

Stay tuned for the adventures of Humpy McHumperton, my new (intact) foster dog who arrived on Saturday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's that? You want a double helping?

My other (younger) half turns 38 today. He requested a chocolate cake and our daughter and I set out to make him one. However, she demanded a much higher level of involvement than in the past, which is how we ended up with this:



Yessirree. I'm just waiting for the lady from Cake Wrecks to knock at the door, wanting to see for herself the least appetizing cake of all time and space. Or maybe one of those "kitchen disasters" shows.

Although A has known the alphabet since she was 18 months old, she affixed several of the letters upside down. She then dug them up out of the chocolate, turned them around, and poked them into the sugary goo once again. You know she licked her fingers in between, right? Thank goodness this cake is just for the three of us, because I'm pretty sure she also licked the spatula she was using to apply the icing.

Happy birthday, husband o'mine. I hope this cake isn't an omen of some sort . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Solitude


In college I learned of the concept of a sensory deprivation chamber. I've been intrigued with the idea ever since. I want to know what it is like to stop the flow, to know momentary peace. I've been struggling to manage my stress in recent months, and the idea of floating in a lightless, soundless box seems oddly appealing.

Anyone who's been acquainted with me for more than five minutes knows that I love my daughter more than life itself. When my first baby died in utero, I willed my heart to stop beating. I did not know how I could go on. Now, my heart beats for that curly-haired hurricane who lives in my house. But, that doesn't mean I don't want the occasional day to myself. So, that's what I did over the weekend, when I traveled out of town for the rescue's annual meeting.

I got to town at about noon and had lunch. I read The Onion, drank a glass of Pinot Grigio, and played with my new Blackberry. It took me almost a full day to realize that the reason it wasn't ringing when someone called me was that I hadn't set it to ring. Now it plays the theme song from The Office when someone calls me. Yes, I'm fancy like that. After lunch, I did some leisurely shopping. I didn't buy much, but it was definitely an odd feeling to be able to look at a display case for more than thirty seconds and without hearing, "Mommy. Mom. Mommy! Did you see this? Guess what's in my mouth. Can I have this?" all the while.

I checked into my hotel room at around 3 p.m., read a magazine, and then headed for the meeting. As luck would have it, I won a basket full of fruit, wine, and cheese at the meeting. I have to confess that I do not know what some of the fruits are, even though I have been on this planet for nearly 40 years. If anyone knows what a red pummelo is and how I should go about consuming it, drop me a line.

When I returned to the hotel, I decided to take a bath and watch a movie. I had brought along A's portable DVD player, so I was able to set it up on a chair in the bathroom and watch "The Soloist" while in the tub. Somehow it has always seemed to me that watching TV while bathing is about as decadent as decadent gets. (I know, I don't get out much.) I was actually under some pressure to watch this movie, as I had requested it on Netflix and then didn't have time to watch it for several days. My other half has no tolerance for unwatched movies. He wants me to watch my movie and return it so that the next 1/2 star movie (of his choosing) can arrive. A sampling of the movies currently on our Netflix list: Book of Blood, The Midnight Meat Train, and Trick R' Treat. I wish I were making these up. I have to admit that The Soloist was not that great. Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx deserve better material.

After the movie, I decided to check out the "sleep sack" that had been on the bed when I first arrived. It was a small satchel containing some pillow/linen spray, an eyemask, and a set of ear plugs. I decided it would be fun to see if I could actually make use of these items. I doused my pillow with the lavender spray and then hopped into bed. I smooshed each ear plug between my thumb and forefinger and jabbed one into each ear. I actually had no idea how they were supposed to go. I almost called my mom for advice, because she wears them nightly. The tragedy is that the woman didn't discover the wonders of ear plugs until two of the three kids had moved out of the house. I spent 20+ years unable to run the dryer in the morning because, and I quote, "ARE YOU KIDS DRYING ROCKS IN THE DRYER EVERY MORNING?!?! WHAT IS MAKING SO MUCH NOISE?"

After plugging my ears, I put the black mask over my eyes. Then I turned out the lights and quickly fell asleep (could have something to do with wine + Tylenol PM, but that's just a guess). I woke up a few hours later. No mask. One ear plug. I never did find the other one. My apology to the cleaning crew who probably happened upon it later. Although, when it comes to "gross stuff found in hotel rooms by cleaning staff," I'm guessing this ranks pretty low.

All in all, it was a quiet, relaxing weekend. I still find myself wanting to float in a sensory deprivation tank and to quiet my roiling brain, but this was enough for now.

In closing, I'll leave you with this hotel-related bit from Gary Gulman.

Gary Gulman - Hotels
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Yes, I'm conscious

I'm sure my reader was wondering where I'd gone, but fret not. Je suis ici.

Here's what you missed:
  • A parent-teacher conference wherein the teacher used the word "social" multiple times to describe my child. You don't say!
  • I bought a Blackberry. I held out as long as I could, but it happens to the best of us. There are two main reasons I didn't want a smartphone. One is that I wasn't sure I wanted to be connected to my email no matter where I am. I tend to get a little obsessive about checking my in-box as it is, and I didn't want to be one of those people who are connected every second of every day. The second is that I'm too cheap too pay the additional monthly charges that come along with such a phone. But, I got paid out for my accrued vacation time from my old job and this seemed as good a time as any.
  • I joined a gym. Believe me, I didn't want to do that either. I go to step aerobics with my neighbor every Tuesday and it's never been a problem for me to go as her guest and pay a flat fee every time. I have a lot of stress in my life and didn't want a gym membership hanging over my head. But, the gym enacted a new policy under which the member and the guest must arrive together. Finding that nearly impossible to do for various reasons, I decided just to get a membership. I chose the lowest level, the bare bones. As the lady at the front desk was showing me the different plans, I noticed that the word "tanning" was on the sheet about half a dozen times. I was mentally daring her to tell me I could get unlimited tanning (and seeing as how I have no pigment cells, a hundred tanning beds would be as worthless to me as one). She didn't go for it, though.
  • The new job is keeping me very busy but is going well in general. I'm learning a ton, haven't set off the alarm system recently, and only walked around with food stuck in my teeth once.
  • The old job threw a happy hour for me and the other employee who were part of the acquisition. And hoo, did I get happy. Happier than one should get on a Wednesday night, really.
And, that's about it. I'm headed out of town for the weekend. The rescue has its annual meeting tomorrow and since it's a couple hours away, I decided to stay overnight. The kid and her dad are staying home. This means that I will be sleeping in a room all by myself. No dogs, no kid, no husband. I know, it's crazy talk!

Speaking of dogs, Fritty Cent is doing well in his new home. He turned 10 on Thursday, the same day my mother turned . . . way more than 10. I will probably take on a new foster dog soon. I have some apprehension about that because I figure that since Fritz was so easy to have around, my next foster dog will be the type to eat his own poop (and his friends' poop) and jump my six-foot fence.

I'll try to post more frequently for the rest of the month. You know I hate to let my reader down.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Week 1

I made it through my first week on the job (I knew you were concerned, so I wanted to let you know). I realize that a new job isn't that traumatic for most people, but I was at the old job for 13 1/2 years. Normally, the most profound change I can handle is taking a slightly different route to the mall. Trying a new brand of cereal, maybe.

The biggest challenge so far is getting out of the house at 6:40 a.m. My old job was literally a stone's throw from my house (and from my daughter's school). I was pretty spoiled with that situation, I know, but I told myself it was some recompense for the nightmarish traffic I used to encounter every day when I lived in the suburbs of DC. Now I have to drive considerably farther. The main hurdle I face in getting out of the house is roughly 39 inches tall. Phrases like "please get dressed" and "you can't eat breakfast if you're still naked" and "for the love of God if you don't get moving right now I am shaving your head" have no impact on her. So, I make it to work on time every morning, but by the skin of my teeth.

Speaking of arriving at work, I set off the alarm on the second day. Booyah! I thought I knew how to disarm the system but apparently not. On the first day I learned that most of the company's eating utensils have wandered away from the kitchen over time, so I had to eat my Weight Watchers lasagna with a spoon. Yeah, I'm classy like that. I remembered to bring a fork from home thereafter.

Other than a few minor glitches, I have to admit that the new job is actually kind of exciting. The other employees seem to be genuinely nice. The company offers a lot of technical services that I'm anxious to learn more about (I'm a project manager in web development, so that's been my little corner of the world for the past several years). Despite my considerable trepidation at the outset, this new gig may just turn out fine.

It was a long, challenging week, however. On Tuesday night I went to step aerobics with my neighbor. I thought this would be a good opportunity to work out some of my stress. Well, the instructor (I don't want to call her out by name but it starts with a B and rhymes with Sri Lanka) had it in for all of us. I think even my fingernails were sweating. The good news is that my neighbor knows CPR and feels reasonably certain she would revive me if needed.

After class, I wanted to take a nice hot shower. And I wanted to do it alone, so I locked the bathroom door. For five minutes straight, I heard tiny fists pounding on the door and a shrill voice shrieking, "MOMMY! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!"

"TELL YOUR FATHER!" I bellowed back. Suddenly, the pounding stopped. A few minutes later, I heard the voice again, but this time it was right on the other side of the shower curtain. "Mommy, I said I have to tell you something!" My little ray of sunshine had gone into her room, grabbed her plastic IKEA chair, dragged it down the hall, through the kitchen, and across the dining room. She set it below our key rack and then stood on the chair and grabbed a set of keys. Then the little bugger JIMMIED THE LOCK on the bathroom door. I don't know whether I should be horrified by that or vaguely proud.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh, Fritty

Fritz, wearing the New Year's party hat my daughter made

My foster dog is being adopted on Saturday. Fritz (Fritty Cent, Fritzenheimer, Fritz-a-Million) has been with us for almost one year. He will turn 10 on January 14th. My most fervent wish was to get him into his own home before his birthday, and it looks like the universe has made it so. A kind-hearted adopter, the kind we rescue volunteers dream of, was able to look past a grey muzzle, a shaky rear leg, and some random quirks and asked, "How soon can he be mine?" Thus, I will drive five hours round trip on Saturday to take Fritz to his forever home.

After ten years of rescue work, you'd think I could pull off this sort of thing without the involvement of tears. Alas, I think this is going to be a tough one. Fritz has been a member of our family for the past year. The hard part, when you are placing a dog in his new home, is that moment when you gather your things and prepare to leave. The dog, too, readies himself to leave. "This is your home now, buddy," I always tell the worried-looking pooch. I'll never know if the dogs understand that I am trying to do right by them, not abandoning them as others have surely done. Sure, Fritz was always welcome to stay with us for the rest of his days, but every dog deserves a home of his own.

I would like to dedicate this song to Fritz:

http://popup.lala.com/popup/432627048148382452

If you have a small child, you will probably recognize the song immediately. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to own the DVD, you could probably sing it in your sleep. It's sweet, it's simple.

There is no home like the one you've got, 'cause that home belongs to youuuuuuu.

We'll miss you, sweet boy.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Four Days o'Fun

I'm starting my new job tomorrow and will have fewer vacation days for the foreseeable future. For the past few weeks, I've put in a fair amount of overtime (the free kind, since I'm on salary) in order to get ready for the big transition (being sold to another company). So, I decided to take it easy (as much as a Type A list maker like me can "take it easy") and spend as much time with my daughter as I could over the four-day holiday weekend. Never one to leave anything to spontaneity or chance, I scheduled Four Days o'Fun.



Day 1: The children's museum. I had some free passes that I won in a raffle last summer, so this seemed as good a time as any to use them. We headed down to the museum on New Year's Eve afternoon. Every kid in the state was already there. The museum was throwing a celebration every hour to celebrate the hour itself. The staff led a parade every hour. Picture hundreds of screaming children armed with noisemakers and confetti, marching through the building. Or maybe you shouldn't picture it - I'm still woozy and I saw it in person. The kid had a great time. She got soaked in the water room, threw confetti, boarded a fire engine, and climbed inside a gigantic human heart.



That night, P had to work so A and I had a girls-only party. We played Hyper Dash. We watched Bolt. I built a fire and actually kept it going for once. I painted her toenails. She definitely gave it the old college try, but lasted only until 11:55 before losing consciousness. I carried her to her bed, removed her homemade party hat, and kissed her at the stroke of midnight.



Day 2: The jumpity-jump place. For Friday's excursion, we went to the jumpity-jump place to get our ya-ya's out by jumping on the inflatables, climbing through obstacle courses, etc. I like this place because parents get to jump for free. And yes, I do jump with her. While it's true that I'm getting old and I'm starting to fall apart a bit, I'm glad I can still be the mom who gets in there and plays, dignity be damned.



Day 3: The roller rink. We arrived at the roller rink as soon as it opened. Much like the children's museum, hundreds of millions of kids were already there. Countless birthday parties. Exactly three people working. I think I go to the roller rink more for my benefit than for my child's. I just like to skate. A's friend from church also came (and her grown-up friend Jennifer, who I actually thought was my friend until my daughter advised me otherwise). At the end of the session, I invited A's church friend and her mom back to our house for games. We played Hyper Dash and Hullabaloo, and then ushered the girls into A's room so that the moms could partake of some wine.



Day 4: The final proof that I am the best mom ever: I took her to Chuck E Cheese's after church. When we got there, the girl at the admission station told my daughter that she was giving her some tokens because she liked her smile. That worked out well, because every time we go, we lose at least half a dozen tokens to shit that doesn't work. Putting up an "out of order" sign would be pure craziness, I guess. All told, we won 365 tickets and were able to walk out with two mid-sized pieces o'crap. I tell you, it takes a special kind of person to work the redemption counter at Chuck E. Cheese's. I think I would last about an hour of having kids trying to figure out if they want a Tootsie Roll or a plastic spider ring. Then, everything in the case would become a projectile and I would enact a "you'll get what I give you and you'll like it" policy that would be strictly enforced.

So there you have it. Four days o'fun. Woot!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Year in Review


Champagne in my Waterford Crystal flute (millenium collection).
I'm scared to use these, so it only happens once or twice a year.


I do not make New Year's resolutions. I thought I'd just let you know right off the bat in case you were actually expecting to find such a list here. Do I need to lose weight? Yes. Do I need to become more fiscally responsible? Yes. But, I just don't see the point in setting oneself up for failure by making a list of false promises. I'll tell you one thing that irritates me: the parking lot at the YMCA in January. My daughter starts a new round of swim classes on Monday the 4th. Everybody and their mailman will be there acting on their stupid resolution. Meanwhile, I'll have to park in Zimbabwe and carry my four-year-old child through single-digit temperatures and snow to get into the building. Seriously, if you are at the Y to get fit, park farther the fuck away. The first Weight Watchers meeting after 1/1 will also be packed to the gills. Don't get me wrong - I wish everyone the best of luck with their New Year's resolutions, but history shows that the parking lot at the Y will thin out by February and the WW meeting will be more sparsely attended by then, too. Make a change because you're ready and it's the right time - not because of a specific date on the calendar. A little tip from me to you.

Instead of making a list, I'll share one highlight from 2009 and one lowlight.

Highlight: attempting to conquer my public speaking angst. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I contacted the program chair at church last spring and volunteered to speak at a service in the fall. At our church, our pastor is in the pulpit every other week, and the intervening weeks are filled by speakers from inside and outside the fellowship. The topics are varied and vast, usually relating back to the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism.

I spent a fair amount of time over the summer working on my presentation. As a ten-year veteran of rescue work, I called it "Reflections on Rescue: Breaking and Repairing the Human/Animal Bond." I tried to weave in some thoughts on the spirituality of animals. I included specific examples from my volunteer work. I wrote about dogs who were adopted, and those who died. I worked on it until I began to fear that I had reached the point where any further changes would make it worse, not better.

Finally, October 4th rolled around. I was just getting over the plague, but felt I was as ready as I'd ever be. I stood in front of the congregation and delivered my written words to them. I didn't stumble much and managed to get through the part about the death of my Lucy without tearing up. It is a tradition in our church that the congregation gets a few minutes at the end to join in the discussion. I was gratified to see so many people eager to get their hands on the microphone, to tell me about dogs they've loved, relationships they've cherished.

After the service, a lot of my fellow members came up to me to tell me how much they'd enjoyed the presentation, how I should have warned them to bring Kleenex, how they didn't know about this other side of me. In the weeks following, I continued to get a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people saw me with new eyes, and I was glad I'd taken the chance and created this challenge for myself. It leaves me wondering if I might be able to pull it off again someday.

Lowlight: I lost my job. Sort of. I've worked at the same place for 13 1/2 years. In 2006 my division was spun off as a separate company. The company went through some financial difficulty and we lost half our staff in September. Work has been extremely stressful since that date. I never realized until this year just how closely my food issues are related to stress. I'm over my goal weight right now and am hoping that when things settle down, so will my weight. The company was sold yesterday. The new company made me a job offer, so I'll start there on Monday. The offer is for less money and fewer benefits, which pains me more than I can adequately express, but I am fully cognizant of the fact that one is grateful to have a job in this economy.

The other challenge I faced in 2009 was, of course, the death of my friend Kevin. I still miss him and think of him every day.

Here's to 2010. The year I turn 40. :::shudder:::