Saturday, February 25, 2017

Things that Make you go.. Hmmm.

I'm sitting on my couch, watching house remodeling shows on HGTV when a commercial comes on for Lowes, touting the 'need' to remodel a bathroom for a household of 4 people with 1 vanity. And I was struck in the face about the dichotomy of my life. Growing up, there were times that my family used food stamps to make ends meet. I lived in a trailer for some amount of time when I was in 1st grade, where we had to walk down to the shower house to get bathed because there was no running water in the shower in the winter. When we finally lived in a house that my family owned, it was a 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,200 square feet, 100 year old duplex that didn't even have a shower. As a teenager, I was privileged to live on the other side of the duplex, where there was at least a shower. Being the oldest and the only girl, I even had my own bedroom on the 3rd floor.

Flash forward to this evening. I'm sitting comfortably in my larger-than-needed, 3.5 bath house, and I'm watching this commercial going "WTF?. Since when does more than one bathroom sink in a house of 4 people become a 'need?'" And I feel so hypocritical. At what point in time did my norm of living go from a single bathroom for 6 people to a toilet for every member of my 4 person household? When did I drink the Kool-aid? I realize that I'm not alone. Average single-family houses have nearly doubled in square footage in the past 50 years1. So it leaves me with this question: What constitutes a 'need'? Clearly. My family doesn't need a toilet-per-person to survive. But somewhere along the lines, that became a just-what-you-do kind of situation. Am I ruining my children by providing them more than what they need to thrive? I'm already acutely aware that they will grow up way more privileged than me, given the contrast between my own and their upbringing. They will never experience what it's like to be made fun of because they went to school in ratty clothing. I'll never forget the moment in grad school, when a well-to-do roommate of mine asked me the question "Is this the nicest place you've ever lived in?" I had to think about it for a minute. I assessed the state of our 5-year old, builder grade2 townhouse and responded with a resounding "Yes." 

So here I am. Wanting to offer my kids the opportunities I never had in life, but also struggling with the feeling like I'm betraying the hard-learned, but very important lessons I learned about the true difference between "wants" and "needs." And I suppose I'm not really looking for an answer, per se. Because however we choose to teach our kids those important life lessons will all depend on so many different variables that it's impossible to predict them all. 

This is just the most recent instance of what I call "Things that make you go.. hmm."3

1. There are many statistics on this. I've seen them, but at the moment, I'm too lazy to go look them up. But don't take my word for it. Feel free to Google it yourself. 
2. The very fact that I know the definition of that phrase means one of two things - either I watch too many home renovation shows, or my privilege is showing. I think it's both. 
3. If you don't get this reference, you're either too old to too young to read my blog. ;-) Just kidding. It's a real thing though. I swear.    

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Processing the 2016 Election

Ironic that the name of my blog is "Nothing funnier than an angry muppet" and that's exactly who has been elected as the 45th POTUS. And in this instance, there's nothing funny about it.

I sat in disbelief as I watched the election results pour in last night. I thought, as I have all year, that I was living in a dream world - in joke land - and that at any moment the joke would be over. I went to bed before all of the results were in, but it wasn't looking good. The first thing I did this morning was check the election results. I was, and am, still in shock. Based on the news feed on Facebook today, I see that I'm not the only one.

It's taken me all morning to process how I feel about all of this. The shock is still there, but is wearing off, and it's giving me head space to untangle the web of emotions and fears that are swirling inside my brain.
My first thoughts were to start flexing my stoic muscles, and use these results to practice. I made a sign to remind me to let go of what I cannot control. I meditated on that for awhile. So far, it's not working. There's too much inside. So I took the approach of thinking about judgment. And the idea that things and events aren't inherently "good" or "bad" but it's our judgment about them that makes it one or the other. That has helped my perspective a little, but it hasn't quieted the voices that are screaming about these election results.

In any case, the voices aren't going to quiet down until I let them out. So here's where my ranting begins.

First and foremost, I'm afraid. Genuinely afraid. I'm afraid for myself, my family, my friends, and my country. I'm afraid that the fear-based violence that has gripped this country is only going to get worse. That people who are not able-bodied, cis, white, christian men are going to be targeted more virulently due to the empowerment that has been given to hate.

I'm also angry. So very angry. The thought that someone so vile, so narcissistic, so disgusting as Trump has been selected as the representative of our country. He embodies everything that is wrong with our society, all wrapped up in one neat orange package. Intolerance. Bigotry. Misogyny. Racism. Hate. Xenophobia. That is not who should be representing our great nation. I'm not denying that these qualities exist in some of our citizens; what infuriates me is that it has been brought to the front and center of our country, to be put on display as if it's something that we should be proud of. Especially when so many people are working so hard to eradicate these qualities in our country.

I'm also angry that some Trump supporters are touting the "it's not what he says, it's his platform that I'm behind." First, Trump has yet to put out a consistent, coherent, detailed plan about anything. So for someone to say that, all I hear is that they are projecting the qualities they wish Trump would embody and ignoring what is slapping them in the face. Trump's vitriol gave a voice to and empowered hate. Because of that alone, Trump should have never been given an ounce of validation. But he was featured non-stop because of his inflammatory and shocking comments.  There is no reason to have gone beyond this first deplorable layer to even try to understand a platform.

I'm also sad. Sad that I lack the words to explain to my young children what has happened. How we tout the values of respecting one another, being kind to people, and sticking up for those less fortunate, all while electing a man who has done none of the above. Fortunately, my children are a bit too young to understand Trump's explicit disregard for women as human beings. But if his presidency actually lasts four years (and let's hope it doesn't), I am certainly going to have to try to explain how this man is supposed to represent all of us - the best of us - sooner rather than later. And I have no tools in my toolbox for that.

I could go on. There's so much more that I am feeling, but I don't have the capacity to sort it out at the moment. Adding insult to injury, I literally just read how Trump has put a climate skeptic in charge of the EPA transition. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm cried out for the time being. And now just numb.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Living with Anxiety

Image from CS Photography
It has only been about a year since I have realized that I have a serious problem with anxiety. There were signs years ago, as a young adult, but I had no idea what it was or that I was living through it. I have only made reference a few times, because it's not something that's easily understood by people who don't suffer. But, I wanted to give everyone an idea of what it is like to live through an anxiety disorder.

Imagine yourself lying on the ground with a 200 pound boulder on your chest. As much as you try, you cannot get up, and you cannot remove the boulder from your chest. On top of that, you have a constant buzzing in your head that feels like a series of electrodes that are strapped to the front, top, and back of your skull. You try to relax it away, but it doesn't stop. You try deep breathing. Meditation. Mindfulness. No matter what you try, it doesn't go away. You're angry. Irritable. Pissed off at your significant other, the dearest person in your life, for no reason.  Everything they say, do, or offer does nothing but make you madder. You feel like you might snap at any moment.

Those are the physical symptoms. Then there are the cognitive symptoms to deal with.

Your rational brain tells you that you're stupid.  That you need to just snap out of it. Your life is perfect. There's no reason to feel the way you're feeling. You suck at your life. You suck at your job. You're a fraud and it's just a matter of time before everyone figures that out. Every time you hear someone whisper, it's about you. About how you are fat. Or ugly. Or aren't dressed the right way. Every email you receive from your boss is hidden with innuendo. About how you're not really doing your job. About how you're not good enough. At any moment, you are going to be fired (see above about being a fraud).

Not every day is like that. Some days have the physical symptoms. Some days have the emotional ones. The worst days have both to such an extreme that you cannot focus, for it's nothing but fear that makes you function. Fear of failure. Fear of having real physiological problems (hello heart attack?). At the most extreme, you shut down completely. Unable to engage. You sleep, or sleep walk. Going through the motions. So overcome by the symptoms of anxiety that you are like a walking zombie.

And the loved ones that surround you only want to make you better. They want to offer words of encouragement. Words of love and help. And as much as you understand where they are coming from, you can't help but feel that they are coming from a point of pity. Because the anxiety tells you lies. That you are unworthy. That everyone hates you. That everyone thinks the worst of you because of that one thing you might have said or done that one time. Events from the past become instant replays that play over and over and over again. Obsession about what you did (or didn't do) become the forefront of your mind.

If you're lucky, you witness this as if from an outside party. You watch yourself go through these symptoms and think "just snap out of it." "This is ridiculous and not reality." "There is no reason to feel like this." Except that you can't. The obsessive thoughts and physiological symptoms are uncontrollable. As much as you will, breathe, mentally stop yourself from being there, you're there. There's nothing you can do about it. You have to live it and deal with it.

I like to believe that I've gotten quite good at recognizing when the anxiety monster is taking over. But sometimes, the side effects of anxiety take over and you are unable to see it for what it really is. Those days are the ones where you want to be somebody, anybody else. To not be the person you are. You yell. You scream. You retreat. You shut down. You scare your family. Anxiety robs you of your fundamental self. Of your carefree, loving, understanding self. You hope that one day, maybe, your family can understand what it is that you're going through, and that it's not your fault.

I have had some family members and friends to thank for helping me realize that I have been struggling with this demon for too long, and that these thoughts, actions, and feelings are all part of the anxiety. I am in the process of understanding and dealing with my anxiety. I say 'dealing' because I have come to quickly realize that there is no real control. As much as my cognitive, rational brain would like to believe it, this is one particular area of my life under which I have absolutely no control. If I did, I would not continue to live through these symptoms the way I have for at least a third (if not half, at this point) of my life.

I want to let people know that if you suffer with anxiety, it's not your fault. It's not within your control. It's not even rational. And all of that sucks. But understanding it and dealing with its consequences will be key to living a fulfilling life, anxiety and all. I am on my journey. It will be a lifelong journey, filled with peaks and valleys. And I am dealing with it the best I can.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Eight Sticks of Butter

This week, I have lost eight sticks of butter. That's 2 pounds, for those keeping track. It occurred to me in the shower this morning that having such a tangible way of keeping track of weight loss really helps put things in perspective.

My year-to-date weight loss is 27.6 pounds, or about 110 sticks of butter. I decided to search the web to see if I could find an image, and funnily enough, I did! Ok, the closest I got was 108 sticks, or 27 pounds. It looks like this (source):

That's a lot of butter! I'm tempted (although I likely won't) to take a selfie with that much butter at our next trip to Costco.

My next weight loss milestone: losing a kids' worth of weight. The twins are about 30 pounds each. I'll definitely take a selfie holding a kid once I reach that milestone!

Now that I've gotten the eating habits (mostly) under control, the next step is going to be to start changing my relationship with food. I definitely had a few binges this week and found myself feeling guilty. Food is neutral. It's time I start looking at it that way instead of viewing it as 'good' and 'bad.'

Friday, April 1, 2016

Losing Weight

4 years, two kids, and a cat later...

Then: August, 2015. Approx 183 lbs.
I've still struggled with my weight. I lost a significant amount of weight after the twins were born (about 50 pounds), but failed to keep it off once I stopped nursing. I gained 20 of it back.

This time is different, though. I have two kids for whom I'm responsible. I have to be a good role model for them. That has shifted my perspective quite a bit. I struggle to find healthy foods that the kids like to eat (being toddlers and all) that are quick to make on weeknights. We wind up eating out several times a week. That's not so great on the wallet or the waistline.

Now: April, 2016. Approx 157 lbs.
That being said, I have finally found a balance. I eat nutritionally dense, low-calorie foods about 80% of the time, following the clean eating principles. I have slayed my sugar dragon once and for all. Now, I'm able to walk by a sugary snack and not think twice about it. It no longer consumes my thoughts. I've lost over 25 pounds in the past 3 months, with about 17 pounds to go to reach my goal. My energy is better, my spirits are higher, and I have never felt better.  Weight loss is a journey - one I'm all too familiar with. I will never be able to mindlessly eat, or to just say 'heck with it all' when it comes to fueling my body. I will always have to be on watch. But for the first time, maybe ever in my life, I'm prepared for it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Realization

So here it is. To make a long story short, 28 months, two miscarriages, one diagnosis of unexplained infertility, and one intrauterine insemination later, today I found myself sitting on the stoop of my stairs sobbing uncontrollably as a result of a blog post from a former classmate. It was about how this person didn't want kids, but had a change of heart in order to be with their spouse. Exactly one shot was all it took for them to conceive. This classmate and I were in the same spot at one point in our lives - definitively against having kids. We both changed our minds. This person change their mind and boom. Baby. We weren't so lucky. How is any of this fair?

Being diagnosed with unexplained infertility broke my heart. Basically, the doctor's don't know why we can't conceive children on our own - all of the plumbing works for both of us. Eons ago, not only was I not going to have kids, I was adamantly against infertility treatments. Being diagnosed with infertility caused me to do a lot of research, which changed my mind about fertility treatments. That being said, I still feel uneasy about being poked and prodded all in the name of conceiving a child. Especially when the chances of success hover around 10% per treatment.

I'm pretty sure this will be my one and only treatment. I haven't enjoyed the invasive procedures, nor the twice daily dose of progesterone that leaves me exhausted, overwhelmed, full of hot flashes, and emotional. So I find myself in this weird place. Everyone around me is having children. I see daily updates on Facebook from people I know or have known about their pregnancies, births, and children. I want kids, but I don't want to go through any more torture, either mentally or physically. This is it. If we're successful, then we hold our breath until after the first trimester, when the likelihood of miscarriage decreases significantly. My two previous miscarriages have demonstrated to me that nothing short of a full-term pregnancy ending in a live birth means anything.

If we're not successful, then that means that we won't have kids. My life is in complete limbo. Of those couples I know whom have undergone fertility treatments, they all have been willing to do anything to get their baby. I'm not in that same boat. In fact, of all the people I know, I know of only one couple whom found themselves in the exact same boat that I'm in. They wanted kids, but weren't willing to put themselves through the wringer to get them. It's a lonely group. I find myself having a hard time relating to my friends that have kids. I feel distanced from them. Like we have nothing in common anymore. As more and more of my friends have kids, I fear that I'll be in the same state with each of them.

If you've read this far, you're probably thinking "What about that realization?" Well, my realization is this: Whatever life holds, whether we have kids or not, I cannot let the latest news of someone expecting rule my life. I have only a handful of friends who never wanted kids. I suspect that a majority of our friends who do (hoping that they don't have fertility issues like we do) will start having them within the next couple of years. There's no denying that it hurts. But I have to find a way to be more productive with my time than sitting around feeling sorry for myself that we weren't among the lucky ones. It's time to pick myself up by the bootstraps and realize that my limbo has an expiration date - the day that aunt flo comes to town or that we learn we need to hold our breath for the next twelve (or forty) weeks.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I am the Face.

Yesterday, I posted on Facebook that I am the face of miscarriage/stillbirth/infant loss. 1 in 4 women in the US suffer this horrible fate. By opening up about my own miscarriages, I personally have spoken to many women whose lives have been affected by the loss of a child. There are no words for the feelings that arise as a result of losing a baby, regardless of when it happens. For those of us who struggle to have a child, and there are many of us who do, the news of learning you're pregnant is like a weight being lifted off your shoulders. The ups and downs of infertility, the emotional monthly ride, finally comes to an end when that stick has two lines, a plus sign, or simply says 'pregnant.'

Last year, I was fortunate enough to experience that joy myself. After wasting tons of money peeing on that stick, just hoping that it would say yes, it finally did! I was on business travel, and was overjoyed to send the picture of the positive test to my hubby and tell him "We're having a baby!" I was barely home two days from my trip when the spotting started. I knew in my heart that something was wrong - really wrong - with my pregnancy. Three days and a trip to the ER later, the doctor delivered the devastating news - I had miscarried. Our family got to live with the joy for about a week before our dreams were shattered. The shock of the experience sent my head reeling. The innocence of pregnancy had been ripped from me like a child learning cruelly for the first time that life doesn't always go the way you want it to. A million questions immediately began swirling in my head: "What did I do wrong?" "Could I have changed the fate of my baby if I had only...." It seemed like there was no end to the question of "Why?"

It took 7 weeks for my body to go back to normal - eg, have a period again. Those 7 weeks were like torture. I desperately wanted to try again. I wanted to move on, but my body betrayed me. Every day that I didn't have a period was a brutal reminder of what I had lost. It took me a long time to come to terms with the whole thing. After reading about others' stories, I decided to commemorate our baby by purchasing a piece of sapphire jewelry. Sapphire is the September birthstone - mine and my husbands' - and the month in which we conceived our first child. Our baby would have been one year old this past June.

Almost exactly a year later, long after we had given up hope of conceiving a child on our own, we found out that we were expecting with our second child. September must just be our lucky month! This baby's due date, June 10, was only 8 days before our first, on June 18. Joy was followed by trepidation - after all, we had already lost one baby. Because of our history, we were sure to get early tests to ensure that everything was going along as it should. While my hcg serum tests were perfect, my progesterone was low, and my midwife had me begin a regimen of progesterone. That should have been our first clue. 6 weeks in, I was feeling the full pregnancy effects. If there was an early pregnancy symptom, I had it. I took all of this as a sign that maybe, just maybe, we would be able to keep this one.

Yesterday, we went for what was supposed to be a joyous event - an early sonogram to hear the heartbeat. Normally a woman doesn't have her first sonogram until at least 8 weeks. Just like the early blood tests, we scheduled an early sonogram to ensure that everything was fine. Turns out that the embryo was malformed and at 6w6d, there was no heartbeat. I had actually started to look at baby furniture the night before - had dared to allow myself the time to dream about bringing this little one into our lives.

I don't know if I have the strength to go through this again. At this point, I am uncertain about pressing forward with the idea of being a parent. We had gotten the first round of fertility testing when we found out that we were pregnant. So obviously the plumbing is working, but our babies keep having something wrong with them. I know that there is no way to even predict that at the beginning, which is why the idea of going through fertility treatments scares the shit out of me. I mean, what if we go through all of that, and we still don't wind up with a baby? Or worse yet, we have a baby, and everything goes along just fine until one day during the pregnancy, it just doesn't? Just like it had the first two times?

I'm sure that in a year, I'll have a perspective on this that has some meaning. But now, as I am still carrying our second child - a child whose life was to never be - there is no meaning. It's completely senseless. As a relatively intelligent individual, I understand that life is like this. Event occur at random, and we're left to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts. In some sense, I suppose my own lack of faith actually helps me through this - helps me realize that there's no grand design, nothing that's happening 'the way it's supposed to' or anything like that. It relieves some of the stress.

It is slightly easier the second time around. I'm not experiencing the same shock. My innocence about pregnancy was stripped the first time around. But, I am grieving for our baby. I know I will always wonder what he or she would have looked like. Would they have my husband's smile? My hot temper? Would the parental curse of "one day, you will have a child just like you" have come true?

I will always wonder how this baby, our second, would have gotten along with their sibling. Would they have loved each other and taken care of one another? Who would they become? Who would they marry, and how would they have chosen to live their lives?

There's not much else to say about lost dreams and hopes. Other than I am not alone. Countless women have suffered the same. Knowing that gives me strength. For those who have lost a child during or shortly after pregnancy, I am sorry. Please know that you are not alone, and it does get better.