Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Days Are Here Again...ish

A great date night, blueberry pancakes, a chat session with Running Jamie, some sunshine, a nice outdoor run.

I'm feeling a little less blue now.

Not saying that it's gone -- we all know that winter and its accompanying doldrums will continue hanging around Kansas City for several more weeks.  I'm just feeling better...for the moment.

Quite frankly, I'm at a place where there's no time to be depressed.  The semester is in full swing with case studies, group projects, internship deadlines and new languages (statistics of the behavioral sciences...wha...?)  So here I go again, chin up (more or less), with a diploma on the not-too-distant horizon. 

If I can get past next Tuesday without another meltdown, I'll throw a party.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Funky Town

It can't always be rainbows and butterflies.

I have found myself smack-dab in the middle of a winter funk.

Fair enough.  I have no credible reason for being so happy so much of the time.  Foolish optimism typically keeps my spirits higher than they should be on any given day, so cold, dreary weather, accompanied by financial uncertainty, growing debt, looming internship application deadlines and the overall burden of life as a medical anomaly are legitimate reasons to be bummed.  And I have them all.  Right now.  And the only one that will go away any time soon is the internship application deadline, which will then be followed by three months of waiting on the answer to said application.


I realized that I was down in the dumps when I was dog-sitting at Mark's earlier this week.  I opted to watch television (terrible idea, I know).  Cooking shows seemed to be the best possible option -- and the buggers were all making gluten, playing with gluten, celebrating gluten, rolling in gluten.  So I cried.  Big crocodile tears.

I miss bread.

Somehow, I don't think this is all about bread, but living gluten-free is doing me no favors -- at least not in the mood category.

The tears came back a few days later -- while looking at soup recipes.  (One had the nerve to call for orzo.)  Bigger and more crocodilian.   (Did you know that tears roll right off of a cat's fur? Pretty cool, actually.)

In any case...I'll find a way to drag my arse through this funk.  Mark is being very nice (as always) to the new, less cheerful, less talkative me.  I hope I don't stick around for long.  I don't like me like this.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's a Wrap

A nice orderly review of last year is past due, I suppose.  2010 played its role well in my new life.  I'm not feeling particularly orderly today, however, so please bear with me...

Mark and I shared a trip around the sun together and it was awfully sweet.  I still miss him when we're apart, which I'd suppose means it's not yet time for us to move in together.  Liking someone enough to long for him is pretty cool.

I filled the calendar with school in 2010.  Spring, summer and fall semesters all took turns kicking my arse.  Night classes, driving to and from Warrensburg (14,560 miles by my calculations), papers, presentations, micro experiments gone awry, irrational instructors and group projects helped me meet and exceed my annual stress quota.

A long running theme through the year was, well, running.  Mark and I set out hoping to do 26.2 in Lincoln in May, but unfavorable training conditions (the harshest, wettest winter in recent history) along with his mother's illness postponed our marathon plans.  We both conquered (or endured) the Hospital Hill half in June, then Kansas City's full in October and I followed up with the Gobbler Grind half.  I wish I'd have more accurately recorded my training.  It would be interesting to see how many miles my legs logged.

Before I could run that marathon, I needed to shake things up a bit.  Eighteen weeks (actually, more like 35, but who's counting?) of training wrapped on a cool Friday morning at about 7 a.m.  By 10:30, Viv and I found ourselves stopping traffic on Johnson Drive, sprawled about the street, both bruised and battered.  The Mother Road Marathon that Mark and I had planned to run was only two days away -- needless to say, we didn't make it.  By Sunday morning, I was itching to get moving and made a triumphant return to the roads.  My bruises complained a bit, but not enough to stop me from signing up for the KC marathon the following weekend.  Viv didn't fare quite as well and was totaled in the accident, but I'm happy to report that Scooter Steve rescued her from salvage and is fixing her up over the winter for his main squeeze so that Viv may continue to bring joy to the world.

A startling event this year was the loss of Mark's mom.  While I only knew Di for a few short months, I grew to love her almost as soon as I met her.  I think I will always tear up when I hear Waltzing Matilda; it rang from the cathedral pipe organ as her memorial service ended.  At the family dinner when she requested it be played, she confidently stated,  "I've lived a full life and I'm not afraid to die."  I hope I can face my last days surrounded by family and filled with the knowledge that I have led a giving, loving life.

The aftermath of my stroke kept me at KU Med more than your average medical student.  I enrolled in a randomized controlled trial with the cardiology department and fell to the side who received complimentary heart patches.  The procedure was slightly more complicated than darning socks (but way easier than inserting a zipper) and the staff at Midwest Cardiology we're very good to me. I wept over gray broccoli and had to suspend marathon training for two weeks, but the experience was otherwise fabulous.

I did a little something I like to call Turning Forty this summer (everyone should do it at least once).  I didn't dread it for a moment and proudly announce my age to anyone who will listen.  There was a party. There was cake. There was honeyed goat cheese.  Sangria, fig and olive tapenade, friends, laughter, and a fabulous time too. I realize it's no great feat to have a birthday, but it was fantastically fun and I promise to make less of a fuss for my next few age adjustments.

I experienced a whole new world when Mrs Diggs took me to Chicago as a birthday gift. She and I share a friendship that is almost indescribable.  That I have found someone who shares my love of kitsch and quirk is as beautiful a discovery as I can imagine.  For three days we giggled and played and giggled and walked and giggled and ate and giggled and drank and giggled and shopped and giggled.  If my long-term financial plan of action pans out (it's very complex -- graduate and get a job), perhaps I'll be able to return the favor for her next monumental birthday.
All said, the ups and downs  added up to a decent twelve months.  Last year's resolutions didn't fare particularly well. I didn't keep my 4.0, I did end up in the ER, I didn't drop any poundage and I did kill a houseplant (though it was outside at the time of death, so that one is a bit iffy).  On the positive side, I managed to be a bit more organized, I completed a marathon and I'd like to think I logged a few more "good mom" hours than in years past.  I'm not feeling particularly compelled to compose a list of promises that can't be kept, so I'll just head into 2011 knowing I'm going to earn my bachelor's degree in May and will start grad school and/or an internship in August.  Quite frankly, that seems like plenty to me.  I tend to add challenges as the days and months pass whether I plan them or not.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Resolutionary Lore

tIn my whopping three and a half years of fitness addiction, I have watched the 2008, 2009 and 2010 classes of Resolutionaries come and go.  Admittedly, last year's crew stuck with it longer than the previous two, but I can't think of any in my classes made it to December's graduation.

So here is my completely unprofessional, strictly observational advice for making it past March:
  • Show up for your first few classes early.  Give it ten minutes.  Figure out the layout of the class.  Get settled.  Chat with someone who appears to know what they're doing.
  • Talk to the instructor.  Please!  In those ten minutes before class, tell her/him that you've never done this before, or that you did six times at a different gym three years ago.  This gives the instructor an opportunity to help you more, whether it be with form, equipment or motivation.
  • Take a friend or make a friend.  There have been many days that the 4:56 a.m. alarm might have been ignored, were it not for knowing that Spinning Marcy and Ellen would wonder why I wasn't there.  These are friendships that developed over long months of casual chit chat at the gym and I now value greatly.  We support each other, not only in our fitness endeavor but in life.  Talk about exercise being good for the heart...
  •  Fitness classes are for fit people.  Don't let that scare you away, but understand that you need to let someone help you get through those first few months of adjustment.  Take breaks if you  need to take breaks.  Ease back until your body can keep up with your desires.
  • No one is looking at you.  When I began hitting the group exercise class scene, I was off in the corner, didn't know what I was doing, not in the clicque.  Luckily (?), I was coping with the death of a marriage and needed the endorphins enough to ignore the perceived ridicule by the regulars.  Those of us who have been going to the same class for six months, two years or even a decade are looking to the mirror at ourselves, not you.  We are checking our form.  We are looking at our thighs.  We are hoping we don't fart [loudly]. 
  • It's okay to be a newbie. If you've never taken yoga before, for Pete's sake, take a beginner's class.  Yoga is so much more than stretching and breathing (yet, it's nothing more than stretching and breathing).  I've practiced yoga (on and off) for twelve years and my down-dog still needs adjustment now and then.  Take the time to learn the form so that  you can experience the euphoria that results from a good class (at least 10% of my drives home from yoga include a missed turn).
Just a reminder: I am NOT a seasoned professional.  I have NOT been working out for most of my adult life.  I HAVE failed at those lose-weight-get-fit resolutions numerous times.  What got me hooked?  I let the endorphins drive my workouts.  When I began working out, I swapped 45 minutes of babysitting for the same amount of time on the eliptical.  I wasn't trying to get skinny.  I wasn't trying to get fit.  I was just wiling away some time, and before I knew it, I was craving those minutes each week.  It completely took me by surprise.

So if you're playing it safe on the machines at the gym, or even walking around your neighborhood, find some music and find your groove.  Don't push yourself to exhaustion these first few weeks.  Give those hormones a chance to organize their plan of action so that they can sneak up on you and take over your life.

Admittedly, being addicted to exercise has its drawbacks, like when I almost skipped heart surgery because I didn't want to put marathon training on hold, but it's advantages far outweigh its drawbacks.  And I'm not skinny.  I don't look like a gym rat. I wish I'd put down the Nutella and drop fifteen pounds.  But my resting heart rate tickles my cardiologist (soooo sad that I have a cardiologist),I can keep up with my kids and their classmates at recess, and my biceps, well, they're awesome.

I would be thrilled if every one of the Class of 2011 Resolutionaries became gym rats, regulars, addicts and fit folk.  Keep filling those classes -- the powers that be will add more.  Hop on the treadmill until you're so bored that you have to join me on the Brookside Trails this spring.  Make a date with a friend to run a 5K...then a 10...then a....  Even if your weight doesn't budge, your innards will appreciate your efforts.  

So go get 'em, Tiger!  Before you know it, you'll be one of the 2,000 people who pass me while running Hospital Hill.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How Much Rest for the Wicked?

While I'm well aware there's a desperate need for the traditional year-in-review as well as a new-year's-resolution posts, I first must detail the last three days of the year that was, as they kind of kicked me in the chin and left a pretty lousy taste in my mouth.  December was not good to me.

We can even go back an extra week or two and I'll admit that I did, in fact, earn that B in medical nutrition I.  The good news is that I get to prove myself a better student in medical nutrition II in the upcoming semester.  The moment I exited my last final, I began dreading spring.  Three-plus weeks later...still dreading.

Then there's the whole transmission ordeal.  Blech.  Still have an icky feeling when I think about that.  I'm pretty upset that Hot Red Speed would betray me.

Fast forward to last week.  Ike was signed up for a basketball camp for the week, but Monday he woke to quite a stomach bug (Mr. X was on duty so I circumvented clean up this time).  By the time I got the kids on Wednesday, they were all well and fine...until that night.  Princess Pearl quickly turned from a singing, dancing, playing darling to a sickly little sweetheart.  A long night for both of us (though she's a very conscientious and considerate sick girl, we did have one late night sheet change)  led to a slow start on Thursday, but back to mostly normal by the afternoon.

And because Thursday was a gold star day in terms of weather (60+ degrees!), our impromptu hang-out with Crazy Neighbor Teri and her son led me to drive the kids outside, even under the cover of night.  Ike and Em, along with Teri's son Alex headed outdoors for merriment and mischief around 7:30 pm.  By 7:45, the boys sped into the house in states of panic.

Em hit a pole.

Wha...? They had an entire playground at their disposal.  And she found a pole.

I ran toward the schoolyard (just across the street from Teri's house) and Em was trudging her way toward me, blood running down her face.  "I'm okay, I'm okay," she repeated. I got her into the house to survey the damage.  Big split on her forehead. Blood at her lip (she'd bitten through!) but all teeth intact.  My own forehead scar (from a putting-the-kids-to-bed incident -- grace runs in the family, no?) that went un-stitched was enough of a reason to get her head patched.  I quickly headed to the ER with Em.  

Because KU Med is the hub for all of my medical needs, Hot Red Speed took us there with nary a thought.  After an hour in the waiting room, I remembered the short ER wait I enjoyed after my stroke at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.  I made a call, learned there were only three folks in line (as opposed to the full room at KU -- some of whom had been waiting as long as five hours.  We picked up and left for the other ER.

Still another two or three hours between all of the paperwork, waiting, anesthetics, waiting, sewing and discharge, we finally made it home around 12:30. (While I am positive Em is my biological child, she does not share in my enthusiasm for public self-deprecation and would not allow for photographs to be taken at any point.  Sigh.)

The following night was New Year's Eve.  We had toyed with attending a fairly large kid-friendly party held at Karen's place, but Em dreaded hashing and rehashing the story of her facial adornments, so we kept it simple and headed to Mark's house for dinner, Apples to Apples and a sparkling cider midnight toast.

If you're keeping count, this is Night Three of Jennifer-up-past-her-bedtime.

Let's go for four, huh?

Next night.  Another tummy ache.  Mine.

So I'm pleased to leave December behind, along with 2010.  I'm tired.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Silver Linings. Finally.

Something's amiss.

My exhibitionist ways have been quelled.  I've sat silent for most of this unfortunate break.  Stressed.  Tired.  Stressed.  The van is running once again (if you need a car guy, I've got a great car guy now). So back to those silver linings I promised: there were many...

--Geoff got to the airport on time.

--It was a sunny day.

--As previously mentioned, I was toting Mark's father to the airport, which left his car unused for four days.  Mark borrowed his, I borrowed Mark's Prius.  When Geoff returned, Karen graciously offered her Bug for my unlimited use.  I think that went on for four more days until Hot Red Speed was finished.  I loved driving compacts.  I loved not paying for rentals.

--If you've been following my life for more than five minutes, you know that money is a constant worry and each penny's use is planned months in advance.When this tragedy struck, my parents quickly offered a loan to cover the massive expense. The river of philosophical differences between us did not stop them from coming to my rescue. I can't properly express how much this means to me.  I hope my children are independently wealthy by the time they reach their forties, but more than that, I hope I can offer them the same safety net that mine have for me if their futures take an unexpected turn...or eight.

So the car runs.  If I need another tranny before I replace her with a newer, sleeker, non-minivan model, I will have made some disastrous choices in the coming years.  I graduate from college this year, after all...but that's another post for another day.  I'll pencil it in for three weeks from now.