Please Excuse Me While I Write a Love Letter to my Husband

 

This is us on our honeymoon.

This is us on our honeymoon.

The past few days have been a respite from the pain I have been going through. I even made a lovely breakfast for my husband this weekend. I swam and spent time with family and friends. I was limber and energetic. This lasted about four days. This morning, when the alarm went off it felt like I had been boxing all night instead of sleeping. My joints were frozen in place, and my muscles were in pain. I was supposed to go swimming but when the alarm went off, I told my Brad, please I think my body needs the hour sleep more than the swimming. (I don’t know if that is true or not) He agreed, but he was awake already so he left me, and then came back in an hour to massage me awake. Yes, you read that right. Lying down next to me in bed, he very tenderly massaged my shoulders, my back, and even my hands that were stiff and unable to move. He patiently listened to my groans and whispered protests, and softly told me he loved me. I finally was loose enough to move myself into the bathtub so that I could soak my muscles in the hot water. As I bathed and my body loosened I said to myself, do better, be better, because I want to get better not just for me but for him.

In my life, I have been surrounded by people who have chronic pain, people I love greatly and I have been at a loss on how to be of comfort, until now. My youth minister when I was in high school said something that has stayed with me all these years, “Love is not a feeling, it is a commitment.” This is so true. I have been trying to learn how to express my empathy and my concern for my loved ones, Brad has taught me how. It isn’t the words. It isn’t even the tone, it is the consistent presence. It is the habitual exchange of care and warmth. Brad wakes me up everyday gently, and he is never impatient because he knows mornings are hard. He understands when I need to spend my break refueling and calming down instead of calling him. He has been so good natured about the eating no carbs when his favorite food is pizza, he got a gym membership with me even though he hates being around other humans (especially the athletic types), he went to said gym in his pajama pants because he didn’t own any athletic ones, he eats Kale, makes sure I remember my medication and vitamins, and rubs my feet when the neuropathy hits them as it so often does. He holds my hand when I am on the floor crying.

So handsome

So handsome

It isn’t just what he does; it is the consistency with which he does it. A man who is usually only patient with computers is infinitely patient with me and my pain. He is a miracle in my life and I hope it never ends. He loves me unconditionally and because of that I feel that I need to step up and be better for him. I need to work through the pain, show him at every opportunity that I am okay and that he is the most amazing wonderful husband in the world. So not only does he comfort me this way, he engages me and inspires me to get better, and handle things better for him.

 

When he laughs, he lights up my heart. It is the truth. I promise.

When he laughs, he lights up my heart. It is the truth. I promise.

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Cooking as Meditation?

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Lately, I think of cooking as a chore. I don’t know what has changed in my perception. What I used to love most was to get up on Sunday mornings and make my husband blueberry whole wheat pancakes, French toast, or my own special blend of omelet. There is something about the breakfast meal that my particular brand of multitasking is meant for; trying to get eggs, bacon, and hash browns all out and hot at once is a challenge that I used to enjoy. Not to mention, the look on my husband’s face -like he was the luckiest man to walk the earth- was worth a million breakfasts.
However, mornings have been kind of cloudy affairs lately. I wake up excruciatingly slow and only truly feel like myself after I have had something to eat. Thanks for that hurdle, Diabetes. So I wake up and sort of dry heave a little until I have something to eat. Even after that I feel out of sorts for about thirty minutes. Brad has been taking over breakfast, mostly because of my nausea. I don’t even cook it on the weekends. No, I am not pregnant.
Brad does the other cooking because he is applying for jobs and working from home. However, I feel like I am not contributing enough. I really do need to get back in the kitchen on the weekends in some form, even if it is just to show husband he is appreciated.
Studies also show that the best way to lose weight is prepare your food at home and control what goes into it. I just haven’t ever enjoyed cooking dinner or lunch in the same way as breakfast. It is sort of slow and boring. The chopping, standing, sweating, and with me the breaking things and burning the fingers.
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However, I just read an article in Yoga Journal called, “The Power of the Pan.” They were interviewing the brilliant Michael Pollan, who is the author of many books relating to food. He said something that really hit home with my new plan to slow down and be mindful.
“I was hasty in the kitchen, hasty chopping onions—mine were always chunky and I didn’t sauté’ them long enough to get them sweet and caramelized. Samin Nosrat, my cooking teacher, who was a serious student of yoga, was always trying to get me to slow down. She said the key to great cooking was patience, practice, and presence. And this was a very hard thing for me to learn. It involved basically paying much greater attention to what I was doing. Learning how to just be there is the hardest thing of all.”
Sing it brother! I am telling you, focusing on only one task is the hardest thing for me to do, but I want to be more mindful. I want to teach my mind to enjoy doing things fully. I want to learn to focus on the task at hand and just enjoy it, and I also want to eat healthy. That makes two birds but with one stone, yeah?
So this weekend I will be cooking a nice dinner for my lovely, long-suffering husband and I hope to knock his socks off.
Pollan enjoys cooking now, so maybe I will too. He says, “Once you do, it’s this beautiful process that absorbs all your senses in a way that checking your email or watching television does not.”
I am going to try this way of cooking and tell you how it goes. If you have experienced this sort of bliss, please share it here on the blog site. I would love to hear about it.

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Envy as Motivation

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See, beautiful and a beautiful Christmas dinner

I have this gorgeous Aunt Nicole that I idolize. She is a lean, curvaceous redhead with spunk and charisma. She is one of those women who you wish you could hate because she does everything perfectly. She is a sharp dresser, maintains a beautiful home, and is so good at cooking that she is a caterer. Her fluency in the kitchen I totally envy. A normal dinner at Nicole’s is like spending time with a confident beautiful chef. She times the meals perfectly and only serves the most fresh and desirable food. She does all this while making sure your glass is full and effortlessly entertaining her guests with jokes and stories. She accomplishes all of this without breaking a sweat. When all is said and done, the kitchen is clean, she kicks her feet up, and still has the same make up on that she started with and not one hair out of place. See what I mean? If she wasn’t so nice, loving, funny and congenial, we would all hate her.

While I am not too shabby at making certain meals people rave about, dining at my house is an experience of a different color. You may be met at the door by my husband or me, or you might just hear a panicked “COME IN!” When you make your way to my kitchen you will see me running around frantically opening and closing the oven, or dumping pasta, and all while trying to get drinks all at once. The entire time I am sweating, breathing heavy, and my hair (that I perfectly curled only an hour before) is pasted to my forehead. I rarely entertain anymore because I just don’t seem to pull it off without being a puddle of a human before I have even laid the dishes on the table.

Red faced, clammy and slightly smelly, I sit down to a meal with my guests and try to catch my breath. Mostly the conversation is held by my guests with only an occasional word from me, and there is no doing the dishes while I talk to other people. That would turn into a wet t-shirt contest.

One morning I managed to pull off a beautiful breakfast for my writing group. I made pancakes and eggs. They were the whole wheat kind, some with blueberries. The coffee and tea flowed. I even managed to fill people’s glasses as soon as they were done, and hopped to it in order to bring my guests warm flapjacks when their plate was empty. I was calm, cool and collected. This meal was so unusual that I remember it seven years later. We joke that I was channeling Aunt Nicole that day. We believe that at some point in the morning she must have fallen asleep because that is when I accidentally spilled hot tea all over myself.

I want to lose this weight so that I can entertain without melting down. I want to be able to cook and entertain while being effortlessly pretty. This cause can only be helped by losing weight and getting in shape. I think exercising is the only way to improve my coordination, agility, and my ability to be cool under pressure. I want to glide into my dining room with beautiful food and laugh and gab with my friends. I want people to say, the way I remark on my aunt, “How does she make it all look so effortless?

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Nicole and I at my wedding, which see catered! It was so delicious

 

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Time flies when you’re discombobulated

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This is me rocking the pig tails at work

My schedule has changed. For the past couple of years I have worked from 11:30 to 8:00 pm. I loved this schedule. It fit my lifestyle perfectly. I had time to sleep in but not enough that I felt disgusted with myself for wasting the day away. I also had time when I got off work to have a relaxing swim in the evening air with my honey, without those pesky little screaming children blocking my laps. I had gotten a good rhythm. I timed my meals every four hours, and then had alarms set for testing my blood sugar. Husband and I had a set a bedtime and a set wake time. Geez, I have become annoyingly boring. I didn’t used to be this so stringently scheduled, but with the sleep apnea and diabetes I have to be if I want to have be a functioning successful human.

So now I work 1:30 to 10:00 and you would think a two hour shift wouldn’t be all out chaotic, but it sure does feel like it. My internal clock is messed up and my meals are a different time and it took me a week to figure out the times I should be eating and should be testing my sugars. Husband and I still haven’t figured out when we are going to bed and when we are getting up. The first week or so, we took advantage of the sleeping in. We stayed in bed until noonish. Then we knew we were messing up because we have to fit in swimming. Well if we want to swim we have to get up at a decent time. So we are figuring that out. The good news is that we got up this morning at 10:00 am. Well, okay the alarm went off at ten, and then we sort of slowly got around. By the time we got to the pool it was about 10:50. The good news is no one was at the pool then either, so my weird schedule is actually working out in one way.

The good part about this change is lunch and dinner time are actually during the work time. So I am eating with my husband for breakfast but for lunch and dinner I am eating really healthy. Brad and I usually binged at night when we binged. So I think this will keep that from happening. No fast food and no cheap fattening meals. Everything has to be made in advance, so husband and I are eating a lot more veggies and preportioned meals for lunch and dinner. It is working out better in the end.

This change has made me realize just how regimented my life is, and how old that makes me feel. I figure a lot of us adults feel we have to be more careful as we get older, if only just to function in everyday life. I used to soak up debauchery in my schedule: eat, drink, and smoke when I wanted. I could be good to myself and instead of saying old say mature, but come on. I am complaining that I can’t eat everyday at four like I used too. This is sort of an old person problem. I long to be free, not such a fuddy duddy. My entire life is regimented; eat at this time, can’t go near cats, no smoking, must sleep this time. However, my free and easy life got me into this mess, so I guess I will just be mature.

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Think of all the Unsaid Compliments…

I got my hair cut. I did it mostly because I am frustrated with the heat. I felt like I was wearing a long hairy blanket on my head. While sweating is my summer normal, I didn’t feel I should encourage it any further. I hate sweating. I also felt like a change was in order. You know, the wild thought that starts in your gut that says, change yourself and the easiest way is always your hair. It is a cultural phenomenon. I don’t know if the reasons are consistent. Could it be: I am bored, let’s shake my life up a little; I will get a haircut? Or: Here I am everyday looking fabulous and no one notices; I will get a haircut, that’ll shock em? OR: All this “changing my life stuff” takes too long; I will get a haircut.

I cut my hair for probably all those reasons.  In my earlier blog I explained that I have been feeling stuck in a rut, so there you go. I went to my trusted Hair Queen, Shannon, and told her I wanted something short- as short as I could go. With my fat face I can’t really go pixie, if you know what I mean. In this heat though, I was thinking about a full on Sinead O’Connor. It isn’t just the pasted-to-my-neck hair of this heat, it is the maintenance. So I went before work one day and consulted Shannon, and this is what she came up with.

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I am never very good at the selfie

Cute right? I had a vision of walking into work with an imaginary fan running in the background and some sort of techno music over the top. People would wave and give a thumbs up in my direction. Looks of bright eyed surprise and then smiles in slow motion, and maybe even pats on the back would be in order.

Did any of that happen? Of course not. First off, I work in chat technical support. Not only is that mostly men, but most of us don’t really talk that much anyways. Secondly, we are all busy doing stuff. About an hour after I got to work, I got a text from a coworker who knew I was going to get my hair done. “Turn around, let me see your hair.” She said then said it was nice. Another coworker stopped me in the bathroom and told me it was pretty. Two compliments are still not too shabby, but I was hoping for more. I know as a thirty-something woman I shouldn’t be needy for compliments, and in a way I am not. I love my hair, it is my favorite feature. I am a confident woman who is super cute and got the good hair combination of my mom and dad. It does what I want, but I want adoration too. I am greedy.

Talking with my best friend, after she saw it and complimented me right away, I told her how everyone was underwhelmed. She said, “I don’t think Idahoans give compliments.” I thought that might be true because she and I are both Midwesterners, who, I have to say give more weight to outward appearance which is a double-edged sword. The people here who have been most complimentary to me here have been from the East Coast, take that as you may.

I don’t think it is the only reason people don’t complement each other.

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It even looks cute curly!!!

I think it is how overwhelmingly awful we are at taking compliments. I mean I’m not, I am awesome, but most people are really hesitant to hear something nice. I was in the elevator with a young, lovely, olive-skinned beauty. I said in open-eyed wonder, “You have beautiful skin.”

Her immediate curt reaction, “No, it’s just the make-up.”

We argued about this the whole elevator ride up with me explaining to her skin like that doesn’t come out of a jar, and her telling me how hideous she was. Finally I stopped the whole thing and said as if speaking to a four year old, “Wait a minute, let’s start this over. You have beautiful skin, now what do you say?”

I mean seriously, children. If someone tells you how awesome you are, say thank you already! I don’t know how your momma didn’t teach you that, but I am now. Also, I don’t take time out of my busy day to bullshit you. I am an adult with things to do. Soak in the nice words; believe them, because I mean them. For goodness sakes, stop arguing with whoever complimented you, for my sake as well as yours. I mean, if you are a bitch when someone compliments you, they might not want to compliment me for fear of the worst.

 

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Come to my Pity Party

wedding week 158There are so many people in pain in my life, it feels selfish and morally weak to talk about my pain. I have a Facebook friend who is in constant pain, and my mom has fibromyalgia, in pain almost every day. These are only two examples of the many people who have it worse than I do. I think quantifying how much pain a person is in, it sort of an odd conversation, but I know I am not the only one who thinks this way. It is the same with emotional pain. For instance, I would never think of going to talk to my best friend about a small argument I had with my husband when she was crying over a break up. That’s just mean. I wouldn’t blame her if she looked at me like, “REALLY? THIS SHIT?”
Being a bystander to chronic pain, I know how helpless it feels when a loved one is going through it. My mother has so much pain it’s unbelievable, and Mom’s a tough woman so I know she isn’t just complaining. To be honest she just doesn’t complain enough probably. After so long complaining seems fruitless I am sure. I used to try to help. Those with chronic pain will giggle at that. It is like trying to tell a fat person how to lose weight. No one has researched how to lose weight more than a fat person. I can account for that. It is the same for chronic pain. My buddy on Facebook goes to a new doctor it seems once a week. So while I am saying why don’t you try yoga, how bout acupuncture etc. my mom is just rolling her eyes. Finally she says to me, “I have tried these things. When I tell you about my pain, I just want you to listen, maybe say you are sorry I am going through this.”
Oh, hmmm. I don’t know how to be outwardly empathetic very well. I am…trying. I think I sort of sound like a recorded message sometimes but again I try. I much prefer to try to solve problems, but if there is no solving something the only thing I can do is submit. I think God is trying to teach me to submit to things that are out of my control. I am not a fast learner this way.
When it comes to my pain, I am lucky in that it is only about a week every couple of months as my medicine wears off and I wait until my insurance deems me worthy of another dose. I lay around taking my Aleve, in the fetal position with a heating pad on my shoulders, or legs or whatever part of my body hurts the most and getting nothing done except a lot of diarrhea. I think that is what pisses me off the most. I feel worthless. A week before my MONSTER PMS I was so productive. I wrote, edited, scrapbooked, exercised, and spent time with loved ones. One day I am feeling amazing, next day, don’t want to walk to the fucking bathroom. I have to slowly hobble to the bathroom.
There is nothing they can do. I have been to four doctors. My PCOS polycystic ovarian syndrome, isn’t going away unless I lose all this weight, and you know, the irony isn’t lost on me. I have a disease that requires me to lose weight, but makes it so that for weeks at a time I can barely walk. Just like Diabetes, you have trouble monitoring how much food is healthy for your body, so let me give you a disease where you have to monitor it more and more strictly. These may be the only questions I ask God when I meet him. Why is that logic so messed up?
My mom doesn’t complain enough. I want to complain for her. I want to go to doctors offices with her and be her advocate. I want someone to do something! I want someone to do something for my friend and for me. My mom still takes care of her family and sometimes even builds houses with my Uncle. If she can get through every day in pain, then I can get through a week every two months. I know I will live, and I will thrive. Sometimes I just need to bitch. Why do I feel so guilty about that?

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I Hate Treadmills

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My favorite Willow trees

I feel like, for the last few years, I have been running in place. I have made a few strides, kicking smoking and losing twenty-five-plus pounds. I work a little towards something every day, but I feel as if I am still in the same place. For a while, we were waiting on the sale of our house with bated breath, and now we are waiting for my husband to find a new job.

Waiting and hoping isn’t something most people excel at; the feeling of hopelessness doesn’t seem to abate, even when I’m doing my best to be optimistic. So what do I do to live in the now? Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “All my life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm?” This describes me perfectly, always thinking ten steps ahead, if I can and when I can’t, I am in agony.

I was reading a book called Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he talks about a term called “mindfulness.” This is a practice of being in the present at all times. An example he gives in the book is the Buddhist monks who drink a hot cup of tea and take an hour to do so. They focus on how the tea engages their senses: the color, taste, smell, temperature, and texture on the tongue.

My husband, Brad, was the first one to introduce “savoring” to me. All of my life I have flitted about, living a life of fun, but not really of depth. My senses were mostly dulled in my attempt to live. One of our first dates Brad took me to a small Greek restaurant here in Boise called the Cazba. Enamored with Brad, I paid attention to his every move: the way he took in the way I smelled and looked, the way he savored every bite of his dinner, how he slowly chewed and took deep resonating breaths to really taste everything fully. Senses heightened, I too enjoyed that meal more than any other meal in my life. I can still picture him looking at me and taking his first bite of lamb. Watching him savor it, I could live within that memory.

That night we sat for what seemed like hours in the car, just talking or sometimes holding hands in silence. It seemed as if touching his skin forced my mind to shut off and only feel, that sense overwhelming the constant chatter of my mind. It was the first time in my life when I have felt that blessing.

Those times are far between now. I struggle for that sort of life-giving focus. I want my body to be overwhelmed by the joy of touch. My mind combats the idea of giving into such frivolous pursuits. As a Midwesterner, I combat my base compulsion to feel useful at all times. I am making a vow to stop that. I need that peace, and so does Brad. I haven’t noticed him enjoying himself mindfully as much anymore.

We need to live in the now, even if it is a smaller scale. Last Friday, Brad surprised me at work and took me on a dinner picnic. He made some roasted chicken, Greek salad, and brought bottled water. We sat on the bench watch the geese frolic, the sun glistening on the lake, and wind flowing through my favorite weeping willow trees. We laughed as the geese squawked at us.

We are trying.

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That is my gorgeous man!

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