Category Archives: Life & Style

I should probably update my blog

Since a lot happened.

I went to the University of Buffalo concussion clinic. I did a bunch of tests, like walking on an inclined treadmill with a bunch of people watching me and my heart rate and commenting that it was really high which made it even higher and basically gave me an anxiety attack of heart rate self-consciousness, and pointed laser lights attached to my head at dots on the wall with my eyes closed, and a few other things. I learned:

  • I have a neck injury (knew that) that may be contributing to a bulk of my post concussion symptoms (suspected that, but not to the extent the Buffalo experts believe.)
  • I passed all the balance tests, meaning nothing is majorly wrong with my inner ear vestibular system (pretty much knew that).
  • I failed the vision vestibular / ocular motor tests, meaning something is wrong with how my brain is processing images, which could also explain a lot of symptoms, like Target Intolerance ™ eye twitching, blurry vision and brain fog. This could be from my neck, my brain or a combination thereof.
  • I passed the treadmill test! Meaning I don’t have what the clinic considers physiologic post concussion syndrome, meaning it’s okay to get my heart rate up, meaning I can work out!
  • I still shouldn’t run or lift weights in their opinion, maybe after 6-8 more weeks of neck PT and when I can do cardio on the bike without it exacerbating my symptoms too much.

It all feels still kind of untrue, like yesterday I did 30 minutes on the recumbent bike in a normal aerobic heart rate, like 150s, and I felt like I was getting away with something illegal, like I shoplifted. I’ve had so many false starts and stops, it’s hard to believe it’s still not “bad” and going to hurt my recovery. I did get a little dizzy that night, but Buffalo docs say it’s okay, and it’s from my neck + vision and I should work out anyway. It’s confusing because that’s so different from what other docs have said but at this point I don’t actually have a doctor who can tell me ANYTHING anyway. I have no real guidance about what the best thing to do is, so I’m going to trust the docs at Buffalo and do what they recommend. They are the experts on piecing apart post concussion syndrome and seeing what comes from what, so people know what treatments to pursue.

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Almost…getting…mildly…warm

They told me to go to vestibular therapy, and during the consult the therapist found I passed all the balance stuff fine, but badly failed something called a binocular vision test. I was seeing double when I shouldn’t have been. My brain may be working overtime to put images together (convergence ) which could totally explain a lot about how I feel although I’m not sure why it gets worse after exercise, maybe because I’m taxing my body’s ability to sense where it is in space because it’s also connected to my neck proprioceptors. It’s all kind of complex and confusing and doctors don’t even understand it.

Now I have to go to a special optometrist called a behavioral or developmental optometrist to do vision therapy to fix my vision issue. Supposedly they can help it. I hope so. It’s scary to think something like that got messed up in my brain from the accident.

But I’m happy to have some answers and a plan. Now I just have to go forward and do it. Much better than doing nothing and waiting, yet not knowing what I was waiting for…

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The Hardest Workout I’ve Ever Done

No, it’s not what you think.

The hardest workouts I’ve ever done only last twenty minutes, and I don’t even break a sweat. I don’t breathe hard, I don’t even get warm in my extremities. My heart rate has to stay in a specific, low zone. Last week I was in the 130s. This week I am in the 140s.

This is the hardest workout mentally and emotionally. To go to the gym, seeing all the people doing all the things I want to do, I used to do, I CAN DO, I miss doing. To have no one know why you’re pedaling at a gear three on the recumbent bike with your hair down. To make the effort to drag the kids to the daycare, with puffy coats and logistics, so I can “work out” without even any endorphin rush, without any training effect on my body.

Why am I doing this? Why am I undergoing this difficulty of self-control and disciple? Because this is my best shot at getting better.

At being able to exercise normally.

If everything goes WELL, I can increase my heart rate by ten beats per minute each week. And at some point down the line, I can double up on my twenty minute sessions, doing two a day at the target heart rate. So if I don’t get any symptoms back during this, I am looking at best case scenario of eight weeks. No weight training. Just this.

I cried a lot when I saw the reality of this. I mean, I am happy to have a plan. I am happy that it seems to be working. I am excited that maybe in a couple of weeks I will be able to sloooowly jog. Once I get into the 160s heart rate zone I think I can jog. (I have a very high heart rate in general) But it seemed daunting, it seemed like a sad mountain to climb, after I just got down conquering a mountain, the peak of staying positive and not surviving two and a half months of total rest but THRIVING during it.

I’ve done so well! I did all my homework and then some. I am a Better Person. I am Humble. I Learned My Lesson! Do I get my reward yet?

But of course it doesn’t work out that way. Or not quite. I am very sure, however, that I will carry these lessons on with me permanently. I see so many errors in the ways I used to think. I was always judging people. I never stopped to think,

maybe they had a story. Maybe they deserved benefit of the doubt. Compassion.

I forgot to be grateful. I don’t mean I didn’t appreciate what I had/have/will have. I forgot to be Endlessly Grateful. I mean, truly, truly grateful. I always knew doing the things I loved, like running and exercising, was a gift, but I didn’t know it was also a responsibility. I’m not sure what that really means, right now. Good thing I have more down time to find out.

photo(19)

 

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hole in the head

Evidently, getting a knock to the brain means I am suddenly becoming spiritual. I’ve always been very rational, science-minded, skeptical and a kind of ethical humanist rationalist. And now here I am reading about chakras.

Yeah. Please stop me before I tell you what color your aura is. (Beige, with a hint of chartreuse.)

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This all just proves to me that the very religious and the very mystical are just people with different brain chemistry. “Different.” You see where I’m going with this.

But to be fair, I’m not really averse to the idea that spirituality and a search for deeper meaning is a good thing, maybe even a thing I need. I find myself researching all types of alternative health treatments and practices, yes I am looking for a magic bullet to completely fix my brain and neck so I can get back to doing all the things I want to do, but I’m also kind of exploring the idea that while I can’t magically instantly cure myself, I can help myself along by finding better, more healing ways of thinking, being, and experiencing the world.

I blame acupuncture. Acupuncture is the gateway drug of the alternate health world. One minute you’re prostate with Lana, a soft-spoken Ukrainian woman, sticking you with needles, staring at a popcorn ceiling that begins to inspire Really Deep Thoughts, and the next you’re ready to Google hands-on health healers, prolotherapy, cupping on Long Island, New York gyroscope therapies.

Do you think Lana will enter into a platonic three-person marriage with me? I might ask her.

—”let me reinsert” she purrs, “this is hard point, good point,” she murmurs, “are you okay?”—

Today I can’t exercise but I’m planning a raging meditation session. I might converse with the ocean next week. Has anyone ever told you you have a magnificent aura?

But seriously. I am planning to turn this into a story of course, an essay or a piece of journalism. I think having a moderately skeptical rationalist guinea pig try out new types of health treatments is of interest and value to people like me: Someone looking for new types of treatments for a health issue who is also skeptical of quackery, of charlatans, of hooha shucksterism but who is also open to the idea that maybe conventional medicine doesn’t know everything. I know, shocking, right? That’s the operative word:

Open.

I’m open to new possibilities. I’m open to alternative pathways to healing. I don’t know everything (just most things-just kidding.)  I’m not going to turn over my hard-earned cash to Scientology, but I just might use no fault insurance to have someone wave their hands over my crown chakra.

That’s my head, for you unenlightened slobs out there. What do you think? What would you try, have you tried?

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post traumatic growth

This is me right now.

post traumatic growth

In a bad way, yes, and also in the best possible way.

I don’t really believe that “bad things happen for a reason,” or that the universe sent me a sign and I’m supposed to learn something from my accident and injuries. But that isn’t mutually exclusive with the idea that I can still learn something from it, that something good can come from something shitty and without meaning.

I am trying to stay positive and focus on my blessings, yes they are manifold, but I tend to creep back into that “this is so UNFAIR” line of thinking. Like, all I want is free rein to exercise without limitations, to use my body and my life to the fullest and there they are: People who can exercise but just choose not to. It’s so unfair, right? But then the realization swings all the way around, 360 degrees to hit me right back in the face.

It’s not fair. Nothing was ever meant to be fair, said to fair, or expected to be fair. A quadriplegic coming back from Afghanistan, no it’s not fair that he can’t do what he wants with his body, just as someone else takes a perfectly healthy human form and trashes it into oblivion with drugs or who knows what else.

No one ever said this was fair.

Or meaningful. It’s up to us to find the meaning, to weave the story, to fight against a crapload of disjointed stimuli to make a narrative, positive, redemptive, stubbornly optimistic, and yes frail, and yes negative, and maybe even self-defeating with worry and sadness, it’s all part of this story but at least I have a story.

Today is seven weeks since my car accident and I am not fully healed from my concussion and what is FUBARed in my neck but I’m hopeful I will be soon. I am grateful for the way this injury has rebuilt some of my brain synapses, because they’ve regrown this time around programmed with some humility, some spirituality, some hunger for a bigger, better life that I’m hoping will ultimately leave me better than before, when all is said and done, when all nerves stop shuddering and fraying, when my brain calms into its next iteration.

I just might have needed that knock on the head. I needed it like a hole in the head, like a gap in my life that is forcing me to look for what to fill in the vacuum. Was it right or healthy to have so much of my quality of life and mood and happiness resting on the ability to exercise to voluntary maximum exhaustion? Sure, I think it’s okay, that’s my hobby, that’s one of my life’s loves, a major coping mechanism. But maybe I need to be forced to re-evaluate the quality of my life in other ways. Maybe I need to strengthen other muscles while this one necessarily atrophies. Ligaments and tendons, social networks, friendships, family ties, meaningful vocation, sleeping at night, my marriage, my children, and spiritual meaning. They are all that’s bolstering me, the net under me and my worry, my inability to access that endorphin medicine, my anxiety over when will I get well? I don’t know.

And I have to be okay with not knowing. And if that’s the “lesson,” that’s okay. I accept it. I accept looking into a yawning unknown and not flinching, not turning away from a cold wind, not hesitating,

3bc80666725611e3a1e80a50b3739fdc_8

2014.

Thank you, 2013 for the pleasure and the pain.

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Almost Three Week Update

So this concussion thing is my least favorite thing since… my entire life.

I’m not sure I can write about it yet, I’m still too IN it to do it justice. Tuesday will be three weeks. I feel better about it all, thanks mostly to acupuncture (miracle of miracles) but the previous two weeks have been among the hardest of my life, no hyperbole. Well, maybe a smidge of hyperbole. It all goes down better with some hype.

I’m feeling finally a bit optimistic and positive but to say I haven’t been positive up until a few days ago is a gross understatement. Right now, words aren’t quite coming as easily as normally (which is very easily, so to be 80% of me means I can still scribble things off but of course, I want to be 100% me. Don’t we all?) and I’m not super dizzy, so this is a good day. Most of all, I am scared. I am scared I’m not going to get better soon enough, or soon, or ever. I don’t know why I fear this so much. I think it’s just something about having your own brain feel foreign to you, like I imagine your immune system must feel when it gets a new heart in. The heart may be great in the end, hell, for all you know it may end up an overall win for your life, maybe it’s a way more empathetic and kind and loving heart than that old clunker you just got rid of, but our bodies are kind of used to their parts, you know? They’re fused and the regrowth, the grafting of new feels terrifying, it feels invasive and wrong and sudden, it feels full of grief, even as it also feels weirdly liberating and expansive.

This explains it pretty well:

I sincerely hope I recover sooner than she did, I’d like to run, and be myself, and not be dizzy and be able to take my daughter to see Frozen before it’s out of theaters. That’s my Christmas wish list, to be well by Christmas. I will do whatever I can.

Resting of course is problematic. Mary Poppins the full-time concussion care nurse will not sweep into my chimney but I have a few tools and plans in place and some specialist docs to see this week.

Wish me well! I was very attached to my old noggin, it’s served me well these 32 years. If I can’t get it screwed on quite the same way again, at least I hope I will get a better, upgraded version. Post traumatic growth is the name for it, and weirdly enough I already feel it. I can’t stop being deep and profound all the time. So sorry for more deep and profound. My neural rewiring is just happening this way.

Right now I’m just happy the worst of the emotional fog is lifting. I’ve never been one for fantasy and role-playing games like  Jane, the creator of the Concussion Slayer from the video above, but I’m throwing up my hoodie and at least taking posturing selfies. I’m ready to fight this and come back 100% sooner rather than later.

 

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i guess i’m not okay

So turns out I’m not really okay. I hope I will BE okay at some point in the near future. In fact, this situation feels so bleak to me that I felt the need to actually write down anything GOOD I could think about it. And by GOOD I mean NOT AS BAD AS IT COULD BE.

I have whiplash (cervical sprain) and the doctor today wasn’t immensely reassuring. Amidst the haze of forms, insurances, crying, and trying to cope for my children, there is more crying, because he didn’t say, Well you’ll be back to running and health in no time. I also have some form of concussion. I’m still waiting to find out more details when I see a neurologist tomorrow.

the grateful list post accident

1. Henry wasn’t hurt (this is worth Infinity points)

2. We didn’t have to be admitted to the hospital

3. Both whiplash and a concussion are not PERMANENT injuries

4. I was strong and fit when I got hurt, so I will recover

5. I am determined to get back to my old physical level 100%, determination will help

6. I didn’t black out or lose consciousness; whatever level of concussion I have is likely to be mild.

7. I can always get back into shape, once a runner or an athlete always a runner

8. I can access good medical care

9. They totaled our car and we will get a nice new one

10. I can relax and spend time doing things with Henry while Anna is in school until I can run again

11. I may be allowed to ride a recumbent bike and do light weights soon

12. I will be more grateful for my health

13. Brand new car seats and stroller and maybe I’ll even sue because I’m fucking mad

14.I still have my family and my beautiful children

15. We have food and the basics of life

16. I can always laugh

17. I likely (?is this true?) won’t suffer long term symptoms and I can manage whatever comes

18. If exercise and physical therapy can help me get well, I will do it

19. I am tough and resilient, I can handle a lot

20. I am alive and I have a long life ahead of me to do all the things I want and know I can do once I’m healthy.

21. I’ve been injured and thought I wouldn’t recover for a long time and it all ended up okay in the end. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m optimistic.

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Whiplash!

It’s not just a metaphor.

I’m not sure I can write about the past few days in a linear way. I feel like I can only touch on it obliquely, from the sides. Like:

Yesterday was the first day in three that I didn’t walk around with vomit on my clothes, unable to find the moment to change.

(Henry’s vomit. No time, because the three days were a blur of after hours pediatric clinic, breathing treatments, bronchiolitis, cranky clinging baby clinging and cranking to an extreme previously unimaginable, vomit, steroids, vomit, Albuterol, more doctor, breathing checks, counting breathing, frantic Googling, freezing cold outside temperatures, no way to run, DAMMIT, then driving home from the pediatrician on Tuesday morning, we stopped to pick up his prescriptions at the drugstore, dropped off Anna at preschool, drove the half mile toward home, stopped to make a left onto my street like I’ve done a million times before, sitting there with my blinker on, waiting for a pause in oncoming traffic, and then I look into my rear view mirror and see a car. Barreling. Is he going to stop? I wonder. He’s. not. stopping.

Slam.)

Henry is okay. I am okay. I have some whiplash. We did go in an ambulance to the hospital to get him checked out. Today he seems past the worst point of the bronchiolitis/breathing issues. Our car is totaled, towed away, we have a rental, we’re all still kind of a mess though. .

Did I mention the driver had no license and was all at the scene lying like I had no blinker on and I stopped shorting and I’m running into my house with my baby and all I can do is put on his favorite Elmo movie, the one we put on for him when we have to give him the nebulizer and he’s running around pointing “LMO LMO” he says ELMO now because he’s so obsessed with this movie, he’s waving to the EMTs and the volunteer firemen and showing them Elmo, my son who seems delightfully normal at this moment. When I tell you that I ran on adrenaline for the rest of the day, well, that’s an understatement. I didn’t even feel my body until 6 p.m. I hadn’t had a bite of food or more than a single cup of coffee all day and I wasn’t even tired despite sleeping no more than four hours in two nights.

So now for the immediate future, I see terror. I’m terrified driving with the kids now. I’m terrified every car behind me is coming for me. I’m terrified I won’t be able to get back to running and fitness soon, my lifeline, my sanity. I’m terrified of his breathing. I’m terrified I will never get a break from this relentless stress.

I feel like my life right now is that moment when Tom Hanks holds up the volleyball and thrusts it at the sky, like COME AT ME BRO (Bro being The Universe) like what else ya got for me? I can take it. I can take it.

I think I need this shirt.

My husband told me last night that I was so strong. You’re so strong, you’re so brave, you’re doing such a good job.

I don’t want to be brave. I said. I want to be happy.

 

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Retiring and Responding

I’m trying to retire. Nope, not from running. On the contrary, I’m eating, sleeping, reading (the hilarious Let’sRun.com forums mostly) breathing and talking running. And running. I’m running way more than I ever have, six days per week, 35 miles or so, a lot for me, my first double digit long run in there, and I love it. I’m on a running binge.

But I’m trying to retire my boobs. It’s going…slowly. I’ve been trying to decrease day nursings down as far as Henry will allow without making a big deal over it. I figure it has to be a gradual process, and he’s only 13 months old. I don’t want a traumatic abrupt process, I just want to be done. Soon. Even if the whole thing takes six months. Night weaning is another bear, and I haven’t gotten to that yet. I’m happy to leave the going to bed nursing for a bit. There have been a lot of days in the past two weeks that he didn’t nurse at all until 6 pm or so. He eats a ton of food but doesn’t love whole milk.

I know they don’t need whole milk, but I tried the vanilla organic milk boxes and he’s so-so on those. He’d rather drink water and juice and eat cheese and yogurt. The problem is nursing is not just about sustenance. It’s all about comfort and going to sleep. I never realized when I was so eager to be successful at breastfeeding a year ago that once you’re in…it’s not so simple to get OUT. He doesn’t take a pacifier and doesn’t sleep without nursing. It’s going to a long, complex road I’m sure but I’m heading down it. I’ve even considered giving him a BOTTLE, anything to as an interim step to get him used to sleeping OFF of me, somehow.

I’m still not really sure how to do all this. None of my friends have any advice. They either supplemented a lot of with bottles early on, so that by the time their babies were a year old they were already weaned in the sense that they weren’t used to nursing in an on demand way. The standard advice to “reduce feedings one by one for a week at a time” is useless, bordering on the absurd for me. Henry is 13 months old, he never had a feeding schedule to begin with, never mind now. And anyway the problem isn’t just reducing FEEDING, it’s not even about feeding. It’s about attachment, and comfort, and habit, and sleep. It’s hard.

Although now that it’s getting cold and he had his bad breathing virus experience I’m thinking if he gets even a bit of breast milk over this winter it won’t be so bad. The spring may be a better time to go completely without the immunity. Who knows how much immune boosting he gets from the amount of nursing we do now though? He is croupy coughing right now as I type this. I’m getting worried it’s going to be one of those winters.

But I really want to sleep all night. It’s been 13 months. Blegh. Anyway, running. I love running. I think my training plan is working. Whenever I run without the jogging stroller I hit my paces and feel pretty good. Stringing together seven something miles in the middle of longer runs, on tired legs, or as repeats in a speed workout gives me some confidence that on a taper in a few weeks I can reach my goal: a 10K PR.

That means I have to break 50 minutes, and run 6.2 miles at about 8 flat pace, maybe 7:50. I know I CAN do it. The question is, can I on that day? Will I be up 45 times the night before? Will I have a good race? Can I finally get a new personal best after almost two years of pregnancy and then lackluster post-partum running?

One weird thing I’ve been doing lately on runs is kind of mentally envisioning myself as what I want to be: a good runner. An athlete. A runner. I say to myself, you are a runner. You have the ability. You have a good Vo2 Max (lol). You are a good training RESPONDER.

That's a Destiny's Child song, no?

You can get fast.

And for better or worse, I believe it.

I came across this test that can supposedly measure your genetic potential to RESPOND to aerobic training. I pitched it as a story idea to a magazine I write for, which would then mean I’d be the guinea pig and would get the test done.

But I wouldn’t want to know. What if the test results came back and said: You are Low Responder? How demoralizing would that be? The test makers defend the utility of this, arguing that if you know you are a low responder, you can focus on other things, like weight training or cross training or overall fitness and not a futile kind of quest to run 80 miles per week and then wonder why you aren’t getting faster.

But me? I don’t want to know. I’m going to run through the woods, pretending-believing that my potential is unlimited.

I’m going to keep getting better. Even if better goes in a circle and it just means I keep coming back to where I was before, but with more wrinkles, and gray hairs, and war stories behind me. Even if it means a measly seven second new personal best, this time with no sleep.

I’m a responder.

 

How about you? Would you take that test? Would it bother you if it said you were a LOW responder?

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Eat Food, Mostly Edible

SO Update to my last post about being super slow with the stroller since I’ve upped my weekly miles: I ran my tempo run without the stroller this week and I was fine, I hit like slightly under my tempo pace for five miles. So I’m totally blaming the jogging stroller for everything. But you all had some good advice that I’m taking to heart. This whole idea of doing lots of easy runs is new to me, and I’m embracing it. It’s a change of pace but I’m accepting that if I have to run 11 minute miles sometimes with the stroller that’s what I will do. I want to train smart and race fast.

Anyway I want to talk food. Because I love food. And I eat a lot of it. I read this op-ed the other week, about a parent who decided to stop trying to make their picky eater eat their vegetables. I have a very picky eater (four-year-old) and an easy eater (one -year-old). I WAS a very, very picky eater as a kid and yet as an adult, I am an adventurous foodie type. I will eat everything. I love vegetables, bitter greens, brussel sprouts, fish, kale, escarole, radicchio, frisee. I eat that shit for breakfast. I also eat junk and potato chips and brownies and Halloween candy for breakfast, if I want to. I just eat whatever I want. It’s fun, you should try it sometime.

Look how happy I am, knowing I will be eating Reese's cups for weeks to come.

But growing up, my father was of the clean your plate school of parenting. Unfortunately, he was also a terrible cook. Sorry, Dad. He made tasteless frozen vegetables with no salt or fat added. Think mushy, tinny cooked carrots and those big bags of cauliflower mixed with broccoli except the root parts were like mildly undercooked and toothy. It’s a wonder I ever grew up to like vegetables at all.

I had to sit at the table until the food was gone. It did go…into my jewelry box, pockets, the toilet bowl, the closet. We didn’t have a family dog. One time my grandmother came over and mercifully threw away the plate I was still sitting in front of hours later. I was supposed to eat the entire baked potato, skin too. I gagged on every bite. I also had to drink a huge glass of milk with every dinner. Now, don’t get horrified, I wasn’t an abused child, I just had a parent who was concerned about my nutrition in a well-meaning but misguided way. My mom worked nights a lot but if she was home she made much better food and was way more lenient. But I will never forget the horror of being asked to swallow food that I couldn’t get past my tongue.

I wasn’t filling up on too much crap either, I was just a light eater. One time the doctor told my mother I had to gain weight. I think I was like eight. I just preferred to sit around and color and read Sleepover Club novels. This is amusing to me now, because I eat like a famished teenaged racehorse boy. I eat a ton. Like, I eat more than I see most people eat. I don’t know if I have a fast metabolism? I do work out a lot. I’m also not stick skinny.

[Have you heard about that study that connects butt size to brains and longevity? Yeah. I'm way running with this theory. I gotta feed my booty so I can continue to be a superior human being.]

The bigger your butt, the smarter your children are? You're welcome, kids.

Like right now, I’m about to eat a Kashi roasted vegetable pizza. Now, I’m not sure, is this SUPPOSED to be a personal pizza? Because I’m eating it as one segment of lunch. There was also a leftover bagel half, a Butterfinger I stole from trick or treating loot, a small spinach pie, and there will probably be more after the pizza appetizer.

I kind of love running more, not because I GET to eat more (I will fucking eat as much as I want forever and ever  in a manner NOT related to any physical exertion) but because it’s MAKING me HUNGRIER.

FEED US

But anyway, back to the hot topic of force-feeding kids. My personal experience leads me to be kind of lax on this. I feel like the more it becomes a battle the worse I fare. It is frustrating to deal with Anna’s eating. She’s very picky and is always asking for sweets. She has a tremendous sweet tooth and refuses most vegetables, mixed dishes, and meat.

Right now she’s inexplicably eating lox cream cheese. Who knew she would ever eat that…so I’m going with it. Lox cream cheese for lunch every day it is. At least Henry will eat what I cook.

Were you a picky eater as a kid? Did you grow out of it? Do you believe in forcing your kids to finish their peas? Do you eat like a bird or like you have an intestinal worm like me?

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Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.

Yelling.

Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:

UNCLE!

Or I GIVE UP Or I NEED TIME ALONE Or I’D LIKE TO GET ON THE FIRST GREYHOUND BUS TO FUCKING ALBANY I DON’T EVEN CARE WHERE IT’S GOING BUT THEN I’LL MISS MY KIDS SO I BETTER STAY HERE AND YELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS GETTING DRESSED AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ALONE IN THE LAST 500 HOURS

Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.

 

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