Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A shot I took of my church back in MN after my mom's memorial service.

Did you know that Long Island was first inhabited by people from Connecticut? Bill taught me that.

Looking for a good counselor is kind of like dating. A first appointment is like a first date - you are forced into a one-on-one conversation about yourself even if it isn’t comfortable yet. You spill your guts and then hope they like you for who you are. You want them to reassure you and compliment you, but you also want them to be interesting and thought provoking. Otherwise they are boring (or in this case, unhelpful).

Last night I went to an appointment with Bill. This was my third visit. Two times, last fall, I went with Chris. Bill is our second counselor at this place. The first one stared at me. Not in a quiet-reflective-listening sort of way - it was more of blank-boredoutofherskull-slow death way. Chris was about 25 minutes late for the appointment and she apparently thought that since it was a marriage counseling appointment that we should wait for the other part of the marriage. It was a long 25 minutes. We got rid of her and asked for someone better. We got Bill. He’s from “back East” and has a strong New Jersey/New York type accent that accompanies his large belly and not-so-cool casual attire. I’ve tried to like him. He swears and mocks Mormons whenever he can, which is fine, but it gets a little old. He is blunt, which I usually appreciate, but not in a counseling setting. Well, not in MY counseling situation. I can be blunt to my clients, but I expect only complete empathy and strong compassion when I am the client.

I awkwardly sat down in Bill’s VERY poorly decorated office. He started the chit chat. “So, how were things back east? Where are you from again? Jersey?’ “No,” I stated. “I’m from Minnesota and my mom died.” “Oh.” Being the typical insecure female people pleaser that I am, I quickly tried to brush it off and make him feel more comfortable. I told him about Mom’s final weeks and the toll it took on me. “That’s why I’m here. I’m kind of feeling overwhelmed. Several people in my life think I need drugs. I don’t think I need drugs, but I thought that I should probably schedule an appointment with you to get them off my back.” We talked for about an hour. I gave him my laundry list of stressors – health issues, kid issues, marriage issues, weight issues, work issues, stuff leftover from my mom, etc. He agreed that I had a lot on my plate. For about half the hour, I dwelled on my weight gain. We discussed body dsymorphic disorder. He told me it wasn’t real - it was just distorted thoughts all in my head. I reminded him that I knew that - that I had introduced the topic into the conversation. I reminded him that I had written my thesis on the topic. His advice for my problem was to stop eating as much and to start exercising. Thanks, Bill.

I have been thinking about my appointment off and on all day. A part of me wants to demand that my EAP allow me to go outside of this consulting counseling firm and find someone better. Maybe even a psychologist. Another part of me wonders, though, if maybe Bill isn’t right. So I have a few extra stressors in my life. If I just made a list, and worried about them one at a time, things would slowly get back in control. As far as my need to figure out why I am so consumed with my body image – maybe I just need to forget it. Could it be possible that I just like to large amounts of unhealthy food? If so, then I have good reason to be unhappy with my body because I’m not taking care of it. What if I just admitted that if I want to be a size 4 I can only eat vegetables and Boca burgers along with vigorous exercise five to six days a week. If I choose not to do that, then I need to accept the weight gain.

I keep trying to find someone who has the answers. I know, from a psychological viewpoint, that the answers are within myself, but that doesn’t make them any easier to find. I continue to feel sorry for myself. I know a lot of terrible things have happened to me, but they are nothing compared to the real tragedies that happen to innocent people daily all over this world. Why do I feel so sorry for myself? When will I be able to accept that I have it better than most?

I’m having a particularly hard time this evening thinking about my mom. I talked to my dad in Florida and he’s pretty lonely. He told me that some of her friends down there are going to plant a tree in her honor. I am overwhelmed by that gesture. I have been on the verge of tears all evening, but thinking about talking to her about all of my recent anxiety makes me smile – my mom was actually a little like Bill in that her advice to me on my weight issue was also very matter-of-fact and simplistic. One time, a few years ago, when I was complaining about my body and what I didn’t like about it, she said, “Carol, you shouldn’t look at yourself naked in the mirror.” As she said over and over the last few months of her life, “What you focus on is what you get.” I just don’t know if I have it in me to diet again. I know what I want, but I’m so tired.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Just when you feel like parenting is too much work, they amaze you with their insight

Kindergarten is still going really well for Harrison. I haven’t had any reports of poor behavior from his teacher – that’s usually my guide. He attends the same preschool as Ella in the afternoon and I thought that was going well also. Again, using a lack of negative reports by his teachers as my reference.

Long story, really short, things aren’t going that great at preschool after all. We are on the verge of switching schools again. Bottom line: Harrison is bored and misbehaving in the afternoons and Ella isn’t getting much, if any, structured programming anymore. I think we have narrowed alternative schools down to one choice and will switch in March after giving 30 days notice. Another change for the kids and another stressor I could do without.

Tonight, however, just when I thought the kids couldn’t misbehave any worse, the seas parted and angels began to sing…Harrison and I had a really great quiet time reading before bedtime. I’ve been gone so much with work, and other distractions, lately that being alone with Harry was quite a treat. He read to me from one of his school reading books. Instead of getting frustrated and impatient, he read the whole thing without complaint. “See? I read the whoooole thing!” Then we started reading a great Dr. Seuss book and it provoked a lot of questioning from him. It was really great. All of a sudden, during this book, he asked me how old Oma (my mom) was when she died. I told him that she was 78. Nights are my hardest time, grief-wise, as I tend to have more time to reflect. Just as I worried that I might get really sad with him, he surprised me and made me smile. “Seventy-eight. That’s a really big number,” he said. He then proceeded to count it out for me. “One, two, three, four…..seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight.” In some weird way it was an extremely comforting moment. As I listened to him diligently count out each individual number, I realized how many years of life she was given. Is it possible that he knew I needed that reminder?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hiking in Mill Creek Canyon

...heading out
...blue skies
...rushing creeks
...sometimes it's hard to keep up
...thank goodness!
...many skiers passed us by
...snow on branches
...riding on shoulders
...friends from Wisconsin
...and of course there was some eating of snow.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

point and shoot

Saturday night, Chris and I had a night out with some of his buddies that were in town, for skiing, from Wisconsin. I haven't been out a lot since ... about...October. Anyway, the wait for a table was two hours. I really didn't think I had too much to drink. I just ordered a few beers. I ate a great meal (orange roughy), had a nice glass of Pinot Noir and then went home feeling fine.

We have a great babysitter and she politely listened to our stories of the evening and even smiled nicely as Chris showed her how he had cleaned the inside of the refrigerator Saturday afternoon. "Look Hannah! Each shelf sparkles - it took me TWO hours!" (Hannah is an obsessive cleaner and apparently he felt she was the only one who would truly appreciate his effort.)

She then filled us in on her evening. She made us feel better about Ella's clinginess lately, "Ella only cried for a minute after you left", and then expanded with lots of compliments about how great our kids are. (She knows we are suckers for that!) "They went right to bed, but Ella started to cry again. They decided that she would feel better if she slept with Harrison." I was completely shocked when she told me this. Ella and Harry have never slept together, and when we have ever tried (on vacation,etc.) it's always a disaster that includes lots of goofing around and kicking. Hannah said that they went right up in Harrison's upper bunk and fell asleep immediately.

I grabbed my camera as I had to capture this moment. The room was pitch dark, and I was standing on a step ladder to get the perfect shot. I remember thinking that I had really centered the shot and got a good one after taking this.

Maybe I should have skipped the wine. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

If I ran the world...

(I need to preface this with a disclaimer – I had a terrible appointment yesterday morning which just reminded me of every awful doctor's experience I've ever had.)

I wish that the medical profession was more service oriented. If it were, maybe things would run more like this:

- On-time appointments would be publicized like Northwest Airlines advertises it’s on-time flights.

- Friendly receptionists and nursing assistants would be the norm, not the exception.

- The little rooms, that the doctor visits you in, would be stylishly decorated, heated and filled with current, intelligent reading materials and snacks.

- Medical practices would not be overbooked, and understaffed, thereby allowing each person directly dealing with patients a chance to read the appropriate chart prior to meeting with “customers.” This would eliminate repeating the same information, that has already been written on at least two different forms, to at least two different people.

- Doctors would all be required to find a bedside manner. Bedside manner defined as: good listener, able to ask open ended questions, sincerely empathetic, speech at a conversational rate – not an auctioneer’s rate.

- Follow up information and appointments would be taken care of by a health care concierge. This person would start a file for you. They would have neatly written notes of everything the doctor told the patient. Any follow-up appointments would be made for the patient. (I have three follow-up appointments to make after yesterday’s appointment, as well as a video to watch about my new medication.)

- Hours for appointments would start as early as 7:00 AM, if the office closes at 5:00 PM, and/or they would go into the evening. This would allow, and encourage, more people to schedule medical “maintenance” into their lives.

I made a promise to my mom. She insisted that I schedule a mammogram. She started asking me to promise her that I would go do this back in October. I kept putting it off and she kept pushing me. I finally scheduled a physical with an internist for mid November. Since I extended my trip to Minnesota, when I was caring for my mom while my dad was in the hospital having heart valve replacement surgery, I had to cancel the appointment. It was on the Monday morning that I was returning to work after two weeks absence. I didn’t think it was appropriate to take off any more time. My mom understood, but continued to push me.

I had my physical this morning. I got weighed. This really got things off to a great start. I have gained back a lot of the weight I lost on Weight Watchers this summer and fall. I blame my busy schedule and my mother’s last months, but I think I just can’t keep up the healthy lifestyle thing. It’s really hard. For my body to stay at the weight I like requires extensive exercise with limited caloric intake. I’m not sure I’m up to doing that forever.

I asked for a mammogram. “Any history of breast cancer?” “How old was your mom when she had it?” “How’s she doing now?” It was a fun conversation.

The doctor looked at my back for abnormal moles and freckles. Just my luck – she found two. “Have you ever had a sunburn?” What kind of question is that? She told me to go find a dermatologist. Now I'm thinking about melanoma.

I also need to have my cholesterol checked.

I came home and cried in Chris’ arms. I’m feeling better now, but between my mom’s death, waiting for my follow-up MRI and the implications that may go along with that, the new “dermatology” issues, some unsettledness at work and the weight gain – I’ve just about had it.

I wish someone would invent diet rum to go with my diet coke. I really think it would be the magic elixir I’m looking for.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Skiing with a five year old

I would have to admit that teaching a five year old is easier than a three year old.
Before our arduous descent, (Harrison went down the mountain - for about an hour - under Chris' arm. He had a much smoother ride than his sister!) the afternoon was actually pretty fun.

Harry's skiing skills improved dramatically, as did Ella's. Both were nervous and timid as they attempted to first ski down the bunny hill. It was a pretty "bunny" bunny hill, though. There was a sign at the bottom of the run listing all the important facts - name of the run, etc. The only fact I remember was the vertical rise - 8 feet. The rise was so shallow that it was hard at times to keep the skis moving!

The great thing, though, is that both kids even went up the T-bar solo after a few runs and gained some confidence. Well...until the blue run fiasco. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 09, 2006

Skiing with a three year old

She's cute, yes, but she's heavy. Everything was going fine until we tried to ski down a couple of blue (intermediate) runs to get to the bottom of the mountain. Our kids are little. They have only skiied three times. This turned out to NOT be a good idea. I skiied with Ella between my legs for almost an hour. She did little to nothing to help me, unless she felt that swinging her skis back and forth was helping me with my rhythm.

My quads ache. I had charley horse type cramps in my feet and worst of all - my biceps were so sore I had trouble lifting my beer at dinner.

Lesson learned - take the gondola down. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 06, 2006

long week

My stress level is still high. Week one back at work is over, though. It was harder in some ways and easier in others. Some of my students have been amazing. I received flowers, cards and hugs. I have a renewed faith in America’s youth.

The house needs so much attention and neither Chris nor I have the time or energy to take care of it. The piles of clothes in our bedroom are really starting to overwhelm me.

I phone my father daily. He is struggling to finish up all the details that are lingering after Mom’s death as well as learn how to take over the financial responsibilities that she used to handle. Two days before she died, she continued to direct all of us. I was sent to buy gift certificates for a few of her closest friends to thank them for their help this past year. My brother, on the other hand, got the hard job of explaining my mother’s accounting system to my dad. At one point, that afternoon, she even got snippy with him when he asked her what she needed him to do – “Just teach him how to do the bills!! That’s all I want you to do!” She was in charge till the very end, but now she’s gone and we’re all trying desperately to adjust to our new roles. My dad is leaving for his condo in Florida next week. I’m hopeful that the sunny climate and change of venue will help his emotional state as nothing I say to him seems to help too much.

Ella is acting out. She had her first time out at preschool yesterday. She screamed at one of her friends. I can imagine how it sounded as she has been screaming at me a lot lately. I can’t blame her, though. Her mom hasn’t been consistent or reliable for some time now. She has seen me cry a lot and I’ve been gone so much the last two months. Our once laid-back little girl has the attitude of a hormonal pre-teen.

To add to this “uplifting” post, my final stressor at this moment is my fear of Multiple Sclerosis again. I’ve had some periods of numbness in my face and my spine over the last few days. I need to schedule a follow up MRI, but I keep putting it off. I’m sure it’s stress related. I know I’m supposed to take this all one day at a time (didn’t I make that rule??), but I’m starting to think that theory sucks! I just want it all to go away.

We’re going skiing tomorrow. I pray the distraction of trying to keep my kids, and myself, from breaking any bones is enough to keep my mind off of all of this.

Monday, January 02, 2006

We tried two brand new winter sports activities. Ice skating on Saturday...

 Posted by Picasa

...snowshoeing on Sunday

I have been wanting to go do some of these things for so long. We live about a mile from an Olymic venue skating rink, but my kids have never been in skates until last Saturday.

I talked about it for a few days, but when Saturday morning arrived I couldn't imagine the energy it would take to get them into their car seats, let alone their winter gear. This past week has been slow and comfortable. The kids and I have been staying home, playing with Christmas toys and doing a lot of drawing. I have been doing a lot of sitting. I haven't run, or gone to my spinning class, since I flew home to be with my mom those last few days. I didn't do laundry last week, nor did I clean much.

Mostly I sit and eat. Or sit and think. Or sit and look at pictures. I'm doing a lot of reflection these days, but don't ask me about resolutions. I don't want to think beyond now.

Chris has been amazing through all of this. He, as well as Ella, seem to have a keen sense of when I am more sad than other times. He hasn't been upset at my lack of productivity lately. The house has been a shambles and he doesn't let it bug him. I am so grateful for my family.

Saturday, as I dragged my ever expanding be-hind to the ice rink, I started to feel better. Harrison, my more negative, apprehensive child, actually laughed the entire time while he attempted to stand on ice in hard boots with thin blades. "Mama! This stuff is sooooo slippery!" It was wonderful. The more he laughed, the more I smiled until I actually laughed with him. Out loud. It wasn't hard. It made me feel better. So much better that I decided I wanted to celebrate New Year's Eve. The kids ate organic whole wheat macaroni (AWFUL) while Chris and I grilled a steak and some tiger shrimp. We made garlic mashed potatoes and a salad. It was wonderful.

One day at a time. Isn't that the expression people talk about when things are sad? I guess that will be my mantra for 2006. I will try to figure out how I am supposed to go back to work after three weeks tomorrow. I will try to figure out how I am supposed to stop thinking about my mom most of my waking hours. I will try to figure out how to stop the image of my mom laying in bed, not breathing, from popping into my mind every few hours. I have a lot to work on. One day at a time.