So…I kinda started this thing. Not a diet thing. More like a plan. I had been unhappy with myself in the past several months, and although I didn’t feel like I had been making such terrible choices, those choices showed up on photos and in the tightness of my clothes and in the fact that when I ran I felt like I was pulling a mack truck behind me. Listen to Your Mother was coming up, as well as summer, and I didn’t want to look back wishing I had taken action instead of just wishing I could make better choices. (I hate saying “I want to lose weight for XX or YY, because I think we should all do things for out health and not for photos, but I guess I need deadlines and motivation and stuff.)
Christian had done some research on something called Carb Nite Solution. I won’t bore you too much with the full explanation here (because I would hate for someone to take my words as medical/dietary advice), but in plain talk, I pretty much cut all carbs and sugars from my diet and try to eat mostly proteins and fats, keeping the carbs under 30 grams per day. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been hard. There are occasional indulgences, which makes it less daunting. But the payoff has been incredible, both in the number on the scale and in how I feel.
So lets run through my first 10 days of reorientation. (Warning: What follows is approximately 1450 words of me babbling about life on the Carb Nite Solution. You’ve been warned.)
Day 1 (Monday) This is exciting! We are doing this! And by we, I mean me.
Day 2 (Tuesday) Day 2! Let’s keep this gravy train going! Only without the gravy. So no gravy on this train. Man, I really want to lick that Nutella off that knife. But I won’t! I’m committed, bitches!
Tuesday evening I met some of our Listen to Your Mother cast members and alumni at the ABGB for happy hour. I asked Christian, “So I guess this means I can’t have a beer?”
My water was delicious.
Day 3 (Wednesday) Day 3 was less exciting. My head was in a fog, and I had a constant headache that wouldn’t go away. I had to consciously remind myself not to pop a few pieces of Pirate Booty into my mouth while making lunches or handing out after school snacks. That evening I met up with my monthly writers’ group, where the hostess had laid out an entire spread of crackers, spinach spanakopita (good Go-o-o-o-o-o-d), banana bread, and carrot cake. “I’m on an ultra low carb plan,” I told her. “Oh, I’m doing low carb too,” she said.” I can’t eat any of this stuff.”
I would’ve popped about 3 dozen of those spanakopita in the old days, AKA last week. But I resisted.
Day 4 (Thursday) Woke up with a headache. Ate breakfast too late (9am). Way too hungry and cranky. Can no longer speak in complete sentences.
When I let myself get too hungry, I feel like I can’t catch up for the rest of the day. I had some errands to run with Zoe, and I forgot to pack a snack. Big mistake. Big time crash. I ended up super low on energy, with a raging headache. It was all I could do to make myself a salad once we got home, but I felt a little better once I ate.
I did some reading, and turns out I had the carb flu, defined by exactly what I was experiencing: headaches, fogginess, crankiness, exhaustion, and general feeling like complete shit. If you’re not prepared for this kind of thing during reorientation, I can see how it would be easy to give up and give into the carbs again. It was truly shitty.
Day 5 (Friday) The girls had been begging Christian all week to take them to school early for breakfast (because Cocoa Puffs), so my morning was significantly easier. I decided to eat breakfast a little earlier in order to stave off the starvation that plagued me Thursday morning and made me want to eat the first person who crossed my path.
Breakthrough: I hardly felt hungry at all on Day 5. Holla! I got my hair done after dropping Zoe off at school, and it took HOURS, and even though I was armed with a serving of almonds for a snack, I didn’t need them. I ate them in the car on the way home though, because those things are damn good. Maybe it was because my body is adjusting, or maybe it was because I didn’t let myself get so incredibly famished in the morning. But I felt…good.
Day 6 (Saturday) Saturday we were out of the house from early morning until late at night. We headed Seaworld for a special VIP breakfast and peek into a newly remodeled sea lion venue. I was in danger of getting too hungry before we were scheduled to eat breakfast at 9, but loading up on coffee helped a little. You’d better believe I piled my plate high with eggs and bacon though. But damn those blueberry muffins looked good.
I knew that theme park food that fell in line with my plan would be hard to come by, so I had to plan carefully. I packed a leftover chicken breast Christian had grilled for me the evening before, a serving of almonds, and a string cheese for lunch. In one of the 83 trips to the potty, I almost mauled a couple of guys carrying trays with burgers and fries. ALMOST. Progress.
And then we headed straight into a birthday party, where the only thing available for me too eat was celery. We were at our dear friends’ house, so of course I could have asked for something or even raided the fridge myself, but I hate bothering people with my speshul dietary neeeeeeeds, so I just chomped on 27 celery sticks. Problem was when the rest of the guests left, we hung around until late, and I was having a hard time resisting that pizza sitting right in front of me. As I snacked on some lunchmeat and cheese, my friend said “Oh! I have meat!” And she directed me to some leftover barbecue.
I was so grateful for her meat.
Day 7 – 9 (Sunday – Tuesday) Just normal days. My new normal, that is. I’m so used to being carb free by now, and I have a small selection of foods to choose from for snacks and meals. It’s second nature to me to just grab a serving of almonds or a cheese stick if I need a snack, instead of mindlessly munching on Pirate Booty or pita chips while scrolling through Facebook on my phone. Everything I eat is intentional (said in completely non-patronizing fashion, because choices are choices).
Day 10 (Wednesday) Oh, sweet Day 10. The day I could indulge a little in the evening. I’ve been looking forward to this all damn day. Come 4pm it was time for me to start snacking and slowly introduce some carbs.
4:21: I pop a piece of Pirate Booty in my mouth. It tastes weird. I’m not sure how I feel about this.
4:30: I eat a piece of toasted Ezekiel Bread with natural peanut butter. Christian watches me intently, like I’m either going to spontaneously combust or start making sweet love to the snack. 15 minutes later I have to go take a nap. NO JOKE.
That evening was Spirit Night at a local restaurant to support our elementary school. Perfect timing. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, fries, and Christian and I split a chocolate milkshake. It was delicious and amazing and I left feeling like I was going to burst. (The restaurant was not that great, but FRIIIIEEEEEESSSSSSSS!)
Before bed I ate a cereal bar. Livin large.
Day 11 (Thursday) Back on the wagon and feeling pretty shitty after the previous night’s carb bender. I felt lethargic and bloated all day. But by Friday I was feeling good again and back to my low carb self. And here we go again until the next carb nite, which was scheduled for the day of our Listen to Your Mother show (because wine) (and cake).
So. The takeaway from this whole thing?
- I love carbs and carbs love me. They love me so much they love to stick to my body in all the wrong places.
- I’ve now been on the plan for 3 weeks and have lost 8 pounds. And I feel fantastic.
- I’m hardly hungry in between meals, as opposed to when I would snack on carbs and feel hungry again an hour later.
- I don’t necessarily care as much about the calorie count, but honestly? I almost never exceed my allotted calorie for the day (which My Fitness Pal calculated based on my fitness/weight loss goals).I track everything in My Fitness Pal, mainly so I can keep track of my carbs, fat, and protein intake.
- This plan is not for everyone. When people hear I cut all carbs and sugars, they think I am crazy. *I* think I am crazy. But I know I didn’t feel great when I was reaching for carby things.
- 8 pounds is not a lot, but it has made a huge difference in how I look and feel and how my clothes fit. I know how easy it could be to put those pounds back on, and that’s motivation for me to keep up with these choices.
This post is sponsored by YOXO.
Please excuse my frantic Listen to Your Mother planning to bring you an actual, honest-to-goodness blog post! About toys!
A few weeks ago the good people at YOXO (pronounced “yock-so,” in case you were uttering some intelligible, guttural sounds for several days like I was) sent me an invitation to test out some of their building sets. Gift card in hand, we headed over to Target on a mission to secure one owl, one robot, and one fly.
In case you were wondering, the order is Rachel, Claire, and Zoe.
We are going through a serious building phase. After years of anxiety that my kids would never really pick up on building toys like LEGO, Tinker Toys, etc, they’ve totally proved me wrong in the past year. And they build some of the weirdest contraptions. (I really wanted to use another word there that starts with sh and ends with it, but, you know, sponsored post and all.)
When we got home, it was time to YOXO. (YOXO isn’t technically a verb yet, but stay with me. It will be.) Immediately when we opened the packages, the girls started building. It’s a gun! It’s a car! It’s a …thing! With a thing on top! And it has antlers!
The pieces are made from thick, sturdy recycled wood pulp and fit together through various slits. Some sets come with cardboard tubes, but the great thing about YOXO is that you can add to your constructions with things like cardboard cereal boxes,like on our owl below, or empty toilet paper rolls (because we are never short of those. I know you feel me on this one.).
Me, ever the uncreative YOXO-er (I can build a square brick house in Minecraft, no more, no less), I went through the instructions with Zoe to build her owl, and Rachel to build her robot, and each one took mere minutes. The owl was later disassembled for more creative play, but the robot guards the playroom, in case any of our Littlest Pet Shops decide to go rogue on a random Tuesday.
I love how Rachel’s shirt makes it look like the robot is wearing Hammer pants.
It’s not often that I am just flat out impressed by a new toy, but I have to say, I was flat out impressed by YOXO. It just thrills me to watch my girls jump in and immediately start creating, and I love that they are encouraged to add other materials to make their creation just right. I can see their little brains working as they put together pieces and say, “Look! Can you tell what is it?” and I squint and tilt my head and say, “YES. Yes I can.” And they say, “It’s a ladybug named Leema!” And I say, “Of course it is.”
The best part – other than the learning and the building and the molding of small, genius minds – is that these toys are recyclable and eco friendly, and are designed to create little to no waste. No more guilt about throwing out a bunch of plastic crap! It’s also refreshing to see toys that aren’t heavily licensed or promoting the latest movie. The girls had so much fun playing with them, they’re now on my radar for upcoming friends’ birthday presents. We YOXO’d, and we want our friends to YOXO too.
And when it’s raining or when it’s like 8 billion degrees this summer and we are hibernating in the air conditioning, or maybe when it’s just a Thursday, I’m just going to dump all of the pieces on the floor and scream, “YOXO!”
To find out more about YOXO, visit their website.
As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I share with you what I’m streaming on Netflix. What should I watch next?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m wary of new shows. I guess I’ve been burned too many times by a show that had promise, but never materialized into anything outstanding. Or I’m just too lazy to get invested before I know for sure that it’s worth my time. But the new Netflix show Bloodline keeps coming up on my menu screen, so one evening when I was home alone I just said, “What the hell,” and hit play.
See here’s the thing. I just finished Friday Night Lights. Like JUST finished it. I can’t imagine how the people who watched it when it was actually on the air felt, being invested in the show for 5 years. After months of living in Dillon, Texas and immersing myself into all things small town high school football, I felt like I had to say goodbye to members of my family. (Except you Julie Taylor. You were the most terrible character until the last season.) (And you too, Becky Sproles. I wanted to love you for your curly hair – girls with curls are so underrepresented on TV! – but you were just plain annoying.)
I was hesitant to watch Bloodline because, well…I’m just not ready for Coach Taylor to NOT be Coach Taylor. What if this John Rayburn guy was an asshole? What if he wasn’t nice to his wife? What if he had a terrible non-Texas accent? No actor wants to be typecast, and I’m sure Kyle Chandler (charming, handsome Kyle Chandler, who happens to be a volunteer firefighter in Dripping Springs, TX, mere MINUTES away from me) would love to experiment with his acting chops once in a while. But I’m still missing my Coach.
I’m three episodes in, and I’m liking it. The show does for the Florida Keys what FNL did for Texas: it captures the essence of the environment so you feel like you’re there. There are deep, dark secrets swirling around the Rayburn family that get uncovered a little bit more with each chapter. John swears more than Coach, and his wife – played by Jacinda Barrett, who, if you’re from my generation, you’ll remember from The Real World London, back when The Real World was more than just a bunch of horny, drunk teenagers – is no Tami Taylor. But let’s face it, there’s only one Tami Taylor.
John Rayburn is not an asshole. He’s a good guy. You’ll like him. I don’t remember if it was the first or second episode, but at one point John (Kyle Chandler) is standing on the beach, and he looks at his brother and says, with a hint of that southern drawl, “Hey. You alright?”
I see you in there, Coach Taylor.
I received a traffic ticket the other day. Okay, in November. I considered just paying the fine, because I don’t have time for defensive driving. But the fine for running a stop sign is like a million dollars, give or take, so online defensive driving, here I come!
Online defensive driving courses are not for the faint of heart. Or for the speedy of readers. Each page is timed so you can’t proceed until the clock runs out. This is AGONIZING. I don’t need 59 seconds to read 3 paragraphs on something that is common sense anyway.
But I guess they assume people who overlook signs in their own neighborhood probably need a refresher or two on what a stop sign actually looks like. Fair enough.
So if you too need to spend an agonizing amount of time completing a driver safety course, I’ve put together a list of some activities to fill your time while waiting for the timer to run out. Sure, these activities MAY actually cause you to lose track of time and MAY actually cause the 6 – 8 hour course to take over 14 hours, but that is neither here nor there. What’s important is that you have stuck it to the man and defeated boredom.
How to pass the time during online defensive driving:
Clean out your inbox of the 5000+ unread junk emails.
Leave a positive Amazon review for that thing you loved.
Leave a negative review for that thing you didn’t love.
Go through your entire Amazon history for the past two years and look for things to leave reviews on.
Realize that life through your Amazon account is not exactly exciting.
Roll out your aching back from sitting in your chair for 87 hours.
Write a listicle.
Perfect your Count Down Announcer voice as you anxiously await hitting the NEXT button.
Fold the laundry.
I’m just kidding. Surf the internet.
Search Google for the perfect meme to leave as a comment on that person’s Facebook status.
Give the children free reign over the pantry. And the fridge. And the sprinkles. Have a Sprite! Yes, we will take Sonic and Draculaura on a wagon ride to the Texaco for gum if FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, you let me finish this before 5pm. Because otherwise there will be a warrant out for Mommy’s arrest.
Think long and hard about what you’ve done to deserve this. Yes, you ran a stop sign. The same stop sign you have stopped at approximately 1047 times in your own neighborhood. The same stop sign at which you constantly have to remind your husband to actually stop.
Blame it on your 5-year-old, because if she hadn’t been claiming over and over and over that she was wasting away from hunger not even 2 minutes from your house, you would have been a tad less distracted.
Fall into a pit of despair. When will the module on traffic signals end? WHEN?
Smash your computer because you are THISCLOSE to your deadline, and you didn’t realize that you had to wait for the certificate to arrive via carrier pigeon.
Await imminent arrest.
Happy defensive driving!
On Saturday I am planning on getting up at the buttcrack of dawn, driving out to the Hyatt Lost Pines in Bastrop, and running 6.2 miles. Never mind that I am horribly untrained for this race. Never mind that I haven’t run more than 3.5 miles in the past 5 weeks. Never mind that every time I talk about running, it’s nothing but negativity and excuses.
This training season has not been what I expected. After dropping out of the half marathon due to a great deal of stress (that was leading to depression) trying to fit the training into my life, I felt a huge sense of relief. I could manage the 10k easily! Then the kids and I all got sick and I THEN was laid up for over a week with terrible neck pain, and before I knew it, it had been over a month since my last run.
I didn’t start running consistently again until late last week. One week of training.
But I’m committed. I thought about stepping down again to the 5k, but you know what? Whatever. I’m going to run this damn 10k. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be a PR from my last (and only) 10k. It may actually be pretty terrible. I’ll probably walk a lot. I’ll stop to take pictures, because the bluebonnets on the trail are out of this world. But most of all, I’m depending on some race day adrenaline, some comfy socks, and a kick ass playlist to get me through so I can rush home, eat some cake at my own children’s birthday party, and then take a nap.
I haven’t published a running playlist in a while, so here’s a list of the songs that are most heavily in rotation on my runs.
And I’ll see you all at the finish line!
Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap
Soul Meets Body – Death Cab for Cutie
Reunion – M83
Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire. When is Arcade Fire going to show up on my street with their guitars and drums and violins and general badassery? WHEN.
I Love It – Icona Pop
Time Bomb – Old 97s
Chicago – Surfjan Stevens
I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness. Make fun of me if you will. There are not enough words to describe how much I love this song.
Until next time!
If you’ve known my family for any length of time, you’ve most likely heard this story. When we were younger, every once in a while my sister and I would have sleepovers at my grandparents’ house. This was very exciting, because that meant we got to sleep on the canopy bed, or as we liked to call it, “the bed with the roof on it.” One evening in particular, I was being a little, shall we say, resistant to spending the night. Mimi did her best to try and coax me to stay. I couldn’t have been more than 5 at the time. “We’ll have hamburgers!” she said. Nope. “We’ll make popcorn and watch a movie!” Nope. “Ice cream!” They pretty much threw every kid’s dream at me, until I finally had had enough. “I don’t want hamburgers, I don’t want ice cream, and I don’t want to sleep on that bed with the roof on it!”
I can still hear her chuckle at the end of telling that story.
One time when she picked me up from preschool, I convinced her that it was okay for a friend to come home with me to her house. I mean, I thought it was okay. What else did we need? Being the days of word of mouth, she of course assumed I – an adorable and presumably trustworthy four-year-old – had cleared this with the appropriate parties. I learned a great lesson that day. One, bringing home random children from school is NOT okay. And two, my grandmother had the patience and grace of a saint.
She taught us manners with safety pin chains. She let me wrap my own Christmas presents in nondescript boxes. She tried to teach me how to crochet, but unfortunately, I was a lost cause. “Clean up as you go” is something I can still hear her saying as I notice my own habit of leaving every single dish and ingredient strewn haphazardly about while cooking.
Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of some kind of influence or impression she has left upon me. What would Mimi do? She would welcome everyone she could into her home and into her heart. She would prepare a meal for a sick neighbor or church friend. She would extend an invitation to a surly, introverted teenager to help her come decorate her Christmas tree. When I think about how I want my children and grandchildren to see me as they age, I could only hope that they have half the admiration and respect I hold for her.
In a poem from Helen Keller:
“What we have once enjoyed
we can never lose;
All that we love deeply,
becomes a part of us.”
Mimi will always be a part of me, her empathy, kindness, grace, and humility guiding me throughout my days. And while I miss her terribly, it brings me great comfort to know that she is surrounded my love up in heaven, watching over us.
For Mimi, you now sit upon the bed with the highest roof. And I hope to sit with you some day again.
• • • • •
I was honored to read the above words at my grandmother’s funeral. It was hard and sad. That evening as I nodded off to sleep, I would see her face and hear her voice, only to snap awake and find myself in a hotel room, Christian and his iPad the only others in the room.
The next day, my parents and sister offered to watch the kids while Christian and I stopped by to visit my grandfather before heading back to Austin. He’s still at the rehab center recuperating from a broken leg. The same rehab center where he once could wheel himself to the room next door and visit with his wife. I know the service was hard on him. He and my Mimi were kindred spirits – always together, physically and emotionally. It’s hard for me to envision one without the other.
After the service on Thursday, Christian and I had poured over an old scrapbook that had belonged to my grandfather’s older sister. We told him about some of the photos we saw: him in his military uniform around 1945 (age 20), early photos of him and my grandmother in the 50s, family photos of the two of them with my mother and uncle in the 60s. We jogged his memory, and he told us story after story from his life. How joined the Merchant Marines after he was turned away from the Navy due to asthma he later wished he had never admitted to. How he and my grandmother traveled by train to Louisiana on their honeymoon and got burned to a crisp on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain and had to endure a painful, single-berth train ride back to Dallas. How he sat in a parking lot in his patrol car on the day Kennedy was shot, listening to the entire ordeal unfold on the radio, the only on-duty Dallas Police Officer for miles, since almost everyone else was downtown looking for the shooter.
Before we knew it, two hours had flown by. His dinner had come. We needed to get on the road and find dinner for our own children. There wasn’t enough time.
“If you have anything you want to do,” he told us, “do it now. Time goes by fast. So fast.” And I wondered what it was like to have such a life to look back on, so many stories to tell. My grandfather has led a marvelous life. A significant part of it has ended, but he’s still here. I honestly don’t remember the last time we had this kind of opportunity to just sit and talk with him, not just surface conversations about the kids or life in Austin. We weren’t there for an obligatory check in. We were there to see him. And I hope he felt seen.
Because our elders, they need to be seen. Time goes by too fast. And they are still a part of us.
Thank you all for being here and reading my words. xoxo
That is the collective sigh of everyone here in Austin this weekend as we checked our weather apps to see numbers in the 70s. You’re welcome, SXSW-goers, for this beautiful weather. No matter that just a few days ago we were suffering from freezing rainy weather and hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. WE DID THIS JUST FOR YOU.
This guy turned 37 on Friday. We celebrated with lots of trampoline time and the ugliest chocolate cake that ever caked. No, Claire is not bouncing 6 feet into the air. Just on a swing that swings her much higher than that so no big deal OMG PLEASE DON’T LET GO.
It’s insane how much we love spring here. We unearth ourselves from mounds of blankets and fleeces and hoodies that we pile on when the temps fall below 50. We can go outside again! Scooter rides before 10am!
But the real reason we relish so much in spring is FEAR. Because we know that before we can say Oh my GOD can you believe this weather? we’ll sweating and complaining about the heat that we experience 6 months out of the year, every year, yet we continue to complain about it like we have never experienced it before. Every heat wave is a new experience.
Us: WHY IS IT SO FREAKING HOT?
Us again: Isn’t it this hot every summer?
Us: BUT IT’S APRIL.
Us again: …..
But for the time being we’re enjoying this amazing weather. And so we head out to do fun stuff like climb the 8 million steps up Mount Bonnell, and we realize that everyone else kinda had the same idea. Austin + good weather = ALL THE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES. (Because seriously, we don’t go out of doors in the summer.)
Oh, look at my quaint little cottage with its Spanish tile roof and landscaped gardens and 9 car garages and infinity pools and seriously, WHO LIVES HERE.
Every spring I feel this itch, like we must go out and do all the things. I want to spend all day out in this glorious city, listening to music and exploring and shopping and eating and drinking. And then I remember that I have children. When Rachel and Claire were really little, we had them on the strictest of schedules, which is what we, as parents, needed at the time. We needed to know when they would sleep and when they would eat. Mainly because I needed to know when I could sleep and when I could eat. And now that they’re older, we’re realizing that we have totally shot ourselves in the foot with this. I mean, life has definitely gotten easier. Christian and I actually ate a leisurely breakfast at the kitchen table Saturday morning while the kids finished up a show, then moved on to drawing and making books and playing on their own. It’s like we can breathe again and having three kids is becoming somewhat enjoyable. You know, as long as they know when they will eat and when they will sleep.
So that’s not so conducive to spending entire days out and about with no agenda.
Spring makes me want to sit on a patio and drink beer all night. Only again, children and responsibility, and foosball with 5 and 7-year-olds only goes so far when the handles are at punch-you-in-the-eye-level.
It’s important to note that all food in the photo below is made from doughnuts. Chicken fingers? Battered with doughnut dough. Hamburger? Doughnuts for buns. Beer? Okay, no doughnuts there, but still good. Happy birthday, birthday boy.
So for the time being we’re spending as much time outside as possible. You get a scooter ride, and YOU get a scooter ride, and YOU get a scooter ride!
We’ll venture out this spring, because we always do, and we’ll just make sure to pack all the snacks and make it fun, and maybe we’ll try some things we haven’t tried before, visit some places we’ve been wanting to go for years. Because nothing makes me love this city more than springtime, and I want my kids to love it here, not just live here.
But today, trampoline tango.
So that was a mildly boring wrap-up of our weekend. Nothing says “I’m a serious blogger looking to attract more readers!” than talking about the weather, amirite?
I am thinking of renaming this blog Genie in Pain, or Pain in a Blog. I have been feeling very old and crotchety and like my body is failing me, but in my mind I still feel like a youngster, so obviously I am too young to be falling apart. Is this how I’m going to feel when I’m 74? Like a teenager in a creaky, leaky body?
After taking a few days off running and dealing with a case of not-strep strep, my neck started to hurt.
It went from mild stiffness to unbearable in a matter of days, with no clear cause. By Sunday afternoon I had to completely check out of all things that involved sitting, standing, general holding up of the head, et cetera, et cetera. So basically life in general.
So here’s where my mind went during this increasing neck pain:
Thursday: Huh. My neck’s a little stiff. That’s weird. I don’t remember doing anything that would agitate it. *Zones out on laptop*
Friday: Hm. Stiffness is back again. That’s the last time I do an extra load of dishes.
Saturday: OMG. I have meningitis.
Saturday again: Okay, probably not meningitis. But definitely something.
Saturday, continued: Says here that a sore neck is one of the weird symptoms of strep. That’s it! My negative rapid test was wrong, and the Zpack didn’t kick it! That urgent care doctor was wrong. I feel smugly satisfied. Dr. Google and I are unstoppable.
Saturday evening: Watching TV is hard. Still not completely taking meningitis off the table.
Sunday: Okay, we are veering into “I cannot move my head” territory. Pain moving into shoulder. Super tender spot in front near collar bone.
Still Sunday: I GOT IT! I have swollen lymph nodes from the strep that I didn’t have that the antibiotics didn’t get rid of! I am teeming with infection!
Sunday never ends: CANNOT. OW. MOVE. OW. HEAD. OW.
Monday: Visit to general practitioner. No strep. No swollen nodes. Insinuation that I need a massage. Conspiracy abounds. Hands over anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxer.
Monday, continued: TEARS. (Meningitis?)
Monday still: Anti-inflammatory not working. Pain in back of neck + pain down arm = Dr. Google has diagnosed me with a herniated disc in my neck. MORE TEARS. Fantasize about life before neck pain, AKA last Wednesday.
Monday night: MUSCLE RELAXER, Y U NO WORK. (tears) (no sleep) (more tears)
Tuesday morning: Zombie.
Tuesday morning still: Only been up an hour, and my aching neck is exhausted from holding up my head. Find sweet relief from a mountain of pillows and a neck pillow. Instantly fall asleep. Dream about a life with no head compressing down on my weary neck.
Tuesday I went in to see my physical therapist and pitched him my disc theory. Knowing how long it took me to get my back into the pain-free zone, all I could do was cry thinking about it. I was ready for black market steroid shots.
But after some jabbing and kneading and me cursing, he determined that the chances of it being a disc issue were slim to none. My general practitioner was right. My muscles were just so completely knotted up around my nerves. I practically cried with relief.
After more kneading and massaging (him) and swearing (me), I left the office feeling worse than when I went in. But after taking my drugs, propping myself up on the couch and dozing for an hour or so while the kids went from the trampoline to the table to emptying out the pantry of all things edible, I got up feeling like a million bucks. Okay, maybe half a million. But I could stand up and move around without wanting to die, so that’s a start. I went in for more therapy today, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that light is not a herniated disc, nor is it meningitis.
In short, new life motto: AT LEAST IT’S NOT MENINGITIS! And it’s probably time I rid myself of my distaste for massages.
There’s a story behind this frog.
Months and months ago Rachel fell in love with this frog at Barnes & Noble. His pink feet and flowery fur made it an odd choice for my girl who prefers ninjas and superheroes. She latched on to him and begged to take him home, but since we’re not in the habit of buying new toys for no reason, our answer was always an unfailing not today or maybe when your jar is full. Each girl has a small mason jar in which we place small, colorful pom poms for jobs well done – showing kindness, taking responsibility without having to be asked, or for other unsavory tasks we have bribed them to do. When someone’s jar is full, she gets a small prize. Ideally it teaches them to work towards a goal, but really it’s just the perfect solution to those random wants we’ve been trying to stave off buying.
Every time we visited a Barnes & Noble she hunted for the flower frog and asked to take him home. And each time we reminded her that she needed to wait until her jar was full. Only when her jar was full, she would get distracted by the instant gratification of something else – a Sonic the Hedgehog plush, a Ninja Turtle action figure. Flower frog was always put on the back burner.
For Christmas each girl received a Barnes & Noble gift card from my grandparents. They are in their late 80s and mostly housebound. My grandmother rarely left the house, and even the smallest outing exhausted her. I knew it was likely that the gift was actually procured by my parents on their behalf.
Rachel immediately recognized the store’s logo and her eyes widened.
“I can get my flower frog?”
So later that day we visited our local Barnes & Noble, the one where she had first seen the frog. Only there was no frog. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It had probably been the better part of a year since she had first fallen in love with it. In its place sat a new line of brightly colored plush animals, similar, but not quite the same. We scoured the kids’ section. I dug through a clearance bin of random animals. No frog.
“Is there something I can help you find?” an employee offered as I scattered plush characters around her station. I debated even accepting the offer, knowing it was a long shot. But I described the frog as best I could.
“Ah! I know exactly what you’re talking about.” Only they didn’t have one there. And she didn’t know what it was called. She was more than happy to call other stores for me, but we needed the damn frog’s name before she could even look it up in the inventory.
She listened patiently as I explained how Rachel had had her eye on that frog for months and months. And now that she actually had money to get it, I feared it was a lost cause.
But this woman wasn’t giving up on us. She scoured the internet for an image of the correct frog as I searched on my phone for the same. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of “flowered plush frogs” on the internet. But we finally found him. His name was Nina, and he might not actually be a him. And as a bonus, he was on clearance for $6.98.
I listened to her on the phone with a store across town, describing the item, and explaining to the other employee that yes, she knows they don’t normally place clearance items on hold, but this was a special circumstance. I wanted to cry and hug her for her unfailing kindness, but I settled on a sincere “thank you” and assured her that she had made my daughter’s day. I wish I had gotten her name. We trekked to the other store and picked up our new family member.
The Barnes & Noble employee’s kindness stays with me to this day. She may say she was just doing her job, but I’ve worked retail. I know that the times you are inspired to go above and beyond are few and far between. She didn’t know me or my daughter. It’s not the kind of place where they remember people who come in every 2 months or so.
My grandmother passed away a few days ago. Other than spending most of the day in a fog after I heard, I haven’t processed it much, and I doubt I will until her memorial service. She had fallen ill around Christmas time, was hospitalized, and then released to a rehabilitation center until she was strong enough to go home. Only then my grandfather fell and broke his leg. And he was sent to the rehabilitation center as well,
We traveled up to Dallas about a month ago to visit them both. They would often go back and forth between each other’s neighboring rooms, the nurses wheeling my grandfather into her room for breakfast, or her into his room for dinner. Knowing that they had this time together was oddly comforting, even if it wasn’t ideal. I worried about how they would cope when released and allowed to go back home. But a nagging feeling tugged at me that she wouldn’t be going back home.
Not long after we returned to Austin, I sent her an envelope containing a few drawings the girls had made. On a blank card featuring a lone leaf blowing in the breeze, I tearfully wrote her the words I could never say out loud – how much she meant to me, what an amazing example she and Pop have set for my own marriage. I had hoped that she would receive it and that someone could read it to her, even if it was while she slept. But I don’t know if anyone did.
Flower frog has been named Froggy, and he and Rachel go on many adventures together. I never got to tell her the story. I wanted her to know that the gift she gave – whether she actually “gave” it or not is irrelevant – was used for something special. I wanted to tell her that Froggy has a special place in our home now, and a special place in my heart.
I want her to know how much I miss her.