Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Easy On, Not Easy Off

I am sure I've mentioned on this blog how incredibly fortunate I am that I have not had issues with my weight. I have never had to seriously diet, and simply eat as I usually do and keep active to maintain my weight. Now? Well...

Back in January I was diagnosed with a condition called Hashimoto's disease.

Sounds terrible, doesn't it?

It's actually so NOT terrible that I forgot to tell my dad I had it. It's basically a thyroid condition in which my body attacks my own thyroid (don't you know it's one of your own?!) and prevents it from creating the hormones my body needs to operate at optimal efficiency. While there isn't much doctors can do to keep my body from attacking the thyroid, it's easily treated with thyroid hormone replacement drugs.

Symptoms of Hashimoto's include fatigue, irregular bowel movements, weight gain and irritability. The only symptom I had was irritability (someone hand mama a drink!) so I was somewhat surprised when this diagnosis came back. I began taking the thyroid meds and the irritability got better. Who knows if that's actually related to the thyroid condition, maybe it's related to my kids not standing on my last nerve.

Then I developed that pesky third symptom: weight gain.

I managed to pack on 10 pounds in 6 months. Me, who has never in my life gained weight unless I was growing a baby.

What. The. Hell.

I managed to gain this weight during my most active time of year; summer. I trained a minimum of 20 miles of skating each week for at least 8 weeks while preparing for the NorthShore Inline marathon, not to mention a couple of 5ks, running around with the kids, and normal crazy summertime stuff, including going to the pool wearing a swimsuit. A swimsuit, I say!

What is going to happen when I start hibernating in a couple of months?

This is not "toning up" weight; there is nothing "tone" about a muffin top hanging out over the top of my pants. My pants which are now too tight which I refuse to replace because I do NOT wear the next size up, I don't care how comfortable they are! Seriously, who can afford to gain this kind of weight? I certainly don't have money to spend on a brand new wardrobe.

I went back to the endocrinologist and they agreed -- yep, I've gained a surprising amount of weight in a short time frame. They are doing another screening and expect to find that my thyroid production has reduced again due to continual antibody attacks (again, it's YOU, what are you doing, antibodies?) and that they'll need to increase my thyroid dosage.

This does not make the weight I have already gained come off magically. It just means I should stop gaining weight.

Guess what takes the weight off? Taking in fewer calories than you burn.

*Simmer. Fume.*


So I have begun counting calories, a good first step to determining what I'll do next. Because I will tell you what I won't do: diet. I won't follow some plan that I can only actually follow for a few weeks or months and then will eventually go back to my "regular" eating in which I'll put the weight back on that I just took off. I would rather adjust my daily intake to something I can stick with and track my activity to make sure I'm burning more than I'm ingesting.

I've only just begun but I can already tell you one of my guilty pleasures that I'll be saying good-bye to: Caribou. Fare thee well, oh medium skim mochas with Guittard dark chocolate and whipped cream! How I love thee, but alas, you are too bad for me. (340 calories, yowza.)

I may update this blog again with progress, I may not. In the big scheme of things, it's really not that important. There are people out there who set for themselves much more daunting weight-loss goals, who wish to lose 20, 50, even 100 pounds to get their health back. I bow to them in admiration for the commitment and willpower that it takes to set and reach those goals. Now THAT'S an achievement. 
So while I've got one goal ahead of me, I'll look back and reflect on one goal I've already achieved this year. 
The final 100 meters of the inline marathon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kinda Proud. A Little.

Okay, so I don't plan on getting a tattoo anytime soon, like my husband did to commemorate his qualifying for the Boston marathon.

But I am kinda proud of my recent accomplishment of completing an inline skating marathon. So I commemorated it by buying a couple of magnetic bumper stickers for my car.

I couldn't find a sticker that put the skating and the 26.2 together, so I did the best I could.
Left side.

Right side.
"Real" marathoners might be offended that I claim to have done a full 26.2 when I skated it instead of running it.

Tough shit.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Marissa Time

Lindsey is at a friend's slumber party tonight. The perfect opportunity for Wayne and I to get special time with just Marissa, our second child. Our "ignored" child. Our "I don't get as much time with you as Lindsey gets" child.

We celebrated by going out to one of Marissa's new favorite restaurants, Olive Garden. She got to order anything she wanted. She talked to us whenever she wanted, with no interruptions from an older sister who also wanted to tell us the latest news.

She ate as much as she wanted, and holy cow, that child can eat.

Best of all, when we got home she got to play with her toys all by herself, and she is amazing at entertaining herself (and us). She sat and sang and played for an hour or more until we finally had to say it was bedtime. She puts vibrato into her voice when she sings, and it is adorable. She makes up songs with silly words, and it is precious.

She got kisses and kisses and kisses galore.

What a wonderful evening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

We are Hard-Wired

We are all products of our environment. Or are we?

My sister and I often talk about how different we are, yet we grew up in the same family. "Isn't it strange?" we both laugh, we can't believe sometimes that we came from the same set of parents. Clearly, some of those differences are hard-wired into us.

I am finding the same in my two girls, and it is fascinating.

Great example:

One of the expectations of Lindsey and all her other 3rd grade classmates is that they will read independently for 20 minutes every night. Each evening Lindsey records what she read, how many pages, and one of us has to sign it.

This is not a hard task for Lindsey -- she LOVES to read. Her reading list of books she wants to tackle next is longer than mine. She's got the Laura Ingalls Wilder set, the C.S. Lewis "Chronicles of Narnia" set, and now she has discovered Roald Dahl, author of "James and the Giant Peach," and is currently picking up every Roald Dahl book she can get her hands on.

The first night this instruction and the corresponding chart came home Lindsey couldn't wait to start filling it out. Lindsey wanted to use a timer to track her minutes so she could accurately record how much she reads.

"Mom," she calls, "Set the timer for 25 minutes."

"25 minutes? But you only have to read for 20."

"I know, but I want to do more than that. Set it for 25."

What is it in her that makes her, at age 8, want to exceed her teacher's expectations? We didn't tell her she had to do more, she set that goal for herself. Is it because she loves reading so much? Is it because she wants to please her teacher? Or is she an over-achiever, who always wants to go above the standards?

We'll have to watch for other clues in her behavior as to what's motivating her. In the meantime, I am fascinated by learning how my kids are hard-wired.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Underpromise, Overdeliver

That was one of our mantras in the client service world: you will always exceed your clients' expectations if you underpromise and overdeliver, no matter the product. Works for me in business and perhaps also in life.

Take this past weekend, for instance.

Months ago I signed up for the NorthShore Inline Marathon to be held in Duluth, MN on September 17th. It's a marathon on inline skates. And in case you don't know, a marathon by definition is 26.2 miles. There is no such thing as a 10-mile marathon. If it's 10-miles long, it's a race but not a marathon. If it's 13.1 miles, it's a half-marathon. So I always find it funny when I tell people my husband (or I) are training for a marathon and they ask how far that particular marathon is. Same as the other marathons: 26.2 miles.

I digress.

I trained for it. Kind of. I tried to log about 20 miles per week over the course of the summer. I felt silly when my skating miles were put up against those of others I know who are training and they logged loads more miles than me. Because, of course, they are running, not skating; their miles are infinitely more difficult than mine, and they are logging twice as many as I am. God I'm a wimp, I thought.

I went on a few long skates, my longest being 22.8 miles which I completed in about 2 hours. I did the math: if I had to complete 26.2 miles that means I would finish in around 2 hrs and 15 mins. Works for me. And I will not feel wimpy about this, I told myself. It may not be as difficult as running a marathon, but it depends on your point of view. I heard lots of people (veteran runners included) tell me they could not imagine being on skates at all, much less covering that kind of ground while staying upright on wheels.

I signed up for Wave 5, for those who expected to finish between 2:11 and 2:20.

Except I didn't.

I finished in 1 hr 58 mins 22 seconds. My average speed was a little over 13 mph.

I surprised myself in a good way, and that feels great. I was really, really happy with my time. I wouldn't have been if I had expected to finish under 2 hours and did so. I would've just met my expectations. Instead, I exceeded them.

Maybe that's just wrong -- set the bar low so you can get over it. But I don't feel like I set the bar incredibly low, and it was grounded in data (per previous training).

I actually had energy at the end of the race; I passed lots of people the last 4 miles, I was so thrilled to be near the end. I probably could've gone faster the whole way, but I didn't want to chance a faster pace at the beginning only to peter out at the end.

Best of all, I had fun. I met fantastic people. And I got to know my co-worker, Becky, much better, as she was gracious enough to let me stay at her house the night before.

If you know me you know I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, to pat myself on the back. But I was really proud of this accomplishment. It felt GREAT.

I will be signing up again for next year. This was too much fun not to do it again.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Comfort Zone? What Comfort Zone?

Image from http://www.gosmellthecoffee.com/
The CEO of my former employer LOVED pushing people out of their comfort zones. He was always asking more of those around him, be it staff, vendors, even (or should I say "especially") clients. He encourages people to stretch themselves, to try new things, and then they'd get hooked on that feeling they'd get when they succeeded at something completely out of their box. It's one of the reasons why people love him -- he somehow convinces people that change is good, and that they have talents that can be used in more ways than currently being used.

I have determined that even though I am nearly two years into my new gig at Gillette Children's, I am still outside of my comfort zone.

It happened when someone on my staff asked me a question related to the work I used to do. The conversation went from, "Are there lists available with this kind of information?" to a discussion about statistical modeling, the effectiveness of behavioral selects over demographic selects, and so on and so forth into all kinds of industry jargon.

I couldn't believe how quickly and easily I spewed information that's in my head from the work that I used to do but hadn't for nearly 2 years. It was easy. It was instinctive.

It was comfortable.

That's when I realized it -- what I do nearly every day here at Gillette is out of my comfort zone.

What are good incentives for our employee giving campaign? What worked in the past? Let's see what we can come up with.

How do we measure the success of a stewardship event for major gift prospects?  I don't know off the top of my head. Let's find out.

Which is the best month to host a fundraising event? Let me do some research on that and get back to you.

And guess what? I'm loving it.

I am learning new things every day, and expanding my experience to include new "key skills" that weren't on my résumé previously. I am glad to be in a place where I can dabble in all kinds of projects I didn't have direct experience in but have the skills to take on.

Guess what's happening to my comfort zone? It's getting larger. And that's a good thing.

Graphic from JewelDiamondTaylor: http://www.donotgiveup.net/

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sometimes I Reach My Limit

I have heard it said often: raising girls or boys are two totally different experiences. Girls tend to need more emotional support, while boys tend to run roughshod on the home with their activity. Don't bother getting any new furniture until those boys are teenagers, it'll just get ruined. At least that's how the stereotypes go.

We thought my eldest was our emotional one, and used to jokingly call our youngest "our boy," because she was so emotionally resilient, not prone to burst into tears at the slightest provocation like our eldest.

And then our eldest continued to grow and mature, while our youngest reached the age when the eldest used to be incredibly sensitive, and the tables turned.

Take Sunday.

It began at the breakfast table, when Marissa asked me to put butter and syrup on her pancakes while she used the bathroom. So I did and I also cut her pancake up, like she usually asks me to do. She returns to the table, pushes her plate away and refuses to eat her pancake because I cut it up when she didn't ask me to. Fine. So I take the pieces of pancake and split them between Lindsey's and my plates, and give her another two pancakes, which I put butter and syrup on and give back to her.

She looks at me. "Cut my pancakes, please."

"But you wouldn't eat the other ones that I did cut up," I say.

"That's because I didn't ask you to do it. But I'm asking you now," she says.

I look at her. "Figure it out, kid, I'm not cutting your pancakes."

She ate her eggs, not the pancakes. Because I cut the ones she didn't ask me to, and wouldn't cut up the ones she wanted me to.

It continued throughout the day. She got mad because she wanted to play at the bottom of the stairs but Lindsey already was, even though Marissa had been playing happily somewhere else. She insisted in reading books loudly two feet away from where Lindsey was playing quietly, and got mad when Lindsey asked her to move (I managed to convince her to read with me in my bedroom). She resolutely refused my offer to help her get dressed, then cried when she wanted me to help her two minutes later and she couldn't find me because I'd gone downstairs.

Hard to believe this little girl can be so demanding.
The last one of the day came at bedtime, when she sat down and cried because I refused to change the clean sheets that had been put on the day before for her blue polka dot sheets because she "didn't want to have the same sheets over and over and over."

Wayne had to deal with that one, I was officially tapped out after a day of illogical demands and ridiculous outbursts.

I can't wait until this stage is over.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Change in Scenery

"Mommy, can we go to that playground in the middle of the street?"

"What playground would that be? The one I tell you to go to when you don't listen?"

"No, that big blue one. There's a dragon there."

"Oh! That park. Yes, let's go."

Marissa pretends to be a booger in the dragon's nose.

Lindsey rides the dragon.

The only piece of equipment (besides the dragon) that is NOT blue.

This playground is in the Seward neighborhood, close to where Lindsey used to take art classes. It's in a triangular green space surrounded by three city streets, which is why Marissa said it was in the "middle" of the street.

It's an area that's pretty ethnically diverse - Somali and Hispanic families were in equal representation. One little boy was trying to get Marissa to chase him, and she unwittingly did for a while until she realized what he was up to, then she got shy and didn't want to play anymore.

They kept posing on the dragon and asking me to take their pictures. I sure have these girls trained well! What an incredible way to spend an unseasonably warm September day.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Tough Decision

Our dog Dax has had various eye issues through his life, being the bug-eyed little canine that he is. Recently he had some inflammation in one of his eyes, so I began putting drops in his eyes left from the last incident and when it didn't get better in a couple of days, dutifully took him to the family vet for "the usual."

Unfortunately his diagnosis is nothing but "usual."

Turns out that at the ripe old age of 13 his ligaments holding his lens in place have given out, so his lens is flopping around inside his eye. He is currently looking over the lens and is farsighted, though he does have his vision. As long as the lens is towards the back of the eye it's not much of an issue, but if it moves to the front of the eye he would have intense pain, inflammation and it could cause a plethora of other issues which would need to be dealt with immediately.

The recommended treatment is surgery to remove the lens, leaving that one eye permanently far-sighted, but at least without pain and swelling.

Unfortunately this surgery is expensive, and that's for the procedure alone. It does not cover the cost of the medications he would be on for weeks after, or the required four follow-up visits. All told, we would be paying several thousand dollars.

Did I mention he's 13?

The challenge with this condition is that it is not nor would it ever be terminal -- it has everything to do with quality of life. If we were told he had cancer, that treatment would cost several thousand dollars and he may get one or two good years after recovery, that decision would be easy. If this eye condition goes untreated and worsens he will be in pain, but it won't kill him. That's not really fair to the dog to ask him to live with that kind of pain.

The other challenge is that if we really wanted to we could swing this, and for that I feel immensely fortunate. For many others, if their dog was given this prognosis surgery would be completely out of the question. It's not out of the question for us, but it does not come without sacrifice. At the same time, we are anticipating some major repairs on our aging house (see prior post about our 1928 sewer line) and need to be saving money for pay for those things. And did you know that our property taxes have gone up by double digits each of the past 5 years?

I know, these are all first-world problems, and I will say it again -- I am very blessed. But I also feel very blessed to have Dax in our girls' lives and want to keep him in their lives for as long as possible.

I feel strongly that when you accept a pet into your life you accept them for the entirety of their lives. As pet owners we do this willingly knowing that we will outlive these creatures that we come to so love. But when it comes to decisions like this, I have to remember he is a pet, not a human.

For now he is on medication to help with the pain, reduce the swelling and hopefully keep it from worsening. Right now I'm looking for more options, and would love to hear some from you.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

It is time once again for us to perform our duty as good Minnesotans and make our annual pilgrimage to the Minnesota State Fair. My second ever post on this blog chronicled our trip of 2006 when Lindsey was 3 and Marissa was 1. What little peanuts!

We first visited some of the animal barns. After checking out huge sow and her nine piglets, some sheep and goats, Marissa and I managed to catch an event called pole bending in which horse riders weave through six poles without tipping any over. It was very exciting to watch but only for about 10 minutes, as that's when Marissa decided she wanted to move on to something else.

Each year a new fried food is unveiled at the fair. This year it was deep fried chocolate chip cookie dough. We didn't find the booth, and I'm not sure I would have tried it for fear of craving it during the other 353 days of the year when it's not available.

Add this to the list of other strange fair foods: A breakfast lollipop (sausage deep-fried in corn muffin batter, served with maple syrup), Minneapple pie (deep-fried apple pie), chocolate covered jalapenos and sweet corn ice cream. And of course my favorite to ponder but never to eat:

We tend to stick to the traditional fare:

Chocolate milk shake at the moo barn.
A blue raspberry sno-cone.

Then a trip to the kiddie midway, where my girls have spent hours in past years. Marissa happily skipped off with Wayne from ride to ride. Lindsey, on the other hand, wandered with me, looking for something she would find fun to do. Finally she said the words I have been dreading hearing:

"These are all kiddie rides, Mom."

My baby's growing up! Regardless, she managed to find one ride that she wanted to go on with me, kind of like the Tilt-a-Whirl. We got our car spinning so fast that she and I were laughing hysterically inside of it. The world was still spinning even when the ride was over, and Lindsey got a stomache ache from the spinning which ended her desire to go on anymore rides.

We had gotten there somewhat early in the day and watched the crowds increase as it warmed up and the day went on. Finally, around 3:00, after purchasing a stuffed horse on a stick for Lindsey and a pink cowgirl hat for Marissa, we declared our day complete and went home. Just in time, because the crowds were getting...well, crowded.

The Minnesota State Fair has the highest attendance of any fair of the 50 states. Last year 1.7 million people attended over the 12 days of the fair. The day before we visited 215,847 had attended - turns out over 223,000 were there the day we visited, a new record for that day. Despite this, we managed to run into my friend Laura and her family, who also blogged about her fair experience. Crazy that we ran into each other out of all the people there!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Less Than Ideal Workplace

Imagine that you have a job in which you work with a team of other people. Because you all work on the same project, you work in close quarters, in cubes surrounded by your team mates.

Unfortunately your building is not air-conditioned. So in the hot weather your employer brings fans out and blows the air around for circulation; despite the fact that you are hot and sweaty, you are expected to perform and get your job done.

In cold weather the old radiators tick and rattle away, and because you're on the first floor, you get to roast so that the heat can make its way up to those working on the third floor, since the radiators up there are frequently under repair and having air leached from them to improve the heat flow. Those poor employees get to sit in thick sweaters and boots in their cubes. Again, do your best work, everyone!

When you're hungry, you may get to eat your lunch. But because the lunch room only accommodates a fraction of the workers at a time, you may have to wait until much, much after your stomach started rumbling, because other workers are in there eating in shifts. At least you've got a granola bar to get you through. Or, you could be one of the lucky workers who gets to eat just two hours after breakfast, but because those employees aren't actually hungry when they get their lunch break, they don't really feel like eating and end up snacking later on in the afternoon.

When you do finally get to have lunch, you have 20 minutes to retrieve your lunch, gobble it down and possibly go outside for a quick breath of fresh air. But then it's back to your cube again, doing your best to concentrate on your work.

Your boss decides that he needs more employees to get all of this work done, so he reconfigures the cubes to be a little smaller and puts a few more cubes on your floor. It's snug, but not too bad. Because there are more workers to accommodate for lunch, your lunch break gets pushed back even later because he had to add another lunch shift to accommodate everyone, since the lunchroom holds an even smaller percentage of all of the employees.

A year later yet another new group of employees come in, and once again the cubes are made smaller to accommodate this. If you push your chair back too far you'll hit the chair of the person sitting behind you, and you yourself are frequently jostled by others trying to move around in order to get their jobs done. All the floors are being used in this way -- there is no talk of perhaps taking over another floor in the building, or finding a building more suitable for all of the employees.

How likely would you be to stay at this job?

Sounds like a Dilbert cartoon strip, doesn't it?

It's actually a school.

It's my children's school, one of many Twin Cities metropolitan schools that are facing higher enrollment. While schools get operating money on a per pupil basis, they do not get capital money on a per pupil basis. The message that the state sends the schools are: you got your money to teach these children, go do it with the facilities you've got.

And if you don't fit into the space, go to those taxpayers and ask them to help you build a new space. Good luck with that, because property taxes have steadily increased year after year in this state, even though incomes haven't gone hand-in-hand with that. And while everyone says they support education, from the politicians to the general public, when it comes down to voting to increase our own taxes to make that happen, many of us aren't so keen on that. (Oh, you mean you want ME to support schools? I thought you meant those people over there.)

I attended a meeting at Lake Harriet Community School in Minneapolis last night in which we are at critical enrollment levels. We're not the only one: schools all around us are crammed full, re-purposing music rooms and teacher lounges into core classrooms to accommodate the students. And while no one likes increasing class sizes, the bald fact is that there is physically no more room to cram more bodies into these classes. At what point do we stop thinking of our children as head counts and start realizing that they are people?

While I have an extremely vested interest in my children's school, I know that parents all across the metro area have the same vested interest in their own children's schools who are all facing the same issue. We are all approaching the same source for that funding: the state of Minnesota.

We need to take a fresh look at how we pay for education in Minnesota.