Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Day at a Time

I have my third appointment with Dr Hawt and his assistant Mr Yum tomorrow morning. I'm both looking forward to it and dreading it.  Today I was feeling the second day soreness from Tuesday's session. It is so hard to get excited about something I know will hurt. I must keep reminding myself that I all of this will be worth it eventually. 

Dr Hawt talked about following a Mediterranean Style Diet and I am slowly but surely working towards that. It is as much a lifestyle as a diet and it isn't something I can just jump into. I thought I was doing pretty good until I REALLY looked at what I am eating by writing it down. First of all, I need a lot more variety in the veggies I keep around. I will eat fresh veggies and salad if it is there, but I can't really expect anyone else to. Only one other person in the family might eat the sort of stuff I do, so I feel like I am being selfish when I stock up on things like that.

Another thing I really must do is break away from as much of the sugar in my diet as I can. Of course, that means cutting out colas, but it also means baked goods are pretty much off limits. I've been using small bites of chocolate or a handful of M&M's to satisfy the worst of the sugar cravings, but I need to let those go. I may still need to find a substitute that will help get me through but isn't as bad as the over-processed sugary stuff that my body has gotten used to. That is going to be so friggin' hard. I can't even describe it. It feels all at once like having the training wheels taken off the bike and having a favorite blanket ripped cruelly away. A I being overly emotional about this? Maybe, but it is a very emotional thing for me.

I was in denial about emotional eating for a long time. Thinking back, though, I have had a habit of restricting my food intake and binging since I was in high school. The big problem with that, of course, is that I used food against myself and gave it way too much of the wrong kind of power. By punishing myself with hunger and rewarding myself with "treats" I gave myself all the pieces of an eating disorder puzzle. I did it to myself, too, and I have to own up to that fact if I ever want to get through this mess with a healthier body. I can look back and see that I had a boyfriend in high school that had a very negative impact on my self image, but it might have been as much because I was looking for that in myself. Comparing myself to my three thin and beautiful sisters has never been a good idea, but I have always done it. It is sometimes painful to visit with them and see their super thin figures and then look down at the whale that I have become. Knowing that I way nearly twice what they do is so discouraging. It isn't their fault though. They were made differently. I have always been and will always be the thicker and curvier version of them. I need to somehow reconcile this act in my head and love myself for who I am and still keep the desire to improve my health. I really don't understand how to do that. Maybe it is because exercise for the sake of exercising has always been uncomfortable at best and downright painful most of the rest of the time. My body style dictates that I need to include regular rigorous cardio to keep my body healthy and trim. I would need to do that even if I hadn't yo-yo'd my weight and taken too many wrong medications. The fact that I never really have just makes the whole mess even bigger. Literally.

Several years ago I took up yoga. I had a few pounds to lose here and there so I joined a gym. Once I realized that all the weight training machines were built completely wrong for someone my size and the cardio classes were just an exercise in public humiliation, I joined the yoga class twice I week. I attended for more than a year and kept on doing the stretches and poses at home even after the gym closed down. I stopped for a little while when I became pregnant with EG, but I got an opportunity to start up again when I worked fo a children's gym and got to teach several classes of yoga to the kids every week. Those few years were the healthiest I have ever felt. Somehow I want to get back there. That was a very long time ago, though. I am so afraid that I will never be able to get back to living with energy and without pain. I am discouraged by the thought that I have damaged my body so much through neglect and bad choices that I will never look in the mirror and be happy with what I see.

60 pounds is a lot to lose.

Deb "The Chubby One" Lollar

P.S. To my parents who will undoubtedly read this - None of this is your fault. You have always given me the best sort of love and support and always make me feel beautiful and loved. Thank you for that. I needed it and appreciated it a lot more than I ever told you.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This isn't so bad after all!

Yesterday I went to the doctor for the follow up on the blood work that they drew last week at my check-up. It turns out I'm not as bad off as I assumed I was. Yes, my blood sugar is a bit high, but it isn't completely out of control. The doctor and I both agree this is probably due to the extra weight I'm carrying around and that it needs to come off, but I am at a loss of how to do it. I have been watching what I eat and I don't know where I can cut back any further. I don't have the energy to go to the gym and any exercise I try hurts enough that I end up spending even more time out of commission. Then, she offered a suggestion that surprised me. Instead of yelling at me that I need to just diet and exercise MORE, or pushing weight loss pills on me (not a good thing for me,) she gave me an immediate referral to the new "Physical Medicine" office. She (the doctor) told me that the office handles diet and nutrition and also exercise and weight loss. They also happened to have an open appointment in the next 30 minutes, so I stuck around the waiting room for a few minutes and then went upstairs to see what this other "physical" doctor was like.

When I got to the office, I first met the receptionist who is very sweet (a happy receptionist is always a good sign.) Then I went over to see Dr "The Man." Wow! Dude's younger than me, built like an Iron Man Competitor, and, uh.... well... Yeah. He's pretty HAWT. Then I meet his assistant. HE is a shorter, more muscle-bound version of the Dr. Yum. Later I find out that Mr Assistant has not only been on Broadway FOUR times, but he also does cage fighting. Seriously?!?! The kid is too young to know who Erasure is, but he's been on Broadway, survived several cage matches, AND been through enough college that he can be a medical assistant?

Suddenly, my life feels pretty much wasted and full of uselessness.

When Dr The Man starts gathering information about the medical train wreck I have become, he is way more positive about improving my overall health than I am. We take a tour of the office - which is basically a scaled down work out gym - and he talks about the different types of treatments he provides. This is when I realize that this guy is one of those Chiropractor/Physical Therapy/Diet/Supplement guys. I'm actually ok with that. I've seen a few of his type before and I generally agree with this style of treatment, especially for my particular kind of ailment. Now, I've come a long way from being stuck in bed for six straight weeks with a migraine but I still have a very long way to go before I am back to my old self. Since I have improved about as much as I can with medication and lifestyle changes, the obvious next step is to work on the pain and stiffness directly with physical therapy. I just hope this guy actually LISTENS to what I have to say, because if he tells me to do 50 squats AFTER I tell him I have no cartilage in my knees, we are going to have words. The four-letter kind.

So, we sit down to talk and this guys asks a lot of questions. He listens to my answers and makes notes about anything that I didn't write down. It takes a little while to get through all the major points of my medical history. I'm sure I left something out, but I know got the major parts covered at least. He lets me know that I can send him an e-mail with anything else I think of later or if I have any questions for him. E-mail a doctor? Really? That sounds pretty cool.

He tells me that he's going to give me a Generalized Health Assessment so he can test my flexibility and strength and get an idea of what pain my levels are and where. As I look down at my jeans and ballet flats, I realize I am WAY overdressed for this. I decide give it my best shot, though, and I am surprised at how attentive this guy is. He doesn't just stare at me or ask if I hurt. He wants to know exactly where I hurt and what kind of pain it is. Stretching and bending isn't too bad, other than being uncomfortable in my jeans, but the endurance part is not fun. I break a sweat very easily and my knees are screaming at me. I just hope my eye makeup isn't running down my face. He also tests me for balance (which was embarrassing) and for coordination (which is even worse.) We find out that the entire right side of my body is much weaker than the left and the opposite sides aren't communicating with each other very well. At one point he has me close my eyes and march in place for an amount of time. I was really confused at the purpose of this until I opened my eyes. I had somehow managed to turn 90 degrees to the right without knowing it.

Once the Dr is satisfied that he has bent, twisted, marched, and lunged me as far as I can go, he lets me lay down on my stomach and hooks me up to an electro-therapy machine attached to my lower hips and just below my shoulder blades. I've been through this procedure before so I wasn't surprised by the tingling running up and down my back. He sets the machine at a comfortable level for me and applies ice packs to my back to help with the inflammation. After five minutes of that, he switches to a heating pad to encourage proper blood flow. Amazingly enough, after he turns off the machine and I sit up, I am not nearly as sore or tired as I thought I would be. I'm very pleasantly surprised.

We talked some more about the results of my exam. On a scale of 1-100, I've got a score of 57. The thing is, I'm actually having a good day and pain and fatigue-wise I'm actually feeling okay. Any other day that test might have a totally different outcome, probably worse. The test showed that I have excellent range of motion and strength levels in most of my joints. However, my hips are just not working right, and then there is the whole balance and coordination thing.  He assures me that he has helped a lot of Fibro patients like myself and that this test is really to see where the worst part of my problems are, but that we will be able to work on a lot of other stuff, too. My official diagnosis is Bursitis of the hips and poor balance and muscle coordination, probably due to poor neurological transmission. Again, he assures me that he has seen this before and he knows how to fix it.

The Dr explains to me the plan he has created. We're looking at six months of pretty intense training to achieve my fitness and weight loss goals. Then we will discuss long-term tools for health and weight maintenance. For the next month, I will see him three times a week for physical exercise and weight checks. After that, he will start adding more exercises for me to do at home as we gradually reduce the frequency of the visits. Then, he asks me if I am interested dietary counseling in addition to the physical therapies. I tell him emphatically, Yes! I personally believe that many of my health problems derive from the extra weight I am carrying and I need to lose it quickly and permanently if I am going to avoid a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes before I turn 40. I understand that even if I lose the weight, I could still put my health in jeopardy if I don't get my sugar cravings under control. When I tell him about the three years of yoga and my experience teaching gymnastics at a children's gym compared to the last few years of migraine meds, weight gain, pain, and fatigue he starts to put together the whole puzzle.

Then, he gives me the "Mom" talk. I've heard this one before, many times. 'You are here because you are sick. You are sick because you have been taking care of everyone else in your life, but you don't take care of yourself. If you don't take care of yourself FIRST you won't be able to take care of anyone else. If you want to get better, you have to make a commitment to come to the appointments, but also you need to give yourself permission to spend time and energy on yourself so you can become healthy again.'

Alright. I get it. I agree to stick with this for the next six months.  My other choices are far less appealing than spending a few hours a week working out. He is becoming confident that I am on board with making the changes he is suggesting and I feel pretty good about the choices he is offering. I think this will be very beneficial all around. Besides, the guy seems nice, genuinely concerned, and extremely knowledgeable. (Looking so good doesn't hurt either.)

By the time he gets to the part where he tells me what the new diet will consist of, it is clear we are already on the same page. I eat three smallish meals and two snacks a day and I need to limit my food intake to those times only. I use a specific bowl when I eat to ensure proper portion control. I pack up my leftover food after I am done serving so I can put it in the freezer for lunches later and so I don't go back for seconds. I stay away from pre-packaged junk food (like chips or cookies) and instead go for high protein/high fiber snacks (like apples, cheese, and peanut butter.) I don't fry any food at home. I use a limited amount of olive oil for cooking and I stick to the leanest cuts of meat. I should focus on getting as much fresh vegetables as I can, but limit the fruit because of the sugar content.  Basically, I am already doing everything right but I still haven't lost any weight or gained back any energy. That's why I am here.

For the next few weeks I will keep a food journal and he will help me find places to fit in more fresh veggies and to cut out the extra sugar. He doesn't want me to cut out all carbs and sugar, but he does want to help me find a specific amount allowed each day and help me find ways to meet that goal and still feel satisfied. Then he tells me that, at least for right now, I can have my one cola per day but eventually, I will need to cut it back to one per week. He assures me that I don't have to quit it cold turkey. He wants me to make the changes gradually so I don't backslide. I think I like this guy.

Once I am done talking with the Dr, I go back to the receptionist to handle the scheduling and to figure out just how much all this is going to cost me. To my surprise, she already has all my information from the other office, has talked to my insurance company, and has all payment details ready for me to look over. Thankfully, I find out that this whole "plan" will cost significantly less than I originally thought. Since my regular doctor referred me over here, all the services offered are covered by the insurance and my portion of payment will be less than the amount of a co-pay per visit. I can handle that! I make my appointments for the rest of the week and I am free to go for the evening, a little sore and tired but very excited at the prospect of finally getting my physical health back on track.

 As I head out to my car, I start thinking about how the next few months are going to look. The payment for the sessions will come out of our medical reimbursement account, so I have no financial excuses to miss or cancel. I have already decided that looking for work outside the house is not an option for the near future, so keeping up with the appointment schedule shouldn't be too difficult. Even if I end up landing a job in the next few months, these therapy appointments take less than 45 minutes. With a little work and a little more luck, I could make that fit into a lunch break. The office is a little more than a mile from the house which makes gas expenditure not an issue. It also means I don't have a long drive to discourage me from attending. Finally, I decide that I can put off the swim classes for a few weeks. I want to see how much the therapies hurt and, more importantly, how much energy I have to spare by the end of the day. Besides, I am aiming for two to three hours of exercise per week, and it appears that these sessions will meet that, easily.

Even though I am pretty tired, I still manage to plan a healthy dinner - grilled pork loin, green peas, and mashed potatoes. Thank goodness the girls are around to help me in the kitchen! TD handles nearly all the cooking so all I need to do is help her make a few adjustments and get dinner on the table. I'm proud to say, I went to bed at a decent hour because I did NOT grab a nap like I so desperately wanted to.

Today,  I had to do the whole thing over again. I was extremely surprised at how good I felt waking up this morning and how well I managed to accomplish the exercises the Dr put me through today. Taking a preemptive dose of pain meds before I left for the office probably had a little bit to do with that. Either way, though, I did what I needed to do and I feel better for it.

Now, this streak of good days will probably come to an end before too much longer, and how I handle things then will really be sign of how well I am doing and if I have made any progress.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Uh, is this going to take too long?

So, I went to the doctor yesterday. Ugh. Not to share too much or anything, but I feel like I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar. I haven't had all the test results come back but what I was able to see yesterday said, "You officially suck at 'living healthy' so you better step it up a notch and face the facts."

In short, lose weight and get exercise... or else.

My less than stellar diet and my lack of regular exercise are only two of things that stand in my way of getting healthier, but they are the two most important things. I could go on and on and convince myself that I just CAN'T make these changes, but I know a lie when I hear one, especially if it is my own. I've been doing very well over the last few weeks at getting into a more regular day and night schedule and also being more productive during my good hours so my bad hours aren't such a big deal. I'd like to think I have made good progress in my recovery. However, I really DO need to continue down the path of Living Better. I can't stop at wanting to. I have to make things happen.

Now, when I speak of "diet" I don't mean one of those "Lose 30 pounds in 30 days" diets. I mean Diet, as in the sum total of what I eat and drink every day. I don't need to find another fad to follow. I need to adjust the way I eat every day, from now on, until whenever. Cutting things out means giving them up for good (or at least until I am able to enjoy them in moderation.) Adding things in means replacing something unhealthy with its much healthier counterpart. It also means making shopping list and budget adjustments to make sure I have the right things on hand so I don't revert back. Eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk, though. I'm not sure how to get the better products for me and still make sure there is enough left over to properly feed the rest of the family. This isn't going to be easy. Sticking with junk food would be much easier and cheaper.

My body is a temple, it's true. Right now it is a temple devoted to the worship of soda and refined, white carbs. Continuing on this way will push me down the road to Type II Diabetes before too much longer. It may be inevitable because of my family history, but I would really like to hold it off as long as I can. By taking care of my body the right way, I will be able to control it much more easily if it ever does come to that point. I really can't delay any longer. I'm living in denial. Drinking cokes won't benefit me at all. Not even one a day, which had been my previous compromise with myself. Deals like that are fine and good unless you COMPLETELY IGNORE THEM. I'm weak willed when it comes to my caffeinated, carbonated deliciousness. And with rice. And bread. And anything baked and sweet. I'm losing before I even get started, here.

So, I have done enough research to know what I should and shouldn't eat and drink. I just need to stick with it. It will be tough, but that will probably be the easier part of my two-step plan. I know I haven't been very honest with myself. I have an embarrassing amount of weight to lose and convincing myself that I can somehow do it by diet only is not going to cut it. I am going to have to find some sort of exercise regimen that won't hurt more than it helps.

Yesterday, my doctor suggested swimming. It is supposedly the best form of exercise for FM sufferers. It is by far much easier on the joints than most other forms of exercise and it packs a bigger punch in the calories burned per minute category. It combines resistance training and cardio into one neat little watery package. So why haven't I already signed up for a pool pass? Yeah, that is a bit more complex.

The first thing that pops into my head is that swimming means SWIMSUITS. I have one that fits already, so that isn't an issue, but putting it on in front of THAT is a problem. Even if I wasn't self conscious of flabby arms and thunder thighs, I would still hate the way I look in a swimsuit. I don't tan well (even when I spend a lot of time outside) so I'm the kind of sickly, pale, white that will blind other people on a sunny day. Summertime at a pool is not very fun for me.

Second, I love the water, but I don't swim well. I can sit all day in the shallow end of a pool, but as soon as I get in deeper than my shoulders, I start to panic. I don't dive, or swim with my face in the water, or swim on my back for very long, or even float very well. There are plenty of reasons why I made it to adulthood without becoming comfortable with these very basic skills, but I won't list them all. It basically comes down to fear of drowning. Once again, I let my fear of something rule my mind and prevent me from possibly enjoying something fulfilling.

The other thing that causes me to hesitate is the financial commitment required. Classes cost money. What if I pay for a membership somewhere and then I never attend? I have a bad history of making plans and not sticking with them and adding the loss of money in there would cause so much guilt, I don't know if I could handle it. On top of that, I have already been promising Tiny Dancer lessons in dance or cheer as soon as we can afford it. I feel guilty going out and paying for underwater aerobics for me without finding a school to send her too, as well. If I can't find a way to pay for one, how can I pay for both?

Ok. I see what I am doing here. I am talking myself out of this again, like I have so many times before. I'm assuming that I won't stick with this. Just because I never have before doesn't mean I can't does it?

Ah. There is the key... CAN'T vs WON'T. Can't means unable. Won't means unwilling. Am I really unable to do this for my health and my family or am I just unwilling to do what I need to because it is easier to be lazy? I have been sick and progressively more overweight for the last SIX YEARS. That is half of my entire marriage. More than half of my younger daughters' lives. Do I want my kids to be raised with me like this as their example and role model? Do I want to keep avoiding events with my husband because I can't fit into the outfits that were made for me before I gained this weight? Do I really want to continue this way?  No. Strike that. I DON'T WANT to continue this way. I AM able to make these changes, as long as I use my brain to figure out the smartest and most cost effective way to do it.

Now, where to begin?

Deb Lollar

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trying to keep up

So, I sort of made a decision to update three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but then I go and skip Wednesday and oh well... I'll just keep doing the best I can. Y'all will forgive, me won't you?

Yesterday was a day filled will lots of ups and downs for me as a "crafter." First, DH sent me a link to Goodwill's new online auction site. At first I was all, "Woo hoo! I can go treasure hunting at Goodwill NATIONWIDE!" But then, I looked more closely and realized there was more to this than stained polo shirts and chipped dishes. This is the result of someone getting very, very smart. See when people donate stuff to Goodwill, the items typically go to a local Goodwill Thrift store where they are sold to the general public. The money made from these sales goes to support their various charities. Usually, the stuff gets sorted by item and all the same type of stuff gets generally the same price. For instance, jeans are usually around $8 if they are in good shape, regardless of the brand. This means you can sometimes snag Lee and Levi's for the same price as Ralph Lauren.

Now, I'm not really into buying things for the labels, but when it comes to things like purses and shoes, I know that you normally get what you pay for. So, grabbing a pair of brand-new, name brand, knee high, all leather boots for less than $15 is HUGE. I personally own THREE Dooney & Bourke purses that I paid less than $10 each for. Retail, they would normally go for $100-$400. That's what I call a good deal. This is why I call trips to the thrift store "treasure hunting." You never know what you're going to find. If you have good eyes and some patience you can snag some really awesome things - things like DH's favorite Pendleton jacket that we just saw on an auction site for $275 - we paid $13. No this is not DH in the picture, but this is his jacket.

As a family of thrifty crafters, being able to buy materials for projects at a deep discount is essential. DH is our resident sewer of the house 1) because he's good at it, and 2) he makes his own regalia for the Native American stuff he and the girls do. Whenever he needs to make a new dress or something of that nature, the first thing he does is go to the Goodwill and search for something already made that can be altered or re-made into what he needs. Tiny Dancer's current jingle dress is made from a cocktail dress, materials from a Pakistani sari, and and assortment of other materials we already had laying around. The entire outfit is worth several hundred dollars, but we paid less than $20 for the materials. As you can see, the dresses he makes are quite beautiful.

So why did this online auction idea make me sad? Because it appears that someone out there has realized just how much money they are potentially losing in donations. The sort of items that are listed on their auction site are the same sorts of things I look for hidden between old coffee makers and fashion rejects from 1983. I'm heartbroken because someone has gotten wise to my plan. Instead of finding these things at my local store and getting them for an awesome steal of a price, it appears that they will be available online instead, and I will have to bid on them against collectors and other really smart people who know what they are looking for. Like my favorite D&B purse, kind of like this one.

Now, I haven't gone to my local Goodwill to see if they really have pulled ALL of their good stuff aside or if they only set aside the VERY best.  It may be that I will still find some things that are valuable, I'll just have to look a bit harder. I'm ok with that, but now I know I won't find the REALLY good stuff anymore. I've given up my dream of finding a Keurig coffee maker and  KitchenMate stand mixer hidden among the outdated dish sets and mismatched silverware.

Ho hum.

I was really getting grumpy thinking about this. But, instead of wallowing in my grief, I asked DH to pull out more of the craft items we already have. He gathered all the yarn in our stash and I realized I hadn't seen some of this stuff for years! It felt like I was seeing an old friend after a long time. I even managed to stamp out my guilt at looking over the half-finished projects and unused skeins piled up to my knees. I have so many new projects to work on, that I know I will be able to use this stuff up finally.

Well, that's how my week has been going. How about you? What has made your week worth getting out of  bed for?

Deb "Crafter" Lollar

Monday, January 9, 2012


All the creativity of these last few days is getting my mind working in so many different ways. It feels like some untapped reserve of awesomeness was just released. I'm still tired and I still hurt, but I've got motivation to get things done that I haven't seen in years. On top of the crafts I've been producing, my entire house got clean this weekend - without screaming or swearing (much)! I have had a clean and shiny sink for 24 WHOLE hours. I made delicious dinner of venison stew last night using this recipe and when everyone else conked out before putting the leftovers and dishes away, I did it myself. Now, I didn't exactly ENJOY doing it, but I did it. It was worth it to wake up to a clean sink this morning.

I've been told that when you start to get grouchy and angry about housework and picking up after everyone else, you should stop and be thankful that you HAVE someone to leave a mess around for you. That might be the only thing that keeps me going. Some day, my house will be clean and it will stay that way, and I will cry my heart out because that means my kids will have all grown up and moved away. I don't think I could even contemplate how lonely I will be without my three hooflings around.

Anyway, I'm always surprised during these brief moments of cleanliness around the house that I have more time and even more motivation to do fun stuff. A clean house feels like permission to relax for a minute and treat myself. When things are all messy and cluttered, I don't feel like doing anything because it's just too much hassle to fight through the clutter to gather ingredients or find a clean workspace. It's easier to play solitaire. But, when things are clean, and tidy, and put away I am confident that I can find what I need to do what I want. That isn't always the case, however. That's just the way I feel.

The one place I have never been able to get a handle on cleaning is the office area. It is not only where DH and I have our computer desks set up, it is also where we keep the craft supplies, tools, materials, comic books, historical references, gaming manuals, and all sorts of odds and ends. I used to keep out of the office completely. I would set up my desk in another room in the house and leave the office for DH to do whatever he desired. I guess I wanted him to have his "own" space where he could be quiet and alone if he wanted to be. I generally never went in there unless I was putting something of his away. I didn't clean in there and instead of nagging DH about it, I just closed the door and walked away.

There are a few problems that have arisen with this idea. First,  DH having his own space is good in concept, but he doesn't seem to really mind one way or the other. He likes that I respect his space, but it isn't a requirement for him. It is very convenient for me to be near him when he works from home so I can run interference with the kids and keep them quiet. Second, having ALL the craft stuff in the office is as much for protection of the kids from the items as it is mess control. It also meant that I had to grab the craft stuff I wanted, work on it elsewhere, and return it when I was done or risk the children getting hurt by it or destroying it. It was enough of a hassle that I just didn't care to  mess with it. At first, that wasn't a big deal because crafting was DH's "thing." However, over the last few years I've realized I really enjoy making stuff and I'm pretty happy about that. Third, giving DH a room all to himself meant I didn't have a place of MY own to keep my stuff and work on my projects. Our house just isn't big enough or two offices so if I need some time to sit and relax or work on something, I've been relegated to the living room or dining room. Besides, we end up using the same materials (even if we aren't doing the exact same thing) and it isn't practical to have stuff in more than one place, especially when we both need whatever the other one has.

When we moved back to this house, we didn't exactly sit down and discuss seating arrangements. I just asked him if he minded my desk being in his office and he said he didn't. Now that we are happily sharing one room, all the computers and craft stuff are in one place and we have a work area and storage to keep kids out of it (well, in theory we do.) The last few months like this has reminded me how much I love spending time beside DH. It isn't exactly "together" time, because we aren't actually doing anything together. We just happen to be in the same room. He might be researching Comanche style beaded moccasins at his desk while I'm crocheting place mats at mine. We generally sit quietly, listening to our own, separate play lists and doing our own thing but every now and again he will ask me too look at something he found or I'll hold up my work to show him my progress. It is a cozy sort of co-existence that we have and I love that part of "us."

But, as much as I love hanging around in here, I am going to have to make a few changes. DH's method of organization is based on various paper boxes marked with sharpies and stacked on a shelf. While this has worked fine for him, IT IS DRIVING ME INSANE! I can't go on much longer this way! Thanks to Pinterest I have a huge list of crafts I want to work on (Check my pins and tell me what you think! I'm kind of in love with this place.) but I can't find what I need to complete them. My desk (and the floor around it, and shelf next to it) is crammed and piled high with bins and bags in my vain attempt to keep what I need close by and still have a place to work. 

In the past, whenever I wanted to try a new hobby, I could easily talk myself out of it as soon as I found out how much money I would need to invest in it just to start. Sometimes, I've been able to get started with just what DH has laying around, but as soon as I need to purchase something to take it further, I lose interest. In my mind, if I have to spend money on it, then it isn't relaxing or pleasant and I will move on to something else. However, most of the crafts I've been doing use recycled items or materials we already have plenty of. This means no financial investment, just time and effort. Because of this, I've been able to turn inspiration into production several times over the last few weeks. My only issues are GETTING to the materials and finding somewhere to put the recycled items that I'm gathering to make something out of. For instance, I want to make a rug or two (maybe three...) out of t-shirts. It will take a LOT of t-shirts. I have several already and I will be gathering more over the next few weeks, but where do I put them in the meantime? I'm afraid leaving them in a basket will only get them recycled through the laundry again and again, and it looks messy, besides. I've got to make a place to keep this sort of stuff as well as all the other things we have. I know there is a box completely full of ribbon and trim somewhere around here but I have no idea where. I need it, but I have no idea where to start looking and as soon as I find it, I won't have anywhere in the office to keep it where I can get in and out of it easily. 

Basically, some organization is going to have to happen and, if history tells me anything, I will have to do it myself. I'm going to have to balance DH's personal style of (dis)organization and my desire to put everything in matching containers with labels. Thankfully, Pinterest has answers for this, too. I've been pinning and collecting organizational ideas to make better use of our space and to use the items we already have. I will be posting my progress with this, and maybe even some "before", "progress", and "after" pictures (if DH will let me.) I'm hoping that my telling the world about my plans will help hold me a little more accountable and maybe I'll get things done more quickly than usual.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it.

Deb "Crafty" Lollar

Friday, January 6, 2012

Raising Girls

Today, a few FB friends were having a conversation about girls' toys and I was a little shocked that one of them refuses to allow Barbie for her kids. Yes, I understand about the doll's shape being blamed for bad self image, but I don't buy it anymore. I've seen so many other images flashed in the media that are exactly opposite of what Barbies look like, that I don't think it makes as big an impact as it might have before. At one time it did reflect the media's portrayal of women. If you look at old ads from the 50's Barbie dolls look a lot more like those women back then than they do today. Compare them to ads in current magazines and you can see an obvious difference in the physical shapes that are preferred.  Truthfully, I don't like media's portrayal of women, but I don't think today's images are any more or less damaging than they were back then. Women in the 50's wore CORSETS! How unrealistic is THAT? Ans is that any worse than the skinny, boy-like, unfeminine shapes that are seen on the runway today? 

Anyway, here is what I had to put out there concerning my views on raising girls. This is an exact quote of what I wrote there.

"Here's my two cents worth. I used to have MAJOR issues with Barbie since I have had issues with weight and self image all my life. However, I have three girls. I did everything I could to give them as many "boy" style toys as well as girly things, but family members started giving the girls Barbies, and they loved them. We don't have all the accessories and cars and houses. Just the dolls and whatever they were wearing in the box. They LOVE to play with them. All of them. They also love their Pollys and their tiny animal collection and the blocks that they build into houses and zoos. A few years ago, we got a child sized suitcase full of Barbies when a friend's daughter outgrew them and there was wide diversity of skin colors and styles in there as well. They play with all of them equally. Even Ken. Although, Ken gets dressed up in dresses as often as not. (That's another story for later.) I pay attention to the games they play and the stories they create with them. I can be confident in saying the only thing these toys have encouraged is the desire to create and design more clothing out of interesting things. One of them wants to be a fashion designer and she uses the Barbies as her models. My daughters are all beautiful, confident, and secure with themselves. I have a sporty girl, a down-to-earth girl, and a girly girl. All three are unique and proud of who they are. Barbies and other "girly" toys have not undermined that at all."

At this point, my friend agreed with me that Barbies don't necessarily damage young girls. She played with them and she came out fine. Today's Barbie campaigns are all about Girl Power and Becoming Whoever You Want To Be. I can't argue with those kinds of values. There are other toys and product lines that are far worse with the images and values they project. The Barbies of our days are now the American Girls Dolls, but I think they go a step further in the wrong direction. Beyond becoming a status symbol for the rich families that can afford all the accessories, the amount of frivolous crap that is created for the dolls is simply wasteful, in my opinion.

However, my friend apparently prefers a different line of dolls who are more modestly dressed and project the values that more align with her beliefs. These dolls are similar in size and shape to the American Girl Dolls but they are specifically designed for Jewish families. I think Jewish dolls for Jewish girls is a great concept. Why shouldn't toys reflect who you already are and who you want your children to become?

This is what I had to add to my previous monologue.

"I agree. We have plenty of other dolls, too. I hope you don't mind my hijacking your wall for a moment, but I have to get one more thing off my chest. The thing that I have found that makes the most profound difference is keeping a dialogue open concerning the images they are exposed to. I don't always agree with what's out there, but I know they will get a dose of it whether I like it or not. All I can do is prepare them to be strong and make the best decisions. Way back in the Lizzie Maguire days, I talked to my oldest about what she thought about the characters and their decisions and even their fashion sense. When Hillary Duff grew up and started appearing in fashion magazines I bought them and let her look at them and we discussed what the "new image" said to her. Then came Hannah Montana. I suffered through all the episodes so that I at least knew what they were getting into. When Miley Cyrus released her "Can't Be Tamed" video, I watched it first (of course) and then we watched it together and talked about whether they felt it was appropriate or if her costumes were too skimpy. Just in the last few months my girls were talking about Demi Lovato and that gave me the opportunity to open a discussion about the rumors around her concerning depression, cutting, and eating disorders. Do I talk to them about this stuff every day? No. Do they think I am a big intellectual nerd because I turn music videos into learning opportunities? Probably? Do I think it makes a difference? Absolutely. "

The point I was trying to make here is that sure, some toys are just not what you want your kids to play with, and that's fine for you to make that call. But, I think you should not worry overly much about it because banning it doesn't really guarantee your children won't be influenced by it. If it is in your home, at least you can see first hand how it affects your children. They will have exposure to lots of other things that will make as big or bigger an impact on them than whether their doll has the same hair color as they do. If they are truly emotionally distraught about not being able to looking like a toy or not having the latest accessories, there is something much bigger going on than just playing with dolls. The dialogue you have with your kids will be a much bigger influence on the kind of person they will become. Your kids love you and look to you for guidance from the moment they arrive on earth. As long as you keep giving it, they will keep receiving it. Even teens who roll their eyes at you will still hear what you have to say (even though they don't admit it.) Daycare, school, friends, even family members will all have different ways of parenting and your child will be exposed to more than you can even contemplate. There is no way you can eliminate all of it, all you can do is raise your children with strong values so they are not damaged by it.

That said, I have to be completely honest, here. I have banned a few things in my parental career and I do not regret it. Making clear limits and sticking to them is one of the ways your children know you love them and are concerned for their safety. The key is to pick your battles wisely so that you only need to fight for something you REALLY feel strongly about. Make your reasoning known and stick to it. Even though they complain, they will respect you for it. If you really feel that Barbies are evil, then make your statement and stand firm.

Before my first little one was crawling, I had already decided that certain things are just too distasteful or dangerous for me to allow in my home. For instance, I don't like toy guns because I would rather my children grow up with a healthy respect for real guns than learn that playing with them is common. Unlike "realistic" cap guns and bb guns, water squirt toys and foam guns are brightly colored and do not resemble a handgun or a hunting rifle and will never be mistaken for one in a dark alley, so I'm fine with those. But, I don't allow them to pretend other toys are really guns or to aim pointy objects at anyone else. I'm a little crazy about it, but I also feel comfortable that my kids will never pick up a gun that they find lying around somewhere. When "forbidding" things, I have kept my list short and made my decisions clear and firm and I don't allow arguments about them.

I don't pretend that I am a perfect parent. I've made plenty of mistakes and been proven wrong more than I care to mention. However, kids are resilient and as long as you act out of love and concern for you child, no decision can ever really "damage" them. Mistakes get made and the way you handle them shows what kind of character you really have. Whether making rules about dinner time, friends, or toys, being honest and truthful is the best way to show your kids what maturity is all about. That really is the point of parenting, isn't it - to prepare them to stand on their own as mature adults?

Deb "Mother of Daughters" Lollar

P.S. A funny story regarding the banning of things - Apparently, I made the point so strongly against Spongebob that my kids were afraid to watch it even on a waiting room television. I didn't even say anything about it to them.THEY came to ME wondering how to handle it. Eventually,  we decided that they could just play quietly with toys with their backs to the television set until our business in the office was done. I do have to say though, the banning of said yellow sponge was as much for my comfort as because of the disgusting nature of the show. Aside from being excessively annoying, I still believe that the show was not created for young children and should not be viewed by them. It should have been stuck with Ren and Stimpy on Adult Swim.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Productive? Me?

Wow! A second post in the same week! What's gotten into me?

I think all the good vibes from making cool stuff over the last few weeks has pushed me into another level of feeling good. I have to be careful, though, because sometimes feeling "good" is actually feeling "manic" and that is, decidedly,  NOT good. Sure, it feels AWESOME when my house is clean, my laundry is caught up, my closets are tidied, and I have a home cooked dinners, desserts, and breakfasts every day, but I just don't have enough real energy to keep that up all the time. Usually, when all that stuff happens at once, it is "borrowed" energy. I've got more than I need right then but I get to pay it back over the next several weeks by feeling absolutely wretched and drained. I'd like to avoid that, if at all possible.

Today, I'd like to say that I am in a good mood because I can look around my house and see things I've done to improve the place and I can feel good about it. But, I'm sure it has just as much to do with not having my normal sleeping meds for the last three days. When I don't take them, I don't sleep. I don't mean I toss and turn, or I wake up feeling less-than-refreshed. I mean a literally DON'T sleep. I can crash for maybe two or three hours during the night and then I am wide awake. Staying in bed at that point will just keep up DH. So I get up and try to be productive and quiet at the same time.I get a lot of planning and desk work done at times like this and usually the following days run smoother because of it. This is a very good thing because when I haven't been sleeping at night, things just don't seem to get done as easily. Or at all.

This morning, though, I was suspiciously awake and alert in spite of another sleepless night. After roughly four hours of sleep (achieved in 1 hour naps on and off all night) I was wide awake when the alarm went off so I helped get the younger girls ready for school, for once. Normally, to make up for never being awake in the morning, I try to complete the before-bed routine of laying out clothes and school bags the night before so even if I can't be awake to help, I can at least make it easier for DH to get them ready. Because I can't get up early enough to help, they usually go to school with hair standing all over their heads and mismatched socks. Okay, the socks thing is on purpose 'cause my girls are just funky like that. But the hair... Ugh! They look like street urchins in school uniforms! I'm sure everyone at the school can already tell that Daddy does (or doesn't do) their hair.

This morning, though, the two girls were ready for school early, with hair fixed and teeth brushed and clothes that were actually appropriate for the weather. DH took them to school while I grabbed a shower and got dressed and ready for the day. This is something else that hardly ever happens and when it does, I like to give myself a pat on the back for acting like a grown-up. Usually, I drag around the house in my pj's drinking coffee and poking around on the computer until I HAVE to do something and only THEN do I get dressed. Yes, it wastes a lot of the day (which is why I'm struggling to fix that!) For some reason, I was on a roll this morning. I was able to let DH go back to bed for a few more minutes while I got the teenager up and fed and off to school.

Another reason I was motivated to get going was because I had agreed to watch my little nephew all morning for my sister. He is about four and he has some serious issues over the last two years dealing with severe seizures and Autism as well. Watching him means I have to be on the ball! A lot of people wouldn't feel very comfortable taking care of a little guy like that, but I don't have trouble with agreeing to it. As long as I'm prepared, it isn't all that difficult.Besides, I love that little guy. He's funny and sweet and I have had the extreme joy of getting to spend a lot of time with him recently. I am more familiar with his needs and the way he communicates so that makes taking care of him a lot easier.

Yesterday, though, I watched him for a few hours and it was really, really awful. I was dealing with Day 3 of a migraine (hmmm, 3 days of migraines and three days without sleeping meds... coincidence?) and I was SO sick and in SO much pain. My brain just wasn't connected right and that isn't a good or safe position to be in. The kid was all over the place getting into stuff he's not supposed to have. All three girls were home, and were supposed to be helping me with them but they didn't seem to have any more luck keeping tabs on him than I did. While I wasn't looking he got into food that normally triggers seizures, and I had no clue. Once I found out, I was so angry with myself that I let things get out of control like that and I was DETERMINED that I would not let it happen again. I spent the rest of last night in a dark room with lots of meds not sleeping and praying that the pain would go away and may brain would engage again. .

As I mentioned, by the time the alarm went off this morning, I was in a MUCH better state, in spite of the lack of sleep. Today was actually a breeze. We watched TV, we played with blocks, he made a mess of eating some rice, and then he fell asleep for a heavenly 2 1/2 hour nap. Easy as pie.

I'm sure all this activity will catch up with me sooner or later. I'll probably be passed out in a near-comatose state sometime around dinner. Until then, I am going to ride this energy wave a little longer and see what other good things I can get done before I crash.


Monday, January 2, 2012

And life continues

This year all five of us were awake and bouncing around for the New Year. There was a fireworks display somewhere nearby during the last minute of the Old Year. As soon as we heard the booming outside,  we all grabbed blankets and stood in our front yard to watch the distant display over the trees. Right at midnight, the finale finished up and we ran inside to see The Ball drop. Actually, by that point, the ball had already dropped, so we rewound the TV program (Yay for DVR's!) and watched it again. That's when we realized we weren't watching the New York celebration at all, but the Las Vegas celebration (better music thank Dick Clark) and they didn't even show The Ball dropping at all. EG was very disappointed because she has ALWAYS wanted to SEE The Ball, but now that she was finally able to stay up late enough, she didn't even get to see it. I had to laugh at that a little. I never knew she was really that concerned about it. My kids always manage to surprise me, every day, every minute.

I have come to terms with New Years' Resolutions, or really the LACK of resolutions. They don't work  for me or anyone else (as research has shown again, and again.) I think the way I've been doing things for the last year or so is the way I should keep on doing them. Not that I don't want to make improvements in my life, but that I'm not going to try to make big, bold decisions starting on a specific day. I already know what I should be doing and what I need to stop doing. Making a decision to stop or start is no different than any other day in my life. Every day is a chance to do something right or wrong. Every moment we are given a choice. We can always choose the right or wrong thing. We can always change our paths. If I made poor choices all morning, it isn't too late to make a good choice for lunch. Just because I ate ice cream for dinner yesterday, doesn't mean I can't choose a healthier alternative today. And tomorrow. And every day after that. The year doesn't have to start with good choices and end with bad choices just to start the cycle all over again next year.

Taking one day at a time, I can see where I am and compare it to yesterday, or last week, or last year. I can assess the good and bad use that to make a more informed decision about what choices I should make for myself, my life, and my family.

Last year I weighed the same as I do now. It really sucks that I haven't lost weight, but thank goodness I haven't gained. Actually, over the past year, I HAVE gained, but I managed to lose that much, so I guess it is a net progress there. Over the last year, I have managed to reduce the amount of waste in my family. Financially, we spend less and make better use of what we have as a family. Environmentally, I have learned some great tips and tricks to reuse what I already have instead of throwing away what I don't want and re-purchasing what I think I need. Just in the last few weeks I have re purposed several t-shirts into a kitchen rug, left over yearn scraps into coasters, children's belts into bracelets, and I have several other projects in the works to get more use out of the things I have around the house. Around my house I have been tidying, cleaning, sorting, and organizing the things I have and the things that came with the house. Compared to just three months ago, my house has come a very long way. I have emptied numerous boxes and bins, sorted out cubbies and cabinets, and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I still have a long way to go, but I am proud of the progress we have made as a family.

Today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. That is good enough for me.

Deb "Doing Better" Lollar