When Easter Means More Than Easter

In my head, I sometimes envision the relationship Mr. Grouch and I have to be like that of oil and vinegar.  While the two are capable of meshing beautifully, each one’s flavors and textures complementing the other’s, they also have the natural ability to fight one another, slowly separating until jolted back together. The two of us are more than capable of arguing about anything and everything, no matter how trivial.  In fact, there seems to be an inverse correlation between the importance of a topic and how vigorously the two of us will argue about it. Who should clean the cat’s litter box?  Five minute argument. Immediate follow-up argument about whether or not the cat should continue to reside in our house at all (same argument we’ve been having for eight years)?  Thirty minute bitchfest.  Where to go for dinner (and/or who should decide where to go)? Borderline homicidal rager.  Even if we agree, we are most certainly still capable of disagreeing, all it takes is one of us to simply rearrange the grammatical structure of a sentence to do so, and we can continue to argue our points, even if we are both really saying the same thing.

It is very rare that our arguments are about legitimately important differences in opinion, philosophy, or point of view, we tend to be consistent when it comes to our most important values.  But in a few rare instances, it has happened.  One of such times occurred within the first couple of years of dating.  My husband is a very religious man and I am a staunch atheist.  We used to squabble about the legitimacy of the church, the credibility of religion, whether or not man evolved through the rugged process of natural selection, or was divinely created, and whether or not a God even existed at all. They were fruitless controversies, with no potential for a winner.  No compromise existed.

Until one did.

In what may have been the first true act of conciliation as a couple, my now-husband decided to end the counterproductive religious debates.  He bought me a stuffed gorilla and gave me a card in which he wrote something along the lines of, “Maybe we evolved, maybe we were created, only God knows.  Or does he?”  And that was that.  We decided to agree to disagree, and it has worked, for the most part, which is somewhat astounding, really, when you consider we argue about the best method for breading chicken, whether chocolates should be stored in the pantry or in the freezer and whether or not the person we are yelling at from across the house can’t actually hear us or is purposefully ignoring us.

The only bumps in the road have occurred around the holidays, Easter in particular.  My husband always wants to attend religious service, at the Greek Orthodox church, with me by his side, robotically performing my stavro (cross), repeating lines such as Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) and Alithos Anesti (truly he has risen), words that I don’t believe to be true.  Easter services are so much longer than the typical Sunday service, and so much less conveniently timed. We usually arrive at church around ten p.m., and do not leave until well after two in the morning.  Much of the service requires standing, and in my uncomfortable pumps, I can be seen continuously shifting my weight from side to side. The saving grace of these services is the choir, the music eerie and mournful and beautifully calming, and, thankfully, sung in Greek, so I can focus on the melody rather than the meaning of the words.

The main point of contention hasn’t been the timing of the services, or the quality or quantity of the music being played.  It has been the issue of respecting identities and beliefs.  I worried that by attending the mass, or performing the rituals, that I would be giving in, letting my husband walk all over me, turning into the wife whose ideas and beliefs are not valued, respected or, possibly, even considered.  I worried that my husband’s motives for my compliance were oily, spiteful and untrustworthy, and my reaction, in return, was acidic.

Ironically, by worrying about those things, and actively lashing out because of those anxieties, I was not valuing, respecting or considering the belief my husband held so dear. His religious identity is a pure and innocent one. I remember him asking me one time, if I would ask for forgiveness before I died. I didn’t understand why he would ask me this, my defensive self initially thought he was trying to tell me I was living my life the wrong way, or that he was trying to control me, right up to the very bitter end.  But, he clarified his intentions when he explained that he simply wanted to be with me for eternity and he was concerned that might would happen if I didn’t ask. Not quite the vicious motive or judgmental request my skeptical and anxious mind had first leapt to. His religion is an important piece of who he is. Being malicious and oppressive is not.  It took me awhile to fully grasp this, but once I did, I stopped kicking and screaming every time it was suggested that we go to church.  I stopped rolling my eyes when he asked me to perform my cross, and stopped complaining about the sporadic late-night holy services.

I don’t need to prove, time and time again, that I don’t believe. He already knows this, and has accepted it.  What I DO need to prove is that I am supportive of HIS belief. I’ve chosen him to be my partner, and being a married pair does not mean we have to be identical in our thinking, it means we need to support and complement one another, no matter what. This is what successful partnerships work on for the entire duration of their union and the couples that make it are the ones who get better at this over time, while the ones that don’t are bound to fail.

Once we became parents, the aspect of religion rose to the forefront once again. He feels strongly that our daughter be raised with exposure to the knowledge and culture the Orthodox Church provides. Thankfully, my views have evolved since our early debates on the subject, so I fully support this as part of her well-rounded upbringing.  Not only is it successful partnerships that rely on advocating and augmenting each other, but strong and successful families as well.

In the long run, I want my daughters to find counterparts who enhance them, I want them to be engaged in balanced and harmonious relationships.  Marriage is akin to the back and forth readjustments of two individuals in motion on either side of a teeter-totter. One is strong, when the other becomes weak, one is a comfort, when the other is distraught, one steps up when the other falls down.  Every now and again the two weights on each end are exactly balanced, hovering equidistant from the ground, but usually that’s not the case, and that is ok, as long as there is an ebb and flow, and one person doesn’t jump off their seat, leaving the other stranded.

If kind of give-and-take relationship is what I want for my daughters, I had better be sure my spouse and I model it.

Awhile back I finally let my guard down and began the process of acting lilke the woman I wanted to be.  My husband brought up the fact that we had not yet had our house blessed since moving in.  I reminded him that he can have the house blessed if he wants, and to do it anytime.  It’s not something I would do, but I certainly am not going to stop him, if it is something he feels he needs to do.  Instead of calling, he decided to open up the church incense he keeps, and he set it aflame, causing its scent to permeate through the kitchen and living room.  The incense is strong, and I have a sensitive nose. In the past, this combination has sometimes resulted in me leaving the room soon after his religious flare is lit.  But, it had been awhile since I had been exposed to this spiritual scent, and this time, the bouquet really wasn’t so bad, in fact, it may have registered within my nares as sweetly pleasing.  Maybe it was because our new home is more spacious, or maybe it was because our years of teetering and tottering back and forth, balancing the ups and downs of our relationship, have stirred the two of us to the point where our separateness is not so clearly delineated, and we, like the oil and the vinegar, have created an evenly blended suspension, our relationship a healthy emotional emulsion.  Instead of coughing and gagging, I crossed myself three times with my right hand, placed my hand on my heart before wafting the fumes towards my nose, like I knew he wanted me to, for myself and for the child growing inside me at the time.

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Instead of fighting the holidays because of their inherent religiousness I have vowed to embrace them, for the good of our family. They are often centered around a religious aspect at their root, but most of the reality of the holidays is centered around family time, togetherness and bonding.

I find this to be true even while at church. My husband and his family sit packed near each other, taking up two or three full pews, so moments of laughter or the hushed exchange of words inevitably occurs throughout the service.  At at least one point during the service, husband finds my hand with his and squeezes it, and the two of us share a moment of calm reflection that reminds us we are grateful for one another, and the serene space provides a venue conducive to letting each other know.  At the midnight service this Easter, my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter found the choir to be as compelling as I often do.  Though this was the first time she heard the music, she attempted to sing along and she looked at me, my mouth not moving, and instructed me to, “Sing, mama.  Sing”. She wasn’t asking me to sing to prove my devotion to a higher being, she was asking me to share in the beauty and connect with her by singing together. We sing at home, in the park, in the car, why would I not sing with her at church? Well, okay, the fact that I don’t speak Greek does make it a little harder, since I dont know all of the words, but that didn’t stop me from humming along, singing the few words I could make out, while my face pressed close to hers, enjoying every precious note.

Am I worried my child will be brainwashed into believing something I do not?  Not really.  If we do our job right as parents, she’ll be brainwashed to love and care for others, to help those in need, to respect differing viewpoints, and to expect nothing less than love, encouragment and support from the person she chooses to spend her life with.  None of these are dependent on whether or not she is celebrating the religious aspect of a holiday or if she believes in Heaven or Hell.  She can decide for herself what the holidays mean, to her, and in the meantime, my husband and I will model what it means for us, our internal interpretations so very different, yet the outward expression so much the same.

As dissimilar as oil and vinegar may be, if they are passionately stirred, they meld and create a glorious pairing.  My spouse and I are on a joint mission to create a personified vinaigarette, one so vibrant and robust that it is easy to forget that the there are separate entities making up the whole.  And that’s the ultimate goal, for many of us, to create a household and a family that is harmonious and balanced, full of unconditional love and support.  It’s what so many of us incorporate into our view of what it means to be a good parent, on the holidays, and on all of the days in between.

Sleep Studies Suck

When I started this blog, I think the idea was just for me to start a new hobby: writing. I just felt like writing.  But, other than catharsis, I wasn’t really sure what the point of the writing would be.  I thought about what sorts of things I know a lot about or have a strong interest in, and I’m sort of all over the place, but I knew my blog was supposed to have some sort of cohesive theme. So, I picked a topic that dominates most of my life:

Morning Grouchiness.

Which is really All-Day Grouchiness, at least in intermittent episodes, but that doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it. So, A Morning Grouch was born – the expert in waking up feeling like shit every day. Being tired every day.  Being kinda grouchy because I’m feeling tired every day. Tired. Tired. Tired. Bitchy. Tired.  I’ve been feeling this way for about 20 years.

I wrote several posts about some of the issues, like my vivid dreams, my restless legs, and my paradoxical reaction to some sleep medications, but after I became pregnant with my first child the blog has largely veered from the original topic, and I’ve just written whatever comes to mind, without holding myself to expectations about the number of posts I publish, or the relevancy of topics I write about.  I refuse to allow this hobby of mine to become work.  I’m not tied to the blog in any way other than it just feels good to write sometimes, and to connect with some other people out there who get me.

But because of the blog, I’ve found myself exploring my sleep issues more and more and I have finally decided that it is not okay that I am feeling this way, and that I am going to do something about it.  After talking with my osteopath about some of my sleep issues he thought I was a for sure candidate for a sleep study. We both thought I probably had sleep apnea, to him my symptoms sounded like a no-brainer.

A lot of people have asked me what my symptoms are since they tell me they had no clue I had sleep issues (especially my grandma, who once she found out I went through a sleep study has been incessanty asking, “How have you been sleeping?” even though I’ve been sleeping the same way I have for the past two decades. Shitty, Grandma. Every night my sleep is shitty).

My sleep issue is such a big part of who I am, and it affects me significantly on a daily basis, yet I guess if you don’t talk about things enough, or in the right way, no one has a clue what’s going on inside of you.  I’m guessing they just thought I was a bitchy asshole for no reason.  But, see? I have a reason.  Maybe I’d be a nice person if I wasn’t so tired all of the time.

Here is a gist of my sleep crapola:

1.  I never wake up rested in the morning.  More often than not, I literally feel more tired in the morning than I did when I went to bed.

2.  I have crazy, vivid, indescribable dreams.  Every night. Every nap.  I dream before I’m asleep, and sometimes after I just wake up.  I’ve put a few of my most normal-sounding and describable ones here on the blog, but most are so bizarre that I can’t really explain them.  A lot of them are violent and a bit disturbing. The crazier and more vivid the dreams are, the more tired I am when I wake up.  I hate dreaming.

3.  I get super exhausted, almost every day.  Excessive daytime sleepiness. It’s a thing.  It sucks.  There are many times when it takes literally all my energy to keep my eyes open.  ALL OF IT.  No energy left to be very productive, no energy left to be nice.  I have to force myself to move, being idle and trying to stay awake is a horror.  I’m dizzy, I’m weak, I can’t focus. I have a horrible memory. Yea, I know. Everyone’s tired.

4.  I can fall asleep any time.  Any where.  I’m a huge fan of the power nap.  It’s not unusual for me to try to arrive a bit early to appoinments, so I can sleep for 10 minutes in the parking lot. I have never fallen asleep somewhere where I really knew it would be unacceptable, such as a work meeting.  Even though forcing myself to stay awake is often torturous, I can do it. But, given the opportunity, I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. Falling asleep has never been my issue.

5.  I can not find a pattern, or a cause, related to my level of sleepiness and fatigue.  I’ve tried sleeping for different number of hours per night, I’ve tried no caffeine and even (gasp!) no alcohol.  I’ve tried diet changes and exercise and have seen zero differences (exception: running over 20 miles per week really helps with my restless legs. It also gives me a jolt of energy, perks me up and helps my mood).  Some nights I sleep through without waking up, sometimes I wake up every few hours and have significant insomnia .  Nothing. Matters.

6.  Once I had babies I realized it literally didn’t matter what time I get up, or how many times I get up in the middle of the night, or how long I’m awake – I’m always the same amount of tired. This was somewhat liberating, actually, since people often complain about how tired they are after having kids, but for me, it’s been almost exactly the same as it’s always been, except now I sometimes get up in the middle of the night to soothe a child, or to put away dishes, read, write a blog post, or work on my kid’s baby books.  I occasionally get up at 3.45am to go for a 4.00 jog, though even that seems crazy, even to me, when I do it, it works and I feel no difference to the rest of my day. Same amount of tired.

The biggest difference now that I have kids I feel like I should probably be a functional adult, where before I could sort of be a hot mess and it didn’t matter a whole lot.  It is very hard for me to sneak in my power naps when I’m at home and the days of being able to lounge all day louge binge-watching Netflix are soooo long gone.  If I really need a nap and I can’t get one I am RIDICULOUSLY tired and OUTRAGEOUSLY bitchy. One small thing can suddently set me off or can cause me to feel completely overwhelmed.  My husband knows this all too well.  This has been a large factor in prompting me to try to fix the problem.

My first sleep study was a typical polysomnograph.  They put me in a fake-ish looking hotel room where they spied on me with a camera all night long and were able to talk with me through a two-way speaker system. If I had to pee in the middle of the night all I had to do is say, “Jody, I have to pee” and Jody would come over straight away to unhook me so I could carry the cords with me to the (unvideotaped) potty.  They hooked me up to a million electrodes, including some on the chest and legs, and offered me the t.v. remote if you need to watch a bit before falling to sleep.

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See the little camera they spy on you from on the ceiling? (top left)

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Lovely picture. And bathroom with no camera (hopefully)

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The weirdest thing about THIS is that this the room you meet with the nurses in, even during just an office visit. Sleep study.

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Holy hell. Yes, this is what I looked like all hooked up, ready to go to sleep for the night. The wires are surprisingly light and not nearly as cumbersome as they look. The nose thingey measures air you exhale OUT.

After my sleep study, I felt like I slept like I normally did and was fully expecting a sleep apnea diagnosis within the next 7 to 10 business days. When I got a phone call at work telling me that I did not, in fact, have sleep apnea, I almost burst into tears. I might have frightened my coworker with my emotions.

My husband acted confused, “You’re upset because you don’t have sleep apnea?”

“Yes!”

Sleep apnea you can fix. Fairly easily, with a CPAP machine.  Now, I felt hopeless.

The tech who gave me the test results over the phone told me that the doctor would like to meet to discuss some of the other symptoms I had expressed in the sleep questionnaire. Things like the excessive daytime sleepiness and also one symptom I had no idea was at all a real thing, or that had anything to do with sleeping difficulties, until I checked “yes” to it on the questionnaire.

7. Cataplexy (maybe. Or not).  Which I now know means episodes of sudden, involuntary, muscle weakness, typically triggered by strong emotions. Cataplexy can vary greatly, from hardly perceptible facial drooping and shoulder sagging, to complete muscle paralysis and collapsing on the floor. I have no idea if my feelings are what cataplexy is, but based on the description on the questionnaire, I felt my symptoms fit. I even have a sound that I hear in my head when I feel whatever this feeling is.

I had often wondered if that feeling of muscles suddenly draining was normal, or if other people felt it, but figured it was just me being overly-emotional and dramatic and didn’t over analyze it. After I learned that this was a thing, it made me wish I had paid more attention to it before.

Based on these other symptoms, and a few irregularities he saw from the data from my first sleep test, he wanted me to do another type of sleep study – a daytime sleep test called a Multiple Latency Sleep Test (MLST).  This measures sleep latency (how quickly you fall asleep) during the day, and what stage of sleep your brain slips into.  It’s a pretty cut and dry measure for Narcolepsy – you should not be entering REM sleep during the day after you’ve had a full night’s rest (they have you do another nighttime sleep study the night before, to ensure any daytime sleepiness isn’t due to you being out drinking all night the evening before).

MLST day

MLST daytime study – no hoses up the nose, thank goodness.

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sleep study 3

So, I took four naps, every hour and a half after I woke up.  The first nap I was so anxiety ridden that I had a hard time falling asleep.  I was worried about not being able to and I wanted the test to accurately reflect my typical ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.  It took 11 minutes.  The next three naps I fell asleep in 5 minutes, 4 minutes and 3 1/2 minutes.  Pretty short sleep latency times.  While I dreamt during all 4 naps, I never fell into REM sleep, so the result =  no narcolepsy.

Fucking fuck.

I seriously sobbed.

My husband asked, in typical jack-asshole fashion, “wait, you wanted to have narcolepsy?”

I wanted a fucking answer.

So, I got some bullshit diagnosis (severe idiopathic hypersomnia!) that basically means I’m really, really, really, tired all the time but they don’t know why.  Ironically the med treatment they suggested is the same as what they suggest for narcolepsy.

So.  Looking to find other answers now.

I See You: An Open Letter to All The Future Mamas Struggling With Infertility

I see you.

I see you hiding behind your Facebook wall.  Silent and purposefully not “liking” the photos of my babies.

I see you rolling your eyes and saying out loud how annoying it is that my profile picture is of my children and not of me. After all, you are friends with me, not my kids, you don’t want to know what’s new with them, you want to know what I’m up to. You might be blocking me from your feed.  I do post a lot of photos of my babies. I can’t help it. And that profile pic IS what I’m up to. It is not me, but it kind of is me at the same time. But you already know that.

I see you liking the snarky memes about parents being assholes.  Selfish, egotistical, ungrateful fucks.

I see you smiling that fake smile when we talk in the break room about our children.

I see you walking out the door when you think it’s safe to make your escape. I see you eating at your desk instead of joining us later in the week.

I see you crying in your car after going to a baby shower, or meeting your friend’s new bundle of joy or hearing another pregnancy announcement from someone who didn’t even try to get pregnant.  Maybe I don’t catch you every time.  But I know you do it.

I see you at the doctor, staring at the photos of the babies on the wall, wondering if that will ever happen to you.  Thinking that maybe it won’t.  But going back anyway.

I see you staring at me in the waiting room, a mother, wondering what the fuck I’m doing in there and wishing me out of your sight.

I see you watching in horror as you bleed, much more than you should be bleeding, as you feel yourself losing it. Him. Her. Maybe even Them. Knowing you will not ever be the same after this.

I see you out shopping, trying to avoid looking at the cute baby things.  I see you, very rarely, pick up something from the rack.  You always put it back. Except that one time. That special thing you saw and couldn’t help but buy.  No one sees it because it is hidden in the back of a closet right now, but you think of it often.

I see you cringing at every insensitive and thoughtless complaint about pregnancy or parenting.

I see you watching a mother hug and cuddle her child as she waits to checkout.  I see you watching another scream at her kid in the backseat while the child cowers. I see the rage in your eyes as you witness both encounters.

I hear you screaming.  Even if you’re only doing it on the inside.

I see you struggling, even though you are trying not to show it.

Don’t worry.  You’re hiding it well.

It’s just that since I’ve been there too, I know you’re there.  I want you to know that I see you, that you’re not alone, and even though it feels like it will -and even though it feels like it will – the anxiety, anger and despair really won’t last forever, even if there is no guarantee of a biological child as an end result of all the turmoil.

If you are looking for support, Reddit has a phenomenal infertility group  and RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, has resources as well.

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My Blogging Resume: I Probably Shouldn’t Waste Money on Fancy Paper

My good pal over at Sammiches and Psych Meds signed up to attend her first blogging conference at Blog U this summer and she’s trying to get me to go with her.  Apparently things get way more formal than one might assume and bloggers bring business cards and writing resumes, hoping to make connections and sell themselves. The thing is she’s actually a real blogger and writer and I’m more of the fake kind. So, while her writing resume is actually like … a resume. Mine looks more like this:

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Lack of credentials aside, I might go anyway. I’m intrigued. And she’s fun to drink with.

Anyone been to a blogging conference and have any info to share with us newbies? Anyone going to Blog U?

“But, Mine Don’t Look Like That!” Responding to My Daughter’s Body Image Questions

“Whats that?”

She reaches out and touches my bare breast. She grabs my nipple.

I’m not a Naked Person but I haven’t made an effort to cover myself in front of my daughter. Bodies are bodies and there’s nothing shameful about them and there is value in her seeing a normal woman’s human form, even if she only remembers it subconsciously.  She’s only two.  I don’t go out of my way to cover up when I step out of the shower or to hide myself from her when I’m getting dressed.

This time, I was leaning over her toddler bed in my pajamas, wearing an oversized pair of flannel pants and a loose-fitting tank top that sagged open as I bent over to tuck her in.

“Those are mom’s boobs. Her breasts”.

She squeezed. Then she looked down at her own chest before turning her face towards mine, “But, I don’t have that”.

She doesn’t ask a question with her mouth, but she is searching me for answers with her eyes.

Different responses went through my head, each immediately followed up with reasons why the response would make me the worst mom ever, causing my child to develop body image issues at the age of two.

Dont worry, someday you will.  No, no, no.  That makes it seem like something to aspire to.  

Someday yours will be bigger.  No, no, no.  That emphasizes that bigger is better and implies that what she has now isn’t good enough.  

When you’re older yours will be like Mama’s.  No, no, no, I have no clue what hers will be like.  My family and Mr. Grouch’s family have VERY different body types.  Very different boobs.  I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of boobs my girls will have.

Women have bigger boobs, kids have smaller ones. No, no, no, that implies bigger boobs make one more womanly.  There are a million ways to be “womanly”.

Finally something hit me.  Something true.

“That’s because everyone’s are different. Yours are yours”.

And it’s true, isn’t it?  I marveled at the truthful simplicity of the words that came out of my mouth.  We are who we are and those of us who are happiest with ourselves are the ones who accept this.

Whether taught or innate, we compare ourselves to others.  How many times have we women looked at another and had the feeling that we weren’t pretty enough, sexy enough, strong enough, good enough?  How many times have we doubted our worth or our woman-ness, shrugging off compliments or praise with a “But, mine don’t look like that!”.  What a waste of energy that is.  Comparison about bodies serves no purpose. It doesn’t do us any good to wish to be someone we’re not, in any way, especially physically.

The fact of the matter is, we are who we are and we aren’t going to become anybody else.  To be happy with ourselves we must be grateful for what we have, embrace it, and treat it right.  

Having this conversation with my daughter made me reflect on why women tend to become so much happier in their thirties. Their bodies have finally stopped wildly changing.  There’s been some time to become acclimated with who they are, physically and emotionally.  The ones who are taught from the beginning that bodies are nothing more than the physical housing of our being, and that beauty is more than skin deep, begin the path of self-acceptance and self-appreciation.  Those who are not fight a losing battle against other women, against time and gravity, and ultimately against themselves.

My daughter smiled and wrapped her arms around herself, giving her chest a split-second hug before reaching for a book and asking me to read her a bedtime story.  She was satisfied with the answer.  As we all should be.

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The Two Phrases That Keep Me Moving In The Right Direction

Yoga is a place for me to get a little therapy, in a bit of an incognito way.  A good yoga instructor doesn’t just teach the physical postures, the asanas, but also garnishes insights and poses questions that inspire reflection on important principles of healthy being.  It is hard to focus when our brains are abuzz with anxieties, and to-do lists constantly swirl around in our heads.  The asanas exist to wring out the body and clear the mind, so we are able to focus on what is important.  There are two simple ideas that are consistently returned to by the yogis at the studio, that have really stuck with me, off the mat.

Be Compassionate.

How do I apply it? I try to ask myself questions, or think of statements like these, especially when I find myself feeling frustrated or annoyed:

Are they doing okay?
What’s the root of the behavior I’m so annoyed with?
Are they acting that way because they are stressed or tired?
Are they having an off day/week/month/year?
Am I focusing only on the negative?
Do they need some help?
Do they need a smile? A hug?
Do they need me to back off?
What can I do to help?
Nobody is perfect.  Not even me.  And that’s okay.
Everyone has their “thing”.  Even me.  And that’s okay.
Everyone does what they can, at the time.  Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes it’s very little.
Are you recognizing all the good they do?  Am I recognizing all the good I am doing?
Are you beating them up because they aren’t doing everything perfectly?  Are you beating yourself up?
Are you being gentle with them?  With yourself?

There are millions of questions that all boil down to the same thing.  Am I being compassionate with myself and others?  Being compassionate doesn’t mean needing to set yourself on fire to keep others warm, which is why, for me, compassion is balanced with honesty.

Be Honest.

How do I apply it? I ask myself questions like these:

Am I working hard enough?
Am I doing what I can?
Do I need a break?
Do they need a break?
Am I giving him/her a chance?
Am I being too harsh?
Am I being too lenient?
Have I done all I can?
Am I taking things too personally?
Do I have enough information to make any kind of judgment?
Am I reading too much between the lines?
Am I giving enough attention to those around me? Am I giving enough attention to me?
Can I keep jogging another mile or am I too tired?  Do I need to slow down? Can I speed up?
Do I really want to eat that donut?

There are millions of questions that all ask the same thing, Am I being honest?

It’s a funny thing how being truthful helps balance out the never-ending-giving that compassion warrants, however it also usually results in more compassion in the end.

I am by no means empathetic and honest at all times, especially right in the heat of the moment. But I won’t beat myself up about it.  I’ll just keep working to be better and these two little phrases will help get me there.

This post is part of 1000 Voices for Compassion – A thousand (plus!) bloggers have decided to clog the newsfeeds with COMPASSION today to help counter the doom and gloom we so often scroll through.  There’s a lot of good out there, people.  Click on the image below to read the post from Finding Ninee, (one of my fave bloggers and one of the hosts of this blogging event) as well as links to many other uplifting posts.

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Search #1000speak on Twitter for more uplifting posts!

14 Life Lessons Running Teaches You

Jogging isn’t just a workout.  This is one of the big keys to understanding why runners always talk about running, even to those who couldn’t care less about running.  For most of us, the trot itself is a life coach.  It paves the path for processing and understanding our existence. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

1.  Plans are needed to reach big goals.  Anyone who has trained for a race can tell you that you can’t just expect to show up on race day and nail it.  For big mileage goals, I plan my weekly runs out for about six months in advance.  This has reminded me that if I want to see positive changes in my career, within my family, or in myself, it will take time, and some sort of medication therapy strategy.

2.  Plans are never followed through to a T.  Something always happens.  Injuries creep up, plans interfere with training, the weather doesn’t cooperate, illness strikes. There are usually glitches in the perfect system I mapped out on paper.  I count on needing to make adjustments to what I’ve planned out as a best case scenario.  One of the top rules I live by is to always write plans out in pencil (another one is to always keep the pantry well-stocked with red wine for drowning sorrows and/or celebrating gains).

3.  Scaring yourself every now and again is a good thing.  I have a quote in my classroom that says, “Do one thing each day that scares you”.  This confused one of my students, who asked me if it meant he should jump off a bridge, because that would be scary.  NO, son, that is not what it means.  That’s stupid, not scary.  (Screw standardized testing, it’s examples like these that show us what we REALLY need to teach some of these kids). The quote, of course, is a reminder to take positive risks – even somewhat tiny ones, like at the end of my eight mile run, deciding at the last minute to do ten, or maybe signing up for that race I’ve been fantasizing about, but never had the guts to go for.  Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way I’ll grow, and the only way to keep life interesting.

4.  You never know what you can do if you don’t ever try.  After running my first marathon, it really struck me that even a year before I had not considered myself to be a “real” runner, and had definitely said out loud, on multiple occasions, that I would NEVER be a marathoner.  I really never thought I could do something like that.  I remember a pal of mine talking about her fifteen mile runs, and thinking she was absolutely crazy.  Now, a few years later, I run at least a ten mile run almost every weekend.  I’m often reminded how shockingly out of shape I can be, and still be able to do this.  Running that marathon made me realize there are probably a lot of other things I could do that I’ve been too chicken to even consider.

5.  Stubbornness pays off.  If it really matters, find a way, find a way, find a way. Excuses are the easy way out and actions, not hopeful wishes or pretty Pinterest quotes, define what truly matters to us.

7.  You don’t lose that many friends attending social functions smelling and looking like crap.  And the ones you might lose aren’t worth keeping.  It’s a good litmus test, really. Running eats up a decent amount of time and there are only so many hours in the day, so as my mileage increases, so do the chances of me showing up to happy hour events or informal social gatherings in my ridiculously clingy and sweat-soaked garb.  If I’m feeling especially self-conscious I may change into jeans in my car before I arrive, however this always results in me giving myself a mini heart-attack as I try to peel the skin-tight material off my sweaty legs and I panic about getting arrested for indecent exposure.  It’s usually not worth the anxiety attack and I just show up in the ugly tights, thighs right out there in the open for all to witness.  The people I really want to spend time with don’t care about such superficiality.

8.  No one is going to do the work for you.  I can join running groups, and download running apps and buy expensive running shoes and a million fancy shirts with the thumb-holes built in, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to run my own miles.

9. Being alone with your thoughts can be scary.  But, it’s important.  I can’t process all the jumbled thoughts racing through my brain without a little time alone.  And, let’s be honest, I’ve got a lot of shit to work through in that skull of mine – it’s about as big of a mess in there as the back storage area of my grandmother’s basement, and while I love her zesty personality and her golden heart, she’s borderline hoarder material with more than a twinge of ADHD.  That basement is a mess.

10.  Good socks are one of the most important things in life.  Seriously.  Happy feet = heavenly life.  Cold/wet feet = horribly icy, frozen hellish existence.  All bow to the SmartWool Gods.

11.   Bladder and bowel control should never be taken for granted.  Never. Never ever. There is nothing worse than feeling gravity’s pull on a full bladder or a heaviness with each step that causes you to pray your ass doesn’t betray you by turning into an anal volcano. It is unfortunate that most running routes have a noticeable lack of access to public restrooms.  Dear Starbucks workers four miles from my house, please don’t mind my sweaty Saturday morning pit stops.  Trust me, I buy enough coffee from you during the work week to pay for all the toilet paper I use up on the weekend.

12.  If you do something for the wrong reasons you’re going to hate it. Continuous pressure to increase mileage or increase pace, or feeling guilty about not taking break, is just a big huge set-up for burn-out (and probably injury).  All runners know that, for the most part, the only person that really cares about their running is THEMSELVES. Running, like most life endeavors, is highly personal, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to be damned sure I’m doing it to make myself a happier, stronger, and better me. Every once in awhile I get that feeling of needing to keep up with the Joneses, but I am constantly kicking myself in my own ass to remind myself that my real goal is to keep moving towards finding as much inner peace as possible.  My life goal is not to beat Joe Schmo in a 5k.  So, every now and again, I need to skip the trot and eat half a Margherita pizza washed down with a Two Hearted Ale.  There are times when feeding the soul is more important than pounding the pavement.

13.  Never judge the strength of someone from the few encounters you witness.  Sure, there are plenty of runs that I’m feeling strong and I look like I know what I’m doing but just as in life, there are days that just utterly suck.  There may or may not have been runs where I was the freak show with tears pouring out my eyes, holding a Ziploc baggie full of raisins that my frozen fingers only somewhat successfully managed to get to my mouth without spilling.  The person who gave me a raised eyebrow as she saw me hobbling along, leaving a trail of raisins and tears, had no idea that I ran twenty miles that day.  At certain points we’re all that person and it’s humbling to remember that.

14.  You don’t have as much control as you think.  A sore tendon here, an achy joint there, all and my running days can come to a crashing halt.  I know that at some point I may have to find another way to get where I need to go.

 

14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running

14 Life Lessons Taught to Me by Running

 

 

Practical Tips For All You Wine-Loving Mamas

1.  Make sure your diaper bag is big enough to pack all of the essentials. Opt for the satchel with plenty of extra room, just in case you need to hold a few of your favorite things.

wine in diaper bag

2.  Use Your Role as Grocery-Getter to Your Advantage: Remember that there is really no need to begrudge your spouse for never setting foot in the bread aisle because the wine aisle is usually right next to it.  When you want to make a wine run, but don’t want to hear any grief from your spouse about how you can’t make it a day without wine, you can use the old, I-need-to-go-to-the-grocery-because-the-baby-needs-diapers excuse.

wine groceries

3.  Take a Special Treat to Sip As You Stroll:  Endorphins plus wine = happiest of mamas.  Just be sure to put your mommy juice in a cup with a well-sealed lid (do as I say, not as as I do) and take care to dodge the potholes.

wine cup spill

4. Of course, don’t overindulge. A little nip to take the edge off is well and good, but there is no repercussion worse than having to parent with a hangover. You only need enough wine to counter the whine. Proportion wisely.

Today I Did Good.

There are a lot of days I screw up. But today was not one of them, even though it could have been.  After work I had a doctor appointment, and then I picked up the kids from daycare and we went straight to the grocery store.  I knew I was pushing it, but my kids are pretty good and I brought diapers and snacks.  I am ready, I thought.  Immediately upon entering the store my 2-year-old told me she had to go potty.  SHIT.  We’re just starting this whole potty business so we’re at the point that if she ASKS to go, we have to take her. Nevermind that the clock was ticking until meltdown mode for both her and Infant Grouch, or that the public restrooms are bacterial infected cesspools or that I’d be precariously holding both her and the infant, or that she probably wouldn’t go to the bathroom anyway until she was back in the cart (spoiler alert, she later shit in the cart).

So I took a deep breath.

I said, “Okay, let’s go” and we entered the bathroom and to my surprise, she peed!  So I wrangled her diaper back on and said, “Don’t touch anything!” a million times and we washed our hands and we hoped Infant Grouch wouldn’t start screaming (and she didn’t, whew).  Fifteen minutes after we arrived we finally started our grocery shopping.

Toddler Grouch was sitting in the big part of the cart and Infant Grouch was in the small upper seat.  Toddler Grouch kept standing up and grabbing things off of the shelves and shouting cliches like, “I want that!” while knocking over rows of shampoo.  I found myself repeatting, to her, “Sit down. Sit down. Sit down”, and, “Do you need a snack?” and to myself, “Take a deep breath. An ujayi breath.  Fuck it, ANY BREATH”.

I breathed.

The first item on my list was dry shampoo.  Because God forbid I have to wash my hair every day.  (Seriously, who has time for that?)  I was completely out so I needed it and I walked back and forth and back and forth, scouring the aisles.  I walked back and forth as many times as they say “back and forth” in Love You Forever.  Where the hell is it?  I was getting pissed.  The Meltdown Clock was ticking.   After the amount of time it could have taken me to write a graduate thesis, I finally found it.  Why the hell do they have to always change the packaging?  I resisted the urge to ask this question out loud, since little ears were within the listening range.

The next item on my list was saline rinse for the two stuffy little noses that alternate between mimicking spewing volcanoes and crusty manhole covers.  Our household is plagued with sinuses as delicate and narrow as human hairs, so none of us can survive without this stuff.  We were out, so it had to be found immediately. Where the fuck is it?  For the love of God, it’s been thirty-five minutes and so far all we’ve done is pee on a potty (but, Potty Dance!) and make it down one aisle.  The Meltdown Clock is ticking! I finally found it. “God damned fucking packaging changers!” I yelled.  In my head.  I actually held it in. And again….

I breathed.

While Toddler Grouch was screaming, “I wannnnt it” and, “Go away!” and “Poooooooopy Poop!” I could not be the mom who loses her shit because the saline drops now came in a purple package instead of a white one.  I didn’t even yell when Toddler Grouch started screaming in a sort of horribly mean tone, “Go away!”  or as she crushed groceries with her boots and kept stacking items up next to the infant carrier until they almost toppled over.

Instead, I breathed again and made myself smile at Infant Grouch, even though it may have been a bit too toothy, looking perhaps like the smile the Wolf gave to Little Red Riding Hood.

I bought four different types of dark chocolate and a bottle of Cabernet.  But I did not yell.

We got home and I had two tired and hungry kids to feed, and I opened the fridge to get the leftover chicken tenders and fries for Toddler Grouch…..and I realized Mr. Grouch had eaten them.  He was on a plane heading to an out of town business event so I could not give him an evil glare.  I threw together some leftover black beans and roasted vegetables and told Toddler Grouch she could watch a Little Einsteins episode if she ate her food. And after she tried to pull down the kitchen blinds, she did. Somehow after all that she ate beans and vegetables for dinner.  Score.

It was time for her to head to bed and she started complaining.  I started singing the Goodnight Song to her but improvised the words, changing, “It’s time to go to sleep” to, “It’s time brush your teeth” which she somehow found hilarious, so we laughed and laughed about that as we walked upstairs and she brushed her teeth.  Then when we were getting her pajamas on, she said she wanted to wear the coconut tree poop pajamas so I repeated back to her what she said and we laughed and laughed as we joked that, “A told B and B told C, I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut poop pajama tree!”  After we laughed about that we read I Love You, Stinky Face. On the page with the swamp monster on it I always blow a kiss and touch her face with my finger when the kiss lands on her cheek.  Tonight she giggled and told me she was wiping it off, so I gave a million or so kisses to my little slimy swamp monster and she laughed so loud she could hardly breathe as she wiped them off (even though she asked for more on every inhale) but my kisses were no match for her. Before we knew it, we had been laughing for over half an hour.

A day like this I consider a win, and worth recording.

And I still have dark chocolates and Cabernet to top it off.

One of Those Beautiful People

I liked how they looked on her, those creases.  Wrinkles curved around her mouth when she smiled…and when she didn’t. You could see her former struggles etched across her face and you could see her former joys crisscrossed on top of those. Aging, for her, was like the kind of weathering a sailor experiences – skin externally leathered from the Sun, but innards robust and healthy from the heavy lifting and extended exposure to all that fresh air.

Her skin sagged, giving the superficial appearance of something limp, something quite possibly defunct.  But, if you looked closely you could see that the burlapped layer of weary flesh drooped atop bone made of granite. Despite her frail appearance, she had solid cheekbones, a firm jaw, and a steady gaze.  If you took the time to really see her, you could see her vitality shining through the outer casing.  Once you saw it, it was as though her flesh became transparent.  Her spirit blinded.

She was one of those Beautiful People.

I don’t mean the ones with the clearest complexions or the most toned thighs.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin.

She didn’t need the spotlight on herself, she didn’t need to be the top performer in every show.
The most beautiful people are the ones who lift other people up.

She knew her whole self, and she loved all of her parts. Even the really ugly bits she treated with compassion and care.
The most beautiful people are those who always work to become better versions of themselves.

She was one of the ones who had been through hell, and who had always remained determined to come out on top.
The most beautiful people are the fighters.

She wasn’t afraid to expose her true self.  She never denied her flaws. She never hid her strengths.
The most beautiful people are the ones who are real.

I liked the way they looked on her because I could tell that it wasn’t that her skin was sagging and lifeless, but rather that her whole self was uplifting.  Her epidermis was the only piece of her that couldn’t keep up. She saw me admiring her and she returned my stare with a close-mouthed smile, one that only hinted at the kindness buried just beneath the surface.  She pulled me towards her with bird-like arms and squeezed and I was reminded, again, that she was stronger than she looked.  I leaned in and rested my head on her shoulder, eager to be held, if only for a few seconds.  I foolishly wished that some of her beauty would rub off on me, that like her perfume, some of it would linger after she let go.