calgon, take me away

turtleI’ve been swimming pretty much every day lately, which is notable just because I’ve never been much of a swimmer. I didn’t grow up with a pool and in fact didn’t learn until I was about 11 years old — I taught myself, at the town pool (back in the days when an eleven year-old could get on her bike and ride a mile or two over to the town pool and go in the pool alone). Even so, I’m utterly and deathly and irrationally afraid of going under water, to this day. (And no,that’s not going to change. It wouldn’t be an irrational fear if I could just pull myself together, would it?)

However, now I have a pool where I live. Dave loves the pool. It’s where he spends the summer, every day he can. And I love it too, when it’s sunny and hot and there aren’t screaming children making sounds like mewling goats. Or grown-up Real Housewives of Longuyland talking at a volume that can reach New Jersey. (But I digress.) It’s nice, though, enjoying the water, reading a book by the side, swimming around.

I’m also swimming laps every day, for exercise. I’m trying to get my legs stronger, especially the left leg which has nerve issues. There’s not much you can do about nerve pain, aside from some drugs that I find scary, but if I can build up the leg muscles around that nerve, my pain should be less. I do half my laps propelling myself as much as possible with just my legs, letting them do the work. And it’s great exercise in general, which goes along with my other big project of late.

Truth be told, though, what I really like to do, when it’s not crowded, is float. Just float. I’ve never been a great swimmer, but I can float on my back for as long as I like, with no effort at all. I don’t know why. People who weigh more, they say, float better — fat is less dense than muscle — but that can’t be it, because I’ve always been able to do this. Skinny, heavy, eleven years old or forty-two, it’s always been the same. And it’s the most peaceful, most wonderful thing in the world, floating on top of the water, eyes turned up to the sky, arms stretched out or even clasped behind my head, the clicking noises of the pool filter loud in my ears and every other noise muffled away to nothing. Maybe everyone has one little skill and this one’s mine — if so, I’ll take it.

(Mind, I’d still like teleportation, too, if it’s available.)

here I go again

funny-scaleOnce upon a time, I decided to lose some weight. I started counting calories, I started exercising. I was tenacious. And it worked. I lost 108 pounds, and it felt terrific. And… I’ve gained it all back. Every single pound, and then some.

What happened? Well, a lot of things. The first answer, and we’ll come back to this: I ate too much. I also stopped exercising, and that, to be fair, wasn’t my fault. After I hurt my back, and then the surgery that followed, the sciatic pain in my leg took away the walking I loved. Outside on Amherst’s bike paths, my mix going on my iPod shuffle, walking sneakers on, workout clothes always with me, I loved to walk. A lot. The treadmill will do in the winter, but walking those paths, or the ones at the museum, that was fulfilling. Sometimes joyous. But it’s not a real possibility now. My leg muscles are tired and weak, and the pain recurs too often and too strongly. So this time I’m focusing on swimming. I’ve never been a great swimmer — I taught myself when I was 11 or so, and I’ve never learned to swim underwater (long story). But I can swim laps, and I can exercise in the pool, and it’s the best thing possible for my back.

But back to the eating too much part. Well, that was all me. Why? I don’t know, why does anyone eat too much? I wanted to, for one. I was home a lot more. I had time on my hands. I like food. It tastes good. I like a big comfy meal that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and full. I like salty things and cheesy things and ice cream. A lot of people do. I like them too much — a lot of people do that too.

I was also happy. I met this guy, as you know, and that worked out pretty well for me. :) And then you’re a couple and you’re going out to eat, and you’re sharing desserts, and you’re happy. I felt loved, and okay, and for the first time in forever, not so insecure. I’m lovable! I’m great the way I am! And there’s some value in just loving who you are and accepting it and so forth. But there’s a line somewhere that I crossed, and now I don’t love who I am. My clothes don’t fit. I don’t fit. I don’t like myself this way. So it’s time to do something about it, again.

For unrelated reasons, I’ve been tested six ways to Sunday by a veritable crew of doctors in the past few months. Enough bloodwork to satisfy a hungry vampire’s thirst. Ultrasounds and sonograms, some of them mighty uncomfortable. A couple of specialists. The upside of all of that is that apparently I’m actually pretty freaking healthy. I get nice numbers on everything, except for an underactive thyroid (and while yes, it’s true, that ain’t helpin’ the number on the scale go down, studies have shown that weight gain due to hypothyroidism is mild — in the 5-20 range, and I got a lot more than that to lose so I’m not hiding behind that). And we’re addressing that with medicine, so here I am, healthy as the proverbial horse, but just overweight. Again.

There were a few false starts this spring — I tried a couple of other diets, but none of them did much for me. And then, after another dismal rendezvous with my friend the scale, I finally conceded that I have to go back to what worked before, and will again, no matter how tedious. Calories, calories, counting calories. I started using MyFitnessPal, and I like it. Since I began last Sunday, I’ve lost 5.2 pounds — as an experienced dieter I know that’s just the initial water-weight jump, but it’s still nice to see that number on the scale going in the right direction.

So, here I go again. Wish me luck. :)

Created by MyFitnessPal – Free Calorie Counter

today’s the fourth of July

Two musical offerings for you this holiday — Aimee Mann and Katy Perry, in no order of preference or merit and with nothing to connect them to each other except for a tenuous holiday reference. Between the two, though, whatever kind of 4th you’re having, one of these is bound to suit your mood. (Just be careful of the sparks from the KP one. Apparently she can shoot them right out of her body.)

three little birds

Until the age of 32, I wasn’t an anxious person at all. I didn’t worry about anything other than the things anyone worries about — will I fall in love, will I be able to pay my credit card bill, will work suck tomorrow. Normal every day things. Then my mother died suddenly, and I was left with a legacy of anxiety — will something happen to me, too, something I don’t see coming. It’s turned me into a minor hypochondriac, unfortunately. I’m always worried. I’m frequently scared. Sometimes — a lot of the time — over nothing. Unfortunately, not always. Once my gall bladder nearly burst. They fixed that. And then my back pretty much broke. They sort of fixed that.

I had a spinal fusion of the L4-L5 vertebrae in the fall of 2012, after injuring my back in October 2011. In that preceding year I’d tried everything — PT, drugs, a chiropractor, cortisone — and none of it did any good. An MRI showed plain as day that surgery was the only other option. The day the neurosurgeon told me about the surgery, describing the hardware they’d install in my spine, I went out in the car and cried, totally terrified. But we went ahead, and a few months and some insurance hassles later, it was time.

The morning of my surgery, I was terrified. No one likes general anesthesia but each time I’ve had it I’m convinced I won’t wake up again. This time, I tried hard to stay calm that morning, even as I feared the worst. And as we got ready to go to the hospital, I thought of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. The song ran through my head on the ride there, and as I was admitted and waited to be taken in. Over and over I heard it, and it must have helped because when they took my blood pressure it was surprisingly normal, given my agitated state, and I stayed calm through it all. As they wheeled me to pre-op, and as they put me on the table, I heard those lines –

Rise up this morning
Smile with the rising sun
Three little birds
Each by my doorstep
Singing sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying, “This is my message to you”
Singing “Don’t worry ’bout a thing
Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singing “Don’t worry ’bout a thing
Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

A few hours later I woke up and it was over.  The surgery was harder than I’d imagined it would be, and, in the long run, while not quite as entirely successful as I wanted it to be, enough so that I got my life back. My surgeon’s nurse, a kind and tireless person who never turned my calls away no matter how often I asked her the same questions over and over, told me once, “The goal of this surgery is not to fix your back. Nothing can fix it. The goal is to make it better, and to make you feel better.” And it did, and I do. I just don’t feel *completely* better, and that’s just the way it has to be. Sometimes I’m angry about that.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Since the day Dave asked me to marry him, and before, even, he’s always been there for me, taking care of me, and telling me not to worry. When he does that, I don’t stop worrying, of course — it’s not that simple — but he says it all the same, and each time something new scares me or makes me anxious, hearing him tell me it’s going to be okay helps a little bit more.

so, today I got this:

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on my shoulder, to always have that reminder with me, to remember the times Dave’s told me it’ll be okay and that it always is. Whatever happens, he says, we’ll work it out, and we always do. Maybe a time will come that I’ll remember that right away before the worry starts. But until then, and even after then, this will always be with me

far above cayuga’s waters

I was in Ithaca for my 20th college reunion this past weekend, but only accidentally. We had already planned a trip to our favorite B&B in the Finger Lakes when I realized we’d be in the area at the same time as Cornell’s Reunion Weekend.  I didn’t officially attend, having too many other plans and things we wanted to do, but since we were there we drove through campus (well, where we could — there were roads closed for construction, which is always true), had lunch in Collegetown, and visited the dorm.

Katie and Streaker in close proximity.

Katie and Streaker in rare close proximity.

Risley was hosting the Class of 2004, so we were able to slip inside and, unabashedly, sneak past the now-keycard-entry-only upper floors. I wanted to show Dave the place I’d been talking about for so long, the first floor, Cowcliffes, the CLR (um, where’s the Persian rug that was in the CLR?!), Dining. I wished we could see Risley Theatre, but it was locked up tight, of course, as was Tammany. So we went down 2nd Lost where I’d once lived and visited Karin’s amazing Muppet murals for the first time in years.

That's me with Superman on my shoulder. It's a long story.

That’s me with Superman on my shoulder. It’s a long story.

Then we swung by the 2ndfloor mural of Fall of 1990 residents and I remembered far fewer names than the last time I’d been there. Lastly, we headed to my last and favorite old home at Risley, 352, up on the 3rd floor where Streaker and Katie once roamed, where fondue parties were held, where Darielle used to fall asleep in the shower, and where Paula and I searched for lost catnip mousies.

It’s fun to peek in the old stomping grounds every once in a grand while, but I try not to get too nostalgic about it. Those were some great years, but mostly because of the people I shared them with. The people and I have moved on elsewhere, and the building belongs to two decades’ worth of others who’ve come after me now (as well as those who came before). I hope they enjoyed living there as much as I did.

I may never leave the house again

Amazon_1It’s not true, of course. I’m not a hermit. I leave the house for work, for food, for movies, for friends, for family, for the pool. I might be willing to give up a few of those, but not all. Definitely not the pool. Or Chipotle. So I’ll leave the house again, and again, but one thing I almost never leave the house for anymore is shopping.

This is what we’ve bought from Amazon in the past two months: a mouse (the computer kind), dog shampoo (for a friend, or rather his dog), cat food, safety strips for the tub, a dustbuster, a hand mixer, cat litter, cake pans, garbage bags, a book, a step stool, an extension cord, socks, a hubcap, and batteries. We have Amazon Prime, and everything gets here about as quickly as the drones can bring it. The hand mixer arrived, regular shipping, 19 hours after we ordered it.

From Target, with the RedCard’s free shipping: clothes, a picture frame, Tide pods, gift cards, screening for the porch, a humidifier, a pillow, a phone, a bathing suit, and a baby gate for the cats.

And from Fresh Direct? Foods, foods, and more foods.

You have to understand: I just hate shopping.  Unless it’s Wegmans, just the very idea of milling about in a store makes me exhausted. I don’t know what part of it is the worst (well, yes, I do) but it’s some combination of the huge, overheated stores, the lines, the people, the parking, the flourescent lighting, the people, the Muzak, the noise, and the people. Shopping online is so much easier, so much quieter, so much more pleasant. I click and a short time later it arrives, all without waiting in line, driving anywhere, parking, or even talking to anyone else. It’s wonderful.

I’m not a hermit, but I confess I wish I could at least play one on TV.

 

our nation’s capital

IMG_2094

We’d been told it was too late for cherry blossoms, but there were lots of trees still in bloom.

For my birthday this year, my very nice husband took me to Washington, D.C. I’d never been there. Somehow I missed the 8th grade trip that every kid apparently takes (and, given that I attended three different schools in that year, it’s not all that surprising). It’s only about a five hour drive away from us here and we had a great time.

IMG_2144We stayed at a nice if quirky hotel, The Churchill. It’s up near Dupont Circle and our room was very nice. I picked it for its quirkiness — sometimes I get zoned out by corporate chain hotels — so I can’t complain too much about the air conditioning that blew hot air or the long narrow bathroom that felt like a maze. Our window opened wide to a fresh cool breeze and the water pressure was good. It worked out fine.

The Churchill was also right across the street from the Washington Hilton where we would pick up our Big Bus tour each day. It also just happened to be where Reagan was shot in 1981. Dave looked up the footage on YouTube and found the exact spot the Secret Service pinned Hinkley up against a wall, which was cool if you’re history dorks like us.

IMG_2148The Big Bus tour is a double-decker bus tour with numerous loops that will take you around the city. We’ve taken similar tours in New York and Boston and we’re big fans. I can’t do as much walking as I’d like to but this way, we get around to everything we want. You can get off at any stop or you can just view sites from the bus (which I cannot enough stress the beauty of in Manhattan, especially — you get to stay off the streets, away from the dirt, away from annoying people, and often have a better view above all the traffic). If the weather’s nice (which it gloriously was, this trip) you get to enjoy riding around outside all day. We had a two-day pass for DC and covered the whole city, all the memorials, Arlington, the National Cathedral, lots of Georgetown, the White House, the Capitol Building, and so on.

IMG_2103We spent most of our time off the bus at the Lincoln Memorial; that’s the one I most wanted to see. It was a lot of walking but worth it. It really is something, standing in that beautiful building and looking at that incredibly detailed and downright lifelike sculpture. There are crowds of people there all the time, but the throng is always in motion and you can walk right up to Lincoln and say hello. (He doesn’t respond, but it’s still nice to be friendly.) And as you leave and walk back down the steps you have the grand view of the National Mall before you. I felt a little like Forrest Gump, but Jenny or no Jenny, nothing in the world would have induced me to run into that murky water.

The first night we ate at a place called 1789, a small upscale restaurant with the snootiest of French waiters. I asked for the horseradish sauce (offered in the menu!) for my steak and he sniffed and said, with a disapproving shrug of his shoulders, “If you like.” He was so disdainful, it was actually kind of fun. We had a more congenial dinner at an Italian bistro on the second night, and we also had lunch at Good Stuff Eatery, a burger place owned by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef. I got the Prez Obama Burger; it was yummy. The milkshakes are good, too.

"Jenny, I'm glad we were here together in our nation's capital."

“Jenny, I’m glad we were here together in our nation’s capital.”

What we didn’t do: we didn’t visit any museums. On one hand we sort of wanted to, especially the National Air and Space Museum, the Newseum, and the National Archives. Those would have been amazing, but it was just too nice out — the weather was so gorgeous, and after the long cold winter, we just couldn’t bear to give it up to spend the days inside. I mean, just looking at the line at the National Archives (to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, I assume) was a big deterrent — we could’ve spent the entire day just standing in that. There are amazing treasures in the museums of DC, I know, but maybe that’s a focus for another trip. For this one, we just enjoyed the city.

All in all, it was a great birthday present and a fun trip. Visit over, the drive home was quick and included a stop at Wegmans. Who could ask for anything more?