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Archive for the ‘Chief Complaint’ Category

For some reason, I woke up at 1:27 this morning and could NOT fall asleep. I don’t recall dwelling on anything specific, or being worried or anxious about anything, I just couldn’t sleep. 

This was good (????) because I heard Carla get up at 4:00 and then I heard her sweet little voice call out, “Hello?” (Does she do this on nights when I’m not awake? Breaks my heart a little to think of that.) I went into her room and she was in tears because her leg was hurting so! much! I rubbed her leg for awhile and then she tearfully informed me that it wasn’t helping, so I gave her Tylenol and offered an ice pack. She declined the ice pack because the pain was in her entire leg, not in one specific spot. 

Poor kiddo. My diagnosis is growing pains (after shooing some very unpleasant frets about blood clots – why does my brain hate me?). Did you ever have growing pains? I remember getting them, that awful deep ache in both legs. The medical sites say that the pain is largely muscular, and that doctors don’t think growing hurts – despite the fact that the pains occur largely in growing children and tend to stop when the children stop growing. But whatever, nameless heartless overly literal doctors. 

Carla agreed to try some stretches, so I led her through a few knee bends and some downward dog. She had to show me child’s pose and cobra as well, even though I doubt those did anything for her pain and she ran through her “flow” at such lightning speed I don’t see how it could have been at all relaxing. At 4:37 she was still Wide Awake. I suggested she try one of my getting-to-sleep strategies (I have taught her getting-to-sleep strategies multiple times, but she never remembers them and has, until last night, mainly refused to try them), which was retracing the steps of a favorite walk. I suggested she think about going over to our neighbor-with-a-puppy’s house, and think about each step she takes to get there in as great detail as possible. She closed her eyes and was quite still for awhile. At 4:52 I whispered that I was going back to bed, and she told me that she was at the point in the walk where she was putting on her shoes. Great. 

“If I’m not asleep by 5:30, can I come get you?” she asked. She was so pathetic, and her leg still hurt. Against my better judgment, I said, “Do you want to come sleep in my room?”

Surprisingly, she declined. (Actually, what she said was, “I don’t think that would have any effect” which was a very surprising sentence to hear from a sleepy nine-year-old.)

I went back to bed and lay there, awake, waiting for her to come get me. (She never did!) I finally fell asleep shortly after my husband’s alarm went off at 6:00, only to have a nightmare that my mother-in-law, who is supposed to arrive next weekend, had instead arrived today. It was extremely stressful, as though the worst possible thing would be for my mother-in-law to show up when I had some clutter in the kitchen or had not yet washed her bed linens. She would be fine and cheerful about the whole thing, honestly. But in the dream, it was A HORROR.

Somehow Carla and I made it out the door to school, and then I went for a four-mile walk with a friend I haven’t seen in weeks, which was a very good second start to the day. Then I went to Trader Joe’s and then to the library, where I picked up my copy of The Accomplice, on hold after Birchie spoke so highly of it. (I know literally nothing about it, except that Birchie recommended it. It’s quite fun to dive into a book that you know nothing about, except when your husband asks you what it’s about and then screws his face up into perplexed concern when you say you don’t know.) 

But when I got home, things took A Turn: I had six emails from my bank, all saying in their typical panicked way, “You recently made a large transaction” followed immediately by “Card Alert – Review This Transaction.” The bank does this – sends two apprehensive emails – for every transaction, and I have learned not to get terribly stressed. But this time, I had NOT made any transactions, especially not with the M*** Store in Washington State. 

The thing is, I had also not made any transactions with the M*** Store in the first week of November, when two charges of $.99 each hit my account. After scrutinizing both my memory and my account at the M*** Store (from which I cannot recall ever having purchased anything, although perhaps I did once a million years ago since I do have an account), I called my bank and they cancelled my card and sent me a new one.

So the card that was charged today was a BRAND NEW CARD. And I know for a fact that I have only used it at two places, one that rhymes with GayGal and the other that rhymes with Glamazon. 

I have cancelled this brand new card – and disputed the three charges of $.99, $.99, and $9.99 respectively – and I guess now I wait for the new card. Hopefully the holiday gifts that I charged to it this weekend will go through. SIGH AND ARGH. And also, HOW? How is someone accessing my card? How did they get it so soon after I cancelled the previous one? Why are they so hell bent on buying things from the M*** Store?!? My husband suggested that the fraudster had put some sort of recurring charge on my previous card, and that the card company automatically updated the number once I got the new one. So I have talked with my bank about THAT. I hope we communicated clearly about the possibility, but honestly I’m not sure. Fortunately, it is my personal account and has only a little bit of money in there, and fortunately I check my email way too frequently, so I caught the unauthorized charges early both times. But it sure is ANNOYING.

On to dinners.

December starts this week, people! It’s happening! 

We have three measly weeks left of school until a two-week winter break. Three weeks of all the activities. One week of my mother-in-law visiting. One call week. We’re going to POWER THROUGH.

Dinners for the Week of November 28-December 4

  • Mulligatawny Soup: Per my mother’s suggestion, I am going to make this with leftover turkey instead of chicken. Even if I don’t like the result (I hate turkey), my husband will eat it.
  • Spicy Chickpea Bowls: I have some chicken breasts I can chop up for my husband. I do need to whip up a batch of the ginger garlic sauce that this recipe calls for, which is a pain. But it is SO NICE to have a bag full of ginger-garlic sauce cubes in my freezer, and they last quite a while. 
  • Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken with Steamed Broccoli: We haven’t had this in a very long time and it’s good and it’s a slow cooker meal. Enough said.

I am also going to make another batch of butternut squash soup because it is easy and delicious and I am in a Soup Mood. Plus, Trader Joe’s had a lot of very nice looking, pre-cubed butternut squash at a very good price. 

Trader Joe’s also had a big container of cubed sweet potatoes, which I bought on a whim… but now I don’t know what to do with them! Roast them? But then… do what with them? I have tried roasted sweet potatoes on salad before and I do not care for it. What would YOU do with a huge container of cubed sweet potatoes? (I am not adding them to my butternut squash soup – I prefer my soup to be pure.) 

Also: I forgot to buy iceberg lettuce until the last possible second. (This was at the other grocery store I went to, specifically to buy bell peppers for the chickpea bowls. I cannot eat the chickpea bowls without bell peppers. And Trader Joe’s peppers were all soft and wrinkly. Ew. I need a nice crisp, unwrinkled pepper.) All my stuff (more than just bell peppers, I’M SORRY I HAVE A PROBLEM) was already on the belt; there was a woman behind me in line. I did the thing where I speed-walked over to the produce section and grabbed the first head of lettuce I saw so I could get back without anyone feeling like I was abusing the checkout section. But then I put the lettuce down, because it was very light, and grabbed another. ALSO very light, but now I was panicking, imagining the woman in line behind me tapping her foot and sighing in my general direction. I should have just put it down and survived ONE SINGLE WEEK without iceberg lettuce (I have baby spinach! I have green leaf lettuce!) but I didn’t; I ran back to the checkout line and paid for my groceries and only then did I discover that my very small head of iceberg, which will probably turn out to be three or four outer leaves and nothing else, was THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. That is ridiculous. That is a ridiculous price for a giant heavy head of iceberg! That is a ridiculous price for a plastic clamshell of pre-washed, pre-cut gourmet lettuces! Ridiculous! And yet I paid it! Maybe this is why I am a target of fraud; clearly I am not all that careful with my money. SIGH.

This is my present and my future, folks. Screeching in disbelief about the absurd pricing of lettuce.

Okay. That was a much complainy-er post than I intended, but there you have it. It’s a post-holiday Monday, after all.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I mentioned in my Road Trip! Round Up that I weighed exactly the same amount when I got home as I had when I’d embarked on the trip. Even though I’d gone completely off Keto for the duration of the trip, and even though our dinners consisted of many burgers and beers, and even though I ate many many bags of chips. 

This was so disheartening, Internet. I cannot express how my heart dropped when I saw that number on the scale. I mean, on the one hand, it was pleasant to not have that grit-teethed feeling of needing to start over from scratch. But on the other, more emotional hand, I felt like, “WHAT THE HELL HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME?”

It was already pretty clear that Keto – or my specific brand of low-carb eating – wasn’t working for me anymore. I’d been stalled at the same not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-body-weight weight loss since May, after all. I probably would have done Something about it earlier if we hadn’t been planning this Road Trip. But I have to admit I was hoping that a) things would correct themselves or b) I could buckle down after the Road Trip.

And then when it turned out I didn’t have to be on Keto to maintain my current weight… well, I didn’t get back to it. Instead, I kept eating like I was on a Road Trip. (Plus, I ate ALL the beans. Turns out the food I miss the most when I am doing keto is… beans. Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas. Burritos, tacos, stir fries, soups. ALL THE BEANS.) And now I am back where I was when I started this particular Keto journey in February. UGH UGH UGH. 

I don’t know what to do now. Do I try Keto again? I think if I were really strict with it, it might help. But my husband refuses to follow it strictly, which makes it difficult for me to do so. He is all for doing low carb again, but that wasn’t working for me. I feel like the only two options are 1) Keep going the way I am going, which is unpleasant for many reasons or 2) Start counting calories again, which makes me want to walk into the sea. There are probably other options, but those seem like the most currently workable of them all.

Listen, we all know how FRAUGHT the topic of weight loss is. I don’t have the energy to rehash it here. But I DO want to lose weight. I do. So… I don’t know what I’ll do. We’ll see. That’s my Keto update, I guess: not doing Keto, not sure if I should try it again, not sure what to do instead. (Except stopping eating like I haven’t seen food in months.)

In the meantime, it’s clear that I NEED my Dinners This Week posts. Otherwise I end up staring despondently at my husband every night asking him, “What should I make for dinner?” And then we stare at each other, neither one of us offering any ideas, occasionally lifting our eyebrows hopefully in the other person’s direction, until we turn to stone. 

Plus, groceries are SO out of control expensive right now that I absolutely CANNOT continue doing the thing where I come up with an idea for one single meal and go to the store and get ingredients just for that meal and end up spending $75. That’s not financially responsible. Nor can we eat takeout as much as we are currently doing. It’s not helping anything, weight-wise, plus it no longer feels like a treat, plus ALSO expensive.

Another reason I need to get back to planning is that my in-laws are coming to visit and I expect they will want to eat with us a good number of nights (they are staying in a rental)… and I really need to plan that in advance or my sanity will crawl out of my ears. (My current plan of AHHHHHHH and lots of takeout doesn’t seem reasonable.) Plus, we are having friends over for dinner at some point and I need to plan THAT. (Tacos. There, planned.)

Dinners for the Week of August 1-7

Salmon Cakes with Something Green: I don’t know why, but I’ve had a hankering for salmon cakes lately. My husband is not a salmon fan, but perhaps since it’s cakes and not straight salmon, he will eat them without too much complaint. I’m not sure what to have on the side. Green beans? Let’s say sauteed green beans.

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Broccoli: My husband requested these specifically, so on the plan they go, along with some steamed broccoli. I have some freezer potatoes (more appetizing than I am making them sound) to add if we’re feeling carby.

Chicken and Ginger Stir Fry: Here’s another one for weird cravings – I am really in the mood for a very ginger-y stir fry. Maybe this one would be better. Or this one. What I really want is a stir fry with no sauce (yes, it is me writing this; no, do not call the police) but instead just lots of fresh ginger and maybe some garlic in there. I haven’t found a recipe that meets these standards though, but I will keep looking.

Parmesan Garlic Fish with Something Green: This sounds yummy. Maybe I would try it without the breadcrumbs. And as for a side… sauteed spinach? Or maybe some roasted Brussels sprouts? Carla picked out a Brussels sprout at the grocery store and said she wanted to try one – JUST ONE, she made sure to clarify.

Baked Chicken Breasts with Zucchini: I love Nagi’s oven baked pork chops (and pretty much any of her recipes I’ve tried), so these are bound to be good. And the preparation seems very simple, which is always nice to have in one’s back pocket.

What are you having for dinner this week?

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Remember how I told you that I had the chance to visit my childhood home? We stayed overnight in my hometown on our Road Trip! and got to see my longtime bestie. I was really on the fence about visiting the house – I thought it would be a bad idea.

It was a bad idea.

But my father had contacted the new owner (they stay in touch because my dad still owns a quarter section of land) and asked if we could stop by… and then my dad had shared such detailed instructions for how to get in touch with the new owner that I felt like it was A Done Deal and I couldn’t back out. 

We drove out to the house. It’s in the country and the drive was exactly as I remember it. I’m sure it looked like generic prairie-mixed-with-badlands to my husband and daughter, but to me every curve and hillock still has meaning after all these years. 

Climbing the driveway to the house – it’s a gravel drive that’s nearly a mile long – felt exactly the same. And aside from siding that was being repaired on the face of the house, the building looked just the same. The new owner had installed a fence that caused a little tear in the fabric of my memory, but it was easy to overlook. There was a new pile of construction materials near the barn, which was jolting – but I’d been warned to expect that, which helped a teeny bit.

Then we got to the other side of the house. The old house was dark grey siding with white trim. The new owner was in the process of replacing the siding with brick. The enormous juniper hedge outside the dining room was gone. So were the steps leading up to the front door. There was a new fence adjacent to the garage, containing an unfamiliar black dog. 

I went up to the door, feeling sick to my stomach. I knocked and waited and knocked again. No answer, and with relief, I turned back to my family who were still in the car. But they were gesturing at me, and I turned again to face the house and a stranger was opening the door. 

I told him who I was – he seemed slightly surprised, even though my dad had made it sound like he was expecting us – and he opened the door so we could come in. 

My dad had mentioned that the new owner is a contractor, and that he is doing some remodeling to the house. But I was not prepared for the fact that he had gutted it. Instead of entering into a high-ceilinged hallway, with the sunken Special Occasions Living Room to the right and the stairs to the left and the powder room ahead and to the left and the door to the family room straight ahead, with the balcony that connected the bedrooms overhead, it was now one enormous room. The stairs that led to what was my parents’ room remained. He had ripped out the two-sided fireplace that connected the family and living rooms and ripped out the balcony. The entire east wall of the new great room was a massive brick fireplace, with a huge wall of firewood lined up beside it. 

There was no longer a Special Occasions Living Room, nor a dining room. The kitchen had been expanded into what was once the dining room. A new staircase that must have led to what used to be my bedroom climbed up the far west wall. 

Carla was delighted by three enormous dogs that were So Excited to have company, and I am glad she was distracted because I just stared and stared, trying to express approval and admiration to the new owner who was saying words whose meaning never reached my ears. 

The worst thing, maybe, was that some of it was still there. The pantry. The porch. The windows overlooking the prairie, with the same view I grew up looking at, only it had been transported into someone else’s home. It was like being in a nightmare, where everyday things are stretched and misplaced in a way that feels unsettling and grotesque. 

My dad had said that the new owner wanted to give us a tour, but he did not offer, and I am so glad. I could not get out of there fast enough. I hope I stayed there for enough time that he didn’t feel miffed, that I made the appropriate comments in the appropriate tones so that he didn’t feel affronted. And don’t get me wrong – the work he’d done was lovely. I am sure, when it’s finished, it will be spectacular and open and cozy and warm. But it wasn’t my house. It isn’t my house, of course. It hasn’t been my house for twenty years. And now someone else owns it, someone else lives there. Of course he would want to put his own stamp on it, reshape it into his ideal of a home, his ideal that has no resemblance at all to the beloved home of my childhood that my parents built and painted with their own hands. 

I managed to drag Carla away from the dogs – of course she didn’t want to go – and beg off on the owner’s suggestion that we go out to the barn. Luckily, the weather was rotten, but there was no way I was going out there to see what stranger animals had made themselves at home in the cozy little stalls where my barn cats had kittens and I brushed my horse. 

I made it into the car before I burst into tears, and Carla and my husband were shocked, I think. I hope that means I did a good job of faking it. I tried to find the right words for what I was feeling and failed. Finally, I told them that it was a mix of nostalgia and sadness that a time of my life is gone and I can’t get it back. 

I wonder if being an adult has something to do with it, being so far removed now from when I lived in that house, from when I was a child. I know The World was far from perfect and stable back then – there was the AIDS epidemic and Operation Desert Storm and Columbine and so many many other things that were awful and terrifying and completely escaped my privileged child radar. But when I lived in that house, my parents were the ones in charge, they were the ones who knew what was going on, who decided what to share with me and my brother and how to couch it. Now, my husband and I are the ones who have to navigate current events that repel and horrify, we are the ones who have to plan for a future that seems uncertain in so many ways, we are the ones who have to protect and guide and prepare our child to make her way in a world that often feels fraught and perilous. My childhood wasn’t perfect – but it feels perfect, from this vantage point. Perfect and sheltered and safe. Maybe my subconscious thinks/hopes that, if my childhood home is preserved as it once was, the world or at least my perception of it could be preserved as well. I am lucky that my memories are a safe harbor, that I can retreat into the happiness of the past when the present gets too unsettling to bear. But that time, in reality, does not exist. And now, no longer does the place in which those happy years occurred.

I shouldn’t have gone. I shouldn’t have gone. And it’s so stupid to be sitting here crying, again, over a house and an era that exist shiny and whole in my memories, where they are both probably brighter and bigger and more beautiful than they ever were in reality. I don’t mean to say that I always have such a dark view of things. I do believe in beauty and goodness and hope. I don’t mean to be so melodramatic over such a small, insignificant change. It was just a house. I know it’s just a house. But seeing my past like that. Windblown and ruined and forever changed. It felt bigger.

Carla was quiet and thoughtful as we were driving back to town, past the shelter belt whose trees were double or even triple the size they’d been twelve years ago, through the wind that whipped around us more violently than it ever used to, alongside the river that was more full and more turbulent than the river of my childhood.  She said, “Mommy, I think you are past-sick. Like homesick, but for the past.” And I think she is exactly right.

A view of the house, from very very far away.

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I woke up at 4:00 am with a splitting headache and then couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I am feeling a bit fretful and complainy this morning. 

I don’t want Carla to get Covid. I have been doing my very best at isolating, but it is slightly tricky with my husband being back at work and me, you know, having to feed and care for my child. I wear a mask any time I venture out of my bedroom. I spend as little time in the “main house” as possible. Carla cries at bedtime because I can’t hug and kiss her goodnight. We have a little stash of rapid tests and have been making good use of them, and Carla and I went to the pharmacy the other day to get PCR tests. (That was nerve-wracking – we both wore masks AND I kept all the car windows wide open the whole time.) (My husband calmly reminds me that we were all just in a car/hotel room together, windows closed and maskless, for fifteen days.) Carla’s PCR test was negative, mine was not. I don’t know how I could manage to be the only one to get Covid, but if that’s how it works out, I will be very glad. Carla did just get her booster before we left, so I’m hoping she was at Peak Immunity when she was exposed to me and my germs. 

Here’s what I want to know about isolating in a home you share with others. How does it WORK? My bedroom is not magically on some alternate air circulation system. Every time I open the door, surely germs are escaping into the rest of the house. My mask isn’t trapping 100% of all the little Covid particles. HOW can we avoid getting Carla sick? It seems impossible. And yet, some people manage? I think? 

The next two bullets are Deeply Boring and yet I cannot bring myself to delete them.

I have been trying to do a little work from my bedroom. This means phone calls, my least favorite task of all. Do you recall the bank that charges us an annual “inactive” fee for an account whose sole purpose is sit there as collateral until we pay off a loan? (All the mind-numbing details are here.) After three years of arguing with people who cannot grasp simple concepts who work there, we sailed through 2020 AND 2021 without a late fee, and I was so delighted! They’d finally made a note on my account that there was no reason for me to make a deposit in an account that I cannot access, and had stopped charging me! You can sense what’s coming next, right? My husband alerted me this past May that we had now been charged a total of $12.00 in inactive fees. (Which means they DID charge us in 2021; we just didn’t notice.) Perhaps the bank had waived the fee in 2020 because of The State of Things. And apparently we simply did not notice when we began to lose $2.00 a month from the account. Whoops. As I have mentioned a billion times, normally I HATE making phone calls. But this one particular issue makes me practically giddy with wanting to tell someone how ASININE and RIDICULOUS it is. I was Let Me Talk to a Manager level irritated, after FIVE YEARS (minus the 2020 exception) of this nonsense. So back in May I called the bank and gave the lucky person who answered my spiel about how we should not be charged an inactive fee because the purpose of the account is to remain inactive. Unlike all the other brainless fools everyone else I’ve spoken to at the bank, she IMMEDIATELY understood that it was ridiculous to expect me to add even a single dollar to an account that I cannot touch. Not just ridiculous, but virtually impossible, considering that I don’t have checks or a debit card for that account, nor do I have digital access to the account, nor do I live within a 20 minutes’ drive of the bank. The account is under the control of the bank until we pay off the loan. The woman I spoke to Got It. Like, without my having to do anything but sketch out the basic issue, she said incredulously, “Well that’s ridiculous. Of course you wouldn’t want to add funds to an account you can’t touch! There’s no reason you should be paying an inactive fee on an account that’s meant to be inactive!” It took the bluster out of my Let Me Talk to a Manager sails, but it was SO mollifying to be understood. She said that she would talk with the bank supervisor and get the charge reversed AND she would have them make a note on our file. I was very pleased with the interaction. (Usually, the person I speak to says that ALL we have to do is deposit something in the account! It can be as little as a dollar! Once a year! And there are branches in X and Y and Z cities! Which, yes, I get that this sounds like a small amount of time and money and a very minimal hassle, but THE PRINCIPLE.) You know, perhaps, where this is heading. We came home to another statement which, alongside the credit of the $12, included a debit of $2 for a new inactive fee. ENDLESS SCREAMING.

Yes, I have a second bullet point about the banking thing. This morning, I called the bank and asked specifically to speak to the person I’d spoken to in May. Her name was similar to a fairly common name, but one syllable was different – like “Carlotte” instead of “Charlotte” or “Car-ree” instead of “Carrie” or “Samintha” instead of “Samantha.” I love her with my whole heart. She made things happen AND fully grasped why this situation is so stupid/frustrating. The person I spoke to put me on hold and then said that Samintha was not available but he would connect me to customer service. Sad, but okay. Customer Service means, as I discovered, the customer service line for the entire national banking system, when really I wanted to talk to someone (Samintha, sob!) in my local branch. Oh well. The customer service agent was very nice. His name was Tryin’ with a B. I explained to him that this is an annual problem, and gave him the quick and dirty details, and then he explained to me what was happening. “Oh, I think what the issue is, is that you have a LOAN, and this is a CHECKING ACCOUNT (it’s not, actually – it’s a money market account that we cannot access), and since you haven’t made any deposits or withdrawals, they are charging you an inactive fee.” Yes, thank you for repeating the exact same thing I just told you. And, nice as Tryin’ was, he couldn’t DO anything about it because the only person who can DO anything about it is the manager of my local branch. Tryin’ promised me he would call me back but I’m not holding my breath. I think I will see if I can get a hold of Samintha tomorrow.

I get canker sores about once a month and they are GOING WILD right now. I think this is a hormonal thing, but maybe it is a Covid thing? Who knows. Seems like EVERYTHING could be a Covid thing. And yes, canker sores are different from cold sores. They are basically little ulcers that occur inside the mouth, usually on the cheeks or under the tongue. Sometimes I get them on my gums, too. They are AWFUL. I have a massive one under my tongue and one on the very back part of my tongue right where my tongue brushes up against my bottom molars. 

The news is so enduringly turbulent. I just typed and erased a 634 word diatribe about one of the various Hot Button Issues that is driving me mad/making me worry that I have made a terrible mistake bringing a child into this fraught world. But I don’t like to write about Hot Button Issues on this blog, so I deleted it. (If I want to torment myself gnash my teeth and rend my garments over The State of Things catch up on world events, I will look at the news or go on Twitter.) Not that I have anything new or groundbreaking or interesting to say anyway; just vents/frets/threats of walking into the sea. There are SO MANY things going on and I have Feelings about many of them and yet I feel like it is utterly pointless to talk about them. The people I might discuss them with either disagree with me strenuously, which means voicing my own thoughts would lead to the type of confrontational encounter I HATE, and not to mention there’s no way I can convince anyone to feel differently from how they do; I don’t know enough of the background and facts, nor am I well-spoken enough to craft a convincing argument… or they already agree with me, and discussing things will just drive us each deeper into the pits of despair/rage we are already existing in.

I have eaten the last of the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

My father (a physician for 40+ years) (I don’t know why I feel like I have to make sure you know he’s qualified to give advice) suggested that I make sure Carla is getting enough calcium. This is an ongoing concern, but one I haven’t properly fretted about recently, so I’m in Full Fret Mode right now. Apparently, she needs 1,300 mg of calcium per day – or four servings. She doesn’t get enough calcium. She refuses to drink milk – yes, even chocolate milk. She eats a bunch of cheese, and there is 200 mg of calcium per ounce of block cheddar or per 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar, so that helps, but it’s not enough. She only eats yogurt occasionally. She doesn’t even really like ice cream (and has never liked milkshakes) (she IS related to both me and my ice cream loving husband, I assure you). She eats cream cheese – it’s one of her non-pork camp foods this summer – but, despite having both “cream” and “cheese” right there in the name, there is only 26 mg of calcium per two tablespoons of cream cheese. (And NONE in the whipped cream cheese!) My mom and I walked through a whole list of foods that contain calcium and of that list Carla eats two things with moderate consistency: chickpeas and cheese. And sometimes yogurt. Very rarely, almonds. My mom was being really creative, too. What about calcium fortified orange juice? What about almond milk and almond butter? Carla does not drink juice and she will not touch almond milk with a ten-foot pole. I have no idea if I could get her to eat almond butter but my confidence level is low. Some people have suggested Ensure, but my guess is that if she refuses milk/juice/milkshakes, she will refuse Ensure as well. My current plan is try to coax her into drinking a smoothie every day. I can pack it with yogurt, almond milk, AND calcium fortified orange juice. She likes smoothies. We used to drink a mango smoothie together every week on the drive to ballet practice. But I am not sure if I can get her drink one every single day. My father thinks we should start giving her Tums. (We cannot do the Viactiv chocolate calcium chews.) Probably we will have to use a multi-pronged approach, with smoothies on one prong and roasted chickpeas and plenty of cheese on another prong and Tums on another prong. If you have any magical calcium ideas, I will prong them right up. 

Our refrigerator is unplugged and empty right now. This is something we’ve been planning to do, for awhile, and it’s not like I’m making big elaborate dinners at the moment, so it seems like a good time. We bought the fridge in 2011. It has some real advantages, like that it is beautiful and also it holds a TON of food. But it’s been plagued with issues almost from the beginning. To name a few: the door closing mechanism fails on a regular basis (I have learned how to source the replacement part and repair it myself), the ice maker broke and had to be repaired, the water dispenser pressure dropped off precipitously for no discernible (or fixable) reason, the bottom of the fridge fills with water that then turns to ice, the ice maker and dispenser chute are often coated with a slick black mold, the electronic panel frequently disconnects from the temperature readout and makes an incessant tinkling noise. ET CETERA. The most recent repairman I had in the house informed me that the ice problem was A Known Issue with this brand of fridge (GE/Samsung) and that it is unfixable. (He also said that if he’d known in advance this was the fridge we had, he wouldn’t have come out because he knows it is unfixable and wouldn’t want me to have to pay the service fee his company charges for sending someone to our house; he declined to charge me the service fee.) He suggested that best thing we can do is unplug it for three days, wait for the internal mechanisms to thaw, and then plug it back in and hope it works for about six months before we have to do it again. So that is what we are doing: we are thawing out the fridge in hopes that it will magically reset. We are lucky enough to have a second (though much smaller) fridge in the basement, so I have relocated the foods we cannot live without/cannot bear to toss. It is a jumbled mess down there, but at least it functions. However, now I have to run downstairs for every little thing and it’s a pain. (My husband keeps asking me, “Are you breathing heavily because you just went down two flights of stairs to the basement to get a plum and then walked back up two flights of stairs to the bedroom or because you have Covid?”) My father thinks, in a non-pressurey way, that we should just replace the damn fridge already. But I am one of those people who wants a key appliance to LOOK a certain way, and I have grown accustomed to how spacious it is. And have you SEEN how expensive refrigerators are?!?! I am not in the mood to spend one-, two- or three-THOUSAND dollars when a refrigerator should be a ONE-TIME purchase. Of course maybe we will plug the fridge back in and it will refuse to work and we will have to buy one anyway. Fun times! 

Speaking of fun times, summer feels like its coming to a close. I feel like there was so much anticipation about the summer, and our Road Trip!, and now the Road Trip! is over and Carla only has two weeks left of camp and then school will start before we know it and then it’s practically Thanksgiving, which might as well be Christmas and then a WHOLE YEAR will have passed.

A final Covid fret (for today, at least): My husband and Carla are following all the Covid protocols set forth by the CDC, my husband’s workplace, and Carla’s camp… but I am still fretting. I am being Very Strident about Carla wearing her mask, and her camp is mainly outdoors, and they only admitted children who were fully vaccinated, but ACK. I am fretting that Carla (despite having no symptoms and still testing negative on a rapid test) will somehow spread this stupid disease to others. (Also, I am very grateful for my little stockpile of rapid tests.) I hate being contagious. It is STUPID and I HATE IT. Well. As of tomorrow, according to the CDC, I am okay to leave isolation and rejoin the public, as long as I wear a mask. I haven’t taken a rapid test since the one that read positive, so I don’t know that I am negative yet, and that seems Kind Of Important, even though no one else (CDC, I am glaring in your direction) seems to agree. Anyway: I don’t have anywhere I plan to go, but the reasons that I COULD are positive: I have no fever (I don’t think I ever did) and my symptoms are improving. Except for the crankiness. That has, if anything, increased.

What are you fretting about? What’s making you cranky? Any complaints to share?

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Well, we are back from our Road Trip!, which was fabulous. Ten days of driving that paused for a five-day stopover with my parents in the middle. My husband planned the trip in such a way that we didn’t get tired of being in the car until the very end. And then we arrived home, and it was wonderful to be back in our own beds, with a weekend to recover before getting back to normal.

And then I woke up with cold symptoms and rapid tests confirmed that I have Covid. The worst souvenir. 

So far, I am feeling crummy. But mainly CRANKY. 

Cranky at myself. I always anticipated getting Covid at some point; it’s long seemed inevitable. I thought that when I finally got it, I would feel resignation mixed with relief. But I don’t. I am MAD. I got Covid because I took unnecessary risks, and that’s just a fact. Did I expect that * I * was somehow invincible? That Covid would look at the fact that I’ve been pretty measured and cautious over the past two-ish years and say, “Let’s skip her”? That residents of the rural western United States are all roaming around unmasked because Covid doesn’t exist in those areas? Apparently I did expect those things because we relaxed our typical restrictions on our trip and I got Covid. We ate out in restaurants A LOT. We went into museums and gas stations and gift shops and sometimes we just left our masks in the car. We attended events with lots of other people and pretended that the outdoor venues would protect us. I was uncareful and I KNEW I wasn’t being careful and I got Covid. So I feel cranky and mad and a little ashamed and my head feels like a stress ball that’s being squeezed so intensely you can see the little beads inside it through the membrane. PLUS I somehow forgot to do the Wordle yesterday and it RESET my winning streak.

For posterity’s sake, my symptoms: It started with a scratchy throat. So lightly scratchy that it was easy enough to write it off as irritation from staying in so many hotels (I was getting irritated with being on the road, those last couple of days; why not my throat, too?), or the change in atmosphere/climate as we drove eastward toward home. Then a day of an even sorer throat, with an irresistible tickle that could only be soothed by chain-lozenging menthol cough drops. Then a day where the throat felt better and the cough was less persistent. Now, Day 4, I am in the Head in a Vise stage. I am isolating in my bedroom, which fortunately has its own bathroom, but I am resentful and grumpy and have to get up to staunch my runny nose every few minutes. 

Covid. Ugh.

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In highly exciting news, I have recently had occasion to visit a podiatrist for the first time. 

Relatedly, I want to talk about my foot. The thought of doing so bores me almost to tears, so I feel deep empathy for YOU, whose foot it is not. The thing is, it has been causing me enormous grief for months now and I better just talk about it and get it over with. 

Sometime in December of 2021, I started having heel pain when I woke up. It would be worst when I first got out of bed, then would gradually subside throughout the day. My runner friend told me it sounded like plantar fasciitis, which is a term with vowels that look incorrect even when I know they’re in the right places. I looked up plantar fasciitis and found some stretching exercises to do; I did them; they seemed to work. 

But then after maybe a week or so, the exercises stopped being effective. And the pain got worse and worse, so that any time I sat down (and as a person who writes for most of the day, I sit a LOT) and then tried to stand, I would hobble around with serious pain. It started waking me up in the night. It started affecting my ability to drive (I would get sharp shooting pains in my arch when I pushed on the gas or the brake). It made it difficult/painful for me to do my preferred type of exercise (walking). 

I went to a podiatrist, who seems very knowledgeable and who came highly recommended. But it seemed to me that the podiatrist relies a little too heavily on ME and not heavily enough on measurable facts. I suppose that’s how most of medicine is, isn’t it. If I say I have sinus pain and I’m miserable, and the doctor presses on my forehead and under my cheekbones and asks if it hurts, she has to take my word for it that it does. A gastroenterologist has to rely on your report of stomach/intestinal pain. But I hate that. I do. I want to be able to go to a doctor and say, “I am in pain” and for them to be able to VERIFY that, scientifically. I want them to have calipers that measure the pain so they can nod and say, “Yes, I see, this is clearly a Level 5 pain.” rather than making me the sole reporter of painfulness. For one thing, I feel like I have a low threshold for pain, so that what might be excruciating for me would be just a little twinge for you. And I don’t want to overreact to pain, or come across in any way like I am overexaggerating. I want it to be quantifiable. It’s NOT, but oh well. 

The podiatrist did press on my foot to see if I reacted, which I did. And he used an ultrasound machine to check… something. I’m not sure, but he did measure something and record those measurements. (He also took an X-ray, to ensure I didn’t have any fractures or cancer.) (Brief digression: I have been having pain in both feet, but one is much more severe than the other. When I checked in, I explained this. The receptionist said she would send me for an X-ray right away, and did I want X-rays of both feet or one? Um. I don’t know? I feel like that is not the kind of decision I, the non-doctor, am qualified to make? I did say that I would do whatever the doctor recommended, and the receptionist said, “It’s really up to you.” So I told her we could focus on just the one because the pain in the other foot is – currently – livable. But then the whole time I was getting my foot X-rayed I was feeling panicky that I had made the wrong choice, and what if I needed to come BACK in a few months and do it all again, and pay extra to get the other foot X-rayed when I could have gotten it all done at once? I had to use some coping thoughts like, “less radiation NOW is better, when I may not ever need a X-ray for the other foot.” And, “I made the best choice I could in the moment, and there is nothing I can do now.” And, “maybe it would end up costing the same anyway; I don’t know if they charge per foot or per visit, so who knows.” And, “I am fortunate to have health insurance and a health savings account, and this is what those things are for.” I had a good hearty wait before the X-ray technician was ready for me, so I got a chance to repeat these coping thoughts several times. (And panickedly wonder whether I could ask the X-ray tech to do both feet, or ask if I could call up to the doctor and alter the order.) It turned out okay, and if I need another X-ray of the other foot at some time in the future, so be it. But I really wish that the DOCTOR would have said, “Well, I really think that we should focus on the one foot that’s causing you the most trouble.” Or “Well, this thing can develop quickly so if you are having even a little trouble, let’s treat the other foot too.”) 

This is a very complainy post about my podiatrist, when really he seemed very nice. I guess I just get very anxious about doctors’ visits. I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time, I don’t want to overestimate the problem, or make A Big Deal when it’s not a big deal, I don’t want to spend a lot of health savings account money when I could really just be at home icing my foot, you know? 

Anyway. After the podiatrist evaluated my foot, he gave me a little mini lecture about what plantar fasciitis is, using a plaster foot as a visual aid, and I thought it was very useful and interesting and then promptly forgot everything he told me. He then gave me a splint to wear on my foot while sleeping (“gave” – it cost $75; it is possible I could have bought one myself elsewhere for much cheaper, but I did not) and a prescription for a steroid/anti-inflammatory drug, and scheduled an appointment for me to come back in just over a week. 

The first day of the steroid, I had excruciating bone pain in ALL my bones. That was deeply unpleasant. But on days two and three, the bone pain had subsided and I had almost NO PAIN in my afflicted foot. It was MIRACULOUS. Then, as I “stepped down” the dosage of the steroid over the next week, the pain returned. It was dispiriting, to say the least.

Not to mention that the splint for my foot is not… super. It wraps around the ball of my foot and then has a stiff arm that goes up the outside of my shin, and tightens around my calf. Kind of like a shin guard, only a bit more flexible. It keeps my foot in a slightly flexed position, which is not uncomfortable. The edges of the Velcro closure scratch my toes though, and I find it very difficult to sleep with the thing on my leg. Plus, I absolutely cannot walk on it, so I have to remove the whole splint every time I get up to go to the bathroom which is at least twice per night. (Each time, I try to undo the Velcro as quickly as possible, so that I don’t wake my husband. I feel like the sound of Velcro reluctantly parting from itself would be a highly unpleasant way to wake up in the middle of the night.)

When I went back to the podiatrist, the medical assistant asked me how things had gone, and I told her: my foot was definitely better than it was before, but it was not great. She said, “What percentage has your pain been reduced?”

What? Ugh. While I was just whining a few paragraphs ago about wanting quantitative measurements of medical issues, I do not want to be the one who provides them. I am at a loss for how to evaluate things like this. If you ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I usually have NO IDEA how to do that. Like, I have in my head the worst pain I have ever experienced, so I assign that a 10. But then… it’s very difficult to know where other things fall. Primarily because pain is so immediate, and because the perception of pain fades with time. Right now, it HURTS, and it’s bearable or not.

Anyway, I told her that maybe the pain was 20% better – which was a wild guess on my part – and she said, Wow, okay, that’s not good. If you had said it was a 70% improvement, maybe we could give you another round of the steroid, but the next step is usually an injection. 

Now, I had heard about the injection before I ever made my first appointment with the podiatrist. The person who recommended him had had an injection for my exact problem, and it seemed like that was the treatment, so the steroid/splint treatment I received was a surprise to me. I’d been prepared from the get go for an injection, and the podiatrist had mentioned at my first appointment that if the steroid/splint didn’t work, I would probably need an injection. So I was anticipating an injection. 

The medical assistant left and when the doctor came in, he said, “I hear you were begging for the injection.” Which made my eyes go all wide until I realized he was joking. THEN he told me that a lot of people say the injection is the worst pain they have ever had; that women who have delivered multiple children say it’s much worse than childbirth. (Not the most reassuring way to begin the injection discussion, Doc!) But, he went on, he has never had any patient say that to HIM. HIS injections are painless, and he uses a specific method that makes them so.  

So now I had two things to hold in my head: 1. That some people find this injection to be excruciating and 2. That I could not in any way tell this guy if it WAS, because he would not believe me. 

He put up a little curtain, separating my eyes from from my foot, which is a weird way to phrase that but I am leaving it, and sprayed my foot with what he called a “cold spray.” THAT was pretty uncomfortable, but bearable. And then he started the injection, which took several minutes and was also fairly uncomfortable but bearable. I had to do some deep breathing, and had to clutch my arms across my chest quite tightly to get through it, and there was some tear-prickling at my eyes, but no actual tears. (At one point, he asked if I was doing Lamaze breathing back there, which made me feel quite embarrassed. He went on to say if I left with a baby, we’d each have a lot of explaining to do, har har har, and as I mulled THAT ONE over for awhile, while trying not to breathe so audibly, I came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t breathing THAT hard, and that instead the Lamaze thing was probably a bit he does for lots of his patients.) (I feel as though, in describing this to you, I am describing this doctor quite unfavorably. I definitely do NOT jive with his sense of humor, although I can see how many patients would find him hilarious and delightful. But I did feel that he was a good listener, and that he cared that I was in pain, and that he wasn’t judging my particular level of pain tolerance, and that he was determined to resolve the problem. AND that he was an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner.)

Anyway. The injection was FAR from the most painful thing I’ve endured. Dental procedures are much, much worse. But afterward, my foot was sore and I kept getting these little shooting pains in my heel and walking was about as uncomfortable as it had been before I saw the podiatrist. 

The injection did HELP, for a while. The next day, my foot felt significantly better. But I am nearly a week out from the first injection and I am back to hobbling around when I wake up/stand up after sitting for awhile. 

And yes, I said “first injection” because the podiatrist mentioned that, for a LOT of people, one injection resolves the issue completely. But for some people, it doesn’t. And that we needed to resign ourselves (he didn’t say resign; I think he said “commit.” Resign feels more accurate for me, though.) to THREE injections before we pursued a different path. He didn’t even mention what the next path would be, so I’m trying to borrow some of his confidence that the second or, gulp, third injection will do the trick. I am NOT looking forward to another injection. Last time, I had the added anxiety of not knowing what to expect. But now I have a different type of anxiety because I DO know. And it’s hard to go into something, knowing it will result in pain. 

This feels like the kind of thing I had better get used to, as I age. More and more parts of me are going to fail. More and more parts of my body are going to experience pain. I am not pleased about it, but I recognize that this is just A Part of Aging. And I’m really very lucky. I can still walk. I can still exercise, even if doing so is slower and causes residual pain. I can afford to treat it. Hopefully my marriage can withstand my ongoing crankiness/hobbling. 

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May is chaos. I was whining to the mom of one of Carla’s classmates recently about busy I feel, and she said in a gritted-teeth, long-suffering voice, “That’s just how May is. And it will get worse as the kids get older.” So that was cheering. 

It feels like I was just chugging along, doing my thing, and then suddenly realized that I have fifty deadlines heading my way and I am only partway through each project.  Luckily, this isn’t true (at least in the paying work sense; I am on top of those at least). But it FEELS that way. Worse, it feels like everyone else has alsosuddenly had the same realization. My email inbox is jammed with teacher conference requests and reminders to schedule my gutter cleaning and invitations to end-of-year parties and check-ins about summer swimming schedules and gently scolding messages from camp to fill out my kid’s many, many forms already and notifications to update school payment plans and on and on. 

We had, in the past week, an invitation to a musical performance at Carla’s school literally three days before the performance itself. And then a notice, seven days ago, from Carla’s teacher, that the class has themed days all this week – and require things like sandals that I had not yet purchased. Then we had to schedule a meeting with one of the teachers to review Carla’s goals for next year. And I (stupidly) signed up to volunteer at a big end-of-school carnival. Not to mention, we get alerts near daily about Covid cases in Carla’s grade. Plus, Carla’s been working on her big Eleanor Roosevelt research project. IT’S A LOT.

I have not felt up to most things lately – reading, cooking, planning meals, blogging – but I miss those things (except planning meals). So let’s try a random info dump. I will try not to complain TOO much, but no promises. 

Zoom Awkwardness: While I am deeply, sincerely grateful for the ability to meet with people virtually, I wish someone would figure out how to solve the end-of-meeting awkwardness. You know what I mean. When you have all already said goodbye, but then you have to fumble around to find the button that ends the meeting. I realize that this awkward moment lasts maybe five seconds, but I find it excruciating. Often, I find myself distracted in the last moments of the meeting itself because I am trying to plan my exit in the quickest possible way. But no. Even if I can find the “end meeting” button ahead of time, I inevitably fumble it, or forget that I’ve carefully hovered my cursor over it for exactly that purpose, or the “are you sure?” box pops up and I just want to die of embarrassment. I realize this may not be as big a deal to some people as it is to me, and obviously I have lived to zoom again, but I HATE IT. Just let me out of this virtual discomfort! 

End of Year Teacher Gift: Every year, our Room Parent (i.e. Room Mom) collects money for a class gift. Every year, I dutifully send in money. Every year, I fret and worry and scour Etsy for an additional gift that my kid can give to her teacher, personally, on top of the considerable amount we have already sent in. Every year, I decide that the collective gift is BETTER – usually it’s a gift card, and I’m guessing it is much more useful/appreciated by the teacher than whatever dumb crap I could come up with – and exit Etsy without buying the personalized water bottle/bookmark/coffee mug I was pondering. And yet, despite going through this for SIX YEARS NOW, I inevitably find myself in the last week of school, fretting and fretting about the possibility of being the ONLY person who doesn’t double gift with a physical gift in addition to the cash contribution.

Road Trip: I am doing a right terrible job of Not Complaining, so let’s talk about something positive. My husband and Carla and I are going on a Road Trip this summer!!!! Aside from the astronomical cost of gas, I am really excited about our Road Trip. (Yes, I am capitalizing it.) We finalized all our hotel stays over the weekend, and so now I am gleefully shopping for Road Trip Necessities. This is what my father refers to as a “Tool Buying Opportunity,” which is part of what makes the planning portion of something (an event, a hobby) as enjoyable as or more enjoyable than the actual thing itself. My husband is researching the best family audiobooks to buy (or check out from our library) for our trip, and I love that this is the way his trip planning excitement manifests. He has already played a few samples to Carla, so that they can figure out whether she’ll have trouble understanding the accent of the narrator. 

Birthday Planning Stagnation: Despite ALL of your lovely suggestions, I have made ZERO progress toward planning Carla’s birthday party. Zero. This fills me with dread and anxiety. However, I will say that with every confident, encouraging comment about hosting a party here, I grew more and more entrenched in my certainty that having a party in my home is NOT the right way to go. So that was extremely helpful, and I am so appreciative. I genuinely envy those readers who are so easy-breezy about hosting an in-home birthday party. You make it sound so easy! And fun! And like the better choice! But my gut was clear: NO. So whatever we end up doing, it will be somewhere else. Your kind, helpful suggestions also clarified for me something that I already knew – but did not know I felt with such stringency – which is that I loathe trampoline parks. We used to take Carla when she was smaller, because it was a great way to release her endless reserves of energy in the dragging months of winter. But even then I always felt like I had to be careful not to touch ANYTHING, and I would always through Carla in the tub and her clothing in the washing machine the instant we returned home. Perhaps this speaks more to the cleanliness of my local trampoline park than to anything else, but since that’s what we have available, I am going to skip it. So I suppose even if I haven’t made any forward progress, I am at the very least narrowing the field. Thank you so much for your help, even if you may feel like I am ignoring your very helpful recommendations. Your advice is helpful nonetheless. 

Handyman: In other good news, I finally finally got a handyman to not only return my call, but to come over and look at my long list of projects!!!! He seems great. He reviewed things and took measurements, and was very clear on things he can/will do and things he cannot/won’t. The most important result, though, is that he CAN and WILL repair our ceiling. I don’t know if I’ve described our ceiling hole in this space, but I am going to do so now in case you want to skip to the next equally riveting bullet. It is not a hole, per se. It is more like a place where the plaster has declined to provide its normal coverage. The plaster is peeling away from whatever material forms the ceiling, and so it looks like a hole. We have had the spot examined several times by a plumber (and by our fathers), and it does not appear to be a leak. And it’s been there for YEARS, so I think we would know by now. But this stupid plaster lapse makes me so self-conscious about our house. It looks terrible, and it’s right above the kitchen table, and I hate it. And now it will be fixed!!!! Of course, there is no scheduled date for the fixing; the handyman warned me he is booked out for several weeks. So I guess now I am just hoping he really will send me an estimate and offer some dates. I almost don’t care what it will cost because I want it fixed. But then again, I have no idea what this kind of thing should cost, so… I will report back on whether it is a swallowable amount or something that kicks me in the gut and forces me to live with the stupid hole for longer. Like I said, we’ve been living with it for YEARS, so it shouldn’t be such a big deal to keep on living with it. But at some point in the past few months, I have reached some sort of tell-tale heart level of complete inability to co-exist with this thing for one second longer. 

Calendar Bedlam: Recently, I am having an issue that makes me think my mind is on a steep decline. I keep making plans, putting them in EMPTY SPOTS in my calendar, and then realizing – sometime later – that I have double booked myself. Example 1: A friend invites me to a performance. I check the calendar and see I have plans that night. I decline. Later, a friend invites me to dinner. I check the calendar and see I am free, so I accept. The next time I talk to the performer friend, she mentions the day of her performance… which is on the day I originally had free but now do not. Example 2: I set a playdate for Carla. The next day, I notice that she in fact has an orthodontist appointment that day, so I have to reschedule the playdate. Example 3: I have to do a mandatory nicotine test per our insurance, so I schedule it in an empty spot on the calendar. I get a reminder for the test at the same time I get a reminder for a meeting with Carla’s teacher, because I have scheduled them in the same time slot. WHY AM I DOING THIS AND HOW CAN I STOP.

Dirty Martinis: I recently learned the joy and beauty of a very, very dirty martini. My whole life, I have been staunchly anti-vodka, but it seems that may be because I have only ever had cheap vodka? I recently had a martini with really good, smooth vodka and it was delicious. Then I made one at home, with the fancy expensive vodka my father-in-law drinks, and it was also delicious. I am now out of olive juice.

Jury Duty: My stint of jury duty went GREAT. The summons said that we needed to be available for five days, beginning on a Monday. So I prepared to be gone that entire week. When I did jury duty several years ago, I went in on a Monday, sat around all day, and then was called to a courtroom near the end of the day. I wasn’t selected for that jury, but I was released from jury duty for the rest of the week. This time, you call a number in advance of your service and figure out if your jury number has been selected for that day. I got to miss two days, but my number was called for Wednesday. Then I arrived at the courthouse, sat around all day, and… was released. I didn’t have to go back at all! It was… kind of pleasant? Of course, the anticipation was the dreadful part. I had to worry about childcare for Carla for the whole week, and then I had to worry about driving on a freeway during rush hour, and I had to worry about parking downtown. But once I had Carla stowed at school, had made it downtown, parked, and successfully made it to the courthouse, it was fine! Pleasant, even! It was a beautiful day and we got ninety minutes (!!!!) for our lunch hour, so I got something from Starbucks and walked around downtown. I was even a teeny bit disappointed that I didn’t get selected for a case – I think it would be interesting to serve on a jury. The biggest inconvenience of the week, it turned out, was that I kept having to email the school to let them know that Carla would or wouldn’t be arriving early for babysitting services. 

Step Off: My watch has developed quite an overblown sense of its own roll in my life lately. Constantly telling me to stop and breathe, or noting that I am usually more active at this time of day what is up????, or advising me that I can “still do it!” if I just take a brisk 20-minute walk at 11:15 pm on a weekday. And now this??? Stay in your lane, watch. I am doing the best that I can.

Keto Stall: I feel the need to give you a keto update. During my extravagant jury duty lunch hour, I ordered coffee with cream (despite the fact that I hate coffee) and a pre-made lunch kit that seemed to be fairly keto-friendly: salami, cheese, and some nuts/dried fruit that I ate even though I’m sure it was full of sugar. I did not eat the crackers. Anyway: I continue to follow a low-carb plan. And I have completely stalled. It is SO frustrating. I am doing the plan, I am eating the high-protein/high-fat foods. I am in ketosis. And yet my weight has gone nowhere. It wouldn’t be so terrible except that I HATE it. Food is not fun or enjoyable. I do not look forward to meals, and in fact actively dread them. I cannot stand to plan meals, because they are inevitably some variation on meat + veg, or else they are complicated and frequently end up tasting awful. I am constantly asking my husband what I should make for dinner. I am not having fun, I am not losing weight, it is all awful. And yet any time I LOOK at a carb, I instantly gain two pounds. So I don’t think I’m ready to quit keto either. At least I am maintaining this not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-bodyweight weight loss. ARGH. 

A Good Salad: I did make a really good salad recently. It was arugula (yum) and spinach (yuck), heavily weighted on the arugula side for me and on the spinach side for my husband (who dislikes arugula). I added goat cheese, blueberries, strawberries, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and grilled chicken. And then I added balsamic dressing because I love dressing as much as I love sauce. (Perhaps this is causing the stall in the previous bullet, perhaps indeed, although I don’t eat salads often because of the dressing factor.)

Strawberry Marketing: The strawberries in the aforementioned salad were PINK. My grocery store had a big display and they had a lot of marketing to assure customers that the strawberries are fully ripe! And taste like pineapple! I had to try them. My husband wondered if they might taste like underripe strawberries and indeed they did. They were fine with some goat cheese and balsamic dressing though, but NOT worth $6.99 per container when I can buy actual ripe strawberry tasting strawberries for $3.50. Between these berries and the miniature iceberg lettuces, produce marketers are really working hard for their money, let me tell you.

Garden Inertia: Let us turn to another pleasant topic, which is gardening. Of which I have also done ZERO. What the hell am I doing with my time, if I am not cooking or gardening or planning Carla’s birthday party? I am fretting and wringing my hands and going in circles is what. We have people coming for dinner this weekend, so now I am suddenly feeling Very Urgent about having at least some flowers in pots. It’s not like my “garden” is anything impressive. But I do like to have a few pots with flowers and I need to do that. Perhaps Carla and I will go after school. 

Spring Shopping Syndrome: In addition to fretting/hand wringing, I have been struck by Spring Shopping Syndrome. You are familiar with this yes? The point at which the weather begins to edge carefully toward warmth and suddenly you hate every single item of clothing you own? I have been buying (and then returning) things with great abandon. Loft has been my latest obsession, and they know it: they keep emailing me with adorable dresses front and center, and so I order the dress and then it doesn’t fit and I take it back. But, to get free shipping, I added on a cute blouse, and that DID fit, so now I have that sweet, sweet dopamine rush of clicking “buy” alongside the possibility, however small, that the item I bought will be cute, which makes me want to repeat the process all over again. Interesting how I am able to analyze this behavior and see it for what it is and yet I still can’t stop/won’t stop. 

All right, that’s it for now my dear Internet.

What’s clogging your calendar this month? Have you made any springy purchases? Tell me which deer-proof flowers to buy for my garden. 

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Carla’s birthday is a little more than a month away and I have NOTHING planned. Usually by this point, I have fretted all over this little blog about theme and where to find theme-appropriate napkins and how difficult it was to pin down a venue and which cake I’m going to make. But this year, I have… nothing. 

(Not even a cake request, which is very un-Carla! And perhaps… perhaps this is the year I outsource the cake baking????)

Part of the problem – maybe the MAIN part – is that Carla doesn’t have any sort of specific desire for a party this year. I mean, she wants A Party. But she hasn’t said “I want a tea party” or “let’s all play LEGOs” or “I want to paint pottery!” or whatever. I am not a creative person, when it comes to birthdays. All my creativity crumples into dust beneath the anxiety of planning an event and executing that event and then attending said event with multiple other humans, all of whom I am expected to interact with. 

The only things at all that Carla has expressed interest in are a) a sleepover and b) a party at our house, featuring a treasure hunt. 

Treasure Hunt: When Carla’s cousin was here recently, I made a treasure hunt for them. I’ve done one another time, when I hosted three other families and did a treasure hunt for the kids. I LIKE making treasure hunts. But the older the kids get, the more challenging it is to create clues that won’t stump them, but will take more than five seconds to solve. 

Plus, while I am fine chasing my one niece and my one child around our very safe cul-de-sac while they look for clues, I don’t know a) how I would feel about chasing multiple nine-year-olds around the neighborhood or b) how other parents might feel about their kids being let loose into the wild.

It is almost more challenging to come up with prizes for this age group. Although I suppose if Carla lands on a theme, I could find something that works. 

The biggest challenge of all with treasure hunts is making them long enough. You can make 20 clues and have the kids run up and down the stairs and around the cul-de-sac and it still ends up taking them under 15 minutes to finish. Which is quite deflating when it takes MUCH LONGER THAN THAT to create the clues and hide them.

Party at Our House: The main issue, though, is that I don’t want to have a party at my house. I find the idea of a bunch of kids invading my space SO stressful, even though it shouldn’t be. 

All my birthday parties when I was growing up took place at my house. And they were wonderful! I remember, when I was really little, playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or drop a pin in a bucket while blindfolded. My mother made treasure hunts, which is probably where I learned to love them. 

My mom was fantastic about birthday parties, my whole life. She always did something fun and delightful. My favorite childhood birthday was the one where she bought a little Troll doll for each guest and we all sat around my kitchen table and decorated them. I seem to remember that it was a contest, but… I’m sure she found some way to make it so that everyone won. 

(Is there a Troll-doll equivalent that today’s nine-year-olds would like?)

There’s also a bit of Keeping Up with the Joneses going on, I can admit. Carla’s classmates often have very impressive parties – think bouncy houses and country clubs and backyard pools. Most of Carla’s friends live in enormous homes with beautiful properties. When we’ve been invited over for parties, there are gorgeous decorations and catered food. Our backyard is (currently) a marsh, and gets so incredibly hot in the summer that it’s not really comfortable for guests. Our outdoor furniture is old and mismatched and we don’t have the ziplines or stone patios or pools that many people have. Our house itself is smallish and somewhat in disrepair – both facts that seem glaringly obvious when we have other people over. Plus, after hosting Carla’s first two or three birthday parties here, I find decorating SO stressful it’s just not even worth it. I want the Instagram/Pinterest-worthy party, but I am not great at executing that level of creativity/cuteness. I suppose I could pay someone else to do it, but that sounds pricey.

If I could be certain that all the parents would just roll up to our driveway and toss their kids out the door and leave… I might feel a little bit better. Kids in general aren’t super judgmental – I don’t remember noticing the décor or size or quality of furniture at any of my friends’ houses – and I think as long as they got to roam around and eat cake, they would be okay. Maybe this is the age where parents would feel okay dropping them off? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to get away with a banner and a couple of balloons and maybe a colorful tablecloth and not do anything else???

I don’t know. Even if it were just kids, I think I would find it very anxious-making. I much prefer going to a specific place that has employees who entertain the kids or supervise an activity and then going home to my quiet, clean, one-kid-only home.

To recap: it feels like having a party HERE would require a) outsourcing and spending a lot of money or b) doing things myself and becoming very stressed AND probably spending a lot of money. I want to avoid it… but I don’t have any alternate ideas. It feels like we’ve exhausted the typical birthday party venues… and I’ve tried looking for others with no success. 

The new Jurassic World movie is coming out around her birthday, and Carla is desperate to see it. Our local movie theaters were allowing people to rent them out for birthdays… but I haven’t looked into whether they are still doing that. Plus, I don’t know how many of Carla’s friends’ parents would allow them to see a Jurassic World movie (nor how many of her friends would actually want to see it). That may be something the three of us do as a family. 

Sleepover: Probably the best compromise would be hosting a sleepover. The reason this feels like a compromise is that I would limit Carla to one or two friends, so it would be less stressful. Presumably. But… then she would have to choose just one or two friends, and she’s a kid who has a LOT of friends, so I don’t know how she would choose. In this time of Covid, would anyone even be comfortable with that (not that they aren’t sharing the same air every day at school)? And my beloved child is a person whose energy level escalates in direct proportion to how tired she is, so I am imagining that NO ONE would sleep at all. Not that you are expected to sleep much at a sleepover, but… no sleep sounds pretty dreadful for all involved, including the poor parents who would be collecting their exhausted children the next day. 

Plus… what do you DO for a nine-year-old sleepover? The only sleepovers I remember (and, bless my parents, sometimes I had MANY friends sleep over) involved activities like calling boys on my phone or watching scary movies or playing with my Ouija board… all of which seem a little mature for this age group. 

A few of my friends-who-are-parents don’t do a party at all for their kids. For some, this is just the way it is. For others, maybe some years it works out and some years it doesn’t. I wish we could go this route! But I know Carla LOVES a party, so I’m not sure she would roll with it. 

As usual, the VAST BULK of this stress is mine. I know Carla wouldn’t really care about any of the things that bother me. I know her friends wouldn’t really care, I know even the most judgmental of parents would only turn up their noses for a few seconds before forgetting about me entirely. And yet I cannot talk myself out of feeling the stress. 

So here I am, doing nothing but fretting, as the weeks tick by.

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Some people mentioned an interest in my current Keto Experience, and since – as when on any diet – I think about Keto a lot, I am happy to oblige. 

However, I keep feeling blocked when I try to talk about it. I feel like I have to have an explanation for trying Keto again. And the explanation (I want to lose weight) feels unsatisfactory to me. 

For one thing, the subject of weight is so FRAUGHT. My experience of my body should have nothing to do with anyone else’s experience of their body, and yet weight is so comparative. It is almost impossible to say that a person who wants to change her body is not passing judgment on someone whose body is different from her own. I think we all know that both things are true: I can look at myself and find fault, while seeing absolutely no fault in others. I can know that, experience that, but also feel judged by others who are on their own personal paths. I would never want my decision to lose weight make someone else feel bad. And I don’t want to TALK about weight a lot, either – I had an acquaintance who recently lost a lot of weight, and I am very proud of her for achieving a goal she set for herself and happy for her that she feels so good, but literally EVERY conversation we have includes weight talk and I cannot handle it. So beyond a few posts, which I will clearly label as Keto adjacent, I promise to avoid weight talk. Maybe I will come back and update you on progress, if there is any, but maybe not. 

Another thing that makes me feel conflicted about Keto is that I have tried – so hard – these past two years to love my body the way it is. I’ve tried to accept its changes, to eat intuitively, and to buy clothes that fit me. I feel like I should love my body. But I don’t. So wanting to lose weight feels like a failure. 

But the fact is, I DO want to lose weight.

Plus… I feel like I’ve been instructed to lose weight, which makes me feel both resistant and ashamed. When I went to my new gynecologist earlier this year, she told me I needed to lose weight. Those weren’t her exact words – and I don’t think she even brought it up. I think I may have made a comment about gaining weight during the pandemic, and she said something about how it would be a good idea for me to lose [obscene amount] of weight. When she said that, I felt crushed with despair. I think we can all agree that it’s one thing when you know that you need to do something “for your health.” But it’s entirely another when a medical professional tells you the same thing (especially when she is suggesting it to you in a reasoned and compassionate way). 

When I went to my new primary care doctor, I mentioned what the gynecologist had said. My new doctor (I love her so) shrugged and said that the gyn was going by OLD rules, and that I was really fine. There is a wider range of “healthy” weight/BMI than medical science previously prescribed, and I was within that range. But then she said I might be more comfortable if I lose [less obscene amount] of weight. 

She was the one who recommended Keto. And because I am nothing if not A Rule Follower, I felt like I had to at least give it a try. (As I explained it to my husband: if I ask for advice in solving a problem and then don’t follow that advice, I can’t complain to you later about the same problem.)

I told her that I had done Keto before, and that I hated it in part because – as with all diets – you had to think about food all day every day. My husband and I went All In, the first time. We were super strict. We tracked all of our macros – protein, fat, and carbs – and made sure we were getting the prescribed amount of each. It was a constant battle to get enough protein and fat without drastically overreaching one or the other. It was just as bad as calorie counting, and I hated it. It feels disordered to me, to be constantly wondering if you’re eating enough or too much. I never wanted to do that again.

My doctor claimed that she didn’t track every little thing. She simply stays under 20 grams of net carbs per day. 

I was suspicious. But it sounded appealing, to only think about the carbs. And I wondered if maybe I could fit Keto/low-carb to my needs rather than the other way around. 

I have been much more relaxed, this time. And – not surprisingly – the weight is coming off much more slowly. But it is coming off. (It went right back on when I ditched Keto over my vacation, though. So I will have to figure out how – or if – I can ever add carbs back to my diet without gaining everything back. But that’s a problem for the future.) 

The first time I did Keto, I lost about 10% of my bodyweight in about six weeks. 

This time, it took me about six weeks to lose 6% of my bodyweight. BUT I was taking at least one weekend day “off” of Keto during that time. 

It’s clear to me that if I want to supercharge the results I want, I need to stick to it more strictly. But my husband thinks that it might be more sustainable to do it the way I am – slowly, without feeling overly restricted.

I don’t know. It still seems like early days – especially since I took a week off for vacation and it feels almost as though I am starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. 

Here are the main “rules” I am following this time around:

  1. I try to limit my intake of net carbs to 18 grams per day. I use the free version of Carb Manager to track my carb intake. I think it’s a very user friendly app, and the database of foods is vast and fairly accurate. 
  2. I try to eat foods I like as often as possible. Salmon vs. eggs, for instance. And I am trying to continue to make and eat recipes I like. For example, I will still eat stir fry, just without so much sauce and with no rice. 
  3. When it comes to veggies, I try not to be too restrictive. One cup of raw broccoli, for instance, is 4 grams of net carbs. If I have only 8 grams of net carbs available for dinner, but I want to eat a third cup of broccoli, I eat the extra broccoli. 
  4. I prioritize protein over fat. True Keto is a balance between protein, fat, and carbs. But when I did Keto before, I found myself forcing down things I didn’t want in order to get the “right” amount of fat. I would add MCT oil to my tea, for instance. It was awful and made me feel sick. Now, if I don’t get “enough” fat, oh well. 
  5. I try to drink a LOT of water. I have found that I feel more full if I start the day with a glass of water than if I go straight into tea/breakfast. 
  6. I do not think about calories. When I look at my Carb Manager app, my caloric intake is all over the map. 1400 calories one day, 1100 the next, 1500 the next, 584 calories the next (which obviously is not sustainable or healthy, and the low calorie content was certainly not intentional), 1350 the next. The carbs are my focus, not the overall calories. This helps, I think, keep me from the feeling that I am constantly thinking about food and tracking food all day long. I mean, I do track my food. But it’s much less of an ordeal than it was either in 2020 or when I’ve done things like calorie counting and Weight Watchers. My attempt to be less consumed by this diet is, so far, working pretty well.
  7. For the most part, I try to stick to “real” foods, rather than processed snacky things. For the most part, because I definitely have bought some pre-packaged helpers, which I will tell you about next time. But I find that I feel happier and more satisfied when I am eating things like shrimp and zucchini noodles or pork tenderloin and asparagus than when I am eating 100% hot dogs and freeze-dried cheese. The cheese thing is interesting to me, because one thing that’s great for Keto is cheese. But I eat a LOT less cheese this time than I did in 2020. 

Okay. That’s enough. If you are still reading, first of all, bless you, and secondly, let me know if you have any questions. 

I will do another post about the Keto purchases I have made that I like. And maybe a post about what I eat in a typical week (mainly for Future Me). And then I will stop talking about it. (Mostly.)

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