Thursday, May 26, 2016

Control

There are many things in life that we can control. There are many things in life that are out of our control. I think it's a true test of who you are when you are faced with things that are beyond your control.

Last week, I got called back for a repeat mammogram. I was told it was very common and that there was no reason to be alarmed. 

Well, I was alarmed. I started to think about the possibility that I might have cancer. That I might have to lose a breast. That I might die. Admittedly, I was a little melodramatic, but you just never know. That's why we do these tests in the first place.

The mammogram was inconclusive so they took me back for an ultrasound. I am fairly certain I stopped breathing by this point. As I tried to relax in the sterile room on the hospital bed, my mind started to race. The technician performed the ultrasound and I was staring at a blank screen, not knowing what I was looking for, but scared out of my mind. I was thrown back in time to the last ultrasound I had which when we were going through IVF. My mind went even further back in time to when Allie died and I could see her on the screen and also see how still she was. I could see that her heart stopped beating. It was not a good set of flashbacks for me to have.

The radiologist came in a few minutes later and informed me that and all was fine. He apologized for the tests but said he wanted to be sure everything was alright. I had no issue with that at all. I was grateful for the clean bill of health and walked out with my head held high, but with the memories of the ultrasound still flooding my brain.

A few days later, Gary ran his 7th Tough Mudder race. He was so looking forward to the race. He did not, however, train for it. Not once. As a result, he got hurt. He took a nasty fall. He kept going because he wanted to finish the race.

Once home, he went to Urgent Care. They sent him to the ER. There, they admitted him. I am fairly sure that I stopped breathing by this point.

He is fine now. He is home and already back at work. Two nights, tons of IV fluids, a lecture about how you simply cannot put your body through the trauma of a race without training and how if you fall, stay down! He is bruised and battered and embarrassed but all of that will heal. 

Neither situation could we control. We could only control how we reacted to them. We stayed calm and we leaned on each other. He brought me home Chinese food after my tests because that is the ultimate comfort food for me. I brought him cookies and Reese's to the hospital for the same reason.

I cannot control what will happen at my next mammogram but I can control how I handle whatever happens. Gary can control being prepared for another race (IF there is another race) and will train properly. He learned his lesson.

Our wedding anniversary is Sunday. Six years. We are still new in so many ways. We were tested this past month for sure, but that is nothing new for us. We came out stronger and more solid and better than ever. Or at least I did. He might not be better till the weekend!

Control what you can and for what you can't, learn to control how you cope. I know that has really been a good lesson for me. I hope it is for you, too.

Hospital Selfie

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

ED

There is a part of my life that is hard to talk about. I have mentioned it in this space before, but I have be hesitant to go into much detail. It's insanely personal and makes me feel vulnerable. However, I do not think that I am alone with this struggle and I hope that by sharing what I am talking about, I might be able to help someone. The feedback I have already gotten has been so amazing.

Meet ED. ED is my Eating Disorder.

ED has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My therapist suggested I write a letter to ED to let her know how I feel. So here goes:

Dear ED,

I have spent my whole life fighting with you. I am done. I do not want to fight anymore. I want to come to terms with who you are and what you are and then take it from there.

I was not a chubby kid, but you made me feel like I was. You skewed the way I looked at myself and made me feel insecure and somehow less than anyone else. You taught me that eating certain foods in certain amounts would be comforting and encouraged me to eat in secret, too. I remember sneaking chocolate chips out of the pantry when I was little and they were semi-sweet. They did not even taste that good but I ate them all. Then the time came when mom needed them to bake and I had to lie that I did not eat them.

You made me a liar, ED! You made me embarrassed and ashamed and sad. Always sad.

When I was in high school, I worked at a grocery store. I could binge eat at home and then go to work and replace what I ate. No one was the wiser. With three kids in the house and three step kids on some weekends, there was always enough food that no one noticed when some of it went missing. Or so I thought. Little Debbie kept me company when I was home alone. Bags of chips filled me up from the inside out when I felt isolated from others. I started to keep people at arms length.

I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was in middle school with the mom of one of my friends. In a group of people, I never felt more alone.

ED, you have cause me so much pain. You have caused doubt and dismay in me.

I refused to visit my brother in college because I was worried that all his friends would think that his sister was too fat. I stuck to activities and people that were safe for me because my weight had become a real issue. I turned to food for everything by then - good or bad.

I hated to look at myself in the mirror. I took laxatives and diet pills. I binged and then I starved myself. I started eating in secret. I was so so sad.

I constantly think that other people are looking at the way my clothes fit me and that is a direct result of you, ED. No one cares! But when you are in my head, I think that the whole world is watching me and judging me. You have made me anxious and paranoid.

I am tired of sneaking food. I am tired of using food as a mechanism to feel better. All it does is make me feel worse! I want my life back, ED, and that means you have to go.

I do not want my daughter to know you, ED. I do not want her to struggle with you. So I have to say goodbye before it's too late for me and for her. She deserves better. And you know what? I do, too.

See you later, ED. Do not write. Do not text. There is no room in my life for you anymore. I am learning new tools to handle stress and anxiety and even happiness and joy that do not include you. Your time with me is over.

Sorry not sorry,
Sam

So there you have it. My farewell letter. It may give you some insight into me. It may give you some insight into you or someone you love. Together let's break the silence of eating disorders and the control that they have. One meal at a time. One day at a time. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

May 19, 1996

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of my college graduation. I walked with my peers on a unseasonably hot day and wore one of the biggest smiles of my life. It was a great day and I was so proud and I knew I was making those who loved me also very proud.

So what was next for me? I had to take classes that summer before I could officially be done. Then I packed up all my things and moved back home. I went from being on my own to being back in my pink childhood bedroom. I tore down the posters of Kirk Cameron and NKOTB and I went from sneaking cookies to sneaking cigarettes. I needed a job.

Turns out, I did not become the next big radio or television star. I did not become a teacher. I did not ever have my own corner office with a view. I never had my own assistant. I did have a company credit card for a few different jobs, but I am not sure I ever used it.

I have washed cars in the dead of winter in a business suit (Enterprise Rent-A-Car). I learned how to use computers and answer phones (Aetna U.S. Healthcare). I learned how to work with others (all jobs). I learned how to fundraise and work special events (WHYY, The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and Jewish Federation). I learned how to market intake manifolds and control arms (Dorman Products) and then at the same company, how to buy them and then train on them. I learned how to blog, edit, proofread and freelance in general (HRDQ). Somewhere along the way, I learned that my jobs did not define me - I defined me. I learned it was alright to have a job that I liked, work with people that I enjoyed, and essentially have a good job but not necessarily a great career. I am proud of my degree and the experience that college was to me. I am pleased at the doors that it opened for me. I am just as happy, though, with what I have made of my life in the last 20 years.

If you had told me on May 19, 1996, then I would be a part freelance writer and part stay-at-home mom, I would have thought you were crazy. Surely by the year 2016, I would be using my Communications degree to do something extraordinary. And kids? I did not even want them back then. No way. 

If you had told me on May 19, 1996 that my mother and brothers would be such a strong sense of support for me as I grew into the woman I was meant to be, I would not have believed it.

If you had told me on May 19, 1996 that two of my strongest passions were raising awareness for stillbirth and for adoption, I would have thought you were nuts! Who has a stillbirth in this modern day and why in the world would I care about adoption when I did not even want kids?

If you had told me on May 19, 1996 that I would be married and own a home and that the highlight of my days was watching my daughter discover the world around her, I would have thought you did not know me at all. If you had told me that my house would be filled with superheroes and comic books, I would have laughed!

Life seldom turns out the way we think it will. My life did not, anyway. It turned out way way better.
Tyson Hall - 1993
Pledging Delta Zeta - 1993

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

I am addicted to "Friday Night Lights". I am almost done binge watching all five seasons and I will be so sad when it is over.

This show is about a high school football team and the coaches and players and their journeys. The thing is, I know NOTHING about football. The writing and acting is so good, it does not even matter.

I spend a lot of time on Netflix. When the house is quiet and everyone has gone to bed, I pick up my remote and a sense of calm comes over me. I can escape into an imaginary world and leave my troubles behind.
 
During the day, I make every effort to take care of myself. I go to the Y and exercise on the days that Miranda is in school. I try to make smart choices when it comes to what I eat and feed my family. I pay our bills and clean our house and do our laundry and run our errands and I like it. I feel useful and like a big piece of our family puzzle.

During the evening, all bets are off. The animal crackers come out, the snacks that are in the cabinet start banging on the door and there is no way to silence them except to eat them.

Binge eating is..."the consumption of large quantities of food in a short period of time, typically as part of an eating disorder." I was in denial for a long time that I had an eating disorder, but the fact of the matter is, I cannot ignore it anymore. 

It is not every day and it's not always bad food. However, the feeling of using food to push down my feelings is one I have had since I was a teenager at least. I have recently started to talk about how I use food as a crutch and a comfort and I have been shocked to find out that I am not alone. Not even close.

I think that you can be addicted to food just like you can be addicted to anything else. I am trying to break my addiction and understand why I make the choices I do. I am seeing a therapist, a nutritionist and as of yesterday, a new doctor. I have my very own posse!

It is not easy.

But what that is worth fighting for is easy??

I do not want Miranda to grow up with no yummy food in the house because her mom can't control herself. I also do not want her to grow up thinking that food is bad or that eating in secret is even a thing. I have to learn how to deal with my addiction and I have to do it for me. But knowing that it will help her in the long run and that being healthy means I will be around for my family for as long as possible, well, those are darn good motivators.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose. Here is to less binge watching and less binge eating and just learning how to be "normal". Whatever that means. I am looking forward to finding out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

To Thine Own Self Be True

“Waiting around for someone else to make you happy is the best way to be sad.”

I found this quote online and it did not have a source but it was too good to not use.  

In my case, I am not waiting for someone else to make me happy - I am waiting around to realize that I am happy and that is enough.

I am always shopping. In stores and online. Looking for that next big sale or bargain or item that I must have. Once I have it, instead of being happy with my find, I am on to the next thing. I have always been like that.

Lately, I have been on the hunt for my next career move. Mind you, I left my last job to concentrate on my family and myself and I have been doing a pretty good job with that. So why not delete the app from my phone that looks for jobs and get it out of my head that I need to work? I can get more freelance clients. I can write till my fingers have lost all feeling. I do not need to go into an office right now. My job is to be at home. And trust me - there is plenty of work to do here!

That being said, I just got off the phone from a pretty great interview. They want me five days a week. I may have talked them into three. The problem? I DO NOT WANT THAT! Why am I doing this to myself? 

Why can't I get it through my head that it is ok for me to stay home? Miranda needs me. Gary likes all that I am getting done and it is taking a lot of pressure off of him. I am the one making these random rules for myself and all it is doing it causing unnecessary chaos.

Miranda will be in kindergarten before I know it. My time with her is so limited. Why do I feel ashamed to stay home and enjoy it? Is it because it took us so long to get here that I still can't believe I am a mom? I am not sure.

Mother's Day was so lovely. I got showered with gifts and love and felt so special. You know what, though? It was not that different of a day than any other day. Here we try to make every day special. And it's up to each of us to find the happiness inside that makes each day great, too.

I am all over the place. My thoughts are a mile a minute. I need to take a step back. I need to remember to breathe. I need to live more in the moment. I need to pay attention to what I am and who I am and what I am doing to myself.

I am trying. This blog is helping. One day at a time. One morning at a time. One afternoon at a time. I want to be happy. I deserve to be happy. Why does everyone know that but me?

Mother's Day Weekend

Thursday, May 5, 2016

MY Day

Mother's Day is around the corner. It will be nice to celebrate my mom and all that she is to us. It will also be nice to celebrate ME, because what is not to love about that?

I have a hard time accepting that Sunday is my day. I feel like every day that I get to be a mom is Mother's Day. However, it's nice to slow down and rejoice.

I love being a mom. So much more than I ever thought I would. Yet having a day to honor that seems strange to me. I am not sure why. 

Being a mom is exhilarating and fun and challenging. It's also dirty and gross and exhausting. 

Lately I have been struggling with the idea that I deserve happiness. I know it my heart I do, but I have been behaving as if I do not. Then I put my mom hat on and think about what I want for my daughter and that helps me decide what I want for myself. Being a mom has taken me outside of myself in more ways than I can describe.

Do I want my child to beat herself up if she eats poorly one day? Of course not! Do I want Miranda to subconsciously put herself down and think negative thoughts about her body? Absolutely not! So why, then, do I allow myself to think and act in a way that I would not want for her?

I am teaching my daughter to think for herself. To form her own opinions. To stand up for what she believes in. We set boundaries and steer her in certain ways, but the joy of parenting to me is watching her true self emerge.

What about my true self? I spend so much time in my head, worrying about things that are out of my control and beating myself up for this, that, or the other thing. Well, if I do not want that for Miranda, then I better start wanting better for myself.

"Millions of people across the globe take the day as an opportunity to honor their mothers, thank them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant support and well wisher." 

So here's to Mother's Day. Here's to all the moms. The ones that struggle with who they are and who they want to be. The ones who have it all figured out and could teach a class. And to all the ones in-between! Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Unveiling

"Within the first year after the passing of a loved one, mourners and their family gather at the grave site for a ceremony called the unveiling, the placing of the tombstone. At this event, a grave marker is put into place and the monument is formally dedicated. There are a variety of specific customs that revolve around the grave site to honor the person who is now deceased. During this ceremony, it is not necessary for rabbis to be involved. It is a spiritual time for the family to comfort each other and remember their loved one" (www.shiva.com)

Tomorrow is my dad's unveiling. We are well over the one year mark (going on two plus) but hey, we are doing the best we can. It will be my brothers, my mom and me. 

I had such a stormy past with my father and this last piece of putting him to rest feels good to me. It feels right to formally honor him one last time. As Miranda gets older, I will bring her to "visit" and tell her stories about my dad.

The problem is, I want to share words of wisdom. I want to pass on family traditions. My brothers both have insight and advice from him that they hold dear. 

This is what I have:

College: You either need to find a man who likes chubby women or lose weight. It's that simple.
Post-College: Date lots of men at the same time. That way you are never alone and you always have options.

There are more, but I think you get the point.

My dad loved me very much. I was his first baby. I was his only daughter. I was, in many ways, a mirror image of him. The problem was, he did not know what to do with me.

He showered me with Swatches and Benetton and Outback Red. He got my ears pierced way before my mom was ready for that step (and very much behind her back). He talked to me like a "grown up" and in turn, scared the living crap out of me when I was just a kid.

He left our family to make a better life for himself. That resulted in a better life for us. So I can't argue with that.

He created custody issues that did not need to be and I can argue with that.

He was not the most honest or the most truthful and I can find fault with that, too.

But you know what? For the most part, he really lived his life. He seized the day out of every opportunity. He did not care what others thought of him - as long as they thought he was larger than life, rich, generous and fun. And in many ways, he was.

I am who I am because of who he was and who he was not. For the most part, I like the person that I have become. So thank you, Dad. Thank you for your flaws and your mistakes and your missed opportunities. Thank you also for loving me the best that you could. I can't argue with that.

Learning to Love Yourself No Matter What

One of the problems with being a writer is that I use words as therapy. By writing my thoughts and feelings, I can often make sense of the w...