Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My (admittedly lame) excuse is that my defenses were down

The past week has been kind of a nightmare, with some points of light thrown in, in the form of my parents' visit and Zeke's birthday party.  To which I forgot to take my camera and thus got no pictures.  Pfft.

So last Wednesday I was in the middle of doing a workout and holding 25 pounds weights in each hand while bending forward at the waist.  It's a hamstring exercise - you keep your back flat and let your legs do all the work as you lift and lower your torso.  And I was maintaining proper form, not even letting my arms dangle, but rather keeping them slightly engaged so as not to pull on my back too much.  But then all of a sudden I felt a little pull right in the middle of my back on the left side, about level with the bottom of my shoulder blade, and then the rest of my torso started to spasm and I couldn't move without excruciating pain. 

I put my weights down and managed to find an ice pack in the freezer and lie down on it on the couch.  J brought me a bunch of Advil and an Aleve, so I took them and waited for the pain to subside while I worried about how I was going to function over the next couple of days. 

Finally the medicine kicked in and I was able to get around without doubling over in pain every few seconds, so I showered and dressed and got the kids off to school.

The next two days were spent at a big annual convention for all of the state special education directors.  I gave a speech on Thursday, which went fine, but Thursday night I started feeling a tickle in my throat and Friday my tonsils and my neck glands were definitely acting up.  I went to the conference for a little while, but by around 11 a.m. I was feeling really shitty and I didn't really need to stay, so I went home.

My parents arrived a couple of hours later, to spend Zeke's birthday weekend with us.  Unfortunately, I spend the bulk of the time feeling crappy and lying on the couch, nursing a virus that mimicked strep in every regard -- extremely painful sore throat, swollen glands, and fever -- but wasn't *actually* strep, meaning that the doctor wouldn't give me any antibiotics for it.  Plus my strained back muscle was still acting up, so I was a pathetic mess.  I felt well enough to make it to Zeke's party on Sunday morning, which was really fun -- we went to a little dinosaur museum over in Morrison that has great hands-on exhibits and activities for kids -- but by the end of the weekend I was spent.

Monday I stayed home from work and slept and caught up on my DVR'd shows.  J went to work, but also had a court date at 1:15 in Jefferson County because he got pulled over a couple of months ago for having expired tags - I thought he had renewed them and he thought I had.  No big deal, right?  All he had to do was show up with the renewed registration and maybe pay a little fine.

Now, I've mentioned in the past that Australians in general, and my husband in particular, are notorious practical jokers.  And I grew up in a family of bullshit artists, so I tend to be pretty good at ferreting out the nonsense. 

But I guess I was tired.  And in pain.  And grumpy. 

And thus obviously unprepared when I received this text message from J approximately 5 minutes after he was due in court:  "$1000 and 10 days jail"

Because I freaked. 

If someone were telling me a story like this about someone else, I would have been all, "Oh, ha ha, good one."

But J has a history of getting kicked around by law enforcement.  So my initial reaction was, "NO!  WHAT THE FUCK??  REALLY??"  followed by furious efforts to call him.  But he didn't pick up his phone and I got more and more worked up and finally I just called the court.
CLERK:  Hello, Jefferson County Court, Criminal and Traffic Division.

ME:  Yeah, hi.  Uh, my husband had a court date this morning for a traffic ticket and I was just trying to find out what was going on with his case. 

[I give her the ticket number.]

CLERK:  Yep, here it is.  Looks like the DA dismissed it.

ME:  Really?  I'm so confused.  I got a text from my husband saying that he was assessed a huge fine and jail time, and I don't get it because it doesn't seem like failing to renew your registration on time would be a jailable offense.

CLERK:  Ma'am, I think he was just messing with you.
Ya think??

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goodnight, nobody

Josie threw herself out of her crib last week, so last Friday I went to IKEA and got her her birthday present from her grandparents - new big girl (or should I say, little girl) furniture.  She and Zeke both love it so every night we sit on the couch in her room, turn off the overhead light, turn on the little pink flower light over her bed, and read books together.

It really is a different room now.  It flows better, it's more comfortable.  I don't know anything about feng shui, but my sense is, this room has it.  With the new furniture and new layout, everyone wants to be in there.

Last night's book selection was Goodnight, Moon.  Josie loves the part about "goodnight, mush" because she thinks the word "mush" is hilarious, and the part about the old lady whispering "hush," because we love to whisper the word "hush" together.

When we got to the end, "goodnight noises everywhere," Josie looked at the picture, with everything dark and quiet, the little rabbit asleep, and the old lady gone from her chair, and said, "where's the old lady?"

"She must have gone to her room to go night-night," I surmised.  Josie pondered that for a couple of seconds.

Then Zeke said, "I think she passed away," and cracked up laughing.  Josie started giggling and saying, "passed away! Passed away!"

I totally lost it, and soon all three of us were laughing uncontrollable.

Poor old lady.  And poor me, because clearly, neither of these goofy monkeys was going to sleep any time soon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Here's what I've been up to...

Today I finish a 90-day exercise program.  It is by far my favorite of all the Beachbody programs I've ever done -- and that's saying something.  Read all about (including before-and-after pics of me in a bathing suit) here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

And if it means I must prepare to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me.


"Yes, Zekey?"

"It's hard to be little.  I don't want to be a kid."

"You don't?  What do you want to be?"

"I want to be a man like Daddy."

"Well, you'll get there someday.  You're growing and you'll keep growing and someday you'll be like Daddy."


"In the meantime, you get to do all kinds of fun things like play with your friends, and ride your bike, and learn how to swim, and learn how to read.  You've got some really cool stuff going on."


"But I know that things are hard sometimes and that it can be scary to be little.  But you know what?  It's hard to be a grownup, too."

"It is???"

"It really is."


"Well, because Daddy and I have lots of things that we have to take care of.  We have to go to work so that we can have enough money to pay for our house and our cars and stuff.  We have to make sure that you and Josie have clothes and food and toys, and we have to make sure you're safe."

"And you need to buy dinosaur shoes."

"Well, Papa takes care of that for you, but we have to buy other stuff."

"Like bananas."

"Yep. And underpants."

"And oranges, too, right, Mama?"

"All kinds of food."

"And toothbrushes."

"And washcloths."

He snuggled into my arm.

"I love you, Mama."

"I love you too, sweet boy."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Guest Blog: It Ain't Just About Fitting Into Your Skinny Jeans

I received an email this morning from a guy who found my fitness blog and was interested in guest-posting an article about the importance and benefits of physical fitness for cancer patients (or cancer survivors).  I think it's an incredibly important message, so I decided to post the article on this blog as well.  I've had so many acquaintances, friends and relatives suffer with or die of cancer lately, it's a subject that is very much on my mind these days.

Physical Fitness and Cancer
                   ~ by David Haas
Almost everyone can improve his or her life with a moderate, consistent physical fitness program. The physiological and psychological benefits from physical fitness simply cannot be overstated. As the treatment for and prognosis of cancer patients has greatly improved over the last decade, it has become clear that physical fitness can greatly improve the quality of life and energy levels of cancer survivors. There are two different types of physical fitness. Aerobic activity requires oxygen and helps build up stamina and endurance. Aerobic activities include walking, jogging, riding a bike and hiking. The second type of physical fitness is referred to as anaerobic. Anaerobic exercise includes weightlifting and stretching. These activities increase strength and flexibility.

According to the National Cancer Institute, research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving quality of life, reducing fatigue and assisting with energy balance. Physical fitness may be an important component of lymphoma treatment, mesothelioma treatment and the treatment of a number of different types of cancer. Physical fitness may also benefit survivors of mesothelioma, lymphoma and prostate, testicular and colorectal cancers after their disease has went into remission.

The physiological benefits of physical fitness include:

1. Increased blood flow to the extremities and improved circulation

2. Increased levels of energy

3. Increased levels of strength

4. Improved stamina and endurance

5. Improved oxygen utilization

6. Decreased level of fatigue daytime exhaustion
The psychological health of anyone going through cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission can be severely challenged. Let's face it, cancer of any type is a very frustrating and scary disease. In those who survive, the psychological toll that the disease has on their minds can linger for years. The psychological benefits of physical exercise in cancer survivors include, but are not limited to:
1. Decrease in levels of anxiety

2. Decrease in levels of feelings associated with depression

3. Increase in feelings of inner strength and well-being

4. Decreased stress and tension

5. Decreased levels of insomnia and daytime fatigue

Of course, I recommend checking with your primary care physician or oncologist before beginning any exercise routine. This is extremely important because there are some inherent risks with physical fitness and the general health of a person with cancer can certainly be compromised. Physical Fitness can certainly be a beneficial component of any cancer treatment program and can also help the person who has survived cancer.

Take care of yourselves, people.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Aussie Word of the Day: Motivational edition

**Just a little warning -- this is kind of a long one.  You might want to go pee or top off your coffee before you start reading.**
Pull your finger out:  Aussie for "get on with it; stop wasting time."*  Shortened form of "pull your finger out of your ass" (apparently, having your finger up your ass interferes with efficiency).
It's been an insane week.  Things are really busy at work and I'm doing this big 90 day push to grow my Beachbody business that involves weekly webinars and daily check-ins with an accountability partner (who is awesome -- hi Ferreh!!) and I'm trying to plan Zeke's birthday party and make it fun without being too too much and this weekend is Yom Kippur and next weekend we're going to a wedding reception and I've got a presentation that I'm doing at a big statewide conference and holy shit.

On the plus side, ski season starts in less than a month, and opening day at Copper Mountain coincides with a flex day, so I've got that to look forward to.

So yesterday at 6:15 in the morning I was in my room doing a workout -- I was in the middle of a set of pushups, to be exact -- when J walked in.  This was a bit of a shock, considering that he had left for work an hour before. 

He's been having some problems with one of the guys on the job -- a former friend (Greg) who was promoted to foreman and immediately turned into a raging asshole at the first whiff of power.  Screaming, yelling, swearing at people -- just generally being incredibly abusive and awful to the guys on the job, and given that the construction industry is notorious for treating guys like dog shit, it's saying something that this guy's behavior really went above and beyond.  Everybody hated him, everybody was miserable.  J would tell him to back off and watch his mouth, and Greg tended to tone it down somewhat with J, but he was still a major douchebag. 

Apparently, a couple of days ago, it got really, really bad.  Guys were completely up in arms, an apprentice was so mad he was throwing things, and the entire job site was tense and miserable.  So J went to have a talk with the head of the company.  In a very calm and rational way, he explained what was going on and that it was negatively impacting everyone, that if the yelling and screaming was meant to be some kind of motivational tool, it was having the opposite effect, and that if something didn't change, guys would be leaving en masse.  The boss, being an asshole himself, kind of blew it off and insinuated that J was being a pussy and just couldn't take the heat.

This is pretty much par for the course.  This company is awful -- they don't pay shit, they provide no benefits, they insist guys work overtime and then mysteriously have "payroll problems" that cause the overtime pay to be absent from paychecks.  They suck.  And in a non-union state like Colorado, there's very little recourse.  It's a tough economy, everyone's grateful to have a job, so the companies make the guys eat shit because they can -- they hold all the cards. 

Fight the power, yo.

So yesterday morning, J made the decision -- probably not so smart in hindsight -- to try to have a calm discussion with Greg and explain why his behavior was inappropriate and counterproductive.  Greg responded by yelling and screaming at J, getting up in his face.  J responded, "Fuck you."  Greg said, "you just quit."  So J came home.

Notice how Greg immediately framed it (and subsequently put it in an email to the boss) that J had quit, rather than been fired?  So as to set up a factual dispute that would make it harder for J to file an unemployment claim? 

Evil fuckers.

Anyway, I'm literally mid-pushup when J walks into the room.  And I'm continuing to do pushups while trying to talk to J to figure out what happened.  This is difficult enough, but J was so angry and shaking and freaked out that it was hard for him to even form a sentence, so I told him to go downstairs and make some coffee and calm down and I'd be there to talk to him in a few minutes after I finished my workout.

We sat in the living room. 

"So what happened?"

"I tried to talk to him, but he kept getting in my face and I just snapped.  I just can't take being treated like that anymore."

"Well, I know you hate it there, and I don't want to pile on, but we can't afford for you to be out of work right now.  We're operating on a razor-thin margin as it is."

"I know.  I know.  I'll find another job."

"Is there any way you can go back?"

"I can't.  I just can't."  He was practically in tears.

I nodded, took a deep breath and got up and went into the next room.  I got a pad of paper and a pen out of a drawer and brought them to him.

"OK.  Then here's what you're going to do.  Write down the name of every single person you can think of that might be able to help you find a new job.  Call Steve [the guy who has done a bunch of work on our house] -- maybe he knows somebody or needs some electrical work on some of his jobs.  Vicki manages a bunch of properties -- call her.  Joe manages a company that does residential electrical stuff -- give him a call.  Guys you've worked with.  That friend of my dad's.  That placement guy that keeps calling you. I'll put the word out to everyone I know and also see if anyone needs any odd jobs done."  He started writing and I continued to rattle off names, which then went on the list.  "Now start calling, texting, and emailing.  We need the money, so start hustling.  Everything's going to be fine, but you need to focus.  Pull your finger out and get it done."

And he did.  He made some calls and sent some texts.  We got the kids up and took them to school, and then he drove me to work.  By the time he dropped me off, he had already gotten the names of some companies that were hiring and had an interview lined up.  I was giving him a pep talk and helping him plan his day, and he was feeling much better.

"This is awesome.  You're really amazing," he told me.

"You married the right woman," I agreed, and I gave him a kiss, got out of the car and went up to my building. 

Within an hour, 6 people in my office had responded to an email I sent out, telling me that they had electrical work they needed done but didn't know anyone reputable to call.  By 10 in the morning, he had another job interview lined up and side jobs to take him through the weekend.  And this morning, he's already had two calls from companies that got his name from friends of his.  So we're thinking that he'll have something solid lined up soon.

In the meantime, he and I have been texting back and forth.  I've been trying to give him little e-pep talks.  At one point, he texted me back:  "Tony Robbins called.  He wanted me to tell you to to back the fuck off."

I don't know.  I may be on to something.
* I know this expression isn't used only by Aussies, but I never really heard it used in great abundance until I married J.  In the U.S., people tend to use the entire phrase, i.e., "pull your finger out of your ass."  But Aussies feel compelled to abbreviate and shorten everything, so I feel like "pull your finger out" is the Aussie-fied version.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Someday she'll make a great Jewish mother

Josie is going through a massive language explosion all of a sudden.  It's been building slowly for a while -- she's been picking up new words and figuring out how to use them -- but in the past week or so she has been putting sentences together and really expressing herself. 

It's so awesome.  One of the most amazing things about living with the short people (TM Elizabeth) is watching their language acquisition, both because it is fascinating to see it in action and also because when kids start to talk, that's when they get exponentially more fun and interesting (in my opinion). 

This huge change has coincided with Josie's move from the Twinkles class to the Little Dippers* class -- she is now with kids who are talking more than the kids she had been with, and the curriculum is more advanced and language-based.  And she's doing great -- every day when we pick her up, all we get are reports about how engaged she is and how much fun she has.

But -- and again, this is not unexpected or atypical -- she's still struggling with the transition.  She was with the Twinkles for a year and the teachers were wonderful and warm and cuddly and sweet, and by the end of her time there, she was unquestionably the queen bee, so it was a hard place to leave. 

And she obviously thinks about it a LOT.  Because yesterday, as we were heading downstairs to do something, she said to me, "Mama, I don't want Dipper.  I not Dipper."

"Really, honey?"

"Mm-hmmm.  I not Dipper."

"What are you, then?"

"I go Twinkle.  I a Twinkle."

"Oh.  Well, that's interesting."  I refused to confirm her view of the world, but it also did not strike me as worthy of an argument, so I was non-commital.

"I not a Dipper, Mama.  I a Twinkle.  Okay?  Okay??"

"Hmmmm.  Well, we'll see, baby.  We don't have to worry about it right now."

She wasn't assuaged.

"Mama!  I not Dipper.  I go Dipper and I cry.  Okay?  I cry!"

This seriously went on for the next hour.  She was determined to have her point heard, particularly the part about the crying.

It started again when we pulled up at the school when I was dropping the kids off.  I got Josie out of her car seat and was carrying her into the building when she reminded me, "I not a Dipper, Mama."

And when we turned to go into the Dipper room, she lost her shit.  Her whole face crumbled and she buried it in her hands.  "Nooo!  No Dippers!  Noooooo!"

She did indeed cry, just as she promised.

I gave her a big hug and a kiss and assured her that she would be fine.  Her teacher, Miss Jessica (who is great), took her and did the same.  Zeke and I left and went to his classroom to deposit him for the day.

By the time I came out of Zeke's room 5 minutes later, Josie had stopped crying.  Because after all, if I wasn't there to witness it, what was the point?

The girl's got a great future in piling on the guilt.
*Her school is called "Bright Star," and the different classrooms all have star-related names.  The Twinkles are the 1-year-olds, the Little Dippers are the 2-year-olds and the Cosmos (where Zeke is) are the 3-5 year olds.