silver linings

I am two iron infusions down, and starting to feel a bit better, if not exactly energetic. It will probably be a couple months before I’m back to “normal”, but the lightheadedness and general wooziness is fading, my heart rate seems to have calmed a bit, and I can do simple chores around the house without feeling like I’m going to collapse. Small wins!

To make things really interesting, I caught a cold last weekend, and by Monday it had morphed into the sinus infection from hell. Talk about adding insult to injury. I’ve been reduced to a lump on the couch for the last three weeks, and I’m sick and tired of being, well, sick and tired.

But I have plenty of time to draw! I’d fallen out of the habit last year while I figured out how to navigate changes in my career. It’s nice to turn my attention back to making things in my spare time, and I promise to post more screenshots and works in progress here.

I’m really into patterns and vaguely floral designs at the moment. This weekend’s doodles so far:

memia anemia

For all the work I’ve done to accept my body as it is, and to try to treat myself with kindness, it’s tough not to internalize and feel guilty when my body isn’t operating at its best.

Pumping iron

I noticed I was feeling really run down during my last trip. Actually, if I think about it, I’ve been feeling kind of run down for a while. It’s little stuff; feeling lightheaded if I bend over to pick up something off the floor, feeling dizzy if I stand up too fast, lack of stamina for exercise longer than 10-15 minutes at a stretch, and sleeping ’til 9:30 am and *still* feeling like I could take a nap at lunch.

But…I’m fat. If I’m lightheaded, if my heart is racing, if I’m tired, it’s easy to fall back on the standard explanation: “I’m just really out of shape. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d feel better.” (Ouch, right?)

Then a colleague and I took a short walk (less than half a mile) around downtown Nassau, and I thought I was going to be sick from exertion; my heart rate was in the 150’s after climbing a relatively small hill. I had to stop to rest multiple times.

I blamed it on the heat and a full stomach, but that explanation didn’t sit well with me. I pride myself on being able to keep up with my colleagues, despite my size. Lisbon was all stairs, for example, and I made it up some pretty epic flights without feeling like I was going to puke.

The Paleness

When I got home, I mentioned these episodes to Tim, and he pointed out that I’ve had issues with anemia in the past (I even take a daily iron supplement). Maybe I should get my blood checked?

Insert light bulb moment.

Yep, it’s iron deficiency anemia (IDA), and it’s kicking my ass. My hemoglobin is half what it should be (I’m .2 points shy of requiring a blood transfusion), and basically everything related to red blood cell production is low. I started iron infusion therapy this week, and I’m told it will probably be a couple weeks before I start to feel better.

Hindsight being what it is, I see all sorts of red flags now. I’m incredibly pale, my fingernails are curving up at the edges, and I have the olfactory equivalent of pica — I crave strong chemical smells (I have a bottle of camphor essential oil that I sniff every once in a while to take the edge off). IDA is pretty bizarre!

But I was quick to blame myself as my symptoms escalated, even though it was clear to a third party that I needed medical help. Is that something born out of my touch-and-go relationship to my body, or is that just the kind of thing we humans do to make sense of the chaos?

It’s probably both. In any case, I’m hopeful a couple rounds of IV iron will help me feel better soon. In the meantime, I’ll be working from the couch and catching up on all the TV I missed when I was mobile. Shrill on Hulu is my new favorite thing.

Nassau, Bahamas, 2019

I’ll be honest, this was a rough trip. I know it’s hard to feel bad about visiting tropical climates in March; that part was definitely A+. And I always enjoy meeting with my colleagues and spending time with them in person.

Travel-wise, I got off to a rough start. My first flight out was canceled due to a winter storm, so I spent an extra day and night at the airport hotel. I was already anxious about the trip and kind of homesick to begin with, so the extra time to sit around and wait didn’t help. My rebooked flights were packed, of course, and added an extra flight to the mix, so that was frustrating.

When I finally did get going, I just felt off. When my second flight of the day landed in Miami, I stood up and felt like I was going to pass out. Thankfully I didn’t, but that feeling of lightheadedness persisted throughout the trip. (More about that later.)

I did appreciate the change in scenery, though, and our meetup home at Palm Cay was perfectly situated on a white sand beach. I felt like we spent the time productively with team building, problem solving, and plenty of laughs.

Disney World 2019

Is there anything worse than being forced to sit and look at other people having fun in their endless stream of vacation photos? Probably, but the joy of blogging means you aren’t sitting in front of a slide projector, and you can scroll on by if you like. 😉

Disney was a bunch of fun. I think I may have overestimated my family’s stamina for walking around theme parks — six days was a stretch, and Tim bowed out on day 6 so he’d have energy for travel the next day. That said, I was totally into it and would have done more if I could.

The kids met new characters, started pin collections, and we rode a lot of new rides. I particularly enjoyed the roller coasters, and the kids particularly did not enjoy the roller coasters (although they get points for bravery). This year they were also old enough to ride things alone, which meant I didn’t have to subject myself to motion sickness from multiple rounds on the teacups. Win!

We tried a couple of evenings at the parks, which had mixed results. I wanted to see some of the nighttime events (fireworks, light shows, etc.) but the parks are much more crowded in the evening, and it’s harder to see while you’re walking around. It was also about twenty degrees cooler than it was during last year’s trip, so when temps dipped into the 40s at night, we weren’t really prepared. Apparently we are morning people!

The kids loved the heated pool at our villa, and the cooler weather didn’t deter them one bit. Gwen taught herself to swim — underwater and everything — and Ellie gained more confidence in the water. I tried the pool a couple times, but much preferred the spa in our bedroom.

All in all, it was a successful trip, and we’re already figuring out the budget for next year. For now, I hibernate until my next adventure.

Ten.

There are moments in parenthood that defy words to describe them, and this must be one of those times, because all I have are the same three words:

Ellie, you’re ten.

See? It’s not enough to convey the gravity of this day. Ten is a decade. Ten years is roughly a third of my life. I thought time was linear, but now I know it’s a thousand tiny loops and whorls of living and remembering and living and remembering.

I remember when you were born; the memories are vivid in places, dull in others. Sometimes it feels like I went into labor yesterday, and today I’m sending you off to fourth grade.

I remember when you turned five, my proud kindergartener marching off to school; that was last year, right? You’re closer to college than you are to babyhood. When did that happen?

The other day you told me, “I’m a pre-teen now, Mama.”

Me, not fully awake. “Uh, no…not quite..”

“Yes, I am. Ten is double digits, but not a teenager, so that makes me a pre-teen.”

Well, when you put it that way…double digits it is. I am the mother of a pre-teen.

You are so big. When I hug you, it’s like I’m hugging a shorter-than-average adult. When you were tiny, I worried I’d break you; I couldn’t snuggle you without fearing I’d hurt you, couldn’t wrap my arms around you and give you a big bear squeeze, but now you’re solid. You take up space. You stand on your own.

You are *you*, and I can’t take credit for any of it, save for the clothes on your back and the food in your stomach (and maybe the constant singing–I’ll take credit for that). We made you out of a couple of wandering cells, and now we get to stand back and watch you become.

Yesterday you were a baby, today you are ten, and tomorrow I will have to literally look up to talk to you. That’s how fast the time flies.

Keep flying, Ellie. The ride is wild, but I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Real baby cat

Gwen has been asking us for a kitten since she was five — really, since Nala passed away. At some point she latched onto the idea of a new pet and has not let go. I encouraged her to help us take care of the pets we have, and she has, but feeding and watering our elder cats is not the same. They don’t play, and they’re pretty firmly attached to the grownups.

A few weeks ago, Gwen gave us her Christmas wishlist:

IMG_5994

It’s obvious she was hanging her hopes on Santa to make her kitten-loving dreams come true.

So maybe it was the giving spirit at work, or maybe Gwen just wore us down, but on Tuesday we picked up this four-month-old fluffball from the humane society.

Meet Ginger:

Someone *really* wants to play with Stitch, but Stitch is less than interested in playing (although there’s no outright hostility). It’s cuddles with the big guy instead. Tim is Her Person.

So far, she’s pretty mellow for a kitten. She loves to snuggle, and she has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. Her inner ear floofs are On Point and curl around her ears like fluffy halos.

So far so good.

We’re letting her adjust to the rest of the house and its inhabitants slowly. She really wants to be friends with the older cats, and they’re what I would call ambivalently tolerant — so basically, they’re cats.

The next challenge will be introducing her to the dog, but we’re waiting until she’s a bit more confident in her surroundings to do that.

And Gwen? She’s over the moon about her real baby cat. Christmas wish: granted.

Real baby cat.

Giving up the cure

“Because there is no magical cure. There is no time machine. There is only the revolutionary act of being fat and happy in a world that tells you that’s impossible.”

from Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong by Michael Hobbes

I went on my first voluntary diet at 17, the summer before I went to college. I weighed 180 pounds at 5’5″, and my family doctor suggested counting calories; 1000 calories a day should be enough at my age and height, she said. Then I’d lose the extra weight.

Me, 16-ish. Fat.

I remember being distraught. It wasn’t the first time I’d thought of myself as “fat”, far from it. That happened in fourth grade at a class pool party, where I spent most of the time worrying about how my thighs looked in my bathing suit.

But it was the first time my shame had been laid out in medical terms, the first time it was implied this was something I could control, and the first time I felt an urgent need — no, an obligation — to fix my body.

My mom — having struggled with her own weight and wanting to help — gave me her Weight Watchers guidebook and promised to count calories along with me for moral support. The message: You don’t have to do this alone…but you should do it.

I don’t mean to single out my mom, because similar implications came from all sides. My dad, as I reached for a second helping: “Do you really need that?” My grandmother, brushing my hand away from the M&M bowl after dinner. The kid who sat behind me in sixth-grade homeroom and laughed: “Whoa, your arms are huge!”

I often wonder what my body would look like if I hadn’t started that first diet. If the inevitable failure of that and all the ones that came after had not steadily added pounds to my belly, my thighs, my arms, my legs. Had I ignored my well-meaning doctor’s prescription and carried on with my 180-pound self.

Me, 35-ish. Much fatter.

Did feeding the fire of shame give me the body I have today? Would ignoring it have done any good? Or would a love of food and a specific genetic makeup have made this body inevitable? I’ll never know, but it’s something I think about a lot lately.

Ellie entered fourth grade this year. It hasn’t escaped me that she’s developing. She has a tummy. She has a butt. She has thick thighs.

She’s perfect, and I am loathe to let a doctor or anyone else tell her otherwise.

She’s unselfconscious about her body now, but I wonder when she’ll start to look at other girls and compare. I wonder how it will shake out the first time a classmate points out her round belly and makes a cruel comment; if she’ll let it roll off her shoulders, or if she’ll internalize it for the rest of her life.

I know there is only so much I can do. I know my words will fall on deaf ears; that it doesn’t matter how many times I tell her she’s brainy and witty and capable, she’ll eventually hear whispers about her body — from peers, from doctors, from media, from herself — and how it doesn’t match up to some unattainable standard of what a body should look like.

I can use the word “fat” as a simple adjective, I can call myself fat without a hint of shame, and I can dance around in my fat body in front of my daughters and know that my attempts to normalize my right to enjoy this body won’t be enough to stem the tide of conflicting messages.

They already aren’t enough. The kids jiggle my tummy and note my roundness, watching me carefully for some sign of hurt or rebuke, giggling as though they’re getting away with something naughty. The pediatrician’s eyes widened when I used the f-word at Ellie’s last appointment, her hands clenching as though she wanted to clap them over my mouth.

Of all the things my body can do, it can’t physically shield my kids from a world that, at best, misunderstands and, at worst, despises fat people.

I don’t know how this plays out, as Ellie rockets toward pre-teen-hood and Gwen follows not far behind. Even if they dodge the proverbial genetic bullet and grow up to wear straight sizes, they’ll still have a fat mom. In looking through this warped lens, will they come to see me with disgust, shame, or embarrassment?

(Maybe I worry for nothing, but being fat has dominated my inner monologue for twenty-five years; why stop now?)

I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t approached my body like a battle and lost, over and over again. I have no regrets, but the relief in letting go of the fight has been so sweet.

The world says I need to keep fighting. The world says “maybe try just one more diet, this time will be different”, but that’s a lie. I hope my kids see through it sooner than I did.