Goodbye, Nala

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Yesterday, we put our kitty Nala to sleep.

Tim and I adopted her 14 years ago at the Old Town Animal Orphanage. We liked to say that she adopted us; Tim was standing back-to the wall of animal crates when she reached out her paw and patted him on the shoulder. “Look at me! I’m the best one!” And she was.

She was our first baby, and we were anxious new-cat parents. Was she eating and drinking enough? Was that a cough or a hairball? We lived in a tiny loft apartment, and we were paranoid she’d fall from the loft railing.

She used to drink water by dipping her paws into her dish and licking them off, which would have been fine if we hadn’t used super-tough clumping cat litter. During her first week at home, we spent a lot of time fretting and prying caked litter from between her toes.

Before we had the kids, she’d sleep in our bed, curled around my head. She’d wake me by licking my eyebrows and purring into my hair. We adopted another cat, Stitch, a few months later, and she and Nala became fast friends. They were “our girls” long before we had human girls.

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Having had pets all my life, I’m no stranger to this cycle, but it was harder than I expected to see her go. Blood work revealed she’d been sick for a long time, unbeknownst to us; I hate to think we prolonged her suffering.

But it is what it is, and at least she’s not suffering anymore. Sleep well, Nala-boo.

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A lesson in loss

It’s been a rough month.

A few weeks ago, my dad went to the doctor to treat a mild cough. An X-ray revealed a mass in his lung, and after multiple follow-ups, what we thought was a lingering virus is actually advanced lung cancer. We’ve gone from a pesky cough to hospice in a matter of weeks.

He’s a lifelong on-and-off smoker, but in that illogical way people have when faced with dire events, I never thought this would happen. The uncertainty of not knowing how long he’ll be with us has made for many ups and downs.

My relationship with my father (like most relationships) is complex, but I have always been able to count on his love and support. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what life will look like without him.

Dad has always encouraged my creative efforts — from singing, to writing terrible poetry, to karate lessons, to drawing and photography. He gave me my first film camera — his old Pentax ME — and his Time-Life photography books.

Dad is the one who knew I would be a web developer, long before “web developer” was a common profession. What I saw as a frivolous hobby of playing with code on the fledgling web, he saw as a potential career.

He introduced my brother and me to video games like Myst and Prince of Persia and Sim City, and I am strangely proud to say I’ve raided Molten Core alongside him.

My taste in music is questionable, but I like to think the few rock-solid influences — Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, to name a few — can be attributed to his good taste. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve singing folk songs with my family around the kitchen table while Dad played guitar.

Most poignant is how he and my mom have shown me what 37 years of commitment looks like — loving, respectful, imperfect friendship — something that’s framed all my relationships as an adult for the better.

When I was 11 or 12, I went through this phase where I clung to my father’s arm and called him “Daddy”. I’m not sure what it was about; a last-ditch effort to hang onto my own babyhood, I suppose. My dad was bemused by the extra attention, eventually I grew out of it, and that was that.

That girl is still part of me. She wants me to stomp my foot and selfishly declare that he is not allowed to die, that she is not done with him, that this is not fair.

But I’m 32, not 12, so writing this is as close to a tantrum as I’ll get.

The truth is that people die. All the time. Even my dad.

I suppose the last lesson a parent teaches a child is about loss. How to endure it, survive it, and live without.

I’m not ready to learn this one.

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getting healthy! monthly check-in

It’s going…  OK. I’ve lost 2 more pounds since I last wrote… not as much as I would have liked (I was shooting for 1lb/week), but still, a loss is a loss. Considering how one of those weeks was particularly difficult due to travel, and how I haven’t really pushed myself very hard, and how I just went back to work in late November… let’s just say there were enough obstacles that I should probably consider those two pounds a huge success under the circumstances.

(And hey, my house still looks fantastic!)

I was particularly nervous about going back to work, but I think I’ve found a routine that’s going to stick. Currently I walk to and from the office most days, which nets me about 4-5k steps total. Tim takes the girls to school/daycare so I’m free to walk in the morning, then I’ll sometimes walk home for lunch or across campus to Ellie’s school at the end of the day. Two of the three walks per day, plus a concentrated effort to get up from my desk every half hour, is usually enough activity to finish my evenings with relatively little effort. There’s some flexibility built in and I’m always on the lookout for alternatives in the event I can’t do one of my daily walks–for example, I walk to meetings whenever possible or I’ll jog up and down the stairs in my building during breaks. If it gets too cold to walk, I plan on firing up the Wii again.

I also started playing Health Month in earnest, and while I thought the idea was a little hokey at first, I’m surprised at just how motivating it is. I haven’t walked less than 10k steps a day since the start of December because I’m held accountable to that goal every day. Funny how something so simple can be so effective.

There’s also something to be said for the fact that I feel better, not just physically but mentally as well. I noticed after our trip to Santa’s Village that I was not nearly as exhausted as I would have been before–I was tired and sore being on my feet all day, sure, but I didn’t need the following two days just to recover. I also feel more capable, if that makes sense–tasks that used to seem impossible become manageable when I remind myself that little steps add up to big things. It’s a refreshing new way of looking at the world and I’m enjoying it.

So in summary, I’m keeping at it. Some days are easier than others and I suppose it will always be that way. I have to remind myself that weight loss, while a nice side effect, should not be my primary measurement of progress. I’d be happy to maintain my current weight as long as I continue to make small changes toward bettering my health. I want this process to evolve organically in hopes it will become habit and not a dreaded daily chore.

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fat girl with a fitbit

Remember last October when I started up that exercise routine? And was doing really well and enjoying myself? And then I got knocked up and promptly forgot all about it? Yeah.

I knew I’d need some particularly powerful motivation to get back on the wagon this time. I remember from Ellie’s early days how easy it is to sit around with a snoozy, snuggly baby on my chest.

Then I came across Fitbit and was immediately intrigued. I love me some tech-geeky gadgets; even better if they come with statistics and charts and graphs. I debated with myself… it was expensive, at $100 for the fancy tracker, but I could justify that easily enough. A membership to the local rec center costs $400 a year and I wouldn’t use it every day, not to mention the hassle of having to arrange for childcare, finding a convenient time to go, etc. And I do need to lose a significant amount of weight somehow. Although I’ve yet to encounter major issues as a result of my weight, I know it’s just a matter of time. I’m still relatively young and I have a sneaking suspicion my thirties and forties will not be as forgiving on the health front.

So in short, I decided $100 was a small price to pay for the improvement of my health and clicked the “Buy Now” button.

After a month with the Fitbit, I’ve not been disappointed. It’s a huge motivator–the Fitbit is always with me. If I sit on my ass all day, it knows. And I aim to please my future robot overlords, so I’m always looking for excuses to add steps or floors to my daily totals. At first I was totally beat by the end of the day–if you’re not already living an active lifestyle, 10,000 daily steps is a challenge–but now I find I can’t sit still for very long before I have the urge to get up and do something. It’s a refreshing change compared to the no-energy-to-get-out-of-my-chair feeling I had before.

Another part of this personal project involves tracking what I eat. I’ve done this before, usually without much success. I tend to get obsessive with these things, to the point where one failure equals total failure and epic disappointment. Drama queen, me? Never. But I’m finding it’s not as difficult this time. I’m more forgiving, which I think comes from knowing exactly how active I’ve been. And thanks to Fitbit’s goal program, I realized I actually need to eat more than I thought I did… if I eat too little, my body brings my already snail-like metabolism to a screeching halt and causes all sorts of problems. So this is helpful in ensuring I get the nutrition I need so I can keep my metabolism trundling along. The best part is the food tracker that tells me how many calories I’ve “earned” as a result of my activity level on any given day. If I move more, I get to eat more–awesome.

One of the things that makes Fitbit unique as a fitness gadget is the ability to track not only your daily activity but your sleep patterns as well. In my case, it’s particularly important because we’re often up and down with Gwen at night. I was surprised to find that even on our “bad” nights I’m still usually getting a solid seven hours of sleep. Not bad for having a two-month-old!

The results speak for themselves–I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month and I feel so much better. I have quite a way to go, but I think I’m going to be able to stick with it this time. The real challenge will come in just under two weeks when I go back to my desk job. I have a feeling it will not be nearly as easy to get my steps and floors in, but I’m already making plans. I’ll cover my current exercise routines and how I plan to stay active in a future blog post.

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