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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

airways, steroids and beloved felines

Maya has had a cough most of her life.  A pesky, hacking, compulsive cough that, untreated, kept her up at night and made it so that she got used to coughing and talking at the same time.

We've been treating her for probably a year and half with allergy medicine.  For some unknown, nebulous environmental allergy.  She coughs significantly less but you can almost set your clock by her need for her next 24 hour dose.  She was never diagnosed with asthma but when a cold hits her respiratory track, her airway becomes quickly and critically compromised requiring nebulizers and oral steroids to open her back up.

The idea of consulting an allergist has been discussed at length between us and our pediatrician.  She informed us that it was unlikely that we would pin point one thing that was causing Maya to cough.  And if we did and it was, say our cat or dog, would be be willing to make such sacrifices?

Today we finally saw the allergist. 

And I wanted to throw darts at her. 

First off, oral steroids are bad, bad, bad for you.  Even the three times in her young life she has had them may have stunted her growth.  They commented a few times on her short stature.  (I reserve the right here to believe that she is just a peanut. Her growth has always followed the same percentage curve.)

Second, the doctor felt she does have asthma.  (A coughing type of asthma.)

And, third, (you saw this coming didn't you?) she is allergic to cats.

Remember this guy?

We are literally SO torn up about this situation.  

The doctor said that even though the allergy medicine quiets her cough, she is not well controlled by it because of her compromised airway over the last 2 winters from cold.  She recommended a daily inhaled steroid (it would take 5 years for the inhaled steroid to equal the effect on the body of only 1 dose or oral steroids) that would control her asthma and, likely, prevent such catastrophe from winter bugs.  The problem?  It is impossible to know how much of Maya's "asthma" is really just a cat allergy. 

These are our sucky options:
-Keep the cat and give Maya medicine she likely doesn't need.
-Keep the cat, give her regular allergy medicine and deal with the threat of colds and airway problems.  We could also potentially use the inhaled steroid in these cases but it usually takes 1-2 weeks to work so we would have to catch it way early.
-Give the cat away (sob) and not medicate her at all, hoping all will be well when she gets a cold, although there is no guarantee.
-Give the cat away and still have problems because she has asthma, not just a cat allergy.


Sandi spoke to Ella tonight about Maya being allergic to Coconut (he is Ella's cat after all).  She was incredibly mature and sensitive about it.  The first thing she said was, "Do we have to give Coconut away?" (Sandi told her we truly don't know.)  Also: "Is Maya going to be OK?" followed by "We should have had Maya tested before we got him."  and  "I will make sure that I keep the door shut to my room so he can't come in.  I will tell my friends when they come over."  We were so proud of how she handled it.  Which was better than the bawling mess I was over it this afternoon.

What we decided for now is this:  we are going to do some research, continue to use the air purifier that has been helping significantly with Maya's coughing, we washed her bedding and won't let the cat in her room (he loves to sleep on her bed), we will institute better cat touching/hand washing protocols, we will study our hearts, and hire a maid to clean up the cat hair weekly (I wish).

The allergist said that she might outgrow it.  A family can hope, can't they?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

going, going, going veggie (sort of)

I am going to write this post without the worry of offending anyone.  (So if you're at all offended, don't say you weren't warned.)

When I was an older kid, I went through a lengthy "save the world" phase.  I fundraised for and attended a month-long World Peace Camp.  I became a vegetarian. I extolled upon all who would listen the critical need to consume only dolphin-safe tuna fish (before all tuna was dolphin-safe).  I was an early and avid recycler. War, in any form, never made any (and still doesn't) logical sense.  Not even when I got to high school and learned about territory and culture and world leaders.  The Revolutionary War where they lined people up and just shot rifles at the opposing line?  Pure madness.  Whoever killed the most won?  Huh?

I am still very idealistic and am often affronted when I come against people who, in the age of global warming and environmental destruction, don't recycle.  I still believe we can agree to disagree globally and live without war.  I believed (until the gay marriage vote in Maine last year proved me otherwise) that all people want fairness and equality.  I am outraged that people throw cigarrettes on the ground and other's throw trash from their car window.

I was a vegetarian for many years until my body began to crave chicken and so I started eating it and have since eaten the diet of a semi-vegetarian.  Sandi was a vegan for a few years until the limitations of eating no meat or dairy took a nutritional toll on her.  For years, we have consumed vegetarian fair along with fish and the occasional chicken or turkey maybe once or twice a week.  Neither of us have ever had a penchant for beef so this has been consumed on maybe a bi-annual basis.  I have never much liked to handle or cook with meat, so I have mainly eaten vegetarian food at home and meat when I eat out.

At the prompting of many friends, we finally watched the documentary "Food, INC" the other night.  If you haven't seen it, you must. 

This film, deftly lifts the veil between our perceived notions of where our food comes to the truth behind its origins.  There is such a shocking amount of corruption in our food and meat industry, blatant inhumane and violent treatment of animals, as well as legitimate fear over the safety of the food, specifically the meat, provided.   There is a whole segment about genetically engineered food and that all scares me silly.

All this isn't to freak you out unnecessarily, but it is to say that it is worth knowing what you are putting in your mouth.

We have been changing what we eat anyway over the last many months and have carved out diet to be mostly whole foods with very little of the processed kind and a specific focus on limiting chemicals and pestisides.  Neither Sandi or I have been able to stomach much meat as a result, but watching this film was the nail in the poultry coffin.  I will, simply, never eat or buy commercial chicken again.  I just can't do it.  We are no longer going to allow our children to eat it either- not at school, not at parties, not for special occasions.  No chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, or pepperoni pizza.  We are telling their schools that they are, for all intents and purposes, vegetarians.

For me this means very limited selection when dining out, being the vegetarian guests at a dinner party ("oh what are we going to feed them??") and being even more resourceful about solid protein sources. 

But, yes, I will search out local, organic farms for the occasional chicken for our family.  In that way, will still be only semi-vegetarian.  When discussing this issue with Ella, she truly began to cry when I told her no more chicken fingers at restaurants (her holy grail of dinning out), but was slightly cheered by the fact that she loves fish and chips and can still have those. (I mean, we can't take all breading and fried yumminess away from her, right?)

See, for me, I don't qualify as a true vegetarian anyway because I am not morally opposed to eating animals. I think the human body evolved to be at least partially carnivores (and I totally respect those that believe otherwise if even just for their own bodies).  If I'm going to eat an animal, though, it is a conscious choice.  It won't be because I can't think of anything else to eat or it's just what's in front of me.  And I want to eat an animal that lived a true and real life- for a chicken or pig or cow this would mean roaming free and eating grass- and then was killed in a fast, humane manner.  I am at peace with catching fish or lobster or shrimp from the ocean and then consuming it.  That does not feel inhumane to me. 

But pumping chickens full of hormones so that their breasts will grown giant in record time?  Growing them so fast that their skeleton can't keep up and isn't strong enough to support them walking on their feet?  Feeding cows a corn diet when they should live on grass, disrupting their gastric balance and creating E.Coli and keeping them penned in manure up to their ankles before their life ends in a terrifying slaughter and sending potentially lethal pathogens into the food source?  This I cannot live with.

So, yes.  We are now the lesbian, vegetarian, pro-environment, pro-choice, anti-war family with a focus on taking chocolate milk away from little kids.  What can I say?  We will try to stand proud.

Pretty, pretty please go watch the movie.  I've told people about it and they say, "I won't watch that until I'm ready to change how I eat."  I promise you, if you watch it, your ostrich head will involuntarily come popping out of the sand and you WILL be ready to change, even a tiny bit, how you think about the food you eat.  It's better to know, to be fully conscious, don't you think?

Monday, March 28, 2011

good thing Christine is always prepared

Like a good boy scout, Christine always has the essentials- lip balm, suncreen, emergency first aid kit and blankets stowed in the rear of her car.

This is me, spending my glory race day with a 102.5 fever curled up in her very tidy backseat.

Fierce, no?

Eastern States 2 miler

Yesterday I headed down to Kittery for the Eastern States 20 miler.

I want to rename this race "The one where runners drop like flies."

Our original group was 4. Then Emilie got sick. Then Christine got injured. So it was down to 2- Susan and I. THANK GOODNESS Christine drove us down and was our chauffeur because there was a lot of travel logistics with a race that ends 20 miles from the start. She was such a good sport being the support crew for a race she was registered for and could not run.

Allow me to say... I was REALLY excited about this day.  An ENTIRE day away from being a mom, leaving early, arriving home late, a 20 mile training run accomplished in race format with a t-shirt to boot, and the possibility of Susan and I really attacking the distance with some speed (a relative term for a runner of my pace, but speed is speed regardless) and dinner out with my friends.

I woke up feeling nauseated.  Not a common feeling for me.  I don't get nauseous when I'm nervous.  I run to the bathroom instead.  Red flag number one.

Red flag number two:  I felt nauseous the whole way down (a 3 hour ride) and didn't want to eat anything, including the super yummy cheddar apple scones Emilie had made for us.

Red flag number three:  my blood sugar was high and didn't want to come down and I was trying to assess if my forehead was hot (high blood sugar and hot head sure sign of fever in me.)

Getting ready in the gym among a fierce looking group of runners (many of whom were sporting all manner of Boston Marathon paraphernalia):

At the starting line- Susan, Christine and I.
We are always teasing Susan that she has a wide band of personal space.  When we take group pictures we say to her, "Good grief! Put your arm around me Susan!"  to which she replies, "Why do we always have to be touching?"

This is her proving me wrong. And likely contracting the flu I was still in denial that I had.

It could have been so fun.
I made it through the first mile hoping to shake off whatever residual blah I was feeling and trying to get my head in the right place for 20 miles in a brutal and frigid wind.  But by mile 2 I knew my body simply couldn't do it and that what I was experiencing wasn't long run jitters.  I did in fact have the stomach flu.  I implored Susan to go on without me and I tried in vain to run a little until I was certain.  Then I called Christine who mercifully came and got me on the side of the road.

It is hard to quit.  Even if you know you have to.  Even if you have no choice.  I wanted to make myself keep going but all I picture was me heaving on the side of the road, having a blood sugar crisis, ending up in the ER and having Sandi forbid me from running long races without her ever again.  I lost a long run, a race, an opportunity to run hard with Susan.  I lost the amazing feeling of accomplishment finishing a run like that, changing into warm clothes and the post-run buzz for the rest of the day.  Instead, from about noon until 7 pm when I got home, I lay curled up Christine's backseat, getting up to watch Susan finish and to pee once, shivering with fever, aching everywhere, trying not to throw up and wishing for my own bed.  I so rarely get full days away from mommyhood.  To spend it this way seemed beyond wasteful.  It was criminal.

Susan finishing!!  It was a long, hard run in the wind she said.  But she ran fast and we were so proud of her.

I said to Christine at the finish line, "I feel so awful.  And the only thing that would be worse than feeling bad would be if I felt good and knew I could have finished."

Even races like this have a favorite part. Mine was when we were a few minutes into the race and a woman ahead of us removed her windbreaker. A pair of middle aged men behind us commented, loudly, "I wonder what else she will take off." Susan, never one afraid of speaking her mind, said loudly enough for them to hear, "C'mon. Let's get away from these guys. Their expectations for this race are obviously way off base."

Here is the t-shirt that I am ambivalent about ever wearing.  Sandi said I should go ahead and wear it and just cross out the 0 in 20 so reads the Eastern States 2 miler.  Yeah, THAT won't be at all embarrassing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

hilarious insults

Ella asked me if the Tooth Fairy would bring her a note every time she lost a tooth.  I told her I didn't know, but if she wanted one she could let the Tooth Fairy know and maybe she would get one.

"Do you actually have the Tooth Fairy's phone number?"  she asked, incredulous.

Tonight when I was putting her to bed, she told me all about the cookie she had at lunch.  Allow me to back up and say that I had made a batch of chocolate chip cookies yesterday for the Smith's to go with their you-had-a-baby-and-I-made-a-ton-of-food-for-you lot.  It was my standby recipe from the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook and contained mashed chick peas, oatmeal and some whole wheat as well as white flour.  Seriously, they are kickin' good. I sent one, a significant treat since I only send healthy stuff, in her lunch yesterday.  (If I don't she would eat the cookie, claim fullness and the rest would come home untouched.) She was thrilled.

Then today, she got Friday hot lunch.  Which guessed it.  Chocolate milk.  And pizza (I'm of the belief that school pizza, while not nutritious, is at least not harmful like chicken nuggets. ) Then, a true rarity, thankfully, hot lunch offered chocolate chip cookies today.  (Yes I did see a little girl who only took the chocolate milk, the cookie and the pizza, foregoing the apple, banana and carrots.  Can you guess which of the three she ate first?)

As far as cookie comparison goes, these two cookies were waaaaaay closer in time than was fair for my cookies to come out on top.

And they didn't.

Tonight Ella said things like this to me:  "That cookie for lunch was AWESOME.  It was the BEST cookie I've ever had.  It didn't taste at all like the ones you make.  It definitely came from a box and it was SOOOOO GOOD."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

last chance snowman

The second full day of spring here in Maine gave our girls an opportunity that had yet to partake during this, the snowiest winter in my recalled history.

They got to use the snowman kit.

And yes, he has a skirt or kilt or hula of sorts.  We ARE into celebrating diversity around here!

Inappropriate clothing day and surrendering to the tooth fairy

As I said, Ella really wanted to wear her nightgown to school for PJ day. I agreed with the stipulations that she wear it like this:

Which means, of course, that on the way to school she asked if she got hot if she could remove her sweater (to reveal the flimsy, lacy trim of her summer nightgown).  I can keep up with her tricks right now but I am terrified about the day when she outsmarts me.

Ella has been holding on to her first lost tooth for quite some time and finally last night relinquished it to the vespertine fairy of lost teeth.  I'm fairly certain it was no coincidence she picked last night since she had made an unfortunate visit to the dentist in the afternoon to have her first cavity filled.  There was a lot of flowage of tears and even a few attempts to remove herself from the curved dentist's chair.  Perhaps she felt she should cash in the tooth while it was still in good health.

When Sandi got home I told her about Ella's big decision and she suggested that we make up a rhyme, print it on a small piece of paper and roll the cash inside it to make a scroll.  Why I was surprised by this idea, I have no clue.

I like to write but suck at rhyming so the credit here goes mostly to Sandi.  This was the message wrapped around a five dollar bill:

For your tooth that's in such good health
here is a small token of wealth.
A dollar will be given for each tooth still
but for this first one a five dollar bill.
Keep brushing and flossing everyday
It's for healthy teeth that I will pay.

Because it just makes good sense that the Tooth Fairy would be an advocate for good oral hygiene, right?

Ella was elated when she found the scroll and her empty tooth box this morning.  That $5 could have been $100 to her.  She said, "This is so impressive!"  followed by "Logan, at school said she got $10."  Damn Logan's parents what are you thinking?  Don't you know kids talk???

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

wacky hair day

Yesterday was wacky hair day at Ella and Skyler's school. They were super cute:

Today is support your favorite sports team day which Ella is opting out of. Tomorrow is PJ day. I suggested she and Skyler wear their matching fleece snowman PJs Emilie bought for them on Christmas Eve. Ella, however, has picked a lace edged nightgown (which she vows to wear with leggings and a ZIPPED sweatshirt). Ella's nothing if not appropriate when it comes to clothing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

what's goin' on

I just finished week 10 of 18 of marathon training, which culminated in a 17 mile long run.  Whew, all I can really say is that is really freaking far.  We have bumped our training plan up a notch from last year (from Novice to Novice 1- will the wild and crazy ever stop?) and it has us running higher mileage weeks as well as more long runs over half-marathon distance.  I definitely feel like I am stronger and better conditioned than last time but I am also tired and hungry (not the best combination for a busy mom).

This week coming has 38 miles of running in store for me. Need to charge my ipod and go get a snack.

In the same vein, this weekend is my first race of 2011.  It is a 20 mile race (nothing like starting off easy) that boasts a course in 3 states.  It starts in Maine, has a portion in New Hampshire and then ends in Mass.  I think this is supposed to make it enticing.  For me, the pull continues to me a hope to finish it on two moving appendages (that I pray are not my arms.)

In other big Carver news, we have had a fry.  Yes, a fish fry but not like you are thinking.

Sandi took the girls to get a couple of new fish over the weekend.  Our giant sucker fish had to move on to greener 50 gallon pastures and left our 10 gallon slum housing behind.  As a result we were in the market for a new sucker and, since the fish per gallon of water ratio would now allow, some new fish as well.  They got a captivating milky white fish with gossamer fins and a silly, cute one the color of orange sherbet with a distended belly.  Balloon fish or something, Sandi said.  All of them had that same kind of belly.

Before we even released the fish from their plastic bags, the sherbet fish has given birth to 30 or so babies.  Sandi came running in the kitchen calling, "Ella, come see! Your fish had babies!"

All I could think was, how cruel.  Why would you lie to your six-year-old about something as exciting as that?

Well, the joke was obviously on me.  Apparently, that distended belly made it all the easier for that fish to hide her shameful pregnancy.  Sandi has been wanting a larger, pedestal fish tank and has been looking for a second hand one unsuccessfully.  Then she decided she would wait a while until she had the time to get a salt water fish tank so we could have the "pretty" fish.  Now, because I can still count 15 of the 30 babies, it looks like she might get her fish and her wish, too.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yet another Smith to love!

Some of our dearest friends, Ange and Matt, gave birth to their third baby early this morning just before the sun came up.

Beckett (middle name as yet undetermined) weighed in at 8.4 pounds and measuring 21 inches long.

And I got to hold him a mere 9 hours old!

Impossibly tiny.  Inconceivable to hold my baby, who barely fits in my lap, holding a newborn and remembering with vivid clarity the first moments and hours and days of HER life with us six years ago.
The proud dad:

And one of my very best friends.  Good work, lady.  You make me teary with pride.

Since we are all done reproducing, it is really wonderful to get to go through the excitement and precious awe of a new life and a changed family without having to do the sleepless nights, the diapers, the nursing, the walking the floors with a fussy baby (but you guys know we will help with these, right?).  We give grateful hugs and kisses to this beautiful family and then I need to hit the kitchen so I can stock Ange's freezer full of easy, healthy meals. 


Saturday, March 19, 2011

miss popularity

I'm making friends in a really BIG way.

I mean, when you walk around your child's school with a clipboard and a petition to take away the K-2 students favorite part of lunch (and, as it turns out, most of their parents favorite part too) you are bound to be popular.

Yes, that is right.  Me, the big 'ol meanie, is on mission to cut back on the consumption of chocolate milk at Ella's school. 

Sure there are more essential ways to spend my limited supply of activism, but what other cause would allow me to piss off SO many people?

My anti-chocolate milk argument goes something like this:  why taint young kids' palates with sugar and artificial flavoring where it need not be?  Kids get plenty of it from bonafide treats (candy, cookies, the endless supply of birthday cakes on a child's social horizon) we don't also need to lace something as wholesome as milk with synthetics that offer no nutritional value.  The pro-chocolate milk argument is that kids won't drink regular milk and they need more calcium.  Perfect!  So let's bribe them with chocolate (I know, pot meet kettle- I'm fairly sensitive to the bribe of chocolate myself) in order to get them calcium.

The parents who don't want to sign the petition say things like, "My child doesn't like plain milk" or "He only drinks chocolate milk at school!"  or "Oh!  My child couldn't do it!" 

I want to throw my hands in the air and say, "If your child doesn't like plain milk now then how do you figure giving him chocolate milk everyday will result in him liking regular milk one day?"

How will a kid ever love the succulent sweet of strawberry if you dip it in sugar everytime you hand it to her?

With childhood obesity at an all-time high and physical education at an all-time low, this is not the time to be giving our kids junk in the name of nutrition.  I volunteer at the cafeteria.  I know, firsthand, that 98% of the kids get chocolate milk EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Often they drink it in favor of eating their lunch.

I'm not a total you-know-what, though. My proposal is for chocolate milk on Fridays only.  So instead of letting 5-7 year-olds decide what is best for them to consume, it puts some healthy parameters in place. 

I think, most of all, I am disheartened by some of the parents. I'm not sure why, but I guess I thought that today's parent cared about nutrition and healthy bodies. I shouldn't be too surprised that some parents flat out refuse to sign the petition when I see the nutritional wasteland some kids bring in the name of lunch, packed with love, from home.  Peanut butter and fluff on white bread, potato chips, corn-syrup laden fruit chews, Little Debbie chocolate mini-muffins, Lunchables (don't EVEN get me started on those) and cookies.  Oh, and a side of chocolate milk.  Nary a fruit, vegetable or trace of nutrient in sight.

So, if you signed my petition THANK YOU! (And would you consider taking one and getting some signatures?) I have 13 names and think I need about 100.  It's going to be a long mission.  Think I'd better go get some sustenance for the job.  Hmmmmm....think I saw some chocolate milk in the fridge. Maybe I will call up all my new friends and ask them if they want to come over for some.

Friday, March 18, 2011

dress it up

I have an edacious love of salad. 

But I've found that the dressing makes or breaks the salad so I am sharing with you my two favorite new balsamic salad dressings, neither of which I can take any credit for.

First you're going to need some balsamic vinegar.

Creamy Balsamic: 
(this recipe orginated from my friend Mindy's stepmom and came to me in the oral tradition of "put whatever amount of these ingredients in and whisk."  Feel free to do the same- the amounts are approximations because I never measure them.)

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4-1/3 c. olive oil
1 (6 oz) container of plain greek (I use Chobani) yogurt (the orginal recipe called for mayo and I swapped it out for yogurt)
1/8  c. honey
1-2 gloves garlic pressed
salt and pepper to taste

The next one can be used as a dressing or a dip depending on the consistency you make it. My friend Ange found it (I think) on a blog and I've been making it ever since.

Tahini Balsamic Dressing:

blend the following ingredients in a blender:
1/2 c. tahini
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2- 1  cloves pressed garlic
1 TBSP tamari
up to 1/2 c water depending on desired consistency

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

relief, clean floors and being fancy

Maya is doing much better today, after a rather significant airway related scare yesterday (she had a fever of almost 105 and was struggling to get through major congestion), she has been cleared from suspected Influenza, has been propped up with good ol' nebulizer and steroids and is on the mend.  Phew.  No mom ever likes it when her "baby" is sick.  Especially when her critical care nurse co-mom is at work all day. Especially when Influenza means the pediatrician told her to keep the child home for 5 days.

Today Ella noted that the floors were really dirty.  "You should clean those today, Mom."

I know she didn't really mean anything by it.  She was simply stating fact.  The floors are filthy and you are the one I see clean them so....clean them.

On the way to school I had a chat with her that sounded something like this:  "You know, honey, in some families both parents have jobs that they go to all day and they need to have help caring for their kids while they are working.  In our family, Mommy has a full-time job and, while Momma works a little bit, my job is mainly to be your mom and take care of our family, take you to and from school, take care of Maya during the day, buy and make healthy food, figure out our money so we can pay our bills, wash and fold the clothes, and clean the house.  That is my job."

At which point, I kind of was plotting driving into a ditch after I dropped her off.

I mean, I KNOW that it is a meaningful way to spend a chunk of years, but MAN, broken down like that so simply made it sound so very, painfully mundane.  Maybe even a little pathetic too.  So I dropped her at school and took off from the parking lot for my 8 mile run that I missed yesterday.  I couldn't help but be thankful.  At least if I am a cook/ maid/ chauffeur/ accountant at least I am ALSO a marathoner.

Lastly, for anyone who is wondering about Ella's current placement on the fanciness scale, she recently said these two conflicting things to me:

(getting dressed one morning in leggings and a sweatshirt) "This happens a lot to girls that used to be fancy when they were little.  Then they get bigger and then...(shrug) well, then not so much."

(then a week later wearing full petticoat satin dress) "Just so you know, Momma.  I'm back to fancy."

What a relief.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

reminders of what matters

This is a big training week for me- my fridge calendar tells me I will run a total of 33 miles this week.  So far I have 4 done.  I was planning to run 8 today while the girls were both in school and the weather was promising springy-ness.

But then matters of mommahood came into play overnight and, not unlike lots of other moments of parenting, the things that I want and plan for and dream about go flying out the (still closed, but very sly)window.

Maya developed a fever yesterday afternoon that I hoped was short-lived at bedtime but at 8 pm when I could hear her delirious mumblings upstairs I was fairly certain of what today would look like.  By 11 pm, she was calling for me to come and snuggle with her and that poor girl lay awake, burning hot, for hours.  She lay bug eyed at the ceiling.  Many trips up and down for water, medicine, more medicine and hours going by with no successful sleeping on either of our parts, led us downstairs. 

Medicine working, fever finally abating, Maya scoffed down a glass of water, and English muffin and some pineapple, had me read her a book 25 times in succession and then asked if she could please get dressed.  She didn't seem to understand the middle of the night bit. 

Eventually by 2 am I had her tucked back in bed and myself, neck ache and all, back in my bed where I lay awake thinking of all the super sick Influenza patients Sandi has been caring for in the ICU.  Maya has a knack from going from sort of sick to scary sick.  So in that moment I let go of the 8 miles, the lost sleep, the change in plans. Instead I blessed the feel of her hot little hand in mine, the comfort of my cool hand on her inferno forehead and the knowing that my heart and my schedule are big enough for my dreams and goals and plans and to comfort my little one when she needs me most.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Her Game

For those of you who don't know, Sandi has a past that she would rather not discuss. When people bring it up, she cringes internally (and sometimes externally). When they tell her she looks familiar, she looks uncomfortable.

When they ask for her autograph, she blushes crimson.

I'm certain I would feel this way too. (Okay, so WHO believes THAT?)

Sandi was a high school, and then college, basketball star, playing for the University of Maine from 1994-1998.  Recently went to see a movie about her senior season playing on that team.  It was an incredible experience for me to see my partner of 10 years as someone else (with some seriously questionable tastes in hair scrunchy and flowy, collared shirts) in a pivotal time in her life.

But enough about me.  Here was what Sandi wrote about it right after we watched the movie.

"I am humbled at the journey of the human spirit.

Today I watched a documentary made by my friend Dana Rae Warren at Moody Mountain Films. She followed and filmed my 1998 UMO basketball team for that year and has just released the completed version of her film for public viewing, called “Her Game.”

Not many get to take a piece of his/her life, tuck it away for 12 years, and then go back and relive it. That’s what happened to me today.

Looking back, these are some of my thoughts. Mostly, I am humbled. I was so young, both physically and as a spiritual being. I had little voice, if any. I could remember how confusing that time was and I was taken back to that cloud of confusion as I viewed it. The feelings were visceral. I barely knew myself. I reacted instead of acting. I was scared. I had many an expectation placed on me. Expectations of which, had I wanted the same, I could have met. But I mostly reacted to others expectations instead of creating my own reality and my own self. I didn’t feel real. I felt more like a puppet.

I didn’t feel real. Since that time, my life has taken many a turn. I finally found my own self, the self that is real... and the voice to express it.

On a Zen-based journey, we are taught to burn up the past, to learn from it, remember what’s important that will help us along in the future… yet burn the past to keep it from tainting our present. Pride… burn it. Embarrassment… burn it. Feelings of failure or success… burn them. Keep the lessons, lose the judgment. Start anew in each moment. Be present. Feel life. Feel the moment. Act and speak in that moment, but speak only if it shall improve upon the silence.

I may have said things that were helpful or unhelpful during those years as a basketball player, but I didn’t say them from a place of presence. I didn’t act from a place of presence. Because I wasn’t present. I lived in a bit of a fog. I acted as was expected of me. I performed.

Since that time, I have worked as a nurse and as a massage therapist. The several fields of nursing include neuro/ortho, pediatric psych, acute rehab… and my most favorite (for which I have the most passion)… critical care. I have been blessed in my work life to be placed in positions of vulnerability, both for myself and for the clients to whom I offer care. It has allowed me to examine life, live moments that are most intense, humbling, revealing, scary, tender and beautiful. People have intentionally and unintentionally revealed their intimacies. I have not taken these lightly. They have changed me… opened me… allowed my heart to feel the fullness that life offers.

Also since college, I have created a life in which I have two children, a beautiful partner, friends for which I would do anything, a home in a beautiful neighborhood, a work life that fills me. I wake to meditation, have days full and rich with love, and lay down on my pillow at night exhausted, but knowing that I created and lived my day. Not to say that those same days aren’t also often filled with the stress of life, children, work schedules, and the coordination of day-to-day activities. Never the less, my days feel rich. And real.

But it was a process to get there. We all have a journey to get there. My journey didn’t truly open me until about 3 years ago. It was brewing all along. But I didn’t realize my true self until recently, in my 30’s.

Had I those college days to do over, I would fill my days differently. I would stop and breathe. Get to know my teammates, fully. Know not just where they came from and what their family members’ names were, but who they were… what made them feel things… what moved them… what scared them… and I would offer myself in ways that were non-compromising to who I am, give what I had to the expressions that felt real and life-affirming. I would speak when I felt things, instead of when it was expected. I would love more and react less.

But as we cannot go back and relive the past, I will view this piece of my life from a place of nonjudgment. View it for what it was. And give thanks for the process.

As for the film… it was beautifully pieced together from hundreds of hours of footage, focusing on leadership, and what it takes to be a leader. On the court, Cindy was a clear leader, and this film showed highlights of her years in a way that was a brilliant tribute to who she was. Coach P… a born leader, and seemingly the films’ more leading character. The film displayed her in many facets, showing the range of what it takes to be a coach, a mom, a motivator, a partner, a leader. You get a true feel from the documentary about who she is. When she speaks, her whole self is talking. She doesn’t just say what she’s supposed to say. You feel that it comes from her, from deep inside her. She lives it. No puppet there… I’d like to know her better…

As for other characters in the film, I miss my teammates. They were and are humorous, fun-loving, and beautiful people… it was definitely worth the couple of hours to revisit that period of time."

And yes, if anyone is wondering...that is Sandi's silhouette (and probably her massive bicep) in the picture.  She would not want to me post the picture or the comments but, c'mon!  Since I'm not the one whose autograph is in demand, I can brag a little, no?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moosewood Cookbook- making me look good all over again

My friend Martha, who was an accomplished cook, always said in defense of her skill, that she was actually just really good at following directions.  In other words, she wasn't a good cook so much as she knew how to follow a good recipe.  (I would disagree heartily and say that a good cook is someone who can look at a great recipe and make adjustments to it before they even make it.  Or maybe this is a willy nilly cook - a category which I would count myself in.)

Anyway, my family often tells me I'm a good cook and I often think of Martha because, while I can make stuff up and (usually) have it taste pretty good, I also happen to have some stellar cookbooks. 

Here is my favorite one right now:

Recipe:  Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I don't know if you've ever heard of or eaten quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) but this grain has recently been awarded membership into the coveted category of superfood.  Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, it is also a complete protein, and is full of magnesium (which has a beneficial impact on blood pressure), manganese and cooper (minerals that act as antioxidants to remove toxins and cancer cells from your body) as well as fiber.

Here's how you make it:
( I modified the recipe, naturally, to remove celery which I despise.  I added extra onion, carrot and zucchini so if you are a celery lover decrease these to 1 cup each and add 3/4 c. diced celery)

1 c. raw quinoa
6 medium bell peppers
3 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 1/4 c. peeled and diced carrots
1 1/4 c. diced zucchini
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2-2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve.  In a covered pot, bring the quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is soft and water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cut bell peppers in half lengthwise and, leaving the stems intact, seed them.  Brush the peppers, inside and out, with 2 TBSP olive oil.  Place them cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, until softened and slightly browned but not collapsed.  Reduce oven temp to 350.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the remaining TBSP of olive oil and saute the onions and garlic on medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onions have softened.  Stir in the cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, salt, carrots, zucchini and corn.  Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Combine with the cooked quinoa.  Add salt to taste.

Turn the roasted peppers over and spoon filling into each half.  Sprinkle each with grated cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

blissful fatigue

The good news is that I ran my 15 miler outside this morning and I DID NOT break a nail.  I did get some weird chaff on my neck from my clothes which has never before happened but I can deal.

Honestly, I felt (to quote Charlie Sheen) like I had "tiger blood in my veins and the DNA of Adonis." 

In an attempt to cut myself some slack, something I don't make a habit of doing, I started out at a slower than normal pace (as is suggested for long runs) and picked off the hills one by one, reminding myself to go easy and not rush.  It worked.  I kept strong the whole run with a few standout miles that were faster. 

What I was not expecting however, was running headlong into a strong wind that spit thousands of splinters of ice in my eyes every mile.  I told myself not complain and to be proud of each passing mile and I only briefly panicked about the potential loss of my vision from ice shards permanently scratching my corneas.

Sandi had hot tea, a warmed up bathroom for a shower and a protein shake at the ready for my return.  Am I lucky or what? And watching the snow fall from the comfort of my chair it doesn't seem so bad out there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

running low on inspiration

(Warning:  this post is likely to be incredibly boring to anyone who isn't interested in running. )

Training for a marathon in the winter seemed like a good idea in the fall.

Now it just seems like a pain in the ass.

I don't really want to be forced to complain about the winter but at this point my arm is securely pinned behind my back.  Every time I even think about running outside a new storm, arctic cold front or fine sheath of ice finds its way all over the roads.  Last week I begrudgingly ran my 14 mile long run on the treadmill (my longest treadmill run to date).  The scary part is, I'm not even sure I mind it anymore.  I have a bag right next to me with Gu, non-frozen Gatorade (because every long run this winter has left me with a Camelbak full of frozen Gatorade), bananas, my blood glucose meter and my cell phone with which to receive inspiring texts from my friends.  It is getting ridiculously cushy in there!  People cheer me on, ask me if I need anything.  Soon I will deck the machine out with flags and posters scribbled with mantras.

 I fear I'm going to become such an artificial runner that when my feet hit the pavement at the start of the Sugarloaf Marathon I might utter something absurd like, "Oh, the sun is too bright!" or "I might break a nail out here!" 

I've also come to have a love/hate relationship with my long runs such that when the week rolls over I want to do it as soon as possible.  It looms like a thesis paper deadline in my head.  My 15 mile monkey on my back.  And then I ride this amazing high when I complete it, only to turn my attention to the next upcoming insanity the following week. 

I feel like without this training plan I could just curl up on the couch with tea and book and beckon the winter to show me all its got.  Instead, with 30 miles to cover a week on foot, I feel like winter and I are at war.  And we know who is going to lose this fight, don't we?

One thing I can say about the treadmill: I am learning how to incorporate new workouts and stave off boredom.  I dare say I might even be getting a teensy bit faster too, but who knows how that translates out on the road.

Here are some of my favorite new workouts:

(a note about my pace:  my fastest long runs outside have been in the 10:20 min/mile category and my shorter runs I can usually run somewhere in the 9 min/mile range.  As an added incentive not to see my average pace on the treadmill read anywhere other than in the 9 min/mile range, I no longer let myself run slower than 6.1 since that equals a 9:50 min/mile.  As a result, even my 14 miler on the treadmill averaged a 9:42 pace which, although in artificial conditions, is a pretty significant improvement even on a treadmill for me.  I also keep the grade at 1.0% to mimic some wind resistance. I know, I know.  Big whoop.)

Speed Intervals: 
this is work-out is based on the 1:2 ratio a trainer told me to try for speed workouts (1 for speed, 2 for recovery
1/2- 1 mile warm-up (depending on your needs), then cycles of 1 minute fast/ 2 minutes recovery
repeat as often as wanted to complete run with 1/2 mile cool down

This is a for instance of how I used this today for my 4 mile run: 
1 mile warm-up at 6.1 mph
1 minute at 6.5
2 min at 6.1
1 min at 6.6
2 min at 6.1
1 min at 6.8
2 min at 6.1
1 min at 7.0
2 min at 6.1
1 min at 7.2
then was at 3.25 miles so I decided to cool down for remainder and then remembered something I had read about sprinting at the end of runs to work tired legs.  So I sprinted at 8.0 for the last .35 miles.

The workout flew by.  Which, in addition to building some speed, is totally part of my plan. (And my ipod was dead for the whole thing so I proved some serious grittiness to myself to run fast without the aid of a bass beat.)

Tempo Run: 
(I have never really understood this run because you are, essentially, supposed to run at your desired race speed. I always run as fast as I can go.  Sometimes that is speedy for me, sometimes it's embarrassingly slow.  Setting a speed seemed more like a "sure that would be nice" kind of thing.  But I gave it a try for my 7 miler and I liked it.)

Warm-up: 1 mile at 6.1
Tempo run: 5 miles at 6.3
Cool down: 3/4  mile at 6.1
last 1/4 mile sprint

This does not seem like the difference between 6.1 and 6.3 would make a big difference.  But let me tell you, I've never kept that pace for more than 3 or 4 miles (except in 1 race) so it ended up being a great work-out and good push through mental challenge of wanting to ease up but forcing myself to hold steady. Plus, it was a great breakdown of a mid-week, mid-distance run.

Step-Up speed intervals:
( I don't know what this is actually called.  Emilie told me about it last year and I love it. It is a challenging and engaging run that leaves you spent.)

This workout should be tailored to whatever paces work to challenge you.  I have included a sample of what I run each interval at just to give you an idea.)

warm-up: 1/2 mile (6.1 mph)
1 mile at an increased speed (6.3)
1/4 mile recovery jog or walk (6.1)
3/4 mile faster than the 1 mile (6.5)
1/4 mile recovery (6.1)
1/2 mile faster than than the 3/4 mile (6.8)
1/4 mile recovery (6.1)
1/4 mile faster (7.2)
1/4 mile recovery (6.1)
1/4 mile even faster (7.5-8.0)
1/2 mile recovery

Even ratio speed intervals:
A friend told me about this run which alternates 2 min speedwalk with 2 minutes sprint but I found I couldn't speedwalk while running.  It hurts my anterior tibialis muscle alongside my shin.  So I am tweaking this one to suit me.  It is harder than the 1:2 ratio of speed to recovery for obvious reasons.  The suggestion was to power walk at a 4.5 or 5.0 then sprint at 8.0.  I would like to think that I could maintain an 8.0 pace for 2 minutes several times in one work-out but when I did this I had to start in the 7.0 range and work up to one 8.0 sprint with a 6.1 jog in place of the speedwalk.

So now you are either bored to tears or you want to go hop on a treadmill!

maya matisse

Maya has been very artistic lately.

All over our walls:

I would estimate there are probably 7 new spots that we have discovered where Maya has taken crayon to drywall to show us her talent. We are highly impressed.
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