Saturday, September 26, 2009

relief

I just got a call from my brother that his girlfriend is finally, officially, completely, cancer-free. She finished chemo in July, but a PT scan showed a spot under her arm they hadn't noticed before, so there was surgery last week to remove some tissue and do a biopsy. Results just came back and they are negative! I can't tell you how relieved I am, how relieved we all are.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yesterday was kind of a long day. I've got a cold and while I didn't want to admit it, I was feeling pretty lousy all day yesterday with aches and a low-grade fever and clogged head and all. I wasn't sick enough to ask Stuart to stay home from work, so I just had to pretend I felt fine and deal with it. The kids have it, too, but it hasn't slowed them down one bit; there's just some extra sneezing mixed in with the running and climbing and tower-building and general mess-making.

Part of the reason I was in denial is that I was scheduled to meet my knitting friends at a café last evening and I really didn't want to miss it. They love seeing my kids, so often we'll meet during a weekday morning, but every once in a while we'll pick an evening time so that I can have a conversation from start to finish without interruptions and actually get some knitting done. I was on the fence all day about going. Yes, I felt crummy, but if I stayed home, would I be able to lie down and take a nap? No, I would have been chasing the kids and cleaning the kitchen and wishing I could be out with my friends. So I made dinner and went to the café, where I sat a safe distance from my friends, armed with plenty of tissues and hand sanitizer, and I had a good time.

At one point we got on the subject of baking, and I told them about how when I was hugely pregnant and had insomnia so severe I would go entire nights without any sleep at all, I would do the strangest stuff in the middle of the night, like bake bread. The Thanksgiving before Anya was born, I remember my parents and brother were here to visit for a few days. There was someone sleeping in every single room of the house except the kitchen and bathroom. I was already spending enough time in the bathroom since I had to pee every 5 minutes, so at 2:00 in the morning when I couldn't sleep and my feet itched, I would sit in the kitchen chewing ice cubes (my only pregnant craving) and knitting garter stitch squares. The night before Thanksgiving, I decided to make the next day's dinner rolls because even with knitting I had a hard time sitting still. Unfortunately, all the insomnia and hormones messed with my head, so even performing relatively simple tasks presented enough of a challenge (I'm still not sure how I managed to pull off my exit recital that same week.) Long story short: at 2:30a.m. something in the oven started to burn, there was smoke everywhere, and I got the smoke alarm removed from the wall and down in the basement barely in time. One more minute and it would have started beeping and woken everyone up. You might say I was going a little nuts. A week later, my doc gave me a prescription for sleeping pills (I only took one).

I may still be sleep-deprived (which probably explains why I got this cold worse than the kids, for once), and I may have days that are long and frustrating and exhausting...but it sure beats being pregnant and half-crazy. All in all, life is good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

yearbooks

Sometimes when my parents drive up for a visit, they'll bring a box of stuff from my room at home. Mostly, there are things I no longer care much about but haven't worked up the courage to get rid of yet: a favorite t-shirt from junior high, college textbooks, old toys kind of broken with no value beyond the sentimental. This last time, the box included some worthless stuff I'd totally forgotten about that will be going straight to the charity shop (a rag doll, an inflatable travel pillow), plus a couple of my high school yearbooks and a handful of souvenirs from the New York City trip I made right after graduation. (Those souvenirs are a separate post, let me tell you.)

Wow, high school. The yearbooks are from my freshman and senior years. I'm not sure what happened to the two in between, but the first and last years of high school were definitely the most impressionable in my mind. Leafing through those is like a blast of cold air, a sudden reminder of what life was like in the mid-nineties for a young teen. It's not that I've been running away from high school, exactly. High school was what it was for me. Not great, but not awful, either. But I left my home state for college and after that grad school, and since then I've only been back in my hometown for visits and vacations, so I feel like I left high school behind me. I would like to think that I left the old, immature Suze behind me, too, but I'm not really sure that's true. There's a reason they call that time your "formative years," right?

I kind of enjoy showing this stuff to Stuart. "Hey, Stu? See if you can find me on this page! Hey, Stu - remember so-and-so? This is what he looked like as a high school freshman!" Stuart grew up in sub-Saharan Africa, the son of missionary parents - not the scary fundamentalist kind like in The Poisonwood Bible, I always hasten to add - and his high school and coming of age experience was completely different from mine. He was one of the white minority in the first mixed-race high school in South Africa during the breakdown of apartheid, Umtata High. Serious stuff. It was also the British system of education, where boys had to have short hair and wear ties to school every day and the fact that he and his older brother graduated without once being caned was nothing short of miraculous. In contrast, our dress code included a rule that your pants had to stay up on their own (boys) and your skirt couldn't reveal your underwear (girls), and corporal punishment was banned sometime in elementary school (I vividly remember the daily paddlings from the first grade teacher across the hall from my own classroom.) I don't know if Stuart had yearbooks, though they did have school photos. Oh, the Wall of Shame in his parents house! Oh how I enjoy perusing the series of uniformed, be-spectacled Stuarts from first through twelfth grade (or whatever they called it down there - Standard Something-Or-Other) alongside his brother's likeness!

So anyway. High school. Looking through those yearbooks reminds me of the people who were so important to me at the time (some of whom currently read this blog!), the things that seemed so life-and-death (relationships, friendships, drama productions every fall and spring), the truly scary hairstyles (I got over hair-sprayed bangs in middle school, thankfully, though not everyone did, judging from my yearbooks)...and also the fact that my high school experience really does, for better or for worse, inform the person I am today. If you'd asked me fifteen years ago (!) if I expected to be a stay-at-home-mother with a still-breastfeeding nearly 2yo, a languishing doctorate, a 10:30 bedtime, and a serious Knitting Habit, who tries to forget that she was once voted Most Likely to Succeed (at what?) and had the highest GPA of everyone in her class of 300 except for 3 boys, I would have laughed - no, I would have scoffed - in your face.

I'm not sure if all that says more about the state of educated mothers in current society, or my own issues, or what, but there you have it. This is what happens when I look at old yearbooks. I think about who I was, and where I came from, and what happened to the other over-hair-sprayed, mulleted figures in those pictures and where they ended up, and it makes me wonder how far I've really come.

sib

I love the bond that Daniel and Anya share. It is a bond that I have the privilege of witnessing, but I am not a part of it. Today, for example, Anya is all stuffed up and tired and therefore fussy and cranky. Nothing I do or offer her is very effective in cheering her up. And yet, when I send both kids to the back yard with a snack and leave them to their own devices, she is spasming with laughter in about 5 minutes. Yes, that has something to do with Daniel turning on the hose without permission and making a gigantic mess...but I don't care. They need this right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

today's list

Things that make me angry, anxious, sad or all of the above:

1) swine flu
2) cranky, tired, whiny kids
3) the so-called debate over healthcare reform
4) what-the-heck-am-I-doing-with-my-life-beyond-parenting-existential-crisis-#485
5) the book I'm reading about Skid Row in Los Angeles (The Soloist - it's really good but it will break your heart)

I could blog about that stuff, but since doing so will just make me crazier, here's a list of things that make life pretty sweet right now:

1) kids in hats! I made them! (both the hats and the kids, come to think of it)



2) Cathy from the Wednesday farmers' market who brings a box of her honeycrisp apples just for me every week. She doesn't spray them, so they have some flaws and holes you have to cut around (which is why I'm her only apple customer), but they are delicious and aren't full of toxic chemicals.



3) The pair of hummingbirds who briefly flitted through the yard this morning. They are such beautiful, delicate creatures. I want to plant a hummingbird garden someday.

4) Picking raspberries three weeks in a row. We went yesterday with my friend Claire, whose son Ben is really good friends with Daniel. I can't get enough raspberries, yo.

5) Running barefoot or nearly barefoot. It does a body good.

Monday, September 07, 2009

"barefoot"

I've been running off and on since college. It's been mostly "off" since having kids, but I've been trying to get exercise worked into my daily routine a couple times per week. I did some lap swimming over the summer (never got to my goal of a mile, not even close), but the pool is closed now and the weather is cooling off, so I've been trying to focus on running more.

The problem is, running has always been kind of a chore. It's the most convenient form of exercise I've got, and I do enjoy it once I've been going for a few minutes and can get in the Zone, but getting started requires a lot of inertia, and after about 20 or 25 minutes, my knees start to hurt. I'm quite fortunate that I've never sustained any real injury from running, unlike poor Stuart, who has been plagued with knee injuries for the last several years. He's tried all kinds of physical therapy and even had surgery a long while back, but every time he tries to get into a running routine, something starts hurting and he has to quit for a while. It's been awfully frustrating.

Then we heard about barefoot running. Steph's review of the book Born to Run caught my interest, and while I still haven't read it (I've been waiting for it at the library for three months now), I've seen the author on The Daily Show. Stuart tried running barefoot first, and to be honest, I thought he was kinda nuts. No shoes? No cushioning? No protection for his delicate feet? He started off doing laps in the park on the paved walk and worked his way up to doing a couple of miles in one go, all without knee pain, or at least without significant knee pain. So I tried it, too, the laps in the park, and except for stepping on the occasional bit of gravel (yow), it did feel pretty good. I took some longer runs, once with running shoes for the first half and barefoot for the last half, and I liked the barefoot part better. Last weekend I ran almost 2.5 miles completely barefoot, and I would have kept going and going except it was getting dark and I needed to help get the kids to bed.

The difference is that running barefoot necessarily changes your stride, the way you strike your foot on the ground. The cushioning in traditional running shoes forces you to hit the ground heel-first, which is a lot harder on your joints than when you hit the ground further up the foot. If you're barefoot, you're not going to land on your heel that hard because there's no cushioning, so you adjust automatically to the healthier stride.

This is all fine and good except that running with bare feet has its obvious hazards. Our neighborhood doesn't have many sidewalks, and the streets have a lot of fine gravel to contend with. Once you get to a paved bike path (not too far away, fortunately), it's smooth sailing, but you still have to watch out for things like larger rocks and broken glass. Your feet get filthy, which is actually kind of appealing to my inner hippie, but washing them off leaves a lot of crud in the bathtub. Plus, cooler weather is fast approaching, and I don't want to run barefoot when it's below, say, 55 degrees. There's also the rather nasty business of silver dollar-sized blisters, which can develop if you run too long on asphalt.

We spent today, Labor Day, at Governor Nelson state park, which is on the north side of Lake Mendota. Mainly, we were there for the kids (there is a beach and large playground there, and they had a ball), but I wore running clothes to take advantage of the nice weather and miles of hiking trails. I wore my running shoes for a while in the woodland path, but once I got to the mowed paths through the open prairie, I took them off and ran barefoot on the dry grass and packed earth. It felt so good! My posture was better, I had way more energy (this was the second half of my run, remember), and I just felt more connected to the earth when I was literally touching it with every step. That sounds SO much more corny than it should, right?

After today's run, I knew I couldn't go back to those old running shoes. I was really hoping to make them last the year, since I just got them this spring as an incentive to get into shape, but it just doesn't feel good to run in them. I can still schlep around town in them, I suppose. They're comfortable enough for walking around.

But this afternoon, I caved. I bought me some Vibrams.



(Stuart has some, too, and now we have matching shoes. How cute is THAT?)

These shoes are the new, hip way to run. Wearing them is like running barefoot, only you've got that protective layer between your feet and the pavement. It's a pain getting them on, as you might imagine, but they are as comfy as can be. Bonus: if I want to dress up as a gorilla for Halloween, I've got the bottom part of a costume already.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

raspberry picking

I might be mourning the end of summer and the coming of shorter days and cold weather, but right now is a beautiful time to be living in Wisconsin. Crisp mornings, sunny days, abundant produce...I have to admit that right at this moment I'm glad I don't have a job outside the home to rush to. (In two months I'll be singing a different song, I'm sure.) Daniel and Anya and I have been exploring all kinds of parks and beaches and local farms, having picnics several times a week, and having a jolly time with all of it. This morning, for example, we went raspberry picking with my friend Pat. I'll let the pictures tell you the rest.











We'll be going again next week!