Monday, December 29, 2014

A Year in Brief Review

This year has been some kind of year. Our Christmas card shows that I ran the gamut of hairstyles...three different ones in three photos and this doesn't even cover the colors...

We do, incidentally, wish you all love, joy, and laughter for the coming year. Ahem. We took a weekend trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.

That was pretty near, we also traveled far. In fact, the farthest west we have been as a family of three.

We had family photos at the beach, sealing our suburban status!

I got two black belts and the two are as different as night and day and both equally as special.

One of my bestest friends got married.

We had an adoption fall through and, a few months later, life definitively informed us that this is not the time for our family to grow.

We celebrated and mourned Garrett's 3rd birthday.

To end on a happy note, Autumn took the best picture ever of me!

So, this year was a typical year, I suppose. We lived, loved, cried, partied, laughed, and felt all the emotions in between that make up life. I have so much to write's to a more consistent year of blogging! Thank you for your support and prayers this year. How would we ever have made it this far without you?

Monday, December 15, 2014

In which we meet our internet friends

I've discovered that there are two kinds of people. One has internet friends. The other says, "you have what??" I never really thought it was weird but my Facebook page is peppered with people I've met on LiveJournal, through blogs, and even Warcraft. Not many, because I am rather paranoid, but these are people I've "known" for years or possibly know through friends I do see in person. Some of these online friends have supported us through the best and worst times of our lives.

My friend Shang is one of those. We "met" back in the early 2000s on LiveJournal when I first started blogging there and we frequented the same martial arts forums. I don't know exactly how, but over the years, we became real friends and not simply people who live behind pseudonyms. Shang got married and had a daughter not long after Autumn was born and I became friends with his wife Lisa, too. All online, of course. We talked for years of meeting up but they live in California and we're in Tennessee so it seemed a little unlikely.

Until my test! Much to my pleasant surprise, Shang and Lisa were willing to drive up to San Francisco. Not a short drive! And, on Thanksgiving weekend! I am so glad they did because it was fantastic to spend a day with them. The coolest thing? It was totally normal, in the sense was the kind of comfortable like we always spend time together as families.

This one is even better...

The girls totally hit it off. At first Autumn was in hiding mode but by the time we ordered breakfast they were chattering away like old friends.

We talked about doing cheesy tourist things in the city but it was raining so we decided to go to Big Basin State Park. The drive was pretty incredible. I have a thing about heights and cliffs so I don't have any photos of the drive but I did peek over the edge from time to time. Once we got into the forest and there was less twisting, the forest was downright amazing. In some spots it was like being in a Jurassic Park or old horror movie. The scale of the trees is staggering. Even having wandered forests in many parts of the US, Mike and I had never seen anything like it.

Also, the red in the corner of the photo below and the walking red plastic above: that's my mom! She joined us for this trip as well as the rest of the week. Anyway, how crazy is this? I told our friends and Mike that it was like taking pictures in the jungle in the Philippines. I took a bunch but they simply don't convey the reality.

I mean, 329 feet is pretty crazy. And some of them were wide enough to drive a car through.

So, that's what we did with our No-Longer-Internet-Now-in-Person-Friends. We ate, drove, saw Redwoods, and had a great time together. I was joking with one of my particularly horrified friends that it wasn't like we were going to meet in someone's basement. By the chainsaws. On Halloween Night. Instead we met at an isolated state park surrounded by old, vaguely creepy wilderness. Hahahaha. Not really. It was pretty busy. Busy enough that Shang and I could only talk about martial arts and not actually do any. So, another trip is in order! This time to a place with access to a martial arts-ing without freaking people out area!

We'll definitely get together again sometime. I'm keeping an eye out for seminars in their part of the world. And the girls have been sending each other short videos. Autumn sent Lily a picture this week and she's all "I HAVE A PEN PAL, MAMA." So sweet. I feel like I had more to say about this but for now, I'll call it a night! Until next time, have some Autumn Feeling Trepidation about This Tunnel.

(If you missed it, check out my post on my test!)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ten Years Later...Shodan!!

Well, for the folks who aren't following the Aikido school's Facebook page, I have news! A week ago today, I passed my black belt test!

And then I came home Saturday and immediately got sick. I tested positive for strep throat. Oh, AND the flu. So that was fun. But, I feel quite a bit more human tonight than I have in a while so I can blog! I'm also very happy that I didn't pass it on to anyone, not even Mike and Autumn. Yay for good hand washing and prompt medical attention?

Anyway, last week was the craziness. We left for the Bay Area the afternoon after Thanksgiving and arrived very early on November 29. I'm glad we did it that way because we had a day to spend with some friends before I started training. More on that later because that was a big deal! I trained quite a bit Sunday through Thursday at Aikido West in Redwood City. Three to four or more hours a day. Some of it was class time. Some of the time was spent with students who were there simply to help me at lunch and after the evening classes.

For example.

I am unbelievably thankful for the students and instructors who helped me out. It's tough coming from such a long distance to train much less prepare to test. Stephan wasn't with me the first few days so it was all me. It took a couple of days for the terror that I was going to fail or they were going to hate me to go away but it finally did as I became more comfortable and got to know more of the dojo members. I didn't perform extraordinarily well in the beginning. It was partly due to the aforementioned nerves and partly because we, inevitably due to distance and infrequent contact (which is going to change), do things just slightly differently from the testing standard. It would have been, of course, super impolite to say, "I was terrible at that because we don't do it the same way," so I smiled and asked for help on how to do it properly. At one point, I was concerned enough about the differences that I outright asked after a particularly difficult run-through whether or not my test was even salvageable. Of course, everyone was nice and said things about polishing and not worrying but, seriously, not worrying WAS NOT HAPPENING.

It turns out that between their help and my, um, determination, my test went pretty well. I went first of two shodan exams and one yondan (4th degree) demonstration. I only slept two hours the night before the test and spent Friday afternoon with a stomachache so going first was GREAT. Pressure was off a little sooner! I did my best to remember the changes to the techniques, to keep slow, relaxed, smooth and steady, and to follow test protocol. Watching a test on dvd isn't quite like showing up for the real thing in person for the first time! There was a training break between each person and then we were individually called back to discuss our tests. If you come out in the new belt, everyone cheers. I asked someone if anyone ever came out failed but he said it was rare. Of course, I was all, SO IT HAS HAPPENED. Because it could happen to meeeee. But it didn't.
This part went better than I expected.

I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to share but I got really great encouragement from the testing panel during my post-test interview. The hard work was definitely worth it for the result. Everything I spent the week working on, I managed to remember and do under pressure which tells me I had a good foundation so I could learn and that I can adapt. That part was important to me. I needed to be able to make the adjustments to the standard with skill and good humor. And I did! Mike had some excellent and insightful parting advice for me before he and Autumn headed home. He told me that my ability to adapt that week was the mark of what kind of martial artist I am. And he, of course, said he knew I could do it.

I need to cut some of the interesting sections of my test video and post them but that will have to wait! In the meantime, I feel good about where I am, what I accomplished, and what the future holds. Most importantly, I feel good about the amazing friends I have here in Memphis who helped me prepare, the friends everywhere who encouraged me when I was down and wondering if I was going to make it through the week, much less the test, and the new friends who helped me get from scared and worried to passing my test with flying colors.

Thank you to everyone who prayed and encouraged and helped me in so many ways. I told everyone that this was a team effort and it was! If only I could have shared the effort of the flu and strep.......

I'll definitely write more about the trip and testing. This is such an abbreviated look at an intense week that tested more than simply my Aikido skills. And, of course, we did some touring in the Bay Area! Until then, here's the one of the first non-blurry photos of me doing Aikido in 2005 at age 25. I have better posture now.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Gym Adventures

Lookin' rough after class! Like my blood island shirt??
I waited a while to share this story because I wanted to make sure where it happened wouldn't be easily guessed. I have worked in three different church gyms over the last couple of years and the person I had this conversation with is no longer in Memphis. SO. I feel good about sharing.

Anyway, did you know that part of the interview process for being a group fitness instructor is an audition? I didn't, but it makes sense since I'm on a stage. I'm not very good at auditioning but if I ever apply to another gym, I might be a little better simply because I am more experienced at teaching. I don't know though. It's pretty awkward leading a class full of invisible people.

I auditioned at a fairly well known church late last year for a volunteer position. I needed some kind of volunteer work as well as the experience so finding out it was unpaid, aside from a few perks, wasn't a deal breaker. That audition went pretty smoothly--of course the no pay one did, right? I graduated to an interview with the person in charge of the youth and fitness ministry.

We sat down and talked about my life as a Christian and my testimony. You know, rough childhood, twists and turns of life, Garrett, how God has brought me through all of it with the help of faith and friends. I was baptized as a child but I was a teenager before I think I really understood what that really meant. I have found that this is fairly common and many people get what I mean.

Not this guy. After all of my story, he sat back and put his pencil in his mouth. He kind of sighed and said, "All of that is great. But, let's back up. You don't know the exact moment you were saved? Are you sure you're a Christian? I don't mean to offend you but I need to know."

I was absolutely dumbfounded! I thought for what felt like an eternity and said, "Well, if I'm not, I've wasted a good 25 years of my life."

We awkwardly ended the interview right about there.

They hired me, by the way. Whether or not I am still there will have to remain a mystery!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


You guys aren't going to believe this. I just found out that the agency that was putting together our home study is closing in December. Mike and I kind of went "WHAT?" And then laughed because of course. So, we're considering the private, domestic adoption officially stamped NO. It doesn't mean we'll never adopt but that particular path is no longer an option. I think we're just going to pay for what they have done so far and call it a day.

In other news, I'm almost finished turning our nursery into a guest room! I really didn't want to paint the room so I looked up yellow bedrooms and liked the idea of adding navy. Here's my inspiration room. When I'm finished, I'll post better pictures. So far I've sorted most of the debris in the corner. Some of it I am donating and some I am saving for the garage sale so if there are any baby toys, clothes or items you are looking for, let me know and I'll see what I have. I converted the crib to a bed and it looks pretty good. I moved it out of the little alcove and moved the dresser over there so I can make that space a sewing area. I want to put my cloth stash in the dresser. I got a short people desk and chair, too, so I have a more ergonomic sewing position. I haven't decided what to do about the wall decor so if you have any suggestions, I'm game!

I usually don't write about going out of town but I'm going to this time...I leave at the end of the month to go to California. I'm finally going to test for my black belt in Aikido! It's pretty scary and expensive but I am excited and everyone has been really nice and supportive both at my school here and out west. There are a few moves I have struggled with in the aftermath of my surgeries but it seems like my fitness is coming together at just the right time. I posted this on Facebook yesterday and thought I'd share it here, too.

We also had a great time on Halloween. We had another Not A Party (because I didn't do printables and invitations and other formal things) and had chili, soup, and hot cocoa for the some friends both new and old. A few friends came and ate on their way to other events. We had several friends stay most of the evening and we had an adorable trick or treat crew. The best thing we did was put a fire pit in the driveway. We gave out candy by the fire pit and let the kids roast marshmallows. Even Mike had a good time although he didn't want to be photographed!

This photo is from Zoo Boo but it's a good one of me and my new hair AND Autumn's Doc McStuffins costume. She was so cute! Before our Halloween Not A Party we went to see Penny at her job at the hospital (we couldn't go a year without seeing Penny!) and Autumn got 2 pen lights and some medical tape. You would have thought Autumn got her medical license she was so excited! I love it.

I made my own costume. I was Toph from Avatar the Last Airbender! Autumn and I tried watching the show together over the summer and made it through a few episodes. She wasn't feeling it (although I caught her water bending in corners) but when I started making my costume, she wanted to watch Toph who doesn't show up until the second season. She absolutely fell in love. Saturday night we watched 4 episodes and Autumn laughed and laughed. I had to catch her up on some of the story but it hasn't been too bad skipping a few episodes. Autumn looks way grumpy in this photo but it's the best one of my outfit. We had costume week at the dojo and Autumn wore her Elsa dress to ballet. Along with 60% of her class. Seriously. Autumn came out of ballet and said, "I'm glad I am not Elsa for Halloween because everyone is Elsa." Although, funny enough, one of the trick or treaters we walked with was also Doc!

There are a few Toph tutorials out there but I might add mine because I did a really simple costume that still came out really well. It took some figuring and I cut out two tunics because the first one wasn't right. If I ever cosplay at a convention, I think I would do a few things differently but for the dojo and Halloween night, this was fun!

I think those are the highlights of the last couple of weeks. My life is going to be pretty boring for a bit while I train, train, train but hopefully I won't disappear again!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 27: Express

I cut my hair.

There's even a TV Tropes entry for what I did: "When a character cuts off his or her hair, it often symbolizes a rite of passage or bout of character growth. A princess striking out on an adventure, or a new recruit at boot camp, for instance. Hair is something that takes time and effort to grow, so parting with it voluntarily can be a powerful act." Visit TV Tropes at your own risk, by the way, lest you get sucked into the abyss and emerge 16 hours later, hungry and disheveled.

Cutting my hair felt good. I don't know what is next, but I am ready. And so is my hair.

That fuzziness isn't a filter. It's me being a crappy selfie taker.

Capture Your Grief, Day 27: EXPRESS. This is the day in month where you can say whatever it is on your heart that you would like. Is there anything that you were hoping would be in this month of subjects that wasn’t? I am sure there is a bunch of things! This is your chance to share it. Find your voice. What is it that you want to express Is there anything that you want the world to know about your grief or children?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Capture Your Grief: Day 14, Dark/Light

I haven't done Capture Your Grief so far this year. I didn't participate in the August 19 Day of Hope either. I guess I feel all jumbled up with my grief over Garrett and the not-adoptions and the agency dropping us and all the emotions tied up in infertility (who knew that one would pop up again?) and I simply have little to say and much to process. Grieving the loss of expectations probably covers everything from "Garrett would have been" to "Jaden is now..." to "the second baby whose name we're not certain of would be..." to "well, I guess since it's unlikely we're going to adopt, at least any time in the near future, we better go ahead and turn the nursery into a guest room."

This is one of the brief moments when it wasn't raining.
Mike and I had our 12th anniversary on Sunday. We were on the way home from Missouri because we took Autumn to the Laura Ingalls Wilder House in Mansfield. We had a good time touring the museum, going to the Pioneer Village and sampling each of the three restaurants in town. But the whole thing was tinged with bittersweetness: the awareness that the only reason we took that trip is because we aren't in Texas for the adoption orientation. And that, well, we need to make the most of what we have since all signs point to not having more.

And we have a lot. No, we don't have the big family we and nearly everyone else expected we'd have. But...we have each other. I have Mike and Autumn and even grumpy Molly the cat. We have wonderful friends who love us. We have incredible family. We have jobs. A warm house. A great school. Jobs we like. Faith, battered but marching on.

Mike and I had a good conversation in the car about how our marriage has had crazy ups and crazy downs. We talked about how maybe the secret of looking back and saying, "it was a good life," is going to be not getting mired down in what didn't happen. We grieve our losses. Acknowledge them. Embrace them. Live them. And we move forward. We don't leave it behind and pretend our sadnesses never happened but we will carry them and learn and grow and--in the same breath that it never quite leaves me that something, someone, is missing--appreciate what there is with an intensity we might not have had before.

And so we soul search to see what is next. What path will we take now?

I'll leave off with what Carly Marie, the founder of Project Heal wrote for this day because it's excellent. Mike co-signs.

They told me I would feel sad for a long time, but no one said anything about anxiety. No one said it would creep in when the sadness eased and cripple me at times. No one said it would stop me from sleeping. No one said it would affect the way I parent my living children and how it would almost kill me to separate fro(m) them. No one said anything about the nightmares. No one said anything about the bitterness I would feel when I saw other pregnant women. No one told me I would have to struggle to not verbally abuse someone for complaining about how hard they have it with parenting their beautiful living children. No one told me what I should write when the form asks me how many children do I have. No one ever said I would miss him forever.

They said I would feel joy again but it wouldn't be the same. They were right, it is a much deeper joy now. No one told me that grief was just a deeper form of love. No one said that grief didn't have to be my enemy. No one said anything about how my life would be irrevocably changed through the incredible life changing friendships that I would forge. No one told me that I would find my life's purpose in the depths of my grief. And no one ever said that I would be grateful for the lessens and the experience.

Capture Your Grief, Day 14: DARK/LIGHT. Today we are acknowledging the dark and the light sides of grief. The ugly and the beauty. The bitter and the sweet. The anger and the peace. You might want to write about the moments when everything falls apart or maybe the moments where our eyes are opened to the gifts that this journey has in store for us. Or maybe you just want to write about both.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nutrition Journey 3: FAT, the good kind!

It's October which means Capture Your Grief is officially launched! I'm not sure how much I'll be participating but I look forward to seeing others contribute.

I figured it was time for another nutrition update! I left off with learning how to eat fat. After my second visit with the dietician, we talked about my usual meals and she said that it sounded like I was getting the hang of the pre- and post-workout snacks and my carb intake was looking good. But she suggested I work on getting more fat in my meals, to help with cravings and staying full, among other health benefits. I found a post by a blogger I'm not familiar with but whose post here is similar to what I learned in my sessions.

AUTUMN took this picture of me at the zoo. Didn't she do an amazing job?? And, check it out...I have a muscle!

Adding fat to my diet has taken a couple of visits to get right. I just had my fourth session and we were still increasing my fat intake! Isn't that a strange thing to say? It's kind of like how weird it felt to eat enough when I first started this process. Like I was doing something wrong. I'm glad I'm learning more about fat, though, because I've been thinking about how having a low-fat diet was probably as bad for Autumn as it was for me, with her growing like a weed and all. Plus, I've always had a sweet tooth and since I've been increasing my healthy fat, I find that I don't want sweets as much as I used to, even though they aren't FORBIDDEN DELICIOUSNESS.

An easy way to get some good fat into my diet would be with avocados but I'm afraid I'm one of those people who doesn't love them, at least not enough to buy and eat a whole one. So, I have other ways of finding my fats. For one, I'm using full fat dairy. When I make scrambled eggs, it's with a splash of cream and cooked in a little butter. I can't handle much more traditional dairy than that. But, I can eat yogurt so I buy whole milk yogurt. It's hard to find at the stores here! And when I do find it, it's almost always plain. Which is fine but I miss vanilla yogurt. When we were in Florida in July, I got SO EXCITED because Publix had whole milk vanilla yogurt. I think Mike thought I was crazy. A Whole Foods is opening up near me soon so I'm pumped about more potential yogurt options! Because...well, I'm a nerd.

Anyway, outside of dairy, I put nuts into my cereal in the morning. We cook in olive oil and have low-lactose cheese (usually aged cheddar) and hummus around all the time. I've been trying to vary up my snacks some with trail mix, kind bars, homemade granola, and other protein/carb/fat balanced foods. If you recall, nuts are one of the big things that "you should eat 1200 calories!" doctor warned me against. Thank heavens for second opinions, right?

Before I started this process, I was hungry all the time. Looking back, even though I rather thought I was eating enough, I was starving myself of fats and carbohydrates: the things my body needed to fuel my lifestyle. Today, if I'm hungry, I eat. The dietician gave me a hunger and satisfaction scale that helps, too, because I think I had forgotten how to listen to my body. The photo above is similar to the sheet she gave me that hangs on our fridge next to a list of snack combination ideas. I like it because it reminds me that if it's noon and I'm not ready for lunch, I don't have to eat! If it's 7pm and I ate dinner and I'm still hungry, eat some more! SO SIMPLE. Who knew??

I guess it's a little like martial arts. I tell my adult students that, at the beginning, martial arts is often about relearning how to walk and how to be on the ground, sitting and even rolling around again. Visiting the dietician has been that kind of relearning. Basics. 

Oh, and for some measurable results, I had my cholesterol rechecked when I had some other blood work done. In the past my total cholesterol has been up to 235 and it's genetic. My mom and grandmother are the same way. My total cholesterol is down and HDL is up. They calculated my cardiac risk. Average for women is 4% and I'm at 2% although on the surface my cholesterol still looks a little high. Weight-wise, I am holding steady although I've had a major increase in calorie intake. I've gained some muscle mass which is pretty cool. I'll do some measurements and pictures soon.

Next time! Not counting calories, protein, adjusting for insulin resistance, and a food diary!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Year 34 Begins!

Well, today I turned 34! It has been an odd birthday. Another one of those years where I come to terms with the fact that my life today doesn't look much like what I thought it would look like a year ago. In some ways it's a silly thing because life is pretty good. In other ways, it's a legit bittersweetness. But, overall it's been a great birthday and birthday weekend. For example, this appeared in our bathroom on top of Mike's towel last night.

Autumn had PLANS with all caps. She and my mom gathered and stashed most of this on Wednesday, I think, and it's been killing her to keep quiet about it. Yay for discipline! I asked Mike if he would, in fact, wack her up but he said she probably wouldn't enjoy that much. She ended up waking up before he had a chance to get her. He said Autumn looked a hot mess with hair everywhere, ha! I wish he got a photo. Anyway, she set this up and went back to bed. First up, Autumn propped up this little bear against a box full of snowflakes she made and decorated. I'm not sure why the snowflakes but they are quite well done. The bear, incidentally, sings the worst rendition of Happy Birthday known to humankind but we still get it out every birthday.

Actually, that's not true. I get it out for Mike and for Autumn but no one has ever made a birthday display like this for me! My mom also helped Autumn pull out this birthday sign Cheri made us several years ago. Autumn added my little bear that my dad gave me when I was a baby and lots and lots of jewels. I'm rather impressed with Autumn's ability to balance the sign, bear and jewels without anything falling until Mike bumped into it around 5pm.

Molly wasn't impressed. After Autumn went to school, I came home to find Molly knocking the jewels down one by one. There is a hilarious gif of a cat sweeping things off a table but it has profanity in it so I won't post it. HOWEVER, if you aren't offended by strong language, here's a link. Molly was that cat today. Also, please excuse the breakfast crumbs and the tools and new oven debris (did I mention that our old oven irreparably kicked the bucket?) in the background.

Autumn was pretty happy with the execution of her plans. I was happy, too. And THEN Mike surprised me with lunch out, some really great Green and Black's Hot Cocoa and a super amazing looking chocolate bar. I got a grill for my every gift event for the year gift. Whenever we do something like that, I always asked for some kind of interesting chocolate and he always delivers! Thanks, Mike!

On top of a great day today, yesterday we had good meals with family. We met my mom at a brunch at this old, fancy hotel called the Peabody in downtown Memphis. When my mom arrived, we were so busy chowing down that I didn't get a photo of or with her! But while we waited, I got one with Autumn. My hair looks better than expected--I ended up pony tailing it because it wasn't cooperating.

And here are Mike and Autumn being cute. Autumn was so nervous about using her extra nice restaurant manners that she couldn't relax but she finally chilled out and had fun. I think spying the dessert bar broke the ice! Seriously, the brunch was great. I'd totally do it again.

That night, we met Mike's parents at a place called One and Only Barbecue. SO GOOD. We use them to cater all of our dojo dinners now, we like them so much. Autumn and Ellie were, of course, adorable. Man, I talked to Lindsay today and Ellie was all "'APPEH BIRDEH" and it was freaking cute.

Ellie's like, wait, she stopped playing with me. WHAT IS THIS I CAN'T EVEN.

So, a good end of 33 and beginning of 34! Here's to another year of learning, teaching, playing, working, happiness, sadness, and all things betwixt and between. I'll leave you now with a poem from our friend Ken...I got teary-eyed at the end:

You could have a happy birthday
And nobody would mind
You could wish out all your candles
And everyone would hope you'd find
A wonderful present
Even better than the past
And a hope for the future
Where dreams come true at last

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adoption Update: Worse than Nothing Happening Edition

When we last visited the adoption topic, a few things were moving along slowly. Well, we're at a dead stop. A highly recommended agency in Texas accepted our pre-application and invited us to their orientation. We had been emailing back and forth on different elements of the full application process but we never heard back on a question we had about getting wet fingerprinted. After waiting a couple weeks, Mike called to follow up and they told us that they made a mistake and we were no longer invited to proceed any further with their agency.

I'm angry for a lot of reasons: from their "mistake" to the nearly $200 in fees that we never would have spent if they weren't so supposedly excited to have us as part of their program. Not to mention, why couldn't they have told us this sooner? Were they just going to ignore us until we gave up?

Mike, who is generally more level headed than I am, and some of our other friends--including Mike's dad--are on the side of waiting and seeing what our other options are. I'm more on the side of this being it. How many more times do we hear no before we believe it, you know? No to Garrett. No to the two adoptions that fell through. No to however many other expectant parents who looked at our profile with the other agency. No to the THREE families a lawyer in Florida showed our book to it. Maybe it isn't meant to be. Maybe the answer is no. Nanny, incidentally, made it clear to Mike that she is also of the don't do this anymore opinion. I'm not surprised because she and I are very similar.

Our social worker called after I emailed her to tell her the agency changed its mined. She feels like we have a lot of options. I don't know, though. We've had trouble with people like our former agency and Autumn's former occupational therapist giving us the material we need. At one point our social worker lost our entire file somewhere in her house and we had to reproduce everything we had given her up to that point. Thank goodness for scanning, for real. She did, by the way, find the file. So even the home study which is chugging along is doing so in fits and starts.

Autumn cried for a long time today. I think it's one of those things where all the hurts get all balled up into one, big hurt know. We were on our way to class when we found out. I took it harder than I expected. I spent this entire process believing it wouldn't work out in the end but...I don't know, I can't help but hope. Or, maybe it's like Autumn and I'm responding to the entirety of the sadness and not this small piece. Anyway, I'm sure my reaction didn't help Autumn's. I pulled it together pretty quickly, though, so I am hoping I didn't contribute too much. I didn't want Autumn to just mope in the corner all night so I had her participate in class. I explained the situation to the parents in some detail and students in minute detail because I am, if nothing else, open about what's happening. Some of the sweet kids in the class made her cards after class while Autumn did her homework. The I Love You note goes with the message at the top of the page. The Hope note goes with this message: "I am so sorry you cannot have a sibling but there's still hop..." Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Muscles, Medication and Mmmmmobility

I am participating in a hanging challenge this month. It feels good and I've been inspired to do some of the other exercises, like the beginner low bridge series, to increase my mobility. If you look at the hanging challenge link, I'm working on the passive hang, active hang, and beginning the stationary swing. Confession, though: I haven't made it to a full seven minutes yet because I keep forgetting to do my intervals. Because I want to progress to some of the other hangs, I plan to do better this week.

I wanted to try different bars so after I taught a strength class today we went down to the weight area. I didn't even think to ask him so I'm glad Mike decided to take a couple of photos me in both the active and passive hangs. With the photos, I can do some form correction. Plus...well...the photos are encouraging! I have some muscles! I am not the kind of person people look at and go, "hey, she works out!" And I never get to see myself in motion so this is the first time I've really seen the results of all my labor. My passive hang is above and the active hang below.

Aside from stroking my vanity, the pictures point out an issue. My left side is a little off. Hiked up shoulder, splayed out arm. I posted it in a martial arts Facebook group I belong to, where I first found out about the hanging challenge, for advice on how to correct the issue. I also asked if it could be related to my slight scoliosis. My friend Chuck thought it might be shoulder girdle tightness and posted a video with stretching ideas that look like they will feel good.

In other news, last week I had blood work done. It turns out that despite the healthy eating and the exercise, I am developing insulin resistance and my hormones are all kinds of out of whack. PCOS is rearing its ugly head! Or maybe genetics. Both. Pretty much every single person in my dad's family had diabetes. I assumed it was a lifestyle issue but maybe that exacerbated a genetic inclination.

I started a couple of medications and both are typical treatments for women with PCOS. I may not be on them forever but at this point I have no idea. I'll go in for more tests in six months. I am absolutely all for medication when necessary. At the same time, it's hard to admit that I can't muscle my way through this particular issue. I remember telling Mike that sometimes I feel like the message I'm getting from the universe is, "you can't do everything all by yourself," and I guess the lesson continues! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nutrition 2: The EATENING

This has nothing to do with nutrition. I found it in my downloads folder and wanted to share it! An fellow Aikido practitioner took this at a seminar in the spring.

Last time I wrote about nutrition, I shared some background on how I decided to visit a registered dietitian. After I made the appointment, I, of course, started second guessing myself. I wondered if I was about to waste money talking to someone about something I already know enough about. That is almost never the case but I can't help but be dramatic about nearly everything. Fortunately, I kept the appointment.

It's funny, I have written this post in my head a half dozen times. I can't seem to get it down quite right because the whole process has been so...chill. I had my third visit with the dietitian last week. I can't say I've had any miracles or anything particularly dramatic. I'm not magically 20 pounds lighter and cut like a rock. I haven't had to count calories or drastically change my diet. I don't stress. There's almost no real limits to what I am "allowed" to eat. It's nice. And freeing. And surprisingly weird.

At each visit, I get a set of goals for the next 4 weeks. The first 4 weeks, I started using the plate method for my meals. The Harvard graphic is the closest to the one the dietitian drew for me: half the plate for fruits and veggies, a quarter for a starch, a quarter for protein, and a circle in the middle for fats. Super simple. She wrote some meal ideas for me. For example, a breakfast might be cereal, soymilk, and fruit. Lunch would be a sandwich with turkey, cheese and veggies with yogurt and fruit. And for dinner, which tends to vary more, use the plate method. She approved dessert two or three times a week and if I like something, even pie, she said to incorporate it in my diet occasionally.

Go Kaleo on Facebook

I also learned more about fuel for workouts and found out that carbohydrates aren't evil. Not that I ever avoided them like the plague but I always felt vaguely bad about eating carbs, even knowing I needed them. It felt good to have permission from a pro. Any time someone would be all, "you shouldn't eat carbs" or "why aren't you gluten-free" I could shrug and say, "well, my dietitian..." Ha! I started having a snack with a protein and a carb before I work out. I have pita chips and hummus or graham crackers and peanut butter. And then after workout, a protein like a bar of some kind or chocolate soy milk.

Not too bad, huh? I kept a short food diary before my first visit. The dietitian looked it over and said we had a good foundation. Hearing how seemingly simple the goals were and knowing we already ate decently, I expected it to be a walk in the park. And I can't say that living up to the goals was hard, exactly, but it felt strange to eat...enough. Like I was doing something wrong. How messed up is that?

This is getting longer than I expected so I'll wrap it up with the results of the first visit. Like I said, no miracles. I took some before pictures but I will wait a little longer to share because there's been almost no change in my weight or measurements. And that's the amazing thing. I'm eating more. I'm not starving all the time. Fad dieting tells me the opposite should be happening, that the answer is always "eat less, exercise more." But that's not always the case. Three visits in, I'm starting to think it generally isn't that simple. Again, something I know, but hard to actually live by because of all the messages I get all the time about food being the enemy. I feel like there's some kind of first world problem commentary there. I really don't like the phrase first world problems but I can't find another that gets the point across quite so well.

So, no weight changes up or down but I am more functional in terms of stamina and strength. My staying power is better in classes I take and teach. I'm lifting 20 pound dumbbells for my heavy weights now and that's exciting. I distinctly remember moving up to 15 pounds a few months ago and telling Mike I thought maybe that was my max free weight because those 15s were so hard to curl!

Next time: LEARNING TO EAT FAT, dun dun dunnnnnnn.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Why is it that sudden celebrity deaths make me think so hard about my dad? After Phillip Seymour Hoffman's overdose, I started re-posting old blog entries from the time when we set up my dad's intervention. I do plan on continuing but it's hard re-reading that old stuff. You can read what I did post by clicking here. Robin Williams's death on Monday hit me as hard as it hit other fans. I'm not usually a celebrity fangirl dad didn't commit suicide in a traditional way but I've always believed that getting back on drugs and the level of disregard he had for his health was an, I don't know, form of slow suicide.

I don't have any amazing insights but I'd like to share some that touched me:

Long time and much admired friend Tony wrote a great piece and reminds us that "suicide isn’t an act of cowardice or selfishness. It’s an act of sadness."

Ann Voskamp says something similar here, that "depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp — and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building."

Cracked is a humor website where I waste way too much time. But they often have insightful pieces and their article on Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves is one of them. "Rest in peace, Robin. You've given us a chance to talk about this, and to prove that this has nothing to do with life circumstances -- you were rich and accomplished and respected and beloved by friends and family, and in the end it meant jack f*** s***."

Sarah Bessey lists many, many other articles and they all say you are not alone.

In addition to the links above, check out the Twitter discussion at #faithinthefog. Some of the folks speak to my soul--joy doesn't always come in the morning, some worship songs break my heart because I can't sing them. Today, Ecclesiastes and Psalms of lamentation bring me the most comfort.

This is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please call it if you need it.

A few people who know me in real life have a hard time imagining me struggling with anxiety and depression but I think I might, a little, fit in Cracked's funny (or perky) people who are sad category. I tried telling Mike I was an optimist yesterday as I leaned against the cabinets, sitting on the floor in the kitchen, angsting about some difficult decisions ahead of me and he said, "NOPE. Realist, MAYBE." I finally conceded that he was right although I refused to admit I'm a pessimist (I still don't think I am). I think of myself as an optimist because I eventually do get up off the proverbial as well as literal floor but sometimes I have to really work at it. Lately, the fact that I can't write bothers me. I know some people feel their despair fuels their art (um, such as it is in my case), but not me. I haven't created much of anything other than Autumn's party. I have to make myself write every week here and on the family blog and that isn't like me.

The kitchen floor is my sit and angst spot. Sometimes Molly visits and glares.

I have no answers, no advice, no wise words. I don't even have any inspiring Bible verses. I wrote in the post where I discussed tapering off Zoloft that "I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING EVER." It's still true. Somehow knowing I don't know seems like a good thing, though. I'm considering getting back on Zoloft. Sometimes I feel great. My exercise classes, friends, family, martial arts brothers and sisters, all of these things help push back the darkness but the last few months it's harder to hop out of the fog. I haven't started on the medicine yet because I've had some improvement since I've been seeing the dietician. Now that my nutrition issues are taken care of, I can better evaluate myself knowing that I'm not simply grouchy and tired because I'm hungry.

I can't find the correct attribution but I'm sure if you are on Facebook or any other social media you have seen the quote, "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Whoever said it, it's true. I remember in the weeks after Garrett died, I went around feeling shell shocked and wanting to scream that something terrible happened and I'm dying inside and why can't anyone tell. If there's anything I have learned, at the end of the day, it's compassion and love that changes lives. I'm not great at it (I wasn't gifted with a particularly merciful personality type) but I try and maybe someday I'll be known for my love.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. ~1 Corinthians 13:1-3