Tuesday, December 13, 2011

on strangeness and disappointment.

after a too-short, but moderately productive, weekend i thought i ought to wrap up some business. you may (or most likely, may not) remember a tiny bomb i dropped in the middle of this post, not too far back. the comment i made was about the disappointment i've felt about this pregnancy so far, and while i was trying to downplay my whining, i did not realize it would perhaps cause concern for some readers (who, you know, read the things i write. silly me!) anyway, it dawned on me, after having attended 2 birthing classes so far, that i was perhaps not alone in this feeling. but at the same time, no one seems to really discuss many of the negative feelings associated with pregnancy. it's all diaper pails and coordinated bedding and fancy strollers, with the occasional mention of an annoying pregnancy symptom or discomfort. at least, that's the majority of what i've come across, given my limited vantage point.

that said, the following is perhaps a more articulated (i hope?) explanation of some of the less rosy side of pregnancy, at least as i've experienced it so far. this is not, nor do i wish for it to be, merely a list of gripes, or a not-so-subtle way of trying to fish compliments or empty encouragements from the masses. i'd just like, for once, to be honest about how things have gone so far, with how my expectations measured up with reality, with the hope that someone else might feel the same way and would be encouraged to know that they are not alone. also, it should be noted that all i'm about to disclose does not represent the majority of my feelings about pregnancy; in fact, i've had a rather delightful time of it. so while i struggle from time to time with regrets and anxieties, please know that i'm actually feeling quite wonderful about the whole process. it's been mysterious and captivating to be host to the creation of a new little person, and i've loved every minute of the experience from that perspective.

all that being what it is, i'm surprisingly content with our current situation. in fact, i've been happier throughout this pregnancy than i've been in a long time. not that i was unhappy prior to this, but there's just something about the expectation of new life that makes the human heart glad, i think. i'm feeling more in love with my sweet Husband than ever, for example, during a time i expected to be rather difficult and full of painful adjustments for us both. he, of course, has been wonderful through it all, and it's clearer to me every day how i simply could not do this without him. the more time passes, the more convinced i become that having his baby is the best idea i've ever had!

so what am i so disappointed about? in short, i had BIG PLANS for this pregnancy. i had been anticipating being pregnant for some time (something like 10 minutes... but felt very long to very-impatient me) and had lots of expectations. maybe they were foolish, but as dreamers do, dream i most certainly did. and worse--I MADE PLANS. i read articles, blogs, books about how to stay healthy and fit throughout pregnancy. i started running again (sort of, if you count twice as "started again".) i gathered advice from friends and family about the medical aspects of pregnancy, timelines for preparations, you name it. and then! ... i actually got pregnant.

still feeling young and optimistic, around week 20

for the first few weeks, i was merely slightly uncomfortable, but whatever bloated discomfort i faced was easily overshadowed by my intense worry and glee. the Husband and i were both pretty giddy about the whole idea; having finally pulled the trigger on this whole "family" idea was overwhelming, but mostly at that point just plain fun. but soon The First Trimester started. and soon i found myself overwhelmingly nauseous and outrageously exhausted. for weeks 8 through about 16 or so, my couch had never seen so much of me and my flower beds had never seen so little. i was down for the count, and it was NOT pretty. so there went my plans. just like that! just like i said they wouldn't. for i had MADE PLANS, you see. BIG PLANS. for running through the first trimester! for maintaining a healthy diet, plus or minus perhaps a couple small tweaks to account for cravings and foods rich in healthy, life-giving fats and calories! for sewing, for cleaning, for crafty preparations galore! but all. i did. was lay there. for 2. long. months. "i'll get back to that in the second trimester," i told myself. "i'll be feeling better then."

and feel better i did. just better enough to become more busy than i ever imagined. was pregnancy supposed to be this busy? why did i suddenly no longer have time for daily workouts? trips to the grocery store? laundry? dishes? where did all my time go? i've spent more time reflecting on this than i probably should, and i still don't have any answers. i'm not sure how it is i did not expect pregnancy to be as busy as, say, wedding planning. i suppose i expected to be busy during pregnancy, but i think i was picturing something more ... productive. instead, we suddenly found ourselves in a whirlwind of appointments, busy work schedules, overly ambitious home improvement projects and very little else. all our routine went out the window, and along with it our healthy eating habits, our regular workouts and our ability to keep our house even remotely clean. by the time i felt like i had time to breathe, i realized i had missed several months of regular workouts and no longer remembered what to even buy from the grocery store, much less what it is we used to eat or how i ever had time to cook dinner.

to be a little more brief, i've been terribly disappointed with how things have gone with this pregnancy. not because pregnancy has been awful or because the struggles and discomforts outweigh the happy parts (that's certainly not even close to true.) but because i once considered myself a routine-driven, capable, disciplined person. and suddenly i am seemingly none of those things. (on that note, please do not send me messages trying to tell me otherwise. you have not been at my house for the last few months to witness the carnage, you're going to have to trust me on this. plus, that is not the point here, i thought i mentioned that earlier.) realizing all of this has been difficult for me, to say the least. looking around, it doesn't seem like any other pregnant moms-to-be have so much trouble keeping it together. most of them appear clean, dressed and healthy. i think i even saw some of them eating vegetables.

so while most of this pregnancy has been thick with anticipation, adventure and delight, i can't shake the feeling that i should have done better. that i should have tried harder, that i should have maybe even tried a little. it scares me a little, moving toward such a drastic transformative life change that i feel as if i've lost all control. my only hope is that this time has given me some new perspective. or at least that it has given me a break between my life before and what my life is about to become. like a fresh start, i can pick up and start all over again. and this time, instead of changing routines, i'll merely start anew. so i suppose there's some hope built into this feeling of disappointment. a clear vision of what my life might be without a little structure, and a healthy helping of humility to spur me on.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

for my sweet beeb, part 1*

"I miss you," I said to you, already, yesterday. I startled a little, as I let that little whisper out. Miss you? How could I, when you're still so close? Maybe I had grown so used to your usual squirmings that I was not feeling as aware of your presence as usual. Maybe you were napping and I had something exciting to tell you. Or maybe, already, I was anticipating having to let you go, little by little every day.

I didn't expect to have to face the pain of parenting so soon. It's so strange, I began this process by carrying you, a little more each day, more and more as time went on. (I wish you could see how silly I look by now! All belly, with short little arms and legs.) The day you're born I'll already begin the process of carrying you less, little by little, each day that passes.

pretty sure i can no longer see my feet by now...

But all that is too much for me right now; I can tell I'm getting ahead of myself. Right now I just want to hold you. Right now I just want to be here, with little tiny pefect you, with your sweet Daddy, our tiny family just as small and new and hopeful as you are. I'm beginning to understand this motherhood thing, a little, when people try to describe how surreal it is for everything to be so strange, and yet so familiar, all at the same time. I feel like I know you already, but at the same time, I can't wait to know you, face to face. You're already so near, and still I can't help but want to be closer, to hold and squeeze you and cover you in kisses.

We're not ready for you to be here yet, there's so much to be done. But at the same time, we're so ready. So, so ready.

___ __ _

*this was actually written a couple of weeks ago, but i figured if i didn't start posting these things soon, i might lose them. or get too lazy to keep going. same with the photo, actually. somehow technology slows me down...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

our little chicken tender

about a week or so ago, i dreamed we had our baby. (a few months early, if you're keeping track.) she was very small, only about 5 inches long, but otherwise healthy and seemingly pleased to be in the world. so small, in fact, that she kept slipping through the crook in my arm and i had to keep digging around in the couch cushions looking for her. (don't worry, she was fine. this is a dream, people.)
at the climax of the dream, i proudly presented her to my mom, holding her up like Simba in the Lion King, and proclaiming gleefully, "She's our little chicken tender!!!"

upon waking, this was my first thought: OF COURSE i would give birth to a chicken tender! considering my diet for the last few months, nothing at this point would surprise me less.

this one's herbed, but i assure you, ours was just as delicious.
speaking of our little chicken tender, she's about all that's been on my mind lately, in one form or another. when something like pregnancy takes over your body and your life, it's hard to focus on much else, really. as a result, i've spent a lot of time lately reading and thinking about pregnancy and parenthood, as one might expect.

pregnancy, for me, has been filled with a lot strangeness and disappointment (in myself mostly, not in the experience), but also with a lot of hopeful exploration. i think my favorite part of the process has been in the discovery, and something about the mystery of it all never gets old.

i was pleased to find this article today, on Jen's blog of all places. it so hit home with me that i felt i should share it. besides, i've been rather internet shy the last few months. (remember all that disappointment i mentioned earlier?) if i'm not providing compelling content of my own, i might as well point you in a good direction. ♥

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


a few weeks ago, we made our annual trip to the apple orchard. i'd been waiting so long for the cool weather, turning leaves and crisp, tart apples; it comes every year, but still it feels forever new and fresh, like i can finally take my first deep breath in months.

i heard a sermon recently about pruning and fruit. in it, there was a story about an apple tree that was overgrown and breaking under the weight of its own bitter fruit. it needs pruning, or it will eventually die, the gardener said. when he was done working, there was almost nothing left of the poor tree, nothing green. the tree has been traumatized, he said, by the severe pruning. but eventually, it will grow strong and bear fruit, big and sweet.

i watched my husband, along with his father and his brother, cut down a number of trees in our yard a while back. many were diseased and had died, one had grown awkwardly and was threatening to crush our garage. even some that were still tall and strong needed pruning; i watched with concern as they sawed off every sideways-growing limb and thinned the branches to let sunlight in. wouldn't too much pruning hurt the tree, i said? won't it leave even the largest trees in distress? the most mature trees, they said, might feel a little pain, but in the end they'll be healthier, stronger. the branches growing toward the sky are the most important parts of the tree. anything else is stealing precious nutrients and energy from the stronger branches, and threatening the tree's health. the trees need to be pruned, they said, in order for them to survive.

it got me thinking about my tendency to hurry forward, yearning for fruit but despising the necessary pruning. i don't think it's necessarily bad to long to bear good fruit, but i think better than that is an attitude that embraces the pruning and receives it with joy--a painful means to a beautiful end. i don't know if we have any say over what parts of us get pruned and what remain (although, i suspect not); but if i could choose, i'd like to see the laziness go. clip off the fear, prune away my short-sightedness. cut down and burn all the sideways-growing branches of self-centeredness and pride, to make room for branches that can bear good fruit. so the light can come in and grow a blossom into a fruit, so that fruit can ripen into something bold, sweet and nourishing. so that the harvest is plentiful and many can eat till they're full.

Friday, June 10, 2011

to the man who wooed me with a grilled cheese sandwich:

i can't imagine what my life might be like had you not smuggled that tiny electric skillet into the dorms illegally.

what a rebel.

(but i suspect it might suck.)

where to next, Master Chief?

my sweet Beage, you are my favorite in all the land.

(even if you do knock me out of trees, occasionally.)

but today especially,
i am SO glad you were born. ♥

(you crazy dino.) ♥
happy birthday, love!

Friday, April 22, 2011

it is finished.

a dear friend once reminded me, upon her own rediscovery, that all the best songs have already been written.

trying to prepare my heart for the heaviness of Good Friday, i found this one, again. and since i cannot say it any more perfectly, i'll merely let it stand on its own.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Monday, April 11, 2011


you guys! howl. handbags was featured is today's featured designer on the Handbag Designer 101 site!

check 'er out!

big ol' thanks to those folks for giving howl. the spotlight for a minute. exciting times!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


i have a friend, she writes beautiful words. some of her recent words read like a script in my head. these are the lines i've spoken, the dance i've done.

since an injury last summer, i haven't been as active as i would have liked. i can feel that my body has gotten softer, changed shape. my clothes don't fit. what i see in the mirror doesn't match the body in my head, i feel like i don't belong in my own skin. i can see evidence in places where muscle definition used to exist, but what's there now seems unfamiliar. the landscape has changed, and i don't know where i am.

workouts are harder, leave me stiff and sore for days. i am remembering what this feels like, relearning how to move, how to stand, how to breathe. i am surprised to find myself slower, weaker, less flexible.

i get the same feeling when i haven't been in the Bible as much as i would like. i forget things, i lose focus. like He calls my name, reaches for me, but His hand only barely brushes my sleeve as i breeze through the door. later on, i wonder why He didn't fight harder for me. i accuse Him, i shift the blame. but He was always in pursuit; i was the one who got distracted, who turned and walked away.

now, back in that wonderful book, i am starting to recognize some things. the words sound familiar, their message feels like nourishment to brittle bones, sore muscles, a weak heart. i see signposts everywhere--my handwriting in the margins, well-worn pages, notes from friends, evidences that i once knew this place. i lived here once, this was my home. it doesn't feel like that yet, it still seems new, but already it feels so much better than where i've been. like the softness of your own sheets after a long week away.

Paul says "I beat my body, and make it a slave, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." it's a picture of discipline so purposeful, so complete. a subtle warning against laziness and apathy, a reminder to keep our eyes fixed on the goal. to run with purpose. to persevere.

Friday, March 11, 2011

for those who have been feeling a bit unsteady.

a loving reminder of where our hope should lie: not in paychecks, governments, unions or even in ourselves, but in our good and sovereign Savior, Creator of all things.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Ten Healthy Must-Haves (Or, Grocery Shopping for Dummies. And Lazy People. Trust Me, We Would Know.)

ever spend your time in line at the grocery store surveying and evaluating the contents of other patrons' grocery carts? ... me either. how judgmental! i mean really, who does that? ... *ahem*

if you hadn't already heard, over the course of the last year or so, Hubs and i have made a real push for eating healthier and getting in really good shape. (well, when it comes to the healthy eating, poor Hubs sort-of just goes along with this, and is kindly compliant as long as i keep his daily dose of tortilla chips stocked.) while struggling with an injury since early fall, i've been rather discouraged with my progress (or loss of fitness level, as it turns out). so i've been taking this opportunity to really get back on the ol' wagon when it comes to eating well.

after a season of rather lax eating habits, Hubs and i were a little stunned by how easily we were able to get back into a routine of healthy eating. we realized that we had spent so much time over the last year testing things out and seeing what worked for us that we already knew what to grab when we went to the grocery store.

when people talk about the difference between dieting and a lifestyle change, i think this is key: finding your groove, figuring out what works for you and sticking with it. it's not necessary to eat the same foods over and over, and suffer a severe lack of variety; however, it is helpful to have a few staple items that you always have on hand. this way, if you're low on food or out of ideas, it's easier to throw something new together with what you have on hand, without compromising your nutrition goals.

i've been answering a handful of questions from folks lately about what kinds of things i eat and prepare for myself and Hubs, so i thought perhaps sharing with you some of our grocery staples might be of some benefit. (if not, too bad, i'm going with it. ha.) we're not experts or anything like that, but have sought counsel from folks who are, and spent a lot of time figuring out what works for us.

here you'll find a list of the items we continually keep stocked at our house, and are on almost every shopping list each time we go to the store. buying these items has become almost automatic for us, which, considering i hate going to the grocery store and have a Husband with ADHD, this is pretty handy. also, most of these items are pretty versatile, which is helpful for folks like us who aren't very good at planning meals ahead of time. plus, they're all super healthy, which keeps us on track, even when we're not super organized in general.

so without much further ado, i give you: our Top Ten Grocery Store Buys!

(in no particular order...)

1. Chobani Nonfat Greek Yogurt. you guys don't really know what a lifesaver this stuff has been. if you're being mindful of your carb intake, this stuff is basically miraculous. we usually get either plain or vanilla flavors, as these are lowest in sugar. in fact, both have more grams of protein than they do carbohydrates; the plain has 18 grams of protein per serving! and we use this stuff for EVERYTHING. the plain is a perfect substitute for sour cream, when topping soups, tacos, etc., and a great alternative to mayo if making tuna or chicken salads. Hubs sprinkles cinnamon on the top and uses it as dip for his apples; the vanilla also makes a great pairing for fruit.
2. Apples. our favorite time of year is autumn, when the local apple harvest is in full swing. but even year-round, we have apples in the house almost all the time. they're a solid fruit that keeps well, has tons of health benefits, and best of all: Hubs never gets sick of them. for a while, i was convinced all he ever ate was apple slices and yogurt. but he was eating something healthy and enjoying it, so how could i argue with that? these are an absolute essential for us, so when hunger strikes, we always have a healthy snack on hand. our favorites are Cortlands, Pink Ladies and Honeycrisp.
3. Eggs. Egg whites are an almost perfect source of protein, and although i haven't convinced Hubs to get past the "egg stink" and give them a try, i eat eggs in one form or another almost every day. usually, i separate out the yolks and only eat one per meal, using mostly just the whites. i try to hard-boil a handful of eggs at the beginning of the week, so i have a quick and easy protein source at hand when i need it. i'm always finding new ways to eat them, too. one of my recent favorites is poaching eggs in a skillet with Ro-Tel tomatoes, tomatillo salsa, black beans, garlic and frozen spinach. super fast to prepare, and super healthy as well. win-win! my favorite brand is Eggland's Best.
4. Kemp's Cottage Cheese. no, i'm not getting paid for any of these grocery endorsements. but i will admit that we're pretty picky about brands. we're kind of OCD like that. not that we're total snobs, it's just that once we find something we can agree on, that works, it's best to kind of stick with it. (also, we're total food snobs. there. happy?) i never ate cottage cheese until just recently, and now we keep it in the house all the time. it's a fantastic source of protein, and if you're mindful of your fat intake, this is a healthy way to satisfy your craving for some cheesy goodness. Kemps is particularly good, especially since their 1% variety is just as good as the full-fat stuff you can get at the salad bar. not too runny, and just rich enough to trick you into thinking it's not low-fat. Hubs eats it as a side with most meals (startling quantities of it, actually), while i prefer it with hard-boiled eggs, omelets or fresh peaches. random tip: it also makes a great mayo/spread substitute for pita sandwiches. yum.
5. Jennie-O Turkey. we eat a lot of tacos at our house. like, A LOT of tacos. or at least, taco-related foods, considering i try to steer clear of grain-y carbs more often than not. we buy 5-pound packs of lean ground turkey from Sam's Club and keep it in the freezer, then pull out a package at a time to make taco meat. when all the taco seasoning is in there, you can hardly tell it's not just normal beefy taco meat, and actually i've come to prefer this leaner variety over the traditional ground chuck. we make a whole 2.5-pound package of meat at once, and keep the leftovers in the fridge to reheat throughout the week. it's also perfect for chili, another frequent meal at our house (we like to cook once a week and then just eat leftovers all week, can you tell?) recently, i also discovered Jennie-O Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, which has been like an extra-special treat that's been useful in broadening my collection of go-to recipes. brown either of these and add them to spaghetti sauce to top whole wheat pasta, or my favorite, sauteed zucchini.
6. Canned Diced Tomatoes. we also buy these in bulk from Sam's Club--both plain diced and Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles. we use them for making chili or taco soup most of the time, but i've recently begun using them to poach eggs in a skillet. tomatoes are obviously awesome for you, so these provide a quick and easy way to get some extra vitamins into any meal, even if we don't have fresh veggies on hand.
7. Black Beans. beans are clearly a great source of protein, but black beans are especially good considering their lower starch content compared to other beans. we use these in everything: tacos, chili, egg dishes, etc. we're especially partial to Goya brand, the low-sodium variety. if you're a vegetarian, or just trying to use meat more sparingly, these are a reliable and yummy source of protein to have on hand.
8. Spinach/Salad Greens. when i'm in the groove, i eat salad at least once a day, often with both lunch and dinner. we tend to buy boxed salad greens in bulk, yes, from Sam's Club. depending on what we're hungry for or getting sick of, we alternate between baby spinach and mixed salad greens (we especially like those ones that come in the box with six tiny heads of different artisan lettuces. so fancy!) having a salad base on hand at all times makes preparing a healthy side for dinner really quick and easy. keep chopped veggies in the fridge, toss some on, add protein and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a quick lunch.
9. Bell Peppers. lots of people seem not to like peppers, for some reason, but they work for us. we usually buy two varieties: green and either red or yellow. then we eat them with everything. no seriously, EVERYTHING. i usually try to slice a few peppers into strips at the beginning of the week, so we have them on hand for easy use. here's a small sampling of our favorite bell pepper applications: eggs, tacos, salad, chili, cajun shrimp/turkey sausage skillet. i also pack them in my lunch and dip them in hummus; it's an easy way for me to make sure i'm getting enough veggies, and the hummus is a great healthy protein source.
10. Nuts. nuts have gotten a bad reputation as being fatty, but if you're mindful of how you're using them, they can be quite beneficial. yes, they have "good fat," or at least lots of them do. we keep raw almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews on hand most of the time as a healthy snack. sometimes we mix them with dried fruit and dark chocolate to make a healthy trail mix. but i also keep raw almonds on hand most of the time, since they keep and travel well. just a handful of these can make a filling and healthy snack.worried about price? buy in bulk. we find most of ours in the baking aisle at Sam's Club. (... surprise, surprise.)
*11. Whey Protein Powder. technically, i'm not sure this is really considered a food, so i tacked it on the end as a bonus. (this list goes to 11!) i have a protein shake almost every day. protein is filling and helps build muscle, which in the end allows your body to burn more calories naturally. we've tried a couple of different protein powders, but currently use EAS brand because it's relatively cheap (Sam's Club. bulk. duh.), not digusting (at least the chocolate flavor), and packs 20+ grams of protein per serving. Hubs likes his mixed with a little milk. i can taste the non-sugar sweetener, which i'm not particularly a fan of, so i usually add liquid coffee concentrate to mask the flavor. then it's like a delicious guilt-free mocha shake! every day! see? eating healthy CAN be totally awesome. :)

so that, folks, is our list of food must-haves. these may not work for everybody, but we've found that they work well for us. and yes, we do eat other foods not included on this list, naturally, these are just our staples. do you have any go-to grocery store buys? what things do you find yourself filling your cart with each time you hit the store? i'm always looking for new ideas for expanding our healthy meal repertoire.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

pros and cons: double tights

it's a two-pairs-of-tights kind of day here in the single-digit Midwest. (AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY. IT BUILDS CHARACTER.)

dressing for cold weather requires some practice, but to be honest, i appreciate the challenge. getting sick of winter already? consider today's topic: the implications of layering up on tights.

Photo via smittenbyliz.com

- double the layers equals double the time required to make a bathroom trip.
- forgetting you must sit like a lady.
- static cling.

- tights are awesome. therefore, double tights equals double awesome. (obv.)
- extreme warmth, without the bulk.
- cozy legs provide for greater wardrobe creativity and give warm-weather clothes a longer shelf life. ...er, wear life. whatever.
- feeling like a girl at the time of year when one might feel like a frumpy broken record of those same insulated boots and jeans, again.
- one more day you can put off laundering said jeans. again.

in conclusion, it's double tights—for the win!


in other news, it seems we've been doing a lot of winning here in Wisconsin lately. if you hadn't noticed.  ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

remember how i said i wanted to get more adventurous with greens?

i think the blogosphere is trying to send me a message.

also, something i'm working on: my list of healthy food must-haves. stay tuned!
(if this snow storm lives up to the hype, you may see this sooner than later.) ;)

*photo via ymib.com

Friday, January 21, 2011

the long-awaited LASIK post, of course. (Part 3)

once i realized that i was seeing and walking around without my glasses on, it was pretty exciting. my vision wasn't perfect, and the eye drops clouded things a bit, but i could see! it was then that i realized that my eye discomfort was gone, and that the excessive tearing had stopped. for those of you scared to death now because of my account here, know that things only get better after this. i expected lots of discomfort; i was told it was possible to experience extreme dryness, swelling, scratchy feelings or sandy sensations for a couple of weeks. turns out one night of tearing and melodramatic flopping around is the worst that it gets!

when i went in to the doctor for my post-op visit that morning, the doctor explained that i was seeing 20/25 in my right eye and was slightly farsighted in my left eye, which for some reason he said was a good thing. eventually, he said, everything would even out. the doctor signed my form confirming that i was safe to drive without any glasses or contacts and sent me on my way!

some celebratory pancakes were definitely in order.

and order them we did! the doctor had previously said that patients can usually see well enough to drive themselves to their post-op appointments, but they strongly suggest having a driver, as they expect you might still be "kind of loopy" from the previous day's regimen of sleeping pills and pain meds. i spent most of our trip to Perkins fixated on the fact that not only could the people sitting around us see me, but i could see them. still a little slow from the prior day's drugs, i was probably a pretty boring pancake mate for poor old Hubs. plus, i had made him wake up early to take me to my post-op appointment, which i don't think he was very happy about.

the rest of the weekend was pretty low key. for the first few days, aftercare includes putting one or another type of eye drop in your eyes about once every hour while you're awake, so i spent most of my time doing that. had you stopped by that weekend, you would have found me clutching several obsessive-compulsively folded tissues, with a sticky, slimy face. after surgery, you're not allowed to wipe your eyes for at least 2 weeks, which means if the eye drops run out, you sort of have to leave them there. the grandma nurse in the staging area explained that i was supposed to only blot extra tears at cheekbone level. i, of course, stared at her like she was crazy. "just let the tears come down to you," she insisted.

thus began a long week of trying not to touch my eyes. i'm a perpetual eye digger, always in there fishing out bits of makeup and other debris. the worst part about this was that my eyes felt so normal i kept forgetting that they were still healing and that i couldn't touch them. but the doctor had explained at the meeting the week before the surgery that if you rub your eyes, you could dislodge the flap, since it's not 100% healed back in place yet. the thought of this made me so woozy i wasn't about to take any chances. so blot at cheekbone level i did, for at least a few days. until the cloudy anti-inflammatory drops left so much white crud in the corners of my eyes that my OCD took over and forced me to dig it out. carefully! with the corner of a tissue! don't tell Dr. Hale. and while you're at it, leave out the part about how i wore mascara to my company holiday party a week later.

... oh, did i mention? you're not allowed to wear any eye makeup for TWO WEEKS after surgery. i naturally had scheduled my surgery before i knew it was exactly one week before our company holiday party. i spent the large part of my time in the staging area suppressing the desire to shout WHAT DO YOU MEAN TWO WEEKS. THIS IS SO UNREASONABLE. i knew if i brought it up they would only be suspicious of me, and maybe send spies to make sure i wasn't breaking the post-op rules. so i kept my trap shut. and then dragged my beady-eyed, sticky-faced self to work for a week, with much grumbling and complaining.

"but no makeup for two weeks? that's not such a big deal. seems like a small price to pay for the gift of fuss-free vision for the rest of your life!" you're definitely right about that. but that did not stop my grumbling or complaining. especially once i realized that the tape they gave me to put on my eye shields at night left glue on my face that was impossible to remove. (you might recall a string of twitter and/or facebook posts in which i ranted on and on about the agony of face glue.)

i actually vaguely remembered, in the midst of all my grumbling, that the doctor was telling us at the pre-op meeting about other patients' recollections of the worst part of the surgery. he mentioned the suction cup eyeball holder thingy, and then said that lots of people hated the tape for the eye shields. he and i simultaneously scoffed at what babies those people must be. tape? on your face? what a small price to pay for visual freedom! ... NOW I KNOW. here's a magic tip i didn't manage to scrounge up until more than a week after surgery: olive oil. it's your best friggin' friend. (gotta give credit where credit is due. mucho thanks to homegirl Alison for that face-saving tip!)

they say you only have to wear the shields while sleeping for a week or so, but if you're worried about poking yourself in the eye, that you can continue to wear them. two weeks later, i still wear them at night like the overachieving valedictorian of LASIK surgery. "but didn't you wear makeup only one week after surgery?" okay, first of all: SHHH. second of all, i live with Hubs, The Mightiest Sleep Flopper Of All Time. for his peace of mind and mine, i wear the shields. (also, i found some athletic tape to use that doesn't leave so much extra glue. it's not as sticky, but it gets the job done.)

all in all, that's pretty much the worst of it, folks. i mean, the eye drops give you a bad chemical taste in your mouth, and they cling to your eyelashes and leave a sticky residue. but i was stunned at how petty my complaints about post-op life quickly became. shouldn't i be in pain? writhing in agony because my eyes feel sandy and i cannot rub them? but i most definitely wasn't uncomfortable in the least. at their worst, my eyes only ever felt sort-of like i had contacts in. after only a few days, the drops taper off, and after a week you only need regular tears. i still have moments where my eyes feel a little dry and i drop a couple tears in, but only every few hours. and my vision is getting better by the day. sometimes my eyes feel tired in the afternoon, after work. but by morning they're good as new again. and i can read the alarm clock!

that's the most incredible part—seeing clearly (well, mostly) and yet forgetting constantly that you had just had surgery. like, basically yesterday. while awake! biggest trip of life, folks. i'm tellin' ya, this LASIK nonsense might actually live up to the hype. (hint: IT TOTALLY DOES.) this, coming from the world's biggest scaredy cat. no joke, folks. ♥

read Part 1 here
read Part 2 here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the long-awaited LASIK post, of course. (Part 2)

so yeah. i had quite a bit of work to do on both eyes, but all in all, a minute's only a minute, right? it wasn't so bad. i just kept telling myself what Ryan tells us at kettlebell workouts: you can do anything for a minute. plus, it was nice; the doctor counted down at certain time increments to keep me focused and let me know how much work there was left to be done. he also hummed along with the Mexican music they had playing softly in there. i wonder if they knew that would relax me, rather than make me crave chips & salsa? (not that it doesn't do that, also. but i digress.) it made me laugh, and i wondered how many times a day he hears that song while he's lasering away.

when the laser was done on each eye, the doctor flopped the flap back down, flushed my eyes with some fluid, and got to work getting the flap in place. he used what looked to me like a soft foundation brush to smooth out the flap and make sure there were no wrinkles or bubbles. at the time, i realized that it should have grossed me out, but i found it rather comforting for some reason. i still think about what that looked like and felt like, and remember it as one of my favorite parts (second only perhaps to the excited vaporizing self-talk.)

when everything was back in its place, the doctor and technician sat me up, got me all full of drops, and did a quick check to make sure everything was good. then, while i clutched my tiny bear tightly, they led me down the hall back to the waiting area. earlier, i had watched another girl come out of surgery, smiling, but with her eyes very red and puffy, and watering like crazy, eye drops streaming down her face. it looked uncomfortable. i wondered, as i stumbled out of the surgery room, if i looked the same, and if it scared the other people waiting their turn in the staging area.

the nurse gave me a pain pill, some more drops, and then handed me back my bear and my little kit of drops and medications. she directed me to take a sleeping pill as soon as i got home, tape my eye shields on, and go right to bed. she said if i could sleep through the next 6-8 hours, i would miss all the uncomfortable parts of post-op recovery. i made obsessive mental notes of everything she said, and rejoiced inside that she let me keep the bear. he was so soft and small and wearing an adorable t-shirt. animals with clothes are awesome.

she led me down the hall again, to a different room than where she left Hubs waiting for me. the hall looked like it was under water, just like they said it might, and everything seemed very bright. Hubs was in the new room, waiting for me, annoyed that they had let him sit in the room with all the other patients' drivers until the very last second, when they moved him to this smaller, much quieter room. i could also tell he was bracing for me to completely lose it, as i had warned him i might do. he said some encouraging things, the nurse handed me off, and he guided me to the elevator and out to the car.

the drive home was sort-of surreal. i could see where we were going; obviously i knew the route well, but it looked completely different. everything was a little blurry, but not in the way things look when i'm not wearing glasses or contacts. it looked more like i was looking out a frosty window; everything had a soft, cloudy haze over it, which made the ride rather dreamy. mostly though, instead of feeling calm, i felt tired and anxious. i was working really hard to mentally hold on to all the information they gave me at the surgery center, so i could make sure to tell Hubs so he could help me remember. moments like this, even when i'm under the slightest amount of sedation, always send me into a panic that i'll forget something critically important.

anyway, Hubs got my nervous ass home, and struggled to get me tucked into bed while i rambled on and on about needing to take my sleeping pill. i asked for him to put in my Frida DVD, and when he turned on the TV, i realized that he had put it in already, knowing i would ask for it. (srsly guys, he's SUCH a keeper.) i couldn't really see the TV necessarily, through all the drops and plastic eye shields, but i could hear it, and that was enough for me. i've only seen it about eleventy billion times, and even just listening to it calmed me. i chuckled a bit that the surgery room was playing the same type of music. it made me happy that the day seemed to have a cohesive soundtrack.

Hubs brought me a bowl of my favorite butternut squash soup, with a scoop of Greek yogurt in it, and a square of leftover cornbread my sister had made the weekend prior. i downed it in record time, and he brought me more. about the time i finished the second bowl, i started to feel sleepy finally, and laid down to listen to the movie and fall asleep. everything was going so well! i was going to sleep straight through till late that evening, maybe till the next morning, and when i woke, i would be able to see! i reminded Hubs to check on me occasionally to make sure i hadn't had a freaky reaction to the meds and stopped breathing, and he lovingly complied. i closed my eyes and thought about staring up at the bedroom ceiling the night before, trying to remember what it looked like without my glasses on. then i fell asleep.

a mere four hours later, my pain meds wore off.

i woke up in total panic, as is my custom, and started feeling around frantically for the intercom thing Hubs had left me to use to call for him if i needed anything. i was too tired and weak to remember how to use the talking part, so i pushed the button that makes the crazy beeping tones. about 27 times. when i realized he couldn't hear me, i began flopping around and moaning melodramatically. my eyes felt swollen, painful and were tearing in an epic fashion. between the tears and the eye shields, i couldn't read the chart that explained what eye drops i should take and when. i couldn't find my other sleeping pill, and i definitely didn't know where my other pain pill was. when it became clear that Hubs could not hear my pleas for help, i flopped out of bed and dragged my limp body to the top of the stairs and called for him. it became immediately obvious that he was not home. i realized he must be working out, just minutes from our house, and had probably only planned on being gone an hour or so. leave it to me to wake up in a panic in the only hour he was unavailable.

i dragged my now sobbing, heaving self back to bed, and dramatically flopped around, feeling for something familiar. i eventually found that my other sleeping pill had fallen out of its envelope and onto the floor. i grabbed it, took it, and continued flopping around and moaning. soon i found my kit full of eye drops and instructions, and wrestled with the instructions sheet for a while. i think at some point, i must have found my pain pill and taken that, because i remember after Hubs returned that there was lots of exasperated attempts to communicate to him that i had lost my pills, but then found them and took them.

then i remembered that if i woke up, i was supposed to take some eye drops. but i couldn't read the chart, and was apparently in too much agony to remember that both the chart and the eye drop bottles were color-coded for my convenience. more flopping and moaning ensued. when i remembered the color coding and found the correct bottle, i found that in trying to help me tape on my eye shields, Hubs had done an exemplary job. so good, in fact, that i could not get them off. so i commenced moaning and flopping around, this time with a little less vigor, as the sleeping and pain meds were probably starting to kick in at this point.

soon enough, Hubs came home to find the melodramatic scene in the bedroom. i can't imagine what it all looked like, or what he thought had happened, but i could tell he immediately felt horrible. (please keep in mind that this story should in no way condemn poor Hubs for supposed neglect. in his defense, when he got ready to work out and left, i was so fast asleep that his pounding around looking for gym shorts didn't wake me, and he had plenty of reasons to believe i might not wake up for days.) he pieced together my moaning, half-sentence attempts to tell him what had happened, apologized about 87 times, and helped me peel off my eye shields and put in my eye drops.

once we got my eye shields taped back on, i felt immediately better and ceased all the moaning and flopping around. Hubs stayed with me for a while until it was clear i was asleep again, and then brought in his Kindle, on which he had playing some soft music. Over the Rhine, to be exact. he knows me so well.

the next morning, i woke up at like 7 am. realizing that poor Hubs had probably been up till Lord knows what hour the night before playing with his various new technologies, i went back to sleep. eventually, it got to be about 8 o'clock, and i couldn't sleep anymore. i got up, peeled my eye shields off, and got to work putting in eye drops and brushing my teeth. i felt groggy, but not in the normal morning way. more like i wasn't tired anymore, but everything was sort of moving in slow-motion. it took me a while before i realized i could see.

to be continued... still... ha...

read part 1 here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the long-awaited LASIK post, of course. (Part 1)

it was in the midst of some serious document-writing blockage and a rush of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of incredible content on the web that i realized i ought to harness all this nervous energy and finally tell you about my LASIK surgery. (i'm not shouting about it, by the way. LASIK is actually an acronym. for laser-assisted-something-something-something. i forget. but anyway.)

if you want the short version of the story, just know this: it went well! i'm still getting used to be able to see the bedroom ceiling at night, but altogether i think it was a worthwhile experience. so if you're on the fence, get saving your pennies, and just go through with it already. you won't regret it. probably.

long version? good. i was hoping you'd ask! like i said, i'm still getting used to the idea of being able to see. my vision isn't 100% perfect, but i've been told that my vision will probably fluctuate a lot for the next 4-6 weeks and then finally settle down. it's a little frustrating to not always be able to read the chalkboard at school (for lack of a better illustration), but i've been cleared to drive! which reminds me, i ought to try to make it to the DMV one of these days. (did you know, after you have LASIK, you have to have that vision correction thing removed from your driver's license?? crazy, i know.)

so here's the story, in as linear a fashion as i can muster. if you're curious about all the pre-op visits and requirements and goings on, you can write me individually. but it's all really not very exciting, so i'll skip that here.

instead, i'll start about a week before the surgery or so. one of the reasons i chose the LASIK center i did was because it was quiet, the staff seemed kind and personable, and their pre-op process was thorough. part of that pre-op process was a meeting with the surgeon, in which he was to explain everything that goes on on the day of surgery—all the sounds, sensations, smells (yes, smells)—so that there are no surprises. the aim is to get everyone's questions answered and to educate you enough on the process to ease much of the nervousness most people deal with going into the procedure.

i don't think there's ever been a single person before who came out of that meeting with a higher level of anxiety than what they went in with. leave it to me to pull that off.

so i spent the next few days fanning my flushed face, taking deep breaths and trying to convince myself that if i didn't calm down, i would likely pass out on the day of surgery, they wouldn't be able to complete the procedure, and i'd be blind for the rest of my life.

i decided to work on the morning of the day of my surgery, which wasn't a big deal as it wasn't scheduled until about 2 in the afternoon. it was actually kind of nice; you could say i had a bit of anxiety going into surgery, so working that day gave me a bit of a distraction from my obviously impending panic.

i hyperventilated all the way to the surgery center, which is luckily only about 10 minutes from my house. this wasn't helped by the fact that the office has this strange entry system that requires that you take an elevator to the second floor just to get to the reception desk. (if you know anything about my intense hatred of elevators, you would understand this did not improve my anxiety level.)

having finally made it to the desk, i signed in, and was so nervous that i missed initialing most of the blanks on my consent form, and the poor technician had to keep pointing them out to me. then i went to the bathroom again, just in case. then i hyperventilated in the waiting room until Hubs gave me his iPod so i could play Angry Birds. (Angry Birds never fails me.) before i could beat level 20, the technician came to get me, and led me down a hall to what seemed to be the staging area.

the staging area was a strange, tiny room with three plush leather recliners lined up diagonally, with hospital curtains in-between. a seemingly crabby, grandma-esque nurse sat me down and ran me through all the steps leading up to surgery. (i'm not sure why she seemed so crabby, it turned out she was actually very nice and nurturing, and was very reassuring when i wobbled out of surgery.) she gave me about a million eye drops of differing varieties, 5 mg of Valium, a long list of post-op instructions i was pretty confident i would not remember after surgery, and then told me to sit and read a magazine while they bought in another girl to prep and my Valium kicked in.

i don't know much about surgery, but Valium did not seem to be much more than a placebo. and considering my extreme suspicion of it going in, i don't think it helped me much at all. all i remember of realizing its effects was wildly fluctuating between emotional responses: one moment i'd be twitching and wiggling in my recliner, the next i'd be strangely calm, but still thinking obsessive, nervous thoughts.

the stack of magazines on the end table next to me held a Large Print edition of a magazine, which featured a cover piece titled something like "Doctors Confess Their Fatal Mistakes." it was super comforting, as you can imagine.

soon, an annoyed technician came and gave me more numbing eye drops and whisked me into surgery. i don't know why, but all my reactions seemed slow, and it was almost like i didn't have any depth perception. i can't tell if that was the effects of the drugs they gave me beforehand or my own neuroses catching up with me, but i do know that it made for an awfully awkward stumble into the surgery room.

the surgery room has two large machines, with a reclining, sort-of dentist-style chair in-between. they had previously explained that the first laser cuts the flap from your cornea, and the second does the correction work.

they got me wrangled onto the chair, put a kind of space-age foam pillow around my head to keep it in place, gave me an adorable teddy bear to hold on to for dear life, and swiveled me under the first machine. this was the part i had heard was uncomfortable. and it was: while your eye balls are numb, and you can't feel the laser doing its work, they have to use a strange sort-of suction cup on your eyeball to keep it in place. it's strange and uncomfortable to have vacuum pressure on your eyeball, but not painful. i was told, however, that i would lose my vision in the eye that was under the suction thing once they turned the suction on. i could still see the lights on the ceiling out the corner of my eye, and in a clumsy panic, told the doctor that. he assured me that it was okay, i might still be able to see a little around the edges. i didn't believe him, of course, but what choice did i have once they had my eyeball in a suction thing?

turns out the laser is seriously not a big deal. i was told i would be able to see the flap, and was worried that thinking about my eyeball flap would give me the willies and i would certainly pass out. but the flap-making portion of the surgery was actually pretty quick, the machine was silent, and i couldn't actually see what was going on.

to my relief, once they swiveled me out from under the first machine, they announced, "well, that was the hard part. the rest is easy." i was stunned. i think i gasped out something like "wow, really?! well that wasn't SO bad..." they put a bunch of drops in my eyes and swiveled me in place under the second machine.

this part was weird, i admit. the flap-making laser doesn't actually cut the flap free at first, it merely perforates the flap enough that the doctor can peel it back later. (i know, gross, i can't believe i'm writing this. *shudder*) it was at this point i think the Valium must have kicked in, because i didn't flinch at all while the doctor came at me with dental-looking metal tools and wiggled my eyeball around until he peeled back the flap. i think at the time i realized i should be really wigging out, but was so interested by what was going on, that i sort of forgot to freak out.

the next part was fun! they told me to stare at the blinking red light while they ran the second laser and it made machine-gun-like noises as it did the correction work on my eye. they had warned us at the meeting a week earlier that we might smell something similar to burning hair or plastic. "it might smell like you're on fire," the doctor explained. "you're not on fire, don't worry." it's because the laser literally vaporizes your extra eye tissue in order to reshape the cornea. so, in my strange Valium haze, while they worked the second laser, my thoughts frittered between frantic thoughts like, "FOCUS. FOCUS ON THE RED BLINKY THING. DON'T MOVE. DON'T MOVE." and, in a dreamy, slow voice in my head, "THEY'RE VAPORIZING ME! COOOOOOL...." it's true, this part of the surgery is completely painless. i could feel that the laser was working though; i could feel it in my teeth, like a cold, faintly buzzing feeling. i felt like i must be a cartoon x-ray of myself, it was awesome.

they told us that, depending on how severe your prescription was going in, they would need to do about 30 to 60 seconds of work on each eye. my right eye required 58 seconds of work. my left, 59.

to be continued...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

tweet, tweet!

well hello there, folks!

i'm writing from the other side of LASIK surgery, and all's well with the world. (well, not all. but all eye-related things, at the very least.) it's a little hazy over here, but surprisingly awesome! i'll be sure to write about that experience one of these days. i don't even have a good excuse not to have written it already. i tried to think of one, but meh. at this point, if you have high expectations of me, i'm very, very sorry. so. LASIK post to come, soon! ... ish!

in the meantime, i've succumbed to a little internet trend you might like to call Twitter. so far this Grandma has even managed to putter her way through a few Tweets! and for this, i'm awfully proud. so, if you like snark, socks or oatmeal, stop on by and join both my followers. three's a party or something, right?
tweet, tweet!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Winter Cleaning

oh, the obligatory New Year's post. (as i write this, i realize that i managed to somehow avoid the obligatory Christmas post. whoops. here, read this one instead. it's way better, anyway.) lots of folks have written funny or inspiring New Year's reflections, but this one is so far my favorite. it lifts me out of this ridiculous tiredness i've been slothing through lately, and made me examine how i've sort of tumbled into this new year feeling very unprepared. blindsided, even.

we spent the weekend with my family, celebrating a rather quiet Christmas. it was wonderful, and in preparation the Hubs and i spent several days maniacally cleaning. it was sort of awesome, and i arose from the dust, as usual following these sorts of projects, with a fresh satisfaction with our house and our life. cleaning always feels like revival to me. or it could be, that in the little private revival i've been experiencing lately, that everything is tinged with a little extra hope.

i wish i could say i have only positive things to say about the year ahead, but the truth is, even in the midst of an exciting time of growth, i'm going in trapped in a very self-critical fog. so what you're about to experience is a bit of a year-in-review project, intended specifically to fix my focus and motivate healthy change. and my prayer is that that be our theme this year: change, as only God the Creator can implement. breaking unhealthy cycles, facilitating greater effectiveness, cultivating boldness, courage, wisdom and above all, love.

and so in that light, i give you this: a collection of significant happenings this past year, and perhaps a few goals for the coming year.

- 30 pounds lost. (5 pounds gained back. and this is according to the last weigh-in before the holidays. ugh.)
- more blog writing! this one, rather awkwardly, resulted in my Grandma printing out a seemingly well-loved, snack-related post and distributing it to the whole family at Christmas. yeah. so... Hello there, Family! Welcome to the blogosphere. wow, it sure got cozy in here fast, didn't it! ha ha... ha. (oh jeez.)
- first ski trip Out West. this was a humbling, and simultaneously thrilling, experience. this is when i start to think that perhaps the Rockies are God's country, just a little.
- running! in April, i began the Couch-to-5K running program, somewhat begrudgingly, and ended up falling in love with running, something i never dreamed would ever happen. this resulted in three 5k runs, all with varying degrees of success, and one super fun 4.5-mile Mud Run. all culminating in...
- stopping running! it would be unfair to dwell only on the excitement of running without acknowledging the struggles as well. in late September, i developed a foot injury and have begrudgingly benched myself since. this has proved to be an unending source of anxiety and dissatisfaction, forcing me not only to curb my workout plans, but also to wear only supportive footwear. i'm pretty sure the only suffering more horrifying in my life so far has been the lice i mysteriously contracted in college. this one hasn't made me cry or lose my mind or try to claw out of my own skin yet, but there has been much moaning and flopping around in a distressed fashion. for your sake, prayers for a speedier recovery!
- the Death of our Debt. no joke! as of spring of 2010, we are officially debt-free, not counting the mortgage on our house. we killed it all in a little under a year: 3 vehicle payments and several years' worth of student loans (we never carried credit card debt.) we're exceedingly grateful for Dave Ramsey's ministry in getting us started on a plan, something that, aside from getting us financially in order, has done amazing things for our marriage. if you plan on getting married anytime soon, don't be offended when you unwrap a copy of The Total Money Makeover from us. we know you think you don't need it; we thought that once, too. just read it. and then do it. you can thank us later.
- a new church home. this one has been tough for us. after moving to the Brookfield area, we loafed around for, oh, about a year or so before really getting serious about getting back into a community. not long ago i started to realize how much i missed it, and how much my heart ached for it. being ridiculous and cynical, finding a good church is always a horrible experience with us. but we're learning to love The Church, because Jesus does, and re-learning how to do this church thing all over again. it's usually humbling, but often rewarding; the distance has given me a more appreciative perspective, compared to the hater days of my youth. it's rare for me these days to actually feel like i'm surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and i'm so excited at the chance to enjoy that, like new, all over again.

- greater productivity, more hard work.
- shorter blog posts. (sorry, guys. it's a problem i have.)
- a better marriage
- a healthier family
- a cleaner house
- a greater sense of urgency
- a more effective life, as evidenced by a smarter and more intentional use of my time and my money.

and now, in acknowledgment of the total lack of privacy and anonymity on the internet, i expect not just awkward encouragement, but also some serious grief from all of you, when i'm seriously slacking. go right ahead internet, BRING IT.