The Little Big Things

I landed my first job when I was fifteen years old. After years of babysitting for neighbors, I marched into my school district office, requested a work permit, and headed straight to the local mall, where I was employed part-time until I left for college.

I have always worked. Always. Except for when I had my third child and I gave up trying to make it all work and left work behind for a bit. It was hard. I missed work.

When I started back up with paid employment in 2016, as Millie was turning five years old, I decided to open up a local bank account. We had an account where Bob worked in the city but it made sense to have easier access to our money locally, too. His pay went into that account and my pay would go into this account. It didn’t matter that everything mine is his and his is mine. It just mattered that after a dozen years of managing every aspect of our budget, investments, and overall financial health, I would be once again contributing to our budget, investments, and overall financial health.

It made me so happy to go back to work – to have an account that reflected my work.

On new bank account day, I gathered up all of my new job deposit information and headed to the bank branch bringing Bob in tow. I knew he needed to be on the account, too, in case I ever died tragically in some Joanna-appropriate manner (which, would be, like, trespassing on someone’s property to get a better look at their house or something). So, Bob was with me at the bank branch and I asked that he be added to the account but it was absolutely clear that he wasn’t the one opening the account. It was me! I was opening the account! With my new job money!

Imagine my dismay when the account statement arrived and I saw it was addressed to Bob. His name was the primary on the account. My name was secondary. The checks arrived and Bob’s name was listed first, too. This was especially grating as I’m not entirely sure Bob even remembers HOW to write a check.

It was such a little thing – the manager opening the account for me but listing him first. Her not bothering to ask who should be the primary account holder. Her assuming it would be my husband. The man in the equation. It seems so inconsequential, my rage. Like it shouldn’t even matter. But, it did matter. It mattered to me. A lot.

It mattered so much that it made me want to close the account.

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A week or so ago, I bought a new car. We’d known for awhile that our minivan needed to be replaced but Bob and I were unable to decide on what kind of car to replace it with. Finally, after way too many months of indecision, Bob arrived home declaring that the minivan needed to go! It was time! The impasse must end! So, I said I would take care of it. I’d figure out a new car I thought we could both agree on.

The next morning, I notified work I’d be late and I drove to a dealership a little ways away but one I knew that had the model and color I was interested in seeing. I’ve bought a few cars over the years so I knew how it all worked and I knew how much I wanted to pay and I knew how all car salesman have treated me in the past so I arrived with an all business demeanor absolutely loaded for bear.

It was a gorgeous day and the salesman I approached was lingering outside in the sun. I asked to see the car I had found online and he said, “Sure,” without even once looking around me to see if my husband was behind me. When I sat in the car, surveyed the cargo space, had him point out where the closest USB ports to where my children would be seated were located, he kindly showed me all of the features without even once asking if my husband would be joining us. When I asked him for his best price, let him know he was in competition with another dealership, told him I could close the deal on the spot, he never even once asked if I needed to consult with my husband. That night, I got to surprise my husband with a new car, in the make he had wanted, and I have to say it was a very Lexus-December-to-Remember type thing but without the red bow (or the Lexus actually).

It was such a little thing that the salesman at that dealership wasn’t asking. He could have easily asked. Could have easily assumed that I couldn’t do it on my own. But, he didn’t. He never once assumed that there was anyone else in the car buying equation but me. That mattered to me. It mattered a lot.

It mattered so much that it made me want to buy a car.

I’m not really entirely sure what my point here is other than I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important our words are. How much weight they carry. What we do say and what we don’t say. What we do ask and what we don’t ask.

It’s hard not to think about it when things seem so broken – the vitriol amongst us at a fever pitch. It’s hard not to imagine that some of that could be fixed or mended with a better choice of words.

Being inclusive, reserving assumptions, watching our phrasing are all such little moments. Little opportunities to do better by someone, for someone. I hear people complain and bemoan the extra steps it takes to be cautious and mindful with our words. That those little things shouldn’t matter. I think they do matter. I think they matter a lot.

What if all of the little things add up to much bigger things?

Weight Loss Edition

At a holiday party last month, an acquaintance I had not seen in months asked, “Have you lost weight?” When I replied that, yes, I had, she asked with a fair amount of trepidation, “…on purpose?”

She thought maybe I was sick.

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I’m not sick but I did lose a lot of weight last year. On purpose. It’s really the only resolution that I managed to stick. Though, like any good resolution, I waited until around March to really make an effort.

I get asked about my weight loss often. And, the initial query is inevitably followed by questions about how I lost weight. The questions never bother me although, I fear my response is always kind of a letdown. “Diet and exercise,” I reply. I think people always expect me to say I went Keto or started Whole30. I don’t know what those things are but I don’t think I’m allowed to have Little Debbie snack cakes on either of them so they were never really an option for me.

So, in case you, like me, find yourself over forty and wanting to make some changes, here is how I managed to lose weight.

(And, I should note, I feel qualified to share my approach since I managed to survive the two months between Halloween and New Year’s Day without gaining any weight. In fact, I continued to lose weight. That, my friends, is a holiday miracle. Helped in no small part by a terrible stomach bug that snaked its way through our entire family two days after Christmas lingering for more than ten days but WHATEVER. The dehydration was worth it because it cancelled out all of the Christmas ham.)

Step 1: I stopped eating all of the food.

I’ve never been that into fast food (though I strongly believe an Original Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A with a single packet of mayonnaise and three pickles is one of the ways our creator shows their love for us). And, I’ve never been the type to, say, hide a shoebox in my closet filled with candy bars (although if you do this, please invite me over and I will bring Butterfingers as a contribution). My issue has never been consuming too much fast food or too many sweets or eating too much fancy cheese. It’s just been eating too much food all around.

I love food. I love it so much. I love to make good food. I love to buy good food. I love to eat good food other people make. Food is fantastic and good food is such a lovely part of life. But, I consistently ate too much good food.

Losing weight for me involved being more conscious of what and how much I was consuming. That was the key. I started tracking everything I ate. And, look, I know. I KNOW. Tracking what you eat can be laborious. But, I use an app on my phone and after months and months of logging everything on my plate or in my bowl, it’s become second nature.

I don’t place any restrictions on the type of food I eat. I just keep track of it ALL. And, I have a REALISTIC daily calorie goal that I try to hit but I also don’t stress too much if I don’t hit that mark.

The side benefit of tracking the food I eat – of being more aware of what I’m consuming – is that I’ve naturally moved towards healthier food choices and more moderate portion sizes. I can navigate a dinner out with friends or a potluck at a neighbor’s house without overindulging or eating, say, all of the pie and none of the grilled vegetables.

That’s a big deal since one cannot subsist on Little Debbie snack cakes alone.

Step 2: I started moving more.

Even though I would rather be doing literally anything else, I started exercising daily – or almost daily.

Integrating consistent exercise into the routine of an indoor cat was a challenge but I managed to do it by, surprisingly, heading outdoors. Turns out, I loathe every piece of indoor exercise equipment we have sitting in our basement. Daily hikes outside have been the thing that has kept me motivated and kept me exercising. I don’t like the extreme cold or the extreme heat but I do like moving and how it makes me feel and so, most every day, I go for a hike.

And now, to absolutely everyone’s surprise, most of all my own, I’ve taken up running. At one point, last fall, I went out for my daily hike and the weather had turned cold so I figured the quickest way to warm up would be to just start running. Then, I didn’t stop. I’ve been running ever since. The thing about running, besides the fact that it absolutely trashes your knees, is that it also trashes your feet. Running is amazing but also terrible but also THE BEST but also the worst and ZOMG, do you want to talk about running because I think Bob is tired of talking about running with me.

Look, exercising is time consuming. There’s the stretching beforehand, the stretching afterwards, the extra care I have to take nightly with my old lady feet, the precious minutes I spend worrying about the pain I’m having in that one knee. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve had to ignore to make time for the entire process of daily exercise. But, I’ve always ignored household chores anyway. Exercise has given me a legitimate excuse.

Moving more for weight loss just means finding your “thing.” And, that thing may change over time. As we head into the long, dark, seemingly endless months of January and February, I know I’ll find it difficult to head out in the cold. I would much rather be warm, underneath bed covers, watching BBC mysteries and eating Little Debbie snack cakes. As a result, Bob is trying to get me to go swimming with him but I think we should go running instead.

tenor-3I recently found a picture of my sixteen-year-old self, lounging by a pool, wearing a bikini. I can barely remember ever having skin that… smooth. When did it become so unsmooth? Everything is more… ripply now.

My body has changed in incredible and irrevocable ways over the past couple of decades, most notably growing three children. It continues to amaze and horrify me regularly. I’ll never have that same bikini body again. But, I haven’t regretted the time I’ve spent this past year taking better care of the body I have now.

I feel so much better. So much more like, “me.”

And, weight loss works better with a support system. So, if you want to go for a walk or a run or need encouragement or want to be friends on MyFitnessPal, let me know. We can do this! We ARE doing this! We can help each other!

I will bring Little Debbie snack cakes because it’s all about balance.

 

Some Thoughts On My Recent Hospital Stay

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Four days in the hospital is approximately three days too many. The first day, you’re all, HECK YEAH, I can watch this TBS marathon of “Friends” from the comfort of this Craftmatic adjustable bed while this lovely lady from food service delivers me french toast that I neither had to prepare nor have to clean up. Then, day two arrives and everything is terrible until the minute you are discharged.

If your first IV gets kinked, a nurse will place a second IV. If your second IV is infiltrated, your hand will swell up like a baseball glove and a nurse will place a third IV. If your third IV blows within just a few hours, they will call a nurse from the intensive care unit’s special “IV Team” to place a fourth IV. When it is all over, you will be able to rattle off your IV stats like a sports analysis: four IVs placed out of six attempts.

If there are no beds in the regular recovery section of the hospital, they will place you in the cardiac care wing which, demographically, skews a little older. They will choose your roommate carefully with a nurse explaining that they found a patient for you to bunk with that was, “a little closer in age.” That patient will turn out to be… 60. Also, when your kids visit you, their glowing youth and vibrant health will ensure they are treated like Golden Retriever therapy puppies by everyone in the halls and they will, therefore, be hugged extensively by strangers.

You will discover, tragically, that narcotic pain relievers do not sit well with you thus shattering any dreams of a narcotic-fueled life of crime on the run because you would have to pause to vomit every 30 minutes and the police would surely catch up to you.

The very minute you start to think, hmm, our health care flexible spending account still has a balance in September. That’s pretty remarkable. CONTACTS FOR EVERYONE THIS YEAR! That very minute – the very minute! – when you think of all of the things you’re going to buy with your extra FSA money – NAME BRAND CHARACTER BANDAIDS – is the exact moment when your appendix will burst or your kid breaks an arm or your diverticulitis flares up.

You’ll start to resent everyone that can just… walk around on their own. Logically, you know that the person in the hall wearing regular shoes instead of non-slippy socks isn’t, like, showing off or anything but it still feels like they kind of are. You’ll start to mutter to yourself, “I bet that lady over there doesn’t have a headache.” Or, “That dude over there doesn’t look nauseated.” The ability of others to exist without crippling pain will bring a not insignificant amount of irritation. ESPECIALLY when your 60-year-old roommate gets discharged before you and she is wearing regular clothes and no amount of french toast can make up for that kind of jealousy.

You will be given so many different IV antibiotics that you begin to get to know each of them. Not by name but by how they make you feel when they’re administered. The one shrouded in brown because it shouldn’t be exposed to light is especially terrible. You suspect the one in brown is responsible for your super duper heightened sense of smell which, by the way, is just the absolute worst superpower to have. Especially in the hospital. It’s almost like you can smell the very molecules in the air around you. Your new super smell capabilities means you will accuse your husband repeatedly of having very bad breath which will give him a little bit of a complex. He does not, in fact, have very bad breath and you will apologize profusely for the false accusation once you are home and off of the IV antibiotics and no longer able to smell each atom of matter that surrounds you.

The nurses will be amazing and their kindness for your condition will make you weepy and when they finally send you home, you will be a little sad that no one brings you french toast anymore.