Saturday, October 31, 2009

I Love Reading

I love reading.

Tonight I cried when I saw that the next page in my novel said, "Acknowledgements." In other words, "That's it, folks. The end." I didn't cry because it was a sad ending to the novel. I cried because I just wanted to keep reading and stay immersed in a world I loved with characters who had become dear friends. When I really love a book, I hate getting booted out on that final page, back into reality. Not that reality is bad--I just really love reading.

I have read the following books since I got pregnant three months ago:

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (464 pages)
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #10), by Alexander McCall Smith (212)
The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #9), by Alexander McCall Smith (224)
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis (175)
Strong Women Stay Slim, by Miriam E. Nelson (Okay, I only read about half of it, I admit.) (336)
Middlemarch, by George Eliot (1,024)

The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck (304)
The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch (206)
Fablehaven #3: Grip of the Shadow Plague, by Brandon Mull (487)
Fablehaven #2: Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull (456)
Kissing Doorknobs, by Terry Spencer Hesser (160)
Forest Born, by Shannon Hale (391)

The Kitchen God's Wife, by Amy Tan (416)
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (334)

Total: 5,189 pages and hours of delight

I bought "The Help" on the same day that I checked out the latest two Alexander McCall Smith books from the library: Wednesday. Today is Saturday and I feel depressed because I've finished all three and I have nothing to read on Sunday afternoon. If this is an addiction, I don't want to recover.

I love reading.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The strength to try

Conversations with my Mom today, and what they really mean:

Me: "Mom, I'm starting a new strength training program and I think you'd love it, too."
Mom: "That sounds great! If you buy me some free weights for Christmas, I'll use them and let you know how it works." (Meaning: Give me a few months to think about it. This is new. It takes time to warm up to new ideas.)
Me: "That sounds like a great idea!" (Meaning: There is no way you're chickening out on me. I'm starting today and I want somebody to suffer with me. I'll be over in 25 minutes with new weights from the store.)

...25 minutes later...

Me: "Hey, Mom, I'm on my way over..." (Meaning: You have five minutes warning instead of five seconds. Think quick!)
Mom: "Oh, umm... I'm really busy." (Meaning: Go away.)
Me: "I'll be quick..." (Meaning: No. I'm determined.)

...five minutes later...

Me: Okay, here are two chairs to do this first exercise. It looks really simple. Sit down.
Mom: No, no, dear. You just show me how to do it and I'll do it tomorrow. (Meaning: Go away!)
Me: Two chairs. Two people. It takes the same amount of time to do it with me as it does to watch. Sit down. (Meaning: Have you ever noticed how the name "Jillian" sounds similar to "Juliana"? I'm channeling her influence. This is for your OWN GOOD!)

...five minutes later...

Me: Okay, I've done this next one before and I love it. Of course, I do this one lying down instead of sitting, so let's see how we do this. Okay, go like this... {GROAN}... UGH... Uhh, holy crap, these are heavy... {GASP}... See? {Pant pant} Easy!" (Meaning: Don't think you're superior to me just because those 5-pounders are easy to lift. These 10-pounders are a tad harder for this particular exercise... groaaaannnnn....)

I've done some strength training--simple, simple stuff--on and off for the last few years and my OB gave me permission to keep it up while I'm pregnant. So I'm going to try to commit myself to doing these simple things more often. I'm not going to the gym. I'm not doing anything fancy. Just a few simple things with free weights and the weight I'm blessed to carry every day, which is not insignificant. I wish I had people to do this with, but my neighbors are all light-years ahead of me, getting strong at the gym, and I'm a social chicken anyway. I'm a bit too timid to show my flab and weakness at the gym just yet, but maybe I'll grow into my confidence a little at a time.

(Meaning: I remember how weak and sick I felt after being on bedrest, having a c-section and caring for twins. I'm still terrified of feeling that way again. I'm so incredibly scared of feeling that sick again that I'll do whatever I can NOW to get my body a little healthier so I can weather than time when it comes... Or that's the plan, at least...)

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Letter to GE HR

  Dear General Electric Human Resources,

  No amount of sugar coating makes the introduction of a deductible palatable. My husband joined your company, in large part, because his former company's health plan included a deductible and yours did not. We hate deductibles that much. They are evil and they encourage loving parents to dismiss their children's sicknesses as "not important enough" because it costs $50+ just to be seen for five minutes. Ten minutes if I bring a list of questions.

  A deductible ensures that you collect our premiums every two weeks but pay nothing in return. I can see how that is a benefit to you. I can see how that is a great business model and lowers your increasing costs. The only down side? It does not provide your customers--who depend on you to provide what they need--with what they need and want.

  I would like to congratulate your propagandists, however. It almost sounds nice when you tell me that my new insurance plan will "expand preventive coverage, provide [me] with tools to be healthy, and will protect [me] financially in the case of severe illness." Almost. Let's break that down.

  (1) Expand preventive coverage. So you will be happy to cover doctor's visits when I am not sick. Okaaaay...

  (2) Provide me with tools to be healthy. Like a glossy brochure full of marketing pitches about how I need to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise regularly? Gosh! What would I do without THAT?!? I mean, that's really earth-shattering stuff. Seriously. When you want to pay for my gym membership, let me know. Until then, I'm not impressed.

  (3) Protect me financially in the case of severe illness. So if I get cancer, you've got my back? That's good to know. Seriously. I'm not even being sarcastic. I understand that this kind of "insurance" is what you'd like me to focus on. I just wanted a lot more.

  (4) Make routine sick-child visits affordable so I can have my children seen before minor problems turn into major ones. Oh wait.. you didn't SAY THAT, did you?!?

  In closing, I'd like to thank you for making this change while I am pregnant. It's so nice to know that paying the HIGHEST premiums this year, in exchange for the lowest deductible which is $300 MORE than the deductible I had with our previous company, will be the right choice for me. It's great to be in charge of my own health choices. I feel so empowered.

  Sincerely, Juliana

  p.s. Please don't offer my husband a pay increase to help pay for this, because then we might be in the higher bracket of salaries and have to pay even more for our bi-weekly contributions. Oh wait. You didn't offer.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Thomas and I are sick.

It might not be H1N1, but the doctor didn't want to refer us to a place where we would find out. We're on vacation, people. The flu is the flu.

Or, technically, an "upper respiratory infection" is an "upper respiratory infection." It could just be a common cold because nobody's barfing ... yet.

What this all means is that we're supposed to be in Disneyland right now, but we're not. We're quarantining ourselves for most of a day and letting Thomas and I sleep, sleep, sleep... Elijah is always up for a good nap and Dad is happy to be out of touch with reality, too, since he did an emergency Ibuprofen run at 3:30 a.m. Only our oldest is at the happiest place on earth.

I'm just happy not to be doing dishes and laundry while I'm recovering from whatever-this-is. I'm also happy to be at a hotel that serves up Milano cookies with the nightly turn-down service. I've been swimming twice and I haven't cooked a meal since Monday. Who cares about some measly coughing and skyrocketing fevers (poor Thomas!) when I have so many great things going my way?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Rather (Rah-thuh)

I just finished a great classic novel, Middlemarch by George Eliot. It was quite an impressive epoch and I am glad I discovered it. However, I worry that it has had a negative influence on my speech patterns. I find myself using complicated, pretentious-sounding phrases because that has filled my mind so completely of late. (Ahem.)

Did it rub off on Joseph? He wanted to write me a little letter this morning and I told him to just write whatever was in his heart. The result:

"Dear Mom,

I do hope the baby will function."

I laugh every time I think of this phrase. I think, "Rather, dear!" with an overly dramatized stuffy, old English gentlemen accent. Rah-thuh! I do hope the baby will be perfectly functional, indeed!

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I'm still unsure of how this happens. All is well. All is good. Then I wake up from a nap and uncertainty has overcome me. All my mistakes, all my blunders, all my imperfections are carved in front of me. I stare at them and feel so weak, so helpless.

Maybe I expect too much of myself, or maybe I don't expect enough of myself. I feel that both are true and that knowledge makes me wince.

Sometimes my words echo after they are spoken and I say, "I'm a nice person. I have a gentle voice and pleasant manner of showing others that I care for them." Then I think of all the proof that this isn't true and my words sounds harsh and unforgiving.

I want off this emotional roller coaster.

When I think about the so, so, so many imperfections that define me, I can't help but feel like the video below, which makes me cry every time I watch it. (Surprise, surprise.) If it was easy to perfect myself, wouldn't I do it? But life is not easy. I am bound and trodden down by how difficult it is to be something that I am not, that I want to be.

I know that I am progressing every day to the person whom I will some day be. I think I feel this furnace of imperfection more than many people. Now I will sit and mourn my humanity. Tomorrow I will resolve to see my own divinity.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Islands of Awake

Naps are like little islands of sleep in the middle of an ocean of wakefulness.

What do you call those little islands of wakefulness in the middle of sleep? Shouldn't they have a convenient, little word to describe them? Insomnia refers to a recurring problem and not to the little island itself, so I need something else. Let's see. Wakefulness. Wakeful times ...? WAkeFul Times? WAFT?

I'm sick of WAFTing. I wafted so much last night that I actually came up with the ridiculous little term "WAFT." That tells you how tired and groggy I was. When I waft, my brain goes around in circles and I feel grumpy. I was awake for about two hours last night and felt very grumpy about it. Charity was lost and all I could think about was those pet peeves that drive me crazy about people. How could he...? Why should she...? Why can't they...? I realized what I was doing and tried to rationally call a halt. Then I mentally revisited all the greatest mistakes and disappointments of my life and let guilt and regret seep in for a while. That seemed equally unhealthy and I tried to focus on breathing in and out... in and out... That lasted about two breaths.

I eventually fell back to sleep. I awoke to the sounds of my children talking in blurred excitement. I tried to be nice about it, but I snapped. "I didn't sleep well last night. PLEASE GO DO SOMETHING ELSE!" It wasn't too harsh, but I hate to make my children feel unwanted ... which they were, but I didn't want them to FEEL that way.

I forced myself awake 15 minutes before my oldest left for school, made him two pieces of toast and sent him out the door. Five minutes later I looked at the calendar to plan my day and realized I had missed school pictures. This is not too big of a deal, except that I can imagine my son's hurt confusion when he realizes everybody else has money for pictures, slick hair and a nice shirt. My son left for school with hair poking up in back and lying flat in front (sigh) and a 4-H t-shirt. That's high-class. This will be the class picture to be buried and never remembered. The class picture that Fox News will latch onto when my son is a famous something-or-other. This will be the class picture that his fiance looks at and says, "You certainly did end up looking nicer than you looked in 2nd grade. Isn't it marvelous that we grow up?"

So now I prepare myself for the grumpy little face that will come home. There will be accusation in his eyes and he will be holding back tears as he screams, "YOU FORGOT ABOUT SCHOOL PICTURES!!" Luckily for him, I have a Plan B. I'm going to make sugar cookies for a church activity tonight and they will be sitting here warm and ready to be frosted. I know I shouldn't bribe away anger with sugar, but sugar cookies are very therapeutic. At least, that's what I'm betting on.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Heart palpitations

I'm so disappointed. And scared.

I took a nap and woke up feeling disoriented and sick. Nothing new there. I laid down and watched "The Biggest Loser" feeling like a total loser of the wrong sort.

I forced myself to get up and prepare some semblance of dinner for the kids. I couldn't figure out why I was out of breath. I put my head in my hands and breathed in and out, in and out.

Oh no. Please not this. Not yet. It's only the first trimester and my heart is healthier than it was with the other pregnancies. Please, please, please ... not this ...

I walked over to the clock and put my fingers to my pulse. 128 beats per minute.

128 and I had just been standing in the kitchen. Just standing there, trying to breathe. For my age, a heart rate of 128 is right smack dab in the middle of my target exercise range. Right about where I should be if I'm doing a good cardio workout, which is the way I felt.

No, no, no...

Maybe 128 isn't bad. Maybe that's normal. That's normal, right? Is the breathlessness normal, too?

Although they do not currently specify any particular number, the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists used to recommend keeping your heart rate at under 140 when pregnant and exercising. At this rate, I'm getting in a great workout without doing anything.

To be honest, 128 isn't bad for this kind of episode. When I was pregnant with the twins, my pulse would spike to over 200 unexpectedly. It didn't matter what I was doing. It often happened when I was lying in bed. It scared the crud out of me every time.

It started when I was pregnant with Joseph. The doctor told me to go into labor & delivery if it happened again, so I dutifully went in but the episode had passed. This started a long line of heart tests and cardiologist visits. Sitting in the waiting room where the average age appeared to be 92 or so, I felt old and scared. What was wrong with me?

The cardiologist couldn't tell me. They never could pin it down right when it was happening, but my heart appeared to be working just fine. And after the pregnancies were over, the heart palpitations faded away. I've never forgotten, however, when my cardiologist lightly mentioned that my heart was having trouble doing what it needed to do and yes, technically, he could classify that as heart failure. Maybe the term "heart failure" to him is a broader, less "I NEED TO FREAK OUT ABOUT THE WORDS YOU JUST USED" kind of phrase than it is to me.

So I've been exercising since I had the twins. I've been losing weight. I swore to myself that I'd be healthier during my last pregnancy and if I worked hard enough, this wouldn't happen. I really, honestly, truly, sincerely believed it. Until it happened. Until I was standing there and couldn't catch my breath and my heart was suddenly racing and it wasn't until it had been going on for several minutes that I realized what was happening and got that magic number: 128, and I knew that it had probably been higher than that a minute before and all my best intentions and hopes for a palpitation-free pregnancy had just been blasted apart with a shotgun. And I knew that the tears that were starting to form were not going to be the simple "single tear on cheek" kind of tears. These were going to be big, sobbing tears of disappointment and frustration and if I tried to call anybody to talk about it, I'd fall apart faster than cotton candy that's been thrown in the toilet.

There were only two things left to do:

(1) Text my husband and ask if 128 seemed normal to him?
(2) Blog it away and try to cope

I'm still feeling a little, tiny bit out of breath and freaked out. But I need to move on. I'll call the OB on Monday and just let him know that "they're baaaaaack!" and pray that he doesn't make me stop exercising or start wearing one of those danged uncomfortable EKG holsters that I suffered with twice before. Maybe I should just not tell him...?