Camped out: the exit interview

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During Camp Invention, Lily really got into reverse engineering washed up appliances.

When Lily was in preschool – and Neve was in utero – it dawned on me one day that complicated though our daily life often seemed, it would grow far more complicated when Lily aged out of year-round preschool, and we suddenly had to figure out what to do with her in the summertime. (I was spending my days in a newsroom back then, so my anxiety level spiked just thinking about this not-too-distant future conundrum.)

I asked friends with older kids what on earth they did with them in the summertime.

“We usually do camps, a different one each week,” one said. “So one week is Jedi camp, another is computer camp – things like that.”

I nodded in that way we all do when we’re taking in information and thinking “UH-UH, NO WAY AM I DOING THAT. THAT SOUNDS CUCKOO FOR COCOA PUFFS.”

But guess what? When the time came – Lily returned to her preschool for on-site “camp” the summer after kindergarten and first grade (I registered her for 2-3 camps then, for variety, and to dip our toe in the water), but after second grade, it became clear that Lily was ready, and needed to, move on. 

Yes, there’s a nearby private pool club – that seems to be a culture unto itself – that we may buy our way in to one day, provided we’re willing to swallow the not-cheap bond purchase, as well as the also not-cheap annual membership fee. But even then, I’d still need the time, the quiet, and the space needed to make my freelance work deadlines. The pool would ultimately be somewhere we might go after I pick the girls up from camp, not an all-day option.

So Joe and I finally had to acknowledge the truth that all working parents must face when they’re kids grow out of preschool: you know that crazy weekly day camp thing our friend told us about? Yeaaaaah. That’s probably what we need to do, too. Continue reading

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I lost 7 lbs. in one month – but did I really need to?

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 5.42.56 PM.pngSo where was I?

Oh, yeah. Reluctantly making an appointment with a nutritionist/dietician at my doctor’s urging, because my medical-resident-du-jour thought added weight was the cause of my recently diagnosed (and successfully treated, BTW) sleep apnea.

Not that I felt like there was a problem. I’m in good health, I exercise regularly (including running a few times a week), and while I’ve put on a few pounds – which may have accumulated while my apnea went undiagnosed and untreated for months – I chalked the weight gain up to the ravages of aging and post-layoff stress. I’d been trying to embrace, not fight or go crazy-nuts over, the natural shape of my middle-aged body.

So in mid-July, I found myself in a consult room, feeling like a kid who’d been called down to the principal’s office.

The dietician – a tall woman with long, gray hair – entered, sat down in front of a computer and began asking me questions, beginning with, “What do you want to get out of today’s appointment? Why are you here?”

I shrugged like a moody, petulant teen and said, “I’m not sure. I guess I’m here because the last doctor I saw thought I should try to lose some weight, and that this might solve my sleep apnea issues.”

The uncomfortable, pregnant pause that followed indicated that I had my doubts. Continue reading

My body, myself

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Do I dare eat a peach?

Please, Prufrock. More like, “Do I dare I eat a muffin?”

For a few weeks ago, while visiting my primary care physician’s office to follow-up on my sleep apnea diagnosis, I was told  – by one of the newest additions to the always-churning medical resident carousel at U-M – that my established need for my beloved, miracle-working BiPAP machine at age 46 was troubling.

Not for me, of course. That little machine may well have saved my life, and I’m a happier, better-rested person because of it. I’d totally make out with my BiPAP, if that was a thing.

But it’s troubling to them. The medical establishment. Even though I run 3-4 miles just as many times a week, and take a weekly 90 minute yoga class, plus at least one weightlifting workout, and seem/feel totally healthy, requiring no medications in my daily life.

“Exercise doesn’t have that much affect on weight,” said my resident du jour, annoyingly dismissing my protests. “It’s really more about diet. I’d like you to make an appointment with a nutritionist here.”

Wait – what? Isn’t there a multi-billion dollar industry built on the idea that workouts equal weight loss? Why the hell am I subscribing to Beachbody on Demand, ugly-sweating with Shaun T in my living room once or twice a week? And why in God’s name are doctors keeping this a secret from us all?!

I DECLARE SHENANIGANS!!! Continue reading

How cultural critiques in ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ surprised the crap out of me

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 11.42.37 PM.pngPotty humor, fart jokes – these have never been my thing.

Even in childhood, which is normally a kind of golden age for scatological humor, I remember feeling condescended to every time a kids’ movie or party performer resorted to passing gas for laughs. (Ever the cultural critic-in-training, I thought the pint-sized equivalent of, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? Maybe you should put in a little more effort.” And then I probably yawned, like a pretentious little jerk. But seriously. Mini-me kind of had a point.)

So, resolved: I’ve long been dubious about the comedic value of poop, pee, and farting, which has made parenting young kids – who are constantly talking, and cracking up, about these very things – an eye-roll-inducing trip. It’s begun to feel like ironic karma, as has my two daughters’ longstanding affection for Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books.

You know where this is going, right?

Yep. This mom that made a rule a few years back about “no potty words at the table when we’re eating” found herself in a multiplex theater on opening day for “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” Because “Tra la la!!” – the hubs needed to go to a work thing, and taking the kids to an air conditioned theater after school sounded like an easy, welcome escape hatch. Continue reading

(Nearly Empty) Ring of Keys

IMG_1536.JPGA couple of months ago, I lost my keys.

And like many an overwhelmed, middle-aged parent of young ones, I’d accumulated so many keys over the years that I didn’t even know what some of them were for anymore. A bike lock I’d lost years ago, maybe? Our old house (which has been rented out to others for more than a decade now)? Random luggage padlocks? One of those steering wheel locks that were absurdly ubiquitous in the 90s (a/k/a The Club)? A fob for the girls’ old preschool, and another for entering the now-defunct AnnArbor.com newsroom after-hours?

Yes, my over-packed, out-of-date key ring was the ticket for my daily trip down Befogged Memory Lane. It felt weighty and full and solid in my hand. It vaguely hinted at what lay behind me, as well as my more current responsibilities.

Of course, we all occasionally lose track of our keys, and usually, it’s a stressful-but-temporary blip. After frantic searching, we’ll find them hanging from the front door’s knob, or in a coat pocket. So I didn’t think much of it at first. In fact, I quickly determined what must have happened. Because my library card is on my key ring, too, I was sure that when I went down the street to check out a few books I’d had on reserve, I must have left the keys at the self-check-out counter.

But it turns out that I hadn’t. And I’d already checked everywhere else. Continue reading

Rest stop: my painfully slow path to apnea diagnosis & treatment

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Me in the sleep lab. Sorry, fellas, I’m taken!

This all started last spring, when I started waking in the morning to an empty bed. And contrary to my first guess, Joe hadn’t gotten up early to work. Instead, I found him wrapped up in a blanket on the living room couch, asleep.

“I’d gotten up to use the bathroom at about 4 in the morning,” he’d told me, “and I just couldn’t get back to sleep because you were snoring so loudly.”

Whaaaaaa? Me, snoring?

I’d never been a snorer before. That was what we’d made fun of my dad for, when we were kids crammed in a hotel room, or when he snoozed on the couch after dinner. That wasn’t ME.

“Really?” I winced, initially resisting this adjustment in my sense of self. “Huh. That’s weird.”

Joe’s pre-dawn exodus quickly became an established pattern, though, rather than a seemingly flukey occurrence. I felt guilty and embarrassed and humiliated and helpless about it, often starting to cry while apologizing. (I’m not particularly girly, yet there’s still something profoundly un-feminine and boorish and ugly about snoring your partner right out of your bedroom each night.)

Why was this suddenly happening, on top of my layoff? I asked myself. Considering the stress-induced root canal I just had, was this yet another way that my body manifested my job-loss?

Because this one particular piece of the puzzle has always been clear. I carry loads of tension around in my body, especially in my shoulders and neck, and weekly yoga classes over the past decade or so have done little to change that; in addition, I’ve been grinding my teeth while sleeping (a/k/a bruxism) since I was a kid. So while I may succeed in presenting a low-key face to the world much of the time, behind that facade is a panicked woman in a compressed air booth, desperately clawing at to-do list items and family calendar entries.

Also, when I occasionally cash in a gift certificate or just treat myself to a professional massage, the masseuse, upon first touching my upper back, always says, “Oh” or “Wow,” in a tone that reads, “I don’t know if I can work all these kinks out in the time we have.”

So as miserable as I was about the snoring, I thought, Well, give yourself a break. Maybe after you push through this rough patch in your life and come out the other side, it will leave as suddenly as it came.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t. Continue reading