Tag Archives: stuff most of you probably don’t care about

The Naming of Dreams and Ghosts

The first thing I ever named was a baby doll. She had molded plastic limbs and a molded plastic head sewn to a soft cloth-stuffed body. I may not have even been the one to name her, since I don’t remember a time before I had her. She was called Molly, which may have been because it rhymed with dolly. My mom made doll clothes for her and for my sister’s baby doll, Mimi; I remember one Christmas in particular when we woke up and our dolls had matching outfits. She was also nearly newborn-sized, so actual baby clothes fit as well.

It wasn’t until I had been an adult for quite some time that I realized her eventual death was fitting with her name, as she was mauled apart by a dog, her stuffing torn out and tooth marks all over her feet and face.

* * * * * * *

You were my first-ever baby in a dream, a little boy with white-blonde hair and blue eyes. I named you Chase for the boy who would have been your father, had you been real, because it described exactly how I felt about him, even after a year into the relationship. I’m glad you never existed, just as I’m glad I stopped chasing the boy. Now that boy has two nieces and one of them has his eyes, and when I see photos of her I am haunted by the dream baby.

* * * * * * * *

I’d wanted a cat for so long, and after he moved in with me we decided to find one at the shelter where our neighbor volunteered. We went three times before we found you. You had the most unusual face and you’d had a really rough early life, so we named you Petra because the enemy’s gate was down. You were our first “baby,” and our first experience mourning together. We still miss you every day.

* * * * * * *

We’d been together for years and talked about the future all the time, couched carefully in hypothetical terms. Someday, and maybe, and might, and what if. What if we got married, he said. Whose name would we use? Not yours, I said. Not yours, he said. Let’s think of a new name, and so we named you Stryker, a blend of our heritages as denoted by the letters of our last names. Long before we were officially engaged, we’d named the baby family we’d already started to build long since.

* * * * * * *

Two years into trying to conceive and a year after our diagnosis, I had a dream about you. There were two of you, two little girls born sooner than you should have been and so you were in the NICU. To give you strength, we named you Arya and Lane after two of the strongest females we knew. We were a team, united in our love for you and wanting only for you to grow and be healthy enough to come home.

* * * * * * *

The very first cycle we tossed the birth control and started trying for a baby, my period was a week later than it had ever been. The night before I peed on my first-ever negative pregnancy test, I had dreams all night. The one I remember most is the dream of a baby girl. We named her Alice, for my maternal great-grandmother, descended from Irish royalty.

We named her Alice, after my sister.

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The might-have-been

In the morning, I baked a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin I processed a week ago, and an apple/blackbery pie with blackberries I picked this summer and froze, in between diaper changes and efforts to keep grubby fingers out of cabinets.

In the afternoon, the pies were loaded into the car, alongside the carseat. We drove to grandma’s house, stopping along the way to pick up whipping cream. I waited in the car and sang songs while Dan ran into the store, and when we arrived we unloaded the pies and all the things you pack when you bring a baby someplace.

Instead of a glass of wine with the hummus and veggie appetizers, I had a glass of water, because my eight-month-old needed to eat a couple of times. He’s just at a stage where he’s smiley and happy to play with all the adults in his life who love him. He even has his own highchair at grandma’s.

I learned more about my cousin’s trip to Africa and told her about what my 13-month-old could do now that she hadn’t been able to do before my cousin left in July. I showed her the pictures of my sister’s wedding, with Dan holding our daughter in the big family photo.

As we ate, our 16-month-old had his own tray of potatoes and green beans to nosh on. We even gave him a few pieces of grip-sized turkey to practice with. He made a big mess as usual, but the dogs were thrilled to have little bits of people food to clean up off the floor.

Toward the end of the meal, everyone went around the table and mentioned something we’re thankful for. I gave silent thanks that our 18-month-old was healthy and developmentally normal. After dinner, she lurched around like Frankenstein after the dogs and we Skyped with her other grandparents in Colorado. Her favorite part of the meal was the little bit of apple from the slice of apple pie on my plate.

My favorite part of the meal was having a child there to share it with us.

Closed doors, open windows

You know, it’s funny that I don’t seem to be capable of writing here especially often these days. I guess my day-to-day life is so uneventful that the few thoughts that come to mind, the few events that make one day different from another, seem more suited to the 140 characters of twitter than to a longform writing.

I’m taking photos of the spring, and I’m exercising, and I’m working on projects for babies, and I’m job hunting madly, but none of those things seem especially bloggable. Last week I had the most exciting day in months, because a job I applied for back in January, a job that seemed tailor-made for my skills and experience, looked for a brief, shining moment like a job I could be offered. It was the first job interview I’d been on since May of 2004, and I got all in a fluster about what I should wear and how I should prepare. The interview itself went well, I thought, with four people in a tiny windowless room asking me questions about things. Afterward, Dan and I had lunch with a friend who lives in the area where I interviewed, a friend who is now 35 weeks pregnant. It was lovely to see her, but perhaps not the wisest choice, as I was a) very hormonal, and b) stressed out about the job interview. I managed to hold it together until we got home, and then I cried because that nearly baby was conceived on the second try (the first try resulted in a very early miscarriage). She’s due right around our wedding anniversary, and we know these friends because of our wedding (she and I met on indiebride and we found our wedding photographer through them). They own a house and are having their one child and both of them are in established careers.

And where are we? Jobless, living off the largesse of my mother (thank you again, Mom, for letting us live in your house), in a small town. No children, no pregnancies, no house, no careers. Not much to show for the nearly three years we’ve been married when you look at things in a conventional way. I cried when we got home, because my friend will soon have a baby and I will not, and because she was beautiful and very pregnant, and because I hadn’t had the guts to go to her baby shower, instead making excuses about gas money and wear and tear on the car. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to make that long drive for just a baby shower, but I made it without comment for a job interview, and the real reason I didn’t go was because I knew I couldn’t handle a baby shower. I sent a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl (friends, if you have baby girls, this is a book I will give you) and the blanket for their daughter is about half finished, but I just couldn’t make myself pretend to be happy for someone else’s impending baby that day.

From the initial call to schedule the interview, I knew that they had more first interviews on Tuesday of this week, so I knew not to expect any word about additional interviews or job offers until late Tuesday at the earliest. I spent the weekend alternately excited about my chances, making logistical plans about how to commute, and looking at houses between the east bay and Sacramento on craigslist (I found one both awesome and affordable, in case we needed it.) I didn’t write about it here because I thought, what a story to tell if I ended up being offered the job – first interview, job offer, an excellent, well-paying position doing exciting work for a brand new program. And if I didn’t get the job, then there wouldn’t have to be any follow-up about it.

At around 8:30 PM Tuesday night I got an email thanking me for my time and letting me know I would not be considered for the position.

I felt like a complete idiot, getting myself all excited and worked up. I thought I had an excellent chance for a variety of reasons, but apparently there was someone they liked better for the position, or at least they didn’t like me enough to ask me to come back for a second interview. Poof went the pipe dreams about the house and adding to our savings account and moving closer to family and friends and all that time I would have been commuting on the train. Poof went my (admittedly quite fragile these days) self-esteem. I let myself cry a few times on Tuesday night, and I spent part of Wednesday watching Downton Abbey via netflix in the bed while Dan baked me cookies. I needed to be kind to myself, because clearly the world wasn’t doing me any favors.

Really, the biggest reason why I’m not writing here much these days is that I don’t even know who I am right now. I’m a wife, but I’m not a mom and I’m not an employee. I’m a daughter, but I don’t have a vocation or a passion. I’ve been trying like mad to come up with a name for my wee side business doing wedding flowers I’ve been trying to start up for ages, but every name I like seems to either already be taken or not convey the message I want potential clients to get. I need a name before I can put up a website, which I need to do ASAP because I’ve already got some clients (including a high-profile one) and I want to put myself out there because at least it would be a project to commit myself to and work to do, even if it’s just a little bit here and there.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dan was in the middle of taking the first batch of cookies out of the oven when the placement agency he’s been working with off and on in San Francisco called to offer him a one-day job in the city. He’s on his way home now, having worked (for pay) for seven hours, his first actual job since before Christmas. At least one of us is.

Everything was beautiful

My big Christmas present from Dan this year was tickets to the San Francisco ballet. Because he wasn’t sure if the tickets would come in the mail in time, he photoshopped up a beautiful 8.5×11 mock poster. I was so excited to be able to spend an evening in the city and to watch a professional ballet, because with the exception of seeing Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut a few times, I hadn’t been to the ballet since we saw Cinderella for my birthday in Denver several years back. I love seeing live performances, especially of ballet, but it’s rare that I get to do it, primarily because of the cost. It was the perfect Christmas present.

Our tickets to the ballet were for February 4, so last Wednesday we solicited restaurant recommendations in the neighborhood of the Opera House from our friends who know the city better than we do. We got all gussied up in our finery (me in a dress and tights I’d gotten for Christmas, he in his swanky suit) and drove the 90 miles south on Highway 101, somehow managing to time our journey perfectly to avoid rush-hour traffic pretty much the entire way and still getting to see the sun setting on the Pacific Ocean as we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge. Our luck continued; we found a parking spot easily between the Opera House and the restaurant we’d settled on (Domo Sushi), and we strolled to Domo and ordered edamame, nigiri and a couple of unusual rolls, sitting at the bar to watch the master sushi chefs at work. Our dinner was light and delicious, and we had plenty of time to walk to and explore the opulent San Francisco Opera House before it was time to find our seats in the balcony. We were right in the front of a section, so didn’t have to look over anyone’s heads, and the lights gleamed off the chandelier as the orchestra warmed up. The curtain rose on this season’s production of Giselle.

* * * * * * * *

A week ago Saturday, a young man drove up to the Sierra Nevada ski resort area, strapped on a helmet and set out for a day of downhill snow sports. He and his new fiancee had recently bought a house in San Francisco, and he had everything going for him, including a 24-year-old sister who loved him dearly. The man didn’t live through the end of the day, as during one of his runs, he collided with a tree, and despite the helmet did not survive his massive injuries. I didn’t find out until last Monday, when my sister emailed me to let me know that her roommate was grieving for yet another family member whose life was cut short. I never met the man, but my sister’s roommate is also one of her closest friends and has attended many of our family events (weddings, holidays, parties, the meet cute of sister with her Irish boyfriend) over the years, so to me she’s become another part of our extended family. My heart hurts for her, yet there’s no words that I or anyone else can say that will make things better.

* * * * * * * * * *

Giselle is one of the oldest classical ballets still being performed. The music is iconic; the choreography hasn’t changed much since the 1840s, and the role of the main character is sought after not only for its notoriety but also its difficulty: physically, mentally, emotionally. Giselle is the story of a young peasant girl in the middle ages who falls in love with a man she meets. She thinks he is a peasant like herself, but he is actually a disguised Duke, already engaged to another woman. The first act of the ballet tells this story of love and betrayal, and we see the free-spirited (yet physically weak) Giselle fall in love, discover her beloved’s true identity, go mad, and collapse of a (literal) broken heart.

* * * * * * * * * * *

A few weeks ago, Dan and I were wandering around town exploring and taking photos. There are some parts of Cloverdale I’ve never seen despite living here for seven years as a kid/teenager, and one of those is the cemetery on the town side of First Street bridge. We’d been riding by it on our bikes for months and walking by it on our way to the River Walk, but never gone to check it out. Sadly, it wasn’t as interesting as the Olive Hill cemetery, but I was interested to see how old the oldest graves were (1870s) and also to see that very few people had been buried there since the 1960s. (The most recent marker I found was from 2001, and it was a large family plot.) Because it isn’t a Catholic cemetery, there isn’t as much traditional statuary; only a few angels and a few large monuments; most of the grave markers were traditional headstones or flat against the ground. Many of the older markers mentioned the person’s origin – I saw people from Scotland, Nova Scotia, various Eastern European countries, and all of them lived at least part of their lives all the way over here on the West Coast in this little town.

While we were walking through the cemetery, Dan and I talked about trends in death markers, and why people put so much less emphasis on leaving a lasting monument anymore. These days, even with people who are cremated, it seems one is more likely to be buried under a small metal plaque flush against a green lawn rather than anything made of marble. And what is a death marker for, anyway, other than for the benefit of the survivors, to have a place to come and…visit? Maybe that works if you’re religious, but for me it doesn’t make any sense at all. I told Dan that when I die I’d much rather have my name on a park bench someplace, or a plaque on a wall at a museum or a science center I loved and supported. I’d rather the monument to me be useful to those still living – a donation made to a worthy cause, a place for weary hikers or adventurous picnickers to rest their butts, or even a place for a homeless person to sleep.

* * * * * * * * *

Yesterday, Dan and I were out running an errand in Alexander Valley, northeast of Healdsburg, when we drove past a sign that made me take pause. On our way home, I asked him to stop at the side of the road so I could look at it more carefully. “Ben’s Butte,” it said “In loving memory of Ben Black, March 24 1978 – August 11 2001.” My heart sank in my chest, because this is a small area, population-wise, and there’s no way there could be that many Ben Blacks born in 1978. I knew exactly who Ben Black was. One of my earliest memories of preschool is of climbing a play structure with my friends, trying to get away from Ben Black and his friend Casey who were play-chasing us. He and his friends used to pretend to be the Incredible Hulk in the sandbox. When I was very young, I had a high fever while cutting some teeth, and in my fever hallucinations Ben and Casey were shooting arrows at us on that play structure. Ben was about a year older than me, and when I skipped second grade I skipped into his classroom. He was good-natured and treated me well even though I was this little smart girl so much smaller than all the other kids in the class. We moved to Cloverdale after 5th grade and I guess Ben went to Healdsburg High School, and I never gave him another thought until yesterday when I saw that he’d died nearly 10 years ago. Ben was 23 when he died, a senseless hit-and-run motorcycle accident.

* * * * * * * *

It’s shocking to us, now, when someone who is young and healthy dies. Modern medicine has enabled mortally wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in previous wars. It has rid us or nearly rid us of some childhood diseases, and it’s so rare for anyone to die at 23 or 30 that it makes the news. In August 2001, when Ben Black was killed, I was living in Berkeley, in a new long-distance relationship with Dan. My sister’s roommate’s brother was right around my age, and was taking all recommended precautions and died anyway. Back when Giselle was set (the middle ages) and written/first performed (the mid-1800s) people had a much more respectful relationship with death. Many people didn’t have medical care, and young, healthy people could and did die all the time – in childbirth, of infections, in wars. People put up monuments to commemorate the lives of lost loved ones (age 6 days, age 12 years, age 29), many of which still stand centuries or more after the last person who ever knew the skeleton underneath the monument when they were alive shuffled off their own mortal coils.

* * * * * * *

Whenever I think of someone dying young, a miscarriage at 6 weeks or 17 weeks, a newborn, an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, a young adult, a person in his or her prime, it always makes me think of the lost potential. What would that person have been? What would he or she have done with additional life? Who would she have loved, who would have loved him? It’s sometimes difficult for me to know what is worse – the death of a person who has lived some but has so much more possibility, or the death of a person who never lived much at all. Regardless, what really matters in the grand scheme of things is that people are remembered by the ones who loved them, loved the potential, loved the deeds and actions.

* * * * * *

I don’t believe in life after death, but in 1840-something nearly everyone did. In Act 2 of Giselle, she has become one of the Wilis, the spirits of women betrayed or jilted before their wedding days, who take revenge on living men by making them dance to death. The Duke who loved Giselle visits her grave and is caught by the Wilis, who order him to dance until he drops. His life is spared by the impassioned Giselle, imploring the queen of the Wilis to take pity on him. Even after death, she is able to do something to help her still-living lover.

* * * * * * *

There is only one upside I see to the senseless, tragic death of a healthy young person, and that is organ donation. There are many, many people who spend months or years waiting for a healthy organ to replace one that is diseased, malformed, or nonfunctional. One of my friends has undergone two heart replacement surgeries and is still alive and healthy in his mid-30s, all thanks to two donors who had marked that checkbox at the DMV saying that someone could use their organs if they didn’t need them anymore. Dan and I have both agreed that if one of us dies young and relatively healthy, that our parts should be given away to people who might be able to use them. I don’t know whether Ben Black or the friend’s brother were organ donors, but even if they were not, many other people who have died tragically young in accidents have been able to help others with the gift of life. With the exception of religious objection, why not agree to donate your in good working order parts to people who can use them when you know you will no longer be able to do so?

Custom Jeans

Last year for Christmas, either my sister or her husband had me in the “immediate family” Secret Santa gift exchange. Whichever one of them it was got me a gift certificate for a pair of jeans from a custom-fit jeans company based in the Bay Area, good for one year from date of purchase. At the time, I was really excited about the idea of having a pair of jeans that was made specifically to my body type and shape, since finding jeans that a) fit, and b) look good on me (specifically my giant ass), and c) don’t cost ONE MEELYON DOLLARS is a dicey proposition at best. My very, very muscular legs and butt and odd torso-to-leg-length ratio have never been easy to fit, even when I was at my thinnest adult size (probably right around the time Dan and I met, although I might have been smaller during the post-college-boyfriend breakup time because I didn’t eat anything for about a month). It seems as though while I keep getting older and getting larger, I’m getting larger proportionately, so I have the same issues in finding good jeans no matter what size the label says I am.

It was a great Christmas present. But I was also 5 cycles in to trying to get pregnant and so I decided to put off ordering the jeans, thinking for SURE I’d be pregnant within a month or two and wouldn’t be able to wear them for a long, long time, so maybe I should wait and see what my body would turn out to be like post-pregnancy? I put the folded up printout of the groupon in the book Dan gave me for Christmas (Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants) and pointedly didn’t think about it. Or if I didn’t get pregnant right away, I’d for sure be losing some weight soon (something I intended to do before getting knocked up so seeing the numbers go up on the scale wouldn’t be quite so horrifying), so I should wait to order the jeans until I was at my newer, more svelte size. I didn’t think about it some more as the months went on, and I still didn’t get pregnant, and even though I was spending an average of eight hours in the gym a week, I wasn’t getting any smaller.

I had my body fat tested at my gym in early July, before we went on our long cross-country road trip, and the calipers said I was at a low-normal 18.6%. I knew that I wasn’t going to be getting any smaller unless I stopped lifting weights or stopped eating altogether, so I gave up on the idea of shrinking and tried to make peace with my Williams-sister-esque body. At the time, we were about to make the decision to start the testing process to see why, precisely, I wasn’t getting knocked up, and if it was due to low body fat or overexercising there was no way I wanted to make things worse by trying to lose weight or stepping up the exercise. (It wasn’t, obviously, because that would be easy to solve.) In the back of my head, I knew there was a pair of custom-made jeans just waiting for me to order them, but I thought once we had the testing done and we knew better about what was going on that we’d be able to fix it and I’d get pregnant and that would be that.

Once we had the test results in, it was clear that there was no easy fix. And then we moved to California, and all of our books got packed up in boxes, trucked to California, and have been living in the garage ever since, just waiting for their next journey to wherever we settle once one of us (or both! please let it be both, soon!) gets a job. Of course, all of our books included Odd and the Frost Giants – stashed somewhere in the 20-some boxes of books we moved from Colorado.

Since we’ve been here in California, Dan and I have done our best to stay physically active and to eat as healthily as we always have. I will admit that I’ve eaten more bread in the last two months than I ever did in a full year in Denver, but that’s only because bread here tastes SO GOOD. But other than that, our diets haven’t really changed – we eat mostly fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and good fats, with some chocolate every day because what is life without chocolate? We’ve been going on long bike rides at least once and sometimes twice a week, and on the days we don’t ride our bikes we’re doing yard work, house projects, and several days a week do 15 minutes of dedicated exercise in the house, him with his sledgehammer and me doing crunches, leg lifts, lunges with free weights, jumping jacks, and pushups. It’s not an hour or two in the gym every day like I used to do, but it’s better than nothing. I thought maybe if I wasn’t doing a lot of weight lifting for a while, some of that muscle I had would atrophy a bit and I’d shrink again, and on Thanksgiving I wore a pair of pants I hadn’t put on since last spring, and they fit quite comfortably, so I don’t think I’m getting any bigger.

This morning, I stepped out of the shower and looked at myself in the full-length mirrored doors of the master bedroom. What I saw made me feel horrible. I had a big body image freakout, and had to spend a few minutes talking myself down from the dysmorphia demons that seem to lurk around every corner. Then, I looked at the calendar and realized I needed to use that custom jeans groupon soon, or I’d never be able to use it. Luckily, Dan thought he remembered which box held the book with the printout and was able to find it pretty quickly – “It was right on top!” he said. I began the ordering process with a sinking heart, because I knew I’d have to put in some actual body measurements.

My waist may be larger than it was when we got married, but it isn’t with additional fat, just additional muscle. Nevertheless, it made me want to punish myself for being bigger than I’ve ever measured myself in my life – one of the main reasons why I almost never measure myself and never weigh myself, because the numbers make everything worse, even worse than looking at myself naked in a full-length mirror.

Jeans successfully ordered, I started to think about why it had taken me so long to get around to doing it. I knew that I wasn’t getting any smaller, and I certainly wasn’t getting pregnant like I thought. I guess it was just the last vestige of hope, that one bit of magical thinking that if I ordered the jeans, it was truly admitting that I wasn’t going to get pregnant at all without that serious medical intervention. I was admitting that my body wasn’t the ideal shape and size I’ve been fighting since childhood to have, and it really isn’t ever going to be that way again unless I contract a wasting disease or fall back into those old horrible disordered eating patterns. I just hope that the custom jeans make my ass look good enough that I won’t care it’s so many sizes larger than the jerk in my brain tells me it should be.

Maybe, with the right amount of luck and hard work, I will get pregnant someday. And I guess post-child(ren) my goal will be to get back into those custom jeans I ordered on December 2, 2010, when my body was at a healthy shape and size, I was strong enough to ride 33 miles on my bike, or go on a 12 mile ride and feel like it was easy. But if I never do? If I’m only able to wear those custom jeans for six months, and I’m never able to wear them again after the hypothetical babies come? It will still be worth it, because I’ll have a physical record of what I looked like, what my body shape and size were, right at this moment in time.

18.6

While I don’t write much about it anymore, my quest for physical fitness, good health, and looking at least OK in my clothes carries on in full force these days. I’m taking Zumba classes at my gym in addition to my weight circuits (40,000+ lbs a pop these days), elliptical hamstering, rowing, recumbent bicycling, and free-weight lifting, and for the last week I’ve even been swimming (at another gym that we have to drive to, but at least it’s a Y and therefore free). I’ve been eating a salad and vegetables and fruit for lunch every day for several months now, and while my clothes aren’t exactly falling off me, I’m feeling more comfortable with the way I look in real life if still not in photographs. (Because I still feel like I look TERRIBLE in photos.)

Last Thursday, I bit the bullet and signed up to have someone pinch my fat in various parts with scientific calipers in order to determine my body fat percentage. It’s something I’ve been curious about for a while, since I haven’t had it tested at all in a few years, and haven’t had it tested with calipers since I was 22 years old and had just started going to the gym I frequented in San Francisco the year I worked there. The other body fat tests I’ve had done in the interim were with some sort of hand-held electric gadget that had questionable validity (especially since I always guesstimate my weight, as I don’t weigh myself at all ever.) I was really, really not looking forward to the pinching and the judging and the inevitable disappointment at the result that I was sure would happen, but I figured that since it was free and since it had been several years I should probably just get it done. I’ve got a body that builds muscle like crazy so BMI and weight aren’t necessarily good indicators of my health but I knew a body fat test would tell me something that just going by clothing fit wouldn’t.

I did my workout and then went into the little room with the scary lady trainer whose classes I will never take because the ropes on her neck freak me out and she pinched me a bunch of times in seven different places – back of my arm, two places on my back, above my knee, next to my belly button, below my ribcage, and someplace else I am forgetting. She had a hard time getting a reading in some of the places, maybe because I had just exercised, I dunno, and it hurt more than I was expecting it to. She plugged each number into a calculator on her computer and then pushed the button.

“18.6”, she said.

Internet, that cannot be right. There is no way on this green earth that my body fat is that low. I think that either she didn’t measure in the right places, the measurements in those places are not indicative of my overall body fat profile, or the fact that I worked out beforehand skewed the results. There is no way in hell that 9 years and 15ish pounds after my first caliper test that my body fat is the same. While it was a bit thrilling at first, because I was expecting to hear a number in the mid-twenties at the lowest, I’ve spent the last several days thinking about how there’s just no way it can be right. I have come to the conclusion that I just carry my fat in different areas than the 7-point test measures, because the only place she measured where I have obvious chub is next to my belly button. But if she’d done something on my upper thigh, my ass, or my hip/side area, there would have been plenty to pinch.

At this point I’m considering asking someone else to redo the test, or asking if I can be tested with the handheld gadget, to get some additional data. I did the math, and if my body fat really is as low as this test indicates, it means that my overall lean mass (i.e., the part that isn’t fat) is more pounds than I weighed for most of college. And if that’s the case, I don’t think there’s anything I’ll ever be able to do, short of a wasting disease that makes me lose lean mass, to get any smaller than I am right now.

* * * * * * *

I mentioned the results of my test to a few people over the weekend, with mixed reactions. Most people agreed with me that it’s likely the test was inaccurate, but one person suggested that I cut all sugar and carbs for two weeks and I’d be pleased with the results.

You know what?

No.

No, I will not give up an entire food group. I have been reading various bloggers write about their experiences with various eating plans and lifestyle changes and I’m happy that raw food or vegan or raw vegan or gluten-free or casein-free or GFCF or low carb or no carb or sugar free or paleo or caveman or fasting or WHATEVER works for you. But please do not suggest that I partake in it.

It is possible that if I stop eating X thing for Y amount of time that I will lose some weight, or my shape will change, or magical unicorns will fly out of my butt. But it is also possible that it will go from a change in my eating habits to an obsession and spiral into another eating disorder, which is something I’m just not interested in. And you know what? I *like* food. I like to eat. I like vegetables, and fruits, and chocolate, and nuts, and hot food, and cold food, and protein in various forms, and legumes, and grains. I like bread. I like dessert. I like cheese. I like alcohol, including hard cider. I like all sorts of ethnic foods, and I like all-American foods, and I’m not going to spend my life depriving myself of eating things I like in moderation. I’ve had times when I cut my food intake pretty severely while continuing to exercise excessively and it turned me into a raging harpy. I’d prefer not to be a raging harpy, and it’s taken me years to get to the place where I am in regards to food. It’s fuel, it’s entertainment, it’s good. I do restrict things like simple carbs (stuff made with white flour and white sugar) but mostly I do it because I feel the most healthy when I’m not eating that stuff. My heart doesn’t race, I don’t end up with blood sugar crashes, and I feel healthier. That said, there are times when I do eat junk (though it’s rare, and I usually pair it with some sort of protein in order to stave off the blood sugar crash).

So. I may have 18.6% body fat, or I may not. (I’m guessing not.) I may eat junk sometimes. And I refuse to let other people attempt to coerce me into doing something I don’t want to do: namely, give up eating things I enjoy for an elusive, likely unattainable, and unrealistic goal of looking like women’s magazines say I should. My body is strong and healthy and I can use it to swim or bike or climb a mountain. I’ve made my peace with it, for the most part, and I don’t want to let the experiences of anyone else drag me back toward body dysmorphia.

Sobering

Last weekend, I flew down to San Antonio to help my mom handle some necessary in-person business that had to be conducted surrounding the care and condition of my great aunt. She’s had some recent health issues that necessitated moving her (temporarily, we hope) into the nursing care facility associated with her assisted living place, and nobody in the family had been able to get the answers we wanted from the care givers (the rest of the close family being in China and Canada), so my mom flew from California and I flew from here and we spent four days visiting my aunt and speaking to her caregivers.

The visit wasn’t easy. It was difficult for a number of reasons, both logistical and emotional. I did all of the driving between San Antonio and New Braunfels, where we stayed in my aunt’s empty house, and navigating strange freeways while dealing with crazy drivers wasn’t exactly relaxing (especially when we got lost or when I almost hit a dog that ran across the road). But really, it was the difficulty of seeing my aunt, always so active and healthy, depressed and so unhappy she only wanted to lay in a bed all day.

Over the course of the four days we were there, we brought her to her apartment a couple of times and even got her to take a shower, which perked her up quite a bit. The last day we were there, we sat with her while she ate her lunch in the dining area rather than her bed, and she went to physical therapy, someplace she’d insisted she’d “only been once” (in reality, 5 days a week for a couple of hours a day). (I think she prefers to remember things she enjoys; clearly she remembered we were coming to visit from one day to the next, but in discussing topics she didn’t like, she’d forget in just a few minutes.) She gets into mental loops even worse than she did last fall, and it takes a lot more effort than it used to to get her to talk about something other than how she’s had a great life, a great childhood, a great adulthood, and now she’s ready for the next thing. I think that her caregivers have equated this “I am ready to die” talk she does with “I’m going to intentionally self-harm,” which is not the case at all. While she’s currently weak because of her recent health issues, I don’t think she’d ever do anything to actually try to kill herself.

And that, right there, was the hardest part of the trip. To hear my joyful, full-of-life aunt talk about how she’s ready to go anytime was, quite frankly, depressing as hell. But there are so many things she can’t do that she always enjoyed (socializing, dancing, swimming, etc.) because she can’t see very well. And a recent ear infection has left her completely deaf in one ear. Even reading and writing are difficult for her because of her vision. So I don’t blame her for being depressed and miserable. And her short-term memory is completely shot, and I think she knows it, and we’re wondering whether there’s some dementia going on as well.

While we were at Edy’s house, I got stung by a paper wasp on my left arm. I took this photo in the bathroom, and now, over a week later, I’ve still got the pink circle (though the actual bite site is less itchy). I got about 20 mosquito bites as well, trying to steal wireless from a neighbor in the backyard. It was surreal, staying in Edy’s house with my mom, which is still full of her things and her dolls, both of our minds elsewhere, and a wasp bite to add insult to injury.

I woke up each morning to a herd of male deer in the backyard. (The first morning, one of them was uabashedly peeing right by the window). I thought about the years she spent in the house with her husband, and the years she spent in the house alone. I thought about the end of life, whether it happens due to an accident or due to an illness or due to just plain wearing out. Knowing that when people get to a certain point, generally either the mind goes before the body or the body goes before the mind isn’t at all comforting, and I found myself wishing, like Edy did aloud, that there was just a button one could push when one was ready to go.

It’s hard to know what the right thing is, for someone who is maybe no longer capable of making their own decisions or caring for themselves. My aunt may live a few more months, or a few more years, or a decade. My mom, who lost all of her parents before she was in her mid-20s, has to go through end-of-life care with a person who is, for all intents and purposes, a surrogate mother to her. It’s hard to know how to put into words everything I feel about death and dying, about the end of a long and well-lived life, about how I want to live my life and how I’d like the end of it to go. I spent nearly a week working on this post, and it still doesn’t say the right things. This sort of thing isn’t easy for anyone.