Monday, May 26, 2014

Weak Warrior

I used to be an athlete. I swam, ran, and played soccer--sometimes all three in one season. I would push myself to my limit and beyond, especially with the running, and often I was injured. I felt like a warrior with battle wounds to prove it. I sprained my ankle several times, had knee issues, a bone chip in my hip, and a stress fracture in my lower back. But I gave it my all and only sat on the sidelines when forced to by the doctors. I even ran while having Mono, where my under 6 minute mile became a slow, inflated 8 minute mile.

Each injury had a badge of sorts: a brace, crutches, ace bandages, medical tape--you name it. They were tokens for all to see that I pushed myself that far for my team, that I should be proud. I would get attention from people, even the popular students who never made an effort to acknowledge my existence before my injury. I was interesting to them now. My name was in the announcements along with the win and they saw the dedication I gave to my team, school, and myself. I was never ashamed of my injuries, frustrated maybe, but deep down very proud of them.

My athletic prowess began to rapidly decline after I turned 19 and was almost nonexistent by 25. Part of the problem was an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. I like to write, read, and my job consists of a lot of grading. Therefore, a large portion of my day consists of sitting around. I rarely have time to exercise, like ever, not even 20 minutes to spare. To exercise I'd need to give up something that I thoroughly enjoy or must do. Exercising fell by the wayside to parenting, writing, grading, housework, etc. Sporadically, I get the itch to exercise or run again and so I start but life's demands soon interrupt and the routine falls apart and then pales into insignificance. 

Two months ago, I was determined to lose those last 5 pounds of baby weight and started working out. Just Pilates and Yoga, but the third day I overdid it. I was sore the next day, my quads very tight, and my knees aching with every step I took. That evening when I stepped over the safety gate that keeps my son in his room, my kneecap dislocated and I fell hard to the ground bashing my head on the door frame, my body taking down the gate. I wanted to vomit when I saw my kneecap on the side of my leg, and the empty space where it had been. I had never experienced so much pain in my life. Worse than childbirth, surgery, bladder infections--it was the absolute worst pain I've ever experienced. I screamed out repeatedly regardless of my son sleeping and begged my husband to put it back in place or to call an ambulance. I knew the pain would lessen if I could just get it back in place, so beating the pain, I straightened my leg which let it slip back into place. It felt so much better, still excruciating but no longer at a level that made me wish for death rather than deal with another second of pain.

The doctor said I did a good job and that it looked good meaning no major tears or breaks. I had to wear an immobilizer for 10 days and then moved to a knee brace, and now an ace bandage. Here I am though, two months later, struggling on a daily basis to build the muscles back I lost during the immobilization. The ligaments are too tight, a touch of pain and swelling, and of course the baby weight has doubled. What started out as a good idea to get fit ended up setting me back and making me worse off. And the first time since I was a teenager, I've got my warrior badges on again.

These warrior badges (especially the hideous immobilizer) of honor no longer hold the luster or meaning they once had. As an adult, injuries have an altogether different meaning. They aren't emblems of dedication but markers of aging. Braces, wraps, and crutches are the tell-tale signs of weakness. There's no pride shown through wearing a brace. People want to know the story, they cringe for you, and inwardly they're probably happy that it never happened to them. The worse part of getting older is the rehabilitation process takes so much longer than it had when I was a spry 16 year old.

However, I still have the warrior mindset of an athlete. I am determined to get stronger and stay that way. I want to be running again by August. If it means ordering delivery instead of cooking, putting the kid to bed earlier, or just leaving a couple papers for the next day, I am going to make time to get this knee and myself back into shape and to stay that way. I never want to experience that injury or level of pain ever again. 

Sometimes you just need a wake up call to remind you that you're not young and you need to take better care of yourself. That's what this warrior, a weak warrior but still a fighter, plans to do.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Musical Memory

Resounding Moment #4        

It is a well researched phenomenon that humans harbor memories in music, that upon hearing a certain song it brings back a scene or moment from our past, the memory of a loved one, or sometimes just impressions of memories lost or fading. When we hear that song or tune it makes us recall something or someone and all the positive and negative emotions are freshly released. At times, I get just an image that snowballs into an avalanche of evanescent memories, so diluted by time they feel as if from a past life.The psychology behind musical memory

When I'm in the kitchen cooking, cleaning, or feeding my son, I always put on satellite radio. When we are trying to knock our son out for nap, we switch on the classical tunes which work very well. One day, I was washing up the dishes while my son was "fading" as we phrase it, and  Beethoven's Fur Elise came on. An image swept over me from my distant memories: fiberoptic flowers in a glass case (Yes, I was an 80's child and these were totally rad back then). Such a simple image brought the detailed memory, yet the image was lost until the song unleashed it.

I remember sitting in my grandparents' house one day and was a little bit bored. I can't remember where my brother was (probably in the kitchen with my Grandmom eating steamed clams faster than she could make them) or exactly how old we were (perhaps I was 8?), but I do remember my grandparents were busy running the bar, so I was left to my own devices. I had my eye on the fiberoptic flowers in the glass case. I probably wasn't suppose to touch it, so of course I did and wound it up to let the music play. It played Fur Elise while the flowers changed colors. In the days before smartphones, computers, or the internet, this was high tech stuff that completely wowed my impressionable mind. 

My Grandmom came in and sat with me winding it up again to play the song. I remember her telling me something I now realize probably was important but the only impression I can recall was that the song meant something to her. As a child, it is difficult to measure the importance of what adults tell you. Often she tried to pass down traditions and information she felt needed to be carried on to me since she never had a daughter. I still have her recipes and remember the sweet 16 tradition I want to pass down for my nieces.

The Fur Elise flower instilled these memories of an entire place and of a person. I remember the room it was in, the shelf with my Grandmom's play tea set, her dolls (all porcelain so I wasn't allowed to touch them), my Grandpop's military paraphernalia and matchbook collection, the view of the woods outside the window where deer would come all the way up to the back porch.

Now my Grandmom has been gone for over a decade, and never got to see me graduate, get married, see any of her great grandchildren, the memories begin to fade. But a simple song coming on the radio while my son is falling asleep can spark a simple image that brings her back to me and allows parts of forgotten memories to resurface. You realize then that it is true. Music holds so much power and meaning where a simple song can bring back the dead and make them live eternally. Long live on the ones we love through music. Beethoven's Fur Elise

In memoriam Dolores Borne

Monday, May 12, 2014

Parenthood Is(n't) A Job

Idio(t)m #1: "Parenting is(n't) a job"

Yes. I realize this title will piss a lot of people off. In fact, the T is added purposely to insinuate most idioms are idiotic and useless. Perhaps it should be expounded upon: "parenting isn't a's a blessing." This is in response to the overwhelming amount of blogs, articles, and websites that discuss how parenthood is the most difficult job out there and how trying and overwhelming it is. I really feel like these articles are trying to cover up a feeling of shortcomings, that some parents feel inadequate and that they're doing things wrong. I think some people think they must be perfect parents and live their lives according to experts' advice. Or sometimes we just want a pat on the back for the work we put in and don't get paid for. What you're supposed to get from reading these "I'm supermom because I was able to run errands, feed, bathe, and put the kids to bed" texts is that you are super special as well as a parent. What I get is, "man this girl is whining and wants a cookie for doing what a lot of us do, every day."

In our society today, we're teaching children that they get rewarded for trying, trophies for participating, and that every child has some type of gift. Now, we have and will have more parents that want those pats on the back as well. People have the mentality of "I'm a parent so I'm special and I should be rewarded for daily feats of dressing a toddler during a tantrum, getting that picky eater to finally try broccoli," and other minute details that we care greatly about but honestly everyone else could really care less about.

I'm not saying parenting is easy, especially in certain circumstances. I'm not talking about the parents of special needs children who go through real ordeals every day just to make it through. Also, being a single parent seems almost impossible to me--you folks deserve Superparent status. But, some of these blogs are from stay at home moms--I don't even want to hear it! You have the best and easiest life out there without having any pressing concerns with work weighing you down. I sort of know what it is like to be a stay at home mom every summer where I only work about 15 hrs a week. If I had the means, I do it in a heartbeat. It's a simple blissful life where everything gets done, is clean, and everyone is happy--a dream world (at least in comparison to rat-race world). Also, if your kids are in daycare 12 hrs a day, five days a week, I'm not sure what you really can complain about. 

No, I'm talking to the average parent who has to work and rear children. I find the hardest thing about parenthood is my actual job. I have to bring work home with me. Hours of it. As an English professor, I bring in 4 rounds of 100 papers a semester, among a lot of other grading, paperwork, lesson plans, etc. I only have to work about 20 hrs on campus, which allows me not to use daycare for my son, but grading with a child around is very difficult. That's it. That's all I consider "difficult" about parenting. The lack of downtime I took for granted before he was born haunts me with what could have been done. That past child-free life shows me how lazy I had been.

Now I must get to the prerequisite section. If I say parenting is not a job, I must have it easy. We didn't in the beginning. We had a premature baby 7 weeks early due to preeclampsia ( The Mother's Grimm Tale--my childbirth experience). After 3 weeks in the hospital, he came home where we dealt with the typical sleepless routine just like everyone else. We, however, we're ordered by doctors to break the cardinal rule of don't wake a sleeping baby, since he needed to catch up to a normal birth weight. That was not fun. Neither was the colic, acid reflux, and milk allergy which became so bad that at times we were frantically aspirating him as he literally was asphyxiating. He also had hemangiomas that concerned doctors and needed an ultrasound and go under for an MRI. There were times when the five hours straight of crying became too much and I'd start crying and seriously proclaimed to my son that if he didn't stop I'd throw him in the trash can (it was fleetingly temptation). Usually, I would put him in his crib, leave the room, scream into some pillows, and then return to him calm as a cucumber. 

During all this I threw out the blame card, on myself for needing a c-section (milk allergies and colic have been linked to it), on my incapability as a mother, of the doctors for not letting us bond properly at his birth, at my husband for working (I know, but lack of sleep makes you very illogical), and for being a difficult baby himself, from what his mother told us. If I can't comfort my own baby, I must be an inept mother. This was my conclusion. All those "parenting" websites did not help me; in-fact, they made me feel as though I was definitely doing something wrong. Every symptom I looked up that my son had told me to take him to doctor (which we were doing regularly). All the lovely advice from well meaning people was bull. "Did you try..." sayings made me want to slap people. Of course we tried. We had tried everything! It is true when the doctors tell you every child is different. I learned after about 6 months (when some of the health issues began to wane) that I wasn't a perfect parent and I don't have a perfect child because there's no such thing. I made mistakes and I'll make more. I don't have to be perfect in this avenue of my life or any other. I just need to he happy.

Of course, there are these challenges that make the role of parenting seem almost impossible like a chore and a job, but when you measure how rewarding parenting is versus the challenge, you always come up on top. You achieve flow again. Also, you must embrace your imperfections and your child's to fully realize who you are as a parent. What I'm really saying is parenting isn't some dreadful job to whine about, but a rewarding role in life we are blessed with.

So I do not understanding this new outlook on parenthood that is out there. It isn't a difficult process but fun and rewarding, even through the stages of colic-reflux-sleepless-night hell. In fact, I've stopped writing this four times so far to just to play cars and go over flash cards. Children are not hassles but gifts, and you do not deserve an award from society because your child is that reward. Parenting is the easiest and most rewarding role if you accept the fact you'll never be a perfect parent because there's no such thing. After all, parenting is a choice, not a job, not a burden that was forced upon you (there are preventative measures out there folks). So look at it for what it is, a gift. And if you want society to give you a cookie for your effort, simply bake them yourself.