Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Never blog drunk

Have you ever written something for your blog, posted it, then a day later re-read it and asked yourself, "What the hell did I write?"

Yeah, me neither.

A few of you read my last post called "Too Much Information" (thank you Barbara for commenting), which was me questioning just how much information about my daughter and my personal life I should really be putting on the internet. There were also some rambling thoughts about privacy and how much time I spend writing my blog when I should be working on my book. All good things to think about, but when I wrote them down I had just shared a bottle of wine with my hubby. Hence, I wrote a rambling piece about something important that didn't make any sense. I knew what I was trying to convey, but wine got in the way. 

No big deal, until you're convinced it's the most brilliant thing you've ever written on your blog and must be posted immediately.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Queen of the Den of Chaos

My sister is the Queen of Chaos. She lives in a ranch house in a Central Valley town with four gorgeous, energetic, and dangerously intelligent children and a husband passionate about music. Her mind is constantly flowing with ideas, plans, theories and possibilities, making it impossible for her to sit down. One idea creates another, and her curiosity is limitless. She's some kind of data-base developer for a Mega bank and I hear that she has super powers when it comes to thinking like a computer. In her free time she grows a massive garden, cans her produce, bakes bread from scratch (without using a bread maker), makes home made yogurt, and knits complicated sweaters like a pro. She's also an amazing singer and plays the Celtic harp.

Can you tell I think my sis is amazing?

We're not biologically sisters, but in every other way, we are. We even think alike, although I admit she's got the leg up when it comes to logic. We're the same height and build, with the same hair and the same mannerisms. We became sisters 20 years ago when we worked together at the Renaissance Fair in the same "clan." It was like finding an unknown sibling when you thought you were an orphan: wow, there's someone as weird as me. 

Queen Teen and I spent several days at my sister's house. Mostly, I watched my sister cook all day, preparing for the week ahead. You have to just stay out of her way and understand that she is happy to see you, even if she isn't sitting with you at the table. I guess some people have a hard time with that. Queen Teen played the piano with her cousin, Eldest, singing in her loudest, out of tune, voice. She also watched movies with the girls, but mostly she wandered the house wondering what all of those busy people were doing. She and I live a very quiet life compared to the constant noise and activity of the Den of Chaos.

Unfortunately, we don't get to visit very often. It's a long way between our houses, and Queen Teen is extremely allergic to their cat, which used to be mine. My sister took the cat when we discovered QT was allergic. So it's a wonderful treat for me to spend time with my lovely cat, who I still miss, although she's been gone three years. She sat in my lap purring happily while my sister canned the chili she made that evening and Queen Teen colored pictures with her cousin, Boo.

Boo looked up at me and asked, "Did my mom tell you spooky stories when you were little?"

Even though we've told them several times we're not actually related, the kids don't believe it.

I glanced at my sister who was checking on the yeast for the next batch of bread dough.

"Yep. Your mom tells the best spooky stories."

My sister grinned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Playing chess with the audiologist

After the Berkeley Low Vision Clinic appointment, we spent several days with the Denizons of Chaos (I'll write more about that next time), then drove to Palo Alto for an audiology appointment. Queen Teen was resigned to it, and happily distracted by three energetic girls, one loud boy and a giant house to explore. Once we reached our hotel room in Mountain View, her mood quickly changed. The sparkle in her eyes vanished, replaced by a nervous scowl. The hotel was nice (thank you and we had cable TV, something we don't get at home, but nothing could negate the misery she felt thinking about the next day: audiology.

Of all the appointments she has, from neurology to dentistry to genetics to orthopedics, audiology is the worst. She likes the doctor fine, but the tedium of the tests and the reality that she does indeed need hearing aids ("No I don't," she insists, even after the hearing exam clearly shows she can't hear a blessed thing.) depresses her more than her best friend moving away.

She did her best during the test, and I told her how proud I was of her. Dutifully she put the block in the box when she heard the tone, but she also put a block in after guessing the interval between testing tones. The doctor mixed up the timing to avoid that, so it was obvious Queen Teen barely heard anything. And during the vocabulary test she got frustrated when she couldn't identify what any of the words were. I made sure she could see the pictures, and she identified them by looking, but when asked to point to the "baseball" or "ice cream", she just looked at me and said, "I can't find it."

Queen Teen is a candidate for Cochlear Implants, but there's a lot to think about before we go that route, primarily, Queen Teen's mental health. She refuses to wear hearing aids and denies that she can't hear. She cries at appointments and has a panic attack before we leave the car. If I can't get her to a dentist to have her teeth cleaned without her freaking out, how the hell will she tolerate major surgery and implants? We're concerned that she's losing language processing ability because that part of her brain is no longer being activated; hearing aids can help with that.

Before we left, the doctor took an impression of Queen Teen's ears for new ear molds to go with her new hearing aids. That's when Queen Teen started to cry, and she even tried to hit the doctor. I soothed her the best I could, then the doctor quickly made the impressions and we were out of there. We had planned to stop and visit another friend, but we were both worn out so we decided to get a head start before rush hour traffic began. That's the only plus to Queen Teen's hearing decreasing so much: the hearing tests take a lot less time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Playing chess with the eye doctor

Queen Teen had another appointment at UC Berkely Low Vision Clinic, the best vision clinic in NorCal for people with multiple disabilities. She wasn't thrilled, but she cooperated and seemed to have fun trying to fool the doctor. I could see the machinations in QT's mind all over her face as she touched the cards the doctor used to test contrast sensitivity.

the card was on the left so next time it will be on the right, then it will be on the left again but the doctor will try to trick me after that and keep it on the left, then go back to the right...

It was as if the two were playing chess. The doctor has 20 years of experience so was able to stay one step ahead and get an accurate reading of Queen Teen's contrast sensitivity, which is poor, but not terrible.

The doctor then tested color shade sensitivity using tiles with 4 colored circles on them, one of which was a different shade. She showed Queen Teen what to do only once, and then Queen Teen quickly did the task with no further instruction, looking bored the entire time.

When the doctor put glasses on Queen Teen to try out different lenses, Queen Teen suddenly couldn't see anything.

"I don't know. I can't see it," she declared, looking down at her lap so the lenses would fall out of the frame.

The doctor just smiled.

I asked, "How can her vision be worse with glasses?"

"She's telling me she doesn't want to wear glasses," the doctor replied with a shrug.

Queen Teen's functional vision has improved from 20/600 two years ago to 20/400 today (it was 20/1500 when she was first diagnosed with optic atrophy). This is excellent news! Her impairment hasn't changed, but her brain's ability to process visual information has. Is it age and maturity? The mega doses of CoQ10? Her brain's natural ability to adapt? Who knows? I'm just so happy that her vision has improved. Thus can only help her.

The doctor wrote a prescription for glasses but suggested we ease into them rather than have her wear them all the time. Queen Teen is trying so hard to learn to read; perhaps looking at her books will be the perfect time to try her new glasses.

-bloggong on the go, with Blogpress

Sunday, July 3, 2011


What does being fat mean? What I've discovered from learning more about measuring percentage of body fat is that whether someone is fat or not has nothing to do with the scale, or with how people appear. Perceptions of being fat are cultural, and in our culture we idealize those wispy ballerina types, all muscle and bone, with only the smallest ounce of fat supporting our boobs.

But the reality is that those skinny chicks are just as unhealthy as someone with a percentage of body fat of 35%. Too little fat is as big a problem as too much body fat. Whoever said a woman who is 5'10" should weigh 118 pounds is a psychopath. Unfortunately, we all tend to think that way on a deep, collective-unconscious level.

A woman who appears "fat" as she's walking down the street in a size 14 dress may be more fit than I in my size 6. She may weigh 155 pounds, but only have a percentage of body fat around 22%, which is excellent. That makes her strong and healthy, even though we may roll our eyes at her when she orders a mocha and a cookie at Starbucks. I appear healthy, but my higher percentage of body fat makes me more susceptible to health problems like osteoporosis and diabetes. The reason is because I don't have enough muscle on my bones, and muscle keeps our endocrine systems working properly and our bones from deteriorating.

How we look or what the scale says are not good indicators of health. Dress size doesn't matter, percentage of body fat does. Women who are healthy and strong need to stop beating themselves up for not fitting into a size 8. Throw out your Vogue! Go find out your percentage of body fat and work with that instead. You may be surprised how lean you actually are.

When I picture myself at 50, I see a strong, muscular woman who likes to run in the evening after a long day of teaching. I do not see a weak, weary woman who struggles to load a wheelchair in a mini-van, which is me now. 50 isn't that far off, so I need to focus on strength training to meet my goal.

But at the same time, I need to be careful not to obsess about this. Once an anorexic, always an anorexic, and I've caught myself a few times ignoring hunger pains because I didn't want the calories. It's a slippery slope for me, so I need to focus on exercise and not counting calories. Although I have cut waaaaay down on sugar and upped my veggie intake, which seems like a good idea for everyone.

Here's something else I've been thinking about: Jennifer Lopez is considered fat. Can you believe that? The woman is GORGEOUS, but because she's got a big butt, the media labels her "overweight." People make jokes about her ass. I'll bet she's about 25% body fat, another excellent number, and could probably kick all of those paparazzi asses without breaking a sweat.

Need more proof that percentage of body fat is more important than scale weight? Check out this short article that explains how it works and what it means.

Understanding Your Body Fat Percentage

Friday, July 1, 2011

The dunk tank

When my husband does something, he does it full throttle, balls to the wall, do or die, 100%. There is no half way, it's all or nothing.

So when we joined our local gym to get our sorry asses back in shape, he suggested we get our percentage of body fat measured.

Oooooh, that sounds like so much fun! I really want to know how fat I am in excruciating detail, understand the exact amount of fat piled up in my body, especially around my middle. Yes, everyone should learn how much of their body is made up of gelatinous fat. Sign me up!

My husband thought it would be somehow romantic to do the dunk tank together: a bonding experience. He made our appointments at the Physical Therapy office for a beautiful Friday afternoon. I dug out my old bathing suit and winced at how tight it felt on my hips. This is going to be so much fun!

Queen Teen and I watched as Rick got in the pool. The water came up to his chin as he bobbed gently on the submerged chair. The very friendly therapist explained how to blow out all your air as you dunk your head under the water. Rick followed her instructions and Queen Teen started to giggle; she'd never seen anyone swim like that. After three times, Rick got out of the tub and dried off while the therapist computed his body fat.

Not bad. Rick only needed to lose two pounds of body fat to be at an optimum percentage for health. All those years of working out had paid off and he probably went over the healthy line just in the last few months because he'd been working so much he couldn't exercise regularly. He grinned with pride, relieved by the findings.

Then it was my turn.

The water was warm and didn't reek of chlorine. I gripped the handles of the chair and pulled myself under while blowing out all my air. It was surprisingly hard to do. My body's survival mechanism kicked in and wondered what the he'll I was doing. Trying to drown? I had to concentrate on forcing out my breath and holding it while staying under long enough for the therapist to get a measurement, and after the fourth time (one for practice) my body was going into full on panic mode. At last we were done and I happily climbed out of the pool and retrieved my towel which Queen Teen was holding for me.

"You're silly," she said. Yes I am. Only a crazy person would want to know exactly how fat they are.

How fat am I? The therapist did the formula twice to make sure, surprised by what it said. I am over 30% fat, considered unhealthy for someone my gender and age. To reach a healthy percentage, I need to lose 7 pounds of fat, probably the exact amount clinging to my belly like a flabby, white, oversized hand bag.

If only I could keep my car keys there.

Rick was thrilled, and more invigorated to get back into the gym. I on the other hand felt as if I'd aged by ten years in ten minutes. For a former anorexic teen, the idea of being fat felt horrifying. and yes, I know, I'm not really "fat." I'm getting older, so of course I don't weigh 115 pounds any more. But as I walked across the parking lot to my car with Queen Teen still chatting about how silly Rick and I are, I heard the voice of that 60 year old, fat woman who had confronted me many years ago.

"I used to look just like you!"

Did she curse me?

After I'd had a few days to think about it, I decided that finding out how much fat I'm carrying around is a good thing. It is too easy to blow off that flabby feeling and suck in my gut while ordering another mocha. I can hide my belly rolls with high waisted jeans and loose t-shirts. Disguise and avoid, and in so doing slowly get fatter until I start to have health problems. Knowing that I'm already unhealthy is a wake up call. If I want to be health at 50, if I don't want to turn into that spiteful woman at 60, I need to change my exercise and eating habits now. Why wait until I get diabetes?

I went out and bought new running shoes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad